Sunday, September 1st
“Anything from the trolley dears?” one of the train staff asked while rapping on the door to the compartment Wynonna and I had secured.
Her trolley was stacked with boxes of every flavour beans. Liquorice wands and sugar quills sat in jars amongst Honeydukes best-enchanted lollipops. Packets of exploding-bonbons and fizzing-whizzbees spiralled around the display of cauldron cakes.
I asked her for two chocolate frogs. One for me and the other for Wynonna. I passed Wynonna the frog as the lady shut the carriage door. The second that she was out of earshot Wynonna threw the frog straight back at me. Scowling, she said, "Rule number one: Buy nothing from the trolley because in a little under an hour there’s an all-you-can-eat feast that you DON'T have to pay for.”
“Right, I didn’t know.” I sighed.
There was still a lot for me to learn. Most witches, like Wynonna, come to Hogwarts as soon as they turn eleven. I was sixteen and had spent my whole life a homeschooled student. Today would be my first day at Hogwarts.
Fifth-year students take their OWLs. I needed those qualifications to keep my career options open. You can’t get those as a homeschooled student, so there I was sitting on the train and waiting for my new life to begin.
I already had a bit more information than most first years would. Earlier, Professor McGonagall had visited the homestead.
Homeschooled students were rare at Hogwarts. Most magic users under the age of seventeen weren’t allowed to use magic outside of school. McGonagall came to ensure I was good enough to jump straight into fifth-year classes.
I aced her test, of course. I had studied hard while at home and was more than ready. The part I was not prepared for was when she offered to sort me into my house. She asked if I would prefer to know now or if I would prefer to wait. She also warned that waiting could cause a slight delay in getting my room and timetable sorted.
I’d been dying to know what house I’d get sorted into. I didn’t fancy being sorted with people five years younger than me. Being both older and an Earp I would stick out like a sore thumb. It also seemed like if I got sorted now it would help the school out with organising. I accepted her offer.
As the hat touched my head it was flooded with life. The largest of the dark folds formed a mouth that whispered, “Ahh, another Earp, aye? And a few years late it seems.”
My eyes flickered shut. The hat may have come to life when it touched my head, but I contrasted it perfectly. I perched on the edge of my stool, barely breathing, knuckles white. Whatever the hat decided for me would change my life. Until this moment going to Hogwarts just felt like a dream but this, this made it real.
The hat continued in its soft and slow tone, “You do come from a long line of Slytherins indeed. Wyatt, Josiah, Edwin, Ward, Wynonna...” he trailed off, “I was certain about most of them the second I touched their heads but you, you’re different from them... There is more here.”
I tensed as the hat said, “You’ve plenty of courage, that’s for sure.” for something that was reading my thoughts I sure felt it had misread me. Despite trying to play it cool, despite getting sorted alone instead of in front of a crowd, despite not even being at any risk of danger, I was sitting glued to the chair eyes squeezed shut and trying to remember to breathe.
“Ha! Don’t believe me aye?” the hat started, suddenly raising his voice. “Tell me Ms Earp, If not courage, what trait did you exhibit every time you stood up for Wynonna?”
The hat had a point. Wynonna and I, our parents didn’t exactly teach us all this magic stuff. They weren’t around so Gus raised us like muggle-borns. Everything changed when Wynonna turned nine. She started making things happen. Sometimes it was moving objects and other times the objects were set on fire.
Wynonna had no words to explain what was happening to her and everyone called her a freak. Some thought demons were haunting her. I always had her back. No matter how much shit I got for being a part of the freaks dysfunctional family.
“See,” the hat continued, “You could do well in Gryffindor, but still there is so much potential here. Ravenclaw would foster your talents well. You are one of the most exceptional homeschooled witches I have ever seen.”
God, I had been so jealous when Wynonna left for Hogwarts. She’s two years older than me so she left me alone with Gus when she was eleven. I thought the magic thing was so cool. I enjoyed feeling special, and I was counting down the days until I would receive my Hogwarts letter.
Of course, that was before everything changed. Gus got sick, I’m talking real, magic can’t fix it and you’re in deep shit, sick. True, I was only eleven at the time but Gus needed me. I couldn’t leave her and go to some magic boarding school when Gus couldn’t even make herself breakfast half the time.
The school was understanding. They recommended we get someone to tutor me, teach me more about the wizarding world. They also told me that there was always a place for me at Hogwarts, whenever I was ready to accept it.
