Harry decides to go to Beauxbatons rather than Hogwarts. Free of foolish prejudice and Dumbledore's influence he develops into the man he could have been...
"Potty, you better get down here or I'll tell Mum you were climbing trees!"
Harry Potter clung desperately to the too thin branch. The possibility of retribution from his aunt wasn't as terrifying as the certainty of pain once Dudley and his gang caught him.
He heard a loud swooping noise behind him and turned. A large brown owl had landed on the branch beside his. He reached out hesitantly and the bird watched him with piercing yellow eyes for a moment before sticking its leg out, in a bid for attention. Harry noticed a large blue envelope and stretched out and took it, all the while keeping a wary eye on the bird's impressively sharp looking beak.
He ignored the shouts from below about the beating he would get for his freakishness; instead he concentrated on reading the letter he had pulled out. The letter claimed to have come from Beauxbaton's Academy Of Magic and was inviting him, Harry Potter to join. If it hadn't been for the fact that he knew his aunt and uncle wouldn't even think about magic, let alone write a letter about it he would suspect a trick. It could have been Dudley, but Dudley was more direct, he wouldn't go for emotional torture when a punch in the guts would do, and didn't require him to actually think. Plus where on earth would someone find a trained owl?
He quickly read over the rest of the letter. We hope you will... amazing opportunity... located in the Bordeaux region... reply by owl... earliest convenience. It was in France. That meant he would probably only have to see the Dursleys once or twice a year! And even if it wasn't real magic, well, he could still leave Surrey. His mind was made up, and he turned to the owl, feeling slightly foolish.
"Um, do you understand me?"
He saw a barely perceptible nod.
"Can you tell them I would love to come?"
Again a nod, and the owl flew off. Harry looked down, to see that while he had been busy, Dudley had wandered off. It didn't take much to bore him. He looked enough like a boar anyway. A small smile graced Harry's lips and he climbed down, skidding his knee slightly on the rough bark of the tree trunk. He landed with a thump at the bottom and dusted himself off carefully, before running over to the swings.
He sat down on the black plastic seat and swung back and forth slowly. Under his disheveled hair his brain was working furiously. How to make the Dursleys accept this, and think it was their own idea? He knew them well enough to know they wouldn't do anything if they thought he wanted it. But what did they want out of life? Him out of the way for one. To be considered normal, but a better class of normal than everyone else. Money. Prestige. For everyone else to see Dudley as the perfect young man they saw him as, rather than the huge lump of useless blubber he was.
Maybe if he used these desires to show them that it was in their best interests for him to go to this school? He would be out of the way, which would save them money and make them seem more normal. On the other hand this might not be quite strong enough for them to get over their phobia of magic and dislike of anything that would make him happy. The only thing that could do that would be to overcome the neighbourhood's dislike of Dudley, which was impossible.
He would have to just try to convince them without it. He feared it might be impossible, but he had to try. He might not get another chance like this ever again!
He noticed the air had grown chilly, and the formerly blue sky had red tints round the edges. The park had grown darker and he ran home, tucking his precious letter inside the pocket of his jeans. He ran down the street as fast as he could, loose sneakers slapping noisily on the asphalt of the road. He stopped by Aunt Petunia's favourite rose bush and patted his pocket, so as he could be sure the letter was still there.
The door creaked slightly as he opened it and his Aunt materialised so fast he hadn't seen her come. She grabbed his ear and pulled him into the living room, all the while hissing into his ear about what a nasty ungrateful child he was and how he better not think he was getting any dinner after the stunt he pulled on poor Dudley in the park.
Harry knew better than to protest his innocence, and just concentrated on keeping up with his aunt. It didn't take long to get into the living room where Aunt Petunia released him, looking as disgusted as if she had accidentally touched one of Dudley's pre-licked lollipops.
His uncle stood in front of a lamp, turning purple with the effort of not strangling Harry. It was an interesting affect, as where the light touched his skin it turned a fiery red, making him seem outlined in fire. Vernon took a huge breath, probably counting to ten as his doctor had recommended for lowering his blood pressure. He usually found ten to be too low when it came to Harry and lost his temper anyway.
"I HOPE YOU DON'T THINK YOU'LL BE GOING TO THIS FREAKISH SCHOOL! WE HEARD ABOUT THE OWL! AND YOU WILL NEVER GO TO HOGWARTS!"
Harry's brow furrowed.
"But it wasn't for Hogwarts..."
Vernon kept shouting for a few seconds until his brain processed what his ears had heard.
"It wasn't for Hogwarts?"
He turned to Petunia, obviously lost now he was no longer following a speech prepared beforehand. She looked almost as confused and pulled him into the kitchen, shutting the door behind them so Harry couldn't hear their whispers. He pressed his ear against the door and caught a few words.
"Your freaky... ster went?"
"May... not... ky?"
"If we don... warts mi... come?"
He heard footsteps, and leaped far enough back that he couldn't possibly have been listening. Uncle Vernon lumbered into the room with a sour expression on his face. He struggled to force the words out as though he couldn't believe what he was saying.
"Show me the letter from this freaky school of yours."
Harry pulled the letter out and handed it to him silently. He and Petunia read it over, including the pages at the back Harry hadn't bothered with. At the end they looked slightly less unhappy and inside Harry cheered for joy at the idea that he might learn magic!
"Arts, Dance, Fencing?"
"So it's not all that stuff." Aunt Petunia pointed out, and looked thoughtful.
"Well, when you go I hope you don't expect us to pay for your things." Uncle Vernon grunted. Harry grinned. He could go! He really could go!
"And you better clean up the kitchen before you go to your cupboard." Harry was too happy to care and danced round the kitchen washing dishes and wiping benches.
Madame Maxime sat in her elegant office and sulked. She didn't call it sulking of course. As a full grown (and then some) woman she did not sulk. Sulking was for 5 year olds who weren't allowed a trip to the zoo. She was merely peeved. And, as was often the case, the subject of her annoyance was Albus Dumbledore. He had been an irritant to her for years, but in this case he had done something even worse than his normal attempts to set her up with that brutish gamekeeper of his. She sniffed at the mere idea.
Every magic school in the world had been owling her and Igor in an attempt to find out why their owls couldn't get past Harry Potter's mail wards. Every one had sent an invitation, but they were all bounced back. God forbid they actually try the man who probably set them up; no one would bother Albus with such a trivial thing. In fact, there was only one thing left to do while she waited for her poor owl to get back from trying to pass through the wards. She leaned forward in her chair and checked round the corner to make sure no one was in hearing distance and very quietly swore.
She heard a tapping on the window and rushed over to let her darling owl in. She reached down to take off the pesky letter when she noticed it wasn't there.
"What? Did he say yes?" The owl nodded and Madame Maxime squealed like a schoolgirl.
"He said yes!" She calmed herself down and looked at her watch. It was probably too late to pick him up now, but she would send a teacher tomorrow. She hugged the knowledge close to herself. Harry Potter was coming to Beauxbatons!
Harry lay in the cupboard beneath the stairs, lulled to sleep by the blaring TV still going in Dudley's room. He hugged the knowledge close to himself. Harry Potter was going to Beauxbatons!