Young Albus Dumbledore ambled leisurely through the cool shade and midday shadows of the forbidden forest, curiously poking at the soft spongy ground with a stick here and there, and turning over rocks and pinecones as all eleven-year boys are apt to do in a carefree moment with no destination in mind.
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 had 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?”
Then lifting up the hem of his robe to climb over a prickly knee-high fallen spruce limb, Albus strode to a nearby small clearing left by a tall fallen oak whose trunk lay long and hollow on the leaf-littered ground, with its edges blackened and softly crumbling.
Now reaching into his pocket to remove the nest of woodlice he had carefully enfolded in a handful of green oak leaves, he placed the creatures at the base of the rotting hollow 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 shimmered briefly over the creatures.
“That should keep you nice and warm when the sun goes down,“ he said approvingly as he passed a hand over the damp earth to feel a pleasant mild warmth emanating from where the spell had been cast.”
He was now just putting his wand away when a kindly familiar voice suddenly spoke from behind him.
“Fancy meeting you here, Mr. Dumbledore,” called the voice pleasantly from behind a small willow tree.
Albus turned in surprise to see a sprightly white-haired old gentleman in a long dark frock smiling at him, who gave a one-sided shrug as he shifted the bulk of a canvas sack he was carrying higher up over one shoulder.
“Why, Good Day to you Mr. Ollivander,” Albus greeted the old wandmaker cheerfully as he approached the wizard. “I was just bedding down a nest of wood lice for the night.”
“So I see,“ smiled the kindly wandmaker, “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 unexpected invitation.
“Oh, I think you’d better,” chuckled Mr. 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 creature like a stick-man with long spindly fingers and perfectly camouflaged to look like the supple twig of a willow, was indeed swinging in the breeze within inches of Albus’ head.
With a gasp, Albus ducked and broke into a run from beneath the willow in such a hurry that he almost trampled on the wood lice he had so carefully tended just moments ago.
“Not to worry, Lad, it’s just a small one,” laughed Ollivander in amusement at the boy, who now stooped to pick up the pointed hat which had blown off his head in the scramble. “Young bowtruckles do sometimes lose their grip of willow branches in a strong wind.”
“I never even noticed that one!” admitted Albus, panting slightly 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! But they do hide bowtruckles extremely well,” remarked the wandmaker, “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 slung over his shoulder which already bulged with twigs of varying lengths and widths from assorted wand wood trees, along with a spool on which he had carefully wound two undamaged unicorn tail hairs he had 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 and untied the top, opening 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,” remarked Ollivander. “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 will come peacefully down for their share.”
Albus did as he was told, gingerly holding out several feathery fern fronds which the young creature greedily snatched with a rake of its long fingers. Four larger bowtruckles soon also approached, shimmying down through 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 out the leaves at an arm’s length to avoid the creature‘s elongated fingers which swiped through the air voraciously at the eggs.
“That’s because the bowtruckles in this tree are already familiar with me,” explained 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 one relentlessly with walnuts - and 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 toward Albus with a good-natured smirk, “I’ve taken my share of lumps!”
Albus gingerly reached out a hand to feel the old wandmaker’s scalp to find he wasn’t joking in the least. Beneath the frizzy white hair that stood away from the old gentleman’s head like a round puff, Albus felt a very bumpy scalp with several protruding lumps the size of gobstones.”
“And surely you’ve noticed that old wandmakers nearly always become bald and nearly blind with age as well. We wandmakers like to call it the bowtruckle’s curse,” said Ollivander with a joking wink.
Albus merely smiled, and was about to wish the wandmaker a kind goodbye, as he expected the Hogwarts’ school bell would soon be ringing to signal the end of the lunch period and beginning of afternoon classes, when Ollivander suddenly 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 his afternoon transfiguration class and discovered wandering the forbidden forest during the lunch period again, but this was an opportunity he simply could not refuse.
“Oh yes indeed, Sir!” said Albus eagerly with an excited nod, and wiping his hands clean of several clinging fairy eggs on the sleeves of his robe .
“Search the willow branches then, for a length of twig round as your thumb, on mature wood that’s no longer green.”
Albus immediately set to searching the long sweeping willow branches that curved gracefully earthward, tugging them to eye level to check the condition of the growth, and listening as Mr. Ollivander pleasantly reminisced from behind him.
“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 wand-making tradition even though the innate ability for having “the wisdom of the wood” often skips 2 or more generations.”
Albus now found a suitable length of willow branch, noticing that the wood felt slightly warm in his hand and that he could faintly feel the sap pulsing through it, as he held it out for Ollivander’s approval.
The wandmaker smiled and nodded. “At least 17 inches please, with at least 3 inches to spare, and cleanly severed with your wand,” he directed. “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 immediately applied some of its contents it to the cut ends of the branches in Albus’ hand.
“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 extremely well that wand of yours does your bidding, Mr. Dumbledore. And I must say, that 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 earnestly, then added, “and curiously, I noticed a feeling of warmth in my fingers as I cut this willow twig. In fact, I could even feel the flow of sap in the twig.”
Ollivander now took the willow twig Albus had been holding, and examined it closely as he did with all the wand wood he cut, rolling it unhurriedly between his fingers, and sliding the length of it through his hand.
“Willow wood might also have made a perfectly suitable wand for you, Mr. Dumbledore,” Ollivander told the boy in slow contemplation. “Wand lore is a mysterious thing. The wand chooses the wizard, but an experienced wandmaker can make some educated guesses about a likely proper fit.”
Albus was now all ears, as 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 by wand lore is often a good first choice. 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, Mr. Dumbledore. Willow, for instance, is excellent for charm work, so you undoubtedly will develop good aptitude for it. Wands do not merely choose the wizard, but may also foreshadow powers and even events which lie hidden in a wizard’s future. That is 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, in their endless dueling games. To make matters even more complicated, Albus knew that wizards often owned more than one wand in a lifetime, usually of different woods and different 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, then decided 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 the lunch period was over.
“Another day perhaps, Mr. Ollivander,” Albus hurriedly replied, as he stashed his own Ollivander wand back in his robes. “I’ve got to get back to school or I’ll be late for transfiguration class 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 that 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.
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