Waking up from a sleepless night always leaves one feeling numb and quite frankly disoriented, and in a haze, Chelsea rose to find her room empty.
“Was it all a horrible dream?” She mused aloud. She didn’t see the letter anymore. The moment her feet hit the floor, she felt the crinkle of paper below. Instantly her shoulders slouched, and she felt all the blood drain from her face. With speed she didn’t know she had, she grasped the letter and threw it into the drawer of her bedside table, and locked the drawer with an incantation. No one could know.
Not knowing what time it was, Chelsea walked without a destination. In a dazed confusion, she walked into the great hall, to her usual spot at the Ravenclaw table. She felt sick to her stomach, not sure if it was from the lack of food as she had not eaten in twenty-four hours. Before she could even raise her hand to grasp anything, a horde of people surrounded her. Both seats beside her were immediately taken, as were the seats across from her.
“Where the bloody hell have you been, Wood?” Charles gaped, attempting to grab her attention. A cacophony of voices asked similar questions.
Young, intuitive Hermione Granger looked right at Chelsea Wood with knowing eyes, “It is something you don’t want to speak about, is it? You look tired, Chelsea.” Chelsea finally looked at the eyes of her friends. Charles to her left, Fred to her right, Elisabeth right across from her, and the trio distributed in that mix. Her tired eyes scanned all of theirs.
“I-I just need time to think about something.” She stood up abruptly, almost mechanically, and left. She heard the shuffling of her friends watching her go, and listening to them try to come after her but Elisabeth and Hermione stopping them.
Even in the brisk December air, as soon as she was out of sight of her friends, she raced to the lake. Around her was a winter wonderland; snow had fallen as if a soft blanket over the ground. Intricately and carefully laid, the snow remained undisturbed the further she went. When the trees thinned, an iced-over lake opened before her. Under the icy surface, the giant squid swam delightfully and carefree.
“Y’er going to catch a big ol’ cold standing out here like that’,” Hagrid spoke softly. The gentle half-giant was teary-eyed and seemed to seek solitude.
“Thank you for your concern, Hagrid. I’m okay.”
“Rubbish. Y’er not, Miss Wood. One look at ya could tell anyone. What’s the matter?” Hagrid questioned gently.
“I-I can’t talk about it. I’m sorry Hagrid...”
“It’s okay no’ to be able to talk about somethings. I believe I know that’ well enough. We all carry things we canna share right away, and that’s okay. I kno’ ya have a good group behind ya.” He chuckled softly, “They would do anything for the people they cared about’. I would know firs’ hand. They will always be there if ya need ’hem.” The half-giant sighed before surveying the frozen lake.
“Thanks, Hagrid. You’re right about them, truly.” She breathed freely for the first time in days. He smiled softly back.
“I need to magically thaw the lake soon. Worried about ’em, creatures. Need ‘em for the next task...Oh no, ya shouldn’ ’o heard ’at. Off ya go before I say too much again.” He shooed Chelsea back towards the castle.
Now knowing something that could help Charles and Harry, Chelsea walked determined to find them. She was still unnerved by the night before. Her real name ringing in her ears, feeling foreign yet familiar all at once.
She found Charles waiting for outside the Ravenclaw common room, his typically neat attire gone; he adorned joggers and jumper. His slick back hair, tousled and relaxed. Bags under his eyes prominent. He looked up as she approached, instantly relief spread across his face and the tension in his body dropped. He moved closer to her before wrapping his arms around her waist.
“Where were you, Chelsea?” He whispered. His hands held her back tightly.
“Charlie, love, I took some time to figure some things out that I needed to do alone.” She half-lied through her teeth. Internally, she was still in turmoil over everything that happened in her life in the last few days. “I will share them when I am ready if that is alright with you.” He nodded his head silently in her neck.
“On another note, I do have something that may help you with the second task. Hagrid mentioned something about the lake needing to be thawed out, what if the event takes place there? The egg may have something to do with solving the puzzle. ” She prattled along, pulling Charles into a window seat in the hall, his head still resting on her shoulder.
“It may, perhaps, but it doesn’t give me a way to stop the egg from screeching every time I open it. If I open it one more time, my ears may bleed and fall off completely.” He grumbled, still stumped by this clue.
“Well, if it may be related to the lake, then maybe we just need water?”
Charles shot right off, hollering he would be right back.
She enjoyed the brief moments of solitude waiting for Charles to return. He returned a short time later with the egg in his arms, tucked like a football. He raced back, grabbing her hand and pulling her to the nearest bathroom.
