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Stephanie Eckland

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Stephanie Eckland

Taking one final glance back at the castle over the lake, Steph stepped onto the train for the ride that would take her home for the holidays. Was it though? The Hogwarts Express would not be stopping in York, this was a non-stop trip to London. Once at Kings Cross, she would be able to board another train heading for York.

 

To Steph, the seemed a little crazy. She was travelling effectively the length of the country, only to travel back and travel some distance back up to Yorkshire. Why didn't the train travel from a more central location, such as Birmingham? It would make far more sense for the Hogwarts Express to travel from Birmingham, it would cut journey times for most muggleborn passengers down by several hours. Was there something special about London? Fair enough, it was the capital but it was also out of the way for most people. What was the point of traveling to the South East, in order to then take a train to the extreme North?

 

That was how the train ran though, so Steph had to work within the system. "Shall we find an empty carriage?" she asked Willa as she pulled her trunk and her owl cage on board. She had sent Lorna home already, she didn't see any reason for her owl to be cooped up in her cage for such a long couple of train rides home.

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Willa Mercier

Part of Willa was glad to be leaving. Being away from her parents had been difficult. Her life before Hogwarts had been so isolated, though full of joy and love, that it had been difficult to acclimatise to her new environment. But Willa was leaving as a different person, a more confident person. She had made friends, broken rules and learnt so much. She would definitely miss the feeling of being surrounded by knowledge.

 

Of all the friends that she’d made Steph was her most treasured. The two had met at Pre Hogwarts Primary and clicked almost immediately. Being sorted into the same house and spending lessons and down time together had solidified their friendship. Willa considered Steph her best friend, something she’d never experienced before. She’d even invited Steph to visit her over the holiday. She couldn’t wait to show her friend her home, her mother’s garden and her own extensive book collection. She was even planning to gift one of her books to Steph as a Christmas present, What Came First, the Muggle or the Magic, a book she’d mentioned during their first encounter.

 

Pulling her trunk clumsily behind her and ignoring Hilda’s mews of annoyance set off with Steph to find an empty carriage. “Here’s one” she called swinging open the door and dragging her belongings in. It would be almost impossible for her 11 year old body to heave the trunk onto the baggage rails but luckily Steph had taught her a spell to help with that. She easily levitated her trunk and directed it to sit neatly on the shelf.

 

Throwing herself onto the seat she panted with the exertion of manipulating her trunk onto the train, still ignoring the irritated calls of her pet. “I cant believe it’s the holidays already, it’s gone so fast.” Waiting until her friend was equally settled she broached the subject of her impending visit. “So dad said he can sort you out a portkey. If you go to Deans Park my mum will be waiting there. I’ll introduce you at the station, so you know who you’re looking for.”

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Stephanie Eckland

Willa found an empty carriage, and Steph allowed her inside; nodding as her friend levitated her trunk onto the luggage rack. "Useful spell, isn't it?" Steph nodded as she used the same spell to manipulate her own trunk into position alongside Willa's

 

Her friend pointed out how quickly the time had passed. "I know. Less than a year ago, we first met at Pre-Hogwarts primary, and now look at us." They may only be going home for their first Christmas, but Steph had been hitting her books so hard that she had crammed an entire year's study into those few months. It would take most of the rest of her peers the rest of the year to catch up with her, if they ever could but she was certain that she and Willa could stay on the same page. She claimed the seat opposite as she thought back to their first meeting and what it meant to her. "When I first started at Pre-Hogwarts Primary, I spoke with people, but they returned only uncomprehending looks and scratched heads. Then we met and all that changed." Steph gave her friend a grateful smile ."I could not have asked for a better friend."

 

It seemed that Willa had looked into the question as to how Steph was going to get to her house over the holidays, and the solution was more than workable. "Deans Park, that's not far from me" she approved "that'll be ideal. The park will be full of muggles of course, but I am sure your mother and I will be able to slip away, unnoticed." Parks actually made the perfect meeting spot, since muggles also met in such places. They could slip behind a tree or something to mask their escape.

 

She was not happy about all the distressed mewing that seemed to be coming from Willa's cage though. "I can close the door if you want to let Hilda out for a bit" she suggested.

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Willa Mercier

Willa was very grateful that Steph had taught her the charm it had certainly come in handy, especially with the heavy trunks. She felt a little sorry for her school mates who had to try and get them into the carriages without it. “Yes its brilliant, I’ve even taught myself a few others. Its going to be a nightmare not being able to practice spells on holiday.” Although she could have probably have gotten away with it. Her parents would be very disappointed in her and she knew the rule was there for a reason.

 

Steph reminisced on their first meeting and Willa felt the same. She enjoyed the company of her other friends and they allowed her to be young and carefree in a way her and Steph often weren’t. But Willa loved learning and books above anything else and Steph was always happy to do that. “We’re on the same level aren’t we.” She said returning Steph’s smile. “We challenge each other, if you’ve learnt something I want to learn it to, and vice versa.” Both had their strengths and supported each other to overcome any weaknesses.

