Chapter 3 : The Hogwarts Express
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“Why are we here?” Olive asked, always defiant.
“Well we couldn't just appear in the middle of the busiest muggle train station in London!” Ken said in an amicable tone. He rarely used his status as father to patronize Olive. “Poof!” he gasped, making an exploding gesture with his hands.
The girls laughed.
“Now if you’d be so kind as to follow me,” Ken said, continuing to gesture melodramatically. “Helen will be waiting.”
He led them around the building and they were suddenly amidst a swarm of people. Muggle shops lined the outer walls of the station selling frivolous apparel and knick-knacks. Georgina was spinning, frantically trying to absorb as much of the chaos as possible.
“But surely you've been to King's Cross Station before,” Ken said, looking at Georgina expectantly.
She shook her head. “I've read about it, though.”
“Isn't this an exciting day of firsts?” Ken marveled. “Fantastic!”
Still scanning her surroundings, Georgina began to think they would never be able to find Helen within the throng of travelers. Just then, however, Ken darted towards a shop with a large ice cream cone on the sign. Sure enough, standing just below the sign was Helen. She wore a dark grey business suit and looked quite ordinary amongst the muggles. The same could not be said for Ken who remained in tattered black robes, which garnered more than a few curious glances from muggles.
“Did you find everything okay?” Helen asked, as Olive and Georgina caught up. The girls' luggage was stacked on a trolley at her side.
“Yes Mom,” Olive said, barely audible above the bustle of the station.
“Quills, parchment, cauldrons –” Helen listed.
“Yes Mom! I said yes!” Olive said exasperatedly.
“Robes, books –”
“That reminds me!” Ken said. “I couldn't find all of the books.”
Georgina’s stomach lurched like she was in a nosedive on her broomstick.
“I was only really looking for Olive's,” Ken explained. “I figured Georgina could take all of Olive's books from last year. You don't mind that, do you girls?” He looked wearily at them.
They shook their heads absentmindedly.
“Good,” Ken said, looking content. Had he really thought they might say no?
“But then I noticed something peculiar,” he continued. “Georgina needs two more books than Olive did last year. I didn't think anything of it until I tried to find the two books. Flourish and Blotts didn't have record of either of them and that’s the largest wizarding bookstore I know. If any book is required at Hogwarts, you can usually find it at Flourish and Blotts. I decided to venture to the other bookstore in Diagon Alley, Obscurus Books. There was a gruff man behind the counter. I showed him the booklist, pointing out the two books I was having trouble finding. He quickly summoned the first book, Lost Artifacts and their Origins, but scoffed at the second. When I assured him it was not a joke and that I was in fact holding an official Hogwarts booklist, he looked at me sternly. 'You listen here,’ he said. ‘Our dear friend Mr. Potter hasn't said a bloody thing to no one 'bout that night at Hogwarts. If this book existed, it'd be the best-selling book o’ all time.' I gave him three galleons and a sickle for the old, shabby version of Lost Artifacts and their Origins and was on my way.”
“I don't understand,” Georgina said. “How could Hogwarts require me to buy a book that doesn't exist?”
Ken looked as though he’d been stupefied.
“Did it sound like many other students had asked about that book already?” Helen asked.
“No,” Ken said, seemingly awoken by his wife’s voice. “It was definitely the first time the man had heard of it.”
“Strange,” Helen mused. “But we mustn't worry about it now or we'll miss the train. Georgina, you can ask one of your teachers about the book when you get to Hogwarts. Now off we go.”
Helen's step sprung as she bounded for the solid barrier between Platforms 9 and 10 while dragging the girls' luggage behind her. Without slowing down, Helen collided with the divider and vanished. Georgina gasped. She had read about the entrance to Platform 9 ¾, but to actually see her best friend's mother disappear was startling nonetheless.
“You next,” Ken said, urging Georgina forward. “Remember, it's important to keep a steady pace and to remain completely ordinary-looking. We wouldn't want any muggles catching on to our secret entrance.”
Georgina took a deep breath and walked empty-handed towards the barrier. Before the moment of impact, she flinched slightly and ducked her head. When she looked up a second later, she stopped to marvel at a model-like train directly in front of her. Young witches and wizards stood with their families, saying their final goodbyes until Christmas. Georgina's heart sank; neither of her parents would be there to see her off.
Only then did Georgina grasp what Ken had said on the “other side.” How had muggles not seen? Surely at some point in the last few centuries some little boy had been staring idly at some odd looking adolescent only to see him vanish just before reaching the platform. Surely the little boy would have yanked on his mother’s skirt and said, “Mommy, where did that boy go?” What then? Were their memories being modified constantly? Who was in charge of it? The Ministry of Magic? How many mind-wiping wizards did they employ? Hundreds? Thousands? There were billions of muggles to keep in check. Georgina was surprised at her own profound ideas. It was unlike her to think so deeply, almost conspiratorially. In fact, she couldn’t remember a time that thoughts formed in her head so cohesively. She wanted to have these questions answered. Now. At any rate, attending Hogwarts would be the first step to understanding the intricacies and underpinnings of the wizarding infrastructure.
