The Will of the Wand
Friday morning, Liam met Frank Pemberton outside the Great Hall. Instead of going with his friends to Professor Gregor's classroom, he went up to the third floor with Pemberton to room 317. The desks had been removed. There were two tables in the front of the room. Behind them were rows of chairs with an aisle down the middle. Liam was reminded of a wedding he had attended, with the bride's family sitting on one side of the aisle and the grooms family on the other. He wondered if there were "sides of the aisle" in this situation as well.
Beyond the tables, near the chalkboard, was the desk usually reserved for the teacher. A tall wooden chair with plush padding waited for the arbiter. A plain student's chair sat nearby.
Pemberton lead Liam to a seat on the left side of the aisle, at the far end of one of the tables. There were a few other people in the room already. Pemberton pointed each one out to Liam.
"That tall man there, Hereford, he's the lawyer for the school. I expect McGonagall up here any minute." As soon as he said that, she strode into the room. McGonagall went straight for the lawyer, spoke to him briefly before taking a seat in the second row. She did not look at Liam. At least, she's on my side of the aisle.
"In the back row, the woman in the blue robes, that's Prudence Pym. She's the Education Columnist for Witch Weekly." Another woman came and sat down on the left side, right on the aisle. She had long, dark hair and green eyes. "Not sure who that is. She's not one of the new staff, is she?"
"I've never seen her before," Liam answered. "But, she's on our side of the aisle, right?" Just as he said this, the woman gave him a piercing stare. Liam blushed and looked away from her.
Pemberton noticed the stare, too, and set his hand on Liam's shoulder. "That she is, lad. That she is."
To emphasis Liam's "side of the aisle" concept, into the room came Rudolpho Kane and his son, Cyrus. They strode down the center aisle and took a seat in the front row, at the table on the right side of the aisle. Prudence Pym looked up and made a note in her notebook. The green eyed witch behind Liam, on the other hand, gave the Kanes hardly a glance.
This was the first time, to Liam's knowledge, that Cyrus had returned to Hogwarts since Monday evening. Liam watched his rival closely. Cyrus gazed down at the floor as he walked. He looked cowed, already defeated. For the first time, Liam began to pity the boy.
A page entered the room, carrying the Dragon Wand on a wide silk pillow. Another followed with a stand, a wooden pole, with a claw-like cradle at the top. The one set the stand right in front of the chalkboard, and the other set the pillow into the claw.
"The Dragon Wand," whispered Liam. "I can't feel it at all!"
Pemberton nodded. "There's an enchantment on it that only the judge can lift. He doesn't want anyone taking matters into their own hands."
Just before nine, the arbiter entered the room. He was a portly man with a neatly trimmed beard. His black robes had gold embroidery around his shoulders. He walked at a slow, deliberate pace, catching the eye of everyone in the room.
Rudolpho Kane grinned widely when he saw the arbiter, but that was not his son's reaction, Liam noticed. Cyrus' eyes went wide at the sight of the old judge from the Wizgamot, and his face turned faintly green. Liam could tell that, despite the fact that the arbiter was hand-picked by his father, Cyrus was not happy to see him.
Umberto was in class, but he could have told Liam why this was so - the arbiter was indeed one of the three old men who had appraised Cyrus and the other Slytherins at the Christmas party five months earlier. Cyrus had failed at that meeting, and his failure spurred him to attack Wren in an effort to win back some of the prestige he had lost. Those attacks had cost him dearly, as Professor Gregor had said they would.
Cyrus had left the negotiations to his father, assuming that he knew best. He didn't realize who his father had picked until that moment when he set eyes on the man. What seemed to him to be a mere formality, with the judge siding with the Kanes without question or comment, now was a precarious chance.
Wren knew none of this, but he sensed that his rival, for whatever reason, had just been given a bit of bad news, and that was good news for him.
The arbiter sat down in the plush chair and surveyed the room. "So many lawyers," he mused, "for such a little matter. Rudolpho, I expected, and Hereford is here, of course, as this involves the school. Pemberton, what are you doing here?"
"I'm representing Liam Wren, of Hufflepuff, your honour, a party to the action."
"Does old Craft know about this?"
"Of course, your honour."
"I see. It's going to be an interesting morning. Let's get started, shall we?"
