Hermione was immediately wide awake. She would see the magical world today. Buy her wand, her books. She dressed in a hurry and raced downstairs. Her parents were already up and obviously quite nervous.
The doorbell rang just as they finished breakfast. Hermione ran to the door as her mother quickly cleaned up the kitchen. David, however, followed Hermione closely.
She opened the door. Outside stood a pleasant-looking man with short, dark-blonde hair. Hermione thought he might be about as old as her father. She stared at him.
“You... you look... normal,” she blurted out, then blushed hard as she realized that this was no way to greet a guest.
“I'm sorry,” she apologized, “I expected -” She broke off before she could say another stupid thing, but the man merely chuckled.
“You expected me to look strange?” he asked. “Well, I don't usually wear this kind of clothing, but in the Muggle world I have to. You're Hermione Granger?”
“Yes. Please, come in.”
The man stepped into the house and greeted David and Jane, who just came out of the kitchen. David was fighting hard to keep his face impassive.
“Mr and Mrs Granger? Nice to meet you. I'm Professor William Wright.”
“You're a professor?” Hermione asked before she could stop herself. “Will you teach me?”
The wizard smiled and shook his head.
“I doubt it,” he said. “I teach Muggle Studies, where children who grew up in the wizarding world can learn how the non-magical world works. Muggle-borns such as yourself don't take the subject.”
“I'll take everything. I want to learn everything,” Hermione said.
Professor Wright looked slightly taken aback.
“Well,” he said slowly, “you don't have a choice until third year anyway. By then you should feel quite at home in our world and we'll see.”
“Who says she's even going to Hogwarts?” David asked suddenly. Hermione looked at him in shock.
“Mr Granger,” the professor said slowly, picking his words carefully, “you must understand that your daughter's ability is a very rare gift. She needs to go to Hogwarts to be able to use her magic.”
“Magic. Why should I believe there is such a thing as magic?”
“Dad, I -” Hermione started, but Professor Wright raised a stalling hand.
“I understand your concerns. I can give you a short demonstration that will hopefully convince you that magic is real. Some place where we can sit down, maybe?”
“Oh, right, follow me,” David said. He led them into the living room where they gathered around the table. Professor Wright took a smooth, wooden stick out of a pocket and held it up.
“This,” he said, “is a magic wand. It's purpose is to channel and amplify the magical energy. Most spells require the use of a wand, and nearly all of them are considerably more effective if performed with one. We will buy a wand for Miss Granger today.” He then pointed the wand at the fading flowers that stood on the table and performed a complicated movement. The vase and the flowers glowed brightly for a moment and then were gone. Instead there was a candle-holder with three burning candles. They all let out a gasp of surprise.
“Magic is ruled by similar laws of nature as physics. However, with magic we can do things that would be far slower or simply impossible with normal machines. The laws of magic allow more leeway than the laws of physics.”
He gave the wand another wave and the candles, a moment ago straight and smooth, twisted themselves into tight spirals. Another flick and the flames turned from orange to blue.
The entire family stared. The wizard had just done things that seemed completely impossible and had seemed to give it no more thought than breathing. She would learn this, Hermione realized. One day she would be able to do all this.
The professor gave the wand yet another wave and the vase and flowers were back. He took a look at the withered leaves and shook his head slightly.
“Can't let them remain that way,” he muttered and tapped the vase with his wand. Immediately the leaves straightened. The flowers opened fully again and regained their radiant colours.
“I love flowers,” Professor Wright said. “They should remain fresh for a long time.
“Now,” he turned to David, “we should get going. We will need some time in London.”
David nodded without taking his eyes off the flowers. Then he abruptly turned away.
“How do we get there?” he asked.
“It would be best if we drive. With your car, if possible, because I'm going to leave you in London.”
“We drive? Just drive?”
“Yes. Magical transport isn't suited to transport Muggles, they tend to get... confused, even by the methods they can use in the first place.”
Hermione went to retrieve her equipment list and David got some cash. Professor Wrights had informed them that they wouldn't be able to use credit cards, so they would have to change cash into the wizarding currency. Then they got into the car and drove off to London, towards Hermione's future.
