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Magical Interest

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She sat staring at her computer with tears rolling down pale cheeks, gaze fixed upon the screen. The pixelated words “Oregon Trail” glared back at her. The girl caught sight of herself reflected against the bulky screen and she brought her fingers up slowly to wipe away the tear tracks beneath her eyes. She moved her other hand to her hair which was a tangled mess upon her head, trying fruitlessly to rake her thin fingers through the gnarled strands. Choking on a sob the girl slammed her fist against the computer screen, a yelp escaped her lips as a sharp pain radiated through her hand. Brown hair swirled in a wide circle around the girls head as she stood from her chair with a dangerous twirl. A crash sounded as the empty chair sailed across the room, landing roughly against the opposite wall.

 

***

 

Root. That was her name now. The eleven year old repeats this name over and over in her head as she sprints up the steps of the express train. The brunette slips silently into an unoccupied car, removing the heavy rucksack from around her arm. The bag makes a quiet ‘thump’ as it hits the floor near Roots’ feet. The girl meets the eyes reflected back at her within the dirty train window. Her shoulders sag with a deep sigh as she leans back into her seat, bringing her knees up to rest beneath her chin. She holds in the tears that threaten to spill down her flushed cheeks, gulping back the burning sensation that is starting to crawl up her throat. The brunettes’ eyes become heavy and she blinks rapidly in an effort to stay awake. The adrenaline that had been running through the girls’ veins begins to dissipate and, succumbing to the inevitable, she closes her eyes with a soft sigh.

 

“Damn it. Death by dysentery again.”

“That game's so dumb, Hanna. I don't see why you play it.”

“Because I'm gonna get to Oregon.”

 

Root whimpers quietly, shifting slightly upon the bench she now laid across. Her face morphs into a grimace, yet she remains asleep.

 

“911. What is your emergency? Hello, who is this?”

“It's about Hanna, the girl who's gone missing.”

 

Roots eyes shoot open just in time to see two giant blue orbs blinking steadily back at her. She lets out a shriek as she flings her arms out wildly in shock and fear. Her hand makes contact with a feathery wing and the small bird, who had been flying sporadically around brown curls, lands with a thud on the seat beside the quivering girl. Gray feathers ruffle as the owl lets out an indignant ‘hoot’, twisting its head from side to side.

 

“Oh my goodness.” Root whispers, hands flying to her open mouth as her eyes widen. “I didn’t mean to hurt you!” she cries. Cautiously she reaches out a small hand and strokes the bird. The owl lets out another ‘hoot’ as the girls’ fingers run gently through his feathers. This one sounding decidedly less annoyed. “How did you even get in here anyhow?” Root murmurs, now carefully lifting the gray bird into her lap. She continues to run her fingers over the creatures head, gazing curiously at it.

 

Brown eyes suddenly open wide as they focus on an old-fashioned envelope that now perched precariously on the edge of the bench. The brunette peers at the elegant handwriting for a moment before a tiny gasp escapes her lips as she reads the name of the addressee. “Ms. S. Groves.” Root reads aloud, “Third sleeping car on the right, Devon Scot, Plymouth, United Kingdom.”

 

Root lets out another gasp, standing quickly from her seat. The small owl hoots in annoyance at being so quickly displaced from its perch as it rights itself and lands softly back onto the bench. Oblivious to the miffed creature, the girl pops her head out into the hallway and counts the sleeper cars beyond hers. “How… How did they know?” She turns suddenly and slams the glass door shut, leaning back against it shakily.

 

The letter, still firmly grasped in a tight fist catches Roots eye once more. The girl stalks back and plops down in her seat again. She stares around for a moment, trying to locate the small owl who had just been perched upon the black fabric of the bench. Unable to locate him Root sighs and re-faces the envelope between her sweaty hands. Warily she runs her nail through the paper seam, holding her breath as she does so. Two pages of faded parchment fall out onto Roots denim clad lap. Her eyes stare blankly at the papers for a moment before she grasps them nimbly in her hands. Taking a breath she reads the first page aloud to herself.

