Author's Note: This fanfic is not meant to insult anyone or their religious beliefs. Like the books that inspired it, it's only a story.
Thou Shalt Not Suffer
Before we start, I want to make it clear that my parents weren't bad people.
They weren't cruel, and I know they loved me dearly. They took the actions they took because they were firm in their beliefs, and even though I no longer share those beliefs—the ones that caused me so much pain as a child—I still respect them. Or, at least, understand them. We magic people are feared by those who know about us. We're the Other, the Unknowable, and people always fear what they don't understand. Having been raised in a Fundamentalist Christian home gives me a unique perspective that most people in the Wizarding world don't have, and understanding current events here in the year 2010 requires an understanding of that Muggle subculture. Which is why I decided to write this book. I expect many of you to begin reading with certain prejudices, and those are understandable. But I hope you'll come away with a new outlook as well.
It all began in the summer of 1991, and it began—like the stories of everyone who attended Hogwarts—with a letter. I don't remember what I'd been doing that day, those I suppose I'd been at school or playing outside or any number of other things eleven year olds do. I found the letter in the garbage—you see, I'd dropped an earring into the dustbin, and of course being the obsessive, finicky little girl that I was, I would not rest easy until I'd found it. But I found something else while digging—a piece of parchment. It had been wadded up, so I unwadded it and smoothed it out on the coffee table, and I read it.
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore
I giggled. Hogwarts? A witch's school? I decided it must be a joke and read on.
Dear Michelle Coplin
That got my attention! The letter was addressed to me, so the joke was on me.
I'm writing to inform you that you have been found to be gifted in the magical arts and have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As a child born into a non-magical family this is an honor. You will receive further instructions over the summer regarding your enrollment. Please see the enclosed list of books and equipment you will need along with instructions in how to reach Diagon Alley. If you need further assistance, please respond via owl.
We look forward to seeing you.
-Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress and Master of Admissions
I put the letter down, not sure what to think. On one hand, it seemed like a pretty funny joke. But I'd heard some strange stories about people doing creepy things to children. What if they expected me to fall for it, and get me alone so they could murder me? Or sell me to some slavers in Zimbabistan, where I'd be forced to slaughter goats and cook smelly goat-meat for the rest of my life?
I had never heard of Hogwarts, and all I knew of witches and wizards was what I'd seen in cartoons and heard about when my parents taught me the Bible. And none of the latter was anything good. Feeling a strange foreboding, I threw the letter back in the bin and didn't mention to my parents that I had found it. I never did find the list of books that was supposedly enclosed.
I only thought of it sporadically over the next few days, but then Sunday came and I found myself along side my parents in church. This wasn't unusual, but it was unusual that the first thing out of the preacher's mouth that Sunday was about witchcraft. I can't remember if he'd ever preached about that subject before, but I listened attentively that day. The sermon seemed to go on forever, but I sat transfixed and horrified as Pastor Wilkins laid out what seemed like every verse in the Old and New Testaments that condemned the craft. He particularly focused on these two:
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Exodus 22:18
There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. Deuteronomy 18:10-11
Pastor Wilkins said that anyone who practiced witchcraft was evil, a servant of Satan, and destined to spend an eternity in hell with him.
I left church that day terrified out of my mind. What if the letter was real? What if I was a witch?
Normally, I would have quickly dismissed the 'silly' notion. But the more I thought about it—and believe me, I had trouble thinking about anything else—the more it made sense.
Things seemed to happen sometimes when I got emotional—strange, inexplicable things. When I was very young, I remember I'd wanted an American-style chocolate chip cookie so badly, but the cookies were stashed up in the cabinet and I couldn't reach them. I started shouting at my mom for a cookie, throwing a little tantrum. And then the door flew open, and the cookies fell out and spilled all over the floor. We both just stood there staring at them for a minute before I decided to grab one and run off.
And a few years later, I was watching a cousin at a Martial Arts tournament, and I saw him losing his match to a kid about three times his size. I was getting mad, because my cousin was so clearly out matched, and the other kid was hitting too hard, but the referee didn't seem to care. So I just sat there and glared at him, and my cousin threw this kick. It wasn't a pretty kick and I honestly don't think it even touched the big kid. But he went flying anyway, like he'd been hit in the chest with a blast of hurricane-force wind.
I never thought that I'd done that at the time, but now, in retrospect, my imagination was running wild.
