So I spent the last week watching the whole Harry Potter series again. I’ve probably seen it fifty times and I never tire of it. But I found out something this week… Harry Potter motivates me. He is a muse of sorts that encourages me to create and write. J.K. Rowling’s documentary makes me feel that my dreams are just as possible as hers were. That I’m just as ordinary and down to earth as she is and I’m just as deserving to watch my dreams become reality.
This week, magic happened. It’s funny how spending your time out of work with those characters can trick your mind into feeling like they are your close friends. You laugh with them, cry with them, you’re scared with them, and you love with them. And so I woke up yesterday feeling compelled to write myself into the amazing world of Harry Potter. I’ve never written any kind of fan fiction before, but I thought it was a lot of fun and I’m sure I will do more of it. I found it to be almost more therapeutic than writing my own stories in my own worlds. To escape to another world for a while is pure magic in itself. I felt just as lost through writing it as I would have being thrown into it. The few hours of make believe were very good for me today and the drinking of homemade Butterbeer set the mood. I’m sharing here because I can’t do much with it aside from blogging it. But I hope you can relate to Libby. I think most of us have a little Libby inside.
The Odd Brick Wall that isn’t a Brick Wall at all.
Life is a curious thing. Most of the time, when you most want something it never happens. Sometimes, it will surprise you and magic happens. There was such a time for Libby Archibald.
Summer was Libby’s favorite time of the year. Not because it was hot and ice cream was best eaten when it was hot, but because she could be outside and escape the confining walls of her house.
Every year, the Archibald family traveled several hours to a special place in the mountains and it was here that Libby felt alive. The smell of the pine trees, the fresh air, and the sound of the lake lapping at the shore brought her a sense of peace. A whole year of fighting her way through life was kindly rewarded with one week in the small town of McCall.
And so Libby crossed the busy main street that ran close to the water, her family was lazing about on the warm, sandy beach or swimming in the shallow waters close to their vacation rental.
“Is it okay if I walk to get ice cream?” she had asked her parents. She was bored and they were occupied with spreading suntan lotion over their arms and legs.
“I suppose, Libby. Don’t be too long,” her mother sighed and laid herself out over the bold blue and white striped beach towel.
“Thanks, mom,” Libby replied and shoved her slender hand in the pocket of her pink capris to feel for her five dollar bill.
Now, she was walking beneath the eaves that cast the sidewalk in shadow. A breeze blowing in from the water made the shade feel cool as Libby made a left turn between the coffee shop and the souvenir store. It was a narrow passage partially blocked by a staircase in the alley and reminded her of some secret place. Starting down the short pathway, the gravel crunching beneath her flip flops, Libby took her time staring at the brick wall on the left, the names on all the bricks fascinating her. She always wanted to scratch her name on one too, but it appeared that all the bricks were used up with other names. There were several Makenzies and many Mikes but nowhere did she see her name.
That was one thing Libby really hated; her name was never found on anything but vegetable cans. Sometimes she wished her name was Sarah or Mary so she could be ordinary and fit in.
Two bigger kids, probably a girlfriend and a boyfriend, walked by with cups of the creamy goodness that only Ice Cream Alley could offer. As they passed, the boy’s elbow poked her just behind her ear and she rubbed at it furiously to ease the pain.
“Stupid kids. Why can’t they stay by their parents? They just get in the way,” the boy remarked and continued on his way.
Comments such as that one were not new to Libby. Being the oldest of the four children in a very strict household, she was often made an example to her siblings by her father. She was never right as it wasn’t a child’s right to be correct. It was the grown-up’s right to always be the smartest. Libby couldn’t wait to be an adult so she could move far away and be who she wanted to be.
Rounding the corner, there was a line of about ten people waiting to get their hands on the cold ice cream in nearly every flavor imaginable.
“I wish I was magic. I could make everyone disappear and it would be my turn,” she sighed taking her place at the end of the line.
Nearly every table was full of people, some in shorts and some in swimsuits, umbrellas were unfolded overhead for a bit of shade. There were a few small children sitting on a bench swing that were screeching in fun, ice cream rings surrounding their lips in the various colors of the flavors they chose. Their parents sat nearby, never saying a word, not telling them to be quiet…Libby could imagine how the veins would bulge out of her father’s forehead and neck because they were being so unruly. If that was her trying to have fun, he would have walked right up to her and thumped her in the back of her head or he might even grab those tiny hairs at the base of her neck and twist them enough to bring tears to her eyes and force her to just sit quietly. That’s when he liked her the most; when she was silent and still.
It was the pleasure she felt in these moments, when she was by herself and could breathe without fear of wrongdoing. Yes, these moments made it all worth while. It was time away from her very annoying family, it was time away from the horrid kids at school that teased her mercilessly, and it was time spent getting to know who she really was.
