Prologue: Just Another Year at Hogwarts…Right?
It feels like Christmas Eve, except perhaps a bit warmer and no snow in sight. Then there’s the fact the Christmas decorations aren’t up and Mum isn’t baking cookies for “Santa.” There’s not even any presents or mistletoe or… okay, this really doesn’t feel like Christmas Eve other than the fact I’m so excited I can’t sleep. Tomorrow, I go back to Hogwarts and it couldn’t come fast enough. As a matter of fact, time is passing by so slowly that every minute of insomnia is painful. It’s only been a little more than two months since I came home for summer vacation, but I’ve been ready to go back since week two. That’s always how it works I suppose: when you’re at school, you want to be home and when you’re home you want to be at school. However, seeing as I spend most of my time at Hogwarts, I see it as more my home than here with Mum and Dad. They’d kill me if they heard me say that… at least, Mum would. Dad would probably be too interested in reading about Quidditch scores and say, “That’s nice, dear… NO, HE ALMOST CAUGHT THE SNITCH AND, UGH, BLOODY GIT!”
I wonder how this year will go… I can’t wait to see the Potters and Weasleys again. It seems far too long since I last saw one of them. Usually, my family visits them for holidays, but during summer months all of our families are far too busy vacationing to see each other. Rose Weasley and Albus Potter are my very best friends and have been since our first year at Hogwarts. James Potter and my brother have been best mates since their first years as well, so our families have practically always been closely knit. I would say we go back a whole generation, but my father wasn’t necessarily friends with the Potters and Weasleys so much as their Quidditch captain (or Quid-dictator as George Weasley once called him).
I sigh and stare at my ceiling. Who knows what this year will bring…. Quidditch will be interesting as usual. Hopefully Gryffindor will win all the matches. Especially the ones against Slytherin, our biggest competitor. Maybe I’ll pass all my classes… Rose will have to help me with that. Maybe I’ll get a boyfriend now that I’m out of my so-called “awkward stage” and all. Maybe I’ll go on wild adventures with my friends, like their parents used to. Maybe there will be another Tri-Wizard Tournament and I’ll get to go to a Yule Ball and my date will be one of the champions… Maybe….
“Pippa Quinn Wood! Up and at ‘em!” Mum’s voice startles me awake. She likes to use my full name, as if she did a good job naming me or something. If that’s the case, I disagree.
I groan and roll over until I hear her say, “Finley! Go wake your sister, she’s stubborn this morning!”
No. Finley is not waking me up. I’ll end up with pancake batter in my hair or jelly between my toes or something. Damn you, James Potter, for putting ideas like those in my brother’s head. “I’m up!” I scream and leap out of bed. I take a glance at the clock. 9:30. Wait… why am I up so early…? OH! How could I have forgotten?!
I quickly put on some clothes and double check around to make sure I have everything packed. “Sweeney! Here, kitty!” My black cat prances around the corner and I shove him into his carrier, narrowly escaping an attack from his razor-sharp claws. After he’s in his carrier, I’m certain I’m ready. I go to examine myself in the mirror. I look… decent. My auburn hair has its usual natural soft wave to it, so I just let it be. No use in trying to straighten it or curl it. I have Mum’s blue-green eyes, which I definitely prefer over Dad’s brown shade. There’s a sprinkle of small freckles over my nose, which some days I love, and some days I hate. Today… they were okay. I was wearing comfortable clothes—jeans and a long-sleeved autumn leaf red shirt—for the train ride to school. I would just have to change into my robes later anyway.
“Good enough,” I shrug and start for the door, grabbing my heavy trunk and Sweeney’s carrier on the way out. Honestly, I don’t care about much else except getting to Hogwarts.
When I get downstairs, the smell of pancakes smacks me in the face. Okay, maybe I care about pancakes…. I practically float over to the table like cartoon characters do. Mum makes the best pancakes, no contest, hands down, you lose. Every year, the morning Finley and I leave for Hogwarts, Mum makes her famous chocolate chip pancakes as if saying, “This is what you’ll be missing until you come home for holidays!” And she’s right! I miss these pancakes every single day I’m away. In fact, it may be what I miss most… which is kind of sad.
