Velvet Rouge avec Black Wine
Chapter 1: Admittance
Disclaimer: Names and property rights of Harry Inc. are confined to Madam J.K Rowling.
Author's Notes: Velvet Rouge is something strange, of which the plot was long in the making, but hopefully will be short in the creating. I will also take this time to confess that I am not a poet.
As a child prodigy, Remus' early admittance to the Royal Academy of Art would set him in direct competition with the most brilliant, and creative minds of the nineteenth century, which has spawned some of the most extraordinary pieces of art to date.
Letters are the catalyst of change.
When Remus rose from bed that morning, he found a harmless looking vanilla envelope, sealed with the Royal Crest, lying on his desk. He knew from the moment he set eyes on it, that his life was about to change irrevocably. And he hadn't even had his morning coffee yet.
Sometimes life was inexplicably cruel.
Remus Jean Lupin was what one would call a child prodigy. Demonstrating an astounding ability of artistic talent at a young age, Remus found himself forced into the societal limelight by those enraptured with the novelty of a child painter. His early work was compared to that of renowned artists such as Nicholas Poussin and Claude Lorrain and several of his earlier pieces had been bought at private auctions across Europe. And that was all before the age of nine.
His early admittance into The Royal Academy in France had been no surprise to either of his parents or contemporaries and earned him the ire of his older brother, Regulus, who saw his younger sibling as competition. A jealous brother had been the least of Remus' worries once the full weight of an academic course load was dumped upon him. Not only was he expected to master his specialized field, which was painting, but to also learn of other art forms, such as literature and sculpture. The heckling by the older students and the distance his professors accorded such a frighteningly brilliant mind, led to Remus' eventual breakdown and his parents were then obligated to temporarily pull him out of the Academy, lest their son's health was endangered.
Unfortunately for Remus, the incident had spread like wildfire, although details of the actual occurrence were glossed over or fabricated, and the Academy was forced to withdraw his application due to the parental pressures of the other students. No other institution in France would accept him either and he was later confined to the Lupin's countryside estate by his parents, who feared an additional scandal. There, for three years, he pursued his art in the privacy the wilds provided. That was, until the letter from England's Royal Academy arrived.
Greetings Monsieur Lupin,
We hope this letter finds you in the best of health. News of your withdrawal from The Royal Academy of France has been recently received by our illustrious staff and we would like to extend an invitation for you to visit our campus grounds. We would not be adverse should you wish to avail yourself to our amenities. Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, in particular, would like to discuss your possible future with us at England's Royal Academy and offer a token scholarship should you find yourself interested with the idea of taking residence here.
Prof. Minerva McGonagall
Remus blinked in surprise. This was the last thing he expected to hear. It was as if news of his prior incident had not reached England, for which Remus was unsure if he was grateful for or not. This letter, with its spindly letters and faded ink held his destiny; something far away from the loneliness of the countryside. With it, he would be able to reenter society and dazzle the critics with his newly inspired works. The opportunity was too great to pass up, and so despite the anxiety Remus felt, he found himself giving orders for his things to be packed, while he quickly penned a letter to his parents, explaining the new situation. With luck, they would receive it long after he was accepted and settled in.
For three weeks, he spent on the road, traveling towards a future he couldn't possibly comprehend, all the while with a knot of uneasiness, which had found a home in the bottom of his stomach. The logical part of Remus' mind thought of tearing the letter into pieces and returning home. This trip was sheer folly, without rhyme or reason. And yet, the other part of Remus could not face the insurmountable loneliness of the villa. The quiet that was meant to relax, adversely, suffocated him; smothering Remus in a gentle stranglehold.
Therefore, he was relieved when his carriage finally caught sight of the impressive archways of England's Royal Academy of Art and his fears began to subside. Pulling up at the entrance, Remus saw a lanky young man with jet black hair waiting for him at the front door. The boy caught sight of the carriage and waved.
"You must be Remus Lupin," the young man said with a toothy smile, raking his hands through his messy mane. Remus suspected that the habit was the reason why his hair was so untidy in the first place. "Your reputation precedes you. My name is James Potter and I have the distinct honor of being your escort around campus. McGonagall has left me with strict instructions that you are to be presented to Headmaster Dumbledore at the conclusion of the tour."
"It's nice to meet you," Remus said politely, shaking James's hand. "Although I doubt it's necessary to give me the grand tour. I'll be accepting their offer either way."
James clapped his hand on Remus' shoulder as he led the fair-headed boy towards the side of the Academy. "Good to hear, although if McGonagall found out that I shirked my duties, it'll be another month of hauling plaster." At Remus' puzzled look, he elaborated. "I'm specializing in sculpture and Professor McGonagall is in charge of that particular department. She can make a mound of clay transform into anything you can imagine…" James trailed off wistfully. "And besides, I know this place better than the back of my hand. Soon, you will too. You'll need it if you're to survive."
"Are the grounds that big?"
