Recently, I started imagining what might happen if the characters of my first book were in the Harry Potter universe. Here’s what could happen when they went to get their wands:
Eleven-year-old Milly Costello looked at the shop looming in front of her. “No.” She could see faded lettering above the door: Mrs. Leireag’s.
She was nervous, but not about getting her first – and hopefully only – wand. Milly was the youngest of three sisters. The eldest, Laura, had developed a talent for creating magical pictures and the second sister, Susanna, was the top student in her year. She was close to being the top student in her house and considering she was a Ravenclaw, that was saying something.
So where did that leave Milly?
“Do you want me to come in with you?” Milly’s mother asked.
“I’m sorry we couldn’t go to Ollivander’s.” The Fearainn wandmaker wasn’t well-known as Ollivander or Gregorovitch, but she’d never had an unsatisfied customer.
“It’s all right,” Milly said. She pushed the door open and stepped inside, holding the door open for her mother.
The walls were lined with small, slim boxes; Milly saw each box was a different colour, with black boxes closest to the door and very pale grey at the opposite end. On the small wooden counter was a pot of white flowers. A shadow stood behind the counter; after a moment, a woman in a dusty-green robe stepped forward, smiling.
“Mrs. Costello! How nice to see you again. And this is your youngest?”
“This is Emilia,” Teresa Costello said, putting a hand on her daughter’s shoulder. “Milly, this is Sylvatica Leireag.”
Mrs. Leireag motioned towards a young man standing in the back of the shop. “This is my apprentice. Do you mind if he watches, Emilia?”
Milly shook her head. “How will I know if I’ve found the right wand?”
“You won’t find it. It finds you.” Mrs. Leireag took a box from the myriad on the walls and placed it on the counter in front of Milly. Tentatively, Milly opened the box and picked up the wand.
She felt nothing.
“Don’t worry,” Mrs. Leireag said soothingly. “It’s rare to find your wand quickly.” She took another box, pushing the other one to the far end of the counter.
Milly tried several wands but none of them seemed to match her. After the thirteenth try, the apprentice spoke, startling everyone in the shop.
“Are you sure?” Mrs. Leireag asked. “That doesn’t leave her with a lot of options.”
The apprentice nodded. “Definitely a fruit tree wand for this one.”
Milly watched as Mrs. Leireag gathered as many wands as she could and placed them on the table in front of her: cherry, apple and pear. They had a variety of cores.
She had at least six unsuccessful tries before her hand landed on a box containing an apple wand with a unicorn hair. She opened the box and picked up the wand. The moment it was in her hand, she felt her arm tingle and the next moment the flowers on the counter changed from white to a beautiful, brilliant blue.
Her face broke into a delighted smile.
“I remember the unicorn I took the hair from,” Mrs. Leireag said with a smile. “A very gentle, very sweet little mare…take good care of that wand, won’t you?”
“I will,” Milly promised.
Samara Morel’s eleventh birthday was surprisingly sombre. Everyone in the house seemed to be holding their breath, waiting for something. Samara knew what it was even though nobody said anything out loud.
After supper, she would have liked nothing more than to retire to the library and disappear into a book, but there was no chance of that. Her grandmother pushed back her chair and left the room. Samara listened as her footsteps faded away.
Her parents looked down at the table, refusing to meet their daughter’s eyes. Candles flickered in a desperate attempt to send light into the shadows.
Eventually Dame Morel returned with a slim box in her hands. Samara felt her hands tremble. The Morel family wand was crafted from hawthorn and was the only wand Samara knew of that had sphinx hair for a core. Legend said the wizard who crafted the wand answered a sphinx’s riddle in exchange for his life and one of her hairs. Samara liked the tale, but she didn’t believe it. It was more likely the sphinx accidentally left one of her hairs behind after the wizard guessed the correct answer to her riddle.
Dame Morel opened the box and put it on the table in front of her granddaughter. Candlelight seemed to dance off the wand, which was smooth from use.
Samara was an only child. More than that, she was an only daughter. If the wand didn’t accept her, it would be passed to her children, who would most likely not have the last name of Morel.
Quickly, so nobody would see her shaking hand, she picked the wand up and held it delicately. Immediately she felt power coursing through her. The candle flames stayed the same size, but their glow lit up the entire room.
When the glow faded, Samara saw the glint of approval in her grandmother’s eyes.
