All That Glitters
An Alternative Point of View
A faithful friend is a strong defence: and he that hath found one hath found a treasure.
All that glitters is not gold.
Chapter Two: First Steps
Ron scrunched his eyes shut, still sickened by that awful whirling sensation even after all these years – Fred and George always protested that was half the fun of Floo – and then he tumbled out into a great fireplace, landing in the ashes and soot. Coughing, he scrambled up, covered in cinders.
“Great,” he muttered.
“It’s alright,” said a witch, handing him a brush. “Lots of people do that. Just brush yourself down and you’ll be alright.”
Ron thoroughly brushed himself as Percy arrived, and stumbled out of the fireplace. He looked slightly dusty himself, but at least he didn’t fall over.
“Ah, problems, Ron? I had some myself the first time, but don’t worry, practice makes perfect.”
“That makes me feel so much better, Percy,” Ron answered, handing him the brush as Fred and George arrived. His sarcasm was lost on his older brother, who carefully brushed himself down, giving his prefect badge special attention. Mum and Ginny arrived together. Ginny looked rather annoyed, and was protesting that Ron had been allowed to Floo alone at ten, so she didn’t see why she had to hold onto Mum’s hand. Ron caught her eye and grinned. Ginny made a face.
The luggage was put on ordinary trolleys and they wandered out into the station. Even at this hour of the morning, it was packed, with Muggles rushing to their work, whatever that was. Mum was looking around, dazed as always.
“I still can’t believe they expect us to walk through all this,” she complained. “It’s a normal weekday morning, and the station’s packed with Muggles, of course, and not even a Spatial Spell or an Invisibility Charm. I know there’s something to be said for tradition, but honestly, you’d think-”
“Much as I agree with you, Mother, we should go straight to the platform,” said Percy swiftly, receiving grateful glances from all four of his younger siblings. Once started, their mother could go on for ages. They pushed their trolleys towards Platforms 9 – 13. Ron could hear another trolley squeaking behind him. He glanced over his shoulder and saw a boy who was not much taller than Ginny and even thinner than Percy. Muggle, he thought immediately, having learned to recognise the signs, but where’s his family?
“Now, what’s the platform number?” Mum asked, directing the question at him as if she expected him to forget or give the wrong answer, but fortunately, Ginny answered for him.
“Nine and three quarters,” she said promptly. “Mum, can’t I go…”
“You’re not old enough, Ginny,” Mum said in a patient tone. She said this practically every year. “Now be quiet. All right, Percy, you go first.”
Percy straightened his robes, glanced around, then casually pushed his trolley towards the barrier and vanished through without any problems.
“Fred, you’re next,” Mum announced, glancing at the twins.
Fred rolled his eyes. “I’m not Fred, I’m George. Honestly, woman, call yourself our mother? Can’t you tell I’m George?”
Ron and Ginny glanced at each other. They pulled this trick at least once a year, but their mother never remembered.
“Sorry, George, dear.”
“Only joking, I am Fred,” Fred replied, obviously unwilling to draw the joke out this time. He grabbed his trolley and at first went towards the barrier at a strolling place.
“C’mon Fred, this isn’t a walk in the park!” George called. Fred picked up his pace and George quickly followed after him.
Ron squared his shoulders and started without his mother saying anything. He knew that Ginny was wishing she could walk with him. It was the first time he had actually pushed anything through the barrier – he was a bit nervous – but surely there wouldn’t be any problem – no, he was through! The noise escalated, shocking him for a moment as it always did, a cacophony of animal and human sounds. And there it was, the engine which had haunted his dreams since he could remember them, the Hogwarts Express. All up and down the platform, groups of students were gathering to say hello after the summer, the Muggle-borns eagerly greeting their lucky friends who could stay in the wizarding world, poring over The Daily Prophet, chattering animatedly about Quidditch and anxiously comparing notes. At least Ron didn’t have any homework – yet, he reminded himself.
