The Undiluted Truth, Chapter 3: The Journey to Hogwarts
AN: anything underlined is from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
The rest of the summer nearly flew by for Harry Potter. His relatives pretty much left him alone, except for giving him food and chores; obviously Uncle Vernon knew better than to push his boundaries or knock him around now that he thought that the "freaks" were watching. So the rest of the time, Harry stayed in his room, keeping very quiet and spending most of his time reading and talking to Jewel, who had a wicked sense of humor and and an interesting worldview.
At last, September first arrived, and Harry managed to get Uncle Vernon to drive him to King's Cross ("Only because we need to take Dudders to the Clinic") and he wandered about the station, looking for Platform 9 3/4.
It was only once he had been dropped off that he realized that Hagrid had not told him where to board the the train. He was afraid to ask any of the muggle security guards where said platform 9 3/4 was, and none of them knew of a train that departed at eleven O'clock. At last, when he was starting to wonder whether he had been given the wrong date, or the wrong place, or something, when he felt Jewel readjust herself on his arm.
^Thossse no-ssscaless ssmell like magic,^ she commented. ^Isss that what you're looking for?^
Harry started, looking up to see a group of red-heads by the barrier between platforms 9 and 10. It was obvious from their mismatched muggle clothes and the owl that one of them was carrying that they were Wizarding, and Harry smiled. ^Yess,^ he said, slowly approaching them. ^Thanksss, Jewel^
Jewel's sensitive tongue flickered out to caress his hand as he carefully adjusted his cuff to conceal her- after the letter he had read and the reaction of the shopkeeper when he'd asked Jewel what kind of carrier she wanted, he sensed that it would probably not be a good thing for others to know he had her...even more so because she was a magical karait and her bite was highly toxic.
^Well, go on,^ Jewel told him. ^They do not look venomousss.^
Harry snickered and then approached. "Excuse me?"
One of the wizards, a motherly-looking witch with frizzy red hair and a kindly expression turned around, allowing one of her children to wiggle away before her hankerchief could expunge the smudge on his nose. "Hello, dear. Hogwarts, then?"
"Yes," Harry responded politely. "Um...how do you get to the platform?"
"Oh, the wall between nine and ten is an illusion; all you have to do is walk through- best to do it at a bit of a run if you're nervous."
Harry smiled. "Thank you."
"No problem, dear- Fred! get back here!"
"It's George, mum!" the boy addressed protested, coming back nevertheless, accompanied by what looked to be his twin."I- who's this?"
"I'm Harry," Harry told him politely, already liking them.
"Harry, as in Harry Potter?" they both chorused.
Harry blushed and then face-palmed. "Um. Yes. Don't get all weird, will you?"
"But we are weird, my dear Potter!"
"Weirdness is our business, my dear Potter!"
Even their mother laughed.
Then one of the boys called "Scabbers!" evidently looking around for a pet, and Harry took the opportunity to slip through the barrier, a little overwhelmed. Jewel gave a series of giggly little hisses at his discomfort. Behind him, he could still hear the Wizarding mother talking to her children- "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 –"
And said children's responses: "Blown up a toilet? We've never blown up a toilet."
"Great idea though, thanks, Mum."
Harry laughed as he lugged his trunk on board.
In no time at all, he had found an empty compartment, where he put his trunk under the seat and sat back with his potions book, relaxing and making the occasional comment to Jewel, figuring that he'd rather see if anyone would like to join him than try to find a compartment of people who would let him join them. Not that he really expected anyone to come; after all, he had seen plenty of compartments on his way, and most of them were empty or nearly so.
It was not long, however, before he was proven wrong, as the door creaked open and a round-faced, rather shy-looking boy already in Hogwarts uniform stepped in the compartment. He looked as though he was about to put his bag down when he saw Harry.
"S-sorry, I didn't see you," he said, looking mortified. "I- can I sit here?"
Harry smiled disarmingly. "Sure, if you want to. I was looking forward to having some company."
The relief on the boy's face was palpable. He stood there another moment then heaved his trunk into the compartment, and Harry helped him stow it under another seat. After that, the two of them sat down again and Harry pulled his potions book out again, although he was more interested at looking at the other boy than at the book. Harry spoke first.
"So, what's your name?"
The boy glanced up at him, as if in surprise that he was being addressed. "Neville," he said finally. "My name's Neville Longbottom."
Harry blinked- where had he heard that name before? He might have spent more time thinking about it, but he knew this wasn't the time, so he shoved it to the back of his mind to ponder later. "Mine's Harry," he replied at last.
The other boy's eyes flicked to his scar- then he blushed and lowered his gaze. A silence fell; Harry was tempted to go back to his book, but he forced himself not to. He could read a book anytime, after all. "So what house are you hoping to get into?" he asked finally, genuinely wondering what the reply would be. He sort of wanted to be in Slytherin, himself, considering he could talk to snakes, but he knew that was considered 'the bad house' so he had resolved to try to get into Gryffindor or Hufflepuff so he could be under the radar for as long as possible. That is if he had a choice.
"Gryffindor," Neville said immediately. "My parents were in Gryffindor." A pause. "I'll probably be in Hufflepuff though."
