Chapter 21 - International Visitors
Just one year, Harry wouldn't mind a boring teacher for Defense Against the Dark Arts. Really, Dumbledore's decision for John Constantine to take the position might prove to be evidence of a slow degradation towards insanity or senility. It was already clear enough from the opening term feast and his display of strange magic against Garth, but even if it weren't, just the first few minutes of his class is well enough to show Harry that Constantine is not exactly what one could call a typical teacher. Frankly, it's baffling why a man like him would even accept a position teaching kids and teenagers at all.
Even a few minutes in and it's obvious that his sobriety is going to be an issue. He's been taking swigs from his hip flask since the class started, not to mention his constant smoking. Honestly, the amount of cigarettes he goes through means he's probably more accustomed to tobacco smoke than actual air. That he isn't a hoarse-voiced, coughing mess is practically a miracle, or more likely, a problem he's solved using magic.
However, it's his approach to teaching that seems most bizarre. Constantine is not like any teacher Harry had before, Hogwarts or otherwise. His face screws up in disgust every time a student tries to call him Professor, and he puts little to no stock in the prescribed textbooks, or any textbook. Even Remus, while as practical and hands-on as possible, had still seen the wisdom in teaching the theory of dark creatures and defensive spells. But as Hermione goes to place her book on the desk in front of her, he rolls his eyes melodramatically, as though the mere thought of using one as a teaching tool offends him.
"Oh, you're one of those types?" Constantine asks her with a puff of his newly lit cigarette. He's lounged back in the chair behind the teacher's desk, hands rested behind his head. He's watching down his nose with bloodshot, lidded eyes as Hermione moves to open the book. "Don't bother with that. You won't be needing it."
"You mean our defense textbooks?" Hermione asks, confusion etched on her face. Questioning her love of traditional education is practically sacrilege to Hermione, so naturally she looks at Constantine like he's lost his mind.
"The old bats that write those books have probably never been in a real throwdown in their entire lives," Constantine smirks. "You'd trust 'em to keep you alive?"
Hermione can't help but get in a retort. "But… the textbooks are prescribed so we can learn the proper spells—" Ron taps his elbow into her arm, probably an effort to keep her quiet. The idea of a year of Defense Against the Dark Arts without the use of a textbook probably has him delighted.
Harry turns his head to peek over his shoulder at his classmates. As expected, some are openly shaking their heads in exasperation at Hermione's bibliophilic overachieving nature, but most seem genuinely confused. They whisper amongst themselves and eye Constantine suspiciously like he's more than likely another useless Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. After three years at Hogwarts, even despite the chaos of those three years, they have come to know what to expect from a normal class. Constantine seems quite happy to throw all those expectations straight out the window.
Constantine scoffs. "You wanna read those nitwits' approach to defense, be my guest. But I'm not here to show you spells you can learn from reading a book. I'm here to teach you little blighters how to look after yourselves if you ever find yourselves in a proper scrap."
So, he's not going to be teaching the spells from the textbook? As far as Harry knows, what gets taught in classes at Hogwarts isn't even really up to the teacher themselves. According to what Remus said in third year, it's the Ministry of Magic who sets the actual curriculum, and the teacher can only really decide the order and the manner of how it gets taught. Apparently, that doesn't matter in the slightest to Constantine, or perhaps Dumbledore as well, considering who hired him.
Hermione looks over at Harry as though silently begging for his support. Harry shrugs his shoulders. She has a point, but if Constantine has a more hands on approach to teaching, it's not something Harry's going to argue with. Hell, with everything he's tasked with this year, the idea of maybe having a little less homework sounds like a tremendous relief.
"You're going to teach them how to fight?" Tula asks, tone filled with judgment and one eyebrow cocked while she looks Constantine up and down. While he's already proven he has an ability with magic that is beyond even Garth's understanding, Tula has spent her entire life around Atlantis' greatest warriors. Compared to the obvious might of gargantuan soldiers like Commander Murk or Zeekil Neol, to Tula, Constantine must not look like much.
Harry almost expects Garth to jump in and agree with her, but the dark-haired boy is quiet, his focused gaze watching Constantine with keen interest. He's no doubt remembering how easily Constantine had restrained him. Harry knows, even if Garth won't say it outright, that his male guard believes Atlantean might and magic superior to surfacers, but his natural curiosity, especially regarding magic, seems to have him more interested in what the man might teach.
Harry's not so sure that Tula should discount Constantine's abilities so quickly. Constantine must know how powerful the Atlanteans are, and yet the man doesn't seem even the slightest bit concerned. The way he'd so easily disabled Garth, even if he used the element of surprise, should tell her there's more to Constantine than meets the eye. She's normally smarter and more cautious. Because he isn't Atlantean, Tula's not seeing him as anybody who could pose a legitimate threat if he wanted.
Harry gets an urge to stop her before she can really pick a fight, but he's also kind of curious. This is one of the first real and informalinteractions between an Atlantean and a surfacer, and he wants to see how it plays out. Not to mention that Constantine is definitely a mystery, and Harry's curious about him,too.
Constantine smirks and vanishes his cigarette with a wave of his hand—another display of his unusual magic. He climbs to his feet and grins as though Tula is the first thing to interest him today. "Did I say I was going to teach you all how to fight? I'll leave that to you, Xena Warrior Princess," he says with another exaggerated eye roll. "I'm not a fighter. I'm a survivor. My talent's for lying. For sticking the knife in when people least expect it, then walking away with a smile and a wave before they ever realize they're bleeding." With every word, he's moving towards Tula's desk until his hands rest on the edges. To her it probably seems threatening, but Constantine smirks like to him it's just fun.
Tula stares back, challenging his every word with a look that practically screams how unimpressed she is. "So, you're a coward."
Constantine lifts his hands from her desk and laughs, deep and loud. "I've been called a lot of things over the years, lass, but never that."
"Tula," Harry admonishes quietly with a slight shake of his head. Accusing a man who is such a mystery to them of being a coward isn't likely to help with making friends on the surface. He's already proven how enigmatic his magic is, even to an expert like Garth. Tula is obviously suspicious of Constantine after he'd used his magic on Garth, but Harry isn't sure that it'd be wise to push his buttons. Treating him like a potential enemy while they know nothing about him might prove to be a fatal mistake. Harry's still dead curious, but forcing a confrontation definitely isn't wise.
Tula glances at Harry, seated at the desk between her own and Garth's at the front of the classroom. She's careful not to look so far to the side that she can't see Constantine out of her peripheral vision. One glance at Harry's imploring face has her shrugging in defeat. Constantine snickers at her before turning his focus to Harry. His eyes glint as he smirks down at Harry, and Harry gets the distinct impression that he's enjoying the interaction with her.
"What's wrong, Princeling? Don't agree with your royal guard?" His tone bleeds with sarcasm. "You spent the summer learning from soldiers like these two, eh?" He nods his head towards Tula and Garth on either side of him. "All that, 'glory in an honorable fight' bollocks that soldiers go on with… they got into your head with all that yet or do I actually have a chance at getting through to you?"
