In the summer of 1982, two sets of British parents and three little boys went on vacation in the mesmerizing city of Paris. Three weeks and a tragic car crash later, only one set of parents and two little boys came home to England. The second set of parents was lost in the accident. The third little boy was lost on purpose.
Only because Albus had saved his skin from Azkaban and a lifetime of servitude to the Dark Lord would Severus ever agree to a trans-Atlantic portkey that deposited him in the middle of muggle New York City. His mission, like all of the other Hogwarts teachers during the summer after their own holidays, was quite simple: inform a muggleborn witch or wizard’s family of their offspring’s true nature and their future education. He did not truly resent these assignments for, inevitably, the parents were suitably awed and grateful for an explanation for their children’s extraordinary powers. He did, however, resent being sent across an entire ocean.
Looking at the edifice of a spectacular building with French flags and armed guards lining the embassy’s grounds, he vaguely wondered how he was going to see the French ambassador to the United States of America in order to explain his son’s soon-to-be admission into the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with all of this security. In Hogwarts’ past, there had been other children whose families were surrounded by security, for one reason or another, but with the electronic age that the muggles were so deeply dependent on, Severus would have to be decidedly more careful. As the direct route would be best, he found the most senior level guard present around the perimeter. “Where is the ambassador’s private residence?”
The guard sneered, but his sharp brown eyes meet his dead on. “That information is classified, sir.”
The words were polite enough, but Severus didn’t really care about the answer. Instead, he whispered a spell, smirking inwardly in satisfaction when the guard pictured the hallway in front of the ambassador’s private residence, complete with the placement of muggle surveillance devices. Not deigning to answer, he whipped around, heading for the closest deserted alleyway. With a quick glance around to make sure he had not been followed, disillusioning himself just in case, Severus apparated into that exact hallway. While the magic would inhibit the surveillance equipment, bringing guards to investigate, they would see nothing with the disillusionment charm. He eyed the doorway. Behind it was Harbin Chevalier, adopted son of Yves and Sophie Chevalier. Severus had no idea why the son of a French couple was on the British school’s list of new students, instead of Beauxbaton’s, but he could not find the energy to truly question the listing in Hogwarts’ registry. He waited until the guards sent to investigate the electronic malfunction had walked right past him before removing the disillusionment spell then knocking on the door.
The door opened, but no one was there.
“Bonjour, monsieur, comment puis-je vous aider?”
Severus looked down to find the source of the little voice. The eleven year old smiled welcomingly up at him. Healthy pink cheeks, still rounded with the last vestiges of baby fat, creased becomingly under clear, bright, inquisitive green eyes. A fashionably tousled head of spiky, black hair matched equally fashionable, but conservative muggle attire. A cherub if ever there was one. Severus sneered, but that only garnered a raised eyebrow. Interesting. “I do not speak French.”
“Welcome, monsieur, how may I help you?” the child said, clearly translating his earlier words from his native tongue into lightly accented English.
“I am here to speak to your parents.”
“Je suis désolé, my apologies, monsieur, but they are not home at the moment.” The boy stepped back, gracefully waving Severus in. “Would you like to wait?”
Severus nodded sharply, mentally deriding parents that left their children at home alone, answering the door alone. The guards did not count. Once inside the foyer, he saw that the child was, in fact, not alone. Standing unobtrusively nearby, a woman was beaming at the boy, while a butler waited for his coat. Severus declined to give it, knowing that his transfigured robe would stay in its muggle coat form, but was disinclined to leaving anything of his in the hands of muggles. Instead, he watched as the boy strode over to the woman.
“Parfait, non?” the boy tilted his head back, gracing her with a winning smile.
The brunette woman smiled indulgently, nodding. “Oui, parfait, Hari.”
No wonder he found the child tolerable; the boy was practicing his etiquette lessons. It came as no surprise, of course, as an ambassador’s son would have to be perfectly mannered.
“Now, what should you do next?” the tutor asked quietly.
