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Title:  A Study in Slytherin - Hogwarts Wants You!
Author: [info]capt_facepalm
Rating: PG-13
Fandom: AU (BBC Sherlock - Hogwarts - kidfic)
Characters:  John  Watson (aged 10.9 years), OCs
Disclaimers: My Muse is giving me a tour of an Alternate Universe.  Hogwarts and its settings belong to J.K.Rowling. BBC Sherlock characters belong to Moffat & Gatiss (with a nod and a wink to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). If there is anything left, it might be mine.
Summary:  A glimpse of John Watson before his life at Hogwarts.  Written for the 750 Members Party at [info]watsons_woes at the request of [info]agent_era.
Word Count:  approx. 1500
Warnings:   Alternate Universe and prelude to other A Study in Slytherin chapters (linked at end of story)


.oOOo.

Hogwarts Wants You!

Never send an owl to do a fox’s job. That was the old saying, and the play on words still made the old man smile.

Mr Foxe had been delivering the Royal Mail longer than anyone could remember. With his seniority no one ever questioned his special assignments. His most important, and to him, his most enjoyable mission, was bringing the Hogwarts School enrollment announcements to non-magical, or Muggle, families. Owls were fine for deliveries to wizarding families, but Muggle-borns presented a series of complications. Sometimes they needed special handling. Not everyone readily accepted the fact that a magical world coincided with their own. Also, densely populated centres like London were so very dangerous for owls these days. Many of them found themselves under attack, no longer for the messages they carried, but because the price of meat had gone up, and owl tastes remarkably like chicken if prepared correctly.

Foxe was charged with the duty of hand-delivering these special missives and it had been a long time since he was dispatched to this particular area of London. Yet, the city had always been his patch and he could navigate it by sight, sound, and smell, if his memories failed to direct him.

He still fondly remembered the illiterate little tyke in the chimney. Foxe had to read the letter to the incredulous little sweep whose skin and clothes were stained black as a collier’s. When comprehension dawned, the happy smile emanating from the blackened face could have illuminated the night’s sky. That had been so many years ago, and the child that had once been would have long since aged and passed from this world. Foxe hoped that Billy Wilkes’ new life had been a good one.

London’s history is long and not all of Foxe’s memories were happy ones. His worst memory happened a few generations back. He remembered that frightful night when the address on the parchment continued to change from house, to basement, to tube station.

London was in chaos. Fire and sirens and rubble and noise. The entrance to the tube station had taken a direct hit, but he was nimble and could worm his way through the debris. He checked the address again. The ink on the parchment was changing from bright green to black before his very eyes. He had to hurry. Down and down he went. A section of tunnel had collapsed, burying all that sheltered there. He checked the parchment again but it had gone blank. Miss Weaver would never become a witch. He would have quit that night if they had let him.

.oOOo.

On this fine Monday afternoon, Mr Foxe looked up at the post-war council flats and sighed. Neighbourhoods like this were more likely to produce criminals than wizarding folk these days. John Watson was at the right age when the neighbourhood gangs would take notice of him. Foxe looked again at the address on the fancy parchment and scowled. His recipient was on the move. Playing Fields, Kingswood Comprehensive School.

Foxe took a circuitous route to the playing fields and arrived to see the second half of a football match already in progress. Two bored-looking keepers minded their respective goals while the other twenty boys milled about. Occasionally the ball would spring into the open and a wild chase would ensue.

‘Get the ball to Watson!’ the coach of the red team roared.

Foxe watched the boys in the red jerseys but could not determine which one was his recipient. They were all mud-splattered and sweaty. None of them looked likely to be a future Hogwarts wizard.

The ball was cleared and retrieved by one of the red team midfielders who sped towards the goal. He easily outpaced the blue player marking him. A blue sweeper charged as the red strikers ran towards the goal.

‘Go, Watson! Go your own!’ cried the coach.

‘Get ‘em! Get ‘em!’ urged the blue keeper.

The sweeper slid in for a hard tackle. The red midfielder neatly side-stepped and launched the ball into the top of the netting. GOAL! Red players swarmed the little boy in congratulations as blue players stood by with sullen and angry expressions. So, that was John Watson.

The last ten minutes of the game saw the reds put up a strong defence to guard their slim lead. When the final whistle sounded both teams met to shake hands before returning to their opposite sidelines.