Harry doesn't get the chance to answer before there's a dagger tip pressing into the back of his neck just above where Egg's body is wrapped around his shoulders. Garth almost throws his desk across the room when he gets to his feet, one arm encased in ice as his magic engulfs the other in flames. Tula groans and twists in her chair, but it's almost like Constantine's magic has her glued to the surface of her seat, and even with Atlantean strength she can't budge. Where Constantine was standing in front of Harry, there is now just a fading golden afterimage. Somehow, the real Constantine that appears behind Harry doesn't just fool a class of fourth years with the magic, but three Atlanteans with heightened senses as well. There's no discernible incantation or movement to his magic at all. It's like the man can just disappear and reappear with no one knowing he's moved at all until he wants them to.
Hermione lets out a gasp and covers her mouth with her hand, and Ron stands from his seat. He can't see most of the class's reactions since he's at the front of the room, but behind him, Harry hears chairs scrape along the ground as other students get to their feet, and a couple of students actually let out a laugh—probably Draco and one of his friends. Seamus whispers to Dean that Constantine seems like a lunatic, and Theo Nott tells someone that clearly Garth and Tula aren't as impressive as they pretend.
"So, the three most powerful people in the room, and I've got a dagger at one's throat, incapacitated the mouthy one," he nods once again at Tula, "and I think I've already shown you I can deal with Mr. Hot and Cold here."
Harry swallows, but doesn't turn his head. All it takes is a deep breath to calm him—and Egg,— before his protective instincts kick into gear. Like when he'd used his bizarre magic on Garth, Constantine's goal seems to be to prove a point. If he wanted Harry dead, he'd simply try to plunge the dagger into his back, though with Harry's newfound Atlantean durability, there's no guarantee that would even work. Egg lifts his head to sniff at the hem of Constantine's tan coat, but doesn't seem to react in any other way. Because Harry is calm and mostly unworried, Egg is fine, too.
"Remove your weapon from Prince Harry, or die where you stand," Garth says, voice colder and more threatening than Harry's ever heard it. He raises his flaming arm and steps forward, close enough that Harry can feel the heat and power radiating from him in pulsing waves. Tula's chair falls sideways to the floor, her backside still stuck to the seat despite her writhing and struggling hard enough that the veins in her arms are bulging and her knuckles white from pressure.
The tip of the dagger disappears from the back of Harry's neck, but Garth's face doesn't lose its tension. Constantine moves towards the teacher's desk once more, back turned to the class and clearly unbothered by Garth as he idly waves a hand to free Tula from his spell. She's on her feet not a second later, weapon in hand for the second time in the first ten minutes of the first class of the year.
"Stay back!" Tula hisses, face beet red, though Harry guesses her reaction is more out of embarrassment from being subdued than it is rage. She holds her huge, curved, two-handed blade aloft before her. Anybody else wielding it might look silly, like the giant blade would make the wielder unbalanced and easy to fight. But Tula doesn't look unbalanced—she looks terrifyingly furious, eyes narrow and alert, and clearly ready to fight at a moment's notice.
"Alright there, no need to get your knickers in a twist," Constantine holds up his hands in fake surrender after taking his seat again. A cocky smirk pulls at the corners of his mouth.
Harry reaches out both hands to calm his two guards, even daring to reach through Garth's flames to grasp his wrist. "Stop, I don't think he was trying to hurt me." Harry's hand nearly burns at the touch of Garth's powerful magic, but he needs to get through to them, and now. He regrets letting this start in the first place. This is not the way they're going to complete their mission on the surface. All this time Harry has been thinking about how to get the surface world to accept Atlantis, he hasn't considered how to get Atlantis to accept the surface. A man as unpredictable as Constantine isn't making things any easier.
"We're sworn to protect you, Prince Harry," Garth says, not taking his eyes away from Constantine. "We cannot stand by when somebody threatens your life." His flames sputter out as he looks down to frown at Harry's hand reaching through them.
"Stand down," Harry orders firmly. He adds as much authority to his voice as he can, but to his own mind he sounds like a boy playing at being a Prince.
Harry's so used to suppressing his emotions so Egg doesn't react that it's surprising when Egg stands on his hind legs to hiss at Garth. His wings spread wide and he bares his teeth, picking up on the desperation Harry has to stop his guards from escalating the situation even further.
Garth's eyes widen ever so slightly at the Leviathan. Harry reaches up and shushes the Leviathan, but Egg's display proves just how much Harry wants them to stand down. Garth lets out a subtle, quiet sigh as he releases his magic and takes his seat. On his other side, Tula grunts her annoyance and picks her seat up off the floor.
While there's a part of Harry that agrees with his two guards, the more intuitive part of his mind can't move past the idea of Constantine's entire display just being a point he's making for the class. That's especially true, given that Harry is entirely unharmed. With the strange magic this man wields—wandless and seeming to come from a source other than himself, rather than based on individual, innate power like the Atlanteans—there's no way of knowing what he might do to Harry if he so desired. Harry still feels no genuine threat from the man at all, regardless of his actions.
Truthfully, Tula was probably the one to push his buttons enough to make Constantine feel like another display was necessary. It's going to be difficult for herself and Garth to let go of what they must believe is clearly their own Atlantean superiority above any on the surface. As much as Harry's going to need to prove what Atlanteans are capable of and can share on the surface, he's going to have to show his two guards the value the surface world has as well.
No doubt Constantine is well aware of how difficult his job as Professor could become if he's immediately shown to be weaker than the teenaged Atlantean guards of one of his students. Maybe Harry is forgiving him too easily, or is too fascinated by how easily he can cast spells on them without their knowledge, but the fact is that Constantine's actions seem almost logical. To be effective as a teacher, he needs to earn his students' respect, so he can't very well let Tula talk down to him in front of the entire class without repercussions. His approach was unusual, but he can't make the argument that it's ineffective.
Even sitting, Garth and Tula are tense and wary as they stare down the teacher. Still, they no longer seem to want to physically attack him, so Harry lets out a breath and feels the tension disappear from his muscles. Egg settles back around his neck. Constantine himself looks bored and unbothered still, lifting his cigarette from his mouth to blow smoke in the air.
"So, are you ready to learn, or what?" He looks Harry dead in the eye.
The year was always going to be disruptive for Harry, but he at least expected to get through the first class of the year without getting called away. Dobby had come halfway through the Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson to tell Harry that Dumbledore wanted to see him. It's a good thing he's got educational alternatives to Hogwarts because if he can't even get through a single class without being called away, then learning anything at Hogwarts may well become impossible.
It's quite annoying, too. Despite how bizarre the class had started, Harry can't deny that Constantine is kind of fascinating. He's mostly just telling the class stories about some of his adventures—which frankly he shouldn't be, considering how inappropriate most seem to be—but if even half of them are true then it's clear he can teach them a lot. It might be an exaggeration that he once battled a bar full of monsters with nothing more than a regular deck of cards, but if it's not, then learning from him might be a good idea.
Professor Lockhart was prone to the same sort of ridiculous bragging, but then Lockhart never managed to prove any of them true. Constantine had managed to get past the defenses of two trained Atlantean elites. If his stories are lies, then his actions in class have made them easy to believe.
