Chapter 4 : Amen, Brother!
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Dumbledore smiled kindly at me over steepled fingers. “Miss Farrell, it would help if you could tell me a little bit about your situation. I don’t mean to pry, but it would be advantageous if you could enlighten me a bit as to the state of your magical education. Your parents taught you at home, I believe?”
I nodded, not bothering to wonder how he knew. I was turning into a brainless lump of flesh, nodding and smiling and coughing at everything that happened. I seemed to have lost the ability to process events and articulate my feelings. The combination of my unorthodox arrival at Hogwarts and my subsequent excruciating encounter with a handsome boy had reduced me to a mindless pool of sludge.
I’ve never handled turmoil well.
“And they instructed you in all the basic categories of spellwork? Charms, Transfiguration, Potions, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Care of Magical Creatures, Divination, and History of Magic?”
I nodded again. Perhaps I could make it through the entire interview without opening my mouth. It was probably safer that way.
“Anything else? Muggle Studies, perhaps, or Ancient Runes or Arithmancy?”
I inclined my head. Yes! One more question answered and my lips remained firmly closed.
“And you are familiar with both the theory behind the subjects and their practical applications?”
I nodded once again. I was beginning to feel like a Chihuahua on a dashboard.
"Perhaps you would be so kind as to demonstrate your knowledge for me? Something simple, of course. Are you familiar with the Summoning Charm?" the professor inquired.
My head bobbed again. It seemed to be moving of its own accord by this juncture of the interview.
The professor gazed at me expectantly. After a few silent moments, I realized that he was waiting for me to say something. Damn. I was going to have to stop pretending to be a mute and open my godforsaken mouth.
"The incantation is 'Accio,'" I recited monotonously. I figured that if I made me voice as dry as possible, there was a possibility that even if something totally outlandish slipped out, my flat tone might dull the impropriety. "The spellcaster must focus intently on the object to be summoned, willing it to themselves, and speak the incantation. This should cause the desired item to move from its original position to the wizard who cast the spell. One may also add the name of the object to be summoned to the incantation - for example, 'Accio chocolate frog' - but the addition is not always necessary."
I breathed a sigh of relief after I finished my recitation. Nothing too embarrassing, unless I had bored the headmaster to death. I risked a slight glance upward. Nope. Still alive.
"Yes, yes, that is an exceedingly accurate summary of the theory," Professor Dumbledore acknowledged, inclining his head gravely in my direction. "But I wonder, would you be willing to demonstrate your practical knowledge for me?"
I blinked. "I'm sorry, sir, but I don't know what you mean."
The professor frowned. "Would you be so kind as to perform the charm for me? I wish to gain a rough estimate of your spellcasting ability."
"Cast the spell?" I felt my eyebrows dart together and my forehead wrinkle. Oh yes. Very attractive. "But sir, I haven't got a wand."
It was Professor Dumbledore's turn to blink confusedly. "You don't have a wand, Miss Farrell?" he repeated. "My, that is tremendously unusual."
“It is, sir?” I queried. “Well, I mean, I know that all the students at Hogwarts have wands, but since I was home-schooled, it’s to be expected, isn’t it?”
“To be expected? Miss Farrell, why on Earth would you think that?” the professor demanded. “You are seventeen years old, and you mean to tell me that you are not in possession of your own wand?” He was frowning deeply now, and tapping his long fingers agitatedly on his dark mahogany desk.
I was thoroughly bewildered. “But sir, the law states that no underage wizard may use magic outside of a specific Ministry-designated area - and the only such place in Britain is Hogwarts. My parents never saw fit to buy me a wand. They said, ‘What’s the point if you’re not allowed to use it?’ I asked my aunt if I could buy one when I came of age last month, after my parents . . .” I swallowed. I still had trouble talking about the accident.
Dumbledore nodded, his expression softening visibly. “Yes, Miss Farrell, I see,” he replied gently. “But your aunt refused to help you obtain a wand?”
“Yes, sir. She’s . . . well . . . Aunt Estella isn't exactly . . . there," I explained haltingly. If my memory served, I believe that when I asked her to take me to Diagon Alley, she told me to stop talking, because she was communing with The Infernal Marquis about the Spectre of Blight, and I was disturbing her concentration.
But I wasn't about to tell the headmaster that.
Instead, I said, "I love my aunt, sir, but she's more than slightly . . ." I paused, not sure how to phrase my assessment of my aunt’s character delicately. My aunt's little rendezvous with the Infernal Marquis seemingly required her to wear a tablecloth as a cape and about five rolls of toilet paper wrapped around her head as a turban, wave a radish in the air, and chant “Ooom aa wammm way fie deeeee zoww” out in the rose garden at four-o-clock in the morning. And aside from the turban and the cape, she was completely naked. ". . . unusual," I finished.
