The Sugar Quill
Author: noodles (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C.  Chapter: Default
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Algernon Ollivander was in his seventh year of education at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and he had not once at

Disclaimer: Hogwarts, the Forbidden Forest, and the characters that populate Harry Potter’s world are the creations of JK Rowling, not me.  Alas.

 

“Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C.”

 

Algernon Ollivander was in his seventh year of education at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and he had not once attended the annual Halloween feast.  This year was to be no exception.  He left the Ravenclaw common room only after all other students had already gone to the Great Hall.  He wore his warmest cloak, pockets bulging- on one side with Pumpkin Pasties and ripe red apples, on the other side with his wand and a set of specialized tools.  Into a special pocket inside the cloak he placed the letter from the Headmaster that confirmed that he was allowed to be doing what he was doing.  As apprentice and heir apparent to the finest wand-maker in the world, Algernon was granted certain privileges on this, the most important night of the year for a man of his future profession. 

 

The moon was high in the sky as Algernon made his way across the grounds of the school toward the dark blur that marked the edge of the Forbidden Forest.  As he approached the cover of the trees, he pulled out his wand and muttered, “Lumos”.  The light that the wand produced served more to calm his nerves than to illuminate any path.  Although he had taken this particular trek on his own every year since he was twelve, it never failed to excite his senses and to stimulate his imagination.  There were many ways that you could be killed (or worse) in the Forest, and Algernon had at some point in the last seven years thought of almost half of them.  However, he knew that this was the one night in which he was completely safe from the normal dangers of the Forest, and that this was why Headmaster Dippet allowed him this access.  That, and the fact that the wands that his father created- and that he would soon be creating himself, upon completion of his schooling- were vital to the wizarding community.  He oriented himself and set off on the long walk to the clearing that was his destination.

 

As he walked, he remembered the instruction of his father, in one of the many speeches about their craft that had been delivered to the younger Ollivander by the elder in his years of summertime apprenticeship.  Basil Ollivander was fond of hearing himself speak, almost more so than he was of the family profession.  “Wand making,” he would say, “is not merely an occupation.  It is not merely a job.  It is a calling, son.  And we Ollivanders are the best.  There used to be many fine families of wand-makers, in my grandfather’s day.  Oh yes, in old Marcellus Ollivander’s time there were the Wickhams and the Bradburys and the Winters, not to mention the Radcliffes and the Comstocks.  But those times are past.   Now, there are only a select few who know the secrets- the whereabouts of the hidden dragon graveyards in the wilderness, the secret meetings of the unicorns, the proper way to coax a phoenix to part with one of its feathers.  Everyone else has forgotten.  Or died out.  Only we are here to carry on this fine tradition.  By the time your training is finished, you will be a member of a celebrated and important elite.  You will be a true craftsman.  You will be a wand-maker.”  And Basil had puffed out his chest and laid his hand on his son’s shoulder with pride. 

 

At this moment, Algernon knew, Basil Ollivander was approaching the fabled dragon graveyard of Romania, in which he would find and collect the finest examples of dragon heartstring that he could, to serve as the cores of one third of the wands that he would create over the next year.  At the same moment, Algernon was carefully approaching the clearing in which he knew that he would find . . .

 

There.  The unicorns had already started to arrive.  That much was obvious from the pale blue light that pervaded the area.  He extinguished his wand with a softly spoken “Nox.”  He would not need its light as long as he was near the clearing.  Inside this clearing could be seen hundreds of unicorns, their very auras combining and strengthening each other, infusing the forest for miles around with an atmosphere of peace.  This effect led to Algernon’s complete safety from the beasts of the Forest.  No creature, no matter how ferocious, was able to attack or even threaten another when bombarded by such a wave of non-aggression and relaxation as was emanating from this one spot.  He settled himself down on a fallen tree just outside the open area and munched on a pasty as he waited for the perfect opportunity to get to work.

 

He did not know why the unicorns gathered in this spot in the Forbidden Forest each year on All Hallow’s Eve.  But come they did, and in great numbers.  He’d heard several theories from older relatives- none of the theories particularly useful or grounded in fact.  (His favorite was one suggested by his Aunt Kitty- that the unicorns came together as a sort of family reunion, “to catch up on each others’ news”.)  Whatever the reason, it was extremely fortunate for the Ollivanders that the unicorns came, because this was the one time and place in which is was possible for a male of Algernon’s age to even approach a full-grown unicorn, and for a person of any gender and any age to cut a unicorn’s hair.

 

Eventually, he pulled out his tools and began the painstaking task of harvesting the unicorns’ hairs.  Most he took quietly from the tails of unicorns that came close enough to his hiding place and stood still long enough for him to pluck a lengthy piece with his specially designed tweezer.  Some he managed to clip from the mane of a particularly easy-going animal.  Each hair that met the exacting requirements of the craft was individually rolled into a thin protective sheet of papyrus.  Many hairs had to be discarded, so that at the end of the exercise he came away with only about two dozen perfect hairs, just enough for half of the hand-crafted wands that would be created by Ollivanders in the coming year.  This year, however, starting in the summer, some of these wands would be created by Algernon himself, a prospect that excited him immensely as he began the long walk back toward the castle.  He thought about the first wand that he would create.  He remembered one hair in particular that had struck him as the sort to go with birch.  Or perhaps willow.  Yes.  Willow, probably long and thin . . .

 

The sun was beginning to appear over the horizon when Algernon at last approached the edge of the forest.  He was exhausted, but satisfied in the way that he always was when he finished this task.  He rested for a moment against a tree trunk before leaving the forest to return to the school.  As he stood there, watching the first rays of the sun touch the walls of the castle, a movement and a flash of vivid color drew his attention on his right.  He looked in that direction and saw a bird, brilliantly colored, sitting on a branch level with his head and only about three feet away.  It was a phoenix, with beautiful red and gold plumage, head cocked to one side, as if observing him curiously.  Algernon didn’t move, amazed at the beauty and the proximity of the bird.  Dumbfounded by this development, he forgot completely all that his father had taught him about coaxing a phoenix to give up its feathers for use in a wand- he did not even think about the fact that phoenix feathers are the most difficult of all wand cores to come by, barely making up one sixth of the yearly output.  He just stood and watched. 

 

After some time had passed, the bird sang out a single sustaining note before leaving its perch and flying away- toward the castle.  Algernon almost believed that he saw it fly though a window in one of the round towers of the school.  As his attention returned to his own surroundings, he noticed a shining patch on the ground.  There, at his feet, lay two golden feathers- the tail feathers of a phoenix.  He picked them up and carried them back to the castle with him, where he wrapped them carefully and placed them in a wooden box to carry home with him at the end of the year.  Later, his father would say that they were the two finest phoenix feathers that he had ever encountered, and insist that Algernon himself create the wands that they were to house.  One of these wands was sold only a few years later, but the second- its brother- remained in the shop, collecting dust, for decades.  Algernon almost forgot about it.  Almost.

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