The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.
I'd like to thank my beta, Igenlode Wordsmith, for her Brit-picking and her help
with punctuation and grammar. Also Jerry, who read this first, even though he knew nothing of
I had never seen so many people, let alone Muggles, and I was on my own for the first time in
my life. Diagon Alley had been bad, but at least then Cousin Peter had gone everywhere with
me and everyone was one of our own kind.
My cousin and I had used the Floo network into the Leaky Cauldron, only this time instead of
heading toward Diagon Alley we left by the front door. None of the holiday books I'd received,
rejected by Eustace for being written by and about Muggles, had prepared me for the nightmare
of noises and machines with their funny smells. The characters in Dickens rode in carriages and
lived more like us, just without the magic. We arrived at Kings Cross by half past eight. Cousin
Peter led me over to a wall that was fairly deserted. He cleared his throat a few times, glancing
nervously at the big clock nearby.
"We're a bit early. You know the Hogwarts Express leaves promptly at eleven o'clock?" I
knew all right. My mother had pinned the ticket inside my pocket, telling me the departure time
over and over between breathless pleas not to lose it, drop it, or let a Muggle anywhere near
"I have a very important meeting at nine. You're a big lad, you'll be fine." Seeing my horrified
look he harrumphed a few times. "Well anyway, it's very easy. Platform nine and three-
quarters is reached through that barrier there, between platforms nine and ten. Walk through, or
close your eyes and run if you're afraid. Just don't close them until you've pointed yourself in the
right direction!" Very funny.
"One thing though, lad." If anything, he managed to look even more uneasy. "The entryway only
opens between ten and eleven. Longer it's open, bigger risk of Muggles blundering in. Stand
here and you'll be fine. See those Muggles in uniforms? If anyone bothers you, go over to one
of them, they'll protect children."
He patted my shoulder. "I have to go. This is the start of the best years of your life. You'll find
the types of magic you're best at, make lots of friends, have all kinds of adventures. More
important, you'll make the kind of connections that can help you later in life." He winked. "Who
knows, maybe you'll have a position in the Ministry one day!"
With that, he glanced around and, when he was sure no one was looking, Disapparated. I
spent most of the next two hours standing rigidly against the wall watching the clock and hoping
nobody would notice me. I resolved to run for it at ten o'clock sharp. It was a good plan, and
I even remembered to keep my eyes on the barrier so I wouldn't hit the wrong place and
I should have been watching for others, but I wasn't the only one not paying attention. The
other boy evidently hadn't seen me either. We collided just as we reached the barrier,
continuing through in a tangle, and fell down onto the platform beyond.
"Sorry." He grinned.
I looked at him closely. I'd never talked to anyone near my own age before. "That's all right, I-
I wasn't looking where I was going." Did he notice my stutter? He was stooping down to pick
up our things, handing me my bookbag. He was taller than I, thinner, paler. His brown hair
covered most of his face when he leaned down; as he straightened I noticed the yellowish
residue of bruises on his cheek and chin, and the scars on his hands as he handed me my bag.
They were old. I wasn't responsible. "You're a first year too?"
"Yeah. I think my mum and dad were far enough away; maybe they didn't notice. C'mon, let's
I was grateful to follow him. I was just realizing that I didn't have the first idea how to talk to
children, how to make friends. I decided I'd just watch him, see what he did, and imitate it a
Getting on the train, we almost collided again . He'd stopped suddenly and turned around.
"My name's Remus Lupin, by the way."
"Peter-- Peter Pettigrew."
"Okay, Peter Peter," he said with a smile, a friendly smile, not mean like Eustace's, so I didn't
mind a bit. "Let's look around a bit. Bet we're the first ones here."
The train seemed deserted. We'd got on near the middle and quickly found all the
compartments pretty much the same. Remus broke into a trot, calling back over his shoulder.
"If we can get to the first section, maybe there's a way we can look forward, into the engine.
There's smoke coming out of the funnel, that should mean coal, but they must use magic."
We almost made it, but as we reached the second compartment to the front its door slid open
quickly and a tall thin boy moved to block us. He had white blond hair and his robes were so
crisp and neat and tailored he looked almost adult. My eyes were level with his chest. I could
look straight at the Slytherin crest and the badge with the P (for prefect; Eustace had been one
"The first two compartments are prefects only," he said.
