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Harry Potter Alternate Universe >> Chapter 2: The First Clue by summerpotter

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Chapter 2: The First Clue

By the time Harry woke up the next day, Sam had already gone to work. It was only nine-thirty when he got out of bed, but after being woken up every few hours by Sam, his body did not want to fall back asleep. Harry was used to getting up early for work and with the sun lighting up the room, Harry got up to start his day, wishing he could have used today to sleep in. Feeling groggy and a little grumpy, Harry headed into the kitchen for a large cup of coffee and some breakfast.

After turning on the coffee percolator, Harry turned on the radio and tuned in to his favorite station before starting on a hearty breakfast of eggs and bacon. Several sips of coffee later, he began to feel more alert and energetic. Coffee was such an important part of the day as a journalist. Unfortunately this work-habit had crossed into his personal life and had become an addiction. Generally, he drank two to three cups in a day, and he liked his coffee black. Sam, on the other hand, preferred tea with far too much milk and sugar.

Harry took his time eating his breakfast, which was a luxury he didn't often have. After eating, he cleaned up both his and Sam's dirty breakfast dishes, and then got dressed. Harry so rarely had a full day to relax and forget about work. Therefore, he planned to use today as thoroughly as he could. Harry decided to head downtown and wander the city, just to get out of the house. He wondered whether or not Andrew, who worked for a law firm downtown, would be available for lunch. Andrew was forever telling him that they should get together and do lunch, but Harry so rarely had the time to do so. Usually, he just grabbed something quick on his break and ate it at his desk as he tried to meet deadlines.

Harry made it downtown within thirty minutes by bus, figuring he could stop by his friend's office around noon. As it was only a little after ten-thirty, Harry killed time by wandering down a few streets and visiting any shop that caught his eye. He loved the city; loved that you could kill hours just walking around New York. There was just so much to see and do in this city that New York never bored him.

Harry was thinking how well his day off was going while waiting at a coffee shop for his second cup of coffee of the day, when he noticed two young women were staring very pointedly at him. He tried to ignore them, wondering why on earth they were looking at him. As much as he tried, ignoring them became even harder when they started whispering to each other. Clearly, they lacked subtly and basic manners. Teenagers today were so rude, it was unbelievable.

He glanced at the girls again, confused as to why they were staring at him, let alone loudly whispering. He had no idea who they were and they looked a few years younger than he was. Sometimes men recognized him from his staff picture, but unless they were daily readers of the sports section of the paper, even this was a rare occurrence. Most people recognized on-air journalists, not the average sports writers.

When he was handed his cup of coffee, Harry took it quickly, feeling grateful to be able to leave the shop. He was just about to leave when one of the girls tapped him on the shoulder. Harry turned and took a nervous step back when he realized that they were suddenly very close to him.

"Hi," said one of the girls, the braver of the two.

"Hello," Harry said slowly, looking from one girl to the other. In a city where he had an accent, Harry immediately recognized that these girls were Brits, too. What, were they able to sniff out their own kind? Was he that obvious as a Brit in America? Trying to keep his voice light, he asked, "Can I help you?"

"My friend and I were just wondering if it was you," the braver girl spluttered, sounding a little nervous now. Her eyes flicked up to Harry's forehead and Harry suddenly felt self-conscious. He hated people staring at his scar–a lightening-bolt shaped mark on one's forehead wasn't exactly a flattering facial feature.

Harry smoothed his fringe nervously to hide the scar. "Pardon?"

"Harry Potter," said the other girl, even more nervously. She blushed furiously and bowed her head, as if she was ashamed to have spoken up. "That's you, isn't it?"

Harry looked between the girls again, thoroughly confused. "Yes..." Women recognized him far less than men, and never before had he been stopped by girls as young as these. If he were to guess. they were no older than sixteen or seventeen.

The girls immediately looked very excited. The first girl turned to her friend and exclaimed, "I knew it. I told you! Mum will never believe this!"

"I know! Weird, isn't it? The one weekend we're in New York!"

"How did you know my name?" Harry asked again, uncomfortable that they were speaking like he wasn't there at all. Harry wasn't sure what the appropriate reaction was when meeting a fairly successful journalist like himself, but hell, he wasn't an actor or musician! Surely, they were a little too excited...

