Disclaimer: the world of Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling. Laurel is my original character. I think you'll recognize a lot of the characters around her.
Laurel worked to keep up with Uncle Garrick. He didn't go on expeditions often, and she wanted to be sure she'd be invited on the next one. While he consulted his bewitched map, she wandered off the path a few steps, spying several specimens she wanted to sample. Her bottomless pocket was filled with jars and bags specifically for this purpose. There were even a few pots in case she wanted a cutting of something living. This time she just collected seed and root samples. The foliage here, in South America, was so very different from home. Most were non-magical, but she sampled everything, sure at least a few had properties no one had discovered yet.
"Laurel? I can't lose you girl, your mother will kill me," Uncle Garrick's voice was raspy. He was her father's eldest brother and showed those years. Half-brother, she reminded herself. They had the same father.
"I'm right here!" she called, bounding back to the path, samples shoved back inside the bottomless pocket. "Just a few steps away." She caught her breath quickly. "You would have seen me if there weren't so many vines. Are any of them wand wood?" she asked, examining the vines as well as the trees they grew on.
"Almost none," Uncle Garrick told her. "There is one species here that I have used before. No, we're not here for wood, we're here for the Coatl."
She knew that. They were hunting for feathers to use as wand cores. Laurel secretly wondered if this trip was also intended to collect the core for her next wand. Uncle Garrick refused to give up on her, something she appreciated.
"Coatl feathers are for the erratic. They stabilize innate magic and turn it into a controlled force," she recited. "Do you think my magic is erratic?" she asked.
"What? No, child. Well, sort of. It's uncontrolled, not erratic. You know the difference?" he asked.
Of course she did. Erratic magic came and went without reason. Her magic was always there when she wanted it, it just didn't like to be controlled through a wand. As a reminder to herself, she picked up a flower with a gesture of her hand and it floated over to her. She pocketed it with the others. "But I'm like others my age, right? Before they start at Hogwarts?"
"Yes, Laurel, that's right." He sighed and she knew that her situation troubled him. When it came to spells, she was practically a squib. Despite her inability to use incantations or wand movements, she was very good at making what she wanted happen.
Uncle Garrick checked his map once more. "Ah, just ahead now. We're entering his range. I hope he isn't hiding too well."
Laurel didn't follow too closely. Her uncle wouldn't like her stepping on his heels while he stalked. Instead she spied a tree frog that she recalled had eggs that were perfect for brewing antidotes. She started scaling the tree, using the multitude of vines to help her. She had hopes to see the Coatl when her uncle cornered it, but that could take a very long time. She crawled out on the thick branch the frog sat upon and then stretched out her arms, trapping it between her hands.
"Gotcha!" She held him tightly in both hands while calling one of her cages from the pocket. It floated out to her and she shoved the frog in, closing and latching the grate. "I'll try to return you," she promised as she slipped the cage into her pocket.
Rather than climb down, she swung herself off the branch and landed with a thud. She was only a little more than her height off the ground, and she wasn't a large ten year-old. There was a rustling when she landed and Laurel turned to the sound.
There was the blue and red plumed snake. How strange to see a snake with feathers. She wanted to call her uncle but was sure that would frighten it off.
"Hello?" she said very quietly. The serpents eyelids flicked shut from each side. Nothing like a bird. "May I... Would you spare some feathers?" She had never actually done this before. She believed that with intelligent animals like unicorns, pheonix and Coatl she should ask for their pieces rather than catching and taking. That was for wild animals like dragons, thestrals and kelpies. The Coatl slithered toward her, more ruffling of feathers accompanying his movements.
When he was within her reach, he bowed his head, exposing the ruff of feathers behind it. She took one and stopped, waiting for the donor to consent to each donation. The Coatl didn't move and she touched another feather. She didn't tug, but both were released. She wouldn't think of trying to pull one out. That would be like someone trying to pull out her hair by the handful. Another breath and she took a third feather.
"Laurel?" her uncle asked in a hiss. Her head jerked to look at him and a rustle followed — the coatl retreating.
"Thank you!" she called after him. "Thank you very much!"
"He chose you?" Uncle Garrick asked in wonder. "Perhaps I'll have to take you on my next unicorn visit. They often try to gore me." He smiled, taking the feathers from her hand. She let go reluctantly. He examined each one carefully and gave all but a blue one back to her. "They're yours. I hope you don't mind me using one of them." His smile filled his eyes with mischief, as though he were going to make a particularly powerful surprise for someone.
