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September 1, 1991
I watched the old, beat up 1978 Vauxhall sputter its way down the road as I turned away from my old life.
They couldn't get rid of me fast enough. I stifled a sneer. Wouldn't even accompany me to the station I'm supposed to enter.
And yet, as I stared at the large railway station known as King's Cross, I couldn't help the smile and excitement that coursed through me. Not even the chore of hauling my school trunk to grab a trolley dampened my spirits.
I followed the signs, taking my time- It was all too easy to convince the matron to drop me off early. I meandered through the building's sections, trying to figure out how the wizards even managed to fit an entire platform in here.
Was size-expansion magic that strong, or was the gateway some kind of portal? Speaking of the gateway…
I stared at the nondescript wall between platforms nine and ten. This was where it all would start. My thirst for magic, my quest to solve the mysteries of the world.
With no hesitation, I walked towards it, watching as the trolley seemed to simply blend into the wall, with me following suit.
I felt a tingling on my skin as I came out the other side. That had been strange. But, what really got my attention was the train before me. It really was like the first book's cover— a red, old-style, steam powered locomotive.
Well, at least, it used to be steam powered, I thought as I cleared the entrance and loitered for a bit to the side, watching the other early riser families say goodbye to their children.
I'd lost my original parents when I'd died- and in this life, I'd lost them right off the bat. This was a somewhat stifling thought, so I discarded it in favor of marveling at the train, again.
This thing was supposed to run fully on magic— but how did it really work? A steam powered train would be using pistons, and the like. With magic, they could likely skip the entire process of heating coals, boiling water and using pistons to drive the wheels— instead, simply making the wheels turn on their own.
I shook my head. Magic avoided all the tedium that normal folks needed to grit their teeth through.
"What are you doing?" A voice startled me. I quickly turned to see a little girl, with bushy brown hair and brown eyes. Was this who I thought it was?
I stared at her for a few seconds longer, before turning back to the train. "How do you think it works?"
"...It's an old steam engine, isn't it?" The girl did not reply immediately, standing beside me to stare at the train for a few seconds before turning to me. "You know, it's rude to ignore people."
I snorted. "So I've been told."
I turned to her and extended a hand before she could say anything further. "Adam Clarke. A pleasure."
She took it, her grip weak and tentative. "Hermione Granger. Likewise."
I turned back to the train, letting go of her hand. "So? What do you think? There's no way it's still a steam engine. These are wizards and witches. They've got flying brooms, for God's sake!"
"You're new, too?" She asked, a little hopeful.
I nodded, but did not offer any more words- not that she seemed to notice my reticence.
"That's great." She started excitedly. "I thought I would be the only one who didn't have magical parents. My parents were oh-so confused when Professor McGonagall came to our doorstep with the letter. I was afraid they'd react badly to the news."
"It is a lot to take in." I agreed.
"How did yours react?" She asked curiously.
I stifled a sigh. Granger, in her early days, put her foot in her mouth almost as bad as Weasley did.
"I'm an orphan." Was my reply.
She looked mortified at her blunder. "Oh… I'm so sorry!"
"For what?" I asked. "It's not like you knew."
"I…" She looked pained.
"Don't worry about it… Hermione, was it?" I waved it off.
She nodded hesitantly. "I should go find a place on the train…"
I watched her awkwardly make her way to the train, not feeling the urge to chase.
Should I go and tell her that everything's fine? I wondered with a frown.
I did feel bad for her, of course, but I realized I just didn't care all that much.
Why bother with something as fickle as friendship? I'd lost all my friends when I'd died, and, well… I was an adult in a child's body.
Children were tiresome little things, always jumping from one spot to the other, with attention spans worse than goldfish.
I nodded, my resolve to not bother reaffirmed. There were more interesting things in the world, I thought as I gave the Hogwarts express one final look, before pushing my cart to it as well.
Loading my school trunk in the luggage section was tiring, but I was lucky enough to find an empty compartment to settle into. Settling into the comfortable seat, I began to leaf through the copy of Magical Drafts and Potions in my hands.
I'd already skimmed the first few chapters, but it wouldn't hurt to properly read through it on the ride. I'd already devoured the Standard Book of Spells twice over. Dry read, it may have been, but these were instruction manuals on magic!