"Dobby always knew Harry Potter was special," the house-elf is giddy with excitement as he guides Harry towards Dumbledore's office despite Harry's protestations that he knows the way. "But Dobby never suspected Harry Potter could be a Prince! Dobby is so honored to—"
"Uh, yeah, it's good to see you too, Dobby," Harry cuts him off before Dobby gets the chance to cry in joy. "Did Dumbledore say what he wants with me?"
Dobby shakes his head. "Professor Dumbledore has very important people in his office. They told Dobby that Harry Potter should be there, but Minister Fudge didn't think that was a good idea."
Oh, fantastic... Harry stifles a sigh.
After the press conference where Fudge had done everything in his power to discredit Harry and Atlantis, he's no doubt with Dumbledore trying to convince him of the same thing—or maybe he's just here to yell at Dumbledore for allowing it. Hopefully, Vulko is there as well. Getting through this sort of diplomatic hell is not exactly Harry's strength, and the vizier's help will probably be invaluable. After all, if Fudge was so bold as to discredit Harry publicly, then he's no doubt going to be far more honest about it in private. If that's what it takes to get actual answers about why he's taking such a hostile approach to Atlantis, then it might be worth it, no matter how uncomfortable.
Tula is walking alongside Harry, staring at the back of Dobby's head in utter bewilderment. Garth's mouth has opened several times like he wants to ask what on earth Dobby actually is, but doesn't quite know how to phrase it without it sounding rude. It's almost amusing, Harry thinks. Under the oceans there are countless different species of aquatic life, but the Atlanteans are the only true form of intelligent life. On the surface, or at least in the magical surface world, there are many. It's just another reminder that Atlantis has just as much to learn about the surface as the surface does Atlantis.
Truth be told, it's one of the reasons Harry would have liked to leave Tula and Garth back in class with Constantine. Both would have argued about their duty to protect Harry, though, and it wasn't worth the fight. The fact is though, Harry needs both of them to get used to the surface, and fast. If they don't learn the value of the surface quickly, Harry's job may well become that much harder. Harry needs to be able to trust that they can get by in Hogwarts without picking fights, and after what happened with Constantine, that's not really a guarantee.
Egg cranes his neck forward to try and get a better look at Dobby. He sniffs the air around the house-elf, moving his head like a cobra in the air to look at him from different angles. Even if the bond he has with Harry is enough to tell him that Dobby isn't a threat, it's not enough to quell his natural curiosity. Egg lets out a low-pitched growling whine, almost like he's trying to ask Dobby a question.
Dobby pauses and turns, utterly fearless. With a click of his fingers, he summons a small strip of fresh meat into his hand and offers it to Egg. Egg chokes it down with a snap of his teeth, returning to his perch around Harry's neck. Harry's eyebrows shoot up at the innocent but oddly sweet gesture. Half the students of Hogwarts are wary of Egg, but Dobby doesn't even hesitate.
"You're not afraid of him," Harry says, a statement rather than a question.
Dobby looks at Harry with wide eyes, as if he can't believe that Harry would have to ask. "Oh, no, sir. Harry Potter himself said that we don't have to be afraid of Aegeus the Leviathan. Harry Potter would not hurt me, so his Leviathan will not."
Harry is touched by the show of blind faith. He bends down and pats the house-elf on the shoulder. "Thanks, Dobby." Now that he's close enough to touch, Egg can't seem to help himself from stretching forward and licking the side of Dobby's face.
Dobby jumps at the contact, his eyes widening like he doesn't believe what just happened. For a moment Harry wonders if he did something wrong, but then Dobby's eyes fill with tears and he weeps.
"Touched by the great Prince Harry Potter, and Aegeus his Leviathan, too! Dobby does not deserve such an honor!"
Tula lifts a hand to her mouth to stop herself from laughing at the house-elf. Harry knows from experience that any attempt to get Dobby to stop is doomed to failure, so he takes another approach.
"Of course you do, Dobby," Harry says. "We're friends, aren't we?"
"F-friends?" Dobby chokes on the word. He coughs and splutters, as though language is suddenly beyond his capability. Harry shakes his head fondly, and a small smile flits across his face. If everyone at Hogwarts was so blindly trusting of Harry as Dobby, his mission would already be half done. If they weren't going to meet the Minister, Harry would introduce Dobby to Tula and Garth, too, but he'll have to worry about that later. Right now he's got bigger fish to fry.
They round the corner towards Dumbledore's office in silence, though Harry has to stop Egg from leaping off his shoulder and onto Dobby's. Just Harry touching his shoulder had nearly sent Dobby into a sobbing frenzy, and there's no telling how he'll react to the Leviathan clambering onto his back.
"Well, thanks for bringing me to Dumbledore's office. We'll talk later, okay?"
Dobby looks at him with tear-filled eyes, but he manages to nod. With a click of his fingers he vanishes, probably off somewhere to pull himself back together. That or, knowing Dobby, off to brag to anybody that'll listen that 'Prince Harry Potter,' considers him a friend.
The muffled shouting coming from up the open staircase to Dumbledore's office pulls him from the thought. The gargoyle is already moved aside to reveal the staircase behind that leads to Dumbledore's office. Harry takes a moment to mentally fortify himself before he climbs with a heavy sigh.
This ought to be fun…
Garth claps a hand on his shoulder and gives him a supportive nod.
"You've got this," Tula adds, though she smirks at Harry when he turns to look at her. "I promise not to almost attack this one."
Harry almost lets out a laugh, but he can hear the Minister of Magic shouting from the top of the staircase, and it drags him back to reality.
"But I wasn't given a choice," the Minister shouts, sounding very much like a petulant child. "Potter just showed up here with his gaggle of soldiers, and the next thing I know, we're hosting a tournament for the entire wizarding world!"
Harry hears the soft, calm voice of Dumbledore through the door of the office as he begins to climb the stairs, but even with his enhanced hearing he can't quite make out what the old man is saying.
"Oh, that's all well and good for you to say, Dumbledore! Your position isn't at risk!"
Fudge's comment is so ridiculous and such a blatant misrepresentation of what Harry is here to do that it makes his blood boil. His fists clench at his sides, and he unconsciously grinds his teeth as he slams open Dumbledore's office door, not even bothering to knock. He stomps inside, not caring one whit that Fudge is now staring at him like he's a criminal that he should order straight into a cell in Azkaban. Through the bond with Egg, Harry can feel his anger about to take over, and he's forced to take a deep breath and try to calm himself before the Leviathan can hiss or snap at the Minister of Magic of all people.
Dumbledore sits behind his desk, face exasperated and fingers pinching the bridge of his nose. Vulko is nearby, standing off to the side of the Headmaster's desk and watching the interaction, but apparently not contributing. Knowing Vulko, he's probably waiting for Harry. Even if he's an Atlantean Lord, the royal vizier, and Harry's best chance at fixing this complete mess, he's probably not going to interfere. This is Harry's mission and nobody else's. Still, his mere presence is a comfort. If Harry makes a serious misstep, Vulko will do what he can to recover the situation without judgement.
"Unless I've missed something," Harry interrupts, coldly. "Your position isn't at risk either, Minister." He locks eyes with the portly man, not the least bit intimidated by his splotchy face, reddened with unbridled rage. He's briefly reminded of Uncle Vernon, but that only steels his resolve.
