osterreicher97: I haven't worried about having Hazel picked up for underage magic because it really isn't clear just how that works for pre-Hogwarts-aged children. Sure, we know that Obliviators and the Magical Reversal Squad exist, but the impression I always got was that they mostly react to big accidental magic events that threaten the Statute of Secrecy. Since leaving Britain, Hazel has more or less stuck to magical locations except when traveling/sightseeing, so she hasn't done anything that really risks the Statute and therefore probably isn't worth governmental intervention.
kyungwork: I don't actually have any social media, or at least not for my fanfiction (and barely for myself IRL). I know there are a lot of authors who post updates on how far along they are in the next chapter of whatever they're writing, but my writing has come in such fits and starts for the last couple of years that I doubt it would do anybody any good. If you want to stay updated on this story, best suggestion I have is to follow or favorite it so you get updates via FFN or Sufficient Velocity.
Jack Inqu, PascalDragon: Having Clockservants instead of house elves is a German thing and derived from their previous (?) distaste for non-humans. Umbridge would fit right in, although I would hope modern German wizards would still find her distasteful. I just wanted a strange contrast to canon that readers would recognize even if Hazel doesn't have enough background yet. Hazel did NOT use the Imperius here, but rather the domination spell she's used previously. Admittedly, it is in the same overall family as the Imperius, but so are compulsion and Muggle-repelling charms and other mind-altering magics.
DistanceBehind: There was no foreshadowing, at least not where it concerns Hazel's magic. Look back at how Hazel was knocked to the ground and then had both trouble concentrating as well as having her hearing go wonky for a bit. The reason she had trouble using her dart against the wizard was because she had just been punched in the head hard enough to daze her. Having gotten my own bell rung a time or two in the past, no, she's not going to be able to focus on a mental construct immediately afterwards. Her mental domination ability was easier because all she needs for that is emotion and a command for her target to obey.
Baelorfan: See above for my comment about the Clockservants. I wanted to respond to you specifically about Fenrir and the underage werewolves. You are right that she does now know about his reputation in Britain, but I wanted to scatter some breadcrumbs for my muse to come back to later. I have some VERY nebulous future ideas where he might return to the story as more than just a scary name the way he was in canon. As for the three werewolf kids in Jean Luc's commune, Hazel interacted with them in their lessons, but I didn't have any good ideas to make them major characters while she was with them. That commune also isn't a great example of "werewolf culture" because they see themselves as cursed wizards who aren't allowed wands. For a REAL werewolf culture, we need to see how Fenrir's pack and others like them behave. Again, that's a "maybe in the future".
Fair warning, this chapter is MEATY. There just was no good place to stop it until the spot I did.
Return to Britain
Planting her staff into the ground, Hazel finally reached the top of the hill. Even following the roads as much as she could, getting to the ruin in which she stood still required a bit of a trek. Still, she was here now, and she could finally look around at this ancient temple of Apollo.
The journey to Greece had taken longer than she initially assumed, in large part because one leg of her trip had seemingly turned into an active war zone. Had she known traveling through Yugoslavia would require her to hide from men walking around armed with guns and yelling at each other when they were not shooting something, she would have found some other road, although finding such a route would have been difficult. She was able to make up a little bit of time when she crossed through Albania, but that was less because the road was easy and more because several of the forests had a dark, forbidding atmosphere that made the hairs on her neck stand up on end and goosebumps creep up her arms. Morgan had seemed to feel the same, which did not reassure her at all. Normally she liked visiting forests when she traveled, but these? She hastened her steps to get through them as quickly as was physically possible.
All the snakes – not just typical garden snakes, but also vipers and even one snake she would swear had to be related to a boa constrictor – she saw in those foreboding forests did not help matters.
Delays aside, she nonetheless arrived in Greece eventually. From there she had done quite a bit of exploring, including some sightseeing of the Parthenon and walking over to the real Mount Olympus. She considered climbing the mountain for a short while, but the height was enough to dissuade her in the end. Other temples were on her itinerary, but strangely enough despite all the rich mythology of this part of the world, she had found little remaining evidence of gods and magic. It was as if all the stories were just that, stories.
Hazel was so, so happy that she knew wizards were both real and loved their privacy, otherwise her hopes would be crushed. She did not know where to start looking for their private enclaves, which meant it was entirely possible that all the valuables from the temples, all the ancient relics of bygone heroes and monsters, might be safe and secure and out of sight of anyone who did not know where they already were rather than lost to history.
It was still absolutely maddening.
This temple was next on her list. It was not a temple to one of the big gods of the ancient Greeks, and she did not know if this was the greatest temple even to the sun god Apollo, but it was likely the best known in its own way. It had once been host to probably the greatest prophet in Greece, the Oracle of Delphi. Both a seer and the high priestess of this temple, she was known to speak prophecies as though uttered by the god himself. Most interestingly, this was not a single woman but a title passed on from priestess to priestess, which raised all sorts of questions in Hazel's mind. Were the priestess all related, the title and the oracular abilities being passed on from mother to daughter as her own mother had given the magic Hazel now wielded? Or instead was it a magical art that could be learned, and so it was the skill that was instead taught to the next woman that would become the oracle?
Were those lessons or others like them still taught? Obviously the Oracle here was not the only soothsayer in history, so she would assume lessons existed somewhere, but if she could find instructions here it meant she would not need to go looking elsewhere. Even if they would undoubtedly be in the strange alphabet she was still incapable of reading; magic lessons were at this point the one thing that would get her to learn Greek. Her walk through Yugoslavia had necessitated picking up a smattering of Hungarian and Serbian in addition to the French and German she already knew, and none of them needed different letters!
Returning her attention to the world around her instead of her own thoughts about other countries and how they ought to write their languages, she started walking again. Two spots immediately stood out. Farther up the hill stood a circular set of stones that, if she were right, would be the amphitheater she had read about. The other location was what remained of the main temple. It should have been a slab of stones with half a dozen pillars the only remains still standing of the original temple.