The first girl looked at him as if he were quite daft. Even the second girl looked surprised that he'd asked that question.

The first girl began digging hurriedly in her bag for something as she answered him. "We've seen pictures. The scar is a dead-giveaway, Mr. Potter!" She pulled a pen and sheet of folded paper from the depths of her bag, and held it out to him. She wore a hopeful smile on her face, her lashes fluttering in an unmistakable fashion. "I'd love to know about what you've been up to–everyone would. You like coffee? We should grab one sometime! Would you mind terribly?" She asked sweetly.

Harry stared in horror at the pen and paper. This had never, ever happened to him. If Sam were here, she'd think this was very funny and she'd make the girls feel embarrassed by kissing him or introducing herself as his girlfriend. He didn't want to hurt the girl's feelings, but there was no way he was giving his phone number to some weird stalker.

Harry forced a nervous smile and tried to keep his voice gentle. "Look, I'm sure you're nice, and I appreciate that you read my column, but I don't give out my phone number."

The second girl looked mortified, but the bolder one just laughed. "No, no, I just wanted an autograph! It's not every day that you run into Harry Potter!"

Harry hesitated, still unsure. Who asked for the autograph of a common sports journalist? He wasn't even the Sports editor! He had a by-line, but that was it!

Deciding that autographing this piece of paper was the only way to escape these girls, he took the pen and paper. He signed it, pleading that the girls would let him go now.

The girl admired the autograph with a wide smile. "Oh, thanks! I really appreciate this! This is so cool!"

"You're welcome," he replied, feeling awkward.

The girl hugged the piece of paper to her chest. "Listen, I don't really know what happened, but I just wanted you to know that I'm still a big fan! I can't wait to show everyone at school! I'm in Gryffindor, too, you know!"

What in the hell was a Gryffindor? Harry backed up toward the door and raised a hand in farewell. He needed to get out of here before they asked to take pictures with him or something. "No problem. Well, I've got to go. Goodbye."

"Bye Harry!" Shouted the girls in unison. "Nice to meet you!"

The second he was outside, Harry booked it down the street toward Andrew's office. He only slowed when he was sure that the girls weren't following him. He thought about the way the girls had looked at him. It was like they thought he was famous– more famous than a sports journalist should be to a pair of teenage girls. The more he thought about it, the more he realized that this was not the first time he'd been stared at strangely or had a weird encounter with a fan.

What did they mean "what happened?" Were they referring to his accident? He hadn't checked, but he supposed that it could be a slow news week and so when he fell off that cliff, the Editor-in-Chief decided to use it for a story? "Journalist Survives Fall." Yep, he wouldn't put it past his boss to use his accident to sell papers...

And while this was the first time that someone wanted an autograph, Harry could remember five times in the past four years that total strangers had stared at him or acted strangely around him. One of those times, he thought a woman might have taken his picture with a very old camera, but he didn't stick around long enough to check.

Thinking about all these weird instances, Harry began to wonder if these encounters were clues about his past. As he walked through the bustling New York crowd, Harry entertained ideas about being a famous celebrity in Britain. The idea was ridiculous, of course. Harry couldn't sing, dance, or act. Harry didn't have any measurable talent that would land him on TV, in a movie, or on stage, but it was still better to imagine himself as the star of a cable TV show than it was to think about his lack of a memory.

Over lunch, Harry told Andrew about the girls in the coffee shop and about the other times he could remember being stared at. Andrew laughed at first, but then he had the idea of searching Harry's name on the Internet. Harry agreed, but when the search didn't turn anything up, they dropped the idea that Harry could be an A-list celebrity in Britain.

After paying for their meal, Andrew asked Harry if he would like to go with him to pick Julia up from the train station. Harry agreed, having nothing better to do than to bring Julia home from a job interview in New Jersey. He listened to Andrew talk about this new job opportunity and the possibility of them moving to New Jersey if Julia got the job.

"Sam will be disappointed that you two will be so far away," Harry told him as they pulled into the station's parking lot. He imagined how much their friends' moving would upset his girlfriend. Sam and Julia had been best friends for nearly ten years! Harry knew that Julia was a big part of the reason that Sam had so much patience for him. Julia kept Sam thinking clearly when poor Sam was struggling to remain supportive on Harry's worst days.

