Signs and Wonders
woke surprisingly refreshed. She had
gone to bed convinced that she would not be able to sleep. In the weeks since the Hogwarts letter had
been delivered, her thinking had alternated between belief and skepticism. Believing in magic cut across the
well-ordered world logically outlined in the myriad books she had read. On the other hand, it also opened new realms
of study full of opportunities to find a different order to the world. It was simply impossible to explain how
Minerva McGonagall had disappeared right before their eyes using the laws of
physics found in library books.
taken several days to convince her father that they should at least go to see Diagon Alley as recommended. Mr. Granger had used the computer at the
office to check out the address on the card left by Professor McGonagall. The map showed that it ought to be in the
midst of St. James Park, which was, of course, impossible. Last weekend, he had gone there and found a
maintenance shed that looked as if it had been forgotten by the groundskeeper. The only bit of it not hidden by creeping
vines was adorned with a post box.
Granger composed a letter—with plenty of input from both husband and daughter—that
received an amazingly fast response.
This time the heavy stationary and emerald ink clearly described the
location of a pub on Charing Cross Road in
London. It also warned that the front
was charmed to discourage non-magic people from wanting to enter. An escort from the Hogwarts staff would be
waiting in the pub at noon on Saturday to escort them into the Alley.
anticipation grew as she hurried to breakfast.
She was appalled to find her father still in his dressing gown sipping
coffee at the kitchen table. Her mother
had not even come down yet.
late!” Hermione exclaimed in dismay.
not,” Mr. Granger grumbled. “We have
plenty of time.”
Hermione ate her Weetabix and drank her orange juice and then waited for her parents
to get through their languid weekend routine.
She paced between the table and the sink as they placidly perused the
morning paper, not noticing that she was confiscating their breakfast dishes
the moment they appeared done. Her
pacing moved to the hall as they finally went upstairs to dress.
sky Hermione had glimpsed through the kitchen window had progressed to a
drizzling rain by the time they arrived at the train station. The dreariness persisted through the train
ride but the sun had broken through by the time they emerged from the
Underground onto Charing Cross Road. They ate the sandwiches they had brought
along as they walked down the street in the increasingly pleasant summer’s day.
It was not
long after they had finished their meal-on-the-go that Hermione noticed the
numbers on the buildings were getting close.
She drew the letter from her mother’s bag to check her memory. Her heart began to pound as she realized they
were almost upon it.
it is!” she exclaimed as they entered the next block.
enthusiasm waned as she drew near the weathered sign proclaiming The Leaky Cauldron. It was the most dismal tavern she had ever
seen. Bitter disappointment filled her
stomach and threatened to choke her.
There certainly wasn’t anything fantastical about this place.
Hermione?” her mother asked as they came to a stop in front of a record store.
there,” she replied quizzically, pointing to a dull wooden door with large, tarnished
numbers nailed to it.
not,” her father snorted. “It is just
the service entry for that bookshop,” he said pointing to the next business
right there it’s The Leaky Cauldron
and the number is on the door.” Hermione
exchanged worried glances over her head.
there isn’t anything there…just an old door for deliveries.”
imagine what the woman could have meant by sending us here,” Mr. Granger said
irritably. “But, as long as we’re in
town, how about a visit to the zoo?”
parents had turned back the way they had come.
Hermione was torn. The place
really did look like nothing but a service entrance. It was odd, though, that her parents did not
see the sign or numbers on the door.
They had taken several steps down the sidewalk before they realized that
she was not following.
Hermione,” her mother called.
stared again at the shabby building, its worn-out sign and aging door. She looked down at the letter in her hand and
recalled the warning that non-magic people would not want to enter. A terrified thrill ran through her as she
realized that it may be true that she was magical. She could see the identifying parts of the
building where her parents could not; she desired to enter the place in spite
of her parents’ reluctance.
Hermione asked her parents to let her try the door.
father said firmly. “At the very least,
it is a private entrance and we will not be trespassing.” He had taken a few steps back toward the
place where Hermione was rooted to the sidewalk. He reached for her arm as he asked
sympathetically, “Do you want to go to the zoo or shall we just go home?”
Before he could take hold of her,
however, a car backfired in the street startling all three of them. They turned toward the sound on
instinct. Hermione’s parents returned
their attention to their daughter almost immediately but she continued to gape
at the roadway directly in front of The Leaky Cauldron. She could not stop herself from staring at
the violently purple bus with a gold letters on the windscreen proclaiming it to be The Knight Bus.
“It’s nothing, Hermione,” Mr.
Granger muttered as he took her arm, “Let’s go.”
