Footsteps on a Different Path
(Formerly, "Wyckham Academy")
Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful, it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful, it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident, it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.
King Whitney Jr.
Surrey, England: July, 1991
Dumbledore spent the most of his explanation trying to fight against the rising heat on his cheeks and the rising indignation of having to go through explaining his motives and decisions to an eleven-year-old boy who wasn't around for most of them.
When the explanations fell silent and Harry declared his intention to attend Wyckham, Dumbledore didn't feel any reason to remain in the household any longer. Although feeling sick, he had accomplished what he set out to do several years previous: have Anita start another school of magic and have Harry attend to give him a solid foundation in the magical world before he would attend Hogwarts. He just hadn't anticipated Anita's requirement of him telling Harry (almost) everything.
Since it was written into their contract and sealed with an Unbreakable Vow, Dumbledore was trapped. Anita, however, was also trapped into the contract requiring her to participate with Hogwarts in Hogwartian events and "team building" events with the other two large European schools, Beauxbatons and Drumstrang. Dumbledore looked forward to viewing Harry's progress in those few and far in between school socials and events that would be occurring more frequently.
The elderly wizard stood, catching the other's attention as he did so. "I feel that there is nothing left for me to say, now that Harry has chosen Wyckham Academy. I shall return to Hogwarts now." He turned to Petunia, nodding politely at her and then Anita, before smiling gently at Harry. "I wish you all the best at Wyckham, Harry. I will see you sometime later this school year, when Wyckham and Hogwarts meet."
Anita and Harry both politely returned the nods while Petunia sat stiffly. Dumbledore did not extend the courtesy of leaving her house and walking to the park to disapparate; he did so from the room with a loud pop, startling her into squeaking.
The room was silent for a few moments before Anita cleared her throat. "I think now would be a good idea to go over some information about Wyckham, as well as term dates and the contract," began Anita, reaching down at her feet for her briefcase.
She set it on her lap and opened it. She removed a copy of a standard contract for attendance at the school and other various fees and requirements of parents or guardians and handed the entire package to Petunia. Harry flipped through the brochure she handed him earlier in the conversation.
"Mrs. Dursley, the first thing you should be aware of is that Harry's fees are already covered for his duration of his schooling. His parents set up a tuition fund for his schooling before their death and the money was set aside for that particular use," said Anita, as Petunia negligently flipped through the contract. "However, as Harry's magical guardian is currently… unreachable, we require your signature on our school forms."
Petunia nodded sourly, her face pinched and pale as she took the offered pen Anita handed her.
"As for Wyckham itself, we run on what you can call separate pedagogical methods: the first is that of Reggio Emilia and then the IB program. While Reggio was developed for the foundations years, you can bring in natural elements to the classroom at the secondary level. The IB program, however, is a structured curriculum that leads into the diploma program at the end of the schooling," lectured Anita, as she pointed out the IB program area on the brochure. "It's fairly strict and rigid when you run it side-by-side with the British National Magical Curriculum, but it's entirely doable as we have sixteen graduates who can attest to it."
"Your term dates here state that there is an early drop off in the summer," interrupted Petunia sharply, as her eye leapt down the term date page, before back at the top. "It's three weeks away but I'd prefer if the boy went sooner."
Anita stilled, looking at Petunia queerly before nodding slowly. "That's true; we do have early summer drop-offs for international students whose parents require them to be back at work earlier than the school year begins, particularly children of diplomats and politicians. However, we're very firm on our August 14th date, Mrs. Dursley."
Anita glanced at her briefcase, locating a thick folder that she had packed at the bottom and hoped she would not have to use.
"It would suit Vernon and I better if he left sooner," the woman argued back. Harry blinked at his aunt, in surprise and with emotion, before quickly masking it and going back to the brochure.
Anita clamped down on the anger rising in her and made a decision. "Of course, Mrs. Dursley. I understand completely." Turning to Harry, Anita gently asked, "Harry? Would you mind going to your room and packing a suitcase? You can join me today."
Surprised, the ebony-haired boy looked up and nodded, shooting Anita a quick smile as he darted out of the sitting room and shutting the door behind him.
Anita's eyes cut to Dudley, who did not move from his spot in front of the TV. She immediately discarded him as a threat when she turned to Petunia, a stony expression on her face as she handed the woman the thick folder from her briefcase.
"What's this? More forms?" asked the horse-faced woman.
"In a matter of speaking," replied Anita coolly. "It's a collection of photographs, medical reports, school reports and witness reports from 1986 onward, documenting your behaviour towards your nephew."
Wide-eyed, Petunia's face lost the little colour it had left. "I beg your pardon?" she whispered.
"Of course," continued Anita, unaware that her voice began to steadily climb as the accusations tumbled from her lips. "Allow me to explain clearly: Petunia, in your hands is a folder documenting every slap, every bruise, every broken bone that Harry received while in your loving care. In addition, in addition," snarled Anita as Petunia opened her mouth to argue back, "There are multiple reports of school marks and medical practitioners' opinions of suspect abuse."
Petunia fell silent.
"I have more than enough evidence Mrs. Dursley, to take you to court and have Harry removed from your home forever."
From the hallway, Harry stood shock-still, listening to the anger in Anita Hartz's voice as she accused his aunt of neglect and emotional abuse. Harry supposed she thought his bedroom was upstairs, where he would be away of the argument taking place in the living room, but she had no way of knowing he slept in the cupboard under the stairs.
