Mrs. Thomas ushered Dean on to the platform. It was early. A little too early for most kids to arrive — the ticket said 11 o’clock, but Dean’s mum had been nervous about their first trip to Platform 9 ¾. Dean was still a bit young to be heading off to school alone like this, but suddenly all those weird incidents made sense. The time Dean made a goal from the opposite end of the football field at four years old (he was barely bigger than the ball). Or that time he didn’t do any of his homework because the World Cup was on, but pulled it, magically she later realized, out of his bookbag the next morning. And she never explained to that man she was dating when he was small how he ended up walking in the park with them when she’d clearly left him with her mother.
Dean hauled his bag on to the train and stepped back down to wait with his mother, who refused to let him leave her sight until the train had left. He was 11 years old, and constantly mistaken for older due to his height, for goodness sake, but she insisted.
They stood there awkwardly. Mrs. Thomas picking invisible lint from Dean’s low cut afro. The platform began to fill and they both looked around. There were owls and cats in cages, men and women in all manner of mismatched dress — Dean even thought he saw someone pop onto the platform out of thin air! Suitcases were levitating onto the luggage car themselves, and a student spilled a fresh bottle of rich, black ink, but it didn’t leave a trace on the ground after her mother pulled out her wand and cleared it all up. Living where they did in London, Dean was used to being the only black kid around, but here he was out of his league. The only black kid at a wizarding school? What if he was the only one? Dean’s mother had been attempting to reassure him that there would be others… but she was looking around nervously too.
“Nonsense. I don’t know where… this all came from, but I refuse to believe– Ha! Look there, down at the other end! Another black student!”
Dean looked at who his mother was pointing to. It was another boy, with high cheekbones, a thin face, and arched eyebrows. He was watching the man next to what had to be his mother with disdain as he lifted his trunk on to the train. The man stepped back and canoodled with the woman as the boy rolled his eyes and looked around.
The two boys’ eyes met. They held the stare for a minute, neither sure of what to do. Do they nod in the wizarding world? Dean wanted to acknowledge the boy, but didn’t quite like the way the boy stared back. He looked down at his jeans and ratty trainers and saw the boy’s polished boots. They had a snake embroidered on the sides. There was a jewel in the eyes to really make them dance. They looked expensive. They’d be destroyed on a football pitch.
Dean decided not to acknowledge the boy, but in true Mrs. Thomas fashion, she took the initiative for him. In her mind, now that there were other black students, he would be safe. Before he knew it, Dean was being pulled over to greet the boy down the platform. They swerved around a small girl with a very large, furry cat that refused to be carried onto the train — she was trying to prod him with her wand, but it clearly wasn’t helping. Dean thought the boy and his family has been lost in the puff of steam that clouded the platform, but their brown faces were among the first they saw as it cleared. Soon enough, they were right upon them.
“Morning,” Mrs Thomas said in her cheeriest voice.
“Oh. Hello.” The boy’s mother looked Dean and Mrs. Thomas up and down. At first it was a look of interest, but when her eyes landed on Dean’s trainers, “Oh.”
Dean didn’t like what her tone meant. They were clearly being dismissed. They weren’t welcome. But Mrs. Thomas refused to see it. Dean cringed.
“Hi! I was just telling Dean here that we couldn’t be the only black family here and there you were! You appeared right out of the air— well, I guess that’s what happens here. Things appear out of the air, right? I suppose you didn’t have to go through the… what was the word, Dean? Your new professor told us we were, well, I was, a M… m- something.”
“Muggle,” Dean said in his smallest voice.
“Yes, that’s right. A Muggle, I suppose you didn’t go the Muggle way, coming onto the platform from this end. Anyway, I just wanted to introduce myself. I usually do. It’s nice to at least know the other black families at your son’s school. A solidarity thing, you know. Of course, Dean’s never had any trouble, and I don’t expect it at Hogwarts, but it’s always nice to know who your allies are, you know?”
Her wall of energy was torn down with silence.
“Mum, let’s go.” Dean tried to pull away. He was uncomfortable. She’d always done this. Introduced him to the other black kids in his class like he couldn’t make friends on his own. Like he couldn’t decide who was worthy to hang out with himself. Just because they were black didn’t mean they had to be friends. And this boy didn’t look like he wanted to be friends with him.
“Blaise, I suppose you could introduce yourself.” She then turned towards her man and they levitated Blaise’s trunk towards the train. Well, he levitated, she tittered after him gushing over how well he did magic.
Blaise clearly wanted to do nothing of the sort, but he stuck out his hand. Dean took it and they shook for as little time as could possibly be counted for a handshake. Dean ignored the way Blaise discreetly tried to wipe his hand on his thigh.
Dean didn’t understand. He’d been distant acquaintances with some of the other black kids at school before. Not everyone was meant to be friends, but none had ever looked at him like he didn’t belong. Like there was some other factor separating him from the majority, besides the color of his skin. He realized then and there that it was different here. Skin color wasn’t the concern. It went much deeper. Professor McGonagall had mentioned something about it when she’d visited, but she said that it had been a long time since it really mattered who was Muggle-born and who was magical. But she seemed to stop short there, he remembered… Clearly some people still wanted separation. The words choked in his throat, but his mother’s insistence on manners wouldn’t let him walk away without a begrudging, “Nice to meet you.” He tugged his mother away from Blaise and his mother. They stormed through an army of redheaded kids as they headed back to where they started on the platform.
“I don’t think I’m gonna be friends with him, mum.”
Mrs Thomas looked deflated. “I see. Not very warm bunch are they. I wonder if all wizards are like that…? I certainly got the cold shoulder from your— Nevermind. I just wanted you to not feel so alone, Deany.”
“I’ll be fine, mum. And look, I see more of us.” But as Dean looked at the swarm of black kids entering the platform and kids in trainers and properly coordinated Muggle outfits, he wasn’t sure which “us” was a more concerning minority in this new world.
It was soon last call to board. Dean hugged his mother and promised to write. As he walked towards the train, he saw Blaise eyeing a pale blond boy, but making no moves to join him. The blond was also clearly magical born, and his cloak had little snakes on it as well. Blaise had clearly picked what was important to him. Fine. Dean would do the same. But their eyes met and reflex made Dean give Blaise the nod. It felt wrong. Blaise looked away and scowled slightly. He then looked around at the sea of white students flowing past him onto the train and he looked back at Dean, nodding back, his brown cheeks darkening.
Dean stepped up on to the train and was immediately accosted by a round brown haired boy.
“Have you seen a toad on the platform? I might have already lost him and we haven’t even left yet!” Dean said he hadn’t. He moved to follow the boy, but another boy sidled up to him. “Don’t do it, mate. Been looking for that toad going on ten minutes now. I think he made a break for it. I’m a first year, by the way. Seamus.” Dean laughed as Seamus led him straight to a trolley full of candy like he’d never seen before. Seamus offered to split a Chocolate Frog and the packaging moved when he accepted it.
Dean didn’t know what he’d gotten himself into, but he’d figure it out. He always did.