Irene stared blankly at the wall behind the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, trying to forget that the last twenty-four hours ever happened. Her dress robes were torn in places, a large stain down one side that was probably blood but it had since dried to a dark brown color that marred the otherwise luxurious set of robes. What had become of the rest of her things she didn’t know, the Aurors who swept the mansion probably confiscated a lot of it.
She watched the fifty members of the Wizengamot take their seats on the elevated platforms before letting out a shaky breath. Irene thought her first time in the courthouse would be after she’d gotten her dream job as an Auror, not before. Not like this.
She was jolted out of her shock when a warm hand was placed on her shoulder. Her older sister Taeyeon.
“Remember to be careful. You know these old farts, they’ve already come to a decision regardless of the evidence placed before them,” the older girl whispered.
Irene nodded as the Chief Warlock strode in, standing at attention until the elderly wizard motioned for everyone to be seated. He looked kind enough, with a receding hairline and laugh lines adorning his face. But his sharp gray eyes were constantly shifting back and forth, examining the courtroom and the people inside. Looking at her.
“Now then, shall we proceed with the case that stands against the Bae family?” The Chief Warlock pulled out his wand and a manila folder appeared in front of him. Pushing his glasses up his nose he thumbed through the paperwork. “Is our court scribe ready?”
A weaselly looking woman sitting next to him nodded, her pen and paper at the ready. “Firstly, would Bae Joohyun, daughter of the accused please approach the bench?”
Taeyeon gently nudged her younger sister forward and Irene stumbled to her feet, cold dread flooding her veins as she approached the lone chair in front of the bench. A young wizard stood as well and took his position behind her as she sat.
“Good afternoon, esteemed ladies and gentlemen of the Wizengamot. My name is Park Jeong-su and I will be representing Miss Bae in these proceedings as she is underage.”
The Chief Warlock nodded and turned his gaze to Irene. “And do you agree to this representation Miss Bae?”
Irene snuck a glance back at her sister, who nodded subtly. “I do.”
“Very well, the court has noted. Mr. Park please give Miss Bae the standard disclaimers.”
Jeong-su adjusted his tie and approached Irene. “I will be questioning you today under the influence of the Truth Charm, as the court has banned the use of Veritaserum on minors after the Rosenfeld Case in 1996. May I remind you that this does not encourage lying to a jury and any attempts to do so will result in punishment. However, this charm will not force you to say anything against your will. I will proceed to ask you a series of questions. Truthful statements will cause a green mark like this,” he made a flourishing movement with his wand and a green check mark appeared above his head, “while a false statement will cause a red mark like this to appear,” a red x-shaped mark replaced the check mark. “Do you understand?”
Irene nodded and watched as Jeong-su waved his wand over her head and motioned for the Chief Warlock to begin his questioning.
“Full name please.”
“Bae Joohyun. My friends call me Irene.” A single green check mark flashed above her head.
“Do you know why you are here?”
Irene sighed and picked at the hem of her robes. If she wasn’t so exhausted, she probably would have given the court a sarcastic response. “My parents are accused of practicing Dark Magic.”
All the witches and wizards leaned in, their curiosity suddenly piqued. While Dark Magic certainly had seen a steep decline in use after the fall of Voldemort it had been my no means eradicated. Rumors of various homegrown cells full of Dark wizards devoted to following Voldemort’s doctrines had been swirling around since. And now Joohyun’s parents stood accused of the highest of crimes.
Not that they were around to witness their own trial.
“Miss Bae, let me cut straight to the point. Were you aware that your family was practicing Dark Magic?”
Irene looked straight at the Chief Warlock and shook her head. “No, I was not aware that they were practicing Dark Magic.”
A green check mark appeared above her head and the entire court sighed with relief. Though Irene was a child, the laws that had been written to apprehend and punish Dark Wizards were extremely strict. Being underage wouldn’t have protected her from being punished.
Still, what Irene had said wasn’t exactly the whole truth. She hadn’t been aware that her parents were practicing Dark magic but she’d had her suspicions for a while now. So had Taeyeon. Their family was an old one, pureblood for generations and extremely wealthy. The word of a Bae was law, and even amongst the Wizarding elite their family name held sway. Which made their trial even more of a mystery.
The Bae family had been one of those at the forefront of the restoration after Voldemort’s fall. They’d not only managed to stay completely out of the Death Eaters but had spearheaded the movement to track down and apprehend those purebloods who were trying to escape justice. Her parents had been trusted leaders in the community. Until they weren’t.