It was the first time since Harry could remember that someone was telling his aunt off for her behaviour of him. Harry never had anyone in his corner, cheering him on or protecting him. It was quite novel.
As the raised voices began to die down, Harry jumped and turned back to his cupboard, rummaging through his meagre belongings and shoved them in the tiny suitcase he was permitted to use when staying overnight at Mrs. Figg's. His personal items barely took up half the suitcase, Harry was sad to note.
He was sitting on the bottom steps of the stairs when the sitting room door abruptly opened. He rose to his feet quickly, nearly tripping over his untied shoelaces and too-large trainers.
Anita stood in the door, her suit jacket back on and briefcase in her hand. She had a tired look on her face, but she smiled at him and offered her hand. "Are you ready to go, Harry? Do you have everything you need?"
Harry nodded, not missing her stress on 'everything.' He was sure he wasn't coming back to Privet Drive.
Anita turned back into the sitting room, but did not enter; instead, she spoke sharply to Petunia. "Remember, Petunia – you signed everything. There's no turning back now and if you do, I'll ensure the contents of that folder go public. I'm sure your neighbours would love that."
Harry followed Anita mutely as she led him from the house, not saying a word as she fumed. Used to angry behaviour, Harry remained silent, following the woman as she walked down Privet Drive and off Magnolia Crescent to Henderson Lane, where a rental Vauxhall was parked.
"Let me get the boot for you, Harry," suggested Anita, smiling as she took his suitcase. "You go and sit in the car while we get back to London. I'll explain what's happening along the way, shall we?"
Harry nodded, climbing into the back seat of the car while Anita closed the boot and slid into the driver's side. She started the car and within moments, they were leaving Little Whinging behind. Harry didn't feel particularly sad about that.
"Right," said Anita, more to herself as she took a deep breath. "Right. So, here's the plan: your Aunt has released custody of you by emancipation, which technically means you are a ward of the school, namely, me as Headmistress. It makes things a little complicated, as Switzerland has only recently applied to become part of the European Union. We need to fast track a temporary Swiss residency visa for you."
"Can it be done?" asked Harry, worried he would have to return to Privet Drive.
"Yeah, I've got some friends in the right Swiss departments, as well as in Neuchâtel. Strange thing about Switzerland is that the cantons tend to govern themselves," replied Anita with a quirk of her lips in the rear-view mirror. "So we don't have to worry."
Harry let out a sigh of relief.
"Oh, don't get too comfortable, Harry. I'm in London this week to deliver a few talks and lectures to educators and prospective parents. I won't be leaving for Basel until Friday, so you're going to be stuck with me!" Anita grinned and Harry grinned back. That didn't sound too bad. "We'll go to Gringott's in Diagon Alley and get you some spending money and have the goblins there issue a bank draft and have some funds deposited in a branch of CreditSuisse in Neuchâtel."
Harry's head swam with unfamiliar terms, and spoke up quietly, the first since Dumbledore's revelations. "I'm sorry, Ms. Hartz… but what is Gringott's? And run by goblins?"
Anita chuckled. "Oh, just wait and see Harry. It's going to get a heck of a lot stranger!"
Anita declared that they would visit Diagon Alley the next day, after Harry had a good night's sleep. They entered her hotel, upgrading her room to an attached suite so that Harry had a room to himself. After putting Harry's suitcase on the small dresser, Anita offered to get some dinner and explain more about Wyckham to Harry.
They order room service and over pizza and soda, Anita detailed her school.
"Wyckham Academy was first a fifteenth-century monastery before it was converted into a hotel at the turn of the century," Anita began, talking around a bite of her pizza. "Because of the conversion, it was fairly easy to turn back into a school. The rooms are a little on the smallish side, but we use those predominantly for the Sixth Formers, who require the peace and quiet of individual rooms."
"What will I be getting?" asked Harry, slowly savouring his pizza. It was the first time he ever ate it.
Anita swallowed before answering. "You'll have one of the larger bedrooms in the Gutzwiller wing." She stood up and went to her briefcase, located on the spare bed in the room and rummaged through it before pulling out a different brochure than what Harry saw earlier.
Sitting back down, she opened it and pushed it across the small coffee table to Harry, using a pinkie-finger with a pizza-occupied hand to point the wing out.
Harry was looking at the schematics and floor plan of the monastery-turned-hotel-turned-school eagerly. The entire place had a higgledy-piggledy feel to it; split-levels and odd corridors but there was still logic to the building, in a minimalist way.
"This is the Gutzwiller wing," stated Anita, pointing to the second floor off to the far right of the building. "Right below it is several classrooms. The Gutzwiller wing also overlooks the front ground with views to Lake Neuchâtel."
Her finger moved along to the third floor above where Harry's room would be located. "Each wing is like a family. Not like Hogwarts' Houses, though; the wings host a teacher on each floor in case of emergencies, and two fifth-year prefects. The second floor will always consist of first through fourth year students, or year 7 through 11.
"There are two floors of bedrooms in each wing, consisting of forty bedrooms in total. These two floors, in the Gutzwiller, Zwahlen and Rohner wings, are all doubles where the initial students live. That bedroom is yours for the first four years of your schooling at Wyckham. You can leave things behind as well over the summer.