Harry wondered how much to say. Would Nevile judge him for wanting to be in Slytherin? "There's nothing wrong with being in Hufflepuff," Harry found himself saying. "I mean, I would rather be in Hufflepuff than Gryffindor- I'd probably make more friends. But if you want to be in Gryffindor you probably will be; I think you can at least have a say."
"I hope so."
They lapsed into silence again.
"So which class are you looking forward to the most?" Harry asked, when the silence was threatening to become awkward.
"Herbology," Neville said without missing a beat. "I love plants. Astronomy sounds good, too, but I have a horrible memory. What about you?"
"Potions," Harry responded. "Potions sounds amazing. I mean, I'm looking forward to everything, though."
"P-Potions?" Neville sounded almost alarmed.
"I...you've heard about the Potions teacher?"
"What about the Potions teacher?"
"He's...really strict. I mean really. I've heard that he hates everyone who isn't a Slytherin." Neville shivered involuntarily. "I don't know if it's true, though..."
Harry didn't like the sound of that. He couldn't be a Slytherin, not unless he wanted to have more trouble than just Voldemort. But how could he learn potions if the teacher hated anyone who wasn't Slytherin? A shiver he couldn't quite understand ran down his spine as he fumbled in his bag for a bookmark, (as it was likely that he wasn't going to go on reading). Harry didn't know what to say, but luckily he was saved from having to respond by the trolley witch, who took that moment to knock on the compartment door.
"Anything off the trolley, dears?"
Harry glanced at Neville. "What do you think is good?"
Nevile blushed. "Uh, chocolate frogs are good. So are licorice wands. Uh, don't get Bertie Bott's Every-Flavor Beans, though; when they say every flavor, they mean it."
Harry grinned at him and bought a few of everything- except Every-Flavor Beans. "You want some?"
Neville shyly took a frog and tore it open. Harry did too, and was promptly surprised by the card that the package contained, especially since it moved. Neville wasn't quite so excited when he asked him about them. "They're collectible cards; Gran never liked me collecting them; said they were a waste of time. I did for a while though..."
Harry, who had been inspecting a picture of the enchanteress Morgana LeFay, looked up. It was a fascinating card, but he had to agree with Neville's Gran...although it would be nice to have nothing more important to worry about than which chocolate frog cards were missing from his collection.
They ate sweets and talked about ordinary things for some time; Harry discovered that Neville was very clumsy, had a pet frog which he called Trevor around his gran and Augustus in private, and really hated Pepper Imps. Neville discovered that Harry had been raised muggle and that he was really looking forward to flying.
And that was when the door flew open. It was the boy he had met at Madame Malkins, accompanied by two other boys who reminded him of the pictures of trolls in storybooks. Harry had a brief, painful flashback of "Harry Hunting".
"They've been saying Harry Potter's on the train," he said without preamble. "Are you him?"
Harry didn't like the way he said that, nor did he like the look of his thugs. "And what if I am?"
"Why are you over here sitting with a squib when you have an in with the right sort?"
Harry didn't know what a squib was, but he could guess it was not complementary, given the look on Neville's crimson face. And he was angry.
"I Think I can tell the right sort for myself, thank you." Harry told him angrily. "And please go back to your compartment."
The blond boy paled until his already admittedly pale face was as white as his hair. "And what if we don't? We ran out of candy in our compartment, and you seem to have some..."He nodded at his thugs, who each took a handful of the remaining confections.
Harry's eyes narrowed and Neville spluttered angrily, drawing his wand, which emitted a crimson spark. The boy smirked. "Ooo, the little squib is angry," he said, sounding (if he'd only known it) very much like his aunt Bellatrix.
It was at that moment that Jewel poked her tongue out of Harry's sleeve, smelling. ^Harry, whatsss going on?^ she asked. ^Who are these no-sscalesss?^
^I don't know, but they sstole my and Neville'sss prey.^ Harry told her quietly, masking the parceltongue with a sneeze and making sure Jewel was concealed.
Jewel hissed furiously. ^They dare to sssteal your prey?^ she spat, venom dribbling out of the corner of her mouth. ^Tell them to get out or I will bite them! Miserable no-sscalesss trying to take what they haven't hunted!^
^I have to keep you sssecret, you know,^ Harry told her under his breath. Then to the boy and his thugs: "Get out. Now. Just because I can't use magic on the train doesn't mean I can't call a prefect or punch you in the nose."
"Are you threatening me?"
"If you would just let us alone I wouldn't have to," Harry said practically. "Seriously, guys, what is your problem?"
The boy didn't seem to know how to respond to that. After a minute, he beckoned to his thugs. "C'mon, they're not worth our time." And then they were gone.
As soon as they were gone, Jewel poked her head all the way out of his sleeve. ^Oh, good, Chunky, Ugly, and Ssslippery are gone! Did they take any more prey?^
Harry burst out laughing. ^No. Nicess namess, by the way.^
^It sssuitss them,^ was Jewel's response. And it was only then that Harry realized that Neville was staring at him, wide-eyed and open-mouthed.