AN1: From now on, please use the OWL rating (Outstanding, Exceeds Expectations, Acceptable, Poor, Dreadful or Troll) to rate each chapter. Additional comments are, of course, always appreciated, but please at least review with one of the aforementioned ratings. It'll give me, at least, a rough idea of what my readers like and don't like.
AN2: SEEKING BETA NOW: Need at least one more top notched grammar-spelling beta. Anyone interested should email me directly. (Current Beta 2 adds, "preferably a beta with an overabundance of estrogen." Author concurs with Beta 2's assessment.)
Prospective Betas: As a simple test to see if you are up to it, I'll send out a sample chapter for you to edit. I don't think an English major/minor or whatever, but having some mastery of the English language would definitely help.
Rating: M for sexual content, mainly masturbation and some inappropriate voyeurism. (It was supposed to be humorous though)
Betas: Yogert, Lord Sivart
Chapter 16: Shadows of the Past
The brightly shinning sun painted the spacious bedroom of one, Fleur Delacour, with a heavenly glow as its rested sleeper slowly regained her consciousness. The part veela purred like a kitten as she rolled around on the plush bed. The beautiful girl gave a disappointed pout upon realizing that it was empty. Still, at least memory of the night before remained fresh in her mind… Instinctively, one of Fleur's slender hands traced down to her abdomen, slipping further and further south.
"Oh, 'arry." The part veela moaned passionately, her hips rocking back and forth. Who said only boys got hard in the morning? Fleur threw her head back and thrust her chest forward, pressing her rock hard nipples against her imaginary lover as she exploded.
'Mon dieu. That was so good.' A moment later, the very satisfied French girl opened her crystal blue eyes to the world. It was possibly the first time in years in which the infamous morning temper tantrum didn't rear its ugly head and Fleur rather liked it. The blonde veela smiled broadly as she sat up to stretch her restive limbs…
Fleur's eyes widened as she came face to face with a set of curious and inquisitive azure eyes not dissimilar to her own. Standing beside her bed with her hands crossed behind her, the young angelic girl dimpled cutely.
"Whatcha doing, sis?" This was followed soon after by, "Why are you turning red, sis?" and "Are you going to pass out, sis?"
Fleur chortled incoherently, literally choking on air as her younger sister maintained her curious, inquisitive expression.
"GABRIELLE! What are you doing here!" The older girl shouted, her mouth splattering with drool. Fleur brought her hand forward to chastise the younger girl for entering without knocking only to see that her digits were covered with her own pungent juice. The older teen's blush deepened.
"Mama told me to wake you up. It's almost noon."
The little girl scrunched up her face and pointedly sniffed around. "What's that smell? Were you sexing yourself? I thought there needed to be two people to do that?"
Fleur pulled up the bed sheets around her. Oh god, she felt for sure that she could die right then and there.
"Will you please leave while I get dressed, Gabby?" Pleaded the part - veela to her younger sister in desperation. When she didn't move, Fleur tried again. "Please?"
"Fine, you are no fun." Sighing heavily, Gabrielle acquiesced.
Fleur widened blue eyes traced the girl's movement to the door. There, Gabrielle spun in place, turning to give her grown sibling an impish grin.
"Mama said to be quick about it. She wants to talk to you and Sister Regine about Harry Potter." The small girl giggled at the name of her bigger than life hero. Then as an after thought, she added, "He's really handsome, isn't he? Was he good?"
Fleur pointedly refused to answer, preferring instead to give her annoying and devilish sister the evil eye. Gabrielle stuck her tongue out at her but squealed when her older sister chucked a pillow back. The pint-sized part sprite settled on one final pout before stumping out of the room. The female teenager groaned as she sunk back into her bed.
'Mama is going to kill me.'
"Ah, Fleur, about time you are up. Why don't you come down to join us?" Stated Madame Delacour as she calmly eyed her eldest daughter. It was not a request. Fleur fought the rising surge to panic as she sat down beside a noticeably demure Regine
An uncomfortable silence descended as the two young girls shared one question/hope/fear.
'Does she know?'
Amaryllis Delacour looked levelly from one girl to the other, from birth daughter to surrogate daughter, with the unyielding gaze of a martinet schoolmistress. Turning away, she looked at her youngest.
"Gabrielle, can you go to your room please? I have a lot to talk about with your 'sisters'." The young pixie-like child looked at her elders before frowning.
"But I want to stay!"
Fleur panicked. Given what happened less than an hour ago, the older girl felt it most necessarily that her young sibling be far, far away from the grand inquisitor that was their mother. Unfortunately, in her eagerness, she was not particularly careful with her words.
"Gabby, please! Can you go and play with yourself for a bit?"
"Play with myself like what you did?" The little girl asked innocently. "But I don't know how to. Can you show me later?"
Fleur gasped. She saw Regine's blue eyes widening in surprise and horror before fixing a glare of silent condemnation on her person. The part veela groaned, burying her head in her hands as she dared not to look at her mother. Fleur's only consolation was hearing her diabolic mischievous little brat of a sister skip out of the room.
Embarrassed and humiliated beyond belief, all right in the presence of their mother, the two terrified girls scarcely remembered to breath.
"Fleur. You really should remember that there are 'two' doors to your room. Same goes for you too, Regine, given how many years you have lived here. I dare say the sight of you ladies along with the English wonder-boy took young Gabrielle by surprise."
Both girls looked down.
"We are sorry, mama."
"Both of you were raised better than this. Both of you are adults now."
"We are sorry." The girls interjected once more, this time with greater sincerity and shame. Mme. Delacour settled back into her chair, swallowing her sharp rebuke. Instead, she continued in a smooth and soft, but nonetheless stern and chastising voice.
"I know you are. Still the facts remain that you two disappear without a trace for over 24 hours. Then, you steal back into the house like thieves and I find you in bed last night with a man. What am I suppose to think? What is your father suppose to think?"
A cold sinking feeling enveloped Fleur. 'Oh, how could I have been as stupid and irresponsible as to forget about my family?' She thought, berating herself. Of course, with everything that has happened, she was being a tad harsh on herself.
"Fortunately, I managed to keep him away for the night. Unfortunately, he caught Regine trying to sneak your man out of the house in the morning. I said nothing, Fleur, but your father is no fool." The Delacour matron stated. "My daughter, do you have any idea what the consequence of your action could be for your father? If the public or worse yet, his political enemies, learn that his eldest daughter committed statutory rape against a foreign national hero…"
The beautiful girl's face turned a sickly pale color at the words 'statutory rape'. Amaryllis sighed.
