Saturday morning, Kestra was woken up bright and early by an overly energetic mother
invading her bedroom and throwing open the curtains.
"Mother! Will you please stop bursting in like that!" exclaimed Kestra. The incident with
the Hogwarts letter was forgivable, but Kestra did not want her mother to make a habit of
these dramatic entrances.
"But darling, we simply must get to the shops as soon as they open! There's so much
to do!" Talia, completely unfazed by her daughter's exasperation, strode over to the
wardrobe and began to throw clothes everywhere.
"Mother!" cried Kestra, throwing off the bedclothes and diving over to save her carefully
arranged wardrobe from further depredations. "Do be careful with those!" Kestra carefully
re-hung the items that her mother had scattered, and selected a blue/white checked
pinafore dress that she thought would be acceptable attire for the hot and bothersome
business of shopping.
"Okay," conceded Talia, "I guess I'll just go change and leave you to it." Kestra had
rather been hoping that Talia was not going to change from the relatively sensible jeans
and t-shirt she was wearing, but should have known something more dreadful was
The Leaky Cauldron was a horrible place. It smelt of smoke, alcohol and drunk people; the
tables looked horribly rough and the walls were all sooty and dark. Thankfully it was so
early in the morning that only the barkeeper was present, and Talia was so taken with the
idea of what was to come that she didn't insist on stopping to catch up on the 'latest
gossip'. Kestra hoped that not everyone in the wizarding world had such medieval standards of hygiene and cleanliness.
On the journey down, walking through the polluted streets and travelling on the hot,
airless, crowded Tube, Talia hadn't stopped telling her about the delights of Diagon
Alley, despite the curious looks she was attracting from some of the Muggles on their way
to work. Thankfully she had explained the entrance to the Alley in the elevator down to
the ground floor of the apartment building they lived in, so Kestra hadn't been forced to desperately try and quiet her for fear that some adventurous Muggle would listen in and reveal the Alley's existence to Muggles in general. It would be a great pain to have to track them all down for Memory Charms.
Tapping sharply on the correct brick, Talia could hardly contain her impatience as the
wall irised open. She watched carefully for Kestra's first reaction to the sight of the
Alley, but to her disappointment her daughter was as impassive as ever, calmly scanning
the line of shops, pausing interestedly to observe folk struggling with all kinds of
arcane equipment. Talia pulled out the letter and checked once again through the list.
"We ought to buy the lighter items first," suggested Kestra, "then we will not have to
carry so much around with us."
"But then we'd have to get your wand first," complained Talia, consulting the letter, "and
that's the most exciting bit!"
"The familiar, then?" requested Kestra, having memorised the list.
"Owls are quite heavy, you know," warned Talia. "And their cages aren't light,
"What would I want an owl for?" asked Kestra. "I have had quite enough of owls to last me
"But... everyone wants an owl!" puzzled Talia. "They're so much more useful than cats and
toads. Toads are so out of fashion, after all! With an owl you'll be the envy of your
classmates. And it'll be so much easier to send all your letters home!"
"If they are so popular," replied Kestra calmly, "I am sure some of my room-mates will
have them, so I will find one whenever I need to. I must admit that a toad does not sound
like the ideal choice of companion, so I will purchase a cat."
"It'll bring in all kinds of dead mice and icky things, you know," tried Talia.
an owl will not?" asked Kestra, a slight note of triumph escaping into her
"A cat it is, then," replied Talia, defeated. Leading her daughter past the owl shop with
a longing glance - her own owl, a miserable little brown screech owl with no redeeming
features but loved dearly by his owner anyhow, had flown off with a shipment of sherbet
lemons never to return many years ago - mother and daughter made their way to Cuthbert's
Talia was quite taken with some of the tiny kittens on offer, but Kestra insisted on
buying something a little older, so they made their way further into the shop. The older
cats were in individual cages, and Talia was most distressed about how small the
accommodation was. Cuthbert himself, a tall, slightly chubby, middle-aged wizard with
long, straggly brown hair, came out from behind the desk - business was slow at this time in the morning. He personally reassured her that charms put on the cages made them much larger inside than they were outside. On closer inspection, it could easily be seen that some of the cats were prowling around without apparently moving.