The boy’s brow wrinkled for a mere second before smoothing out as he turned back to Severus. “Monsieur, I am Harbin Chevalier.”
Severus stared at the out held hand for a moment too long before taking it. “Professor Severus Snape.”
“I am very pleased to meet you.” The boy gently ushered him into a sitting room. “Would professeur like tea while you wait for my parents?”
Severus nodded and, with almost house elf-like efficiency, the butler produced a beautiful sterling silver tea set. He watched with private amusement as the boy played host and poured tea for three. Dexterous little fingers, that should work beautifully with potions ingredients, carefully poured tea from the heavy silver teapot into delicate bone china cups. Cultured, French tones offered him a variety of additives for his tea; all of which Severus declined. The boy took his own tea with milk and sugar, enough to be sweet, but not so much as to vulgarly overwhelm the tea.
Quiet sips between small talk designed to put his guest at ease, but never intrusive to the business Severus had with his parents. His manners were even more beautiful than Draco’s, even though Narcissa was unrelenting in her etiquette drills with the boy. He privately believed it was because his godson was a spoiled brat that the lessons never took. Halfway through tea and scones, the slap of bare feet and high shrieking laughter assaulted his ears. The boy grinned mischievously at his tutor who merely lifted a corner of her lips, even though Severus could tell she wanted to grin just as mischievously. The boy gently placed his tea cup on the coffee table, bounding into the hallway, arms outstretched.
A naked, brown haired blur ran smack dab into his arms.
Harbin laughed, tickling his squirming bundle, eliciting more shrieking laughter.
Severus had to violently subdue his urge to cast a silencing spell at the naked toddler. But he watched the scene unfold with curiosity. Mere moments before, the boy had been the perfect, docile high society child. Seen, but not heard, a perfect little complement to the seemingly perfect aristocratic life. Now, he was laughing and tickling, and generally acting like an eleven year old boy should. Severus found this dichotomy of interest.
“Oh thank goodness,” a breathless voice exclaimed. A middle aged matron huffed past the doorway, one hand clutching a damp towel; the other held a child’s undergarments. “Hari, thank you. Bastien,” she turned to the other child, grateful voice turned scolding.
Even as she lectured the toddler, Harbin was reaching for the underthings and helping his brother into them. The butler materialized with more clothing, which he handed to Harbin instead of the matron. It seemed the little brother was much more amenable to the big brother’s help than he was to the nanny’s. The second the toddler was dressed, the nanny declared that it was nap time and carried away the wailing, objecting child. Harbin followed, murmuring French appeasements to his brother. Soon enough the cries stopped, but Harbin did not return.
Feeling no need to make small talk with the tutor, Severus sipped at his tea, hating to wait even longer for the Chevalier parents to come home, but knowing that he had an assignment to complete before going back to the blissful quiet of an empty Hogwarts. He certainly did not want to make another trip. Five minutes later, his wish was granted.
The Chevaliers appeared to be aristocrats through and through. Yves Chevalier’s short blond hair was pin neat and his brown eyes were assessing, his aura of competence and power easily disguised his short stature. His wife, younger than he by at least five years, was a dark haired, dark eyed Amazon that exuded confidence and elegance, towering over her shorter husband by at least six inches. They were followed by a man that had to be a bodyguard of some sort. Bald and muscular, almost to the point of straining his suit, with clear, blue eyes that scanned the room for threats, landing on Severus and stayed there, assessing him thoroughly.
“Bonjour, monsieur. . .” Chevalier trailed off even as he offered his hand.
“Professor Severus Snape,” he introduced himself for the second time, taking the hand that was offered. While he tried to intimidate the child as a matter of course, the parents, especially these parents, were not even worth the effort. Not if what he remembered about Muggle politics was true.
“Security did not warn us that we had a visitor,” Chevalier said leadingly after he introduced himself, his wife, and their bodyguard, Jonah, before seating himself and accepting the tea cup his wife offered him. “And how can we help you, professeur?”
