Chapter 1 : Spontaneous Combustion of Dairy Products: A Prologue
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After the first five times, my parents simply had me use paper cups and drink my milk in our backyard. I was four years old.
When I was five, my hair had the tendency to act like snakes whenever I fell into a tantrum. My parents quickly learnt that, unlike snakes, my hair did not possess the ability to do any harm at all, but since then, I’ve kept it short.
As a child of two muggle scientists, you might have expected me to be doomed to a life of being experimented on, dissected, my body tested for special enzymes, genetic sequence analysed for any abnormalities. Maybe even searched for an organism of unknown origin living inside me in some odd, but mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship. This organism would be isolated, replicated, and then used to create an army or what not. Perhaps by my own parents. . .
But what sort of parents even just marginally right in the head would do such things to their own child?
As a child of two muggle scientists, curiosity may have well been inherent, although you could argue that environmental factors also play a big role in the development of my curiosity, and you wouldn’t be wrong to do so, but I digress.
We realised that I had “special abilities” for some unfathomable reason. So in an attempt to gain a better understanding, I explored—and was encouraged to explore—my abilities every chance I could. All outside the setting of a laboratory.
My education, for the sake of improving it and my “special abilities”, was taken over by my parents. I have never been inside the walls of a legitimate school and I was never keen to do so. I prefered the solitude that homeschooling gave me.
Naturally, scientific subjects were the subjects held above all others—not that I minded. I love science. In a retrospective comparison of the education my parents gave me and the education school teachers would have given me, I would have been less neurologically active with the latter.
This is how I came to be on par with university-level biology and chemistry by the time I was 10. My parents were the best teachers I could ever have. I used to take many field trips to the research company they both work for and simply observe and learn. Then when we got home, I would ask questions about what I had witnessed, my parents would answer them, and we’d discuss the results of the experiments.
When they didn’t take me to work, I would be reading in the backyard or participating in mixed martial arts lessons because, obviously, the vessel that carries my amazing brain must be fit enough to protect it. It was one of my many hobbies. This is where I interacted with peers, in case you were worried about my lack of social life, given that I didn’t have much of one regardless. I felt sufficiently social by my standards: at least 5 interactions with a peer per week, observe, and mentally record results. Participate, but never initiate. I didn't care to start an interaction when I could never completely understand the strange English language I heard in England or the odd Bregenz dialect in Vorarlberg. I learnt more through observation. In any case, I hated conversing with my peers. I didn't see any use in it.
If you interpret my words with a grave tone, I ought to inform you that I’m just exaggerating––for the most part, at least. Or ‘LOLZ JK,’ as Dahlia and Daisy would put it. I still haven't the slightest idea what they meant by that.
I met Dahlia and Daisy when I started playing tennis after I moved from the Bregenz district of Vorarlberg, Austria to middle-of-nowhere, Devon, England. I was 10.
My parents were transferred to aid in the expansion of the Devon branch of their research company. Additionally, my mother, a pathologist with a minor in molecular biology was working with some molecular biologists on a long-term project. Our new place had a forest beyond the backyard and we demolished the separate guest house to build a little laboratory.
I still continued my martial arts classes, my education, the exploration of my “special abilities” alongside tennis with Dahlia and Daisy. Like martial arts, tennis was an individual sport. . . the way I like it. After two weeks of comical reservations about my very distinct accent and very Austrian-German features and mannerisms, we were kind of friends. We didn’t meet outside of the tennis club, but when we were there, we talked, however infrequently. Their enthusiasm was so abundant that it scared me out of actually making my presence known to them sometimes. If they didn't notice me, I didn't say anything.
It’s not that I do not engage in correspondence—I wrote letters to my grandparents all the time, it’s that this one was obviously not from them. It looked different.
Upon reading its contents, I found that it was a letter—made of parchment paper—of acceptance to a peculiarly named school I had neither heard of nor even applied to: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
There was a highly-detailed booklist that indicated magical education. A supply list was included: robes, a pointed hat, a wand, a cauldron, and a reminder that, for some unfathomable reason, first years are not allowed their own broomsticks. Broomsticks, wands, pointed hats, and cauldrons?