A crazy black and white dappled cat, who was racing around chasing her tail, was Talia's
favourite, but Kestra initially favoured a red tabby with piercing green eyes. Cuthbert
carefully and lovingly lifted the feline from the cage and placed it in Kestra's arms. She
stroked it experimentally. It blinked sleepily at her. She considered for a moment, then
shook her head and handed it back. As Cuthbert released the tabby back into the cage, which appeared to have grass growing in it, blowing in an invisible breeze, Kestra walked along the rows and rows of felines, looking into dozens of pairs of green and yellow and amber eyes. She stopped outside the cage of a small tortoiseshell, whose highly unusual blue eyes stared curiously out into her own. Cuthbert ambled over and opened the cage. The tortoiseshell cat glared at him until he delivered her into Kestra's arms, where she settled down and began to wash.
"Found this one scratching at my door one morning," reminisced Cuthbert. "Normally we buy
or breed 'em, but I take strays in if they look okay."
"She's perfect," said Kestra, carefully stroking her latest acquisition's head with one
finger, something approaching wonder in her tone. Talia was ecstatic at this display of
emotion from her overly sensible daughter, even if it was over a cat and not something
she'd normally consider worthwhile, like an owl or some clothes.
"How much?" asked Talia, opening her bright pink drawstring purse. The outfit she had
chosen for shopping was typically unsuitable - a flouncy red blouse with short, puffed
sleeves and tassels, a short black miniskirt, red fishnets over opaque black tights,
ridiculously high pink stilettos, and startlingly white gloves, topped off with a salmon
pink straw hat with pink lace flowers sewn onto it. Kestra had sensible, flat black lace-up shoes to match her sensible blue-check dress.
"Twelve silver," replied Cuthbert. Not particularly knowing the value of cats, Talia
didn't argue the price, but dutifully counted out the requested amount. Mother and
daughter thanked Cuthbert and were about to leave when he said, "That price includes a
carry-box, if you want it. Two silver extra for one enchanted like the cages."
There were almost as many different carry-boxes as cats. Talia dashed from hot pink to
golden wire to dazzling blue to fiery red/orange, while Kestra calmly selected a
convenient wicker arrangement with a nice beige blanket inside. Decanting the cat into the
basket, she collected her mother, who was rather disappointed by the altogether sensible
choice of her daughter but did have to admit that the muted tones were a better match for the fur of the cat inside.
"What are you going to call it?" asked Talia excitedly.
"Her," corrected Kestra firmly. "And I haven't decided yet."
"Then I shall call her Fluffypoos," replied Talia smugly. The feline shot her an expert
glare from within the basket, but Kestra was silent on the matter; there was no point in
rising to the bait.
Cuthbert waved a cheery goodbye as they left his shop. By now there were significantly
more shoppers in the Alley, many of them schoolchildren with parents in tow.
"Where next?" asked Talia, obviously energised by the success of their first purchase.
"Perhaps we should buy uniform next," replied Kestra. "It's a little bulky, but I doubt it
will be too heavy to manage."
"Oh, clothes! Wonderful!" exclaimed Talia.
"I believe this is the right shop," said Kestra, stopping outside Madam Malkin's Robes for
"No, no," admonished Talia, "they'll just set you up with the same boring robes everyone
wears. Just because it's uniform doesn't mean you can't make it your own!"
Kestra decided that noting too terrible could be done to a set of plain black robes, and
dutifully followed her mother to a smaller, newer-looking shop, with an elaborate display
of brightly-coloured robes half-undone on startlingly realistic female shop dummies. These
kept posturing invitingly until Kestra nailed one of them with a full-beam glare, at which
point the target tried to hide behind another, leading to rather a catfight. A sign above the entrance declared 'Style', in red, modern, italic script - an incongruous contrast to the medieval lettering of the other signage. Kestra began to revise her first assessment of the seriousness of this particular problem, but it was too late - Talia had already swept her inside and breezed up to one of the heavily made-up, significantly top-heavy and rather underdressed shop assistants.
