Hello, everyone! Holy cow, it's been almost a year since I last updated. o.o I'm really sorry, but I didn't have time to work on this over the past school year. This chapter, I decided to get out to keep you all from waiting longer, but it's only half as long as the usual chapter because I desperately need to re-read Order of the Phoenix.
Let me not keep you any longer! Hope you enjoy.
Shapeless shadows danced across the walls in the flickering glow of a solitary candle on the table. The smell of stale air and smoke and dust clung to every surface, every corner. Were it not for the cracked grandfather clock that stood tall, ticking monotonously with every passing second, the room would have been utterly silent.
Thirty ticks went by before he spoke. "Well? What news do you have for me?"
The dark figure standing in the open doorway, face obscured in the shadows but the submission evident in his posture, seemed to tense with nervousness. "It is about Dumbledore, My Lord," Lucius said. "Dumbledore and Hogwarts."
"What is it?"
"It seems that he has enlisted foreign wizards to teach at the school this year."
Lucius nodded. "They come from several different countries, and to discover their identities will mean investigating the other Ministries. They do not appear to be extraordinary or influential wizards—no one has heard of them before, so they obviously do not have any international acclaim—and many seem young. But if Dumbledore hired them… they must be a part of some sort of plan to defend the Potter boy."
"As to be expected from that old fool…"
"He, apparently, chose not to run the idea through the Ministry before inviting the foreigners, who claim to be representatives of the countries they come from. The Department of International Magical Cooperation doesn't appear to have records of these wizards. We have people looking into their status in their home countries as we speak, in case the Ministry has simply neglected to log their names… However, it's entire possible that this is all just a ruse to give Potter more protection."
Dumbledore… So he was bringing new pieces onto the board? These new pawns certainly wouldn't be able to stand up against the Dark Lord himself. But this was a strange move—one that he could not read. It was always better to know your enemy in case they held any annoyances up their sleeves. Perhaps he would even be able to use some of them…
"My Lord?" the hesitant voice came. The meekness was almost laughable.
"Find out who these 'representatives' are. If Dumbledore has hired them, they can't be ordinary wizards. Otherwise… we will continue to find a way to open that door."
"Harry. Harry? Come on, get up! Hermione's waiting downstairs!"
At the not-so-gentle shove at his shoulder, the dark-haired boy's eyes flew open. Everything was a mess of scarlet and gold against the brown walls and floor, but he could make out a particular blur of bright red shuffling across the room. Harry reached for the bedside table, grasping his glasses and pushing them up the edge of his nose to give the world around him a bit more clarity.
"You alright, mate? You were mumbling in your sleep again," Ron said as he rummaged around in his trunk. He was already dressed in a t-shirt and slacks.
"I'm fine," Harry said, holding back a yawn. "Just a weird dream." But just like the last set of reoccurring dreams, all involving that long empty corridor, he knew there was much more going on than his mind conjuring random images during sleep.
It was Voldemort… and Malfoy's father. They were talking about the representatives… It couldn't have been just a dream. Harry stared out the window, where the sky looked gray and cold. What are they doing here? Could they really be working for Dumbledore?
Ron finally fished his jacket out of the trunk, and threw it over his shoulder. "Hey, Harry, come on. Everyone's already in the Great Hall for breakfast. Today's the trip to Hogsmeade."
Damn. That meant today was the day… "Right."
The first Hogsmeade trip of the year was on a chilly October weekend. The students, third years and older, pulled on their gloves and jackets to protect themselves from the sharp autumn bite. They left the castle in groups after breakfast, walking along the paths towards the little village only a short distance away. Excitement was thick in the air—the chance to go out and have fun at the village wasn't exactly a frequent occurrence. For the representatives, barring Arthur, it was their first visit to Hogsmeade. And if all went to according to plan, there wouldn't be only sight-seeing and window-shopping on the agenda.
"What sort of things do they sell at Hogsmeade?" Lilli asked as they stepped over the discolored leaves that littered the stone path.
"All sorts," Luna replied with her usual dreamy tone. They had lagged towards the back of the line of students, not minding when others more eager to get to the village hurried in front of them. "Food, books, clothes, candy… What are you going to get?"
Lilli flushed a little and looked down. "Oh, I don't know," she said. Bruder always said that it was good to be frugal… Although hot cocoa did sound good. Maybe she could buy one for him too—Basch liked chocolate as much as he liked cheese fondue. Shifting her attention back to the conversation at hand, Lilli asked, "What are you planning to buy?"
"I was thinking of visiting Tomes and Scrolls," Luna said. "I wonder if they received their shipments on books about Crumple-Horned Snorkack… They live in Sweden, you know. No one's ever found one, but my father and I are planning a trip next year to search for it."