Either I was being thoroughly pranked or I was simply astounded that there was a school for people with “special” abilities. My parents were also bamboozled. It crossed all our minds that it might have something to do with my “special abilities,” but as soon as the hypothesis was vocalised, it was dismissed. We stressed how important it was that no one should see me exercising my abilities. We were absolutely certain that nobody saw anything out of the ordinary.
We let the matter go for two weeks, not knowing if it was just a joke or, if it wasn’t, where to get such supplies.
After those two weeks, an oddly dressed, black haired fellow appeared on our doorstep. One moment I was sitting outside working on my personal encyclopedia of plants and their anatomies and special properties all alone and in the next moment, he appeared with a loud snap. Right on the doorstep of my home. I didn't see him pass me.
Being a fully self-sustainable home renovated by my father, it was a rather odd-looking place compared to our neighbours who did comment on it numerous times. Did we care? No. Not when it's efficiency was unparalleled and when it was optimised to suit our way of living. It had beauty in its own right.
In the morning, the glass walls and curved roof let in an amazing amount of natural light in. At night, the roof could still use the light from the stars and moon using a complex system of more glass and mirrors. If the sky was too dark, then lights would be powered by the solar energy captured during the day time.
Our front lawn, where I sat as I observed the strange man, was where we planted our own fruits and vegetables.
After adjusting his tie, he knocked on the door.
Part-amused, part-wary, and part-curious, I quietly told him that my parents weren’t home. He was startled, noticing me for the first time. As he gave a surprised jump, his hair turned a brilliant shade of red.
“Can I help you. . . Mr. . . Lupin?” I asked him, making note of his skewed tie, his oddly pointed shoes, and reading his badge:
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Alumni Muggle Welcome Committee Member
How much work was put into this prank? I was genuinely impressed.
“You’ve heard of me?” he asked beaming, eyebrows climbing up, hair slowly changing to pink.
How was it doing that? His follicle pigmentation system—the mechanism they use to change colours so rapidly—seems extraordinary.
“No, am I supposed to? Are you famous?” I pointed at his badge. The more I speak, the more profound my accent gets.
His nose wrinkled, as he tilted his head left and right, then left again. The palm of his right hand tilting the same way. “Mehh."
“How?” I asked him with more than just a little skepticism. It was not in my nature to believe everything without a thorough questioning first.
So for two hours we sat on the front lawn talking about Harry Potter and how he defeated a Dark Lord.
He then explained magic to me, turning one of my pencils into a flower I recognised to be in the Lupinus genus. I remember a thousand theories running through my mind, but only one prevailed above all others. . . the genuine existence of magic.
By this time my parents got home and using their natural ability to intimidate, introduced themselves.
“Emilie Hertz-Kluge,” my mother said sharply, looking at him with a critical eyes. Although intimidating, she still managed to look kind. She held her stiff and extremely straight posture. Her arms were crossed coldly and her chin was tilted upwards.
“Wolfgang Kluge,” my father rumbled, his eyes were hard under his strong brow. His very angular jaw line was stiff. He used the trick he has mastered in which he accounts for the angle of the source of light shining on his face—the Sun in this case—and tilts his head in such a way that is both subtle, but enough to have the scar on his face glint a little bit.
As quickly as he could, Teddy explained the situation and how he was only here to help me get my “magical” school supplies, which apparently couldn’t just be bought from the local stationary shop.
After much convincing and more explaining, he took me to Diagon Alley and back home within two hours. Some of the things I saw there were beyond my comprehension: broomsticks that were meant to fly, a hominid banker whose phylogenetic history I am still pondering, a furry textbook I had to subdue to prevent it from harming me, and a bright pink, bloated, rodent of sorts that Teddy called a ‘Pygmy Puff,’ and my own magical stick that causes random events to happen when I wave it.
All of a sudden, I was set to go to this strange school. It happened so quickly. I was shoved into a world I didn't know that existed before that day. My mind slowly started to analyse the situation.
