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Yew, Pine and Oak

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It was raining. Fat droplets splattered against the kitchen window, trailing down the glass like tears. The sound of thunder echoed in the distance and every few minutes, a flash of lightning would illuminate the sky. In the Lupescus' kitchen, the radio chatted away happily as two wizards discussed the recent changes in the Ministry for Magic. Mr and Mrs Lupescu were listening intently to what was being said. After all, since the defeat of You-Know-Who, there had been some big changes in Britain's wizarding community.

For their son, Vasilica, things were different. He didn't fully understand what had happened in the last year. His parents were, after all, wizards, and law-abiding ones at that. The Ministry had never found a reason to come knocking at their door. That wasn't to say he wasn't aware of the deaths, the fear and the Battle of Hogwarts, it just hadn't sank in yet.
And that was why he was much more interested in the rain crashing against the windows than the report on Harry Potter. As the presenters discussed whether the young man would work for the Ministry or not, Vasilica listened to the sound of the storm. He liked storms. They were fun, different to what he was used to. Unfortunately, storms meant no post. And no post was the worst thing that could happen to him right now.

For, you see, Vasilica Lupescu was currently an impatient eleven year old awaiting his Hogwarts letter. He couldn't wait to finally start learning magic! To be able to do what his parents did daily with no difficulty, to play Quidditch for his House, to actually belong to a House he could be proud of... there were so many things he was dying to do!

He had spent most of his summer up to now thinking about what house he wanted to be in. His father had been a Hufflepuff, his mother a Ravenclaw. Consequently, neither cared which house he would be sorted into, providing he was happy. But Vasilica worried. He worried constantly about it. What if he was sorted in Slytherin? Everyone knew about how many Slytherins became dark wizards. In fact, it had been the House with the fewest fighters in the Battle of Hogwarts. Vasilica did not want to be associated with a house like that!

Suddenly, there was a loud tap at the window. Mr and Mrs Lupescu immediately drew their wands, aiming them towards the kitchen window, and approached the opening slowly and carefully. Vasilica stayed back, hiding himself behind a sofa. He wasn't scared, not like his parents; he had been sheltered from the atrocities the Ministry and the dark wizard had committed for the past year. And although the dark wizard had been defeated, some of his followers still remained.

The Romanian peeked his head around his hiding place and glanced towards the kitchen. There was no noise. Finally, a few tense seconds later, a loud hoot resounded from the small room and the sound of wands being put back into robe pockets could be heard.

"Vas, come on in! The owl's brought you something!" his mother called.

Vasilica scampered from his hiding place to the kitchen, face spreading into a large grin as he spotted a large bedraggled barn owl and a thick envelope with a trademark crest sealing it. He raced over to the table, petted the owl, then grabbed the envelope, quickly glancing at the letter H, and tore it open, scanning the contents as fast as he could.

"Dear Mr. Lupescu,
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.
Yours sincerely,
Minerva McGonagall
Headmistress"

He stepped back, eyes glimmering with excitement. He re-read the letter a few times, turning it upside down, examining the back, spinning on the spot. He had been accepted into Hogwarts. He was going to Hogwarts!

"Look, Ma, Pa! I'm going time Hogwarts!" he sang, waving the letter in his parents' faces.

Both smiled and clapped, although it didn't quite reach their lips. Who knew what would happen in that school after a year of torment and suffering? What would the pupils who had been taught the dark arts for a year be like? How would the new teachers react? Would their son be safe?
Yet admitting their fears to their son would make them real. Hogwarts had always been considered the safest place in Britain. There was no reason that should change. Especially now that the darkest wizard of all time was dead.
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The sun was shining when the Lupescus decided to travel to London in order to buy Vasilica's school things. The young boy was practically skipping as he followed his parents through the busy streets of Diagon Alley. He had been here before, naturally, but now he could actually buy some of the cool-looking stuff in the windows, he found himself paying more attention than ever before.

It was oddly subdued. Many shops were closed or out-of-business, and the few wizards out shopping were unusually quiet. Rather than stop and chat, they hurried from shop to shop, almost as though they feared staying in one spot for too long was dangerous. The children, or students, however, stood out. They bounded from window to window, admiring the displays, running over to friends and chatting loudly about their favourite Quidditch teams or whether they were ready to go back to school.

First up was Madam Malkins. Although Vasilica insisted that he was alright going in alone, his parents insisted on accompanying him, and joined the long rows of adults watching their children being fitted in silence. It unnerved the brown-haired boy, to be honest. He was used to the happy, bright Diagon Alley, not this dark, sombre one.

As he seated himself on a stool while an elderly witch started to measure him, he turned his attention to the boy next to him. He was rather tall, with black hair in need of a cut which drifted into his dark brown eyes. He smiled as he noticed the first year next to him.

"H-Hey there," he stammered, nervousness seeping through his words.

"Hiya! I'm Vasilica Lupescu! It's nice to meet you!" on the other hand, the shorter boy had never had any trouble with chatting with strangers.

"Aleksander Dimitar, nice to meet you too," the black-haired wizard shot him a small smile.

"What year are you in? I'm starting my first, and I'm really excited about it! Mum and Dad are wizards, so I always knew I'd be going to Hogwarts, but it's still really cool!"

