September 1st , 1942

The main corridor of the Hogwarts Express was packed to the brim as students piled on board, most taking little notice of the few first-years desperately trying not to get crushed by the crowd. Minerva spared a moment to think that her unusually tall height did have its advantages as she elbowed her way up the train, paying no heed to the grumbles that followed in her wake. She was beginning to lose hope of finding an empty compartment to sit in when she came across one inhabited by only one other girl, who was too absorbed in her book to hear Minerva's knock on the window. Rather than knocking again, she opened the door and asked "Do you mind?"

The other girl looked up and smiled a bright smile as she motioned for Minerva to enter the compartment. "Of course not! Come in, it's far too crowded out there."

Minerva sat down on the vacant seat opposite the girl, smiling back in her thanks. "I'm Minerva McGonagall, and you are?"

"Poppy Pomfrey." Poppy put her book down on her lap, leaning forward to shake Minerva's outstretched hand.

She opened her mouth to say something else when the door was flung open and another girl literally fell into the compartment. Poppy was on her feet in an instant, by the girl's side and helping her to her feet. "Goodness me, are you alright?"

"Right as rain," the other girl nodded a little breathlessly, flopping down into the seat next to Minerva. "Just got shoved by some idiot, that's all, either they're blind or just plain stupid."

"This is what I meant about that corridor," Poppy muttered half to herself as she sat back down, "I'm Poppy, and this is Minerva."

"It's Hooch, Rolanda Hooch, but just Ro will do." Ro grinned at both of them as she brushed her wild brown hair from her face to reveal shocking yellow eyes, not unlike those of the hawks that Minerva had often seen around her hometown. "Either of you two from wizarding families?"

Poppy shook her head. "Not me, it came as a complete shock when my letter arrived. My parents are both doctors helping out with the war, so I was evacuated with a family. They... ahh... weren't too keen on having a witch around, so I was sent back to London."

"It's in a bit of a state, London isn't it?" Ro sighed, "I can't remember much of it before this bloody Muggle War started, but everyone always says it looked pretty impressive. It's weird that Diagon Alley still looks fine though."

Minerva nodded. "I think it must be all the magical charms they put on it to prevent the Muggles from seeing it. I remember the lady in the robe shop mentioning it while I was being fitted."

"That explains it!" Poppy exclaimed, a look of astonishment on her face. "I was wondering why everything looked fine there. Is it true that wizards aren't allowed to help with the War?"

"Yup." Ro nodded. "Stupid decision if you ask me, the whole thing would have been over and done with long ago."

"And the casualty rate wouldn't have been nearly as high, according to this." Poppy held up her book, which had The Benefits of Magical Medicine written on the cover. "It says that magic can stem internal haemorrhages, remove potentially life-threatening foreign bodies, and heal even the most severe fractures in minutes if the conjurer is skilled enough!"

Minerva thought it sounded fascinating, but there was a blank look on Ro's face. "Sorry Pops, all I heard there were just long, fancy words."

Poppy giggled. "It's alright. I suppose I've grown up with this sort of knowledge, so it's just second nature to me."

"Can't say that applied to me much." Ro gave a short laugh. "Mum works in the Ministry of Magic, Dad used to be an Auror until he got himself blown to smithereens. Apparently me and my siblings- I've got loads of them, 3 brothers and a sister- all need to get dozens of O. and follow in his footsteps. But I've got better things in mind." She turned to her satchel and pulled out a very weathered copy of Quidditch through the Ages, showing Minerva and Poppy the cover with a rebellious grin on her face.

"My mother played Quidditch at Hogwarts," Minerva said, the book Ro was holding up jogging her memory, "I'd love to try it too, though I haven't got a broomstick yet.

"I have," Ro grinned excitedly, "brought it in Diagon Alley when I got my wand as an early birthday present. It's a Silver Arrow model, the same ones as the Montrose Magpies have got. Can't show you now as it's in the trunk, but I have got this." She whipped her wand out of her robe pocket and waved it around in the air, causing Poppy to lean back into her seat. "Relax Pops, I'm not going to take your eye out. Cedar with phoenix feather this is, 10 inches and a bit temperamental. What have you two got?"

Minerva pulled her wand from her robes and held it up next to Ro's so they could be compared. "It's fir wood with a dragon heartstring, 9 and a half inches long. I'm looking forward to using it without having to hide it all the time."

"Not from a magical family either then? How come your Mum went to Hogwarts if you have to hide your wand?"

Minerva hesitated for a while before finding an answer. "My mother was a witch, but my father wasn't. She never told him until after I was born and he didn't like it much, so I was never able to practise much."

Ro pulled a sympathetic face. "That's tough, at least you'll get free reign at Hogwarts. Let's see your wand, Pops."

"11 and a quarter inches with pear wood and unicorn hair." Poppy said proudly, taking it carefully out of her pocket. "The shop owner said it would be good for charming, but I have no idea what that- "

Poppy broke off abruptly as the train screeched to a halt. Without the familiar chuffing sound of the engine and regular clicking of the tracks below them, Minerva noticed for the first time the muffled explosions that were sounding all around them.