I’d be alone.
In a barely legitimate institution.
Without my parents.
Around so many people I don't know. . .
So many people.
This prospect was nothing short of absolutely terrifying.
"Ich liebe dich, Papa,"
“Write to us everyday, Bärchen,” my father reminded me, kissing my forehead. He calls me Bärchen because, like bears, I am quite harmless. . . unless provoked.
“Okay, Papa. Auf Wiedersehen, Mama! Ich liebe dich,” my mother's eyes shone with tears as she kissed me on both cheeks and I kissed her back.
I hugged both my parents, turned around, and with my luggage, rammed myself into a wall between platform nine and ten.
I sat down in an empty compartment at the back of the train, opened the window, and watched the crowd outside. The buzz of people talking, and waves of laughs and shouts filled my ears. One boy with messy black hair, in particular, shouted on about Teddy snogging a Victoire when the snogger himself greeted me. I laughed at his face as we heard a little red-haired girl express how much she wanted the couple get married.
“Will I be invited to the wedding?” I asked him as he got up and left. His hair matched his blush. I admit that I was more comfortable talking to him after he took me around Diagon Alley.
After he left, a pale, blonde boy quietly sat himself across me, we gave each other a silent, polite nod.
It was an agreement between two introverts that said: I accept your presence and agree to a journey of complete, awkward-less silence without offence.
Back outside the window, I saw a sea of red heads interrupted by the occasional blonde and black-haired head. There were red heads of all ages: parents and children.
“See that right there,” someone said in my ear in a poor impersonation of the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. “That swarm of red heads is what is commonly known as the Wotter clan. The red headed ones especially have got a nasty temper. Watch me poke one of them.”
I turned around only to find a boy whose smile was so eerily goofy and wide. My shock took me a good seven and a half centimetres off my seat.
He waggled his eyebrows and, true to his word, he ran off the train, waved at me, and poked a redheaded girl. He was out of flailing arms’ distance before the girl could shout louder than an elephant could shriek—and I would bet the microscope in my highly padded suitcase that should be one for much gambling, should I be given an opportunity to gamble on such a thing, and should I have attained an accurate comparison by the mean decibel that my hypothesis would be confirmed:
“FRED WEASLEY THE SECOND, IF YOU DARE POKE ME ONE MORE TIME, I SWEAR ON MERLIN’S TEAL, POLKA-DOTTED, TOELESS SOCKS, I WILL END YOUR LIFE. . .SLOWLY!”
“LOVE YOU TOO, ROXIE!” was the reply from somewhere in the train. It was just about as loud.
This was the first of many instances in which I was to bear witness to the unimaginably powerful ability of a Wotter’s lungs, vocal folds, and articulators to work together.
The second came not too long after.
“ALL THE COMPARTMENTS ARE FULL, WHERE THE BLOODY HELL ARE WE SUPPOSED TO SIT!”
The voice was getting noticeably closer to the compartment that held the pale blonde boy and myself.
At the sound of it, we looked at each other. My panic was mirrored in his face. We turned to the door slowly, in unison.
Like a scene from a horror film, we flinched as it rattled. As it opened, we took the same position: the shoulder that faced the door lifted to cover the maximum percentage of face as possible and curled up as much as still being considered sitting allowed. Still opening the door, there was a moment of loud silence until the compartment exploded with conversation.
“James, would you put your broom away, you didn’t have to bring it into the compartment with you!"
“She gets nervous on train rides, Roxanne.”
“Blimey, Al stop poking my back with your book!”
“Fred, you’re elbowing my stomach!”
“Well, you’re stomaching my elbow, Rosie.”
“Yes, mum! Sorry mum!”
The blonde boy and I looked at each other, we shared an understanding look: Maybe, if we stay quiet, they won’t notice us.
“Lucy, could you please get your Pygmy Puff off — ME!”
“She’s that wiggling spherical protrusion on James’s shirt!"
“Mate, you looked like you had half a 38C for a moment there!”
