The Sugar Quill
Author: Chambraigne (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Journey to Hogwarts  Chapter: The Hogwarts Express
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The Hogwarts Express

 

Severus, not thinking about where he was going in his haste to get away, reached the wall leading back into King’s Cross station before stopping. He considered going home to wait for his mother to get back from St. Mungo’s so he could tell her what had happened. But he decided against it, because if he left now he would miss the train and he didn’t know any other way to get to school. He could go home and write to Professor Dumbledore for help later, but he didn’t want to ask the Headmaster to do more than he had already done, without even being asked. He also did not want to have to explain the situation to anyone else, and he felt he could not lie to Dumbledore. He thought of the sort of attention he would attract by arriving late at school (which he imagined was rarely if ever done), which he did not want because he was going to have enough trouble fitting in as it was. So he decided to stay and write to his mother that evening. He wasn’t sure what he would say, or what he expected her to do, but he felt that she should know that he had seen his father. Until then, he would just have to wait and focus on what was happening now.

Severus moved back onto platform nine and three quarters, keeping to the wall to be out of the way. The place was beginning to look like one of the Muggle platforms outside: wizards and witches of all ages passed him as they entered, laden down with luggage, to join the growing throng by the tracks. He looked for the Blacks, whom he was relieved to see were still standing by the column with the Potters. The two families seemed to have hit it off: the parents had gathered in a group to talk, while Sirius and James chased each other in circles nearby. Severus studied James Potter and wondered how their fathers knew each other. Potter Senior probably worked for the Ministry of Magic as well, or perhaps they were friends at Hogwarts, since they looked to be about the same age. He would pay special attention to Potter Junior, although he had no intention of becoming friends with James—anyone who got on immediately with Sirius Black was not likely to get on with him.

Severus stood for a while, lost in thought, until he was surprised by a sudden shrill whistle. He looked up to see the Hogwarts Express—a great fire red train with a sign bearing its name and the Hogwarts crest on the front of the engine—pulling into the station. Many of the people on the platform cheered as the train slowed to a halt. Severus looked at the station clock—it was eleven o’clock precisely. The train doors slid open and all along the platform people lifted trunks, cauldrons and owl cages and started toward them. Severus hung back a bit; he wanted to see where Black and Potter headed so he could go in the opposite direction.

They got on near the front, so he walked toward the rear of the train. While boarding, he maneuvered his trunk less than skillfully but he was grateful for once that he did not have many things in it as he watched others struggle with over-packed baggage. Behind him, a chubby girl with curly, red-orange hair protested the manner in which her mother was handling her owl’s cage, while the bird did the same by hooting wildly. “He will be fine, Renata,” her mother said in exasperation, then cried, “Watch where you’re going!” as her daughter tripped stepping into the carriage and landed face first on the floor. Her wand fell out of her robe pocket and rolled toward Severus’s feet. Without thinking, Severus stooped quickly to pick it up and handed it back to the girl. “Thanks,” the girl said sheepishly. Severus nodded, then she and her mother disappeared into the front facing car with her things, her mother reminding her to watch her feet when she walked.

Severus went into the rearward carriage because fewer people were going in that direction. He stopped at a compartment that he thought was empty because there was no sound coming from inside, but when he opened the door he found that it was in fact occupied. There were two people sitting: an utterly terrified, round-faced blond boy and a thin, brown-haired boy who looked positively ill, with an ashen face and dark circles under his eyes. A short jagged red line ran across his right cheek, evidence of a deep cut that was still healing. There were also red scratch marks on his hands, which the boy quickly hid in the folds of his robes when he noticed Severus looking at them. Severus wondered what sort of accident he had gotten into. Neither of the boys said anything as Severus looked at them quizzically.

After a moment, Severus asked, “Is this seat taken?”

The brown-haired boy shook his head mutely.

Severus stowed his trunk and sat down, since he was unlikely to find a compartment where he could be alone. He studied his companions, who continued to sit quietly. They had already changed into their uniforms (both new), which made it hard to guess what sort of families they were from, but they seemed shy and non-threatening, so it was probably a good place to sit. Severus was surprised when the train started to move—he hadn’t thought there had been enough time for everyone to get settled.

The three boys sat in silence for a several minutes as the Hogwarts Express picked up speed. Severus, feeling there should be some sort of conversation, said, “My name is Severus Snape. Who are you?” It didn’t quite come out the way he’d wanted it to.