'Should' because she could see an entire building in its rightful place, the sunlight and clouds and birds visible through its ghostly walls.
Hazel closed her right eye briefly and nodded when the building vanished. Yet again, her fairy lens proved its worth. The butt of her staff tapping against the ground in time with her steps, she walked over to the building. The columns in front were wider than she could wrap her arms around, and above them was that classical triangular lintel bearing reliefs that unfortunately could not be clearly seen against the sky. Perhaps at night they would be more visible glowing in the darkness, but for now she could make out only the vaguest approximation of their shapes.
Shrugging, she continued inside the temple. She did not know how the temple was lit when it was physical, as there were no braziers on the ground or spots for torches on the walls, but thanks to their transparent nature light could stream through the walls and ceiling without difficulty. The interior was amazingly spacious, the sole statue within depicting a handsome man standing atop the coils of massive serpent. Though he wore a sword on his belt, it was not drawn. Instead his hands held a bow, the arrow aimed at the center of the snake's open mouth.
It's too bad the statue was destroyed along with the temple, she told Morgan as she lightly scratched his breast feathers. A lot more people would come here if they could see this. From what I read, the sculptures of the gods were done in ivory and gold, which would be amazing to see. She could see through the back wall that there was more floor extending back, and curious about what was back there she stepped through first the statue and then the wall itself.
As she passed out of the wall, the interior of yet another room was revealed. This one contained a smaller ethereal sculpture of the god standing up straight along with a large ovoid stone with holes all over its surface, but that was not the most important thing. Indeed, what stopped her in her tracks was the woman kneeling on the ground. At first glance Hazel could have mistaken her for yet another work of stone, but the way her lips moved as though in speech proved that to be impossible. Her hands were crossed over her chest, and all over her long dress and the skin of her back were long slits from which poured a shiny silver liquid barely visible against her pearly essence. Vapor drifted off of her, reaching out and splitting and twisting unnaturally in the air as it streamed into the walls around her and the two statues.
Part of her wanted to write out something, to see what reaction she could get from this ghostly figure. The rest of her remembered the red cap and the ghosts within de Rais's tower and the spirit of the scoured clearing. Her steps silent, holding her breath even, she stepped backwards until she breached the wall and the woman was hidden once more. Only then did she sigh in relief. It was probably a good thing she stood alone at the ruins, for it meant no other tourist was here to see and wonder at her behavior.
It also meant she could maybe give sketching out the sculpture a try. She was no fan of arts and crafts, any taste for it being spoiled throughout her time in Little Whinging, but this statue was gorgeous enough that she might as well spend an hour just to see what came from it. This was something she would not mind carrying with her after she left, and it was not as if she could get a drawing of it from anywhere else or take a picture. Plus, now that she could write her words in fire, it was not as if her notepad had seen any use for anything else lately.
Chittering in her ear half an hour later pulled her from the drawing she was working on – one that was turning out much better than she had expected, though it was by no means perfect or even more than decent – and back to reality. She glanced down as Morgan hopped into her lap and stared into the sky. Shielding her eyes, she glanced up and tried to follow his line of sight. A shadow shifted in the air, another bird soaring on the air currents. It's just a hawk or something, she told him. I know you're scared of them, and for good reason, but it isn't like it's going to come down here for you while I'm right here—
The shadow shifted as it started diving.
Hazel's hands left her notepad and cupped protectively around her friend. What was it doing? There was no reason for it to come after them specifically. They were just minding their own business, and no creature within its right mind would just decide to attack something so much larger than it.
Except, she thought with a spark of fear, what if it was not in its right mind? Rabies could make animals behave out of character like this. Could birds get rabies? She did not know, but that did not stop her left hand from moving away from Morgan and forming a star dart between her fingers. She did not want to attack it, but if it made any threatening moves…
The bird continued its dive until swooping closer and backflapping to come to a complete stop. Shockingly, it was no eagle or hawk as she first expected. It was an owl, which made her more confused. What would an owl be doing out here, flying around in the middle of the afternoon? It landed on the ground, its naturally wide golden eyes narrowed in what she could only interpret as a glare. Perhaps because it was awake so much earlier than it should be? Or, she decided as it shook its left leg at her, perhaps it was because it had gotten tangled up in something, although why it would blame her for that she still hadn't the foggiest.
Do you want me to take this off you, she asked when it merely stared at her for a long moment. Its glare only intensified, as if her question had been beyond stupid. Hesitantly she reached her hands out, and when it did not lash out at her, she carefully untied the knot that had caught it and unwound the string that was in turn connected to a thick square of material that felt almost like the parchment she had noticed wizards preferred. Now free from its burden, the owl leapt away with a screech and started flapping away as quickly as its wings could carry it.
Well, she told her friend, that was… strange. Turning the material in her hand over, she stared when she realized that this was, in fact, made of parchment. Specifically, it was a letter, and one addressed to her, albeit in the oddest way possible.
Miss H. Potter
The Cleanest Corner
Church of St. Constantine
She had to read the address a few times before turning to look at Morgan. This feels a little creepy, don't you think? That they know not just what building we last slept in, but the exact spot in that building.
Morgan turned his head to look at the letter in her hands before ruffling his feathers disinterestedly.
Fair enough. She wiggled the flap of the envelope open and pulled out the two sheets of parchment within. The one in the back was a list of supplies, and why she would want to buy them became clear once she read the actual letter that was in the front. Looks like Jean Luc was right, she decided after quickly reading it over. This is from the magic school back in Britain. Would have been nice if that owl had stayed around to take a response back, especially since this McGonagall person only gave me three days to figure out how to get in touch with her.