During the three-hour drive Professor Wright gave them a very packed introduction to the magical world. Hermione learned how wizards lived, that they had practically no modern technology such as electricity but instead used magic for all purposes. She learned about the Ministry of Magic which governed the wizarding world and kept the few relations to the Muggle world. She also learned about the four houses of Hogwarts, Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, and that all students got sorted into the houses according to their character traits. Bravery went to Gryffindor, cunning and ambition to Slytherin, loyalty to Hufflepuff and intelligence to Ravenclaw. The professor wouldn't tell how the Sorting worked, however.
“It's a surprise,” he said. “That increases the effectiveness of the Sorting. It's actually forbidden to publish any works that mention it.”
He also talked about subjects.
“There are eight required subjects in first year. Charms, Transfiguration, Potions, Astronomy, Herbology, History of Magic, Defence Against the Dark Arts and Flying. The flying lessons end after the first year. In third year you can choose among five additional subjects, and after the Ordinary Wizarding Level tests in fifth year you can choose your NEWT level courses.”
He went on to describe the subjects more closely, until he came to Defence Against the Dark Arts. He didn't seem too happy to speak about it.
“The Dark Arts are the bad form of magic. There are bad people among wizards, just like everywhere else. But since wizards are more powerful than non-magic people they can cause more damage. Like all magic, theirs is fed by emotion. But the Dark Arts are fed by the bad emotions, like hate and jealousy.
“There hasn't been a real war in our world in centuries. But Dark wizards who try to gain power use guerilla tactics. This is why every individual in our world should be able to defend him or herself. Defence is where you will learn these skills.
“Fortunately,” he continued in a much brighter tone, “the last Dark wizard was defeated ten years ago. There is currently no serious threat to our world.”
“Still sounds very dangerous to me,” David said darkly.
“It isn't. There are far fewer fatal accidents in our world than here. No car accidents at all, for example. Minor accidents are quite frequent, but magic can heal broken bones in seconds. There's absolutely no need to worry.”
With that, Professor Wright moved on to explain the Hogwarts school system. The board of governors appointed the headmaster and also had the power to remove him. The headmaster in turn selected the teachers and the school prefects, students who helped enforcing the school rules.
When they reached the outskirts of London he finished a long speech about magical creatures and the hints Muggles got of them. Instead of answering more questions he guided David through the streets of London to their final destination. They parked the car in a side street and got out.
Hermione had been in London before, but the masses of people still amazed her. Men, women and children of all ages and appearances walked along the roads lined with shops of all kinds, seeming totally oblivious to anything around them.
“Perfect,” Professor Wright observed. “The Leaky Cauldron is just ahead, between the book shop and the record shop.”
Hermione looked where he pointed and saw an old and faded sign hanging in front of a small, shabby house. Drawn on it was indeed a leaky cauldron, a green potion spilling out of it. Hermione blinked. The potion was really spilling out of the cauldron even as she looked. The picture was moving. She looked up at Professor Wright, a puzzled expression on her face. He misread it, though.
“Can't see it?” he asked. “Look closely. Make yourself believe that there is indeed another building there.”
“No, I can see it all right, sir. But the sign, it is moving.”
“Oh, yes. Wizard pictures and photographs all move. Some are less active and simply move, like a film. Others have a consciousness of their own and can interact with people outside the pictures.”
“But how come nobody notices the sign?”
“It is enchanted. There are Ignorance Charms on the whole building. They make people who don't expect the building to be there simply ignore its existence. It works on both wizards and Muggles, but better on Muggles. You wouldn't have noticed the pub if I hadn't pointed it out. Have you,” he turned to Hermione's parents, “noticed it?”
They both shook their heads.
“Come on, then.” They had drawn level with the book shop. The professor stopped.
“Look at the pavement in front of us,” he instructed them. “Follow it with your eyes until the end of the book shop and then just a little bit further. Make yourself believe that there is another building there. Now follow the pavement sideways to the building and look at it.”
