AUTHOR: "Matrix Refugee"
RATING: PG (very mild menace: just playing it safe here)
ARCHIVE: Permission granted!
FEEDBACK: Please? Please? Please?
SUMMARY: On arriving in London, the Swinton family has an unexpected visitor with some strange news to bring...
DISCLAIMER: I do not own "A.I., Artificial Intelligence", its characters, settings, concepts or other indicia, which are the property of the late, great Stanley Kubrick, of DreamWorks SKG, Steven Spielberg, Warner Brothers, Amblin Entertainment, et al, based on concepts and characters in Brian Aldiss's short story "Supertoys Last All Summer Long". Nor do I own the "Harry Potter" series, which belongs to J.K. Rowlings (who's one of my heroes!), Scholastic Books, Warner Brothers, Chris Columbus, et. al
NOTES: It took me a while to finally finish this chapter, since I was trying to thoroughly review "Sorceror's Stone" before I wrote this... And then I distracted myself writing/typing a couple other fics in the meantime. But... at least I've updated this; I assure you it's worth the wait!
Chapter Two - A Wand for a Wizard-in-training
The hyperjet flight to London lasted only a couple hours, but it felt too long to David. But soon they landed at Heathrow Airport. Some people from Cybertronics met them in the terminal, including Dr. Hobby and a middle-sized slender woman with green eyes and long dark hair, clad in a long maroon dress held at her waist with a silvery belt, and black boots; Dr. Hobby introduced her as Ms. Iris Legis, the assistant director.
Ms. Legis looked right at David, her eyes curious. Then she smiled and leaned down to David's level. "You must be David. I've heard so much about you from Allen and Jeanine."
"Hello, Ms. Legis," David said.
"You can just call me Ms. Iris," she said. She looked at David's copy of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets", which he held under his arm. "I see you have one of the Harry Potter books there. Are you enjoying reading it?"
"Oh yes, a lot more than Martin liked it," he said.
Ms. Iris grinned. "Ah, I suppose that makes him a Muggle."
David glanced at her long dress, which made him think of a witch's robe. "Yes, he's a very Muggly Muggle. I wish I knew how to do magic."
"Oh?" Ms. Iris asked, that curious look coming back into her eyes. "And what would you do if you could?"
David stretched up to her. She leaned closer and let him whisper in her ear. "I would make myself into a real boy."
Iris put a hand on David's shoulder and looked into his face as she spoke. "Do you think that would make you happy?"
David nodded. "Then Henry would love me the way Mommy does and Martin wouldn't tease me all the time."
Her eyes grew soft and distant. "Yes... that's part of being real: wanting to be loved..."
"David, I see you've met Iris," Henry said as he approached with Mommy and Martin, followed by a small baggage cart. "We'd better get going if we're going find our hotel room."
The room in the hotel turned out to be two rooms side by side with a door between them: Henry and Mommy had one room, while Martin and David would have the other room to themselves. While David unpacked his suitcase with Teddy helping him, Martin tried switching on the television to see what was on, but it didn't seem to work.
"Hey, is this thing broken?" Martin demanded. "Nuts!"
"Maybe you could read a book," David said.
"Yeah, like what, Harry Potter?" Martin asked, sneering.
"That's a very good idea: they're good books."
Martin made a face at him. "Yeah, if you believe that kind of junk. I bet you'd love to go to school at Warthogs if it was a real place."
"Its name is Hogwarts," David said. He almost told Martin about the letters. But he knew he mustn't tell a word to anyone just yet, especially not to Martin: the older boy would make fun of it and then he'd tell Henry. And then Henry would think he was broken again. David didn't want to go back to Cybertronics, even to see Dr. Jeanine, as nice as she was.
"Whatever," Martin grumbled, heading into the other room. "Mom! Dad! The TV's busted in here."
"It's on a special system that the hotel managers have to turn on," David heard Henry say. "The room would cost more if we ran the TV in both rooms."
"Besides, you watch too much TV anyway," Mommy said. "Have you unpacked your bags yet?"
"No," Martin grumbled, heading back into his and David's room before Mommy could tell him to finish putting his things away.
