HP ff – Chapter 2 – Familiar Faces

The next day, with Tom’s help and with the other older witches’ and wizards’—at one point, goblins’—assistance, Alexandra managed to get money from her parents’ vaults in Gringotts. She first went to Flourish and Blotts to buy her school books. However, after completing her list, she noticed that all that was left of her money bag were a few pieces of Sickles and Knuts. So she had to go back to Gringotts again to get more money and finish her shopping. Her day still ended well though, because as she made her way back to the Leaky Cauldron, with Snuffles carrying most of her books, Mr. Florean Fortescue enthusiastically invited her to his ice cream parlour and gave her a strawberry and vanilla ice cream topped with nuts and chocolate syrup for free. Florean was very fond of Alexandra’s family because he was a very good friend of her mum.

On the following day, Alexandra brought with her the small trunk that was owned by her godfather. She thought it would be a lot easier to walk around and shop with a trunk attached to a trolley Tom had lent her. After filling her money bag with a considerable weight of noisy coins, she went on to buy the rest of her school things. She decided to go first to Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions to get her uniform. She and Snuffles were greeted by a squat witch wearing a mauve robe and a kind smile on her face.

“Hogwarts, dear?” she asked. Alexandra nodded in response. “You’re an early bird, you are. First customer of the day.”

Madam Malkin led her to the back of the shop where she was made to stand on a stool. She then slipped an oversized black robe on her and started pinning the ends to get the right measurements.

“Excited to go to Hogwarts, are you?” she said kindly while pinning a considerable excess of the robes’ length that fell her past the stool Alexandra was standing on.

“Yes,” she answered, failing to suppress a smile.

“I’m sure you’ll have lots of fun there,” she said and beamed at her. When she turned, she saw that Alexandra was accompanied by Snuffles who went to the dark corner near of the room Alexandra and sat straight, behaving himself. “And is this your pet?” she asked again, staring at him.

“Yes,” Alexandra replied hesitantly. She forgot to ask for Madam Malkin’s permission first before allowing Snuffles in her shop. She was not sure if Madam Malkin was okay with having a great big wolf in her shop.

Madam Malkin eyed Snuffles briefly and said, “He’s a handsome dog, seems very loyal,” and she smiled approvingly Snuffles.

Alexandra felt relieved and smiled, yet as she was about to open her mouth to correct her about Snuffles being a wolf not a dog, they heard more than two people entered the shop. A second witch appeared to take over Alexandra’s measurements as Madam Malkin excused herself and greeted her customers.

She heard Madam Malkin ask the same question (“Hogwarts?”) and a curt reply from another woman (“Yes.”), followed by footsteps going toward where she was.

Madam Malkin led a fairly tall middle-aged woman with blonde hair fixed elegantly in a tight bun. Her dark maroon robes looked very expensive that Alexandra, for a couple of second, almost goggled at it. Behind her came a young boy who seemed just her age. He would have looked effortlessly handsome with his hair flowing elegantly on his face if he did not look so sour.

Madam Malkin placed a stool beside Alexandra and beckoned the boy to climb on it. Before he did so, he noticed that Alexandra was looking at him so he stared back at her. Feeling hot in the face, Alexandra immediately focused her gaze at Snuffles.

“I will be back,” the elegant woman said in a cold voice and left, without waiting for her son to reply.

“Hi,” said the boy as soon as his mother was out of earshot.

“Hi,” Alexandra replied, as she gave him a quick side glance.

“Wow! That’s a big one,” he uttered a bit loudly. Alexandra turned to look at him and followed his gaze; he was staring amusedly at Snuffles.

“He’s Snuffles,” she muttered and smiled.

“He’s yours?” Alexandra nodded. “I’ve never seen a wolf before, never thought they’d be that big!”

Alexandra was quite taken aback. She was quite impressed with how this boy easily distinguished a wolf from a dog. Nearly everyone she met before always thought Snuffles and Scout were dogs, just like what Madam Malkin thought Snuffles was.

“How did you know he’s a wolf?” she asked and added that what she had just thought about most people not knowing their difference.

The boy shrugged, “Read about them. How long have you had him?”

“Since he was born. His mum was our family pet.”

“Wicked!” the boy said admiringly, and he grinned widely at her, which made Alexandra blush. “You’re going to Hogwarts, too, aren’t you?”

“Yes,”

“Wish you could bring him with you,” he said, a slight trace of regret in his voice, “I think bringing a wolf like yours as a pet at Hogwarts would be very fun.”

Alexandra just smiled at him. She did not dare tell him about the special letter the Hogwarts Headmaster himself wrote so she could bring Snuffles with her to Hogwarts. The boy seemed like a nice kid, but his mother didn’t seem like the type who would be amused to have her son run around the Hogwarts castle with a gigantic wolf tailing at him.

