Steps Three

Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, Headmistress's Office

Madame Olympe Maxime's office reminded him vaguely of Albus Dumbledore's. Portraits adorned the walls with most of the occupants already asleep and dozing off in their respective frames. There were stacks of scrolls kept neatly in high shelves. On the Headmistress's desk was an array of crystal plates that had been charmed to hover above one another in perfect symmetry. Closer inspection revealed them to contain an assortment of sweets: macarons, éclairs, millefeuilles and other colorful sweets.

But that was where the similarities ended. Although Albus Dumbledore's office housed many precious items, including a phoenix, Madame Maxime's was pure extravagance and lavishness. Fantastic sculptures, tapestries of soft palettes, shell-like textures, ornamental mirrors, stuccos and ornate furniture presented an asymmetrical space filled with flourishes, sweeps and broken curves. The two main colors within the office, namely gold and cream, seemed to blend together effortlessly. The soft palette complemented the gleaming coat of arms with the two golden wands and six shooting stars that hung majestically behind the Headmistress' seat.

Said coat of arms was momentarily obscured from view when Madame Maxime rose to full height. Extending a hand royally towards Sebastien who promptly dropped a kiss at the back of her hand, she warmly welcomed them with a small smile, "Bienvenue à Beauxbatons. Welcome to Beauxbatons."

"Lord Krum," she inclined her head, which Harry promptly returned, albeit not as elegantly. "Et Monsieur Dubois, quel plaisir de vous revoir. And Monsieur Dubois, what a pleasure to see you again." A fond smile appeared and Harry could sympathize more with Fleur's irritation with Sebastien. The Headmistress did not conceal her favorites.

The Headmistress gestured towards the plush sofas and they moved to the smaller salon where more crystal plates and glasses appeared, filled with various delicacies and beverages.

"Mademoiselle Delacour, asseyez-vous s'il vous plait. Mademoiselle Delacour, please seat yourself."

The blonde witch blushed slightly at the admonishment for her anxious hovering around the guests and quickly seated herself on the chair to Harry's left.

With everyone seated properly, the Headmistress did not wait any longer to get down to business.

"Monsieur Dubois, la soirée retrouvaille est prévue le mercredi 20 mai 2007, je suis désolée de vous dire que vous êtes venu trop tôt. En fait, vous avez encore dix ans à attendre. Donc je n'ai aucun choix que vous demander : pourquoi cette visite? Monsieur Dubois, the evening reunion is planned for Wednesday, the 20th of May 2007. I am sorry to say that you have come too early. In fact, you still have ten years more to wait. Therefore I have no choice but to ask you: why this visit?"

Harry was surprised to realize that he understood perfectly what she was saying. Then he noticed the faint blue glow lining the contours of the sofa he was sitting on. Glancing up questioningly, Harry met Fleur's eyes and she silently mouthed, "Translation spell." Understanding dawned on him and Harry turned back to the conversation at hand, more immersed now that he could understand what they were talking about.

"Madame, vous savez que j'ai été choisi comme le tuteur personnel de Lord Harry Krum. Il y a beaucoup de choses qu'il doit apprendre – vous savez bien comment sont les anglais, particulièrement leur presse. Il a besoin de développer son caractère, de s'habituer aux coutumes de la noblesse, alors je croyais qu'une visite de Chambord l'aiderait à mieux comprendre nos traditions. Madame, you know that I have been chosen as the personal tutor of Lord Harry Krum. There are many things that he has to learn – you know well how the English are, especially their press. He needs to develop his character and become accustomed to the customs of the nobility, so I thought that a visit to Chambord would help him to better understand our traditions. "

"Et vous savez très bien que le Marquis de Dubois n'est pas très ravie avec ton choix. And you know very well that the Marquis of Dubois is not very happy with your choice."

"C'est mon choix. It is my choice. "

"Oui, et je le respecte. Même si votre père pense que notre école est la raison pour votre ruine. Mais franchement, Sebastien, que faites-vous ? Et Lord Krum ? Avec la guerre et la conférence à Genève – ce n'est pas le temps de faire des promenades au milieu de la nuit. Il faut que vous soyez plus responsable. Yes, and I respect it. Even if your father believes that our school is the reason for your ruination. But truly, Sebastien, what are you doing? And Lord Krum? With the war and the conference in Geneva, it is not the time to take walks in the middle of the night. You should be more responsible."

