“University?” said Anna. “Oh no, I couldn’t do that.”
“Why not?” he said, bewildered.
“Well, they’d all be so much older than me, I wouldn’t be able to pitch it right for them. And as I said, I don’t have any qualifications.”
“What makes you think they’d all be older than you?” demanded Caecilius, very confused by now. “Our youngest university student is eleven, the oldest is thirty – there are some younger than you, you see?”
“That’s … quite an age gap. In my time, you don’t go to university until you are at least eighteen,” Anna said.
“Well, here you just go as soon as you have completed levels 1 – 10. You start learning at the age of seven, and some master it quickly, and move on, others take longer, and stay in the same level for a year or more. Some take a break in the middle – this is allowed, as long as the student is employed doing something useful during this time.” To Anna, this seemed a much better method of education, and she said so. Of course, the king agreed. His grandfather had invented the system, he told her. It was a very good system.
Suddenly, Anna’s stomach rumbled loudly. She blushed and tried to pretend it hadn’t happened, but Caecilius wasn’t fooled.
“You must be famished!” he exclaimed. “I’m sorry, I’ve been so selfish. I’ll take you to lunch immediately – I’m sure you won’t have had any breakfast, and although it’s mid-afternoon … well, the kitchen here is never empty; I’m sure we can find something for you, and I’m pretty hungry myself.”
The two of them made an unlikely pair – a king from the future and an ordinary girl who just happened to travel in time without meaning to. Together, they left the throne room – and found Hermione standing outside the door, her ear pressed against the wall , listening to every word that was being said.