“Harbin!” Draco knew to open his arms the moment his friend spotted him.
“Oh, thank goodness! I did not think I would see you until I found you on the train!” Harbin’s hug felt warm and comforting. Valère slithered out, flicking his tongue to tickle at Draco’s ear in greeting.
“It’s a mad house!” Draco absently smiled and petted the green ladder snake, pulling them both out of the way as a tiny first year plowed through the crowd and towards the train. He stopped to make sure the stewards had properly stowed his and Harbin’s trunks before grabbing Hedwig’s cage from Harbin. “Is it just me or are there more people here this year than ever?”
Valère hissed at the jerking movement and curled back into his place under Harbin’s collar.
“I think it is because of the attack at the Cup.” Harbin soothed his pet with one hand while the other waved to his entire family – parents, uncle, godfathers, and brother – as they watched him board the train. “Many parents are seeing their children off in case there are more incidents.”
Draco nodded in agreement as he waved to his family as well.
After a wonderfully restful summer, only marred by that unpleasantness after the Quidditch World Cup, Draco walked into the Welcoming Feast with light happy steps next to his best friend. Draco waved to friends, greeting others that he knew but would never call friend, and watched as Harbin exchanged air kisses with those who had picked up his continental greeting before seating himself next to Draco, of course. As the summer had progressed, Draco found himself more and more possessive of the other boy. He had no problems sharing him with Sebastien, or any of those Harbin called family, but every time he saw Harbin with a school-age friend, he always wanted to push the other person away. He had confided in his godfather, who had merely rolled his eyes.
Draco threw a glare in Severus’ direction for good measure, but the man was too busy glaring at the headmaster to respond. He idly wondered why before his mind drifted on. This past summer, Severus had told him he could drop the honorific “uncle” if he so chose. Pleased by the gesture of respect, he had done so with relish. Especially when Severus had invited Harbin to do the same. Privately, Draco thought it was just Severus’ way of further antagonizing Black and Lupin.
Halfway through dinner, the headmaster stood. “Your attention please! I would like to say a few words. Eternal glory.”
The Great Hall began to darken, not just with the coming of night, but with the coming of a storm. Students twittered with curiosity as Dumbledore paused, their curiosity aroused.
“That is what awaits the student who wins the TriWizard Tournament. But to do this that student must survive three tasks. Three extremely dangerous tasks.”
Draco tuned out the headmaster, the question regarding why Severus was glaring at the headmaster answered, more interested in watching the school’s reaction. Of course, he knew about this little revelation. His father had told him ages ago, and he in turn, shared it with Harbin. He and Harbin had spent quite a bit of time together over the summer going over old records that told of the tasks, champions, and winners of past tournaments. Now, the rest of the school, of course, was completely agog with the news. Those old enough were already plotting to put their names in; those who weren’t interested in entering were interested in taking bets on who would win the Hogwarts’ champion slot.
Lightning suddenly streaked across the Great Hall’s ceiling, startling many out of their conversations. Screams echoed as the thunder boomed and lightning struck. A voice just as thunderous yelled out a spell, a flash of white surged into the ceiling. Relieved sighs echoed in the sudden silence as the Great Hall was restored to its candlelit familiarity.
The spellcaster thumped out of the shadows. Draco recognized him immediately – that ever-seeing glass eye, the heavy clank of a metal leg – remembering his father sneering at the man whenever they crossed paths at the Ministry.
“Mad-Eye Moody,” he whispered to Harbin and their housemates.
“Mad-Eye?” Hermione whispered back, her eyes – much like everyone else’s – were glued to the newcomer.
“Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody, Auror,” Draco clarified.
“Alastor, my old friend!” Dumbledore cheerfully embraced Moody. Of course, he would be friends with the dark wizard hunter.
Moody stole back into the shadows with nary an explanation of his presence after his greeting with the headmaster.
“Do you think he’s here to provide security for the Tournament?” Pansy asked, half hiding behind Hermione and Tracy. Moody had been a sort of boogie man for the children of Dark families, used to instill fear and obedience.
“I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.” Hermione stood as the students were dismissed to their common rooms.
“My money’s still on Montague,” Draco murmured into Harbin’s ear as they made their way out of the Great Hall after dinner, grinning when his friend rolled his eyes.
“Montague is good, oui, but I believe Pucey has a better chance.”
He followed Harbin down into the dungeons, all of the students surrounding them just as busy speculating on who would be the lucky one chosen as champion. “Montague’s better at hexes and reaction time. There’s a reason he’s a beater.”
“Oui, but there is more to these challenges than knowing hexes and a fast reaction time,” Harbin argued, stopping in front of their dorm room door.
Draco opened it for him, holding it for him, waiting until Harbin had passed through to pick up their discussion. “Oh really? What?”
Harbin’s grin was mischievous as he leaned in close enough to whisper into Draco’s ear. “The intelligence to know when to use them?”
Draco snorted and smirked, bumping Harbin’s shoulder with his. “What are you going to give me so that I don’t tell Montague you said that?”
“My undying love and gratitude?” Harbin smiled coyly at him, cozying up to him, draping himself all over Draco, wrapping his arms around Draco’s shoulders.
The feel of Harbin’s body pressed all along his own made him hot, uncomfortable, but he loathed pushing the other boy away. He forced himself to sneer. “Not good enough, Chevalier.”
Harbin’s pout couldn’t have been any prettier, his lashes and the gaze through them couldn’t possibly be more coquettish. “Non?”
Draco made his arms push Harbin away, made his mouth laugh in a joking manner he didn’t feel. “Oh fine!”
Harbin beamed at him.
Draco helplessly smiled back, but he went to bed that night confused.
Severus swore to himself that if Albus was calling yet another tournament planning meeting, he would turn around and stalk out immediately.
The twinkle was gone and Albus looked his age.
“What has happened?” Minerva remained standing instead of sitting, hand gripping her wand. She clearly picked up on the headmaster’s tension as well.
The other teachers stilled, eyes trained on the headmaster.
“Peter Pettigrew has escaped from Azkaban.”
“Dear Merlin,” Pomona breathed, sitting heavily into a ready chair.
“Why haven’t we seen notices?” Filius demanded, agitation written in every line of his short body.
“The Minister does not believe that disturbing the TriWizard Tournament will be beneficial to the Ministry,” Albus wearily explained.
Severus sneered. “The idiot doesn’t want to lose face in front of the Bulgarian and French ministers.”
Albus slowly nodded.
“But how did he escape?” Pomona asked, worrying her handkerchief.
“He overpowered a guard checking on him and used the guard’s wand to transform into his animagus form.”
Severus rolled his eyes. Of course those incompetent fools at the Ministry wouldn’t take precautions after Black’s escape last year.
“Severus, would you tell Harbin while I contact his family?” Minerva was only able to take one step towards the door before power exploded out from Albus and froze them all.
“No,” Albus commanded, rising from his seat, power still emanating out. “We are not telling them. I am informing you so that we may be alert, so that we may protect Harbin. There is no reason to worry the boy or his family. Peter is one man, weakened by the dementors. We don’t even know if he managed to survive the seas around Azkaban. We should not worry Harry or his family unless absolutely necessary.”
Minerva glared. “Albus --”
The staff fell uncomfortably quiet. None wanted to gainsay Albus Dumbledore, but they all knew what they should do.
“Harbin has requested to be kept informed,” Severus murmured into the silence.
“He is a child.” Albus was calmer now, but no less adamant. “He should be allowed to be a child.”
Severus wondered if Albus had been the one who wasn’t allowed to be a child or someone close to him. If it had been him, it would explain the ever-present candy and the outrageous robes. Whatever the cause, it was now addling a usually brilliant mind. This was the height of idiocy and everyone in the room knew it.
“None of you are to tell Harbin or his family about Peter’s escape. The Ministry is going to find him and, if need be, I will reactivate the Order to find him. Just remember to be on your guard and to keep a close eye on the students.” Albus smiled benignantly. “Now! About the tournament.”
Severus rolled his eyes and walked out.
No one tried to stop him.
A good thing because he walked right out of Hogwarts and apparated straight to Pottere Hale.
Merlin’s own luck was with him that night as it was Gavin who answered the door.
“Severus!” The smile that greeted him was small, but welcoming.
“May we walk?” Severus swept his hand out in invitation, hoping that Harbin’s tutor would understand the message in his eyes.
Delighted surprise lit up Gavin’s features. Severus internally winced, for once hating that he was such an accomplished actor.
“I would love to walk,” Gavin murmured, closing the door behind him.
Severus nearly jumped when Gavin looped their arms together.
“So, Severus, what brings you to Pottere Hale?”
Even in the pale moonlight, Severus could see the knowing gleam in those blue eyes. His entire body relaxed. “Pettigrew has escaped.”
Gavin, wondrously, did not stop moving, did not pause in surprise. “Ah, let me guess. Fudge is suppressing this information? To protect the public from mass hysteria, right?”
“So, why are you telling me this?” Gavin glanced sideways. “Did Dumbledore forbid you from telling Hari or his family? Some kind of misguided attempt to protect his childhood?”
This was one of the reasons Severus found it so difficult to keep his distance from Harbin’s tutor. And why Gavin was chosen as Harbin’s magical protector for the summers when he was away from Hogwarts. Many people merely saw the pretty face and the dueling skills, but Gavin had been trained to fret out information and make leaps of logic that formed connections. With just three words and Severus’ demeanor, Gavin knew why he had come to Pottere Hale to ask him to go for a walk.
Gavin sighed. “Do you know why Dumbledore is so insistent upon doing things like this?”
“There is speculation, but nothing has ever been substantiated.”
His companion made an agreeing noise even as he steered Severus towards the back gardens. “Don’t worry, Severus, I’ll take care of it.”
Severus nodded, letting himself be led. It was not his night to patrol the school and the quiet presence of Gavin suited his mood.
Harbin snorted, elegantly as his mother had taught him, when he finished the letter she had sent via Hedwig. Students were sleepily eating breakfast, quiet conversations about the new term revolved around course schedules, which the heads of houses were passing out now.
“Merci, professeur,” he absently thanked his head of house as he was handed his schedule. Harbin saw the gleam in Professor Snape’s eyes when he saw the letter in his hand. He nodded, letting him know that he knew what he had to do before classes started.
“What is it?” Draco asked, spearing the last breakfast sausage.
Harbin pouted at him, hiding his smile when the other boy rolled his eyes and halved the sausage to share. “Merci, Draco.”
“De rien,” Draco answered. “The letter?”
Harbin handed it over to his best friend, deciding to enjoy his breakfast rather than ruminate over his parents’ latest letter. It wasn’t unexpected, but he had such hopes that Professor Dumbledore would stop wearing rose-colored glasses all of the time.
Draco echoed his snort. “Well, at least this time we know.”
“Oui.” Harbin thought no more of it. After the debacle of third year, Professor Dumbledore had activated old wards that sounded should an animagus pass into Hogwarts. It had gone off terribly over the summer when Sirius came for a check-up with Madame Pomfrey. While Harbin did not put all of his faith in those wards, he knew they were a solid first line of defense. So with his mother’s letter informing them that Pettigrew had escaped, Harbin knew he would need to initiate the second and third lines of defense that he, his uncle, Professor Snape and Gavin had planned in case of just this type of emergency. “Draco, I will see you in class. I forgot something in our room.”
Draco sent him a sideways look, knowing that he would have never forgotten something, but also knowing better than to question him out loud.
Harbin absently kissed his cheek before gathering his things and returning to his and Draco’s room. Now that they were fourth years, he and his roommates were split into rooms made for two. In Slytherin, privacy was the most important asset and so as the years went by, students went from six to a room, to two, then ultimately in seventh year, private, single rooms. Once inside, Harbin pulled out the books Gavin and Professor Snape had given him. Absently petting Valère, Harbin reacquainted himself with the warding spells. Starting with the first marked spell, he began layering wards and defenses, just as he had been taught.
The fourth years had heard all about the new DADA professor. Fred and George sang his praises; more sensibly frightened students stuttered about his class. Harbin knew, from what he’d heard from his older friends, he would have to fake a lot in this class. It had been easy second and third year to hide most of what he had learned with Gavin in the summers.
During second year, Professor Amina had continued theory from first year and started them out on some hexes and jinxes, but mostly it had been spells used for protection rather than to counterattack. Even in the dueling club, she, Professor Snape and Flitwick had limited the spells taught to the second years to jinxes that were designed to distract rather than hurt. Third year with Remus had mostly been about dealing with Dark creatures, so again, Harbin hadn’t had to hide any of his skills in dueling. Even with Professor Amina gone, Remus had kept her philosophy for the dueling club for third year, only adding the mildest of curses to the club’s repertoire. Apparently, from what the other students had said, Professor Moody intended to drill them on hexes and curses; very little theory, mostly practical, hands-on learning.
Harbin knew he had to make sure that there was no reason to question why he was so well-versed in material above his year. They all watched as their new professor stumped into the classroom.
“Alastor Moody,” he stated without preamble, writing this name on the board with a flick of his wand. “Ministry malcontent. And your new Defence against the Dark Arts teacher. I'm here because Dumbledore asked me, end of story, goodbye, the end. Any questions?” He didn’t even pause. “When it comes to the Dark Arts, I believe in a practical approach. But first, which of you can tell me how many Unforgivable Curses there are?”
Unsurprisingly, Hermione raised her hand, answering before he called on her. “Three, sir.”
“And they are so named?” he barked.
Thanks to years of training on Harbin’s part, Hermione did not raise her hand again, carefully looking away. Everyone knew she was intelligent beyond all comprehension, but thanks to Harbin’s advice, Hermione did not carry on the title of “know-it-all” like she had at her muggle school. She was respected for her intelligence, but not shunned for it. And Hermione herself had learned that she liked having a wide circle of friends who knew all the aspects of her personality, not just her smarts.
Surprisingly, Neville’s hand went up slowly, his words coming out just as slow. “Because they are unforgivable. Use of any of them will . . .”
Professor Moody took pity on him when Neville trailed off, pacing back and forth as he ranted. “Will earn you a one way ticket to Azkaban. Correct. Now, the ministry says you're too young to see what these curses do. I say different! You need to know what you're up against, you need to be prepared, you need to find somewhere else to put your chewing gum other than the underside of your desk, Mr. Finnigan!”
Harbin, several other Slytherins and a few Gryffindors, stifled laughs as Seamus stared at their teacher with dropped-jaw shock.
“Aw, no way the old codger can see out the back of his head!” Seamus whispered harshly when Professor Moody turned away again.
“Oh really, Mr. Finnigan?”
A piece of chalk sailed through the air, hitting its target smack on the forehead. Professor Moody was still turned away from the boy.
“So, which curse shall we see first?” Acting as if he hadn’t just assaulted a student with school supplies, Professor Moody spun, pointing with this wand. “WEASLEY!”
Ron jumped, gulped. “Yes?”
“Give us a curse.” The professor waved impatiently.
“Well,” Ron glanced around, fiddled with his wand, “my dad did tell me about one . . . the Imperius curse.”
“Ahhh yes, your father would know all about that. Gave the ministry quite a bit of grief a few years ago. Perhaps this will show you why.” The professor opened a jar with a spider in it.
One by one he demonstrated the three Unforgivables. The class sat on the edge of their seats. The Imperius curse had been funny, at first. The spider had danced, but then the ex-Auror had tried to make it bend itself in half. It was painful just to watch. Hermione’s objections had burst out, making the man stop. Then came the Cruciatus curse. Neville shook and sweated throughout the demonstration. Harbin had nudged Draco aside to take Neville’s hand. Again, it was Hermione who stopped Professor Moody. Lastly, it was the Killing Curse. Professor Moody then mentioned Harry Potter just before a deep silence fell as the spider lay dead on the teacher’s desk.
The silence lasted until Professor Moody incendioed the spider’s remains. “There’s nothing you can do about the Cruciatus curse or the Killing Curse, but you can fight against the Imperius curse.”
The professor surveyed the class, finally stopping at Hermione. “You, Granger, get up here.”
She stood slowly, approaching the teacher with wariness. It was smart of her.
“To fight the Imperius curse takes strength of mind, strength of will. You have to fight it! Don’t let it take over! Don’t let your guard down! Constant vigilance!” He immediately turned to Hermione. “Remember, girl, fight it. Imperio!”
Hermione swayed as the curse hit.
“Cluck like a chicken,” the professor ordered.
Her mouth opened, then closed, then opened again, the clucking of a chicken coming out.
Professor Moody ended the spell, nodding. “Good try, Miss Granger, very good try. Thomas, you next!”
One by one, the class was put under the curse.
Harbin knew exactly what he was going to do before it was his turn. He had seen what he looked like while under the Imperius curse. Gavin had put him under the spell numerous times so that he could learn how to counteract it. Like Professor Moody had said, it was all a matter of strength of mind and will. So, because it could be learned, Harbin had practiced. During one of those practices, Gavin and Uncle Jonah had videotaped him so that he could learn to recognize someone who might be under the curse. The signs were subtle, but they were there: eyes that were unfocused, a laxness to their bodies that even movement could not hide.
So when Professor Moody placed him under the curse, he fought it off, but kept his body, his face, and his eyes completely relaxed. He made a show of fighting it off, but like the rest of the class, he eventually gave in and did whatever Professor Moody told him to do.
The professor made a disgusted noise. “Only Granger and Malfoy even managed to fight a little bit. The rest of you are doomed to be imperiused at a drop of a wand.”
Thankfully, the bell rang and the class scattered.
“Hurry! I don’t want to miss this!” Ron yanked and pulled Neville along, the other Gryffindors surging after him.
Harbin and the Slytherins followed, but none of them rushed or pushed like the lions. He wasn’t sure what all the excitement was about. Yes, the students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang were arriving, but unless they were drastically different from Hogwarts students, he saw no need to rush out onto the grounds to watch their arrival. Perhaps it was just the oddity of having someone other than regular Hogwarts’ students at the school? He pulled up the collar of his mid-autumn robe, the late October air cooling for the coming winter months, quietly hissing a question to Valère about his comfort and receiving a positive answer. “I hope they arrive in a timely manner, it is chilly.”
“Well, this should provide some distraction from assignments,” Draco drawled from beside him. While his voice and words said he could care less about the new arrivals, his body vibrated with excitement and his silver eyes twinkled as they eagerly scanned the skies and land for their visitors.
Harbin hid his smile, wrapping an arm around his waist and placed his chin on the shoulder of the slightly taller boy. “Distraction, indeed.”
Harbin grunted as Draco elbowed him. He must have heard the sarcasm in his voice.
It wasn’t until the winged horses came into view that Harbin felt the thrill that infused the crowd. He blinked, staring, completely unaware that this form of travel was possible. The animals were incredible: golden palomino bodies, perfectly white wings, muscles bunching and striving as they glided through the blue skies. “Draco, what are they?”
“The horses? They’re Abraxans. Father says the headmistress of Beauxbatons breeds them.” Draco was staring as they smoothly landed, the carriage they pulled gently touching down behind them. “Magnificent, aren’t they?
“Oui, très beaucoup ainsi.” He tilted his head to keep the extraordinary animals in sight. “I must mention them to mes parents.”
Draco snickered. “In other words, you want a pony for your birthday?”
Harbin tickled him, laughing as Draco retaliated. They almost missed the arrival of the Durmstrang students except people around them were pointing and exclaiming. They turned towards the Great Lake, where just the very top of a ship’s mast and the crow’s nest were visible. As it cut through the water, the mast and nest began to rise, emerging from the lake froth to reveal an enormous wooden ship. Filch and some helpers rushed forward to help anchor the Durmstrang ship to a pier that had been specially built for it.
“You know, my father wanted to send me to Durmstrang.”
“He did?” Harbin couldn’t imagine what life would be like without Draco by his side. His arms unconsciously tightened around Draco’s waist.
“Yes, but my mother talked him out of it.”
“I am glad.” He hugged Draco again, utterly grateful that Lady Malfoy had her husband in hand just as well as his own mother had his father. He did not want to think about Hogwarts without Draco.
Dinner that night found the Great Hall completely full. Normally, students could and would skip dinner; sometimes the more studious took dinner back to their common rooms or dorm rooms, but not tonight. Everyone wanted to meet their guests, so they had worn their best uniform robes and made themselves presentable. Or at least their version of presentable.
“Miss Brown, what is that in your hair!” Professor McGonagall accio’ed the bow-like thing from Lavender’s hair without a by-your-leave. It improved the girl’s hairstyle significantly, but Lavender huffed away in indignation.
Moments later, the headmaster rose from his seat and took his place in front of the head table, clapping his hands for their attention.
“Please join me in welcoming the lovely students from Beauxbatons Academy of Magic! And their headmistress, Madame Maxime.”
The young ladies of Beauxbatons were exquisitely shod in blue silk dresses that followed the curves of their bodies; the young men of Beauxbatons were just as resplendent in tailored suits in just a shade darker blue. He nearly giggled when the Beauxbatons students, both boys and girls, sighed and sashayed their way up to the front of the Great Hall, their majestic headmistress following.
Some girls cooed over the Beauxbaton boys, some boys cooed over the Beauxbaton girls.
Others, like Pansy, gagged. “Could they be any more poncey? The girls too,” she grumbled.
Draco grinned at her. “Jealous?”
Only Hermione’s quick thinking saved Draco from a drenching in pumpkin juice.
“Do you reckon everyone from France is like that? Or just students from Beauxbatons?”
Harbin raised his eyebrow at George Weasley’s stage whisper.
Fred grinned. “Present company excluded, of course.”
George waggled his eyebrows.
Harbin shook his head and a pointed finger at the two of them in warning, turning back to watch his countrymen greet his headmaster. It had been quite some time since he had spent much time with fellow Frenchmen. He had been living in New York City for two years before Professor Snape brought him his Hogwarts letter, and their trips back to Paris had been sporadic at best with his father’s work. It would be nice to experience a more Gallic point of view while the Beauxbatons students were here. Although, he didn’t remember his countrymen being quite so . . . fanciful?
Professor Dumbledore escorted Madame Maxime to her seat, then took his place again, arms upraised in welcome. “And now, our friends from the North, please greet the proud students of Durmstrang. And their headmaster, Igor Karkaroff.”
The Great Hall’s doors burst open, the heavy thump of footsteps and staffs rang out, heralding Durmstrang’s arrival.
Durmstrang was the direct opposite of Beauxbatons: heavy wool and fur coats, sturdy, forceful movements. The students of the northern school were hearty and solid as the Beauxbatons students were delicate. Durmstrang marched down the central aisle, wooden staves pounding out a militant beat. Several of the young men burst into a run, gaining momentum to launch themselves into feats of acrobatics reminiscent of Brailian capoeira.
Harbin could not imagine Draco as one of these Durmstrang students, not until one of the male students blew on the tip of his wand, forming a phoenix of fire as a gift for Hogwarts’ headmaster. Skills like that Harbin could see from Draco, but not the gruffness of Durmstrang.
“Oh yum,” Pansy cooed, eyes firmly on the Durmstrang boys. “Now that’s more like it.”
Many of the girls, and a few boys, nodded in stunned breathlessness.
“Blimey!” Ron’s whisper was loud enough to reach them. “It’s Viktor Krum!”
Harbin blinked, now realizing why the lone man following in the wake of the other students looked so familiar. “I had not realized Krum was still a student.”
“He only started playing professionally when he turned seventeen this past year,” Draco answered over his shoulder, eyes firmly on the Bulgarian seeker. “I agree with Pansy, Durmstrang is much more impressive.”
Harbin smiled wickedly to himself as food appeared on the tables. “Your mother is a very perceptive woman.”
Draco blinked, finally turning around. “Well, yes, of course, but why--”
“She knew you would have never fit in at Durmstrang.” He kept his head down, firmly fixed on his dinner plate and his food.
“I beg your pardon.” Draco was glaring, Harbin could feel it.
"You, my delicate little flower, would never fare so well among those very manly men," he teased quietly, so that only Draco could hear. He shook with laughter as Draco’s face went from his regular paleness to angry red to livid purple.
“I am NOT! You think! I! You--” Draco sputtered and gaped, basically incoherent with outrage.
Harbin brushed a kiss on the corner of Draco’s mouth, nose nuzzling against Draco’s. “Yes, you are, but you are perfect nevertheless.”
He could see Draco’s indecision: take offense or accept the kiss and compliment.
Grudgingly, glaring at him the entire time, Draco grumbled, “You’re just lucky I like you.”
Harbin threw his head back and laughed.
Draco carefully held himself still, even though he was thrumming with excitement. All around him, Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang students were abuzz with the same feeling, barely noticing the Halloween treats scattered about the long tables. Tonight the Cup would announce the three champions. While he had some side bets with other Slytherins as to who would represent each school, it was the anticipation of the start of the TriWizard Tournament that really held Draco in thrall. Neither his father nor his grandfather had witnessed a tournament, not even his great grandfather for that matter. If this reinstatement of the tournament did not continue, then this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Even the Minister of Magic had appeared to watch the event in person. The head table and the dais it sat upon had been expanded so that Fudge, Crouch, Bagman, and the foreign headmaster and headmistress could be seated with the Hogwarts staff.
As dinner ended, Dumbledore stood up, a hush fell over the Great Hall. The Cup was unveiled, and the first champion was revealed: the half-veela girl from Beauxbatons. The second champion, Krum, was not a surprise. The third, the Hogwarts champion, was a damn Hufflepuff. Draco groused as he paid Blaise. He had been sure anyone else but a damn Hufflepuff would have been chosen.
Dumbledore grinned, clapping his hands for silence. “Excellent! We now have our three champions! But, in the end, only one will go down in history. Only one will hoist this chalice of champions, this vessel of victory, the TriWizard Cup!”
Draco joined the cheering, allowing his exuberance an outlet, but he, along with everyone else in the room was startled into silence as the Cup flamed red once more. Another piece of parchment drifted down from the fire.
Dumbledore deftly caught it. The headmaster stared at the fourth piece of parchment, clearly perturbed. “Harry Potter?”
The hall erupted into whispers.
Draco found that he couldn’t turn his head to see Harbin, realizing that Severus’ Unbreakable Vow had kicked in. Across the hall, he could see Neville and the male Weasleys giving him a look, but were also unable to look at the person mere inches away from him. Even Hermione, who was sitting directly across from Harbin, couldn’t turn her head towards him. But then again, it did not look like she was trying.
Fudge was furious as he hissed, “Is there something you neglected to tell me, Albus?”
“No, Cornelius,” Dumbledore patiently answered, as if he had given the same answer time and time again. “Harry Potter has never been enrolled in Hogwarts.” The headmaster turned to Madame Maxine and Headmaster Karkaroff. “Do either of you, by chance, have Harry Potter enrolled in your schools?”
The old man was entirely too pleasant. Thankfully, no one, except of the people smart enough to know this, noticed.
Both foreign headmasters shook their heads.
“But ze cup ‘as never made a mistake before, oui?” Madame Maxine asked, eying the cup.
Even from here Draco could see Dumbledore’s twinkling eyes. “There is a first time for everything, my dear Madame Maxine. We have only three champions.”
Dumbledore crumpled the last piece of parchment, threw it in the air where it vanished in a puff of flames.
When he couldn’t sleep, Severus patrolled. Measured steps quieted his mind, but searching eyes kept him alert. When Harbin stumbled out of the Slytherin dorms, he was there to catch the young man.
“Professeur!” What followed was a babble of nonsense until he forced a calming draught down the boy’s gullet.
“Now,” he said, “again.”
“I saw the man who put Harry Potter’s name into the cup.”
And there was the reason why only three Champions were competing. When the boy did not even think of himself as Harry Potter, the legal contract represented by the Cup could not force him to compete.
“Voldemort called him ‘Crouch.’” Harbin’s eyes narrowed. “But the man he placed under the Cruciatus curse was too young to be Mr. Crouch.”
“His son.” Severus mentally cursed. “His death was reported in the Prophet this summer.”
“Obviously they were wrong. Is the son an animagus like Sirius?”
This is what he liked about Harbin. The boy thought. “No, but I will find out how he escaped.”
“Professeur, there is more. Voldemort knows my name.”
Severus mentally cursed again.
“Crouch was supposed to put my name in the Cup, but put in Harry Potter’s instead.”
Apparently, the years in Azkaban had not been kind to Crouch Jr. The man had been one of the wiliest of the Dark Lord’s followers. His skills of subterfuge had managed to conceal him from even Severus’ determined efforts to fret out hidden Death Eaters. He smoothed down Harbin’s unruly hair. He noticed that the boy had removed the glamour on his hair this past summer and had not replaced it. When he had mentioned it to Draco, his godson had said that Harbin said something about it being fashionable in the muggle world. His godson had not been impressed, and not a little disgruntled.
“I will tell the headmaster.”
“Merci, professeur.” Harbin yawned politely behind his hand, patting Severus on the arm with the other. He wandered back into the dorms.
Severus sometimes wondered about the trusting nature of the boy. Then remembered how Harbin’s mind was always moving and thinking, but how his heart was always involved. The boy also had very good instincts. He continued to think about Harbin until he reached Albus’ office. Giving the password, he knew he would find Albus in his office, no matter that it was the witching hours.
“Harbin dreamed of the Dark Lord and Barty Crouch, Jr.”
“But Barty Jr. died. In Azkaban.” Albus settled heavily behind his desk, automatically conjuring a tea service.
He reported the dream as Harbin related it to him.
Albus sighed. “I will have Kingsley check on Barty’s body.”
“Polyjuice is the most likely explanation.” When a person died while under the influence of polyjuice potion, they stayed in the polyjuiced body until the hour was complete. The guards who worked at Azkaban would have taken less than thirty minutes from time of death to bury the body. They would not have stayed long in the presence of the dementors.
Albus nodded. “Will that boy never have peace?”
Severus rolled his eyes. Pettigrew on the loose, now Crouch Jr. too, and Harbin only supposedly knew about one of them. The Dark Lord was invading his dreams, even with the help of occlumency, and if Severus wasn’t mistaken, Draco was becoming more and more possessive of Harbin. The boy was in for an interesting year to say the least.
“He must be trying to draw you out for a specific reason,” Hermione announced quietly, even though they were in warded, empty classroom. “Why else would he have Crouch Jr. put your name in the Cup?”
Harbin shrugged a shoulder, knowing she was right, but had nothing to add. He had just finished telling all of his friends about the vision he had the night before. When Draco had woken to find him staring off into space this morning, he had dragged him into this unused classroom after breakfast and demanded to know what was going on. Before Harbin could tell him, furious knocking echoed and Hermione’s demand to be let in were heard. Draco had reluctantly allowed her, Ron, Neville, and the twins inside.
“Dear Merlin,” Draco breathed, utter horror written upon his delicate features. He scooted closer, wrapping a protective arm around Harbin’s waist. “Are you all right?” Gentle fingers and silver eyes touched his scar.
Just as when he had encountered Voldemort in the Chamber of Secrets and in the room that held Nicolas Flamel’s stone, his scar was bright red. “Merci, mon ami, I am fine.”
“Blimey, mate, it’s a good thing no one knows you’re,” Ron glanced around the empty room, lowering his voice, “you-know-who.”
Harbin bit down on his smile even as he saw both Draco and Hermione roll their eyes.
Neville patted his shoulder. It was obvious he wanted to say something, to offer advice or some kind of support, but wasn’t sure what he should say. Nevertheless, he gave a smile and offered, “If you need any help, Hari--”
“Thank you, Neville, you are a good friend.” He smiled at the shy boy who was slowly coming out of his shell.
“Hari,” George called for his attention, an unusually worried frown on his face. “You’ve told someone, right?”
“Other than us?” Fred chimed in, leaning forward, his demeanor just as unusually serious. “An adult?”
Harbin smiled gently at them, touched by their concern. Fred and George were not ones to go to adults unless they absolutely had to, preferring to handle things themselves. For them to bring in adults, they must be worried indeed. “Oui, I told Professeur Snape last night and I wrote to mes parents this morning.”
“If Professor Snape knows, then the headmaster knows as well,” Hermione said with a nod.
“Oui.” The bell for first class rang before Harbin could say more, sending him and his friends scrambling for their things and to their classes for the day.
Harbin stared down into the pit. It was a long, long way down. The First Task was about to begin and the stands were filled to the brim with spectators. Not only were there students and staff from the three schools, but also wizards and witches from all over England who had wanted to see the spectacle for themselves. And of course, press representatives from all over the wizarding world were there as well. Everyone was huddled into their cloaks and coats against the blistering, late November winds that swooped about the stands that had been erected for the First Task.
The week leading up this task had been filled with unbearable anticipation. Hufflepuffs were known to burst into tears from all of the excitement. Fred and George’s betting business had boomed, bets changing as rumors about the task spread, fast and furious. The champions had been seen practicing all sorts of magic all over the school’s grounds, their friends helping as much as they hindered. All of the newspapers had been filled with nothing else but the Tournament, recapping previous ones, speculations on the current one. The articles that had been the most scintillating were written by a woman named Rita Skeeter. She seemed to have an inside source to everything that happened at the school for her articles spoke of things that no outsider could know, such as the specific spells the champions had been seen practicing. The articles had offered her evaluation of their proficiency of the spells, leading to some rather scathing rants by the Beauxbatons champion, angry glares from the Durmstrang champion, and embarrassed, determined practicing from the Hogwarts champion.
Finally, the day had come and the atmosphere had reached a fevered pitch. Bodies vibrated, carrying their excitement into the wooden bleachers, shaking the stands with their ovations and shouts. Cheers from the spectators were deafening, only quieting as Professor Dumbledore shot sparks into the air.
“Welcome, welcome, one and all! Welcome to the First Task of the TriWizard Tournament!” The headmaster paused as everyone cheered again. He held up his hands for silence. “The task set before the champions is quite simple: retrieve the golden egg.”
Roars interrupted him. Yells and the firing of spells followed. People jumped to their feet.
Harbin stared in horror as an enormous green dragon was led out into the pit. It only began to cooperate with its handlers when a wizard came out floating a nest full of eggs. A glimmer caught his eye; the golden egg was among the dragon’s clutch. He was never more grateful for being Harbin Chevalier rather than Harry Potter. Even from way up here, that dragon looked gargantuan and scarily competent at defending her eggs.
He watched with excitement as first Fleur, then Viktor, then lastly Cedric took on their respective dragons. He jumped to his feet, with everyone else, gasping as Cedric was slammed into a boulder by the Swedish short-snout. He lay unconscious, the golden egg rolling out of his hand.
Dragonhandlers rushed into the pit, casting spells and herding the short-snout away from the still form of Cedric Diggory. Once the dragon was safely away, Madame Pomfrey rushed to Cedric’s side. Once he saw that the Hufflepuff was again conscious and seemed to be all right, Harbin turned his attention back to the dragon and dragonhandlers. One of them had familiar red hair.
“Is that your brother?” Harbin pointed, but really, it was needless as everyone knew which of the handlers he was referring to.
Ron grinned. “Yeah, that’s Charlie. Bill’s the oldest, then him.”
“He’s rather brilliant, isn’t he?” Tracy murmured, leaning past Hermione and Harbin to get a better look at Charlie Weasley.
“Yeah. Not stuck up like Percy and not crazy like Fred and George.” Ron would have gone on but Draco barked out a laugh.
“Weasley, I don’t think she meant he’s a brilliant brother.”
It took Ron a moment, then he flushed red and went incoherent.
Their friends laughed and teased him as they emptied the stands.
When the Yule Ball was announced, everyone immediately began making plans on who to ask, what to wear, etc. Harbin merely blinked, sat back and surveyed the Great Hall for a likely date. The majority of the younger boys, of course, had fearful looks, while the younger girls had stars in their eyes. Seeing several of those young ladies eying him, Harbin decided he would enjoy himself with an older student; someone he could dance with and converse with. Giggly conversations were not to his taste.
Glancing over to his right, he wondered if Draco might like to accompany him as his date, but two things stopped him: Draco had never shown an interest in boys and Pansy was already pouncing on Draco.
“You’ll be my date,” she was saying, a glint in her eyes that said there was only one possible response, “right?”
