Emma stared down at the old man. Why was he here for her? No one ever came to visit her. No one ever cared for her. She was the weird kid that no one wanted, not even the orphanage.
"Don't just stand there, girl," Mrs. Teale hissed. "Come down so Mr. Dumbledore can speak with you."
Emma set down her cleaning supplies and moved slowly down the stairs. She could feel the eyes of everyone on her and wished they would all just go away.
"There's no rush, Mrs. Teale," Dumbledore said holding up his hand, eyes still on Emma. "I'm guessing you don't get many visitors." The twinkle in his brilliant blue eyes surveyed her and made Emma feel like she was being x-rayed.
She shook her head. "No, sir. I've never had anyone visit me." The man was even taller than he seemed from up on the stairs now that she was standing next to him.
Dumbledore gave a sympathetic smile and turned his attention back to Mrs. Teale. "I wonder if there might be a place Miss Swan and I could speak in private?"
Mrs. Teale looked hesitantly between the old man and the little girl before nodding and leading them out to the back patio. She shooed the girls that were in the yard back into the house.
"Will this do, Mr. Dumbledore?"
"Oh yes, this will do quite nicely," he chimed, though slightly distracted by one of the lawn ornaments that sat in the bushes.
"Let me bring you some refreshments," Mrs. Teale offered.
"There's no need, my dear Mrs. Teale. I don't expect I shall be here terribly long."
The keeper eyed the old professor, as he put it, carefully, though she wondered if he actually was any sort of scholar. "I'll be just inside the doors if you need anything then."
"Thank you." Dumbledore smiled and watched Mrs. Teale walk inside before turning his attention back to Emma. "Let's sit, Miss Swan."
Emma pulled out one of the rusty metal bistro chairs and took a seat opposite of him. Unsure of what to say, she tapped her feet together under the table waiting for Professor Dumbledore to say something, but he seemed thoroughly entertained with the garden gnome whose legs pedaled a bike whenever the wind blew or someone touched it. Emma giggled softly at the display.
Dumbledore flicked his eyes back to her. He sat straight in his chair, bringing his long fingers together under his nose.
"Miss Swan, I am assuming you do not know why I am here." Emma shook her head. "Nor who I am." She shook her head again. "Well, as I said before, I am a professor. Do you know what a professor is, Emma?"
She nodded. "A teacher."
"That's right, a teacher," he said. "I'm a professor at a very special school in England called Hogwarts."
Emma chuckled at the funny name. "What kind of a school is Hogwarts?"
He surveyed her once more. "Well, it's a school for very special and gifted boys and girls like yourself."
"Me?" Emma's eyes grew wide. "I'm not special, Professor Dumbledore. I'm different. I'm... weird. That's why no one wants me."
"Why do you think you're different?"
Emma didn't know what to say. Everyone she's ever told about her "incidences" has thought she was crazy. What makes this man any different? Yet, somehow, she felt, for the first time in her life, that this man would understand her. He would believe her. Those blue eyes of his seemed to be able to look straight through her and know her secrets.
Dumbledore sat in the chair looking at Emma, waiting patiently for response. He was sure no one had ever asked her this question before and even though he knew the answer to it, he wanted her to say it.
"I can do things," Emma said finally. "Things that other kids can't."
"What kinds of things?"
She hesitated. Was this some sort of trap? Was this man really some sort of doctor here to take her away and lock her up? She looked straight back into his intense eyes, trying to catch any sort of sign that he wasn't who he said he is. She had always had a knack of being able to tell when people were lying. All the years of being told she was loved when she really wasn't had given her this sixth sense. But something in her gut was pounding and telling her that this man, this "Professor Dumbledore", was here to help her.
"I've held fire in my hands," Emma confessed. "I can make things move without touching them."
Dumbledore did not move or flinch or show any sign that these things were abnormal. Instead, he presented her with another question.
"And did all of these things happen when you were feeling intense emotions?"
Emma thought back to all the times some strange event had occurred. How did he know so much about her? No one has ever understood her more than this man and she had only been made aware of his existence less than an hour ago.
"Perhaps when you were angry or scared?" he suggested.
"Yeah," Emma said. "Usually when I'm scared or crying. Sometimes when I'm really happy too."
Dumbledore smiled. "Did you know there are other children like you, Miss Swan?"
Her eyes widened. That was impossible. There couldn't be other people like her. If there was, then why did everyone think she was such a freak?
"There are?" she asked.
"Oh yes," Dumbledore said. "There are many children like you, gifted and special. And that's why I've come. I want you to come and study at Hogwarts."
"Study? Study what?"
"Magic?" Emma couldn't believe it. All these years of wishing and pretending that she was magical and here was a man, a professor, sitting across from her, telling her that magic does exist and he wants her, Emma Swan, to come and learn how to use it. This was too good to be true.
"You want me to come study magic?" She struggled to find words. "But I'm... I'm just a girl. I don't know anything. I'm not special."
"But you are special." Dumbledore lowered his hands and leaned forward on the table. "You're a witch, Emma."
