Headmaster Agilbert Fontaine smiled across his desk at the gentlewoman. He could visualize the day she'd been sorted into Pukwudgie, and received her very own wand, right here within the castle, as her own daughter and son had done. "Your granddaughter's name was put down the day she was born, along with your other grandchildren. Why do you ask?"
Queenie Kowalski wrung her hands anxiously. "She turns seven today, and she's been declaring for the past year that she wants to go to Hogwarts."
The Headmaster inclined his head towards her, trying to understand what this had to with her sudden meeting with him. He was newly appointed to the position of Headmaster over Ilvermorny, and was just getting his sea-legs, as it were. "Young people have vivid imaginations," he commented lightly.
"Yes sir, but it's more than that. She was born like me," Queenie pressed. "When I was at school here, I used to blurt out the answers in History of Magic before Professor Potter had a chance to ask the question. We don't even have to speak to each other, she and I-it's all in here." She touched a hand to her temple. "I'm just worried that she'll convince herself so deeply that she's going to Hogwarts that she'll deny any connection leading to this school. She's stronger in the mind than she knows what to deal with."
"You said she was turning seven, today?"
"Yes! And that's when magic is supposed to reveal itself in her but she's already shown more than anything I've ever seen in a kid!" Queenie felt herself getting excited and took a moment to calm herself. "Please, Professor Fontaine, isn't there anything you can do to get her into Hogwarts?"
Agilbert considered her request for a polite amount of time, and then, "I'm afraid not, Mrs. Kowalski. You see, your granddaughter has no real connection to Hogwarts, while she has every key to get her into Ilvermorny. Even if I put forth her name to Albus Dumbledore, there are numerous affairs that must be sorted and all must be handled by someone qualified to speak on behalf of your granddaughter," he explained, using his hands to gesture as he spoke.
Queenie frowned at his words, not seeing the problem. "Speak on her behalf? Like her parents? Or me?"
"No, you misunderstand; you'd need someone from the foreign government, in this case, the Ministry of Magic in Britain, to sponsor your daughter. I don't believe their new blockhead of a Minister would have any inclination to sponsor a headstrong American from New York, who just managed to blow up her father's car."
Queenie sat back in the armchair, defeated. "So that's that, then? I have to help her accept Ilvermorny as her future?"
Agilbert Fontaine held up his index finger. "Not necessarily her entire future. If she is as headstrong as you say, she might be able to apply herself, if she's dedicated to her schoolwork."
Queenie sat up in her chair again. "You mean it?"
"I wouldn't mention it otherwise," the headmaster replied, spreading his hands. "But let's not tell her this straightaway. Let her try to accept life at Ilvermorny first. I think she may find that this school is far more enchanting than your brother-in-law would have her believe." He gave the woman sitting before him a knowing smile. Queenie grinned.
"Thank you, Professor Fontaine."
"No my dear, thank you for visiting with me." The new headmaster rose to his feet and walked his former student to the door. "I always enjoy seeing a familiar face. Give my best to Jacob, if you will."
A look of surprise and softness touched Mrs. Kowalski' face. "Of course. Goodbye, Professor."
Headmaster Fontaine watched her go, then allowed his office door to close behind her. He then crossed the rectangular room in three strides, pulling down a scroll from one of the higher shelves. "Class of 1996, yes, there you are."
Among the list of names of seven year olds across North America, eagerly awaiting the day they would step into this castle, one name stood out among the rest.
"Julianne Queenie Kowalski," Headmaster Fontaine whispered as he tapped the name. "Ilvermorny will be waiting for you."
The city apartment building was hardly anything to brag about, let alone look at; so none of the businessmen and women paid it any attention as they passed by on the street. Even the dealers and hoodlums would avoid the burnt and crumbling structure, almost as if it were haunted...or didn't exist.
For those who could actually see the building for what it really was, they could count themselves lucky that they were not inside at that very moment because someone had cranked the radio to its loudest volume. The townhome had been in the Strother family for half a century. It was used as a summer home until Amaya Strother moved to the upper east side sans graduation from the institute. There she settled and began to raise a family with her husband, David.
Amaya staggered out of the master bedroom and pounded on the door to her daughter's shared room. "Julianne! Julianne you open this door this very minute!"
Whether or not her eldest child could actually hear her over the static-ridden tune of Led Zeppelin, the door gave way and she was met with the smiling face of her youngest child, Seraphina. She was wearing the largest pair of fuzzy pink earmuffs Amaya had ever laid her eyes on, and apparently she couldn't hear the dangerously loud radio at all. "G'morning mommy!"