The tutor we hired, Curtis McCready, quickly became family. I’m talking quite literally because well, Gus ended up marrying him. Curtis always believed in me. He taught me almost everything I know from transfiguration and identifying ancient runes to well... growing tomatoes. Herbology for muggles, he called it.
I don’t think I would be here today if it wasn’t for him. Not only for inspiring me to love to learn but also because after Gus made a full recovery last year he pushed me to come to Hogwarts to complete my OWLs. “Talent like yours should not go to waste,” he told me, “go out there, work hard and get the qualifications that you need.” He always believed I was destined to do more than help around the farm.
I only realised how much I had trailed off when the hat started talking again. “Oh, but of course, it always seems to come back to one thing with you. Yes, you’re loyal, hard-working and honest. You stayed behind because you cared about Gus. You stayed loyal to Wynonna and comforted her when she most needed it. You, Waverly Earp, are caring and strong. Hufflepuff will be glad to have you.”
So that’s how I became the first Earp, in history, to be sorted into Hufflepuff. Wynonna was in Slytherin. She elected to sit on the train with me instead of her house friends mostly on account of it being my first day but largely because Doc had just started snogging Rosita and she would rather, quote, “shave her legs with a chainsaw,” than third-wheel that couple.
I was staring out the window but my mind had long drifted from the scenery, I was finally doing it. Starting at a new school wasn’t an easy thing. Especially when the school you’re starting at is none other than Hogwarts: School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The Daily Prophet never seemed to have a shortage of Hogwarts related horror stories to publish. From “Chaos in the Care of Magical Creatures Class” to “Student Hexed in Hallway” the school seemed to have a very full hospital wing.
I’d thought about sending an owl, a few times in a panic, saying I’d decided not to come after all. But Gus reassured me that she was fine without me and I needed to get my OWLs to take my future where I wanted it to go. What better place to do that than at Hogwarts itself.
Wynonna came closer to me when the castle came into view, “Pretty cool huh?” she said noticing the way my eyes lit up at the sight of the old stone walls. The castle was magnificent and sure I knew what it looked like from photos, but seeing it right in front of me was breathtaking.
I’d wanted to come here for such a long time and let's just say that the thought of being the new girl, or the only fifth-year that didn’t know the ropes yet, was terrifying. I didn’t want to draw much attention to myself. Coming to Hogwarts was all that I had ever wanted, but I was terrified. I guess most of that fear came from not wanting to screw things up.
“Ready, baby girl?” Wynonna asked as the train came to a stop. I nodded as we hurried off the train.
Everyone above second year rides in carriages drawn by Thestrals to the castle. Wynonna had promised Dolls she would sit with her friends for this part so I hurried to get into a cart and avoid that awkward, “Hey, mind if I sit here?” conversation.
Unfortunately, four second-year boys from Slytherin clambered into the cart. I sighed figuring I wouldn’t be making any new friends here. The politer of the four, a boy with jet black hair asked me who I was and all their faces lit up when I told them I was an Earp.
“How come we didn’t see you around last year? All the Earps have been Slytherins for the past… well since forever!”
Apparently, tales of Wynonna spread like wildfire in the Slytherin common rooms. She had made a name for herself during her stay. She’d occasionally send me an owl detailing exactly what she had done to the bathroom to get Filch this mad at her. While some stuff was hilarious, other things like slipping a love potion into her teacher's drink made me wonder if I could even take potions without needing to hide from the teacher. In fact, given the amount of trouble Wynonna seemed to be in she may have single-handedly lost Slytherin the house cup.
“It’s actually my first year,” I explained to the boys, “and I’m kinda in Hufflepuff.”
The cart suddenly filled with laughter. Three of the boys were acting as if I was an award-winning stand-up comedian. The boy with the jet black hair just offered me a weak smile. He may have been Slytherin, but that doesn’t mean he had to be an asshole like his friends.
The blonde boy taunted, “No way is an Earp in Hufflepuff, Your family must be ashamed.” I just shrugged the comment off, but I didn’t speak to the boys for the rest of the ride. Okay, true Hufflepuff hadn’t won the house cup in a while, or even the quidditch cup, but that did not make them a weak house.
Before I knew it I was being ushered into the great hall and damn, it was a sight. I’d read about the floating candles and the night sky in “Hogwarts, a History”. Nothing could prepare me for seeing it the first time. It seemed unusual to me the way the other students weren’t as awestruck, but I guess if you watch the sunset every night it becomes 6 pm. Still how fantastically odd was it that this would be my every day.
