Chapter 1 : The Wisdom of the Wood
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A nest of wood lice buzzed irritably in the right-hand pocket of his robe as he stooped over to inspect a spotted toadstool while munching on an apple he’d brought for lunch, and humming to himself from beneath the tall pointed hat he wore.
“You’ll be free in a moment,” said Albus kindly to the tiny creatures that buzzed in a frenzy, filling his pocket with lively vibration. “You don’t want to get eaten by the bowtruckles do you?”
Lifting up the hem of his robe to climb over a prickly fallen spruce limb, Albus strode to a nearby clearing that had been left by a tall fallen oak, whose trunk lay long and hollow on the leaf-littered ground, its edges blackened and softly crumbling.
Reaching into his pocket, he removed the nest of woodlice he’d carefully enfolded in a handful of green oak leaves only moments ago. He placed the creatures at the base of the rotting log. where they busily scurried to find shelter among the layers of moist crumbling bark, and soon quieted.
Albus drew his wand and waved it over the spot. “Solaris Radius” he uttered, as his wand sent out a fluid ripple that briefly shimmered over the tiny creatures.
“That should keep you nice and warm when the sun goes down,” he said, as he passed a hand over the damp earth to feel a pleasant warmth emanating from where the spell had been cast.
He was just putting his wand away when a kindly voice spoke from behind him.
“Fancy meeting you here, Mr. Dumbledore,” said the voice pleasantly.
Albus turned in surprise to see a sprightly, white-haired old gentleman in a long dark frock smiling at him. The old man gave a one-sided shrug as he shifted the bulk of a canvas sack he carried, higher up over one shoulder.
“Why, good day to you Mr. Ollivander,” Albus greeted the wandmaker as he straightened up, “I was just bedding down a nest of wood lice for the night.”
“So I see,“ smiled the old man, “I prefer using fairy eggs to feed bowtruckles with as well, and I just happen to have a pouch full of them. Would you care to join me?”
“May I really?” marveled Albus with absolute delight at the invitation.
“Oh, I think you’d better,” chuckled Ollivander in amusement, as he pointed at Albus with an unsteady finger, “because a bowtruckle is about to fall on your head!”
Sure enough, a thin sticklike creature with long spindly fingers, perfectly camouflaged to look like a twig, was swinging in the breeze only inches from Albus’ head.
With a gasp, Albus ducked and broke into a run from beneath the willow, in such a hurry that he nearly trampled on the wood lice he’d so carefully tended just moments ago.
“Not to worry, Lad. It’s just a small one,” laughed Ollivander in amusement, as the boy stooped to pick up the hat that had blown off his head in the scramble. “Young bowtruckles do tend to lose their grip of branches in a strong wind.”
“I never even noticed that one!” admitted Albus, panting to catch his breath from a safe distance.
“In spite of the fact that willow is the most easily recognizable of all the wand wood trees!” chuckled Ollivander, “But they do hide bowtruckles extremely well. And we should feed this little fellow and his larger relatives before they get impatient, because I’m collecting wand wood today.”
Ollivander indicated the sack on his shoulder, that already bulged with twigs of varying lengths and widths, along with a spool onto which he’d wound two undamaged unicorn tail hairs, that he’d found that morning snagged on thick brambles.
Ollivander beckoned Albus closer with a finger as he pulled a worn leather pouch from beneath his frock. He untied its top and opened it wide for the boy to see. Albus curiously bent over the pouch to see that it was stuffed with young green fiddle-leaf fronds, whose undersides were covered in rainbow-colored fairy eggs.
“I’ve got to use these eggs before they hatch,” Ollivander told him. “Once they turn the colors of the rainbow, it won’t be long. Just offer that young bowtruckle as many fronds as he can hold, and his larger relatives should come down peacefully for their share.”
Albus did as he was told, gingerly holding out several green feathery fronds. The young creature greedily snatched at them with a rake of its long fingers. Four larger bowtruckles also approached, shimmying down the willow branches with agile speed at the sight of the tasty morsel.
“It doesn’t seem very difficult to appease them,” Albus remarked, taking care to hold the leaves at arm’s length to avoid the creature‘s long fingers, which swiped voraciously at the delicacy.
“That’s because the bowtruckles in this tree are already familiar with me,” said Ollivander. “But when you’re new to a tree, they can be quite aggressive to protect it. And the ones in walnut trees insist on pelting me relentlessly with walnuts! With exceptionally good aim, I might add! Just have a feel over the top of my head, Lad,” Ollivander invited, inclining his fuzzy white head good-naturedly toward Albus. “I’ve taken my share of lumps!”
Albus gingerly reached out a hand to feel the wandmaker’s scalp, to find he wasn’t joking in the least. Beneath the frizzy white hair that stood away from the old man’s head like a dandelion clock, Albus felt a very bumpy scalp with protruding lumps the size of gobstones.
