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"Like all dreamers I mistook disenchantment for truth," - Sartre
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Dumbledore opened a way through faerie and Harry followed the wizard. He felt unconfident. He wasn't sure what France would truly be like but he knew he'd have to muddle through. He carried Alexander the skull under one arm, the lights were empty and the wind spirit was asleep or as close to asleep as such beings could be. Harry breathed a shaky sigh as they walked through the nevernever. Whatever happened he would just have to deal with it.
He stroked his wand and drew comfort from the cold within the wood. It was a subtle thing but it represented Harry's power in this world. What little he had. It represented his power to choose. And choice was everything.
At Dumbledore's word Harry took a dose of his potion, comprehend languages.
There was a sleeping beast before them wound around a great pine tree. Harry would have called it a dragon but dragons were ancient and temperamental creatures. They cared little for the affairs of mortals when they lived such long lives. He had read only a little on the nature of such old beasts and the monster before him was serpentine and reptile with sharp teeth and wicked claws. A wyvern maybe or something else. Still a powerful creature but not on the level of an old dragon. The six year old hesitated beside his master. The beast perked its head up at them and gave a warning growl which Harry felt in his chest and within his mind.
"We are here. This is the other side of Beauxbatons. You can see that its protected. Do you know why? Harry?"
"Through faerie there are ways to every place. It makes sense to guard this side just in case of attack."
"Indeed. After Grindelwald burned down Beauxbatons the nature of the defenses needed to change."
"Who is Grindelwald, sir?"
"My own enemy. I defeated him and imprisoned him in Nurmengard. Gellert Grindelwald caused no small amount of damage in the Great War. It fell on me to stop him and his reapers."
Harry nodded understanding a little. He didn't know much about the Great War. He supposed he would learn more with time. Time was on his side. He had a powerful master. He had time to learn and grow and develop even if everything felt rushed at the moment. And to be sure there would be times where he was rushed and had to quicken his pace but for the most part he could take comfort in the fact he had time. But what was time but the space to choose? And he knew choice was powerful. He chose to become Dumbledore's apprentice. He could have stayed with the Dursleys but he wanted more from life than that. When he saw the opportunity for such a large adventure he took it and so far he was glad he had. He could already do things he never imagined he would and it had only been a handful of short weeks which went by at breakneck speed.
Dumbledore opened a path with a murmur and a wave of his wand. Harry followed him. Beauxbatons was glass and stone. Blue and white panels lined the floor and walls. Spires of twisted glass grew like a garden and in the morning sun Harry was struck breathless by the scope of the garden with green vines twisting over passages and high walls. He could feel magic on the air and as they passed through the wards to the entrance hall Harry looked up at the high blue and white ceiling. It was glass mostly and it allowed a clear view of the sun with its reds and golds.
Dumbledore was greeted by a tall woman. A very tall and burly woman. He spoke French with her and Harry paid close attention to the words even though they were meaningless to him. He tried to absorb them and their context. She spoke back to Dumbledore with a laugh before looking down upon Harry.
"Harry?" Dumbledore beckoned.
Harry held out his hand to shake and introduced himself to the tall woman in english. "I'm Harry Potter."
"Charmed," she replied in a thick accent. "Olympia Maxine. A little old for such a young new apprentice, aren't we Albus?"
Dumbledore sighed softly. He did nod a little. "I still have enough time afforded to me yet, Olympia. I planned on taking on Harry ever since he was born."
"Come. I shall show you your quarters while you stay." Harry followed the tall woman and Dumbledore to an axillary building. Inside were two feather beds with curtains around them for privacy. Compared to the straw Harry had slept on most of his life this would do just fine.
Dumbldore and Maxine spoke french all the while and Harry listened closely. He was assured he'd pick up the language with time and exposure. That was how everything was learned. Time or exposure. He knew that much. He was already beginning to pick up articles. The simplest parts of speech. But he was clueless as to the rest.
Maxine left them in the room and Dumbledore sat down with a quiet groan. Harry glanced at him but Dumbledore waved him off. "Travel is not as easy as it once was on these old bones. When you get to my age you shall see for yourself."
Harry found it hard to imagine living to Dumbledore's age but supposed it was entirely possible. He just hadn't thought about it.
"Now Harry you shall attend class. Try and get along with your peers and imitate them as best as you can. I'm sure Olympia will-" there came a knock at the door. "Ah, there we are. Your guide."
