Alex stared out the window of the train as diverse landscapes rushed by her. She glanced back down at the mysterious old-timey letter, sealed with a red wax stamp, that had appeared on her kitchen bench four weeks ago. She'd already read it so many times that she had it memorised, but she felt the need to read it again, just to make sure the words hadn't been a figment of her imagination.
of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Ms. Alexandra Jennings
6 Ecola State Park Road
Cannon Beach, Oregon
Dear Ms Jennings,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of necessary books and equipment. Term begins on September 1. We await your owl no later than July 31.
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Alex had no idea where she was going or when she would be coming back. When she'd first received the letter, she'd been highly confused. She'd asked her parents, Rachel and Jack Jennings, (busy archeologists who regularly had Alex moving houses and schools), about it. They had taken one look at the letter and had begun frantically arguing before apparently agreeing that Alex needed to go—for whatever reason—to her grandparents' house immediately. They'd driven for three hours straight to dump Alex at the front door with brief hugs and kisses, saying her grandparents would explain everything and they'd see her in the holidays.
When her grandmother had opened the door to Alex and her one suitcase that contained her entire life, she'd taken her inside to her grandfather. Without ceremony they wasted no time telling her that she was a witch. Thanks, good to feel loved, Alex thought wryly, reflecting on the memory. They'd explained that the mysterious Hogwarts was an Academy for Witches and Wizards —"the nice kind," was their mere clarification when Alex had given them a confused look. "Where you can learn magic", they added, as though that were completely normal. Alex concluded that it was a special castle for special people.
Her grandparents were apparently both a witch and a wizard, which was where she got her genes from, because her dad was a "muggle" and her mum was "squib". Alex again drew her own conclusion: a special person that wasn't special.
Gran and Pop took her to a shop called The Leaky Cauldron in England. It turned out they were actually going to a town located within the tiny cornershop. Yeah, it made a whole lot of sense. They took out a massive deposit of weird coins from a weird bank and bought her an adorable little bengal cat—because why not?—that she promptly named Bast. They also got her a whole load of books she could barely carry; a cauldron (of course) and a very typical witches hat—which made her feel evil; a bunch of black dresses amongst other cloaks and things; a set of scales; a telescope; potion bottles; and a wand. A wand! Alex felt stupid as she waved around different sticks and then would accidentally blow up a box or two stacked around the dusty little wand shop. As she was brought her fifth magical stick to test out, she knew even before touching it that it was the right wand. It was quite big; maybe 25 centimetres long. The wood was almost black. Alex identified it as ebony. Years of travelling with her scientist parents had rubbed off on her.
It had a few circular carved knots that travelled halfway up the length of the wand, enough space between them that she could fit her hand between two knots comfortably. The wand keeper, Ollivander, told her that it's core was forged of the feather of a phoenix, which was fascinating. But what most caught Alex's interest about the wand was the leaf-like carvings that grew broader as they climbed to the tip of the dark wand. They reminded her of the "growth mindset" philosophy that one of her old maths teachers had always droned on about. She'd ignored him at the time, not really caring, but she could see the meaning in the saying. Broadening your mind, being open to ideas, staying positive and believing you could do what seemed impossible. It had been a bit corny then, but now it seemed all too relevant.
Alex had felt the rightness of the wand when she saw it, but that was nothing compared to what it felt as she gripped it, her hand falling perfectly into place at the base of the smooth wood. She gave it a single wave and an elegant trail of diverse shades of green sparkles followed. She turned to her grandparents, a broad grin on her face, only to see their expressions frozen in horror. She looked questioningly back to Ollivander, who was giving her grandparents a knowing smile and he shook his head with a chuckle.
"Don't worry, she's not capable of that kind of magic yet, and I'm sure she'd never even consider an Unforgivable Curse. Green is just the colour of her aura." He said studying Alex. She had no idea what any of that meant, but her Gran and Pop's tension visibly deflated with relief, so she decided to just go with it. She'd ask later.
Sitting in the scarlet train she'd boarded from Platform 9 ¾ at King's Cross Station, which people were calling the Hogwarts Express, Alex pulled out her wand again, looking at it a little proudly. She stroked Bast subconsciously as she put her wand away again. She could easily get used to having a cat.
She was just settling down for a quick nap when she heard a rattling from outside her compartment. She looked through the musty window on the sliding door just in time to see an adorable little old lady knock on the door. The lady pushed along a little trolley filled with colourful packaging and questionable looking foods. Alex got up and slid open the door.