Tula and Garth shut the door behind them and take up a position near Vulko. Though both are probably equally as irritated, they know not to get involved, even so much as to make it obvious that they're there. Like Vulko, they'll do their best to make it seem as though they aren't present at all.
Fudge lifts a finger to point at Harry as he steps forward and puffs out his chest. He's taller than Harry, and yet somehow Harry feels like he's the bigger presence in the room. "You will not fool me, boy! Do you think I was born yesterday? Atlantis has been gone for thousands of years. You've no right to come here throwing orders about and ignoring all normal protocol! Any authority your nation had drowned with your people."
Egg lets out a low hiss through bared teeth, but Fudge is so angry and focused on Harry that he doesn't seem to hear or notice. His tail whips against Harry's back, but he doesn't make his discomfort at Fudge more known than that. Hopefully that means Harry's constant prodding through their bond is getting through to him, and he's learning not to react so obviously.
Harry nearly rolls his eyes at Fudge, but resists the urge. Dumbledore and Vulko had both warned that some on the surface would probably feel threatened by Harry's power, both physically and politically, and that they need to prepare for how people might react. Apparently Fudge is taking the revelation particularly badly—either that, or something more is going on. His reaction doesn't make much sense to Harry.
Harry looks to Vulko with a raised eyebrow, silently asking the man if he can provide any answers for Fudge's bizarre behavior. The elderly, white-haired man shrugs his shoulders and raises his hands as if to say 'your guess is as good as mine.'
"Cornelius, calm down," Dumbledore advises, voice calm and soothing as always. Of course, it's fruitless, and just causes the Minister to direct his rage back at him instead.
"I will not calm down! What right do you have to allow not just citizens of another nation here without proper identification, but soldiers as well? I am the Minister of Magic, Dumbledore, not you! If an introduction was to be made, it should have gone through the Ministry of Magic and my office, not through a school headmaster!" He wags a finger in Dumbledore's face like it's a dangerous weapon before jabbing it down on the desk.
Except he's not just the headmaster, he's also Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards… Harry's thought goes unspoken.
"Many of our laws and protocols have been broken here, Dumbledore, you know that as well as I do!"
Despite the ministers' complaints, Harry can't help but feel that approaching Fudge instead of Dumbledore wouldn't have made this situation any easier. Still, he can't deny that the man has a point, either. This isn't exactly how Harry wanted things to go. Fudge has no real reason to think that the Atlanteans are here to bring any harm, but since the only ones to come from Poseidonis are Harry and a troop of soldiers, perhaps his reaction isn't so ridiculous. In politics, Harry knows now, every action sends a message. Optics is everything, and in coming to Hogwarts with a troop of elite warriors, some might think that Harry and Atlantis are sending a clear, and threatening, message. Add the fact that Orm and the Trench had attacked the surface less than a week earlier, and his worries don't seem quite so foolish at all.
"Minister," Harry says, swallowing his anger before it gets the best of him. He relaxes his fists and closes his eyes as he takes a steadying breath. "I'm sorry. I had no intention of excluding you from what I'm here to do. Actually, I had no intention of letting things happen so quickly, either. I had no idea that the wizarding world was already aware of my identity, and it changed every potential plan I had. I apologize if I offended you by not coming to you first, but I had very little time to react, and I had to do it fast. I wanted to contact you, but what happened at King's Cross threw all my plans into chaos. I admit I could have handled things much better."
Vulko nods at Harry with an approving smile painted on his face. Though it makes Harry's skin crawl to be capitulating to Fudge's rage, it's a genuine apology. If he'd had any proper time to consider his options, there's no way Harry would have left the Ministry of Magic out of Atlantis' introduction. Perhaps it's not unfair that Fudge feels left out. He's the elected leader of Britain's Ministry of Magic, yet he's been cut out of the most significant moments in his tenure as Minister. Not contacting him at all before the Press Conference was definitely a misstep, one he hopes to correct.
Fudge shakes his head several times, clearly refusing to believe a word of it. "The last I spoke to you, Potter, you were swearing up and down that Sirius Black is innocent and Peter Pettigrew still alive! Now, I find you leaving the ministry out of perhaps the most important magical discovery of the last thousand years? I don't know how things are done in Atlantis, but here we have law and protocol to follow. Nobody is above those laws. Nobody. You've brought foreign soldiers to our world and our nation without even so much as a little courtesy to let us know."
His voice gets louder as he shouts, his temper growing more and more out of control. If he weren't such an experienced wizard, Fudge would probably be exploding the office with a bout of accidental magic. His nostrils are flared, and his face is flushed with uncontrolled emotion. He stops for a moment to stare Harry down.
Harry stares back, face impassive—though it is extremely difficult for him not to shout right back or to pull a tight expression which he knows would give away his anger.
"You will not remove me as Minister. You might have gotten your way this time, but mark my words, once the luster of Atlantis has worn away, the people will see you for who you are. How do you think they will react if they find out about your support for a convicted serial killer?"
He's still thinking about Sirius? Harry would like nothing more than to start that argument now that it's brought up, but there are very few things that could damage his political standing more than publicly defending a convicted murderer, innocent or not. The perception alone could ruin his chances of uniting the surface and the deep. If that's a battle to come, they're better off preparing themselves than arguing with Fudge while he's so unhinged in his temper. It does remind him that he needs to figure something out on that end, though; he'll have to see about bringing that up to his dad, Vulko, or Dumbledore later.
"Cornelius—" Dumbledore tries again. He's immediately cut off.
"I will be in touch, Dumbledore. This discussion is far from over." Apparently finished, he moves past Harry near the door, glaring at him as he passes. It's not until Egg lets out a protesting screech as Fudge gets too close that his angry looks disappears, replaced with genuine alarm.
As if the situation couldn't get any worse. Fudge hardly needs more ammunition to want to wage political war, but seeing Egg act with any sort of hostility is definitely going to grant it to him. Not that Harry can blame Egg. Trying to control his own temper through Fudge's own was damn near impossible, but doing it with Egg there as well? Not going to happen. He'd been almost perfect, though, following Harry's emotional cues through the bond almost perfectly. If Fudge hadn't passed so close to Harry as to threaten Egg, the Leviathan may not have reacted at all.
Harry pushes calm through his bond with Egg, urging the creature to calm. It's unfortunate. Being so young, any negative feelings that Harry has towards a person is going to cause a strong reaction in the beast, despite how often Harry has to try and calm him. It might not be a terrible idea to contact Jurok Byss for any training advice he can give. Training Egg isn't something that can wait—not now that he's at Hogwarts and especially so with how fast he's growing. There are too many people at Hogwarts that can make Harry's temper flare, and Egg makes any emotional outbursts that much more dangerous.
Fudge purses his lips and continues out the door, but he sidesteps around Harry now, keeping a focused eye on Egg the entire time. He steps down the stairs outside, muttering about 'stupid fools trying to keep dragons as pets.' He slams the door as he leaves, the tips of his ears red with embarrassment. Harry can't help but smirk at his back. Getting caught in his tracks by Egg while trying to storm out dramatically probably took the wind right out of his sails. As difficult as Fudge could make life because of Egg's threat, Harry's more petty and immature self wants to laugh out loud.
