"Mom," I called. My cold shoulder had lasted all of two minutes yesterday, and by morning it almost felt like everything was normal again. Well, save for the fact that we were about to fly overseas for magical school supplies, of all things. "I'm ready!"
"Just a moment, London." Erin appeared around the corner, slinging a purse onto her shoulder and tucking a lock of loose hair behind her ear. I had pulled on a worn pair of jeans and a grey tee; she seemed to be dressed for date night. Sighing inwardly, I dreaded the long Monday ahead of us—did I mention the seven-hour flight?
"Let's go," I said, and followed her to the car.
After the old bartender led us through the brick wall, we found ourselves in the midst of a large, bustling crowd. Rough cobblestone greeted my feet and I found myself wishing that I had worn my combat boots rather than the relatively flimsy pair of Converse I currently had on. Unfortunately, those boots were an ocean away. Literally.
Then, I looked up.
"Wow," Erin breathed from beside me.
Countless busy shops sold everything from dragon parts to gold cauldrons and catered to the dirt poor and ridiculously wealthy alike. The sun gleamed above. People I assumed were witches and wizards hurried to and fro, dressed in cliche robes and pointy hats. Somehow we had started walking again and passed a middle-aged man bargaining for some suspicious-looking eyeballs floating in some kind of gelatinous fluid.
"Oh, Henry!" I looked over my shoulder to see a young boy chasing after a flying ice cream cone, his mother hurrying after him and brandishing her wand. A woman tapped me on the shoulder and tried to sell me some newt tails, but I was quickly beckoned away by another shop owner whose wares consisted of talking pocket watches and dancing mice.
Somehow the crowd pulled me (and consequently my mother) to the end of Diagon Alley, where a large white building towered over the rest of the street. A short creature with long fingers and equally long feet bowed us through the doors. Yet as we crossed the threshold we were met with another pair of doors, these silver, with a short poem carved impeccably into their surface.
Enter, stranger, but take heed
Of what awaits the sin of greed,
For those who take but do not earn,
Must pay most dearly in their turn.
So if you seek beneath our floors
A treasure that was never yours,
Thief, you have been warned, beware
Of finding more than treasure there.
I skimmed the words half-heartedly, walking past two more of the strange beings as they bowed to us. Many more goblins, as I had decided to think they were, sat behind a long counter. They conducted tasks such as weighing coins, examining gems, and scribbling away in large ledgers. Even more of them led people in and out of countless doors lining the grand marble hall.
We opened a vault under my new name, depositing a few thousand dollars—automatically exchanged into wizarding currency—and received a small leather pouch full of coins, supposedly charmed to be lightweight and expandable.
The two of us received some sideways glances as we exited the bank, but nothing more than those few strange glances. I supposed it must not have been unusual to see some people dressed in clothing like found in the non-magical world, although most were dressed in robes or flowing cloaks. Nevertheless, I headed for the nearest shop I could see that sold clothing, tossing the sack of money back and forth between my hands.
"Alright, London," Erin started just as I reached the entrance, "I'll just leave you here; I trust you can take care of yourself. When you're done, call me and wait outside that pub, alright? Here's your vault key if you need more money." She handed me a small golden key and adjusted her purse. "Alright, I'll see you later."
I looked down at the key in my hand. It was attached to a sleek keychain with the word 'Gringotts' in metal dangling from the ring. Erin had given me a whole lot of responsibility for an eleven-year-old who constantly forgot her own birthday. I shrugged to myself, stuffed the key into my jeans, and entered Twilfitt and Tattings.
Ding. "Good morning!" A tall teenager sporting pin-straight chestnut hair appeared from the back of the shop, smile dropping somewhat as she eyed my ripped jeans. Her own ensemble consisted of a smooth black robe with the name Jin stitched delicately on her breast. "If you're looking for Hogwarts robes, you'd do better at Madam Malkin's; it's just down the street."
"Um," I said. Her expression of utter disdain threw me off a little. But, never one to care much about anything, I shook it off and asked, "Can I look around, though?"
She looked me up and down again, frown deepening slightly. "Well, Twilfitt and Tattings specializes in bespoke robes. Most prices range from around 80 to 300 galleons each… but I suppose we also have some cheaper, premade options."
I looked up at the ceiling for a moment as I did the math. "Oh, alright." That didn't sound too expensive. "Just go and pick whatever you think would be decent on me." The brunette blinked at me. "Please," I added on.
Her skeptical gaze followed me as I walked over to a counter in the back and peered into the depths of my money bag.
"Good morning, Amaryllis."
"Parkinson," came the curt reply.
"Of course, miss Parkinson."
I ignored the new customer until footsteps approached and a blonde girl around my age plucked the galleon I was currently perusing right out of my hand.
"The hell?" I turned and scowled at the blonde, reaching out to take it back.
