“The Sorting of Suzie Sefton”
Chapter Two: The Train and the Trolley
Summary: Suzie takes the Hogwarts Express, meets some new friends, and discovers wizarding sweets.
Characters: Suzie Sefton, Severus Snape, Rubeus Hagrid, Antonia Blackwell, Cyrus Sprangle, Andrew Campbell, others
Chapter Two: The Train and the Trolley
Monday, 31 August 1998
Suzie disengaged herself from her father’s bear hug, kissed her mother for about the tenth time in an hour, said a final good-bye, and grabbed her trolley. The older boy who had been wheeling his own trolley toward Platform Nine and Three-Quarters was waiting patiently for her to catch up with him. They waited by the barrier on the Muggle King’s Cross platform and watched as a girl with long blond hair showed another first-year student how to go through the barrier. Get a good start, run, and . . . the blonde witch disappeared right through the brick pillar. Suzie’s eyes widened.
“We’ll let him go next,” the bored young wizard said, gesturing toward the trembling boy who was preparing to follow the blonde girl, “then you go, and I’ll follow.”
“Thanks! I’m Suzie, by the way. What’s your name?”
“I’m Raffles. Stan Raffles. Okay, he’s through—don’t close your eyes like he did, though, or you might run into someone on the other side. Happened to me a couple years ago. Some little kid knocked me right over.”
Suzie nodded. She would rather close her eyes, but . . . she took a deep breath and pushed her trolley, trying to work up some speed. It was a very heavy trolley.
“Wait, you won’t make it through like that,” Stan said trotting up and grabbing her arm. He looked at her, taking in her size. “How old are you, anyway?”
“Eleven. Today’s my birthday!” Suzie said brightly.
“I don’t think you can push the trolley through by yourself. You’ll never get enough speed. Here, we’ll put your stuff on my trolley and go through together.”
The two shifted Suzie’s bags and her new, bright green trunk onto Stan’s trolley.
“Just hold on and keep up!” Stan said after he’d put her last bag on top of everything else.
A sudden wave of nervousness passed over Suzie. Swallowing hard and trying not to cry, and giving one last wave to her parents, she took hold of the trolley’s handlebar, waited for Stan’s nod, and then she pushed, running along side the older boy. As the brick barrier rushed toward her, Suzie almost closed her eyes—Stan was steering, after all, and they wouldn’t hit anyone on the other side—but then she thought it might be cool to see what the inside of a brick wall looked like.
Suzie thought the sensation was like pushing through a cloud of steel wool floating in liquid rubber, though not quite as scratchy, but other than an instant of darkness, there was nothing to see. One moment, they were on Muggle platform ten, and the next, they were surrounded by other witches and wizards, a glorious, gleaming old train in front of them, its engine belching white clouds of steam through its squat chimney, and parents rushing their children to board and get settled.
“All aboard!” a skinny young wizard called. “All aboard! Hogwarts Express departing in two minutes!”
“Everyone onto the train! Everyone, now! Come on, no dawdling!” called an older boy wearing his school robes and a large badge on his chest. “Come on, you prefects! Lend a hand here! Help the younger ones!”
Suzie saw a red-haired girl holding her mother’s robes, burying her face in them, and crying. Suzie was glad she’d kept from crying when she’d said good-bye to her parents. And now everything was too exciting for her to feel like crying. She turned her attention from the distressed girl to her luggage, handing Stan the smaller bags, then helping him to hoist their trunks aboard the train.
“Just leave them here, unless there’s something you need with you. It’ll get stowed for you.” Stan said. “First-years’ luggage is brought up for them, so don’t worry about retrieving it yourself.” He grinned and waved to someone further down the corridor. “Just grab what you need and find a place to sit. Be sure you have your school robe! I’m meeting some mates. Gotta plan the Quidditch try-outs!”
Suzie didn’t have a chance to thank Stan for his help before he was off, shouting greetings to some of the other older students and dragging his trunk behind him.
The train began to pull forward smoothly, leaving the station. Some students hung out the windows, waving good-byes to their families, and although Suzie stood at the side of one window and peeked out, she knew she wouldn’t see her family—or anyone else whom she knew—and she got a funny feeling in the pit of her stomach. She remembered her mother’s advice to get busy and find something to do if she ever felt homesick, and so she pulled herself away from the window and, lugging a knapsack over one shoulder and a shopping bag in one hand, she started down the corridor in search of a seat.
Each compartment she looked into was already full, even over-full in a couple cases, and she thought she’d have to cross over into the next car, but then in the last compartment, there were only two other students, both also apparently first-years. They were also both boys, but Suzie didn’t let that stop her.
“This seat’s not taken, is it?” she asked, setting her shopping bag on the seat she was claiming and letting the door slide shut behind her.