"Hey, what's going on?" Ro asked loudly, jumping to her feet and moving towards the window. Minerva kneeled up in her seat to look over Ro's head, trying to see the source of the explosion sounds.

Poppy joined them with a lot more trepidation. "I think we're being bombed." She said quietly, the colour drained from her face and her blue eyes looking terrified. Seeing Ro's confused face, she added "It's not just London that gets attacked, this happens everywhere, all the time."

"But the Hogwarts Express is invisible to Muggles," Minerva objected, squinting through her glasses out the window. "How can they be trying to bomb us if they can't see us?"

"I don't think it's intentional, dearies." A new voice sounding made all three of them jump, and they turned around to see the trolley lady in the doorway of their cabin. "You're right in that they can't see us, but that doesn't mean they can't hit us, so the driver's decided to stop the train until it passes. Would any of you like a snack to keep you going?"

Poppy shook her head as she sat down, still looking very pale.

"A cauldron cake for me please, and a pumpkin pasty for these two to share." Ro said, digging around in her coin purse and pulling out a couple of silver Sickles.

Minerva looked over at Ro in surprise as she slid back into a sitting position, not accustomed to the generosity that she was being shown. "You don't have to-" she started, but Ro waved a hand in her face as she took the food from the trolley lady.

"Yeah I do, someone's got to educate you two in proper magical food." Ro grinned as she broke the pumpkin pasty into two pieces. She put one half in Minerva's lap before she could object again and threw the other piece at Poppy, who caught it with a shallow smile and slight nod of thanks.

"Do you know how long it will be until we reach Hogwarts?" Minerva asked the trolley lady just before she went to close their compartment door.

"Another six hours I'm afraid, deary, and that's if we get moving again quickly." The trolley lady said, chuckling quietly as Ro let out a groan. "If I were you I'd get some sleep girls, you don't want to be tired for when we arrive." She advised before clicking the door shut and moving further up the corridor.

Sighing in resignation to the long wait ahead of them, Minerva took a bite of her pasty. The incredible flavour sang on her tounge and she closed her eyes for a moment to savour the taste. "This is amazing, thank you." she said to Ro as she finished her mouthful before eagerly taking another one.

"S'alrigh'" Ro mumbled through the cauldron cake she was eating, dropping crumbs all over her lap.

Once Minerva finished her pasty, she looked over at Poppy to check she was alright. To her concern, the other half of the pasty sat still untouched in her lap and she was keeping her gaze firmly to the floor. The reason behind Poppy's terror was quickly discovered; another nearby explosion shook the carriage and she clamped her hands over her ears, her eyes squeezed shut.

Ro and Minerva exchanged concerned looks, then Ro got out of her seat and put an arm around Poppy's shoulders. "It's alright, I've got you. It's the bombing isn't it?" As she spoke, Ro stood Poppy up and walked her over to sit on the other side of the compartment next to Minerva.

Poppy sniffed as she sat down. "Yeah," she said quietly, rubbing her eyes, "I never heard them while I was evacuated, but back in London they were everywhere. Buildings exploding, children screaming, and people dying all around you, and the doctors couldn't- hurt too badly-"

She broke off, gentle sobs shaking her shoulders. Sympathy rushed through Minerva and she shuffled closer to Poppy, placing her hand over Poppy's shaking one. She didn't know quite what to say to offer her any comfort, having never experienced the Muggle war firsthand since she'd lived right in the Scottish hills.

All three looked up suddenly as the compartment door opened again, the trolley lady peering through with a pitied expression. "You're not alone my dear, all the Muggleborns are feeling the same way." She said, crouching in front of Poppy and handing her a glass of clear liquid. "I've been told to hand these round by the driver; drink up nice and quickly now, and you'll sleep for the rest of the journey. Would you two like some as well?" Her last question was directed at Minerva and Ro, and before Minerva could respond, Ro nodded her head.

"May as well, I s'pose." Ro shrugged, taking the two glasses the trolley lady held out and passing one to Minerva.

She inspected the liquid for a moment, having doubts about whether to drink it or not. Poppy's head slumping onto Minerva's shoulder told her that she'd drunk the sleeping potion, and Ro pulled her legs onto the seat and lay down, using Poppy's lap as a pillow, before doing the same. The last Minerva heard from her was a complaint about the cramped space with them all on one seat, before her yellow eyes closed.

Deciding she'd be better off doing some reading before they got to school, Minerva placed the sleeping potion gently down on the seat next to her as she fished around in her bag for a book whilst being careful to not disturb Poppy. Her hand closed on A Beginners Guide to Transfiguration, and she adjusted her glasses slightly before opening the cover and beginning to read the introduction.

But the gentle snoring of her new-found friends left feeling sleepy as if she'd drunk the potion too, and it wasn't long before her head fell forwards in sleep and the book dropped to the floor.

Author's Note:

As the summary suggests, the story will focus around Poppy Pomfrey, Minerva McGonagall and Rolanda Hooch as a trio. Other central characters will be Lyall Lupin, Septima Vector, Irma Pince, and Millicent Bagnold.

A slight AU in terms of minor date alteration, for the purpose of certain events happening at certain times, Minerva, Poppy and Rolanda are all born in 1930/1 meaning they all begin school in 1942.