“Yes, mum! Sorry, mum!"
“James, why does Edith always attach herself to you?”
“It’s not my fault that I’ve been born so handsome and charming that all unrelated females want me so much. Hey look there’s one here!”
“Oh hey, I know you!”
“Who is she, Fred?”
“Umm. . . I don’t know”
“Fred! Do you know her or not?”
During this conversation, I managed to slowly turn around without losing my eyebrows to form a new hairline. 12 eyes were focused on me, counting the still unnoticed blonde boy whose eyes said: please don’t give me out. That's 12 more unfamiliar eyes than I was comfortable with.
In seconds, I explored my options:
1. I could run
2. I could slowly turn back to face the window again
3. I could live up to my nickname, Bärchen, and growl until they leave
Instead, I looked back into each eye and said absolutely nothing because I was honestly quite frightened.
The boy next to me cleared his throat.
“Hi,” he said quietly. His furrowed eyebrows revealed that he, too was assessing the situation and considering how he should proceed. In his slight blush, slightly widened eyes, partial smile of the toothless variety, and gentle incline of his head, I saw an introvert with friendly intentions. “My name is Al.”
I smiled back at him hesitatingly.
“What my dear brother neglects to inform you is that the more of his name you know, the higher the level of dork.”
“James, leave him alone, he’s never talked to a girl before, let him have this one.”
“You’re right, sorry Al. All yours, mate. . . and make sure to introduce her to us before you propose to her.”
The incline of his head, the blush on his face, and the height of my right eyebrow increased in magnitude.
“Okay, my full name is Albus Severus Potter.”
I recall the information Teddy gave me. Albus as in Dumbledore, Severus as in Snape, and Potter as in Harry Potter? How much more loaded could a name get?
“Nice to meet you Al, I’m Annett. . . Annett Sinclaire Kluge.” I introduce myself quietly.
“A net? You look quite human to me.” He lamely joked in the shyest and most quiet way possible. The angle of his eyebrows––making an obtuse, upside down v on his forehead––begged me not to be offended.
“Al, mate, are you done professing your love to her? Want to introduce her to the family?” his brother whispered obviously.
“He hasn’t gotten to that bit, yet,” I said in mock thoughtfulness. Al gave an amused “hmm.”
“Family this is Annett, Annett this is,” he introduced their names in order, going counter-clockwise, “James Sirius Potter, Roxanne, Fred, Lucy, Rose, and. . .
Al tilted his head. His family stared in silence. Scorpius shot me a helpless look and straightened up, revealing an impeccable posture. He looked around the compartment cooly, not coldly. Despite a bold stance, his eyes were wide and as he nodded around, he couldn’t hold eye contact for more than a millisecond.
Rose was the first to recover from the silence. Shyly smiling, she held out her hand to Scorpius.
“Rose Weasley, nice to meet you.”
I heard breathing stop as he looked at her hand for two seconds. Then, slowly he put his hand in hers and said: “Likewise.”
The rest of the ride passed quite nicely despite being ceaselessly overwhelmed ever since Teddy took me to Diagon Alley. Rose talked to Scorpius about Herbology and I partially participated in the conversation between Roxanne, James, and Fred. That is to say, I would listen, and every now and then nod, shake my head, or ask Al what his relatives meant by “Merlin’s strawberry-scented Y-fronts.”
At one point, I got up to explore the train. In my distraction, I collided into two people. They grabbed me. They squeezed me up to the point just before my lungs collapsed. They shrieked into my ear.
My heart thudded against my chest. I felt myself go stone-still. Is this how I panic?
Daisy and Dahlia. What a coincidence. I let them continue to squeeze the air out of my lungs in my bewildered state, I keep very still, more than just a little uncomfortable with the contact.
Our brief conversation consisted primarily of this:
“I can’t believe you’re here!”
"OMG, THIS IS GOING TO BE SO AWESOME!"
When it matters most, Daisy and Dahlia are the sweetest people I had ever known. When it doesn’t, they’re out to shatter my ossicular chains and they confuse me with these initialisms I know absolutely nothing of.
