The Precious Object
All the next week, every chance she got, Sadie fed Liam information on the wandmaker, Lars Stilgrevsen. "Stilgrevsen apprenticed briefly under the wandmaker Gregorovich. But he caused trouble and was fired. Stilgrevsen wouldn't follow instructions, and he kept making dangerous experiments with his wands."
"His wands would blow up?" asked Liam.
"Yes, many of them did. One of them blew off the hand of one of the other apprentices. At that point, Gregorovich let him go. Stilgrevsen drifted for some years, living mostly amongst Muggles. He continued his wand making efforts in secret. He gravitated towards places like Greece, Egypt and Palestine, where ancient and powerful artifacts are in abundance.
"Eventually, he became employed by the Dark Wizard Duragan of Turkey. He made a wand for Duragan that was very powerful. Duragan had Stilgrevsen outfit his entire operation with wands. By the time the Wizarding Community of Ankara rallied to defeat Duragan, Stilgrevsen had moved on. His reputation as a premier wandmaker was established.
"Stilgrevsen's main concern, besides mixing uncommon and volatile elements together in his wands, was the issue of wand ownership. During his apprenticeship with Gregorovich, he had learned of the Elder Wand, a powerful wand that had changed hands many times through the centuries. Stilgrevsen didn't like how such a powerful weapon could move so easily from wizard to wizard. He certainly didn't want his best customers to be killed for their wands.
"He set about trying to strengthen the connection between the wand and the wizard. His goal was to make the connection so deep that only one wizard could ever use the wand. He accomplished this by way of a Magic Key."
"A real key? For turning a lock?" asked Liam.
"I don't think so. I think the term is figurative. The book isn't really clear. It assumes that we know about the Keys already, and it just talks about why they were formed, not how. There's nothing at all about what they are, either."
"Lot of help that is."
"Well, the Keys are supposed to be secret, right? If you found the key to the wand, and it worked only for you now, then you wouldn't want to tell someone else what the key was. That person could take the wand from you, or claim that you stole it from him."
Lowering his voice to a whisper, Liam said, "You think my crazy dream is part of this Magic Key thing?"
She nodded. "That's what Umberto thinks, too. That's why he told you not to share the contents of the dream with anyone else."
"Anything else I need to know?"
"I looked to see if the book mentioned Stilgrevsen making a trip to Madagascar, but it doesn't. There is a mention of Cyrus' wand, however, in the index. Stilgrevsen will make a prototype of a wand, with a specific core and wood. In this case, the core is Madagascan Dragon heartstring and the wood is Lebanese Cedar. Once he has a powerful but compatible combination, he will make several wands based on that prototype. Each will have subtle differences - the length of the wands, the thickness of the wood, the amount of magical ingredients will all be different. But, they will all be variations of the prototype."
"Car makers do that, too," said Liam.
Sadie shrugged. "Well, look here." She had the green ribbon set into a place in the book, near the back. There was a list of wands from the year 1979. The third entry was underlined. It read "Dragon hrtstrg (MG), cedar (LB), 11"." In the margin, in a tight script, was the words, "Cy's Wand."
"Who wrote that?" asked Liam. "That's not your writing, is it?"
"No. It's Umberto's."
"Yes. I know his handwriting."
"How well do you know this guy, anyway?" asked Liam. "I've never seen you talking to him before this week, but he acts like you and him are old chums."
"I have known him for a long time, Liam. I knew him before I came to Hogwarts."
"Did he live in America, too?"
"No," said Sadie with a laugh. "I knew him before my family moved to California. The Wizarding Community of Great Britain is one big club, Liam. Half the kids here knew each other before they got here. I'd crossed paths with Caliope, Morwena and Philip, too, before last September."
Liam smirked. "Somehow I get the feeling you and Umberto did more than just play chess together."
Sadie blushed hotly. "That's mostly what we did."
"What else did you do?"
Sadie had a wounded look on her face now, and Liam was immediately sorry that he pressed the issue. "I told him something, once, that I had hoped he would keep secret. But, he told someone else almost right away. I was very hurt by it. Even though it was years ago, I still don't completely trust him."
"Then why are we still talking to him?" asked Liam.
"I needed his help," said Sadie, sternly. "I wouldn't have gotten this far without him. I had no idea that wand was a Stilgrevsen. I still can't believe it, actually, but it appears to be one. If Umberto is right, Cyrus' wand is the prototype of the Madagascan series. It's probably more valuable for that reason."
