The Sugar Quill
Author: Tapestry (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Eshu's Daughter  Chapter: Ch. 2 - Inside The Leaky Cauldron
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Ch. 2 - Inside The Leaky Cauldron

Ch.2 - Inside the Leaky Cauldron

***

Disclaimer: Hogwarts and the Harry Potter universe belong entirely to JKR and Warner Brothers. I am merely playing in their world and no copyright infringement is intended. Kit, of course, belongs to me.

Acknowledgements: Chapter 2 could not have been completed without the help of the ladies at the Sugar Quill Workshop, the world's best beta-reader Aquilla, and the king of all things grammatical Tommy. Thanks guys! Your ideas and help make my life much easier and keep the story on track.

***

When the owl returned the next day, Kit was chasing an enormous butterfly through her backyard. Her fingertips were a breath away from brushing the jeweled blue wings when an envelope struck the top of her head and ricocheted off into the grass. Kit skidded to a halt, rubbing the top of her head as the owl swept past her and snatched the butterfly out of the air. He clicked his beak with relish as the last hint of fragile wing disappeared.

"That's disgusting," Kit muttered retrieving her letter. When she had straightened, the owl wheeled back around and landed on her shoulder. He gave a low, purring, hoot and rubbed his feathery cheek against hers. "I see you've forgiven me for the milk bath."

Kit scratched the owl's downy chest with her fingertips. "I wonder if you have a name? I can't keep calling you owl."

She stood still for a minute, thinking hard. Hadn't she read a story last year that mentioned an owl? What had it been called? Totula? Tottani? To-to? No wait, Totoba. Yes, it had been Totoba.

"How about Totoba? I can call you Toby for short." A swift, sharp call beside her ear seemed to announce the owl's agreement.

"Toby it is then. I'm very pleased to meet you." Kit's grin was playful as she held a hand up to the owl. Toby nipped her fingers. Kit just laughed, happy to be wrapped in sunshine with an owl on her shoulder and a magic letter in her pocket. She still couldn't quite believe it was real. Toby's talons gently pressing into her shoulder reassured her, despite the slight discomfort.

They were just inside the backdoor when her mother spotted them and let out an indignant, "Kit!" Hands on her hips, she stood next to the sink, prepared to defend her kitchen.

Kit's expression was apologetic as she looked up at the owl. "I'm not allowed to have animals in the house." Toby seemed to understand; taking flight, he disappeared back through the open door. Kit sincerely hoped this letter didn't require a response. "There's another letter mom. Can I open it?"

"You'd better get your dad to come down first," her mom said, still frowning out the door after Toby. "Don't know what's wrong with using the mail," she grumbled under her breath. Kit dropped the letter on the counter beside her mom and headed for the stairs.

She supposed her mom's irritation was understandable. Toby had left a few scratch marks on the table yesterday that no amount of waxing seemed able to hide. Kit rubbed her arm reflexively, the muscles still ached. She'd fallen into bed mumbling "wax on, wax off" bitterly. Ralph Macchio should have kicked Mr. Miyagi's butt.

Kit found her dad hunched over the desk in their spare room, his tongue curled into a pink comma at the corner of his mouth. He scrunched his eyes in concentration as he glued a tiny wheel onto the base of a squat bi-plane. She tiptoed into the room and waited until he'd drawn back to admire the new wheel before clearing her throat.

Her dad looked up in surprise and Kit couldn't help laughing. He was completely hopeless, so absorbed in his planes it was amazing he remembered to breathe. "Don't you get enough of those during the week?" she teased.

He growled in mock anger, "I'll have you know this is an F-1 Camel. This little beauty shot down more enemy aircraft in World War I than any other fighter plane." He caressed one of the homely brown wings, his fingertips just grazing the surface.

"If you can tear yourself away from that ah ... um, Cardinal." Kit tried to keep her voice serious but it wobbled as he winced and muttered "Camel!"

