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Chapter 24: Familiarity Breeds Attempt
A pub wasn't the best place to parade an animal through the Floo. At least not one the size of Diogy. His thorough canine shake when they'd stepped from the fireplace hadn't won them any friends. The shower of Floo powder might have been overlooked. Who hadn't swallowed that regularly? The stray black hairs mixed in, and now being fished from drinks, were noticed.
Their entrance hadn't been ideal, but Victoire's options were limited. She couldn't Apparate with the wiggling beast, and he'd have killed them both on a broom. Diogy, unaware of the glares in that enviable dog-way, now wagged his tail and darted a bright pink tongue over his nose, proud of how well he'd cleared his thick coat and simply happy to be out of Victoire's bedroom.
He'd scratched grooves in the floor trying to dig under the stairway door while she showered. Her sleeve now sported small ragged holes where he grabbed the fabric and pulled her out of the room entirely. The bristled hair on his shoulders and wary, whiny pooch-attitude disappeared as soon as they'd descended the attic staircase. She managed to get him out of the immersion house unseen, but still lacked a plan for what to do with him.
What she had was an agreement to meet Owen and the hope of catching Ollivander at his shop.
"You had me worried." Owen stepped up, waving away a floating dog hair on route to tickle her nose. He tucked her arm in his, guiding her out of the Leaky Cauldron to the back courtyard with Diogy on their heels.
"Did Fin know anything?" he asked as soon as he had her out of sight. When she didn't answer, he cocked his head and gazed sideways at her. "What did you do?"
"Nothing!" She protested quickly. Too quickly. "He's being unreasonable. I couldn't talk to him."
Owen nodded and that stupid gesture sparked the anger she spent a good half-hour trying to wash away. She dropped his arm and turned on him. "He shouldn't be!"
He stared at her until she blinked, then said, "He thinks she played him."
"That what you think?"
"I need more information to know what to think."
Victoire threw her hands up to make her point. "That's logical."
Her voice bounced around the brick walled courtyard. Diogy followed the echoes with his head, but Owen wasn't distracted by her sound effects or her perspective.
"She didn't live with me."
Out-staged by a plain comment that simply landed on its mark, she huffed. "That's just being stubborn. And unhelpful."
He shrugged his consent, and ignoring her petulance, snapped his fingers for the dog's attention. "Better luck with your wandmaker. I'll take the dog with me."
She brightened. "Thank Merlin! I didn't know where he was going to find a home."
"Not to keep," he corrected, uninterested in what his expression categorized as a ridiculous whim, but no less amused by her attempt. "I live in a hotel."
Victoire didn't fancy being the amusing one. "Couldn't you move to a big-boy flat?"
"No room service."
"Dogs are great for attracting women-"
"Don't need the competition."
Now he was merely irritating her for sport. "So why do you need him? If you aren't going to even consider giving him a home!"
"Dog's been homeless before. They lived on the docks until moving into that muggle fun-house."
She hadn't realized she'd stepped back until he reached for her arm to keep her from thumping a trash can with her heel. She'd seen Micah and Diogy almost every day last summer. She couldn't have missed a fact that big.
"Not sure," Owen said with a squeeze of her shoulder. "That's why I need him. I reckon anything to find has to be within a click of the harbor."
"That's a leap," she said, but the comment was more of a stall. Her scattered thoughts tripped over themselves to keep up with current events, or at least Owen's version of them. How did the same time frame since leaving the Ministry prove so much more informative for him?
Owen flung a thumb at Diogy. "She couldn't have transported him every day. The Knight Bus is the only way I see to get him a distance. They stayed somewhere near."
Mention of the bus scarcely passed his lips when the distant squealing of tires announced the approach of Owen and Diogy's ride to the shore.
"Do you think…" She frowned; suspicion of the answer halted the question midway out.
"Nothing's been normal since I got back. May not be her," Owen said, earning a smile from Victoire, until he added, "May not just be her. I'm talking to the fairies, too."