"You forgot all about that, didn't you? That you are 18 and an adult while he is only 14 and therefore a minor. Admittedly, the wizarding world doesn't particularly care about age of consent laws, but your father is one of the ones pushing for such reforms. It would make a mockery of his efforts if his own flesh and blood was one of the violators. Fleur, did you really think that just because you are beautiful, none of these things matter?"
Fleur's head hung shamefully at her mother's softly worded but no less devastating chastisement as tears threatened to fall from her eyes. A distraught Regine sat beside her, unsure of whether to console her friend or remain mute. She chose the latter.
Madame Delacour frowned. She and her husband did love her daughters deeply, but sometimes she (or more particularly her veela side) wondered if they coddled them too much. Fleur had it way too easy especially when compared to her own childhood or the normal childhood of a 'true' veela. But, then that was the choice she knowingly chose. The first time she bore Henri a daughter, Amaryllis swore that she would raise Fleur with the love and attention of a nurturing and affectionate human mother and not with the cold indifference or calculating manipulation of a veela procreator 'searching for the best and most productive offspring'.
Amaryllis closed her eyes, recalling how her own flesh and blood mother, a pure veela, dumped her before her 10th birthday before the shadowy veela state, to be raised as they saw fit. To be sure, it was standard practice then and even now, but that knowledge provided her with neither comfort nor reassurance. Her existence had been harsh if not downright gruesome. The things she bore witness to, the things she did at age no one should have ever had to do.
Bitterness welled up within the older Delacour. She remembered with perfect clarity the fate that befell her best friend and closest classmate at the veela academy decades ago. Her friend had been far too carefree at a time when discretion was called for and had invoked the ire of the most powerful veela in France at the time.
That figure was General then Matriarch Mercière, predecessor to the current Veela Matriarch of France. Like most of the veela governance and command positions, the particular attributes and abilities of the veela in power mattered. While the current Matriarch was comparatively 'weak', her predecessor had power in spades; Mercière ruled as a virtual dictator. And while brilliant and competent, she was also excessively warlike and prone to acts of vicious barbarity.
Matriarch Mercière had decided to make an object lesson of Amaryllis's upstart friend in an exhibition death match before the veela - and only the veela - public. Her friend was a mediocre duelist at best. Matriarch Mercière could have ended it with the first couple of exchanges, but she stretched the match to last almost an hour.
Mme. Delacour smiled with a combination of genuine sadness and a touch of dark humor, recalling how it took five of her classmates to hold her down.
That was ages ago, of course, and things had changed, but the memories still lingered. And for a veela, memories never fade. Whether they invoke joy or pain, love or hate, they are always there, existing just beneath the surface, ready to be drawn up at a moment's notice.
Fortunately, Matriarch Mercière was long dead and rotting in a shallow grave. Unfortunately, she was able to breed just before she died. From what Amaryllis Delacour gathered, the current Princess was one of the late Matriarch's daughters. Already at her young age, the veela royalty was displaying the kind of craftiness and insight that made her mother great. Princess Mercière had successfully extended her royal authority while retaining full command of the powerful La Brigade Fantôme, the Phantom Brigade. The result of which was that real power within the French Veela Enclaves shifted dramatically over to her royal personage. And God forbid she be anything like her vengeful and malicious mother.
This was ultimately why the Delacour matriarch swore to keep her family away from her race; to keep them free of the taint of her people's violent past and their barbaric and perverse Darwinian practices. And if it meant keeping her husband ignorant about her own past and her daughters clueless about their heritage, then so be it. After all, it was the right choice…
"What did papa do?" Fleur's question pulled her mother from her contemplative reverie.
"Fleur, remember who your father is and what he does for a living. Whatever his feelings, your father did not get to where he is today by acting hastily. Beside, he realized who would end up taking the fall if news of your relationship was made public too fast." Here, Amaryllis turned to look at her surrogate daughter. "Henri and I were, first and foremost, concerned about the well being of you two. Harry Potter is, after all, very young and very famous. What if he was just using you and leaves you for the next –"
"Non, 'arry won't do that!" Fleur declared heatedly, jumping immediately to her mate's defense. Mme. Delacour arched an eye brow at her daughter.
"You seem quite sure of that. Do you agree, Regine?" The other girl nodded grimly without hesitation.
"Absolutely. Harry is not that kind of guy."
Fleur looked levelly at her mother.
"I love him, mother. He is the 'one'. If he chooses to leave me…" Briefly, Fleur seemed to choke at the thought of her mate consciously leaving her, but she pushed the disturbing thought away. "…If he chooses to leave me then fine, but I will not leave him. And nothing you or papa say or do can change that." Regine quickly backed Fleur up, though the human girl did look taken aback by her friend's declaration to remaining unrequitedly loyal.
Seeing the girls' unwavering determination and resolve, Amaryllis finally softened her steady gaze before chuckling. She eyed them from one to the other until there could be no doubt to what she was thinking about.
"I was wondering where Gabrielle picked up her new vocabulary. She almost gave your father a stroke when she asked what a 'ménage à trois' was not too long ago."
Mme. Delacour waved off the girls' immediate protests.
"It's alright. I can't say I am happy but I understand what it is like to be young and in love…"
"Mama?" Fleur inquired timidly as she looked to see her mother smiling benevolently.
"I was a young veela once too." The married woman answered mysteriously, her crystal blue eyes shinning with mirth at her two 'daughters'.
"In this case, however, I suppose you two could be right. There is more to this Harry Potter character than what meets the eye. He didn't try to run or fight when my husband confronted him. And while young Mr. Potter didn't offer any information, he did take responsibility for his actions. He also made similar declarations of love and even reassured Henri that he had no intentions of ruining his political career."
"Where are they now?" Asked Regine anxiously.
"It appears that somehow, the British and French paparazzi learned about young Harry Potter's cross-channel journey. The news is creating a storm between officials from the two magical communities so he accompanied Henri to Paris to help calm things down. Of course, none of this explains why Blanche was so interested in you girls and your boyfriend."
Amaryllis frowned as Fleur and Regine visibly paled at the mention of the prominent veela's name.
"What's wrong, girls?" The woman asked with genuine concern.
