Remus rubbed his scalp again, then his nose, which kept running. It had been bothering him since dinner the evening before, when another boy had punched him. To be fair, Remus had kicked him first. But the boy – Malcolm White – was fourteen and twice the size of eleven-year-old Remus. Malcolm had made some crack about Remus going to a special school for backwards kids, and he’d had to retaliate. He had a black eye now, which he regretted. Everyone at the new school would think he was a yob. But then, he supposed he was a yob.
Matron slapped his hand away from his head and he scowled up at her. They stood in the huge ticket hall at King’s Cross staring at two platform numbers. There was number nine, then number ten. Matron looked at the letter in her hand again.
“For goodness sake.” She muttered.
“We have to run at the barriers.” Remus said, “I told you.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Matron said, “I’m not running at anything.”
“I’ll go, then. Leave me here.”
Remus had only half believed Dumbledore when he’d explained how to access platform 9 ¾. But then packages had started arriving for him, delivered by owls and containing strange books and weird clothes and all sorts of oddments like quills and parchment. Dumbledore had been unfailingly generous over the past month. He’d presented Remus with a list of things he would need for his new school, and promised to send him as much of it as he could from the second hand supplies at Hogwarts. Now Remus was willing to believe almost anything the old man said.
He’d never owned so many possessions before, and was actually glad when Matron had locked everything in her office so it wouldn’t get pinched by the other boys. Now it had all been crammed into a battered old charity shop suitcase which he had to hold in a very particular way so it didn’t fall apart.
“I’m not leaving you anywhere, Lupin. Just wait there while I find a guard.” Matron clipped off towards the ticket office, her big backside wobbling as she went. Remus glanced about furtively, then licked his lips. It might be his only chance.
He ran at the barrier at full pelt, squeezing his eyes shut tight as he approached the metal turnstiles. But he didn’t hit anything. The atmosphere changed, and he opened his eyes to find himself standing on a completely different platform, surrounded by people. Not people. Wizards.
The train itself was huge, gorgeous and old fashioned. ‘The Hogwarts Express’. He clutched his suitcase with both hands, biting his lip. There were lots of other children, his own age and older, but they were all with their families, some of them crying as they were hugged and kissed by protective mothers. He felt very small and very alone, and thought it best to just hurry up and get on the train.
Inside he couldn’t reach the luggage rack to stow away his things, so he chose an empty carriage and sat the suitcase on the seat beside him. He watched the people on the platform through the window, pressing his forehead against the cold glass. He wondered if they all came from wizard families too. He wondered of any of them had episodes like he did. He didn’t think so – none of them seemed to have scars. A lot of them were wearing normal clothes, like he was (albeit with fewer holes and patches), but some were wearing long dark robes and tall pointed hats. Lots of the other kids had owls, or cats carried in baskets. He even saw one girl with a tiny lizard perched on her shoulder.
Remus was starting to feel even more nervous, his stomach roiling as he realised that despite everything Dumbledore had said about being among his ‘own kind’, he would be just as out of place at Hogwarts as he was everywhere else.
Just then, he realised that someone was staring back at him from the platform. It was another boy, his own age. He was tall and slim, but not skinny like Remus. He had dark hair, much longer than any other boy he’d ever seen, curling gracefully to his shoulders. He had fine high cheekbones, a full mouth and startling blue eyes. Seeing Remus staring, the other boy arched one perfect eyebrow in a gesture that clearly said: ‘and what are you looking at?’
Remus stuck his tongue under his bottom lip so that his chin bulged, pulling an ugly face. The other boy smirked, slightly, then threw up two fingers at him. Remus almost laughed.
“Sirius, what do you think you are doing?! Come here at once.” A rather severe looking witch with the same angular eyebrows as the boy stepped into view, yanking her son away from the window. The boy rolled his eyes but obeyed, and they disappeared further up the platform.
Remus sat back in the beaten leather seat and sighed. He was getting hungry, he hoped the journey wasn’t too long. Matron had packed him two dry cheese and pickle sandwiches and an apple, but he didn’t fancy them much.