Draco waved her off, not even truly paying attention to her. Sometimes Harbin wondered if Draco really was that brave to dismiss Pansy like that. “Sure, whatever you want, Pans.”
Harbin shared a commiserating grin with his best friend when she immediately squealed and began planning their wardrobe. He idly thought about taking Hermione, or Tracy, but ultimately decided that Hermione was too much like a sister and he knew through Hermione that Tracy was utterly infatuated with one of the Ravenclaw prefects.
He decided that none of the girls at Hogwarts really caught his interest, so he turned to the section of the Ravenclaw table that had been reserved for the Beauxbatons students. He knew only a few of them, Fleur Delacour being one of them, of course. He didn’t much like the way she complained about Hogwarts, so she was out. He let his eyes drift down the tables, stopping when they landed on Carine Simon. According to rumor, she was Fleur’s archrival, the other favorite for the Beauxbatons champion. She was a seventh year, and absolutely lovely. Blonde hair, darker than Fleur’s, a beautiful burnished gold, and dark, knowing eyes.
Harbin grinned, standing.
“Hari, where are you going?” Hermione’s question caught all of their yearmates’ attention.
“To procure a date for the ball.”
Many of the boys wished him luck, some of the girls frowned when they realized he was heading towards the Ravenclaw table. He didn’t see Draco dropping his utensils and glaring at his back.
Christmas, Yule Ball
Harbin grinned at himself in the mirror. Unlike most boys his age, he was ever so grateful that his mother chose his clothing for him. After all, if his mother wasn’t so busy running his father’s life, she would have made a very successful fashion designer. She not only had impeccable taste, but she knew how to choose clothing that was comfortable and fashionable. Tonight was no exception. His formal dress robes had a relaxed fit that was comfortable, but fit him perfectly for a formal dance. The only things he didn’t like about his robes were the high collar and the bow tie, since neither allowed him to wear Valère as a living, dark emerald choker. Ah, well, perhaps next time.
Draco came out of the bathroom, drawing his attention away from the mirror and onto the other boy. Harbin smiled in delight. Draco had left the hair gel out, leaving soft blonde strands to frame his face. The hair softened the pointiness that came with loosing baby fat and made Draco look all the more fey.
“You look marvelous, Draco.” Harbin couldn’t help himself, reaching out to touch silky hair, tracing Draco’s delicate skin. He felt the heat under his fingertips as Draco blushed.
“Merci, Harbin.” He seemed to say it automatically, silver gray eyes wide and focused on his.
“De rien.” Harbin leaned forward, enfolding Draco into a hug. He pulled back, smiling, lacing their fingers together, using the grip to tug him along. “Come, let us go.”
Draco mutely nodded and followed.
Harbin smiled when he saw the other fourth years gathered in the common room. He had to stop and praise each and every one of the girls. They smirked and giggled, complimenting him back, leaning in for kisses and hugs. He left his best friend for last. “Hermione, you look ravishing!”
She grinned, hugging him exuberantly. “I hope Viktor thinks so.”
Pansy rolled her eyes. “If he doesn’t, I’m sure Harbin will straighten him out for you.”
Hermione grinned; Tracy and the other girls laughed. It had surprised none of the Slytherins that Viktor Krum had asked Hermione to the ball. Even though official Quidditch games had been suspended for the year, the Quidditch club – along with all the other clubs – were still going strong. The headmaster invited both Beauxbatons and Durmstrang students to participate in all of the clubs. When Hermione had innocently asked why Viktor wasn’t out there playing during one of the club’s matches, he had honestly answered that it was his job, not his hobby any longer. Surprised, she had quietly sat next to him and read her literary club book. When he asked her what she had been reading, she enthusiastically described the book club and the fictional book on ancient wizards living in Stonehenge. He surprised her by asking to join her at the next book club meeting. And, of course, that was that. The Yule Ball would be their first date.
“Hermione,” Harbin picked up her hand, placing it on his elbow. “I would be honored to escort you until we find Viktor.”
Hermione grinned, helping him lead the way out of the dungeons and towards the Great Hall. Harbin smothered a laugh when he glanced behind to see Pansy forcing a long-suffering Draco to escort her as he was doing with Hermione.
Once they reached the foyer in front of the Great Hall, those with dates in other houses or schools split to find them. Harbin laughed and talked with friends and acquaintances, complimenting the girls just to see them smile and blush. He waved at Ron and Neville, grinning widely when he saw that Neville had not one, but two young ladies on his arms. Ginny Weasley smiled and waved from Neville’s right, while Luna Lovegood’s lips curved serenely as she held Neville’s left hand. Apparently, Ron had not known his best friend was going to the ball with two girls, one of which was his little sister, because he was glaring at Neville. Which was a good thing, because he never saw how many people recoiled at the sight of his rather . . . depressing dress robes.
Harbin stared at the ghastly sight, before deciding to do something about it. “Ron?”
“Yeah?” The other boy barely met his eyes.
“Would you mind if I,” Harbin stared, choosing his words carefully so as to not set off the volatile redhead, “made your robes less --”
“Disgusting? Horrible? A bloody nightmare?”
Harbin twisted his mouth into a moue. “Less old fashioned?”
“Mate, anything you can do to make this disaster better is fine by me.” Ron’s face was all but begging and pleading. But then the begging and pleading changed to utter bewilderment.
Harbin blinked, turning to see what had confounded Ron so. He grinned. The Slytherin girls that had been knotted about Hermione finally moved, allowing Viktor to claim his date for the night. “She is beautiful, is she not?”
Ron jerked, red rising from his neck to meet his hair. He ducked, scuffing already scuffed shoes. “Eh, she looks all right.”
“Mmmm.” Harbin bit his lip, concentrating on getting rid of the overabundant lace so that he wouldn’t laugh. “Who is your date for tonight?”
“Parvati Patil,” Ron mumbled, eyes occasionally peeking at Hermione.
“She is a lovely young lady.” Harbin had to bite down even harder to keep from laughing at the shock and admiration on Ron’s face.
“Yeah, I guess.”
After a few more minutes, he stepped back. “I am sorry, Ron, but that is the best I can do.”
Ron glanced down at himself. The lace around his wrists and along the open placket of his robes was completely gone. The lace of the neckpiece had been subdued and the black bowtie had been shrunken down to a more manageable level. Unfortunately, Harbin did not have the skill to change the regrettable color.
Ron heaved a sigh. “Thanks, mate. It’s better than nothing.”
Harbin grinned, clapping him on his shoulder as he spotted Carine. “Good luck, Ron, I will see you later.”
It did not surprise Severus one bit when he saw Harbin gliding across the dance floor with an older, petite girl in his arms. The two were a striking couple: he with his dark hair and black dress robes, she with her blonde hair and shimmering pale blue dress. Not only did they look good together, they moved well together. Harbin was far from a professional dancer, but he moved with a surety and confidence that his peers and many of the older boys lacked. Obviously his parents had enrolled him in dance classes as a child and the lessons had stuck. She moved like a professional dancer and seemed pleased to be in his arms. Harbin’s smile, if it was anything to go by, seemed just as pleased.
Severus had to stifle his smile when he saw that not everyone was thrilled with the dancing. His godson sat glaring at the dance floor, while Pansy Parkinson sat glaring at Draco. Next to Draco, in a nearly identical pose, was Weasley. And next to him, in the same irritated pose as her sister-in-misery was the Gryffindor Patil twin. Following the boys’ line of sight, he found that while Weasley was glaring at Krum and Hermione, Draco was glaring at Harbin and his date. Severus literally had to place a long finger across his lips lest he laugh out loud and ruin his reputation.
He hadn’t liked the idea of the Yule Ball since Dumbledore announced it. Draco had even thought that he wouldn’t go, of course, that changed the moment Pansy pounced on him. He didn’t even really object to going with Pansy. She was a dear friend, but he didn’t want to be sitting out on the sidelines, watching Harbin dance with the French tart he’d asked out.
“If you wanted to go with him, why didn’t you ask?” Pansy hissed into his ear.
Draco felt his face freeze into a neutral mask, thankfully, before answering. Why would he ask Harbin to the dance? What kind of stupid question was that? “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Liar,” she snorted, very inelegantly. Then she poked him. “You haven’t taken your eyes off him since he came out of your dorm room. And you haven’t stopped glaring at his date since he picked her up. Face it, Draco, you’re jealous.”
“I am not. This is merely a boring party.” Why the hell did she think he was jealous? He wasn’t jealous; he just wasn’t having a good time. That was all.
“Darling, why don’t I believe you?” Her laughing words irritated him. “Now, are you going to ask me to dance or not?”
“No – ow!” Draco grabbed at his twisted ear.
“Wrong answer!” the crazy bint declared cheerfully, grabbing his hand. “It’s a fast song; it won’t be too bad dancing with me instead of him. Now come on!”
Draco resignedly let himself be dragged onto the floor. Then Pansy had the audacity to maneuver the two of them so they were dancing next to Harbin and his date. Harbin, damn his oblivious hide, grinned at him and turned so that they were all dancing together. Draco had never been so glad for the darkened Great Hall, grateful that the strobing balls of lights distorted clear views, grateful that Harbin couldn’t see how Draco barely moved, but instead, watched him dance.
He couldn’t drag his eyes away from the way Harbin’s hips swayed and surged to the rhythm of the song. It had to be illegal the way Harbin’s hips swung side to side, emphasizing his groin, then his torso, then back again. Harbin’s hands dangled beside those bewitching hips, only to stop Draco’s breath when they skimmed up those damn hips, across that flat stomach to reach up into the air. He licked his lips as Harbin’s hands retraced their stops on the way back down, pausing to lift sweat-slick hair off the nape of his neck.
He was in so much trouble.
When Carine had whispered in his ear that the Great Hall had been become too stifling for her, Harbin immediately escorted her outside. But the gardens were cold and crowded, so Carine tugged him into the Beauxbaton’s carriage and into her room.
"Lovely," Harbin murmured, eyes gazing around her room. Hanging draperies about her blue and white bed, soft lighting, and pale woods dominated the room.
"Harbin, come here." Carine patted the space beside her where she lounged at the end of her bed. Her outer robes were gone, draped over her desk chair, leaving her clad only in the shimmering blue gown. Even her dainty silver heels were off, neatly tucked under the bed, leaving her stocking toes peeking out from under her gown.
Harbin sat, surprise freezing him when she reached for the clasp of his robes. When those pooled around his hips, she smiled, smoothing her hand down his chest. He had seen that kind of smile before. It was the smile his mother gave his father right before she dragged him and Uncle Jonah into their bedroom.
Harbin was interested to learn where that kind of smile might lead him tonight.
Though Harbin’s parents had allowed him to stay for the Yule Ball, they had requested that he come home for the remainder of the Christmas holidays. Professor Dumbledore had been kind enough to allow him the use of his floo, so after bidding his friends and Carine goodbye, he landed in the entryway hearth at Pottere Hale and into his brother’s waiting embrace.
“Hari! You are home!”
Sebastien nearly bowled him over, but Harbin didn’t care. He grabbed his little brother and swung him up into the air, grinning as Sebastien laughed. “How are you, mon petit frère?”
“I am brilliant!” Sebastien declared.
Harbin laughed at the British slang. “You are spending too much time with Sirius, mon bébé!”
“Bite your tongue, young man! There’s no such thing!” Sirius grabbed them both up, hugging and shaking, making both Chevalier boys laugh.
Harbin squirmed out of Sirius’ arms to hug Gavin. “It is good to see you.”
“It’s good to see you too, Hari!” Gavin bent down conspiratorally, lowering his voice, aware of Sirius’ curious eyes. “I’ve gotten a couple of letters from him.”
“You have?!” Harbin bounced, whisper a little loud because he was exuberantly hugging his tutor. “What did he say?”
Gavin winked, smirking at Sirius. “We’ll talk later.”
“Oui! Oui!” Harbin could barely wait! Finally, progess!
Harbin hugged his mother, blinking in surprise when he realized he could see over his mother’s shoulder. She was a tall, elegant lady and he hadn’t realized he had grown so much. She must have realized the same because she held him at arms’ length, sharp brown eyes taking him in, before her bottom lip wobbled just the slightest.
“Oh, mon bébé, you are growing up!”
He hugged her again, deathly afraid she was going to cry. He was saved when his father carefully extracted him from his mother’s embrace and substituted his brother, who rolled his eyes but put up with their mother’s cuddling. Harbin laughed into his father’s hair as he fell into his embrace.
“Ah, mon fils, you will be taller than me soon.”
Before he could answer, he was pushed into Uncle Jonah’s arms. He grinned up into his uncle’s familiar face, but the unfamiliar and shrinking distance between their eyes. “Bonjour, Oncle Jonah.”
“Harbin.” Strong arms squeezed, the sharpest blue eyes gazed into his. “Have you had any trouble?”
Harbin didn’t bother hiding his grin. This was how his uncle showed his love: physical affection and inquiries about problems. “Non, oncle.”
Uncle Jonah nodded, giving him another squeeze.
Harbin pulled away, lips pulling into a frown. “Where is Remus?”
His parents and uncle exchanged uncomfortable looks.
It was Sirius who cleared his throat. “It was the full moon this past weekend, Hari, he’s still recovering.”
Harbin’s whole body tightened. He remembered the agony that Remus suffered when transforming into and out of his werewolf form. “But the Wolfsbane?”
“It helps, but he still needs time to recover,” Sirius clarified gently, cupping both of his shoulders as he genuflected in front of him. “The recovery time is less and the injuries aren’t as severe. Having the forest to roam and Padfoot to play with helps as well.”
Harbin nodded. “May I see him?”
“Of course!” Sirius led the way to their bedroom, opening the door with unusual care.
Harbin walked as quietly as Uncle Jonah had taught him, blinking back tears at the sight of an exhausted, torn-down Remus lying curled up in the middle of the big bed. He was asleep, but something must have woken him as he stirred.
“Someone’s here to see you, Moony.”
Harbin stepped forward at his cue, smiling and gently taking Remus’ closest hand. “Bonjour, Remus.”
“Hari,” Remus murmured, a pleased smile drifting onto his lips. “You’re home.”
“Oui,” he answered, but did not want to speak of himself. “How are you feeling?”
Remus offered him a stronger smile. “I’ll be fine soon enough. How long will you be home?”
It would seem Remus did not want to speak of himself either, so Harbin indulged him. “A little over a week. I have finished all of my assignments, so I will have plenty of time to spend with everyone.”
“That’s good. Did you enjoy the Yule Ball?”
“Oui, très beaucoup ainsi. Carine was a lovely date. I think she may be interested in a relationship.” Harbin grinned as Sirius quietly hooted.
Remus smirked. “Don’t follow any of this twit’s advice on dating, Hari.”
Their combined laughter gently shook the bed.
“Have we heard anything about Pettigrew or Crouch Jr.?” Harbin asked at the dinner table that night.
“So far nothing about Wormtail,” Sirius groused, obviously not happy. “Slippery little rat’s gone to ground. Probably passing himself off as some poor sop’s pet rat again.”
Remus took his lover’s hand and squeezed, but said nothing. Smiling gently as Sirius served him more food than he could possibly eat. Harbin shared a grin with Remus when Sirius also served large portions to his godson. After his years in Azkaban, Sirius was a little obessessed with making sure those he loved had enough to eat.
“Severus told me that the body thought to be Crouch Jr. was actually Crouch’s wife.” Gavin glared at the broccoli he speared off his plate. “Crouch swears that he knew nothing about his wife switching places with their son.”
“Bollocks!” Sirius sneered, reminding Harbin strongly of Professor Snape. “How did he explain her absence? A long visit to relatives out of the country?”
“Actually, yes.” Uncle Jonah had an amused tilt to his lips that was almost hidden as he dabbed them with his napkin. “He told the Aurors that she had left for a long visit for her health and had no idea she was dead.”
Gavin rolled his eyes. “So the woman didn’t even come back to England for her son’s funeral?”
“He claimed she was still too ashamed of their son’s Death Eater status to come home.”
It was Sirius’ turn to roll his eyes. “I remember her visiting once a week, every week. Sometimes she was with Crouch, sometimes not, but she always came to visit good ol’ Barty Jr.”
“Thankfully, because of this investigation, Albus has been able to ask that Mr. Crouch be kept away from the Tournament, and thus Hogwarts, as a precaution,” his father announced. “Mr. Crouch, of course, denied any culpability, but has stepped down as a Tournament judge. I believe the Ministry is sending someone to replace him.”
Harbin nodded, chewing thoughtfully on his steamed vermouth mussels.
“Have you been checking on the wards that Professeur Snape and Gavin devised for you, Harbin?” his mother asked, a glint in her eye that indicated there was only one right answer.
“Gavin, should we practice while I am here?” Harbin asked, wondering how he was going to fill his days of vacation. During the summer, his and Sebastien’s schedules were set, but with such a short time to spend at home, he wondered if there was any need for one.
Gavin shrugged a shoulder. “We could brush up on some of your skills, if you’d like.”
“It is a good idea,” his father agreed; his mother and uncle were nodding as well.
“You should also practice your hand-to-hand, Hari,” his mother said, with a pointed look at his uncle. Then she turned a stern look upon his brother. “You as well, Sebastien.”
“Oui, maman,” Sebastien weakly agreed.
Ah, it looked like Sebastien still wasn’t too keen on those lessons. In his letters to Harbin, Sebastien bitterly complained about learning hand-to-hand combat, disliking being thrown around and made to fight. He had no problem with gymnastics or working up a sweat, he just wasn’t one to like physical altercations. It was most likely why their uncle focused on him even more, forcing him to additional practices, afraid his dislike of fighting would leave him defenseless.
Harbin nudged him, winking and grinning conspiratorally. “If we gang up on oncle, maybe we can best him?”
Sebastien rolled his eyes, but gamely nodded, knowing the likelihood of that was ridiculously low.
All of the adults were hiding smirks and laughter, also knowing that to be true.
Draco nearly collapsed into the chair at the Three Broomsticks, packages dropped where they may, shedding his heavy coat in the warm atmosphere of the inn. The first Hogsmeade weekend in the second term was always packed and hectic with students eager to spend any Christmas money received. He, of course, was not one of those people. He merely needed to stock up on certain necessities.
“Hard day of shopping, Draco?” Pansy was smirking at him over the rim of her butterbeer.
“I was abandoned by my so-called friends.” He glared at Vincent and Gregory, both of whom had left him with all of his bags, in their eagerness to shop at Honeydukes. They both ducked their heads and concentrated on their booty, clearly feeling guilt for leaving him alone.
“Hermione! Tracy!” Pansy waved them both over, completing the fourth year Slytherins, except for one exception.
“Where’s Hari?” Draco asked, stealing a sip from Pansy’s drink as she nosed her way into Hermione and Tracy’s packages.
“We just saw him,” Tracy answered, gesturing towards the other end of Hogsmeade. “He’s at Madam Puddifoot’s.”
The butterbeer slipped from his grip. Pansy shrieked; people where jumping up and exclaiming. Draco didn’t notice a thing. He stood, absently gathering his things, and left the Three Broomsticks. He never noticed Hermione and Pansy exchanging worried glances and rushing after him.
Draco could see them through the front window of the tea shop. Harbin was perfect as always, laughing and smiling at the girl across from him. Carine Simon, the French tart who had been his date for the Yule Ball, was leering at him and possessively gripping his hand.
His body snapped to and froze at Hermione’s shouted spell. Only then did he realize that the girls had followed him and that his wand was in his hand. Small hands on either side held him up.
“Really, Draco, what were you going to do? Curse them?” Hermione’s question was utter exasperation.
‘Not them,’ he thought. ‘Just her.’
“What do we do with him?” Pansy asked, stroking his stiff shoulder.
“Take him to his godfather.”
Internally, he winced. He could feel Pansy wince too.
“Merlin, Hermione, do we really--”
“Pansy, you saw him! He didn’t even think about it!”
He would have howled in protest, but not only was he still under Hermione’s spell, it was kind of true. He didn’t really remember leaving the Three Broomsticks, nor did he remember grabbing his wand. Still, he would have protested on principle.
“Wingardium Leviosa.” Again, it was Hermione’s spell.
It was strange, floating on his back, staring up at the girls and the blue skies above Hogsmeade.
“Can you manage his packages?”
Pansy gave an unladylike snort. “Damn it, Draco, did you have to buy so much?”
“What is all that stuff?” Hermione marveled.
He could feel Hermione’s spell tugging him along even as she made conversation with Pansy. Soon enough, the clear skies was blocked by the gates of Hogwarts.
“Ladies, may I ask what you’re doing to Draco?” Blaise’s smooth voice heralded his face hovering in Draco’s line of sight. His friend gave him a perplexed grin and a pat on the shoulder.
Draco would have rolled his eyes if he could as the girls filled Blaise in. They made it sound so bad, like he was a mindless, raving lunatic, ready to curse Harbin and the Simon girl into oblivion. He mentally rolled his eyes. He would have never hurt Harbin.
The stone ceilings of Hogwarts were very interesting. He’d never paid any attention to them before, but they were quite nice. Thankfully, they encountered no one else while his friends levitated him down into the dungeons. If anyone else had seen him like this, he would have to obliviate them. Then the chill of the dungeons permeated the air.
Severus had to blink when he saw three of his snakes floating a fourth. When he saw the blond hair, he had to sigh and wonder what Draco had done now to warrant Hermione placing a Body Bind curse on him. As they drew near, he crossed his arms, peering down at his godson, then turned his gaze upon his other snakes. “Well?”
He rolled his eyes skyward as they told him what Draco had attempted. Of course. Of course. Did Draco react like a normal child confronted with the realization that he was in love with his best friend? Of course not. Did Draco sulk and pout like a normal child when confronted with Harbin on a date with his girlfriend? Of course not.
No. Instead, the boy pulled his wand and was ready to attack the girl. Oh, he knew Draco would never harm Harbin. No, contrary to what Hermione had deduced, Draco was only aiming for the girl.
He blamed Lucius for this bit of idiocy.
“Ms. Granger, bring him.” He spun, leading the way towards his private chambers. They trooped after him in silence. Severus waved his hand towards the couch and watched in satisfaction as Hermione expertly lowered Draco onto it before canceling her levitation spell. He waved them off, waiting until they left his rooms before canceling the Body Bind.
“Well?” Severus sat down in his armchair and conjured himself tea.
Draco immediately jumped up. “I wasn’t going to hurt Harbin!”
“I know that, idiot child. Why?”
Draco deflated back onto the couch. “He was . . . and she was . . . and I just.”
“Yes, Draco, Malfoys are always so articulate.”
Draco dramatically groaned, then the story came spilling out. It was barely understandable, but after a fifteen minute ramble, it became more and more coherent. And then the light came on.
“You knew!” Draco accused him, eyes glaring. “You knew I felt this way about him!”
Severus inclined his head.
Draco sighed, slumping back again. “What should I do?”
“Tell him.” Severus had to hide his smirk behind his teacup at Draco’s horrified expression. He knew Draco would never follow that piece of advice, saying it just offer that option. And to rile the boy up.
“I can’t do that!”
He patiently waited as Draco indulged himself in more blustering and arm-waving. Malfoys could be very entertain in all sorts of ways.
Finally, the boy wilted, once again. “He’s got a girlfriend.”
Severus could not refute that, so he merely took another sip.
“Please, Severus, just put me out of my misery!”
He stared at his godson, dramatically draped over the couch, his face a picture of teenage angst. “Will a stupefy be sufficient or shall I move straight to the Killing Curse instead?”
“You’re my godfather! You’re supposed to be supportive, not make fun of me!”
“I believe the job description for the godfather of the Malfoy heir said otherwise.”
Draco glared balefully.
Draco sometimes wondered, in his petulant moments, if his parents hated him and that’s why they chose Severus as his godfather. Harbin got a nice, half-insane, ex-convict mutt of a godfather, but he got a sadist instead. Eventually, the man stopped being amused and started being helpful. He hadn’t wanted to admit it, but Severus was right about a few things. While Draco felt like he was in love with Harbin, he was still young and wouldn’t know love if it bit him on the arse. He wanted to argue that his age had nothing to do with how he felt, but Severus’ glare made him think before opening his mouth.
“Well, I want to be near Harbin all of the time. I get a little crazy whenever Harbin touches anyone else but me,” he quietly confessed. “And you know that I like, admire and respect everything about him.”
Severus humphed. “You sound like a spoiled brat unwilling to share his favorite toy.”
Bastard. Draco glared at his godfather. “Then how can you tell if you love someone?” he challenged, waiting to see if Severus actually gave him an answer or just some clichéd line.
“You are willing to make him happy even if it’s not what you want.”
Draco opened his mouth, but snapped it shut. Severus could not be saying what he thought he was saying. It wouldn’t be fair! He couldn’t give up Harbin just because he was fawning over some chit! “But shouldn’t I fight for his affections?”
“When you are not sure of your own? If it does not work out, then you’ll possibly lose his affections. All of them.” Severus peered at him, stressing the last sentence.
Draco glared at his own hands, knowing that if he messed this up, then he would mess up their friendship as well. He sighed mournfully, curling up into the couch and staring morosely at the fire. He would have to really think about this.
It was freezing, but the stands were charmed to keep them as warm as possible. Harbin bounced in his excitement, his friends surrounding him doing the same. He waved at Carine, grinning as she blew him a kiss. He had been seeing her since the Yule Ball and had learned quite a bit about women in the meantime. His relationship with Carine had even helped him bond with his father, as they both lamented over the intricacies of the female mind.
The crowd was on its feet and roaring, distracting him from flirting with his paramour across the stands, when the champions took their places in front of the judges, including Percy Weasley, replacing his boss, Crouch Sr.
“Welcome, welcome, everyone, to the Second Task of the Triwizard Tournament!” Dumbledore’s magically enhanced announcement met with more cheers. “At the end of our First Task, the standings are as follows: Fleur Delacour from Beauxbatons is in third place, Cedric Diggory from Hogwarts is in second, and Viktor Krum from Durmstrang is in first place!”
The Durmstrang stands reverberated with the stomps and cheers, sending down drifts of dust and wood.
“Now, for this Second Task,” Bagman took up the speech, “something, or should I say someone, of great importance to each champion has been taken and placed under the lake.”
“Vhat do you mean ‘someone’?” Viktor demanded of the judge.
Bagman ignored him, but dread sizzled down Harbin’s spine. Hermione had never shown up for breakfast and wasn’t here now. He thought she had been with Viktor, supporting him before the task. But now, with this announcement – the headmaster’s voice brought him back, assuring everyone that the hostages were perfectly safe and that precautions were in place should something happen. Harbin relaxed, less fearful about Hermione. Then Professor Dumbledore explained to the spectators that as soon as the champions dove into the water viewing globes would emerge so that they could see what was happening. Harbin relaxed even more and hoped that this second task was as exciting as the first, but he had a small reservation. During the first task, dragon-handlers had been in the ring should anything go severely wrong, he could only hope the same kind of precautions were being taken now. He wished the champions the best of luck. And he hoped that the hostages would be safe no matter what, as the headmaster had promised.
The spectators cheered as the champions dove into the water. Mere moments later, after Professor Dumbledore cast the spell, four viewing globes popped up out of nowhere. Three of them showed the champions swimming and dealing with the trials of the lake. The last one showed the “someone of great importance.”
Harbin grabbed Draco, forcing himself to stay seated when he saw that there was a fourth hostage. A child, hardly more than a toddler, floated just within the range of the viewing globe.
Severus hissed, grabbing Albus’ arm. He could see Minerva doing the same on Albus’ other side.
Albus muttered quickly, shifting the hostages’ viewing globe to hide Harbin’s little brother from view.
“Albus,” Minerva anxiously hissed.
“We cannot give him away,” Albus calmly whispered back.
“He will be fine. Once the champions have retrieved their hostages, I will ask the merpeople to bring him back.”
Severus thought that particular plan had several holes, one of which left the champions – and anyone with a quick enough eye – with questions about a fourth hostage, but he was rather busy making sure that Harbin did nothing stupid. The boy was in his seat, thankfully, fingers intertwined with Draco’s. His godson was obviously trying not to wince from the pain of that hold.
All around them, students and families and spectators cheered and moaned as their favored champion either fought with, or was stopped by, some lake creature.
Severus frowned. First, the Delacour girl was caught by grindylows, their long fingers wrapped around her legs. Even when she broke their hold, more reached out to stop her. Then Diggory was waylaid by the giant squid. The enormous invertebrate seemed in a playful mood as it curled its tentacles around the Hufflepuff, not letting him pass. Finally, Krum was being swarmed by lobalugs. He was blasting away at the poisonous creatures, but they continued to multiply.
Severus did not like this. “Albus.”
“We still have time.” The headmaster was still calm. “If the champions do not retrieve their hostages in time, the spells holding the hostages will release and the air sacs will hold until they reach the surface.”
“We don’t know if Sebastien knows how to swim!” If Minerva’s whisper could be any more shrill, she’d be a banshee, but Severus had to agree.
“A simple Wingardium will keep him above water until someone with a broom can get to him.”
Severus doubted it would be that simple. Again, too many holes in that plan to count. He turned to ease his way towards Harbin, only to find both him and Draco already at his shoulder. He nodded to them both, receiving worried nods in return. Harbin was relaxed enough to pass a casual inspection, but he could see the fine lines of tension as the boy stared at the hostage viewing globe. No one could see Sebastien, but it did not stop Harbin from straining for a glimpse.
Time ticked by. Diggory hadn’t managed to get past the squid. Delacour was still fighting the grindylows. Krum had managed to get past the lobalugs, but now was faced with a swarm of grindylows too. A little more than half the time was gone.
With just those words from Albus, he knew that something was wrong. Severus leaned forward to get a closer look at the hostages’ air bubbles.
“Their air bubbles are shrinking too rapidly,” he murmured quietly, gratified to see Harbin merely tensing, with no other external reaction. The tension could be easily misconstrued as worry for his friend and the other hostages and nothing more.
“Is there a plan, professeur?”
Before he could answer, gasps and screams echoed through the crowd. Severus jerked his gaze back to the viewing globes. The air bubble around Hermione’s mouth was barely inflated.
“Albus, the rope is charmed to release after an hour,” Minerva hissed, hand gripping the headmaster’s robes tight. “Her air will not last that long.”
Albus nodded, turning sorrowful eyes to Harbin.
Without a word, Harbin nodded. Already, the boy was reaching into the neck of his robes to remove his pet snake, handing it to Draco who wound it around his own neck. Quiet hissing was lost under the cheering of the crowd, piquing Severus’ interest, but he filed it away for another time.
Severus lifted his wand. “Accio gillyweed!”
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Minerva transfiguring Harbin’s robes into suitable swimwear. Albus was checking on Harbin’s Point Me spellwork and teaching him the spell to assist in propulsion through water. Harbin’s face was set in lines of determination.
The jar of gillyweed from his stores zoomed into his hand. “Harbin, eat this.”
The boy did not even hesitate, reaching into the open jar, stuffing the entire slimy plant into his mouth and chewed.
Severus had to quirk his lips at the disgusted twist of Harbin’s face at the taste. “It will help you breathe and swim.”
Harbin nodded, then jumped into the water.
At his splash, the judges and those around them noticed.
“Why is that boy in the water?” Karkaroff demanded.
Albus ignored him, instead, casting the viewing spell once more. Now they could see Harbin spearing through the water. Creatures rose up to stop him, just like the other champions, but Harbin did not even bother hiding his defense skills, halting the creatures before they could even come close.
“Headmaster, why is there another person in the water?” Bagman demanded. “It’s against the rules!”
“The hostages’ air bubbles are dwindling to nothing,” Severus hissed. It was obvious if these idiots used their eyes and actually looked.
“But,” Bagman blinked and blinked and blinked, eyes finally latching onto the hostages’ viewing globes. “But they were supposed to have enough air for the entire hour.”
“Obviously that is not happening.” He turned away from the imbecile, splitting his attention between the hostages’ viewing globe and Harbin’s. Albus had adjusted the hostages’ globe to show all four of them.
The crowd was on their feet now, the same questions Bagman and Karkaroff were asking echoing in the whispers and murmurs of the crowd.
He turned to see his godson tense with worry. Unseen, in the folds of their robes and cloaks, he captured Draco’s hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze.
Harbin didn’t bother helping the champions he passed. They had their wands, they were adults in the eyes of the law, and therefore, he was perfectly content to leave them to deal with their obstacles. While he would have liked to help them, he had to focus on the hostages since they were the ones in the most danger. Hermione and Chang might have their wands, and could help themselves, but the little girl and his baby brother would be helpless. He sighed in relief, but did not relax even when he finally reached the hostages. He went to Sebastien first, slicing through the rope anchoring his brother to the lake’s bottom. He used the rope dangling from Sebastien’s waist to tie his brother to himself. Then, one by one, he released the other hostages, tying them to himself as well.
He swam for the surface. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a half transfigured shark coming towards him. The shark shook its head angrily, grabbing at Hermione. He let Krum take her without a word, continuing to swim. Halfway up, he saw Cedric coming. He waited until the Hogwarts’ champion could take his girlfriend. Harbin waited a moment more, but did not see Fleur Delacour. He shrugged and pulled Sebastien and Delacour’s young hostage more closely to himself. Now that he only had to worry about the two smallest hostages, he could use the propulsion charm Professor Dumbledore had taught him.
Harbin reached the surface in no time, hearing confused cheers.
“Vhy did you take ‘ermione?” Krum grunted, helping Hermione to shore. “She vas my ‘ostage!”
Harbin could see that Cedric, on his other side, was wondering the same thing. He concentrated on helping the girl and Sebastien get their footing and checking on them both before answering. “Their air sacs were depleting faster than the time you had.”
Cedric, Krum, and the girls all stopped dead, still knee deep in water.
He waved them on. “I will explain once we are dry, oui?”
They numbly nodded, resuming their trek towards shore.
Harbin grinned at his little brother. “Oui, Bastien?”
“Did you win?” Sebastien’s dark eyes were wide and worshipful even as his little body shivered with the cold.
Harbin didn’t answer, choosing to cast a warming spell on him. Up ahead, Viktor boosted Fleur’s hostage onto the shore, Hermione helping the young girl as well. Cedric hovered over them all, one hand on Cho’s shoulder.
“Did you win?”
He frowned, helping him over the rocks and onto land. “Bastien, why do you keep asking that?”
“That is what Professeur Moody said! He said you had to find me first to win the prize?” Sebastien bit his plump little lip. “Is that wrong?”
“Non,” he quickly reassured his brother, gathering him closer as a small crowd of people converged on them all. Fleur was in the lead, Draco and his other friends not far behind. The headmaster, Professor Snape, and other adults followed several paces behind them. Strangely enough, he did not see their parents or their uncle. “Bastien, did mere and pere bring you here?”
Sebastien shook his head, grinning as Hermione fussed over him, conjuring a blanket to cover his head. “Merci, Hermione.”
“You’re very welcome, Bastien.” She continued to briskly rub his arms under the blanket, utterly ignoring that Viktor was doing the same to her. She did, however, throw Harbin a serious look.
He returned it, knowing that Hermione had overheard his conversation with Sebastien. They were both thinking the same thing: it was odd that Professor Moody, one of the headmaster’s most trusted friends, had brought Sebastien to Hogwarts as a hostage for the Tournament when Harbin Chevalier hadn’t been a champion and no one was supposed to know he was Harry Potter.
Cho was busy fussing over Fleur’s little sister until Fleur herself arrived.
“Gabrielle!” The Beauxbaton’s champion threw herself at her little sister, rapid-fire French streamed out, making sure that the girl was all right.
Harbin graciously accepted her kiss of thanks, but was nearly bowled over when Draco reached him. He held onto his friend, savoring Draco’s warm body against his own.
“Are you all right?” Draco murmured into his ear.
Harbin squirmed with delight. “I am fine,” he reassured him, arms tightening around Draco. He reluctantly let go when Draco turned to Sebastien, hugging his little brother carefully.