"Be careful with that." She turned to watch Diogy sniff at the gate beyond which the triple-decker monstrosity Victoire had never actually ridden clanked and sputtered.
Owen grabbed the dog's collar and faced her. "Find my wand, they said. I'm spared."
"The spare." Victoire corrected, but stalled, her memory reluctant to share even with her. "Micah called you that." She frowned at him, standing there framed by the courtyard walls and the garish purple of the bus.
"I heard it from the fairies," he replied.
Owen reached to give her arm another squeeze with the same hand that held the wand she'd always known him to carry. She felt the pressure of it between her and the reassurance of his touch, but only for a moment. He remembered the wand and tucked it in his jacket before half lifting the dog up to the steps for the bus. She never saw the door fully close behind him. They were gone in a flash with nothing but the echoes of the sputtering engine -and her- behind.
Follow the wand.
Victoire couldn't guess what another wand search would bring Owen. The first brought Owen his past. She only hoped straightening out Micah's wands would bring some light to hers. Merlin knew, Micah wasn't helping herself. Or letting anyone else help her.
Victoire had actually admired her friend's resiliency, Micah's ease of accepting any situation. Adapting. Victoire never anticipated the other side of that coin. The fact that a person who relied solely on their skills to rebound, could prefer others around them not to get in the way. Not to see.
Micah could have lived on the boat, if Victoire had known, if she'd bothered to question anything.
She'd be questioning quite a bit from this point on.
Ollivander was edgy. He'd abandoned his shop-closing Earl Grey, still half-full, in favor of a soothing chamomile. Guilt over adding to the wandmaker's day nearly stopped Victoire from pushing for the answers she needed. Her former boss wasn't ideal under pressure, and he'd spent the day answering to Aurors who'd dropped in without so much as a note announcing their intent.
Regrettably, she'd done the same.
At least Ollivander had found a shop assistant to ease the burden. Rather, her parents had likely found one for him. Victoire recognized the man - the werewolf, Wren's father from the treehouse. Edgar was his name. Judging by the fact that Wren had a caretaker staying with her on the last full moon, the werewolf foundation had approached the family some time the previous month.
Victoire no longer needed to make the effort to check on the girl who'd captured her and nearly loved her to death. No longer needed to transform early so a nightmare wouldn't steal her thoughts and her actions before she could perch in a nearby tree, strategically out of reach. Wren's bad nights were over.
Victoire hadn't experienced a nightmare, or an unconscious transformation either, since before the tournament. Before she fled the immersion house and hid away. Real life had become a bad dream since then, and she remembered all of it. She'd take the nightmares back, if they meant everyone else wouldn't have to suffer with her. But that choice wasn't hers.
"How could that be?" she asked again, after Ollivander swallowed his latest sip of tea.
"The wards of the immersion houses were originally developed for Azkaban, through Bimas, after removal of the Dementors. Double protection, as it were, preventing wands from being smuggled to prisoners while preventing new spells -even non verbal- from being cast within the boundaries." He placed his cup down only to pick it back up without sipping. "Quite ingenious and quite precise."
"But it's blank. Does that mean the wand holds no affinity?"
"The core may be protecting its owner out of affinity. Or retaining a charm cast upon it outside the wards. There's no way to tell with certainty without retrieving the wand from the cabinet, and that won't happen unless that woman returns for it."
"What about the other wand. Marie LeClair?" The name still felt foreign to Victoire even from her own lips. She'd twinged whenever Ollivander referred to that woman, but resisted correcting him. She was supposed to be questioning, as foreign as that concept was to her, not correcting facts she hadn't verified. "Is that her real name?"
"Marie LeClair died in 1816. The Aurors affirmed that. The wand is most assuredly a ghost wand, only active because its master still roams the earth."
"A ghost can't use a wand!"
"No, but they can keep one active for centuries. That's documented fact."
