“The Sorting of Suzie Sefton”
Summary: An old wand finds its witch at long-last as a new Muggle-born enters the wizarding world. Young Suzie Sefton finds more than a few diversions along the way, from her first trip to Diagon Alley to the Hogwarts Express to the Sorting Ceremony. Her first encounter with Severus Snape is particularly dramatic—and potentially traumatic. (Four Chapters)
Genres: General, Humor, AU
Characters: Mr Ollivander, Severus Snape, Rubeus Hagrid, Poppy Pomfrey, Minerva McGonagall, the Sorting Hat, Draco Malfoy, Suzie Sefton, Miranda Sefton, Perrit, Ambrose Ollivander, Stan Raffles, Andrew Campbell, Cyrus Sprangle, Antonia Blackwell, Abdul Khalil, Kevin Harper, Letitia Pepper, Perpetua Gleason, Lida Shelby, and others
Warning: Spoilers for A Long Vernal Season and for Death’s Dominion, to which Long Vernal Season is the sequel.
Not DH-compliant. Only partially HBP-compliant. A “sister story” to A Long Vernal Season. Part of the Resolving a Misunderstanding universe.
Chapter One: Wand Waving
Monday, 3 August 1998
Suzie jumped up and down and pointed. “Oh, look, Mum! Owls! The letter said I could bring an owl!” Her black ponytail bounced with excitement.
“I think we ought to wait until your Christmas holiday to decide on anything like that,” Miranda Sefton said, her brows furrowed as she tried to convert Galleons to pounds sterling in her head, and failing utterly. “We’ll ask your father.”
Suzie, spirits not dampened by this, skipped across the street to a shop that was being painted by a very tiny person with pale blue skin and wrapped in some kind of toga. He had just finished painting the golden “d” and “s” in the stencilled word “Wands” on a deep blue sign.
“Mum! Mum! I have to have a wand, the letter said so!” Suzie exclaimed, oblivious to the fact that her mother was still on the other side of the street, herself distracted by the sight of an ancient, hag-like woman haggling with an enormous bearded man about the price of the live Flobberworm larvae she was selling from her cart.
Miranda was unsure whether she was more disgusted by the thought of Flobberworm larvae—which sounded revolting even though she’d never heard of them before—more unnerved by the sight of the hag, or more amused by the jovial oversized man with the wild-looking hair and beard. When she saw her daughter in excited conversation with the tiny blue painter, however, Miranda felt slightly alarmed. Who knew what dangers lurked in this peculiar world, she thought, and she hurried over to her daughter’s side.
“Mum, this is Perrit! Perrit’s an elf! He says this is Ollivander’s wand shop and that it’s reopening today for the first time after the war. He says that Ollivanders have been making wands for thousands of years! Can we get my wand here, can we?”
Since Miranda had no idea where else they might procure such an object as a wand—a real one, anyway, not the sort that her Great-aunt Millie used to use for divining water and looking for old Roman coins—Miranda nodded. She was slightly perturbed by the mention of the word “war,” however.
Her mouth somewhat dry, and wishing that her husband David could have come with them, Miranda turned to the tiny person, who didn’t look anything like elves she’d seen in any books or movies. He looked a little bit like the brownies in the picture books which her grandmother used to read to her from, except not as cute. “Sir, Mr Perrit, what war was it that you mentioned?”
Perrit giggled and covered his mouth with one paint-flecked hand before replying. “The evil wizard Voldemort-whose-name-was-Riddle wished to purify the wizarding world. He waged long war to make everything evilly pure. Then, years and years before today, the Dark Wizard vanished from the world, defeated by the baby Mr Harry Potter. But the Evil Wizard came back from the dead, and Mr Harry Potter, great wizard of the Light, must defeat him again. Poor old Mr Ollivander was stolen by the evil Riddle, taken away because he holds the greatest secrets of ancient wandmakers. Mr Harry Potter and his brave friends saved old Mr Ollivander from the dungeon of the Dark Riddle Wizard, then Mr Harry Potter, the great Professor Albus Dumbledore, and the most esteemed Headmistress McGonagall of Hogwarts all vanquished the Most Miserable Riddle for once and for all. He is gone. The war is over. Perrit is happily happy. All good house-elves rejoice for Mr Harry Potter and the glorious victory at Hogwarts.”