“Bonjour, Professeur Dumbledore! Bonjour, Professeur Snape!” Sebastien bounced as he waved, wiggling and giggling when Professor Snape cast a drying spell on his hair and clothes.
“Ah, Bastien, it is good to see you again.” Professor Dumbledore, predictably, handed Sebastien a chocolate frog.
Harbin grinned as Sebastien glanced over his shoulder to ask for permission. He nodded, sharing a smile with Draco as they watched his brother enthusiastically rip into the box for the treat. His smile faded when Professor Moody thumped up to them. Harbin grabbed Sebastien, tucking him close into his side, moving them and Draco closer to Professor Snape.
His head of house gave him a questioning look, but before he could whisper why he was wary of his DADA professor, the minister, the remaining judges, and student body were upon them.
“What is the meaning of this?” Fudge demanded as he huffed his way towards them. “Why was he allowed to interfere in the task?!”
“Ah, Cornelius, as I’m sure you noticed, the hostages’ air sacs were shrinking much faster than they were supposed to,” Professor Dumbledore intoned gravely, his lined face filled with sadness as if it was all an unfortunate accident, but the glint in his eyes said something much more dangerous.
“Well, of course I noticed,” the minister blustered. “By why him? Why was there a fourth hostage? Who was the fourth hostage? That little boy?”
“That was me!” Sebastien, unfortunately, announced, bringing all of their attention, including that of the reporter, Rita Skeeter, onto himself and Harbin.
Harbin cringed inwardly, but outwardly, he merely gently squeezed his brother’s right shoulder twice, the family signal for silence.
“And who are you?” Skeeter cooed, eying Sebastien and then Harbin.
“He is my brother,” Harbin answered, refusing to elaborate when she sent him an encouraging look.
“But why would they take a hostage from you?” Fudge sputtered, staring down at him.
“Only hostages from the chosen champions were supposed to be taken. The Chang girl was Diggory’s, Granger was Krum’s and Delacour’s was her little sister.” Bagman ticked each one off his fingers. “That’s all three champions.”
Karkaroff’s voice came from behind Harbin like a death toll. “There was one other champion.”
Fudge stared at the Bulgarian headmaster, obviously still not getting it. “The only other name called out was . . . Harry Potter? But. . . .”
Everyone swung towards Harbin.
Well, it was fun while it lasted.
That was the muggle saying, was it not?
Severus savored the instance of complete and absolute silence. Not even the insects dared chirp.
Then the world exploded in a cacophony of sounds.
Fudge roared a demand for answers.
Bewildered judges did the same.
The press surged forward, questions screamed, cameras flashing.
Students pressing closer, half fearful, half so curious they were daring Severus’ wrath to get a closer look at Harbin.
All of them stared fixedly at Harbin’s forehead, searching for the legendary scar.
Albus was trying to calm them all down, exuding his own serenity to influence their state of mind.
Severus took a more direct route. He swept Draco, Harbin, and Sebastien under the wings of his robes, virtually hiding them from view. His wand flashed through the air, shocking most of the onlookers into jumping back and drawing their own wands. He sneered, casting a spell to mute their roars and dull the flashes of light from eagerly snapping cameras. Then he cast a spell to ensure their privacy, both from prying eyes and nosy ears.
When he could hear himself think again, Severus turned towards the three boys. “Are you all right?”
The three of them nodded.
“Well, the kneazle is out of the bag now,” Draco grumbled, glaring resentfully at the crowd.
Severus shook his head. The boy was severely possessive of Harbin; the revelation of this most important secret of Harbin’s was akin to sharing him. Draco didn’t share well. Severus blamed Lucius for this bit of idiocy too.
Harbin leaned tiredly into his side, eyes also on the crowd, but his were intent and carefully studying them. “Professeur, could you please summon my cell phone from my robe? I need to contact our parents.”
Severus did as he was asked, handing Harbin the device as he began leading them away. He did not like the look of the crowd. They were becoming more aggressive, Albus’ calming spell did nothing against so many. They were pushing closer, a light in their eyes that did not bode well for the safety of his charges.
The moment Harbin ended his call Severus grabbed the three of them. “Take hold. I am apparating us closer to Hogwarts.”
Thank Merlin the boys were smart enough to obey instantly. The lake faded from view, Hogwarts replacing it as they apparated to just outside the castle’s wards.
“Quickly.” He urged them into a run. He followed them at a brisk walk, eyes searching for any that may have followed them. Thankfully, he saw no one. “Hospital wing,” he ordered, knowing that Poppy could activate the wards surrounding that wing, closing it off to all but those she deemed necessary to cross its threshold.
She was already there, pointing to one of the beds. Poppy frowned as Draco climbed up beside Harbin and Sebastien, but she did not force him off. Instead, she began casting spells on all three of them. “Well, Mr. Chevalier, it seems your secret is out.”
“Oui,” Harbin answered miserably.
Poppy clucked. “Poor dear. Your parents will be here soon, I assume?”
Harbin nodded, cuddling his little brother and nestling into Draco’s arms.
His godson looked quite happy to stay wrapped around Harbin for centuries.
The doors burst open to reveal the champions and their hostages. All bedraggled and wide-eyed.
“Professor Snape.” Hermione darted forward, wrapping her small hands around one of his. “Professor Dumbledore needs you out front.”
Casting a critical eye around the room, he saw his three charges safely ensconced on a hospital bed: Sebastien nearly asleep from too much excitement, Draco and Harbin whispering quietly to each other. Poppy had all of the other students on the other side of the wing, casting drying and diagnostic spells. Catching her eye, he inclined his head outside.
“Thank you, Ms. Granger. Go to Madame Pomfrey.” He untangled himself from the girl’s hold, turning towards the doors the moment she was within Poppy’s reach. Severus cast one last look at his godson, Harbin, and his brother.
No matter what happened during the rest of the Tournament, it could not be as troublesome as today.
Draco sat quietly, unable to do more than sit beside Harbin in the hospital wing and silently wait for all sundries who felt the need to speak to Harbin. He knew there was no way that the headmaster would be able to stop the minister from questioning Harbin. Hopefully, Harbin’s parents would arrive in time to stop him. Draco wished he and Harbin could leave but the wards on the hospital wing afforded them some safety from the mob of reporters most likely surrounding the school. He wanted to leave because the other champions were still there, eyes unfortunately glued to Harbin. Pomfrey had left a little while ago, so he couldn’t even ask her for a private room or a privacy screen. He was going to have to ask Severus to teach him that privacy spell he’d used earlier. Only Hermione didn’t stare, instead she worried, fussing over Harbin and Sebastien until Harbin had gripped her hands and whispered something that finally calmed her down.
“So, you’re Harry Potter?”
Draco rolled his eyes at the lame conversation starter from the Hufflepuff. Thankfully, Harbin did nothing more than look at Diggory with confusion, not dignifying it with a verbal answer. Instead, he toyed with a sleeping Sebastien’s blanket. After all of the excitement, the little boy had fallen asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.
“Draco, do you still have Valère?” he asked quietly, still fussing with the blanket and pillow.
“Oh, yeah.” He reached up to where Valère was coiled around his neck, but Harbin stopped him.
“No, keep him for now.”
Draco was surprised, fingertips absently stroking Valère. Harbin was quite possessive of his pet, never letting anyone else feed or hold him for long. It warmed him. “All right.”
Harbin smiled gently at him.
“If you are ‘arry Potter, vhy does no one talk about you? Vhy does no one follow you about?” Krum’s voice broke through the silence and definitely held notes of jealousy. Formerly, as the only celebrity at Hogwarts, he had been followed and gossiped about, stalked really, by all of the students. Hermione had confided in them that the reason Krum had noticed her was because she hadn’t seemed interested in him at all. Krum hated all of the attention, envying those who could live day by day without such scrutiny. “’ow did no one know?”
Harbin sighed quietly, obviously knowing he wouldn’t get away without answering some questions. “I was adopted, I never knew my birth parents. If I really am this Harry Potter, then perhaps I will finally understand why I was an orphan.”
Harbin’s tone made it abundantly clear he was in not in the mood for more conversation.
Draco backed it up with his glare before turning to murmur into Harbin’s ear. “What do you think will happen now?”
Harbin flared his hand to convey his uncertainty, but whispered, “Mon pere and mere have plans in place for such an occurrence; I will leave it to them.”
“Sooo, keep my mouth shut and let the adults handle it?” Draco was absolutely fine with this plan. His father would more than approve of this plan, if they had been in the same situation.
Harbin grinned, nodding. He sent Hermione a look, reminding her as well to leave all matters to Harbin’s parents.
Draco rolled his eyes when she darted a glance at Krum, but she nodded when Harbin bent a severe glare on her. Really, that moral integrity of hers was quite tiresome. Sometimes, he wondered if she was in the right house at all. Ravenclaw mind, Gryffindor stubbornness and honesty. Seriously, how was she in Slytherin again?
The doors banged open, making them all jump. Dumbledore and Pomfrey were at the head of the mob, trying to slow them down. Draco idly wondered who was running the school, since it seemed nearly every professor was heading their way, as well as the judges, and the heads of the other two schools. Percy Weasley’s red head bobbed alongside that of his boss, Crouch Sr. At the head of the mob was Fudge, bearing down upon Harbin.
“Mr. Potter! You have much to – eck!”
Jonah appeared out of nowhere, standing between them and the minister. His body was loose, hands by his side, ready for anything. He loomed over the much shorter man.
“Now, see here!” Fudge barely sputtered before Mr. Chevalier stepped in front of Jonah.
“Ah, Minister Fudge, so nice to see you again.” Mr. Chevalier’s smile was all niceties and steel.
Draco jumped, not sure when or where Mrs. Chevalier had come from, but there she was, hugging Harbin before pulling away to check on Sebastien. Black and Lupin were right behind her, mimicking Mrs. Chevalier’s actions.
“Bonjour, madame,” he answered politely, gracefully placing a kiss on her check when it was presented. He half expected his own parents to appear as well, but he supposed there was absolutely no reason why Harbin’s parents couldn’t navigate the wizarding world without them. Especially with Black and Lupin by their side.
In fact, Black was now next to Mr. Chevalier. “Hello, Fudge,” he drawled, mouth smiling but eyes flashing anger. “And, oh look! It’s Barty Crouch Sr.” The smile turned sharp. “The man who sent me to Azkaban without a trial.” He turned back to sneer at Fudge. “And the man who didn’t want to give me one even though Peter Pettigrew had been standing right in front of him.”
Draco had to hand it to Black, he knew how to silence a room.
Fudge blanched and backed away, but Crouch was made of slightly sterner stuff as he stood his ground.
“I apologized for that,” the ministry official ground out. “And you have been generously compensated.”
“A million galleons for twelve years of my life in Azkaban. A million galleons to count all the seconds and minutes and hours and days and months and years I suffered under the dementors’ rule. A mere million galleons,” Black’s voice was all the scarier for its coldness. “For nearly losing my sanity and my life.”
As the ex-convict spoke, as he stalked forward, prowling about Fudge and Crouch like a predator teasing its prey, something about him unnerved them enough to force the two men to backpedal. The crowd behind them backed up too, sensing the barely leashed anger Black radiated. Halfway out of the hospital ward, Fudge was yelling again, but somehow, Mr. Chevalier was easily herding him out. A look passed between Dumbledore and Flitwick, causing the Charms professor to continue the momentum created by Mr. Chevalier. Whatever the two men were saying got Fudge out the door. The rest of the staff was ushering out the champions and their hostages. Hermione tried to stay, but Severus bent a severe look upon her. It took no more than that because she definitely knew better and left. Draco glared back at Severus from his place beside Harbin. His godfather huffed, but left him to it.
“Now that we’re alone,” the old man’s eyes twinkled.
Draco wondered what there was to twinkle about.
“Excellent work, Sirius.” Mr. Chevalier clapped Black on his shoulder.
His cousin grinned savagely, a bark of laughter escaping as he leaned against a smiling Lupin. “It was definitely my pleasure.”
Dumbledore beamed at them, but then lost his smile as he turned to the Chevaliers. “Yves, Sophie, could you please tell us what happened?”
Mr. Chevalier nodded at Moody. “Professeur Moody came to our home and asked if he could bring Bastien to see Hari.”
Severus spun immediately, wand in hand, pointing at the DADA teacher’s throat. Black and Lupin tensed, but wavered.
Moody glared at him, wand up and pointed too. “Put it down, boy,” he sneered.
“You first,” Severus sneered right back.
“Gentlemen!” McGonagall barked, her wand out too. “Both of you will put your wands down before I transfigure you both into mice.” Her smile was feral, reminding them all of her carnivorous animagus form. Draco reeled back into Harbin’s arms, mind frantically not wanting to go there, unfortunately, it did. He cringed, vowing to never mouth off to her ever again.
The two men seemed to know better than to disobey the deputy headmistress and lowered their wands, but both still glared at each other.
“Death Eater,” Moody muttered.
“Paranoid, old fool,” Severus hissed.
It didn’t escape Draco’s notice that McGonagall kept her wand on Moody. Nor the fact that Jonah had moved too, not only to stand between the Chevaliers and Moody, but also to make sure he had a clear line of fire. Black and Lupin had blocked Moody from the door.
“Alastor, did you take Bastien from his home?” Dumbledore asked, voice mildly concerned.
“No,” the ex-Auror denied, flyaway hair shifting with the shaking of his head. “Never met the kid before in my life.”
“But we have met you before, monsieur,” Mrs. Chevalier murmured, her eyes hard chips of ice, daring him to contradict her. “When you helped set up the wards at our home.”
“Aye, I remember you and your husband.” Moody pointed at Jonah. “Remember being impressed by that one too. But that son,” he pointed to Sebastien. “Never saw him.”
“Alastor, would it be all right if we proved this?” Dumbledore asked quietly; he held up his hand when Moody looked fit to explode. “I would never question your honor, old friend, but in these times, constant vigilance is needed.”
Moody grunted an annoyed and amused huff when his own motto was used against him. “Fine.”
Dumbledore beamed then turned to the potions master. “Severus?”
His godfather stepped right into Moody’s personal space and raised his wand. “Legi--”
Moody grabbed his wrist, glaring up at him. “You’ll only be looking in there for the last two days or so, you hear?”
Severus curtly nodded. “You have my word.”
Moody grunted, letting go of him.
Severus completed the spell cast this time. It took less than fifteen minutes before he pulled away, ending the spell. “It was not him. His memory has not been tampered with, nor was he placed under the Imperius curse.”
“Polyjuice or a glamour?” Pomfrey suggested.
“The wards at their house would’ve taken care of a glamour,” Moody refuted, moving to a bed and thumping onto it. He worked up his pant leg and removed his metal leg. “Had to be polyjuice.”
“Polyjuice wouldn’t have duplicated your leg or your eye,” McGonagall mused. “But they can be replicated.”
Moody grunted again, nodding. “Not perfectly, but good enough to fool muggle eyes.”
Mr. and Mrs. Chevalier nodded, but Jonah’s eyes narrowed.
“What is to happen now?” Harbin asked quietly, leaning more of his weight into Draco’s back.
Draco turned, twisting to loop his arms around his friend, watching as the adults thought.
“First thing, you need to make sure the wards at Pottere Hale recognize polyjuiced intruders,” Moody announced, replacing his leg before thumping his walking stick and wooden leg as he walked away. “I’ll take care of that. See who’s stupid enough to polyjuice into me.”
Jonah pulled a small machine out of his pocket and flipped it open. He punched buttons on it, then placed it to his ear. “Gavin, Moody’s on his way to readjust the wards. The person who took Bastien to Hari today was polyjuiced, impersonating the real Moody.” Whatever Gavin said seemed to satisfy him, so Jonah ended his conversation and turned back to them. “He’ll make sure the Moody that shows up does what he’s supposed to.”
Everyone absently nodded.
“And me?” Harbin asked, eyes on his parents before turning to Dumbledore and Severus. “The tournament?”
“Even though the public has been made aware of Harbin’s birth name, we will not allow him to participate in this tournament,” Mrs. Chevalier announced, hand on Harbin’s shoulder, expression daring anyone to naysay her.
“That may not be a choice, mon cher,” Mr. Chevalier refuted, his expression definitely asking for forgiveness from his wife and his son. He turned to his wife, the couple having an entire conversation with only their eyes. Finally, his wife winced, but nodded. Mr. Chevalier leaned forward, pressing his forehead to Harbin’s. “You know, oui, Hari?”
Draco narrowed his eyes, trying to understand even as Harbin loosened his hold on him to hug his father.
“Oui, I know, papa.” Harbin was resigned, but then it changed to determination.
Draco didn’t quite understand, turning to his godfather for clarification. It seemed he was not the only one as McGonagall and Pomfrey turned to him as well.
“This was a possibility, that somehow Harbin would be exposed as Harry Potter,” Severus explained. “They have planned for such an event.”
“We intend to assert that no one knew before this day that Harbin was born Harry Potter,” Mr. Chevalier explained, sitting down on the hospital bed, propping his chin on Harbin’s head, his arm wrapped around his oldest son.
Draco missed the warmth of his friend, but did not begrudge Harbin his father’s support.
“Now that we know, of course we must allow Hari to fulfill the magical contract that is the TriWizard Cup. It is our duty as part of the British wizarding world.” Mr. Chevalier went on, saying the words nicely enough, but the twist of his lips betrayed his thoughts on ‘their duty’ to the wizarding world.
“To do otherwise would imply a conspiracy against the Ministry,” he continued, nodding towards Dumbledore.
The old man returned the nod. “You do not wish to antagonize an already suspicious --”
“And corrupt,” Black interjected contemptuously.
“Minister,” Dumbledore finished, as if Black hadn’t interrupted at all.
“Oui,” Mrs. Chevalier sighed as she snuggled her youngest son.
Draco frowned, eyes raking Black and Lupin before turning to the Chevaliers. “But won’t it be suspicious anyway?” He pointed to Harbin’s godfather and their old professor. “Black and Lupin were James Potter’s old friends and now they just happen to be living with you? Before you ‘found out’ that you were Harry Potter?”
Black grinned and shook his head; Lupin did the same. Black reached over and smoothed a hand through Harbin’s hair. “I met a little third year who cleaned me up and fed me after I escaped Azkaban. He thought I was a big, black dog and befriended me. It was the first kindness I received in over ten years. Once I was sure of his friendship, I revealed myself and asked for his help. He, of course, took me to his most trusted head of house and I convinced my former enemy to help me. I was extremely persuasive, you know. And I had the help of my other best friend as well.”
Draco had to smother a grin when Severus rolled his eyes.
Lupin did too, but his expression held exasperated fondness. “I got to know Harbin Chevalier when he asked me to teach him how to fight off dementors. If not for those lessons, I would have never noticed him as more than an exceptional student.”
Harbin preened under Lupin’s compliment.
Draco hid his smirk in Harbin’s shoulder before saying, “That still doesn’t explain why you’re both living with the Chevaliers.”
“Well, before we knew the ministry was going to release my vaults, we had to have some place to stay,” Black happily pointed out, seemingly ecstatic at the idea of pulling one over the ministry. “When Harbin invited us, we joyously accepted.”
More than just Lupin shook their heads at Black’s enthusiasm.
“And of course, then we engaged their services as tutors for Bastien,” Mrs. Chevalier flared her hand. “We have such a large home, why not share it?”
Dumbledore clapped his hands. “Excellent, now that that has been worked out, let us discuss other plans, shall we?”
Draco, flattered to be able to stay and take part in the planning, carefully leaned forward to learn how he could help his best friend through the next few tumultuous months.
Gazing at the horde of people gathered at the gates of the school, Harbin kept a serene smile on his lips. The vast amount of attention was unusual, but not the attention itself. They were all staring at his scar, which he had released from the glamour. There were very few wizarding photos of Harbin without the scar and without his biological father’s hair, therefore, Jonah and his parents thought it best if all photos from now on, showed him as Harry Potter, scar and all. This gave him the option of “disguising” himself by hiding the scar and memorable hair, hiding in plain sight as himself rather than the iconic Harry Potter.
The crowd fell silent when the headmaster approached the podium. “Ladies and gentledmen of the press, thank you for coming. Without further ado, Mr. Yves Chevalier, father of Harbin Chevalier.”
Just as it had been planned, the headmaster relinquished the podium to his father within seconds of taking it. The headmaster had been uncomfortable with outright lying, that much had been certain during the planning. Manipulation, half-truths, lies of omissions, those were all right, but outright lies were something the headmaster tried to avoid. What they would be doing today was better handled by a father who would do anything, including telling outright lies, to protect his son. They did not plan to lie to the public, only giving them as much as necessary to appease their need for information and to protect him, but only his father could smoothly and sincerely lie if necessary to ensure that the public did not turn on Harbin if they thought for a second that he had been keeping his birth identity a secret.
“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your patience.” His father faced the press like he did any other audience: supremely confident and absolutely serene. He was not nervous, he did not need notes. His father knew exactly what he was going to say and how to say it to hold the press in check. “As you may have heard, it had been revealed that my son, Harbin was born Harry James Potter.”
His father paused as several reporters got ahead of themselves and started to yell out questions. His father did not acknowledge them in any way, merely staying silent, waiting patiently for them to quiet. When it became obvious, the reporters policed each other, hushing those who were still yelling questions.
“In the summer of 1982, my wife, Sophie, was in a car accident. Her driver was killed, but thankfully, she escaped with only a broken leg, some cuts and bruises.” His father waved to indicate his mother, then smiled gently, obviously showing his adoration for her. His mother smiled back just as lovingly before he turned back to the audience. “While she waited for help to arrive, she saw a little boy, hardly more than a toddler, hiding by the side of the road. Sophie called him to her, and eventually, he went to her. For my wife, the moment she held him in her arms, it was love at first sight.”
His father ducked his head, letting a light blush stain his cheeks. “You see, ladies and gentlemen, while I am a wealthy man, I could not give my wife the one thing she truly wanted: children. So when I arrived at the hospital and found a dark-haired cherub asleep and draped across my wife, I could not refuse her when she asked to adopt him.”
Harbin relaxed further into his mother’s hold, smiling up at his father, then at his mother. His smile widened as his mother brushed a kiss to his forehead. He was so glad they were here with him today. Sirius, Remus, and Gavin mingled in the crowd, watching for trouble and giving him winks of encouragement every so often. He smiled at them every time. With Uncle Jonah in front and off to the side, Professor Snape an imposing figure behind them, and the headmaster on the other side of his father, Harbin knew he was protected and loved.
More questions were shouted, but again, his father remained silent. He would control all information given about Harbin’s history. The public would know what his father wanted them to know. His father would not acknowledge any question that might jeopardize their plans.
“Before we adopted him, we did report Harbin to the police. There was an investigation; every possible avenue to find his parents or guardians was undertaken by the authorities and by our family. When no one stepped forward with any information regarding Harbin’s past, we began the legal proceedings to adopt him.” His father leaned forward, conveying intent and seriousness. “We had fallen in love with Harbin and so we made sure that no one could take him away from us.”
On the surface, that statement sounded as if his parents just wanted to ensure that the adoption was above board, but the undercurrent was also a subtle threat. If one was smart enough to realize it.
“Yesterday, it was revealed that Harbin had been born Harry Potter.” The third time was obviously the charm as, instead of yelling more questions, the reporters shifted, impatiently waited for his father to continue. His father graced them with an approving smile. “A man we thought was Professeur Alastor Moody came to our home and told us that, as a special treat for Sebastien, he was going to be allowed to watch the TriWizard Tournment with his brother. As this was a man we had previously met, and trusted, we saw nothing wrong with allowing Sebastien to visit his brother. Unfortunately, it was not Professeur Moody, but someone polyjuiced as him.”
Even though it was all truth, several reporters were eying Professor Moody with suspicion. Harbin hid a smile because the professor gave those who looked at him with suspicion a favorable look. He and Professor Snape may snipe at one another, but Harbin knew that, out of all of the Hogwarts teachers, Professor Snape was the one Professor Moody admired. Simply because Professor Snape was constantly vigilant, even around those Professor Dumbledore trusted.
“Unbeknownst to the Hogwarts staff, Sebastien was put under the same spell as the other hostages and placed with them for Harbin to rescue.” His father held up his hand when several reporters jumped to their feet. Instead of yelling questions, their hands were raised and waving. They reminded Harbin of Hermione when she especially wanted to answer a question. “At this time, we do not know who was polyjuiced as Professeur Moody, nor do we know how they knew Harbin’s birth name.”
Harbin could see the reporters biting their lips, straining to stop themselves from asking questions because they knew his father wouldn’t continue. He fought to keep from laughing. Never before had he seen such desperation for the next bit of his father’s speech.
His father gave him a subtle smile, sharing in the amusement, before continuing. “An investigation to find the culprit is being conducted. In the meantime, we ask that the press not print anything that might give the culprit or culprits information regarding Harbin or our family.”
As expected, the entire assembly of reporters surged to their feet, shouting objections and questions.
Just as before, his father waited silently, refusing to say a single syllable. As always, his father’s patience won out over the reporters’ insatiable need to question and object. “We have evoked the Rite of Subsequens Secretum.”
It was obvious many of the reporters did not know what the rite entailed, but others did and they gawked at his father. Harbin wanted to turn around and grin at Professor Snape, as he was the brilliant man who had suggested they performed the ceremony.
“For those who do not know of the Rite of Subsequens Secretum, this rite inhibits any information about the spellcaster being passed – verbal or written – onto others without the spellcaster’s expressed permission.”
Oh yes, that got their immediate attention. Outrage surged towards his father, but he buffeted against it well, merely standing there, calm as could be. When silence reigned again, his father continued.
“The rite, of course, covers any and all information, past, present, and future.” His father smiled so charmingly, as if he did not understand the utter havoc he was creating. “As Harbin has already invoked this right, we merely wanted to inform you so that you would not waste time trying to interview him.”
More shouts, people swelling towards the stage, yells and angry screams filling the air.
Uncle Jonah immediately stepped forward, blocking any possible attacks aimed at his father. Harbin could barely glimpsed Sirius, Remus, and Gavin – forming a human barricade between the stage and the crowd – around the black of Professor Snape’s robes.
“Please, ladies and gentlemen, calm yourselves.” Professor Dumbledore’s voice was a soothing wave that rippled outwards from the stage. “Please, take your seats.”
Miraculously, the crowd slowly calmed. Harbin peered at his headmaster, pondering how the old man managed that little trick. He wondered if he could learn to do it too.
Finally, order was restored, but then Skeeter yelled, “The public has a right to know!”
His father tilted his head in question and then asked, “Why?”
The press corps was stunned silent. Apparently, no one had ever countered that particular demand before.
“He is an underage child, who has not sought out fame. He is not like Celestine Warbeck, performing for an audience, asking for their attention. He is not like Minister Fudge, who ran for public office and whose actions have an impact on other people’s lives. He is a child going to school, growing up and living his life. Until he does something that can widely impact the wizarding public, there is no reason the public has a right to know what a child does as he grows up.”
“But he’s the Boy-Who-Lived,” she ranted weakly. “He’s a celebrity. He killed You Know Who.”
His father tilted his head. “Then why are you not constantly interviewing Alastor Moody? He is the one responsible for half of Azkaban’s prison population, non? He has imprisoned many murderers, including Death Eaters. I would think he would be more deserving of your accolades and attention. He is an adult who could tell you what he did, what they did. My son was a year and a half old when the Dark Lord fell, he does not remember how the demise of the Dark Lord came to be. He did not even remember his birth identity. If your only interest in him is that he defeated that wizard . . . well . . . he cannot tell you anything at all. And since then, he has done nothing more remarkable than be a wonderful, intelligent child.”
“But he’s a TriWizard champion!” Another reporter yelled out.
“Yes, and as such, you may write about his actions during the Tournament.”
That seemed to appease some of the reporters, but still others – like Skeeter – were grumbling.
“The public has a right to know,” she muttered quite loudly, trying to incite the other so-called journalists.
His father ignored her. “The Rite of Subsequens Secretum has already been undertaken and is effective immediately. Thank you for your cooperation.”
Harbin followed his mother off the stage, flanked by Jonah and Professor Snape.
Harbin found it interesting how his and Draco’s room was almost too small when it was just them, but seemed to expand to comfortably hold them, Hermione, Pansy, Blaise, Ron, Neville, Luna, Ginny, Vince, Greg and the twins. After the press conference, he and his family had flooed home for the weekend, purportedly to deal with the discovery that he was Harry Potter. In reality, it was to cement their plans and to thwart any possible repercussions. Today, Monday, would be the first day he would be back in classes. He had been woken by Hermione’s knocking, smiling bemusedly at all of his friends lined up behind her. Draco had grumbled when Hermione, the Gryffindors, and the lone Ravenclaw descended upon them, but yelped when Pansy and Blaise barged in and threw themselves on him. Thankfully for Draco, Greg and Vince were content leaning against the closed door.
“Did you know?” Pansy demanded of Draco, her small body sprawled on top of his, her nose nearly touching his.
“Get off,” Draco demanded, squirming.
“No, answer the question!”
Draco glared at her, then blew morning breath straight into her nose. The Weasleys tried to muffle their snickers at her horrified face.
“I told you to get off.” He smirked, winking at Blaise and then Harbin.
Harbin grinned, shaking his head as he grabbed his clothes for the day. He cracked their bathroom door so that he could hear the conversation while he brushed his teeth and put on his contacts. He heard Pansy squeal when Draco pushed her off.
“No, of course not.” Draco’s voice was pompous and sneering, just the right note of indignation that he would keep such a secret from them. “No one knew,” he continued. “Not even Harbin. Not until Severus used legilimency on him to search his memories.”
All true, of course, just the when was in question, but it was implied that the legilimency didn’t happen until after the Second Task.
“Your father began pulling away from the Dark Lord before all this though,” Blaise murmured quietly.
From his vantage point, Harbin could see the wary glance Blaise threw the Gryffindors and then Harbin himself.
“My father realized that the Dark Lord would not take care of his followers as he promised when he allowed his pet to petrify me. It should have been able to tell a pureblood from everyone else.” Draco was obviously taking care in choosing his words. He left his bed, gathering his things for the day.
Harbin finished up and relinquished the bathroom to him. “Ron, Neville, do you remember what Voldemort said about his name? Before you defeated the basilisk?”
They both nodded.
Harbin indicated that they should tell the others.
“He did this trick with his name,” Ron said, grabbing a quill and a piece of parchment, showing them how Voldemort’s name was an anagram of his muggle father’s name.
“He’s a half-blood?!” Pansy half asked, half declared. “But . . . but . . .”
“Your pureblood parents were following a hypocrite,” Hermione pointed out. “They probably didn’t know, but . . .” She trailed off, but it was obvious where she was going. Voldemort had lied to their parents, to all of his followers.
Pansy tossed her hair. “Well, it doesn’t matter anyway. Daddy declared us neutral, thank Merlin.”
“I saw the press conference,” Neville offered into the silence that Pansy’s remarks left. “You didn’t look nervous at all.”
Harbin smiled at his friend, waving off the compliment. “Merci, Neville, but it was nothing.”
“But all those people staring at you!” Neville protested, looking as if just the mere thought of that much concentrated attention was enough to make him sick.
“Colin’s got his camera out, he’s been talking about nothing except getting your picture since the Second Task,” Ron warned, making his sister and brothers groan.
“He keeps asking me all these stupid questions about you.” Ginny groaned again, flopping back onto Harbin’s bed. “Like I know what your favorite dessert is!”
Harbin hid his grin by pulling on his sweater. Thankfully, the crush that Ginny had on him, which had been slowly dying a painless death, had completely evaporated since Neville had taken her and Luna to the dance. While Luna had been perfectly content to twirl around the room by herself, Ginny had floated in Neville’s arms all night long. Harbin knew for a fact that Neville was working up the nerve to ask her out to the next Hogsmeade weekend. He also knew that she was planning to say yes . . . unless she beat him to it and asked first. “I am sorry he is bothering you, but I will speak to him.”
“Mate, he’s just the tip of the iceberg,” George intoned gravely.
“Everyone and their mothers are waiting for you to emerge.” Fred winced, shaking his head. “Cameras and autograph books in hand.”
“We like attention, mate,” George nodded to himself and his brother. “But even we can’t handle this much!”
Harbin smiled, shrugging a shoulder as he turned to his trunk, digging around. “My grandfather is a business magnate in the muggle world, my father a diplomat, and my family is constantly in the news; this is nothing new to me.”
When he found the scrapbook his mother had made for him, he laid it in Neville’s lap. The scrapbook was filled with articles and pictures of himself and his family. His mother had created one for himself and one for Sebastien. While their family albums had intimate shots of their family, these scrapbooks documented their public lives. The purebloods hesitantly touched the unmoving pictures and the thin material of the newspaper. It was nothing like the thick parchment used by the wizarding press. “Maman said that, even as a child, I loved the cameras, always waving and smiling at them.”
“Like Crumple-Horned Snorkacks, you were happiest in the arms of your parents.” Luna swayed to music only she could hear.
The whole room fell silent as they all stared at the Ravenclaw. Pansy opened her mouth to ask, but Hermione and Ginny both shook their heads, stopping her.
Harbin merely smiled and nodded. After all, that second part of that sentence was certainly true. He kissed Draco on the cheek when the other boy came out of the bathroom, freshly scrubbed and prettily pink. “Bonjour, mon ami!”
“Morning,” Draco said around his yawn. “Showing them your scrapbook?”
“Oui.” He moved towards Valère’s tank, tapping it with his wand to activate the feeding spell. He watched as Valère made his way towards the crickets that were his breakfast.
“Oh, Hari, show them the one from the cotillion.” Hermione tapped the book that was being passed around. “It was so strange, all those people taking my pictures and asking all sorts of questions.”
“Did you like it?” Ron asked, much too nonchalantly. He was instantly relieved when she shook her head.
“No. Thankfully, Hari was there and kept all the attention on himself. It seemed like he even knew some of the reporters.”
“Oui, I did.”
“I can’t believe you don’t mind all these reporters around you all the time,” Ginny said, staring out at the door, clearly imagining having to deal with that all of the time. She shivered in disgust.
“I do not mind when the reporters are there for a special occasion, which is usually the case. I do mind when it is constant,” Harbin explained, gathering his things for class. “As I said, this has been happening since I was adopted by mes parents. I am used to it.”
“Well, you’d better be,” Blaise said, wincing as he stood and grabbed his things as well. “It’s time to run the gauntlet.”
Harbin let all of his friends go ahead of him as he replaced the scrapbook. He smiled with pleasure when he saw that Draco had waited for him. He laced his fingers with his best friend’s and prepared himself to brave the student body.
Contrary to his friends’ dire warnings, the first people they met outside his dorm room were Carine and a few of her friends. Harbin smiled at his girlfriend, waving his friends to go ahead. Draco was dragging his feet, but Pansy and Blaise helped him along. Carine waved her friends off, too, so that it was just the two of them in the hallway.
"Good morning, Carine." He pressed a simple kiss to her cheek, unsure if more would be welcomed.
"Good morning, Harbin." Surprisingly, Carine returned his greeting with a bright smile and sweet kiss.
He didn’t bother to ask if she had heard, it had to be, after all, why she was down here. Carine never came down to the dungeons; she preferred to meet in the Great Hall or at the Beauxbatons carriage. "You saw the press conference, yes?"
"Yes." She laughed, shaking her head. " I never would have guessed that, even though I lost the Champion's position to Fleur, I would be in an even more enviable position than she!"
“Ah, c'est la vie,” Harbin laughed too, surprised that he could actually use that phrase in a real conversation. He linked their fingers and stepped closer.
"And now that you know you spent that night with Harry Potter? Now that everyone will know you spent the Yule Ball with Harry Potter? And have been dating him? What will you say?" Harbin kept his voice completely level, nonchalant even, but he watched her face carefully.
Carine grinned. "I will tell them that he was a perfect gentlemen and a superb dancer. I will tell them he is the kind of man I would want to bring back to my parents." She leaned closer to whisper in his ear. "But I will remember that he has delightfully wicked fingers and has nothing to be ashamed of."
