"Magic had a thousand flavors, a thousand hues, but none could give him peace." Harry, post-7th year oneshot
A/N: I got the idea for this fic while I was writing "The Taste of Magic." I had such fun figuring out what the magic of Egypt would be like that I got a little carried away and wanted to explore other regions' flavors. I picked places at random, trying to spread them across the map, though I can't give each place specific attention. Regardless, I hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: Ain't mine.
Magic had a thousand flavors, a thousand hues, but none could give him peace.
He took Krum up on his offer and arrived in Bulgaria in the middle of a blizzard. The tame magic was like a circle of warmth and light crouching low around a fire while snow and darkness blew freezing all around. Krum's dark-clad friends eased the spells out of their wands, wooing the magic forth with patience and persistence. But once they beckoned it forth, it was earthy and deep and reminded him of Charlie's dragons.
Indeed, there were dragons all around, though there were vampires and werewolves and tall, rawboned elves, too, wandering through the grip of winter. All color and light in every spell was cherished and used sparingly, every swish of the twisted black wands was economical and sure. But he was not searching for little lights in darkness, so he thanked Krum and told him goodbye.
Magic was practically a science in Vienna, but a music, too, and the Austrian wizards were masters, taking great pride in their performances. Spells and charms were ostentatious and heavily gilded in gold and jewels. The magic was as structured as a Bach fugue, but when released, emotion exploded forth like a Beethoven concerto or a Klimt painting.
The words of the spells sounded a little harsh in German, but tasted like the dark, strong coffee and rang like church bells. That magic, like the Bulgarian kind, had been tainted more than once, but was healing again. The wizards were polite, but not friendly, and he appreciated that they did not dig for information but let him be. But the noise, even of symphonies and spells, sometimes hurt his head, and so he booked his Apparation time.
Egypt was just as Bill had told him: ancient and hot and brittle and set in its ways with a shimmering edge just beyond sight. He felt humbled in the presence of the wizards, for their traditions were the oldest in the world, dating from the days before pyramids dominated the landscape or even before the spells could be written down. The spells dissipated into the heat in the air and floated sluggishly through the murky waters of the River and the weight of them was heavy on his wand.
The searing heat felt as though it was scalding his skin off; it felt good, but reminded him too much of that last Night, and the snakes Ginny had mentioned in a hoarse voice seemed to hiss at him in Parseltongue. There was no peace there.
There was something so free about the magic in Africa, wild and untamed and falling into extremes. There was joy exploding in it, shouted and sung with clapping of hands and stomping of feet—most of the spells were sung, not spoken—but there was sorrow, too, of a people being broken.
Every spell was a gift, a sacrifice, and once the wizards trusted you, they were generous with their magic. It was the only treasure Kenya had, the only thing besides love it could give freely. Everything was a community event, and he saw the consequences of every spell sung. The wizards recognized the pain in his eyes and gave him solemn nods and flashing smiles as he needed them. But everything was either breathtakingly beautiful or heartbreakingly tragic, and there was no place in between to rest. That was how his life had been for the past few years, and that was what he was trying to escape. He could not bring himself to stay.
The magic was full of spices, thick in the heat, nearly suffocating him as soon as his boat reached Bombay. The tamed magic was nearly as old as Egypt's, but not as settled, for charms were like tangerine sunsets and some spells were like flashes of brightly colored saris. The magic had roots tangling itself over ruins of ancient spells as though over tumbled stone blocks, digging its fingers deep down into the earth. The wizards were aged by the magic and spoke very little, though he learned much from their silence.
The magic was so thick that he could barely get a hold of it; his attempts at manipulating it seemed clumsy and weak, and he was not used to that. He said goodbye to Parvati's cousin and headed east.
The wizards had to hide in China. The government, of course, vehemently denied their existence, although that didn't seem to stop the common people from taking the magic for granted. Magical books had their beginnings there, written in fluid black characters of increasing complexity—every line had to be just right or else the spell meant something completely different from what was intended. The magic had a shell as hard as stone, but if you cracked it the right way, it flowed like tea or silk and had a scent of incense and the echo of a ring like a gong.