Andrew waved Harry's concerns away. "It won't be so bad. Neither of us mind taking the train! We'll come visit you both often, don't worry."

Grand Central Station was busy as always. Harry followed Andrew through the station to wait near Julia's platform. As Andrew called Julia to tell her that they were at the station and waiting, Harry watched people hurrying in all directions, pulling large suitcases and towing children in their wake. Couples, families of all sizes, teenagers, seniors and adults bustled around the station, trying to find their track number or hurrying out to meet a cab. Some were leaving, some were going, some were tourists and getting in the way by standing in the center of a moving crowd and taking pictures.

Harry always liked coming to the train station to people-watch. There was something about watching people hurry to their platforms, all going somewhere important that he liked. Sam had never understood his love for Grand Central Station; she hated the crowds, the tourists and the constant rush.

"We get enough of the non-stop rush living in this city," Sam always said.

Harry wondered if he had been one of the commuters before he lost his memory. He wished he could be like the commuters, hurrying from one place to another, having a purpose and a destination, but he didn't see this in his future. It was difficult to move forward when he had no idea what he was moving forward from.

A loud little girl's voice roused him from his thoughts. "Mom, which track number do we go to again?"

Her brother answered her first in a matter-of-fact, little-kid way. "Track ten!"

The little girl shook her head furiously. "No, track 9! Right, Mom? Track nine!"

Harry watched their frazzled-looking mother with her two children tugging at her hands and pointing in the direction of tracks nine and ten. The mother told the kids it was track nine and hauled her arguing children with her. Judging by their lack of luggage, Harry hoped that whoever was coming off track ten would make the kids stop arguing. Usually a reunion with a loved one was just the trick to stop the bickering.

"Julia's train is pulling into the station in about ten minutes. Sorry, we'll have to wait a bit longer." Andrew said as he slid his cellphone back in his suit pocket.

"I don't mind," Harry told him, still watching the family disappear in the crowd that was moving under the sign with the number "9" on it. Harry's eyes lingered on the sign, unsure why it looked familiar.

Harry looked back at Andrew, trying to recall the last time he and Andrew had picked up Julia from the station. This wasn't the first job interview that Julia had gone to in New Jersey-- unlike Sam who loved living here, Andrew and Julia wanted a life with a back yard and a white picket-fence. "Which track does she come off again?"

"Eighteen," Andrew replied distractedly, already back on his phone and texting.

Harry glanced again at the number nine, feeling weird about that track number. He sometimes got little hints of déjà vu like this, but it never went anywhere. He gave up after a few minutes, unable to determine why his mind liked the number nine track at Grand Central Station.

Harry was back at home a few hours later and making dinner for himself and Sam when she called. Sam told him that she was staying late at work to put together a series of spreads for her boss. Sam was a professional photographer and she did a lot of the photo editing and design layouts herself. She was a perfectionist, but was very, very good at her job. Sometimes her long hours were good because it meant Harry didn't have to feel bad about his staying late at the office.

Sam apologized and told him not to wait up for her. If Sam hadn't sounded chipper and high on a caffeine-buzz, Harry might have been worried that she was avoiding him, but all seemed normal. She did this sometimes, acting distant and working late, but he didn't get that feeling this time. Sam just sounded jittery like she did when she had too many cups of coffee.

Harry ate dinner on his own and did a little work on an article he was working on. He ended up completing it early and emailing it into his boss, feeling very accomplished. He had a relaxing evening at home, watching television on the sofa with chips and a cold beer.

When Harry finally got up to bed, he was exhausted from his long day and his poor sleep the night before. He was so tired that he fell asleep almost immediately, not having time to think too much about Sam's empty, cool side of the bed.

Harry had strange dreams that night; dreams that were vivid and felt very real.

A train whistle blew loudly around him and the train platform filled with smoke from an old-fashioned steam engine. This scarlet steam engine was going to take him to school. Harry struggled to load a very heavy trunk into an empty compartment, but it felt like it weight a tonne. He dropped it three times on his foot and when he finally got it in, he heard a girl laughing at him. Harry emerged from the train to find the source of the laughter, but the smoke was so thick that Harry couldn't see her.

Squinting through the thick smoke, he started to make out the form of a young girl, about sixteen-years-old. "What?" He asked the laughing girl, feeling a little defensive. "That hurt!"