Emma sat dumbfounded in her chair. Was this really happening? Was she really a witch? Was this man one too?
"Are you like me, Professor Dumbledore? Are you magical?"
He smiled, his eyes twinkling. "I am." He withdrew a long stick, curiously shaped with many bumps along it, and waved it at the ground. In an instant, a pebble that was sitting next to the foot of the table was transformed into a snail.
"Whoa," Emma gasped. "You can teach me to do that?"
"Yes," Dumbledore said, stowing away his magical wand inside his cloak. "You'll be able to learn many things, but more importantly, how to control the magic you have inside you."
Emma could hardly contain her excitement. If someone had come along last week and told her that she was a witch, she would've thought they were crazy. But now that he had said it, she believed it. It made complete sense. She could feel deep in her bones that this was what she was always meant to do.
"Can we go to Hogwarts now?" she asked eagerly.
Dumbledore smiled at her enthusiasm. "Unfortunately, term has already begun so you will have to wait until next year." Emma's excitement dropped from her face. "But," he continued, "I'd like for you to come to England so you can begin to experience what our world is really like."
"Will I get to stay with you, Professor Dumbledore?"
"No," he said simply. "My place is at the school, but I have arranged for a very nice family to take you in and help you begin to learn and understand how the wizarding world works. If you are willing, of course."
"Very well then. A couple more things before I depart."
He reached into his cloak and pulled out a yellow envelope with bright green ink written on it and handed it to Emma. She reached out and took it from Dumbledore's long fingers.
It was very thick. She turned it and read the address:
Emma Ruth Swan
815 Apple Lane
United States of America
She flipped the envelope over and broke the seal. Inside were several pieces of the same colored parchment. Emma unfolded them and read the top one aloud.
"Dear Miss Swan, we are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment." Emma leafed through the other pages briefly before returning to the letter. "Term begins on September 1st. We await your owl by no later than July 31st. Yours sincerely, Minerva McGonagall."
She looked up at Dumbledore curiously. "Owl?"
"It's how we send letters in our world."
"With... an owl?"
Dumbledore chuckled and stroked his beard. "You'll learn everything in due time, Emma. For now, consider me your owl." He peered at her over his half-moon glasses waiting to see if she had any more questions. When she didn't say anything, he continued. "Now, Miss Swan, there is one thing I need you to do."
"Anything, Mr. Dumbledore."
"It is gravely important that you don't speak a word of this to anyone, do you understand?" The protection of our world is very important and most people, like those you live with here in the orphanage, would not understand. So you must keep this a secret."
Emma nodded. "But when will I be leaving?"
"In a fortnight. Can you have all your things prepared by then?"
Emma nodded again.
"Very good." Dumbledore rose from his seat, Emma following his lead. "Now, I must return to Hogwarts."
"Did you fly here?"
"How did you cross that big ocean then?"
"It is far too complicated of a process to explain now, but you will find out soon."
Emma left the question alone and led Dumbledore back inside where Mrs. Teale had been spying on them through the kitchen window.
"Thank you for your hospitality, Mrs. Teale," Dumbledore chimed when they entered.
"What did you want to see her for?"
"I merely wanted to get to know Miss Swan. I have heard so much about her."
Mrs. Teale peered down at Emma who smiled up at her as innocently as possible. "You've heard of her?"
"Oh yes, but I haven't the time to discuss it now, I'm afraid."
He continued to walk through the kitchen into the hallway towards the front door. Mrs. Teale and Emma followed behind him. Emma could again feel the eyes peering out from behind doors and the stair railing as the three of them walked down the hallway. Dumbledore paused when he reached the door and turned to face Mrs. Teale and Emma.
"You can expect some adoption papers to be coming through for Emma soon, Mrs. Teale."
Mrs. Teale shook her head out of shock. "A-Adoption papers? For Emma? Did I hear you right?" Dumbledore nodded. "You want to adopt Emma?"
"Not me personally, though she is a very sweet, lovely young lady, but I have a couple who has been looking and Emma is a perfect fit for them."
Mrs. Teale opened her mouth but no sound came out. Dumbledore gazed down at Emma, his brilliant blue eyes twinkling more than ever.
"I expect I shall be seeing you soon, Miss Swan. Please take care until then."
"Yes, sir, Mr. Dumbledore."
With that, he turned on his heel and moved swiftly out the door. They watched him walk down the front path and around the corner. Emma swore she heard a faint pop! and ran out after the professor, but saw no sign of him when she looked around the corner.
She stood there for a moment gazing down the street wondering to herself if it all of this had just been a dream, but then she felt the parchment in her hand. Holding it up, she read her name on the front of the envelope and felt the wax seal on the back as she turned her head and looked at the orphanage. It was all real. It was really happening. She was finally getting away from this place to a whole new one with people who were just like her. Never in her life had Emma Swan felt more accepted than she did at that very moment. Clenching the envelope in her hand tightly, she tucked it underneath her shirt and walked back into the orphanage. She had a lot of packing to do and only two weeks to do it.