“Surely you’ve noticed that old wandmakers often become bald and nearly blind with age. We wandmakers like to call it the bowtruckle’s curse,” said Ollivander with a teasing wink.
Albus smiled at the joke, and was about to wish Ollivander a kind goodbye, as he expected the school bell would soon ring, to signal the end of the lunch period.
It was just then that Ollivander invited, “Would you care to try your hand at cutting a piece of wand wood, Mr. Dumbledore?”
Albus could hardly believe his ears. He knew he would surely be in for a long detention with the headmaster himself if he was late for transfiguration class or discovered wandering the forbidden forest again, but this was an offer he simply could not refuse.
“Oh yes indeed, Sir!” said Albus with an excited nod, as he wiped his hands clean of a few stray fairy eggs on the sleeve of his robe .
“Search the branches then, for a length of twig round as your thumb, on mature wood that’s no longer green.”
Albus set to the task at once. He searched the long sweeping branches that gracefully curved earthward, tugging them to eye level to check the condition of growth, all the while listening as Mr. Ollivander reminisced from behind him.
“Why, I can remember being no older than you when I cut my first wand wood, under the guidance of my great-grandfather’s watchful eye. I was a rather nervous young apprentice, but the Ollivanders have never failed to produce a wizard in the family who could carry on the family tradition, even though the ability for having ‘the wisdom of the wood’ often skips two or more generations.”
It wasn’t long before Albus found a suitable length of willow branch. He noticed that the wood was slightly warm in his hand, and that he could faintly feel sap pulsing through it, as he held it out for Ollivander’s approval.
The old man smiled and nodded. “At least 17 inches please, with at least 3 inches to spare, cleanly severed with your wand. And take care not to let go of either end, Lad!”
Albus drew his wand and quietly uttered “Diffindo” as Ollivander pulled a vial from his frock and applied some of its contents to the severed ends of the branches.
“A bit of tansy oil always does the trick to soothe willow, and repels pests as well,” noted Ollivander as he worked. “And I couldn’t help noticing how well that wand of yours does your bidding, Mr. Dumbledore. I must say, you wield it exceptionally well for a wizard so young. It seems to come quite effortlessly for you. You already show exceptional aptitude with a wand.”
“Thank you kindly, Sir,” said Albus. “And curiously, I noticed a feeling of warmth in my fingers as I cut this twig. In fact, I could even feel a flow of sap in the wood.”
Ollivander took the twig Albus had been holding and examined it more closely, as he did with all wand wood he cut, rolling it unhurriedly between his fingers, and sliding the length of it through his hand.
“Willow might also have made a perfectly suitable wand for you, Mr. Dumbledore,” Ollivander told the boy with slow contemplation. “Wand lore is a mysterious thing. The wand chooses the wizard, but an experienced wandmaker can usually make an educated guess about a likely good fit.”
Albus was suddenly all ears. He had always been fascinated by the subject of wands and wand lore.
“Wand wood from a tree that is associated with your birth month is often a good first choice,” Ollivander went on, “But certain woods lend themselves to specific magical abilities, and this must also be taken into account - abilities which may not even have revealed themselves yet in a wizard as young as yourself. Willow, for instance, is excellent for charm work, so you will undoubtedly develop a good aptitude for charms. Wands do not only choose the wizard, but may also foreshadow powers and even events which lie hidden in a wizard’s future. That’s what makes wand lore quite fascinating and mysterious indeed.”
Albus stared at Ollivander as if in a daydream, taking in the wandmaker’s words with a mix of curiosity, fascination, and eerie uneasiness. Wands could foreshadow the future? Albus couldn’t imagine what his future might hold. At the moment he was only concerned with getting through his first-year final exams with decent marks, and of course, making sure he learned to duel well enough to beat his brother, Aberforth, at dueling when he came to Hogwarts. To make matters even more complicated, Albus knew that wizards often owned more than one wand in a lifetime, usually of different woods and magical cores. So how was one to figure out what one’s true abilities were, and what to do with them? Albus pondered for a moment, before deciding it was all much too complicated to worry about at age eleven.
“Would you like to cut another twig?” invited Mr. Ollivander just as the school bell rang, signaling that it was time for class.
“Another day perhaps, Mr. Ollivander,” Albus hurriedly replied, as he stashed his own Ollivander wand back inside his robes. “I’ve got to get back to school, or I’ll be late for transfiguration and get detention in the headmaster‘s office.”
“Farewell then, Mr. Dumbledore,” Ollivander called after him as he cheerily waved him off, “Until we meet again.”
And with that, young Albus set off at a hasty sprint back through the forbidden forest, cape fluttering behind him on the breeze, with nothing on his mind except his next class, and hoping he would not lose house points or be sent to sit detention in the secluded and foreboding secretive office of the headmaster. He thought to himself he would surely die of shame in front of his classmates if he had to visit that seventh-floor office for another reprimand, and would probably even forget the password.