Sorry about the chapter title, I'm not allowed that many letters apparently.
The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters
Harry pressed through the crowd until he found an almost empty compartment near the end of the train. He put Hedwig in first and then started to shove and heave his trunk towards the train door. He tried to lift it up the steps but could hardly raise one end and twice he dropped it painfully on his foot.
'Want a hand?' It was one of the red-haired twins he'd followed through the ticket box.
'Yes please,' Harry panted.
'Oy, Fred! C'mere and help!'
With the twins' help, Harry's trunk was at last tucked away in a corner of the compartment.
'Thanks,' said Harry, pushing his sweaty hair out of his eyes.
'What's that?' said one of the twins suddenly pointing at Harry's lightning scar.
'Blimey,' said the other twin. 'Are you-?'
'He is,' said the first twin. 'Aren't you?' he added to Harry.
'What?' said Harry.
'Harry Potter,' chorused the twins.
'Oh, him,' said Harry. 'I mean, yes, I am.'
The two boys gawped at him and Harry felt himself going red. Then, to his relief, a voice came floating through the train's open door.
'Fred? George? Are you there?'
With one last look at Harry, the twins hopped off the train.
Harry sat down by the window where he looked around the compartment and spotted a small boy in the corner by the door. His face was hidden by a large copy of A Beginner's Guide to Healing that he was apparently determined to finish, though Harry could see his tousled dark hair over the top. He was wearing a very, very over-sized, tan trench coat and the sleeves were rolled all the way up to his elbows.
'Hello, my name's Harry Potter, what's yours?'
But the boy just pulled his feet up on to the seat and hid himself deeper behind his book, so Harry strained his ears to hear what the red-haired family were saying.
'Hey, Mum, guess what? Guess who we met on the train?' Harry leant back quickly so they wouldn't see him looking.
'You know that black-haired boy who was near us in the station? Know who he is?'
Harry heard the little girl's voice.
'Oh, Mum, can I go on the train and see him, Mum, oh please…'
'You've already seen him, Ginny, the poor boy isn't something you goggle at in a zoo. Is he really, Fred? How do you know?'
'Asked him. Saw his scar. It was really there- like lightning.'
'Poor dear- no wonder he was alone. I wondered. He was ever so polite when he asked how to get on to the platform.'
'Never mind that, do you think he remembers what You-Know-Who looks like?'
Their mother suddenly became very stern.
'I forbid you to ask him, Fred. No, don't you dare. As though he needs reminding of that on his first day of school.'
'All right, keep your hair on.'
A whistle sounded.
'Hurry up!' their mother said, and the three boys clambered on to the train. They leant out of the window for her to kiss them goodbye and their youngest sister began to cry.
'Don't, Ginny, we'll send you loads of owls.'
'We'll send you a Hogwarts toilet seat.'
'Only joking, Mum.'
The train began to move. Harry saw the boys' mother waving and their sister, half laughing, half crying, running to keep up with the train until it gathered too much speed: then she fell back and waved.
Harry watched the girl and her mother disappear as the train rounded the corner. Houses flashed past the window. Harry felt a great leap of excitement. He didn't know what he was going to- but it had to be better than what he was leaving behind.
The door of the compartment slid open and the youngest red-headed boy came in.
'Anyone sitting there?' he asked, pointing at the seat opposite Harry. 'Everywhere else is full.'
'Er… do you mind?' Harry asked the boy in the corner. He said nothing but gave the slightest shake of his head.
'Go ahead,' he said and the boy sat down. He glanced at Harry and then looked quickly out of the window, pretending he hadn't looked. Harry saw he had a black mark on his nose.
The twins were back.
'Listen, we're going down the middle of the train- Lee Jordan's got a giant tarantula down there.'
'Right,' mumbled Ron.
'Harry,' said the other twin. 'Did we introduce ourselves? Fred and George Weasley. And this is Ron, our brother. See you later, then.'
'Bye,' said Harry and Ron. The twins slid the compartment shut behind them.
'Are you really Harry Potter?' Ron blurted out.
'Oh- well, I thought it might have been one of Fred and George's jokes,' said Ron. 'And have you really got- you know…'
He pointed at Harry's forehead.