 

  

“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 Ms. Groves,

 

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.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Minerva McGonagall

Deputy Headmistress”

 

Roots hands begin to shake uncontrollably and she clutches the letter close to her chest. “This isn’t possible.” She whispers to the empty car. “School of witchcraft and wizardry? No way.” At this she shakes her head furiously, “There’s no such thing as magic.” Isn’t there though? A small voice questions in her head. You do remember what you did to Mr. Russel don’t you? “NO!” Root shouts, clasping her hands over her ears, torso bending to meet her thighs, head still shaking. “That wasn’t me!” She cries out, fresh tears building in her eyes. Oh but it was. The voice replies giddily. The girl squeezes her eyes shut firmly, head finally stilling from its jerky movements. “No…” Root whispers once more. Silence greets her and she’s left alone to cry herself back into a fitful sleep.

 

***

 

The trains rolls to a stop with a blare if its horn, rousing Root from her sleep. She blinks slowly in the darkened car, trying to regain her bearings. Sitting up she clutches her head which is now pounding mercilessly. Groaning, she moves to place her head between her knees when two faded pages fall from her lap. She groans again, louder this time, as she bends to pick up the forgotten papers.

 

Rereading the first page, Roots sighs deeply. She places the parchment gingerly onto the seat beside her and begins to read the second page that she had refused to look at earlier. Her brows arch as she reads the list of supplies that were required to attend this so called ‘Wizard School’. Rolling her eyes Root places this paper on top of the first one before staring morosely out the window. The train had returned to its slow journey while Root had been reading her letters. She leans her forehead against the cool glass, watching an endless field of trees crawl past in the darkened woods beyond the train. Closing her eyes the girl reaches into her memory and replays what had happened a few months earlier.

Samantha stood by the front doors of the library, watching silently as Hanna climbed into a dark car. She watched as the driver began to drive off. Her stomach churned uncomfortably as she caught a glimpse of the mans’ face in the moonlight. Glancing quickly at the license plate Samantha memorized the number before turning on her heel and racing back into the now silent library.

 

She found the librarian restocking books in one of the back aisles. After explaining everything she had seen to Ms. Barbara she had expected the older woman to call the cops or something. She was not expecting to see the librarians face morph into sheer anger as she spat back at Sam in a deadly voice, “You are a nasty, attention-seeking brat. I can’t believe you would think such a terrible thing about somebody like Mr. Russell, who does so much for this town and the library and all the children! Get out! Get out now!”

***

 

“911, what is your emergency?”

“It's about Hanna, the girl who's gone missing. I think I saw her get into a car outside the library.”

“What sort of car?”

“I don't know. It was a dark car.”

“Do you remember anything else?”

“Yes, the license plate. 925 EFK.”

 

***

 

Tears stream down Roots face as silent sobs rack her body. The cool glass of the window calms her enough to delve into the memory of the previous week.

***

 

“Mr. Russel?” Samantha questions the man. The brunette had been walking home from the park when she had come across the older man pouring something into a hole on his patio.

 

Mr. Russel jerks his head up from his task, wiping his hands on his filthy denim jeans before speaking in an eerie voice, “Yes, sweetie?” He takes a small, almost imperceptible step forward.

 

Holding her ground Sam glares back at the man. “Why do you have Hanna’s sweater?” She glances at the ground where the faded brown sweater lay haphazardly before meeting the man’s eyes once more.

 

“What are you talking about?” Mr. Russel’s voice raises an octave and his eyes betray his fear. “That’s not Hanna’s sweater.”

 

“Yes. It. Is.” Samantha grounds out, taking a step towards the fidgeting man. “I gave it to her.”

 

“Don’t you lie you stupi…”

 

“I AM NOT LYING!” The brunette screams, running to stand directly in front of Mr. Russel. “WHERE IS HANNA? WHAT DID YOU DO TO HER?” Angry tears flow down the girl’s cheeks and splash onto the pavement. Her gaze refocuses on the half-filled hole the man had been pouring cement into.

 

Gasping, Samantha takes a step back, horror marring her features. “Is she…” She whispers, crying harder now. “YOU KILLED HER!” Screaming, she launches herself at the older man who has a look of fury on his face as well.

 

“You shut your mouth!” He bellows, grabbing tight to brown curls and pulling hard.

 

Screaming with rage and pain Samantha shoots her hands out, trying to push the man from her. She watches with glee as Mr. Russel flies into the air, spinning wildly. The crunch of bone hitting pavement makes the girl cringe as her face goes white. Raising her hands to her face she stares unbelievingly at them. “What…? What did I…?”

 

She looks back at the lifeless body laying a few feet from her, gagging as she spies the blood pooling around dark hair. Thinking fast Sam runs to Mr. Russel’s side and removes the man’s wallet from his pocket, trying not to vomit as she does so.

 

Then she runs.