"So, not just a Ferrari, but a rare, prototype Ferrari. Completely mental."
"My thoughts exactly."
"Thanks for your help, by the way," said Liam.
"I still don't know if we're getting anywhere, though."
Sadie closed the book. "I want to see this wand for myself. I've never gotten a good look at it."
"I could always challenge Kane to another duel."
"No! You'll get into bad trouble with Gregor if you do!"
"All right, I was just joking."
"The Coven is watching him like a hawk, too. I can't get near him without going through Morwena's fence. I just hope that, sometime during practicals, I can get close enough to Cyrus to spy on him."
The opportunity presented itself just two weeks later. In DADA, Professor Gregor split the class up into nine groups of four. Liam and Sadie, who didn't sit anywhere near one another in class, found themselves in the same group, paired with Larry and Adam from Gryffendor. Cyrus was in the next group over, along with two Ravenclaws and Lara Guishar.
They couldn't have asked for a better grouping to spy on Cyrus. None of Morwena's Coven was anywhere near Cyrus, and neither was Cyrus' one friend, Spencer. The two Gyffendor boys paired up right away and began practicing the spell. Liam bent down to tie his shoe, which gave Sadie a chance to watch Cyrus.
When his shoe was tied, Liam stood for a moment to watch his rival. The wand's magic was like a magnetic field, pulling on him. Cyrus made a swish with his wand, and the light from the chandelier caught the Liam him like a thunderclap. "That's it!" he whispered. "The ring!"
Sadie clutched his shirt. "The Precious Object!"
Images were flooding into Liam's conscious mind. He strained to keep them back, to stay focused. "We better practicing," he mumbled.
Cyrus had lowered his wand, and he stared at the two of them with contempt. "What are you looking at, Mudblood?" he called.
Immediately, the Gryffendor boys came to Liam's side. "You're not gonna take that, are you?" asked Larry.
"Don't!" said Sadie, and she grabbed Liam's left arm.
Before anyone could do anything else, however, Lara Guishar strode up to Cyrus and slapped him across the face. "Watch your mouth!" she snapped.
Professor Gregor swept down upon them like a dark cloud. Looking first to Liam's group, he said, "You four, that way!" He pointed towards the far corner of the room. Liam nodded, and the four of them retreated."
"Guishar got him good," said Adam, approvingly.
"That's Hufflepuff loyalty for you," agreed Larry. "You imagine Alma doing that for one of us?"
"Jill would," added Sadie.
"Well, sure, Jill," said Adam. "She's one of the guys!"
Larry and Adam continued practicing. Sadie and Liam huddled together once more. "The memory isn't in the wand," whispered Sadie. "It's in the ring! Professor DeVere was right, after all!"
"'From Anatolia, it came. A thousand years it has lain in the horde.' That's what the dragon told me."
"Anatolia is now Turkey. Stilgrevsen spent a lot of time in that part of the world."
"She wanted that ring back," said Liam, as the images filled his mind again. "They had tried to steal her eggs, but they just broke them. They took the ring from the treasure horde. She chased them down to get it." A horror was rising in him. He found himself on the verge of tears. "But she didn't get it back. They killed her. This rare, endangered, intelligent dragon. They killed her and put her heart in that wand."
He closed his eyes tight, fighting the tears. He felt Sadie's hand on his chest, right above his heart. "No more questions," he said finally. "I don't want to know any more."
At the end of class, Liam disappeared. He slipped away from his friends and wandered alone along empty corridors, re-appearing again just before the start of Charms. And so, he did not realize until lunchtime that Lara Guishar had been given detention for slapping Cyrus Kane.
He was sitting at the table, still lost in thought, when he heard Michael say, "Don't worry. They don't expel you for your first fight."
Liam looked up to see whom Michael was addressing. He saw Lara's face darken. "You didn't get detention, did you?" asked Liam.
"Where have you been?" asked Stephanie.
Liam ignored Stephanie. Lara was gazing at him, something that she never did, except when she was angry at him for something. She didn't seem angry this time, but other than that, Liam had no clue how she was feeling. She clearly expected him to say something.
"Um, thanks, by the way," he said finally. "Not that I couldn't handle that punk on my own, but I appreciate it."
The look was still on her face, an expectation that was almost a plea, but Liam had no idea what she wanted him to say.
Stacy intervened. "What were you and Thompson conspiring about?"
"She's helping me with something," said Liam.