Harry pulled back his fringe to show the lightning scar. Ron stared and even the boy in the corner peeked over his book for a second.
'So that's where You-Know-Who-'
'Yes,' said Harry, 'but I can't remember it.'
'Nothing?' said Ron eagerly.
'Well- I remember a lot of green light, but nothing else.'
'Wow,' said Ron. He sat and stared at Harry for a few moments, then, as if he suddenly realised what he was doing, looked quickly out of the window again. They looked around as the compartment door slid open and a blonde boy dragging his trunk came in, shutting the door firmly behind him.
'Sorry, I hope you don't mind. They were throwing things at me,' he panted.
'Not at all, take a seat,' Harry said kindly. He smiled in relief and ragged his trunk to the overhead luggage rack. Grunting, he lifted it up and shoved it into place.
'My name's John Watson by the way,' he said.
'Nice to meet you.'
He gave the trunk one last shove.
'Ouch!' a voice cried. John jumped back as his trunk flew off the rack, narrowly missing his feet. Another boy appeared, upside down, an angry scowl on his face.
'Do you mind? I'm trying to think.'
'Blimey, Sherlock, what are you doing up there?' Ron asked him. The boy called Sherlock sighed dramatically and turned onto his front, his dark curls flopping into his face.
'I'm hiding from Mycroft.'
'Aside from the obvious reasons, they made him Head Boy and now he's being insufferable.'
'Oh you're joking,' Ron groaned.
'Unfortunately not. I hear they made Percy a Prefect.'
'Yeah, he never shuts up about it,' Ron complained.
'How do you two know each other?' John asked.
'Old family friend,' said Ron.
'And by 'family friend' he means Mummy invites them over for dinner parties and they're too polite to decline. Now, if you could all quieten down, you're fuzzing my brain,' he said, rolling away out of sight. Harry caught Ron's eye, who shrugged.
'Are all your family wizards?' asked Harry, who found Ron just as interesting as Ron found him.
'Er- yes, I think so,' said Ron. 'I think Mum's got a second cousin who's an accountant, but we never really talk about him.'
'So you must know loads of magic already.'
The Weasleys were clearly one of those old wizarding families the pale boy in Diagon Alley had talked about.
'I heard you went to live with Muggles,' said Ron. 'What are they like?'
'Horrible- well, not all of them. My aunt and uncle and cousin are, though.'
'What about you?' Ron asked John, who had been listening to their conversation.
'Oh, erm- I'm the first in my family to have magic. You should have seen my sister's face,' he grinned.
'Eurgh, Muggle-born,' came Sherlock's disgruntled voice.
'Yes, thank you, Salazar,' Ron retorted. 'This is what I have to put up with every Saturday,' he said to John.
'What? I've never met a Muggle-born with a single ounce of intelligence.'
'I think you're being a bit out of order mate,' said Ron, catching the look on John's face.
'All Muggles are twits anyway,' he sniffed.
'Excuse me, that's my mother you're talking about,' John snapped.
'I thought you needed to think,' Harry interrupted. Sherlock huffed but didn't say another word.
'I wish I had three wizard brothers,' Harry mused.
'Five,' said Ron. For some reason, he was looking gloomy. 'I'm the sixth in our family to go to Hogwarts. You could say I've got a lot to live up to. Bill and Charlie have already left- Bill was Head Boy and Charlie was captain of Quidditch. Now Percy's a Prefect. Fred and George mess around a lot, but they still get really good marks and everyone thinks they're really funny. Everyone expects me to do as well as the others, but if I do, it's no big deal, because they did it first. You never get anything new either, with five brothers. I've got Bill's old robes, Charlie's old wand and Percy's old rat.'
Ron reached deep inside his jacket and pulled out a fat grey rat, which was asleep.
'His name's Scabbers and he's useless, he hardly ever wakes up. Percy got an owl from my dad for being made Prefect, but they couldn't aff- I mean, I got Scabbers instead.'
Ron's ears went pink. He seemed to think he'd said too much, because he went back to staring out of the window.