Next morning, Mommy and Henry, along with a man Henry would be working with at Cybertronics and the man's wife, took David and Martin school shopping. Martin would be attending a private school where the children of people who worked for Cybertronics would be studying, so Martin had to be fitted for the school uniform. To David, it looked a little like a boy-sized version of the blue suit Henry sometimes wore to important meetings, only the pants ended below the knees. Martin thought it looked "absolutely yucky", and David couldn't help agreeing with him just a little; that made David wonder what it would be like to buy wizarding robes in Diagon Alley.
When they got back to their room, Henry checked the mail at the front desk; the clerk handed Henry a small bundle of enevelopes, which Henry started sorting through.
He drew out one envelope made of the same kind of paper as the letter from Hogwarts, and looked at it with his eyebrows lowered a little. "What is this? Some kind of joke?" Henry put the enevelope into the paper recycling bin, which promptly whirred as it ground up the paper inside.
David looked on in horror. What if that letter was meant for him?
That evening, the four of them had dinner with Dr. Hobby, Ms. Iris, and a man from the programming department with reddish-brown hair and an accent that reminded David of the Nanny-Mecha's voice. The tall man talked a lot with Dr. Hobby and Henry, but it all sounded very boring. Ms. Iris talked with Mommy and Martin; after a while, she glanced at the tall man and said to David, "Is all this grown-up talk boring you, David?"
"Yes. Dr. Hobby's friend has an interesting voice, but I don't understand what he's talking about," David said. "What is he talking about?"
"Oh, he's just talking about Mechas like you and how many people want to adopt them, but how he thinks they need to be improved," Ms. Iris said, sounding almost as bored as Martin's face looked, but she made it sound funnier.
Even still, David felt that cold feeling that meant worry. "Aren't... Mechas like me good enough?"
"Of course you are," Ms. Iris said, reassuringly. "Lambert just likes things to be his idea of perfect."
"Excuse my interruption, Ms. Legis, but we must maintain a high standard in producing the Mechas which we offer to the public," Mr. Lambert cut in. He looked at David with his eyes narrowed, but David couldn't tell what that meant. That made him a little uncomfortable.
"Lambert, I think David and Iris were simply commenting on how much you talk, rather than what you're talking about," Dr. Hobby said.
Once Dr, Hobby managed to get a word in to Mr. Lambert, Ms. Iris asked David, "So, are all of you enjoying London so far?"
David nodded. "Martin and I didn't very much like it when Henry and Mommy and those nice people Henry will be working with took us shopping, but London has very pretty buildings."
"I'll have to show you more of the sights around the city some afternoon, just the three of us," Ms. Iris offered.
"Yes, I'd like that," David said.
Ms. Iris turned to Mommy. "Monica, would that be all right with you?"
"Oh, I'd love to go; it would help me get used to the city," she said.
"All right, let's do it tomorrow, before Martin starts school. I'll come for you around noon: does that sound all right with you?" Ms. Iris said
"That will be good; we'll be ready then," Mommy said, smiling.
Once they got back to the hotel room, Martin begged Henry and Mommy to let him watch TV, but Henry insisted that Martin and David should go to bed early if they wanted an early start the next day. Martin started to object in a whiny voice, but that got drowned out when someone started knocking on the door loudly: THMP-THMP-THMP.
"Who on earth is this?" Henry said, going to the door. "We didn't ask for room service."
When Henry opened the door, he started back, eyes and mouth wide open. A stranger stood at the door, a huge man, so tall he nearly had to bend almost double to stick his shaggy head in through the door way and so wide his shoulders could barely fit through. He wore a heavy black coat that almost blended in with his long hair and beard, but his beetle-black eyes peered out of the tangle, sparkling in a friendly way.
"Are you Henry Swinton?" the big man asked, his voice a deep but gentle rumble.
"Y-yes... who are you?!"
"M' name's Rubeus Hagrid; I been sent to find out why we ain't heard from yer son David yet," the giant said.
"'We'? What do you mean by that?" Henry said, motioning behind his back to Mommy, pointing toward the phone.
"We as in th' board at Hogwarts School a' Witchcraft," the giant man said, making a final effort to squeeze his shoulders through the doorway. "Don't tell me yah lost the letters we been sendin'."
"What letters?! ...Oh, that letter. I thought that was a joke Ms. Legis was playing on David," Henry said.
