Shadows inched across the landscape as the sun sank slowly behind the line of mountains that served as a barrier between Saint Charlotte's Academy and the rest of the world. Adelaide de Mer heaved a great sigh as the last of the sun's rays caressed her cheek. Soon it would be time… the war would start once more, and she would have a hand in assembling the team that would win that war.
"Headmistress?" Adelaide inclined her head, not turning to address the speaker. "Headmistress, the Floo has just been activated." The speaker informed her. Adelaide nodded.
"Thank you, Mademoiselle Delacour. You may turn in."
"Go to sleep," Adelaide said, finally turning to face the young part-veela. "Tomorrow will be a long day. Lights out was over an hour ago."
"Pour les élèves, oui," Fleur said in a dismissive tone. Adelaide laughed softly.
"You forget, mon cher chou, that you are not much older than the students you teach. Please, Fleur, get some rest." The beautiful young woman gave a small pout, but removed herself from the room nonetheless. Adelaide gave a sigh of fond exasperation.
"That girl is going to work herself to an early grave," she muttered, smoothing her grey hair as she prepared to engage in conversation over the Floo Connection. She ignited the log on the fireplace with a quick swish of her wand, and Albus Dumbledore's head appeared in the flames.
"Madame de Mer," Dumbledore said with a small smile. "A pleasure indeed."
"Enchanté, Monsieur Dumbledore," Adelaide replied. "What news do you have for me?" The twinkle disappeared from Dumbledore's eyes. Adelaide felt a sense of foreboding creep over her heart. She knew what was coming.
"I am afraid, Madame," Dumbledore said morosely, "that the time has come for Mr. Potter to return to Godric's Hollow and the Academy."
Harry most certainly did not like this feeling. He stared stonily ahead, wondering if the butterflies in his stomach were trapped there merely to annoy him, or whether they had some higher purpose. Either way…
He did not like this feeling at all.
"If you look out the window to your left, Mr. Potter, you can see the English Channel," said the female auror who stood by the compartment door. Harry glanced to his left, and then quickly lost interest. There was nothing interesting about a load of water passing beneath him at close to two hundred kilometers an hour. Besides, he had enough to think about… where exactly he was going, for starters. He assumed it was somewhere in mainland Europe. Dumbledore'd had him woken up at four in the morning and shipped off to the south of England as soon as Harry's belongings could be collected. He and his luggage had been loaded on to the magical equivalent of the TGV at Dover, and that was all Harry knew of the matter. The most likely scenario was that he was being transported to a safe house out of Voldemort's reaches. On the other hand, Dumbledore could have turned dark overnight and decided to kill everyone who defied him — but Harry wasn't holding his breath.
"Where exactly are we going?" Harry asked the auror, causing her to jump; he hadn't spoken to her in the entire hour she had accompanied him to Dover from Surrey.
"Saint Charlotte's Academy for Gifted Spellcasters," the auror replied after a beat of shocked silence. "According to Headmaster Dumbledore, you are being transferred there from Hogwarts. It's a year-round school, very prestigious."
"And what's wrong with my staying at Hogwarts?" Harry asked shortly, his tone clipped. The auror shrugged.
"Don't ask me. I just work here."
Harry sighed; this was going to be a long train ride.
He pulled out a book from his trunk, not bothering to see which one it was. His selection garnered a Look from the auror, which he ignored. He opened the book and began to read.
Damn. History. So that's what the weird Look was for; no Hogwarts student in their right mind (not including Hermione) would actually choose to read a history book.
Ah well. What's done is done. Harry wouldn't allow the auror the satisfaction of justifying her Look; much easier on Harry if she thought he was insane. That way, she wouldn't attempt to engage him in conversation.
On a whim, he flipped to the index and trailed his finger down the "S" section. He paused at the entry for "schools" and inspected the subcategory. Bypassing the Hogwarts, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang entries, he came to a pause three-quarters of the way down the list at "Saint Charlotte's." It was mentioned at only one point in the book, on page five hundred and something. He dutifully flipped, and found the brief paragraph that mentioned the school… his school.Saint Charlotte's Academy for Gifted Spellcasters
Established in 1015 A.D. by Lady Charlotte de Mer, Saint Charlotte's Academy is one of the oldest magic schools still in existence. In contrast with the other school of its prestigious caliber, such as Hogwarts (Lady Charlotte was in fact a close friend of Rowena Ravenclaw), the Academy allows admittance of all types of magic users, including werewolves, vampires, Muggle psychics, as well as some even more unusual choices such as Muggles with military brilliance. The Academy is located in the Mediterranean region of France, in relatively close proximity to Beauxbatons Academy. Saint Charlotte's is highly secretive and has been known to produce alumni of the highest esteem.
