22nd July 1991
"Mr Smith, I presume? I am Professor Minerva McGonagall, the deputy headmistress at Hogwarts School. I am here to talk to you about your son. May I come in?"
'Mark?' John wondered while surveying the smartly dressed middle-aged Scotswoman in front of him quickly with his trained eye. Not a threat.
"Yes, please come in," he answered with a sweeping welcoming gesture to the living room. "You say you're from a school? Are you here to offer Mark a position there?" John asked before remembering "Oh, how rude of me. Would you like some tea or coffee?"
"No, thank you." Came the polite reply, followed by a muttered, "Perhaps that would be a good demonstration".
John was intrigued by the figure seating herself on his couch; This lady, professor, he reminded himself, was highly intelligent and had most definitely seen combat action, but was not in that role today. As former SAS, he was not unfamiliar with female soldiers; he had seen his fair share.
He had noticed her involuntary scan of the room for threats, and her readiness in the way she carried herself. He briefly wondered if she was carrying a weapon; she certainly behaved that way.
"Is your son at home today, Mr Smith?" asked the lady in front of him.
Before he could answer, Mark replied from the hallway, "I am" and walked in the room before coming to stand beside him.
"Ah, young Mr Smith. As I mentioned to your father, I am Professor Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts school in Scotland. Before I proceed any further, I must ask a few questions if you don't mind"
After seeing affirming nods, she proceeded "Now, you are Mark John Smith, born 30th November 1979, correct?"
"Yes," came the reply.
"Good. Now Mr Smith, has Mark ever done something odd, something unusual, something you couldn't explain?" Professor McGonagall asked before watching the reactions of her now quiet audience.
John's face showed recognition for a second, before returning to a more neutral look. Mark, on the other hand, narrowed his eyes at her for a long second, before a small sense of joy lit-up on his face.
"Yes." Replied John, with a tone that held an underlying tone of Explain.
"Mr Smith, your son Mark is a wizard," she said, waiting for the words to sink in. "I am the Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and I am here to offer him a place at our school". She waited for the angry retort and was pleased when none came.
"You're not joking" John stated, and continued, "Can you show some proof of this, uh, witchcraft?".
"Magic." Supplied McGonagall. "Certainly. Since we discussed having tea, let me conjure a pot of tea for us". She drew a long stick out from her dress and continued "This here is a wand. Witches and Wizards use wands to channel their magic" she spoke while simultaneously waving her wand to make a steaming pot of tea and three cups and saucers to appear.
While Mark was watching all this with a scientific fascination, John's instincts were confirmed; this wand had been the dangerous weapon he thought she had been carrying. The professor concluded her magic and floated the cups of tea to John and Mark, whose jaw was open at the incredible sight.
"The existence of magic has been kept secret from non-magical people by the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy, in effect since 1692", Professor McGonagall continued after taking a sip from her own cup, in a manner that suggested that she had given this speech many times before.
"Hogwarts is the oldest magical school in Europe and has trained young wizards and witches for more than a millennium. I myself am the Professor of Transfiguration, and Mark would be studying in the company and under the tutelage of some of the finest minds of Magical Britain. Before I proceed further, here is the Hogwarts acceptance letter that I'm here to deliver" she finished while fishing out a yellowed envelope which seemed to be made out of thick parchment before handing it over to Mark.
Mr. M. Smith,
24, Beauchamp Road,
Mark studied the emerald green lettering on the thick envelope, all the while digesting everything that he had learnt. He could make out his father asking some questions about the curriculum, fees, and such; His dad was nervous, and he could sense his apparent relief at the explanations provided by the elderly witch about Mark's abilities. The answers that professor McGonagall provided his father were of little interest to him since he had already gleaned them out of her head.
That's not to say he'd invaded her privacy; on the contrary, he had just plucked out the information she had held in front of her mind as she must have prepared to explain to his Dad and him. He used the same technique in class at school and managed to learn much quicker than his peers.
The mind worked in a vastly different manner than most people thought. Mark had gone through enough books on brains and neuroscience, and even though he didn't understand them fully, he got the gist that no-one really understood the mind either.
As he unfolded the letter to read it, his mind drifted to his dad; he couldn't leave him here, could he?
'What about the treatments?' he wondered, glancing to his dad. John turned at that moment and caught his eye, immediately recognising the thought on his son's mind.
"I'll be fine, kid," he said answering the question hanging between them. Mark smiled softly at his dad, turning his attention back to the letter in his hand.
of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY
Headmaster: ALBUS DUMBLEDORE
(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock,
Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)
Dear Mr. Smith,
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.
