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CHAPTER ONE:
HERMIONE

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Hermione Granger's third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was hellish. Even for a witch.

Anyone else would have cracked under the pressure of an overlapping class schedule, thirty-hour days, and a handful of extra-curricular activities as well.

Hermione however, was no ordinary witch. She had just finished her Muggle Studies essay a whole three days in advance, and started planning for the extra credit project due at the end of the month. This was miraculously the last bit of homework on her To-Do list for quite some time.

She crossed and un-crossed her legs beneath her desk and took a deep breath.

She needed to think of a "Show and Tell" muggle item, so to speak. And then present the item or topic to her classmates.

Think Hermione, think. Because there was no way in hell she'd be bringing in batteries or jumper cables or light-bulbs or whatever else everyone else was likely to bring.

Oh no, she wasn't the type to bring in the first muggle thing she could lay her hands on. As a muggle-born witch, she felt it was her duty to go above and beyond in her Muggle Studies class. And after talking endlessly about all the things she had done without magic before receiving her letter to Hogwarts, every wizard and witch within a ten mile radius was as well acquainted with her adventures as she was. They even knew that her parents were dentists, whatever that is. The healers that fix teeth, right?

Perhaps she could fill a dental cavity for someone the muggle way, right there in the classroom? That would be exciting. And if anything went wrong, there was always the Hospital Wing.

Hmm... Perhaps not.

It was times like these when she needed to brainstorm, that she missed a few key muggle items. Namely, her Michael Jackson CD's. Since electronics and muggle devices go crazy near magic, she had to suffer through her time at Hogwarts without the muggle music she enjoyed so much as a child.

Michael Jackson was probably the only muggle entertainer to hold any appeal in the wizarding world, but even that was hard to come by. It was mainly the Weird Sisters, The Hobgoblins, Spellbound, or the ever popular Celestina Warbeck that played on the WWN. And Hermione was tired of it.

"Humph," she groaned.

She just remembered that she'd probably have to contact one of those acts and try to schedule them for the Halloween Ball at the end of the month.

As president of the Halloween Ball Committee, and the only member who gave even a hair on Merlin's beard, it seemed it had fallen to her to plan the entire event. It was the one thing she was falling behind on.

It just seemed pointless to arrange for a singer or band she wouldn't have any pleasure in seeing perform. So she'd been putting it off.

Hermione crossed and re-crossed her legs again, in a futile attempt to get comfortable.

It had been a long day, and her patience was worn thin.

Sigh. If she was at home with her parents now, she'd probably have put on a Michael Jackson album and started dancing around the living room with her mother to de-stress.

Sigh.

...Wait.

Wait!

That's a brilliant idea! Completely far-fetched, but brilliant nonetheless.

Hermione could not only kill two birds with one stone, but it would sure liven up the music scene on campus.

She sat back to ponder it properly.

She'd have to get special permission from Dumbledore. 

And the Ministry of Magic as well. Yikes. That's two special permissions in one year from the same fourteen year old girl.

On the other hand, you could trust the man to entertain the entire school, and then some, with only a microphone; so there wouldn't be that much work to do once he arrived in the building, compared to anyone else she could book. Also, the appeal of just having a muggle in the building would be spectacle enough.

The more Hermione thought about it, the more bonkers the idea sounded.

Correction-- the more AMAZING it sounded.

Muggle Studies "Show and Tell": Michael Jackson, the most famous man in the muggle world.

The annual Halloween Ball: Michael Jackson, the best entertainer she knew of.

In fact, she could call it the Thriller Ball this year. That would be the best theme since the legendary Hippogriff Hunting Ball more than two decades ago.

Hermione put down the quill she had been holding pointlessly, and sat back to massage her temples in concentration.

She spent a few more minutes considering if maybe it would be smarter to Polyjuice Potion a fellow wizard into performing as Michael.

That really wouldn't be the same though, would it?

Once she'd planned the preliminary steps she thought necessary to get the REAL Michael Jackson into Hogwarts, she leaped out of her seat and down the stairs swiftly.

The Gryffindor Common Room was dimly lit and despite it still being early in the year, only mid-October, a small fire had already been lit in the fireplace. She found her friend Harry slouched in a corner, squinting at a book so worn out she was sure it was easier to see a Thestral than to read the printing on that paper.

He looked up when she sat beside him.

"Hey, can I borrow your copy of this? Mine got caught in Dissolving Potion last week," Harry explained with a disapproving frown while flopping the useless thing around.

"Yep, of course. But right now, I have a better idea." Hermione bounced in her seat happily as she spoke.

Harry raised a questioning eyebrow. He knew that look on Hermione's face. Nine times out of ten, it meant they were going to go on a researching bonanza at the library. He almost huffed in disappointment.

"I assume you know who Michael Jackson is, right?" she prompted.

Harry's furrowed brow deepened. "Yes..." he answered, unsure of where this conversation could possibly go.

"Well," she emphasized dramatically, "what would you say if he were to perform at our Halloween Ball?"

"..."

Harry blinked stupidly back at her. Clearly he had misunderstood, because Hermione wore a grin so wide her teeth were in danger of falling out with so little lip coverage.

"...Uh, pardon?"

Hermione rolled her eyes, and asked the same question again. This time she indicated the correct response with two sarcastic thumbs-up and exaggerated nodding.

"I'd say... it's impossible? He's amazing, but he's still a muggle."

"We'll see about that," she replied, very sure of herself. "It would be awesome though, wouldn't it?"

Harry finally cracked a smile. "Uh, obviously. One can dream."

"Good, because you're coming with me right now to see Dumbledore before curfew," she announced. And before Harry could protest any further, he'd been yanked up by the elbow and dragged out of the Common Room altogether.


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"Miss Granger. Mr Potter. How delightful of you to drop by for a visit," Dumbledore welcomed and waved the two students into his office. "Have a seat."

Hermione sat down and began speaking without further ado.

"Professor, as this year's president of the Halloween Ball Committee I have an idea for the evening that I'd like you to approve and help us with."

Dumbledore sat down behind his impressive desk and lowered the half-moon spectacles on his nose, so that he could pay full attention to the teen. He motioned for her to keep talking. 

As Hermione chirped on with her proposal, Harry was left to sit awkwardly on the hand-rest of her seat; on account of there being only one chair in front of Dumbledore's desk today. He managed to miss most of the conversation going on, simply by fidgeting for a better position to sit in.

When he finally tuned in, his friend was thanking the Headmaster for agreeing to talk with the Ministry official at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement on her behalf, in order to secure a Special Pardon for the popular muggle entertainer.

Hermione then stood up and shook hands with Dumbledore, just as Harry had managed to sit properly. 

Darn it.

Harry stood up as well, and they both thanked him this time, profusely, for complying with the unusual request.

Dumbledore smiled. "I trust you'll manage all the preparations quite well Miss Granger. I'm looking forward to the show, should everything work out. I'll send you an owl once I hear back from the Ministry."

"Wonderful. Can't wait to hear from you then. Good night, sir," Hermione said courteously as Harry and her made their way out of the Headmaster's Office.


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When the Special Pardon had been obtained, Hermione beamed back at Harry and held the confirmation letter to her breast lovingly.

"Can't wait to tell Ron," Harry mused. He couldn't believe Hermione's crazy plan might actually work. "And Mr Weasley too. He will absolutely choke when he hears what you've done, by the way."

"Oh, I'm just so excited!" Hermione exclaimed, nothing but happiness visible on her face.


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Once Hermione's portkeys in and out of Hogwarts had been secured as well, Dumbledore instructed her on their locations and departing times.

"Thank you, sir," she smiled back as they stood beside the old white sock currently sitting on the Headmaster's desk. The item was to be Hermione's ride outbound in a few minutes.

"I'm only sorry to not be joining you on your journey Miss Granger, but I'm sure you already know your way around muggle territory better than I do," he said kindly. "And I also trust that Mr Jackson is a well-tempered fellow and everything will go according to your plan. Give him my regards once you've explained everything to him."

After all the planning, Hermione finally looked nervous about the whole thing. It was the way the Headmaster spoke so casually of the affair. And especially when Dumbledore placed the stretched-out sock in her hand; she felt lost. The tight schedule left her no time to digest, only move forward. 

"Just remember the Reviving Charm, rennervate, in case the poor fellow feints," Dumbledore winked with a cheery smile.

It was a good reminder, but unfortunately it also brought up the very real possibility that Michael would simply collapse or have a mental breakdown after she explained what she was doing in his home. 

No time to think about that now though.

"I'd do my best, and I'll see you tonight, sir. Wish me luck." Hermione swallowed around the lump in her throat.

Dumbledore wasn't looking at her however. He was facing the large clock face on the opposite wall. 

"Ok now. Here it comes," he cautioned, and began counting down. "Five. Four. Three. Two... One."

Hermione squeaked when she felt the wind leave her lungs.

The power of the portkey pulled her instantly off the ground and into a whirlwind of shapes and colors, where there was no more Dumbledore or Headmaster's Office, no more Hogwarts, and where she gathered intense speed that threatened to pull her apart at the seams.

She had been told to hold her breath until the end so the contents of her stomach wouldn't go flying during the ride, and also what to look for to get off properly. This was the most dizzying moment of her life thus far. Everything she could see were little glimpses of houses and street-signs and street-lamps, and she panicked that she'd miss her exit to Neverland.

No, there it was! The ferris-wheel she’d been looking for! She let go of the dingy sock a second after seeing the amusement park ride, and this time felt herself free-falling through thin air. 

Oh Merlin! The ground was approaching fast!


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Chapter Text

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CHAPTER TWO:
MICHAEL

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Michael Jackson sipped the last of his tea from his mug as he ambled happily back home from a morning walk among the trees on his Neverland Ranch property. He was almost at his front door in fact.

When he lowered the mug from his mouth, something caught his eye, up high near the beaming rays of an October sun. Something was falling...

Oh my god! It was a person!

Before he could do a thing, they had splashed down before his very eyes! Water went flying everywhere, soaking a good deal of his shirt, and to add insult to injury, he dropped the mug from his hand in utter shock; and of course that shattered violently at his feet as well.

---

Hermione wanted to scream as she fell and flipped in the air involuntarily, causing her to miss the pavement.

Instead, she landed with a great big splash into the freezing cold water of a shallow Neverland water-fountain! 

Ugh. Great landing. Not.

When she finally raised her head to see her surroundings, she took a deep breath of air, relieved that she had at least landed in the fountain right outside the front door of the residence she planned on visiting. 

She had arrived safely, even if not in the optimal fashion.

Immediately she heard someone's frantic voice. 

"Oh my goodness! Oh gosh, are you ok?!"

Michael had rushed over as soon as he regained the movement in his legs. It didn't take long, two brisk strides and he was at the side of the water-fountain. He could see the person was female, hunched over on all fours, breathing heavily. Thank god they had survived.

Hermione looked up.

Oh. Shit.

It was Michael Jackson.

She had crash-landed in Michael Jackson's water-fountain! Realization that she was back in the muggle world and this was not normal by anyone’s standards (even Michael’s), dawned quickly. 

Pausing to stare was a very common reaction to seeing the King of Pop in the flesh. But all considering, this was very awkward for both of them now.

Michael spoke again, afraid to get any closer, as his eyes got wider. "Miss, are you ok?"

Hermione gathered her wits about her. This was not the time to be star-struck. No matter how much you never included that in your plan, and now you totally are! Oh jeez.

"Uh, yeah. I mean, yes. I'm ok, thank you for asking."

She stood up, completely drenched, and Michael took a step back to keep from getting more wet than he already was. Normally he would have lent the girl a hand to step over the fountain edge, but this was not a normal situation. Instead, he watched in awe as the girl stepped out of the fountain, seemingly unabashed, and shook out her massive clumpy wet hair.

The brunette before him couldn't have been more than a teenager. A young teen at that.

When she looked back at him, she smiled.

"Well, hello. Uh, before I do anything else, I suppose it would be polite to introduce myself. My name is Hermione, Hermione Granger. Pleasure to meet you."

She put forth a hand for Michael to shake.

Michael was still in shock. He could have sworn he'd just seen his girl drop from the sky. This was so weird. But he also knew he couldn't be rude. She was talking to him, so obviously she hadn't broken any bones or anything. So he snapped himself out of his daze and answered the girl.

"Hello. I'm Michael. Michael Jackson," he said, as pleasantly as he could, and shook her cold wet hand; even with all the reservations he still had.

She smiled. "I know. Listen, before I do what I'm about to do-"

"-You're a fan?" Michael interrupted her, eyebrows raised. 

He should have known. It's always a fan.

"Yes, and I'll explain everything, but before I do, I need you not to freak out for a minute."

Michael cut in again, "-Are you alone? There's no more of you that broke in?"

Hermione frowned. "I'm alone. Calm down, I'm not going to attack you."

Oh. Well, that was reassuring. There indeed was a part of him that was afraid of that. I mean, did I mention this girl had dropped from the sky?!

An "Ok" fell from Michael's lips, but it was more of a question than an acknowledgement of understanding.

"Ok," Hermione continued tentatively. "I apologize for all the water, by the way. So I'm just gonna dry us both off, ok? I'm gonna take out a wand. It's not a weapon. It's not gonna hurt."

She tried to be as forthcoming with her explanations as possible.

Michael nodded, but the color in his face that had drained on the initial shock still hadn't returned.

Hermione pulled out her wand from her jacket and made a slow swish movement with it.

"Ventus Minima," she uttered. 

A warm gust of air flew out from her wand tip and surrounded them. When the wind blew over only seconds later, Michael found that they and all the ground around them were now completely dry.

Dry. From soaking to dry. Instantly.

Stunned, he looked around for witnesses. That could not have just happened. Either he was daydreaming or this was a joke of some sort.

When he faced Hermione again, he felt woozy. She tried to reach a hand out to steady him, but she never made it, as he slipped right between her fingers.

Michael Jackson had just collapsed on the cobble-stone ground before her.

Hermione sighed.

Dumbledore had warned her. Tsk tsk.

She got down on her knees, counted to five to give the man a few seconds of rest, before saying, "Ren-." Wait.

How often do people get to stand over an unconscious Michael Jackson?

The gravity of how rare and unbelievable this opportunity was washed over her. Witch or muggle, she should at least take a moment to absorb it.

There he was, seemingly asleep, with his long limbs laying at odd angles, red shirt awry, and toppled fedora hat a foot away.

Jeez, what a strange sight to behold. Except that the jerry-curl over his eye was still in place. Even Hermione's magic wasn't as potent as whatever hairspray Michael used apparently. She laughed to herself.

If she were a muggle, she would probably wonder how to take him indoors and lay him down on a couch or something.

She looked around then. Hopefully there was no one around to think she'd attacked the poor man, especially with that shattered mug on the ground nearby.

Conscience alleviated that they were alone, for now, she wondered why there wasn't in fact anyone else around. One would think that this made the situation even more unlikely, and she thanked her good graces.

With a flick of her wand and a single word, Michael's smashed tea-mug was back to its former glory and at Hermione's side. It would be a good ice-breaker maybe.

One last look at Michael.

Ok, stop staring at him. It's only Michael Jackson. Talk to him like a normal person.

When she felt ready finally, she poked him on the chest with her wand and said, "Rennervate."

Michael took a sudden breath, as if awakening from a nightmare, eyes wide open. 

His gaze settled on Hermione.

The girl was still here. He was confused as to which parts of his memory were dream or reality.

He was at a complete loss of words.

"Hey", she said, breaking the silence.

"Hey."

"I fixed your mug."

He stared at her awkwardly.

"Your cup, I mean!" she corrected quickly, swinging the ceramic mug around for emphasis. "-Not your face. You know, sorry. Oh jeez..."

You'd think nothing could be stranger than pulling shrieking baby-shaped roots out of a plant pot, or giant eight-foot spiders, but this beat anything she'd ever encountered in the wizarding world. Hermione really was trying her best to act normal, to be undeterred by the situation. She put faith in the fact that Michael must have had millions of run-ins with crazy fans, and was hopefully more comfortable and adept at dealing with this kind of thing.

Michael finally cracked a smile. Then his face scrunched up in laughter, and the wave of girlish giggles washed away the awkwardness between them.

Hermione couldn't help but laugh also.

Michael started to sit up, found his fedora and shoved it back on his head, and managed to stand up. Albeit, a bit shaky, but the man was on his feet again.

He smoothed out his shirt as his giggles died down.

"How long have I been out for?"

The question bored into her as they made meaningful eye contact.

"Only about a minute. Couldn't actually let you sleep on the walkway outside your front door."

Michael laughed again. "Gosh, that would be a fright, wouldn't it?"

"Speaking of which, where is everyone? My research indicated that there are always kids running around and charity functions..."

"Your research?" Michael raised an eyebrow in jest; this girl was funny. He answered her nonetheless. "Uh, no event today. Everyone is decorating and prepping for Halloween. I'm very excited."

Michael punctuated the statement with a flexing of his knitted fingers and a ball-to-toes roll of his feet. Not to mention the grin on his face.