Harbin was immensely grateful that no one could see her hand measuring his length. "You flatter me, my darling."
He pulled her close, brushed his lips against her mischievous smile.
Severus watched as the mixed group of Draco and Harbin’s friends entered the Great Hall. Of course, every child immediately stopped everything they were doing and stared. Some of the little idiots even had food dripping onto themselves. Thankfully, Harbin knew how to handle the attention with aplomb: he smiled, waved, then proceeded to ignore it. It was the perfect note of friendly acknowledgement, then “it’s just another day, I’m just another student, nothing interesting is going on here.”
And indeed, nothing was. Harbin seated himself next to Draco, Harbin’s girlfriend on his other side, their friends surrounded them. None of this was particularly different than any other morning since the Yule Ball. The Simon girl frequently ate breakfast with Harbin, and Draco was always by his side. The Gryffindors and lone Ravenclaw did not always eat with Harbin and Draco, but it was not unusual either.
He carefully watched his other snakes. Hermione, of course, he did not worry about as the girl was more than proficient at taking care of herself. Pansy, Blaise, Vincent and Gregory were mixed in with the Gryffindors and the Lovegood girl. They seemed to be watching their housemates, but were calm and speaking to Harbin like it was any other morning.
It was his other snakes that he worried about. The older students, the sixth and seventh years, carefully watched Harbin, expressions of confused perplexity lurking just underneath their masks of indifference. He saw many of them carefully studying Draco, then sneaking sidelong glances at himself. Clearly wondering at this new state of affairs, at how Draco Malfoy, son and heir of Lucius Malfoy, the once right hand of the Dark Lord, could still be friends with Harry Potter. They wondered how someone who should have been the Gryffindor Golden Boy was one of the most popular and powerful Slytherins to date. They were wondering how their head of house, reportedly one of the Dark Lord’s Death Eaters, could serenely sit at the head table and sip tea when his lord’s vanquisher was sitting right there.
Ah, how little did they know that their world was about to be rocked on its axis.
The teachers, of course, had been briefed by Albus days ago. Albus had impressed upon them the need to treat Harbin like any other student. Thankfully, the teachers most likely to give Harbin “special” treatment for being Harry Potter – namely himself and Minerva – had already known and had stopped themselves from doing so years ago.
When Minerva had first found out, she had been tempted to seek Harbin out, but was thwarted because even the boy did not know he was Harry Potter. While she did give him a bit more attention, even more so than she gave to her precious lions, he had treated her with a bewildered, but respectful, grace. After he found out about his previous identity, she had merely offered to tell him stories about James Potter, knowing that Severus would have nothing good to say about the man. By that time, she had realized that Harbin truly was his own person, nature giving him a Gryffindor courage, but nurture giving him Slytherin cunning as well.
Severus had been surprised when she confided this all to him, but he understood why she did it, for it was her way of guiding his own actions towards Harbin. It was needless as any inclination to see Harbin as a copy of his father, and treating him as such, had fallen to a painless death even before it was given to full life. Harbin may have some of his father’s traits, but none of Potter’s spoiled shenanigans. And, he knew, any disparaging remarks about the boy would not be met well by Draco. He still alternated between wincing and laughing whenever he thought about his conversation with his godson those weeks ago after the Hogsmeade incident.
Severus did wince when he saw the Creevy boy barreling his way towards the Slytherin table.
As Harbin’s American saying went, ‘so far so good.’
Draco sipped his tea, carefully ignoring Harbin’s girlfriend, even while he kept his eyes on his housemates and the other students. So far, no one had approached them, completely contrary to what the others had predicted. Perhaps it was because they were in awe. After all, Harbin was, in many ways, what they had and had not expected of the Boy Who Lived. Draco could hear whispers of the hostages and champions’ names being bantered about the Great Hall, along with Harbin’s. People were most definitely speaking of Harbin’s heroic save of the hostages. Harbin was friendly and well-liked, a Quidditch star – the youngest Seeker in a century. All things expected of Harry Potter. But then, people stared at Harbin’s green tie, his house insignia on his robe, and who his best friend was – none of that meshed with their ideas of who Harry Potter should be.
Draco hid a sneer. What a foolish thing to do, expecting something of someone when you had no idea who they were. He willfully ignored the smirking voice in his head that sounded like Severus when it asked him what he and his family were doing then, judging muggleborns like that?
Of course, when Creevy approached with his damn camera, their peaceful breakfast came to an end.
“Does he know the picture will burst into flames?” Pansy asked idly, sipping at her morning tea.
Harbin shook his head, clarifying. “Letters and other written material will burst into flames; pictures of any kind will blur to be unrecognizable. Speech will become a garbled mess.”
“In any case,” Hermione thanked Harbin’s girlfriend with a smile as the other girl handed her the honey, “probably not. Professor Snape said that the Rite of Subsequens Secretum isn’t a well-known ritual, mostly being used by wizarding royalty.”
“We haven’t had any royalty in hundreds of years.” Blaise was staring at Luna as she topped her pancakes with marmalade and tea.
“I think he saw it in use while traveling,” Draco offered. “He mentioned something about it after he came back from Italy or Greece.”
“Say cheese, Hari!”
They all blinked as spots of light blinded them.
“Colin.” Harbin was inumberably calm as he placed his utensils down, turning to face the Gryffindor.
Draco glared through the blindness at the stupid Gryffindor. Those around him who had been similarly afflicted were growling and mumbling under their breaths.
Another flash, another several seconds spent blind. Draco fingered his wand. If the idiot took one more damn picture, he was hexing the life out of him.
“Colin, I consider you my friend, and as your friend I would like to request that you stop taking pictures of me.” Harbin’s voice was quiet and entreating, but with a sliver of steel embedded.
Creevy’s mouth worked. “But . . . you’re Harry Potter.”
Harbin sighed at the worship-filled tone of the boy’s voice. “Yes, I am. But I am also your friend. I respect you as a friend, and so I am asking for that same respect.”
Draco could see the wheels turning in the Gryffindor’s head, obviously still working it out. Do as the Boy Who Lived asked, or lose his respect. Not to mention that Harbin influenced the entire school, both as Harbin Chevalier and now as Harry Potter as well. One word from him and Creevy would be a social outcast. Finally, the boy came to the right decision.
“Okay, Hari.” Creevy slowly nodded, darting in to pat Harbin on the shoulder before wandering off.
Unfortunately, Creevy seemed to have broken the invisible wall holding the Hogwarts students back.
Draco warily eyed the entire horde of students making their way over to the Slytherin table. He nodded to Greg and Vince, who then stood up and positioned themselves between Harbin and the oncoming mass. He was surprised to see nothing but black and yellow ties on the students still coming towards them, apparently unaffected by Greg and Vince’s hulking presences. Were the Hufflepuffs really that scared that they had to come over en masse?
“Hey, guys, no!”
Draco raised an eyebrow when he saw Diggory being restrained by three of his fellow seventh years. The Hufflepuff champion was trying to escape their clutches, while they tried to keep him from leaving without hurting him. He knew where this was going. Glancing over at Harbin, he saw the same realization.
Therefore, it was no surprise when Harbin stood and placed a hand on both of Vince and Greg’s shoulders. “Gentlemen, if you would, s'il te plait?”
The two of them looked over their shoulders, waiting for his nod before moving just far enough to let Harbin through, but still close enough to jump in the second it was necessary. Draco hid a smile. Just because they looked and acted stupid, didn’t mean they were.
“Bonjour, mes amis, how may I help you?” Harbin smiled at them all, hands held out in welcome.
His behavior completely threw them all. The Hufflepuff contingent froze and blinked. A lot. A tiny snicker caught his attention, Draco turned to share a knowing smile with Hermione, who was nearly shaking in mirth.
Stebbins, another seventh year, stepped forward as the spokesman for his house. “Chevalier, we just wanted to know if you’re competing in the Tournament?”
Harbin frowned, brow furrowing as he threw a poisonous glance at the head table. Specifically, he aimed it at Bagman and Crouch. “Oui, I am being forced to participate.”
Murmurs broke out.
“You don’t want to?” Stebbins seemed thoroughly confused, as were most of the listeners.
Harbin rolled his eyes. “I am a fourth year. As a fourth year, would you want to compete in a dangerous tournament against adults?”
Clever, clever Harbin. Paint himself as a child being forced into competition against adults. No matter that there was only a three year difference between Harbin and Diggory. This way, he not only caused everyone to underestimate his considerable skills and power, he also became more sympathetic to them. A kid versus three adults; Dumbledore had put that age line there for a reason.
Several students shook their heads no, silently answering Harbin’s question. It was a good sign.
“Mes parents’ solicitor tried everything, but because I was born Harry Potter, I am being forced to compete.” Harbin sneered in disgust. “The officials did not even take into account that my birth name was entered under an invalid, fictitious school and was done by someone other than myself. The headmaster was right to cast such a powerful age line, but unfortunately, it does not help me.”
Harbin was getting as close as he ever did to ranting, so Draco stood, going to his side and offering comfort. He could see their little minds whirling with the information; some of them even got the implications of what Harbin had said.
“Are you going to play to win?” Stebbins asked, a thoughtful look on his face.
“A win for Slytherin House would be quite lovely, but a Hogwarts victory would be welcomed by all.”
The Slytherins understood him immediately, but it took the Hufflepuffs a bit of time. With that, Harbin seemed to put their minds at ease, because they began drifting away.
Draco pressed against Harbin. “Well done, Hari.”
He loved the brilliant smile Harbin bestowed upon him. “Merci, Draco.”
When his godfather stopped him after class, Draco thought nothing of it until Severus gave him the message.
“Your parents wish to see you tonight. After dinner, in the headmaster’s office.”
He froze. His parents would never visit him at Hogwarts unless something dire had happened.
“Relax, Draco,” Severus drawled, seeing the rising panic. “Everyone is fine.”
“Then why are they coming to see me?” he shot back. Agitation was starting to creep in.
“Most likely to discuss Mr. Chevalier.”
Draco groaned. His father may have declared them neutral, but the information that Harbin was Harry Potter would . . . interest him. “What should I say?”
“The truth to any question he asks you, but do not volunteer any information.”
Draco blinked. “So act like I’m under Veritaserum?”
Severus’ lips twitched and his dark eyes gleamed. “Exactly.”
Draco nodded, but he still worried. His father had declared them neutral, to keep them safe and away from the Dark Lord but the Dark Lord may see Draco’s friendship with Harbin as siding with the Light. His father might forbid Draco from being friends with Harbin to keep their family neutral, to ensure their safety. Draco didn’t think he could stand it if his father ordered him away from Harbin. He didn’t think he could ever forgive his father if he did something to force them apart. And what of his mother? Would she side with his father? He had no hope of fighting against them both.
“Draco, look at me.”
The moment he looked up, his godfather’s eyes captured his.
“Occlude, Dragon, raise the flames. Put your worries and fears behind them.”
He felt immeasureably better as his godfather soothed him into an occlumen trance. As his shields rose, he breathed easier and his mind cleared. “Thank you, parrain.”
Severus nodded, smoothing a potion-stained hand down his hair. “Go to lunch.”
Draco moved towards the door but stopped. “Do you know why they’ve waited so long? The press conference was last week.”
“Most likely to give your father time to calm down.” Severus was meticulously inspecting his classroom for leftover residue from today’s class; residue that might interact with another class’ potions and turn dangerous.
Draco groaned, covering his face with his hands. “Brilliant.”
Hearing Severus’ low chuckle, he glared through his fingers at his godfather.
“Go to lunch, Draco.”
“Yes, sir.” Draco found Harbin waiting for him outside.
“Is everything all right?”
Draco nodded, letting Harbin lace their fingers together and led the way to the Great Hall. “My parents are coming to see me tonight after dinner.”
“Most likely.” Of course Harbin would divine their reason for coming right away. He followed Harbin towards their friends, automatically serving them both from the plates offered after sitting down.
“Merci, Draco.” Harbin did not immediately tuck in. Instead, he took Draco’s hands, concentrating all of his attention onto Draco. “Should I come with you? Will you be in trouble?” he asked in a low voice.
Draco smiled. “I should be all right. Severus doesn’t seem worried. But if you’d like to come, I’d like you there.”
Harbin beamed at him and nodded.
Thanks to his occlumen shields, he arrived at the headmaster’s office mostly calm. Dumbledore, Severus and his parents were there – all sitting stiffly in their seats. Everyone’s tea – except Dumbledore’s – were untouched. None of them were speaking. He idly wondered if any of them were even breathing.
“Headmaster, professor, mother, father,” Draco greeted, carefully seating himself, with Harbin by his side.
As Harbin murmured his own greetings, Draco’s father never lifted his livid, harsh, evaluating eyes from the other boy. His mother was harder to read because after one quick glance at Harbin, she settled her eyes on Draco, face serene and unfathomable.
No one said a word.
Draco was afraid to break the silence.
“Lady Malfoy,” Harbin broke it, startling Draco and everyone else. “May I refresh your tea?”
His mother blinked bemusedly, much like him, before slowly nodding.
Smiling and with his easy grace, Harbin vanished her cold tea and made her a new cup, quietly offering her the usual accompaniments. One by one, Harbin served them all tea, to the obvious amusement of Dumbledore and the perplexity of the rest.
“Well, Mr. Chevalier, you are a surprise,” his father sent the first volley.
“Merci, Lord Malfoy.” Even though it had not necessarily been a compliment, it threw off his father to have it graciously accepted as one. Harbin knew this, and Draco knew he knew this because his best friend slanted an emerald gaze his way and lifted his lips in a tiny smirk. Merlin, but Harbin was good at this.
“How do your parents feel about this?” His father deigned to sip at his Harbin-prepared tea.
Harbin waved the thought aside, Gallic mannerisms on full display. “As if this would make much of a difference to us, monsieur.”
That’s right, Harbin, remind Father that your muggle family is wealthy, powerful, and famous in their own right. Draco struggled to hide his amusement behind his tea. Next to him, he saw Severus do the same.
“And the situation with the Dark Lord?” his father outright asked, surprising more than just Draco. His mother stiffened beside her husband. Severus dropped his tea cup back onto the saucer, attention fully on Draco’s father. Even Dumbledore straightened from his relaxed lean.
“We have that well in hand, monsieur.”
“Do you?” was the harsh rejoinder. His father leaned forward, focused and intense. “In the three days since you’ve learned about your identity?”
Draco held his breath.
Harbin smiled, ever so sweetly. “Lord Malfoy, other than being a wizard, how is Voldemort any different from any of my family’s enemies?”
Not even the portraits dared move.
Lucius Malfoy barked a laugh. “Mr. Chevalier, I’m not sure whether to be impressed or to start planning your funeral now.”
Harbin smiled once more, but demurred from any kind of answer.
His father’s sharp eyes went from Harbin to Dumbledore. “Well, this certainly makes things more interesting.”
Dumbledore couldn’t radiate more satisfaction if he tried. “Yes, indeed it does.”
“Our son seems to be bosom beaus with young Harbin,” his mother remarked, completely changing the subject to his surprise.
“Oui, he is,” Harbin answered even though it was not really a question, then slipped his hand into Draco’s.
He thought nothing of it, except the pleasure that he always felt, but his mother’s slightly raised eyebrow and her pointed look at their entwined fingers made him blush.
“Well,” his father announced with a bite of finality. “I believe that answers our questions.”
Draco was sure this visit did just that. It showed his favored status among the side of the Light; it showed that even though Harbin was a Slytherin, he still held the headmaster’s favor; and that even though Harbin was Harry Potter, he was also a cultured young man who could respect and be respected by the Malfoys.
Draco gave a tiny sigh in relief.
Draco wrinkled his nose at the trousers Harbin had handed him. They were made of some kind of thick, heavy, blue fabric. He’d seen more than one of the muggleborn and half-bloods at school wear them, but had never handled them himself. “What are these?”
“Jeans.” Harbin was back inside his closet, digging for more clothing. “You have seen me wear them.”
“Yes, but. Why are you giving me this pair?” The jeans were so stiff, nothing like the supple linen or brushed cotton he was used to wearing.
“We are going to muggle London, Draco.”
Harbin sighed, handing him a casual button down shirt and a jacket made of what looked like leather. “You should be dressed properly for it.”
“Oh.” Draco wrinkled his nose again, but then shrugged, taking the offered items. He didn’t particularly want to wear the clothes, but Harbin often listened to his advice about the wizarding world, so it seemed only right to follow Harbin’s advice on the muggle world. When Harbin invited him to spend Easter break with him, Draco had jumped at the chance, sending his parents an owl begging them to let him.
After they had agreed, the two of them had made plans upon plans for how they would spend their holidays. One of the things that Harbin had suggested was the Chessington World of Adventures in South West London. His brother had requested an outing there for his birthday but wouldn’t go until his big brother could come along. While Draco had been wary about a muggle amusement park, but when they arrived at Pottere Hale, he could not say no when Sebastien had turned big, brown, puppy eyes on him. He had glared at Harbin, who was snickering, even as he agreed.
An hour later, after his first car ride, Draco alighted from the vehicle to stare in numb shock at the mass of muggles swarming in front of him.
The car ride itself had not been awful; the driver had smoothly navigated the limo while he, Harbin, Sebastien and Alex, Sebastien’s friend from school, had chatted and explored the car’s entertainment offerings. Jonah, Gavin, Black and Lupin had been in the car with them, another car of security following behind. Since Harbin and Sebastien were the French diplomat’s sons and Alex was the Greek’s, more than a handful of security personnel would be shadowing them throughout the day. All of the security precautions made Draco feel safer amongst all these muggles, even though, ironically, those providing the security were muggles themselves.
Now, he was especially glad, staring at so many muggles gathered in one place. While the wizarding world was by no means tiny, they numbered significantly less than the muggles.
“Harbin,” he whispered, stepping closer to his friend. “Are you sure this is safe?”
Harbin smiled at him, taking his hand in reassurance. “Oui. Come, stay close.”
Draco nodded, not having to be told. But he was glad to see he was not the only one staring in awe at the crowd and the great metal structures rising into the skies. Black and Lupin were staring at everything around them too; Black more than Lupin.
“Come on!” Sebastien yelled, grabbing random hands and pulling them towards the lines of muggles. “Let’s go!”
Draco let himself be dragged along.
Eight exhausting, fun-filled hours later, they were back in the limo and heading back to Pottere Hale. Black and Lupin were as unconscious as Sebastien and Alex, all four of them snoring away on the black leather limo seats. Around them, souveniers and amusement park paraphernalia littered the area. Unsurprisingly, Jonah was the only one other than the driver who was completely awake.
“Did you enjoy yourself, Draco?” Harbin asked, curled into his side, looking deliciously half asleep.
Draco nudged him with his shoulder, a mock glare in his eyes. “You know I did, you don’t have to be smug about it.”
Harbin chuckled, pressing closer. “What was your favorite part?”
“That game that we played in the dark, with the things that shot out lights.”
“Laser tag.” Harbin grinned. “You liked it because you won.”
He couldn’t argue with that. Once he had figured out the rules and how the equipment worked, he had found a vantage point that provided adequate cover and began picking off his opponents one by one.
“It is more fun if you run around and shoot people,” Harbin admonished.
“So you say. I was highly entertained where I was.” He smirked. “Your uncle praised my strategy.”
“Of course, he did.” Harbin rolled his eyes. “What else did you like?”
He thought about all of the attractions he had seen today. According to the map Harbin had bought, they had only been able to go to a third of the things available to do or see. The muggle zoo had been filled with animals he had never seen before. Some of them had an equivalent in the wizarding world, but others had not. And while he did not want to admit it, he enjoyed the petting zoo as much as Sebastien and Alex. The attractions were not the only sights that had fascinated him. He had known that the muggles had found ways to make up for their lack of magic, but seeing it used for all sorts of everyday things and seeing Harbin so comfortable in that environment made him realize two things. Not only were muggles perfectly capable of living without magic, Harbin was perfectly capable of living without the wizarding world.
Intellectually, Draco had known that Harbin, for all intents and purposes, was a muggleborn. He had lived in the muggle world unaware of his magical heritage until his Hogwarts letter arrived. He returned to the muggle world every summer. Except for his brother, Black and Lupin, everyone Harbin called family were muggles – parents, uncles (both biological and not), aunts, grandparents, cousins. And his family was prominent in the muggle world, both wealthy and powerful. Harbin still communicated with his muggle friends from primary school.
All of this left Draco realizing that he could lose Harbin to the muggle world after Hogwarts. It made him cling, just a little.
He jerked out of his musings, smiling nervously at his best friend.
Harbin’s eyes were growing sharper with concern, less sleepy with satisfaction. “Draco, is everything--”
“I’m fine, Hari.” He dredged up his best smile and gathered what little Gryffindor courage he possessed. “My other favorite part of the day was spending it with you.”
Leaving himself open and vulnerable had been worth the soft, loving smile and Harbin’s arms closing around him.
“Oui, le mien aussi,” Harbin agreed, pressing a tiny kiss to his cheek.
Harbin watched with pleasure, occasionally cheering, as his little brother practiced his self-defense techniques against potential muggle attackers. Sebastien was more bookish than himself, much more preferring Remus’ lessons on using magic to defend himself. But their parents and uncle were adamant that they both learn how to fight against any and all enemies, whether muggle, wizard, or even political. Harbin cheered Sebastien on again, knowing that his brother needed all the encouragement he could get, so that he didn’t stomp off in an angry huff. Sebastien truly hated practicing his self-defense.
Beside him, Draco grimaced and shuddered every time Jonah gently knocked Sebastien to the ground or held him aloft, challenging Sebastien to figure out a way to get away from his hold.
“Would you like to try?” Harbin couldn’t resist teasing his best friend, snickering at the horrified spasm of Draco’s face and body before he could control either.
“Thank you, but no.” Draco glared at him but Harbin couldn’t help one last chuckle. Draco was looking past his shoulder, nodding. “Severus, what are you doing here?”
Harbin turned to see their potions master striding into the training room, eyes taking in Uncle Jonah sparring with Sebastien.
“I was invited for dinner.” Professor Snape seated himself beside his godson and, in a rare show of affection, patted Draco’s shoulder. “How is your Easter break?”
Both Harbin and Draco blinked at the nicety, then blinked at each other in question.
“Uhm, it’s been very pleasant. I’ve enjoyed myself,” Draco answered slowly, measuring out his words, silver eyes fastened onto his godfather’s face. “Thank you for asking.”
Professor Snape nodded. “And your outing to muggle London?”
Draco’s eyes narrowed. “It was . . . educational.”
“And fun,” Harbin added, nudging Draco’s shoulder. “Come, admit it, Draco, you had fun.” He held in the chuckles as Draco grudgingly grumbled something that sounded like agreement. Unfortunately, he fooled neither Harbin, nor Professor Snape, who was minutely shaking his head with a tilt to his lips that conveyed his amusement.
Draco glared at them both, then turned to his godfather. “My parents sent you to check on me, didn’t they?”
Professor Snape nodded, not even trying to obfuscate.
Draco sighed a sigh that said he was used to his parents checking up on him and was resigned to being the sole focus of their attention.
“Harbin, come.” Uncle Jonah beckoned him onto the mat.
Sebastien was trudging off of the training mat, sweat pouring off his little face and body. Relief for escaping their uncle shone on his face. “Hari, did you see?”
“I did! You are doing so well.” He reached up, uncoiling Valère from his neck. ‘Could you play with Bastien for me while I practice my sparring?’ he asked his pet.
‘Yes, the little one is gentle and sweet.’ Valère flicked his tongue in the air in Sebastien’s direction. Harbin idly wondered what his little brother smelled like to the snake.
“Bastien, would you take care of Valère for me?”
His brother’s eyes were wide as he slowly nodded. He loved playing with Valère, was fascinated by the snake. He held perfectly still as Harbin wound Valère around his wrist so that Sebastien could play with his pet. He grinned as he walked away from his brother and onto the mat, hearing Sebastien’s giggles as Valère did that twisting thing that always tickled Sebastien’s funny bone. He glanced over his shoulder to see Draco and Professor Snape with their heads together. He winked at Draco when his friend looked up. Draco blushed so prettily, haughtily waving Harbin onto his lessons with Uncle Jonah.
He snapped his attention to his uncle just in time to block the punch aimed at his face. Dodging the leg sweep distraction, he blocked an elbow coming in from the opposite direction. Hands and feet, legs and arms, struck, blocked, kicked and jumped. Sweat poured down his shoulderblades and into his eyes. His breathing would never be as regulated as his uncle, his panting loud in the mostly quiet room. Bursts of attacks only broken by short seconds of breathing and stategizing. Two minutes later, the bout was over, leaving Harbin flat on his back and breathing to the ceiling.
His uncle’s face blocked out the light. “You are out of shape.”
“I play Quidditch!”
An eyebrow went up. “Sitting on a broom. Chasing a little gold ball.”
Harbin opened his mouth, then closed it. All right, so Quidditch wasn’t exactly the martial arts, he had to agree with his uncle there. He idly wondered if anyone at Hogwarts would be interested in starting a muggle exercise club. He smiled sheepishly at his uncle who shook his head.
“Control your breathing.” Uncle Jonah moved to the weapons cabinet, selecting today’s lessons.
Harbin pushed himself up into the lotus position, closing his eyes. Seconds later, a tingle shivered down his spine. The feeling was Pottere Hale alerting him when it thought there was something he should know about. This time it was Draco and Professor Snape’s conversation.
“— he was so comfortable among them,” Draco was saying. “I know his family is muggle . . .”
“But you did not truly realize he is the child of two worlds and clearly has his choice of them.” Professor Snape sounded almost . . . envious? Regretful?
Harbin had always assumed that the professor was a pureblood wizard, but perhaps he was wrong.
“I didn’t understand any of it, any of the muggle things.”
Why would Draco care about understanding the muggle world? He was a pureblood wizard. Draco never talked about his future plans, but it was implied that he would follow in his father’s footsteps. Sometimes Draco mentioned experimenting with potions, but his summer lessons all revolved around managing the extensive Malfoy estate.
“Even if Harbin chose to go back to the muggle world after Hogwarts, you could only completely lose him if your behavior drives him away.” A definite edge of regret infused Professor Snape’s voice. “Even though he is at Hogwarts most of the year, he continues his friendship with his muggle friends, does he not?”
Draco made an agreeing, but still unhappy, noise.
Professor Snape’s voice lowered, became even more serious if that was possible. “Do not make my mistake, Draco, do not let your own idiocy drive him away.”
Harbin peeked his eyes open, saw that Draco wanted to ask the professor to elaborate, but wisely kept his mouth shut. He closed his eyes again, letting the spell that allowed him to hear them to fade away. He hadn’t realized that Draco would worry about losing him to the muggle world, but Harbin couldn’t reassure him that the fear was unfounded. Like every little boy before and after him, he thought he would follow his father’s footsteps, follow into politics and the diplomatic corps. Or even go into the business world with his paternal grandfather and uncles. The revelation of his wizarding heritage opened another avenue of possibilities, but even now, with those possibilities, he had not thought any differently. Never given serious thought about careers in the wizarding world, never thought about his place in the wizarding world after Hogwarts. He would have to remedy that, especially now that everyone knew he had been born Harry Potter.
Uncle Jonah’s big hand carded through his hair. Tilting his head back and opening his eyes, he saw the concern in his uncle’s eyes and the long staves in his other hand. Pushing the heavy thoughts aside, he smiled and flowed to his feet, reaching for a staff.
If he had his choice, he would only teach sixth and seventh year students. They knew the privilege and importance of his class to their futures. After all, only students who earned Outstandings on their OWLs were allowed to continue onto Advanced Potions. These students could be somewhat trusted to carry on their practical work without his constant presence. This gave him time to grade papers or focus his attention on those who needed it. It also allowed him to relax, therefore, it allowed the classroom atmosphere to relax as well.
Students spoke quietly as they worked, knowing that any stupidity on their part would bring swift and terrifying retribution down upon their heads. Betraying his trust was not an intelligent thing to do. Even the Weasley twins knew better than to misbehave in his class. After all, they may not care about their grades, but the advance potions knowledge itself was essential for their pranks. More than once, Severus had seen how something he taught them had been transformed into a practical joke. He never knew whether to be proud or terrified at their genius.
Right now, though, he was becoming irritated at the furious whispering emanating from their section of the classroom. The twins seemed to be locked in some kind of battle of wills with the Ravenclaws across from their work bench.
“Is there a problem, Mr. Weasley?” He didn’t even bother trying to clarify which one; it didn’t matter at any rate.
“No, sir,” one of them answered, sending one last frosty glare at the Ravenclaws.
The other one was smiling in a manner that did not bode well for those that offended the Weasley twins.
With that smile in mind, Severus quietly followed them after dismissing his class. He found the Ravenclaws stuck to the wall in a well-used corridor near his classroom, naked except for their undergarments. He clamped down on his amusement as the two boys pleaded with the twins to let them go.
“Now why would we be doing that?” Weasley One asked, obviously feigning actual interest in the question.
“After all, you’re the one insulting our friend.” Weasley Two twirled his wand, leaning against his brother’s shoulder.
Ah, so that explained that. The Weasleys were notoriously protective of friends and family, the twins even more so. He wondered who the Ravens had insulted to face such a punishment.
“Look, we’re just saying that he’s a Slytherin, and past evidence has shown that Slytherins always follow You Know Who,” Dashner said, answering Severus’ question.
Both Weasleys scoffed.
“You did hear about Pettigrew, right? Gryffindor? Best mate to James Potter?”
“The bastard who gave You Know Who the Potters’ secret location?”
“There’s always an exception to the rule.” The redheads both tilted their heads. “We thought you Ravenclaws were supposed to be the smart ones in this school?” they chorused.
Severus had to clamp down even harder on his amusement, turning to leave the Ravenclaws to their fate. He would have to remember to occlude when Albus asked him if he knew this was happening outside his classroom. After all, the idiots deserved their punishment at the hands of the Weasley twins. And, fortuitously, gossip would spread that Harbin Chevalier nee Harry Potter, while sorted into the house of snakes, was protected by the Weasley family, a family notoriously known for being on the side of good and light.
The twins had always been his favorite Weasleys for a reason.
When his seventh year prefects requested his presence in the Slytherin common room, Severus was unsurprised to find all of his snakes there except for one notable exception. He turned to Draco.
His godson smirked. “I bribed the Gryffindors to keep him busy.”
Beside him, Hermione retorted, “With promises of my tutoring.”
“I said I’d help!”
She huffed, punching him in the shoulder.
Before Draco could retaliate, Warrington, the Seventh year male prefect stood, effectively catching all of their attention.
“Sir,” his deep voice was slow and his words carefully enunciated. “We have questions for you.” Brown eyes cut towards Draco. “And Malfoy.”
Severus nodded, taking the seat his snakes had placed before the fire for him. It left his face in shadows and them ringed around him. Atmospheric indeed, but a mistake on their part. Facial expressions could give a speaker away; placing him in shadows would not aid them at all. They still had so much to learn. “Go on.”
“Is there any word?” Warrington, as their chosen spokesman, asked carefully.
Severus let the corner of his mouth quirk, but none of them saw it. While for the most part, the Slytherin students spoke as their peers did, the ones from the oldest of families would have been taught how to finesse their way through a conversation so that nothing could be pinned on them. Some, of course, were better at it than others, like the older ones. But nearly all Slytherins would have been taught how to listen and understand such conversations. Warrington’s question directly pertained to the Dark Lord, asking if the remaining Death Eaters had discussed the revelation that Harbin Chevalier was Harry Potter. Severus minutely shook his head.
The softest of murmurs broke out among his snakes.
“I find it interesting,” Severus said quietly, instantly silencing all conversations, “that Mr. Chevalier was sorted into Slytherin House.”
Nearly all nodded.
“Would’ve thought he’d be a Gryffindor,” one of his younger snakes muttered.
Heads bobbed again.
“This changes things,” Pucey said, glancing around, gaze landing on Draco and his closest friends.
“There are other choices,” Draco answered, gesturing at the families that had declared themselves neutral. To a one they were all powerful families. “Choices my father and his friends have carefully considered.”
Severus inwardly hissed in pleasure. Pride bloomed for his godson for knowing when and how to lure these young, impressionable minds away from the Dark Lord. He noted and catalogued how many of the older students were staring at Draco. They were carefully calculating the benefits of declaring themselves neutral versus the benefits of remaining with the Dark Lord. The Malfoy name had always been powerful, even more so now than ever. Malfoy allies held wealth, power and prestige in the wizarding world. If such people were declaring themselves neutral, if Lord Malfoy befriended a muggle diplomat, if Draco had not been ordered away from Harbin after the “revelation” of Harbin’s birth identity, then Harbin’s side held something for them. The only reason to risk their power was to gain more power. If the Malfoys and their allies were not allying themselves with the Dark Lord, then they did not believe that the Dark Lord was worth the risk.
“There have been questions regarding lineage, as well,” Pansy murmured, egging the others on.
Oh, he did so approve of Draco’s friends. His snakes exploded into whispers and hisses, asking each other about the Dark Lord’s family history, telling what they knew. Several of them headed over to the lineage books, kept hidden away from the other houses. He saw Hermione leaning forward curiously, eying the books. He hoped the girl was smart enough not to give herself away. Nodded in approval when he saw her dismiss them as a curiosity, but he knew she would be back for a closer look in the near future.
A few of his older snakes eyed him. While his former Death Eater status was not known by many, and his spy status known by even fewer, enough suspected to question why he was supporting Harbin. He saw those questions in their eyes now. He knew that Albus would ask him to resume his activities with the Death Eaters should the Dark Lord rise again; steps would have to be taken now to plant the seed in their minds. “Mr. Chevalier, as a Slytherin, could be useful.” He paused, meeting the eyes of those most likely to be recruited by the Dark Lord. “To a variety of people.”
The suspicious ones nodded slowly.
Severus sat back in the shadows, pleased with tonight’s work.
Harbin glanced to his right where Luna danced through the halls as she accompanied him to his history class. “Luna, mon ami, is your class not outside today?”
“Oh yes, Hari, Care of Magical Creatures. Hagrid is such a wonderful professor. He always brings the most interesting creatures for us to study.” Luna’s earrings, miniature turnips this time, bounced as she swayed.
Harbin had to agree on the interesting part, but safe creatures, they were not. He shook his head at his friend’s eccentricities. The smile that Luna had brought to his lips faded when he saw the knot of girls heading his way. A mixture of the other three houses and years, this particular group of girls had been quite persistent in trying to approach him. He had allowed their attentions at first, hoping to be able to talk them down like Colin Creevy, but none of his sweettalking, none of his persuasion techniques, or even his polite rebuffs had any effect on them. They wanted his pictures, his autograph, his time and attention. Luckily, he had found excuse after excuse to put them off or had been saved by Hermione or Draco, who glared or hexed them off.
“Hari?” Luna asked, her voice strangely raised in volume.
“Oui?” He braced himself as they surged towards him.
“Did you know there’s a curse that turns people’s noses into pig snouts?”
Harbin jerked to a halt, blinking at the non sequitur. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the gaggle of girls freezing too. “Uh, non, I did not, Luna.”
She grinned brilliantly at him, her wand now in her hand instead of behind her ear. It was being waved in the girls’ direction. “Oh yes, and the marvelous thing is that it can be combined with a conditional spell.”
“A conditional spell?” He was confused, but willing to indulge her, especially since the girls were warily eying her bobbing wand and keeping a safe distance away.
“Oh yes! For instance, I can set a condition on it so that the spell will only activate if someone in your vicinity says, ‘Can I take your picture?’ or ‘Can I have your autograph?’” She grinned again, bouncing on her toes.
He grinned back when he got it. “Really, Luna? Could you show me?”
“Of course!” She twirled, wand waving above her head. She stopped on a dime, wand pointed at one of the more aggressive girls.
The girls, the whole batch of them, shrieked and ran off.
Harbin chuckled lowly. “Merci, Luna.”
She tilted her head and accepted his thank you kiss on her cheek as was her due. “You’re very welcome, Hari.”
