Disclaimer: I am not JKR. I know, I know, shocker. Please try to recover from your disbelief by reading this chapter :)
I have done many unscrupulous things in my life. I lied to a judge to have my sister sent to an insane asylum and her husband convicted of murder. I spent most of my adult life deceiving my parents, friends and coworkers. I betrayed all that I had grown up believing was true.
But I do not regret any of it.
September 1, 2000
“You are sure you have everything, Bobby?” twenty-one year old Emma Yearling questioned her eleven-year-old nephew. She was terrified that she might send him off to school—to Hogwarts—without something he needed. Fretfully, she glanced over his shoulder at the luggage he would be taking to the magical school. Was it enough? Was it too much? She didn’t know. Never mind that she was only twenty-one and wasn’t ready to raise her young nephew, but she was…she wasn’t…she didn’t have magic! She had never been to this Hogwarts and had no idea what he needed. Some guardian she was turning out to be.
“I’m fiiinnne Aunt Em!” The boy protested as she reached over to fix a cowlick. He was too pale and withdrawn. A year ago, the boy would have ducked from her touch and teased her about her worried-wart ways.
But now he just stood there, even leaning into her hand a little. Emma guessed that’s what happened when your parents went psycho after discovering your magical abilities.
Pushing down feelings of frustration and sadness, Em tugged at his clothing until the boy looked moderately presentable. The great grey owl, trapped in its cage atop Robert’s trunks, gave a loud hoot that made Emma jump. She really wasn’t cut out for this.
Emma fumbled in her pocket and found a little bag of candied nuts and tentatively offered the bird one as a peace offering. She didn’t even know if owls were supposed to eat nuts, but it was all she had at the moment.
The owl, cleverly named “Earl” by her young nephew—“Get it Aunt Em? ‘Cause he’s a grey owl, so he’s ‘Earl Grey!’—looked down at the nut, picked it up, and chewed it contemplatively, silent at least for the moment.
Around her, the train station was bustling with all the other magical students on, all saying goodbye to their parents and loading their trunks at once. It almost seemed like they were normal people going to a normal school.
Sharply, Emma shook her head, chastising herself for that last thought. These were normal people going to a normal school. Just because she hadn’t had the same experience, didn’t make it weird. And now Bobby was one of them. They weren’t weird. They weren’t.
Bobby was looking up at her, and for one paranoid moment, Emma thought he had noticed her momentary mental lapse. But that was ridiculous.
“So!” She continued brightly,” Lets get your stuff onto the train!” Bobby nodded and Emma began pushing the cart awkwardly towards one of the many open compartments. She found one with three other children (a girl and two boys) who all looked to be about Bobby’s age and made introductions.
Bobby didn’t look excited about having to interact with other kids, but she was the adult, and adults were supposed to encourage their children to make friends, weren’t they? She thought so, and maybe this would mean that Bobby would make friends. He had been so talkative and popular before, but now he barely said a couple of sentences a day. Emma was worried that after all that had happened, he would be unable to make friends and would end up hating his new school.
The parents of one of the children (the girl—Melody) helped put Bobby’s trunk in the overhead compartment and there was a little bit of awkward chatting before a whistle sounded, reminding the families that the train would be leaving momentarily.
As the other parents said one last goodbye to their children, Emma pulled Bobby close and hugged him farewell. “Write me,” she said, ”as soon as you get to school. And write me anytime you need something, or just want to talk. “
Bobby nodded, and Em wasn’t sure if he was excited to got to school, sad to see her go, or feeling anything at all. The dimness in her eyes worried her.
“I love you,” she reminded him, and for a moment, she saw a flicker of something behind his eyes.
“Love you too,” Bobby replied, softly, maybe so the other kids couldn’t hear. Emma kissed his cheek before stepping back from the window and waving goodbye as the train picked up speed and left the station. Her eyes pricked and something wet rolled down her cheek—a tear? How had that gotten there?
Sniffling once before gathering herself together and walking towards the exit, Emma wondered once again how she was going to pull this off. What did she know about being a parent? Nothing. And how was she going to have the time—let alone the money—to raise an eleven-year-old boy? She was studying at St. Georges University studying to get her Bachelor of Surgery and barely had the money to pay her rent as it was. She was going to have to find a job, and quick, since she had just spent her entire savings account to buy the supplies Bobby had needed.
It was hard not to feel a little resentful as her hard earned money dwindled before her eyes. She was angry at her parents, her sister and brother-in-law, and even at Bobby. But at the same time, it was just money. And she would rather lose the money than lose Bobby.