"My daughter here's going to Hogwarts," said Talia by way of introduction, "and we were
wondering if you could point us to something a bit special - but still to the letter of
the rules, y'know?"
"Hogwarts, huh?" asked the assistant, sounding dead impressed. "We've got a few bits,
tricky one to get round, nothing too flash, y'know."
"I'm sure they'll be fabulous," replied Talia. Kestra had more-or-less given up by this
point, so followed her mother dutifully into the packed recesses of the shop, squeezing
between electric blue and hot pink robes 'designed for the witches of cool'. She obviously
wasn't 'cool' enough to appreciate them, as she thought they looked rather childish at
Tucked in the back corner of the shop were some much more sedate items, in black with just
the barest hint of decorative trimming around the edges. They were still made of some kind
of shimmery material, and in a stupid, clingy style designed to accentuate features that a
normal ten-year-old just doesn't quite posess yet, but they were more-or-less tolerable,
Kestra supposed, if it'd keep her mother happy. The assistant lifted one off the rack, at which point Talia caught sight of the price tag. The colour drained from her face.
"Call that style?" she said nervously, clutching Kestra's hand. "My darling Kestra will
look worse in that thing than in one of Madam Malkin's standard affairs!" With this she
swept out of the shop in a carefully calculated display of snootiness, dragging an
uncomplaining Kestra behind her. "I'm sure you'd prefer to look like all your classmates
anyway, won't you, dear?" she attempted when she was out of earshot of the shop on the way back to Madam Malkin's. Kestra just nodded reassuringly, very pleased to have escaped that possible setback to a day that had so far been quite bearable, her mother's outfit notwithstanding.
Madam Malkin's mauve outfit and efficient, no-nonsense manner did not suit Talia's
taste or style of shopping at all. Everything of interest was behind the counter and in
the fitting area, which Kestra was briskly whisked away to. Talia sat on a plain wooden
stool to wait for her child, gazing out of the window at the passers-by. The street was
buzzing with families - excited, babbling children, anxious mothers, and... fathers.
Strong, capable, sensible fathers. Once again, Talia felt a pang of guilt at not taking up the offer of her parents, to bring Kestra up as theirs. The busy, chattering family back at the big house would have driven her quiet, studious daughter even madder than her crazy mother, Talia reassured herself - but she remained unconvinced.
Kestra was pleased at the change of scenery. This was a much more sensible way to purchase
robes, she felt - making sure that the robes fit, rather than fussing about style and
material. She was the only one in the back of the shop being fitted, and the witch doing
the pinning (also kitted out in mauve, but it was a sedate, sensible mauve, so Kestra
didn't mind overly) was a quick, silent worker. Kestra liked the feel of the long flowing material covering her, much better than that clingy, too-tight rubbish in 'Style'.
Soon the witch had all her measurements and bustled off. Madam Malkin herself returned and
led her back to the front of the shop, where the other witch was already handing over
three nice plain black robes, a plain, matt black pointed hat, a thick black woollen
winter cloak and a pair of brown dragon-hide gloves to Talia, for a very modest spray of
Sickles and Knuts.
"If we buy the cauldron next," suggested Kestra, "we can carry the other items in it."
"Sure," replied Talia, struggling to carry all the packages of robes and the cloak. Kestra
carried the hat and balanced the gloves on top of the carry-box in which the tortoiseshell
cat was contentedly sleeping.
The hat joined the gloves atop the wicker carry-box as Kestra selected the correct type of
cauldron - pewter, size 2, self-stirring, collapsible - from the display spilling out of
the shop. She placed it on the counter and held some of the robes while her mother took
out her purse and paid. The fairly young attendant offered to collapse it for them, but
Kestra replied that wouldn't be necessary and proceeded to dump all their purchases into it. Talia took the cauldron by both handles and heaved it out of the shop.
"Phials, scales, telescope, books," recited Kestra. "I suspect the phials and scales will
be found in the same place."
"Flourish and Blotts is right here," suggested Talia, her enthusiasm for shopping
dampened somewhat by the heavy cauldron, as Kestra had suspected it would be when she
offered that idea.
