Chapter 1 : Hadley's Crazies
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Sunlight filtered into the room through the enormous west facing windows, slowly beginning to creep its way across the floor, washing out the gray carpet as it went. The room was designed to have a calming effect on those who waited within it. The walls were a pale shade of blue that imitated the sky on a clear and carefree day. The chairs were arranged in a sort of open circle with a table at their center, and a few plants were strategically placed about the room as well. The only sound was the gentle scratching of a pencil against paper.
The receptionist had stepped out to use the restroom so there was only one occupant in the room and she sat quietly. She was curled up in the corner recliner, the only comfortable place in the entire office, and worked with her pencil over her sketchpad. She was focused entirely on what she was doing but her expression was soft, like she hadn’t a worry in the world. Her eyes followed the path of her pencil, carefully bringing the image in her mind to life on the paper. To a casual observer she may have appeared peaceful, at ease in this tranquil place, but that was far from reality.
A loud bang came from down the hall, immediately followed by shouting, but she wasn’t fazed in the slightest. Every Tuesday afternoon at 3 o’clock she had an appointment with Dr. Hadley, and every Tuesday at 2 o’clock Ms. Lewis had her appointment. Ms. Lewis was one of what the girl had deemed ‘Hadley’s Crazies’, because crazy is exactly what each one of her patients was, each one except the girl. She had no reason or desire to be there; she would have rather been anywhere else, but she had no say in the matter. It had been mandated by the system she was stuck in, they thought, or pretended to think, it would help her. The two oblivious parent wanna-be’s that had adopted her were more than willing to abide, they treated her more like an accessory than a daughter anyway.
So there she went, every Tuesday, and every Tuesday Ms. Lewis would slam open the office door at five minutes to 3 o’cock and leave in a terrible fit, you could set your watch by her, she was that predictable. Of course the first few times had given the girl a start, but she and Ms. Lewis had been coming here for many years now and they had always had those same appointments. The girl no longer batted an eye at her outbursts. She wasn’t sure what caused them, only the doctor could know that, but it was like Ms. Lewis was an alarm programmed to go off each Tuesday at 2:55 in the afternoon. Sometimes the girl wondered if it was restricted to Tuesday’s or if it happened every other day of the week as well.
“Ms. Lewis!” the receptionist came rushing out of the bathroom.
Claire or maybe it was Claudia; the girl never made the effort to remember her name.
“Ms. Lewis!” She wrenched open the front door, which Ms. Lewis had just disappeared through and yelled after her, “Ms. Lewis, don’t forget your appointment next Tuesday at 2pm!”
The receptionist turned around looking flustered, as she always did after chasing Ms. Lewis out the door, though today Claudia had the added bonus of a half tucked shirt from her trip to the bathroom. The girl didn’t understand why the receptionist insisted on running after Ms. Lewis and shouting her appointment time after her each week, it never changed, at least not for the past five years.
Claire took a moment to collect herself before returning to her desk. Once there she looked to the girl and said with that annoyingly bright smile, “Dr. Hadley will be right with you, you can go and wait in her office if you’d like.” It was the same thing she said every Tuesday, of every week, of every year.
The girl flipped her notebook closed and tucked it along with her pencils away into her bag. As she rose she hoisted it up onto her shoulder and crossed the lobby to take the familiar path to the doctor’s office, nothing she hadn’t done well over a hundred times by now. Down the hall, third door on the left, gently open the door so it didn’t knock down the poorly placed wall hanging behind it. So familiar was she with her path that she was several steps into the room before she looked up and saw a not so familiar occupant.
3 o’clock had been her appointment for as long as she could remember, every Tuesday of every month of every year for the past five years; it was always the same. But it seemed someone had made an error, somewhere along the lines there had been a mix up or misunderstanding because there was an elderly man in the room, and judging by his appearance he too was one of Hadley’s Crazies. He had chosen to sit in the doctor’s seat rather than the patient’s and he looked quite comfortable there. He had sparkling blue eyes that sat behind half moon spectacles; his beard and hair were each at least two feet long and as white as snow; and he wore floor length midnight blue robes with a matching hat. He was most definitely one of Hadley’s Crazies.
