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Exchange Students

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Harry’s summer had not been wonderful so far. It had been miserably boring right up until the moment where he’d ended up saving his cousin’s life (not that Dudley really cared all that much or would be grateful, of course not, but he’d done it) and now he’d had to deal with this farce of a trial.

He’d been found not guilty, but only because Dumbledore had managed to show up. Fudge - and Percy! - clearly wanted him out of the picture, and that unctuous, awful woman Umbridge -

He realized that Dumbledore had stopped abruptly in the hallway and reached for his wand unconsciously.

There was a man standing in their way, wearing Muggle jeans and a t-shirt, his indigo wings spread wide to block the -

his -

Harry blinked and rubbed his eyes. Around him, he could hear muttering and complaining, but no sounds of alarm.

“Interesting.” Dumbledore pushed his glasses a little more firmly on his nose. “What would one of the Fair Folk be doing here in the heart of the wizarding world?”

The Fair Folk? What? Harry looked up at Dumbledore, but there was nothing revealing on the Headmaster’s face.

“Looks like Harry Potter and his Parent aren’t getting their mail,” the man growled. His voice was low and his accent American. And angry.

“My parents are dead.” Harry felt like he should feel something more than a dull ache at that. Anything.

“Your legal parent, then.” The man’s voice softened and his wings tucked in slightly. They were bat wings, demon wings. He looked like he was trying to guard Harry against something. Against what…?

“My godfather?”

“I believe he means Petunia,” Dumbledore offered quietly. “And yes. I admit that I intercepted certain mail. Harry certainly had enough to worry about without this letter.”

He pulled out from his voluminous robes an envelope, a normal Muggle envelope with normal - well, foreign, but rather normal - stamps. It was made out to Legal Guardian of Harry J. Potter.

Harry reached for it. Dumbledore pulled it just slightly away. “Harry, I know that they are not very deserving at the moment, but the wizarding world needs you. Please keep that in mind as you open this envelope.”

The winged man flapped those wings, sending a breeze over the two of them and down the hall.

“He is a child! He’s fifteen years old!”

How did this man know that? How did he know anything about Harry?

“And he has already defeated one of our greatest enemies three times.”

Harry shrugged his shoulders forward. “The last one doesn’t really count,” he muttered. He hadn’t saved Cedric. He hadn’t done anything.

“You can’t keep the letter from him, not unless you’re his legal guardian.” The man took a step forward.

“And who are you?” Harry snarled. “What gives you the say?”

“Luca Hunting-Hawk.” His smile was gentle for Harry the way it wasn’t for Dumbledore. “Call me Luke.”

“And - no offense, sir, but what’s that have to do with me?”

He didn’t look offended. Harry thought maybe he looked sympathetic. That was a little off–putting.

“Your mother - your real mother - made a promise when you were conceived, on your behalf. Whatever other adults think you’re obligated to do, that promise comes first, legally.”

“So why am I just hearing about this now?” Harry stared at the envelope, still in Dumbledore’s hand.

Dumbledore cleared his throat. “Neither Lily nor James told me about this promise, but I can make some assumptions, given what I know about them. But Harry, you’ve found your home here in the wizarding world. At Hogwarts.”

Hogwarts, where Cedric had died. Harry recognized the change of tone in Dumbledore’s voice and held out his hand politely.

Sighing, Dumbledore handed him the letter. “This could damage everything we’ve worked for, Harry.”

“I don’t think I should be trusted to work for anything,” Harry admitted frankly. “After the muck-up I did of the Triwizard Championship, I mean, I wouldn’t trust me to do anything, and nobody else does, either. They think I’m a liar. Some of them think I’m a murderer. I’m not,” he added to the man in front of him.

“You don’t sound like a liar,” Luca agreed. “The letter?”

“Oh.” Harry stared at it for a moment before remembering that one opened letters. Slowly he lifted the flap and pulled out the paper.

Even more slowly he read it. Twice.

It was nice paper, thick paper, printed, like on a Muggle machine, and then signed with a very tidy signature in teal-green ink that matched the crest exactly. The crest - he stared at it for a moment. “It’s got a tail,” he muttered. “And horns. And it says-”

“Harry! Harry, there you are! My father said -” Ron came to a skidding halt an arm’s length away from Harry, Dumbledore, and Luca. Right behind him - and running a bit into him as he stopped - were Hermione and Ginny. “Who’s this, then?”

