Suntail Farmhouse, Clearwell, Gloucester, Gloucestershire

April 16th, 2008

In an upper floor bedroom in the Suntail Farmhouse, 11-year-old Benjamin Suntail sat happily at his drawing desk. The young black-furred Mouse boy leaned low over the angled wooden desktop and sat at the edge of his soft leather swiveling chair, animatedly sketching away on a pad of paper with colored pencils.

From the tips of the colored pencils in his paw, thin lines and heavy shapes burst forth, followed by thick streaks and delicate traces, all from enchanting spectrums of red, black, blue, yellow, green, and orange. The images of his mind slowly came to life on the surface of a blank white canvas.

One celestial body at a time, his vision of the solar system brightened into color, wonder-riddled, and full of awe and mystery. The activity in Benjamin's mind's eye translated itself into an esoteric art piece, leastways to the best understanding of an 11-year-old. To the limit of what the mouse boy knew himself of space, he mustered his confidence to bring such an intriguing and enigmatic masterpiece into being.

The boy whistled an upbeat melodic tune to himself, grooving from side to side in his chair and laying the picture book flat on the rectangular maple-wood table. Using a red pencil, he colored in Jupiter's Great Red Spot. Flipping his fingers, he pushed the red pencil backward and used a blue one to color in Earth's oceans.

On the left side of the paper, the "Sun" blazed a blinding stunning amalgam of white, orange, and yellow. It overheated Mercury, evaporated Venus, powered Earth and beamed on Mars. On the right beyond the asteroid belt drifted Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, coated in freezing gas and cold metallic rock.

Anybeast outside his home looking in would have reasonably thought of Benjamin as a scientist. But he personally did not consider himself such; rather, he thought of himself as an artist. He wasn't drawing diagrams or writing equations. Rather, he was painting his reality, creating a work of art.

"Benjamin!" a voice from downstairs interrupted his wonderment. "Come downstairs for tea, sweetheart!"

"Coming, Mum!" he called back right on cue, not looking up from his amateur artwork.

Swinging on the swiveling chair, Benjamin hopped off the seat and jumped to his feet, pulling his sketchpad into his arms and hopping to his armoire wardrobe. He laid the sketchpad aside gently on his white bed. From the wardrobe, he pulled an Emerson Silver singer fan T-shirt over his svelte bare torso, complementing his knee-length denim trousers. He slipped on white socks and took up his sketchpad again. A youthful spring in his steps, Benjamin walked out into the circular hallway outside his humble bedroom and hastened down the spiral staircase into the farmhouse parlor.

The parlor was decagonal and framed in dynamic turquoise wallpaper. With relative ease, Benjamin wove around a mahogany foam sofa, a conjoined pair of feather loveseats, and vintage cushioned barrel chairs. He sidestepped an upright piano and the fireplace. Skipping on his heels, he exited the parlor and made his way to the kitchen. His nose twitched, the enticing scents of fresh cucumber sandwiches and peppermint tea filling his nostrils.

He ascended a short ledge and its gray carpet inset, and emerged from under a low archway into the quaint yet lively kitchen, adorned in brisk floral wallpapers of chrysanthemums, roses, lilies, and tulips. The mismatched dining chairs were pulled up to a farm table to his left covered by a rose-red tablecloth. A bustling pot rack hung from the ceiling above a counter bar and behind that a cooking area of conjoined ivory countertops, a sink, dishwasher, and a microwave. The kitchen was a slightly uneven rectangle and half of a trapezoid. From Benjamin's position, the main cooking area was diagonal to him perpendicular to a glass door leading out to the family garden. Far to the right stood a fridge and icebox. Room to room and wall to wall, magical and loving familial energy radiated and enveloped him in its warm embrace. The alluring luncheon was impossible to resist. The young Mouse couldn't wait to sink his baby teeth into it.

Benjamin slid onto the pearly-white tiles of the kitchen, striking a flashy pose. "Here I am!"

