Heart of a Lion
Neville paused outside Ollivanders wand shop and looked around. Gran had said she would be along shortly and had specifically told him to wait for her inside. He hesitated on the doorstep, hoping to see her walking toward him so they could go in together. He had of course met the old wand-maker on many occasions, as Mr. Ollivander was a family friend. He'd also been inside the shop before, once or twice with Gran and once with Great Uncle Algie, who had had to buy a replacement wand for the one he'd lost that year at Blackpool pier. Even so, Mr. Ollivander's unblinking gaze always made Neville feel slightly uneasy. Gran was nowhere in sight, so Neville sighed and steeled himself with the knowledge that, for the first time, he was there to buy a wand of his very own. He opened the door and stepped over the threshold, accompanied by the soft tinkling of bells.
The shop felt cool and dark compared to the hot brightness of the street outside and it was a few moments before Neville could see anything at all. Once his eyes had adjusted they fell upon an unexpected sight. On the highest rung of a ladder just to his left stood not an elderly wizard with odd, misty eyes but Luna Lovegood, holding an armful of wand boxes and humming softly. Her back was to him and she seemed not to have noticed his arrival. Neville stared, aware he was being rude but unable to stop himself. Luna's long, straggly, dark blonde hair was twisted up into a loose knot on top of her head. She had pushed her wand horizontally through the middle of the coil of hair and Neville thought it looked rather like an arrow stuck through the hat of a grim-faced American cowboy he had once seen in a Muggle book. She wore a dusty green apron over a faded purple robe that was several inches too short. On her feet were clunky, three-strap sandals labeled with a name that looked like 'Birkenstock.'
"Oh, hello," said a vague voice. Luna had finally looked around at Neville and seemed to have noticed where his gaze had landed. She stuck out her left foot and vigorously rotated her ankle several times, causing the ladder to rock precariously. "Do you like them? I found them in a Muggle shop. Quite comfortable, you know." Shifting her load slightly, she said, "Just let me finish re-shelving these wands and I'll be right down."
"Er -- all right," Neville said, unsure of what was going on. He shifted restlessly from foot to foot and a short time later Luna joined him on level ground.
"What can I do for you, Neville?" she asked in her dreamy voice.
He wanted to ask her what she was doing, why she was there, but couldn't find a way to make it come out sounding right so he merely said, "Erm -- is Mr. Ollivander here? Only my gran wanted to invite him over for tea next Tuesday, said he hasn't come round our house in ages and I, er, well, I need to get a new wand. My dad's old -- mine got broken. You know, in the Department of Mysteries," he finished uncomfortably.
Luna fixed him with her silvery, wide-eyed stare. "Yes," she said faintly. "Yes, I remember. A lot of things were broken that night."
Neville nodded and stared at the floor, his throat suddenly tight. He swallowed hard. "Have you talked to or seen anyone since -- "
"Oh no, not since Hogwarts but then I really didn't expect to, you know."
"I just hope Harry's all right."
"He will be," Luna said serenely. "We all will be...." Her voice trailed off and she looked out of the window over Neville's shoulder.
He turned and followed her gaze but there didn't seem to be anyone passing. They stood in silence for a minute until he asked again, "Is Mr. Ollivander in?"
"No," she said dreamily. "No, he just stepped out for tea. He'll be back before long, I expect."
There was nothing else for it. He would have to ask. "But Luna, what are -- I mean, why are you here?"
"Oh, just minding the shop," she said.
"But -- "
Luna smiled at the perplexed look on Neville's face and seemed to have come to a realization. "Octavius Ollivander is my great-uncle," she said. "You didn't know."
Neville flushed and looked at the floor again. "No I didn't, sorry." It had just hit home to him where the family resemblance lay and he wondered why he hadn't noticed it before. "Gran doesn't -- I mean, I've known Mr. Ollivander for years, not very well, I've seen him lots of times -- Gran doesn't usually like me to be in the room at tea time. She usually shoos me out into the garden when her friends come by. I think she's afraid I'll break her best china or spill my tea and accidentally scald one of her guests, so I really don't know much about -- "
"Just as well," Luna murmured, once again staring out of the shop window. "Did you know that excessive tea drinking has been linked to over three dozen cases of festering toenail fungus in underage witches and wizards in the last month alone?" She looked at him, her already over-large eyes popping excitedly.
Neville gaped at her. "Er -- "
She nodded. "It's true. Daddy's planning an exposť in the October issue of The Quibbler."