"Are you a mudblood?" was the answer I received. The girl took a step back and held the galleon up to the light, flipping it around and squinting at it. I winced as a bright ray reflected off of the surface into my eye. "Can you even afford anything in here? Jin, what's with this girl?"
"My blood is perfectly clean, thank you," I snapped, resisting the urge to roll my eyes. "And yes, amazingly, I can afford—"
"Oh, really," said Amaryllis Parkinson. "Can you?" She looked me over deliberately, gaze lingering on the rips in my jeans.
"Yes, really," I quipped, stretching out my hand expectantly. "Mind your own fucking business."
She looked appalled. "Shake hands with you?"
I let out a sigh. "The galleon, Parkinson," I enunciated, "the galleon." There was a pause. "Ah, you know what? Just keep the damn thing. Pay for a tutor or something; you certainly need one." Waving a hand, I turned back to the galleons currently in my possession and began counting them out. I heard Parkinson harrumph from behind me and not a moment later, a very familiar gold coin landed with a loud clatter on the counted in front of me.
"You win this time," she grumbled, and stalked away to peruse the robes.
Just then, Jin tapped my shoulder and held out a sleek green robe. "Would you like to try this on?" she asked.
"Hm, maybe in blue," I told her.
The only place on the street where one could get a wand was by far the shabbiest shop on Diagon Alley. A short woman with sleek blonde hair sat outside, presumably waiting on someone. I cast her a glance as I pushed open the door, a bell chiming distantly somewhere in the back of the shop when I entered.
And who else would be sitting there—in a rickety chair that looked like it had been broken once or twice before—but miss Amaryllis Parkinson? Dust clouds swirled slowly around me, prompting tears to well up and a dry cough to force its way out of my throat. She turned to look at me, eyes widening then narrowing as I swore and waved the offending particles out of my face. Something prickled uncomfortably on the back of my neck.
"Good afternoon," said a soft voice. I spun around, pulling out a comb from my pocket and leveling it threateningly at the sound. Parkinson must have been startled too, for I'd heard an awful crack and she now stood a meter or so away from the spindly chair as it crumbled into a pile of wood on the floor. I lowered the comb and gave it a suspicious glance; why were combs apparently the only weapons readily available at any given moment?
I returned the greeting haltingly, subconsciously stepping closer to the other girl as an old man moved closer from behind a shelf stacked high with narrow boxes.
"Amaryllis Parkinson," the man—presumable Ollivander—mused. "Your father chose a fine wand: hawthorn and unicorn hair…"
I zoned out. Two small spiders scurried across the room, heading for a crack in the far wall. On a stack piled nearly to the ceiling, a tan box teetered dangerously, seconds away from crashing to the floor. Tick, tock. Tick, tock, tick. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Tock. A broken clock clicked haltingly away somewhere in the depths of the shop, droning on rather dully with the occasional hiccup.
"—and who'll be first today?" I looked up, blinking. Parkinson looked torn between wanting to leave as soon as possible and her reluctance to step even a centimeter closer to the old man. However, his question was soon answered as she shoved me forward.
Ollivander measured my forehead, nose, and shoulders in quick succession and then hurried off to rummage around in the shelves, the measuring tape continuing to flit around my body on its own. I stood rigidly, following the tape with my eyes the best I could without moving.
As the man began shoving various wands at me and then snatching them away just as quickly, Parkinson resorted to complaining sporadically about everything from the cleanliness of the shop to the length of Ollivander's hair. I studiously ignored her.
"Or this one? Beech and unicorn hair—"
I took the wand and waved it haphazardly, my (admittedly meager) patience worn thin. As expected, it yielded nothing but a puff of ash and smoke. "Shouldn't you have some idea of what to give me by now? We must've already gone through twenty wands already, at the very least!"
I snatched up the closest box and pulled out the wand lying inside, cutting an angry line through the air with the tip. To my surprise, brilliant sparks like fireworks burst out of the end, scattering light through the air and casting a multicolored sheen onto Parkinson's hair.
"Why, yes, you're a lucky one," Ollivander cried, completely unruffled as he hurried forward and plucked the wand out of my hand. "This seems to be a blackthorn wand I crafted, oh, quite some years ago: core of dragon heartstring and an elm grip for stability. A good eleven inches and just a tad bendy."
"About time," said Parkinson as the wandmaker put the wand back into the discarded box. "I was beginning to think it would never end."
"I was so concerned for you," I drawled.
She scoffed. "I don't need a mudblood's concern."
There was that word again. "I've already told you: my blood is just as red as anyone else's." But Parkinson was already waving wands and exploding various things around the room, complaining all the way.
As I scanned my supplies list and once again bemoaned the utter baffling nonsense that made up the wizarding world, a quaint ice cream shop across the street caught my eye. "Ooh…" I pushed open the door and headed towards it, hoping there was an option for ice cream that didn't float.