If Evan was to evaluate the trip in two words, it would be really bad.
Especially when they were about to arrive at Hogwarts, the car was obviously exhausted, and after a hoarse run, it fell on the Whomping Willow beside the school’s Forbidden Forest, making the already bad trip worse.
The crazy branches jerked over. Looking at the risk of being transformed to meat paste, Evan closed his eyes in fear, and he could hear Ron and Harry screaming.
The car was badly deformed and scattered pieces of glass cut the boys’ cheeks.
Evan tried to pull out his wand, but without success. The car swayed violently, and he and Harry hit each other hard. Outside, a branch as thick as a battering ram was pounding furiously on the roof, which seemed to be caving.
“Run for it!” Ron shouted, throwing his full weight against his door, but next second he had been knocked backward by another branch.
“We’re done for!” The ceiling sagged and it was just one last blow away.
Just when the three people were desperate, the car engine suddenly restarted and took them away from under the Whomping Willow.
Evan had not had time to breathe a sigh of relief, and was thrown out of the car. Next to him were Harry, Ron and the three people’s luggage. Then he saw the car rumbling off into the darkness without returning, its rear lights blazing angrily.
“Can you believe our luck? Of all the trees we could have hit, we had to get one that hits back!” said Ron miserably, bending down to pick up Scabbers. His wand had had snapped when landing, and the tip was dangling limply, held on by a few splinters.
He looked back at the ancient tree, which was still flailing its branches threateningly.
“Come on!” said Harry wearily. “We’d better get up to the school. Evan will have to go to the Sorting. We’re just in time.”
It wasn’t at all the triumphant arrival they had pictured. Stiff, cold, and bruised, they seized the ends of their broken trunks and began dragging them up the grassy slope, toward the great oak front doors.
“Look, the feast has already started!” Ron pointed to a brightly lit window in the distant Great Hall. “Hey, we’d better hurry up. I saw Professor McGonagall take out the Sorting Hat. The Soting is about to start!”
Harry and Elvin followed Ron’s finger and looked through the window together.
In the spacious and bright Great Hall, innumerable candles were hovering in midair over four long, crowded tables. The golden plates and goblets on the tables sparkled and reflected the stars on the ceiling.
Evan read in Hogwarts: A History that the ceiling was bewitched to mirror the sky outside.
Through the forest of pointed black Hogwarts hats, Evan saw a long line of scared-looking first years filing into the Hall. Ginny was among them. She was pale and looks around from time to time, as if looking for them.
Meanwhile, Professor McGonagall, a bespectacled witch with her hair in a tight bun, was placing the famous Hogwarts Sorting Hat on a stool before the new comers.
Professor McGonagall began to read his name. A very small, mousy-haired boy had been called forward to place the hat on his head.
“Come on. It takes five minutes to cross the corridor from here to the Great Hall. I hope we don’t meet Peeves.”
“Hang on!” Harry muttered suddenly. “There’s an empty chair at the staff table. Where’s Snape?”
“Who knows, maybe he’s ill!” said Ron hopefully.
“Maybe he’s left,” said Harry excitedly, “Because he missed out on the Defense Against the Dark Arts job again!”
“Or he might have been sacked!” said Ron enthusiastically. “I mean, everyone hates him!”
“Or maybe, he is standing outside the gate, waiting to hear us explain to him why we didn’t arrive on the school train.” Evan sighed heavily.
He saw a thin man with sallow skin, a hooked nose, and greasy, shoulder-length black hair, standing on the steps outside the castle gate, watching them coldly. He was smiling in a way that told Evan the three of them were in a very deep trouble.
“Ah, look who I met, the famous Harry Potter, and his two faithful sidekicks.” With a slight, low hiss, Evan saw Professor Snape sweep past him with disgust, “You must think the school train is not good enough for you. You wanted to arrive with a bang, didn’t you?”
“Sir, we didn’t have it. It was the barrier of King’s Cross, it…”
“Silence!” said Snape coldly, “Follow me!”
They followed Snape up the steps into the vast, echoing entrance hall, which was lit with flaming torches. A delicious smell of food was wafting from the Great Hall, but Snape led them away from the warmth and light, down a narrow stone staircase that led into the dungeons.
“Sir, we have to go to the Great Hall, and Evan must be in the Sorting.” Harry summoned up courage and said.
“Silence!” Snape interrupted Harry again. He opened a door in the cold passageway and pointed to the inside, “In!”
Under Snape’s gaze, the three boys entered his office, shivering.
The shadowy walls were lined with shelves of large glass jars, in which floated disgusting liquids of different colors. The fireplace was dark and empty.
Snape closed the door and turned to look at them.
Like a poisonous snake watching its prey, it took a long time for him to ask coldly, “What have you done with the car?”
“What?!” Ron was stunned. He didn’t know how Snape knew about the car. Was he able to read minds?
“Weasley, though your empty brain has never had any fantasies.” Snape unrolled today’s issue of the Evening Prophet. “But obviously, you were seen!”
He showed them the headline of the newspaper: FLYING FORD ANGLIA MYSTIFIES MUGGLES.
Snape’s face showed a sneer and he began to read aloud: “Two Muggles in London, convinced they saw an old car flying over the Post Office tower… at noon in Norfolk, Mrs. Hetty Bayliss, while hanging out her washing… Mr. Angus Fleet, of Peebles, reported to police… six or seven Muggles in all. I believe your father works in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office?” he said, looking up at Ron and smiling still more nastily. “Dear, dear … his own son …”
Evan noticed that Harry and Ron were very depressed. They seemed to have just thought that if anyone found out that Mr. Weasley had bewitched the car, the consequences would be disastrous.
“And!” Snape continued. “I noticed, in my search of the park, that considerable damage seems to have been done to a very valuable Whomping Willow.”
“That tree did more damage to us!” Ron blurted out.
“Silence, Weasley!” snapped Snape again, his eyes turned to Evan. “And you, Mr. Mason, I think you have discovered that being a savior’s sidekick is not a wise choice. And I think you’ll be the first student ever expelled from Hogwarts on the first day of school.”
“No, you can’t expel Evan!” Harry shouted.
“Obviously, I have this right!” Snape’s gaze turned back to Harry and Ron. “As for you two, most unfortunately, you are not in my House and the decision to expel you does not rest with me. I shall go and fetch the people who do have that happy power. You will wait here.”
Harry looked palely at Snape’s back. He wanted to comfort Evan. He opened his mouth, but he didn’t know what to say. If Snape had gone to fetch Professor McGonagall, he and Ron were hardly any better off. She might be fairer than Snape, but she was still extremely strict
If Evan was expelled by Snape, he and Ron would certainly receive the same punishment by Professor McGonagall. He was not sure where to go after leaving Hogwarts. The Dursleys would never welcome him. Maybe he could follow Hagrid and become a school gamekeeper.
Just as Harry was thinking, Professor McGonagall followed Snape in.
Her lips were so tight, and she raised her wand the moment she entered; and the three boys flinched, but she merely pointed it at the empty fireplace, where the flames suddenly erupted.