Once again I must apologize for my somewhat prolonged absence. I unexpectedly developed a social like last week. Not to worry, it's unlikely to happen again soon. At any rate, when last we left Harry, he'd just stormed out of the Dursley's house...
...as is common after any rash action, Harry soon realized he might have made a mistake. His Aunt and Uncle were likely pretty cheesed off and the Ministry of Magic was likely to expel him. Harry had just decided he may as well do a bit more magic to get to London so he could retrieve his money and begin life on the run, when he felt a presence nearby. He lit his wand and saw a huge black dog in the bushes across the way, but before panic could set in too badly, a purple triple-decker bus nearly ran him over.
The conductor of the bus, Stan, soon explains that the Knight Bus picks up stranded witches and wizards and takes them where they need to go. Harry climbs aboard and sees that instead of seats there are beds which slide around as the bus itself jumps from location to location with a loud bang. Stan is reading The Daily Prophet and Harry sees that the escaped prisoner he'd seen featured earlier that week on the Muggle news is in fact a wizard, Sirius Black. Stan tells him that Black was one of Voldemort's followers and he was sent to Azkaban for killing 13 people with one curse.
Eventually they arrive at the Leaky Cauldron, and Harry is surprised and nervous to find Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge waiting for him. Fudge tells Harry that Aunt Marge has been set to right and her memory erased, that the Dursley's have agreed to let him come back the following summer, and that Harry will be staying at the Leaky Cauldron for the last two weeks of the summer (though it should be about August 7th at this point and the Hogwarts Express departs on September 1st, so it should actually be 3 weeks, but who's counting?), just asking that Harry not stray into Muggle-London, but stick to Diagon Alley. After Fudge leaves, Tom takes Harry up to his room, where he's delighted to find Hedwig waiting for him. He falls right to sleep.
I've always wondered why the Knight Bus drives at all if it can just jump from one place to another. The only thing I can come up with is that perhaps it needs to reach a certain speed before it can make the jump (like a Delorean) and then it needs space to decelerate. It doesn't seem to have anything to do with the Statute of Secrecy, since stationary objects like buildings keep jumping out of the way.
To a lesser extant I wonder why they don't magically bolt the beds (and armchairs) to the floor to keep them from sliding around. You'd think that it might help with the illness many passengers seem to experience. While it seems likely that Stan (and Ernie) might not care enough to bother, I see no reason the passengers themselves shouldn't cast a quick charm on their furniture.
Still, I love the Knight Bus and Stan and Ernie, it's one of my favorite magical methods of travel. It's certainly the most interesting to read about, since we get to hear about more than just the way it makes Harry feel and provides time for conversation, which few if any do (an argument might be made for brooms).
How do you feel about the Knight Bus? Love it? Hate it? Would you want to take a ride? (Might make a better roller coaster than a Hippogriff anyway).