Platform Nine and Three Quarters
A/N: Iím not entirely sure about the rules regarding Muggles and Platform 9 and 3/4. Iíve never read anything that said they werenít allowed on . . . however, Iíve never read anything to say they were, either. This story is dedicated to my parents, who are, letís face it, being really really great about their only daughter moving 2000 miles away.
"You sure you got that, darling?" Hermioneís mother asked, eyeing the fully loaded trolley
Her dad gave a great heave to get it rolling. "Iím fine," he grunted. "Hermione, are you sure about this platform?"
"Of course I am, Dad," she said loftily. "Itís right here, page 414 of Right Under Their Noses: Wizard Secrets in the Muggle World. ĎTo a casual glance and even a prolonged inspection, the barrier between platforms nine and ten at Londonís Kingís Cross station looks perfectly solid. However, due to the clever enchantment cooked up when the station was first built, wizards are able to pass through into platform nine and three-quarters at specific times by simply walking through as if the barrier were not there.í See?"
"We trust you, darling, it just sounds a little--"
"Magical," her dad said, with a twinkle in his eye.
"Da-ad," Hermione groaned. Heíd been making terrible puns for over a month on the subject of sorcery, enchantments, and spells. "Look, all the other authors Iíve read think quite highly of Felonius Waxmeister. Iím sure itís correct."
"Of course, of course," he said.
"And there was the special letter from the school that explained it all, too," her mother added. "Although it did say we shouldnít try to get through ourselves--"
"Oh, thatís probably just because itís a small platform, and they donít want it to be overcrowded," Hermioneís dad said impatiently. "Weíre here early. We can go on through without trouble, Iím sure."
Hermioneís stomach felt as if it were going to leap out of her mouth as they proceeded down the station. Platform six, platform seven, platform eight . . . "Hereís platform nine, Dad!"
"So it is. Come on, my big magic girl."
"Da-ad, Iím not going to hold your hand." Hermione rolled her eyes. She was, after all, practically eleven years old. Was her dad absolutely crazy?
"Right, then. You want to go first?"
Hermione looked at the barrier. It looked very large, and very solid. She swallowed.
Then she thought of Felonius Waxmeister, and of Diagon Alley, so well hidden right in the middle of London. Not everything was as it seemed, and what was she going to trust, her eyes or a book?
With that decided, she closed her eyes tightly and strode forward several steps. When she didnít bash into anything, she risked a peek.
A wall of scarlet-painted metal was just a few feet from her face. She gasped and leapt backward, then realized that it was the side of an enormous steam engine, sitting on a set of tracks that no workaday commuter had ever seen.
Her mouth formed the syllable Wow. Just like--she had to say it--magic.
She turned and looked down the platform. Red-suited porters, leaning against the trolley, gave her desultory waves.
At the door of the first compartment, a plump and comfortable-looking witch was loading sweets onto a trolley. "Morning, dear," she said.
"Good morning," Hermione returned automatically.
The witch casually flicked her wand, and an enormous box labelled Bertie Bottís Every Flavor Beans floated over to her as if it were a feather. She started transferring sweets to the trolley just as if the box were sitting on a table, rather than thin air.
Hermioneís mouth fell open, and her heart rose like the box.
And not only magic, but everyday magic, used without the blink of an eye. A place where there was so much magic, it was simply part of life, like electricity.
This was her world. This was where sheíd belonged her whole life. This was why she felt so awkward in the real world, because it wasnít the real world, not for her.
An enormous smile spread over her face. She spun around to see the looks on her parentsí faces, and discovered that she was the only one on the platform. Her parents and the trolley were nowhere to be seen. "Wait a minute--" she said to herself.
The wall looked just as solid from the other side, but Hermione knew its secret now, and she didnít even close her eyes as she walked back through. Directly she came out the other side, she ran into someone standing right by the barrier. "Ooof! Sorry--Iím sorry--"
The man, who was dressed in the uniform of a regular Muggle conductor, looked down at her. "Whereíd you come from?"
"The--the other side?"
They were standing in a knot of people, and Hermione pushed her way through, looking for her parents. This lot must have walked right up as they were trying to get through--how bothersome!
