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The Serpent Master by Shaun

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Chapter Three

Diagon Alley

Jenny and Cleo's birthday had passed before they could arrange a time to go to London. Claire woke them both early on a warm Tuesday in mid August, pushed a quick breakfast down them, and led them to the train station. As they waited for a train, she turned to her children and said, 'Open up the other parchment in the envelope; it has your school list.'

Jenny reached into her bag and pulled out the envelope, then the parchment that had hidden in the envelope for the past few weeks.


First-year students will require:
1. Three sets of plain work robes (black)
2. One plain pointed hat (black) for day wear
3. One pair of protective gloves (dragon hide or similar)
4. One winter cloak (black, silver fastenings)
Please note that all pupils' clothes should carry name tags.

All students should have a copy of each of the following:
The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 1) by Miranda Goshawk
A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot
Magical Theory by Adalbert Waffling
The Magical World by Hermione Granger
A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration by Emeric Switch
One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi by Phyllida Spore
Magical Drafts and Potions by Arsenius Jigger
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander
The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection by Quentin Trimble

1 wand
1 cauldron (pewter, standard size 2)
1 set glass or crystal phials
1 telescope
1 set brass scales

Students may also bring an owl OR a cat OR a toad.


'Do we get this in... Diygun Alley?' she asked her mother.

'Diagon Alley, and yes, we do. You can't really go into BHS and ask for a set of wizarding robes.'

A whistle caught their attention as the 09:26 service to London pulled into the station. They climbed on board, finding an empty compartment, and sat down.

Cleo pulled out his list again.

'Why aren't we allowed our own brooms?' he asked.

'You'll hurt yourself. Plenty of kids with no experience flying think they'll bring a broom in and fly around the school, but if they haven't got any practice they'll hurt themselves... it's best if they just don't allow any first years to bring their own brooms, until they've got some practice in. You'll be taking flying lessons in your first year anyway.'

Jenny gave a worried groan. Her sense of balance, as demonstrated the other week, was less than stellar. It took her over three years to learn how to ride a bike properly and even then she struggled. Flying, she assumed, would require similar skills, and while she was not looking forward to it, she knew that Cleo would be excited by the prospect of learning how to fly.

The train set off, passing villages, towns, fields and forests until eventually arriving in London. Jenny and Cleo quite often went to London. For one, their grandparents lived just outside Crystal Palace. Secondly was the amount of clarinet performances Jenny had done in the city. Still, the allure of the place was still rather large for both of them. It was always nice to go somewhere big and exciting. St Albans wasn't particularly the biggest and most exciting place in the world.

The train stopped finally at City Thameslink Station, and Claire ushered her children out onto the street. Jenny's excitement was growing with every step she took, though as she looked around, there was no sign pointing to Diagon Alley. No shop where you could pop in and get a wand. Of course, her mother had said that it was all hidden away, but still Jenny could only wonder where it all was.

They stopped at last, outside an old shabby pub on Charing Cross Road. The creaky, frayed sign said the pub was called 'The Leaky Cauldron.' but the people passing them on the street looked from the clothes shop on one side to bookshop on the other as if the pub were invisible to them.

'They can't see it,' Claire explained, sensing the confusion on Jenny's face. 'Only we can. Even your father wouldn't be able to see it. Come on, then.'

She pushed the door open and stepped in. Cleo and Jenny followed.

The first thing Jenny saw was a broken bottle being hurled across the bar. A man was snarling, his wand in his hand pointed at another hunched man with dull blue eyes. The barman was stood way back, clearly not wanting to get involved. An onlooker stepped forward, placing a hand on the man with the wand out.

'Draco, please, be reasonable.'

Draco turned his head to the onlooker and Jenny finally got a good look at him.