"You know her, mama?" Fleur ventured, her voice edgy and carrying a touch of suspicion. Mme. Delacour nodded slowly.
"I knew Comtesse de Noire from a long, long time ago, though I haven't personally seen her in years until recently."
"Who is she?" Fleur demanded immediately in a voice that quite frankly alarmed her mother.
"Blanche Belladonna de Noire is a renowned veela of high standing…" Amaryllis began slowly. "When the last Matriarch of the French Veela Enclaves, a particularly powerful and influential woman, died, Blanche took over many of her functions. She also carried in her own right the wizarding aristocratic title of Comtesse de Noire, or Countess of Black, through a distant blood connection. In theory, this made her the senior head of the Anglo-Franco 'Noble and Most Ancient House of Black'. "
"In theory?" Regine asked. Mme. Delacour smiled at the young adult's question. The human girl who was to her a third daughter always did have a knock for being unusually keen in political affairs, much to the delight of her husband.
"Due to her pure veela genotype, the human exclusive wizarding world has restricted many of her special privileges. For example, in theory Blanche was entitled to hereditary seats on the International Confederation of Wizards and the French Parlement de Magique. But the governing committees of both organizations blocked her presence and prohibited her from appointing a proxy in her place."
"That doesn't sound fair." Fleur said with a slight frown. The part veela had no love for the other woman but the very concept of such blatant racism seemed very distasteful.
"Life rarely is my dear daughter. Prejudice and racism runs deep throughout the wizarding world. No non-human whether veela, vampire, werewolf or other has been allowed to hold real substantive power in the governments of wizards for well over half a century." Mme. Delacour stated sagely.
"But how come you never talked about her, mama?" Fleur asked.
Amaryllis Delacour winced at the question. Ordinarily the Delacour matron would be looking for an escape route but this time, she felt a compelling need to be entirely truthful.
"My past is not something I'm always proud of. Before I met your father and left the veela community, I was one of Comtesse de Noire's top lieutenants."
The two young girls gaped at Mme. Delacour, their perception of this homely family woman forever shattered.
"You worked for that bitch!"
"Fleur Delacour! Watch your language!" The elder veela admonished harshly, but Fleur refused to back down.
"I will do no such thing! She and some of her people tried to kill Regine and me so that she could be Harry's alpha!" The blonde part veela shouted, her eyes ablaze with righteous anger and fury. Her daughter's declaration sent Amaryllis reeling backwards. 'Kill! Alpha! By the powers that be, could it be!'
"Harry Potter is a male veela and I'm his Alpha." Fleur declared proudly.
"'Mama,' what else have you not told us?" Regine probed. But Mme. Delacour, whose face was ashen with shock, was in no condition to answer.
"No, no it can't be. I must, I need to speak with her immediately…"
"She's dead. Comtesse de Noire is dead. I killed her." Regine interjected, speaking with an indifferent coldness that surprised even herself. It was slightly untrue as the comtesse had actually impaled herself, but that was a minor technicality. Mme. Delacour's head whipped around so fast that it was a miracle that it didn't come unhinged. 'Impossible! Blanche was the very best…'
"What's going on here?" Fleur asked.
"I'm so very sorry, Fleur, my daughter." The normally composed and regal wife of the upstanding French wizard, Henri Delacour, looked sad and broken. "I kept so much from you thinking that I was protecting you. But it seems that I very nearly killed you instead. If I had only known who he was…if…"
Seeing Fleur and Regine's looks of bewilderment, Mme. Delacour forced herself to slow down.
"Maybe, maybe I should start at the beginning… about what it means to be a veela…"
The roles were reversed. Now Amaryllis Delacour was the calm one while the girls, specifically Fleur, were the ones who were a bundle of nerves.
"…it is in his blood now, my dear daughter, just as you are veela by blood. I have only myself to blame for your ignorance. If I didn't try to keep you in the dark, you would realize what I'm saying." The oldest Delacour female said sadly.
"… And no, these things would not be found in any wizarding text no matter how hard you searched. Long ago, our veela ancestors decided as a people to cover up our past and hide it from the human world. They did what they had to do… to protect themselves and their posterities from extermination…"
"You have no idea about the trials we go through just to keep our race from being placed under the 'dark creature' label by wizarding ministries from around the world." Mme. Delacour stated rather mournfully.
"So what are we? Demons?" Fleur asked in disbelief.
"In a matter of speaking… yes. Or at least descendants of which."
"And what about Harry then?" Regine asked. Amaryllis eyed her human daughter thoughtfully.
"Your Harry would be akin to a demon only if we veela were actually angels"
Without further ado, Mme. Delacour began listing in a dry voice the statistical data known about the past male veela.
On and on the list went…
"Non, non, stop, stop! It can't be…" Fleur finally shouted as she glared accusingly at her own mother. "Harry is not a bloodthirsty murderer nor is he a serial rapist. He's a sweet young man."
Fleur steadfastly refused to believe what her mother was communicating. The very idea that male veela were inherently rampaging blood lusting homicidal fiends was absurd.
"You weren't there when I cornered him, mama; when I almost raped him. Yet when the roles were reversed, he didn't reciprocate. All he did was to beg me to release him… Is, is that the actions of a rapist, mother?" Demanded the teenage girl icily.
Amaryllis wanted to say something about her daughter's deficiency in discipline for having attempted to mate an underage wizard to herself and her clear lack of respect for elders, but didn't. She knew now wasn't the time for that.
"I suppose not." Mme. Delacour admitted.
Fleur's blue eyes shinned in triumph.
"But what if he becomes that over time. What will you do?" Amaryllis elaborated upon seeing her daughter's confused expression. "The roles of the Alpha include anticipating and actively seeking to fulfill the desires of the male veela whatever they may be. Can you do that? And I don't mean just sharing him sexually. The sacrifices you will be called upon to make will be immense."
"What are you saying, mama?" Fleur was rather started by her normally warm and sympathetic mother's clinically dry words.
"There is a good reason why some veela believe only their own are worthy and able to mate with a 'male veela'. It's fine that you say you love Harry and that Harry loves you. But do you really think you are suited to be his Alpha, any better than Regine here for instance?" The human girl in question looked at Mme. Delacour strangely while Fleur looked outraged.
"I mean to say that despite being born a quarter veela, you haven't been raised as one. You haven't been raised to take on these kinds of responsibilities." Now that was perhaps the best euphemism for 'you are a spoiled brat' anyone had ever come up with. At least, Mme. Delacour implicitly held herself accountable as well.
