I wouldn’t say we became as thick as thieves right then and there. For one thing, I was still myself–as prone to hesitation as ever–for another, I’ve always found that good friendships, the strong ones that can bear through anything, ought to be built with care and time. What I was feeling was the potential for life-long friendships: I could imagine myself spending the next seven years at Arthur’s side even when he waxed poetic about beetles. I could envision myself reluctantly and bemusedly allowing Stephanie to practice minor spells on me. I could so easily see myself disregarding canon and risking everything so that Cedric wouldn’t be just a killed spare.
I wasn’t at that point yet; but the Triwizard Tournament wouldn’t be until our sixth year. To put it bluntly, I didn’t care that much about him yet. And, to put it even more bluntly, he wasn’t real to me yet. It was easy to like Stephanie and Arthur because they were likable people, but in Cedric’s case… he was still partially a fictional character. Oh, the helpful boy with a soft smile and love for dogs and Quidditch was a person, but Cedric Diggory? Hufflepuff Hogwarts champion? First casualty in the second war against Voldemort? Those were just titles, just symbols, they weren’t tangible like an eleven year old child was. Time would help; maybe in time I would prioritize his life alongside mine, but not yet.
When it was time to change into our uniforms, the compartment across from us had mixed genders too, so Stephanie went across to change with the girls while the two second year boys temporarily joined us. Both of them were Ravenclaws, and had distractedly rambled about their hopes to get on the Quidditch team this year. Cedric, as personable as I’d come to expect, continued the conversation by peppering them with questions, while Arthur, uninterested, and I, inexperienced, just tried to tie our un-sorted black ties properly. When Stephanie came back, she rolled her eyes and fixed the mess we’d made of ourselves.
It was dark by the time the train began to decelerate to a stop. Everyone began disembarking, the return students headed in one direction while the first years followed the sound of what had to be Hagrid’s booming call. The four of us stuck together despite the crush of people, Arthur and Stephanie ahead of me and babbling about different Sorting rumors they’d heard from older relatives. I tried not to shake with nerves, but I probably failed, because Cedric bumped shoulders with me in a companionable gesture, smile comforting.
“I’m just… I mean, I didn’t even know magic was real three months ago and suddenly I’m going to Hogwarts, you know?” I tried to defend myself against a criticism that didn’t come.
Cedric just nodded, “I’ve grown up with magic my whole life so I’ve always known I’d go to Hogwarts one day. It must all be such a rush for you, it’s okay to be a little nervous. I’m a little nervous, too.”
He was just a child. I was the one with an additional twenty odd years of life experience, I should be the one comforting him! But I couldn’t help the rush of sheepish gratitude and smiled back at him.
Obviously it would be us four in one boat. We kept up a steady, distracting conversation after spotting Arthur’s anxious grip on his seat, so it wasn’t until we saw his face open with awe that three of us looked up to see the Hogwarts castle. It was beautiful.
It was also… formidable. This was a structure that not only stood the test of magic, but of time. It was a building that had outlasted it’s founders, that could very well outlast every single one of it’s occupants. While the Hogwarts Express had been like something out of a child’s daydream, the castle was unmistakable as a cumulation of the ambition, ingenuity, and hard work of fully grown wizards and witches.
All of our faces were turned upwards as we approached the doors, trying to soak in the sight of our new home. Professor McGonagall waited for us, acknowledging Hagrid briefly before ushering us all inside.
A/N: I honestly did want to get to the Sorting… buuut, I wanted to post this already. 😛 NEXT TIME!