"Sizable in it's own right," James shrugged. "Take this for example." James made a show of clearing his throat. "Now, as you can see, our extensive facilities have the capabilities of housing several hundred students with ease. If I may call your attention to the grounds, James gestured grandly towards the balcony, "They have been geometrically designed to resemble that of Villandry's Ornamental Gardens, with several terraces and a large courtyard for the students to enjoy. I must say that it is quite breathtaking during the spring."
Remus was hard put to stifle a smile. James didn't seem all that bad, and on closer inspection, he looked to be about Remus' own age, and his little speech indicated that he was not common born. Friendship was a rarity for Remus, who had never truly had playmates his own age. His long, light brown hair, coupled with his large golden eyes and soft features pegged him as a delicate individual and his illness kept him bedridden at least once a month. James, on the other hand, looked as healthy as a horse and despite his slender, wiry frame, looked as if he could take on any boy he came up against, which was sometimes needed when his practical jokes were taken badly.
"And what about the teachers?" Remus asked jokingly, playing along. "I trust that they are of the highest of caliber?"
James winked. "Ah, I assure you that we have only the best. In fact we have in our own residence an Albus Dumbledore who modern critics have called the Michelangelo of the Modern Age…"
"That he is," a stern voice cut in.
Both boys turned to find a middle-aged woman wearing her hair pulled back in a severe bun, dressed in tartan robes, looking disapprovingly at both of them.
James looked sheepish. "Oh. Hullo Professor McGonagall. I was just showing Remus, here, the grounds just like you told me to."
"Indeed," Professor McGonagall said archly. "And I suppose time just got away with you and you forgot that you were leading a workshop this afternoon, a quarter after lunch?" At James' nod, she continued in a more aggrieved tone, "You do realize that it is half past."
"Cricket!" James exclaimed, clapping a hand to his forehead. "I completely forgot." He turned to Remus apologetically. "It looks like we'll have to cut this tour short, but be sure to look me up for supper. I'll introduce you to some of the other students." Remus nodded. "Right then, I'm off." James dashed away to the other side of the building and soon was completely out of sight.
Remus looked covertly at Professor McGonagall, unsure if she was truly as upset as she sounded, and found to his surprise that she was looking to the direction where James had ran off with an amused expression. Shaking her head, she turned to Remus. "The Headmaster will see you now," she said in a kinder tone. "If you'll come with me…"
Remus obediently followed McGonagall into the Academy and through the winding passageways which were adorned with several pieces of artwork by the students and other famous artists. Remus fancied that he saw one of his very own earlier works, before Professor McGonagall suddenly stopped in front of a door with a gargoyle knocker. She rapped the door quickly three times.
She nodded to Remus to open the door. Taking a deep breath, Remus turned the knob and pushed the door open, revealing a graying old man in periwinkle robes and half-moon spectacles sitting behind a large oak desk. "Ah, Monsieur Lupin, do come in. I have been expecting you."
Remus walked tentatively towards the unoccupied chair, taking note of the outlandish furnishings of the Headmaster's office. Oriental rugs and Turkish tapestries decorated the floor and walls, while medieval suits of armor were placed near the fireplace and other whimsical, yet strange ornaments adorned the shelves. What truly impressed Remus was the extensive amount of books that lay scattered everywhere, piled in precarious positions on tops of shelves, chairs and one even balanced on a globe! "I'm sorry if I'm late…"
Dumbledore waved Remus' apology away. "Think nothing of it. One can never be too late or too early to an appointment, simply, on time. And that, dear boy, is what you are." Remus was unsure of how to reply and simply nodded. "Now, you must be wondering why you have been invited here," Dumbledore continued, folding his hands. "The letter that Professor McGonagall sent expressed the Academy's sentiments very prettily, but I shall take this time to speak bluntly, if you will pardon an old man for doing so, and say that we need you desperately."
"Sir?" Remus asked confused. "I beg your pardon?"
"Exactly what I've said," Dumbledore said, stroking his whiskers. "You have a Gift, Monsieur Lupin, and we mean for you to share it with the world, not stay cooped up in the countryside, until your artistic ability withers away into nothingness.
"I know very well about the unfortunate event which resulted in your dismissal from the Academy in France," At Remus' stricken look, Dumbledore continued in a softer tone, "But I also know that you have a passion. A burning desire to create works that surpass those of Charles Gleyre, or Da Vinci, for that matter and I believe that we can offer you that chance here. A clean palette, if you don't mind the pun."
"But the students," Remus began slowly, "And their parents. Won't they object?"
"No one here has any knowledge of what transpired. The students and parents are more concerned with other… matters," Dumbledore said firmly. "I can offer you a single suite, if that will salve your conscience and I can have some doctors look in on you monthly if you so desire. Your decision?"
Remus felt his head spinning with the proposition that Dumbledore so unabashedly presented for his consideration. The offer was more than generous and if he hadn't been so surprised, the light haired boy would've wondered if there was some other motive twinkling behind the Headmaster's spectacles. But for now, it wasn't as if he had any better offers, and perhaps with his assimilation into English society, his parents wouldn't feel as if he was a complete and utter failure.
Licking his lips, Remus swallowed nervously.
"When should I start?"