Hermione smiled sincerely at his bubbly personality. 

"Oh good. I'm glad you're excited! You'll be even more excited when I tell you why I'm here."

"Why you broke in, you mean?" Michael corrected, but still good-naturedly. He knew that fans never did this kind of thing out of malice, only love. No reason to be too upset.

"Let's go inside and I'll tell you all about it. I'll be amazed if this won't top the best days of your life. Trust me."

Hermione seemed pretty sure of herself and Michael almost blanched again. She turned to walk, but when he didn't follow, she stopped.

"Miss Granger, was it?"

She nodded. "Hermione, yes."

"Hermione," he revised, "I think you're a bit young for me, no?"

Deer caught in highlights. 

"Oh no, silly!" she declared shrilly, flailing her hands and that cup around to bat the absurd notion away, trying to keep from laughing at the same time. "I'm not talking about that!"

He pointed her with an incredulous look. That’s why most fangirls wanted personal time with him...

"You're cute, but don't flatter yourself. Just come inside so next time you collapse, you can feint on a soft couch instead."

"Riiight," he agreed sarcastically. Then he remembered her falling from the sky. (He really would have been more courtly throughout their introduction had it not been for that.) "Actually, does this have anything to do with, uh..." How to phrase this so he wouldn't sound crazier than most already thought him to be? He settled on gesturing up and down vaguely with an index finger.

Hermione understood nonetheless. "Me falling from a portkey?"

"Falling from a, pardon?"

"A portkey. I really should explain everything while you're sitting. I assure you it's for your own good."

Michael shrugged and motioned for her to go ahead towards his home. Sure, why not. She was a teenager, how much harm could she cause? If she hadn't strangled him to death in a hug yet, what could be the harm? Plus, he really needed to figure out if he had head-trauma, what-with seeing all this impossible stuff happening today.

He held the front door for Hermione to step inside. It opened to a beautifully sunny hallway, clad in wood and statues; with the major feature being a staircase almost as large as the main one at Hogwarts.

She wiped her feet courteously on the welcome-mat before stepping inside.

It was evident once inside that Halloween preparations were in full swing at Neverland. Pumpkins and ghoulish decorations were in no short supply, and there was a wonderful pumpkin and cinnamon scent wafting in from what must have been the kitchen.

"You have a beautiful home."

"Thank you. Would you like a tour?"

Tempting as that sounded, she had to decline. "No, that's ok. I'm here on business actually. Can we talk somewhere privately?"

Michael smiled kindly. "Of course," he said. Inside however, he was surprised she turned down the tour. Fans never turn down the house tour. Especially with his closet of costumes. 

He really hoped that whatever business this headstrong teenager could possibly be on didn't involve her parents suing him for child endangerment. It wasn't his fault she'd fallen out of the sky on his property.

He led her to his office, but couldn't help pointing out his autographed Shirley Temple portrait along the way, and that through the library window she'd be able to see the zookeeper walk the elephant in a few minutes if she wanted to stay.

She politely declined this as well, but assured him she was indeed tempted.

Michael's office was another wooden room filled with many windows, and even more stacks of junk. One look and it was easy to see he was either a hoarder or afraid of a cleaning lady to help organize all his stuff for him; because there were piles upon piles of presents (from fans she assumed) and papers and toys, and handwritten notes taped to multiple random surfaces. It all clouded out most of the light that should have made for a very sunny room, but was in fact rather dimly lit.

Hermione encouraged him to sit on the couch while she paced. Unusual as that may be to him, he obliged her.

"So what's this business you've got planned then? You've got me curious, young lady."

She walked back to the door to shut it. Just in case. She needed to not be overheard, for his sake and for hers.

When she turned back to face him, she had a determined look on her face.

"Michael, I don't know how to say this, but I'm going to try as best as possible. Ok?" She paused. "What if I were to tell you you're not crazy, you really did see me falling out of the sky?"

He leaned forward in his seat. She had his undivided attention.

"Oh, and here's your mug." She had been holding on to it since they'd started walking.

He took it from her. "So this really was broken?"

"Yes."

"And there's obviously no trace of glue or cracks...?"

"Yup."

"You gonna tell me how you did it?" His eyebrows neared his hairline in amusement.

"I'm gonna have to if I want you to help me later today." She chuckled.

Ignoring the question of 'Help with what later today?' completely, he opted for "Awesome!" instead.

"Michael, do you believe in magic?"

He grinned joyfully. "Absolutely!"

"Not like card tricks. But real magic?" Hermione questioned.

"I believe in creating magic, yes."

"Not performing, or healing of the human condition, or rainbows, or the power of love."

Actually, since being friends with The Boy Who Lived, she'd have to retract that last example.

"You know what I mean..." She trailed off.

Michael frowned slightly. He wasn't sure what kind of answer she expected. He didn't want to be forced into admitting magic wasn't real. He touched magic every day.

"I believe in magic. It comes in many forms."

Hermione smirked at his courageous steadfastness. He wasn't wrong, and she admired that. 

Ok Michael, we'll see if you really mean that.

Without further ado, she took the mug back from his hands and threw it to the ground, smashing it to pieces.

He gasped. "What are- ?"

Hermione cut him off with a flick of her wand and very calmly said, "Reparo."

The ceramic pieces that had a second ago been scattered hopelessly all over the floor, sprung into action, whirling around fitting themselves back together, and in the next second the mug lay at Michael's feet, good as new.

Fascinated, he picked it up and inspected it. Not a single crack.

He looked up at the girl holding the magic wand. A giant smile had plastered itself on Michael's face. "Wow! That's amazing! You're very good."

"Thank you."

"Can you do that again?"

"Sure. You can break it this time if you like."

Michael wasn't one to pass up that kind of invitation. He threw the large cup to the ground, and as before it shattered into more than a dozen pieces with a loud smash.

"Can you teach me how to fix it this time?"

"Unfortunately you're not a wizard, so I can't. But I can tell you how I do it."

Michael looked disappointed to hear such news, but only for a second.

"It's a combination of my wand and the spell I use." She flicked her wand the same way she had a moment ago, and repeated, "Reparo."

The cup went flying back together again. Fixed.

"Wow, really? That is so cool!"

With another wave of her wand, Hermione lit a small but bright blue fire into the cup. The flames were contained within the cup and the ceramic was still cool to the touch. She handed the flame to Michael.

"Oh wow," he exclaimed happily. 

She didn't think she'd ever seen a muggle this happy over such strange occurrences.

"Bluebell flames," she explained. "Keep that one if you like. Just be careful, because water won't put it out."

Michael looked up from the small dancing flame he held, and couldn't help from smiling still. Even if this was a dream, it was amazing.

She took the mug from him and set it down on his desk. When she turned back to face him she handed him one of his own pens.

"Hold this."

Michael seemed more than amicable to holding anything she handed him as he looked on with a childlike wonderment at Hermione's actions.

Next, she took a box of chocolates off a pile of presents and transfigured it into a small fishbowl.

"Can you tell me what I'm about to turn that pen into?"

Michael had a guess. "No way!" he exclaimed incredulously, just like a child would.

He was right. With a complicated whish of her wand, Hermione turned the pen into a living wriggling orange goldfish. It sat in Michael's palm and he raised it to within an inch from his face for a closer look. 

"NO. WAY," he said. When he looked back at her, she'd already filled the fishbowl with water (with no visible sink or tap in sight) and he dropped the little creature inside to watch it swim about.

"That is so cool. That is just too cool. You're amazing. I've never seen a magician this good."

"I'm a witch. Not a magician."

Michael stared blankly for a moment. "They all say it's real. You're trying to say it's actually real?"

"Yup."

Michael paused. "So you can do any trick, without setting it up first?"

"I'm still in school learning. Some stuff is impossible. Some stuff is illegal to do. And other stuff I still have yet to learn. But I can do some pretty cool stuff. Comes in really handy."

"I see. Can you by any chance turn your hair blue?"

Hermione laughed. "Um, yeah, that's simple enough. Though I wouldn't really like to have blue hair."

As a substitute for his wish, she pointed her wand at a red jacket on a mannequin a few feet away, and before Michael's very eyes the jacket had turned blue. 

"Wow, coooooool!" His eyes completely lit up with joy and he hurried past Hermione to touch the fabric whose color-change he'd just witnessed.

"So, you believe me now? Magic is real."

"I KNEW IT!" he shouted suddenly and pointed a sharp index finger. "I just knew it!"

Michael was looking her in the eye with that brilliant grin of his on his face. She really seemed for real from what he could judge. Enough for him to believe her. Even if this was a dream, it was a dream come true.

Hermione chuckled. If there's any muggle that was likely to have that reaction, it was going to be Michael Jackson.

"Oh man, and you can fly too?"

"Well, no, not really. I was riding a portkey. It's a device that transports you from one place to another. If you agree to help me, you can ride one with me."

Michael was caught between being suspicious of whatever it was she was going to ask of him, which is why she was evidently here, and pure excitement over the possibility of what sounded like a teleporting device.

"That would be awesome. Too awesome," he said happily, "but I gotta ask, and I'm sure that's probably the next thing you're gonna tell me --what's the business you're here on?"

"Ok, good. I'm glad you're not kicking me out of your office so far," she chuckled and rested against Michael's large desk.

He laughed along with her.

"So the first thing you really need to understand is that magic really is real, that I'm not crazy, this isn't a dream, and you're not crazy either. Got that?"

Michael nodded enthusiastically, even if he wasn't 100% sure about it all. She seemed pretty believable so far though.

"The next thing you need to know is that I'm currently a student at one of the largest magical schools in Europe. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It's located in England."

"That explains your accent."

"I'm in my third year of studies, and I've got a lot on my plate this year, including organizing our annual Halloween Ball." She paused, looking to see if he was following. "I'd really like it if you could be the performer for us this year."

Ah. So this was about a concert. She wanted a private concert apparently.

When he didn't reply, just sat back down on the couch in concentration, she took a step forward to try and explain better.

"I'm not doing it as a last resort, I promise. Ever since I got my letter to Hogwarts and found out about the wizarding world, I've wished I could bring your music with me. We have our own bands and singers, but I like you better. And I want to introduce you to a world where few know your music. And it doesn't matter to me if you can't apparate or transfigure clocks into frogs, I think you're the best."

Michael looked at her as if those were the first real words she'd spoken all morning. "You mean that?"

She had really touched him. Better than singers with real magic?

"I mean it."

"That's really kind, thank you."

He reached for her hand tentatively as she sat beside him. He tried to be brave and look her in the eye and not cry.

Better than singers with real magic.

"So what do you think about helping me put on a concert for my school tomorrow night? There's gonna be more than a thousand students and staff that have never heard of you. If there's any muggle that can knock their socks off, it's you."

Michael took some time to respond, and when he did, he giggled and blinked back a tear. "Did you just call me a muggle?"

"It means you're not a wizard or witch."

"So everyone at Hogwarts is a wizard or witch?"

"Yup."

"And they don't know who I am?"

"Nope, not really. Not unless they were born to muggles like I was, or take a very pragmatic approach to Muggle Studies. Speaking of which, your showing up to our Halloween Ball would also be my extra credit for my Muggle Studies class. So you'd really be helping me out."

"I'm guessing I'm gonna have to come up with a good excuse of why I can't be in my own home for all the Halloween festivities we're planning here..." he thought out loud.

"Not really. Don't tell, but I can turn back time to send you back and you don't have to miss a thing. No one will know you're gone if that would make it easier for you to agree to come with me."

Michael thought it over. His life here could wait for a day or two or however long this adventure would take. It could always wait, that wasn't an issue. He was more worried about performing for an audience that had no idea who he was. That was truly unique. And it was perhaps the most enticing part of it all.

"So Halloween for us muggles is the same as Halloween for the wizard world?"

"Yup, same concept. Except that we have real ghosts and eight-foot spiders and such."

"Real ghosts? Really? What about zombies?" Michael had that curious child-like look on his face again. His grin was as broad as she'd ever seen it. It was endearing.

"Yeah, real ghosts. I'll introduce you to some if you like. As for zombies, yes but not really. Inferi are not really like the undead muggles think of."

"Gosh, there's so many questions I want to ask you..."

"Well save them for later and I’ll answer as many of them as I can. If you want to do this with me, we don't have much time to plan. Halloween is tomorrow after all."

Michael chuckled. "Are you that sure that I'll agree, or that bad at planning this Ball you speak of, that you've left asking the main performer until the day before?"

Hermione frowned. "While yes, you would be the only performer, and yes, I would be sunk without you, it's not because I have poor judgment or planning that I'm coming to you the day before. Just to let you know, it took three special permissions from our Ministry of Magic to even allow me to come here or make any of it possible. And our school Headmaster was very accommodating of such a request from me. Anyone else would have laughed in my face for trying to get a muggle entertainer. It's completely unheard of, you know."

"Sorry, I didn't mean it that way. You're putting me in a position where I can't really say no, can I?"

Hermione's brows unknitted. "That wasn't the intention, but I have strong evidence of your personality to believe that there's a very good chance you would in fact agree."

Michael smiled and got to his feet. He was thinking now.

"Ok, so Halloween themed, right?"

"Yup. I want to call it the Thriller Ball. So I'm kind of hoping you'll do Thriller, as it's more than event-appropriate."

Michael smiled. "Sure thing, if you like. How many songs are we talking?"

"Maybe a handful. Up to you. No pressure to do a full concert line-up, don't worry."

"Hmm... I've been working on some new stuff which happens to fall into the Halloween theme... it wouldn't be too much to ask if I were to do a few new songs?" Michael looked hopeful.

Hermione was indeed surprised, but she didn't mind at all. New never-before-seen Michael Jackson material? That was the stuff of legend for most muggles.

"Sure, not at all. It's not like you're playing to an audience that knows what to expect from you. Fedora, sparkly glove, moonwalk... they don't know any of that stuff. Most of them. I'm sure there's gonna be about five percent that will go insane for anything new from you though."

"But they wouldn't tell, right?"

"We're bound by law to not tell anyone we exist, so I think you're safe." She laughed. "And if they do, our Magical Law Enforcement will obliviate them."

"Pardon?"

"It means they'll wipe the memory of any muggle that knows too much."

While she knew his original worry had to do with his unreleased material somehow leaking, which would indeed be a big deal in the muggle world, she quickly chose to avoid discussing the matter any further as it may involve the unpleasant discussion of his own eventual obliviation after this ordeal.

Thankfully Michael hadn't picked up on the clue. He was too busy planning in his head while pacing his office.

"Anyway, so any songs you like. And I can arrange for any effects you may want too, so think up what you want your performance to look like."

Michael turned to her. "Ok, well, first I need a microphone-"

"No, you don't. There's a spell for that."

Michael's eyebrows flew up to his hairline, as they seemed to do at his delight or surprise. "Really?"

She found it amusing how he asked, Really? 

"Yes, really. It will project your voice the way a microphone normally would. Here, I'll show you."

She laid a Sound-Proofing Charm over Michael's office, and then when she was sure he wouldn't jump out of his skin at her proximity, lightly prodded his neck with her wand tip. "Sonorus."

"WHAT DOES-" Michael found himself yelling his question at her and stopped midway, trying to whisper instead. He was still really loud. "I guess this is what that does?"

"Yup. Go nuts. See how you like your voice. No one will hear. I sound-proofed your office."

He grinned. Awesome.

He started off with an easy beat-box rhythm, and Hermione recognized it instantly as the iconic beat of Billie Jean. Then Michael began adding in the lyrics also.

Holy crap, he sounded good.

Michael was pleased also. The magic amplification of his voice was perfectly tuned to his voice. With such short notice, it was a relief he wouldn't have to worry about his voice not being in top shape, because he had to admit, he sounded good.

He played around with singing a few different levels and pitches to grow more accustomed to the effect and in the end was very satisfied. Hermione sat back and enjoyed the little preview, and when he finally asked her to un-amplify his voice, he had to wave a hand in front of her face to wake her from the beautiful daydream.

"Oh, right, sorry. Quietus."

Michael cleared his throat and his voice was back to normal.

"Thank you. Wow. That is too cool."

"No problem. Anything else you need? Spotlight maybe?" It was a less than subtle hint at his usual performance of Billie Jean.

"Maybe. What do wizard performers normally do? What kind of bells and whistles get your kind of crowd going?"

Hermione frowned. That's not exactly the direction she wanted Michael's wizarding debut to go in, but it was up to him. "There's usually a lot of smoke bombs, and screeching instruments you've never heard of. And fireworks."

"I suppose we can use some of that."

"Michael, don't take this the wrong way, but I was really hoping you'd let your imagination run wild with this one. No pressure. And no need to do what we expect on stage either."

Michael smiled. "Good. I'm glad we're on the same page. I don't for a second expect to do what you've seen before."

He winked at her and she felt relieved.

For the next couple hours, they talked and planned the show intensely. It was a beautiful, heartfelt collaboration. Him asking questions; her telling him how they could manage to do certain things.

She was impressed by his ability to create ideas and images she'd never even dreamt of, and they problem-solved how to make them happen. 