Fleur was wearing an angry shade of red. She couldn't believe her own mother was saying these things to her. Wasn't one's parent supposed to be supportive, not confrontational?
"What do you want me to do, mother? Give up Harry? Is that it?" Asked the part veela, her voice laced with hurt and pain.
"If necessary, then yes! Fleur, I never knew my mother because veela mothers weren't supposed to cuddle their daughters. It was a dangerous time and mentally, my veela friends and I all matured very early. When I was not much older than Gabrielle, I began training for a secret combat unit. I first drew blood at age 12 and saw my best friend die in front of my eyes two years later…" Mme. Delacour stated.
"I almost saw my best friend die just yesterday." Fleur noted, cutting in while looking at Regine.
The recently graduated Beauxbatons prefect returned the look and reached over. On a whim, she did the first thing that popped into her mind. Ignoring – or was it forgetting? – the presence of Amaryllis Delacour, the human girl liplocked Fleur without preamble. Yep, a big, juicy, semi-passionate kiss right in front of her adoptive mother. A big juicy semi-passionate kiss which the part veela replied instinctively in kind.
Needless to say, Regine had a horrified but very amusing look on her face when she finally did realize what she did. Blushing a fierce red, the human girl quickly made her escape without looking at either Fleur or Mme. Delacour. Fleur scowled at her friend for abandoning her to her mother alone. Fortunately for her Amaryllis took it all in stride. The Delacour matron rose up and embraced her daughter warmly, kissing her forehead tenderly to show her unwavering love.
"While I would hope that you and Regine won't do that in front of your father – he still thinks of you two as his little girls – I want to say that you three have my support." Amaryllis withheld her desire to chuckle at her daughter's dumbfounded expression. "What? You don't think your old mother would know such things?"
"Ahm, no, I mean, yes. I mean… why?" At this point Fleur was one exasperated veela as shown by her pout.
"Your father and I both want you to be happy and I recognize your needs as veela and a young one at that. I will do what I can to make him see."
"Oh, thank you, mama."
"BUT! I also want you to be alive a couple of years down the line. It will not be easy being one of the male veela's girls; much less his Alpha." Mme. Delacour intoned seriously. "The relationship will be rocky, draining, and the dangers to your physical and mental health will be very real. And then there is Harry Potter. If the wizarding world has any idea what that young man is, what he is capable of and what his predecessors did, they will do everything they can to make sure that he's dead before his next birthday… irregardless of his status as the Boy-Who-Lived."
To Mme. Delacour's surprise, Fleur did not react with shock or horror. Instead, her daughter's azure eyes shinned brightly with determination.
"Then tell me about people who can help."
"I figure that you must still know some trust worthy people from the veela enclaves, mama. I won't forget what Comtesse de Noire did and tried to do, but I also know the veela can help protect Harry." The more she thought about this, the more Fleur knew that this was the right choice.
"I know Regine and Harry won't be happy about me asking for the veela's help, but I think I would be negligent in fulfilling my duties if I didn't at least consider this." Mme. Delacour pulled away and looked at her daughter appraisingly.
"I know I haven't said this often enough, but I truly am proud to have a daughter like you." The Delacour matron declared with visible pride. Often times during motherhood, Amaryllis had felt the conflicting pulls of her human and veela heritage. Often times, she felt uncertainly over the manner in which she raised her younglings but seeing the results before her greatly alleviated her concerns. Surely she must have done something correct if her daughter was the one chosen for the lofty and reverent post of being Alpha to the legendary male veela.
"I promise to do what I can, my daughter."
French Ministry of Magic, Paris…
"Merci, merci tout le monde. I believe that is enough questions for Monsieur Potter."
Harry Potter gave Henri Delacour a guarded polite smile as the French gentleman led him away from the throng of reporters. The young male veela warily eyed his French benefactor.
"Quite impressive display back there… for an Englishman." The French politician spoke in thick accented English. His nose turned slightly upward as he said the word 'Englishman' as if the word was vaguely indigestible.
Henri Delacour definitely did not 'like' him. Harry strongly suspected that it had something to do with him concurrently banging his daughters; one biological and the other adoptive.
The male veela bristled at the thought. But wait, why was he on the defensive? Both girls were his after all and Fleur was his Alpha. He needed to justify himself and his actions to no one, especially not some patronizing French politician. Fortunately, Harry quickly reigned in his rapidly building testosterone imbalance, avoiding a potentially undesirable confrontation. Whatever the case may be, the last thing he needed was to get into a firefight with one of his girls' parents.
"Thank you, sir."
The two walked on silently. Finally as if having finally gathered up his courage, Henri spoke.
"I wish to thank you, Monsieur Potter, for being discreet."
Harry smiled. His 'meet the press' appearance had gone as well as expected. With relative ease, he had deflected both French and English concerns about his impromptu visit with a diplomatic version of 'none of your business' comment. At the same time, The-Boy-Who-Lived gave a small but distinct diplomatic nod to the French Senior Deputy Minister of Magical Defense, thanking him for assisting him in his until then clandestine trip.
'… Probably why he hasn't tried to throw me in jail yet.' Harry realized. After all, he, the Boy-Who-Lived had all but publicly endorsed the Frenchman. And Henri, a career politician, most certainly wasn't one to miss such an important gesture. Still, that didn't mean the man was enamored with the British wizarding hero. Sharp eyes stared coldly at Harry, but the young man refused to be cowed. The Mexican stand off might have continued had not a voice called out.
"Henri…" Mr. Delacour blinked one second and was pulled into a hug the next.
"Aris, how are you?" Harry took a half step back to observe the two grown men converse amicably.
"Good and you my friend?" Henri lazily motioned towards Harry before uttering with curled lips.
"O là-là, Monsieur Harry Potter. You are quite the young man. The governments of England seemed ready to wage World War III over you. It's rumored that Monsieur Dumbledore, the head of the Wizengamot, will come to France himself." In a distinctly ungentleman-like manner, Henri half-coughed, half-snorted.
"My friend here is not an admirer of your headmaster, I'm afraid." The newcomer answered with a laugh. Turning slightly more serious, he added, "But then he is not alone in carrying that opinion. Albus Dumbledore is not nearly as revered outside your country as your countrymen would think."
"I'll keep that in mind. But I'm sorry, I don't think I know your name, sir."
