A Dream in Black and White
Barry couldn't believe his eyes. Not only was he standing in front of the entrance to the legendary train platform, Nine and Three-Quarters, but the boy who lived, Harry Potter himself, had just rammed through the brick wall with his trolley full of luggage and snowy white owl.
Six months ago, Barry didn't have a clue any of this existed. Most young boys who received their congratulatory letter to Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, were generally delighted to learn that they had magical abilities. With the American public school system failing, the opportunity to temporarily escape reality was somewhat of a Godsend (especially for those students who weren't set up to follow a Hoop Dreams like scenario). But Barry never received a letter. He had never been told he was a wizard. In fact, he was almost certain that he wasn't supposed to be here and had somehow cheated the system.
Six months ago, Barry was playing around with his bedroom's TV antenna. His mother was behind on the Internet bill again, so he had been trying to intercept his neighbour's signals—he was meant to be writing a report on a world event. All of a sudden, the squiggly lines of static made way for an English sounding announcer:
"... he who shall not be named has returned… son of Amos Diggory murdered… Harry Potter gives no comment on situation…"
To Barry, this didn't make a lot of sense. At least, not at first. It soon became apparent that there was another community out there who was grieving the loss of one of their own. He thought this might make a solid report topic because he had once lost someone close to him too, but he had never had anyone to talk about it with. He sat in front of the television set for hours; after the news bulletins wrapped up, he watched a documentary called Hogwarts: A History which completely changed his life. Could there really be people out there who solved their problems just by waving a stick? He thought about his brother and wondered if things could have been different if he had grown up in England. Did Hogwarts send acceptance letters to his side of the world? Oh, what it would mean to be chosen!
At school the next day, he shared his findings with his peers: "England is home to a secret group of magical people called wizards."
That was enough for the class to erupt into laughter. His English teacher, Mr. Samuel L. Jackson, waved his arms to simmer the students down. "Class enough. Barry, if you aren't going to take your assignments seriously, then we're gonna have to be having a separate conversation."
Barry didn't understand. He copied his notes from the TV report verbatim (though he admitted that the signal wasn't so great and there were probably discrepancies). He continued anyways, "At the age of eleven, each child with magical abilities is invited to come study at a wizarding University called Hogwarts…" One of his classmates, Ice Cube, interrupted the presentation.
"What kind of name is Hogwarts anyways? I'm guessing they don't take in vegetarians." Cube smirked at his own joke but the class mostly didn't take notice.
Barry continued. "It's a school that allows you to reach your full potential. It doesn't matter who your family is or what your grades were, they'll take anyone who wants to succeed. And it's a safe place, they don't allow any weapons on the school grounds, all the teachers seem really friendly and best of all, they give all the students these really big meals, as much as you can eat, and for free—it's like you're living in a castle."
The class leaned forward. Ice Cube, who had previously been chewing a pencil, spit out the eraser end and relaxed his hands. "Damn, that actually sounds pretty good." The class nodded their heads in agreement. At the back of the class, a girl with bookworm glasses and a wool sweater wrapped over her shoulders timidly raised her hand. Barry, who for once in his life finally had the attention of his peers, excitedly pointed to her. "Yes Rosa?"
Rosa blushed as the entire class turned in their seats to face her. "How does one get an acceptance letter exactly?"
"Yeah Barry, how does one get a letter exactly?" Buggin' Out was one of Barry's best friends. With his bright yellow shirt and perpetually jammin' hairdo, he had no doubt that he would be in his bedroom after school, wanting to see the wizard channel for himself.
Mr. Jackson decided that enough was enough. "Look Barry, this was a pretty good story and all but if you want to go to a real college, you're going to need to write me a real report. And furthermore..." His attention had turned to the cloud of smoke that was slowly forming in the corner of the room. "Jesus Christ. Snoop, what the fuck did I say about lighting up in class?"
"I'm not your goddamn nephew!"
