Criss sat on the bed in his room at the Leaky Cauldron and sighed heavily. He’d been waiting for this moment ever since they’d left Ollivander’s, but he’d been forced to sit at the bar and eat dinner before he could go back to his room. Mr. Plutker had then given Criss instructions to meet him downstairs again at 9:00 the next morning, and the barman had suggested that Criss not wash his makeup off, so that he wouldn’t have to come down to the bathroom “in the middle of the night” to put it back on. Criss was too embarrassed to be seen downstairs after that, so he’d shut himself off in his room. It didn’t bother him that he had four hours to kill before it was his bedtime. Crossing his legs underneath him on the bed, he opened up the long thin box.
He picked up the wand and squeezed it tightly in his hand with his eyes closed, and waited for the swishy wind feeling to come over him again.
Nothing happened. He tried switching the wand to his left hand, but still nothing. He tried eyes open, right hand; then eyes open, left hand. He tried everything he could think to do, but nothing happened. Why? he wondered. It had been so easy in the store, he didn’t even have to think about it, like it was subconscious! Maybe his mind was just in a different place now. Maybe he was overwhelmed by everything… all the magic he didn’t even know he was capable of. And all from a wand!
All this time he’d thought wands were just like other props, that they were there to distract the audience, and the whole point was to make people believe the wand was the source of the magic, so it seemed even more mystical. But he was wrong. The wand was a powerful psychological tool. It was a symbol to the magician, to make him visualize extending his reach beyond his hand, beyond the confines of his human body. Surely that was the art of learning magic… controlling your subconscious desires and then willing them to be so, and projecting that will outward by imagining the wand as an extension of your body, and the world merely an extension of the wand, which puts just about anything within your subconscious reach, but only if you’re able to control it.
Criss smiled. This was great news for him. He was already very good at controlling his subconscious, as he’d been practicing daily since he was 6 years old. That’s 5 whole years, after all. He was a natural. Why else would the wand have worked for him but no one else? This was obviously just an unusually good wand, and required someone with true determination, like himself, to use it.
Now with a firm grasp on what he had to do, he held the wand in his hand again, and closed his eyes. This time, he thought hard about that feeling, with the wind swishing through his hair. He focused his mind on remembering it exactly as it had happened before. He pictured his will as a shiny fluid substance, pouring into his arm and through his hand, and funneled precisely down into the tip of the little wand, where it would escape his body and become reality. He sat still, wand in hand, willing it to happen, for seven minutes. But still it did not happen.
Finally, with all of his options exhausted, he reluctantly turned to the stack of books on the floor.
He scanned the titles, and concluded that “The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 1)” sounded pretty basic. So he opened this book to page one, situated himself comfortably, and began to look at the pictures.
By the time Criss fell asleep that night, he had mastered all the wand maneuvers that there were pictures of in the book, from the simple ones in the first chapter, like the short-jab and the swish-and-flick, to some more complicated ones in Chapter 7 involving lots of extra flicks and loops, and one particular movement he dubbed “the Criss-Cross”. He had given up on expecting anything magical to come out of the wand, but had convinced himself that this was because his soul didn’t need to do any magic at the moment. He knew deep inside that it would only distract him from learning what he needed to learn. He just needed to focus on the basics first: Style. You have to get the flashy stuff down pat, then figure out the technical stuff, everyone knew that.
* * *
The next morning, Criss awoke to a pleasant surprise. It turned out that the new brass scales he’d purchased the day before had a nice round shiny spot where he was able to see his reflection. He was still wearing all his makeup, but it was nice to be able to touch it up a bit without having to go downstairs.
When 9:00 came, Criss was packed and ready to go. He had meditated an extra 20 minutes, practiced all the wand motions again, and stolen enough time in the bathroom downstairs, at a reasonable hour of course, to make sure that his hair looked as terrific as it ever had. He’d eaten a piece of toast for breakfast, and even re-applied his lipstick after that. It was so far a completely perfect day.
Charles Plutker arrived moments later and helped Criss pack his things into a car. Criss was extremely relieved to see the car.
The car ride wasn’t as much fun as Criss had anticipated, however. He had been looking forward to asking Mr. Plutker a lot of the questions he’d come across in his studying the previous night. Unfortunately, another adult magician rode in the car with them, and Mr. Plutker was having a serious conversation with him that lasted the whole trip. From the back seat, Criss could tell they were talking about some stupid local crime thing. Apparently a girl got killed. Criss tried not to be insensitive, but to be fair, he didn’t know the girl and people die almost every day.
At last they arrived at the train station, and Criss followed Mr. Plutker and the other man to what he was told would be “Platform nine and three quarters”. Criss had never been to a train station before, so he didn’t realize there was anything strange about that.
“Right, son,” said Mr. Plutker, clapping Criss on the shoulder. “What you’ve gotta do is walk straight into that wall, don’t hesitate, and you’ll walk right through it and onto the platform, alright?”
Criss stared at him. He looked at the wall. It was a real wall. He looked back at Plutker. “Is this a test to prove I’m good enough to get into the school?”
“No no,” said Mr. Plutker, “it’s just a train station. Don’t worry, it opens for everybody. S’long as they’re not a muggle.”
“Not a muggle,” Criss repeated. “So it tests to see if I’m really a magician, right?”
“No,” said Mr. Plutker, confused. “Or, yes. Whichever. Just walk right into it, you’ll be fine.”
Criss took a deep breath. A really deep breath, not like his usual deep breaths, much deeper. This one was really serious. I’m about to walk through a brick wall, he told himself. You can do this, Criss Angel. You have to. It’s now or never, this is the moment of truth. Do or die. To be or not to be. Your whole life comes down to this moment.
He faced the wall, full cauldron and telescope in hand, and stood there for a moment staring at it. For some reason Mr. Plutker and the other man were not standing right there to watch him, but had backed off slightly toward a corner and were talking to each other in muffled voices. Criss was not bothered by this, but he cleared his throat loudly and declared,
“Attention, everyone! I am a magician, and I’m about to walk through this wall! This wall, right here. Who wants to see me do it?!”
Criss didn’t get a chance to see if anyone was interested, because Mr. Plutker and his friend were on him like a pack of wolves. “What do you think you’re doing, boy?!” Plutker half-whispered, half-shouted. “The point is to do it without being seen!”
“What?” asked Criss. “Why?”
“Because they’re muggles!” said Plutker. “Never-mind, just go, quickly, no one’s looking.” And with that, Mr. Plutker pushed Criss toward the wall and he sort of stumbled sideways into it.
“Mind freak,” said Criss in a rush when he realized what was happening, but he was probably already through the portal when he said it. He was now staring at a red steam engine that said “Hogwarts Express” on the side.
That was so amazing! he told himself. Good job! He had never been able to project himself beyond a physical obstacle before. He’d tried this exact trick tons of times but he’d never even made it through the plywood wall. He was a new man now. These past few days had opened up his mind, and it had only just begun.