Trevor Hallman walked down the dark corridors of Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with a slow shuffle. The lessons of the day swam in his mind like a dead fish, looping around and around but never going anywhere. Mr. Broomhold, the new potions master, had pulled him out of class and sent him to a part of the school he had never been.
That in and of itself was not unusual. Trevor was not a curious boy, want to wander the halls and explore the magical castle. When the other boys in his class told him of daring nights out dodging the caretaker Mr. Finch, Trevor shuddered wide-eyed with disbelief at their disregard of the rules.
The note in his hand gave him the directions to the painting. Large as a doorway, the painting depicted a fat little man sitting on a stump under a large oak tree. The man's stumpy legs rested on a large tortoise. The man’s chin rested on his chest, his eyes closed. A small snore escaped the painting.
Trevor gave a cough and the man’s head rose with slow patience.
“Yes?” the painting said.
Trevor said, “Yes, I’m here from Mr. Broomhold. They said I belonged here?”
“Right,” the fat man said. “Password?”
Trevor consulted the note in his hand. “They didn’t give me one.”
“Right. Good answer. Always best to admit when you don’t know nothing,” the man in the painting said. “Go on with you then.”
The painting swung open and revealed a small room. The room had a few desks set up in a semi-circle. Tables lined the walls covered in plastic boxes that looked new, items inside brightly colored. Other items like brooms and yardsticks were propped up in a corner. A chalkboard covered one wall behind a desk, the alphabet in more bright colors on a banner above it. The “C” and “S” on the poster were fighting a silent battle.
Trevor said hello into the room, not sure of what to do.
A small man walked from a corner by the door, his hands full of bottles of glue and a mop. He was round, his robes puffing out like his red cheeks. His eyes were small and half hidden behind folds of skin that rose when he smiled.
The wizard said, “Yes, hello, right.”
Trevor was not sure what to do. He had never met this instructor before. “Um, Professor Broomhold said I should come here instead of Potions class?”
“Yes, Trevor. I am Professor McGillicuddy and I'll be your only teacher from now on. Not just Potions, but all your classes.”
“But what about History of Magic or Defense Against the Dark Arts?”
Professor McGillicuddy beamed at Trevor, leaning the mop against the wall and placing a hand on Trevor’s shoulder. “Professor Dumbledore and I agree that you aren't suited for those classes anymore. You need... special attention. You are special.”
“Like Harry Potter?”
“No... not like that. But, you won't even have to live in that grimy basement with the rest of the Hufflepuffs. We've made you your own house!”
“But... What about the house cup?”
The professor made a noise like that of steam escaping a kettle. “Oh, you'll get your own house cup, Trevor. You are now in ShellSnap House, and your animal is the noble tortoise.”
“Yes, slow of wit but always moving and ready at the finish. It'll be fun. Hold this glue.”
The wizard pushed several white bottles of glue into Trevor’s hands. The boy looked down at them with confusion. “I don't know, Professor McGillicuddy, I just want to go back to Hufflepuff with my friends.”
The man tutted and began pulling papers from a small case on the desk in front of the blackboard. “You'll make new friends! We have singled out many students. You are only the first!”
“Oh, okay. What kind of magic will I be learning?”
“Not so much magic as life building skills and fun activities! Oh, we have so much planned for you.”
McGillicuddy held up a box and shook it. A dry rattle filled the room. “Like making art with noodles!”
“Wait, like macaroni pictures?”
“Moving, wizard macaroni pictures that you can show to your mother!”
“What does my mom have to say about this?” Trevor’s mother had been very excited when the owl came with the letter to Hogwarts. Her sister had gone and become very special indeed.
“Your muggle family won’t know the difference! You can tell them it’s magic!”
Trevor thought more about his aunt and knew she would know the difference. “I don’t know...,” then another thought came to him, “Will I still get to play quidditch?”
“Of a sort. There’s a bunch of brooms over there that we will let you play with.”
“Do they fly?”
The professor frowned a moment and turned it to a smile. “Not really. But you can put them between your legs and pretend! Pretending is it’s own kind of magic.”
“So, macaroni art and pretend quidditch. I don’t like this.”
“Listen, Trevor, after that mess with the war against the… well, you know, we need to appear stronger than ever. And let’s be frank, our numbers are a little low when it comes to OWLS. Everyone needs to do their part to help our magical numbers be their best so we can secure funding. Your part will be in attendance, learning life skills you can employ to the best of your ability. We know your magical scores aren’t the best and well, Dumbledore and I think you could do great things. And don’t worry, there’s more. The enchanted ball pit, magic kickball...”
“What was that you said about life lessons?”
“Oh, yes, we will teach you all you need to know to survive in the world. Things like wizard addition and subtraction, how to write a cheque, mopping...”
“Yes, floors don’t clean themselves, even wizard floors! We are going to have so much fun! Now, you start with this macaroni and make a picture of your family. Can you do that?”
“Like my mom and dad?”
Trevor thought for a moment. “Do I have to do my sister?”
“Not if you don’t want to. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to here. Just as long as you show up and we’ll graduate you.”