Amaya grimaced and gave her a peck on the forehead. Then, advancing into the room, she silenced the noisy contraption with a wave of her wand. "Mo-om!" her eldest whined.
"Juli-anne!"`Amaya replied in the same tone. "What have I told you about playing your music so loudly in the morning? Your little brother was asleep until that racket woke him up!" She gazed up at the top bunk where her eldest was sitting, pouring over a book from her father's uncle. Julianne looked like an ordinary 11 year old, but she was far from it. She had long, sand-colored hair and wide brown eyes. In certain light, they appeared purple, like Amaya's. But Julianne had trouble focusing her mind, and claimed that she could only truly focus when she had music playing. "What do you have to say for yourself?"
"Don't play Classic Rock before 10am? And I'm sorry, next time I'll find a showtune." Julianne declared, rolling her eyes.
"Mommy, what's for breakfast?" Little Seraphina was asking, tugging on Amaya's robe.
Amaya pointed at her eldest daughter. "I am not finished with you." And then she looked at her youngest and smiled warmly. "Lets see what we can enchant out of the pantry and into our stomachs." Seraphina giggled happily.
"MO-O-OM!" A boy's voice hollered from downstairs. "There's no clean silverware!"
As Amaya left the room, she called back to her eldest. "Julianne, please help Jacob set the table."
The girl jumped down from the top bunk, landed like an action hero on the floor, flipped her hair back from her face, and raced out of the room. Amaya looked around at the silenced radio and turned it off. This girl needs a soundproof room. She thought grimly.
"I want Polish pancakes," Seraphina pleaded. "Wiff apples."
Downstairs, Julianne and Jacob were singing the entire selection of Oliver Twist. They were very good, for a couple of preteenagers, and kept in tune with the help of banging forks and knives upon the kitchen table. They were just passing each other cups and plates when their mother and younger sister entered. Julianne had climbed up on the counter to hand the plates down to Jacob, who would place them on the table.
"Just thinking of growing fat," Julianne sang out, to which Jacob responded:
"Our senses go reeling! One moment of knowing that-" at which point his sister joined in. "Full. Up. Feeling!"
Their mother paused on the edge of scolding them into silence, but took a leaf out of their book instead. "Food glorious food, what wouldn't we give for!"
Seraphina skipped to the end: "Glorious fooooood!" She clapped for herself as her mother set her in a chair. "We're having pancakes!"
"Again?" Julianne asked. "We had pancakes yesterday."
"Which is why you'll have leftovers today. Grab the powdered sugar while you're up there, dear, your father hid it on the high shelf again." Amaya patted her daughter's leg as Julianne maneuvered accordingly.
"I got the syrup!" Jacob proclaimed loudly, pointing at the table.
"Is daddy at work already?" Seraphina asked, before gnawing on the edge of her chair.
"Honey, don't do that, and yes-he left early this morning. But he loves each and every one of you. In fact-he left something for you." She descended on her children one by one and planted a wet raspberry on their cheeks. Mixed reactions were given, but at last they settled long enough to devour the reheated pancakes.
"Hey Jules," said Jacob to his sister as they washed the dishes afterwards. Their mother had to rush to dress for work so she left the cleanup in their capable hands.
" Hey Jake," replied Julianne, eying the radio in the corner. Just a bit longer.
"Did you have the dream, yet?" He asked, accidentally squirting himself with dish soap. "Dagnabit."
"The one where you star in the Wizard of Oz?" She asked innocently.
"The one where the muggle president reveals he's a direct descendant of a Scourer and declares war on MACUSA?"
"No, but let's revisit that later."
"The one where Sera sprouts a tail?"
"No!" Jacob said firmly. "THE dream, the one you're supposed to get to tell you you're going to school this year!"
"Oh. Then no. Did the mail come yet?" She asked hopefully.
"No, and when it does it won't have an acceptance letter from Pigpimples either, so don't expect one." Jacob spelled out in a derogatory tone. It was very impressive for a ten year old to achieve such a thing.
"I'll expect one as long as you expect me to have that special dream." Julianne huffed, drying her hands with a towel. "Hurry up. We have to drop Sera off at Kindergarten."
Jacob paused, looking confused. "It's August."
"And it's her first day."
"Who starts Kindergarten in August?"