Remus and I stared. The older boy had the strangest way of speaking, jaw tight, words just
able to force themselves out. It was as if he could barely stand speaking to us and if he didn't
open his mouth too much he could pretend he wasn't. When he smiled at our silence that was
tiny and pursed too. He shook his head a little, preparing to speak to us once more, but a
banging and clatter made him pause. A trunk was rushing toward us, pushed by a girl even taller
(and much broader) than the boy in front of us. We flattened ourselves to the side as much as
we could and hoped she wouldn't plow into us.
"Watch out, firsties!" she boomed. Gerda Pease, all 6'4" of her, short sandy hair, snub nose.
Head Girl, and the toughest Beater the Ravenclaws had seen this century. If there were rumors
of a giant in her family tree, no one was daft enough to say it within her hearing. She stopped
and grinned at us. "Better move along back before all the seats get taken. Train fills up fast!
Unless you're posing for your portrait, shift it Malfoy."
Her trunk swerved dangerously close to the prefect. Malfoy was forced to jump back through
the open door of the compartment he had left. He stood there glaring, his nostrils flaring as he
snorted and began to brush himself off. Remus and I decided it was time to retreat.
We found a place about halfway down, sitting on either side of the doors so we could watch the
students pass by. Second years and up were busy greeting old friends. First years were wide-
eyed and timid, sometimes alone, sometimes tagging along behind older kids, family probably.
Nobody had joined us when, at eleven sharp, the train gave its first great jolt forward. We
were off. I was happy; even one friend was one more than I'd ever expected.
Lunch came and went. We shared sandwiches; roast beef for Remus, cheese and lettuce for
me. Shared, too, every bit of information we'd ever heard about Hogwarts and watched the
scenery change gradually from city to country. Everyone seemed to be settled in their seats;
nobody passed by but the witch with the sweets trolley. Around midafternoon there was a
sudden banging and the sound of feet pounding outside. Our door was wrenched open and a
boy fell through. He closed it and huddled down against the inside, grinned and winked at us,
pressing a finger against his lips. We heard voices down the hall.
"He came this way, 'Cissa."
I stood up and squeezed next to the boy so I could look further down the corridor. Two girls
were walking our way; the older, taller one was peering carefully into every compartment she
passed. She had thick, dark hair, heavy lidded eyes, a stern, no-nonsense air. I stared past her
at the prettiest girl I'd ever seen. She looked like one of my mother's dolls: fine blonde hair,
delicate features, pale skin, large blue eyes. Then she opened her mouth and spoiled it with her
"Why do we have to chase after him anyway. Can't we go back to our seats?"
The other marched on without glancing back. "He belongs with us and the sooner he works
that out the better. We promised Aunt we'd watch him. One disgrace in the family is quite
They had reached our door. The older girl looked past me with the same glare she'd been
giving the other compartments. 'Cissa looked at me and made a face. After a moment they
continued down the corridor.
I looked down at the boy. He shook his head and held his finger up to his lips once more. It
seemed like forever, but eventually I saw the girls moving back the way they'd come. I pressed
my cheek against the glass until I lost sight of them.
"You sure they're far enough down?" the boy whispered. When I nodded he jumped up and
threw himself on the seat next to Remus. He had dark hair, shorter than Remus's, gray eyes and
an amused expression. "My cousin Bella has ears like a bat, the temper of a dragon, and holds
a grudge like a, well... like a Black I reckon."
He grinned again at our blank looks. "Maybe I should introduce myself. Sirius Black, of the
Noble and Ancient House of Black." He gave a mock bow, still seated. "Fugitive from
"Remus Lupin." Remus pointed at himself, then at me. "Peter Pettigrew. What's so bad about
Slytherin? Peter doesn't like it either."
"Then Peter has good sense." Sirius smiled over at me. "There's nothing wrong with ambition, I
suppose, but it's also a daft group of bigots full of purist rubbish. I should know, my whole
family is, except for one cousin. Purists, I mean, and everyone but Andromeda was Sorted into
Slytherin too." He pulled himself up, a sudden haughty look making him resemble Bella, though
I'd never tell him that.
"If that wretched Sorting Hat tries to place me in Slytherin, I'll knock it right off my head! I'd
leave Hogwarts before I let it."
