“Here we are,” her mom said, looking up from the Narrowway direction letter. “Wait...this is the Woolworth Building." It had been a month since Willow and her mom had toured Gampton Hall. They were standing in front of an early twentieth century skyscraper in downtown Manhattan. They walked up and into the lobby, escaping the mid-morning heat that was building under the August sun.
“Hi,” Willow’s mom said to the receptionist. "I'm looking for a place called Narrowway."
“You know, you're the second person to ask me about that this week," the receptionist replied in a soft, welcoming voice. "I don't know where it is, but Jerry was able to help the last couple." She turned to a door the led into a back room. "Jerr!" she growled to a person inside. "There's another person asking about that Narrow place. Now get off your butt and help them." She turned and smiled at Willow and her mom. "He'll be right out," she said, seamlessly switching back to her sweet voice.
Jerry emerged a second later. "Oh, hey you," he said to Willow's mom as he led them back out the door. "First time to MACUSA?"
“We’re actually looking for Narrowway,” replied her mom.
Right, Narrowway's in MACUSA, only you can't get in by the front door. Come along with me." He led them down to Broadway and around to the side of the building along Barclay Street. "I'm just a squib, but MACUSA keeps me around the lobby just for helping out the newly minted mages," he said and winked at the two of them.
Willow looked at her mom and mouthed the word "squib?", but her mom just shrugged her shoulders and tried to stay on Jerry's heels who was striding past two coffee shops and the entrance to a branch of New York University.
"It's right around here," he said and turned right into a recessed alcove off of the street that held a dumpster. He led them beside the dumpster, still reeking from whatever slop was dumped in there yesterday and up to a nondescript metal door that had a stone owl over the opening. "Here we are. Just follow the signs." He left them and turned without another word to head back the way he came.
"This is not quite what I was expecting," said Willow's mom, looking at the inauspicious steel door.
"Me either," replied Willow. "But it stinks out here, so I'm going in." She pulled the handle on the door which made a clicking sound and they entered. They were standing inside to a small square room with no furniture, people or anything on the wall. There were two exit corridors. One on the right labeled "To Narrowway" and one on the left labeled "To MACUSA Offices".
"I don't see any signs," Willow's mom said. "Which way do we go?"
“You mean like that one?” Willow piped up, pointing to the large arrow sign with ‘To Narrowway’ written on it.
“Ha-ha, Willow, now seriously, did you see any signs?” She said, looking blankly around.
“I ... am serious,” Willow said. “There is a great big arrow sign right there that says ‘To Narrowway’ and points down this hallway.”
“Uh, honey,” her mother said, “that wall is blank.”
“Maybe to you, but I can see it just fine.”
“Well then, perhaps you should lead the way,” said her mother. As she turned down the right-hand hallway, Willow glanced back and saw her mom look at her with a worried expression on her face.
After walking down the hallway for about fifty feet, they emerged into a small brightly lit lobby area with several blazing fireplaces going, although the temperature in the room was comfortable. As Willow and her mom were looking around, a man in a robe and pointy hat appeared from out of nowhere in the middle of the fireplace flames. Stepping out of the green-tinged fire, he tipped his hat to them and walked toward a large front door leading outside.
“That man just…” Willow’s mom stammered.
“Yeah, mom. I saw it.”
They stood still as three more people appeared in the flames of the fireplaces and walked toward the exit before a woman in green robes and a pointy hat stopped to talk to them.
“Are you lost?” she asked.
“We were going to Narrowway,” Willow’s mom began. “But how did you appear out of the fireplace like that?”
“Oh...nomaj!” the lady exclaimed. “How quaint. Well, you see, I use floo powder, toss it into my fire at home, say where I’m headed and ‘whoop!’ Here I am.”
“I see,” said Willow’s mom in a way that sounded to Willow that she didn’t see at all.
“I’m late for an appointment, so I must be off,” the lady said to them, “but Narrowway is right outside that door. You have a good day.” With a flourish of her robe, she walked outside into the street.
Willow looked at her mother. “I guess we’d better head out too,” she said.