“Hogwarts School,” Perrit said with a quick nod. He looked across the street at a wizard in a sort of bibbed robe who was walking toward them. “My master comes. Must finish sign quick-quick! Buy very good wands here for all witches and wizards.” He smiled toothily at Suzie. “The young miss finds a very good wand here, indeed indeed! An old wand for Light times you will have!” Perrit returned to his painting, flicking his fingertips at the sign, transferring the beautiful liquid gold to the wood, and “Est. 382 B.C.” appeared below the word “Wands.”
“Come on, Mum!” Suzie tugged at her mother’s hand.
Miranda blinked as they entered the shop. There was both the brand-new scent of fresh-cut lumber, recently applied paint, and something that smelled vaguely of disinfectant, and an ancient, musty scent, like that of a very old book being opened for the first time in decades, or like the trunks in her grandmother’s attic, which had always been filled with such wonderful things when she was a girl.
A strong, heavily tanned older man stepped out from behind a row of shelves and greeted them. Though he did not smile, his golden brown eyes sparkled, and his cheerful robes of bright turquoise blue and a soft, pale tangerine colour seemed to smile for him. For all that he was quite a bit older than she, with a few strands of white hair sprinkled through his curly, honey brown hair, Miranda didn’t see him as the “poor old Ollivander” whom the blue house-elf had described.
The wizard’s sharp eyes acknowledged Miranda, but then turned appraisingly upon her daughter. “A wand for the young witch? But aren’t you a bit young for your first wand?”
Suzie nodded mutely, overawed by the wizard’s presence. She fumbled in her little purse and pulled out a much-folded, much-read letter and held it up.
The wizard smiled, very white teeth gleaming against his tanned skin. “Your Hogwarts letter, I see. We will find you your wand—or I should say, your wand shall find you! Measurements first!” He came around the counter, his wand in hand.
“Measurements of what?” Miranda asked.
“Miranda Sefton,” Miranda replied. She blushed slightly. “Just ‘Ms,’ not ‘Madam.’” She had noticed that some witches were addressed as “Madam So-and-so,” and it seemed somewhat strange to her.
The wizard smiled. “Ms Sefton.” He took her hand and bowed over it briefly in an old-fashioned courtly gesture. “Ambrose Ollivander at your service, my lady!” His lips twitched in humour. “As you are aware, your lovely young daughter is a witch. Witches and wizards are not all the same. They have different strengths, different talents, different . . . levels and types of power. They come in different flavours, one might say. Wands and witches or wizards are matched up so that they may work in harmony with one another. While a trained witch can use almost any wand more or less effectively, no wand will ever work as well for her as one that has chosen her, one that matches the resonance of her magic. As we generally make them today in the west, a wand consists of a single wood and a single core. Many witches and wizards have very similar wands, and those that are similar to a witch’s own wand will work more effectively than those that are not. There are sometimes familial traits passed down generation to generation, and one will see that a unicorn tail hair makes a particularly good wandcore for members of that family, and the same is true of the wand woods. Wand creation is a complex art, and the interplay between a witch’s magic and her wand is even more complex. The measurements that I will take will help me to narrow down the selection of wands to have her try out.”
“I see. Thank you for explaining that. What do you have to do?” Miranda asked.
“You may watch!” Ambrose said. He waved his wand and a most peculiar sort of measuring tape appeared in the air.
Miranda watched as the measuring tape, sometimes stretching in three directions at once, spun about her daughter, measuring who-knew-what, but her daughter just giggled with delight, apparently not at all uncomfortable with the process.
At the end of the process, the wizard looked almost as bemused as Miranda felt, but she thought it had to be her imagination.
The wizard began rummaging around beneath the counter. “As you have likely seen, my lady, we are only recently reopened after the depredations of the war. Much of our stock was stolen, despoiled, or damaged. Uncle Erskine has had a long recovery, himself, but he is trying to replenish our inventory as quickly as possible.” Ambrose raised his eyes to meet Miranda’s and he flashed her one of his brief but brilliant smiles. “That is why I have returned from Nepal, you see, to help him to craft wands, to rebuild the family business, and to serve lovely customers such as yourselves.”
“You were in Nepal? I spent several weeks there years ago—before Suzie was born. A beautiful country.”
