Foreign Exchange Chapter 1

Traveling Abroad

Tick, tick, tick

The winged grandfather clock was the only noise in an otherwise quiet room. The room itself was quite impressive, boasting two stories and walls covered with silver and gold trinkets. Various tapestries and portraits of old wizened faces all slept comfortably. A young man no older than 17, Henry Fogg, sat at the desk, his brown eyes lowered, knee shaking, while Headmaster Albus Dumbledore paced around the room, deep in thought, muttering to various portraits who would give a curt nod before leaving their frames. The young man sat nervously, twirling his wand between his fingers, unsure of why he was there.

Tick, tick tick

The clock continued its assault on time. Upon looking at it, the young man noticed the clock was rather unique. Atop it laid the tusks of a hog and what appeared to be an inscription that he couldn’t quite decipher. The clock itself seemed to radiate an odd power. He could almost feel it reaching out to him if he could just make out that damned inscription. The young man squinted and could make out the words “I per spatium—” but the rest faded into a blur.

He turned his gaze away, eyes drifting from a glittering silver sword in a glass case adorned with rubies, to a stone basin with runes inscribed on it that Henry knew to be a pensive, to Dumbledore’s sleeping phoenix on its golden perch. His gaze then turned to what appeared to be leaflets on Dumbledore’s desk. 

It wasn’t until Henry tried to read these, however, that Dumbledore finally cleared his throat. With a nervous start and a shower of silver sparks from his wand, the young man’s attention was diverted back to his Headmaster. 

The old man finally spoke, “You’re probably wondering why I brought you here today, correct?”

“Yes, Professor,” Henry nervously twiddled his thumbs. “Have I done something wrong?” 

He’d made sure to stay out of trouble in his seven years at Hogwarts. His first year was fraught with horror stories of students kicked out just for being in the halls after bed, though most of those were told by Filch. Being a Muggle-born, he couldn’t imagine having to return to a world without magic, so he made sure to never have to. He’d even gotten himself a wand holster in his first year to always ensure his wand was by his side. This had led to some teasing from his peers, who thought it funny to pull his wand from the holster when he wasn’t paying attention. Henry had not found it amusing. 

Dumbledore’s face broke into a smile, his wrinkles deepening and accenting his old age even further. “Of course not dear boy, I merely called you here to congratulate you on your N.E.W.T. scores! You placed highest in your class, that’s quite the accomplishment! I think the last one to achieve such high marks was a young boy some many years ago…” his voice trailed off.

“Who, sir?” Henry asked after a long moment.

Dumbledore’s smile faded momentarily as he lost himself in the memory, and when he finally responded his voice was soft. “When he was a student here, he went by the name of Tom Riddle. These last few years he has been known as someone far more dangerous. I’m sure you realize by now about whom I speak. However, enough about the ghosts of students past. Have you considered what you’ll do post-graduation?”

“Well…” Henry paused, once more twiddling his wand between his fingers, “I figured I’d get a job at the Ministry and continue on from there. I don’t have much waiting for me back in the Muggle world so…” 

Dumbledore nodded knowingly, “I see, and is that something you’re truly interested in doing? I’d be happy to give you a recommendation for a department. What did you and Professor Flitwick discuss during your career advice session?” 

Henry paused. Where did he want to go? His career advice conversation was in his fifth year, now that seemed ages ago. Back then he really wanted to join the Ministry and work in the Muggle Liaison office, maybe work his way up and eventually be in a position to write laws to change how Muggles were viewed and treated, maybe even allowing for Muggle integration in the future. Dealing with Lucius Malfoy and his band of blood purist friends for six years, listening to their anti-Muggle rhetoric, had left a very bad taste in his mouth. All Henry really wanted was to stick it to them. 

But then his orphanage was attacked at the end of his fifth year and the message couldn’t have been more clear to him: stay out of the Ministry. It was no secret that Henry was adopted and spent his holidays in the Muggle world. He had always been vocal about his desire to change the Ministry from the inside out and get Muggle-borns more protections. No one was injured from what The Prophet stated, but there was a mass number of memory modifications. Henry was instructed to stick to the story of a blown gas line. He couldn’t say how, but he knew Lucius was behind it, that smug smile he gave Henry said it all as they passed one another in the halls. Since then, he’d been silently struggling to figure out what he’d do as a career. Henry’s friends were already on their career paths. Miriam Strout was already at St. Mungo’s, and in her most recent letter to Henry, she told him, in excruciatingly gory detail no less, how she’d reattached the leg of a Greek wizard who’d lost it to a manticore. Frank Longbottom was set to become an Auror at the Ministry of Magic, and even his ex-girlfriend had been recruited for the Holyhead Harpies.