Severus wondered why the ambassador was not more worried about his unannounced visit, but mentally shrugged. He declined the refreshing of his own cup, waiting only until Mrs. Chevalier sat down, to begin. “I’ve come about your son’s future education. Your eldest son,” he clarified.
“I see.” Chevalier glanced at his wife.
Severus could not read the looks exchanged between husband and wife, and so merely waited. But those looks supported his suspicion that Harbin had already manifested several acts of uncontrolled magic. It was, of course, not unheard of.
“What school did you say you were with, professeur?” Mrs. Chevalier inquired, her voice deceptively soft.
Severus glanced at the tutor, the butler, and the bodyguard. “This would be best discussed privately. And with the child present.”
Immediately, the butler and the tutor made their exit. He raised an eyebrow at the bodyguard, only to have Chevalier raise an eyebrow back. Apparently, the bodyguard’s presence was nonnegotiable. Mere moments later, Harbin entered the room. His parents immediately shed their aristocratic masks, smiling benignly at their son as he embraced them and welcomed them home. Interestingly enough, the boy also hugged the bodyguard, tilting his head back to smile way up the length of the man’s body. The guard, on his part, brushed the boy’s bangs out of his eyes and gave him a tiny lift of lips in return. Severus saw where the child got his masks.
“Laura said the professeur is here to talk to me?” Harbin directed the question at his parents, but those unearthly, somehow familiar, green eyes were carefully studying him. The boy seated himself between his parents, holding his mother’s hand and leaning trustingly against this father.
Severus didn’t answer, instead, he handed the official Hogwarts letter of entrance to the boy. He watched calmly, but with interest, as Harbin read the letter out loud for his parents. The boy was well educated, reading slowly and carefully, never stumbling in haste, never showing insecurity even if it was obvious he did not know the correct pronunciation of a word, but did well with his guess nevertheless. The boy’s face scrunched in confusion, the parents’ held blatant disbelief, the bodyguard subtly moved closer to the family, but had a clear line of fire at Severus.
“Is this a joke, professeur?” Chevalier asked, voice impressively bland. Both he and his wife were on edge, but not because they believed this was a trick, Severus was sure.
Suspicion confirmed, he merely had to prove to them this was no joking matter. Severus held up both hands, eyes on the bodyguard. Slowly, he held up his thumb and forefinger, reaching for his wand. Seeing the way the bodyguard tensed, reaching for his own weapon, Severus continued to move very, very slowly, keeping his wand in plain sight. “Mrs. Chevalier, choose an item in the room.”
She was confused, but pointed at the blue and white vase on a pedestal halfway across the room.
With a swish and flick and a murmured spell, the vase floated towards them. Harbin gasped, eyes wide on Severus’ wand then on the vase, then back again. His parents watched with tight lips and narrowed eyes.
“There have been incidents,” Severus said quietly, as if almost talking to himself, but he kept his eyes on the Chevaliers. “Things have happened around Harbin that could not be explained.”
Chevalier slowly nodded his head, hand reaching out to rub down his son’s shoulder. Harbin nodded as well, fully cognizant of his own actions and taking responsibility for them. An excellent sign.
“Name an animal,” Severus directed to the room at large.
“A T-rex!” Harbin piped up, childish delight written in every feature of face and body where moments before there had been apprehension.
Severus mentally rolled his eyes, so very muggle child this one, but performed the transfiguration spell, animating it for the hell of it, then had to quickly transfigure bars around the coffee table to keep the miniature replica in check. The two muggles and little wizard jumped as the animal roared; the bodyguard merely moved forward to study the dinosaur, clearly analyzing it as a possible threat. Both father and son leaned in for a closer look.
Mrs. Chevalier was studying Severus, then her son. “You are saying Harbin is like you? A wizard?”
“This school is in Scotland?” Chevalier’s expression was amused, resigned, and exasperated, all of which was directed at his very smug-looking wife.
Harbin glanced up at both of his parents, also amused. “Mére a toujours raison,” he teased his father.
