The Hogwarts Express
Ginny overslept the next morning, and was jolted awake by feet thudding past her door. She had to practically dive into her clothes, since she only had half an hour to get her things downstairs and get some breakfast before they set off for London and King's Cross. She was just wrestling her trunk down the stairs when she heard her mother's voice in the kitchen.
"Now," Mum was saying sternly. "You two, I want you to listen sharp. This is going to be Ginny's first year away from home--"
"Yeah, yeah, we'll take care of the Wee One," George said thickly. It sounded as if he had a piece of toast in his mouth. "Don't worry, Mum."
"Not only that! Listen to me. Your sister's coming up on a very touchy time for a girl, and I want you two, especially, to be a little nicer to her, all right?"
"Oh, Mum, it's only Ginny. She knows we're just playing about."
"She knows nothing of the sort. She's going to be very sensitive for a bit, and you two won't make it any easier, playing your tricks. You could at least hold off teasing her in front of--well, you-know-who."
"You-Know-Who?" George asked merrily. "Shouldn't think we'll run into him this year, Mum."
"Especially after the number Harry did on him last year." Fred snorted with laughter.
"Stop playing about! You know exactly who it is I mean."
"Oh, right. Harry the Magnificent."
"The object of all her affections."
Ginny buried her face in her hands. They knew . . .
Her mother gave a loud, exasperated sigh. "That's exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about. It may seem rather silly and childish to us, but it's very important to Ginny, and I don't want you twitting her about it."
Silly? Childish! They knew nothing about it, nothing!
"Now, I've given Ron this same talk, and I want you to keep an eye on him too. Try not to leave him out, like you did last year."
"Leave him out?"
"That's rich, I must say."
"Didn't see him taking us up to wrestle a troll, now did you?"
"Or through McGonagall's chessboard."
"I hardly think either of those were a lark for your brother," their mother said sternly.
"What about Percy?" Fred asked suddenly. "Still have to lecture him, do you?"
"Percy knows what I expect of him, and he knows to take care of your sister especially."
Ginny's eyes narrowed. She'd rather not be taken care of by Percy, thank you very much. She gave her trunk a yank, and it slipped on the stairs, thundering down them all the way to the bottom, where it landed with an almighty crash.
Three red heads appeared around the corner. "All right there, Ginny-Ginny-Wee-One?" Fred called.
She stuck her nose in the air and marched down the scarred stairs to her trunk, which was standing on one end. "I--can--handle--it--myself," she grunted, tugging on one of the handles and not budging it one inch.
Her mum gave the twins a look, and Fred shouldered her gently aside as George, with little visible effort, righted her trunk. With barely a grunt, they each heaved an end onto their shoulders and strolled off through the kitchen to set it on the porch for their father to load into the car.
"Mind you thank them, Ginny," her mother told her. "Toast?"
"No," Ginny snarled, and stomped back up the stairs to her room to get the rest of her things.
* * *
A long while later, she was sitting in the front seat, wedged between her mother and her mother's purse. She was in a bad temper--this was the third time they'd started off, since the idiot twins had both forgotten something and they'd had to go back two separate times. Wait 'til she told Tom--
She sat straight up and shrieked, "My diary!" She'd left it on her night stand, because she'd been writing to Tom before going to sleep the night before. "Mum, we have to go back!"
"Ginny! We're almost to the motorway!"
"Please, Mum, I need to have it!"
With a heavy sigh, her father turned the Anglia around for the third time.
She couldn't write to Tom as they were travelling to King's Cross, because her mother would certainly read over her shoulder and start scolding about the words writing back. Then her father would get into it--"Remember, Ginny, never trust anything that thinks for itself if you can't see where it keeps its brain,"--and all in all, it would be more trouble than it was worth. Ginny was looking forward to getting on the Hogwarts Express and finding a quiet corner so she could finally pour everything out to Tom.
Humiliatingly, her mother took her hand, just as if she were still six years old, to march her through the familiar barrier. She'd been coming here every September she could remember to see her brothers off, but it was her turn now, and couldn't Mum, just once, treat her like the almost-grown-up she was?
The Hogwarts Express, as scarlet and smoky as the last nine times Ginny had seen it, was free of the normal crowd of students, owls, trunks, packages, broomsticks, and other miscellaneous debris. Only the parents were still on the platform, waving goodbyes and calling advice and admonishments to their students, hanging out of windows. Ginnyís family was so late that after her things were loaded on, they barely had barely two minutes until it left.
"Now Ginny," her mum said, taking out her handkerchief. "I want you to enjoy yourself at school, dear--" Her voice was a little shaky, but Ginny stood scowling and casting fearful glances at the engine, and didn't notice. "Don't let the boys get to you, they don't mean anything by it really, and do behave yourself--"
She rubbed some dust off the end of Ginny's nose, and Ginny jerked her head away. "Mum! I'm going to miss the train!"
Her mother's voice turned crisp. "All right--get on now, quickly!" Just as if Ginny had been the one holding her back!