Harry didn't think there was anything wrong with not being able to afford an owl. After all, he'd never had any money in his life until a month ago, and he told Ron so, all about having to wear Dudley's clothes and never getting proper birthday presents. This seemed to cheer Ron up.
'… and until Hagrid told me, I didn't know anything about being a wizard or my parents or Voldemort-'
Ron gasped and Sherlock twitched involuntarily and caused the luggage rack to creak in protest.
'What?' said Harry.
'You said You-Know-Who's name!' said Ron, sounding both shocked and impressed. 'I'd have thought you of all people-'
'I'm not trying to be brave or anything, saying the name,' said Harry. 'I just never knew I shouldn't. See what I mean?'
'Who's Voldemort?' asked John curiously. Ron paled and shook his head, leaving to Harry to explain.
'Well, Hagrid told me that he was this really evil wizard, who wanted to take over. He went out and got followers, some wanted a bit of his power and some were bewitched into following him. Some people tried to stop him but he killed them. He tried to get my parents to go over to the Dark side, but they wouldn't, so he killed them when I was one.'
'Sounds like a nice bloke,' John grimaced.
'Then, he tried to kill me, but he couldn't and no one knows why, and that's how I got this,' he said, once again displaying his scar. 'He disappeared after that night, some people think he died, but others think he's still out there.'
Ron looked visibly distressed.
'I've got loads to learn,' John groaned.
'Me too… I bet,' he added, voicing for the first time something that had been worrying him a lot lately, 'I bet I'm the worst in the class.'
'You won't be,' Ron said, having seemingly recovered from Harry's vivid description. 'There's loads of people who come from Muggle families and they learn quick enough.'
While they had been talking, the train carried them out of London. Now they were speeding past fields full of cows and sheep. They were quiet for a time, watching the fields and lanes flick past.
Around half past twelve there was a great clattering outside in the corridor and a smiling, dimpled woman slid back their door and said, 'Anything off the trolley, dears?'
Harry, who hadn't had any breakfast, leapt to his feet, but Ron's ears turned pink again and he muttered that he'd brought sandwiches.
'No thanks, I've got a packed lunch,' said John. Harry went out into the corridor.
He had never had any money for sweets with the Dursleys and now that he had pockets rattling with gold and silver he was ready to buy as many Mars Bars as he could carry- but the woman didn't have any Mars Bars. What she did have were Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans, Drooble's Best Blowing Gum, Chocolate Frogs, Pumpkin Pasties, Cauldron Cakes, Liquorice Wands and a number of strange other things Harry had never seen in his life. Not wanting to miss anything, he got some of everything and paid the woman eleven silver sickles and seven bronze knuts.
Ron stared as Harry brought it all back to the compartment and tipped it onto an empty seat.
'Hungry are you?'
'Starving,' said Harry, taking a large bite out of a pumpkin pasty.
John had wrestled a neat lunch box from his trunk, with a sandwich, an apple and a packet of crisps, while Ron had taken out a lumpy package and unwrapped it. There were four sandwiches. He pulled one apart and said, 'She always forgets I don't like corned beef.'
John looked at him sympathetically, already half way through his sandwich that had turned out to be cheese.
'Swap you for one of these,' said Harry, holding up a pasty. 'Go on-'
'You don't want this, it's all dry,' said Ron. 'She hasn't got much time,' he added quickly, 'you know, with five of us.'
'Go on, have a pasty. You too, John,' said Harry, who had never had anything to share before or, indeed, anyone to share it with. 'You can help yourself to anything you want,' he said to the boy in the corner. He didn't move except to take a bite of a banana that had somehow appeared in his hand. It was a nice feeling, sitting there with Ron and John, eating their way through Harry's pasties and cakes (the sandwiches lay forgotten). John looked up at the luggage rack that Sherlock was on who, he was fairly certain, had fallen asleep. He picked up a pack of Drooble's Best Blowing Gum, took aim and threw it up on to the rack, where it hit Sherlock square in the face.
'What was that for?' he demanded.
'That was for what you said about my mum,' he replied. 'It's time for food, come down here and get something to eat.'
'I will do no such thing,' he huffed grumpily.