“Indeed. Very beautiful, with very lovely people,” Ambrose agreed. “I was doing further study of Dendromancy there after brief sojourns in New Zealand and Madagascar.” He pulled a long box from beneath the counter, opened it, and selected a long, pale wand. “Yew with phoenix tail feather. Eleven inches. Springy and strong.” He handed it to Suzie, who simply took it, held it on her upturned palms, and looked at it in amazement.
“Well, wave it!” the wizard told her.
Suzie grasped the larger end of the slightly tapered wand and waved it as instructed.
Miranda let out an unladylike exclamation and jumped back from the wildly careening explosions of magic around her.
“No, no, that will not do,” Ambrose said, shaking his head and taking the wand back from the startled young witch. He considered Suzie a moment, then reached back into the box and pulled out another wand. “Holly and phoenix tail feather. Ten and a half inches. A nicely flexible wand.”
Suzie dutifully waved the wand. There was an explosion of orange light and one of the small window panes in the door blew out. Ollivander seemed unperturbed by the loss of a window pane, but puzzled by the failure of either wand to choose the witch.
Ambrose took out his magical measuring tape again; he took a few more measurements, then he put it in the pocket of his flowing tangerine-coloured under-robe and stared hard at Suzie, one arm crossed in front of him as he held his other elbow and scratched his chin contemplatively.
“All right, we’ll try this one.” He pulled out a different box, sorted through the wands in it, and handed her one. “Ebony and phoenix tail feather. Ten and two-eighths inches. A strong wand. Not bendy, but not brittle, either.”
Miranda stepped back cautiously before her daughter waved this wand. This time, as soon as Suzie waved the wand, it jerked from her grasp, then rocketed toward the ceiling so fast it was only a blur.
“Huh.” Ambrose gazed up at the small hole in the ceiling. “Never seen that before. Hope no one was hit by it on its way up. I think I can see daylight.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” Suzie said tremulously. “I didn’t mean it to do that.”
“No worries, little sister,” Ambrose said kindly. “It will come down somewhere. Probably. You, however, are a challenge!”
He went behind the shelves whence he’d emerged earlier, and Suzie and her mother could hear him shifting boxes, sifting through wands that rattled as he stirred through them looking for the right wand for this Muggle-born witch. He came out several minutes later with three different wands in his hand.
“Now, one of these will suit, I hope. If not, I shall call Great-uncle Erskine in to help.” He handed her the first one. “Rosewood and dragon heartstring. Somewhat pliable.”
Miranda’s mouth opened and closed. She wasn’t sure how she felt about a dragon heartstring. She’d never met a dragon, but she presumed they were likely as ferocious as the myths and legends claimed, if they were anything like the crocodiles she’d encountered during a youthful trip through Africa. Nonetheless, to put the poor dead creature’s heartstrings in a wand . . .
“It’s warm,” Suzie said as she hesitantly touched the outstretched wand. She grasped it, looked up at Ollivander, then with some determination in the set of her jaw, she waved it. The effect reminded Miranda of the final bubbles in a glass of champagne gone flat.
“No, no, that won’t do, either,” Ambrose said, snatching the wand back. “Good wand, too,” he muttered to himself as he considered the other two wands in his hand. “A pity. I thought for sure . . . Here,” he said more loudly, “this one is rosewood and phoenix tail feather. Favoured in former centuries by many of those who went in for alchemy.”
“It’s itchy,” Suzie said as she took it. “I don’t like it.”
“Give it a try, dear,” Miranda said.
With a pinched expression, Suzie waved the wand. Dark droplets of muddy orange magic fell from the wand and a dull, clanging sound emitted from it, like deadened cymbals.
“Your daughter was right: this one is not for her, either.” Ambrose took the wand back.
Miranda wondered whether all of their purchases that day would be so difficult to make. Were witches’ school robes fitted the same way? She asked the wandmaker that.
“Oh, heaven’s, no!” Ambrose said with a laugh. “Not school robes. Now if she wanted something for a special occasion or for a particular purpose, perhaps then, but not school robes or any other everyday robes. Now for the last one—I hope!”
“What is it?” Suzie asked.
“Rosa arcana—a variety of magical rose bush—and unicorn tail hair.”
