The Sugar Quill
Author: Yolanda (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: A Conversation with Albus Dumbledore  Chapter: Chapter Two: The Big Book
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Chapter 2: The Big Book

"Yolanda," Dumbledore began, "You mentioned that you have a child."

"Yes, I have a ten year-old son."

"Is he named David by any chance?"

"Yes. He's David Edward."

"That explains it, I believe." He turned the book around so that Mr. Lupin and I could read it. "Here is his name. David Edward Johnson, Plano, Texas."

"How would any of you know his name? I mean, we've been in Europe before, but not here." I looked at my son's name. It was written in neat lettering in green ink with his birthday written across from our address. January 26, that was correct. The address was written in a rather strange manner: "The bedroom to the right, at the top of the stairs, 5857 Broadway, Plano, Texas." Things couldn't get any weirder, could they?

"This book contains the names of children who will be invited to attend Hogwarts. The letters are sent prior to the start of the fall term beginning after their eleventh birthday," Dumbledore explained.

"So you mean that David will be receiving a letter from this school a year from now? He turns eleven at the end of January."

"Yes," said Professor Dumbledore. "And yes, that means that he has magical powers."

"I feel a little queasy. May I sit down again?"

"Here, Mrs. Johnson," said Mr. Lupin, "Let me help you."

If that man touches me, I might just faint, I thought. "That's OK, Mr. Lupin. I can make it," I said grabbing the arm of the leather chair and sitting down.

"Professor Dumbledore, should I make some tea?" asked Mr. Lupin.

"Thank you, Remus. I think that would be a good idea." Mr. Lupin stepped behind the desk and started pulling things out. He grabbed a teapot and heated some water with his wand. I just sat there holding my head in my hands and wondering how on earth I would tell my husband.

"Now, Yolanda, you must think. Have there ever been times when strange things happened in your home and you could not explain them?"

"Well, there was the time that David almost knocked over an expensive nativity set, but it seemed to fly back on the table by itself, and I always thought the dog shouldn't be able to jump as high as he does. Books, knick-knacks, and the cookie jar do seem to move by themselves in our house. But, Professor Dumbledore, there must be a logical explanation for all those things."

"There is a logical explanation, Mrs. Johnson," said Mr. Lupin, handing me a cup of tea. "Your son is a wizard."

"You don't have any tequila, do you? I think I could even eat the worm right now," I said, as they looked at each other with puzzled expressions on their faces. "Look, I'm sorry," I began once more, "but just this once, couldn't it be his father who gets the strange news?"

Remus Lupin smiled. "Surely, he'll understand when you tell him. In fact, the way the letter will be delivered is quite unusual. No one but a wizard would send a letter with an owl."

"Time out, Mr. Lupin. Did you just say send a letter with an owl? As in, an owl comes with the letter? As in, you put an owl in a box and send it to me with a letter? What do I want with an owl?"

"No, Mrs. Johnson," said Professor Dumbledore, chuckling softly. "The owl carries the letter tied to its leg or in its beak."

"What, Fed-Ex or the post office isn't good enough for you?" I asked laughing a little.

"That is simply the way it is done in our world," Professor Dumbledore said, in a reassuring tone of voice.

"Speaking of your world, gentlemen, I have to tell you that I could hardly persuade my husband to consider sending our son to a school twenty miles from our house, even if I was the one doing all the transporting. What on earth makes you think I'll be able to convince him to allow David to come all the way to Scotland from Texas when we know nothing about this place at all? Not to mention that this whole wizard thing is going to come as a bit of a shock. No offense, but I need criminal history checks for the faculty and some ratings on this school. Another thing, isn't there a comparable school in the U.S.?" I asked, in a much more strident tone than I had intended.

"As for your husband's willingness to accept your son's magical abilities, I cannot say. It is a fact. And persuading him to allow David to go so far away may be difficult, I admit. However, a mother can be quite persuasive. I think that if you believe, in the end, he will allow it to happen."

"I think you have the wrong house, Professor Dumbledore. We both tend to be a bit over-protective, and I have to talk myself into it first. What about some sort of background on the school? I have to go home armed with something." I had to admit, I liked these two men. They seemed genuinely concerned about this situation.

"There are several books, one in particular called Hogwarts, A History. I also believe you may want to look at the textbooks for first year students. If I magically accelerate your reading speed, you should be able to read them all before noon tomorrow. As for the American school, I cannot say with absolute certainty that you would like the school. The curriculum is not as difficult as ours and you would find that he might not be as well-prepared to face his future."

"Considering that the only people I've ever seen who were remotely like you worked at the Renaissance festival, I'm not sure I could begin to judge the training of your students against the American students. Is there an article of some kind from one of your publications I could show my husband?"

"Yes, I believe that there is a book comparing schools and a fairly recent article from the Daily Prophet I can give you as well," said Dumbledore.

"Remus, would you mind showing Mrs. Johnson around the school grounds?" He asked Mr. Lupin. Then, Dumbledore turned to me and said, "I suggest that you contact your friends, Yolanda, and tell them that you'll be staying in Hogsmeade tonight. I will ask Madam Pince to collect those books for you and have Mr. Filch find you an empty room for the night."

"Madam Pince, isn't she the one who hates for outsiders to get their hands on her books?"

"She will be fine, Mrs. Johnson. I will assuage her fears that you will rip the books apart."

"Headmaster, I'll speak to you later about that other matter," said Mr. Lupin. Dumbledore nodded.

"Yolanda," said Professor Dumbledore, looking me in the eye, "You must consider that this is your son's destiny. Trust your instincts. They led you here in the first instance. You and your husband will make the right choice for your family, I am sure."