"Oh, none of that. You can call me Aristide any time, Monsieur Potter." The man said jovially. "And fluent in French? Very impressive."
In contrast to Henri's semi-sour expression, the new Frenchman's bonhommie disposition was a very refreshing change, though it did make Harry very curious.
"I know all about you, however. My youngest daughter couldn't stop talking about you since coming back from Hogwarts."
Harry looked puzzled, but only for a moment. His mind quickly deduced who that daughter might be. His eyes widened in realization just as Aristide's expression turning solemn. "I can't thank you enough for what you did for my little Sophia."
"It was nothing, sir. I only did what a normal person should have done. I want to apologize for my classmates. What they tried to do was absolutely inexcusable!" Both grown men blinked at Harry's rather impassionate declaration. Aristide smiled broadly, while Henri looked visibly impressed and distinctively less sour.
"You are a very impressive young man, Monsieur Potter. And to think you are only fourteen?"
"Almost fifteen. And it's Harry, please." Harry stated with a congenial smile of his own. If it was even possible, the Frenchman smiled wider.
"Very impressive young man indeed. I would normally insist that you visit my family and dine with us but ..."
"Is something the matter, Aris? I thought your family was spending some time in Germany and the Netherlands?"
With shocking rapidity, the smiling French wizard deflated.
"My other older daughter seemed to have disappeared…" At the others' concerned expression, Aristide casually waved his hand. "It's alright. Not the first time. If you were older, I would be tempted to introduce you to her, Harry. She could use someone mature in her life, someone who could help bring her stability."
Harry looked at Aristide in amazement. He was an orphaned child living with hated and hating relatives, openly hunted by the Dark Lord and currently shacked up with two older French girls whose father was less than five feet away and this man thinks he would bring his daughter 'stability'? Wisely, the young man only nodded and smiled, reframing from comment.
"I know I'm biased, but I do think she is very beautiful and I completely realize that young teenagers these days are very energetic and independent but… sometimes I do wonder if it's a bit excessive. She goes away in the middle of the night and disappears for entire weeks. What is a father to do? Henri, you really must tell me how you get your daughters to be so well behaved…"
Harry chanced a look at Henri and winced. Not good.
"Henri, you alright? You are turning a bit red in the…"
"I'm fine, just fine!" Mr. Delacour was indeed slowly turning red in the cheeks and adamantly refused to meet Harry in the eye.
"Oh, look at the time. I better be going. Harry, wonderful to finally meet you. Please do drop by sometime if you are ever in France again. Henri, make sure he comes back." Aristide stated laughingly. "Take care."
"Certainly. You, too." Harry answered as the French wizard walked off, leaving behind him and the quietly contemplating Delacour patriarch. Henri gave the young man one long lasting gaze before speaking.
"I better bring you home before the ladies worry." The small, barely perceptible, trace of humor did much to alleviate Harry's if not worry then concern. But just as things were going well, an oh so familiar voice ranged out.
"Harry, my boy!"
The Boy-Who-Lived resisted the urge to cover his face with his hands. Beside him, Henri Delacour muttered the name with obvious distaste.
"Bonjour, headmaster." Harry greeted with artificial warmth that did not reach his eyes. Henri caught the brief flash of pleading in the young English wizard's eyes.
"Monsieur Dumbledore. I'm sorry, but Harry and I would like to leave as soon as possible." Harry masked his surprise at the unexpected support. It would seem that whatever Mr. Delacour thought of him, the French politician was willing to join ranks against their latest opponent. But Albus was not so easily dissuaded. With twinkling blue eyes and a quirky smile, he pressed on.
"Henri, lovely to see you again. I was hoping to have a word with Harry here in private if it's not too much trouble." While Henri seemed quite willing to press the point, Harry decided that he had better humor the old man.
"It's alright, Monsieur Delacour. I'm sure this won't take long." Henri Delacour, clearly unused to being dismissed by a kid one third his age, gave a jerky nod before slinking away.
"Harry, my boy…" The aged headmaster began after quietly erecting a proximity silence charm.
The male veela gritted his teeth. That was all Harry needed to know to realize that Albus Dumbledore had no intensions of dealing with him on equal footing. A normal person did not call an equal 'his boy'. Such language was reserved for either between parents and children and superiors and subordinates.
"I know the experience of seeing Voldemort's rebirth has been traumatic for you, but I'm very disappointed in how you are expressing your emotions. You leave your home and travel to another country without a note to anyone. And last year, you deliberately provoked your classmates and a professor."
"It was Snape! And I can't send a note because I believe someone had my owl mail blocked."
"Professor Snape." The elderly wizard corrected gently.
"I apologize about the lack of messages. It was for your safety. With the rebirth of Voldemort, I thought it best that you keep a low profile. I apologize for not informing you. Nevertheless, it is not safe for you to be out and about. You must return to your relatives' home immediately." Albus insisted firmly.
'Apologize my ass…' At that point, Harry all but blocked out the rest of Dumbledore's patronizing little speech.
"My French friends wanted me to visit and I was eager to get away for a bit so I came. Though, I'm curious how you found out I left my home and came to Paris." Harry interjected rather rudely. Alas, the old schoolmaster was much too cunning to fall for such an obvious dig. Predictably, he avoided Harry's questions.
"I'm disappointed in you, Harry. To think you would put yourself in danger liked this." The male veela resisted the urge to roll his eyes. What a weak come back.
"And I you for feeding me this crap."
Harry gave a none-too-amused smile at his headmaster expression of genuine surprise.
"We are in France. I'm a guest of a high profile French wizard. If Voldemort can get to me here, then I think you may have bigger problems, especially given your image issues. Monsieur Delacour doesn't seem particularly fond of you and I don't think he is alone."
Albus Dumbledore frowned slightly as he looked at Harry. Rather than answering the young man's most profound and true assessment, he deferred.
"Would one of your friends happen to be Mr. Delacour's veela daughter?"
"Yes, it would. We became rather good friends after the tournament."
"Harry, there are many exotic creatures and beings in the magic world. Some are truly beautiful and blessed companions." Here Dumbledore turned to stroke his faithful phoenix's plum feathers. "Others however should be approached with due caution. I strongly counsel you to be careful of whom you keep company with."
It would be simple for Harry to dismiss Dumbledore's remark on this as well, but given recent events the young man couldn't help but find the aged wizard's words to be rather chilling. Did his headmaster have some similar experience with the French veela?