Suzie gave a little shrug, her head cocked to one side, looking much like her father would just as he was about to taste some new sauce he didn’t expect much from, but she accepted the wand from the wizard’s hand. She waved it. By now, Miranda could tell a disappointing result. There was a faint trickle of something from the end of the wand, and to Miranda, it looked like brackish water. Her daughter, however, looked more disgusted, perhaps seeing more than Miranda could.
“Ew! That was just totally revoltastic!” Suzie said, wrinkling her nose.
Ambrose laughed. “‘Revoltastic,’ indeed! Ah, well, must call for Uncle. I hadn’t wanted to disturb him. He was incorporating unicorn tail hair into a few new ash and yew wands today, and it’s a fussy job. I’ll be right back. Don’t touch anything in the meantime!” He waved his wand and conjured two comfy upholstered chairs. “Do have a seat whilst you wait!” He disappeared behind some heavy midnight-blue curtains at the back of the shop.
Suzie flopped into one of the chairs as Miranda gingerly lowered herself into the other one. It seemed solid enough, and Miranda relaxed.
Miranda’s thoughts turned back to what Perrit had said about the war, apparently now over. Ollivander’s words had confirmed that there had, indeed, been a war. Miranda felt unsettled by that fact, particularly given the elf’s mention of Hogwarts School. Miranda certainly didn’t want to send her precious young daughter into a dangerous world—more dangerous, anyway, than the one she knew.
Perrit had said that the evil wizard had been defeated by some wizard named Potter, one of the Hogwarts teachers, and the Headmistress. That was difficult for Miranda to fathom. She had met the Headmistress a week or so before. Minerva McGonagall, in her sensible blue suit, carrying a matching handbag and wearing matching shoes, seemed highly unlikely to engage in some kind of battle. She had reminded Miranda of her father’s prim and proper side of the family, rather than her mother’s somewhat scatty and eccentric relatives. They’d had tea in the living room and the Headmistress had done nothing startling or unexpected, and she’d drunk her tea with a touch of milk like a normal woman. No strange ingredients, frog spawn or eye of newt or some such thing, were added. The short glimpse Miranda had had of the interior of the witch’s handbag when the Headmistress had first retrieved her calling card and then, later, the sheet with instructions for her and David, had revealed only a carefully ironed handkerchief, a purse, and a long polished stick that Miranda presumed was the witch’s wand.
Miranda opened her own purse and unfolded the sheet of heavy paper that Headmistress McGonagall had given her when she had visited. It had two different methods of contacting her on it; one was a Muggle postal address, which the Headmistress had explained was checked daily by something called a squib, and any correspondence would be immediately forwarded to her. The other method required her to visit the Owl Post Office in Diagon Alley and have them send the letter by owl. Given that she could only enter Diagon Alley with the assistance of the peculiar barman in the Leaky Cauldron—which she had had difficulty finding, even after Suzie had pointed it out, and only seeing its door when she and Suzie were right in front of it and Suzie had already begun to open it—going to the Owl Post Office would not normally be a practical proposition, even if they did live closer to London. That day, however, Miranda thought that she might write the Headmistress a letter and ask her about the rumours she had heard regarding the war and whether her daughter would be in any danger at Hogwarts. On the way back from Gringotts, where they had exchanged pounds for wizarding money, Miranda had seen a stationery shop. She would stop in there, get some paper, and write the Headmistress a note.
Suzie was swinging her legs, her heels beating a syncopated rhythm against the over-large chair, and looking up, contemplating the small hole in the ceiling.
“Don’t do that,” Miranda whispered.
“Don’t do what?” Suzie asked, looking over at her mother.
“Kick the chair. It’s not polite—and you don’t know what might happen to it.” Miranda could envision the magically conjured chair suddenly disintegrating into dust after one thump too many.
Suzie giggled, but she stopped swinging her legs.
The deep blue curtains parted, and a bent, white-haired old wizard shuffled out into the shop, followed by Ambrose. Miranda rose to her feet automatically, and Suzie followed suit, though she seemed to shrink as she did.
“My uncle, Mr Ollivander,” Ambrose said softly.
“So . . . you’re the little Muggle-born witch who sent one of my ebony wands through the roof, are you?” the older wizard wheezed. He pushed his spectacles further up his nose and bent close to Suzie. He smelled of menthol and licorice intermingled with the scent of fresh wood shavings.
