Life always seemed complicated, even in its simplest moments. Chelsea tossed and turned that night, waking to the faint ebbing of sunlight filtering through the dirtied window. The sky grey, and tormented with dark storm clouds; all the while thunder boomed and lightning crackled in the distance. Chelsea threw on her comfiest jumper before leaving her roommates asleep and a dismayed Fingal, who had wanted to snuggle longer. But there was no chance of getting any more sleep that morning.
Hogwarts that morning was still fast asleep; students, faculty, and guests all tired from the first task yesterday. Each champion left the event with large golden eggs. Cho Chang had raced into bustling Ravenclaw common room later that night, telling everyone the egg released an ear wrenching shriek that Cedric had to immediately close it.
“It was worse than Mandrake roots that we worked with during Second year. Some poor first year actually fainted!” She continued to describe the embarrassment and frustration that Cedric felt not understanding what he was given to her close friends, but many, including Elisabeth, overheard, and relayed on to others.
“You better give Potter a heads up, wouldn’t want to hurt the little Weasel’s ears.” Juno joked, hanging upside down from her bed. Juno had a weird tendency to do this in their room after hours, for no particular reason.
“No shit, Sherlock.” Chelsea joked, sitting next to her friend. Juno bumped her head into Chelsea’s arm.
“Who is Sherlock?” Lesedi asked curiously. Her head cocked to the side in thought.
“A muggle fictional character who is a Detective, Les. We had to read about him in Muggle Studies.” Juno pointed out.
“Oh, I don’t remember that.”
“You slept through most of that class.”
“I didn’t like that book much either, I am not into muggle crime novels. However, muggle romance novels! Those are dreamy and lovely. Especially fantasy! They know about magic but not of us and it’s so fun to read to see what they believe! I have to admit, it is quite enjoyable but not as enjoyable as seeing a dragon in person. That was amazing, better than any novel. I have always loved learning about them in Care of Magical Creatures but to see them! I want to work with them one day!” She babbled on happily.
All the girls laughed at this weird behavior and spent the rest of the night buzzing about the task.
The only people awake at the early hour of the morning were the House-elves and the ghosts. They drifted through walls, floating and carrying conversations with each other. Even the Grey Lady was seen away from the Ravenclaw tower; she conversed quietly with Sir Nearly-Headless Nick. She waved shyly but did not stop, as was her nature.
Unfortunately, it was too early for food to be ready, and Chelsea found herself wandering the halls, having found a quiet corner on the fourth-floor corridor that overlooked the school’s grounds. It was far into November where the frost had begun tracing the windows and caused many trees to shed their leaves, it showed winter was creeping in with lingering death not far behind. In the distance the Quidditch pitch stood erect, drawing a small smile to rise on her lips. Quidditch is still one of the fondest memory of her childhood.
Memories of her Dad teaching her and Oliver to fly played in her mind, little giggles rung in her ears. Oliver’s whops of success and encouragement were there as well. Elijah Wood was a good Dad for the most part, with warm amber eyes, a friendly smile, and arms always there to hug when a hug was needed. He also had a mustache that tickled cheeks. Her dad had bought her her first broom when she was only five d and would chase her and Oliver around their large yard on lazy summer weekends. Summers were filled with laughter and cheers as two kids spent more time in the sky than they did on the ground. Oliver was always a good keeper, even from the time he thought he wanted to be a beater. Chelsea much preferred being a chaser, she had a strong arm and good balance on a broom. Mum played beater and Dad took the position of Keeper. All these memories made her heart warmer and lighter than it had in weeks.
In a daydream state, Chelsea softly made her way to the Owlery to write to Oliver. She had promised to write when she was settled, but it was nearly December. She wrote of the tournament, of Charles and, nearly everything except for the strange letters she’s been receiving- she didn’t know how to say what they were or what they meant. She had her own investigating to do. She sheepishly wrote about Fred, her ears red as she asked for help.
Much time had passed that when she arrived in the Great hall sleepy-eyed people were milling about. Eyeing Draco Malfoy from afar, Chelsea knew if she wanted answers, he would have them. After a mental pep-talk, Chelsea sucked some air in her chest and tuned out the anxious thoughts she had, and took determined strides towards him. Making eye contact and closing in on Draco and his friends, Chelsea dragged him by the collar of his rob to a quiet corner behind a statue.