"Fleur has been nothing but helpful, sir. She even helped me learn some French." No, that was a lie. Between various texts he acquired and the male veela's natural aptitude for certain skills, Harry pretty much picked up the French language himself. "And with all due respect I don't see how it's any of your business who I'm friends with."
"Harry, I'm your headmaster. It is my duty to look after my students' wellbeing. Ms. Delacour's presence last year did draw a number of complaints."
Harry found himself caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand he still didn't really like Albus. On the other hand, it wasn't like he could transfer to Beauxbatons. Doing so after the events in Le Bastion would be tantamount to jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. It would be absolutely foolish of him to put himself in such close proximity to the secretive but clearly powerful and influential French veela. But…
'He doesn't have to know that, now do he.' Harry thought shrewdly.
"Then I can always transfer, headmaster. I have been told that both Beauxbatons and Durmstrang accepted transfer students." Harry's thinly veiled threat gave Dumbledore sufficient pause. The vanquisher of Grindelward swallowed once before speaking again, but this time in a more controlled and deferential manner rather than in his normal grandfatherly and (at least to Harry) patronizing tone. Clearly he realized a change of tactics was called for.
"That's a shame." Albus paused, taking his time to draw up his response. "In continuing with the Tri-Wizard's spirit of cooperation and friendly competition, I had made plans to set up an exchange students program with Beauxbatons for the coming year. Sadly Durmstrang had begged exemption. So, in light of your strong friendship with our European colleagues, I was hoping that you could serve as a role model for Hogwarts' student body and … its other prefects."
Harry eyebrows arched. "Other prefects…"
"Despite everything, you have been an outstanding student, classmate and host this last year. No one deserves to be prefect more than you, Harry. Though I was hoping the news would reach you under more pleasant circumstances…"
'Resorting to bribery?' Harry had to admit: The old man knew how to play the game.
"I know I have let you down in the past…"
"Like failing to catch a Death Eater who was right under your very nose?"
"I admit; failing to catch Crouch was a grave lapse of judicious judgment on my part. Forgive an old man's mistake. I promise that I'll try to make it up for you, Harry"
A promise that most likely amounted to nothing.
"I wasn't talking about Crouch Jr." Harry answered leveled, his sharp green eyes swirled to meet the shimmering blue ones of his headmaster. The young man calmly turned away only as he felt the prickling sensation of his mental shields being probed. As no answer from Albus was forthcoming, Harry gave his response, which was the only one he could realistic give.
"I'll think about it."
"That's all I ask." The headmaster stated in the much too jovial tone of a man who knew he had won the current round. That was true; Harry was not going to quit Hogwarts. But then, given the young wizard's precarious position, which was that he in fact couldn't just leave Hogwarts (not yet at least), it was quite impressive how he managed to extract any concessions from Dumbledore at all.
"Just to assuage an old man's weak heart, when will you be returning home, Harry?"
Home? What home? Four, Privet Drive was not his home and the Dursleys were not his family. Harry found it curious how easily Dumbledore moved between the image of a sympathy worthy old man who sought the guidance and reassurances of those around him to that of a potent wizard in complete control of his surrounding. Now if only he could turn himself on and off like that…
"Soon, a day or two at most. It would seem that I have outlived my stay." Harry watched the slightly agitated Monsieur Delacour pacing from some distances away. "Salute, headmaster. Have a good day, sir."
"You too, Harry." Albus answered in kind before walking off. Henri returned to Harry's side soon after all the while eyeing the headmaster's retreating form with great suspicion.
"Ready to go, Monsieur Potter?"
Across the English Channel…
A tall broad shouldered male with pedigreed aristocratic features and dressed in impeccable formal wizarding attire stepped out of the door way of the Minister of Magic's office. Clad in custom tailored robes, with a crown of finely combed fair hair and a highly ornamented cane in hand, the man's very countenance just screamed 'arrogant stuck-up pureblood here, mudblood keep away'. Currently, the wizard looked decidedly sour now.
Lucius frowned. Fudge had been much less cooperative than expected.
Now, despite what some may think, Fudge was no Dark Lord supporter or even a shameless corrupt money grabber. Had he not gone into politics, the mid-aged and slightly balding wizard would have been a normal upstanding citizen. But alas, this simpleton of no exceptional value made a bid for political office. And in this den of serpents, Fudge had to walk right into possibly the most vile of them all, Lucius Malfoy.
The idea Lucius set forth and Voldemort wholeheartedly approved was rather ingenious. Rather than seeking to control the Minister of Magic directly via blackmail or bribe - both of which could backfire should the nature of the deal be made public – Lucius chose to ingratiate himself to Fudge's good will. And so the highest level of the wizarding organization most responsible for defending against the Dark Lord was infiltrated by the top agent of said Dark Lord. It was, by all regards, a perfect plan and a worthy testimony to Odysseus's Trojan horse legacy.
Too bad Lucy missed the part about Fudge being tied to the hip to Dumbledore. Despite the visible tension between the two over the issue of Voldemort's rebirth, both the Hogwarts headmaster and the Minister of Magic reframed from issuing public statements against one another. Incidentally, the sublime nature of Lucius's relationship with Fudge and the Minister's Office which kept him publically clear also limited his ability to exact direct influence. In a momentary lapse of intelligence, the frustrated elder Malfoy had insisted rather forcefully with a mix of bribery and threat that Fudge move against Dumbledore and the outrageously slanderous statements made by the Boy-Who-Lived. But rather than caving in, Fudge had turned an interesting shade of red as he launched a rather scathing attack on his strongest political supporter.
Realizing his mistake, Lucius Malfoy hastily made his humiliating exit. No, the minister was a dead end.
But the head of the Malfoy name and fortune was not without access to other assets. If Lucius remembered correctly, he did know a few rather interesting figures working for the Daily Prophet. And Rookwood might yet have some contacts in the Department of Mysteries. Too bad he was still stuck in that hellhole, Azkaban. Lucius wondered if he should proposition to his lord that they move up the current timetables…
Either way, his master was not going to be pleased. Lucius had reassured him that the minister would be a perfectly malleable puppet. Fortunately he was more successful in his other assigned task, so maybe his lord would spare him or better yet, not even notice this little failure. Lucius fervidly hoped that was the case; he was definitely not looking forward to another dose of the Cruciatus.