 

Willa was a little disappointed that she couldn’t go with her mother to collect Steph, but her parents had told her side along apparition was difficult and uncomfortable. “I’m looking forward to you coming over, I think you’ll like my house. We have lots of wizarding devices that you want have seen before, and we have a kneazle and a crup. Though you probably wont get to see them. We’ll keep Rigel, our crup, away. He doesn’t like visitors, and Petal just does what she likes.” She was most looking forward to showing Steph her mothers garden. They had spoken about it already, but Willa knew that Steph would see plenty of interesting things she’d never seen before.

 

Hilda’s mewing was both upsetting and annoying. Willa knew the kitten didn’t enjoy being cooped up in her carrier. “If you don’t mind.” She waited for Steph to shut the door before letting Hilda free. “She really hates being in that carrier”

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Stephanie Eckland

Willa objected to not being able to perform magic away from Hogwarts, although by now they had both cast hover charms on the train. Perhaps the ministry saw the train as an all-magical location, and therefore treated it the same as Hogwarts. Steph didn't think they would get away with magic once they reached King's Cross. "We may not be able to cast spells, but at least we will have our books" she pointed out "I might even order a couple more from Diagon Alley." It wouldn't be quite the same as visiting her local library, but Steph had a portkey that could take her to the alley and back.

 

She nodded when Willa pointed out that they were on the same level. She felt Willa hit the nail on the head when she said they both wanted to learn from each other, and she could think of an example right off the bat. "So what are these other charms you learned?" she questioned. She wasn't going to allow her friends admission to slip past her.

 

Willa spoke of her house, and her wizarding devices. "It will be interesting to see how magical families live their lives" she nodded, feeling positive that Willa think exactly the same about muggle homes. Her friend mentioned a crup and a kneazle. Even though she was muggleborn, Steph had heard of both of them. "I've read some books on magical creatures" she pointed out, although she was sure that would not come as a surprise. "They are similar to cats and dogs aren't they? A crup has a forked tail, and the ministry requires that owners have these trimmed." She decided at the last minute not to call it a 'crup crop'.

 

She closed the door to the carriage so that Hilda could be let out of her cage. "I've never met a cat yet that liked being shut in a box" she commented "despite what Schrodinger says."

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Willa Mercier

That was true, Willa could research spells to her hearts desire ready to test them all on her return. “Shall we make a pact, we’ll both mentally master at least one spell over the holidays. We can show each other what we’ve learnt when we get back to Hogwarts.” It would be difficult to know if they had actually mastered the spells without testing them, so this should test both girl’s intelligence.

 

Willa pulled her wand out of her robes and performed the wand lighting charm. The carriage already bright carriage filled with more light. It made it a little difficult to see so Willa quickly performed the counter curse, extinguishing the light at the end of her wand. It was a spell typically taught during second year and Willa was pleased with how quickly she’d mastered it. “I also learnt the severing charm, though the repairing charms slightly trickier so I’d better not show you that one.” She didn’t want to cause any damage to the carriage that she wasn’t able to repair.

 

“Yes they are somewhat like regular cats and dogs, though Petal would not be happy to hear you say that.” She said with a girn. “She see’s herself as rather above all our other pets. Once a Crup’s had its tail severed you wouldn’t be able to tell that it was a wizarding dog but Kneazles do look different to cats.”

 

With Hilda now happily cleaning herself on an empty seat, Willa turned to Steph with a confused look on her face. “Whose Schrodinger?” she asked. She assumed he must be a muggle, maybe some sort of cat trainer or animal psychologist.

 

((Crup Crop 😂))

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Stephanie Eckland

Willa suggested that they agreed to master at least one spell over the holidays, at least in theory as they wouldn't be able to test their discovery. "Let's do that" Steph agreed "although I am sure I'll be able to learn mroe than one spell, and I think you can too." Considering that they were both girls of strong mental prowess, she wondered if Willa might be setting the bar a little low.

 

Her friend demonstrated a charm, followed by its counter, and Steph watched closely. If anyone performed a new spell in front of Steph, it was a strong bet that she would be repeating it soon afterwards, and sure enough she too lit then extinguished her wand within seconds of Willa casting those spells. Willa also mentioned severing and repairing charms, referring to the latter as slightly trickier. "Perhaps not too tricky for us" she suggested "we've both mastered the summoning charm already, and that is seen as a fourth year spell." She did accept that it wouldn't be practical to demonstrate those spells here on the train though. "Those are two spells for me to research over the holidays then" she smiled.

 

Willa spoke more about her pets, explaining that Petal had a superiority complex and didn't like to be compared with a dog. "I'll watch my tongue around her" she promised. She had no desire to cause offence. As such, when Willa asked about Schrodinger, she tried to explain the scenario with a degree of delicacy. Willa was a cat lover after all.

 

"In 1935, a man named Erwin Shrodinger proposed a quantum mechanics thought experiment" she explained "it is commonly referred to a schrodinger's cat, for reasons I will explain. I will say at the outset that I would not care to put this to the test, I would consider it an act of cruelty." She was trying to lead her friend into it gently, but she knew that she would have to gave a proper explanation. She swallowed before she continued. "He proposed that if you place a cat in a sealed box with some poison and a slightly radioactive substance, you would not know whether or not the cat was alive at any point before you opened the box, and according to the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics, before long the cat would be both simultaneously alive and dead. Only when you opened the box, would you see a a cat in just one of these states." She looked across at Hilda, who was at that moment washing herself. "I'm sorry you had to hear that." she apologised to the kitten.

