“A Strange Occurrence at the Platform” — John Joyce

The man, weathered by the sun and wind, with the smell of the sea still grasping to every fiber of his flesh, sat wearily down on the platform bench. It was as if the weight of the world had suddenly been pulled from his shoulders and he collapsed beneath the weight of what was left. And with a grip so tight that the pink hue had long since abandoned his fingertips, it appeared the only thing left to him was the small black journal pressed in his hands. 

He sat waiting for the train and watched dozens of children pass. Their parents followed in their wake, cheerfully caught behind their giggles and smiles. A sense of wonder and happiness filled the station, and it was all quite at odds with his apathy.  A normal person would have been moved by the laughter, yet while his eyes watched, his mind was occupied by something else which screamed out to the world, as if it was written upon the rough features of his face. He sat, and sat, lost in his own world until a young man approached and sat down beside him.

“Hi, is it your child’s first day as well?” The young man asked.

The older man, still lost in his thoughts, seemed to have not have heard, so the young man leaned in closer and said, “Excuse me sir? Hi, is it your child’s first day as well?”

The man turned towards him, his beard heavy and laced with the signs of age.

“Child?” The man replied politely, with a voice much softer than his appearance would suggest. “Oh no—I don’t have any children.”

“Ahhh. It’s my son’s first day.” The younger man said, pointing him out near the edge of the platform. “I’m a tad bit nervous for him. I remember my first day. It was all so new. Frightening really.”

The older man looked around and finally noticed more than just the rush of people and the crowding noise. He saw the children; some were in ornate robes, others in normal clothes, all with trunks and chests packed full, books in hand, and even peculiar cages housing wild looking creatures. One girl even had a cat thrown over her shoulder. This all struck him as quite odd and he turned back to the young man.

“Is it a Catholic School?”

“I’m sorry, a what school?” The young man asked.

“Catholic School—” He answered rather confused. “I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a uniform like that unless it was Catholic. I’m a Protestant of course, but I have a strong respect for all the religions you see. I’ve known a few in my day…”

“Ohhhh—Catholic.” The young man whispered.

The young man was now just as confused with the conversation as the older man appeared to be. The young man’s green eyes darted back and forth behind his glasses to the bewildering man and the loading platform where his son was standing. His wife still had a firm grip on his son’s hand. She turned and gave the young man a loving smile. He smiled back and turned to the man, now more curious than nervous, but he didn’t know why he felt this way.

“Soooo, I take it you are not a new professor?” The young man asked.

“Oh no! Professor? Oh no. I am a writer.” The man answered. “I’m going to Cambridge.”

“Oh! Like Rita Skeeter?” The young man questioned in a rather sarcastic manner, allowing his face to contort in a familiar pose of disdain.

“I’m afraid I don’t know who that is young man.” The older man said, cocking his head slightly. “Up until recently, I was on a whaling ship. The Pequod. I’ve grown quite unfamiliar with the famous as of late.”

“Hold on a minute! You said you were trying to go to Cambridge?” The young man asked.

“Yes, Cambridge.”

“Sir, this platform isn’t for Cambridge.”

“Whatever do you mean? I’m at platform 9 aren’t I?”

“Sir, you are on platform 9 ¾. This train goes to Hogwarts, school of—uh, never mind. You’re on the wrong platform!

“Good Lord!” He exclaimed as he grasped the wood of the bench and began to stand up. “Am I really?”

“Yes!” The young man smiled. “How exactly did you get here anyway?”

“Well, I walked here, like you I suppose. How did you get here?” The older man asked, a serious look overtaking his features.

“No, I mean—I mean how did you get to this platform?”

“I walked here I said! Aren’t you listening lad?”

“Yes I know, I know. But here,” he pointed at the bench, “here to this seat?”

“Hmm.” The older man said, stroking the intertwined hairs of his beard. “Well, I came to the station, bought my ticket, you see,” and he motioned to the black journal, where there was buried within the pages, the corner of a silver ticket, “and the attendant said go to platform 9 and the train would be there shortly. So, I walked. There was a crowd of people, pushing and shoving about. It was too difficult to escape, so I went with them. They were children mostly, these children and their fancy robes, but I saw the platform number and walked towards it. I sneezed and I suppose I walked passed it slightly. I never knew England would have platforms so close together, and with such a strange numbering system at that.”

The young man smiled. And his smile widened and widened until there was no control. Laughter poured forth into the station, loud enough so to bring the attention of everyone there including his wife who walked over to his side, curious and smiling.

“I think the Headmistress should meet this gentleman, Ginny!” The young man said to the beautiful ginger haired woman. “He’s not a muggle and he doesn’t even know it. Like me!” The young man looked back towards the man, “but I was much younger than you when I found out of course!”

The man’s face reddened and his lips went flat. “I’m sorry, but I have no idea what you’re talking about. Frankly, I don’t know how to take it!”

The young man placed his hand gently on the older man’s shoulder.

“Don’t worry.” He said. “This is my wife Ginny, and that,” he pointed off again at the little boy sitting near the edge of the platform, “that is Albus there. He is somewhat shy.”

The older man stood and bowed slightly towards the lady.

“It is a pleasure.” He mumbled.

“Come now, sit. We should all go to Hogwarts together.” The young man smiled.

“And what is this place? Hogwarts?” The older man asked.” Is it in London?”

“No, it’s not in London, but I promise you won’t regret going. It’ll be an experience like none you’ve ever had.”

The older man said nothing, but stared off in silence. The young man smiled and stood up in front of him.

“My name is Harry. Harry Potter.” He said, extending his hand.

“Call me Ishmael.” The old man answered.