"Afterwards, when you move into your fifth, sixth and seventh years magical—or Sixth Form—you move into Isele. Not only are you secluded from the younger students by moving into the wing on the far left of the school," here, Anita's finger move from the right-side of the brochure's double-spread to the far left, pointing out a smaller wing with more turrets and spirals, "You are also given your own room. This part of the monastery was where the monks used to live. Although the rooms are fairly small and minimalist, they were the most converted during renovations. You have your bed, side table, desk and drawers, as well as a window overlooking the back of the property, which are woodlands. You'll have more peace and quiet in the upper years to complete schoolwork.
"Those rooms, by the way," finished Anita, "begin on the first floor and work up to five, with only fifteen on each level. So, if you can do your math quickly, we only have up to 315 students."
"That's not many," commented Harry idly.
"No, it's not," replied Anita. "We're picky about who we let into the school and there are strict codes of behaviour and academic standings that we expect all our students to maintain at all times. It's a rigorous school, but it can also be incredibly rewarding with everything so close for us. Being in Switzerland means we're central to everywhere that's worth seeing: Rome and Milan in Italy; Paris in France; the Black Forest in Germany; Zurich and St. Moritz…"
Harry had never heard of most of those places before; some were said in reverent passing by Petunia, with a whimsical tone indicating that she'd never go and see them herself.
"What are the classes like?" asked Harry, reaching for a second slice after he saw Anita start on hers.
"Well, you take what we call the Foundation courses: English, maths, science; and in your Core Magic classes: Transfiguration, charms, potions, Defence against the Dark Arts. There are additional courses that combined with magical and non-magical elements are called the "fusion" classes: history, physical education and technology. You have a single non-magical class that is not mixed with magic in any way: French."
Harry scrunched up his nose. "French?"
Anita laughed, reaching for her Coke. "Yes, French, Harry. Neuchâtel is located in the French region of Switzerland. Nearly 90% of the population speaks French there. We also border France. Switzerland is unique in that it has four national languages: French, Italian, German, and Rumantsch. And trust me when I say you'll pick it up quickly, as well as Suisse-Deutsch, which still drives the German in me batty when I listen to it."
Harry looked at the brochure again, his eyes wandering from the right wing to the left, the fancy script overlaid stating each wing's name; below were the classrooms that were listed by single-digit room number. Near Isele, classrooms took up the first and second floor. A courtyard in the middle of the monastery separated the library, conservatory and music hall, but these were still attached to the main building through a lounge room for the students to relax in, called the Dürrenmatt room, and the cafeteria.
When Harry looked up from the floor plan, he saw Anita's fond, if not sympathetic, expression on her face. "It'll get easier with time, Harry," she said gently. "But why don't we call it a night? I have a feeling you're going to need it by the time we get finished with this week."
The following days after Harry left Privet Drive for good meshed together in a sensory explosion of colour, scent, and unfamiliar terms and places as Anita hustled him from the hotel in London to Diagon Alley where Harry understood just how famous he truly was: his parents' and his name in the history books; the toy dolls and merchandise found in some knickknack stores; the endorsements he certainly didn't remember agreeing to...
At first, Harry couldn't understand why Anita required him to be up and ready to leave the hotel by six in the morning; but upon entering Diagon Alley and after speaking to the goblins at Gringott's about his finances (and his trust vault), Anita led Harry to Flourish and Blott's. Anita asked Harry to purchase all the modern history texts he could find, as long as they referenced the Potters, even briefly; she believed he had to know what he was getting into, being famous. Also, Anita helped him pick out his Core books and some background basics for him to brush up on magical theory before practical application began.
Harry stared in horror at the amount of books as the clerk at Flourish removed them from the enlarged shopping bag, counting them as the books were removed. The total was staggering: over fifty books in a single go.
When Harry glanced at Anita's face, expecting her to be angry, he saw only good cheer. With the books bought, they were off to the apothecary to buy a potions kit; from there, Ollivander's.
Harry was very excited about his wand. He wasn't sure what to make of Ollivander though. The man was scary: he was quiet and always whispering, but quite convinced that the perfect wand was out there for each child that came to his store.
When Harry stepped up, Ollivander remarked on his parents' wands, and began to thrust similar cores and woods at him. So far, Harry blew up a vase, shattered the front display window, blew up six wand boxes, snapped a wand in two by touching it, and had two vacant chairs shoot to the ceiling and shatter into billions of pieces.
Finally, Ollivander brought a dusty box from the very back of his shop; he was muttering, "curious, very curious," over and over as Harry tried it. A glow surrounded his body: it was white while his wand emitted green, blue, and red sparks that took the shape of snitches and a bear-like dog.
"It is curious, Mr. Potter," remarked Ollivander on prompting of Harry, "that this wand's core animal gave one other. And that wand where the core resides, I'm sorry to say, is in the wand that gave you that scar on your forehead."
Harry frowned, ignoring the fluttering in his chest. "Voldemort's wand."
Ollivander shushed him. "Wizards do not like hearing You-Know-Who's name. They fear it."
Harry took the admonishment with grace and nodded. "How much?" he asked, indicating his wand.
"Your wand will cost seven Galleons."
After, the two were off to magical menagerie, where Anita promised Harry a birthday gift from her and as a gift of freedom from his relatives.
"What did you say to them?" asked Harry quietly as the two moved slowly through the crowded pet store. Harry was trailing his fingers lightly over some of the empty bird cages, heading towards the back of the store where the owls were located.
Anita winced. "I had hoped you wouldn't ask and just take it as you weren't ever returning."
