- Draco Malfoy Harry Potter
- Alternate Universe General
- The Harry Potter at Hogwarts Years
- Philosopher's Stone Quidditch Through the Ages Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Published: 09/14/2003Updated: 02/26/2004Words: 94,331Chapters: 19Hits: 159,287
They Shook Hands : Year One (Original Version)
- Story Summary:
- Suppose Draco Malfoy introduced himself before he started acting like an ass. What if he had asked Harry's name before insulting Hagrid? A friendly handshake in Madam Malkin's leads to an alternate but realistic universe which is eerily like the canon, featuring a cast of first year Slytherins as you've never seen them: normal children. Join Harry Potter and his new friends as they discover their magical talents and help him to explore the world that has been kept from him these past ten years.
Chapter 02 - The Journey From Platform Nine and Three-Quarters
- Chapter Summary:
- Harry makes his way to King's Cross Station and boards the Hogwarts Express. When he finds his new friend Draco, he also meets more children his own age. Unlike other children he's known, they actually seem to like him. What's more, they don't make a spectacle of him the way the adult witches and wizards he's met have. What sort of things will happen on the train ride?
They Shook Hands : Year One
An alternate (but realistic!) universe Harry Potter fic
Chapter Two - The Journey From Platform Nine and Three-Quarters
Dudley was now so scared of Harry that he wouldn't stay in the same room. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon didn't shut Harry in his cupboard, force him to do anything, or shout at him -- in fact, they didn't speak to him at all. Half terrified, half furious, they acted as though any chair with Harry in it were empty. Although this was an improvement in many ways, it did become a bit depressing after awhile.
Harry kept to his room, eagerly reading his school books. He wanted to do well at school, wanted to do his Mum and Dad proud. The books were very interesting, especially A History of Magic. He lay on his bed reading all day and late into the night. Every night before he went to sleep, Harry ticked off another day on the piece of parchment he had pinned to the wall, counting down to September the first.
His friend Draco Malfoy was constantly on his mind. He'd been so excited about Hogwarts and Quidditch that Harry could not help but be infected with his enthusiasm. For the first time, Harry was looking forward to something, to seeing his friend again. Draco was a friend that the Dursleys didn't know about. It was something Harry had for himself.
On the last day of August, he thought he'd better speak to his aunt and uncle about getting to King's Cross station the next day, so he went down to the living room where they were watching a quiz show on the telly. He cleared his throat to let them know he was there, and Dudley screamed and ran out of the room.
Uncle Vernon grunted to show he was listening.
"My train to school leaves from King's Cross tomorrow at eleven o'clock."
Uncle Vernon grunted again.
"Will you give me a lift? Or at least give me fare for the train there?"
Grunt. Harry supposed that meant yes.
He turned to go back upstairs when Uncle Vernon actually spoke.
"Funny way to get to a w-wizards' school, the train. Magic carpets all got punctures, have they?"
Harry's head whipped back around as he glared at Uncle Vernon. What would he know about it?
"Where is this school, anyway?"
"Planning on visiting me, are you?" said Harry, his voice turning vaguely insulting.
"Watch your tongue, boy, or you'll be walking to the ruddy station."
"Good night," Harry said, having gotten his answer. He turned back and walked up the stairs to his room.
He threw himself on the bed and flipped open The Standard Book of Spells. Maybe there was some nasty curse in the end chapters that he could learn and use it on Uncle Vernon before he left.
A frantic tapping at the window startled him from his reading. Peering outside he could see an owl hovering there. He hurried over and opened the window, stepping back to let the messenger inside. Hagrid had used an owl to send Professor Dumbledore a letter and had told him that wizards used owls to deliver their mail. Who could be writing to him?
The eagle owl circled the room and then landed on Harry's shoulder. He grunted with the sudden weight. The bird stuck out its leg, permitting Harry to untie the letter. With a quick hop, the owl perched on the bed frame and began to groom itself.
Harry opened up the letter.
Summer hols still going good, I hope. Those Muggles haven't been bothering you, right? We're not supposed to do magic outside of school, but officially you don't know that yet. They don't tell you until after first year is over and you start the holiday. So if you want to hex them and get away with it, now's the time. There's a few good ones in chapter twenty of your Dark Forces book.
I've been telling my friends all about you except for stuff that could let them figure out your name. They all want to meet you, so we're definitely saving you a seat in our compartment, even if I have to kick Goyle out.
I wasn't sure if you'd got a post owl, so I told Arlette to wait for a return letter. If you could give her some toast leftover from tea, she'd be grateful. If you didn't get an owl, you should get one. They're dead useful.
