Unofficial Portkey Archive

The Perils of Innocence by puck_nc

The Perils of Innocence


Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing in Rowling's sandbox.

News: A reader has begun to translate this story into Chinese. The link seems to be down as I type this, but I shared it on my Twitter account - @avidbeader - if you are curious. I also hope to begin the audio version soon, if you can stand my American accent.

As I feared, now that school is back in session I am extremely busy. I will try my best to keep up with twice-a-month updates, but if I'm late (like I am with this one, although Dragon*Con is partially to blame), trust that I will update as soon as I can.


1 September 1991

Dean looked the newcomer over. He wore regular clothes, but they had a somewhat out-of-date look to them, like the clothes he'd seen his da wear in pictures from his childhood. Dean had no memory of the last time he had seen someone his age wearing corduroy trousers, and his jumper appeared handmade, under a threadbare windcheater. Thinking that they might be meeting their first young wizard who was not a git, Dean waved to the remaining empty place. "Sure, we've room."

The boy sat, still admiring the spacious double compartment. "Thanks. My brothers never said that there was a compartment like this one on the train."

Hermione moved to cover for them. "It is nice, isn't it? So it's your first time going to Hogwarts School?"

He nodded. "I know a lot about it though. All my brothers have gone and my sister will next year. Ron Weasley, by the way."

The others began introducing themselves and Ron nodded politely until they got to Harry. At hearing the name, Ron goggled all over again. "Really? The Harry Potter?"

Harry nodded uncomfortably. "Yeah. Seems I'm famous for something I don't even remember."

"But… but you're the Boy Who Lived! You're the one that killed You-Know-Who!" His eyes grew wide with admiration.

Hermione saw Harry's teeth clenching and the suddenly uneasy looks on their friends' faces. While they had mentioned to the others in passing that Harry was famous because somehow he had deflected a deadly curse as a baby, hearing it phrased that way with such glaring hero-worship from a stranger was disconcerting. She jumped in to defend Harry.

"He said he didn't remember it happening! And he didn't kill this Voldemort person-" She was stopped when the boy squeaked.

"Don't say the name!"

"Honestly? You're going to let yourself be afraid of a word? Anyway, Harry didn't kill him. He killed Harry's parents and tried to kill Harry, but his spell backfired on him for some reason that no one's ever figured out." She reached over and took Harry's hand. "We know it's nothing Harry did. He wasn't even two years old yet."

Ron's mumbled apology and Harry's acceptance helped to finish Hermione's attempt to defuse the situation. Knowing that Ron was part of a family of wizards, they began asking him questions. As astonishment grew to comical heights on both sides, they turned it into a game to see who could tell the most unbelievable-but-true story about wizards or Muggles. It turned out Ron was slightly harder to shock than they expected from their experience with the Malfoys; Ron's father was rather interested in all things Muggle but sometimes had his information crossed. Ron knew that Muggles had gone to the moon, for instance, but was under the impression that there were cities there by now.

The arrival of the trolley helped break the ice further. Those who had remembered to bring galleons pooled their money and bought a large selection for everyone to share. They listened as Ron explained things like Chocolate Frog cards and Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans. The conversation was going well, though Hermione noticed Ron giving Harry glances now and again.

They had moved on to sport, with Dean and Justin arguing passionately about football or cricket being better, the other boys chiming in, and Ron trying to follow the conversation. There was a knock at the door and it slid open to reveal a round-faced boy who looked upset. He blinked at the double-size compartment, but asked, "Sorry to bother you, but have you all seen a toad? Mine's gone missing."

They all shook their heads. Justin replied, "We'll keep our eyes out, though."

The boy left and Hermione noticed Ron sniggering. "Something funny?"

"Oh, just no one really wants a toad. An owl's the thing." His expression turned grumpy. "Not that I have much better, just my brother's old rat. He got an owl for making prefect."

Hermione set her jaw and stood. "I'm going to go help him look. Anyone care to come along?"