You see, Libby was shy and quite backward. She didn’t like to talk out of fear of being incorrect. Some viewed this as rude. For Libby, it was a defense mechanism. It was safe just to be quiet. Rarely could you get Libby to make eye contact with you because she knew others would see the story she held behind her eyes that had recently changed from light blue to a beautiful shade of green. This girl was down right skinny with knobby knees and elbows and crooked teeth. She sported dark brown hair with a hint of red that her mother kept short in a most embarrassing “wedge” style. Libby would look at her sister with the pretty blonde strands that flowed perfectly to her shoulders and felt jealousy that Adrianna looked like a girl and she herself looked like a boy. It wasn’t fair.
The kids at school were cruel and asked her why she looked like a boy. They poked such fun at her expense when she spent time with her friends that were girls, that Libby stopped making friends at all.
In time, even her old friends started calling her a name that brought tears to her eyes every time. Monkey Girl was what they would chant behind her during the walk home from school. Granted, Libby was cursed with hairy arms and legs that her mother said she would grow out of. But Libby hated it and
would wear longer pants and shirts with sleeves all year round just to conceal it. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop the taunting and if she ran from the kids, they would run after her shouting “Monkey Girl, Monkey Girl” all the louder.
Absently, Libby ran her hands over her arms self-consciously and stepped forward in the line. It was almost her turn. She could almost feel the icy goodness running down her throat. It was getting hot.
An odd place on the brick wall stood out to Libby. She hadn’t ever noticed it before on their many visits to Ice Cream Alley. The bricks were arranged in a different pattern and the cement was thicker around them. All the people, it seemed, never looked up and saw it. They just went on as though nothing was out of the ordinary. Like they were blind to the different pattern. Or perhaps they just didn’t care that it was odd. Libby wondered a moment why the wall got no attention for being odd but she got more than her share. Where was the justice in that?
“What can I get started for you?” the girl behind the whitewashed counter asked snapping Libby from her thoughts about the wall.
Shyly, Libby stepped forward and barely peered over the counter, she was so short for her eleven years. “Um, a single scoop of Rocky Road in a cup, please.” She handed over her five dollars and the girl handed her back some change.
“It will be ready around the corner, thank you!” the employee said, motioning her along to the other side of the small building that looked more like a lemonade stand than an ice cream shop.
Libby sauntered around the corner to wait for her delightful concoction of chocolate, almonds, and marshmallows.
A couple behind her at a smaller table stood up to leave and so she decided to take that place for herself. It was almost directly below the imperfect bricks she had noticed just moments before.
Another gal bellowed out that the Rocky Road was up so Libby hurriedly grabbed it, a spoon and a napkin, returning to the table she had claimed.
Her eyes closed as the heavenly explosion happened in her mouth as the first bite of some of the best Rocky Road ice cream danced on her tastebuds. It was smooth and cold, the marshmallows were fluffy on her tongue.
She gave a slight grin and reopened her eyes. She scanned the crowd for her father before she picked up a pebble and tossed it up to hit the rebellious pattern in the brick wall. Missing her target, she tried again and her pebble found one of the lower bricks. She gave a chuckle and grabbed an arsenal of rocks throwing them one at a time, each connecting solidly.
Libby was just about to throw another when she noticed the wall starting to move. She sat upright in her chair and stared in disbelief as the wall began to rip open and she could see a room on the other side. Libby tore her eyes from the sight and glanced around to see if anyone else was witnessing this incredible phenomenon. No one was paying attention. No one cared. They were all absorbed in their own world, laughing, joking, and enjoying each other’s company. No, no one was watching Libby and the ripped open brick wall.
Cautiously, she stood and walked the four steps to the opening where she peered inside. No one in the dingy room ahead seemed to notice her either. It was dark in there with weathered wood walls, plank floors and lanterns for lights. There was no music and tones felt hushed without stepping foot in there. Casting a quick backward glance, her heart beating wildly in her chest, Libby took a chance. For the first time in her young life, she stepped forward out of everything she had ever known and stepped into a world so foreign it frightened her.
Once both feet were firmly planted in the strange place on the other side of the bricks, the wall knitted itself back together until it was just as before. Libby quickly turned and placed her hands on the wall, pressing and tapping to find that opening…but there wasn’t one. It was solid. There was nowhere to go but forward.
Libby slowly turned around and tried to slow her breathing. She forced herself to swallow hard and soaked up her surroundings.
The room looked to be a restaurant or a bar of some kind with several tables and chairs and a long bar area with a large man standing behind the counter, a white apron tied around his waist and a towel thrown over his shoulder.