I headed over to the Hufflepuff table. Not to stereotype, but I figured that most of the people here would be friendly. I walked over to the edge of the table that hadn’t filled up yet and asked the boy on the end if I could sit next to him. "Do you mind if I sit here? I’m kinda new to Hogwarts and don’t know anyone but I’ve already been sorted and all that." I was rambling but it was a nervous habit.
“Of course,” the guy replied, “I’m Robin. If it’s your first time here you have got to try the treacle tart. That being said no one can cook potatoes like Hogwarts house-elves.”
By the time the feast had ended Robin and I were thick as thieves. He introduced me to his best friend, Jeremy, the guy was crazy smart. I said I was surprised that he wasn’t put in Ravenclaw too which he replied “Honestly, me too. It’s crazy. Way back in the first year, when I got my wand I was certain I’d be sorted into Ravenclaw. My wand is Walnut you see. It was Olivander himself that said, ‘Highly intelligent witches and wizards ought to be offered a walnut wand for trial first, because in nine cases out of ten, the two will find in each other their ideal mate.’ I figured that if my wand’s choice was so connected to my intellect the hat’s choice would be too, but I guess that wasn’t the case. Anyway, five years later I couldn’t think of a house I’d rather be in. Without being in Hufflepuff I never would have gotten to know this guy” he said slapping Robin on the back.
Soon timetables were being passed around. I compared mine to Robin and Jeremy’s. I had:
Period 1- Potions
Period 2- Defense Against The Dark Arts
Period 3- Study of Ancient Runes
Period 4- History of Magic
Period 5- Herbology
Period 6- Transfiguration
Period 1- Care of Magical Creatures
Period 2- Study of Ancient Runes
Period 3- Study of Ancient Runes
Period 4- Charms
Period 5- Free Period
Period 6- Astronomy (with Ravenclaw)
Period 1- Free Period
Period 2- Herbology
Period 3- Defense Against the Dark Arts
Period 4- History of Magic
Period 5- Potions (with Slytherin)
Period 6- Astronomy
Period 1- Herbology
Period 2- History of Magic
Period 3- Charms
Period 4- Care of Magical Creatures (with Gryffindor)
Period 5- Care of Magical Creatures (with Gryffindor)
Period 6- Astronomy
Period 1- Transfiguration
Period 2- Transfiguration
Period 3- Potions
Period 4- Defense Against the Dark Arts
Period 5- Charms (with Gryffindor)
Period 6- Free Period
All fifth-year students were required to take Transfiguration, Charms, Potions, History of Magic, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Astronomy and Herbology. Luckily in each one of those classes, I had either Jeremy, Robin or both of them.
For my two elective subjects, I had chosen Care of Magical Creatures and the Study of Ancient Ruins. I had Jermey in Ancient Ruins as well but I hadn't met anyone who was taking Care of Magical Creatures.
When the feast ended the house prefects lead us to our common rooms. We were walking down the kitchen corridor when they suddenly stopped.
“Okay everybody, listen up, To enter the common room you have to tap this barrel to the rhythm of Helga Hufflepuff. That’s tap tap tap-tap-tap, all right? If you get it wrong you’ll be doused in vinegar and that stuff doesn’t smell very good ok? Let's go in. Everyone watch your heads.”
Everyone was crawling through into the common room on their hands and knees. It took quite a while to get all the students through as only one person could fit at a time. I heard some prefects telling the students about the time someone tried to use an Engorgement Charm on the barrel. It didn’t go very well.
The Hufflepuff Basement was beautiful. It had a round and earthy low-ceiling and its circular windows had a view of rippling grass and dandelions. I couldn’t quite tell if the view was real or enchanted. There were so many fascinating plants. Some were sitting on windowsills and others were hanging from the ceiling. Some of which appeared to be talking and singing. A prefect yelled, “Don’t touch the purple plant, you may break out in hives.”
I sat on a large overstuffed yellow and black chair by the fire and continued listening to the prefects rambling.
“There’s a girls dormitory through this door and boys through the other. There’s a nonbinary dormitory too just to the left. We no longer have the doors enchanted to stop people of other genders from entering so don’t be caught in the wrong one.”
I could get used to this, sitting by the fire in such a lovely room. The earthy smell swept all my worries away, Hogwarts was starting to feel like home.