- Chapter One -
The Hogwarts Express
"James, be good." Mrs Potter stood back to allow her husband to embrace their son. "If you've forgotten anything, we'll send it on in time for the morning post. But make sure you behave yourself. If I get a single owl telling me you've thrown a dungbomb at a professor or... or turned a fellow student into a tadpole-"
James grinned under the cover of the steam pouring from the scarlet steam engine. "Mum, I couldn't turn a student into a tadpole if I tried. Not even if you offered me a year's supply of sundaes from Florean Fortescue's ice-cream parlour."
Mr Potter ruffled his son's hair. "But you could give it a good go, right?" he asked, winking at James and shooting a mischievous look at his wife.
"Too right, I could. Those ice-creams are the best!" Then, catching his mother's eye, James adopted an innocent expression and added, "It probably wouldn't work, though. Like I said, transfiguring someone into a tadpole wouldn't be something I could manage... At least, not yet, anyway."
Mrs Potter sighed and shook her head. But she was smiling. "Oh, James! What am I going to do with you?"
"What are you going to do without him, more like," said her husband, though there was a note of sadness in his voice as he looked at James. "He's off to Hogwarts! We won't be seeing him for goodness knows how long."
James Potter grinned again. "Exactly! And it's going to be awesome!"
The steam engine behind them let out a huge whistle. All around, anxious parents were ushering their children - some with rats, owls, cats or toads - onto the Hogwarts Express.
"Well, promise me you'll be good."
I can't exactly promise, mum," said James, his eyes now straying over the rest of the platform. "You know I can't. I've got a reputation to create. But I might try to stay out of trouble... If it's worth my while." He ran one hand through his unruly dark hair, knowing fully well that he wasn't going to try and behave at all.
As soon as he got on that train...
His father seemed to be thinking along the same lines. "James, you know there are prefects on the Hogwarts Express, right? And they won't be afraid to give you detention if they catch you breaking the rules."
"Whatever. You think detentions scare me?" James stopped to take in the effect of this question on his parents. When they said nothing, however, he pressed on, "Nah-ah. Not me. I'm not scared of detentions. I laugh in the face of deten-"
The train whistled very loudly. Doors up and down the carriages were being slammed shut.
Mrs Potter let out a small shriek. "Quick, James! You'll miss the train!" She gestured frantically to her husband and seized one end of James' school trunk. "Stop dawdling, Fleamont, quickly and help me get James' things into a compartment!"
Mr Potter obeyed his wife without another word, hurrying over to a nearby carriage and flinging the door wide open. In a flurry of excitement and steam, James and his trunk were deposited safely on the Hogwarts Express - just in time, too.
As the pistons pumped into action and the train began to move, James joined his fellow pupils in waving out of the windows, while his parents and the station moved out of sight.
This was it. He was going to Hogwarts.
He could barely contain his excitement. For eleven whole years, he had itched to go to the prodigious wizarding school, had ached to explore the huge castle with its teachers and ghosts and its wonderful feel of magic. He had loved nothing better as a child than hearing his father's stories about school... the stories of mayhem and laughter and quidditch.
James adored quidditch. True, first-years weren't allowed their own boomsticks (James had been thoroughly disappointed when he'd read this on his acceptance letter), but that hadn't stopped him from begging his father for a new one in 'Quality Quidditch Supplies'. One day, James vowed, he would make the Gryffindor quidditch team - if, that is, he was put into Gryffindor in the first place. But he pushed that worry aside. Of course he would be put in Gryffindor. His whole family had been put in Gryffindor.
But God forbid he should be put in Slytherin.
He turned around and, seeing that the corridor behind him was empty, dragged his trunk to the nearest compartment. He peered through the door. It was completely full.
A group of fourth-year Hufflepuffs all stopped giggling and stared at him.
Feeling slightly awkward, James picked up the end of his trunk and decided to move on.