Mr. Hereford, the lawyer for the school, began to speak in a dull voice, barely better than Binns drone. "This is, by all accounts, an unusual situation - one student losing a wand to another. Yet, in the long history of Hogwarts, not unheard of." Hereford proceeded to list five such previous cases, and the outcomes of each. Liam tried to pay attention, but Hereford was so dull and used so many big words that Liam could hardly understand what he was saying.
Mr. Kane followed. In contrast to Hereford, Kane was almost Shakespearean in his rhetoric. Liam could follow his arguments only a little better. Much of what Kane had to say dealt with Property Laws. There were references to multiple court cases and to arcane rules of law. Liam, who knew little of the law, found it quite convincing, despite the circumstances.
Kane then began a rehash of the clashes between Liam and Cyrus during the school term. Kane kept referring to "the Muggleborn." It dawned on Liam that this term referred to him. He whispered to Pemberton, "Why does he keep calling me 'The Muggleborn?'"
Pemberton whispered back, "Because he knows if he calls you 'Mudblood' McGonagall will chuck him out."
Kane was saying, "The Muggleborn continued to harrass my son until my dear Cyrus finally lost his wand to the bully. Not even in Dumbledore's day were Muggleborns treated so indulgently by the Headmaster."
Pemberton spoke up. "If I may interrupt, your honour. The Discipline Report filed by the Deputy Headmaster clearly states that both boys were punished for their infractions of the school's Code of Conduct, and that it was Cyrus Kane, and not Liam Wren, who was the instigator in each case."
Pemberton then went through the Discipline Report, detailing the detentions that Liam had endured after his scuffles with Cyrus. "A two hour lecture from the Bloody Baron, your honour? Hardly a slap on the wrist. And though this is not in the report, my client tells me he received a stern talking to from the Headmistress herself on the issue of this wand."
"Duly noted, Pemberton," said the judge evenly.
Kane continued, undeterred. "There were fictions in that Report, your honour. None more egregious than the suggestion that the theft of the wand occurred thirty minutes or more after the Quidditch match on May29th, when the two boys were as much as five hundred yards apart. There is no way the Muggleborn could have summoned the wand over such a distance without being even in eye contact with my son. The theft must have occurred during the match, when the two boys were in close proximity. The regrettable incident with the Guishar girl has only provided a convenient cover for this elaborate lie."
Again, Pemberton interrupted. "Impossible, your honour? I don't think so. I was here in '93 when, during the Tri-Wizard Tournament, Potter summoned his broomstick from the top of Gryffendor tower to the dragon enclosure. That was estimated to be a distance of 600 yards."
"I was at that event as well," said the arbiter, smiling.
"I imagine you had better seats than I did. We could barely see a thing, though Potter did fly over our heads. Again, Potter did have his wand, but he could not have made eye contact with his broom before he summoned it. Even more important than his wand, however, was the affinity he had with the broomstick.
"As you know, magical objects are not like inanimate ones. They have opinions, and they respond differently to their regular handlers than they do for other people. Potter was a top Seeker in his day. His connection to his broomstick was a big part of that success. On the day of the first task, that broom wanted to answer the summons. It wanted to face off against the Horntail.
"Likewise, over the course of the year, Liam established affinity with the Stilgrevsen wand. Through each incident detailed in the Discipline Report, even when the wand was used against Liam, his connection to it grew stronger.
"When Liam called for it, staring down the Acromantula, that wand came eagerly. Here was a proper test of its strength. It wanted to come and fight the great spider."
When Pemberton was finished, the judge waived his hands. "All right, all you blunderbusses have had your say. I don't want to hear any more from the lawyers. No more talk of Property Law and Discipline Reports. This is a magical object we're discussing here, specifically a wand. As we say, 'the wand chooses the wizard.' So, what is the Will of this Wand? That is what I have come here to decide.
"I have studied wands for fifty years, and if I may say so myself, I am considered by many to be an expert on them. There is no more secretive a wandmaker than Stilgrevsen, and there are few who can match his inventiveness, the daring with which he matches his elements.
"The wand at hand, as we all know by now, is a Stilgrevsen, the prototype of the Madagascan Series: eleven inches of Lebanese Cedar, an ancient silver ring, and at the core, a long thick heartstring from a Madagascan Red.
"Those are the elements that are generally known about this wand, but there is another element too, which to this point has remained a secret. Which one of you children is prepared to speak on the matter of the Secret Key?"
With a nudge from his father, Cyrus Kane said meekly, "I am, your honour."
"So am I, sir," added Liam, a bite of anger in his voice.
