Author's note: I've thought about writing a Harry Potter-inspired novel for a while - but I thought I'd do it... Show full author's note »
The Hogwarts OwlI’m listening out for the wild, beast-like call my father promised would happen on this day: July 24th. He said around 9:00 a.m. – and both Seth and I got up at 7:00 a.m. sharp, desperate to be there when it comes; the Hogwarts Owl from the new head master Professor Jean Grace – it’s his first year at Hogwarts, too; Professor McGonagall finally retired. There was a big story in the Daily Prophet, actually, but we weren’t sure whether to believe it or not – it’s been known to make things up or exaggerate in the past. Never trust a newspaper – even Muggle ones are supposed to be corrupt. But it turned out to be true. Seth wasn’t too bothered, but I was really disappointed – I’ve have heard all about her from my parents. She’s supposed to be this great, strict, brave woman whose the finest Transfigurer ever seen since Albus Dumbledore – and even though he died years and years ago, in 1997 I think, I know all about him too, and it sounds as if he was this brilliant, witty, slightly mad old head master and ex-transfiguration teacher either strongly admired, envied or hated. I wonder who the next Head of Gryffindor is now that McGonagall’s gone. I’m hoping it’s someone not quite as stern – Seth and I can’t wait to discover all those secret passageways the owner of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes George Weasley always promises – even swears he once had this special map that only worked if you said: ‘I solemnly swear I am up to no good’, and showed you all the hidden places in Hogwarts, and also everyone in Hogwarts, staff and teachers – there would just be a little dot telling you your friend is in the library or whatever – or old Filch is heading towards you. I’m not looking forward to him. George Weasley said he hates students and wishes he could bring back corporal punishment – and even my Dad said Filch will be hoping this new Head allows a few whippings. He sounds pretty horrible to me – but I like a challenge. We’ll see if he can catch me out of bed with that wretched cat of his. I know all about Hogwarts, which I think makes me really lucky, because some people just randomly get a letter telling them they have been accepted into Hogwarts, and someone comes round to explain. It must be so confusing for them – brilliant, but confusing. I’m so glad I know what I’m getting into, at least. According to Harry Potter’s biography, he didn’t even know how to get onto the platform, and his ghastly Aunt and Uncle and cousin just left him there, stranded! His youngest son, Albus Severus I think he’s called, is starting at the same time as Seth and me – and so is his cousin Rose Weasley, whose parents are best friends with his father – and his mother is the sister of Rose’s father, and also Hermione’s best friend. It sounds as if they’ll all be in Gryffindor, hopefully where I’m headed! I won’t be really dumb and ask for their autographs or stare or anything. They – and their parents – must be so sick of that. I’ll just try to make friends with Rose or something, since we’ll probably share a dormitory. Unfortunately, the Malfoys’ son Scorpius is starting at the same time as us, too, and everyone knows his whole line of ancestors is full of dark death eaters and muggle-haters and idiots who only believe the “purest of bloods” should be allowed into Hogwarts. That always upsets me, because my mother is muggle-born, although my father is pure-blood. Mum was so surprised to get the letter! And it’s lucky she did, too – or there would be no Summer and Seth babbling on today! I can’t seem to help it – I’m so excited! Parents can only tell you so much; everyone’s experiences are different – but magnificent. I can’t wait to finally join! It’s nearing 9:00 a.m. now, and still no sign. My twin Seth and I sit silently, eagerly anticipating the cheep of the owl. Come on, owl, I think, fly faster! The movement of Seth clattering his spoon startles me out of my trance – and Seth, who noticed my jump of surprise, is quick to tease me. ‘You won’t survive five minutes at Hogwarts if you can’t even handle the slightest noise when you need to concentrate you know, Summer,’ my twin says, and I pick up my spoon and rap him on the knuckles. Seth gives a (very much) empathised howl of pain, and Mum comes running, obviously thinking we’ve killed each other – honestly, she’ll have to learn to trust us soon, or she’ll never be able to see us off to Hogwarts in just over a month – I haven’t gone quite as far as counting down the days, but I still check the calendar regularly, as though the date will suddenly spring to September 1st. ‘Are you two fighting?’ Mum asks disapprovingly, and we both shake our heads. ‘We’re just waiting quietly for the owl, Mum,’ I say sweetly – but my innocent act usually only wins my Dad round, who swears I’ll end up in Slytherin if I carry on fabricating everything. I don’t see it like that – who wants to be boring and scared of the rules all the time? There’s no house that specifies that. What’s wrong with wanting to have some fun once in a while, if you know which boundaries to cross? Seth grins at the lie. ‘Yes – I must have knocked my hands onto her wooden instrument deliberately – it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact she –’ ‘Shut up, Seth,’ I hiss, nudging him under the table – what happened to his sense of sibling loyalty? ‘What’s that, Summer?’ Seth says, half-laughing, as Mum puts her hands on her hips. ‘You don’t want me to tell our poor old mother the truth? Well, I’m afraid I can’t do th-’ I kick him under the table, and he immediately retaliates – and somehow, his elbow snags onto the end of the orange juice, and, as if in slow motion, it falls spectacularly onto the recently-cleaned floor, ending in a pile of glass and fiery liquid resembling old bile. That was so not my fault, just to clarify. Mum opens her mouth to berate us for our many crimes when we hear it – the sharp squawk of the owl! The owl, the Hogwarts owl has arrived! It makes another piercing, hooting sound as it heads for the open window, its wings soaring gracefully, ready to land. It flutters, seemingly effortlessly, onto our table, and the identical letters embedded with the Hogwarts crest flap at Mum’s end of the table. Pity Dad wasn’t here for the bird call – we are his only children, after all – but he had to leave early for work. He works at the Ministry of Magic under Kingsley’s rule, in the Department of Magical Education, which is a pity, because a) it means he picked the most boring one and b) Seth and I are bored senseless by his endless questionnaires on how to make the school a better place and c) it means we have a certain pressure to do exceptionally well at our exams. They’ve already started planning for the start of the new term, and the corridor’s frantic with busy schedules and new rules Dad refuses to tell us and the planned Curriculum from First-Seventh year. I can’t wait to immerse myself in all that once I get to Hogwarts. (Was that you I heard coughing)? ‘Open the letters!’ Seth and I urge our mother at the same time, and with an amused smile, she frees the letters from the owl’s proud and outstretched leg and sends it flying back into the breeze…back to Hogwarts. Mum hands us one letter each, even though they are both the same really, only with different name tags. Mine is addressed to a Miss Summer Spear, and the enclosed letter reads as follows:
HOGWARTS SCHOOL of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY
Headmaster: Jean Grace
(Accomplished Charms student, ex-head of Magical Law and Enforcement)
Dear Miss Summer Alexa Spear,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
Term begins on 1 September. We await your owl by no later than 31 July.
Deputy Headmaster of Hogwarts
With the acceptance letter is a list of instructions – Seth and I excitedly tear into this one, too, though it isn’t as exciting as we hoped – or as Harry Potter made out in his biography – or George Weasley in his shop. Men!
First-year students will require:
1. Three sets of plain work robes (black)
2. One plain pointed hat (black) for day wear
3. One pair of protective gloves (dragon hide or similar)
4. One winter cloak (black, with silver fastenings)
Please note that all pupils’ clothes should carry name tags.
All students should have a copy of each of the following:
• The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 1)
by Miranda Goshawk
• A History of Magic
by Bathilda Bagshot
• Magical Theory
by Adalbert Waffling
• A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration
by Emeric Switch
• One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi
by Phyllida Spore
• Magical Drafts and Potions
by Arsenius Jigger
• Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
by Newt Scamander
• The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection
by Quentin Trimble
1 cauldron (pewter or gold, standard size 2)
1 set glass or crystal phials
1 set brass scales
Students may also bring, if they desire, an owl OR a cat OR a toad.
