Yule morning dawned to a terrible snow storm. As a result Nicolas and Perenell did some rather impressive magic that expanded their lounge area to nearly three times the size as there was no chance of any outdoor activity. Harry had had to wait outside the wards while this happened, so he got first-hand understanding of the storm, and came back looking like the abominable snow man, as the snow had stuck about an inch thick to all of his clothes. However Harry didn't really pick up on Nicolas' worry until it was almost time for the guests to arrive. Nicolas had been rushing about all morning, but Harry had thought that normal last minute host behavior. What wasn't normal however, were the two advanced healing sets spread across the kitchen table.
Eventually Harry had to check.
'Er, are we expecting injuries?' he asked tentatively.
Nicolas froze where he had been glancing between the window and the clock, but eventually nodded. 'Apperating isn't so safe in weather like this. It's so easy to lose your destination and determination. I wish we had sent out port keys.'
'They will be fine.' Perenell spoke up, putting a hand on Nicolas' shoulder. 'This is not the révolution. Apperating is no longer a new skill, and the dangers in storms are now known and people take extra care.'
Harry stayed quiet, but with an eyebrow raised. Apparation was so integrated into everyday wizarding life that Harry couldn't really imagine a time when it was new. He vaguely remembered Binns mentioning that it came about due to the French aristocrats being so desperate to leave. Of course, there were lower class wizards too, and the disapparation jinx had followed soon after. Yet again it blew Harry's mind to be reminded that his two hosts had lived through that.
Before much else could be said there were two consecutive pops immediately outside the door and Perenell quickly bustled to let people in out of the storm.
Harry's head shot up as the door opened, and only the rigorous self control he'd been practicing living in Slytherin stopped his jaw from dropping. It took a moment for Harry to process what was happening, before he could slam his occlumency barriers to their full strength. Once he had a clearer head Harry pulled his magic to just under his skin and any effects lessened to just background attraction.
Clearly, one of the Flamel's guests was a full blooded veela.
Harry had never been in close contact with one before and was quite pleased at having averted making a fool of himself. Something he was extra pleased with, as the woman was at least in her seventies or eighties. Harry's lip quirked as he repressed a smile. Getting attracted to someone so old was startlingly weird, but even with his magic pooling under his skin stopping the Veela magic from having an effect on him, he would easily admit to her being an incredibly attractive lady. Beautiful gold hair sprinkled with white was done in a fancy up-do with bits spilling out like silk and she had the most startlingly vivid azure eyes surrounded by wrinkles. Eventually Harry pulled his eyes away from her and studied the man who had arrived at the same time. They were greeting each other, but the familiarity was clear, so Harry assumed they were acquaintances, but hadn't traveled together.
The man was rather plain looking, although that could just be because he was standing next to the Veela. He was older and quite thin, but had a big smile and his skin showed through as very tanned against his white robes.
Much to his delight Harry had been gifted with white cotton and arctic wolf fur-lined winter robes (along with a French translating rune necklace) from the Flamels yesterday evening, as it was traditional in their family Yule gatherings to wear all white. Clearly the guests were familiar with this as the Veela was dressed in white cotton robes too, although in contrast to the man her pale unblemished skin made the robes look almost cream coloured.
'Harry, this is Céleste Bellemy, one of Peri's oldest friends. Céleste, this is Harry Potter. He's staying with us over Yule break.'
Harry smiled and bowed over her hand. 'A pleasure to meet you.'
'For me as well.'
Something sparked in her eyes and beside Harry, Nicolas chuckled. Harry suspected Céleste had been expecting a drooling teen.
'And this,' Nicolas indicated the man, who was unshrinking some platters from his pocket and handing them to the Flamel's small elf, 'is Jacques Dubois. He has been the Herbology professor at Beauxbaton for, oh, how many years now?'
Dubois chuckled and bowed his head. 'I'm coming up to seventy years next year, although perhaps I won't be spending it at the Château.'
Nicolas looked rather shocked, 'You're not retiring?'
Dubois shared a secretive little grin. 'Oh no. But it's a school secret at the moment.' He turned back to Harry. 'You're at Hogwarts then?'
'How do you do in Herbology?'
Harry gave a half-smile. 'It's the only subject I'm not topping.'
Thankfully Dubois just chuckled. 'Not a gardener?'
'Oh, I do okay, but my friend Neville is a real prodigy.'
