THE HOGWARTS EXPRESS
The Hogwarts Express
Rick woke up the next morning from someone shaking his shoulder.
"Wake up boy or you'll miss your train." It took Rick a moment to identify the gruff voice of the barkeeper and even longer for the meaning to get through to him. With a jolt he bolted upright and looked at the clock. It was already ten o'clock, he needed to hurry if he wanted to get to King's Cross and catch the train. Rick tossed the last of his newly acquired school supplies haphazardly in his trunk and dragged it downstairs. He said a quick goodbye to Albert the innkeeper before he stepped through the front door back into the muggle world. The sun was already shining brightly, making his long trek to King's Cross Station that much more exhausting. He got more than a few curious stares from the muggles in his ragged clothing and dragging his heavy trunk but Rick pressed on, eager to get to the station in time. When he finally reached his destination and managed to drag his trunk onto a trolley, his shirt was drenched in sweat and his muscles were aching but he had no time to dwell on that because it was already ten to eleven and he still had to find the right platform. Finding platforms nine and ten was not that difficult, it was finding the one that lay in between that was a bit more challenging. Even after he had seen brick walls move to clear a passageway, seen flying brooms and self-stirring cauldrons in Diagon Alley, Rick was still a bit doubtful about walking straight into a wall. Everything Harewell had said had turned out to be true so far, so he really had no reason to expect her to lie about this. Perhaps it was the fact that the barrier looked decisively real and he did not feel like cracking his skull against a brick wall that made him feel a little unsure about it all. Rick looked at the large clock, it was five to eleven. If he was going to do it, he shouldn't wait any longer. Without thinking, he set his trolley on a collision course with the wall and broke out in a run. He did not stop even though the wall was getting closer and closer. Three feet from the brick wall, he could not stop anymore even if he wanted to and he could not help but close his eyes as he was about to collide with it. The expected blow did not come, instead the cart passed through the barrier with ease. Either he had gotten a tremendous amount of strength out of his meagre meal last night or this really was the right passage to platform 9¾. He opened his eyes and the first thing that caught his attention was a giant red steam locomotive regurgitating large clouds of steam and preparing to depart. A plaque on the wall next to it informed him this was the right platform (as if any more hidden platforms were to be discovered between existing ones) and a sense of relief washed over him. Platform 93/4 was bustling with activity. Adult wizards and witches all wearing strange robes passed, discussing work or the latest news. Weaving through the adults were scores of young wizards and witches, running around greeting each other after a long summer, running after escaped pets or just standing rather unsure next to their parents as they greeted colleagues or old friends. Rick weaved his way through the crowd to the entrance of the train and tried to haul his heavy trunk all the way to an unoccupied compartment. He had barely boarded the train when he found his way blocked by a brown haired girl. She was a little smaller than he and she looked a bit annoyed.
"Have you seen a boy? He's about as tall as you, has reddish brown hair, blue eyes and he answers to the name Rigel."
"No sorry, I haven't seen him." Rick replied truthfully. The girl sighed and moved past him without another word. Rick continued on his way, dodging students running up and down the train. He finally found an empty compartment somewhere in the back of the train, managed to get his trunk in the luggage compartment and had just sat down when the conductor blew his whistle to signal the train's departure. Rick saw the last students hopping on the train, hanging out of the window to say goodbye to their families. He felt excited and couldn't wait for the train to leave now that he was on it. A few seconds later, he got his wish and the train pulled out of the station. Rick stared out of the window as they passed through greater London. He had never seen such a big city and he wondered if there were more magical passageways hidden in it. He could not wait to discover them all. Soon they were leaving the busy city behind and the scenery became rather monotonous. In the corridor, students of very different ages were passing by his compartment and Rick spent some time contemplating them. He had never known or seen so many kids that could do magic. Movement by the compartment door caught Rick's attention. Two nervous-looking girls, a redhead and a brunette, were standing at the compartment door, obviously discussing whether they should come in or not. They looked about his age and so were probably first years as well. He waited for them to make their decision whether or not to come in when the redhead turned and looked at him unsurely and Rick realized he had seen that girl before. It was the redheaded girl from the Leaky Cauldron and she seemed reluctant to enter the compartment. The choice was taken away from her when her friend opened the door.