'Hey, Sherlock, do that thing you do,' Ron said.
Sherlock narrowed his eyes but clearly couldn't resist the chance to show off.
He looked at John, eyes flickering all over him. 'You've got new clothes and almost everything in your trunk is new, so either you've been saving up for this, or your family is generally well-off, however, I would say the latter because you're Muggle-born. You've got quite a good relationship with your mother because you're quick to defend her and she left you a note in your lunch box saying "Hope you have a great year, love Mum" with two kisses. You didn't scrunch up the note; you put it carefully back in your lunch box, showing that it's a mutual feeling. Your relationship with your father and sister isn't as good. When I said "all Muggles are twits" you only defended your mother, as if you were agreeing with me, about your father and sister at least. Your sister fell out with you recently because you still have a picture of the both of you in your trunk. She fell out with you out of jealousy, perhaps because you're a wizard or maybe because she doesn't share the same close relationship you do with your mother. By the way, I didn't mean what I said about Muggles or Muggle-borns; I just wanted to see how you would react.'
Harry and Ron gaped at him.
'You didn't say what happened to my father.'
Sherlock's mouth twitched.
'No, but you just did. He died of alcohol poisoning, correct?'
'How do you know?'
'I don't know, I notice,' he corrected. 'Your hairstyle and clothing clearly say military family, however, he wasn't killed in action because you narrow your eyes slightly whenever he's mentioned, you disapprove of him. So he came back from war and, as many soldiers do, intoxicated himself to the point of death.'
'That was… amazing,' John said in awe.
'You think so?' Sherlock asked, surprised.
'Of course it was. It was extraordinary. Quite extraordinary.'
'That's not what people normally say.'
'What do people normally say?'
They giggled until Harry held up a pack of Chocolate Frogs. 'They're not really frogs are they?' He was starting to feel that nothing would surprise him.
'No,' said Ron. 'But see what the card is, I'm missing Agrippa.'
'You collect those things?' Sherlock frowned.
'Don't look like that, just because you still can't find Merlin.'
'What?' Harry said, both him and John looked mystified.
'Oh, of course, you wouldn't know- Chocolate Frogs have cards inside them, you know, to collect- Famous Witches and Wizards. I've got about five hundred, but I haven't got Agrippa or Ptolemy.'
Harry and John unwrapped their Chocolate Frogs and picked up the cards.
'Cool, I got Merlin,' John grinned, earning a disbelieving grunt from Sherlock.
Harry's showed a man's face. He wore half-moon glasses, had a long crooked nose and flowing silver hair, beard and moustache. Underneath the picture was the name Albus Dumbledore.
'So this is Dumbledore!' said Harry. John leaned over to have a look.
'Don't tell me you've never heard of Dumbledore!' said Ron. 'Can I have a frog? I might get Agrippa- thanks-'
Harry turned over his and read:
Albus Dumbledore, currently Headmaster of Hogwarts.
Considered by many to be the greatest wizard of modern times, Professor Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon's blood and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicolas Flamel. Professor Dumbledore enjoys chamber music and tenpin bowling.
Harry turned the card back over and saw, to his astonishment, that Dumbledore's face had disappeared.
Sherlock tutted above his head.
'Well you can't expect him to hang around all day,' said Ron. 'He'll be back. No, I've got Morgana again and I've got about six of her… do you want it? You can start collecting.'
Ron's eyes strayed to the pile of Chocolate Frogs waiting to be unwrapped.
'Help yourself,' said Harry. 'But in, you know, the Muggle world, people just stay put in photos.'
'Do they? What, they don't move at all?' Ron sounded amazed and John nodded. 'Weird!'
Harry stared as Dumbledore sidled back into the picture on his card and gave him a small smile. Ron was more interested in eating the frogs than looking at the Famous Witches and Wizards cards, but Harry and John couldn't keep their eyes off them. Soon they both had Dumbledore, Morgana and Merlin. Harry also found Hengist of Woodcroft, Alberic Grunnion, Circe and Paracelsus, while John got Mordred, Hesper Starky, Cassandra Vablatsky and Crispin Cronk. Harry finally tore his eyes away from the druidess Cliodna, who was scratching her nose, to open a bag of Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans.