An unfortunate habit of Vasilica's was blabbering on for too long. He couldn't help it though! He just got so caught up in what he was talking about that he paid no attention to what he was saying and let everything out at once. Most people he knew were used to it, and knew when to stop him. Aleksander, however, didn't. He just stared with wide eyes as the red-eyed boy started a tirade on the staircases that moved and the talking paintings. Eventually, after about ten minutes of non-stop talking, the Romanian stopped to take a deep breath, looking at his new friend expectantly.

"Um... that sounds great... I, uh, don't know much about Hogwarts. I'm not wizard-born," Aleksander ducked his head in embarrassment.

All of a sudden, a spark of interest lit up in Vasilica's mind. Aleksander was Muggleborn? He was speaking to a person who had only just discovered they had magic. His eyes sparkled. How cool was that?

"Seriously? Wow! That's awful! You had no idea you were magical?" he leaned forward, causing the clerk to snap at him to stay still.

"No. We were all really surprised when Professor McGonagall showed up. Apparently I should have received my letter last year, but they were having problems," the black-haired boy chuckled.

"Yeah, we had a bad wizard going around murdering people. But he's dead now, so everyone's safe," Vasilica grinned, not noticing the scowl on the face of the woman fitting him.

Aleksander seemed unnerved by how nonchalant he was being, shifting awkwardly on his stool. Luckily, the conversation quickly changed to what they liked doing in their spare time, and soon enough, both boys had been fitted and chatted a few seconds longer as their parents paid for their new robes.

"Guess I'll be seeing you at Hogwarts then?" the twelve-year-old checked.

"You bet! I hope we'll be in the same house... oh! I know! Let's share a compartment on the Hogwarts Express!" the eleven-year-old jumped up.

"What's that?"

"It's the train that takes you to Hogwarts! You have to get on Platform nine and three quarters to get on."

"Vas, we're going!" his father called.

"Coming!" He grinned one last time at his new friend before skipping after his parents.

Next on the list were his books. Now, usually, Vasilica loved shopping for books. However, when you had to queue for an hour and weren't even allowed to check what was for sale in the Vampire section, it became the most boring thing ever. He tried to look for some source of amusement though, and found in it a small group of boys in front of him.

They were highly unusual. Not only were they taller than all the other children there, and all four of them blond, two of them were frantically waving their hands around. Vasilica blinked a few times as the boy with spiky hair burst out laughing, a loud and irritating cackle that caused the entire line to stare at him. The boy he was facing turned red and moved his hands some more, which only caused Spiky-Hair to laugh even louder. The other two boys were shifting away as though they'd rather not know them.

"It's rude to stare, Vas," the young wizard's mother poked his shoulder.

"What are they doing, Ma?" but just he couldn't look away from those hands.

The Romanian witch frowned, a puzzled look on her face as she watched the two boys move their arms around. Finally, her eyes lit up and she turned to her son.

"That's sign language, Vas. Muggles use it to communicate with people who can't hear," she explained.

Vasilica frowned, staring at the two boys. One of them couldn't hear? Well, it was most likely Spiky-Hair, judging by how unaware of his surroundings he seemed.

"Why aren't they using a Translator Spell? Isn't that what wizards use?" he cocked his head to one side.

"They're probably Muggleborn. And stop staring at them," the old witch scolded.

Despite her scolding, Vasilica still shot discrete glances at the boys in front. The tallest of the four had also joined in, although his movements were slower than those of the other two. When they reached the counter, it was the smallest blond who gave their order. They had more books than the other students, including some that involved famous witches and wizards and some about non-verbal magic. It intrigued Vasilica, how people so different to him would be attending Hogwarts alongside him. He wondered whether any of them would be in his House.

"1st year?" the clerk checked.

Buying his potion ingredients, cauldron, gloves and scales was far from fun. Sure, the apothecary was fascinating, what with eyes staring at you and other strange ingredients, but Vasilica was preoccupied by the thought of buying his wand. They had saved it for last, as it was the most important thing on the list.

Ollivanders was a small shop, yet it had been battered in the wizarding war. Ollivander himself seemed worn and tired. He was skinny and dark bags surrounded his eyes. He was in the process of tidying some boxes away when he heard the bell chime and turned to greet his new customers.

"Erika and Marcus Lupescu. Dogwood and unicorn hair for one, Holly and dragon heartstring for the other, am I right? And today it is your son who will be needing his first wand?"

Ollivander was creepy. His pale blue eyes seemed to look through Vasilica, and his words were spoken so softly, so gently, it was unnerving. The boy only managed a curt nod before a tape measure flew around his head and started to measure him. It was strange. He didn't like it one bit.
Finally, Mr Ollivander stepped away and moved over to one of the many shelves in the shop. He paused, searching the shoe boxes before taking one and giving the child the wand.

"Silver Birch, seven inches, springy. Give it a wave."

Vasilica waved it curiously, wondering what might happen. He didn't expect the box it had come from set alight. Immediately, the wandmaker snatched the wand off him, muttering under his breath as he searched for a new one.

After what felt like an eternity of setting fire to half the shop and making the other half explode, Vasilica finally felt a wand that felt different to the others. It was burning hot, yet the warmth did nothing other than send a wave of serenity over him. He waved it, only for sparks to shoot out the end. His parents clapped enthusiastically as Ollivander nodded in approval.

"Yew, eight inches, springy, with the heartstring of a Romanian Speartail."

But Vasilica was no longer listening. His eyes were glued to the dark wood in his hands.

He was a wizard. This wand proved it. And he would be going to Hogwarts in only a few weeks. With those strange boys and Aleksander. He couldn't wait!