Platform Nine and Three Quarters

7

The last year, his seventh, Percy was too distracted to really notice the platform. After all, he'd done this many times before and it hardly warranted his attention. The train platform was just the place he had to go in order to board the train and get to school. His mind was full of plans and lessons and important business, and the platform itself held little novelty to draw his thoughts back outward.

He gave his family a distracted wave, heading as quickly as he could for the car where he could settle in and think, without being disturbed. His mother had her hands full, anyhow, with her youngest children. He wondered, briefly, how she would manage with a house suddenly empty of children, through the winter.

He dismissed the concern -- surely she would be pleased to have her home to herself, once more, after years and years of a mother first and anything else, second. He would be sure to write her a bit more often, just in case. Then he spotted Penelope, and went to help her get her trunk on the train and she was congratulating him on being named Head Boy and all thoughts of his family were safely tucked away where they belonged. Platform nine and three quarters was just a place of transit, moving between the world of home and the world of school, and he didn't even think of the years gone by.


6

The sixth year he'd really not been interested in anything but getting on board the train. He had his Prefects' car to board, and his fellow Prefects to be with. He had Penelope waiting for him, somewhere -- hopefully far away from his family, as he'd asked. He didn't care to start off the year defending her from the twins' pranks, as they'd threatened all summer to do. They'd described several of their intentions, and he'd threatened them with everything from turning their wands into noodles, to telling their mum what they'd done.

He could hear students and parents all talking to one another, most of them saying the same things they always said on the day they left for school. Percy tuned them out, not bothering to listen for any one particular voice. He had a place to be, a train car to find and the badge on his chest was proof enough for that, as anything. As soon as he got off the platform, and onto the train -- things would be different. At Hogwarts, he was a Prefect. He had a girlfriend who was pretty, smart, and a Prefect as well. He could spend his free time with her, and on his studies, and performing his duties as a Prefect, and not have to think about anything else.

As he found the right car, he spotted Howard, a Hufflepuff sixth year, and he smiled. The Prefects. He'd arrived.


5

In his fifth year he'd been completely distracted by his Prefect status. He'd been told he should meet the other Prefects up at the front of the train, where they'd get a car to themselves. He was excited, and nervous -- surely he wouldn't mess this up, surely they wouldn't have chosen him if he were likely to?

The rest of the family was in typical sheer chaos. Ginny had been alternating all morning between crying, and begging her brothers for presents and treats to make up for her not being allowed to go to Hogwarts with them. Their mother kept her hand on her daughter -- to keep her from sneaking into one of the trunks, Percy supposed. He'd thought about offering to help, holding Ginny's hand to keep her calm and out of the way, but Fred and George kept staving off another bout of tears with their jokes, and Percy's help was never quite needed.

Ron was trying not to look excited -- Percy noticed that he looked like he was about to swallow a double cockroach cluster all at once, mouth open as he gaped at everything. Percy kept his grin to himself -- the platform was rather overwhelming when you were expected to navigate it, not lose your belongings, and find an empty seat without making your mother think you were too young to be out on your own. Mum was tending to him, however, and another boy who seemed to be there without any parents.

All in good hands, then, so he'd given his family a short wave, glancing them over to make sure they didn't require his assistance -- but what were Fred and George good for, if not hauling about everyone's large school trunks, anyway? He excused himself and moved along the crowded platform, looking for faces he knew.

Not friends, not exactly. But he had hopes, and what he admitted were high expectations that they would fast become so. They were all Prefects, and that gave them something in common. Places only they were allowed, things they were required to do and duties no one else in the school had to contend with. It would give them reasons to bond, to spend time together, and perhaps...well, there was no doubt about it, really, that he would make new friends and new contacts and find the place for himself at Hogwarts he'd been waiting for.

He'd be one of the few, and the privileges that being a Prefect afforded would more than make up for everything he'd endured over the summer, from his brothers.


4

Percy's fourth year had been a little disappointing. He'd not expected to meet Oliver at the platform, like they had last year, but he'd sort of hoped he wouldn't be stuck with the twins, his mother, and the two babies.

Granted, Ron and Ginny weren't really babies, but they acted like it, still, and Percy just wanted to get on the train and be gone to school. It wasn't quite the escape he could have hoped for -- Fred and George were going to be there, after all. But they mostly ignored him, except to make him the butt of their jokes in front of all of Gryffindor. Nothing unlike home, and he did have years of experience dodging their pranks. That wasn't to say he managed, every time, but this would be their second year and their classes were starting to get a bit more difficult, so hopefully they'd be too distracted to annoy him.