Suddenly something collided with the back of Georgina knocking her to the ground. She turned to see Olive sprawled on the cobbled stone.
“What’re you doing?” Olive shrieked. Her voice was shrill and cut the air like an ambulance’s siren. “Get out of the way! Quickly, before Dad gets hurt.” Olive scampered away from the barrier dragging Georgina with her. The girls got to their feet just as Ken strutted through the divider with the trolley.
Helen emerged from a crowd ahead having already loaded the girls’ luggage on the train. “And before I forget,” she said. “Here are your tickets.” She handed each of the girls a ticket that read:
King's Cross Station, Platform 9 ¾
For one way trip from London to Hogwarts
Departure time: 16:30
Georgina and Olive picked through the things on Ken's trolley to each fill a sack to have with them on the train: a carry-on. When they finished, Ken loaded the rest of their stuff on board. Helen crouched to hug the girls. It was somewhat awkward with Olive being so much taller than Georgina, but it felt nice. Maybe Georgina didn’t have her parents, but the Redharts were pretty-darn-good substitutes.
“I'll miss you girls so much!” Helen said. For a moment it looked like she would cry, but the illusion quickly subsided. Then came the classic ‘mom-line,’ confirming Georgina’s association about Helen’s maternal role: “Now be on your best behavior, and stay out of trouble.”
First Helen pulled Olive aside and whispered, just loudly enough for Georgina to hear, “Please look out for Georgina, my dear. She really looks up to you. It would mean a lot to your father and me. And have a wonderful year. I love you.”
“Of course I will,” Olive said, although her voice trembled. “I love you too, Mom.”
Helen beamed. Then she walked a few steps with Georgina to speak with her in private. “If you ever need anything,” Helen croaked, “do not hesitate to write to us. You're like family now.”
Georgina smiled. Her eyes were watering.
Ken rejoined them. “It's 4:25,” he said. “You'd better find a compartment. Have the very best time, my girls. Hogwarts truly is a magical place.” He winked.
Georgina gripped Olive's hand and together they walked onto the Hogwarts Express. Hogwarts was only a train ride away.
Georgina sat near the window in a compartment with three older girls. There was Olive and two of her friends she had met the previous school year, Grace Thompson and Violet Crabtree. Grace was a pretty blonde girl, plump and cheery with bright blue eyes. Violet was lanky and had straight dark brown hair that stretched past her waist. Both girls wore excessive amounts of makeup. The three were talking about their summers and giggling about their supposed gallivants with boys. Georgina suddenly found it curious that she and Olive had never once discussed boys. The thought simply hadn’t occurred to her. She would have liked to know whom Olive fancied. Maybe Georgina didn’t know Olive as well as she thought.
Through the window, the scenery was transfixing. Rows of trees in perfect symmetry. Georgina had never been fond of mathematics, but now, in the context of trees, she felt herself counting them and keeping track. There was a pattern – an underlying beauty behind their seemingly random arrangement. Was it nature’s doing? No. They were in groups of seven. Seven, seven, seven. Why couldn’t her life have so much order?
Georgina felt helpless. There were so many mysteries in her life and no one seemed capable of solving them. It was more than curiosity. She thought it important to know why Hogwarts rejected her parents, and the strange books must bear some significance. Her focus then shifted to Rowena Ravenclaw's wand. Pulling it out of her pocket, she examined it. Despite already holding it in Ollivander’s, its lightness astonished her. Further, it was in remarkably pristine condition considering its age. After all, it was older than Hogwarts itself. The thought was daunting; Hogwarts was such an absolute. To think of a time before Hogwarts seemed almost blasphemous. Georgina wanted to wave the wand but a small compartment on the Hogwarts Express was no place to experiment with magic. She would have to wait until they reached Hogwarts to work out that particular mystery.
Looking for a distraction, Georgina rummaged through her carry-on bag. Her fingers came across an unfamiliar tactile sensation. It was something hard and coarse like sandpaper. Realization dawned on her as she pulled out the copy of Lost Artifacts and their Origins that Ken had bought. Her eyes gleamed. This could occupy her for the remainder of the trip and possibly give her some idea as to why it was on her booklist. The binding was disheveled and the pages were tattered. On the cover was a faded black and white image of a fancy goblet with the words: Lost Artifacts and their Origins: a Thorough Exposition by Renowned Historian Bathilda Bagshot. Georgina flipped through the first few pages catching the date of publication: 1937. She began reading.
