A Visit with Stilgrevsen
Cyrus Kane took a seat in the chair in front of Professor Gregor's desk. The door to the hallway beyond pushed closed, as Rebecca Gallstone escorted Lara Guishar down the hallway to the stairs.
Gregor stared down at his young charge and mulled where to begin. Kane, undaunted, asked, "How come Wren and Thompson didn't get detention? They were goofing off and spying on me when they should've been doing the assignment."
Such the only child, Gregor mused, speaking to me as if he were an adult. "Since you brought them up," said Gregor, "let's begin there: Why do you think Wren and Thompson were spying on you?"
"They were looking right at me!"
"I agree that they were watching you. I want to know if you know why."
"How should I know what they're up to?"
"You should always know what your enemies are doing, and why. It's part of being a Slytherin."
"Wren and Thompson are always hanging around one another," said Kane, easily. "They're in love with each other, from what I hear. Shows incredibly bad taste on both their parts, in my opinion."
"Would it worry you to know that they have also been meeting with Umberto?"
Kane gave one of his now trademarked huffs. "Unlike most people around here, I don't worry about the Blood Traitor and all his clever schemes. He gets everybody all worked up, and then nothing ever comes of it."
"You underestimate Umberto to your peril, Cyrus. I've warned you before: your prejudices blind you."
Cyrus continued with steady haughtiness. "By the way, Professor, could you tell Morwena Felwich to mind her own bloody business? I'm tripping over her and her nosy wanna-be coven everywhere I go."
"Is that all that concerns you? That Morwena is watching over you?" snapped Gregor. "Morwena acts on her own initiative, and not on my orders. However, I think she has done an excellent job of keeping you and Wren separated."
"I don't need her help!" snapped Cyrus. "I've got it all worked out. Wren has another go at me and he's a goner."
Gregor looked sternly down at Cyrus but did not contradict him. Cyrus continued, "Wren's no Potter. He's not a Gryff. He won't get special privileges from McGonagall. He crosses the line one more time and she'll chuck him out."
It was a common complaint of Slytherins that McGonagall allowed, even encouraged, Gryffendor rule-breaking while holding the other three houses to much higher standards of conduct.
"Is that your strategy?" asked Gregor. "To provoke Wren until he does something that gets him suspended? That may cost you more than you know.
"But at least you have a strategy. I was beginning to wonder if you had any Slytherin traits besides your obvious prejudices."
Cyrus flushed at this. Gregor continued heatedly. "If I were you, I would take note when I learned that two of my rivals were working together. You made both of these boys enemies unnecessarily. Umberto particularly would have been a strong ally for you. Now Umberto and Wren conspire against you."
Cyrus gave another huff. "Listen to me, Kane!" said Gregor, "Events are in motion over which you have neither knowledge nor control. Assistance that Umberto could be giving you he is giving to Wren instead. Morwena is trying to help you, freely, of her own initiative, and yet you spurn her! Your complacency is appalling!"
Professor Gregor fell silent, and let his words sink in to the young boy's head. Outside, there was the patter of footsteps. Rebecca Gallstone burst into the room. She looked surprised to see that Cyrus was still sitting there. "I'm sorry, Professor. Were you finished? I was accosted by a pack of Hufflepuffs downstairs!"
Professor Gregor pulled in a deep breath and gazed at the girl. His mind still bent on Cyrus, it took him a moment to process what Rebecca had said. "The Badger Guards," he said, finally. "Forgive me, Rebecca, I was pre-occupied, and forgot to mention that the Hufflepuff's corridor is zealously protected by its inhabitants. I trust you were not harmed?"
She looked demurely back at him. "No, I wasn't harmed."
"Your ego bruised, perhaps?" he said gently. Rebecca nodded. "Who were the offenders?"
"Stollencroft, Blair. That lot."
"Stollencroft and Blair are in my NEWT class. I will speak with them tomorrow afternoon."
Turning to Cyrus, Gregor asked, "Do you have anything more to say?" He looked keenly down at the boy, hoping in vain for some flicker of doubt or fear, but there was nothing but arrogant calm.
"Take him away, Rebecca. See that he gets to bed on time."
"Yes, Professor. Come, you," she added harshly to Cyrus.