"Mine," she said in wonder, looking at the two red feathers. "What is the difference between the red and blue?"
"I don't know," he answered. "I've only gotten blue ones in the past. Perhaps red will better suit you. Perfect for your first wand."
She gasped a little and looked again at the feathers before bagging them carefully and storing them in her pocket. She would make her first wand. Were her trees ready? She'd grown them since she was six, but they weren't very large yet, barely more than saplings.
"Do you think my ash is ready?" she asked, marching after Uncle Garrick back the way they had come.
"I'll take a look when we get home. Any bowtruckles?"
"Two, and three more in my holly. They seem very happy."
"Breeding pairs?" he asked, like Laurel sat around watching her bowtruckles that closely.
"Um, I don't know. I'm pretty sure I have three female and two male, so maybe." She couldn't wait to give one her Coatl feather and see if they found a branch for it.
"Well, having bowtruckles at all is good sign," he said, as though she didn't know that. "Why the ash? Why not the holly?"
Laurel shrugged, her blonde hair bobbing. "Because I like the flexibility of the ash? My holly seems stiff." She had tested the springiness of the twigs. "I hope my willow gets bowtruckles. It's very pliable."
Her uncle huffed. "Don't want it too malleable. Won't hold the magic in line."
"True. What wood do you plan to use?"
"Oh, um, I was thinking oak."
"Really! That's quite hard."
"Yes, well, fitting with the feather, don't you think?"
She bowed her head very slightly; he was right. "Of course. What better to control erratic magic than an unyielding wood."
"Precisely. Do you want any hel-"
"No!" she said quickly. She wanted her first wand to be all her own. "But I would like to get back," she admitted as they came to a clearing. It was the one into which her uncle had apparated. She put a hand on his arm, holding tightly. Although she thought she could feel the bone in his thin arm, there was a length of muscle there, one developed doing fine work with careful fingers. "Thank you," she said. "For bringing me with you."
"Thank you. For finding the Coatl."
Laurel smiled and then gasped as she was suddenly squeezed in tight to her uncle. With a pop, they apparated into her orchard.
"Now," he continued as though nothing had happened. To him, it was likely as though nothing had. Laurel held her head for a moment until the spinning stopped. Apparation was not her favourite way to travel. "Let's see these trees." She joined him at the holly, which was almost twice as tall as Laurel, still not very big. "You have four bowtruckles, my dear," he informed her. "They've just bred."
Laurel, ignoring her dizziness, ran to her uncle's side, squinting into the branches. She couldn't make out the infant, but the female had something on her back. "Really?"
"Really. Perhaps you'll use one of those feathers here?" He began testing branches. "Oh, it's not so stiff. Quite pliable. You'll get a versatile wand out of that tree." He moved to the ash. It was even smaller than the holly. "This tree isn't ready. Soon," he told her, as the disappointment showed in her face. "None of these are quite thick enough yet."
Again, she should have known that, but she had hoped.
"Your willow is coming nicely. A transplant?" he asked.
"Yes. I got a cutting from Mrs. Finnigan. Hers isn't a wand tree."
"No? It could be. This could be."
Laurel ran to grab her buckets of compost and water, dosing the tree with a little of each. She'd made the compost in the muggle fashion, allowing things to rot. Her mother had suggested it when dragon dung proved to be too potent.
Laurel forgot her uncle as she moved through the orchard toward her garden. Everything seemed to need water in the heat of summer, and she was careful not to drown any plant, pulling sprouts where they didn't belong and uprooting two tubers from her Zigadenus to keep it growing well. She added these to her bottomless pocket as well.
Reaching into her pocket again, she pulled out the samples she'd collected. Half of each was sown into pots or sliced and put in water to encourage new roots and shoots. If she was lucky, she could multiply new samples while finding uses for the remains.
A shadow fell across her work table, and Laurel frowned at the sudden change in light. She turned to see her uncle and her father standing behind her. A third wizard stood with them. He wore half-moon spectacles and had a long white beard. Laurel jammed her hands into her water bucket, washing away compost.
"Hello," she said, giving the wizard a little wave. He looked familiar. She knew his portrait was hung somewhere she had been recently.
"Laurel, there is someone we'd like you to meet," her father said. "This is Albus Dumbledore."