Suzie nodded shyly, her dark eyes large and round.
“Hmm, hmm, hmm. Measurements already taken . . . one more little spell might help,” he muttered. He turned surprisingly quickly to his nephew. “Did you cast a Consonare?”
“No, Uncle,” Ambrose said deferentially. “I considered it, then thought it better if you were the judge of it.”
“Hmpf.” Ollivander stepped back. “A little spell. May tickle a bit. Nothing more. Stand still.” Suzie had begun to shift her weight back and forth, bouncing on her heels a bit, as she did when she was nervous.
The wizened old man drew his wand from one of the large pockets on his dusty khaki work-robe and twitched it at Suzie.
Suzie shivered slightly as the spell hit her, but she stood still, and Miranda swallowed her apprehension, reminding herself that this sort of thing was likely quite normal in the world her daughter was entering, and she didn’t want to infect her daughter with any of her own fears and apprehensions about it. Her little girl would have to go into the new world feeling confident and equal to the adventure before her. Miranda knew that from her own days of “adventuring” when she was young, although at the time, she had been several years older than Suzie was now, and the worlds she explored were far less peculiar than this one seemed to be. But there would be teachers to look after the children, and the Headmistress had said that there were prefects and a House system, as well. Homesickness was likely the greatest danger Suzie would face, going away from home for the first time. Unless there were often evil wizards lurking about and magical wars being waged.
“I think . . . hmmm . . . no, that one was a part of the destroyed stock . . .” Old Ollivander stood in front Suzie, pondering a moment. “Let’s try something a bit different with you, girl.”
Ollivander beckoned to his nephew, and the two disappeared behind the curtain again. Miranda swallowed a sudden nervous laugh as she thought of the line in the Wizard of Oz, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” Whilst Miranda certainly felt she wasn’t in Lancashire any longer, neither was this Oz. She thought an excursion to Diagon Alley might be even more disconcerting than a trip to Oz.
The elder Ollivander reemerged. “My nephew is retrieving our necessaries. The wait should not be over long.”
The wizard pointed his wand, gave it a slight flick, and conjured his own chair, this one with an ottoman.
“It is good you are doing your shopping now. In a fortnight, the Alley will be teeming with children and their parents, and your wait would be longer.”
“The Headmistress suggested we do it now.” She had said it would avoid the confusion of the crowds, and considering how confusing Miranda was finding this small slice of the world of witchcraft and magic, she was glad she did not also have to contend with crowds of others all intent on purchasing school supplies.
“Ah, yes, young Professor McGonagall.” The old man smiled. “How did she seem when you saw her? Was she well?”
“She seemed quite well,” Miranda said, confused by the description of the witch as “young”—she was well into late middle-age, Miranda had thought, perhaps fifty-five or so. But considering the apparent age of some of the folk she had seen in the Leaky Cauldron and queued up at Gringotts, it seemed that many of them lived to quite ripe old ages, and she supposed to someone like old Mr Ollivander, the Headmistress might seem quite young.
“Good, good . . .” Ollivander stretched his legs and shifted slightly in his chair, sighing. “She was poorly earlier in the summer, recovering from her wounds, you know, but as I wasn’t on my feet yet, myself, I was unable to visit her. And now—well, you see how it is,” he said gesturing at the wall of shelves behind him. “Stocks are low, and demand is as high as ever, or more so. Always have to have at least twenty wands in stock for every one you sell, my great-grandfather used to say, and it’s as true today as it was when he told me that the first day of my apprenticeship one hundred twenty-two years ago next week.”
“One . . . one hundred twenty-two years ago?” Miranda asked, astounded, and losing her opportunity to ask more about the war, so distracted was she by the man’s age.
“Yes. That, of course, was my third and final apprenticeship, after Charms and Herbology, so I was already almost thirty.” He snorted. “Still a young fool I was then, I now can see that, my head so filled with ideas, but no real knowledge, and less wisdom, to say nothing of experience. But Grandfather worked the fool out of me, I’ll tell you that. A real apprenticeship, we had in those days, not the easy time young people have today. Up at five-thirty in the morning, my master’s breakfast on the table by six, in the workshop by six-thirty, readying all the materials for that day’s work, and then doing more materials preparation, not a minute wasted, no hours frittered away. Not that I didn’t learn the proper theory and history, young woman! Make no mistake! Wandcraft is one of the most arcane of the magical arts, with centuries upon centuries of esoteric history, and Grandfather taught me well, and my ideas became enriched and tempered with experience and, with the passing of time, even some wisdom. And all of that goes into every wand I make. Witches and wizards use their wands from the moment they wake until they go to bed at night, little appreciating the complex art and craft that went into the creation of their most important tool.”
