Disclaimer: the world and inspiration is J.K. Rowling's, I am merely playing with her wonderful creation. A few characters are my own.
There will be some small Fantastic Beasts spoilers later in the story.
Both of us.
Eleven years ago, we curled together in our mother's womb, two tiny hearts beating in tune. Now, we are perfect mirrors of each other: long dark hair, blue eyes. We walk in step and speak in unison whenever we choose. We feel sorry for our classmates: none of them are identical twins. They seem to think we're strange, but we don't care.
We're different from them in other ways, too. Sometimes funny things happen around us. We call them our fairy powers, and they definitely aren't normal.
A few years ago at school, a great bullying slab of a boy called Gavin Hooker cornered us against the fence at the far end of the playground. Everyone knew he was a right violent nutcase and that day he had a seriously ugly look on his face. Before we could run, he'd shoved Jennifer against the fence with his shoulder. He was holding a box of matches. When he lit one, we both began to scream, but nobody was close enough to hear us. "You're such freaks," Gavin spat, his lip curling. "I'm going to fix you. Everyone'll be able to tell you apart after this." He lifted the match close to Jennifer's right cheek as she struggled and shrieked, "Juliet! Juliet!"
Then Gavin had let go, roaring with pain. The match had jumped: wriggled like a little wooden snake out of Gavin's fingers and sprung off his hand at his face, just missing his eye. As he stumbled away in oafish terror, Jennifer picked herself up and we looked at each other, eyes sparkling. Our fairy powers. They only surfaced occasionally, but they were there.
We knew we were special, and we kept it secret. Totally secret, until our eleventh birthday.
I woke early, remembering it was our birthday just before I opened my eyes. Juliet was just sitting up, and she flashed me a smile.
"Happy birthday morning!"
"Woohoo! I love how it's always in the holidays!"
I jumped out of bed and threw Juliet some clothes. She caught our favourite pair of matching purple stripey socks. "Yeah, imagine spending today in school."
We finished pulling on our clothes in the same moment, and ran downstairs.
Dad laid down his paper. "Happy birthday, girls."
The kitchen smelt incredible. "Ooh, has Mum been baking?" Juliet asked eagerly.
"I'm glad you're up," Dad said, as Mum carried over a tray. "I wasn't allowed one before you came down."
"You aren't getting these again before next year, mind."
Hot cinnamon buns! This was a massive treat. Mum could be a pretty great cook, but she was into health food in a big way.
"This makes an exceptionally pleasant change to Weetabix," said Dad, helping himself to a bun as Mum poured herself black coffee.
"I'll say," I said, my mouth full. My eyes met Juliet's. "So...when can we open our presents?"
"Who says you've got any presents? Children only get presents up to the age of ten. After that they give their hardworking parents presents instead, as payback for the previous ten years," said Dad solemnly from behind his paper.
Dad grinned, then reached behind the toaster. "All right, here you go..." He tossed us each a little package.
"No way!" Juliet said, feeling the present inside the wrapping paper, just as I was doing. Just the right size and shape. We ripped off the paper in the same moment and two sleek mobile phones fell into our laps.
"Yes! Awesome!" we said together, and high-fived. We'd been begging to be allowed them for years. Everyone else we knew had one, but Mum and Dad had always insisted they were unnecessary in primary school.
"We thought they would be useful in September," Dad said, with a little smile.
Next month, we were starting at Greenhill Academy, a thirty-minute bus ride away.
"Perfect July weather," said Mum, looking outside. "And we promised you a birthday picnic on the beach, remember! Should be warm enough to swim..."
"Yeah, maybe..." I said distractedly, intent on inserting the battery and SIM card. Juliet pulled out the kettle and toaster plugs and we plugged our phones in to charge.
Skim-reading the manual, Juliet said in a disappointed voice, "We're supposed to leave them for twelve hours, for the first charge. We can't use them till this evening..."
"Oh, the tragedies of youth," Dad said, in a mock sorrowful tone. "What a -"
All of us jumped, and Dad broke off in surprise.
"What on earth was that?" Mum said, frowning.
I looked behind me at the kitchen window, and my mouth dropped open.
Dad pushed his chair back and stood up. "What on earth -"
On the window ledge was a large tawny owl with a letter clamped in his beak, rapping impatiently at the glass.