Gregor waited in empty room and listened for the retreating footsteps of his students. Then we walked to an ornate wooden cabinet near his desk with two French doors with wrought iron pulls. He opened the doors to reveal a stone bowl with carved runes along the edge. Gently, he lifted the bowl off the shelf and set it on his desk.
An odd light flickered and swirled within the bowl. Gregor tapped the bowl with his wand, and the light became smooth and flat, like liquid. Out of the bowl rose two tiny figures, huddled together. In the middle of class, from across the room, Gregor could only watch them. But, with the help of the Pensieve, he could actually hear what was said. He tapped the bowl, and the figures began to move and speak.
"The memory isn't in the wand. 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."
It was one thing to hear rumour of a conspiracy. It was another to see that conspiracy in action. Professor Gregor had designed the classroom activity with this in mind - he wanted to see Wren and Thompson at work. He had deliberately put them together, in a group adjacent to the one Kane was in, and he had scattered Morwena's guard around the room. There were no Slytherins nearby to assist Kane.
Instead of working on the assignment, Wren and Thompson had taken the opportunity to spy on Kane, and in doing so, had come to a revelation about Kane's wand. For the first time, Gregor had direct testimony to what had once seemed preposterous: there was a memory captured in the ring of Kane's wand, and that memory had transferred into Wren's head, most likely during the duels he and Kane had fought the previous term.
Gregor wondered once again, This memory, this dream of Wren's, is it the Secret Key? There was only one person in the world who could answer that question: Lars Stilgrevsen himself. Stilgrevsen was a private, secretive man, and since he made few wands these days, he had little need to meet with his public.
Gregor, however, had connections. It will take some time, but it can be done. I must see him as soon as possible.
It took two weeks to work out the logistics. Stilgrevsen agreed to a meeting on a Friday evening. The wandmaker had a workshop on Mykonos. There was a safe and secluded appartion point. If all went well, Gregor would be gone from campus less than an hour.
On that Friday, Gregor apparated into a shadowy ring of trees on the outskirts of the town. He stood on a stone platform, onto which someone had drawn a pentagram. The symbol meant nothing to Gregor, but he knew the locals had some superstition about it. Likely, the star kept them away from this spot.
Gregor had on slacks and a dress shirt, over which he wore a black cloak. The sea air was damp and cool on his cheeks. The streets were dark. No one was about.
On a piece of parchment in his hand were the directions to Stilgrevsen's workshop. It stood nearby on a bluff overlooking the sea. Gregor strode to the door and knocked.
The door opened part way, and a young woman slipped into the space. Her hair was long and dark. She wore a peasant blouse and a calf-length skirt. The girl stared at Gregor with piercing green eyes. "Yes?"
"I'm here to see Stilgrevsen. I have an appointment."
"Wait a moment." She left the door ajar and disappeared into the house. Gregor wondered for a moment if this were a daughter, a servant, or an apprentice, but thought it impolite to ask. A moment later, she was back. Beckoning him with her hand, she said, "Follow me."
She led him down the hallway to a dining nook overlooking the sea. Stilgrevsen sat in a wooden chair, a bottle of ouzo on the table in front of him. He had a weathered face, with grey hair cropped close to his scalp. His eyes were brightly blue. He wore a simple white shirt. His legs were crossed, and his foot, laying across his knee, was bare.
Stilgrevsen gazed keenly at Gregor and said, "Have a seat." His voice was low and rough. As Gregor took a chair opposite, Stilgrevsen motioned towards the bottle. "Would you like a drink?"
"No thank you," said Gregor. "I like to keep a clear head when apparating."
"Smart." Stilgrvensen poured some of the ouzo into a small glass and took a sip.
"We met at a conference once. I don't know if you remember."
"I remember quite a bit." Stilgrevsen gave a wry grin. "Franz Gregor," said the wand-maker, "son of Tobias, younger brother of Maximillian. Your father and I were at Durmstrang around the same time. Max also went to Durmstrang. But you," adopting a mocking tone, "went to Hogwarts."
"My father didn't like Karkaroff."
Stilgrevsen laughed a harsh bark. "He wasn't the only one. You teach there, now?"
"I am Deputy Headmaster, and Head of Slytherin House."
"Slytherins make for interesting company."
"I've always thought so."
"I suppose you're after one of my wands," said Stilgrevsen. "I don't make as many as I used to, but I still have a few 2004s left."
"I am interested in one of your wands, but my interest is purely academic."