Hagrid stood up as straight as the ceiling in the room would let him. "No joke, Swinton: yer wife's boy David 'as come to the attention a' no less than Albus Dumbledore himself. The little fella has the will to learn an' signs a' the talent for magic."
"But David... he's just... just a robot!" Henry sputtered.
"I'm a boy," David insisted.
Hagrid's beady eyes lit on David and his beard parted as a gentle, slightly lop-sided grin crossed his wide face. "There y' are, David. You get that first letter, I take it?"
"Yes, Mr. Hagrid: I have it right here in one of my Harry Potter books." David went to get the letter so Henry could see it and know it was real. Henry took it, studying it like he still didn't believe.
"Ah, Hagrid'll do: I don't stand on formalities. I take it yah been readin' the work of that oracular Muggle," Hagrid said. "Good, good: ye'll be better-equipped than some."
Teddy walked up almost to Hagrid's feet, looking up... up... up at him. "Are you going to help David?" he asked.
One of Hagrid's tousled eyebrows lowered while the other rose. "Yeah, yah might say I'm here for that. But what in tarnation are you, lil' fella?"
"He's my friend Teddy," David said. "He came with me when I went looking for the Blue Fairy."
Hagrid's smile turned a bit mysterious, but he quickly hid that, grinning down at Teddy. "Cute little furry guy..."
"Why weren't we told about this earlier?" Mommy asked.
"Yah weren't told because it wasn't th' right time," Hagrid said. "First time anything like him showed the lean for it, so it wouldn't be right ter jus' let it rust. I got my orders: first thing tomorrow, I'll be here to take him to Diagon Alley an' meet up with Ms. Iris who's workin' on this case, too. We'll kit him out with everything he'll need."
"Wait, even if this was real, who's going to pay for this?" Henry said.
"Don' get a bee in yer knickers, Swinton: all 'at's taken care of," Hagrid said, rummaging in the pockets of his coat. He drew a handful of broken dog biscuits out of one pocket, but quickly stuffed those back in. Out of the other, he drew first an inkwell and a quill pen, then a roll of parchment, and finally a ruffled looking owl which he perched on the desk light as started writing a note on the parchment.
"Excuse me... Hagrid... I don't want to sound like I'm interfering, but since he came back to us, David's hardly gone anywhere for any length of time without Henry or me," Mommy said. "Is it all right if I went with him... to Hogwarts?"
Hagrid lowered his eyebrows, thinking. "I ain't th' one ter say yes or no t' that. I'll have ter ask Dumbledore himself. But I can tell yer jus' lookin' out fer yer boy, like a good mum should." Hagrid's big eyes teared up as he said that, but he turned back to the note he'd started. David peered over the giant's elbow as he wrote:
Found David and his human family. Taking him to buy his school things tomorrow. His mum wants to come along with him to Hogwarts. He's a right sweet little chap and his mum is only looking out for him.
Hagrid rolled up the parchment, then gave it to the owl, which took it in its beak. Hagrid scooped up the owl in his hand, then lumbered to the window, opened it, then tossed the owl out into the night.
"I'll let yer know what Dumbledore decides about yer mum comin' along," Hagrid said. "You folk get yerselves a good night's sleep."
"I can never sleep," David said.
Hagrid's eyes widened a little for just a moment. "I keep fergettin' yer not made a' th' same stuff. I'll see you all termorrow." With that, Hagrid squeezed himself through the doorway and pulled the door shut behind him.
David felt the warmth that meant "very, very happy" and the brightness of excitement pass through him. He was going to learn real magic. And maybe he could use it to turn himself into a real, live boy.
A little while later, Mommy tucked David into bed with Teddy beside him. "Are you really going to let me go to school at Hogwarts?" he asked.
"If it's all true, and if it's a real place, I don't see why you can't," she said. "I'm just finding it all hard to believe, so that's why I want to go with you."
"I want you to go with me, Mommy, so we both can see it's a real place and we'll be together. I hope Mr. Dumbledore says yes," David said.
Mommy smiled with happy tears in her eyes. "I hope so too. I'd miss you if he said no."
She leaned down and kissed him one last time, then switched out the light on the table between his and Martin's beds, then she went back to her and Henry's room.
Martin came out of the bathroom a few moments later, then crawled into his bed and switched out the light on the other side.