PARENTS ARE REMINDED THAT FIRST YEARS ARE NOT ALLOWED THEIR OWN BROOMSTICK UNLESS THEY HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED INTO A QUIDDITCH TEAM AT CAPTAIN TRIALS.
Chief Attendant of Witchcraft Provisions
‘There you are then – your much awaited letters have arrived,’ Mum says, smiling at us, ‘and now we can finally go to Diagon Alley to pick up your stuff.’ At the words: ‘Diagon Alley’, Seth gives a moan of dissent, obviously having shopping nightmares – but I give a whoop of delight, knowing this means we can visit Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes for the third time in a month. Seth and I both look at the other as if to say: are you mad? Mum sighs at the little horrors she has produced – but we know she loves us really. An hour later, we are deemed presentable enough to leave the house, and we get into the old Ford car Mum inherited from her uncle, who was a muggle. It gets off to a slow start usually, but as long as you jiggle the car key, it roars to life. Today, however, it seems to be totally dead. In the front seat (because he won the fight to get there) Seth rams the key in with a stray piece of wood he found dangling from the roof (it must have come off the old apple tree in the night, the poor thing), and it’s truly magical, because the old Ford actually starts, although it wheezes a little on its way. Personally, I think it may be time this car gave up the ghost, but I don’t dare say it to Mum. She’s fiercely protective of anything that belongs to her relatives – and trust me; she inherits a lot of muggle junk. ‘In the name of Merlin’s left saggy –’ Mum stops herself from finishing her utterance of a wizard swear just in time as a lorry pulls out in front of us, and the traffic light flashes red – road rage, it makes the best of us turn into filthy hypocrites – (don’t swear Summer, it’s not very nice, cough, cough). Seth turns in his seat to grin at me, but he, too, would not dare challenge an angry driver. Everyone knows that – it’s the first rule of thumb. Still, I mouth ‘road rage!’ cheekily at him, and he mimes a laugh, which of course gets Mum’s attention – but it’s alright, she only apologises for being such a filthy-mouthed, scary Ford owner, and we forgive her - ‘On one condition,’ says Seth, ‘you buy us solid-gold cauldrons and a flaky ice cream each.’ Mum shrugs in agreement, and this time Seth gives a whoop of delight, thinking how cool we’ll look in front of our class mates. I’m not too bothered myself, although I do hope more kids have solid-gold cauldrons, too – and not just the Slytherins. I don’t want to look like some show-offy snob, though Dad’s job is a decent earner – and even Mum’s weekly instalment of recipes in Witch Weekly pays generously. I can’t stand arrogant toads. I’m comforted by the fact that Seth, at least, will have a twin cauldron of mine. It’s great being a twin at times like this – and despite his annoying temperament, Seth still knows me better than anyone else, and vice versa. It’s that special connection with twins – and I sometimes think it’s best to be a boy and girl twin like me and Seth, rather than same-sex twins. I mean, as a boy and girl twin, you have that essence of closeness and protectiveness and mutual understanding of the other, but with some space, too, as boys and girls are generally quite different – and trust me, Seth is every stereotype of the adolescent boy. I hope Hogwarts doesn’t separate us too much – that’s another thing I’m worried about. Still, I don’t think much could harm the relationship between my brother and I – we don’t have any other siblings, so we’ve naturally grown up really close. We can always tell when the other is lying or withholding information, or whether something means a lot to the other – that can be a positive or negative. You’re never really alone when you have a twin, but if you really want to keep something a secret, it’s hard, because half of you is itching to share with the other and the rest of you is desperate not to give yourself away. Still, it’s normally pretty cool – and my brother Seth is adventurous, honest, courageous, laid-back, bright and usually cheerful in nature, so we’re a good match. I just know he’s going to be in Gryffindor – but I’m not so sure about me…