“There you go, dear. You’re done,” said Madam Malkin, beckoning her back to the shop front. As soon as she hopped down from the footstool, Snuffles stood up and walked toward her and the boy. He started sniffing on him. The boy laughed good heartedly.

“I think he likes you,” Alexandra said, sounding amused.

The boy grinned handsomely at her and asked enthusiastically, “Can I pet him?”

Alexandra smiled and nodded. She beckoned Snuffles to get closer to the boy so he wouldn’t have to leave his footstool. The boy bent down to reach Snuffles as he walked toward him, but before he could even reach Snuffles head, a cold voice made them all jump.

“Sirius, NO!” it belonged to the boy’s mother who suddenly stormed toward them and snatched his son’s hand. She then turned to Alexandra and stared at her angrily. Alexandra, on the other hand, immediately grabbed Snuffles neck and pulled him and herself backward, almost stumbling.

“Let go!” the boy called Sirius shouted back, restraining from the tight grip of her mother’s hand.

“How dare you bring that filthy beast in shops like this?” said the woman to Alexandra, every word filled with rage.

“No, he’s not—“ Alexandra started to speak indignantly but Sirius cut her off, finally freeing himself from his mother’s grip.

“I’ll see you at Hogwarts!” he said loudly, grinning widely at her. Alexandra, clinging to her instinct that it must be his way of telling her off, turned her back to them.

Madam Malkin ushered her back to the front of the shop to hand her the robes and cloaks. Alexandra immediately handed out her payment to her. She was starting to feel guilty because she could still hear the argument that had started between that boy Sirius and his mum. She wanted to go back and apologize, but Snuffles, sensing her guilt and desire to walk back inside, started pulling her from the cuff of her shirt. As she said her thanks to Madam Malkin and turned to leave the shop, a couple of handsomely dressed father and son entered. The young boy had a striking resemblance to Sirius, although he was obviously younger and shorter than Sirius. The man was obviously the source of the striking features on his sons. They walked past Alexandra and went to the back room, ushered by Madam Malkin.

Her trips to the other shops were quite as uneventful compared to what happened at Madam Malkin’s, but they were considerable more enjoyable for Alexandra. She went on to buy the other items in her list. Her first stop was at the Amanuensis Quills right beside Madam Malkin’s where she bought her set of quills and inks and rolls of parchments. Then, she went to buy her brass scales and glass phials at the Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment. Next was the Apothecary which was very familiar to her. She was a frequent visitor at this shop and the owner was very friendly with her, remembering her as the young Zach. Her last stop at the North side of the Diagon Alley was Potage’s Cauldron Shop to purchase her pewter cauldron.

The last two remaining shops that Alexandra had wanted to visit that morning was on the South side of the Diagon Alley, so she had decided to bring all the stuff she had bought back to her room in the Leaky Cauldron and then head off to buy her wand and something for Snuffles. She had promised Tom that they’d be back for lunch then set off once more to Diagon Alley.

When they were nearing Florish and Blotts, Snuffles suddenly ran toward a boy with black shoulder-length hair who was about to enter the shop and nudged him with his nose. It was that boy named Sirius, and Snuffles was inviting Sirius to finally pat him on his head, which he did excitedly. After a quick pat, Snuffles ran back to her, just as soon as Sirius’s mother had looked back on her son. When she had gone inside, Sirius went back out, frantically looking around. Then, his eyes fell on Alexandra, who was standing next to Snuffles, rooted to her spot. He waved at her and smiled. Alexandra remembered feeling guilty about what had happened earlier that she responded with a small wave and mouthed “Sorry” to him. To her surprise, Sirius shook his head, winked his eye, and grinned handsomely at her. Then, he went inside the shop.

Alexandra and Snuffles went on, feeling incredibly happier than ever. She felt pleased to have made a ‘friend’ or perhaps had known a familiar face that she could look for at the start of the term at Hogwarts. When they passed by Florish and Blotts, she slowed her walk and tried to see if she could see him again from the store’s windows, but the place was packed, and it was impossible to see who’s inside, even if you stuck up your nose on the windows.

Finally, they had reached Ollivanders Wand Shop. The south part of the Alley was almost deserted, compared to the crowd that was flooding the north part of the alley. When she and Snuffles had stepped inside, a tinkling bell rang to announce their presence. From the corner of the shop came a middle-aged man with wide, pale silver eyes.

“Good morning, Alexandra Zach,” said the man in his soft voice. He walked toward them and stood in front of them.