"Hi there, can we sit here? Everywhere else seems to be full." The brunette asked. Rick nodded. "Great!" The two girls took the seats by the door and continued the animated conversation they'd apparently had before finding their seats.
"I just can't wait to see it, I mean, it's supposed to be beautiful, at least, that's what my sister says. Did you know that the staircases move?" The brunette asked her friend.
"Yeah, I read about it in Hogwarts, A History and I couldn't believe it at first! I just can't wait to see it for myself!" The redhead replied, seeming to have already forgotten that Rick was there. "I hope the classes aren't going to be too difficult, though. I mean, I've read all my school books and some extra just in case but it must be easier for you, having magical parents and all."
"I wouldn't worry about it." The brunette assured her. "There are loads of muggleborns every year and they do just fine. Besides, I may know a few spells already but I'm just as close to casting them as you are, so really, you have nothing to worry about." Rick saw the redheaded girl was relieved to hear that and he couldn't deny that it made him feel more at ease as well. After that, the conversation turned to wizard bands and who was the best looking member of something called the Weird Sisters. Twice, the conversation was interrupted by a girl - obviously other first years - asking if she could join them after which the amount of girly giggles was doubled in the small compartment. Rick tried to tune them out as best as he could but it was useless. After an hour or so, Rick had had enough of the noise and the mindless chatter and saw his chance to escape when a woman with a cart came by, asking if they would like something. Rick didn't have any money to buy anything but he readily took the opportunity to step out of the compartment and leave the overly chatty girls. He went looking for another place to sit but quickly found out that the girls hadn't been lying, everywhere else was full. He passed compartment after compartment but nowhere seemed an suitable place for him to sit. The few places that were free were in compartments with older students who looked at him funny or shooed him away when he tried to enter so he roamed the corridor for a while until he heard someone call his name.
"Hey Rick!" Rick turned around and saw Robert Henderson, the boy from Diagon Alley. "Are you looking for a place to sit?" Rick nodded. "Come sit with us." Rick wondered who 'us' was but gratefully accepted the invitation. The compartment was already pretty full so Rick took the only free aisle seat with Robert sitting opposite him.
"Everyone, this is Rick O'Connell." Robert introduced him. "Rick, this is Andrew Platt." He indicated the brown haired boy with the long face sitting next to him and who nodded politely to Rick.
"By the window is Rigel Bailey." A boy with messy reddish brown hair and wearing finely tailored deep blue robes looked up - he had been staring out the window, almost bored - and greeted Rick with little interest.
"Across from him is Evan Murnaghan." A blond haired boy smiled in greeting and offered his hand.
"Nice to meet you." Rick shook his hand and nodded in acknowledgement.
"And these are Christopher and Peter Barlow. I don't know which is which, I always get them confused." Two identical boys grinned at him and offered their hands as well.
"I'm Peter." Said the one sitting farthest from him.
"And I'm Chris." Said the other one as he shook Rick's hand.
"Nice to meet you." Rick answered.
"O'Connell?" Platt asked. "I can't say I know the name. What does your father do?"
"Oh, Rick's parents are dead." Rick did not know why but it irked him that Henderson had answered the question, and so offhandly at that. He did not need everyone to know he was an orphan, he did not need their pity. There was an uncomfortable silence before Platt broke it.
"Sorry." He said flatly before quickly changing the subject. "We were just talking about classes. Evan thinks Transfiguration is going to be more difficult than Potions. What do you think?" Rick didn't have a clue and to be honest, he didn't really care.
"I don't know." He replied truthfully. The other boys however, eagerly renewed the discussion they had been having before he walked in and Rick was already regretting ever taking Robert's offer to sit with them. Ten minutes later the conversation somehow turned to their fathers and Rick felt even more out of place than he had already felt. He knew Robert's father worked for a travel agency but the other boys' fathers all seemed to occupy important ministerial functions and it kind of became a bragging contest about whose father had the most important job. All in all, Rick felt that his companions were rather stuck up and spoiled and the sooner he was able to get out of there, the better.
"Anyway, my dad wants me to do well so I've already read all of my books twice, just to be prepared." Platt finished. The other boys looked impressed but Rick decided he had had enough. He would rather spend the rest of the afternoon roaming the corridors than spending another minute in the presence of these boys.