“Well, it doesn't really live up to its name, does it?” her mother remarked as they stepped onto a street wide enough to park a tractor trailer sideways. The weather was the same with the mid-morning sun climbing into the cloudless sky, but the temperature was cooler than it was before they entered the building.
"I don't understand," said Willow. "Are we back outside? Where did all the skyscrapers go?" As she looked over the top of the buildings that lined the street, she saw nothing but the tops of the trees with blue skies in the background as if they had just stepped from the bustle of Manhattan to a small village in New England just by walking in the garbage door of the Woolworth Building.
"Maybe we're not supposed to understand," said Willow's mom, gazing around at the street, buildings and sky.
Tall four-story brick and stone buildings lined either side of the street. The road wasn’t straight, but instead curved out of sight to the right a half block ahead. Willow saw that the bottom level of most of the buildings were stores, restaurants, and businesses. She looked at some of the names around her: 'Tommy’s Tailoring'; 'Runwicket Alchemy Supplies'; 'Gutbusters Restaurant'.
“So how do we find Gringotts?” Willow asked.
“Beats me, I guess we’ll just have to ask,” her mom replied and wandered over to Gutbusters to ask one of the servers there for directions. Willow watched the server point down the road to her right and twist her hand twice. Willow saw her mom point to a newspaper and the server handed it to her.
“Two turns this way,” said her mom after walking back over to where Willow was waiting. “I didn’t ask what a turn is, but we’ll figure it out. Take a look at this.” She handed the newspaper to Willow. It had the large words ‘The New York Ghost’ across the top and looked like a normal newspaper, but each of the photographs moved, just like the portraits at Gampton Hall. Willow stared at the headline: ‘Dinwiddy Dark Magic Den Destroyed; Dastardly Denizens Detained,’ and started reading aloud.
“Forty-five minutes ago, agents from MACUSA's Department of Magical Law Enforcement surrounded a residence outside of Dinwiddy suspected of housing individuals in the act of performing Dark Magic. After fifteen minutes of negotiation with the residents, the house was stormed by eight Department agents. With a minimum of resistance, the residence was successfully raided and the suspects were hauled away for questioning. Agents remain; continuing to collect evidence.” As Willow watched, the newspaper story grew longer, adding another line, which she continued reading. “‘Such evil-doers must be stamped out,’ said Secretary Trueworthy of the event ten seconds ago. ‘The Department has zero tolerance for any Dark Magic.’” Looking back at the previous sentence, she could see the words ‘ten seconds ago’ change to ‘twenty seconds ago’.
“I guess they don’t need computers if their news can be updated every ten seconds,” Willow said, folding the newspaper and handing it back to her mom. Her mom put it in her purse and together they set off in the direction of the Bank.
Every store they passed was something new and amazing to Willow. She saw one called ‘Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes’ which looked like a joke shop, another called ‘Quod De-pot’ with brooms in the window, and one called ‘Sugar Rush’ that was obviously a candy store. After the road took a sharp turn right, Willow noticed that the entire road necked down to a space between two buildings that only one person could pass at a time. As they got nearer, they noticed that some people to the right of the wall were disappearing while others appeared on the left - seemingly from nowhere, heading in the direction they had just come from. There was a third group of people lined up in a queue waiting to pass through the narrow opening.
“Narrowway,” said her mom, staring at the gathering of mages. “Now I get it. Where are those people coming from?” she asked, pointing to the ones appearing on the left.
Willow thought for a moment. “Maybe they’re transporting themselves from the other side? Mr. Puterschmidt said that people can do that.”
“Well I certainly can’t,” said her mom and they got in line to squeeze between the two buildings. After they threaded the gap, the street spread out again into the broad tree-lined avenue from the other side of the blockage. They continued on, following the street as it took another sharp turn left before straightening out and reaching a four-way intersection. One corner of the crossing was dominated by a large marble building that was unmistakably a bank. Mr. Abrams was waiting for them in front of the bank and came over to greet them.
“Heather, Willow - right on time,” he said to them. “I trust you didn’t have any difficulty?”
“Only figuring out which way to go once we go into the Woolworth Building,” Willow’s mom replied. “Willow was following signs, but I couldn’t see them.”