“Don’t you see it?” Hermione cried.
“See what?” her mother replied.
“The bus! It just arrived out of thin air!” Hermione exclaimed and pointed.
Both of her parents looked in the
direction she indicated. The bafflement
on their faces turned into surprise as a woman stepped off the bus onto the
sidewalk. Hermione had never seen an
uglier hat in all her life. Like
Professor McGonagall, the woman wore clothes that seemed overly warm for a
summer day including a fox fur scarf and gloves. A large, red handbag swung wildly as she
straightened her hat, nearly striking the round-faced boy who exited the bus
The noise of the street drowned out
whatever the woman was saying to the bus driver but it was obviously
uncomplimentary. She was likewise curt
to the boy who looked as though he were about to be sick. Disapprovingly, she drew a peppermint from
her bag and gave it to him before stalking directly into The Leaky Cauldron. The boy hurried to catch up after popping the
sweet into his mouth.
Hermione whirled on her parents,
“Did you see that? They went right in!” Another loud bang interrupted her; a glance
over her shoulder told her that it had been the bus leaving in the same fashion
that it had arrived. “It’s got to be
true. There aren’t any normal buses like
“I didn’t see a bus, Hermione,”
Mrs. Granger said quietly before turning to her husband. “I did see a woman and a boy step onto the
sidewalk from nowhere. They did walk
right into that building but it could be their house.”
Exasperated, Hermione strode to the
door muttering, “Please follow; please follow” as she reached for the knob. She pushed it open and felt as if she had
stepped back in time. It was a very old
place with a large fireplace on one side and a long bar on the other. The woman and boy were just exiting the room
through a door in the back while the sound of diners echoed up a passageway
that ought to have led to the bookstore but didn’t.
She had only just registered this
impossibility when the door behind her opened again and her parents entered. Glancing back at them, she saw their anger
fade. They had been struck speechless as
they also became aware of the much larger interior than corresponded with the
exterior. The Grangers’ astonishment was
interrupted by a startling exclamation that came from the bar.
“Marvelous! You came.”
A tiny old man hopped down from a barstool and came over to the family
wearing a welcoming smile and very old-fashioned clothes. “Assuming you are the Grangers, that is.”
the Grangers,” Mr. Granger replied hesitantly.
“Filius Flitwick,” the old man cheerfully
shook hands with both adults and positively beamed at Hermione. “And you are the reason we’ve all come here
today, young lady. I am a professor at
Hogwarts and hope to soon have you in my class.” Returning his attention to the entire family,
he added, “I have lots to show you, we’d best be off.”
He began to
thread his way between the tables before he stopped to inquire about their lunch.
eaten, thank you,” Mrs. Granger replied without glancing at the smug look on
her husband’s face.
saw it, however, and was very glad that the diminutive professor had not. It had been at her father’s insistence that
they eaten sandwiches as they walked so that they would not need to eat at this
place. There were bottles of water in
her mother’s bag as well to avoid drinking anything either. It had seemed such a silly precaution but the
strangeness of this place made her thankful that it was one less thing to worry
Professor Flitwick out the back door of the pub, they
arrived in a small, brick-enclosed courtyard that housed a couple of trash bins
and nothing more—not even the pair Hermione had watched precede them from the
pub just moments before. She felt her
father tense and her mother reach for her shoulder. The professor did not notice their wariness
but simply walked over to a particular section of the wall, pulled a wand from
his coat pocket and tapped several bricks in some sort of pattern.
Grangers forgot their fears as they saw the bricks melt into an archway that
opened onto a cobbled street lined with shops.
Curiosity welled up within Hermione and she moved toward the portal for
a better look. The winding street was
well populated with shoppers, most of whom were dressed even more oddly than Professor
McGonagall had been.
quickly stepped aside as a woman and her daughter headed directly for the
opening in which she stood.
professor,” the daughter greeted the small man as soon as she entered the courtyard
while her mother had only nodded at the group before entering the pub.
he effused in return. “Having a nice
“Yes, sir. We’ve been
busy with my sister’s wedding but it will all be over next weekend. Then I will get busy with my school
you next weekend then.”
followed her mother into The Leaky Cauldron with a smile to Hermione.
professor leaned toward Hermione conspiratorially and whispered, “She doesn’t
know it yet but she is going to be a prefect next term.”
followed Professor Flitwick under the arch and
emerged onto what was clearly Diagon Alley. The very first shop had a stack of cauldrons
in front with a sign advertising “All Sizes; Copper, Brass, Pewter, Silver;
Self-stirring; Collapsible.” A bit further along, there was Quality
Quidditch Supplies and Eeylops Owl Emporium. Her parents
joined her in gazing all around at the unusual shops and people.
approached Flourish and Blotts, Hermione finally spoke.
is that a bookstore?”
one where you would be buying your schoolbooks.
