Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Platform Nine and Three Quarters

Hello! This chapter and the rest of the story will be told from Harry's POV, like how it was done in the books. Again, most of the story will stay true to its original self but with some changes made by me.

disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or anything that has to do with it. I only own Arabella.

Please review! :)

The Journey from Platform Nine and Three Quarters

' – packed with Muggles, of course – '

Harry swung round. The speaker was a plump woman who was talking to four boys, all with flaming red hair. Each of them was pushing a trunk like Harry's in front of him – and they had an owl.

Heart hammering, Harry pushed his trolley after them. They stopped and so did he, just near enough to hear what they were saying.

'Now, what's the platform number?' said the boys' mother.

'Nine and three quarter!' piped a small girl, also red-headed, who was holding her hand. 'Mum, can't I go…'

'You're not old enough, Ginny, now be quiet. All right, Percy, you go first.'

What looked like the oldest boy marched towards platforms nine and ten. Harry watched, careful not to blink in case he missed it – but just as the boy reached the divide between the two platforms, a large crowd of tourists came swarming in front of him and by the last rucksack had cleared away, the boy had vanished.

'Fred, you next,' the plump woman said.

'I'm not Fred, I'm George,' said the boy. 'Honestly, woman, call yourself our mother? Can't you tell I'm George?'

'Sorry, George, dear.'

'Only joking, I am Fred,' said the boy, and off he went. His twin called after him to hurry up, and he must have done, because a second later, he had gone – but how had he done it?

Now the third brother was walking briskly towards the ticket barrier – he was almost there – and then, quite suddenly, he wasn't anywhere.

There was nothing else for it.

'Excuse me,' Harry said to the plump woman.

'Hullo, dear,' she said. 'First time at Hogwarts? Ron's new, too.'

She pointed at the last and youngest of her sons. He was tall, thin and gangling, with freckles, big hands and feet and a long nose.

'Yes,' said Harry. The thing is – the thing is, I don't know how to – '

'How to get on to the platform?' she said kindly, and Harry nodded.

'Not to worry,' she said. 'All you have to do is walk straight at the barrier between platforms nine and ten. Don't stop and don't be scared you'll crash into it, that's very important. Best do it at a bit of a run if you're nervous. Go on, go now before Ron.'

'Er – OK,' said Harry.

He pushed his trolley round and stared at the barrier. It looked very solid.

He started to walk towards it. People jostled him on their way to platforms nine and ten. Harry walked more quickly. He was trouble – leaning forward on his trolley he broke into a heavy run – the barrier was coming nearer and nearer – he wouldn't be able to stop – the trolley was out of control – he was a foot away – he closed his eyes ready for the crash –

It didn't come… he kept on running … he opened his eyes.

A scarlet stream engine was waiting next to a platform packed with people. A sign over head said Hogwarts Express, 11 o'clock. Harry looked behind him and saw a wrought iron archway where the ticket box had been, with the words platform Nine and Three Quarters on it. He had done it.

Smoke from the engine drifted over the heads of the chattering crowds, while cats of every colour wound here and there between their legs. Owls hooted to each other in a disgruntled sort of way over the babble and the scraping of heavy trunks.

The first few carriages were already packed with students, some hanging out of the window to talk to their families, some fighting over seats. Harry pushed his trolley off down the platform in search of an empty seat. He passed a round – faced boy who was saying, 'Gran, I've lost my toad again.'

'Oh, Neville,' he heard the old woman sign

A boy with dreadlocks was surrounded by a small crowd.

'Give us a look, Lee, go on.'

The boy lifted the lid of a box in his arms and the people around him shrieked and yelled as something inside poked out a long, hairy led.

Harry passed on through the crowd until he found an empty compartment near the end of the train. He put Hedwig inside first and then started to shove and heave his trunk towards the train door. He tried to lift it up the steps but could hardly raise one end and twice he dropped it painfully on his foot.

'Want a hand?' It was one of the red-haired twins he followed through the ticket box.

'Yes, please,' Harry panted.