"Nous avons nos raisons. Je vous demande, juste cette fois, de ne pas nous arrêter. We have our reasons. I ask just this time that you do not stop us."

"Mademoiselle Delacour dit que Lord Viktor Krum ne sait même pas ce que vous faites. Vous connaissez bien les vœux sacrés d'un mariage en saigne. Mademoiselle Delacour says that Lord Viktor Krum does not even know what you are doing. You know well the sacred vows of a marriage in blood."

At the mention of Viktor's name, Harry felt guilt clawing at him. The gentle feelings were still very fragile and new, and they pressed at his conscience like three stamping steps.


Krum Estate, West Wing Suite

Harry watched, completely fascinated by the movements in the adjoining room. He had woken up late and had only exerted the least required effort of turning on his side and raising himself from the bed covers to search for his missing source of warmth, only to find said source rummaging through the cupboards of a kitchen that had sometime during his deep slumber been conjured into the living room area.

"Vot is it?" his husband asked, having turned to see his stare with several plates levitated mid-air. The question was light, but his dark eyes were serious and Harry's heart warmed because he knew that those eyes were always attentive whenever they focused on him.

Flashing Viktor an impish grin, Harry ducked under the covers again. The covers muffled the sound of his husband's amused chuckles, but Harry heard them and relished in the sound of pure contentment. He was feeling exhilarated from all the new emotions that Viktor induced within him. For the first time in his life, Harry felt safe and free, and he savored every minute of it.

Even if the asylum and the marriage ceremony had been a rush, disorienting and impromptu, Harry was relieved that Viktor and he were able to get accustomed to married life at their own pace. Even if things were very much on the verge of spiraling out of control what with the advent of war on all fronts – as much as Harry fervently wished for it, he knew that political asylum would not be able to stop the war in Britain from eventually crossing the channel – this, Viktor's sharp profile, dark, guarded eyes, hidden smiles and quiet laughter, calloused hands that held so much strength and just as much shyness in their hesitant touches, had the promise of stability. Despite it only being five days into their so-called honeymoon, which both Harry and Viktor with their background of paparazzi and fan clubs would rather term it as a sanctuary from the prying eyes of the world, Harry felt, as strong arms suddenly engulfed him from above the blankets and a chaste kiss was dropped on his covered cheek, that he could finally have a home.

"I want breakfast in bed," Harry grinned as he imitated the pompous tone and posture of snobbish aristocrats that he had perfected after years of miming Draco Malfoy during the bedtime games of charade in the Gryffindor Tower.

Suddenly, his blankets were yanked away and Harry let out a surprised yelp, before instinctively curling his body from the freezing cold. But warm arms grabbed his form and carried him unceremoniously out of the room and into the sunlit kitchen where he was plopped gently down onto a beautifully carved wooden chair.

"Breakfast is served, Lord Krum" said the smug voice of one very satisfied Viktor Krum.

Mock sulking, Harry picked up a toast and munched angrily at it, whilst trying to suppress a smile amidst the amused chuckles that he was getting to know so well.


"Viktor?" Harry reached out to touch his husband's back.

His husband was fixedly reading over the parchment that had arrived with the owl that morning while they were washing the dishes. Despite the horrible memories of household chores done within the Dursleys household, Harry found out that the Muggle way of washing dishes with Viktor, although much more time consuming in part because they kept splashing soap and water and chasing each other around, was undeniably fun.

From the one touch, Harry could feel his husband's magic. It was restless and Viktor was clearly trying to suppress his emotions so as to not cause any accidental magic.

Harry closed his eyes, knowing that it had finally happened. They had only had five days of peace and yet it was already too much. He let Viktor's warm hand cup his face and looked into those dark eyes, accepting what he had to hear.

"They are hosting a conference in Genève. All the families, ve must all gather together to decide on our measures for the war. Last night Voldemort has issued an ultimatum and the British Ministry of Magic has requested for help," Viktor paused and moved to hold Harry in his arms before leaning down to whisper in his ear, "as well as for Harry Potter."

