The train shimmered crimson under the early September sun. Outside its long exterior, hundreds of families stood huddle together. Mothers suppressed tears, fathers gave firm handshakes, and younger siblings stood in awe of the train that would take their siblings away for the year. Some, however, were alone on that day.
Tucked away within a cabin, sat a petite girl with shiny plaited brown hair in an over-sized jumper that hung heavily from her thin frame, engulfing her. Her spindly fingers traced the pattern embroidered on the upholstered wool seat next to her without focus. Her thoughts flurried across her golden eyes as if frantic butterflies. The busy English magical community buzzed around her; platform 9 3/4 was swamped in its annual back-to-school chaos. Capes and caps formed a pulsating ocean of black. Students bustled through the train’s narrow corridor, all calling and searching for their friends.
She sat alone, quietly observing the strangers passing by her coach. Her only company was a rather monstrously sized white cat, who had draped himself lethargically in her lap; his frame taking up the entirety of her lap.
SQUEE. With an aged squeal, the cabin door slid open and the once lazy cat stood on all fours hissing at the intruders. A boy, a distinct red head overflowing with freckles, opened stopped all of a sudden, staring at the defensive cat.
“Is this coach op-” He started to say. Behind the boy were four more students, each pressed close to one another in the corridor, others behind him complaining of being squished. One told him to move in, but the boy did not budge.
“Fred, move! There are too many people out here!” His freckled face stared directly at the girl, he found she had the softest features. Then, as if he had been hit by a bludger from behind, he flew forward, the trance was broken and the hissing cat launching itself in his direction. The girl lept from her seat, attempting to snatch the cat away from the red-headed stranger, but the cat had swiped the young man across the cheek, drawing blood.
“Oh my Goblins, I am so sorry-” both said aloud as they collided into one another. Her hand rested on his and their faces grew red; both awkwardly pulled away. The boy pushed off his hands and the girl back into her seat, scolding the cat while placing it in a cage.
“Please, let me heal your face, I feel terrible! Fingal did not mean to hurt you, he is a very protective cat around strangers!” She frantically patted her pockets and stood too quickly, hitting her head on the storage area above. Whack.
“Are you sure you don’t need me to heal you instead?” The boy said cheekily. He walked in and sat across from her and his four friends joined. She hadn’t noticed another boy that looked exactly like him standing behind him, it took her by surprise. Her eyes grew wide with worry.
“Oh, Morgana... Am I seeing double? I didn’t realize how hard I hit my head.” All around her was laughter, the room lit up like fireworks. She sat down shaking her sore head.
“The name’s Fred Weasley, that mug over there is my twin brother, George.” He held his hand out, green eyes shining bright as a summer field.
“That there is the famous Harry Potter, the little blockhead next to him is our little brother Ron,” Fred smirked at him, Ron went red and made a face, “and this beaut is miss Hermione Granger. Be warned, she’ll school you if you don’t do your work. Smartest witch in the whole bloody school.” They all smiled at her. She returned with a soft smile.
“Chelsea Wood, pleasure.” She responded softly, hoping no one would pay attention to her last name. Chelsea felt overwhelmed by all these people around her. She had wanted to relax during the train ride but even to her best thoughts, she felt overwhelmed. Chelsea knew transferring from Ilvermorny half-way through her schooling would put her into a situation similar to this but part of her yearned to be back. The lush mountains of Massachusetts embraced her with familiarity, yet; she was eager to travel through the Scottish highlands to Hogwarts. Her brother had told her much about it, he enamored her heart. To her dismay, they recognized her last name. Her heart pounded heavily against her chest.
“Wood never mentioned he had a sister,” Harry said from across the cabin car. He watched the girl with particularity, his green eyes trying to find familiarity between the siblings.
“I lived abroad with our mother in America and went to school there, Oliver lived here with our father.“Chelsea squeaked. But she quickly turned to Fred and withdraw her wand, pointing it at his wounded cheek. Without saying a word, Chelsea focused her inner voice on the spell she had in mind, channeling the pull in her blood towards her fingertips, and with a flick of her wand, the dried blood on his cheek liquefied, returning to the wound and sealed itself. The room went quiet, the only thing that could be heard was Fingal’s loud snoring.
“Bloody hell...” Ron muttered, Hermione stared in awe. Soon as they all got over the initial shock of seeing a young witch perform wordless spells, they asked her where she had learned it.
They had talked for hours; Chelsea smiled in a way she had not for many years. Her hazel eyes dazzled with a golden sheer. Laughter and hearty conversation could be heard from the cabin far away from the front. But only George noticed that his twin brother had not taken his eyes off Chelsea from the moment Fred opened the door of the train car. They were all aware of her sweet, gentle nature.
“Ay Fred, think it would be a good idea to be Chelsea’s personal tour guides around Hogwarts until she gets acquainted?” Fred’s eye grew bright and his cheeks flush but he enthusiastically agreed. Chelsea graced both of them with the sweetest smile they had ever seen. Fred’s chest hurt, but he smiled back at her. In already a few hours, she had shown she was smart, soft-spoken, and kind. And they loved her for it, even if they had all just met.