Forcing myself to read the long-winded and preachy scripts was worth the time. I smiled as I checked over the recipe for the Boil Cure potion, knowing it would be the first thing Snape would make us do.
That's right. I was using my knowledge of canon to affect my grades at school. I was a cheater, and proud of it!
Plus, this would have immediate benefits- who really wanted to deal with pimples? Especially with puberty waiting around the corner.
I shuddered. Going through that once was annoying enough- and I hadn't even known what I was doing at the time. Now, having to go through it again, with full cognizance really set my teeth on edge.
I really hoped my young body didn't react to the girls at school. That would engender all sorts of 'nope' within my soul.
Back to Potions. The Boil Cure potion wasn't the only useful thing in this book. There was another potion— Wideye Potion; I was convinced that potions were a gift from the gods. God? Merlin? Who knew.
The important part was that Wideye Potion keeps you awake longer. The longer I was awake, the more magic I could read up on, and study!
Of course, being a responsible adult, I would likely limit it so as not to interfere with my health. Yes, I would have to eat well, sleep well, maybe even exercise once in a while.
Once a week? With my young body, the workout wouldn't need to be strenuous: a bit of running, calisthenics, pushups and the like.
There was a certain room on the Seventh Floor I planned to straight up abuse. My grin began to turn feral at the thought of all that I was about to do.
It was at that moment that the compartment door slid open, revealing a pair of familiar redheaded twins, giving me a strange look.
The insane grin was still on my face, wasn't it?
"It is." Both boys said simultaneously.
I said that out loud, didn't I?
"You did." They continued, now amused. "You're the strangest firstie we've met."
I snorted before looking down at my book. "It's good to be number one at something. Come in."
"Confident, this one is." The two entered the compartment, placing their trunks in the luggage section much easier than I did.
I felt a pang of jealousy at the two.
I couldn't wait to regain my adult strength. Being puny again was very unnerving.
"Ah, the Boil Cure." One of the boys spied at what I was reading. "You'll be learning it soon."
"Very useful, that." The other continued.
I looked up at the two. There wasn't a hint of any pimples on their faces. "I can see the effects."
"Confident, and perceptive." The first one said, before the two boys extended their hands. "I'm Fred Weasley, and this is George."
"Adam Clarke." I took both hands and shook them, before returning to my book.
"So, where are you from, Clarke?" The one who'd introduced himself as Fred asked as the train began to move.
This was going to be a long ride, wasn't it?
It was proving to be a long ride, but quite the entertaining one. Feigning an interest in pranks had lit a fire in the two boys, which increased when their friend, Lee Jordan had joined us.
He'd been leery at the thought of talking to an ickle firstie, but soon relaxed.
"So, we put a spider in his bed." George was recounting a tale as they ate the sandwiches their mom had thoughtfully given them for the trip.
I stared at it for a few moments, remembering better days, before focusing back on their story.
"He shrieked!" Fred recounted and began to laugh, his brother and friend joining him.
I chuckled alongside them. It reminded me of the pranks I'd committed on siblings in my previous life.
"So, what house do you think you'll be in, Clarke?" Jordan asked curiously. I considered his words.
"I have no idea." I replied honestly. "It's a hat that reads your mind and decides for you, no?"
"Yeah. How'd you know?" Fred asked curiously.
"We told ickle Ron that he'd have to wrestle a troll." George chortled.
I snorted. These two were even more fun to be around in person than in the books. Call it hero worship, if you want to.
"The Professor who took me to Diagon Alley told me." I fibbed with a shrug. The man hadn't said anything of the sort- he barely answered any legitimate questions I had.
Antisocial to the core, that man was. Brilliant at his craft, to be sure, but everyone had some kind of quirk or flaw. Besides, I wasn't exactly a social butterfly, myself.
I shuddered at the thought of becoming as isolated as Snape.
"A shudder. Brother mine, the Professor who took him can only be one man." Fred said.
"Snape." The twins answered together, while Lee mirrored my shudder.
"He was a little quiet during the trip." I said slowly. "Is he that bad?"
"If you're sorted into Gryffindor, he will be." Lee offered the knowledge I already knew. "He hates us."
He hates James Potter and his posse of bullies; by extension, he hates the House that encouraged their attitude. I thought, feeling a shred of pity for the man, though it didn't last long. Slytherin was pretty bad, too.