“Ron, Hermione, Ginny, this is Luca Hunting-Hawk. Sir, these are my friends.” He read the letter again and then offered it to Luca. “And I’m not going anywhere without them.”

He felt a little guilty at the way that he could see Dumbledore relax at that. He really shouldn’t be - he really couldn’t be - depending on Harry. It wasn’t fair to the world.

Luca nodded politely — although he didn’t take the letter - his eyes raking over the three of them. Something about his look reminded Harry of Mad-Eye Moody, although physically, the two couldn’t be more different. “Ron - Weasley,” he said. “Right?”

“That’s me. Who’s this, then?” Ron looked at Harry, clearly ready to whip out his wand if he needed to.

In answer, Harry passed Hermione the letter.

She read it quickly, but certain phrases seemed to escape her lips as she did so. “-honored to inform you — arranged at the time of your birth! Wait. Harry, is this a Muggle school?”

A look went between Luca and Dumbledore. After a moment, Dumbledore cleared his throat. “Hermione Granger; the brightest witch of her era and a Muggle-born member of the Wizarding world.”

Luca looked like he was taking mental notes - or sizing them up. Harry stood a little taller.

“I don’t know, Hermione,” he finally remembered to answer. She was poking him in the arm. “I guess Professor Dumbledore stole my mail, because this is the first time I’ve seen that letter.”

“It’s not a muggle school,” Luca answered slowly, “but it’s not a wizard school, either. It’s-” He was clearly struggling with some terminology, maybe the ‘States words against the British English.

“The Wizarding World, here and around the world, is part of a larger magical community that some would call fae or Fair Folk,” Dumbledore answered slowly, “although we prefer to stay insular and are not usually bothered by our fae brethren and certainly not invited to attend their schools.”

“Purebloods are purebloods,” Luca muttered, his wings twitching. Harry found himself moving between the man and Hermione, reaching for the wand that had gotten him in this mess in the first place. “Our school isn’t like that. Harry’s mother and father -” he paused, folded his wings close, and bowed to Harry. “I’m sorry. I know you must not remember much about them. But your mother agreed to send you to Addergoole when it was time.”

“Time?” Harry was impressed that his voice didn’t squeak. “What’s time?”

“We have a seer who helps us -”

“Oh, seers,” Hermione scoffed. “So you naturally showed up at exactly the worst moment.”

“Hermione,” Ron hissed. “You can’t just talk to - talk to angry strangers with wings like that!”

“And why not? Am I not pure-blooded enough for him?”

“Miss Granger, I would ask that you not antagonize the gentleman Mara from America. What he meant by pure-blood is, I assure you, quite different from what, say, some of your classmates might mean. And he is - although his presence may not be the most welcome -”

“-He wants to take Harry to America! You’re bloody right he’s unwelcome!” Ron cleared his throat. “Uh. Sirs. That is -”

“I get it.” Luca smiled at Ron in a way that looked surprisingly genuine. “Look, because of Harry’s - uh-”

“Unique position,” Dumbledore offered.

Harry wondered if they meant Boy Who Lived. If they’d heard of that even across the pond, he was never going to be able to live it down.

“Yeah. That’s a good way to put it. Because of Harry’s unique position, we can take up to three friends - classmates - with him. For the whole four years.”

Dumbledore coughed. “I do hope you realize that you are looking at some of the cleverest, bravest people in their generation…”

Harry wasn’t sure why that didn’t feel like a compliment this time.

Luca looked at Dumbledore. “Are you in the middle of one of those Dark Wizard battles again? Didn’t you just defeat the last one? Grimby-something?”

“That was quite a few years ago. And yes. Yes, although many of my colleagues don’t wish to admit it, we are.” Dumbledore looked around slowly. “That is the problem, you see. Mr. Potter here and his friends are quite crucial to our battle.”

Harry hunched his shoulders up. He hadn’t done anything crucial lately, he’d just made a mess of things.

