Jackson and Vanessa found an empty compartment and sat down across from each other.
"So, you're parents are muggles," she said, smiling. "What's that like?"
Jackson shrugged. "I don't know what you mean. It's... normal."
Vanessa laughed. "Yeah, I guess if that's how you grew up it would seem normal. What do your parents do for work?"
"My dad's a programmer," he replied.
Vanessa frowned. "What does that mean?"
"A computer programmer," Jackson said. "He can make computers do whatever he wants."
"Computers?" Vanessa said. "Is that a muggle machine?"
Jackson opened his mouth to reply, but he had no idea how to respond. Finally, he said. "Um, yeah. Computers are really kind of cool. They can do all kinds of things."
"Well, people write things on them," he replied. "Then they can print whatever they wrote, or they can send messages to each other. And music, and videos, and video games, and GPS, and-"
"GPS? Video games?" she asked. "What are those?"
Jackson started to think of how to describe them, but decided not to bother. "You know what, it doesn't matter. It is interesting stuff, and I'm proud of my parents, but that's another world. What do your parents do?"
The next morning breakfast was delicious, but strangely quiet as no one could talk about the reason Jackson was leaving. It seemed to go on forever, so he felt relieved when his dad finally said it was time to go. He gave his mom a goodbye hug, then rode to the station.
As Jackson and his dad pushed his luggage through the station, he looked through the letter again to find the directions onto platform nine and three quarters.
"So, what now?" his dad asked as they stood looking at the barrier between platforms nine and ten.
"It says we just need to walk right into the barrier," Jackson replied. "I need to go first because it doesn't work for non-magical people. I can push the cart in front of me. For you to get on you need to keep hold of me while I pass through."
"Okay," his dad said, looking nervous but a little excited.
Jackson grabbed the handles of the cart, and his dad took hold of his shoulder. He began pushing the cart toward the barrier, telling himself that it would let him through. He just had to keep going. Just had to keep going.
Suddenly he was through. There was a beautiful red, black and gold train to his right. There were also hundreds of kids and parents, many of them in robes like what he'd seen in Diagon Alley.
"Wow," his dad whispered behind him. Jackson looked back at him and smiled, glad that at least one of his parents was excited about his magic. He began pushing the cart to the train.
"Jack!" Jackson heard a voice behind him. He turned to see a girl with brown hair he didn't recognize stepping out of the barrier. He frowned and started to ask who she was, but then her brown hair turned green and her skin melted into the face he knew from the bookstore.
"Vanessa?" Jackson asked.
She nodded as she walked up to him. "Are you ready?"
"As ready as I'll ever be," he replied.
"Jackson, who is this?" his dad said, his voice curious.
"Oh, sorry. Dad, this is Vanessa. We met when I was looking for my books," Jackson explained. "Vanessa, this is my dad."
"Nice to meet you," Vanessa said, her hair turning blonde as she shook his hand.
"Nice to meet you too," his dad said, staring at her hair.
Just then the conductor began calling for everyone to get on board. Jackson hurried to load his chest then helped Vanessa with hers. He gave his dad a quick hug before climbing back on the train. He waved goodbye as the train started moving.
For those of you who don't know, the socialist machine in Washington declared the internet to be a public utility today, thereby giving themselves the authority to regulate (aka control) it. In layman's terms this means that it's not going to be long before freedom of speech no longer applies to the most powerful means of communication we have. It won't be long before the government can take down any website they want (probably starting with http://www.glennbeck.com/). That's what already happens in China.
"Jackson," his mom opened the door, making him look up.
"Yeah, mom?" he asked, carefully placing the book out of her view. He didn't want her to realize he was reading a magic book. She was still very uncomfortable with the idea of him being a wizard.
"I wanted to know what you want for breakfast in the morning," she said, smiling at him. "It's going to be my last chance to cook for you for a while."
Jackson smiled at her and said, "I love your blueberry waffles."
"Blueberry waffles it is," she said. "I'll get everything ready now so I can have them cooked and ready to eat when you wake up."
"You're welcome," she said and closed the door again.
Jackson looked back at the charms book, but decided he'd better finish packing and get to bed. As he put it in his cauldron with the other books he noticed it seemed thicker than before, as though the book had grown. That's odd, he thought.
Jackson spent most of the last two weeks of summer in his room, reading his books and trying to cast the spells he read about. None of them worked, but a few times when he would wave his wand random things would happen. Mostly it was things flying around the room, but one time his light bulb turned to ice.
The night before he was supposed to meet the train at King's Cross he went to his room to pack. He started with his clothes, packing first his robes, and the rest of the clothes that had arrived from Madam Maulkin's a few days earlier. Then he put in a couple pairs of pajamas, some blue jeans, t-shirts, socks, underwear, and an extra pair of shoes.
Then he crammed his cauldron in and began collecting his books, placing them in the cauldron as well. Herbology, he thought. Potions... Transfiguration... Defense Against the Dark Arts... Magical History... Astronomy. He spotted a tiny book he didn't remember under his astronomy book. He tossed the Astronomy book in the cauldron with the others and picked up the little book. It was dark blue leather. The front was blank, but on the spine silver lettering read 'Theory of Charms'.