Sally-Anne stood with her. "I will."

The two girls left and Hermione gave Sally-Anne a quick one-armed hug. "Thanks."

"Not at all. It's the right thing to do, even if that Weasley boy doesn't think so. Where should we start?"

"Actually, I think we can find it quickly if we get methodical about it. Let's stop in every car and I'll try to make it come to us."

Sally-Anne stopped in her tracks with a surprised look. Then she relaxed. "This is like calling your wands, isn't it?"

"Sort of. We just called it come here at the institute but we could do it pretty well." With that, they set off down the corridor.


The girls struck gold in the third car and a large toad sailed from a corner into Hermione's hands. She made a face at the feel of its skin, but tucked it into the crook of her arm. "That's the toad, now we need to find the boy." They continued toward the end of the train, glancing in open compartments as they went.

They were close to the end of the train when they saw the boy. He was surrounded by three other boys. The two large, heavy-set boys were strangers, but Hermione recognized the third one from his pale hair and snivelling voice.

"You're worthless, Longbottom, and you know it! No better than those filthy mudbloods! You couldn't work a spell if your life depended on it!"

Hermione put a hand out to stop Sally-Anne and narrowed her eyes. She was determined to put a stop to this but wanted to be careful about it. As she watched, the train swayed and all the boys shifted to try and stay upright.

"Can you do anything, Longbottom? Anything at all?"

As the boy called Longbottom clenched his fists, Hermione acted. With a sweep of her hand the three bullies were thrown back against the corridor walls and found themselves stuck like glue. Hermione pulled Sally-Anne back a few paces as Longbottom looked around in surprise.

The Malfoy boy began yelling to be let down, struggling to loosen his arms and legs from the wall, and Hermione called out, "Oh, my! That was impressive. Look, we found a toad. Is it yours?"

"Trevor!" The boy ran up to them and took the toad from Hermione. "Thank you!"

"You! You girls! Help us down!"

Hermione's smile curled up slowly. "Why, you mean someone as upper-crust as you can't sort out Mr. Longbottom's spell? I think if you try very hard, you'll manage before we get to school." She spun on her heel, tugging at the sleeves of her companions to follow her.

Once they were a few cars away, the boy repeated his thanks.

"Don't mention it. I'm Hermione Granger, this is Sally-Anne Perks. We're new to Hogwarts and rather new to this whole magic thing. How about you?"

"Neville Longbottom. It's my first time to Hogwarts as well. My family goes back a long way in wizarding society, but they didn't think for ages that I'd have enough magic to be let in."

"Nonsense," Sally-Anne replied, eager to help back up Hermione's intentions. "Look how you handled those nasty bullies! I'd say that's plenty of magic to go on with."

Neville reddened and smiled shyly, shifting Trevor to his other arm.


With the girls off to find a toad, the boys spread out a bit and continued their talk. Terry turned to Ron and asked about the shop in Diagon Alley that seemed to have sporting equipment, giving him the opening to describe the wizard game Quidditch. He enjoyed being the centre of attention, making bigger gestures and raising his voice as he described the rules and play.

One of the doors slid open and the girls returned in triumph, shepherding in the round-faced boy and his toad.

"Budge up!" Hermione insisted, sitting half on Harry's lap to make room. "This is Neville Longbottom, another first year like us."

Harry deliberately took charge of introductions, saving himself for last. "And I'm Harry Potter."

Instead of falling into stunned silence, Neville gravely held out a hand. "It's nice to finally meet you. I don't know if you know, but our mums asked each other to be godmother to us."

Harry's eyes widened, placing the name. "I found out your mum was my godmother at Gringotts. I didn't know my mum was yours." He took Neville's hand and shook.

"I see you found the toad," Wayne offered.

Sally-Anne described how she and Hermione had found it in a corner. "And then we went looking for Neville. When we saw him there were three boys being nasty, and Neville pushed them all against the walls and stuck them there with magic! It was marvellous!"