"If it has to do with me, I'd really like to know," replied Harry just as quietly.
"You do have that right."
Anita was silent for a while as Harry stopped by a Canadian snowy owl. Its wings were flecked with black spots, and two beady and intelligent yellow eyes settled on him. A rush of emotion that Harry couldn't identify bubbled from the pit of his stomach to his chest, warming him and tingling his fingers and toes.
"Hello," he said to the owl, moving closer to her as Anita watched warily. "You've been waiting for me."
Anita waved over a clerk, who rang up the owl's total and Anita splurged for Harry by getting him owl treats as well as a perch.
When Harry seemed like he was going to ask about his relatives again, Anita ordered, "Later. At the hotel and I'll tell you then. But not now."
Mollified, Harry agreed and they continued some more magical shopping in Diagon Alley, finishing just as the lunch crowd began pouring into the street. They left the Leaky Cauldron before the pub filled up and anyone recognised Harry's scar.
Lunch was room service again and Anita requested that Harry remain in his room that afternoon as she had to finalise plans for a Meet and Greet in the hotel conference room the next day. However, she did offer to sit down with him over lunch and explain.
"How did you know your relatives and I had an argument?" began Anita, cautiously.
Harry looked away from Anita as he reached for his fork. "I was standing outside the living room door," he mumbled.
Anita looked perplexed. "But why weren't you getting your things from your room? I know it didn't take you long but we weren't that loud that you would have heard us from upstairs."
"My room was right outside the door, in the hallway," mumbled Harry again, not wanting to answer and regretting bringing the conversation up.
Harry jumped in surprise and winced at Anita's loud shout. He clamped his mouth shut and did his best to shrink into himself.
"Harry," said Anita, breathing heavily. "Can you please tell me where your room was?"
Harry paused. "The cupboard under the stairs."
He watched Anita for the initial blow up, the threats and accusations that he was lying, that he was an ungrateful freak—but they never came. Instead, Anita viewed him with a pained expression, finally closing her eyes for several moments.
She took a deep breath, then another, and a third before opening her eyes. "You will never be returning to those people ever again, Harry Potter. I swear it on my life."
Somehow, Harry didn't doubt her. But they also didn't discuss the argument he overheard at Privet Drive, and Harry wouldn't bring it up again for several years.
Switzerland: August, 1991
Harry learnt early on that Anita was a Dave Matthews Band fan. She had several copies of his cassettes in her car, which she had left at Basel airport, and Harry was subjected to a two-hour immersion before they reached Neuchâtel.
However, it was well worth it as the car turned off the A5 and onto Rte du Provins, driving through St. Blaise, before turning onto Ch. de la Châtelaine. After a few moments on the two-directional road, Anita turned off between two large stone posts, both with the same plaque etched into the stone.
Wyckham Academy & Estate.
The estate and school was gated with a large, detailed wrought-iron gate, with a coat of arms decorating the middle clamp. The gate also had a modern intercom and pass code, which Anita punched in before the gate slowly eased open.
The road was paved and straight, leading directly up to the monastery conversion. From the outside, the large greyish stonework building looked intimidating. The front was large and square, with two spires on either side as decorative eye pieces. The window indicated it was at least five storeys, the upper spires both with narrow slit windows and stone and iron-mixed walkways at the top.
Yet, only one side of the building was visible, which Anita pointed out. "That's the Gutzwiller wing. See how it faces the front? Right behind us is the Lake. Gutzwiller is only one-half of the wing, though, which turns into Rohner, making it an elongated L-shape.
"Zwahlen is directly behind the main entrance, turning the building into an upside-down and flipped F-shape. Zwahlen is the cross-bar in the shape, if you're wondering. The top part of the F, if you pardon the expression, is Isele, which also turns into a large octagonal turret."
"And the library and cafeteria?" asked Harry as the car slowly came to a crawl in front of the building.
"They attach to Isele and Zwahlen and Gutzwiller and Rohner in a long line and hall, creating two courtyards. It turns the F-shaped residencies into a blocked-in H-shape," answered Anita, pulling into a parking space located off to an inconspicuous side of the estate, hidden by trees and separated by a low, stonework wall.
The monastery had an inter-linking stonemason wall that ran through the building and off to the side, near the Isele wing, which disappeared into woodland. The other wall ran from the Gutzwiller wing, alongside the paved road and then had a break where Harry spied stone steps, leading down to a tiered garden.
While Anita retrieved Harry's new school trunk and her suitcase and briefcase from the boot, Harry took a moment to take a deep breath.
He was in Switzerland.
He had a passport. He was in another country. He was no longer at Privet Drive, nor did he have to go back. He was going to start his secondary education at a prestigious international and magical boarding school—one where he did not know anyone and no one really knew him, despite the few things he read about 'the Boy Who Lived.'
Harry took another deep breath and felt Anita place a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Are you ready?" she asked.
He nodded, picking up the trunk of his suitcase and rolling it towards the door.
The entrance to Wyckham Academy was through a large wooden door, roughened by time and weather. Anita opened it easily and silently though, making Harry wonder if magic was involved.
The entrance hall was less of a hall and more of an inner gateway, where another double-door separated the main building from the entrance. The entrance, however, was brilliantly lit-up from hanging chandeliers. There were several comfortable-looking couches up against the wall, underneath two windows looking out on the grounds. Side tables with Tiffany lamps created a welcoming glow; sets of two armchairs located around two small round tables invited soft conversation and implied privacy.