"There you are!" His father Darthian Suntail was tall and sinewy, who dropped a hand towel on the counter and ran to scoop his son into his arms. Benjamin left his sketchpad on one of the dining chairs and laughed happily as his father hoisted him high into the air and spun him around, also chuckling.

Darthian kissed his son lovingly on the forehead before returning him to the ground. "Happy birthday, Benjamin!"

Benjamin giggled and dug his face into his father's apron-covered chest. "Thanks so much, Dad!"

Darthian turned and called into the kitchen. "The birthday boy's here, everyone!"

Harriet instantly materialized, petite and motherly. She waved her elm wand and carefully placed a levitating stoneware pan of an unbaked Victorian sponge pudding into an oven, and closed it in a flick of her wrist. She put her wand away into her apron before turning around and giving Benjamin a glowing smile.

He ran straight into his mother's arms. "I came just in time, Mum! Do you need any help?"

Harriet laughed and rubbed Benjamin's head between his velvety ears. "No, nothing, darling. I'm saving this sponge pudding for tonight!"

"Sponge pudding on my birthday?" His eyes widened eagerly, lying cradled in his mother's embrace, giggling innocently and licking his lips at the thought of the pudding he most fancied. "Blimey! Are you trying to spoil me, Mum?"

Harriet shared in her son's infectious giddiness and patted his head. "No, I'm not. But your sister is!"

As she released him, he was suddenly scooped up from behind by a younger pair of arms. It was Dallee Suntail, his 13-year old sister, slender-bodied and already dressed in her favorite yellow-and-white striped sleeveless pinafore.

"Gotcha, Ben!"

"Dallee! You surprised me!"

The siblings laughed out loud, swinging around in silly circles. Benjamin spun to face Dallee and threw his arms around her neck as she peppered his face in a sisterly manner.

"How's the birthday boy?" Dallee asked, holding her brother close to her chest.

"So excited, Dall!" Her younger brother pumped his fists in the air and pecked his sister on her cheeks. "Come on, let's eat already!"

The siblings watched in awe as a set of four silver teacups, bowls of cream, sugar, and butter, and a ceramic plate of crumpets flew over to the dining table. Harriet laid the food down onto a porcelain tiered stand. Darthian meticulously arranged china teacups and saucers at each chair. He then pointed his black walnut wand at a smoking tea kettle and levitated it off the hot stove. The children switched off the stove and joined the vertical table. Harriet spoke the grace, after which the mice helped themselves to the sandwiches.

"Look at these, kids." Harriet held her sandwich lengthwise to show the sliced cucumbers delicately laid between slices of barley bread. "These cucumbers are straight from the garden!"

"And the bread, too!" Benjamin licked his lips as he gripped his sandwich firmly. "It was made from the barley we harvested last week in the field, right, Dad?"

"Right you are, my boy!" Darthian chuckled as he poured peppermint tea for his family. "What a bountiful harvest we had!" He pointed at the casement window on the wall. The drapes pulled aside and let a bath of glorious noontime sunlight fall upon the dining table. They revealed a picturesque and colorful view of the garden outside.

"Dad," His son pointed at the window and the twin drapes now apart from each other. "Can you teach me how to do that someday?"

Darthian stowed his wand in the belt of his trousers. "Someday, Ben. When you become a real wizard. When the time is right."

"But when will the time be right?" Benjamin tilted his head to one side, absentmindedly chewing his sandwich.

"Who knows?" Harriet asked. She sipped her peppermint tea and mused, holding the teacup between her paws at eye level. "That is not for us to decide."

Unfazed, the youngest mouse child grinned confidently. "It will come, you'll see! I'll go to Hogwarts and learn everything there is to know about magic, so I can do the things that you and Dad can do! I can't wait!"

Dallee gently held her brother's shoulders shaking in excitement. "Easy there, little brother. Don't get ahead of yourself. You must wait for Hogwarts to come to you."