The red team’s coach delivered notes of criticism and encouragement while his team devoured the last of the orange slices. Foxe watched John surreptitiously elbow one of the defenders when the coach was explaining (not for the first time) about the offside rule. The other boy retaliated by flicking his orange peel at John’s head and soon both boys were struggling to stifle their giggles. The coach pretended not to see. They had won the match after all.

Afterwards, when the coach was done and the boys were drifting off in their various directions, a boy named Simon asked John if he was going to stay for a while and play.

‘Yeah. I’m already muddy,’ John replied.

‘There’s always muddier!’ Simon said and launched himself at his friend.

‘Slowpoke!’ cried John. He dodged the grapple and the chase was on. John kept out of reach. Simon’s attempted tackle ended in a glorified face-plant and he hit the sodden turf with an splashy Ooomph! sound. Simon did not get up.

‘Simon? You all right?’ John turned and trotted back to his friend’s side.

Without warning, Simon grabbed John by the ankles and tipped him into the mud.

‘You fell for that again! You’re such a git!’

Both boys tussled and were paralysed with laughter when two of the blue team approached.

‘You wanna kick around for a bit?’, one asked.

‘Sure,’ said Simon, ‘I don’t have to be home for another hour.’

‘Sounds like fun,’ echoed John as he extracted himself from Simon’s grasp.

Soon the four boys attracted three more. Teams and terms were negotiated and a scrimmage began. When the sides proved uneven, new teams were arranged and tried. After half an hour the boys finally began to show signs of slowing down. A few more minutes of half-hearted effort had them realising they were done.

The exhausted warriors clustered in a happy circle around a large packet of crisps. They laughed and teased each other as they stuffed their faces using their grimy hands. Cheese and onion is the flavour of victory, and life did not get much better than this.

When the rest of the boys had left, John and the all but depleted crisps were surrounded by a dozen or so expectant looking little birds. The little boy chided them for being so greedy, but they continued to peep optimistically at him. John relented, emptied the crumbs on the pavement, and stood by to watch the spectacle.

Foxe approached, dispersing the birds and ignoring their indignant chorus.

‘John Watson, I have a special delivery for you,’ he said, handing the boy a heavy cream-coloured parchment. The emerald green ink fluoresced slightly in the daylight. ‘You should open it now.’

John sat back down on the bench and wiped his greasy hands on his sweatpants before examining the parchment. He gave Foxe a questioning look, but the man only nodded again to the parchment. John broke the seal and read:

Dear Mr John Hadrian Watson,
     We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the school year commencing September 8. Congratulations and best wishes in your studies.


‘I don’t understand this... Is it some kind of a joke?’

‘No John, I assure you this is not a prank. Magic is real and you were born to be a wizard. The letter inside is the one you need to show to your parents.’

‘I don’t know about this... ’

‘Have you ever experienced something you can’t explain? For example, do strange things happen when you are angry? Or frightened?’

John shook his head. Nothing ever happens to him.

‘Well, if they haven’t yet, they will start happening soon. You will be eleven next month. Give the plain white envelope to your parents and have them sign the admission form. There is also a Muggle-friendly website they can visit for more information.’

‘Muggle?’

‘Non-magical folk. You’re special, John. It is rare for Muggles to have magical children.’

‘Erm... my parents can’t afford to send me to school. It’s all mum can do to pay for my sister’s tuition.’

‘Not to worry, my boy! At Hogwarts, you have a full scholarship!’

With that, Mr Foxe transformed into his vulpine form, shook his bushy red tail, and gave John a parting wink. He would not have to worry about a boy like John. Even with the disadvantages of being Muggle-born, people like John Watson always found their place at Hogwarts. If Watson ended up as Quidditch captain, or even Head Boy, Foxe would not be surprised.

John sat in astonishment long after Foxe’s departure.

Magic is real and I was born to be a wizard!

He tucked the letter into his kit and ran all the way home.

.oOOo.

Please sign the guestbook...


Next Chapter Sneak Peek:  The Chat in the Hat

"John Watson just could not catch a break. Self-pity did not come naturally to him, but even so, the events surrounding his short tenure at Hogwarts School were nothing short of disastrous.  Now he was answering the summons to the Headmaster’s office, hoping that he would be expelled..."

Other chapters in this series...


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