He was completely in his element. He gestured with his hands emphatically and danced about to demonstrate different moves. He was innovating on a level that had never been accessible before. He wished all the planning of his shows could be like this. It was incredibly freeing not to be limited by gravity or physics. It opened up a plethora of unique possibilities. He was getting more and more excited the more they talked.

When Hermione finally looked at the clock, she warned him it was getting time to leave.

Michael had been talking half to himself, half to her, very quickly, spitting out ideas and plans and what-if's, and wore the biggest smile. Suddenly, the thought of their brain-storming session coming to an end was almost like heartbreak.

"Wait, you have to leave?"

"No, you're coming with me. Right?"

She frowned. He understood that he was going to come with her, right?

The part of Michael that believed this was all too much fun to be real kicked in. He didn't want to let go of this dream. It was too beautiful to be given such an opportunity, and too tragic to find out it wasn't real after all. He wanted to tell her to stay a little longer. They could plan this magic event, even if he'd never get to perform it. He could still dream about it and make it real that way. 

Don't take this away. Not yet.

"Of course I'm coming."

The look on his face was disjointed from his true feelings. He felt like their time together had come to an end. There was no way that Hogwarts and wizards existed. He knew he was gullible; and even when he knew it wasn't real, still liked to absorb himself into fantasies. He lived in half a fantasy. So please, just allow him that pleasure. He wasn't hurting anyone by living that way.

Hermione took a step towards him. Something had changed, soured in him; it was recognizable.

"Hey Michael," she said, and dared to take his hand. "You know I'm serious, right?"

"Of course," he smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. He squeezed her hand and she could see that he was on the verge of tears.

"There's a portkey for us, in fifteen minutes. And you're gonna spend the night in Hogwarts, and then tomorrow night we really will do the concert we've been talking about."

He looked at her. He didn't really know what to believe. But he found her insistence to be the type of optimism that makes you cry for the implausibility of its actuality. How do you crush someone's plans for a Utopia? It was crushing a part of his soul to know that she really believed in this fantasy as well. When this ended, he foresaw he would be the one hugging her goodbye as he left her behind in a mental ward. Best case, he'd have to tell her parents their daughter needed psychiatric evaluation.

"What do your parents do?" he asked, seemingly out of the blue.

"They're both dentists," she answered with a quizzical look. Why did people always ask about her parents?

"I see."

That just tied the pieces together tighter. This couldn't be real. The poor dentists' daughter was mentally ill. Or maybe he was the one that was ill. Maybe they were both sad lonely people clinging desperately to childish fantasies. He didn't like having to wake up, but either way, reality was settling in. Even after all he had seen today, and even with her story holding steadfast. Even as he looked down at his new goldfish and blue flame. He didn't know how she did all the things she did, but he knew what other people would think of him if he spoke of any of this.

Wacko Jacko.

He hoped that when he awoke in the morning, he would still have those few presents to remind him of his time with Hermione. If it wasn't for her crazy wizard stories, he could tell she was a brilliant and very intelligent young woman.

"Come on, Michael. Go grab anything you want to bring with us really quickly. We have to go soon."

She prodded him until he, heartbroken as he was, went into his closet and changed his red shirt for a more glittering jacket.

Fedora set on his head, makeup in place, hair in place, white v-neck t-shirt, black trousers, white socks, and his signature loafers on his feet. He topped it off with a beautiful new army-style jacket. It was a deep burgundy-red velvet with an extraordinary amount of gold frogging, metal accents, and gold armband as well. 

He put it on for her. He wore it for her. The way he did many things for others when in fact they made him want to break down in tears. Otherwise he wouldn't have had the courage to continue this illusion they'd lived in since morning.

She complimented his choice of jacket, and settled for his hum-drum attitude, because she knew once he arrived at Hogwarts, there would be no more denying it. He would have to buck up and believe it all.

Hermione practically had to drag him to show her where the kitchen was, as they were running short on time.

There were two chefs cooking away, who nodded politely at Michael and Hermione, but kept to themselves. Hermione spotted a series of delicious-smelling pies cooling on a kitchen counter, and then spotted what she was actually looking for. The purple oven mitt was tucked into one of the oven door-handles. She excused herself as she took the item and quickly led Michael back to his office. She locked the door once more.

"Ok Michael. This is our portkey to Hogwarts. Hold on to it with me and don't let go until I tell you. Can you do that?"

"Yes." He looked ready to cry as he held in his hands the same large mitten as his new friend.

"I need you to trust me. Do you trust me?"

"I trust you," he replied as he looked into her eyes. 

He trusted in the fact that she believed this to be true. And he tried to discard any false hope she had created in him of actually visiting anything called the Wizarding World.

"Ok, hold on and don't let go." She looked at the clock and counted down from five.

He closed his eyes.


---

Chapter Text

---

CHAPTER THREE:
MAGIC

---


When Michael felt his body lifted straight off the ground he opened his eyes in disbelief. They had been absorbed up through the ceilings and roof of his Neverland residence and seemed to be hurtling through space at an alarming speed.

No. Way.

"Hermione!"

"I told you it's real. Just hold on. Don't let go until I tell you. Ok?"

Michael realized that if this was real, this was the time to follow directions without question. 

He gripped the oven-mitt material as if his life depended on it. It probably did.

Oh my god. This was real! 

He knew it! He freaking knew magic was real!

Holy crap. This was awesome!

Holy crap he almost wanted to puke. This was so much worse than a hundred toe-spins put together.

They were zipping through time-zones so quickly all he could see where blurry half-formed shapes. He caught sight of a random street sign, then the grand canyon below them, then a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. So freaking cool.

Before he could catch up to all his senses, Hermione shouted at him to "Let go, Michael, LET GO!"

He let go, and they both went plummeting through the night sky towards the ground and then through the very walls of a multi-level building.

Michael had been on a lot of scary-ass roller coasters, but this beat them all. The Puke-Bucket at Neverland was nothing compared to this portkey business. Props to Hermione for doing this twice in one day.

They landed in a large and very tall stone chamber.

Michael was surprised that even though he'd landed face-first onto a solid stone floor, he wasn't hurt in any way. Only winded slightly.

Hermione had managed to land on her feet this time, and quite steadily, he might add.

She bent down to help him up.

"I'm ok. Thank you. That was INCREDIBLE!"

He brushed himself off, but didn't really need to, as his jacket was perfectly fine and only his hat was a tad askew.

Michael spun around on the spot to take in his surroundings. "This room is beautiful. I'm guessing we're somewhere inside Hogwarts?"

"Right you are, my friend," came the low booming of Professor Dumbledore's voice. "And thank you for the compliment. I make it a point to decorate tastefully."

Michael and Hermione looked up to the balcony as the old wizard began the descent from his private chambers, down the stairs to greet them more formally.

Michael was in awe of the man's garments. He wore a midnight-purple floor-length robe and what looked like a matching night-cap. He had a feeling these weren’t just fancy pajamas, even though it was pitch black outside the window. The long silver hair and three-foot long beard was a giveaway.

"This is Professor Albus Dumbledore. Our Headmaster. One of the greatest, most powerful wizards of all time," Hermione whispered to Michael quickly.

Dumbledore was at least a few inches taller than Michael, it was unmistakable already, and for a man his age, Michael was impressed and surprised he moved with such grace and agility.

Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs Dumbledore motioned for them to sit down. There were two chairs in front of his desk this time.

"I'm so glad you could join us here, Mr Jackson. It's been my understanding you're quite a legend in the muggle world, and it was always a fear and possibility that Miss Granger may have returned alone tonight. Or should I say this morning, as it's much past curfew. We should all be off to bed soon." He smiled pleasantly, not seeming to mind the time in the least.

"I'm very glad to be here, Mr Dumbledore-"

"Please, call me Albus."

Michael questioned whether he should take him up on the offer. This man was certainly older than any he had ever encountered, not to mention one could instantly tell that he deserved the highest forms of respect; even without Hermione's abridged introduction.

"Thank you. It is my honor and pleasure to be invited."

"Miss Granger here, has told me you would be ok with sleeping under our roof for the night so that you two may continue planning your performance tomorrow morning? Is that correct?"

"Absolutely. Anywhere you like. I have no problems with anything." Michael tried to be as accommodating as possible. He was aware that this was a school and not a hotel.

"Wonderful. Not all muggles are so welcoming of such a sharp change in society." He nodded knowingly at Michael, and turned to Hermione this time. "Miss Granger, you've done well for today but I'm sure Mr Jackson and I will be fine for the night. You will see each other in the morning; you should come to my office before breakfast tomorrow, and then his care will be solely in your hands."

"Thank you, sir. I understand," she said and stood up.

Michael reached for her hand reflexively. She was all he had known so far of this other world and everything was moving so quickly. She squeezed it quickly, and told him everything would be fine. That Dumbledore is a wonderful man and to trust him. It calmed him and after watching her walk out the door, he turned back to the Headmaster who wore a kind, understanding expression on his face.

"Well then. I have to say Miss Granger has gotten me very excited about your show tomorrow. She speaks very highly of you. You're the most popular and widely-regarded muggle entertainer ever, I believe?"

Michael blushed and tried to look away from the man's crooked nose and the bright blue eyes beneath his half-moon spectacles.

It was so strange to have people not know who he was. It was obvious Dumbledore had no idea before Hermione had told him, otherwise he wouldn't be quoting her identically like that. It was yet another part of this experience that made it all the more wonderful and exciting.

"Something like that," he answered quietly; the shyness in his voice apparent, and bringing out the high-pitched quality of it.

Dumbledore sensed Michael's mood perfectly and changed the subject.

"It's past two in the morning, but I could go for a midnight tea. How would you feel about that?"

Michael smiled and was able to look Dumbledore in the eyes again, only to see him pulling out his very own wooden stick. Wand-- he corrected himself.

Dumbledore swirled it around once and an ornate silver tray appeared on the far side of his large desk. On it was a beautiful shiny teapot, hot steam billowing from it, and all the fixings.

"How do you take your tea, Mr Jackson?"

"With cream or milk or anything you have."

"We have everything under the sun and moon, my dear fellow. Sometimes you have to be more specific than that," Dumbledore chided him good-naturedly.

Michael looked down into his lap. "Milk please," he managed to chirp.

His cup was handed to him and he accepted it with a gracious, "Thank you."

Dumbledore settled down in his seat across from him. 

Michael sipped his tea nervously. It was very yummy tea, for which he smiled up at his host.

"So how did Miss Granger find you this morning?"

At first Michael was unsure how to answer that. If he wasn't in the company of a known wizard, he may have said they bumped into each other, leaving out any other details. With Dumbledore however, he sensed he could be fully truthful.

"Well, she seemed to drop from the sky and she splashed down into my water-fountain. I was scared for a terrifying moment that she was badly hurt."

It was a humorous story after all.

Dumbledore chuckled quietly. "Portkeys have a knack for dropping people off in odd places. I once landed upon the back of a thestral in my youth, and was delighted to find out what they were. I was unable to see them back then."

"I'm sorry, sir, a thestral?"

"Invisible skeletal horses with wings."

Michael nodded along as if this was a perfectly normal explanation. "I see."

"And I hope she was no bother while visiting your home?"

"Oh no, none at all. She's a lovely girl. Even fixed the mug I dropped in my fright when she fell."

"I'm happy to hear that. She has a natural talent with the Mending Charm."

Michael sensed they were just making small-talk and was afraid after every sentence that they would run out of material to chat about. But the awkward silence never came, and Michael found he very much liked the Hogwarts Headmaster. He had even performed a few more small bits of magic for Michael's enjoyment, at which Michael applauded and praised jubilantly.

"I believe it's very much time to retire for the night, don't you?"

"I think I could stay awake all night after the day I've had today, but I'll do my best."

Dumbledore waved his wand to raise a small tent in the corner of his office. Not only was it the smallest tent Michael had ever seen, but it was dwarfed further by the ceiling-tall bookcases in its midst.

"I think you'll be more than happy with your lodging," Dumbledore remarked.

Michael bit his lip. He felt hesitant in asking where the bathroom was. It was as if Dumbledore could sense this thought though, because he added that a bathroom, kitchen and necessary toiletries were waiting for him inside.

Once again, Michael chose not question the facilities given to him; how a bathroom and kitchen made for ants would hardly do him any good --as that seemed about all that would fit in that tent if he were to fit inside as well. He was a guest, being presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be in the company of these people. He was grateful. Besides, he had slept on worse. He wasn't that much of a diva.

"Thank you, sir. I assume I'll see you in the morning?"

"Bright and early! Sleep well, Mr Jackson," Dumbledore called over his shoulder, as he was already ascending the stairs back up to his bedchambers.

"Good night."

Michael looked around awkwardly for a few moments, not quite ready to squeeze into that tiny tent. Not only that he wasn’t tired at all due to jetlag, but he'd probably have more room falling asleep upright in a chair. Perhaps he should. That wouldn't be any bother, would it?

He looked over the giant bookshelf of foreign titles for a few minutes, completely fascinated by all the ancient texts, some of which looked as if they'd been unopened for more than a few centuries.

He wished he had time to read them all. Even if he couldn't do magic like Hermione or Professor Dumbledore.

Michael looked around Dumbledore’s office again and among all the never-before-seen contraptions that filled the place, he also saw the time on the clock.

If he didn't indeed go to bed soon, he'd be in a horrible state to plan a one-day concert. And it went without saying that this was the biggest test of Michael's life. It felt like a challenge to win over people with real magic powers. He was really going to push himself, to hopefully give them something they had never seen before. He couldn't stand back on his laurels. Like Hermione had reminded him, they would likely not shout and feint just by seeing him put on a sparkly glove.

In all seriousness, Michael was a little scared. 

And when he crouched down to get into the little tent finally, that fear only escalated.

This was no little tent. No, sir. On the inside, this was a huge apartment suite, completely draped in the fabric of the tent, and that kitchen Dumbledore had mentioned could be seen on his right-hand side.

This must be some crazy-amazing magic, he recognized. Nothing like the small stuff Hermione had shown him earlier. Hesitantly, he took the handful of steps down into his very fine lodgings indeed.

Michael walked around completely in awe. There was a moderate-sized living room, and a bedroom, and a kitchen, and indeed a bathroom as well. And everything was fully furnished with a style of decor he was certain he'd never seen in the muggle world before. 

Ha. He said muggle.

He toured his apartment somewhat afraid to touch anything, not because he was afraid it would disappear, but because it would feel too real. And it only drove the point home of how amazing his show would have to be if this kind of amazing thing was normal for these people.

He felt in over his head. When he got to the kitchen, he found a few platters of finger-foods laid out for him. Unable to stomach much at this time, he picked up only an apple and munched away on that until he calmed down.

Eventually, having no idea what else to do with himself in such a position, he went to bed. (There were even pajamas laid out for him.)


---


In the morning, Michael seemed to have woken up before anyone else had. He brushed his teeth, and fixed his face quickly, and made his way out into Dumbledore's office. He'd only slept two hours.

He walked around examining some of the curious objects displayed about. He tried to fathom what some truly unusual ones could possibly be, and had to withhold from touching anything.

He remembered Hermione saying that Dumbledore was one of the most powerful wizards ever, and knew enough as to not touch strange things in the possession of such a man.

"Good morning, Mr Jackson," came a familiar voice from above, and when Michael whirled around, he found Dumbledore once again descending the stairs in his office.

Michael was much more familiar with this giant stone office-room than he had been last night when he'd been literally face-planted into it; it seemed to be so foreign and alien back then. Now, he could actually see himself living here; it had a surreal beauty. He hoped Dumbledore wouldn't mind too badly to have caught Michael clearly snooping about.

"Indeed it is. Good morning to you too."

Without needing to be asked what he was going to be doing today, Dumbledore went ahead and told him. Apparently he was going to start by having breakfast in a room called the Great Hall with Hermione and a group of students called Gryffindors.

Sounded simple enough.

And speak of the devil, Hermione stepped into the room carefully to join them. She was dressed in an ankle-length black robe with an interesting emblem on the breast, which matched the red and gold striped tie she wore. Very different than the jeans and corduroy jacket she'd been wearing yesterday.

"I'm not late, am I?" she asked, a bit out of breath.

"Not at all, Miss Granger. Good morning."

"Good morning, Professor. 'Morning, Michael," she greeted finally.

"I was just telling Mr Jackson that he'll be accompanying you to breakfast in the Great Hall this morning. Feel free to introduce him to your colleagues. I'm sure this is as much of an adventure for them as it is for him."

Normally Michael wouldn't doubt that, but in this world, he failed to see how that could be true. He was a mere muggle here. He smiled and thanked him nonetheless and then left with Hermione.

Out in the hallway was yet another new experience. There were students bustling around everywhere, and they all wore variations of the same robed uniform Hermione wore.

Hermione was kind enough to explain that the students ranged from eleven to eighteen years old, and that there were four different houses one could be sorted into. Slytherin, who wore green and silver. Ravenclaw who wore blue and bronze. Hufflepuff, who wore yellow and black. And finally Gyffindor, who wore red and gold.

