The Sugar Quill
Author: Chambraigne (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Journey to Hogwarts  Chapter: Platform Nine and Three Quarters
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

All characters belong to J.K. Rowling, except the ones that do not (and anyone who’s read her books can tell which those are). This story is written strictly for pleasure and to pass the time until the next real Harry Potter book comes out.

 

Platform Nine and Three Quarters

 

By Chambraigne

Severus Snape hated walking through Muggle London, although he had never done it before. He had clear directions to King’s Cross station that Professor Dumbledore sent him by owl, but it was a long walk from the hidden entrance of the Leaky Cauldron and he had to lug his trunk with him, although the wheels and Balancing Spell his mother had helped him put on it helped. He kept to the inside edge of the pavement, as far as he could get from the noisy, foul-smelling Muggle cars. He didn’t like broomsticks much, but at least they were quiet and clean and (usually) no threat to people walking on the ground. Severus was unnerved by how many Muggles there were in the city—he had not thought London was this heavily populated—and by how they seemed so similar and yet were so very different from wizards. Fortunately most of them didn’t even notice him, despite his unwieldy trunk and old fashioned, all-black clothing (he was wearing a battered black coat instead of a cloak, but otherwise he was dressed as he usually was at home). People who did look quickly turned away and went about their business, because he walked purposefully and swiftly and was careful not to look back at them. Severus thought, as he walked on without incident, that it wasn’t surprising that most Muggles knew nothing of the wizarding world, since they seemed not even to pay much attention to each other.

He arrived at King’s Cross at last, hot and tired, and proceeded quickly but cautiously to the wall between platforms nine and ten, the entrance to platform nine and three quarters. He thought perhaps there would be fewer Muggles in the station than on the street, but there seemed to be more of them. All he had to do was walk through the wall—it wasn’t even working magic, really--but he hesitated. He felt, alone in the midst of throngs of people who weren’t wizards and who didn’t even know of their existence, that he was about to reveal the reality of the magical world to every one of them. He thought of the stories he had heard about what Muggles who knew the truth did to wizards who were weak, young, or stupid enough for them to catch and he shuddered. He was neither weak nor stupid, but he was young, and for all the duels he’d fought in Knockturn Alley, he felt vulnerable now. He wished his mother—or perhaps Professor Dumbledore—could have been there with him. But his mother was in St. Mungo’s that day for the anti-vampirism charms she needed every week and she couldn’t miss it. She’d started on the treatment, which was still new, shortly after Severus first met Professor Dumbledore, and had much improved with it. She could go out in the daylight for longer periods and had an appetite for human food again. Her magical ability was still weak, but the mediwitches hoped that in time she would regain at least some of her old strength.

Professor Dumbledore was simply too busy to go with him, especially on the day a new year at Hogwarts started, and it would really have been inappropriate for him to do so, as the Headmaster. Still, Severus liked to think that, if it weren’t for lack of time or consideration of his position, Dumbledore would have taken him to the station. He had seen the Professor twice since their first encounter in Flourish and Blotts (when Dumbledore had helped exonerate him from shoplifting, a crime for which Sirius Black had framed him) and the Headmaster seemed to like him, or at least was willing to help him. He had, as he’d promised, met with Severus’s mother and helped her petition the Indigent Wizards Relief Fund, and now she would receive a weekly stipend while her son was at school. Severus would likely not have to work at all anymore, even during holidays. The second time he saw Dumbledore was in the waiting room at St. Mungo’s, where Severus had been sitting reading while his mother got her treatment, and the Professor had chatted with him for a while. He’d been surprised and grateful when he received instructions for getting to the Hogwarts Express—his mother had explained how to cross onto the platform, but didn’t really know how to get from Knockturn Alley to the station.

Severus stood, looking as nonchalant as he could, near the entrance wall, waiting for a good moment to pass through. Muggles hustled past him in all directions, without pause, and even more were coming in from outside. He was wondering if he should just do it now and rely on anyone who might see him to not believe it, when a cheerful middle-aged woman stopped and asked him, “Do you need help, dear?”

Severus, suddenly very tense, mutely shook his head, not looking back at her.

But she continued, “Are you waiting for the train on nine or ten?”

“Ten,” Severus mumbled.

“Well, so am I! We can wait together then.”

She smiled brightly and Severus’s heart sank. He needed to get rid of this nosy Muggle quick and get over the barrier, back into the world where he belonged. A Distraction Charm was out of the question and he didn’t want to risk snarling at her and having her cause a fuss and draw attention to him. He couldn’t just walk away, either, because the place he needed to be was right there. What could he do?

“Going to visit family, dear?” she went on.

“Er, yes,” Severus answered, looking around desperately. If it weren’t for her, it would have been the perfect time to go, as the crowd immediately around him was dissipating as people boarded a train about to depart.

“My, that’s a sturdy trunk you have—you don’t see people traveling with these nowadays. How old is it?”

“I—I don’t know.” Severus was beginning to think his wand would be necessary after all, when he had an idea. “What is that?” he suddenly cried, pointing away from the barrier wall, while gripping his trunk handle tightly and taking a step back.

“What?” the woman said, and turned to look where he pointed.

But Severus was already running into the station wall. The noise of the Muggles died out as he stepped onto platform nine and three quarters. He was relieved his plan had worked and he wondered with a grin what the woman would think of his sudden disappearance. He also wondered if what he did could be considered a breach of the Muggle secrecy rules that he could be punished for. But he decided not to worry unless someone from the Ministry of Magic came to speak to him, which was unlikely given all the other concerns the Ministry had at the moment. The Muggle would probably look about, confused, and decide he was a rude boy who’d slipped off because he didn’t want to talk to her—which was true—and forget about it. She wouldn’t ever imagine he’d slipped off through the wall.

