--ooOo Part Eight oOoo--
Harry frowned as he entered the bookshop. Flourish & Blot's was a fantastically designed shop, as well as very lovely, but it was not well marked. Harry was not in the mood for a whimsical place. At this moment he craved the well marked and known format of Borders.
He had visited Gringott's, as was recommended to him by the old barkeep. Then he had looked around in a few shops, most were not well marked, and he was tired of the eccentricities of this culture. It was hard to get anything done when nothing made sense and the few shopkeepers who were about to explain got interrupted by other patrons who were older than him and obviously were going to spend money. It also didn't help that not one person thought he was above age nine.
So Harry had declared the shopping area a bust and went to the one shop he knew he had to visit. But to his disappointment, but not surprise, the bookshop was just like everything else.
"Great." He muttered to himself. Despite his unhappiness with the situation, he went to the clerk at the main desk and cleared his throat when he was ignored for a minute.
"Oh, hello." Said the young man in a surprised tone, "Sorry, just catching up on the ledger. How may I help you?"
"I need a few books on the magical school system and magical culture. And the day's newspaper. My uncle's owl has a bit of a vendetta against him right now." Harry asked. He had quickly picked up on this bit of magical culture. The clerk blinked then laughed.
"Oh, my da's owl, Aggie, ruined his mail for a week because da had tried to change his food. We learned right quick to always ask before doing stuff like that again."
"Well, Uncle Vernon had just made a suggestion that Doris maybe needed a younger owl around to give her a break, at breakfast, just as she was bringing him the paper. She delivered it, in pieces." Harry said with a grin.
"Ah, that would do it. Now, for your books." He looked about and flagged another younger man.
"Yeah, Ossie?" he said.
"Need you to man the desk for a spell, this young man needs a few books from the non-Hogwarts non-fiction section."
"Thanks, Iggy." Ossie walked toward the steps and Harry scurried to follow.
"Okay, now, as far as wizarding culture goes, do you need Pureblood manners, Muggle versus Wizard, artistic critiques, Muggleborn guides, or something else entirely." Ossie asked .
"I want to know why goblins run the bank, why most shopkeepers don't organize things by type like they do in muggle shops, why people are scared to name a terrorist, and why people cluck over muggles as if they're very slow children." Harry said and Ossie laughed.
"Gotcha." With that he started to climb the ladder and started muttering. He was too far away to hear him, but he thought he caught, "One last one… curse… stopped printing… idiots… "
Ossie pulled out a thick book and then slid down the ladder with the book cradled to his chest. He then gave it to Harry with a triumphant smile.
"After the Inquisitions: a look at the divergent points of mundane and magical British culture." Harry read aloud.
"Yeah, there were like a hundred of these printed, and most were destroyed because it was tagged as subversive, but it is accurate and very well written and researched." Ossie said.
"Okay, so, they don't believe knowledge is meant to be shared." Harry said slowly. Ossie nodded.
"But you might want to keep that quiet. And may I recommend another book, recent history. That is very important as well." Ossie said with a frown, "The last fifty years have seen a major cultural shift and two wars caused most of it."
"Okay." Harry said.
--ooOo Part Nine oOoo—
Vernon was silent the next few days after Harry told him of the magical shopping district. Harry wasn't sure if that was a good or a bad thing. The man woke up ate breakfast and went to work without even saying 'Good bye,' to Harry. He came home ate dinner and read the books that Harry had picked up. It was unnerving to the child.
He hadn't been in any serious trouble with his uncle since That Day. So, he wasn't sure what the silence meant. However, Harry wouldn't be surprised if he was in very big trouble because he was sure that the warnings from Mr. Snape's visit were still fresh in the man's mind.
Snape had made it very clear that his magic could get very dangerous if not trained. He had also said that if a 'Muggle' family with a moderate to powerful wizard refused to train said child, it was very possible that their governing body would take the child and could even make it so that the family and child forgot about each other.
In other words, 'Do as we say or you'll wake up one morning with no kid and no legal recourse.' The man had also casually vanished out of the house with a soft 'pop' at the end of the visit, making it very clear that locks and security systems wouldn't help a bit. It was a very scary prospect, but he did not want to give up all his hard work and his uncle's sacrifices to go off to a public boarding school.
With just that conversation, it was very clear why they very rarely had a refusal. Parents would rather let their children go off to a school so remote that there wasn't any access other than a train that the school ran, than have their children vanish in the night. At least the child could write at will and visit for winter, spring, and summer hols.