“It is too bad that will not work very often.” He offered her his arm as they continued to the history room.
“It won’t?” Her brow furrowed sweetly. “Why wouldn’t it?”
“Threats only work so often, Luna.”
Her smile was mischievous. “It wasn’t a threat. They’ll look quite lovely with snouts.”
Harbin blinked, stopping once more. He tilted his head remembering when her wand had been pointed in the gang of girls’ direction. Remembered how her lips had moved for just a moment without a sound. He smirked. “You have already cast the curse.”
Luna’s laughter twinkled.
Draco rolled his eyes heavenwards. He knew things were going too well. For the most part, the sensationalism about Harbin’s past had died down, thanks in part to Harbin’s friends’ efforts. People who became too irritating became the focus of the twins’ pranks, and apparently, these pranks had an unprecedented edge of viciousness to them. Harbin had murmured that the twins were in regular correspondence with Black and Lupin. People who had tried to badmouth Harbin faced Ron and Ginny’s wrath and Neville’s quiet disapproval. Those who were too stupid to heed any of these blatant warnings faced Draco, Hermione, and Luna. Even Pansy and Blaise had helped, with Greg and Vince cracking their knuckles in the background, focusing their attention on the Slytherins not bright enough to understand the benefits of the “wait and see” strategy.
Unfortunately, some people – like Nott – weren’t stupid, they were just too bitter to know better.
All around them the Dueling Club members quieted, eagerly awaiting this newest spectacle.
Harbin discreetly winked at him, lifting his wand. “Again, Draco?”
He smirked, nodding as he positioned his wand. “Agrem—”
“Hey, Potter! I’m talking to you!”
Hermione and Tracy both muffled snickers as Harbin rolled his eyes at them.
“Are you deaf as well as stupid?” Nott strutted over and poked Harbin with his wand.
Well, he tried.
Harbin grabbed Nott’s wand before it could connect and threw it halfway across the room.
Nott threw him a furious glare over his shoulder as he ran after it.
“What is his problem?” Hermione asked, voice raised just enough to make it a mock whisper.
“His father’s in Azkaban,” Draco answered, searching his memory for Nott’s family history. “Oh, yes. He was one of the unfortunate ones. Not smart enough to evade the Ministry after he went on a rampage days after the Dark Lord fell. I believe Nott’s uncle was more intelligent and bided his time. Once Nott Sr. was in prison, he swooped in and stole poor Theo’s inheritance.”
Hermione blinked. “So what you’re saying is he’s just a bitter jerk who’s blaming Hari for his family’s problems?”
Then it was Harbin’s turn to blink. “I thought that kind of motivation was a cliché?”
More than just Draco choked on his own spit.
“Damn, Hari,” Draco laughed. “Could you be more condescending?”
“Oui, I could.” The smirk Harbin had on his lips made Draco want to kiss the other boy stupid.
The people around them snickered and tittered at the banter, but quieted when Nott pushed his way back to them. More and more people were sporting grins or muffling snickers. Even the professors overseeing the club were hiding grins and watching avidly. All of them, except Severus, of course. He stood with his arms crossed, wand in hand, scowl on his face.
“I challenge you to a duel!” Nott screamed. “Right here! Right now!”
His hand tightened on his wand, readying himself to be Harbin’s second.
“I do not believe so,” Harbin answered calmly, to the surprise of everyone.
“No?” Nott sneered, face morphing into triumphant lines. “What? What do you mean ‘no’? The great Harry Potter’s a coward! You’re scared to face me!” he taunted, but Harbin only raised an eyebrow.
“Yes, I am afraid, as any sane and intelligent person should be, of our head of house.”
More than one person blinked in surprise at that.
“What?” Nott demanded, just as thrown as the rest of them.
Harbin spoke slowly, clearly for Nott’s benefit. “It was the first rule Professeur Snape gave us at the house meeting after the Welcome Feast, non? ‘Slytherins do not embarrass our house.’ I would not want his wrath upon my head for doing something so . . . foolish as to engage in schoolyard fights with you.”
Draco smirked. In a few sentences Harbin was able to render Nott as a Gryffindor-wannabe. Severus had expressedly warned them not to emulate the “foolish Gryffindors” by fighting in the hallways. Harbin also managed to reduce Nott’s threats to nothing more than childish taunts. At an age where they and their yearmates were caught on the cusp of becoming adults, their actions defining them as mature, or reverting back to childish behavior. He could see many nodding, understanding the implications. Others, like Ron, had to have the implications explained to them, but once explained, they too nodded. No one wanted to be called babyish and childish.
Nott, too, finally grasped his error, glaring at them all before fleeing the Great Hall.
Harbin hid his victorious grin from all but Draco.
Draco grinned back.
Harbin watched as Carine studied in the sun with her friends. He had been thinking about her for quite some time, debating with himself about staying with her. Even though she claimed to be comfortable with all of the attention from being his girlfriend, even though she seemed to be handling it well, Harbin wondered if it was unfair to her. Most of the attention, of course, was from the students in the three schools, but some of it came from the press lurking about Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. Even though they couldn’t write or publish anything regarding his relationship with Carine that did not stop the reporters from following her in hopes that Harbin would forget to enact the Rite of Subsequens Secretum. Thankfully, he never did.
When he had realized that something was not quite right with his relationship with Carine, he had written long letters to his mother, father, and uncle. He even asked Sirius and Remus for advice. Sirius, of course, was all for continuing “his fling with the pretty French girl;” while Remus had tried with “follow your heart, it knows best.” His parents weren’t much better. Fortunately, his uncle had asked him a question so practical and so like Uncle Jonah that it had helped him decide.
Can you see her in your future?
Harbin had thought about this question for a very long time. Carine was a beautiful woman, intelligent and vivacious, but what he felt for her was not what he thought he should to sustain a long distance, long term relationship. He knew he didn’t look at her like his father looked at his mother or his uncle. He imagined himself years in the future, without her, and found himself not at all saddened by her absence. While he cared for her, while he enjoyed his time with her, her absence from his future wasn’t devastating or disheartening in any way. The mere thought of losing Draco or Hermione was enough to lance pain through his heart, the thought of Ron and Neville or even Luna and the other Weasleys gone from his life had more of an impact than Carine. To Harbin, that said something.
And so, after checking with Neville, he held a bouquet of rue and yellow roses in hand. He waited until Carine was alone before approaching, not wanting her coming unhappiness to be witnessed by anyone. Her smile, when she saw the bouquet, was knowing with a touch of sadness.
“Harbin, how lovely.” She took the flowers, quietly inhaling their scent. “Thank you.”
“Thank you, Carine, for these last lovely months.” He took her hand, pressing a kiss to the back of it. It seemed like she knew their relationship wasn’t meant to last as well. The weight of his actions lifted from him, letting him relax.
Her laughter swirled around them. “Oh, Harbin, thank you for the most interesting relationship I’ll ever have.”
“A lady as lovely as you should always have the most grand of love affairs.” He grinned mischievously at her, winking outrageously.
She laughed again. “Well, I will always remember you, Harbin Chevalier.”
"And I will always remember the beautiful woman who was my first." He leaned forward, sure of his welcome even though it was a kiss goodbye.
Carine pulled away with slow, languid smile, brushing her lips against his once more before turning away. "Goodbye, darling, and take care. Especially in these times."
"Goodbye, Carine, you as well."
His wand was in his hand before he realized it.
“Draco, what are you doing?”
His eyes snapped from Carine Simon to Harbin. He nearly gaped at the girl currently flirting blatantly with a Durmstrang boy. Why wasn’t Harbin flying into a jealous rage? Nevermind that Harbin had too much self-confidence and control to fly into a rage, why wasn’t Harbin upset that his girlfriend was flirting with another boy?
Draco’s eyes narrowed. “Did she break up with you?”
Harbin smiled, body relaxing as he realized why Draco had his wand in hand. He shook his head. “Non, mon ami, I broke up with her.”
Draco would like to say he didn’t wilt with relief, but he couldn’t. Harbin obviously wasn’t distressed by the end of his relationship with the girl, and if the girl was already flirting with someone else, then obviously she wasn’t going to be one of those pathetic, weeping stalkers who didn’t know when to let go. Of course, she could be trying to make Harbin jealous, but Draco didn’t think so. She hadn’t looked over here once trying to see if Harbin was reacting. The day had just gotten much better since he woke up this morning. He wrapped an arm around Harbin, giving him a sympathetic smile. “She wasn’t right for you any way.”
Harbin’s smile grew, leaning into the one-armed hug. “Merci, Draco.”
He nodded, putting away his wand, and tucking into his breakfast with gusto. When the owls arrived with the mail, he placed the Prophet aside, intending to read it later. Turned at Harbin’s hiss. “What is it?”
Harbin tilted his copy of the paper.
Reading the headline, Draco had to bite down on his lip to hide his grin.
The Daily Prophet
HC/HP: FASHION TRENDSETTER!
Harbin Chevalier nee Harry Potter is changing wizarding fashion without ever designing a single item of clothing. Last seen in Hogsmeade, the young wizard was dressed in a wonderful amalgamation of wizard and muggle fashions: black muggle jeans, jewel green dragonhide boots with a matching, tight, button-up shirt. His robe was a thin outer shell with no sleeves, merely slits cut open to reveal folded-up shirtsleeves and Seeker-strong forearms. Mr. Chevalier has put his own spin on the robe. Instead of crisscrossing the front edges of the robe as most wizard do, the outter edges have been charmed to stick together behind his back, leaving two straight lines of cloth from under his arms to his boots.
Lady Maëlle, proprietress of Lady Maëlle’s Boutique and designer of the robe, tells us that Mr. Chevalier wanted a better range of movement and specifically asked her to design a robe to suit his needs. Lady Maëlle says that she cut the robe so that it could be worn either opened or closed, and the robe would flow just as beautifully, either way. She also tells us that ever since Mr. Chevalier has been seen in such robes, requests for imitations have skyrocketed.
Sales for leather cuffs have also risen, thanks to Mr. Chevalier’s penchant for wearing his own set of black leather cuffs. Sources say . . .
Harbin tossed the paper down in disgust. “They spent two full pages on what I wore last weekend.”
“You’re surprised by this? This is what happens when you don’t invoke the rite and let them write about you, you know.” Draco said with such sarcastic shock Harbin looked like he was tempted to strangle him. Draco moved out of range, just in case.
Harbin glared, sticking out his tongue.
Draco rolled his eyes and laughed.
Harbin nodded carefully to Professor Moody as they passed each other in the hall. Professor Moody gave him a nod in return, smirking a little at the way Draco stepped protectively between them. Ever since the second task, Professor Moody had kept carefully away from Harbin, passing any information necessary to him through his friends. It seemed that the professor appreciated the fact that Harbin was careful around him and kept respectfully back. None of the other students seemed to notice their wariness of each other. At least, Harbin had thought so.
“Scared of Mad-Eye, Potter?” Nott taunted.
Harbin rolled his eyes. Nott was the only person within the school who called him by his birth name. Reporters and people who didn’t know him did too, but quickly learned that if they wanted his attention, calling him a name he didn’t answer to wasn’t the way to get it. Nott, unfortunately, wasn’t that bright. Harbin walked away, Draco by his side.
“Don’t you ignore me, Potter! Densau--”
“Oh no you don’t, laddie!”
Harbin spun just in time to see Nott transfigured into a rat.
Students began laughing and pointing as Professor Moody bounced the rat in the air. Harbin didn’t laugh with the others, eyes firmly focused on the DADA professor. He wondered if the professor had chosen a rat on purpose, wondered if this was the imposter rubbing it in his face that Pettigrew had escaped and could be lurking about the school grounds. So far, no sightings of the traitor had been reported, but a man who lived twelve years as a rat wouldn’t feel the need to transform into his human form. Maybe Moody was rubbing it in because the professor was Pettigrew in disguise.
Harbin smiled blandly when Draco looked over at him, laughter still lurking on the blond’s lips, but it dropped away when Draco saw his discomfort. He only relaxed when Draco laced their fingers together and led him away, just as Professor McGonagall started berating Professor Moody.
Third Task, Day Before
The only good thing about participating in this Tournament, in Harbin’s opinion, was that his family had been allowed to visit with him before the Third Task and would be staying to watch as well. While they had managed a short visit at Christmas, one week at Easter, and that one weekend after the Second Task Revelation Fiasco – as he was privately calling it – he had not been able to spend much time with his family. He was grateful for this time with them.
Harbin laughed as Sirius bounded towards him, arms held out for the exuberant man. “You look well, Sirius!” He held Sirius’ face in his hands. He knew from Remus’ letters that his godfather still had the occasional nightmare, but overall, Sirius was doing really well. Sirius was gaining much needed weight and his eyes were lit by laughter and happiness.
Sirius glanced over his shoulder at his lover, taking the hand that Remus had placed on his shoulder. While still enthusiastic, Sirius seemed calmer, better fitting in his own skin. “I am doing very well, Hari.”
Harbin smiled up at Remus, hugging the golden man as well. “Remus, it is good to see you.”
Remus didn’t answer, merely hugging him harder. “I’m worried, Hari.”
He tightened his arms. “As am I, Remus.”
“He’ll be fine!” Sirius declared. “He’s smart, he’s cunning, he’s brave! He’ll win this thing with one arm tied around his back!”
Harbin grinned at Sirius’ enthusiastic endorsement. His smile widened but softened at his brother’s high pitched greeting. He held out his arms once more, bracing himself for his brother’s jumping hug. “Oof! Bastien, you have grown so much!”
Bastien preened. “I grew another inch and a half!”
Harbin laughed, smacking a kiss on Bastien’s baby-round cheek then grinned when Bastien smacked one on his. “Maman, Papa,” he greeted his parents as they reached him and Bastien. He placed a much softer kiss on both his parents’ cheeks, tilting his head to receive their kisses as well. “Bonjour, oncle.” He merely placed his head on his uncle’s broad chest, smiling when a big hand smoothed down his head then his back.
He tilted his head back when Uncle Jonah’s large fingertips pressed his chin up. Sharp blue eyes studied his face.
“Have you been holding back in your letters?”
Immediately, his parents were focusing their considerable attention on him.
“Hari, mon amour?” his mother whispered, bending forward, shielding him and Sebastien from all eyes.
“I . . .” He sighed quietly, leaning back into his father’s hold on his shoulders. He sensed Sirius and Remus closing ranks on him as well, giving him and his muggle family privacy. “Public acceptance is better than we thought, but I am still tired of being ‘on’ all of the time.”
His father and mother both nodded, understanding. “Being on” was a phrase his great grandfather had coined and the family had adopted as almost an unofficial motto. It meant that in the public eye, their behavior was engaging and friendly. They were energetic and constantly entertaining. It was not until they were in private that they could become quiet and still. While some of their family enjoyed “being on” nearly all of the time, Harbin needed the quiet times to recharge his batteries so that he could deal with numerous peers who watched him. Not only were they watching him for signs of the heroic Boy Who Lived, but also for signs of weakness. He looked forward to this summer, being out of the wizarding public’s eye, resting with his family at home, and spending time with his closest friends.
“Harbin?” Uncle Jonah’s voice said he knew there was something else bothering him.
Harbin sighed. “And I am sure that this Third Task is a trap.”
Everyone tensed, but his suspicion was obviously not a surprise to any of them.
“Between your uncle, Gavin, Severus, Sirius, and myself,” Remus said, breaking the strained silence, “Your exceptional power and skills are at their peak. Whether or not this task proves to be a trap, I know you’ll come out victorious.”
Sirius and Bastien vigorously nodded their heads, Uncle Jonah gave one curt nod, and his parents both gave him positive, confident smiles.
Harbin grinned back at them, feeling their confidence, support, and love. Glancing around, he decided to change the subject. “Speaking of Gavin, where is he?”
Sirius barked out a laugh, Remus quietly chuckled. Uncle Jonah shook his head, staying silent, but the light in his eyes was amused too.
His mother smirked. “They locked him in with Severus.”
His father’s shoulders were shaking with contained laughter as he gasped out, “In a closet!”
Sebastien blinked in confusion as everyone else in his family laughed.
“Hermione, please! Enough!”
Severus tilted his head down, knowing his hair would successfully hide the small smile on his lips. Beside him, Gavin felt no need to hide his amusement, openly laughing at Harbin’s exasperation.
Dinner had been a private affair for those closest to Harbin. Of course, not only did that include Harbin’s muggle family, but also Black, Lupin, Gavin, Severus, and all of the popular brat’s closest friends, Slytherin and Gryffindor alike. The private dining room that Albus had set aside for their use was quite full with bodies and conversations. He would not have been here if it had not been for the one-two punch of Harbin’s pleading eyes and Gavin’s soft whisper of his desire for Severus to be there.
Privately, he was glad he had come. Dinner had been relaxed, a sense of camaraderie and family were passed with the dishes. Gavin had been a warm presence by his side. Conversations were mostly intelligent – especially when he completely ignored the mutt, and now the after-dinner entertainment was quite worth the price of admission.
Hermione had decided that Harbin needed to review every spell he had learned in school for the last four years. The girl had cajoled him until he agreed, forcing Harbin’s friends into practicing as well. Not for the first time, Severus thought that if the girl wasn’t running the Ministry by the time she was thirty, he would eat his favorite cauldron. Two hours later, Harbin was begging for relief, the other students looked too pitiful to even attempt to beg for anything.
“Hari! You --”
“Are going to be late for the Hogwarts’ Champions party!” the youngest male Weasley yelled.
All of the students were nodding fervently. The adults were covering smiles and laughter.
Severus mentally rolled his eyes. The Slytherin prefects had approached him, asking for permission to throw Harbin a party to show their support of and to their champion. He had cautiously given his permission, surprised at his snakes’ turn around from guarded acceptance to this welcoming gesture. He suspected their parents were being influenced by the Chevaliers by way of the Malfoys, and this was the result of the trickle down effect. Permission received, his snakes had thrown themselves into their plans, but once word had spread that the Slytherins were throwing Harbin a party, the Hufflepuffs were not to be outdone and were soon granted permission to throw a party for Diggory. Albus, in his infinite wisdom and mush-soft heart, decided to throw a large party for both Hogwarts champions in the Great Hall, all houses and years had been invited. And, of course, the other staff members had been overly enthusiastic about another party. He had been drafted as a chaperone, along with every other adult in the castle.
Hermione huffed but nodded, rolling her eyes at the cheers from her fellow students. As they gathered their things to go, Harbin kissed his parents and family good-bye. Luckily, Sebastien had been put to bed just half an hour ago, otherwise the boy might have begged to go along with the older children.
Severus glanced up once Harbin finished his rounds with the others. He raised an eyebrow at the boy.
Harbin grinned. “Have a lovely evening, professeur.”
“Thank you,” he murmured, not liking that glint in the brat’s eye. Not at all.
“And you too, Gavin.” That sly little smile, that bright shine in his eyes as they glanced at the man next to him, all spelled trouble.
Severus bit back the low growl.
“I’m sure we will, Hari.” Damn Gavin, the pretty imbecile was playing along with Harbin’s little game.
Severus glared at them both.
The little brat waltzed out with his friends, laughter ringing in the air.
“So, Snape, how was coming out of the closet?”
He pulled out his wand, the hex for Black already on his lips.
This party was much better than the Yule Ball. For one, no itchy, stiff dress robes. For the second, Harbin wasn’t thoroughly enamoured with his date. Actually, Harbin didn’t have a loathsome date at all, dancing with whatever female happened to be in arms’ reach.
Draco shook his head as Harbin twirled Pansy into a laughing spin.
He felt no need, whatsoever, to leave his comfortable spot against the wall or the mug of butterbeer charmed to refill itself until Draco said otherwise. Blaise was holding court mere feet away, but Draco was barely paying attention to the other Slytherins. Instead, he watched Harbin dance and enjoy himself. Draco gave him a lazy grin when Harbin swayed into the chair beside him, merely raising an eyebrow when his best friend stole his butterbeer. “Having fun?”
“Oui!” Harbin leaned against him, his body a warm, sweet curve around Draco’s, his arms looped around Draco’s waist.
He leaned into Harbin, relaxing into his arms, watching the dancers and spectators. He tensed when he felt Harbin tense. “What’s wrong?”
“What about him?”
Harbin shifted restlessly. “We have had no trouble with the Hufflepuffs even though this is a competition and there should have been only one Hogwarts champion. Their champion.”
“I feel the need to apologize. This was supposed to be his Tournament.”
Draco turned to Harbin more fully. “You say that as if it’s a foregone conclusion that you’re going to win.”
He sighed. “I feel . . . there is something inside of me that tells me I am going to win.”
Draco blinked. That was strange. Harbin wasn’t prone to amorphous feelings . . . at least not before an emergency. Harbin sometimes followed his gut instincts, especially when faced with a situation that required fast thinking, but he was a strategist for the most part. “Do you want to warn him?”
“Warn him about what? Feelings based on nothing?”
Draco nodded. “Go wish him luck.”
Harbin blinked at him.
“It’ll make you feel better.” He was rewarded with a brilliant smile and a hug before Harbin bounced off towards the Hufflepuff.
Around him, Slytherins were carefully watching.
“Why’s he over there?” Blaise asked, voicing all of their curiosity.
“Ah.” Blaise leaned back into his group, whispering exploding.
Hufflepuff he may be, but Cedric Diggory was from an old, pureblood family and his father was in the ministry. The smart move would be to keep in Diggory’s good graces.
Draco smirked into his butterbeer, smug satisfaction in a job well done.
Harbin carefully controlled his wince as the stands full of spectators screamed at the top of their numerous lungs. Around him stood his immediate family; Sirius, Remus, Gavin, Draco and the rest of his friends stood waving and smiling at him in the crowd of people. Standing with him in front of the maze, the other champions were also with their families.
The Hogwarts’ band was loudly playing a rousing tune, students from all three schools waved banners and flags, all voicing their excitement. Harbin blinked, watching curiously as several of the Beauxbatons girls began a dance eerily familiar to a Spanish one Marco had showed him. It had become quite popular in the United States. He shrugged it off, surveying the rest of the stands. Hogwarts’ students separated those from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang in the stands, but mixed in were members of the press and spectators interested in the outcome of the TriWizard Tournament. Also interested were several Ministry officials taking up the front stands.
When Professor Dumbledore finally took the podium, Harbin hoped the crowd would settle. The headmaster held his hands up for silence, but the excited crowd didn’t even notice. So he reached for his wand and cast a sonorous spell.
Harbin sighed in relief as the crowd quieted and sat down. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Professors Snape and McGonagall, both with encouraging glints in their eyes. Professor McGonagall even smiled at him.
“Earlier today, Professor Moody placed the TriWizard Cup deep within the maze. Only he knows its exact position. And now, as Mr. Diggory – ”
Most of the school surged to their feet in loud, rowdy support. Mr. Diggory raised Cedric’s arm into the air.
Harbin smothered a grin at Cedric’s embarrassed flush and his attempts to get his arm back from his father.
“. . . is in first place, he will be the first to enter the maze. Followed by Mr. Krum --”
Durmstrang surged to their feet, led by their headmaster. Viktor was calm as he stared back at his supporters, only nodding in acknowledgement.
“. . . then Ms. Delacour.”
French-accented cheers filled the air.
“Followed lastly, by Mr. Chevalier.”
He was gratified by the numerous cheers of his fellow Slytherins and a large portion of Gryffindor. Sirius and Sebastien by themselves raised the volume of his cheers by spades. He grinned at them all. He didn’t want to participate in this, but he was pleased by their support nevertheless.
“First person to touch the Cup will be the winner!”
Everyone surged to their feet this time, screaming and yelling encouragement to all of the champions.
His family embraced him and wished him luck, leaving to take their place in the stands by Sirius.
“I’ve instructed the staff to patrol the perimeter. At any point, should a contestant wish to withdraw from the task, he or she need only send up red sparks with their wand.”
Ah, good to know. Harbin wondered if anyone would protest if he sent up the sparks the second he stepped into the maze. From the way Skeeter and the minister were eying him, he was pretty sure someone would.
The headmaster ended the spell that projected his voice and stepped down from the podium. “Contestants, gather around.”
Harbin found himself between Cedric and Fleur.
Professor Dumbledore draped his arms around the shoulders of Krum and the only girl. His voice was quiet and held a note of seriousness as he spoke. “In the maze, you’ll find neither dragons nor creatures of the deep. Instead, you’ll face something even more challenging. You see, people change in the maze. Oh, find the Cup if you can, but be very wary, you could just lose yourselves along the way.”
Harbin stiffened, wondering why the headmaster gave them such a warning.
“On the count of three!” Professor Dumbledore declared, turning back to the audience. “One!”
Filch jumped the gun just as he had during the First Task.
Harbin shook his head, glad for the split second of levity. Because he hadn’t participated in the First Task, and the Second Task had been a clusterfuck, Harbin wasn’t surprised he would be the last to enter the maze. Once he was inside the screams of the audience died away. He had no intention of rushing through the maze. Even though a win for Slytherin house would be most welcomed, Harbin knew – with every fiber of his being – that this was a trap. He was not going to foolishly run headlong into the dangers that populated the maze just to capture a win. The blast-ended skrewt and the enormous spider were easy enough, and knowing that the audience was watching through viewing bubbles, Harbin made sure to dispatch them with spells he knew were fourth level and below. Uncle Jonah and Professor Snape had both impressed upon him the need to keep his advanced skills secret as long as humanly possible. Occasionally, he wanted to reach up and touch Valère to reassure himself he wasn’t alone, but he didn’t, knowing that the audience was watching his every move.
Walking through the maze, his sense of direction telling him he was near the center of the labyrinth, he froze when he heard a girl’s screams. He ran towards them, launching himself into a roll along the ground as red and orange spells flashed at where his head had been. Came up in a crouch and his wand aimed, but found no one but Fleur Delacour, unconscious on the ground. He stilled, waiting, scanning with his senses. Hearing, seeing, nothing, he inched his way to the girl. Her pulse was erratic, but strong. He grabbed her wand, sending up the sparks that would bring help.
Making her as comfortable as possible, he left her there for the teachers to find. After dealing with another trap further into the maze, he had the time to wonder who had attacked Fleur. He knew she couldn’t have just run afoul of one of the traps, since there were no signs of a trap nor did a trap spring itself on Harbin when he helped her. The spells that had nearly taken off his head had to be from her attacker. No, it had to be Krum or Diggory. Harbin mentally betted with himself that it was Krum, since Diggory was – as Draco liked to mutter every time Blaise smirked at him about the lost wager – a damn Hufflepuff. Diggory was highly unlikely to attack anyone not attacking him.
More screams rent the air.
They were male this time. Unlike before, he didn’t just run pell mell towards the screams. He moved swiftly, but kept his head down and his body pressed to the hedge, praying that Professor Sprout hadn’t contributed any of her more vicious specimens to the plantlife in the maze. Harbin could hear the male screams just ahead. He decreased his pace, plastering himself even closer to the hedge, giving his heart and breathing a chance to slow, for his mind to clear. Creeping forward, he froze when he saw Viktor holding Cedric under the Cruciatus curse. Blood-curdling screams, a body painfully jack-knifed backwards, wand uselessly dropped on the ground.
“Stupefy!” He breathed in relief as both Viktor and Cedric fell unconscious. He wasn’t aiming at the Hufflepuff, but, as sometimes happened when he used too much power and not enough focus, the stupefying spell had knocked them both out. Harbin sent red sparks up for all of them and waited. Since he hadn’t wanted to compete in this damn tournament to begin with, he saw no reason to keep going. Bagman had said he had to compete, he never said he had to win, or even finish the Third Task. He was going to stay right here and wait for someone to come get them all.
When no one came, he sent up more red sparks. Again, he waited. When nearly an hour had passed and still no one came, Harbin sighed wearily. He just knew something terrible was going to befall him. Leaving the two males where they laid, he unenthusiastically began trudging towards the glow in the center of the maze.
Within minutes, he stood panting in front of the cup. He glared over his shoulder, the damn hedges had herded him towards the cup, he just knew it. If they really wanted to stop him, the hedges would have started closing in front of him, instead of closing behind him. It wasn’t obvious at all that it was a trap, oh no, not at all.
Wand at the ready, rolling his eyes, he grabbed the cup.
The moment Harbin sent up red sparks from Delacour’s wand that lit up the night sky as he stood over her unconscious body, Severus was heading to the path closest to the girl. No one had been able to see who had attacked the girl, the attacker staying just out of range of the viewing bubbles. So, by Tournament law, they had been unable to help until Harbin had sent up the red flares. He cursed the fools who created such stupid rules as he stormed towards the path. Filius and Madame Maxime were right behind him. When the hedge did not vanish after he cast the correct spell, dread shivered down his spine. He glanced at Filius. “Together,” he directed.
Filius nodded, lifting his wand.
“I will ‘elp,” Madame Maxime offered, her large eyes filled with fear and determination.
Severus left them there, still working, to return to the headmaster.
“Severus?” Albus looked pointedly behind him.
He shook his head, keeping his voice low. “We cannot get in.”
The headmaster immediately turned to the hedge.
The audience, those that noticed the headmaster’s actions, murmured, but most were too busy watching the three male champions still competing in the maze.
“What is going on?” Jonah materialized by his shoulder; Gavin was with him.
“We can’t get into the maze to get the girl.”
Minerva was now by Albus’ side, casting with the old man. Severus knew he would be called in a moment. The three of them were the most powerful here. If they couldn’t get in . . . .
He knew this tournament was an idiotic idea.
As they lowered their wands, Albus turned sad eyes on them all. “We must find the objects anchoring these wards.”
He, his fellow professors, and Gavin began covertly searching, but screams stopped them.
The audience was up and pointing. Krum was using an Unforgivable on Diggory. Diggory’s father was screaming and lunging at Karkaroff.
Cheers heralded when Harbin stopped Krum, rendering both Krum and Diggory unconscious. Once more red sparks lit up the skies.
The audience began muttering in confusion when Harbin plonked himself down and waited, clearly not continuing on to finish the task. Severus bit back a smirk. As ambitious and cunning as Harbin was, he was not a glory-seeking Gryffindor. The audience was expecting a foolishly brave Harry Potter, but instead, they got the smart, self-preserving Harbin Chevalier.
“How can we help?” Black had joined them, the werewolf right behind him.
“Tranform, mutt, see if you can get in there.”
Black threw him a look, but moved to the shadows and did what he was told. The big grim slunk through the dark and tried digging his way under the hedges. He whined low in his throat when he got no further than anyone else. Black came back to their group in human form.
By now, Yves, Sophie, and Jonah had joined them too.
Yves was clutching his wife’s hand and Jonah’s bicep. “Harbin is trapped.”
Yves whitened, but said nothing more, turning with frightening focus on Harbin’s viewing bubble. His wife looked not much better.
“Remus,” Jonah broke the silence, “you are physically stronger than you look, correct?”
Severus didn’t bother biting back this smirk. What a nice way of saying the werewolf was a dark creature with superhuman strength.
Lupin easily boosted Jonah up onto the top of the hedge. Just as it looked like the muggle way was working when magic didn’t, Jonah was blasted off.
Quick cushioning spells stopped him from breaking his neck.
Yves and Sophie cried out, running to his side.
Excited murmurs caught everyone’s attention.
Harbin was up and finishing the maze.
Severus wanted to smirk when the viewing bubble showed a close-up of the boy rolling his eyes.
And then Harbin disappeared.
Terrible things, portkeys.
Harbin rolled to the first cover he saw the second he landed.
From behind the huge headstone, he peered around. A graveyard: old and overgrown. Eerie silence broken only by his quiet breathing. The portkey was meters away. He hoped he could reach it before anyone or anything spotted him.
He barely heard the footsteps before pain lanced through his head. The crunch of dried, dead grass was barely discernible under his screams. He tried breathing through it, controlling it as his uncle had taught him. It had worked before, but the pain in his younger years, before the occlumency training, was nothing like this.
“Hello, Harry,” the voice from his nightmares greeted him.
“Reducto!” Harbin had a split second of relief – Pettigrew’s flying body, Voldemort’s angry, pain-filled screech – before he heard more crunching grass.
“Naughty, naughty boy, Potter.”
He flew into the grasp of a concrete Angel of Death, his wand flying from his hand, the angel’s scythe pulled across his chest, pining him in a cage of stone. He inhaled, taking the deepest breath he could, knowing it would give him at least a tiny bit of room to move.
“Naughty boy, not practicing constant vigilance.”
He glared at Moody, refusing to rise to the bait. Trusted by Professor Dumbledore, but a spy for Voldemort all this time. “Bloody traitor,” he hissed.
“The Dark Lord wanted me to take Moody’s place, but I couldn’t get close enough, the paranoid old fool. So I just had to make do with slipping in as him whenever I could. I have to admit: it was fun fooling Dumbledore.” Moody grinned at him, his tongue darting out.
Harbin’s eyes narrowed in confusion when Moody spoke of himself in the third person. Then he saw that gesture, the tongue flicking out like some kind of frog. It was familiar, from a dream he’d had before, that darting tongue, a nervous habit, flicking out to lick and disgust. He stared in horror as familiar features began to twist, Moody grunting as his face and body changed. The roving glass eye popped out, a real one taking its place. The metal leg fell too, another leg growing to fill out the once empty pant leg. The man that emerged was recognizable: Barty Crouch, Jr. The man that had been crucioed in his dream.
Crouch stood, shaking off the last effects of his transformation. The malevolent smile on his lips and that flickering tongue made Harbin shudder. “I bet you’re wondering: when was it the real Moody? When was it the Death Eater?” Crouch cackled lowly. “Beautiful home, beautiful family, too bad you’ll never know when it was me.”
The words were scarily soft, unimaginably terrifying, not knowing when the Death Eater had been near him, when the Death Eater had been near his family, when he had been in his home, masquerading as Professor Moody.
“Wormtail!” Crouch growled, bending to pick up a black-swathed bundle.
When Harbin saw the face that peered out at him from the black fabric, he nearly vomited. Grotesquely pale, white as bone, thin skin stretched across sharp, skeletal features. Hands and feet – equally pale, equally skeletal, but strangely over-large – flopped out from the cloth. Terribly bony wrists and ankles, pieces of stringy ligaments covered by a film of skin, barely connecting hands and feet to wasted arms and legs.
“Wormtail! Get up!” Crouch kicked at Pettigrew, making him stand. “Get to it!”
Pettigrew whimpered and nodded, stumbling to his feet. He picked up the pale wand where it had fallen. He carefully took the repulsive bundle from Crouch.
“Do it!” it hissed. “Now!”
Pettigrew held the creature above a cauldron Harbin hadn’t noticed before. The fire beneath flared to life; instantly, whatever was in it, began bubbling and steaming.
Harbin idly – hysterically – thought Professor Snape would be incesed by such careless heating.
Pettigrew dropped Voldemort’s horrific form into the potion. “Bone of the father, unwillingly given. Flesh of the servant, willingly sacrificed. Blood of the enemy, forcibly taken. The Dark Lord shall rise again.”
Crouch’s eyes hungrily followed each of Pettigrew’s movements: the levitating of a long bone from a newly opened grave, the flash of the knife as it severed Pettigrew’s hand, the same knife cutting through Harbin’s skin, making him hiss in hatred and pain.
Harbin was frozen at first, staring as the cauldron disappeared, revealing Voldemort’s body as it regained a more human shape. He was snapped out of his stunned fugue by a nearly orgasmic groan from Crouch. The two Death Eaters were mesmerized. Harbin knew this was his chance. He flicked opened the secret latch on his leather cuff, ignoring the pain in his wounded arm. He kept his eyes on Voldemort as he demanded his wand from Pettigrew, then summoned his followers. The leather that covered the needles inside his cuff slid silently to the ground.
He yanked his shirtsleeve down, covering the dull glint of steel needles, and stilled as Death Eaters converged on the graveyard. Carefully, he reminded himself, it was harder to conceal his movements with all these eyes here. He slid out a needle dipped in the Draught of the Living Death, clutched it in his fist, careful not to prick himself. As Voldemort berated his followers for not finding and raising him sooner, Harbin began easing himself out of the concerete angel’s hold, thankful he remembered to give himself room by breathing deeply and expanding his chest.