One day that summer I sat in my room doodling. Usually I would doodle doves and crosses and little silly faces, but that day I was obsessed with something else. I was drawing little witches hats and brooms and ravens—my ravens were just little wide 'v's of course.
There was a knock at the door, so I slipped out of my room and headed down to answer it. I got there about the same time as my mother, who had her brown hair done up in a fancy bun because she was going to a Bible study that night.
"I'll get it," she said.
So she did, and standing in front of us was a most peculiar sight. It was a man, elderly, with a long white beard and half-moon glasses. Instead of normal clothes, he wore long robes with moons and stars woven into the fabric, and his eyes seemed to sparkle with a strange wisdom, the kind that comes with many long years and many hard lessons. I recognized this even as a child.
"Excuse me?" my mother said, her eyebrows arched. "A bit early in the year for Halloween, isn't it?"
The man smiled. "Yes, quite," he said. "But it will come soon enough. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Albus Dumbledore, and I'm here to speak with you about your daughter Michelle."
Mother's eyes went from curious to furious, and a scowl formed on her face. "You're the one who has been sending her all those horrid letters, aren't' you?" she demanded.
The man called Dumbledore frowned—he didn't seem so much offended as he did... disappointed.
"I assure you, dear madam, those letters were no joke. Please, invite me inside and we'll have a talk. I can explain everything."
My mum glanced down at me looking worried and told me to go to my room, then she looked back up at Dumbledore skeptically. "Just you wait right here," he said. "I'm going to get my husband. If you come in—"
"I wouldn't dream of it," he said solemnly. "This is your home, Mrs. Coplin, and that is a boundary I respect."
I'm not sure what exactly happened next, because my mum turned and glared at me and I ran back up stares. I waited until I heard her come back and—with no hospitality at all—invite the old man in. I frowned, waited till they had gone, and quietly made my way down the stares. My parents and the old man were in our parlor, and I slid up against the wall and started listening to what they were saying.
"You've been giving us nothing but trouble," said Father scornfully. "Your infernal letters could have put dangerous ideas in my daughter's head, you know. You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
"I've done many things I'm ashamed of," said Dumbledore, "but inviting your daughter to my school is not one of them. Your daughter has a gift—an incredible gift that she should learn how to use."
"Sorcery!" my mother interjected. "Witchcraft! Devilry! That's what you say you want to teach her."
"The first two, yes," Dumbledore answered carefully. "But I will do my best to ensure that none of our students learn any of the latter." He paused for a moment, and then his voice grew thoughtful and bemused. "Though in my experience, adolescents have a knack for learning plenty of devilry with or without the help of their instructors."
"Even if we were to allow our daughter to join your cult—" my father paused as if he expected a correction from Dumbledore, but when none came, he continued. "Even if we were inclined to embrace this nonsense, how do we know this is legitimate? You sound like a bunch of nutters to me, a bunch of bloody psychopaths."
"There is much fear and superstition about magic," Dumbledore admitted. "It's one of the main reasons we practice in secret and also the main reason I chose to visit you personally today. However, I assure you that our powers are very real, not cheap parlor tricks, nor are they the work of the devil."
I heard movement; Dumbledore whispered a word that I couldn't make out, and my parents gasped.
"Witchcraft!" my mother shouted. She sounded on the verge of hysterics. "I knew it! It is real!"
I heard Dumbledore let out a deep sigh of exasperation. "I take it, then, that you will not allow you daughter to attend?"
"Of course not," said my father evenly. "In fact, I want you and your sorcery out of our house this instant."
Dumbledore sighed again. "Very well, then."
I heard him stand up a walk out of the parlor, and I tried to press myself against the wall harder as if I could melt into it and hide. At first he walked on by, and I thought he might not have seen me as he rounded the corner, but then he glanced back over his shoulder and gave me a sad smile. Mum and dad followed him out into the hall, both glaring at me with livid eyes when they saw me. They said nothing, however, until Dumbledore had gone out our front door.
"You will go to your room," they said. "We will not speak of this again. Ever."
Not long after that, we went on a brief holiday to a beach in Spain, and the rest of the summer my parents kept me busy—doing projects for the church, taking me shopping with them, and anything else they thought would help me forget. For my part, I pretended to forget, and I never said another word out loud about the whole ordeal. In time, I convinced myself that Dumbledore was evil, and that he was a crazy murderer who wanted me indoctrinated into his cult, like that crazy Muggle out in America, Charles Manson.
Eventually, I came to believe I'd never hear the name Dumbledore again.
Of course, I was wrong.