The Library of Lost Wands
by Antonia Zenkevitch
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“This is all quite alarming!” exclaimed Cordelia, skirts rustling angrily as she, Lindsay, Percy and Fizzy with Fred the rat headed towards the dining car. They had been expelled from visiting George on his sickbed by Amos who had propelled them out with a mix of steely determination and avid good humour. The effect of humans moving in and out of such a small space so quickly was quite disorientating. They all looked windswept, as if they’d walked through a storm, which in a way they had Lindsay thought wryly to herself. Launched out in front of the others she could feel the frost of a stare on the back of her neck. Flushed as she was with all she’d witnessed, the affect was like ice-cream melting on a hot day; sticky beads of liquid ran down from her scalp to her collar, stopped in their tracks by goose-pimple chills. The hairs on her arms were standing to attention.
“I don’t think this was the kind of adventure Mr. Quirrel had in mind for us” put in Percy.
Lindsay’s mind flashed to her name and cabin number written on the hour hand pointing to mortal peril on George’s unusual clock. A hysterical giggle bubbled up and tried to escape from her, but she forced it back down. Lindsay’s insides were reeling, sick with the emotions and ideas swirling inside her, not all of them her own. Even Fred was squeaking, wriggling from his beloved Fizzy’s grasp. Percy scooped him up and stroked the little rat behind the ears. Lindsay considered the fact she was harbouring a dog-chewed wand from the authorities and was now being almost marched to her first breakfast on-board the train. She had to leave the letter Seamus had written to George when Amos had steered her to the door. She’d been too in shock to put up much protest, Now she was bumping along the corridor by the momentum of her new travel companions forward motion with little idea who she could truly trust.
The train rounded a bend in the tracks and Percy drew level with her, concern etched on his face. They were approaching her own cabin. Lindsay had a sudden urge to run and hide from everything and everyone. Then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw Percy do something odd. The wizard popped the now calm Fred quickly and carefully in his jacket pocket, and called out “Has anyone seen Fred? I’m so sorry Fizzy I seem to have dropped him.” Cordelia and Fizzy immediately turned and focused on the floor to search for the little squeaker, but Percy caught Lindsay’s gaze, nodding his head towards her cabin door. Flashing him a grateful if shaky smile she slipped silently inside.
“It’s all right, I’ve found Fred, he’s fine. Sorry folks!” she heard Percy say from the other side of the door. Soon their footsteps became distant. Lindsay tried out her own feet, which seemed stubbornly rooted to the spot while her mind raced. Her brother had written to George before disappearing, then George had been found unconscious outside her door just after giving her a message. She knew she was missing a few steps in the middle, but her thoughts were sparking all sorts of connections. She told herself sternly, these were mysteries to be unravelled later. She had to gather herself together and keep up a pretence of normality. Looking scared would never do.
She tidied her hair and washed quickly in the self-refilling basin now scented with lavender and marjoram. Soap and cocoa butter revived her spirits, going someway to sweetening her mood. Outside her window endless fields beckoned. She had a glimpse of a freer future self, riding a Pegasus horse across vast plains. Then her stomach let out a roar that bought her back into the present. After securing her cabin with a few extra charms she walked unseeing along the long corridors, her head as full as her tummy felt empty. Could she really be going to her first breakfast on the train? It seemed incredible.
It had been an unusual journey, from eavesdropping on Minister Moon from Magical Cooperation, to the battle to save Rosa the mischievous pomeranian, to the sinister wizard with his bone pipe, to frightened children, humiliated goblins, odd messages and attacks in the dark. The intriguing people she had met made her feel like she’d been here for weeks. It all seemed somehow connected, and her lost brother was at the heart of the whole strange story, drawing him close. Few of her fellow passengers were what they seemed at first glance, including Poggle, the elf with the hat that wasn’t a hat and her story of a stolen dragon’s heartstring. Lindsay was beginning to wonder if the riddles ran so deep that the Ministry of Magic was keeping secrets from itself.
She would find decisions easier with a full belly. Crumpets! She needed crumpets and tea. Her mood shifted as she reached the dining car and spied a swishing pom-pom tail peeking out from under a tablecloth. Dorethia sat talking with Amos over pain au chocolat and steaming cups of aromatic coffee. Watching Amos secretly feeding Rosa a sausage under the table, she breathed a sigh of relief. She knew the little dog was safe, for now at least. Hiding the evidence of the wand that Rosa had gleefully shredded had been worth it, even if there was no way of knowing how much damage the remains had caused to the memories in her precious family pensieve. She wondered what proof may still exist of unforgivable curses cast by Bulstrode using that gnawed thing lost in her history. Perhaps the wand and all it held were now no more than memories themselves.
