The start of September was always particularly busy at Kings Cross; all the boarding schools began their terms that week. As a result, the first of September found the platforms and ticket offices flooded with young people. Schoolchildren heading away from home for the first time stuck close to parents, while older students forged through the crowds; looking for friends. Then there were all the regular travellers; businessmen, families, shoppers for a day in London, aunts and uncles going to visit relatives in the country: it was only too easy to get lost in the throng.
Two boys stood out from even that multitude though; tall, dark-haired and tanned from several weeks on the Cornish coast. People who had met them before the summer would have said they were handsome; people who saw them now compared them to the sculpted Grecian statues in the British Museum. They drew admiring glances from several girls, as well as odd looks from other passers-by; one of the boys had an owl in a cage balanced on top of the loaded trolley he was pushing. Most of the crowd hurried past though; you could see stranger sights on the streets of London most days.
One girl, in particular, glanced at them over the top of the book she was reading as she waited for her train. She did a double take as one of them winked at her, but by the time she had looked up again, boys, trolleys and all had vanished. She was so busy looking round to see where they had gone that she completely missed the elderly; slightly oddly dressed couple following the boys suddenly disappear too.
After a while, still frowning at the phenomenon and wondering where they could possibly have gone, she went back to reading her book. Twenty minutes later she caught a train from Platform Ten, met up with some school friends and completely forgot about the handsome boy who had winked at her.
The two boys, however, had been about as far from the usual students who crowded Kings Cross as was possible. It was true that they went to a boarding school, indeed, they were just starting their sixth year, and like most students of that age they had just received exam results, but not O-levels. The main difference between them and the other students at the station was that they were not headed to any of the big boarding schools of Eton, Radley, Oundle or Winchester; they were headed to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.