"Crazy No-Majs, that's who. Come on, we'll make her late-get dressed!" Julianne raced her brother up the stairs, where he veered off to his room to change out of his Spiderman pajamas. Julianne found Seraphina was already dressed, but was fidgeting with her shoelaces on the lower bunk. "Hey what's wrong? We have to leave in a few minutes."
"I don't wanna go." Seraphina mumbled. "I wanna stay with you and J-J."
"I know. I didn't want to go to No-Maj school either when mom made me go. But look at it this way, in just two years, your magic'll turn up, and you'll never have to go to No-Maj school again. Now-" she reached down and began to tie her sisters shoelaces for her. "-do you remember the rules about going to No-Maj school?"
Seraphina squinted, thinking hard. "It's called Kindergarten. Don't get upset with anyone in case you conjure accidental and premature magic. And don't tell anyone about witches and wizards."
"Good." Julianne nodded, moving on to the other shoe. "What else?"
"I have two older siblings who are homeschooled; they're very advanced." Julianne grinned at the slightly bored delivery. "My mom works in government and my dads a baker on Riv...river…"
"Rivington street, good, continue." Julianne urged, taking her sisters hand and leading her out of the room. "Don't forget your backpack."
Seraphina grabbed it quickly. "My favorite color is pink, and my favorite animal is a demiguise-"
"Whoa, whoa," Julianne held up a hand. "No-Majs don't have demiguise's. What's your alternative?"
Her sister gave a big sigh. "Dog."
"Atta girl!" Julianne patted her on the back. "Jacob! We're leaving without you!"
"I'm coming!" He slid down the stairs on the rail and skipped out the door Julianne had just opened. "Hurry up slow-pokes!"
Julianne closed and locked the house behind them, and as they left the bottom step, it appeared as daunting and uninviting as it did to any casual observer.
"What happens if we get mugged?" Seraphina whispered to Julianne ten minutes later on the bus. She was staring at a particularly shabby looking man who was hunched over a few rows away.
"Then Jacob will cause an 'accident'. I'm eleven now, I'm technically not supposed to do it outside of school-whichever one it will be." answer Julianne, glancing around at the adults. The nice thing about living in the city is the few times people do overhear conversations with the word magic in it, they ignore it and press on about their day.
"How many more stops?" Jacob asked from where he was gazing out the window on Seraphina's other side. "It can't be more than four."
"Just three." Julianne nudged Sera, giving her a bracing smile. "Are you excited for your first day?"
Sera smiled weakly. Jacob tried to tickle her. "Come on, Phi-Phi, it'll be fun!"
"It'd be more fun if you guys were there." she protested.
"You know me and authority figures. I'd just get you in trouble," said Julianne confidently. "And J-J here would eat all the snacks."
"Without asking," added Jacob, nodding sagely.
"Without asking," confirmed Julianne. "Honestly, you're the most well-behaved and best prepared between the three of us to go to school."
Seraphina waved them off. "Okay, okay...but whose idea was it to start school in August?"
"I know!" Jacob said incredulously. Julianne hushed them, staring around with wide eyes at the adults, a few of which sent Jacob an annoyed glance or an irritated grunt.
At the next stop, a boy with olive skin jumped onto the bus, followed by a smaller boy with hair falling into his eyes. The pair of them took the seats across from the Kowalski children and grinned over at them. Julianne smiled back, where Seraphina made a point to ignore them.
"Ciao amici," the older boy said.
"Ciao," replied Julianne, her eyes twinkling.
"Ahh you've been practicing," said the boy, flashing a very toothy smile at her.
"Hi Matteo," Jacob greeted, before the other boy could launch into his family's language with gusto. "Did you have the dream yet?"
Matteo glanced around at the adults, before giving them a double thumbs up. "And you, Julianna?"
She shook her head. "I'm expecting a letter, remember?"
Matteo placed a hand on his chest dramatically. "And what? Leave me to the moose? Don't go, bella, I need you in Massachusetts with me."
"Sorry, Matt," said Julianne without remorse. "I've got big plans across the pond."
Their stop came and the five of them got off the bus. The elementary school was just around the corner, and the walk was brisk enough to beat the bell.
"Have fun, Sera! We'll be here for you in a few hours." Julianne gave her little sister a quick hug. "You too, Joey, in case Matteo abandons you." She spoke to Matteo's little brother in Italian, which motivated him to give her a hug as well.
"She's too good for you," Joey squeaked at Matteo.
"Go on ya little nose-picker," Matteo cuffed him around the neck. "Play cute for a few hours."
