This was a historic day, a historically secret day. While there should have been a grand celebration, a public spectacle to announce the school’s wondrous opening, there was only a small ceremony. A basic cake and wine ceremony just didn’t seem to work for Annabelle. After everything she had learned in the last few months, she had expected something well…magical. Something like the first time she had seen Helga.
That had been a little more than four months ago. Helga Hufflepuff had walked through her orphanage doors dressed in a bright, crisp yellow dress and it had been hard to look at anything but her face. Yet her warm smile almost eclipsed the color of her dress and Annabelle had found her fascinating. From the little she saw of Helga, she imagined her as a good fairy, like in the stories their headmistress would tell them before bed.
Annabelle so wanted to be chosen when her headmistress had trotted them all out in front of Helga in the play yard, to go with this good fairy from somewhere that just had to be as bright and sunny as her dress. Anywhere was better than this run-down orphanage. Well, not so much run-down as forgotten. The king had cut of the headmistress’ funding a year ago because two girls under her roof had been linked with the Diana worshippers that plagued their village.
The only thing that allowed them to stay open was the generous donations of Mr. Davies, a wealthy land baron who had a soft spot for children and visited whenever he was in the area. Even the pickpockets and thieves among them respected Mr. Davies.
Annabelle was one of those children; well at least she was called as such. She had been sent to the orphanage when she was caught stealing some apples from a vendor in the market. She hadn’t wanted to but she needed to eat and those that had money to spare were not usually generous with it.
Yet at this moment, Annabelle was trying not to think about any of that. Not about her ill-begotten title, not about never seeing Mr. Davies again, not even about how she only really wanted to be adopted because she wanted to escape this place before they tried to accuse her of being the child of a witch. The only thing she was trying to think of was how to impress the yellow lady who was slowly moving down the row towards her.
The woman wasn’t asking any questions about the children she passed, simply holding out a small stone and waiting for them to touch it. Sometimes the stone did nothing and sometimes it seemed to glow. The color was a deep yellow and almost matched her dress so Annabelle wasn’t quite sure she was seeing it. She looked to the headmistress to see if she had any answers, but found that the headmistress didn’t seem to notice. Had she seen the stone supposedly glowing, she surely would have called the king’s knights at once. So Annabelle just passed it off as a coincidence of pretty sunlight and crisp yellow silk.
When it finally came for her to touch the stone, she took note it was a topaz, only slightly darker than Helga’s other jewelry. ‘This woman must really like yellow things,’ was Annabelle’s only thought as she placed her hand on what she thought would be a cold stone. Yet the surface was warm, not from twenty hands brushing it but from the stone itself. As the yellowish glow began to emit from the stone, Annabelle pulled her hand away quickly.
This was surely witchcraft, surely the headmistress must know. Yet she only stood quietly behind the woman, sometimes nodding her head as if she was hearing words Annabelle did not. She looked back to the woman before her and Helga smiled her warm smile before moving down to the rest of the children. The stone didn’t glow for any of them and Annabelle looked back down the row to those it had.
Michael Smith, Cassandra Finnigan, Mary Beth Spinnet, William Brown, and Jonathon Flint were all looking back at her. The stone had glowed for each of them in turn and now they were all wondering what it meant. All the other kids seemed antsy and wanted to go back to playing, but Annabelle and the others wanted to run to Helga, wanted to ask her what was happening.
Mary Beth was afraid she was a witch hunter and that the stone had pointed them out. Yet Jonathon Flint didn’t think Helga was as she seemed, far too sweet and motherly. Besides, he told them, they would never send a woman to handle dangerous sinners. That was surely something only the men of the cloth could do.
Annabelle couldn’t decide as she listened to the others that had gathered around her after Helga and the headmistress had walked back inside. The stone frightened her as a tool to show evil but how could such a woman like Helga Hufflepuff want to hurt them? Annabelle could see nothing beyond her sunny smile and good fairy-like appearance.
Michael Smith and Jonathon Flint were arguing over whom was right as the others joined in. Cassandra and William sided with Jonathon, saying it was nothing but a trick of the light. None of them denied that she already had a glow about her with such a bright dress. Michael and Mary Beth turned to Annabelle in hopes of convincing her that they were in danger. They wanted to run away before they could be taken to the gallows like the other children had been.
Annabelle was near tears, her good fairy was an evil witch and now she had to run away before they could send her away to be killed. The other children were ignoring them as if nothing had happened and when Helga and the headmistress returned to the play yard, Annabelle and the others huddled into a small group. They didn’t know what to do and just stood there silently as the headmistress called for them.
Helga’s sweet smile seemed to be turned up now and her words were a comfort as she explained to them that she would like them all to come live with her. Annabelle’s fears slipped away from her and they all followed Helga back inside to gather their things. It was an odd feeling to go from being terrified to being excited within minutes. Mary Beth, although just as excited, whispered that it must be a spell as they walked out the front door to Helga’s awaiting carriage.