“Good morning, sir,” greeted Alexandra as she smiled. She had known Mr. Ollivander for a long time through her father. “Oh, I’m sorry about my wolf, sir. Should I make him wait outside your shop?” she asked, worried about upsetting Mr. Ollivander.

“No, he can stay here.” he replied softly and continued staring at her. “I believe this is the wolf that broke your intruder’s wand?”

The question somehow felt like a cold blow to Alexandra because it was like all of a sudden, she was forced to remember that night—she saw it once more, Snuffles breaking one of the wands he had in his snout. She tried to clear her head and nodded in reply.

“Did you know that it was a Gregorovitch wand that your wolf had snapped?” he asked once more.

Alexandra shook her head and replied earnestly, “No, sir.”

The old face broke into a smile, “Fir, twelve inches, dragon heartstring. Snapped into two by a wolf,” he said this, looking amused while eyeing Snuffles. Then, he pulled out a tape measure from his pocket and asked her to raise her wand arm. He started taking her measurements. “Your father Ardolph Zach favoured an apple wand, thirteen inches, and dragon heartstring for a core. He almost lived up to the wand’s power, except for his early demise.”

This made Alexandra flinch, as if burned by the last statement of Mr. Ollivander. He paused from what he was doing and stared at her for a moment. Embarrassed by what had happened, Alexandra gave him a small smile. Mr. Ollivander then continued his work and his speech, “Elethea White preferred a rowan, eleven and a quarter inches, unicorn hair. A perfect match for someone like herself. But I believe she never got the chance to use it for a duel?”

“No, sir,” muttered Alexandra, who seemed to have realized that there was no way she could evade Mr. Ollivander’s questions about her family. She probably should just go on with it then. “It was my dad and my uncle who managed to duel with—that man.“

“Ah of course, your father’s cousin, Rand Zach,” Mr. Ollivander said, his silver eyes shining like the moon. “A very talented and interesting young man he was, and look at what he went home with when he was your age—a dogwood wand, twelve and three quarters inches, unicorn core. He always thanked me every time he saw me for the wand that he had. But it is the wand that chooses the wizard, of course, not me.”

Alexandra knew all about this, as she had already heard of Mr. Ollivander talk about this many times. She smiled knowingly at him, which he returned with a small smile. He went on to his shelves and started picking out boxes of wands for her.

“That is enough,” he said and the tape measure fell on the floor. Snuffles immediately picked it up and handed it to Mr. Ollivander who seemed pleased with the wolf as he said his thanks.

Alexandra had tried quite a few wands that was handed to her by Mr. Ollivander—first was the Willow and dragon heartstring which created a magnificent effect but Mr. Ollivander was not convinced. Followed by Beech-wood and unicorn hair, then Ebony and phoenix feather, Hazel and unicorn hair, Pear and phoenix feathers, and Cypress and dragon heartstring. Every wand she held either performed poorly in Mr. Ollivander’s eyes or did not look good on her because he just kept snatching the wand from her hand. On her seventh try, Mr. Ollivander handed Alexandra an English oak and phoenix feather, and as soon as Alexandra held the hand, she immediately understood what Mr. Ollivander had been talking about.

“Ah, how fascinating! It was believed that Merlin owned an English oak, but of course, nobody could confirm it. However, yours is ten inches, unyielding. How very interesting, Ms. Zach. This event is as equally curious as your family’s. Let us hope that you will surpass their achievements,” he said, as he placed Alexandra’s wand in a long thin box and accepted her payment of seven Galleons. “Please feel free to visit me while you’re here at Diagon Alley, Alexandra,” he called gently on as Alexandra opened the door. She nodded happily and waved goodbye at him.

The Magical Menagerie was also a happy shop for Alexandra, again it was one of the shops she frequently visited with her father. However, it was quite a disappointment for her to not find anything she could buy for Snuffles, except for a fang brush, which Snuffles didn’t really seem to like.

On their way back to Leaky Cauldron, they saw that the Quidditch Quality Supplies was packed with customers. There seemed to be a new broom in display. Had she and Snuffles been feeling hungry, she would have run toward it to take a peek.

Alexandra and Snuffles had decided to start packing her trunk after a hearty luncheon. It would have been a pleasant way to end a rather tiring day, but she saw something that made her feel miserable, she ended up crying for quite sometime.

A picture of her with her family fell from the big trunk that once belonged to her mother. All the faces—including hers—were beaming brightly at her, waving, his comedic of an uncle frantically waving and dancing behind. Crouching in front of them were Scout and Snuffles, while Almond stood on top of Snuffles’s head, flapping his wings. It was taken during her eleventh birthday, just five months ago.

Snuffles tried to comfort her by putting his head on her shoulder. She wiped her eyes with the back of her cuff sleeve, but they were immediately flooded with tears once more.

