This date influenced the entire alley, as it determined exactly when the street and shops would be overrun by young wizards and witches, but it was of special importance to those who sold parchment and ink, those who dealt in schoolbooks, and even cauldron-makers. It was of the most vital importance to the Ollivander family, who without the crowd of new students that swarmed to their old shop each year could never have turned a profit from their ancient business.
Their business was ancient indeed, and their name so famous that when it was handed down to a certain Miss Ollivander in 1790 and she married a year later, instead of giving up her name for her husband’s, he exchanged his name for hers. Mr. Ollivander was thus the official proprietor of the tiny shop in which Elizabeth Bennett now sat, but if the manner with which the slightly renamed Mrs. Ollivander dismissed the rest of her family out of the shop was anything to go by, she was the true authority.
“Wand hand out.” She was a very tall woman, one who looked much, much older than she was, with large grey eyes which her young customer doubted were entirely natural. She measured the girl’s arm with a length of knotted rope, and inquired if that was really Miss Gardiner her father had married. “I would have asked your sister when she came in here two years ago, but she seemed the type who would take offense.”
Elizabeth answered with a nod, but she was not too happy about the question either. Mrs. Ollivander took notice of her frown, and said, “Am I not allowed just a little knowledge of those people I’ve seen receive their wands? Sure, it was my father who sold your parents their wands, but I was there, if just a little girl. But I was old enough to remember every wand which went out from my father’s shop, and I remember both of theirs. Walnut and phoenix feather core, ten inches, inflexible was his, hers phoenix feather also but juniper wood, eight inches and frighteningly whippy. And furthermore, the feathers belonged to two different phoenixes which I knew to be rivals.”
“You do not need to tell me this,” Elizabeth was surprised by the harshness of her voice. All five of the Bennetts’ daughters, even little Lydia, who was only five years old, and Jane, who was thirteen but had a tendency to disbelieve any unpleasant truth she happened to come across, knew well their parents never should have married. Hearing this woman speak of their unsuitability so casually angered her.
“Well, I shall have to try you with wands with feathers from both phoenixes, and you would not believe how many wands linger in my shop which are brother to that of your sister Jane.” Jane’s wand had a unicorn hair for a core, so Elizabeth could in fact believe there were plenty of brother wands. She wondered if her wand would have a dragon heartstring core.
“Brothers to your mothers’ wand first, I should think. Always best to start with the parent of the same sex. Here, try this one.”
There was something about the first pale wand Mrs. Ollivander offered her that Elizabeth did not like, and she was not surprised when Mrs. Ollivander snatched it away before he had more then brushed her fingers against it. “No, not that one, sorry, I should have known better, this one.”
But the next wand was not much good either. “There’s one more wand in the shop to try. Where is it? My poor husband did not get them all out of order again...” She reached for the back of a shelf, and accidently knocked one of the boxes in the front off. It flew open and its wand landed in front of Elizabeth.
“Another phoenix,” Mrs. Ollivander remarked as Elizabeth bent to pick it up. “But that phoenix-ah, here it is! Dear, you...” but she drifted off, for Elizabeth now held a wand which sent warmth through her fingers, and blue and gold sparks flew from its tip. “Well, this is a lively family, I see! And that wand, ten and a half inches of dogwood and a surprising amount of spring, a wand for creation and whim. That will be a sickle and two knuts.”
Elizabeth was paying for her wand when the door opened and Mrs. Ollivander nearly knocked her first customer aside for the newcomers. “Lady Catherine de Bourgh! I thought your daughter wasn’t starting school for another year!”
“She is not. I am escorting my nephew.” Lady Catherine de Bourgh had a commanding voice and strong features, and Elizabeth found her impressive, but did not actually like her. Her nephew was a tall, handsome boy who looked straight past Elizabeth and took in the shop without a hint of the awe usual to those who first saw it.
Elizabeth slipped out quietly. She was aware that people like that often took pride in their purity of blood, and the blood of the Bennett girls was not pure; their mother was a Muggle-born.
Jane and Mrs. Bennett were probably at Mrs. Billings’ store getting new school robes; she would join them. But barely out of the shop, she happened to hear shouting, and being perhaps more curious a young girl than she ought to have been, she guided her ears, and turned her head towards its source, which she discovering to be between the two stores by her.
The source of the shouting proved to be two boys, both dressed in Muggle clothes. They were both big and blonde, and with scarlet faces, though she assumed their faces to be at least a little paler when they were not angry. Behind them was a mortified-looking woman and young girl, about Elizabeth’s age she thought, who could have been mother and sister to either one of them. The mother was yelling, “John, John,” but whichever of them was John was taking no heed.