They’d begun meeting secretly with some unsavory-looking wizards several years ago, holding meetings in the Bae mansion’s private library. They’d even charmed the doors and windows to completely trap sound so they couldn’t be overheard by a young Taeyeon and Irene. Not even the Extendable Ears Taeyeon had bought managed to crack the spell. It was clear that whatever her parents were talking about was not for either of them to hear.
Irene had just managed to come to accept the fact that her parents would likely never tell her why they were being so secret when everything happened.
“Please recount for the jury the events of this morning.”
“We were at our Aunt Hyori’s house over the weekend and were due to come home this morning. I woke up late and Taeyeon called me on the two-way mirror. She told me her friends wanted to take her out for an end of summer party and asked if I was okay getting home by myself. Auntie asked if I wanted her to drop me off but I declined. I’m old enough to walk by myself.”
The rest of the story poured out of with the green check mark above her head not fading the entire time. She’d come home to a massacre.
The front door of the manor had been blown to smithereens and debris lined the marble foyer. The vases her mother always meticulously cared for lay shattered in their alcoves and blood stained the expensive tiles leading towards the library.
Irene didn’t know what she would find when she rounded the corner but she knew it wouldn’t be good. Her suspicions proved right as she had almost tripped over a body just beyond the door. She had fallen to her knees in shock, staining the hems of her robes red as she looked at the fallen body of her father.
His eyes were blank and unseeing, wand still clutched tightly in his hand as if he had been fighting a great foe. Irene couldn’t see which blow had been the fatal one, but his body had been covered in deep lacerations that wreathed his arms and legs and disappeared under his clothes.
Nearby, her mother lay slumped against one of the bookshelves, a red trail giving the impression that she had crawled from her original point to lay as closely as she could to her husband. A single pale hand reached out towards Irene.
“Joohyun. Help me…”
The words would forever be stuck in Irene’s mind as she rushed over to her mother, pulling out her two-way mirror with panicked hands.
Thank Merlin her sister answered.
“TAEYEON!” she’d all but screamed, causing her sister’s smile to immediately fade. “Call the Aurors. Mom and Dad—”
She raced over to her mother, whose breathing had ceased. “Tae, they’re dead.”
The rest of the morning had been a blur, and now she was here, standing in front of the Wizengamot with her robes still stained with her parent’s blood.
“That is enough. Miss Bae, thank you for your testimony, please return to your seat,” The Chief Warlock almost appeared sick to his stomach. He couldn’t imagine the trauma this young girl had witnessed. “Miss Kim Taeyeon, please take the stand.”
Taeyeon confidently approached the bench, giving Irene a comforting squeeze on the shoulder as she passed. Irene admired her older sister’s resilience as Jeong-su went over the same disclaimers and cast the charm over Taeyeon’s head as she was only sixteen. The questioning began in a similar vein as Irene’s had, beginning with basic questions to establish a baseline.
“Name and age please.”
“Kim Taeyeon, sixteen years old.”
“Thank you. Now Miss Kim, please inform the court as to your relationship with the Bae family.”
“Officially? I’m a ward of the Bae’s, my family and theirs have been intertwined for over a century now. I am not Bae Joohyun’s sister by blood, but rather by family relation and more importantly, by choice.”
Irene was proud to see the green check mark above her sister’s head. True, Taeyeon was not her biological sister, but even though the people her family associated with had always been sticklers about “pure” bloodlines, the Kim’s had never faced discrimination. If there was one rule that was absolutely obeyed it was that the Bae’s and Kim’s came as a package deal. Irene had gained an older sister, and had become one herself to the youngest of the Kim family, a girl four years her junior named Yerim.
Yerim. Irene hoped that the wizards at St. Mungo’s would be able to stabilize her younger sister.
Irene flashed back once again to this morning at the manor. She had called Taeyeon in a panic and she could hear her sister on the other end of the mirror directing her friends to turn around and immediately get ahold of the Aurors. With that taken care of, she took a breath only for her heart to plummet into her shoes. Her younger sister Yerim had stayed home sick this weekend.
Lurching to her feet, Irene had raced up the stairs straight to Yerim’s room on the second floor. Trying the door, she realized it had been locked, and she hadn’t yet gotten her wand from Ollivander to try unlocking it herself.
“Yeri? Yeri it’s me, let me in!” She pressed her ear against the door, praying to every deity she could think of that whoever had hurt her parents had left Yerim alone.
