Angelina’s Worst Year

Elizabeth Reynolds hadn’t known she was a witch. In fact, she would never have believed that magic was real until the day she received a letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

It didn’t appear with the regular post. Instead, it slid through the slot just as Elizabeth happened to be passing by the front door. At first, she assumed it was one of her mother’s pranks. When she was nine, a year after she’d stopped believing in Santa, she received a letter from a “St. Nick,” detailing all of the ways she’d disappointed him that year (She hadn’t done well in her English class, she never made her bed, she hadn’t gotten her mother anything for her birthday, et cetera). The letter was illustrated with careful drawings of frowning elves and reindeer. For a moment, Elizabeth was a little nervous, but after taking a second glance at St. Nick’s handwriting, she knew it was her mother’s idea of a good joke.  

When the letter from Hogwarts came, her mother spotted it almost instantly. She shushed Elizabeth by placing a finger to her lips, then grabbed her hand and walked up the stairs to Elizabeth’s bedroom. Checking to make sure Elizabeth’s father, David, was well out of earshot, her mother closed the door and broke out into a grin and wrapped Elizabeth into a very un-British hug.

David always said, “I was the one who taught Angelina how to really hug. When we first started seeing each other, I was afraid she’d end one of our dates with a handshake. She was so formal.” Elizabeth had trouble imagining that as her mother clutched her tightly. Angelina Johnson Reynolds was almost dancing with joy, the long braids she always wore swaying so hard Elizabeth backed away to avoid getting whipped by the tip of one.

“Mum, come off it. I know that this is one of your jokes,” said Elizabeth, rolling her eyes. She wasn’t actually annoyed, but she wasn’t going to be taken for a sucker, either. That was one of her dad’s sayings that made her British mother scoff at his “American brashness.” Elizabeth liked it because it sounded a little rude. Almost like a swear.

Instead, Angelina just smiled and said, “Wait one minute.” She left the room on tip-toe and came back moments later with a large wooden box and a long, intricately carved stick.

“What in the world is that?!” said Elizabeth.

“It’s my wand,” her mother said simply. She placed the box on the bed and muttered “Lumos.”

A brilliant white light emanated from the tip of the wand. At first, Elizabeth thought that it might be something her mother had bought at a joke shop, but soon, she realized that no LED light could shine that brightly.

“Is it really….”

“Yes, it’s magic,” Angelina said in a whisper, her eyes fixed on Elizabeth’s face, trying to read her expression.

“And that means I’m a….”

“You’re a witch, just like me. Your half-siblings are magical, too. But they’re purebloods. Their father is a wizard,” Angelina explained before muttering “Nox.” The bright light quickly extinguished.

Elizabeth felt a flood of questions forming in her mind. Did Fred and Roxanne know they were magical? Why wasn’t her father up here with them, discussing it? Would he allow her to go to this Hogwarts place? Why hadn’t her mother told her before now?

“Just ask me one question at a time,” her mother said, seeming to read her mind.

“Is Dad a wizard, too?” she asked quietly.

“No, darling. He’s what we call a ‘Muggle.’ That means a non-magical person. But he does know that I’m a witch. I told him right after he proposed. He was…shocked, to say the least, but his people are from New Orleans. If I was going to marry an American Muggle, I definitely picked one who was least likely to be frightened by the idea of magic. We’ll go downstairs and tell him in a moment. I just wanted to enjoy explaining all of this to you first, witch-to-witch.”

Elizabeth just nodded. Her dad’s mother always told stories of people who’d been cursed or possessed, and she knew an herbal remedy for any ailment you could imagine. She could definitely see her father adjusting to the idea of his wife being a witch fairly easily.

“But why didn’t you tell me before now?”

“I wanted to wait until you were a little older. First, to see if you were magical. Not everyone who is born into a wizarding family can actually perform magic, but I had an inkling once when you were four. You nearly slipped down the steps and managed to bounce yourself safely to the floor. Young witches and wizards sometimes unintentionally do magic when they are in danger. It’s like a reflex.”

“And Fred and Roxanne know about their powers?” Elizabeth felt herself getting a little jealous.

“We don’t ‘have powers,’ exactly. We just have the ability to perform magic. The magic is in us. It’s as much a part of our DNA as the color of our skin,” Angelina explained. “And yes, Fred and Roxanne know, but I had them sworn to secrecy. They are Weasleys, one of the biggest and oldest Wizarding families, and so they grew up in the Wizarding World, but I wanted something different for you. I wanted you to be able to fit into the Muggle world, because…I wanted you to be confident in every aspect of your identity. The British Wizarding community is small, which means there are even fewer Black witches and wizards. They may say that the magical world doesn’t have racial issues the way Muggles do, but they are kidding themselves.”