"Well," Dumbledore says, cheery despite the confrontation, "that went about as well as expected."
Harry steps further inside, heading for the comfortable armchair across from Dumbledore's desk. On his shoulder, Egg crouches low and launches himself across the room, spreading his wings wide in order to just make it to the base of Fawkes' perch. The phoenix stares down at the Leviathan, stepping politely aside as Egg clambers awkwardly onto the golden stand beside the magical bird and not protesting at all when Egg stretches his head out to sniff at the golden feathers. Fudge has been all but forgotten. Apparently, Fawkes and Egg had made fast friends.
"He's going to be trouble," Vulko says, ignoring Harry's focus on Egg. "If he paints Atlantis as coming to the surface to take control and ignore wizarding law, it might be enough to scare those who trust his leadership into believing him. If he gains traction on that idea, it could easily derail our plans."
Dumbledore nods sadly. "I'm afraid that might be my fault. For a long time Cornelius and I worked well together, but over the years our relationship has soured. He is not so foolish as to be unaware of the political power I wield, even if I choose not to use it, and some of his advisors—like Lucius Malfoy—have him quite convinced of an imagined plot against him. My history with you, Harry, given your newfound position, hasn't helped in that regard."
Well, at least that explains things a little. Harry settles into the chair as Dumbledore continues.
"Not to mention what happened with Sirius at the end of last year. We had no way of knowing the repercussions then, but Cornelius has clearly not forgotten that we tried to convince him of Sirius' innocence. Cornelius is a man who views the world in black and white. He believes Sirius guilty, so naturally, we must be on opposing sides if we think him innocent."
Harry lets his head drop over the back of the chair and lets out a deep sigh. He stares at the thick wooden rafters on the high ceiling. "I suppose it was too much to hope that everyone would make this easy."
Dumbledore relaxes into his chair now that the more difficult conversation is behind him and lets out a short laugh. As always, it sounds completely genuine, as if the prospect of the challenge brings him genuine delight. "The best results always come from something you have to fight for, don't you think?"
Vulko nods his agreement, smiling widely as he steps forward to stand besides Dumbledore's desk. Harry rolls his eyes but can't help the grin that spreads across his face, less from what Dumbledore actually said and more because he and Vulko seem to have joined to become doubly wise mentors. As if one cryptic, old wise man at a time wasn't enough, now he has two. Harry gets the distinct feeling that there's likely to be a lot of obscure wisdom he doesn't understand in the coming days. One wise old man for Harry Potter, and another for Prince Harry Atlan-son.
At least he isn't short on advisors.
"But in good news, the tournament is going ahead." Vulko says, turning to the bookshelf behind him before dropping the latest edition of the Daily Prophet on the desk in front of Harry.
The front page picture is a black-and-white photo of Harry speaking in front of the crowd at the Press Conference the previous night. He's surprised at how confident he looks, no hint of fear or nervousness as he watches himself speak behind Dumbledore's lectern. He almost looks as regal as Arthur, wearing his royal armor like he was born and raised a Prince, and not the boy who spent the first eleven years of his life living in a cupboard under the stairs.
I actually look like a Prince.
The headline reads simply, 'Atlantis Returns!'
At the bottom of the page is the byline, 'Atlantean Prince Harry Potter to Host International Wizarding Tournament.'
"The Confederation voted yes, then?" Harry asks. There's a familiar, and very much unwanted, uncomfortable sensation settling at the bottom of his stomach. The reality of the idea of actually having to meet with so many people throughout the course of the year comes crashing down on him. Between that and Fudge's outburst, everything just seems that much more complicated than Harry wants it to be. It was hopelessly naïve to think it was ever going to be easy, but Harry still feels incredibly unprepared for the challenges ahead. Idly, he wonders if he'll ever feel prepared.
Dumbledore nods. "Almost unanimously, so at the very least most wizarding nations will give Atlantis a chance." He gives Harry a sympathetic smile. He knows Harry well enough to know that the revelation will have nerves settling in his gut.
That must be what Fudge meant by getting our way this time...
It is definitely a victory, even if it means the real challenge is yet to come. He's got the other nations to get involved and come to him, now he has to prove that Atlantis can be a steadfast ally. As for how he's going to do that, he's got no idea. Nothing like a spur-of-the-moment plan for the most momentous undertaking he's ever had, right?
"How much time do we have to prepare before they come?"
Dumbledore's kind smile wanes and he suddenly appears pensive as he slowly strokes his beard in thought. "Not very much, I'm afraid. Each major international school is sending a contingent of students and an envoy from their ministries to be here by tonight."
Harry's heart begins to race and he feels suddenly dizzy. That's much sooner than he was expecting. Surely these things take longer to organize? Sure, he was aware that this was probably coming, and that he'd have to be the face of it when it did, but like yesterday he's completely unprepared. If he weren't already sitting his legs would probably turn to jelly. Egg makes a warbling cry from Fawkes' perch at the unsettling feeling.
"Tonight," he deadpans. "Like tonight, tonight?"
Dumbledore smiles softly, but it's more like an apology smile than his usual twinkle eyed glee. "You underestimate just how important your arrival is to the wizarding world at large. Cornelius clearly doesn't appreciate it, or perhaps appreciates his position more and is threatened, but most of the wizarding world will clamor for your attention no matter the political discussion happening around it."
"Which of course is why I thought it prudent to call you so soon," Vulko interjects. "This year will not be easy. Tula, Garth, and I must continue your Atlantean education wherever possible, and while you are here, it would be best for you to not fall behind in your surface studies—for the benefit of your work here. As the bridge to unite us together, you should be seen to be a productive member of both societies."
Tula slams a fist into an open hand with a cruel grin at the mention of her training. Harry rolls his eyes.
He nearly opens his mouth to get in a sarcastic remark about how decidedly unproductive his previous years at Hogwarts have been, but thinks better of it. How is Vulko to know that the idea of a productive year at Hogwarts without chaos and confusion hounding his every move is about as realistic as the sky turning pink with purple polka dots?
"And of course, I must make myself available as much as humanly possible as the Prince of Atlantis and envoy to the surface," Harry says instead, adding a dramatic groan for emphasis. Despite his new duty and title, there's a huge part of him that wants to be just as lazy and unreliable as a regular Hogwarts student might have the freedom to be.
"Is there any room for sleep in this schedule?" He doesn't want to appear whiny, but he at least expected a week or two to settle back into Hogwarts given that everyone knows who he really is. As it was the day prior, they have no choice but to make last-minute plans.
"A Prince's life is rarely simple, or easy," Vulko says matter-of-factly, offering no comfort. "But if I believed this task was beyond your abilities, I would say so. If last night proved anything, it's that you are coming into your own as an Atlantean envoy and Prince quickly. I'll support you as much as I can, of course. I've already spoken with your father, and we both agree it would be best if I stayed here at Hogwarts as much as possible—Professor Dumbledore has kindly offered me the use of a teachers' room while I'm here."
A sigh of relief unbiddenly escapes him.
