A cloaked figure with a pointed hat stepped before the three of them just as they were about to exit the Leaky Cauldron.
“Professor McGonagall!” Harry gasped and Libby’s eyes adjusted to take in the details of the older, very stern faced woman.
“I don’t have time to explain, Potter, but I need your help. I see you have met Miss Archibald…if you and Miss Granger could make sure she is readied for her first year, I would greatly appreciate it,” the woman rushed glancing left and right, thrusting a paper and several Galleons into Harry’s hands.
“But Professor…” Harry tried to clarify.
“No time, Potter! Just do as I ask. You’ll be fine to peruse the shops within Diagon Alley. Do not go any further and stay out of Knockturn Alley. Dumbledore will see Miss Archibald upon her arrival at Hogwarts and all will be explained.” Then she turned right to Libby and smiled warmly, the age etched in her face deepened and her eyes twinkled just a bit. A quick breeze ruffled the feather in her tall, pointed hat and the professor handed Libby an envelope sealed with wax. “Welcome home, Miss Archibald.”
And then she was gone, leaving the three adolescents staring at each other, completely bewildered.
Libby chanced a glance down at the envelope to see scrawling letters that were hard for her to decipher, but she could make out her own name right there on the front.
“Go on, open it, Libby!” Harry smiled knowingly.
With shaking hands, Libby turned the envelope over and ran a finger over the wax seal. Carefully, she slipped that same finger under the flap and snapped the seal open. She looked up to see the expectant faces of Harry and Hermione before she pulled the letter out and unfolded it.
Dear Libby Archibald,
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 September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.
“I don’t understand…” Libby said lost for words. She was completely confused.
“Let’s just get you to Dumbledore. He seems to have all the answers,” Hermione chimed in, pushing the two out of the doorway.
Libby scanned the second page, identical to the paper the professor gave to Harry, and saw it was a list of books and items she had never heard of…or thought twice about. A small paper floated to the ground and Libby picked it up. It looked like a ticket.
“Keep that safe, Libby. That is your ticket to Hogwarts. But don’t worry, we will be with you the whole time. It will all make sense soon,” Harry said pointing at the paper in her hands.
Hermione took the paper from Harry. “Robes. We need to head to Madam Malkins first.”
Libby had no choice but to follow the pair, still feeling in the dark with very few answers. Her mind was racing as fast as her heart. None of this made any sense.
Madam Malkins was dim inside and it took a bit to be able to see. A thin woman strode to them, a beaming smile on her middle-aged face. “What can I do for you, darlings?”
“Libby here needs her first year robes,” Hermione said pulling Libby forward.
“Ah!” the woman exclaimed in delight and pulled out her wand. A tape measure exploded from the end and fell to the floor. The woman muttered to herself, as if to remember something, and hurried to a rack of black robes. Rifling through them, she came up with what she had been looking for.
Libby slipped Hermione’s robe off and shrugged into the new one. The woman clapped in delight. “Perfect fit!” she shrieked.
“Great! We need three of them, a hat, gloves, and one for winter with silver fastenings,” Hermione said in a commanding tone.
It wasn’t long after and Libby held a heavy bag in her hands and Hermione led the way to the bookstore; Flourish & Blotts.
The store was small and crammed with bound papers and parchment everywhere you looked, clear to the ceiling. It felt full and as though it might explode at any moment. It was clearly the day for shopping because every inch of walking room was filled with people bumping against other shoulders and intertwining bags, many apologies being muttered as they all tried to move through that small, cramped place. It made Libby anxious to slither through the crowds being in a strange place and afraid to lose sight of her circumstantial friends.
Hermione sensed the hesitation in Libby and grabbed her arm, towing her into the clustered people, Harry following close behind. He seemed to be scanning each person, as if they were all criminals that needed to prove themselves otherwise to him.
There were eight books on her list, all with strange names and magical references. “This one is very informational if you take the time to read it,” Hermione said handing over a copy of The Standard Book of Spells.
Libby turned the book over in her hands, the weight of the volume intimidating her with her reading abilities.
“That book saved the three of us on more than one occasion our first year,” Hermione continued with a smirk aimed toward Harry.
