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Chapter 2 : Diagon Alley
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“Ready?” Ken said.
Before Georgina had a chance to respond, she felt a pull on her insides. As her stomach whirled, it felt like she had been knocked in the head. In mere seconds, her feet hit the ground and she tumbled to her knees. She coughed once and promptly vomited in the ditch where they landed.
“That’s perfectly normal, my dear girl!” Ken said in a reassuring, fatherly tone.
“I didn’t puke my first time,” Olive said, not making Georgina feel any less ashamed.
Georgina wiped her mouth and stood up. She felt a little dizzy but remarkably better. She stood in a grassy ditch with tall brown brick buildings to either side of her. Olive and Ken looked at her impatiently.
“Well then,” Ken said. “All set girls?”
They nodded. He led them out of the thin path and into a bustling street. It was made of cobbled stone and packed with pedestrians. Suddenly he stopped and turned to face them. “Welcome to Diagon Alley!” he announced while opening his arms wide and smiling still wider.
Olive blushed with embarrassment and jokingly pushed her father out of the way. Georgina remained rooted to the spot. Never had she seen so many witches and wizards in one compact location. She was out of place in her muggle school attire. There were owls fluttering about, sparks flying around store signs, and noises of all sorts resonating from the various shops. Most distinctly, she heard a loud honking noise coming from behind her. She spun around and was not at all surprised to see Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes – the legendary joke shop. A small pink heart levitating in the shop window immediately caught her attention.
“Georgina!” came a voice from behind. “Are you coming?” It was Olive. She and her father were stopped several steps back. Georgina rushed away from the transfixing heart to join them.
“We have only a few hours so we’d better split up,” Ken said. “I’ll take care of your textbooks and school supplies while you girls get robes, and you must have a pet.” He looked directly at Georgina, and said in a hushed voice, “Have you any money?”
She shifted her feet uncomfortably. She failed to think of this predicament. She did not have a galleon to her name and her father surely would not support her ambitions to attend Hogwarts. Ken understood her lack of response to mean, “No.”
“Never mind then,” he said kindly. “We’ll manage.”
“Thanks,” Georgina said, feeling smaller than a billywig.
“And you’ll need a wand of course!” Ken said heartily.
Georgina nodded, shrinking smaller still.
Ken handed Olive several gold and silver coins and sent the girls in the direction of Ollivander’s Wand Shop. He headed the opposite way. The girls walked two blocks before a shop with a cracked window and semi-ajar door met their eyes. Above the door, read: Ollivander’s: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C. written in thin gold letters. Unlike most of the other shops in Diagon Alley, there was no clever advertising or eye-catching displays.
“It doesn’t look particularly inviting,” Georgina said.
“Ollivander’s operates purely on reputation,” Olive said. “You watch. It will be busy with today being the last day to buy wands before school starts.”
Sure enough, there were many people shuffling around the shop. In the middle of the congestion was a woman in her mid-thirties with an armful of long rectangular boxes. The arms of customers reached towards her as she handed them out, somehow managing to keep track of which wand she had chosen for which young person. All of the customers looked to be around 11 as well. Parents were lined against the back wall of the store watching their children experiment with their potential wands.
“Well give it a whirl, little witches and wizards!” said the woman sharply. “We haven’t got all day!” Her waist length hair was braided in thick, frizzy bunches, and her face drooped like a melting ice cream cone.
A thick cloud of black smoke burst from the wand nearest Georgina when a sandy-haired boy flicked his wrist. “Oh I’ll never find one,” he said in anguish.
From another wand emerged a lush stream of gold star-shaped sparks. “Well done, Mr. Carling!” the woman said, looking approvingly at the pudgy boy responsible for the sparks. She now noticed the two new customers and walked towards them.
“Olive!” she said, beaming. “How is your wand behaving? Not coming back for a replacement I hope. Nine and a quarter inches if I recall, and thick! Birch with a hint of dragon tooth. A very hearty wand for such a pretty girl.”
Olive smiled. “Thank you, Mrs. Ollivander. My wand is just fine. I’m here with my friend.” She motioned to Georgina. “This will be her first year at Hogwarts.”