There were a few people at tables and as she walked through the small establishment, she saw three young people talking quietly at a table in the corner. From their hairstyles, she guessed it was two boys and a girl. All had dark clothes on, coats of sorts with hoods. One had dark disheveled hair, one bright red that stood out, and the girl looked to have frizzy hair that fell just past her shoulders.
The dark headed boy happened to cast his glance beyond his red-headed friend before him and he narrowed his eyes behind round spectacles to look right at Libby. He muttered something and stood, the other two twisting in their seats looking on curiously.
“I recognize that look,” he smiled at Libby.
“What?” she asked, confused. “Where am I?”
“This is The Leaky Cauldron. My name is Harry, this is Ron and Hermione. What is your name?” he asked.
Libby licked her lips, her knees shaking, and said, “Libby. I’m Libby Archibald.”
“Nice to meet you, Libby. You have the same look on your face I did a couple of years ago. It’s a lot to take in all at once. Come sit down and we’ll talk about it,” Harry said motioning to the empty seat at the table.
Not knowing what else to do, Libby sat and Hermione went to order one more Butterbeer for their table.
“Are you a muggle?” Ron blurted out.
Libby’s head snapped to stare at the boy with red hair. “I’ve been called a lot of things, but never a-a muggle… What is that?”
“A muggle is a person who can’t do magic. They don’t see magic and they rarely feel it. They are just ordinary people in a boring world,” Harry explained.
Libby nodded her head. “Yes, that is me. I’m a muggle. Boring person in a boring world,” she breathed.
“How do you know? That you’re a muggle, I mean. How do you know?” Harry asked her.
“Well because everyone knows there is no such thing as magic, Harry. That is what makes up storybooks and movies. And Disneyland. Disneyland is pretty magical, I think, but I’ve never been there. I’ve only seen pictures, you see…” Libby rambled on.
Ron and Harry looked at each other and grinned.
“So you think you are not magical because other people told you so?” Harry asked her. “I mean, why would you listen to boring people who can’t see anything that’s right in front of them? Why would you trust those kind of people to tell you who you are?” Harry asked her.
Libby sat silent a moment, not sure how to explain to this boy that magic was just fantasy…make believe. She was just Libby. So she decided to change the subject. “Can you please tell me where I am?”
“This is The Leaky Cauldron. It’s part of Diagon Alley,” Hermione piped in as she set the frothy mug of Butterbeer on the table. “You are very…bright. You stand out quite a lot.” She rummaged through a bag on the floor and came away with a dark bundle of fabric. “This should help you.”
Libby unfolded the gift and discovered that it was the same kind of cloak the others were wearing. As she flung it around her shoulders, it was easy to notice that Hermione was right. Her pink pants and yellow shirt with pink stars were like sunshine in a cave. She definitely looked out of place…a misfit. The funny thing about it was that she looked like everyone else in her own world and was treated like the outcast. Here in a completely foreign world, she looked like the misfit but was treated like she was the same as everyone else.
“Thank you, Hermione,” Libby said with a shy smile. “I-I…Forgive me, but I have no idea where Diagon Alley is. I’ve never heard of it. One minute I was eating ice cream and the next there was a huge hole in the wall that brought me here. Why am I here?”
Hermione smiled warmly. “Well, I can tell you aren’t from anywhere close to London so the only explanation is that you are magical. I don’t think the portal would have opened for you any other way. Muggles can’t see the openings nor can they see the wizarding world. They don’t see anything really. So how old are you?”
“I just turned eleven,” Libby explained.
An awkward silence wound around the four young people and they all grabbed their mugs to gulp at the sweet, frothy Butterbeer.
“So now that I’m here, what do I do? Can I get back home?”
“I’m sure there is a way, but we need to find someone like Hagrid or maybe your dad, Ron, to help us. This is a most curious situation.” Harry said.
A girl ran in, catching her breath she placed her hands on her knees. Her bright red hair and light complexion told Libby she belonged to Ron’s family. “Ron, mum wants you.”
Ron turned around in his chair. “What does she want, Ginny?”
Ginny stood upright and squinted her eyes at him. “I don’t know, she just told me to come get you! Who’s that?” she asked, her eyes widening again when she saw Libby.
Harry stood up, tugging on Libby’s elbow. “Ginny, this is Libby Archibald. Libby, meet Ron’s sister Ginny. You are both the same age.”
“Good to meet you,” Ginny smiled before turning her gaze back to her brother. “Come on, Ron! Best not keep mum waiting!”
“Right,” Ron mumbled and gulped the rest of his drink, wiping the foam from his mouth with the back of his hand. “Sorry ’bout this, I gotta go.”
They all said their goodbyes to Ron and Ginny and made to set off in search of someone who could give them some answers.