Despite the proximity of the deadline, Hazel could not help the feeling of excitement that was bubbling up within her belly. Finally, finally, she had a lead. For the last year, she had been unable to chase down any further information about the druids from whom she and and her mother had inherited their powers, no one outside of the wizards native to Britain even knowing that the druids existed in the first place. Between that and no one knowing how to talk to the wizards of her homeland, she had been left adrift aimlessly.
That time was now at an end.
Or, she amended, she hoped so. For all that she had been contacted, she did not know how to talk back yet. Would a letter addressed to Minerva McGonagall at Hogwarts School be enough for a bird from Stuttgart or Paris to find her? Was she supposed to know the location of the professor and this Hogwarts place in as much detail as her own letter was addressed? If that were the case, she was completely out of luck.
Still, she did have one place she could go asking about for answers. Many months ago, when she accompanied Elfriede and Hedwig and Gertrude to the Convocation, Elfriede mentioned that there were hags living in Britain. Perhaps it was possible to travel to one of their fireplaces and ask them how to get to different places within Britain? That or combing through the bookstore in Place Cachée were her best bets at the moment.
Her friends in the Black Forest first, she decided. It would be much simpler than digging through books. She stood up, shoving the letter in a pocket on the way up and her notebook and pen into her satchel, and glanced around to make sure that no one had decided to join her at the ruins while she was distracted. She was still alone, and that meant it was time to leave.
Picturing the hags' living room was simplicity itself after all the time she had spent there, but she did not immediately jump. It was time to add the second part of the process that she had been experimenting with here in Greece, an aspect she had not known about when she first started teleporting but that she was never ignoring again if she could help it. One that made the process so much nicer.
Her encounter with the spirit that dwelled within the scoured clearing was her first exposure to the idea of a 'spirit world' that existed alongside the world she currently stood upon. She had not returned to it, partly because she already knew she could not breathe while she was there and partly because she really did not want to face off against another spirit that hated humans, but she could not forget how she reached it in the first place. Namely, she had tried and failed to teleport, even if that failure was mostly intentional. Which told her in turn one very important thing: when she jumped, she was not moving directly to her destination. She had to move through somewhere else.
And that in turn explained why her jumps always felt so terrible. If she was traveling through the other space, there had to be a pathway she was using. A tunnel. Except when the tunnel was too small, it made the trip feel like she was being crushed and squeezed because she truly, literally was.
Hence her new method. With her destination fixed clearly in her mind, she… stepped 'backwards', for lack of a better description. She moved part of her focus onto the space between herself and the hags' cabin in a way she never would have done without the revelation. Picturing the tunnel, she reached out with mental hands and stretched it to be wider. Wide enough that she could move through comfortably without needing to turn herself into toothpaste so she could fit.
Stretching the tunnel did have a small side effect that it tended to let the waters that made up the spirit world leak out, so it was not a surprise when a thick dark purple fog came from nowhere and swirled around her. The speed of the fog was enough that it almost pulled her in, and teleportation was less of a jump pushing her forwards and more that she just stopped resisting the pull. The fog rushed back towards her and obscured her vision; when it dissipated an instant later, she was unsurprised to find herself standing in a familiar living room.
The kitchen was in view of where she stood, which allowed her to see and hear Elfriede turn around and then curse at her sudden appearance. "What in the—! Hazel! What are you doing there? When did you get here?! If she keeps doing this, we will need to put a bell on her or something."
'Just now. I needed to talk to you. I had a question.' Elfriede, hand leaving her chest, took several deep breaths and waved for her to continue. 'I got a letter today. A letter from the magic school back home in Britain. They invited me to come to learn, but they did not tell me how to get there. I hoped maybe you could tell me how to visit some of your coven in Britain so I could get directions from them.'
Interestingly, that did not get her a look of surprise. It was more a resigned sigh. "I knew this day was coming. I just do not know that I really want her spending time with wand-wavers and picking up their prejudices. It is not right to keep it from her, though; she has just as much right to learn their Secrets as she does our own, though. And perhaps she will even be willing to reveal the Secrets they hold so close and deny to all others.
"I can do better than that, Hazel. After the Convocation, I reached out to Elder Freya. I thought some of our coven lived in your home country, but they had all passed many years ago. She was kind enough to speak to the elders of other covens until she could find some who did live there. They, in turn, had answers for me. Where did I put it?" Elfriede dug around in the drawers of the kitchen for a minute before pulling out a thin roll of paper. "Here it is. They were able to give me directions to a small hostel that permits fire-travel. It is within walking distance of the main shopping district in London, but I do not have better directions than that."
'I have no fear of exploring,' Hazel reminded the older hag as she took the offered slip. On it was written 'Shrouded Nook'. 'Do I need to give any additional information, or is there somewhere I need to stop midway in order to fire-travel to an English fireplace?'
"I wondered the same, but apparently not. As long as you have a destination, it will apparently work no matter where you are." Elfriede shrugged. "I have never needed to go to other countries, so I did not know that, but it is convenient nonetheless."
'Agreed.' Convenient and strange, but perhaps that was just because she had grown up around normal people and spent the last few months dodging armed individuals who were all about keeping people out of their countries. When teleportation was not only possible but fairly simple, she supposed it made borders less of a priority because of how much less useful they were.
Something going on in their home country that people did not like? They could get out in the blink of an eye and make a new life elsewhere.
Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, Hazel rolled the note up again and handed it back to Elfriede. 'Thank you. Is there anything you need while I am out? I figure I could do a little shopping.' She stopped and hesitated for a moment before adding, 'That depends on how much in pounds a Zauberpfennig is, though.'
"Probably not much. It is a cheap coin. We are fine," Elfriede told her. "We have never needed things we can not get from either Stuttgart or Mainz, and while no doubt there are curiosities in England, those are not the same as necessities. You should focus on what you need for this school of yours."
That was probably good advice, and she turned to look at the fireplace with trepidation. She was not looking forward to this; fire-travel hated her, and that feeling was mutual. Nonetheless, she walked over to the fireplace, scooped out a handful of glittering silver powder before tossing it into the embers, and pictured the words on the paper. The flames leapt up green as grass, and with a deep breath to fortify herself she walked into the flames.
