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Chapter 19 : A Summer Choice
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The moment we returned from the short break school was back in full swing, and the teachers were piling on loads of extra homework. Which of course led to long bouts of whining from Harry, Neville, and Ron...especially Ron. I really don't understand how one person can possibly single-handedly whine so much.
But besides the whines I noticed that Harry, Hermione, and Ron were being more secretive than ever before. But how to find out what they were talking about? I'm sure its about the sorcerers' stone again, but what could they have found out? From the snippets of conversation I managed to catch from time to time I knew that they still suspected Snape. If only the would see reason, but I knew that they were so firmly set in their judgment that only finite proof could possibly change their minds. And proof was one thing I didn't have.
About a week after the end of the spring holiday I noticed Ron nursing a very swollen hand. I tried several times to get what had happened out of him, I mean obviously he had been bitten by something, but each time he would quickly change the subject. That afternoon he wasn't in any of our lessons and I could only hope that he was residing in the hospital wing and wasn't lying dead in some corridor as the bite marks on his hand had turned a horrid shade of green from a nasty infection. And then immediately after lesson Harry and Hermione disappeared. Where to you might ask? Only Merlin knows, but I do know that something fishy is going on.
But other things quickly took precedence and by the next morning Ron had returned looking perfectly normal so I temporarily put my questions out of mind.
At breakfast that very morning an odd looking owl swooped down to me at the Gryffindor table. It was a very pale brown with pale yellow eyes to match. I couldn't place it's species, but what interested me more was the scroll of parchment attached to his leg by a thick leather cord. I quickly untied it and peered at the tiny antiquated cursive letters on the roll which read Miss Ashley McDonald.
Curious I broke the coppery colored waxen seal and began to read.
Dear Miss McDonald,
I have been thinking this over since you came into my shop this past July to purchase your first wand. You seemed very intelligent and knowledgeable then, and when I checked your school records to see if my assumptions were correct they were proven far more than so. So it is at this time that I would like to offer you a chance to apprentice with me this summer. You have a thirst for knowledge and if I do say so myself great potential. I thoroughly enjoy extending my knowledge to others, but I do not do so lightly. I hope that you will consider my offer, and if you are interested send me an owl so that we may discuss the details. This summer could hold a host of opportunities for you, although I do know that you young people generally like to lay about in the summer months. However, should you accept my offer I assure you that I will not work you to death, and you will have plenty of time to explore and relax. I do hope that you are enjoying your first year at Hogwarts as well as learning much.
Sincerely Mr. Ollivander
A look of surprise crossed my face, if only for a moment. Mr. Ollivander wanted me to apprentice at his shop this summer? This is just...absolutely crazy. Totally mental. But it is a fantastic opportunity, and true wand lore can only be learned from someone who already knows it...
Thinking quickly and expertly avoiding Neville's curious stare I tucked the letter into my bag already having to decided to go and talk to Professor McGonagall about it after lessons. I knew she would be both able and willing to help me. After my par...after the accident I had been emancipated in the muggle world but I was still a regular old minor here in the wizarding world. And so Professor McGonagall would be able to help me decided what to do, both as my favorite teacher and my magical guardian.
Motioning to Neville that I would explain it later to appease his curiosity somewhat, I quickly finished my breakfast before heading off with him to our first hour.
That morning's classes passed with agonizing slowness. My mind constantly wandering away from my lessons and to the letter I had opened at breakfast. And of course I had to keep avoiding Neville's questions. What I really needed was to just think...
After lunch my lessons passed just as slowly, if not more. The moment my final class was dismissed I was on my feet and hurrying out the door. Thankfully we didn't have Quidditch practice that day so I was able to head to Professor McGonagall's office immediately, quickly throwing a goodbye to Neville over my shoulder.
Maneuvering my way through the crowded corridors I finally came to a stop outside of the door I had been working my way towards. I raised my hand and steadying my breath knocked on the door once, twice and then patiently waited to be invited in.
A moment later after a quick, "Come in," from Professor McGonagall I walked into the office and sat down in one of the tall wing-backed chairs in front of the large oak desk. A few minutes later she looked up from the essay she had been grading and asked with a touch of a mothering smile, "What can I do for you, Ashley?"
I reached into my bag and pulled out the letter. As I handed it to her I asked, "I received this in the post this morning and was wondering what you thought about it?"
I watched silently as her eyes flashed left and right reading the letter, and the corners of my lips smirked upwards just slightly before falling back to a neutral emotion as I saw the surprise cross her face much as it had mine. She looked up, slight confusion in her eyes, before she glanced back down and seemed to fully process what she had just read.
She looked up me soon after seeming to simply study me for a moment before she said, "Well that wasn't quite what I had been expecting."
A grin flashed across my face as my shoulders shook gently for a moment in controlled laughter. But soon I quickly schooled my expression into a more serious look and asked, "So, what do you think about it?"
McGonagall seemed to ponder my question for a moment before she said, "Well it is an excellent opportunity and we do still need to figure out where you would like to stay this summer..."