"But…" Benjamin stared out the window at the lush large rainbow garden adorning the front yard of the Farmhouse. The afternoon sun hung over a long horizontal grove of elm, hornbeam, and walnut trees, adorned in grapevines. These trees separated the dwelling from the outskirts of the Forest of Dean many miles in the distance. The boy sighed, his face skeptical and his small ears slightly drooping.

"What if it doesn't come to me? Does that mean…I can't be a wizard?"

None of his family answered and he knew it. Yet he was determined not to let the impossibility deter him from his fantasies.

A glowing smile grew on his countenance. In his irresistible childlike charm, he stated, "I won't give up hope! When Hogwarts calls for me, I'll go straight to it! We can learn together, Dallee. I'll bet there are loads of things you can teach me about magic!"

Dallee leaned over to nuzzle his snub nose. "You can ask me anything you like about magic, Ben. As a matter of fact, I have a very special birthday surprise planned for you later." Before he reacted, she put a delicate finger to his lips. "Wait until later, my dear brother."

Benjamin, wholly humbled, nodded in understanding.

"That's the spirit!" Harriet complimented, chuckling heartily. "Now, eat up, quickly! We've got cleaning to do!"

They took time finishing tea, enjoying the spectacular view of the garden illuminated vibrantly by the sun, then cleared the table. Darthian magically directed the sink to wash the dishes. Harriet kept watch over the oven and enchanted a soapy sponge to polish the stove. Benjamin and Dallee cleaned the table using wet rags.

"Whoot! Whoot, whoot!"

Into the kitchen from the foyer came flying a brown-and-black spotted Little Owl, hooting and chirping cheerfully. It landed on the edge of the bar counter, spreading its wings wide and vocalizing insistently to its mouse owners.

"Pocket!" Benjamin greeted the family owl as he picked up his astronomy sketchpad and once more tucked it under his arm. "If you're here, then that means…Oh, did we forget to feed you again?"

"Here!" Harriet tossed Pocket a piece from a bag of Eeylops Premium Owl Treats.

Pocket flew from the counter, caught the Treat expertly in midair, swerved around and landed on the porcelain tiered stand to feast. Then he nonchalantly pecked at the leftover crumpet crumbs. Once finished, he flew over to perch on Benjamin's left shoulder so Darthian could wash the stand in the sink.

"Pick up the pace now!" Harriet encouraged her family. "The sponge pudding won't finish for another hour and fifteen minutes. Plenty of time!"

"We've only got the parlor and the foyer to polish," Darthian wiped his paws on the small towel and came out from behind the sink. "Let's get to it!"

Dallee and Benjamin immediately worked on polishing the parlor together.

"Remind me who's coming over tonight?" Benjamin asked as he ran a wet rag over the top of the upright piano. Pocket flew off his shoulder and hovered over to perch on the piano, where he chirped cheerfully.

"Uncle Kenneth and Aunt Varissa, and your cousins, too!" Harriet entered and patted Benjamin's small head as she passed behind him to place a set of throw pillows across the sofas.

"Colton and Firiti!" Benjamin and Dallee exclaimed excitedly to each other, at once thrilled to see their relatives who lived far away in Worcestershire up north.

"Don't forget Faendan Foragon and Mulgrim Farseer," Darthian reminded his wife from the foyer. "They'll want to inform us about the latest news at the Ministry."

Harriet nodded, placing the last of the throw pillows on the loveseat in the corner. "I've not forgotten about them, Darthian. I do hope everything is well at the Ministry."

Dallee closed the piano lid to allow Benjamin to wipe the dust off of it. While organizing the music books in a curio cabinet, her eyes fell on the astronomy sketchpad laid flat one of the loveseats, paper side up.

"Ben, this is wonderful!" Dallee picked up the drawing of the solar system to admire it.

Her brother looked up from putting down the piano lid and nodded modestly. "Thanks, Dall. But it's not finished yet."

