Foreign Exchange Chapter 8
Henry marveled at the stillness in the air. He could see the tiny dust particles that hung suspended in the air, the sunlight reflecting off them made the air shimmer with an almost magical light. He watched the students, still as statues. Some were still crouched over their books, intently reading their designated chapters. Others, like Spike Lee, were in mid-hand raise as they too were about to signal their completion. He turned his attention to Professor Njeri, whose hazel eyes watched him with a mixture of curiosity and something else he couldn’t quite pin—was it pride? No, that couldn’t be it; she’d only just met him and he hadn’t done anything spectacular within the past few moments to warrant such a feeling. Still though, it was the closest word he could think of as he watched her summon her chair from her desk. It floated down gently, hitting the floor with a soft thud. She took her seat and sat down in front of his desk, still smiling.
Henry still looked around the room, his mouth agape in wonder, “Is—is this time magic?”
She gave a chuckle and waved her hand at the question, “Oh no! Just a simple bilocation spell. Right now I’m in the minds of several students, each having their own conversation. In this space you are safe. You are also a mystery, Henry Fogg!” She exclaimed after a brief silence. “You come here, a student born and raised in London and yet you know Swahili? You claim to not know wandless magic and yet here you’ve done it multiple times! You must come from a very powerful family, I’ve never heard of the Foggs, who are they?”
Henry’s eyes met the ground, glistening with the ghosts of his past. He responded meekly, “I wish I could tell you. They put me up for adoption when I was two. I hardly remember their faces. When I got older, I was told our home had burned down and that my…”parents” couldn’t support me so they placed me in the orphanage.” He quickly wiped his eyes, feeling foolish for having cried.
Professor Njeri nodded quietly and conjured a kerchief from her robes, handing it to Henry, who dabbed his eyes gratefully. He was reminded vaguely of his interaction with Dumbledore before he’d left Hogwarts.
After Henry collected himself she continued on, “Well, Henry, I asked who you were and where you came from because magic like yours doesn’t just happen overnight. You’re a very talented wizard from what I’ve reviewed of your transcripts, and after seeing your Patronus this morning, I have no doubt that you must come from an immensely powerful family. The scarab beetle is a sacred creature here.”
Henry nodded and pulled out his dream stone. “Another student told me that if I have one of these, I was supposed to be a student here originally. Is that true? It appeared in my hand after my entrance exam.” He held it out for Professor Njeri, who took it from his stretched out palm.
“Hmm…” she stated, turning the stone over in her palm, tracing her fingers over the faded blue beetle engraved on the stone. “Yes, yes…Of course.” She began to mutter to herself in an indistinguishable tongue and as she did Henry saw that her eyes began to glow an ethereally lavender color before she closed them. Stone in palm, she turned it over in her hand seven times, switched to her opposite hand and repeated the same process. When she reopened her eyes, they were back to their original hazel and she now wore a scowl on her face. She handed Henry back his stone. “Well that’s odd.”
“Sorry, what’s odd?” Henry inquired while pocketing it.
“It’s odd that this stone has no memory. The spell I did reveals the history of the stones creation up to the point it was given to the student. On this stone I see…Nothing. Whoever gave this back to you made sure to cover their tracks. However hope isn‘t all lost!” She exclaimed, noting Henry’s disappointed grimace. “Uagadou prioritizes legacy students and if you have this stone, that means at least one of your parents studied here. The hard part is figuring out your last name to search—‘Fogg’ doesn’t strike me as a very African surname. Find your name, and you’ll find the truth.”
A bell rang out in the distance, echoing through the empty halls. “Sounds like class is up, I think it’s time for you to wake up now.” She stood, brushing the wrinkles out of her robe. She gave him a final smile before clicking her fingers together in a sharp *snap*
“Wait did you say the stone has mem—” Henry began to speak but Professor Njeri was suddenly gone and the room had become pitch black. Was this part of the spell? Was this another lesson? “Professor?” He called out to the empty room, but no one responded, not even his echo. “Hello? Helloooo?” Henry continued to call out but there was still no answer.
“—don’t know if I can handle this for much longer…” A Irish lilt spoke from the darkness, causing Henry to turn to its source. There was nobody there and yet her voice still echoed through the empty space. “He’s barely a year and a half and he’s already begun levitatin’ things! I found the cat terrified on the roof this mornin’! The next door lad, Douglas, had to grab his ladder and grab the poor thing, damn near chopped his arm off in the process.”
There was a pause and then a man’s voice responded. Henry couldn’t place the accent but his voice was low, slow, and calculated. He was clearly choosing his words carefully. “I understand your frustration. Before my brother went to school he had a lot of mishaps like these, it gets easier. It gets better. Plus, if we were to have had a little one of our own, they may have had magic as well, it’s genetic you know.”
Henry heard a defeated sigh and the woman responded, “I know, I know, and I know it’s not his fault. I just don’t know how much longer I can handle this stress, Love. Levitatin’ is one thing but what if he brings down the house one day just because he can’t sleep? Has no one from your side of the family sent any of those owls they’re so fond of?”
“No, but I’m sure they will. We’re doing them a favor after all and—” The man was suddenly cut off.
