I pulled my purse out from my navy overcoat and searched around for a knut. The trolley lady had knocked on our compartment door a few minutes earlier, and we had selected a little something from every kind of sweets she had. We were putting in a knut each to pay for the food together. I dropped my share of the pay into the lady’s palm after my fingers eventually locate the little bronze coin in my purse. She closed her fingers over the five grubby coins and thanked us, closing the compartment door behind her. As the clicking noise of her trolley wheels faded down the carriage, I turned eagerly to Gus. She held on her lap our stash of sweets, a brown paper bag brimming to the top with all kind of magical lollies.
“Give us a few chocolate frogs,” said John Lupin, his skinny fingers reaching over to Gus.
She tossed him a handful of frogs, and passed the brown bag around after she took her share of bubble gum. Gary Longbottom took a fistful of boiled sweets, and Arabella Frost picked out the remaining chocolate frogs. Dorothea, Gus’ little sister, imitated her sister and took some of the bubble gum. I dug in to my favourites, flavour-changing sour straps, and dropped the near-empty bag in the corner of the compartment.
“So Gary, how was Ireland?” Gus asked between blowing a heart-shaped bubble.
“T’was great! We went on some tours around the area, and I got to meet some rather pretty Irish girls,” he said, winking at Gus.
“Found any to your liking?” Gus joked, trying hard to deflect attention back to Gary as her cheeks coloured.
Every single one of us knew that she liked him. Even Gary himself knew. But stubborn Gus would never admit to it, and we didn’t want to embarrass her. So we carried on with our conversation, changing the topic to help lessen the red stains on Gus’ cheeks.
“My grandmother visited this summer,” said John, “Mum said she’d be staying for a while, what with the brewing war and such.”
“My aunt and uncle had come to stay with us also,” said the timid voice of Arabella Frost, “They said something about the war, but I’m real glad they’re staying because I love spending time with my cousins.”
“The ones that played chasey with us when I came to visit last summer?” asked Dorothea, her rosy face turned towards her best friend.
“Yes, those ones,” Arabella confirmed, “You can come visit over Christmas if you’d like, they’re a year younger than us so they won’t be starting school until next September.”
The two first years broke off into their little conversation about Arabella’s cousins, and the four of us second years started a game of truth. The rule was that one by one we would pick out one of Bertie and Bott’s Every-Flavoured Bean and pop them in our mouths. If we picked a nice flavour, then we would pass that round. But if we picked a disgusting flavour, then we either had the choice of eating the whole bean or telling the others a secret in exchange for spitting out the bean. After five rounds of Truth Bean, I found out that John had once drank a whole goblet of wine, that Gary had gone outside without pants when he was six, and that Gus had once kissed a toad as a dare. I had to spit out a few secrets as well, having picked bogey flavour and vomit flavour. As we got ready to play the sixth round, the door of the compartment slid back.
“Girls and boys, we will be reaching Hogwarts in half an hour,” said the clear voice of Josie Hartley, Prefect of Ravenclaw, “I strongly suggest you start changing into your robes now.”
“We will, thanks for the reminder,” said Gus with one of her brilliant smiles, “Okay; we’ll have to save the rest of the beans for Hogwarts then, won’t we?”
John gathered the rest of the bean packet into the brown bag as the rest of us fumbled around our bags to find our robes. I dug mine out from underneath two volumes of spell books and a copy of “Gone with the Wind”, and waited as Gus turned her entire bag upside down to find her robes. It was not until the boys went to get changed and came back in their robes that Gus located her clothes. We left the compartment to speed down to the restrooms, having only fifteen minutes left before the train would come to a stop at Hogwarts.
Unbuttoning my blouse with lightning speed, I pulled on a crisp white shirt and tightened the Gryffindor tie around my neck. Pulling on the gray school skirt and finishing off the look with the black robe, I stepped out of the changing cubicle to head back. Gus followed after me, her Muggle clothes spilling out of her arms in a big mess. We slipped back into our compartment as the station came into sight, both of us breathless. The train came to a halting stop as we sat down on our seats.
“Here are your bags, Minnie,” John said as he handed me my baggage from the overhead racks.
Gary was helping Gus carry her bags out of the compartment as Dorothea and Arabella giggled their way onto the station, hands clutching carpet bags. I was the last to leave the carriage, having checked over the whole compartment twice for anything that we could’ve left behind. I pushed through a crowd of first years, pausing for a few seconds to give Archie a reassuring hug as I passed by. As I walked past the rest of the first years, I had a strange feeling that I was being followed.
“Minnie?” said a little forlorn voice from the crowd around me.
I scanned the throng of people for the owner of that voice, but recognised no one. Quickening my step, I hurried over to my waiting friends and our Thestral drawn carriages.