They carry many others as well.
Shall we have a look?”
hasty nod, he led the way into the cramped shop. Hermione thought it absolute heaven. Books sat not only on bookshelves against the
walls but in stacks on the floor, on the counter beside the antiquated register,
piled in the display window, on tables squeezed close together and even in the
only chair in the room. She ran her
fingers along the spines gaping at the titles.
to her parent’s dismayed expressions or the professor’s satisfied one, Hermione
blissfully roamed the store. There was
some order to the chaos evidenced by tiny subject labels on some shelves. She passed over Charms, Dark Arts, Divination
and Herbology before arriving at History. Here she stopped and pulled Modern Magical
History off the shelf.
It felt heavier than the books she
was used to holding. The leather binding
gave it an earthy smell and the crisp parchment pages bore the acrid scent of
ink to her nose as soon as she opened the cover. The Table of Contents was as far as she got
before she felt her mother’s hand on her shoulder once more. A quick peek at
her mother’s face eased her fear of being pulled away. Together they read over the listing and
thumbed through the pages, surprised to find the pictures in motion like tiny
Mr. Granger’s yelp drew their
attention across the store where he stood inspecting his finger.
“That book tried to bite me,” he
complained, pointing to a book next to the register.
“Well, then you must be a Muggle,” the shop’s proprietor stated curtly as he emerged
from a curtained doorway, preceded by a floating stack of books.
“Yes, I suppose I am,” Mr. Granger
“Nothing wrong with that,” Professor
Flitwick interjected diplomatically.
today, Filius?” the bookseller inquired as he balanced
the books on the very edge of the already crowded counter.
“Indeed,” the professor replied
cheerfully. “This is Miss Granger.”
“A pleasure, miss.”
With a nod to her parents, he added “Mr. Granger…Mrs. Granger. In that case, let me show you around a bit.”
It was an
hour later when they emerged from the bookstore into the bright afternoon
sun. Hermione was reluctant to
leave. Between the merchant and the
professor, she had been getting many questions answered but with each answer,
many more questions presented themselves.
She had learned that transfiguration
meant changing an object into something else—like coffee tables becoming cats—whereas,
charms gave an object the ability to
do something that wasn’t in its nature to do—like books floating across the
“It was a
charm then…at the door to The Leaky Cauldron…that made it seem so
formidable?” Mr. Granger inquired as
they continued their stroll down the street.
“Exactly! It is a
rather common way to keep Muggles from stumbling across places of magic.”
“But why do
you hide?” Mrs. Granger asked.
first time, Filius Flitwick
looked sad. “It is a long, sad tale of
fear and bigotry, pride and perfidy.
Suffice it to say that the breach is irrevocable on a large scale,
happily bridged in individual cases.”
His cheerful expression returned as he glanced significantly at the
strolled in silence for several minutes.
Hermione stared at the display in a clothing store window. The long, flowing dress appeared to be a
cross between a ball gown and work clothes.
The fabric was thick and durable but the style was refined and
elegant. It fit perfectly with the
unusual dress of the passing shoppers.
She could not help but wonder if clothes in her size would look as comfortable. Taking note of the sign above the door—Madam Malkin’s
Robes for All Occasions—she resolved to find out if her parents would agree
to allow her to try out this magical world.
that?” she asked moments later, pointing to the largest building by far. It was made of white marble and towered over
the shops that flanked it.
“Gringotts…the bank,” the professor replied. “If you should wish to make any purchases
today, we can exchange your Muggle money there.
it for what, exactly?” Mr. Granger
“Galleons…or Sickles, at least. Knuts are the
smallest coin and hardly worth the bother.”
looked hopefully at her father, thinking of several books she had seen and the
ice cream shop they had passed. He shook
his head when she caught his eye. She
did not notice her mother’s pleading look that joined her own.
we ought to get a little,” he consented reluctantly.
warn you that it is run almost entirely by goblins. Not the nicest creatures but they do a fine job of protecting our
valuables. Leave the talking to me.” He led them up the marble steps to impressive
until they neared the top step that Hermione discovered exactly what a goblin
was. A man even shorter than Professor Flitwick stood guard in a scarlet and gold uniform. In spite of his size, Hermione did not think
he ought to be crossed and stayed close to her escorts. Entering the building brought them
face-to-face with two more goblins only slightly less intimidating due to their
prompt response in opening the inner doors to let them pass.
tried not to stare as the professor and her father conducted their
business. There had to be a hundred
goblins perched on stools working over ledgers along the enormous counter. More goblins guarded numerous doors off the
same chamber. “They guard the vaults,”
Professor Flitwick whispered when he caught her
Professor Flitwick was the only one of the party not visibly relieved
to exit the bank. They continued their
unhurried tour of the Alley. The
Grangers’ escort became rather excited as they neared the end of the street.
last,” the professor pronounced with obvious satisfaction. He stopped beneath the sign that announced
their arrival at Ollivander’s
and turned to address Hermione directly.