“Joohyun?” came a small voice from the other side of the door, and at that moment Irene knew that she hadn’t quite lost everything.
Taeyeon’s voice almost seemed to mingle with Yeri’s as Irene found herself standing in the courtroom once again. Her older sister was looking at her, eyebrows knitted in concern.
“Are you okay, Hyunie?” The soft use of her nickname gave Irene just enough strength to nod her head.
“Very well then, we shall continue. Miss Kim, let us get to the main question,” the Chief Warlock peered at Taeyeon over the rim of his glasses. “Were you aware that your parents were practicing Dark magic?”
Irene saw the small facial tic in Taeyeon’s lower jaw. The one she got when she wasn’t only angry but furious. “I was not aware. The Baes would never practice Dark magic, Chief Warlock.”
Irene couldn’t help the sigh of relief that escaped when Taeyeon’s face lit up in a reflection of green light. The entire rest of the courtroom seemed to as well. She really didn’t understand, if they were waiting on Taeyeon’s response with bated breath then why bother even holding a trial? Her parents had been murdered for Merlin’s sake and instead of assembling a team to track down their killers she and Taeyeon had been forced to sit as though they were being interrogated themselves.
“I see the court has its answer,” the Chief Warlock sat back in his chair. “Within the Ministry, any wizards being accused of practicing Dark magic are to be investigated regardless of age. However, this applies only to those accused of an actual crime. Bae Joohyun and Kim Taeyeon have not, as confirmed by this court. Moreover, they have witnessed a terrible trauma at a tender age. This court will not punish children for any actions of their parents. A team will be dispatched to verify if the Bae family did indeed break the law, but seeing as the accused are…not with us, this trial is hereby on hold until such time as a conclusion can be made.”
The Chief Warlock slammed his gavel on his podium and everyone stood up.
“Come on Hyunie, they’re done with us,” Irene immediately felt the warm embrace of her older sister and she sunk into the older girl with a shuddering breath.
“Hmm?” Taeyeon looked as though she had aged several years in the span of an hour. With the Baes dead all household duties and responsibilities fell to her. They both knew it. Which meant dealing with Yerim, who was still recovering at St. Mungos. And dealing with the funeral arrangements.
“I don’t wanna go home,” Irene whispered as she followed her sister out of the courtroom, the lump in growing bigger. How could she return to the place where her parents had…?
The two of them approached the Atrium where a line of fireplaces glowed an eerie green color. They had taken the Floo network straight from St. Mungos and Irene didn’t know where Taeyeon would take them.
“Don’t worry, I’ll take us somewhere safe.”
Irene didn’t see how that was possible.
ONE YEAR LATER
“Seulgi, I swear if you keep stopping at every shop window, we’ll never get to Eeylops Owl Emporium before it closes,” Wendy scolded, pulling her best friend by the ear and dragging her away from yet another window display.
“Wannie!” Seulgi whined, allowing the shorter girl to pull her away regardless.
Her friend was right of course. This was their first time in Diagon Alley, could she really be blamed for wanting to see everything the place had to offer? All the window displays were stocked full of levitating objects, flashy colors and signs promising things like two scoops of beetle eyes for 10 knuts. Heaven for a young incoming Hogwarts student with a school list a mile long and a rather sizeable chunk of money burning a hole in her pocket.
“What do we still need to get?” Wendy asked, cleanly skirting past a man whose mustache kept changing colors from red to blue. Here in the Wizarding world the extraordinary was perfectly ordinary.
Seulgi fumbled inside her robes and found the crumpled Hogwarts letter, “Just wands and owls by the looks of things.”
Wendy tilted her head, considering her friend’s words. “Okay, then let’s hit Ollivander’s first to get out of this flood of people and then we can go get our owls.”
Seulgi nodded and let her friend guide her down the main road towards Gringotts. This was the first time she’d ever been to Diagon Alley without her parents, and she’d had to promise them that she wouldn’t spend all her money on frivolous things. Wendy had already been forced to drag her away from a solid-gold cauldron and the latest model Firebolt. You’re not a pureblood Seul, only they have that kind of disposable income.
She spotted the sign for Ollivander’s and broke away from Wendy to run for the door. The only thing stopping her from rushing inside was the promise they’d made to each other: They’d do this together. Seulgi bounced impatiently on the balls of her feet until Wendy finally caught up to her, exasperation clear on her face.