“Yeah, if Hermione hadn’t been there to bail Ron and I out, I don’t think I’d be here talking to you right now. She has always been the smart one of our bunch,” Harry agreed.
“And here is A Beginner’s Guide to Transformation,” Hermione said. “Professor McGonagall is such a great teacher of that subject.”
Harry started laughing. “Just don’t get on her bad side…so you know, she transforms into a cat before class starts. If you’re late, she will know. Ron and I found that out the hard way.”
The three of them laughed about it together and Libby relaxed a little bit.
When all eight books were packed into bags and the weight had been distributed between them all, they hurried outside for fresh air.
“Now we are down to the fun stuff, right Hermione?” Harry asked looking at the list over her shoulder.
“It’s time to see Mr. Ollivander for a wand,” Hermione replied excitedly.
“Mr. who?” Libby questioned as she quickened her pace to keep up with Hermione.
Harry jogged a few steps to catch up as well. “You’ll like him. He’s been crafting wands for ages and he will find just the right wand for you. See, the thing about wands is that there is one out there that will speak to you. Not really, but you will know when you are holding the right one.”
Ollivander’s shop was charcoal in color on the outside with a turret of dingy windows on either side of the door. The inside was dusty and smelled of ancient things. The sunlight filtered through the particles floating in the air, casting softened sunbeams through the windows and into the dim space. There was barely enough room for the three of them to stand with all the shelves of small boxes in varying colors.
“Would you like us to wait outside, Libby?” Harry asked.
“Why?” she replied staring in awe to the ceiling where the wand boxes finally stopped.
“Well, it can be a very personal experience. If you’d rather we weren’t watching, we understand.”
Libby thought about this. Her heart raced at the thought of ‘personal experience’. Would he make her undress? Would he ask her things that no one else knew? Perhaps things she was embarrassed about… But the thought of being in there all alone made her feel small and afraid.
“No, if you’d stay with me, I would feel better,” Libby said turning to look at both of her new friends, fear shining back at them in her eyes.
“Don’t worry, Libby. We are here for you,” Hermione comforted with a hand placed on her shoulder and a slight squeeze of encouragement.
“Hello? Mr. Ollivander?” Harry called out.
“Mr. Potter? Is that you?” an old, feeble voice called from somewhere ahead of them.
“Yes, sir. We have a friend in need of her first wand,” Harry replied in the direction the voice had come from.
A white haired man appeared, time and experience apparent in the lines on his face. He smiled warmly at Libby. “I was able to recognize Mr. Potter at first glance, my dear, but I can’t seem to place you. Tell me your name…”
Libby’s mouth went dry. Had there been some mistake? Did she really not belong here after all? A sigh escaped her. Perhaps she just didn’t belong anywhere. “I’m Libby Archibald, sir.”
Ollivander straightened as though she had struck him and his eyes narrowed at her. “Archibald, you say?” Libby nodded in acknowledgment. “It’s been many years since that name has entered my shop, Miss Archibald. It’s good to have you back.”
Libby felt at ease in his grin.
“Shall we find your magical partner? Let’s see…”
Ollivander came away with a small black box and he blew the dust from the top. Carefully, he removed the lid and lifted out a long, slender, crafted piece of wood. “This is a strong oak with a soft core. Hold it in your hand, see how it feels to you.”
Libby took the end he offered. It felt cold and smooth in her hand.
“Wave it around a bit,” Harry whispered to her.
She moved it around as a music conductor would and a few sparks flew from the end and it gave her a small shock, as if she had drug her socked feet over the carpet and touched a doorknob. She dropped the stick immediately and rubbed her fingers. Harry quickly retrieved the wand from the floor and handed it back to Ollivander.
“Well, that’s not the one…” Ollivander muttered. “We will try again.”
It felt like it took all day, one wand after another, before a tired Ollivander went in the back and brought out a gold box. Gently, he lifted the beautifully crafted piece and handed it to her.
Tired of being shocked, Libby hesitantly took the wand and immediately felt a sense of peace wash over her. A light began to form from her insides until she was glowing like a light bulb. The wand grew warm in her fingers, like it belonged there.