I found the whole situation immensely unpleasant, and rather than risk a repeat, I decided to spend as much time as possible out of the house and stop pressing the wand issue. I had lived without one for seventeen years. And realistically, even if I had obtained one, I was sure I wouldn’t have had the faintest idea what to do with it. Aunt Estella certainly wasn’t going to teach me anything about wand use. I hadn’t given the issue much more thought at the time, but now I was worried that the professor might decide that an untrained, unequipped, uninvited teenage girl apparently related to maniacs was too much trouble to take on.
“Well, we shall simply have to secure you a wand straight away,” the headmaster asserted, smiling kindly in a marginally successful attempt at concealing the troubled look that was sinking deeper and deeper into his features. “Not much can be done in your classes here without one.”
“You’ll still take me?” I blurted out shakily. “I mean, I must be so far behind, and getting me a wand will be a dreadful inconvenience, and . . . Oh no! I haven’t any money! I can’t pay for anything . . .” I was working myself into a frenzy, frantic that my one chance to attend the best school of witchcraft and wizardry in the world was about to pass me up.
“Of course we will take you, Miss Farrell,” Professor Dumbledore affirmed, capturing my gaze and holding it, willing me to look at him. “Do not think for one moment that your circumstances will affect your placement in the slightest. One’s background, whether it is colorful or bland, privileged or disadvantaged, painful or pleasant, unusual or commonplace, is only, after all, a backdrop, like the sets in a production. Stage decorations may serve to enhance the audience’s understanding of a scene or a character, but they by no means define the action, or dictate the characters' motivation. The activities one chooses to perform center-stage are what attract observers’ attention.”
I nodded dumbly. Damn! Now I couldn't turn the nods off. I sat, motionless, sinking deeper and deeper into the squishy purple chair for about ten long seconds before the enormity of the professor's words hit me. At that point, I believe I jumped up, pumped my fist in the air, and exclaimed, "AMEN, BROTHER!"
Yes. I'm sorry to have to admit it, but it's true.
I realized about a nanosecond after the words left my mouth that I had just done something that would be sure to haunt me for the rest of my days in existence. It's an unfortunate skill of mine - I recognize my stupid moments, but only after it's too late to arrest their momentum.
Yes, I was excited - no, overjoyed - at the prospect of attending Hogwarts as a full-fledged student. I was ecstatic that I was to have a wand of my very own at last. And I was thrilled beyond belief that this man was accepting me, believing in me, convinced that I would be a success despite the rather unorthodox nature of my past. But that was no reason to morph into a bloody cross between a preacher on drugs and a cheerleader apparently afflicted with Tourettes.
I plopped back into the armchair, cheeks burning. To my utter mortification, the headmaster chuckled and rapped two fingers on one hand lightly against the palm of the other. “Thank you, Miss Farrell. I do so love to see enthusiasm in our students. Welcome to Hogwarts. I’ll take care of the wand business tomorrow, of course, so you don’t miss any more of your lessons. I’ll expect you to work hard - you’ll have quite a bit of catching up to do. If you’ll wait just one moment, I will introduce you to Professor McGonagall, our Deputy Headmistress. She will see you to some temporary quarters until we can get you sorted. We’ll do that at dinner tonight. And I will have her introduce you to our Head Girl, Miss Hermione Granger. Perhaps Miss Granger would be kind enough to show you around and help acquaint you with our lovely school.”
“Thank you very much, sir,” I muttered, staring fixedly at the floor and folding my hands demurely in my lap. I know, it was a little late for that. I don’t think I was going to even come close to projecting a proper, controlled, poised demeanor for the headmaster, but I’ve never been one to acknowledge defeat.
Plus, if I kept my hands firmly entwined and positioned thus, I figured it would be a little harder for me to perform any more displays of manic hand-waving. It was a win-win.
Or as close to winning as I could get, anyway.
I watched the professor scribble a note on a piece of parchment, roll it up, and seal it. With astonishing grace, he rose from his chair and swept across the room in a swirling billow of robes. I saw him place the scroll in the fireplace, and had but a moment to think, “How odd! Won’t it get burned?” before he muttered something I couldn’t hear and green flames erupted in the grate. I watched intently, convinced that the scroll would be incinerated. I blinked, however, and it was gone. No ash remained to testify to its existence. It seemed to have disappeared, without leaving the slightest trace behind.
“There,” the professor murmured, striding back across the room. “Professor McGonagall and Miss Granger should be here shortly. I hope everything has been arranged to your satisfaction, Miss Farrell?”
My satisfaction? He was concerned that his plans hadn’t satisfied me? I had to think for a moment and make sure he really had witnessed my vehement little outburst earlier. Was it possible I had imagined it, and that he didn’t realize that I was euphoric to the point of giddiness?
Then I noticed his eyes twinkle and a slight smile dash across his face. Damn. No such luck.
A/N: Please guys, let me know what you think - your reviews keep me going!
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