Severus was curious, of course, but kept his own counsel, choosing to turn his attention back to the transfigured vase, changing it into the symbol of his house, although a nonpoisonous one. Chevalier seemed to recognize this as he held his hand out for the green garden snake. Father and son seemed to be mesmerized by the snake, Harbin going so far as to hiss to it, laughing in delight when it hissed back.
“Hari,” the boy’s mother smoothed her hand down his hair, “would you like to go to this school?”
Harbin bit his lip, turning introspective. “I will miss my friends, but le président wanted pére in a new position anyway. I should learn to control these powers, non?”
Both Chevalier parents nodded, pride in their son’s mature decision shining. Severus found himself just as proud, inexplicably, at the child’s logical thought processes. Many muggleborns merely thought about the “coolness” of it, never seeing their powers as a responsibility.
As soon as Harbin made his decision, things began to happen very quickly. The Chevaliers were nearly completely packed. It seemed that the French president had asked Yves Chevalier to choose one of two vacant appointments and so the family was already on the cusp of leaving New York City. He was also told why Sophie Chevalier had been so smug. Harbin had mischievously whispered that his mére had been campaigning to go to Spain, but that his pére had been interested in Russia. Now that Harbin would be in Scotland for school, his pére had to give into his mére.
Since most of their things were already packed, they agreed to meet him near the Leaky Cauldron in three days’ time. He would then escort them to Diagon Alley. He had offered to take Harbin now and return in the evening with the supplies, as the headmaster had originally planned, but the Chevaliers seemed extremely enthusiastic about learning more about the wizarding world into which their son was being inducted. With those plans firmly made, Severus bid them a good evening, portkeying back to Hogwarts.
Harbin laughed at his father’s dry comment. Minutes before, Professor Snape disappeared before their very eyes, leaving nothing behind as proof of what happened except his Hogwarts’ letter and the promise to see them in London. But he had left them with answers and that was the most important thing. Harbin finally knew why he could do the things he did. Turning to his parents, he gauged their reactions. His mother seemed to be only concerned with the moving of the household, but he could see her seesawing between relief and worry. His father seemed to be experiencing the same emotions. They knew how Harbin could make his toys dance and how he ended up on the roof of their Parisian home when a bully threatened him at one of their political functions. But now they had to deal with a whole new world, one they knew nothing about. “Je suis un sorcier,” he said, just to break the tension.
“Jonah!” his father smacked his uncle with a pillow as Harbin and his mother laughed.
“Citer le film préféré de Bastien, un nouveau monde entier,” his mother murmured as the laughter left her voice. The look in her eye as she smoothed his hair made him hug her: fear and love.
“Un nous savons très peu de.” His father had his pensive, thinking face on. “Quand le professeur nous prend à l'Allée Diagon nous aurons besoin d'apprendre autant que possible.”
Both his mother and his uncle nodded.
His mother pulled out their hug, again, smoothing down his hair. “Nous sommes très fiers de vous, Hari.”
“Le merci, maman, mais n'est pas vous un peu . . .” He broke off, not wanting to use the word, words that could be used to describe him: a freak to be feared, abnormal.
“Nous insignifiant-entraîné vous,” his father mused, mischievous smile playing on his lips. “Vous ne pouvez pas avoir peur de quelqu'un vous insignifiant-entraîné.”
Harbin groaned, blushing bright red, as his parents laughed.
“Ah, Hagrid, how was your trip?” Albus served his groundskeeper tea, not needing to ask how his old friend took it. “How is Harry doing? Looking forward to starting school?”
“Ah, perfessor, ‘arry wasn’t there.” Hagrid had worry written all over. He didn’t accept the cup, placing it on the table instead. He clasped his hands together, squeezing out worry, fear, and sadness.
Albus stared at Hagrid, wondering if his hearing was going the way of his eyesight. “He wasn’t there?”