In the meantime, I'll see you at the station.
Harry looked up at the owl. She had finished preening and was looking at him with her head slightly cocked to one side. She hooted gently at him. She was hungry.
"C'mon downstairs with me, girl," he said, holding one arm out. When Arlette had perched on his forearm, he went back downstairs and into the kitchen.
Feeling a mite peckish himself, he put two slices of bread in the toaster. While he waited for them to toast, he wrote his return letter.
The Muggles have been ignoring me, which is a blessing. I can't wait to get out of here. I'm looking forward to meeting your friends. Thanks for telling Arlette to stick around. I wouldn't have been able to reply without her. Does Eeylop's take postal orders?
It would do. Harry didn't know exactly how one should go about writing a letter to a friend. He'd never had friends before. He folded the paper up and looked for Arlette.
She was already perched on the toaster, nibbling at the toast. She held a piece down with her talons and tore at it with her beak. Arlette was a beautiful bird, Harry could see. A very hungry, beautiful bird.
A piercing shriek nearly made Harry jump out of his skin. His ears ringing, he turned and saw Aunt Petunia standing in the doorway. She had one hand pointing at the toaster.
"What is that?" she screeched.
Arlette calmly looked at Aunt Petunia.
"Out!" she shrieked in outrage.
Harry picked up his letter and the remaining toast. Arlette lighted on his shoulder as he pushed past Aunt Petunia on his way upstairs.
"Vernon!" she yelled. Clearly she had issues with owls being in the house.
Harry shut out their noise as he shut his door. He handed the remaining toast over to Draco's owl and tied the letter onto her leg.
"Thanks for visiting," he said, not sure how one spoke to a post owl. "It was fun."
Arlette hooted at him, nipped his ear, and flapped her wings, soaring out through the open window and off into the night.
* * *
Harry woke at five o'clock the next morning and was too excited and nervous to go back to sleep. He got up and pulled on his trousers, not wanting to walk into the station in his wizard's robes. He would change on the train. He checked his Hogwarts list yet again to make sure he had everything he needed, then paced the room, waiting for the Dursleys to get up. Two hours later, Harry's huge, heavy trunk had been loaded into the Dursley's car, Aunt Petunia had bribed Dudley into sitting next to Harry, and they had set off.
They reached King's Cross at half past ten. Uncle Vernon dumped Harry's trunk out onto the curb and got back into the car without saying a word. Harry pulled a cart over and was about to ask for help when the Dursleys drove off, giving him a face full of exhaust.
Choking, Harry somehow muscled his trunk onto the cart and wheeled it inside. He pulled out his ticket to see what platform he was leaving from and stared at it in amazement.
It read Platform 9 & Â¾. Was this some kind of test? Was it a foolish joke? Seeing no alternative, he pushed his cart down to where platforms nine and ten were.
Harry stared up at the big plastic numbers. There was only a 9 and a 10. What was he going to do?
He stopped a passing guard, but he didn't dare mention the absurdity of a platform with a fraction in it. He could see for himself that it didn't plainly exist. The guard had never heard of Hogwarts, and when Harry couldn't even tell him what part of the country it was in, he started to get annoyed, as though Harry was being stupid on purpose. Getting desperate, Harry asked for the train that left at eleven o'clock, figuring that would be the proper train. When the guard told him there was no such train and walked away, muttering about time wasters, Harry tried hard not to panic. According to the large clock over the arrivals board, he had ten minutes left to get on the train to Hogwarts, and he was stranded in the middle of a station with a trunk he could hardly lift, a pocket full of wizard money, and no idea what to do.
Hagrid must have forgotten to tell him something you had to do, like tapping the third brick on the left to get into Diagon Alley. Should he get out his wand and start tapping the ticket inspector's stand between platforms nine and ten?
At that moment a group of people passed just behind him, and he caught a few words of what they were saying.
"-packed with Muggles, of course-"
Harry swung round. The speaker was a plump woman who was talking to four boys, all with flaming red hair. Each of them was pushing a trunk like Harry's in front of him, and they had an owl.
Heart hammering, Harry pushed his cart after them. They stopped, and so did he, just near enough to hear what they were saying.
"Now, what's the platform number?" said the boys' mother.
"Nine and three-quarters!" piped a small girl, also red-headed, who was holding her mother's hand. "Mum, can't I go too?"
"Next year, Ginny, next year. All right, Percy, you first."
What looked like the oldest boy marched toward platforms nine and ten. Harry watched, careful not to blink in case he missed it -- but just as the boy reached the dividing barrier between the two platforms, a large crowd of tourists came swarming in front of him and by the time the last backpack had cleared away, the boy had vanished.