Hermione saw her parents' eyes dart forward, then sideways, then widen in surprise.
“Wow,” breathed her father.
“There you are. Welcome to the Leaky Cauldron, the entrance to Diagon Alley.” They stepped into the pub.
It was dark and smoky inside, even though there were few customers this early. Two wizards in dark robes sat in a corner, apparently in a heated discussion over a news article. A sour-looking witch ate a late breakfast in another corner. A few people were immersed in a card game. Nobody looked up when the small group entered, except for the barman.
“Hi, Will,” he called out.
Professor Wright waved his hand in greeting.
“Hi, Tom,” he said. “How's business?”
“You asked me that yesterday, too,” answered Tom in mock indignation. “Still on duty, I see?”
“Oh yes, I never get a proper holiday. Not even time to stay for a drink.”
“Indeed not. But I can expect you for lunch?”
“You certainly can. See you later.”
Professor Wright led the Grangers out of the back entrance into a small, walled courtyard. Hermione looked around. It seemed to be a dead end; there was no way out except the door to the pub and there were only a few dustbins standing along the opposite wall. She turned to Professor Wright, only to see that he had his wand out and was walking toward the bins. He tapped a brick with his wand and turned around.
“This is the final barrier to prevent Muggles from finding Diagon Alley,” he explained. “You need to tap the right brick to enter.”
But for once Hermione didn't listen to him. She stared at the wall, where a small opening had appeared in the wall. It constantly grew larger, spiralling outwards. After a few seconds a large archway had formed, opening the way to the strangest street Hermione had ever seen. It was completely unlike any of the streets in outside London, which were usually paved and ran in straight lines. This street was cobbled and had several sharp bends, which greatly impaired Hermione's view of it. The shops that lined it had their wares out on display, like a huge bazaar. Right next to them was a shop selling cauldrons of all materials and sizes, many of them on display outside. On the opposite side of the street was an apothecary's, and next to it a shop selling writing supplies. Thick rolls of parchment could be seen through its windows and various quills from different birds were hanging from the shop's sign. The Augurey's Feather, the shop was called.
Slowly they walked down the street, looking around and trying to take in as much as possible. There were nearly as many people here as in Muggle London, and Hermione was astounded to see the strange mix of people that wandered past them. The adults all seemed to wear robes of some sort, but many of the children were dressed in clothes Hermione considered normal. Not that there was a lack of diversity in the robes. There were wizards in dark and heavy robes that looked stiflingly hot, even though the wizards seemed quite cool. There were wizards in wide, light cloaks in happy colours that shifted when the wind caught the robes. There was a short, unpleasant-looking witch in a conservatively cut robe of an aggressive pink. There was even an attractive witch wearing a robe that seemed to be transparent when Hermione didn't look at it, but was completely opaque once she focused. Small girls in knee-long robes darted around the adults in what seemed to be some sort of game.
Hermione shifted her attention back to the shops lining the streets. There was a pet shop ahead. Magical Menagerie, the sign said. Sitting in cages outside the shop were cats of all colours and sizes, various owls and, carefully placed apart from the other cages, some beautiful rats that ran around in their cages, occasionally doing cartwheels. Other creatures Hermione didn't recognize were on display too. A shallow bowl was filled with what looked like fluffy, custard-coloured balls, but they were obviously alive. A sign was attached to the bowl. Puffskeins, 8 sickles apiece, the sign read. Hermione watched in amazement as one of the creatures extended an incredibly long tongue that crept down the leg of the table the bowl stood on, then continued along the ground towards the shop entrance. Hermione went to get a closer look. The tongue suddenly shot a bit forward and wrapped itself tightly around a spider that had been crawling on the wall. Then it began its slow retreat back into the bowl. Hermione looked into the shop. In a corner stood a basket full of what looked like dog whelps except that they had forked tails. The mother had no tail at all but otherwise looked exactly like a dog.