“Have Ollivanders really been making wands since three hundred b.c.?” Miranda asked.
Ollivander snorted. “Three eighty-two, girl. Yes. We weren’t called ‘Ollivander’ then, though, of course not, but it’s been in the family for that long, a highly valued art we brought with us wherever we settled. We have been in Britain since the twelfth century, and in Diagon Alley since sixteen sixty-seven.”
Miranda’s father’s family could trace their roots back several hundred years, and branches of her husband’s family were easily traced back to the sixth and seventh centuries, but the thought of someone having a traceable family lineage going back to 382 BCE, and maintaining the same family business since then, that was just mind-boggling to Miranda. Coupled with the fact that wizards apparently lived at least twice as long as non-wizards, Miranda tried to imagine what effect that might have on their society, on their family traditions, on the family stories that were passed down over the generations, but her mind was awhirl with too many questions, and none of them would still long enough for her to articulate them.
“How was the Headmistress hurt?” Suzie asked, cutting to the heart of the matter, as she seemed at times to have an uncanny ability to do. “Perrit said that she’d helped defeat an evil wizard.”
“Evil, yes . . . very evil . . .” Ollivander’s gaze became unfocussed.
“Shh, Suzie, no more questions,” Miranda said, remembering that the blue elf had also said that old Ollivander had been kidnapped by that evil wizard.
“It’s all right, dear girl,” Ollivander said, smiling faintly. “Yes, Minerva McGonagall was instrumental in defeating the evil wizard—Tom Riddle, his proper name was. I knew when I fitted her for her wand, oh, more than sixty years ago, it was, that she was destined for something, for some purpose, she and that wand of hers, the Mated Wand to Dumbledore’s. For many years, I thought it was merely to serve at Hogwarts with Dumbledore, who was Headmaster before her, and when he died . . . it seemed that the opportunity for truly great deeds had passed their Mated Wands by.”
Obviously, Headmistress McGonagall was a couple decades older than Miranda had thought her to be, and yet she was still young to the ancient Ollivander. But Miranda was certain that Perrit had named Dumbledore as one of those who had defeated the evil wizard.
“Died? But—” Miranda began.
“Ah, but Dumbledore did not die. He hid himself in plain sight, fooling the entire wizarding world and Tom Riddle with it. So yes, Professor McGonagall and her wand, and Professor Dumbledore with his, gave support to the boy, Harry Potter, when he defeated Tom Riddle once and for all. And the Headmistress was injured in that battle. It is good to hear that she is well.” Ollivander’s rheumy eyes brightened for a moment, and he looked over at Suzie. “You might be pleased or relieved to hear, child, that Minerva McGonagall had to try many, many wands before the correct wand found her. I am hopeful that the process might be somewhat shorter in your case, however.”
“Did she make a hole in your roof?” Suzie asked curiously.
Ollivander twitched a smile. “No, that was a first, in my experience. She did, however, shatter a windowpane! So you are in good company.”
There was a clatter of feet rushing down an unseen staircase, and a moment later, Ambrose huffed into the room, combing his fingers through his hair, and followed by several wand boxes floating behind him. One got caught in the heavy curtain, and Ambrose plucked it by hand from its predicament and set it on the counter beside the other five boxes.
“Here they are, Uncle. I brought them in their boxes, just in case we may have need of any of the other wands later on.”
“Given the state of our stock, we may, indeed, find these wands homes at long last,” Ollivander said, standing creakily from his chair. He flicked his wand, and the chair and ottoman vanished.
“I retrieved these from storage,” Ambrose explained to Miranda and Suzie. “They’re not a regular part of our stock.”