Wendy pulled her to the side and was scolding Seulgi for leaving her with all the heavy shopping bags when her eyes drew to a couple of girls about their age talking to the elderly man inside. Like her and Wendy, they weren’t accompanied by parents but it wasn’t their lack of that intrigued Seulgi. No, it was the girl on the left with long glossy black hair who turned around to sit in one of the chairs by the front door while the other girl approached the counter. Sisters maybe? The girl pulled out a newspaper and waited while her companion began talking with Ollivander about wands.
“You weren’t even listening to me, were you?” Wendy accused.
Seulgi shook her head, still staring at the pretty girl. She thought the girl must have hit the genetic lottery, she was so pretty.
Wendy sighed. “Well at least you’re honest. Come on, let’s go.”
The shopkeep acknowledged them with a small smile and wave of his gnarled hand before turning his attention back to the blonde girl at the counter. Seulgi took a seat right next to the pretty girl and tried her best not to look her in the eyes.
“Hit me again!” the girl clapped her hands in anticipation and Ollivander gave her an indulgent smile. He turned around and rummaged around the shelves for a minute before handing her a box.
“Laurel and Dragon heartstring. 11 inches. Solid. A choice wand for young witches and wizards that want to perform powerful magic.”
The girl gently picked up the wand and flicked it once. A spark of bright orange energy erupted from the tip and shot straight towards Seulgi and Wendy, who quickly ducked to avoid the rogue magic.
“, sorry!” the girl cried.
“Language, Kim Yerim,” the pretty girl sitting next to Seulgi scolded without looking up from her newspaper.
Ollivander grunted thoughtfully, prying the wand out of Yerim’s hands and placing it back in its box. “Sorry sir. I’ll try not to be too difficult of a case. I heard it took like thirteen wands for you to find the one for Irene!”
“Eleven,” both girl and shopkeep said in unison.
Yerim rolled her eyes. “Anyway. Sorry…uh, what are your names? I’m Kim Yerim, but you can call me Yeri. I feel like I should introduce myself before apologizing for nearly hitting you.”
“Kang Seulgi and Son Seungwan, but you can call me Wendy,” Wendy reached her hand out and the blonde girl took it happily. “First year too?”
Yerim grinned toothily. “Yep! I’ve had to sit through listening stories from both my older sisters about Hogwarts and now it’s finally my turn.”
“Same!” Wendy said. “My older sister wouldn’t shut up about Quidditch matches and exploring the castle.”
“I just can’t wait to claim my spot as the newest Hogwarts prank queen.” Yeri said, turning back to Ollivander, who had returned with a new wand.
“Try this one dear. Dogwood and Dragon heartstring. Ten inches. Surprisingly springy and perfect for Charms work.”
Yeri shrugged and took hold of the wand. Almost immediately a shower of golden sparks erupted from the wand and orbited the blond girl’s head. “Whoa.”
“There we go!” Ollivander clapped his hands and gently took the wand from Yeri to put it back in its box. “A bold combination. We just may have the next mistress of mischief in our store. Dogwood is notoriously mischievous, but don’t go letting that interfere with your studies, young lady.”
“I can guarantee you it will,” Irene muttered, but Seulgi could see the fondness in her gaze. “How much for the wand?”
“Eight Galleons, Miss Bae. How is your wand treating you?”
Irene dutifully counted out her money from a rather sizeable purse and gave Ollivander a small smile. “Very well, thank you.”
“Fir and Phoenix feather, if I remember correctly. I think you’ll find as you get older and start to perform more complex magic you’ll really find where it shines.”
“I look forward to it, sir. Ready to go Yeri?” Irene beckoned for her sister while Ollivander approached Seulgi with a retractable roll of Spellotape to begin taking measurements.
The blonde girl sighed. “I guess. All we need now is my owl right?”
Wendy raised her hand shyly, “Actually, we were heading to Eeylops right after this as well, would you two want to join us for the rest of the day?”
Seulgi craned her neck as Ollivander had her stretch both her hands out to the side so he could measure her from fingertip to fingertip. “Yeah, we’d love to have you two come with us, the more the merrier!”
Yeri shot her sister a pleading glance and Irene let out a dramatic sigh. “Oh very well. Let’s wait for them to get their wands then.”
“Awesome!” Yeri cheered. She picked up the box with her new wand and sat down, legs swinging happily. Seulgi smiled. She was glad to have made a new friend, Wendy always told her that she needed to branch out a bit and become more social.