Harry stiffened in Viktor's arms. "How could they know? I thought the Fidelius or whatever the spellmasters did-"

His tirade was interrupted by a gentle finger on his lips. "It is not one of us. Ve protect our own. The spell does not allow anyone to speak of the ceremony or our union without our consent. They must have guessed that you would be in Europe. Someone must have seen our departure through the International Floo Network."

Harry's anxiety must have shown on his face because his husband held him tighter. "Do not vorry. Ve will safe." At those familiar words, Harry buried his face in Viktor's wizard robes, trying to memorize the scent.

Although the moment was too short and too soon, both sides pulled reluctantly away from the warm embrace.

"You must go."


At the sight of the stack of books laid out in front of him, Harry blanched and suppressed a groan. This was worse than studying for their O.W.L.s and maybe even worse than the N.E.W.T.s, in fact, he might have just finally found himself even against Hermione for the first time in their years together at Hogwarts.

As he filtered through titles like "A Wizard's Guide to Tea," "Bloodlines: A History," "The Lordly me" – this one induced a momentary shudder as it brought to mind the self-obsessed Gilderoy Lockhart whose copies of Magical Me were as betted by Ron and the twins, still secretly stashed away on Hermione and Mrs. Weasley's bookshelves, "French for the beginning wizard," "The Highest of Pureblood Etiquette," he secretly wished time would go faster so that he could retreat back to the West Suite.

This was yet another glitch in his marriage. While other newly-weds could have a completely free honeymoon to immerse only in themselves, Viktor and he had pressing schedules that demanded part of their evenings to leave their sanctuary and rejoin the world, although this world was now only limited to the immediate family and close acquaintances of the Krum family.

"Daydreaming, Lord Krum?"

Standing up so quickly that he almost toppled over the chair, Harry glared at the intruder. "You should learn to knock."

Smiling charmingly with all the ease of a self-confident wizard, Sebastien strolled leisurely into the room and settled on the opposite chair.

"If I were the learner, I wouldn't be getting paid for it, and rather, handsomely at that."

Harry huffed in annoyance, but tried to conjure a mask of indifference in case he was further admonished for not following proper protocol. Watching as the French wizard called for the house-elf and was served dark coffee and a plate of macarons, Harry recalled Lady Krum's hesitancy during the introduction of his new personal tutor.

"He comes highly recommended. At least, by Viktor," Lady Krum explained as their footsteps echoed against the granite floors of the Northern Gallery. "It is a bit different for one to have a tutor so close in age. My personal tutor was at least twice my age, so Master Dubois wouldn't have been my obvious choice. But since it is Viktor's decision and now that you're Viktor's husband, it is beyond me. According to his profile, he graduated top of his class and is apparently very talented in dueling the Dark Arts, so that might explain the reason behind Viktor's choice. His family is also of good standing." They both stopped in front of the doors leading to one of the libraries where Lady Krum turned to look at him, her beautiful eyes so much more expressive very different than those of her son and husband's filled with concern. "I know it must be hard for you since Viktor and you must be already working though it is so early into your marriage. Even today, Dimitar and Viktor must attend a meeting with Minister Obalonsk. But there is a war coming and we must be prepared." A delicate hand was gently placed on his shoulder. It felt cooler and more controlled than the hugs that he had received from Mrs. Weasley, but Harry was grateful for concern and acceptance, and he rewarded her with a small smile, which was returned in her eyes. "Good luck, my dear."

"Macaron?" The round sweet was offered towards him.

Harry shook his head and turned his attention back to the book in front of him, only to have it plucked from his fingers into the agile hands of his tutor. "Hey-" Sebastien ignored his indignant exclamation in favor of giving the book a cursory glance before throwing it aside.

Blue eyes bore into his and it reminded Harry yet again of how deceptive the French wizard's carefree character actually was.

"Well?" An elegantly sculpted eyebrow arched in question.

"Can we just get on with the etiquette lessons? I thought we were going to discuss bloodlines today as well as how to address different titles, a more detailed version than the first session about why it's Lord Krum instead of Mr. Potter?"

"Your mind is elsewhere and something is bothering you, so we might as well get on with it first."

"My mind is not elsewhere," stated Harry defensively.

"Yes, it is," came the smooth, aristocratic drawl.

