The Sugar Quill
Author: BabyRuth  Story: Merlin's Beard!  Chapter: Chapter 1: More Than Most Curious
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Working Title: Merlin’s Beard

Merlin’s Beard!


Summary:  Ever wonder what Ollivander goes through to make a new wand? Or who might need a replacement?  It may not be who you think; then again…


A/N:  I am writing this story strictly for pleasure; all characters are blatantly borrowed from the wonderful world created by JK Rowling and no profit is being made.  Sigh…


Thanks to my partner in crime and pre-Beta Pippin for ideas, being a sounding board, and being a great cook! 


Chapter 1 – More Than Most Curious


            Weak sunlight filtered through the grimy workroom windows and danced on the backs of dust motes.  Magical lathes, saws, sanders and various other carpentry tools were arranged haphazardly around.  Wood shavings littered the floor and a fine coating of sawdust clung to every surface.  A pleasant aroma of oak, holly, maple and willow wood permeated the air.  Boxes of half-finished wands lined the shelves on three sides, with pots of stain, polish, brushes and rags scattered about.  The remaining wall was much neater, for here resided the precious wand cores:  heartstrings of dragons floating in various potions, phoenix feathers encased in magically sealed airtight containers, and unicorn hairs floating within a golden magical mist to keep the fragile strands from becoming damaged.


Horace Ollivander was oblivious to the clutter surrounding him, completely absorbed in the fourteen-inch block of mahogany in his hand.   The block was a long rectangle waiting to be shaped and he cleared his mind and focused on the wood, getting a “feel” for it.  He saw the tree as it had been, tall and stately.  Bowtruckles skimmed its branches, announcing to those who could see that it was wand quality.  He saw the wood harvested – not the whole tree but several large branches which were pruned out, allowing the tree to continue growing.  He felt the bite of the blades cutting the irregular lengths into uniform shapes, and the warmth of the drying kiln.  And in the quiet stillness of his workroom it came to him:  Eleven inches, unicorn mane hair, with a tapered comfortable hasp, well suited for spell work.


Carefully, patiently, Ollivander formed the block of wood into a long tapered wand, removing the wooden core of the wand.  This process was not to be rushed and proceeded over a number of weeks.  One false chisel strike, one wand off-center on the lathe, one millimeter too much would ruin weeks of work.  He was grateful that this time of year, late winter, was his off-season.  Young wizards wouldn’t be bombarding his shop for their first wands for several months.  Christmas shopping was long done, so no one would be looking for wand polishing kits or holsters.  He could work in peace.


Once the carpentry part of making the wand was finished came the most delicate step in the process: adding the magical core.   He reached into the golden mist with a pair of long tweezers and selected a mane hair of a male unicorn.  He had just grasped it when his shop door slammed open with a BANG.   Ollivander had been so intent on his task that he jumped a foot in the air and dropped the tweezers on the floor.  Cold wintry air blew though the shop and into the workroom, for he had left the door open to listen for customers.  He watched in horror as the unicorn hair drifted across the floor.


“Blast, blast blast!” he muttered.  Getting down on his hands and knees he frantically searched the dusty floor.  Grabbing a completed wand, he uttered “Lumos!” for additional light.  That unicorn hair was special, unique, and on top of it all very, very expensive.  It continued drifting across the floor as he chased it on all fours.  “You’d think there would be enough shavings in here to stop that thing!” he muttered.


“Ollivander!  I wish to be served!” came a high-pitched, quivery, imperious voice.


“Oh, bother!  Not Madam Chumley-Pitte!” he grumbled, getting to his feet.  She was one of his most frequent and annoying patrons.  There wouldn’t be any rushing her out of his shop as she dithered over which polish to buy or which wand case would be suitable.  To make matters worse, she rarely purchased anything.  He mentally marked the location he had last seen the unicorn hair and went into the shop, closing the door behind him to prevent additional wind from moving the wand core.


Thirty minutes (and zero sales) later he had locked the shop door, hung the “Out to Tea” sign in the window and gone back to the workroom to resume his search for the unicorn hair.  Ollivander supposed he could just use another one, but had particularly selected that specific hair to be the core of his mahogany wand.  It would be a strong wand, sure and true, and he wanted only that hair in it.


Forty-five frustrating minutes later, he was about ready to give up.  The knees of his trousers were filthy and snagged on splinters from the floorboards; his hands were dark gray from accumulated dust and grime.  Fine sawdust covered him from head to toe.  “Note to self: try  Scourgify once in a while,” he grumbled as he crept along the floor.


Suddenly, sharp pain pierced his left knee as a nail stabbed through the already tattered cloth and scratched his skin.  The fabric caught on the nail head and wouldn’t release. 


“Drat!” Ollivander exclaimed, trying to tug free.  With a mighty wrench he tore a hole in his trousers and freed himself, bringing up half the floorboard with him in the process.  Beneath it was a cavity he hadn’t known was there.  Dark and narrow, but definitely some sort of hidey-hole.  Pointing a beam of light from his wand into the space, he noticed a long, thin, box.  All thoughts of the missing unicorn hair were driven from his mind as he tried to get the box out of the cavity.  Removing a few surrounding boards, he was finally able to bring the box into the light.


“Bronze,” he said under his breath.  The box was about fifteen inches long and only four inches wide.  He could tell there were designs on the box but they were hidden underneath what looked like eons of black grime.  Well, the box could very well have been in that hole for eons, he thought.  “Ollivander’s” had been in business since third century BC, after all.  Loving a puzzle almost more than making a new wand, he gave the unicorn hair up for lost and concentrated his efforts on painstakingly cleaning the box.


Bit by bit, the details on the box were revealed.  What Ollivander assumed was the bottom was smooth and flat, with a very tiny circle with a slash, one of the first marks of wands made by Ollivander’s.  Celtic knots and triskeles lined the sides.  The top of the box had a relief of a Crann Bethadh, or Celtic Tree of Life.  More triskeles and triple horns edged the top, and traces of the Ogham, or Celtic, alphabet could be made out.  The bronze was in remarkably good condition.


Ollivander’s pulse was jumping.  Judging from the Ollivander’s mark, he held in his hands the most ancient wand box he had ever seen,  dating mid-fourth century A.D.  A time of ancient magic.


Hands trembling, he fumbled for the latch, and, once he found it, he prised the lid open.  Inside was a bed of decayed fibers, possibly silk. On the fibers was a long, slender wand.  About twelve inches long, he estimated.  Oak, the most sacred of trees during the time of the Celts.  The wand vibrated with power, sending prickles up his arm and making his hair stand on end.


“My word!” Ollivander breathed reverently.  He had never encountered such power in a wand.  Usually unfailingly able to determine immediately the core of a wand, he could not do so with this wand.  “It’s almost as if there’s a Protego spell on the wand,” he marveled.


Using every wand-spell he knew, and a few he didn’t, Ollivander spent the several days trying futilely to make out the wand core.  Open and discarded books and journals teetered on every available surface in both his living quarters and workroom.  He had plowed through every record he had ever kept and could not find the key to discovering the wand’s core.  Finally while going through his family archives, he found notes from a great-great-multiple-great-grandfather who used a variation of a Reveal spell.


Revealus Batonium,” he intoned.  The wand glowed golden, and a small, mistily transparent figure, about as tall as the wand was long, rose from the wand tip.


Dumbfounded, absolutely gobsmacked, Ollivander sat at his worktable, staring at the wand.  The most ancient, most powerful wand he had ever encountered.  Twelve inches of English oak. With a core of…


“Merlin’s beard!”




To be continued…

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