Criss was getting rather annoyed at Mr. Plutker's constant dismissal of everything he said. He'd told the man a thousand times that he'd already purchased all of his school supplies back in New York, except the books. He couldn't see why this new cauldron and telescope they'd gotten were any better than the ones he already had. And the robes certainly weren't better. They were boring, plain robes. No flash, like his robes from New York... even the plain black ones were at least made of black velvet, and had red silk lining on the inside!
He had at least, thankfully, convinced Mr. Plutker not to buy him a black winter cloak with silver fastenings. His favorite costume piece of all time was exactly that, and the buttons were silver eagle-heads! And the eagle was one of the symbols of the school! That had probably been the point that had convinced Mr. Plutker in the end, Criss thought. Maybe some of J.D.'s arguing skills had finally rubbed off on him.
But this was the final straw! He didn't want one of those stupid wands everyone was using. They looked so cheesy! No one believes that you're magic if you have to do your magic with a "magic wand". Gah! These people were impressive, yes, but sometimes Criss thought they were seriously lacking in common sense.
"I'm telling you," said Criss, stopping in front of the stupid shop called Ollivander's and stamping his foot. "I do NOT want one of those. I'm not buying one!"
Mr. Plutker laughed and patted Criss on the back. "You'll want one, ya will, just as soon as you hold the right one in your hand."
"What do you mean," said Criss, "are they all different, or something?"
"Not a pair alike," said Mr. Plutker. "The wand chooses the wizard, they say. There's exactly one for everybody."
Criss had to admit, (to himself, that is-- he was not going to say it aloud) that this new information had somewhat piqued his interest. He was a spiritual man, and liked to believe that certain things in this world were destined to find him.
"So... does everyone here use them? Even grown-up magicians?"
"Sure do," said Mr. Plutker.
"But," Criss whispered dramatically, "not... Houdini."
"Who?" said Mr. Plutker, looking patiently puzzled.
Criss sighed. "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, then. He doesn't use a magic wand."
Plutker's eyes widened, and he stared cautiously down at Criss. "What do you know about him, boy? Have you seen him?"
"Well, no, not in person, but..."
"It is true," said Plutker, "Some very powerful wizards can do magic without their wands, should they ever need to. But I assure you, You-Know-Who has a bloody wand. Probably bought it from Mr. Ollivander here, in fact."
Criss turned from Plutker, shocked, and stared at Ollivander's front door, making sure his face accurately expressed the magnitude of the state of awe he was in.
Without another word, he turned the doorknob and elegantly walked inside.
- - -
Plutker closed the door behind them, and the sounds of the outdoors and the bustling people were snuffed out like a candle. The shop was small and mostly vertical. Endless stacks of thin boxes were piled as high as Criss could see. The air was thick, and smelled like cranberries and singed hair. Criss couldn't see anyone performing any magic tricks, but it felt somehow... magical. Just standing there.
A stalky man in dark red robes stepped out from behind one of the bookshelves and bustled toward him.
"Welcome, welcome, first year at Hogwarts is it?"
"Yes sir," said Criss, allowing the man to steer him by the shoulder into the middle of the room and begin haphazardly sizing him up.
"Right then, let's see, muggle-born, eh? A bit scrawny, questionable sexuality, fantastic hair..."
"What?!" said Criss, embarrassed, but forcing himself to focus only on the hair comment.
"Never you mind, young boy, I know just where to start. Wait here."
The strange, intrusive man called Ollivander wandered off into the depths of the many bookshelves, and reappeared seconds later with a stack of 5 or 6 of the skinny boxes.
"Take this," he said, and handed Criss the first wand, while taking the second one out of the box.
Criss took the first wand from Ollivander, and instantly felt it cool slightly and grow lighter in his hand. A breeze that couldn't possibly have existed rippled across Criss's skin, then lifted his hair and let it fall back down, ruffled, in the way only professional shampoo commercials could usually do. He squeezed the wand tightly and mouthed mind freak to himself.
"I'll take this one."
Ollivander looked up from the third box he was opening, his left hand already stretched out to give Criss the second wand.
"I'm sorry?" he asked, distracted. "That one?"
"Yes, sir. This one here." Criss raised the wand in the air obviously to show it to Mr. Ollivander, who was clearly a bit dim. Then, on its own accord, the wand leapt out of Criss's hand and did a somersault in the air, shooting out a spiral of white sparks as it did so, and landed itself gracefully back into Criss's hand, making it look as though he'd done the whole toss intentionally. Criss wasn't sure whether or not he had just peed himself. He would check later.
"Dear me," said Mr. Ollivander, scratching his forehead and setting down the other wands he was trying to hand over. "After all these years... but no, I don't think... No, no... try this one, boy."
"No!" Criss shouted. "This one chose me already! Didn't you see?"
"Yes yes but you don't understand," said Ollivander, now pacing. "That's the wand I always hand out first, you see, because it never makes so much as a puff of smoke, and, well that way it's more dramatic for the child when the right one comes along."
Criss rolled his eyes. "So? Now it's chosen me! You'll just have to find another one to try first every time."
"It's not as simple as all that, I'm afraid," said Ollivander, stopping to stand in front of Criss again, "Mr... what was your name?"
"Angel," said Criss, grinning to himself. "Criss, Angel."
"Mr. Angel, yes, you see... let me explain. Every wand has a core, and that core comes from some sort of magical creature. I only use three types of cores when I make my wands... dragon heart strings, unicorn hairs, and phoenix feathers."
"Uh huh," Criss nodded, unsure where this was going.