“It is now,” the taller of the two boys said, standing politely. The shorter boy followed suit.
Suzie slipped her knapsack off her shoulder and stood on her seat in an attempt to hoist her knapsack up on the rack above. She had a hard time even lifting it over her head.
“Here, allow me,” the taller wizard said, taking the knapsack from her. He put one foot on the seat, and with a little hop, slung the knapsack up onto the rack.
“Andrew Campbell,” he said as he stepped back. He thrust his hand toward Suzie.
Suzie quickly put her hand out to be shaken. She and her friends never shook hands, except in school programmes, but she didn’t want to seem uncouth. Her mother had told her to be sure to mind her manners and not act like she’d been raised in a barn.
“This is my cousin, Cyrus Sprangle,” he said, gesturing toward the shorter, brown-haired wizard in the opposite seat.
Cyrus nodded and grinned at her, but didn’t shake hands.
“I’m Suzie Sefton,” she replied. “Are you two new, too?”
“Yes,” Andrew replied. “We’re both first-years. But I’m older than Cy. My parents didn’t want me to go to Hogwarts last year. My father tutored me, but the Headmistress wants us all to start as first-years.” He shrugged. “If you want any help with your spells, let me know. I’m pretty good with Charms.”
“Why didn’t your parents want you to go to Hogwarts?” Suzie asked curiously, sliding back into her seat next to Andrew. “I think it’s really exciting!”
Cyrus spoke up. “It’s because he’s a half-blood. My aunt and uncle thought that with the war and everything, and old Dumbledore not there to protect Hogwarts, it just wouldn’t be safe for him. But the war’s over and Dumbledore’s still there, so when Headmistress McGonagall visited this summer and said that some other twelve-year-olds were going to be starting this year, they decided it was okay.”
When she and her mother had purchased her school books in Flourish and Blotts, Suzie had seen a display of Hogwarts: a History and had immediately grabbed one of the fat books. She had also picked up copies of World’s Most Famous and Infamous Witches and Wizards, Two Millennia of History in Two Volumes! and The Riddle War: How the Light Side Won, though she hadn’t managed to begin the latter book yet.
Suzie had spent hours reading, beginning with the book on famous witches and wizards, which provided her with an overview of wizarding history, though a superficial one. She paid particular attention to the pages on Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter, and Tom Riddle. Tom Riddle sounded very scary, and although the entry on him was only four pages long, she had to stop reading after the first page. The entries on Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter were each five pages long, and featured moving pictures of each wizard. Albus Dumbledore had looked kind, but to Suzie, his smile seemed sad. Harry Potter was very cute, and Suzie loved his green eyes, which had a lively sparkle in them even in the photograph. There was a card in the back of the book promising the purchaser an update with biographies of Minerva Morag McGonagall, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Severus Snape, and Arthur Weasley, “anticipated to be ready in October 1998.” She had torn out the card and filled in the form, but she hadn’t been able to post the card yet, since she didn’t have her own owl and her mother didn’t want to go all the way to London again just so that Suzie could visit the Owl Post Office. She knew from reading Hogwarts: a History that the school had an Owlery and that there were school owls that students could use if they didn’t have their own owl, so she’d tucked the card back into the book and waited impatiently to send it off to the publisher.
Suzie was pleased that the boys’ mention of the war and Dumbledore didn’t leave her confused, as it had when she and her mother had been shopping in Diagon Alley. “Professor Dumbledore sounds impressive,” Suzie said.
“The most powerful wizard since Merlin, my grandfather always says,” Cyrus replied.
Andrew grinned. “Don’t forget how he always adds, ‘And a bloody good thing he wasn’t a snake like You-Know-Who! Knows how they think, though.’”
“Yeah, and then Grandma always shushes him!” Cyrus snickered.
Suzie was on the verge of asking Andrew what he’d meant by Dumbledore not being a snake, when the door was pushed open and a redheaded girl almost fell into the compartment as the train rounded a bend. Andrew caught her arm, steadying her, but she barely noticed.
“I thought I’d never find somewhere to sit! Don’t tell me this seat’s taken,” she said in an almost warning tone. “I don’t know what I’d do. Probably scream for a week!” She left her bag on the floor and collapsed into the seat next to Cyrus, flipping her red braids over her shoulders. “Not very organized, are they? I’ll have to speak with Mum about having a word with the Headmistress.”
“Cy and I arrived early enough to find our seats,” Andrew said somewhat stuffily.