Hermione walked on. After a sharp bend she could see another pet shop, but this one seemed to specialize on owls. Eeylops Owl Emporium, she read on its sign. Opposite the shop a small crowd of children was gathered around a shop called Quality Quidditch Supplies. More children came running, dragged along by a boy who was shouting: “The Nimbus Two-thousand is out. Come on, you gotta see it!” Hermione turned to Professor Wright.
“Professor, what's Quidditch?” she asked.
“It's the most popular sport in the wizarding world. You'll see it, there's a school league at Hogwarts.”
“Look!” he said, pointing at a large, white building ahead. “That's Gringotts, the wizards' bank.”
The building had high, burnished doors. Next to them stood a strange creature, humanoid in appearance but smaller, with long pointed ears and rumpled, swarthy skin, wearing a uniform of scarlet and gold.
“That's a goblin,” Professor Wright explained. “They run the bank. They're very clever and trustworthy when it concerns business. There's no safer place than Gringotts.”
The goblin bowed to them as they entered the bank. They found themselves in a small hallway, facing a second pair of doors. These were silver, and engraved on them was a poem.
“There are many spells that protect the underground vaults of Gringotts,” Professor Wright said. “Some say there even are dragons. But we won't go down to the vaults, we only want to exchange money.”
He led them through the doors and into the main hall. It was vast. The floor was made of marble, with marble pillars rising high into the air, supporting a marble ceiling with intricate patterns carved into it. Light flooded through tall windows into the hall. The footsteps of hundreds of people and goblins echoed in the room and quiet conversations filled it with a low mumbling. Along one side of the hall ran a long wooden counter. About a hundred goblins sat behind it, most of them occupied with customers, weighing coins or examining gems and other stones. Professor Wright went to one of the free goblins.
“Good day. We wish to exchange Muggle money,” he told him.
Hermione's father, looking slightly flustered, reached into his pocket and pulled out several large bank notes, which he placed on the counter. The goblin reached for them with long, thin fingers and counted them swiftly. Then he started over, apparently checking the notes for forgeries. Satisfied, he placed them back on the counter and took a sack from under it.
“The current exchange rate is one Galleon for three pounds,” he said in a raspy voice while counting out large gold coins. “Seventeen Sickles to a Galleon, twenty-nine Knuts to a Sickle. Two-hundred pounds make sixty-six Galleons, eleven Sickles and nine Knuts.”
A small mountain of golden Galleons lay on the counter when the goblin put the sack away and took out another one.
“Sixty Galleons, one-hundred and ten Sickles and ninety-six Knuts are better if you're about to buy school supplies though,” he continued, with a short glance at Hermione, “so I'll give you this. Minus five sickles transaction fee.”
He had erected a silver mountain of Sickles next to the Galleons and took out a third sack. Hermione was impressed by the speed with which he counted the tiny bronze Knuts. When a small hill of them was completed, he put the sack away and took out a large purse with the Gringotts sign printed on it and laid it next to the coins.
“For the coins, with compliments from Gringotts,” he said. “Thank you for doing business with us.”
Professor Wright took the purse and shoved the coins in it, then handed it to Mr Granger.
“There's no need to count,” he said brightly. “Goblins don't cheat, and they don't make mistakes either. They know it only hurts them in the long run.”
David gave the bag a doubtful look.
“Why are you using coins for large money? Do wizards really carry all this weight around with them?”
“Anti-forgery charms don't work on paper or parchment,” Professor Wright explained. “But it doesn't matter. The coins are enchanted, they're far lighter than they look.”
Mr Granger took the purse, his eyes widening in amazement.
“Indeed,” he exclaimed. He pocketed the money and they left Gringotts.
“Now,” Professor Wright said, “I think it's best if we visit Madam Malkin's first to get clothes, as they take some time to be completed.” He lead them further down the street, past an ice-cream parlour called Florean Fortescue's and a grocery store, to a brightly coloured house that held a large bookshop, Flourish and Blotts, and Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions. They went in.