Either that or they'd be in detention too often to do more than make plans.

Percy hauled his trunk towards the end of the train, still looking about for the other fifth year Gryffindors. He didn't spot any, though he did see Jacob and Randall and Stewart, all sixth years, standing together, talking. He didn't go up to them, as they weren't more than friendly schoolmates. But he could stand nearby and pretend he was just there, waiting for his own friends to arrive.

Fred and George had already latched onto Lee, their comrade in arms, and were being scolded quite firmly by Mum. Percy grinned -- they'd lasted five minutes longer than last year. Ron and Ginny were eating chocolates and pretending they didn't care -- Percy knew that as soon as they got back home they'd delight in having run of the house and yard. Percy wished them well, as, unlike the twins, they were hardly likely to get into his room and damage any of his stuff.

He looked around again for Oliver, or even Agatha, another fourth year who was a pleasant sort, and quiet. Percy hadn't kept in touch with Oliver over the summer like he'd intended, and Oliver hadn't exactly written him asking him why. Oliver had been named Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team last year, and during the spring he'd taken to hanging about with the other players, talking constantly about strategy and practises and studying past games. Percy supposed he should be grateful to be spared the nonsense.

He navigated his way back through the students on the platform, to tell his mum goodbye, and promise that he'd send an owl as soon as they arrived and had got settled in. Then the train whistle blew, and it was time to be gone.


3

Fred and George were going to do their level best to make Percy's third year pure hell. He just knew it. He'd been trying to stand about, waiting until he could snag a good seat on the train next to Oliver. He'd already loaded his trunk on so he wouldn't have it to contend with. But his two younger brothers had decided that *he* was going to be their personal tour guide on their first year to Hogwarts. They'd decided to start with the platform -- as though there was anything at all to see here. People, and luggage, and a train. What was there to explain?

They were laughing and joking and pointing, like complete rubes, and making Percy wish he'd dyed his hair brown so he wouldn't be so obviously related to them. Their mum was just grinning, like their excitement was rubbing off. She kept pointing things out, and reminiscing about her own years at Hogwarts, and how the train ride had always been the best part.

Percy hoped she was secretly telling them to be quiet and pay attention on the trip, even if it didn't sound like that, to him. Finally, though, he spotted Oliver, and he gave his mother a wave and a quick goodbye. He'd set off through the crowd to meet his best friend, leaving his brothers to find their own way onto the train. They could get lost, for all he cared. He hoped they would leave him alone once they got to school, because if there was one thing he didn't need, it was two younger brothers following him around.

He got to Oliver, and stooped to pick up the other end of his trunk. Oliver gave him a shy smile, which Percy found himself returning. They started catching up on the days since last they'd talked -- three days since Percy had sent Oliver an owl, and four since Oliver had sent Percy one. Nothing much had happened since, but they had it all to talk about, anyway.

School was going to be grand, this year. He knew it. As long as Fred and George stayed far, far away -- perhaps he and Oliver could run away to the Forbidden Forest, if it got bad. Or -- better -- send Fred and George in, to hunt for buried treasure. It had worked when they were four, in the backyard. Why shouldn't it work now?

He'd have to be ready to do something, Percy knew. Because, as wonderful as the school year was going to be, all it would take to ruin it would be for his brothers to find out things they had no business knowing.


2

Percy stood nervously on the platform, staying near his mum and the little ones. It was tricky for her to keep an eye on all four of them, even with a Wander Not charm. Fred and George always seemed able to slip the spell, and little Ginny was getting rather deft at it, as well. Percy kept an eye on Ron and Ginny while his mum got everything sorted out. Percy was excited, though of course he didn't show it. His second year at Hogwarts -- a whole year to be at school, with his friends, and away from his brothers.

He felt guilty about being so excited, which was why he kept it hidden. He didn't like leaving his mum alone to take care of four children. Ron and Ginny didn't get into all that much trouble, but they were too young to be left too much to their own devices. Fred and George, however, needed all the watching after one could muster. Fortunately, their father was cutting back on his hours at work this year, so he could be home every day well in time for supper and evenings. Percy was glad of it -- no one had better luck getting Fred and George distracted from mischief, than their father.