Harry and Dean glanced at Hermione, who winked.

Neville was holding out his toad. "I know he isn't much, but my Great Uncle Algie bought him for me after I got my letter from Hogwarts."

Ron reached into a pocket. "I've a rat, my brother gave him to me when my dad got him an owl for making prefect. His name's Scabbers. Pathetic, isn't he?" Ron held out the rat, who seemed determined to continue his nap.

The others pointed out their owls, sleeping in their cages as they swung gently from hooks under the baggage shelves. Before the conversation could drift from pets, Ron announced, "I tried to turn Scabbers yellow yesterday, to make him more interesting, but it didn't work. Here, I'll show you." He produced a wand rather the worse for wear, with chips in places and one end showing the core of unicorn hair. He cleared his throat.

"Sunshine, daisies, butter mellow,

Turn this stupid, fat rat yellow."

He finished with a flourish of his wand, but nothing happened. Ron gave a frustrated sigh.

"Are you sure that's a real spell?" Hermione asked. "I mean, I've read all our course books and they seem to use incantations based on Latin words. What would a Latin word for 'change' be?"

"How about 'mutato'?" Wayne asked. "Like the mutants in the X-men superhero comics?"

Harry leaned behind Hermione slightly so his face was hidden. "Dean, you're the artist. Give it a try." He winked at his friend and Dean controlled a grin with an effort. Ron shrugged and handed Scabbers over.

Dean put the rat in his lap and pulled his wand from his sleeve, holding it up dramatically. I want to make this rat turn yellow all over. He let the feeling in his head build a little, then released it, gesturing with the wand and shouting, "Mutato!"

Scabbers' fur took on a distinctly canary tone and his feet, ears, and tail turned a darker yellow. He squeaked and curled into a tighter ball.

Ron's mouth dropped open as the others applauded and congratulated Dean. His cheeks turned pink in anger. "Change him back!"

"All right, all right, hold a tic." Dean tried to feel what he'd done with his magic and found it surprisingly difficult. The power shimmering around the rat seemed much stronger than the bit of effort he'd put into it. All right, nothing for it. Remove all the magic spells around this rat.

He had barely begun to wave his wand when Scabbers darkened and started to expand. Dean screeched and shoved him off his lap and into the floor. As all the children looked on in growing shock, the rat morphed into a man.


An early tea was laid out in the sitting room reserved for staff, in anticipation of the Welcoming Feast later that evening. Professor McGonagall was discussing the schedule for flying lessons with Madame Hooch when a deep, echoing bell sounded, shaking the stone walls of the castle.

"What on earth?" Hooch leapt to her feet.

McGonagall stood as well. "It's the Express! Something's gone wrong! Grab some brooms-we'll have to Apparate to York and scout by air to find the train! I'll meet you at the gate with everyone I can find."

The two witches hiked up their robes and sprinted in opposite directions.


Scabbers, now a short fellow with matted hair, a pointed nose, and tatty clothes, looked around wildly. He spied Harry and focused on him.

"You?" He spared another glance around the compartment, taking in the group of frightened children, and scrambled to his feet. He hesitated for a brief moment, then leapt at Harry. "YOU! Your fault! It all went wrong because of you!"

He tried to seize Harry by the throat but only managed one hand as Hermione moved to Harry instead of dodging away. She grabbed his other hand and bit it as hard as she could. The man screamed and let go of Harry to strike her across the face. That produced shouts of anger from several of the other children, jumping to their feet to pummel at him.

Harry gasped for air, swallowing painfully from where the man's thumb had pressed against his windpipe. "Dean, help me! We need to make him sleep!" The boys clasped hands and focused everything they had on SLEEP!

Everyone else in the compartment dropped like a stone.


McGonagall had rounded up enough staff members to fill the armful of brooms Hooch brought. They converged at the main gates and McGonagall began, "You all heard the alarm, there's something wrong on the train. We Apparate to Upper Flagley and fly to the train tracks from there. Half of us will go north and half south to locate the train."