'Oy, Fred! C'mere and help!'

With the twins help, Harry's trunk was at last tucked away in a corner of the compartment.

'Thanks,' said Harry, pushing his sweaty hair out of his eyes.

'What's that?' said one of the twins suddenly, pointing at Harry's lightning scar.

'Blimey,' said the other twin. 'Are you - ?'

'He is,' said the first twin. 'Aren't you?' he added to Harry.

'What?' said Harry.

'Harry Potter,' chorused the twins.

'Oh, him,' said Harry. 'I mean, yes, I am.'

The two boys gawped at him and Harry felt himself going red. Then, to his relief, a voice came floating in through the train's open door.

'Fred? George? Are you there?'

'Coming, Mum.'

With a last look at Harry, the twins hopped off the train.

Harry sat down next to the window where, half-hidden, he could watch the red-haired family on the platform and hear what they were saying. Their mother had just taken out her handkerchief.

'Ron, you've got something on your nose.'

The youngest boy tried to jerk out of the way, but she grabbed him and began rubbing the end of his nose.

'Mum – geroff.' He wiggled free.

'Aaah, has ickle Ronnie got somefink on nosie?' said one of the twins.

'Shut up,' said Ro.

'Where's Percy?' said their mother.

'He's coming now.'

The oldest boy came striding into sight. He had already changed into his billowing black Hogwarts robes and Harry noticed a shiny silver badge on his chest with the letter P on it.

'Can't stay long, Mother,' he said. 'I'm up front, the prefects have got two compartments to themselves – '

'Oh, are you a prefect, Percy?' said one of the twins with an air of great surprise. 'You should have said something, we had no idea.'

'Hang on, I think I remember him saying something about it,' said the other twin. 'Once – '

'Or twice – '

'A minute – '

'All summer – '

'Oh, shut up,' said Percy the Prefect.

'How come Percy gets new robes, anyway?' said one of the twins.

'Because he's a prefect,' said their mother fondly. 'All right, dear, well, have a good term – send me an owl when you get there.'

She kissed Percy on the cheek and he left. Then she turned to the twins.

'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 – '

'Blown up a toilet? We've never blown up a toilet.'

'Great idea though, thanks Mum.'

'It's not funny. And look after Ron.'

'Don't worry, ickle Ronniekins is safe with us.'

'Shut up,' said Ron again. He was almost as tall as the twins already and his nose was still pink where his mother had rubbed it.

'Hey, Mum, guess what? Guess who we just met on the train?'

Harry leant back quickly so they couldn't see him looking.

'You know that black-haired boy who was near us in the station? Know who he is?'

'Who?'

'Harry Potter!'

Harry heard the little girl's voice.

'Oh, Mum, can I go on the train and see him, Mum, oh please…'

'You've already seen him, Ginny, and the poor boy isn't something you google at in a zoo. Is he really, Fred? How do you know?'

'Asked him. Saw his scar. It's really there – like lightning.'

'Poor dear – no wonder he was alone. I wondered. He was ever so polite when he asked how to get on to the platform.'

'Never mind that, do you think he remembers what You-Know-Who looks like?'

Their mother suddenly became very stern.

'I forbid you to ask him, Fred. No, don't you dare. As though he needs reminding of that on his first day at school.'

'All right, keep your hair on.'

A whistle sounded.

'Hurry up!' their mother said, and the three boys clambered on to the train. They leant out of the window for her to kiss them goodbye and their younger sister began to cry.

'Don't, Ginny, we'll send you loads of owls.'

'We'll send you a Hogwarts toilet seat.'

'George!'

'Only joking, Mum.'

The train began to move. Harry saw the boy's mother waving and their sister, half laughing, half crying, running to keep up with the train until it gathered too much speed, then she fell back and waved.

Harry watched the girl and her mother disappear as the train rounded the corner. He didn't know what he was going to – but it had to be better than what he was leaving behind.

The door of the compartment slid open and the youngest red-headed boy came in.

'Anyone sitting there?' he asked, pointing at the seat opposite Harry. 'Everywhere else is full.'