“I’m okay, Snuff,” she muttered to her wolf, patting him on his neck. “I just miss them … a lot.”

“I’m sure they miss you, too, love,” said a concerned voice that came from the mirror across the room.

 

The following days were spent by Alexandra and Snuffles visiting several shops to say hello to the different people she knew for years and reading her course books. She had spent considerable time with Florean because he always wanted to give her free ice cream and sundaes and would never accept a single coin from her. She was extremely pleased to be with his company because he was so much like her father. Florean would always ask her about what she had learned so far from her course books and would even lecture her about history which was easily his favourite subject.

As promised, she also went to check on Mr. Ollivander every now and then. But she did not dare enter when she saw him with customers. When she’s inside the shop, however, Mr. Ollivander would tell her of his adventures on acquiring the materials he needed for his wandmaking. She was always excited to hear about phoenixes because they were rare and hard to find. It had been Ardolph’s dream to see a phoenix or catch it and take it home as a pet.

She had also frequently visited Quidditch Quality Supplies and started at all the goods the store sold. Quidditch was one of her favourite sports, played usually with her godfather, Uncle Rand. To her opinion, her godfather was a very skilled flier. None of her parents flew very well on brooms, so these things reminded her greatly of her uncle. Instinctively, her hand held the mokeskin pouch on her side, the one created by her father which nestled her mother’s wand, a secret only she, Snuffles, and Aberforth Dumbledore knew. With this, she realized that she did not have anything from her godfather that she could bring anywhere like this pouch.

But of course, most of her godfather’s things as well as all the other belongings of her parents were in their ruined house which she was still not prepared to visit again just yet. Perhaps some other time, she told herself as she stepped off the shop, her eyes looking longingly at a Golden Snitch on the store shelf.

 

During her last week, as Alexandra and Snuffles went about on their usual daily stroll at Diagon Alley, she had planned to buy fresh rolls of parchment for school. She had already finished the first set she bought during her week because of her doodling while reading books. She also wanted to buy some art materials she could bring to Hogwarts.

After replenishing her money bag hopefully for the last time before she and Snuffles went to Hogwarts, they set off to go to Mr. Ollivander’s to say a quick hello. However, a gloved hand that held her shoulder tightly stopped her from running. She turned around to see that a fairly-aged woman who looked beautiful despite her age was eyeing her beadily.

“What is your name, child?” she said in a chiming voice.

Alexandra stared at her apprehensively and said after a few seconds, “A-Alexandra Zach, miss.” From the corner of her eye, she saw Snuffles advanced toward the lady, so she held up her hand to stop him.

The woman was still staring at her with her blue eyes. Then, she let go and let out a huge sigh and smiled at her.

“I’m sorry about that. I just thought you looked vaguely familiar,” she said casually, her eyes surveying her and Snuffles.

Alexandra did not say anything in return. She had seen this woman before, and if her memory was not betraying her, this woman was called Madam Primpernelle, the owner of the beautifying store here in Diagon Alley. She grew up hearing her mum criticising that shop. Elethea was not very fond of the potions she made, or the beautifying potions in general.

“You somehow resembled an old employee of mine who had gone away without a trace, probably eloped with some stupid man,” she said, sounding a bit irritated, her hands waving impatiently. “She’s a pretty girl, quite favoured by my male customers. But upon closer inspection, you look much more beautiful than her.”

Alexandra felt herself go red by Madam Primpernelle’s praise. She muttered an almost incomprehensible “Thank you” and kept her eyes on her shoes. The woman, however, laughed almost shrilly.

“Ah, and you’re much more modest and humble, too! That Hyde girl was quite pompous and proud. Indeed, you can’t be related to her. Perhaps just a dizzying coincidence. Well, I have to go,” she said. “Drop by Madam Primpernelle’s shop one day in case pimples start to attack your pretty face, okay? That’s a good girl.” she said, winking at her and patting her head with her gloved hand. Then she turned her heel and head off, leaving Alexandra speechless.

 

Back in her room at the Leaky Cauldron, Alexandra thought of her strange encounter with Madam Primpernelle. She wondered what would her mother say if she were alive and found out about what that woman said to her.

“I’m not sure mum would be pleased to know I was praised by Madam Primpernelle,” Alexandra said loudly to Snuffles, while staring at their family picture.

“Why wouldn’t she?” said the voice from the mirror indignantly, “I see you every day, and I have never seen such a beautiful face in my entire existence!”

“I shall tell Tom you need to be let out once in a while to see prettier sights then,” she said while laughing. Snuffles growled sleepily.

“No, you shall not. The glare would kill me,” replied the voice curtly.

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