Hours later, the Great Hall was packed with eager students and staff. The first years filed in like scared mice, all wondering which table they would end up at; would they make their parents happy; who would be their friends. Gryffindor’s long table was packed, they were loud and happy to be back. But before the festivities began, Professor Minerva McGonagall pulled Chelsea Wood aside to discuss the sorting hat; they both agreed Chelsea would seat in the front of the hall until the end of the meal then within the comforts of her office, McGonagall would have Chelsea sorted into a house and send her on the way to her dorm. Chelsea knew being a transfer would require a little extra work and she didn’t want to be clumped with first years. Fred pouted as Chelsea sat in the front, he had saved a seat for her. A newly sorted first year took it. She waved from her seat next to McGonagall and Hagrid. The half-giant was a sweet conversationalist.
“Freddie, she’s a transfer, she probably didn’t want to be seen with the first years” Fred shrugged in response. The meal went on as it usually does. Fred and George joined in the conversations with friends they hadn’t seen in the summer months and elation of the night back at school. But Fred couldn’t shake the disappointment from the back of his mind. That was the last time Fred saw her that night. Lee Jordan found his two best friends and the three of them began planning for a fun year.
Dinner in the Great Hall had lasted hours, prefects lead the first years to their dorms, taking up many of the staircases to Gryffindor tower. Fred stayed back to wait for Chelsea, but he saw her leave with McGonagall, so he trekked up to Gryffindor tower. He and George were bunking with Lee Jordan and Ken Towler and Booker Hilliard again and began to play a fierce game of exploding snaps that lasted far into the evening. The five boys drank fire whiskey and laughed until the Head Boy gave them a warning.
Across the castle, Chelsea sat in McGonagall’s personal office, documents, and courses assigned and fulfilled. Yet, her house remained a mystery. She shifted uncomfortably, wanting to know where she’d be placed. She wrung her sweaty palms out of view of the older woman
“Ms. Wood, you are an exceptional student. We are glad you are able to finally join us here. I remember your brother well.” The professor commented, reading over her transcripts once again to make sure she was in the right classes. “But, to make this selection final, we must determine your house. I am sure you are eager to know.” From a high cupboard, Professor McGonagall withdrew the battered Sorting Hat. Its folds beginning to blacken with age, its tattered ribbons sagged from the top. McGonagall placed it lightly upon her head before it shuttered to life.
“Hmmm....” the Sorting Hat stopped itself for a brief, baited period. “Another Wood? I thought your brother was the last of them... Let me see, very smart... afraid to be overshadowed by your bother....strong, very strong...Yet clever and ambitious like your Mother, Slytherin would be lucky to have you. But no. Let it be... RAVENCLAW!” The hat burst aloud. Chelsea’s heart dropped slightly, as she realized she would not be with her friends but rose when she realized she was not in her brother’s house. But confused by the Sorting Hat’s comment, she had been told her mother had been in Ravenclaw. She sat silently with her brows knitted together.
“Ms. Wood, allow me to show you to the Ravenclaw Tower myself. I hope you are good at riddles.” McGonagall said off-handily as they left her office, she wore a lighthearted smile.
Chelsea was confused until they approached a wooden door with an enchanted knocker.
“What can travel around the world while staying in a corner?” The knocker spoke. Chelsea’s eyes grew wide initially but thought about the riddle.
“A muggle Postage Stamp!” McGonagall nodded her head approvingly before bidding the new student goodnight.
The rest of the night she saw azure and bronze and her heart soared. When she entered the dormitory, she stood in awe of the circular room and its stunning view. From every window, she saw something new and it made her heart fly. On either side of Rowena Ravenclaw’s statue were two winding staircases that lead to the dorm rooms. Far down the hall, she found a room with her name. The room smelled distinctive of lavender. On the far side of the room sat a young girl with plaited hair staring out the large bay window opposite of Chelsea. A book laid lightly in her lap. Beside her was a girl with the darkest shade of ebony Chelsea had ever seen, it was striking in the moonlight. A third girl sat in her bed, legs dangling off the side.
“Welcome! My name is Elisabeth, Elisabeth Prewett!” The window girl stated eagerly when she saw that her roommate had finally shown her face.
“Hullo! My name is Lesedi Zulu. Glad you could join us.” The ebony-skinned goddess spoke in an accent Chelsea couldn’t place.
“Juno Truman-Wong.” The final girl spoke from her bed. She wasn’t as outgoing as the others but friendly enough.
The girls got along splendidly and spent the night talking about everything they could. Chelsea learned Elisabeth was cousins with the Weasley boys on their Mother’s side, Lesedi was born and raised in South Africa before moving to London with her family as ten, and Juno had spent most of her childhood going between the English and Chinese magical communities. Chelsea fell asleep with a warm heart and was eager for the next day to see her friends. Fingal slept by her side, his snores lulling her into a deep sleep.
Tomorrow was the start of a new adventure and Chelsea had no idea what this year had in store for her.