"Would you like to buy a snack dear?" The lady asked politely, gesturing to her trolley. Alex surveyed the food there. Her stomach growled as if in reply.
"Yes thanks." She said, pulling out a small drawstring bag her Pop had handed to her when Gran wasn't looking. It was full of gold coins they'd received from the deposit they'd extracted when buying Alex's items. Alex examined the foods. Chocolate Frogs. Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans. Liquorice Wands. Acid Pops. Alex eyed the latter warily, deciding she didn't want to discovered exactly what the 'acid' part of Acid Pops meant. She settled for a Liquorice Wand and a Chocolate Frog. Not the most filling of foods, but she didn't really trust any of the other foods she saw. She paid the lady and sat down beginning to unwrap the wand. She watched as the trolley disappeared from her vision. She took one bite of her Liquorice Wand, which was admittedly delicious, before she heard a frantic yell that sent Bast off her lap and into her little bag.
"STOP! WAIT!" Alex poked her head out of her door to see a tanned, blonde boy with messy hair rush past her. She followed him with her eyes and a few meters past her door, he stopped. He backtracked and walked over to Alex.
"Where did she go?!" He asked a little less than hysterical.
"Who?" Asked Alex, confused.
"THE FOOD LADY!" He exclaimed. Alex jumped at his risen voice, but couldn't help smiling a little at his despair over food. She pointed to the back of the train.
"You just missed her." She said. Her room was the last at the end of the train so the trolley lady was probably packing away the food for now in some special kitchen place or something at the back of the train. The blonde boy sank to his knees and grasped the air dramatically,
"NOOOOOO!" He cried. Alex stifled a laugh.
"Here," She tossed him her unopened Chocolate Frog, "you need it more than I do." He caught it and stared at her incredulously.
"Really? Awesome!" He pummelled the air and started unwrapping the chocolate. He invited himself inside and sat down comfortably on the seat opposite Alex.
His brownish-blonde hair was roughly cut and styled in an intentionally messy way. His eyes sparkled blue-grey and he had an infectious grin of stunning white teeth that he seemed to almost always wear.
"Thanks. I'm Jordan by the way. Jordan Sparker." Alex watched in fascination as he finished unwrapping the frog and was already braced as the chocolate—to Alex's astonishment—leapt out of Jordan's hands just like a real frog. He struck out and caught it, then quickly shoved it in his mouth before it could escape again. He then examined a small card that had been inside the packet as well. His eyes widened. He swallowed his mouthful in a rush.
"Yes! I got Albus Dumbledore! He's hard to get these days 'cause everyone's selling him off. Real famous. I asked my mum and dad if I could buy him but they thought that…" he paused and straightened his posture, then continued with a posh voice, "'... We will not have our son wasting money on childish little cards.'" He rolled his eyes and Alex laughed. "They have their hearts set on me becoming their proper little businessman' in the Ministry of Magic. Just like them." He screwed up his nose. Clearly, he didn't appreciate his parents' plans for him. "'Us purebloods have to stick together'" He made quotation marks in the air as he said it. Alex didn't understand most of what he said, but she got the general gist of it, and nodded in sympathy.
"What about you anyway?" He said. Alex blinked.
"Huh?" She responded intelligently,
"I don't even know your name yet, let alone your parents or anything. I just gave you, like, a whole essay on my life." Alex couldn't help but smile as she mused at what Jordan seemed to consider an entire essay.
"Oh, I'm Alexandra Jennings, but just call me Alex." She pondered for a moment, "Um… my dad's normal…" She racked her brain for that word for humans.
"Muggle?" Jordan suggested,
"Yeah, that." Alex confirmed, "My mum's a squid, or whatever it's called." Jordan chuckled, but didn't interrupt. "I got my magical genes from my grandparents. They're both a wizard and a… a witch." She hesitated as she said witch. She still couldn't quite get the stereotypical evil, green, pointy-hat image out of her mind. "But I only found out about all this,"she gestured vaguely to her surroundings, "four weeks ago. I guess my mum was kind of annoyed about all the magic stuff because she couldn't do it. They never actually told me until I got this." She waved her letter from Hogwarts in the air, "Then they just sent me off to Gran and Pop." She huffed and took an aggressive bite of her Liquorice Wand. It calmed her down a bit, and she nodded to the card in Jordan's hands,
"Who's Albert Dumbleboar anyway?" Jordan laughed again, blue eyes sparkling. He hopped over to the other side of the carriage and sat down next to Alex.