'Albus Dumbledore'. Mark recalled the image of the bearded man he had seen in the professor's mind. His thought tapered off as he turned to the enclosed list
of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY
First-year students will require:
1. Three sets of plain work robes (black)
2. One plain pointed hat (black) for day wear
3. One pair of protective gloves (dragon hide or similar)
4. One winter cloak (black, silver fastenings)
Please note that all pupils' clothes should carry name tags
All students should have a copy of each of the following:
The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 1) by Miranda Goshawk
A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot
Magical Theory by Adalbert Waffling
A Beginners' Guide to Transfiguration by Emeric Switch
One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi by Phyllida Spore
Magical Drafts and Potions by Arsenius Jigger
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander
The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection by Quentin Trimble
Set of Basic Potions Ingredients, Level 1
Parchment (At least 12 rolls)
Ink and Quills (Self-writing/Quick Quotes Quill NOT permitted)
OTHER EQUIPMENT THAT ALL STUDENTS MUST OWN
1 cauldron (pewter, standard size 2)
1 set glass or crystal phials
1 set brass scales
Students may also bring an owl OR a cat OR a toad
PARENTS ARE REMINDED THAT FIRST YEARS ARE NOT ALLOWED THEIR OWN BROOMSTICKS
Passing the now read letter to his dad, Mark asked, "Where will we find this stuff, Ma'am?", although he already knew the answer.
"Diagon Alley, here in London, Mr Smith"
"London? You mean there's a wizarding market here in London?" asked John with a sense of amazement. He was already sold on the idea of his son being a wizard, given that he had seen proof enough of magic, and that he had not detected any dishonesty in the Professor, and most likely neither had Mark.
John was no fool; he knew Mark must have read the professor's mind the minute he entered the room, and frankly, he did not mind his son's vigilance.
"Indeed Mr Smith", the Professor answered with a kind smile. "If I have your agreement, I would like to escort you to Diagon Alley on your first trip as a guide and to assist in the shopping of the school supplies."
"Splendid" answered John, squashing any errant thoughts that Mark may have about objecting on the grounds of his Illness. He was feeling great. 'My son is a Wizard!'
"So Albus, how have you been?"
The man in question sat on the plush Indian style diwan, adorning the luxurious sitting room of his host, sipping on a cup of earl grey. Lifting his twinkling blue eyes, he answered with a smile, "As good as can be expected, my friend. Overseeing Hogwarts is one of the few responsibilities I enjoy shouldering"
Pausing to take a sip, he continued, "Cornelius insists on owling me asking for opinions on outlandish proposals. I do manage to persuade him to divert the funds to something useful, but he seems struck on reviving the Triwizard Championship"
He would not have shared such potentially sensitive information with anyone, but his host was no ordinary wizard. Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore had known his host for almost a century now, which was but a fraction of the six-hundred-sixty-plus years that Nicolas Flamel had been alive. And knowing Nicolas, he would have to offer juicy information to make him open up, even though Nicolas had been the one to request this meeting.
"Has he gone mad?" remarked Nicolas rhetorically. "The Championship was disbanded for good reasons. It had been reduced to a poor effort aimed at pumping national pride by the last edition. I should know, I was there." he said with an air of authority.
"I think Cornelius wishes it to go down as one of the few accomplishments under his term as the Minister of Magic," Dumbledore replied, absently stroking his beard.
"Then he's just a selfish fool, who doesn't care for the students who would be participating," cried Nicolas. His exclamation brought his wife into the room from the adjoining library.
"Come on dear, you're exaggerating it a bit too much," she remarked, taking a seat beside him. "I'm sure Albus would not let the children come to harm."
Dumbledore seemed to beam under her praise, just like he did all those years ago. "Yes indeed, Perenelle. I will try my best," he supplied with a tone of humility, "Although I would hope the plan falls through", he added, more to himself.
Setting down the cup on the table in front of him, he looked at the couple before him. To an outsider, on observing the contrast between the pepper grey of their hair and the almost white of his own, it would appear that he was the senior here. Choosing to not comment on the agelessness of his hosts, he asked the question which had awaited the conclusion of their pleasantries.
"So, Nicolas and Perenelle, what is the reason that caused you to request this meeting?"
Nicolas seemed hesitant to begin, and Albus deduced that this must have been his wife's idea.
"It's simple, Albus. Our sources tell us that the dark forces are seeking the stone," she said in a grave voice, "We want you to protect it at Hogwarts," she finished, in a tone that was more a demand than a request.
Narrowing his brows, Albus mulled over this request. The Flamels rarely had any requests and had never feared for the safety of their stone, even during the last war. Taking a guess, he replied,
"You're growing weak."
Nicolas seemed to be disturbed by this, but Perenelle confirmed it with a dispassionate nod.
"Nicolas has moved the stone to a safe location already," she said, before continuing, "But I fear it's not safe enough."
"Perhaps you should consider…"
"No," came the immediate response, this time from Nicolas.
"We are not destroying the stone. And bear in mind Albus, you will not either," he added with a hint of warning.
Perenelle interrupted, partly to quell the tension, "The Elixir is not the primary motivation, Albus. We still have unfinished projects with it."
She took a pause, then assuming a vindictive tone added, "And it's not just about protecting the stone; we want you to capture the one seeking it. And the castle of Hogwarts is best suited for the job"
After what seemed like a long pause, Dumbledore gave a slight nod, before agreeing.
"Alright. I may have a few ideas on how to do this." He paused. "But it will take time. Months, even."
"That may be too long. You may have less than that," came the reply.
"Where is it now?", asked Dumbledore, already having a guess to the answer, which came almost hesitantly.
"In a high-security vault at the London Gringotts"