But her father was sitting on the ground, holding his head, and her mum was hovering over him, pouring water from a bottle onto her handkerchief. In her surprise and dismay, Hermioneís tongue slipped. "Daddy! What happened?"
"He must have wandered a little, darling. He was following you and walked right into the barrier between platforms." Her motherís laugh was a little nervous. "Just as if he could walk straight through!"
The others standing around laughed, and some began to drift away, apparently satisfied that Hermioneís dad wasnít going to keel over right there. Hermione and her mother got her dad to his feet and walked him over to a bench next to the ticket barrier.
"Dad, what happened?" she asked him in a low voice. "I turned around on the platform and you werenít there--"
"Exactly what your mum said, Hermione," he told her. "I couldnít get through."
Her mouth fell open. "You-- But itís perfectly easy! I got through just fine!"
He reached out sideways and put his hand flat on the barrier, just at the spot sheíd walked through a moment before. He pushed as hard as he could. The barrier remained solid, and his hand didnít go anywhere.
"Maybe you have to close your eyes the first time?" Hermione ventured. "So your brain isnít fooled?"
He closed his eyes and swung out again. His palm slapped against solid brick.
"But--" Hermione stood up and put her own hand out. It slid through the brick next to her fatherís hand just as if it werenít there. "I donít understand!"
"Remember what the letter said," her mum told them both. "We shouldnít try to get through. Is this what it meant?"
"But the book would have said--" Hermione pulled the book out and opened it. "Iím sure I didnít miss anything out--"
"Footnotes, darling, remember the footnotes."
And there it was, a little mark at the end of a sentence that meant there was a footnote in the back of the book. Sheíd missed it before, somehow. She turned the pages, and read, Platform 9 and 3/4 has always been particularly vulnerable to discovery because of its proximity to the Muggle world. In 1901 some Muggle children discovered the Hogwarts Express by accident and announced it to most of Platform 10. At the end of that day, nearly forty Muggles, including three train conductors, a ticket seller, and the station manager, had to have their memories modified. As a result, the enchantment was altered so that all those lacking magical ability, including Muggles and Squibs, are unable to enter the platform at any time.
Her stomach sinking like a rock through meringue, she looked up at her parents. "It says you canít go through," she said. "Because you donít have magic."
There was a funny little silence, and Hermione looked back down at the book. It wasnít fair! She wanted her parents to see her brand-new world, the scarlet steam-engine, and the lady with the sweets, floating them onto the trolley, and . . . and everything!
Her father gave the wall one last, helpless push and dropped his hand. "Sorry, Hermione," he said. "I guess--we just donít have what it takes, eh?"
Her mother cleared her throat. "Thatís all right," she said. "Weíll say good-bye out here. W-will you be all right loading your own things onto the train, darling?"
For one wild moment, she thought, If they canít come, I donít want to go either! She would turn around and go home with her parents, to her own room, and go to the Muggle school where--
Where she would be a freak for the rest of her life. It would be just like primary school, sitting in the dull, slow classes wanting something more. But this time knowing that there was something more for her to be.
She couldnít. She absolutely couldnít. She would go mad.
She took a shaky breath. "Iíll be fine, mum. I saw porters. Theyíll help."
"All right then."
"Iíll write. All the time. Every day." If they couldnít see it with their own eyes, they would see it through hers.
"Not every day," her mother demurred. "Youíll have to study, too."
"I know, Mum."
"And make friends," her father put in. "Donít forget about that. Thatís more important."
Her mother smoothed Hermioneís hair back, trying to tame the bushiness in an old, futile habit. "Now take care of yourself--donít forget to get lots of rest and good food--and--and exercise--"
"And remember to floss," her dad joked feebly.
With a muffled cry, Hermione buried her face in her motherís chest. Her mother put her arms around her and held her close. Her father put his arms around both of them. Hermione closed her eyes and soaked in the sensations of the warm parental cocoon--the steady beat of her motherís heart, the warmth of her fatherís body.
Then, too soon, their arms loosened, and they stepped away. Hermione gave them both a brave smile and, before they could see the tears blurring her eyes, wheeled around to face the wall between the platforms. With a heave and a grunt, she got the trolley in motion and walked through the barrier, leaving her parents behind.