|atdelphi (atdelphi) wrote in hp_beholder,|
@ 2014-04-11 14:37:00
|Entry tags:||albus dumbledore, albus dumbledore/xenophilius lovegood, beholder 2014, fic, rating:pg, slash, xenophilius lovegood|
FIC: "Dirigible Plum" for wwmrsweasleydo
Title: Dirigible Plum
Pairings: Xenophilius Lovegood/Albus Dumbledore, mentions of Horace Slughorn/various others
Word Count: About 6700
Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): *None.*
Summary: It’s 1946, and the Wizarding world is emerging from the shadow of Prussia. For Xenophilius, there could be no more exciting time to study further at L'Académie de Beauxbatons - especially when his life is lit-up by one very special visitor.
Author's/Artist's Notes: Happy HP_Beholder, wwmrsweasleydo! I very much hope you like this tale. From your prompts, I worked with the idea of 'characters supporting one another', with a touch of comedy and, hopefully, a heart-warming ending. Many thanks also go to atdelphi, for running this very special fest once more.
Xenophilius had not been at the Academy for long, but he was pretty sure that he liked it. He had arrived just as France was throwing-off the shadow of Prussia, and everything in the Wizarding world was reopened to the light; fresh and celebratory.
As he crossed the atrium, sunbeams twinkled through the great glass ceiling, ironwork casting filigree patterns on the fountains and flagstones below. A tangle of Professors and research students milled about, a kaleidoscope of skin and hair set off in colourful robes. It was only this past year, he had been told, that wizards from the Orient had dared to return; tales of trouble in Europe had spread fast and fiercely.
Moving outside, Xenophilius took in the Greco-Roman façade of the Great Lecture Hall, golden proportions and delicate tracery on the capitols combining strength and delicacy, confidence and a deft touch. He fancied that he spotted a Snorknack in the carvings on the upper-left column, and mused that the architect must be a believer, too.
It was good to be among open-minded people. He sighed in contentment, as the breeze blew pale hair about his shoulders, the frizz alive to every change in the air. Across the green - and an academic world apart - bobbed smaller figures in elegant blue, the girls in sleek capes and bonnets, and the boys in robes that would pass as Sunday-best, back in England. Xenophilius grinned, glancing down at his own robes of paisley patchwork; he could neither deny that Beauxbatons had an envied reputation for style, nor that he would far rather tread his own unbeaten path than merge with the crowd, however smart the crowd appeared to be. Especially then, in fact, he added, bullishly.
Luckily, here at L'Académie de Beauxbatons, Xenophilius seemed to be permitted to do just that. The programme in Magical Flora and Fauna was sufficiently loose that he had been given project approval for all of his cryptozoology ideas. The ever-relaxed Professeur Bellard had simply produced a wry smile from the far side of his monocle and crystal cup of absinthe, and had waved a quill over the paperwork with a quirk of the eyebrow and a, "Bon chance, mon garçon," at the wind beneath Xenophilius' excitable heels.
From there, he had been on fire. There were naturalistic texts stretching back centuries in the beautiful, spiral library, each strand of bookshelf reaching up into the heavens like sweet pea and honeysuckle around a cane; there were unexplained sightings aplenty in the world press; and, of course, there were field trips to organise and embark upon. Xenophilius was glad for his inheritance, now, for they surely would be expensive.
Pausing again in the warm air, he closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. Hints of lavender wafted in from the fields beyond, along with that earthy scent that surely meant a wood rich with Venomous Bowtruckles? At once, a trapping and counting procedure multiplied beneath his eyelids - they would be largely nocturnal, so that meant plenty of unicorn dung... and then an Acromantula call-charm to lure them forward. All he needed was proof, and then the piquant saliva would be harvestable - a sure-fire cure for Dragonpox, he was certain. -And that could save up to three-thousand lives per year!
Invigorated, Xenophilius continued onward. As much as he disliked being labelled or grouped, he didn't really mind the fact that students had been given their rooms according to nationality. He shared a set with a fellow Englishman - and although Horace's parties could be noisy, he was surely a good egg.
His steps retreated there now - around the parterre, through the archway, and to halls - a pleasant block of white stone and large windows.
He didn't need his key, as the door was already open.
"What ho, Xeno!" called Horace, from beneath a pile of gramophone records and a case of Chateau de la Licorne.
Xenophilius hung his tasselled cap on the hatstand, and stowed his satchel in the corner, by the Reticulated Aspidistra. He frowned; it was looking a bit peaky. "I say, you haven't been doing anything funny to Boris, have you?" The plant mournfully tipped its uppermost leaves in his direction, yellow spots on show.
"Boris? Oh no, old chap. Nothing at all." He fumbled with a few discs, then continued quietly. "Someone else might have had one too many cocktails over in that direction, though..."
Xenophilius rolled his eyes and went to his Botany cabinet for the appropriate restorative potion. He'd never manage to keep exotic specimens alive if they were treated as repositories for excess gin... or worse.
"Hurrah! Found it!" Horace stood up, triumphant. He reached barely to Xenophilius' nose, even in decent brogues. His cheeks glowed pink with foie gras and claret, and the buttons of his immaculate waistcoat strained with the plumpness of youthful good living. "This is exactly the song that I know Jean-Pierre will like."
"Jean-Pierre?" Xenophilius could barely keep up with his roommate's conquests and crushes.
"Oh yes! I must have told you. That delightful boy that I met at a party on the Champs-Élysées last Wednesday. Dark hair, pale skin... I think he studies Persian literature, or somesuch. But there wasn't much time for talking, if you catch my drift..." He wiggled his eyebrows, and Xenophilius couldn't help but blush.
"Really, Horace. I don't know how you do it."