That explained why he looked familiar. She'd helped Heather sort her chocolate frog cards. Heather must have had ten copies of Dumbledore.
"Hello, Miss Olivander." Dumbledore spoke in a slow, clear voice. It was friendly while remaining suitably distant. There was no doubt that he commanded respect and obedience, but it didn't come at the expense of understanding. Laurel liked him immediately, for many of the same reasons she loved her uncle. A gleam in his eye hinted at a joke on the tip of his tongue. It also spoke of imagination, something Laurel revelled in. "I understand you will be joining us at Hogwarts in another year."
"If I am accepted, Professor Dumbledore," she said.
"And why do you think you might not be accepted?" His cheery expression darkened very slightly.
"Because my charms are abysmal," she admitted. "I have no capability with basic charms or transfigurations. None of them work for me."
"Many students come to Hogwarts with only the most rudimentary of magical skills, my dear. If you learned your charms before you came, what would we teach you?"
Laurel couldn't argue with that. She looked at her stained up dungarees and sneakers, trying to rub some of the mud off one with the toe of the other. "I see."
"Well, let's not talk of what may be, but rather, what is. You have a garden, I have been told."
Laurel smiled broadly. Professor Dumbledore followed her as she pointed and named the various plants and fungi. Her mother's garden had been almost completely usurped by Laurel's. It wouldn't have been anything without her mother helping and teaching her. It had been her mother's suggestion and gift of a sapling that started the orchard.
"This is wonderful, Laurel. You and Professor Sprout will be kindred spirits, I'm sure."
"Do you think I'll be able to bring some with me?" she wondered, pulling a few weeds as she spied them. She also found a garden gnome. They almost never came into the garden. She sent him flying with a last telekentic kick before he landed.
"A few, perhaps. Probably best to wait until your first herbology class. You can talk to Professor Sprout about greenhouse space."
Laurel's eyes lit up. She didn't have a real greenhouse, just a shed with a skylight. "I can't wait."
Dumbledore found another gnome and pulled out his wand to remove it. Laurel stared at the knobbly elderwood. "What type of wand is that? May I see it? Uncle doesn't often use elderwood, cursed, he says." She mumbled as she reached toward the wand.
"I'd rather not," Dumbledore said, tucking the wand up his sleeve.
Laurel realized how rude she was being. "Yes, of course. I'm sorry. I'm studying wands, you see, so I'm always interested when I see a new one."
"I do understand and I'm not offended."
Just then, Laurel's mother called everyone to dinner, saving her further embarrassment.
Laurel sat in the back of Uncle Garrick's shop on Diagon Alley. She had borrowed a copy of a new book on exotic plants and possible uses from Bertle and Botts bookshop. The door opened occasionally and her uncle would mend wands or sell cleaning kits. Rarely, a new witch or wizard would come in, looking for their first wand. As soon as she heard her uncle in the shelves, Laurel came out to watch the fitting. She was still learning how to match a wizard and his wand. There was more art to it than science it seemed.
"I'm stepping out to the Cauldron, Laurel. Mind the desk?" he called to her.
She didn't stop reading, but carried her book to the front. "Of course." It was as likely he'd be back by the next customer as not. She leaned heavily on the large desk until the bell over the door chimed.
"Hello." Laurel smiled brightly at the red haired witch who entered.
"Oh, hullo. Is Mr. Olivander around?"
"He's stepped out. Is there anything I could help you with?" Laurel tried to look older than ten, but she wasn't terribly successful.
"I was wondering if he could take a look at this old wand of ours. It's splitting here, you see? We can't afford to replace it, but if it could be repaired."
Laurel stretched both hands out to take the wand gingerly. Licking her lips, she examined it. "Ash. Oh my! I can see the unicorn hair."
The woman flushed and Laurel was afraid it was in anger.
"I'm sure my uncle can fix it."
The witch seemed to sigh. "Are you? I hope so. Thank you, Miss Olivander?"
Laurel nodded. "And you are?"
"Weasley." Laurel wrote the name down and set the wand atop it. "I'll come back in a couple hours."
Laurel bit the edge of her tongue. Uncle Garrick might not be back for another hour. Looking at the wand on the desk, she considered her options. She could leave the wand and the witch might have to leave it longer. Or she could try to mend it. She rolled the wand gently on the desk, watching a puff of smoke rise from the fissure.