There was a small snap as Ollivander retracted the spellotape and returned behind the counter to start perusing his collection of wands. He returned a moment later with four boxes, opening the first and handing the one on the left to Seulgi.
“First up, Ebony and Dragon heartstring. 9 and a half inches and supple.” Seulgi took the jet-black wand with trepidation and swished the wood in a random direction. There was a puff of white smoke and when it cleared, Wendy had grown a rather impressive handlebar mustache.
Yeri burst out laughing and it soon spread to the rest of the girls, leaving them all gasping for breath as Wendy regarded her new facial hair with interest.
“What do you think, do I look distinguished?” she asked, the mustache with a single finger.
“The peak of class,” Seulgi giggled while Ollivander shook his head fondly and waved his wand to return Wendy back to her usual self. The atmosphere in the shop was much lighter now and Seulgi no longer felt pressured to obtain the perfect wand. The right one would come to her.
“Maybe this one is for you. A rather rare acquisition for our shop but I have a feeling. Vine and Unicorn hair, ten and half inches, solid, and may I say this combination in particular would probably excel in a variety of natural subjects such as Herbology or Potions.”
As soon as he opened the box, it began to glow with a soft yellow color that intensified as soon as Seulgi took a step forward. Ollivander smiled. “Perfect. Vine wands are rather unique in the sense that they can sense with astonishing accuracy if a person is suited to wield them. It seems this one has taken a shine to you, Miss Seulgi.”
Wendy beamed, wiping a fake tear from her eye. “My bestie has a wand. We did it Seul. First step down, only a million more to go!”
Seulgi gripped the intricately-carved wand and felt a rush of warmth spread from her fingertips up her arms and down into her belly. Yeah, this was the one for her.
“Come on Wannie, it’s your turn. And you better not outshine me with misplaced wand magic!” She challenged.
“Wanna bet?” Wendy smirked and Seulgi suddenly got the feeling that she’d made a huge mistake.
“Ooh, I wanna see the result of this,” Yeri sat at the edge of her seat.
“I regret this already,” Irene muttered, returning to her paper.
“I thought the rules were that you could only bring one owl, cat or toad?” Wendy exclaimed, leaning down to peer into the cage perched securely on top of Seulgi’s luggage.
“Technically there is no such rule, I read them three times over to make sure,” Seulgi puffed her chest out confidently. From inside the cage came two nearly identical mews, and Seulgi stuck her finger through the gaps in the cage to soothe her pets.
“We haven’t even started and you’re already finding loopholes,” Wendy accused. “I blame Yeri.”
Seulgi grinned good naturedly and pointed at her friend’s new owl. “Olaf’s a fine owl, and you can come play with Lulu and Lala whenever you want.”
Above them the station clock chimed quarter til and the two friends made sure their belongings were secured on the trolley before walking to the platform. Seulgi thought they must have looked a sight; a pair of eleven-year-olds dragging heavy footlockers and animal cages. She was glad that the school told them to wear everyday Muggle attire until they arrived at Hogwarts, otherwise they definitely would have gotten stranger looks.
They walked past throngs of Muggles going about their day until they reached the vaunted platform nine and three quarters. Or at least where it should have been. Seulgi squinted her eyes, just in case she missed something. “Huh. So where’s the platform?”
Wendy pointed at a brick column just in time for Seulgi to see a pair of boys rushing headlong into the wall. Seulgi’s eyes widened and she was about to shout out a warning when the boys disappeared from sight before crashing. “There. You run through it. Can’t exactly have the Muggles finding out how we get to school.”
“This has to be some form of child endangerment,” Seulgi muttered, imagining if Wendy was wrong and the two of them killed themselves trying to get onto the platform. Still, she trusted her best friend more than anyone, so she squared her shoulders and prepared to run.
Of course Wendy was right. When was she ever wrong? The two of them passed through the wall with no problem and soon Seulgi could see the large red engine of the Hogwarts Express. This was it, goodbye London, hello Hogwarts. They dropped off their trunks with the stationmaster, though Seulgi opted to keep her cats with her for the ride.
Boarding the train was a little bit of a struggle simply because there were so many kids careening around the corridors, meeting up with friends and trying to grab any empty compartments. Eventually Seulgi and Wendy found a section of the train that seemed to be a little less rowdy and went in search for a quiet cabin of their own.
