98 Knight bus
A young boy, about thirteen years of age, had just stormed out of his little house with a heavy trunk trailing behind him.
The boy stopped to sit down on the street, attempting to take a breath.
The boy scowled before glaring at his surroundings. He felt as though he was being watched.
The boy took out a wand and whispered "lumos" causing a glowing orb of luminescent light to dimly light up the street.
He held it high over his head and saw, quite distinctly, the hulking outline of something very big, with wide, gleaming eyes.
The boy stepped backward. His legs hit his trunk and he tripped. His wand flew out of his hand as he flung out an arm to break his fall, and he landed, hard, in the gutter —
There was a deafening BANG, and the boy 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 the boy had just been lying. They belonged, as the boy 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.
For a split second, the boy wondered if he had been knocked silly by his fall. Then a boy in a purple uniform leapt out of the bus and began to speak loudly to the night.
"Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transport for the stranded witch or wizard. Just stick out your wand hand, step on board, and we can take you anywhere you want to go. My name is Arthur Kingscrown, and I will be your assistant conductor this eve — is that you Harry?"
Harry let out a confused groan.
The conductor took off his hat and revealed a familiar face. The boy had black hair and eyes that resembled the night sky. The boy held his hand out and helped Harry up.
"What are you doing on the floor Harry? I do say that we could've almost killed you. I don't reckon summoning the Knight bus while you are on the floor. Not very safe."
"What are you doing here?"
"Well..." Arth gave a charming smile. "It's sort of an job. I help out when they need help you know? The original conductor, Stan Shunpike, is out with his girlfriend right now so I was called over to help. Plus the extra cash I get is pretty good. Need help?"
Arth glanced at Harry who was struggling to get his trunk onto the bus.
"Um, yeah. Please."
Arth snapped his fingers and the trunk slowly levitated into the bus.
"Come on in, and where will you be heading too?"
"Uhhh... how much to get to London?"
"Eleven Sickles," said Arth, "but for fourteen you get a hot chocolate, and for fifteen you get an hot water bottle and a toothbrush in the color of your choice."
Harry rummaged once more in his trunk, extracted his money bag, and shoved some silver into Arth's hand to which Arth gave a goofy grin.
"Come on board. And welcome to the Knight bus."
There were no seats; instead, half a dozen brass bedsteads stood beside the curtained windows. Candles were burning in brackets beside each bed, illuminating the wood-paneled walls. A tiny wizard in a nightcap at the rear of the bus muttered, "Not now, thanks, I'm pickling some slugs" and rolled over in his sleep.
"You have this one," Arthur whispered, shoving Harry's trunk under the bed right behind the driver, who was sitting in an armchair in front of the steering wheel. "This is our driver, Ernie Prang. This is Harry, Ern."
Ernie Prang, an elderly wizard wearing very thick glasses, nodded to Harry, who nervously flattened his bangs again and sat down on his bed.
"Blast off, Ern," said Arth, sitting down in the armchair next to Ernie's.
There was another tremendous BANG, and the next moment Harry found himself flat on his bed, thrown backward by the speed of the Knight Bus. Pulling himself up, Harry stared out of the dark window and saw that they were now bowling along a completely different street. Arthur was watching Harry's stunned face with great enjoyment.
"This is where we was before you flagged us down," he said. "Where are we, Ern? In Wales?"
"Ar," said Ernie.
"Pretty fast isn't it Harry?"
"How come the Muggles don't hear the bus?" Asked Harry.
"They never notice anything, even if they do, they'll think it was a figment of their imagination." Replied Arth before taking a glance at his watch. "Best go wake up Madam Marsh, We'll be in Abergavenny in a minute."
Arth passed Harry's bed and disappeared up a narrow wooden staircase. Harry was still looking out of the window, feeling increasingly nervous.
Ernie didn't seem to have mastered the use of a steering wheel. The Knight Bus kept mounting the pavement, but it didn't hit anything; lines of lampposts, mailboxes, and trash cans jumped out of its way as it approached and back into position once it had passed.
Arth came back downstairs, followed by a faintly green witch wrapped in a traveling cloak.
"Here you go, Madam Marsh," said Arth happily as Ern stamped on the brake and the beds slid a foot or so toward the front of the bus.
"Oh thank you my dear, I'll make sure to come as often, you were such a charmer."
"No problem Madam Marsh, I wish you a good day!"
"And to you as well my boy."
There was another loud BANG, and they were thundering down a narrow country lane, trees leaping out of the way.
Harry wouldn't have been able to sleep even if he had been traveling on a bus that didn't keep banging loudly and jumping a hundred miles at a time. His stomach churned as he fell back.
Arth had unfurled a copy of the Daily Prophet and was now reading. A large photograph of a sunken-faced man with long, matted hair blinked slowly at Harry from the front page.
"That man!" Harry said, forgetting his troubles for a moment. "He was on the Muggle news!"
"Sirius Black," Arth Replied, nodding. "Cornelius Fudge told the Prime minister to be carful the other day. Sirius Black is apparently a very bad wizard."
Arth handed the newspaper to Harry to read.
"Pretty scary guy, if you have any questions, I'll be glad to answer. I reckon I have a little more knowledge on him since I met him personally during my trip to Azkaban. Honestly thought he was a decent person. Didn't talk to him much though..."
The Knight Bus rolled through the darkness, scattering bushes and wastebaskets, telephone booths and trees, and Harry lay, restless and miserable, on his feather bed.
After a while, Arth served himself and Harry a warm mug of hot chocolate. One by one, wizards and witches in dressing gowns and slippers descended from the upper floors to leave the bus. They all looked very pleased to go.
Finally, Harry was the only passenger left.
"Right then, Harry," said Arth, clapping his hands, "where to in London?"
"Diagon Alley," said Harry.
"Ooh, What a coincidence, was going to go there myself," said Arthur. "My shift is over you see, Ern will go fetch Stan now. Hold tight . . ."
They were thundering along Charing Cross Road. Harry sat up and watched buildings and benches squeezing themselves out of the Knight Bus's way. The sky was getting a little lighter.
Ern slammed on the brakes and the Knight Bus skidded to a halt in front of a small and shabby-looking pub, the Leaky Cauldron, behind which lay the magical entrance to Diagon Alley.
"Thanks," Harry said to Ern.
He jumped down the steps and helped Arth lower his trunk and Hedwig's cage onto the pavement.
"Well," said Harry. "Bye then!"
"Bye Ern! Have a good night!"
"You too Arthur."
There was another BANG.
Arth and Harry were about to go in when they heard footsteps approaching them.
"There you are, Harry," said a voice.
Before Harry could turn, he felt a hand on his shoulder.
It was Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic himself.