 

She runs home and packs a rucksack full of clothes, Mr. Russel’s wallet and a picture of Hanna. Waving down a taxi Samantha rides to the airport and using the dead man’s credit card, buys a plane ticket.

 

And then she just kept running. When today, July 3rd, she boarded the Devon Scot in the United Kingdom, leaving behind everything she’s ever known.

 

The darkness encompasses the third sleeper car on the right. Where a girl with long brown curls falls into a nightmare filled sleep, head pressed firmly against the fogged window of the Devon Scot. In the near silence of the car you can just barely hear the rustle of old parchment.

Chapter Text

Sun is shining through the windows as Root jerks awake and sits up. The remnants of her nightmare floats through her mind for a moment, leaving her feeling slightly shaken. She stretches her arms up over her head with a deep yawn then rubs her eyes roughly. Blinking groggily, Root takes in her surroundings.

 

The girl realizes with a start that she is lying on the hard ground of the sleeper car. Glancing down to her right Root recognizes the pieces of parchment from Hogwarts lying haphazardly beside the envelope they had come in. Sighing, the brunette reaches down and picks up the envelope. She stares at her name for a few minutes, the shock from the previous night returning… A magic school… They want me to go to a magic school… Roots fingers run absentmindedly across the envelope as she thinks. Does that mean I’m a… A witch?

 

The brunettes’ fingers run over a slightly raised section of the envelope. She frowns, tilting her head to the side as she flips the envelope upside down. Root shakes it slightly and her eyebrows raise as a shiny piece of parchment floats into her lap. She picks it up hesitantly, bringing it up to eye level.

 

“London to Hogwarts. For one way travel. Platform…” Root pauses, scrunching up her nose in confusion. “Nine and three quarters…?” She flips the ticket over, looking to see if there were instructions on the reverse side. Finding nothing besides ‘Kings Cross Station’, Root turns the ticket back over. “I’ve never heard of platforms being in quarters…” She murmurs to herself, staring intently at the ticket. “Maybe it’s a British thing.” The brunette shrugs and gathers up all of the papers from the floor. She stands slowly from the floor, walks towards the window and peers out of it.

 

A rumble echoes throughout the car a few minutes later startling Root. She glances down at her stomach and smirks. “I guess I should find the dining car.”  

 

***

 

At five o’clock pm the train shudders to a stop. Root collects her rucksack, throws it over her shoulder and exits the train. As the girl steps onto the platform she looks around the station before trotting off in search of the service desk. Spotting it on the opposite side of the crowded station, Root hitches up the heavy rucksack on her shoulder and heads in that direction. She has to pause several times on her journey to avoid being knocked down by several people not watching where they are walking. “Assholes.” Root mutters under her breath as she finally reaches her destination.

 

As she waits in line Root pulls the ticket from her pocket, examining it one more time.

 

“How can I assist you ma’am?” Root looks up into the friendly face of a middle aged man with the name “Jasper” pinned to his blue uniform and smiles sweetly.

 

“Uh… Yes. Hi.” She fumbles the ticket between her fingers before placing it on the counter in front of Jasper. “How would I get to this station? I mean… Where is it located?”

 

Jasper picks up the ticket and studies it for a moment before glancing back at Root. “Kings Cross?” At Roots nod he continues, “That station is actually right across the street.” Roots smile widens and she is just about to retrieve the ticket from the man’s hand when he stops her. “But ma’am, there is no platform nine and three quarters there.”

 

“Are… Are you sure?”

 

Jasper nods. “Yes I’m quite sure. I have been there many times and I have never seen this platform. It goes from nine to ten. Same as any train station I presume.”

 

Roots heart sinks and color floods her pale cheeks. “Oh, um okay.” She grabs her ticket from the mans outstretched hand and sighs. “Well thank you anyway.” Turning on her heel, head hung, Root exits the station.

 

***

As Root enters Kings Cross Station she prays that Jasper had been wrong; that there was indeed a platform 9 ¾ and he had just never noticed it before. Somewhere deep inside Root feels sudden desperation. What if it wasn’t real? Do I care? Yes. Now that the idea of a place where she might belong, might be accepted, was firmly rooted in her mind she wanted nothing else. She couldn’t imagine the crushing despair she would feel had this all been fake; some sick twisted joke meant to make her miserable. Just a day before the brunette had no hopes, had no idea a place like this even existed. But now, now that she has been led to believe such a place not only existed but wished to have her there, she couldn’t think of anywhere else she wanted to be.