“Oh my,” Mrs. Ollivander said in an excellently practiced tone of false excitement. “Isn’t this an exciting day? And what might your name be? I don’t suppose we’ve met before.”
“No mum,” Georgina said shyly. “I’m Georgina. Georgina Ravenclaw.”
“Ravenclaw? Well that is peculiar. And your father’s name?”
“Theodore,” Georgina said. She paused uncomfortably. “Theodore Wallingford.”
Mrs. Ollivander raised an eyebrow.
“It’s the mother’s name that carries down in my family,” Georgina said, eager to get the words out in explanation. “Once Rowena Ravenclaw’s parents died without producing any children – other than her I mean,” she stumbled over the words as she spoke with an awkward, arrhythmic sense. “She – Rowena, I mean – was the last remaining Ravenclaw. She vowed to never take the name of another and the tradition has continued right ‘til this very day. And now only girls are born. It’s silly, really. It’s just a name.”
“Perhaps,” Mrs. Ollivander said in an airy voice. So your mother then, what’s her name?”
“I … I don’t know.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean …” Mrs. Ollivander’s voice trailed off and her face seemed to age several years.
There was a moment’s pause in which everyone in the store froze. Then Mrs. Ollivander’s eyes ignited. “I have just the wand for you!”
Georgina smiled weakly and Mrs. Ollivander turned around to check on the rest of her customers before wandering through the wand-covered shelves. The store reminded Georgina of the old muggle public library with far too many books for the small space. She wondered how anyone could ever keep track of where everything was.
Mrs. Ollivander emerged a few minutes later with another armful of boxes and handed them out again leaving the last for Georgina. Before handing it to her, Mrs. Ollivander explained the wand’s significance. “This is a very special wand,” she said. “It was not made by an Ollivander, and therefore I cannot sell it to you.”
Olive and Georgina exchanged puzzled looks.
“It was given to us by one of the greatest wizards of all time, Albus Dumbledore. Well, it wasn’t exactly given … “ she paused. “It was inherited. Albus left it for the shop in his Last Will and Testament. It was strange; only my father knew him and very distantly at that. Dumbledore mentioned in his will that he knew we would take care of it until the proper time came to give it up.” Her eyes gleamed. “I believe that today is the time. That clever man must have known you’d be coming.”
She placed the box in Georgina’s greedy hands. Georgina gazed in wonder, entirely captivated by Mrs. Ollivander’s tale.
“I hardly think so!” Olive said skeptically, surprising. Did she not like that Georgina was getting special treatment? “Georgina was born years after Dumbledore died. There’s no way he could have known!”
“If you say so,” Mrs. Ollivander said.
Georgina removed the dusty lid and pulled out the wand.
“Seven inches exactly,” said Mrs. Ollivander. “But of all the wands I’ve ever encountered, this is the first that I can’t place its material. My father didn’t have time to examine it thoroughly. He may have had more of an idea. It is a material strong yet pliant.”
The wand felt comfortable in Georgina’s hand. It was light yet sturdy. Without warning she gave it a wisp and three entire shelves lifted off the ground. She immediately lowered her wand and the shelves gently touched back down.
“Yes,” Mrs. Ollivander murmered. “This wand will serve you well.”
Beads of sweat trickled from Georgina’s forehead. She was quivering. “You said an Ollivander didn’t make this wand. If not a member of your family, then who? Another wand-maker?”
“No,” Mrs. Ollivander said plainly. “I said I can’t sell it to you, because it’s not really mine to sell. I am now sure you are its rightful owner. It is the oldest wand in this shop, dating back to the tenth century. Isn’t it clear now? It was made and originally owned by–”
“–Rowena Ravenclaw,” Georgina said. Somehow she knew.
Mrs. Ollivander nodded. “Take it. It’s yours. But use it wisely, my child. Its powers are great and yet mysterious even to those of us who study wandlore.”
“Finally!” came a yelp from the sandy-haired tween.
