There was a deafening BANG, and Harry threw up his hands to shield his eyes against a sudden blinding light…
With a yell, he rolled back onto the pavement, just in time. A second later, a gigantic pair of wheels and headlights screeched to a halt exactly where Harry had just been lying. They belonged, as Harry saw when he raised his head, to a triple-decker, violently purple bus, which had appeared out of thin air. Gold lettering over the windshield spelled The Knight Bus
Mrs. Weasley: Platform 9 ¾ this way! All right Percy you first. Fred you next. George: He’s not Fred, I am! Fred: Honestly woman, you call yourself our mother. Mrs. Weasley: I’m sorry George… Fred: Only joking! I am Fred. [runs through Platform 9 ¾.] Harry: Excuse me! Could you tell me how to… Mrs. Weasley: How to get on to the platform? Yes, not to worry dear, it’s Ron’s first time to Hogwarts as well. Now, all you have to do is walk straight at the wall between platforms 9 and 10. Best do it at a run if you’re nervous.
He turned to smile at the tabby, but it had gone. Instead he was smiling at a rather severe-looking woman who was wearing square glasses exactly the same shape of the markings the cat had around its eyes. She, too, was wearing a cloak, an emerald green one. Her black hair was drawn into a t ight bun. She looked distinctly ruffled.
It looked as though it had once been a large stone pigsty, but extra rooms had been added here and there until it was several storeys high and so crooked it looked as though it was being held up by magic (which, Harry reminded himself, it probably was). Four or five chimneys were perched on top of the red roof. A lopsided sign stuck in the ground near the entrance read ‘The Burrow’. Round the front door lay a jumble of wellington boots and a very rusty cauldron. Several fat brown chickens were pecking their way around the yard.
‘It’s not much,’ said Ron.
‘It’s brilliant,’ said Harry happily, thinking of Privet Drive.’
Crabbe blundered forward, his long arms outstretched like a zombie. Harry dodged around him, picked up a stick, and lobbed it at Crabbe’s back. Harry doubled up with silent laughter as Crabbe did a kind of pirouette in midair, trying to see who had thrown it. As Ron was the only person Crabbe could see, it was Ron he started toward, but Harry stuck out his leg. Crabbe stumbled — and his huge, flat foot caught the hem of Harry’s cloak. Harry felt a great tug, then the cloak slid off his face.
Harry had been to several Hogwarts feasts, but never one quite like this. Everybody was in their pajamas, and the celebration lasted all night. Harry didn’t know whether the best bit was Hermione running toward him, screaming “You solved it! You solved it!” or Justin hurrying over from the Hufflepuff table to wring. his hand and apologize endlessly for suspecting him, or Hagrid turning up at half past three, cuffing Harry and Ron so hard on the shoulders that they were knocked into their plates of trifle, or his and Ron’s four hundred points for Gryffindor securing the House Cup for the second year running, or Professor McGonagall standing up to tell them all that the exams had been canceled as a school treat (“Oh, no!” said Hermione), or Dumbledore announcing that, unfortunately, Professor Lockhart would be unable to return next year, owing to the fact that he needed to go away and get his memory back. Quite a few of the teachers joined in the cheering that greeted this news.
“Slytherin, according to the legend, sealed the Chamber of Secrets so that none would be able to open it until his own true heir arrived at the school. The heir alone would be able to unseal the chamber in the castle, unleash the horror within, and use it to purge the school of all who were unworthy to study magic.”
Harry had no time to reply. At that very moment, a heavy black Bludger came pelting toward him; he avoided it so narrowly that he felt it ruffle his hair as it passed.
“Close one, Harry!” said George, streaking past him with his club in his hand, ready to knock the Bludger back toward a Slytherin. Harry saw George give the Bludger a powerful whack in the direction of Adrian Pucey, but the Bludger changed direction in midair and shot straight for Harry again.
“Are you sure that’s a real spell?” said the girl. “Well, it’s not very good is it? I’ve tried a few simple spells myself and they’ve all worked for me. Nobody in my family’s magic at all, it was ever such a surprise when I got my letter, but I was ever so pleased, of course, it’s the best school of witchcraft there is I’ve heard - I’ve learned all the course books by heart of course. I just hope it will be enough - I’m Hermione Granger, by the way, who are you?”
To nobody’s surprise, Hermione’s hand was first into the air.
“Mandrake, or Mandragora, is a powerful restorative,” said Hermione, sounding as usual as though she had swallowed the textbook. “It is used to return people who have been transfigured or cursed, to their original state.”
But Aunt Marge suddenly stopped speaking. For a moment, it looked as though words had failed her. She seemed to be swelling with inexpressible anger — but the swelling didn’t stop. Her great red face started to expand, her tiny eyes bulged, and her mouth stretched too tightly for speech — next second, several buttons had just burst from her tweed jacket and pinged off the walls — she was inflating like a monstrous balloon, her stomach bursting free of her tweed waistband, each of her fingers blowing up like a salami…