"I suppose I dressed appropriately then?" Michael laughed, joking obviously that he had blindly chosen a jacket that was red and gold.

"Well, you've always had good style."

Michael chuckled, and Hermione hid her newly pink cheeks. Had she really just said that to Michael Jackson? 

"Thank you," he replied warmly.

It seemed the building --no, castle, as he'd found out shortly-- they were in was huge, as it took more than five minutes to walk from Dumbledore's office to the Great Hall. Hermione emphasized the size of the Hogwarts castle by declaring she'd ran for ten minutes from the a castle spire on the seventh floor (where apparently the Gryffindor bedchambers were located) to reach him this morning. Wow.

As Michael and Hermione walked into the Great Hall among the bustling mass of other students, the unusual feeling of truly being unknown washed over the King of Pop.

Every other time he'd ever walked into any room in his life, people would stop, no matter if it was a room of follow celebrities or government dignitaries; they would always at least pause at his presence before reclaiming the decency to not stare. 

Accordingly, it was rare that Michael Jackson did not feel the need for sunglasses. Yet here he was, walking into a giant crowd of people, hundreds of students milling about, and for once he felt no need to hide. 

They weren't going to mob him, as he'd learned from his experience in the hallway. He was safe. They were likely to not even look at him. 

It was incredible.

The next most incredible thing was the ceiling in this room. Oh my! It looked like the sky outside. The walls just seemed to merge into the never-ending view of a dim early morning sun and a cloudy overcast sky. He could see it was dynamic and matched the view outside the many glass-paneled windows. And to top it off, there were hundreds upon hundreds of floating pillar candles in the air. They just hovered there in thin air, nothing to hold them up. Some were lit, some weren't.

"Hermione, my gosh, the ceiling..." he trailed off in awe, and she stopped to admire it with him. 

It was a feature she took for granted these days, having seen it almost every day, three times a day, since she'd moved into Hogwarts. It really was a beautiful bit of magic. The way he stared up in wonderment at the ceiling made her happy she was able to bring him here.

When he'd climbed back down to earth, they found a seat at one of the four long tables in the room (all four tables were stacked with every breakfast food one could wish for), and were greeted by students Michael assumed were Hermione's friends.

He met a ginger-haired boy named Ron, and a twitchy-looking boy named Neville. Ron curtly introduced himself to the glaring weirdo who was following Hermione around today, and then struck up a conversation with her. 

Michael had just barely said that his name was Michael before being instantly forgotten by the two boys.

How strange.

"Oh Great Merlin, it's Michael Jackson!!" 

He heard the fanatic yell from somewhere across the expansive room and giggled to himself. That was more like it. Even if it was only one fan. He'd been warned that there were at least a dozen or so who would in fact recognize him.

Ron finally looked at him, eyebrow raised, and Michael ducked his head, as if shy for being recognized.

The boy who had yelled from across the room came running up to him, paused a few feet away, and then looked around at the fact that his yelling was making a bigger commotion than Michael Jackson himself.

In the last several minutes, indeed a majority of the students had taken their seats at the four tables.

Michael looked at the fanboy and then around the room as well. He was used to fans screaming his name, but was once again met with the realization that he was nobody here; for this boy actually yelled back at the mass that had turned their heads in his direction to wonder who Michael Jackson was, that, "Oh Merlin, if you guys only knew who this was, you'd be wetting yourselves also!"

Some other kid yelled back at him from across the room, "Sit down idiot! Michael Jackson isn't a wizard, there's no way he's here."

And then there was a third student that in fact confirmed it. "No, no, oh bloody hell, that's actually him!"

"What? No way!"

A small crowd of five students now stood before Michael, extremely awkwardly as the rest of the room filled with hundreds of students had quieted down to pay attention to the strange exchange.

There was a muggle in the room? ...What? How could that be possible? They whispered amongst themselves while Michael laughed.

"I'm sorry, Hermione," he said, but giggled nevertheless.

The first boy, clearly the bravest of the five, finally spoke up. "Michael?"

"Yes?" Michael smiled back.

"I can't believe you're actually here. In Hogwarts! How is that even possible?"

Hermione answered it for him. She told the five and anyone else eavesdropping that Michael was in fact going to be performing for the Thriller Ball tonight, and it was special permission from the Ministry.

The boys and girls crowded closer and he signed their schoolbooks and other random materials with a flamboyant feather quill that he'd been handed. There's another first: he'd never put his autograph down with a quill before.

The small group eventually got shoo'ed away by Ron, telling them to go back to their own tables, and Michael was able to return to the students at the Gryffindor table; who now were paying a lot more attention to him than they had when he'd sat down.

"Sorry about that," said Ron.

Michael giggled. "No, it's ok. I'm used to it. What's weird is not being noticed."

"Ha. You should meet Harry then. You two would get along faaamously." Ron got a smack in the arm from Hermione for that pun.

"Sorry, it's true. Where is Harry anyway?"

"I had him set up Flitwick's chambers for rehearsal. Flitwick was nice enough to let us move all his stuff around. So Harry may not be joining us for breakfast, he's cleaning and moving stuff."

Ron smirked incredulously, "And why would Harry do that?"

Hermione snorted. "You obviously don't know who this man is." She jabbed her thumb in Michael's direction, and Michael had the good decency to duck his head before laughing. 

"Sorry," mumbled the King of Pop.

Ron looked at him. He was a strange fellow this one, even if he seemed pleasant. He was clearly a middle-aged man who didn't mind being dragged around on a figurative leash by a barely fourteen year old girl. And he'd never seen a muggle with an outfit as haughty as that, nor with that pointy of a nose. The bigger the celebrity, the bigger the oddball, and now that Ron was actually looking at him, he was an oddball indeed.

Funny that Ron should think that, because Michael was feeling more free than he ever had in his life. He'd zoned out and was trying to pay attention to two other conversations instead, while munching on a delicious muffin.

Hermione waved her hand in front of his face to get Michael to snap back into their conversation from wherever he had drifted mentally.

"You wouldn't mind signing a piece of parchment for me, would you?" Ron was asking him. "Hermione has been telling me since you sat down that my dad would know who you are and go gaga if he had your autograph."

Michael smiled. "Sure, whatever you’d like-"

Just then he heard a bird screech and had to pause to search for the culprit. Just as he looked up, a hoard of owls, every size, shape, and color, came flying over all the tables, dropping letters and packages seemingly randomly upon the students seated. Michael was at a momentary loss of words; but by everyone's unperturbed reactions, he understood this must be something normal.

"...Uh, Hermione?" Michael tugged at her sleeve. "Can you please explain what's happening right now?"

Ron laughed. "Jeez, what a muggle. Wait 'til dad hears about this."

Hermione swatted his hand, "Don't be rude," she muttered to Ron, before answering that this was the mail delivery system in the wizarding world. Michael's eyebrows raised in curious fascination.

"Really?" he asked, much as he had been since Hermione had met him.

They spent the rest of breakfast chatting idly. Michael didn't even have to talk about himself much. Hermione answered most of the questions directed at him, and after Ron sent a message by owl to his parents, the topic changed to their homework and then to the prep for tonight. Ron reluctantly agreed to help them. At least he would be excused from his classes today if he helped the Halloween Ball Committee.

The best conversation by far, in Michael's opinion, was finding out what strange topics they were studying at this school. Potions? Defense Against the Dark Arts? Charms? Transfiguration?

He supposed he'd already had a brief introduction to what some of the topics taught, as demonstrated by Hermione's wand-work back in Neverland.

After breakfast, where Michael had been encouraged to try a few unusual but very tasty foods, Hermione, Ron, and him, met up with the boy they'd called Harry.

"Michael, this is Harry Potter," Hermione introduced. "Harry, this is-"

"I know who this is!" Harry rushed to say. He'd seen them walking from a mile down the hallway. Michael Jackson was an unmistakable figure. "This is so cool. I can't believe she managed to pull this off and you're actually standing here! I can't believe people here don't know who you are."

Harry put out his hand and despite the embarrassed look on Michael's face, he shook it.

"Michael, Harry is actually one of the biggest celebrities in our world-"

"No Hermione, don't-" This time it was Harry's turn to look embarrassed.

She continued her intended speech anyway. "-They call him The Boy Who Lived, because he's the only known person to ever survive the Death Curse."

Michael's eyes widened immediately and looked between Hermione and Harry. "That means you survived... death?"

"Her-my-oh-nee... why'd you have to tell?" Harry frowned at her but explained anyway. "Yeah, when I was a baby. Voldemort tried to kill me, but my mom's love saved me, and he semi-kind-of died instead of me." He tried to explain as simply as possible. He even lifted his fringe to show off his trademark lightning bolt scar. Everyone liked the lightning bolt scar. Even Michael Jackson apparently.

Ron rolled his eyes unnoticed by the rest. "Blah, blah, blah," he mocked and Hermione smacked his arm for the third time that morning before turning her attention back to Harry.

"Just, don't say that name," she tried to explain, "most people aren't as forward about He Who Must Not Be Named as Harry is." She shook her head at Harry and he shrugged it off with his own accompanying eye-roll.

Michael, ever the studious little boy, turned to Hermione quietly. "Hey, so just so I have this right, you said yesterday that the power of love wasn't the kind of magic you were talking about..."

She sighed. "This is a rare exception," she confessed, and Michael gleamed with happiness, before directing his attention back at Harry.

"Well, Mr Potter, it's a real pleasure to meet you," Michael declared.

Harry laughed. "Look who's talking. Pleasure's mine, man. Can't wait for the show."

"Speaking of which, let's get started. There's a lot of work left to make it happen," Hermione cut in.


---


It was so much work in fact (much much more than what Hermione had first naively envisioned when she’d had her epiphany of this whole event), that at one point throughout the ordeal, as Harry and Michael chatted away and Hermione looked on, she actually considered using her Time-Turner to create two Michael Jacksons. Just so they could get more work done in the little time they had left in Flitwick's office. She should have known Michael wouldn’t have been satisfied with a Sonorus Charm and a spotlight, even if his talent was evident without anything more.

Once everyone else in the Hogwarts castle finished their dinner, their small Thriller Ball organizing committee would need to move all the preparations to the Great Hall.

Honestly, some of the stuff Michael had come up with was unheard of even in the wizarding world, and without Professor Flitwick's expert wand-work to help out, she had no idea how they would have been able to accomplish some of it. He'd even managed to rope in the real Hogwarts ghosts into the show. Most of them didn't understand what the big hubbub was about, but agreed to participate so long as they had time for the Headless Hunt afterwards. The rest was created out of pure magic.

Michael stepped back from the temporary stage to watch all the effects move about, and Hermione looked at him. She watched his face, and how he politely asked Professor Flitwick for differences here and there, and how so-and-so should shoot out more in so-and-so direction, and how he choreographed dance routines for different dance groups. It was amazing to see Michael so in his element, in a way she'd never seen him in the muggle world. It was very much as if this particular muggle belonged here much more than there.

From the beginning, he had melded into this unique challenge with a superior hand. Even if he was on foreign ground, in massively different territory, it didn't seem to bother him in the least. In fact, judging from the way he collaborated on this project, very much the opposite. He was thriving. He was the director, and it was no matter that most persons in the room didn't know he was "Michael Jackson: King of Pop" or didn't specialize in live concert production. It was obvious from the onslaught that Michael was a genius visionary and necessary to pay complete attention to. He was dominating the room and everyone's attention with his moves, songs, and ideas, in a way only he could do.

Plus, the new songs, which Hermione had been learning all day by watching bits of rehearsals, were amazing! So well-suited for Halloween.

As she looked on, Michael was singing again, and directing a small pack of house-elves into a parade formation. 

He had literally engaged the help of everyone that could possibly help his performance, and they all seemed pretty glad to do it once they met him.

As Hermione and the handful of other students started to move the decor and materials into the Great Hall, she saw Michael talking and gesturing wildly with Professor Flitwick, and even Madam Pomfrey had been called from the Hospital Wing to apparently lend her expertise to whatever they were discussing.

Hermione couldn't keep track of all the things Michael had ended up planning and asking for. The Hogwarts Thriller Ball had turned into a momentous production, one that was sure to make headlines in a way she had never foreseen. And there was no way she was going to stop this or rein Michael in. Not when everyone seemed to be having such fun planning it all along with him. His jolly vibe and character were infectious. 


---


Michael looked on as the final dress-rehearsal played out before him.

The Great Hall had been transformed into a ghoulish mansion. The house flags were all black, the starry sky above now had dozens of large crystal chandeliers hanging from it, the stone walls had been caked in cobwebs so elaborate no other Halloween so far matched it, and the floors had been completely re-finished in a black and white checkerboard pattern.

Michael's stage stood at the front of the room, where the Head Table normally was.

Everything was working smoothly. As smoothly as one could hope for under such circumstances. He was lucky it was easier to cast a spell than to physically build some of what he'd asked. Like those dancing suits of armor, for which he was endlessly thankful that it was possible to magic the moves into them, and they didn't need actual practice time to learn the choreography. The house-elves were a different story however.

As he watched most of the show unfold before him, with the help of Hermione, Harry, Ron, and Professor Flitwick doing most of the spell-casting, he couldn't believe where he was creating this.

He was in a castle, in a school for magic, in the wizarding world.

This was insane. Just over twenty-four hours ago, he’d been wondering if it would be possible to build extra toasters and fireworks into his next live show. Now here he was with a show completely beyond his wildest and most outlandish dreams.

If only he had more time. The wonders he could create in this world. It was boundless.

He vowed to take some of it back to the muggle world with him. One way or another, he'd have to recreate some of this when he went back. He'd engage the finest minds and technology and they'd have to figure it out if they all worked together.

There was only one part of the show which Michael was scared of. They had practiced the part as the "Plan B illusion" a few times, but Plan A was a last minute and very lofty, very real addition. There was a reason he had asked for a nurse to be on hand. 


---


As students and teachers piled into the Great Hall in varying degrees of formal attire or costume, they mingled and talked and slowly sat down at the now dozens of small round tables. They had all heard by now that the performer tonight was indeed a muggle, and such big news was certainly gossip-worthy. So much so, that a variety of other visitors were milling about the room, making most students uncomfortable to have so many adults around. Word was, that one Daily Prophet reporter had actually run all the way over from Hogsmeade to cover the occasion.

Michael Jackson turned his attention from the gathering crowd and huddled in a corner with his organizing group, all anxiously waiting for the chatter of a thousand teenagers to die down. He was told Dumbledore was going to introduce the event first. And then Hermione. And then it would be his turn to make history.

Michael sighed, then cleared his throat and took Hermione's hand, who took Harry's hand, who told the rest to hold hands as well. It was a small group. Not even a dozen of them who had organized this night. Now they all held hands in a circle waiting for Michael to speak; much like the circle Michael created with his staff before every one of his live muggle shows, only substantially smaller this time. 

"Ok, so I don't normally like talking or making speeches," Michael blushed, but knew tonight was an exception to every rule, "but I have to say a few things."

"We've only spent the day together," he looked around at his collaborators, "but you've made me feel so welcome into your world and I will never forget it."

Hermione felt a pang of guilt at those words; she hadn't yet discussed with Michael how this would all end.

"Hermione here gave me this beautiful gift, and you've all helped to realize this dream, and I can't thank you enough for this opportunity. I come from a world where I can't breathe without it being print-worthy apparently-"

Harry cut him off, "-If you guys think I'm famous, I'm nothing. He's more famous than Voldemort and Dumbledore and the Minister and Celestina Warbeck, all put together, in the muggle world. So the fact that this man is here is so insane I can't even begin to tell you." Michael looked at him shyly but thankful for the fact that he wouldn't have to declare his own fame to describe his predicament. The rest of the circle murmured with understanding. After spending the day with Michael, it was obvious why. 

"What Harry said," Michael smiled. "I'm trying to say that I haven't had a normal life. I started singing when I was five. I don't know anything else but that world, it's hard saying that, and I want to convey how eternally grateful I am for this escape. Really. I really mean that, from the bottom of my heart, you have made me so happy today."

Michael raised his elbow to dab at his eye a bit, while still clutching Hermione's hand. In the dim candlelight of their corner of the Great Hall, everyone in the circle could see the unshed tears in his eyes.

"Walking into a crowd so normally, or talking to you all the way we have all day... thank you. I can't do those kind of things. But more than that, because you've also helped me create a show that I could have only dreamt of before today. Thank you for creating this dream with me. I only hope it'll be as much fun to watch as this was to put together. I don't know enough about your world to judge that. But please, give me your best tonight, so we can make this a Halloween night to remember."

"-Thriller night to remember," Ron cut in, with a wiggle of his eyebrows and the rest laughed, including Michael. Those in the circle knew what Thriller was now.

"Yes! A Thriller night. So give me your best and I'll give you my best." Michael raised both arms and everyone raised their linked hands along with him.

"Normally I thank God. I don't know what to thank now, but I thank all of you, for letting my imagination and spirit run free. I love you all so much. I really do. Your school is beautiful and you have been so wonderful. This is all for love, remember that. Thank you and I love you. And thank you. Amen."

