Perhaps she should take her time, Hermione thought as she tried to keep up with Professor Hectamere, who was elegantly walking towards an old lowly building with a wooden sign that said: Leaky Cauldron.
It turned out to be a pub. 'You can't take her into a pub!' Her mom exclaimed but Hectamere just laughed, 'There are many ways into the world beyond your comprehension but I prefer that you know the least problematic of them,' she glanced at her and added, 'not to mention easily accessible with no immediate danger of being horribly maimed or getting killed.'
And she laughed. Hermione didn't understand a thing. But they went on through the bar.
There were men drinking, some of them reading and most of them talking in whispers. They ignored them all but Hermione caught a man looking at her. He was fat, drunk and he gave her a toothy smile and yelled, 'Hullo!'
As she turned away from him, she saw Hectamere, frozen in her tracks. She immediately turned towards the man and he gave her a toothy smile again. Hectamere turned, walked upto him and exchanged pleasantries (she assumed they were pleasantries because she changed her language.) Her eyes. Terror. Her face. Pale. That man looked nothing like a threat to me. Perhaps they had quarrels before and she doesn't want to speak to him. But then why would she go out of her way to talk to him? Kiss his hand?
With a very low bow, Hectamere excused herself from the man who just waved her off with a smile and she stiffly walked out of the back door and Hermione and her parents followed her. None of them understood a thing.
Hermione looked back one last time only to see that man standing up, straightening his robes, giving the bartender a few coins which the bartender took gingerly and walking out of the bar through the entry door.
She just shook her head and closed the back door and turned around only to see . . . A brick wall?
It was a small backyard like space with a brick wall on the other side. Hectamere clapped and said, 'Now, we are entering the wizarding world. Excited?'
Her parents only looked at her. 'Who is that man?' Hermione asked instead, clearly seeing the fear again in those eyes.
Hectamere looked at her and replied quickly, 'a past acquaintance. No worry!' And clapped her hands again. 'Now let's go!'
Hermione didn't ask more but they gathered near the brick wall. She heard Hectamere muttering, 'Many locks and many keys . . . Fire? Water? Which shall I use?' She paused for a moment and took a deep breath and snapped her fingers. The bricks dissolved into fog and scattered. 'Old charms are the best!' She exclaimed and led them into what looked to her like a very crowded street beyond. She is beside herself. Who was that man?
Beyond the wall was so much more than a crowded street. It was a street crowded with wizards and the shops were full of magical items. And the street was long and many side alleys branched off at places. 'This is Diagon Alley! Where everything magical is available!' She paused and added, 'Uh, mostly,' and winked at her. What does that mean? No air of command as before in the house. Again, who the man was?
They walked through the street, gawking at everything around them. But Hectamere didn't give them time. 'You must buy many things, dear. And no time at all. I'll bring most of them but you must go get your wand by yourself. You can find them over there,' she pointed and Hermione turned in the direction to see a small shop with a high sign saying:
OLLIVANDER'S. BEST AT WAND MAKING SINCE 382 BC.
And with that, Hectamere gave her some gold coins (wizarding money?) and dragged her parents with her, them looking apprehensive but making no argument.
Hermione slowly walked towards the shop. Inside was a small reception counter with seemingly endless shelves behind. The shop was dimly lit. And there were no people in here, save for an old man sorting through boxes. 'Um, can I meet Mr Ollivander?' She asked.
The old man was startled for a moment but quickly gathered himself and the boxes he dropped. He turned to her and smiled, 'Well, I am Ollivander. How can I help you, Miss?'
'I need a wand,' she said.
He chuckled softly and said, 'I mean everyone comes here for a wand, Miss. Are you a first year?'
'Well then. May I see your hand for a moment then?' And seeing her puzzled face, he added, 'so that it's easy for me to narrow down the type of wand for you rather than trying all seven thousand nine hundred and forty eight of them here!' He smiled again.
She stretched out her right hand. He took it with a small smile and started examining. He looked at the hand for quite a while and with an "excuse me, Miss", went to the shelves and brought out a few wands. He opened the first box and inside was a neatly carved wooden stick. 'Eleven inches. Birchwood and a unicorn's tail feather core.' She took it into her hand. It felt cold.
'How do you make these?' She asked, turning it around, trying to look at it from every angle. Ollivander said, 'The art of wand making is ancient and a guarded secret, Miss! Are you interested?'
She wasn't. She just returned the wand saying, 'It feels cold.'
'Ah. Might not be the right one.'
They tried various kinds of wands, with various kinds of woods and basically three cores: Unicorn tail feather, Dragon's heartstring and Phoenix feather. Or, that's what she understood. Then he searched the top shelves for a long time and brought out a very dusty box. 'Let's try this one,' he offered the wand, his voice rather disappointed and confused. 'Ten and three quarter inches. Vine wood and . . . Uh . . Uh . . . Ah! Dragon's heartstring! That's it!' He said. 'Why did I even forget that?' He mostly muttered to himself as he gave her the wand. 'This is one of the oldest ones here.' She took it and almost dropped it. It was searing hot and then ice cold.
Instantly, both sensations left her hands as she gripped the wand. Comfortable. Warm. 'It feels sort of . . . Comfortable?'
'Try to swish it, Miss.'
She did it. The shelves shook. 'Miss, please stop it. That's enough.' He said rather apprehensively. She lowered the wand and the shaking stopped. 'This wand yours, then! Miss . . . Uh . . . Miss, uh-' he was thinking. 'Granger. Hermione Granger. Sorry for not introducing myself at first, Mr Ollivander,' she apologized. She thought it was very rude of herself.
'No problem, Miss Granger! The wand chose you! It always had been like that, you see, the wand always chooses the person! And not the other way around!' He said, sounding very excited. Then he smiled again. 'It costs twelve Galleons, Miss Granger.'
Ah. She brought the gold coins. 'Are these Galleons?'
'Of course they are!' His smile didn't waver at all.
She counted twelve of them and paid him.
They exchanged "thank you"s and "have a nice day"s until she was out of the shop and promptly ran into someone.
'Careful there!' The man was tall, his hair black, sharp face and eyes pale blue.
She apologized. 'I am very sorry! I didn't mean to-' and that's when Hectamere came to her with loads of bags. 'There you are! Got your wand? Good. Let's go,' she blabbered on when the man chose to interrupt. 'Good morning, Professor!'
She looked at him and her eyes widened. Again? 'You . . . What are . . . Here . . . ' she made no sense again.
But the man merely shook his head and shook Hermione's hands with his own and introduced himself, 'Name's Wednesday. Your Rune Studies professor.'
He was a professor! 'Hermione Granger, sir! I am very sorry I didn't see you as I-'
'Not a problem at all, Miss Granger. Not a problem at all.' He smiled at her and looked up at Hectamere who was frozen, like a statue. 'Nice to meet you again, Hectamere. Long time, eh?'
'Ah . . . It's . . . Why . . . ' she stammered again. More as Hermione observed, she felt more of her dread. Why is she this afraid of people?
'Well, Professor Bathsheda is rather indisposed and so the headmaster requested me to take up the job. Runes were always my subject of interest and so I accepted his request,' he said.
Hectamere spoke, this time, to Hermione's surprise, in full sentences, 'Of course you will be interested in runes. What else did I expect?'