Harry shook his head and the boy sat down. He glanced at harry and then looked quickly out of the window, pretending he hadn't looked. Harry saw he still had a black mark on his nose.

'Hey, Ron.'

The twins were back.

'Listen, we're going down the middle of the train – Lee Jordan's got a giant tarantula down there.'

'Right,' mumbled Ron.

'Harry,' said the other twin, 'did we introduce ourselves? Fred and George Weasley. And this is Ron, our brother. See you later, then.'

Bye,' said Harry and Ron. The twins slid the compartment door shut behind them.

'Are you really Harry Potter?' Ron blurt out.

Harry nodded.

'Oh – well, I thought it might be one of Fred and George's jokes,' said Ron. 'And have you got – you know…'

He pointed at Harry's forehead.

Harry pulled back his fringe to show the lightning scar. Ron stared.

'So that's where You-Know-Who - ?'

'Yes,' said Harry, 'but I can't remember it.'

'Nothing?' said Ron eagerly.

'Well – I remember a lot of green light, but nothing else.'

'Wow,' said Ron. He sat and stared at Harry for a few minutes before the door compartment suddenly opened, entering a tan girl with dark brown hair and grey eyes.

'Sorry to interrupt, but can I sit here? I sat with a couple of people before, they weren't too kind to me after learning about my blood – status.'

'Sure, go ahead,' said Harry. Ron nodding.

'Thanks,' the girl said with a smile, taking the seat next to Harry. 'I'm Arabella Black.'

'Ron Weasley.'

'Harry Potter'

'Are you really?' Arabella said.

'Um – yes,' said Harry, a bit unnerved by these questions about who he really was.

'Sorry if it bothers you. It's nice to meet you both. You're definitely better than the people I sat with before,' Arabella said.

'It's fine, really,' reassured Harry.

'So are all your family wizards?' asked Harry, addressing Ron and Arabella, who found them just as interesting as they found him.

'Er – yes, I think so,' said Ron. 'I think Mum's got a second cousin who's an accountant, but we never talk about him.'

'All of the people on my dad's side are wizards and some on my mom's side too I think. I don't keep in touch with them,' said Arabella.

'So you guys must know loads of magic already.'

The Weasley and Blacks were clearly one of those old wizarding families the pale boy in Diagon Alley had talked about.

'I heard you went to live with Muggles,' said Ron. 'What are they like?'

'Horrible – well, not all of them. My aunt and uncle are though, wish I'd had three wizard brothers.'

'Five,' said Ron. For some reason, he was looking gloomy. 'I'm the sixth in our family to go to Hogwarts. You could say I've got a lot to live up to. Bill and Charlie have already left – Bill was head boy and Charlie was captain of Quidditch. Now Percy's a prefect. Fred and George mess around a lot, but they still get really good marks and everyone thinks they're really funny. Everyone expects me to do as well as the others, but if I do, it's no big deal, because they did it first. You never get anything new, either, with five brothers. I've got Bill's old robes, Charlie's old wand and Percy's old rat.'

Ron reached inside his jacket and pulled out a fat grey rat, which was asleep. 'His name's Scrabbers and he's useless, he hardly ever wakes up. Percy got an owl from my dad for being made a prefect, but they couldn't aff – I mean, I got Scabbers instead.'

Ron's ears went pink. He seemed to think he said too much, because he went back to staring out of the window.

'So what about you Arabella?' said Harry, trying to take Ron's mind off of his problem.

'Er – well I live with my uncle Remus, well he's technically not my uncle, he's my godfather, but I just call him my uncle. I also have my Aunt Andromeda, Uncle Ted and Nymphadora, my cousin.'

'What happened to your mum and dad?' asked Ron, turning away from the window.

'My mom died 8 years ago and my dad left,' said Arabella while rubbing her arms through her white long sleeves. Harry could tell that there was something she was not telling them, but he didn't want to push the first people he would meet on the train.