He laughed at the end, suspended somewhere between joy and tears. The small cheers and stomps in their group grew in a crescendo where they finally parted hands in a whooping climax.

"I hope you'll be as thankful after we pull all your skin off," Madam Pompfey injected rather flatly afterwards. Clearly not too amused with whatever stunt Michael had planned.

"If I die today, I might just be ok with that."

The conversation was cut short by Dumbledore's arrival however. All the hundreds of chatty mouths in the Great Hall quieted down as the Headmaster took center stage.

He nodded at Michael and Michael nodded back. 

Dumbledore had everyone's attention now.

"Happy Halloween to you all and welcome to our Thriller Ball this evening!"

After a pause to allow for whoops and hollers, the aging Headmaster continued. 

"I was asked by Miss Hermione Granger, who is leading the organizing committee this year, to introduce our performer tonight. It is only with special permission from the Ministry of Magic that he can be with us. In fact, we have a handful of Ministry officials and reporters with us tonight to witness this special event; so that’s why our Ball tonight seems more crowded than last year."

A murmur of gossip spread among the students at the profound remarks. 

"I am told that the muggle-borns and the Muggle Studies aficionados among you will know his name and music very well. I had the pleasure of having tea with this young man last night and can say he is a delightful fellow, and I genuinely wish him well on our foreign stage. But I will let Miss Granger tell you more. Miss Granger..."

He stepped back to allow Hermione to take his spot in front. 

She cleared her throat nervously.

"Uh, thank you Professor. I’m honored to be presenting our guest tonight."

Looking out at the mass of students, teachers, and visitors she was addressing, Hermione knew she must look idiotic to them; dressed in a purple circle skirt and fuzzy pink pullover (complete with a ribbon bow to hold her pony-tail), and trying to present to a room of wizards and witches a freaking muggle entertainer! Yet here they all were, because the Great Hall was more crowded than any other time she’d ever seen it. Many folks must be here to ridicule this moronic idea of an event first hand (as would she most likely, had it been any other muggle), but surely Michael would change their minds. 

She looked back at where Michael had last been standing, for confidence; and not seeing him, knew he had taken his starting position already. The lump in her throat was massive but she knew she had nothing to be nervous about compared to Michael. She took a deep breath before continuing. 

"And it really is an honor. While he has spent the last day lauding me for this opportunity, I cannot accept that. I really can’t believe I’m standing here tonight even, introducing a man who should need no introduction, and really he doesn’t. I want to thank Professor Dumbledore, who allowed us to achieve this, and for coming through for us with the Ministry approvals. It was a very unusual request on my part, I think we all know that, so thank you. But even more so, I want to thank our special guest." 

"He is a genius, I don’t even know how to describe him, I have so much respect for this man. As a muggle-born witch, I grew up with his music and iconic image, and... I’m in awe at his talent. Our little group that helped put this show together, thank you to Professor Flitwick as well; it took us a day, even though it should have taken us longer, time is not a luxury we had, and without Michael, I just could not have even dreamt up this stuff. He was the leader since I met him yesterday and I have no idea how he’s not freaking out right now because I am."

She laughed and realized her speech was fast dissolving into a rant. Time to start the show already.

"Let me stress that while the organization and creation was a big collaborative effort, the brain behind what you’ll see tonight is all Michael, this is why he really is magical. I am of course talking about the King of Pop, the most famous man in all muggle history... Mr Michael Jackson!"

Hermione smiled at the crowd and got a few claps in, before all the lights went out and the room descended into pitch blackness and a flare of brief clapping. Very few errant cheers.

A room full of wizards and witches could very well have been boo’ing a non-magical entertainer, who is by definition more boring than doing dishes with a Scouring Charm. Thank god they were at least clapping. Those speeches made time drag on like watching a snail move, and Michael felt like he was vibrating with anticipation. And anxiety, which was not something Michael Jackson ever associated with being on stage. 

Just get on stage and you’ll feel better.

The sound of nighttime crickets quieted the crowd, and the darkness lifted enough to reveal a graveyard-like stage.

Hermione took her place beside Michael and they linked arms.

In ten seconds they would prance on stage together, walking onto a moving set, as a couple.

"You ok, Hermione?"

"Yeah, I’m ok," she replied in a whisper.

"Um, thank you for the kind words by the way. You’re very sweet."

"Don’t mention it."

"Ok." Michael squeezed her hand as they heard their cue.

The couple started walking happily towards center stage, and as they did, the set behind them moved in relation to them, so that when they got to the center, they were always at the center, even as they kept walking. It was a striking but appropriately simplistic visual effect.

In this first scene, Michael was dressed as a typical muggle high-school boy: blue jeans and a varsity jacket. His was red and yellow with the letter M emblazoned on the front.

Hermione’s heels click-clacked as they walked together. She was highly aware that a thousand eyes were watching them.

Michael pulled her elbow gently, meaning it was time to stop walking. He had the first line.

"Could I ask you something?"

"What?"

"You know I like you, don’t you?"

"Yes," Hermione replied. Their lines were taken from his most famous short film, Thriller, and she was trying to keep any personal emotions out of acting it out with Michael Jackson himself. 

"And I hope you like me, the way I like you."

"Yes..."

"I was wonderin’ if, you would be my girl...?"

The way he looked at her was straight out of the original film. A chill ran up her spine and Hermione had to remind herself that he was in character, and that she needed to be professional as well.

She did her best to give the delighted "Oh Michael...!" scripted, and they hugged. Afterwhich Michael pulled out a ring, and gifted it to her.

Hermione’s character inspected the new ring on her finger, saying, "It’s beautiful."

"Now it’s official."

She smiled at him sweetly before his face hardened for his next line.

"I have something I wanna tell ya."

"Yes, Michael?"

"I’m not like other guys."

"Of course not, that’s why I love you."

"No, I mean I’m different."

"What’re you talkin’ about?"

A chilling background melody started as the moon in the sky above them was revealed from behind the clouds. Michael started acting hurt, but soon enough Hermione could tell most of those grunts became real, as the charm Professor Flitwick was laying on Michael took effect. Michael crouched down in pain.

"Are you ok?" she asked, concerned. She may have said it even if it wasn’t the next line she was supposed to say. Michael was one brave muggle to go through something like this.

He looked up at her and the room gasped right along with her.

"GO AWAY!" Michael roared. He was becoming the monster in his video. His eyes had turned bright yellow, and his teeth had already morphed into animalistic fangs.

She started to scream. And it was the longest scream Hermione had ever let out as he transformed before her and all the audience into a werewolf.

It wasn’t a real werewolf, but Michael’s face was still being stretched by the horrid charms. His hair quickly grew into a grizzly mane, he even grew whiskers; and as his hands transformed he raised them up for Hermione and the audience to see his pain.

Harry could not believe what he was seeing on stage right now. Michael was a freaking crazy muggle! He wouldn’t do that to Draco Malfoy (his worst enemy thus far), and yet here was the King of Pop intentionally bleeding from his fingertips as he sprouted claws.

Finally Hermione ran away from the monster before her, and with one last final roar Michael-werewolf ran after her. The background set moved faster as they ran.

He corned her quickly, backed her into a knot of trees as she screamed herself hoarse. The background music heightened the tension of the moment as the scary and intimidating werewolf drew nearer to Hermione. She cowered until he finally pounced, and just then the room went black again. 

The music switched instantly and when the stage was lit again only a second later, it was a completely different set.

The audience gasped at the change, which tied into how the actors on stage also gasped at the same time. It was the climax of a horror flick, where Hermione and Michael sat in movie-theater seats, among a half-dozen other student stand-ins, looking out into the audience as if it were a large movie screen.

The real audience --having not seen the original Thriller video like muggles have a million times-- were stunned at the sudden change. Michael was suddenly back to his normal self, only in different clothes this time, no sign of werewolf-man in sight. Only Hermione could see traces of blood on his fingertips as he pretended to munch on popcorn. To the audience however, it was a perfect switch.

Hermione ignored the remnants she saw in favor of acting the part, the way Michael obviously was.

She hugged Michael’s arm to her and acted scared of the movie they were supposed to be watching.

"Can we get outta here?" she asked.

Michael turned to her only briefly before looking ahead again. "Noooo, I’m enjoying this," he claimed with a wide grin, and popped a corn kernel into his mouth.

Hermione pretended to be insulted. "Well, I can’t watch," she said, and stood up to leave, excusing herself as she squeezed past the other seated actors.

The set followed her movement and soon Michael caught up with her outside the "theater" they had been sitting in. The unmistakable beat of the song Thriller had kicked in and Michael was laughing, "It’s only a movie!"

"It’s not funny," Hermione exclaimed as they stood beneath a large glowing sign that read Palace: Vincent Price - Thriller.

"You were scared, weren’t you?"

The words seemed a little too real. She had indeed been concerned for his safety as he transformed so brutally only minutes ago. But that wasn’t what he was asking; it was only a script line.

"I wasn’t that scared," she said as he laughed, and she walked away from him.

"Yeah, you were scared."

The beat and background of Michael’s song had grown to the forefront, and when Michael caught up with Hermione again, he’d begun singing.

"~It’s close to midnight, and something evil’s lurking in the dark..."

For most muggles, these were familiar and iconic first lyrics. But as Harry watched from backstage, it was a surreal experience to see a whole room witness Thriller for the first time. He wondered how Hermione was feeling on stage, as she pranced next to her idol. She wore blue leopard-print spandex leggings (with matching jacket) as Michael danced around her singing his famous lines.

"~Under the moonlight, you see a sight that almost stops your heart..."

"~You try to scream, but terror takes the sound before you make it..."

Michael was in full Thriller gear: red pants with a shiny red leather jacket with black piping. There was a holler of approval from someone in the crowd.

So far so good.

Thriller progressed just like the original short film. Harry supposed this must be Michael’s way of both introducing a classic to a new audience and improving the visual effects for a live performance of the video. As he watched, he recognized that in Michael’s normal concerts the only part of the short film that remained was the dancing zombies. Harry was surprised he knew this, but alas, even his grouchy Uncle Vernon was a Michael Jackson fan --though the man would never admit it, instead bitterly shouting about "indecent crotch grabbing"--, so Harry had been able to sneak in a little TV-watching when Michael had been on. 

In this new Hogwarts version of Thriller, the zombies were being played by the five students who had recognized Michael at the breakfast table and a dozen other student volunteers. There was Fred and George and Ginny back there trying their best to not screw up the moves. If this version wasn’t impressive, it was at least entertaining. Michael’s dancing was spot-on (as was his singing), his back-ups did mostly the same thing; but what added the comic appeal was that any wizard who had done enough Muggle Studies was familiar with the joke of what muggles called "zombies". Now that Harry knew what inferi were, he could laugh at the bastardized notion of zombies as well.

Either way, it was still a great show so far. 

Harry had opted out of dancing along. He’d instead chosen to help Flitwick charm the stage into moving behind the actors, which had the added perk of standing at the edge of the stage watching the action unfold.

On stage, Michael-zombie had come to life, and after a dance number where the back-ups only screwed up twice, he was now chasing poor Hermione into a set that looked like a haunted house.

After crashing down a door and other zombies crashing in through floors and windows, Hermione was once again cowering in a corner, as the monster Michael had become drew near. At the climax of the music was when she screamed and Michael grabbed her, and then the lights went out. Pitch black.

The audience in the Great Hall actually gasped again. A second later, the stage was lit again with a different set where Michael was back to normal and asking Hermione, "What’s the problem?"

Hermione now sat on a much newer couch, in a much nicer house. No trace of the dilapidated ruin she had run into. Michael, being the perfect gentleman, helped her up and said, "Come on, I’ll take you home."

They walked off stage together, as they had first walked on, with the only trace of mischief being a last glance at the audience from Michael, where an evil yellow color flashed over his eyes.

Professor Flitwick was exceptionally talented at having that yellow flash be seen by even the wizards watching from the very back of the room.

The lights over the stage went out once more and when they didn’t come back on, the room cheered and clapped. Harry could overhear the two reporters that had huddled in close to take photographs. 

"-Not bad for a muggle."

"-And they said they picked his guy up yesterday?"

"-Really ballsy of him to attempt such a painful transformation in the first part."

Harry definitely agreed. Hermione came running to him from backstage to help prep the next song though, and he had to stop eavesdropping to go work.

In what they had set up as the backstage area, Madam Pomfrey was looking over Michael’s fingers.

"You’re lucky Filius is a master charmer," she griped, "You could have ended up without fingertips."

Michael looked at her like a scolded child before thanking her and excusing himself politely.

"Mike, I know you said you were going to do that, but that was killer!"

"Thank you for saying that, Harry. How did the audience like it?"

They were interrupted by a dozen ghosts swishing into the room. They had all come in through the walls at the same time and Michael’s attention was diverted to speaking with them and re-capping what was needed for the next song. It was called Ghosts and it would be partnered with another new song called Is It Scary.

In fact, the beautiful and haunting starting notes of Ghosts had already begun playing as the real ghosts were being magically multiplied to create doubles and triples. 

After an extended melodic entrance, Harry and Hermione took their places at the edge of the stage out in the Great Hall so they could control the minor effects.

When Michael showed up, he was floating like a cross high above the stage. Slowly, he floated downwards towards the ground. He was like an angel descending from heaven. The meaning was lost on the wizarding folk, but the image was striking nonetheless, especially with the lighting he’d chosen.

When he reached the stage and finally stood on his own two feet, it took a few bars before the hard beat of the background kicked in over the soft orchestration. At which point Michael used the end of each bar as a cue to point to different groups of ghosts which appeared seemingly on his command, and who then began marching to the beat. In between, Michael emphasized his pointing gestures with his own simple but effective iconic moves. This was another extended introduction which built up the tension until Michael actually began singing. The seemingly a hundred ghosts around him marched in half-time, and only in straight lines, parallel to either ceiling or walls, and the unobstructed focus was still all on Michael and his dancing.

Harry and Hermione had witnessed the one and only set up for this part of the show, and it proved it was a lot more difficult to wrangle a dozen ghost volunteers than it was to choreograph even the most unskilled of students to do the Thriller dance. The steps here needed to be simple and repetitive, and Michael worked well with the limitation. The march he had chosen for the temperamental ghosts was regimented and with the addition of the multipliers, was an eerie vision to behold.

For the bridge of the song, the ghosts started marching only upwards until they were all eventually marching in place, up-side down, on the ceiling. Then Michael’s piercing scream lingered over the room and halted their motion and the music. He screamed again to release them so they could all flip and glide gently towards the stage in a moment of serene silence. It was a simple yet breathtaking sight.

For the remainder of the song, the ghosts marched as Michael’s soldiers, in regular time to the beat, as Michael continued to dominate the stage with his dance moves. 

The end of Ghosts left Michael’s gritty lyric of "~Tell me, are you the ghost of jealousy?" hanging in the air. The song ended abruptly with the pearlescent ghost troops frozen in their spot. One more subtle move from Michael and they fled the stage in a swarm to sweep low over the audience in a gust of cool air and chills. Many of the ghosts swept directly through the bodies of the audience members and left them stunned.

Is It Scary started very slowly, but it showcased the true mastery of Professor Flitwick’s charm work and Michael’s imagination. At first it was a light instrumentation which sounded like a harp, but this was actually being made by the body of a suit of iron which had just floated into the Great Hall from the main entrance. The suit was followed by another silver armored suit, and another after that. They glided like no heavy iron-work ever had before, and their small taps and scrapes were actually the only thing creating a beautifully flowing and soft orchestral background to the song. The unusual instrumentation was building as more and more suits of armor danced gracefully into the Great Hall.

Hermione overheard a whisper from behind her saying, "-So that’s where all the damn suits went! The hallways looked so empty today," and she couldn’t help but laugh.

The music transformed, as the tapping and sounds the armor made became deeper and more regimented until they settled into a drumming background beat while the soft undertones of the melody were created by a disembodied choir. 

Hermione wanted badly to ask Harry if that was Michael’s voice they were hearing, layered onto itself to create the opera-like choir.

"~There’s a ghost out in the hall,"

"~There’s a ghoul beneath the bed,"

"~Now it’s coming through the walls,"

"~Now it’s coming up the stairs,"

Michael’s voice was crisp and chilling, and the ballerina-like suits of armor clamored forward to the stage. As they made their way to stand behind Michael, they lined up military-style (much like the ghosts had before) and when the chorus kicked in, they became a large and very loud silver army which mirrored Michael’s dancing. 

An extended second bridge was created in the song, where Michael inserted a portion of a different extremely drum-beat-heavy song with biting and gritty vocals which Michael was practically screaming. This allowed for an impressive session of complicated dance moves which the two dozen suits behind him followed perfectly in sync. It was something that was impossible to do without magic, as no one else in the castle could possibly have mirrored Michael’s unique talent that way.