After a few more minutes, the door to his compartment burst open, and a girl came rushing in. She ignored Remus, flying to the window, pressing her hands against the glass and waving frantically at her family standing on the platform. She was small and pale, with bright red hair pulled back in a tight plait. Her face was blotchy from crying.
She kept waving as the train drew away, and her parents waved back, blowing kisses. A sour faced girl stood beside them, her arms folded. Once the train had completely left the station, the red haired girl sat down opposite Remus, sighing deeply. She looked at him with huge green eyes, glistening with tears.
“It’s so horrid saying goodbye, isn’t it?” She had a high, middle class accent.
“Uh, yeah, I s’pose.” Remus nodded, self-conscious. He didn’t really like girls. St Eddy’s was single -sex, and the only contact he had with women was the Matron and the school nurse – they were both mean old bitches. The girl was looking at him curiously.
“Are you from a muggle family, too? My name’s Lily.”
“Remus,” he replied, awkwardly, “My dad was a wizard, but I didn’t know him… well I grew up with muggles.”
“I couldn’t believe it when I got my letter,” she smiled, warmly, cheering up, “But I can’t wait to see what it’s like, can you?”
Remus couldn’t think how to answer her – but he didn’t have to. The door slid open once more and a boy poked his head in. He had long black hair, like the boy Remus had pulled faces at, but it was poker straight. He had a long nose and wore a deep frown.
“There you are, Lily, I’ve been looking ages.” He said, giving Remus a dirty look, the sort Remus was quite used to.
“Sev!” Lily jumped out of her seat and threw her arms around the other boy, “I’m so glad to see you!”
He patted her shoulder, shyly, his cheeks slightly pink.
“Come and sit in my carriage, there’s plenty of room.”
“Oh…” Lily looked back, “Can Remus come? He’s all by himself.”
“I’m not sure,” The other boy, Sev, looked Remus up and down, taking him in piece by piece. The thuggish haircut, the fraying jeans, the worn out t-shirt, the second hand suitcase. “There might not be that much room.”
Remus slouched down in his seat, propping his feet up on the bench opposite.
“Get lost then. I don’t want to go to your stupid carriage.” He looked out of the window, purposefully.
Lily and the other boy left. Remus let his feet drop back to the floor. He sighed. It was noisy, outside his little compartment. He could hear shrieking and laughter and owls hooting and a few younger students still crying. Once again, he found himself locked away from everyone else. He was starting to wonder if that was just his lot in life. Perhaps once he got to this Hogwarts place they’d force him to sleep in a cell all by himself too.
There was a sudden rap at the door – a short, cheerful tune – and it opened once more. Remus slouched even further down in his seat, as a friendly faced boy with a mess of dark hair and large round glasses entered, grinning.
“Hiya,” He held out a hand to Remus, “First year? Me too, I’m James.” He nodded his head back to a short boy who had followed him in. “This is Peter.”
Remus shook James’ hand. It felt easy and comfortable. For the first time, the tight coil in his stomach began to unwind.
“Can we sit here? Everywhere else is full and Peter’s getting train sick.”
“Am not.” Peter murmured, taking a seat opposite Remus, eyeing him warily. He did look a bit green. He rubbed his hands together in his lap and stared at the floor.
“Know what house you’ll be in?” James asked Remus, directly. Remus shook his head. He didn’t know anything about houses. Was that where they’d be sleeping? “What were your parents in?” James persisted. “Did they go to Hogwarts?”
Remus nodded, slowly,
“My dad did. I dunno what house though. My mum didn’t. She was nor—a muggle.”
Peter looked up suddenly,
“You’re a half blood?”
Remus shrugged helplessly.
“Shut up, Pettigrew,” James chastised the boy next to him, “As if it even matters.”
Remus was just about to ask what a half blood was, when the door opened yet again. It was the good looking boy who’d sworn at him in the station. He glanced about, furtively,
“None of you are related to me, are you?” He drawled. He had the same high, upper class accent that Peter and James had. Remus disliked them all at once, knowing that they’d think he was common – and a half blood, whatever that was.
“Don’t think so.” James replied, grinning, “James Potter.” He held out a hand again. The other boy shook it, easily,
“Oh good, a Potter. Dad told me not to talk to you.” He sat down next to Remus, grinning, “Sirius Black.”