Chapter Two: Train Tracks to Destiny
sit in here? Everywhere else is full.”
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
Harry smiled. The other boy looked as
lonely as he felt at the moment. One’s
own excitement, after all, made poor company.
redhead grinned and thrust out a hand after sitting down. “I’m Ron Weasley. Nice to meet you.”
Potter.” He braced himself for the inevitable, and was not disappointed when
Ron’s eyes widened to the size of saucers.
the other boy gaped. “What are you
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
turned red. “Well, I thought you’d be
further up the train. You know, with
Malfoy and his friends.”
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.
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.
you’re not friends with Malfoy?” Ron asked eagerly.
in this lifetime!”
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
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.
are you doing here?” the red-haired one asked suspiciously.
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…”
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.
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!
they looking for you?” the red-haired one asked.
on a nearby door made Hermione jump, and she nodded uncertainly.
for?’ the other asked.
don’t know.” She bit her lip. “They called me a Mudblood. They said I was unworthy.”
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!”
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.
to hide, Mudblood?” he drawled.
lost, jerk,” the red-haired boy snarled immediately. “This is our compartment.”
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.”
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
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.
ought to pick better friends, Potter,” Malfoy snapped. “More worthy ones.”
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.”
dung, four eyes!”
eyes?” Weasley interjected. “Is that
the best you can come up with, Malfoy?
I’ve met owls who can think of better insults.”
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.
why should I, Potter? D’you think I’m
afraid of you two or your Mudblood friend who’s hiding behind you?”
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?”
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
and Goyle snickered, and the younger Weasley growled, but the older one only
looked narrowly at the threesome before him.
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
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.
you even begin yelling at me, Perce, it wasn’t our fault,” Weasley said
angrily. “They started it.”
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—”
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?”
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.”
can say that again,” Ron mumbled, but his brother didn’t seem to hear him.
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!”
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.
Ron Weasley, as I’m sure you noticed,” he said cheerily. “This is Harry Potter.”
was something relaxing in his smile, and she took his hand with only a slight
hesitation. “I’m Hermione Granger.”
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.
guess you two have been friends for awhile?”
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?
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.
parents are Muggles, aren’t they?” Harry asked gently, but she looked at him
blankly. “I mean, not wizards.”
she sighed. “I gather that’s why Malfoy
and his friends didn’t like me.”
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.
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?”
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
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?”
but that doesn’t matter to good people,” Ron reassured her, and Harry smiled.
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.”
hope so.” Then Hermione swallowed. “Can I ask you a question?”
did you stick up for me? You didn’t
have to do anything.” And that was
what she really didn’t understand.
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.”
that’s what I am, isn’t it?” she found herself asking in a small voice.
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.”
cocked her head curiously. “That’s the
second time you’ve spoken like he’s on the other side of a war or something.”
is,” Ron grunted. Before Hermione could
ask what he meant, however, Harry continued in the same kind voice.
heard of Voldemort—sorry, I mean You-Know-Who—right?” he asked.
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?”
turned a little pink. “Yeah, that’s my
Dad. He’s an Auror.”
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?”
as well be,” Ron snarled, and Harry nodded.
“Their parents certainly are.”
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.
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.”