Off to one side of the long, rectangular room was a granite top desk, which stone etched into the wall of the building. A large vase of flowers and bright lights illuminated the area.
A lone man stood there, looking down at something beneath the countertop.
"Wie geht's, Fritz?" asked Anita as she ushered Harry to the man, who looked up at the sound of Anita's voice.
The man was in his twenties, still slightly spotty but very nicely dressed in a jacket and purple tie. His dark brown hair and tanned face only highlighted his white teeth as he smiled at Anita.
"Schöne, Frau Hartz," he replied in German, before glancing at Harry.
"Harry, meet Fritz Hoffenberg," said Anita, switching back into English. "Fritz, this is Harry Potter." A not-so-casual glance and intense look at Fritz had the young man nod perceptively at the unspoken conversation.
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Potter," greeted Fritz and flawless English, with only a slight trace of a Germanic accent. "Are you coming to the school early for our early summer drop off option?"
Harry glanced at Anita for confirmation, who nodded at him.
Taking the opportunity she was extending for him to use, Harry stepped up to the counter (barely able to look over it, to his displeasure as it was only at chest-height on Anita and Fritz), and replied. "Yes, Mr. Hoffenberg."
"Fritz, please," replied the man, smiling widely again as he moved something away and off to the side. He then glanced down and began typing into what Harry assumed was a computer.
Strange. He thought the school would run on more magic, but as he glanced around at the lights, he noticed that it was all on electricity.
"I thought you were a magical school?" he blurted out, wondering if he'd been duped.
Anita laughed. "We are, Harry. I just happened to have hired several Muggleborns from the Americas who happened to have an interest in exploring technology and magical combinations. They found a way for electronics to run on a magical input or signal, depending on the amount of electricity emitted. The entire school runs on magically-charged lights and converts electronic energy into a magical equivalent which won't harm or overcharge, or surge if you want the correct term, when there is an abundance of magic being conducted."
"Oh." Harry felt stupid.
"It's a surprise for everyone who comes to Wyckham Academy, Mr. Potter," commiserated Fritz as he looked up from his typing. "Everyone comments on it."
Harry didn't feel so bad.
"Ah, here we are. Potter, Harry. Entering his first year with us, with his tuition for this year paid in full," said Fritz, tapping the screen. He glanced at Harry before looking at Anita. "I also received your phone message from a few nights ago, so everything is ready for Mr. Potter."
"Great," answered Anita, relief visible on her face. She hadn't been sure Fritz would be in early enough in the summer to help air out a room and assign one for Harry.
Fritz disappeared from behind the counter off to the side, where Harry expected was an office of some sort. He returned a moment later, a manila envelope in his hand that had a strange bulge in it.
"Since we had some time to prepare," began Fritz, "We were able to get everything ready for Mr. Potter, including the usual entrance package that the other students will receive in September when they arrive."
"Fabulous, Fritz!" Anita took the package and handed it to Harry, who clutched on it. "You might want to open it up, Harry. Your room key is in there and we'll know where you're going to be sleeping."
Nodding, Harry slipped open the top flap of the envelope and puckered it to find the room key. The bulge he spotted earlier was the key in a separate envelope of its own, which he fished out with a skinny hand and arm.
Once the smaller envelope was out, he handed the larger envelope back to Anita and opened the flap on the smaller. A Yale key on a ring, fabricated to look like an old iron skeleton key that was barely the size of largest finger, slid out.
Across the top of the key, on the bow in its circular design, was the imprint: Gutzwiller, 37.
"Great," said Anita as Harry showed her the key's inscription. "Just through the doors and up the stairs, and then to the right. Fritz, would you mind helping us with Harry's trunk?"
"Kein problem," answered Fritz happily, as he once against disappeared from behind the counter, only to reappear through a side-door Harry had not noticed before.
The man had a wand in his hand. He tapped Harry's trunk, causing the luggage to rise above the floor and bob gently as it floated. He then followed behind Anita and Harry as the Headmistress turned to the second wooden door stood.
Anita opened the doors easily, again, entering a large, wooden floored and square-shaped hall. There were hallways extending in three different directions—one directly in front of Harry, and the other two on either side. The one on the right, he saw, did extend much further than the one on the left, though.
The middle of the square led to a wooden floored hallway, which extended for some distance before ending with three floor-to-ceiling windows, one with stained glass in it.
"That's Zwahlen," said Anita, gesturing with a hand down the hallway. "The first floor is where your Core classes will take place. Remember? Transfiguration, charms…"
The walls were stone, with niches displaying artwork and statues lining the stairs. Two stone staircases, on either side of the square, both turned at the top at a 90-degree angle, but in opposite directions.
Anita trailed off, moving towards the right staircase. "Taking this stair will lead you to Gutzwiller. If you wanted to get to the Foundation classes, like English or maths, you just keep walking down that hallway."
"And the one on the left?" asked Harry, following her up the stairs.
"It leads to Isele. Remember how I said that it turns into a large turret? The hall has to make a sharp turn after it extends just a bit. There aren't any classes but it's a great place for displays."
The second floor of the school, in the Gutzwiller wing, was well-lit by more strings of chandeliers extending along the ceiling (clearly a modern addition). Comfy chairs and tables were placed here or there along the way, as Anita counted the rooms.
