Nestled in the mountains, surrounded by a massive forest, sat the Bulgarian school of magic. It was much different from Hogwarts. With its open courtyard, it resembled Salem the most. Obolensky told me it had once been a monastery that had been deserted then transformed into a magical school. Unlike Salem, it wasn’t comprised of several buildings, just two. A small building that housed the Headmaster’s office and another building, four stories tall, surrounding it and the courtyard. Honestly I couldn’t see why anyone would choose Durmstrang over this. Yes, the grounds were smaller but it was a much brighter looking place with its painted ceilings and open design.
Since the Bulgarian school year didn’t start for another two weeks, there were hardly any people here. Only the Headmaster, caretaker, and some house elves. I was surprised to find out that the caretaker was actually the Headmaster’s wife. She was very…motherly, reminding me of Mrs. Weasley. Though the couple was much older than the Weasley parents. They were also very welcoming, offering me a tour of the school immediately and insisting I could ask the elves for anything I needed.
The first afternoon there I spent in the Headmaster’s office with his wife and Obolensky, going over everything I’d written down. Some of the ideas weren’t practical and others would take a while to transition into but some ideas, like the prefect/Head Boy and Girl system I’d taken from Hogwarts, were met with enthusiasm. They also liked my suggestion for more career focused classes for the students in their last two years of school. Sure core classes were great and covered a wide range, but if you planned on going into, say Healing, it would be more useful to have a class solely based on that once a week. I thought overall it had gone alright, not a thousand Galleons to Lucius alright, but well enough. Now I had to wait here a couple days until an approved Portkey (unlike the one I took to Bulgaria) would take me and the Minister back to England on September first.
I spent the next two days exploring the school and doing a lot of thinking. The main thing on my mind was Dimitri. I’d written him back that night and planned on mailing the letter from here as soon as possible. When I woke up the next morning the letter was gone. Even though my door was locked from the inside and there was no way someone Apparated into the room without waking me, I still felt worried. Against my better judgment I’d asked Kreacher about it. He claimed he hadn’t seen anyone up but he could always be lying, it wasn’t as if he was bound to be truthful to me. I kept reminding myself that no one else in Grimmauld Place knew Russian, so they wouldn’t have been able to read it anyways. That left Tsukino. She’d done this before, but I still didn’t know how. How exactly would you get into a house being protected by a secret keeper? Let’s just add that to the list of things to ask Kuniye. I also really needed someone to talk to about the end of last year. Maybe I should have talked to Snape, I wasn’t really sure why I hadn’t. He certainly tried several times to bring it up. That wasn’t all he tried to talk about, he knew I’d been thinking of Draco and Narcissa more and attempted to bring them up as well. I would see them again on the first, along with Lucius. Lucius and Mr. Nott (who apparently ordered his son to watch me) were both serving the Dark Lord. I didn’t know how long it would be until my parents were freed and went back to serving him too. And then on top of that, Snape had to act like a loyal servant or risk being killed. Dimitri was going after Snape if I didn’t write him back quickly. The letter I’d written was gone, that should mean he wouldn’t though, right?
Yeah, it was a circular thought process that brought me right back around to the first part. Two whole days of worrying like this. Fantastic.
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“You are ready to depart?” the Headmaster asked.
“Yes. Thank you for allowing me to stay.” I took one last look out the window before adding, “You have a beautiful school.”
“Come back any time,” his wife said, forcing me to take a wrapped package with more food. Bloody hell, she really was like Mrs. Weasley. “Take care.”
“I will. Thank you.”
“I will write and tell you how the students are enjoying their new year.”
“Alright,” I responded with a laugh, shaking the Headmaster’s hand. I stepped back and tightened my grip on my trunk. Seconds later there was a jerk behind my navel and I was off. First stop – Bulgarian Ministry of Magic. I touched down in a wide room with a bored looking wizard off to the side, carrying a clipboard. Beside him I expected to see Minister Obolensky, instead it was Mr. Levski, the Bulgarian Quidditch Director.
“Miss Lestrange,” he greeted, coming forward. “There has been a slight change in our plans, but no cause for concern, you will be in London for eleven.”
“Is Minister Obolensky alright?” I asked.
“He has an emergency meeting with the Romanian Minister. A vampire couple has been causing some issues in the north,” he explained. “The meeting is to discuss our Ministries working together to halt this before someone is killed.”
Somehow a vampire couple didn’t seem like ‘no cause for concern’ but I kept quiet and nodded as Levski introduced the two wizards who would be accompanying us to London. They were the Bulgarian equivalent of hit wizards. Levski said we’d be taking a Portkey to the English Ministry then me and one of the hit wizards would go to King’s Cross because he had a meeting with the new English Magical Games and Sports Department head.
“Hard to imagine Bagman leaving,” Levski remarked. “He did appear to love his position.” I wasn’t going to say anything, yet the memory of Bagman ripping off Fred and George changed my mind. It wasn’t like Bagman’s story was a secret, even if the Daily Prophet hadn’t reported it, so why not be honest about it?
“I assume he’s on the run.” Levski looked at me, surprised. “Huge debt with the goblins, not to mention all the people he ripped off at the World Cup.”
“Perhaps I should be thankful my wife ordered no gambling that week,” he said frowning.
“One minute sir,” the wizard with the clipboard announced. One of the hit wizards pulled out a piece of rope. His partner grabbed one end before Levski and I each took a hold as well.
Again there was a jerk behind my navel and I was transported to another room with several people. I didn’t recognize a single one of them. Two approached and spoke English as one of the Bulgarians translated for Levski. After checking our wands and giving us each a silver badge to pin to our clothes, Levski was introduced to the wizard who took over Bagman’s job. The guy didn’t look particularly cheerful and in an undertone as he was bidding farewell to me, Levski jokingly added, “Looks like a joyful man, yes?”