"Really?" He said. "Only twice? I would read it again if I were you, you may have missed something." He said sarcastically. The compartment suddenly became very quiet.
"I'm sorry, what is your problem?" Platt asked.
"Nothing really, it's just, is this really all you can talk about? I mean, what do you guys do for fun?"
"Hogwarts is about learning to do magic, emphasis on learning, not fun." Platt countered. "We will be preparing ourselves to be excellent wizards."
"Yes well, it will be a cold day in hell when I learn magic from reading a book." Rick told him.
"With that attitude, I'm sure you'll make for a very poor wizard." Platt said haughtily.
"And I'm sure that I'll make for a very boring wizard otherwise." Rick countered again. "Now, if you'll excuse me." He got up and stepped out onto the corridor. 'What a bunch of idiots', he thought but he hadn't taken more than a few steps when one of the idiots was calling his name. It was the auburn haired boy, Bailey, Rick thought he was called.
"That was pretty cool what you did back there." The boy said. "He needed that, badly." Rick did not really know how to reply. He wondered what the boy wanted from him.
"That's not a very nice thing to say about your friend." He remarked.
"Oh, he's not my friend, more like an acquaintance." The boy explained. "My father is good friends with his father."
"Maybe you'd better return then." Rick remarked bluntly. He was in no mood to play nice with a swot.
"Are you kidding? I was glad for the excuse to get out of there. They're boring, I'd much rather listen to what you have to say, see how many more people you can insult." The boy said with a grin and Rick found himself returning it. "I like your view that magic should be fun, though my dad would disagree." Rigel said. "He's as stuck up and strict as those boys back there. You know he had me study the whole summer?"
"So then you know some spells already?" Rick asked, his interest and regard for the boy growing.
"Well, yes, in theory that is. Dad never allowed me to actually practice them, Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery and what not."
"Can you show me?" Rick asked, ignoring Rigel's reply, too eager to try out his new wand. Rigel seemed a little unsure.
"We're not supposed to do magic outside of Hogwarts..." He began solemnly but he could not stop the wicked grin from appearing on his face. "But since this is the Hogwarts Express, technically an extension of Hogwarts, we're not breaking any rules, are we?" Rick grinned, he was already beginning to like this boy.
"Let's try the leg-locker curse, it causes the victim's legs to literally get stuck together, completely hilarious! I remember when I first got it right and I cast it on my cousin and she had to hop around until she could find someone who could stop it." Rigel's face lit up at the memory.
"I thought you said your dad didn't allow you to practice magic?" Rick pointed out.
"No, he doesn't but that doesn't mean I listened." Rigel winked. "Now, the spell is 'Locomotor Mortis' and you have to wave your wand like this when you cast it." Rick got out his wand and repeated the movement Rigel showed.
"Not on me!" Rigel yelled alarmed. "Come on." He beckoned Rick over and pointed down the corridor. A bit further, a group of girls were talking. Rigel motioned to them and nodded in encouragement. "Give it a try." Rick pointed his wand at one of them and said:
The spell hit one of the girls and she started to shriek as her legs immediately snapped together and she had to hop on both legs to keep her balance. The other girls panicked as well and general chaos ensued. Rigel immediately burst out laughing as Rick stared at the girl with open mouth. Was that his doing? The girl tried to balance against her friends trying to separate her legs but only managed to fall over. It was mightily funny and Rick could not help but laugh. One of the girl's companions, the redheaded girl from earlier, turned around at the sound and saw them. Her gaze travelled to the wand in Rick's hands and her eyes narrowed as she scowled. Rigel noticed it too and he quickly grabbed Rick by the elbow and hastily went the other way, still chuckling.
"That was hilarious!" He said between laughs. "You're good! I didn't expect you to be able to get it right the first time. Did you cast that spell before?"
"No." Rick replied, equally amazed. Using magic was amazing, every fibre of his being buzzing. He couldn't wait to do it again.
"Brilliant." Rigel said.
"So is that one of the spells your father taught you?" Rick asked curious.
"Merlin, no!" Rigel replied. "He's way to strict for that. No, my uncle Demetrius taught me that one."