'You want to be careful with those,' Ron warned Harry. 'When they say every flavour, they mean every flavour- you know, you get all the ordinary ones like chocolate and peppermint and marmalade, but then you can get spinach and liver and tripe. George reckons he got a bogey-flavoured one once.'
Ron picked up a green bean, looked at it carefully and bit into a corner.
'Bleaaargh- see? Sprouts.'
They had a good time eating the Every-Flavour Beans. Harry got toast, coconut, baked bean, strawberry, curry, grass, coffee, sardine and was even brave enough to nibble the end off a funny grey one Ron wouldn't touch, which turned out to be pepper. They both fell about laughing at John's expression as he ate a particularly strong lemon and Sherlock joined in long enough to stop John from eating a boiled cabbage one.
The countryside now flying past the window was becoming wilder. The neat fields had gone. Now there were woods, twisting rivers and dark green hills.
There was a knock on the door of their compartment and the round-faced boy Harry had passed on platform nine and three-quarters came in. He looked tearful.
'Sorry,' he said. 'But have you seen a toad at all?'
When they shook their heads, he wailed. 'I've lost him! He keeps getting away from me!'
'He'll turn up,' said Harry.
'Yes,' said the boy miserably. 'Well… if you see him…'
'Don't know why he's so bothered,' said Ron. 'If I'd brought a toad I'd lose it as quick as I could. Mind you, I brought Scabbers, so I can't talk.'
John sniggered and the rat was still snoozing on Ron's lap.
'He might have died and you wouldn't know the difference,' said Ron in disgust. 'I tried to turn him yellow yesterday to make him more interesting, but the spell didn't work. I'll show you, look…'
He rummaged around in his trunk and pulled out a very battered-looking wand. It was chipped in places and something white was glinting at the end.
'Unicorn hair's nearly poking out. Anyway-'
He had just raised his wand when the compartment door slid open again. The toadless boy was back, but this time he had a girl with him. She was already wearing her new Hogwarts robes.
'Has anyone seen a toad? Neville's lost one,' she said. She had a bossy sort of voice, lots of bushy brown hair and rather large front teeth.
'We've already told him we haven't seen it,' said Ron, but the girl wasn't listening. She was looking at the wand in his hand.
'Oh, are you doing magic? Let's see it, then.'
She sat down and Ron looked taken aback.
'Er- all right.'
He cleared his throat.
'Sunshine, daisies, butter mellow,
Turn this stupid, fat rat yellow.'
He waved his wand but nothing happened. Scabbers stayed grey and fast asleep.
'Are you sure that's a real spell?' said the girl. 'Well, it's not very good, is it? I've tried a few spells just for practice and it's all worked for me. Nobody in my family's magic at all, it was ever such a surprise when I got my letter, but I was ever so pleased, of course, I mean, it's the very best school of witchcraft there is, I've heard- I've learned all our set books off by heart, of course, I just hope it's enough- I'm Hermione Granger, by the way, who are you?'
'I'm Ron Weasley,' Ron muttered.
'Sherlock Holmes,' Sherlock waved from the luggage rack.
'John Watson,' John smiled.
'Harry Potter,' said Harry.
'Are you really?' said Hermione. 'Who's he?' she asked, gesturing at the boy in the corner. Ron shrugged.
'We don't know. I think he just wants to be left alone,' Harry said.
'I see. I know all about you, of course- I got a few extra books for background reading, and you're in Modern Magical History and The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts and Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century.
'Am I?' said Harry, feeling dazed.
'Goodness, didn't you know, I'd have found out everything I could if it was me.' said Hermione. 'Do any of you know what house you'll be in? I've been asking around and I hope I'm in Gryffindor, it sounds by far the best, I hear Dumbledore himself was one, but I suppose Ravenclaw wouldn't be too bad… Anyway, we'd better go and look for Neville's toad. You had better change, you know, I expect we'll be there soon.'
'Try the luggage in the compartment before the Prefects',' Sherlock called.
And she left, taking the toadless boy with her.