"Madame Umbridge! What a pleasant surprise." The sight of Fudge's senior under secretary was definitely a surprise, but to call the female toad, 'pleasant' even indirectly? Surely not even a blind muggle would commit such a crime against nature.
Lucius planted an artificial charming smile on his face as he greeted the ugly woman.
"Just the man I was looking for?" The fat woman exclaimed with disgusting glee. "Look at this… it's that boy again and this time with the French." Without waiting for a response, Umbridge slapped the piece of newspaper down under Lucius's nose.
The bolded title front and center read: 'The Boy-Who-Lived and the French Connection?' On the same page was an almost life size wizarding photo of the one and only Harry Potter, chatting amicably with a handsome older man in stately robes. Right under it was the caption: 'Harry James Potter, better known as the Boy-Who-Lived for his role in the defeat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, was recently sighted in Paris. Seen beside him was France's Senior Deputy Minister of Magical Defense, Henri Françoise Delacour.'
"Someone needs to lock him up and throw away the key." The woman fumed aloud.
"Indeed?" Malfoy supplied helpfully. This was interesting.
"And to think who he associate himself with. Did you know that Mr. Delacour took a veela as his wife?" The toad-like woman whispered, as if talking about something so utterly scandalous that she dared not raise her voice. Malfoy nodded once, a small frown on his face.
To be entirely correct, Henri took a half-veela who was half human as his wife but the effect was the same within the xenophobic, exclusive upper-class community of France's ruling families. Sure, it was one thing for the powerful and wealthy to take (or try to take) veela as mistresses or paramours however hypocritical such acts were; it was another to fly so brazenly in the face of tradition by taking one as a mate of equal standing.
"… And to think that family now has made two more of those spawns… simply despicable. I believe one of them was allowed to compete in the Tri-Wizard Tournament last year. She should have been disqualified. A veela is not a witch I tell you! They aren't like us." The woman insisted with righteous indignation. Lucius allowed the briefest of a genuine smile to show. Not surprising. There was something rather humorous about a fat, short, ugly and toad-faced woman complaining about the deficiencies of girls who were slim, tall, beautiful and just about model perfect.
"No idea what Dumbledore was thinking. Did you know that he tried to talk the minister out of enacting several measures to combat the recent rise in werewolf violence? Something about infringing upon their 'natural rights'. What rights I say?"
Lucius's eyes glowed with pleasure at the secretary's impassionate words. Now that was rather interesting...
"Do you know what I think?" The wizard had a good idea but shook his head nonetheless.
"I think we should have done away with them right after we took care of the vampires. Already there are no more blood suckers to drain our citizenry dry or avian harlots to steal our youth and riddle them with diseases. We are free of two of the three major non-human species that plague the magical world. Wouldn't it be wonderful if one day Britain could be the first 'human only' wizarding nation in the world?" Umbridge wondered with unconcealed glee.
'Very interesting indeed.' The elder Malfoy was definitely no lover of werewolves and viewed their species with barely concealed distain. But people like his associate, Fenrir Greyback did have some uses. Expendable cannon fodder was the term the Dark Lord most recently used.
"A glorious day. But I wonder how could it be done? There are simply so many of those vile cursed creatures amongst us. Even the esteemed Headmaster of Hogwarts, the most prestigious of our magical institutions, hired, without the knowledge of the Board of Governors whatsoever, one of those fellows two years back. As a member of the board and a father of a child myself, I found the news…most alarming." Lucius's afflicted tone of mocking desperation was so genuine that he almost fooled himself. Alas, the extra effort was wasted on the likes of Umbridge.
"Dear Merlin, a werewolf in a school of children! To think Dumbledore would have the gall!" The woman cried, clenching and unclenching her fists in silent fury. Talk of the incident touched a raw nerve in the ministry woman. The under-secretary had wanted to have the headmaster's head and only her superior's firm rebuke had kept her in check. "I swear to you, Mr. Malfoy that if only I was at Hogwarts, I would work tirelessly to stop all this shenanigans and set him and that boy of his straight. You have my word on that!"
"I'm sure of that, ma'am." Lucius Malfoy had a very wide smile on his face as he shook hands with the Senior Undersecretary. Not long after, the pureblood wizard begged his leave and the two parted ways under very amicable terms.
Lucius stalked through the dark forsaken corridors of the Dark Lord's hidden base with broad thundering steps. Lowly Death Eaters along the way scurried away like frightened little rats. The Malfoy patriarch sneered at their cowering forms as his own chest puffed out with the self-import of a man on a mission. That was true… in a manner of speaking. The elder Malfoy had been assigned a task that the Dark Lord wanted completed 'with utmost urgency and secrecy'.
It was not easy, but he, Lucius Malfoy, had succeeded. Giving the carefully packaged object inside the folds of his robes one last tug, for assurance, the wizarding aristocrat pushed the door into his master's throne room open.
"Milord." Lucius dropped to his knees with as much dignity as the situation allowed, which wasn't much.
"Do you have it?" The cold voice hissed, the promise of venomous pain hung in the air.
"Y-yes milord." Red serpentine eyes glowed. The package disappeared almost instantly from Lucius's outstretched hands.
"Denudo!" The Dark Lord tapped his wand twice and a gentle glow blue glow surrounded the object signaling a scanning spell take effect.
As ordered, Malfoy didn't look. But lack of action hardly indicated lack of intent.
"You didn't think about looking to see what it was, have you, my dear Lucius?" Voldemort spoke as he stroked his precious find as he settled comfortably back in his throne.
"No, of course not, milord. Your orders were crystal clear!" The politically powerful and charismatic wizard barked forcibly with just a hint of servile indignation, as if taking offense to his lord suggestion about his fidelity. Ah, but here was where Lucius made his first mistake. Voldemort was no fool.
"Lucius, Lucius, you forget that Lord Voldemort knows everything." The Dark Lord crowed as if chastising a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
"You wanted to, but your fear, your fear of what your master would do to you kept you from doing so. Isn't that right?" The light reflected off the edge of the wand Voldemort kept loosely by his side. Lucius nodded twice, with an ashen face slowly and gulping breath.
The curse that he expected never came. Amused blood red eyes gazed at him as Lucius wondered how he wasn't withering on the ground in pain.
"You are in luck today, Lucius, as even you can not ruin my good mood." Voldemort then turned his head sideways.
"Well, my friend?"