 

A moment later she glanced out of the window as the train started to move, as the view of Hogsmeade station was replaced by rolling countryside.

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Willa Mercier

“Oh we can definitely learn more then one.” Willa agreed, “But I wonder how many we’ll be able to perform on our first attempt.” It usually took Willa a few attempts to completely master a spell. Normally she’d need to adjust her wand movement slightly, or else she would be placing emphasis on the wrong part of the word. She had a slight advantage in that she could ask her parents for guidance, but she decided that would be unfair and wouldn’t accurately demonstrate her ability.

 

“Well done!” Willa said as Steph deftly demonstrated the two charms she had just shown her. Steph had a point with both of them working on the repairing charm she was sure it could be mastered before they reached London. “Maybe you could provide some insight,” she said jumping onto her seat and rummaging in her trunk for her spell book. Once back in her seat she flipped to the page which showed the repairing spell. “I thought maybe I was flicking to hard, but when I tried it more gently nothing happened.” She demonstrated the wand movement to her friend. “What do think, maybe a slight twist to the wrist or maybe it should be re-PAR-o rather than re-par-O”

 

Willa thought this Shrodinger sounded like a pretty strange guy, but as a thought experiment she supposed this was not something he had actually done, she hoped no one else had thought to test his hypothesis. The whole hypothesis itself was pretty confusing. “So the cat may or may not have eaten the poison, but I don’t understand the relevance of the radioactive substance.” She wasn’t exactly an expert in muggle sciences, she knew that it was something to do with atoms coming apart, but as to the effects of that Willa wasn’t sure.

 

She laughed as Steph apologised to the kitten, “Just be glad it wasn’t Petal,” she giggled, referring again to her highly strung pet.

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Stephanie Eckland

"More than one, I am sure" Steph grinned "and if we don't succeed on our first attempt, we probably will on our second or third. We are both very capable girls." Even the summoning charm; normally a fourth year spell, Steph had mastered within a week.

 

Willa congratulated her on her own spells, then asked for her thoughts with regard to the repairing charm. "I would say re-PAR-o" she advised "the word is derived from repair. The significance of repair is the suffix 'pair', meaning to join or connect. I would emphasise that part of the word." She considered also the wand motion. "I would give a proper flick, not necessarily sudden but with authority. You are giving instruction after all." She took out her own wand and demonstrated the gesture she had in mind. She considered also another point that the two of them had discussed about their magic. "I would also consider adding a mental image, picture in your mind how the object would look when it is repaired."

 

Willa was also confused about the radioactive element, but Steph didn't blame her as she hadn't explained that part very well. "The idea is that the poison is stored in a glass container" she pointed out "the radioactive substance is only mildly radioactive. In that box would also be a device that muggles use to detect radioactivity, with a hammer attached. If the device detected radiation, the hammer would fall and break the glass container."

 

Willa mentioned her pet, Petal and Steph nodded. "I'll remember that" she promised "I wouldn't want Petal to dislike me." She glanced out of the window, sure that they were already a couple of miles past Hogsmeade. "I wonder if my phone will work yet" she mused "knowing my luck, the battery is probably dead."

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Willa Mercier

“Oh yes!” Willa agreed, “I doubt there is any spell we couldn’t master given enough time. Even if it took us years to get there I’m sure we would accomplish it eventually.” Willa had learned of a few spells which were particularly tricky, spells which she knew were beyond her current capabilities. She was sure however that by the time her and Steph left Hogwarts both would be able to easily perform these feats.

 

Steph provided her own insight on the repairing charm. Of course, the emphasis should have been placed on the par part of the word. Steph’s logic made a lot of sense and she would definitely be using it as the she prepared her spells over the holidays. She already understood the importance of the mental image. It was what, she felt, had lead to her success in transfiguration, rather than Knaggs’s tutorage.

 

“Shall we try it out?” she asked. Not waiting for a response, she used her wand to create a large rip in her own robe. Her mother would forgive her and mend the item herself if needed. Taking Steph’s musings into consideration she attempted to cast reparo. With a glow of orange-brown her ripped robe was mended. It may have been slightly wonky, and her mother would definitely need to properly mend the item for her, but it was the best she’d done so far. “Look!” she said brandishing the puckered fabric at Steph, “Do you want to have a go?” Knowing Steph’s answer would likely be a yes, she demonstrated the correct wand movement and pronunciation of the severing charm. “It’s a lot easier then the mending charm, but I suppose its always easier to break things than fix them.”  

 

Willa felt as though she would never understand this strange muggle theory. Her original assumption had been that either the radioactive material or the poison could kill the cat but now she understood that the radioactive material was only there to release the poison. “So would the poison be some sort of gas that the cat…” she cast an apologetic look toward Hilda, “Has no choice in ingesting?”

 

Steph mentioned that phone again, something Willa was dying to see. “Oh, I hope it works!” They were definitely far away enough from Hogsmeade that the town would have no bearings on the electronic device, but she didn’t know if the magic within the train itself would have an effect. She knew a battery was a portable source of electricity for muggles, so if Steph’s was dead that would mean all the electricity in it had been used. “So, if the battery is dead how do you put more electricity in it?”