“Get your filthy hands off me, Wood.” Malfoy sneered, venom dripping in his voice. Chelsea made no eye contact with him but whispered a silencing spell over them. Malfoy looked at her bewildered, waiting for a response. “I was having breakfast, you git. How dare you humiliate me in front of everyone? Wait until my fa-”
“Will you shut up,” Chelsea responded, her tone sharp. Malfoy always found the younger Wood sibling to be meek, almost mouse-like in demeanor; so seeing this side of her left him conflicted.
“Why do you keep bringing me letters? Who are they from? I am not letting you go until I have some bloody answers.”
Malfoy closed his eyes and shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t bloody know. My father sent it, said it was a favor for a friend of his. And to give them to you. We are done here, Wood.”
“My father is Elijah Edward Wood, not whoever sent that letter.” Chelsea seethed, she didn’t understand. Any friend of Lucius Malfoy was known to be bad news- Death Eaters. Students passed by the two with interest, Malfoy always seemed a popular talking topic, as was the transfer kid.
“Are you so sure? You know, I’ve noticed you don’t look so much like dear brother Oliver. Maybe Mummy has something hidden in that closet hers.” Malfoy smirked.
“What are you getting at Malfoy?” Chelsea was fighting the urge to punch the ferret in front of her.
“Maybe Daddy isn’t your real father.” He shrugged, giving her a knowing look. The look chilled Chelsea to her bone and sent her thoughts unraveling.
“Who is he, Malfoy?” She asked desperately, her heart racing.
“Father didn’t say, now leave me alone. I have better things to do than associate with you.” Before she had a chance to process, her left fist connected with his nose. Blood gushed from his nose and Malfoy stood aghast. “Wood! Shite! You will pay for this! My father will hear about this!” Malfoy turned on his heels, green Slytherin robes flying behind him.
Chelsea collapsed to her knees, her chest hurt and she couldn’t breathe. The foundation of her childhood seemed to be falling to pieces. Her thoughts kept playing all the scenarios out in her head, and the only one that made sense was that her father had to be associated with the Dark Lord. With determination, Chelsea marched to the library to see what she could find on Death Eaters and the Dark Lord. She also made a mental note to write to her mother. In the end, the library only gave information about the Dark Lord and a list of his followers, but nothing more than an overview, and a lot of information seemed to be missing. In a quick script, Chelsea’s letter to her mother was short.
Chelsea hadn’t even walked in the entrance of the Great Hall before Charles found his way next to her. He grabbed her hand and brought it to his lips. “Good morning, beautiful.”
“Morning,” Chelsea whispered, closing her eyes. She released a breath she didn’t even know she was holding. Charles played with her fingers, rubbing circles with his thumb.
“Christmas is around the corner,” Charles muttered, bringing her palm back to his lips, “heard there will be a ball for the champions. We will mostly need dates...” His blue eyes looking deep into her, the question already in his eyes. “Will you go with me? You’re the only person I’d want to take.”
“You know I hate dancing,” she smiled softly, “why not take one of the girls who follow you around, one of them can probably dance better than me. Your feet might even survive the night.”
A soft chuckle reverberated through Charles’s chest, “I wouldn’t want to dance with anyone else... only you. It has been and always been you. My feelings for you have never changed. ”
“Charles, I-” He shook his head, interjecting and cutting her off. His eyes stared into hers.
“Chelsea, you have been my friend since our entry year. My best friend for five years from then. Heck, you were my teammate on the Quidditch team. You went from being my teammate to best friend to the girl I gave my whole heart to and then you left.” His eyes brimming with tears, buried emotions surfacing in his eyes. “Without a single trace or note. It was like you vanished. I sent letter after letter to your house but you never returned a single one, and when I went to your house and saw you moved, my heart broke. Every letter I had sent was on the god damn ground!” Tears flowed down his cheeks.
And then I saw you, here, and you were smiling. Seeing you smile, and being happy made me angry. You left me behind as if I were worthless garbage, Chels. But this past month, even getting to just see you has made me happy, so please, go to the dance with me. Let me show you how much I still care about you. I don’t care about the girls who follow me, they don’t know me as you do. You’re the only one who knows I am not the person they think I am.” He removed his head from her shoulder and looked directly into her eyes as he spoke. “To be honest, you’re the only one left like that...” Sadness reached his eyes, and tears began to well, threatening to overflow.
