Chapter 5: The Hogwarts Express
On September first, King's Cross Station bustled with daily activity. Time challenged each traveler to reach their platform before the train departed. The Lupins weaved through muggle crowds, pushing a heavy cart stacked with suitcases. The Hogwarts Express left at exactly eleven o'clock. Father Time hastened the second hand into a forced march, and Taylor watched his scythe uncomfortably point out quarter to the hour. The family was stopped suddenly by an old man in a black wizarding robe.
"Excuse me. Mr. and Mrs. Lupin?" The man intercepted the party. "My name is Newton Scamander. I am with the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. Before Remus boards the Hogwarts Express, the ministry has to debrief a few minor policies. If you come with me, this won't take much time." Remus's parents nodded hurriedly. Mr. Scamander gestured to Taylor. "Your daughter, however, may proceed to the platform."
Mrs. Lupin looked at Taylor with uncertainty. "Be careful darling. And find your brother as soon as the train begins moving. Okay?" She kissed her daughter goodbye, and Taylor hurried off. Worry about Remus's session with the Ministry twisted into immediate concern for direction. Platform nine and three quarters. What a peculiar train station.
Perplexity overwhelmed her as she circled between platforms nine and ten. She checked her ticket several times, but remained clueless.
"There is nothing here." She muttered, pacing back and forth between the two platforms. Maybe this all has been some elaborate joke. I'll turn around and see a television game show host. Tell us Taylor? How does it feel to go from orphan to almost witch? "Platform 9¾! Nice touch. Very funny!" Slimy sarcasm was bitter.
"It's not that funny." A sly voice commented. Taylor whirled around to see two boys leaning on their carts. One sported a tussle of messy hair, while the other she's wish to forget.
"Stay away from me, Black." She growled. Sirius looked at her for a second longer than he needed to. She felt his eyes sizing her up and judging her capabilities.
"How is it that you know my name and I've yet to find out yours?" She turned around and continued walking. Anywhere is better than here. I'd rather hang myself by my own entrails.
"Where are you going?" He called after her tauntingly. Taylor disregarded his quandary. "Just some friendly advice, this is the platform." She turned in time to witness Sirius and his friend disappear into the hard brick wall. It's a trick! Some nasty trick!
Another, hurried wizard did the same. Rubbing her eyes she paused and thought the possibilities over. What if I can't get through? What if I run into the wall? Trepidation aside, she griped the handle of her cart like it was the bar of a hang glider. Eyes closed and head ducked, she ran toward the wall separating the platforms. She opened her eyes. A single hidden platform unfolded before her. Loved ones said farewell to little ones as they boarded a red and black steam engine. Memory ushered Taylor to touch the opal around her neck, missing her own loved one.
Taylor took a moment to study the train, and broke into a grin when she caught sight of Lily. From a compartment window, she waved frantically. Boarding the train was easy enough, as most students had already claimed their seats. Lily helped Taylor lift her trunk into the over head storage area. Excitement thrashed wildly in Taylor's stomach, primarily because she had never been on a train before. She smiled at her friend as she sat down.
"It's so nice to see you again Lily." Lily ran her fingers through her hair.
"I am so happy to have you here. I was starting to worry that I'd be sitting alone."
"Where's Severus?" Taylor asked innocently. Lily shrugged.
"He met some boys once we got to the station. A strange crowd. I wasn't sure I felt too comfortable, so I told him I'd meet up with him sometime later." She leaned in closer to her friend."Is it true?" She paused for dramatic effect. "You smacked him?" Taylor raised eyebrows in apprehension.
"Who? Black? I did. He lifted my skir—" The discussion sputtered into a mess on the compartment floor. The door slid open, allowing the conversation's prime subject to enter the lounge. Sirius too ended his banter with the two boys following him, when he noticed Taylor's aggravated stare.
"Well, isn't this just coincidental. Our third encounter, now?" Taylor folded her arms. Acknowledgement gave his fire fodder.
"I suggest you leave." Lily barked. The train began to roll out of the station. The rumble almost gave an edge to Lily's command.
"Last time I checked, we could sit anywhere we wanted to on this train." James reminded them from behind Sirius. "Besides, all the other seats are taken."
"That's pretty convenient." Lily's patience was wearing thin. James cocked his head at Lily who shivered in disgust under his lustful eye. Then as if invited, they piled into the cab. Remus filed in last, and did not look pleased at the current situation. Taylor sighed and looked out the window. After a moment of awkward silence, she turned to Lily.
"How long is this trip usually?" She asked.
"My brother says it's typically a few hours" Sirius interjected himself.
"DID I ASK YOU?" Taylor snarled. Interested by her outburst, James looked at Taylor for a moment and then picked his feet up to rest them on the available seat. Sirius followed suit, which caused the compartment to feel internally constricted.
For nearly an hour, the travelers remained in a silent peace. It could have been the next great Pax Romana. Remus skimmed A History of Magic, while James flipped through his expansive collection of Chocolate Frog cards. Sirius yawned and occasionally closed his eyes to nap. Suddenly, the door slid open revealing a thin lady pulling a cart.
"Anything off the trolley dears?" She asked merrily.
The trolley overflowed with sweets Taylor had never heard of before. Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, Cauldron Cakes, Drooble's Best Blowing Gum, Licorice Wands, Chocolate Frogs, and Jelly Slugs. Taylor glimpsed at Lily, who looked as intrigued. Remembering her leftover change, she reached into her pockets for several sickles and knuts.
"Could I please have two Chocolate Frogs, two flasks of Pumpkin Juice, and one container of Bertie Botts?" The woman obliged her. Taylor tossed a pentagonal Chocolate Frog and heavy flask to Lily, who thanked her warmly.
"You're amazing." Lily cracked open her Chocolate Frog and squealed when it jumped to life. Taylor nearly lost hers as it tried to escape back onto the trolley. James ordered a ton of stuff from the lot, for himself and his troupe. Remus merely stared at the offering, as if counting the calories. Sirius winked at James.
"Why thank you James!" He took a bite of Cauldron Cake. "You sure are generous, isn't he Lily?" Lily nearly threw up her pumpkin juice, when Sirius's tongue rolled over her name. "Anyway," Sirius continued, ignoring Lily's lack of reply. "I still haven't had the pleasure of learning your name." His foot kicked at Taylor's coyly.
"I swear the next time you talk to me or touch me, I'm going to shove boogie beans up your nose." Taylor threatened. Sirius relinquished. The train trekked on, and the snacks grew lower. Despite their uninvited guests, she was inspired by the simplest acts of everyday magical life.
"We better get in our cloaks, Lily." Taylor suggested later on in the trip, just as a light rain began to fall outside.
"Need help?" James asked, with a humorous smirk pasted to his face. Both girls gave him a look of disgust and walked out to find their uniforms.