He sat in shock as Hagrid told of arriving at #4 Privet Drive to find that Harry Potter was no longer in residence, that the dark haired boy that Arabella Figg had so vigilantly kept an eye on all these years was a boy by the name of Piers. The boy had been the son of Vernon and Petunia Dursleys’ friends, the Polkisses, but had been orphaned, when on a vacation in Paris an automobile accident had killed his parents. The same one that had taken Harry Potter’s life.
“That cannot be correct.” Albus peered intently at Hagrid. “Are you sure? The Hogwarts’ Registry would know if any student had perished before their tenure here. His name would have been removed from this year’s list.”
“That’s what they told me, sir.” Hagrid nodded, but then whispered conspiratorially to the headmaster. “But them Dursleys were a might fishy to me, perfessor.”
Albus nodded. “I believe I will send Remus to investigate.”
“I still can’t believe you’re leaving!” Marco boomed.
Harbin easily slid into his friend’s out-flung arms. The Latin boy, whose father was the Puerto Rican ambassador to the US, had been one of Harbin’s first friends when his father was assigned to New York. Marco and his twin sister, Maria, had welcomed Harbin into their social circle and were his closest friends. They were also the ones who organized Harbin’s goodbye party.
The Puerto Rican embassy was overrunning with Harbin’s friends and some of their parents. It seemed as if every single person he had ever known in New York was here to see him off. Beer and wine flowed for the adults, while Harbin and his friends liquored up on sodas and caffeine. The music had a distinct Latin/Miami groove that had many of the kids bopping along. He lost count of how many times he had been dragged onto the dance floor by one of his friends. He danced with them all, talked to them all. Not only was he leaving New York, Harbin had the distinct feeling that the wizarding world would absorb him for a very long time.
So he took the opportunity to make memories with his friends.
“I will miss you two!” he loudly said, dragging Maria into the hug.
“I’m gonna miss you too,” Marco mumbled forlornly.
“We’ll write each other, right?” Maria asked softly, but the look in her dark eyes said ‘or else.’
He enthusiastically nodded. “Mais, évidemment!” But then Harbin winced. “It may take a bit of time to get to me though.”
“What?” Swee asked, drifting into their sphere. The petite Taiwanese girl pressed a sweet kiss to Harbin’s cheek before leaning against her best friend, Maria. “Why? What kind of barbaric school are you going to, Hari?”
He grinned. So eloquent this one. “The school is isolated so mail takes a while to get there.”
“What about phone calls?” Swee asked, frowning.
Harbin shook his head. “Students will only be allowed to use the phone in case of emergencies.”
“Aahh,” Marco breathed out, horror all over his face. “Oh, mi amigo, dude, I’m sorry.”
Harbin threw his head back and laughed when everyone around him nodded with the same fervent pity.
Shopping with the Chevaliers was just as he thought he would be: amusing.
Those muggleborns and their families that Severus had to contact in the years before Harbin Chevalier either stared in stupid gapped-mouth wonder or exclaimed over everything like it was the second coming of Merlin. The Chevaliers and their bodyguard, instead, smoothly glided about Diagon Alley as if they owned it. Purebloods that usually turned up their noses at everyone, nodded at them with gentility and sharing space with them rather than glaring them out of the way.
Chevalier, upon discovering Gringotts, immediately opened an account for his son. Both father and son grinned wildly at the ride to the vault, sharing conspiring grins. Mother and bodyguard merely exchanged exasperated eye rolls, strangely enough, including him in that moment as well. Mrs. Chevalier then dragged the entire family into Lady Maëlle’s Boutique, a new establishment Severus had never seen before, and proceeded to outfit her son in the latest young wizard fashions. Severus had to hide his smile when the boy rolled his eyes, but submitted to his mother’s whims. While there, the proprietress dropped hints that she would be more than happy to create school robes for Harbin, even though they were not her specialty. To save them the trip to Madame Malkin’s, of course. Mrs. Chevalier delightfully agreed then began to make absolutely sure that her son would have everything he needed before September 1st.
