Rosa held on to her father's hand tightly as they wound their way through the crowds of Kings Cross Station. They slowly passed through the hustle and bustle of the early commuters, her father with a slight grimace on his face. They paused between platforms nine and ten and Rosa looked around curiously.
"Where is it?" she quietly asked her father. He just shook his head and looked around again. Her father was a lean and bony man with thinning, black curly hair. He wore a bowler hat today and a nice suit for work and fit in quite well with the surrounding Londoners except for his darting eyes and underfed frame.
He looked positively paranoid as he muttered under his breath, "I don't like this witchcraft business."
"Papa maybe you should go to work; I'm sure it's around here somewhere," Rosa said. She wasn't sure but she knew that for every minute her father stayed with her he lost a minute of his wages at the radio station.
Her father looked down to the watch hanging loosely on his arm. He twisted it to read the time. "Your mother told me to tell you to write as soon as you get there." He leaned down to hug Rosa and his thick mustache and beard bristled against her face and her eyes began to sting. "Be careful. Do not trust these people. Avoid trouble. Try not to make your mother worry so much." He squeezed her shoulders again and whispered into her ear "don't forget where you come from."
Rosa nodded tensely. Her father disappeared into the conjoining crowd and she looked around bewilderedly.
After a moment, she noticed a family strolling towards her. The boy pushed an identical trunk on his cart and her eyes squinted as they approached. She could hear their words now—they were so close.
"Mum, we didn't have to get here so bloody early you know!" A boy with glasses whined.
"Mind your language, James." His mother responded with a warmhearted ferocity.
"What am I supposed to do? Sit on the train for half an hour?"
"We thought you might want some time for goodbyes. We're not going to see you until Christmas, you know," said his father lightheartedly. James's cheeks turned slightly red and he refused to respond.
"Well, here we are… are you ready?" The father continued, ruffling the boy's hair. Rosa felt a brief stab of jealousy at the family's closeness. While she knew her parents loved her, they always treated her so desperately, as if they were speaking their last words to her in every sentence. She felt guilty for feeling smothered as she watched the boy-James-interact with his parents so casually.
"I want to go first," James said defiantly, looking up to his parents. They nodded and he stepped right in front of Rosa, aiming his cart and trunk directly at the bit of wall between platforms nine and ten. He crouched down slightly, like a lion preparing to leap, before bounding up towards the wall.
Rosa let out a scared yelp, before yelling, "wait!" just in time to halt the boy from slamming into the wall. He turned around to glare at her and she noticed that, despite her volume, the only people who had noticed were James and his parents.
"What?" James asked; the same tone of defiance that he had used with his parents was still present in his voice.
"You-you were going to hit…" Rosa stammered, embarrassed by his abrasiveness.
"No I wasn't!" James protested but he wasn't cut off by his mother's laughter.
"You must be a muggleborn," she said and Rosa twitched her eyebrows, unsure of whether this was a jibe, "are you a first year?"
Rosa nodded quickly and wordlessly.
His mother continued. "This is the entrance to Platform Nine and Three Quarters. You have to walk through the wall to get there. Show her, Edward." The father quickly darted around James and seemed to disappear into the brick wall.
Rosa felt her eyes widen, realizing this was what it meant to be a witch.
"Here, I'll go through with you after James," the mother said and she pushed James slightly as he bounced through the wall.
Rosa smiled and James's mother softly put her hands onto the cart and helped Rosa push it through. She closed her eyes just as she was about to hit the wall and felt an icy coldness brush her skin, before it disappeared. She opened her eyes again in awe.
"But-but that was…" she said quietly as she took in the scarlet steam engine in front of her.
The mother smiled down at her. "That wasn't too hard now, was it?"
Rosa shook her head and added, "thank you, ma'am," but her eyes were darting around the platform. It was packed with people-who she could only assume to be wizards-in long robes and tall hats. There were owls flitting around the ceiling and kids running joyfully everywhere. She smiled, and as James's mother turned to fuss over her son's hair, Rosa slipped out of their visage towards the train.
"Do you mind if we sit here?" Rosa looked up. She had been sitting on the train for nearly 20 minutes now and it hadn't even left the station. Having contented her self with gazing at the chaos on the platform, she felt startled by the two newcomers but she shook her head politely.
"Not at all."
"I'm Lily, by the way. And this is Severus. Are you a first year?" The girl asked and her hand idly played with the ends of her long, sleek red hair nervously.
Rosa nodded as they sat down.