 

Root clutched the ticket and the faded envelope to her chest and walked up to the help desk, hands shaking uncontrollably.

 

“Hello sweetie, how may I help you?” A kind voice rang out from the booth in front of her.

 

“Uhm… I need to find…” Hands still shaking, Root passed her ticket to the round faced blonde behind the counter. “I need to find this platform…”

 

Smiling kindly the woman takes the ticket from Roots outstretched hand. The brunette watched in anticipation as the woman, whose nametag read ‘Tammy’, scrutinized the ticket. “I’m sorry sweetie, there is no such thing as a Platform 9 ¾. Are you sure this is the right ticket?” Tammy smiled sadly down at Root, handing back the ticket apologetically.

 

Sighing, Root took the shining paper and turned on her heel, mumbling a “thank you” under her breath.  

 

 

***

 

Root stumbles dizzily into the dimly lit gas station. She had been walking for hours now. She wasn’t exactly sure how long it had been since the sun went down but she figures it must have been at least an hour. The stale air of the gas station makes her shiver, though she had been shivering for quite some time now. The dropping of the sun took away the warmth from her skin, leaving her chilled to the bone. To top it all off she was thirsty, so horribly thirsty. She hadn’t had anything to drink since she had left her last make-shift home under a bridge near a cloudy stream. The brunette hobbles over to the drink section, grabbing a bottle of water and ripping off the cap before downing almost half of it. As she pulled the bottle from her lips she heard an angry shout and turned slowly.

 

“Hey!” The shout came from who Root assumed to be the owner of the station. The man was fairly scrawny with lanky, too long arms. He had a raspy voice, faded yellow teeth and his clothes were ripped and filthy. Root tripped in her haste to back away from the man, falling haphazardly into the cooler behind her with a yelp. The man loomed over her as she righted herself, immediately causing her to shrink back from his repulsive breath. “You tryin’ to steal from me young lady?” The man gritted out, spit flying from his mouth.

 

“N…no…” Root gasped out. “I was going to buy it I swear. I was just… I just needed a drink…” The man snarled and the small brunette ducked her head, trying to slide around his outstretched limbs. With a growl he caught Roots arm, pulling furiously on it till the girl swung back around to face him. “No! Stop it!” She screamed out, searching frantically around the shop for someone to help her. How had I not noticed there was no one here? Why did I come in alone at night? Root mentally panicked. Water. I came in for water. She glanced down at the half empty bottle in her right hand and then looked up quickly to meet the furious eyes of the man holding her tightly. Scanning the store again her eyes stopped on the front door maybe ten or so feet to the left of them. Root took a deep breath and slammed the bottle into the man’s head. A loud ‘crack’ echoed around the dirty station and Root watched with horror as the man’s legs crumpled beneath him. He fell with a thud, the angle of his head sending a shudder through the brunette’s spine.

 

A loud scream ripped through the air as Root began to back away from the man’s lifeless body.  She whipped her head around quickly, eyes going wide as they met the terrified ones of the woman before her. “What did you do?! You devil child! My husband...” The woman broke off into sobs, her heavy chest heaving. She ran to Roots side, dropping quickly to the floor as sobs wracked her body. “You killed him! You killed him!” She screamed, rocking the man’s body in her arms.

 

“I didn’t… No! I didn’t mean to… I…” Root trailed off, backing away from the hysterical woman. She turned towards the door, preparing to make a run for it when the woman stood quickly. She wobbled for a second, body unbalanced from her weight before righting herself and pulling out her phone. Roots eyes went wide as the frantic woman called the police, screaming over and over, “She killed him! My husband! Devil child!” Frozen in horror Root tried to make her limbs work. Move! Get to the door! Run! She could do nothing however as the woman screamed into the phone.

 

***

 

 

They got there fast. That’s all that Root could remember. It was fast. She had been handcuffed and thrown into the back of the cop car before she could even blink. The small brunette was now leaning against the rusted metal bars of a small, dirty jail cell. Tear tracks lined her slender cheeks yet no tears had spilled for quite some time. They called her a murderer. A runaway problem child and a murderer. What am I going to do?

 

“It looks like you could use some help.” A voice boomed from the corner of Roots cell, causing the girl to whip her head up and spin around. A giant shadow loomed in the corner and the brunette’s blood ran cold.

 

“Who…” Root stuttered out, backing up against the cool metal. “Who are you?”

 

“The names Hagrid.”