“And where, pray tell, is Lucius?”
Harbin froze, searching the assembled Death Eaters. Sure enough, no distinct blond hair was present. He blinked relieved tears away, thankful Lucius hadn’t betrayed his family for power, for Voldemort.
“He must be in front of witnesses and cannot leave, my lord,” the Death Eater called Macnair rasped.
Harbin continued to inch his way down the body of the angel, keeping his eyes on the multiple threats, while the Death Eaters groveled at Voldemort’s feet. Lightly dropping to the ground, he scanned for his wand.
“Potter!” Pettigrew saw him and lunged.
Harbin attacked without thought, needle plunging into the soft flesh of Pettigrew’s neck. The traitorous rat dropped into a coma so deep he could have been dead. Harbin ran as Death Eaters flung spells at him. Ducking, weaving, hiding when he could, searching for his wand, promising himself he was going to learn wandless magic. When he got back home, he promised himself. When, not if.
There! His wand! He dove for it.
“Oh no you don’t, laddie!” Crouch jumped at him from nowhere.
Harbin swung his foot in a roundhouse kick, catching Crouch in the gut, but the man proved tough as he absorbed the kick and dove at him. Harbin jumped, but a spell knocked him flat. Crouch grabbed him, an arm around his throat, cutting off his air, another around his waist, hoisting him up off his feet. Harbin kicked out and clawed, but the escaped convict proved too strong.
Valère, hidden all this time under the collar of his shirt, rose up. He hissed and struck, fangs buried deep into Crouch’s arm. Crouch didn’t even have a chance to cry out, slumping to the grass.
Harbin ignored Voldemort’s enraged bellow, grabbing his wand, bringing it up just in time.
His fire curse hit dead on with the Killing Curse, the spells clashing against each other.
Death Eaters moved towards him.
“No!” Voldemort screamed. “He’s mine!”
If he had the energy to spare he would have rolled his eyes and curled his lip up in disdain. Some Slytherin Voldemort was. Harbin would have used all available resources he could get to win against an enemy. He brought his other hand to brace his wand hand, desperately willing his spell to prevail. Slowly, surely, his spell began to overpower Voldemort’s. He poured all of his magical energy into it, focusing, focusing, just like all of his teachers had taught him. He fell into a meditative trance, habit instilled by Uncle Jonah coming to the fore, making it easier to ignore the cage of light forming around him, to ignore what might happen should Voldemort win. Ignored it all, single-minded concentration forcing that last little bit of power necessary. His spell hit Voldemort’s wand.
He hadn’t been prepared to see the shade of an old man, then a woman, emerging from the end of Voldemort’s wand.
“Bloody bastard,” the old man hissed. “Knew something was weird about ‘im. Killed me then used me in some ritual with that snake of his.”
“Harry, you must hold on,” the woman encouraged. She spoke like she knew him, but he didn’t recognize her at all. “Hold on!”
He blindly nodded, not knowing what else to do.
Another head emerged from Voldemort’s wand. Long red hair spilled out, a woman’s face, familiar and loved, but only a distant love. Harbin stared as his mother’s shade materialized.
“Hello, my darling,” she cooed, love and regret coloring her voice. “Hold on just a little more, Harry, your father’s coming. He wants to see you.”
He couldn’t even nod this time. He stared at her, memorizing her voice. She was just like her pictures, the ones he had found in books about the war and the pictures Professor Snape had shown him, had copied for him. But none of those pictures had told him what her voice sounded like. None of them had told him he would smell the perfume of citrus fruit in the air around her. “Hello, mum.”
“Oh, Harry, I love you, my darling, so much.”
He nodded, voice catching in his throat. He hoped she could read what he held in his eyes for her.
“James,” she whispered, looking over his shoulder.
He turned in time to see his father sliding up by his side.
“My son,” his father whispered. A deep voice, calm and sure, but his eyes twinkled with the mischief of the Marauders. “Harry, we’re so proud of you. And thank your parents for us?” He winked. “They did a great job even if they did raise you to be a Slytherin.”
Harbin sobbed a laugh. He was happy with his adopted parents, loved them more than he ever thought possible, but with his biological parents here and now, he had never realized how much he needed to hear of their love and pride in him.
“There’s so much we want to say,” his mother said, a ghostly hand reaching out to cup his cheek.
He didn’t dare let go of his wand, but turned his cheek into her hand nevertheless.
“But you need to get to safety.” His father’s hand landed lightly on his shoulder.
Harbin didn’t physically feel either of their touch, but he felt the love they emanated all the same. “I love you too.”
They both smiled at him.
“When we say, you let go, all right, son?”
Harbin nodded, focusing back on his wand and Voldemort.
The first two shades rushed towards the other wizard.
“Now, Harry, let go now!” his mother yelled.
“Son, let go!” his father screamed over his shoulder as he and his mother charged Voldemort.
Harbin wrenched his wand free, diving for the portkey, tripping over Crouch’s body. “Accio Cup!”
He heard Voldemort scream in denial as the portkey’s lurching pulled him away.
The wink of light that heralded a portkey was barely noticeable among the chaos.
When Harbin disappeared, the wards surrounding the maze finally dropped. Professors, and Aurors who had been called by the minister, surged in to retrieve the other three champions. Diggory’s father had demanded Krum’s incarceration but Dumbledore had proven that the Durmstrang’s student had been Imperiused. Because of that, and the fact that Harbin had stopped Krum from inflicting the Cruciatus for too long, Diggory had pleaded with his father to leave Krum be. The same story was reported for Delacour, the girl forgiving Krum for his actions. Everyone stood and anxiously speculated, powerless to act, because without the portkey, without blood from a blood relative, Harbin couldn’t be traced.
Suddenly, Draco jumped to his feet, wrapping himself around the newly-materialized Harbin before most had even realized he was back. He carefully avoided the dead body at Harbin’s feet. Instead, he savored the body in his arms: whole and warm and hugging him back.
“I am fine, Draco, I promise.”
Draco sighed as Harbin’s arms tightened around him. “I was so worried,” he confessed into the shell of Harbin’s ear.
“As was I.” Harbin pulled back, pressing a sweet kiss to his cheek.
Harbin’s mother grabbed them both. Draco squirmed a little in her hold but was unwilling to let go of Harbin to escape. A little body wiggled between them and then more adult arms surrounded them both.
“I am all right,” Harbin breathlessly assured them all, contorting himself to reach each of them.
When Draco saw Black and Lupin heading towards them, he slowly, reluctantly eased away from Harbin. He smiled when Harbin gave him a confused look, nodding towards his family. Harbin smiled back when he understood that Draco was giving him time with his family. Draco knew what Harbin’s family meant to him, and didn’t begrudge him them. But he stayed close enough to watch as Harbin reassured his family, Black, Lupin, Dumbledore, and McGonagall.
On the outskirts of his vision, he saw their friends and the professors beaming at Harbin. All of them, that is, except Severus. Who was scowling at the body mere feet away.
A feminine scream alerted everyone else to that little problem.
Dumbledore was the first of Harbin’s little lovefest to pull away, frowning down at the body. “Severus?”
“It is Crouch Jr.” Severus cast a spell that surrounded Crouch’s body, the spell glowed a dull black. “He’s dead.”
Harbin pointed at the body. “He has been polyjuicing himself into Professeur Moody. He was the one who came to Pottere Hale for Sebastien. He said that he was supposed to take the professeur’s place, but could not get close enough.”
“Aye,” the real Professeur Moody commented. “Ever since last year, when Black escaped, then the happenings at the World Cup, I’ve made sure to practice constant vigilance.”
More than one person there hid smiles at his motto.
“How did Crouch die?” Fudge demanded, pushing his way to the front of the crowd.
“Valère bit him,” Harbin offered from the circle of his father and mother’s arms. He reached up to loosen his collar, showing everyone the green ladder snake coiled around his neck. Harbin petted his living choker, while Valère hissed in pleasure.
“Valère is not poisonous,” Jonah contradicted him.
Harbin’s father nodded. “We made sure before we let you keep him.”
“Crouch grabbed me from behind,” Harbin explained, moving his father’s arm into a parody of the hold Crouch held him in. “Valère bit him, right about here. Right through his sleeve.” He indicated the spot on his father’s arm.
“’ere now, let me through.” Hagrid surprised everyone as he came through the crowd. He crouched down low, peering at Valère.
Mr. and Mrs. Chevalier moved to give the half-giant a better look.
Hagrid shook his head. “That ain’t no regular ladder snake, ‘ari, it’s a magical one.” One huge, but gentle finger traced the thin, red line that Draco knew ran from the tip of Valère’s tail to right under his jaw. “Only way to tell is this line and ‘cause he’s so small. Muggle ladder snakes get up to three feet. Valère’s a magical one, no doubt ‘bout it. ‘e’s only poisonous when ‘e wants to be.”
Harbin looked chagrined, his family flashed from surprise to horror that they had let a toddler keep a poisonous snake to relief that the poisonous snake had helped Harbin’s escape.
“Yes, yes, that’s all good and well, but what happened?!?!” The minister’s voice was, as always, pompous, but also held notes of fear and demand.
Draco had almost forgotten he was here.
“Voldemort is back. He is alive once more.” Furious and terrified exclamations hissed from those closest to him, but Harbin ignored him. “I watched as Pettigrew and Crouch Jr. used a blood ritual to bring him back.”
“Voldemort is alive,” Dumbledore said, lowly, but loud enough for those around him to hear.
Whispers exploded, people started crying, shaking their heads.
Draco narrowed his eyes at the headmaster. It was strange; the man didn’t sound surprised at all.
“That’s preposterous!” Fudge bellowed. He pointed an accusing finger at Harbin. “You’re making this all up, boy! Looking for attention!”
Harbin kept his mouth shut, but his glare said volumes. His parents and uncle moved to shield him and his brother. Draco stepped in close as well, flanked by Black and Lupin. Severus and Gavin moved to block the Aurors.
Fudge glared at them all, sparing his most venomous ones for Harbin and Dumbledore. “Lies! Nothing but lies!”
He spun on his heels, gesturing for the Aurors to follow, heading towards the gates of Hogwarts.
“Come,” Dumbledore said. “We have much to discuss.”
He nodded to the other professors who began herding students, spectators, and the press out of the Quidditch pitch.
Moody thumped forward to take possession of Crouch’s body. “I’ll take it to Azkaban,” he said to no one in particular, but Dumbledore nodded.
“Thank you, old friend.”
After the minister and his Aurors had left, and the press and spectators – despite their protests – had been politely escorted off the grounds, the school had slowly quieted. The headmaster had shooed off his friends, assuring them that they could all leave their dormrooms after curfew to speak to Harbin later when he was done speaking with his family and the professors. Draco had refused to leave his side, clinging stubbornly to his hand. Seeing that, the headmaster had allowed Draco to stay, but Professor Snape had glared down at his godson in a reminder to behave. Draco had glared defiantly back.
After the headmaster had settled everyone with tea, he turned to Harbin. “Now, tell us, dear boy, everything.”
They all listened as Harbin carefully wove a tale of a graveyard, Pettigrew and Crouch, and of a resurrection that horrified everyone. Sirius had begun swearing when he heard that Pettigrew had been the one to resurrect Voldemort. Remus’ eyes had glowed golden, a snarl baring his canines. Gavin and Professor Snape had gazed at him with pride as he recounted his duel with Voldemort and his fights with Pettigrew and Crouch Jr. His uncle had placed a warm hand on his shoulder, squeezing once. His mother had petted Valère when Harbin told of how his snake had helped him get away.
“Thank you, Harbin,” Professor Dumbledore said into the ensuing silence. “Now, I’ve enlarged your room temporarily and added a third bed for Sebastien. Why don’t you and Draco take him there? It is bedtime after all.”
Harbin would have blinked, would have dropped his jaw in astonishment, if he hadn’t been expecting it. Again, the headmaster wanted to protect him. He appreciated it, but knew better. His father, mother, uncle, and all of his relatives believed that knowledge was power. After all, their business empire was built upon knowledge. “Professeur, did you know that Pettigrew had escaped from Azkaban?”
The headmaster blinked, then mournfully nodded.
Harbin mimicked his nod. “I truly wish I had known I would have two attackers to be wary of. Thankfully,” he reached up to pet Valère, “I had a friend with me tonight.”
Professors Snape and McGonagall inhaled sharply at the implied insult. Several of the other teachers knew something was wrong but couldn’t pinpoint what. Professor Flitwick’s shrewd eyes were gazing thoughtfully at him though.
His father squeezed him waist, his mother his hand, both giving him tiny smiles of approval. Draco was nearly vibrating as he glared at the headmaster.
Time and time again, Harbin had pleaded with the headmaster to keep him informed of things that could harm him. Time and time again, the headmaster had kept these secrets from him. He did not know how to get through to the man, but his temper was getting the better of him. He knew the insult was subtle, very few had understood its implications, but as the twinkle faded from Professor Dumbledore’s eyes, Harbin held hope that the man finally understood. Finally understood that keeping information from him wasn’t protecting Harbin, it was putting him in more danger.
Professor Dumbledore sighed. “I apologize, Harry.”
Harbin raised an eyebrow, silently asking if he was truly sorry, had truly learned his lesson.
“It seems the ministry will not be of any help,” Professor Dumbledore said sadly, sipping at his teacup. Apparently, he had, moving the conversation on without another word about Harbin, Draco, and Sebastien leaving.
Professor McGonagall harrumphed into hers. The other professors present nodded at her sentiment. Profesor Snape discreetly sneered.
“As if the ministry was of any use the last time,” Sirius spit out. “All it did was put innocent men in Azkaban.”
Remus pulled Sirius back towards him, soothing hands calming his lover.
“So, what are our plans?” Harbin’s father asked, looping an arm around him, still unready to let Harbin more than a foot away.
He was sandwiched between his father and Draco, Sebastien planted firmly on his lap. His mother was next to his father, holding Harbin’s hand in a tight grip. His uncle was behind them, a solid warmth hovering protectively. On Draco’s other side were Sirius and Remus. Professor Flitwick had to charm the couch larger for all of them.
“I believe it is time to reactivate our old friends.” Professor Dumbledore flicked his wand at one of the numerous gadgets on his shelves. One in particular floated towards him. “We will need information; that is of the utmost importance.”
“There are sources I may tap,” his uncle’s voice rumbled.
“I shall as well.” Professor Snape was the very picture of subtle disgust for his upcoming, self-appointed tasks.
“Us, too,” Remus spoke up, indicating himself and Sirius.
“I’m sorry,” Gavin said from beside Professor Snape, exuding confusion. “Reactivate who?”
Everyone who seemed to know fell silent, eyes gazing at the headmaster.
Professor Dumbledore waved his wand, encompassing the entire room. A spell for the utmost security flowed from his lips. Once done, he laid his wand down, turning to them. “During the first war, I formed the Order of the Phoenix, a secret organization working against Voldemort.”
“Your parents, Hari,” Sirius leaned around Draco to interject, “were part of the Order. Remus and I, too.”
“Was Pettigrew?” his uncle asked.
“No, thank Merlin,” Remus sighed. “He never joined.”
Sirius growled. “That should have been our first clue.”
Remus gave one curt nod.
“What we need most is information,” Professor Dumbledore brought the conversation back on point.
Less than an hour later, Harbin and Draco finally made their way down to their room. Sebastien was draped bonelessly over Harbin’s shoulder, deeply asleep. Their room was full to bursting, their friends jumping to their feet at their entrance.
“Silencio,” Harbin hissed out the spell before any of them could wake his brother.
Hermione and Pansy glared at him, Ron too for that matter. Everyone else gave him sheepish grins. The glares went away once they realized why Harbin had cast it.
When he was sure no one would wake his brother accidentally, he released the spell. They all waited quietly as he, with the help of Draco, put Sebastien to bed. Then he cast a spell to ensure that their talking wouldn’t wake his little brother.
“All right,” he said, waving them to take seats. He tiredly climbed onto his bed, patting the spot next to him for Draco. Once everyone was settled he told his story again.
“He’s back?” Pansy whispered fearfully, clutching Blaise’s arm.
“Thank Merlin my mother’s neutral.” Blaise shuddered, his dark skin pale.
“My father wasn’t a Death Eater,” Pansy said, voice low and hushed as she divulged her family’s secret. “But he supported You-Know-Who. Financially.”
Draco leaned across the space between Harbin’s bed and his, where Pansy sat, to pat her hand. “Don’t worry, your father already declared himself neutral when my father did. The only ones left are the mad ones.”
Pansy instantly brightened. Well, as much as she could with the subject at hand.
“And the financially desperate ones.” Blaise smirked.
“What do your parents have planned, Hari?” Neville asked, one arm around Luna who was dreamily staring off into space. His other arm was around Ginny, who looked half asleep.
“Nothing right now,” Harbin answered, shrugging. “We need information before we can act.”
“What about Fudge?” Fred asked, his twin nodding and pointing as if to support the question.
“Yeah,” Hermione chimed in. “He didn’t seem to believe you.”
Draco snorted. “Stupid coward. Like an ostrich burying its head in the sand.”
Ron, his brothers and sister, and Neville cracked up at that. All of the Slytherins smirked. Luna hummed a lullaby.
Harbin flicked his hand. “Mes parents will handle him.”
It spoke of their belief in Harbin’s parents when they all nodded.
Simultaneously, several people yawned. Good nights were said as their friends trooped out of their room.
When they were alone, Harbin dropped his head back onto Draco’s lap. “I hate today.”
He smirked as Draco’s body shook with quiet laughter. They curled up together, falling asleep between one blink and the next.
Draco hated the franticness of leaving for the summer. People rushed to and fro at the Hogsmeade station, shoving trunks into the baggage compartments, yelling goodbyes over the sounds of the engine – even though they had the entire trip back to London to do so – running pell mell back towards the school for something forgotten. Thankfully, his things were already in the compartment and his godfather could send him anything he forgot. Next to him, Harbin was much the same, quietly petting Valère.
“C’mon, Hari, let’s get a compartment before the good ones are all gone.” Draco slipped his fingers into his friend’s, tugging gently.
Harbin grinned and nodded.
“Harry! Harry Potter!”
Draco glared at the Minister of Magic even as Harbin huffed an exasperated breath.
“Mr. Potter! I must speak with you!” The man was fighting against the sea of students who were either watching in interest or too busy fighting with their luggage to realize he was trying to push through.
Harbin heaved a tiny sigh, then nudged him onto the train. “Go on, Draco. Find us a good seat.”
“Are you sure?” Draco cast a quick, suspicious glance at the minister.
Harbin nodded, then reached up. “Take Valère with you, please? Just in case?”
Draco nodded, then held still as Harbin wound Valère around his neck, the two of them hissing to each other all the while. Draco wondered, not for the first time, why people talked to their pets like that. Clearly, neither was actually speaking the same language.
Harbin pressed a quick kiss to his cheek. “Go on, mon ami.”
Draco reluctantly climbed on board, but quickly pushed two people out of his way so that he could see Harbin and the minister, who was pulling Harbin away from everyone else. The minister was obviously trying to convince Harbin of something, eagerly, earnestly gesturing with both hands. Harbin was stoic and silent, barely moving. Draco almost missed the train’s whistle he was so focused on them. He saw Harbin trying to make his excuses, motioning to the train, but the minister wouldn’t let him leave. Again the whistle blew. The station was empty now; the seventh year prefects were the second to last to board the train, having to make sure that every student had boarded the train. The train stewards and the conductor were last on board. All of them threw concerned glances at Harbin and the minister, but the pompous ass waved them on, the aurors enforcing his order.
Draco stuck his head out of the window. “Harbin! The train’s leaving!”
Harbin jerked away from the minister, but the man pulled him back again.
The train started moving, leaving the station.
Harbin kicked at the minister, running after the train. One of the minister’s guards jumped him. Harbin’s body was a blur as he fought him off. He was running again.
“Harbin!” Draco ran to the car’s entrance, hoping to open the door and help his friend. He reached it just in time to see Harbin fall under the red glow of a stunner.
“Shit! Fuck!” He would have continued to helplessly scream obscenities until they reached London if Hermione hadn’t found him.
“Draco Lucius Malfoy!” Her slap got his attention in ways her yelling hadn’t. “What happened?!”
“That stupid fucking bastard! He took Hari!” Draco paced in the corridor, hands clenched in his hair, spittle dripping from every word. He barely realized it when friends gathered in front and behind him.
“Who?” Hermione asked patiently.
Everyone gasped. More and more students were gathering, quietly giving and getting information.
“Are you sure, Draco?” Blaise asked carefully.
“I saw him!” he snarled, kicking at a door.
“Why would Fudge want Hari?” Ron asked the corridor at large.
Draco nearly pounced for that stupidity but the twins grabbed him just in time.
“The minister must be besieged by a hag badger,” Luna said, startling Draco out of his rage. “They cause jealousy and fear, you know.”
Draco blinked at her, shaking his head in bewilderment why Harbin counted her as a friend. He turned to Hermione. “We have to do something!”
“We should tell one of the professors,” Ginny volunteered.
Draco gifted her with a sneer. “Do you see any here, Weaselette?”
“Hey!” Ron’s face turned red as he surged forward.
Ginny rolled her eyes as she pushed him back. “He’s just worried about Hari,” she admonished her brother. “He doesn’t mean it.”
Draco didn’t bother gracing that with an affirmative, turning away from both redheads.
Hermione snapped her fingers in the classic I-got-it gesture. “You could fly your broom back to Hogwarts. It’s closest and the teachers are probably still there. You could tell Professor Dumbledore; he’ll know where to find Fudge and find out where Harbin was taken.”
“Fly back to Hogwarts?” Blaise repeated incredulously, dark eyes pointedly staring out the window. “Granger, we’ve got a tailwind! By broom it’ll take at least two hours, more depending on the broom. Flying back to Hogwarts is impossible!”
Draco was nodding. The Hogwarts Express traveled faster than brooms and with the current wind direction, he would be flying against it, slowing him down even more.
“No,” Hermione shook her head. “It’ll be difficult, but not impossible.”
“Yes, it is. I don’t have my broom.” Draco kicked the wall again in frustration. “I left it at school because Father said he was going to buy me a new one for my birthday this summer.”
Everyone fell silent.
Ron stood, pushing through the students and into a compartment.
Neville blinked. “Ron, where are you--”
Ron didn’t answer, but he was back in very little time, holding his shrunken broom. He held it out to Draco. “It’s not as fast as your’s or Harbin’s, but it’ll get you back to Hogwarts.”
Draco stared at the broom Ron offered. A Cleansweep, old with none of the charms and enchantments that had been developed since it was manufactured. He stared at the youngest male Weasley, an annoying barnacle that came with Harbin’s friendship. “Thank you, Ron,” he said, with the most sincerity he had ever put in those words.
The other boy nodded, silently handing over the broom.
It was a procession that followed him out to the last car. It took both him and Hermione to break the locking spell on the door. Draco idly wondered if an alarm would be set off as he stepped out the door and mounted the borrowed broom.
A slightly tight sensation around his neck reminded. “Wait!” Clamping the broom between his thighs freed his hands to reach up and unwind Valère. “Someone’s going to have to hold onto Valère for me. Harbin says he doesn’t like flying.”
Everyone glanced at each other, even the Slytherins.
Draco rolled his eyes. “Oh c’mon! Valère’s safe, he won’t bite you!”
Ron snorted. “He’s already killed Crouch.”
“To protect Harbin,” Hermione shot back, then she swallowed hard. “I--”
“I’ve always wanted to wear green,” Luna’s soft voice somehow cut through the noise of the wind and the train.
Draco didn’t know why, but he felt better about leaving Valère with Luna than he did with Hermione, whom he knew and trusted. But, he followed his instincts and gently handed Luna Valère. The green snake seemed happy enough to wind himself around her throat. “Thanks, Luna.”
She smiled sweetly at him, twirling away. “I’ll give him back at the station.”
Draco blinked, not sure if she understood that he wasn’t going to be there.
“Remember, follow the tracks as close as you can. It’s covered by Notice-Me-Not charms and will keep you from muggle eyes!” Hermione yelled over the sounds of the train on its way to London.
Draco nodded and pushed off.
Fourth Year: Summer
“Well, the mandrakes must be used before they’ve gotten too old.” Pomona Sprout cast a critical eye over the student’s handiwork from the previous semester. “Poppy says she’s fully stocked on any potions requiring them.”
Severus was also studying the plants. Now that all of the little brats were on their way to London and into the loving arms of their families, he had time to take stock of his supplies. His first stop was always the greenhouses of the Hufflepuff head of house. Harvesting her fresh ingredients was always preferable to the dried, sometimes questionable quality of herbs from the apothecaries. “I will take them if she does not need them.”
“Excellent!” Pomona beamed at him. “I’d hoped you’d say that!”
Pulling his wand, Severus levitated as many of the excess plants as he could. “Thank you, Pomona.”
“You’re welcome, Severus!” She levitated the rest. “It’s been an eventful year, hasn’t it?”
He nodded, knowing she was more than capable of holding the conversation all on her own.
“I do so hope next year will be quieter, but I don’t think it will. Do you?”
Severus grunted a negative.
Both of their heads jerked about at the panicked screams; dropping the levitating spells to free up their wands.
“Do you see -- ?”
“No,” he answered harshly, eyes carefully scanning.
“SEVERUS! UP HERE!”
To his immense surprise, his godson’s gold hair glinted in the mid-morning light as he dove down from above. The boy barely jerked the broom upright in time to land. Thank Merlin Draco’s skills as a Slytherin Chaser hadn’t become rusty regardless of the suspension of this year’s Quidditch games. Anything less than Draco’s skills and he would be one less godson.
“Draco.” He caught the boy as Draco threw himself into his arms.
“What are you doing back?” Pomona asked, face falling into scolding lines. “You’re supposed to be --”
“Legilimens!” Draco gasped out the word but put no power into it, eyes boring into his own.
“You can’t use that spell on a teacher!” Pomona screeched. “Godfather or not!”
Severus didn’t bother correcting her, casting the spell himself. He dove into Draco’s willing mind and saw the events leading up to his wild flight back to Hogwarts. Without a by-your-leave, he swung Draco into his arms and headed straight for the school.
“Harbin Chevalier has been taken by the minister.”
Pomona gasped, following his long strides back into the school, thankfully refraining from asking her obvious questions.
Once they reached Albus’ office, he lowered Draco onto a couch, bending to massage out the kinks he knew would be there. Hours of flying were not unusual for his godson, but without any proper stretches or preparation or adequate cushioning charms on the obviously borrowed broom, Draco would be in agony in a few short hours. Unfortunately, he had none of his potions available and this would be faster than going down to the dungeons for them.
“Severus?” Albus asked from behind him.
“Fudge kidnapped Hari from the station!” Draco burst out before he could answer.
“What? Are you certain, Mr. Malfoy?” Minerva demanded.
“Draco,” Albus said slowly, a note of warning in his voice.
“I’m sure!” Draco yelled.
“Draco.” This time it was him warning his godson.
“Minister Fudge,” Draco sneered the man’s name and title, but was otherwise mannerly, “took Harbin from the Hogsmeade station.” Slowly, carefully, he told the story as he remembered it and as it was in his memory.
Severus stood after he finished with Draco’s legs and back. He blinked in surprise when Draco brushed a kiss against his cheek in thanks. He rolled his eyes. Harbin’s influence, of course.
“Minerva, please see to Mr. Malfoy.” Albus stood, eyes hardening. “Severus, with me, please.”
He nodded, glaring once at Draco, who looked like he was about to demand to come along. At his glare, Draco subsided, biting his lip. It was an old sign of uncertainity. “We will find him,” Severus assured quietly.
Severus exchanged glances with Minerva as he followed Albus out of his office. She had a glint in her eye that did not bode well for the minister should harm come to Harbin. Well, he huffed as he spun in place to apparate to the ministry, she would just have to get in line.
Being in the company of Albus Dumbledore meant that no one stopped them from walking straight into the minister’s office.
“Dumbledore! What is the meaning of this?!” Fudge blustered, rising from behind his desk.
“Where is Harry, Cornelius?” Albus asked the question gently, leaning as close as possible to the much shorter man.
From his actions, Severus knew Albus was going to use legilimens on the idiotic minister if he got the chance. Thank Merlin he wasn’t letting anything as stupid as morals get in the way of them finding Harbin. Albus could be ferocious in his defense of his children; Severus appreciated that in his mentor.
“How dare you question me like that?!” More moronic blustering.
Severus knew the moment Albus had the information. His usual twinkle died, blue eyes hardening into ice, jovial face now a mask of flat lines. Voice no longer gentle or nice.
“You should not have done this, Minister Fudge.” Albus majestically turned and stormed out, leaving the still blubbering minister behind without so much as a “by-your-leave.”
Severus followed him. “Albus?”
“He took Harry to the Dursleys. He plans to take custody of Harry from Yves and Sophie so he can control him.”
Severus hissed. Albus had told him years ago, when he had found Harbin wandering through the school at night, what Harbin had remembered of his childhood. He remembered what it felt like living with his muggle father, remembered the pain ahd harshness and fear. Harbin’s uncle sounded like his father. And the minister had returned Harbin to the despicable people who would abandon a helpless toddler. He mentally listed every potion he had ever brewed or concocted from his Death Eater days.
“Dumbledore! Dumbledore, we’re not finished!” Fudge had followed them out, yelling at them like a fishmonger’s wife.
“Severus, will you inform the Chevaliers?” Albus requested, voice low, and face showing his age. “I will deal with him.”
Severus executed a short bow before turning on his heel.
“Where is he going? Dumbledore?”
Severus apparated to the edge of Pottere Hale, waiting for the wards to recognize him.
Black answered the door. “What are you doing here?”
He pushed through, completely ignoring Black’s demands. “Where are your parents and uncle?” he asked Sebastien when he spotted the boy in the foyer.
The usually gregarious seven year old must have seen something in his face for Sebastien silently took his hand and led him upstairs. Black’s raised voice had alerted Gavin and Lupin so an entourage followed them into the office. The Chevaliers and Jonah were working but their heads came up at the sight of him.
“Harbin?” Jonah tonelessly demanded.
“Taken by Fudge to the Dursleys.”
Yves paled to the color of bone china. “What? Why?”
“Albus said Fudge wanted custody to go to the Dursleys so that he can control Harbin.”
Sophie sneered at both possibilities. "Those bitches will have Harbin over my dead body." She rose in a slow fury, hand held out to her youngest son. "Come, Sebastien, we have calls to make."
“As do I.” Yves stood, much more shakily than his Amazonian wife, but the fire in his eyes was no softer. “Jonah?”
“I will see to Harbin.” Jonah leaned down, pressing a gentle kiss to his lover’s lips in a rare show of affection.
Yves clung for one moment before nodding. “Gavin, Remus, will you help me?”
Both men jumped to follow.
Lupin turned back. “Sirius?”
“I’m going with them.” Black stepped towards Jonah.
Lupin nodded and left.
Severus held out his arms without a word. The two men took hold without a word. Just as the apparition spell took them, he saw the two men’s eyes. He wasn’t sure which unnerved him more: the fiery madness lurking in Black’s or the completely dead ones of Jonah.
“DO NOT TOUCH ME!” Harbin’s voice, Harbin’s fear.
The Dursley house literally quaked with Harbin’s terror and power.
Jonah kicked down the door, Black right behind.
“Let go of me! How dare you barge in --” Dursley’s voice died as the serrated knife in Jonah’s hand pressed against the jowls of his fleshy neck.
“You will not touch him.” Jonah delivered the demand in a voice as equally dead as his eyes.
Petunia Dursley must have seen the destruction possible in Jonah’s eyes for she ceased her shrill caterwauling. Two boys – the same age as Harbin, one as fat and fleshy as his father, the other lanky with a vicious sneer of a mouth – stood frozen in the hallway.
“Oncle Jonah! Sirius!” Harbin threw himself at Black, but merely placed a hand on Jonah’s back, beaming at them both, completely unafraid of the death and madness.
Black’s eyes warmed as he curled about Harbin. “Are you all right?”
Harbin did not hide with Gryffindor false bravado. Instead, he pulled up his shirt and tilted his head to one side.
Black hissed when he saw the darkening bruises on Harbin’s cheek and stomach. “Who did it?” he demanded loudly.
Harbin said nothing but turned to glare at the two boys.
“Go to Snape. Let him heal you.” Black grinned at the two muggle bullies. Severus recognized the gleam in Black’s eyes from their Hogwarts’ days. It did not bode well for the two miscreants. “While I share with these two what the Death Eaters taught me in Azkaban.”
Harbin obediently presented himself to Severus as Black’s words broke the silent shock of the muggles.
Severus protectively pressed Harbin into his side as they took in the scene.
Dursley was loudly demanding to be let go. Jonah had grasped one of the piglets that were Dursley’s fingers and had it bent so far backwards that Dursley squealed like a pig about to be slaughtered.
Petunia was screeching again. “Sirius Black, you leave my boys alone!”
Black smiled at her even as he used levicorpus on the thrashing bullies. “Petunia, you do remember me, I’m flattered,” he purred, encroaching on her personal space. “Do you know what happened to me after Lily’s death?”
She blanched, cringing away.
Black grinned again. “Looks like you do. And you let them do that to my godson?” He sneered. “Lily did get all the brains in the family, didn’t she?”
Severus barked a laugh, completely prepared to forgive Black all past transgressions.
Black smirked at him then turned back to a sputtering, red Petunia. “I’m going to teach your boys a lesson they’ll never forget. Teach’em what happens when they mess with my godson.”
“No! Please, no!”
Black disappeared out back with the bullies; Petunia – begging and screaming – followed.
Severus left him to it. Black was uniquely qualified to teach such lessons. With the threats to Harbin’s safely under control, he turned to healing the boy. “Tell me.”
"While his mother and father watched, the fat one punched me in the stomach because he did not want me here. The other one tried to kick me in the face while I was down. The fat one caught me by surprise, but I was ready for the other one, and was able to block most of his kick." Harbin spoke quietly, reverting into French for whatever reason, making Severus thankful he had found that permanent translation spell. Those green eyes never left his face. "Professeur, the minister said I could not leave. That he would imprison my parents if I tried to leave."
“Your parents are handling the problem, Harbin. We will wait with you until they and the headmaster resolve this.”
“I’ll not have you freaks in my house – ow!”
“Is it not the definition of stupidity to do the same over and over and expect a different result?” Severus mused loud enough for Dursley to turn purple with outrage. He was surprised Dursley was smart enough to understand the insult.
“I believe that is the definition of insanity,” Harbin correctly drolly, deliberately switching back to English. “There are institutions for things like that.”
Dursley lunged, a sickening crunch of bone was followed by his agonized scream. The slob was on the ground, cradling his hand and blubbering pathetically.
Jonah stepped over Dursley, keeping his body between Harbin and his biological uncle. “Watch him.”
Severus blinked at the order, but nodded nevertheless.
Jonah paused beside Harbin, who looked up at his uncle with adoration and not a hint of fear, even though Jonah’s eyes were still dead and dangerous. Jonah lifted a hand and carefully, oh so carefully, smoothed it down Harbin’s hair.
Harbin leaned into his hand when it cupped his face. “Oncle Jonah,” he breathed out.
Jonah did not move to embrace Harbin, instead gently, slowly, pulling away and moved up the stairs.
Severus wondered what the other man was doing and glanced down with a questioning eyebrow.
“He is reconnoitering the house and calming himself,” Harbin murmured then jumped at the screams and squeals coming from the backyard. The boy gave a satisfied little smirk. “Papa said that Oncle Jonah must calm himself from his killing rage. It is a good thing he does not have those kinds of spells often.”
Severus absently nodded, one eye still on Dursley, the other on his work.
Dursley lumbered to his feet, throwing them one scathing glare from porcine eyes, before escaping towards the ruckus. Only for them to hear his deeper shriek of fear seconds later.