“It’s stupid,” the girl continued, not paying any attention to Andrew. “We had to come all the way from Leeds this morning, and Mum has to go all the way back. We Flooed from the Wand and Staff, and it was dreadful! People should be required to keep up their part of the Floo Network! Or else the Ministry should do it, but Mum says that wouldn’t be practical. A good thing Mum was carrying my shrunken luggage in her Charmed valise, or I’m sure it would be infested with all sorts of things. Mum had to do a dozen cleaning charms on my clothes, and I had to wash my face in the loo at the Leaky Cauldron. You do not want to use the public loo there!”
“You could have Apparated,” Cyrus said when it appeared the girl had stopped for a breath.
“I do not Side-Along,” the girl said. She gave a crooked grin. “I guess being a bit sooty is better than being a lot queasy. Besides, it’s a long way for Mum to Apparate, even on her own. She is Apparating home, though. Anyway, it seems silly not to let us get to Hogwarts on our own if we live closer to Hogwarts than to London.”
“Father said it’s an important ritual,” Andrew said, “everyone beginning the year with the trip from London together. I’m Andrew Campbell, by the way.” Suzie noticed he did not offer the new girl his hand to shake.
“And I’m Cyrus,” Cyrus piped up before Andrew could introduce him again. “Cyrus Sprangle.”
“Are you related to Septimus Sprangle?” the witch asked.
Cyrus smiled proudly. “He’s my grandfather.”
The girl sniffed as if she did not think much of that news. “I am Antonia Blackwell.”
“I’m Suzie Sefton—Suzanne, but everyone calls me ‘Suzie.’”
“Well, everyone calls me ‘Antonia,’” Antonia said. “Except . . . my dad.” She suddenly became very quiet.
“What does he call you?” Suzie asked curiously.
“Nothing anymore. He’s dead. Killed. In the spring.” Antonia blinked rapidly and took a ragged breath. “But, um, he used to call me ‘Antoinette.’” She cleared her throat and looked out the window.
“Sorry,” Suzie said softly.
The four sat in uncomfortable silence for a few minutes, then the door slid open again. This time it was the sweets trolley.
“Sweets?” the witch asked, poking her head in.
Suzie’s eyes widened. The other three all reached into pockets and bags and pulled out a few coins.
“Acid Pop, please,” Antonia said, rattling a few Knuts in her hand. “And . . . a couple Sugar Quills.”
As the witch was plucking an Acid Pop and the Sugar Quills from their receptacles, Cyrus said, “Two Chocolate Frogs for me. And a small box of Cockroach Clusters for later.”
“Cockroach Clusters?” Suzie asked. She looked slightly ill.
“No real cockroaches. At least, I don’t think so. They’re great—crunchy, chewy, and . . . a little gooey,” Cyrus said, handing over his shiny silver Sickle and getting a few Knuts back in change.
“Acid Pops are great,” Antonia said. “They last a long time and they make your tongue pucker.”
“Are they like acid drops?” Suzie asked. She’d had acid drops.
The other three shrugged.
“I’m getting two boxes of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans and some Peppermint Imps . . . and . . .” Andrew considered the contents of the sweets trolley carefully. “Three Chocolate Frogs, two boxes of Chocoballs, and two boxes of Ice Mice.”
Suzie hadn’t heard of any of them. “You’re eating all that?”
“No. It’s for later. Don’t want to rely on any older kids to get stuff for me on Hogsmeade weekends—first-years don’t get to go into Hogsmeade,” Andrew said with a sigh, handing over his money to the witch. “I asked, since I’m older, but I can’t, either, not even next year. So, I’m stocking up. It won’t last till Christmas, but Dad will send more if I ask.”
“And what would you like, dear?” the witch asked.
“I don’t know . . .” Suzie was overwhelmed. “A Chocolate Frog—two Chocolate Frogs . . . Chocoballs . . . those bean things, yeah, Every Flavour Beans . . . a box of Peppermint Imps, and . . . that, that, that, and . . . that,” she said, pointing. “Oh, and two Acid Pops and a few of those Sugar Quills, too.” She pulled out some coins and held them out to the witch, who took the right ones from her hand.
“Stocking up, too?” Andrew asked as the door slid closed and the witch proceeded into the next car.
“I’ve never had any of these,” Suzie said. “I want to try them all.”
“Are you Muggle-born, then? Yeah? Huh . . . I don’t know . . .” Cyrus looked at the pile of sweets in Suzie’s lap. “Some of that stuff just doesn’t go together very well. Imps and Ice Mice are good together, but some of the others . . .”
“Ah, you just have a weak stomach, Cy,” Andrew said. “Let the girl have some fun.”
Suzie sorted through the sweets until she found an Acid Pop. She held it out to Antonia, who was sucking her Acid Pop. “Here, for later. I got two.”
Antonia looked at the Pop, an expression of surprise on her face. “Oh . . . thanks!” She smiled. “I can have this next weekend.”
