It was as the clouds took over and the sky got darker as the Hogwarts Express wended its way Northward that I realized something, something that I should have considered before. Every time the Hogwarts Express had pulled into Hogsmeade at the start of the year, it had been after sunset. As the sun sank lower in the sky, I began to worry. Ron and Hermione didn't know about my condition. It had been kept from just about everybody that didn't need to be in the know, so as to prevent unnecessary panic.
How would I be able to hide my condition from friend and foe alike, and prevent a panic on the train when I transformed? How could I have been so stupid as to not even consider this until the journey to Hogwarts was half over?
I had been informed before that if I sent an owl explaining why I couldn't get on the Hogwarts Express, someone would come and pick me up. Hedwig was at Hogwarts to prevent any accidents, but didn't mean that I had no way of mailing someone, as I could have used one of the post owls in Diagon Alley even if I had to buy the damn thing. I had more than enough gold to buy a hundred such creatures in my vault.
The mysterious R. J. Lupin who was to become my Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor came to my rescue, and for that I will be eternally grateful despite whatever he tries to do to me at the end of the year. It had been him who had ushered my friends out of the compartment as the itching in my feet began, him who had put blinds on all of the windows, and him who had locked the compartment door to prevent unwanted visitors.
The compartment unfortunately was much smaller than my bedroom, and I was pinched and squeezed in the most uncomfortable places by the seats that the mysterious R. J. Lupin had failed to remove.
For a long while, I listened to the rain pounding against the windows as I tried not to focus on how incredibly uncomfortable I was. Eventually, the train slowed to a stop, but it was sooner than normal based on my vague recollections of previous trips. I could hear some screaming in the corridors outside, and prayed it wasn't because word of my condition had gotten out to the rest of the student body.
Suddenly, the temperature in my compartment dropped rapidly, making me incredibly sluggish and slowing my thoughts to a crawl. The chill increased as something tried to make its way into my compartment, and I thought I could hear a yell of "Take Harry and run!". Eventually, the would-be intruder's attempts at breaking into my compartment were successful, and the would-be intruder became an intruder in actuality.
Rather stupidly I forgot what I was for a moment and turned my head to see who or what it was that had entered, or rather tried to enter and bounced off my side. I only caught a vague glimpse of a black cloak and an incredibly diseased looking hand before the thing before me fell to the floor either dead or petrified, and the chill that had been sapping all of my energy vanished.
The mysterious R. J. Lupin arrived moments later, carefully keeping his eyes closed as he dragged off the body of whatever the hell that was, set a bar of chocolate on me, told me to eat it, and relocked my compartment as he left.
I can now state with absolute certainty that to a snake, chocolate tastes like crap.
Eventually, the train got started again, and after a while we pulled in at the station and the students began to disembark. I could hear Hagrid's familiar cry of "Firs' years! Firs' years! Over here!". My friends returned to the outside of my compartment, hoping to leave with me but eventually left empty handed when the mysterious R. J. Lupin who had been standing guard since he'd disposed of that cloaked thing had informed them that I wasn't feeling too well and had to be brought to the infirmary.
After every last student was off the train and presumably safe inside the castle, my compartment door was unlocked, revealing that Madam Pompfrey was there to guide me to what would be my new living quarters this year.
I carefully disembarked, and relished the ability to stretch myself as the small group that consisted of myself, Madam Pompfrey, and Professor Lupin made our way across the grounds and to the castle. When we entered the castle, I could hear the roar of the students in the Great Hall.
Snake hearing isn't exactly like human hearing, fortunately there is some sort of magic that allows my brain to process the vibrations I receive and translate them into something intelligible, such as human voices, people walking, and whatnot. I am thankful it is there, otherwise I'd have been forced to pretend that the ordeal that I went through in the Chamber of Secrets had left me completely deaf, until I figured out a way to adapt.
We made our way upstairs and eventually stopped at the abandoned third floor Charm's corridor from my first year. One of the larger abandoned lecture halls from - as Hermione had informed me before - Hogwarts' golden age when they were experimenting with turning part of the school which itself had practically been a village back then into a college in order to replace the traditional Master/Apprentice program with something more modern had been converted into a giant terrarium.
It was perfect.