September 1st, 2017
Despite everything leading up to that day at the train station, it didn’t quite hit Johanna that she was going to magic school until she walked onto the train platform and saw the crowd of students saying goodbyes to their parents and loading trunks and bookbags onto the train. For several minutes she stared around in wonder, taking the time to watch a few people come through the seemingly-solid brick wall. A boy about her age chased after a toad that kept hopping away.
“What are you doing? Don’t just stand there. Either get on the train or get out of my way,” said a boy, shoving past her.
Johanna was too stunned to respond, banging her elbow into her trolly and nearly tripping over her own feet. The boy brushed past her without another glance, while a tired-looking woman followed with his trolly and luggage.
He had a point though. Johanna rubbed her elbow then pushed her trolly forward, joining the line of students getting on. Most of them were much older than her, many of them were chatting, and many more were their with parents or family members.
Johanna was alone.
Thankfully Mrs. Ellery had gotten her to the station pretty early--she had somewhere to be, she’d said--so once Johanna had loaded her suitcase she easily found a compartment to herself.
Or maybe that wasn’t such a good thing. She wasn’t exactly used to being alone. She debated going out to find a less-empty compartment, but when she opened the door again the hallway was crowded with students she didn’t want to push past. She resolved to leave the door open, and figured someone else would walk in eventually.
In the meantime she looked out the window at the people still on the platform. The boy who’d pushed her was saying his goodbyes to his parents, a blond, balding man and a plain-looking woman. Not far away were two pleasanter looking families who had at least two kids each--she didn’t see anyone with as many siblings as she had, but then, maybe some of them weren’t wizards, just like her.
The littlest girl looked younger than Johanna and seemed to be whining to her mother. Both of them had bright red hair. Meanwhile the father, a besbeckled black-haired man, was down on one knee talking quietly to his son. The boy looked almost like a mini version of his dad.
As she watched another boy come running up, shouting about snogging--Johanna had no idea what that meant--she thought of her own family. She snorted at the thought of her mom and dad giving her tearful goodbyes at the train station. Jana maybe--aside from leaving Jackson that goodbye had been the hardest, but then again, Jana just thought she was going to a fancy private boarding school. If she knew it was a school for witchcraft and wizardry, she’d probably try to drag Johanna off the train as surely as her parents would.
She felt a surge of guilt as she remembered the lie. No one in her family had any idea where she really was. Her parents had known at one point. Johanna could still remember their shocked expressions, her dad’s pacing and string of incoherent words, and of course her mother’s crazy eyes (crazier than usual, that is). When Mrs. Ellery and her associates realized they would never let Johanna go, she had waved her wand and said some magic words that made a blank expression go over her parents faces.
They were probably praying for her safe travels now, but their prayers wouldn’t be much good if they had no idea they needed to pray for her soul.
“Excuse me? A-are these seats taken?” A timid looking boy and girl stood in the doorway to the compartment. After a moment she recognized them from the platform. The boy, with black hair and chocolate-brown eyes, was the one who spoke. Next to him stood a girl about the same age, with extremely bushy red hair, who Johanna had seen standing with her family near the boy.
“Maybe we should go somewhere else,” whispered the girl. “She looks kind of...”
“No!” Johanna said, a little too enthusiastically. She cleared her throat and looked down self-consciously at her long hand-me-down skirt. “Sorry, I uh... no, these seats aren’t taken.”
“Thanks,” said the boy.
The girl shrugged and followed him inside, where they sat across from each other one seat down from Johanna.
“I’m Rose,” said the girl. “Rose Weasley. Are you a first year too?”
First Year, that was easy enough to figure out. “Yeah. I’m Johanna by the way.”
“Albus,” said the boy.
“Albus?” said Johanna without thinking. “That’s an--a nice name.”
“He was named after Albus Dumbledore,” said Rose, giving him a funny look. “Hey, what’s with your accent anyway?”
