Chapter 4 : Willkommen zu Durmstrang
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Over the snow topped peaks and the tree filled valleys of the Balkan Mountains, six Alizarin red phoenixes clasped within their golden claws, brown braided cords affixed to an ochre brown carved wooden carriage. The bas-relief Hogwarts’ symbol adorned each side of the carriage. Beside them, six Pegasus’s pulled a French rococo white carriage, both flocks of creatures enaged in a race at their own behest.
In the Hogwarts’ carriage, a dozen students, which included Hermione Granger, Ginny and Ron Weasley, Harry Potter, Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom, excitedly chatted about the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Per the request of Schulleiter Karkaroff, Professor Snape escorted them. Unbeknownst to Hogwarts’ students, Professor Snape enjoyed a well earned reputation as the foremost authority on potions in Europe, not to mention a highly effective teacher. Karkaroff requested that he replace their retired potions professor for that year, and as a special treat teach some dark arts classes as well.
Sitting next to Ron and behind her friends Ginny and Harry, who made goo-goo eyes at each other, Hermione looked forward to her seventh year. The tall, stocky red headed boy with kind eyes nudged her. “Hermione, let’s go out again. It can’t be over.”
Shaking her head, Hermione rolled her eyes, remembering her first real encounter with Ron. As children, he made fun of her to his friends for correcting him in class. “It’s win-GAR-dee-um lev-ee-OH-sa NOT lev-ee-oh-SA.”
Taking Draco’s advice, she sharpened her tongue. “At least my IQ is higher than that of my wand,” she retorted as she walked by.
A year ago, Harry and Ginny pressured her to date Ron since he was her best friend Ginny’s brother and Harry’s best friend. Since Harry and Ginny became a couple the prior year, double dating seemed natural and convenient so she did. After a few months of dating, she found they simply had no spark.
Face it Hermione, you’re a seventeen year old witch who has never been in love and knows nothing about it but what you’ve read. Realistically, that spark which makes your heart race, that kiss which makes your lips tingle and your toes curl, and that look in his eyes which lets you know you’re his so that nothing else matters, are all something only silly witches hope for. Maybe you should just settle for what you know: a strong sense of adoration and comfort. No wizard will ever sweep a sensible witch like you off her broomstick.
“I’ll think about it.” Ron smiled warmly with her half agreement.
“Look out there!” A few Durmstrang Quidditch players flew alongside. Harry could spot a broom a mile away.
All the team wore brown pants, parkas and goggles. One flyer swiftly crossed between carriages performing daring acrobatics ranging from tailspins to flips. “That’s Nayden Krum, Viktor Krum’s younger brother. Sometimes he plays in the nationals as well.” The dark-haired sturdily built wizard saluted them as he passed.
Two more players flanked in front of both carriages and cast spells which said “Willkommen” in transparent sparkling red letters.
As the carriages broke through the letters, from behind them another player swiftly flew between the carriages passing them. “That’s brilliant!” The tall silver haired wizard wore black goggles and coat but rode his broom standing, as if on a surf board. “Look! He has stirrups on the broom so he can stand.” The bristles of the broom formed an indented oval. “Does his broom look like a giant spoon or what?” Everyone nodded. In front of them, he swooped upwards in a curve, almost to an invisible pinnacle, pivoted one hundred and eighty degrees, and swooshed between them once more. As he did, he threw a yellow rose with a red tip into each carriage before doing several three hundred and sixty degree spins and an Immelman turn.
Ginny picked up the rose. “There’s a tag on it: Welcome friends.”
The carriage slowly circled the grounds of Durmstrang, allowing the students a better view. Within a vast valley of every shade of green, in the vicinity of rolling mountains, close to an immense azure lake, the students beheld the grounds of Durmstrang Institute. The castle resembled more of an Orthodox cathedral with its golden round domes and curved archways of tan and rust colored bricks. Overall, the structure had four stories, and extended outwards in gradual descending increments. The extensive fortress walls enclosed a courtyard and castle grounds.
Both carriages landed with gentle thuds in front of the castle. A rather austere looking witch with brown hair in a tightly braided bun greeted them. “Welcome to Durmstrang Institute. I am Professor Schmitz. Please follow me.”
The students eagerly followed Professor Schmitz through rose scented corridors to a grand dining hall which enclosed four rows of long dining tables. Pennons hung above the tables, representing different houses: one row each of blue, green, red and yellow. Behind the Hogwarts’ students, a dozen students of Beauxbatons Academy with the Columbia blue uniforms and lacey white cravats strutted in.