"Academic, eh?" said Stilgrevsen, his voice heavy with skepticism. "Any wand in particular you're curious about?"
"Specifically, the prototype of the Madagascan series."
Stilgrevsen was quiet for a long full minute. Ollivander, it was said, could remember every wand he ever made. Gregor imagined that Stilgrevsen could do this too, and at that moment, he was recalling the specifics of the Madagascan prototype from his cavernous memory. "I don't have that wand anymore," he said, finally. "I sold it to a dealer years ago. I don't know who has it now."
"I know who has it."
Stilgrevsen's eyes were keenly alert. "A colleague? A former student, maybe?"
"A current student."
Stilgrevsen's face darkened. He leaned back in his chair. "How old is this kid?"
"He is still eleven."
"Eleven!" Stilgrevsen leaned forward and pounded his fist on the table. "Come on, Gregor! This isn't one of Ollivander's benevolent sticks we're talking about. That wand can magnify latent magical energy a thousand fold! It's a deadly weapon!"
"I have made that perfectly clear to the boy's father."
"How long has the boy had the wand?"
"Since August. I understand it was a birthday present."
"What's his marks like?"
"Completely within normal ranges. Not excelling, but not abysmal, either."
"She's holding back, then. Not coming on at full strength."
"Possibly." There was an awkward silence, as each man waited for the other to ask the next question. Finally, Gregor prodded, "What can you tell me about the Key?"
The wry grin was back on Stilgrevsen's face. "That's not how this works, Franz. You tell me about the Key, and I tell you if you're right or not."
Gregor took in a deep breath. "I have a student researching Madagascan Dragons, and asking his professors how one might graft a memory onto a wand."
Stilgrevsen was silent for a moment. He leaned back in his chair and stared at Gregor. "Well, I'm impressed. He's there, or nearly there. I still don't get why his marks are average, though. That wand is a powder keg. He should be brilliant or awful with it."
Gregor sighed. "The student making the inquiries is not the student whose father bought the wand."
A mischievous grin crept up the old man's face. "His buddy? A step-brother, maybe?"
"His rival. The first boy challenged another student twice this fall, and was disarmed both times. It is the second boy who is making the inquiries."
Stilgrevsen laughed, a low harsh cackle. "Well, you've got your hands full then, Franz. I better let you get back to it."
Gregor leaned forward and said in a commanding voice, "How can we undo this? We must set the key back to zero, so that the right boy gets the wand."
Stilgrevsen shook his head. "Can't be done. Believe me, Franz, she didn't listen to me when she was alive. She's not going to listen to me now. Even if the second boy were to die, the process can't be stopped."
"But, the first boy is able to use the wand," pressed Gregor. "It hasn't fully rejected him."
"She hasn't made a choice between them," said Stilgrevsen. "Though it's clear which way she's leaning. I wonder why that is The second kid must be doing something that confuses the wand." Stilgrevsen took another sip of his drink. "When she makes her choice, there won't be a damn thing you or I or anyone else will be able to do about it."
Gregor stood. "Thank you for your time. I shan't keep you any longer."
Stilgrevsen toasted Gregor with his glass of ouzo. "Good luck," he said.
Over the next few days, Gregor was heartened by the signs that came to him. According to Umberto, Wren and Thompson were spending less time around one another. The inquiry into Cyrus' wand seemed to have stopped. Morwena's fence kept Wren away from Cyrus, and, now that he knew that she had Gregor's blessing, Cyrus had decided to endure this measure.
Gregor chose not to tell McGonagall. The Headmistress had many things on her plate. She didn't need another worry. This situation could simply fade out altogether.
If I can just get the two boys to the Summer Break without fighting again, he reasoned. Cyrus will have three months alone with the wand, and during that time, she will reveal herself to him. He will master it. There is just enough time . . .
The weeks ticked by, and there was no incident. The Quidditch season started, which proved a great distraction. Between the matches and his schoolwork, Wren had plenty to occupy his mind. Gregor heard no more rumours of dragon dreams.
But there were too many days before the end of term. It was just enough time for something to go wrong . . .
[That 's all for now! Sorry, but I will be away from my computer for a few weeks, and won't be writing much. The End is Near! Beware the Eaves of the Forest! Also, Coming Soon: KJ Cartmell's The Trouble With Girls . . . In the meantime, post comments, and spread the news. As always, thanks for reading! Fondly, KJ]