'Whatever house I'm in, I hope she's not in it,' said Ron. He threw his wand back into his trunk. 'Stupid spell- George gave it to me, bet he knew it was a dud.'
'What house are your brothers in?' asked Harry.
'Gryffindor,' said Ron. Gloom seemed to be settling on him again. 'Mum and Dad were in it too. I don't know what they'll say if I'm not. I don't suppose Ravenclaw would be too bad, but imagine if they put me in Slytherin.'
'That's the house Vol- I mean, You-Know-Who was in?'
'Yeah,' said Ron. 'What about you, Sherlock?'
'Ravenclaw, obviously,' he murmured.
Ron flopped back into his seat, looking depressed.
'You know, I think the ends of Scabbers' whiskers are a bit lighter,' said Harry, trying to take Ron's mind off houses. 'So what do your oldest brothers do now they've left, anyway?'
Harry was wondering what a wizard did once he'd finished school.
'Charlie's in Romania, studying dragons and Bill's in Africa doing something for Gringotts,' said Ron. 'Did you hear about Gringotts? It's been all over the Daily Prophet, but don't suppose you get that with the Muggles- someone tried to rob a high-security vault.'
Harry stared, John gasped and Sherlock shifted sharply.
'Really? What happened to them?'
'Nothing, that's why it's such big news. They haven't been caught. My dad says it must've been a really powerful Dark wizard to get round Gringotts, but they don't think they took anything, that's what's odd. 'Course, everyone gets scared when something like this happens in case You-Know-Who's behind it.'
Harry turned the news over in his mind. He was starting to get a prickle of fear every time You-Know-Who was mentioned. He supposed this was all part of entering the magical world, but it had been a lot more comfortable saying 'Voldemort' without worrying.
'What's your Quidditch team?' Ron asked.
'Er- I don't know any,' Harry confessed.
'What's Quidditch?' asked John.
'What!' Ron looked dumbfounded. 'Oh, you wait, it's the best game in the world-' And he was off, explaining all about the four balls and the positions of the seven players, describing famous games he'd been to with his brothers and the broomstick he'd like to get if he had the money, while John listened avidly, eyes wide. He was just taking them through the finer points in the game when the compartment door slid open yet again, but it wasn't Neville the toadless boy or Hermione Granger this time.
Three boys entered and Harry recognised the middle one at once: it was the pale boy from Madam Malkin's robe shop. He was looking at Harry with a lot more interest than he'd shown back in Diagon Alley.
'Is it true?' he said. 'They're saying all down the train that Harry Potter's in this compartment. So it's you, is it?'
'Yes,' said Harry. He was looking at the other boys. Both of them were thickset and looked extremely mean. Standing either side of the pale boy they looked like bodyguards.
'Oh, this is Crabbe and this is Goyle,' said the pale boy carelessly, noticing where he was looking. 'And my name's Malfoy, Draco Malfoy.'
Ron gave a slight cough, which might have been hiding a snigger. Draco Malfoy looked at him.
'Think my name's funny, do you? No need to ask who you are. My father told me all the Weasleys have red hair, freckles and more children than they can afford.'
He narrowed his eyes and looked around the compartment. He spotted John and a nasty grin spread across his face. 'Ah, Watson, I wondered where you'd got to. Didn't you like our gifts?' he sneered.
He put a hand in his pocket to pull out something that looked suspiciously like a Gobstone. He drew back his arm but before he had a chance to throw it, he found a wand millimetres away from his nose. The boy that had barely moved the whole train ride had put his book down and was now standing in front of Malfoy, stopping him from throwing anything. His trench coat was absurdly big for him, dragging along the ground behind him, and his head barely reached Malfoy's chin, yet somehow he still managed to look imposing.
'What are you going to do?' he scoffed. 'You don't know anything yet.'
'I know enough,' he said quietly in a steady, American accent. 'Put it away.'
Malfoy scowled but slowly lowered the Gobstone and put it back in his pocket. The boy sat back down but, instead of picking up his book again, kept his blue eyes fixed on Malfoy, who turned back to Harry.
'You'll soon find out some wizarding families are better than others, Potter. You don't want to go making friends with the wrong sort. I can help you there.'