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Stephanie Eckland

Steph watched with interest as Willa magically ripped her robes then used her wand to repair them. The mend wasn't perfect, but it wasn't bad for a first attempt. "Well done" she congratulated her, nodding as Willa asked if she would like to try. She paid attention as Willa demonstrated the severing charm. Steph wondered if, by the time they started studying Charms next term, they would already have covered most of the first year curriculum and more besides.

 

The severing charm was actually fairly easy to work, although her first attempt at a repair wasn't ideal; there were a couple of gaps here and there where the fabric hadn't melded. She decided to rip the thing once more and try again, and this time the repair was close to flawless. Steph smiled at that.

 

Willa still had questions about she Schrodinger theory, this time she asked about the nature of the poison. "It would work either way" Steph pointed out "but my guess is that it wouldn't be a gas, for two reasons." Steph always gave reasons for the beliefs she held. "Firstly a gas would be harmful not just to the cat, when the box was opened it would mix with the outside air." That would be a significant problem, it could also kill the person conducting the experiment, or anyone else in the vicinity. "Secondly the whole concept is based on uncertainly; you do not know the status of the cat. If the cat can choose whether or not to take the poison, that would add another question, which in turn would strengthen the experiment."

 

When she mentioned her phone, that got Willa's attention. She had mentioned her phone a few times, and she had been hoping to give Willa a proper demonstration. Willa asked what would happen if the battery was dead. "In that case it would need recharging" she pointed out "there is a cable connector on the bottom of the phone" she pointed it out "if I run a cable from that to an electricity supply, I can feed energy into the battery. The battery will slowly fill with fresh energy, which will make it usable again." There was a down side of course. "I'd have to wait until I got home before I could charge it."

 

Did the phone need charging? Apparently not. She pressed the button to turn the phone on, and it came to life. The battery indicator showed that there was plenty of juice remaining. "It's still working" she pointed out "maybe the anti-muggle spells at Hogwarts that prevent electrical items from working also stopped my phone from discharging." That might explain how  the phone could  still work after several months of inactivity?

 

Whilst she waited for the phone to switch on fully, she took out a quill and parchment, and wrote down a couple of numbers. "The first is the number for this phone. If you enter this into any telephone in the UK, you can call me." It would only apply in the UK, for in other countries there were international dialing codes to consider. "The other number is for the phone in my parents' shop" she added. It did occur to her that Willa probably wouldn't have the first clue about how to use a phone though. "When we visit London, we could look for a telephone box" she mused "I can show you how they work." They had intended to wander around London at some point so that Willa could visit a muggle book shop.

 

After she had used her thumb print to identify herself to the phone, it came on fully and Steph grinned. "We have a network, my phone is operational!"

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Willa Mercier

 Willa joined Steph in practicing the charm. She managed to get the stiches looking somewhat even but she couldn’t seem to get the robe looking quite the same as it had before. She supposed some of the difficulty with this charm came from the challenge of having to picture the robe made whole. She had had the same difficulties with transfiguration. Although she was able to transform items they were never pretty.

 

Willa felt as though she understood the theory behind Schrodinger theory. “So, we can say the cat is both alive or dead because of the different variables that could cause it to die?” she queried checking her understanding. “I guess that kind of makes sense.” It might have made sense but the whole thing just seemed a little strange, and, if she was completely honest, pointless. She decided not to share her distaste for the theory with Steph, not wanting to discourage her from sharing anything similar with her in the future. “Do muggles have a lot of these thought experiments?” she asked instead.

 

Steph produced the small phone and Willa twisted in her seat to get a clear view of the screen as Steph attempted to turn the phone on. She listened to her friend’s explanation of how she replaced the electricity in the phone. Finally, the phone sprung to life a Willa couldn’t help but gasp as she watched the screen light up. “Wow look at that, it’s so bright!”

 

Willa took the numbers from Steph tucking them inside her robe. She’d never used a telephone before, but she was ready to give it a go. She had seen one before and she was sure she could figure it out despite Steph’s offer to show her. “I think I could figure it out but it’s probably best you give me some instructions just in case.”

 

The phone was apparently now fully open, and Steph opened it with her thumb, just like magic. “Can we make a phone call now, or send an email, or internet or….” She let her voice drop off realising she was spewing ideas without actually letting Steph show her anything. “Well why don’t you show me your favourite thing to do on it.”

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Stephanie Eckland

Steph watched her friend's attempts to cast the repairing charm. Her efforts looked reasonable but the robe never quite appeared like new. "Not bad" Steph offered her encouragement, then gave some advice. "Maybe slow down a little, concentrate on each stitch. If you rush, you might miss a few." Would that help? If you were working slower, you could see if you were making any mistakes. She could learn to work faster over time.

 

Willa seemed to understand the Schrodinger theory at last, and Steph nodded. "Exactly, you don't know the condition of the cat until you check for yourself" she confirmed. She didn't feel like there was really too much more to be said about Schrodinger though, so she left that one aside as Willa had asked if she knew of any other thought experiments.