“I’m sorry, she told me to come back. There must have been a mix up,” she said.
“No need to apologize, there was no mix up,” the man said plainly.
She paused, wondering how he had even managed to get into the office without passing her in the waiting room. Unless he could teleport, which was absurd.
She shook the outrageous thought away, “I’m going to go ask Claire what’s going on.”
She made to turn around when he spoke again, “Clarissa won’t be able to tell you, she isn’t aware that I am here.” So that was the receptionist’s name, although the man was likely a patient, which would put his credibility level somewhere south of zero.
“So you’re invisible to everyone but me, is that it?” she asked, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
He gave a small chuckle, “In a manner of speaking, yes I am.”
She suppressed a small laugh, “okay then, why is it I can see you?”
“Because you’re the one I came to speak with,” he said still smiling.
She was still slightly amused by his delusion but decided it was best not to participate any longer. “I’ll go and get the doc for you, I think she’s the one you need to speak with.” She turned to leave the office but stopped dead when he spoke again.
“No Kaelix, I came to speak with you,” he corrected her.
The slight amusement fell from her face and her mind started doing cartwheels. She turned back slowly to see his still smiling face, though now she felt as though it was mocking her, like he knew something she did not.
“And how is it that you know my name?” she asked flatly.
“That is a story best saved for another time and place, but please come and sit down, there is plenty for us to discuss today,” he said, indicating the chair across from his own.
Kaelix still hesitated, “How do I know that you’re not one of Hadley’s Crazies?”
“How would you know if I was?” he asked simply
“Well it seems rather obvious; you’re not exactly dressed for a stroll through town,” she pointed out.
“That depends on the town,” he said with a smile.
She suppressed another scoff, “Are you suggesting that there are towns where your current attire is acceptable on a daily basis?”
“Of course there are, several in fact.”
“Now you look and sound crazy.”
“And you haven’t even heard any of what I came here to discuss with you.”
“Well, why don’t you tell me already.”
“Very well then, I’ve come here to extend to you an invitation to study at my school.”
“And what school is that?” she asked doubtfully.
“Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But that should come as no surprise to you.”
There was a moment of silence during which Kaelix contemplated who was crazier; him for telling her this story, or her for staying to listen. “Did you think that would make you sound less crazy?”
“Not at all and I never claimed such a thing. But the fact is you are still here.”
“What does that matter?”
“If you truly believed that I was one of, how did you put it? Ah, yes, Hadley’s Crazies, then you would have left already. The fact that you’re still here means that you believe otherwise.”
“You have no idea what I do or do not believe, Old Man. Now how is it that you know who I am?”
“Unfortunately, it is much too long of a story for today,” he said with a small sigh.
“Give me the short version,” she said stubbornly.
He paused and considered her for a moment with a soft expression; his gaze however, was striking. She wondered what he contemplated behind his unwavering façade, what did he hide there? Surely it was something significant for it to be so well guarded. Despite his outwardly eccentric appearance, the man had a certain air of greatness about him that asserted credibility. And although he carried it without arrogance, Kaelix was not impressed with his humility either; it felt more like a tactic than sincerity; he wasn’t here to offer her anything, he was here because he wanted something.
“Very well,” he said without warning. “I came to know you through a friend of mine.”
Kaelix waited for more but he did not elaborate.
“That’s it?” she asked incredulously.
“That is the short version, as you requested. Now if you’ll come and have a seat, we have other matters to discuss.”
She stood in the doorway stuck in uncertainty. She wasn’t convinced that she could trust this man. This stranger that mysteriously showed up in her appointment room, waiting for her, knowing she would be there and somehow knowing her name. Kaelix glanced back down the hall toward the waiting room and wondered; if she simply walked out, would the man be back again the next week, patiently waiting for her in Dr. Hadley’s chair? Somehow, though she didn’t understand how, somehow she knew he would be.
“Don’t worry, we won’t be disturbed,” he said, mistaking her reason for looking.
She looked back into the room at him with her brow furrowed. What he said made no sense at all considering she had an appointment and the doc would be there at any moment. But again for some unexplainable reason, she believed that he was right, they would not be interrupted.