"Why didn't you come to one of us?" asked Stacy.
Liam shrugged. He really didn't want to get into the subject of the Dragon Wand with Stacy. Philip came to his rescue. "He asked me, and I suggested Sadie. She's been very helpful, hasn't she, Liam?"
"So, it was an academic question, was it?" asked Stephanie, her voice heavy with skepticism.
Liam nodded. The girls exchanged looks, silently communicating amongst themselves. Lara was gazing down at her plate and slowly eating the last of her lunch. Liam gazed at her once more, and wished for the hundredth time that year that he knew what she was thinking.
After Astronomy, Lara, Stacy, Stephanie and Monique went down to the Badger's Den and immediately got working on their homework. This was something they usually did anyway, but there were a special impetus to get it all done early. There was no telling how long Professor Gregor would keep Lara in detention.
Lara was hoping that her older sister Lucida would not hear about the incident. After all, it didn't involve anyone from Ravenclaw. But, it was too much to hope for.
When Lara and the other girls approached the Great Hall for dinner, Lucida was waiting by the entrance. Lara gestured for the others to go ahead. Stephanie and Monique entered the Great Hall and took their seats at the Hufflepuff table. Stacy, however, lingered by the doorway and waited.
Lucida put her hands on her hips and said, "What's this I hear about you getting detention from Gregor?"
"If you know about it already," snapped Lara, "then I don't need to tell you anything."
"What happened? Rebecca didn't know. Gregor just told her to escort you to his office after dinner."
"If you must know, I slapped a Slytherin boy today."
"He called one of the other Hufflepuffs a Mudblood."
Lucida gazed keenly at her sister. "A boy Hufflepuff, by chance? Maybe the one you've had a crush on all year?"
"I don't have a crush on Liam!" Lara's cheeks were burning. Lucida stared back at her. More softly, Lara added, "But yes, it was him."
"You really ought to watch out," said Lucida, in her annoying, know-it-all voice. "Most people don't think that the First Year counts for much, but it really does. The staff's first impressions of you are very important. I can spot a future prefect three years out, and I bet McGonagall can do better than that. Just don't blow your chances."
"My friends and I are not obsessing about which one of us will be Prefect four years from now, believe me. And, this isn't Professor Gregor's first impression of me. I've been in his class all year. I get very good marks."
"I would hope so. Now get in there and get something to eat."
Lara strode past her sister into the Great Hall. Lucida tried to put her arm around her as she walked by, but Lara bolted away from her. Together, Lara and Stacy walked to the Hufflepuff table.
Lara ate in silence. Across the table, Liam was watching her. All I need him to say is one word, she thought to herself. Why can't he just come out and say it? Why does he have to be so dense?
At five-thirty, Rebecca Gallstone came by the Hufflepuff table with Cyrus Kane in tow. "All right, Guishar," she said, "let's get this over with."
Stacy gave Lara a worried look. Lara found her friends hand under the table and gave it a squeeze before standing up. Gallstone led her and Cyrus out of the Great Hall.
At the foot of the stairs, Gallstone looked back. "I don't want to hear a word out of either of you." Cyrus gave his Prefect a dirty look. Lara just shrugged.
Up the stairs they went to Professor Gregor's Fifth Floor office. At the entrance, Gallstone called out, "Professor, I have Kane and Guishar."
Gregor's deep voice rolled back, "Thank you, Rebecca. I'll take them one at a time. Send in Miss Guishar, first."
Lara entered, and Rebecca pushed the door closed behind her. Lara took a quick look around the office. Professor Gregor stood, leaning against his desk. In front of him was a small chair, from one of the classrooms, but since Gregor made no motion or command, Lara remained standing. She expected the Bloody Baron to be there too, for some reason, but he wasn't.
"Loyalty and Courage," he said. "These are the hallmarks of the Hufflepuff. By Courage, I do not mean the reckless bravado of the Gryffendor. Hufflepuff Courage is veiled. It supplements Loyalty, and is used only to strengthen and defend friends and loved ones.
"That is precisely how you used it today. With your swift action, you not only defended a fellow Hufflepuff but prevented him from getting into deeper trouble. You know all of this already. I wanted you to know that I understand this as well.
"However, in my classroom, it is I who maintain discipline, and it is I who deal out judgments and punishments. Do you understand me?"
"Yes, Professor," said Lara, softly.