"I don't remember buying this, but it seems familiar," he said to himself. He thought back to the bookstore, and remembered. "You were on that top shelf. I must have grabbed you when I fell, and got you mixed up with my other books. Strange. I could have sworn you were a lot bigger when you were on the shelf."
Jackson opened the little book and flipped through to the last page. The page number said it was page 10. Ten pages. I could read you tonight before I go to bed.
He grabbed his bag of potions supplies and carefully placed it in the cauldron with the books, then climbed onto his bed with the Theory of Charms book.
The first page was an introduction. It was written in first person, talking about the author's experiments and years of research. Jackson got the feeling the author was very intelligent, despite how small the book was. He wanted to know who the author was, but he couldn't find anywhere that had a name.
The next five pages talked about the three parts of every charm: Power, Incantation, and Structure. When he reached the end of that section he felt like his mind was numb, so he took a break for some ice cream. As he went back to his room with the bowl, savoring the cold chocolate on his tongue, he thought back to what he'd read, trying to picture the ideas in his mind.
Power is pretty simple. Wizardkind are born with the power. Normal people, muggles, aren't. Some people have special properties to their power that give them different abilities, like Vanessa at the bookstore, but most wizards and witches the only question is how much power they have. Part of what determines your power is just how much you're born with, but it also tends to grow with use. I don't see why the author took a whole page for that.
Incantation is just using the words for the spell. The incantation has to be pronounced right, but other than that it's just memorization.
The hard part is the structure. Thoughts, feelings, movements, concentrating to draw on your power and put it into the incantation. That's hard. That takes study and practice. Magic isn't just about knowing how to do it with your head. It's about knowing how to do it with your hands, your heart. It's knowing it so well you don't have to think about it as you're doing it.
Jackson climbed back onto his bed and turned the book to the next page.
Jackson smiled as he entered the crowded book store. There were dozens of kids, his age and older, all scurrying through the store, looking for books. He was glad to see that wizard kids weren't terribly different from the kids he grew up with. Except of course for that girl with the pink hair.
He tried to get help from an employee, but they all were busy helping other people. Finally he just took out his list of books and began looking. He soon realized that the store was organized by topic, with signs over rows like he saw in regular book stores, except of course that some of the signs kept erasing themselves and the words would reappear in different handwriting. Unfortunately he had no clue what many of the topics meant. Apparition, Quidditch, Animagi? Finally he spotted one labeled 'Potions'. He searched through the books until he found the right book. Taking it from the shelf he went back to searching the topics. Next he found 'Transfiguration' and then 'Defense against the Dark Arts'.
After that he found the Charms section and began looking for his Charms book. After he'd searched all the lower racks, he decided it must be on the top shelf, where he was having trouble reading all the titles. Carefully, he tried to pull himself up a little to see onto the shelf. He still couldn't see, so he propped his right arm up on the shelf and pulled up so his eyes were level with the books. Advanced Projective Charms, Theory of Charms, Advanced Movement Charms, Advanced-
His foot slipped and he felt himself start to fall. He reached for whatever he could, but all he could find were books. He grabbed one, but it slipped out from the others and Jackson found himself landing hard on the ground. Lots of people came to help him up. The first one to reach him was a girl his age with long blue hair and purple eyes and a beautiful face despite her look of worry. Jackson blushed with embarrassment as he started picking up his books.
"Are you all right?" the girl asked as Jackson stood up.
"Yeah," he replied, "I'm fine. I didn't fall that far, I just couldn't find my book."
The girl nodded. "An Introduction to Charms. Yeah, I couldn't find it either. They said they ran out of it yesterday. Should have some more next week."
"Well, I don't think I'm going to be able to come back before school."
"Me neither," she said, her blue hair suddenly turning green as she talked. "They said they can deliver it to Hogwarts. You'll get it before your first lesson."
"Thanks," Jackson said, staring at her hair. He started to open his mouth to ask, but he didn't know what to say.
She laughed, reaching a hand up to finger her hair, its color changing back to blue in a wave that started where her hand touched it. "I'm a Metamorphmagus," she laughed. "It's a special gift I was born with."
He smiled and said, "Cool."
"I'm Vanessa by the way," she said, holding her hand out to him. "Vanessa Thomas."
He shook her hand and said, "Jackson Smith."
"Nice to meet you, Jack," she said, smiling at him again.
"Nice to meet you too," he replied.
A woman came up behind Vanessa, gently grabbed her shoulder and said, "Vanessa, it's time to go."
"Yes, mum," Vanessa said, glancing at her. Turning back to Jackson she said, "I'll see you at school."
"Yeah, see you," Jackson replied, smiling as he watched her go. He was still picturing her smile and her amazing hair as he found the last of his books and bought them. He almost forgot to tell the clerk he needed the charms book sent to him, but he was soon on his way out of the store with a bag full of books.
He met his parents at another bench, and his mom led the way out, clearly in a hurry to get back to her normal life.
Normal? Jackson thought to himself, still picturing Vanessa's hair. Who needs normal?