After Mrs. McGreggor’s strange departure, Ms. Fitzpatrick and I sat on the sofa very quietly for a long time, completely perplexed. Neither of us spoke; we couldn’t believe what we had just seen and heard. Finally Ms. Fitzpatrick walked into the kitchen and started preparing dinner; I suppose the best way for her to deal with and process all this new information was to act as though nothing had happened.
She and I spent the next few weeks avoiding conversations about the big decision before us, but finally Ms. Fitzpatrick began to mention to me that I needed to start thinking about my choice. I put it off as long as I could, claiming that I had mountains of homework to do and hadn’t had time to think about the situation.
Finally, at the end of June, Ms. Fitzpatrick insisted that I couldn’t put it off any longer, and we sat down on the wooden front steps of the orphanage and had a talk as we looked out across the yard about whether or not I should attend Dunamase.
“Tell me what you think about all this, Jayde,” she said.
“I’m afraid to leave the orphanage,” I told her.
“I understand that,” she began, “but I honestly think it’s the right thing for you to do.”
I was completely perplexed by her statement. “What do you mean?” I asked her.
“A witch is who you are,” she whispered to me. “Who you were born to be. I think if you ever want to know anything about your parents, you should at least familiarize yourself with the culture they were a part of.”
Admittedly, I hadn’t thought of this before. I sat in silence for a few moments thinking about what Ms. Fitzpatrick had just said, but I still wasn’t convinced. She and I watched the sun set as we continued to discuss the situation, and after talking for quite a while, she convinced me to give it a try. I set my mind to attend Dunamase. I was scared, but I was determined to make both her and my parents proud of me.
Both excitement and fear built up in me as the school year drew to a close, and the school year ended somewhat bitter-sweetly for me, as I realized I wouldn’t be attending “regular” school any longer. I had decided to spend as much of my summer as I could with Ms. Fitzpatrick, since I wouldn’t be around in the fall.
Ms. Fitzpatrick made up a wonderful story to tell the other children about why I wouldn’t be around much from now on. At the end of July we had a dinner meeting with all the other children and told them that in the fall, I would be attending Sacred Heart Secondary School in County Cork, a boarding school for those who displayed academic excellence. Not surprisingly, none of my peers seemed shocked or upset about this information, nor did they ask any questions.
Finally, on Saturday, August 8th, I went out to the mailbox and found another letter from Mrs. McGreggor. The letter said that she’d be stopping by today to get our decision, and to hopefully help me buy my school things. Ms. Fitzpatrick and I had been sitting on the sofa nervously ever since we’d read the letter, waiting for Mrs. McGreggor’s return. When we finally heard a knock on the door, Ms. Fitzpatrick jumped up at once to answer it while I remained seated.
I heard the two of them talking in the hallway and then smiled up at Mrs. McGreggor as she entered the room. “How lovely, dear!” she said before I even spoke, “I’m so glad you’ve decided to join us!” I looked up at Ms. Fitzpatrick, wondering if she’d told her the good news, but Ms. Fitzpatrick just shook her head, looking a little stunned herself.
“How did you know what my decision was?” I asked.
Mrs. McGreggor simply shook her head and said, “You will know in time, my dear.” Then she asked if I was ready to go shopping in Clonminam, the wizard village, for all my things, and I said I was. Mrs. McGreggor said she’d have me back by sunset, and I gave Ms. Fitzpatrick a hug before walking outside behind the headmistress.
When I got outside I asked Mrs. McGreggor where we were going first, and she said, “To the bank, of course!” She motioned for me to follow her as she walked down the steps and across the yard. She continued onto the road and we had walked for about five minutes when I began to hope to myself that we weren’t really going to walk all the way to the bank. Mrs. McGreggor let out a snicker and said, “No dear, we’re not going to walk all that far. We just have to walk far enough that we’re out of the sight range of all your neighbors.”
"Out of sight of what?” I asked, curious.
“Do you remember the first time we met?” asked Mrs. McGreggor, “When I disappeared after we’d finished talking?”
“Yes” I answered, still not grasping the idea.
“Well, that’s how we’re going to get around today”, Mrs. McGreggor continued, “It’s called apparating.”
“But I don’t know how to apparate!” I said.
"I know that dear. Even trained witches and wizards aren’t allowed to do it until they’ve reached a certain age,” said Mrs. McGreggor, “And since you can’t do it for yourself just yet, I’m going to take you with me when I apparate. It’s called side-along apparition.”