There was another pop of apparation outside, and Perenell directed the two into the lounge room. Harry couldn't help but let a grin form at the next guest. Ollivander came into the room in a thick fur coat that had almost as many pockets as Hagrid's, but had odd mismatching fur over each one. He was soon divested of the coat however and underneath wore not robes, but a long white shirt and white trousers, although they were cut in wizarding style.
'Mr Potter. I imagined I'd be seeing you here.' Ollivander stated in that slightly alarming way of his. The mood was broken, however, when Nicolas chuckled.
'Only because we told you in our last letter.'
Ollivander turned his wide eyes on Nicolas and smiled somewhat sheepishly. 'Perhaps.'
'Have you shut your shop?' Harry asked. he couldn't remember a time in all his years when Ollivanders had been closed except during the war when he was captured at Malfoy manor.
'I have a cousin watching it.' Ollivander said, with an obvious wince.
'Stavia?' Nicolas asked.
Ollivander pulled a face and started towards the lounge area. 'Hopefully this time she won't blow up my workshop.'
Harry stood with Nicolas in the little coat room slightly bemused after Ollivander headed into the lounge. It took Harry a moment to figure out what had been so odd about the scene.
'Oh. It's a little peculiar for me to see Ollivander acting like a young impressionable boy, but I suppose if he's known you since he was six…'
'To me he is but a child.' Nicolas chuckled. 'More so than most, as we were so close to his father and whenever he starts acting mature around Perenell she reminds him of the time he accidentally gave himself a monkey's tail and ears and got stuck climbing on our curtain rod… mortified his poor mother.'
Harry grinned wider.
The next to arrive was, to Harry's pleasure, Giles De Fey. De Fey was a world renown Chaser in his day, but was now known as the world's most sought after Quidditch commentator. He would usually announce the World Cups, however Harry knew that next year he would choose not to do so for family reasons (his daughter's child was due the end of that week and it was never sure in advance how long a match would run for). They exchanged greetings, but other than the eye flick to his scar, De Fey didn't have much to say to Harry and quickly made his way into the lounge.
'Are you waiting for many more?' Harry asked. He had been surprised to find that he was the only one staying with the Flamel's over Yule, and had just sort of rolled with the punches until now. He was rather glad he wasn't really a teenager, as he imagined the first time around the prospect of the famous Flamels and their equally famous friends would have had Harry stuttering the whole evening and feeling very self conscious. Especially as he had been included in greeting all the guests.
'Just two more friends, although Astrid often brings an apprentice from the reserve.'
Not a moment later there were three simultaneous cracks, then a startled yelp. Nicolas hurriedly opened the door, and Harry peered out curiously. He had to struggle not to laugh. The strictest looking man Harry had ever seen was sprawled on the ground with a petite blonde tangled across him, both having arrived at once. Clearly one of them had been holding a large pile of unshrunken gifts, as there were red and green coloured boxes spilt everywhere. The blonde was struggling to get up, but was really only making it worse, and Harry recognised the building irritation behind the strict man's moustache from a similar expression when his Uncle Vernon was about to implode.
Deciding to take control Harry stepped forward and grabbed the blond under one arm to help her up. Someone else had the same idea, and grabbed her under the other arm. She was such a wispy thing that they managed to lift her completely off the ground and set her on her feet, despite Harry being only slightly taller than her.
Harry opened his mouth to ask if they were alright, but instead his jaw dropped open as he caught sight of who had helped him lift the woman off.
'Charlie?' Harry asked.
Charlie Weasley gave Harry a very confused look, but it was indeed him.
A moment later Harry realised that of course they hadn't met yet in this timeline. Harry thought very quickly, landing on what Nicolas had just said and hoping for the best.
'Oh, Sorry. I'm friends with the twins and you're clearly a Weasley, and came with Astrid.' Harry could only hope Astrid worked for the Dragon reserve, and that Charlie was the mentioned apprentice.
Harry smiled, but was relieved that Nicolas tapped Harry on the shoulder to introduce him to the others at that moment, as he was very unsure how he felt about a Weasley being there with him. Namely, he wasn't sure if the Flamels would mention him being Grey and he really didn't need that tid-bit getting back to Dumbledore. Though it was nice to see Charlie. He hadn't got to see a lot of Bill or Charlie after Ginny and he broke up, and not at all after Ron died.
The petite woman Charlie arrived with was, in fact, Astrid Albescue, the head of the Dragon Reserve in Romania. She didn't look the part, as in crisp white robes with thick white hair (despite her youth), and being so tiny, she looked like even a baby dragon could blow her away. The old burns and scars almost covering her arms suggested she had been in the industry for some time despite the fact that she couldn't be more than forty at most. She was rather bubbly and bright, which contrasted amusingly with the man she had accidentally apperated on top of.