He looked as if he had not seen sunlight in over a year. His pale skin seemed to reflect any light that hit it. It was a dull grey morose colour void of any life or vitality. She couldn't tell whether his hair was pale blond or simply grey. it was combed back sleekly, much like the small goatee on his chinI

'Astoria, come,' Draco said, stowing his wand away. A woman with wavy brown hair came forward and followed him out of the pub.

Chatter broke out almost instantly. Jenny saw the hunched man swear, crack his knuckles, then leave the same way as Draco did.

'What was that about, Mum?' Cleo asked.

'I haven't the faintest idea. Tom!'

The barman stepped forward. He was a rather old and toothless man; the few grey hairs he had on his head stuck up straight into the air like an aerial.

'Claire, it has been a while. How are you, my dear?'

'Can't complain. Just off to buy school supplies for these two.'

Tom suddenly noticed Cleo and Jenny and gave a wide smile. Jenny counted two rather brown teeth.

'What's up with Draco?'

'I would tell you if I knew,' Tom replied. He gave the bar a quick wipe down with a filthy rag and began to pour a drink. 'Old Beaumont Jackson was in mouthing off about something when Draco appeared. He seemed to take offense to it. Anyways, I won't keep you. Have a nice day.'

A man wearing a balaclava approached the bar and took the drink Tom had poured. Claire said her goodbyes and headed out the back of the inn into a dusty courtyard.

'Draco was always the odd one... I wonder what he's gotten himself into?'

'He seemed pretty angry,' Cleo said, 'But... what are we doing out here?'

Cleo had asked the question that was on the tip of Jenny's mouth. The courtyard was empty, the only thing of significance was a cat who was sat cleaning itself in the corner. She knew they were heading for somewhere called Diagon Alley, but there was no way out of this courtyard except back into The Leaky Cauldron.

Claire however didn't respond. Instead she took out her wand and began to tap the bricks on the wall furthest away.

'There we go... come on, you'll want to see this.'

The bricks in the wall began to twist. The cracking slabs moved aside leaving an archway. An entrance to an old cobbled street.

'Welcome to Diagon Alley.'

Jenny wished she had seven extra pairs of eyes. To their left, cauldrons were piled high into the air, twisting out of sight. To the right, a plump woman was complaining about the size of the Horned Toads outside an Apothecary. There were shops selling brooms, shops selling books, and even a giant jokeshop plastered in orange. Claire, however, led them to a tall white building, bang in the middle of the street.

'Gringotts, the wizarding bank. And yes, they are goblins.'

She patted Cleo's hand away, for he had just pointed at a small figure outside the bank. It was dressed in a royal red tunic but his eyes were looking stoically forwards as if nothing at all in Diagon Alley interested him.

Jenny saw Cleo mouth the word 'goblins...' but he refrained from pointing at it.

Up the stairs, and into the grand marble hall. Here there were more goblins sat on benches around the room weighing gems, counting coins and in one instance, reading a long list that trailed onto the floor while an agitated wizard in a pinstriped suit waited on the other side of the counter.

A goblin called Claire over. She breathed in deeply, then approached.

'Can I help you?' the goblin asked. His voice was raspy and cracked. He reminded Jenny of a substitute teacher she had had at school once.

'Yes, I am here to withdraw some money out of the Abel vault.'

The goblin peered over the counter at Cleo and Jenny. Jenny felt herself shiver. She wasn't sure she like the goblin's piercing stare much.

'Very well... do you have your key?'

Claire nodded. She reached into her bag and pulled out an old rusty bronze key that Jenny was almost certain had been hanging innocuously in the kitchen for the past eleven years.

The goblin took the key, ran it through his fingers, then placed it back down on the counter, calling 'Barguff!'

Bargruff was another goblin. He led Claire, Jenny, and Cleo out of the main hall and into a cool corridor where a set of tracks trailed off into the dark distance. He whistled, and a cart came zooming out of the blackness. Cleo looked rather excited.

'If it's anything like Thorpe Park and you throw up on me,' Jenny said as she climbed in after her mother, 'I swear to God I'll hit you.'

