pocket wilderness

Every year the train fairly buzzes with bets, gold and dollar bills changing hands fast as lightning as the train pulls into Salem. Even the most cynical New York witch gets caught up in the fervent debate that rages through the compartments like a wild fire.

“I’m telling you. It was stone last year so this year it’ll be wood. Oooh, a log cabin!” 

“Oh come on, a log cabin? What is this, 1818? Please. I bet it’s a gigantic apartment. I heard we’ve got more students this year than ever before.” 

“Oh, gross, an apartment? I live in one of those normally, I don’t want to be there during the school year. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a big stone mansion like 1978 had.”

“Those lucky witches.” 

It’s a fight out of the door of the train, dozens of students falling over themselves as they run towards the enormous gates that are the only thing that ever remains the same at the Salem Witches Institute. They reach up to the sky and mark the boundary between the magical and the mundane. From outside, all you can see is a field – standing empty and ruined. That is, if you even make this far. America is huge and wild, even after so long. There will always be hidden pockets of wilderness tucked in among even its most urban states. American wizards don’t need magic to hide away their lands. They just need enough money to buy a good plot out in the middle of nowhere. And America is practically overrun with middle of nowheres.

The first look at their school is always a sacred moment for every Salem witch and wizard (contrary to the name, it has always been a co-ed school. Both men and women died in Salem after all). A moment of stillness as they regard their home before the year begins and they submerge themselves in spells and potions and all things magical.

You see, every year the Salem Witches Institute sheds its skin and begins anew. Bricks might fall out like old teeth as wooden planks push their way out or ivy might peel off like old snakeskin to reveal gleaming stone beneath. Its first year it was a crude log cabin with just one room for all five of its students. The next year, a wooden house stood in its place. The following year, a gorgeous creation of glass and gleaming metal welcomed dozens of students trickling in from all across America as word of this bizarre, wonderful school spread. In 1876, 100 years since America declared its independence, the Salem Witches Institute looked exactly like Hogwarts. Some students were outraged, some were touched, most were confused. But as its Headmistress pointed out, no one but the school could decide what it would look like from year to year. And besides, she said with a definite twinkle in her eye as she welcomed them in, wasn’t it important to remember where we came from so we can see how very far we have come since then?

The European schools tend to look down on the Institute. Even the oldest American school is but a babe in arms next to the Great Schools of ancient Europe. Hogwarts was founded in 990 AD. America wasn’t even discovered yet.

(Of course they forget that long before a white man ever set foot on their land, Native witches and wizards were casting their own spells and teaching their children magic in smoky wigwams or under the starry skies.) 

So, to them, the Institute’s changing nature is indicative of its youth. Like a teenager with a new hair cut every few weeks. It’ll settle down eventually, most European wizards agree indulgently. Everyone needs their rebellious period.

Salem witches and wizards just roll their eyes. Why on earth would you want to remain stagnant when the whole point of magic is change? Every Salem graduate knows, deep in their bones where their spark of magic resides, that magic is renewal and transformation and growth. They go out into the world knowing they can change it. 

(written and submitted by rainbowrites. Rainbowrites has a tremendous ability to capture the wondrous, that spark that made canon seem so significant, even as they depart from canon and create new worlds, explore schools and perspectives only mentioned in passing. I’m always pleased to how else they’ll challenge and play with perceptions of and within the wizarding world. ♥)