"David," he said. "Hey you."
Martin turned over, switching on a flashlight and shining it in David's face. "Are you really goin' to that place?"
"Yes, I'm going to Hogwarts," David said.
"Well... what if someone's playing a big trick on you? What if it's some kind of wierd experiment Cybertronics is fooling you with?"
"They wouldn't do anything like that," David said. "Dr. Jeanine told me fairy-tales and things like that weren't really-real. Why would Cybertronics want to tell me something's real when they said it wasn't?"
"Like I said, maybe it's some kind of freaky experiment. That French guy Hobby brought to dinner seemed creepy, like a mad-scientist, only not as crazy. Maybe he's behind it."
"But why would they do that?" David asked, not following any of this.
"Maybe just to see how your brain reacts to stuff, I dunno," Martin said.
Teddy spoke up. "Martin, you're frightening David."
"Oh, shut up, you dumb Stupor-toy," Martin muttered. But he switched out the flashlight and turned over.
As David lay quietly, pretending to sleep, he heard Mommy and Henry talking in the next room. He couldn't make out the words they said, but Mommy sounded like she had made up her mind about something
Next morning, Mommy, Henry and Martin had just finished breakfast when someone knocked on the door of their room very loudly. David jumped up and answered it, finding Hagrid waiting outside the door.
"Hullo there, David," the big man said. "Tell yer mum to get her hat: Dumbledore said she can come with us."
"To Hogwarts, too?" David asked.
"Yup, he told me to tell you it would be a wise thing to keep the two of you together, somethin' about it bein' a bond that shouldn't be busted," Hagrid said.
David hugged Hagrid's arm. "Thank you so much!" he said, then he ran to find Mommy. "Mommy! Mommy, Hagrid's here: he said Mr. Dumbledore said you can come along with me!"
Henry looked worried, but he said nothing as Mommy went to get her purse and the canvas hat she often wore when she and David went out for walks. "Tell Hagrid I'll be right there," she called back.
David turned to Henry. "Don't worry, Henry. We'll be safe," he said.
"I hope so," Henry said, but he still looked worried.
Mommy came from the other room, tying the arms of a sweater around her waist as she followed David out into the hallway, where Hagrid waited patiently.
"I hope I didn't sound too protective yesterday," Mommy said, pulling the door closed behind her and David.
"Naw, yah sounded like a mum who really cares about something... er, I mean, someone like him," Hagrid said. "Yer a good mum, I can tell."
They took a bus to an older part of the city, where the shinier new buildings gave way to the older buildings of brick and stone. Hagrid led the way along narrow, twisting streets lined with small shops. Just like in "The Sorceror's Stone", Hagrid brought them first to the Leaky Cauldron.
At a table just inside the door, they found Ms. Iris clearly waiting for them. She stood up as they entered the little restaurant.
"Ms. Iris! What are you doing here?" David asked.
Mommy looked from Hagrid to Ms. Iris. "Do you know...?" she said, hesitating, puzzled.
"Oh, yes, Hagrid and I are great friends," Ms. Iris said, smiling.
"Did yah get the neccesary funds?" Hagrid asked.
"Yes, I did," Ms. Iris said, her hand on a leather pouch at her belt.
"Aren't we going to Gringotts' Bank, like in the book?" David asked.
"You might break," Teddy said.
"I wish we could," Ms. Iris said. "But... your sponsor thinks it isn't safe for you."
"It isn't safe fer a lotta wizarding folks, either," Hagrid added, rolling his eyes.
"But who's my... sponsor?" David asked.
"I can't tell you now," Ms. Iris said. "But I'll tell you this much: Someone in the wizarding world has agreed to pay for your books and everything you'll need while you're at Hogwarts."
Mommy looked like she might ask somehting, but she looked away. Not before Ms. Iris caught that look, but she said nothing.
Hagrid led them out the back door into the courtyard behind the Leaky Cauldron.
"Is Harry Potter studying at Hogwarts now?" David asked.
"Matter of fact, he'll be there. I was helpin' him get his school kit jus' before Iris gave me the word you were comin' this way," Hagrid said, counting bricks in the wall, and tapping them with the tip of an umbrella he produced from inside his coat. "Three up, two across... Ah, here we are." He tapped a spot on the wall three times with the tip of the umbrella.
