John and Louise Penhallow were almost normal. The strange dreams and occasional hallucinations were so rare and unalarming that the fact they weren’t normal hardly ever crossed their minds. But there were days when that fact was first and foremost in their minds.
This was definitely going to be one of those days. Louise gazed at her eleven year old daughter, Elaina Penhallow, as she appeared to fly around the kitchen. This was probably the worst hallucination she had had in a long time. They had started getting more common when Ellie had turned seven, but she didn’t think she had ever “seen” Ellie do anything as odd as this.
She wasn’t quite sure why she was so certain they were hallucinations- a lot of things didn’t add up, like the fact that she, John, and Ellie all had the same visions, and any damage, like the smashed bowl on the floor just now always seemed to remain- but she was. And so was John. Ellie was the only one who ever looked doubtful at this explanation, but she followed her parents’ lead. Because, after all, magic didn’t exist, so it followed that what seemed like magic must not really exist at all…right?
When Elaina’s flight came to an end, she helped her mother sweep up the shattered bowl. They had just put away the dust pan when the doorbell rang. With a sigh, Louise turned towards the door and opened it, barely managing to restrain her slight gasp at the outlandish person standing on her doorstep. The woman, who wore some sort of green robe and a pointy hat looked just as stunned- almost as though she had seen a ghost.
Lou recovered herself- just because this woman was another hallucination didn’t give her license to be rude.
“May I help you, Ma’am?” the woman just kept looking at her for a few seconds, until, a little uncertainly, Lou asked, “Are you all right?” At this the woman came to herself, and apologized.
“I’m sorry, you just reminded me of a former student of mine, years ago. Are you Mrs. Penhallow?”
“I am,” Lou acknowledged.
“I am Professor Minerva McGonagall, and I am here to talk with you and your family about a rather extraordinary opportunity for your daughter’s education. I realize this might seem rather sudden and direct, but I assure you this is an opportunity you really can’t miss.”
Lou smiled, and said, “Of course. Why don’t we discuss it over a cup of tea? John is out, I’m afraid, but Elaina is here.” Ordinarily, Lou would have been much more alert, but something about this woman was disarming, almost as though they had met before…
Professor McGonagall smiled when she saw Ellie, with her long red hair and hazel brown eyes, making the same comment everyone always made.
“She looks just like you, Mrs. Penhallow- except for the eyes, I daresay that…that she has her father’s eyes.” Lou pretended not to notice the slight falter, but stored the information away for later, merely nodded and smiled at the woman.
“Now, to start off- have you noticed anything strange happening around your daughter- something you couldn’t explain, perhaps when she was upset, or excited?”
“I have,” Lou said softly. She couldn’t explain why this conversation felt so familiar. “I… John and I, we rather though they were hallucinations…I’m almost inclined to think you are one.” She hadn’t meant to be so appallingly rude, but there was no harm done; the Professor lips merely twitched in what seemed to be genuine amusement.
“I assure you, Mrs. Penhallow, I am quite real. And so is magic.”
Lou could almost feel Ellie’s eyes widen in comic disbelief, but she absorbed this information rather well she though, merely placing a hand to her temple, remarking absently, “Well, that explains rather a lot.” Lou swore that McGonagall actually smiled at that- if she manage to get her to laugh, that would be a triumph to tell the boys…wait. Where had that thought come from? But McGonagall was talking again.
“I am a teacher at a very special boarding school, called Hogwarts. We teach children who are born with a talent for using and controlling magic- we teach them how to control it, and to use it properly. Magic generally runs in families, but there are also witches and wizards born into muggle- non magical- families as well as children in magical families who don’t have the talent. Your daughter, Elaina, is a witch- and if she had any siblings, there would be a fair chance at them being witched or wizards as well.” McGonagall handed Ellie a letter in some sort of heavy envelope, with green writing on one side, and a strange seal on the other.
She tore into the envelope excitedly, and said, “Ooh, Mum, it says that I have been accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry! Can I go, please Mum, please?” Lou shifted uneasily in her chair, thinking about money and magic and other new and complicated and frightening things. As though reading her mind, the professor embarked on a long and reassuring explanation. After Lou and Ellie had asked some questions, and she had performed a few spells, McGonagall stood up.
“I expect you shall want to talk with Ja-John about this. I may be reached at this number; please tell us as soon as possible whether or not Ms. Penhallow shall attend. Thank you for your time.” Lou politely showed the woman- the witch!- to the door, and collapsed in the couch.
“Oh dear. What shall I say to your father?”
Minerva McGonagall hurried through the empty halls of the school, barely slowing in time to spit out the password that let her through into the headmaster’s office. Albus Dumbledore sat behind his desk, twiddling his thumbs, and shifted his gaze downward to her face, concern evident in his expression and voice.
“Minerva, are you all right? You look quite flustered.”
“Oh Albus, I was visiting muggle-born first years today, and oh, I could have sworn she was Lily Potter. Everything, her face, her voice, the way she bit her lip when she was uncertain- it was all Lily Potter. But it can’t be- Lily Potter is dead, and this woman is Louise Penhallow.”
Albus looked sharply at her, and asked her to tell him everything that had happened. She did so, looking down at her hands, and when she looked up she gasped.
“Albus-!?” It was half question, half horror.
“I’m very sorry, Minerva, but I can’t afford you to know about the uncanny resemblance between Lily Potter and Louise Penhallow. It could ruin everything.” If she hadn’t been so stunned, and distraught form her previous encounter, Minerva might have thought to dodge, or defend herself. As it was, the spell hit perfectly, and the last thing she knew- or remembered knowing- was Albus’s voice, soft and sad.