The last guest was Émile Falcanelli, who Harry finally placed as the alchemist that disappeared sometime during the war with Grindelwald. Nicolas whispered to Harry that it was unusual to see him outside of the old Light forces uniform, and even in plain white robes he somehow managed to look martial. Despite knowing he had to be around 95 in age, he only looked 60 or so, and his hair, moustache and bushy eyebrows were all still dark brown almost black, surrounding his dark Italian eyes. His voice came as a bit of a surprise, as it was soft and smooth rather than the commanding bark Harry had expected.
'Ah Astrid, a pleasure as always.'
Albescue, who had been chatting to Nic in rapid Romanian, turned and gave Falcanelli a beaming smile. 'Ah well, as long as we made an entrance, no?'
She then turned to Harry. 'Ah, and you are Mr. Potter. Nicolas said you would be here, though I hadn't realised you were so old. It doesn't seem that long since the war…'
'Twelve years.' Harry said. 'Were you in Britain then?'
She shook her head. 'No, thankfully. But the Dark Lord sent out followers trying to capture our Dragons. You came at exactly the right time.'
Harry tried not to think about the truth of that statement. As the seventh month dies. 'Glad to have helped.' he joked, managing to catch Nicolas' eye.
'Shall we head in?' Nicolas asked. 'Everyone else is here and Perenell has done wonders this year for lunch. She's been showing Harry some of the old recipes and the two of them have gone rather overboard, which does us rather well as there is a feast awaiting us!'
Lunch passed rather quickly, with idle chit-chat across the room. De Fey was sitting next to Harry, and at first had seemed rather annoyed at this, however he warmed up after Harry proved to have strong and founded opinions on the upcoming World Cup (Harry was supporting Krum, not just because he would catch the final snitch, but also because Harry had counted him a friend in the future). De Fey didn't think Bulgaria stood a chance. 'Their Chasers just aren't up to Krum's level, and having a good Seeker is fine, but not everything.' De Fey was also adamant that it would be Peru and France in the finals, though admitted that his backing of France was more patriotism and hoping than actual fact. He had also announced (to the whole group) that he wouldn't be commentating on the up coming cup due to his daughter's pregnancy, which set of a round of well wishes. Throughout the meal Harry managed to slip in several questions about the life of a Quidditch star, it's pros and cons, and after Harry got past the first impressions De Fey proved quite useful in Harry's decision making process.
Harry and Perenell had gone a little overboard on the menu for lunch, however no one seemed to mind, and Charlie made a comment about it feeling 'just like being at home with his mum', which made Harry grin. They had made stuffed potatoes (Harry's recipe) and a leek and quail soup (Perenell's mother's recipe) for starters. They also had platters of sweetmeats and small pies. There were three roasts; duck, boar and venison, as well as four full trays of roasted vegetables. And that was before they started on desserts.
'I don't think I have eaten so well since last Yule, Perenell, that was wonderful!' Ollivander commented, pushing his empty dish away from him after his third helping.
'Only because you get too caught up in your wands to remember to cook properly. Harry helped me cook at least half.'
'Did he now?' Ollivander nodded to Harry. 'Very nice, Mr. Potter.'
Everyone else there made similar thanks, and Harry grinned. 'Thanks, it was nice, cooking with Perenell. She has excellent recipes.'
'No doubt due to her alchemy. You know, it wasn't just Nic's stone, despite what the public think.' Émile Falcanelli spoke up. 'I remember Perenell showing me things none of my masters in Firenze could have dreamed of managing.'
'Now, now, Émile, you do them no justice. And I had the advantage of a live-in master of masters… although Nic is also very good at baking, when you can keep him in the kitchen long enough.' Perenell smiled. 'No one wants anymore blackberry pie?'
There was a general 'no' from everyone, and Ella, their elf, came to levitate all the dishes away.
The party moved into the lounge then, where the Flamels had the traditional oak Yule log. They also had a piece of parchment for each guest to write down a wish for the coming year. There was a lot of joking, and Nic insisted everyone read out their wish.
'I wish that my stone remains safe, wherever it may fall' had been Nic's, which was apparently his traditional response, though this sprouted a small conversation about how worried their friends were, as they all believed it actually missing this year. Nic assured them that he and Perenell would be fine for quite a while yet.
'I wish for good health for me and my close ones… and also for my tulips not to wilt early this year, as I have been struggling to get the right ground-mix' Perenell said, gaining a few laughs.