But add the conversation to the information from the books that he had been reading, the magical culture was not something Harry liked. The more the boy learned, the more he feared it. It was rife with examples of memory altering, unwanted spell casting, and other things for 'the Muggles' own good.' It was like anyone without powers was a child to the wizards and witches, but Harry couldn't understand why.
Harry shook the thoughts from his mind as he started dinner preparations. It wouldn't do to burn something or hurt himself because he was distracted by dark thoughts. He was sure that his uncle would be happy with the desks that had come that day. Both were set up and ready to be put to use. He was hoping that the happy surprise would help get his uncle to talk again.
Other than that, Harry had the classifieds from the three magical newspapers open and had spent the day finding adds both looking for tutors and advertising tutoring services. He didn't see anything about a British school other than Hogwarts. There were schools over on the Continent, but nothing closer. It wasn't welcome news.
"Harry," Vernon said as he came in the kitchen, "You're not going to be punished," He said gruffly. "I just needed time to think and I didn't want to say something that would hurt you."
"Oh, good. I really didn't mean to wander there, at first." Harry said apologetically.
"I know. But you also saw a good opportunity and took it. I can appreciate that. I don't want you there again unless you have an emergency or unless I'm with you." Vernon said. Harry nodded at the new rule.
"I looked through the paper, there are a few tutoring services and agencies. But they seem to specialize in grammar school age and non-magical children." Harry said as he put his uncle's plate before him.
"I saw that. But I'll see if we can't place an advert in the papers. You still have that big bag of money?," at Harry's nod, he continued, "Good, that book said you just have to take tests at the end of each school year and send the results into the Department of Wizarding Education. It didn't say you had to go to that school."
"Starting Monday, I've got the next week off. We'll pay for four days of run time, to start on Saturday." Vernon said, "All the papers said something about owl post."
"Yeah, we can either buy and owl or go to the post office." Harry said, " Either way, we have to go back to that shopping district."
"I'm not happy about that, but I understand. But when we go you are wearing your hat and sunglasses if the weather isn't too unsuitable. I don't much like the tone of that book when it comes to you. Nor, that 'Harry Potter Sightings' column in that one paper."
"I'm not thrilled with it either. I don't want to be famous for that. I'd rather be world famous for my clothing line or art work."
"The future Ralph Lauren?" Vernon said with a sardonic smile.
"See, even you know about him!" Harry crowed with his spoon in the air. Vernon chuckled.
"Only because you went on and on about him for a month and at least ten of your books are about him."
"He's my hero." Harry said with a slight defensive tone.
"There are worse heroes to have." Vernon said with a smile. Harry grinned as he continued to eat with a gusto he had not had since he had come home from that last shopping trip. It felt good to be on good terms with his uncle again, and even better not to be in trouble.
--ooOo Part Ten oOoo—
Harry sat in his room, he and Vernon agreed that for now he'd say out of sight of the interviewees. It wasn't a hard choice. Vernon was right in assuming that the magical culture's obsession with the 'Boy Who Lived' was a bit more than page 2 tabloid fodder.
He had with him the listening half of a baby monitor system, and was keeping notes of the interviews. Half way through each, Vernon excused himself and picked up a tray of tea from the kitchen and a list of Harry's questions from the boy's room.
It was a system that was working well. At the end of the day, Vernon ordered out for curry and he and Harry compared notes. Overall, they were getting mostly people who were really only used to dealing with younger children of the blue-blooded families. They all expressed doubt and dismay at the thought of a wizard-child not going to Hogwarts by choice.
It wasn't until the fourth day of interviews that they found a promising candidate. Conrad Hildebrandt asked to come after sunset, it was the first of many things that set him apart.
"First of all, you must be informed that I am a bitten vampire." The tall bean pole of a man announced as he walked into the apartment. Vernon was slightly shocked by the declaration.
"Is this a bad thing?" Vernon asked. Hildebrandt waved a hand carelessly, as if to brush away the words.
"Wrong question. You need to ask if I kill to eat, or if I mean to kill you and your ward, who is in this domicile & listening in." the man said with an authoritative tone, "And to that, I must answer, 'as far as I know, no to both. But the future is hard to predict.'"
"Come on out little wizard-child. I want to see what I might be subjecting myself for the next five to seven years." The vampire said.
