The next day the young people are to set out for Hogwarts. After a night of troubled dreams, culminating in a recurring one in which Harry walks down a dark hallway ending in a locked door, Harry wakes to discover that pandemonium has already broken out. Fred and George hurt Ginny when they bewitched their trunks to fly down the stairs and, according to Moody, they can't leave since Sturgis Podmore is missing and Harry can't go without a complete guard. Harry drags his trunk downstairs and Sirius, in his dog form, leaps at him. Mrs. Weasley exasperatedly tells Sirius that he can come with them. Mrs. Weasley leads Harry out to meet Tonks, who's dressed as an old lady.
Notice that at this point, Harry describes his dream as just a recurring dream and doesn't question it further than that. This is because nobody has told him that there's more to this dream. The amount of planning and effort that goes into getting everyone to Hogwarts safely reminds Harry again that resisting Voldemort isn't all exciting; these mundane activities are important to plan for too. The hubbub of getting to Hogwarts with the Weasleys has also become a tradition of sorts for Harry.
Sirius barks and scares cats, happy to be out of the house, but the group makes it to King's Cross without incident. Ron, Hermione, and the rest of the Weasleys arrive soon after. Lupin and Moody shake Harry's hand and tell him to be careful, especially about what he writes in letters. Mrs. Weasley ushers them onto the train and Sirius chases the train until it rounds the corner. Ron and Hermione awkwardly excuse themselves to go to the prefects' carriage, so Harry follows Ginny to find a carriage.
The warning to be careful about what Harry writes in letters suggests that the Order expects more surveillance at Hogwarts this year, given that Fudge is trying to dictate public opinion and could also be spying on Harry's letters to members of the Order. Sirius is somewhat reckless to come along, but he also clearly craves freedom from the house and wants to feel like he’s doing something active.
Harry notices that students are staring at him. He and Ginny run into Neville at the end of the train and Ginny leads them into a car with only a girl named Luna Lovegood in it. Luna has long blond hair and seems a bit off; she's reading a magazine upside down. Excitedly, Neville shows Harry what he got for his birthday: a small gray cactus with boils. It's a rare Mimbulus mimbletonia, he says, and Neville shows Harry the cactus's defense mechanism. When he pokes the cactus, it squirts thick dark liquid everywhere, including on Harry. As Harry gasps, Cho Chang opens the compartment door, awkwardly says hello, and excuses herself. Ginny cleans up the mess with a wave of her wand.
Neville's happiness about his cactus and about Herbology in general shows that when given a good teacher and a subject that's interesting, Neville is as capable of learning as anyone else. This reminds Harry that he shouldn't underestimate his classmates; they're all good at something, even if he doesn't know what it is or value it as much as he might need to. Cho is Harry’s crush, so he’s especially embarrassed that she finds him in this situation.
An hour later, Ron and Hermione join Harry. They say that Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson are the Slytherin prefects. Ernie MacMillan and Hannah Abbot are prefects from Hufflepuff, and Anthony Goldstein and Padma Patil represent Ravenclaw. Hearing Padma's name, Luna vaguely says that she didn't enjoy going to the Yule Ball with Ron. Ron notes that he and Hermione are supposed to patrol the corridors and he suggests that he'll give Goyle lines, since he hates writing. At this Luna laughs uncontrollably and drops her magazine, The Quibbler. Harry picks it up when he notices that the picture on the front is a cartoon of Fudge throttling a goblin. There's an article inside suggesting that Sirius is actually a retired rock star and another saying that Fudge has ordered goblins to be cooked into pies.
Though the article suggesting that Fudge has had goblins cooked into pies is surely exaggerating, it’s worth noticing that The Quibbler is, thus far, the only publication that picks up on how afraid Fudge is of beings that are different than he is. Even in questionable publications like The Quibbler, there can still be nuggets of truth or a valuable sense of what's going on in the world.
The rest of The Quibbler contains more wild articles, and Harry finds the one about Sirius to be the most believable. Hermione derisively says that The Quibbler is rubbish, and Luna snappily takes the magazine back—her father is the editor, she says. Minutes later, Draco Malfoy opens the door to the compartment to taunt Harry. He promises to "dog" Harry, but leaves when Hermione kicks him out. Harry fears that it was too reckless for Sirius to accompany them to the station and wonders if Lucius Malfoy recognized him in his dog form.
Hermione's derision shows that she still leans heavily on formally published, academic written works, rather than sillier fare like The Quibbler. Her insult to Luna, however, suggests that while this may serve Hermione well much of the time, it does mean that she sometimes alienates people. Draco’s mockery makes Harry question just how much he knows, especially as his father is a prominent Death Eater.
The weather worsens the closer the train gets to Hogwarts. Finally, they reach the Hogsmeade station. Luna carries Hedwig's cage for Harry and Harry is concerned when he sees Professor Grubbly-Plank, not Hagrid, preparing to take the first years across the lake. Alone, Harry moves to the horseless coaches and stops with a shock: they're no longer horseless. The creatures between the shafts are horse-like but reptilian, with wings and black flesh. Ron, Hermione, and Ginny join Harry and start toward an empty coach. Harry points out the horse to Ron, but Ron looks alarmed and says there's nothing there. Luna dreamily says that she can see them, and that they've always pulled the carriages. Harry wonders if he's truly sane.
Given how out of it Luna seems to Harry, it's not entirely comforting that she can see the horses (though he'll later learn that he and Luna are sane and the horses are real). However, the moment when Ron looks alarmed and then makes Harry question his sanity shows how not being believed by people that he trusts can make Harry honestly concerned for his mental state. In turn, this suggests that without enough or proper information, Harry could be at risk of believing things that aren't real, or disbelieving things that are. In all, this entrance to school is very different to what Harry’s used to, and these differences make him uncomfortable in what is usually a safe place for him.