"The owl's brought another letter and Mom won't let me open it till you're downstairs. But if you'd rather work on your F-13 Canary..." The giggle she'd been choking on finally snuck out and Kit's eyes crinkled as she laughed.

Her dad's frown turned serious. Tearing himself away from the plane he followed Kit out the door, but he kept peeking over his shoulder as they left, his eyes lingering on the unfinished wheel. Kit was still smiling when they entered the living room.

Her mom had moved to sit on the couch, flicking rapidly through a magazine in her lap and glancing up to glower at the letter every few pages. The yellow envelope sat perfectly in the center of the coffee table, its top parallel to the table's edge.

Kit reached for the letter but her dad plucked it out of her hands before she'd even straightened up. He simply held it for a moment, his eyes lingering on Kit's name scrawled across the front. Straightening his shoulders resolutely, he took a deep breath as if about to defuse a bomb, and broke the seal, pulling out a single page. Her mom dropped the magazine and watched him, her features tight with anxiety.

Kit's dad glanced over the letter quickly before beginning to read aloud:

Thank you for agreeing to attend the Hogwarts orientation on 22 August. Prospective students and their family members will please arrive outside Foyles Bookshop of London, located at 113-119 Charing Cross Rd, no later than 9am. Those wishing to use the underground should exit at the Tottenham Court Road Station. A Hogwarts representative will be on hand to greet you and a mid-day meal will be provided.

Sincerely,

Minerva McGonagal
Deputy Head Mistress

"Well at least they're feeding us," Kit joked. Neither of her parents smiled.

With a sigh her dad slid the page back into its yellow envelope. He stared out the window for moment while her mom began to compulsively straighten the couch pillows. "I suppose that's it then," he said at last. "We'll just have to wait and see what this is all about." Watching her mother pat the last pillow into place he seemed about to add something else, but with a look at Kit he pressed his lips together and left the room.

***

By August 21st there wasn't a speck of dust left in the house. All the spiders were in self-imposed exile, and if there had been mice, they'd probably died of starvation weeks ago. On the day of the second letter, in a fit of nervous energy that showed no signs of abating, Kit's mom had begun dusting mini blinds and scrubbing base boards. Now that her mom had run out of things to straighten, Kit had taken to hiding in her room. Only yesterday her mom had begun eyeing Kit's uneven bangs speculatively.

Her dad, on the other hand, acted as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. The spare room had been declared out of bounds to Kit's mom after her enthusiastic cleaning resulted in a certain World War I casualty. Consequently, Kit had been spending a fair bit of time hiding in there as well. Her dad had begun work on a new World War II deHavilland Mosquito. Kit's eyes glazed over listening to him describe each of the plane's features. His voice was filled with the same excitement a young boy has for a sloppy mud puddle. "They were made using plywood and balsa-"

While her dad's enthusiasm for model planes was undimmed by the approach of their London trip, his eyes seemed to linger on her more often lately. More than once she'd wanted to snap at him about it.

The night before the trip to London, Kit yanked open her closet door and stared inside. A row of t-shirts stared back, jeans folded precisely on a shelf beneath them. Her mom had already been through here. Even her shoes were lined up like recruits for an inspection, laces perfectly tied, each pair evenly spaced from the others. Had her mom used a ruler?

For the first time Kit regretted that her wardrobe didn't contain a single dress or skirt. She wanted to make a good impression tomorrow and somehow her prized Wile E. Coyote t-shirt just didn't seem right.

She closed her eyes and picked a t-shirt at random. Bart Simpson grinned mockingly back at her. That wouldn't do either. Who could possibly make a good impression in a t-shirt that said 'underachiever: and damn proud of it' across the front. She threw Bart on the floor and made a blind grab for another shirt. Miami Dolphins. How about I just write, 'Hi y'all, I'm from America' across my forehead. T-shirt after t-shirt ended up at her feet, until she was staring at the back wall of her closet. Fantastic.

"Kit!" She spun around to find her mother standing in the doorway, looking dangerous. "Pick those up now! I did not spend two hours ironing them just so you could throw them on the floor."