"Thanks, Professor Dumbledore. This has been a most interesting morning."

"Mrs. Johnson," said Mr. Lupin, in that gentle voice. "Follow me, please." Could this guy have been any nicer? I started thinking about my single friends at home. One of them might like dating a wizard. I realized I didn't know if he was married. A casual glance at his left hand revealed no ring. That, of course, didn't guarantee anything, even in our world.

"Unfortunately, not all of the faculty is here right now. Professor Vector, who teaches Arithmancy, is gone for a few weeks, as is Professor Sprout, our Herbology teacher. Let's go and meet Professor McGonagall," he suggested.

"Sure. Lead the way, Professor Lupin. That's your true title, isn't it?" I asked.

"Call me Remus, please," he replied.

"OK, Remus. Call me Yolanda."

"Here we are, Yolanda," he said, stopping in front of a large door marked "Professor McGonagall". He knocked.

I heard a woman's voice call out, "Come in." We walked in and I saw a woman with the most severe hairstyle I'd seen since Bebe Neuwirth played Lilith on Cheers. Aside from that, she was wearing a pointed hat and green velvet robes. At least she didn't cackle like Margaret Hamilton. In fact, her face seemed kind. I wondered if she tried to look stern to keep the kids in line. "You must be Mrs. Johnson. I am Professor McGonagall." She stood and stretched her hand out. What a grip she had. It was like shaking hands with Janet Reno in a bun.

"Nice to meet you, Professor McGonagall. I guess you've heard why I'm here."

"As a matter of fact, Professor Dumbledore came to my office to retrieve the book which contained your son's name as one of the candidates for admission into Hogwarts. I'm sure this has come as something of a shock to you. I expect you'll want verification of the quality of this school."

"You read my mind, Professor McGonagall. Are you supposed to?"

"No, I teach Transfiguration. I consider Divination to be more of a soft subject. Let me begin by saying that Albus Dumbledore is considered one of the best wizards of the twentieth century. He defeated Grindelwald, a very evil wizard, in 1945. He has worked and will continue to work tirelessly against other dark wizards."

"I should have known that your world would have the same problems as ours," I said, shaking my head. "When you say that he is working against other dark wizards, does that mean that my son's safety will be compromised here?"

Remus spoke up. "No, Yolanda. In fact, this may well be the safest place for him if our current enemy continues to gain power and spreads his wave of terror to your country."

"OK. Now you're scaring me."

"You must know the truth in order to make an informed choice, Mrs. Johnson," said Professor McGonagall. "We will not lie to you. We want to train our students to be as prepared and resourceful as possible. Professor Lupin is an excellent Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Professor Snape is one of the best Potions experts in our country. No one beats Professor Flitwick when it comes to Charms. You see, we take great pride in our work. As for me, see for yourself." I heard a pop and looked down to see a cat. She had turned herself into a tabby cat with markings around her eyes in the same shape as her square glasses. Then, I heard another pop and she changed back into herself.

"I am an Animagus, meaning that I can transform myself from my human form into animal form."

"This is very advanced magic, Yolanda," said Remus. "It even requires registration with the Ministry of Magic."

"Wow!" I said applauding. "Thank you, Professor McGonagall. I'm not sure I can fully appreciate your level of knowledge. I may have to ask you some more questions about Transfiguration after I read all the materials that Professor Dumbledore is collecting. I won't take anymore of your time for now."

"We'll see each other at dinner then, Mrs. Johnson."

"Good bye," I said to her. We left her office and closed the door.

"That was incredible. Can you do that, Remus?"

"In a manner of speaking," he said, and I thought I saw the slightest hint of anxiety in his eyes. "Here, let me show you the library and the Astronomy tower. We walked all over the building and he showed me classrooms and the common room and dormitory for Gryffindor.

"You know, Remus, one thing that really concerns me is the fact that everything seems so disciplined here. I mean Professor McGonagall looks pretty tough. David's not necessarily used to that, although his teachers aren't exactly marshmallows now."

"I don't know what to tell you, except that Professor Dumbledore allows each teacher the freedom to apply his or her own methods in teaching a subject. I myself try to build confidence. I find that children tend to live up to expectations. I simply expect them to do well and they seem to." I agreed with him completely.

"I should call my friends and get started on the reading. I have a phone in my rental car."

"I'm not certain that a telephone would work near the school. The magic seems to disrupt Muggle devices. I think I can help you, though," he said.

We went outside the castle and I found that my car had been moved inside the school grounds. I didn't want to think how they did it, since I had the keys with me. Remus and I went into the car and he waved his wand over the phone. I didn't catch what he said exactly, but it worked. I called one of my friends and told them I was going to be staying in a place called Hogsmeade because I liked the shops. I told them I'd call the next day.

We went back in and Professor Dumbledore was waiting for us. "Yolanda, I have a room for you. I left all the reading materials you will need. Come with me."

"Thanks, Remus. I appreciate all the time you spent with me."

"See you at dinner," he said.

I followed Professor Dumbledore to a room with a nice big window and lots of light. There was a huge stack of books and magazines waiting for me. He took out his wand and said, "Lectio Quantocius. That should do it. You should finish all these materials by noon tomorrow, even taking into account a good night's sleep and perhaps a bit of a break after dinner to talk to any of us if you need to."

"Thank you, Professor."

"I will return for you at dinner time. Your bag is in the other room. Happy reading, Mrs. Johnson." He left and I got to work.

I pinched myself a few times and then opened Hogwarts, A History.

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