Her experiences with fire-travel were limited to the pub in Stuttgart, so she was no expert, but in her own beginner's opinion this journey was somehow even worse. The spinning continued to pick up speed, soon exceeding either of her previous trips. Even with her eyes closed, lights flashed past her eyelids in a rapid staccato that made her insides squirm sickeningly. Without warning, another force entered the picture, flipping her head over heels as though she had been tossed by an enormous hand and adding a new spin to the already nauseating picture. Her head rattled, and then another flip hit her by surprise. She opened her mouth to take a gasp; immediately she regretted it as foul-tasting ash poured in to suffocate her.
The spinning suddenly shifted, tossing her sideways and launching her from a fireplace to slide and roll across the floor until hitting a table. That was finally too much for her stomach, and she gripped her abdomen hard while her breakfast sprayed from her mouth in a flood of acid. She retched again and again, until finally there was nothing left within her to get out and she was on her knees dry heaving.
She wiped her mouth on her arm and fell back onto her butt. Familiar tweeting caught her ear, causing her to look over at Morgan who was standing on the edge of the same table she had crashed into and watching her with concern. I hate that kind of travel, she told him with vehemence. It's awful, I always get sick, and thank goodness I can teleport because otherwise I would rather walk everywhere. Whoever came up with that should be ashamed of themselves.
Still, her hatred of this particular flavor of travel was no reason for her to stick around. The room was empty, and she expected so was much of the building considering no one came over at the sound of someone being so sick. Honestly, the inside was rather rundown overall, the mantle of the fireplace obviously dusty even from her position on the floor and the walls and floor made from wood that was faded and starting to warp. Aside from the table and a few nearby chairs, this room was empty of anything at all. Well, anything other than her pool of vomit.
Hazel splayed her fingers over the floor and concentrated. Ripples of blue light pulsed away from her hands, washing over the puddle and causing it to shrink bit by bit into nothingness. They also stripped this spot of the floor of what had to be years of accumulated ground-in dirt, which only made the rest of the floor look that much worse in comparison. Certainly it did not hide the fact that someone had been here. Wary of anyone coming down, she waved for Morgan to follow her and slipped through the door onto the street beyond.
Said street was dingy and poorly lit, the clouds in the sky dark and heavy with coming rain where they could be seen at all. Whoever designed this street apparently had a preference for tight spaces because if she was not mistaken, the buildings actually leaned inwards as though they wanted to form a tunnel; what was more, several of those buildings had tarps strung between them as though to form a sort of roof. Was this truly the main shopping area in Britain? If so, she might need to rethink whether she even wanted to stay here. Place Cachée was far more pleasant.
Closing her eyes, she focused not on what she saw but on what she could hear. Other than a couple of men wearing ragged grey cloaks farther down the street to the left, there was no one around to ask for directions to all the other stores, and that was what she came here for. Several seconds passed before she nodded. The sound was somewhat muted, but she thought she could hear a wordless hubbub on her right side, the same kind of sound she would expect from a crowd that was a decent distance away. That was her best option for exploration right now.
Walking up the street, she could only frown as the walls of the surrounding buildings became more and more grimy. Was this really the way she was supposed to be going? She turned one more corner and then blinked in surprise.
That corner had hidden a transition, and an abrupt one at that. The alleyway she had been walking along was all in shades of grey, but this one? The storefronts – and they were very obviously stores – were painted all the colors of the rainbow, clashing against each other as though in competition for who could be the loudest and most garish. The contrast was jarring.
As she was glancing around she spotted a pair of iron signs, each with a closed hand and a single extended finger, attached to the walls of the building on the corner between the two streets. The hand pointing back the way she came read 'Knockturn Alley'; the street she was looking at therefore must be 'Diagon Alley'. She did not know what Knockturn Alley was if this was the main thoroughfare, but it was clearly not the domain of the wealthy and well-off.
Of course, she was well aware of how the French treated werewolves and the Germans looked at hags. It was entirely possible that the only fireplace the British hags might have access to was in the slums.
A cold breeze blew through the wider Diagon Alley, and the shiver it sent up her spine reminded her that she had a purpose for being here, one that was not musing on how hags were treated in different countries and cultures. She had not expected to need any cold weather clothing in Greece, and while she could pull out the thinner of the two coats she now had in her satchel, there was another option before her. She just needed to find the bookstore and get inside. It would doubtlessly be a more pleasant temperature there, especially if the clouds made good on their threat.
Setting off down the street, Hazel made sure she stayed close to the wall. The crowds were not the thickest she had ever seen, but there were still enough people walking around and she was still short enough that if she were enveloped, she would quickly become lost. If she stayed over here, though, she would have the best view of the store signs on this side of the street as well as good angles to those on the other side when there were breaks in the crowd.
By the time she found what she assumed was a bookstore if the open book on the wooden sign were any indication – although the name of the shop, Flourish and Blotts, also sounded like a cute name for a shop dealing with the written word – her worries about the chill or the future possibility of rain were long gone and replaced with smoldering pique. She had not bothered hiding herself from sight while she was looking around, and as a result the other people walking up and down the streets could see her and react. No one had done anything yet, no screams or calls for the riffraff to be thrown out the way she still remembered the librarian in Greater Whinging doing, but their thoughts made their true opinions plain to hear. She had heard already a number of people comment to themselves about the 'gutter urchin' and the 'Mudblood scum' wandering around amongst these good and upstanding people, including one woman with a strange black and white hairdo pulling her long velvet dress tighter about her legs and sniffing disdainfully before crossing to the other side of the street so she would not risk brushing up against 'common swine'.
Little Whinging or London, normal or magical, even British or French. Humans were far too judgmental about other people. It said something when the nicest people Hazel had ever dealt with were those that turned into furry monsters one night a month or had first wanted to eat her!