"But I–"

"Not another word, pick them up right now."

"Mom, I can't find anything to wear for tomorrow..." Kit glared down at the mound of t-shirts covering her bare feet. Her mom's stern expression melted.

"Oh honey, I'm sure that's not true. What about those tops Aunt Elinor sent you last Christmas?" Her mom moved to the dresser and pulled open the bottom drawer, revealing a white clothes box. "I know they're not in your usual style," she said as she drew two shirts out, "but I think they'd be just the thing." She smoothed a hand over the soft blue and yellow fabric of each top. They were made of some loose, floaty material that caught the light and reflected it back in tiny bursts of iridescent color.

"I'd forgotten all about those," Kit said. She moved closer and reached out to touch one of the filmy sleeves. The tops were completely useless for climbing trees, but they'd be perfect for tomorrow.

"I think the blue would look really lovely with your hair, dear." Her mom moved Kit in front of her dresser mirror and held one of the shirts up.

Kit shook her head. "No, I like the yellow better." The yellow just seemed more – optimistic. Giving in to impulse, she turned and hugged her mom. "Thanks," she breathed out with a sigh, forgiving the past couple weeks of neurotic cleaning.

Later that night, Kit was still thinking about the orientation as she got ready for bed. She let her clothes fall in an untidy heap on the floor, changed into a clean pair of pajamas and pulled back the covers. There, waiting for her, was a teeny brown vole, nose twitching in interest.

Kit plucked the vole from the sheets and took him downstairs. With a distracted little pat she set him in the backyard and headed back to her room. She was too used to finding odd creatures in her room for the vole's presence to have interrupted her thoughts. She couldn't help worrying the school representative would take one look at her tomorrow and say, "There's been a mistake, you don't belong at Hogwarts."

Kit was careful to put her invitation letter and school list on top of the clothing she'd set out for the next day. The invitation was bent and creased, its edges ragged and a smudge of strawberry jam partially obscured the word "Dear." She let her fingers linger for an extra moment on the parchment, tracing her name.

***

An impatient "beep, beep" announced the taxi in front of their house. Kit checked her pocket one last time to make sure she had the letter. "Mom, Dad, taxi's here," she yelled, as if they weren't capable of hearing the taxi. Her mom's face appeared at the top of the stairs.

"We'll just be a minute, Kit. I can't seem to find your windbreaker."

Kit pointed to the coat hanging beside the door as it always did. A blush crept across her mom's cheeks and she hurried down the stairs chased by another irritable "beep, beep" from the taxi. Kit's dad was right behind her.

"It's August," Kit said when her mom pressed the coat into Kit's hands.

"It might rain." Her mom grabbed her purse and urged Kit out the door. Kit glanced skeptically at the cloudless sky and then glared at her dad's empty hands. Neither of her parents was bothering to bring a jacket. Her dad shrugged as he caught her look.

The journey to Huntingdon station was accomplished with little conversation. It only took them a few minutes to locate the correct train and purchase their tickets. Kit pressed her face against the window as the train pulled out, jiggling in her seat.

"You've got a while before we reach London. Please try not to leap out of the window," her dad said in a dry voice. Kit turned to sit properly in her seat, pulling out the letter to read it one more time.

When they reached Kings Cross Station and switched to the underground, the only thing that kept Kit from running to her seat was her mom's hand planted firmly on her shoulder. However, as she watched the tunnel signs flash past, Kit felt her stomach start to churn.

What if no one's there? What if it's a prank? What if I'm not good enough to get into the school? Kit's doubts and fears circled in her mind like a pack of wolves, ripping apart her enthusiasm. She was subdued by the time they reached Tottenham Court.

There were several other families waiting just to the left of the main entrance when they arrived at the bookshop. Each family had claimed a tiny section of concrete. Kit and her parents selected a spot near the door as the adults in the groups on either side watched them suspiciously.