Harry answered the door and behind it was the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen. She wasn't old. Maybe eleven. And Harry was filled with the desire to do something to impress her. Harry tried to shake off the feeling. He even shook his head. He didn't want to do anything foolish and embarrass himself. But… it would be nice for her to respect him, he supposed. That wasn't too much to ask for. Harry blinked hard at the platinum haired girl. She seemed content to wait for him to make the first move.
"Er-hello." He managed. Before he blinked again and said, "bonjour. I'm Harry Potter."
"I speak english," the girl returned. She held out a dainty hand for him to take. He shook it gently. "Fleur Delacour."
"Pleased to meet you," Harry said. "Um… I hope you don't find this question rude…"
She cocked her head at him.
"But, well, what are you? I feel so strange looking at you. What is this magic?"
She laughed softly. "You handle it better than most do. I am Veela."
"Veela?" Harry wondered.
"A witch with a handful of other powers and abilities. One of them being the power to charm men. But like I said, you handle it better than most."
"How do most behave?" Harry wondered.
"Most wizards act quite foolishly around me. But I suppose this is to be expected of the Merlin's apprentice. Now follow me. We have our first class to attend."
Harry nodded and trailed the girl. She led him out of the building and into the bigger academy. Harry still had Alexander's skull tucked under his arm. The lights in its eyes flickered on and off.
Harry couldn't help but stare at her as he walked behind her. He felt the weight of her spell. It was a subtle compulsion that he found difficult to repress as it pressed in on him constantly. He wanted to show off. He wanted to show her what he could do. But what? Drawing up short at that he managed to resist the compulsion. He had no tool to impress her. One day he might but the reminder in his head that there was nothing he could do which would make her stop and think held him back and checked himself. He breathed a shaking sigh as they entered a classroom. A dozen witches turned to stare at Harry and he waved meekly. This was a witch's school. That's what Dumbledore had said. A coven lived here. He might be the only wizard in attendance and he certainly looked younger than all the girls now staring at him. Fleur gestured for him to sit next to her and he did. He set Alexander on the desk in front of him.
An adult walked in. The teacher. She addressed them all in french and the class greeted her back in unison. Harry glanced around nervously. He had no idea what was happening. The professor produced a match stick and silently transformed it into a needle. Harry watched the transfiguration with fascination from his seat. He caught the latin behind the spell as the teacher lectured. And after a moment the professor was handing out matchsticks to the class.
When Harry got his he stared at the teacher. She looked back at him ambivalently before moving on. Harry tapped Alexander's skull with his wand and the lights flared to life in its eyes.
"What? What is it?"
"Alexander? I'm supposed to turn my matchstick into a needle. Can you help me?"
The lights danced like the skull was rolling his eyes at Harry. "It is what I'm here for. Now the most important thing is to picture the matchstick changing. You must visualize it within your mind as you cast the spell. Imagination is the crux of all magic but in particular transfiguration and conjuration. Do you know the incantation?"
"Good. Give it a try. Really focus on the aspects you want to change." Harry held his wand aloft and tapped the matchstick and incanted. The matchstick wobbled and narrowed but didn't change material. It looked like a needle. But when Harry picked it up it was still made of wood.
"Not a bad first try," Alexander commented. "You pictured the shape changing but not the material. Try and finish it."
Harry nodded and tapped the match with his wand again and said the spell aloud. The needle turned silvery and the hole at the end became a little more refined. Harry picked it up once more and tapped it on the desk. It made a metallic clank. He sat it back down feeling satisfied. That wasn't so hard.
"Now change it back."
"What?" Harry asked the skull.
"Change it back into a matchstick. The incantation to reverse a transfiguration is Redeo."
"You've got the pronunciation. It's a useful skill to return something to its previous form. Might as well practice now. Dumbledore is a master transfigurer and he won't tolerate a student who is mediocre. Give it a try."
"Redeo." Harry incanted. The needle slid across his desk but didn't change.
"Sloppy," Alexander appraised. "You still need to focus on changing it back. It's still about imagining."
"Then what's the point of the incantation?" Harry demanded.
"Practice. So your magic and intent are aligned. You don't need an incantation to cast spells. As you get older and your focus improves you will rely on them less and less. But for now follow through with what I'm telling you and use the incantations. They'll help even after you move beyond them and start casting silently."
Harry realigned the needle on the desk. He tried again and the matchstick reappeared. It still had a hole at one end and the phosphorus red tip was absent. He repeated his attempt and returned it to its original form.
"How did you do that?" Fleur asked him. He glanced at her. The desire to do something to get her to respect him rose up but he beat it back down into his gut where such feelings belonged.