But that was neither here nor there. Their opinions did not matter to her. All that mattered right now was looking for answers she had long been unable to answer.
The inside of the store looked less like a store and more like an overgrown study. Bookcases stretched from the floor all the way to the ceiling, a spiral staircase twisting up to an upper floor with even more books on display. She could see heavy tomes that would take all her strength to lift, books that were nearly a meter tall, and some in shelves within the front counter that looked like they might well be no bigger than a postage stamp. Her fingers twitched and itched to read them all, read everything. After wandering the world for the last year and a half, to see so much knowledge that had eluded her now sitting before her eyes, she could barely hold herself back from running around looking at every little thing.
But that was a goal for a different time. The shelves of the store very helpfully had subjects attached to them, and that meant that she she was able to force herself to ignore the wide variety of books on display and head for the aisle that bore the heading 'Theory and History'. It was the aisle furthest to the left, out of sight of the windows, and when she got there she had to frown. Not only was it the least visible, it was also narrow and cramped. Worse, from what she could see only half the aisle was actually dedicated to the subject. The back half, closer to the register, looked like it was filled with comic books!
Pulling her eyes away from the luridly cover of a serial titled 'Martin Miggs, the Mad Muggle', she focused on what titles of real books were readily visible. Several of the books did not have legible titles embossed on the spines, sometimes words in another language or sometimes just the author's name or sometimes nothing at all, but a few minutes searching found her three books that could be useful. 'A History of Magic' and 'Introductory Magical Theory' were both on her booklist, and the third was a book on the history of Hogwarts. If she were going to spend what she could only assume would be several years there, it would behoove her to learn of its past. Carrying her prizes with her to the corner so she would be out of sight of any passersby, she nestled in to start reading and satisfying her curiosity.
Two hours later, now surrounded by a dozen different texts, she was thinking that in some ways it was a good thing she could not speak. If she could, she would be screaming up a storm with such naughty language that she would not be surprised if soap spontaneously appeared in her mouth.
If these were the kinds of books she and other students were supposed to learn their history from, she was already unimpressed. Not just unimpressed; disturbed and suspicious. As far as she could see, none of the readily available history books talked about magic before the Romans went around and spread 'the light of their magic' through the world. If they were to be believed, it was almost as if magic had not been real, had been no more than a childish dream, until the dominance of the almighty Rome.
What made that so disturbing was that it was clearly nonsense of the highest order. The Greeks and Egyptians had cultures long before the Romans, and yet their folklore was full of gods and monsters and no few magicians. She had not delved deeply into the books about Babylon or India or China during her weeks cloistered within the Bristol library, but if she remembered her brief skimming of a more general world history book, they were even older. And, of course, there were the druids. Her ancestors might not be as ancient as other cultures, but their ways and traditions were still firmly in place when the Romans first arrived on the shores of the British Isles. Then there was Elfriede's story, for while it focused on the origin of the hags' curse it also mentioned peripherally the origin of human magic in the mists of time immemorial. For the Romans therefore to be the source from which all magical knowledge sprung…
It simply beggared belief, and for no clear reason. Why would anyone want to lie about things that happened millennia ago?
That had lead to her next path of investigation. If the history books were useless, her thought was, then she would just need to look at it from some different angle. She would dearly love to know more about the druids, but for now she would settle for information about how her magic worked. Her experiments had been fruitful, but she would not turn down the expertise of generations to guide her and speed up her magical mastery that much more. Unfortunately, she had hit an even larger roadblock in the magical theory books.
Despite their claims, she had decided that nobody had the slightest clue how magic worked. Oh, there were rules and theorems and talk of breaking spells down with maths to make it easier to make new spells, but everyone had their own ideas about how magicians could twist the very substance of reality with nothing more than a thought and an effort of will, and none of those ideas played nice with anybody else's. The only thing they all agreed on was the method by which magic was made manifest: the movement of a witch's wand and the force and pronunciation of her incantations. Without these, they all said one after another, magic could not exist. It was all but impossible.
Impossible? Please. Her own experiments and self-taught abilities were all the proof she needed to know that was a steaming pile of rubbish.
But it did leave her in a bit of a lurch. If this was what was accepted as truth, then how would they explain her talents? Moreover, if the proper pronunciation of nonsense words was the end-all and be-all of magic, it left the question of how people like her were meant to use magic. What was taught to people who were deaf or mute or had speech impediments? She had looked and looked, but there was only a single book she found through this entire store on disabilities at all, and even that was a slim handbook for parents who discovered that their child was 'incapable' of using magic.
It was this book that had put her in such a foul temper. The deaf and the mute were considered subsets of 'Squibs', people born to wizards and sorcerers but bereft of any talent for the magical arts. The anonymous author tried to remain objective, but by the final pages his true opinion was visible for all to see.
"…as such, while it is technically possible for the magically incapable to carve out niches for themselves and form a small group of family and friends who accept them, to say that such a life is easy or simple would be a lie. Indeed, those few who were willing to have their stories told in this volume expressed to me the sentiment that they expected their lives would be all the more fulfilling were they to be among others who did not make them feel deficient. This is to say nothing of the stigma still present through our culture for those who cannot use magic and their compatriots, a stigma that makes it that much more difficult for them to fill their lives with the love of others.
"It is for this reason that the Ministry maintains a list of orphanages throughout the Muggle world where some of the staff are aware of our world. Heartbreaking as it sounds, perhaps the kindest thing we can offer these children is to give them over to a place where they have the chance of being accepted and adopted into a Muggle home. As they will never be contacted by our schools or government, they will not learn of or pine for a society in which they cannot fully take part. Surrounded instead by people just like them, they will have a sense of belonging and satisfaction that simply is not possible in our own world."