“I have a suggestion,” Luca said slowly. “How about an exchange program? I will send three or four of our brightest, bravest students to Hogwarts for - say, as long as they’d be there depending on their age. I can always send a different set later. I know just the three.” Harry wasn’t sure, but he thought the winged man was amused. “And you send Harry and three others to Addergoole to keep him company.”

“Three others, hrrm? Well, Mr. Potter, it seems I don’t have a choice but to release you to the United States. But who should go with you, hrrrm?”

“Ron, Hermione, and Ginny,” he answered without hesitation.

“These three?” Luca’s eyes raked over them. “They’re your age?”

“Gin’s a year younger.” Ron had put himself between his sister and the man protectively.

“Not her.” Luca almost snarled it. “Too young. Fifteen is the bottom limit, and that’s still young.”

“But-” Harry sighed. “Nev-”

“Draco Malfoy,” Dumbledore interrupted. “I know, I know he’s not particularly your friend, Harry, but I do believe it would do him a world of good. And it would, ah, it would solve some issues I would be having here, that is, at Hogwarts, with you gone.”

Harry sighed. “You’re never going to get Lucius Malfoy to agree to that,” he muttered, but his heart already wasn’t in it. You could never talk Dumbledore out of anything he really wanted, and if the Wizengamot couldn’t, he certainly wasn’t going to be able to.

“No, but I don’t need to talk to Lucius at all. By the laws that these places go by, all I have to do is get Narcissa to agree.” He looked at Luca. “Sir Hunting-Hawk, you will need to get the approval of Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley’s mothers as well, won’t you? This is going to take some time.”

“Oi!” Ginny wasn’t ready to be left behind yet. “What’s wrong with me, anyway? I’m just as tough as they are! Tell them, Harry!”

Luca’s wings spread wide. “We don’t,” he gritted, “allow students at the age of fourteen. Next year. Next year we can talk about it.”

Harry took her hands. “Gin, Gin, if we’re going, then Dumbledore and Hogwarts are going to need you and Neville and Luna, okay? You have to be strong and you have to remember that Voldemort is really back. Don’t let people push you around.” He smiled at her and hoped that it looked real. He didn’t feel like anything was worth smiling about, lately. “I know you can do that. Be tough.”

She huffed and pulled her hands away. “Honestly. Boys.” She looked pleased as she looked away, though. “Of course I’ll be tough. You show those American wizards what you’re made of, and I’ll help with these exchange students.”

He’d missed something Luca and Dumbledore had said to each other, but at the moment, Luca was saying - “basics in wand magic, of course. You know we do things a bit differently. But Sylvia is brilliant and the other two - three - will muddle along following her lead.”

Differently? Harry looked at Hermione, who had a look of intense concentration on her face. “Harry,” she hissed, “we’re going to be learning different magic. Do you know what that means?”

Harry swallowed. “More homework?”

“Well, of course, it’s a completely new school. But it also means that when we come back here, we will have a completely different set of tools than anyone else! Harry, this is brilliant!” Suddenly, she hugged him. “Thank you for inviting us.”

“Well, of course.” He patted her back awkwardly. “You’re my best mates. Who else would I invite?”

“Not me,” Ginny sulked.

“Hey, that one’s not my fault!”

“I know. But it’s still horrid. You three get to go off and have fun-”

“Hey.” Ron patted her shoulder in an awkward moment of brotherly concern. “Look, we don’t know if Mum will say yes, do we? And if she does, I promise I’ll write to you every month. I’ll tell you all about it, okay?”

“I’ll write too, Ginny,” Hermione offered. “We all will. All right? And you can tell us all about the year at Hogwarts so we don’t feel like we’re missing out on any excitement.”

Last year’s excitement had been the sort of thing Harry would have rather missed out on, but it seemed to be brightening Ginny up. “All right,” she agreed reluctantly. “But Ron’s right. Mum’s never going to let him go across the pond.”

“You might want to have some back-ups in place in case your friends can’t come,” Luca informed Harry solemnly. “If you let me know where you’re staying, I’ll be back to get you - and your friends-”

“-and Malfoy,” Ron muttered.

“-and classmates in one week. That’ll give you a chance to do a little sightseeing before classes start.”