She picked up the wand and flicked it once, cringing. Something dreadful usually happened when she waved a wand. In this case, however, nothing much resulted. The break must be bad. She took the wand to the back, certain anything she did couldn't make it worse.
At the work table, Laurel examined the jars her uncle had on the shelf. The different binders corresponded to type of damage and wood and sometimes cores. What would be best for Ash? She held the wand flat in the palm of her hand and blew toward the jars over it. As she'd hoped it twisted and rolled in her hand until it pointed slightly to the left. Leaning toward the jar, the wand seemed to jump out of her hand toward it.
Laurel took the slender piece in both hands and pressed it to the table, tapping it gently. The charm faded and the wand lay still. Laurel dipped a brush in the jar and painted a thick strip over the open seam. The dark liquid seemed to stain the wood at first, but then, as she had expected, the wood seemed to swell, then burst in shower of sparks. Laurel held her hand out to spare her eyes the glare. When the light died, the wand was all one piece, no sign of any damage. She picked it up, a little too vigorously. The row of wands behind her flew off their shelves and emptied on the floor.
Grumbling quietly, Laurel set the wand back on the front desk and set about putting wands away. The first dozen she did by hand, but as she picked up more, several jumped back into their boxes without her touching them. Finally, she piled all the boxes neatly on the shelf.
A week later, arriving in the house via floo powder, her mother grabbed her arm in excitement. "The bowtruckles in your holly are up to something. I don't know what, but you'd better take a look."
Laurel rushed out, dropping her bag beside the fireplace. Skidding to halt at the holly, she knew exactly what the hubbub was. Her wand was ready. She saw the branch that had tapered and grown smooth and straighter than natural. The bowtruckle family jumped up and down on it, making it spring.
"Okay, enough of that," she told them, reaching her hand out. When she touched the wand, the branch separated from the rest of the limb. It had a stump that would be perfect for mounting into a handle. She didn't need a handle to test it, though.
"Go on," her mother urged. "Try it."
Laurel took a deep breath, feeling the warmth of the grain of the wood. She also felt as though something were lining up inside her, something drawn down her arm. Was it her magic? Would this wand be able to channel it? She pulled the wand up sharply and pottery shattered. One of her ceramic pots had flown up into the air and dropped suddenly.
"That wasn't bad," her mother urged. "Try... aguemente."
Laurel nodded and turned to her trees. Pointing to the roots she called, "Aguemente."
Sparks flared and a few caught the bark, scarring it.
Laurel pulled back her arm to hurl the wand from her. Even making it herself it wasn't any good. She would never be a proper witch.
The wand was yanked from her first. "Don't do that," her mother cried. "I'm sure it's a good wand." She waved it and the pieces of the broken pot aligned themselves and a second flick with "reparo" rebuilt it. "See. I know it's disappointing, love, but look. You've made a wand. Do you know how few people can say that?"
Laurel heaved a sigh that included half a sob. She did know. She was special. She just wasn't a proper witch. She was a strange squib-like thing.
Her mother read her mind. "You are not a squib. Squibs cannot brew engorging elixirs or healing tonics. They can't grow Mimbulus mimbltonia plants. And they don't make wands." The nubbed end was thrust at her and Laurel had to take it or be jabbed.
"Thanks, mum," she murmured.
"Now, let's go tell your uncle. He's going to be so pleased!"
That did make Laurel smile. She couldn't wait to show Uncle Garrick. She had to start working on a handle! She had a nice ram horn that she should be able to shape to fit. Her disappointment melted as her imagination flew.
I know, I posted a new story, try not to faint. I've been having a lot of blue days regarding marketing and publishing and editing and well, I've found an escape. I'm finally writing down Laurel's story. For a long while, I've seen her in the background when I read HP and I thought it was about time I shared her with someone. Don't expect regular updates and don't expect this to be quick. Laurel is only a year older than Harry so I've got a lot of time to cover. I'll be working on this when the original fiction and publishing business get me down. It reminds me that I can write, just for fun. I'll probably have canon problems because (as fun) I'm not researching as well as I could. If you'd like to fact-check me, be my guest! If you'd like to beta-read, let me know. At the moment, this is going up like When Alice met Jasper or Breaking Dawn Book 4, as I write it straight up. If I'm not going to put in a consistent effort, I don't think it's fair for me to tie up a beta-reader. I've been on the reader end of that and it sucks.
Jeez, someone kick me to stop rambling. *shuffles off*