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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10. VI - Journey from Platform Nine and Three Quarters (Part 2)

While they had been talking, the train had carried them out of London. Now they were speeding past fields full of cows and sheep. They were quiet for a time, watching the fields and lanes flick past.

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 trolley, dears?"

Harry, who hadn't had any breakfast, leapt to his feet, but Ron's ears went pink again and he muttered that he'd brought sandwiches. Harry went out into the corridor.

He had never had any money for sweets 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's Mars Bars?" asked Ron.

"It's a muggle sweet," replied Harry.

What she did have were Bertie Bolt's Every-Flavour Beans, Droobles Best Blowing Gum, Chocolate Frogs, Pumpkin Pasties, Cauldron Cakes, Liquorice Wands and a number of other strange things Harry had never seen in his life. Not wanting to miss anything, he got some of everything and paid the woman eleven silver Sickles and seven bronze Knuts.

Ron stared as Harry brought it all back into the compartment and tipped it on to an empty seat.

"Hungry, are you?"

"Starving," said Harry, taking a large bite out of a pumpkin pasty.

Ron had taken out a lumpy package and unwrapped it. There were four sandwiches in there. He pulled one of them apart and said, "She always forgets I don't like corned beef."

"I love corned beef," Tonks said with a smile as she remembered her mother making them for her on every September 1st.

"Swap you for one of these," said Harry, holding up a pasty. "Go on–"

"You don't want this, it's all dry," said Ron. "She hasn't got much time," he added quickly, "you know, with five of us."

"Go on, have a pasty," said Harry, who had never had anything to share before or, indeed, anyone to share it with. It was a nice feeling, sitting there with Ron, eating their way through all Harry's pasties and cakes (the sandwiches lay forgotten).

"What are these?" Harry asked Ron, holding up a pack of Chocolate Frogs. "They're not really frogs, are they?" He was starting to feel that nothing would surprise him.

"No," said Ron. "But see what the card is, I'm missing Agrippa."

"I have about five of them," Remus said.

"You would, what with your chocolate addiction," Sirius teased. Remus blushed a bit but rolled his eyes anyway.

"I can give one of them to you," he said to Ron, ignoring the chuckling in the room.

"Thanks, that would be great!" Ron said happily.

"What?"

"Oh, of course, you wouldn't know – Chocolate Frogs have cards inside them, you know, to collect – Famous Witches and Wizards. I've got about five hundred, but I haven't got Agrippa or Ptolemy."

"I've got six Ptolemys too," Remus once again said.

"And about a hundred Dumbledores," Sirius added and poked Remus in the ribs. Remus did the mature thing and ignored him.

Harry unwrapped his Chocolate Frog and picked up the card. It 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.

"Your first Famous Witches and Wizards card, and it had to be Dumbledore," Tonks shook her head.

"So this is Dumbledore!" said Harry.

"Don't tell me you'd never heard of Dumbledore!" said Ron. "Can I have a frog? I might get Agrippa – thanks –"

Harry turned over his card and read:

Albus Dumbledore, currently Headmaster of Hogwarts. Considered by many the greatest wizard of modern times, Professor 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, Nicolas Flamel. Professor Dumbledore enjoys chamber music and tenpin bowling.

"If only I remembered about this sooner," Harry mumbled and looked at Ron and Hermione who were snickering to themselves.

"What was that?" Sirius asked curiously.

"You'll see," Harry replied cheekily.

"I hate that," Sirius whined.

"I know, that's why I'll keep saying it," Harry teased. Sirius rolled his eyes and ruffled Harry's hair again.

Harry turned the card back over and saw, to his astonishment, that Dumbledore's face had disappeared.

"He's gone!"

"Well, you can't expect him to hang around all day," said Ron. "He'll be back. No, I've got Morgana again and I've got about six of her … do you want it? You can start collecting."

"I don't have any Morganas," Tonks piped up.

"I'll give you one," said Ron, completely in his element.

"Thanks, you're the best," Tonks grinned.

Ron's eyes strayed to the pile of Chocolate Frogs waiting to be unwrapped.