The old man nodded. "All right, then," he said. "Let's hear it. Cyrus spoke first, so let's start with him."
Cyrus reluctantly got to his feet. The judge motioned to the chair beside the desk. Cyrus sat down on it, with his hands in his lap. For the first time, he looked at Liam. Gazing at his rival, Cyrus' feelings of doom and defeat left him. He sneered at Liam, and, in a confident voice, said, "I had a dream about a dragon."
It was clear to Liam that Cyrus had been coached on what to say, and that over the last few days he had gone over the same ground as Liam and his friends had earlier in the term. "It was a big red dragon, with blue eyes and great big fangs. He was six meters long and blowing big clouds of poisonous steam from his mouth. Stilgrevsen fought him and killed him and put the heart in that wand there." He pointed back towards the Dragon Wand, sitting peacefully on its pillow. "My wand!"
The old man was watching Cyrus closely as he spoke. Then, his grey eyes slipped to Liam and studied his reaction. Finally, his gaze turned. The arbiter gazed off into the crowd for a moment. Finally, he said, "That was a very entertaining story, young Cyrus. Please, take your seat."
When Cyrus was back beside his father, the arbiter looked at Liam again. "'And then there's Wren,'" he mused. "I've wanted to meet you, boy, for months now. I've heard quite a bit about you. Please, come and have a seat here, and tell us what you have to say."
Liam slowly rose and took a seat in the chair. The dark haired witch that Pemberton had pointed out earlier was sitting right on the aisle with a perfect view of him. She gazed intently at him with her striking green eyes.
Liam was momentarily flustered, but his anger at Cyrus' lies rushed back, and he snapped, "It was a female dragon, not a male. She wasn't anywhere near six meters. And, her eyes were yellow, not blue!"
He looked over at the judge, enduring as he did so the haughty stares of Cyrus and Mr. Kane. "She was a skinny little thing, about twelve feet long. Some blokes had tried to steal her eggs, but they broke them instead. She was mad as hell and went to kill them all, but they killed her, too."
The speech he prepared was all out of order now. He looked away from the judge, and from the Kanes. His eyes settled on the green-eyed woman in the audience who was watching him so intently. He set aside what he had planned to say and just spoke from his heart.
"When I figured out what happened to the dragon, that she was dead, I didn't want the wand anymore. I felt guilty, like it was my fault that the dragon died. But, that's what he wanted me to feel, isn't it? That's how he felt. He felt guilty that he went on this trip with these men, and they killed a dragon. This special, smart, rare dragon. I think that's the Key - that I felt the way he did.
"Anyway, I want the wand now. I saved a friends life with it. It came when I called it. It picked me. Maybe one time, it picked Cyrus, but now it picks me."
Liam turned back to the judge. The old man's eyes were on him for a moment, but then he looked away. Liam followed his gaze right to the green-eyed witch. She was looking at the judge. Liam saw her give a brief nod.
It was some sort of signal between them, for right away, the judge said, "Thank you, Master Wren, you may return to your seat."
Pemberton gave Liam a pat on the shoulder as he sat down. "Good job, kid," he whispered. Liam wanted to tell Pemberton about the signal between the woman and the judge, but as soon as Liam was seated, the judge spoke.
"I don't like being lied to," he said casually. "I suppose no one does. But in my profession it happens quite frequently, despite the oaths each witness takes. It was predictable, given the stakes, that I would be faced with two plausible stories and have to judge between them.
"But how was I to judge the matter of this Secret Key? I suppose I could make a guess, go with my instincts as to which boy was telling the truth, but how would I know if I were right? I'm an expert in wands, but no one is an expert in Stilgrevsen's Secret Keys except Stilgrevsen himself. He's an old man now, too old to travel so far on such short notice.
"Yet, he was kind enough to send his assistant here with the information that I needed. And she has just confirmed what my instincts were telling me - it is the Hufflepuff boy who truly holds the Key to the Wand."
Turning to the Kanes, the arbiter said, "Rudolpho, I have known you for a long time; I hope this does not damage our friendship. But, you asked me to settle this matter, and I have. Your son tells tall tales, but he also has my sympathy, for this is a loss that few have had to endure while so young. You, on the other hand, were offered compensation from the school for the Stilgrevsen wand. I recommend that you take them up on their offer."
Rudolpho Kane rose abruptly. His eyes swept the room with an angry glare. Then, he yanked Cyrus to his feet and stormed from the room, dragging his son behind him.
[Next up: a long and fond farewell!]