The month leading up to the tournament was one that could only be described as abated breath. There was this uneasy buzz that whispered in everyone’s ears, and echos seemed to resonate louder across the stones of the hallways. Chelsea walked on glass with Professor Snape, he was constantly wearing her patience thin through his pointed comparisons and hyper-criticisms. And much to a fault, no matter what she tried, Fred and George kept brainstorming numerous methods to surpass the impartial judge. But in the end, she was fairing as well as she was able. Most of the time she was too busy to think. But when she did, her mind wandered to the rolling hills of western Massachusetts; towering red Spruces abundant with chestnut-colored pine cones. Wild New England Aster grew generously throughout the Mount Greylock area. Large boreal Balsam pines extending their branches towards the sky, caressing the horizon. Yet, dark clouds always rolled in, storming her memory; uprooting trees, lightning flashes, and bone-chilling screams.
Classes ended early that day, and Chelsea had time before she was meeting her friends to study. In that small time she had, Chelsea sat by the edge of the lake. Scottish autumn was in full swing. Soft brown hair swishing away in the breeze. Her heavy lids resting closed, and her chest rising softly in meditative breaths. The surrounding hills appeared as if claimed by fire, overflowing in lush shades of red, orange, and yellow; crisp leaves fluttered from high branches and became layered upon the ground. It was in this remote corner that Chelsea found herself most often. The soft shades of fall reminded her of her former home.
She remembered the feeling of his warm breath on her skin, his fingers softly cradling her cheek in his callused palms. He smelt of smoked wood and peppermint. The soft cashmere of his scarf as he draped it around them. ′Chelsea Amelia-Evangeline Wood...′ The taunt pronunciation of his words releasing tightly closed memories she had kept at bay for so long. The wind swept through her hair and laughter rang through the trees.
‘Run!’ A feminine voice yelled the tone a playful one. Crackle and crunch of leaves were the only other sounds. The warm autumn sun was soon to set, leaving the group with heavy breathes and a fantastic view, the edge of the Hopper summit was a gorgeous sight. All four friends settled in on a blanket to watch; they had never been this far from Ilvermorny before, at fifteen they were allowed the ability to roam. The precious shade of red sky as it blended to purple kept their attention from their surroundings. With the sunset, the group knew it was time to head back before the headmistress was upset at their tardiness. The trek back to school was not long; the air was clean, but they could not escape the increasing darkness. The golden-brown glow of the trees turned to black, and crows unfurled their dark wings.
A growl broke through the trees. Followed by a bloodthirsty roar and the smashing of trees but nothing in sight. The four friends had their wands at the ready but nothing could be seen. Chelsea couldn’t stop her hand from rattling in its socket. The girl next to Chelsea screamed seemingly attacked by nothing but blood want everywhere. Hot liquid hit Chelsea and the others in the face. Something grabbed her hand and started to pull her towards the castle but she could not take her eyes off the open abdomen of what should have been her friend. Blood seemed to float in midair. The arm frantically pulled her away but the snap of yellow eyes and blood-covered teeth made her knees go out. She didn’t know who picked her up but everything else went black.
Chelsea shot up from her resting spot with sweat dripping down her forehead, large textbooks were scattered about the ground. Her palms covered in dirt she quickly wiped away and soon covered her face. Hot tears cascaded down her cheeks, her chest heavy, and her lungs gave out. She tucked her knees under her chin and sat still for a long while until the sun had just about set. In this dim light, she gathered the strength to walk not because she was brave but because she feared the dark more than anything, especially what lurked in the shadows. Nothing was out there but the ghosts in her memory.
Fred fidgeted in his seat, nervously look from his watch to the door. Chelsea had promised him that they would study for Potions together after classes ended for the day but she did not show up. Elisabeth hadn’t seen her since the morning, George hadn’t seen her nor had the trio. Fred also tried to ask Juno and Lesedi but neither girl knew. Even though he had only known Wood’s sister for a month, she was known for her punctuality. His stomach felt uneasy as each minute passed.
From the window of the library, Fred watched the sun begin to set. Without a second thought, he threw his satchel over his shoulder and went to look for her. He raced towards the boathouse, the lake was a place he’d most likely go when he had free time if he wasn’t spending time with George and Lee or at Quidditch practice. Taking two steps at a time, head down, he did not notice the person in front of him until it was too late.
Both let out startled sounds before connecting with the hard stones of the stairs. Fred got the worst of it, the person he ran into ended up placing all of their body weight on top of him. Each released a pained groan.
Looking up, familiar hazel eyes looked into his brown ones. Both stared silently; Chelsea lying on top of him. Soon both their cheeks become flushed in realization and both quickly moved apart. The moment lasted no more than a millisecond before the disoriented Chelsea pushed herself into a seated position next to Fred’s leg. Fred sat up, feeling pain in both his shoulders and much of his lower back.