“Oh, hi Will,” a squat, smiling witch called. She was dressed in a beautiful robe of pale yellow. “Bringing another Hogwarts student? Excellent. Come here, dear.” She took Hermione by the hand and led her to a stool in the back of the shop. She slipped a long robe over Hermione's head and started pinning it to the right length. Next to Hermione another girl stood on another stool, with another witch working on her robes. Though you could hardly call her a girl, Hermione thought. She was half a head taller than Hermione, but twice as broad, with a square face, black hair and a heavy jaw. She shot a contemptuous look at Hermione, but otherwise didn't pay her any notice. Shortly afterwards she was done and stepped down from the stool, following the witch to the other side of the shop. Madam Malkin finished Hermione a little bit later and took her over to a desk full of heavy gloves made of a scaly, hard material. Hermione realized that it must have been dragon hide.
“Try them on,” the shop owner told her. “Find a pair that fits well. They shouldn't squeeze anywhere, but they should fit tightly.”
Hermione took a pair of gloves while Madam Malkin pulled a quill, a bottle of ink and some name tags from a drawer.
“What's your name?” she asked.
“Hermione Granger, “ Hermione answered. The gloves were a little too tight. She put them back and took the next larger size. They fitted perfectly. She handed them over to Madam Malkin.
“One final thing,” Madam Malkin said. She took out a tape measure and wrapped it around Hermione's head. “Very well, that's all. Come back after lunch, the robes will be ready by then and I'll have a hat selected, too.”
They entered the adjacent bookshop next. Hermione felt like in paradise. All around her shelves up to the ceiling were full of books of all kinds. Large books that seemed too heavy to hold, small books that fitted into a tiny pocket, square books, round books, books bound in leather, books bound in silk, books bound in linen, plain brown books, shining green books and books that shifted colour as she looked at them. The whole shop smelled strongly of parchment, a smell Hermione had never encountered before but which nevertheless seemed very familiar.
Professor Wright went to collect the set books on Hermione's list, leaving her free to look at the other books. They were divided into sections. Considering for a moment, Hermione then went straight to the History section and started scanning book titles.
Goblin Wars of the Thirteenth Century, Transcripts of Meetings of the International Confederation of Wizards and A Thorough Research of Patterns in the Wizarding Wars in Europe she dismissed as boring or else what they would learn in school anyway. But another title caught her eye. Hogwarts: A History was a very large book bound in dark brown leather. She pulled it out. There was the silhouette of a large castle on the front, with the coat of arms that she knew from the seal on her letter underneath. A golden lion on red background, a silver snake on green, a black badger on yellow and a copper eagle on blue. The book title formed a wide arch over the drawings in white letters. Hermione opened it on the last page. One-thousand, two-hundred and seventy-three pages, she saw. She needed this. Tucking it under her arm, she continued examining the books.
When she left she had two more books under her arms: Modern Magical History and Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century. She walked to the counter, where her parents, Professor Wright and a large stack of books were already waiting. She added her three books to the stack. Then she saw a small stack of thin booklets next to the counter. Simple Spells for Beginners, the books were called. She took one of these too.
The wizard behind the counter started to take the books off the stack, calculating the total price. When he held Hogwarts: A History in his hand, he paused.
“Can't remember when I last sold one of these,” he said. “Hogwarts bought five of 'em for the library, but aside from that...”
All the books together were quite expensive and they left the bookshop with the purse considerably lighter and smaller.
“Let's get your wand, then we can go for lunch,” Professor Wright said. “Ollivander is still a bit further down, nearly at the end of the street. He's the only wand-maker in all of Britain, but one of the best in the world. Eccentric man, though.”
He led them to what seemed to be the oldest and shabbiest house in all of Diagon Alley. It didn't even have a sign, but there were the remains of gold letters over the door. Ollivanders: Makers of Find Wands since 382 BC, they read. A dusty window showed a single wand on a faded purple cushion.
They stepped inside. Somewhere in the back of the shop a tinkling bell rang, although Hermione could see no mechanism that could have triggered it. She looked around the gloomy shop. There was a small free space in the front with only a single chair in it. The rest of the long, narrow room was taken up by rows of shelves on which thousands of boxes were stacked. Hermione suspected that each contained a wand.
“Good day,” a voice came from the dark.
