Chapter One: Lee and Harmony
She had her hood pulled over her face as she creeped up the rusty fire escape. A strand of her brown hair came out from under it. The bag she hid under her hoodie was full of small pocket change, rolls, and the small payment she got from the bakery across the street. She pulled herself in the top window. Though the building looked fine on the outside, the inside was awful.
Her name was Lee. She pulled down her hood and went over to a loose, rotting floorboard. Lee pulled it up quietly and grabbed a small cash box, quickly putting all of the money she had made into it and placing it back in its hiding spot. She jumped when a head came from below.
"Tillie!" Lee hissed. "I told you not to do that!"
"Sorry Lee," Tillie replied. "The other girls just wanted to know if you'd gotten back."
"Get them below the loft and I'll give them what the Colters gave me," Lee ordered. "Just make sure they're quiet. We don't want to wake up Smirt or we're all in trouble."
Tillie was different from Lee, but only in appearance. Her blonde hair and brown eyes contrasted Lee's own brown hair and blue eyes. Lee didn't waste time going down an old ladder to meet a crowd of many younger girls. Without a word, she distributed all of the rolls she had and sent the girls back to their rooms. This was a normal occurrence at the Smirt Sisters' Home for Girls. Lee went back up to the loft and grabbed a small blanket. A breeze blew in through the window, and Lee struggled to shut it. They didn't call her home the Windy City for nothing. The light that streamed into the loft made her pale skin even paler. Lee sat against the wall, curled in her blanket and fell asleep.
Across the ocean, in a skyscraper in Italy, another girl was sleeping soundly, despite her mother's best efforts. Her name was Harmony. When she finally woke up, her jet-black hair was a tangled mess.
"Harmony, you must get up," her mother said sweetly. "Your father might need some help with some paperwork."
"But I hate paperwork," she groaned in response. "Besides, I'm only eleven."
"You need to be ready when you take over the family business."
Harmony reluctantly got herself out of bed. The day was going to be a long one. Especially if she was going to have to help her father with work. She stopped and grabbed some coffee before heading to one of the lower floors. There was an assortment of strange people. The majority of her father's colleagues were strange. Harmony almost didn't notice the new owl that landed outside on the window.
"Chrome, your owl's outside!" A man called.
"No, my owl's right here!" A woman called back.
That drew her attention. The owl outside was a regular barn owl. Except that it had a letter clasped in its beak. Harmony ran over and opened the window, taking the letter from the owl. She read who it was addressed to and was surprised to see it addressed to her. It even said where her room was.
"Dad!" Harmony called excitedly, running to her father. "Dad, I got a letter!"
"A letter?" Her father asked. "I didn't see one in the post."
"It came by owl," she explained. "Isn't that cool?!"
"Well open it Harmony."
She listened to her father. Harmony read the letter three times before she understood what it meant.
"It says I've been accepted to a school called Hogwarts," Harmony said. "It says I'm a witch."
"Your mother and I thought this might be a possibility," her father replied. "We'll talk about it tonight and see if you can go."
Harmony smiled at her father. If she was going to Hogwarts, She could see what school was like, instead of being taught by her tutor. She couldn't wait for tonight!
Lee was up at six o'clock the next day. She didn't wait for anyone else to get up and snuck out on the fire escape. She didn't like the girls knowing when or where she was going. It was bad enough at the orphanage without Smirt trying to get the girls to sell her out.
It didn't take long for Lee to get where she was going. The newsstand was already open.
"Good morning Lee," the man said cheerfully.
"Good morning," she muttered in response.
"Did Angellica send you to get the paper again?" He asked with a smile. "You should feel lucky to have a woman like her caring for you."
"One paper and one comic book," Lee grumbled, giving him a small amount of change.
He handed them to her with another smile, which Lee never returned. He was like all the other naive idiots in her neighborhood. He wouldn't call Smirt a 'good woman' if he saw the welts and scars underneath her hoodie. She left the newsstand and went back to the loft.
"Another idiot that believes that woman a saint," Lee grumbled, reading the paper.
She'd need to make sure she knew the stories if she was going to help the younger girls practice their reading with it. Lee fell into a trance while reading about the mayoral election and the new policies that were being put in place. On one page, there was a new policy about domestic abuse. She quickly took that page and stuffed it by her cash box. No need to get the girls' hopes up until there was more information.
Lee was shocked out of her trance when she heard the sound of a motorcycle outside. She got down from the loft and saw a huge man with a burly beard walk up to their building. The other girls quickly huddled around Lee.
"Is he an adopter?"
"Will one of us get to leave?"
"Who is he?"
"Girls, stop. I don't know. If I did I would answer," Lee replied softly. "We'll know in due time. Tillie, what do you hear at the vent?"
"Nothing much," Tillie answered. "He says he from a school in England. Do think one of us got a scholarship?"
"For what?! Smirt wouldn't apply any of us for a scholarship!" Another girl replied.
"Keep quiet," Lee hissed. "If Smirt finds out all of us are listening I won't be able to take all the heat, and someone else will get the lashes."
The girls all remained quiet at Lee's statement. They all knew Lee was right. She somehow managed to keep Smirt from giving anybody else the treatment she got, but if all of them got caught, Smirt would go for more than just Lee.
"Smirt's coming up!" Tillie warned.
"Everybody get to your bed!" Lee ordered, getting back up to the loft.
All of the girls were in their beds pretending to sleep when a woman with graying, black hair came in.
"Lee!" She barked. "Come down from the loft, you have a visitor!"