“You’ll be sorry,” yelled one who Elizabeth thought might be a bit older. “You’ll be sorry, you know nothing. I’ve been here two years!” So they were both Muggle-borns, and he was older. Now to determine whether he was John or not.
“I don’t care about that, sir,” retorted the younger one, “you still have no right to put any spell on me just because you didn’t like my walking in your way!”
“And what do you propose to do about it, then?” The older raised his wand.
“Can you help?” the mother called desperately to Elizabeth. But before Elizabeth could give any response, the younger boy had quite swiftly snatched the wand away from his opponent and attacked him with his fists.
Secretly their observer thought that the older boy ought to at least try to get his wand back, especially after the younger boy threw it away and the girl ran to retrieve it, and then she even ran over and held it out to the older boy, making Elizabeth think she had to be his sister. But John took no heed, but used his fists, flailing against the younger boy’s strong muscles until he was pinned.
“That will teach you!” The younger boy cried, his face ablaze with his fury, as he hit the other boy hard across the face.
“No!” John’s sister wailed. “No!”
Growing up in a household where she was one of five underage witches, Elizabeth realized immediately what was about to happen, and yelled “No!” also, before the wind started up. Within seconds, all four of the others were all knocked against the wall.
The girl moaned, “Stop, John, stop!” and was ignored. Nor did he even take heed of his mother’s pleas, and she looked far more terrified than either of the younger two.
“What’s going on back here? No, Tom, Edmund, stay back.” A tall, intimidating wizard strode into the alleyway. With a wave of his wand, the wind stopped. John tumbled to the ground, and looked up to find the adult wizard looming over him. “Your name, boy?” John said nothing.
“His name is John Thorpe,” his mother spoke for him. “He is my son.”
The wizard turned his attention to the woman. She looked so very frightened of him that Elizabeth thought he must easily guess that she was a Muggle. Especially because next to her her daughter glared boldly and held her wand in what she might have thought was a prepared stance.
“What-what are you doing?” On seeing his mother so threatened, John Thorpe was again on his feet and trying to get between his mother and sister and the man.
It was then that Elizabeth reached the conclusion that she truly did not want to find out what was going to happen next. The younger boy was inching away from all of them. Elizabeth held out her hand and beckoned.
“I was merely going to ask your mother-where are you going?” His attention turned to the young boy, who was still several lengths from Elizabeth.
“I’ve done nothing wrong!” yelled the boy, who didn’t seem frightened at all. “He attacked me!”
“Please, father,” said one of the two boys at the edge of the alleyway, the younger one, Elizabeth thought. “The boy’s injured. Look at the mark on his face.” His older brother hushed him. The young boy did indeed have an ugly bruise from John Thorpe.
“Please, sir,” said Elizabeth very meekly, “let me take him somewhere he may be taken care of.”
“No need for that.” The wizard pointed his wand and muttered, “Sansanguin.” The bruise vanished. The boy felt his cheek in astonishment. “Who are you?” the man asked Elizabeth.
Elizabeth hadn't decided just how much of an answer to give him when the wall gave a disturbing rumble, and Mrs. Thorpe cried out, “No, sir, do not, sir, please stop!”
“That is not me!” the wizard protested, just as the wall collapsed.
Lydia had made a wall collapse only about a month before this, so Elizabeth reacted first, racing to grab John Thorpe and his sister just as all three of them were engulfed in a cloud of dust. She pulled at them as she staggered back, holding her breath and shutting her eyes. They did not think to do so; she could hear them coughing, but she also heard their footsteps as they followed her lead. She opened her eyes after a minute or so to see the other two bent over, still coughing and wiping their faces.
Beyond them she heard Mrs. Ollivander murmur, “Oh my. How unfortunate. Why do you not try this wand, Mr. Darcy? Pine and phoenix feather, twelve inches, mostly stiff.” Through the dust Elizabeth saw a flurry of bronze and dark scarlet sparks, and heard Mrs. Ollivander exclaim her triumph.
Then she saw a very large dark shape make its way towards them, and a moment later Lady Catherine de Bourgh emerged from the dust cloud, looking very angry. “What ever has happened here?” she demanded.
“Untrained magical response, I believe,” replied the wizard.
“It couldn’t have been mine!” protested John Thorpe. “I’ve been to school for two years! It must’ve been him!” He pointed to the other boy. “He hasn’t been to school at all!”
“I never meant it!” The other protested. “Please believe me, I never meant for it to happen! I did not even want for it to happen in any way!”