He started to tell Ron and Arabella all about his life with the Dursleys, having to wear Dudley's old clothes and never getting proper birthday presents. This seemed to cheer Ron a bit and make Arabella appalled by his relatives.

'… and until Hagrid told me, I didn't know anything about being a wizard or about my parents or Voldemort – '

Ron gasped. Arabella rolled her eyes.

'What?' said Harry.

'You said You-Know-Who's name!' said Ron, sounding both shocked and impressed. 'I'd have thought you, of all people – '

'I'm not trying to be brave or anything, saying the name,' said Harry. 'I just never knew you shouldn't. See what I mean? I've got loads to learn… I bet,' he added, voicing for the first time something that had been worrying him a lot lately, 'I bet I'm the worst in the class.'

'Harry, don't worry about be the worse in the class. We all start out on the same level and lots of people come from Muggle families and they learn quickly,' said Arabella.

Harry nodded.

While they had been talking, the train had carried them out of London. Now they were speeding past fields full of cows and sheep. They were quiet for a time, watching the fields and lanes flick past.

Around half-past twelve there was a great clattering outside in the corridor and a smiling, dimpled woman slid back their door and said, 'Anything off the trolley, dears?'

Harry, who hadn't had any breakfast, leapt to his feet with Arabella, but Ron's ears went pink again and he muttered that he'd brought sandwiched. Harry and Arabella went out into the corridor.

He had never had any money for sweets with the Dursleys and now that he had pockets rattling with gold and silver he was ready to buy as many Mars Bars as he could carry – but the woman didn't have Mars Bars. What she did have were Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, Droobles Best Blowing Gum, Chocolate Frogs, Pumpkin Pasties, Cauldron Cakes, Liquorice Wands and a number of other strange things Harry had never seen in his life. Not wanting to miss anything and paid the woman eleven silver Sickles and seven bronze Knuts. Arabella got five Chocolate Frogs and a pack of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans.

Ron stared as Harry and Arabella brought it all back into the compartment and Harry tripped it on to an empty seat, while Arabella kept hers next to his pile.

'Hungry, are you?'

'Starving,' said Harry, taking a large bite of the pumpkin pasty while Arabella started to eat the Chocolate Frog.

Ron had taken out a lumpy package and unwrapped it. There were four sandwiches in there. He pulled one of them apart and said, 'She always forgets I don't like corned beef.'

'Here why don't we trade? Have some chocolate,' said Arabella, holding a Chocolate Frog towards Ron. 'Go on.'

'You don't want this, it's all dry,' said Ron. 'She hasn't got much time,' he added quickly, 'you know, with the five of us.'

'Go on, have a pasty,' said Harry, who had never had anything to share before, or indeed, anyone to share it with. It was a nice feeling, sitting there with Ron and Arabella, eating away through their pasties and cakes (the sandwiches lay forgotten).

Harry turned to Arabella while holding a pack of Chocolate Frogs and asked, 'Those weren't really frogs were they?' He was starting to feel that nothing would surprise.

'No. It's the card you really want,' said Arabella, while starting to eat her second piece of chocolate.

'What?'

'Oh, of course, you wouldn't know – Chocolate Frogs have cards inside them, you know, to collect – famous witches and wizards. I've got about five hundred, but I haven't got Agrippa or Ptolemy,' said Ron.

'I've got about two Agrippa and three Ptolemy. Do you have Felix Summerbee or Falco Aesalon? I'll trade you,' said Arabella after finishing her second chocolate and starting on her third.

'Sure. I give them to you later. Just got to find them,' agreed Ron.

Harry unwrapped his Chocolate Frog and picked up the card. It showed a man's face. He wore half-moon glasses, had a log crooked nose and a flowing silver hair, beard and mustache. Underneath the picture was the name Albus Dumbledore.

'So this is Dumbledore!' said Harry.f

'Don't tell me you'd never heard of Dumbledore!' said Ron. 'Can I have a frog? Maybe I'll get Agrippa – thanks – '

Harry turned over his card and read:

Albus Dumbledore, currently Headmaster of Hogwarts.