"I d-don't think the hat would do that, not if you're so dead set against it." Remus and I had
discussed this earlier. We'd decided it read your mind but was open to more than one house if
you really hated what it suggested. I was growing more nervous; my encounter with Malfoy
earlier and my view of Black's relatives proved to me that Slytherins were everything Eustace
said they were.
Another set of running footsteps. What was going on out there? Sirius jumped up and slid
open the door. He gave a great, barking laugh, pure joy.
"Oy! Hey! In here, in here!"
The new boy rushed to the door, stopped abruptly, then sauntered the rest of the way in. He
grabbed Sirius by the shoulders.
"Sirius, I can't believe it! I saw you earlier, but you were in the middle of that group of
gargoyles and I knew they wouldn't let me near you."
"Sit down, James. Remus--Peter--my old friend, James Potter." His mouth crooked in a grin.
"Though we haven't seen each other in ages!"
I stared at the new boy. He had dark hair like Sirius, sticking out in all directions. My mother
would have been after him with a comb in an instant.
"Our families used to see a lot of each other. The last few years they had a bit of a falling out..."
James stopped and cocked his head at Sirius.
"What he means," Sirius continued, "is that Potter's family are sensible folk who're able to
appreciate half-bloods and muggle-borns and the fresh blood they bring to our world, while
mine are stubborn inbreds who want to keep inbreeding and clinging on to a bunch of old-
"Before you continue, do we know where these two stand?" James' glance flicked to Remus
Remus smiled. "Well, I'm hardly likely to be prejudiced against half-bloods since my mum is a
Muggle, and I've never heard my dad say anything against anyone because of who their parents
I should have been expecting it, but I jumped when they all turned to stare at me, waiting.
"Well... well, my family are purebloods, but I've never heard them talk about keeping our world
pure"--this was a bald-faced lie; Eustace spouted off about pureblood superiority and I knew
they'd find my mother's terror of Muggles funny. I was willing to say anything they wanted if it
meant keeping in with them--"but we haven't had much to do with mudbloods..."
Uh oh. Something was wrong. They all frowned, but Sirius was the one to speak up.
"Peter, you better learn now, saying that word marks you as a prejudiced git."
Word? Mudblood? I glanced desperately at Remus.
"'Mudblood', Peter," he'd taken pity on me. "It's a very bad word for Muggle-borns. You
didn't know that, did you?"
Saved! "N-no, I'm sorry, no I didn't. My cousin Eustace uses that word. I'm sorry, I- I didn't
know, I just thought it was another word for them!" In my defense, I really wasn't aware.
Damn Eustace. "My cousin was in Slytherin, that's one of the reasons I don't like them.
Anything that Eustace likes I reckon must be bad!"
They laughed; Sirius shook his head. "I should know better than anyone that a fellow can't help
who he's related to." His interest shifted. "Anyway, James, why were you running?"
"Ran into another old friend," James drawled. "Could have handled him, but got into a spot of
trouble when a few Slytherins decided to help him out." In response to a questioning look from
Sirius, he added, "You remember old Snivellus?"
Another burst of laughter from Sirius. "I ought to! Why would you want to see him? You've
got off easy the last few years, but the Blacks still associate with the Snapes!"
"Wasn't my idea. I saw your cousins' search, took it you'd bolted, decided to look for you
myself. Severus thought I was making 'too much of a disturbance,' and was going to run
blabbing to the Prefects!" James glanced casually at each of us. "When the Slytherins came out
I had to retreat, but I did manage to leave him a pair of ears to match his big nose!"
"Gosh, you're brave!" I said. "I bet the two of you could've taken them all on."
Sirius straightened up. "Maybe the four of us can give the whole of Slytherin House nightmares.
Interested?" He stood up, holding out his hand.
We shook hands, swearing to keep our pact even if we weren't all Sorted into the same House.
During the rest of the trip James, Sirius, and even Remus came up with plan after plan, each
funnier and more daring than the last. They never noticed I couldn't think of anything.
The platform was dark and crowded. I dodged and twisted, fighting to keep close to them as
all the first years followed the big man--Hagrid, some of the older students had greeted him by
name-- to the boats. Hogwarts was an awesome sight as it loomed closer and closer, but all I
could think about was: four to a boat and four of us. This was a good sign. Cousin Peter had
been right; these were going to be the best years of my life.