Chapter 4 : School Shopping
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Mid-August quickly slips into late-August and I’m not as prepared for it as I initially thought I would be. As excited as I am to start school, I am also very scared for going to a new school. I had found some more books, this time though, I had ordered them off of a Wizarding site so that I could be more familiar with the Wizarding side of Britain and Hogwarts especially.
If I really tried, I could’ve gone into this Leaky Cauldron place and ask around on how to get into Diagon Alley. It was decided that I not go into it alone, since this Anusha Reddy from Ravenclaw girl is going to take me, and I didn’t want to spoil the experience of being a tour guide for her.
Anyway, I ordered this one book called, Hogwarts, A History, which apparently is very famous here. It’s more of a tome than a book, and probably weighs more than a medium-sized dog. I learned more about Hogwarts, while also passing time until school starts up. I read up on the Houses and what their qualities hold, discovering that they use a ratty old hat to do their Sorting. Pretty odd, but whatever.
I also read that the staircases move, and it can get very confusing as they are on this schedule of sorts. Sounds very torturous to newcomers like me and “First Years” as they label them, but I guess we have an equivalent as that at Ilvermorny.
There’s this windy path that leads to the Quidditch field, with a fork in the road that changes every month or so. If taken the wrong one, you can end up in either a village of people that only speak Mermish or a valley of boulders and logs that we students call The Outlands, which is very intimidating. The only way to get back to campus or the Quidd field is by finding a bridge with a Leprechaun to Apparate you back if you give him one galleon.
I’ve never been in that situation myself, since I was told by an upperclassman that the correct one to the field has a blueberry bush the left of it every time. Kids can get really mixed up and scared though, and no one thinks to put up signs.
Being able to read more about Hogwarts has been giving me more of a reason to stay positive about it. My friends would disagree since I’m reading more and talking less to them. I told them that they have school to get to, so I would just be a nuisance to them now and they all opposed, which to be honest, made me feel better. I also told them about my encounter with James and Jess proclaimed that we’re getting married. I had to remind her I haven’t seen him since that day he sat down in front of me. He’s also a No-Maj for all I know, and I’m leaving soon.
My friends all say goodbye, as their next class is about to start just as an owl comes to my window. I think it’s kind of unnecessary to still have them around and treat these owls this way, especially since we have No-Maj technology now. I guess Hogwarts still upholds a lot of old systems like this.
I give the owl some treats that I had Transfigured out of the contents of my garbage can, as I don’t just possess owl treats in my temporary bedroom. It hoots and flies away before I can read the little name tag on its leg.
The letter simply says:
I hope you have remembered that we are meeting today at 2pm at the Leaky Cauldron so I can help you with school shopping. I am excited to meet you and show you around Diagon Alley! The address is below in case you don’t already have it.
Thanks and see you soon,
Head Girl of Ravenclaw
I did in fact remember both the meeting and the address, but it was a kind gesture to send me a reminder. I also noticed that she gave her title at the bottom, as if just to remind people who she was, but then again I probably would do that too if I was Head Girl (whatever that meant). I glance at my watch and see that I only have about thirty minutes until I need to get to the Leaky Cauldron.
Understanding that I have no idea how far the place is, I get off my bed, change my clothes, and grab my bag to walk there. Before heading out the door, I put a Self-Cooling Charm over my body so that I won’t die from the August heat.
My smartphone luckily has the magical extension in it so I can look up the address. Thank goodness for GPS these days. It says it’s about a thirty minute walk fortunately, and I go along, picking up an iced coffee on the way.
By the time my phone says I have three minutes left, I quickly shut off my phone as it won’t work when in proximity to a concentrated magical community such as this. Why they don’t let No-Maj technology into the Wizarding World of England is beyond me, since it’s so helpful.
Once inside the Leaky Cauldron, my body feels slightly tingly from all the magic around me. Witches and Wizards are in robes, objects are floating and flying on their own, and there is a cheery vibe I get from the atmosphere. I also realize that it’s a pub with some kind of hotel service upstairs, as the sign says. I was expecting something more like an information building, but it is Britain after all - they like their pubs I found out.
