The Knight Bus
Kirsten's eyes snapped open and opened her mouth to scream. However, a filthy hand beat her to it, muffling the sound. She tried to move away from the man's grip and she heard the man grunt after kicking him. "If you shut up and stop struggling, I won't hurt you."
Processing his words, Kirsten decided to stop struggling and felt the man's grip loosen, his hand no longer on her mouth.
Out of all the damn things this had to happen.
Breathing in the fresh air deeply, Kirsten turned around slowly to get a good look at the strange man. And with the help of the full moon, she got a better look at the man than she thought she would have. Long, matted hair framed his gaunt and sunken face.
"Oh my God. What the hell did I do to deserve this?" she muttered to herself in a low voice. "I'm going to be killed by some sort of corpse!"
Unfortunately, the man heard her as he let out a bark of laughter.
"I'm not going to hurt you," the man said. A nervous chuckle erupted from the teenager's throat as she looked at the man uneasily. He was watching her carefully; eyes never leaving her. But under the scrutinizing gaze, Kirsten felt like she could trust his word in not hurting her.
At the moment anyway.
"Okay," she said, holding her tongue before she could add in a comment that would surely piss him off.
"I just want you to do me a favor is all, alright? And then you can go," he growled, looking at his hand. "Do your parents know you're out here?"
Kirsten took her eyes off him and looked up at the sky. His mention of parents somewhat threw her off. Her silence caused him to look at her. She could feel his gaze.
"My parents are long gone," she told him softly, looking into his grey eyes. "I've lived in that damn orphanage all my life."
"You ran away."
"No. I'm on an exciting adventure to hunt dragons with my best friend Peter Pan in Netherland," she told him sarcastically, changing the mood drastically.
"Isn't it Neverland?" he corrected, unsure himself.
"Netherland, Neverland…same thing," she said dismissively. The man shook his head at her and she looked at him again. His grey eyes seemed vacant and she tilted her head to get a better look. "You look strangely familiar, have I met you before?"
He averted his gaze to the ground but she could see his lips twitching up into a twisted smile. She waited several seconds but no response.
"Okay then… did you see where that dog went?" she asked him.
He looked at her with an arched eyebrow as if telling her to put everything together. Kirsten groaned at the man's look.
"Don't tell me…"
"I thought I already made it clear earlier when I said, 'I know,'" he said.
"So you're trying to convince me that you were the dog," she said slowly, trying to comprehend what the man wanted her to think.
Did he think she was five?
He shrugged his shoulders in an indifferent way as he looked at her with a smile on his face, revealing his yellow teeth.
She gave him a small smile as the events of the day recurred in her head. "Well, I hear noises in my head. That makes the two of us."
He raised an eyebrow at her confession, as if wanting her to explain. "They sound like heartbeats. Drives me insane actually, considering I threw a girl halfway across a room today."
His curiosity immediately piqued and he frowned slightly as he stared her down. "You're eleven."
It wasn't a question.
"Thirteen, actually," she corrected him. "Plan on telling me your name?"
She shot him a look of interest and she mentally scolded herself. She didn't want her curiosity to get her killed, but who names their child Padfoot. It sounded more like a nickname.
"Don't let your curiosity get the better of you. Trust me when I tell you that you don't want to know me," he said, practically reading her mind.
There was another moment of silence when Kirsten watched the man once again. He was staring at his left hand. Her eyes landed on a white gold band wrapped around a finger on his left hand.
His eyes left the gold band on his finger and landed on her. She heard him grunt as an answer but couldn't tell what that meant as he looked back down.
"One…but…she was only a baby last time I saw her…" His voice was so quiet, and she couldn't believe how soft it went. "Then they both…"
He didn't finish his sentence. But Kirsten didn't need him to finish it anyway. She could tell what happened.
Watching the man staring at the ground, Kirsten Carlisle found herself feeling sympathetic for him. She never had to go through such a hard loss. She never had something to lose. Her parents were gone when she was a baby. There were only a small amount of people in her life. And one already left without even saying goodbye. He was her best friend in primary school. She smiled as she remembered the green eyed boy; hoping life was going well for him. And then there was Aaric…
She shook her head at the thought of the teenager and focused her attention back on the man.
"I'm Kirsten," she told him. If she didn't know any better, she would say that she said the wrong thing because of the man's response. At first he still looked quite sullen. Then his eyes got wider as he began to stare at her. She jumped back as his eyes widened incredibly.
"And you said you were hearing heartbeats?"
"Yes, for a while now –"
"Do you know your birthday?"
"It's the day after Christmas," she answered quickly, watching him carefully. "It's weird that they were able to know my birthday, now that I think of it …They said I was found on Halloween …"
However, she stopped rambling as she noticed the man staring her down.
"Look I don't know what I said wrong, but…" she said, putting her right arm up as a way to protect herself.
