Visiting Diagon Alley always became an adventure in late August. Young witches and wizards, along with their parents, clogged the streets and stores in search of supplies before the new term at Hogwarts. Every store was crowded as wands, spell books, potions supplies, pets flew off store shelves. A History of Wizarding Flight, a clever book that had been charmed to flap through the air, was quite good at literally flying off store shelves. Sounds of excitement for the new school year coupled with the worried murmurs over a difficult class schedule.
For Deucalion Wilcott, who would be starting his sixth year at Hogwarts the next day, the only worry at the moment was getting to the Quidditch match on time. All his supplies had long since been purchased and packed; although his mother consented on him going with a friend by themselves to a match, she had insisted on checking to make sure he had packed everything in his trunk. Two or three times at least. Clearly, she only considered him responsible only in dealings with broomsticks.
Deucalion slumped down on a bench across from Quality Quidditch Supplies, a store that had only opened a few years ago. The fierce demand for racing brooms had brought the store to Diagon Alley, probably to serve the needs of Hogwarts students more than anything else. After all, how many adults were speeding around the countryside on brooms? A young witch, who Deucalion guessed was a third year, carried out a long, narrow box while remarking eagerly to her father, “I’ll make the Hufflepuff team this year for sure!”
Not with that Shooting Star, Deucalion judged silently as he read the stylized writing on the package.
Perhaps no student had spent more hours — and admittedly more money — in Quality Quidditch Supplies than Deucalion had. Ever since his untraditional promotion to Quidditch captain of the Slytherin House in his third year, he had purchased six different broomsticks and didn’t have the heart to tell his mother he was considering broomstick number seven.
Of course, his mother couldn’t complain too much about his Quidditch spending habits. As far as the scouts told him, Deucalion was almost destined to become one of the best Chasers in all of England. He’d received loads of post from the league teams practically begging him to leave school early and become a professional player, to which his mother, the well-educated Healer, disagreed to immediately.
At the thought of Quidditch, Deucalion suddenly plunged a hand into a pocket of his robes, a rush of worry building in his stomach until he felt the two tickets. He blew out a sigh of relief as he combed through his short, light brown hair. He’d already checked his pockets at least a dozen times in the last hour while waiting for the owner of the second ticket to arrive.
Sure enough, the Quidditch tickets had not sprouted legs and wandered off down the street. Then again, in the wizarding world, that was always a possibility. Since Deucalion had been waiting the last month for a chance to attend the Wimbourne Wasps and the American Sweetwater All-Stars match, he preferred the tickets to remain legless at least until he found his seat.
“It’s the Duke!”
Deucalion stood up at the sound of the familiar voice, searching through the crowd for the source. Only his closest friends called him the Duke. After a moment, he spotted the tall, sturdy frame of Ivan Berdahl pushing his way past a few shoppers carrying owl supplies while waving to get his friend’s attention. After squeezing through the traffic, Ivan laughed as he shook Deucalion’s hand.
“My father is quite a ways behind — too polite to push, you know,” Ivan said as he adjusted his glasses. “So, have you got the tickets?”
Deucalion pulled the two pieces of parchment from his pocket and waved them playfully in Ivan’s face. “We’ll be the luckiest sixth years to step aboard Hogwarts Express tomorrow morning. Not even those Malfoys could ruin the fun we’re about to have.”
“We’ll only be lucky if the match is a short one, though,” Ivan said. “I was reading the paper the other day and learned that the All-Stars’ last five matches have lasted three days or more. I hate to say it, but we can’t afford to miss the train.”
“Just hope for the best,” Deucalion said. “But I’m not so much worried about the match as I am what the vendors are selling. The American teams always bring loads of flying merchandise, and I’m ready to spend a few coins.”