"Maybe we should ask Berwald," Lilli suggested.
A rude snort came from behind them. The two young Ravenclaws turned around to see Malfoy and his lackeys. The leader of the trio was sneering.
"Crumple-Horned Snorkack? Ridiculous," Malfoy said. "Only complete loons like you and your father could believe in those." Luna's eyes narrowed.
"Don't say things like that about Luna!" Lilli exclaimed.
"Aw, Loony's made a friend," Malfoy said, laughing. "Better than the Weasley girl you always hang out with. Hmm… You seem well-kept. Are you a Pure-blood?" he directed the question towards Lilli, a mild curiosity hidden behind his haughtiness.
"I…" Lilli hesitated. What was she supposed to say in this situation again? Yes? No? Change the subject? Oh, if only she hadn't been distracted when England was telling them…!
"Is there a problem here?"
Everyone turned to the young man walking behind them on the trail to Hogsmeade.
"Beilschmidt," Malfoy said, startled. "There's no problem here—I was only seeing if this girl was a Pure-blood."
The air around Ludwig suddenly became much more serious. His eyes turned icy as he looked down at the platinum-blond-haired boy. "I don't really see why that matters."
Malfoy nearly flinched at the hard tone in Ludwig's voice. He grunted, rolling his eyes and muttering insults under his breath before pushing ahead towards the entrance pillars of Hogsmeade. His two lackeys rushed after him, stumbling over their own feet until they were out of view.
Lilli's pursed lips slid into a small smile. "Thank you, Herr Ludwig."
"You're welcome, Lilli. It was the least I could do," Ludwig replied, still looking rather grim. "Now, have either of you seen Feliciano? That dummkopf forgot his jacket in the Great Hall, and he's probably freezing right now…" He held up the brown article of clothing in question.
"I think he passed by a few minutes ago," Luna said airily, looking around without any alarm. "Perhaps the Three Broomsticks?"
"Thank you, I'll try there first." Ludwig started to move forward, but a thought occurred to Lilli.
"Will you and Herr Gilbert be at the Hog's Head for the meeting later?" she asked curiously. She knew that word had reached a number of other Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs, but considering the bad relations between Gryffindor and Slytherin…
Her curiosity was quelled. The answer was given to her with a short nod from Ludwig before he jogged ahead into the bustling little village.
"Sea—Peter! What the bloody hell are you doing here!"
"You didn't get me a present for my birthday, Jerk Iggy!"
Arthur rubbed his head to soothe his sudden migraine as the short blond boy darted through the crowded street. A few nearby villagers and students turned and shot odd looks at the boy. If ordinary Muggle clothing was odd to wizards, it must have been something to see someone wearing a sailor suit in the middle of fall… "Ah, yes, sorry about that… I've been rather busy."
"It's been more than a month!"
"Like I said, I've been busy."
"Oh? It's the little fort," Francis said, stepping away from the window of a cloak shop and approaching the two brothers. "I didn't know we were having guests over… I think I saw Denmark walking into the pub just now."
"France! Those candies you got me were really good! Thanks!"
"It was nothing! And it's 'Francis' here, remember?"
"Oh, right, haha!"
"Wait—the frog got you something?" Arthur shot the French man a suspicious glare.
"Why must you look at me like I've done something wrong?" Francis asked, feigning hurt and waving a hand. "It's not like I've harmed the boy. Obviously I've been a better brother for him than you have."
"Giving a person presents for one birthday doesn't make you a better brother!" Arthur snapped, turning back towards the shops lining the crowded street. "Come on, Peter, I'll get you something from one of the stores here…"
"Awesome! Anything I want?"
"… We'll see."
"Run his wallet dry," Francis whispered, winking.
Peter grinned and gave a mock salute. "Will do!"
"I heard that, Frog!"
Francis watched as Arthur and Peter made their way into the nearby candy shop, a half-smile on his face. "England…" He shook his head and chuckled to himself.
"Hmm…? Oh, Francis! There you are."
A certain cheerful-looking Spaniard approached from Dominic Maestro's Music Shop, his hands stuffed into the pockets of his coat. "Antonio!" Francis said. "Not with dear Lovino today, I see?"
Antonio laughed but shook his head. "Nah, he ran off somewhere a little while ago. The trio hasn't been able to hang out much recently, so I was thinking today might be a good chance."
"Mm, good idea! Classes have been taking up quite a chunk of our time…" Francis paused. "Although… where is Gilbert? We can't be a trio without every point of the triangle."
"That's what I'm trying to figure out." Antonio scratched his head. "I thought he might have been at the pub, but the bar woman says she hasn't seen him… And it's kind of hard to miss Gil."
