Disclaimer: The characters herein do not belong to me. Props and kudos to Stan Lee, Tom Hiddleston, and JK Rowling.

Liar's Wand

It was uncommon for Garrick Olivander to visit his Hogsmeade village branch so early in the year. His associate had called in sick, however, so he was forced to close shop early in Diagon Alley and take inventory before the rush of students who needed replacement wands arrived from Hogwarts. It wasn't common, but there were always a few, year after year, and Olivander had to be prepared.

He was humming an odd little tune he'd heard about limes and coconuts when he heard the front door open. That was odd at this hour. He could have sworn he put that sign up.

"I'm sorry, we're closed," Olivander hooted in that pitch he knew would carry through the entire shop, "Please come back tomorrow."

"I'm afraid this is a rather unique circumstance, old friend," Albus Dumbledore's voice called through the stacks.

Olivander almost dropped all his precious merchandise onto the floor. Managing to hastily shove the boxes back in place, he swiftly navigated the shelves back to his front counter. "Albus," he greeted the old man warmly, "What can I do for you?"

"Oh, I'm not the one in need of help," Albus demurred, gesturing to the tall figure behind him who examined the shelves on the opposite wall with interest. Some of the boxes had begun to shake, but from excitement or fear, the wandmaker couldn't tell.

On cue, the stranger turned. He looked to be in his early thirties at the oldest, straight black hair smoothed away from his pale face and curling around the ends, and wore an unremarkable black robe, emerald green vest and tie, forest green scarf with gold trim, and the most brilliant smile Olivander had ever seen. "The renowned Mr. Olivander, what a pleasure it is to finally meet you." The tall man clasped his hands in front of him with something approaching enthusiasm and inclined his upper body slightly forward. "It may not surprise you that I am looking to purchase a wand."

"I had rather guessed that," Olivander was far too savvy a businessman to be charmed by the newcomer, but he did appreciate the politeness. A little bit of warranted praise never went amiss, either. "Unfortunately, it's well-past closing time, and I was in the middle of inventory. Can you come back tomorrow?"

Albus opened his mouth to speak, but the stranger beat him to it, "I do apologize for beseeching you after hours, but alas, students begin to arrive tomorrow, and I must devote my attention to lesson plans. I cannot teach magic without a wand, I am told," he shot a quick glance toward Albus, leaving no question as to who had told him, "and I have misplaced mine own. It is . . . something of an emergency."

"So, a new teacher, eh?" Olivander studied his customer, tall, lanky, and well-groomed, "Is this your new Defense professor, Albus? It looks like a stiff wind would blow him over."

Dumbledore chuckled, "Far from it. That one arrives tomorrow with the students."

The young man's grin had taken on a slightly sharper edge after the wind comment, "I assure you, I can handle myself."

"Very well," Olivander allowed, "What happened to your old wand, then?"

"I hardly see how that matters."

"You should, as I won't sell a wand to a careless wizard who makes a habit of losing his finest tools and my life's blood," the wandmaker shot back.

The stranger sighed, and his smile softened. He actually looked a little contrite as he let his hands fall to his side, then trailed them over the edge of the counter. "This is embarrassing, but I lost it with my luggage at the airport. They just don't allow foot-long pointy objects in airplane carry-ons anymore."

"Airplane?" Olivander blinked, "Why take one of those muggle contraptions?"

He shrugged, "It was cheaper than a portkey from Oslo."

Come to think of it, he did remember hearing that the magical cost of living in Norway was relatively high, so he gave the stranger that one. "But what about-"

"Shrinking my luggage so I could pocket it instead of risking its loss?" The wandmaker nodded, and the stranger shook his head as if a child had just raised his hand to the wrong question. "Tell me, is anything more suspicious to airport security nowadays than a traveler without luggage?"

Olivander had to admit the man had a point. "So, you're from Norway, then?"

"After a fashion," the stranger allowed.

Olivander nodded, thinking. Adults were always harder to read than children, unless the adult had missed out on key social skills. The children who walked into his shop were always wide-eyed and excited about their first wands. They had no preconceived notion about the connotations behind each wood, length, and the core underneath, only the wonder that went along with their coming of age. It always held a deal of trial and error, but over the years, the wandmaker had become adept at determining things about a customer's character just by observation which would help the selection process.

This man, however, was a mystery. He was polite, refined, shrewd, at least a little proud, and apparently liked green. For an adult, it wasn't much to draw conclusions from, especially if he hadn't sold him a wand when he was a child. "What was your previous wand made of? Core and wood?" Olivander asked, thinking he might as well start somewhere.

