Chapter 1: Just another average kid
School started after a one month break. I was moaning at the excessive homework my teacher was giving us. I opened my homework diary and wrote, "11. Maths Textbook, Page 31, Qn 4 - 10". The bell rang and everyone left the classroom excitedly. As usual, I was taking my time to pack my stuffs and my friends came over to ask where should we hang out today. Plans after school were definitely not homework. We would go to our favourite hideout and play with some stray cats we had befriended.
I forgot a little self-introduction. My name is Caroline Chong and I am eleven years old this year. The most exciting thing in my life is the new Digimon show on television. Wait! There's one more. A curious incident happened last week. We had mistaken one of our stray cat friends gender. Two strays were always seen together but only one got heavier as it grew. Turned out he was a male and we renamed him from "Grace" to "Crazy".
I reached home in the evening that day. The house was unexpectedly dark and I walked in without suspecting a thing. "Surprise!" my mother shouted and she appeared with a brightly lit cake. Birthday song rang in the air and I was given a slice of cake. The lights were turned back on and we proceeded with dinner. After dinner, my mother sat on her favourite sofa spot and looked through the letters. She passed a few to me and told me they were for me.
I opened them and they were birthday cards from people I don't even know. The last letter however, was unique. It was slightly brownish and it was sealed with wax. I opened it without thinking twice and the letter wrote:
HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY
Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore
(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock,
Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)
Dear Miss Chong,
We are pleased to inform you that you have a place 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.
I took the letter and showed it to my mother. She read it with one eyebrow raised and told me firmly, "There is no such thing as magic!" All thoughts on that letter were forgotten shortly after. Hell started at school as our teachers prepare us for our final year examinations and we were bombarded with papers after papers. I was on the verge of saying "School sucks".
A few days later I noticed the same queer looking envelop lying at my doorstep addressed to me and I picked it up. The envelop contained the same letter from before. I kept the letter in between my storybooks without showing it to my mother.
Saturday arrived and I found myself glued to the television for the whole morning watching cartoon after cartoon. My mother stomped into the house with a stack of letters. I stared at the pile with my mouth wide opened as they were all the same queer looking letter from before. I reached out for one and tore it open. As expected, it contained the same letter again. Not long after, there was a knock on the door. My mother who was still angry, greeted the visitor hostilely.
A woman in a long black hooded robe nodded her head as a form of greeting. She pushed back her hood to reveal a light toned face with clear distinct features and a rather bright pair of black eyes. "Hi, my name is Sophie Ropher. I am pleased to inform you that your child has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I'm a staff from Hogwarts and we seem to be in a rush in getting Caroline's items for school. If you'll please-"
Sophie stepped aside to allow my mother to step out of the door. My mother stared at the stranger suspiciously and told me not to follow. Sophie flicked her hand quickly and our shoes appeared at the door step. She touched both of us lightly and we twisted and turned and stretched before our feet finally felt the ground again.
My mother stood wobbly in the middle of a busy street. Her face turned pale and she looked almost ready to throw up. Sophie flicked her hand again and my mother regained reddishness on her cheeks. This time I managed to catch a glimpse of a wooden stick on the stranger's hand. She hid it quickly before I can look at it further.
I was on the streets of an English country. The houses looked old as though we had travel back in time. In fact the people looked like they had been in a time machine. Most of them were wearing robes similar to the Sophie person. I was certain I was no longer in my country. But where on Earth was I exactly at?
A passer-by noticed our appearance and lifted his black pointy hat up when he passed us. He paused for a moment and said "Welcome to Diagon Alley", gave us a broad smile and continued on his journey.
I was comforted to see a group of people not in robes and hats in the direction Sophie was heading. There were lots of other children with puzzled expressions just like us and they were accompanied by their parents too. "I've got the last one here," Sophie said to a tall, lean man.
"Thank you," replied the man and he started on his long speech. "We are very sorry for dragging you here without your willingness but there is so much more to magic than a lie." He flicked his wooden stick which I had realised by now is a wizard's wand. His voice instantly magnified upon doing so. "Hogwarts is a fascinating school for all young witches and wizards to learn and study and excel in areas in life that they have never known before. You can learn spells to make your everyday life tasks easier. You can make potions to heal any illnesses that were once incurable. You can transform into animals and spend a day experiencing their lives. You can learn about magical creatures that were once a fairy tale. You can learn about how magic came into our world. And the possibilities are endless. All I need now, is your answer."
Kids start chirping and there were frequent voices of "I want," "Daddy please," "Can I go, mummy?" The parents' faces turned from a frown to a helpless look. Some knitted their eyebrows while their child tugged at their shirt, others tried to explain why it was unsafe but was unable to construct a proper explanation. There were however a few parents who readily allowed their children to join Hogwarts.
The tall, lean man spoke again and he assured all the parents Hogwarts is one of the safest places in the wizardry world. This proved no assurance to the worried parents. One parent spoke up and said she had a sister-in-law who is a witch. The parents leaned forward to hear the story and they soon gathered in a circle and discussed about the safety of their children in Hogwarts. Another parent spoke up and mentioned he had a nephew in Hogwarts. The chattering got louder and after a final decision was laid down, the place grew frighteningly quiet.
The parents stared at the tall, lean man and he felt a shiver ran down his spine. "We have come to a conclusion," a parent volunteer said. "The decision lies in our child." My mother looked at me and asked me would I want to go, reminding me at the same time that that means no more television for the rest of my life. I wouldn't be able to play with my friends too. I looked back calmly and my mundane homework flashed in my mind. I nodded my head slowly and tried to keep my face as straight as possible.
All the kids who had decided to go to Hogwarts gathered together, whereas a small group of kids prepared to head back with their parents. Sophie told our parents that we would be safely teleported back home with all our schooling equipment ready. My mother gave me a tense smile and waved fiercely at me. I gave a brief wave and followed the group for our first Hogwarts shopping trip.