He held out his hand to shake Harry's, but Harry didn't take it.
'I think I can tell who the wrong sort are for myself, thanks,' he said coolly.
Draco Malfoy didn't go red, but a pink tinge appeared in his pale cheeks.
'I'd be careful if I were you, Potter,' he said slowly. 'Unless you're a bit politer you'll go the same way as your parents. They didn't know what was good for them either. You hang around with riff-raff like the Weasleys, Watson and that Hagrid and it'll rub off on you.'
John, Harry and Ron stood up. Ron's face was as red as his hair.
'Say that again,' he said.
'Oh, you're going to fight us, are you?' Malfoy sneered.
'Unless you get out now,' said Harry, more bravely than he felt, because Crabbe and Goyle were bigger were a lot bigger than any of them in the compartment.
'But we don't feel like leaving, do we boys? We've eaten all our food and you still seem to have some.'
All three of them forced their way into the compartment and as Goyle reached towards the Chocolate Frogs, three things happened simultaneously before Ron had so much as moved. The boy in the trench coat stuck out his foot and Malfoy fell flat on his face, Sherlock rolled off the luggage rack and on to Crabbe's back and Goyle let out a horrible yell.
Scabbers the rat was hanging off his finger, sharp little teeth sunk deep into Goyle's knuckle- Sherlock pulled on Crabbe's ears and Malfoy scuttled away from Goyle along the floor as he swung Scabbers round and round, howling. Scabbers finally flew off, Sherlock released Crabbe's ears and they all scrambled out at once. They listened to them go and heard a female, American voice growl: 'Out of my way, Malfoy.'
The trench coat boy immediately grabbed his book and hid behind it, huddling himself into the corner as far as he could.
An older girl with long light-brown hair appeared in the doorway. She was wearing a shiny green Prefect badge and a sickly smile, holding a brown paper bag.
'Have any of you seen my little brother? Over-sized trench coat, kinda small-'
She spotted him in the corner and her smile grew wider. 'You forgot your robes, sweetie- oops!' She spilled his clothes everywhere, including his underwear, although Harry was sure she'd done it on purpose.
'I'm so sorry! Let's pick these up shall we?'
She knelt down and picked up every piece of clothing, making a show of waving it around before finally putting it back in the bag, creating a very uncomfortable atmosphere. The boy shrunk until he was tucked into a small ball and Harry swore he heard a small sob from behind the thick covers of the book.
'Here you go.'
She went to shove the bag in his face until another American voice sounded from behind her.
'Come one, Lucy, leave the kid alone,' he said exasperatedly.
'Hey bro!' she said, wrapping her arms around him.
'You've had your fun, don't you have some Prefect duties to be doing?' he said good-naturedly.
'You're such a buzz-kill,' she groaned, rolling her eyes. 'Bye guys,' she put down the bag and flounced out of the compartment. The older boy ran a hand through his light-brown hair and straightened his black and yellow scarf.
'You ok kid?' he asked the trench coat boy, who nodded. He looked around at the rest of them. 'My name's Gabriel, I'm in the fourth year and that was our sister, Lucy. She's a live wire so I suggest you try not to get on the wrong side of her. I trust you've been looking after my little brother?'
They all nodded and he smiled. His face was kindly, unlike Lucy's whose grey eyes hid something twisted. 'His name's Castiel, by the way, he doesn't like introducing himself. Don't forget to change into your robes, kiddo,' he said, ruffling Castiel's hair playfully.
As he left, Hermione Granger reappeared.
'What has been going on?' she said, looking at the sweets all over the floor, Ron picking up Scabbers by the tail and Sherlock still pink in the face from holding on to Crabbe.
'I think he's been knocked out,' Ron said to Harry. He looked closer at Scabbers. 'No- I don't believe it- he's gone back to sleep.'
John looked at Sherlock and they both burst into gales of laughter.
'Did you see his face?'
'His ears were surprisingly stretchy.'
'You were brilliant!'
They laughed until tears formed in their eyes and they could barely breathe.
'Thanks for your help,' Harry said to Castiel,
'You're welcome,' he replied from behind his book. Hermione couldn't resist poking her nose over the top of his book to see what he was reading.