“Are you alright?” Chelsea asked.
“Bit banged up, nothing broken.” He muttered, placing his back against the cold slab of concrete. Much to his surprise, Chelsea moved closer and pressed her head to his shoulder. “No need to bother Madame Pomfrey with this.” Fred leaned his head against her’s. He could have stayed there the rest of the night, the stars glittered above them and the weather wasn’t too cold yet.
“I am sorry I missed our study session, I got caught up with something.” Her eyes clouded, and her voice sad.
“No worries, Wood. You’ll just have to make it up to me next time. Or make it up when we got to Hogsmeade.” He cheekily responded, nudging her with his elbow. A small smile spread across her lips.
A grin broke out on his face suddenly. He pulled her up, clutching her hand, and started running up the stairs, taking two at a time. Chelsea let out a protesting sound but willingly followed, stumbling behind. They raced together hand in hand throughout the castle until Fred took them to the top of an unused tower opposite of Gryffindor Tower. Muttering a quick, unknown password, Fred brought Chelsea to a small room, crowded with cushions, and windows. She stood in awe, from the windows, she could see from the lake to the Quidditch pitch to the Owlery to Hagrid’s hut.
“What is this place?” She spun around, before landing in a large mound of pillows.
“Wait! Don’t sit-” And all around the room, there was a brown haze and a ghastly putrid odor. “George and I... we do all our inventing here... and you just sat on our new supply of dung bombs...” Fred wheezed through laughter, tears welling in his eyes not only from the smell.
Initially, Chelsea was disgusted but with the easy-going sound of Fred’s laughter, she soon started laughing. Only would she sit on a supply of pranks. Her roommate told her of her cousins’ mischief and ability to cause chaos wherever they went. She did not realize she would experience it first hand. She was not disappointed.
Fred collapsed next to her, narrowly missing the new fireworks he and George had been experimenting with. Chelsea’s eyes glittered with laughter and the stench slowly dispersed leaving the two teenagers on the ground laughing.
“I was told about your devilish ways, never thought you’d hide them under a pretty cushion.” She smiled at him. She leaned on her elbow, facing him. Fred looked at the ceiling, his face flushed with laughter but stayed red.
“We’ve never really brought anyone up here before.” Her heart jumped at those words. Special. She felt special. She hadn’t felt that way in months. He shared a very personal side to him here. He had gone after her, to find her. After a month of meeting, they have frequently sought out each other; their forming friendship gave her comfort in her decision to come to Hogwarts. Forming to something more.
“Thank you.” She leaned over and wrapped her arms around lanky his body. Her head rested on the delicate indent in his chest. His arms instantly snaked around her, pulling her closer. His warm chin resting atop her head. His heart pounded erratically against his chest. He hoped she didn’t notice. Her’s was doing the same.
Chelsea did not want to leave the hug but it had a point where she needed to remove herself, thought of him lingered in the back of her mind. Fred stayed on the ground, watching her with warm brown eyes. She stood, walking around the room, examining every cushion and box she could find, looking at everything the twins had created. It was all bloody brilliant. Both boys were probably the smartest she knew but they never showed that side of them. Not once had they showed this hidden side of themselves. Fred fell into step with her, explaining all of the products he and George bewitched, jinxed, and crafted. How they had spent hours upon hours in this room after finding it and making it a second home. That this little tower, tucked away behind a portrait was their haven.
“One day, George and I want to open up a joke shop. ‘Weasley Wizard Wheezes’.” He talked so passionately about wanting to make people laugh, and that laughter released all demons and allowed for happiness to prevail. “But ultimately, we want to cause a little mayhem. Where is the fun in calmness?” He smiled cheekily.
Chelsea watched him, his red hair tousled from the ground, his cheeks flushed from laughter and his fingers gingerly touching his crafts. Behind the devilish trickster of a boy was a young man who just wanted to make people laugh.
“Me mum, she hates our pranks, ya know. But, our grandfather used to be a prankster. She blames him but she used to say ‘the most wasted day is the one without laughter.’ I think George and I took it on as our motto. Our Uncles are also bits of jokers, might be a family thing.” He seemed to talk forever about his family; their antics and dysfunction but also the great bonds formed between them all. He talked about the love they shared.
Chelsea’s heart hurt in the worst way, thinking about her own family. She missed her brother all of sudden, of the summers, spent playing Quidditch with her Dad and brother. Of endless laughter and sunburns. Of her mother’s immaculate dishes. But her thoughts were cut off by the aggressively loud growl of her stomach.
“We better get downstairs. We need to be there before six, Dumbledore mentioned the other schools would be arriving today for the tournament and all students are supposed to be present.” Chelsea nodded before casting a deodorant spell upon both of them, ridding them of the horrid stench. Both walked side by side with smiles, sneaking looks at each other. In the end though, behind her smile; Chelsea’s heart hurt horribly. Her head was so unsure of what to do. She didn’t know how to process these emotions, not after being numb for months.