It was Chevalier who spotted the owls and helped a fascinated Harbin pick out a beautiful white snowy owl as his familiar. The apothecary’s was next, and even Severus found himself engrossed in the potions ingredients, browsing as the boy purchased his supplies. He answered inquisitive questions from both parents and student, having to make sure that the father did not slip his son any ingredient that could cause mischief in the school. Even though he would have liked to have seen what the child could do with some of those ingredients. The second to last stop was the bookstore.
There Severus waited in the shadows, not wanting a student to even think about approaching him. He watched the Chevaliers as they charmed their way around the store, receiving the most gracious help he’d ever seen offered at the severely busy store. At one point, he watched with interest as Chevalier seemed to slide right into the personal space of his bodyguard. The ambassador had placed one hand on the hard plane of muscle that was Jonah’s chest to steady himself as he leaned up to whisper into the other man’s ear. It was quite . . . intimate. When Mrs. Chevalier saw the two of them, she merely smiled, ushering Harbin to them before speaking to her husband, her hand covering his on Jonah’s chest. Clearly, they had an interesting relationship.
The bodyguard lifted both of their hands, squeezing once before leaning down to whisper into Harbin’s ear. Severus knew he was the topic because the boy immediately turned in his direction and smiled. He stared down at the boy when Harbin presented himself at his knee. “Yes?”
“Professeur Snape? What class do you teach?”
Harbin nodded thoughtfully, eying his copies of Spore and Jigger. “Do you have recommendations for me?”
Severus knew exactly what the boy was asking, nodding as he headed towards the potions section. He handed Harbin the one book that would be most useful for a muggleborn in his class: a book with point-by-point directions for everything from perfect potion-making methods to the most basic information on common ingredients. It was as straightforward as books of that nature could ever be.
“Merci, professeur.” Harbin graced him with another smile. It seemed that the boy was made entirely of them. He used them as a weapon, charming old witches and wizards as he made his way through his day. Severus knew this one would likely become one of his little snakes.
“Excuse me, professor?”
Severus turned to the bodyguard as the other man spoke for the first time in his hearing. Jonah’s voice was as deep as his barrel of a chest would indicate, but held no trace of a French accent. Actually, he had no accent at all, not even the flat one of the Americans. “Yes?”
“Could you recommend a history of the wizarding world?” No other embellishment, no reason given.
Severus stared at him, waiting to see if the other man would fill the void with inane chatter, but Jonah simply lifted a corner of his mouth in something like a smirk. Apparently, this man knew how to play the game. He nodded, leading them to the history section and handed him an abridged, updated version of the book in Harbin’s shopping cauldron. The other man nodded his thanks.
With the last stop, Ollivander’s Wands, Harbin would be done. It had been a strange stop, as for some reason, Ollivander seemed to be surprised that the eleven inch holly wand with a core of a phoenix feather had chosen the child. Almost as if that wand was supposed to go to someone other than Harbin Chevalier. Nevertheless, he sold Harbin the wand, and with that last stop, Severus could have escorted them straight back to the muggle world so that he could return to his dungeons. Of course, Severus made the mistake of taking them past the broom shop. Both male Chevaliers stood with their noses pressed to the glass like the other little urchins, for the first time expressing the crass enthusiasm of the masses. Severus had to remind them both that first years were not allowed brooms.
Chevalier had rolled his eyes and said, “Forget Hari! I want one!”
His wife had laughed and his son had teased him.
Once Severus deposited them back in muggle London, he bid them farewell.
Unpacking, Harbin thought, was not easy. Packing was worse.
He stood in his room at the French embassy in Spain and surveyed the disaster littering the space. He wanted to set up his room before leaving for Hogwarts so that, when he came home for the holidays, he could spend the time with this family instead of worrying about his things. Even with that notion in mind, he shied away from thinking about school. It was one thing to leave behind all of his friends in New York; it was a whole other thing to leave his family in Spain to go to school in Scotland. In a world where his parents couldn’t just pick him up from school if he needed them for any reason.
