The Sugar Quill
Author: Robin (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Promises Unbroken  Chapter: Chapter 2: Train Tracks to Destiny
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Promises Unbroken

 

Promises Unbroken

 

 

Chapter Two: Train Tracks to Destiny

 

September 1991

            “Can I sit in here?  Everywhere else is full.”

            Harry looked up from reading his battered copy of Quidditch Through the Ages to see a tall and freckled boy with red hair standing in the door to his compartment. 

            “Sure,” Harry smiled.  The other boy looked as lonely as he felt at the moment.  One’s own excitement, after all, made poor company.

            The redhead grinned and thrust out a hand after sitting down.  “I’m Ron Weasley.  Nice to meet you.”

            “Harry Potter.” He braced himself for the inevitable, and was not disappointed when Ron’s eyes widened to the size of saucers.

            “Wow,” the other boy gaped.  “What are you doing here?”

            Harry shrugged, trying not to seem uncomfortable.  His recent experiences in Diagon Alley had taught him to take such greetings philosophically—and from what he knew of the Weasley family, Ron had every right to be surprised.  “Going to Hogwarts, same as you.  Or do you mean something else?”

            Ron turned red.  “Well, I thought you’d be further up the train.  You know, with Malfoy and his friends.”

            “Why in the world would I want anything to do with them?” Harry demanded with a smile.  People were always making that mistake…he didn’t know Malfoy well, but he knew enough about the entire family to know that he’d rather befriend a Weasley any day.

            “I dunno…” If possible, Ron turned an even brighter shade of red.  “I just figured with as famous as your Dad is, and, well, they say that you’re…rich and all.”

            “So?”  Is that all?  Harry found himself smiling.  For most of his life, he’d been isolated from the other people in the Wizarding world aside from a few close friends of his parents’, which meant that he hadn’t had a lot of contact with kids his age.  Oh, sure, he’d met others, but his father’s position in the Ministry meant that the Potter family was still high on Voldemort’s list…and that meant that he and his Mum had spent much of the last decade in hiding.  He’d been looking forward to Hogwarts for years now, at least to meet other kids his own age.  He hated to admit it, but he was lonely.  The look on the other boy’s face, however, offered to change all of that.

            “So you’re not friends with Malfoy?” Ron asked eagerly.

            “Not in this lifetime!”

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            “Mudblood!”

            “Unworthy!”

            “Muggle scum!”

            “Freak!”

            Bushy hair flying behind her, Hermione Granger fled.  She was no coward, but the three boys chasing her were all bigger than she was, and all looked ready to actually attack her.  For all of her life, Hermione had felt out of place—she’d made things happen without meaning to, had never understood why she was different… She had come to Hogwarts out of a hope and dream to belong.  But now that didn’t seem possible.  Desperately, she spied a closed compartment near the end of the train, and Hermione bolted inside, slamming the door shut behind her and hoping that Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle hadn’t seen where she’d gone.

            Breathing hard, she turned around, ready to collapse into a seat and wallow in a bout of self-pity.  Instead of an empty car, however, she found two boys, one with flaming red hair and freckles and another with glasses and messy black hair.  They were both staring at her.

            “What are you doing here?” the red-haired one asked suspiciously.

            Hermione gulped.  “I’m sorry,” she said, quickly deciding that perhaps the Magical world wasn’t something that she wanted to be a part of.  Hermione reached for the door.  “I’ll leave.  I was just looking for…”

            “Are you okay?” the boy with glasses asked.

            “Yes.  I’m fine.”  He looked slightly worried, but she was sure that was a mistaken impression.  Wizards, Hermione was rapidly realizing, were all the same.  Jerks.

            Suddenly, there was shouting in the corridor, and she found herself glancing nervously at the door.  Where would be safer: in a compartment with boys she knew nothing about, or in the hallway with boys that already hated her?  Hermione didn’t want to go out there, but staying didn’t seem to be a great idea, either.  I wish I’d never come here, Hermione thought furiously.  I wish I’d never gotten that stupid letter.  Stupid magic.  Horrible people.  She looked nervously at the two boys as the voices outside grew louder.  And to think I was so excited about this!

            “Are they looking for you?” the red-haired one asked.

            A bang on a nearby door made Hermione jump, and she nodded uncertainly.

            “What for?’ the other asked.

            “I don’t know.”  She bit her lip.  “They called me a Mudblood.  They said I was unworthy.”

            Her words seemed to anger them; both boys stood up suddenly, making Hermione wish there was somewhere to back up to without going out the door.  But the red-haired boy smiled a little at her.  “Here, you’d better sit down,” he said kindly.  “Just stay behind us in case they come in—”
            There wasn’t time to ask why.  The compartment door flew open and Goyle howled in triumph.  “I found her!”

            Malfoy was there within moments, but Hermione was surprised to find herself thrown behind the other two boys.  She stared at them in confusion, but both had their arms crossed and were standing between her and the doorway, blocking Malfoy and his two goons.  The blonde-haired boy sneered.