The cart sped off into the dark. As cool air whipped past Jenny's head, she leaned over to look down into the depths, only to be pulled back by Claire.

'You'd be surprised how many people have fallen over.'

The cart twisted and turned deeper and deeper underground. Jenny was sure at one point she could hear the patter of a waterfall in the distance. When she asked her mother this however, she shrugged.

'No idea... I know there used to be dragons down here... there was an... incident about twenty years ago. I don't know if they're still down here, though.'

Bargruff remained silent when asked. Claire shook her head and grimaced. Clearly they were going to get no answer out of him.

The cart began to slow and eventually stopped with a jolt. They had stopped outside a bare brick wall. Bargruff exited the cart. Turning to the wall, he offered a silvery mechanical device to Claire, who inserted the key into it and turned.

Just like the entrance to Diagon Alley, the brick wall turned and revealed a room beyond where a modest collection of bronze, silver and gold coins lay.

Claire followed Bargruff out of the cart and into the vault where she began to pile coins into a small bag.

The ride back up to the bank was uneventful, though looking at her brother, Jenny could tell that Cleo wasn't at all excited about the ride as he had been when he had got in, and looked rather green. He was the first to disembark and hurried out of the bank. Jenny and Claire found him outside, leant over, breathing deeply.

'Well...' he said, taking a deep lungful of air. 'I wasn't sick on you.'

Jenny wasn't taking any chances. She skirted around Cleo as Claire led them down the street and into Diagon Alley.

Cleo soon recovered, which was probably for the best because their next stop was Madam Malkin's Robes for all Occasions, where they were fitted for robes.

Standing at the back of the shop while a tape measure zoomed around her taking measurements was surprisingly relaxing after the cart ride, and Jenny was rather annoyed when her mother dragged her off to look at cauldrons.

They bought their books in Flourish and Blotts, where Jenny was tempted by a copy of 'The Adventures of Katherine Woodcroft,' the cover of which showed a beautiful witch engaging in combat with a shadowy figure with scaly hands.

'You don't want that. It's for children half your age,' her mother said, though Jenny was almost certain she had only said that as an excuse not to buy it for her.

From Flourish and Blotts they went to the Apothecary, where Jenny's nose was assaulted by various aromas, and they spent a pleasant couple of minutes looking at all the items on offer while Claire purchased two sets of basic ingredients.

After the Apothecary they headed into Wizacre's Magical equipment shop, where they got a set of glass phials, a handsome telescope each, and a set of brass scales.

As they passed Magical Menagerie, Claire suddenly stopped. She looked over her two children keenly, then, her mind made up, led them into the shop.

Half an hour later they left, Jenny holding a cage in which a small tabby cat was snoozing peacefully and Cleo holding a larger cage in which was an impressively large Eagle Owl.

'You do realise you won't be getting any Christmas or birthday presents for about ten years?' their mother told them. She gave a deep sigh, then looked at her list. 'Just your wands left now.'

Finally, a wand. Jenny was almost trembling with excitement. She followed her mother up the street until finally they arrived at a dusty old shop named 'Ollivander's.'

Claire pushed the door of Ollivander's open and stepped inside. As Jenny followed, she heard the unmistakable sound of a bell in the depths of the shop. As the door swung closed behind her, the sounds from the street were muted.

A man suddenly appeared at the counter. His wide, moonlike eyes surveyed Claire, Jenny and Cleo. The hair on his head wasn't completely grey but it was getting there. Thin strands of brown poked through, and his lined face, not as aged as some Jenny had seen, still showed a keen interest in the three of them.

'Claire Abel... my father sold you your wand... let me think, larch and dragon heartstring, 11 1/2 inches?'

'That's right. We're here for Cleo and Jenny today, though.'

The man leered over the two of them unblinking. His eyes travelled from Cleo to Jenny several times before he withdrew and smiled.