“You are not one who need feel shamed,” the wizard told him, “though it is very unfortunate indeed, of course…”
Lady Catherine, on the other hand, loomed over him with deep displeasure on her face, and Elizabeth doubted it mattered to her that the poor boy wasn’t able to help it. “What is your name?”
“J-Jack Aubrey, madam,” the young boy stammered.
“Well, Mr. Aubrey,” she started, her voice growing icier.
“Oh let him be, your ladyship!” called Mrs. Ollivander. “If you will come back in here, you may see your nephew’s new wand!”
Clearly not the kind of lady who cared to be interrupted, Lady Catherine whirled around only long enough to say, “I shall be with you shortly.” Then she turned back, and continued, “Do you even fully comprehend what it is you have done, Mr. Aubrey?”
“No, madam,” said Jack Aubrey, and then, gaining some boldness, said, “I never meant or wanted for it to happen.”
This statement had confused Elizabeth already, and now she was moved to speak up. “If you please,” she said, “if he did not want for it to happen, then could he have caused it? I thought these spells were only possible if the caster wanted them, or at least if his heart did.”
“Then he’s lying!” said John Thorpe immediately. “He did want it!”
“But she’s right.” The older wizard. “In fact, young Mr. Aubrey causing the wall’s collapse at that precise moment does not make sense.”
Lady Catherine, displeased, turned her attention to Elizabeth now, and demanded, “And who, pray tell, are you?”
“My name is Elizabeth Bennett, madam,” said she solemnly. The thought came to her, young as she was, and as high and stately as Lady Catherine was, that this person was not behaving at all reasonably. The other man had said she was right, and so she had been right to speak up.
“Do you know much of youthful magic?”
“A great deal, my lady, for I have four sisters, three younger than myself, and we are constantly surrounded by youthful magic.”
“He’s lying!” John Thorpe said again, but no one paid heed to him.
“My lady,” said the man, “The wall began to shake when I attempted to break up his altercation with Mr. Aubrey, and asked questions of him and his mother, just as I had healed a bruise Mr. Aubrey had received from Mr. Thorpe. Why would a boy, at just having a bruise healed, cause a wall to collapse then? He would not. Unless one of the two girls somehow caused it, which I think much less likely, Mr. Thorpe must be our culprit.”
“But even if he did do it,” said Miss Thorpe, “I’m sure he didn’t mean to. Do untrained magical responses ever happen to people even if they have had a little schooling?”
“I think they can if they grow distressed enough,” offered Elizabeth.
“It was an involuntary response,” the man conceded, “but one that he ought not have let happened anyway, one he very much ought to have had control over.”
“He is right,” added Lady Catherine de Bourgh. “Nothing is worse than a young who can not control his magic. Had you been my son, Mr. Thorpe, I assure you I would thrash you soundly for such a shameful display.”
Poor John Thorpe was starting to look a little sick, and despite his clear culpability and unpleasant behavior, Elizabeth found herself feeling only a little sorry for him; a very fleeting emotion, but it was there nonetheless. The truth she was beginning to dislike most of the people present; even the older man, whom she could respect, she still did not like.
Meanwhile, she might have been the first to see the young Mr. Darcy, who, holding up a wand still trailing sparks, cautiously stepped out of the collapsed wall. “Pardon me,” he said, and his voice was far more imperious than the voice of any boy his age ought to be, “but Mrs. Ollivander is saying there is too much talk happening here, and wizards ought to be called for to repair her wall.”
Lady Catherine looked angered, but her fellow elder said, “She is right, of course. Tom,” he addressed the older of his two boys, who had been watching the scene from beyond the debris, “Will you run down to the Leaky Cauldron and tell them there has been an accident at the wand shop and that the builder wizards are required?”
Young Tom obeyed, but he did not depart quickly enough that Elizabeth did not notice the smirk and the likely mocking comment he spoke to his younger brother, who, to his credit, looked not at all receptive towards it. As he left Lady Catherine did likewise, snatching up her nephew’s hand to return with him into Mrs. Ollivander’s shop. For some reason he looked back as he did so, and his eyes met and considered Elizabeth’s for a moment, and it was unfortunate that his and his Aunt’s rapid movement about the debris was kicking fine dust straight into Elizabeth’s nose and eyes, because otherwise she might have found his doing so amusing, or even intriguing.
But now the two remaining adults were engaged in conversation, his words severe, her bravado beginning to give way, her son quietly stomping the ground where he stood, her daughter putting her hands on her brother’s shoulder and whispering things in his ear, probably that it was all the other boys’ fault or something like that. She turned to walk away.