Besides, she thought ruefully, she had always liked shopping, and going to Diagon Ally with Professor Flitwick had been very fun. It amused and delighted Emma that there was a whole culture of Witches and Wizards living right underneath her nose. The rest of her family had shunned the news of the Wizarding World, but Emma saw no reason to ignore an entire population of people, especially when a member of her family was also a member of the underground society.
Especially when said underground society had such interesting people.
August 28, 2000
Four Days Prior
After being convinced of the legitimacy of Bobby's magical powers and taking guardianship of her nephew, Emma found herself in trouble. She had no idea what she was supposed to do. She had a letter talking about places that didn't exist and telling her to buy Bobby items that she had no idea how to get. What was she supposed to do?
September the first was fast approaching--how did one get to platform 9 and 3/4? A question for another day--and Emma decided that she was going to soon be known as the worst parent of a Hogwarts student ever.
She was on the verge of writing a letter and addressing it to MINERVA MCGONAGALL , HOGWARTS, LOCATION UNKNOWN (which would have had her mailman on the floor in stitches) when the most terrifying occurrence of her life took place.
Years later this story would become known as 'The Great Owl Debacle' and be told at holidays when the family was swapping funny stories about each other. Emma never laughed.
There she was, minding her own business, eating breakfast and reading the paper when she was attacked out of the blue by the biggest owl she had ever seen. It was huge and brown and came at her, talons extended and letting loose a death cry as it plummeted through the window of her flat and straight towards her.
Emma let out a shriek of abject horror and dove beneath the table. Bobby, hearing the ruckus, jolted out of bed, ran out of his bedroom, down the hall, and into the kitchen to defend his aunt, but instead of finding Emma in any sort of danger, Bobby only saw the owl nibbling quietly at some toast with Emma in hysterics under the table.
"Bobby, call the exterminator!" Emma whispered, crawling out from beneath the table and inching towards the wall. She moved slowly so as not the enrage the wild animal.
"Its just a letter," Bobby said, still too tired to understand what was going on. He reached towards the kitchen table to relieve the owl of its message.
"No, Bobby--" Emma hissed, but Bobby ignored her as he took the letter. The owl bobbed its head politely, slurped a bit of coffee from Emma's mug, and headed out the way it had come in. Emma slumped against the wall, feeling as though her life had passed before her eyes.
"Its for you," Bobby mumbled, handing her the letter and ambling towards the cupboards in search of breakfast. The letter was thick parchment with the name Emma Yearling in beautiful calligraphy across the outside. Standing up, Emma slid her pointer finger into the opening, tearing the envelope and taking out the letter.
"Oh thank goodness," Emma sighed in relief as she read. Bobby looked up at her over his cereal, blinking away sleep. "It says that they are going to send one of their professor to help us do your shopping for school."
"When?" Bobby sounded excited--or at least as excited as an eleven year old boy could be at seven in the morning.
"Two days from now. Oh, thank goodness. He is going to show us how to get all your things. I'm sure I don't know where we would have gotten you a wand." Emma was thumbing through the rest of the letter, papers that explained the complexities of money exchange, what to expect on the trip, etc...
"Is he going to do magic?"
"I...guess so. We are going to a place that doesn't exist. There must be magic involved!" Emma giggled a little. She had to admit, she was more that a little excited at the opportunity to meet another wizard. "It says professor...Flit-wick? It says that he will come pick us up on Saturday morning, nine o'clock sharp! I think this is going to be fun!"
And so on Saturday, Emma and Bobby waited anxiously for the Professor to arrive via some sort of magic: broomstick, magic carpet, anything! But they were disappointed when the little man merely walked down the street and knocked on the door. They were, at least, satisfied in his odd attired. He did not even reach Emma's shoulder and had an oddly squeaky voice. He was dressed in funny emerald robes and shoes with a shiny buckle that curled up at the toes.
The Professor was one of the most polite men Emma had ever met, and she even blushed when, upon making her acquaintance, he proclaimed her "the prettiest aunt he had ever met." As they walked down the street, Professor Flitwick chatted with the pair, answering their questions and giving brief commentary about where they were going.
Emma followed Professor Flitwick through the streets of London. She had one hand on Bobby’s shoulder and the other holding her purse close. Suddenly, the little man stopped in the middle of the street and pronounced they were "there," just past a Bookshop and just before a records shop. As Emma had barely any idea of what was going on since the first time the word “Hogwarts” was mentioned to her, and she had long since given up trying to make sense of what was going on.
