Hell was, Snape decided, a crowded railway
platform. If any more people joined them, he wasn’t going to be able to breathe,
and if he ever found out who’d just trodden on his foot, that child was going
to be very sorry. The station was packed to the brim; children and teachers
alike squashed uncomfortably together as they waited for the train to arrive.
And it was raining. Bloody British weather.
A tinny voice came from the tannoy, and he
raised his head to try and make out what it was saying. A hush fell over the
assembled travellers for a moment – no one wanted to miss the announcement.
“We regret to announce that the train
from platform nine and three-quarters will be delayed by approximately-”
The rest of the announcement was drowned in
the groan that rose from the crowd. People started to move en-masse, pushing
their way towards benches, looking for somewhere to shelter from the rain. A
small boy, clutching a camera tightly to his chest, almost ran straight into
Snape. Catching sight of the man’s expression, he backed off hastily,
disappearing back into the crowd.
“Don’t think I don’t know that face, Colin
Creevey!” Snape bellowed after him. “Five points from Gryffindor!”
It made him feel slightly better, but
didn’t do anything to improve his general situation. Shouting wasn’t going to
make the station any less crowded, and he was still getting wet.
Well, he could do something about that
second part at least. He looked about, finally spying a shop doorway that
seemed to hold some potential for shelter, and started to make his way towards
It wasn’t as easy a plan as it had first
seemed. He was elbowed in the chest on the way by some Weasley or another – he
didn’t get time to see which but there was no mistaking that red hair – and
barked his shins on an owl cage someone had decided to carelessly abandon in
the middle of the platform.
He recognised that owl too. Harry Potter
would get a detention for that as soon as Snape saw him again. It would
be him, wouldn’t it? It was always him.
When he finally reached the meagre shelter
the doorway provided, he noted with displeasure that he wasn’t going to even
get to enjoy that alone. One of the station guards had wisely decided that it
was better to be hiding over here than in the midst of a crowd of unhappy
people who’d just been told that their train was going to be late.
Not that that stopped people coming to find
him. Snape scowled at him, leaning back against the doorway. “Just what is the
The Guard’s face turned towards him, and if
Snape had been anyone else he might have shivered, or stepped back. Once you’d
faced Voldemort, it was unlikely you’d scare easily at anything else. Still, it
was an uncommonly thin face, one might even say skeletal.
LEAVES ON THE LINE, he said calmly.
“It’s a magical train!” Snape snapped,
exasperated, annoyed by the people and the rain and the whole stupid situation.
He was a wizard; he didn’t have time to wait around for trains that turned up
whenever they felt like it and never mind the timetable.
MAGICAL LEAVES. The Guard regarded him calmly, and Snape was conscious that some
part of his mind was whispering urgently that there was nothing for the man to
regard him with. There were no eyes in those eye-sockets, just…
He blinked, and looked again. Don’t be ridiculous.
Of course he had eyes. Blue ones.
Some things even a wizard’s brain cannot
handle, and a seven-foot high skeleton in a Guard uniform is one of them.
“I see,” he said sharply. “Well, do you
have any idea just when this train might face down the truly formidable
problem of leaves, and actually arrive? Some of us have somewhere we need to
Even as he said it, he was aware of oddness
about the words. Of course there was somewhere he needed to go, but… where was
it again? It wasn’t Hogwarts – he’d just been there! It was –
The tannoy sounded again, a voice
announcing through crackling static that a train was now arriving at platform
nine and three-quarters. The crowd started to move again, surging towards the
doors this time.
IF YOU DON’T HURRY. YOU’RE UNLIKELY TO GET A SEAT, the Guard offered. IT’S A
LONG JOURNEY IF YOU’RE STANDING.
“But I don’t know where I’m going!” Snape’s
voice suddenly sounded not at all like his own. The terrifying, commanding air
he’d spent years practising in the mirror deserted him for a moment.
SURELY YOU DON’T WANT TO STAY AT
HOGWARTS? The Guard’s gaze – through eyes,
Snape reminded himself again, and certainly not empty eye-sockets – was not an
unkind one. THERE’S ONLY TWO PLACES THE HOGWARTS TRAIN GOES, LAD, AND ONE OF
He gestured again to the train. The
platform was emptying quickly now as people scrambled on. BEST HURRY. YOU
DON’T WANT TO MISS IT.
“Long time before you can get another, is
it?” Snape asked, aware that he was delaying. There was nothing at all that
felt safe about boarding a train to an unknown destination and just trusting
that everything would be okay.
The Guard’s expression grimaced into – was
that a smile? With his face, it was hard to tell. IT CAN BE YEARS. SOME
PEOPLE NEVER GET ANOTHER.
He started to move towards the train, and
Snape found himself following, moving on legs that didn’t seem quite as long as
the ones he was used to, having to double his strides to keep up.
He hesitated again at the door, and the
Guard nodded to him again. QUICK NOW, BEFORE I BLOW THE WHISTLE.
Snape glanced back, looking over the now
empty station, eyes fixing on a solitary redheaded figure, now slumped on one
of the benches. “He’s not going!”
The Guard followed his gaze, and shrugged calmly.
HE’S WAITING FOR SOMEONE. HE’LL GO WHEN THEY GET HERE.
“But you said it could be years!” Snape
protested, aware even as he said it of how childish he sounded.
Guard agreed simply, and propelled Snape onto the train as though he weighed nothing
at all, closing the door behind him.
The whistle blew, and the train started to
move, pulling slowly out of the station. Snape sat down quickly, staring out of
the window at the Guard who waved cheerily to him, as though they were old
It wasn’t an unfamiliar position to be in,
and he leaned back in his seat, remembering so many other journeys like this.
He remembered the rush of exultation he would have felt at one time, knowing
that he was leaving, pulling away from Hogwarts, leaving the boys who tormented
him there, going home to a glorious summer where houses didn’t matter and there
was no-one at all to prevent a Slytherin boy playing with a Gryffindor girl.
There’d been problems with his father and Petunia of course, but it had never been
too hard to avoid them. Not when they’d really wanted to.
“Is this seat taken?”
He looked up, startled by a voice he hadn’t
heard in years, and met the gaze of a pair of brilliant green eyes.
Oh. Of course. Of course.
“Not for you.” He responded with a smile in
his voice that would have startled his students, sitting up a little straighter
There were only two places the Hogwarts
train went after all, and they had already been to Hogwarts.
Laughing, chatting, and lost in
conversation in a way he hadn’t been in decades, Snape – no, Sev - went