Elizabeth just nodded. Her mother was getting fired up, something to which she was accustomed. Her father always said that Angelina’s intensity was one of the things that he loved most about her. When she cared about something, she was unstoppable. Elizabeth wanted to ask more questions about the “Wizarding World,” but then she remembered the box. “What’s in there?”

“This is a box full of my old Hogwarts things. Just old books and papers and a few trinkets I haven’t had the heart to chuck, yet.” To the untrained ear, Angelina’s voice would have sounded casual, but Elizabeth knew better. Her mother had been waiting for years to show her this box. Whatever anger she might have felt for being kept in the dark about magic started to melt away.

Angelina gently lifted the top off of the box and motioned for Elizabeth to move closer to her side of the bed. Her mother carefully sifted through the contents of the box, stopping occasionally to explain what something was.

There was an old essay on something called the Gemino Curse from her Transfiguration class (“It’s where students learn to change an object into something else by actually altering is molecular structure. Awfully difficult at times, but cool, nonetheless.”), her red and gold Gryffindor scarf, an old Sneakoscope which was supposed to go off whenever untrustworthy people were near, her favorite quills because apparently wizards had never heard of ballpoint pens – it was never-ending.

“How does all of this stuff fit in here?” Elizabeth asked in amazement.

“I used an Undetectable Extension Charm. It makes the inside of a container larger, without changing the object’s weight or external appearance. It’s how we’ve avoided paying fees for overweight bags whenever we fly,” Angelica chuckled. Elizabeth rolled her eyes affectionately. Leave it to her mother to use magic for something so mundane.

She was about to say as much when she suddenly noticed something weird about an old newspaper her mother was holding. “Are those pictures…moving?!”

Her mother let out a hearty laugh and said, “Yep. One of my favorite things about the magical world: the photos move and the paintings? They can talk. There’s so much I want to show you and teach you, but first…” Angelica trailed off as she fished out a small velvet pouch. She loosened the drawstrings and out popped a small, golden ball.

“This…is a Golden Snitch. It’s one of four balls used to play Quidditch, a wizard sport that’s essentially rugby – but played on flying broomsticks.”

“You are joking!”

Her mother chuckled. “I know it seems pretty outlandish, but it’s so much fun. Some of my best school memories are from playing Quidditch. In fact, I was captain of the Gryffindor team during my seventh, and final, year at Hogwarts.”

“Wait? You actually played that insane game?”

“And I was quite good at it. I played throughout most of my time in school, but after the old captain, Oliver Wood, finished his seventh year, I was named captain. I’d always thought him dreadfully intense, but that was the most stressful school year of my life.”

“What was the problem?”

“Two words: Harry Potter,” Angelina laughed. “Bloody hell, there’s so much to tell you…I guess I should start at the beginning…”

Elizabeth couldn’t quite believe everything that her mother told her next. It all sounded like something out of one of her father’s fantasy movies. An evil wizard working to take over a secret world of magic, her own Uncle Harry was the Chosen One who was destined to fight him, a Ministry cover-up, a “toad-faced” tyrant placed in a position of power at a secret Wizarding school to undermine the headmaster who was also leading the revolution against said evil wizard, and finally, a huge battle in which teenagers used magic to defend themselves and their school.

“Sometimes I wish that I’d been more patient with Potter. After all, he was one of about two people who actually told us the truth about Voldemort’s return. Up against the Ministry and constantly taunted by Umbridge, but I still can’t help but wish he’d held his tongue and managed to stay out of detention. But in the end, we won, thanks to your Aunt Ginny.”

“Aunt Ginny played, too?!” Elizabeth was impressed.

“Oh, Ginny went on to play professionally. But yes, she played and so did Fred, George, Charlie, Ron, and Harry. In fact, that’s how I got to know George so well. He was a fantastic Beater and became one of my closest friends. The marriage didn’t work out, but it’s nearly impossible to hate George.”

Elizabeth had always marveled at how well her mother got along with her ex-husband. They always seemed like old friends, rather than former spouses. Her mother had always said that she wanted to make certain that Elizabeth had a close relationship with her half-siblings, and that to do that, she had to forgive George for the things that had gone wrong with their marriage.

“He was never cruel or unfaithful, but after his brother Fred died…he just wasn’t himself. They had been together their entire lives. To lose the one constant in your life at such a young age…it was a bridge we couldn’t seem to get across,” Angelina explained.

“But today isn’t a day to rehash old troubles. Today is about you getting your letter. Come now, love. Let’s go tell your father the news. There’s so much to do! We have to withdraw you from your school, figure out what we’ll tell your Muggle family next year, go to Diagon Alley for supplies…”

“What’s Diagon Alley?” Elizabeth was almost tired of asking questions, but a huge mound of information had just been dumped on her – each thing more interesting than the last.

“It’ll be your first real introduction to the Wizarding World, and I cannot wait to share it with you,” Angelina said, pulling her daughter to her side.