"It's coming along so nicely, though!" Dallee passed her brother the sketchpad, who tucked it back under his arm. "Astronomy is its own kind of magic, too, you know. So is art, like your drawing and coloring."

Benjamin shrugged nonchalantly. "If you say so. But I have about as much chance of getting my letter to Hogwarts than the Moon does of aligning with the Sun!"

"You'll finish it, Ben." Dallee leaned down and kissed her brother on the forehead. "You're a brilliant artist."

"Oy!" Darthian jokingly prodded his children. "Get a move on, you lot. The sooner we finish, the sooner we can have fun!"

After an hour, the entire ground floor of the farmhouse had been immaculately cleaned and polished. The beds were made, the staircase dusted, the lavatories organized, laundry folded and shelved away, and two tables laid out: the main one set for six for the adults and a smaller shorter one for the youngsters.

Benjamin hurried down the stairs after changing his shirt and trousers and grooming himself in the lavatory to overhear his parents discussing the birthday supper menu. He sat stealthily in the parlor to eavesdrop.

"I was thinking, Darthian," Harriet suggested, standing behind the counter, using her wand to levitate dishes and pots onto the table. "Perhaps we could serve the Lancashire hotpot for the adults, and the fish and chips for the children?"

"That's an excellent idea, my dear." Darthian also placed a new batch of crumpets on the tiered stand in the same place on the table as before. "Oh, and the cream of aubergine soup is finished, as well!"

"Brilliant!" Harriet pointed her wand at two unopened bottles of sparkling white wine and non-alcoholic apple cider, respectively. They floated onto the bar counter. "Mulgrim and Faendan will enjoy that, for sure. After supper, we'll serve Ben's sponge pudding for dessert, and let him blow out his candles."

Benjamin smiled excitedly over his shoulder at his sister, who had also descended the stairs. This was going to be the best birthday ever!

Fifteen minutes later, the fireplace in the parlor suddenly burst into blinding emerald flames. The Suntails gathered around it at a safe distance away, shielding their eyes. A pair of middle-aged adult mice stepped out from the blazes, a younger teenage pair close on their heels. It was the Fletchers, traveling in style through the ever-efficient Floo Network! The Suntails met them with unfettered enthusiasm and warm love.

"Darthian!" Uncle Kenneth clapped his paws on his brother-in-law's shoulders, grinning from ear to ear. "How splendid to see you! It has been a long time since we last got together!"

Darthian hugged Kenneth tightly and patted him on the back. "Indeed, it has! Far too long since! It is so good to see you, Ken!"

"Harriet, is that you?" Aunt Varissa admired her younger sister's form. "Why, you're in glowing health!"

"Thank you, Varissa!" Harriet chuckled and curtsied to her older sibling. "You seem in fine fettle yourself!"

On the side, the four children greeted each other more casually and affectionately. Colton, 16 years of age and the eldest Fletcher child, kissed Dallee's paw and ruffled Benjamin's hair. Firiti, 15 years old, and Dallee exchanged kisses on the cheek, and she nuzzled Benjamin tenderly.

Colton hoisted his male cousin high onto his shoulders. "Absolutely chuffing to see you, birthday boy!"

Benjamin sat comfortably on his eldest cousin's shoulders. "Chuffing to see you, too, Cole! I can't wait to see what present you brought for me!"

Firiti wrapped her arms around Dallee. "How are you, Dall? All right?"

Dallee nodded reassuringly and nuzzled her female relative. "All right, Firi." She nodded over at her brother sitting on Cole. "But today isn't about me, it's about Benjamin!"

Firi also nodded and high-fived her younger cousin. "Of course! I hope you're ready for your special night!"

Benjamin smiled brighter than the emerald fire conjured by the Floo Powder. "Yes, I am, Firi! Let's go!"

Harriet beckoned the group into the kitchen. "I trust you worked up an appetite. It's suppertime!"

