Eleven-year-old Olivia Stewart was desperately trying to control her emotions. Kings Cross Station bustled around her. She felt safe pushing her trolley between her parents. Roy Stewart had one hand on his daughter's shoulder while Miranda Stewart eyed the trolley as Olivia struggled to maneuver it through the dense throng of people. Olivia had insisted on pushing the trolley herself. She was headed to Hogwarts, which meant she would be away from her parents for months and on her own. Pushing the trolley herself felt like a step forward toward independence. At least that's what she was telling the butterflies in her stomach.
"We're quite early, Miranda." Roy was speaking to his wife of fifteen years over Olivia's head. Roy spoke calmly with a sweetness in his voice. Miranda eyed the large clock face above her.
"There is nothing wrong with being early. She'll get her pick of compartment this way," Miranda replied smoothly. Olivia smiled to herself. Her parents tended to do that, talk around her that is. There was no malice or ignorance in her parents' musings, and if Olivia wanted to be a part of the conversation all she had to do was speak. But today, of all days, she took comfort in her mother's efficiency and her father's calm acceptance of that efficiency.
Olivia gripped the bar of the trolley even tighter. She had been so excited to go to Hogwarts, looking forward to it more and more this past summer. But that excitement was replaced with useless anxiety when she woke up this morning. Questions flooded her anxious mind. Have I forgotten to pack anything? Will I find a seat on the train? What if the barrier doesn't let me through?! How will I make friends? Olivia was an adventurous girl, loving to explore the coastline and investigating the plants of her father's many gardens, but she was relatively alone in those adventures. Her family's small cottage home was on the outskirts of St Andrews in Scotland. There were few neighbors and even fewer children, none of which were her own age. She never felt deprived, growing up without children her own age. But the lack of companionship left her feeling like she was about to take a test she hadn't studied for. How in Merlin's name was she supposed to make friends on her own when she had never done it before?
"Ah, here we are." Her father's deep tenor voice pulled Olivia out of her anxious thoughts. They were standing some meters away from the barrier wall between platforms 9 and 10. Olivia swallowed, her throat suddenly dry. It doesn't hurt. Granny said it's like walking from the kitchen into the dining room. Olivia's paternal grandmother had been kind in her understanding of Olivia's trepidation and repeatedly told her only grandchild that she would be fine.
"Right, I'll go first darling, to show you how it's done. Then you'll follow along with Daddy." Miranda's smile was brilliant.
"Yeah, sounds good." Olivia's voice sounded breathy to her ears. She felt her father give her shoulder a soft squeeze. Miranda turned on her heel and without a second glance walked briskly through the barrier. She disappeared faster than Granny's raspberry bun cakes at Christmas. Olivia swallowed again.
"See, nothing to it." Her father's blue eyes that matched her own twinkled at Olivia. She offered him a timid smile. "Let's go, shall we?"
Olivia turned her face back to the barrier. She squared her shoulders and aimed her trolley at the wall. "Here goes nothing," she said quietly, more to herself than anything else. Olivia started walking, then broke into a soft jog. Her father never lessened his grip on her shoulder. His warm strong hand grounded her anxious mind as she raced headlong into the seemingly solid wall.
In the next breath, Olivia was standing next to her mother. She dug the heels of her trainers into the polished floor to stop her momentum. She had made it, she was on Platform 9 3/4. The Hogwarts Express gleamed in front of her. They were almost 45 minutes early for departure, just the faintest wisp of smoke was escaping the train's engine as it warmed up for the journey to the castle.
Olivia took a steadying breath. A smile brighter than the sun broke out on her freckled face. If she could jog into a wall, she could make friends and have a great first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Laugh as much as you choose, but you will not laugh me out of my opinion. ~ J. Austen