“Oh, yes,” Mr. Abrams responded. “They are very strict about the Statute of Secrecy. Only mages are able to see the signs and buttons that lead you here. Even I needed a guide to get here today.” He smiled at the look of wonder on their faces. "How do you like the weather in here?"
"Where are we, exactly?" asked Willow's mom.
"Oh, we're still inside the Woolworth Building," Mr. Abrams replied. "The space around us is enchanted to make it look like we're outside. The ceiling looks much higher than it is and mimics the weather in Manhattan. The only good thing is that when it's raining, the drops never make it to the street. All of MACUSA is inside the Woolworth Building. It's said to include hundreds of stories - but I've never been to any of them except here."
"But we walked for blocks," said Willow. "How can we still be in the same building?"
"Space doesn't work the same way int he magical world as it does in the one we're used to. My son tells me that they fit forty stories in where the thirteenth floor was supposed to be."
“Well, James,” her mom said, shaking her head at the wonder of it all. “Where should we begin?”
“You’ll need magical money here,” he said. “The bank has an exchange set up to change out money for you. They’ll provide you with dragots."
“Whatsits?” Willow’s mom asked.
“Dragots,” Mr. Abrams replied. “It's mage money. Before we go in, I should let you know that the creatures who work in this bank are not human.”
“Oh, so just like bankers in the nomaj world then?” joked Willow’s mom.
Laughing, Mr. Abrams continued. “Not quite. These are goblins and while they aren’t exactly friendly, they do behave themselves.”
Willow and her mom looked at each other with alarm and then her mom looked back at Mr. Abrams. “So it’s safe for us to go in there?” she asked.
Smiling, he nodded his head. “Yes, quite safe,” he said. “But just don’t give them any reason to get upset at you. They can bear a grudge. Come on, I’ll go too.”
As they approached the bank, Willow looked at a statue that was set up just outside of the doors. She immediately noticed two things different about it: the first was that it was carved out of glass, but it appeared to move and shift in the light as if there was water inside. The second was that the figure was not human; it was a small creature with ears and a nose that were large and pointy, small eyes and very long fingers and feet.
“Is that a goblin?” she asked, looking at the bottom of the statue where the sign was damaged, reading ‘Morlock the’ while the rest of the sign had been ripped away. Mr. Abrams nodded at her question. Willow reached out to touch the statue and her fingers disappeared inside. Jerking them back, she stared at her fingers, now dripping wet. “That statue is made of water,” she said in surprise.
“Uhhh, yes,” responded Mr. Abrams, hastily pulling a handkerchief out of his pocket. “Quick, dry off your hands before we walk in. The goblins think that statue is...well...bad luck and we don’t want to get off on the wrong foot.”
“Okay,” said Willow, drying her hands and then handing back the handkerchief. “Why?”
“I don’t know, exactly,” he responded. “I’ve never asked them.” He put the handkerchief back in his pocket and they entered the bank.
After they went through the large brass doors, Willow looked around to see that it looked just like any other bank lobby; except for the goblins, she thought. Although they’re not nearly as green and warty as I’ve been told.
Mr. Abrams and her mother approached the counter while Willow waited just behind, staring around at the goblins while trying not to look like she was staring around at the goblins.
“What do you want?” growled a goblin at her mother when they reached the window.
Taken aback, Willow’s mom hesitated. “Uh...I’d like to change nomaj money.” She passed a few bills through the window and turned to Mr. Abrams, muttering “so much for friendly customer service.”
“You can always take your business to another bank,” the goblin behind the counter said to her, smiling evilly after having heard the complaint.
Her mom turned to Mr. Abrams. “Let me guess...there isn’t another bank.” Mr. Abrams shook his head ‘no’. She turned back to the goblin at the window and gave a forced smile and half-laugh. “Sorry,” she said. “It’s my first time with...with, uh...being here.”
The goblin harrumphed and set a stack of gold coins and a few silver ones on the counter, pushing them through to Willow’s mom. She picked up the coins and said “thank you” to the uninterested goblin who had already turned away. As they stepped away from the counter, the goblin called out to the next customer: “What do you want?”