“Oh,” I said, feeling a little embarrassed. “Does it hurt?”
“Well Jayde, I won’t lie and say it’s the most wonderful feeling in the world,” Mrs. McGreggor said, “but it doesn’t hurt. There now, I think we’ve walked quite far enough. Are you ready, dear?”
“I think so,” I replied.
“Good. Then take my arm, please,” she said.
I did as I was told, and the next thing I knew I felt like I was standing between four walls that were quickly closing in around me; it was like every inch of my body was being squeezed by an invisible force. And then, almost as suddenly as it had began, the sensation ended. When I finally felt safe enough to open my eyes, I noticed that we were in a small forest, and Mrs. McGreggor was staring down at me, concerned. “Are you all right, dear?” she asked.
“I think so,” I said. “I just need a moment to catch my breath.”
“I understand dear, that happens to all of us on our first time,” Mrs. McGreggor replied.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“We are in Dublin, in a forest near what’s known as the Mansion House,” Mrs. McGreggor replied.
“I’ve heard of this place,” I said, “but why are we here? Isn’t it closed to the public?”
“It’s closed to certain parts of the public,” Mrs. McGreggor answered with a smile.
“Then how are we to get in?” I asked.
“You’ll see,” answered Mrs. McGreggor, “Just take my hand and stay close by my side.”
“Okay,” I said, doing as I was told.
I heard Mrs. McGreggor whispering something funny that sounded like made-up words, but I didn’t interrupt. Then Mrs. McGreggor led me out of the forest and we walked down the road a bit before we came upon the Mansion House, with its gate sealed and ‘Keep Out’ signs posted everywhere.
It looked like it had once been a very beautiful place, but now it was forlorn-looking and unkempt. This didn’t seem to bother Mrs. McGreggor at all. She marched right up to the gate and tapped it with the stick she’d just pulled from her right pocket; I assumed it was her wand. Immediately the gate began to glow gold and then I watched in awe as it swung open in front of us. Mrs. McGreggor walked through the gate as though this were nothing new to her.
Once we had made it inside the yard, the gate automatically shut and re-locked itself behind us. “How does that work?” I asked, astonished. Mrs. McGreggor smiled.
“Only a witch or wizard can open that gate”, she said, “And even if a human was standing right outside that gate as we walked through it, they would not be able to see it open, nor us walking through it. That’s all part of the magic of this place.”
And it wasn’t until Mrs. McGreggor started walking towards the building again that I realized the change that had happened to the building in the past two minutes. It didn’t look run-down and forgotten anymore; the white and beige stone was sparkling as if it were brand-new.
We entered Gringotts, and it was there that I met goblins for the first time, to my sheer terror - the goblins frightened me. Mrs. McGreggor gave me the key to my vault and we rode a small cart down into the tunnels that ran underneath the bank. We opened my vault, number six hundred fifteen, and what I saw when I looked into my Gringotts vault for the first time shocked me, in both a good way and a bad way.
The vault was full, but not with what I had hoped it would be full with. I was hoping for a lot of money, or at least enough to pay for my school tuition and supplies. It was filled instead with piles upon piles of gold, silver, and bronze coins that didn’t look anything like the currency used here.
Somehow seeming to know what I was thinking again, Mrs. McGreggor spoke up and said, “Wizards use different money than the rest of the world does. The gold ones are Galleons, they’re worth the most. The silver ones are Sickles - one Galleon is worth seventeen Sickles. The Knuts are the bronze ones, they’re worth the least. One Sickle is worth twenty-nine Knuts. It might not look like much to you right now, but let me assure you that from looking at this pile I can tell your parents were very well off. They’ve left you a small fortune.”
Having said this, she pulled a brown money bag made of cloth from a pocket in the skirt she was wearing and handed it to me. “Hold this dear, while I put enough money in it to last you at least the first two terms,” she said, and I did as I was told.
We finished filling the bag with some of the Galleons, Sickles, and Knuts, consequentially making it quite a bit heavier, and Mrs. McGreggor told me to close the bag. She told the goblin who’d been waiting patiently that we were ready to leave. I stowed my vault key in my pocket, and Mrs. McGreggor and I rode back up through the tunnels, walked through the bank, and then went back outside.
