Remus sat down in the first empty compartment he could find, carefully storing his belongings under the seat. He wasn’t even sure whether this was really happening, the past few weeks had passed like a bizarre dream. Looking out the window at the platform below he caught the grey eyes of one of the prettiest girls he had ever seen. Which was even weirder than the whole wizarding boarding school thing to be honest, since he had literally never thought that a girl was pretty before. By the time his brain had processed that, the girl was nowhere to be seen.
He allowed himself to become lost in his thoughts again as his mind travelled back to the events earlier in the month that had lead to him being sat on this train which would be travelling away from his mother and the only life he had ever known. He was interrupted from his reverie as an energetic, tousle-haired boy burst into his compartment, laughing loudly. Upon noticing Remus, the boy stuck out his hand.
“James Potter. Nice to meet you. First year?”
“Uh, yes?” answered Remus cautiously. Was it really that obvious that he didn’t fit in?
“Me too!” grinned the boy, and he flopped down on the seat opposite to Remus before peering at him curiously. Remus felt his cheeks flush and braced himself for a comment on the scars that crossed his face, or his homemade clothes.
“Where are you from?” the boy continued, “I really can't place your accent, and you don't look familiar at all and my family know most people... Unless you’re muggleborn? That would be so cool! I’ve always wanted to meet someone who grew up with muggles! Is it true that-” James stopped himself abruptly. “Sorry, that was rude. I get a bit over excited when I meet new people.”
“Um, I’m Romanichal,” replied Remus, uncertainly. James’ face looked blank. “You know, like the travellers? Mum says we originally came from India though.”
“So you are a muggleborn! What do you mean, traveller? Do muggles often travel?”
“Oh, uh, actually my dad is a wizard, but I live with my mum who isn’t magical. Most muggles stay in one place, and they don’t like those of us who live a nomadic lifestyle. I don’t really understand why but they think we are all dirty and steal things. But yeah, we move around a lot - our atching tan is near Swansea though.”
Remus wasn’t sure why he was telling this boy all of this when they had only just met. He hadn’t even decided whether to even share his heritage with his new classmates. His father had suggested it was a chance for a clean start, and it wasn’t like it was the only thing he would be hiding. But this James guy seemed friendly enough, and he hadn’t even known what a traveller was! He certainly looked more curious than prejudiced.
“That sounds really cool! It sucks that people are prejudiced though. Some of the pureblood families look down on us Potters even though we’re purebloods too. What’s your name by the way?”
“Oh, uh, it’s Remus. Remus Lupin.” How could he have forgotten to introduce himself! And what was the sacred 28? Despite James’ friendly and cheerful demeanour, Remus was starting to feel even more out of place than before. He was about to ask James if there were many students at Hogwarts that came from non-magical backgrounds when the doors to the compartment slid open again.
A slightly familiar looking boy peered in, which was ridiculous given that Remus definitely did not know anyone on the train yet except maybe for James. The newcomer was slightly out of breath and looked at James with a slightly worried expression that seemed to manage to also give off the air of daring him to say something.
"I'm Sirius," the new boy said quickly, grey eyes still staring intently at James. "Can I join you? I'm trying to avoid my cousins."
"Um, sure," Remus stuttered, at the same time as James opened his mouth to ask, "Do I know you?"
"No, you don't," replied Sirius quickly, "You might know my cousins though. Us Blacks all look pretty similar what with all the inbreeding. I'm guessing you must be James Potter, although you'd think you'd have had access to all the hair styling products you needed if you were so maybe not." At this both Sirius and James grinned sheepishly at each other and the tension in the air seemed to disappear somewhat.
"Haha, this mop is pretty untameable, but the ladies like a bad boy," grinned James, seemingly unaware that he was a somewhat gangly eleven year old. "This is Remus, his mum is a muggle!"
"Nice!" exclaimed Sirius, "Do you know any muggle rock? I loooove Led Zeppelin and The Who!"
James looked surprised at this but quickly joined in the conversation. "I don't know many, but Pink Floyd are really good."