Thank the gods…
While Vulko was always going to be helping Harry, with everything his father has to do in Atlantis and the muggle world, it'd been easy to imagine Vulko being gone for long periods of the year. The fact is, while his meeting with the press and the International Confederation of Wizards has gone decently well, barring Fudge's response, Harry is so new to Atlantis himself that there are going to be countless questions he doesn't know the answer to. Saying the wrong thing and hurting his own agenda is practically a given on his own, and Tula and Garth's reaction to Constantine has proven that their mandate of protecting Harry could conflict with his mission, too—especially considering their own lack of knowledge and understanding of the surface. The realization that Vulko would be staying at Hogwarts with him bears a huge relief.
Before he gets the chance to thank the vizier, Fawkes lets out a loud protesting squawk—very unlike any noise Harry has ever heard from the phoenix—and he snaps his head around. His usual voice is singsong and melodious, but then Harry has never seen the bird annoyed, either, and that's definitely what he is now. Egg has clambered so far along Fawkes perch that he's practically pushing the phoenix off the edge, nudging him along with his nose as if trying to press him into playing a game.
Stifling a laugh, Harry stands to move and pushes through Egg's curiosity about the phoenix and urges him to stop. "Egg, no," he says out loud, firm but careful not to sound angry. Even though their bond means they can feel each other's emotions, Harry knows from Jurok Byss that an overreliance on the bond to train Egg could have negative effects as well. He knows there will come a time when Egg becomes old enough that Harry's emotions won't affect him as much. Egg needs to know enough words that Harry can give him audible cues as well.
Egg lets out a whine and moves back along Fawkes' perch, twisting away from the phoenix as though no longer interested. In doing so, his tail almost whacks Fawkes off, though he doesn't seem to even notice—or care about—the bird's valiant attempts to rebalance himself. His eyes almost seem to have a hint of betrayal in them as he looks back at Harry, scales glowing blue under the sunlight coming through the window. Before Egg, it would have been hard to imagine any creature able to match—even exceed—the beauty of Fawkes, but Egg manages easily. Seeing the two together was like seeing fire and water mingling, or rather, fire and ice, Harry thinks as he takes a moment to appreciate Egg's shine. Egg nudges at Harry mentally through the bond, as if trying to probe if Harry's angry with him. Harry holds out his arm for Egg to climb back while keeping his own emotions neutral. Within moments Egg is snug once more around Harry's neck.
"Sorry, Fawkes," Harry whispers to the bird as he approaches the stand, reaching out to pet his soft, warm feathers with the back of his hand. Fawkes trills and locks eyes with Harry before flapping his wings and flying up to the second floor of Dumbledore's office. Evidently, his patience only goes so far.
"You must train him as soon as possible," Vulko says seriously, though he's smiling at the Leviathan fondly. "Not everyone will believe your explanation about him, so the sooner we can prove it absolutely, the better. It may be a good idea to get in contact with Councilor Jurok."
Harry nods his agreement. Just another thing to add to the list. Atlantean education, Hogwarts education, unite the surface and Atlantis, train Egg. Not exactly a minor task. But at least this task is one he isn't against doing and is one he's actually somewhat looking forward to. Few things have had as much of an impact on him as bonding with Egg, and getting to explore that bond is likely going to be a reward in itself.
"Ah, and now that we have made you a member of the Royal Council, I think it's important that we attend as many meetings as possible—by distance, of course, using communication orbs."
Harry squeezes his eyes shut and rubs at his temple with his fingers. "Of course," he says, with absolutely zero enthusiasm. Egg purrs along his shoulders to give comfort in one of the only ways he knows how.
None of this is for me. I have to do this for Atlantis—for my Kingdom and for the wizarding world. No matter how difficult, he has no choice but to push forward. He has to put in maximum effort, always. The price of failure is too high. With the reputation of the surface being as negative as it is in Atlantis, the costs of not uniting Atlantis and the surface now that it has been revealed could be catastrophic. It's not just to save the surface, but it's for the future of Atlantis, too—Harry can still vividly recall the abhorrent amount of trash on the Ninth Tride. Orm will do everything he can to rile Atlantis' anger towards the surface, and perhaps the only thing standing in his way is Harry and Arthur's mission to unite the two worlds. Everything rides on their success.
"Service and duty," Harry says firmly, lifting his gaze to look Vulko dead in the eye. He's repeating the lesson Vulko had tried to drill into his head over the summer. As a member of the royal family, and the heir to the throne, his life must be service and duty to his people. This is the path Harry has chosen, and he will succeed.
Vulko smiles proudly, but it's Dumbledore who speaks. "You always manage to impress me, Harry. Even after teaching for so long, I always forget what our youth are capable of. Of course, I will help however I can. You need only ever ask."
And of course he's not alone. It's a gargantuan task ahead of him, but it's not his alone. Even if he feels forsaken or the weight of his responsibilities crashes on his shoulders and bears down on him again and again until it feels like he's suffocating, he knows he's not alone. And yes, there are moments where he forgets, but he still knows in his heart. He just needs to be reminded sometimes. All of those who have come from Atlantis with him, Tula and Garth and Captain Konal, none will let him bear the burden on his own. Even Hermione and Ron would never let him face this task alone—have never let him face any challenge alone.
"Alright then," Harry settles on a grim sort of determination. "What do I need to know to prepare for tonight?"
Harry stares longingly towards the Gryffindor table in the Main Hall from the raised platform of the teachers' table wishing desperately he could hide in the comfort of his housemates. He's felt like a fish in a bowl all day with all the stares he gets and the whispers he can no longer blissfully ignore, but now standing at the head of the hall, it's like standing directly in the spotlight—bared open for the entire world to see. He's once again near Dumbledore's lectern preparing to meet the envoys of the visiting wizarding schools as they arrive for yet a second welcoming feast. Even Tula and Garth have escaped their duty tonight, instead, they're sitting with the rest of Gryffindor as though they're regular students rather than his royal guards. For all his talk of wanting them to act like friends rather than guards, now that they're not by his side, he feels a little vulnerable.
He nearly pulls a frown. Traitors. Harry's thoughts are petty and immature in the face of another night of wearing this Princely facade he's still not at all used to. At least Egg is seated comfortably on his shoulder—more out of worry of him misbehaving without Harry nearby to comfort him than to show him off, but it's still relieving that he's not completely alone up here. The Hogwarts teachers are nearby as well, but that's hardly a group he feels at home with, even if he knows most of them are genuinely good people who would do anything they could to help him through this mess. After three years of them giving his homework and giving him detention, to his mind, they're authority figures rather than peers, regardless of his royal status. At least Vulko, as vizier to the throne, and Dumbledore, as headmaster of the school, are only a few feet away. Still, it would be nice if all the pageantry was over and done with.
"You look like a mouse about to be thrown into a den of vipers," Professor McGonagall says under her breath from his right. He turns his head to see a soft, almost sympathetic expression on her face. She's been his stern head of house for so long that it's a little jarring to see her any other way. "Don't forget that you are one of my lions. We are not mice. When we get thrown into the snake pit, we fight our way back out with courage and conviction."
'One of my lions.' Even with most of the students and even the staff acting like he's come from another planet, treating Harry like he's actually still Harry seems to come easily to Professor McGonagall. He previously believed his utmost respect for her couldn't possibly grow more, yet it does. She doesn't seem the least bit intimidated by his new position, even so far as to appear comfortable with it.