"Might as well, Harry." Vernon said. A moment later Harry was sitting with the adults.
"I see. You had a very good reason for hiding. You had no way to know who might sell your location to the press or an ill-intentioned wizard." The vampire nodded, "It's good to see that you both have a bit of common sense."
"Er, thanks, Mr. Hildebrandt." Harry said.
"Bitte. Now, about me. I can only teach from sundown to sunrise or in a windowless room. I'm fully qualified to teach most aspects of magical education in most countries on the continent as well as Great Brittan. I've been teaching off and on for the last fifteen hundred years, give or take a decade or two.
"My teaching qualifications are still active here because they have no expiration dates, but it is no matter because the subjects are largely the same as they were nine hundred years ago. That's not to say there have been no advancements, it just the core matters haven't changed like the mundane maths & sciences, which I also hold qualifications in.
"So, you can expect a well grounded and very competitive education, so long as you can keep up. I will not lie. My style doesn't suit all. I'm demanding, bitter, and old as dirt. I will expect you to learn Latin in the first year of your education so that I may instruct you out of original texts and hold discourse in a language better suited to the skills. There will be days where I just make you do drills or lines. I will not be nice."
Harry gulped. Hildebrandt's description was kind of scary, but then again it would allow him to stay home. He looked at Vernon who looked like he was deep in thought.
"If you and I don't suit each other, will you help me find another tutor?" Harry asked. Hildebrandt smiled and Harry saw his long eyeteeth glimmer.
"Der Junge ist washsam. I will agree to stay on if we do not suit on another & aide you in your next hunt, but only if we both put our all into trying first and all three of us can agree that it is through no fault of any of us."
"Make sense." Vernon said, "I can add that to the contact."
"Gut. Now. What mundane school is so enticing that the threats from Hogwarts do not compare?"
"The London Academy of Fine Arts." Harry said, "I'm going for Fashion, Textile, and Mixed Media studies. I'm also part of a martial arts club. The school also offers advanced math courses that the other art schools didn't."
"Good. Mathematics will come in to play with the magic skills as well."
"But not the arts?" Vernon asked.
"It can. Sorcier métiers are getting rare because crafting takes manual skill and older magical skills than are taught in the modern styles. Creating true magical items of power is very enviable and something I can teach you the rudiments of. But you'll need to do more than just the modern styles of art. You'll also need to know how to create each physical part manually without using magic to fudge the process too." Hildebrandt grinned at the boy, "I've not taught a true sorcier métier in five hundred years."
"Is this a real carrier path that Harry can pursue?" Vernon asked.
"Yes and no. Most don't know what a sorcier métier beyond old stories and vague historical texts. But once he starts creating things and once people see his skill, he will be sought out by any and everyone looking for quick answers or a fix to an issue long thought unfixable. It will also depend on what he focuses his skills on."
"I see. So he could theoretically have both a mundane career and a magical one?" Vernon said.
"Yes. With ease. But there are other options boy. I will spend part of the first two years explaining magical careers and your options. Then we will settle into a kind of apprenticeship. Everything you will learn will either help you pass your tests or be used in your chosen field."
"What if I change my mind later on?" Harry asked.
"You will not have that luxury due to the intensity that we will pursue your future. It is the joy and the bane of one on one schooling. Also, we will be learning faster than your peers because of the time you will be devoting to your mundane studies." Hildebrandt shrugged, "It's again a joy and a bane, Junge."
"Will his magical studies intersect will his mundane schooling?" asked Vernon.
"It is possible. There might very well be times when you can combine objectives and I do look forward to doing so, but the chances are that will not happen until the later years once a solid foundation is laid."
The rest of the evening was spent with both his uncle and his possible tutor interrogating each other over the details and going line by line over the contact. Both had an eye for detail that was exhausting to watch for Harry. Before he knew it, he was awakened by his uncle to say 'good-bye' to Hildebrandt and was pushed off to bed. He fell asleep to the soothing sounds of two very different male voices quibbling over trifling factors.
--ooOo Part Eleven oOoo—
"Junge, stay close. The place we go to is not safe for one such as you." Hildebrandt said quietly as he held out a ticket from the Tube for Harry to touch. He said it was something called a Portkey and that it would not be a favorite method of travel. Harry took a deep breath as he reached out his hand.
"Okay," Harry breathed as he placed his hand in Hildebrandt's. He had never noticed before, but the long fingers looked almost like claws on a cat. It was odd to Harry's mind how he kept noting new aspects to his tutor's features and how none of them were peaceful.