Kit smiled tentatively at a handsome, sandy-haired boy nearby. He grinned back, rolling his eyes at his parents who were whispering like actors in a bad spy movie behind him. He turned to say something to the girl beside him. She must have been his sister because she had the same sandy hair and cheerful face. She was dressed as if she'd walked out of an ad for one of the expensive department stores. Kit tried not to hold this against her. It was a real struggle, however. Kit's faded jeans, with their frayed cuffs and worn knees, suddenly seemed unforgivably scruffy.

Kit ran her eyes over the gathered families counting silently. There were eleven other children around her age. Some families had also brought along an older or younger sibling. There wasn't a single pair of jeans among them. Kit hunched her shoulders, self-consciousness clamoring inside her.

Her eyes were drawn to a small mousy-haired boy on her left. He danced in place with excitement, quivering so much Kit would have thought he was having a seizure if he hadn't been smiling and talking in a shrill, high voice. "Dad, dad, do you reckon all these people are witches and wizards? Can we go in the bookshop? Can I –" he rushed on, the words coming so fast they tumbled together. An even smaller and younger version of the boy stood beside him, looking just as excited as he stared up at his brother with wide eyes. Kit felt exhausted just watching them.

"–Where do you think the school representative is?–"

"Colin, calm down! I can't answer all your questions. You'll just have to wait." The boy's father looked harassed as he tried to stop his son from bouncing around the street, but he was smiling as he spoke. Lucky Colin, his Dad didn't seem freaked out at all. Kit stole a glace at her parents. They looked as if someone had died.

She felt someone watching her and fought the urge to duck behind her mom. Her eyes searched the crowd before settling on a figure directly across from her. It was like looking at a black and white photograph: dark hair fell straight to the girl's shoulders framing her colorless face and just brushing the collar of her black dress. Even her eyes were some sort of light, washed out gray. Like the photo Kit had imagined, the girl stood absolutely motionless, as if the stillness was a part of her. Not even the slight breeze dared to ripple her dress or tug playfully at her hair. Kit felt a small shiver race down her back and turned away.

She was trying to sneak a look at her dad's watch when a voice spoke from their left, just past the bookshop steps and the small crowd.

"If I could have your attention please," said a tall black-haired woman in a green tartan suit. She looked like a stern librarian with her lips tightly pinched. "I am Professor Minerva McGonagall, the Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts." She paused for a moment, looking assessingly at the small crowd. "If the students and their families would please follow me."

The professor led them briskly over to a grubby looking pub that Kit hadn't noticed before. It was clear from the arrested look on the faces around her that she wasn't the only one to have overlooked it. I suppose we were too busy looking at each other. A sign hanging above the door read "The Leaky Cauldron" in cracked and peeling gold paint.

Kit followed her dad through the narrow double doors with her mom pressed uncomfortably close behind her. The dimly lit room they entered had a bar at one end and clusters of small wooden tables and chairs scattered about. Other than the families and the professor it seemed to be deserted.

Professor McGonagall led them past the bar and through one of the inconspicuous wooden doors in the back. A large, oval table, its oak surface scarred and dark with age, dominated this new room. Old-fashioned gas lamps set into the walls provided a warm, peachy glow.

With a sweep of her hand the professor invited them all to have a seat and closed the door with a snap. Kit was surprised when she eased into one of the ridged-backed chairs to find the seat warm and soft, far more comfortable than it had looked.

"Thank you for taking the time to come to London today," the professor began. "I am sure that you have many questions. I hope that soon most of them will be answered." She moved to one end of the table, which had been left devoid of chairs, and folded her hands primly at her waist. "I am also sure that many of you are highly skeptical of the letter your children have received. You don't believe that there is magic in the world today let alone that it can be taught. The magical community has taken great pains to ensure that you think exactly that." She let her eyes roam the table, daring someone to contradict her. No one did. Apparently satisfied, she continued in a less challenging tone. "We do not find it... prudent to make our presence known to the non-magical population, for various reasons.