 

"Let's see" she mused "there is the cow in the field. A farmer owns a cow that has wandered off. A visitor tells the farmer he has seen the cow in another field. The farmer is certain the cow is in that field but checks anyway. He sees a black and white shape in that field, and is satisfied that is his cow. Later, the visitor from before checks the field, the cow is there but hidden in some trees, but also finds a large sheet of black and white paper caught in a tree. Even though the cow was in the field, was the farmer correct when he said he knew it was there?"

 

Steph wondered if one question would be enough and decided to tempt her friend with another. "Consider also the Ship of Theseus" she added "This one is quite old. It describes a ship which has been seaworthy for hundreds of years due to regular repairs, and parts being replaced. As a plank rotted, it would be replaced by another and so forth. Eventually every working part is no longer the original. At this point, is it the same ship or something else entirely? If not, when did it stop being the same ship? Also if you were to take all the original parts of them and make a new ship, which of the two is the real Ship of Theseus?" Having asked both questions, Steph figured that Willa would have enough to be going along with for now.

 

Willa was definitely interested in her phone, and Steph smiled when she pointed out how bright the display was. She nodded when Willa said she could figure it out. "I'm sure you could" she agreed "but I'll show you anyway. It can be a little confusing at first."

Willa have some thoughts as to what she could do with her phone, and Steph nodded along. "Yes, to all of those" she confirmed "in a little while, I'll call my mum, but for now I'll show you something else."

 

Giving Willa a full view of what she was doing, she touched the icon for her web browser. As the browser loaded, it brought up a search page. "If I touch this area, I can type text into the box." She typed in 'How do cars work?' then pressed the 'Enter' key. This brought up a list of search results. "I can select any one of these, it is a link to an Internet page." She selected the top link, and indeed a web page described the workings of the internal combustion engine. "I can scroll up and down by moving my finger up and down on the screen" she demonstrated.

 

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Willa Mercier

Willa took another attempt, this time carefully imagining the threads of her robes weaving back together. This time, minus a few loose threads, the rip was completely invisible. That was until she turned the robe over and saw the ugly stitching on the other side. “I don’t know what it is about this spell.” She said with a grunt of frustration. “It almost feels like I have some mental block. I can picture the robe mended but I can’t seem to produce it.” She wondered if she would have more luck with a less complex material. “Maybe I should practice with paper or something like that?” she wondered.

 

 Willa was glad she’d finally got to grips with the concept of Schrodinger’s theory, then Steph planted to more of the strange thought experiments on her. These two were slightly easier to understand as they didn’t include muggle technologies that she was unfamiliar with. She began with analysing the cow theory. “Well I suppose it would depend on how you interpret what it means to know something. In the farmers opinion he saw the cow so he when he says he knows the cow is there he is correct. If you asked the visitor however he might say the farmer didn’t know as his understanding of the situation is greater.” She mused on the idea a little longer, “I suppose it brings into question what it means to know something, does knowing something mean you are 100% correct or is it more personal than that.”

 

She then considered the idea of Theseus’ ship. This theory seemed more straight forward to her. “I guess a ship is like a kind of home, if I changed everything in my home it wouldn’t stop being my home just because it wasn’t built from the same materials. If I took the old bricks and built another house that wouldn’t then become my home.” This theory seemed to be address identity and Willa thought of another application for it. “If we took polyjuice potion to look like each other I wouldn’t stop being me and you wouldn’t become me just because that’s how we appeared on the outside.” Her take on this theory was more decisive then the first and she was sure her friend would have some argument to counter hers.

 

Steph began touching icons on the screen of her phone changing what was displayed. She brought up a little box with the letters all jumbled up and type with an alarming amount of speed the words How do cars work? The screen changed again displaying text, some of it highlighted. She tapped one of the highlighted sections of text and the screen changed again. This time it looked like some sort of essay with a few diagrams. Before she could read the text displayed Steph showed her how to move the page up and down, it was as simple as just moving your finger. Willa couldn’t imagine having the answers to almost every question displayed as simply as that. Why didn’t the magical world have something similar. Maybe, when she had graduated Hogwarts, she’d find a way to make a similar magical device. “Can I have a go?” She asked. Although she wanted to read about cars she would much rather try her hand at navigating the internet.

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Stephanie Eckland

"That's better isn't... err" Steph was originally pleased with Willa's new attempt before she turned the robe over and viewed the other side. "I'm sure with practice you'll be fine" she encouraged "it's just a shame we won't be allowed to practice over Christmas. You're like me though, you won't allow yourself to be beaten by a spell." She offered another suggestion. "If necessary, we'll work on this together when we get back to school."

 

She listened to Willa's ponderings over the cow theory. She agreed that the answer depended a great deal on how you interpreted knowledge. "I'd say knowledge is a subset of belief" she pondered "more specifically it is justified true belief. This means it must be supported by evidence." How would this apply to the cow question? She thought a little more. "In this case I'd be inclined to side with the visitor" she explained "Although he arrived at the right answer, the evidence was not what it appeared and on closer examination did not lead to the conclusion he drew. I'd say he was convinced that the cow was in the field, but he did not know even though the conclusion was correct. I think it is not enough that you arrive at the correct answer, the reasoning that led you to that answer should be sound."