'I wish for time to fix my gutters before next winter' Falcanelli winced. 'It has caused a leak most annoying. But we must live with the results of our past selves' laziness, I suppose.'
Albescue let out a bark of a laugh 'I was going to put getting a new roof on the research block, but decided against it for that very reason. Instead I have the wish for a new broom. materialistic but there it is.'
Charlie grinned good naturally. 'Damn, I could have enjoyed a new roof. I have put my family's good health, and luck with our new hatchlings.'
'I too, like Perenell, wish for luck with my plants.' Dubois smiled.
Céleste Bellemy shook her head. 'You two and your gardens. I leave mine to my elves. Non, I have wished for safety for my youngest son, who has taken it into his head to take up duelling.'
'Not Alex?' Perenell asked, leaning forward with a look of concern.
'Indeed, it is Alex, and you must know how it goes!' Bellemy sighed dramatically.
'Perenell laughed. 'Well, it may be a good lesson for him.'
'Oui, but at his age!' Bellemy shook her head despondently. Harry had to tighten his mental shields, which he hadn't realised had been slipping, as for a moment he had the strongest urge to declare he would fight in her son's stead.
'And you, Harry? Good grades at school?' Nic asked, with a glint of amusement.
Harry grinned but shrugged. 'I'll leave that up to hard work for now, I… it's a bit vague compared to all of yours, but I have wished for decisiveness.'
'You seem rather driven to me, Mr Potter.' Dubois commented. 'And I find most of my driven students do not lack the ability to decide.'
'For study? No, that isn't me at all… though to be fair this year I didn't really decide so much as, well, take everything. But there are a few other things, external to school, and life would be better if I could make up my mind one way or another. Or rather, life would be simpler. I suppose I should have wished for good decisions, not just making them.'
'Don't go rushing into anything.' Perenell insisted, sounding rather too worried for the circumstances.
'Nonsence, Peri!' Bellemy chided. 'He is a young boy - what is the point of youth if we do not make mistakes to learn from?'
'Some things can not be undone.' Perenell said, looking sad. Harry frowned, wondering what she was so worried about him doing, this hadn't been the first hint of it.
'Well it looks like some decisiveness might do you well, young man. Maybe wish for decisions that lead only to good things and mistakes that are reversible.' Dubois grinned.
'I'll keep that in mind.'
'And what of you, Gilles?'
'Oh, the usual. A good season… and a healthy grandchild this year too!' De Fey said.
Ollivander nodded. 'Sarah has a strong core, which can only help.'
De Fey looked slightly surprised at the compliment, but his smile widened. 'Thank you, Ollivander, I'll have to tell her you think so.'
'Mm. She had a Oak wand with a particularly competent unicorn that donated it's core. Not a weak-willed partnership, I assure you.' Ollivander smiled. 'And me at the end. I have been hoping for some time to achieve a new combination with Yew, but it has been eluding me, so my wish is in that regard.'
Nic stood then, collecting each of their parchments, before indicating they should all stand and hold hands. He stayed in the centre of the circle, and pulled out his wand, which was a sleek dark and polished wand that was extremely short by modern standards, at only six or seven inches. He then placed the tip lightly at the end of the ribbon that wrapped around the log. The ribbon loosened, but the Holly sprigs it was also decorated with didn't come loose. Nic then placed their wishes, folded once, underneath the ribbon before tightening it again. He then placed his wand tip in the middle of the log, and spoke:
'Great sun, wheel of fire, in your glory
Hear me as I honour your rebirthing
Summer has passed
All of earth sleeps in your absence
We light in your honour
That you might gather your strength
O mighty sun above us,
We welcome you back to us
Hail the sun!'
Power had built in the air inside the circle, and as Nic finished the last word of the winter chant a flame of pure white burst from his wand and set the Yule Log alight. There was a moment of stillness, before the flames bled into regular colours, and everyone in the circle took a breath they hadn't realised they had been holding.
'Aha! I do love the old magicks!' Bellemy sighed, leaving the circle to fetch her glass of wine and sink back into the sofa with soft grace. Everyone soon followed her lead.
Harry too couldn't help but be thrilled with this development, it having been entirely unexpected. However he couldn't help but notice Charlie wasn't looking so happy.
'Erm… sorry, I really don't mean any disrespect, but, aren't… aren't rituals, well, illegal?' Charlie's voice started confident but trailed off towards the end going almost a bit squeaky.
'Relax, Weasley, I wouldn't drag you into something illegal!' Albescue scoffed, though she didn't look too annoyed. 'You're family are very Light, I had forgotten.'