Henry heard a baby cry and as quickly as the darkness had come, it vanished. Henry found himself in the classroom once more. Students were filing out of the door, heading to their next class, and as he looked around, Henry noted that Professor Njeri was nowhere to be found. As he got up to leave, Shadi turned his piercing blue eyes to him, tossing his bag over his shoulder as he too got ready to leave. Henry saw his mouth move but didn’t register his words, his mind still miles away as he too stood up and tossed his bag over his shoulder. He began to walk to the door, but then felt a hand on his shoulder, snapping him out of his reverie.
“I—huh?” Henry looked around and his eyes met Shadi’s, who wore a rather perplexed look on his face.
“You didn’t hear me?”
“Not that it’s any of your business—” began Henry heatedly as he turned sharply on his heel to face Shadi. His patience had finally reached its limit, “—but I have a lot on my mind at the present time and none of it pertains to a pompous, impetulant man-child upset at the fact that a librarian doesn’t want him and a wand didn’t choose him. Now if you don’t mind, I—”
“I said I’m sorry,” Shadi said, cutting off Henry’s rant.
“I—You what?” Henry asked, the wind deflating from his sails almost immediately.
“Can we…” Shadi gestured to the door, “I have to get to my next lesson and Professor Abdahla doesn’t appreciate tardiness. ‘I’m blind and I’m never late,’ yeah, because he never leaves that tower of his.” Shadi continued on as he made his way through the door, Henry in tow. “But yes, I wished to apologize for my actions earlier. You’re a guest here and as a representative of the school, I should have been more understanding.” He finished as they cleared the second flight of stairs.
“I—erm, well, thanks. I appreciate that,” replied Henry, rather nonplussed.
Shadi nodded, “No problem, it shouldn’t have happened to begin with. Hopefully we can move forward from here.” He held out his hand which Henry grasped as they shook. “Also…” Shadi looked guiltily at Henry before averting his gaze.
“Also, what?” Henry responded, his eyelids narrowing once more.
“Also, I was kinda in your head in class.” Shadi finished.
“YOU WERE WHAT?!?” Shouted Henry angrily once more, his blood beginning to boil once more. This guy really didn’t understand boundaries did he?
“I didn’t mean to! I just can’t control it—your thoughts are too loud and open. When you were reading the chapter it was like the Professor was giving us a lecture. Then after you finished and signaled that you were done, Professor Njeri did that bilocation spell which trapped me in there. Trust me, I didn’t want to hear anything—”
“But you heard everything. Great.” Henry finished, still buzzing with anger. “So was that a pity apology? Feel bad for the orphaned kid or something?” Henry had gotten this all his life. Every time someone found out he was orphaned, they treated him with kid gloves. He knew the feeling and this was no different. He picked up his pace as he continued up the stairs, his ears burning, face hot.
“By the Grace of Isis, are all Brits this short tempered?” Shadi asked, looking bemused as he hurried to catch up with Henry, who was now skipping every second step in a not-so-obvious attempt to leave Shadi behind. “Do you even know where your next class is!” He called out as he slowed down, apparently having reached his class.
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll be fine.” Henry shouted over his shoulder as he continued to half run up the stairs, leaving Shadi looking confused on the third floor. His feet continued to move as if they had a mind of his own. He didn’t know where he was going, all he knew was he wanted to get as far away from Shadi and his pity as necessary.
“The nerve of that guy!” He spoke aloud to himself. First he insults him, then he infiltrates his mind and then he uses that to try to manipulate the situation? Henry saw through that ploy.
“—don’t know if i can handle this for much longer.”
The woman’s voice echoed through his head once more and Henry shook it furiously. He didn’t know who he had heard in his head before, but he had a sickening feeling that they had been talking about him. Those voices he heard, they had chosen to take him in, clearly knowing he had magic. It wasn’t his fault they couldn’t hack it!
“I understand your frustration.”
He was just a burden on everyone wasn’t he? Henry’s legs continued to carry him onward, his mind in its own world as he continued to spiral downward. He leaned against the cold stone wall and slid down until he felt the equally cold concrete. Despite his best efforts, despite telling himself that things would be different this time around, everything was still the same.
“I just don’t know how much longer I can handle this stress, Love.”
He didn’t either, and as he sat there alone, he felt tears streak his face. He had always felt both a part of and separate from Hogwarts in the ‘I’m an outsider but not’ kind of way that he grew to realize was just his introverted nature. But here there wasn’t a name for this kind of feeling. He buried his head in his knees and sobbed for what felt like forever. Everything he’d felt in the last week since leaving Hogwarts finally rushed out and he was powerless to stop it. If he were honest with himself, he didn’t want to.
After a while the tears stopped and Henry admitted to himself that he felt better before standing up and brushing off his robes. What time was it? He checked his watch: eleven forty-five. Half an hour late to class. He sighed and ran his hand through his thick hair, looking up and down the hallway he’d turned down.
“How’d I even get here,” he mused to himself as he picked his bag up and made his way back to the main hall. He stopped at the intersection of the hallway and pulled out his dream stone, “Nioneshe njia,” he muttered to the stone. The scarab once more came to life and awaited his instructions.
Henry paused. He was already late for class, what was another half hour?
“Find your name, and you’ll find the truth,” Professor Njeri’s voice echoed through his head. He looked down at his stone as the scarab outline pulsated a dim blue color. He brought the stone back to his lips.
“Show me the way to my past.”
There was a great flash of white light. A loud whooshing noise, and Henry was pulled into darkness once more.