"Oak. It was an heirloom, and I don't recall the core," the man replied readily, "It was serviceable enough, I suppose, which may explain to you why I wasn't heartbroken about its loss. I am sure you can help me find a better match."

Heirloom? Blast. Without the full specifications of the wand and preferably its creator as well (Norway would probably mean Gregorovich if it was made any time recently), Olivander still had nothing to go on. It was a challenge, though, and matching a wizard to a wand was something that Olivander could never turn down. He openly sighed and gestured to Dumbledore, "Albus, I fear we're in for a long night. You go on home."

Albus almost looked nervous, glancing back at the stranger, but he allayed the older man's doubts. "Don't worry, Albus, I will be fine. I can shop for a wand on my own. My thanks for your kindness in escorting me here, though. The way was simple enough that I shall have no trouble making it back to the castle, I am certain." He punctuated his remark with a gesture toward the door and the general direction of Hogwarts.

Grudgingly, Dumbledore seemed to accept that reasoning, "I shall see you in the morning, then. Farewell, Garrick. Apologies for the intrusion."

Dumbledore was practically through the door already when the stranger made his next comment. His green eyes twinkled in a way that reminded Olivander specifically of Albus when he said, "Finally. He's as bad as my mother." Albus gave no indication if he had heard or not, the door closing afterwards.

"Well, let's get started, shall we?" Olivander started to turn, but the tall man grabbed him tightly by the wrist, and made a gesture for him to wait, watching the window. When a large raven alighted on the window sill and tapped the glass, the stranger let out a breath he'd been holding and let the wandmaker go.

"What was that-" Olivander started, but the stranger interrupted him with a dismissive gesture.

"Now that he's out of the way, we can get down to business." The smile was gone from the stranger's face, and his vivid green eyes seemed to pierce the wandmaker's skin. "I hear you make custom wands?" It wasn't really a question.

Olivander shook his head, "Not for years. My father wrestled with custom orders, but I only use the finest materials from the most magical creatures and woods. I have quite the stock, even here, and if we can't find you an appropriate match, I know there will be one in my primary shop in Diagon Alley. Now, the vine wands seemed to take an interest in you when you walked in. Perhaps we should start there-"

"I think you will make an exception for this," the man reached into his robe and pulled out a white silken handkerchief, laying it carefully on the counter. As he slowly unwrapped it, Olivander couldn't tear his eyes away. A wand core he hadn't tested, perhaps?

What lay on the unfolded handkerchief looked for all intents and purposes like a long dark grey horse tail hair, seeming almost black on the white silk.

Curious, he reached under his counter for the unicorn tail hair testing kit. Olivander usually collected his supplies in person, but on occasion he found himself without the time to do so, and merchants of various repute would come into his shop trying to sell. He set a small vial with a true unicorn hair suspended in a clear potion on the counter next to the handkerchief, brought out his wand, and whispered a few words over the collection. The unicorn hair in the vial glowed blindingly gold, then turned black before returning to its brilliant white color.

"That is . . . very odd." Olivander was confused. This proved that the hair was highly magical, but not from a unicorn. A hippogriff or winged horse's hair wouldn't have produced that reaction, either, and thestral hair was black, not grey. "Is this from a black unicorn? I have never seen anything like this before . . . where on Earth did you get it?"

A wry smile had resurfaced on the young man's lips, "What would you say if I told you this came from Sleipnir himself?"

"I'd call you a liar," Olivander's response was quick. He knew the name, of course. The mythical eight-legged steed of Norse god Odin was just that, though. A myth. But if he wasn't . . . it could potentially be the most magical beast that ever lived.

"And you wouldn't be wrong," the man gave a slight nod, "But I don't believe that where I acquired it or what it is matters as much as the fact that it holds a magical resonance with me."

Olivander harrumphed. "I'll be the judge of that, thank you." It seemed he'd have to do the wandmaking process step-by-step with this one. If the man was wrong, he could still try existing wands on him and perhaps take this new core material as part of his payment. "Place your hand over the hair, if you would, but don't touch it." When the man complied, Olivander waved his wand, whispering the sympathy detection charm he hadn't used since his father was alive. It took a few waves before he tuned the harmonics correctly, but when he did, the entire shop started to shake, and both the hair and the man's hand started to glow from the inside.