When we got outside the bank’s gate I took Mrs. McGreggor’s arm. I had the strange, walls-closing-in-on-me sensation again and when it stopped I found myself in a very busy small village. Mrs. McGreggor and I had landed on a cobblestone street in the middle of the small village, and there were children and adults alike bustling about. I accidentally bumped into several people as I looked around, before quickly apologizing. I stared in amazement at the busy little village, trying to take in everything at once; I didn’t want to miss one single detail.
There were quaint little shops lining either side of the street, with wooden signs hanging from them. “What do you say we get started, dear?” said Mrs. McGreggor, and she pulled me into the shop closest to us on the left, whose wooden sign, when translated from Gaelic, read ‘Campbell’s Wooden Wonders’.
I remember being more than a bit nervous as we stepped into the dark and dusty shop; the floor-length red curtains were closed and the sunlight shining through them cast an eerie red glow on the entire shop. I looked around at the shop, and when my eyes adjusted to the darkness I was amazed to see stacks upon stacks of multi-colored small rectangular boxes piled helter-skelter, not only on the wooden floor, but on the pine bookshelves and countertops as well.
Just as I began to wonder excitedly what could be in those boxes, Mrs. McGreggor spoke into the darkness. “Ms. Campbell?” she called tentatively. I turned to look up at Mrs. McGreggor and watched as she stood on her tip-toes in her black high-heeled shoes and cranked her slender neck in hopes of finding the shopkeeper. Only seconds later, a squeaky voiced called from somewhere near the back of the shop, causing me to look away from Mrs. McGreggor to search for the source of the voice. A thin woman who was even shorter than my eleven-year-old self soon stepped into view. Her short, jet-brown hair was cut into a neat bob just beneath her chin.
“Hello, Eva dear, it’s been a while,” the woman said, returning Mrs. McGreggor’s greeting as she fixed her beady eyes directly on me as she approached. She walked up to me; the top of her head was barely as high as the bridge of my nose. Very uncomfortable and slightly nauseous from the strange odor the strange woman was giving off, I stared down at the floor to avoid her piercing gaze.
The woman began to circle me, occasionally murmuring to herself as she did so, making me even more uncomfortable. When she finished circling me she came to stand in front of me again before speaking. “Ten and a quarter inches,” she said very loudly, “Not much spring to it. Either cherry wood or willow.”
When she finished speaking, she pulled a wand from the pocket in her dress and waved it in the air. As soon as she did so, a strange whooshing noise began, and when I looked up to see what was happening, my jaw dropped in amazement. Several wands were floating towards me; I assumed they’d come from the piles of boxes I’d noticed earlier.
The wands continued to float forward until they reached Ms. Campbell and me, and they came to a halt in midair when they reached us. Not wasting a moment, Ms. Campbell grabbed the nearest wand and extended her tiny, wrinkled hand, indicating that I should take the wand from her. I cast a timid glance up at Mrs. McGreggor, who smiled and nodded her head at me in encouragement, and then slowly inched my hand forward to take the stick from Ms. Campbell.
I slowly wrapped my hand around the wand and closed my fist, but as soon as I did Ms. Campbell pulled it through my fingers and tossed it behind her haphazardly. “Definitely not phoenix feather”, she said, and as soon as she did several of the wands started floating back towards their boxes.
Ms. Campbell immediately grabbed another wand and indicated for me to take it from her, but she once again snatched it away from me with a look of disappointment as soon as I touched it. “Not veela hair, either,” she said as she tossed this wand behind her, too. Once again, several wands floated back to their boxes after she made this statement. She extended another wand for me to take before snatching it out of my grasp and throwing it behind her. “Not leprechaun hair either,” she said. “So that just leaves unicorn hair and dragon heartstring. Let’s try a double-fisted approach to speed things up.”
Ms. Campbell now took a wand in each hand and extended both of her hands at the same time, and I did the same. I slowly inched my hands forward and enclosed my palms on both wands at the same time, and as soon as I did I felt a warm sensation in both hands. As I watched in awe, dark violet sparks erupted from the wand in my left hand while lavender sparks shot out of the wand in my right hand.
“Hmm... that’s odd,” Ms. Campbell said before taking both wands from me. “The cherry wood and dragon heartstring works better, but the hawthorn and unicorn hair sparked also. Perhaps cherry wood with unicorn hair would work even better,” she said, mostly to herself. She then turned to look at all the other sticks that were still floating in the air around her, examining each. “I don’t have any cherry wood with unicorn hair right now,” she said before turning back to face me. “So cherry wood and dragon heartstring it is. That’ll be 8 galleons, please.”