"Help yourself," said Harry. "But in, you know, the Muggle world, people just stay put in photos."

"Do they? What, they don't move at all?" Ron sounded amazed. "Weird!"

"You sounded just like your dad there," Harry laughed, remembering Mr Weasley's enthusiasm and curiosity about all things muggle.

Harry stared as Dumbledore sidled back into the picture on his card and gave him a small smile. Ron was more interested in eating the frogs than looking at the Famous Witches and Wizards cards, but Harry couldn't keep his eyes off them. Soon he had not only Dumbledore and Morgana, but Hengist of Woodcraft, Alberic Grunnion, Circe, Paracelsus and Merlin.

"Wow, nice start with the cards, Paracelsus is extremely rare to find," Tonks breathed.

He finally tore his eyes away from the druidess Cliodna, who was scratching her nose, to open a bag of Bertie Bolt's Every-Flavour Beans.

"You want to be careful with those," Ron warned Harry. "When they say every flavour, they mean every flavour – you know, you get all the ordinary ones like chocolate and peppermint and marmalade, but then you can get spinach and liver and tripe. George reckons he had a bogey-flavoured one once."

Ron picked up a green bean, looked at it carefully and bit into a corner.

"Bleaaargh – see? Sprouts."

"I love sprouts," Hermione piped up.

They had a good time eating the Every-Flavour Beans. Harry got toast, coconut, baked bean, strawberry, curry, grass, coffee, sardine and was even brave enough to nibble the end off a funny grey one Ron wouldn't touch, which turned out to be pepper.

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.

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" he said, "but have you seen a toad at all?"

When they shook their heads, he wailed, "I've lost him! He keeps getting away from me!"

"He'll turn up," said Harry.

"That was very nice of you, Harry," said Remus, feeling proud of his cub. Harry reddened a bit.

"Yes," said the boy miserably. "Well, if you see him …"

He left.

"Don't know why he's so bothered," said Ron. "If I'd brought a toad I'd lose it as quick as I could. Mind you, I brought Scabbers, so I can't talk."

"And Ron's sensibility strikes again," Harry said as Ron's ears pinked again.

"Sorry, Neville," Ron apologized. Neville shook his head, trying to calm himself before he burst into laughter. He couldn't expect anything else from Ron. After all, it is Ron we're talking about.

The rat was still snoozing on Ron's lap.

"He might have died and you wouldn't know the difference," said Ron in disgust. "I tried to turn him yellow yesterday to make him more interesting, but the spell didn't work. I'll show you, look …"

He rummaged around in his trunk and pulled out a very battered-looking wand. It was chipped in places and something white was glinting at the end.

"Unicorn hair's nearly poking out. Anyway –"

He had just raised his wand when the compartment door slid open again. The toadless boy was back, but this time he had a girl with him. She was already wearing her new Hogwarts robes.

"Ooo, Hermione's next!" Ron said gleefully, ignoring or not noticing Hermione's scowl.

"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.

"I do not have a bossy sort of voice," said Hermione sniffily.

"You kind of do," Ron said, not noticing the dangers of Hermione's bad temper.

"Oh, shut up," she said and ignored him.

"We've already told him we haven't seen it," said Ron, but the girl wasn't listening, she was looking at the wand in his hand.

"Oh, are you doing magic? Let's see it, then."

She sat down. Ron looked taken aback.

"Er – all right."

He cleared his throat.

"Sunshine, daisies, butter mellow,
Turn this stupid, fat rat yellow."

He waved his wand, but nothing happened. Scabbers stayed grey and fast asleep.

"Are you sure that's a real spell?" said the girl. "Well, it's not very good, is it? I've tried a few simple spells just for practice and it's all worked for me. Nobody in my family's magic at all, 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 learnt all our set books off by heart, of course, I just hope it will be enough – I'm Hermione Granger, by the way, who are you?"

"Merlin, Hermione, you really can talk fast," Neville breathed as he tried to get as much air in his lungs as possible.

"She has to, if she wants to tell the teachers as much information as possible in as short a time," Harry teased and was rewarded with another glare from Hermione.

She said all this very fast.