Can you believe the sheer nerve of this man, Morgan?! He's basically saying that we are not worth keeping around, that anyone who isn't exactly like everyone else should be thrown away and told it is for our own good.
Send anyone who could not use a wand to an orphanage? It was unconscionable. Her uncle Vernon had threatened her on multiple occasions with sending her away to an orphanage. In his mind, not only would it mean he would no longer have to spend any money on her care, but it would also be the proper place to send someone that 'no normal person' would ever want. That the neighbors knew of her existence and would ask where she had disappeared to was the only reason he had not made good on that threat. This was where anybody who could not do magic the way society thought they should were meant to be sent? A place that was less desirable even than her aunt and uncle's home?
She shook her head and threw the book disgustedly away from her little nook and down the aisle.
"Who's throwing books around?" yelled a man's voice. Hazel braced her staff on the ground and used it to scramble to her feet, but she was not fast enough to get out of sight before a large man with an enormous fluffy mustache stormed around the corner. His eyes flicked over her clothing and then fixated on the books at her feet. "What are you doing to my books?! This is a store, girl! These books are for sale, not toys to play with! She probably doesn't even know how to read from the look of her. Might have been just tearing them apart for the fun of it. Out! Out!"
The man drew his wand, and Hazel jumped to the side and scurried out of his sight. He quickly followed, but while his wand was pointed upwards he did not start throwing spells at her. He seemed content to see her rush out the front door, and only once she was no longer within his store but merely looking through the window did he give her a long warning look and walk back to the counter where she had been sitting.
He was mean, she told Morgan after taking a moment to calm her racing heart. And for no reason! He could have at least waited long enough for me to tell him what I was doing before chasing me out. Thunder cracked above her, and she glanced up at the clouds. And now I'm outside and don't have any books.
Still, that did not mean she had no options at hand. Perhaps it was simply time to walk around subtly instead of out in the open where everyone could see her.
Less than a minute later she reentered the bookstore, but this time wrapped in her grey ignore-me smoke. The owner was waving his wand to return the last two of her books to their shelves, and since he was facing away from the door that only made her entrance all the simpler. Two books were right now at the top of her list, namely the books on magical plants and human potions. It did not take long to find them, and during her search she also spotted a couple of books about the methods of harvesting potion ingredients that joined them in her bag. Normally she would feel a little bad about stealing the books, but considering the owner's attitude toward her when she was not doing anything wrong, she was more than happy to let this be his comeuppance.
The rain had started in earnest by the time she was finished, and she looked out the window forlornly. What do you think? Call it for today and find someplace warm and dry where we can settle down to sleep while we're in town?
Morgan took one look outside and shifted on her shoulder to get closer to her neck.
Yeah, I don't want to go out in that either. All the same, I want to read through a couple of these books before I take a look at the apothecary or druggist's or wherever these people buy their ingredients. It would make no sense to refill my bag there if I can harvest a lot of what I need without needing to steal it. Plus, I don't even know what the interesting potions are and what I need to make them in the first place. I'd like to make a proper shopping list first.
He twittered again in the direction of her letter, and she looked at the supply list again. The first of the miscellaneous items was a wand. Her fingers tapped thoughtfully against the wood of her staff. Sure, the books she read in this shop all talked about the importance of incantations, but that just meant they were shortsighted and wrong. All the same, she had gotten a glimpse of what wand-magic was capable of thanks to Jean Luc and Marcel, along with the wizard who attacked Hedwig and her in Stuttgart. It would not be bad to supplement what she could already do with a few tricks with a wand, would it?
With a sigh, Hazel reached into her satchel before wiggling her fingers in the same way that she would to conjure her ghost hand. Her spell interacted with the magic of her bag, and a moment later fabric jumped into her fingers. She pulled out her thinner jacket and slid it on over her bag. Taking another look at how hard it was raining, she reached back inside her satchel and summoned a towel she had found during her trek to Greece. Originally it had been old and ratty, but she had managed to clean it up and patch it together with her fixing spell. It had afterwards served as a bit of an experiment, testing to see if she could use her fixing spell to fuse two similar things together.
It turned out that yes, she could, and as a result the towel was now more like a shawl, half as wide as it should be but twice as long. She was still looking for a way to make it totally waterproof, but it would do a good enough job keeping her dry at the moment. She draped it over her head and wrapped it around her shoulders to keep both her head and Morgan dry, and between the two she felt shielded enough to step out into the rain.
She was quite happy that her cleaning spell not only washed but dried things because she needed to use it twice on the towel before she finally stumbled upon the store she was searching for. The display in the window, a single wand laying upon a dusty cushion that might at one time have been purple, was a good sign, as was the text of the sign once she could finally read it. Ollivander's. Makers of fine wands since… 382 B.C.?! She blinked several times in surprise. Well. I suppose that means the family has plenty of experience.
The bell above the door tinkled as she entered, pulling the towel and jacket off once she was no longer in the rain. "Who would be walking around in such dreadful weather?" she heard to her side, and she turned to find an old man silently closing a door behind him. His wispy white eyebrows rose when she did so. "Interesting. Rarely does anyone hear me come in. Good afternoon. I had wondered when I would see you, Miss Potter."
She had raised her hand to wave back at his greeting, but the motion came to a stop when he said her name. Instead she asked, 'You know who I am?'
That earned a short, dry chuckle. "Indeed. Many know who you are, although few would necessarily recognize you dressed as you are. It is not the picture most people have of you. Nor would you writing things in midair."
'Then how did you recognize me?'
"I have a small advantage over most other people." His silver eyes, gleaming like polished coins, brightened when he smiled. "I am a wandmaker, and therefore I pay more attention to the echoes wands leave upon children. You, of course, have three different echoes, although it is odd that they have become so muted. Normally I do not see that in children your age.
"It seems only yesterday that your mother was in here herself buying her wand. Ten and a quarter inches long, swishy, made of willow. A nice wand for charm work. Elegant and dextrous as a dancer, a wand for those who see beauty through all the world."