Kestra let Talia wait at the entrance while she quickly gathered the required tomes. She
hovered in indecision for a moment over Hogwarts - A History, but decided it would be
unfair to make her mother purchase more than the essentials, as she knew that money was
actually quite tight for her, especially wizard money. The purse was indeed looking sadly
depleted after this transaction was finished and the books joined the other items in the cauldron. Kestra felt rather sorry for her mother at this point and offered to take one of the handles. Talia initially began to refuse the offer of help but decided that it was becoming rather a challenge to carry everything alone and let Kestra help.
One small collapsible telescope, a rather undersized set of brass scales and some
sparkling crystal phials (Talia insisted on crystal, feeling rather stingy about the size
of the last two items, and Kestra wrapped them carefully in one of the robes and laid on
top of the cauldron) later, the pair finally dragged their cauldron full of magical goods
up to Ollivander's. Kestra had suggested some of the less expensive wand shops on the way, but Talia was absolutely determined to get the best wand possible for her daughter.
"The wand is the most important part of all your equipment," admonished Talia. "It isn't
something you should scrimp on, or treat lightly."
Ollivander's didn't look like much, but Kestra had the feeling that, from the other shops
they had visited, the shabbier the exterior and the less ostentatious the window display,
the better the quality of the merchandise. Talia seemed very ill at ease within the
echoing, musty area in front of the counter, the sound of tinkling bells almost making her
jump, but Kestra felt quite at home there, with the ancient walls reeking of bookish silence. Ollivander himself soon emerged from the stacks and stacks of carefully labelled, neatly stored wands, and although Kestra spotted him coming, his soft greeting elicited an 'Oh!' of surprise from her mother.
"Greetings, Ollivander," replied Kestra. Even coming from one so young, the formal tones
did not sound so odd in this place.
"Welcome to Ollivander's," said Ollivander kindly. "Whom do I have the honour of
"Kestra Levine," answered Kestra confidently.
"Ah, yes," replied Ollivander. He looked up to meet Talia's nervous gaze. "Talia, isn't
it? Eight inches, pine, unicorn hair, rather flexible?" Talia nodded nervously in
agreement, wishing that Ollivander would hurry up and get to the point so that she could
escape. Ollivander turned his attention to Kestra again. "Hold out your wand arm for me,
will you, dear?"
Kestra obediently held out her right arm, and Ollivander's famous charmed tape-measure set
to work. Kestra held dead still as it measured all kinds of dimensions, while Talia
fidgeted nervously from foot to foot, wondering how much longer this was all going to
take. At last the tape measure flew back to Ollivander's hand, and he produced a wand -
selected, it seemed, before the tape measure had even finished its work - for Kestra to try.
"Oak and unicorn hair, ten inches, bendy," he announced, handing her the wand. She began
to swish it through the air, but before she could give it a flick Ollivander plucked it
from her hand. He carefully replaced it and selected another.
"Larch and phoenix feather, twelve inches, pliable." Swish, flick - Ollivander shook his
head and took it back.
"Ebony and dragon heartstring, eleven inches, almost rigid." It was difficult to get a
good swish on this one, but it felt like it belonged in her hand. "Try again," encouraged
Ollivander. Swish, flick - the wand spat a few fat green sparks, and a smell of burning
dust wafted through the air. Ollivander looked thoughtful for a moment, then took the wand
back. After quite a while he came out with a very similar-looking wand.
"Ebony and dragon heartstring again, ten inches, slightly more flexible." This time, the
swish and flick was much easier to pull off, and the green sparks were more orderly and
faded faster. "That's more like it," nodded Ollivander approvingly. "That'll be seven
Galleons, then." Talia looked a little pale at the price, but obediently opened her purse
and counted out the money. She only had five Galleons, and had to count out the rest in smaller change - the final Galleon she had to make up with some Knuts. Finally, though, she placed the last Knut on the counter and fled from the store.
"Thank you," said Kestra politely, before pocketing the wand and heaving the cauldron out,
to be met by a very concerned Talia, feeling guilty about making Kestra attempt to lift
the cauldron on her own.
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