"Well, there are others of course, and other wandmakers use loads of different things. Wandlore is a complicated field of study, mind you, and wizards have... tried, many other options. Most of them aren't any good, but, we'd never know if we didn't try them, eh?" Ollivander gave a shaky laugh, and resumed pacing.
"Wait, go back," said Criss. "Where do you get these... 'dragon hearts' and 'unicorn hairs' and stuff?"
Ollivander squinted for a second and then said, "From... dragons and unicorns, of course! Well, I don't go out and pluck them from the animals myself, no, but I assure you, I get them from the most reputable sources in Europe!"
"So there are REAL dragons?!" Criss squealed. He couldn't believe his ears. But he wanted so badly to believe it, and so then, he did! "How come I've never seen any?"
"The magical community keeps them well out of the way of muggles," said Ollivander. "Dragons are highly regulated, we try our best never to let muggles see them. Same goes for unicorns and phoenixes and all the really powerful magical creatures. We let them see toads, though. Rubbish sort of magical creatures, toads."
Criss stood there, wand still clamped tightly in his hand, listening to Ollivander and realizing, that if you had asked him two days ago how happy he would have been to be going to a magic school, he would have told you, 100% happy. Yet that was, looking back, only about 50% of how happy he truly was now, knowing everything that he now knew.
Everything was real. Everything in every fantasy comic book he'd ever looked through the pictures of, was probably real. Something accidentally leaked by some clumsy magician who couldn't manage to stick to the rules. He was important now. He was a member of the Magical Community, a community full of secrets and power and magic tricks like he'd never dreamed of.
He almost laughed at his silly little card tricks. He was about to learn card tricks that would blow Athena out of the water. He couldn't wait to get to Hogwarts and start learning. Nothing could possibly contain his excitement any longer. And there was almost certainly pee in his pants now, but he didn't even care.
"Are ghosts real?" he asked eagerly.
"Yes, of course," said Ollivander.
"What about goblins? And elves?"
"Well, they're probably just very rare and you've never seen one," said Criss, undaunted. "What about trolls, are they real?"
"Yes, but they're really lame."
"Oh. What about werewolves, are the werewolves cool?"
"WEREWOLVES?!" Ollivander shouted. "Good gracious, young man! Why don't you run around screaming You-Know-Who's name? You ought to contain your enthusiasm, or you'll be first on old Greyback's menu next month!"
"What's Old Greyback's?" said Criss.
"Just Greyback, it's a name. Fenrir Greyback. He's the ring-leader of the werewolves these days, and he's... well..." Ollivander paused at a look from Mr. Plutker in the back of the room. "Well I shouldn't... they'll tell you anything you need to know about that, when you're safe at school."
"So..." said Criss, racking his brain for more questions to ask, and suddenly remembering what had sparked this conversation in the first place. "What animal part is in this wand?"
Then he gasped, realizing the answer before Ollivander even had to say it. "AN EAGLE FEATHER! Is that what's in the wand? It HAS to be! That's it, isn't it?!"
"Eagles aren't magical creatures," said Ollivander, "so... no, that's, er... that's not it."
"What do you mean, eagles aren't magic?! They're only the most pure, intelligent and powerful magical creature known to man!"
"No, sorry, they're just regular birds."
"But... they're my spirit animal, and I'm a magician! They have to be magic! And... it was the eagles who saved Frodo from Mount Doom! You can NOT tell me that didn't require magic!"
"What on earth are you talking about?" said Ollivander, then evidently decided the answer wasn't worth waiting for. "Listen, young man, try this wand, I think it might suit you better."
"No!" Criss shouted, pulling the wand tightly to his chest. And the wand seemed to share Criss's sentiment, because at that moment, with a swoosh and a loud bang, it suddenly thrust itself against Criss's chest and made it look like he'd punched himself. The wand felt like it was glued to his body; Ollivander couldn't have pried it away from Criss if he tried. Criss just stood there, and dared to hope that he would be able to let go of it the moment he decided to.
"Very well," sighed Ollivander. "Then I must tell you, it's... it's a hair from a centaur's tail. There."
From behind them near the door, Mr. Plutker gasped.
"I had permission, mind you," said Ollivander, "from the centaur in question. In fact he... rather forced me to do it. As a favor, he said, and as a friend. Yes, Plutker, some wizards do make friends with centaurs. We studied together. Wandlore is a complicated matter, after all, and one does need to make sure one covers all one's bases..."
"Why does it even matter what animal it's made from?" said Criss, failing to hide his bitterness that it was not an eagle feather. He was relieved to see that the wand had indeed let him drop his hand in exasperation as he'd said that.
"Because... centaurs aren't animals," said Ollivander. "They're sentient beings, very much like wizards. Except they don't use wands... they say they don't need them, that they get their magic from the stars. But believe me, Mr. Angel, if they were to use wands..." he shuddered. "Not a soul would ever confuse them for an animal again, that's for sure."
"Well I don't care if you put a human hair in it," Criss decided. "This wand chose me for a reason, and I want to buy it."
"I never thought the day would come..." said Ollivander, shaking his head, shuffling over to his desk and knocking a few wand-boxes out of the way. "That'll be eleven galleons then, Mr. Angel."
"Eleven Galleons?!" said Mr. Plutker. "Come now, that's a bit high, don't ya think?"
Ollivander smiled. "If the boy would like a different wand..."
"I want this one," said Criss, turning to Plutker. He quickly realized how childish his demeanor had become, and hastened to put on his charming face again. "Please? You said the wand chooses the magician..."
"Wizard," sighed Plutker half-heartedly. "Alright then, take it, we've got to be getting back to the Leaky Cauldron before long." He handed Ollivander some gold coins and kept muttering. "If I ever met a more difficult kid..."