"The last thing I want to do is hurt you — I just can't believe –"
Whirling her head around, Kirsten's vision was blinded by a sudden light and on instinct she jumped back from the empty road and in an unbelievable second later, a huge vehicle with a gigantic pair of wheels pulled up in front of her. She spotted golden words written on the side The Knight Bus.
Her jaw dropped.
A young man around the age of eighteen or nineteen in a purple uniform leaped off the bus and in front of her.
"Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transport for the stranded witch or wizard. Just stick out your wand hand, step on board, and we can take you anywhere you want to go. My name is Stan Shunpike, and I will be your conductor this evening," the young man said. He looked at her with a slight frown on his face. Do I look that horrible?
"What happened to —"
"Nothing," she said, cutting him off before he asked anymore questions. Like he should be asking them anyway… Did she just hear him say witch and wizard?
"Where would you like to go, Miss…?" he said, trailing off so she can give him her name. She looked around to see if the man was standing beside her but he was nowhere near her. Instead of seeing him, she spotted the large bear-like dog once again on the other side of the street.
"Kirsten," she added quickly, looking up at him with a curious gaze. "Did you say anywhere?"
"Sure did, Kirsten," he replied.
"So how much would it be to get to West End?" she asked, pulling out money from her pocket. "On Charing Cross road?"
"Eleven sick —" Kirsten looked up at him in time to see him eyeing the money. "Oh you have them Muggle money?" he asked, turning back to the Knight Bus.
Muggle money? What the bloody hell was this bloke jabbering about?
"Oi! Ernie! How much of them Muggle money to get on the Bus?" he yelled back, dropping his professional manner.
"Three pounds," she heard another voice mumble back.
Pulling out three one pound coins, she handed them to the young conductor and made sure to put the rest of her money securely in place.
"Now where is your luggage?" he asked, peering his head around to see. She looked past the boy to see if the dog was still there but he's long gone.
Dismissing any thoughts, Kirsten motioned to the bag on her shoulder.
"That all you got?" he asked disbelievingly, looking at the bag.
"I travel light," she replied, boarding the bus after he nodded his head. Her mouth dropped open in shock. She must've been drugged. Oliver must have put something in that sandwich of hers.
Instead of seats, there were half a dozen brass bedsteads beside the curtain windows; candles burning on the bedside tables. Gazing at the interior of the bus, her eyes landed on the only other passenger on the bus. Jet black hair framed the face of a bespectacled boy, who was sitting on the bed behind the driver. His eyes caught hers and she found him staring back.
"You can get the one next to that boy over there. His name's Neville Longbottom," Stan told her, pointing to a bed right next to the boy. "Lucky he asked for West End before, because that's the next stop."
The young teenager walked to the bed and settled herself down. She had either gone mad, she was on a crazy bus, or she was dreaming.
"Neville, this right 'ere is Kirsten," Shunpike said, dropping his professional manner once again. She saw the boy's familiar emerald green eyes look curiously at her behind his round spectacles. He strongly reminded and resembled her old friend from primary school. The way his hair was messily matted down. His green eyes. His scrawny figure.
It can't be —
"So you going to Diagon Alley like Neville here?"
"Dia-what?" she asked, confused. She had no idea what he was talking about and was somewhat preoccupied with the boy named Neville.
"You foreign or sumthin'?" Stan asked, curious himself.
"No," Kirsten answered. "Yeah, I'm uh…going to Diagon Alley," she added.
"Righto not gonner be long," Stan said. "'Old tight, then…"
Kirsten's body jerked backward from the initial speed of the bus and she came to the quick conclusion of lying down on the ground until the bus would come to a halt.
"So, God, I know I haven't prayed since…ever, but I really, really need for you to have mercy on me because so far this night has been a living nightmare. I know that I haven't been a good child and all, but running into strange homeless men isn't my thing—" Kirsten mumbled under her breath, but was cut off as her head slammed against something else and she groaned out in pain.
"Thanks," she said sarcastically, glancing up at the ceiling and rubbing her head. "You really answered my prayer."
Pushing herself off the ground, Kirsten looked to see that the object that slammed into her was the boy named Neville. His green eyes looked up at her and she noticed a scar running down on his forehead. He noticed what she was staring at and hurriedly matted his hair down on his forehead, concealing his scar.
His green eyes widened in shock, confirming who he was. Kirsten shook her head, and looked around in confusion. Her night literally couldn't get any stranger.
"You two 'right? We're already here," Shunpike said, coming closer. Already having dealt with crazy people for too long, Kirsten grabbed her bag and bolted straight from the bus.
The night air of London brought relief to her senses for the first time that night.
At the sight of the man in front of her, Kirsten let her feet lead her off into a different direction in a quick pace. Glancing back behind her, she saw Harry being greeted by the strange man into a pub. The man was wearing a long, pinstriped cloak.
