Chapter 13: Disaster
I stood, slightly hunched, next to my thin, sallow-faced, sour-looking mother in King’s Cross Station on Platform 9 ¾. I was staring at a family of four a short distance away. The two girls stood a little apart from their parents. Lily seemed to be pleading with her sister. I moved closer to listen.
sorry, Tuney, I'm sorry! Listen!’ She caught her sister's hand and held tight
to it, even though Petunia tried to pull it away. ‘Maybe once I'm there… no,
listen, Tuney! Maybe once I'm there, I'll be able to go to Professor Dumbledore
and persuade him to change his mind!’
‘I don't… want… to… go!’ said Petunia, and she tried again to drag her hand back out of her sister's grasp. ‘You think I want to go to some stupid castle and learn to be a - a...’
Her pale eyes roved over the platform, over the cats mewling in their owners' arms, over the owls, fluttering and hooting at each other in cages, over the students, some already in their long black robes, loading trunks onto the scarlet steam engine or else greeting one another with glad cries after a summer apart.
‘… you think I want to be a - a freak?’
Lily's eyes filled with tears as Petunia succeeded in tugging her hand away.
‘I'm not a freak,’ said Lily. ‘That's a horrible thing to say.’
‘That's where you're going,’ said Petunia with relish. ‘A special school for freaks. You and that Snape boy...weirdos, that's what you two are. It's good you're being separated from normal people. It's for our safety.’
I frowned and shook my head. Petunia really was a nasty piece of work. I watched as Lily glanced toward her parents, who were looking around the platform with an air of wholehearted enjoyment, drinking in the scene. Then she looked back at her sister, and her voice was low and fierce.
‘You didn't think it was such a freak's school when you wrote to the headmaster and begged him to take you.’
I gasped and clapped my hand over my mouth as I tried not to yelp in laughter. Lily and I had found the entry in Petunia’s diary. Petunia turned scarlet.
‘Beg? I didn't beg!’
‘I saw his reply. It was very kind.’
‘You shouldn't have read…’ whispered Petunia, ‘that was my private… how could you…?’
Lily gave herself away by half-glancing toward where I stood. Petunia gasped.
‘That boy found it! You and that boy have been sneaking in my room!’
‘No, not sneaking.’ Now Lily was on the defensive. ‘Severus saw the envelope, and he couldn't believe a Muggle could have contacted Hogwarts, that's all! He says there must be wizards working undercover in the postal service who take care of –’
‘Apparently wizards poke their noses in everywhere!’ said Petunia, now as pale as she had been flushed. ‘Freak!’ she spat at her sister, and she flounced off to where her parents stood.
I started to walk towards Lily but she had already disappeared in the middle of the crowd bustling towards the Hogwarts Express.
I hurried along the corridor of the train as it clattered through the countryside. I had already changed into my school robes because I had taken the first opportunity to take off my dreadful Muggle clothes. At last, I stopped outside a compartment in which a group of rowdy boys were yelling and laughing. Hunched in a corner seat beside the window was Lily, her face pressed against the windowpane.
I slid open the compartment door and
squeezed past the boys, dodging immaculately shined shoes as they flew through
the air. I sat down opposite Lily. She glanced at me and then looked back out
of the window. She had been crying.
‘I don't want to talk to you,’ she said in a constricted voice.
‘Why not?’ I frowned. I couldn’t remember anything that I had done wrong.
‘Tuney h-hates me. Because we saw that letter from Dumbledore.’
She threw me a look of deep dislike. ‘So she's my sister!’
‘She's only a –’ I caught myself quickly; Lily, too busy trying to wipe her eyes without being noticed, did not hear me.
‘But we're going!’ I said, unable to suppress the exhilaration in my voice. ‘This is it! We're off to Hogwarts!’
She nodded, mopping her eyes, but in spite of herself, she half smiled.
‘You'd better be in Slytherin,’ I said, encouraged that she had brightened a little.
One of the boys sharing the compartment, who had shown no interest at all in me or Lily until that point, looked around at the word. He was slight with black hair that was messed up at the back and he wore circular, seeing glasses.
‘Who wants to be in Slytherin? I think I'd leave, wouldn't you, Sirius?’ The bespectacled boy asked the boy lounging on the seats opposite. Sirius did not smile.
‘My whole family have been in Slytherin, James,’ he said.
‘Blimey,’ said James, ‘and I thought you seemed alright!’
Sirius grinned. ‘Maybe I'll break the tradition. Where are you heading, if you've got the choice?’
James lifted an invisible sword. ‘Gryffindor, where dwell the brave at heart! Like my dad.’
Before I could stop myself, I made a small, disparaging noise. James turned on me.
‘Got a problem with that?’
‘No,’ I said, though I did, ‘If you'd rather be brawny than brainy.’
‘Where're you hoping to go, seeing as you're neither?’ interjected Sirius.
