Author's note: Set long before the previous two chapters. (See endnotes for worldbuilding stuff.)
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of JK Rowling. No money is being made from this work.
The palace of Beauxbatons stood in the middle of sumptuous grounds, meticulously maintained by a veritable army of house elves. Its elegantly sculpted gardens and exquisite fountains made an arresting picture, and upon passing through the delicately wrought gate a visitor would have been forbidden from thinking that the palace itself could only pale in comparison to its gardens. Yet, understandable as that impression might be, it could not have been further from reality – Beauxbatons palace more than rivaled the land upon which it sat. It rose from the earth like a creation made from spun sugar, towers soaring high and glinting in the sunlight, stonework gleaming and carvings so intricate they could only have been achieved by magic. Beauxbatons palace was the jewel in the crown of magical France, outshining other magical palaces and putting more modern constructions to shame.
Carefully maintained as the gardens were, it was not difficult to find secluded corners. Indeed, most students help that the original gardeners had anticipated generations of half-frenzied trysts and created hidden gardens entirely surrounded by tall hedges and ever-shifting mazes to accommodate them. Other students held that these were merely signs of the gardeners' desire to show off their magical genius, but they were generally dismissed as insufficiently romantic by their more cosmopolitan peers. Whatever the reason for their existence, these more private areas of the grounds were rife with illicit student activity, not all of it romantic in nature.
One garden in particular had become the chosen haunt of a small group of students who passed themselves off as a student group designed to facilitate the exchange of knowledge between wizarding and muggle culture. In truth this group had a much loftier goal, one which, if known by the administration, would have had its ringleaders promptly expelled and the others severely disciplined: the dissolution of the Statute of Secrecy and full integration of all beings into one harmonious society. They habitually met in a walled off garden behind the palace, one liberally festooned with ivy-covered benches and rogue begonias. Only those who already knew of its existence could find the garden's door, which served both as a security measure and distraction for the more academically minded of the group. (The charm had long ago been identified as a variant on the Fidelius, but its precise nature remained elusive. Combeferre, the group's most scholarly member, had dedicated countless hours attempting to solve the puzzle, ostensibly so that the charm could be applied elsewhere but mostly because he enjoyed the challenge.)
"It's an utter disgrace!" These words, spoken rather passionately, came from Courfeyrac, a well dressed youth whose face had reddened slightly in his outrage. He leaned against one of the walls, robes unbuttoned to reveal muggle clothing both fashionable and strictly against regulations. "They could have chosen to hire someone good, someone progressive. They had candidates, I know they did. Father told us about them in great detail – utterly forbidden, of course, but that's beside the point – and I know several equally qualified people applied for the post whose ideas about the future of magical education involved taking us forwards as opposed to retreating into the dishonorable past. But no, we're stuck with a traditionalist. Did you know, he applied for a post at the Académie de la Sorcellerie before trying here? Not only do we have an académicien in our midst, we have a rejected académicien!"
"Would you rather he have been a fully accredited member?" Combeferre asked from his place on one of the benches.
"Certainly I do!" Courfeyrac said, thumping the wall for emphasis. "If he were he wouldn't be here!"
"Here here," Bahorel called from the other side of the garden. Like Courfeyrac he lounged expertly, though Bahorel had chosen the oldest of the stone benches as his prop. "Let's make him rue the day he thought to apply for the post."
The others all nodded with varying degrees of enthusiasm, even Combeferre and Feuilly, who accorded far more respect to the school as an institution than did the others. "He probably thinks we're innocent minds to be molded to his cause," said Bossuet, whom enrollment papers named Lesgle and whose signature read otherwise. His eyebrows had yet to regrow from an unfortunate potions accident the year before and his cloak was rather the worse for wear, but he grinned as he leaned back against the wall. "I almost pity the man, really. Just imagine his dismay when he finds that France's best and brightest have seen the light and rejected his shortsighted philosophy. Perhaps we should offer him spectacles as a gift of welcome."
Bahorel too grinned, though his expression was rather more fierce than Bossuet's. "I have my first class with him tomorrow. Perhaps I shall do him the honor of attending it after all."
"Leave some of him for the rest of us," Joly called. He sat cross-legged on the same bench as Bossuet, playing absently with his wand. From one of his pockets peeked a sachet of lavender, which he carried to ward off vapors and inquisitive pixies.
"The real question is who will actually teach us history," Feuilly cut in. He had chosen to sit next to Combeferre and now looked up from his book, forehead knit into a frown. "It's all very well for those of us who know better to educate ourselves from books and discount his teachings, but what of those who aren't as informed? There must be some way to spread the word that whatever comes out of his mouth is traditionalist propaganda."
"Perhaps a well timed howler?" Bahorel suggested, eyes gleaming. "To be delivered in front of the entire school denouncing his theories?" He grinned. "I've found them effective tools of humiliation, if not correction."
"And if they recognize your voice you'll be expelled for certain," Joly reminded him. Bahorel, who continuously skirted the edge of academic disgrace without ever quite giving the school the satisfaction of getting himself expelled, shrugged.
"Is there a finer way to go out?" he wanted to know.
"That won't change his teaching any," Joly insisted. "Save it for the end of the year at least."