“Where is your compartment?” Dahlia asked.
I led them to the compartment. I opened the door and they shrieked some more.
“You know them?” I asked.
“Of course, silly. We’re cousins. Well. . .technically second cousins. Our dad is their dad’s cousin.” Daisy informed me.
I nodded and turned to Al and James. They were busy being smothered by their second-cousins. These cousins were busy trying to shriek the ears off their heads. My level of discomfort increased at the volume of sound. I flinched.
“Well. . .We better get going, Alastair McLaggen is going to show us how to play exploding snap. Toodles!"
What did any of that even mean?
“Ravenclaw!” The hat shouted.
There was cheering from the respective tables. Houses were separated into four different tables as customary on the first night in Hogwarts.
While even more names were called, I looked around. Already this strange, and very large place with so many unfamiliar people unnerved me. I, with Scorpius and another student whose name I never cared to know, had taken a boat across a lake in which unfamiliar species probably resided in.
I was getting closer to the boisterous hat and the stool that attracted hundreds of pairs of eyes.
I focused on the floor as the next few names were called. Even as my own name was called.
I heard a voice in my head, I knew the words, I knew that much English, but with my heart beating loudly, nervousness coursing through my blood vessels, I could only store the words in my head to come back to it later. Later, when I wasn't in the middle of so much frightening attention.
I walked quietly to the table that cheered. The names of these "houses" still very unfamiliar and foreign to me.
I sat far from everyone else, no longer paying much attention to the Sorting.
Scorpius seats himself next to me, also made nervous by the crowd. Awkwardless silence ensues.
I observe the floating candles, the twinkling pinpoints of light on the ceiling—are they stars? I clap whenever I hear Scorpius doing so.
Al gave a small smile, walking down the Great Hall after many names. His family clapped and James gave a lonely, but loud and supportive “Whoop!”
“Gryffindor!” shouted the sorting hat.
Al took his place next to me after his name was called and he was sorted and we watched the rest of the ceremony.
At the Ravenclaw table, there was loud cheering by Al’s cousins, Louis, Dominique, and Molly. Al pointed them out to me. How many cousins can one person have? On the same table, Scorpius pointed out his cousin: the newly sorted Clinton Corner.
Al pointed to the Hufflepuff table at Daisy and Dahlia.
“More cousins. . .but you know them already.”
“Does that explain why, earlier, it sounded like a horde of Banshees were out to get you, shrieking your name for all of Scotland to hear?” Scorpius asked with a smirk.
I gave my confirmation via nodding.
In an instant, food had appeared on the table. Like a hungry, but well-mannered Bärchen, I indulged my taste buds to a wide variety of traditional Scottish food.
Sitting on my bed that night, writing a letter to my parents, I thought back to the chatty hat.
“You’re a clever one, aren’t you? Very quiet with a bubbling underlayer of mischief. Oh and very curious. They say curiosity killed the cat. Good thing you’re not a Gryffie.” I wasn't too sure what it all meant. Part of that was due to my English. I knew English well enough to have considered myself fluent, but some phrases and words seemed strange to me. Bubbling underlayer? How did it know me so well, anyhow?
My thoughts were interrupted by a screaming Indra Thomas. “WHO TOOK MY CONDITIONER?!”
“Why don’t you check that landfill of a trunk of yours?” came the cool reply from Imogen Baddock.
I was exhausted. Despite the enjoyable conversations I had that day, it was all too much. I was severely worn out.
My dorm mates hadn’t said a word to me. One look at their one look at my suitcase—so obviously not a trunk—and I understood that they thought I was strange and didn’t quite yet know what to make of me. In my exhaustion, I didn’t bother to consciously take any measures to give them any hints.
What sort of strangeness would I witness over the next few years in this already odd school, this odd world?
Auf Wiedersehen - until we meet again; equivalent to goodbye only difference being that it lacks the sense of finality to it
Bärchen - little bear; it's a term of endearment
Ich liebe dich - I love you
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