“After losing April and Richie, within weeks of each other, I hit a dark place... and while it is not an excuse for how I treated you, it is a reason for how I acted. Charles, after losing them both, I was so filled with anger and hatred towards that creature, I lost myself. And in losing myself, I believe I lost all right to be with you. That I was unworthy of you. That I useless because I couldn’t save her. That I lost you.” Chelsea released his hand to wipe a stray tear that escaped her eye.
“You are never unworthy of love, even in your darkest moments. You are always worthy of love.” He kissed her cheek softly, his lips radiantly warm. They sat in comfortable silence as the world passed by them. “You are will always be, love.”
“I will go with you by the way.” She whispered before capturing his lips. He deepened the innocent kiss, both pulling back with a sigh of relief. “Even if I end up stepping on your toes, it is your fault in the first place.” He grasped her hand again, bringing her hand to his lips once more and planting a soft kiss.
“I knew that when I asked you, I would just have to find steel-toed dress shoes. Or at least ask Dr. Mankiller if she knows a spell to help me.” There was one last lingering smile before a large group of students began flowing in for their breakfast. Charles sat straighter but did not release her hand under the table.
“Any luck cracking the egg?” She asked as Fred, George and the gang walked over. Charles and Harry both shook their heads. Fred tried not to look between Charles and Chelsea but he failed. In many ways, since realizing he fancied her and apologizing, he had been at peace with himself.
“Thing gives a bloody headache, and that’s about it,” George mumbled through his toast.
“Oy, he’s right. Bloody miserable shriek.” Fred agreed.
“Well, you boys have until after the Christmas break to figure it out. Just have to get through the ball first.” Harry let out a groan before placing his head on the table.
Christmas and the Yule Ball were fast approaching, it seemed the Hogwarts staff, demonstrating a continued desire to impress the visitors from Beauxbatons, Ilvermorny, and Durmstrang, seemed determined to show the castle at its best this Christmas. When the decorations went up, Chelsea noticed that they were the most stunning she had seen inside any school. Everlasting icicles had been attached to the banisters of the marble staircase; twelve Christmas trees in the Great Hall were bedecked with everything from luminous Holly berries to real, hooting, golden owls, and the suits of armor had all been bewitched to sing carols whenever anyone passed them. Despite the end of term workload, and the heavy load given for the holiday, the Sixth years eagerly awaited Christmas day and the ball. All they needed now was snow to fall.
Fred and George had had great success with their new Canary Creams, and for the first couple of days of the holidays, people kept bursting into feathers all over the place. Before long, however, all the Gryffindors had learned to treat food anybody else offered them with extreme caution, in case it had a Canary Cream concealed in the center, and George confided to Chelsea that he and Fred were now working on developing something else. Chelsea made a mental note never to accept so much as a single crisp from Fred and George in the future, she saw the extent of the tricks. She hadn’t forgotten the Dungbombs she had sat on.
“Hey, Chelsea! Catch this!” Fred yelled a week later. Chelsea was had barely been paying attention before grabbing the ball flying at her face.
“Fred! What the Hel-” The ball in her hand grew warm before exploding into neon pink powder. When the dust had disappeared, laughter erupted around her as George had come out of hiding.
“We warned you, Wood! We keep our word!” George laughed.
“Might wanna go to the loo and find a mirror.” Fred was bent at the waist with laughter.
Chelsea found that whatever they threw at her changed her hair to pink. Every single hair on her body was pink. Including her eyelashes, brows, and the once pale hairs on her arm.
“FRED AND GEORGE WEASLEY!” Chelsea shrieked, stomping loudly back to her friends. Lesedi and Elisabeth’s mouths opened. Hermione’s face expressed concern. Harry and Ron were laughing. Charles just chuckled.
“Pink looks good on you, love.”
“Sod off, wanker! Don’t side with them! Fred and George, I swear to God, I will get you back for this.” The pink disappeared twelve hours later.