The smoke cleared a little more, but she was no longer in front of him. He could sense her behind him and in the next moment, her warm hands slid around his waist and he felt her soft lips at his neck. The feeling of her lips, mixed with her breath on his neck sent a pleasant shiver down his spine.

"You had to do it by hand, did you? There are better ways to load trunks now that we're old enough," she told him, her voice teasing.

Harry wrapped his arms over hers so that she wouldn't let go. He liked the feeling of her pressed against him, and the sound of her voice in his ear, but he wished she would let him kiss her and hold her properly.

The train whistle blew again and suddenly there were hundreds of teenagers hurrying forward to board the train. They pushed and moved around them, forcing the girl to let go of him. Harry looked around for her, but since he didn't know who he was looking for, he just stood there, feeling alone and a little abandoned.

Fortunately, the crowd caused the smoke to thin and Harry could see perfectly. He finally saw the girl who had laughed at him and he smiled at her. Seeing her caused his heart to get lodged in his throat and his palms to sweat–he felt like he was thirteen again as she smiled back at him and waved.

But then her smile faded. The train whistle blew another warning blast–it was going to leave any minute now.

"What will you do?" The girl asked him in a little voice as she moved toward him. She looked sad-- maybe even heartbroken.

Harry stared at her, feeling totally confused. Why was she upset? What was wrong? "When?"

Tears filled her eyes and Harry wanted to make those tears go away. He wanted to kiss her and hold her until she smiled for him again. He wanted to tell her that everything would be okay. When he didn't answer, she spoke again in the same sad voice. "When I leave. What will you do?"

Harry looked into her pretty brown eyes, wishing terribly she would smile again. He could practically see her heart breaking as she stood in front of him, but his legs seemed incapable of taking him to her. Harry didn't know what he was supposed to say, so he just said, "I don't know."

She lifted her chin determinedly, but her attempt at bravery wasn't convincing when her bottom lip quivered. Her eyes were bright with tears and her voice shook as she spoke. "I love you, Harry."

"I love you, too," he told her quickly, his heart hammering in his chest when she turned away from him to board the train with the other passengers. She was walking away, not looking back. Harry started to panic as she climbed onto the train.

He found his voice and his feet moved a few steps, despite feeling like his legs were made of lead. "Don't get on the train!"

"You're the one leaving," she said over her shoulder, her voice now bitter.

But that didn't make sense. She was the one getting on the train! How was he leaving her?

"But wait," he begged her desperately, grasping into air when he tried to grab her and pull her back to him. The train door slammed shut, blocking his view of her. He had a terrible feeling in his stomach that he was about to lose the most important person in the world.

"NO!" He shouted as the train lurched forward and chugged out of the station. Harry tried to run after it, shouting for the conductor to stop, but it was too late. She was gone. Turning around to the empty platform, he spotted a large trunk left behind. When he got closer, he realized it was the same stupid trunk that had nearly broken his foot.

He stared at the crest on the trunk–a coat of arms, divided into four sections, each in a different colour with a different animal inside. A strangled cry of frustration ripped from deep in his chest and he kicked the trunk as hard as he could. The truck flew several feet, despite its earlier weight. The pain of losing her was unbearable. It was so bad that he felt as if part of him had been ripped from his soul, leaving him empty and cold. Harry wheeled around, furious at himself that he'd let her go. He had to get her back. He had to find her.

The problem was that there was no one left to tell him where the train was going; no one to help him find her again. His eyes moved around the platform, and at last, fell on a large sign above the wall, indicating the platform number.

Platform 9 ¾

Harry jolted awake and stared up at the ceiling, his heart pounding in his chest. The pain from his dream had left him feeling incredibly anxious. He leapt out of bed, nearly tumbling to the ground in a tangle of blankets. He went over to his briefcase and dug through it until he found his notepad and a pen. He forced himself to breathe and to relax, but his mind was running at a million miles per minute. His doctor had told him that if something like this happened, he should remember to breathe and write it down.

He didn't want to forget anything about this dream–it was all important, he knew that much. It didn't matter that he didn't understand any of it . For the first time in four years, Harry was sure that he'd remembered something significant about his past.

Something that involved Platform 9 ¾ and a pretty red-headed girl.

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