Considered by many the greatest wizard of modern times, Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon's blood and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicholas Flamel. Professor Dumbledore enjoys chamber music and tenpin bowling.

Harry turned the card back over and saw, to his astonishment, that Dumbledore's face had disappeared.

'He's gone!'

'In the wizarding world picture move all the time,' said Arabella with some chocolate in her mouth.

'Don't worry he'll be back. No, I've got Morgana again and I've got about six of her… do you want it? You can start collecting,' said Ron, eating the chocolate.

Ron's eyes strayed to the pile of chocolate frogs waiting to be unwrapped, while Arabella was almost done her small pile that she bought.

'Help yourselves,' said Harry. 'But in, you know, the Muggle world, people just stay put in photos.'

'Do they? What, they don't move at all? Weird!' Ron sounded amazed while Arabella rolled her eyes and chuckled at Ron's antics.

Harry stared as Dumbledore sidled back into the picture on his card and gave him a small smile. Ron and Arabella were more interested in eating the frogs than looking at the Famous Witches and Wizards cards, but Harry couldn't keep his eyes of them. Soon he had not only Dumbledore and Morgana, but Hengist of Woodcroft, Alberic Grunnion, Circe, Paracelsus and Merlin. He finally tore his eyes away from the druidess Cliondna, who was scratching her nose, to open a bag of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans.

'You want to be more careful with those,' Ron warned Harry. 'When they say every flavour, they mean every flavour – you know you get all the ordinary one like chocolate and peppermint and marmalade, but then you can get spinach and liver and tripe. George reckons he had a bogey-flavoured one once.'

'Come off it. Bogey-flavoured? I highly doubt that Ron. It's disgusting!' said Arabella, picking up a bean and chewing one end of it. 'Chocolate, mmm…'

'Bit of a chocolate lover aren't you?' asked Ron, as he also picked up a green bean and carefully bit into a corner of it.

'Of course I am! It's the best thing in the world!' said Arabella, going for another chocolate frog.

'Blaeegh – see? Sprouts,' exclaimed Ron, trying to prove his point from before.

They had a good time eating the Every Flavour Beans. Harry got toast, coconut, baked bean, strawberry, curry, grass, coffee, sardine and was even brave enough to nibble the end off a funny grey one Ron wouldn't touch, which turned out to be pepper.

The countryside now flying past the window was becoming wilder. The neat fields had gone. Now there were woods , twisting rivers and dark green hills.

There was a knock on the door of their compartment and the round-faced boy Harry had passed on platform nine and three quarters came in. he looked tearful.

'Sorry,' he said, 'but have you seen a toad at all?'

When they shook their heads, he wailed, 'I've lost him! He keeps getting away from me!'

'He'll turn up,' said Arabella, trying to reassure the poor boy in front of them.

'Yes,' said the boy miserably. 'Well, if you see him…'

He left.

'Don't know why he's so bothered,' said Ron. 'If I'd brought a toad I'd lost it as quick as I could. Mind you, I brought Scabbers, so I can't talk.'

The rat was still snoozing on Ron's lap.

'He might have died and you wouldn't know the difference,' said Ron in disgust. 'I tried to turn him yellow yesterday to make him more interesting, but the spell didn't work. I'll show you, look more interesting, but the spell didn't work. I'll show you, look…'

He rummaged around his trunk and pulled out a very battered looking want. It was chipped in places and something white was glinting at the end.

'Are you sure that wand's safe? It has some of the feathers sticking out of it,' said Arabella, eyeing the end of the wand with uncertainty.

'It's fine. Unicorn hair's just poking out. Anyway –'

He had just raised his wand when the compartment door slid open again. The toadless boy was back, but this time he had a girl with him. She was already wearing her new Hogwarts robes.

'Has anyone seen a toad? Neville's lost one,' she said. She had a bossy sort of a voice, lots of bushy brown hair and rather large front teeth.

'We've already told him we haven't seen it,' said Ron, but the girl wasn't listening, she was looking at the wand in his hand.