"Oh, I uh... don't listen to much music.. my mum really likes Deep Purple?"
"Wow, your mum sounds awesome! Muggle music is incredible, I can't believe you don't listen to any... Say, what house do you think you'll be in? I'm gonna be in Gryffindor!" Sirius seemed to jump from one topic to another as though they were hopscotch squares and he was trying to win some competition none of the rest of them knew about.
"Gryffindor too, my whole family is in there," replied James easily. "I think you'd be the first Black to be a Gryffindor though..."
"So I guess I'll just have to be the first." replied Sirius sharply. The slightly guarded expression and challenging look in his eyes were back, as though he was expecting James to argue with him. "Remus, what about you? Or are you a mud... muggleborn? We could explain if you want."
"Oh, uh, no. My dad is a wizard. He thinks I'll be in Ravenclaw like he was, but I think Hufflepuff sounds more like me. My mum reckons I would fit in Gryffindor but she's a muggle and I'm not so sure I would..."
Remus ground to a halt, suddenly aware of how much he had spoken and how little the other two boys probably cared. It sounded like he wouldn't be in their house anyway, and he'd already shown himself to be really uncool when they had been talking about music. Why on earth would they care what his parents thought? He could have just said he didn't know. A horrible thought occurred to him, and more words spilled unbidden from his mouth.
"What... what happens if you don't fit in any of the houses? Do you get sent home?"
James looked at him, suddenly much more seriously. "That doesn't happen. Sometimes there are hat stalls but that's just because you have qualities from more than one house. You're a wizard, so you will be educated at Hogwarts unless they expel you."
"Besides, they probably just stick all the odd ones out in Hufflepuff," added Sirius, earning himself a glare from James.
Still feeling incredibly nervous, Remus leant back in his seat and gazed out the window. James seemed to have caught on to his unease, and gave him a gentle punch in the upper arm.
"Hey, don't listen to him. There might be people who tell you you don't belong because of your blood status but they are all bigots my dad says. You wouldn't have gotten a letter if you didn't deserve to come to Hogwarts, and they have never made a mistake yet. And anyway, no matter what house you're in I'm sure we'll have classes together, and you'll always have me as a friend."
Shyly, Remus met his smile and nodded. Reaching into his bag he pulled out the food his mum had packed for him and his smile widened as he felt that there were not one but two Cadbury Dairy Milk bars tucked beside the sandwich. Reaching a quick decision, he held one of them out to each of the other boys in the carriage.
"Muggle chocolate? Wow, thank you!" said James as he tore into the packaging.
"Oh, um, thank you." muttered Sirius. "I was being a dick. It's no excuse but I wasn't brought up in the most open minded of families. Feel free to give me a kick if I'm ever being a prat."
"Pretty sure he'd be kicking your aristocratic arse constantly if he took you up on that one," grinned James. "What is an heir of the most ancient and noble house of Black doing in a carriage with a Potter and a halfblood anyway?"
"My family and I don't agree on a lot of things. Nothing causes a bigger fight than when they are trying to find a suitable match for me to produce the next generation of inbred snobs. Mother is always going on about there being more than one way in which one has to ensure the bloodline remains pure and you definitely don't..." Sirius stopped himself abruptly. "Well it's not like I would be paired with you anyway but like... I guess if you had a sister you'd be right in thinking she wouldn't be considered eligible. But I'm not like that, and I think me being in Gryffindor might give her more than enough to squark over for at least a few months. I can pick my own friends."
"I guess you're not wrong that you being sorted into anything but Slytherin would cause a bit of a stir."
Remus closed his eyes as the other two continued chatting, and drifted into an uneasy sleep. There was so much he didn't know, and his father had definitely been surprised when his Hogwarts letter had arrived. Despite James' reassurances he couldn't help but feel there had been some terrible mistake - even if he was a wizard he hadn't been able to find any record of a werewolf attending Hogwarts before and he didn't understand half of what the other two were on about. Hopefully they'd realise the mistake before he was actually in the sorting ceremony and he could just leave quietly before many people even noticed he was there.