That might be why he couldn’t seem to decide what to pack in his new student trunk.
“Hari?” his mother’s voice preceded her knock.
“Mama?” He clutched at the blanket he held in his hands, turning to watch his elegant mother glide into the room. She took one look at his face and immediately headed for him, arms open. He threw himself into her arms, immersing himself in her gently spicy perfume and her warm hug.
“Oh, le chéri, si vous ne voulez pas aller, vous n'avez pas à.” She knew, of course. She always knew. Mother’s intuition she had once teased.
“Je devrais.” he sighed, letting go of the blanket to wrap his arms around her. Mother soft, but also mother strong.
“Vous aurez toujours vos mains complètes avec le père et l'Oncle Jonah.” He grinned cheekily up at her. “Bastien peut aider.”
She laughed, hugging him tighter.
They sat in silence, absorbed in each other, when the door opened to admit the rest of his family. Harbin smiled as Bastien sleepily climbed into his and their mother’s lap. With it being so close to bedtime, within seconds his baby brother was fast asleep.
“Que prenez-vous à l'école?” His father’s voice was already showing strain as he stood in the middle of Harbin’s room, eying the mess. And he wouldn’t meet anyone’s eyes. Incredibly competent diplomat that he was, Yves Chevalier hated emotional trauma. His oldest son leaving for months on end, into a world that he did not yet understand well enough to navigate, counted as the most emotional trauma since his wife had been in a car accident all those years ago.
Exchanging knowing looks with his mother, Harbin strove for a causal tone. “Juste quelques choses autre que l'évident. Valère et Brock, évidemment.”
He pointed to where his pet’s tank and other necessities were already heaped, his stuffed cuddly on top. While Brock had been with him for as long as he could remember, Valère was his first friend and he had no intention of leaving the emerald green and black ladder snake behind. As a three-year-old toddler, playing under his new mother’s watchful eyes, he had met the snake in the summer garden. Harbin had watched the slithering creature with interest, scooting closer to the heavy foliage.
He had offered the snake his cookie, when he had heard, “Sssssooo hungry.”
The snake’s tongue had flickered out at the cookie, but it withdrew. “Not meat.”
Harbin hadn’t really understood anything but the snake’s rejection of the cookie, so he stuffed the remaining part in his mouth as he waddled over to his mother. She had smiled at him, helping him gather a little bit of everything on the table. Since she was always trying to fatten him to the correct plump baby standards, she was more than happy to give him anything he wanted. Carefully carrying the plate back to where the snake had been, Harbin nudged the plate as carefully as possible over to the creature.
The snake had slowly devoured what it wanted before saying, “Thank you.”
Thanks to his new mother’s instruction, he knew to say, “You are most welcomed.”
“You are a snake speaker!” the reptile gasped in surprise, slithering closer.
And thus began their lifelong friendship.
Now, his father stared at Brock, running one finger along the little, yellow, stuffed animal, frown marring his aristocratic features. He said nothing, crossing his arms as if to protect himself from the signs that Harbin was leaving.
“Je suis Professeur Snape était capable de vous recevoir la permission d'apporter Valère.” his mother said softly, long, slim fingers carding through Bastien’s baby delicate brown hair. Her fingers tangled with Harbin’s every so often. On purpose, he was sure.
“Oui, c'était bon de lui.” his uncle said, leaving his post by the door to curl around Harbin. He usually didn’t say unnecessary things, but sometimes, when Harbin’s father was too upset, Uncle Jonah would fill the silence.
He leaned into his uncle’s solid girth, absorbing quiet strength. His uncle was a man of few words. He liked to say that Harbin’s father spoke enough for all of them. Harbin laughed every time, because it was mostly true, being a diplomat seemed to center exclusively around talking.
“Cette maison est jolie, vous ne pensez pas, le chéri?” his mother threw out, obviously hoping to engage his father.
His father shrugged.