Francis scanned the crowd, rubbing a hand against his chin. "Well, there can't be many places to hide around here…" He trailed off, eyes landing on a pretty witch walking out of the bookstore with a stack of hardcover books. "If Gilbert wants to goof off, it's his loss. Excuse me, mademoiselle? Have you ever spent a day with a French man?"
"So we finally got here to this tiny village. Well, seeing as we're waiting for Fin and Sve, this is the perfect opportunity to sample some beer! Wouldn't you say, Nor? Ice?"
The two light-haired boys exchanged skeptical glances. "You do realize we're in public, don't you?" the older of the brothers asked quietly. "We use human names, Søren."
"Huh—oh, right. Sorry, Lukas. Let's grab this table over here."
They three nations made their way through the warmly lit pub, inhaling the delicious scents of beer and pumpkin spices wafting from behind the counter. They stopped at an unoccupied table for five in the corner of the room by the window.
"Not a bad place," Søren said, looking up at the orange lights and miniature chandeliers strung across the ceiling. He grinned. "My pubs are so much better though. I wonder what kind of drinks they have."
"When are Tino and Berwald supposed to get here?" Iceland—oh, ahem, Emil—asked, resting his elbow against the table and his face against his gloved hand. "I heard they met that Potter kid."
"I heard they have a real witch of a teacher," Søren replied. "Get it? A real witch? But from what I heard Taiwan say about her letter from China, the woman's a real bitch."
"You aren't funny, Søren," Lukas said in a deadpan. "You're upsetting the troll."
Søren leaned in his chair. He could barely see one of Lukas's chubby cow-tailed troll buddies hanging behind him, hiding and blowing a raspberry at the Dane. Sometimes it was a little annoying when they stopped near a just-a-little-too-magical place and the troll took solid form. But at least it wasn't one of the fairies this time.
"People are beginning to stare," Emil muttered, glancing around the pub. Among the handful of adults that occupied seats throughout the building, there were a number of teenagers—students, probably—that ordered drinks and sat by the fires. But both the adults and the children were eyeing the Nordic countries with some apprehension… Or, as it seemed more likely, they were eyeing Lukas's friend.
"What is that?" one boy with an Irish accent asked, leaning forward to get a better view of the troll. "It looks like a gnome that took a bludger to the face."
It was almost impossible to tell, but Søren was pretty sure Lukas's cheeks turned just the tiniest shade of pink—either in irritation or embarrassment. "He's a troll," Lukas said quietly.
"A troll?" the boy said, eyebrows shooting up. "What's one doing in Hogsmeade? Aren't they nasty?"
"Eh, he's more tolerable than Emil's puffin," Søren said, earning himself a glare.
"He's a friend," Lukas said, ignoring the other two. "The troll folk from Scandinavia are much different from the ones in central Europe."
"Much different from the ones who attacked Liechtenstein a few centuries back," Emil muttered.
"Really? So you're from Scandinavia, then?" the boy asked.
"I'm from Denmark," Søren said. "Lukas over here is from Norway, and Emil is from Iceland. So more Nordic than Scandinavian."
"Are you three representatives then?" another boy asked. "You know Alfred and Yong Soo and them?"
"Hm? You know them?" Emil asked. "By any chance, do you know Tino and Berwald?"
"Oh, yeah, I saw Tino at the WWN—the Wizarding Wireless Network down the street with Eduard. As for Berwald, last I heard he got into some trouble with our Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Had to stay back today."
"The Umbridge woman?" Søren asked. "Oh, jeez. So that's why it's taking them so long to get here… Anyway, thanks… What're your names?"
"You know, if you're waiting for the others," Seamus added, "They're all meeting at the Hog's Head later."
"Hog's Head?" Søren repeated. "Thanks. We'll head there after we get a drink, right guys?"
"Do we have much of a choice?" Emil asked, raising an eyebrow as Søren flagged down the barmaid and the troll took the opportunity to flick cotton balls at his head.
I am bending the timeline a bit with this… If Harry Potter Y5 takes place in 1995, there's no way that Sweden could have tried to bid for Sealand (which took place in 2007).
According to the Harry Potter Wiki, that thing with Liechtenstein and the trolls did happen in the HP universe. There are really interesting bits from the Wiki that I hope to incorporate.
Also, I think I'm taking to the idea of German-speaking characters calling Vash "Basch" while others call him "Vash." A sort of compromise, because I like the name "Vash" but I believe the former is correct. I could probably find a way to implement this for the correct way to spell Hungary's name.
In the meantime! I would really appreciate any ideas for lessons that the nations can teach. Particularly legends and legendary figures, rather than only mythical beasts.