Willow turned to follow her mom and Mr. Abrams, but her shirt snagged on the brass post that held the queue line and it tipped, falling to the floor with a loud ‘clang!’ that reverberated throughout the open bank lobby. Every eye in the building turned to look at her. Mr. Abrams rushed over to help.
“Oh, bad luck,” he said as he helped her up and reset the brass post to its previous place.
Bad luck, thought Willow, staring at her fingers.
As they headed toward the door, Willow saw her mom turn her head to make sure no goblins were around and then asked Mr. Abrams “how do I know if this is right?”
“It’s right,” he reassured her. “They aren’t friendly, but they do know their business.” The gold ones are dragots and the silver ones are called 'sprinks'. Ninety three to a dragot."
"Why not a hundred?" Willow's mom asked.
"There's no reason to make the math easy," he replied. "You'll see when we start shopping."
They left the bank and went down the stairs, Willow giving the statue a wide berth. Once they were back in the intersection, Mr. Abrams turned to Willow and asked “So would you like to get your uniform first or your wand?”
Willow smiled. “Definitely my wand.” She couldn’t wait to start turning rocks into ice cream and stray cats into unicorns.
As they walked out of the bank, Willow looked at the other stores on the three corners of the intersection. Opposite the bank on the far side of the street was a building marked ‘New York Ghost, Narrowway Branch’, with the store to her right called ‘Dragonstones Jewelry’, and the one on her left ‘Familiars’. Drawn to the animals in the window of this last store, Willow grabbed her mother’s hand to draw her over to the store window.
“Mom, look at those cute puffballs,” Willow said, pointing to what looked like big, tan, fluffy basketball-sized puffs rolling around a cage by the window.
“What is that?” her mom said. She was staring at a large scaly reptile in a cage set further back in the store. “It looks like a mini alligator....with wings?”
They were still staring at the creatures when Mr. Abrams, who had followed them, addressed Willow. “I see you’ve found the puffskeins,” he observed. “Very popular with students, but I’m afraid they won’t let you buy one.”
“Why not?” asked Willow.
“Because you live in a nomaj household,” he said. “Not only can you not do magic outside of school, but the proprietors can’t sell you magical animals, and you can’t take any magical objects out where nomaj could see them. It’s a rotten rule, but if we’re to maintain the secret nature of the magical world, we have to follow them.”
Seeing that Willow was deflated, her mom put her hand on Willow’s shoulder. “Don’t worry about it,” she said. “There will be plenty of amazing things that you’ll get to see and do. Now weren’t we looking for a wand?”
Leaving the pet store, they headed down the left-hand street where Mr. Abrams led them to a store called ‘Narrowway Wands’. Willow wasn’t sure what a wand store was supposed to look like, but she stopped in her tracks when she walked inside: it was a color explosion. The walls flickered from neon green to red to electric blue and back again. The store was brightly lit and white glass-fronted display cases were spread around the room with wands carefully displayed throughout. As she continued into the store, Willow thought that the decor wouldn’t be out of place if this store was selling cupcakes...or fireworks.
The proprietor, a young brown haired woman with glasses was helping an older man in a red robe whose wand was apparently broken in two places. The young woman looked up as they entered and called out to them. “Be with you in just a moment.”
While she was waiting, Willow looked at the display cases nearest to her and read some of the labels: ‘Ash, Chimera horn, 12 3/4 inches, pliable’; ‘Chestnut, Pegasus tail hair, 10 inches, swishy’; ‘American elm, dragon heartstring, 9 ½ inches, reasonably springy’.
Willow was startled out of her reading by the proprietor, who had come over without her hearing. “You must be headed off to school in the fall,” she said to Willow. "Which one are you going to?"
Confused, Willow asked "Which what?"
"Which school," the lady smiled. "You didn't think yours was the only one? Are you going to Ilvermorny or one of the others?"
"Gampton Hall," Willow responded. "I didn't know there were others." Although now she remembered Mr. Puterschmidt mentioning something about that during the tour.