The eight mice settled into a seat at the designated tables. Varissa offered to speak the grace. Suddenly, loud cracks rent the air outside at the front door. Knowing exactly who it was, Darthian excused himself to answer it.

There on the doorstep stood the last visiting duo: Faendan Foragon, a broad-chested toned red Squirrel, and Mulgrim Farseer, a tall athletically-built polar Wolf. Both were dressed in work robes – having Apparated directly to Clearwell straight from the Ministry of Magic – and bowed apologetically for the lateness. Darthian chuckled in amusement, and kindly excused and invited them in.

Faendan and Mulgrim were greeted wholeheartedly by the Suntail and Fletcher families. They both shook Benjamin's paws and gave him the best birthday wishes. Then they promptly set their wands and briefcases aside on the counter. At last, Varissa spoke the grace, and the merry group helped themselves to the food. Harriet poured the drinks.

Faendan and Mulgrim both worked in the Auror Office at the Ministry. They informed the Suntails and Fletchers of the current national calamity.

"Aye, 'tis apparently an underground practicin' o' th' Dark Arts goin' on aroun' concentrated areas in Britain," Mulgrim explained in his London accent. "Th' worst part is that it's not restricted t' London, either. We've uncovered evidence of secret cults worshippin' an' practicin' th' Dark Arts in York, Middlesbrough, Scarborough, even Nottingham an' Newcastle upon Tyne. Whatever is goin' on, we've got t' put a stop t' it. Th' entire Ministry is on edge."

"How is Minister Moon-Claws handling the situation?" Harriet asked, sipping her wine.

Faendan from Bristol looked at Harriet in concern. "Not well, I'm afraid. He is just as confused as we are, about what the sudden flux of these Dark Arts practitioners means. Rest assured, Harriet, the Ministry is doing everything in its power to investigate it.

"Tonndel is a hardy and wise Badger. He is proud but not stubborn, composed yet possessing great strength. He'll make the right choice, you'll see. Merlin willing, he'll take drastic action before something catastrophic happens. The last thing we want is the safety of the Wizarding World – and the Muggle world, for that matter – to be threatened. Yet the details remain very dodgy."

"What do we know, at least, about these Dark cults?" Kenneth asked before taking a bite of his portion of the Lancashire hotpot.

Mulgrim put down his utensils and scratched his white-furred head quizzically. "Only that they're extremely smart. They know how t' conceal themselves from pryin' eyes, even ours. Simple yet sophisticated, employin' secrecy t' th' most extreme degrees. Minister Moon-Claws speculates that there may be Fidelius Charms, Unbreakable Vows, Stealth Sensoring Spells, an' th' like involved." He picked up his utensils again and sliced up his aubergine. "But we'll find the truth. We always do."

"Let us shy away from this disturbing news. On a brighter note, Harriet!" Varissa praised the Suntail mother's dinner. "Your cooking is absolutely exquisite! The hotpot was the most brilliant choice!"

"Aye, I agree!" Faendan's face shone and nodded in agreement. "Darthian, your cream of aubergine is delicious!"

The Suntail parents glowed pridefully.

At the smaller table, the kids animatedly talked Quidditch.

"No joke about it," Colton boldly stated before popping a chip into his mouth. "The Tutshill Tornados will top the Quidditch League this year."

"Rubbish!" Benjamin argued in jest, giggling. "The Chudley Cannons still have a chance!" He proudly sported the Cannons jersey he wore beneath his silver waistcoat.

"You daft, mate?" Colton jokingly poked Benjamin's jersey. "Cannons haven't moved up in the League in ages!" Benjamin laughed and went back to his food.

"There's hope yet for the Holyhead Harpies," Firiti remarked, dipping her battered fried cod into a plastic cup of tartar sauce. "Lisark Ironsun shall lead them to glory, you'll see! They'll beat out the Tornados but good!"

"What about Puddlemere United?" Dallee enquired, drinking her apple cider. Putting her goblet down, she added. "They've been doing rather well for the first half of the year."