Harry closed the book and allowed himself to stare into space for a moment. On the one hand, he was leaving all of his friends behind when he needed them most acutely; on the other, however, he was entering a place where he would be conditioned to fight his archenemy with a slight chance of victory.
After a moment of contemplation, Harry decided it was best to postpone judgment on his new situation.
The train had begun to slow down five minutes ago, by Harry's reckoning. It was almost at a stop now, and from his view from the window, the station seemed to be in the port town straight ahead. This observation proved to be correct as the train jerked to a stop thirty seconds later. A conductor opened the compartment door, smiling solicitously at Harry.
"Welcome to Godric's Hollow, Mr. Potter. Please allow me to take your luggage!"
Saint Charlotte's Academy at sunset was quite a beautiful sight, Harry admitted. The Academy was situated in the middle of a valley just to the north of Godric's Hollow, a small Muggle town with a significant magical population. The architecture was reminiscent of the High Renaissance — very similar in style to the architecture of classical antiquity. Harry was lead (surrounded by a platoon of aurors sent by Dumbledore for his safety) through the vast gardens to the front of the building, where a two-story-tall door loomed far over his head. The orange-red light of the setting sun reflected beautifully off the pristine white Corinthian columns.
However pretty the Academy might be, Harry thought fiercely, it's not home. It will never be home.
The doors before him opened slowly, revealing a short, slim woman with gray hair and a slightly-wrinkled — but still pretty — face.
"Welcome to Saint Charlotte's Academy, Mr. Potter," the woman said with a heavy French accent. "I am the headmistress, Adelaide de Mer. You may call me Madame de Mer."
Harry stared for a moment, wondering how best to respond to this situation. He recalled something from his reading on the train.
"De Mer? Are you related to Charlotte de Mer?" he asked politely, if a bit stiffly. De Mer smiled.
"Oui, she was my many-times-great-grandmother," the headmistress replied. She seemed to realize then that Harry and the aurors were still waiting to be let in and blushed slightly. "But it is getting cold! Come in, come in!" Although he was not in the least bit cold (the French Riviera was indeed much warmer than Scotland), Harry followed, glancing around at the Entrance Hall. It was elegant, with an intricate terracotta pattern on the floor and Louis XIV-era mirrors decorating the walls. There were wide staircases on the left and right, which curved to the center of the back wall and created a balcony, where another set of tall doors led to who-knew-where. Elegant, but not home.
"The Dining Hall is through those doors," de Mer informed him, pointing to the double doors on the balcony. "Lunch will be in precisely forty-five minutes; all of the students eat at the same time every day. You must be prompt, or risk the wrath of the students who are prevented from eating because of your tardiness. Mealtimes are at nine in the morning, noon, and six in the evening. Classes start after breakfast and continue until four in the afternoon. Weekends are free days. You may find it a bit disconcerting that there are no houses at Saint Charlotte's. Most punishment here is in the form of detentions, because we do not have houses to take points from." De Mer was talking rapidly and walking up the stairs at a vigorous pace. Harry had to use a bit more energy to keep up with the small, but apparently lively old woman.
"I will introduce you to one of your year mates, who will show you around and explain how things work here," de Mer told Harry, opening the doors to the Dining Hall. "I must speak with your bodyguards for the time being — ah, mon haricot vert!" De Mer broke off suddenly to attract the attention of a boy passing through the Dining Hall with a group of other students.
He was of average height, with Mediterranean features; Greek, if Harry was correct. The boy walked over, face devoid of emotion as he gazed at Harry, sizing him up.
"Madame, how may I be of service?" he asked. De Mer smiled, gesturing to Harry.
"Would you please show Harry around the Academy? I have business to attend to at the moment." The boy nodded, and de Mer swept from the room, the aurors following her with confused expressions on their faces. The boy waved his companions, who had paused to wait, on, and then turned to Harry.
"So, you're a transfer?" he asked.
"How could you tell?" Harry replied woodenly, not daring to trust this unfamiliar boy.
"We don't get many sixteen-year-olds who need to be shown around. Am I also to assume that you are the famed Harry Potter?" the boy said. Harry nodded. "Hm. I'm Julian Delphiki, but everyone knows me as Bean. Welcome to the Academy."
Bean took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "This is the Dining Hall. The professors say to sit wherever you want, but the students have a sort of caste system. Just stick with me and you shouldn't have any trouble. Be on time for meals, or the rest of the school will be held back from eating and they'll make your life difficult." Bean started walking the direction his friends left in; there were a set of double doors on either side of the Dining Hall. Harry followed him.
"Where are you from?" Harry asked after a moment of silence as Bean opened the doors. The other boy paused and glanced at Harry speculatively.
"I almost forgot, you're a resident." At Harry's confused look, Bean sighed. "What do you know about the students who are admitted to this school?"
"Well… there wasn't much. I read that the school accepted anyone with strange talents. Werewolves, vampires, even some Muggles." Bean smiled tightly.