Harry looked at Ron and was relieved to see by his stunned face that he hadn't learnt all the set books off by heart either.

"I'm Ron Weasley," Ron muttered.

"Harry Potter," said Harry.

"Are you really?" said Hermione. "I know all about you, of course – I got a few extra books for background reading, and you're in Modern Magical History and Fall of the Dark Arts and Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century."

"You know, Mrs Granger, you shouldn't put all your faith in books – they can be wrong... they usually are," said a thoughtful Dumbledore. Hermione looked taken aback at this and Harry noticed she was starting to feel insecure again. He suddenly realized that it was all Hermione had (apart from her friends) that made her feel as if she belonged in the Wizarding world.

"Hermione, no matter how much you learn, you're still a brilliant witch and you belong in this world. You don't have to prove yourself so much," he said softly. Hermione's eyes started tearing and he quickly continued before he made it worse.

"You don't have to push yourself so much – you have an eidetic memory and you memorize things easily. You're a nerd, plainly speaking,..." Hermione felt hurt at that even though she had to wonder just how Harry knew about her eidetic memory, until Harry hastily added, "But you're our nerd and we love you just the way we are – that's what I wanted to say."

"Oh, Harry," she cried and ran to hug him. Harry smiled into her shoulder and patted her back softly as she cried. Ron was looking helpless – he wanted to comfort her, but he didn't want to put his foot in his mouth again and come out as an insensitive brute, like she'd told him he was so many times before.

Remus and Sirius looked at the teenage boy proudly. Once Hermione calmed herself down and went back to her seat, Ron carefully put an arm around her and she looked at him gratefully, resting her head on his shoulder as Neville read on.

"Am I?" said Harry, feeling dazed.

"Goodness, didn't you know, I'd have found out everything I could if it was me," said Hermione. "Do either of you know what house you'll be in? I've been asking around and I hope I'm in Gryffindor, it sounds by far the best, I hear Dumbledore himself was one, but I suppose Ravenclaw wouldn't be too bad … Anyway, we'd better go and look for Neville's toad. You two had better change, you know, I expect we'll be there soon."

And she left, taking the toadless boy with her.

"Whatever house I'm in, I hope she's not in it," said Ron.

The adults just shook their heads at the boy.

"I didn't mean it," Ron tried to dig himself out of the hole he dug.

He threw his wand back into his trunk. "Stupid spell – George gave it to me, bet he knew it was a dud."

"What house are your brothers in?" asked Harry.

"Gryffindor," said Ron. Gloom seemed to be settling on him again. "Mum and Dad were in it, too. I don't know what they'll say if I'm not. I don't suppose Ravenclaw would be too bad, but imagine if they put me in Slytherin."

"That's the house Vol – I mean, You-Know-Who was in?"

"Yeah," said Ron. He flopped back into his seat, looking depressed.

"You know, I think the ends of Scabbers's whiskers are a bit lighter," said Harry, trying to take Ron's mind off houses.

"Didn't work, Harry," Ron said, grinning a bit.

"So what do your oldest brothers do now they've left, anyway?"

Harry was wondering what a wizard did once he'd finished school.

"Charlie's in Romania studying dragons and Bill's in Africa doing something for Gringotts," said Ron.

"He's a curse-breaker," Ron said. "Sorry for not being more specific."

"It's okay – it wouldn't be you if you were," Harry laughed.

"Did you hear about Gringotts? It's been all over the Daily Prophet, but I don't suppose you get that with the Muggles – someone tried to rob a high-security vault."

Harry stared.

"Really? What happened to them?"

"Nothing, that's why it's such big news. They haven't been caught. My dad says it must've been a powerful Dark wizard to get round Gringotts, but they don't think they took anything, that's what's odd. 'Course, everyone gets scared when something like this happens in case You-Know-Who's behind it."

"And he was," Harry muttered to Sirius' surprise. He looked over to the other two parts of the Golden Trio as he started dubbing them in his mind, and saw they had the same look on their faces as Harry did. Something was going on and he wasn't sure if he liked it.