Colton stopped and nodded his assent. "Yeah, I suppose that's true. A bloody pain, Puddlemere is this season." He popped another chip into his mouth.

Benjamin stood up and fetched the Owl Treats to give to Pocket who sat on his perch in a corner of the room. Darthian opened the dining room window to allow him to fly out to the garden. He landed in the tall grass and began searching for grasshoppers and earthworms. When Benjamin returned back to his seat, the conversation topic remained on Quidditch.

"So, given the tournament scores of the past eight months…" Colton scratched his chin thoughtfully. "It's between the Tutshill Tornados and Puddlemere United." He shrugged again, as if doubtful. "I don't know. I guess the Harpies have a potential shot for the World Cup?"

"We'll have to wait and see," Firiti patted her brother on the shoulder.

Dallee raised her glass goblet in the air. "Then may the best team win!"

The black raven perched silently watching the pleasant Farmhouse from the branches of an alder tree. It waited and spied the occupants of the house moving around the dining room. It cocked its neck to the left side as the window opened, and a brown-and-black-spotted little owl rocketed out. The owl flew around in several circles and landed in a patch of tall grass, which it pecked at hungrily. The raven shuffled its own feathers and spread its wings to take flight, and unconsciously moved the square-shaped sleeve it held in its beak to its claws without breaking stride.

The raven flew around the house to the front lawns. It folded its wings into a sharp dive and landed straight on the postbox, and pushed down the metal handle to open the lid. Moving the square parchment sleeve from claws to beak, the black-feathered bird inserted it into the postbox, laying it vertically at the front where it could easily be seen. Then it reached down to the handle and sealed the box shut.

Its task completed and congratulating itself on a job well done, this mysterious black raven took off back into the skies and vanished out of sight and mind into the thickness of the late afternoon clouds, where it blended seamlessly into the shadows of the low sunset.

Supper wrapped up quicker than the Suntails had anticipated. It left plenty more time for both dessert and the eventual time of gift-unwrapping that Benjamin would soon initiate.

Harriet had kept the sponge pudding steaming hot long after it was removed from the oven. Now it drifted from the stove onto the primary dining table and landed in the center between the crumpet stand and the aubergine plate. It had been baked to perfection. It measured three-and-one-half inches in depth and two inches across. The heavenly leavened aroma caused every mouth in the room to salivate.

Everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to Benjamin. Even the less than amateur Mulgrim and Faendan, who had not a shred of musical aptitude, nevertheless sang as best they could unashamedly. The Fletcher siblings, both musically trained from the age of four, sang with absolute gusto (trying their hardest to suppress their obvious amusement of the Ministry officials singing tragically flat). Kenneth, a respected composer of entertaining folk tunes in Worcestershire, conducted in an easy ¾ time signature. Afterward, Darthian lined the pudding eleven horizontal candles, and the elders lit them with their wands.

Darthian put his paws on his son's shoulders and bent down to speak to him. "Are you ready? Make a wish and blow out the candles!"

I've already made it! Benjamin closed his eyes and wished to himself sincerely in his heart. I want to go to Hogwarts, and learn magic! I want to become a wizard!

He knew it best not to voice these honest wishes to others. So, he inhaled deeply and blew out the line of candles in one strong eleven-year-old blow. As the others cheered, his light heart whispered to him that those very wishes would come true…soon.

Harriet and Darthian served the delicious pudding. Benjamin opened his presents: a Remembrall from Colton, a diamond necklace on a silver chain from Firiti, and a set of astronomy journals from Kenneth and Varissa. His parents gave him a new set of colored pencils in every color of the rainbow and a sketchpad bigger than his current one.

The gift that made him think the most, however, was Dallee's. It was her old copy of the Hogwarts textbook, Magical Theory by Adalbert Waffling. The book was clearly beginning to show its wear from overuse. The cover was hung by a few tiny strands on its binding, several pages were stained with what appeared to be dehydrated inkblots, and over a dozen more had been dog-eared and scuffed, most likely from unconsciously forcing a bookmark in between them.