Dumbledore and Hagrid came rushing down as they exited the gates and mounted brooms. "Minerva? What's happening?"

"Didna you hear the alarm? Something's happened on the Express!"

"I was with Hagrid at his hut. Are we ready?"

"We are! You get a broom and join us in Upper Flagley!" With that, the staff disappeared in a series of pops like firecrackers.


Harry and Dean worked quickly, ransacking their trunks for socks to knot together and tie the man's hands and feet. They moved to Hermione and Harry's eyes narrowed in anger, seeing the large bruise developing on her cheek. "Wake up, Hermione," he murmured, letting out just a trickle of magic.

She stirred and opened her eyes. Harry and Dean helped her to a seat. She focused and looked around. "What happened?" She looked back at Harry and saw the red marks on his throat. "You're hurt!"

"So are you, Hermione. We'll be fine. We just need to wake the others up without waking him up, too."

Dean scanned the walls of the compartment. "I don't see an emergency cord for calling for help, do you?"

Hermione shook her head. "I didn't see any adults when Sally-Anne and I went to find Neville's toad. Just other students."

"Let's put the compartments back before we do anything else," Harry said.

Hermione nodded. "We'll need Ron and the man on the same side as us. Neville, too, since they were talking about pets. Everyone else on the other side." After a few minutes of tugging and shoving inert bodies, Hermione concentrated and returned the wall between the compartments to its original state. While Harry stood guard, Hermione and Dean went into the other compartment, revived their friends, and explained.

Justin shook his head. "So there's no way to stop the train and there doesn't seem to be anyone in charge. How about the owls? Sending one to Professor McGonagall?"

"I don't know," Hermione replied. "We don't know how far away we are from school. Justin, you go toward the front and see if you can find anyone in charge. Surely there's a crew at the engine! Terry, you go the other way and look for an adult. The trolley lady at least has to be somewhere. And don't give any details yet other than a rat turned into a man and attacked us. We still have to explain the compartments to Ron and Neville somehow."

Hermione re-entered Harry's compartment and Dean stayed in the corridor to keep a lookout. He noticed that a few students at the other end of the car were looking out uncertainly. "All right there?" Dean called to them.

"Thought we heard someone scream," a girl with auburn hair responded.

"Someone started a food fight in our car and got pumpkin everywhere from one of those pasties. Everything's sorted now."

"Ah, cheers, then." The students retreated behind their doors and Dean took up his position once more.


In the compartment, Harry woke Neville first. "All right there, mate?"

Neville looked around, frowning. "The compartment got smaller."

"No, it didn't," Harry lied, looking at Neville pleadingly.

Neville gave Harry a long, measuring stare and nodded. "All right, we're in a regular compartment. But there's a strange man where Weasley's rat used to be." He faced Harry, daring him to tell another one.

"Yes, and we have no idea who he is or why he attacked us."

Hermione looked closely at the man. "Harry, he looks a little familiar."

"I don't see how. We never met any wizards until Professor McGonagall arrived to explain the letters."

Neville's mouth opened in surprise. "Wait, explain the letters? You didn't even know you were a wizard?"

"Nope, not a bloody clue." Harry moved over to Ron and reached out a hand to wake him. Neville's eyes widened as he watched Harry revive the other boy without a wand.

No wand…wait, does HE have a wand? Neville carefully began checking the unconscious man's robes.

Ron woke and began looking around wildly. "Scabbers! Scabbers turned into a wizard! Scabbers attacked Harry Potter!"

"Yes, we know. It's all right, he's not going to hurt us now." Hermione tried to soothe him.

"But he's my rat! He was Percy's rat! How can he be a wizard?"

As Hermione continued to try and calm Ron down, Terry returned with an older student, a girl with long curly hair and a prefect badge on her robes. "I'm Penelope Clearwater, Ravenclaw prefect. What's going on here?"


Author's Note: As always, thank you for reading!