Albus kicked her and gave her a look that said be nice. “It’s American, isn’t it?”
Johanna nodded. “It’s a long story. You’re, uh, both from around here, then?”
“Not really. We’re from Ottery St. Catchpole.” When Johanna looked at her blankly the girl went on. “It’s in Devon.”
“Oh,” said Johanna, though she still didn’t know what that meant. Outside of London, she assumed.
“Is that why you don’t know who Dumbledore is? ‘Cause you’re American?”
“I guess. I uh, I’m not stupid, it’s just that I didn’t know about the whole magic thing until recently...”
“Oh! So you’re a muggleborn,” she said brightly.
Johanna processed the new word for a minute. She had heard Mrs. Ellery say Muggle before, and explained that it referred to any non-magic person. Well, she had certainly been born of Muggles. She nodded.
“There’s nothing wrong with that,” said Albus quickly, not that Johanna had thought there might be until that second.
“Yeah, my mum’s a muggleborn, and she totally helped defeat the dark lord in the last--well, I guess you wouldn’t know about that.”
“Are you guys brother and sister or something?”
Albus shook his head. “Cousins. I have a brother and sister though.”
“And I have a brother. They’re such a drag!” said Rose.
“What about you?” asked Albus.
“Umm... I have a few siblings,” said Johanna.
She adjusted her skirt. “A few older than me. And a couple little sisters.”
“Wow! That sounds like a lot. I wonder if you have as many as my dad?” said Rose. “He’s got...” She seemed to be mentally counting her aunts and uncles. “Five.”
“You forgot Uncle Fred,” said Albus quietly.
“Oh, right. Six. So the older ones, are they--”
Thankfully, Johanna was saved from further questioning by a shout from outside. “Aaaaaaanythign from the trolly?” A moment later an old woman came hobbling down the aisle with a trolly full of food.
“All right! About time for snacks,” said Rose, jumping to her feet. “I’ll have a cauldron cake, and a chocolate frog... no, make that two.”
“One pumpkin pasty, please,” said Albus, pulling some coins out of his pocket.
Johanna was suddenly aware that she didn’t have any money, save for the twenty-dollar bill her dad had given her in case of emergency. Even if he didn’t know she was going to wizard school and wizards used their own money, he did know she was in England, so she wasn’t sure what good it would be.
“And for you, dear?” asked the woman kindly.
Johanna eyed the pile of foreign-but-delicious looking, cakes, pies, and candies sadly. “No thank you.”
“Oh! Wait a second!” said Rose before the woman could walk off. “If you’re muggle-born, you’ve got to try some of this stuff. Here.” She unceremoniously dumped her own goodies into Johanna’s arms and started loading up on more stuff.
The woman struggled to keep track as she seemed to take one of each thing. “That’ll be 4 more galleons...”
“Rose, are you really gonna spend all the money Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron gave you on your first day?”
Rose sighed, poking through her coin purse. “Yeah, all right. I’ll put some of these back. She’s got to try some bertie botts though.”
“What are bertie botts?” asked Johanna once the woman had left.
“Oh, they’re delicious. Here, just try one.”
“No, wait!” said Albus.
But it was too late. Johanna had already popped what looked like an innocent jelly bean into her mouth--and spit it back out. “Ugh! What was that? It tasted like old feet!”
“Ooh, I haven’t gotten old feet in a while,” said Rose.
Albus was poking through the pile of snacks by then. “Bertie Botts Every Flavor beans,” Albus explained. “As Uncle Ron always says, they mean every flavor. Here, try a chocolate frog. I promise they’re better...”
After a few minutes Johanna got over the gross jelly bean, too excited by the frogs that really hopped and thankfully tasted like regular chocolate. Soon the three of them were daring each other to try different beans (was that green one grass or lime? There was no way of knowing until one of them bit into it). As a result the train ride didn’t seem to take long at all, and Johanna stepped off with the two other first-years, thinking maybe she wouldn’t be so alone in this place after all.