Severus was early. The train had not arrived yet and there were still not many people on the platform. He stood near the wall away from the tracks and looked about curiously, observing the people who would soon be his classmates and their families. (Severus was the only child on the entire platform who was alone.) He watched a tall witch in jade green robes with a large red handbag bustle past him, her husband and son struggling to keep up with her without dropping their baggage. Severus was impressed: the woman managed to look imposing despite wearing an extremely silly green pillbox hat with a stuffed raven perched on it. Soon after, an Indian family passed by, the mother dressed in a sari so white it almost glowed, the father in red robes, with no fewer than four current Hogwarts students of different ages in the party, three boys and a girl, and two more girls too young to be enrolled yet. A blonde girl in pigtails stood crying not far from him, her mother hugging her and her father whispering reassuring things. Some of the other first years were, like the crying girl, obviously frightened and nervous, but others didn’t seem to be, as they talked with each other in small groups or were introduced to their older siblings’ friends. Professor Dumbledore had said, in his letter with the directions, that everyone would be afraid, but people would show it in different ways. Severus was determined not to let his fear show. Returning his attention to the people around him, he noticed that many of the other students were already wearing their uniforms and he thought that he should find somewhere private where he could put on his. He could just put his robe on right there, since he didn’t need to remove his shirt, but he was uncomfortable doing even that in the middle of the platform surrounded by strangers. Besides, he remembered what had happened last time he’d changed clothes outside home, and that had been in the relative privacy of Madam Malkin’s dressing room.

He started to walk along the wall, looking for a lavatory, when he stopped suddenly and stood quite still. Ahead of him, standing near a column set halfway between the wall and the tracks, were Sirius Black and his parents. They were talking to a tall man in plain, dark blue robes, who Severus suspected was an Auror because he did not have a family with him. He had heard in Knockturn Alley that Aurors would be riding the train to protect the students against Dark wizards. While there hadn’t been any specific threats against the Hogwarts Express reported, the Ministry had increased security at all public wizard gatherings because the Death Eaters were becoming increasingly bold and violent. No one knew much about the Death Eaters, not even Dark wizards who were not within their circle. They were, as far as Severus knew, a new group—his mother had first heard of them after he was born--but one that had become very famous very quickly. Their leader, Lord Voldemort, was said to be one of the most powerful wizards, if not the most powerful, in the world, and many people feared even to say his name aloud. His mother assured him that the idea of a wizard gaining power when others said his name was a very old superstition that Dark wizards wished were true.

Severus watched the Blacks for a moment, then crept closer to hear what they were saying while not being seen. He made his way to a shallow nook in the wall where he could, if he listened hard, just hear the conversation. Sirius and his parents were facing the tracks and the Auror, who could see the wall, did not seem to notice him (although, as his mother said, with good Aurors you could never tell what they had noticed). Severus tried to look like he was shy and standing in the nook to be out of the way and not paying attention to the conversation.

The Auror was reassuring the Blacks that the platform and train were indeed quite secure, from direct attacks as well as booby traps or anything else the Death Eaters could think of, although he didn’t mention any details. As the Auror spoke, Severus noticed another family approach the group: a wizard, also tall, but with glasses, a witch with brown hair in long braids, and a boy of Severus’s age, also wearing glasses, with short black hair that looked like it hadn’t been combed in days.

The Auror knew these people and greeted them warmly. He introduced the newcomers, the Potters, to the Blacks, and then Mr. Potter asked his son, James, if he remembered Mr. Frederick Maxwell. Severus jumped slightly and turned more toward the group to hear better—he could not have heard that name right.

James said, “Of course I remember my own godfather, Dad.”

The two men laughed, and Mr. Potter said, “Well, it has been six years since you saw him.”

“I’ve got letters and pictures,” James said.

“Yes, you do,” his father replied.

“I’m sorry I haven’t had the chance to visit, Ted,” the Auror said, “But I haven’t been in the country much…”

“Ah, yes, that excuse,” Mrs. Potter interjected, smiling. “You’d think he still hadn’t gotten his license to Apparate.”

The two men laughed again and the Auror spoke to James. “You have been getting the presents I’ve sent? Your mother hasn’t been burying them in the backyard just to spite me, has she?”

“I have gotten them,” James said, “and I like them very much.”

“Wonderful! So, I’m not so terribly derelict in my duties after all,” the Auror chuckled.

Severus waited, barely breathing, through this chatter. He needed to know if this man was Frederick Maxwell, or if he was mistaken, which he sincerely hoped he was—although in the back of his mind he knew he’d heard the name right.

There was a small pop and a witch in dark gray robes appeared near the column. She looked troubled and, taking no notice of the others in the group, turned immediately to the Auror. “Freddie,” she began, “Mr. Crouch wants to see you—now. Alastair is coming to look after things while you’re gone.”

The Auror frowned and said, “I’m afraid I have to go.” He shook hands with the elder Potters and hugged James, saying, “I’m sorry.”

“We understand, Fred,” Mrs. Potter said. “But do stick your head in your fireplace sometime for a talk.”

“I will, I will.” He smiled, but his eyes were concerned. “It was very nice meeting you, Mr. Black, Mrs. Black—Sirius. I hope you have a wonderful year at Hogwarts. Make sure you get into trouble—er, that you don’t get into trouble.” He grinned at Mrs. Potter, who made a clucking sound with her tongue and hid her smile. The Auror and the witch—who obviously also worked for the Ministry—then both Disapparated.

The Potters and the Blacks began to talk among themselves, but Severus stopped listening after the Auror had gone. He left the nook in the wall absently, walking back the way he’d come, thinking of one thing only: The man who’d been talking to those people was his father—Frederick Maxwell, Auror. He’d just seen his father for the first time in his life, and he had no idea what he was going to do.

//
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