“Branch 9 ¾” by Kaki Olsen

Over spelling homework one day, my ten-year-old announced that she didn’t want to go to Hogwarts.

I remembered the lightning bolts and broomsticks doodled in her third-grade notebook margins for a year after I let her read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. She had asked for a scarf in Hufflepuff colors for Christmas that year. One day, she came home crying because her best friend had pointed a backyard stick at her and screamed Crucio. All was forgiven a day later when her friend found Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans at a bookstore and shared her loot.

So when my future Quidditch player declared her intention to turn down any owl post, I was flummoxed. I couldn’t quickly tell her that Hogwarts wasn’t real because she’d been pretty okay with Santa being imaginary, but I think it would have killed her to find out that she’d never have tea with Hagrid.

“Why on earth not?”

She gave me a look that told me Crabbe and Goyle were Mensa members compared to me. “I don’t think they have Primary at Hogwarts.”

With some effort, I gave her nothing more than a reassuring smile by way of response, as though I’d seen this coming. “I’m sure your Primary teacher would be able to find you there.”

“Not if she’s a Muggle,” my stricken daughter piped up. “Hermione says the castle’s Unplottable. And you can’t Apparate in or out of Hogwarts, so I’d have to take the Floo Network to a half-Muggle place like Tinworth or Godric’s Hollow every week.”

“And they’d want to know where you want to go to school,” I considered. “You wouldn’t be able to tell them because of the Statute of Secrecy.”

“And if the home teachers came, the Ministry of Magic would have to Obliviate them,” she lamented. “They’d get yelled at every month because they’d never remember going to visit me.”

I had meant to sweep this under the flying carpet after a couple of sentences, but she seemed genuinely distressed about this conundrum. I had nothing to offer her that didn’t shatter some childhood dreams.

”They could send Squibs to home teach you,” I offered lamely. “They’re allowed to know about Hogwarts and Mrs. Figg even knew Dumbledore.”

“That’s true…”

She went back to her word list looking a little less morose and I returned my attention to the spaghetti sauce. It didn’t take a Trelawney for me to foresee that this conversation wasn’t over, though, and sure enough, she spoke up less than a minute later.

“But I probably couldn’t come to Activity Days if I had Quidditch practice.”

I had to stuff my fist into my mouth to stifle my laughter this time and stirred the sauce vigorously to stall for time. When I’d finally gotten a grip, I put on my best “wise-old-mom” expression and turned to face her.

“I promise that if you get a letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry next July, we’ll find out where the Hogsmeade 1st Ward meets,” I deadpanned. “And what makes you think there aren’t any members in the wizarding world? I can see Professor McGonagall as the Relief Society president.”

That was apparently a joke too far.  Her eyebrows pulled together into a scowl. “You’re making fun of me,” she accused.

“Merlin’s honor, I’m not,” I swore, crossing my heart twice. “I’m making believe.”

I couldn’t discourage her from being honestly worried about these things. I didn’t care if she wanted to spend her school days in Defense Against the Dark Arts and Potions class. This was a kid whose biggest concern about running off to be a practicing witch was whether or not Professor Sprout knew that popcorn popped on the apricot tree.

I wanted her to make believe like any other child, so in her world, families could be together forever . . . thanks to the Resurrection Stone.  She would repent every time she gave into the urge to use a Jelly-Legs Jinx on a Slytherin.  She would check with Madam Rosmerta to see if Butterbeer was against the Word of Wisdom. And she would eventually ask her professors uncomfortable questions like “Can you still go to the Celestial Kingdom if you’ve been Kissed by a Dementor?” and “Is the Holy Ghost my Patronus?”

“I hope you get owl post next summer,” I told her honestly. “If we do, I’ll just have to make sure Bishop Dowling transfers your records without asking where your new ward is.”

All things considered, there were worse fantasies to entertain. If we’d had this conversation a few years later, she might have wondered if surviving Fast Sundays gave you an advantage in the Hunger Games.

I just found myself dreading the day when she would try to figure out what Twilight had to say about resurrection of the dead.



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