"Is everyone in your family magical?"
"Yeah, and they all went to Hogwarts too."
"So that makes you a pureblood?" Rick thought about what Robert had said about Mordaunt and purebloods and wondered if this boy would be the same.
"Yeah, I am. What about you?" Rigel asked.
"Muggleborn." Rick replied.
"Well, I wouldn't have guessed." Rigel said. "I mean, you nailed that spell." He sounded impressed but Rick couldn't help but feeling a bit insulted.
"And a muggleborn can't cast a spell?" He demanded.
"No, of course he can but... if that was the first time you cast that spell, then you're pretty good. I mean, it took me a couple of tries before I got it right."
"Oh," was all Rick could say and a look of understanding dawned on Rigel's face.
"You thought because I'm a pureblood I would look down on muggleborns?" He interpreted Rick's reaction.
"Well, yeah." Rick admitted.
"Who told you that?" Rick explained how he had met Robert and how the boy had told him about Mordaunt and his idea of pureblood supremacy.
"Not every pureblood family is like the Mordaunts." Rigel explained. "I have nothing against muggles and muggleborns." Rick nodded, feeling a bit stupid to think that but before things got awkward, Rigel changed the subject.
"So, if you could choose, which house would you be in?" He asked. Rick hadn't given it much thought, he had been too excited to even learn of Hogwarts' existence.
"I don't know, anywhere except Slytherin, I guess. You?" Rick replied.
"Well, my whole family has been in Ravenclaw… so I thought I'd try for something else."
"You don't want to be sorted into the same house as your family?" Rick asked non-plussed.
"No, I'm not like them. All they care about is good grades and a good career, I want to have more fun in my life so anything but Ravenclaw is fine with me." They talked about the different houses for a while walking through the corridor, looking for empty seats until the door of a compartment was yanked open and a boy was shoved out right in front of them. He was small and scrawny and already wore his raggedly patched up Hogwarts robes, accessorized with a pair of glasses balancing on his nose. Overall, he looked a bit nerdy.
"Hey, watch it!" Rigel exclaimed as the boy nearly fell over him.
"S..s..sorry." The boy stammered. The encounter was interrupted by a large boy stepping out into the corridor from the compartment the nerdy boy had come from. He was massive, almost twice as large and five times as wide as the boy with the glasses, with arms the size of tree trunks and a fat face with an uncommonly large nose and little beady eyes.
"Problems?" He spoke slowly and in a deep voice, giving the impression that he was a bit retarded.
"Trevill." Rigel acknowledged the large boy. "I assume that means Zayne is not far off either?" He had scarcely said so or another boy, more slim and muscular this time, stepped from behind Trevill. He did not speak but simply crossed his arms and looked menacingly.
"What's the hold up?" A cold female voice asked from inside the compartment and Zayne and Trevill parted to reveal its owner. She was a year or two older than them by the looks of her and had long raven black hair and cold black eyes that seemed to be able to kill on sight. Everything about her told Rick he was wise not to mess with her.
"Atia Rydell." Rigel acknowledged her. "No wonder you were in a hurry to leave, mate." He addressed the nerdy boy.
"Who are you?" Rydell demanded.
"Bailey, Rigel Bailey."
"Ah, so you're the runt of Bailey's." She said with an evil smile.
"I see you still keep the trolls around." Rigel countered with a nod to Trevill and Zayne. Rydell was not amused.
"Goodbye, Bailey." She simply said and retreated to the compartment with her cronies.
"Well, she's lovely." Rick declared sarcastically.
"Atia Rydell. She's a piece of work, a bit nutters too." Rigel explained. "What were you doing in her compartment anyway?" He asked the bespectacled boy.
"I was just reading my book." The boy replied. "She came in and told me to get out, that that was her compartment. I didn't know we had assigned seats?" He said apologetically.
"We don't, she just saw an opportunity to get a compartment to herself and her friends." Rigel explained. "Don't let her bully you like that again." He advised and the bespectacled boy nodded weakly, obviously clueless how to go about achieving that.
"Come on, let's look further down the train for a compartment." Rick addressed Rigel, eager to leave the nerdy boy behind and hear more about the wizarding world from Rigel. They walked on but it didn't take Rick long to notice they'd picked up a stray. The nerdy boy was following them.