The snow was falling thickly upon the castle and its grounds now. The pale blue Beauxbatons carriage looked like a large, chilly, frosted pumpkin next to the iced gingerbread house that was Hagrid’s cabin, while the Durmstrang and Ilvermorny’s ships portholes were glazed with ice, the rigging white with frost. The House-elves down in the kitchen were outdoing themselves with a series of rich, warming stews and savory puddings. In order to forget his rejection after attempting to ask Fleur to the ball, Ron spent his time trying to pry who Hermione was going to the ball with. Hermione only prattled on how Harry should keep trying to figure out the egg to no avail.
Chelsea woke suddenly Christmas morning by the loud squeal from Elisabeth. Chelsea peeled her eyelids open, rubbing away the sleep in her eyes. Elisabeth situated herself in front of a large pile of presents, getting ready to open some. Chelsea rolled her eyes before throwing on a jumper. Chelsea’s present pile was much smaller in comparison to her companion but satisfying. From her Mum and Dad, she received a locket that had been enchanted necklace to help calm nerves and think clearly in difficult situations, it was etched with her initials; from Oliver, a signed photograph of the Appleby Arrows Quidditch team, their pale blue robes matching the sky. Oliver sat on his broom in the middle of the photo, his teammates all smiling as well. From Fred and George, a teal Weasley jumper with an embroidered white letter C from their Mum. Elisabeth had given her enchanted shampoo and other self-care ingredients. And from Charles, a small parcel wrapped in silver tinsel, revealing a silver bracelet with a tiny dragon charm. She supposed it was the Opaleye Charles faced in the first task.
Elisabeth, Lesedi and Juno, and Chelsea met everyone in the dining hall for breakfast that morning before spending the rest of their day in the Ravenclaw common room; only leaving for a magnificent lunch which included at least a hundred turkeys and Christmas puddings, and large piles of Cribbage’s Wizarding Crackers. From the warmth of their rooms, each girl sat by the window watching the snowfall softly to the ground. White snow fell delicately as if lace forming a gown over the ground. Around five o’clock the girls began getting ready for the ball.
Chelsea changed into a blush gown accented with a trail of stunning embroidered floral lace with a plunging v-neckline and open back, the skirt flared softly from her sides, leaving her feeling self-conscious. Her face done up lightly and remarkably good. Her hair curled into cascading waves. Whilst Elisabeth wore a royal blue gown with a v-neck halter and silver accents. She surveyed herself in the mirror with pride. Hooking arms with her roommate, the girls bounded off to find their dates, giggling and eyeing everyone they passed.
Lesedi opted for a white lace sheath dress that complimented her dark skin beautifully. Juno wore a simple silver and black gown with a high slit up one thigh. They walked with extreme confidence.
The entrance hall was packed with students, all milling around waiting for eight o’clock when the doors to the Great Hall would be thrown open. Those people who were meeting partners from different Houses were edging through the crowd trying to find one another, many girls stayed close to the stairwell. Gideon Olivander found Elisabeth with ease, complimenting her on spot. He was wearing classic dress robes of black, leaving him looking polished. Parting ways with excited waves, Chelsea searched for Charles.
The oak front doors opened, and everyone turned to look as the Durmstrang students entered with Professor Karkaroff. Krum was at the front of the party, accompanied by a pretty girl in blue robes Chelsea could barely see. But hushed whispers began to spread through the room. Over their heads she saw that an area of lawn right in front of the castle had been transformed into a sort of grotto full of fairy lights; hundreds of actual living fairies were sitting in the rosebushes that had been conjured there, and fluttering over the statues of what seemed to be Father Christmas and his reindeer.
Then Professor McGonagall’s voice called, “Champions over here, please!”
She found Charles standing in line next to the other champions, his slicked-back hair and velvet dress robes made him seem like a Duke.
“You look absolutely ravishing.” He kissed her hand as other students entered the great hall. Fleur Delacour and Roger Davies stationed themselves nearest the doors; Davies looked so stunned by his good fortune in having Fleur for a partner that he could hardly take his eyes off her. Cedric and Cho were close to Harry and Parvati. Beside him were Krum and Hermione. She looked astonishing. Her hair no longer bushy but sleek and shiny, twisted up into an elegant knot on the back of her head. Her gown made of an airy periwinkle material that floated as she moved and she was smiling from cheek to cheek. She waved and said hello to everyone, leaving Harry the most shocked at his best friend’s change in appearance.
