Child of the Forest

This was originally done for the Week in Hogwarts competition, but I couldn't post it on time, so here it is.

Set in Hogwarts in 2017 - the year that Rose, Albus, Scorpius and Malek Zabini, nephew of Blaise Zabini, join Hogwarts. I also join as part of a Ministry program to train muggles in the art of wizardry.

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2. The Wand

 

Hogwarts. It loomed above us menacingly, a dark silhouette against the moonlight sky. Starlight glanced off the windows like the infinite facets of an enormous jewel. Several dozen wooden boats hit the jetty with a series of rapid thuds. I glanced at Scorpius nervously, but the darkness had all but shrouded him. Only his white-blond hair was visible, gleaming in the half-light. Legs shaking, I cautiously stepped off the boat, followed by silent, surefooted Malek. The seventy or so aspiring wizards and witches ascended the stone steps in silence, followed closely by the Muggles.  As we approached the great oak doors, they swung open on hidden mechanisms. The wizards and witches were directed into the great hall, whilst we waited expectantly.

 

Two stone knights flanked us as we were led toward our dormitories. Reaching a fork in the corridor, they split off again directing each of us either left or right. I followed the rest of my group down a twisting labyrinth of torchlit passages, led by our silent guide. Finally we reached a small classroom. Inside were a dozen desks, each with their own potions, bubbling happily away above a tiny fire. The walls were lined with glass flasks of all shapes and sizes, containing dozens of different brightly coloured potions, as well as numerous dried herbs.

 

At the end of the room was a short, fat old man with a bushy grey beard that seemed to be trying to eat his face. A pair of spectacles resting on the bridge of his nose, he peered through an alembic filled with a murky grey liquid. As we filed into the room he waved us into the seats and continued tapping the glass. Five minutes later he sighed, stood up and wiped his glasses with a filthy rag.

“Now then,” he said decisively, then paused and frowned. “My, that is a lot of armadillo bile on your face. Wipe it off immediately.” Handing the rag to an extremely confused boy in the first row, he proceeded. “You have all been picked out from the best in the country for your aptitude in potions, your cunning, and your ruthless intelligence. My role is to hone all that ruthlessness, all that ambition, all that unvented anger of yours into skill, into something useful. After a week I will pick two students to mentor, and the rest of you can go back to whatever prison you came from. Wait. That’s not right. I got a word wrong somewhere.”

 

Shrugging, he turned to a bookshelf and spoke clearly to it. “Aconite.” With a grinding of stone on stone the bookshelf swung backwards to reveal a set of steps carved into the stone. “Now. Any questions?” A girl with long, red hair raised her hand.

“What is your name?” The man looked confused for a moment, and then a look of intense concentration swept over his face. He froze for a moment, then suddenly looked very relieved.

“Slughorn. My name is Professor Slughorn. Go down those steps. First doors on the left and right, you’ll find your things have already been brought down for you. Goodnight.” With that, he nudged the red headed girl forward, pushed us into the passageway and slammed the door shut, sealing in the darkness.

 

I woke up late the next morning, having read and reread every single one of my reference books on potions, hoping to remember all that I could. I wasn't very skilled in potion making – to be honest I wasn’t entirely certain why I was put in Slytherin. As far as I knew, I didn’t display any of the traits Professor Slughorn had mentioned yesterday, but I certainly didn’t want to leave, so I was just going to have to get better fast.

 

I yawned, exhausted, and crossed the room to the leather trunk that contained all my worldly possessions. Opening it, I took out the carefully folded black and green robes that were my prized possession. Putting them to one side, I pulled on a white shirt and carefully tied my green and silver tie around my throat, tucking it under the stiff collar. As I did so, a gruff voice from behind me spoke.

 “Good to see a young person who still cares about his appearance.” Startled, I pulled hard on the tie and accidently strangled myself. Gasping for air, I turned around to see painting of a grumpy old man with a spectacular beard and flashing yellow eyes glaring at me.

“Oh,” I said, in a very small voice, “hello.”

“Yes,” he replied, “hello to you too. So many young wizards these days simply throw on their robes, indifferent to how they look.”

“Um. Yeah.” I nodded cautiously, “Yeah that’s ah, that’s terrible.”

“Mm. When I was alive, we would beat a boy for looking scruffy. So many memories.”  The old man smiled and seemed to lose himself in his thoughts for second, but then spoke again; “Do you have a wand?”

“Huh?”

“A wand, boy. Have you a wand?”

“Oh. Yeah.” I stuck my hand into the pocket of my robe and pulled out my wand.

“Let me see. Closer, bring it closer.” Tentatively, I stepped forward, allowing him to inspect the wand.

“Yew,” he muttered, “eleven inches, dragon heartstring, is that correct?” I nodded. “Bend it for me.” I tried to but it wouldn’t. “Unbending. Very odd. What do you think?”

“I don’t like it. It feels-” I paused, searching for the right word.

“Wrong,” he supplied. “I’d bet any amount of money that you didn’t choose that wand.” I shook my head,

“I tried almost the entire shop. This one felt slightly better than the rest.”

He snorted,

“In my day, if that had happened then the wandmaker would have made one specially for you.” He regarded me quizzically for a second and then continued, “You see those drawers, over there by the bed? Those are the oldest things in the Slytherin dormitories. I remember conjuring them myself.” I nodded again, wondering where this was going. “Open the top drawer. Reach into the back.”

 

Doing so, I wondered briefly if it was entirely sensible to follow the instructions of an ancient and slightly odd painting. I quickly discarded the thought however, since I tried not to worry about things outside of my control. And besides, this was Hogwarts, all kinds of uncontrollable things happened here. One more wouldn’t matter much.

“There’s nothing there.”

His eyes gleamed,

“Reach further.” As I did so my fingers collided with the back of the drawer, resulting in a sharp crack. Instinctively, I snatched back my hand. Just as I was about to slam the drawer shut, I noticed something rolling around inside. Curious, I picked it up. It was a wand. Made from a dark wood, the wand’s handle wrapped itself into a snake and the shaft was ridged. It sat in my palm, perfectly balanced, quivering slightly as if with anticipation. I glanced up at the painting but it was motionless, the old man asleep in a hard wooden throne, a smile on his ancient face. I stuffed the wand into my pocket and walked out into the corridor hastily. I left the yew wand on the table.

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