"The first room with a name on it will be the teacher who resides in the wing for emergencies," said Anita, pointing at the door. "For you, Mr. Blake will be your emergency contact on the floor. The two prefects will be at either end of the hall, here"—Anita indicated to the room across from Blake's, and then pointed down the hall where a large window was letting natural light in. "And then just at the corner where the hall turns left and into Rohner."
The room doors were a soft brown, lacquered to shine and reflect the lights. The numbers on the doors were golden and easily displayed. Anita stopped in front of 37, near the end of the hall by the second prefect's room and Rohner.
"It's much quieter down here by a corner room," began Anita, motioning for Harry to insert the key. "But you'll also get traffic noise in the morning and afternoon with the Rohner residents."
Harry shrugged, inserting the key and turning. There was a loud click, and the door swung open easily.
The room was somewhat dark, with only afternoon light coming in from the window across from the door, but Anita located the light switch and the room was flooded.
Harry stepped in gingerly, looking at the small hallway in the room, still expecting everything to be a dream. Reality was slowly creeping in, though, as Harry picked the bed on the left, placing his trunk on the floor beside the bed, before turning to take in the room that he would be living in for the next four years.
As Anita had explained, there were two twin beds on opposite sides of the room, each with their own side table, lamp and alarm clock. Two matching sets of three-shelved drawers stood side by side underneath the large window.
Opposite of the beds were work desks and comfortable office swivel chairs. There was some space between the end of the desk and hallway, so there were four layers of built-in floating shelves for books and knickknacks.
Matching built-in wardrobes with sliding doors were side by side on one wall of the small hallway entering the room. Harry opened his to find a shoe rack and several empty hangers. A generic, white duvet and two pillows were on the shelf above the hangers.
The other side of the wall opened to a small bathroom he and his roommate were to share. It consisted of a toilet, matching porcelain sink, and a fairly generously-sized walk-in shower with clear shower curtain. There were two sets of shelving in the shower for toiletries.
"If you open your window, Hedwig will be able to find you when she's in the area," offered Anita, walking over to the windows. "Swiss windows are similar to British ones, but these also open in and tilt from the bottom. Hedwig will have no problem getting in."
"Thank you," said Harry, as Fritz placed the desk perch Anita splurged on for Harry on the drawer.
Anita nodded, standing with her hands on her hips in the middle of the room, looking around and noticing how bare it was. "I think sometime this week we'll go into Neuchâtel and make sure you have a fitting for your uniform soon, and get some things to decorate this place with."
Harry flushed, knowing that her comments were an observation and less of a rebuke on his lack of personal items.
"You'll also need to fill in a questionnaire for roommate matching, but that won't be for a few weeks," continued Anita, as Fritz slowly eased out of the room and down the hallway. "We'll let you get settled for a bit. I'll probably have dinner around seven, so if you'd like to join me, you only need to ask for Kriessel."
"Kriessel?" asked Harry, confused. A moment later, a loud pop had him scrambling backwards and into the bed.
A small, green creature with floppy ears and a strange dark blue pillowcase with embroidered WA stood at barely three feet and in the middle of the room.
"Frau called?" asked the creature, in a strangely accented mishmash of what sounded like German and English.
"Yes, thanks, Kriessel. This is Harry Potter," Anita said, introducing the creature to Harry. "Harry, this is Kriessel, a house elf. House elves are magical creatures that work for institutions and wealthy, established families. They enjoy cooking and cleaning and other household duties, which boosts their magical power, particularly if they are involved in a good partnership between owner and elf."
Harry nodded, slowly, looking at Kriessel strangely before extending a hand to shake. "Nice to meet you, Kriessel."
The house elf looked at Harry strangely, eyeing his extended hand before looking up at Anita in confusion.
Anita fought back a smile and said, "Harry would like you to shake his hand, Kriessel. It's what humans do when they're introduced to each other for the first time."
"Kriessel is elf, Frau! Not human!" retorted the elf, but after a moment, reached up and shook Harry's hand, dropping it just as quickly. "Kleiner Herr Harry will call for Kriessel, ja?"
"Umm…" began Harry, confused by the elf's mix of English and German. "Yes?"
"Gut," declared Kriessel, disappearing again with a pop.
Anita looked incredibly amused and did her best to wipe it from her face as Harry turned his confused face towards her. "You'll get used to Kriessel's 'Germlish,' Harry. You'll probably learn more German and Italian from the elves than you would from a class, anyway."
"Elves? How many are there?" asked Harry, sitting down on his bed, running his fingers absently over the navy sheets.
"About a hundred. They run the school, really. Right from the kitchens to cleaning the rooms and classrooms," answered Anita, smiling. "Kriessel's harmless, though. He'll treat you right, if not mother you a bit. They won't go through your things though, unless you give them permission. And they only clean what is in the laundry basket in your wardrobe."
Harry let out a sigh of relief, thinking of strange creatures rummaging through his clothes at night.
"I'll let you get settled in, Harry. I'll see you in a bit." Anita waved her fingers a little in goodbye and left the room, leaving the door open and the choice for Harry to close it for privacy.
Considering he was the only one in the school so far, excluding Anita and Fritz that he knew of, Harry didn't feel the need and left it open as he turned to his trunk, ready to remove his newly purchased items.
His yearly non-magical clothing which he bought as a treat were neatly placed in the drawers, including underwear, socks, and sweaters. Harry's shiny new dress shoes, winter boots, and uniform shoes were placed on the shoe rack and his trainers were tossed in the wardrobe at the bottom, carelessly.