"Albus Dumbledore." He said, showing her the card. It had the name at the bottom and an elderly man with a nightcap, long silvery hair and an equally long beard, wearing half-moon spectacles. "He was one of the greatest wizards of all time." He said in awe.
"Was?" Alex asked, a little nervous as to what that might mean.
"He died during the Battle of Hogwarts. Severus Snape killed him. But Dumbledore was already dying because he touched Tom Riddle's bracelet or something. I don't really remember the details…" He trailed off for a moment, "Dumbledore and Snape planned it, from what I remember… Snape was on the good side, I know that much. " Alex had no clue who half these people were but had already taken in too much recently to bother to ask. A thought occurred to her and she smiled to herself.
"Seems like the answer to this debate is a real…" She paused stupidly for dramatic effect, "Riddle." She tried to keep a straight face but couldn't help but laugh when Jordan snorted loudly and started cracking up. It was one of those jokes that was so bad it was good. She didn't even know who Tom Riddle was, but apparently he'd been relevant to that story and Alex had managed to lighten the sombre mood. They sat there laughing loudly, a little high on sugar, crying tears of laughter over such a lame joke. They were interrupted when a pale, freckled girl, with wavy auburn hair, dressed in similar black dresses to what Alex had bought, came to a stop at the door of Jordan and Alex's carriage.
"Can you guys shut up please? I can hear you from two carriages away and honestly, dying seagull wailing is preferable to your chortling!" She looked them up and down in disgust and then turned to leave, but paused.
"I would get changed into your robes if I were you. Clearly you were too busy being idiots to realise that we're nearly at Hogwarts." Alex looked at Jordan and plastered a smile on her face. She nudged him and said,
"It's funny how she thinks we care about her opinion." Jordan fought a laugh, but he was obviously amused. The redhead didn't even flinch. She rolled her eyes and with a flick of her hair, she strutted away.
"What's her problem?" Alex asked begrudgingly. Jordan shrugged, then grinned his roguish grin.
"I guess it'll always remain a… Riddle." They both laughed hard again, not caring about the moody redhead two compartments away.
After changing into their robes, Alex and Jordan had peered out the window into the dark night sky, chatting about things they saw out there and constellations they knew about, until finally the train began to slow to a stop. Excitedly, they gathered up their luggage and hurried to join the crowd and hustle off the Hogwarts Express. Slowly, they filed out until they finally made it into the cool air. Over the noise of the chattering students, rang out a loud voice calling, "First years! Over here first years! Get your behinds here now or you'll be left behind!"
"That's us!" Jordan declared. He grabbed Alex's hand and pulled her through the crowd towards the loud, aggravated voice. Alex lost track of where she was going in the rush and relied on Jordan to guide her. He suddenly came to such an abrupt stop that she walked right into him. He laughed and pulled her around him to show her what he saw. Alex's jaw dropped. Before her was a giant, glistening lake, rippling the reflection of a huge, elegant stone castle with what must have been thousands of windows, all glittering and flickering with the orange glow of candlelight. It gave the place an air that could only be described as magical. Stone pillars rose amongst long destroyed ruins that were now sprouting jacarandas and shrubs. Standing tall above the sturdy walls of the building were tremendous towers with pointed tops, not unlike the witches hats Alex had bought not two weeks ago. Vines and other weeds that would usually make a garden look messy, covered the castle in clumps making it seem all the more majestic. Rocking gently on the water were a few rustic row boats with glimmering lanterns hung on the front that made Alex think of little pixies.
"Stop gawking or you'll miss your boat!" The loud voice shattered the magical aura. "First years get on a boat! No more than four per boat! If you have a question you will address me as Professor Finneus!" With that Professor Finneus—a tall, skinny man with short brown hair and a scary demeanor—stalked off towards the shore and saw all the first years onto the little boats, before getting into his own at the front. He apparently performed some sort of signal, because the moment he was sitting comfortably, all of the little rowboats set off through the dark waters of their own accord, disturbing the calm with gentle ripples that sent soft lapping noises throughout the eerie quiet. Alexandra Jennings and her new friend Jordan Sparker set off, with the rest of the first year, towards the school of magic called Hogwarts.