The complexity and precision of Michael’s moves however, were purely Michael dancing. This was Michael Jackson at his finest. There was no magic there except his own, and it was visible to ever wizard and witch in the room. The reporters had moved to the very foot of the stage so they could capture every detail on film. Wizards did not dance like this. This was special indeed. A majority of the crowd had stood from their seats and were gathering closer to the stage as well. Hermione guessed they wanted to see the way Michael’s feet moved, for they had a life of their own.

This was a song Michael had "recorded" especially for the show. Though it wasn’t a real recording the way a CD or cassette-tape is. He’d done it in a few minutes by using a Pensieve (obviously with help), and actually used the device to create the backing tracks for the whole show; that way the exact music Michael heard in his head would be used. 

Harry whispered quickly to Hermione if she knew what song this was.

"Michael says it’s called 2 Bad. Says he’s been creating it in his head for months but only now put it down. We’re the first ones to ever hear this."

The portion of song Hermione was talking about ended right then and suddenly the busy dance troupe behind Michael disappeared. The suits had sunk into the floor and out of sight right on the last note. It was a sudden shock in the performance. A hush fell over the room and the haunting orchestration of Is It Scary returned. 

Professor Flitwick and Madam Pomfrey had managed to jostle their way to the edge of the stage where Hermione and Harry stood.

Madam Pomfrey spoke quickly, "Ok you two, you’re about to witness a man who obviously has a death wish, so just make sure this huge crowd that’s forming doesn’t bump our wands as we do this for him. Ok?"

Hermione and Harry looked curiously at the two adults, but nodded immediately and stood back to create a barrier for them. This was obviously the dangerous part that had been hinted at earlier. After the transformation Michael had endured for Thriller, Hermione hoped Michael wasn’t going to do something even more stupid. She knew she was about to be proven wrong, but she couldn’t even imagine what it could be. All she could do was watch the show.

"~But if you came to see, the truth, the purity,"

"~It’s here inside a lonely heart, so let the performance start!"

That was the cue for Michael to reach down to his ankles and rip off his pants and clothing in one fell swoop-- No, no! It wasn’t just his clothing! It was all his skin! And muscle structure and flesh. Everything. For what had been left behind was purely a skeleton with glittering white socks and loafer shoes.

The crowd screamed. A whole room of wizards and witches actually screamed. 

Hermione felt the sudden urge to puke and grabbed tightly on to Harry’s arm.

Michael Jackson had literally ripped off this entire body. She didn’t even know it was possible to do this kind of magic! Neither could most of the crowd apparently because they were pushing up against the barrier Hermione and Harry were holding and cheering as skeleton-Michael moonwalked. Then Michael picked up his very skull from his neck to tip at the crowd (as if tipping his hat, but this was no hat). 

There was nobody sitting down anymore.

"How...? How are you doing this?!" Hermione whispered in panic to the focused adults controlling this magic. The short dwarf-like Charms professor was following Michael’s movements on stage precisely with his wand, same as Madame Pomfrey. The gangly old nurse beside him was frowning in her concentration.

Michael’s skeleton was dancing up a storm on stage.

"His muscle structure got sunk beneath the stage after he pulled it off, same as the suits of armor disappeared."

"Yeah, but HOW??" Hermione insisted. "How is he alive?!"

"Bone-displacement, nerve-impulse-duplication, motion duplication, and anti-pain injections. Now shush because we have to do the replacement properly!" the nurse whispered back impatiently.

Fred and George (Ron’s older twin brothers) had found their way right behind Harry and Hermione. And while they helped to hold back the unruly crowd, they also whooped and hollered praise at Michael. 

Fred leaned in towards Hermione, stating, "No matter how many anti-pains he’s getting right now, he can totally still feel some of that. Trust me. I have experience with this."

George leaned in to add, laughing, "We mean kind of. Only kind of. Not even we’re this crazy. I’m telling you, that is one fearless muggle you’ve brought us, ‘Mione."

Harry had started to ask where Ron had got to, when at least three random witches from behind their group shushed them loudly.

Professor Flitwick’s sweeping wand-work was seen when the beat dropped and Michael suddenly stood on stage again as a fully-functioning human body.

Another wave of screams washed through the crowd. The man wasn’t dead! His dancing bones were gone instantly, hidden by the rest of his body, and Michael was back in one piece! 

And after a pause for effect, Michael slabbed at the ground with hand gestures that recalled the army of iron suits, which sprung out of the ground again and reclaimed their guard as they all danced together. The song continued and the way Michael was performing on stage, he seemed completely unperturbed by the momentous feat of magic he had just leant his body to.

"~Is that scary for you, baby?"

"~Tell me, so tell me!"

"~Is that realism for you, baby?"

"~You know the stranger is you,"

"~Am I scary for you?"

As the song wound down, so did the beat of the song. 

The duplicated choir of Michael’s disembodied voice returned in the music background and the suits of armor slowly rose in layers to create a wall of frozen bodies behind Michael; stacked on top of each other all the way to the ceiling. Until the last fragile note Michael sang. Then he spread his arms wide like a crucifix and in that second, the wall of iron soldiers behind him fell with a ear-shattering clatter of metal on metal, toppling over each other and in many cases falling apart at the seams.

Michael didn’t even flinch.

The room cheered and clapped and bellowed as the lights dimmed to a spotlight around Michael’s fixed pose, and then the spotlight finally dimmed as well, until darkness fell over the Great Hall.

Hermione and her Thriller Ball Committee rushed backstage. Everyone was talking loudly about what had just had transpired on stage. The crowd was too. At a normal Michael Jackson concert, Michael was normally drowning in security guards, but not here. In this world there was no such thing for him. No one had anticipated his kind of reaction. In the last half hour, the crowd in the Great Hall had transformed from curious onlookers to screaming fans and it was obvious from the scene backstage that security was badly needed. One of the reporters had even pushed their way backstage and was trying to question Professor Flitwick as he and Madam Pomfrey attended to Michael.

"What spells were used to create the performer’s dismemberment on stage? What replicated his movement? What potions were used to keep him for bleeding out?"

The usually good-natured Professor elbowed the man out of his way as he handled Michael’s limbs.

Michael had rolled up both of his pant legs into make-shift shorts and had removed the long-sleeve white shirt he had performed Ghosts and Is It Scary in. Long bloody gashes could be seen running down the sides of his pale arms and legs, in full lengths, as if giant zippers for his skin ran all over his body. Michael was still wearing a white v-neck t-shirt but it was evident that he may need to remove that, and even more clothing probably, since blood was soaking through the white material in a continuous line down his sides as well. Madam Pomfrey was scolding him in harsh whispers as the volunteers, randoms, and the reporter crowded around asking a multitude of questions.

Ron finally appeared from the other side of the backstage entrance and took charge of the chaos. He pushed most of the crowd away from the Hogwarts employees attending to the entertainer, and started answering questions the way a spokesperson would.

"The entertainer and the volunteers do not wish to disclose the magic used in the skeleton transformation."

"Yes, Michael Jackson is a muggle."

"No, there is no magic used for his dancing. I really need to stress that one, there’s no magic used for his dancing or vocals. That’s why he’s here, cuz he’s awesome."

"Yes, the dancing bones were his real skeleton. You can see it was real and not an illusion or mask because you can see the poor man bleeding behind me."

"You can talk to him later, after he finishes his show if he wishes to talk to you."

"Yes, he’s a really nice guy. I had breakfast with him."

"He has two more songs to do."

"The effect on the armor was a collaborative effort but the idea was Michael’s."

"The ghosts will be back for the Headless Hunt later tonight, as you know they do annually."

"Yes, their participation was completely voluntary."

"Ok guys, move out now, there are two more songs to do tonight before you can mob the muggle."

He shoo’ed any unnecessary people out of the area and back into the Great Hall, where it was obvious the chatter was not about to die down any time soon.

Hermione took Ron’s hand when he joined the group attending to Michael’s wounds, she squeezed it as thank you for the diversion just now.

Michael was shirtless now and looking very drained and skinny. Not to mention highly embarrassed at having to show off so much bare skin to a crowd of near-strangers, where his darker blotches could be seen scattered about --a startling remainder of his vitiligo skin disorder.

"Hey Mike, how’re you feeling?"

"I’m alive," he replied quietly, clearly not up to saying much more under the circumstances.

"You’re damn lucky to be alive!" Madam Pomfrey spoke up in her usual scolding tone. "Don’t any one of you others ever even think about trying this nonsense. The only reason we agreed to this was because he’s not a student here."

A good fifteen minutes passed where all the two adults did was gradually follow the splits in Michael’s skin, healing patches at a time, while Hermione, Ron, and Harry looked on. It was time-consuming. 

Michael’s eyes remained glued to the clock on the opposite wall. 

Patience Michael, patience. This is a necessary evil. You knew this could happen, they warned you it was one of many possible side-effects.

Finally Michael spoke up, trying to excuse himself. He thanked the professor and nurse profusely and promised to let them fix him properly after he finished his show, but that he needed to get back on stage for the fans.

"You’re not going anywhere!" The nurse pushed his shoulder back down and Michael fell back into his chair, winded.

"Madam, please, look... they’re surface wounds at this point. I can dance two more songs like this."

Michael put on a brave face and made a few dance moves while seated for emphasis.

"See?" he said with a forced smile. 

The smile was not at all convincing of anything but his determination.

"Michael, are you sure? You’re still bleeding in quite a few places." Hermione asked as the entertainer tried to stand up again.

"Tape me and let me put on a new t-shirt and I’ll be fine for two songs. You guys have tape here, right?"

"Like, scotch tape?"

"Sure, whatever gets the job done."

The nurse griped but knew she couldn’t realistically finish healing him properly in any timely fashion. So they added bandages quickly and let him replace his t-shirt with a clean one. They watched him hobble towards the stage.

Hermione was in a worried panic as they all gathered outside to proceed as planned with the next song.

The crowd was still chatting loudly and they cheered when they saw key people had emerged from backstage.

The lights over the Great Hall were dimmed further, until only a single spotlight beamed onto the very center of the stage. 

The excited Ravenclaw fanboy who had first recognized Michael at breakfast found his way to stand behind Hermione, Harry, and Ron.

"He’s doing Billie Jean next, right? Please tell me he’s doing Billie Jean!"

"Yup, he’s doing Billie Jean. No effects for this one."

Hearing the comment, the nosey reporter from before quickly shoved a Quick Quotes quill and notepad under Hermione’s face. 

"No magic you said?"

"Yeah, no magic at all here," Hermione replied. "Just that spot light. You can quote me later, not now please."

Michael had taken another minute alone it seemed, before he finally appeared on stage wearing the white v-neck t-shirt, standard black flood pants, white socks and black loafer shoes. He walked gingerly with a briefcase in one hand, the sound of every footstep amplified. The room quieted down. 

An all-muggle crowd would have been screaming their lungs out, but Michael felt it was enough that he had their attention. After all, these folks didn’t know his act by heart. It was unreasonable to expect anything more than what he was receiving. 

He sat the briefcase down on a stool located just under the circle spot of light, causing long shadows with high contrast to frame his movements.

Michael took his time and the crowd hung on his every movement. The way he spun, the way he clicked the briefcase open and slowly pulled out a black fully-sequined cardigan. It was designed to build tension before any music even started. He shook out the sequin cardigan and spun on the ball of his foot to put on the garment. As every Michael Jackson fan in the muggle world knows, the next item is the famous white rhinestone glove. Slowly and theatrically he lifted the single glove from the case and paused for a moment. That was the moment where fans normally went crazy, screaming. Funny enough, there were a handful of lone cat-calls among the otherwise silent audience. Michael smiled and put on the glove, pressing each finger down individually. As he took a casual walk around the beam of light, his steps resonated.

Lastly was the black fedora hat. He lifted it from the case and pushed the briefcase and stool out of his way so he could begin the song finally. The sound of his footsteps clicked and clacked loudly in the silence of the room.

The rhinestone glove shone and sparkled as he inserted only that hand under the light. He was playing with the audience the way he would at home, building anticipation. Then he snapped his fingers and the light over his glove switched to a larger more precise circle spot. Here, Michael prepared. Standing right at the edge of the light beam, his loafers peeking over the edge from black to bright white, he re-positioned the hat in his hand and finally took a quick step into the light.

In the next moment, he’d struck a pose, flipped the fedora onto his head and a striking and iconic groove hit the room. 

This was Billie Jean. The booming beat was unmistakable. There was a reason it was largely regarded as one of the best songs and performances of all time.

The dance moves Michael opened with were very much a continuation of what he had shown thus far tonight. These were focused, crisp movements, with kicks and intentional breaks and pops, where every little thing he did was made for you to take notice. He flung his hat across the stage and almost looked like he was fixing his hair in the next move. While the muggles were used to this, it was a bizarre sort of dance for the magic folk. 

It was perfect for the song however. No one could deny that, because no one was looking away.

Michael stepped up to a long stick at the front of the stage (which few in the room even knew was called a microphone stand), the lights mellowed, and he picked up a prop microphone which didn’t actually work.

Again, few knew why on earth the crazy muggle was singing into a random baton in his hand, but it didn’t really matter. 

How could he have even performed Billie Jean without the mic in his hand? Ten years of performing the same song had engrained the movements into his muscle memory. There was no changing it now, it was a classic.

"~She was more like a beauty queen from a movie scene,"

"~I said don’t mind, but what do you mean I am the one?"

The same pounding beat continued behind the crisp vocals Michael was laying down. His voice was a stand-out.

What was magic tonight had never really been all the spells around him. It was Michael. It was clear now that he was on his own. The way he moved, the way he sang, with no charm or hex. He was Magical. And it was all his own.

There was no wizard or witch that could sing or dance like this, not even with help or magic enhancements. This is pure talent, and it was respect-worthy.

This was a simple performance, but Michael made you notice every stomp and note, and then hang on to it, dare you miss the next one. The background vocals were another layer of his own, and it was the only other thing necessary to complete the song.

"~She said I am the one, but the kid is not my son!"

He jabbed his index finger first in one direction, then turned to point in the other direction, only to switch again, then spin, and finally start gliding backwards in a smooth slide across the stage. His feet created the effect of the ground moving beneath him, but of course nothing of the sort was happening.

The move was what every muggle under the sun knew as the moonwalk. The back-slide ended with a triple-spin, which landed Michael in a freeze-frame on his toes.

The audience cheered. Just as all the muggles had the first time he’d debuted the move on a show called Motown 25, more than a decade ago. Only this time he landed the toe-stand dead on and held it for what he deemed the optimal duration.

Soon the song descended into grunted ad-libs, Hee!’s and Aow!!’s. And his dancing became the main focus after he put the microphone away and went to retrieve this hat from the floor.

The song broke down further into a simple steady beat, specially designed to showcase Michael’s movements and only that. When the spotlight shrunk to the size it was when Michael had first started dancing to this beat, it was the same commanding sequence from the beginning of the song again, with the fedora worn low over his face. Then another moonwalk, and then a random series of robotic movements not many in this audience were familiar with. It made for a great unusual performance.

When Michael took back his microphone, he beat-boxed along to the minimal background beat while mashing that black hat atop his head as if it had done him some personal harm.

Michael ended the song abruptly with one last line, "~Billie Jean is not my lover!" and then threw his hat out into the audience.

He left the stage, and the standing crowd cheered wildly in his absence. They were actually yelling his name.

Michael breathed for a moment in the peace of the deserted backstage. His wounds were burning and he was amazed that adrenaline had gifted him such a good performance of Billie Jean. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was better than he had expected of himself under the circumstances.

Only one more song. 

Breathe in. Breathe out. Now go back out there. They’re cheering for you.

Michael reclaimed the stage a minute later with his hair fixed up and a new jacket. It was the velvet burgundy one with the gold frogging that Hermione had liked. He walked to the very edge of the stage and the audience quieted when he started a quaint speech, beginning with, "Um..."

"Um," he said again, in the reserved way he always spoke. "I don’t really want to talk, I’m embarrassed... But I do want to say thank you for your time tonight. You’ve shown me a lot of love and it makes my heart happy. Especially to be here, in this wonderful school dedicated to children. Children are very dear to me. I wrote this next song for the children of the world, for their rights and well-being, because the goals of world peace and freedom are universal goals undivided by any racial, geographic, anatomical, or material lines. Or even magic."

"Thank you. And Happy Halloween," Michael smiled shyly, bowed, then covered his face with a hand, and stepped back as the crowd applauded.

The music track to the song Heal The World kicked in, and Michael’s lyrics shined once more through his angelic voice.

"~There’s a place in your heart, and I know that it is love,"

"~And this place could be much brighter than tomorrow."

Now Michael wasn’t really doing dance moves, more like acting out his words through his actions. It was playful and theatrical and sad and uplifting all at the same time. There was joy and desperation in him --often with no distinction between the two, just like Michael’s very spirit.

"~Heal the world, make it a better place. For you and for me, and the entire human race."

He walked to one end of the stage to meet Dumbledore and was greeted with an entire choir, just like he had asked for. No pause in his singing, he took the hand of the first child-sized creature, and the rest followed in a chain, all holding hands in a long string of funny green, grey, or brown faces with pointy ears. 