Books were separated into subject, then author as took up a fair two of the five shelves. Deciding to get some reading in, Harry chose his Great Wizards of the Twentieth Century text and settled on his bed, enjoying the feel of a comfortable bed—an actual bed—and two fluffy pillows to lean back on.
He fell asleep halfway through the first chapter.
Harry woke up the next morning, with bright sunlight filtering into his room. Having fallen asleep with his glasses on and without changing his clothes, Harry felt rather groggy but was quick to notice the snowy owl sleeping on her perch.
A smile touched Harry's lips; Hedwig managed to find him easily enough. A quick glance at his clock said it was barely 7 in the morning.
Sighing, Harry reached for his toiletries bag, which he left in his trunk the night before, and stumbled into the bathroom, located on his side of the room.
After finishing a quick shower and brushing his teeth, Harry was ready for food.
"Kriessel?" asked Harry, cautiously, into the empty room as his stomach rumbled.
Kriessel popped into the room, not startling Harry this time. The house elf looked up at the young wizard and asked, "Was can Kriessel do for kleiner Herr Harry?"
"Could you please show me where I can get some food?" asked Harry, putting on his trainers. "I'd really like eat some breakfast."
"Of course, Herr Harry," agreed Kriessel, walking out of the bedroom and leading Harry back down the main stairs out of the Gutzwiller wing and through Zwahlen. At the end of the hallway, it branched off into a T-shape; Kriessel led Harry to the left, which quickly opened up into a larger hallway that was lit with natural morning light. Two sets of French doors, separated by a wall, were fully open, leading into a conservatory-styled restaurant.
"This das restaurant," said Kriessel. "Die Küche is there. We's have buffet for breakfast."
Kriessel disappeared, leaving Harry to look around the brightly lit and empty restaurant. The windows in the room were floor-to-ceiling and occupied two entire walls; at waist height, there were boxes attached to the windows filled with greenery.
Tables with double, four, and ten occupancy were scattered around the room. On the other side of the room was an open window, which looked into the kitchen. In front of the window was a white-linen lined table, with empty seats. Harry thought it would be for the teachers.
Spying the buffet table, Harry made a beeline for it. Thirty seconds later, Harry was enjoying his first breakfast of Wyckham Academy and enjoying every bloody minute of it.
Twenty minutes after he received his breakfast, Anita walked in with another man, greeting Harry warmly.
"Morning, Harry!" she said, sitting down next to him at his four-person table. "How'd you sleep? You were right out of it when I asked Kriessel to check in on your when you didn't come down for dinner."
"Well, thank you," swallowed Harry, finishing the last bite of his toast. He glanced at the man who sat across from him at the table.
Anita smiled. "This is Nicolas Flamel, Harry. He's our potions and alchemy professor. Nicolas, meet Harry Potter."
"Bonjour, Mr. Potter," greeted Flamel in a soft voice. He was old, with white hair and dark eyes. He had tanned skin, like Fritz's, a thick French accent and he wore traditional wizards' robes.
"Likewise," agreed Harry politely, shaking the man's offered hand over the table. "Excuse me, but your name seems familiar…?"
Flamel grinned. "Oui. I am Nicolas Flamel, the creator of the Philosopher's Stone. There are many stories to my creation and myths about me."
Harry nodded, remembering a few.
"Have you seen much of the school, Harry?" asked Flamel.
Harry shook his head.
"Then we'll have to take you on a tour!" the elderly wizard exclaimed happily, indicating for Harry to finish his breakfast. "There is much to see."
And there was; Harry was shown the classrooms and told to make note where his would be held; he wandered up and down the various stairs and side passages and hallways that led to back entrances to rooms or had you arriving at a completely different part of the school; the library was a gorgeous piece of architecture and design, boasting hundreds of thousands of books in fiction, non-fiction, and magical theory; the auditorium and indoor gym, part of the renovation, were done tastefully to keep in with appearances of the historic background of the school.
Outside, Harry walked with Flamel and Anita, noting the pagoda, the gardens and fountain, as well as the small hedge maze. The view, though, was breathtaking: the school was situated on a mountain, overlooking Neuchâtel Lake.
"I've never seen what Hogwarts is like," began Harry softly, so that Anita and Flamel had to strain to hear him, "But Wyckham is just… beautiful. I can't wait for school to start."
"You might be the only kid in history to say that, Harry," grinned Anita.
Harry grinned back.
Neuchâtel, Switzerland: late August, 1991
Other early students would be arriving at Wyckham, unable to remain at home until September. Harry was eager, up well before 7am. He ate breakfast in his civvies, before changing into his Wyckham uniform, as was required once the early drop off began (Mondays being the exception).
Early drop off only occurred a week before school would officially begin for new students, but Harry had already seen a few Sixth Formers wandering the halls at night and eating in the restaurant.
None spoke to him, all engrossed with catching up on studies or getting ahead of their schoolwork, although most did offer him smiles when they passed in the halls.
However, today, first years would be joining. Anita had informed him in her office in Isele several nights ago that there were three first years joining him, but she didn't say their names.
Harry looked at himself in the bathroom mirror. He looked smart, he thought, tugging on his tie. The Wyckham Academy uniform consisted of dress slacks for the boys and optional for the girls, a white collared dress shirt underneath a jacket in navy blue, with "WA" embroidered over the heart.