I gaze around the room and for any sign of a person waiting for an American, and I notice a girl waving at me from a small booth. I quickly head over to her the same time she gets up from the table to shake my hand.
“Hello, you must be Nicolette, I’m Anusha Reddy!” she kindly says while I’m shaking her hand. I smile and confirm that it is indeed me. Her handshake is delicate, so I conclude she must not be threatening. Her pink shirt and shorts over a thin pair of robes with sandals shows that she’s got to be normal. “Let’s go!” She leads me over to a door on the opposite side the entrance and waves to a lady behind the counter.
She puts up her course, curly hair into a knot on top of her head before retrieving her wand from her pocket. “Okay, so this is the entrance to Diagon Alley.” She gestures to the brick wall in front of us.
“Do we need to run into it too like at King’s Cross?” I ask.
Anusha full-heartedly laughs and says, “Yeah, no, you will get a concussion that way. There’s certain bricks that you tap your wand on in a specific sequence. Like a code, basically.” She pokes some bricks and they magically retreat to the sides of the wall, revealing a huge town. I start to move my feet towards it, but she holds her arm out, the dark limb contrasting with my white sundress.
“You need to do it yourself so that you can get into Diagon Alley alone in the future, McGonagall’s request,” she says. I can tell now that she has an authority role by how she instructs me.
“Um, okay, can you show me the bricks again, when they go back?” I ask, not wanting to screw up and delay us. The small flash of Diagon Alley has made me quite excited.
She nods, waits for some people to go through the portal, and the bricks start to come back into one solid unit. The girl shows me the bricks I’m supposed to tap and I watch with a focused expression on my face. Being a visual learner is really beneficial at times, since this won’t be too hard.
I pull out my wand (dark brown with hints of orange from being from an acacia tree, with Snallygaster heartstring, ten and a fourth inches, slightly yielding in flexibility, if you must know), feeling the smoothness of it and tap the bricks that Anusha pointed to with ease. The wall springs open once again, and she praises me.
We head inside and I cannot believe my eyes as how many witches and wizards there are in the streets. It’s a pretty wide street to begin with, but with the number of bodies on it, it doesn’t seem as big as it is. We pass by Ollivanders, the Quidditch supply store, and head towards a bookstore.
“Ollivander is so sweet, but he’s barely there anymore - he has a team of elite wizards who studied Wandlore to be there instead,” Anusha mentions when my eyes linger at the window of the shop.
“Really? I got my wand from Ollivander himself, on his annual trip to America,” I say in passing, noticing that Anusha looks down slightly, and I’m guessing that she’s never met the old man. I remember reading a biography of him, saying that even though Ollivander is so old, he’s rumored to be in possession of the Sorcerer's Stone after Nicolas Flamel gifted it to him.
Apparently, Ollivander has been written to to so many people asking him never to give up Wandlore. I guess he gave into peer pressure, didn’t his mother ever tell him not to do so? When you’re that famous though, it probably is more motivating to try and avoid death for a while.
“Do you play Quidditch?” I ask, trying to change the topic to something that will make me feel less bad.
“Oh, no, I never got into the sport, I like watching it though,” she responds, going into a story about how she learned to fly in her first year and didn’t see the hype about it. I can kind of tell she’s a bit of a bookworm like I am, but I enjoy playing sports.
Inside the bookstore, she guides me to the “Seventh Year” aisle. “They don’t categorize it by subject or author?” I ask her.
She looks at the sign, and notices this, “Hmm, I never thought of it that way. No, they don’t here, since I suppose only students really go into this store for their textbooks. It makes sense, doesn’t it, to organize it by year?” I nod and agree with her, guessing I’m not used to it. The Wizarding bookstore we use is huge and goes by genre - almost as big as Powell’s in Oregon - whereas this one is quite small.
After getting myself a ton of books and placing them in my bag with an Undetectable Extension Charm, we exit the store. I ask her a few things about Hogwarts, like how big is the population and how many classes are there you’re suppose to take. She tells me there are about a thousand students total and it wasn’t that big in the past. Anusha also says the requirement is to take at least seven classes, but the subjects vary on what “newts” you take. I asked her about this and she explains it’s their placement test and an acronym. I told her we have a version of that called EAGLEs (Exhausting American Graduation Ludicrous Exams) - so America to come up with that one.