An old man had appeared between the shelves and made his way towards their small group. His large, pale eyes almost seemed to shine in the dark. He looked at Professor Wright for a moment, but then turned to Hermione.
“Muggle-born, first year at Hogwarts,” he said matter-of-factly. “Very well, let's see then. Which is your wand-arm?”
“He means your handedness,” Professor Wright whispered in Hermione's ear.
“The right one,” Hermione said.
“Very well. Hold out your arm. That's it.” He took out a tape measure, which started to measure various things about Hermione on its own. It measured her from shoulder to finger, then wrist to elbow, shoulder to floor, knee to armpit and round her head. Meanwhile Ollivander continued to ask questions. She gave him her name and birthday, and various other trivia she didn't know were important. Then he went to the shelves and started taking down boxes, at the same time launching into a speech that seemed well rehearsed from countless repetitions.
“Every Ollivanders wand has a core of a powerful magical substance, Ms Granger. We use unicorn hairs, phoenix tail feathers and the heartstring of dragons. No two Ollivander wands are the same, just as no unicorns, dragons or phoenixes are quite the same. And of course, you will never get such good results with another witch's wand.”
As an afterthought, he added, “Some wizards have to try hundreds of wands before finding one that chooses them. Though I dare say it won't take as long with you. Very distinctive, yes.
“This will do, for now,” he finally announced. The tape measure, which had been measuring the length of her hair, fell to the ground. Ollivander brought about a dozen boxes to the counter and opened the first one. It contained a beautiful stick, reddish-brown in colour, with runes etched into the polished handle.
“Try this one. Hazel and dragon heartstring, nine inches. Elastic and very durable, as all hazel wands. Ought to fit you very well. Just give it a wave.”
Hermione took the wand. Holding it tenderly between thumb and the first two fingers, she waved it through the air. Nothing happened.
Ollivander watched her carefully. She looked at him, confused as to what to do next. When he reached out for the wand, she handed it to him. He took it and twirled it in his fingers, staring at the runes.
“Strange,” he said. “I was rarely so sure that ... well, never mind. Try this.”
He opened the next box, taking out a wand that was a little longer than the previous, and lighter in colour.
“Birch and phoenix feather, eleven inches. Rather stiff for a birch.”
Hermione took it and drew a circle into the air, but Ollivander snatched it out of her hand before she could even complete the circle. He gave her another, and another after that. He gave her wands made of ash, wands made of holly and wands made of teak. By the tenth wand, Hermione was getting slightly desperate. She hadn't noticed anything special about any of the wands – they might as well have been ordinary sticks of wood as far as she was concerned. She wondered if there were wizards or witches who found no matching wand, and what she would do if she didn't find one.
But Ollivander, after his initial reaction, had gotten merrier the more wands she tried.
“Try this,” he said. “Very long for a witch, fourteen inches, willow and unicorn hair. Temperamental.”
The wand felt strange in her hand when she took it. It itched. She gripped it more tightly. It didn't stop itching, but it also felt slightly warm. Emboldened, Hermione gave it a sharp jab. She looked at Ollivander to see if it was the right one, but he shook his head and took it from her.
“Not the one. There's tension, yes, but not the right kind. I wonder who this wand will choose...”
He placed it aside and looked at Hermione. She realized with a shock that all the wands he had taken down were tried.
“Nobody leaves Ollivanders without a fitting wand,” Ollivander said, as if reading her mind. “It's not as easy as I thought, though. Let's try a different method.”
He went back to the shelves and took three rather small boxes from them. On his way back he studied them intently and placed two on the table, opening the third.
“Vine and dragon heartstring, eight inches,” he explained, taking out a slightly bent wand, one end wrapped in leather. “Don't be discouraged by the look, it's very powerful if used correctly, and accurate, too, though it doesn't look like it. A birthwood wand for you.”
“Birthwood?” Hermione asked as she took the wand in her hand. But then she forgot to listen for an answer. It felt as if the leather was wrapping itself around her fingers, as if the wand became part of her hand. Warmth, real, filling warmth, spread from them through her hand and up her arm. And with the warmth came an unusual energy. In one fluent motion, she moved her arm to the left and then swung it all the way to the right, leaving a trail of colourful sparks in the wake of her wand tip.