Hazel smiled at that description of her mother. Perhaps following through with this truly was the right course of action if it meant following in her mother's footsteps.
Mr. Ollivander's own smile grew wider. "Your father, on the other hand, favored a mahogany wand. Eleven inches and unusually pliable. A little more power and excellent for transfiguration, ever seeking to change the world around it."
So both her parents were sorcerers? The idea was not totally foreign to her, but it was still not her leading theory. It seemed strange that if her parents were both part of this world that she would grow up with her aunt and uncle, particularly considering how insistent the wizards were to keeping themselves separate from the rest of the world. Had her parents no one else they trusted with her safety?
Pushing that answerless question aside, she asked instead, 'You said I had three echoes? That is only two.'
"Indeed I did. Show me your scar, if you would?" Surprised that he knew about that already, she nonetheless nodded and raised her chin so he could see the thin scar that ran across her throat, the scar that stole her voice from her before she could even use it. "That, Miss Potter, is the source of the third echo." Boney fingers reached out but stopped before they could touch the surface of her skin. "I am sorry to say I sold the wand that left you such a scar. Thirteen and a half inches, made from yew. Rigid. Unyielding. A powerful wand, as most yew wands are, but this one perhaps too powerful. Especially in the hands of someone utterly convinced of his right to dominate all life. A wand meant for great works, turned to terrible purpose…"
'I'm sorry, sir, but did you say a wizard did this to me?' She had always known that the story her relatives told her, that it was a remnant of a drunken car crash, was a lie, but never in a million years would she have guessed that it was the work of a wizard. But why? Who would care about a baby?
"Is this possible? You… do not know?" he asked in a disbelieving voice.
What followed was a history lesson she had not known she did not want. A tale of civil war, wizard fighting wizard over whether Muggleborns – Nés-Moldus, like her mother had been and the werewolves of Compiègne thought she was – had the right even to exist. Of a fearsome dark wizard whose name everyone was still too afraid to use because, in Mr. Ollivander's words, to speak his name was to invite death itself to your door. Of his murder of her parents and her unexplained, miraculous survival immediately followed by this wizard's equally inexplicable disappearance.
Of the myth that had somehow sprung up in the meantime, crediting her with the wizard's defeat and possible death even though she was too young to do anything at all, as well as her apparent title of 'the Girl-Who-Lived' because she alone survived his deadly curse.
The idea that she was some kind of mystical savior was enough to earn a dismissive scoff. Of course, she was some prodigy of magic who could defeat the evil wizard threatening the land, no doubt protected by destiny itself so she might bring light and peace back to the world. It was the same bare-bones storyline she had seen in any number of fantasy novels. Cute, but this was reality. She was no up-and-coming heroine; she was just an orphan runaway with her feathered friend, her wits, and a desire to learn everything she could do.
'Thank you for telling me all this,' she finally told him. 'It was… enlightening.'
"I can only imagine, if she had never known any of this before. How the Girl-Who-Lived would not know about her own history, though; that is the question. I am glad to help. But you did not come here to listen to an old man prattle on, did you?" Mr. Ollivander asked with a knowing smile.
'No, it isn't. But I have a question.' He nodded for her to go ahead. 'Can I even use a wand if I cannot speak?'
"I wondered if that was why you have only written all your questions," he told her before sighing. "In truth, the answer is complicated. Nonverbal magic, spells cast silently, is possible, yes. It is however difficult. Few people find themselves able to cast any but the simplest and most familiar spells without incantations. Add in how an improperly cast spell will behave in extremely unpredictable ways… I worry that trying to start your education with nonverbal spells would be close to impossible."
'I see. Thank you for your time, then. I won't waste any more of it.' Giving him a small smile, she reached for her jacket where she had draped it over a spindly chair in the corner.
A hand fell gently on her shoulder, causing her to turn back to face him. With a grandfatherly smile, the expression narrowing eyes she now realized had yet to blink throughout the entire conversation, he shook his head. "I would not call it a waste of time, child. You came here to find your wand. I would not stand between the two of you." She shot him a confused expression, and he elaborated, "Not all magic has been discovered and codified, and sometimes the bond between a witch and her wand can transcend mere spells. Likewise, I could not bear to see one of my children left behind while you return to the world empty-handed. Come, let us look."
She let him pull her over to the counter, where he pulled a long tape measure that had once been white but was now yellowing with age from his pocket. "Which is your wand arm?"
Holding out her right hand, she watched as he measured the distance between any number of her joints. Wrist to shoulder, the tip of her ring finger to the crook of her elbow, from her shoulder around her back to her opposite hip and then to the floor. "Yes, yes. You are meant for an excitable wood. Challenges before you are to be learned from and overcome, not obstacles that block your way. Any wand that is too shy or quiet would be unable to keep up with you, perhaps more so than with most witches considering the parlor tricks you have already taught yourself with nothing but your own determination. And yet," he continued to himself as he wrapped the measuring tape around her head, "you do not show the recklessness I typically see with those other traits. A core of timidity you are trying to grow out of, perhaps? No, not with that shoulder blade height. In fact, keeping in mind her overall small stature compared to the circumference of her arms… Have you needed to protect yourself from many dangers in your life?"
Dangers? Well, there was the red cap, the spirits in de Rais's castle, and the scoured clearing for sure… and the werewolves during the full moon… and the hags when she first met them… and maybe the Dursley family if she wanted to be truly uncharitable… She shrugged one shoulder in embarrassment and gave him a nod.