Neville cast around for something else to say. "So, so Mr. -- your great-uncle -- lets you mind the shop when he's away?"
"Oh yes. I always try to find some time to help out Uncle Octavius. I've been coming here every summer since I was five years old and he's left me alone to mind the place since I was twelve. Just for short periods of time, of course. This summer I almost didn't get to come...."
Something stirred in the depths of Neville's memory. "That's right. You and your dad were going to go to -- to -- "
"Sweden, yes." Luna nodded. "It was lovely really. We only just got back last week."
Neville remembered something else. "And did you see any, er, Rumple-Horned Blornacks while you were there?"
"Crumple-Horned Snorkacks," Luna corrected without a trace of irritation in her voice. "No, we didn't but we had several near misses -- " She launched into a detailed description of their expedition, backpacking through the mountains of Kebnekaise, camping in the land of the Midnight Sun. " -- and up through mid-July it's bright as daylight all night. We heard noises at our campsite at 2:30 one morning and my father went charging out of the tent -- it was so light he didn't even need to light his wand -- and there was nothing there, so Daddy has a new theory that the Snorkack can actually make itself invisible and that's why we haven't been able to spot one yet -- "
Neville was extremely sorry he'd asked. He listened as politely as he could for as long as he could. Finally he cleared his throat and said, "Luna, sorry to interrupt, but are you sure your uncle will be back soon? I really need a wand, term starts in two weeks."
"Don't worry, I'll help you. I've done this many times."
The very thought struck fear in Neville's heart. "Oh. No no, it's okay. I can wait for Mr. Ollivander, why don't you just go on with your story?"
But Luna had already gone to work. Humming, she flitted about the shop, practically floating up and down the ladders positioned around the room. Neville tried to protest again but she paid him no mind. High above him, Luna pulled a long, thin box from a stack far over her head, stooped low to pluck another box from a shelf that could probably have been reached more easily from the floor, then straightened up again and leaned much too far to the right to grab still another. She scarcely seemed to realize what she was doing and Neville was sure that at any moment she would miss a rung on the way down and end up sprawled on the floor while the contents of half the shop thundered down upon her head. After all, if he had been the one up on one of those ladders....
Nothing of the sort befell Luna, however, and she had soon collected a tidy stack of boxes. She carried them across the room and placed them on the counter. Beckoning Neville forward, she stepped behind the desk and opened the first box, uncharacteristically businesslike.
Neville walked toward her slowly, a feeling of dread settling into the pit of his stomach. What could Luna Lovegood possibly know about selling wands? There was no telling what sort of defective piece of firewood she could foist upon him.
"Try this," she said, handing him the wand. "Ten inches long, maple and unicorn hair, very flexible."
"How do you know that?" Neville asked incredulously. He peered at the box, surreptitiously looking for a label but there didn't seem to be one.
"Oh well, you know, after so many years one tends to pick up a few things," Luna said. "Wave it around a bit."
Neville waved. Nothing happened.
Luna took it from him and handed him another one. "Thirteen and a quarter inches, walnut and dragon heartstring."
"Nine inches, mahogany and phoenix feather."
Neville tried wand after wand, his frustration mounting. Luna merely smiled and continued to watch him out of those eerily unblinking eyes.
When the boxes on the counter had become piled so high they were in danger of toppling over, Neville said, "It's no use!" and it came out more loudly than he had meant it to. "I don't think there's a wand here for me. I'll just have to tell Gran I can't go back to Hogwarts this year. It'd be useless without a wand. She's going to be so disappointed in me." As that thought struck him, he abruptly turned away from the counter. The fear of what Gran would say if he had to go home without a wand was so palpable he knew it must show on his face.
Luna's smile didn't waver. "There's a wand for everyone," she said calmly, "but sometimes the right one is as difficult to spot as a Crumple-Horned Snorkack. 'The wand chooses the wizard' after all. We're just waiting for it to find you."
Neville turned to look at her at these words, a small ray of hope seeming to grow within him, yet still he felt reluctant to try any more wands. What if....