“You gonna try out for Quidditch?” Wendy asked, pushing gently past a pair of Ravenclaw fifth years who had their brooms tucked underneath their arms.
Seulgi nodded. She didn’t consider herself an expert in the sport but she liked flying and wanted to save up enough money for a Firebolt. She was still using her father’s old Cleansweep, and while it worked decently enough she knew she’d be in for a shock once she got to school and everyone knew how to fly.
“You better not be trying out for Seeker!” a familiar voice called, and the two turned around to see a bob of blonde hair approaching them. “Otherwise we’ll be mortal enemies.”
“Yeri!” Wendy greeted the younger girl. “How was the rest of your summer?”
“It was pretty boring, but I did manage to make a new friend,” Yeri beckoned someone over and soon a girl with long black hair came into view. She appeared to be the same age as them but had to have been at least a head taller. “This is Sooyoung, but everyone calls her Joy for some reason I cannot fathom. I met her at a gala last week. I was actually just about to introduce her to Joohyun, she has a compartment reserved for us at the end of this car if you want to join us.”
Wendy blinked. A whole compartment? Was that allowed?
“It’s cause Yeri and Joohyun’s family are big time purebloods,” Joy cracked a smile. “Usually only prefects and the Head Boy and Girl get cabins to themselves but sometimes if a pureblood family has kids going to Hogwarts they’ll get…’preferential treatment’.”
“Sooyoung’s great-great-great grandsomething created the anti-cheating spell all the professors use to make sure no one copies anyone else on exams,” Yeri babbled excitedly and Seulgi got the distinct impression that she had found a kindred spirit in the other girl. And to be perfectly honest that worried her. A lot.
Together the four of them trundled past a handful of full compartments, with Yeri occasionally stopping to say hello to some of her friends. Seulgi quickly found herself losing track of all the blonde’s friends; apparently Yeri was quite the social butterfly unlike Joohyun. They met some fellow first years named Nayeon, Chaeyoung and Holland all packed together in a compartment, an absolutely astonishing pile of Chocolate frog trading cards spread out on the floor. As Yeri said her greetings and then dashed away to the next compartment, Seulgi found a couple of chocolate frogs being pressed into her hand courtesy of Chaeyoung.
“Please look after Yeri and make sure she doesn’t get into too much trouble.”
Seulgi gave the shorter girl a weak smile, “No promises.”
The rest of the train ride was uneventful as everyone settled in for the hours long ride to the castle. True to Yeri’s claim, Irene was sitting at the back of the car with a compartment all to herself. Seulgi felt her heart starting to thump erratically when the older girl looked up at her over the top of her horn-rimmed glasses and muttered a soft greeting to their party. The trolley passed by not too long after and soon there was a small mountain of snacks and treats littered all over the compartment. Seulgi opened her chocolate frogs and handed Wendy the trading cards inside the foil wrapping, much to her friend’s delight.
Wendy immediately reached into her robes and pulled out a small binder that was chock full of the collectible cards. Yeri ‘ooh-ed’ at the impressive collection and called Holland and Chaeyoung over to see if they wanted to trade. The three spent the rest of the day trading cards back and forth and arguing over whether the holographic Severus Snape card was worth more than the mythic rare Lee Jieun card.
When the train rolled into the station, Irene separated from the group to take the carriages up to the castle while the first years were shuffled off to a fleet of magical rowboats that ferried them across the lake. Seulgi shared a boat with Wendy, Joy and Yeri as well as another girl who introduced herself as Yoohyeon. Together they got their first glimpse of the castle and Seulgi couldn’t help but let out a gasp of excitement. She imagined they all had stars in their eyes looking at the magnificent sight, and she couldn’t believe she would be spending the next seven years going to school there. She and Wendy weren’t purebloods, but had come from a solid middle-class wizarding village a few hours outside London. Many of her neighbors had been to Hogwarts but all their storytelling couldn’t have prepared her for this. Still, as she gazed at the magical view she thought about how this big castle would have a lot of confusing corridors and staircases. Maybe she should stick with Wendy so she wouldn’t get lost…
Upon docking, a stern-looking older man named Ji Seokjin welcomed them with an overly dramatic monologue about Hogwarts before leading the throng of first years up a few sets of marble staircases. He told them a little bit about the castle and introduced them to a few of the ghosts that were milling around the grounds. Seulgi couldn’t be more excited. The sorting ceremony would be soon and she couldn’t wait to find out where the Sorting Hat placed her.