“Yes, very good!” Ollivander shouted. Yells of excitement came from Hermione's parents. Professor Wright applauded. Hermione watched, delighted, as the sparks slowly sank towards the floor and vanished just before they touched it.
Ollivander put the wand back into its box, which he wrapped in brown paper. Hermione's father handed over six Galleons and Hermione took the box. Ollivander gave her a final bit of advice.
“Birthwood means that the vine from which this wand comes was both planted and cut on your birthday. This means that others won't fare well using your wand; it's more tightly bound to you than is usual. This can be an advantage, of course. The wand will be very powerful indeed if you are precise, but lack precision, and you will notice how quickly the power will dilute, and your magic will become unfocused and ineffective. Be careful, concentrate and learn well. Good luck!”
With this, he gave them a bow and disappeared in the depths of his shop.
Once outside, Hermione immediately unwrapped the wand and took it in her hand again. She felt the warmth in her fingers. This was her wand, her very own wand. It had chosen her. Feeling like she might explode from happiness, she replaced the wand in its box.
“How about returning to the Leaky Cauldron for lunch?” Professor Wright offered. “It's midday, and I for one am hungry.”
They all agreed and made their way back through Diagon Alley. Tom gave them a private parlour and served them an excellent, if unusual meal. Hermione had never heard of any of the animals or plants they got, but it all tasted wonderful.
“It's Tom's way of welcoming people to our world,” Professor Wright said with a smile, “he usually uses at least as many normal ingredients as magical ones.”
When they were finished and Tom had taken away the plates, Professor Wright turned serious. He reached down to the packages and took out a book, which he laid on the table. The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts, Hermione read. Underneath the title a single large rune was engraved into the black leather.
“There are a few unpleasant things I still have to explain,” he said. “This book contains all the known facts, but I think it's better to explain it in person, even if I don't like doing so.” He sighed.
“I've told you about the emotions involved in the Dark Arts. In addition, practitioners of the Dark Arts usually seek only power and sometimes immortality. They know no love or mercy.
“There have been many Dark wizards over the time. Professor Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald in 1945. He had many followers, and like most Dark wizard he preached the purity of blood.” Wright grimaced. “He thought that Muggle-borns shouldn't be admitted to the wizarding world, that they would weaken us. It's nonsense, of course, but there have always been and still are wizards and witches who listen to this kind of nonsense. They hunted Muggle-borns and tortured or killed them.”
“They what?” David erupted. “Are you saying that there are people who will hunt my daughter?”
“No, not any more,” Professor Wright replied. “The wizards and witches who are openly hostile against Muggle-borns are all imprisoned. We have worked hard to ensure the safety of all who come to us.”
David didn't really seem satisfied but said nothing. Wright continued, now even more hesitant than before.
“Grindelwald was harmless compared to the worst wizard of this century, maybe the worst wizard of all time. The one I speak of was not only evil, he was also frighteningly powerful, the second most powerful wizard of our time. Only Professor Dumbledore would have stood a chance in direct combat. This wizard gained power in the nineteen-seventies, and by nineteen-eighty few people dared to stand against him.” A slight wavering entered Professor Wright's voice.
“It was a terrible time,” he said quietly. “You never knew if you would come home to find all your family dead, never knew if you yourself would live to see the next day. People were so scared that nearly nobody even dared to speak this wizard's name. To this day, we still call him You-Know-Who or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Those who did dare to say the name were killed, all of them except one. Professor Dumbledore. It was him who organized the resistance against You-Know-Who. But Hogwarts was the only safe place in the wizarding world, for Dumbledore's power protected it. Nowhere else could you be sure of any safety.
“I'm Muggle-born myself and I was at Hogwarts back then. I remember how scared I was. Scared of what awaited me outside the castle, scared of what could happen to people I knew. We all were. We hoped against hope that You-Know-Who would just disappear, would go away. But he grew more powerful every day, until our defeat seemed certain.”