Back at home, Barry was once again trying to adjust his television's signal to the wizard network. Only this time, he had an audience. Buggin' Out was occupying himself with Barry's old Game Boy while his mother, Miss Charlene Little poured out glasses of grape drink for the two boys. Though she didn't have much else other than her son and her one floor house, and sometimes regretted not being able to offer Barry a wealthier upbringing, she was glad that her son was at least spending his time where she could keep an eye on him.
"Barry, I don't want you messing with that antenna anymore." Miss Little knew what her son was up to, " I told you we're getting Internet back by the end of this week."
Barry groaned, "You said that last week."
Buggin' Out chimed in, "And the week before that one too."
Miss Little handed him a glass, "Buggin' Out, you better watch yourself if you want to keep coming over here."
Suddenly, the static on the TV set turned to sound and a British sporting announcer broke through. Buggin' Out jumped out of his chair and landed on his knees in front of the screen, "Oh shit! Here we go!"
"Language, Buggin' Out!" Miss Little couldn't help but watch the screen as it filled up with hoops and wizards on broomsticks. She had received a call from Mr. Jackson earlier letting her know about Barry's presentation. She had never known her son to lie to get out of doing work, so she figured there must have been some sort of misinterpretation. It only took three hours of being glued to the screen before she was a believer.
"Grab the snitch, bitch!"
Buggin' Out had called up virtually everyone he knew and by 9pm, over half of the neighbourhood had gathered into Barry Little's living room. Mr. Jackson, normally known for being much more reserved in such social situations, was laughing excitedly at the screen and shouting at Quidditch players as if he had supported them his entire life. Martin, another one of Barry's classmates was already writing his Hogwarts entrance essay. Ice Cube was flicking a stick he had picked up off the front lawn outside, shouting words that sounded both Latin and proper. Snoop Dogg was completely entranced by what he saw on screen: the broomsticks, the spells, the dwarfs—watching the Quidditch match alone was the best trip he had been on in a long time.
Though it was exciting for his family to be the centre of attention for once, something about all this was upsetting Barry. "Hey guys," he started. "Wouldn't it be great to go to Hogwarts?"
"Hell yeah!" the group agreed in unison.
"No, I mean..." Barry watched the tail end of a broom as it soared through the tallest hoop at the end of the arena. The stadium's audience erupted into cheers as smoke from the tip of the broom spelled out the words, SPONSORED BY QUALITY QUIDDITCH SUPPLIES. "Wouldn't it be great if we could actually go to Hogwarts. I mean for real."
Mr. Jackson, who had previously lit up a pipe without anyone noticing, exhaled and said, "Listen Barry, even if this was all true and not some elaborate prank, I don't want you to get your hopes up. The odds of a school like Hogwarts reaching out to kids on the other side of the world is one in a—"
Buggin' Out held up his hand to silence the room and shift attention to himself. "I have an idea."
Mr. Jackson sighed, "Buggin' Out, I don't think anything good has ever followed one of your ideas."
Buggin' Out ignored him, "Listen up. I'm watching all these wizards on the TV and one thing is clear."
Miss Little had already started to clean up the dishes from around the room (she had an early start the next morning), "And what's that?"
"There ain't any brothas. Not on the wizard news, not on the Quidditch pitch, not in the commercials. It's like an episode of Full House over there."
Cube squinted at the TV. "Hey man, I'm sure I saw at least one negro with a broomstick."
Buggin' Out snorted, "Fine, it's like U.S. Congress then. My point is—that nobody is scooping up any of those sweet, sweet and beautiful minority scholarships."
"What makes you think they even have any minority scholarships in the magical world?"
"Even better. If they don't have any, we could probably guilt them into starting some."
"Buggin' Out, that's the stupidest idea I've ever heard—"
Six months later, Barry stood in front of a brick wall with his friends. Without hesitating, he stepped through the gateway; the edges of his old world began to blur as the excited chatter of children and parents warmed his ears. As the new world came into focus, a cloud of steam puffed out of a smokestack as the Hogwarts Express pulled into the platform. Barry's story was about to begin.