“I could like Black just for this,” Severus mused as he finished healing the last scrape Harbin had received.
A small smile lifted Harbin’s mouth and lit his eyes back to their usual brightness. It had not been right, not seeing happiness on his face, to see new and remembered fear on his face had been . . . wrong.
They both spun, Severus’ wand up and pointed before he registered who had spoken his name.
Harbin shot over to the headmaster. "Headmaster, where are my parents? May I go home now? "
“Dear boy,” Albus wrapped his arm around Harbin’s shoulders, pulling him deeper into the house, “I am very sorry but you cannot.”
"And why not?" The boy drew himself to his full height, exuding such an air of offended nobility that Severus had to ruthlessly still his lips and admire him at the same time.
“Technically, while your parents have done nothing illegal, and the Dursley’s culpability is in question, there are issues that must be worked out.” Albus held up his hand as Harbin was about to argue.
Jonah suddenly and silently appeared, pulling Harbin into the shelter of his body. “Harbin will not be staying here.”
“Not alone, no,” Albus allowed. “And not for long. Just until the Wizengamot comes to a decision, you and Harbin will stay here. The blood wards will protect you both from all enemies.”
Loud obscenities, cries, shrieks, and demands echoed from the backyard.
Albus sighed. “At least wizarding enemies. Is that Sirius torturing the muggles?” He said the last in such resigned tones.
Severus had no qualms about smirking and nodding. “Yes.”
Albus sighed again and left to rein in the mutt.
After the headmaster had forced Sirius to stop torturing the Dursleys, then forced the Dursleys to give Harbin and his uncle a room, he had smiled in apology once more and disappeared with Sirius and Professor Snape. Actually, Professor Snape had followed the headmaster quietly while Sirius had to be petrified and levitated because he didn’t want to leave Harbin with the Dursleys. Harbin had been touched and kissed his frozen godfather on the cheek in goodbye.
The two of them had been in the tiny, miserable room ever since.
It was early afternoon now, but even the cheerful summer sun could not lighten the room or Harbin’s mood. Hoping to take his mind off his current circumstances, he had written to his family and Draco that morning, sending Hedwig away with instructions not to come back. Thankfully, Valère was with Draco because he was afraid of what the Dursleys would do to his pets should either of be here. But that short distraction had worked for only so long. Now, Harbin refused to acknowledge the fact that his stomach was growling. He also refused to meet his uncle’s eyes. He knew that if he did, his uncle would ensure that there would be food in front of Harbin in five minutes flat. He also knew that the food would not appear quietly. He was tempted, oh so tempted, but he didn’t want to deal with any of the Dursleys ever again. He wanted to sit in this room until his parents won against Fudge so that he could go home. He truly did not want to have to face any of his so-called relatives and be reminded that these people had left him to starve through his toddler years, abused him and then abandoned him the first chance they got.
A loud crack made him jerk and Uncle Jonah pull his gun.
They both froze when they saw the wizen, little green creature dressed in a tea towel.
“Harbin Chevalier, sir?” it asked in a high, squeaky voice, protruding eyes going from Harbin to his uncle.
“Why do you ask?” Uncle Jonah stepped in front of him, shielding him from the creature’s gaze.
“A letter, sir, from Master Draco Malfoy!” It held out an envelope, but snatched the letter back when Uncle Jonah tried to take it. “No! No! Only to Master Harbin, Master Draco says, only to Master Harbin!”
Harbin exchanged bewildered looks with his uncle, but moved forward to take the letter at his uncle’s slow nod. “Thank you, uh?”
“Dobby, Master Harbin! Dobby glad to be of service!” The creature immediately handed over the letter.
Harbin smiled when he saw Draco’s familiar neatly scrolling handwriting.
Fudge is an idiot and your biological relatives are the reason why we hid ourselves from muggles. Saying that, I am lending you Dobby, my house elf, for the time you are there. He will bring you meals that have been prepared at Malfoy Manor so that you don’t starve to death. He will also be bringing you my childhood play tent. It’s not very big, but it should serve its purpose as I cannot fathom you sharing that tiny room you described with your very large uncle. The tent is very much like the one we had at the World Cup, but smaller. Mother and Father did not think that our regular tent would fit in your room. If you need anything, tell Dobby and he’ll get it for you.
I’m sure I’ll see you soon (I can’t imagine your parents letting you rot there for much longer),
Harbin grinned as he handed the letter to his uncle. “Dobby, I know it is after lunch, but could you bring us something to eat for my oncle and I? We are quite hungry.”
“Yes, Master Harbin, yes! Dobby is being right back!” The house elf disappeared, only to reappear bearing yards of fabric. “Dobby is forgetting to give Master Harbin the tent!” he apologized, hastily shoving the bundle into Harbin’s arms before disappearing again.
Harbin put the tent on the floor, joining it to figure out how to put it together.
“Harbin, here.” Uncle Jonah nudged him out of the way, efficiently erecting the tent in less than five minutes. He stood back and stared at it. “Harbin, why would your friend send you a tent barely big enough for Bastien?”
Harbin bit his lip, trying not to laugh. “It has wizarding space, oncle. Like the one we had at the World Cup. It is much larger on the inside than it seems.”
Uncle Jonah nodded in remembrance and gamely followed him in. Harbin wished, for once, that his uncle was not so composed, as all he did was raise an eyebrow at the large living area that branched off into four bedrooms and two bathrooms. The living area housed sofas and chairs, as well as a dining table large enough for six. The bedrooms had large, squishy beds and solid desks. The bathrooms featured huge tubs that had several different spigots. When Harbin played with them, he found different scents and colored bubbles.
“This is much better than that room and their tiny bathroom,” Harbin sighed, throwing himself into the overstuffed sofa that hugged his body in comfort.
Dobby popped in with more food than the two of them could possibly eat.
As they tucked into the feast at the dining table, Harbin grinned around a forkful of coq au vin. “Much better.”
Uncle Jonah grinned back.
After Draco’s wild flight back to Hogwarts, and informing Dumbledore and Severus of what had happened, McGonagall had led him to the kitchens.
“Enjoy a leisurely lunch, Draco. I have a few things that need to be taken care of before I can apparate you to the London station.”
He had blinked in surprise. Not only because she called him by his first name, but also the courtesy she had extended to him. All he could do was nod and tuck in.
When they had arrived at the station, the train hadn’t pulled in yet, but his parents were already there. To say the least, they had been surprised, especially after McGonagall had explained and sang his praises – to his utter shock. “It was a very smart course of action,” she had said, smiling at them all. “A credit to the Malfoy name.”
His mother had graciously smiled; his father had been in too much shock to do more than nod. The head of Gryffindor house praising a Slytherin. Will wonders never cease?
When the train pulled in, Draco had to wait to get his things, but he also wanted to return Ron’s broom and retrieve Valère from Luna. Of course then he had to tell his rapt audience – everyone in the station – the entire story. Apparently, the news of Harbin’s abduction and his own resultant flight had made their way up and down the train, so the students refused to budge until they heard what happened next.
Draco couldn’t help but enjoy the attention, even though he worried about Harbin. He thoroughly enjoyed it when people stared at him in admiration and the parents of the other students continuously approached his parents with praise for him on their lips.
Well, not all parents. But enough of them were powerful that his parents did not worry about those few who didn’t express their awe of Draco or their worry for Harbin.
When they finally made it home, Draco had anxiously awaited word from anyone. It wasn’t until the next morning that he did. After a night of tossing and turning, imagining what horrible things were happening to Harbin, he finally received word from his best friend. The comfort of knowing Harbin was all right was shortlived; his letter was filled with a bullying cousin and a whale of an uncle who thought nothing of raising his hand to Harbin, and being so hungry but refusing to leave the dingy room because of the nastiness of his biological family. After showing the note to his parents, he and his mother immediately made plans to aid Harbin and his uncle. When Draco received Harbin’s letter of thanks for the tent and Dobby’s services, he nearly wilted in relief. Harbin’s second letter of that day had his usual happy tone rather than the angry/sad tone of his first.
“How is he, my dragon?” His mother deftly added more tea to his cup.
Draco smiled in thanks but didn’t drink his tea. Instead, he turned to Valère’s tank and offered Harbin’s pet a small rat. Thankfully, Harbin’s pet took an interest in it. The rat, along with all sorts of other supplies for Valère, had been delivered just hours after he’d placed the order yesterday. He knew today was a regular feeding day for the snake and had begun to worry when Valère wouldn’t take the rat this morning. Now, the snake was slowly hunting its prey to his relief. “Much better. Harbin sends his thanks.”
His mother made a delicately rude noise. “Imagine, the nerve of that man, taking Harbin from his family.” She peered at his father. “Did you know about this, dear?”
His father gave a derisive snort. “And anger both Dumbledore and Yves? I think not.” He took a long sip of his tea, blue eyes flashing with coldness. “No, Cornelius senses that he no longer has my support. He’s scared; making mistakes because of his fear.”
“Is it time for a new minister, dear?” His mother was definitely excited by the prospect.
Draco winced, remembering the last time his parents had helped someone – Fudge – get elected into office. There had been research into suitable candidates – that was the easy part. So was having the candidate investigated for all vices and past sins. All of that was the effortless. No, it was the endless – and endlessly boring – parties and rallies and political functions that he’d been forced to attend in a show of Malfoy favor towards Fudge that had been the problem.
Perhaps he could talk Harbin into going with him this time?
“Draco?” His father’s voice was sharp with irritation.
“I’m sorry, Father.” He lowered his eyes and sipped, stalling for time. He lifted his eyes when he finished swallowing. “I was contemplating who our next minister should be.”
His father’s irritation eased, then he smiled. “And your conclusion?”
Thankfully, he had his answer ready. “Scrimgeour seems like he would be a strong contender --”
His father scoffed. “Head of the Auror Office? We couldn’t control him.”
“We could not,” Draco murmured.
His father fell silent, eyes focused on him, but he seemed more contemplative than angry.
“Hmm, an interesting idea, Draco.” Thankfully, his mother seemed pleased with him. “Of course, we never know the true measure of a man until our investigator discovers it, do we, my dears?”
His father became even more thoughtful.
Thankful to be out of the hot seat, Draco asked, “When is Harbin’s custody hearing?”
“The beginning of next week,” his father answered, coming out of his thoughts.
“He has to stay there that long?” He was aghast, almost yelling in his disgust. “We can’t --”
“Do anything about it,” his mother interjected smoothly.
Draco opened his mouth to protest but one glance at his father changed his mind about arguing with his mother. “May I go to the hearing?”
“It is unlikely Harbin will be there,” his mother warned him.
He shook his head. “I’d like to be there anyway.”
His parents exchanged glances before his father nodded. “You may accompany me.”
“Thank you, Father.”
The courtroom would have been as crowded and noisy as the rest of the ministry with gawkers and press, but Dumbledore’s request that this be an invitation-only session and had been granted. Thanks to Draco raising the alarm and his announcements at the London station, the wizarding world was up in arms. That the minister stole Harry Potter from one family to give him to another has been unquestionably unpopular with the wizarding world. While that was bad enough, Fudge had further erred when he took the child from what was an essentially wizarding family – with the backing of Lucius Malfoy, Sirius Black, and Albus Dumbledore, no one questioned the wizarding status of the Chevalier family – and gave him to a completely muggle one. To date, this had been completely unheard of and the furor was compounded by the fact that the child was Harry Potter.
Severus nodded to Lucius and Draco as they seated themselves beside him. In the row in front were the Chevaliers and Black. Lupin, because of his lycanthropy, was much more of a hindrance here than a help, so he was with Harbin. Ancient Wizengamot laws did not allow the child to be present at his own custody hearings based on the assumption that a child would not know what was in his best interest. A load of bull, in Severus’ opinion, but the Wizengamot was anything but progressive. So when Jonah had refused to leave Harbin alone, even though he had been assured by both Severus and Lucius that the tent had a plethora of repelling and protection charms imbued in its very fabric, Lupin and Gavin had volunteered to stay with Harbin. They not only kept him company, but also provided protection.
A gavel banged, bringing the court to order. The full Wizangamot had turned out for this custody hearing – unusual circumstances for an unusual child.
Percy Weasley, looking rather pedantic, cast sonorous on himself. “Ladies and gentle, court is now in session. Scroll number 2729470181001, Chevaliers versus Dursleys in the custody of Harry Potter, also known as Harbin Chevalier.”
Before Weasley could say more, he and everyone else in the court was distracted. Angus Braddock, the Chevaliers’ solicitor, was whispering to Gervasius Sigiward, their barrister. Sigiward stood after nodding to whatever Braddock had said.
“Honored members of the Wizengamot, before we proceed, we need to correct an error.” The tall, gangly man moved with a grace not hinted at by his form. Sigiward approached the main tribunal of Fudge, Amelia Bones, and Lachlan Raynerson – the head of the Department of Mysteries. “Minister Fudge, as the man who is ‘petitioning’ on the Dursley’s behalf, we believe it is a conflict of interest for you – or, indeed, anyone of your choosing – to remain on the tribunal.”
Since he was in the shadows, he did not bother biting back the smirk at Sigiward’s request and its wording. Subtle enough not to be insulting, but plain enough for everyone to understand that the minister had erred greatly in his actions.
Fudge, of course, sputtered and glared. “I will not recuse--”
“He’s right,” Madame Bones announced, in her usual blunt manner, turning to glare at him. “You will recuse yourself or we must declare a mistrial and the boy goes home to his parents.”
Of course, Fudge wouldn’t make this easy on them, but he did huff off the tribunal, casting poisonous looks at the Chevaliers the entire way down. For their part the Chevaliers stared coldly back, then as one, they turned away as if turning away from something rather distasteful. Black, though, was still glaring at Fudge for them, imbuing in the glare all of the powerfully dark hate his family was known for.
From then on, the session proceeded as all court cases do. It was not until Fudge had been called to testify on behalf of the Dursleys – since muggles were not allowed in the ministry – that everything became more interesting.
The moron had sung the muggles’ praises, had mentioned how the cousin and the adopted boy were so looking forward to a new playmate, and how Dursley and Petunia always wanted more children and how they had been so devastated by the supposed loss of their nephew.
It was all Severus could do to keep his meals inside his stomach.
“If there was ever a reason to use the Killing Curse,” Draco muttered, eyes glinted like Damascus steel as they followed Fudge’s every move.
Both Severus and Lucius nodded. Severus wondered if his godson was already planning the minister’s demise.
Then Fudge made his final mistake.
Sigigward stood to cross-examine Fudge. “Minister, you say that the Dursleys are good, kind people who love Hari--”
“Yes, yes, they are.”
Sigiward paused, rather dramatically, eyes wide and intent. “Then how do you explain what Professor Severus Snape and Sirius Black found when they entered the Dursley home to check on Harbin Chevalier?”
“What do you mean?” Clearly, Fudge knew nothing about the muggles actual treatment of Harbin. When Sigiward held up two vials, Fudge began to sweat.
“Honored Wizengamot, I would like to enter into evidence these two vials of memories, collected from Professor Severus Snape and Sirius Black.” He placed the vials in a basket before handing it to Madame Bones. “As you can see, ladies and gentlemen, the vials are sealed and stamped with the mark of an authorized Auror, who collected the memories and has judged that the memories were not tampered with.” Sigiward then floated a scroll of parchment from his table to Raynerson. “And the Auror’s signed confirmation of his findings.”
Madame Bones waved Weasley forward to take the vials. The boy immediately poured one into a modified pensieve.
Severus recognized it as his own memory.
As the memory unfolded, the courtroom reacted and Fudge really began to sweat. Beside him, Draco looked murderous, reminiscent of Lucius on a Death Eater revel. Jonah was not watching the memory, his eyes straight ahead. Whether the man actually saw what he was looking at was debatable. Yves was pale and leaning against Jonah and his wife, but then he firmed his stance, determination shining from his very being. Black wasn’t looking at the memory either, he was grinning, a baring of teeth that did not convey an ounce of positive feeling. It was the smile of a predator about to hunt.
“Well, minister?” Sigiward asked mildly, as if he wasn’t going in for the kill. “How do you explain this?”
Fudge cleared his throat. How one could make throat-clearing pompous, Severus would never know. “We are doing what is best for Harry.”
“What is best? What is best for Harry?” Sophie hissed, freezing everyone with the coldness she exuded in just those two sentences. She stood and advanced on the shorter man. She stalked him, a mother fighting for her child. “His name is Harbin! What is best for him is to be with his mére, pére, his oncle and petit frère!” She pointed to each individual there in the courtroom, all of whom had faces of stone.
“You know nothing about what is best for Harbin! Did you find him dirty and starving in the streets of Paris? Did you take him home and bathe his wounds? Put salve on his bruises? Did you find doctors and therapists? Did you sleep on the floor outside his armoire because he was used to living in a tiny closet? Did you sleep under his bed with him? Did you rock him to sleep every night for months? Did you stay up with him when a common flu almost killed him because he did not have all of his vaccinations? Did you, minister?” she sneered his title.
Fudge sputtered, incoherent in the face of the muggle woman’s vitriol.
The solicitor, chosen by Fudge, representing the Dursleys was on his feet and objecting.
Surprisingly, Madame Bones was not calling for silence from any of them.
Severus could see that some of the members of the Wizengamot, those purebloods that disapproved of muggles even being present in the Ministry of Magic for whatever reason, were not pleased with Sophie’s attack on Fudge. Others were glaring at the minister and smiling in approval of Sophie’s fierce protection of her son. It seemed that the ruling body of England’s wizarding world was evenly split.
But the Chevaliers were not done.
Yves passed Sebastien to Black and stood, passing a sheaf of papers to Weasley. “Ladies and gentlemen of the Wizengamot, may I present to you written approval from the Ministries of Magic from France, German, Italy, America--”
“Approval for what?” Fudge demanded, interrupting Yves’ litany.
“If you do not see fit to grant custody that is in Harbin Chevalier né Harry Potter’s best interest, namely, my wife and I, then these ministries are prepared to impose an embargo upon the British Ministry of Magic and all British wizards and witches.”
Dead silence met his announcement.
Fudge turned purple. “You would dare--”
“You, my dear Minister Fudge, are trying to take away our son.” Yves was implacable. “We love him. We raised him. He is a good boy; he will be a good man. That is thanks to our efforts. Not yours. Not the Dursleys. You have no reason, whatsoever, to take him from us. We formally adopted a child that was found wandering the streets of Paris. We reported our finding of him to the muggle police and then we went through formal proceedings that took months to adopt him. We did not know to report him to the Parisian wizarding police, but we would have, if we had known, because we wanted his adoption to be above board.” He leaned forward, eyes blazing. “We are Chevaliers. We do not need to embroil ourselves in the illegal to get what we want.”
Yves strode forward, reaching out to flip open the folder that was in front of Fudge, daring to get into the minister’s personal space. “These are merely agreements with the European and American ministries. The African, Asian, South American, and Australian ministry agreements are being couriered to England as we speak. These embargos will be complete. There will be no trading, no commerce, no travel allowed to any British wizard or witch. The British wizarding world will effectively become isolated for years to come.”
He smirked at one pureblood witch that was staring down at him with daggers, whose wand was subtly pointed at him. Or maybe not so subtle. “Obliviate me if you’d like. Obliviate my entire family. That will not help you.”
Yves strode away, turning his back to the witch without even blinking an eye. “You see, ladies and gentlemen of the Wizengamot, these ministers await the results of this trial and a personal letter from a previously designated member of my family, thanking them for their help. Any attempt made to hinder us and the embargos will go into effect.”
The witch lost her temper. “Incend--”
She screamed, clutching her wand hand. Or what was left of it.
Aurors surged into the gallery. Jonah stood calmly, muggle gun dangling from his thumb while he held both hands in the air.
“Put down the weapon,” Shacklebolt ordered.
Jonah did as he was told, placing it on the ground as if he had not a care in the world.
“Arrest him!” the witch supporting the injured woman screeched.
“I was protecting the ambassador,” Jonah rumbled. “You were about to cast a spell that would set him on fire.”
“We would have stopped her,” Shacklebolt chided, a note of weariness in his voice.
Jonah shrugged a shoulder. “I stopped her first.”
Furious whispering erupted. Weasley was beckoned over by Bones.
Again, he cast sonorus but his voice shook. “Court is now in recess. Please return in two hours.”
Draco let his breath out in a small, quiet whoosh. Tension and adrenaline still thrummed in his body, leaving him the tiniest bit incoherent. He had been caught in the drama of Mrs. Chevalier’s rant, learning things about Harbin he never knew, feeling absolute horror that his beautiful friend had been so mistreated. After hearing all of that, after seeing Severus’ memory, he could almost see why his father had so hated muggles. But then he saw how Mr. Chevalier had stepped into the storm his wife’s rage had produced and calmly announced that he had somehow, some way, finagled embargos from the other magical communities. And he nothing but a muggle! Then Jonah had protected Harbin’s father, making it abundantly clear that just because he was a muggle did not mean he was helpless against a witch’s spell.
He leaned into his godfather’s side, glad to have that first reaction against muggles countered by Mr. Chevalier and Jonah. His mind still whirling, Draco idly wondered what they were supposed to do for two hours, but that was solved when Harbin’s father moved towards them.
“Lucius, Severus, Draco, thank you for your support.” He shook all of their hands, giving them a tired, worried smile.
“Quite impressive, Yves.” His father wasn’t being anything but his most truthful and sincere. “How did you manage it?”
Yves smirked, so much like Harbin that Draco ached for his friend’s presence. “Join us for lunch and I shall tell you.”
His father smiled in pleasure and nodded. “We would be delighted.”
Severus just nodded.
They found a lovely outdoor café, making small talk until they ordered. After the food was delivered, Severus cast a privacy spell as everyone took the first bites of their food.
“It seems Fudge is highly unpopular with other ministers,” Mr. Chevalier stated with immense satisfaction. “How did a moron like that get elected into office?” he wondered out loud. “It makes me question the intellect of the wizarding world.”
His father coughed, Severus nodded. “I sometimes wonder the same thing myself.” Then he oh so nonchalantly muttered, “But then again, I didn’t get him elected, did I?”
Draco ducked his head, utterly terrified he was going to laugh at his father’s expression. He was surprised Severus didn’t die on the spot from his father’s deathly glare.
“He has made many political enemies with his attitude,” Mrs. Chevalier continued where her husband left off, knowingly breaking the tableau between Draco’s father and godfather. “Here in Britain, he is a . . . large fish in a small pond. But out there,” she waved her hand to indicate the rest of the world, “he is just another small fish in a large pond.”
“But he acts like he is a shark,” Mr. Chevalier finished his wife’s analogy. “It was amusingly easy to persuade the other ministers to agree to the embargoes.”
“You’re that sure that you’re going to win?” his father asked as if he already knew the answer.
Black barked a laugh. “As if we have a chance in hell of losing. But if, for whatever reason, the Wizengamot is stupid enough to award custody of Hari to the Dursleys, we have back-up plans.”
“Would one of those plans be you, Black?” Severus asked mildly, looking unsurprised.
The Chevaliers and Black all nodded.
After they finished their meals, speaking on lighter topics after a while, they returned to the courthouse.
Madame Bones banged the gavel. “We, the Wizengamot, have reached a decision regarding the welfare and well-being of the child known as Harbin Chevalier and Harry Potter.”
The black, sleek limousine that pulled up to #4 Privet Drive that Saturday morning drew every single eye in the neighborhood.
The extremely well-dressed blond man with an air of old money moved smoothly from the car, extending out a well-manicured hand for the equally well-dressed woman. She was sleeker than the car and shone like the diamonds around her neck, fingers, and wrists. Behind them followed an elegant blond young man who immediately sneered at #4.
“I can’t wait to get Hari out of this hell hole.” He tugged at his sleeves, posh accent speaking even more towards his breeding and wealth than his clothes. “He told me they didn’t even offer him and Jonah any food. He had gone nearly a day without food until I sent Dobby.”
“What kind of people could do that to a child?” the woman asked, clearly French, clearly just as posh as the young man, shuddering in distaste as she too stared at the house.
“The worst sort, obviously,” the man answered. “They abandoned a toddler, their own nephew, in the streets of Paris. Dieu de Remerciement, you found him, Sophie.”
“Oui.” The woman nodded and marched right up to the Dursleys’ front door, completely ignoring the whispers that exploded at the news. “Pity it took the courts so long to file all of the ‘necessary’ paperwork.”
And here everyone thought that the Dursleys’ had been so generous to take in the Polkiss boy when they had just lost their nephew. Obviously someone had been misinformed.
The door flew open and a dark haired young man no one had ever seen before flew out.
Everything else had been lost in a storm of French, but later, those who understood it well enough would tell the others that the boy had nearly been hysterical in his gratitude at seeing his parents. He had gone on and on about his abysmal treatment from the Dursleys’ hands, about being forced to stay in his room the entire two weeks he had been there. Everyone believed it because they had not seen hide or hair of the boy. Then he had flung himself at the blond boy, obviously a close friend by the way they hugged each other.
And then, and then, the true gossip had started.
Vernon Dursley had stomped out the front door and started yelling at the top of his lungs. Ugly things, about the boy being a freak, about how his real parents had been useless drunks and drug addicts that died in a car accident that should have taken the boy’s life too. That the boy was useless, that he had never earned his keep. His wife followed, pinched face frowning at the boy, but was uselessly trying to hush her husband.
A huge man, muscular and menacing had stepped out of the shadows, hand going for Vernon’s throat. Petunia screamed, but the big man was stopped by a hand on his shoulder. The blond man had stopped him without a word. It turned out only to be a reprieve as he smiled like a hungry shark.
“Monsieur Dursley, allow me to introduce myself. I am Yves Chevalier, the youngest son of the Chevalier family. Perhaps you have heard of my family’s company? Du Lac Industries?”
Vernon turned purple. “Y-your company owns the company I work for.”
“As of two week ago, indeed, it does.” The predator’s smile grew, matched only by the one on the woman’s face. “I will take great pleasure in reviewing the company’s personnel files. Great pleasure.”
The promise, delivered in such sweet tones, in such velvet accents, shivered in the air like the knife-point threat it was. Chevalier wrapped his arm around his son’s shoulders, smile turning paternal and loving. “Come, Hari, let us not tarry in this . . . place.”
The sleek, black car pulled away, leaving whispering, gossiping neighbors and very, very pale Dursleys.
In one of his favorite movies from America, Dorothy proclaimed that there was “no place like home” and oh, how right she was.
When the Wizengamot had finally ruled in his family’s favor and his parents had come to Privet Drive to rescue him, he had been incoherent with relief. He clung to his family, going from one person to another. No one had minded in the least. His family had done a little clinging of their own, in all honesty. Once he had come home to Pottere Hale, his home welcomed him back with waves of magic while his family surrounded him.
“We’re not eating at the table?” Sirius gamely followed as Remus levitated several platters of fingerfoods into the living room.
Harbin glanced up from the couch where he and Draco had been sitting, teaching Sebastien how to play wizard’s chess.
“Sophie has suggested a picnic,” Remus answered, surveying the four-foot by two-foot coffee table, then the many small, easy to pass plates of food. “Harbin, could you enlarge the table?”
Once the table was large enough, Remus placed the plates down.
Professor Snape barely glanced up from his potions manual as he dryly pointed out, “Picnics usually take place outside.”
“Not always,” Gavin cheerfully countered, carrying even more plates of food out. “There’s no rule that says picnics have to take place outside.”
Harbin hid his grin as Professor Snape merely rolled his eyes and went back to his reading.
“Remus, would you like help?” Harbin stood to follow Remus back into the kitchen but was waved back.
“We have this under control, Hari, but thank you.” Remus smiled at him. “You could gather large pillows for all of us though.”
Harbin nodded eagerly. “Draco, Bastien, would you like to help me?”
Draco huffed a put upon breath but gamely stood.
“I know where to find some!” Sebastien bounced forward and grabbed Harbin’s hand.
Within in minutes the enlarged table was filled with food and everyone began gathering around on the pillows they had scavenged from the other rooms.
Harbin almost missed Professor Snape still seated on his chair, potions manual still up. “Professeur, are you not joining us?”
“I am too old --”
“Severus.” Gavin gently tugged on the professor’s hand.
Everyone politely averted their eyes but were sneaking glances at the two of them. Everyone except Draco and Sebastien, who were both busy filling their plates.
Sirius opened his mouth, but Remus immediately placed his hand over his lover’s mouth and glared him into submission. Harbin had to bite his lip to stop the laughter; the amused glint in Uncle Jonah’s eyes almost made him lose it.
Severus heaved a sigh and precisely closed the manual. He slipped down beside Gavin, who smiled at him so sweetly. The professor offered him a small, tiny, miniscule smile back.
Harbin sighed and shook his head. If it was the last thing he ever did, he was going to get the two of them together. But he did not dwell on those thoughts, sending those particular worries away to focus on the conversation and laughter that was passed with every plate. Harbin smiled, feeling the happiness of being with his family replace the ugliness of being at the Dursleys.
“So, Draco, do you have summer plans?” His father started the conversation, as usual, as he munched.
Draco paused in his serving of himself and Harbin to smile. “Actually, sir, I was hoping to join Harbin in his lessons.”
Professor Snape sneered. “Really? This from the boy who whined for five hours straight when summer lessons were mentioned?”
Muffled laughter from everyone sounded as Draco glared. “I was five!”
Harbin grinned as his father cleared his throat and said, “Draco, you are welcome to join Harbin whenever you choose.” His father nodded at Gavin, Remus and Sirius. “As long as you three do not mind an extra student?”
“Of course not.” Gavin grinned at Draco and Remus nodded as well.
Sirius smirked. “I’ve got lots to teach you, little cousin.”
“Do not corrupt my godson, mutt.”
“Haven’t you already done that?”
“Professeur, will we be continuing our occlumency lessons?” Harbin broke in before they could descend into one of their “debates.” Even though Sirius and Professor Snape had come to a tentative truce during the custody battle, it would seem that they were still each other’s favorite enemy.
“Yes, and Draco will be joining you.”
“Can we start legilimency?” Draco asked his godfather.
Professor Snape studied them both intently. “If you apply yourselves.”
Harbin exchanged excited glances with Draco. Then he turned to his godfather and the man he thought of as another uncle. “Sirius, Remus, maman and papa have told me you have been gone most days when you were not helping them with the custody trial.”
Curiously, both Sirius and Remus froze, speaking to each other with their eyes.
“We have been fixing my old ancestral home,” Sirius answered slowly, picking at his food. “My family was deeply involved in the Dark Arts and it has been warded with many, many, many dark hexes, curses, and artifacts. Remus is helping me clean it out.”
Neither he nor Remus would meet any of their eyes.
Harbin’s stomach twisted. “Are you leaving us?”
They both jerked towards him.
“No! Of course, not!” Sirius dumped his plate on the floor to grab him in a hug. “We’re not leaving you.”
“Ever,” Remus vehemently agreed, bracketing Harbin with Sirius. “Sirius has been thinking about renting it out, using it to generate revenue.”
Sirius nodded so hard his hair flopped to and fro. “Renting, selling, I haven’t decided yet, but we’re definitely not leaving.”
Harbin carefully studied both of them, saw the sincerity in their eyes and relaxed into their embrace.
When bedtime came, Sebastien insisted upon sleeping with him. Draco, surprising, was the same, refusing his own guest suite and moving his things to Harbin’s room. Harbin had been lucky Remus has pulled Sirius away, otherwise his godfather would have been in bed with them too! As it was, his parents and uncle had stayed until he fell asleep, petting and cooing over him.
Harbin woke the next morning, blearily glanced at the clock, then curled deeper into his bed, not minding Sebastien’s weight on his back, nor the tighter-than-usual curl of Valère around his neck. The unusual warmth of Draco pressed all along his front was most welcomed, and Harbin burrowed back into the comfort of his arms with a happy sigh. The next time he woke, it was to Draco gone and many, many, many owls bearing letters and packages.
Draco, still in his silk pyjamas, was waving his wand at the birds.
“Draco?” Harbin kept his voice low because Sebastient was still fast asleep.
“Good morning.” Draco swished his wand over one the birds holding a package. “Over there,” he directed the bird.
“What are you doing?” Harbin eased out from under his little brother. Joining Draco, he wrapped his best friend in a hug from behind, hooking his chin on Draco’s shoulder, sleepily watching him work.
“Checking for curses, hexes, etc.” Draco pointed to a very large stack. “Fanmail from people you don’t know.” Then he pointed to a slightly smaller stack. “Mail from people you do know but aren’t friends with, but think they’re your friends. And lastly, mail from your actual friends.” He pointed to a small, but respectable stack of mail.
“Merci, Draco.” Harbin picked up that stack, leaving Draco to deal with the few remaining owls.
“De rien. Oh, here’s another one. It’s from Mother and Father.” Draco levitated it to him. Once the rest of the owls were dealt with, Draco joined him on the bed. “Anything interesting?”
“Hmm, well, nothing that would capture your interest, merely much appreciated well-wishes.” Harbin smiled as he finished reading one of the letter. There were letters from all of his Weasley friends, Neville, and Luna. Hermione and several other Slytherins he’d thought were more Draco’s friends than his – like Pansy and Blaise.
Draco must have sensed his confusion because he said, “Neutral Slytherins reaffirming their neutrality. They’re probably hoping you’ll pass the message onto your parents and Dumbledore.”
“Ah.” That he could do, especially heartened by the large number of Slytherin house that had written him. He split the letters into two stacks: the neutral Slytherins and his friends. Tucking away the ones from his friends, he left the other pile on his desk to give to his parents.
“C’mon.” Draco grabbed him by the hand. “I’m hungry, let’s go get breakfast.”
Harbin followed after waking his brother. As he walked beside Draco, he could feel Pottere Hale welcoming him home again. He trailed fingertips along the walls, trying to impart to it how good it felt to be back home.
Watching Sirius Black, Draco came to the conclusion that if Sirius had been the same age as Draco, they would have been disowned together.
“When Sir Nicholas found out Filch had cleaned up his Death Day Celebration just hours before all his guests were set to arrive, he decided --”
“With your encouragement,” Remus interjected dryly.
“To hold the celebrations some place sure to drive Filch crazy in revenge.” Sirius laughed so hard in remembrance, the punchline was too garbled to make out.
“Wait, where? Stop laughing!” Draco demanded, dying to know where the Gryffindor ghost held such a smelly, nasty party for his ghostly friends. He turned to Harbin, hoping his friend knew, but Harbin was shaking his head and leaning forward eagerly.
Sirius tried again, but he was still laughing too hard, nearly falling out of his chair in his hilarity.
“Where?” Draco turned to Remus, who was smiling but at least was in full possession of his faculties.
“In Filch’s bedroom,” Remus murmured, grin growing.
Harbin almost choked on his morning coffee.
Draco and Sebastien laughed until they cried.
“Corrupting my godson already, mutt?”
Draco calmed his laughter as Severus laid a warm hand on his shoulder. He tilted his head back to see Severus sneering at Sirius. While the sneer for Sirius was a shadow of its former self, Severus was inexplicably tense. “Good morning, Severus.”
“Bonjour, professeur!” Harbin and Sebastien chirped, offering identical charming smiles.
Severus regarded them both with suspicious eyes.
Draco smothered laughter. Severus sometimes didn’t understand that some people could see past his snarky, surly façade.
“Good morning, Harbin, Sebastien.” Severus grudgingly nodded at Remus.
“Would you like breakfast?” Harbin asked, acting as host since his parents – as much as they wanted to stay home with him – had to work today. Because the custody hearing and its preparation had taken weeks, Mr. Chevalier had put off a lot of necessary work as a muggle ambassador. Harbin had understood and shooed them out the door.
“No, thank you, I have already eaten.” Severus peered down at him. “Do you have plans today?”
Draco blinked, then glanced at Harbin. “Just to spend it with Harbin.”
“Good, then you can help me brew Lupin’s Wolf’s Bane potion.”
That startled everyone. While Draco was his potions protégé, Severus usually brewed the potion alone because he did not trust anyone else with Harbin’s safety.