James roared with laughter. Lily sat up, rather flushed, and looked from James to Sirius in dislike. ‘Come on, Sev, let's find another compartment.’ She grasped my hand and pulled me up off the seat.
‘Oooooo...’ James and Sirius imitated her lofty voice; James tried to trip me as I passed.
‘See ya, Snivellus!’ a voice called, as I slammed the compartment door shut.
We found a compartment with only two girls sitting and talking to one another quietly. The girl in the right hand-side window seat had extremely pale skin and wild, curly, red hair that fell into her piercing, blue eyes. The girl sitting opposite her was very different. She had tan skin and long, straight, brown hair swept into a perfect ponytail and a side fringe fell to the side of her emerald green eyes that looked so like Lily’s.
We sat in silence for a couple of minutes until the girl with the frizzy, red hair put out her hand and introduced herself, ‘Demitri Fortescue,’ she smiled. Lily and I shook Demitri’s hand in turn. I found her blue eyes quite unnerving. I felt like she could see right through me.
‘Is your dad Florean Fortescue by any chance?’ Lily asked, her green eyes shining into Demitri’s blue ones.
‘Yes, yes! He’s my father! How do you know him?’
‘He gave us a free ice-cream when we ended up there because the Floo Network played up,’ I said, feeling goose bumps appear on the back of my neck at the thought of Voldemort controlling the Ministry.
‘Oh? Yes, he’s always doing that sort of thing. Kind heart my father’s got.’
‘You say the Floo Network played up, why? The girl on the left hand-side spoke for the first time since our arrival. ‘ I’m Regina Parkinson. Pureblood. My brother’s in 5th year. Turner Parkinson. Perhaps you’ve heard of him?’
‘No… I can’t say I have,’ said Lily cooly, her green eyes, a shade lighter than the girl’s, poured into Regina’s.
‘He’s Professor Dumbledore’s favourite student! He invented Hollering Hats!’
‘Your brother invented Hollering Hats?’ I said, incredulously.
‘You’re incredibly slow, aren’t you?’ She said cocking her head to the side. Then in an exaggeratedly slow voice, she said, ‘Yes – my – bro-ther – in-ven-ted – Ho-lle-ring - Hats.’ She rolled her eyes and turned back to look out of the window again. ‘You said the Floo Network played up?’
‘Yes.’ Lily said. My stomach jolted at her cool tone.
Regina’s head snapped around, her green eyes sparkling, ‘But do you know why?’
‘Yes! We do!’ I said, relieved that I finally knew something that Regina was quizzing me about.
‘Why?’ she asked, looking eagerly from me to Lily.
‘Rumours are that Voldem –’
‘DON’T YOU DARE SAY HIS NAME!’ Regina yelled, fear widening her large eyes further.
‘Fine. Rumours are that… You Know Who… Has taken control of the ministry,’ I told her, pressing my lips together and raising my eyebrows as if I was a doctor delivering bad news to a patient.
‘Yes way!’ Lily said fiercely. Demitri stared out the window and pretended not to listen.
‘I would have heard about it if it were true. Turner tells me everything that the 5th years say about You Know Who.’
‘Dad says it’s true,’ Demitri said quietly, still staring out of the window.
There was a long pause – no one knew what to say next. I cast around for a change of subject. “What house does everyone want to be in?”
‘Ravenclaw!’ Demitri replied quickly. I looked at her.
‘Slytherin!’ I said to her. ‘That’s the house I want to be in.’
‘I don’t know what house I want to be in…’ Lily said quietly.
‘Be in Ravenclaw! Where dwell the ready mind!’
‘Or Slytherin! Where dwell the cunning and the ambitious!’
‘Or Hufflepuff!’ We looked around to see who had spoken. A boy with dark hair and a friendly smile had opened the compartment door. ‘Where dwell the just and loyal.’
‘Cole!’ Demitri laughed. ‘Everyone this is Cole Macmillan. He’s a second year.’
‘I was wondering where I could find you!’ he said to Demitri, leaning over and embracing her in a hug.
We all laughed at our wit and Lily shook her head. ‘What about Gryffindor?’
‘Gryffindor. Where dwell the brave at heart,’ Cole said, smiling apologetically.
‘What about you Regina?’ Lily asked her quietly.
‘Slytherin,’ is all she said, still staring out of the window. She had lost interest once again.
We chatted until it fell dark outside and we couldn’t see the country side racing past. Cole and I left the compartment so that the girls could change into their robes.
‘How do you know Demitri?’ I asked him.
‘Oh we’ve known each other forever!’ He fiddled with his robes and then looked back up at me. ‘Our parents are good friends. What about you and Lily?’
‘Ummm… Well… I met her last summer and we’ve been best friends ever since. I was the one who told her she was magic.’
‘Wow! You’re a big part of her life… Are you excited to be going off to Hogwarts? You know… leaving your muggle life behind?’
‘Cole… You have no idea.’