"I hate to tell you, but that's not the half of it. Saint Charlotte's has a student body composed of teenagers from different worlds. Take me for instance. I'm from a future-type world. There's no magic, but there are aliens trying to take over the world. Or there were; they're gone now," Bean said. Harry stared at him in shock.
"By different worlds, do you mean different planets, or—"
"Dimensions. If I had meant different planets, I would have said so," Bean said.
"How many students are from these… different dimensions?"
"Most of us, actually. You are one of about five residents at the Academy. That means you were born here, in what we call the home dimension."
"Why so few?" Harry asked, brow furrowed slightly.
"That's actually quite a lot, from one world. You have to be the best of the best of the best to get into the Academy. So few make the cut— if we didn't have students from other dimensions, the school would be out of business."
The duo had been walking as they discussed this, but at this point, Bean paused gesturing to the door on his right.
"Library. Damn useful place, if a bit boring. Most of your time will be spent in the dormitory, classrooms, and the Dining Hall, so you don't have to worry about being to bored," Bean said dryly, before moving on. They walked in awkward silence until they reached the end of the hall, where a staircase spiraled upwards. (There had been doors along the entire hallway, but Bean had ignored them.) "Dorms are up this way. There was an extra bed in my dorm this morning, so I assume you're rooming with my group."
Harry followed Bean up the staircase. "How many are in your group?" he asked.
"Not including you, four besides myself. You and I make it six. You'll find the dorms a bit different from Hogwarts. Since there are so few of us, all of the students share a common room, and there are ten dormitories connected: five for boys, five for girls. We're grouped randomly, otherwise, disregarding age."
The common room reminded him of Gryffindor's, but in different colors (white and grey). There weren't too many students hanging about, however. Four, to be exact. Harry blinked as a younger boy with wild brown hair came bouncing up to him and Bean.
"Hey, Bean! He's the one staying in our room, right?" the boy asked.
"Yeah. Harry, this is Sora. He doesn't exactly have a last name, but we make do. Sora, this is Harry Potter," Bean said with a small smile.
"Oh, another resident?" Sora asked, inspecting Harry with renewed interest. "Welcome to the Academy."
"Thanks," Harry said warily, slightly overwhelmed with all of this new information.
"Fresh meat, eh, Bean?" a dark-haired young man asked. "Pleased to meet you, Potter. I'm Artemis Fowl."
"Briar Moss," contributed a scruffy looking boy from his sprawled out position on a grey sofa. The last one, the oldest by his looks, didn't react.
"Aren't ya gonna say hi, Leon?" Sora asked, frowning a bit.
"… Whatever." The other boys, including Bean, sighed, much to Harry's confusion.
"Squall Leonhart. Only Sora calls him Leon," Bean offered. "Don't pay any attention to his attitude, he's always like that."
A chiming sound interrupted what Bean was going to say next, and the boy cursed slightly.
"Class time. We'd better go, Artemis. Harry, I leave you to the care of Briar and Sora. See you all later." Bean and Artemis hurried from the common room.
"What was that about?" Harry asked, confused. Briar gave a quick, barking laugh.
"Genius class," he said simply. "And I, for one, am glad we mere mortals are too stupid to be a part of it. Those two are up to all hours doing homework for it."
"Genius class?" Harry asked blankly. Sora chuckled.
"Of course. This school isn't just for powerful warriors like the rest of us—" Briar snorted at Sora's comment. "— Artemis and Bean are certified geniuses. Artemis is a rocket-scientist-type genius, and Bean does tactics," Sora finished with a miffed glance at Briar.
Harry nodded (still slightly confused) and went to sit gingerly in the arm chair adjacent to Briar's sofa. This is surreal, he thought to himself, staring at the other boys in the room as Briar and Sora began to bicker. Surreal, and a lot to take in. In the space of— Harry glanced at his watch— five hours, his world had turned upside-down.
A/N: Unoriginal title, I know. It's 6:00 in the morning, what do you expect? That took a while. I thought I'd never be done with the first chapter! Anyway, if you like, review it! If you don't like… meh. Do whatcha like. I do appreciate reviews, though. :grin:
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all associated characters and paraphernalia belongs to J.K. Rowling and some other people who I don't wish to take the time to list. Briar Moss is from The Winding Circle series by Tamora Pierce. Artemis Fowl is from the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. Bean is from Ender's Game (more specifically, Ender's Shadow) and belongs to Orson Scott Card. Sora is from Kingdom Hearts and belongs to Squaresoft and Disney. Squall is from Final Fantasy VIII and belongs to Squaresoft. Saint Charlotte's Academy and Headmistress Adelaide de Mer belong to me, please don't use without permission.
(This will be the last time I include all of that in the disclaimer… I'll only have more as I go along:sigh:)