"Do it? Do what?" All mock-innocence, he scouted around in his heap for a box of truffles.
"You know full well, what. A different chap every week!"
"Oh, that." He gave a winning smile. "I've told you before, Xeno, my dear. One has to play to one's strengths. Am I tall? Handsome? Muscular? No, no and no." Horace patted his tummy, for good effect. "So, never mind all that. No point in trying to measure up in circumstances that will obviously not be flattering. One has to set the scene to one's advantage. Charm; charisma; lavish hospitality! Knowing all the best spots in town, and exactly how to get in. Having the right drink, the right conversation, the right music. Pressing all of those buttons one by one by one... and then, hey presto! Putty in one's palms. Oh! -And then knowing exactly what to do with one's palms, if you catch my drift..."
"I do, thanks." Xenophilius suddenly felt a bit daft and more than a little shy. Much as Horace's stories were intriguing, he had never quite brought himself to partake... with either sex, truth be told. The search for Fanged Erumpents seemed an awful lot safer. He cast around for a way to change the subject. "I say, are you going to the lecture this evening?" He produced the flyer from his satchel and passed it over.
"'Professor Albus Dumbledore: Alchemy and Uncertainty'," Horace read. "No, thanks! I had enough of that old bird at Hogwarts."
Xenophilius sighed. "Oh yes. He taught you Transfiguration, didn't he?"
"The very same. Nice chap and all - but give me a good potion any day. One knows where one is with a cauldron: solid; reliable; not going anywhere. You know what you put in - and with a decent measure of skill and the right amount of patience - you know exactly what will be coming out. I can't be doing with birds erupting all over the place and the dinner on your plate turning into something it isn't. Altogether too flighty."
Xenophilius furrowed his brow. "Albus Dumbledore... flighty?"
"The man himself?" replied Horace, "Oh, no - not at all. Very serious, actually. Increasingly so, these last couple of years."
"Oh, why was that?"
"I don't know. I was his prefect, not his mother!" Horace paused, and narrowed his eyes in Xenophilius' direction. "I say, why all this interest about ol' Dumbles, anyway? A touch of the hero worship?" He grinned warming to his theme. "Oooh... you've seen the pictures - he is supposed to be very handsome, if you like that sort of thing."
Involuntarily, Xenophilius' eyes flicked to the poster - where a strong, fiery-haired man twinkled back at him. Undeniably, he was handsome. Xenophilius found himself blushing again, not at all helped by the further wiggling of Horace's eyebrows. "Oh, really," he dissembled. "I was just interested. How can one not be? Word gets around, you know, even where we were in Tripoli.
"Merlin, the school there doesn't teach much - for which I'm grateful, by the way... we were done by two o' clock each afternoon for the Professors to have their afternoon nap, so Mama just let me go off into the hills to track down specimens. Fantastic Sparklewort, there, actually. Oh! And I once found the footprints of a Xerophytic Snorknack!
"But yes - even there, everyone's heard of Dumbledore. How could they not, after the duel? We've got him to thank for being here, after all. I heard that before we arrived last year, it was all gloom and broken glass, in Paris. Everyone was terrified." He paused for a moment, absent-mindedly sucking on a stray lock of hair. "I say. Why isn't he talking about the victory, today, do you think? Why the dragon's blood stuff, instead?"
Horace shrugged. "I don't know. Never really struck me as the duelling type, to be honest. When the news broke - it was over the summer, so everyone was away at school - we were all really surprised. Everyone knew that he was powerful - well, accomplished, I suppose, that's a better word – but he seemed far more bookish that combative. And then, when we came back in September and all the class was clamouring with questions, he didn't want to talk about it. He just said, 'oh, that. A few spells, all terribly boring,' - about the greatest duel of the century, no less! - and then tried to divert our attention back to the Five Tedious Principles of Transfiguration, or somesuch.
“So, I'm not surprised that he's talking about the dragon's blood stuff, today. Quite interesting, actually, but I've heard it all before."
Xenophilius nodded, taking all that in. He pottered over to his window box in the far bay. "Dirigible plum?"
Horace eyed the proffered fruit with suspicion. "Um. No, thanks."
Xenophilius shrugged and popped two in his mouth. The pointy orange fruit tasted at once sweet and savoury - a cross between gravy and bacon and apple pie - and as he chewed it, he felt slightly dizzy, tingles spreading from his tongue to his forehead and seeping inside. "I've started a new regimen, you know. At least one of these every day is supposed to broaden the mind and make one extra-perceptive to new ideas. It might even help me to find the Crumple-Horned-"
"-Snorknack," finished Horace, rolling his eyes. "Or hallucinate it, more like! Have you ever actually tested what's in those? I heard that some tribes in Africa use them to distil their version of the Draught of the Living Death. And that the effects are cumulative. If you keep up with this, I shudder to think how batty you'll be when you're fifty!"
"Pfft!" laughed Xenophilius, and picked a third plum from the plant, for good measure. "A little eccentricity never hurt anyone."
Horace raised his eyebrows, as if to imply that 'a little' had been passed some while back, but he let it lie. The wall clock chimed eight. "Oho! Listen to that. I must go; my dear boy will be waiting. -And if you're going to that lecture, you're already late!" He rummaged in his wardrobe, emerging with his plushest cloak.
Glancing again at the poster, Xenophilius could see that said timing was right. Cap and keys re-stowed, he made for the door.
"I say, do you think that I ought to grow a moustache?" Horace was preening in the full-length mirror, smoothing his robes. This time, it was Xenophilius' turn to roll his eyes.
"Have a good evening, my friend."
"Oh, I shall! Don't wait up, if you catch my drift." Xenophilius could see him wink, just past the door jamb. "And give my regards to ol’ Dumbles!"
"I will. Goodnight!"