 

When Willa gave her response to the Theseus' ship question though, Steph immediately saw a flaw in her reasoning. Willa appeared to be considering the question of ownership, but to Steph this was a more a question of identity. "I wouldn't think too hard on whether he or not he owns the ship, but rather whether it is the same ship after all the parts are replaced. For another example, there was a comedy I saw on television once. One man said was talking about a broom he had held for years; a sweeping broom not a flying broom, these were muggles. He said that the broom had 17 new heads and 14 handles. Someone else asked how it could be the same broom. As another example, consider a musical group; a band. This band has been around for years, and in that time people had joined and left. Eventually none of the original members are left. Is it the same band?" Steph hoped those two additional examples might help to lead her friend towards the same line of thinking.

 

She considered some of the examples that Willa had used when trying to answer the question. "With a property, at least with a freehold, you own the land that the house is built on. You can knock the house down and rebuild, but as you own the land, you also own the new house." She wasn't entirely sure if the same was true with a leasehold. In that case you rented the land yet you owned the house. Could you knock the house down and rebuild as you could with a freehold?

 

Willa also spoke of polyjuice potion, which Steph had read about but had never brewed. "In that case, you are assuming the outward appearance and I suspect the vocal chords of the other person. The potion does not affect the mind though. Your thoughts, your personality and your memory are still your own. You are still yourself, even if you are wearing the equivalent of a magical mask." That was her take on polyjuice potion anyway, maybe Willa would know a little more about it. As Willa brought up the potion as an example, was she considering identity after all?

 

Her friend was definitely interested when Steph showed her how she could surf the web on her phone, but that came as no surprise. She had just demonstrated how the web could be used as a research tool, and that you could find the answers to many questions with a simple search. Willa then asked if she could try. "Of course" Steph smiled, and demonstrated a couple of icons in the browser window which she was sure would come in useful. "That is the 'back' button, it takes you to the last page you visited. That icon is called 'home' it brings up the screen you first saw when I opened the Internet browser." She then handed over the phone so that Willa could work with it. "Can you imagine if we could browse through the Hogwarts library in that way?" she pondered. That would be incredible, they could look up any article in any book in a matter of seconds.

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Willa Mercier

Willa was grateful for her friend’s encouragement and Steph was right. She’d keep practicing the spell until she had mastered it. “I’ll still try to figure it out over the holidays, it can be one of the spells I try to master, although I’ve had a little head start.”

 

Willa listened to Steph’s thoughts on the cow theory. Steph provided sound reasonings for her perspective. “Yes, I think I’d be inclined to agree with you on that. I suppose it still could be argued that knowing is more of a feeling then an absolute understanding, but it would be difficult for me to present an argument from that perspective as I don’t agree with it.”  She considered the argument wanting to continue the debate with her friend and so added. “I wonder how this applies to theories that have been later proven to be incorrect. Do we say that scientists didn’t know, or because of the limitations within knowledge at that time they did?”

 

Steph didn’t agree with her interpretation and provided thoughts to counter it. It appeared her arguments dealt more with ownership than identity. She felt that maybe Steph had misinterpreted them as she gave her own examples of a broom and a band. However, as Steph went on to explain why she didn’t agree with Willa’s arguments she realised maybe they were a little less clear then Steph’s own examples. “Well I suppose you could say that.” She referenced the home argument first. “Though I think it would be fair to say that its not really the land your home is built on that makes a home a home. In this case I’m specifically talking about that feeling that makes a place a home rather than a house. I can own many houses but that doesn’t automatically make them a home.”

 

The discussion of Polyjuice was a little more complex as it brought into question what it meant to be you. “Well isn’t that the question? Theseus’s ship is more then is physical appearance it is also the memories created around it that give it its identity. So Polyjuice potion would completely change my genetic makeup making me different in the same way Theseus’s ship is now different but those things that create my identity remain the same.”

 

Willa listened carefully to Steph’s instructions watching as she indicated the different navigational tools, it seemed pretty confusing. “If only.” Willa agreed. Although it seemed confusing once she got the hang of it she was sure she would love the internet. If she could look up relevant information in a few clicks that would make research so much easier. “Although having to look through multiple resources means you get lots of other information you might have never thought to investigate.”

 

Willa took the phone, she had expected the phone to be heavy, but it wasn’t. She hadn’t expected it to be so slippery, she almost dropped it though managed to keep hold before it slipped to the floor. She brought up the keyboard like Steph had shown her and carefully typed in her question. The keyboard was confusing the letters weren’t in alphabetical order but jumbled up everywhere. It took her far longer to type in Lord of the Rings Theories then it took Steph to type her question. She pressed each letter hard to make sure it showed up in the little box above.

 

She clicked on the first article that came up and read the first theory about Gandalf and the eagles. It was something that she had briefly wondered about, assuming that their favour only went so far. The theory was written in very plain English, not like the literature she was used to, but maybe that was how muggles presented their work. Willa looked at Steph a little confused, “So is this widely accepted as fact?” she asked.