The next compartment he tried was also full, this time with a trio of boys, who were playing Exploding Snap, and a girl with long blonde curls, who was using her wand to coil her hair even more. They glanced at James as he passed, but soon lost interest and returned to their activities.
The girl flashed him a scornful look.
James moved on again, checking the third, fourth and fifth compartments to no avail. At the sixth compartment, however, he stopped. It was empty.
"Phew!" He paused beside the door to take a rest and was about to slide it open when a voice behind him made him jump.
"Any room in there?" The voice sounded like it belonged to a boy.
James whirled around, dropping his trunk on his foot as he did so. "Ouch!"
The boy let out a bark-like laugh and pushed his dark hair out of his eyes. He was very good-looking the kind of confident, relaxed good-looking that drew in the attention of everyone in the vicinity. "Sorry," he said, grinning as he folded his arms across his chest. "That must've hurt."
James, who was now massaging his foot, looked up at the boy. He grinned back, straightening up and pushing his glasses more securely onto his nose. "Yeah," he said heavily. "It did."
The boy pulled a face, then stood on tiptoe to see into the compartment. "So," he said and James noticed that the boy was taller than him. "Is anyone in there? I've been looking for somewhere to sit for ages. I'm Sirius, by the way."
"Er... I'm James," James muttered, as the boy leant over him to pull the compartment door open. "And, no. There's no one in there."
"Cool." Sirius side-stepped James' trunk, squeezed his own luggage through the gap between James and the wall, and kicked it carelessly through the door. "You're a first-year, too?"
"Yeah." Feeling relieved that he'd met someone else in his situation, James followed Sirius into the compartment and shut the door behind him. "How long d'you reckon the journey is?"
Sirius grinned at him, crossing one leg over the other as he sat down, talking up half a side of the compartment with his lazy position. "Dunno. Haven't got a clue. Around eight hours or so, I'm guessing."
James groaned to himself. "Merlin's beard! That's ages!"
"Can't be that long, or students would've died of boredom."
"They probably do die of boredom. They probably keel over before the lunch trolley turns up and have their bodies chucked out the window."
Sirius snorted. "I wouldn't be surprised. Forget boredom, I'm going to die of hunger."
They sat in silence for several minutes until James thought it was right to speak again. "You're not muggleborn, are you?" he asked. Sirius had the distinct air of someone who'd been brought up by wizards.
Looking slightly surprised at the question, Sirius shook his head. "Nope," he said. "I'm pureblood. Everyone in my family is magical. You?"
"Same. I couldn't wait to come to Hogwarts. I've been itching to get on this train for years."
"Me too." Sirius' face darkened for a moment before returning to normal. He wasn't going to start worrying about his family on his first day at Hogwarts. He wasn't worried, anyway. He was Sirius Black. But he changed the subject nevertheless. "What's your Quidditch team?"
James' eyes lit up. Any conversation about Quidditch was one he was always eager to join. "The Wimborne Wasps! They rule!"
Sirius looked playfully indignant. "They do not! Puddlemere United are much better."
Raising an eyebrow in mock disbelief, James smirked at Sirius. "Oh, yeah?" he asked.
"Yeah. They are. You know that they are. Puddlemere United thrashed the pants off the Wasps last season - remember that epic bludger attack?"
"Of course I do!" cried James, with real indignation this time. He had, after all, obsessively followed every match on the Wizarding Wireless. "But the Wasps have a great team. That bludger thing was just a one-off slip-up. They're on form, usually."
Sirius snorted and pushed his hair off his face. It seemed to keep falling into his eyes, although Sirius clearly didn't care. "Yeah, usually. Not always, like Puddlemere United are. The Wasps let in an absolute ton of goals, last season. And the season before that."
"No, they didn't!" protested James. Then he glanced at Sirius's expression. He sighed. "Okay, fine. They weren't so great last season-"
"-Or the one before," Sirius reminded him, grinning.
James found himself grinning too. "Fine. Or the one before. But they're still pretty damn good, compared to Puddlemere's handful of novices."