'Very well then, we best get to work. Now... my father was a lot better at this than I am... but... who is the elder one?'

Jenny raised her hand. 'Me,' she said.

'Then I do hope you forgive me when I say that I'll be sorting out your brother first. It's not very often I get twins and I often find that the youngest has a different kind of potential. If I see them last, their potential can fade away. Nevertheless...'

He moved over to a shelf where hundreds of wooden boxes were stacked, withdrew a select few, then waved his wand. A tape measure appeared out of nowhere and began to measure all parts of Cleo's body. As the tape measure worked, the man continued to speak.

'In my father's day he used three cores to make wands. Phoenix feather, unicorn hair and dragon heartstring. I have expanded somewhat to include both thestral hair and dragon scale, though I have seen no clear results on either of them. Today we shall be returning to the old ways. Ladies and gentlemen. I am Bastien Ollivander. Let's get you a wand.'

He stood before Cleo, watching the tape measure for a moment until he clapped his hands and it fell to the floor.

'Now, boy... what is you wand hand? That is to say... are you right handed or left handed?'

'Right... handed.' Cleo muttered.

'Then try this... Juniper and unicorn hair, eleven and three quarter inches. Rather rigid.'

Cleo took the wand Bastien offered him. He looked at his mother then back and Jenny then nervously gave it a wave. Nothing happened.

'Not to worry... uh, try this one, ivy and phoenix feather, twelve inches. Surprisingly swishy.'

Again Cleo waved the wand Bastien gave him and yet again, nothing happened. Bastien didn't seem too upset. On the contrary he was getting more and more excited the more wands he gave Cleo to try.

'Unusual mixture... ebony and dragon heartstring, eleven and three quarter inches. Rather supple. Give it a try.'

Cleo took this wand and waved it. Almost straight away golden sparks began to rain down from the ceiling. Bastien gave a cry of 'Bravo, Bravo!' and Claire clapped.

'Fantastic. I'll get that wrapped for you. Now, miss...'

As the tape measure began to work on Jenny as it had Cleo, Bastien rifled through the shelves yet again. He seemed to pull down every wand he had in stock until eventually he turned to Jenny.

'So... right hand as well? Good... let's try this one. Yew and unicorn hair, ten inches, quite dextrous.'

Jenny gave it a wave, but nothing happened.

Bastien snatched it out of her hand and replaced it with another 'Cypress and dragon heartstring, ten and a quarter inches, slightly springy.'

Yet again, nothing. The wand pile was beginning to get larger and larger, until Bastien clapped his hands and exclaimed.

'Oh, how could I be so stupid? Twins!'

He moved over to another shelf and rifled around for a moment until he pulled out another box, opened it and gave the wand to Jenny.

'Cedar and unicorn hair. Eleven inches, reasonably supple.'

Jenny took the wand and felt a tingling running up her wand. She cautiously gave it a wave.
BANG! Something long and serpent-like shot out of the end of Jenny's wand. It collapsed onto the floor and turned its head.

It was a snake, or at least what appeared to be a snake, made entirely out of smoke. It turned its head and hissed slithering away until it faded into the air.

'Well... that was unexpected,' Bastien said after a brief pause.

'Sorry... was that not supposed to happen?'

'Well... each wand is unique. Each wand will announce it has found its correct owner in a different way. Some will, like your brother's, do something simple like sparks. Others will announce themselves in more elaborate ways. My father, for instance, once sold a wand after it had set half the shop on fire, determined that its owner was the right fit for the wand. I'll be interested to follow your career, Miss Abel.'

He gave Jenny a rather piercing look, then turned to wrap up both wands, charged Claire fifteen Galleons for the two wands, and bade them farewell.

They left Ollivander's, all of them laden with heavy shopping. The sun was beginning to set now, so Claire led the way back up the street, out through The Leaky Cauldron and out onto Charing Cross Road.
Chapter Endnotes: Please R/R! :)