The platform was huge, and noisy, and Percy noted with some satisfaction that the twins were looking about with expressions of envy. He smiled, though not smugly, and he didn't call them on it. He'd told them stories of Hogwarts all summer, precisely to make them jealous of his going. It looked as though it had worked. He'd spent hours talking about how glad he was to be going back, how fun his classes were, how much work he expected to do. He'd even dragged out his books and done his homework over the summer -- every last bit of it -- so they could see him, and be reminded. A little petty, he knew, but since he had to do his summerwork anyhow, he didn't see the harm in one-upping Fred and George along the way.

He was about to ask his mother one last time if she was sure she didn't want him back over the holidays, to take care of the kids. Last year she'd let him stay at school with his friend Oliver, to enjoy the peace and quiet of the holidays like he'd never done before. He knew, but would never tell her he knew, that it was also easier for her to leave him at school so she had one less mouth to feed. Before he could ask, he spotted Oliver. Percy shouted, and waved. Ron and Ginny stopped playing on his trunk and looked over, and Fred and George began plying Oliver with questions as soon as he arrived.

Percy fended them off by drafting them to haul his and Oliver's trunks onto the train, then pointing out they had to board as the whistle would blow soon. He hurried Oliver away from his family as quickly as he could, and they found seats on a car with some other Gryffindors and Ravenclaws. Oliver looked back at his own family, waving, then glanced towards Percy's. Percy and Oliver exchanged looks, then burst out laughing. They settled in their seats to wait the fifteen minutes before the train's whistle would blow.


1

This was Percy's first time away from home, alone. His first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He glanced down at his trunk -- Bill's old one. It was packed with all sorts of things he could barely believe -- books and equipment and robes, all scrounged from Charlie's and Bill's closets and the used and sales racks from the shops at Diagon Alley. And they were all his. Percy felt like laughing, or jumping up and down. He didn't, because Charlie would look at him like he'd gone off his nut, or something. He'd already got one of those looks when he'd grinned excitedly after going through the barricade to get to the platform.

Percy looked over at his brother. Charlie had come home for a quick holiday from work to take Percy to the train station. His mum had her hands full -- the twins were sick and Ron was going through what his parents called a 'phase'. Percy felt that Ron was just trying to get into trouble a lot to compete with Fred and George -- which he was doing rather well. Percy had spent the entire summer trying to keep his littlest brother entertained and out of their mum's hair. But whenever Percy turned his back, Ron was off again on something else, half the time doing something the twins had told him was a good idea.

Percy was sort of glad to be leaving home. He felt bad about that, since he knew things would be even worse, now, for his mum. Four little kids to take care of, and no one to help her. He'd tried to tell her he could start school next year, or even the year after -- she'd just laughed and told him not to be silly. He was embarrassed, now, to tell anyone he'd offered, but he did think he ought to be home, helping out even if he was secretly glad he wasn't.

Charlie had told him all about the train ride to Hogwarts, and that once he got to the school grounds there would be nothing to worry about -- barring schoolwork, of course. Charlie hadn't told him anything about the Sorting Ceremony, or what the school was like, or any of the professors. He'd just grinned and said the fun was in the discovering, and besides which things changed so much over the years anything he had to say might not be true any more.

Percy secretly wished his brother was still at Hogwarts. Percy had not only never been away from home, alone, he'd never lived away from his family. Now, for the entire year he'd be living at school with students and teachers, without a single family member in sight. It might be good, he told himself, as he watched the crowds of people gathering on the platform. There were a lot of people, lots of trunks and cages and people milling about. The train was pulled up to the platform already, looking huge and shiny. Percy wanted to go over to it and inspect it, but Charlie was just standing there, scanning the crowd, so Percy stood with him.

Before Percy could drum up the courage to ask Charlie what they were waiting for, he heard his brother call out the name Maurice. Charlie waved, and glanced down at Percy, telling him to wait there. Percy nodded, and watched as his brother disappeared into the crowd. Apparently to meet a friend, Percy thought, and he stood by his trunk and watched the other kids and parents and tried to imagine, once again, what it was going to be like.

Another boy crossed in front of him, and their eyes met. Percy smiled, and the boy smiled back -- another first year. The boy's mother came up behind him and told him to hurry along to the train, and Percy watched him go. There was a funny feeling in the pit of his stomach, and Percy wondered if he would meet the boy again, once they got to Hogwarts.


the beginning