“Since we don’t know your House yet, you can’t really get a bunch of robes, but we’ll still get you some standard ones, as well as the uniform you wear underneath them. We wear ties that are colored according to your House, so we won’t get any of those.” Anusha walks along with me to a clothing store. I can easily tell it’s for Hogwarts and not for fashion, since there’s a bunch of smaller kids hustling and bustling inside.
As we make our way out of the shop, my bag full of attire, I notice a boy. Of course there are many boys around since the place is full of people, but like a familiar boy. The one from the coffeeshop. He’s walking with two other blonde boys and gives me a little smirk, and a once-over my body. Very obviously.
When we pass each other, I give him a quizzical look, hoping that it actually is him, until I notice that he doesn’t seem to know who I am. I look into his eyes, he gives me a wink, and I blink a few times after the short encounter. I look back, but by then he was swallowed by the crowd. I will realize later that day leaving Diagon Alley that his eyes were an emerald green and not brown.
Anusha didn’t see any of this happen, as she took me along to look at some desk supplies, such as quills and parchment. Who uses quills and parchment these days? I thought we were in the twenty-first century, not the seventeenth one. Good Lord, I thought, this school is going to be weird, I know it. Hopefully it isn’t as patriarchal as their traditions hold.
Because I already have a wand, a cauldron, and a pet, we don’t really need to do any other shopping. She asks if there’s anything else I want to look at or shop for and I say that I’d like to go into the apothecary. I also wanted to see what this hugeass purple shop was at the fork in the road, only to find out it’s a joke shop and lose interest. Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes went international a couple years ago and I have a few things from them already.
Once I got some general vials of common remedies for allergies and sickness (you can never be over-prepared), Potions ingredients, and some other things I wanted to test out, we headed towards the Leaky Cauldron once more.
Anusha wishes me a good rest of the day and that she will see me next week to take me into Hogwarts at the same time we met up. I wave and thank her for doing all of this for me, and she says it’s no problem.
On my way back home, I can’t help but think of that boy that looked like James from the coffeeshop. My mind lingers on the passing situation while the sun is fading into the distance, making the sky a color mixed of periwinkle and mauve, and I put away my sunglasses. I didn’t realize that shopping for school supplies would take such a long time, I was getting hungry and knew that dinner would be soon.
It couldn’t have been James, as I remember his dark hair with little hints of auburn in them, his brown eyes, and the fact that his height wasn’t eye-level, but taller. So strange, I thought, but I decided he must’ve been a dopplegänger of James, as that can totally happen.
I thought over everything I bought today instead. I couldn’t help but bask in the fact that people noticed my nationality right away and would instantly ask me questions about America. It was really fun, talking to people who have never been there and listening to their accented voices. Anusha I think got somewhat tired of the constant questions, as she enjoyed my company and me asking her questions she could answer.
Anusha was a very nice girl, and the Headmistress was right - she was easy to talk to and get to know. She seemed to know a lot about Hogwarts, both the castle and the student body in general. I wonder if I will be in Ravenclaw like her or one of the other three Houses. After reading about them, I concluded that I could easily be in any of them, since I have qualities of all four. Anusha thought that I was over exaggerating, because surely one person can’t have all four, but I just shrugged and we talked about her favorite subject, Ancient Runes.
Once Mom and Dad got home, I told them about Diagon Alley and how we all need to go because it’s just beautiful. They both agreed to go on a weekend with me and look around rather than school shop. We then had dinner, video called Tom, and I went to my room to read more about Hogwarts until I fell asleep with the heavy book on my lap.
Here's another chapter for ya! Please let me know what you think of it, I love hearing your words, whether they be uplifting or constructive!
Expect chapters to come up every few days for now until September (that's when school starts up), the backlog is about 1 day, and I post in the evenings. Being in the US, I'm in PST zone, so keep that in mind!
Up next: A tour of Hogwarts and Nicolette gets Sorted into a House!
What House do you think she will end up in?
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