1) Wandering Book Lenders and Subscription Libraries
“Is there a public library for wizards we can go to?”
That was among the first questions John had for Dumbledore after Harry Potter’s memorable first trip to Diagon Alley.
“Not the form you are used to, no,” Dumbledore replied. “Most wizard settlements aren’t large enough to host their own local library.”
“I would’ve thought London would have one, at least,” John said.
“There had been an attempt to build one in Diagon Alley, but public interest was low and thus the Ministry of Magic was unable to justify its cost. There hadn’t been another attempt since.” Dumbledore shook his head. “There are private libraries in London that allow outsiders to borrow a set number of books per month with a small fee.”
“Hmmm, that’s better than nothing,” John took a sip of tea. “How do we sign up? And how much per month?”
“I’ll do some research. The ones I patronize are not exactly appropriate for children and neophytes.”
“Full of tomes like Advanced Transmogrification of the Hypotenuse, eh?”
Dumbledore smiled. “Post Doctoral Studies in Tea Kettle transformations, actually, but yes.”
Then Dumbledore hummed to himself.
“In my younger days, there were travelling book lenders who wandered up and down the Isle, carting a wagon full of books one could borrow for a knut. One could summon them by pointing one’s wand to the sky. I do believe the method still works, but be advised you may accidentally flag the Knight Bus instead.“
“Good thing we have a wand now, then. And noted.”
Later, John told Dumbledore they had about one out of sixteen chance of flagging a wandering book lender. Apparently, peripeditic book renting was a dying business and so the Knight Bus had all but taken over the summon-by-wand market (or so the incensed and annoying snot of a bus conductor told them).
“They do things by Owl Order, now,” John informed. “I saw a teeny-tiny ad on the Prophet and requested a catalogue. It was about the size of three Oxford English Dictionaries stacked on top of each other. I can probably kill someone with it.”
“Please refrain from killing one of my staff, though I know he can be trying.”
“I make no promises.”
2) Book stores vis-à-vis Muggle Libraries
Ever since Lockhart removed all of Harry’s bones in his right arm, John was hyper-aware of the added barriers Muggles faced when it came to parent-teacher relations. Therefore John was extremely glad to have Molly Weasley as a fellow student mother. It wasn’t long before they were having regular chats over tea. It helped Arthur was such a Muggle Gadget enthusiast.
“What exactly is the function of a rubber duck?” Arthur asked, very seriously.
“What exactly is the function of Exploding Snap?” John rejoined, equally serious.
By Michaelmas term, John thought it wouldn’t hurt to take Arthur and Molly out on a little “Day In the Life of a City Muggle” tour in London. Even with Sherlock in tow, though he wasn’t inclined to join at the time.
They stopped by a Waterstones at some point. Even Molly couldn’t restrain her amazement.
“Oh, it’s just like being back in Hogwarts!” Arthur exclaimed. “Molly, look!” he beamed as he pointed at the wall of cookbooks and magazines. “The pictures don’t move! They really don’t!”
The few nearby patrons were starting to stare. So were the staff. Fortunately, John had a lot of experience shushing people whose every other word was loud and inappropriate.
Arthur clapped his hands over his mouth. He still vibrated from the sheer effort of having to restrain his enthusiasm. John gave him points for trying.
“Where should we start?” John asked. “Novels? Aviation? I think there’s a How-Do-Things-Work book in here somewhere… ”
Arthur took Molly by the hand and the two rush over to the children’s section, which was full of brightly illustrated hardbacks. Before long, they were sitting cross legged on the floor next to each other, poring over a Roald Dahl work with their heads bumping. They giggled quietly.
John watched them, warmth and guilt and wistfulness enveloping her like a insulating blanket in a middle of a starry Afghan desert.
3) Muggles in the Hogwarts Library
“So, Harry. Show us the famous Hogwarts Library.”
Harry hadn’t known what, exactly, Sherlock and John would want to do first if they had the chance to roam through all of Hogwarts. Visiting the Library hadn’t occurred to him.
Ms. Pince wasn’t manning the front desk when he took them there. Apparently, she’d joined the ‘VOLDEMORT IS DEAD, YAY’ festivities. The library itself appeared to be empty. John removed all of her weapons—including a fearsome thirty cm knife strapped to her ankle—before the Library’s threshold before they all stepped inside.
John and Sherlock stood in silence as they gave Hogwarts’ library the admiration it was due.
“I feel like I’m in the Bodleian,” said John with happy sigh.
“I got banned from it back in uni,” Sherlock muttered. No one bothered to ask what he did to get banned in the first place.
The three of them roamed through the hundreds of ceiling-high shelves hosting thousand upon thousands of books. Harry showed Sherlock and John the table he and his Hufflepuff friends usually met to do their Herbology homework. Sherlock showed about the same interest to the Restricted Section as he did the regular section, though he did flash a morbid grin when the book he appropriated from the Restricted Section screamed at his face.
At last, they settled down at a table near a fire. John plucked out a book at random and flipped it open. She smiled at the pocket attached to the inside of the cover.
“Paper checkout slips. This takes me back.”
“There are challenges to implementing electronic record keeping and barcodes in a steeply analogue world, I’m sure,” Sherlock rumbled, the corners of his eyes creased with crows feet.
“Wonder what the magical equivalent would be?” John mused.
“Whatever Jacqueline is using to record transactions for her version of magical online retailer,” Sherlock replied. “Which is to say, using technology where technology is appropriate and magic where magic is.”
“MagiTech,” John grinned. “Welcome to the future.”