Hogwarts and its inhabitants belong to J.K. Rowling.
Thanks to Zsenya for her
One: Suspending Disbelief
I should never be
allowed to drive alone, that's all I can say. Well, that's not quite all
I can say. I should really never be allowed to drive in a foreign country
alone, but that's exactly what I did a few weeks ago. I was in Scotland
on vacation with a group of girlfriends, and I decided to rent a car and
just go off on my own. I thought, what's the worst that can happen? I
get lost and I drive a little longer. To a Texan, even an eight-hour drive
is short, and Scotland isn't that big.
I was on a small winding
road coming away from a deserted little village when I spotted an old
castle. It used to be a castle anyway. I pulled over and started to walk
around. I don't know what drew me to this particular ruin covered in ivy,
and surrounded by overgrowth, but it seemed worth exploring. There was
a sign warning of danger, so I walked all around the ruin, being careful
not to step into any big cracks in the ground.
I got out my camera
and looked for the right angle to photograph the ruin. The sun was behind
the best side, so I didn't think the picture would be worth much, but
as I snapped it, I thought I saw the outline of a larger castle. I shook
my head and wondered what was in the tea I had had with lunch. Then, I
heard a voice behind me.
"Excuse me, I
was wondering if you were lost." I turned around and there was the
strangest looking man I'd ever seen. He was tall and thin, with long white
hair and a long beard. The clothes he had on were pretty over the top.
He was wearing a pointed hat and long purple - I guess you'd call them
robes. I didn't want to stare, so I pretended to be looking for something
in my bag.
I said. "I hope it's OK for me to take a picture. I was just out
exploring, that's all." Normally, I would have just said I was fine
and left without another word, but there was something so friendly and
inviting in this person's blue eyes that I didn't feel a bit threatened.
"By all means.
You may take as many pictures as you like, Miss -"
Yolanda Johnson." I said holding out my hand.
to meet you, Mrs. Johnson. My name is Albus Dumbledore." He shook
my hand. "You sound as if you are far away from home."
"I guess my accent
gives me away. I'm from a city in Texas just right north of Dallas. I'm
here on vacation." I couldn't shake the feeling that I knew his name
from somewhere. "You know, your name sounds familiar. Have you written
a book or something?" I asked him.
but I did recently write introductions to two books that were sold to
support a charity called Comic Relief, U.K."
"That's it. My
husband bought those books for me in March, when I was recovering from
surgery. You wrote the forwards to the books about the fictional sport
and the magical creatures."
Mrs. Johnson. I hope you are well now."
"Oh, sure. My
idea of recovering from surgery was to go hiking in Big Bend National
Park during my son's spring holiday two weeks after the operation. It
wasn't anything serious. I guess you've never been to Texas, or have you?"
"I'm afraid I
haven't been in the United States in many years."
"Oh, you need
to come back soon, then." I was getting a little worried about what
I was seeing behind him. "Mr. Dumbledore, I keep seeing flashes of
the outline of a large castle. Is there something going on here that I
should be worried about?"
"No, not all.
I take it as a good sign that you can see a large castle in the background,
because Mrs. Johnson, there is a large castle in the background."
"OK, now you're
freaking me out. Maybe I should leave-"
you are the first Muggle to ever stop here to look at the ruin. I have
certainly never heard of any of your kind being able to see the outline
of the castle. Clearly there is some reason for you to be here. We have
simply not discovered it yet. Follow me."
"Oh, man. I'm
beginning to feel like I'm a sandwich short of a picnic, but all right."
What was that he called me? I wondered.
He chuckled - at my
expression, I think, and then he beckoned me forward. I followed him through
part of what used to be a wrought-iron gate. As soon as I had crossed
to the other side, a large stone castle with lots of towers and windows
appeared on top of a mountain. In front of the castle was a lake. I could
swear I saw something with tentacles floating near the surface.
ain't in Kansas anymore," I said in an awe-filled voice. "Where
the heck am I? Did I die in a car wreck all alone in the middle of nowhere
or have I finally gone psychotic?"
Johnson. You are at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
"Wait a minute.
Didn't one of books have a Hogwarts library stamp on it or something?"
Would you like to see the building?"
"But I thought
this place really didn't exist. I thought it was all part of the marketing
of the books. Hogwarts is supposed to be a magical place and magic isn't
real. I mean, I'd like it to be real. But I've never been able to work
any magic myself, unless you count sneaking five new pairs of shoes into
my closet unnoticed."
He smiled at me. "You'll
see, Mrs. Johnson. It is a real building. You just have to be willing
to accept that it is real." We started walking toward the front steps.
It almost seemed like we got there faster than I would have expected,
but at that point who knew what to expect!
"You might as
well call me Yolanda, since you seem to be taking me on a trip to the
Land of Oz."
