A/N: Well, here we are again. Thanks to everyone who reviewed, as well as to Incurable Romantic for visiting me at work just to talk fan fiction and to Yolanda for doing a super-bodacious job of beta-ing.
Read and review, please!!!
It turns out that I'm not going back to the land of boredom and mediocrity this year! Mum and Dad are letting me go to a boarding school up north this year, and it promises to much more fun than that place I used to go that they called a school. Of course, that's not saying much. One of the teachers came to visit us and she was really nice. I can't wait until I go!!
Of course, I will miss you, a lot. You are my best friend in all the whole wide world! I'll write every time I get a chance, and you'd better write me, too. You can tell me about everything that's going on here in Birmingham so when I came back I'm not completely in the dark!! Just send the letters to Mum and Dad and they'll make sure I get them, because I don't know if we're allowed to get letters from anyone but our parents.
Hope you have a fun year!
Life was good, Agnes decided just two short months later.
Professor Sinistra had taken them to a place called Diagon Alley a few days after her visit, showed them the Wizard Bank, Gringotts, where her mother changed some Muggle money into odd coins that Professor Sinistra called "Sickles, Knuts, and Galleons." The goblins had been scary at first, with their harsh stares and cold demeanor, but eventually she'd gotten use to them and realized that they were actually very good at their job. Their no nonsense attitude meant that they really got their work done faster than she would have imagined, and they were very good at math, changing their money in just a few seconds without the use of a calculator or cash register.
After that they had gone to get her robes, cauldron, books, parchment and quills and all the other things she would need. Their last stop had been a dusty looking old store with a sign overhead that read "Olivander's: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C." Inside the store were boxes upon boxes, each with a wand like Professor Sinistra's, except each one was just a bit different- longer or shorter, thicker or thinner, lighter or darker woods. There was so much to take in just one store!
An old man had suddenly appeared, carrying more of the boxes. When he saw the Professor, he had set them down quickly and greeted them. "Ah, Professor Sinistra, let me see…mahogany and unicorn tail hair, ten inches if I'm correct?"
"Right as always, Mr. Ollivander. I have a student here who needs to be fitted. She's Muggleborn, so you wouldn't know her parents."
But Ollivander had already been perusing the shelves, seeming to know what he was looking for, though how he could keep track of all the various wands, Agnes wasn't sure. Suddenly he had stopped and pulled a box off the shelf. "Let's try this one," he had suggested, and had held it out to her. "Holly and dragon heartstring." But before she could touch it, he had pulled it away and set it back in the box. They had gone through this same sort of ritual many times. Sometimes he would actually let her hold it, before grabbing it away and throwing another one at her. It had seemed like she must have been offered every wand in the shop, but finally she had heard a triumphant "Ah-ha!" from Mr. Ollivander and he had handed her a light colored wand that was a bit longer than the others she'd seen. "Willow and kneazle whisker. An odd core, but it should be a good wand for you. It'll prove a bit temperamental at times, but I have a feeling you'll be able to handle it."
And, thus, wand in hand, Agnes, her mother and Professor Sinistra had left Diagon Alley, laden with boxes full of wonderful new things. Agnes couldn't wait until she actually got to Hogwarts and could open up her new trunk and try on her school robes and do magic!
And today was the day that the Hogwarts Express left Platform Nine and Three-Quarters at King's Cross Station and brought her to her new home! She was so excited she couldn't stand it, and spent most of her time running around the house in glee, narrowly avoiding most of the more breakable items of her mothers. When she wasn't doing this, she would bother her mother, who was busy counting underwear and socks to make sure she would have enough for the coming year.
"Are you sure you have everything, dear?" her mother would ask at these times. "Are you sure that you don't want to bring Mr. Fluff? Just in case you get lonely for home?"
"Honestly, Mother!" Agnes exclaimed, imaging she sounded very grown up. "Why would I need a stupid stuffed rabbit, anyway? The other girls would just tease me!"
"Just a suggestion, dear. I don't want you to get too homesick."
"I won't get homesick, mom!! I'll be having too much fun!"
Her mother pursed her lips, clearly not believing Agnes, but didn't remark. "You do have everything, though?"
"Yes, Mum. And I promise to write home if I need anything."