“I almost forgot, I have something for you,” he said as he reached into his robes.
When his hand emerged he was holding a small envelope. He extended it in her direction, indicating that she should take it. She hesitated for a moment but then made her way into the room to see what this envelope contained. It was thicker than she had imagined it would be, not just the contents but the envelope itself seemed to be made of rough thick paper, almost like parchment. On the front, in emerald green ink was her name, Kaelix Williams, and an address that had once been hers.
“What is this?” she said a little sharper than she had intended.
“Something long overdue.” He said with that warm yet mysterious smile.
When it was clear that he was not going to add anything else, Kaelix flipped the envelope over and carefully broke the seal with her finger. Inside the envelope there were three separate pieces of the parchment style paper, she removed the foremost one first. As she unfolded it she began to recognize the same cursive handwriting as was on the exterior. Unconsciously holding her breath she began to read:
of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY
Headmaster: ALBUS DUMBLEDORE
(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock,
Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards.)
Dear Miss Williams,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment. Term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.
“If this is some kind of joke, it’s not funny in the least,” she said quietly.
“I can assure you this is not a joke; it is an invitation, to someplace quite real,” he said calmly.
“You mean to tell me that, this place, your school,” -she looked back down at the letter again- “this Hogwarts. You actually teach magic?”
“And more.” There was that damnable smile again.
“Why should I believe you? How can I be sure that this isn’t some kind of trick? And you’re not just some psychopath who kidnaps children?” she asked.
“Ah yes, there are always those few who take some convincing,” he said, still smiling.
He reached inside his robes and withdrew a slender piece of polished wood. Kaelix’s eyes widened a bit when she put two and two together and realized that it was his magic wand. He adjusted himself in his seat slightly as he looked around the room searching for something, though Kaelix had no idea what. His eyes settled on a plant on a little table in the corner of the room. It was supposed to help create a calming and restorative atmosphere, or some other such nonsense. But really it was just a pathetic and depressing little green plant due to the fact that it appeared to be in a constant state of wilt.
The Old Man, as she had titled him, smiled. He looked at the dying plant and smiled. Kaelix was about to ask if there was something amusing that she wasn’t aware of when he lifted his wand and made a few quick motions with it. Immediately the plant began to come to life, and not just straightening up either, it began to grow, it spread along the walls of the room and grew until it reached the ceiling and didn’t stop there. The stems grew until they could be considered vines, and the leaves spread until they covered the walls and ceiling completely. The picture frames and bookshelves were overcome by the plant, it had come to life. The vines crawled across the floor toward Kaelix and she wondered if they would wrap and grow over her as well but they simply parted and continued past her to the rest of the room. Eventually they encompassed the door and swung it shut behind her. The light from the window could hardly penetrate the thick wall of greenery that had grown over it. When all of the furniture had disappeared beneath a sea of green leaves, all of the life seemed to leave the plant and it stilled. Kaelix was now standing in the middle of a jungle.
Her eyes travelled along the thick vines, giant leaves, and flowers that had grown and blossomed in mere seconds and she had to remind herself to breathe.
“This could still be a trick you know, there are plenty of ways to create the illusion of magic,” she said as flatly as she could manage.
“You may investigate as you wish but you will find no assistance, no hidden leavers, no invisible strings, and no secret doors. It is purely magic,” he said so sincerely she almost had to believe him, but she didn’t want to.
“There’s no way to prove that, any proof you offer could just as easily be fabricated,” she argued stubbornly.
“Why do you protest something so strongly when you know it to be true?” he asked.
“Because magic isn’t real, it can’t be.”
“You just witnessed magic turn a frail dying plant into a lush thriving jungle in mere moments, and you would still deny its existence? Even when this isn’t the first instance of magic you’ve been privy to?”
“What do you mean?” she asked, her mind instantly jumping to the memory she knew he must be referring to.
“Kaelix, you’re far too smart of a young girl to ask a question that you already know the answer to,” he was no longer smiling.
She wanted to argue with him, deny knowing anything about it, and forget this conversation had ever happened. But she couldn’t for one simple reason; he was right.
