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The Serpent Master by Shaun

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Chapter Two

History Lessons

Neither Jenny or Cleo spoke as they hurried out onto Waverly Road, round the corner into eighteen Palfrey Close. Jenny knew what Cleo was thinking, and Cleo knew exactly what Jenny was thinking. What had happened in the forest? Jenny knew of course that she had flown. She had Levitated, then dropped slowly to the ground once again. There was no denying that at all, even though she wanted to with every fibre of her being. Maybe she had just jumped really high and landed on the ground? If Jenny didn't have such a vibrant memory of her Levitation, she would have concluded that must have been what happened.

And Cleo too felt as if he had felt something. In all honesty Jenny was unsure whether Cleo was saying this just to fit in, or whether he had legitimately had an experience. She knew Cleo liked to joke around, but when things got serious, he was always straight with her.

She seemed to be so deep in thought that she didn't realise when she walked straight into her mother in the hallway.

'Watch where you're going, Jenny.'

'Oh... sorry, Mum.'

'Can you get your brother and come into the living room, please? I want to talk to you.'

Wondering what on earth they had done this time, Jenny flipped off her shoes and ran upstairs, opening her brother's bedroom door to find Cleo lying on his back on his bed.

'Mum wants to speak to us.'

Cleo turned his head but didn't say anything. Jenny gave him a poke. 'Now.'

'What does she want that's more important than what just happened? I can't imagine anything is—'

'Until we know what happened ourselves, keep it stuhm, okay? I don't want Mum worrying about us.'

Cleo's eyes dropped, defeated. He muttered something to himself but stood up and followed Jenny out of the room and downstairs.

Once in the living room, Jenny sensed something was off. Her mother was stood in front of the sofa, pacing slowly between two points. Her father was sat in the corner, watching his wife with keen interest.

'Sit down, please,' she said. Cleo gave his sister a brief look, but both of them sat down on the sofa. There was a moment of silence as their mother continued to pace. The only sound was the low breathing coming from their father.

Slowly, Jenny's mother looked up at her children. Biting her lip, she said, 'Before I start... I just want to let you know that your father and I love you both very much. What I'm going to tell you isn't easy. It's one of the hardest things I've ever done.

'I suppose I better come out and say it. I know what happened in the forest.'

'What?' Jenny exclaimed 'What do you mean?'

'I mean I know that you flew, and Cleo felt strength that he's never felt before.'

'You're barking,' Jenny scoffed. Her mother's mouth twisted into what looked like a smile, but it was only visible for a second, so Jenny wasn't too sure.

'I thought I was too..., but there's something you should know about me...' She breathed in deeply. 'I'm a witch.'

A car in the street beyond honked its horn. Jenny heard the unmistakable sound of a cat knocking over a bin on the other side of the road. She stared at her mother. Witch? That didn't make a lick of sense. Fortunately, Jenny was saved from speaking when Cleo asked 'A witch... like... the wicked witch of the west?'

Their mother laughed. 'Well, I'd hope I'm not wicked... but... in all essence yes... a witch. And Jenny is as well. And you're a wizard.'

The car honked its horn again. Jenny's eyes found her mother's and she sensed pleading. Please believe me, her eyes said. Jenny wasn't sure what to believe.

'Magic is real. And... before you go questioning me again, let me prove it to you.'

She reached into her pocket and pulled out a thin wooden wand, pointing it at a mug on the table next to the sofa. She flicked it.

'Woah!' Cleo exclaimed, for sitting where the mug had been seconds before, was a small hamster.

'How...how did you...'

'Let me explain.'

She pulled up a chair from the other side of the room and sat down as Cleo collected the hamster into his hands.

'I've been a witch my whole life. My parents, your Nan and granddad were a witch and wizard. I went to a wizarding school, then met your father—'

'Is he a wizard too?' Cleo asked.


Jenny jumped. She hadn't realised how quiet her father had been. His head was lowered and he had his hands either side framing it; he looked incredibly pensive.

'I'm... just as normal as the next person. When I met your mother, I was just as shocked as you are. It took some time getting used to, but in the end I accepted it.'

'When you were born... I—we decided to take you out of the magical world. We didn't want you to grow up and not have any understanding of the wider world. There are people I know who grew up in the magical world and have no idea who the Prime Minister is, who Arsenal are or how a TV works. I didn't want you to be the same. I wanted you to have a normal life. As normal as possible.'

She looked over to Cleo; he was nodding slowly. Accepting it. Jenny looked up at her mother, then across to her father.

Yes, she had flown earlier, but magic? It didn't add up. It didn't make any sense at all. Just this morning her mother was kissing her goodbye at the school gates. At lunch time she played football with Katie and Laura. This afternoon, magic is real and she's a witch? No. It can't be right.

'I don't believe it.' she said slowly. Her mother opened her mouth to respond, but before she could Cleo interjected.

'Jenny... I'm holding a hamster that used to be a coffee mug. You flew this afternoon. Look.'