But as she did, she happened to hear Mrs. Ollivander’s voice again speaking her own name, “Miss Elizabeth Bennett, second of five sisters, as I have heard, and I was in fact quite surprised, Madam, for that wand that has just chosen your nephew, with the pheonix I spoke of and its three feathers, the first wand from which I sold only last week, why, I sold its second brother to her just a short time ago.”
How, wondered Elizabeth, had Mrs. Ollivander even known how many sisters she had? She supposed her mother or Jane might have told her it, however. How she felt about her wand being related to young Darcy’s she was not sure, but Lady Catherine’s response was immediately dismissive of the connection.
She listened only a little longer, as the subject was immediately changed to the wand’s price, five whole knuts more than Elizabeth’s, and she suspected Mrs. Ollivander has deliberately raised it because she believed Lady Catherine would pay more, and the name of the buyer of the first of the three brother wands was not mentioned. She left Mrs. Thorpe close to scolded into submission, her children having likewise quieted, and Tom’s younger brother standing apart at the building’s corner, staring in the direction of the Leaky Cauldron.
The proper thing to do, of course, would have been to hurry to Mrs. Billings’ shop, especially as her mother, a witch of very nervous disposition, was sure to by now be very anxious over her. But she was finding she was enjoying her freedom, and did not wish to return to Mrs. Bennett so quickly. So instead she walked at a leisurely pace, taking in the witches and wizards that thronged about the shops around her, the pompous wizard who strode out of Diagon’s fanciest robe shop with two daughters matching his haughty carriage and a third looking about more humbly, a kind-looking middle-aged witch leading a group of children, the eldest being a pretty blonde girl about Elizabeth’s age, a young man with a weatherbeaten face accompanying a witch about his age along with her parents. Of those who were starting school with her, Elizabeth had only one acquaintance, that being her friend Charlotte Lucas, and she was not to shop for another two days, and she saw noone else she knew.
She wished her father had accompanied them that day. Master Bennett had long been an expert in Ancient Runes, and in their modern age was one of relatively few wizards still able to read them well, and four years ago Hogwarts had engaged him as Runemaster, to teach them to the school’s older students. If Elizabeth was honest with herself, than she could not think that he was a particularly good teacher, for she had seen him with herself and her sisters and especially with the youngest two and knew he was good at neither imparting knowledge nor enforcing discipline, but she thought the diversion of teaching good for his own mind. She was also happy now that it meant she would see him daily for all the time she remained in school. But everything he needed for the year he had already obtained, and at this time of year he spent almost all his waking hours in his study, preparing a year’s worth of lessons.
Instead it was her mother she came upon, both she and Jane nearly bending over by the weight of their packages, as it had not been possible to spare the house-elf, and with Elizabeth’s own robes not yet purchased. Her heavy burden prevented Mrs. Bennett from hastening over as she would have otherwise done, but did not prevent her from exclaiming, “Why Lizzie, where have you been? It has been nearly an hour; surely Mrs. Ollivander could not have kept you that long.”
“She kept me that amount of time, mother,” Jane reminded her. “But truly, Lizzie, we thought we heard an explosion coming from that direction.”
“Yes!” cried Mrs. Bennett. “And it was so loud and jarring, and when we had no idea of where you were, and I thought maybe you were dead even...”
“I am not dead,” said Elizabeth, “and noone else is dead either; there is not even so much as an injury to provide you with excitement. I was briefly detained, but that is all.” When she saw her father, Elizabeth intended to tell him more, about poor young Aubrey and the Thorpes, and especially about Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her nephew, as he would find the story quite diverting. But her mother was too silly to appreciate it, and her older sister too soft-hearted.
As it was, a dismayed Jane exclaimed, “Why Lizzie, how can you speak that way? An injury for excitement?”
“Well it should not matter because there was no injury. But perhaps we should not go past Ollivander’s shop, as there is likely to be a great crowd there for some time.”
Fortunately the rest of their day did not take them in that direction, but instead saw them getting more robes for Elizabeth, as well as books, parchment and ink for both girls. There was one embarrassing moment when they went to purchase Elizabeth a telescope, and it was clear when the shopkeeper asked them for specifics of what they wished for that none of them knew what they were about; however, Jane thoughtfully recalled the look of her own telescope and located its likeness on display, and so the right object was purchased. It took longer than it ought to have done, for the shops were very crowded, and also Mrs. Bennett was very easily distracted, not even primarily by the various wares on sale, though those did occupy her attention on more than once occasion, but by the richer and higher-ranking of the many, many passers-by, and though there was much Mrs. Bennett didn’t notice, she showed a remarkable talent for recognizing the significance of a certain cameo worn around a wizard’s neck, or a ring on a witch’s finger, or even a certain owl on somebody’s shoulder.