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Stephanie Eckland

Steph nodded when Willa said she would try to master the spell anyway, then she responded to the cow theory. "I also would not view knowledge in that way" she admitted "if it was based on a feeling, anyone who was convinced of anything could claim knowledge in that area. People could state as fact every woo claim, every conspiracy theory and every single religion. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but facts must be demonstrable." When Willa wondered how this might also apply to science, Steph continued. "Science accepts claims tentatively, based on evidence. These claims are always open to revision if new evidence comes along. Once you assert that something is a fact, you close your mind to it. That is why science is so keen on the word 'theory'. We have the theory of gravity, germ theory of disease and the theory of evolution for example. They are all demonstrable, and yet science still calls them theories." Steph smiled as she thought of something else. "Three years ago, could I have claimed to know that there was no such thing as magic?"

 

Willa spoke of a home specifically, not necessarily the question of ownership of a house, and argued that this description could be based on feelings. "I can accept that how a person feels about a property can determine whether they call it a home and not merely a house that they own or live in" she admitted. She wasn't sure how relevant this distinction was to the question being asked though. "Can we truly say though that whether or not Theseus wants to board or sail the ship, or whether he feels an emotional bond with it affects the identity of the ship itself, or is this just his attachment to it? You may fall out of love with a car that keeps breaking down, but until you sell that car, it still belongs to you."

 

"Perhaps the memories surrounding the ship give it meaning for you, but is that actually the ships identity or just is story? Do emotions cloud the issue of whether or not it is the same ship as before. Wasn't the question whether or not it was the same ship, not how much he may or may not care about it?" Willa spoke of Polyjuice potion changing your DNA, not merely your outward appearance, but that was not what Steph had read. "You are certain it actually changes your genetic make-up?" she pondered "where did you learn this? Wouldn't it be dangerous to alter your DNA? What if your body starts rejecting itself?" She expanded. "There was another question Steph that almost immediately leapt to her mind when Willa suggested that Polyjuice Potion could rewrite your DNA. "How about cancer?" she wondered "if you had a growth, would Polyjuice Potion alter its DNA as well? Would it eliminate the tumour completely? Could Polyjuice Potion be used as a cure for cancer?"

 

She then thought of something else she had read about Polyjuice Potion. "I recall that one of Harry Potter's friends, who used the potion to assume his likeness, commented about his poor eyesight afterwards. Clearly her own eyes had adjusted to match his. What if someone was blind or deaf due to defects in the brain though, not just poor eyes or ears? Could the potion repair these areas? Could it give sight a blind man who has been blind from birth due to a damaged brain?"

 

"True" Steph agreed "seeing new perspectives is always refreshing, and it does broaden the mind." Willa almost dropped her phone, but she managed to keep hold of it. She watched Willa navigate the Internet, a little more slowly than she did. This was understandable though, it was a new experience for her and Steph was patient. Willa asked if the article about Gandalf and the eagles was widely accepted. "It is one person's interpretation" she pointed out "There are many people who describe the eagles as Deus ex Machina; God from the machine. They are very good at turning up when they are needed and conveniently tying up all the loose ends." Steph felt she should explain something about the Internet. "Anyone with access to the Internet can write anything they want" she pointed out "all you need is access a tool that will publish what you want on-line, and these are readily available. There is less regulation with regard to putting something on the Internet than publishing a book. A publisher can turn an author down if they don't like or don't agree with what they wrote. You can find answers on the Internet, but there is also a great deal of nonsense and misinformation. You need to ask whether or not you can trust the source, and how they came by their information. Reputable scientific sources will be written in scientific language, and will provide references."

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Willa Mercier

Willa nodded in agreement. “Yes, if knowledge was defined that way its awful close to an opinion. I could say I know that my mum makes the best chocolate cake.” She giggled, “Even though I’m sure that is actually true there’s no way to prove it definitively, well not unless she made enough cake for everyone in the world to try.” Steph went on to explain how this theory applied to science. “I guess that makes sense and I suppose it applies to other schools, such as history, ancient history that is.”

 

Steph mentioned that there would have been a time when she would have said magic didn’t exist. “That’s an interesting point, how does that theory apply to muggles saying that magic isn’t real. We obviously know it is real and can prove this, but a muggle with no knowledge of magic might say that its absence is proof. Would they then know magic isn’t real or would this fall into the realms of theory?”

 

Willa listened as Steph continued to question the identity of Theseus’s ship. It seemed she believed that the identity of an object was not necessarily linked to the attachment placed on it. “I would argue that without memory and emotional attachment, which could be positive or negative, an inanimate object has no identity.” She was enjoying this debate, even if it was deviating from the original question, “How would you define it?”

 

Steph directed the conversation back to the original question. “If we’re talking about in its material form, then no it is not the same ship, but you asked which one is Theseus’s ship and I would say there’s more to being Theseus ship then a bunch of wood.” She realised Steph hadn’t told her her thoughts on this question. “Which one do you think is his ship?”

 

Steph’s own readings on Polyjuice potion had lead her to a different conclusion to Willa’s. She had read the book some time a go and it was possible she had misunderstood what the intricacies of the potion were. “Maybe we need to do some research into Polyjuice together. I have a few books which talk about it that we could look at when you come to visit. Maybe we could have a go at brewing it when we get back to Hogwarts, although its quite advanced and can go badly wrong if not done correctly.” She was sure it was nothing they couldn’t handle but maybe a bit more potions experience wouldn’t go amiss. “I’m not sure exactly what method’s healer’s use to cure cancer. I suppose it could be a variation of the Polyjuice potion but with a lasting effect. Maybe that’s something else to add to our list, though I’m not particularly interested in healing spells and potions.”