Even if it was, there was nothing they could do about it and when the carriage pulled up to a large estate several hours away, Annabelle wondered when her good mood would turn to terror again. It was something she did not want to believe would happen, but if her good fairy was an evil witch then she would probably never be able to do anything about it under her wicked spells.
Once they had been shown the estate and had settled into their rooms, Helga asked them to join her in the dining room. It was a beautiful place but Annabelle felt very uncomfortable when she saw Helga’s servant lock the door. He must be under a spell too she had decided and gripped Mary Beth’s hand for comfort. Helga set out tea for them and said she wanted them to relax. Only Jonathon and Cassandra took their cups, the others were too afraid of being drugged.
Helga took a sip from her own cup and smiled at them from across the table. She seemed reluctant to say what she had planned and Annabelle pleaded with her ears to go deaf.
“You’re a witch!” Mary Beth shouted and jumped up, “you plan to murder us for your disgraceful master!” She backed away from the others and collapsed in a corner behind a china cabinet.
The others all had their eyes fixed on Helga, who had set her cup down and sighed. “Yes, I am.”
The other children jumped up and joined Mary Beth in the corner. “Please don’t be afraid. I don’t mean you any harm; in fact I only wish to save you.”
“Save us?” Michael yelled, “is that what you call murdering us?” He stood in front of the girls along with William and Jonathon. At only eleven years old, Annabelle thought they were very brave.
“I don’t plan on murdering anyone; I am not a dark witch. I simply plan to send you to school.”
That is how it all started. Helga explained that they were all witches and wizards who she was trying to protect from what she called the “muggle” authorities. She wanted to send them to a special school that she and her friends had created that would allow them to truly be themselves.
Of course, several objected, saying they couldn’t possibly be witches or wizards. Yet Helga continued her explanations well into the night about how they were orphans and probably were never given the chance to hear this from their own parents. That and some of them were “muggle born,” something which caused another lengthy discussion about how a witch or wizard could be born to “muggles.”
Helga explained that in time she hoped to help all young witches and wizards attend the school she called “Hogwarts” but for now she could not risk speaking to muggles about how their children were magical.
For now she could only help orphans who did not have a family to deal with. This kept the amount of “SINNER!” comments to a minimum. Something that Annabelle understood all too well having grown up in that world. But now she was home, well at least until she was seventeen, as she stood on the grounds of the newly opened Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Helga Hufflepuff stood before her and the other hundreds of students on the stone steps leading to the castle’s front doors. Next to her stood three figures, each just as much a character as she was. After looking them over it was no wonder they had sent Helga to see the children in “muggle” villages. Even with her stand out color scheme, she seemed the most pleasant of the bunch.
A man dressed in black and green had a face that no child could love. He reminded Annabelle of the pompous land baron who lived down the way from Mr. Davies and hated children. He was a man not to be crossed and judging by the irritated look on this man’s face, he was probably the same.
The woman next to him, although having the same type of face as her companion, had the demeanor of Helga. Yet her fancy blue dress and silver diadem portrayed a haughty image, one that Annabelle hoped was just her imagination.
The only person on the stairs that she got a good impression of was the man that stood next to Helga. He was dressed in red robes which matched his reddish brown hair almost perfectly. He reminded Annabelle of a great knight come to save the princess, that of course being the blue woman on his other side. And the dark looking man must be the evil sorcerer. This was all such a fairy tale to her.
Helga had explained to them all what the procedures of this school would be and Annabelle knew she would be taught under one of these four great characters. Four great founders of the most magical school the world had ever seen. Well that’s at least what Annabelle thought, she was so new to all of this.
As she looked around to the other soon to be students in the crowd she felt like the only novice. Most were standing with their parents who wore such pronounced ‘witchy’ clothing that she again thought this had to be a dream.
Mary Beth took her hand nervously as they walked up the stone steps and into the grand entrance. As they passed Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga had told them their names, she smiled down at them and Annabelle could almost make out the words written across her diadem. It was such a beautiful treasure and she seemed like a princess wearing it around the castle. Mary Beth even asked her if she was while they were on their way to their very first lesson on magic ever.
It seemed so odd to Annabelle, having grown up in a world where magic was a sin and was punishable by death, to actually be attending a school for which she could go to hell for. Yet Helga had set all their minds at ease on the long ride up to the castle and even Mary Beth had agreed to come, someone Annabelle surely thought would run at the first chance. But she seemed almost as attentive as Annabelle when Helga, her new house mistress, started their first lesson on the history of magic.
“Knowledge is gained by learning; trust by doubt; skill by practice; love by love. That is what we hope to teach you here and something we hope you take beyond these walls.”