“Has anyone seen a toad?”

“Has anyone seen Neville’s toad?”

“Neville’s lost his toad you see…”

It seemed like they had asked everyone. Hermione and Neville had taken the back end of the train and Kimble and Helene searched the front carriages.

“Has anyone seen a toad?” Kimble slammed open the door of a compartment and shouted inside. She screamed. What was inside were two violently ginger twins and a black boy with dreadlocks carrying a enormous spider, “NEVER MIND!” She speedily shut the door.

“No luck?” Helene asked in a bored tone, eyeing up some lollipops on the snack trolley coming towards them,

“Anything from the trolley dears?” The sweet old lady pushing the goods asked them.

“No thanks.” They replied politely in unison, sandwiching themselves up against the compartment walls so that she could squeeze past.

Once the elderly dear was gone, they tried the next compartment,

“Has anyone seen a toad?” Kimble asked four unimpressed Ravenclaw girls who were obviously in the middle of an important piece of summer gossip before Kim had rudely interrupted. Helene closed the door without another word.

“It can’t have gone far, it’s only a toad for god’s sake! Hermione and Neville probably found it already and we’ve come up here for nothing!” Helene sighed, folding her arms and leaning against the carriage window.

“Come on then, we’re at the last compartment our end anyway.” Kimble was as bored as her friend; running up and down a train all day looking for a ridiculously athletic amphibian was not her idea of fun.

“Yeah. But then straight back; Serkan will be getting lonely.”

Kimble rolled her eyes at this; that bird could amuse itself.

“Anybody seen a…”

“PREFECTS ONLY!” A pompous Gryffindor boy with violent ginger hair (Helene and Kimble supposed the twins and he were related), with a gleaming ‘P’ badge on his robes said in an overtly authoritative tone. The two girls jumped back in surprise.

“Sit down Weasley you big, wet, turd.” A boy with green house colours on his robes reprimanded. Helene and Kimble breathed a sigh of relief; at least someone was on their side, or so they thought; “And no we haven’t seen a toad you little first year runts, now clear off back to your own compartment and stop rushing around the train like infants! Get lost, the pair of you!”

Kimble slid the door shut on them.

“Well he was lovely, wasn’t he?” Helene said, disgruntled, “I suppose he would be in Slytherin?”

“So it would appear. Lets ‘clear off’ back to own compartment now, Helene.”

“Wait.” Helene instructed, her eyes widened under her long, dark fringe, “Where does this go?” She pointed to a door directly in front of them, not side-along to the corridor, as the compartments were. It looked as if it were the end of the train.

“It’s probably the driver’s quarters.” Kim shrugged, “Why, do you want to ask in there? See if anyone’s handed in a toad to lost property?”

“No! I want to see who drives the Hogwarts Express!” Helene giggled excitedly and knocked on the door. When there was no answer she turned the handle and pushed inside…

What she saw shocked and amazed her; the little biddy who had been struggling with the trolley of sweets was now shovelling coal into the hot fire of the engine without the hard labour having any effect! The heat was overwhelming and Kimble gasped as she poked her head round the door. The old lady was wearing huge goggles and a dirty, black apron that matched a similarly discoloured pair of gloves. She saw the two girls and lifted the goggle onto her purple-rinsed perm,

“Sorry dears, did you want some sweets for the journey? I’m still open for business?”

“No, we’re okay thanks.” Helene told her, boldly entering the room and sitting herself down on a sack of coal. Kimble followed, a little more apprehensively. The woman took off both her gloves and closed the grate for the steam engine to allow them to cool off slightly.

“Then what can I do for you two little ladies then?” She asked as sweetly as before, unabashed at being interrupted in her work.

“Have you seen a t-” Kimble started to say, but her friend cut her off,

“We wanted to know who drove the Hogwarts Express.” She swung her legs childishly.

“It’s funny you know, but no-one’s ever come to see before! Cup of tea?” She put on a glove and reached into the grate only to pull out a teapot, piping hot.

“Yes please!” The two girls echoed.

“I didn’t think witches and wizards drank tea.” Kimble said inquisitively.

“Well we do!” The lady poured them cups into dainty china cups decorated with flowers. But, to the great amusement of Helene, the flowers in the images didn’t stay still; they swayed as if in a summer breeze! For a woman who didn’t expect company; she had a substantial amount of teacups to spare, “Oh how silly of me, I haven’t even introduced myself!” Kimble had a feeling that Serkan was the only creature who felt a bit lonely on the journey to Hogwarts, “My name’s Beverly Angelberry.”

“That’s a pretty name.” Helene observed, blowing lightly on her tea to cool it, “I’m Helene and this is Kimble.” She gestured towards her friend,

“How long have you been driving this thing?” Kimble asked, taking a sup from the china cup,

“Longer than I’d like to admit!” The jolly lady said in a singsong voice, “Almost fifty years now I think!”

“Wow! Fifty years you’ve lived on a train?” Helene asked, but Beverly laughed,

“I don’t live here; I only do this job once or twice a year. I drive the train up and down for the schoolchildren at Hogwarts. But, other than that, I work as a lollipop lady in little Hangleton with my husband.”

“You’re husband’s a lollipop lady too?”

“No, no! Oh, my dears, you are funny! No, he’s a caretaker. He manages a large, deserted property just outside of the town centre. Neither of us earn much, but we don’t need a lot really, to keep us steady.”

They sat in quiet for a moment, listening to the engine and sipping their tea before Helene piped up, “Whats in these sacks, they’re awfully comfy for coal!” Beverly chuckled,

“Well I’m afraid to reveal thats exactly what they are- filled with coal! Maybe the packaging is heavily padded.”

“Hmmm.” Helene said, indifferently. Kimble knew her best friend well enough to know that that noise meant that something was up.

“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I think you should note that we’ll be arriving soon and you still need to change into your school robes!” She collected the empty teacups back in.

“Thank you for the tea! It was nice meeting you Beverly Angelberry!” Helene sang as she and Kimble exited the little room.

“The pleasure was all mine!” Beverly called after them, “It was nice to have some company, be sure to drop in again some time!” And then the door was closed.

“Aw bless! She was a sweet old lady, wasn’t she?” Kimble said. Helene didn’t say anything, “What’s up Helene? What’s wrong?”

“Those sacks were full of plants and I know it! Don’t ask me how, don’t ask my why- they just are. And what’s more- it’s the same sort of plants I saw at the zoo. I’m telling you Kim, this just gets weirder by the minute!”

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