A couple of hours later we are sitting licking ice creams with dangling shopping bags each – but at least Mum kept to her side of the bargain; we have a shiny and expensive golden cauldron each that glints warm yellow and cold silver and reflects the beating sun above. Still, I already know my favourite subject is Potions; ever since I was old enough to understand the meaning of herbs and mixtures, I’ve been brewing them instead of sloppily painting pictures and squishing play dough. I definitely want to be a Potioneer when I grow up – but not some boring old teacher; no way. They all seem to stay there forever – and look at Professor. Binns, still (er) going strong in his…ghostly years. It’s going to be kind of creepy having some dead guy teaching us, but it is History of Magic, after all, and you don’t get more past tense than our future professor. At first, whenever I made a concoction, I just used rigid instructions from my paternal Grandma’s old Potions book – but when I was nine, I realized I could do them all in my sleep – literally, I actually dreamt about potion mixtures; so, one day, I decided to make my own, and see what the end result turned out to be. Of course, some failed – and I can still smell the rotten eggs now – but nothing gives me more satisfaction than having a complete, beautifully coloured liquid that gives out wafts of sheen and hard work and pleasant lavender…I even thought I could smell peppermint, once. It was so strong and fresh. Plus, it’s one of the only subjects that doesn’t require wand work, and as no one’s allowed to use magic out of school until they come of age, I’ll be able to practise and create whenever I want without fear of being caught or having my wand snapped in two like poor old Hagrid – he still teaches Care of all Magical Creatures, and he’s supposed to be really friendly – although some dim-witted students (mostly Slytherins) think he’s a stupid oaf who hasn’t got any feelings, just because he’s half-giant – but I’ve noticed people have become more tolerant to giants and magical creatures, as they did save a lot of people’s bacon back in the Second Wizarding War nineteen years ago. When Seth and I are licking the remains of our ice cream, Mum announces we’ve still got our owls, robes and wands to get. I can’t wait to find out which wand chooses me! It’s so cool to think that awaiting every amateur witch and wizard is a specific wand naturally tailored to their needs. It’s such a special experience, Mum says, when you realize you’ve found the one – but Dad says for almost everyone it takes ages, and you have to go through stacks and stacks of wands in a room kind of set out like a library, with a whiskery old man called Ollivander rooting through them all and tossing them down one by one in neat rectangle boxes and judging, with all his experience and knowledge of wandlore, which is perfect for you. Even Seth stops looking miserable and droopy and sits up, excitement turning slowly like wheels in his eyes, churning for magic spells and fate. ‘Whichever wand you get, remember no one’s is better than the other – each one is made for the individual,’ Mum says, obviously fearing that as twins, we’ll be in competition with each other. Honestly – what a stereotype! We already know whatever she said. ‘Will our wands be related, Mum?’ Seth asks, clearly wondering if twins have wands similar in appearance like with each other – and I’ve been pondering over this, too, despite what Mum said. ‘Not necessarily,’ Mum says nonchalantly, but adds, ‘although it can happen. Look at what happened with Harry Potter and that awful Voldemort.’ Nobody shivers at the name anymore – it’s more like a whoop of celebration he’s gone for most adults, but it still must be weird, I suppose – I wouldn’t know. Thankfully, I’ve avoided that generation! Although if Harry Potter hadn’t defeated him, I could be one of those kids now – terrified instead of happy to be going to Hogwarts – and what would have happened to the muggle-borns? My Mum was a teenage muggle-born in those days – but luckily she was kept safe by Dad’s family, thanks to loyal friends, a secret location and the Fidelius charm. Mum’s forever grateful to Dad’s relatives, as pure-bloods, for not turning their back on her, and treating her as one of their own, unlike most of the other pure-blood families, smug and superior as they were in that day – but not anymore. I’m glad things have changed with that, too, and every blood status is seen as equal now – though you do get the odd individuals who still believe in all that nonsense, but nobody listens to them anymore anyway. I still shudder at what could have been now – and not because of my own existence, but the fact she could have been tortured or killed and most certainly kidnapped from the Hogwarts express or her