He cut off the incantation immediately, shocked as he was. It was the strongest sympathetic reaction he had ever seen! Staring at the man's extended hand, Olivander swallowed and cleared his throat before he straightened his shirt in an attempt to regain his composure. He nodded to the customer, "It appears you are correct, sir. You may remove your hand, now."

The man's self-satisfied smirk didn't waver as he returned his hand to the side, flexing his fingers and shaking it a little. "That tingled."

"I should think so," Olivander replied. It seemed the customer had been right, after all, and his professional pride wouldn't let him pass up the chance to work with this strange material. "Now, do you have any mysterious wand woods to show me, or should I fetch my blanks?"

"If you don't have mistletoe, then by all means," the stranger gestured obsequiously.

Olivander didn't give the comment a second thought, dismissing the idea of using mistletoe as a wand material out of hand. It was far too small to make good stock. "I'll be right back."

It wasn't long after that when Olivander returned with a sample of every polished wooden blank he worked with arrayed in a basket. Wands didn't usually get minds of their own until they had an implanted core, so it was relatively safe to store the blanks in one place instead of separate boxes. Each was approximately two feet long and an inch in diameter, and he had over two score of the things. He dropped the basket unceremoniously on the floor and laid about half a dozen on the counter in front of his customer.

The stranger eyed the sticks suspiciously as though they might turn into snakes at any moment.

Olivander nodded at them, wand in hand. "Go on, pick them up one at a time and let me cast a spell. It will test your compatibility for the wood."

He raised a fine, black eyebrow at the wandmaker, but selected the first blank on his right. Olivander cast the wood sympathy detection spell, and the blank shot out of the man's hand and into the shelves behind him like a dart.

"Well, not ash, then. Choose another."

They continued in this way for about an hour with reactions as varied as the woods themselves. The worst matches showed the most dramatic reactions Olivander had ever seen. At least the ash blank was salvageable once he dug it from the wall. The way the willow wilted and the rowan burst into flame, there was no way he could reclaim those samples. In the end, dogwood, pine, and spruce seemed to have the most favorable reactions. The wandmaker would have included vine for consideration, but the wood seemed dangerously over-enthusiastic when it began to wrap around the customer's wrist and sprout leaves.

"Promising, but with the power of that core, I'm afraid any spell you cast with a vine wand would explode in your face instead of doing what you wanted. You must have many hidden surprises if vine takes to you so well."

The customer said nothing, face blank as he quietly extracted himself from the ruined blank.

"Now, dogwood takes very well to an exciting and clever wizard, but has a tendency to force the caster to use spoken incantations." The stranger snorted, amused, but uninterested. "Probably not the best style for as advanced a wizard as a Hogwarts professor, but we can't rule it out. A pine wand enjoys a creative master, while the spruce requires a bold, firm hand." Olivander held a hand to his forehead and massaged his temples. Working backwards from his norm was giving him a headache.

"Having trouble?"

The wandmaker sighed, "Yes, actually. My father was never as thorough as this. Wizards could just request a wood they found pleasing, and he wasn't concerned if he gave them an inferior tool. When wands choose the wizards, it's never this difficult to choose a wood to go with a core. There are some options which never work, but plenty that will work for the right person. I can usually make any combination I choose and know that it will eventually be meant for someone. But you have placed an unknown core material in my hands!" He threw up his hands in exasperation.

"Then why not let the core choose, since so many woods seem to like me?"

Olivander's eyes snapped up to the customer's face. One eyebrow was raised in curiosity, and his head was cocked to one side. "That's brilliant! Any of these woods should work for you, as long as they don't interfere with your wand's core."

He carefully placed the three remaining blank options near the grey hair. Again, for each combination, he muttered the sympathy detection charm. The dogwood rolled away as though kicked, the pine shimmered faintly silver before fading, but the spruce glowed a warm gold.

"Well," he let out a breath he didn't know he'd held, "it appears we have a winner." Olivander quickly stowed the rest of his crafting materials below the counter, leaving only the handkerchief with the mysterious hair and the spruce blank. He exhaled a calming breath. This was exciting, making a wand to be the perfect match for the wizard in front of him, but . . . "Normally, this next part is a trade secret. I don't suppose you would let me take this into the back-"

"Not a chance."

Olivander nodded in defeat. "If you insist, then I must have complete silence when I begin. The wand creation will require all of my concentration, and I'm assuming you only have one of those hairs."