 

Willa hadn’t imagined that anyone could add whatever they wanted to the internet. If it seemed confusing before it was ten times that now. “Is it hard to work out what’s fact and what’s fiction? I get the language and resources would be key but surely they’re not that difficult to fake.” She slowly navigated back to the search page searching the screen carefully for the navigational tools Steph had shown her. “I wonder if there are any theories about Hogwarts?” she said typing this into the search box. The page asked her if she meant Hog Weed and returned what appeared to be articles warning about the dangers of the plant. “I guess not.” She said with a chuckle.

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Stephanie Eckland

Steph smiled at Willa's description of her mother's chocolate cake. "For me to form an opinion, I would have to try your mum's chocolate cake" she pointed out, then added a little more. "To make an absolute statement though, I would have to sample every chocolate cake that has ever been made, or could ever be made. Even then, it would just be my subjective point of view." Willa tried to equate scientific principles to ancient history. "Do you want to suggest that to Grimsby, or shall I?" she laughed. Their History of Magic teacher was so incompetent, even when he did try and take his subject seriously, he did nothing more than give his own opinions on various historical figures. "A lot of ancient history does work that way though, you present the evidence and people form their own conclusions. When science gets involved with history; in Geology for example, the evidence can be significant. We know that our planet is 4 and a half billion years old."

 

Willa expanded on her point about muggles, asking if muggles somehow knew magic wasn't real. "In order to know something, the facts have to be on your side. Muggles may claim that magic isn't real, but they are in error. They may use the colloquial definition of a theory, being a belief or a hunch. A scientific theory however is a framework which explains a set of facts.  All they are doing is asserting magic doesn't exist because they haven't seen it." She expanded on this point by pointing out the flaws in such an assertion. "This is a logical fallacy called the Argument from Ignorance, They assume a particular conclusion is true based on lack of evidence to the contrary. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Granted, we are fuelling their ignorance by keeping muggles in the dark about magic."

 

Willa continued to debate Theseus' ship, and she was convinced that emotion must somehow play a part in the argument. "If all humans vanished off the face of The Earth, would a rock top being a rock? Would an ocean still be an ocean?" she pondered "people may give labels to objects, but property ownership is a legal definition, not an emotional claim. Can you state in a court of law that because he has no feelings for one of them, that it is therefore not his ship?" Willa asked what her position was, she felt she was explaining herself quite well, but she offered as summary. "I would say it comes down to whether or not ownership could be demonstrated. Even if it were possible to ask Theseus' opinion that matter, how would you know that he is telling the truth?"

 

Willa asked which one Steph thought was Theseus ship. "It could be claimed that they both are" she replied "the original ship would of course have been his all along. The one that was rebuilt over time is his as well, as at no point did ownership change hands. If you replaced a damaged part in a machine, the machine is still legally yours, even if over time the whole thing is rebuilt."

 

Her friend suggested that they conduct further research into polyjuice potion, and Steph nodded. She was happy to read into it further, but she wasn't sure how they were going to get around to brewing it. "How are we going to get our hands on boomslang skin or lacewing flies?" she mused "I'm not sure if Fitz will give us access to his stores, and I'm certainly not going to help myself." That was the trouble with Potions; the ingredients were so tightly controlled that it was almost impossible to experiment on your own outside of class. "I'm not so fussed about healing either" Steph admitted "it is a noble profession of course, but I don't think it is quite my cup of tea."

 

Willa was still confused by the Internet, and that wasn't surprising. "That question even confuses the muggles" she admitted "as with anything else though, it comes down to source and evidence. Scientific claims will be referenced and supported by evidence." As for the source of the information, one way to do that was to explain how URLs worked. "You see that line of text at the top of the screen, the one that starts 'www.'?" she pointed it out "that is the address of the web page, and also the site where the information comes from. The bit before the forward slash is particularly useful. Each site has its own address, and that part at the beginning identifies it. The 'www' means it is part of the World Wide Web; the collection of pages you are browsing through. The next part is the name of the site, and this is followed by what is called a domain suffix, and in all countries except America, this includes a reference to the country where that domain was registered. Americans came up with the system of classifying web addresses, so they don't feel obliged to identify themselves. '.co.uk' means the domain relates to a company in the United Kingdom, 'org.uk' is a UK organisation, 'com.au' identifes an Australian company, 'com' should mean an international company, but of course the Americans use that as their own. 'gov.uk' is a UK government site, muggle government of course. Anyway, by ensuring that the domain relates to a source you trust; sometimes this can require additional research if a company's web site is unknown, you can decide whether or not you can trust what you see on screen."

 

Willa tried to look up information about Hogwarts, but Steph shook her head. "No, the ministry would crack down on restricted information if they saw it" she pointed out "I'm sure there are ministry employees whose job it is to patrol the Internet, looking for anything relating to magic or Hogwarts."

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