            “Trying to hide, Mudblood?” he drawled.

            “Get lost, jerk,” the red-haired boy snarled immediately.  “This is our compartment.”

            “I don’t see your name written on it,” Malfoy replied arrogantly  “But then again, I don’t have to ask who you are, do I?  Red hair, hand-me down robes—it’s easy to tell you’re a Weasley.  I shouldn’t be surprised to see you defending a piece of Muggle trash.”

            “The only trash in this compartment is you, Malfoy,” the black haired boy growled, drawing the other’s surprised gaze to him.  “Get out.  You’re not welcome here.”

            The blond boy blinked.  “I’d have thought better of you, Potter, with your blood,” he sneered.  “But maybe that Mudblood mother of yours had more influence on you than one would hope.”

             “Well, I guess you’re proof that money doesn’t equal brains, aren’t you, Draco?” Potter retorted, not rising to the bait even though his eyes flashed dangerously.

            “You ought to pick better friends, Potter,” Malfoy snapped.  “More worthy ones.”

            “Like you, you mean?  No thanks.  I’d rather keep company with a flubberworm.  It’d provide more intelligent conversation, and probably be more honest, too.”

            “Eat dung, four eyes!”

            “Four eyes?” Weasley interjected.  “Is that the best you can come up with, Malfoy?  I’ve met owls who can think of better insults.”

            “As if your family could even afford a decent owl.  I hear your old one practically dies making deliveries,” Malfoy snapped, making Weasley turn red in embarrassment.  Hermione watched, fascinated, as the black-haired boy—Potter—spoke up immediately in his defense.  I wish I had friends like that, she thought enviously.

            “Get out, Malfoy.”

            “And why should I, Potter?  D’you think I’m afraid of you two or your Mudblood friend who’s hiding behind you?”

            Before either boy—or Hermione, for that matter—could even think of replying, another voice came from the corridor.  This one was deeper and older than the others.  “Is there a problem here?”

            Malfoy and his companions spun, affording Hermione a view of another red-haired boy.  This one was older than the boy in front of her, though, with a rather slim and stern seeming build.  Seeing who it was, though, Malfoy only shrugged.  “Another Weasley, huh?” he asked arrogantly.  “I guess they do move in packs.”

            Crabbe and Goyle snickered, and the younger Weasley growled, but the older one only looked narrowly at the threesome before him. 

            “Yes, another Weasley,” he snapped.  “This one, however, happens to be a Prefect.  Move along, you three, or I’ll speak to the Deputy Headmaster when we reach school.”

            Hermione’s former pursers glared, but they sulked away, although Hermione thought she heard Malfoy mumbling something under his breath.  It sounded like he was saying “You’ll get yours, eventually, Muggle-lover,” but she couldn’t be sure—and it didn’t seem to matter as the Prefect turned his stern glare on her and her newfound companions.  However, he chose to concentrate on the red-haired boy, whom she assumed was his younger brother.  The resemblance was amazing, to say the least, and the younger Weasley bristled under his brother’s glare.

            “Before you even begin yelling at me, Perce, it wasn’t our fault,” Weasley said angrily.  “They started it.”

            “I don’t care who started it, Ron,” ‘Perce’ snapped.  “You should know better than to get into fights.  On the train, no less!  We’re not even at school yet—”

            “I can’t help that they decided to chase her in here, calling her all sorts of names!” Ron snapped back.  “What am I supposed to do, sit here and say nothing?”

            The older boy sighed.  “Well, I suppose not,” he said stiffly.  “Just try not to get into trouble any more, all right, Ron?  I’d hate to have to owl Mum as soon as we get to school…” He frowned.  “I knew those three would be trouble from the moment they got on the train.”

            “You can say that again,” Ron mumbled, but his brother didn’t seem to hear him.

            The older Weasley suddenly brightened.  “Well, I have things to do.  The prefects have compartments up front, and I’m sure that they’re all wondering where I got off to… I’ll see you at the Sorting, Ron.”

            “Right.”  With a final nod, the prefect disappeared down the passageway, leaving the three of them in relative peace and quiet.  After a moment, Ron shrugged and closed the compartment door again.  “Well, that was bloody good timing!”

            “Agreed,” the other boy—Potter, Hermione remembered his name being—said with relief.  Then, however, he did exactly what she had been dreading, and turned to face her.  “You can sit down, you know,” he said with a slight smile.  “Neither of us is going to bite.”

            “Oh.”  Hermione remembered Ron’s earlier offer, but she’d never gotten to take a seat in the face of Malfoy’s appearance and the aftermath.  Cautiously, she sat down in the car’s plush seat, wondering what would happen next.  Both boys took seats facing her, but Ron smiled and stuck out a hand.

            “I’m Ron Weasley, as I’m sure you noticed,” he said cheerily.  “This is Harry Potter.”