"Handful of novices?" said Sirius, closing his eyes as if James had mortally offended him. "Excuse me? You can't call such a superb Quidditch team a 'handful of novices'! It should be made illegal. It's disgusting! Puddlemere United are way better than the Wimborne-blasted-Wasps!"
"They are not!"
"They are!" cried Sirius, standing up and jumping up and down. He pretended to sing. "Beat back those bludgers, boys, and chuck that Quaffle here!"
"Argh! My ears!" laughed James, ducking his head to avoid Sirius' 'singing'. "Whatever. Puddlemere United sucks. End of story."
"It is not 'end of story'"
"Um, yes. It is. It is one hundred per-cent the end of the story."
"Fine," said Sirius, but he was grinning. "If you want to be childish-" He sat down and bent over his trunk, unfastening the lid and extracting his school robes from underneath a pile of spellbooks.
James grinned back at him and bent over his own trunk. "I am not childish!" He pulled his robes, just as Sirius had done, from the heap of school things. "Time to change, d'you reckon?"
"Might as well. We've got a good couple of hours to kill before we get there."
James pulled his jumper over his head and lobbed it unceremoniously at the untidy mass of the trunk.
Sirius followed suit, tugging on his brand-new robes with a look of restrained delight. He felt like a student. A squeaky-clean, goody-two-shoes, first-year student.
Well, he wasn't going to be good for much longer...
Sirius was going to play as many pranks as he could over the next seven years, to make up for all the time he'd spent under the restraint of the 'Noble House of Black'.
He pulled out his wand. "Want to explore the rest of the train?" he asked James, who was now closing the lid of his trunk.
James looked up, surprised. Then his face broke into an expression of mischievous wonder. "You bet! We can find out who the other first-years are..."
"...And maybe play some tricks on the students. The older students..."
James smirked. "The ones that think they know better..."
"...The ones that think they're so cool..."
"...But we know they're not," James finished. "C'mon."
Sirius rolled up the sleeves of his school robes. "Where's your wand? It might be useful, even if we don't know much magic yet."
Standing up, James extracted his wand from his pocket and reached over to slide the compartment door open. "Where first?"
Sirius thought about it. Then he had a brainwave. "I know!" he said excitedly, standing up too and leading the way out of the compartment. "We can spy on the prefects' carriage. I bet they think they're high-and-mighty."
"Yeah, I bet they do." James followed Sirius out into the corridor. "What are we going to do when we get there? Have you got any dungbombs?"
Sirius sighed. "No. My parents would kill me if I even tried to bring them. You?"
"Yeah, I've got a couple. I had to smuggle them out under my invisibility cloak, though... And I was kind of saving them for when we got to Hogwarts."
An expression of awe crossed Sirius' face. "Hang on, you've got an invisibility cloak?" he asked, gaping at James.
James grimaced. "Uh... Well, kind of. It's my dad's, but it'll be mine when he dies. I wasn't really meant to take it to Hogwarts, but..." He grinned sheepishly. "I mean, it's an invisibility cloak, for Merlin's sake! How could I not take it? Anyway, dad probably won't notice and, even if he does, he won't be getting it back."
"Wow..." The impressed smile did not fade from Sirius' features. "Wow, that's awesome! But never mind about the dungbombs. We'll just go and spy on the prefects as we are."
"Fair enough," said James, running one hand through his already-messy hair. "Now, let's get going or we won't be back in time for the lunch trolley. I don't want to miss it. I've heard the pumpkin pasties are worth killing for."
The two boys set off down the corridor.
This chapter was originally much longer and so I apologise for the potentially lame ending.
Also, the chapter was supposed to be called 'Friends, a Prefect and a Couple of Enemies', but it had to be cut short at the 'Friends' part, so I called it 'The Hogwarts Express', instead. The next chapter will probably be named using the original title :)
Feel free to drop me your thoughts in the comments below - thanks for reading!
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