Rounding another corner, she walked down the street and spotted her destination. The teenager took a deep breath as she opened the door, her mind still reeling. A familiar stench met her nose in greeting as she walked around the filled tables, passing the hostess.
At the mention of her name, Kirsten turned around to see a dirty blond man in his mid-twenties gazing down at her.
"Hey, Alec," she said, grinning up at him. "You've seen Dan?"
"He's gone for the weekend," he replied. His eyes narrowed as he examined Kirsten's face. "What the hell happened –?"
"Just a small fight," she told him, shrugging her shoulders. "I'm fine."
The man sighed as he looked at her. Kirsten knew she looked like a wreck. She could feel her left cheekbone and eye throbbing; no doubt it will be a black eye by morning. The scabbed over cut on her lip wasn't helping the situation either. She didn't even want to think about it at this moment.
"I just dropped by to say hi before I go," she said, and immediately regretted it as Alec's eyes narrowed again.
Think quickly, Kirsten.
"What do you mean before –"
"My mum wouldn't be too happy that I've been gone this late. Taking a cab back, mate," she cut him off. He nodded his head in understanding, but kept his eyes narrowed. Her eyes surveyed the pub before they went back to Alec, and she smiled. "Do you have paper and a pen?"
He nodded his head and Kirsten watched as he went behind the counter. A small smile made its way on her face. This young man and his brother helped her so much in the course of one year. She remembered when she first met them during the first week of the summer holiday last year. They let her clean some of the tables for a decent amount of money after she told them she wanted to save up for some books she saw at a nearby store. As much as they helped her, she never got round to telling them she was an orphan.
The smile faded from her face when Alec came back, handing over the pen and paper to Kirsten. It took her several minutes to write down what she wanted on paper before folding it and holding it in her outstretched arm.
"For you and Dan," she told him, placing the folded note in his palm and closing his fingers. His hazel eyes met hers. "I better get going."
Before she could leave, she felt a pair of arms enclose around. She smiled slightly into his chest as she wrapped her arms around him as well.
The light breeze of the night hit her face and Kirsten involuntarily shivered. She needed to hurry before Alec actually read the note. Her legs carried her quickly down Charing Cross only to stop in front of the place that bus dropped her off.
The green eyed boy was brought back to mind as she stared at the door he went inside of with that man. She couldn't be wrong about who he was. That lightning bolt-like scar that ran down his forehead was more than enough proof. He still looked the same, just a bit taller.
Kirsten grabbed ahold of the knob to the pub and opened the door to enter. As she walked in, she observed the grim looking pub. It definitely didn't resemble the pub she entered earlier.
"This isn't shady at all," Kirsten mumbled to herself, glancing around the place. The man from earlier, wearing the same cloak, came into view as he appeared from a room beyond the bar.
"Excuse me, but what is this place called?" she asked the man. He stopped fastening his cloak and looked up to face her.
"My word," the man breathed, moving closer to Kirsten. He blinked several times while surveying the girl before him.
"Do I really look that bad?" Kirsten muttered, frowning. The man either ignored her or didn't hear her. She hoped for her sake that it was the latter.
"You can't be…dear, what is your name?" he asked cautiously.
She almost laughed. This conversation was somehow turning into a similar conversation that she had with the man named Padfoot.
"Kirsten Carlisle," she answered, confused but she stared at him curiously as he muttered to himself.
"Can't be….same first name….surname's different though," he mumbled incoherently. Her eyes narrowed at the portly man and she sized him up. She was very tall for her age and was notably taller than the man in front of her. If need be she could easily take him or outrun him.
"Listen, I only wanted to know the name of this place. I thought a friend of mine entered through here," she told him, wheeling around to leave the shady pub.
"Don't leave," the portly man said abruptly.
"Sorry?" she said, raising an eyebrow.
"Where are your parents, Kirsten?"
An old man in a pub is asking her where her parents were…. It was a definite time to get the hell out of there.
Wrenching the door open, she felt the cool night air hit the side of her face as it entered the room; her eyes not leaving the man so he doesn't make sudden movements without her noticing.
"Nothing strange has happened to you in any way, has it?"
It was not only the question that stopped her from walking out, then and there, but it was the look on the man's face. She let go of the doorknob and faced him; her grip tightening further around the handle.
"I think there have been several strange things. Like that bus I was on earlier, it was completely mad," she admitted him, a chuckle escaping her lips. "He was going on about witches and wizards… Like magic even exists!"
"Minister, I thought you have already gone," another voice filled the room. Kirsten's eyes drifted over to the man who just entered the area. An apron over his nightshirt, the man looked at her with wide eyes. Minister? Did she just walk into some sort of strange mob oriented pub?
"That's because magic does exist," the man, referred to as minister, told her. "Kirsten, I believe you are a witch."