"I don't need it for my Third Year, Ben," Dallee clarified, gently pressing the book into her brother's paws. "I always intended it to be yours, dear brother. This is the perfect time for you to have it."

The dumbfounded Benjamin stared at his sister for a solid minute, but he held the book close to his chest as if trying to tap into the magic contained in its pages and leather-bound binding.

Much to the boy's mirth, the Aurors didn't have the luxury of time to either buy or create a gift for him. Winking decisively, they did promise him that something was being planned and that it would be special, as it came straight from the paws of the Ministry itself.

Infinitely patient, forgiving, innocent and benevolent, Benjamin simply laughed it off. He thought the presence of Aurors in his meek and reverent home to be the highest honor. Needless to say, the youngest Suntail child felt absolutely chuffed with everything. Of course, he praised the sponge pudding as "the greatest ever baked in the history of Gloucestershire."

That evening, everyone gathered in the turquoise sitting room before the tepid orange-flamed fireplace. Dallee and Colton played a friendly game of Wizard's Chess, the latter borrowing the former family's set. Benjamin lay on his stomach beside them, engrossed in the astronomical journals reporting on the midyear's most noteworthy astronomical discoveries. Firiti sat at the upright piano, playing her favorite Mozart sonatas for entertainment.

The six adults drank peppermint and chamomile tea and ate the last slices of the sponge pudding. The kids had already eaten their fill. Darthian and Harriet reclined on the mahogany sofa. Mulgrim and Faendan lay comfortably in the barrel chairs. The wolf was leaning forward, cradling his chamomile between his paws and watching the Wizard's Chess game intently. Faendan sat back relaxed, with one leg crossed over the other, meditatively sipping his peppermint. Kenneth and Varissa took the loveseats, the husband gently cuddling his wife as she dozed on his shoulder.

Benjamin suddenly stood up and began pacing around the room, an unforeseen nervousness on his face. He was biting his nails and drumming his fingers on his chin.

"Ben?" Harriet put down her tea, looking concerned. She grabbed her son's paw when he passed by her and stared into his eyes. "What's wrong, sweetheart?"

"What time is it, Mum?" Benjamin glanced at the hexagonal clock hanging on the opposite wall, high above the piano. "7:00! The end of the day, and it hasn't come yet!"

"I know you're worried, Benjamin." Harriet kissed her son comfortingly on his forehead. "We've all been, too. Well, why don't you go outside and fetch the post, see if anything has come?"

Benjamin weaved through the parlor and into the foyer. He opened the door and exited out onto the front lawn. His ears twitched at the hooting and chirping of Pocket happily feasting on earthworms and grasshoppers. He walked down the dirt path between the bisected sections of the garden down to the edges of the grove, where the metal postbox stood.

The boy pulled it wide open. To his puzzlement, only a single square-shaped parchment envelope lay vertically inside.

He recognized the crest instantly.

A split second later, Benjamin was already sprinting back down the dirt path, bursting headlong through the door back into the foyer. He stopped himself on the grey carpet landing and waved the envelope in the air almost deliriously.

"Look at this! It's here, it's finally here!"

"Open it, open it, open it!" the others enthusiastically spurred him on.

Darthian fetched the letter opener from the kitchen and gave it to his son, who very carefully cut open the envelope. His fingers shook in anticipation, not truly knowing what to expect.

"Benjamin Suntail

The Room on the Spiral Stairs



Dear Mr. Suntail,

We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.

Term begins on 1st September. We await your owl by no later than 31 July.

Yours sincerely,

Faylekk Seaniver

Deputy Headmistress

Headmaster: Mickael Winterheart

(Order of Merlin, First Class, Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)"

The subsequent cheers that exploded in the Farmhouse were deafening.