Running the egg underwater did nothing but reduce the egg’s volume. It took all of Charles’s strength not to throw the golden egg across the room. Chelsea threw her hands over her ears instantly. The wailing bounced off the marble walls, still incomprehensible.
“Let’s go take a bath. Soak and think.” Chelsea whispered, lightly rubbing the tension line away on Charles’ forehead. She knew they could get into trouble but with how she felt, and how unsure the future now was, she just grabbed his hand and dragged him to the Prefect’s bathroom. They ran as fast they could, sneaking past all the Prefects on patrol for the evening. Chelsea knew the password after sharing a bath with a prefect friend.
When they entered the bathroom, they faced a swimming-pool-sized bath that had many taps. Chelsea knew she was there for a reason but part of her wanted to explore all the numerous taps with Charles while they had the chance. This was the first alone time since he had arrived at Hogwarts in October. Nonetheless, she knelt turned a few taps. One tap released icy-white bubbles and steaming hot water. Before either of them could remove their clothes, the large bath was filled. Not caring that his eyes were on her, she removed her clothing and slid into the water. He followed suit seconds later, not allowing himself to linger. The egg rested on a large, fluffy towel.
The bath was so deep that her feet barely touched the bottom causing her to giggle. Surrounded by bubbles, she floated as Charles treaded water whilst starring at the egg. He lifted the egg in his wet palms before diving below the water, swimming closer to Chelsea. She ducked her head under the surface as he approached. When they were both resting on the bottom of the foam-filled bath, they heard a chorus of eerie voices singing from the open egg.
“Come seek us where our voices sound, We cannot sing above the ground, And while you’re searching ponder this: We’ve taken what you’ll sorely miss, An hour-long you’ll have to look, And to recover what we took, But past an hour — the prospect’s black, Too late, it’s gone, it won’t come back.”
When the song ended, they both allowed themselves to float upward and broke through the foam layer. Charles’ eyes were as wide as saucers.
“Mermaids. Fucking mermaids. There are merpeople in that lake?” He muttered, all color draining from his face. Chelsea found Charles’ head resting on her shoulder, his cheeks warm and his eyes hidden deep in the crevice of her neck. “I fucking hate merpeople... Not after that summer off of Cape Cod when my dumb brother almost got dragged to his death by Sirens when we took the boat out...And what in the world are they going to take from me that I will surely miss? The only thing important to me is you.”
The idea struck her like lightning, “What if it is me? Mer-lore is similar to that of Siren lore. Mermaids are not beautiful creatures like sirens but their voices are. And it is said that merpeople have taken humans to their watery graves by luring them overboard.” Charles’ damp hair tickled her skin as he lifted his head and fell into thought. He waded deeper into the middle of the pool, pushing the large foam aside. As he drifted further from her, she drifted into her own thoughts. In many ways, she wanted to tell Charles everything; wanted so deeply to tell him the truth but was afraid he wouldn’t believe her or be scared of her. Without much thought, she pulled herself from the warm depths of the bathwater and sat naked on the edge. Her brown hair just covering her nipples and her legs were daintily crossed. Her brows were drawn into deep concentration.
Charles was drawn from his thought when he heard the movement of the water and stared at the love of his life. Her beautiful skin glistened and her hair shinned with a small halo. “I hope it is not you, how would that even work? How am I supposed to be underwater for an hour as well?”
“There has to be a spell or potion that would be able to help you on this task; they are all tasks that acknowledge your strengths, smarts, and courage. Maybe you can pick Dr. Mankiller’s brain, she has to know something about a potion or native herbs or enchanted plants. I can do some research as well. That is a step in the right direction.” Chelsea spits out in one breath. Charles pressed his lips against her fervently.
Chelsea woke with an arm wrapped around her waist, and a soft breath on her neck. Soft snores broke the silence of the room around them. Chelsea looked around, looking for her roommate but realized she was sleeping in the guest quarters that the Ilvermorny students were staying in. Charles slept soundly next to her, his stone chest out for the world to see. He turned softly, pulling the covers with him. Chelsea shivered as the cold air bit at her bare skin, to her surprise she found herself wearing one of Charles’ haphazardly buttoned pajama tops. She kissed his upturned cheek before changing into her clothes and finally returning to her room.