Suzie, determined to start on her pile of sweets and have a little of everything, opened the box of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. She held it out politely to Cyrus, who had opened his first Chocolate Frog and was amusing himself by holding it down and plucking off one wiggling limb at a time and popping them in his mouth.
“Is that alive?” Suzie asked, appalled.
“Oh, no, of course not!” Cyrus said around a hind leg. He swallowed. “It’s just charmed. It’ll hop once or twice after you let it out of its box, but if you hold onto it like this, the legs just wiggle around. It’s fun to pull them off.” He grinned, and Suzie shuddered.
“Cyrus! Sorry, Suzie—Cy might seem a bit of a barbarian, but he wouldn’t do that to a real frog.” Andrew rolled his eyes.
“Want a bean, Andrew?” Suzie said.
“Um, not now,” Andrew replied, considering the proffered box. “I’m enjoying my Peppermint Imps and don’t want to wreck the experience with earwax or burnt hair or something like that.”
Andrew sucked on his Peppermint Imp and nodded.
“They’re really disgusting,” Antonia said. “There are some nice flavours—I once got a box that had only six that I had to spit out—but ‘Every Flavour’ means every flavour. And the bigger the box, the more chance you’ll get one that’s actually vomit flavoured. That’s why I don’t get them anymore. The vomit-flavoured one.”
“Oh.” Suzie considered the box in her hand and shrugged. She popped a bean in her mouth and chewed. “I think this one is some kind of meat.”
“What kind?” Antonia asked.
“I don’t know, but it tastes like meat smells when it’s being cooked,” Suzie said. “My parents have a macrobiotic vegetarian restaurant, and we don’t eat meat at home. Well, sometimes I have fish and chips when I stay with my aunt and uncle. It always runs right through me.” She wrinkled her nose.
“You don’t eat meat? Is that some kind of Muggle thing?” Cyrus asked.
“Don’t be silly,” Antonia cut in. “There’s lots of vegetarians. My Great-aunt Agatha is a vegetarian.” She licked her Pop. “She used to be a fruitarian once, a long time ago, but Mum always said it made her too fruity. So she quit. Now she’s just a vegetarian.”
Andrew laughed and Cyrus snickered.
“Don’t worry, Suzanne,” Antonia said. “Don’t pay any attention to the boys. They’re just ignorant.”
Suzie shrugged. The bean she just popped into her mouth tasted like charcoal. She swallowed it whole, not wanting to be uncouth and spit it out. “That’s okay. A lot of people think it’s funny. But please call me ‘Suzie.’ No one calls me ‘Suzanne’ except this one awful teacher at my old school.” Suzie cleared her throat. “Suzanne Caroline Sefton! Suzanne Caroline Sefton! What do you have in your hand? Passing notes again, Suzanne Caroline Sefton!” Suzie said in a high, creaky voice. “I shall have to inform your parents if this behaviour continues, Miss Suzanne Sefton! I hope we don’t have any teachers like her at Hogwarts.”
“I don’t know, there’s a lot of new teachers this year,” Andrew said. “Some of them could be pretty bad, I suppose, and we wouldn’t have any warning before they hit us with a hex for passing notes in class.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Andrew!” Antonia said. “Teachers aren’t allowed to hex students!”
“They are in Defence against the Dark Arts,” Cyrus chimed in.
“That’s different. That’s demonstration,” Antonia said with a long-suffering sigh. “And I doubt they’d cast very strong ones, or hurt a student.”
“My grandfather said that in his day, the caretaker put students in stocks and would hang them upside down by their ankles.”
“That was ages ago,” Andrew said. “That hasn’t been allowed in years.” He turned to Suzie. “I don’t think it was usual even back then, but that was back at the turn of the century or something. You won’t need to worry about that. But some of the teachers are pretty short-tempered and really strict, I’ve heard, and if you breathe wrong in their class, you lose points and get detention.”
“We’re lucky,” Antonia said. “This year, Professor Dumbledore’s teaching Defence. He’s really nice. He . . . he visited us after, um, after my father was killed. My father was a Gryffindor,” Antonia added, turning to Suzie. “That’s Dumbledore’s House, and Headmistress McGonagall’s. And Harry Potter’s.”
“I know,” Suzie said with a nod after swallowing a particularly vile-tasting bean. She couldn’t even identify it. But she’d gotten raspberry, chocolate, carrot, and peanut butter, too, so they weren’t all bad. “I have World’s Most Famous and Infamous Witches and Wizards, and I read about Professor Dumbledore and Harry Potter. I also have Hogwarts: a History. The Headmistress used to be Head of Gryffindor.”