He raised up the hamster in his hands and passed it over to Jenny. He hands shook as the hamster began to crawl over her, its tiny feet digging into her skin. She felt the warmth coming off it. The weight of it in her hands. If it had been a mug, she would have surely noticed by now. But no, this was a living, breathing being. Magic.

She slowly looked up her mother and nodded. Her mother smiled in response. She saw her father sit back in his chair.

'How did you know what we did earlier was magic?'

'I was watching. Magic usually shows itself in someone a few times before you're eleven. Besides, it wasn't the first time you've done it.'

'It wasn't?'

Their mother shook her head.

'Nope... when you were six, Jenny, you got angry because we wouldn't let you watch the telly. You stormed off into your room. When I went in to check on you, your wallpaper had turned lime green. And Cleo, a few years ago you set the shower on fire... when you were in it.'

'I don't remember that...' Cleo said. Jenny too felt rather odd. When had she turned her wallpaper lime green? Not anytime she could remember.

'Well... yes... it was rather difficult, because we didn't want you to discover your magical ability too soon. So we altered your memory and made you forget it.'

Their father coughed from the corner of the room.

'Claire... perhaps it's time to tell them where they're going in September.'

'Yes... thanks, Phil.' Claire looked at her two children. The smile on her face was genuine, and Jenny knew that all that had happened in the past didn't matter anymore. They knew that they were magical and that was all that mattered now.

'In September... you won't be going to Sorenhall. You're going to Hogwarts.'

'What's Hogwarts?' Cleo asked.

'It's the magical school. The best in Europe... well, the best in the world. I went there when I was your age.'

Claire turned her head, a smile forming on her lips as if a memory had just come back to her.

'Where is it?'

Claire shook her head, coming out of her daydream, thought the smile was still plastered across her face. She turned to her son.

'Scotland,' she replied.

'So... we're moving to Scotland?'

'No... you stay at Hogwarts. It's a boarding school. You get a train up there on September the first. You should be getting your letters in the next few days.'

There was a pause. The smile dropped slightly and she turned to her husband who gave a curt nod.

'I realise this must be a massive shock to you. And, I'm willing to answer any questions you may have. Some of them may be more difficult to answer than others... but I'll do my best.'

Claire clearly hadn't anticipated the amount of questions the twins would ask. 'How many wizards are there in the world? How come they're all hidden? What's Hogwarts like? What do I tell my friends when I don't turn up at Sorenhall?' She managed to answer every question they had with ease, but her answers just gave them more and more questions. They ordered pizza that night, and she continued to talk, performing magic again twice, one for Cleo's benefit and one for Jenny's, for both of them were determined to see it again, just to make sure that they were not imagining it. Come one o'clock, Claire had had enough and ordered both Jenny and Cleo to bed. Cleo fell asleep almost instantly but Jenny stayed awake. Her mind pulsed with everything she had learnt that evening. It seemed bizarre that earlier that day she was worried about her maths homework. Her world had flipped upside down in a matter of hours, and when she woke up, she would be waking up into a whole new world. A world where she had no idea what was in store for her.

When she woke, however, it was to hear the rapping of her mother against her bedroom door, ordering her to get up and get ready for school. She almost wondered if she had dreamt the whole thing until Cleo asked her mother why they had to go to school still.

'Because you need to have some kind of understanding of the wider world. You'll thank me when you're older, trust me.'

The walk to school was pretty much non-eventful, though when Claire kissed them both goodbye at the school gates, she pulled both of them close and said 'Remember... say nothing to anyone. Not that they'll believe you, but it's better to be safe than sorry.'

Jenny and Cleo both kept the word. The remaining days of term seemed to drag. At the end of the day Jenny and Cleo would hurry back home to be told more of the wizarding world from their mother. Every day they would learn a little more. Jenny noticed that her mother seemed to leave her wand out more and more often, though whenever anyone came around, the wand went away, and things, on the outside at least, seemed perfectly normal.

Finally the last day of term arrived. Jenny and Cleo spent the day saying goodbye to school friends and playing games in class, finally giving their friends a big hug and keeping quiet when they spoke about meeting up in secondary school.

When they finally arrived home, they found their mother stood in the kitchen holding two thick brown envelopes, looking rather excited.

'Your Hogwarts letters have arrived,' she said, passing a letter to both Jenny and Cleo.

The envelope felt heavy in Jenny's hand. Scratchy writing on the front read

Jennifer Abel

The Small Bedroom

Eighteen Palfrey Close

St Albans


On the back a crest bearing a lion, a badger, an eagle, and a snake surrounding the letter 'H'. Hogwarts. Breathing slowly, Jenny opened the envelope.


HEADMISTRESS: Minerva McGonagall

(Order of Merlin, First Class)

Dear Miss Abel,

We are pleased to inform you that you have a place 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 no later than 31 July.

Yours Sincerely,

Neville Longbottom,

Deputy Headmaster

'What things do we need to go to Hogwarts?' Cleo asked, unfurling his own letter.

'Oh, robes... a wand, books and things.'

She gave both of her children a sincere smile and said, 'Well, I guess a trip to London is in order.'