Georgina turned around just in time to see a jet of bright yellow light shoot from the tip of his wand. “Very good, Mr. Teklenburg,” said Mrs. Ollivander, who had also seen. “I believe you’ve finally found your wand.”
Georgina and Olive left the shop perplexed. The wand was shoved firmly in Georgina’s back pocket.
“Hey Olive, can you not mention this to anyone?” Georgina said hesitantly. “Please. Even to your father.”
“Why?” Olive asked.
“I don’t know. It just seems important, that’s all. I need to figure some things out first. I don’t want the whole world knowing I have a thousand-year-old wand.”
“I thought you’d like the attention.” Olive sounded bitter.
Georgina glared at her. “Please?”
“Alright, alright,” Olive conceded at last. “I was only joking. I’ll keep my mouth shut.” It didn’t sound like she was joking.
After their encounter with Mrs. Ollivander, the girls were in no mood for trying on robes. Despite this, however, robes were required at Hogwarts and neither girl had any that fit. Georgina had not worn robes since she was a toddler, and Olive had grown so much since last year that her current robes stopped at her knees. They wandered back towards where they parted Olive’s father. Along the way they passed a shop called Secondhand Robes. Georgina swivelled as if enter.
“No, silly!” Olive said. “That’s for poor witches. We’ll be going to T&T’s – the makers of the finest clothing in London.” Georgina thought she may have spoken too loudly as the mother of a large family of redheads gave Olive a dirty look before entering the secondhand shop.
Georgina followed Olive past Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes and the airborne pink heart to an elegant store with headless manikins modeling robes of different shades of purple and grey. Scrawled over the window in elegant black handwriting were the words Twilfitt and Tatting’s. Suddenly one of the manikins in a violet robe raised its hand in a quick wave. Georgina flinched, causing Olive to laugh at her yet again.
Sometimes I’d swear you were a muggle-born,” Olive said, through chortles and guffaws.
“I might as well be!” Georgina said. “Can you believe that in 11 years Dad hasn’t taken me to Diagon Alley even once?”
As they stepped inside the apparel shop, a lavish smell wafted through the air. The girls exhaled simultaneously causing them to giggle. The walls were covered in plush fabrics, and the floor was white marble.
A tall women draped in a red silk gown approached the girls. “Can I help you find anything?” she said gently. Her voice was whimsical and enchanting. From the objective perspective of a homely 11-year-old girl, she was very pretty.
After explaining their situation, the woman dragged them around the store trying on robes of different styles, shapes and colours. They were clearly not her first Hogwarts students of the week. In the end, Georgina decided on deep ocean-blue silky robes, whereas Olive picked honeybee yellow robes with black trim. Although an all-black outfit was traditional, it was no longer required at Hogwarts. Leaving the boutique with a satisfied shopper's contentment, the girls skipped across the alley to Magical Menagene where Olive insisted they go.
“But I don't need a pet,” Georgina said. She felt guilty enough having Olive pay for her robes, which were rather expensive. Georgina would have been fine with secondhand black robes. “The list said students may bring a pet. It’s optional.”
“I know, I know,” Olive said, brushing the detail aside. “But practically everyone has a pet! I got my cat here last year before heading to Hogwarts. Besides, my father gave us more than enough gold and your wand was free.”
After some coercing, Georgina submitted and stepped inside with Olive. The small shop was cramped with cages covering the walls. Like the other stores, it was busy with young witches and wizards surely shopping for the upcoming school year. There were birds, rabbits, cats, owls, lizards, and even a small dog with a ferocious bark.
“What'll it be then?” Olive asked in her best attempt at a saleswoman impersonation. “Most students stick with the usual: owls, cats, or frogs.”
“Well we've already got an Owl, Ed,” Georgina reasoned. “So not another oneI suppose a cat would be best.”
“An excellent choice!” Olive said as she continued her saleswoman charade. “Have you taken a fancy to one already?”
Georgina walked around slowly, examining every critter in the cages of varying sizes. There were many cats but none of them seemed fitting. She needed a pet she could confide in. After all, she thought painfully, this might be her best friend at Hogwarts. She shook off the thought; that was just her nerves speaking.