Luna seemed to sense his hesitancy. "You know," she said, not looking at him and speaking in a voice that seemed far-away, as if she were talking to herself, "Uncle Octavius has said he may leave me this place some day. He and my great-aunt Aurelia never had any children of their own, after all. My mum was his favorite niece and as she's gone...." Picking up one of the rejected wands, she looked at it for a moment before placing it back in its proper box. "He's a gifted wand-maker, my great-uncle, I just wish he'd expand his horizons a bit, try new things. I'm always telling him there are magical things in this world other than dragon heartstrings and unicorn tail hairs and phoenix feathers -- Snorkacks and Blibbering Humdingers and Red-Tufted Riffles -- but he's so set in his ways. If he'd only branch out more often, like he did when he made my wand -- "
She suddenly pulled her own wand from the back of her head and laid it gently on the counter between them, gazing at it with something like reverence.
Neville stared at it too. It was made of a very light wood, almost white in color, and in the darkened shop it seemed to glow with a pale, misty light.
"Holly," Luna murmured, "ten and a quarter inches long, containing one unicorn tail hair -- and an extra ingredient."
"What is it?" Neville breathed.
Although the shop was obviously deserted except for the two of them, Luna leaned closer to him. "Moon dust," she said in a conspiratorial whisper. "It was an experiment, Uncle Octavius told me." She looked at him briefly before dropping her eyes to her wand again. "I've known I was destined for this wand since I was seven. I was straightening up a lower shelf one day when I came across a box that didn't fit properly. When I took it out, I realized why: another box had fallen down behind it and wedged itself between the shelf and the wall. I don't know how long it had been there -- years, I imagine -- the box was very dusty. I opened it and inside was this wand, my wand. Uncle Octavius let me have it, just to play with, you know. I used to wave it around all the time, making believe I was casting spells. Of course, nothing at all happened -- not even a spark -- not for the longest time. Mum always said I was a late bloomer."
Neville found himself nodding. He knew those last two words very well. "Me too."
"He kept it on a shelf in the back room so he wouldn't accidentally sell it to anyone else," Luna went on. "Then when I was eleven, the wand finally let me know it was meant for me."
"How?" Neville asked eagerly.
Luna smiled mysteriously. "I understand it's rather different for everyone. It just felt right in my hand -- as if it belonged. When your wand finds you, you'll know it. You'll see."
Neville looked around the room, suddenly excited, his heart pounding. "So, which one do you think I should try next?"
Luna didn't answer right away and made no indication that she had heard him. At last she said, "I think I may have just the thing. Wait here for a moment," and drifted off into the back room.
In her absence, Neville walked around and around the tiny shop, looking at the multitude of boxes stacked right to the ceiling and wondering if one of them contained a wand that was looking for him. He had just begun to wonder what on earth could be keeping Gran and why Mr. Ollivander wasn't back yet when he realized that Luna had also been gone for a very long time. He went back to the counter and softly called her name. There was no answer.
"Luna?" he called again, more loudly this time, leaning over the counter to peer down the hallway that led to the back room. It was very dark. "Luna, is everything okay?" Silence.
Neville didn't know what to do. Stealing a glance at the door to see if anyone was coming, he edged behind the counter and made his way cautiously through the black hallway. In a cramped back room he found Luna Lovegood sitting at a table perusing a copy of The Quibbler, a glass of iced pumpkin juice in her right hand and a long, thin box lying on the table near her left.
"Luna?" Neville asked again.
She looked up. "Oh, there you are," she said, sounding for all the world as though he had been keeping her waiting. She rose and pointed to a shelf behind her where a dozen or so black boxes were neatly stacked. "This is where we keep the experimental wands. Pity there aren't more of them."
"These wands are experimental? Then maybe we shouldn't -- maybe we're not supposed to -- "
"No, it's all right. Uncle Octavius hasn't stocked them up front for ages but they're for sale. He brings them out only when he has an unusually tricky customer. Of course, they do cost a bit more than your garden variety wand." She lifted the lid of the box on the table and took out the wand within it. "Try this one."
Neville reached for the wand she was holding out. As soon as his hand closed around it, he felt a gentle tingling sensation followed by warmth that spread from the tips of his fingers to his wrist and then, to his surprise, halfway up his right arm. It was rather pleasant. He gave the wand a test wave and was startled to see a burst of colored sparks shoot out of it. The sparks had come and gone so quickly he'd barely caught a glimpse of them but out of the corner of his eye he saw Luna smile slightly. Under her breath she said something that sounded like, "Red and gold, brave and bold!" in a singsong voice.
Luna had been right -- the wand fit just right in his hand, as though it had been custom-made for him. "Wow!" he said wonderingly. "My old wand never felt like this."
"No, I imagine it didn't," Luna said dreamily.