Michael had brought out what looked like the entire staff of Hogwarts house-elves. 

The crowd started buzzing in gossip. House-elf rights and freedoms were a very new and almost non-existent movement. As far as most wizards and witches were concerned, the job of the house-elves was to serve blindly and never be seen. This was a radical policy for such a newcomer to endorse, as he was obviously doing with this performance. 

The muggle entertainer held hands with his house-elf choir, leading them to create a circular parade around the stage, while they sung back-up lyrics of "Heal the world..." in their squeaky little voices.

"~Heal the world we live in, save it for our children."

Michael’s voice led the song. It was a simple universal melody, with a universal message of love.

"~Heal the world we live in!"

"I love you!" he yelled, when the melody paused.

"Let’s take a bow," Michael directed as he took the hands of the two nearest elves; so they all bowed together. The little creatures looked up at the entertainer, some in utter confusion, for they had never before been asked to show themselves in public this way, and needless to say, all judged the experience differently.

And then the song continued and Michael fell back into singing the same repetitive lyrics.

"~Heal the world... heal the world... tell everybody... all of the children... heal the world... tell everybody... all of the children... you and for me... you and for me..."

He pointed at the professors and students who had helped and volunteered their time and beckoned them on stage, and indeed they made their way to stand between the house-elves and sing together with Michael.

"~Heal the world we live in... save it for our children..."

Michael took Hermione’s hand in his and kissed it, then he picked up the nearest giddy house-elf and held her like a child on his hip. The way he was used to doing with young children. These little creatures were abused and needed love too. He kissed the house-elf’s bulgy green cheek and she grinned along with Michael.

The last lyric he sung was, "~Heal the world we live in!", after which Michael waved good-bye and yelled, "I love you!" to the audience.

The music faded to a close only when Michael had led all his new friends and house-elves off the stage.

The audience, despite being confused by the muggle’s apparent and unusual --even audacious-- love of house-elves, slowly started clapping. And the more people clapped, the louder it got, until it was the loudest and longest applause Michael had received all night.

Backstage was a drastic shift in environment. On stage Michael had been in control, but here there was suddenly more chaos than there had been after his skeleton stunt; with everyone in sight trying to interview the entertainer or ask of his time. Michael now felt just as he did at home in the muggle world, hounded by media and fans. He was much less at peace than he had been at the start of the night (when he had been more anonymous), despite having put on a show he knew he should be proud of. 

He found Hermione as quickly as possible and whispered in her ear desperately, "please stay with me," and gave her the look of a wounded man no one could refuse.

Hermione looked around for either Professor Dumbledore, or Flitwick, or Madam Pomfrey, for help.

They were getting mobbed by students and visitors slapping Michael’s back and shaking his free hand, praising his performance and asking him questions about the show and about his muggle life. All Michael could do was thank them repeatedly, vaguely answer a few questions they posed, say I Love You and meekly keep his head bowed. It was a wall of people or confused house-elves wherever he looked. There was no security team to help him now, and he didn’t know which way to go to get out.

He could feel the blood soaking through the bandages at his sides and he squeezed Hermione’s hand tighter.

Hermione tried to drag Michael through the crowd backstage to look for someone who could help them with Michael’s wounds or tell them where to go. She had a feeling Michael was acting brave, still with that shy smile on his face, but didn’t actually have much energy left in him. The questions and praise from so many people at the same time were stifling and confusing Hermione’s usually sharp mind, and though Michael was used to it, he wasn’t in the kind of shape where he could deal with it appropriately.

They saw Madam Pomfrey a few feet away talking to the reporter with the Quick Quotes Quill.

"Theoretically we knew it should work, but we didn't know if it actually would since no one’s been crazy enough to test it before. But it worked as well as it could under the very short time constraint we had to work with. I think Mr Jackson is crazy, yes..."

Then thankfully they saw Harry and Dumbledore deliberately rushing towards them. 

Harry grabbed Hermione’s free hand immediately and Dumbledore disapparated the four of them out of the crowd and into his office.

The silence and cooler air were a welcome change. 

On Dumbledore’s instructions, Harry and Hermione helped Michael into the tent suite which had been his lodging the previous night, and Michael sat quickly on the nearest chair in the living room. He was being careful to keep pressure on a worsening wound at his side.

He breathed a sigh of relief just to be sitting down again.

Hermione chirped up immediately about how she couldn’t believe he had performed in that condition, and Michael shrugged weakly, insisting that he could never disappoint an audience.

Dumbledore cleared his throat and Hermione stopped her panicked ranting.

"Mr Jackson, I admire your dedication, as this level of heroics is something I have only ever seen in the mentally insane."

Was that supposed to be a compliment? Harry wondered.

"However, in the shape you’re in, I’m going to need to bring Madam Pomfrey in here to optimally treat your injuries. She organizes the Hospital Wing and while I know my way around a healing potion or two, she is much quicker and adept in this department. If you’ll be so patient as to wait for me to fetch her?"

Michael almost laughed, "Yes, yes, of course, sir. I’m ok."

Far from it, but Michael was always one for a brave face.

As soon as Dumbledore left, Harry suggested they should re-dress the wounds or at least seal them again temporarily to keep Michael from losing more blood. Hermione agreed.

Michael looked back at the two students, unconvinced. For one, he was deathly shy to have to remove his clothing again, especially now that there was no concert on the line, but he was also slightly weary of receiving magical medical help from two young teenagers.

The King of Pop considered his options quickly and said, "Maybe we could start with the bad one under my ribs first?"

"Sure, whichever."

Michael let go of his side just long enough to remove his fancy military jacket and lift up the bottom of his bloody t-shirt, only to replace his hand over the inadequate bandage on his abdomen right after. When he had gotten his wounds patched up before Billie Jean, the tear in his skin had been only that, and it had been sealed quickly and bandaged. During the intensity of the next two songs, the wound had re-opened and begun splitting again, down through the middle tissues of Michael’s body, down the same lines his flesh had been split when they had removed his skeleton. And without proper healing, it was getting worse, he could feel it. 

For the first time, Michael was actually scared of the damage his wounds may leave on his body. In the muggle world, wounds got better, not worse (unless infection set it). Blood would coagulate and slowly stop running, but it didn’t seem to be working the same way here with whatever spells had been used on him to create the "peeling my own flesh off my bones" effect. 

He had to pause and blink back stars in his vision.

"I hate to tell you this, but this one in particular is getting worse. Quickly."

"Ok, but we need to get to it to seal it, Michael."

The entertainer closed his eyes for a moment, trying to steady his vision and dizziness. He knew he was on the verge of unconsciousness. "I..." he mumbled his words, "I don’t know... if I can do that."

Those were Michael’s last words before blacking out.


---


The Hogwarts nurse and Headmaster rushed into the tent approximately five minutes later to find that Michael was passed out. Apparently it had only been for a few minutes.

The two students had taken good mitigating steps in their absence however, having quickly moved Michael's body to the bed, and at least sealed the outside of the major abdominal wound. It wouldn't stop internal bleeding, but it would save a lot of Madam Pomfrey's time by not having to duplicate Michael's blood, only move its location now.

"I'm sorry I couldn't find you all sooner. For one, I didn't know he was in such dire shape, and then I couldn't get away from the press who seem to think I'm some sort of hero for creating the stupid stunt. I am never doing this again, even if we improve the technique," she declared.

"Don't fret," Dumbledore comforted, "I've seen your patients in worse shape than this, Madam. I'm sure you'll heal this muggle right up, and he'll be back to his old life without a clue any of this ever happened soon enough."

"I'm sure I’ll fix him just fine, that wasn’t my point," she replied, then turned her attention to the students in the room. "Now one or both of you, make yourselves useful and bring me these items from the Hospital Wing, as quickly as possible please." 

Hermione grabbed the parchment the nurse had just incorporated and thrust towards her. One look over the list and it was obvious where these materials would be held. Hermione knew of them already, so she and Harry left quickly to follow orders now that Michael was in capable hands.


---


When Michael finally regained consciousness, he found that his surroundings were dimly lit, but quickly recognized that he was in bed in his tent suite in Dumbledore's office.

He attempted to move slightly and found that he could, but didn't want to strain himself, lest he break one of the healer’s seals like he had last time. The other thing he found was that he had been stripped bare, apart from his tighty-whities, and a long bandage had been placed like a never-ending racing-stripe along every side of his body. 

Oh lord, how embarrassing. 

He then heard someone outside the tent say his name and his ears perked up.

Hermione was speaking with Professor Dumbledore, apparently asking him not to obliviate Michael, saying that she could turn back time and no-one would be wiser as long as Michael promised to not say anything.

A wave of pure fear rushed though Michael. He remembered Hermione explaining to him what obliviate meant.

He struggled to hear more of their "let’s not and say we did" conversation but couldn’t; they had moved out of hearing distance.

Michael pondered what would happen if he tried to run away. He quickly and rather easily determined that he could do no such thing, and it angered him.

For one, if he accidentally broke the magical medicine and his body started splitting open again, he would surely die. He knew enough about muggle medicine to know his condition wasn't something muggle doctors could fix in a jiffy. And if he didn't die, he would be a vegetable.

Secondly, any time he had looked out the window at Hogwarts it seemed pretty clear that the castle was located somewhere in a hilly forested region far removed from civilization. So even if he managed to get outside the castle, he'd have no means of getting back to any town or finding any muggle who could help him.

And third; if he put all the pieces together, it would seem logical that his oblivation had been ordered by what the wizards and witches here called The Ministry --which was obviously their government. So he would be the most famous fugitive to ever walk the Earth and obviously he wouldn't get far.

Darn it to bits!

He was trapped.

Michael tried to relax and come to terms with having to lose his memories of these last couple days. 

Even with the horrible injury he had sustained, Michael found he didn't regret this experience at all, but what he wanted more than anything was to be able to remember it when he got back home to Neverland.

It wasn't like he even wanted to tell people about it. He just wanted to bask in the joy it had created in his life.

He sighed loudly, and his thoughts drifted to that wonderful feeling of walking into the Great Hall for the first time.

A clatter made him look up and into the living room, where the random house-elf he had kissed on the cheek at the end of Heal The World looked like she'd been caught red-handed. Michael recognized her.

"Jilly is very sorry for being seen, Master Jackson. Jilly is very sorry," she squeeked.

"It's ok," Michael smiled. "Don't worry about it. It's nice to have company."

"Jilly is sorry she woke Master Jackson. Very sorry." The house-elf started bowing profusely.

"Hey, I said don't worry about it, really. If you have time, you can come hang out with me for a bit...?"

Jilly the house-elf walked to the bedroom doorway but no further. "Jilly can't. Jilly came to refresh Master Jackson's towels and that's it."

"Jilly is your name, I take it?"

The petite round-faced house-elf nodded.

"It’s nice to meet you, Jilly. You know, you don't have to call me Master-anything. Call me Michael if you prefer, I'm sure that's easier."

Jilly began nodding but then shook her head contrary. "Jilly can't."

Michael frowned slightly. "Well, if that's what you prefer I suppose. Though I have to say, it's not something I've ever wished to be called." He paused to consider that he’d perhaps treaded upon a delicate topic in this world, and decided to change the subject. "Anyway... so did you enjoy the concert? What did you think?"

"Jilly and the Hogwarts house-elves think Master Jackson is a very strange wizard."

Michael chuckled. "I'm no wizard! I wish I was, but they tell me I'm a plain ol' muggle."

Jilly froze for a second, bewildered. "Master Jackson is a muggle?"

"Michael. Michael, yes, I'm a muggle." Michael laughed.

"Jilly has never met a muggle before," she said, looking scared. She started to back away.

"Wait, don't go please... I promise I don't bite. Just tell me what you thought."

"Jilly thinks Master Jackson makes nice music and that he is pretty, but he acts very strange. Wizards do not want to see house-elves, so Jilly must go now. Jilly is sorry."

Michael blushed at the unusual compliments from the little green elf, but before he could answer any of what she'd told him, she had bowed one last time and disappeared into thin air.

He called her name a few times, but was pretty sure she wasn't coming back. 

Michael sighed. It was nice to have had company even for a few minutes. 

After replaying the elf’s short visit in his head, he found that it really made him question the house-elf/wizard relationship in this world. Poor little creatures. If he thought about their enslavement too deeply, he knew he would cry.


---


The next time Michael woke up, he found that his bandages had been changed and that there were less of them this time. Not exactly the never-ending racing-stripe he had had before. He also found that a sandwich and juice had been left for him on a bedside tray.


---


He guessed it must have been about two days after Halloween night that he finally got a visit from Hermione.

"Hey. How are you?" she asked.

"It's really good to see you," Michael smiled. He hadn't had much company since he'd found himself in this bed.

"I'm sorry I haven't seen you. Last time I came by, it was almost curfew and you were asleep."

"Oh." He felt disappointed in himself. "I'm sorry to have missed your visit. How have your classes been?"

A broad grin tugged at Hermione’s face, and she took a seat on his bed by his feet without asking. Michael actually liked the informality of her visit this time. When he'd first met her, she seemed so much more rigid. But this was nice. He felt like they were really friends this time.

"You'll be glad to know that I got like a million percent on my Muggle Studies extra credit."

"A million percent?" Michael laughed.

"Well, I mean I wasn't just getting praise for bringing you in from the professor, but from quite a few classmates as well. I never got to tell you this, Michael, but you were really good."

Michael beamed. "Oh good, I'm so glad. You can imagine I didn't really know what I was getting myself into here..."

"Yeah."

"So does everyone think I did ok?"

"Would you like to see the Prophet so you can see for yourself?"

Michael nodded excitedly, so she leaned down to fetch the newspaper from her book-bag and handed it to him.

"It's on the Entertainment page."

"Famous Muggle Entertainer Causes A Scare At Hogwarts School...?" Michael read the headline with a raised eyebrow. 

Could have been worse. Meaning, he'd read much worse about himself.

The article was accompanied by two moving pictures of him, and Michael was actually pleased with what they'd chosen. One was him ripping off his own skin to reveal his skeleton over and over, and the other was a continuous loop of him moonwalking.

He power-read the article as quickly as possible, picking out such key quotes to read aloud, as "bloody crazy muggle with a death-wish", "turns out it wasn't an illusion, and Jackson is currently in critical care inside the Hogwarts castle", "absolutely captivating", "unparalleled natural singing ability", "muggles call it the moonwalk", "too bad the Ministry will likely never allow it again", and lastly, "a Confundus Charm has shown to make gramophones play in magical neighborhoods in the past, so for those really desperate to hear this muggle sing again, ask your parents for help".

Michael wanted to laugh at most of it. "They do know that no one uses gramophones still, right?"

"I thought you might enjoy that," the third-year with the bushy brown hair chuckled. "You'd be amazed at what wizards don't know about the muggle world. I once heard someone say that spark plugs must be those little boxes they ride around in."

"Wow, really?"

"Believe it or not, it's true."

"Jeez, no wonder they don't know me," Michael laughed. "Sorry, I don't mean to sound conceited. It just puts things in more perspective."

"Not a problem. So yeah, you actually caused quite the commotion. Everyone is still talking about it."

"I take it that the part that everyone is talking about is the ripping my skin off part, right?"

"Yeah, pretty much. But also the moonwalk, cuz I insisted on telling all the reporters about it and they think the name moonwalk sounds so catchy that they're putting it in print apparently."

"Anything about Thriller? Or Heal The World?"

"Uh, about the songs, not really. But you gotta remember, this is a different audience. They're talking more about your audacity as a muggle to try such risky body transformations."

Michael was visibly disappointed. "Yeah, I understand."

"Michael, listen, you did amazing, ok? Like super amazing! You definitely won some fans here. If I ever figure out how to play your music inside this building without replicating the conditions inside a Pensieve, I'm gonna give your music to everyone I know."

"You're sweet to say that. But it could have been better. If I had more time, we could have practiced more."

"Don't be silly..."

"You know it could have been better. I don't mean to criticize everyone's hard work, because I wouldn't even be here without their help, so you know that's not what I mean. But you know what I mean. I wish we had had more time. When I go back, I want to make a movie kind of like this performance. I can't do it live, but I can create a movie. I'll get the best in the biz and we'll have to make it work. If that skeleton thing is what people like, then that's what I'll give them. Among other things."

"Michael, you know-," she cut off her own remark. She was going to say, Michael, you know you can't tell anyone, and then some.

The sad look on her face gave her away. Michael touched her hand. He said, "I know."

That was all they needed to say about that topic. The silence lingered for a few minutes.

"Michael, are you glad you came with me?" Hermione asked after a while.

"Yes! Of course! More than anything!"

"Oh, ok."

"Hermione, I don't regret it in the least, you have to know that. I hope you feel the same way."

"Yeah, absolutely. I was just wondering, cuz you know, you're all bandaged up and bed-ridden right now."

"Naw, I'm not worried about that," Michael said with a smile, and swatted the idea away with his hand.

They spent the rest of the evening chatting and doing Hermione's Transfiguration homework while Michael asked a million questions.