Harry turned this news over in his mind. He was starting to get a prickle of fear every time You-Know-Who was mentioned. He supposed this was all part of entering the magical world, but it had been a lot more comfortable saying "Voldemort" without worrying.

"You're a funny one, aren't ya?" Tonks said with a grin.

"What's your Quidditch team?" Ron asked.

"Er – I don't know any," Harry confessed.

"It's Puddlemere United," the Harry in the room said, to the utter disgust of Ron, who was a die-hard Chudley Cannons fan.

"They're also my favourite team," professor Dumbledore admitted.

"Not you too, sir," Ron said aghast to the amusement of everyone in the room.

"What!" Ron looked dumbfounded. "Oh, you wait, it's the best game in the world –" And he was off, explaining all about the four balls and the positions of the seven players, describing famous games he'd been to with his brothers and the broomstick he'd like to get if he had the money. He was just taking Harry through the finer points of the game when the compartment door slid open yet again, but it wasn't Neville the toadless boy or Hermione Granger this time.

Three boys entered and Harry recognised the middle one at once: it was the pale boy from Madam Malkin's robe shop. He was looking at Harry with a lot more interest than he'd shown back in Diagon Alley.

"Nooooooo," moaned Tonks as she realized who it was. "Can't he just leave you alone?"

"Nope," said a cheerful Harry. Snape looked up at the mention of Draco Malfoy. He was curious if Draco's version of how he met Potter on the train matched Potter's.

"Is it true?" he said. "They're saying all down the train that Harry Potter's in this compartment. So it's you, is it?"

"Yes," said Harry. He was looking at the other boys. Both of them were thickset and looked extremely mean. Standing either side of the pale boy they looked like bodyguards.

"Oh, this is Crabbe and this is Goyle," said the pale boy carelessly, noticing where Harry was looking. "And my name's Malfoy, Draco Malfoy."

"Did Malfoy ever watch James Bond?" asked a chuckling Hermione. The only ones to get the reference were Harry (he read one of Ian Fleming's books) and Tonks (being a half-blood with a muggle-born father). All three of them looked at each other and started laughing. The others were confused.

Ron gave a slight cough, which might have been hiding a snigger. Draco Malfoy looked at him.

"Think my name's funny, do you? No need to ask who you are. My father told me all the Weasleys have red hair, freckles and more children than they can afford."

He turned back to Harry.

"You'll soon find out some wizarding families are much better than others, Potter. You don't want to go making friends with the wrong sort. I can help you there."

He held out his hand to shake Harry's, but Harry didn't take it.

"I think I can tell who the wrong sort are for myself, thanks," he said coolly.

"Nice comeback, Harry," Tonks said with a smile.

Draco Malfoy didn't go red, but a pink tinge appeared in his pale cheeks.

"I'd be careful if I were you, Potter," he said slowly. "Unless you're a bit politer you'll go the same way as your parents. They didn't know what was good for them, either. You hang around with riff-raff like the Weasleys and that Hagrid and it'll rub off on you."

"That... that little git," Sirius said enraged. "How dare he!"

Snape on the other hand was considering taking points from Slytherin for the first time in a long while. Draco had made it sound like Harry had insulted him, when it was the other way around. It made him remember the boy's father and their rivalry – and hoped that Draco and Harry would never have such a strong hatred as James Potter and Severus Snape did. He still hated James Potter, though... don't get him wrong.

Both Harry and Ron stood up. Ron's face was as red as his hair.

"Say that again," he said.

"Oh, you're going to fight us, are you?" Malfoy sneered.

"Unless you get out now," said Harry, more bravely than he felt, because Crabbe and Goyle were a lot bigger than him or Ron.

"But we don't feel like leaving, do we, boys? We've eaten all our food and you still seem to have some."

Goyle reached towards the Chocolate Frogs next to Ron – Ron leapt forward, but before he'd so much as touched Goyle, Goyle let out a horrible yell.

"Why? What happened," asked a confused Tonks. Ron and Harry just grinned at each other, although they were bitter grins.

Scabbers the rat was hanging off his finger, sharp little teeth sunk deep into Goyle's knuckle

"Nice one," Neville said.