Edgar returned from locking the shop door and pulling the closed sign. "The Hit Wizards are looking for Marie's ghost now, in the Cities of the Dead."
"There are cities of the dead?"
"That's what they call cemeteries in New Orleans. The crypts are all above ground so they tend to retain their occupants." He smiled as he grabbed the broom to sweep the front. "Like a big campground."
When Edgar left the back room, Victoire slid to the front of her chair and leaned forward toward Ollivander. She had a different question that needed to be answered. "Have you heard about familiars? Can a wand bond a person to the creature in its core when it chooses them?"
Ollivander blinked and sighed. "Is this for Bimas?"
That was as good an excuse as any. "Possibly, but I can't find any real information on them."
"How far back have you looked? Start with Merlin. He bonded apprentices with counterparts in the fairy realm, but you shan't find much more than legends, the merging of magical realms has always been viewed with suspicion and fear. Much can go wrong with the balance required for such a bond."
Victoire pictured herself and the fairies. She didn't feel bonded. Most of the time she felt bullied. Working together on the boat was a constant tide of standing your ground and giving in. Neither let the other have their way.
If that was LeFay's test, Victoire still didn't understand what anyone had to gain. "Why do that?"
"To guard the more powerful artifacts of his time. Beings and beasts quite naturally come about things from different perspectives, but each would share the fear of letting the other posses any power inherent in those magical items for individual gain."
Ollivander made a move to get up, but Victoire halted him with another question. "Who's made that kind of wand since?"
The wandmaker stood quickly and glanced at the front of the shop. "No one with good sense. The divide between the fairy realm and wizards deepens every day. Wand shops have been reduced to cinders over the slightest hint they might dabble in the kind of magic required to blend the two."
"Why?" She whispered now too.
"There are zealots, still. Fundamentalists whose goal is no less then reclaiming those relics for wizards. Any hint of a connection -any collusion with the fairy realm- would bring down their wrath."
Wrath like Fiendfyre. A cold dread settled deep inside her. The boat wasn't the target. She and the fairies were. Someone already knew what she still hadn't pieced together completely.
Uncertainty stole all other questions from her. She managed a small thanks and cleaned the tea mugs from the desk, shock reducing her movements to mechanical habits. But, the minute Ollivander diverted to talk Edgar through shop closing tasks, Victoire instinctively reached for the sales ledger resting behind the counter.
She flipped as fast as she could through the thick volume for Teddy's wand.
Even though, she was already convinced. She knew as sure as she'd sat in this shop and snooped through the same records waiting for Teddy to pick her up. As sure as her sixteen-year-old lovesick self memorized a thousand inconsequential facts about the boy she wanted. Wordsworth had been the name of the griffin whose feather was the core of Teddy's wand.
One thing she couldn't say for sure was whether she'd ever seen Ollivander's seal on that wand.
Theodore Remus Lupin. His name on the page stood out, surely she'd focused on that back then: the sound of it, the look of it. She'd moved on to absorb the facts -yew, 12 inches, griffin feather, good for protection- but she hadn't realized the implications of the spaces left blank in the record.
Victoire had rushed a few entries in the ledger herself, when a sale encroached on her time to leave. Ollivander never consulted the book so she could be lax, on occasion, and assumed others had too. But now, the lack of a wandmaker's initials and any detail of how the feather had been acquired held new meaning for her.
Teddy could become another target. If he wasn't already.
Victoire had no clue how she, ex-girlfriend and uneasy friend, was supposed to approach that bit of news. She slid the book back, jumping at a shadow crossing the front door. The expression in the glass reflected her own anxiety, but the face was Owen's. He held a metal box under one arm, not moving, while Diogy made nose prints sniffing at the door.
Every answer she'd gotten had come at the price of more to worry about. Micah and Teddy, concern for each now pulled her in circles. She wasn't sure she could afford to ask Owen what he'd found.