Her Mum smiled. "Oh, I'll miss you, pumpkin. Don't get into too much trouble, now. I'll be going with you to the train station, but your father has to work. You'd best say goodbye to him before he leaves."
Her father was sitting at the kitchen table, reading the newspaper. He looked up as she entered "How's my little witch? All ready to go."
"Yes, Dad. Mum says you can't come to the train station with us."
"No, indeed, I have to go to work. And you had better get going-you don't want to miss that train, do you?" his eyes twinkled, and Agnes realized how much she was going to miss her father.
"No…I'll miss you, Dad."
"And I'll miss you, my grown up girl. Have fun way up north, and write us everyday with all the wonderful things you'll be doing."
"Don't worry, I will," she wrapped her arms around him and he hugged her back tightly, lifting her off the floor. "Bye, Dad."
"Bye sweetheart. Remember that we love you!"
And with one more hug she went back to her room, where all of her things had finally made their way into the trunk. Her mother stood up. "Now, I've put one set of school robes on top so you can change when you get on the train. Are you sure you're ready?"
"Yes, Mum!" He voice was falsely cheerful. Now that her adventure was about to start she wasn't sure if she wanted to go. All those new people, and new rules, and even new subjects…she was going to miss her familiar old room and her parents and even her old school. At least her old school had Heather, her best friend ever. At Hogwarts she wouldn't know anyone. But she had resolved herself to doing this, and she wasn't going to let her mother know that she wasn't sure. "Let's go already!"
It took more time than they thought to get the bulky trunk into their little sudan, but eventually it fit in and they were off. Agnes took one last final glance at her home before the car turned the corner off their block. Somehow, she felt that this coming year wasn't going to be as great s she thought.
Platform 9 and ¾ was bustling when they came pushing through the brick wall as professor Sinistra had instructed them, even though there was still half an hour until the train left. Along the whole platform were kids, from her age to some that must have almost been adults. They were loading their trunks onto the train, standing in groups talking, being hugged, kissed, scolded, and handed things by parents, grandparents, even younger siblings. There were owls flying everywhere, and she heard one boy ask someone "Have you seen my toad?" After that Agnes was careful to watch where she stepped She didn't want to be a toad murderer on her first day of school.
Her mother handed her what was left of the wizarding money that they had changed. "Just in case you need anything. And don't be afraid to ask if there's anything you forgot to get. And if you have any problems, tell Professor Sinistra right away and she'll help you out, okay? And if you get homesick…"
"Mum!" Agnes interrupted. "I'll be fine. I should get on the train." The number of students on the platform had diminished to just a few small groups of people, and one large one that consisted mostly of redheads of various ages, gathered around two adults with red hair. In fact, only two of the group DIDN'T have red hair-one with black and one with brown.
Agnes's mother swept her up in an enormous hug. "Be good. Do your schoolwork. And listen to your teachers. And…"
"Yes, mum, I will." She hugged her mother back. "Bye."
"Remember we love you, dear. We always will."
"Don't worry about me, Mum," Agnes disengaged herself from her mother's arms. "I should get on the train."
She gathered up her things and climbed aboard, where she hesitated. Not sure where to go next, she asked one of the redheads who was just getting on the train. "Excuse me, but where should I go?"
The redhead, the only girl besides the one with brown hair, smiled. "Just find a compartment and sit down. We'll get going soon enough."
"Thank you," Agnes said as she moved down the corridor. There was a compartment at the end that was still empty, so she settled herself down there. Soon after the girl with red hair came and sat with her. "Do you mind if I join you? My git of a brother made me leave him and his friends. They're having some sort of secret discussion. My name's Ginny, what's yours?"
"Agnes. I'm a first year," Agnes liked this Ginny. She wasn't afraid to talk to people. "How old are you?"
Ginny's eyes darkened for a moment. "I'm a second year. My brother Ron and his friends are third years, and he thinks that makes him better than me. Well, what does he know?"
"That's right! I just met you and you're already one of my favorite people in the world," Agnes told her. "I mean, you're really nice, and you're not afraid of anything."
"Whoa, hold on. You shouldn't trust people so quickly," Ginny told her. Her eyes got dark again. "Goodness knows I learned that one the hard way."
