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French Leave - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
French Leave
Bored, so I decided to develop something from one of the "Ask my OCs..." answers, about James at Beauxbatons. There's not much there, but I figured he could use a visit from a friend from home. Not J/R exactly, but J-R.

James Potter sat on an ornate little bench in the midst of the terrifyingly well-kept garden that spread out around Beauxbatons and its clean, perfectly round lake. A path around the lake was lined with fine marble gravel, and he could hear students walking on the far side. Their laughter bounced across the water like a tribe of especially obnoxious fairies. He couldn't pick up what they were saying quite yet, but he could guess what it would be: Bah, the English. They can't handle even a little bit of charm. Imagine, being bested by sirens, of all things!

James looked at his feet in disgust. He knew how to handle sirens. He'd read the Odyssey. Plug his ears for the length of the fight, distract the siren, snatch the silver skull from the bone-pile, and get out.

But he wasn't the Hogwarts champion.

No, despite the lifting of the age restriction which had allowed him to put in his name for the Hogwarts contingent, the Goblet of Fire had still chosen all seventh year students as champions, including one Horace Goyle of Hogwarts--Slytherin!--who had managed to freeze up like he'd been Petrified the minute the sirens started singing. (Up in the observation stands, a charmed lyre had been playing to keep the audience from throwing themselves into the fray, but James had been able to hear the song faintly, like unraveling threads of an echo.) Horace hadn't snapped out of it until the siren attacked, and he'd got himself completely bloodied before getting away with the skull. They were dead last, and James didn't see any chance of making up all of the points that had been lost. Horace was currently in the guest tower--which the Hogwarts and Durmstrang contingents shared, on two different levels--trying to figure out how to charm the clue from the skull, but James wasn't inclined to help right now. Maybe later. He suspected it would involve fire, since Dad's had involved water. But at the moment, he couldn't imagine helping Horace with much of anything.

He heard the rustling in the bush behind him only a second before the small, red thing jumped out. He frowned at it. It grinned back.

"What are you doing here?" he asked it.

The fox shook its coat out, then turned into Ruth Scrimgeour. She laughed and sat down on an artfully placed and very clean rock. "I had a ticket for the first task," she said. "Your dad wanted me to check on you as long as I was here. He couldn't get a ticket."

"Harry Potter couldn't get a ticket?"

Ruth laughed. "First, he can't get them to re-instate the age line, then he can't get them to take your name off the Hogwarts list, then he can't get a ticket. He's feeling less than omnipotent at the moment."

"A lot of stoic grimacing and pained looks?"

"Also stalking, pacing, and muttering under his breath." She flicked her wand, and a bundle of papers appeared. "I've never seen him more relieved than when the goblet picked Goyle, though. I'm surprised he let you put your name in for the Hogwarts crew in the first place."

"I, er, forgot to tell him until the magical contract was already in place."

"Ah. You want to watch that memory of yours. Here are some letters from home. I promised to be a good post owl. What else are new Aurors for?" She plucked the papers from the air and handed them to him. While James glanced at them, she looked around the grounds. "I've never been here before. It's a bit fussy, isn't it?"

James looked around the perfectly trimmed topiaries, the exquisitely kept paths, and of course, the gleaming white castle with blue accents. Golden sphinxes spread their wings to form an arch over the door. Huge marble statues of famous French witches and wizards stood in arched recesses along the wall (Celia had dubbed one "Flamel on the Half-Shell" not long after they'd arrived). The floors inside were polished marble, the staircases grand spiral affairs with cunningly carved banisters, the Grande Salle nearly glowing white. James often felt that his plain Hogwarts robes--always sufficient before--might as well be trimmed with the fur of wild animals... paws and heads still attached. "Yeah," he said. "It's fussy."

"Neville wants to know how your classes are going. You'll be back just in time for O.W.L.s. Do they teach you in English?"

"I've been speaking French with Aimee since I was nine," James said. "I wanted to learn so I could read Martin's books. I don't need translators."

