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A Letter for Jo

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"The carrots look good, Mother, don't they?" ask Jo as he placed the bunch he'd pulled from the garden on the kitchen bench.

"Yes! They'll go well with the pie Bessie has helped me make."

Bessie beamed. She'd been responsible for the pastry. Mother had told her what to do, letting Bessie measure, mix and roll out the pastry by herself.

"I see Fanny has already set the table. You should go and wash your hands, Jo."

Jo turned to obey, but he managed only two steps when an owl flew in to the kitchen through the open doorway. It carried a letter in its claws.

"Hello! You're not Barny!" exclaimed Jo. Barny the Barn Owl, who lived in the Faraway Tree usually brought letters to the children when an exciting Land at the top of the Tree was due and they hadn't been to visit Moon-Face, Silky or the others for a while to hear the news for themselves.

"You're not Browny, Snowy or Grey Feather either," said Bessie. The children were familiar with most of the birds and animals that inhabited the Enchanted Forest and this wasn't one they recognised.

The owl dropped the letter at Jo's feet and screeched loudly. It waited until Jo picked it up before leaving as silently as it had come.

Jo examined the envelope. "It's definitely for me, but it's not from Moon-Face or Silky. I don't know this writing at all. And look at this." He pointed to the red wax seal on the back. "That's a crest of some sort."

He didn't notice his mother pull a handkerchief from her apron pocket and dab her eyes.

"Open it! Open it!" Bessie and Fanny jumped around with excitement.

"Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," read Jo slowly.

"Witchcraft?"

"And Wizardry?"

The girls crowded close to Jo, trying to read over his shoulder. Jo skipped over the headmaster's name and list of strange words that followed it.

"Dear Jo," he began. "Well, it's definitely for me. Dear Jo, 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 September first. We await your owl by no later than July thirty-first. Yours sincerely--"

"Yours sincerely, Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress," finished Mother. "That's correct, isn't it, Jo?"

"Yes, Mother! How did you know?"

"I got a letter like that when I was your age. So did your father."

"But, Mother, this says Hogwarts is a school for--"

"Witches and Wizards. Yes, that's right."

Jo pursed his lips. He waited for his mother to continue, but when she didn't, he tried to put his thoughts in order. "You and Father both got letters to this Hogwarts School. It says it's for Witchcraft and Wizardry. That must mean Father is a wizard, and you're...." He paused and took a deep breath.

"Mother, are you a witch?" broke in Bessie.

"Mother can't be a witch," said Fanny earnestly. "She doesn't have any warts, or a hairy chin, and her name isn't anything like any of the witches we've met. There's Witch Grumble who complains about everything, and the Scratchy Witch who has the Scratchy Cat."

Mother laughed and patted her youngest daughter's head. "Witches and wizards come in different types, Fanny. The ones you've met in the Enchanted Forest are one. Your father and I are another."

"Then I'm a wizard," said Jo. It was a lot to take in.

"And Fanny and I are witches! When do we get our magic wands?" Bessie bounced on her toes, barely able to contain her excitement. Her mood deflated quickly enough when Mother explained they would have to wait for their letter from Hogwarts; a whole year away for Bessie and two years for Fanny.

The front gate creaked open, signalling Father was home from work. The children ran to meet him, Jo waving his letter and all three talking at once. Mother pictured the wands carefully hidden in a box under the bed. She wondered how long it would take the children to ask why their parents never used their magic. She sighed. Muggle families thought they had it tough when families disapproved of relationships; they had nothing on wizarding families. They maybe able to keep a visit to Diagon Alley for Jo's supplies a secret from their parents, but there was no way to control letters home from students. It was only a matter of time before their quiet life was over.

END