After breakfast, we load up our things in the car and make our way to the train station. All I keep thinking about is being reunited with Albus and Rose, settling down in the dorm, and all the possible adventures yet to come. It’s making me wriggle around in my seat impatiently. Finally we make it to the station and I pretty much run to platforms 9 and 10. I don’t even do the cautionary look around to see if any muggle is watching before I run through Platform 9 ¾. Mum didn’t like that very much.
“Pippa Quinn Wood!” There she goes again with the full name thing. “You didn’t even look to see if muggles were watching! Do you know what could happen if they see you?! You could—“
“QUINN!” Red curly hair covers my face and arms wrap tightly around my neck. I hadn’t even seen Rose Weasley coming towards me before she pounced. I hug her back and we immediately start catching up. Ron and Hermione make their way over with Hugo in tow.
“Morning, Oliver!” Ron greets Dad with a firm pat on the back. He nods to Mum, “Elodie!” They start talking about their summers and the Ministry and Quidditch. You see, Dad used to play for Puddlemere United’s reserve team until last year. He retired and said he was going to take a year off, but I’m not sure what he’ll do after. He’ll get a job, I’m sure; he’s too much of a busy body not to have one.
“Where are the Potters?” I ask and look up at the enormous clock hanging off the side of the platform. It’s 10:45 and the train leaves at 11:00.
“Good question…” Rose says, looking around for some sign of the black-haired brothers and their sister who looks uncannily like her mother. It was like Harry to be late, but not Ginny. Just then, Lily comes running through Platform 9 ¾, out of breath and shooting annoyed glances behind her at the platform wall.
She makes her way over to Rose and me. Her eyebrows are knitted together and bottom lip stuck out just enough to look pouty; it’s her classic Pissed-At-James-Potter look. “What’d he do now?” It takes all my will-power not to laugh at her.
“The arse made us late! Made my trunk disappear and kept telling Mum that I had lost it. How do you lose a bloody trunk?!” She rants, her cheeks gradually getting redder and redder, and somehow her hair seems to get a brighter shade of red. The poor girl inherited the Weasley temper….
“Obviously it’s easy to lose trunks if you’re Lily Potter,” James appears by her side. His black hair is carelessly swept around and his bright brown eyes have a mischievous twinkle in them. He must have grown a few inches over the summer, because I don’t recall him being so tall… or his shoulders so broad… as a matter of fact, I don’t recall him being so handsome…. My stomach turns a little at this thought, but I can’t determine if it’s butterflies or nausea. I feel my cheeks heating up and have to look away.
“What’s wrong with you, Quinn?” Rose asks, noticing my awkwardness.
Rose pointing me out only makes my situation worse. My cheeks tingle more and my stomach keeps turning. Get yourself out of this, Wood! I scream at myself before answering, “Oh, uh… nothing. Where’s Al?”
“Over there, putting up with Lily,” James nods to where our families are gathered. Al and Lily are standing outside of the circle. It’s obvious Lily is raging about James because she’ll yell a little, then cast a glare over at James, then yell a little more. I hadn’t even noticed Lily had left the circle… what the hell is wrong with me?
“Alright, kids!” Hermione brings the group of parents (and Finley) over to us. Most of us are going on our fifth or sixth year and they still call us kids. “I suggest you get on the train, you only have five minutes!”
Mum grabs me and squeezes me until I can’t breathe. When she lets go, she moves to Finley and fixes his hair and straightens his shirt a little then cups his face in her hands and sighs. It’s times like these that I wish I was the boy so I didn’t have to deal with Mum’s boa constrictor hugs. Dad hugs me too, but not as tightly. When he pulls away he winks at me, “see you soon.” I would miss Dad a lot, I realise then. He may be negligent when Quidditch is playing or in the paper or the hot topic of a conversation… but when it’s just me and him, I’m Daddy’s little girl, and that wink he always gives me never fails to remind me that. I smile at him and hug him one last time until holidays.
I wave to the Potter and Weasley parents as I join Al and Rose. There’s an atmosphere of pure excitement as we all board the train and start our journey to another year at Hogwarts.