He walked off towards Percy, Fred and George. Somebody else had come through behind him, but it wasn’t Mum and Ginny, he would have recognised their voices. Ron glanced over his shoulder and saw that it was the same small dark boy, drinking in the surroundings, his mouth slightly open. He was wearing glasses, glasses that seemed the worse for wear because they were stuck together in the middle… Ron wondered if he’d had a fight with his brothers. The boy pushed his trolley forward and went past Ron without looking at him. Ron watched him go for an instant before he heard Fred exclaim, “Look what Lee’s got!”
Lee Jordan had been the twins’ best friend since first year, maybe because he was one of the few people who was willing to be friends with both of them. You couldn’t be friends with just George or just Fred, you had to be friends both, and if you weren’t prepared to do that, the twins just didn’t want to know you. They had plenty of people to hang around with, but Lee was their chosen partner in crime. He’d had his hair done in dreadlocks over the summer and was holding a small box. A girl who Ron remembered was called Katie was gazing at it with a mixture of fascination and horror.
“Give us a look, Lee, go on,” she pleaded.
Lee lifted the lid slightly, and the crowd around him leaped back, screaming in giddy delight and fear as a long hairy leg appeared. Ron felt slightly sick. If that’s a spider, and he lets it out on the train – Merlin, please don’t let the twins suggest that to him!
“COR!” said Fred enviously. “How’d he manage to get that?”
“We simply have to investigate, Fred,” George announced with a conspiratorial smile.
“I quite agree, but first,” Fred added as Mum approached, “let’s find a place to stow our trunks. Always make sure you get your trunk stowed away first,” he added to Ron. “That’s the hard part, because everyone’s looking for the easy places. Come on.”
Ron, relieved that Fred had decided to play “caring big brother” – he wasn’t half so sanctimonious as Percy and his advice was generally much more useful – followed the twins onto the train. The twins slid their trunks under the seats. The space didn’t look big enough, but Ron knew that appearances were never what they seemed, so he wasn’t surprised to see both trunks fit comfortably.
“Hey Fred,” said a tall, curvaceous girl with long tanned legs and braided hair that hung half way down her back. “Was wondering where you were.”
“Hey Angelina,” Fred answered, and they grinned at each other. George nodded at Angelina, who glanced at Ron.
“This your little brother?”
“Ickle firsty,” Fred said, obviously imitating someone they all knew, because everyone in the compartment cracked up. Ron flushed.
“Hello,” he said.
“Nice to meet you,” said Angelina briskly. “Into Quidditch?”
“Angelina, how could he be our brother and not be into Quidditch?!” George demanded, appearing shocked. “Honestly, did you even have to ask?”
“Well, Percy’s never tried out for the team,” Angelina pointed out.
Ron rolled his eyes. “He prefers to be a spectator,” he added, making sure that his contempt of this shone through in his voice. Angelina grinned at him.
“Yeah,” Fred agreed. “We’re still not sure he’s really our brother, you know. All those changeling rumours…”
Ron glanced at him. Sometimes he couldn’t be sure if Fred was joking or not.
“Stay here for a moment, Ron,” said George, who seemed to have spotted something or someone interesting. “Fred, come here…” They ran off down the corridor, leaving Ron feeling like a complete idiot in front of all their third year friends.
“First years aren’t allowed on Quidditch teams unfortunately,” Angelina went on, “but you’re welcome to try out in the second year.”
“First years aren’t allowed?” Ron asked, amazed. “Why not?”
Angelina shrugged. “Rules: first years are supposedly too small and young to be exposed to the dangers of Quidditch.”
“But they’re not too small and young to be exposed to the dangers of Professor Snape,” someone quipped, causing a ripple of dry laughter.
“Sorry, that’s my mum,” he said, feeling so embarrassed, knowing that his ears were probably turning purple. “Have to say goodbye.”
They all nodded. “Nice meeting you, Ron,” Angelina replied. “You’re quite the little gentleman, far more so than your brothers,” she added, and there was another ripple of laughter, this time from the girls. “Leave your trunk here, we’ll take care of it for a while.”
Ron waved his hand feebly and hurried to the doorway. Mum glanced behind him. “Where are the twins?”
“They went off to see someone.”