He faltered as the weight of his adulthood crashed around him and he realized that in just a week he’d be as alone as he had been while living with his foster parents, and just like in the Muggle world, he’d be penniless too. With a gasp his eyes glossed over with tears and he quickly went to wipe them. Dumbledore produced a handkerchief from thin air and presented it to him. 

“Thank you, Professor Dumbledore,” he muttered, his face hot with embarrassment.

Dumbledore continued on, pretending not to see Henry’s tears. “That is why I brought you here. You’re a supremely talented wizard Henry, you’re meant for more than a desk job in the Ministry. Would you be interested in continuing your education beyond Hogwarts?” 

Henry stared incredulously, his brows furrowed. “Beyond Hogwarts? Like being a teacher?” he asked, confused. To his knowledge Hogwarts and the surrounding magical schools only housed kids until the age of 17. After that it was basically every wizard for themselves.

Dumbledore waved his hand, “No, no, not like a teacher,” he chuckled. “There’s a school overseas called Uagadou School of Magic. They only take the best of the best一” he waved his hand and a brochure appeared. 

The name “Uagadou School of Magic” was emblazoned in gold and plum letters that changed from English to a text that Henry could only assume was an African language. 

“It’s here that you’ll discover magic that we can’t teach you. Think of it as a Hogwarts exchange program for adults. It’s a three year program focusing on the application of magic and the theory behind them, giving you a deeper understanding of the magical world around you. Uagadou specializes in wandless magic you see, and from what I’ve been told, their Transfiguration classes are something to behold. I hear they have 14 year old Animagi! Simply astounding.”

Henry’s eyes grew in disbelief and sparkled with excitement. Another school of magic? He’d read about the neighboring schools of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang but his knowledge of the others was limited. 

He inquired nervously, “Does it cost much? I don’t have a lot of money.” 

“Like Hogwarts, the tuition is free. However if your grades drop below acceptable levels or you get yourself into trouble, they will not hesitate to kick you out. Their punishments are far more severe than anything at Hogwarts. I also must stress to you that their standards are much higher than Hogwarts, and I say this with all the love I have in my heart for this great school I lead.” He paused and waited for silence as the surrounding portraits murmured their discontent at Dumbledore’s statement, when they finally settled down he continued on, “As a reference, our ‘Outstanding’ is their ‘Exceeds Expectations’, but with that being said, are you interes—” 

“YES,” Henry interjected before he could finish his sentence, grinning giddily. 

Dumbledore chuckled to himself, “I remember when I was that young and eager. Very well.” 

He walked to the grandfather clock, and with a quick series of intricate hand movements and a mutter of words Henry assumed was another language, the clock began to glow, a small door opening to reveal what appeared to be a dark cave within it. 

“This portal will stay open until the day after your graduation. Once you’ve said your goodbyes to your friends, feel free to return here and I’ll guide you through. Oh and another thing…”

“Yes, Professor?”

“You must make sure to tell no one of the school’s location. It’s been a well kept secret for thousands of years and we’d like to keep it that way.” 

“We?” Henry asked, confused. 

“Yes. We.” Dumbledore answered as he sat back at his desk, “Once again, congratulations! I’ll see you here next week, yes?” 

Henry eagerly stood up, holstering his wand in it’s custom sheath, and extended his hand, wringing Dumbledore’s excitedly. “Yes sir, thank you so much for this opportunity.” 

“No need to thank me, you’re the one who did the work. This is the reward for that. Don’t let us down, you’re representing all of Hogwarts now.” 

“I won’t sir.” He left the room happier than he’d ever been in a long time.

Dumbledore sat back in his winged chair and smiled at Henry’s back as he walked down the revolving steps back to the main castle, his eyes never losing it’s twinkle as he muttered, “Best of luck to you Mr. Henry Fogg.”