"Magic is a talent that each person is either born with or not. The majority of people will never know that magic exists, possessing none themselves. Your children, however, were born with that special ability. If each of you will take a moment to think, I am certain you can come up with many instances when curious things have happened around your children without apparent explanation. In the untrained witch or wizard magic is unfocused and unpredictable. It will reveal itself during times of high emotion, such as when a child is angry or afraid." Professor McGonagall paused for breath.

Most of the parents were now staring at the professor intently, several nodding their heads. "I must impress upon you how special your children are. They each possess incredible potential. In the magical world that potential can be fully realized and children are taught to control their abilities." She said the last rather pointedly and her eyes flicked briefly to Kit's right.

Kit looked as well and felt her chest ache with the effort of holding in laughter. Colin was floating an inch or so above his chair, his expression so excited it was painful to watch. Kit doubted whether anyone other than herself and the professor had noticed. She was wrong. On the other side of Colin's family, the sandy-haired boy from earlier elbowed his sister and jerked his head in the other boy's direction, smiling widely. Kit met the siblings' eyes for a moment and the three of them grinned.

"Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is one of the finest establishments of magical learning in the world today. The curriculum is divided over the course of seven years; similar to the non-magical school systems with which you are familiar. In their first year students will attend Astronomy, Herbology, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Potions, Charms and Transfiguration classes. They will also be given instruction on broomstick flight." Kit thought there was a twinkle of humor in the professor's eyes, but it disappeared so quickly she was probably mistaken.

There were looks of open disbelief all around the table and Kit distinctly heard a woman down the table from her whisper loudly, "She's mad, absolutely out of her mind. I told you this was a waste of time-"

"Yes, well it is a lot to take in," the professor's voice cut the woman off, returning the room to silence. "Perhaps before we go any further you would like a short demonstration?"

Professor McGonagall pulled a long, thin stick out of her inside pocket, and Kit realized with a start it was a magic wand. The professor raised the wand and with a slight flicking motion of her wrist said "Wingardium Leviosa" pointing at a cup on the table. There were gasps of astonishment as the cup floated into the air and Colin gave a high-pitched squeal of delight.

The professor motioned the cup back to the table and with another flick transformed it into a frog. The frog croaked at them and hopped forward with a heavy thump, causing several people to edge backwards. The professor returned the cup to its original state and waited. Kit could hear her mom's breath coming in short, tight puffs and noticed that her father had gone white.

"H-How did you..." stammered a stout woman to Kit's left, mopping at her face with a handkerchief. She seemed unable to finish her question.

"I realize this is shock for you, how difficult it must be to understand. My purpose here today is merely to introduce you to the magical world so that you can understand how important it is for your children to receive the proper training," Professor McGonagall said kindly. "Why don't I try to answer a few of your questions?"

Mr. Ellsington's hand shot into the air. "What will happen if we decide not to let our daughter attend your school?" Kit's stomach clenched, twisting into an angry knot. They wouldn't.

"We will not force your children to attend Hogwarts. It is ultimately a decision that each of you must make for yourselves. If at the end of today's orientation you decide not to let your children attend, then you will be free to walk out that door and go about your lives just as you have before. I assure you we are not monsters out to steal your children," the professor replied in a sharp voice.

More questions were fired at Professor McGonagall but Kit was too busy trying to remember how to breathe to hear them. Her parents weren't going to let her attend. She'd never considered the fact that they might accept the existence of magic and still refuse to let her attend Hogwarts.

Kit watched her father's face grow harder with each question, felt her mother trembling in distress beside her. The reality of their refusal grew more solid with each passing moment, until she felt crushed under the weight of it, her mind battered. She wasn't going. She would get back on the train today and be expected to attend the base school this fall as though there had never been a magic letter.

Something hot and dark swelled in her chest, rage bubbling and churning. How can they! How can they do this to me? For one wild moment Kit wanted to strike out at them, to hurt them as much as they were hurting her. She turned to her mother, not quite sure what she was going to say but needing to say it nonetheless. Her mom's eyes looked back, clinging to Kit like a lost child. The rage melted away leaving her cold and empty.