Mum heaved a sigh. “They’re always running off, those two, even when they couldn’t run, they crawled – Fred? George? Are you there?” she called. Ron suppressed a grin: the twins would not be pleased about her yelling for them like that.
Fred and George turned up on the platform. Ron leaped off to join the crowd. Mum was looking at him strangely, and Ron realised that she had taken out a handkerchief. Oh Merlin, no, not here, not NOW-!
“Ron, you’ve got something on your nose.” She licked a corner of the hankie, and Ron had the urge to run away, but he hesitated, a fatal mistake. Mum grabbed his arm and the cold wet material descended on his nose.
“MUM!” he protested in anguish. This was the beginning of adulthood, this was when he would make his important friendships, this was his chance to be cool, and his mother was rubbing his nose with her hankie as if he were five years old. “GERROF!” he yelled, finally freeing his sleeve.
“Aaah, has ickle Ronnie got somefink on his nose?” asked Fred, looking amused.
“Shut up,” he growled, watching his mother warily, but Mum was already thinking of someone else.
“Where’s Percy?” she demanded, looking around.
“He’s coming now,” George answered, as Percy emerged from the crowd, his robes billowing behind him.
Ron rolled his eyes. Percy could be such a show off, here he was now, trumpeting about being needed at the front. The twins began to needle him and Ron switched off his ears. He took Scabbers out of his cage – the rat was awake, probably because of all the noise and activity – and slipped him inside his jacket to keep him warm and safe. Then he noticed that Ginny was looking tearful. He opened his mouth, worried, and she grabbed his hand. Her fingers were freezing.
“Don’t forget me, will you?” she whispered, squeezing his hand. Her voice was trembling.
“Of course not!” he whispered back. “How could I forget you? I’ll send you an owl every week!”
“Every day!” she demanded.
“Come on, Ginny, I’ll have lessons.”
“Fine, every week then.” Ginny swallowed hard as Percy left and their mother began to give the twins her usual warning. Everything was the same… except that Ron was leaving too this time. No going back to the Burrow. No lunch with Mum and Ginny in the kitchen, keeping an eye out for gnomes. No more sneaking out in the afternoon whilst Mum was chatting on the Floo to practice some Quidditch moves in the copse on the hill… Ron couldn’t believe all that was over.
“And look after Ron,” Mum commanded, breaking into his thoughts. Ron winced, and wished the ground would swallow him up. The twins’ reaction was predictable.
“Don’t worry,” Fred said with a wicked grin, “ickle Ronniekins is safe with us.”
“Yeah, if you call having your teddy bear turned into a spider ‘safe’,” Ron muttered under his breath so that only Ginny could hear. It had been the first time Mum had left him with the twins, and he could only have been three, but he still remembered that day with all its horror and misery. In other words, the last thing he needed was the twins’ “protection”. “Shut up,” he said in a louder voice, glaring at them and then his mother.
A prickle ran down his back. He turned and saw someone was looking at them – the boy with glasses. He obviously thought he was well hidden, but Ron knew all about hiding, and the boy would have to do better than that, especially with such messy hair. It was spiky and jet black.
“Hey Mum, guess what?” Fred said, lowering his voice. “Guess who we just met on the train?”
The boy suddenly leaned back, looking nervous. Ron could sympathise with that. He wondered what innocent secret the boy had let slip. But there was no way that the twins would tell their mum about a schoolboy’s secrets…
“Who?” their mother asked innocently as always. Ron felt his stomach clench suddenly.
“Harry Potter!” the twins chorused.
Ron looked up again, but the boy had bent down to get something. Ron looked at the twins. They were lit up, incredibly excited, but they were also incredible actors. Ron couldn’t quite believe they were telling the truth. He had never seen a picture of Harry Potter, but he knew who he was, everyone in the wizarding world knew about Harry Potter, aka the Boy Who Lived, the Only One to defeat You-Know-Who. And that was him? That scrawny boy with wonky glasses and nobody to accompany him? Ron couldn’t believe it. Surely someone as important as Harry Potter would have somebody to see him off? Surely somebody that powerful would be tall and impressive and have loads of people shouting his name? How could Harry Potter arrive with no fanfare and just slip onto the train?
