Saturday: September 1, 2018
Working their way through the sea of people at King’s Cross Station, Andrew and his family skipped past the overhanging screens of Departures and Arrivals, knowing that the train they were looking for would not be displayed publicly. Following the directions that had been instructed to them (after checking and re-checking to make sure they were correct), the Vances made their way through the station as briskly and unsuspiciously as they could, searching for one platform marker in particular…
Assuming the map-reader position, Stacy – the eldest of the three Vance siblings – led the pack and held onto Andrew’s ticket for constant reminder, as she navigated the rest of her family towards the platforms. “Platform 9 and three-quarters” – so it said on the Hogwarts Express ticket that Andrew had received in his letter from Hogwarts, though Stacy didn’t dare say it out loud, in case other Muggles around might overhear her.
“Well, we’re here. Platforms 9 and 10,” Stacy announced, standing in front of one of the dividing brick-and-mortar columns that were lined in a row between the two platforms.
Mr. Vance halted the trolley that contained Andrew’s belongings, raising his eyebrows skeptically at the column, before exchanging puzzled glances with the rest of his family. “We just run right into it?”
“That’s what they said,” Stacy affirmed with a shrug. “They” being the Hills, family friends of the Vances that had delivered Andrew’s letter and dropped the news of him being a wizard, exactly five months ago. The Hills had helped to prepare the Vances for the start of Andrew’s first year at Hogwarts, and they had relayed thorough instructions as to how they would gain access to the platform. Not that the Vances didn’t want to doubt the trustworthiness of their good friends, but still…
The Vances hesitated. Running full-throttle into what appeared to be a solid brick wall was ludicrous, from a Muggle’s point of view. Even Andrew, who had been to Diagon Alley and witnessed his own performance of magic, was nervous as he began to picture what the worst case scenario would be: If he ended up crashing into the wall and injuring himself, he would look like a fool in front of a crowd of Muggles. That was one way to draw unwanted attention to himself, if he wanted to conceal the fact that he was a wizard. All the strangers around him would think that he was crazy! Lunatic!
His heart pounded, fearing as time ticked by. Every second that passed, it was one second closer to the train’s departure. The Hills had emphasized its importance – Andrew couldn’t miss the train. If only the Hills were here, right now…
Unbeknownst to them, the Vances weren’t alone. Sooner or later, they would encounter other Hogwarts students and their families that would have to pass onto the hidden platform, especially since today was the start of the school term. Those that took notice of the Vances would see a man, woman, and three children – one of them (the middle child, Andrew) coughing and sniffling, looking obviously sick from a cold – standing next to a trolley, attempting to act as casual as they could while loitering around the platform division, although their uneasy glances betrayed them as they stared at the unseen magical barrier, struggling to muster enough courage to enter through it.