"Very well, Yolanda,
but tell me, where is Oz?"
"It's a fictional
place in a book by L. Frank Baum. The book is about a hundred years old
-" I stopped short at the top of the front steps of the castle. "What
beautiful doors!" I heard myself say as he opened an enormous carved
oak door. Then I saw a large entryway with a magnificent marble staircase
at one end. To the left was a huge room with rows of tables.
"This is amazing,"
I said, looking into the large room. The ceiling looked just like the
"Yes, the Great
Hall is where we take our meals. During the school year, it would be full
seems to look like the sky outside. Is that a magical weather forecast?"
"The ceiling is enchanted
to show the current conditions outdoors. Why don't I take you to my office,
Yolanda. I have a feeling we might discover why you are here if we look
in a certain book."
I said, thinking, What the heck, I might as well. "If
you don't mind me asking, Mr. Dumbledore, what do you do? Are you a teacher?"
"As a matter
of fact, Yolanda, I am the Headmaster of this school. I used to teach
Transfiguration many years ago, but now I simply see that things un-fold
as they should for the students here." He gave me a funny look, I
guess because he saw the gears turning in my brain.
is the art of changing one object or person into something different,"
he said. "We begin here with simple exercises, such as turning a
match into a needle, and then move forward to human transfiguration."
"As in, 'She
turned me into a newt. I got better?'" I asked, immediately realizing
that I'd blurted out something quite politically incorrect. I mean, there's
not much chance he'd seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail and if
he had, wouldn't it be offensive to him?
"I'm afraid I
don't understand," he said, and his eyes seemed to twinkle.
"Oh, it's a line
from a very silly film. It's not important."
"Ah, yes, the
cinema. I'm afraid I haven't seen a film in many years, perhaps even as
long ago as 1957," he said, with a faraway look on his face. Does
he know that was the year I was born? I wondered.
He led me through
several corridors. I had to stop a few times because I thought I was seeing
things. The people in the paintings seemed to be moving. Not only did
they move within each painting, but they also moved from frame to frame.
A couple of them even talked to me. I guess they weren't used to seeing
one of my kind.
"Oh, Mr. Dumbledore,
this place is wonderful. I just can't believe it! I have so many questions
to ask you. Do you use wands to cast spells? Can some of you work magic
by just blinking or twitching your noses? Where do you keep the imps and
He chuckled again
and said, "For most ordinary spells and charms, we use wands. Some
can be done without a wand. As for blinking and twitching one's nose,
I cannot imagine where you got that idea."
to admit that there was a television program in the '60's called Bewitched.
That's where the blinking and the nose twitching idea came from."
"Now that you
mention it, the Ministry of Magic was not at all pleased when this program
was imported from your country. As for Unicorns, they live in the Forbidden
Forest, which I can show you later. Not all the creatures you read about
in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them live on the school grounds,
though. Our Care of Magical Creatures teacher, Rubeus Hagrid, at times
imports different creatures to use in his class."
"Wow! It's all
He smiled in an almost
paternal manner. Those twinkling eyes of his were very engaging. He just
made you feel like you were instantly his good friend. He led me to the
end of a corridor where a large and very ugly stone gargoyle stood in
front of a wall. He walked up to it and said, "Chocolate Frog."
The wall behind the gargoyle opened up and I could see a spiral staircase.
"Wow! This is
way cooler than a metal detector. That's what I have to go through to
get to my office." He smiled again. Just as we were about to get
onto the moving spiral staircase, I heard a voice from behind me.
sir. I need to speak to you about Peeves. He's really done it now. It's
urgent." I turned and saw a very sour-looking man. He wasn't really
tall, nor was he especially short. He looked like someone who liked to
snoop around. His eyes narrowed suspiciously as he looked me over. His
robes looked a bit more functional than those of Professor Dumbledore.
I thought maybe he was a custodian. Behind him was an ugly, stringy looking
"If you don't
mind, Yolanda, I will leave you in my office while I address this problem.
Mr. Filch, if you will allow me to take our guest up to my office, I'll
be right back."
"Of course, Professor
and I got on the moving spiral staircase. I'd never been on a spiral escalator
before. He opened the door at the top and pointed to a nice leather chair.
Then, he shut the door behind him. I sat there, looking around and wondering
if I was totally out of my mind, when I saw the most beautiful bird I'd
Let me just say, I
don't own a bird. I'm strictly a dog person. This bird, however, was spectacular.
But what wasn't spectacular in this place? The bird was about the size
of a swan and a deep red in color. Its tail was gold, and was as long
as a peacock's tail. He looked at me and cocked his head. Then, he began
to sing a very strange and unearthly song. For some reason, the sounds
comforted me. I wasn't exactly on the verge of an anxiety attack, but
I was close, until I heard the bird sing.