"I doubt very much that I will continue to have trouble with you, Miss Guishar. Your sister Lucida is an exemplary student, and none of the staff could recall any similar incident from her past. Only when one considers Hufflepuff traits are your actions explicable."
Lara gritted her teeth. If there was one thing she hated, it was being compared to her older sister Lucida. Lucy would have just let Liam get in trouble, she thought to herself. She wouldn't understand why I had to intervene. Nobody will.
"I think we've come to an understanding," continued Professor Gregor. "I consider the matter closed. Rebecca!"
The dark-haired witch stuck her head in the doorway. "Yes, Professor?"
"Send in Kane, and please escort Miss Guishar back to her common room."
Lara watched Cyrus cautiously as they exchanged places. Their shoulders brushed one another, but it was a tight space. Cyrus kept his eyes down. He had a sullen look on his face, but there was no hint of anger or retribution directed towards Lara.
As the two girls walked to the stairwell, Rebecca said, "You're Lucy's little sister."
"Hmm." The older girl said nothing else. Lara knew that this was one of Lucida's friends. They were both prefects, and they often studied together.
The two girls walked down the stairs in silence. As they crossed below the level of the main floor, however, Rebecca became more and more agitated. She paused on the landing, just above the floor where lay the entrance to the Den and gently took ahold of Lara's arm. Rebeccca turned her head and looked behind her, then peered into the shadowy gloom below.
To Lara's great surprise the older girl suddenly drew her wand and shouted, "I'm a Prefect!"
Out of the shadows came five Hufflepuff boys with wands drawn, all Sixth and Seventh Years. They bounded up the stairs with Archie Stollencroft in the lead. "Right you are, Miss Prefect," he said cheerfully. "Thank you very much for walking our little sister home. We'll take things from here."
Rebecca gave them all her cold, imperious stare, but they smirked back at her. "Run along now, Miss Cheerful," said Eric. Rebecca gave a loud huff, turned on her heels and marched back up the stairs.
As soon as she was out of sight, Archie set his arm on Lara's shoulder and led her down the last flight of stairs. "Why are your wands drawn?" she asked him.
"We're Badger Guards, young one. Once a non-Hufflepuff gets too close to the entrance to the Den, it sets off an alarm. Then the Badger Guards, basically whoever's around at the time, run the trespasser off."
"She's a prefect and she was escorting me here on Professor Gregor's orders," said Lara sternly.
"That's why she didn't get a Bat-boogey shower," said Eric.
Archie nodded solemnly. "I don't care if she's Head Girl. She's still not allowed in the corridor."
Inside the Common Room, the Badger Guard dispersed. Lara gazed at the students sitting in chairs, reading or talking. By the wall, Liam sat in his squashy chair. He looked up, and, seeing that she was watching him, stood and came over to her.
"Hey, um, thanks again." He seemed nervous or sheepish.
Where is the confident cad from September? she wondered. "You're welcome," she answered.
She gazed up at him, imploring him, and waited for him to say the right words, but he would not. Instead, he said "Well, um, good night," and turned to go.
Lara reached out and grabbed the sleeve of his sweatshirt. "Am I forgiven?" she asked, anxiously.
He gazed, puzzled, back at her. "For what?" She sighed heavily, the air pushing through her teeth in an angry hiss. Finally, there was some recognition in his eyes. "You mean about that time you ratted me out to Gregor?" She nodded. "Sure."
"Sure?" she echoed, angrily.
He looked both perplexed and amused. "Yes, you're forgiven."
She let go of his sleeve. "I really am sorry," she said softly. "I felt bad afterwards."
"It's okay." He gave her a nervous tap on the forearm. "I'll see you in the morning, all right?"
Lara nodded, turned, and headed for the girls dormitory.
Liam went the other direction, and began laying out his books for the next day's classes. Michael came to him and asked, "What did Lara want?"
"Nothing," said Liam.
"She doesn't usually give you the time of day," continued Michael. "Whatever she said, it looked like her life depended on it."
Liam shrugged. Michael, realizing he wasn't going to get more of an answer, started talking about Quidditch.
Michael didn't know about Lara Guishar's Gift of Prophesy. Liam had heard rumour of it, but he hadn't believed it, and by this time, had forgotten. But, both boys would remember this incident in light of what happened later. If Lara Guishar thinks her life depends on something, they would decide, it probably does . . .
[One more in this batch, before I go on vacation . . . six, maybe seven chapters left, and I have some other things too, in the works. Thanks for reading! KJ]