Seconds later, Mr Weasley emerged on to the platform with Ron and Hermione. They had almost unloaded Moody's luggage trolley when Fred, George and Ginny turned up with Lupin.
The terrified-looking boy Harry had noticed earlier stumbled forwards and put the Hat on his head; it was only prevented from falling right down to his shoulders by his very prominent ears. The Hat considered for a moment, then the rip near the brim opened again and shouted:
'Did everyone see that Grubbly-Plank woman?' asked Ginny. 'What's she doing back here? Hagrid can't have left, can he?'
'Right,' said Harry, picking up Hedwig's cage in one hand and the handle of his trunk in the other. They struggled off down the corridor, peering through the glass-panelled doors into the compartments they passed, which were already full. Harry could not help noticing that a lot of people stared back at him with great interest and that several of them nudged their neighbours and pointed him out. After he had met this behaviour in five consecutive carriages he remembered that the Daily Prophet had been telling its readers all summer what a lying show-off he was. He wondered dully whether the people now staring and whispering believed the stories.
'And Anthony Goldstein and Padma Patil for Ravenclaw,' said Hermione.
'Mum and Dad just sent Hedwig back.' The owl fluttered obligingly over and perched on top of her cage. Are you ready yet?'
'Oh . . . hello, Harry,' said a nervous voice. 'Urn . . . bad time?'
' - Hagrid is? I dunno,' said Ron, sounding worried. 'He'd better be OK . . .'
'For heavens sake, Ron - '
The Sorting Hat's
'Guard?' said Harry. 'We have to go to King's Cross with a guard?'
Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Neville laughed. Malfoy's lip curled.
'Together we will build and teach!'
'Molly, that's enough,' said Lupin firmly. This isn't like last time. The Order are better prepared, we've got a head start, we know what Voldemort's up to - '
'Hi, Luna.' said Ginny, 'is it OK if we take these seats?'
'Loads of stuff!' said Neville proudly. 'It's got an amazing defensive mechanism. Here, hold Trevor for me . . .'
Though condemned I am to split you