"Fred, your turn," the plump woman said.
"He's not Fred, I am!" protested one of the twins.
The other looked very hurt and cast his mother a reproachful glance. "Honestly, woman, you call yourself our mother?"
"Sorry, George, dear."
George lined up his cart with the divider and flashed her a grin. "Only joshing. I am Fred really," he said, and off he went. His twin called after him to hurry up, and he must have done so, because a second later, he had gone -- but how had he done it?
Now the third brother was walking briskly towards the barrier - he was almost there - and then, quite suddenly, he wasn't anywhere.
There was nothing else for it.
"Excuse me," Harry said to the plump woman.
"Hello, dear," she said. "First time at Hogwarts? Ron's new, too."
She pointed at the last and youngest of her sons. He was tall, thin, and gangling, with freckles, big hands and feet, and a long nose.
"Yes. The thing is," said Harry hesitantly, "the thing is, I don't know how to-"
"How to get onto the platform?" she asked kindly, and Harry nodded.
"Not to worry," she said. "All you have to do is walk straight at the barrier there. Don't stop and don't worry about crashing into it, otherwise you will. Best to do it at a bit of a run, if you're nervous. Go on, go now before Ron."
"Thank you," he said, very nervous now.
He pushed his trolley around and stared at the barrier. It looked very solid.
He started to walk toward it. People jostled him on their way to platforms nine and ten. Harry walked more quickly. He was going to smash right into that barrier, and then he'd be in trouble. Leaning forward on his cart, he broke into a heavy run. The barrier was coming nearer and nearer. He wouldn't be able to stop. The cart had too much momentum built up. He was a metre away. He closed his eyes, ready for the crash.
It didn't come. He kept on running and opened his eyes.
A scarlet steam engine was waiting next to a platform packed with people. A sign overhead said Hogwarts Express, eleven o'clock. Harry looked behind him and saw a wrought-iron archway where the barrier had been, with the words Platform Nine and Three-Quarters on it. He'd made it.
Smoke from the engine drifted over the heads of the chattering crowd, while cats of every colour wound here and there between their legs. Owls hooted to one another in a disgruntled sort of way over the babble and the scraping of heavy trunks.
The first few carriages were already packed with students, some hanging out of the window to talk to their families, some fighting over seats. Harry pushed his cart down the platform in search of Draco, the only person he knew. He passed a round-faced boy who was saying, "Gran, I've lost my toad again."
"Oh, Neville," he heard the old woman sigh.
A boy with dreadlocks was surrounded by a small crowd.
"Give us a look, Lee, go on."
The boy lifted the lid of the box in his arms, and the people around him shrieked and yelled as something inside poked out a long, hairy leg.
"Harry!" shouted a familiar voice.
Harry turned round and saw Draco rushing his way. Then he was there, and Harry thought his friend might shake his arm off.
"You made it!" he said breathlessly. "I was starting to worry."
"I couldn't figure out how to get onto the platform," Harry replied. "I guess Hagrid forgot to tell me."
Draco's upper lip curled back in a sneer, but he didn't say anything. "So how'd you do it?"
"Asked some people with an owl," Harry said with a casual shrug. He'd seen Draco act nonchalant and consciously imitated him.
Draco laughed and put his hands on the cart. "C'mon, we're back here," he said, guiding the cart to a compartment towards the middle of the train. Working together, they easily got the trunk off the trolley and loaded into the train.
Harry wiped the sweat off his forehead. "That trunk is heavy."
"Father already left, but he sends his respects. Mum was meeting a friend for lunch, so she couldn't come with us. She sent you a tin of biscuits."
"I'll write her a thank you note immediately," Harry promised.
Before Draco could answer, several other children came piling into the compartment.
"It was a tarantula," one boy was saying. He was a little bit taller than Harry, with light brown hair that was cut short. He was already dressed in his school robes.
"And how do you know that, Tim?" asked a girl who almost looked like more of a boy than the boy did. She was of medium height and skinny, a tomboy if there ever was one; her plain brown hair was straight and limp, reaching to her jawline.
"I asked him, Millie."
"You were talking with a Gryffindor?" spat another girl, disgust written across her pug-like face. Her black hair was shiny, though, and neatly pulled into two braids.
"Shut up, Parkinson."
"Make me, Nott."
"I'm going to hex you."
Tim Nott smiled in a wicked, inviting sort of manner. "Any time, love." He bowed to her and sat down. "Oi, Draco, is this the chap you said we all had to meet?"
Draco nodded, practically bursting with pride. "I'd like you all to meet my friend, Harry Potter."
Other than a gasp from Parkinson, the entire compartment went dead silent. Nott was staring at him, while the two girls weren't much better.
"Blimey," breathed Nott, clearly overwhelmed. "I'm going to hex you, Draco, for keeping that a secret."
"You must be joking," Draco snapped. "Keeping it a secret? Isn't a chap entitled to surprise his mates every now and then?"
"Of course you are, Draco," said Parkinson. "But this is a pretty big shock. What if one of us had a weak heart?"
"You're eleven years old, Pansy," Nott pointed out.
"Shut up, Nott."
Nott began turning red. "You'll regret that."
"Not more than I regret knowing you."
Harry was a little uneasy at the casual exchange of insults. Draco must have noticed this, because he nudged Harry with his elbow.
"Ignore them. They've been at each other like this since they learned how to talk."
"Oh," said Harry. "Alright."
"Are those two at it again?" asked a new voice, this one belonging to a pretty girl with a tumbled mane of blonde hair. She was about Harry's height, with bright blue eyes that were shining in utter amusement. Obviously she knew the pair and their natures.
"Blaise," the girl named Millie greeted her. "And yes, of course they're at it. But what do you mean 'again'? They've never stopped, have they?"
"I think when they sleep. Hello," she said, reaching a hand out to Harry. "Blaise Zabini."
Harry shook hands. "Harry Potter."
Eyes wide, she shook hands enthusiastically. Then she turned to glare around the compartment. "Who's been keeping secrets?"
Millie pointed at Draco.
"Malfoy?" she said, her tone threatening.
"What?" he asked innocently.
"How could you?"
"I said I'd made a friend you ought to meet."
"Yes, but you didn't say it was Harry Potter!"
"So?" Draco said, putting a load of contempt into his voice. "Better you know about him and want to meet him without that."
"Point," she conceded. "But I'll have my revenge."
"I'm sure you will," he said with an oily smirk. "But anyways, since you cads are being so uncivilized, I guess I'll have to make the introductions. Harry, I'd like you to meet my friends. That there's Tim Nott, Pansy Parkinson, Millicent Bulstrode, and you've met Blaise."
"Pleasure to meet you all," Harry said sincerely.
The whistle sounded. Everyone looked around.
"Where's Crabbe and Goyle?" Draco asked.
"Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dumber? They're one compartment down playing Exploding Snap." Blaise made a dismissive gesture with one hand. "Why you tolerate those fools, I'll never know."
"Brute muscle has its place at times, Blaise."
"Rent an ogre."
"Have you seen Terry or Mandy yet?" Tim asked.
"Terry's sitting two compartments up with some boys I don't know."
"Muggleborns?" was Tim's suspicious reply.
Blaise frowned in concentration. "I'm not sure. I wasn't really paying attention to them. I think one of them was wearing Muggle brand trainers."
Draco waved his hand. "That doesn't necessarily mean anything," he said. "They make footwear better than any wizard."
"Your father would have you gutted and hung on a fence if he heard you talking like that," Pansy jabbed at him.
"He said it himself," Draco defended. "Think about it. Wizards have brooms, Floo, and Apparition. Why do we need to walk anywhere? We certainly have no real need to run, except when we're young and can't Apparate. Plus we're not allowed brooms as first years and have no reason to Floo anywhere."
"What about Mandy?" Tim pressed.
Pansy grinned wickedly. "Does our ickle Timmikins have a cwush on pwitty wittle Mandy?"
"She's my friend, twit," snarled Tim.
Blaise shook her head, sending her blonde hair whipping around. "I haven't seen her. I can't find the Patil twins either."
A knock on the door of their compartment interrupted them. A tall older boy who looked eerily like Draco stuck his head in. He had the same pale blond hair, the same grey eyes. Even his chin was pointed and his posture very proper.
"Everything going well, my lads and ladies?"
"Elan," Draco greeted his older brother.
"I'm just looking in on everyone before I go up to the front of the train. The prefects have two compartments to themselves." Sure enough, a shiny silver badge pinned to his billowing black Hogwarts robes had the letter P on it.
"Oh, are you a prefect?" Tim asked with total innocence.
"Quiet, you," Elan bantered back. "I know I showed you the badge when you were up at the Manor."
"I think we're all right, Elan. Thanks," Draco said.
"Very good," he said poshly. "If anything comes up, you know where to find me."
"You'll be snogging my sister," said Blaise.
Elan turned a most interesting shade of scarlet. He fled without another word. Clearly this group had long experience in pushing his buttons.
The train began to move. Harry glanced out the window and saw the platform disappear as the train picked up speed. It rounded the corner and the station was gone. Houses flashed by the window. Harry felt a great leap of excitement. He didn't know what he was headed toward, but it had to be better than what he was leaving behind.
The children in his compartment were all very curious about what it had been like living with Muggles. Each of them was clearly from one of the old wizarding families that Draco had talked about in Diagon Alley.
"It was horrible," he said. "Well- most of them, anyways. My aunt and uncle and cousin though, are the worst of the bunch in my opinion. They had a letter that Dumbledore had written to tell me all about my parents and being a wizard and all, but they kept it from me. Until Hagrid told me, I didn't know anything about being a wizard or my parents or Voldemort-"
Blaise and Millicent gasped. Draco and Tim looked impressed. Pansy fell back in a faint.
"You said You-Know-Who's name!" Tim whispered loudly, clearly over-awed.
"I'm not trying to be brave or anything, you know," said Harry, "I just never knew you shouldn't. See what I mean, I've got loads to learn. I bet," he added, voicing for the first time something that had been worrying him a lot lately, "I bet I'm the worst in the class."
"Worthless Muggles," Draco spat. "Not telling him he's a wizard! Keeping his heritage from him!"
"Agreed," said Blaise. "That's a sin that's unpardonable. Not to worry, Harry, we'll help you out. You're not going to be at a disadvantage just because of some stupid Muggles. We're going to take care of you. You'll be the brother we never had."
Harry blushed. He wasn't used to people doing nice things for him. "Thanks. Wish I had a wizard brother or sister."
Draco and Blaise immediately reassured him that it wasn't that special, and primarily just meant someone to annoy on a regular basis.
"Plus he's nosy," said Draco. "Can't stand the idea of something going on that he doesn't know everything about. Forever poking in where he's not wanted."
"Jamie's just as bad. Forever asking me stupid questions," Blaise chimed in. "Honestly, those two deserve each other."
And there was much giggling.
"But Elan did tell me about the Sorting," Draco said. The others ooh'd and aah'd in astonishment.
"Jamie wouldn't budge. I even threatened to tell Mum about the time when she snuck out to see a boy, but it was no good. At least Jamie got in trouble."
"Elan told me not to worry at all. The great and mysterious trial is nothing more complex than putting a hat on your head."
"What?" they all asked.
"It's called the Sorting Hat, and it was made by the four Founders long ago. You put it on your head, and then it screams out your house for the whole school to hear."
Tim was agape. "But that's easy! I was certain we'd need spells! I had a whole list of nasty hexes lined up!"
"Waste of time, mate," Draco said with a smirk. "With all that hard work, perhaps you'll wind up in Hufflepuff."
"Absolutely disgusting!" Tim ranted. "I think I'd leave! My dad could teach me everything."
"Then again, you're very smart, so perhaps Ravenclaw is in your future."
"I know what's in your future, Malfoy, if you keep talking like that. My family is just as Slytherin as yours."
"But mine goes back further."
They talked about their pets, something Harry had neglected to get in his hurried rush through Diagon Alley's shops. Draco had his eagle owl, Arlette, of whom Harry was rather fond considering the fright she'd given Aunt Petunia, and he told this story to extremely amused laughter. Blaise had a grey-and-black striped kitten she'd named Argent because his patterns made him look silvery in the right light. Pansy and Millicent had both got owls, a screech owl named Benson and a barn owl named Eccidemas respectively. Nott's familiar, a jet black tabby cat named Onyx, had been with him for years, ever since she'd wandered into his kitchen during a rainstorm. Harry struggled to keep all the names straight, knowing it was probably a futile effort.
While they talked, the train carried them out of London. Now they were speeding past fields full of cows and sheep. They continued their conversations, though Harry spent a great deal of time listening and watching. These children seemed like quite a decent lot. They were friendly, amusing, and very interesting.
Was this what it was like to be a normal boy? Harry wondered. If these were friends, then how he wished that he'd met them years ago. He too was from an old wizarding family, and surely he would have been friends with them all many years ago if Voldemort hadn't interfered.
Around half past twelve there was a great clattering outside in the corridor, and a smiling, dimpled woman slid back their door and said, "Anything off the cart, dears?"
Harry, who hadn't had any breakfast, leapt to his feet, quickly followed by his new friends. He had never had any money for candy with the Dursleys, and now that he had pockets rattling with gold and silver he was ready to buy as many Mars Bars as he could carry. But the woman didn't have Mars Bars. What she did have were Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, Drooble's Best Blowing Gum, Chocolate Frogs, Pumpkin Pasties, Cauldron Cakes, Licorice Wands, and a number of other strange things Harry had never seen before.
"Wow," he said.
Draco glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. "Right. Gang? It's time for Harry's first lesson. Everybody get something different, and get enough to share."
Before Harry could protest, the five boys and girls had liberally raided the snack trolley. He tried to pay attention as his friends began to tell him all about the various sweets.
"These are Chocolate Frogs. There's a simple spell on them to make them a bit lively. They've got about one good jump in them. After that, they're easy to catch. They taste delicious," Tim explained, demonstrating.
Sure enough, the frog leapt for the window, but it was closed. He picked it up and bit one of the legs off. "If they're still moving, it really tickles when it gets to your stomach."
Harry's stomach felt slightly queasy at the idea of eating something that was still moving, even if it was a spell.
"Every Frog comes with a card inside. They've all got different witches and wizards on them so you can collect them and trade them. I've got about a thousand, myself. I've got all of the first four series, and I'm only missing a dozen or so from the fifth."
Tim handed the card to Harry. "Dumbledore the Muggle Lover," he said with contempt. "Still, you wouldn't want to cross him."
"Why not?" Harry asked.
"Read the back."
The front of the card showed a man's face. He wore half-moon glasses, had a long, crooked nose, and flowing silver hair, beard, and moustache. Underneath the picture was the name Albus Dumbledore.
"So this is what he looks like!" Harry said. He turned the card over and read:
Considered by many the greatest wizard of modern times, Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon's blood, and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicholas Flamel. Professor Dumbledore enjoys chamber music and tenpin bowling.
Harry turned the card back over and saw, to his astonishment, that Dumbledore's face had disappeared.
"Well, you can't expect him to hang around all day," said Tim. "He'll be back. If you want to start collecting, I've got about a hundred doubles that I haven't got rid of yet. They're all yours."
He opened up another Frog. "Sweet Merlin, I've got Agrippa!"
Pansy ooh'd and aah'd in mock amazement. "Stop the bloody presses," she jeered.
"Silence, wench," Tim said absently, studying the card intently. "I've only got one of him. They didn't print very many of him during the second series. This looks like an original. Outstanding!"
Harry was still caught up on the fact that Dumbledore had vanished from the picture.
"In the Muggle world, people just stay put in photos."
Draco was giving him the strangest look. "That's very odd," he said. "And extremely boring."
Blaise had opened a box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans.
"Now you want to be careful with these," she warned. "They're not joking when they say every flavour. You've got regular ones like toffee, peppermint, and chocolate, but then you can get paint, glue, and earwax."
Harry thought this was most interesting. "How do you tell?"
Everyone laughed at this question. "You don't," Blaise told him. "That's part of the risk, part of the fun."
It certainly sounded interesting, if not necessarily fun. Harry tried a few, getting strawberry, curry, coffee, toast, and honey.
"You're lucky," Blaise told him. "Most people get at least one bad one in every handful."
Sure enough, the next one Harry bit into tasted exactly like Aunt Petunia's favourite meal: liver and onions.
The countryside now flying past the window was becoming wilder. The neat fields had gone. Now there were woods, twisting rivers, and dark green hills.
"Want to hear a joke?" Draco asked them.
"Sure," Blaise said for the group.
Tim snickered loudly, and everyone else joined in a few seconds later as it sank in. Harry laughed with them, even though he didn't get the joke. Surely the things they'd been saying about Hufflepuff weren't actually true.
There was a knock on the door of their compartment, and the round-faced boy Harry had passed on platform nine and three-quarters came in. He looked tearful.
"Sorry to bother you," he said diffidently, "but have you seen a toad anywhere? Trevor keeps running away from me."
They all shook their heads. The boy, Neville, Harry remembered, sniffed a few times, trying hard not to cry. "If you see him..."
"We will," said Harry. It was hard not to feel bad for the boy. Harry didn't own a pet, but if he did, he would probably be very upset to lose it.
Pansy was trying hard not to laugh. "Who brings a toad?" she asked curiously. "I know they were all the fad a few years ago, but honestly."
"Elan brought a toad his first year," Draco commented.
"Yes, himself," she giggled.
"You're just saying that because you fancy him," Draco shot back.
Pansy flushed slightly. "He's handsome," she said.
"It runs in the family," he said smugly, buffing his fingernails on his sweater.
"Hadn't you better change into your robes?" Tim said, looking out the window. "We must be nearly there."
Everyone agreed with this and began to pull off their sweaters. Harry was stunned for a moment, but Draco nudged him.
"It's just- I mean-" he stammered.
Realization dawned in Draco's eyes. "Oh! Oh, that stupid Muggle foolishness about undressing in mixed company?"
Draco sniffed. "Muggles are ever so provincial. We wizards take such things in stride. Come on then, don't be shy."
Harry was very embarrassed. It must have shown, too, because Blaise paused in the act of unbuttoning her trousers.
"Be a little more understanding, Draco. He was raised as a Muggle. There's bound to be a few problems while he adjusts. Ladies," she said, addressing Millicent and Pansy, who were also about to become indecently dressed, "let's go next door. Give Harry some privacy."
Harry flashed her a grateful smile as the three girls picked up their robes and left the compartment. He and Draco quickly stripped out of their casual clothes and donned the uniform shirt and trousers before pulling the robes on over their heads. Tim was already changed.
There was a knocking on the door, and it slid open. The toadless boy was back, but this time he had a girl with him. She was wearing her new Hogwarts robes.
"Has anyone seen a toad? Neville's lost one," she said. She had a bossy sort of voice, lots of bushy brown hair, and rather large front teeth.
"Are you stupid?" Tim asked incredulously. "We already told him we haven't seen it."
"There's no need to be rude," she said with a sniff. Then she caught sight of Harry's forehead.
"You're Harry Potter!" she exclaimed. "I know all about you, of course. I got a few extra books for background reading, and you're in Modern Magical History, and The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts, and Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century."
"Am I?" said Harry, feeling dazed.
"Goodness, didn't you know? I'd have found out everything I could if it was me," the girl said. "I'm Hermione Granger, by the way. Who are the rest of you?"
Tim froze. "Granger? That's not a family name I know," he said, his voice little more than a whisper.
"My parents are dentists. They have a practice on the outskirts of London."
"You're Muggleborn," Draco said flatly.
"Yes, I'm the first in my family to be magical. It was ever such a surprise when I got my letter, but I was ever so pleased, of course. I mean, it's the very best school of witchcraft there is, I've heard. I've learned all our course books by heart, of course. I just hope it will be enough."
"Oh, I promise you," Tim said softly, "that it will not be enough."
She turned to look at him, missing the dangerous glint in his eyes.
"There are certain disadvantages that Mudbloods like yourself have. One of those is not knowing your place."
"Get out of here, you arrogant little Mudblood," snapped Draco. "We don't want your kind around. Muggles are cruel, stupid, and worthless wastes of oxygen."
Harry started. Where did this venom come from?
"Well really," Granger sputtered, highly indignant, and turned to flounce out of the compartment. Neville had already fled.
"Furnunculus!" Draco hissed, pointing his wand at her. A bunch of red sparks shot out of the tip of his wand, missing Granger entirely. She continued on as if she hadn't noticed.
"Damn!" he said. "It didn't work."
Harry stared at his friend. "Was that a curse?" he asked, unable to really say anything else.
"Hex," Draco answered. "Gives some nasty boils. Very elementary."
"Why'd you try to hex her?"
"We don't like Mudbloods," Tim declared. "They're bad news for decent, pureblooded wizards. She's just what all the rest are like: Arrogant, prissy, and entirely too full of themselves. They think they're special just because they're the first in their families to have magic. They get funny ideas, queer thoughts. It's better to put them in their place as soon as possible."
"I mean, can you believe how rude she was? 'You're Harry Potter!'" mocked Draco. "Not a care in the world for a chap's feelings. I hope we run into her again."
"Run in to whom?" asked Blaise as the three girls came back into the compartment.
"A Mudblood named Granger. Burst in here quite uninvited looking for that bloody toad, then she brings up our mate Harry's famousness without so much as a by-your-leave."
"What?" Blaise was outraged. "What sort of manners do these Muggles teach anyway?"
"Apparently not that much," answered Pansy. "I bet she was headed to a secondary modern school," she sniffed haughtily.
"Even if she went to a proper grammar school, she still wouldn't know anything about manners. I very much doubt she would have gone to finishing school." Blaise was rather critical as well.
"Nominate first order of business to be retribution for Harry," stated Pansy.
"Second," chorused Millicent and Blaise.
"Motion passes," Pansy continued, "The floor is open for suggestions as to a course of action."
"Feed her to the squid!" That was Blaise.
"Throw her off the train!" That was Millicent.
"Snap her wand to bits." That was Tim.
"This panel was not open to the idiot opinions of idiot boys," Pansy said cheerfully.
"Hang her by her feet from the top of the Astronomy Tower." That was Draco.
Harry, who had been grinning at the vast indignation on his behalf, was suddenly on the spot. True, it had been very rude of Hermione to have brought up Harry's celebrity status. He'd been made famous for living when his parents had died. Didn't she have an ounce of sensitivity? Apparently not, because she had acted very arrogant and bossy. Suddenly, Harry hoped he wasn't sorted to the same house as her.
"Bribe the Sorting Hat to send her to Hufflepuff?" he suggested diffidently. His friends had all been bashing Hufflepuff a bit, so he figured mimicking them was a safe bet.
His suggestion was greeted with riotous laughter from his five friends. Pansy wiped her eyes, blew her nose, and sat up straight. "All those in favour of Harry's suggestion say 'aye,'" she said officially.
"Aye!" chorused the six of them.
"The motion passes by a vote of five in favour, none opposed, and the idiot opinions of idiot boys do not count."
"Now how do we bribe the Sorting Hat?"
"Who's going to go before her in the Sorting?"
"I will," said Millicent.
"And just you," said Pansy after a moment's thought.
"Better make it good," warned Draco.
"Offer it whatever it wants," said Blaise. "We'll figure it out. There is no price too great to pay for the smiting of one's enemies."
"'Smiting'?" Draco asked incredulously. "Did you just say 'smiting'?"
"Yeah, it means to hurt them," Millicent chimed in.
"I know what it means!" he snapped.
"Aren't you going a little overboard, Blaise?" asked Harry.
"Absolutely not," she declared. "Purebloods stick together."
"Plus she's sweet on you," Pansy said, jabbing her in the side.
Blaise flushed pink. "I never said that!"
"You didn't have to, sweetie. You didn't have to," smirked Pansy.
A voice echoed through the train: "We will be reaching Hogsmeade station in five minutes' time. Please leave your luggage on the train; it will be taken to the school separately."
Harry's stomach lurched with excitement. He looked around at his friends. They were all grinning hugely. This was it. They were almost there. Everyone packed their sweets away in their trunks, each person giving Harry a package or two.
"Here we go," said Blaise with an up-beat cast to her voice.
They joined the crowd of students thronging in the corridor. The train slowed down as the station came into view. When it finally stopped, people pushed their way toward the door and out on to a tiny, dark platform. Harry shivered in the cold night air. Then a lamp came bobbing over the heads of the students, and Harry heard a familiar voice.
"Firs' years! Firs' years over here! All right there, Harry?"
Hagrid's big hairy face beamed over the sea of heads. Draco and the rest of Harry's new friends grimaced as he came into sight, but out of respect for what he'd done for Harry they said nothing. He'd told them all the story of Hagrid taking him away from the Dursleys in the hut on the rock.
"C'mon now, follow me. Any more firs' years? Mind yer step, now! Firs' years follow me!"
Slipping and stumbling, they followed Hagrid down what seemed to be a steep, narrow path. It was so dark on either side of them that Harry thought there must be thick trees there. Nobody spoke much. Neville, the boy who kept losing his toad, sniffed once or twice.
"Yeh'll get yer firs' sight o' Hogwarts in a sec," Hagrid called over his shoulder, "just' round this bend here."
There was a loud "Oooooh!"
The narrow path had opened suddenly onto the edge of a great black lake. Perched atop a high mountain on the other side, its windows sparkling in the starry sky, was a vast castle with many turrets and towers.
"No more'n four to a boat!" Hagrid called, pointing to a fleet of little boats sitting in the water by the shore. Harry and Draco were the first in their group, followed by Blaise and Pansy. Tim and Millicent were right next to them with two large boys, thickset, with rather empty expressions on their faces.
"Everyone in?" shouted Hagrid, who had a boat to himself. "Right then, FORWARD!"
And the fleet of little boats moved off all at once, gliding across the lake, which was as smooth as glass. Everyone was silent, staring up at the great castle overhead. It towered over them as they sailed nearer and nearer to the cliff on which it stood.
"Heads down!" yelled Hagrid as the first boats reached the cliff; they all bent their heads, and the little boats carried them through a curtain of ivy that hid a wide opening in the cliff face. They were carried along a dark tunnel, which seemed to be taking them right underneath the castle, until they reached a kind of underground harbour, where they clambered out onto the rocks and pebbles.
"Oy, you there! Is this your toad?" said Hagrid, who was checking the boats as people climbed out of them.
"Trevor!" cried Neville blissfully, holding out his hands. Then they clambered up a passageway in the rock after Hagrid's lamp, coming out at last onto smooth, damp grass right in the shadow of the castle.
They walked up a flight of stone steps and crowded around the huge, oak front door.
"Everyone here? You there, still got yer toad?"
Hagrid raised a gigantic fist and knocked three times on the castle door.
to be continued...