"You don't even know me for more than 5 days! And that's only for a couple of hours each day!" Harry's words were becoming agitated and he instantly berated himself, knowing he had lost the battle already because as everyone around him seemed to be repeating over and over, the only way to win a battle in this game of dangerous words and hidden agendas was to keep one's cool – something that he was failing miserably at despite consecutive sessions with one of the most emotionally controlled persons he had ever encountered.

Sebastien's satisfied smirk confirmed his defeat as the French wizard instantly fired back, "You didn't know Viktor for more than a couple of months and you married him."

Harry huffed in indignation before dropping his head into his hands, wanting to wrench his hair out of his head. That was usually the effect that Sebastien had on him.

Vaguely he registered the shift in weight through the table. Sebastien was leaning forward with his signature concentrated 'this is business' look.

"You know that I took the vow as your personal tutor already," his voice was quiet, "I can never betray any of your confidences or ever harm you."

Harry wanted to childishly point out that he had not even been present during the ceremony that Sebastien had undertaken to become his personal tutor. Viktor had simply apparated while he was asleep, and had returned when Harry woke up with a relieved look on his face before informing him of his evening classes. Harry had never gotten around to asking about the role of personal tutors, as it seemed to be an unspoken knowledge shared by all the aristocratic families, although he suspected that the Krums being one of the most ancient families in continental Europe must have some additional requirement involved, some sort of powerful magic that could inspire such loyalty and dedication. Perhaps some sort of Unbreakable Vow, but what would have to be the price for someone to take such a post?

Even if he did not like how Sebastien could very often and with uncanny accuracy predict his actions, he had to begrudgingly accept that whatever vow had taken place had certainly given him a personal tutor who could keep him out of trouble. He was also incredibly skilled at getting Harry to confide in him.

Harry slid his chair closer to the table before recollecting the events of that morning, "A letter arrived today…"

Now Harry was watching Sebastien weave that very same magic of rhetoric with the Headmistress of Beauxbatons.

"Oui, je sais tout. Alors, s'il vous plait, Madame, laissons nous aller à la lumière noire. Yes, I know everything. So please, Madame, let us go to the dark light."

With that statement, Harry realized belatedly that Sebastien must be losing his touch because he had just revealed the purpose of their mission, something that they had both steadfastly agreed to be of utmost secrecy.

"La lumière noire!" The Headmistress's voice rose in a sweeping crescendo. "C'est interdit. Tous les étudiants ont fait le promet, vous aussi! It is forbidden. All the students have made the promise, you as well!"

Fleur's blue eyes had widened in shock and Harry's hand found his wand, a comfort just in case the situation got out of hand. Sebastien seemed to be truly losing his touch.

However, the French wizard appeared unconcerned with the impending explosion, and his voice remained calm and steady.

"Nous y allons. Avec votre permission ou sans votre permission. We are going. With your permission or without your permission."


"Madame, s'il vous plait, c'est moi, Sebastien Dubois, l'héritier du Marquis de Dubois et votre étudiant, et je vous dis que c'est une question de vie ou de morte. Madame, please, it is I, Sebastien Dubois, the heir to the Marquis of Dubois and your student, and I am telling you that this is a matter of life or death."

In spite of their short acquaintance, Harry knew that it took a lot of effort for Sebastien to say the sentence that came so close to being a supplication.

That and the stubborn set of his jaw if nothing else must have convinced her because the Headmistress sighed before relenting, "Bon, vous avez ma permission, mais pas ce soir. C'est trop dangereux, attendez jusqu'à l'aube. You have my permission, but not tonight. It is too dangerous, you must wait until dawn. "

The relief that the two wizards felt was palpable. Sebastien bowed his head deeply in gratitude.

"Je vous remercie, Madame. I thank you, Madame."

Madame Maxime only shook her head softly. She seemed to be struggling internally, but she summoned enough protocol and propriety to dismiss them perfunctorily. "If zou will excuse me, Lord Krum. Mademoiselle Delacour will escort zou to ze guestrooms. Prends-soin de vous-meme, Sebastien. Take care of yourself, Sebastien."

Sebastien kissed her outstretched hand and they began to file out of the office.

Before passing through the door, Harry glanced back to see the Headmistress of Beauxbatons lean back into the cushion and close her eyes, her lips forming silent words that sounded like a prayer.

He shivered.