Suddenly, before her eyes, the lines between the shops became hazy and broadened. She blinked, but the sensation remained. Neither Bobby nor the little Professor looked as though anything was different. She squinted, but the picture didn’t become any clearer.
“I know this may sound fantastical,” Professor Flitwick began in his squeaky voice, “But I need you to close your eyes and hold on to me. I’m going to walk you between these two buildings, but never fear! We are actually heading through a magical gateway to go assemble your nephew’s school supplies.”
The professor smiled brightly up at Emma, who was still confused. “Are we going there,” she said, gesturing vaguely at the building that was swimming before her. “To the….pub? Is that a pub?”
Now it was Flitwick’s turn to look confused. Never the less, he smiled brightly at her question. “Ah, yes. In fact, we are heading through the Leaky Cauldron! I suppose Bobby’s magical talent runs in the family.”
“Obviously not, or I would have gone to Hogwarts too, right?” Emma smiled just as brightly at Bobby, but soon shut her eyes, the blurry vision of the pub giving her a headache. “Lets just go in, alright.”
Gripping Professor Flitwick by the crook of the elbow and closing her eyes, Emma followed the two wizards blindly across the street and through what she thought was a doorway and into a noisy pub. As they walked through the entryway, Emma felt a tingling sensation wash over her. Maybe that was just what all muggles felt when they came into contact with magic.
Opening her eyes, Emma looked around the darkened bar, taking in the strange sights. If she were being truly honest with herself, she would admit that the magical world still freaked her out. How could not? She had grown up in a polar opposite situation and so walking blindly into a bar that shouldn’t exist that was filled with witches, wizards, and what looked like a goblin arguing with a….giant? She was far outside her comfort zone.
But instead of screaming hysterically, Emma took a deep, calming breath and reminded herself that she probably looked just as odd to them. And besides, new experiences were supposed to be good for you.
Realizing that Flitwick was waiting for her, Emma hurried towards another door, this one leading out into an alleyway. The professor pulled a long stick from his robs—Emma assumed this was a wand—and tapped on one brick. Suddenly, the entire wall began rearranging itself, the bricks folding in on themselves and become a brick entrance, leading into a busy street.
Emma gasped, and she realized with delight that the gasp was not of fear but of excitement. She looked to her left and Bobby had an identical expression of wonder. The afternoon was a blur of new experiences. There were robes to be fitted, books to buy and a wand to “choose” Bobby. Professor Flitwick politely explained every step of the process to Emma. She had been reading the Daily Prophet—the wizard paper—everyday since she had become Bobby’s guardian and had some idea of the way the Wizarding World worked, but she had to admit she was still thoroughly confused.
For the first time since his parents had…well, expressed their displeasure with their son’s magic, Bobby looked happy. Really, truly happy. So, while Emma wasn’t quite accustomed to this new world, although it would be hard for her to afford this school, and despite the fact that the idea of owls delivering her mail, Emma too was excited for Bobby to start Hogwarts. Maybe it would help Bobby deal with his family issues (as the court mandated psychologist had termed it).
Truly, Bobby was coming out of his shell. By the time the good professor treated them to ice cream at a restaurant called Fortescue’s, the boy was actually chatting with the wizened old wizard. As the two talked of classes, magical creatures, and something called quidditch, Emma watched the people walking up and down the busy street. There were many parents with their school age children, buying what Emma assumed was all the same supplies that Bobby had needed.
Emma got a little thrill every time she saw something that reminded her that she wasn’t in muggle London anymore. Little children “flew” by on broomsticks, no more than a foot off the ground, harassed parents chasing after them. A witch who had dropped a purchase, waved her wand agitatedly and the bag with all its contents reassembled and flew into her hands. It was all amazing and Emma was finding that she couldn’t get enough of it.
Suddenly, during her perusal of the street, her eyes locked with a man walking down the street towards her. He was tall, surely several inches above six feet, with light blue eyes and flaming red hair that had first caught her attention. It is always awkward when to strangers accidentally meet eyes, and Emma felt her cheeks redden slightly with embarrassment. The man obviously thought this was amusing, and smiled crookedly, his eyes dancing, and gave her a jaunty wave.
Then, just as suddenly as their eyes had met, the man turned his head, and Emma gave a little gasp.
He was missing an ear.
Author's Note: In case you spaced out for the first half of the seventh book, the ear-less read haired man is (obviously) Mr. George Weasley! Hurrah! Hopefully the next chapter will have lots and lots of him :) Please Review (constructively)!
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