The brown-haired boy said, softly, “Remus Lupin.”

The blond boy, after a few seconds of screwing up his courage, said, too loudly, “Peter Pettigrew.”

Severus wasn’t sure how to go on, but after considering for a moment, asked, “Do you know any spells?” It seemed like a good question; he could find out what sort of things the average first year knew, and impress them by hinting at his own knowledge. He didn’t want to ask about their families because it might lead to awkward questions for him, and he didn’t follow Quidditch, so that limited the potential topics of conversation among schoolboys who didn’t know each other.

Remus replied, “I know the Tickling Hex, but my parents don’t know that I do.”

“I know that one too,” Severus said. “And the countercurse,” he added.

Remus nodded, but didn’t say anything else. Peter sat looking like he’d rather be wandering lost in a tunnel full of goblins than where he was. Severus ventured, “Do you know anything about potions?”

Remus shook his head and Peter continued breathing loudly. Severus gave up on being social and turned his attention to the window. It wasn’t long before the train was barreling out of London: there were fewer houses and more green open spaces. Severus had heard that Hogwarts was very isolated, and he wondered what living in the country would be like.

Thinking of arriving at school reminded Severus that he hadn’t put on his uniform yet. Without a word, he pulled his robe out of his trunk and left the compartment to find a lavatory where he could change in private. He found one in the next car up, and, after he’d changed, lingered in the tiny room—this might be the only time he truly had to himself until he went to bed that night. As he left the bathroom, he caught a glimpse of a tall wizard in blue robes leaving the car at the other end. Severus immediately felt the need to know whether his father had returned or if this was the other Auror the witch in gray robes had mentioned (he couldn’t think of any other adults who would have reason to be wandering the corridors of the Hogwarts Express).

Severus rushed into the next carriage, and immediately regretted it. The wizard had stopped let a trio of older girls walking in the opposite direction pass by him, and was standing half-turned so that he immediately spotted Severus. It was indeed his father, back from wherever he had gone from the platform. Severus turned to leave quickly, but his father spoke to him.

“Can’t find your seat?” he asked.

Severus, turning back to face his father, shook his head, thinking, That’s not the problem, but he said nothing.

“Well, then, I’ll see if I can help you.”

His father approached him and asked, “Do you know your seat number?”

Severus nodded, then at his father’s expectant look, cleared his throat and said nervously, “Seventy-four.”

“Well, that makes things easy.” He directed Severus back the way he had just come.

Severus waited for a moment, studying the man in front of him. His father was tall and rather thin, with a large nose that was slightly crooked (that, Severus thought, was the only real resemblance between them.) Unlike him, his father had blue eyes, brown hair, and a broad, almost ruddy face that was friendly and, despite the nose, rather handsome. Severus felt it was appropriate that he should look more like his mother and Drusus, with their pale complexions, large black eyes and black hair, and guarded expressions.

Severus tried to make himself leave, but found he could not. He was terrified his father would ask his name and realize who he was, but he was almost more afraid that if his father heard his name, he wouldn’t know. He half-wanted to come out and tell his father who he was, and then somehow turn and walk away coldly and burst into tears at the same time.

“Is there anything else?” his father asked.

Severus shook his head again.

“Well, then, you should get back to your seat,” his father said, and turned to continue on his way.

Severus stood still for a moment, his thoughts racing with things he could say to keep his father there for a few more minutes, but he didn’t trust himself to speak. He watched his father exit the car, then turned to go.

He walked slowly back to his compartment, wondering what on earth had possessed him to act that way. He shouldn’t care that his father was on the train—the man had never visited or even sent him a letter. James Potter—Severus frowned darkly thinking about it—saw more of his father than he had, despite not having seen him for six years. Severus remembered James and Sirius playing together on the platform, while their parents talked and laughed, and felt anger rising inside. James Potter, his father’s godson, got letters and presents and visits from the man, while he got nothing. Sirius Black would probably see his father more often than Severus did, if he and Potter turned out to be best friends like they were threatening to do. He thought that the revenge he still owed Sirius should include Mr. Potter as well, just on principle. He smiled to himself as he entered the car where he had been sitting.

He immediately stopped, upon hearing people in his compartment talking so loudly he could hear it through the closed door.

“You don’t need to be so touchy,” a boy said, and his voice sounded familiar to Severus. “Those are nasty cuts—I was just wondering what happened.”

“Remus, Sirius didn’t mean anything by it, really,” another boy’s voice, also familiar, said.