'So you've met Malfoy before?' Ron asked.
Harry explained about their meeting in Diagon Alley.
'I've heard of their family.' said Ron. Sherlock crossed his arms. 'They were some of the first to come back to our side after You-Know-Who disappeared. Said they'd been bewitched. My dad doesn't believe it. He says Malfoy's father didn't need an excuse to go over to the Dark side.' He turned to Hermione, who was still trying to read Castiel's book upside down. 'Can we help you with something?'
'You'd better hurry up and put your robes on, I've just been up the front to ask the driver and he says we're nearly there. You haven't been fighting, have you? You'll be in trouble before we even get there!'
'All right, keep your hair on! They started it!' said Ron, scowling at her. 'Would you mind leaving while we change?'
'All right. I only came in here because people outside are behaving very childishly, racing up and down the corridors,' said Hermione in a sniffy voice. 'And you've got dirt on your nose, by the way, did you know?'
Ron glared at her as she left. Harry peered out of the window. It was getting dark. He could see the mountains and forests under a deep-purple sky. The train did seem to be slowing down.
They all took off their jackets, Castiel somewhat reluctantly, and pulled on their long black robes. Ron's were a bit short for him, you could see his trainers underneath them. A voice echoed through the train: 'We will be reaching Hogwarts in five minutes' time. Please leave your luggage on the train, it will be taken to the school separately.'
Harry's stomach lurched with nerves and Ron, he saw, looked pale beneath his freckles. Castiel looked extremely uncomfortable without his trench coat and John seemed to be having trouble steadying himself. Sherlock, however, looked distinctly bored, albeit with a slight glint of worry in his eye. They crammed their pockets with the last of the sweets and joined the crowd thronging the corridor.
The train slowed right down and finally stopped. People pushed their way towards the door and out onto a tiny, dark platform. Harry shivered in the cold night air. Then a lamp came bobbing over the heads of the students and Harry heard a familiar voice: 'Firs'- years! Firs'- years over here! All right there, Harry?'
Hagrid's big hairy face beamed over the sea of heads.
'C'mon, follow me- any more firs'- years? Mind yer step now! Firs'- years follow me!'
Slipping and stumbling, they followed Hagrid down what seemed to be a steep, narrow path. Once or twice, Sherlock's gangly legs refused to keep him balanced and he slipped, to be held up by John each time. Nobody spoke much. Neville, the boy who kept losing his toad, sniffed a few times.
'You'll get yer firs' sight o' Hogwarts in a sec,' Hagrid called over his shoulder, 'jus' round this bend here.'
There was a loud 'Oooooh!'
The narrow path had opened suddenly on to the edge of a great black lake. Perched atop a high mountain on the other side, its windows sparkling in the starry sky, was a vast castle with many turrets and towers.
'No more'n four to a boat!' Hagrid called, pointing to a fleet of little boats sitting in the water by the shore. Harry and Ron were followed into their boat by Neville and Hermione, while Sherlock, John and Castiel got into another with a small red-haired girl.
'Everyone in?' shouted Hagrid, who had a boat to himself, 'Right then- FORWARD!'
And the fleet of little boats moved off at once, gliding across the lake, which was as smooth as glass. Everyone was silent, staring up at the great castle overhead. It towered over them as they sailed nearer and nearer to the cliff on which it stood.
'Heads down!' yelled Hagrid as the first boats reached the cliff, they all bent their heads and the little boats carried them through a curtain of ivy which hid a wide opening in the cliff face. They were carried along a dark tunnel, which seemed to be taking them right underneath the castle, until they reached a kind of underground harbour, where they clambered out onto rocks and pebbles.
'Oy, you there! Is this your toad?' said Hagrid, who was checking the boats as people climbed out of them.
'Trevor!' cried Neville blissfully, holding out his hands. Then they clambered up a passageway in the rock after Hagrid's lamp, coming out at last onto smooth, damp grass right in the shadow of the castle.
'They walked up a flight of stone steps and crowded round the huge, oak front door.
'Everyone here? You there, still got your toad?'
Hagrid raised a gigantic fist and knocked three times on the castle door.