Old Ollivander, who had used his wand to lift the lids from all of the boxes simultaneously and then begun examining their contents, turned toward them. “Ollivanders have very high standards for their wands, and we have very particular methods for creating them. Over the years, we have found that our best work is done when using three specific cores: unicorn hair, dragon heartstring, and phoenix tail feather. Some of us use unicorn mane hair, some unicorn tail hair, some both, but that has been the only major variation amongst them for several hundred years. On occasion, we have been approached with a commission to create wands with other cores, and under the proper conditions, we might accept such a commission, but that is rare. Nonetheless, it is important for the wandmaker to understand the nature of wand cores, their interactions with different wood types, and how to incorporate various kinds of wand cores into wands. It makes the work with our primary core types that much stronger and more precise. To develop the wandcrafter’s skills, apprentices work with a variety of cores, obtaining practice, so to speak, and also often choose more unusual woods to work in. These wands—” Ollivander gestured at the boxes behind him “—are the products of Ollivander apprentices over the last few hundred years. Not a part of our usual stock, but all considered good enough wands to keep on hand. Not that I’ve taken them out, myself, not until today. Great-grandfather once sold a banana wood and Horklump tentacle wand that had been made by his father. Not at all a recommended combination, but there you have it! It suited the itinerant peddler perfectly.”
“Are all wandmakers men?” Suzie asked, her brow furrowed.
“Oh, heavens, no! Some of the very best wandcrafters have been witches! We Ollivanders are a bit wizard-heavy, that’s true, but it’s a mere oddity that signifies nothing about the art of wandmaking,” Ollivander replied wheezily. He began to cough, holding onto the counter for support.
“Uncle, you should sit, allow me—”
“No, no, I’m fine, just fine.” Ollivander waved his great-nephew away. He closed his eyes and waited until his breathing came easier, then he moved down the counter to a darkly aged, plain wooden wand box. In it were four wands. He plucked one of them out and gazed at it a moment. He turned to Suzie. “Here, try this one. Hornbeam and hippogriff feather. Eleven and a half inches.”
“And point it away from us when you try it,” Ambrose interjected just as Suzie was about to wave it.
Suzie turned and waved the wand. The ensuing ball of purple flame that came from the wand was apparently not a sought-after result, either. Ambrose waved his own wand and stopped the fireball before it reached the shelving on the other side of the shop.
Ollivander calmly took the wand from Suzie and replaced it in its box. He poked through the other boxes, muttering and humming to himself, shaking his head. Finally, he pulled out two more wands from two separate boxes.
“My uncle made this one for his Wandmasters’ Guild examination. Rather nice, if a bit unusual for an Ollivander wand. Rosewood and Augurey tail feather. Fourteen inches. Good for Charms and Divination, in particular, and also somewhat favouring artists.”
Suzie smiled when she took it, and Miranda was hopeful, but when Suzie waved it and a few little sparks fizzled from the end of the wand, both Ollivanders shook their heads.
“Lacklustre,” Ambrose said.
“Unsuitable,” old Ollivander agreed.
Ollivander snatched the disappointing wand from Suzie’s hand and thrust another into it. “My great-grandfather’s wand, made when he was an apprentice. Monkey pod wood and Fwooper tail feather. Twelve and three-eighths inches. Highly unusual, both in components and in their combination. Quite a vibrant wand.”
“Oh! It’s warm,” Suzie said, smiling, “and it feels . . . nice.” She waved the wand, and beautiful, starry sparkles swam from its tip, whirling and circling in a beautiful kaleidoscope of colour. She turned toward the old wandmaker. “Is it mine? I hope it’s mine!”
“Yes, girl, it’s yours,” Ollivander said. “Ambrose, note that down, get the young lady’s particulars, and take the fee . . . eight Galleons for this one. Time for my lunch.”
“Eight?” Ambrose questioned softly.
Miranda had wondered about the price, as well, since the Headmistress had said that a wand purchased in Diagon Alley would probably cost somewhere from fifteen to twenty-five Galleons, quite a tidy sum of money for a stick. But Miranda supposed it was on the order of buying Suzie a new computer for school, if somewhat cheaper, and, unlike the latest PC or Mac, it was also something that she would likely use for the rest of her life.
“Mm. They have amused me.” Ollivander looked up at the small hole in the ceiling and the distant daylight above. “Add another ten Sickles for repairs, and I’m a happy old wizard.”
~ continued in Chapter Two ~
“The Train and the Trolley”: Suzie takes the Hogwarts Express, meets some new friends, and discovers wizarding sweets.