The elder Malfoy was confused why his master was speaking to the wall when a figure stepped in from the shadows. Pale skin, dead eyes, and two prominent incisors arcing over the lower lips. Lucius resisted the urge to gasp in surprise.
"My lord, the Second Grand Vicar of the Vampire Nation, will consider your proposal." Said the lanky vampire in broken English, his voice thick with a distinctively mid-European accent. Then, giving a curt bow to Lord Voldemort, he disappeared back into the shadows.
Malfoy looked at his master and then at where the vampire last stood and then at his master.
"I'm seeking the aid of the vampires." That certainly answered one question but raised a few others as well.
Red eyes narrowed.
Sweated poured profusely from Lucius's forehead as he strove to recover from his momentary lapse of attention.
"What I mean, milord, is what if Greyback or some of the werewolf clans found out?"
"Who is going to tell them? You? Taking orders from the tainted ones, I see." Red eyes narrowed once again. Lucius's eyes bugged out. Oh yeah, Lucy was in trouble now.
"Of course not, my lord, never! I only mean to say that werewolves and vampires don't mix well. In seeking some vampires who might join us, we risk losing many clans who would otherwise join us, especially once the Ministry imposed harsher sanctions."
Voldemort's red eyes became a set of barely distinguishable slits.
"Ah, so you only mean to tell me that I'm incompetent; that I needed to be reminded about one of the fundamental facts about two species that inhabit the magical world. Is that it?"
Lucius whimpered, his face turning a sickly pale, well paler than normal, color. At least he was learning. In a belated show of intelligence, Malfoy finally managed to keep a clamp on his mouth keeping him from digger himself a yet even deeper grave. Voldemort slowly waved his phoenix cored wand in broad flourishing sweeps causing it to glisten dangerously in the dimly lit room.
"Acknowledging your many years of competent service, however inconsistent at times, I, Lord Voldemort, shall spare you, Lucius, this one time…" The Dark Lord's wand disappeared from view. Breathing an audible sigh of relief, the wizard immediately dropped to the ground on all four, bowing in slavish servitude.
"Your master sees all things. He understands all his servants, his allies and his enemies. So with regard to werewolves and vampires, does it not go to reason that he would carry the wisdom of knowing how to deal with both? Does it not make sense that he would know of ways to keep one side from finding out about the other?"
Voldemort leaned forward, his cold eyes titled slightly at Lucius as if appraising him humorously.
"Don't you think that there was a reason why your lord specifically ordered you to maintain your good relations with Fenrir Greyback?"
Lucius gazed at his master with widened eyes of awe and wonder.
"Master is truly too great for words to describe. This humble servant begs for forgiveness and enlightenment." But even as the wizard laid these honeyed words before the Dark Lord, a shadow of something nagged at him.
"What is it? Speak. Your lord is feeling rather generous tonight."
"What about Harry Potter?" What a bleeding dumbarse… How much intelligence does it take to NOT remind a Dark Lord how a 14-year-old escaped right from under his nose while severely wounding several of his followers?
The room's ambient temperature dropped by at least twenty degrees. Voldemort leaped up drawing his wand in an instant, a cruciatus curse on the edge of his lips. Lucius laid prostrate before him, trembling with fright.
With a deep angry sigh, the Dark Lord slowly sank back down into his seat. Voldemort pledged that he wasn't going to allow his ignoramus oaf of a servant ruin his day.
"Potter is of no consequence… for the time being" He grounded out with spite. "As for you: Get out! You have tried your lord's patience enough for one day, Lucius, don't you think?"
The wizard nodded furiously while graveling on the ground. The normally proud and haughty pureblood kissed the hem of his master's robes before turning to walk away.
"Oh Lucius… how was your meeting with the esteemed minister?" The pureblood wizard gulped, his legs locked in place mid pace. Lucius's reaction told Voldemort everything he needed to know.
Lucius collapsed to the ground with a loud thud. The Dark Lord's outstretched wand fell to his side.
"Be mindful of your arrogance, Lucius. I will not be as forgiving next time. Get out and lock the door behind you." Voldemort stated towards the prostrate wizard. He smirked as he saw his servant's shivering form nod in acknowledgment before beating a hasty exit.
The door slammed shut behind the pureblood's scrabbling legs. In the deep darkness, the self styled Dark Lord contemplated silently, one hand holding the package Lucius had brought, the other lightly drumming the armrest of his throne.
'Potter…' The thought elicited a foul resounding hiss across the vacant dank room.
Sucking in a deep breath, the Dark Lord calmly pushed the unhappy thought away. The boy was just lucky, he assured himself. Surely the little brat could be dealt with at will some other time. Meanwhile, he had much more important matters to tend to.
In one fluid motion, the Dark Lord shredded the covering of Lucius's package. It was a hard bound book of some sort, quite old too.
'This is it.' This was a crucial piece of what he was missing; what he was seeking.
Voldemort touched the cover with a sort of twisted reverence as if he held some sacred treasure. He turned the badly abused blood red book over so the front faced upwards. In the center at the front was the depiction of a fierce eagle dripping blood from the end of its claws. Bellow it was emblazoned the words "Kraft macht Frei"
Excitement bubbled beneath the Dark Lord's fossilized features. His serpentine eyes skimmed through the cursive but impeccably neat hand writings.
"…I have successfully documented the effects of the seven regenerative nodes of the werewolf anatomy under systemized torture. However inferior their species may be, I admit that the resilience of these sub-humans is truly formidable. Soon I shall discover the secret to creating the perfect soldier. Soon I shall make a gift of my findings to my lord, the great Grindelward. And soon my master shall have his invincible army and take his rightful place as the master Europe with me at his side. Let all who dare stand against the force of history and destiny tremble in fear. – Signed Dr. Robert H. Conkling, 1944."
A slender skeletal finger traced the book as the Dark Lord quoted out loud the text's fitting epitaph.
"The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'it is done!' – Book of Revelation 16:17."
Everything was proceeding as he had foreseen. In the empty darkness of the room, blood red eyes glowed as Lord Voldemort let loose a roaring satanic cackle.
Mon dieu – My god
Zut – Damn
Noire female form of Noir – Black (Oh come on, you should have seen this from a mile away)
La Brigade Fantôme – The Phantom Brigade
Kraft macht Frei – German for 'force makes you free'. Derived from Arbeit macht Frei (Work makes you free), the slogan hung over the gates of Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps.