Hoping For a Better Future: BOOK ONE

One day after the end of Harry's third year, he wanders the castle when suddenly a whole package of books falls on his head. Read my version of Reading the Harry Potter Books! =D

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9. VI - Journey from Platform Nine and Three Quarters (Part 1)

 Disclaimer: Everything belongs to JK Rowling I own nothing. Writing in bold comes directly from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

VI - The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters

"Hey, this is where we met for the first time!" Ron exclaimed, once again stating the obvious.

"Sure is," Harry agreed with a grin.

Harry's last month with the Dursleys wasn't fun.

"When is it ever?" Harry mumbled to himself.

True, Dudley was now so scared of Harry he wouldn't stay in the same room, while 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 was empty.

"That must have been lonely," Hermione commented with sympathy in her voice. She knew all about being lonely, seeing as she had no friends before coming to Hogwarts.

"It wasn't as lonely as you think," Harry replied, smiling down at the snowy owl on his lap. "I had Hedwig."

Although this was an improvement in many ways, it did become a bit depressing after a while.

Harry kept to his room, with his new owl for company. He had decided to call her Hedwig,

Once again, Hedwig perked up at her name and every animal lover in the room smiled. She was a beautiful owl. With a personality to boot.

a name he had found in A History of Magic. His school books were very interesting.

"You wound me, Harry," Ron moaned dramatically. Hermione on the other hand looked quite proud of Harry for reading school books. Harry just rolled his eyes at his best friends and motioned for Neville to continue with the reading.

He lay on his bed reading late into the night, Hedwig swooping in and out of the open window as she pleased. It was lucky that Aunt Petunia didn't come in to hoover anymore, because Hedwig kept bringing back dead mice. Every night before he went to sleep, Harry ticked off another day on the piece of paper he had pinned to the wall, counting down to September the first.

Snape was reminded of his young self, doing the same thing every year as well.

On the last day of August he thought he'd better speak to his aunt and uncle about getting to King's Cross station next day, so he went down to the living-room, where they were watching a quiz show on television. He cleared his throat to let them know he was there, and Dudley screamed and ran from the room.

"Very amusing," said Tonks with a twitch of her lips. Harry couldn't agree more.

"Er – Uncle Vernon?"

Uncle Vernon grunted to show he was listening.

"Er – I need to be at King's Cross tomorrow to – to go to Hogwarts."

Uncle Vernon grunted again.

"Would it be all right if you gave me a lift?"

Grunt. Harry supposed that meant yes.

"Oh, you understand Troll now, Harry?" teased Ron.

"Shut up," murmured Harry.

"Thank you."

He was about to go back upstairs when Uncle Vernon actually spoke.

"Funny way to get to a wizards' school, the train. Magic carpets all got punctures, have they?"

"No, they're banned from the United Kingdom," replied Hermione, once again sounding like she swallowed a textbook.

"But wouldn't it be fun if we could fly to school on a magic carpet?" Ron said dreamily, probably already imagining it.

"I still think a flying car beats a magic carpet," Harry said, grinning. Remus couldn't stop the groan from escaping (telling stories of Harry's adventures was a favourite past-time for Hogwarts staff to amuse themselves with when they lounged in the staffroom).

"Harry, you didn't," said Sirius (he hadn't heard about Harry's escapades yet), smiling widely. Harry on the other hand, didn't understand why Remus' eyes were shut and why Sirius was cackling.

"Your father and I did the same thing in our sixth year," Sirius said, remembering. "Only, it was my flying motorcycle that we used."

"Yeah?" Harry said. "Where did you land?"

"On the front lawn, why do you ask?" Sirius suddenly became suspicious.

"You'll see," was all he got in return. He could suddenly understand why Remus was rolling his eyes at Harry. It really was getting a bit annoying, having to hear that.

"Just wait until we get to the end of the third book, then you won't be able to tell me 'you'll see' any more, since it'll be the actual future we'll be reading about," Sirius said. Harry blanched at the realization.

"We'll be reading about the future?" Hermione said blankly.

"Apparently so," Dumbledore nodded seriously. He was becoming just a little bit worried about what the books would reveal. Would they reveal his suspicions about how Tom remained alive? Would they reveal the prophecy? And what was it with the last book's title being about the Deathly Hallows (he had managed to take a peek at Harry's letter the night before). Did Harry find out about Dumbledore's suspicions that the Potter family inheritance (the Cloak of Invisibility) was probably a Hallow? He took a swift glance towards the boy in question, becoming more aware of the Elder wand that was hidden in his sleeve.

Harry didn't say anything.

"Where is this school, anyway?"

"I don't know," said Harry,

"It's in Scotland," Hermione said smartly.

"I know that now, Hermione," Harry teased. "You do realize that this happened almost three years ago, don't you?"

Hermione blushed at the reminder, but didn't reply.

realising this for the first time. He pulled the ticket Hagrid had given him out of his pocket.

"I just take the train from platform nine and three-quarters at eleven o'clock," he read.

His aunt and uncle stared.

Snape scowled at that. Petunia or Tuney knew perfectly well where the platform was, seeing as she had accompanied Lily once or twice.

"Platform what?"

"Nine and three-quarters."

"Don't talk rubbish," said Uncle Vernon, "there is no platform nine and three-quarters."

"It's on my ticket."

"Barking," said Uncle Vernon, "howling mad, the lot of them. You'll see. You just wait. All right, we'll take you to King's Cross. We're going up to London tomorrow anyway, or I wouldn't bother."

"Why are you going to London?" Harry asked, trying to keep things friendly.

"I shouldn't have bothered," Harry said, sighing to himself.

"Taking Dudley to hospital," growled Uncle Vernon. "Got to have that ruddy tail removed before he goes to Smeltings."

Harry woke at five o'clock the next morning

"I woke up at seven," Hermione said, and Harry blushed a bit, feeling sheepish.

"I was excited to get away from the Dursleys," was the only explanation he offered.

and was too excited and nervous to go back to sleep. He got up and pulled on his jeans because he didn't want to walk into the station in his wizard's robes – he'd change on the train.

"That was remarkably sensible, Mr Potter," commented professor McGonagall. Snape couldn't help but agree, remembering how many times Obliviators were needed to make people forget the strange people that were wearing robes converging at the train station.

"What I don't get," Harry said thoughtfully, "is why aren't there wizards stationed there, pretending to be guards and helping the muggle-born students who don't know how to get on the platform."

He was already getting tired of the incredulous looks he was getting every time he mentioned something that was smart.

"You know what, Harry," said a cheerful Dumbledore. "That's exactly what we'll do next September."

He checked his Hogwarts list yet again to make sure he had everything he needed, saw that Hedwig was shut safely in her cage and then paced the room, waiting for the Dursleys to get up. Two hours later, Harry's huge, heavy trunk had been loaded into the Dursleys' car, Aunt Petunia had talked 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 on to a trolley and wheeled it into the station for him.

"That's strangely kind of him," Tonks commented sarcastically, having an inkling as to the reason he did it.

Harry thought this was strangely kind

"Oh, Nympha-" Sirius started to say, but shut up at the look on Tonks' face.

"Don't call me Nymphadora," she snarled at him, her hair changing into an angry red colour.

"Okay, okay," Sirius said, trying to calm the girl down.

"I think it's a pretty name," Remus said with a slight smile and Tonks blushed as red as her hair and muttered something under her breath.

until Uncle Vernon stopped dead, facing the platforms with a nasty grin on his face.

"Well, there you are, boy. Platform nine – platform ten. Your platform should be somewhere in the middle, but they don't seem to have built it yet, do they?"

"Git," Neville said mildly.

He was quite right, of course. There was a big plastic number nine over one platform and a big plastic number ten over the one next to it, and in the middle, nothing at all.

"Have a good term," said Uncle Vernon with an even nastier smile. He left without another word. Harry turned and saw the Dursleys drive away. All three of them were laughing.

"Those... Those gits!" Hermione was lost for words. She seethed at the evilness of Harry's relatives and if she could, she would have burned a hole into the book in Neville's hands.

Harry's mouth went rather dry. What on earth was he going to do? He was starting to attract a lot of funny looks, because of Hedwig. He'd have to ask someone.

He stopped a passing guard, but didn't dare mention platform nine and three-quarters. 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.

"Well, now that you mention it," Sirius started to tease his godson, who was smirking back at him.

"Ergh, you look like a Slytherin when you smirk like that," Ron commented to everyone's amusement.

"And that's a bad thing?" asked Harry, feeling apprehensive.

"No, but I'd have to disown you," Ron said and was rewarded with another smack to his head, courtesy of Hermione. Neville thought this was the most opportune moment to start reading again.

Getting desperate, Harry asked for the train that left at eleven o'clock, but the guard said there wasn't one. In the end the guard strode away, muttering about time-wasters. Harry was now trying 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 had no idea how to do it; he was stranded in the middle of a station with a trunk he could hardly lift, a pocket full of wizard money and a large owl.

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. He wondered if he should get out his wand and start tapping the ticket box 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.

"That's us!" Ron said excitedly.

"We know," everyone told him. He pouted.

Each of them was pushing a trunk like Harry's in front of him – and they had an owl.

Heart hammering, Harry pushed his trolley 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.

"Why did she ask you that?" asked a perplexed Hermione. "I mean, how many kids did she send to Hogwarts already?"

"Well," started Ron. "When Fred and George were first years, they were so excited about going to Hogwarts that they rushed ahead of mum, got the platform numbers wrong and crashed into the wall. It was pretty funny, actually."

"That explains a lot," was Harry's only comment.

"Nine and three-quarters!" piped a small girl,

"Ginny," murmured Ron.

also red-headed, who was holding her hand. "Mum, can't I go …"

"You're not old enough, Ginny, now be quiet. All right, Percy, you go first."

What looked like the oldest boy marched towards platforms nine and ten. Harry watched, careful not to blink in case he missed it – but just as the boy reached the divide between the two platforms, a large crowd of tourists came swarming in front of him, and by the time the last rucksack had cleared away, the boy had vanished.

"What rotten luck," Tonks said.

"No, that's Harry's luck," Ron and Hermione hurried to correct her. Harry did the mature thing and stuck out his tongue.

"Fred, you next," the plump woman said.

"I'm not Fred, I'm George," said the boy. "Honestly woman, call yourself our mother? Can't you tell I'm George?"

"She falls for that every time," Ron said with a grin.

"Sorry, George, dear."

"Only joking, I am Fred," said the boy, and off he went. His twin called after him to hurry up, and he must have done, because a second later, he had gone – but how had he done it?

Now the third brother was walking briskly towards the ticket 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.

"Hullo, dear," she said. "First time at Hogwarts? Ron's new, too."

"That's me!" Ron said with a grin.

"Yeah, it's you and you're about to hear Harry's description of you," Sirius felt the need to say. This made Ron stop grinning and look worried at once. Harry just rolled his eyes at them.

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.

"Thanks, Harry," grumbled Ron.

"Any time," Harry quipped.

"Yes," said Harry. "The thing is – the thing is, I don't know how to–"

"How to get on to the platform?" she said kindly, and Harry nodded.

"Not to worry," she said. "All you have to do is walk straight at the barrier between platforms nine and ten. Don't stop and don't be scared you'll crash into it, that's very important. Best do it at a bit of a run if you're nervous. Go on, go now before Ron."

"Er – OK," said Harry.

He pushed his trolley round and stared at the barrier. It looked very solid.

Tonks snorted.

"Well, it is!" Ron and Harry both argued, having crashed into the barrier in their second year.

He started to walk towards it. People jostled him on their way to platforms nine and ten. Harry walked more quickly. He was going to smash right into that ticket box and then he'd be in trouble – leaning forward on his trolley he broke into a heavy run – the barrier was coming nearer and nearer – he wouldn't be able to stop – the trolley was out of control – he was a foot away – he closed his eyes ready for the crash –

It didn't come … he kept on running … he opened his eyes.

"You did it, Harry," Tonks said with a grin.

"I'm so proud of you," Sirius added with a small hug. Harry rolled his eyes, but let Sirius hug him.

A scarlet steam engine was waiting next to a platform packed with people. A sign overhead said Hogwarts Express, 11 o'clock. Harry looked behind him and saw a wrought-iron archway where the ticket box had been, with the words Platform Nine and Three-Quarters on it. He had done 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 each other 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 trolley off down the platform in search of an empty seat. He passed a round-faced boy who was saying, "Gran, I've lost my toad again."

"That's me," Neville realized.

"Oh, Neville," he heard the old woman sigh.

A boy with dreadlocks was surrounded by a small crowd.

"That's Lee Jordan," Ron informed the room.

"I love his Quidditch commentaries," Harry said with a grin.

"You should have heard Remus do it," Sirius said, remembering. Remus scowled at him, but smiled nevertheless.

"I can't decide who was worse, Mr Lupin or Mr Jordan," McGonagall stated.

"You know you love it," Sirius told her.

"Give us a look, Lee, go on."

The boy lifted the lid of a box in his arms and the people around him shrieked and yelled as something inside poked out a long, hairy leg.

Ron shuddered at the mention of Lee's tarantula.

"It's a miracle that Skweesme wasn't squeezed yet," Harry said as he remembered the small tarantula.

"Excuse me?" asked Tonks confused.

"It's Skweesme – the tarantula's name," chortled Neville. McGonagall sighed in exasperation (Snape smirked), while the younger generation burst into laughter at the silly name.

Harry pressed on through the crowd until he found an empty compartment near the end of the train. He put Hedwig inside first and then started to shove and heave his trunk towards the train door. He tried to lift it up the steps but could hardly raise one end and twice he dropped it painfully on his foot.

"Ouch, that happened to me as well," Tonks commented.

"But you probably tripped while you were trying to heave it up, so that's normal for you," Sirius quipped and had to suffer from a stinging hex shot his way.

"I still don't know how you managed to get into the Auror programme," he continued, ignoring the stinging. "I mean, you'll probably flunk the Stealth and Tracking."

"Then I'll make up for it by acing Concealment and Disguise," Tonks replied, hinting towards her Metamorphmagus abilities.

"Want a hand?" It was one of the red-haired twins he'd followed through the ticket box.

"Wow, so they can be nice," Ron said, remembering all the times the twins had pranked him. McGonagall couldn't agree more with what Ron said. She was pretty surprised to hear that they helped Harry as well. Normally they pranked everyone around them and teased them. She never saw them help someone before. The only time she saw them serious, was when their sister was taken to the Chamber of Secrets.

"Yes, please," Harry panted.

"Oy, Fred! C'mere and help!"

With the twins' help, Harry's trunk was at last tucked away in a corner of the compartment.

"Thanks," said Harry, pushing his sweaty hair out of his eyes.

"What's that?" said one of the twins suddenly, pointing at Harry's lightning scar.

Harry once again tried to hide the scar from view by ducking his head.

"Blimey," said the other twin. "Are you –?"

"He is," said the first twin. "Aren't you?" he added to Harry.

"What?" said Harry.

"Harry Potter," chorused the twins.

"Oh, him," said Harry. "I mean, yes, I am."

Silence stretched for a few moments.

"Oh, him?" Ron said finally, shocked out of his mind. Snape was watching Harry trying to make himself invisible. Harry wished for his Invisibility Cloak, and Sirius and Remus looked at each other.

"Oh, him?" repeated Ron.

Neville took this opportunity to continue reading, noticing how uncomfortable Harry was feeling. Harry sent him a grateful look in return.

The two boys gawped at him and Harry felt himself going red. Then, to his relief, a voice came floating in through the train's open door.

"Fred? George? Are you there?"

"Coming, Mum."

With a last look at Harry, the twins hopped off the train.

Harry sat down next to the window where, half-hidden, he could watch the red-haired family on the platform and hear what they were saying.

"Mr Potter, eavesdropping is extremely rude," McGonagall chided.

"Maybe, but it's the only way to find out things that no one is telling you about," was the only answer she got. She couldn't decide whether to feel placated or disrespected.

Their mother had just taken out her handkerchief.

"Ron, you've got something on your nose."

"Awkward," Tonks said.

The youngest boy tried to jerk out of the way, but she grabbed him and began rubbing the end of his nose.

"Mum – geroff." He wriggled free.

"Aaah, has ickle Ronnie got somefink on his nosie?" said one of the twins.

"Shut up," said Ron.

"Where's Percy?" said their mother.

"He's coming now."

The oldest boy came striding into sight. He had already changed into his billowing black Hogwarts robes and Harry noticed a shiny silver badge on his chest with the letter P on it.

"Can't stay long, Mother," he said. "I'm up front, the Prefects have got two compartments to themselves –"

"Oh, are you a Prefect, Percy?" said one of the twins, with an air of great surprise. "You should have said something, we had no idea."

"Hang on, I think I remember him saying something about it," said the other twin. "Once –"

"Or twice –"

"A minute –"

"All summer –"

"Brilliant," said Sirius as he laughed at the twins' antics.

"Oh, shut up," said Percy the Prefect.

"Has a nice ring to it, Percy the Prefect," said Tonks.

"Not if you knew Percy," Ron said, thinking of his pompous brother.

"I'll have you know that I graduated the year before you got to Hogwarts," Tonks huffed.

"Wow, you're old," Ron said without thinking.

"I can't decide whether I should be insulted or hex you for calling me old," Tonks said, frowning mockingly at Ron.

"Hex him, perhaps he'll learn some tact then," said Hermione icily.

"Oy, what did I do to you?" Ron asked her, wounded.

"If you can't tell what you did, then she really should hex you," Hermione replied, not looking at Ron. Neville took this opportunity to quickly start reading again, not wanting to suffer through another one of Ron and Hermione's quarrels.

"How come Percy gets new robes, anyway?" said one of the twins.

"Because he's a Prefect," said their mother fondly. "All right, dear, well, have a good term – send me an owl when you get there."

She kissed Percy on the cheek and he left. Then she turned to the twins.

"Now, you two – this year, you behave yourselves. If I get one more owl telling me you've – you've blown up a toilet or –"

"That was a mistake," said Sirius. "She just gave them an idea."

"You would know everything about that, wouldn't you?" said Remus, alluding to the Howlers Walburga Black had sent to Sirius and how he went and did the complete opposite of what she demanded of him. Sirius just smiled sheepishly.

"Blown up a toilet? We've never blown up a toilet."

"Great idea though, thanks, Mum."

"See, what did I tell you?"

"No one disagreed with you, Sirius," Harry told him seriously. Sirius pouted.

"It's not funny. And look after Ron."

"Don't worry, ickle Ronniekins is safe with us."

"Shut up," said Ron again. He was almost as tall as the twins already and his nose was still pink where his mother had rubbed it.

"Hey, Mum, guess what? Guess who we just met on the train?"

"Here it comes," Harry murmured, blushing.

Harry leant back quickly so they couldn't see him looking.

"You know that black-haired boy who was near us in the station? Know who he is?"

"Who?"

"Harry Potter!"

Harry heard the little girl's voice.

"Oh, Mum, can I go on the train and see him, Mum, oh please …"

"That's Ginny," said Ron.

"We know," Hermione replied, watching a blushing Harry.

"Oooo, someone has a crush on Harry," Sirius teased his blushing godson. Harry felt irritated at that, but didn't say anything. It wasn't like he disliked Ginny, he just didn't know her that well – and she didn't make things easier by being so shy around him. And there was the whole fiasco with the Chamber of Secrets.

"You've already seen him, Ginny and the poor boy isn't something you goggle at in a zoo. Is he really, Fred? How do you know?"

"Asked him. Saw his scar. It's really there – like lightning."

"Poor dear – no wonder he was alone. I wondered. He was ever so polite when he asked how to get on to the platform."

"I was, wasn't I?" said Harry, puffing out his chest. Ron snorted. Snape just barely stopped himself from rolling his eyes at the cheeky child. Once again, he was surprised at the lack of loathing he was feeling. Must be something in the air.

"Never mind that, do you think he remembers what You-Know-Who looks like?"

Their mother suddenly became very stern.

"I forbid you to ask him, Fred. No, don't you dare. As though he needs reminding of that on his first day at school."

"Guess that didn't apply to you too Ron, eh?" Harry teased. Ron's ears went red.

"All right, keep your hair on."

A whistle sounded.

"Hurry up!" their mother said, and the three boys clambered on to the train. They leant out of the window for her to kiss them goodbye and their younger sister began to cry.

"Don't, Ginny, we'll send you loads of owls."

"We'll send you a Hogwarts toilet seat."

"George!"

"Only joking, Mum."

"Actually, he didn't. They really sent her a toilet seat," Ron commented.

"They also tried to send me one, but it got confiscated," Harry said, remembering the end of his first year. Dumbledore smiled at the fuss Madam Pomfrey had made when she saw a toilet seat on one of the bedside tables in the infirmary.

The train began to move. Harry saw the boys' mother waving and their sister, half laughing, half crying, running to keep up with the train until it gathered too much speed; then she fell back and waved.

Harry watched the girl and her mother disappear as the train rounded the corner. Houses flashed past the window. Harry felt a great leap of excitement. He didn't know what he was going to – but it had to be better than what he was leaving behind.

The door of the compartment slid open and the youngest red-headed boy came in.

"Anyone sitting there?" he asked, pointing at the seat opposite Harry.

"Everywhere else is full."

"Really, Ron? Because with a train as large as the Hogwarts Express, I doubt that every compartment would be taken," Hermione said sarcastically. Ron scowled at her. Harry on the other hand was feeling uncomfortable.

Harry shook his head and the boy sat down. He glanced at Harry and then looked quickly out of the window, pretending he hadn't looked.

Harry saw he still had a black mark on his nose.

"Very nice," Hermione said again. Ron had had enough.

"What's wrong with you today? You keep biting my head off and I didn't even do anything!"

Hermione opened her mouth and was about to tell him exactly what he did wrong, when Harry interfered.

"That's enough, both of you. You can settle your argument later when we go to bed, but we're reading a book right now, so if you could please concentrate on that?"

"Yes, Harry," they both said sheepishly and embarrassed. Everyone in the room was impressed by how Harry handled the two. The squabbling of the two teenagers made Remus and Sirius remember the arguments between Lily and James and they just knew that the two of them would one day get married... After Hermione got over whatever it was that was irking her, and when Ron realized that Hermione was a girl. Hopefully sometime before their seventh year.

"Hey Ron."

The twins were back.

"Listen, we're going down the middle of the train – Lee Jordan's got a giant tarantula down there."

"Right," mumbled Ron.

"Harry," said the other twin, "did we introduce ourselves? Fred and George Weasley. And this is Ron, our brother. See you later, then."

"Bye," said Harry and Ron. The twins slid the compartment door shut behind them.

"Are you really Harry Potter?" Ron blurted out.

"Tactful," Neville said, with a grin.

"Well, we all know Ron isn't exactly known for his tact," Harry replied.

"What is it – pick on Ron day or something?" Ron complained. The two boys ignored him and Neville started reading again.

Harry nodded.

"Oh – well, I thought it might be one of Fred and George's jokes," said Ron. "And have you really got – you know …"

He pointed at Harry's forehead.

"I know, okay," said Ron this time. "Not tactful!"

"Glad you realize it," Harry quipped with a mischievous smile on his face.

Harry pulled back his fringe to show the lightning scar. Ron stared.

"So that's where You-Know-Who –?"

"Yes," said Harry, "but I can't remember it."

"Nothing?" said Ron eagerly.

"Well – I remember a lot of green light, but nothing else."

"Wow," said Ron. He sat and stared at Harry for a few moments, then, as though he had suddenly realised what he was doing, he looked quickly out of the window again.

"Are all your family wizards?" asked Harry, who found Ron just as interesting as Ron found him.

"You did?" asked a surprised Ron.

"Of course I did," Harry replied.

"Er – yes, I think so," said Ron. "I think Mum's got a second cousin who's an accountant, but we never talk about him."

"And why not?" asked an indignant Hermione.

"Because he's a squib and he's bitter – imagine a red-haired Filch and you'll get the equivalent of our cousin," replied Ron. Hermione stayed quiet.

"So you must know loads of magic already."

The Weasleys were clearly one of those old wizarding families the pale boy in Diagon Alley had talked about.

"No, we clearly aren't," said Ron.

"I know that now," Harry said, feeling tired.

"I heard you went to live with Muggles," said Ron. "What are they like?"

"Horrible – well, not all of them. My aunt and uncle and cousin are, though. Wish I'd had three wizard brothers."

"Five," said Ron. For some reason, he was looking gloomy. "I'm the sixth in our family to go to Hogwarts. You could say I've got a lot to live up to. Bill and Charlie have already left – Bill was Head Boy and Charlie was captain of Quidditch. Now Percy's a Prefect. Fred and George mess around a lot, but they still get really good marks and everyone thinks they're really funny. Everyone expects me to do as well as the others, but if I do, it's no big deal, because they did it first. You never get anything new, either, with five brothers. I've got Bill's old robes, Charlie's old wand and Percy's old rat."

All the teachers looked at each other at that. They knew how Ron had felt (well, most of them anyway), but what they didn't know was – why didn't he try?

"Well, Mr Weasley," started McGonagall. "If you want to be better than your brothers, then why don't you apply yourself more in your studies?"

"Instead of doodling and playing around," added Snape, for once not sounding like the greasy bat of the dungeons he was known as. Ron's ears went red again.

"But you're brilliant at chess," Harry said, trying to make him feel better. "There's no one in Gryffindor who ever beats you and you beat professor McGonagall's chess set in your first year! And we all know that Percy's lousy at chess. And you're a much better singer in the shower than Percy..."

The younger Gryffindor snorted at the last comment, and Ron seemed a bit mollified, but was still feeling embarrassed by being reprimanded by his professors. It made him realize that they were completely right to do so – even Snape. He was always lazy and did the minimal work needed to get by (even with Hermione nagging them to study). It was then and there he decided to try better next year.

Sirius on the other hand was mature enough not to growl at the mention of Pettigrew. Remus rewarded him with a proud look which made Sirius roll his eyes and discreetly stick his tongue out at his brother.

Ron reached inside his jacket and pulled out a fat grey rat, which was asleep.

The entire room went tense at the mention of Wormtail, however no one spoke – maybe because they didn't know what to say, or perhaps they didn't want to disturb the atmosphere that was in the room after Ron was reprimanded.

"His name's Scabbers and he's useless, he hardly ever wakes up. Percy got an owl from my dad for being made a Prefect, but they couldn't aff – I mean, I got Scabbers instead."

Ron's ears went pink. He seemed to think he'd said too much, because he went back to staring out of the window.

Harry didn't think there was anything wrong with not being able to afford an owl. After all, he'd never had any money in his life until a month ago, and he told Ron so, all about having to wear Dudley's old clothes and never getting proper birthday presents. This seemed to cheer Ron up.

"That's so nice of you, Ronald," said Hermione, but subsided at once as soon as Harry gave her the look.

Merlin, that look was pure Lily, Severus thought to himself, unaware of similar thoughts flying through the minds of most people who knew Lily Evans and her legendary temper. Especially if they were on the receiving end of it... like Sirius...

"… and until Hagrid told me, I didn't know anything about being a wizard or about my parents or Voldemort –"

Ron gasped.

"What?" said Harry.

"You said You-Know-Who's name!" said Ron, sounding both shocked and impressed. "I'd have thought you, of all people –"

"I'm not trying to be brave or anything, saying the name," 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."

"Again with the pessimism," Remus mumbled. He could still remember how depressed Harry was every time he couldn't produce a full patronus. But, he supposed, with how his life was at the Dursleys, it's no wonder he doesn't have that many happy memories.

"You won't be. There's loads of people who come from Muggle families and they learn quick enough."

"*cough*Hermione*cough*" commented Neville, grinning slightly at the intelligent witch. Ron and Harry snickered at the blushing Hermione.

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