The lady nodded. "Ah, yes. Gampton Hall. Ilvermorny is the largest and most prestigious - or at least they think so," she said as an aside. "It has more than eight hundred students,but there are others: Gampton Hall, the Rocky Mountain Institute, and the American School of Magic on Sutil Island have between two and three hundred each. Gampton is the only one that's not a boarding school though."
She held out her hand. "I'm Miss Caitlyn Chantrix.” She held out her hand. Willow shook it and introduced herself.
“Pleased to meet you Willow,” said Miss Chantrix. “I think I can definitely help the right wand find you. Could I see your hands please?”
Willow held out her hands and Miss Chantrix looked at the fronts and backs of both of them. “Your date of birth, please?” she asked Willow.
“And your height?” she asked.
“4 feet, 11 inches”
“Excellent,” said Miss Chantrix. “Let’s pull a few wands to see what works.” She turned toward a doorway that led to the back of the store. “Hey, Binky! Could you come here, please.”
At her call, a small creature came through the door. At first glance, Willow thought it was a goblin, but it was much smaller and had huge eyes instead of the small beady ones of the goblins.
“James, is that like a baby goblin?” her mom was asking Mr. Abrams quietly.
“No,” he replied. “That’s an elf.”
"Hm," Willow's mom replied. "Somehow I thought they would be taller."
Miss Chantrix had turned to the elf. “I’ll need you to pull some wands for me. Let’s go with oak, between eleven and a half and twelve inches, less pliable, and various cores.” The elf nodded and disappeared into the back room. Not thirty seconds later, the elf re-emerged with an armful of foot-long boxes and set them on a low table. Miss Chantrix thanked him and he left them while she sorted through the boxes and picked one out.
“Let’s start with this one,” she said, handing Willow a wooden wand about a foot long. It was light in Willow’s hand and as she took it she looked back at Miss Chantrix. “What am I supposed to do with it?” she asked.
“Oh, just flick and swish, it will do the rest,” Miss Chantrix said, demonstrating with her free hand.
Willow flicked and swished and a light strand drooped out of the end of the wand like a string of chewed bubblegum and dropped in a puddle on the floor before disappearing.
“No good, I’ll take that back,” Miss Chantrix said and held out her hand.
Willow handed back the wand and took the next one she was offered. This time it blew glowing bubbles out of the end.
“Nope, that one isn’t it, either,” said Miss Chantrix.
“How do you know when you choose the right one?” Willow asked.
“It’s the wand that chooses the mage - not the other way, and we’ll both know when it finds you - trust me.”
Four wands later, Willow’s wand was shooting a single spark out of the end.
“Oh, I think we’re close,” said Miss Chantrix with excitement in her voice. “Here, try this one.”
As soon as Willow touched it, it felt right. Better than the others, but if she tried to describe why she couldn’t. She flicked her wrist and a fountain of sparks shot out of the end in rainbow colors.
“It looks like our wand has chosen,” Miss Chantrix said; “eleven and three quarter inches, white oak, solid, with a griffon feather core.”
As Willow’s mother paid for the wand, Willow continued shooting sparks, thinking all the time, I’m doing magic!
After Willow thanked Miss Chantrix, she stepped outside and looked for something she could turn into a butterfly. Seeing a piece of paper lying in the gutter of the road, she pointed her wand at it. Red sparks shot from the end of the wand...and nothing happened. She tried again, but the piece of paper just sat there, unchanged. Mr. Abrams came over to her.
“I don’t know much about magic,” he said to Willow, “just what I have been able to pick up from my son, but casting spells requires quite a bit of training. If I remember correctly, at the end of his first year, he could only do three or four spells. It takes long hard study to be a good mage. Just be patient.”
Sighing, Willow nodded her head to Mr. Abrams and put her wand back in its case.
“I guess I won’t be turning flowers into ice cream after all,” Willow said to her mom when she had emerged from the store.
Willow’s mom smiled at her. “Well, when you do, I’ll take chocolate.”
Their next stop was the bookstore to pick up her textbooks for the year. As they brought the books up to the salesman, Willow watched as he touched the price tag on each book with his wand and she saw little colored glowing dots float in the air above the pile of books. The glowing dots shuffled around in the air and settled into a single groups which then turned into numbers that the salesman read off. “That will be nineteen dragots, twelve sprinks, please,” he said to Willow’s mom.