She seemed to have left the question purposefully open-ended, seeming to silently to ask my opinion on the matter. Pausing briefly to consider my options I said, "I agree that it is a very good opportunity and promises to teach me many things, and I have been wondering what exactly I was going to do this summer..." I paused a moment with my eyes closed to collect myself before continuing, "but I think I would like to find out more before I make a decision."
I glanced up at Professor McGonagall to see a slightly bemused smile on her face as she said, "A very diplomatic answer. I believe I could talk to Mr. Ollivander about a time where you could talk to him in depth about his invitation."
I smiled slightly before I said, "That sounds like it would work to me."
After a somewhat lengthy discussion about how I was doing, with McGonagall carefully prompting about how I was coping I was heading back to the common room. The professor had said she would owl Mr. Ollivander and ask him about talking with him further about his proposal, and that arrangement worked well for me.
It was still hard everyday waking up and realizing that the life I had known was gone, but it was slowly getting easier. With the help and support of my friends I was healing. And with Professor McGonagall easily taking on the role as my magical guardian my world finally held some stability. Each day was hard, but each day was also getting easier to live.
The rest of the week passed easily, with it having been decided that I both Professor McGonagall and I would be going to see Mr. Ollivander on Friday night. It was funny he seemed to want to convince me very much because when McGonagall had asked for a conversation her had insisted that both of us come and discuss the possibilities over dinner.
Friday soon arrived and I almost regretted that I was leaving because I knew, absolutely knew that Harry, Hermione, and Ron were up to something. And it was something big. And I'm pretty sure Malfoy knew about it because he's been smirking at the three of them a lot and just looks far too happy. But I had to go, and so about an hour after lessons in my favorite jeans, my amazing turquoise converse, and a flowy pale green top I bid my friends goodbye and went off to meet Professor McGonagall.
I quickly made my way to her office and knocked quickly and was just as quickly invited in. A moment later we were walking towards the gates so that Professor McGonagall could apparate us off to Diagon Alley.
I barely wobbled as we landed in Diagon Alley, guess I'm getting used to the weird and somewhat horrible sensation of apparation.
We walked quietly to the skinny shop that was Ollivander's, but instead of going in the door of the shop Professor McGonagall led me down a narrow alleyway just beside the shop. It was so thin that only single-file movement was possible. We arrived at a door and the professor knocked.
I could hear scuffling behind the door and heard a small crash, and then a touch of feminine laughter. A moment later the door was opened to reveal a smiling Ollivander. He stepped aside to allow us entrance and I had barely enough control to keep my jaw from dropping, as what I saw was not at all what I had expected from the eccentric man.
As I walked inside I saw rather neutral colors and bussling about the kitchen was a petite woman with honey colored hair who looked to be in her forties. Ollivander quickly walked into the room and said, "Allow me to introduce my niece Appolina. She and her daughter Aurora live here with me."
I smiled, nodding slightly and said, "It's a pleasure to meet you, I'm Ashley."
The woman smiled brightly and pulled me into a tight hug, which surprised me a bit but I relaxed mostly when I realized that she was probably just like Mrs. Weasley.
A bit later both McGonagall and I were introduced to Aurora, who was also petite but had dark chocolately colored hair. She was twenty and had gone to a small magical school in Italy.
We had an surprisingly unawkward meal, during which Ollivander told me all about his proposal. He explained that I would be helping him out in the shop some, but mostly learning about the wand lore and the making of wands. But besides that he mentioned that I would also have plenty of free time to do whatever I liked.
Every word made it sound like a better opportunity, and by the end of the night I was thinking that this really was something I wanted to do. Besides being a place to stay for most of the summer, it really was a chance to learn something I couldn't really just learn on my own.
But following my rule of not making promises when I'm happy I told Ollivander that I wanted to sleep on it and that I would owl him sometime the next day. He was quite alright with that, and bid both Professor McGonagall and me goodnight.
As we walked back towards the main part of the wizarding district I was surprised the find it completely empty. There was not a soul around, the place was reminiscent of a ghost town. But as I glanced at my watch I realized why, it was quarter after midnight.
When on Earth had it gotten so late? But soon enough I was walking back across the vast grounds of Hogwarts towards the castle. At the main staircase McGonagall gave me a note incase I was stopped by a patrolling teacher or prefect, saying that she was due for her own patrols.
So it was alone that I walked towards the fat lady's portrait. I reveled in the silence of the castle. It was so relaxing, the only sounds being the slight noises from scurrying mice.
But as I rounded the corner I heard the tell-tale creak of one of the doors, and it was close by. I glanced around carefully, but I saw no one. I quickly shook my head before turning back to make my way to my very comfortable bed thinking to myself "Get it together Ashley. No need to start hearing things, ah well I'm sure its just because I'm tired."
A few minutes later I was walking up the stairs to my dorm, and when I walked in I noticed that Hermione's bed was surprisingly empty. I shook my head once again as quietly changed into my pj's. I was too tired for this, I'd figure out whatever shenanigans they were up to. But I'd do it in the morning.
Please review they help motivate me to keep on writing. And just a little side note the night that Ashley went to Ollivander's would be the night that Harry and Hermione went to sneak out the dragon.
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