He loved the elegant grace of every flourish of every jade wand and the eastern element that made all of the magic seem so much bigger than he could have imagined. But the secrecy—the sneaking and denials—was too much like the war. He left on a Thursday morning.
On the top of Ayer's Rock, the magic was old and sun baked, and very primitive, like a stone knife. The gift of the magic blew in the wind and rubbed his skin raw like sand. The magic howled like the wind or a wild dog. Everything was blunt and hard-edged and hearty and made to survive. The beauty was there; you just had to learn how to look at it.
The native wizards clung to their magical traditions fiercely; they were very nearly untouched by other magical disciplines. He crouched under the endless star-scattered sky by a campfire and learned new spells. The words tasted strange in his mouth—they tasted like the bush country: grit and wild weeds and muddy but precious water. Though he had thought he was running from companionship, he found himself lonely out there under that sky in that wilderness. He continued his search.
He floated lazily in the fragrant magic of the islands, the water and the sky seeming to mingle all around him. Flowers and luscious fruit left their scent and tang in the air, and he gulped in great lungfuls of the salty sea breezes. After years of running and fighting, nothing was as wonderful as idleness and the constant sound of the ocean waves.
The wizards practically breathed their spells, working them into the commonplace everyday tasks that dominated life. They painted with broad strokes of spells, an arc of sunset sky, a sweep of stormy sea. But he felt guilty for this ease; in the still, languid times, the shame of running crept up on him, and he could not forget all that he left behind. He looked over his shoulder as he left.
New York was too loud, dirty, crowded for one who sought any kind of peace, so he headed south. The warmth reminded him of Egypt, only it was humid, and the magic got tangled up in the wet night air, glowing and blinking like fireflies or stars so close he could reach out and touch them: no coldness in these stars like those at home.
The wizards were very gracious and formal in their spells, and the witches were warm and had a gentle kind of strength about them, but they all recognized him and looked at him askance—they were given to gossip like the old magicking families of Britain. There was a tang of honey on his lips and the sticky scent of pines and jasmine, and the magic seemed to get under his fingernails like the thick red clay, and though that soil was earthy and comforting, the redness reminded him of blood. He left after two weeks.
If he had found America's atmosphere humid, the magic of the Amazon was totally liquid. It was heavy, too, and seemed to stream over him in rivers of untamed exoticness. The spells bent the magic easily, almost too easily, but it was still hard to manipulate, like a boulder turning the river another way and causing a flood.
There were always new facets of the enchantment to explore, reflections of a thousand species and varieties of life. Everything was color and danger and almost too much life. The native wizards smiled readily, but went to war readily as well, and he was not ready for another one. He fled.
A metallic hint of blood and smoke lingered still when he returned home. It stained the drizzling grey of Britain's magic, a constant reminder of the battles he had fought and lost and won. He felt the weight of expectation and memory settle on his shoulders as soon as he set foot on his native soil, and he shouldered it wearily.
But then there were Ron and Hermione and Remus and Neville and Professor McGonagall and the remaining Weasleys and dozens of others—and especially Ginny—waiting for him, just as he had known, somewhere in the far corner of his mind, they would be. And somehow, when he got close enough to them, the magic was cleansed: no more blood, only rainwater and moss and the stones of Hogwarts. He felt the cool winds blow mist across his face, and he realized that it was not the magic he had been searching for.
Magic had a thousand flavors, a thousand hues, but none could give him peace. He had thought, when the letter first came and he walked wide-eyed through Diagon Alley and was first embraced by Hogwarts, that the magic was what made him feel at home—that a wizard needs magic, or he is no longer a wizard.
He knows better now. It isn't the flavor or the scent or the sensation of magic. It is these people, this love.
That is all he needs to be home.