– Crabbe and Malfoy backed away as Goyle swung Scabbers round and round, howling, and when Scabbers finally flew off and hit the window, all three of them disappeared at once. Perhaps they thought there were more rats lurking among the sweets, or perhaps they'd heard footsteps, because a second later, Hermione Granger had come in.

"What has been going on?" she said, looking at the sweets all over the floor and Ron picking up Scabbers by his tail.

"I think he's been knocked out," Ron said to Harry. He looked closer at Scabbers. "No – I don't believe it – he's gone back to sleep."

And so he had.

"You've met Malfoy before?"

Harry explained about their meeting in Diagon Alley.

"I've heard of his family," said Ron darkly. "They were some of the first to come back to our side after You-Know-Who disappeared. Said they'd been bewitched. My dad doesn't believe it. He says Malfoy's father didn't need an excuse to go over to the Dark Side." He turned to Hermione. "Can we help you with something?"

"You'd better hurry up and put your robes on, I've just been up the front to ask the driver and he says we're nearly there. You haven't been fighting, have you? You'll be in trouble before we even get there!"

"Scabbers has been fighting, not us," said Ron, scowling at her. "Would you mind leaving while we change?"

"All right – I only came in here because people outside are behaving very childishly, racing up and down the corridors," said Hermione in a sniffy voice.

"My voice is not sniffy," said Hermione.

"I'm not going to argue about how your voice sounds again," Harry replied.

"And you've got dirt on your nose, by the way, did you know?"

"Would you give it a rest with my nose already!" Ron said, annoyed. This was probably the third or the fourth time his smudged nose was mentioned.

Ron glared at her as she left. Harry peered out of the window. It was getting dark. He could see mountains and forests under a deep-purple sky. The train did seem to be slowing down.

He and Ron took off their jackets and pulled on their long black robes. Ron's were a bit short for him, you could see his trainers underneath them.

A voice echoed through the train: "We will be reaching Hogwarts in five minutes' time. Please leave your luggage on the train, it will be taken to the school separately."

"It always says the same thing," Tonks said sadly.

"Not in our fifth year," grinned Sirius and immediately went quiet as McGonagall looked at him sternly.

"I should have known you would have something to do with it," she sighed finally.

Harry's stomach lurched with nerves and Ron, he saw, looked pale under his freckles. They crammed their pockets with the last of the sweets and joined the crowd thronging the corridor.

The train slowed right down and finally stopped. People pushed their way towards the door and out on to a tiny, dark platform. Harry shiv

The train slowed right down and finally stopped. People pushed their way towards 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.

"C'mon, 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 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, "jus' round this bend here."

There was a loud "Oooooh!".

"Always the same reaction," chuckled Dumbledore.

"Did you do the Ooooooh as well, professor?" asked Harry with a grin.

"I must confess I did," the Headmaster twinkled at the black-haired boy.

The narrow path had opened suddenly on to 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.

"It's such a beautiful sight," Harry sighed.

"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 Ron were followed into their boat by Neville and Hermione.

"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

"Has anyone ever crashed into the cliff?" asked a curious Hermione. There was no answer, but the marauders did take a quick look at Snape. Harry took this as an affirmative that it was the Potions master that crashed, although probably unwillingly. He sighed at the reminder that his father wasn't a saint. Of course, he always knew his parents weren't perfect, but it was still nice to imagine them as such. It was always a bit of a let-down whenever their flaws were mentioned... though, he never heard much about his mother, more about his father. He frowned at that and decided to ask Sirius about it before going to bed.

as the first boats reached the cliff; they all bent their heads and the little boats carried them through a curtain of ivy which 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 on to 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 on to 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.

"That's it," said an excited Neville. Even Snape was feeling a bit of excitement at the next chapter – they would get to hear the Sorting (although with so many Sortings, it was bound to get boring a bit, but if the story was in Potter's point of view then he would get to hear what the Sorting Hat said to him – he was under it for quite a few minutes). Making a decision, he stretched his hand and motioned for Longbottom to hand him the book.

Everyone stared at him in surprise and he scowled at them.

 
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