"Hello, Professor McGonagall," Rommie Black said happily, hopping down from the treetop to greet the older witch.
"Happy birthday, Romola," the professor said warmly, amused at the girl's excitement. Of course, Minerva knew that it wasn't the child's birthday that made Romola so happy. Nor was it the professor's visit, although the young witch was always happy on those rare occasions when her grandmother had guests.
"You don't happen to have any mail for us, do you?" Rommie asked in fake innocence.
The professor shrugged rather than answer, although she couldn't completely resist a small smile at the girl's happiness.
"Not that it'll matter though," Rommie said in a much less happy tone a few moments later, as they came closer to her grandmother's cottage. "Grams will never actually let me go to Hogwarts."
Minerva couldn't help pity the poor lonely child, and told her encouragingly, "Leave it to me to convince Enid. Hogwarts doesn't easily give up on young witches and wizards who wish to learn."
Looking up happily at the professor, the child smiled brightly in gratitude. The resemblance to her parents was undeniable – Rommie had her mother's blue eyes and wide smile, and her small face was framed with her father's lustrous black hair. Minerva sighed in her heart, knowing that convincing Enid Pettigrew to let go of her granddaughter won't be as easy as she told the child. And could the deputy-headmistress truly blame her old friend, for believing that it's better for the young witch to be isolated rather than hated?
"Do you truly intend to deny your grandchild the education she deserves, Enid?" Minerva asked piercingly as she quietly argued with the other witch, while Romola waited in the other room and pretended not to listen.
"I can teach her myself," Enid Pettigrew insisted, trying to make her friend tell her she was right even though the decision of where Romola will learn magic was ultimately hers alone, "Or did you forget that I used to be an auror before… before Lily Potter."
"I remember very well, Enid," Minerva answered impatiently. After all, they did start working at the Ministry together after graduation. "But precisely for that reason, I would have expected a witch as talented and smart as you to know that there's a reason children go to magic schools. Homeschooling is all well and good for basic charms, but it's not enough if want Romola to ever achieve her full potential. You can't be all she has in the world, Enid. You won't be around forever, and this isolation isn't healthy for her."
"Fine," Enid admitted reluctantly, "Although I've only kept her away from the world to protect her, I can accept that maybe I need to let go. But why should she go to Hogwarts? She could do just as well in Ilvermorny or Beauxbatons, where people won't recognize her name everywhere she goes. She doesn't need to be judged and hated for her parents' sins, Minerva."
"You're right, Enid," Minerva said evenly, "She might be accepted to a school abroad, where people won't know her name immediately. So it will take them a week, maybe even a month, and then she will still be the daughter of Mary Pettigrew and Sirius Black. And people will still think she might know where her mother's hiding, and treat her like a criminal because of her parentage. You still won't be able to protect her from any of that, and she'll only be further away from you and your friends."
That last sentence, as harsh as her words might have been, Minerva spoke in a voice full of compassion. She remained silent after that, but her unspoken promise that Rommie won't be harmed in Hogwarts was well heard. Eventually, Enid nodded somberly.
"Ms. R. Black," Rommie read in an excited whisper as both older witches looked at her with warm smiles, "Enid Pettigrew's Cottage, Abernethy Forest, Strathspey. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy, Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore (Order of Merlin, First Class…). Dear Ms. Black, 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 1 September. We await your owl by no later than 31 July."
Rommie looked up at her grandmother and the deputy-headmistress, gratitude and joy written all over her face. The young witch has been sheltered away from the magical community for all of her life. For her own protection, she had to stay on the outside looking in, rarely meeting anyone but Enid and even more rarely actually getting to experience that world.
"Thank you both so much," she said, knowing that her life will soon change forever.