Antonia looked out the window. “I wish we were there already. I want to find out what House I’ll be in. I hope it’s Gryffindor.”
“I want to be in Ravenclaw,” Cyrus said, “like my parents and grandparents.”
“They were all Ravenclaws?” Antonia asked. “My mother’s a Ravenclaw. Not a bad House.”
“All but Grandmother Campbell. She was a Hufflepuff.”
“That’s a good House, too, I suppose,” Antonia said, “but I want to be a Gryffindor.”
“Doesn’t matter what you want,” Cyrus slurred around the Ice Mouse he’d accepted from Suzie, who had moved on to the next box of sweets.
“Don’t talk with your mouth full, Cyrus,” Andrew said. “He’s right. The Sorting Hat knows where you belong and that’s where it puts you, like it or not.”
“That’s not true,” Antonia said firmly. “If you really want a House, the Sorting Hat knows that. Or if you really don’t want to be in a House or something. Of course, even if you’re utterly dying to be in Ravenclaw,” she added, glancing at Cyrus, “the Hat won’t put you in it if you’re an ignorant dunce.”
“Mmmm . . .” Suzie said. “These Fudge Flies are megadelicious! Want one, anybody?” She held the box.
Antonia pulled her Pop from her mouth and carefully wrapped it back up in its Charmed waxed paper. “I’ll have one, thanks.”
After she’d taken one, each of the boys helped himself.
“Want to go for a walk?” Suzie asked Antonia. “I want to see if my luggage was really stored, and I want to see some of the other kids.”
“Okay,” Antonia said. She stood and picked up her small bag.
“Great! I just can’t sit here for HOURS and HOURS! This trip is taking FOREVER!” Suzie said, popping up and opening the door, using both hands to slide it back in its track.
“Watch our stuff,” Antonia told the boys before following Suzie out into the corridor.
“I left my bags down there,” Suzie said, “near the loo.”
“Yeah, I tripped over them going in. They weren’t there when I came out, though, so you don’t need to check—unless you want to.”
“Nah, that’s okay,” Suzie said cheerfully. “I just wanted to get out of there.”
“The boys can be full of themselves, can’t they?”
Suzie laughed at that, but she just grabbed Antonia’s hand and said, “Let’s go this way. Stan, the boy who helped me figure out how to get to the platform, went into the next car, I think. We could say ‘hi’ to him and maybe meet some of his friends.”
“Was he cute?”
“A little, I guess. I didn’t really notice,” Suzie said.
“Not cute, then,” Antonia said with a grin and helping Suzie pull open the door into the gangway between the cars, “or you would have noticed.”
Suzie laughed again. “Do you feel better now?” she asked, stepping into the swaying, accordian-like space between the cars.
“Acid Pops always cheer me up,” Antonia said.
“You know, Toni—can I call you ‘Toni’? I mean, if we’re going to be friends, I’d like to call you something fun like ‘Toni’—not that ‘Antonia’ isn’t a beautiful name, but it’s very formal, don’t you think?”
Antonia shrugged. “I suppose. Yeah, okay. But don’t introduce me that way.”
“All right. So, are you feeling better? I saw you on the platform with your mother.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Antonia said breezily. “I’m fine.” She paused. “But yes, I’m okay. . . . Thanks.”
“Sure. Let’s go find Stan, and I’ll introduce you as Antonia! Then we can go back and I’ll open the Peppermint Imps and we can try some of those together.”
An hour and a half later, both girls burst back into their compartment, giggling and breathless. There was another boy there now, as well as Andrew and Cyrus.
“Lunch trolley’s on the way!” Suzie announced. “I brought mine, but I want to try something from the trolley, too.” She grinned at Antonia and the two girls burst into silly laughter again.
The boys, not having a clue what the two girls found so funny about lunch, all rolled their eyes at each other.
“This is Abdul,” Andrew said. “Abdul Khalil, this is Suzie Sefton and Antonia Blackwell.”
Antonia smiled at the dark-eyed boy with the smooth black hair and charming smile. “Now, he’s one you’d notice,” she whispered to Suzie, setting her off into peals of laughter.
“Hi, Abdul,” Antonia said, suppressing her own giggles.
“Abdul was looking for a chess partner,” Cyrus said, pointing to the small chess set sitting on one of the boys’ trunks.
“He only had foolish girls in his compartment who didn’t know anything about chess and just wanted to talk about hair and make-up charms,” Andrew said with a look that indicated he thought that the girls in his compartment were hardly much better.
“Oh! I love chess! My dad and I play all the time!” Suzie said, looking at the board. “Checkmate in . . . four moves.”
“Five,” Abdul said.