While her mom had the books put on the Gampton Hall account, Willow turned to Mr. Abrams.
“Is that why I don’t need a math book?” she asked him.
“Yes,” he said. “It seems that all math problems are magically solved. There’s a subject at Gampton Hall called ‘Numerology’, but my son never took it so I don’t know the details. I believe it has to do with the magical properties of numbers rather than arithmetic.”
After visits to the alchemy store to buy a school starter kit and a trip to the clothing store for uniforms, a heavy cloak, and a dress robe, their arms were full. Mr. Abrams led them to the end of the dead-end street.
“I would have stopped here first if it wasn’t so far out of the way,” he said, “but this will be a big help to carry all your school supplies every day.” He opened the door to ‘Bags by Bumble’. Judging by the window display, Willow saw that this store sold backpacks and handbags.
Walking inside, the salesman greeted them warmly and asked what they were looking for. Mr. Abrams spoke up for them. “Willow here will be attending Gampton Hall this fall and will need a Stor-all.”
“Of course,” the salesman said to Willow. “Come this way and I’ll show you what we have.”
Willow set her things down on the counter and followed him while her mother was perusing the leather purses on display. As Willow and the salesman walked to a wall display of backpacks, he introduced himself. “My name’s Neal, and I think you’ll find we have the best selection here of anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic.”
“I...I don’t really know what I’m supposed to look for.” Willow said.
“Oh! Are you nomaj born?” Neal asked. Seeing Willow nod her head, he told her what a Stor-all was. “It’s a bag that is larger inside than out. It helps you carry around much more than you could with a nomaj backpack. Even when you load it with alchemy supplies and all of your books, it still isn’t heavy. Trust me, it’s a huge back-saver.” He looked at the wall for a few seconds and then turned back to Willow.
“Actually, wait here for a moment,” he said. “I think I have something that you could use.”
Having been left alone, Willow wandered over to see what her mom was looking at.
“These bags are beautiful,” her mom said to Willow as she walked over. “Do you think we could spare a few of those dragots to buy one?”
“I’m sure we could, mom. Which one do you like?”
“I can’t decide between the pink and the black,” her mom said.
The salesman had returned with a light brown leather bag under his arm. “Oh, I see you’re admiring our Granger collection.” he said to Willow’s mom. “You do know they won’t work for you, right?”
“What do you mean ‘work for me’?” Willow’s mom asked.
“The storage magic, it doesn’t work for nomaj.”
“Oh.” Willow’s mom was taken aback. “I...but it looks like a regular bag to me.” she said.
“It will work exactly like a plain non-magical bag for you,” said Neal. “But if you’d hand it to your daughter...” he waited while Willow’s mom handed her the pink bag.
“Willow, put your arm in that bag,” Neal said to her.
Willow opened the purse and looked inside. It looked like it was bigger inside than outside. She stuck her hand in, and then her arm to the elbow and then her whole arm up to the shoulder. Willow’s mom stared in wonder as her daughter’s arm appeared to have vanished inside the bag.
Neal explained. “You can store almost anything in there if you can use magic, so your daughter could use it, but you can’t.”
“Oh, I don’t mind,” said Willow’s mom. “I think they’re wonderful - even if I can’t use the magic.”
Turning to Willow, Neal handed her the bag he had brought from the back room. “This is a special bag,” he said. “It was actually mine, but it has a pocket inside that can’t be detected by anyone but the bag’s owner. By giving it to you, the magic will transfer as well. I found it to be really useful when I first went to Gampton Hall since I am a nomaj-born too. I hid Hershey bars in it and gave them out to the other students who had never had one. They don’t move like chocolate frogs, but it’s better than toe jam-flavored Bertie Botts beans. It really helped me make friends in those first few months when I didn’t know anyone or anything.”
“Wow. Thank you.” Willow replied. “Uh, how much...?”
“Nothing,” he replied. “I’m just glad that someone else will be able to use it. It has been sitting unused for ten years now.” He smiled and continued in a whisper to Willow. “Besides, maybe your mom is going to buy that Granger anyway.”
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