"Am I that obvious?" He manages a wobbly smile. Egg stretches his neck out towards the Professor as if asking her to scratch his scales.
"Perhaps only to one who knows you," she says, idly reaching over to scratch under Egg's chin—yet another sign of her lack of anxiety. Egg lifts his neck up high and lets out a contented rumble from deep in his chest. "You might look like your father, but right now you remind me of your mother the way she looked before a big exam."
Harry raises an eyebrow. It's nice to hear, considering mostly all he ever hears about his mother—especially now, considering who his father is—is that his eyes are very much like hers. He turns to face her more fully, giving her a grateful smile. In Atlantis, he'd had the chance to actually ask Sirius questions that might let him understand her better, but Sirius had been so excited about the prospect of simply being in Atlantis and Harry being a Prince that the timing never seemed right.
"She and James would be so proud of what you're doing. A chance not only to unite the wizarding world with Atlantis, but also to bring the wizarding world together in a way that's never been seen before. All wizarding nations working together in cooperation. It's a noble goal, once thought to be an unreachable dream, but feels much less like a dream now," McGonagall smiles wistfully.
If it was anybody other than Professor McGonagall saying such things, Harry would probably be feeling even more pressure to succeed. But it's not anybody else. It's Professor McGonagall, perhaps the most sensible and pragmatic woman Harry has ever met. Nothing she says is without reason. Harry's never known her to try and comfort through well-intentioned lies or false smiles, but instead to only ever speak what she believes to be true. Her unshakeable belief in Harry speaks volumes. It's enough to dull the edges of his nerves and steel his determination once again.
"Are you ready?" Vulko steps over with Dumbledore close behind. "The schools will come in one at a time. No speeches this time. The envoys from the foreign ministries will greet you, and Professor Dumbledore will make a welcoming speech after." Vulko is repeating the simple plan they'd come up with earlier in the day. True, Harry doesn't have to do anything quite so intimidating as the previous day, but there are photographers and journalists already snapping pictures from the side of the room, eager to publicize what is still a historic moment for the wizarding world.
Harry doesn't even get to give the word before the doors at the end of the Great Hall swing open wide. The hall remains magically enlarged in both length and width, but even from the end of the hall, Harry can make out the crowd gathered beyond. the foreign students are all dressed in different uniforms—a splash of color compared to the plain black of Hogwarts' robes. Before he gets to study any uniform in particular, they're streaming through the open doors.
They're led by the same dark-skinned man who had spoken after Fudge and Umbridge's bombardment of questions—a mugwump from the International Confederation of Wizards, Harry thinks. He's tall and broad with cropped black hair, and like his students, he wears papyrus colored robes. But the robes aren't plain like those at Hogwarts. Instead, they appear more like a magical canvas with swirling colors that slowly shift in a myriad of unique patterns.
Dumbledore said each school was sending somewhere between 80 to 100 students—just about quadrupling the population of Hogwarts for the year—so the number of students that follow him inside isn't surprising. Unlike the Mugwump headed straight up the middle of the hall, however, most of his students move to the additional tables placed in the hall behind the house tables. The man beams up at Harry as he walks from the back of the Great Hall, flanked by a single student—probably one of the student representatives Harry knows each school chose to personally meet him.
"Welcome to Hogwarts," Harry says, almost stumbling over his words at the realization that his voice booms across the room as though he's spoken through a speakerphone. Harry lifts a hand to his chest in Atlantean greeting. They're not likely to know what it means, but that's what the year is about—sharing cultures.
"This is Mugwump Babajide Akingbade," Dumbledore reminds Harry with a whisper. He doesn't make it so obvious as to lean closer to remind him, just mumbles it under his breath, knowing that Harry can hear it now with his enhanced senses.
The man stops before the step up to the teacher's table and bows low, his student doing the same a step behind him. "Prince Harry," his smile is wide and genuine when he greets Harry. "Uagadou, the school for all the nations of Africa and the oldest wizarding school in the world, thanks you for the warm welcome. We hope this can be the start of a wonderful relationship between Atlantis and the wizarding world. I believe we can learn much from each other."
Harry smiles, a sincere smile despite his nerves. Like the previous night in the press conference, the man is all positivity, the complete opposite of Fudge and his attack dog, Umbridge. He truly seems excited for the prospect of a reunion with Atlantis. Cameras flash from near the house tables as the reporters from wizarding media around the world snap their next front page photos. It still feels insane that probably every major front page in wizarding communities around the world will be of Harry, armored in royal gold and greeting international leaders.
Egg hides his face in the shadow of his head in an attempt to block the flashing from the cameras. Still, he peers around to keep an eye on the envoy curiously.
"Mugwump Akingbade," Harry greets with a nod. "It's a pleasure to meet you more formally." The word formal burns in Harry's throat. It's not that he doesn't want to meet all the envoys and see all the students from across the world arriving, but so publicly and so formally, it all feels so fake. Harry is Prince, yes, and he needs to act like it, but it's just putting on a mask to meet someone, and it feels wrong. Nevertheless, he has to maintain the front, much as he'd rather have a much more casual greeting where he would be able to be himself.
"I couldn't agree more." Mugwump Akingbade warmly replies. "We have thousands of years of history and experience to share. Atlantis has just as much to learn about the surface. This is a chance for all of us to become stronger, together."
Harry takes his gaze off Babajide and to the student behind him. He's a boy maybe a couple of years older than Harry with skin the color of coffee beans. He looks uncomfortable, flinching at the flashes of the cameras. It's a feeling Harry can understand, about how he feels underneath the mask he's forced to wear in front of these crowds. Still, Harry can tell he's doing his best to look confident, but there's still awe in his eyes when he looks at Harry.
"This is Femi," Babajide introduces the student behind him by putting a hand on his shoulder and pushing him forward. The students of Uagadou have chosen Femi as the student representative this year, so if you have questions about our school or our culture, Femi is a good man to ask."
Harry nearly holds out his hand, but nods his head in greeting, instead. The last thing he needs is to accidentally crush someone's hand, especially in front of all these cameras. "Nice to meet you," Harry says simply.
The doors at the back of the hall open again, and Babajide and Femi walk around the side of the hall towards the rest of their students. As the next school enters, Harry spots Garth rise from his seat and make his way towards Harry. His expression is serious and deadset, enough that it's a little alarming. Tula doesn't move from where she is, but Harry spots her looking towards the entrance with a frown.
Gods, what now?
Garth approaches as inconspicously as he can manage, but that's difficult considering all the journalists watching and the fact that Harry is standing in front of the entire school. Harry hears some journalists whispering about it at the side of the room, and there are many sets of eyes on Garth despite his attempt at nonchalance. He steps close to Harry, standing just nearby in case Harry should need him. Considering Tula and Garth not being by his side was by specific plan, that Garth feels the need to come anyway might prove worrying. Harry's order was that any Atlantean guards were to stay under the radar after Fudge's outbursts in Dumbledore's office. If there are some on the surface concerned about Atlantean soldiers, then it's best they not be seen. The only ones that are even in the Great Hall are Tula and Garth, and Garth has made himself visible to everyone.