Although Harry did as the Sixth Formers, hiding out in the library during the morning of the first of two drop off days, Harry did venture out after lunch back to his room for some quiet reading.
He was pleasantly surprised to find his bedroom door open and a young boy, taller than him and already wearing his Wyckham uniform, putting his things away in his set of drawers.
The boy was tall and had brown hair, but with a freckled complexion. He had a few British Quidditch posters on his side of the room, contrasting with Harry's FC Basel poster.
Harry knocked on the door and cleared his throat. "Um, hello," he began, assuming the boy spoke English. Harry and another Sixth Former had an awkward experience a week previous when they ran into each other from two different corners, falling to the floor and trying to apologise in Italian and English.
The boy looked up in surprise, turning fully to greet Harry with a smile. "Hello. I'm Terry Boot."
"Hi Terry," said Harry, stepping into the room. "I'm Harry. Harry Potter."
Harry could tell it took considerable effort for Terry to not glance up at his scar, like he clearly wanted to; the boy persevered though, and kept his eyes level on Harry's, extending a hand to shake.
Harry took it, shaking it and smiling widely.
"Nice to meet you," said Terry instead.
Terry turned back to his luggage, but paused and turned back to Harry, almost eyeing him. "You wouldn't happen to know where I could get some food, do you? I haven't had anything since my flight from Heathrow. Mum insisted I go by plane so that my Muggle cousins could see me off."
Harry laughed. "Yeah, sure I do. It's this way."
And as Harry led Terry out of the room they were going to share for four years, they began an easy conversation that became a debate about the merits of Quidditch versus football.
The two boys continued to talk well into their dinner, back to their room, and well into the night as Harry helped Terry put his things away. As Harry finally drifted off to sleep, listening to Terry's gentle snores, Harry thought, I could get used to this.
A note on Terry: I decided to include Terry instead of fanon!Blaise as Harry's roommate for the reason that Terry was in Slughorn's class with Harry. He needed to have an O on his OWL, demonstrating his knowledge and practical applications of potions to have Snape give him that. Even as a half-blood (or Pureblood, although I'm having him as a Half), I would imagine that his parents would want him taught by the renowned Nicholas Flamel.
Amendment: A reviewer commented that Terry was considered "obnoxious" at first, but I figure that I was learnt personality to exist in Ravenclaw, as all but Luna seem to come off as assholes.
On Anita/Dumbledore: While it seems like Albus Dumbledore and Anita Hartz get on, not is what it seems. Albus and Anita are friends, socially – but when it comes to education and politics, they have way different thoughts. Remember, Anita's fiancé was killed by Death Eaters; if that doesn't cause someone to hate magic, I don't know what would. Dumbledore also had his reason for sending Harry away – it might be a conscience, finally, or a motive in a darker plan. On a side note, I can't write a manipulative Dumbledore to save my ass, so even if you read "Greater Than, Lesser Be," you'll notice I rarely have Dumbledore scenes.
The abuse situation at the Dursleys: I think, overall, it's an entirely touchy subject. As readers, we know what Harry went through, as we see everything from his POV. However, despite Anita having several subjective pieces of paper and documentation, she has no real "hard" proof that can state that Harry was abused. And as long as the Dursleys or Harry never actually come out and state that he was mistreated or abused, the case has no basis. My father and I actually had this discussion last week when watching the recent "Glee" episode with Kurt and the football player. How far will you let abuse or harassment go, and how much can a teacher or person in authority do without proof? The answer is not much. Even with "suspect" abuse cases, you need a hell of a lot of proof before you can remove the child from the location to be placed in foster care. And let's be honest here - could we ever see Dumbledore doing that? I'm certain he knew what happened, especially with Figg around. Anita, however, as I tried to demonstrate in this chapter where she didn't know about the cupboard, manipulated Petunia into signing Harry over based on her flimsy documents and pieced together ideas. She doesn't know if Harry was abused; she just knows it's a bad situation and tried to take advantage of it.
On Schooling methods: Reggio Emilia is a not-so-well-known philosophy from Reggio Emilia, Italy, that was developed after WWII. It is meant for the Foundation Years (0-6) in Early Childhood Education and Primary. The premise is for natural elements to be brought into the classroom from outside, giving a natural environment where children explore and learn through their own decisions. The teacher then guides them along the curriculum so they cover the topics they need to, but there's a lot of KWL and scientific method base. For example, at my school, we use the Reggio philosophy and in SK we've already looked at the human body, space, spiders and snakes. It's also not "this is a snake. Look at his fangs." Reggio is more like, "Johnny likes snakes. This is a king cobra. This is a python. They give birth to live young. This is how their poison sacks work." You go into detail where the children want to learn. There's not a lot of information on Reggio Emilia that's in English, but Google can help you find a few websites if you're interested.
IB = International Baccalaureate.
As for Wyckham this time around, I've based some of it off of this Swiss school (which I can say that I've never been to; never knew existed until I was looking for Swiss jobs; and which I would be way too scared to apply to anyway. It is in English, btw, so you don't have to worry about translating anything):
www . rosey . ch /
Or Google "Le Rosey."
Last note: I still don't like Rowling's world too much, and it will probably come through Anita. Be warned. I don't play nice against the magical world. But I will give the Purebloods some benefit of the doubt… [Nov.28.10] Edits and amendments [Nov.30.10]