Bahorel shuddered. "If I have to put up with that dullard for an entire year I fear I won't have the heart to make a howler," he said. "Surely we can dispose of him by Christmas at the latest."
"That doesn't solve the problem of the students," Feuilly reminded them. "They are owed an unbiased education."
"A two-pronged approach," Combeferre suggested. "We split our efforts between providing our peers with appropriate resources and showing our newest professor the extent of our esteem." He looked over at Enjolras, one eyebrow raised slightly. The blond student, who had been silent up until that point, nodded.
"Our first goal should be to make it clear to all how little we think of this appointment," he said gravely. As always when Enjolras spoke, all heads turned towards him. Even Jean Prouvaire, who hung upside down from the tree in the center of the garden, turned his head towards the ground to look at Enjolras. "We are not the only ones outraged; others will follow our example. And we will spread the word that any who want to learn the correct history of our country should seek it out themselves rather than expect it from him."
Courfeyrac was shaking his head. "Admirable, as usual," he said. "And I've no qualms with the idea in principle, but only the most exceptional students will do extra work of their own volition." He grinned, clearly putting himself firmly in the category of students reluctant to study more than strictly required.
"Your suggestion then?" Enjolras asked.
"Enlist the masses," Courfeyrac said. He moved from his spot by the wall to plant himself in front of Enjolras, eyes alight with mischief. "Make it clear that we won't accept such crimes against our education. And those who truly desire a balanced look at history can talk to Feuilly, who has that section of the library memorized already."
"How can you be sure they won't replace him with someone worse?" Combeferre wanted to know.
Courfeyrac smirked. "My father's on the school board," he reminded them. "I know who the other candidates were. There is no one worse."
"It's certainly worth a shot," Bossuet said. Joly, who had cast a diagnostic spell on himself and was now frowning at the results, nodded. "And even if it doesn't drive the demon from our midst it should at least be entertaining."
"I'll say," Bahorel agreed. "What's it to be then? Creatures in the classroom? Caricatures? Banners denouncing traditionalists at the top of their non-existent lungs?"
"Songs sweeping the student body," Joly suggested, having apparently decided that he wasn't quite sick enough to sit out on the fun. "Pamphlets airing his secrets."
"Certainly no one should attend class," Bossuet contributed.
"Inquisitions from those who can't afford to miss days," Joly said, grinning as Feuilly and Combeferre – the two least likely to voluntarily skip even the worst classes – nodded in unison.
"The ghosts could ensure he never sleeps easy," Prouvaire called down from his tree. "Mother Gaillemard's husband was killed in the cleanses of 1690. She'd be glad to help us spread anti-traditionalist sentiments."
"I wasn't aware you were on such good terms with Mother Gaillemard," Courfeyrac said, raising his eyebrows.
Prouvaire, his face already red from the strain of hanging upside down, ducked his head a bit. "She haunts the dungeons," he said by way of explanation. "You should speak to her sometime; her stories are positively bloodcurdling."
Courfeyrac, who was not a fan of the undead, shuddered slightly. "I'll keep that in mind," he said, looking back at Enjolras. "Your thoughts, oh esteemed leader?"
Enjolras, long used to Courfeyrac's honorifics, nodded. "We'll start as soon as possible," he said. "The sooner our school is rid of him the better." He looked around at his friends. "The more inventive the better, though be sure to make it clear that we object to his politics rather than his current profession. Any student might dislike a professor; let's show the school that our grievance is rather more serious."
Bahorel grinned his approval while Prouvaire straightened and shimmied nimbly down the tree. The two of them fell into a rather intense conversation, voices hushed – or as hushed as Bahorel ever got. Courfeyrac clasped Enjolras on the shoulder then went to join them, while Joly and Bossuet held their own conference. On the other side of the garden Combeferre and Feuilly had begun a conversation about which books to direct inquisitive students towards. Enjolras grinned, watching his friends. Their new professor wouldn't last a month, not with the student body turned against him. Pulling out a sheet of parchment from his bag, Enjolras conjured a muggle-style pencil and began to jot down his own plans for the unfortunate académicien.
The Academie de la Sorcellerie is the magical equivilant of the Academie Francaise, but it's more influential. They control spells taught and created, as well as more generally upholding and enforcing more traditional forms of magic and, by extension, life. People who support the academie are traditionalists, while people who oppose it can be any number of things due to factionalism. The boys are Briardists, named after the faction's most influential member, and they support not only the dissolution of the academie but the integration of magical and muggle society as well as the inclusion of non-wizarding users of magic into society. They're more or less as radical as you can get, though within the group there are varying degrees of intensity.
After the creation of the International Statute of Secrecy in 1689, some French wizards decided that all muggles who knew about magic should be eliminated so as to ensure that the secret did not spread. (Wizards can be controlled by oaths; muggles, due to not having magic, aren't bound by magical oaths.) They were a minority group, but they did rather a lot of damage before they were finally disbanded and their leaders executed.
Enjolras, though from a respected pureblood family, knows what pencils are because Combeferre's both muggleborn and his best friend. He uses them both because traditionalists hate it and because they're more convenient than quill and ink.
Grantaire is in detention. He'll be brought up to speed later by Joly and Bossuet.