"Garth," Harry whispers over his shoulder, "what's wrong?" Before Harry can stop him, Egg bends low and hops to Garth's shoulder. Garth appears not to notice, worry firmly etched onto his face.
Garth shakes his head, but it's so slight that it's almost imperceptible. "I'm not sure. Perhaps nothing." Egg settles around Garth's neck, and Harry idly wonders in the back of his mind if this was Egg's way of apologizing for the other day.
Harry scowls at the enigmatic response, but it quickly morphs into a smile as the envoy from the next school approaches with another student representative.
It doesn't take long to get through most of the other schools, but it is exhausting. Putting on this public display of perfection and professionalism grates on his nerves quickly, but his mask remains in place, kind greetings and welcoming words spill from his lips easily, though none of it feels natural. The conversation goes remarkably similarly for ten envoys in a row. Harry welcomes them to Hogwarts, and they state their hopes for a reunited wizarding world and Atlantis. It all starts to feel redundant after some point—they're all here for the same purpose—but Harry pushes through. He understands there are political benefits in greeting the envoys personally, even if it is publicly.
It's not until the last school's envoy that anything really changes. The door opens to allow the last of the foreign visitors to enter the hall, but this time Harry sees Garth's entire body stiffen out his peripheral vision. The hairs on his arms seem to stand on edge, and Harry can almost feel the tension in Garth's limbs even from a few feet away.
"What is it?" Harry asks again.
Garth hisses through his teeth. "That magic," he says the word with so much poison that it takes Harry completely off guard. He turns his head more to the side and looks at Garth with wide eyes. Egg lets out a soft cry in response to Harry's emotions that sounds somewhere between surprise and fear. Garth himself is staring towards the end of the hall, his gaze completely locked on a single person.
"What?" Harry whispers. Even Vulko is stepping closer with worry written all over his face. He's looking at Garth though, rather than following his gaze towards the back of the room.
"I've never felt such a dark energy before," Garth finally says. He locks his hand tight around Harry's wrist, though it seems more of an instinct than a logical decision. "That girl… the one with the hood. She's evil."Harry follows Garth's eyes. There's only one person entering the hall that fits his description. It's a girl wearing a purple jacket under her robes with the hood up, as though it might help hide her from everyone inside. But, being the only one wearing something that so clearly doesn't match with the blue and burgundy robes of Ilvermorny just makes her stand out even more.
Harry can only make out some of her features under the hood: deathly pale skin and dark hair dyed purple at the tips. Her hood hides most of her face, but even still, her anxiety is obvious. She pulls her hood down lower, shying away from the students around her like a fish surrounded by sharks. They make it easy on her, giving her a wide berth and giving her sideways looks if she gets too close. Harry feels a pang of sympathy for the girl—he can't sense any evil in her, but his magical senses are nowhere near as attuned as Garth's.
"What makes you say—"
"Her magic is so dark," Garth cuts him off with a harsh whisper. "Blacker than the deepest trenches of the ocean."
Harry has no idea at all what that means, especially since he can't see what Garth is talking about for himself. Garth is as much on edge as Harry has ever seen him, though, so clearly there's something beyond Harry's senses that is utterly obvious to his guard.
He's so distracted staring at the hooded girl that he almost forgets the North American envoy coming towards him and the student representative at her heels. The envoy's face is half hidden behind dark curls and is dark-skinned like her student representative.
Unlike every other student representative, though, the one from Ilvermorny looks to be about Harry's age rather than an older student. His face is handsome and his blonde hair is clipped short.
Vulko has to cough under his breath to grab Harry's attention, and his arm automatically swings to his chest in salute. "Welcome to Hogwarts," he blurts, regathering his scattered thoughts. "I'm thrilled to have you here."
The woman bows shallow, never taking her eyes off Harry. "Thank you, Prince Harry. I hope I'm not overstepping my boundaries by saying so, but we are excited to be here with you this year. As your father is King of Atlantis and Aquaman, that must mean you are in part American, and we'd be very glad to tell you anything you might want to know."
Harry hasn't really thought much about that revelation about his heritage. He had realized, of course, but the idea of being Atlantean royalty took precedence. It's a nice offer she's making. If Harry had decided not to go to Atlantis, there's a chance, no matter how small, that Harry might've ended up living in Amnesty Bay. It might be nice to hear what living in America might be like.
"Thank you for the offer," Harry smiles. "It'll be a busy year with us all learning from one another."
Before the envoy can answer, the student behind her steps forward. There's nothing shy about him at all, but nor would Harry say he seems at all overconfident. Instead, he simply seems sure of himself, no hint of nerves at all. He bows low.
"Prince Harry, it is an honor to meet you. My name is Jackson Hyde. I've been chosen as the student representative for Ilvermorny. If you ever have questions, I'd be happy to assist you," he says. His tone is all polite and professionalism, his voice deep and strong. His brown eyes are locked with Harry's the entire time he speaks.
"Actually, I have a question," Garth steps forward. Harry's so surprised to hear Garth interrupt, his head snaps to the side to look at his guard. Egg rumbles and nudges Garth's head in response to Harry's reaction toward him, not that he notices. Garth is always so formal and so dedicated in his duty to Harry that seeing him interrupt a proceeding like this is completely baffling. Whatever it is about this girl that has Garth's attention, it has him properly concerned.
Harry wants to tell him no, that this is too public a place, but Garth's serious demeanor deters him. Thankfully, his voice isn't enhanced by a sonorus charm like Harry's, so the only ones that can hear the question will be those nearby.
Still, Jackson is taken completely off guard by Garth. Naturally, he looks confused, but he nods for Garth to speak.
"There's a girl that has come with your school. I'd like to know her name," Garth says. "The girl with the purple hood."
Both Garth and the envoy to Ilvermorny turn their heads, confusion on both their faces, to where the rest of their school is organizing themselves at the back of the hall at the remaining table. Cameras are flashing constantly, making Harry feel like he's under strobe lights. No doubt every journalist is questioning why one of Harry's royal guards is interrupting. All of them are now looking towards the back of the hall as well, following Garth's gaze, although they don't know what the group is looking for.
"A purple hood?" Jackson asks, a frown set into his handsome features. His frown lasts only moments, and he lets out a short sigh, apparently knowing who Garth is asking about after only a moment's thought. The envoy scrunches her nose up in distaste at the mention of her.
"Yes… she's a fourth year like me. Her name is Rachel Roth."
As usual I took a while on this one! Hope yall like it though! These political chapters aren't really my forte, but fortunately I dont think therell be anything like it for a while now. More fun stuff ahead, hopefully, especially with the characters I added there at the end!
Join the discord! Link in my profile!
As always, a huge thanks to those who take the time to review. You've no idea how much it means to me when people take time out of their day to leave a comment, even if it's something simple.
But on that, guest accts that leave reviews telling me how shit this fic is and how I'm doing everything wrong will no longer be approved. When you leave a review telling me that I should be changing my story and getting upset when I dont because you are clearly right and I am clearly wrong, I've gotta wonder what the actual fuck you're still doing reading this fic. Nobody is holding a gun to your head to make you read it, and I'm sick of feeling shit about myself because you only know how to be an asshole.
That said I'm still quite happy to approve serious reviews that leave genuinely constructive criticism! Til next time!