Agnes was about to ask what she meant when a boy came to the door. "Have you seen…" but he trailed off when he saw Ginny. "Oh, it's you. Never mind," he said quickly and nervously as he shut the door. Ginny glared after him. After a moment she stuck her tongue out, as an after thought. Agnes giggled.
But Ginny didn't seem to find it funny, and she turned to the window and glared out it for a while. The silence that filled the compartment was very tense, and Agnes felt sure she'd done something wrong. She was about to ask what, when Ginny spoke again. "You know, some people are just plain gits sometimes. You make one mistake and you pay for it forever."
"I know what you mean. I mean, once last year I hadn't been listening to the teacher, and he asked me a question, but I didn't hear him, so he said ‘well, Smith, what's your answer?' and so I said ‘Bath' because we were studying local geography and he just looked at me. It turned out he was asking me what I thought the most lacking part of the class was in an effort he called ‘class democracy.' Everyone laughed, and so he kept asking me the hardest questions all year, trying to catch me making another mistake. But I was too smart for him. And he didn‘t try class democracy anymore."
Ginny smiled, though her eyes didn't. "Good on you! That'll be good, because one of the teachers here is really a pain and is always picking on students he doesn't like. He won't be able to get to you, though."
Agnes grinned. No matter what Ginny said about trusting people, Agnes still liked her as much as she had when they had started talking. A bout of curiosity struck her. "What house are you in? Professor Sinistra came to my house to help me and my parents…"
"‘My parents and me'" Ginny corrected.
"…and she told me all about them. I want to be in Ravenclaw, but any of them would be wonderful, I'm sure."
Ginny smiled at that. "I'm in Gryffindor, though some brave Gryffindor I turned out to be." The last part she had muttered under her breath. "So're my brothers, and all of Ron‘s, my third year brother, friends."
"That's really horrible that they didn't let you stay with them. I don't think I like them very much." Agnes decided.
Ginny smiled a bit. "They're nice. Hermione is really nice to me and she's very smart. If you ever need help with your lessons, talk to her. And Harry…well, he's Harry, so that makes him wonderful." Ginny blushed as she said this, making Agnes giggle. Ginny continued "Ron's okay most of the time, but then he gets in moods and can be mean. But he makes a great older brother when he tries. My other brothers-well, Bill and Charlie are wonderful. They're all grown up and everything, but they visit and take me out and things. Percy, he's still at Hogwarts, though this is his last year. He can be a bit overwhelming sometimes, and he's very pompous. He's hoping to get a job at the Ministry after he leaves. I'll miss him. Fred and George-they're twins- are really great, but don't take anything that they offer you. They like playing pranks on people."
Agnes, who had grown up without any siblings at all, was intrigued by Ginny's description of her family. How wonderful it must be to have people to take you out and to play with you without having to ask your parents if they can come over. How wonderful to have people looking out for you all the time, to take care of you at school and things. Agnes wished that she could have had an older brother. She was about to ask Ginny questions about her family-where did they live, what were her parents like, all sorts of questions- but a knock at the door interrupted her.
"Does anyone in here have a couple sickles I could…never mind." Another person, this time a girl, had stuck her head into the compartment. When she saw Agnes she looked warningly at Ginny. "Don't you go corrupting any first years. You're in enough trouble as it is."
Ginny was staring out the window again, pointedly ignoring the girl, and soon the girl shook her head, muttered to herself, and left the compartment. The silence reigned again.
This time Agnes broke it. "Why did you come and sit with me? Where are your friends?"
Ginny sat up straight and stared ahead blankly for a while, but otherwise showed no sign of having heard Agnes. The younger girl took a breath to start again, when Ginny whispered, "I don't have any."
"What?" Agnes exclaimed. "No friends? How could someone as nice as you not have any friends?"
Ginny smiled sadly. "It's a long story. I'm sure you'll hear it this year, but don't believe everything your told. I didn't have the best first year. In fact, it was rather horrible."
"Oh, I'm sorry. Well, I'll be your friend"
Smiling a bit broader, but still not all the way to her eyes, Ginny nodded. "Well, then I'll be glad to have you as my first real Hogwarts friend. But, I'm sorry to say, I'm exhausted. You don't mind if I take a bit f a nap? Wake me when the witch with the cart gets here?"
"Sure," Agnes replied, then added. "After all, what are friends for?"