About five minutes after we were allowed back into the compartment, the train slowed to a stop with a very loud squeal from the brakes.
There were several loud scraping noises followed by even louder chatter indicating that most people were leaving their compartments.
‘Well I suppose I’ll be seeing you in the castle. Good luck with the sorting.’ Cole gave Demitri a quick hug and joined the crowd bustling onto the platform.
I grabbed Lily’s hand quickly and we joined the crowd as well.
I breathed a lungful of cold autumn air and opened my eyes. My vision was all but obscured by the jostling mob but I could see the castle through gaps. Lily gasped, still holding tight to my hand. It was magnificent – tall and dark, but behind the windows, light shone out illuminating the accents of the grey brick and emphasising the dark shadows cast by the many towers and turrets.
‘Firs’ years follow me!’ We heard a low voice from the end of the station. Lily and I turned slowly and I drew in a sharp intake of breath as I took in the speaker. Before me, was a man at least eight foot tall and 4 foot wide. He had long, tangled, black hair and beard. ‘Firs’ years to the boats! Follow me!’
I nudged Lily with my elbow and pulled her along until we reached the small crowd of first years gathered below the enormous man.
‘This all o’ yeh? Ah well, follow me!’ We shuffled forward with the rest of the group who were whispering excitedly and pointing at various things including the huge man leading the way to the black lake.
Somebody was whispering beside me so I tried to listen. ‘That’s Rubeus Hagrid, that is. Game Keeper and Keeper of Keys at Hogwarts.’
We reached the edge of the lake and looked out over the vast expanse of black water. I wondered with a shiver what lay beneath the surface. My mother had never been able to afford swimming lessons.
‘I can’t swim!’ I whispered to Lily.
‘Me neither!’ she whispered back but when she looked at me her eyes sparkled with excitement not fear.
We clambered onto the boats and sat down. Lily and I were in a boat with Holly Jade, a blonde haired girl with big brown eyes and full, pink lips. We chatted with her as we glided across the water on the magical boats.
When we were in the centre of the lake the top of the castle came out of the clouds and the moon’s silvery light mixed with the yellowy light cast by the windows creating a golden effect on the walls of the castle.
‘Lily, look!’ I gasped. Lily spun around. She gasped too.
What happened next happened all too fast.
Lily scrambled to her feet and spread her arms out to the sides like the muggle aeroplanes. She wobbled uncontrollably and the boat shook.
‘No standing up on the boats,’ Hagrid called worriedly. ‘Sit down!’
‘Lily!’ I yelled. But it was too late. Lily had failed to regain her balance and she toppled into the black lake and disappeared under the dark water. ‘Lily!’
‘She can’t swim! You have to save her. She’ll die in there!’ I told myself. ‘But you can’t swim either! A voice in the back of my head told me. I didn’t care. All I wanted was for Lily to not be down in the black lake by herself.
What happened after that took even me by surprise. I jumped to my feet and dived in after her.
I was sinking really fast. Under the water was as black as black. I couldn’t even tell which way the surface was. My ears started to hurt like crazy and I scrabbled and fought with gravity but all I knew was down, down, down, down. I felt human skin touch my feet and I recoiled from the touch. I looked down but I still couldn’t see anything but black.
I was running out of breath and lights were starting to pop behind my eyes. I started to panic and I groped at the water with my arms and legs trying desperately to push myself back to the surface but I didn’t have any luck. I had finally resigned myself to death when I felt a scaly, slimy thing brush past me. The thing coiled itself around my waist and started to pull me down, down, down, down.
But wait! I could breathe again. I opened my eyes and looked around. I saw the castle… and the water. The water! I was high above the water sitting on what looked like a large pink and green tentacle. Looking around further I saw Lily sitting on another tentacle, dripping wet, yet smiling at me and laughing. The tentacle started to move toward her and it placed me gently beside Lily. She wrapped her arms around me and I did the same to her. Still in each other’s arms the tentacle lowered us both back into the boat where Jade was cheering and clapping.
The Giant Squid popped its many eyed head above the surface. I saw Hagrid give the squid a salute and a wink before it disappeared back under the water. Everyone was watching us now, still hugging each other tightly and shivering with both cold and fright. We let go of each other and James and Sirius wolf whistled from the boat in front of us.
I was sopping wet and exhausted from holding my breath. But we laughed. We laughed and laughed and laughed until we couldn’t laugh anymore.
‘Thank you, Sev,’ she said quietly when we settled down.
‘What for? I didn’t rescue you, the Giant Squid did.’
‘I know. But you tried to rescue me even though you couldn’t swim. You nearly died for me. It was really sweet.’ She blushed. I blushed too.
‘I just didn’t want you to drown without me,’ I smiled and tried to look nonchalant.
She hugged me again, her eyes filling with tears. ‘Oh stop! You’re going to make me cry.’
But I was far from crying. I was ecstatic.