When they had reached the entryway, dozens of students gathered around their perspective tables. It seemed as if Beauxbaton and Durmstrang had arrived in their absence. Fred swore under his breath, sad he missed their entrance.
The students from Beauxbatons had chosen seats at the Ravenclaw table. They were looking around the Great Hall with glum expressions on their faces. Three of them were still clutching scarves and shawls around their head. Their shimmering blue silk uniforms glittered under candlelight.
The young men from Durmstrang were stationed near the Gryffindor table. Fred had noticed that Ron took care to sit on the side facing the doorway because Victor Krum and his fellow Durmstrang students were still gathered around it, apparently unsure about where they should sit. Ultimately, too many Gryffindors’ disappointment, the young men settled at the Slytherin table. Chelsea and the others watched Ron scowl as Krum and Malfoy dove deep into conversation.
When all the students had entered the Hall and settled down at their House tables, the staff entered, filing up to the top table and taking their seats. Last in line were Professor Dumbledore, Professor Karkaroff, and Madame Maxime. When their headmistress appeared, the pupils from Beauxbatons lept to their feet. A few of the Hogwarts students laughed at their mannerisms. The Beauxbatons party appeared quite unembarrassed, however, and did not resume their seats until Madame Maxime had sat down on Dumbledore’s left-hand side. Dumbledore remained standing, and a silence fell over the Great Hall. There were empty seats to be filled around the room, it left many questioning.
Minutes of waiting seemed to turn into hours, students sat patiently waiting for Dumbledore to convene the meal. But, almost knowing, there was a loud knock. “Ah, our last guests have arrived. Dear students, allow me to introduce our final school competing in this year’s academic-wizard tournament, Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. They are joining us from the United States.” Chelsea’s heart sank to the floor. Panic started to take over, to the point where she had bitten her lip so hard she drew blood. Lesedi and Juno noticed the change in their friend and held her hands underneath the table. They had no idea why she was reacting this way but they comforted her, nonetheless.
In walked in a stunning Cherokee woman, wearing a vibrant cranberry gown and a blue cloak held together by a Gordian knot. Her raven hair loose around her shoulders. She had an air of authority around her. Her dark brown eyes assessing those around her.
“Professor Dumbledore,” The Native woman held her hand out to the elderly man. He brought it to his lips. “We are sorry for the delay.” Behind her, a mixture of boys and girls filed in. Boys wearing fitted blue trousers, white button-up shirts with match blue vests and blazers, and cranberry ties. Their hair combed over and polished. Girls wearing blue plaid shirts with cranberry blouses.
“Dr. Mankiller, it is a pleasure to have you and your students here from Ilvermorny,” Dumbledore announced, escorting the Headmistress of Ilvermorny to sit with the other professors. There were still two unclaimed seats that had the students curious about their placements.
Chelsea felt tears fill her eyes, seeing so many familiar faces. With all of the Ilvermorny students seated at the Gryffindor table, Dumbledore continued with the start of the feast. She saw many of her old friends.
From the corner of her eye, Chelsea felt her throat close up and her eyes well with tears. Sitting next to Fred was Charles Tanner. His taunt New England accents could be heard from all over the dining hall. His dashing smile even had Hermione staring. He was deep in an enthralling conversation, his charisma overflowing. Chelsea couldn’t breathe. She stood to excuse herself, hoping not to be seen.
“Chelsea Wood!” He called across the hall. His bright eyes shining like the afternoon sun, his outburst caused the Great Hall to fall silent, all eyes staring at the handsome American man and Chelsea. She turned and bolted, tears pouring down her face. Charles following close behind. Hushed whispered followed them out the door.
He grabbed her hand as she rounded a corner, pulling her close to his chest. She didn’t fight him. She sobbed into his chest; the familiar scent of smoked would and peppermint calming her. He wrapped his arms around her instinctively and protectively.
“I thought I’d never see you again. After the accident-” Charles was cut off by a set of soft lips on his. A smile spread across his lips, he deepened the kiss. “God Chels, I fucking missed you.” Chelsea found herself falling into old patterns, hanging on to Charlie with everything she had and more she didn’t know she was holding back.
“Charlie, I-i...” She started to say, but the boy silenced her by placing his lips on her forehead.
“We don’t have to talk about it now. I am just glad to hold you again. All those owls, unanswered... I get it, we were all hurting. But, now I won’t let you go, not again. I can’t lose you.” He kissed her lips again, desperately. Trying to convince himself she was real.
Neither of them noticed the red-headed boy, overflowing with freckles, standing not far off, watching them in disbelief. His heart hurt, and his head hurt even worse.
Fred sulked back to the feast, defeated.
Chelsea and Charles did not return to dinner. Much to the displeasure of their friends.