Ginny, clutching her diary to her stomach, leapt aboard without even hugging her parents goodbye. The train gave a great jerk, starting off, just as she reached the door of the compartment her dad had put her things in. She tripped onto a seat, almost sliding off.
Fred hooted. "Graceful, Wee One!"
She wanted throw her diary at his head, but he'd only try to read it. So she settled for throwing him a dirty look instead. "Shuturrrrrrrrrrp," she muttered, shoving herself deep into the seat and digging for the tiny ink bottle and quill she'd put in her pockets.
George poked her in the ribs. "Oy, Virginia."
"Stop it!" She slapped at his hand.
"Hey, that hurt!"
"Now look, did you see Ron and Harry get on board?"
"No," she said snootily, and then stopped. "No," she repeated, in quite a different tone of voice. "I didn't. They were to go last, after me and Mum--"
Fred put his feet up on her knees. "Stop bothering about it, George," he told his twin, not even wincing when Ginny kicked the underside of his calves. "I told you, they probably nipped on board in all the confusion. You're starting to sound like Percy."
"Oy, you, take that back!"
Ginny yanked her legs up onto the seat as her brothers tumbled around the compartment, apparently intent on breaking each other's necks, or at least their own. "Stop it!" she shrieked furiously. "Stop it!"
The compartment door whizzed open, and a cheerful-looking black boy in fantastically long dreadlocks poked his head. "Ha, I thought I heard a Weasley in here!"
Fred's head popped up. "You heard three of 'em, Lee!" He flipped his twin off his back, but George had him in a head lock the next moment.
"Say fifth-cousin-twice-removed's stepmother's auntie's old roommate!"
Fred dissolved into snorts of laughter, and George started laughing too. "Hallo, Lee, have a good summer?" he asked once he had his breath back.
"Pretty good--glad to be back though." The dreadlocked boy stepped through the compartment door, followed by a pretty girl, caramel-skinned with short, tightly curly hair. "This here's my little sister, Carmen," he said casually. "She's a firstie this year. Carmie," the girl tried to kick him, but he skipped out of the way, "here's Fred Weasley, on bottom, and George Weasley, trying to kill him as usual."
"Oh, that's right, you've got a little sister too." Fred, still in George's deadlock, propped his head up on his hand and lounged as if he were in a daybed. "That's ours, on the seat--Mum's little pwessus, Ginny."
Carmen rolled her eyes at Ginny. "Brothers, eh?" she said in deep disgust.
"What did I say?" Fred asked innocently, and, reaching back, poked George between the third and fourth ribs, his worst ticklish spot.
When George, roaring with agonized tickle-laughter, rolled into her legs and accidentally kicked her shin, Ginny had had enough. Gathering up her diary, she stepped from his stomach to Fred's foot to the floor and stalked out.
* * *
Not a single compartment Ginny stuck her head into contained either Harry or Ron, or information on their whereabouts. The last one in the line contained only a girl, curled up on the seat, deeply absorbed in a book. She looked up, blinking, at Ginny's question. "No, I haven't, and I'm rather worried. You're Ron's sister, aren't you? We met in Flourish and Blott's."
Ginny recognized her then--Hermione, Ron and Harry's studious friend. "Yes, that's me."
"Well, would you like to sit? There's enough room for all four of us."
Ginny looked at the cover of the book Hermione was reading and saw Gilderoy Lockhart's big cheesy grin. She almost gagged. Hermione was actually reading them? "I think I'll try to find them first."
"All right. Listen, when you do, tell them I'm in this compartment, all right?"
Ginny nodded and shut the compartment door. They're probably somewhere else in the train, she told herself. I'll see them when I get to Hogwarts. If she continued searching, she'd never have any time to write to Tom, which she badly needed to do by this time.
She met Fred and George in the passageway, and said, "I couldn't find them. Do you think they missed the train?"
Fred snorted. "They're probably off in some compartment with their girlfriend, eating Jelly Slugs and Chocolate Frogs as fast as they can."
"Yeah, don't worry about it," said George.
"I saw Hermione," Ginny said coldly. "She hadn't seen them either. And she's not Ron's or Harry's girlfriend." She hoped--oh she hoped--well, she didn't care if Ron had a girlfriend, but not Harry--Hermione really was much too serious for him. Attraction of opposites and all that. Besides, she liked Gilderoy Lockhart!
"If you say so, Wee One."
* * *
I'm on the Hogwarts Express, and my brothers are being awful, awful, AWFUL!
What'd they do this time?
It started with Mum--she was telling them to take care of me. Take care of me! I'm eleven whole years old, why can't they see that? Well, not precisely--at Halloween I am--but still!
I can't understand it either.
And then Fred and George absolutely positively HUMILIATED me in front of their friend. They called me Mum's little pwessus, Tom! Isn't that perfectly dreadful?
Absolutely; the Cruciatus is too good for them.
It's a nasty curse.
Ginny wondered what it entailed. Probably it is too good for them. Oh--Tom! I can't find Harry or Ron on the train anywhere! I even asked their special friend, Hermione, and she hadn't seen them. And speaking of that--the twins said that Hermione was Harry's girlfriend, Tom. D'you think that's true?