As if reading her thoughts, Seokjin pushed open the large double doors that marked the entrance to the Great Hall and gently pushed the ball of new students through. The inside of the hall was just as impressive as the doors, with high vaulted ceilings and thousands of candles floating in the air no more than a dozen feet above their heads, all against a twinkling nighttime sky. Seulgi nudged Wendy so she could pick her jaw up off the floor at the incredible display of magic.
Like a herd of sheep, the first years all pooled at the front of the Hall in front of the teacher’s table, where a single wooden stool awaited them. On top of the stool lay a dingy brown wizard’s hat. An extremely fit man stood up to greet them. Seulgi wondered how much he worked out, especially considering his bulging biceps almost didn’t fit the sleeves of his formal robes. It was an odd pairing to be sure, this buff, tanned man with short brown hair and the formal deep-purple robes that signified him as the Headmaster.
Without missing a beat, the Headmaster picked up a scroll and unfurled it, beginning to read from a list of names.
Seulgi inhaled deeply. So it was beginning. She could feel Wendy’s vicelike grip on her arm as a young girl with short brown hair shaped like a coconut made her way to the front with a few hesitant steps. The Sorting Hat was set gently on her head and after a long pause:
Jeongyeon leaped off the stool, looking relieved as the table on the far left erupted into cheers and welcomed her into their house.
Seulgi watched with bated breath as her new friend scooted past her. She shot her a pair of thumbs-up as the Hat settled on Joy’s head. It seemed to deliberate for several seconds, as though the two were having a conversation before the seam at the brim of the hat ripped open to declare:
Seulgi cheered along with Joy’s new housemates as she joined them. She knew that the likelihood of all of them being placed in the same house was slim to none, but she imagined that at least two of them would share a house. Joy would be a good housemate to have, she thought as the list continued on for several minutes, the pile of first years getting smaller and smaller.
Seulgi’s ears perked up as Yeri bounced confidently to the front, the hat barely touching her head before immediately shouting, “SLYTHERIN!”
Seulgi rolled her eyes and leaned over to whisper in Wendy’s ear. “Figures Yeri would be put in Slytherin.”
“Hard to beat a long line of purebloods. Plus she’s already got someone on her side,” Wendy replied, jerking a finger in Yeri’s direction. To her surprise she saw the blonde being embraced by none other than her older sister Joohyun. Joohyun’s a Slytherin too?
As if Yeri started a wave, three other girls named Tzuyu, Handong and Hyejoo followed her into Slytherin, causing a huge uproar amongst the silver and green clad students.
Two more people walked up and were sorted into Hufflepuff, a cheerful girl with long brown hair named Jiwoo and a quiet boy named Taehyung. More and more people were called for their Sorting Ceremony until only three people remained in the crowd, Seulgi, Wendy and a boy named Daniel.
Seulgi gently pried her friend’s hand off her arm and nudged her in the direction of the Sorting Hat. She watched Wendy approach the stool, her usual bravado nonexistent in the face of such an iconic moment. Wendy needn’t have worried though. The hat stayed on her head for only a few brief seconds.
Seulgi cheered for her friend, absolutely sure that the Sorting Hat had placed Wendy in the right house. She always did have one up on Seulgi in the wit department, and Wendy was always the one helping her with homework and teaching her about things like wizarding history and magical creatures whenever they had a spare moment.
And then it was her turn.
Seulgi suddenly understood how nervous Wendy had been. Here goes the first day of the rest of my life.
The hat was placed on her head and suddenly a voice began speaking in her mind. She felt a strange magical presence sifting through her memories as the Hat began its deliberation.
“Oh, another Kang. I remember your older brother, a Gryffindor wasn’t he?”
“Are you going to place me there?” Seulgi didn’t much care where she was placed, but it would be nice to have someone familiar.
“Hmmm, I certainly see a certain bravery in you. You are steadfastly protective of your friends, an admirable quality. Still, I also see a cleverness just like a Ravenclaw.”
“Really? Wendy’s the smart one, not me!”
“Child, there are many ways to be clever, Ravenclaw does not discriminate. I see you are talented at dancing, the way you almost effortlessly pick up choreography is a surefire Ravenclaw trait. But I also see cunning and ambition. You’re not afraid to get what what you want.”
“Oh Merlin, you’re looking at my second-grade school play aren’t you?”
“Did you really slip essence of earwig into the drink of the girl who took the role of Dorothy out from under your nose?”
