All the compartments were full. Albus had been lugging his truck and owl, Peru, for what felt like hours down the Hogwarts Express. Finally, in the last carriage, he reached a compartment that was empty, except for a small girl with elbow-length straight coal black hair and ivory skin, alike to a china doll. Albus slid open the door and stepped tentatively into the compartment. The girl didn't turn around, but continued to gaze out of the window in silence. Albus cleared his throat loudly, but shyly. She still didn't turn, even when Peru squeaked loudly.
Albus swallowed, slightly annoyed at the girl's rudeness.
"Can I sit with you? Everywhere else is full…"
Albus never finished his sentence; Peru squeaked again, as if confirming his words. There was still no answer. Albus felt annoyance; this girl didn't even have the manners to answer a simple question. Then, suddenly, she nodded slowly once. Surprized, Albus went out for Peru, and then his truck, but he couldn't lift it. Albus tugged harder, but it slipped and he dropped it on his foot. His eyes watered in pain.
Great, he thought while he bent down to rub his toes. On my first trip to Hogwarts, and I haven't even sat down yet!
"Let me help."
Albus started. The girl had moved silently to stand behind him. He turned and started again. Apart from the difference between her skin and hair, her eyes were huge and a brilliant turquoise blue. Almost neon in their brightness. She came up to Albus' shoulder, with thin arms, legs and body, because ; she was tiny. Albus opened his mouth in response, but his voice didn't come out. He cleared his throat and tried again.
"Er…ummm…ok," Albus stuttered, finding his voice again. The girl blinked at him. Together, they heaved Albus' trunk into the compartment. They left it in the corner, unable to lift it onto the luggage rack. Finally, Albus collapsed into the seat next to the window, opposite the girl, who sat down just as heavily and sighed too. Albus glanced at her briefly, watching her stare out of the window blankly, before looking out at the view himself. He allowed his mind to wander back to his family, and his father's words for his worrying on the housing problem. Thinking about his family…
"Rose!" Albus suddenly gasped. The girl looked over in surprize. Albus smacked his forehead with his hand. The girl cocked her head to the side. "I promised my cousin I'd find us both seats! I've got to go find her," Albus paused. "She can sit with us, can't she?"
The girl nodded, and swung her feet against the seat; her feet were at least five inches off the floor. Albus started to get up; he'd left Rose somewhere on this train with James, all he had to do was find her…
A loud knock on the compartment door made Albus look around sharply, cracking his neck so it clicked. James was standing in the open doorway, Rose just behind him. Albus smiled meekly.
"Sorry, Rose, it took me ages to find us a compartment-"
"Don't worry about it, Al," Rose beamed at the back of James's head. "I've just embarrassed James here in front of all of his friends, so James said it was time to find you." Rose giggled.
"All right, all right! Al, give me a hand with this, it weights a tonne!"
Albus and James tugged Rose's trunk through the door and stood it next to Albus', followed by Rose who was carrying her black cat, Natty. Natty had one white paw against all the black fur, and her green eyes scanned the compartment, eyes resting on the small girl in the corner. She had turned to watch James and Rose's entry. She met the cat's gaze. James still hadn't noticed her, and jumped a foot into the air when he saw those turquoise blue eyes watching him.
"Er…hello?" he said awkwardly. The girl blinked at him, not answering. She cocked her head to the side, as though she was studying him. James looked uncomfortable under her inspecting gaze.
"Um…I'll see you at the Feast, Rose, Al," he said, backing out of the door. Once out, he nearly sprinted out of sight down the corridor.
Meanwhile, Albus and Rose had sat down opposite the girl. They all stared at each other. Albus glanced at outside the window. The sky was beginning to darken, and the fields outside of the window were growing wild: instead of neat, clipped hedges, they became ragged and dark. Natty meowed softly on Rose's lap and Peru tweeted mutedly from the opposite side of the side from the small child. Albus looked back at the girl. To his surprize, she was looking at Rose in wonder, who was busy stroking Natty. Natty purred, eyes closing as Rose tickled the fur between her ears. Unaware of the girl's observing stare, Rose looked up straight into the girl's eyes. The silence was heavy on Albus's ears, with only the train's background chugging to calm him. But instead of looking away, the girl beamed at Rose. Albus thought he was staring at the sun; her smile was shining with happiness, and that happiness was infectious.
"I like your cat," the girl said politely. Her voice was soft and gentle, almost shy. Albus hadn't noticed before when she spoke to him the first time; he was too busy focussing on her eyes. She broke Rose's surprized gaze, and looked longingly and wonderingly at Natty. Rose started sub-consciously stroking her cat.
"You can stroke her, if you'd like to," Rose said kindly. The girl looked up into Rose's eyes again, looking both nervous and surprized. She blinked a few times, as though she thought Rose would disappear, or she was dreaming. Then, slowly, she nodded.
"If you don't mind," she said in a small voice, shrugging. She shifted along her side of the seats, so that she was sitting next to Peru, so she was opposite Rose. Tentatively, the girl raised an unsure hand and ran it gently down the back of Natty. The cat purred softly, and the girl stroked her again. Albus watched, perplexed, as the small girl gained confidence. Rose grinned down at her small pale hand running down Natty's back again and again.
"What's your name?" her little girl asked Rose. Her sudden burst of curiosity startled Albus, like everything about this girl. Rose's face reflected the shock Albus felt.
"Sorry," the girl stuttered, leaning back, blushing, as four pairs of eyes stared at her. She looked down. Rose, dazed, shook her head.
"Don't worry about," Rose did a little giggle; it broke the ice between us all. The small girl looked up into Rose's smiling face. "I'm Rose, and this is my cousin Albus. This is Natty," she gave Natty a little stroke.
"Peru is my owl," Peru hooted in response to Albus' words. The girl and Albus shared a little nod.
"And you are?" Rose asked tentivally.
The girl's pale face fell slightly. "Lucinda," she muttered at her lap. "But I hate it," she grimaced.
Peru hooted. Lucinda glanced at her, smiling weakily. "I'm glad you agree, Peru," she said politely.
"Lucinda…Lucy," Albus said. "Lucy, how about that?"
The girl looked around at Albus. Her grin was amazing, like the sun again.
"That's great. Thanks, Al," Lucy looked out of the window for a second before turning back. "So, what house do you two want to be in?"
Rose and Albus glanced at each other.
"Gryfindor," Albus said. "My Dad was in there, and my Mum and all their family."
"Same," Rose said, but she made a face. "But I'm not that bothered."
"Except for Slytherin, of course," Lucy made a similar face to Rose. "Can you imagine going into that house? I'd have to go home in shame."
"Yeah, me too," Albus said; all his worries about housing were gone since his Dad told him the Sorting Hat took your choice in account. An impulse told him to tell the others about what his Dad had said. "But, you know the Sorting Hat actually listens to where you want to go."
Lucy's and Rose's expressions were mirrored looks of surprize as they gazed at him in wonder. Albus had a trill from the admiration in Lucy's eyes.
"Really?" Rose asked.
"Yeah," Albus nodded proudly. "It worked for Dad."
"Wow," Lucy breathed. She smiled softly. "That's really amazing, Albus…so...so you think it would work? For anyone?"
Albus shrugged. "Don't see why not."
Lucy sat up straighter. A little rosy tint glowed in her cheeks and a sparkle glittered in her eye.