“Sounds like the perfect place for a little girl,” David interrupted angrily. “Everybody is in danger of getting killed or worse, and her heritage makes her a likely target.”
Professor Wright shook his head.
“No,” he said, “this is no longer the same world as back then. For You-Know-Who was defeated in the end, though not by a force anyone expected. It wasn't Professor Dumbledore or any of his followers. The downfall of the Dark Lord was a baby.
“I don't think anyone save perhaps Professor Dumbledore knows why You-Know-Who went after the Potters, but he wanted to wipe out the entire family: the father, the mother and the baby child. He went to their house and managed to kill the parents, but, and that's the great mystery, when he tried to kill the baby the spell rebounded. You-Know-Who was destroyed. Harry Potter survived, with only a scar on his forehead. He is one of the greatest heroes of our time; he's The Boy Who Lived.
“The followers of You-Know-Who were shortly after all rounded up and imprisoned. Our world is now safe once again.”
He paused for a while.
“Only Professor Dumbledore knows where Harry Potter lives now, but he's about Hermione's age, so he will come to Hogwarts this year too.”
Hermione, who had listened with her head hung low and her eyes unfocused, looked up.
“He'll be in my year?” she asked.
“Yes, he'll be.”
“Oh.” It was all she could think of.
Professor Wright pushed the book lying on the table towards her.
“This book is probably the best account of the time of You-Know-Who. It also contains his true name, for I dare not speak it. And you shouldn't say it out loud either, for wizards react with fear to hearing his name and you don't want to attract this kind of attention.”
It was a subdued party that made its way back into Diagon Alley. Hermione couldn't stop thinking about this wizard, someone who would torture and kill people like her just because they were born of Muggles, someone who would try to kill a baby! She didn't want to think about it. She didn't want to think about the wizard at all.
Wright, in an attempt to cheer them up, invited them all to ice cream from Fortescue's. Hermione licked hers absently, still deep in her thoughts. Her mother shook her out of it, reminding her that the ice cream would run all over her clothes if she didn't pay attention. Wright laughed.
“Not much chance of that,” he said. “Florean's ice cream doesn't melt until you eat it. It's the secret of his success, the thing that sets him apart from other similar shops here.”
They got Hermione's clothes from Madam Malkin's, then bought the remaining school supplies. When they finally stepped back into Muggle London, they were all packed with parcels of varying sizes, including a trunk that Hermione would use to carry her things to Hogwarts. They dropped them into the trunk of the Granger's car.
“Very well, only one place left to go,” Professor Wright said. “You need to know how to get on the school train. It departs from King's Cross, but it's hidden, much like Diagon Alley.”
A short time later, they were at the train station.
“The Hogwarts Express departs from Platform Nine And Three Quarters,” Wright explained. “There's no such platform for the Muggles of course. Here's what you do.” The had reached platforms nine and ten.
“You walk straight at the barrier between the two platforms. Don't worry about crashing into it. Just walk on. I'll show you.” He turned to Hermione's parents.
“You will have to wait outside. The barrier doesn't work for Muggles.” Then he turned back to the platforms and, after a quick check to see if anyone was watching him, walked right into the barrier. It really looked as if he had gone into the interior of the solid barrier. Hermione looked around and then walked towards the barrier herself. She felt very foolish, but she didn't slow down and when she was absolutely sure she would run headlong into the wall there was suddenly an impression of rushing air around her. It stopped as abruptly as it had started and Hermione opened her eyes. She was standing on a train platform, deserted except for her and Professor Wright, who was smiling at her.
“Very good,” he said brightly. “The train will depart on the first of September, at exactly eleven o'clock. Here's your train ticket.” He handed Hermione a piece of parchment.
They went back outside together and out of the station. At the car, Professor Wright made his goodbyes.
“It was a very pleasant day,” he said. “I'll see you at Hogwarts, Hermione. Mr Granger, Mrs Granger.”
“Thank you Professor,” Hermione said. “Thank you for everything.”
Wright shook all their hands and left. The Grangers got into the car for the drive home.