The churning in her stomach now came not from anger but the realization that she had actually wanted to harm her mother. She had never felt that kind of rage before, never imagined she was capable of it. Kit wanted to weep almost as much for her near loss of control as for the lost opportunity to study magic. After a while, the professor's voice filtered back through to her brain.

"I believe it's time for our mid-day break. If you will please look at the menus in front of you," Professor McGonagall was saying. Kit watched with astonishment as menus printed on scrolls of cream parchment appeared in front of each of them. "You may order whatever you like by stating the item clearly aloud."

Demonstrating, the professor looked over her own menu and then said very clearly, "Steak and kidney pie and a small gillywater." A plate appeared in front of her with a thick square of pie and a glass of some bluish-colored liquid.

Kit's despair was momentarily forgotten in her excitement at this new magic. She grabbed her menu and looked over the items. She recognized many of the dishes listed but had never heard of most of the drinks. Pumpkin Juice, bleck that sounded horrible. And what was Butterbeer? You probably had to show an ID to order it. She'd better stick with water.

"Shepard's Pie and a glass of water, please," Kit requested. Both appeared instantly. With a sigh that didn't even begin to express the magnitude of her misery, Kit tasted the Shepard's Pie and tried to enjoy her meal. Carefully searching her emotions, she was relieved to discover no trace of her earlier rage.

While they ate, many of the families discussed the morning's events excitedly. Some of them even began to share stories with one another. "And when he was two Hugh got the cookie jar down off the fridge. Found him in the kitchen sharing macaroons with the dog. Never did figure out how he'd done it," said one woman, beaming at her round-faced son while she spoke with the couple next to her.

Kit's parents hadn't spoken since her father's question. They ate in steadfast silence after ordering their meals, refusing to look at the other families, Professor McGonagall or Kit.

By listening closely to the conversations around her Kit was able to discover the names of some of the other children. The sandy-haired boy and girl were Spencer and Ellie. She'd already heard the mousy-haired boy called Colin, but she also learned his brother's name was Dennis.

The dark-haired girl with the odd manner remained a mystery, however. Her mother, like Kit's parents, wasn't speaking. The woman looked around at the other diners, her eyes wide. She reminded Kit of a startled rabbit, unsure if it should run back to its burrow or just run away all together. Oddly enough, it seemed to be the children that frightened her most, her eyes skittering away from them.

After watching their empty plates and glasses vanish again, Professor McGonagall once more stood up to address the families. "Before we continue on to the second half of this orientation I must ask each of you to make a decision as to whether or not your child will be attending Hogwarts. Those not wishing their children to attend are welcome to leave at this point; the rest of you may stay in your seats for the moment please."

There was some general muttering and discussion around the table. Kit saw several couples openly arguing. Kit's dad stood up at the same time as her mom. They didn't need to say anything; their decision had been made long before now. Maybe even before they'd arrived in London.

Kit considered pleading with them, crying, yelling, anything to make them reconsider. Her dad made a preemptive strike however, his eyes locking on hers and warning her not to create a scene. He'd only used that look on her once before; she'd ignored it then and hadn't been allowed out of the house, except for school, for a whole week. To someone that loved being outside as much as Kit, that was a severe punishment indeed. She briefly entertained the thought of defying him anyway, but finally just stood, her shoulders slumping in defeat.

Another couple had also risen, their son with them, and were already making their way across the pub floor. Kit grudgingly trailed behind her parents, ignoring the eyes that watched them. Her dad was halfway across the front room, when Professor McGonagall's voice stopped them.

"Mr. and Mrs. Ellsington, please wait a moment," she said, hurrying after them. The professor looked at Kit with an unreadable expression and then drew her parents closer to the bar. They were standing close to the kitchen door, where the clink of glasses, and what sounded like an old radio, muffled their conversation. Her mom never took her eyes off Kit, as if afraid she might be snatched away. Kit turned to watch the other family disappear through the front door unimpeded. When they were gone she glanced toward the back room and discovered Spencer and Ellie watching her from their seats. Uncomfortable with the identical sympathetic looks they were giving her, Kit turned away and looked around the bar.