Lee obliged quickly and went down to the woman's office. The first floor looked much nicer than the top floor, mostly because no one except Smirt and the girls went upstairs. Her office was dark, with a window sitting behind the desk. The giant man sat in a chair in front of her desk. Lee stood next to the wall, waiting for an explanation. No one ever wanted to adopt her; she was considered a delinquent.
"Lee, this is Mr. Rubeus Hagrid," she said, suddenly sweet.
"Please, jus' call me Hagrid," he replied.
"What do you want with me?" Lee asked, sounding a bit harsh.
Smirt glared at her. Lee's tone would earn her a punishment, probably just cleaning the bathrooms.
"I'm from a school called Hogwarts. And we would like to inform you that you've been accepted."
Lee's heart did a cartwheel. She waited for him to continue.
"It's a boardin' school in England for gifted children," he said. "An' our headmaster wishes for you to attend. It's for ages eleven to seventeen."
"I'm sorry, but Lee will not attend," Smirt said. "She's much too precious to this institution."
"I'm sorry Ms. Smirt, but seein' as Lee has no parents, and is a ward o' the state, it's her choice. An' Hogwarts has a special fund set up fer her."
"I'll go," Lee answered quickly, getting a strange look from Hagrid and a glare from Smirt.
"Don't ye wan' some time to think?" Hagrid asked.
"I've thought plenty!" Lee replied eagerly.
⬩Harmony sat at the dinner table with her parents. They hadn't said anything about the letter the entire evening. She couldn't stand waiting anymore.
"So what do we do about Hogwarts?" Harmony asked.
"I told you she wouldn't forget, honey," her mother replied.
"You haven't said anything all day," Harmony continued.
"We talked to everyone around and they think we should send you to Hogwarts," her father answered. "Everyone except your tutor. He thinks it would be more beneficial for you to stay here."
"But I want to go to Hogwarts," Harmony pushed. "Besides, where else will I learn to do magic? Don't answer that."
"I don't think Harmony's tutor should decide if she should or shouldn't go," her mother replied.
Harmony let out an inner sigh of relief. She wanted this so bad! A wizarding school?! How often does a kid get that opportunity?! Granted, she was a very big procrastinator.
"Harmony, how bad do you really want this?" Her father asked.
"Really bad," Harmony answered. "I might even not procrastinate at my school work!"
"You are serious about this," her mother laughed. "We should send her. This is a rare chance for her to have a semblance of a normal school life before she has to take the job."
Her father sighed and nodded his head. Harmony squealed for joy and hugged her parents. She was going to Hogwarts! She was going to be a witch!
"We'll go to Diagon Alley in a few days to get your supplies," her mother said. "But there a few ground rules we'll need to lay down for you while you're at school."
Lee began packing her tiny rucksack of her few possessions. The other girls watched solemnly as she put her last pieces of clothing in her bag. Lee grabbed a small shoebox full of comic books and newspapers. As she descended from the loft she handed the box to Tillie.
"I can't give you the cash box," Lee said. "But you'll be able to find it."
"Do you have to go?" Tillie asked sorrowfully.
"Tillie, you and I both know I'll never be adopted," Lee answered. "And I'm the only person Smirt would ever dare lash."
"But we need you."
"You have the Colters. They'll look after you."
Lee gave her best friend one last hug and walked out to meet Hagrid. She placed her rucksack in the side car and ran across the deserted street to the bakery. Mr. and Mrs. Colter were looking through the window. Lee ran inside and gave them a hug before leaving.
"Is this sack all ye got?" Hagrid asked.
"Yeah," Lee said bluntly, getting in the side car.
Hagrid started the motorcycle and they rode through the streets of Chicago.
"So what school am I going to?" Lee asked. "And what makes me so gifted?"
Hagrid pulled into a parking lot of a small inn. He pulled a small letter from his coat and gave it Lee. She opened it cautiously and read it carefully. It seriously said she was a witch?
"Okay, what kind of joke is this?" Lee snapped.
"It's not a joke," Hagrid answered. "Yer a witch. Hogwarts is a school where ye'll learn to do magic."
"There's no such thing as magic," Lee snapped.
"Le' me ask ye somethin' Lee," Hagrid replied. "Has somethin' strange ever happened around ye that ye couldn' explain? Like when yer angry or scared?"
Lee thought back on all the times she'd ever been lashed. Every time it ever happened, an hour later she'd feel something warm pass over her body, and instead of being unable to move, the welts would heal just enough for her to get up. Hagrid must've seen her thinking, because he smiled at her
"Yer not a normal person Lee," he said warmly. "Yer a witch, an' one day you could be a great one."
Hagrid resumed driving and Lee sat in silence, just thinking. Maybe now she could figure out who her parents were and why they left her at that awful place. Against her better judgement, Lee eventually fell asleep in the side car. She didn't notice when the motorcycle started flying over the country that had been her home. She was still asleep as they flew over the ocean to England.
⬩Harmony was so excited that she wasn't sure she could fall asleep. She would finally go to a real school. Maybe she'd make a new friend or two!
"Harmony, you need to be asleep," her father said, poking his head in her bedroom.
"But I'm so excited!" She exclaimed. "How's a girl supposed to sleep when there's something so fun just around the corner?!"
"I'm glad that you're excited, but you need sleep. You're still just eleven. You shouldn't be pulling all nighters until you're fifteen."
"I've pulled plenty of all nighters!" Harmony argued. "Besides isn't that what coffee's for?"
Harmony's father smiled and put her back in her bed.
"I don't know if your mother would laugh or scold me for teaching you to rely on coffee," he chuckled. "Now get some sleep. It's supposed to be a long day tomorrow."
Harmony finally obliged to her father's wishes and tried to go to sleep. He left and turned off her light. Eventually, she sank into a serene sleep.