“No, four. Look again. He’s got you good, Andrew!” Suzie sounded delighted and Abdul looked puzzled. “You’re looking at it wrong, Abdul. Not the bishop first, the knight. See?”
Abdul’s face lit up. He laughed. “That is better! I could have him two different ways and I didn’t even see it!”
“Show me,” Andrew said, his brow furrowed as he looked over the board.
Abdul played out the moves, and Suzie was impressed and excited by the Charmed animated chessmen. Andrew groaned as, after two moves, he saw the inevitable.
“Can I play next?” Suzie asked.
“I have to get back,” Abdul said. “My lunch—”
“Stay! There’s plenty of room and we have enough to share! I’ve got a few really great sandwiches—I think my mum thought I’d die of starvation between London and Scotland—and the trolley’s coming,” Suzie said.
“Well . . .” Abdul hesitated. “I don’t eat everything . . .”
“It’s not kosher, or whatever you call it when you’re Muslim, but the lunch Mum packed is all vegetarian, if that makes a difference,” Suzie said. “A lot of Muslims and Jews eat in their vegetarian restaurant, too.”
“Our family’s not very strict, or anything, but I don’t eat pork or certain other kinds of meat, and it’s supposed to be slaughtered the right way. I’m not so careful about the meat I eat when I’m out, but I try. And it’s called halal, not kosher,” Abdul explained.
“So you’ll stay for lunch and a game of chess?”
“Yes, all right. But after, I’ll go get my sweets from home—better than anything on the trolley,” he said.
“Would you teach me?” Antonia asked Abdul as he set up the chess set again
“Sure, if you want,” he said.
Cyrus got up and leaned out the door. “Lunch trolley’s almost here! I’m starving!”
Antonia and Suzie pulled out their lunches from their bags, and Cyrus and Andrew got out their small leather moneybags. Abdul reached into his pocket and sorted out a few Sickles. Ten minutes later, there was a feast set out where the chessboard had been—at least it looked that way to Suzie. She shared out her sandwiches with Abdul and Antonia, and Antonia gave Suzie half of her fishpaste and relish sandwich. Suzie had also bought pumpkin pasties and parsnip crisps from the trolley, and all four had purchased their drinks, pumpkin juice, dandelion juice, pumpkin fizz, and cherry fizz. Suzie got one bottle of pumpkin fizz and one of cherry, unsure which she’d like better.
Suzie ate a little bit of everything, and when Abdul went out and fetched his sweets from home—homemade chocolate-covered halvah with pistachios in it and a box of rosewater-flavoured macaroons—she was happy to try them. Suzie thought the halvah was delicious—and certainly better than the Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans she’d had that morning. She wasn’t as fond of the macaroons, but she ate two in order to be polite.
After lunch, Suzie played a game of chess with Abdul as he explained the different pieces to Antonia. She won, then Abdul offered to play with Antonia to teach her the game. Cyrus fell asleep reading a comic book about Muggles, which Suzie found very silly, and Andrew got out his Charms textbook. Although she made an attempt to watch Abdul and Antonia’s game, the motion of the train and all the food she’d eaten eventually lulled her into a half-sleep. When Abdul finally packed up his small chess set and left for his own compartment, Suzie stretched and yawned.
“I’m sure this trip is going to last forever,” Suzie said with a sigh, digging through her bag and finding the box of Bertie Bott’s Beans and the Chocoballs. “Want some?”
Antonia shook her head. “I couldn’t eat another bite. I don’t know how you have room.”
“I’m just bored. Besides, it’s not every day that I can eat anything I want, especially sweets. Mum and Dad don’t believe in them.” She popped a bean into her mouth. Orange. That was nice. “Besides, it’s my birthday.”
“Your birthday! Why didn’t you say something?” Antonia asked.
“I didn’t think it would be very couth,” Suzie said, using one of her current favourite words.
“Yes, Happy Birthday, Suzie,” Andrew said seriously, putting down his book and holding out his hand for her to shake.
Suzie laughed, but took his hand. “Thanks, Andrew.”
He poked his cousin in the ribs. “Hey, Cy! Wake up!”
“Mmph, what?” Cyrus blinked at his cousin.
“It’s Suzie’s birthday.”
“Oh! Happy Birthday, Suzie. So you’re just eleven today?” Cyrus asked.
“Yes, in a few hours, actually, if you wanted to be technical about it,” Suzie said, shaking a Chocoball out of the box.
“You’re lucky,” Cyrus said. “My birthday’s in a couple weeks. I had to wait almost a whole year to go to Hogwarts after turning eleven. And my parents wouldn’t let me get my wand until June, and then Dad locked it in his study. Didn’t want any accidents, he said.” He sighed and shook his head.