"Go ahead and tell her. Teaching is learning. Learning is teaching. It can only help you grow." Harry looked from the skull to the girl for a moment.
He repeated what the skull had taught him. The incantation and intent. Fleur nodded along. Her ponytail bobbing slightly and Harry thought he could smell… well-her. It was burnt holly and something flowery. He found it hard to focus but eventually he finished what he was saying and looked away from the distracting girl. Her power was too much and it was getting into his head. He found it difficult to ignore. He tried to bury his feelings and focus and he mostly succeeded. It wasn't like he was the one truly impressing her. He was just passing along the skull's words of wisdom as he understood them. It didn't truly come from him. It was a facsimile of being impressive. He tried to clear his mind but found himself failing and distracted by her bright blue eyes as she stared at him. He managed without stuttering but it was a close thing. At the end he breathed a sigh of relief and returned his attention to his matchstick.
Fleur nodded and tried to undo her transfiguration as he had instructed.
Harry focused and ignored the way her smell penetrated his nostrils. He cast the transfiguration on the matchstick and transformed it in a single attempt this time. He breathed and incanted and reversed it once more. Fleur grumbled absently beside him. Harry's gaze flicked over to where she was still struggling with the metallic needle.
"Er- you have to really imagine it," Harry clarified.
She shot him a long look before refocusing. She succeeded on her attempt this next time and Harry beamed. He felt a rush of second hand pride. He was no slouch as a teacher.
The teacher said something from the front. Harry glanced up and tried to take in her words but it was still mostly gibberish with a handful of articles.
"An essay if you didn't manage the transfiguration." Fleur informed him. "We both did so we don't have any homework."
"Thanks," Harry breathed. "I'm still trying to pick up the language."
She bobbed her head and her scent filled his nose. He looked away from her and tried to shove that compulsion back down. He didn't want attention. Didn't need it. He was thankful to the young Veela witch but that was it. He was his own master in that regard. Sure it would be nice to be respected but Harry thought that that might just be people in general. Every desire to act out he squashed though he did sneak glances at the pretty girl as they walked to their next class.
"What's next?" Harry asked her with the skull under his arm and his bag over his shoulder.
"Potions," she answered. He bobbed his head. That reminded him to take a second dose of the comprehend languages potion. He drank the sweet potion quickly and deposited the flask back in his bag. As he followed Fleur he noticed that many of the other girls were giving them both a wide breath. Even in the hall they gave more than healthy distance. Harry cocked his head at their behavior but said nothing. Was Fleur… disliked? Why? She seemed nice. She didn't have to help him out as much as she did. Sure, her aura was distracting. But that couldn't be it. Could it? The other witches were exactly that. Witches. In the hall they shot little looks at him and Fleur. Harry wasn't the most social butterfly in the world. He grew up with mostly himself as company. So he struggled to interpret the looks. They didn't seem hostile exactly. More wary and cautious. Some glares, sure. But for th emost par tit wasn't like that.
"Fleur?" Harry asked.
"Hmm?" She wondered.
"Are you… do you get along with your class mates. We're getting some looks."
"Ah that. They probably think I charmed you with my allure. You're the first wizard near our age most have seen. It's just jealousy because I am Veela and beautiful and talented. Why?"
"I was just curious. I didn't want to cause you trouble."
"Madam Maxine asked me to look after you. It was always going to be something. And my nature makes it difficult for witches near my age to contend with me. They don't understand me."
"That's life as a Veela. Especially one as strong as I am."
"I wouldn't worry about it. It isn't a big deal and I'm used to it. Besides, you must be used to stares yourself. You have that distinctive scar."
Harry frowned. He wasn't really used it it. Amongst non-magi he hadn't gotten stared at much. But he was told he was quite famous amongst the magi. He should probably get used to it. He was bound to stand out and not just because he was apprenticed to the Merlin.
"I guess. It can't be easy for you though."
"I have my little sister. She's near your age. Not quite old enough to start school yet but she will be. And her magic hasn't begun to settle in yet. She doesn't understand yet but she will."
"I see." Harry bobbed his head. Suddenly her 'alure' she had called it, didn't beckon to him as much. Instead he felt a rush of empathy for her. He shook that off too. It wasn't his place to worry about her. She surely had those looking out for her and she was talented or exceptional enough that madam Maxine had selected her to watch out for him. He resolved to repay her kindness given the chance but to do little else. There was nothing more that he could do.
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