It wasn't extremely uncommon for students to be dropped off at the Hogwarts express in the early hours of the morning. Especially students that had parents who worked for the ministry for magic. So the young boy in slightly scruffy robes wasn't at all out of place on platform 9 and 3/4, clinging desperately to his muggle mother while his father looked for a quiet compartment. Of course not many students were quite as pale as this boy and many looked as if they got a good deal more sleep, however boys will be boys and sometimes they stayed up late despite their parents best wishes. No, there was nothing extraordinary about this boy. At least nothing obvious to a passer by.
However both father and child kept stealing careful, frantic glances at one another, as if afraid the platform was about to dissolve around them - leaving them suspended in a void of despair with only their own certainty that it was unavoidable. The mother on the other hand looked quite at ease as she hugged her son and lead him to the empty compartment at the end of the train. She tucked him into the seat by the window - straightening his hair as proud mothers do on their child's first day at a new school. She fussed, offered him food, asked if he was warm enough - they could possibly still fetch a blanket - do try to sleep a bit on the train dear - ect. The boy held a polite but thankful air throughout the conversation, answering in short, nervous and tired phrases. "No thank you, I'm fine mother, I will."
It wasn't until both parents had said their goodbyes and were about to leave that he said more than three words at once. "Father… could I have my wand?" The haggard wizard faltered at the request - his sons wand was, as was normal, tucked away in his trunk. Students always kept their wands away for the duration of the train journey, where they were safe out of harms way. His son - knowing how expensive wands were and how finely stretched the family's money was already - should understand the importance of keeping it protected. But the boy wasn't prone to causing trouble, and he was staring at his father with pleading eyes. "Only…" he continued "I want to hold it a bit… so that I know… So that I can…"
So that I know I'm allowed here. So that I can prove I'm a wizard if I need to. The words didn't have to be spoken and the harsh lines that littered the mans face smoothed into an exasperated sadness. "oh Remus…" he sighed, fetching the wand from the boys truck and pressing it into his shaking fingers. "Don't let anyone tell you that you aren't allowed here." Remus nodded hollowly in response. In truth, he had no right to stop people from saying what they wished about him. However it would be rude to disagree with his father after all he'd done to make this day possible. So he nodded. He clung to both parents a little tighter than usual in way of goodbye. He'd never been a single night out of their company and now he was looking at some very long months without them.
The goodbyes were too long, but even after his parents had left the platform was nearly completely devoid of students. Young Remus Lupin, clung to his wand as he stared out of the dull train window, very nearly holding his breath every time a pair of eyes passed over him. He didn't look the least out of the ordinary. Tired - perhaps even sick - but not anything of note. But every glance felt like an accusation, and the bundle of nerves that had been growing in his stomach since he set foot on the platform was threatening to overwhelm him. It was a wonder that he fell asleep in that seat in the corner of the compartment before the majority of the students had made it onto the train. But sleep he did, wand - proof he was a student at hogwarts - still clutched tightly in his hand.
Remus awoke again with a start when the train jolted him into the cold glass of the window. He was disorientated and confused, he shouldn't even be out of bed yet but here he was sat on a train. He wanted his mother to come and check his temperature as it still seemed as if he was getting hot and cold chills wracking through him. But of course he wasn't wrapped up in the extra soft bedclothes they'd gotten for this time when he was so sensitive. He was in the heavy, thick hogwarts robes and it wasn't until Remus realised that - that he remembered he'd been holding his wand when he fell asleep. And that now he wasn't.
The mad scramble to find where he had dropped it made the poor boy's head spin. It was raining outside, and the coolness of the glass beckoned to the sickly first year, who honestly just wanted to lay his head down again and drift back into peaceful sleep where he wouldn't be noticed. However he now found himself, stranded on a train in the middle of nowhere with nothing to defend himself with should things go wrong - should he be noticed. "Are you looking for this?"