“Students are not allowed to do magic outside of school. In here, however, you must attempt magic in
order to be fitted for a wand.” Now
addressing her parents, “It should provide inescapable proof that Hermione is a
witch and that she belongs at Hogwarts.”
looked at one another. This would be the
deciding factor. Up to now, the
afternoon had been filled with curiosities but it felt like a visit to a
foreign country. Hermione had the
feeling that entering this shop would be more like moving to another
continent. Apprehension clutched at her
throat and chills ran along her spine.
want to, pumpkin?” her mother asked quietly as Professor Flitwick
went on to the door.
know,” she murmured back. “It’s so
strange…but exciting too.”
think about it some more. We have a few
more days before we must give an answer.
We could come back tomorrow after we’ve slept on it,” her father offered.
a long way…I suppose we ought to find out…if I can really do magic before we can
decide,” she reasoned.
girl, always rational,” Mr. Granger beamed and gave her shoulders a
squeeze. “Just say the word and we’re
out of here,” he added in a more serious tone.
steadying breath and the warmth of her parents behind her, Hermione entered the
door marked Makers of Fine Wands since
later, the Grangers were happily hosting Professor Flitwick
to dinner at The Leaky Cauldron, finding it to have a reputable dining room
after all. Hermione could barely eat
although the shepherd’s pie tasted marvelous.
A pile of packages sat in the chair beside her. The topmost package contained her most valued
possession—a wand. Mr. Granger had had
to make another trip to Gringotts because once they
had gotten started it had been difficult to stop.
would always cherish the moment her hand held her wand for the first time. The tingling had started the instant she’d
grasped the third wand Mr. Ollivander had presented
to her. Before she could drop it, however,
red sparks shot from the end of it eliciting gasps from all three Grangers and
applause from Professor Flitwick. Mr. Ollivander was inordinately
pleased and carefully gave the wand’s technical specifications as if christening
it: vine wood, dragon heartstring,
11-1/4 inches. There was no way she
could leave the shop without it.
As soon as
they regained the street, questions about Hogwarts poured out of her and
Professor Flitwick happily answered every one. She had been careful about the questions she
had posed in the bookshop but once the packaged wand was tucked under her elbow,
she lost all restraint. When they drew
near Flourish and Blotts once again, Hermione begged
her father for the last book she had perused during their earlier visit: Hogwarts,
The cost of
the wand had taken nearly all of his wizarding money but
he had to agree that knowing more about the school was a very good idea. He and the professor returned to the bank
expecting the Granger women to meet them at the bookstore. While they waited, Hermione and her mother
visited the stationary shop a few doors away, which precipitated more
to practice writing with a quill and ink if I’m going to be any good!”
had joined in the enthusiasm of his daughter and wife, insisting on ink that
changed color as you write. “Adds a bit of fun,” he determined.
you’ve formally submitted your agreement to have Hermione at Hogwarts, I’d be
happy to escort you again for purchasing school supplies.”
but I think we’ll be alright as long as Hermione can get us through that wall.”
she can! It isn’t exactly magic to open
it but rather like a password that merely requires a
wand. We’ll practice one more time
before you go.”
It was well
past the late summer sunset by the time Hermione dropped into her bed that
night. She smiled to herself in the
darkness. There was no doubt that this
had been the best day of her life.
Better than the many birthdays and Christmases that had been wonderful,
far better than any time she had won awards at school and infinitely better
than receiving her acceptance letter to Westfield.
rested in its box beneath her pillow and the book had replaced the stack of
“appropriate reading” on her bedside table; quill, ink and parchment sat on her
desk ready for tomorrow. If she had not
been so tired, she would have started on the book right away. It had been torturous to ride the train with
it wrapped in paper on her lap. Professor
Flitwick had warned against opening the book where
Muggles might see it and question the animated pictures. By the time they were home, her heavy eyelids
would not allow more than the unwrapping of the packages to assure herself that
it had not been a ruse.
night, Hermione,” her mother murmured from the doorway before turning out the
night,” she sleepily called back—to the most wonderful parents in the world.