“Magic is real,” she said quietly, finally admitting something that she’d denied for nearly six years now.
“Indeed it is,” he said smiling yet again.
“He was right,” she said quieter still, then scoffed, “he was always right.”
“Pardon, I didn’t catch that?” he asked.
Kaelix gave herself a small shake to dislodge the old memories before she became lost in them, and turned once more to the Old Man sitting before her.
“Why do you wish me to attend your school so desperately?” she asked.
“What do you mean?” he asked in return.
“You seem to have a vested interest in my acceptance of your invitation, or does the headmaster of the school invite every student personally?”
“Ahh, I see. Well, yours is a bit of a special case. You see normally students receive their letter upon their eleventh birthday, and that is the year they begin at Hogwarts. But for some reason unbeknownst to me our delivery system failed to deliver your letter. It is an unprecedented problem and therefor I thought it deserved an unprecedented solution.”
“So I would be two years behind in classes?”
“I’m still working out the finer details with my staff but don’t let that deter you from coming. I assure you, should you choose to attend Hogwarts you will learn much more than you ever imagined.”
Kaelix felt there was a double meaning behind his words but she knew that if she pressed the matter he would not admit to it. It was plain that something was there, he did not reveal it but it was as though he wanted it so strongly that he could not conceal it entirely, at least not from her. She stood in contemplation for a short time and realized that at some point she had resigned to believing him, no matter how nonsensical it sounded, because now she was contemplating whether or not she would go. She disregarded her ‘parents’ because she knew that the Old Man would likely have a solution for that as well. In the end she realized not what her decision was, but what it had to be. She looked back to the Old Man and found him looking at her intently again; when their gazes locked she saw the corner of his mouth turn up with a knowing smile.
“Well that settles it then. You’ll find a list of supplies in with your letter, and a list of extra classes of which you will need to pick two. The train leaves from platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station at exactly 11 o’clock on September the first, you’ll find your ticket in with your letter as well. Now let’s see, anything else.. Anything else… Ah, yes, of course. You’ll need to go visit Diagon Alley to purchase your supplies, would you like someone to escort you there? Or would you rather find your way back on your own?”
Her brow furrowed in question, “back?” she asked.
“Well, I suppose you didn’t make it all the way there last time, but you did manage to find the Leaky Cauldron quite easily, if you remember.”
Kaelix did remember the Leaky Cauldron, quite well. She had stumbled across it when she’d been on holiday with her parents in London last month. Though it was more like bring your daughter to work to show all your colleagues what amazing parents you are, rather than a holiday. No one else on the street that day seemed to have seen it. Apart from the one man that she had followed right through the front door.
“You will find the entrance to Diagon Alley in the back of the Leaky Cauldron. Just ask Tom, the bartender, he will be more than happy to show you the way.” He stood rather abruptly, shaking Kaelix from her thoughts about buying supplies for a magical school down a seemingly random alley located behind a selectively visible pub in the middle of London.
“Now I’m afraid I must be off but before I go, take this.” He withdrew a small pouch from his robes and held it out to her.
He dropped it into her outstretched hand with a small clink. “I believe that will be sufficient for everything you need. If you have any problems with anything, the owls know how to find me. Enjoy the rest of your summer, and remember, the train leaves at exactly 11 o’clock.” He gave her one last warm smile that still seemed to be masking something, before striding across the room and disappearing down the hallway.
Kaelix hesitated for a moment before rushing over to the door herself, wondering if he would truly just walk out the front door. But when she peered down the hallway he was already gone.
“Miss Williams, sorry I’m a bit late.” Kaelix heard Dr. Hadley say from behind her.
She turned around to see that the clock read 3:05pm, being approximately 7 minutes faster than the clock in the reception area it was the same time it had been when she’d found the Old Man in the office. On top of that, everything in the room was just as it had been before; the jungle had disappeared and the small potted plant was back to its original pathetic size.
“How on Earth…?” She whispered to herself.
“So,” the doctor began, indicating she should take her usual seat on the sofa. “Did anything of interest happen this week?”
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