"Oh, I must beg your forgiveness then." She rolled her eyes.

He shrugged. "Professor Longbottom writes to me at least once a week to make sure I'm set up properly for O.W.L.s. Sooner or later, he'll believe me." He found a letter from Teddy and weighed it with his hand. Judging that it would have pictures in it, he opened it. "Have you been up to the Roost?"

"At least once a week. Victoire's pregnant."

"Again?" James shook his head. "It's embarrassing."

Ruth laughed. "It's only three."

"In three years."

"Yes, well." She rolled her eyes. "Mira drew you a picture. She claims it's a horse."

James flipped through the photographs of Teddy's home--Mira riding on his back, Orry morphing wildly in front of the fire, Victoire carrying both of them around, one on each hip--and came to a piece of parchment with a lopsided brown rectangle on it. The rectangle had four sticks coming from the bottom, and one come from the corner of the top. The upper stick supported a triangle. One final stick went straight out from the back. He thought it quite good for a two and a half year old, actually. It was better than the drawings he himself had done for Teddy when he was five, which Teddy had, for some arcane Lupinish reason, put on his office wall.

"I can see it," he said, "if I look hard. Tell her I'll put it up in my room."

Ruth smiled fondly. "All right, other messages," she said, and began to tick them off on her fingers. "Teddy said not to worry about your chapter if you're too busy--"

"I'm done with it!"

"--and your cousin Rose wants to hear about the castle, if you can be bothered to write a letter to her." She paused for James to comment, but he didn't. She went on. "Al is enjoying being eldest for a year, and Lily says she needs to find someone else to hex soon, as she's bored, but at least isn't always being subjected to yet another story, though she's sure you're working on one and will tell her all about it in your next letter."

James smiled, and wondered if he should torture Lily by pretending to take her at face value, and refusing to share. This brought a sudden stab of homesickness--he wanted to be yanking Lily's plaits. He wanted Al to be bargaining his way out of a task. He wanted Dad to be here fuming at him in person. He wanted Mum to be telling him that he'd got himself into this and ought to know better. He wanted his friends and his room in Gryffindor tower and the secret fortress in the Forbidden Forest. He thought, briefly, that he might even enjoy a treacle tart at Hagrid's. But Ruth Scrimgeour was there, and Ruth was tough and cool, so he did his best not to reveal any of this. He opted for one of Dad's stoic grimaces, and looked out across the lake. "Anything else?"

"Mira caught a fish. Al's friend Jane gave the highly mysterious message that Al is putting you-will-know-what to good use. I'm guessing a certain Map?"

"Me, too."

"Lily said she rescued some portraits from the attic, and you'd know where she was putting them. Michael Prince--"

"When did you talk to Hogwarts people?"

"I went up with your dad for his yearly visit."


"Anyway, Michael asked me to tell you that they've managed to survive."


There was a pause in the conversation. James didn't really know Ruth very well, even though she'd gone out with Teddy for so long that it had seemed to him, as a child, that she would simply have to marry Teddy, because it would be awfully strange for her not to. She might even take it into her head to marry a complete stranger and not come around anymore. He wasn't sure what to say with all the news having been exchanged already. Finally, he said, "Too bad you got a ticket for such a bad showing."

She made a face. "I think the goblet's rigged. Trying to make sure Hogwarts doesn't win. I'll bet Goyle's not too popular today."

James grinned. "He came back in, staggering about like he'd been having a battle, and asked Celia to go out with him. She told him she was free on Tuesday night."

"Isn't that the--"

"Full moon, yes."

"I always did like Celia. I wonder why the goblet didn't pick her."

"Maybe one of the tasks will be under a full moon. Catching a werewolf or something. That'd be a bit difficult for her."

"I'm sure they wouldn't do that. Well, almost sure." Ruth considered it. "A skull. What do you think the clue will be?"


"I certainly hope not. I don't fancy arresting the whole Sports and Games division."