The wand was quite handsome, medium in color, nicely grained, well polished. "What kind -- I mean, what is it -- do you know?" Neville looked at her expectantly.
Staring at the wall as though she could read an invisible answer written there, Luna said, "Eleven and a half inches long, made of beech. Uncle Octavius didn't make this one. It's the work of my great- grandfather. But it's the core that makes it so special -- many of my relatives were more daring than Uncle Octavius."
"What's the core made of?" Neville asked quickly, hungry for more knowledge.
Luna smiled and turned her wide-eyed, unblinking gaze upon him instead. "The core," she said slowly, "contains the essence of the heart of a lion. Ten drops, to be exact. Quite powerful actually."
"The heart of a lion? But lions aren't -- "
She seemed to be reading his mind. " -- Aren't magical creatures? I believe they are. My father has been trying to secure an interview with an African wand-maker who has taken to using hair from the mane of a lion in some of his wands and is having a great success with it. I imagine such wands would be quite popular with Gryffindors, at least, if only my great-uncle would see fit to make them."
Reluctant though Neville was to relinquish his new wand, he finally allowed Luna to put it back into its box, which she then wrapped in brown paper and placed in a bag.
"There you are," she said, holding it out to him.
As she deposited his ten Galleons in the register, Neville said, "Well, I guess I'll be seeing you on the train soon."
"Yes, I expect so."
"With this new wand I can't help thinking something good's going to happen this year. Maybe things will start to change for the better for me...."
Luna looked at him seriously and shook her blonde head. "No. They already have," she said. "You didn't need a new wand for that." She sounded as lucid as Neville had ever heard her.
He stared at her. Did she mean -- had she noticed something he hadn't? He decided not to ask. "Luna, thanks for helping me today," he said instead. "Thank you -- for everything, I mean." Somehow those words didn't seem to be enough to express the gratitude he felt toward her. He began to fumble with his money bag and when it finally dropped with a reassuring 'clink' back into his pocket, he looked up and added, "You know, you're really good at this."
Luna, however, had already turned away from the register. With a jolt of amusement, he noticed that her wand, which had still been on the counter moments before, was once again poking out either end of her knot of hair. She was drifting slowly down the hallway toward the back room, singing softly to herself and swaying as she walked. Even though she was still right in front of him, she seemed thousands of miles away already and Neville realized that he, too, felt transported. He shook his head and chuckled softly to himself.
His heart lighter than it had been all summer, Neville left Ollivanders, carefully closing the door behind him. The still-bright sunlight caused him to squint so badly he nearly ran into Gran, who had been just about to enter the shop.
"Oh Neville dear, it's you. Had you given up on me? I spoke with the Duncans for much longer than I had planned and then I met Griselda Marchbanks coming out of Flourish and Blotts and I wanted a word with her about your O.W.L. scores and before I knew it -- " She had just caught sight of the long, thin package in her grandson's hand. "Neville, what...is...that?" she asked, biting off every syllable.
Her tone of voice was usually enough to make Neville cower in fear but he looked her straight in the eye and said, "This is my new wand, Gran," in a strong, clear voice.
"Your new -- " Her expression grew cold and steely. "Oh, Neville. You bought a wand without my input? How could you be so foolish? I asked you to wait for me."
"Gran, it's all right!"
"All right! What did Mr. Ollivander say about this? How could he have allowed you to -- a boy such as yourself -- we'll have to return this straight away and get you a proper -- stand aside, Neville! I'm going in there to give Octavius Ollivander a piece of my mind, of all the irresponsible -- and I expect you forgot to invite him to tea as well...." She pushed past him, nearly knocking him flat.
Neville grabbed her wrist as she made to reach for the door handle. "Gran, no! I told you, everything's all right. Mr. Ollivander's not there, anyway. He's out for tea."
Gran stared at him as though she had never seen him before. Neville quickly released her but refused to break his gaze.
"But -- " Gran began, "how -- "
"Mr. Ollivander's great-niece took care of me." He smiled broadly. "She's a friend of mine. From school. I promise I'll show you my new wand as soon as we get home. You'll be pleased." He held out his arm to her. "Now, why don't we go and find Mr. Ollivander and you can invite him to tea yourself. We'll try Madam Malandra's first. It's closest."
Gran continued to glare at him but then her severe face suddenly softened into a smile. She linked her arm through his and he felt her thin body relax slightly against his sturdy sixteen-year-old frame.
"Well," she said, "lead on then, Neville."