Although come to think of it, Ron didn’t know much about him, just the fact he had defeated You Know Who… and that his parents were dead… and that he had gone to live with Muggles… but surely such Muggles would have been told about Harry Potter, made to understand? No, this couldn’t be Harry Potter, it was all too quiet.
Ginny had no such doubts.
“Oh Mum,” she said, her eyes sparkling, tugging on her mother’s hand, “can I go on the train and see him, Mum, oh please…”
Ron stared at her. He had never seen Ginny act this way before. Of course, Harry Potter was very famous, but Ginny had never been one to let fame sway her. She’d grown up around people who worked for the Ministry of Magic, people who were often in The Daily Prophet. People often said when they were in town, “Isn’t it marvellous to meet all those famous people?” and Ginny and Ron would have to smile and nod and refrain from mentioning that sometimes these famous people picked their noses, or nicked biscuits when they thought nobody was looking.
Mum frowned. “You’ve already seen him, Ginny, and the poor boy isn’t something you goggle at in a zoo.” She looked at the twins, raising an eyebrow. “Is he really, Fred? How do you know?”
“Asked him,” said Fred smugly. “Saw his scar. It’s really there – like lightning,” he added and George nodded in confirmation.
“Poor dear,” Mum murmured, glancing at Ron and Ginny. “No wonder he was alone. I wondered. He was ever so polite when he asked how to get on to the platform.”
Harry Potter had asked Mum how to get onto Platform Nine and Three Quarters? Wouldn’t he know? Ron was feeling more and more sceptical about this.
“Never mind that,” Fred interrupted, “Do you think he remembers what You-Know-Who looks like?”
Mum’s face suddenly became thunderous, and they all shrank slightly. She only had that face when she meant business. “I forbid you to ask him, Fred. No, don’t you dare,” she added as George opened his mouth to ask if that meant he could. “As though he needs reminding of that on his first day at school.”
Too late, Ron thought, he’s probably already been reminded if I know Fred and George. But he was only a baby, so he probably doesn’t remember anything anyway. What am I talking about? It’s probably not even Harry Potter, Fred and George are just winding us up. Still, good on Mum for saying that.
A whistle blew. This was it!
“Hurry up!” Mum gasped, glancing at the clock. The big hand was almost on eleven. Fred and George leaped onto the train, hauling Ron after them. They hurried into the next compartment, where Angelina had taken care of his trunk like she’d promised. George pushed up the window and they all leaned out. Mum kissed each of them on the cheek in birth order – Fred, George and Ron. Ron couldn’t believe this, it was really happening, he didn’t have to get off the train, he was staying on it. Ginny couldn’t believe it either, and burst into tears. He saw the shock on Fred and George’s faces – Ginny never cried. Ron wished he could say something to comfort her. He wished he could smuggle Ginny on the train with them.
“Don’t, Ginny, we’ll send you loads of owls,” Fred said desperately, trying to comfort this new and alarming little sister.
“We’ll send you a toilet seat,” George added.
“Only joking, Mum,” George laughed.
Ron felt the train jolt beneath him. It was moving. They were off! He caught Ginny’s eye. He felt awful: usually when she was upset, he could cheer her up, but not now. He was part of the reason she was upset. Unable to think of any words – words were never his strong point – Ron pulled his funniest face instead, and it worked. Ginny began to laugh along with her tears. Mum was waving as the train pulled away, and they all reached out, waving back. Ginny suddenly pulled free of Mum’s hand and began to run alongside the train under their window.
“Don’t forget,” she cried, her voice bumpy with tears and laughter.
“I won’t!” Ron yelled back. He knew how she felt: a mixture of exhilaration and loss burned in his stomach. Things will never, never be the same again, he thought as Ginny fell behind and came to the end of a platform. She stood there waving. Ron waved frantically back until the smoke hid her and then he drew his head inside.
“Wanna sit with us, Ron?” George offered.
Surprised by the offer, his mind still full of Ginny laughing and crying at the same time, Ron tried to hide his pleasure and think. “Um…” He glanced around. They were nice, and he was sure that it would be fun, but… He was here to make friends of his own. He couldn’t rely on Fred and George. He had to show them that he could take care of himself.