'Oh, are you doing magic? Let's see it, then.'

She sat down. Ron looked taken aback.

'Er – all right.'

He cleared his throat.

'Sunshine, daisies, butter mellow,

Turn this stupid, fat rat yellow.'

He waved his wand, but nothing happened. Scabbers stayed grey and fast asleep.

'Are you sure that's a real spell?' said the girl. 'Well, it's not very good, is it? I've tried a few simple spells just for practice and it's all worked for me. Nobody in my family's magic at all, it was ever such a surprise when I got my letter, but I was ever so pleased, of course, I mean, it's the very best school of witchcraft there is, I've heard – I've learnt all our set books off by heart, of course, I just hope it will be enough – I'm Hermione Granger, by the way, who are you?'

She said this all very fast.

Harry looked at Ron and Arabella and was relieved to see by their stunned faces that they hadn't learnt all the set books by heart either.

'I'm Arabella Black,' said Arabella, still with a stunned look on her face.

'Ron Weasley ,' Ron muttered.

'Harry Potter,' said Harry.

'Are you really?' said Hermione. 'I know all about you, of course – I got a few extra books for background reading, and you're in Modern Magical History and The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts and Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century.'

'Am I?' said Harry, felling dazed.

'Goodness, didn't you know, I'd have found out everything I could if it was me,' said Hermione. 'Do any of you know what house you'll be in? I've been asking around and I hope I'm in Gryffindor, it sounds by far the best, I hear Dumbledore himself was one, but I suppose Ravenclaw wouldn't be too bad… Anyway, we'd better go and look for Neville's toad. You three had better change, you know, I expect we'll be there soon.'

And she left, taking the toadless boy with her.

'Whatever house I'm in, I hope she's not in it,' said Ron. He threw his wand back into his trunk. 'Stupid spell – George gave it to me, bet he knew it was a dud.'

'Did you see her? She didn't take a breath! How does she – wow!' muttered Arabella.

Harry turned to Ron.

'What house are your brothers in?' asked Harry.

'Gryffindor,' said Ron. Gloom seemed to be settling on him again. 'Mum and Dad were in it too. I don't know what they'll say if I'm not. I don't suppose Ravenclaw would be too bad.'

'What about you Arabella?' said Harry turning back to Arabella.

'Well, my mom and uncle Remus was in Gryffindor, but most of my family were in Slytherin,' said Arabella, as looking a bit gloom.

'Your family was in Slytherin?' said Ron, looking a bit astonished.

'Um… well… yeah… they're not really nice people, but my aunt Andy's a good person. My cousin is in Hufflepuff, so I don't know where I might go. I just hope it's not Slytherin,' said Arabella, looking a bit embarrassed talking about her family.

'Vol –I mean, You-Know-Who was in Slytherin, right?'

'Yeah,' said Ron. He flopped back into his seat, looking a bit depressed.

'You know, I think the ends of Scabbers' whiskers are a bit lighter,' said Harry, trying to take Ron's mind off houses. 'So what do your oldest brothers do now they've left, anyway?'

Harry was wondering what a wizard did once he'd finished school.

'Charlie's in Romania studying dragons and Bill's in Africa doing something for Gringotts,' said Ron. 'Did you hear about Gringotts? It's been all over the Daily Prophet, but I don't suppose you get that with the Muggles – someone tried to rob a high security vault.'

Harry and Arabella stared at Ron.

'What happened?' asked Arabella.

'Nothing, that's why it's such big news. They haven't been caught. My dad says it must've been a powerful Dark wizard to get round Gringotts, but they don't think they took anything, that's what's odd. 'Course, everyone gets scared when something like this happened in case You-Know-Who's behind it.'

Harry noticed that Arabella started to rum her arms again. He turned this news over in his mind. He was starting to get a prickle of fear every time You-Know-Who was mentioned. He supposed this was all part of entering the magical word, but it had been a lot more comfortable saying 'Voldemort' without worrying.

'What's your Quidditch team?' Ron asked.

