It was pouring with rain at Kings Cross station when six teenagers appeared out of thin air. As they dragged their trunks along the platform they walked past an old lady whose eyes were sliding out of focus. In pairs they leaned inconspicuously against the barrier between Platforms 9 and 10.
The familiar scarlet steam train was puffing smoke eagerly as students met up with their friends and jumped on to find compartments. The six teenagers walked through the throng of people grouped together and onto the train. They quickly found an empty compartment and piled in, locking the door behind them.
A girl with long, dirty blonde hair sat down in the corner and buried her nose in the latest issue of a magazine called The Quibbler. Next to her a girl with busy brown hair was also reading, but preferred her assigned school textbook, Advanced Potion Making. The third girl wasn't reading but resting her head on the shoulder of a boy with messy black hair and glasses, her flaming red hair flopping over her face.
The two remaining boys were engaged in a duel of wits over a chess board. The difference was, pieces were frequently smashed or dragged to the side of the board. The six teenagers were ready for their last year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The red-haired girl named Ginny nestled closer to the boy with the messy black hair, her boyfriend Harry. He'd missed her so much last year so it was blissful just to be able to hold her and not say a word. They'd had eight glorious weeks over the summer to catch up so right now the silence was golden.
The bushy brown-haired girl called Hermione looked up from the textbook she was pretending to read but was unable to catch the eye of her best friend. She'd been holidaying with her parents in Australia over the summer so this was the first time she'd seen her friends in two months. She still had no idea where she stood with Ron after they'd kissed almost four months ago and was anxious to discuss it with Ginny who was obviously otherwise occupied.
It was a day's journey to Hogwarts but the time seemed to fly by as the six teenagers caught up with each other. Unfortunately there wasn't much privacy even with the door locked and blinds pulled down as there were six of them in the carriage. Hermione finally got her moment to talk to Ginny when the boys were cheering over their rowdy chess match.
"Are you okay Hermione?" Ginny asked concernedly. Her best friend's hand was shaking on the edge of her textbook and her expression was anxious, almost pained.
"Waddidowon?" Hermione said in a rush.
Ginny pried her friend's hand from the edge of her book and looked at her for clarification. "Do you want to repeat that?" she said interestedly.
Hermione let out a breath that she didn't know she'd been holding in and closed her book. She looked over to make sure the boys were still involved with their chess game before looking at Ginny.
"What do I do about Ron?" she whispered, her voice squeaking unnecessarily on his name. Ginny almost laughed but stopped herself when she pictured how she'd feel if she was in her best friend's shoes.
"Don't do anything. Let him come to you," Ginny suggested, involuntarily imagining her awkward brother trying to screw up the courage to ask Hermione out. She had to say that, in her imagination at least, the prospects didn't look bright.
Hermione nodded but inside she was freaking out. Although she'd be frightened to admit it, she'd liked Ron for ages and now she had to wait for him to finally tell her that he wanted to be with her. She wasn't looking forward to awkward silences and pauses in conversation over the bench in Herbology. More than her, she didn't really want to put Harry through that. He'd suffered enough over their feelings in the sixth year.
Their conversation came to a halt when the Hogwarts Express halted and the halls were crowded with students eager to get out. Harry, Ginny, Ron and Neville rushed to join the procession onto the platform but Hermione waited until the halls emptied before she dragged her trunk down. She'd almost forgotten about Luna until she noticed her following her dreamily down the path to the carriages.
"I'm looking forward to the feast, aren't you? I hope there's pudding," Luna said vaguely as the thestral-drawn carriage bumped along the winding path. The only difference was the skeletal-like creatures were now visible to Hermione who was gazing at them in wonder.
"Oh, I forgot you've never seen them before. Interesting, aren't they?" said Luna dreamily. She reached into her bag and pulled out an apple which she reached down to feed to the thestral closest to them. The carriage came to an abrupt halt as the thestral stopped to chomp on Luna's apple. By the time they arrived at the castle the rest of the students had already preceded into the Hall.
Luna walked dreamily over to the Ravenclaw table while Hermione joined Harry, Ron, Neville and Ginny at the Gryffindor table now that the Sorting Ceremony had finished.
"Where have you been?" Ron said through his mouthful of food, showering Harry and Ginny with mashed potatoes. Hermione pretended not to hear him as she reached for the chicken and Ron was more preoccupied with Harry and Ginny, who were disgusted at his atrocious eating habits.
"Can you finish eating your food before you start talking?" Ginny asked sardonically. Ron's response was to load a spoon with peas and fling them at his sister. This started a fully-fledge d food fight between Harry, Ron, Ginny and Neville, and even Dean and Seamus joined in once they saw what was going on. The fight didn't last long as the teachers were present at the front table and Professor McGonagall didn't hesitate to break it up.
Their fun continued once back in Gryffindor Tower, with Hermione, much to Ron's dismay, preferring to curl up in the corner with her head buried in a book. As much as he tried to include Hermione in their ongoing discussion about the mystery Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, she was wrapped up in her own little world.
The next morning Ginny woke up with her head buried beneath her mane of red hair. She pushed her hair aside and sat up in bed. It was strange but not unexpected to see Hermione in the next bed as she pulled the hangings open. They were now in the same year at Hogwarts which she was really looking forward to.
By the time she'd dressed in her robes Hermione had awoken and was also getting ready to go downstairs to breakfast. Harry was waiting for her at the bottom of the dormitory stairs and they only stopped kissing when Ron cleared his throat loudly.
"If you don't like it, go away," Ginny said before pressing her lips to Harry's once more. Unfortunately they did have to stop to go down to breakfast and avoid heckling from Seamus and Dean. Harry's friends kept up a running barrage of teasing over how Harry was turning soft now he had a girlfriend. Luna came to the rescue when she met them in the Entrance Hall with exciting news.
"I've been reinstated as a Quidditch Commentator!" she cried happily. This news didn't receive congratulations from Harry, Dean or Seamus. They remembered the last time Luna had commentated on a Quidditch game although it had been almost two years ago. Unfortunately Ron and Harry had both been in the Hospital Wing after that same game.
Ron however congratulated Luna warmly, earning bemused looks from the other three. They didn't see how Ron could think this was a good thing, but didn't stop to question him as the Great Hall was just up ahead and that meant food.
Luna joined their table for what was sure to be an interesting start to the morning.
[If you like this story, check out my other fanfic, 'New Beginnings.']