Chapter 1 - Arriving

A girl sat on a train looking out of the window at the deep purple sky above mountains and forests. The train seemed to be slowing down and the butterflies in the girl's stomach grew ever more excited. A voice echoed through the train; 'We will be reaching Hogwarts in five minutes' time. Please leave your luggage on the train; it will be taken to the school separately.'

The girl looked round at the others in the compartment with her; they were talking excitedly among themselves. She had not spoken at all throughout the journey apart from when she had introduced herself as Leanne Burress. Leanne Burress was slightly taller than average, with large chocolate brown eyes, pale, clear skin and dark brown hair hanging in ringlets reaching the small of her back. She had grown up with a family which had adopted her after she had been left on their doorstep as a baby. Her adoptive mother and older sister were witches, but her mother had died a year ago. Her adoptive father was – well, how to put it – he wasn't a good man. He had been abusive and hated the very idea of magic, so he got it into his head that he could stop the three of them from using it if he beat them enough. Thankfully, after the girl's mother, Janine, died he left, but after Leanne's older sister, Cree, went to Hogwarts, she was left to fend for herself in a small dingy flat.

The train slowed right down and finally came to a stop. People pushed their way towards the door and out onto a tiny, dark platform. Leanne shivered slightly in the cold night air. Then a lamp came bobbing over the heads of the students and a voice called out: 'Firs'-years! Firs'-years over here! All right there Harry?' A big hairy face beamed over the sea of heads at a timid looking boy with messy black hair and glasses. 'C'mon, follow me – any more firs'-years? Mind yer step, now! Firs'-years follow me!'

Slipping and stumbling, they followed the giant down what seemed to be a steep, narrow path. It was dark so there must be trees either side of them thought Leanne. Nobody spoke much. A boy just to the right of Leanne sniffed once or twice. 'Yeh'll get yer firs' sight o' Hogwarts in a sec,' The giant called over his shoulder,' jus' round this bend here'

There was a loud 'Ooooh!'

The narrow path had opened suddenly on to the edge of a great black lake. Perched atop a high mountain on the other side, its windows sparkling in the starry sky, was a vast castle with many turrets and towers.

'No more'n four to a boat' The giant called, pointing to a fleet of little boats sitting in the water by the shore. Leanne stood back until everyone else had got into a boat, for everyone had been pushing and shoving so they could sit with their friends. Finally she got into a boat with three boys, one of which had a pale pointed face and platinum blond hair, and the 

other two who looked like gormless thugs. An image of her father flashed in Leanne's mind as she looked at them, so she gave a swift smile which they ignored and faced away from them.

'Everyone in?'The giant shouted, who had a boat to himself, 'Right then – FORWARD!'

And the little fleet of boats moved off all at once, gliding across the lake, which was as smooth as glass. Everyone was silent, staring up at the castle ahead. It towered over them as they sailed nearer and nearer to the cliff on which it stood.

'Heads down!' Yelled the giant as the boats reached the first cliff; they all bent their heads as the boats carried them through a curtain of ivy which hid a wide opening in the cliff face. They were carried along a dark tunnel which seemed to be taking them underneath the castle, until they reached some kind of underground harbour, where they clambered out onto the rocks and pebbles.

'Oy, you there! Is this your toad?' Said the giant, who was checking in the boats as people got out of them.

'Trevor!' cried the boy who had sniffed earlier, holding out his hands. Then they clambered up a passageway in the rock, coming out at last onto smooth, damp grass in the shadows of the castle.

They walked up a flight of stone steps and crowded round the huge, oak front door.

'Everyone here? You there, still got yer toad?'

The giant raised a gigantic fist and knocked three times on the castle door.