Lindsay took in the room around her. Outside her thoughts, everywhere was sparkling. The bewitched, invisible ceiling and walls of the dining car put Lindsay in mind of eating outdoors. There was the steady hum of laughter, clatter and chatter rising in pitch as the last greys in the surrounding skies melted into cobalt blue open horizons. The air smelled of delicious dishes laid out by bustling house elves on circular tables covered in crisp white tablecloths. Whatever danger lurked on the train, here couples held hands while strangers talked like old friends. Lindsay reached into each mind she could as she passed, searching for explanations for the attack on George, but the few people in the room thinking about it had similar questions to her own.
Cordelia was across the room in avid conversation with the sleekly turned out Annie Quirrel. Amos’ gaze shifted uncomfortably towards the two every now and again. A short way away Percy Fleamont chatted happily with Arnie Singh and his lanky colleague from magical cooperation. She’d always thought well of Arnie though they only knew one another in passing. Working in the Department of Mysteries tended to make others from the Ministry of Magic give you a wide berth. Arnie Singh was the kind of wizard to always ask after your family and care enough to remember your replies. He gave Lindsay a wave of his croissant, nodding cheerfully in the direction of the now happy dog. Percy turned to see who Arnie was greeting and caught the conclusion of Lindsay’s smile. He smiled back, swallowed incorrectly in the process and was swiftly patted on the back by Arnie amid splutters. Lindsay felt her smile widen.
Some of the students and most of the river folk had left the train in Paris. Other passengers had boarded. A table of young Beaubaton students were speaking animatedly on the next table in a mix of French and Italian. There was no sign of the Guants but many families on board chose to eat in their suites. Lyndsay saw the unknown bridegroom sitting alone, reading a paper, his new bride nowhere to be seen. Ebonine Fitch was on a table near him, sucking on his bone pipe and talking to a new acquaintance while his eyes flicked around the room like a snake’s tongue.
A West African family sat around a table near them. The wizard was entertaining his son by pointing his finger at the salt pot and making it dance. Lindsay knew that magical schools across Africa, especially the largest and oldest known, Uagadou, taught their pupils magic without the use of wands. The boy tucking into jam on toast must be around ten. He’d probably receive his invitation to study there soon. His mother was dressed in a royal-blue print robe that resembled mountains in clouds. She wore a headdress of moons. Raising an eyebrow to her husband who was now conducting all the plates on the table, she touched her son’s hair and looked meaningfully around the room at all the watching faces. A teacup did one more theatrical twirl around its saucer and returned to stillness.
Lindsay quietly pulled up a chair next to Dorethia who fiddled absentmindedly with her napkin. The previous night’s concerns were written in shadows under her eyes and she seemed passive, happy to let others do the talking as she watched over her dog. Amos held court.
“Must have been that terrible Balistrode witch,” he said, throwing Rosa another piece of slightly burned sausage. “Nasty witch casting curses this way and that. It’s Merlin’s wonder she didn’t hit anyone else.”
Dorethia smiled without comment as she watched Amos scratch behind Rosa’s ears.
Lyndsay caught a flicker of an image in the older witch’s mind; a young woman, her dress the colour of the grasses on the mountains on which she sat. She had Dorethia’s deep, long-lashed eyes and full lips. The girl in Dorethia’s vision was around Lindsay’s age, with long dark hair and a golden complexion. With a jolt of recollection, Lyndsay saw her reach out towards a face as familiar to her as her own; Seamus. Her breath caught in her throat. Dorethia smiled as if she knew Lindsay had read her mind, but now was not the time to ask questions.
Fion Heinz strode confidently towards their table, nodding at Percy as he passed.
“Mr. Quirrel, may I have a quiet word?”
“Of course, Mr. Heinz, of course! What can I do for you on this fine day?”
“My colleagues and I are rather concerned about the extra wand registrations that occurred late last night.”
“Necessary my dear chap, necessary. This dear little dog. Miss Prewett here in tears.”
“Yes, I am very happy the dog was saved from that wretched witch” answered Fion, patting Rosa whose nose had pocked out from under the tablecloth to say hello. “Hello, yes, I am very happy you are safe now” he added directly to Rosa before straightening to full height and re-addressing Quirrel. “We feel, however, that some sensitivity could have been spared for my Goblin friends. After all, under current laws they must be registered on a witch or wizard’s wand to travel and can be killed if suspected of a crime.”
“Precautions, only, dear chap, more for other creatures. Goblins are highly valued, respected patrons, I assure you!”
“They did not feel valued or respected last night. This morning I assured them I would talk to you. They wanted to remind you how much Goblin gold you borrowed to build the Eagle engine. They asked me to tell you they may rethink their terms.”
“Dear me, strong words! Most unnecessary I assure you!” Amos bobbed up from his chair, looking wildly around the room.