A Ministry wizard led me and the second Bulgarian to the lifts which we rode down to the Atrium. It wasn’t packed considering it was well past ten and the morning rush was long over. I did notice the Bulgarian bloke looking around a lot, like he was scanning the entire area. We walked to the far end of the Atrium where we were directed into what I remembered was called a phone booth. First the Bulgarian wizard and I went up to a side road where there was a black car waiting. When the driver’s side door opened, the Bulgarian moved forward and in front of me ever so slightly. Then I realized what he was doing. He was acting like a body guard. I rolled my eyes, I didn’t need a bloody guard, I was fifteen, not five.
There was a noise behind us and I turned to see the English wizard bringing my trunk up the phone booth lift. After storing my trunk in the back, the three of us, along with the driver loaded into the car and took off. I’d never been in a car before and I was sorely tempted to press all the buttons by my seat just to see what they did. Except it would probably look immature so I kept my hands at my side until we reached King’s Cross. Again the Bulgarian went on guard duty, walking directly beside me as I pushed a trolley through the station.
Once we were on Platform 9 ¾, I started glancing around, looking for the Malfoys. After a few minutes I spotted Lucius who was scornfully watching the people around him. He saw me after I took a few reluctant steps his way and his eyes immediately narrowed. Suppressing a groan, I kept heading towards him, spotting Narcissa and Draco. When Narcissa saw me she turned and told Draco something who nodded and turned to leave. This caught Lucius’ attention and he stopped Draco to tell him something. The only words I could make out were ‘remember’ and ‘right.’ I suppose it could have been ‘write.’ Lucius telling Draco to write about what was happening seemed more likely. I couldn’t hear or see Draco’s response but he must have said the right thing because Lucius let him board the train.
“Aunt Narcissa, Uncle Lucius,” I greeted neutrally when I was near them. Lucius glanced at the Bulgarian wizard, looking miffed. Narcissa came forward though and brushed a strand of hair behind my ear. It was one of her many warning signals that Draco and I had deciphered long ago. I don’t think she even realized it despite the fact that we did. Next she handed me the two wrapped packages she was holding.
“Your new books,” she explained. “Welcome home. How was your summer?”
“Long,” I answered truthfully. “Former monasteries have much less to explore than Hogwarts.”
“I hope you were polite.”
“Very,” the Bulgarian wizard answered, speaking up in nearly perfect English. “Minister Obolensky was very delighted, along with our Headmaster. You are Mr. Malfoy?” he asked Lucius, who nodded. They shook hands and the Bulgarian continued. “Minister Obolensky regrets that he could not escort Miss Lestrange back. An urgent meeting with another Minister came up and could not be postponed.”
“Understandable, of course,” Lucius replied. I could tell he wasn’t happy though. He’d been expecting the Minister, most likely for further ‘proof’ that Obolensky could be an ally for the Dark Lord.
“He wished he could thank you personally, however he sends you this.” The wizard pulled a crystal bottle out from his muggle suit and handed it to Lucius. “A bottle of our finest Bulgarian made Rakija, along with an invoice for Miss Lestrange’s payment.” He pulled a thin envelope from his suit and gave it to Lucius too. No way I was ever seeing a Knut of that. “A pleasure to have met you, Miss Lestrange.”
A whistle sounded and the noises of the Hogwarts Express starting up began. “Tell Minister Obolensky I said thank you,” I told him before I reached down to pull my trunk up and move closer to the train.
“Have a good year,” Narcissa said.
I wish I could have told her something to lessen the fearful look in her eyes. With Lucius here the best I could do was nod and tell her, “You too.” I lifted my trunk onto the train and stepped onboard.
“We’ll be speaking again soon,” Lucius said, barely masking the threatening undertone.
“I can hardly wait,” I muttered sarcastically. Thankfully I was turned away from him and the whistle sounded again so Lucius didn’t hear me. “Alright,” I replied nodding and looking back at him.
As the train started moving, I pulled my trunk down the corridor looking for a compartment. One had three small, nervous looking kids I didn’t recognize, meaning they were probably first years. When I opened the door they looked up at me with wide eyes.
“Er…room for one more?” I asked, attempting to appear non-frightening. I don’t think I had much success because only one nodded and even that took a while. I stored my trunk and sat down. I think I would have preferred Luna Lovegood at this point.
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The ride to Hogwarts was uneventful. Fred and George passed, Fred stopping momentarily. I gave him a discreet shake of my head then George pulled him away. I was glad he had because not two minutes later Theodore Nott walked by. He slowed down and I saw him look back the way he’d come from. He probably passed the twins on his way. He kept moving but walked by around three then again an hour before we arrived at Hogsmeade. This was going to get annoying if he kept it up all year.
Hermione and Ron also walked by a couple times too and I noticed something pinned to Hermione’s robes – a prefect’s badge. Good for her, she was a much better candidate than Parvati or Lavender. It almost looked like Ron had a badge too. That was…well actually I’m not sure if it was all that surprising. Harry being prefect would have made everyone claim favorites from Dumbledore’s end. Seamus, Dean, and Neville seemed like decent students, definitely on par with Ron. I’m sure Ron would be an efficient prefect, even if Hermione had to force it out of him.
Seeing who the Gryffindor prefects were made me wonder who else had gotten a badge, especially in Slytherin. Draco, Nott or Blaise Zabini were the obvious boy choices. I knew who I wanted to get it, even if I would likely never voice it aloud.
A/N: Finally, back at Hogwarts. It only took 11 chapters. Oh, and Rakija, it’s a drink that’s supposed to be popular in the Bulgarian region (according to google). I’m sorry if I’ve been completely misinformed of this.
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