Charlie bristled, so Harry quickly spoke up, 'That wasn't a Dark ritual, though, was it?'
Albescue nodded at him, and Harry noticed Charlie's shoulders relaxed slightly at the confirmation. 'No. The seasonal rituals never did gain any sort of affiliation. They aren't illegal either, despite some political attempts.'
'Because they are religious?' Harry guessed.
'Indeed. But in some countries you need a permit. Not France," Nic supplied, then glancing at Charlie, added, 'nor in Romania or England.'
'Ah, yes, you are needing one in Italy.' Falcanelli agreed. 'Because of the Blood Wars.' He sighed heavily. 'It is due to us Italians, I am afraid, that rituals have been so restricted around the world. And the curses too.'
'Curses are Dark.' Charlie said, with a touch of Weasley stubbornness in his tone.
'Non. Curses are generally, but not always, cruel, but not always Dark. That is English propaganda.' Bellemy frowned.
'The French are just as guilty, Céleste, my dear.' Nic shook his head. 'Both rituals and Curses suffered greatly, though rituals with less foundation, because of the Blood Wars.'
'Sorry, but which wars? Sadly Binns doesn't exactly cover, well… anything not Goblin, to be honest.' Harry winced.
'Hmph! Wulfric should evict him!' Perenell grumbled, then switched to lecture tone. 'The Blood Wars started and were based, as Émile says, in Italy, however other countries were not innocent. It was a Blood Master. The clan leader of Rome at the time-'
'A vampire?' Harry checked. Now that he thought on it, he had helped Bill Weasley ward some roads outside the Tivoli Gardens near Rome in his previous timeline. Bill had mentioned asking for Harry's help because the wards were vampiric and lent themselves towards people who had practiced the blood-arts before (Harry having lived under blood-wards throughout his entire magical development at the Dursleys).
'Oui, yes. And a brutal man, with no heart, so the rumours go.'
'Actually, that's fact.' Falcanelli supplied. 'Our ministry confirmed it later. A removal from a ritual.'
Perenell nodded. 'As you can see, he delved heavily in them. And in curses. All would have been well, however he was a Blood Master.'
'Blood magic lends itself especially to curses, and of course many varieties of rituals involve blood, though the stronger blood rituals also involve rather a lot of pain.' Falcanelli grimaced.
'Perfectly acceptable,' Nic interrupted, 'so long as it is their own blood and their own pain.'
'Which, for the Blood Wars, it sadly wasn't.' Perenell sighed. 'They were not pretty times. They were rather heavy handed.'
'There was also a Dark Lord in… Norway, was it?' Nic frowned.
'Finland' Perenell corrected.
'Ah, I just remember Scandinavia, because his propaganda spread across all of the the Scandinavian countries at the time. He caused all sorts of havoc as well, and favoured a few curses, his most common being the cruciatus. Due to both of these wars, though Lord Duval was more of a movement than a war, the ICW moved to change international laws. Curses were designated as dark magic - as in 'evil' magic, not Dark by affiliation, and the majority of rituals are banned. Though some countries resisted the ritual bans, all complied with the curse designation.'
'Of course there are countries that don't restrict Dark magic, Norway and Finland both for example.' Falcanelli added.
'And the Americans refused to make any rituals illegal at all, as all native American Indian magic is ritual based.' said Perinell.
'But the seasonal rituals remained unrestricted?' Charlie asked. 'Why?'
'As young Harry said, because they were religious. There was too much upheaval when they tried to restrict them. But also, perhaps, because the seasonal rituals are for the Gods, and have no effect on their practitioners except letting them better feel the ambient power for a short time. They are very harmless.'
'The UK doesn't restrict all curses, but they restrict all rituals, do you know why?' Harry asked. He had been wondering, as he thought it odd that he couldn't do his familial ritual legally, but if he wanted to curse Hermione's teeth to grow like Draco did, or something similar, then it was frowned upon outside duelling circuits, but perfectly legal.
'Because England's ley lines are closer to the surface than many other places.' Bellemy spoke up.
'Really?' Perenell said, sounding quite surprised. 'I hadn't known that. I thought it was just political.'
'Non, it is because of the ley lines. The power of British rituals is often very strong, and so when things go wrong, well… they really go wrong. The curses, I assume, was a political decision, but I do not know?'
'We had thought both were political decisions, so you will have to research on your own, boys.'
'Curious.' Harry commented. The conversation moved on from there, but for the rest of the day Charlie seemed more subdued, though he was cheerful enough when he, and the other guests, said their goodbyes.