"I'm sorry. Can we help you?" He turned around to address him.
"I'm Cedric, Cedric Carmichael." The boy greeted them awkwardly and held out his hand in greeting. Rigel accepted it first.
"Hello Cedric." He said. "I'm Rigel and this is Rick." Rick too accepted Cedric's hand now, albeit reluctantly. He did not know what to make of Cedric but he wasn't impressed by him so far.
"Well Cedric, I guess we'll see you around then." He said, hoping the boy would take the hint and go. Unfortunately, he did not.
"I was just wondering... well, if you're looking for a seat... I mean, I don't have anywhere to sit either, not anymore anyway, so... maybe we can look together?" And before Rick could advise against it, Rigel assented.
"Sounds like a good idea."
"Are you first years as well?" Cedric asked and the two boys nodded. "I can't wait to see Hogwarts. Do you think the classes will be hard? I hope I have prepared myself enough. I read every one of my books at least twice. I hope that was enough." He chatted along as they searched for a compartment. Rick rolled his eyes. What was it with these people?
"I would have read it at least three times, but that's just me." He bit back, if only to shut the nerd up. Cedric turned to him, slightly alarmed.
"No." Rick answered dryly. Rigel snorted.
"Oh." Cedric uttered, clearly put off. He didn't say anything more as he followed them until he suddenly cried out. "What about here?" He pointed to a compartment that Rigel and Rick had missed. They turned around to take a look. Only one person was sitting there, a girl, and she was immersed in a book.
"No, not here." Rigel said quickly.
"Why not? There's plenty of room." Cedric asked.
"Trust me, you'll regret it." Their arguing must have attracted the girl's attention for she lifted her eyes from her book and sprang to her feet in an instant. Rick recognised her as the girl he had seen earlier when he first boarded the train, the one who was looking for someone.
"Let's go." Rigel said almost panicky and he quickly turned around to walk away. He did not get very far as the girl opened the door of her compartment and called out to him.
"Rigel, there you are! I've been looking for you all over the train!" She called out and Rick saw Rigel visibly cringe. "I thought you said we'd sit together on the train and then you just disappeared from the platform. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you've been hiding from me." Judging by the look on Rigel's face, Rick suspected that was exactly what he had done.
"Come on, I saved you a seat!" The girl said. "You're welcome to join as well, of course." She addressed Cedric and Rick. "Any friend of Rigel's is a friend of mine." Rick glanced at Rigel and saw that he was not at all happy with the offer.
"Rigel, aren't you going to introduce us?" The girl admonished and Rigel sighed.
"Guys, this is my cousin Regina. Regina, these are Rick and Cedric."
"How very nice to meet you." Regina said as she shook their hands. "Come on in." It took some persuading but Rigel eventually consented to sitting with Regina, only because there did not seem to be another choice.
"I was just brushing up on my magical herbs and fungi." Regina chatted, showing them the book she was reading. Rick recognized it as one of the books on their booklist. "Did you know that Devil's Snare..."
"No one wants to hear about that, Regina." Rigel interrupted her. "I think Rick and Cedric would much rather talk about Quidditch."
"About what?" Rick couldn't help but ask.
"Quidditch." Rigel repeated. "Don't tell me you've never heard of Quidditch?" He asked when he saw the confused look on Rick's face. "I fear I will have to tell you all about it." He said, looking rather pleased. "Sorry Regina, looks like your fungi will have to wait." Rigel apologised, not looking sorry at all and he proceeded to explain the game of quidditch in minute detail, preventing a rather peeved Regina from talking about her book. Cedric chipped in with a detail every now and then and recounted the rather lengthy history of a ball called a quaffle, at which time Rigel thankfully stepped in again to tell them all about the different teams and his favourite players. He was just giving a detailed description of a game he once saw with his uncle when the compartment door slid open and the old woman with the trolley appeared again.
"Anything off the trolley dears?" She said with shrill voice.
"Excellent!" Rigel said and he jumped up, already forgetting all about the game he'd been reciting. "A box of Every Flavour Beans, some Pumpkin Pasties and a bag of Chocolate Frogs please." He ordered. Rick could only wonder what all of that was and watched as Rigel returned with his arms full of confectionaries and dumped them on the empty seat next to him.