“I assure you, Mr. Quirrel, that the feelings behind them are just as strong. I’d urge you to take them seriously. Too many more wand registrations and you may have a goblin rebellion on your hands.”
“They are for the security of our passengers” put in Quirrel, rather more weakly.
“Grawgun has had made it clear to me that the goblins see these registrations as a degradation to those whom wizarding kind refuses to allow to carry or use wands.” Fion said in hushed tones.
“Goblins with wands! Preposterous!” Amos blustered, his face flushing red as he rocked forward across the table. The room went still.
Lyndsay realised she must speak up “Perhaps, Mr. Quirrel, you could talk to the Goblins. I’m sure if you listened to their complaint you could reassure them of their safety as passengers and investors.”
Just then Annie Quirrel arrived at their table along with Cordelia. Lindsay noticed a steely determination behind Annie’s famous calming charm now filling the room. There was also a keen intelligence behind those eyes.
“We were fixin’ to do that directly, weren’t we Amos? Why, you were only saying yesterday how glad you were they’re on this journey with us; how happy you are they can see for themselves the wonder they helped create. Perhaps you could invite them to dine with us tonight?”
“Quite right, my dear” Amos answered standing, his bouncy, confident self once more. He wiped his lips and straightened his waistcoat and pocket watch, bobbed a neat little bow each to Lindsay and Dorethia, and threw Rosa another sausage. “Apologies my dears, duty calls. Mr. Heinz please do lead the way.” They strode off towards the corridor.
“I apologise” Annie said to the rest of the table as she scooped up Rosa and sat down, settling the little dog on her knee. “Amos is a passionate man and his heart and soul are in this train. What a nest of doxies we had to deal with last night. One battle at a time is what my momma used to say.” She reached out a lacy sleeve and patted Dorethia’s hand.
Cordelia made introductions, and after a moment or two of small-talk, the only sounds coming from their table were the pouring of tea and coffee, the buttering and crunching of toast and the panting of a dog excited to meet new friends. Over coffee, the conversation turned to what had happened to George.
Cordelia was adamant; “The whole thing needs investigating, Annie dear. You can’t have people attacked and not try to find out why. Besides, George is a gem. My main coon and Rosa both adore him. It’s unsettling. Fizzy is quite ill over it.”
“Yes, where is Mr. Fitzpatrick?” ventured Lindsay.
“In his cabin; he went back shortly after you left us earlier, my dear. Such an upset, seeing George must have done it. He kept saying he wasn’t safe. We left him in bed, green as troll’s boggy asking to be locked in ” answered Cordelia with feeling, much to her friend’s alarm.
“My friend, you must not say such things, they are très indelicate,” admonished Dorethia.
Cordelia lifted her chin, took her teacup gracefully in her hand and drank deep before answering, “My lace may be delicate, Dorethia, but my sentiments never will be.”
“I know mon amie. We all feel sick with it, especially Dear Fizzy. ‘E is not himself at all.”
“Would y’all like Amos and I to send Mr. Fitzpatrick a healer?”
“No thank-you, Annie dear, we just need to know that everything is in hand. How is George?” Cordelia replied.
“”Well, he was beat as all get out last night, but he’ll be right as rain by tomorrow, George is being looked after. There’s every protective charm we know on his room now, not that anyone can get past his house-elf, Poggle. She had a mind to stop the healers getting in to help. ”
“I’d expect nothing less from you, Annie, ma chérie” put in Dorethia.
“Or Poggle” Lindsay added, surprising herself.
“Amos was quite the gatekeeper too” Cordelia added.
“Well, he doesn’t want anyone upsetting themselves. He always wants each Eagle journey to be perfect for everyone” Annie answered, her tone a mixture of pride and exasperation in her husband.
“But of course it impossible what Amos says. The vile Madmoiselle Bulstrode could not ‘av done this terrible thing. She was with us terrorising ma petite” said Dorethia.
“So, there remain unanswered questions…” continued Cordelia
“Which snake in the grass hurt George” finished Annie.
“Yes” said Cordelia, “and how to insure …”
“The snake doesn’t strike again” finished Annie.
“If I had my druthers, we’d check all wands onboard with an a’priori spell right now, to see what spells they’ve cast, but Cordelia, you heard Mr. Heinz. The Goblins won’t be the only ones who may feel threatened. Amos and I have registered one family on our own wands because they don’t use them. As you can imagine, the European and American custom of using wands for identification puts them at a disadvantage. Then there are the ministry witches and wizards from different countries who may be travelling incognito with official secrets to keep. The mutual trust we are trying to build won’t be worth a cauldron of salt if we handle this badly.”
“It sounds a dizzying task, Mrs. Quirrell, but important we find a way to find out what happened” Lindsay ventured.
“Call me Annie, dear, please, Mrs. Quirrell is my mother-in-law.”