Her roommate sat on her bed, scribbling rapidly on a roll of parchment. She barely looked up when the door opened. “Look who finally decided to return home. There is a parcel on your bed and a letter.” Elisabeth quickly closed her mouth and went back to writing. Chelsea wanted to speak to her roommate but could tell by her crossed eyebrows and tone there was nothing Chelsea could do. The parcel was from her mother, containing her favorite cookies. Chelsea offered one and Elisabeth took one hesitantly but ate it nonetheless. The parcel was from her brother, Oliver sent a trinket from his global travels with his quidditch time; this time they were in Japan and the gift was a stuffed gray cat that was soft to the touch. Chelsea spent the rest of the day in her room, basking in alone time just doing her work until rejoining everyone at dinner. Charles shared his discovery with Harry who was shocked, having made the same discovery days earlier.
As February 24th inched closer, Chelsea sat with Charles in the library working on her Muggles Study homework, her homework was to read a muggle novel and compare how Muggles viewed magic and how it compared to actual magical practice while he tried to find a solution to his problem. Time was spent in the library trying to find a solution to the time limit. Neither of them could figure out what was important to him that could be taken away from him. They racked their brains for hours to no avail.
The date of the second task was inching closer and closer, and Charles was frantic to find something. Chelsea went so far as to ask Fred and George if they would be able to make him something since they were creative geniuses but both shook their heads, unsure of what could be done.
The night before the task, Charles figured out a potion that would cause him to grow gills and a tail, becoming a pseudo-merman. Chelsea spent the night brewing the interesting new potion; they had been given the recipe by Dr. Willow Mankiller, she pulled it from the old potions book she always kept near. It was a spell and potion book filled with old spells from the Cherokee nation that have been passed down for generations. The potion would only take effect in water which worked for the scenario.
Chelsea went to bed early that night, knowing she wanted to be rested for the next morning. She slept lightly, only to be woken by the female Ravenclaw prefect named Sophia Dockman and escorted to the Great Hall. There were no other students up at this other besides a sleepy-eyed Hermione, bed-tousled Ron, a young and shaking Gabrielle Delacour, and fellow Ravenclaw Cho Chang who bounced softly from foot to foot. Ludo Bagman, Percy Weasley, and Dumbledore offered a light breakfast to the guests before explaining that they would be the targets in which each champion would need to rescue from the depths of the lake from the pool of the merpeople. Hermione glanced nervously at Chelsea but she was returned with a confident smile. When the clock tower chimed at the new hour, and pale light began to filter through the glass windows of the Great Hall, Dumbledore and other officials lead the students to the lake.
Sun glistened on the Black Lake’s calm surface, reflecting the darkening gray clouds scattered throughout the sky that dreary morning. Ripples on the surface and each student had their breaths lodged in their throats; merfolk swam impatiently, their yellow eyes leering at the humans. From above, their gray skin matched the water.
“Alas students, it is time for the second task to begin, for you. Your champions will retrieve you shortly. Now please, stand by the edge.” When everyone stood accordingly, the Hogwart’s headmaster withdrew his wand from the depths of his robes and cast a silent spell with the flick of a wrist. Before Chelsea felt her eyes grow heavy, she made direct eye contact with Mad-eye Moody, and the sinister smile on his lips left her feeling uncomfortable at the bottom of her stomach. Then her eyes closed and felt herself falling.
Then suddenly, the cold air hit her lungs, and Chelsea released a strangled grasp for hair. A wet Charles held her waist to keep her above water. His lips a pale purple and his skin pale and slightly blue.
“Bloody hell, it's free-ez-zing.” Chelsea whimpered as the cold was sliding to the depths of her bones. Charles nodded and they swam as swiftly as able. Others and their challenges popped up behind them. Standing near the ladder to the closest deck was Madame Pomfrey, within minutes of leaving the water, Chelsea and Charles were handed thick self-warming blankets and forced a cup of a very hot potion down their throats. Chelsea realized Cho Chang and Cedric Diggory were the first to have risen from the water. Chelsea and Charles watched as the time grew closer to the end and Harry and Krum have not resurfaced yet, and Fleur was without her sister. When Harry finally arose and the points were done being passed out, Madame Pomfrey herded all the students towards the castle, towards warm, dry clothes and hot meals. And nothing to worry about until June when the final task would take place; Chelsea had enough time to figure out what was going on... or so she thought.
Charles fell asleep that night with his head on Chelsea’s lap, his transfiguration paper half-written next to him. Chelsea sat in silence, relishing in the soothing shallows of his breath. She kissed his forehead before leaning back into her bed and dimming the lights. Elisabeth snored loudly a few feet away. Life was normal at the moment, and deep down she knew these moments wouldn’t last much longer but not entirely sure what would change.