Around four hundred witches and wizards of various ages, wearing Russet brown militaristic uniforms with small patches over their heart denoting the colors of each of the pennons, stood to greet them. A tall man with salt and pepper stringy hair to his shoulders and mustache to match, wearing a silken brown tunic, smiled warmly the moment his guests entered. Several stern looking teachers flanked him at his table and followed suit. The moment he took his place behind a wooden podium, all the students became silent. “Welcome to Durmstrang Institute. I am Schulleiter Karkaroff. This year we have the great honor of hosting the Triwizard Tournament. Welcome Professor Snape and our friends from Hogwarts.” Heartily, he shook Professor Snape’s hand. “Welcome Directrice Zoe Morel and our friends of Beauxbatons.” Gallantly, he bowed and kissed the hand of an eye-catching Mulatto curvaceous witch of thirty with violet eyes.
“Everyone must be famished. Please join us.” They sat at the front of the hall in the empty tables provided. Before them appeared platters of food including pork chops and beef covered in a wine sauce with carrots and mushrooms, cheese stuffed peppers, salad and Moussaka. Before they feasted, Karkaroff held up his glass in a toast that echoed throughout the student body as they held up glasses of juice. “Naz drave! Good health to you!”
As the students ate and chatted, the Quidditch team came in and seated themselves, all but one. The tall, striking, alabaster skinned, grayish blue-eyed, white silvery blond wizard with a scar on his left cheek and his hair combed back to the nape of his neck, strutted in, surveying the hall as if he owned it. From his left ear, hung a silver dragon earring which occasionally breathed tiny spurts of fake flames. The uniform he wore bore a patch with all four colors of the pennons. Professor Snape and several witches noticed his entrance as well.
Hermione leaned over so only Ginny could hear her. “That’s Draco Malfoy, I met him on the train my first year at Hogwarts. Rumor had it he had been killed. Out of respect for his memory, I never told anyone.”
“I guess you can’t believe rumors. What was he like?”
“Clever, mischievous and cordial to me because I didn’t tell him I was Muggle born at first,” she replied. “Near the end of the train ride, he sensed something wrong with his parents. Unfortunately, that was the day Draco’s mother died. Everyone assumed he and his father died when the manor collapsed.” As Hermione stared at him, Draco turned towards her slightly. With a sly smile, he winked. A slight sensation ran down her spine while she felt her cheeks flush.
Ginny elbowed her. “Did you see that? He winked at you!”
Once they finished dinner, Karkaroff introduced him. “Everyone, this is Draco Malfoy. Because he is Durmstrang’s top student, he has earned the title of Spitze. He will act as your liaison for your stay.”
Politely, Draco bowed. “If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to your rooms. Tomorrow morning after breakfast, I’ll give you a tour of the grounds.” As he lead them through the halls lined with moving portraits like the ones found in Hogwarts, they noticed wall vases spaced throughout containing fresh roses of every color. “Bulgaria produces huge crops of roses and has festivals dedicated to them. The vases on the wall contain ever grow fertilizer to keep them in bloom year round.” Frequently, he glanced towards the Beauxbatons’ contingent and towards Hermione.
Their rooms each contained two wrought iron beds with black carpet and fringed quilts with brightly colored flowers and other designs along with a double dresser, wardrobe, desk and nightstand. Hermione and Ginny decided to bunk together with Harry and Ron down the hall.
On their nightstands, they found an activities sheet for the Bulgarian customs celebrated at Durmstrang.
Festivities Celebrated at Durmstrang
December 6th - The Saint Nikolas Dance: Formal dance with a holiday feast prior. All Yule traditions are observed.
February 14th – Vine Dresses’ Day and Valentine’s Day: The vines are pruned and sprinkled with wine. Valentine’s Day Dance celebrated with an abundant spread, involving also many wishes for a plentiful harvest.
March 1st – Koukerovden: Wizards wear a koukeri's masks and garments, covered with beads, ribbons, and woolen tassels. Bells tied around their waists are intended to drive away evil forces and illness.
Carefully Hermione unpacked her clothing. First, she organized the desk with all her quills, parchment, notepads labeled for each class and extra study materials for each class she took, or even thought of taking along with possible extra credit and class project materials. Next, she hung all her uniforms which Hogwarts students were still required to wear neatly in the wardrobe. After Ginny left to visit Harry, Hermione filled the dresser with all her dainties. Carefully, she folded some bright red lace ones along with a teddy, into a flannel nightgown and put it underneath the rest. Why did you ever buy those things? Impulse spending never leads to anything good.
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