Following the aftermath of the second task, seems all issues between Ron and Harry had been fixed. Everyone was keen to hear the details of what had happened under the lake’s surface, which meant Ron was getting a share of Harry’s limelight. Yet, every time Ron recounted the tale, his version changed. At first, his story matched Hermione’s but a week later is changed, with an added theatrical value. Once Hermione scolded him for his wild retelling in front of Padma Patil, he went back to the bewitched sleep version of events.
As February turned to March the weather became drier, but cruel winds skinned their faces every time they went onto the grounds. There were delays in the post because the owls kept being blown off course. Letters from her mother and Elijah arrived with a poor owl who always seemed to have half its feathers sticking up the wrong way; the poor thing flew to rafters so it wouldn’t be sent outside again.
Her mother’s letter was another apology; as had Elijah’s been. This time included a short note from Oliver.
Mom and Dad just told me what’s up. I know you have a Hogsmeade weekend soon. Meet me at the Three Broomsticks, at three o’clock Saturday. I will be in the area, and I want to talk with you. I miss you, little sister.
“So your brother is coming to visit?” Asked Elisabeth rather shyly.
“It looks like it, doesn’t it?” George spoke.
“I can’t believe him,” Chelsea spit out tensely without thinking, “he doesn’t understand...”
“Doesn’t understand what?” Fred asked hesitantly, looking concerned.
Chelsea folded up the letter, shaking her head. If she was honest with herself, she really wanted to confide in her brother. But what if sharing anything with him put him in danger, then Chelsea couldn’t. She didn’t know how much he actually knew. She, therefore, approached the final lesson of the afternoon- double Divination- feeling considerably more miserable than she usually did when ascending the steps to the Divination classroom.
This was one of the few classes she did not take with any of her friends that year, Chelsea usually found herself at a table in the back. Once Trelawney had her back turned to her, talking about the telling signs of doom, Chelsea pulled a copy of Witch Weekly from her bag and hastily rifled through the pages. She had heard snippets of awful snickers as she walked through the halls that day. In the center pages, a color photograph of Harry headed a short piece entitled:
Harry Potter’s Secret Heartache
“Oh goodness, what a nasty column.” Chelsea’s partner whispered, breaking Chelsea’s concentration.
“Poor Hermione...” Chelsea sighed. Her partner nodded before focusing back on Professor Trelawney. The lesson dragged on, and Chelsea regretted not paying attention earlier. It seemed like doom was seen everywhere. Ravens, crows, types of cloud formations, owls, broken glass, and arrangement of drunken tea leaves.
At dinner that night, Chelsea comforted Hermione while listening about the interaction between Karkaroff and Snape. When Harry mentioned the inner forearm, a shiver traveled right down her spine. Had he been the death eater that gave Malfoy those letters? Those kinds of thoughts plagued her brain the rest of the night, leaving her tossing and turning. Dark shadows danced across the ceiling, and birds screeched.
Saturday she left the castle that afternoon to find a pale silver sun shining down upon the grounds. The weather was much milder than it had been and by the time she had arrived in Hogsmeade, she had removed her jumper, which she draped over her arm. She had brought a small bag; containing a muggle novel she was reading for her muggle studies class and a flask of water.
She window-shopped for some time, planning out gifts for Fred and George’s upcoming birthday. Zunko’s gave her many ideas, some of them left her laughing. She would consult Lee and Ron to make sure. Fred had finally warmed up to Charles, slightly. It made their relationship as friends that much better. However, there were moments she found her face flushed red and embarrassed after touching Fred’s hand, feeling shocks pass from him to her. Then at the quarter of three, she found herself standing out the Three Broomsticks. Her hands were sweaty and her heart palpitating.
The Three Broomsticks was bustling with students and locals alike. Chelsea weaved her way through her acquaintances to find her brother. Oliver was surrounded by his former teammates. She could hear the cheerful banter from the doorway. She stood staring in awe of her brother; he brought happiness wherever he went.
Harry appeared the most relaxed he had been in months; naturally being at ease around his mates and former mentor. Oliver’s face beamed in delight, but he kept looking around until his eyes landed on Chelsea.
He stood up abruptly, rattling the table, and sent drinks flying to the floor with a loud crash. He sheepishly ducked his head as Madam Rosmerta came over with an enchanted broom, scolding the wizard. He ushered his team away, promising to visit more often and to come practice with them once in a while when his schedule allowed it.