Ollivander sighed with a large smile of yellowed teeth. “I should have guessed that Hornbeam would have been the one for you, Miss Archibald. It recognizes the passion in you, even if you haven’t recognized that in yourself.” He drew his face closer to hers. “This wand will be so loyal to you that no one else will be able to use it, even for simple spells.” He stood again and continued, “The core is Unicorn Hair, which almost always refuses to perform dark magic. It is very forthright and becomes very attached to its owner. But don’t mishandle this masterpiece, my dear Libby, for it will grow sad and could die. But I don’t sense that to be in your character, young lady. It has a soft composition so it quickly bends to your style of magic. It loves you. This wand would not choose someone with a dark tendency. It sees light and love within you, and a fierce loyalty. Perhaps that will be a guiding light for you as you come into yourself.”
Libby felt as if she had just taken the very first breath of her entire life. She never wanted to let go and felt like she would revert to her old self so she refused to repackage the wand.
“If you look right inside your robe, Libby, there is a pocket made just for your wand. Stow it away while we are still shopping, we don’t want to make anyone nervous,” Hermione smiled at her, never having experienced such a moving wand choosing before. Not that she had seen many, but it was so electrifying, it made all the hairs on her body stand at attention.
Satisfied with keeping the wand in her robe pocket, she slipped it right inside. It was like watching a butterfly in science class come out of its cocoon. Libby thought she certainly felt like the butterfly, once being restrained now being set free. Almost like a rebirth, a new start.
“Come on, it’s getting late and we still have a few things left on your list. But I think we can find the rest fairly quickly,” Hermione said once they had received the wrapped box from Ollivander. Libby put it in one of her other bags and they started toward yet another shop in search of a cauldron.
A young man trailed by two others strode up the street and Libby thought he had intention plastered over his pale face and was accentuated by his nearly white, albino hair. A sneer formed over his mouth and Harry changed course down the sidewalk. The white headed boy changed his course to match, coming straight for them. With a muffled thud, the fair-headed boy’s shoulder collided with Harry’s.
“Watch where you are going, Potter!” he called out.
A feeling of loathing came over Libby. It was a darkness she couldn’t shake.
Harry turned to face the young man. “I think you are lost, Malfoy. Knockturn Alley is the other way!”
The sneer turned into a spiteful grin. “Just had to be able to say that I rubbed shoulders with the Great Harry Potter, you poor excuse for a wizard. It’s a bit warm for my taste over here. But The Leaky Cauldron has the best Butterbeer and I’m famished. It was nice to bump into you, Potter.”
Libby felt Harry’s mood shift and become rather turbulent. The energies of the two were polar opposites, like two magnets repelling each other and the longer they stood in each other’s presence, the stronger the resistance became.
“Shove off, Malfoy,” Hermione commanded, pulling Harry’s shirt sleeve.
“You’d better follow like the dog you are, Potter, or that mud blood will put a collar and leash on you!” Malfoy retorted and he laughed, being joined by his two companions.
Libby’s heart began to pound in her ears and anger brewed within her. The boy instantly turned his eyes to her.
“Who are you? I’ve never seen you before, you must be a lowly first year.”
Libby’s blood turned to ice and her hands and feet went numb. She struggled to hold onto that wonderful feeling she felt in holding her wand the first time.
“This is Libby, Draco, for your information. And yes, she is a first year. Leave her alone,” Hermione said standing her ground after Malfoy’s apparent insults.
“Are you a mud blood too? You look like you don’t know a thing. It would explain why Granger here feels the need to protect you and speak for you. She’s such a puppet master, that Granger. She pulls the strings and you all do exactly what she wants you to. As long as you are with her, you will never think for yourself. She tends to ‘know it all’,” he smirked and flicked his light eyes to Hermione to gauge her reaction.
Anger overcame Libby and she stepped closer, her hand on her wand for strength. “I am capable of thinking for myself, thank you. Now go away and leave us alone!”
Draco took one step back and looked at her in surprise, almost horror even. “You aren’t even from here, are you? How did you get into Hogwarts when you are American? No accent, no manners… My father will hear about this, mark my words!”