“I got my wand a few weeks ago, at the beginning of August. That was fun, and I liked the two Ollivanders. I’ve only practised using it a little bit, though. Just a few charms that seemed like they’d be easy.”
“Which charms?” Andrew asked curiously.
“Well, I got the Accio to work right after a few tries. And I did a levitating spell, and I banished something, but I don’t know where it got to, so I only did that once. It was my favourite pen, too. I was a little nervous about trying any Transfiguration, but that looks really fun.”
“Those are the best to start with,” Andrew said with a nod. “And it’s a good thing you waited to do any Transfiguration. It’s a very tricky art.”
“Everything’s going to be easy for you,” Suzie said with a sigh. “I didn’t even know about magic until about a month and a half ago, and you’ve been tutored in it for a whole year.”
“There’s lots of Muggle-borns,” Andrew said. “My own mother is a Muggle-born, and she’s a fine witch. She works for the Ministry in their Muggle-worthy Excuse Department.”
Suzie giggled. “There’s no such thing.”
“Yes, there is,” Antonia said. “The wizarding world has to hide itself from the Muggles, but sometimes something unexpected happens, a hippogriff gets loose or something, and they have to find a way of covering it up or explaining it. And during the war, there were attacks on Muggles, and they had to be disguised as things like gas leaks, carbon monoxide poisoning, bridge faults, and things like that.”
“Oh . . . I don’t think I like that,” Suzie said soberly. “I understand, I guess, but . . . if my family was killed by some wizard, I think I’d want to know that and not think that they’d killed themselves accidentally from faulty heating or something.”
“They try to be sensitive,” Andrew replied. “Mum says it’s actually a service to the Muggles. They have enough to worry about without having magical beasts and evil wizards scare them, too. And it could endanger us as well as them.”
“I don’t think this is birthday party talk,” Antonia said firmly. “I think we should open the last bottles of fizz and toast Suzie’s birthday.”
Suzie passed around the boxes of Chocoballs and Bertie Bott’s Beans, Andrew cast cooling charms on the bottles of cherry fizz, and Cyrus gave Suzie the card from his Chocolate Frog.
“It’s Harry Potter,” he explained. “I’ve already got a few of them. They’re in about half the Chocolate Frogs these days.”
“But I don’t have any at all,” Suzie said, smiling and waving at the grinning wizard in the Chocolate Frog card. “This is great! Thanks, Cy!”
They drank their sodas—which Suzie thought were only a little colder than they’d been before Andrew’s charm, but she didn’t say so—ate more sweets, and talked about which subjects they were looking forward to.
Suzie was just finishing the last of the Bertie Bott’s Beans—burnt hair, as it turned out—when the sound of voices reached them from the corridor.
“We’ll be arriving soon, I think,” Andrew said. “That sounds like the prefects making an announcement. We have to put on our school robes before we arrive. I hope you have yours with you, Suzie.”
Suzie nodded. “It’s in the shopping bag.”
Someone pounded on their door and shouted, “Five minutes!” then left and went into the next car.
The four pulled out their bags and donned their robes. Suzie felt nervous and a little sick to her stomach. Probably that last Bertie Bott’s Bean, she thought as the train swayed slightly. She’d be fine once she was in the fresh air.
Once in the fresh air, Suzie did not feel much better, but she put it down to nerves and excitement. With all the other first-years, she crowded around the huge man with the enormous, bushy hair and beard to match, and, as he instructed her and two others, she made sure she had her wand in the wand pocket of her school robe, then she left her shopping bag and knapsack on the Hogsmeade station platform to be brought up to the castle by the carriages—which were drawn by some of the ugliest horses she’d ever seen, though since they had wings, she supposed that made up for them being so ugly. She had no time to ask Toni what kind of horses they were before the group moved down along the platform away from the carriages.
The first-years all trooped along behind the massive wizard, who had introduced himself as “Professor Rubeus Hagrid,” and Suzie wasn’t the only one whose gaze rose, spellbound, it seemed, by the sight of Hogwarts castle high on the other side of the lake.
They reached a kind of small pier jutting out into the lake, several small boats lined up along either side of it, and Professor Hagrid explained that they’d all be taking the boats across to the castle.
“Nice calm eve’nin’ for it, too,” he said jovially. “Won’t be fishin’ any of you out of the lake this year! Hope not, any road! In you go, now, everybody into the boats!”
Andrew took Suzie’s hand and helped her into the boat, practically lifting her in when she slipped on the wet dock, and Cyrus offered Antonia his hand, but she shook it off, lowering herself rather inelegantly but effectively into the same boat with the other three. Suzie wondered if they’d all be in the same House together. She thought that would be fun, but they’d probably have classes together even if they weren’t. Andrew could be kind of a stuffed shirt, as her Great-aunt Sadie might say, but he was a good guy, and Cyrus wasn’t bad, either, even if he did like silly comic books. Toni had a lot of potential; she just needed to laugh more—and more at herself, too.