Several people had entered the pub while they were in the back room. They all seemed to be wearing what looked like graduation robes, but very few of them were a traditional black. Most fell somewhere between dark purple and dark green, and some of the robes even had fancy embroidery and various elegant embellishments. She was looking with halfhearted interest at a handsome, smiling man in a particularly gaudy robe of brilliant turquoise when her parents returned.

Her father was looking even paler than earlier, his face now the splotchy color of oatmeal. Kit glanced curiously from her parents to Professor McGonagall, just reentering the back room. Wonder what that was all about, Kit thought, shoulders sagging as she lost sight of the professor and prepared to leave. Her parents, however, didn't move toward the entrance.

Her mom grabbed Kit's hand as if she was two and her parents marched back into the other room, following the professor. The fact that they were staying made up for Kit's embarrassment at being treated like a baby. Almost. She wriggled her fingers trying to get free but stopped as she heard one of the boys snicker unkindly. Kit straightened her shoulders and tried not to blush. Even when they were sitting down again, Kit's mom refused to let go of her hand, cradling it in her lap.

"I am very pleased that you have all decided to remain," Professor McGonagall said smiling around the table tightly. "We will presently be taking a brief tour of Diagon Alley, the magical world's version of Charring Cross Road. There are many magical shops in Diagon Alley where you will be able to find all of your children's school supplies. After our tour you may make your purchases or you may come back later in the week for the supplies if that is more convenient. If you would all please follow me." The professor swept out of the room and took them farther back into the bar. Passing through another narrow doorway they found themselves in a small walled courtyard with a ratty looking dustbin set against one wall.

Professor McGonagall tapped one of the bricks above the dustbin with her wand and stepped back. The brick wriggled, a tiny hole appeared in its center and then grew bigger until Kit was looking out through a large archway onto a cobbled street crowded with more people in robes. Kit gaped at the pointed witches' and wizard's hats and had to bite back a giggle when she noticed an old woman wearing a particularly ugly hat with a stuffed green vulture perched above the rim.

Professor McGonagall took a few steps forward into the street, and turned to address them. "Welcome to Diagon Alley," she said, with the first real smile Kit had seen her use all morning.

Shops were shoved close together, some with quaint balconies and little chimneys, others large and imposing. The shop windows all held interesting things like barrels of newt eyes, cauldron displays and large brass telescopes. Kit could spend hours here and never see enough. Professor McGonagall beckoned them through the archway before turning to address them again.

"In the future, if you need to get into Diagon Alley, Tom the barkeep at the Leaky Cauldron can let you in. You are welcome to come back and explore anytime you would like, although I would caution you that just as with the other side of London there are dangers to be found here as well. It is best if you visit Diagon Alley mainly in the week before term starts at Hogwarts or when accompanied by an experienced witch or wizard."

Mrs. Ellsington squeezed Kit's hand, making it go numb. Kit wasn't going to say anything though and risk her parents trying to leave again. Even the continued smirks aimed at her by several of the other children couldn't stop Kit from smiling as her head swiveled back and forth trying to take it all in.

***

End Notes: In Philosopher's Stone JKR tells us that the Leaky Cauldron sits next to a bookstore. In that same book, and again in PoA, we learn that the pub is also located on Charring Cross Road. Conveniently enough, Foyles Bookshop of London fits the bill perfectly. Is this the bookstore JKR was referring to? While I'm not certain, it's certainly likely. Foyles is often called the world's greatest bookshop and has called Charring Cross home since 1906. Totoba is the Menominee word for owl. The Menominee are a Native American tribe located in Wisconsin and Totoba features in their legend of the origins of night and day. This is the story that Kit is referring to when she names Toby.

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