"Of course," the customer said as Olivander flicked his wand to the front of the shop, closing all the curtains. The raven outside squawked indignantly.

The wandmaker turned his attention back to the materials in front of him. He carefully straightened the grey hair and laid it lengthwise along the spruce blank and cleared away the handkerchief. Letting out another calming breath, he closed his eyes, waved his wand, and began chanting. He visualized the hair melting into the center of the wood, all its properties infusing the wood as it went and gave it free reign to bend the wood's exterior to its will. With this method, as no two cores were the same, no two wands could look the same, either. It was a personalization portion of the wandmaking spell that Olivander had pioneered and wandmakers the world over had attempted to copy with varying success.

Golden light filtered through his eyelids, telling Olivander that the spell was taking over, and he opened his eyes. Now he just had to sit back and watch the formation of the final product. It floated a few inches above the countertop, spinning as though it had been put on a lathe. The excess hair that hadn't rested on the wand blank was drawn inside as the wand shaped itself down to a thinner, tapered cylinder, whittled down to an appropriate length. When it stopped spinning, Norse-style scrollwork began to appear in dark relief, as though an invisible artist had begun burning it into the wood and traveled the length of the wand to loop back on itself. Finally, the light wood warmed to a permanent polished, golden color that looked faintly like metal in the current light.

The customer breathed out in wonder as the wand dropped to the countertop, rolling slightly to balance itself, and Olivander had to agree to the sentiment. Every wand he created gave him a sense of pride, and he was glad to share it with the wand's intended master this time.

"Go on, pick it up and wave it," the wandmaker encouraged, "Let's see how we did."

The tall man hesitated before complying, the look on his face akin to a child on Christmas day who couldn't quite believe he'd gotten the exact present he'd asked for, as though it would disappear as soon as he approached. His hand grasped the thicker end, and he waved his new tool in the air cautiously at first, then shook his head slightly. His next swish with the wand was firm and controlled. Ethereal green fire erupted from the end and extended around wand and caster alike. Green eyes seemed to glow as the customer grinned. In the odd lighting, it looked both terrible and magnificent. "Perfect."

Olivander beamed in satisfaction when the effect faded. "Excellent! Now, if you'll let me hold it for a moment so I can record the length . . ." he trailed off as the customer's haughty glare pierced the wandmaker's eyes, making him feel nailed to the floor. "It will only be for a moment," he heard himself explain in a small voice, "just for my records. It won't leave your sight, I promise."

The customer let his glare linger for a moment. "If you must," he finally allowed, setting the new wand gently on the counter.

Quickly, Olivander pulled out his magical tape measure that would not only tell him the length of the wand, but the core inside as well. Both were equal at 15 and 5/16 inches, but the wandmaker was certain that when the customer held the wand in his hand, it would appear to be no more than 9 inches, discounting the handle.

Full-tang wands such as this were very rare. Most of the measurements he recorded included only the length of the core within the wood, and the rest of the wood formed the handle. Usually there the core extended partway into the handle, but not this far. Olivander suppressed a shiver. This would arguably be his most powerful creation, he was certain.

Measurement concluded, he gingerly handed the new wand back to its master and pulled out his ledger. "Let's see, custom order, spruce with mystery core, 15 5/16 inches, purchased by-" he stopped himself, "What did you say your name was, sir?"

"I don't believe I did," the customer looked smug, "but now that you've asked so politely," Olivander could almost taste the sarcasm, "you may call me Loki. Loki Lundgren."

Olivander noted the name in his book, did a few calculations based on time, effort, wasted wand materials, added a hefty convenience fee, and produced the largest amount he'd ever charged for a wand. He could possibly have been talked down if Loki had any more of those cores for trade, but he figured the answer would be no.

"Sadly, I don't have any English currency," the man said, not even batting an eyelash at the exorbitant price, "Could you charge it to Hogwarts? I'm sure Albus will take it out of my paycheck at his earliest convenience."

Olivander nodded, "I'll send him an owl in the morning with the invoice."

"Very good," Loki smiled, fingering his new wand before he disappeared it somewhere under his robe, "I believe that concludes our business for tonight. My thanks, wandmaker. You have been most helpful tonight."

He was already to the door before Olivander could say, "It was my pleasure. Take good care of that wand, now."

"As if it were my own flesh and blood," Loki confirmed.

Olivander caught sight of the raven from earlier alighting on the tall man's shoulder before he disappeared into the gloom. Idly, he wondered what a man like that could possibly be teaching at Hogwarts.