The bouncing, rocking, and swaying of the boat before they even left the pier bothered Suzie’s stomach more, but she swallowed, took a deep breath, and told herself it was just mind over matter. She didn’t want to be uncouth and embarrass herself by being sick in the boat. Everyone else looked excited or nervous, but no one else seemed sick. Besides, she liked boats—and although it was a little alarming when the boat began moving on its own, no oars or sail or engine to move it, it was also megacool. She’d have to write and tell her mum all about it. Still, she could taste the last of the Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans seeming to come up again, and she told herself once again that it was just mind over matter.
Suzie closed her eyes and tried to tune out Andrew and Cyrus as they explained to Antonia that they went out on boats all of the time, nothing to it. Andrew’s Muggle grandfather was a fisherman, apparently, and he took the boys out with him. Normally, Suzie liked boats, and she was an avid swimmer, but at that moment, she wished she could have just walked up to the castle, even if it took her all night. She’d miss the Sorting, though. Suzie didn’t know what House she wanted to be in, though Gryffindor sounded cool, with all the famous wizards in it, and she really liked the name of Ravenclaw. She loved badgers, but “Hufflepuff” reminded her too much of what the Big Bad Wolf said to the Three Little Pigs when he wanted to blow their houses down, and she didn’t think she’d ever stop giggling if she had to introduce herself as a Hufflepuff. “Slytherin” had a nice ring to it, and she’d always been fascinated by snakes.
The boat bumped up against the dock, and Suzie let out a sigh of relief. She still felt nauseous, but the journey was over and she’d succeeded in getting across without vomiting. Andrew and Cyrus, both seeming to have noticed that she was looking a bit green, helped her out of the boat first, then as Antonia scrambled out on her own, they leapt to assist others from their boats.
“You okay?” Toni whispered. “You don’t look very good.”
“I’m fine, I think. Andrew was right about the burnt hair beans, though.” Suzie swallowed. “Not very good with all the other sweets.”
“Come on, we want to get a good spot,” Toni said, pulling Suzie by the hand toward the back of the dock, where a forbidding-looking wizard dressed in black stood motionless watching the students clamber from the boats.
They got a good spot up in front of the wizard as the other students gathered around them. Suddenly, Suzie felt an overwhelming sense of nausea. Mind over matter wasn’t working.
“I feel sick,” she whispered to Toni, desperation sweeping over her as rapidly as the nausea.
Toni looked alarmed.
“I think I’m going to throw up,” Suzie whispered urgently.
The black-clad wizard glowered at her, but before she could run to the edge of the dock, say anything to the wizard, or even just take a step back, all her willpower was for naught, and she vomited. It seemed that everything she’d eaten that day disgorged itself rapidly and violently. And all over the wizard’s black robes.
Suzie was unsure whether she was more afraid of vomiting again or more frightened of the wizard standing in front of her. He must have been a very powerful wizard, too, since even as an expression of disgusted disbelief swept across his face, the mess vanished from his robes. Toni thrust a handkerchief in her hand, and Suzie gratefully, though belatedly, held it in front of her mouth. What an awful—and very uncouth—way to begin her new year at school, Suzie thought miserably. She’d probably be sent home in disgrace. But she wouldn’t cry.
“What is your name?” the wizard demanded.
Suzie could keep from crying, but she didn’t know if she could keep from vomiting again.
“Never mind. Go with Professor Hagrid. He will see that you—” The wizard took in a long breath and let it out slowly, and Suzie held her own breath, waiting to learn what her fate would be. “He will see that you are taken good care of and brought to the Great Hall.”
“Thank you, sir,” Suzie said from behind her handkerchief.
He whispered something to Professor Hagrid, then she scurried after the big wizard, who put a large, kind hand on her head and led her to a doorway and some narrow stairs leading up into the castle.
“Come along, little witch,” Professor Hagrid said. “I’m bringin’ ya to see Madam Pomfrey. A wonderful witch, that one, and she’ll fix you up proper. You’ll make it to the Sorting, never fear.”
“Thanks, Professor,” Suzie mumbled, still holding the handkerchief in front of her mouth.
She would have to apologise to the other wizard later, Suzie thought, relieved that she hadn’t been sent back home, or even scolded. It was not an auspicious start to the year, though, that was certain.
~ continued with ~
“Suzie, Sorted!”: Suzie is dosed with potions, then makes it to the Great Hall, where Severus Snape presides over the Sorting. She becomes acquainted with her new House and a few of her Housemates, and her Head of House gives a speech to everyone.