'Puddlemere United,' replied Arabella.

'Er – I don't know any,' Harry confessed.

'What!' Ron looked dumfounded, while Arabella rolled her eyes. 'Oh, you wait, it's the best game in the world –' And he was off, explaining all about the four balls and the positions of the seven players, describing famous games he had been with his brothers and the broomstick he'd like to get if he had the money. Arabella offered some of the some of the fouls she learned while watching some games with her cousin. She was just about to tell him about Snitchnip when the compartment door slid open yet again, but it wasn't Neville the toadless boy or Hermione Granger this time.

Three boys entered and Harry recognized the middle one at once: it was the pale boy from Madam Malkin's robe shop. Harry noticed that Arabella went rather stiff as the pale boy was looking at Harry with a lot more interest than he'd shown back in Diagon Alley.

'Is it true?' he said. 'They're saying all down the train that Harry Potter's in this compartment. So it's you, is it?'

'Yes,' said Harry. He was looking at the other boys. Both of them were the thickest and looked extremely mean. Standing either side of the pale boy they looked like bodyguards.

'Oh, this is Crabbe and this is Goyle,' said the pale boy carelessly, noticing where Harry was looking. 'And my name's Malfoy, Draco Malfoy.'

Arabella narrowed her eyes when the boy introduced them while Ron gave a slight cough, which might have been hiding a snigger. Draco Malfoy looked at him.

'Think my name's funny, do you? No need to ask who you are. My father told me all the Wealeys have red hair, freckled and more children than they can afford.'

He turned to Arabella.

'And who might you be?'

'Arabella Black,' she said while still looking at him with narrowed eyes.

'Really? Why are you hanging out with people like him?' he pointed to Ron. 'You should be hanging out with us.' Arabella looked furious.

He turned back to Harry. You'll soon find out some wizarding families are better than others, Potter. You don't want to go making friends with the wrong sort. I can help you there.'

He held out his hand to shake Harry's, but Harry didn't take it.

'I think I can tell who the wrong sort are for myself, thanks,' he said coolly.

Draco Malfoy turned back to Arabella.

'What about you? We are family. I'll guide you along the right path.'

'I'm fine thank you very much,' said Arabella through her gritted teeth while glaring daggers at Draco Malfoy.

Draco Malfoy didn't go red, but a pink tinge appeard in his pale cheeks when he got rejected twice.

'I'd be careful if I were you, Potter,' he said slowly, turning back to Harry. 'Unless you're a bit politer you'll go the same way as your parents. They didn't know what was good for them, either. You hang around riff-raff like the Weasley and that Hagrid and it'll rub off on you. But if you hang around people like Black, they get you before you get them.'

Harry, Ron and Arabella stood up. Arabella's face just as red as Ron's hair.

'Say that again,' she said.

'Oh, you're going to fight us, are you?' Malfoy sneered.

'Unless you get out mow,' said Harry, more bravely than he felt, because Crabbe and Goyle were a lot bigger than him or Ron. Certainly bigger than Arabella.

'But we don't feel like leaving, do we, boys? We've eaten all our food and you still seen to have some.'

Goyle reached towards the Chocolate Frogs next to Ron – Ron leapt forward, but before he'd so much as touch Goyle, Goyle let out a horrible yell.

Scabbers the rat was hanging off his finger, sharp little teeth sunk deep into Goyle's knuckle – Crabbe and Malfoy backed away and Goyle swung Scabbers round and round, howling, and when Scabber finally flew off an hit the window, all three of then disappeared at once. Perhaps they thought there were more rat lurking among the sweets, or perhaps they'd heard footsteps, because a second later, Hermione Granger had come in.

'What has been going on?' she said, looking at the sweets all over the floor and Ron picking up Scabbers by his tail.

'I think he's been knocked out,' Ron told to Harry and Arabella. He looked closer to Scabbers. 'No – I don't believe it – he's gone back to sleep.'

And so he had.

'You've meet Malfoy before?'

Harry explained about their meeting in Diagon Alley.