"Anyone else?" The kind lady asked the other three occupants. Rick was starving but he didn't dare steal again as the last time he tried to fool a wizard, it did not end very well. Hogwarts surely was not that far away anymore and he could eat there. Cedric passed as well and the lady with the trolley moved on.
"You're going to ruin your appetite." Regina piped up as she saw Rigel wolfing down his treats.
"What do you care?" Rigel bit back and Regina shrugged before she returned to her book. "This is great!" Rigel exclaimed as he grabbed one of his chocolate frogs, opened it and stuffed an actual living, jumping chocolate frog in his mouth before checking out the box it came in.
"Bummer! I've got this one already." Rick was still trying to comprehend what he'd just seen and didn't have a clue what Rigel was talking about. "Every chocolate frog had a card of a famous witch or wizard in it that you can collect." Rigel explained. "I've got loads already, my collection is nearly complete." He showed them the card and Rick saw it contained a picture of Merlin. He was just reading about the wizard's accomplishments on the back of the card when Cedric struck up a conversation with Rigel's cousin.
"So, what do you think about Spore's view on the benefits of Moly?" He asked Regina, who seemed all too happy to talk about something else than quidditch and chocolate frog cards.
"It's brilliant, she's amazing, she just really knows what she's talking about. I've read her book like five times already - of course, I jotted down some of my own thoughts and remarks in it - I swear I know it inside and out. Go ahead, ask me anything." Cedric seemed a little taken aback at Regina's enthusiastic response but complied with her wish anyway.
"Oh! Uhm.. do you know a different name for Monkshood?" Cedric started off. Rick did not have a clue what he was talking about but apparently, Regina did.
"That's easy. Aconite!" She answered proudly. "Ask me another one!"
"What helps against most poisons?" Cedric obliged. Rick was about to suggest 'not taking them' but he was pretty sure that was not the answer Cedric or Regina was looking for.
"A Bezoar. You can find it in a goat's liver." She answered proudly.
"Actually it's his stomach." Cedric corrected.
"What?" Regina was taken aback.
"A Bezoar. It's found in a goat's stomach, not his liver." Cedric explained.
"No, I'm pretty sure it's the liver." Regina argued feebly, leafing through her book to find proof. Cedric didn't say anything and waited for her to find the passage. When she did, her face flushed bright red.
"Well, I know that, I was just momentarily confused." She tried to cover up her mistake. The boys looked at her disbelievingly, making Regina look extremely uncomfortable. "Well, I have to go." She said. "I'll see you all later." She abruptly rose and left the compartment. Rick and Cedric stared at her retreating form.
"Well, she's a poor loser." Rick stated and Rigel started to laugh. It took several minutes for him to calm down and Cedric and Rick stared at him inquisitively, wondering what he found so funny.
"That was priceless!" Rigel exclaimed. Cedric smiled sheepishly. "You don't know how long I have waited to see her be proven wrong." Rigel continued to laugh so much that it became infectious and a smile formed on Rick's face. He could see the humour in that. Only Cedric didn't think it was so funny and suggested they should go after Regina, which Rigel immediately waived away.
"It'll do her good." He said. Rigel and Rick did not let Regina's departure bother them and made full use of their new compartment as Rigel introduced Rick to the game of Exploding Snap, a card game where the cards tended to explode at unexpected moments. Rick and Rigel amused themselves with the game (Cedric said he was content to watch) until it began to get darker and the lights in the compartment came on. A woman's voice announced that they were approaching Hogwarts and Rick was very glad to hear it because his stomach was starting to ache from hunger. Rick and Rigel quickly changed into their Hogwarts robes and Rick was a little embarrassed to see how his second-hand robes looked really poor against Rigel's custom made and brand new ones. But at least his were in better shape than Cedric's, whose robes were obviously second-hand as well and in a worse state that Rick's, with patches and frayed ends here and there and a little long, causing Cedric to trip over them practically every other step. Before long, the train began to slow as they rolled into a station and Rick began to get a little restless in nervous excitement. In a few moments he would be at Hogwarts.