|“||People are naïve about such things…||”|
|— The man in the grey suit|
At the time before the start of The Night Circus The man in the grey suit was the magic teacher of Hector Bowen until a disagreement about his teaching methods lead to Bowen leaving him to instruct students of his own. Consequently, The man in the grey suit and Bowen stayed in touch and began pitting their own students against one another in increasingly complex challenges.
After receiving a letter from his former student, Hector Bowen, wanting to begin a new challenge, the man in the grey suit goes to one of Hector's magician shows in London. Afterwards, the man in the grey suit visits Hector in the latter's dressing room. Before he could greet him, however, Hector asks the man in the grey suit if he hated the performance, knowing very well that he was in the audience. The man in the grey suit admits that he never did approve of such exhibitions, stating that he does not understand why Hector does what he does: "Passing of manipulations as tricks and illusion". He is then told by Hector that no one in the audience can tell what he does is real, all they do know is that he is the best at it.
After being offered a drink, the man in the grey suit brings up the reason why he is there: he received the letter addressed to him earlier. Hector asks the man in the grey suit if he is interested in a new challenge, but first introduces him to his daughter, Celia, the reason for his return to teaching. The man in the grey suit watches as Celia is ordered to show him what she can do, with a pocket watch. She simply rotates the watch on the table and levitates it, but though the man in the grey suit finds the trick impressive, he also finds it basic. However, after hearing his comment, Celia shatters the watch into pieces and then restores it. The man in the grey suit finds this much more impressive, but notes her temper. He then listens on as Hector states that her temper is just a product of her youth and claiming that when Celia's older she would be incomparable. The man in the grey suit then then tells Hector that he could take in any child from the street and teach them to be as comparable. Hector finds these comments to be a willingness to play the challenge, which the man in the grey suit agrees. The two also agree that the venue for this new challenge should be more complex than last. He then brings into account of the possibilities for Hector if Celia were to lose, he would lose his only daughter. Hector, however, is willing to take all the risks he needs in order to win. The man in the grey suit gives Celia his silver ring and puts in on her finger, commencing the binding process in which the ring shrinks into her skin forming a scar.
The man in the grey suit then tells Hector that would need time to find a young student of his own, which his former student readily agrees to, stating that he can have all the time he needs. In the discussion of venues, Hector states that he knows a theatrical producer by the name of Chandresh Christophe Lefèvre who may be up to the job of creating something wonderous; he also gives the man in the grey suit the producers card. Before they convene, the man in the grey suit is told by Hector that he wants no time limits for this challenge, also giving him the first move, a long with his gold ring to give to Celia's future competitor.
- His actual name is never revealed, however it is known that it is not "Alexander" based on Celia's comment on it at the start of the book, "It's one he wears like a hat. So he can take it off if he wants. Like Prospero is for [Hector]".