If Remus didn't know it was impossible he could have sworn he'd just leapt out of his skin. How foolish he had been to not expect other passengers to sit in the same compartment as him on the train. The two students he was sharing the compartment with were both about his age. Both had black scruffy hair and one - a boy with an arrogant grin plastered to his face and sparkling glasses framing his eyes -was shuffling a deck of cards. Evidently they had been playing games quietly for some time so as not to wake Remus up. It was the other boy who had spoken. This boy had a strange openness about him that immediately made Remus want to shy away from him. It was Remus' experience, that open people expected a certain level of openness in return - something that Remus could not give, even if they were to make the unlikely leap from acquaintance to friend.
In this observing it took him a good minute to realise that the speaker was holding out Remus' wand to him, and Remus took it so quickly that he almost snatched it from the strangers hand. To his surprise, Remus found no damage had been done to the precious item. The boy had lifted it from where it had fallen and held onto it until Remus woke and was aware enough to take it back. It proved two things - people really couldn't tell the truth about him - and he needn't have worried quite so much about how people would treat him at first impressions. "Thank you," Remus breathed, turning the wand in his hands. The stranger had been thoughtful enough to protect this when Remus could not… the notion was so strange to him that he fell silent immediately after his thanks were given.
"No problem," The boy shrugged slumping back in his seat with the careless yet rebellious air of someone discovering new limitations for the first time. "Give over the deck Potter, we can play with the loud ones now." The cards, Remus realised from his position of safety - had been a muggle set. Plain and not overly decorative but slightly ruffled as if exposed to light a few too many times. Overused. Potter handed the cards back to the boy beside him, practically tossing them across the seat. The boy who's name Remus still didn't know caught them with haste and a cry of "easy!"
He held the cards as if they were some sacred artefact and to him they probably were. From the way he looked at them, they were more valuable to him than any number of galleons and Remus couldn't help but think he shared the compartment with a complete idiot. Not the nameless stranger, but the Potter boy beside him. The boy that now shrugged as if the scraps of paper were worthless. "It's just a set of muggle cards - mine are better." Remus knew better. He was old enough now to know the true worth of things and something that was so carefully stowed away out of sight by someone whose robes were obviously of an expensive fabric and cut - that was something precious to his heart. This Remus understood completely. His few personal belongings from home couldn't be worth much, many of them had been free. But such things - given with care and thought… nothing could replace them. "Care to join us Master R. J. Lupin?" The potter boy asked, glasses glinting in the light. Remus jumped as if he'd been struck, his jaw worked soundlessly as he tried to comprehend how this stranger knew his name. His full name. The boy had a cocky smile plastered to his face as he observed the strangers shock and Remus tried desperately to stammer out a reply.
"How the bloody hell do you know that?" The two were as bad as each other and the shout was like a knife stabbing into Remus throbbing skull. He was still slightly feverish from the last few nights and he wasn't used to trying to talk to people like this. And yet… he felt himself filled with gratitude. This stranger had saved him again - this time from asking a question he wasn't sure how to phrase politely. Though the accusatory tone that was used wasn't what Remus would have preferred the pressure was off him to answer at all.
"Honestly Black, don't your family know how to read? It's on his trunk."
Remus smiled letting the confusion and terror fade. If he kept jumping like this every time it seemed someone knew more than they should - he would never make it through the school year. "No thank you Master Potter," He responded politely, briefly noting he should have been speaking in such a way since he first woke. He did want to play but feared he couldn't, he would tire quickly and the loud noises would send shooting pain through his skull. One of the things he would have to get used to around ordinary children, not being one of them.
"You didn't need to be so polite," Black told Remus with a distinctly canine grin. "You should have just told him to 'Sod off you git, its your fault I woke up anyway.' Thats the thing with Potter kids, you have to show them who's in charge." At this, the Potter boy straightened up indignantly and snapped at his companion on the seat beside him. The two descended into childish bickering as if they had known each other for one too many years. Remus watched them unable to decide if he was amused or concerned by the rising severity of their threats to each other. However they seemed to be enjoying the arguments and the sickly first year opposite them did not think it his place to split them apart.