defenceless muggle home with her non-magic family…it doesn’t bear thinking about, if the death eaters had found her. I hope they rot in Azkaban. Mum says it’s different now – prison. The creatures that used to guard it – Dementors I think they’re called, were banished by Kingsley, and instead only the most gifted witches and wizards and Aurors guard it with an assortment of different magical spells to keep the prisoners in – although most are just mad now. Our minister also enlisted the help of the Goblins and elves to make it even more secure – and trust me, nobody can escape the powers of a Goblin – well, apart from Harry Potter and his friends that is. I kind of feel sorry for his children – they have so much to live up to. And the Weasleys’ too – they have adventure, loyalty and intelligence to accomplish. I don’t care what anyone says – in my opinion, Rose Weasley’s parents are just as brave as Harry Potter; they were just lucky not to have a heavy prophecy hanging over them, although Voldemort did give them a run for their money. Aside from the excellence expected from them, there’ll all be so famous – and everyone will stare at Albus’ Dad, poor guy – for obvious reasons. Before he even has time to figure out his own talents, Albus Potter will be predicted brilliance – and don’t forget the Severus in his name. I bet whenever teachers or students who aren’t his friends or regular class mates look at him, all they’ll see is Harry Potter! I’ve even heard he’s the only one of his children to inherit green, almond-shaped eyes – and he has untidy black hair that sticks up at the back, too! Just like Harry, famous before he can walk and talk. It must get depressing, although anyone would be proud to be related to his family – they’ve all achieved great things, after all, and not just his father. But enough about the Potters (I think everyone knows as much as they’ll ever need for a fraud autobiography) and back to Diagon Alley. We’re on our way to Madam Malkin’s now, to pick up our robes – and after that, owls and wands! We can’t wait – literally, my feet are tingling, and Seth’s own wriggly feet tell me he’s all pins and needles, too! He does that when he’s anticipating something. I give him a reassuring smile, and as he returns it and I feel a huge flood of relief, I realize I’ve been just as scared as him. We walk in step, in one of our rare moments of not having to say anything to understand the other. It’s a warm feeling, and it makes the butterflies go away, at least – hopefully to a stronger stomach! Seth keeps begging Mum to just pick up any old robes and be done with it, but Mum insists we must try them on, so they can be fitted especially. And she says take time choosing your owl, as they make very useful and fond pets. Most people get attached, apparently – but they are pretty beautiful, aren’t they? Sweet clever little things. Most people dream of owning a snowy white Hedwig replica, but secretly, I long for a lovely smooth grey owl with white feathered wings – fluttery and free and fairy-like in elegance. But there aren’t many left of those, as most shops stock white now – but who on earth wants the same as a whole school full of people? It doesn’t make sense. Dare to be different, after all – who actually cares if everyone else wants Hedwig the sixty thousandth? But, each to their own, I suppose. I’ve learnt that most people prefer to travel in packs, think like the majority. It’s why manipulation works almost every time. As soon as we enter the shop, Madam Malkin leads us over to a selection of junior witch and wizard robes, telling us not to worry about our first year, as it’ll be the experience of our lives. I wish I could just experience it now – you get tired of people just telling you the theory of stuff. It feels so patronising – I just want to live it right here, right now on this moth-ball ridden floor. I wish the dusty carpet at my feet would crack open magically to reveal a wide inviting tunnel, a sucking paradise to Hogwarts. I wish… ‘…you would just concentrate, Summer, dear,’ Mum says with a frown, as Madam Malkin asks me to hold out my right arm for the third time. Oops – focusing isn’t my biggest strength at the best of times – it’s probably why I love potion-making so much. It’s about more than just concentration – you get so caught up in that world. ‘Oh, right, sorry,’ I stutter, and hold out my arm. ‘That’s your left arm, dear,’ Madam Malkin says politely, and Seth sniggers in the background. I hand her the correct arm, flustered, and wonder how I’ll manage all that complicated wandwork if I can’t even tell my left from right. Silently, I throw Seth a look that clearly conveys: Shut up right now or I’ll stick a pin up your nose. Yes, we can read each other’s psychotic faces, too. We’re cool like that. Eventually, both Seth and I are kitted-out successfully, my robes a little smaller than his. He grew a lot over the summer – I didn’t. I know. Funny. ‘Don’t tell me you two want snowy white owls along with the rest of the world?’ Mum infers as our eyes light up when we arrive at the pet shop, where birds and toads and cats are cheeping and croaking and meowing alike, most in cages, although some have escaped and are curled underneath the high shelves, empty cages lost above them. I’m too mystified to coherently reply, and as I stare at the swirls of animals and metal and listen to the loud tinkling of tonic bottles, I have a sudden, crazy urge to rescue them all. Seth catches my eye. ‘Don’t even think about it, Summer – the animals are fine.’ I forgot how much my brother knows me. I laugh at his suggestion, but I was serious. ‘I’ll be watching you,’ Seth warns, gesturing with his fingers and narrowing his eyes, a bit like in those old muggle films about cowboys and shoot-outs. This is my calling. ‘We’ll see about that, animal slayer,’ I snarl – and Seth rushes forwards before I can blink, and trips me; I fall headfirst into him and we have a silly scuffle, landing at the feet of a boy examining a warty toad. Sorry, was examining – now he stares open-mouthed at us, a little shell-shocked. If he’s going to Hogwarts in the same year as us, then he better get used to it. The frog, all over in brown bristles dripping with bacteria and bean-shaped moles, gives a long, exaggerated moan, reminding me of a slowly draining toilet. We all laugh in response, chipping off some of the tension – because it’s always so awkward when a stranger sees you doing something that looks mad but what you’d only do with your family isn’t it? The boy holds out his hand, and I take it, glimpsing melted hazel eyes in the most unusual shades, a cheeky smirk, and floppy dark brown hair. Is it just me, or has it suddenly got hot in here? (Only joking). I hang on for a little too long, but the boy just cheerfully pulls me up beside him, shaking his hand to indicate I have a firm grip. Double oops. ‘I’ll just help myself, then,’ Seth says huffily, struggling upwards and brushing stray dust off his trousers. I immediately stop looking at the boy and turn to my twin. ‘It’s all your own fault, anyway,’ I sniff. ‘Says the mental animal “rescuer”,’ he heavily empathises the term. I push him, and he shoves me back at once. The boy watches us, amused. I feel the need to say something – he did just help me after all, and all I can do is fight. ‘Thank you,’ I say, because it’s better late than never – and I was too startled to reply before. ‘No problem – it’s not every day a violent angel lands at your feet,’ the boy gives me a twinkling grin and walks off, whistling, before I can even ask his name. And did he really just call me a (violent) angel? ‘Earth to pet-obsessed weirdo,’ Seth says, waving a hand in front of my face tauntingly. I swat it away, realizing I was staring after the mysterious boy. Maybe I’ll see him at Hogwarts – I can say I’ve already made one friend, at least – but I wish I’d been wearing nicer clothes. I’m in an old, faded pair of jeans, and a retro t-shirt with short sleeves, since it’s summer – all finished off unspectacularly by muddy trainers, from the time I crashed Dad’s broomstick when Seth and I were practising – we’re to have weekly flying lessons, apparently. My long, straight, pale blonde hair is piled in a messy bun on top of my head (recently loosened from the fight), and I just know my eyes, apple-scotch green like Seth’s, are a little too bright, eager. I know I just made an idiot of myself – but maybe I won’t see that boy again, on second thoughts. That would be so embarrassing – especially if he ended up in a different house and told all the kids there – no, worse, if he ended up in the same house as me, and told all our class mates! I somehow knew I would be known as a fool before I’d had the chance to prove it. Then Seth punches my shoulder enthusiastically and points to a multi-coloured toad with yellow and green peeling at the sides, and bizarrely, darkened purple filling in the bumps in the middle, ended with bulging red eyes with strange orange flecks and ancient croaks, and I remember I’ll always have that idiot, at least.