In almost an instant, Harry felt something hook just behind is navel and a great force yanked him though a corridor of rushing lights and sounds. It was like nothing he had ever seen or felt before and very disconcerting. Just as he thought he was getting a hold on the new experience, it stopped just as suddenly as it started. Harry knew at that moment that Portkey travel was going to be his least favorite method of travel. But Hildebrandt had said it was necessary to get his wand and a few warding crystals.
The trip was part of the contract, the vampire was to take Harry shopping when necessary and teach him of interaction in the modern magical culture. It was also part of the contract that if at all possible they would stay away from British magical areas because neither Uncle Vernon nor Hildebrandt trusted the British with Harry's life and sanity. So that was why they were now in Stuttgart's Hexerei Einkaufszentrum.
It was the one place that Hildebrandt felt was relatively safe, so long as Harry kept his hat and enchanted glasses on. Glass was not easy to enchant, but the frames were a mix of metal, wood, and horn. Metal was iron to guard against glamours and other illusion magic. The wood was apple cut on the third quarter of the moon; this was wood that held charms of disguise well. It was charmed with a Notice-Me-Not and something that made anyone he didn't know doubt that their identification of him. The horn was from a rhinoceros and its strength protected him and held a few spells to ward off a limited number of hexes. To top it off there were runes of protection in delicate green wires along the arms.
Some of the magic Harry had helped to craft, and the design was all his. It was something he was very proud of. It was very old magic, but the subtlety of it was just what was needed. Besides, it was a good example of what his tutor could teach him that a school just couldn't.
Hildebrandt steered Harry through the people and into a shop full of glass shelves, clear boxes, and light colored woods. In the center of the shop was a glass and chrome table with four high-backed chairs of cream ostrich leather. In two of the chairs were twin women with white lab coats, moss green blouses, and white trousers. Both stood up and their loosely curled nut-brown hair fell about their shoulders in a way Harry thought was practiced.
"Herr Hildebrandt, you are on time." Said one twin with an insincere smile.
"For once." Said the other with a bored tone, "And if your student would remove his charms, we can get started."
"Harry can not see without his eyeglasses." Hildebrandt said, "I didn't know that a few protections could block magic such as yours, Petra."
"It can't block us, but it will interfere with how the magic of the materium and the testing will not work as well as it could." Said the twin who smiled.
"I see. You always were the more personable one, Karin," Hildebrandt turned to look at Harry, "Remove your hat and eyeglasses, Junge."
Harry nodded and removed the two items and gave them to his tutor. Two cold, thin, and small hands pulled him forward and he followed their blurred forms to a seat.
"We will blindfold you." Said the bored voice of Petra.
"It will take away the discomfort of the blurriness and stop your eyes from squinting so hard." Said the more kind voice of Karin.
Soon a soft fleece cloth was tied around his head and he darkness eased the developing headache. He relaxed into the soft chair and waited to be told what to do next. Beside him, he felt Hildebrandt sit and the vampire started describing what was going on as he listened to the soft clicks of glass against glass and the tapping of the twins' hard soled shoes against the marble tiles.
Finally, the noise stopped and Harry's hands were guided to rest the table's cold top by his tutor. "In front of you are several materium cubes. Meditate on which one resonates with your physical being." Petra's chilly tone rang out in the silent room.
"You will not touch the cubes. Just let your hands glide through their energy fields. Herr Hildebrandt, please show him how low he can let his hands go," Karin's slightly warmer voice requested.
Harry let his hands be guided over the table; he could go no lower than maybe four inches. Hildebrandt told him that it was going to be like feeling for the energy of the runes that he had chosen. He would just have to feel the energy that wanted to help him.
Taking a deep breath, Harry started to let himself slip into that place where the world seemed to slow and where he felt that the magic was strongest. He knew that instead of the chill he got from the runes, he was searching for a warm energy, a pulse that had life and sunlight.
He stopped. His hands were basking in the feel of an energy that seemed to sing with the reverberation of compatibility.
"Ah, specimen number eight thousand five hundred sixteen." Said Petra, but he voice was warming up.
"Very good, Junge. This method suits you so much more than the British ready-made ideas," Hildebrandt said with a fond tone.
"Now, we have placed in front of you a new selection of materium. Please meditate on which one resonates with your intellectual being." Said Karin.