"Well, Hamlet had a skull--alas, poor Yorrick or whatever its name was. Maybe we'll end up with the ghost of a Danish king."


"Maybe it will tell them what to do, though." James thought about it. "Could be a revenant. That would be scary enough. I'm not even sure what to do about it."

"I'm told blowing up the house it's in is usually effective," Ruth said.

James frowned. "Wait a minute, Celia said there's an old abbey in the mountains that the school owns. It's got real infestations of a lot of things. Do you think they'd have to get something out of it?"

"Why there?"

"A lot of witches who lived there were guillotined in the Revolution. Skulls?" He tapped his forehead wisely.

"Hmm." She smiled. "I like it. Can I play?"

"Not unless I can."

"Is it actually on school grounds?"

"Well... yes."

"Do you know where?"

James realized where she was going with this, and smiled. "Up the mountain, along a dirt path."

"Anything guarding it?"

He shook his head. "Just whatever's living there."


James stood up. "Are you coming with me?"

Ruth gave him a look of exaggerated innocence. "I have no idea that you mean to do anything at all."

"Oh... right." James smiled sheepishly. For a moment, Ruth had seemed like one of his school friends, but she wasn't. She was one of dad's employees. "Well, I'm not, of course."

"Though if you were, I'm sure you'd take someone else along, like Celia."

"Anyone who's not Horace Goyle."

"After today's performance," she said, "I'd say he'd be singularly un-useful at watching your back." She stood and stretched. "I do need to get back. Paperwork before I go in tomorrow, you know, and I know your mum and dad will want a complete report the second I Apparate into London. Any messages you want to send back?"

"Seriously? Tell Dad I'm fine and I know what to do with anything I might, er, accidentally encounter. Unless it's a lethifold. He hasn't got to lethifolds with us yet."

"Oh, that's just a Patronus," Ruth said. "Shoves it right off."

"Well, then, I'm set for anything. And I'm not even competing."

"Anything for Teddy or Victoire or the babies?"

"You know... kiss the babies and so on." He tried to look suitably gruff saying this. "Tell Victoire she didn't miss anything not coming here. And tell Teddy my chapter's on the way."

She agreed to carry these messages, then transformed back into a fox and snuck back to the gate under the cover of the over-trimmed shrubbery.

James went back to the guest tower, hunted up Celia Dean, and took her for a walk up the mountain.


50 comments or Leave a comment
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(Deleted comment)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 20th, 2008 01:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Formal French gardens intimidate me. ;p
lucathia_rykatu From: lucathia_rykatu Date: November 19th, 2008 08:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Love it that it's held somewhere else other than Hogwarts. Wonderful interaction between the two. <3
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 20th, 2008 01:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. I figured that they wouldn't hold it the same place twice in consecutive tournaments.
beceh From: beceh Date: November 19th, 2008 08:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Suitably awesome :-)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 20th, 2008 01:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you.
mrs_norris_mous From: mrs_norris_mous Date: November 19th, 2008 08:31 am (UTC) (Link)


Its good to read your work again.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 20th, 2008 01:44 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thanks

It was good to be slightly productive.
amamama From: amamama Date: November 19th, 2008 08:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh yay! Though I obviously have missed something. Ask you OC? Must go hunting for that post. *nods* This was as awesome as always, I love Ruth the Fox (wouldn't dare calling her Foxy!Ruth), James is a darling even though he won't admit anything. And your description of the Beauxbatons grounds awesome. Not my kind of garden, for sure.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 20th, 2008 01:44 am (UTC) (Link)
It was a week or so ago, and the question in question was toward the end.
arcaneblades From: arcaneblades Date: November 19th, 2008 12:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Awww! How lovely! I have missed your writing, while you worked on NaNo.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 20th, 2008 01:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Well... kind of while I've been cursing at an uncooperative screen. ;p
i_autumnheart From: i_autumnheart Date: November 19th, 2008 02:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
I lover James' early fear of losing Ruth from his life - very age-appropriate :). Also the description of Beauxbatons: you've made an incredibly detailed picture in just a few lines. The Limbourg brothers would love you:)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 20th, 2008 01:51 am (UTC) (Link)
I was looking at this, and a few others I can't find at the moment.