Lindsay smiled, glancing around the table for any sign of a guilty conscience as she spoke with an unexpected shake in her voice “George was found only yards from my door”.
“Well, heavens to Sayre, I know it must have been a scare”. Annie answered, nodding to herself. “We’ll get to the nub of it soon enough I reckon, but we do need to be careful. ”
“Well,” said Cordelia, “you must keep us informed of your progress, and let us know if we can offer any help.”
“Bien Sur, please let us know” added Dorethia.
“Of course, my friends’, Annie answered easily, ” but I very much doubt the Miss Cordelia Fancourt I know will be content to wait. Be careful, all of you, if you decide to take matters into your own hands.”
“I cannot think what you mean,” answered Cordelia, an impish glint in her eye.
Amos had returned to the room. He looked relieved, even quite pleased with himself as he announced there was to be champagne served to everyone. House elves appeared balancing silver trays holding towers of tall stem glasses full of golden bubbles. Fast as lightening the elves levitated a glass to each person. Amos was making his way to the centre of the room where three stewards were conjuring a small stage. Lindsay looked towards Annie, noticing the practiced smile of a woman who had heard many similar speeches. Most passengers were watching the great Mr. Quirrel take to the stand, but several wizards were distracted, watching the beautiful flaxen-haired young bride make her way to her new husband’s side. Among these wizards were, Ebonine Filtch, Arnie Singh and his companion. Lyndsay saw a tense look pass between Percy and the young witch. He got up and left the room, looking at Lindsay as he passed.
Lindsay wondered if she was watching a tangled love story or the changing of the guard. She was increasingly thinking Percy and the mysterious bride may be the ‘X & Y’ she had overheard the Minister for International Magical Cooperation telling Arnie Singh to liaise with. She considered it more than possible that the friendly Mr. Fleamont was an auror. He seemed resourceful, chivalrous and hyper-aware of his surroundings. She suspected he was also secretive and imagined he might be brave but slightly arrogant as many dark wizard catchers could be. Unlike some of the other wizards in the room, he did not have a longing look in his eyes as he looked at the honeymooning witch. Lindsay found to her amazement that made her feel glad.
The bride had caught her attention too. There was a purpose to her fluid strides. Her mind could lock down like a fortress against a legilimens like Lindsay looking for information. She seemed to detest Ebonine Filtch. She and her husband, while obviously in love, did not cling to one another in that way the very newly married often do. Instead, Lindsay had noticed Percy and the honeymooning witch passing one another in a manner that suggested passing the baton in a race. With all the disappearances that had happened on this train’s route it would be surprising if there were not dark wizard catchers onboard and Lindsay pegged these two as contenders.
“They’re a handsome couple,” Lindsay offered, fishing for information on the young witch.
“Lucy and Philip Abbot? Yes, they do seem a pretty pair,” Annie replied.
“There’s something especially compelling about Lucy” Lyndsey pressed.
“Yes, that girl’s got gumption, especially after what happened,” Annie said with meaning.
Amos had started to speak but Lindsay was only half listening. He was saying something about the camaraderie that had saved a small dog from the jaws of death. When he asked everyone to raise their glasses and toast a bright new day, Lindsay bought the glass to her mouth and drank. It tasted sour and strange. She felt first burning and blistering then complete numbness on her tongue and down her throat. The sensation was reaching her stomach and radiating out second by second. She tried to open her mouth to speak but her face would not do as her brain asked. She felt her back begin to jerk and convulse. She was quickly losing control of her body. Poison. Her mind focused on that word. She was being poisoned and all she could think was, this cannot be real.
The numbness was spreading down her arms as she reached for the bezoar her enigmatic friend Eremite had sent her with the note you’ll need the bezoar after Paris. She could no longer lift her arm to reach her mouth. She was aware people close by were staring. She locked eyes with Cordelia as she felt herself slide to the ground, willing the woman before her to follow her gaze down to the cure in her hand. Cordelia was quick to react, grasping the bezoar and thrusting it into Lindsay’s mouth before directing it backward with her wand. Lindsay feared she was going to choke but her body remembered how to swallow.
Feeling was returning to her and with it came needles of pain. She could not ever have imagined feeling so gloriously happy to feel pain but she knew she was alive. Her vision blurred around a halo of people looking down on her. Arnie and Cordelia were either side of her, Annie, Dorethia, Lucy the bride come dark wizard catcher and the man Lindsay had seen entertaining his son with dancing teacups. It was his arms reaching for her, lifting her up and rushing her out of the room with his wife leading the way. Lindsay was aware of Cordelia, Arnie, and Lucy following behind. The last thing she saw before passing out completely were billows of clouds and mountains.
It’s the fabric of a dress, she told herself, not the stairway to heaven. I am alive. It was with that comfort that she blacked out.