Item 1: The Goblet of Fire
(As seen on front cover)
Throughout the thirteenth century, the rivalry between the predominant wizarding schools (Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, Durmstrang Institute, and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry) was at its acme. Events escalated leading to a brawl in 1292 involving 12 students (four from each school), resulting in three deaths and four severe injuries.
A committee was formed later that year in an attempt to reconcile the camaraderie between the schools. Members were selected from each institution. The group, headed by Regional Doggle, met weekly for nearly a year. The culmination of the meetings was the introduction of the Tri-Wizard Tournament to take place in 1294. The tournament was proposed to unite the three schools in friendly spirit and competition. It was to consist of three challenges created mutually by the headmasters of the schools. First, though, a student was required to represent each school as their champion.
In 1293, a wizard was hired to create a device for selecting a champion from each of the three schools. The wizard remained anonymous for his safety. The committee was fearful that he would be tormented to divulge the secrets surrounding the device. It seems to have worked; despite much searching and interrogation, the identity of this wizard was never discovered. Within a month of being contracted, the wizard produced an ingenious device, the Goblet of Fire, which fairly selected a student from each school based on aptitude and merit. The Goblet looked simple, made of wood and steal, but its properties were extraordinary. It allowed students to drop bits of parchment with their names into the cup to see them engulfed by flames. At a later time, it would consider each of the entrants and select three champions. The device was excruciatingly tested before the tournament committee accepted it. It was deemed incorruptible and used the next year with great success.
The Tri-Wizard Tournament took place every four years consistently for several centuries. Between each tournament, the Goblet of Fire was kept in the victor’s school protected by a jewel-encrusted case. The tournament succeeded in building relationships between the schools.
However, so much pride was taken in winning that some objectivity was lost in order to gain an advantage. The headmasters created viciously dangerous tasks but would allegedly warn their own champions of the impending dangers. This claim cannot be proven but there is evidence that the tasks did increase in danger as the years progressed. These dirty tactics resulted in many serious injuries and disappearances. Then, in 1502 a student died during the tournament. Despite this, the difficulty of tasks in the ensuing tournaments was relentless. The volatility of the tasks increased rapidly until all three of the champions were petrified by a cockatrice in the second task of the 1792 competition. None of the competitors could continue and the Tri-Wizard Tournament was finally cancelled permanently.
The winner of the Tri-Wizard Tournament four years earlier was Karl Berbatov, a Durmstrang student, so the institute fought to keep the Goblet of Fire. The committee in charge of the Tri-Wizard Tournament argued to preserve the Goblet as a historical artifact, but the tournament rules clearly stated that the school of the reigning champion would keep the Goblet of Fire until the next winner was crowned. Therefore, it was kept at the Durmstrang Institute.
In 1823, the newly appointed Durmstrang Headmaster, Ivan Strauss, reported that the Goblet had been stolen. There was a thorough search throughout the grounds of the school but it was not located. Several conspiracy theories exist surrounding the suspicious disappearance of the Goblet of fire, but to this day, its whereabouts is a mystery.
Georgina was confused; the Goblet of Fire was not missing. In fact, there had been another Tri-Wizard Tournament a few years ago. A girl from Beauxbatons Academy had won. Her name was Claire Weasleby. Or maybe it was Weasley. In any case, her picture adorned the Daily Prophet along with a story recapping the event. She was a stunning girl with strawberry blonde hair, and had definitely been holding the Goblet. It had been the first year since bringing back the tournament that the age restriction had been lifted. Incidentally, Claire had been the only fifteen-year-old to enter. The news story had used phrases like “overcoming all obstacles” and “beating the odds,” and every other motivational cliché Georgina knew. Claire was the youngest to win the tournament since Harry Potter in the infamous event that saw Cedric Diggery die in the final task. According to the newspaper, the enigmatic circumstances surrounding his death were never fully resolved. Her mind drifted to possible deaths for the poor Hogwarts student. Like Olive, he had been a Hufflepuff.
A rock glanced against the window of the train, startling Georgina. She regained focus. She presumed that the Goblet of Fire had been found since the book was published. After all, 1937 was a long time ago. She began to wonder how it had been found after missing for so long, but she soon realized the thought was fruitless. She flipped back to the Table of Contents of the book, glancing through it until something caught her eye. She hurriedly turned to page 276 and read the following:
Item 16: Ravenclaw’s Diadem
Ravenclaw's Diadem was a small silver tierra with a large emerald encrusted in its center. It possessed the power to increase the wearer's intelligence. Rowena Ravenclaw enchanted it to do so in the mid-tenth century. She also inscribed her famous saying – “Wit beyond measure is man's greatest treasure.” – to the lower lip of the crown. Upon the founding of Hogwarts, Ravenclaw's Diadem was the only known relic associated with the Ravenclaw house.