Ivan glanced at the window display of Quality Quidditch Supplies, eyeing the newest Cleansweep model as he unconsciously counted a few spare Sickles in the palm of his hand. While Ivan wasn’t quite as obsessed with broomsticks, Deucalion knew it wasn’t for lack of trying. The two of them could have drafted a better copy of the current Which Broomstick, and they had admittedly spent most of their free time last year testing the top speeds and capabilities of Hogwart’s old Silver Arrows rather than studying for OWLs.
Not that he and Ivan were bad at school. They simply knew their priorities. Broomsticks came first.
“Are you boys plotting another purchase?” A quiet voice asked.
The two of them turned around to find the tall, almost stately, figure of Tor Berdahl standing behind them with a knowing smile. While he was usually stern about most things, especially activities relating to schoolwork, Mr. Berdahl always seemed fascinated with their interest in broomsticks. After all, he had equally intense feelings toward wands, and understandably so since the Berdahl family was famous throughout parts of Europe for their wand crafting.
“Father, we were just taking a look at the new Cleansweep,” Ivan said as he motioned to the store’s window. By that point, it was impossible to see the Cleansweep since about a dozen young wizards and witches were packed in front of the store, all eyes fixated on the racing broom that promised to go faster, fly higher and maneuver better than anything on the market.
“And I’m sure you were only, ah, admiring it?” Mr. Berdahl asked, though he surely already knew the answer.
“It’s hard buying a broom knowing it’s going to be outstripped in a few years by some new, more expensive, model,” Ivan admitted as he turned away from the window with a sigh. “I wish brooms were like wands and be able to actually improve with age.”
Although he had met Mr. Berdahl on numerous occasions, Deucalion always marveled at the differences in appearance between the father and son. While Ivan had dark eyes and equally dark, swept back hair, Mr. Berdahl had bright blue eyes and neat, blond hair. Ivan did inherit his Mr. Berdahl’s seriousness, however; Deucualion often joked that Ivan had his father’s distinctive scowl. Not surprisingly, Ivan’s expression lowered into a frown every time Deucalion mentioned it.
Ever the proper man, Mr. Berdahl shook Deucalion’s hand. “How are you these days, Deucalion? Your father is still on the broomstick, I presume?”
“Oh, Dad’s still officiating games and loving every minute of it,” Deucalion said. His father, March, was one of the top-ranked Quidditch referees in the world. Needless to say, the job kept him out of the house constantly. “He’s in working a few matches in Asia this week. He promises when he comes back later this month that he’ll buy you a round at the Leaky Cauldron, sir.”
Mr. Berdahl laughed. “He owes me. Wilcott always swears to be broke every time we have a drink.”
“But you still pick up the bill,” Ivan interjected, his eyebrow raised.
“That I do,” Mr. Berdahl said as he straightened himself to his full height and putting on his proudest airs. “I practice courtesy, probably to a fault. With you boys both in Slytherin, it’s a wonder that you’ve grown any manners at all. That lot only pretends to be polite, if it serves their ends.”
A few moments of awkward silence settled onto the conversation. The truth was, Deucalion very much enjoyed being in Slytherin, and he was sure Ivan felt the same way. He enjoyed the fact that everyone was trained to keep secrets and maintain silence. There was a certain amount of prestige prestige as well, since almost everyone in Slytherin had parents of some wealth or social importance. That, and the house Quidditch team was one of the best ever assembled.
A distant bell chimed and Mr. Berdahl pulled out his pocket watch in reaction. His sharp eyes bulged slightly as he read the time.
“I’m already late meeting Ollivander; that old bat hates when I’m late,” Mr. Berdahl said, his face reading that he was eager to extract himself from conversation. “Can I trust you boys to make it two the Quidditch match, return in one piece, and reach the train station on time? I know that might be a lot to ask.”
Ivan could not suppress a sigh. “Father, I’m a prefect. That means I’m responsible. Duke is a Quidditch captain. That makes him sort of responsible too. Between the two of us, we’ll be bossing each other right into our compartment on the train come tomorrow!”