Just then there was
a knock at the door and a man walked in. He had a big fish tank in his
arms and said, "Professor Dumbledore-"
"He's not here
right now, but he'll be back. He's with a man called, I believe, Mr. Filch."
The youngish man looked
astonished. I guess these people don't get out much, because I seemed
to be exotic to all of them. I couldn't help staring back a little, and
let me apologize to my husband in advance. This guy was pretty nice looking.
He was a little younger than me. He looked somewhat tired and his hair
was prematurely gray, but he had very pretty eyes and an open, kind face.
"Hi! I'm Yolanda
Johnson," I said to him, standing up and holding out my hand. "I
just stumbled onto this place and Professor Dumbledore brought me up here
to look in some sort of book. He said it should explain why I can see
"It's very nice
to meet you, Miss Johnson," he said, putting the tank down on the
floor and shaking my hand. "I'm Remus Lupin. I'm going to be teaching
here again at the fall term. I must say, I'm very surprised that a Muggle,
what we call a non-magic person, can see Hogwarts."
"Why does everyone
assume I'm a Muggle? Is that the word? I know the clothes give me away
a little, but is there a way to tell if a person is non-magic?" I
almost told him that I was Mrs. Johnson, but I decided to let that go
for now. I was trying to act cool, whatever that meant in their world.
confess, it is your clothes that gave you away. We are not as fashionable,
"I don't know
if fashion is quite the word for it. Anyway, I get the idea that I'm really
foreign here, as in not just from the United States."
"You are, but
only because we try to keep our world secret and apart from yours,"
he said in a gentle voice.
"But why, Mr.
Lupin? I know that historically we wouldn't have welcomed people who could
work magic, but come on, haven't any of you ever heard of the Psychic
He laughed. "I
do believe I've seen an article about fraudulent divination in the Muggle
world. Think of it this way. Can you imagine what people on the outside
would do to us if they thought we could give them everything they wanted?"
"Oh, you're right.
I hadn't thought of it that way. I feel as if I'm not thinking straight
at all right now. I do have loads of questions, though. Is Quidditch real?
Do you have a school team? Do you go everywhere on a broom? What about
appearing and disappearing, can you do that?" I was pacing around
the room and talking with my hands.
I turned back to look
at him. His light brown eyes were wide with amusement. "Yes, I can
see that this is quite a change from your ordinary world."
Ouch! Does that
mean he thinks I'm not sophisticated? "I'm sorry I'm being such
a goober. I mean, I'm sorry I'm being so effusive. I always pride myself
on presenting an image quite the opposite of the average American tourist.
See, I'm not wearing white shoes or loud clothing. I don't have to have
ice in all my drinks, and I do love to walk."
He laughed, "That
isn't at all what I meant, Miss Johnson. I just think that someone who
is transported from the non-magic world to ours in such a sudden manner
would have a lot to digest." I sat back down and it was his turn
to pace around a little.
"Let me start
with this. Quidditch is indeed a real sport, and it is played in the air
on broomsticks. There are actually four teams at Hogwarts, one for each
of the four houses, or groupings of students. There are professional teams
as well, local and national. I think you must have read about them in
Quidditch Through the Ages."
"Yes, as a matter
of fact, I did read that book this past spring." I told him, holding
my head up.
He paced around a
little more and then continued, "As for your other questions, I personally
don't like brooms that much as a mode of travel, but I do use them. I
can Apparate and Disapparate, meaning appear and disappear. We take an
examination to obtain a license for Apparating. No one can do so, however,
within the grounds of the school."
I thought about it
for a moment and said, "That must be a security measure."
I really appreciated
how easy he was to talk to, but for a moment we were both quiet. Then,
I asked, "Do you have any idea why I'm here, Mr. Lupin? I have absolutely
no magical ability at all."
"No, I'm afraid
I don't know. I guess you'll have to wait for Professor Dumbledore to
return. I suppose I can come back later."
"Sure, you must
be busy getting ready for school to start. My son will be starting the
fifth grade this year. He's ten," I said to him.
"Oh, you have
a family, but they are not with you."
"I'm an evil
woman, Mr. Lupin. I left my husband and son at home in Texas and I'm with
a group of middle-aged women running around loose in Scotland. I left
the group today to go exploring and ended up here."
He laughed again.
"Your family must miss you, Mrs. Johnson. You are very amusing."
"The last refuge
of the middle-aged mom, being funny. I suspect they miss me because they
can't find their clean clothes without me."
Just then, the door
opened and Professor Dumbledore came back in carrying a large book. "I
see you've met one of our teachers. Remus, perhaps we can solve the mystery
of why Mrs. Johnson can see Hogwarts."
I swallowed hard as
he opened the book.