It had been a year since Dolores Umbridge had taken over Hogwarts, hellbent on only leaving those she saw fit to teach and to be taught. Harry Potter had led the true Defense Against the Dark Arts class when Umbridge refused to teach anything useful, and the students had rebelled, both in secret and not, against all the rules posted in the halls. Now, the pictures were back on the walls, the rules taken down, and teachers restored to Hogwarts, but still, the school had taken a much darker turn than when she'd started attending.
Noelle straightened her scarf and shoved her free hand into her pocket as she walked down Diagon Alley. Her fingers touched the crumpled-up piece of paper which listed the required school supplies for the year. Behind her, she dragged her suit case and cat carrier. She ignored glances her way as she shook her short brown hair from her red-brown eyes and headed towards the train station.
Hopes were high that this year, things would be better, and perhaps the rumors that Voldemort was back would be just that, rumors.
Noelle avoided several passersby at the station, all on their way to places of business or to visit family. She had somewhere more important to be. Stopping between two brick supports, marked 9 and 10, she pushed her suitcase in front of her and backed up till she leaned against one of them. No matter how many times she did this, she still got nervous each time. With a deep breath, she started running, straight through the other support.
The bricks let her through easily enough and she could breathe once again. All around her, the environment had changed. True enough, she was still at a train station, but here, students said their goodbyes, owls flew amidst the rafters, and a magical train sat, puffing smoke and awaiting the 11 o'clock departure. The platform 9 ¾ .
She boarded the train and walked towards the back of the train, avoiding gazes until she found an empty car. Pulling open one of the sliding doors, she put her suitcase up in the overhead space and sat down, setting her cat carrier next to her in the seat. Gazing out the window she sighed.
Watching, she saw more students arriving, pouring through the bricks onto the train platform and rushing on to find seats as time ran short. She rolled her eyes as a group gathered to watch Harry Potter and his friends board the train. She was in the same year as him and his friends, but it didn't matter, it was always "Harry this," and "Harry that." It wasn't that she had anything personal against the boy, she just never expected to be noticed when his shadow fell long over Hogwarts.
Everyone made such a huge deal over Harry Potter, the boy who lived, and how he would be the one to kill Voldemort, should he really come back. But he was a boy, same as any other, with no magical ability that she could see that was any different or anymore spectacular. He'd survived through the love of his parents, nothing more. For that, he was legend. But she saw no reason someone else couldn't take on the enemy.
She heard a meow and turned her head to see a black paw poking out of the carrier. She smirked and opened the door, pulling the black cat onto her lap as it began to purr.
"You're right of course Salem. Best to forget about them." She said in response.
The cat settled onto her lap, shutting its green eyes and purring louder.
The train whistle sounded, and she could feel the train begin to move, slowly at first, and then faster as they left the station. Surprised, she leaned to peek out the sliding door. Even though she was in practically the last car, normally she would have had at least one riding companion. She frowned. Perhaps there truly were fewer students attending this year, afraid of what had happened in previous years, and suspicious of the rumors.
"Want something off the trolley dear?" Noelle looked up at the woman who spoke, and then back down at the Honeydukes Express cart.
She smiled, always excited to get the sweets. "I'll have a chocolate frog, cauldron cakes, pumpkin juice, annnndddd…." She looked it over, "todays Daily Prophet."
The trolley-woman smiled and grabbed everything for her as Noelle counted out some coins and traded her. "Have a lovely day dear."
Noelle nodded her thanks and opened her chocolate frog, alongside her newspaper. Before the frog could decide to escape her, she pinched it between her fingers and then bit into a leg, savoring the chocolatey flavor. The front page of the newspaper showed the Minister of Magic being interviewed, the caption all about how the ministry was denying Voldemort's return.
She shoved the paper underneath her leg and returned to her snacks, all view of the city gone from the window's view, and only rolling hills in the distance.
"Oh yeah." She picked up the chocolate frog container and pulled out the collectible card. "Let's see who I got this year…" She turned it over and raised an eyebrow. Twisting the card around gave no different result. "That's strange… Must be a dud." She set it aside. The card was empty.
Finishing her cauldron cakes and half of her pumpkin juice, she tucked the rest to the side and leaned back, closing her eyes. There were still several hours more before they would reach the school. So she may as well rest and get comfortable for the ride.