“Thanks, but I’ll think I’ll go and find some other first years,” he announced. “Nice to meet you all. Hopefully I’ll see you at the Gryffindor table.”
“Absolutely,” Angelina agreed, “and remember what I said about Quidditch!”
“I will,” Ron promised, backing out and dragging his trunk with him. The twins were staring at him and they followed him outside, closing the door.
“Are you sure, Ron?” Fred asked, looking mildly worried. “Mum did say-”
Ron couldn’t believe they were actually taking this seriously. “Look,” he said in a low voice, “I know what Mum said. But you guys don’t need me tagging around, and even if you did try to look after me, any little mishap and Percy would tell Mum about it, and she’d write to you saying how terrible it was… I mean, come on.”
“He is right,” George agreed. “But we can’t just let you go off…”
“Yeah, you can,” said Ron firmly. “I’m a Weasley, remember? And a Gryffindor until somebody else says otherwise. I can handle myself. I can’t rely on you two, I need to make friends for myself,” he added, more to himself.
“Well said!” Fred exclaimed, giving him a gentle thump on the shoulder. “A Weasley and a Gryffindor! The two go together like cheese and pickle!”
They all grinned at each other. It was the first time Ron could remember the twins actually approving of something he did, instead of mocking it or just ignoring him.
“Fine,” he said, “I’ll be off. If Percy drops by-”
“You mean when he drops by,” George corrected.
“Yeah, when he drops by, tell him I’m with some friends.”
“Got it,” Fred answered. “Knowing Percy he’ll be too anxious to talk school to check on you further.” He made a face. “Another Prefect – how will we live this down, George?”
“The way we always do, Fred.”
“With mischief and mayhem!” they said together.
Ron couldn’t help smiling.
“Don’t forget that you have to do your part too, Ron,” George called after him as he dragged his trunk down the corridor. “Uphold the Weasley honour and cause as much trouble as possible!”
“Weasley honour, what Weasley honour?!” Ron yelled back. “Besides, no matter how much trouble I cause, I could never live up to you two!”
“Ah, so true, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try!” Fred answered as George laughed.
Ron tugged his trunk past compartment after compartment. They had arrived late, so most of the compartments were full, and despite his brave speech to the twins, he didn’t want to walk in and have everyone’s eyes on his battered trunk, old clothes and second-hand wand. Mum had already threatened his chances of appearing cool, he didn’t want to risk them any further, so he kept going. Eventually he came to a compartment with only one person in it and thankfully opened the door, only to realise that this person was the small bespectacled boy whom the twins said was Harry Potter.
The boy looked up. His eyes were a strange and hypnotic green. Ron swallowed. Well, all you can do is ask.
“Anyone sitting there?” he asked, pointing at the opposite seat. “Everywhere else is full.”
The boy shook his head. Ron closed the door and quickly seated himself. He couldn’t decide if the twins had been telling the truth or not. He wished now that he’d asked Mum for a picture of Harry Potter in his History lessons. The boy looked up and Ron looked out of the window. This is stupid, he thought. You should just introduce yourself. What can he say?
Well, the twins have done it for me, how kind of them. He looked at them unwillingly.
“Listen, we’re going down the middle of the train,” George told him, “Lee Jordan’s got a giant tarantula down there.”
“Right,” he answered, repressing a shudder and hoping that they didn’t get the idea to let it out.
“Harry,” Fred added, “did we introduce ourselves? Fred and George Weasley. And this is Ron, our brother. See you later then.”
“Bye,” they both said as the door closed.
Ron could have kicked Fred. “This is Ron, our brother.” He didn’t want to be so-and-so’s brother! He wanted to be Ron Weasley, no labels or tags. Or if people had to attach things to him, he wanted to choose those things. Ron Weasley, Master Chess Player. Ron Weasley, Quidditch Champion. Ron Weasley, Head Boy. Anything but “our brother”!
The boy was looking at him again. His gaze was uncomfortably direct and so Ron said the first thing that came into his mind.
“Are you really Harry Potter?”
Trolley: British English for ‘cart’