There was a tiny, empty cage on the bottom shelf sandwiched between a thick-coiled black snake and a fat pink rabbit.
“What do you suppose was in there?” Georgina asked, pointing down to the uninhabited cage.
“Dunno,” Olive said, shrugging. “A wombat?”
Just as Georgina turned to walk away, something hit the back of her leg. She looked down to see a small wood chip lying on the floor. She looked around but no one was paying attention to her. Even Olive had moved on to examine a cawing multicolored bird. Where had it come from? Georgina went down on her knees staring hard into the empty cage; its floor, she now saw, was covered in wood chips. Suddenly another chip shot up and plunked her straight on the nose.
“Ouch!” she said, although the impact was truly very small and painless. “What'd you do that for?”
Seemingly emerging from air itself, a minuscule creature appeared in the far corner of the cage. It wrapped itself into a fury ball and rolled to the front. Georgina had her nose pressed through the cage wires staring intently at the critter when a firm voice startled her.
“I wouldn't get too close if I was you.”
Georgina turned her head to see a portly man in robes that were covered with pictures of tropical birds. The wizards’ equivalent of the Hawaiian shirt.
“What is it?” Georgina asked.
“That be a flying squirrel that be, as gifted as they come. Devious bugger. Six galleons. Mind you, he might disappear and take off at any time.” His eyes crossed. “Yes, the little bugger tends to vanish.”
Georgina furrowed her brow. Then she glanced at her feet.
“Four galleons,” the man said finally, looking deflated. “And that be my final offer.”
Georgina peered back into the cage. The squirrel seemed to be pleading with her. It revealed its eyes; they swelled and immediately captured Georgina's heart.
“I'll take it!” Georgina said. She pulled on the back of Olive's robes and told her she made her choice.
“Only four galleons?” Olive said. “That's one cheap cat!”
“Not exactly,” Georgina said.
Olive paid the man who then shoved the cage into Georgina outstretched arms.
“Now get that thing out of my store!” the man said, suddenly roughly.
The girls hustled out just in time to see Ken leaving Potage's Cauldron Shop with a small cauldron and several other bags loaded in a shopping trolley. They waved and yelled to get his attention. After several moments of confusion, he spotted them and wheeled the trolley in their direction.
“How’d it go?” he asked with a grin.
“Swimmingly,” Olive said.
“Found everything okay?”
A sparkle found its way into Ken’s eyes. “Now if you’ll follow me, I have something to show you.” His stride lengthened as he skipped to a nearby shop called Broomstix. Behind the front window was a display of several racing broomsticks painted in vibrant colors. One stood out from the rest; it was sparkling silver with red trim and had the words Silver Arrow 3.0 along the side. Behind it was a large poster with a man hunched over the broomstick flying through a reddish sky. The man had long blonde hair that blew in the wind. The picture entranced the girls; he was very ruggedly attractive. In the picture, the wizard was moving, as is common in wizarding portraits. The man flew through the ever-gorgeous sky varying his height only slightly. Above him were the words: Speed is just the beginning, and just below him: Get a Silver Arrow 3.0 --- You’ll get there first. The girls shuttered.
“What do you think?” Ken asked expectantly.
“Wow,” Olive hummed.
“Who is he?” Georgina asked.
“What!” Ken spat, startled. “He is Kyle O’Conahan, the fastest man in the world. Surely you’ve heard of him!”
“I’ve heard the name,” Georgina lied. “It’s a lovely poster. It’s very powerful. Is it one of yours?”
“Er, um, yes.” Ken said sheepishly. “Took ages to get the backdrop just right. You don’t think the sky is a little too dark, do you?”
“No,” the girls said as if on cue.
“It’s perfect, Dad,” Olive said.
Ken looked pleased with himself. He pulled a strange pocket watch from his coat and said, “Merlin’s Beard! We’d best be on our way. Helen will already be at the station.” He wrapped one arm around the handle of the trolley, and awkwardly grabbed the hands of Olive and Georgina. With a sickening pull they vanished from Diagon Alley.
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