Frankie was bored. The excitement of her first ever trip to the mainland had worn off after being escorted around the shops with all the other children her age from their island by the police chief of all people. Didn’t he have anything better to do? Be a policeman, for instance?
He was always keeping an eye on her, as if paranoid she might wander off.
Now she stood in the far corner of Mrs. Leireag’s with most of the others, watching as her friend Jack tried wand after wand after wand after wand. There was a pile of boxes on the counter, and they were almost taking up half the space. Frankie could sense the other children shifting about restlessly. After Jack found his wand, it would be her turn and then they could go home.
Suddenly Jack gave a yell of triumph as a small burst of flame erupted at the tip of his wand.
“Francesca, you’re up,” Nicholas Ainsley called, deftly whisking Jack’s wand from his fingers and placing it back in its box. Jack protested, but Nicholas gave him a warning glare that sent him slinking back to the others.
“Last one!” Mrs. Leireag announced cheerfully, handing Frankie a dark grey box from the non-existent shelves while her apprentice started tidying away the boxes left over from Jack’s turn. “Let’s see how you do with this one.”
Frankie held the wand, fighting the urge to fidget with the sleeve of her sweater. The sweater was an ugly yellow colour, and Frankie hated it.
“Not that wand, then.” Mrs. Leireag took the wand away and handed her client a different one. Frankie felt no different after touching this one.
“Here. Try this.” The apprentice was standing beside Frankie, holding out a wand he had taken from the pile that rejected Jack.
Frankie tilted her head to one side. “What kind of wood is that?”
“Dogwood.” The apprentice motioned with his hands. “Go on – take it!”
Frankie did so – and before she realised what she was doing she touched the end of the wand to the sleeve of her jumper.
“HEY!” Nicholas shouted, but Frankie wasn’t listening. She stared, mesmerised, at the red veins that spread out from the wand’s tip. Before long, her sweater was no longer yellow but crimson.
“Well, aren’t you the reckless one?” Mrs. Leireag said, chuckling. “Not everyone has an occamy feather in their wand.”
“She’ll have hers in its box too.” Nicholas held out a hand, his eyes stern and angry. Frankie watched resentfully as he put it away. “And if you get it back before you go to Hogwarts, think yourself lucky.”
Afterwards, she was so busy talking to Jack that she didn’t hear Mrs. Leireag’s words to Nicholas.
“If I were you, Mr. Ainsley, I’d be keeping a very close eye on that young lady. People with dogwood wands are mischievous enough, but paired with an occamy feather…” She shook her head. “That is not a safe combination.”
“Believe me,” Nicholas said grimly, “I know.”
“Don’t act surprised if you’re Sorted into different Houses,” Avrel’s mother said warningly.
Avrel nearly rolled her eyes. She was secretly hoping she and Leo would end up in the same House, but there was no point in saying that out loud.
“Mum, just because we’re twins doesn’t mean we’ll be placed together.” Leo adjusted the bag he carried on his shoulder.
“Exactly,” Mrs. da Lange said. “Here we are – the wand shop.”
She pushed the door open and held it so Avrel and Leo could go in after her.
“Hello!” the wandmaker said cheerfully. “I’m Sylvatica Leireag, and you must be the da Langes?”
“We are. This is Leo and Avrel.”
Mrs. Leireag smiled at Avrel. “Ladies first.”
“Hey, I’m older than she is!” Leo protested…but his voice died down after a warning look from his mother.
Unable to suppress a grin of excitement, Avrel walked over to the counter and took the first wand Mrs. Leireag gave her. She gave it a quick wave, but nothing happened.
“Don’t be disappointed,” the wandmaker said reassuringly. “What about this one?”
This time, Avrel felt as if she’d received a small shock. She waved the wand and the blue flowers on the desk changed to a vibrant orange.
Avrel grinned with delight.
“Ash and…let me see.” Mrs. Leireag checked the box the wand came in. “Hippogriff feather! Wands don’t usually find their people so quickly. All right, young man, you’re next.”
Leo took much longer than his sister. Avrel thought he must have tried every single kind of wand Mrs. Leireag possessed until he eventually found his: oak with a dragon heartstring. As they left the shop, Avrel felt her heart sink. If their wands had nothing in common, what chance did they have of ending up in the same House?
If you want a good character exercise, go to Pottermore and see what kind of wand wood matches your protagonist. It’s fascinating! I knew Milly would be apple before I went on the website: she’s associated with springtime and what better image of spring than an apple tree in blossom?