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
Platform Nine and Three Quarters
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,
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
“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
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 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
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