It was one such owl that caused her to point out a richly dressed woman and her equally richly dressed, but somewhat unremarkable-looking daughter. “Why,” she whispered none too softly, “I do believe that is the Dowager Vicountess Dalrymple and her daughter, the Honourable Miss Carteret-she is in your year, Jane, is she not?”
“She is,” said Jane, “but I do not know her very well.”
“I take it no Dalrymple would ever deign to be sorted into Hufflepuff House, would they?” laughed Elizabeth, for it was to that house that her sister belonged, and she, very shy and unassuming, was not likely to make the acquaintance of such a high-ranking witch if she was in one of Hogwarts’ other three houses. But she regretted the remark a moment later, when she saw Jane’s eyes drop, and remembered how dismayed both their parents had been when Jane had been sorted, and though her father had long sunk into complacency on it, her mother still fretted.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Bennett’s eyes were still on the Vicountess and her daughter, while she was pulling Jane and Elizbeth’s hands and Elizabeth feared that she was going to ignore Jane’s declaration that she did not actually know the Honourable Miss Carteret and attempt to introduce herself to the pair. But if that was her intention, it was likely stymied by the Vicountess Dalrymple finding an apparent acquaintance of her own to pursue, when Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Mr. Darcy emerged from from the cauldron-maker’s, followed by a house-elf, for of course she could afford to spare one, carrying as many packages as either Mrs. Bennett or her two daughters, for Elizabeth had by this time accumulated her own load. She too Mrs. Bennett recognized; Elizabeth heard her mother whisper the name, and that of her father, the Earl of -. Seeing the two of them combining her presence seemed to cause her mother, however, to keep her distance. However, both the three of them and the group of four were headed to the Leaky Cauldron, so it was convenient to walk behind them and even catch snitches of their conversation.
Within minutes, however, the two ladies had bored Elizabeth, and as her mother craned her ear to hear more of their words and Jane walked meekly by them and attempted to eavesdrop on noone, she found herself observing young Darcy instead. This was partly because of the quartet he was the only one the entire time who did not venture a remark; to be sure, Miss Carteret did not speak much either, but twice the Vicountess Dalrymple looked down at her daughter, likely asking her a question, and got from her a reply. But when she was honest with herself, it was mostly because he was holding his wand downward in his hand, absently trailing the occasional dark red spark in his wake.
For all Elizabeth had been told by others about wands and cores and brother cores and incompatible cores, she in fact was relatively ignorant in wand lore; her only truly special knowledge related to runework, which she had learned from her father. She wondered what would happen were she to go over there and tap her new wand against his, for she did not know what would. But more than that, she remained convinced that there was some sort of significance to this chain of events, that not only had they purchased brother wands, but that they had done so in such quick succession, being off the same age and starting school in the same year, and the second brother being purchased already. But what that significance might be, she could not think.
It was a mystery that teased her mind dreadfully, and it did not help her that when the four of them chose to sit down in the Leaky Cauldron for lunch, Mrs. Bennett suddenly insisted they do the same, despite the expense, and in short order she found herself obliged to sit so that she and Darcy were placed in each other’s eyesight. This did not mean, of course, that he need pay attention to her, and he did not, indeed, he was heedless of all but his own three companions, which settled her opinion of him, but still she watched, if only because her mother’s chatter bored her and Jane was still saying very little. He gave her the impression there of being a more serious than jovial boy, though this by itself was a trait she found forgivable. At least not impressed by the sillier chat of the two women, he soon looked rather bored, but that, she decided, was his own fault.
She ended up telling her father about all of this, recounting her day to him in his study while downstairs her mother and Jane recounted a no doubt much less accurate account to Mary, Kitty, and Lydia. He hastily checked his list of students for Mr. Thorpe and expressed his relief at not seeing him on it, before adding, “The Honorable Miss Carteret, however, is. I don’t suppose she will at least be a good student.”
“She might be,” said Elizabeth. “We have no real knowledge of her, after all. She is not even in Jane's house, and even if she were Jane would only be able to tell us of her good qualities, due to her inability to spot the bad ones.”
“True, though as you are unlikely yourself to join your sister in Hufflepuff, Lizzie, perhaps you will be able to tell me something of her.”
“Oh,” said Elizabeth, “I should hope she should not be my main company!” Though that was true; Elizabeth was not sure where she would end up, but she knew Hufflepuff was indeed unlikely. Idly her thoughts, and she was not even sure why they did so then, strayed back to the boy Darcy, who had bought her brother wand. She found herself hoping she didn’t end up in the same house as him either.