Then of a sudden, a little hole appeared in the brick he had tapped. The hole grew bigger and bigger until it had widened into a large open doorway.
"Welcome, David, to Diagon Alley," Hagrid said, and stepped aside to let them enter.
With Mommy holding his hand, David stepped through the archway onto a cobble-stoned street lined with shops. People in fantastic robes bustled about, buying and selling or simply browsing among the herbs and charms for sale.
They first stopped at a cauldron shop, where they bought a small silvery-grey cauldron of burnished pewter. Next they went to Madame Malkin's Robes for All Occasions. Madame Malkin, a short, stubby witch dressed in mauve, fluttered about David with delight as she set to work measuring him.
"I've heard about you: you're the living statue that has the spark?" she asked.
"Yes, I'm David, I'm... a Mecha," David admitted.
Madame Malkin and Mommy helped him pull a long black robe over his head. "Yer a wizard in trainin' as far as I can tell. Sure, yer skin is shinier an' ye don't blink much, but that's only your outsides: It's what's here in yer heart that matters." And she gently patted David's chest.
"Oh, he definately has a heart," Mommy said.
Once Madame Malkin had pinned up the hem of David's robe, she took it off him and fetched a needle and thread. She threaded the needle, then poked it through the fabric of the robe and laid it on a work table. The needle rose up and set to work sewing up the hem by itself.
"My goodness..." Mommy said, eyes wide.
Ms. Iris explained to Madame Malkin that Mommy would be going with David to Hogwarts and she would need a robe to blend in.
Madame Malkin's blue eyes sparkled. "I have just the thing for you, Missis Swinton." The little witch-womand bustled into the back of the shop and came back some minutes later, carrying a long sky-blue robe. "Try this on: I believe it'll fit you."
"Okay," Mommy said, taking the robe. She pulled it on over her head. Ms. Iris and David helped her straighten it out and smooth down the sleeves. "Oh my... it's like it was made for me," Mommy said, looking down at it, then spinning around, letting the wide skirts twirl.
"Oh, Mommy, that almost makes you look like the Blue Fairy," David said.
Once David's robe was ready, they went to Flourish and Blotts Booksellers, which easily had ten times as many books as Dr, Hobby had in his office, and all of them much more interesting to David. He would have loved to stay longer, but they still needed to get him a wand.
Ms. Iris and Hagrid led them to a small, dark, dusty-looking shop with a single wand laying on a worn velvet pillow in the front window. Over the doorway hung a gilt-lettered sign: Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands Since 323 B.C.
They stepped into an empty room with a single wooden chair which Hagrid drew up for Mommy. The room felt more quiet to David than Dr. Hobby's office had when he and Joe had arrived, looking for the Blue Fairy. But this felt like a different kind of quiet, a good, hopeful quiet.
"Good day," said an old man's soft voice.
"Mr. Ollivander?" David asked.
A small old man stepped out of the shadows, his silvery eyes gleaming like starlight. "So you must be the living statue everyone has been talking about."
"Yes, I'm David."
"You know about David?" Mommy asked.
Mr. Ollivander smiled at Mommy. "Ever since David came to Dumbledore's attention, the word got out and now it's on everyone's lips." He turned his gaze to Ms. Iris. "You brought him here, Ms. Legis. White pine, phoenix feather, nine and a half inches long: pliable but strong?"
"Yes, perfect for transformations," Ms. Iris said, blushing a little.
David looked up and Ms. Iris. She was a witch: she knew magic. He was about to say something to her, when Mr. Ollivander took a silvery tape measure out of the pocket of his robe. "Now, young man, which is your wand arm?"
"I use my right hand when I write or draw," David said.
"Hold our your right arm for me, there's a lad," Mr. Ollivander said. David held out his arm and the old man set to work measuring him, first from fingertips to elbow, then elbow to shoulder, then from his shoulder to the floor, and finally around David's head. "No two wands are just the same, though they may look similar or be made of the same things, just as no two wizards are the same," the old man said, as he worked. When he finished, he let the tape measure roll itself up before he put it back in his pocket. "Now... it's a matter of fitting the right wand to you. Or rather, letting the right wand choose you."