Very inconsiderate of Teddy, really, not marrying Ruthless. I mean, Victoire's family, she's got to stick around, so there's no need for marrying her...
From: spitc1899 Date: November 19th, 2008 02:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nice! I love your James and I love Ruthless.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 20th, 2008 01:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. I'm fond of James.
willowbough From: willowbough Date: November 19th, 2008 02:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Very enjoyable, Fern! And i see Ruthless did finally give in to temptation and go for being an Animagus. Was it after she left Hogwarts, so she could do it legit, unlike Teddy and Donzo? Her observations about Beauxbatons, which I can readily imagine as too manicured and perfect, are a hoot. And now I'm also curious about Celia Dean's future, whether it includes Neil or not.

Sorry NaNoWriMo didn't quite get off the ground this year. But have you considered less frantically paced challenges like "Novel in 90"?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 20th, 2008 01:53 am (UTC) (Link)
She went legit. Amazingly quick study, though, as she mostly had the concepts down.

Celia and Dean stay friends, but Celia eventually decides to go for someone who's out for more fun than Neil is. No one I can think of, but someone on the peppier side.
etain_antrim From: etain_antrim Date: November 19th, 2008 03:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's a pleasure to have another Fern-snippet show up! I loved Ruth's description of a thwarted Harry unable to protect his son his way. Can you imagine the Marauders or Harry thriving in the fussy gardens of Beauxbatons? Doesn't seem possible.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 20th, 2008 01:54 am (UTC) (Link)
I think it would make them crazy very quickly. Remus might be able to stand it for a little while, except for the fact that his rag-bag clothes would make him feel really out of place.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 19th, 2008 03:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Been reading about Madame de Pompadour. It sounds like her kind of garden. Come to think of it, there's a famous picture of her in blue. Maybe she was actually a witch who attended Beauxbatons (fan theories have been based on far thinner evidence).

I'm not quite buying Harry being unable to get a ticket unless someone with a great deal of sense (Hermione? Ginny?) made sure he didn't. I mean, head of the Auror department can't make some kind of security concern claim to at least be on hand as an observer?

My guess is Hermione and Ginny working together. Ginny has the sports connections and Hermione the other ministry connections. Maybe even Ron got in on it (his sympathies might be more with James trying to have an adventure without parental oversight than with Harry on this one).

Much enjoyed. Thanks!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 20th, 2008 01:55 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm guessing he just got some obnoxious little ticket seller who decided that just because he was Harry Potter didn't mean that he got to bend any rules. (And would probably have been more willing to bend them for someone else.) And since Harry's not big on throwing his weight around...
malinbe From: malinbe Date: November 19th, 2008 04:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Loved it! Teenage!James seems really nice.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 20th, 2008 01:56 am (UTC) (Link)
A little cocky sometimes, but yeah, mostly just nice.
carlinpaddy From: carlinpaddy Date: November 19th, 2008 04:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
My favorite part is Celia being free on Tuesday... ripripgoregore
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 20th, 2008 01:57 am (UTC) (Link)
I think Celia's got a good emotional handle on the werewolf thing.
wotcher_wombat From: wotcher_wombat Date: November 19th, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Aw, that was lovely! I love seeing all these characters at different ages. Also, your ideas about the French challenges are particularly clever. Thanks for sharing!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 20th, 2008 01:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. With only three elements to each Triwizard tournament and all sorts of time to think of them, I'm sure they get very creative.
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: November 19th, 2008 06:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Love Beauxbatons and love James and love Ruthless and lovelovelove Celia. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 20th, 2008 01:58 am (UTC) (Link)
I think Celia turned out well for a character who didn't actually end up on the page. :P
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