'I've heard of his family,' said Ron darkly. 'They were some of the first to come back to our side after You-Know-Who disappeared. Said they'd been bewitched. My dad doesn't believe it. He says Malfoy's father didn't need an excuse to go over to the Dark Side.'

Harry turned to Arabella.

'Is he really your family?'

'Yeah, he's my cousin or something from my dad's side. All pureblood families are related somehow,' said Arabella, looking embarrassed about who she was related to. 'Just can't believe that his mother didn't tell him to stay away from me.'

'Don't worry. You don't need people like him,' said Ron. He turned to Hermione. 'Can we help you with something?'

'You'd better hurry up and put your robes on, I've just been up front to ask the driver and he says we're nearly there. You haven't been fighting, have you? You'll be in trouble before we even get there!'

'Scabbers has been fighting, not us,' said Ron, scowling at her. 'Would you mind leaving while we change?'

'All right – I only came in here because people outside are behaving very childishly, racing up and down the corridors,' said Hermione in a sniffy voice. 'And you've got dirt on your nose, by the way, did you know?'

Ron glared at her as she left. Harry peered out of the window. It was getting dark. He could see mountains and forests under a deep purple sky. The train did seem to be slowing down.

He and Ron changed in the compartment as Arabella changed in the washroom. As noticed that Ron's robes were a bit short for him, you could see his trainers underneath them.

A voice echoed through the train as Arabella came back from the washroom: 'We will be reaching Hogwarts in five minutes' time. Please leave your luggage on the train, it will be taken to the school separately.'

Harry's stomach lurched with nerves and Ron, he saw, looked pale under his freckles while Arabella looked excited. They crammed their pockets with the last of the sweets and joined the crowd thronging the corridor.

The train slowed right down and finally stopped. People pushed their way towards the door and out on to a tiny, dark platform. Harry shivered in the cold air. Then a lamp came bobbing over the heads of the students and Harry heard a familiar voice: 'Firs' years! Firs' years over here! All right there, Harry?'

Hagrid's big hairy face beamed over the sea of heads.

'C'mon, follow me – any more firs' years? Mind yer step, now! Firs' years follow me!'

Slipping and stumbling, they followed Hagrid down what seemed to be a steep, narrow path. It was so dark either side of them that Harry thought there must be thick trees there. Nobody spoke much. Neville, the boy who kept losing his toad, sniffed once or twice.

'Yeh'll get yer firs' sight o' Hogwarts in a sec,' Hagrid called over his shoulder, 'jus' round this bend here.'

There was a loud 'Oooooh!'

The narrow path had opened suddenly on to the edge of a great black lake. Perched atop a high mountain on the on the other side, its windows sparkling in the starry sky, was a vast castle with many turrets and towers.

'No more'n five to a boat!' Hagrid called, pointing to a fleet of little boats sitting in the water by the shore. Harry, Ron and Arabella were followed into there by Neville and Hermione.

'Everyone in?' shouted Hagrid, who had a boat to himself, 'Right then – FORWARD!'

And the fleet of little boats moved off all at once, gliding across the lake which was a smooth as glass. Everyone was silent, staring up at the great castle overhead. It towered over them as they sailed nearer and nearer to the cliff on which it stood.

'Heads down!' yelled Hagrid as the first boats reached the cliff; they all bent their heads and the little boats carried them through a curtain of ivy which hid a wide opening in the cliff face. They were carried along a dark tunnel, which seemed to be taking them right underneath the castle, until they reached a kind of underground harbour, where they clambered out on to rocks and pebbles.

'Oy, you there! Is this your toad?' said Hagrid, who was checking the boats as people climbed out of them.

'Trevor!' cried Neville blissfully, holding out his hands. Then they clambered up a passageway in the rock after Hagrid's lamp, coming out at last on to smooth, damp grass right in the shadow of the castle.

They walked up a flight of stone steps and crowded around the huge, oak front door.

'Everyone here? You there, still got yer toad?'

Hagrid raised a gigantic fist and knocked three times on the castle door.

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