"I see. Not fear, then, but a finely honed instinct for self-preservation. You push your boundaries, but always with an eye on your surroundings. Not something I see in wizards nowadays. Interesting, but useful information all the same. I have a feeling you will be a tricky customer. Good! I always have the most fun with complex witches." He dropped the tape measure onto the counter and dashed off to the back, where she could see him rummaging through boxes before grabbing one or two and moving on to the next pile. "No point in trying any alder, chestnut, or pear wands. Hornbeam? Unlikely, but maybe I should have one or two ready to try. Beech, oak, and walnut, absolutely. All right, let us try these and find where your partner is waiting." He returned and stretched out his hand holding just one of the wands he carried in his arms. "Try this one, beech-wood and dragon heartstring. Go ahead and give it a—"
Her fingers touched it, but she did not have time even to get a firm grip on it before he pulled it way. "Oh, absolutely not! That was a strangely potent rejection," he thought as he shook his head. Placing it on the counter, he ran his fingertips over the wands in his arms. "Which to try, hmm? Yes, yes, dogwood and… Actually, no. Not this one, either. It would be pointless letting her try a wand that is incapable of nonverbal spellcasting. Perhaps this one instead, blackthorn and unicorn hair, eight inches and springy." Once again she barely laid a finger upon it before it was taken from her.
Minutes stretched into an hour, and the pile of rejected wands mounted higher and higher. True to his word, Mr. Ollivander did seem to become more and more excited as he pulled out what might well be the stock of his entire store. "You have demanding tastes, my dear. Very particular. Anything too meek is ignored entirely, but all the excitable wands have been rejected. How very curious. Perhaps this one? Holly and phoenix feather, eleven inches and supple. Does her magic cry out for restitution for its brother's misdeeds, perhaps? It is an unusual combination, perhaps fit for an unusual witch."
He let her touch it, but just like all the others so far he immediately pulled it away with a grimace. "No, no, definitely not," he said in a tight, hoarse voice. "I have never heard a wand scream like that before, and I would hope never to hear it again. That was a foolish experiment. My apologies." She shrugged, the movement jostling her staff where she had tucked it within the crook of her elbow to keep it out of the way, and when it did his eyes drifted to it before narrowing. "Is that… I wonder. May I take a look at that, my dear?"
Hazel looked between him and her staff a few times before slowly handing it over. He hefted it in his hands and ran his fingers over it. "Fascinating. Maple, hard to test its flexibility like this but at the least it is not rigid. Sturdy most assuredly," he added after tapping it on the ground. He gave her a somewhat uncertain grin before handing it back. "I see the answer to my question is plain. I have no wand that will work for you in my shop, I am sad to say. You have already bonded with a magical wood, and it jealously clings to you."
'It is jealous? But it's just wood,' she wrote out in confusion.
"But is the tree from which it comes not alive just as much as you or I?" Mr. Ollivander asked with a raised eyebrow. "Do you think it does not have its own wants and needs?"
She blinked, thinking back on her meeting with that maple tree back in France. Alive, most definitely. She gained her staff after making a deal with it, and was that not by itself proof that it had thoughts of a sort? She supposed it only made sense that some of that life may continue in the branch she was given to make the staff she now held.
"I see you understand. Wands may not think and live the way humans do, but they do so in their own way instead. The wand chooses the witch, not the other way around, for magic cannot come without acceptance from both. Once that choice is made, wands – and apparently staves – can be rather possessive. They do not like sharing."
'So you need to make a wand out of my staff?' The idea made sense, and yet just thinking about that still made her stomach flutter anxiously although she knew not why.
"Normally I would think the same, but the way it behaves tells me that it is already complete. It is whole." He shook his head. "I fear that if I tried breaking it down to turn it into a wand, I would only kill it." Her hands clutched her staff more tightly, and he nodded in understanding. "Neither you nor I want that. At the same time, it limits what I can give you. So long as your staff lives, you will be unable to use a wand at all."
Nibbling on her bottom lip, Hazel looked over at her staff again. 'Just one problem,' she wrote after a minute to think about just how she wanted to say this. 'If I can't use a wand, how am I expected to cast wizard magic? Can I use a staff just like a wand?'
"I do not know the answer to that. I have live a very long life, Miss Potter, but what you hold in your hands?" He shrugged. "I have never seen any of its ilk before, and its abilities are a mystery to me." Raising one finger, he continued, "There is one thing I do know, however. Despite what wizards might believe, spells are not the whole and entirety of magic.
"In the end, all I can offer you is a choice. Tell me you wish to be a witch like all those around you, and I will do all I can to keep the magic of that staff alive in order to fashion you a wand. I make no guarantees, but even if I am unsuccessful I can find a wand to learn and grow alongside you. However, should you leave my shop today with your staff in hand, you will walk a harder road, but it will be one of your making and no one else's. Its destination will be yours to decide, whether that be to curse and envy wizards for their abilities or to rise above them all on your own merits."
The end of his speech seemed almost to ring in the ensuing silence, the air within the shop now strangely heavy like the winds before a thunderstorm. Morgan shivered on her shoulder. Hazel's fingers stroked the smooth, pale yellow surface of her staff in thought. So many of the books she had read, Mr. Ollivander's own warning, told her that a wand would be all but useless in her hands without the ability to speak. Wizards' spells were out of her reach. And yet, she had never needed their spoken spells, had she? Her magic was beyond such limitations. Maybe she was never meant to be a witch, even if her mother had been one.
But that did not mean she could not be something else.
'I just have one question, then.' He nodded, his thoughts silent like the surface of a placid pond but churning with anticipation underneath. 'Is there a post office nearby? I need to send someone a letter.'
After all, if she could not be a witch, there was little point in going to a witch's school, was there?
Like I said, meaty. At least I didn't turn the entire thing into a chapter of shopping for infinitely expanding trunks-slash-portable apartments and five hundred outfits and custom wand creation (even if only on a technicality).
Although I DID make her teleportation Splinch-proof, so there's that.
One last thing. Please keep in mind that Hazel's thoughts and opinions are not necessarily my own, nor is she an unbiased narrator. She may be able to read minds, but that just gives her more information to potentially misinterpret. Especially when she has to view it through the lens of her own upbringing.
Silently Watches out.