Seulgi’s ears turned red with embarrassment.
“Fear not child, I see your remorse. It takes a strong personality and a distinct sense of justice to turn yourself in after the fact. I wonder if Hufflepuff is the place for you.”
“Yes, now that I think about it. Your friend Wendy would be too much of a crutch for you to be placed in Ravenclaw. And I fear being placed in Slytherin with that mischievous Kim girl would only hinder your studies. So now the choice becomes Gryffindor or Hufflepuff.”
“If I have a say in it I think I’d like Gryffindor. Joy is a nice girl and I’d like to be with someone I know.”
She imagined the hat shaking its head in disagreement. “You are too focused on bundling yourself in with other people. You need to learn to stand on your own, find friends of your own etc. In that case then, better be…”
“Wait!” Seulgi thought in a panic. She didn’t want to be sorted in a house with people she didn’t know!
The entire hall was silent for a moment and Seulgi could swear that she could hear her own heartbeat pounding in her chest before the middle table erupted into cheers. She felt the Headmaster remove the Sorting Hat and moved to join the sea of yellow and black that greeted her with warm hugs and encouraging words. She looked over to the Ravenclaw table and caught Wendy’s eye. She knew the Hat was right; she had to learn to step outside of her comfort zone and interact with people by herself. And what better house to do so than Hufflepuff?
The last boy, Kang Daniel walked to the front and was sorted into Ravenclaw and just like that the Sorting Ceremony was over.
The Hat was carried off into a side room while the Headmaster waved his wand, causing an ornately carved tiger podium to appear in front of him. He cleared his throat to grab everyone’s attention.
“Welcome to yet another new year at Hogwarts, I am your Headmaster Kim Jongkook. I wish everyone a splendid year full of learning and growing but before we get to the Feast I’d like to make some announcements. Firstly, as I’m sure many of you are well aware, please do not enter the Forbidden Forest unless under the direct supervision of a Professor. It is forbidden for a reason. Second, there have been rumors of a secret organization that has been forming around London known only as Black Mamba. Let me be the first to assure students that Hogwarts is a safe place and holds a no-tolerance policy for any kind of Black magic. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation please don’t be afraid to talk to a professor, we are here to help. Finally, I shall leave you all with this. Unity is your weapon. Enjoy your dinner.”
An astonishing amount of food suddenly appeared in front of Seulgi and as if on command, every house suddenly dived into conversation as students launched themselves at the feast to pile their plates high with food. Seulgi soon found herself embroiled in a conversation with a girl named Sana and a boy named Bangchan as she loaded her plate with fried dumplings.
She was partway through inhaling her sixth dumpling when she felt a tap at her shoulder, causing her to almost choke on her food. Sana had to thump her back to get her to stop coughing and she turned around to see Wendy, Joy and Yeri behind her, all holding their own plates of food.
“There’s nothing in the rules that states we have to be separated by house for the feast, only for the Sorting Ceremony,” Wendy said with a smile.
“Yeah, besides, Joohyun keeps trying to put vegetables on my plate and I’m not here for that,” Yeri drawled, immediately settling down next to Seulgi and unapologetically stealing two of her dumplings.
“House rivalries can it,” Joy added. The other Hufflepuff students nodded and the table seemed to magically stretch to easily accommodate the new arrivals.
Seulgi grinned happily and introduced her friends to her new housemates, the table soon devolving into a friendly conversation.
“Hey Wendy, is it mentioned anywhere in the rules about visiting other houses common rooms?” Sana asked offhandedly. “Asking for a friend.”
Wendy shook her head. “Nope, not that I read. I guess as long as you’re able to get past the door you can visit whoever you’d like.”
“Can you imagine a Gryffindor sitting on the couches in the Slytherin common rooms,” Joy said, and the table dissolved into giggles.
“You filthy lion, what are you doing in the pure house,” Yeri’s accent was poor but the fact that she herself was in Slytherin made the statement even funnier.”
“My good snake, I’ll have you know that I am a pureblood,” Joy responded in an equally horrible accent. “Haha, I’ve vexed you! Now clean my boots before I talk to my father about this!”
Seulgi turned to look at the side door where the Sorting Hat had been brought. I guess the Sorting Hat was right. Maybe I do belong here in Hufflepuff. I still have my friends, but I can make new ones too. All on my own.
Still, there was one person that she wanted to get to know the most. It was a shame she didn’t even really acknowledge Seulgi.