Saying that, Mr. Ollivander stepped back into the shadows, flitting back and forth like an intent bat as he collected an armload of boxes, which he piled on the floor at David's feet. He opened one box and took out a wand. "Now then: take this wand and give it a good wave: birch wood, nine inches long and with a winged horse feather core."
David took the wand and waved it a bit. Nothing happened. Mommy looked puzzled.
"Hm. No, that won't do," Mr. Ollivander said, taking the wand from David and giving him another. "Try this one: elm wood, seven and a half inches long with a dragon's heart-string at the core. Nice and sturdy."
But that one didn't feel right either. They tried several more wands, but nothing happened. Mr. Ollivander collected more and more boxes, but none of the wands seemed to fit David. Mommy started to look worried and Ms. Iris's face looked concerned.
"Does this mean it won't work?" Mommy asked.
"Not at all, Mrs. Swinton," Mr. Ollivander said, coming back with one more wand. "It takes time to fit a wizard in training to the right wand. If theyy don't take that time, they won't learn the right way. Now, David, try this one: it's rather odd, willow wood with a chimera hair core."
David reached out for the wand, which seemed to move into his hand of its own movement. It felt right in his hand. He raised it and waved it a little more than the other times. Blue sparkles shot up from the tip in an arc over his head. Then some of the sparkles exploded - crac-crac-crac-crac - in tiny puffs of smoke. David looked up at Mommy, nearly dropping the wand. She looked startled, but curious.
"Was it supposed to do that?" Mommy asked.
"Hm. That one seems to have a few cranks in it: that may be from the chimera hair," Mr. Ollivander said. "But it fits and that matters the most."
"Is it really safe, though?" Mommy asked.
"It'll be perfectly safe once David gets accustomed to it," Ms. Iris said. "Some wands act unpredictably."
Once they had paid for the wand, Hagrid led them outside into the fading afternoon sunlight. Three witches, a pretty young one wearing pink robes, an older one who might be her mother, in green robes, and a very old stooped one in purple, who might be the young witch's grandmother, approached them. Ms. Iris introduced them to Mommy and David as the three Ms. Heckerts. They seemed very curious about David, but they mostly spoke to Mommy and Ms. Iris and Mr. Hagrid. It all sounded dull, so David stepped away from the group. Teddy put a paw on David's leg.
"Don't wander away too far," Teddy warned.
"I'm only looking in the windows of the stores," David said.
He looked into the windows of Flourish and Blotts for a while, reading the titles of all the books there, then he walked alongside the building until he came to the opening of a darkened alleyway between the buildings. He heard voices murmuring there, but he couldn't understand what they said. He tiptoed down the alley, till it lead out onto a completely different street.
It seemed darker and more shadows lingered in the corners. When he peered into the shop windows, he saw things that made him feel that coldness that meant fear, though he barely knew what they were. The people walking past him looked scary, their faces paler and their eyes meaner.
Some of them had seen him: a few paused to look right at him as they passed by. A few stopped and spoke to each other in whispers, pointing at him with long, bony fingers like claws.
He spotted a tall man walking by in a black coat so long it covered his feet; he looked a lot like Mr. Lambert, the man from Cybertronics who talked too much. He seemed to be leading a boy about David's age, but a group of three witches in black passed between him and David.
"Hey, David, what're yah doin' here?" Hagrid's gruff voice said, behind him. David turned, a little scared, but glad to see the big man standing there. "This is Knockturn Alley: yah don' want nuthin' here. Lucky for you yer little buddy saw you come this way."
"I was just looking: I didn't like what I saw," David said, as Hagrid led him back to Diagon Alley, where Mommy and Miss Iris waited for them.
Mommy hugged David the minute she saw him. "Thank goodness! Don't wander off like that: someone might hurt you or break you."
"Or corrupt you," Miss Iris said, her face frowning with worry, but that soon went away.
Since they'd bought everything David would need, they said goodbye to Hagrid; but not before the gentle giant took a slightly rumpled envelope from an inside pocket of his coat and held it out to Mommy. "Almost forgot: yer and yer Mum's tickets to Hogwarts; King's Cross Station, first o' September." Mommy took the envelope from him carefully.
"We'll be there, we promise," David said. Mommy's eyes looked a little dark with uncertainty, but she still smiled as Miss Iris lead the way back to their hotel.
To be continued...