Harry Potter - Series Fan Fiction ❯ Harry Potter and the Werewolf Prophecy ❯ FIRST DAY ( Chapter 17 )
Alex Fyng’s mother adjusted his tie, reaching carefully across the table to avoid the cups and plates. “All set, dear?” Her voice was slightly high, forced cheerfulness failing to totally disguise the nervousness in her voice.
“I’m fine, mum. That’s the fifth time you’ve straightened my tie.”
She turned away and blew her nose. “I’m sorry. I just want to make sure…”
“Mum. You’ve been telling me what to do for the last year, ever since we got the letter. I know when the train goes, I know how to get on, I know what happens the first day.”
“Do you have…” his mother’s voice tailed off as he grinned at her.
“Yes, I have my money. I have my wand, and my trunk and the basket with the cat in it are right here. Oh no, where’s my ticket?” He frantically patted his pockets. His mother laughed.
“I know, but it’s a big day for me, too. I’m sorry that your dad…”
“Forget it, Mum. He didn’t approve. We’re still talking, and I’ll see him in the holidays.”
“I want you to get on with him, you know.” His mother’s voice was quiet, almost a whisper.
“I know you do. We do get on. He agreed that I would choose, and I chose this. He didn’t like it, but he accepted it. I’ll write to him.”
His mother shook her head. “He won’t like getting owls. Send the letters to me and I’ll put a stamp on them.” She shot him a sly glance. “I won’t open them!”
They laughed, then fell silent. She reached out and placed a hand on his.
“I think you can be really good at… this,” she said. “It’s as if whatever share I might have had… it’s been added to yours.”
“I’ll do my best,” he said, tightly.
“Your dad thinks I just want you to… I don’t know, fulfil all my dreams and have you live out the life I wished I had. It isn’t that, really. I just know – when I remember your granddad, your brother – this is what they were. If you don’t get the chance to be everything you could be…” Her voice tailed off and she stared down at the table.
“I understand, Mum. I want this, really. I’ll miss you, of course,”
She smiled at him. “Not too much, though. Have fun. Learn, make friends. It’s a whole new world, and I’ve only been able to give you a glimpse of it.”
She glanced at her watch. “I know I’ve been nervous all day, but it is really time to catch the train.” She drained the last of her coffee. “Are you finished?”
He looked down at his plate. “Yeah, I’m full.”
They walked slowly towards the barrier. He’d been six when his mother had brought him here first. “Watch closely,” she’d told him. “You’ll feel a little tickle in your head trying to make you look away. Once you know it’s there you can ignore it.”
He still remembered his delight when the first boy had pushed his luggage trolley through the wall. He hadn’t been frightened or shocked at all. They’d stayed there watching until the last parent had left. They’d come back every time since, watching from the side, but hardly ever talking to anyone.
Once or twice, someone had greeted her mother. They’d sounded friendly enough, but distant and cool, and they’d never stopped to chat. His mother had explained that they had been friends of the family, or had known her at school. His mother was often a bit quiet after these encounters.
They reached the wall between the two platforms. In spite of himself, he patted the pocket which held his ticket, even though he’d checked it a dozen times already. A bit more like Mum than I like to think, he thought.
She gave him a quick, frantic hug, and a brief kiss on the cheek. “Bye, darling,” she said, forcing a smile. As he moved forward, he turned to look at her. As his did so, a man passed between them and glanced at her. In that moment, he briefly no longer saw her as his mother, but as a woman, still young and attractive. She’ll be free, now, he thought. She won’t have me to hold her back and she’ll find a man and get married and he’ll hate me and…
Then he caught sight of her face, still smiling but woebegone and strained, and he felt ashamed of himself. She should find someone, or at least get some friends. Don’t be lonely. He waved, and moved through the wall, still looking back.
He had never been to Platform 9 ¾ before, but it seemed somehow familiar. He’d watched from the café as the children had milled around King’s Cross, but now they were all grouped together, all looking subtly different and strange. Wizards, he thought. Wizards and witches. How cool!
He saw where the trunks were being stacked. A porter was loading them onto a single luggage compartment. It seemed too small to hold all of them, but he was somehow fitting them in. He wandered down the platform, staring into the carriages. Most of the children were older than him. Well, of course they are. It’s my first year. Some of them must be eighteen or nineteen.
He looked for some other smaller children like himself. They’ll look a little bit lost and confused, he thought, and they won’t know anyone yet. All the children seemed to be chatting to each other, though.
He passed by what seemed to be an empty compartment and hesitated. Well, he thought, if the train is full then some children will have to squeeze in there, won’t they? And I might talk to them.
He opened the door to the carriage and climbed on board. There was a separate corridor on the far side of the carriage – quite unlike the train that he and his mother had used to travel to central London. He opened the door to the first compartment and stepped in.
He had been mistaken when he thought that the compartment was empty. There were two small girls there, about his own age. Both were blonde, blue-eyed, and appeared to be identical. They stared up at him, each with the same blank expression.
“Er… do you mind if I sit down?” he said, and realised that he was blushing.
It was the nearest girl who spoke. “You may, of course,” she said. “We are only entitled to the seats we are using ourselves.”
He sat down facing them, looked at them briefly then stared at the floor.