Before turning in that night, she lent him her copy of Hogwarts: A History, saying it was her favorite book.


---


On the third night of his recovery, Michael got a visit from Dumbledore, and he was exceptionally glad for it. Having been starved for reading-material and activities, Michael had just finished re-reading Hermione’s copy of the Daily Prophet for the fifth time, from start to finish. And had finished Hogwarts: A History twice-over. At least she had left him those. They were enlightening reads indeed, but nowhere near enough material for such a voracious reader as he.

The old wizard greeted Michael as soon as he’d descended the stairs into the tent.

"Hello Professor, it’s nice to see you again," Michael said, as he sat up in bed to address the man more formally. "I never got a chance to thank you for whisking me and Hermione away from the backstage crowd. I’m really thankful for that. And for all the medical attention. Please pass that on to Madam Pomfrey as well."

Dumbledore pulled up a chair to Michael’s bed and replied good-naturedly, "You’re very welcome, my dear lad. I hope your injuries have not negatively influenced your view of our world."

"Not in the least! Your school is beautiful. Everywhere I turn there’s something more amazing than what I just saw."

"I’m glad you think so. We’ve enjoyed your visit as well. I’ve heard many a student recounting the events of Halloween night and I daresay they will continue for some time."

The words were music to his ears. Wonderful, Michael thought as a wide grin spread onto his lips.

Dumbledore then reached into a pocket of his long purple robes and pulled out a small pentagon-shaped box. He handed it to Michael.

"I thought you might enjoy a chocolate treat," the Headmaster explained. "Chocolate Frogs are a popular brand of chocolate in our world, and it’s just a small token of appreciation for having taken the time to fulfill the wish of a fourteen year old girl on such short notice. Your performance was refreshing. --Oh! Do be careful it doesn’t hop away. They have a tendency to do that."

It was good advice; for once Michael had opened the decorated candy box, he’d barely caught the animated frog by the foot before it tried to jump away. It was unexpected to say the least.

He held the chocolate frog in a cage of his fingers and raised it up to his face for a closer look.

"This is edible?" he questioned, his eyebrows raised in awe and amusement, as the frog wriggled about on his palm.

"Yes indeed. Most students are more interested in the cards at the bottom of the box however. They collect them. Each card has a different famous witch or wizard."

Michael couldn’t bear to eat the frog just yet, so he trapped it under the empty glass on the bedside table, and found the pentagonal card Dumbledore spoke of.

"Oh cool! This is you, right?" Michael showed the card to the Headmaster.

"Yes it is. I thought it might be too. I was going to enjoy the treat for myself before turning in, but considered you might like it more. There are more than a hundred other cards, and mine happens to be too common for most to find exciting."

"Thank you! What a thoughtful present!" 

Michael read the text on the card with delight. "Albus Dumbledore. Currently Headmaster of Hogwarts. Considered by many the greatest wizard of modern times, Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon’s blood, and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicolas Flamel. Professor Dumbledore enjoys chamber music and ten-pin bowling."

Michael flipped the card over and over to read and re-read it excitedly, just like a child would. It had a moving portrait of the Headmaster on one side that Michael could not stop admiring. "Wow. What impressive achievements, and, as a side-note," Michael beamed, "I enjoy chamber music also."

"I’m glad to have found a fellow connoisseur." 

As Michael studied the miniature portrait on the card, the Headmaster thought he would advise the happy muggle once more. "He won’t always be there, just know that. You can’t expect him to stick around for long. As for that chocolate frog, the spell will wear off soon and it’ll be just a regular lump of chocolate after that. So no need to save it if that’s what you were planning."

Michael blushed. He’d indeed been thinking about it. "Then I’ll only keep it until it stops moving around enough for me to be able to eat it. Thank you again, this really is a lovely gift."

"It’s like gifting someone a Hershey’s chocolate bar. I believe that’s one of the popular ones I’ve picked up along my travels of the muggle world. Don’t think so highly of it."

The color in Michael’s cheeks spread to his ears. "Thank you nonetheless," he said quietly.

"On to business now," Dumbledore declared. "How are you healing up? Madam Pomfrey plans to discharge you from her care tomorrow morning."

"I think I’m doing quite well. There’s no danger of my skin splitting open again after I leave Hogwarts, is there?"

"Not unless you do it yourself."

Michael supposed that was an affirmative answer. "Oh. Good."

"Then if you’ll feel up to it, I’ve scheduled your travel back home for tomorrow afternoon. I’ll be delivering you myself this time. We delayed it on account of the injuries you’ve sustained, but now that you’re better, there’s no reason to keep you from your normal life any longer. How does that sound?"

Michael’s first thought was that his obliviation was likely going to happen tomorrow. He swallowed around the lump in his throat to respond kindly, "Yes, that sounds fine, sir."

"Alright, well, do get some sleep, otherwise the port-lag to the States will be terrible."

"I’m sorry, sir, the what?"

"You call it jetlag. We call it port-lag," Dumbledore explained absently as he stood up to move his chair back from the bedside.

"I see. Before you go, Professor, may I trouble you to ask a few minutes of your time tomorrow?"

"I don’t see why not. Shall we have lunch together?"

Michael beamed. "I would love that!"

"Then it’s set. Have a good night, Mr Jackson," Dumbledore waved, and was already walking out of the bedroom.

"Good night, Professor."


---


True to word, Michael had been discharged from his bed and all medical care that morning. Sadly, it was just after breakfast, so everyone he had made friends with thus far were busy going about their regular school-day, leaving Michael alone. A muggle free in the Hogwarts castle, oh my.

Madam Pomfrey had suggested he spend time in the library.

After surviving the daunting task of finding said library, Michael had spent his hours before lunch chatting casually with the librarian and reading various bits from books he’d found interesting. Really though, everything in this world was interesting.

Just before lunch-time, he returned to Dumbledore’s office and found the entrance to the office-room locked.

Oh... lovely. Michael Jackson was twiddling his thumbs awkwardly in the middle of a vast deserted coffered hallway... in a school for magic... in the middle of nowhere... somewhere in England. It was a sight to behold. Lovely.

Thankfully, doors everywhere started opening just then, and students began filling the hallways. And luckily a professor walked by who was helpful enough to tell him the password. Otherwise, he’d be at a complete loss of what to do with himself. (Or perhaps he’d have too much fun altogether if he went wandering and got lost in a place like this.)

Back inside the safety of Dumbledore’s office, Michael was back to snooping around Dumbledore’s displayed curiosities, waiting.

The Headmaster apparated in the middle of the room only minutes later and cleared his throat. He’d caught Michael peeking about, just as he had caught many dozens of students before him.

They sat down together at Dumbledore’s desk and savored a warm squash soup and croissant lunch. The topics of conversation ranged from the importance of children, world peace, house-elf rights, Dumbledore’s headmastership, and even Neverland. Their conversation continued for much longer than either man had thought it might.

"Professor," Michael started --he'd taken to addressing Dumbledore the way the students did--, "I was wondering... wizards and witches certainly have their own music, but how do they play it? Because Hermione says cassette-players and CD-players and such don't work around magic, so what technology do you use?"

Dumbledore nodded knowingly. "It's not called technology here, but it's similar to how we replicated the music inside your head for your show. Except then the music sits in a radio pool. We call it a radio, but really the way it works is nothing like how muggle radios work."

"Can you show me?"

"Sure, it's rather simple. Would you like to leave something behind for Miss Granger?"

"Oh yes! That's a beautiful idea. Let me think for a minute..."

Michael bit his lip and scrunched his face for a second, trying out different humming sounds. After a few odd little melodies, he said, "Ok, I have something."

The singer proceeded to record about a thirty-second snippet into the old wizard’s wand, for Hermione.

To Michael’s astonishment, he could actually see his music swirled in wisps of color around the tip of the Headmaster’s wand. It looked exactly as he had always imagined music to look, and he smiled warmly. 

It was a fond and fitting last memory to create of this world.

Soon after, Dumbledore announced that their time together had drawn to a close.

Michael nodded obediently, but his anxiety about having his memory wiped had returned in a panic. It caused quite a long pause in the conversation before he’d gathered his words and felt courageous enough to speak them.

"So, uh, when are you going to obliviate me?"

Dumbledore looked at him squarely. Almost as if he was considering his options. 

Time dragged on in a way Michael never knew it could, as he stared back into the bespectacled blue eyes. Those were a few of the very longest moments of Michael’s life, before the old wizard finally replied. 

"I'm not going to."

That statement was the clear end of the subject.

With every curious fiber of his being, Michael had to restrain himself from asking Why not? By his understanding, to not wipe his memories would be breaking magical law!

He breathed deeply to calm himself. Do not look a gift horse in the mouth.

"Thank you," Michael murmured.

Dumbledore smiled gently in acknowledgement, then turned away from him swiftly.

Michael turned away also to hide his face in his elbow, desperately wiping away a sudden batch of tears. 

He would get to keep this memory. This was too wonderful. That was all he’d really wanted, was to keep this joy he felt in his heart. 

"Thank you," he whispered, but was pretty sure Dumbledore didn't hear him the second time for he was busy rummaging through a cluttered desk drawer and not paying attention to Michael.

Michael's own attention was diverted to what sounded like thumping footfalls up the spiral staircase to Dumbledore's office entryway.

A moment later, Hermione came running in, completely out of breath, and from what Michael could understand, she claimed to be in two classes in that very moment, but was making a third appearance to be here.

"Miss Granger, that's almost unnecessary to be in so many places at once."

"Forgive me, Professor. I couldn't miss this." She turned to Michael, "I probably won't see you again for a very long time, if ever again, so I had to say goodbye properly. I'm so happy to have met you and hopefully call you my friend."

"That's very sweet of you. Likewise, Hermione. You can drop by Neverland anytime you like, by the way."

Her eyebrows knitted at the invitation. "Unfortunately it's going to be illegal for me to use magic outside of Hogwarts again until I'm seventeen... so I don't think I'll be able to visit the United States any time soon."

So that was the reason for her sadness. "I see. Well, then keep the wish in your heart, and I'll keep it in mine."

He reached for her hand and squeezed it in a way that had become familiar to both of them.

"Ah-hah! Found it." The item Dumbledore had found apparently was a necklace with an hour-glass pendant.

"That's- I mean, is that a Time-Turner, Professor?"

"Indeed. An older model than your own, Miss Granger. Let us keep your having seen this object in my possession between us, shall we?"

Hermione nodded promptly and Michael could only look between the witch and wizard in wonder.

"Time to go, Mr Jackson."

"Goodbye, Michael."

"Thank you for making my wildest dreams come true, Hermione."

In the next instant, Dumbledore had laid his hand on his shoulder and in the blink of an eye, Michael had been whisked up into thin air. Before he could even ask what was happening, he was standing in his own cluttered office room at Neverland. With Dumbledore at his side.

"Oh my goodness!"

"Better than the portkey, I take?"

"Well, for one, much faster. But also much less motion sickness," Michael laughed. "Very impressive."

"If we ever cross paths again, we can do it again, my dear fellow."

"I would love that. We could have dinner sometime, or feel free to drop by my home, Neverland, here I mean, anytime. Or now, if you’d like. I’ll uh, give you a tour." That last sentence especially felt like a foolish stretch, even as it fell from his lips, but it was a courtesy the entertainer offered so often it had become routine. And perhaps, maybe, the wise old professor he’d grown so fond of may actually take him up on the offer. It was so hard to part ways permanently.

On the other hand, Michael berated himself. As if a man of this wizard’s status would be interested in touring an amusement park, zoo, arcade, and closet full of old clothes.

"Perhaps another time. When you’re as old and gray as I am. For now, I must..."

The wizard’s words trailed off. It seemed he had been captivated by their surroundings.

"...I would comment on your unique decorating skills, but I feel like you may be more in need of a house-elf."

Michael blushed. "Most of this is fan-mail, and um, I organize it every month," he murmured shyly.

Dumbledore laughed heartily as he placed the chain of the Time-Turner around Michael’s neck, and by the time he had stopped laughing, he had also stopped turning the hour-glass trinket in his hand.

Suddenly the movement of the trees outside began zipping back and forth as if in a vicious storm, but the rewind was much faster, for soon the light was changing too, and sure enough, right before his eyes, Michael had witnessed the sun rise and set four times.

When he saw movement somewhere else in the room, he turned to it, but it was already gone. And then the sun had settled in the window, sometime around mid-afternoon.

"I- what-, I mean, pardon. But, did I just see what I thought I saw?"

"Do you think you’ve just seen time turn back, and then yourself and Miss Granger for a moment, perhaps?

"Well, yes..."

"Then you would be correct. And a very quick observation at that. We’re standing in your office only seconds after you left on this journey with Miss Granger. It is still October thirtieth."

"Wow."

"I trust you’ll do your best to adjust to being back in the muggle world."

"Um, yes sir." Michael nodded like a good little pupil.

"Then it is with happy memories we part. I’m glad we were able to dine together earlier. I quite enjoyed it."

"So did I."

"Good afternoon, Mr Jackson!"

"Good afternoon, Professor," Michael mimicked.

With that, Dumbledore bowed his head slightly in acknowledgement and in the blink of an eye he had disapparated.

Michael felt winded.

Wow.

He looked at the clock on the wall.

Then went over to the messy desk he barely ever used, to look at what briefing his secretary had delivered that morning.

Indeed, it looked as if it was the afternoon of October thirtieth. And if he needed more confirmation, right there on his desk sat a fishbowl with a little orange goldfish swimming about. Next to that, was a little blue flame in a ceramic mug. 

Everything was as he remembered it.

He decided to hide the strange blue flame in a filing cabinet however, just in case any staff were to stumble upon it.

Then all he could do was lie down on his couch and reminisce. Michael really needed a few minutes alone with his thoughts, to replay his last few days.

His mind was jumping between what he had done in his concert, to the people he had met, to the setting and all the magic. To the way they had treated him. For the most part, he recognized that he had not been given much special treatment at all. Much less than he normally received when meeting so many new people. And he found it made him feel more... normal. The way most people thought of normal.


---


Hermione ran into the Gryffindor Common Room after all her classes that day, waving a glass vile in her hand ecstatically. Her hand still wore the ring Michael had given her during Thriller. She’d been twirling the little gift about her finger all day after the muggle had left, and now it could be seen sparkling as she raced past Harry.

"Merlin! You scared the crap out of me. What’s that you’ve got there?"

"Nice to see you too, Harry."

"Well, what’s the hurry now that Michael’s gone?"

"Dumbledore says he left me something."

"Alright... what is it?"

"Well, I don’t know. That’s why I’m rushing to the radio."

She emptied the swirling liquid-plasma substance from the vial into the radio pool and it started playing.

Michael’s crisp vocals filled the room and several other students turned to see what she was playing.


"~Her-my-oh-neeee, you make me free. Giiirrl, you and me and music make three." 

It was a short chorus with the background beat created from Michael’s beatboxing.

"Oh wow," she admired. "That is so cute."

She played the clip again, and Ron clamored over to hear as well.

Hermione was beaming and tittering in joy. "Wow!" she exclaimed and made little fists of happiness. "Like, Michael Jackson recorded this for me. ME! ...Can you believe it?"

Harry chuckled at her behavior but agreed that it was amazing.


---


A few hours had past when Michael heard a distant yell of his name and it broke him away from his thoughts.

There it was again. It was Lisa calling him.

"I’m in here!"

"MICHAEL? Where are you?"

"In here!"

"MICHAEL?"

It became obvious quickly that she couldn’t hear him despite being, by the sound of it, mere feet away.

Oh, right. The Sound-Proofing Charm Hermione cast had never been lifted. Well, that’s handy. Like, actually really useful for an office, he mused. Or perhaps he could swap this room for his recording studio?

Another yell and finally, finally, he made his way to the door to call after his wife. Michael was the kind of person who got lost in dreams easily.

"Michael! Jeez finally. I’ve been calling you for ages."

"I know. You uh, couldn’t hear me yelling back."

"Oh. Ok then. Are you busy? The chef said you were with a teenager an hour or so ago."

"Um, nope. All free. What’s up?" He closed the office door behind himself and joined her.

"I was thinking, you want to go for a walk maybe? See how all the pumpkins are doing? The big delivery came in earlier."

"Oh, uh, yes. Of course."

"...You ok?"

"Sure. Why wouldn’t I be?"

"You seem... different, more relaxed than you were this morning when you missed breakfast."

Michael was stumped for a moment. He had to remember what she was talking about. This morning was a world away to him.

"Oh, yeah. I’m doing great. Feeling really good."

His kind smile melted the concern off her face and she returned the expression when he took her hand in his. He squeezed her hand much like he had Hermione’s. It meant reassurance, safety, and above all, love.

On their walk past the fountain out the front door, Michael began giggling to himself. This wasn't strange, but it did prompt Lisa to ask, "What is it?"

"Oh, nothing," he replied in a happy sing-song tone, and pulled her along dismissively, still laughing.

Michael had noticed an old white sock at the bottom of the fountain, and couldn’t help but think, I am so grateful that I am a magnet for miracles.


---