At this, she walked behind the counter she was standing in front of and started boxing up the wand I’d had in my left hand, and Mrs. McGreggor began digging into her pocket for some of the gold coins we’d gotten from the wizard’s bank earlier. Ms. Campbell finished boxing up my wand and placed it on the pine counter in front of her and then extended her hand, waiting for Mrs. McGreggor to give her the gold coins. Mrs. McGreggor did so and then took the pale blue box from the counter and handed it to me. Then she and I both thanked Ms. Campbell, who also thanked us for our business, before turning our backs on the counter and walking out of the shop.
I had to blink several times as I stepped back out onto the cobblestone street to allow my eyes to adjust to all the light, but Mrs. McGreggor seemed unfazed by the rapid change of brightness and walked into the shop directly across the road from Ms. Campbell’s. I scurried across the street to catch up with her.
At the second shop we went to I got my cauldron, telescope, and trunk, and we left there and went to an apothecary to get my scales, tools, and ingredients for my potions class. Next we went to a bookstore to get all the books for my first year, and a stationery shop to get my parchment, quills, and ink.
Our final stop was a clothing store, where I was measured for and received my Dunamase uniforms. I got ten black shirts with a hunter green “D” embroidered at the top inside a purple shield near the left side of the collar. I also bought five hunter green skirts with light purple and black plaid, five pair of tan stockings, a black travelling cloak with the same emblem from the shirts at the top left, two black sweaters which also bore the emblem, and two pair of black flat shoes.
Before we left the clothing store, I shoved all the clothes I’d just bought into my trunk, where I’d shoved everything else I’d bought to make it all easier to carry. Then we left the shop and Mrs. McGreggor pulled the list of required supplies from her pocket and crossed off ‘school uniforms’. “Well, that’s everything,” she said. “Now I’ll take you back to the orphanage. It’s getting late and I promised Ms. Fitzpatrick I’d have you home before dark.”
Mrs. McGreggor was right; she and I had spent the majority of the day shopping in Clonminam and I’d seen many things that had amazed me. I’d seen many people using magic as though it were an everyday thing for them, and then I realized it probably was an everyday thing.
Standing in one spot on the cobblestone street we’d walked practically every inch of that day, Mrs. McGreggor told me to put my money bag into my trunk, and I did as I was told. Once I had resealed the trunk, she took it from me and said that she’d carry it while we apparated to make sure I didn’t accidentally drop it in the process. Then she told me to take her arm again, and I felt those imaginary walls close in on me once more.
When I opened my eyes, we were standing back on the street in front of the orphanage, in the exact spot we’d left from earlier that morning. It seemed like such a long time ago that we’d set out to buy all my school things, and I was excited to get back and show Ms. Fitzpatrick everything I’d bought - especially my wand.
I took my trunk back from Mrs. McGreggor and practically ran all the way back to the orphanage and then ran straight to the kitchen, where Ms. Fitzpatrick was cooking dinner. She pulled me into a tight hug and then asked how my day was, but I didn’t answer. Instead, I opened my trunk and began pulling items out one by one as Mrs. McGreggor entered the kitchen and closed the door behind her, scolding me for not being more careful.
After I’d showed Ms. Fitzpatrick everything, I went back up to my room and put my trunk away - Mrs. McGreggor had locked it to keep the other children from snooping around inside it. Mrs. McGreggor said that she had to leave, but that the school year began on September 1st, and she would be back at the orphanage early that morning to take me to school. Then we said our goodbyes and that night after dinner I sat on the front porch talking to Ms. Fitzpatrick, telling her everything we’d seen and done that day.
I went to bed exhausted, but excited, and I spent the next few weeks close at Ms. Fitzpatrick’s side, spending as much time as I could with her, because I knew I’d miss her terribly when I was gone. And as it normally does, time flew, and before we knew it or were even ready for it, September 1st was upon us.
The night before, Ms. Fitzpatrick and I sat out on the front porch staring up at the stars. Ms. Fitzpatrick spoke up and said that I should get some sleep because I had a busy day ahead of me. We both stood up to head back inside, and I pulled her into the tightest hug I’d ever given her. “I’m really going to miss you,” I said.
“I’m really going to miss you too, Jayde,” she answered.