There was a pause and Severus listened intently. What was Sirius Black—he recognized the voice clearly now--doing here?

“Look, I’m sorry. Okay?” Sirius said.

Another pause, then Remus said, in a soft voice Severus barely heard, “Okay.” A pause. “I’m sorry too.”

“Friends?” Sirius asked.

Remus must have nodded, because the other boy, who Severus recognized was James Potter, said, “Good. How about a game of Exploding Snap?”

The others assented (Severus heard Peter in the group as well) and soon a noisy game began. Severus remembered his exchange with Sirius in the bookshop, and was bitterly amused by the thought of him doing something similar with another person--apparently asking complete strangers impertinent questions was one of Sirius’s bad habits. He would have liked to hear Remus yell at Sirius, but the boy seemed to be more forgiving than he was. Severus considered barging in and ruining their fun (after all, he had been sitting there first) but he was not in the mood to face all four of them. Besides, if there was a scene, his father might come down to see what the fuss was and Severus did not want that at all. He didn’t think that Black and Potter knew he had been there; if they did, they’d probably be tearing through his trunk right now, destroying things, so he decided to leave well enough alone and find somewhere else to sit.

Severus walked toward the end of the train, not wanting to go back in the direction his father had been headed. He walked down another car, and at the end he caught a bit of conversation from inside a compartment where the door was ajar that intrigued him enough to stop and listen.

“Who do those two think they are anyway, running round like monkeys in the corridors, harassing people? Almost knocked me down and didn’t even apologize. Someone needs to teach them some manners,” a boy was saying.

“Those glasses the skinny one had look like they came from a Muggle shop,” another added derisively. They both laughed.

“His parents probably are Muggles, Evan,” said the first.

“Muggle-lovers, actually,” replied the second. “I saw them on the platform earlier, talking to that Auror. Muggle-loving Ministry drones, they looked like. You could hardly call them wizards at all.”

Severus’s ears perked up. The boy with the glasses was probably Potter, and of course it would be Sirius who was running about with him. (How many rambunctious skinny boys with Muggle-like glasses were likely to have been standing on platform nine and three quarters talking to an Auror at one time?) He enjoyed hearing the two of them insulted and stayed still.

His enjoyment was cut short, however, by another boy’s voice, from behind him. “Oi—what are you doing?”

Severus whirled around and saw the speaker: a tall, heavy-set boy with dark brown hair who looked like he had been waiting for an excuse to pound someone for a while.

“Eh—Rosier, Wilkes, look what I found,” the boy called. The two boys inside poked their heads out of the compartment door.

“What is it, Avery?” one asked.

“This one’s been skulking round outside our door,” the large boy grinned menacingly.

The two boys came out into the corridor for a better look. Severus examined them quickly: one was almost as tall as the brown-haired boy, with short black hair parted down the center of his head; the other was shorter, with wavy auburn hair. Neither of them looked pleased at the thought of someone listening in on them. Severus was wary, but not frightened. None of them had their wands out, but he needed to be careful because he was still outnumbered—and, he had to admit, he’d never been much good in a physical fight.

“Who are you, then?” the black-haired one asked. Severus noticed him looking critically at his uniform, and was very glad, at the moment, that he had bought one new. The boy wrinkled his nose slightly as he looked at Severus’s hair, but said nothing.

“Severus Snape,” he said simply, gazing coolly back at the boy.

“So, Severus Snape,” the boy continued, “Why are you standing round eavesdropping on other people?”

“I was not eavesdropping on you,” Severus answered. “You had your door open, and anyone passing by can hear what you say. I stopped because I was surprised.”

The boy looked at him inquiringly. “Surprised by what?”

“You were talking about people I know,” Severus said.

“Oh?”

“The two boys you mentioned—I’ve had dealings with them before.”

“What sort of ‘dealings’?” the boy asked.

“I met the one without glasses, Sirius Black, this summer,” Severus said. “He’s not only loud and rude, but also a thief and a liar. A very bad one, too. I could tell you about it, if you’re interested.”

The three boys looked at each other, and the black-haired one nodded slightly, at his companions rather than Severus. The boy then introduced himself, “My name’s Rosier. Evan Rosier.”

“Winston Wilkes,” the redheaded one added.

“Charles Avery,” said the brown-haired one, reluctantly.

“Well then, sit, and tell us,” Rosier said, like he was giving an order.

Severus nodded, wondering how this would go, and followed the three boys to their seats.

//
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