His mouth dropped open at his godfather’s presumption. “I said --”
“And I said,” Severus cut through, eyes intense, voice brooking no argument. “You will be helping me brew today.”
For all of his spoiled ways, Draco knew better than to disobey his godfather now. “Yes, sir.”
It soothed him to see how disappointed Harbin looked.
“I’ll see you later,” he murmured, squeezing Harbin’s hand as he stood to follow Severus.
“You will see him tomorrow.” Severus swept out after nodding goodbye to everyone else.
Draco followed him outside the Pottere Hale wards before he was unceremoniously side-apparated. They arrived inside Malfoy Manor.
Draco blinked. No one outside the family was supposed to be able to do that. “How did you--”
“Your mother and father keyed me into the wards.”
“Severus? Draco?” His mother rushed down the stairs, for once forgetting dignity and actually lifted her skirts to run to them, immediately sweeping him into her arms.
Draco held perfectly still. “What is going on?”
“The Dark Lord has called your father to his side,” she said, very quietly, as if scared to be overheard, even in their own home.
His heart began beating faster, fear surging through him. “But Father declared us neutral!”
“Albus,” Severus answered calmly as he ushered them to the manor’s potions lab. “Has convinced Lucius to act as a spy.”
“Oh, Merlin!” Draco refused to move any further, spinning around to face Severus. “But that’s . . . he could --”
“Your father is perfectly capable of taking care of himself.” Severus stepped around him, continuing into the laboratory.
“I refuse to stop being friends with Harbin.” Firmly said, Draco crossed his arms and adopted his most steadfast posture.
“Were you asked to do so?” Severus sneered. “Idiot child, at this very moment, your father is plying the Dark Lord with the possibility of using your friendship to turn Harbin.”
His mother was nodding in confirmation. “You won’t have to give up Harbin, darling, just the opposite really.” Her look turned sly. “Seduce him for the Dark Lord.”
He really did not like that look on her face.
“I do you need you to help me brew the Wolf’s Bane,” Severus admitted, cutting through their little tableau. “But mostly we need you behind Malfoy wards.”
Severus and his mother exchanged intent looks.
“Darling.” All trace of humor was now gone from his mother’s face. She clasped his shoulders, her silver eyes serious, proud, sad. “Darling, tonight after your father comes home, we are going to be enacting the Heir Inheritance Ritual.”
Draco reeled. The Heir Inheritance Ritual had only ever been performed when the living lord had somehow managed to so utterly disgrace himself beyond redemption, and thus the family’s name, that the remaining members of the family could strip the lord of his title and all the power that went with it. No Malfoy in his memory had ever been subjugated to it. Malfoys generally were either intelligent enough or rich enough to find some way out of disgrace. His father had done nothing recently to warrant the enactment of the ritual. “Mother?”
“Draco . . .” his mother trailed off, casting a glance at Severus.
“This is merely a precaution,” Severus took over. “In case something happens, the manor and all of the Malfoy estates are protected.” He snorted. “From both the Ministry and the Dark Lord.”
His mother cupped his cheek. “The ritual will ensure that, should anything happen to your father or I, you will be protected.”
Draco slowly nodded his understanding, unwilling to think about anything happening to his parents.
“Narcissa, are you staying?” Severus placed a cauldron on an unlit fire.
His mother shook her head, giving Draco a smile and a kiss before sweeping away.
“You will follow my instructions precisely while I brew the necessary potions for tonight.”
While his hands worked, his mind mulled over the implications of the ritual, over his father becoming a spy. Originally designed when a disgraced, living lord had refused to hand over the title – and all that it entailed – to the rightful heir, once performed, Draco would control the wards to every Malfoy property and the Gringrotts vaults would only divulge their riches to him or his designated emissary. He, in every respect, would be the new Lord Malfoy. Much like how Harbin was now Lord Potter. He relished the fact that they would both be lords while at Hogwarts. Very few of the students could boast titles in their family, even fewer carried their titles now. Off hand, he could only think of Harbin, Longbottom and Driscoll, a seventh year Hufflepuff.
But what would happen to his father?
The ritual was irreversible. What would happen after Harbin vanquished the Dark Lord? Why would his father agree to this ritual? Draco swallowed, not wanting the next thought, but forced himself to think it. If his father died, for any reason at any time, Draco would inherit anyway. So why enact the ritual? His godfather said it was to protect the Malfoy estates from both the Ministry and the Dark Lord. Did his parents and godfather know something he didn’t?
“Draco! Pay attention! That wormwood is about to burn!”
Pushing aside his thoughts, he turned back to his work.
Draco watched from the shadows as his mother divested his father of his Death Eater garb. He had never seen the robes and mask before, but they matched Harbin’s descriptions of other Death Eaters.
“Lucius, do you need Severus?”
His father nodded, his head dipping slowly, his movements a mere shadow of their usual confidence and vitality. His mother did not have to call his godfather as he appeared, briskly striding towards them.
“How bad?” Severus demanded, taking his father’s weight from his mother.
“Bad enough,” his father answered as Severus and his mother took him into the study.
Draco followed on silent feet, staying in the dark edges of the foyer. He knew his father would not want him to see him in such a weakened state, but he needed to know, not kept safe like a child.
“Is everything ready?” His father lowered himself into his chair in the manner of only the oldest and most infirmed.
“Yes.” Severus cast spells on his father, studying the results before pulling potion vials from his robes. “Here.”
His father drank the vials almost desperately, only his breeding and will stopped him from gulping them. His relief was palpable and immediate. “Excellent.”
Draco knew that while his father may have been responding to the readied preparations for the ritual, the look he bent on Severus while saying that meant that he was thanking Severus for his help as well. Sometimes he wondered how much Harbin was influencing him because he found himself rolling his eyes and thinking that his father could just say “thank you.”
“Why did he punish you?” his mother asked, after sending for an elf to rid herself of the Death Eater array and to order tea.
“For not appearing when he summoned his followers at the graveyard.” His father sighed. “Thankfully, he was pleased that Draco is close to Mr. Chevalier. I have been able to convince him that Draco may be able to turn Mr. Chevalier to his side.”
Severus snorted; both his parents gave tiny smiles.
Draco was never sure what gave him away, but Severus said, “Come out of the shadows, child.”
Knowing it was useless to protest the epithet or ignore the summons, he presented himself to his parents and godfather. “Good evening.”
“Draco.” His father shook his head, a strange quirk to his lips and held his hand out.
The time with the Dark Lord must have affected him severely for his father rarely called him to his side in such a manner. His father usually demanded his presence, as it was his due, never holding out his hand like that. Draco stepped to his side with alacrity, placing his hand in his father’s.
“Draco, are you ready for the ritual?”
He jerkily nodded, opening his mouth but snapped it shut.
“You have questions.” His father leaned back, eyes half-hooded. His posture was opened, relaxed.
Frankly, it completely unnerved Draco.
“Draco?” his father prompted.
“Yes, sir.” Draco forced himself not to fidget. “Why are we doing this? You don’t --”
“But I do, Draco.” His father waved him towards the chair beside him, the one his mother usually took. But his mother and Severus stepped away, leaving them, most likely to prepare for the ritual. “The last time the Dark Lord fell from power, we nearly lost everything,” his father said. “I will not make that mistake again.”
“But you’re working for Dumbledore this time!”
“I don’t trust that old muggle-loving fool.”
That didn’t surprise Draco in the least. “But, Father, to give up your title --”
“Protects us all.”
To Draco’s unending shock, his father reached out to smooth his hand down Draco’s head. “You, my son, are pure. Dark-raised, dark-taught, but you have no blemishes upon your reputation, and thus, your power in our world. Even your time at school holds nothing more than boyhood high spirits. You are the best friend,” his father paused at those words, making Draco panic at the mere hint that his parent may know something more, “of Harry Potter. The title in your hands protects us all.”
Draco nodded slowly. “And after the Dark Lord is defeated?” Of this he had no doubt. Between his father, Severus, Harbin, and his family, the Dark Lord had no chance at all.
His father’s long, thin lips quirked again. “You will remain the Malfoy lord, of course. But who is to say I won’t be pulling your strings.”
Draco wasn’t sure whether he should be outraged or not. But he was smart enough to stay his tongue and smart enough to outwit his father if need be. “Of course, sir.”
Severus did not bother glaring at the mutt and werewolf’s loud entrance for he expected no less of Black. His students, on the other, grinned at them both. He frowned, unsure if letting Draco take lessons with them and Gavin had been such a good idea. Gavin and Lupin were not the problem; no, it was Black and his inappropriate and vicious sense of humor. At the first sign of any idiocy, he was going to put an end to those lessons.
“You rang?” Black jovially sneered as they both took their seats. Black unsurprisingly seated himself across from Harbin, leaving the other chair across from Draco to Lupin.
“You’re needed as test subjects for their legilimency lessons.”
Both men drew back as far as their chairs would allow, watching him warily.
“I won’t be casting the spell,” Severus spit out, unwillingly stung by their mistrust. After all this they still treated him as a pariah.
The two of them exchanged an entire conversation with their eyes. Black nodded but kept silent. It was Lupin who spoke for them both.
“We are not.” Lupin stopped, red tingeing his cheeks. “It is not you, Severus. We both have memories we’d rather not have anyone see.”
“Especially our godson.” Black jumped up and paced, expending nervous energy.
Lupin reached out to wrap his hand around Black’s, holding him still. “No one should have to experience a werewolf’s transformation, even secondhand, let alone firsthand.”
“Or Azkaban,” Black snarled.
Severus conceded their point, nodding. “Then I suggest you concentrate on happy memories for them to experience.”
“That easy, is it?” Lupin had a smile lurking on his face.
“If you have the discipline,” he retorted.
“Why can’t they practice on you?” Black demanded, but he was seating himself once more.
Severus dug into the same sorely-depleted well of patience he used when teaching inept students. “Do you expect a first year to defeat a dementor?”
“If the first year is Hari, yes.”
Harbin, the brat, beamed at his idiot godfather.
The idiot grinned back then turned to him again. “Are you really that good?”
Severus allowed himself the barest moment of subtle preening. “Good enough to evade the Dark Lord for years.”
Black nodded slowly. “Point taken.”
Appreciating that concession for what it was, he faced his students. “Now, begin.”
While Draco immediately cast the spell on Lupin, Black held up his hand to stop Harbin. The man had his eyes closed, breathing deeply. Giving himself a shake, Black opened his eyes and took another deep breath. “All right, Hari, I’m ready.”
Harbin smiled sweetly at his godfather. “Merci, Noir.”
Black relaxed even further.
Severus wondered at the strange nickname but shrugged the thought away as Harbin cast his spell. As he expected, Harbin surged through all of Black’s defenses while Draco finessed his way through Lupin’s. He could tell by the way Black minutely flinched but Lupin did not. He and Albus were such deft hands that their subjects didn’t realize their minds were being invaded. Unlike the Dark Lord who ripped through minds without a shred of care. Harbin would learn to control his power with this spell just as he had with every other spell he had mastered. Severus refused to let any pupil of his hammer his way through a target’s mental shields.
Draco emerged first, smiling at Lupin. “Thank you, sir.”
Severus was surprised to hear genuine sincerity and gratefulness in his godson’s voice.
“I wish I had more to show you, but they were Slytherins.” Lupin’s answering smile was soft and mischievous.
Draco smirked. “Secretive and sly.”
Lupin grinned back but it faded quickly as he turned to his lover.
Severus turned as well, not expecting to see tears running down both Harbin and Black’s faces.
“Harbin?” Draco was instantly by his side.
Lupin was already by Black’s.
Alarmed, Severus snapped, “Harbin, end the spell!”
Thankfully, the boy obeyed.
He and Black immediately jumped towards each other, embracing fiercely, tears still streaming.
“Sirius? Hari?” Lupin whispered, arms around them both.
Harbin whispered something back. Lupin gave a sad smile and held them.
Sensing their need for privacy, Severus uncharacteristically decided to withdraw. A glance pulled Draco with him.
“Black most likely shared his memories of Harbin’s biological parents.”
“Oh.” Draco kept pace by his side as they left Pottere Hale’s main house and entered its gardens.
After a moment of silent strolling, Draco volunteered, “Professor Lupin showed me memories of Mother and Father when you all were in school.”
Severus paused infinitesimally. “Did he?” he asked mildly. He hoped none of those memories featured himself; for while he had very few friends while at Hogwarts, Narcissa had taken him under her wing in their later years and so he could most often be found with her.
Draco eagerly smirked. “Mother turned her nose up at Father.”
Severus felt a smile lift his lips in remembrance. “Lucius made the mistake of publicly demanding that she accompany him to Hogsmeade.”
Draco chuckled, head bobbing. “That’s one of the memories he showed me. He also showed me a glimpse of Mother kissing Father over a bouquet.”
He did not know which instance that came from because Lucius was endlessly bringing Narcissa flowers during their courtship as she refused to accept his suit until he guessed the correct combination of flowers to bring her. “How are your lessons with Gavin and the other two?”
Draco merely blinked at the change in subject. “They’re more interesting than classes at Hogwarts.”
He gave his godson the eyebrow.
“With a few exceptions, of course.” Draco smiled sweetly up at him.
“Cheeky brat,” he harrumphed. “And your lessons with your father?”
“Well.” Draco winced. “The lessons aren’t new but there’s so much more than before.”
“You are the lord now.”
“I know,” he sighed. “Hari doesn’t have to do this.”
Severus was rather proud of the boy; he had only a minute trace of petulance in his tone. “Harbin and his parents find it easier to entrust the Potter affairs with an estate manager. Your father only trusts his estate manager to do the mundane tasks.”
Draco opened his mouth.
“And do not think, for one moment, that he will allow you to do the same as Harbin and the Chevaliers. He is willing to bend only so far, Draco.” Severus watched in amusement as Draco sulked.
Harbin breathlessly grinned as he took in the colorfully dressed party-goers.
Gleaming brass gears that whirled and ticked; rich, dark leather buffed to a shine and flashed in the electric torch lights; dully glinting iron fixtures decorated the ballroom; women in corsets and bustles, men in long coats and spats, lustrous prosthetic metal of all kinds adorned both sexes.
This year’s Bal du 14 juillet’s theme was steampunk to his utter delight.
The moment his parents had agreed to let him attend and he heard the theme, Harbin had frantically searched London for pieces to create his costume. Sections of his hair had been dyed ruby red, matching the red of his military cut captain’s coat, both intensifying the green of his eyes. Black leather pants and knee-high boots, black leather high-neck vest, both adorned with haphazardly-placed buckles. A red sash and chains encircled his waist; a white, long sleeve shirt under it all. He had raided his mother’s jewelry collection, glittering necklaces and jewels festooned his throat and shoulders, draped artistically off-center.
Tomorrow, July 14th, France would celebrate her independence from royal rule. Tomorrow, he and his family would attend the Bastille Day celebration in London’s Battersea Park, they would play in the pétanque tournament, picnic amongst other families, and end the night watching fireworks lighting up the night sky. But tonight, the party was Victorian steam, fantasy punk, and it swirled around him, filling the French embassy’s ballroom to the brim.
Harbin lost count of how many times he had been pulled onto the dance floor. He danced with whoever asked – friends and strangers alike – knowing that his uncle was keeping him safe. While Uncle Jonah was usually with his parents at events like this, he had turned their safety over to embassy guards tonight so that he could watch over Harbin at his first ever Bal du 14 juillet. With his safety assured, Harbin relaxed and enjoyed himself.
Harbin laughed as he was yet again pulled onto the dance floor, this time by a taller, blond boy he knew. “Benoît!”
“Bonsoir, Hari.” Benoît was two years older and the youngest son of one of his father’s attachés. Harbin had met him a few times before, but did not know him well. Stylishly shaggy, dark blond hair, light blue eyes, and the body of a swimmer. All he knew was that the other boy was quite handsome and quite the player. “Having fun?”
Harbin grinned up at him. “Oui, et tous?”
“My night got better when I spotted you.” Benoît winked at him.
Harbin tilted his head to study Benoît even as he continued to dance. While what Benoît had said may be a comment said from one friend to another, the wink and the long perusal Benoît was currently giving his body said something else. His suspicions were confirmed when Benoît cupped his hips and pulled him close together.
How . . . intriguing.
When he placed his hands on Benoît’s shoulders and began moving with the older boy, Benoît broke out into a delighted grin. “You are full of surprises, aren’t you, darling?”
Harbin flared his hand, grinning naughtily. “You will just have to find out, non?”
Benoît threw his tousled head back and laughed.
Harbin grinned as almost all of his wizarding friends flew about him in an impromptu game of quidditch. Hermione, Tracy, Pansy, and Luna preferred staying on the ground, but Draco, Blaise, Ron, Neville, the Weasley twins, Ginny, Vince and Greg made up two teams with ease. Draco had Vince, Greg, and the twins; while Harbin had everyone else. The play had been fast and furious and sometimes serious, depending on the player. Harbin played almost haphazardly, caring less who won each round, but Draco and Ron couldn’t help themselves and goaded each other mercilessly. Thankfully, the two of them regarded each other as their favorite enemy, much like Sirius and Professor Snape, and so none of it degenerated into violence.
From the ground, Sirius and Remus were teaching Sebastien how to fly his child’s broom. It didn’t go very fast or high, but Sebastien could care less as he shrieked his laughter. Sirius and Remus had quietly petitioned their parents to allow them to teach Sebastien how to fly since they had missed out on teaching Harbin.
Harbin sometimes wondered if Sirius and Remus were substituting Sebastien for Harry Potter. When he mentioned it to his parents, his mother confessed that she had displayed the same behavior on her friends’ children before she and his father adopted him. That had given him a new perspective and eased his worries. He smiled and waved when Sirius looked up. His godfather enthusiastically returned both.
“Hari!” Ron yelled. “Pay attention!”
Harbin shook his head, bringing his thoughts back to the game. Draco and his team were winning by a very large margin. Draco was an effective, if somewhat abrasive, leader. He ordered Vince and Greg about, but it was his rapport with the twins that entertained Harbin. The three of them gave as much as they got, seemingly amused by how much verbal abuse and sparring they could heap on each other without crossing the line. The first time Draco had insulted one of the twins Ron had nearly hexed him, but George had stopped him in time. Now they traded volleys as easily as the twins passed the quaffle between themselves.
“Anyone ready for lunch?” Remus’ amplified voice boomed through the air.
Unsurprisingly, Ron was the first down, Vince and Greg only a second behind. Harbin turned to wait for Neville and Ginny, but they were flying lazily down. From the movement of her gestures, Ginny was giving Neville tips on flying. Again. Harbin bit his lip because while Neville was listening to her, he did not have the besotted look of a boy in love. Instead, resignation seemed dominant. Checking on his other friends, he saw Draco deep in conversation with the twins and Blaise was already on the ground and escorting the girls inside, so he flew over to Neville and Ginny.
“—you need to fly more so you can get better,” she was saying.
“Yes, Ginny.” Neville said that in the same exact tone one of their New York gardeners had said “yes, dear” to his wife, their cook, right before he turned around and completely ignored her.
Harbin clamped down on the urge to laugh. “Well-played.”
Ginny beamed at him. “We would’ve won if Draco hadn’t poached Fred and George from us.”
Harbin gave her a teasing grin, but inwardly he cringed at her unintended insult. Neville had played beater for their team, the position Fred usually played. “Four Weasleys on one team? I do not believe the odds would be fair to even professional players.”
Ginny blushed to the roots of her hair, not even realizing how her behavior would seem to others.
His smile nearly slipped when she batted her eyes at him. Right in front of Neville.
Luckily, she was distracted by the other girls and her brothers.
Harbin landed and immediately turned to his friend. “Neville --”
“It’s all right, Hari,” the other boy said tiredly, shrugging his shoulders. “I know I’m not what she’s looking for.”
Harbin raised an eyebrow, feeling quite like Professor Snape. “Have you thought that perhaps she is not the one you have been looking for?”
Neville stopped, obviously never thinking of it that way before. He offered Harbin a small smile. “Thanks, Hari.”
Harbin nodded, letting his friend precede him into the house, still thinking about Ginny. He had though she had gotten past her crush on him but it seemed he was wrong. He sighed. Perhaps he should let it drop that he had a boyfriend now? Still pondering, he joined his friends and family for lunch. Throughout it the girls had huddled together, laughing and whispering. The boys were curious of course, but none of them dared approach the girls – not even Fred or George.
“We may be crazy,” Fred muttered.
“But we’re not stupid,” George finished.
Draco nudged him. “Go charm them.”
Harbin nudged him back. “You go. I have seen you charm Professeur McGonagall into postponing a test.”
The other boys nodded.
Draco preened as he carefully studied the giggling girls. Then shook his head. “Not even my truly impressive powers could withstand that.”
Harbin snorted as the others rolled their eyes or jeered.
Draco raised an eyebrow at them, haughtily turning his back. “Heathens.”
Harbin chuckled, leaning forward to kiss Draco’s cheek. Ever since Lucius Malfoy had abdicated his title to him, Draco had taken on an air of “I am Lord Malfoy. I am above all of this . . . childishness.” Still slightly pointy nose in the air, rolling his eyes, and a snooty eyebrow uplifted. It was utterly adorable.
After lunch was over and they were heading back outside, Hermione fell into step with him, lacing their fingers together.
“Walk with me?” she asked.
Harbin nodded, glancing over his shoulder to make sure that his guests were properly entertained. Since they were all heading towards the newly installed pool with Remus, Sirius, and Gavin, he was sure they would be. “Are you having fun?”
“Of course!” Hermione answered brightly, but then her smile dimmed. She looked around, pulling them a little farther away from everyone else. “I don’t know how to say this gently, so I’m just going to say it: I think Ginny wants to break up with Neville so that she can date you.”
He groaned. His fears confirmed by his as-usual perceptive friend. “I swear, Hermione, I do nothing to encourage her.”
She patted his arm. “I know. You can’t help but be charming.”
He groaned again. “I thought I made myself clear to her.”
Hermione twirled a lock of her hair, nervousness on her features. “She thinks you could grow to love her.”
Harbin jerked to a stop, making Hermione stop with him. “While that could be true --”
Hermione blinked in surprise.
“I do not think so.”
She slumped against his shoulder. “I thought as much.”
“Perhaps I should tell her about Benoît?” he mused aloud.
“Who?” Hermione turned to him in confusion.
“My boyfriend.” Harbin grinned as he mentally pictured the other boy. “Would you like to see a picture?”
Hermione nodded jerkily, eyes wide.
Harbin pulled out his wallet to show her the picture from the le quatorze juillet picnic. Benoît’s fair hair and light eyes glowed in the sun. Taller than Harbin by only an inch or two, they had their arms wrapped around each other’s waists. They were laughing and smiling with a background explosion of blue, white, and red streamers and balloons.
Hermione was staring at the picture with pursed lips.
He wondered if she disapproved of same-sex relationships. “Hermione?”
“He’s lovely,” she praised quietly, sharp brown eyes coming up to scrutinize him. “How long have you been dating?”
“Only two weeks. We meet at the Bal du 14 juillet held by the French embassy.”
“Oh. Is he French?”
Harbin nodded slowly, unsure why Hermione was so . . . stilted. “He is the son of my father’s attaché.”
Hermione inhaled slowly. “Is it serious, Hari?”
Harbin blinked then stared at her. “Hermione, I have only known him for two weeks.”
“But he is your boyfriend,” she pressed.
He flared his hand. “An easy label.” Harbin paused, studying her more intently now. “Hermione, do you disapprove because we are both boys?”
She rolled her eyes at him, allaying that fear. “Please, as if I care about that.”
“It’s just a surprise, that’s all!” Hermione was a little too perky, a little too nonchalant.
Harbin turned to face her, becoming serious. “Hermione?”
She sighed. “If you’re happy, I’m happy.”
“Just . . . just don’t tell Draco you’re dating this boy, all right?”
Harbin started to blink in confusion and couldn’t stop. That made no sense. “Why should I not --”
“Harbin, please, just trust me.” Hermione grabbed his hands with a pleading look on her face.
He slowly nodded, still confused, but trusting Hermione.
Harbin blinked and rubbed the sleep from his eyes, sitting up carefully as to not jar Benoît. His boyfriend had come over last night after Harbin had mentioned being bored after all of his friends had left a few days ago. “Bonjour, Oncle Jonah.”
“Bonjour.” Uncle Jonah propped a hip on his bed, sharp eyes swiftly taking in Benoît and their topless state. No one else would have been able to see the displeasure in his uncle’s eyes, but Harbin did. Neither he nor Harbin’s parents truly disapproved that Harbin was sexually active, as it would have been hypocritical of them since they had all had their first sexual experiences at a young age as well. It was more his partner they objected to. “Your headmaster has requested a meeting with you and your parents this afternoon. Sirius and Remus will also be attending.”
Harbin narrowed his eyes at his uncle, the fog of sleep completely lifting. He heard everything his uncle was saying and nodded. “I will be ready, oncle.”
Uncle Jonah nodded as well, then said, “Bonjour, Benoît.”
“Bonjour, Oncle Jonah,” Benoît absolutely purred.
Harbin turned to stare at him, seeing the amused tilt of his uncle’s mouth out of the corner of his eye.
“Careful, pup, I am out of your league.” Uncle Jonah stood and left.
“Don’t I know it,” Benoît mournfully sighed.
“You are extremely lucky you are not breaking my heart, mon ami, or else you would not like my oncle so much.”
Benoît dramatically shivered. “It may be worth it.”
Harbin laughed, reaching for his pajamas. “When are you and your family leaving?”
“Next week. It’s going to be soooo cold,” he lamented as he stretched like a lazy cat, showing off his toned, pale body in the morning light. “I am going to miss this.” He waved to the thoroughly mussed bed.
Harbin snorted. “As if you will be alone for long.”
Benoît flashed an unrepentant grin. “True enough.”
An hour later, he escorted Benoît out to his car, letting their lips linger in a long kiss goodbye. Harbin watched as his now ex-boyfriend drove away. The night they danced at the Bal du 14 juillet, Benoît had been more than upfront, telling him that his father was being sent to Russia and his family was going with him. Harbin had known this, had known of his reputation, but found he was intrigued by the idea of a boyfriend. So they had dated for nearly two months, two heated months where he learned how sex with men was different from sex with women. He found he enjoyed both equally well.
When he had introduced Benoît to his family, his parents and uncle had been polite, but they later pulled him aside and expressed their disapproval because of Benoît’s reputation. Somehow, someway, he had been able to convince them that he knew what he was getting himself into and he did. Not once was he in danger of losing his heart to the other boy, but he certainly enjoyed the relationship for its easy camaraderie and physical intimacy. Because he expected nothing from Benoît and vice versa, the relationship, as much as it could be called that, was effortless. And now, even with Benoît off to Russia, his heart remained whole and hale, sad to see a friend go, but nothing more.
He found his family halfway through breakfast. “Bonjour, ma famile.”
They all returned his greetings in their various ways.
“Benoît did not stay?” his mother asked mildly and facetiously.
“Non, he has much to do before his family leaves next week.” Harbin helped himself to breakfast.
“So is it to be a long distance relationship then?” Remus asked in the same mild tone as his mother.
“Non, we have parted as friends.”
Sirius, Remus, and Gavin all relaxed. His parents and uncle betrayed nothing of their thoughts but Harbin knew they were relieved. Harbin was not surprised in the least at their reactions. While he knew why his parents and uncle had disapproved, Harbin wasn’t sure why his godfathers and Gavin hadn’t liked Benoît. Since no one could truly explain why they didn’t like him, Harbin moved the conversation along. “Did Professeur Dumbledore mention why he requested this afternoon’s meeting?”
Everyone turned to Sirius and Remus so he did too.
Sirius squirmed but Remus was calm.
“He would like to discuss plans for next year,” Remus said, rather blandly.
While everyone at the table was family and while Potter Hale was spelled against all forms of spying, Sirius and Remus were still reluctant to speak on matters regarding Voldemort. Knowing this, he nodded and left yet another touchy subject for something more mundane. He would learn of it soon enough.
A few short hours later, he accompanied his parents, uncle, Sirius, Remus, and Gavin to a residential area in London. Once out of the car, the rest of them expectantly turned to Sirius and Remus.
“We have to wait for Dumbledore,” Sirius explained, apology in his voice and body. He slung an arm around Harbin’s shoulders. “He’ll let us in.”
Harbin gamely nodded, leaning into his godfather’s side.
As if conjured by his name, Professor Dumbledore appeared, making everyone jump, and was nearly shot by Uncle Jonah.
“Albus,” he growled warningly.
Harbin shook his head as the headmaster merely said, “Whoops! My apologies, Jonah.”
The headmaster clapped his hands then waved them closer. “Now, dear children, please memorize this address.”
As soon as Professor Dumbledore said the address, Harbin could see it: a massive old house, appearing between two buildings where he would have sworn there was no space between them.
“Welcome to Grimmauld Place, Hari.” Sirius pulled him along. His voice was dry instead of warm and welcoming. “My family home.”
So this was the ancestral Black home. He had heard much about it, mostly from Draco and his mother because Sirius hated it so much. From the outside, it merely looked old and rundown, but as soon as he stepped inside he understood why Sirius felt that way about it. How anyone could grow up in such a dark and dreary place Harbin did not know. Macabre house elf heads mounted on walls; sinister wallpaper that strangely twisted shadows and shapes; gloomy curtains that could hide attackers; big, heavy furniture that loomed and did not look welcoming at all; creepy decorations that were made from bits and pieces of animals and magical creatures; everything was dark and morbid in the house.
Following his urge to comfort, Harbin wrapped his godfather in a fierce hug. “I am so glad you live with us.”
Sirius held him just as tight. “So am I, Hari.”
Severus watched Harbin embrace Black from the gloom of an unused room. He shook his head at the boundless capacity for love the boy possessed. But they only held his attention for a moment as bright, blond hair captured his eyes. Gavin.
His ridiculous heart insisted upon thumping just the tiniest bit faster. “Gavin, good afternoon.”
Instead of starting an inane conversation, Gavin stopped a mere foot away, his blue eyes carefully studying him.
Severus forced himself not to squirm under the other man’s approving gaze. He knew himself and he knew he was no great beauty to be admired.
“But you have character and that is infinitely more interesting,” Gavin murmured, a gentle smile on his lips.
He stared at Gavin in shock. Had he so lost his faculties that he had voiced that thought? Or was Gavin hiding extraordinary legilimency skills?
The smile on Gavin’s lips grew even softer, a hint of something more intense lingering on the edges. “You’re not as inscrutable as you think, Severus.”
Severus hadn’t been smiled at like that in a very long time. He held perfectly still as Gavin brushed a chaste kiss on his cheek.
“Severus? Gavin? The meeting is starting.” Minerva’s voice startled them both.
Severus fervently hoped the shadows concealed his hot face.
Gavin gifted him with a warm glance and another smile before turning towards Minerva’s voice. Following Gavin and Minerva into the expanded kitchen, he found it already filled with old members of the Order, as well as the new inductees. Besides Harbin and his family and Gavin, the two oldest Weasley sons were there, as well as someone who probably never thought that she would step into this house again: Andromeda Tonks.
She had been joined by her muggleborn husband and their daughter. While her daughter watched everyone with the curious eyes of an auror and her husband with wary eyes, Andromeda’s eyes were cold and guarded, especially when she regarded Black, the lord of their family.
Black, for his part, offered her a tentative smile, smart enough to know that Black women were a species to be treated very respectfully. “Andi.”
“Siri.” Her eyes were still guarded but they were warmer.
Black looped his arm around Harbin’s shoulders and pulled Lupin along via their linked hands. “Hari, I want you to meet the other black sheep of the Black family.”
Andromeda thawed further, body relaxing into her seat. “As neither of us fell into line, I would dare say we were anything but sheep.”
Black barked one of his signature laughs. Harbin and Lupin both grinned at her as he introduced them.
Nymphadora Tonks tittered at her mother’s comment, her eyes now firmly on the approaching men.
Severus snorted softly when he realized her eyes held attraction when they landed on Lupin. The light in her eyes dimmed considerably when she saw Black and Lupin’s entwined fingers. And then she saw Gavin.
He forced himself to stillness lest he do something drastic.
Thankfully, other than a brief, completely uninterested smile, Gavin turned all of his attention to Albus who was calling for everyone’s attention.
“Welcome, everyone, thank you for coming.” Albus stood at the head of the table, beaming at them as if they were a family gathered for a Christmas dinner rather than a council of war.
Severus forced his eyes not to roll or his lips not to sneer. Albus would know, he would always know.
“We are here to induct new members to our Order and to begin making plans.” Albus paused, saddened.
Whispers and gasps filled the room.
“New members?” Emmeline Vance, stately and calm as always, stared at Albus. “So the rumors are true?”
“The minister and the Prophet say otherwise,” Mundungus Fletcher muttered quite loudly.
Severus sneered as he thought of the smear campaign the minister was trying to perpetuate. Even though many of the wizarding citizens of England were still angry with him for the custody battle over Harbin, many had forgotten it and forgiven him now that there was a bigger issue in the news: the rumored rising of the Dark Lord.
“Unfortunately, the minister --” Albus paused, looking for the right words.
“Lives on top of the river of denial,” Black mocked.
Harbin, his family, and those familiar with the muggle saying quietly snickered. Everyone else blinked in confusion.
Albus cleared his throat of laughter. “Yes, thank you, Sirius. Our minister does prefer to deny the truth.”
“How do we know he has risen,” Kingsley Shacklebolt, one of the new recruits and thus did not know better, asked.
Albus merely turned his gaze to Harbin, then to Severus. “Harry witnessed his rebirth and we have a spy in his camp who has met with him just weeks ago.”
People exploded again. Many eyes were on him; Severus ignored them. But many more were on Harbin.
“Albus,” Molly Weasley leaned over to him, her eyes intent on Harbin. “Why is Harry here? He’s just a child,” she said quietly.
She didn’t say it quietly enough for everyone fell silent to hear the answer.
Albus had a small smile as he studied Harbin.
The boy was watching him intently. There was a hint of a dare in those sharp green eyes.
“As a very smart young man once told me, ‘being fully informed about threats against his life gives him the tools to protect himself.’”
Harbin smiled at the headmaster’s paraphrasing.
Unfortunately, Molly did not keep her peace. “But we would protect him! There’s no need for him to protect himself!”
Before anyone could support or refute, Harbin tilted his head, a most benign, but somewhat sharp, smile on his lips. “And were you there, madam, when the portkey took me to Wormtail and Crouch? Non, of course not, for how could you – or anyone – know that the TriWizard Cup was a portkey? We will never know what danger lies ahead, but if I know there is the possibility of danger, than I will be able to keep alert and prepared. After all, flying blind is most dangerous, non?”
The simple logic from the youngest present stunned everyone.
“But.” Molly obviously wanted to argue, obviously wanted – like Albus – to keep Harbin ignorant of all business she considered the purview of adults only. But how did one refute logic so simple and straightforward?
“As his parents,” Yves smoothly stepped into the strained silence. “We would prefer to have Harbin kept informed of any threats to his safety.”
Molly and those of her same opinion had to admit defeat then. Even though Molly had her eyes narrowed at Sophie and Yves.
Severus knew there could be two no more different, yet the same, women. Sophie was like Lady Narcissa Malfoy in looks, breeding, and temperament. Both women were everything elegant and refined, both wives of politicians. But both Molly and Sophie were fiercely protective of their children. Severus tilted his head, come to think of it, Narcissa was fiercely protective of Draco as well.
“Now, let us discuss the latest news from our spy.”
Severus rolled his eyes at Albus’ much too jovial tone for the subject. It was Albus’ insistence that he played the part of the spy, that no mention of Lucius was to be made as to protect his spy status. For the most part he agreed but chose to tell Harbin and his entire household, including Sebastien and his nanny. Severus refused to leave Lucius’ future status – and therefore Draco’s – in only Albus’ hands. Too many things could go wrong and Draco had to be protected.
Not stepping out of the shadows on purpose, he delivered his report in dry tones.
The End of Year Four