Is she pretty?
Ginny had initially thought her rather nice-looking, but on reflection, she decided that Hermione's hair was really rather too large for her head, and her teeth looked like a rabbit's. No, she scribbled spitefully.
Probably not, then. I shouldn't think you have anything to worry about.
Ginny was attacked by another worry. But he likes her--they're really good friends. And she's frightfully clever.
Definitely not, then. Trust me; no boy makes friends with a girl he fancies. And nobody fancies a clever girl.
I suppose you'd know, Tom.
The compartment door slapped closed behind someone, and Ginny looked up to see George, stretching out on the seat opposite her. "Where's Fred?"
"He's a few compartments over, with Katie Bell and Angelina Johnson and Morgan Hoffmeister." A darkish look flickered over George's face and went before Ginny could figure it out.
"Where's your friend?" she asked.
"Lee's off introducing Carmen to people who'll be a little nicer to her."
Ginny scowled. "Fredís right," she said. "You're getting more like Percy every day."
He narrowed his eyes at her, then quick as lightning, snapped the diary out of her hands. "What are you writing, Ginny-Ginny-Wee-One?" he taunted, holding it out of her reach.
She cried aloud, scrambling up on the seat to leap for it. "Give it back, George, give it back!"
He leapt up on the other seat, holding it almost to the ceiling, where she didn't have a hope of getting it. "Let's see," he mused loudly, opening it wide and making a show of squinting at it. Then he stopped in surprise. "Hey, you were writing something in this, weren't you?" He flipped pages, back and forth, the puzzled look still on his face.
Oh, thank heaven--Tom must have absorbed the words before George opened it. "It's disappearing ink," she lied. "Ha ha!"
"Is not," he said.
"Is too! Give it back!"
He tossed it at her in disgust. "Fine, write in your little diary," he grumbled, unaccountably peevish. "See if I care." He leapt off the seat and slouched through the door, only stopping to yell over his shoulder, "Disappearing ink can reappear, you know!"
She stuck her tongue out at his back, secure in the knowledge that Tom, at least, would never betray her.
* * *
George came back with Fred and the three girls about half an hour later, his bad mood completely gone and his customary joie de vivre in its place. He and Fred managed to get her diary from her again and spent fifteen minutes trying to read it by all sorts of means. When one of the girls--the one called Morgan--finally managed to retrieve it for her, Ginny was so close to tears that she just flew out of the compartment without even saying thank you.
She found a hidey-hole in between cars, where nobody would disturb her. After some minutes of ranting to Tom, she was finally able to calm down, and he asked, How far do you have to go yet?
It's early afternoon, and we won't get there until late at night. Then we have to have the Sorting and start-of-term remarks before we eat. I'm starving already!
Are you nervous about the Sorting?
A little. I really do hope I get sorted into Gryffindor. What were you?
I was a Slytherin, actually.
What? Really? Oh, Tom, really?
You don't have to sound so appalled, Ginny!
But my brothers hate Slytherin--
Don't believe everything you hear--especially from them. They were the ones who told you that you were going to have to survive a night in the Forbidden Forest in order to get sorted, weren't they?
Ooo, yes. Gits. Ginny scowled at the page in memory. It had been Tom who'd relieved her fears by telling her about the Sorting Hat.
See now. Would it be so bad to be in a different house than your brothers?
Well . . . sort of no, but sort of yes. I mean, I really honestly want to be a Gryffindor. My entire family, back to forever, has been in Gryffindor. It would be so strange to be a Ravenclaw or a Hufflepuff instead, not even mentioning Slytherin!
Which house is Harry in?
Gryffindor, of course! He's a Gryffindor through and through! Just like my brothers--as much as I hate to admit it. Oh, Tom, do you really think I'll get put in some other house than Gryffindor?
You'll found out soon enough.
* * *
Tom, oh, Tom, oh, Tom!!
What? What is it?
I'm in Gryffindor, I'm in GRYFFINDOR! The hat very nearly put me in Slytherin, but I asked so hard to be in Gryffindor, and I AM!
Good for you--that's what you wanted, isn't it?
Yes! Oh, Tom, if you could see me now--I'm yawning so hugely my face feels like it could crack, but I'm smiling all over too. And it was a wonderful first night--everyone was so boisterous and happy because--you'll never guess!
Because they were back at school? I always went delirious with joy when I came back to school.
That too, I suppose, but--this is so wild! Harry and Ron, when they missed the Hogwarts Express (they really did; they said the barrier wouldn't open for some reason. I suppose the clock was wrong or something, and they tried too late.) went out into the street and stole Dad's flying car! All sorts of Muggles saw it and they got in frightful trouble, but all us Gryffindors (don't you like the sound of that? Us Gryffindors! I do) thought it was brilliant!
And so it is! What a way to arrive! Your handwriting is getting rather scrawly, Ginny--what time is it?
Oh my goodness--it's past midnight! G'nite Tom, and I'll tell you absolutely everything about tomorrow as soon as I can. Iím going to positively love it here, I just know I am!