            There was something relaxing in his smile, and she took his hand with only a slight hesitation.  “I’m Hermione Granger.”

            “Nice to meet you,” both boys replied, and she shook Harry’s hand as well.  They seemed so nice… And they looked so comfortable there, so confident, that she had to ask.

            “So, I guess you two have been friends for awhile?”

            Harry grinned.  “Actually, we just met.”

            “Yeah.  I walked in about two minutes before you came flying through the door,” Ron replied.

             “But you seemed to…” Now she was confused.  Why had they both stuck up for her, and for each other, then?

            “Hate Malfoy?” Ron supplied.  “Oh, that’s easy.  Everyone knows that Malfoy is a git.  He’s one of them, you know.”

             “No, I don’t know,” Hermione frowned.  She had no idea what they were talking about, and Ron looked at her in confusion.

            “Your parents are Muggles, aren’t they?” Harry asked gently, but she looked at him blankly.  “I mean, not wizards.”

            “Yes,” she sighed.  “I gather that’s why Malfoy and his friends didn’t like me.”

            “Well, they’re stuck up jerks, anyway, so I wouldn’t worry about them,” Ron replied immediately, and Hermione smiled slightly.  Maybe Hogwarts wouldn’t be so bad if most of the people weren’t like the boys who had chased her around the train a little while ago, threatening to hex her into a the worm they said she deserved to be.  Thoughtfully, she frowned.

            “I don’t understand what the big deal is, though,” Hermione said quietly, hoping she wouldn’t anger the other two.  “I mean, I’m the same as you two…right?”

            “Of course you are,” Harry replied immediately.  “It’s just that some people from the old Wizarding families think that people with Muggle parents shouldn’t be allowed to become witches and wizards.  They think that magic should be reserved for purebloods.  Malfoy’s like that, but don’t worry.  Most people aren’t.”

            “Really?” Hermione wondered.  She’d seen the kids snickering as Malfoy and his goons chased her around the train, and it seemed that a lot of people hated her simply because of something she couldn’t change.  Sighing, she continued glumly, “I guess you’re both…purebloods, right?”

            “Yeah, but that doesn’t matter to good people,” Ron reassured her, and Harry smiled.

            “I am, but my Mum’s family’s all Muggle,” he replied.  “Her sister, my aunt, is really awful about it, too—hates magic and wants nothing to do with my Mum or me because of it.  Don’t worry.  Everyone’s different, and none of the professors at Hogwarts are going to judge you for your blood.  They’ll just look at who you choose to be.”

            “I hope so.”  Then Hermione swallowed.  “Can I ask you a question?”

            “Sure.”

            “Why did you stick up for me?  You didn’t have to do anything.”  And that was what she really didn’t understand.

            “Of course we didn’t,” Ron agreed.  “But my Dad always says that it’s what you don’t have to do that shows who you really are.  Besides, you didn’t deserve that.  No one deserves to be called a Mudblood.”

            “But that’s what I am, isn’t it?” she found herself asking in a small voice.

            “Your parents are Muggles, sure,” Harry replied with a slight frown, “but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.  Calling someone a Mudblood is about as bad as you can get…but Malfoy and his type are like that.”

            Hermione cocked her head curiously.  “That’s the second time you’ve spoken like he’s on the other side of a war or something.”

            “He is,” Ron grunted.  Before Hermione could ask what he meant, however, Harry continued in the same kind voice.

            “You’ve heard of Voldemort—sorry, I mean You-Know-Who—right?” he asked.

            “I read about him in The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts,” Hermione nodded, thinking fast.  She’d been so excited about being a witch that she’d read absolutely everything she could get her hands on, and now that she thought about it—“Wait a minute, I read about someone named Potter in there, too,” she realized.  “James Potter, I think.  Are you related to him?”

            Harry turned a little pink.  “Yeah, that’s my Dad.  He’s an Auror.”

            “Dark wizard catcher, right?” Hermione asked, wanting to make sure she was correct.  There was so much to learn!

            “Yeah.  Anyway, though, since you’ve heard about Vol—” Harry smiled sheepishly as Ron growled anxiously.  “You-Know-Who—you know about the war, right?”
            “Yes, but I didn’t think that it would affect Hogwarts,” she replied.  “I mean, it’s a school.  You’re not saying that Malfoy and the other two are Death Eaters, are you?”

            “Might as well be,” Ron snarled, and Harry nodded.  “Their parents certainly are.”

            “Then why aren’t they in prison?” Hermione demanded.  She’d read all about the horrible things that Death Eaters did, even though she had a feeling that the authors of all the books she’d read weren’t saying an awful lot.  In her gut, she knew that things were a lot worse than people wanted to think that they were.

            “Because there isn’t a Wizarding prison, anymore,” Harry replied grimly.  “Voldemort took Azkaban five years ago.  There’s no where to put Death Eaters, now, even if there were enough Aurors to catch them…and there aren’t.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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