They're just characters in a book. My mind said, but being in this compartment with three of these so-called characters, interacting with them on the human level…
"Well, whether he hates me or not doesn't matter to me." I finally decided. "Whatever House I get Sorted in, I'll accept."
What I didn't say was that, no matter which House I was thrown in, I was going to shun as much human contact as I could and focus on magic, instead.
It hadn't even been an hour, and these three people had already distracted me from my goal.
I returned my attention to the closed Potions book in my lap, and reopened it. The three quickly understood the implied dismissal and shared a chuckle, muttering something about me being a sure thing for Ravenclaw.
They were probably right, I thought as I read through the steps for the third time. Seeking out the mysteries of magic for knowledge's sake was the most Ravenclaw thing in the multiverse.
I imagined what I could eventually be capable of. The level of knowledge and skill I could attain, I would be able to understand it all.
"Clarke, you're doing it again." Jordan pointed out.
The wide smile fell immediately. "Oh. I got excited."
They began muttering about Slytherin House.
I stifled an eye-roll. As if I would ever join the House that hates Mudbloods. That was a disaster waiting to happen. No, I would need to be away from that House if I wanted to reach my goals.
Wait. I thought. Wouldn't that be sufficient cunning to have me thrown in Slytherin House on principle?
That was not a comforting thought.
The remainder of the train ride had been pleasant enough. Granger had shown up, asking about Neville's frog, only to freeze at the sight of me and leave quickly.
There had been some lighthearted digs from the boys, but I took the banter like a champ, making some highly immature comments of my own, much to their delight.
I may not have been the socializing type, but I would be stupid to not give these two fellows a good impression.
Knowing what they were capable of… Well, I didn't want to tempt fate.
I followed the announcer's instructions, leaving my luggage in the train and exited it, joining the throng of students as I tried to orient myself- it was a little tough, because half of the sun had already disappeared into the horizon, and pretty much everyone was taller than I was.
I sighed. At least the clothes were comfortable.
Madame Malkins does good work. I thought as I found a spot to stand in and waited. Though, why would anyone learn magic so they can make clothes for a living?
Wizards really were weird. They had access to a powerful force to rewrite reality as they saw fit, and they used it to hem robes and make love potions.
It was equal parts amusing and infuriating.
"Firs' years! Firs' years over here! All right there, Harry?" A great big booming voice called out. I turned to the source, almost gaping at the giant of a man.
He was even taller than I'd expected- Reading about him in a book was something, but seeing him in person was another thing entirely. He was gigantic, with a stout build, likely hiding the incredibly dense muscles beneath.
A great big bushy beard covered most of his face, only made somewhat pleasant to look at thanks to his jovial demeanor.
"Any more firs' years?" He looked around, spotting me. "Come along, now!"
I followed the group, already having picked out the big players in the mass of kids. There was Malfoy, with his two cronies. I saw Potter and Weasley, Granger and Neville.
I also recognized the Patil twins, Finnigan, Thomas, Bones and a few more, but the rest were mostly unrecognizable. Since they were never described in the books, they could've been anyone.
Part of me wondered, for a moment, if there was someone else like me, here. Were there more reincarnated people, or was I the only one?
If it was only me, then why?
Any further thoughts ended at the sight of mighty Hogwarts Castle. Ancient and titanic, it stood the test of time and still looked like it could hold off an army of monsters.
It was an experience I had only dreamt of, before. Yet, here I was. The pale moonlight filtered past the clouds, making the Great Lake's surface beautifully shimmer.
I had to give this one to the wizards- if nothing else, they were excellent at dramatic reveals.
At Hagrid's instruction, I hopped on one of the boats, joined by Malfoy and two other children I didn't know.
I kept my mouth shut, not wanting to draw this one's attention just yet. Luckily, he was too busy gawking at Hogwarts Castle.
I frowned at that. Yet another person who was a product of his environment- his father, Lucius, likely groomed him from birth to be this way.
With that sobering thought, we finally entered through a cavern, which led to the castle doors. I forced the thought out of my head in favor of staring at my surroundings.
The castle was even better, up close. Thick, stone walls, a large, oaken door, capable of withstanding extreme force- especially if it was magically enhanced, which it likely was.
I took my first step on the castle floor and felt a tingle sweep through my entire body.