He settled for watching and listening in mild bewilderment and buying a few of the cheapest sweets from the trolly when the witch came past a few minutes later. Somehow over this small stretch of time the anger turned to amusement and the two dark haired boys began to play exploding snap. They continuously invited Remus to play - each time he politely refused, trying not to wince at the loud noises. First names were exchanged as was a bit of the boys family lives - Sirius Black was the first born son of Walburga and Orion Black. James - the Potter boy, snorted at this. According to him the whole family had "Been in Slytherin for years, inbred blood purists the lot of them. If I hadn't seen you giving Malfoy an earful on the platform I'd have thought you were just like them."
"And the Potters are a bunch of arrogant pricks, we don't pick our families Potter," Sirius snapped back, promptly winning the game in the same moment. Remus shyly answered the questions put to him - his mother was a muggle, his father worked for the ministry.
Conversation died down then and Remus gratefully lapsed into a semi-conscious state, only half paying attention to the conversation around him. It was wonderful - it was unlike anything he had experienced before. In company but not pressured to join in the games, not really. He was… enjoying himself. He was tired certainly, in fact he kept nearly falling asleep but he found himself comfortable with the others around him. Comfortable until the quiet was disturbed. "Hey mate," Sirius nudged the sleepy student into wakefulness. "The trains stopping." Remus blinked the sleep from his eyes, stretching in the spacious compartment as James chuckled.
"You'd think he'd want to be awake for his first glimpse of the castle," he commented.
"Shove off, I think he's just gotten better from a long sickness, Regulus was tired for weeks after he got over the flu," Sirius chided glancing over his shoulder at James who just laughed as he polished his glasses on his robes. But by now Remus was up and looking out the window in hopes of seeing the castle. His father had told him everything he could about Hogwarts. Stuffy classrooms and ancient books with equally ancient professors - warm and welcoming dormitories with their large common room chairs for reading. It sounded wonderful but all that would have to wait because no matter what angle he tried the young master Lupin could not see the castle through the dark night.
The train pulled into the station and the students charged off, first years going one way, towards the lake, while the other students continued to walk up the road. Remus was joined in his boat by James and Sirius. The two excitable boys tried to immediately push off into the water but were stopped and joined by another boy who nervously sat far from the others, at the very edge of the boat. Concerned he'd fall in, Remus reached for the stranger who recoiled from him with a terrified squeak. Remus pulled his hand back with a quickly stammered apology. Because of that his eyes were fixed heavily on the lake water when they finally pushed off.
Each stroke left long ripples that distorted the stars reflections in the water, making them grow and shrink. Remus watched them while James and Sirius rowed, bickering the whole time. The hush fell on the first years suddenly and with no warning before giving way to the awed babble. "Would you look at that," James whistled and Remus eyes finally flicked up.
Every word his father had ever said to him about Hogwarts may as well have been composed by a toddler - not a single one gave the castle its full justice. The towered walls stretched into the sky, scratching the underside of the dark clouds that drifted past it - painted gold from the hundreds of brightly glowing windows that dotted the stone structure. The glass panes twinkled like the welcoming wink of the schools headmaster, drawing the first year boats silent and spectral across the inky lake. Remus breath left him at the wonder. The building and its surroundings were not something he could imagine in his most peaceful of dreams. The boat met ground and the spell still wasn't broken as the students were led inside. But of course, this castle was meant for the study of the next generation of brilliant witches and wizards - it was only natural that it was so impressive and so imposing. "While you study here, this castle will be your home," the witch preparing them to be sorted began and Remus couldn't help but break into a smile. As he glanced sidelong at Sirius and James he saw he wasn't alone - all of them were grinning from ear to ear. Students at Hogwarts. Home.
End of Chapter one.
I do hope you enjoyed it - if you did I would really appreciate a review. Constructive criticism is always welcome as well :)