“Hello, stranger,” said Chelsea when she sat beside him.
Oliver smiled at her, he hugged her tightly. “Hey, you! I think Hogwarts has done you good. I think it’s the food.” He joked lightly. Chelsea couldn’t disagree, she was not the twiggy girl she was in the Fall. Even with everything going on, for the first time in over a year, she felt the most like herself to an extent.
Oliver’s hair was longer than it had been when she last saw him and seemed to have muscled out more as well. She noted the difference in their eye shapes, and lips. Her mind was set on finding all the differences between them.
“I think year-round quidditch does you good,” she shot back at him. “Though, I think I could still beat you in a match!” The tension she was feeling lessened the more she was around him. The two siblings fell into mutual silence, Oliver smiling.
“Mom and Dad told me, ya know. They told me about us not having the same biological father...”
“Yeah...” She cut in, unsure of what to say.
“Well, I wanted to clarify something with ya. It doesn’t matter what your name is, who your real father is, or what happens after this, you will always be my sister. I can’t imagine my life without you. So what you aren’t my biological sister? Still, my annoying, incredibly smart sister who used to kick my arse in the pitch every summer when you’d come home and visit.”
Chelsea found tears running down her face. She didn’t know she needed to hear those words, but by God, they healed a wound she didn’t even know she had.
“I-I don’t even know who I am anymore... I have two names... I can’t think straight. I wish were just kids again, playing quidditch with Dad and Mum in the backyard. Not bloody care in the bloody world. No talk of paternity or uncertainty.”
“You are whoever you want to be, it is your decision how you handle this information. But like I said, you will always be my sister. So what if you have another name? I think Chelsea Wood is much cooler than Aurelia Elona Marion Lovelace. That’s too snobby. Too pureblooded for the like us rough and tough Wood’s.” He chuckled, clearly omitting her birth name. But he had a point, that name wasn’t for her.
“Besides making me cry, what are you here for?” She chuckled softly. He had tears in his eyes. She dried her cheeks on the back of her sleeve.
“I can’t dive into too much detail but Dumbledore-”
“Dumbledore!” She exclaimed, bringing eyes towards them.
“Shhh! Yes, Dumbledore sent me a letter many months ago, telling me to keep an eye out during my travels and keep my ears open. Trouble is brewing and he knew it before anyone else. I came to warn you, stay out of trouble. After Mum opened up about her past, the things I’ve heard are starting to make sense. Something is up with Barty Crouch.” Oliver told her in hushed tones, shoulders hunched.
“What do you mean?”
“His illness, the missing Ministry Witch that has been in the Prophets. The incident at the Quidditch world cup... All these absences of Barty Crouch’s... He works very hard to reinstate the Triwizard Tournament, and then stops coming to that too. . . . It’s not like Crouch. If he’s ever taken a day off work because of illness before this, I give Dad my signed Krum jersey.”
“Oliver, what are you getting at?”
“I need you to be careful, given the circumstances.” He looked her dead in the eyes as the words pour out of his mouth.
“Do you think it’s him?” She shuddered in fear.
“I don’t know if it’s your biological dad. But please, Chelsea. I am not meaning to scare you, you’re the smartest witch I know, and even smarter when you are prepared. But there are rumors that He’s back.”
Chelsea fell silent, mulling over the things her brother said. A shiver traveled down her spine. There was a side to him he wasn’t sharing, but she knew pressing him wouldn’t help. She heard what he was saying, and she would try. Because something fishy was definitely afoot. That last letter making it apparent.
“Who?” She didn’t want to know.
“He-who-must-not-be-named. Rumors are traveling through central China that his followers are getting restless and they haven’t been like this in nearly two decades. That’s all I can say. You’d better get back to school,” Oliver said, getting to his feet. “Now listen, write to me if you need me. I still want to hear about everything. Please don’t tell anyone what I have said to you, I need to meet with Dumbledore shortly. I love you, Chels.”
“I love you too.”
He hugged her tightly, walking her through the village to the path that would lead her back to school. She hugged him tightly again, promising to send word if anything odd continued to occur. She made her way back to Hogwarts deep in thought. She was worried about what he was involved in but glad she knew she could confide in him. But that last letter would her secret.
She walked up the stone steps into the entrance hall, where the delicious smells of dinner wafted towards them from the Great Hall. She sat next to Charles and her friends and dug in, enjoy the meal that passed their lips, and filled their bellies.