TAP! TAP! The bird shook his head, jerking the letter at us. His meaning couldn't have been clearer, and at last, Mum shook her head weakly and started to move towards the window.
"Don't let it in, love!" said Dad, alarmed. "It could be dangerous - it could have rabies."
"Don't be silly," said Mum, undoing the latch and tugging at the window, which was stiff as we rarely opened it. "Someone's obviously trained it to deliver letters. Why would they tame a rabid owl?"
The window flew open and Mum stumbled backwards, as with a whirr of wings the bird fluttered in. It landed heavily on the kitchen table, dropped the letter, clacked its beak at us (in a way that clearly said "finally!"), and flew off before any of us really knew what had happened.
For a while, nobody spoke. I watched the disappear to a speck in the blue sky. This was so weird, for a second I wondered if I hadn't woken up yet.
Breaking the spell, Dad at last reached out and picked up the envelope, which had fallen face-down on the table. The envelope was thick, yellowy and discoloured, and on the back was a dark red wax seal. He turned it over and looked down at it for a moment.
"Oh," he said, in surprise. "It's for you, girls."
I was closest, and took the letter when he held it out. It was a fat envelope, stuffed full.
The address on the front was in dark green ink.
Miss J. Belstone
The second bedroom,
33, Honeypot Lane,
Juliet reached out to feel the thick paper with her fingertips, wonderingly. I passed her the envelope and she turned it over in her hands, looking at it closely.
"Is this some kind of crazy birthday surprise, Dad?" I asked suspiciously. "Are you acting? Did you hire a tame owl?"
Dad shook his head. "I'm afraid I'm not that ingenious. But maybe you have an eccentric relative none of us knows about. Who breeds owls. And, er – gets them to deliver birthday cards." He sipped his coffee, bemused.
Juliet slid her finger under the flap and opened the envelope halfway, then passed it to me to finish. "This is the strangest birthday card we've ever had," she said.
There wasn't a birthday card inside, but what seemed to be several folded sheets of old paper, thick and yellow like the envelope. I tugged out the top sheet and flipped it open, noticing the intricate coat of arms printed at the top.
Juliet leaned in close to read it with me.
HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY
Headmistress: Minerva McGonagall, Order of Merlin (Third Class)
Dear Miss Juliet Belstone,
We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a prestigious school for young people with magical abilities. You will most likely have already noticed these abilities surface, in some form or another. At Hogwarts you may expect to develop, refine and control these magical powers, and learn everything necessary to assimilate yourself later into the wizarding community.
Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment and some more essential details about Hogwarts School for your parents. Term begins of 1st September. Information on where to purchase your school supplies and uniform, and how to get onto the school train, will be sent out once an affirmative answer has been received.
Please reply by owl tomorrow. I will be happy to answer any questions you might have.
If a reply is not received, you may expect a visit in person.
Silence. Absolute silence. I gripped the letter so hard it nearly tore. The list of books and equipment fell out and Juliet picked it up wordlessly and read it, while I scanned the letter again, stunned.
Dear Miss Juliet Belstone...
We had, we all had, just assumed the letter addressed Miss J. Belstone, was for us both. People had occasionally addressed letters meant for both of us this way.
There was a ringing in my ears and I gazed blankly down at the letter, feeling my whole world drop away in that moment.
Dad had read the letter over my shoulder, blinking very fast, and now he tugged it from me and held it out to Mum, who read it through very carefully, swallowed, and then looked at my sister in utter astonishment. For a moment, it was as though I wasn't even there.
From far away, it seemed, I heard Juliet stammer, "I – I don't understand!"
Wordlessly I ran my fingers over the letter. It was quite obviously authentic. The heavy wax seal hadn't come from a joke shop, it was too detailed to be a hoax, and it had been delivered by an real live owl, for heaven's sake. Besides...we always knew we had fairy powers. And now here was an offer of a place at a school, a school of witchcraft and wizardry...it should have felt so right. But...
My insides were clenched in a tight knot: fear and confusion clawing at my gut. At last I looked over at my sister. Juliet seemed stunned, her mouth slightly open, her lips dry.
Now, panic was rising in my chest, and I heard myself speak as though in a dream.
"Where's my letter?"
For the first time in our lives, Juliet looked as though she didn't know what to say to me. "Jen – I -"
I interrupted her, breathing shallowly. "This is yours," I said, a catch in my voice. "Where's mine?"