Smoke from the engine drifted over the heads of the chattering crowd, while cats of every colour wound here and there between their legs.
Owls hooted to each other in a disgruntled sort of way over the babble and the scraping of heavy trunks.
Harry pushed his trolley off down the platform in search of an empty seat. He passed a round-faced boy who was saying, ‘Gran, I’ve lost my toad again.’
‘Oh, Neville,’ he heard the old woman sigh.
‘Saw his scar. It’s really there – like lightning.’
‘Listen, we’re going down the middle of the train – Lee Jordan’s got a giant tarantula down there.’
‘Anything off the trolley, dears?’
He had just raised his wand when the compartment door slid open again. The toadless boy was back, but this time he had a girl with him. She was already wearing her new Hogwarts robes.
‘Has anyone seen a toad? Neville’s lost one,’ she said.
And the fleet of little boats moved off all at once, gliding across the lake, which was as smooth as glass.
‘Oy, you there! Is this your toad?’ said Hagrid, who was checking the boats as people climbed out of them.
‘Trevor!’ cried Neville blissfully, holding out his hands.
They walked up a flight of stone steps and crowded around the huge, oak front door.
‘Everyone here? You there, still got yer toad?’
When Neville Longbottom, the boy who kept losing his toad, was called, he fell over on his way to the stool. The hat took a long time to decide with Neville.
When it finally shouted ‘GRYFFINDOR’, Neville ran off still wearing it, and had to jog back amid gales of laughter to give it to ‘MacDougal, Morag’.
‘And you should have seen their faces when I got in here – they thought I might not be magic enough to come, you see. Great-uncle Algie was so pleased he bought me my toad.'
Even better, Professor Flitwick announced in Charms that he thought they were ready to start making objects fly, something they had all been dying to try since they’d seen him make Neville’s toad zoom around the classroom.
‘What are you doing?’ said a voice from the corner of the room.
Neville appeared from behind an armchair, clutching Trevor the toad, who looked as though he’d been making another bid for freedom.
‘You don’t understand,’ said Harry, ‘this is important.’
But Neville was clearly steeling himself to do something desperate.
‘I won’t let you do it,’ he said, hurrying to stand in front of the portrait hole. ‘I’ll – I’ll fight you!’
He took a step forward and Neville dropped Trevor the toad, who leapt out of sight.
‘Go on then, try and hit me!’ said Neville, raising his fists. ‘I’m ready!’
*‘Neville,’ she said, ‘I’m really, really sorry about this.’
She raised her wand.
‘Petrificus Totalus!’ she cried, pointing it at Neville.
Neville’s arms snapped to his sides. His legs sprang together. His whole body rigid, he swayed where he stood and then fell flat on his face, stiff as a board. *
‘There are all kinds of courage,’ said Dumbledore, smiling. ‘It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends. I therefore award ten points to Mr Neville Longbottom.’
‘And suddenly, their wardrobes were empty, their trunks were packed, Neville’s toad was found lurking in a corner of the toilets…’