"And who are you?" the boy-Severus-asked, sliding in next to Lily. He had a beaklike nose and jaw-length black hair. He looked like he hadn't been in the sun in months, Rosa decided.
"What's your last name?" Severus asked quickly.
"It's Pearl," she said.
"Muggleborn?" He asked and for some reason he seemed to gain a more confident position as he said this, Rosa noted.
"I think so. I mean, I'm not quite sure what that is, but someone else said that today too so, I think I am?" She answered, her eyes darting between the two of them.
Lily beamed. "I am as well! It's just a fancy word for someone whose parents aren't magical," she explained. "Severus's mom is a witch," she added.
"Do you already know magic?" Rosa questioned. She wrapped her arms around her stomach, feeling slightly insecure. School hadn't even started and somehow these two had already become friends and, she assumed, practiced magic.
"A bit," Severus said slyly, "but no one really knows that much before Hogwarts."
"Oh, good," Rosa smiled, letting out a sigh of relief.
"I've been reading some of our textbooks for this year, just to be prepared," Lily added. "Of course I can't do anything yet, but it's all quite interesting!" Rosa smiled at Lily's warmth. She didn't feel as left out knowing that they were all in the same boat academically but made a mental note to read as much as she could of her textbooks tonight before classes started tomorrow. She didn't want to fall behind. She could just imagine her parents' faces if she failed out of school.
The train started to move and Rosa listened as Severus and Lily continued on with a conversation of their own.
About half an hour later, there was a knock at the compartment door. Before anyone could say, "come in," the sliding compartment door was slung open and two dark haired boys rushed in panting. They shut the door behind them quickly and leant their backs against it, out of breath. Rosa recognized one of them as James, from the platform.
"Mind if… we stay here… for bit?" James asked.
"Stuck a bunch of melted chocolate frogs down a seventh year Slytherin's pants… now he's out for us," the second one said, having regained normal breathing for the most part.
"That wasn't very nice," Lily said glaring at the two as the new boys grinned at each other.
"Well, we didn't do it to be nice," said the second boy.
"He was hexing first years," James explained.
"And he was a Slytherin," the second added as if nothing else needed to be said.
"Do you have something against Slytherin?" Severus quipped accusingly.
"Besides everything?" James responded jovially. "I'm James, by the way," he added, stretching his hand out to Lily first. "James Potter."
She hesitantly shook it before adding quietly, "I'm Lily." He then outstretched his arm to Severus and Rosa respectively while the second boy flopped down on the seat next to Rosa. Rosa wasn't sure whether to feel offended or thankful that he didn't remember her.
"I would probably drop out of Hogwarts if I was put in Slytherin," said the second boy, cutting both Severus and Rosa off from introducing themselves. He had a haughty look to him and he slouched carefree against the seat before putting his feet up on the seat next to Lily. She scooted closer to Severus, away from his sneakers.
Severus opened his mouth to respond and the four started bickering about which house was best. Rosa could feel herself getting more and more confused. She had been told Hogwarts was a castle, not four different houses. She decided to follow Lily's lead and get a head start on her reading so she pulled out her copy of Basic Transfiguration and stopped listening as the other continued to heatedly debate the merits of each house.
Rosa didn't know how much time had passed but when she looked up again from her book the London city scenery had transformed into rolling green pastures, spotted with cows and sheep.
It took her a moment to notice that the compartment was deadly silent and that the four pairs of eyes were glaring heatedly at each other. Lily, Severus, James and James's friend seemed to have come to a stalemate in their argument, which was shown in their stubborn, reddening faces.
"Do any of you have the time?" she asked quietly and all four jumped in their seats, startled. Rosa flushed. They had obviously forgotten she was there.
"Who are you?" the boy who hadn't introduced himself asked rudely.
"Rosa Pearl." Rosa smiled. She remembered her mother telling her early this morning to be as friendly as possible, but to trust no one. She stretched out her hand for him to shake but the boy merely smirked and she quickly withdrew it and looked away.
"I think it's been long enough now and the Slytherin won't be looking for you. You two should leave." Rosa beamed at Lily as she harshly stared down the two boys. "Now," she finished and both skittishly grabbed their bags and made their way out of the compartment.
After they left Rosa smiled at Lily again; "thank you," she said.
Lily smiled tightly back before glaring at the boys retreating backs. "Don't worry about it. Those two were probably the meanest, most arrogant arses I've ever met. I don't even care which house I'm in as long as I'm not with them."
Rosa fervently agreed and the three started an easy conversation about their expectations and fears for their new home.