Once everyone else was settled in the Hall, Professor McGonagall told the champions to follow her. They did so, and everyone in the Great Hall applauded as they entered and started walking up toward a large round table at the top of the Hall, where the judges were sitting. The walls of the Hall had all been covered in sparkling silver frost, with hundreds of garlands of mistletoe and ivy crossing the starry black ceiling. The House tables were gone; instead, there were about a hundred smaller, lantern-lit ones, each seating about a dozen people. All the champions and their dates readied themselves for the opening waltz. Chelsea concentrated on not tripping over her feet, her cheeks flushed. Charles seemed to be enjoying himself; he was beaming around at everybody, gliding elegantly across the floor. Chelsea fell in beat with the music and rested her head on Charles’ chest as they waltzed through the first dance, welcoming in the Christmas cheer and starting the Yule Ball. When the song ended, and the Yule ball had begun that professors and students alike began saying their orders aloud and having it appear on their plates. Chelsea chatted with Viktor Krum and Hermione, giggling as Hermione attempted to teach Viktor how to pronounce her name correctly, even after some time, he was unable to. The whole ordeal left the small group giggling; in its conclusion, Charles and Viktor discussed Quidditch and about each school’s team. Krum spoke avidly about Durmstrang until his headmaster silenced him. Leaving him looking a bit sheepish but the conversations flowed easily between the two boys.
When all the food had been eaten, and the drinks consumed, Dumbledore rose from his seat and cleared the way for the Weird Sisters to perform. Students from all over the hall flocked to the floor, surrounding the Champions and their partners who were dancing again. With Charles leading, the dancing went smoothly. Chelsea looked for her friends, passing Harry an empathetic look as he was obviously avoiding eye contact with anyone, he sat with his date, and the poor thing looked bored. As the song drew to a slow, mournful end, Fred tapped Charles on the shoulder. Days before, he apologized for his actions.
“May I step in and dance with her before you whisk her away for the next song?” Fred was dressed in newer robes than Ron and had combed his unruly red hair. Charles nodded but looked at Chelsea for confirmation before releasing her hand. She only nodded as she grasped Fred’s hand and he wrapped his arm around her waist. His hand was warm and strong. The next song was slow but upbeat.
“You look lovely.” He whispered, looking into her golden eyes. Before him, she was a swaying goddess. “I don’t deserve this dance... I-I have been unkind and not understanding.” He swallowed hard.
“Thank you for the apology, bright pink is definitely not my color. You clean up well though! I can only imagine what George looks like.” She joked lightly. Fred was an impeccable dancer, despite the snickers from the Gryffindor Quidditch team and their friends. They danced gracefully throughout the room, just the two of them.
“He looks like a barn owl,” Fred chuckled. “I am glad you are giving me this chance. I want to do better by you, though I disagree, pink is very much your color.” He looked at her dress, a soft smile on his lips.
“You’re a good friend, Fred. You were my first friend and I hope you will always be my friend.” She smiled, tears threatening to fall. “You have been one of my best friends, and I don’t know what I would do without you. Even if I want to bloody strangle you half the time.” The song began to crawl to an end when Chelsea reached up and kissed his cheek, he just smiled.
“Thank you for the dance,” She breathed airily, “Happy Christmas, Fred.”
Fred smiled as the song ended and he returned his girl back to where she belonged. His heart ached as she vanished into the crowd, she was a sight for sore eyes. Fred left the Great Hall and went to his hideaway, content with his evening.
Charles dragged Chelsea to the entrance hall, pulling her close to his chest. Inhaling, he smelt of cedarwood and pine.
“Look up,” He whispered in her ear as they stood under the entry doorway. Above them was a floating lock of mistletoe. In her dress shoes, Chelsea no longer needed to stand on her tiptoes to kiss Charles. His warm lips pressing lightly against her’s, leaving room for more. She deepened the kiss, her tongue seeking passage to meet his. He held her back firmly with one friend while his other hand cherished her cheek. “Merry Christmas, love.” He broke the kiss while bringing her into the fairy grotto. Snow flurried down from the sky, covering the courtyard. Many sixth years were in darkened corners, snogging their dates. He placed his jacket on her shoulders when they sat under the fairy light and stars. They stayed like that, listening to music, soft kisses, and stargazing.
In the distance, a crow squawked, a letter in its claw. From the shadows, a man chuckled darkly before limping back to the Great Hall to rejoin the festivities. “Daddy will be glad to hear about his little girl.”