And with that, Draco turned on his heel and continued down the road toward The Leaky Cauldron with his henchmen on his tail.
The anger lifted from Libby and she let go of her wand once again, her breath coming quickly and her hands and knees shaking violently.
“Who was that?” she asked absently. “I mean, I know his name, but who in the world could be so awful?”
Hermione snorted. “You can’t let him bother you, Libby. He’s a picture perfect Slytherin and he comes from a line of Death Eaters. He’s vile and nasty and I expect he always will be. Definitely not worth your energy to hate him. That’s what he likes, what he feeds on. Pay him no mind.”
“What’s a ‘mud blood’?” Libby asked as they resumed walking.
No one spoke for a moment. Hermione’s usual knowledgeable self grew quiet and retreated within herself. Harry cleared his throat. “It’s a term used as a slur toward those who have no magical parents. It means ‘dirty blood’. Some witches and wizards feel that they have no place in the magical world.”
“Is that what you are?” Libby asked quietly, hoping to not offend.
“No, Harry had magical parents. I do not, however. So I will be forever insulted by people like Malfoy,” Hermione answered thickly.
“Well, I don’t think I have magical parents either…” Libby said to comfort her. “I didn’t even know I was magical.”
Hermione smiled. “Well, from the look on Ollivander’s face, you have ties in your family line to the magical world. I however, do not.”
“I’m sure Dumbledore has all the answers…he always does,” Harry chimed in and they entered the cauldron shop to buy a pewter, standard size 2. But the words ‘Death Eaters” stuck out in Libby’s mind like poison and her curiosity began to intensify in this new world that had found her.
Within just a few minutes they had finished the list down to just choosing what animal Libby wanted to take with her, if she so desired.
“An owl, cat, or a toad?” Libby asked aloud as if it would answer her question to say it aloud. “How do you decide?”
Hermione stepped closer to her and her very knowledgeable voice turned on. “Well, a cat is a cuddly friend when you just need someone to be close to you. An owl is good for sending messages though. And I have no idea why anyone would want to have a toad. I mean really! They aren’t good for anything!”
“But there is a special connection with owls. They have more to them than just delivering letters. Hedwig is very protective of me and she seems to know when I’m upset. So they really are the most versatile pet to bring with you. It depends on who you talk to because Ron would tell you that cats are the devil, right Hermione?” Harry laughed.
Hermione scowled at him. “Ronald is totally daft if he thinks Crookshanks killed his rat. That doesn’t make my cat a bad companion, Harry. It just means Ron can’t keep track of Scabbers.”
They walked at a leisurely pace, peeking in windows and watching people bustle about as the sun was close to setting and the sky turned a lovely shade of yellow-blue and the sun’s beams turned to gold. They came to a shop where loud screeching could be heard from within and something caught Libby’s eye.
Sitting regally upon a perch was an owl cloaked in feathers the color of rust with bright yellow eyes wide and black talons. She looked right at Libby and made that instant connection. “I want that owl,” she said softly.
Harry beamed beside her. “She’s amazing, Libby. She can’t take her eyes off you.”
Libby entered the shop, it was dank and cool inside with obvious splats of bird excrement covering every surface. The handler placed the red owl in a vintage looking wire cage and Libby handed over the coins in return.
“What will you name her?” Hermione asked.
“Serendipity,” Libby replied.
“Perfect,” breathed Harry. “We should probably get back to The Leaky Cauldron. It’ll be dark soon.”
“Where am I supposed to go from there?” Libby asked suddenly realizing she was stuck.
“Well, I assume you will stay with us there,” Harry said shrugging his shoulders and pushing his round spectacles back up on his nose.
“My parents will be worried sick if I never show up again. How can I just stay here?” She started chewing the inside of her cheek nervously.
Hermione put her arm around Libby’s shoulders. “Dumbledore has everything under control, I’m sure of it. Don’t worry, just take the time to become great friends with Serendipity and we will do what we can to fill you in on this new side to your life. Maybe we will find out something about your family or even find your magical family.”
Feeling uneasy, Libby went with them back to where it all started.