They waved until their youngest siblings disappeared in the building with the rest of the No-Majs, the piercing bell threatening to make them all deaf.
"Where to?" Jacob asked, shoving his hands in his pockets to look cool.
"Let's go to the park! If we sing at the fountain they might start giving us money," Matt suggested.
"No-Majs are weird," said Jacob. "Come on, Jules." He tugged at her arm, leading her after their friend.
For her part, Julianne was trying to remember all the words to Ramble On from that morning. She remained focused on lyrics until they reached the park, at which point she was distracted by the older boys playing basketball or across the lot where several kids in baggy clothes were performing tricks on their skateboards. One kid was standing off to the side, one foot on his board and the other firmly on the ground. Unbidden, uncontrolled, Julianne found herself in his mind.
He'd had an argument with his twin that morning. They were both still upset; his brother was all the way on the other side of the park on the monkey bars. He'd had enjoyable summer out on the island until yesterday morning, when he'd-
Jacob tapped her arm, bringing her back into the moment. "What?"
"You were at it again, weren't you?" Her brother was frowning slightly.
Julianne shrugged. "I can't help it."
"Babcia says you shouldn't in public-it's frowned upon."
"Babcia's not here," she replied, pushing past him towards the fountain.
Matteo took off his hat and laid it on the ground. "Ready miastro?" He asked jokingly, before clearing his throat. He broke into an off-key rendition of "Break Free" by Queen before she or Jacob could stop him. A few heads turned but not many. It's just the weird Italian kid. By the time he'd finished, a doddering old man with a small ankle biter on a leash had dropped a few coins in the hat, but that was all. Defeated, Matteo slouched against the fountain with the Kowalski's. "Your turn, amici."
Julianne pulled Jacob up with her and then gestured at him dramatically before bursting into "Boy for Sale" from Oliver!. That got a few more coins in the hat. Jacob's pitiful expression really sold it.
"What're you guys doing?" The boy from the edge of the skatepark had rolled over.
"Well it's not Shakespeare in the park," answered Matteo. "What's it look like we're doing?"
The boy shrugged. "Just asking." He looked at Julianne. "You sing good."
"What's your name?"
"Juli-" she began to reply, but Jacob cut her off.
"We're not supposed to talk to strangers!" He'd crossed his arms and was frowning at the skateboard boy.
The new boy grinned and offered Jacob his hand. "I'm Jason King; and now I'm not a stranger."
Jacob gave him as piercing a look as a ten year old boy could manage before grasping the hand. "Jacob Anatoly Kowalski."
The freshly introduced Jason blinked a few times. "Bless you." He turned on Julianne once more. "You were interrupted."
She inclined her head. "My name is Julianne Queenie Kowalski."
Again, Jason blinked. "Gesundheit. Ima call you Julie-Q." He turned on Jacob. "And Ima call you Ja-ake." He looked at Matteo. "And who're you?"
Matteo said something rather inappropriate in Italian. Julianne intervened. "You can call him Matt."
"I can roll with that. Whereabouts are ya from?" Jason asked. He was very curious for a No-Maj, Julianne found that she wanted to talk to him some more. Matteo evidently did not share the same idea.
"It don't matter. S'not like you'll ever be there." Matt said snidely.
"Matteo!" Julianne scolded him. She'd always known Matt to be a little wary around new people, but he was just being mean to the No-Maj. And just like that, before she could stop herself, she was diving into Matteo's mind.
She saw Matteo and Joey at dinner with their twelve hundred older siblings and the baby, their parents may or may not have been in the room. Everyone was loud, several different arguments were happening, and the single rule was if you could grab it; it's yours. In trying to pull herself free, she only found his emotions. Aggression. Insecurity.
"Jules? Jules!" She could hear Jacob calling for her, but felt powerless to return to him. She could see all eleven years of Matteo's life, even the parts he never cared to remember.
"Hey is she okay?" someone was saying.
"Back off!" Matt yelled. Matt. Help me.
Someone took her hand. "Jules. It's okay. I'm right here."
Julianne opened her eyes. Her vision was blurred at first, but then faces became clear. Jacob was the closest, his eyes full of concern. Matt was there, and hovering the the back was the No-Maj, Jason. "I did it again," she mumbled apologetically, so only Jacob could hear her.
He nodded sadly. "Yeah. Let's get you to a radio."
If you are slightly confused about what's going on here; please feel free to check out my other story: "There's an American in the Dungeon's!"
Otherwise, I hope you're willing to give this story a chance!