The girl spoke again. “We are going to Hogwarts for the first time. I’m guessing that you are as well?”
She smiled. “I thought so because you were by yourself, and if you were returning then you would probably look for your friends from last year. Also you are quite small, like us. I like deductions which turn out to be true. In real life they often don’t, for some reason.”
He frantically tried to think of something to say. “Um… my name’s Alex Fyng. I’m starting First Year.”
The girl nodded slowly, as if absorbing the information. “Hello, Alex. My name is Sophie McIntyre. This is my sister Amy.”
“Hello,” said Amy. Alex reached across and shook hands with the twins. Their hands were cool and dry. Amy’s handshake was slightly firmer than Sophie’s.
“Sophie means wise,” said Sophie. “Amy means beloved. Which is more important, Alex – wisdom or love?”
Alex thought for a moment. They seemed to be quite strange girls. “I wouldn’t like to choose,” he said carefully, looking from one to the other. “Well, if you are wise but without love, you will just be a clever horrible person. If you’re a nice person but silly, you won’t be able to be of use to anyone, will you?”
“That’s quite good,” said Sophie. “Of course, you might just be trying to avoid the question.”
“I might,” said Alex, “but that wouldn’t invalidate my reasoning.”
Sophie fixed him with an intense gaze. “What does Alex mean?”
“I don’t know,” he said. She raised an eyebrow.
“It means defender of the people,” said Amy.
“Would you defend the people?” said Sophie. “The wizarding people, I mean?”
Alex paused. “I don’t know. I don’t know them well enough.”
Sophie sat back and pressed her palms together. “That’s interesting. Are you Muggle-born, then? We’ve never met anyone Muggle-born.”
He tossed his head to one side. “Well, sort of. My father was a Wizard. My mother is a Squib. We’ve always lived as Muggles.”
“Hm. My father’s sister is a Squib, but she married a wizard and seems to be involved entirely in our world. I assumed that this always happened.”
“I don’t know how usual it is. My mother was at Hogwarts for two years, and was asked to leave. She decided to live in the Muggle world.”
Sophie’s face was serious. “How very brave of her.”
He nodded. “Her family didn’t like it, and of course, she was out of place in Muggle school for a long time. She kept at it, though.”
“I think that I like your mother,” said Sophie. “You say that your father ‘was’ a Wizard. Is he no longer alive?”
Alex shook his head. “No, he’s fine. They split up a few years ago. It was around when I… well, you know, started to do magic. He didn’t like it. He never did magic himself.”
“How sad,” said Sophie. “My aunt the Squib is at present separated from her wizard husband. It is devastating for our cousins.”
“I still see him, of course,” said Alex, “but he didn’t like the idea of me going to Hogwarts, so things are a bit…”
“Family disagreements are always painful,” said Sophie. “Did you notice that the train is moving?”
Alex turned to the window and saw that they were passing through the suburbs of North London. “I suppose that we must have been involved in our discussion,” he said.
“Indeed. I enjoy conversation.” Sophie gestured at her sister. “Amy, not so much.” Amy smiled, and looked out the window.
“What about you, Sophie? Do you think the wizard world is worth defending?” Alex was feeling slightly on edge, and realised that it was a sensation he rather enjoyed.
“Oh. I’m not really sure, Alex. My family were of course affected by the recent coup by You Know Who.”
“Say Lord Voldemort,” said Amy. “He’s dead now.”
“Very well; Lord Voldemort,” said Sophie, with a slight effort. “I observed how many of our adult friends behaved. It was not an edifying spectacle. Our parents took a position of principled opposition to the new regime, but most of their friends and relations took refuge in a pusillanimous neutrality.”
Alex wasn’t sure if he’d heard the word pusillanimous before, and was amazed to hear an eleven-year-old girl use it. He wasn’t quite sure what it meant.
“I was only a small child,” continued Sophie, “but I considered the refusal to stand up against wrongdoing was contemptible. I said as much when our Uncle William attempted to persuade my father to publicly condemn a friend who had been arrested. Of course, I was so young that my views were disregarded, but I was glad that I spoke.”
“He said what about your children, and I said what about Eric’s children?” said Amy.
“That is true, you did, Amy,” said Sophie, patting her sister’s shoulder. “We learned that the wizarding world is full of weakness and treachery.”
“You still have to live in it, though,” said Alex.
“Do we? Your mother left.”
Alex considered. There was the callous indifference of his mother’s family, her abandonment by her wizard friends – but then he considered how his mother was jeered at for her eccentricity. He thought about the horrible stories on the news every night, the people sleeping in shop doorways.
“The Muggle world isn’t any better, really. I don’t think Muggles are any better or worse than wizards. They’re all just people.”
Sophie nodded slowly. “What should one do, then?” she asked.
And so the talk went on. Sophie would offer an opinion, then ask a question, and Alex would answer as best he could. Amy would occasionally interject to correct some point. Alex noticed that while Sophie frequently corrected him, she never disagreed with her sister.
After a couple of hours, the conversation slowed. Alex noticed that Amy had fallen asleep. When he turned back to look at Sophie, her chin was resting on her chest. How odd, he thought, but before he could extend the thought any further, he was asleep himself.