In 986, Rowena gave birth to Helena Ravenclaw (father unknown). Helena grew up in the shadow of her mother's reputation. She was a first-generation witch at Hogwarts and belonged to the Raveclaw house. It is worth noting that Helena was reported to be socially inept. She seldom spoke to anyone outside of a small, eccentric group of students. Strangely, amidst that tight-knit group was a pompous Slytherin boy, two years her senior, known simply as the Baron. It seems he took a liking to the quiet Ravenclaw girl. Helena grew to detest the hot-tempered Slytherin. He reportedly asked for her company on numerous occasions before finally realizing her decision would not waver. The Baron left the group and sought guidance from Salazar Slytherin (his Head of House). Salazar told him to stay away from the Ravenclaw girl and to make new friends from his own house. The Baron obeyed and did not speak to Helena for over three years.
At Hogwarts, Helena succeeded academically, but never reached the tremendous expectations founded by her brilliant mother. It was enough to break any teenage witch. Wishing to garner some of her mother's intelligence and power, Helena stole Rowena's Diadem and fled far from Hogwarts in 1001.
Rowena was hurt by the betrayal and for some time did not seek her daughter. Rowena suffered from severe depression and several years later, in 1007, became fatally ill. The cause of illness (and eventually death) was a strange heart condition – one even healers could not mend. In desperation to see Helena again, Rowena called on the Baron, knowing that his feelings for Helena had not abated. As expected, he eagerly agreed to search for her.
Later that year, the Baron found Helena in Albania. He attempted to persuade her to return with him, but even the knowledge of her mother's looming death could not convince her to leave. In a sudden rush of anger, the Baron stabbed Helena, killing her and covering himself in her blood. Realizing what he had done, he killed himself in bitter agony. The Baron returned to Hogwarts as a ghost, still covered in Helena Ravenclaw's blood. Hence, he became known as the Bloody Baron. To this day he roams the corridors of Hogwarts. Helena also returned to Hogwarts as a ghost. However, she pretends not to remember her former life, refusing to respond to the name Helena or Ravenclaw and claiming to never have seen any such diadem. She is known only as The Grey Lady.
As for Ravenclaw's Diadem, Rowena never revealed that Helena had taken it. She wanted to preserve family honor. Shortly after her death, it became apparent that she no longer had the Diadem. For many years it was a priority of Hogwarts to find it. Countless witches and wizards traveled to Albania suspecting that Helena had taken it and hid it there. Others believed it never left Hogwarts. It is now common practice for the students at Hogwarts to hunt for it, presuming that it may still be in the castle. It is for this reason that it is now sometimes referred to as the Lost Diadem.
Georgina slammed the book shut. The sickening, twisted story was about her family. Her blood. How had she never heard of Ravenclaw's Diadem before? Maybe the book was on her booklist to lead her to it. Maybe she was the one to find it. If only her mother was there to help … Georgina was sure her mother would have an answer to all of this. A tear formed in her eye; her mother was just as lost as Ravenclaw's Diadem.
An arm wacked Georgina's shoulder.
“Watch it!” Olive said, pulling her arm through the sleeve of her black robes. “We're nearly there. Get changed.”
Georgina stared out of the window for a moment longer, thinking about the tragedy of Helena and the Baron. She almost felt worse for the Baron. The story made Georgina think that she never wanted to encounter love if it could cause murder and suicide. Why did people do it?
“Georgina!” Olive moaned. “Did you hear a word I said?”
“Yes,” Georgina said. She had heard every rude, jeering comment Olive had ever made. Did Olive think she was daft? Georgina removed her robes from her sack and staggered awkwardly while slipping them on. The train was decelerating.
Before completely dressing, Grace exited the compartment. Violet quickly followed her leaving just Olive, lingering by the door, and Georgina, still struggling with her robes.
“I’m going with them,” Olive said coldly.
“I’m coming,” Georgina said, now panicking. “Just a second.”
“No,” Olive said. It was more of a command than a statement. “Things are different at Hogwarts. I’m popular here. And it’s all about popular. I was your friend because my parents felt sorry for you. My parents are gone now.”
Georgina stared, bewildered. She had not been expecting this. “You don’t like me?”
“You’re such a baby,” Olive spat. “I hope you find someone who actually wants to be your friend. Bye, Georgina. Grow up, why don’t you?” She walked out, slamming the compartment door behind her.
“Bye,” Georgina mouthed as tears fell. She was now utterly alone. It almost made her miss her father.
Finally, the Hogwarts Express halted.