That had felt almost exactly like when I was entering Platform Nine and Three Quarters! I narrowed my eyes in thought, absently gathering around the large door with the others as Hagrid made to knock. What is this?
But, there was no time to ponder this question, as the oaken door opened at the third knock, revealing the stern visage of who could only be Minerva McGonagall, wearing a set of green robes.
I put a pin in the now named 'Topic of the Tingle', promising myself I'd look into it as soon as I could- which probably meant tomorrow. That's, if I was able to find the library, of course.
"The firs' years, Professor McGonagall." Hagrid announced.
"Thank you, Hagrid. I will take them from here." Was her reply as she opened the large door wide, revealing the gigantic entrance hall.
This place was also chock full of expansion charms, wasn't it? I would have fun figuring out its secrets. It'll probably keep me busy for months, if not years.
I marvelled at our surroundings as McGonagall led us to a large set of doors, behind which we could hear the cacophony of what could only be a mass of children in a single room.
The Great Hall, where we would be sorted.
I gave a half-hearted listen to what McGonagall was saying about the houses, noting that her stern eyes seemed to narrow onto me. I gave a mental shrug, unconcerned with the matter. The castle grounds themselves were far more interesting than the people in them.
There were actual suits of armor, complete with swords and shields! They shined as if they'd never been used before. As far as I knew from the books, there was no real upkeep done on these, so this was basically a maintenance spell of some sort that kept them in tip-top condition for centuries.
I salivated at the thought of such knowledge.
Eventually, she instructed us to form a line, and the doors to the Great Hall opened. We followed the Professor inside, marveling at the thousands of floating candles, sitting underneath the open, starry sky.
This was incredible magic. I barely paid any attention to anything, until the clack of a stool against the stone floor took it back- it was the Sorting Hat, and it began to sing its song, one I'd read hundreds of times before.
I hadn't expected it to sing so well, though. It had more singing talent than just about anyone I'd known about, both in this life and my previous.
I wondered if Dumbledore loaned it out to make a quick buck- or, I supposed I should start saying Galleon, from this point on.
"When I call your name, you will put on the hat and sit on the stool to be sorted." McGonagall said, holding a roll of parchment. I wondered if that's where the phrase "roll call" came from. "Abbott, Hannah!"
I watched as she went through the list, sorting the kids into Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin- and then it was getting close to my turn.
I took a deep breath to settle my nerves and sat on the stool, wondering- as my vision went dark- how well the Sorting Hat could read my mind, and if it had access to my knowledge.
In fact, what was even the point of sorting kids into like-minded groups? It would only create tribalism and groupthink, ultimately harming its supposed purpose of unity more than encouraging it- especially considering how people's personalities went through great changes through their formative years, puberty, and even adulthood.
The point, my young fellow. The Sorting Hat replied, startling me. Is that I provide a safe haven to give the students a chance to thrive, and not be subjected to strife every step of the way.
And yet, you have people who suffer, regardless. I thought back.
The world is not perfect. The Hat retorted, its tone heavy with regret. I can only do so much in the few seconds of time I'm allowed with the children. I do know which house you'll be suited for, however. "RAVENCLAW!"
I took the hat off, thoughtfully handing it to the Professor as the Ravenclaw table cheered, beckoning me over. Idly, as I made my way to the table, I noticed that my robes had changed, showcasing my affiliation with Ravenclaw House.
I took one of the empty seats, realizing this would probably be my seat for the entire year at mealtimes.
"Adam, was it?" One of the boys next to me said. "I'm Terry, Terry Boot."
"Adam Clarke." I shook his hand, and engaged the fellow first year in small talk as we watched the rest of the first years get sorted. Soon enough, a few more students were sorted in Ravenclaw. Michael Corner, Anthony Goldstein.
I quickly lost interest.
I tuned out the rest of the sorting, not really paying attention to anything but the mesmerizing dark sky above, completely missing Potter's sorting and whoever else followed.
I was officially at Hogwarts, and I was going to learn everything.
My excitement was soured when the food appeared, and I laid my eyes on all the pumpkin juice.
"I hate pumpkin juice." I groaned. In response, the juice disappeared, replaced by water.
I blinked. "That works."
House Elves worked fast. I wondered if I could learn their magic, as well.
So much wonder, and it hasn't even been a full day, yet!
Wizards really do take their world for granted.
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