His mother and his uncle exchanged eye rolls.
Uncle Jonah stood, hand held out. “Venez l'étreinte votre fils.”
His father moved with alacrity, hugging him so tight Harbin could barely breathe, but he did not complain, hugging him back just as hard. His father’s kiss was pressed to his forehead, a whispered word of love in it. Harbin let him go when his father pulled away and turned into Uncle Jonah’s embrace. His mother pressed a kiss to his cheek before rising with Bastien in her arms. She held him so that Harbin could kiss his brother good night, then joined his father and uncle. His father immediately latched onto her and Bastien.
Uncle Jonah blew him a kiss over their shoulders. “Bonne nuit, fils.” His uncle may not say much, but he communicated everything he needed to, like love for the child he considered his own.
“Bonne nuit, oncle.” Harbin closed his door behind his family, shoulders sagging. His initial excitement about going to school had waned away to nothing after that.
But, he squared his shoulders, knowing that power uncontrolled was useless. His father had taught him that.
Harbin’s life was getting to be very strange. He stared at the ticket that said he needed to be on Platform 9 ¾ but there was only Platforms 9 and 10. It was just the latest in a line of things that were new and strange. Thankfully, he had his parents, Uncle Jonah, and his little brother, Bastien, there with him or he would have felt quite lonely indeed. They weren’t exactly sure how to find the correct platform, but when a large group of redheads streamed by with noisy chatter that mentioned the correct platform, his father had immediately gone into diplomat mode. In short order, Harbin and his family was through the barrier and emerging on the other side.
There, they stood, taking it all it. It was much like Diagon Alley: the chaos and the feeling of an era long gone. The gorgeous red train was the destination for people dressed in robes from another time. Trunks with gleaming brass accents on carts, instead of wheeled, fabric luggage, were being pushed by students and parents. Parents were saying their good-byes. Children his age looked alternatively excited and scared.
Many of the students had owl cages, much like his own Hedwig, whose occupants were boredly surveying their owners and the chaos. Some other students had cats and toads. Harbin reached up to pet Valére, who was coiled contently about his neck. His pet had asked where they were going before they had left for the station, curious about the nervous jitters that had overtaken Harbin before they left the station. Now the snake watched with slitted eyes at the chaos around them. He hissed that if any of those creatures were stupid enough to bang into them, he was going to bite them. Harbin had to admonish his pet, knowing that Valére really wouldn’t and couldn’t, since his species wasn’t poisonous.
Harbin stared for one more moment before turning to his family. Uncle Jonah was already stashing his things with the other students, leaving Harbin his owl and his school bag, which carried owl treats and the books Professor Snape had recommended. Turning to his mother, he was caught off guard by her tears and wobbling smile. “Mére?”
“Oh, mon beau garçon, vous grandissez si vite!”
Harbin blushed, glancing around to make sure that no one heard his mother calling him “her beautiful boy.” Seeing that no one was paying attention to them at all, he pondered how she could think he was growing up so fast when it felt like forever just since Professor Snape had come to the house. Mothers could be strange creatures like that.
“Je vais vous manquer ainsi.”
He stood still as she caressed his cheek. He leaned into her touch, smiling up at her. “Je vais vous manquer aussi, maman.”
She softly cooed as he used the more childish version of mother, smiling when he assured her that he would miss her too. She kissed him then, first on both his cheeks, then on his forehead. He hugged her hard, knowing it would be the last until the Christmas holidays. She turned him to his father.
Harbin took a step closer to his father, leaning into his father’s legs, wrapping his arms around his father’s waist. From there he could already see his father’s glistening, red eyes. He smiled as his father almost refused to look at him straight on. Harbin merely propped his chin on his father’s stomach, waiting for the inevitable.
“Maintenant, soyez sûrs de porter de nouveaux vêtements chaque jour. Je sais comment petits garçons peuvent être. Souvenez-vous de brosser les dents et les cheveux, si pas prennent une douche, chaque matin. L'hygiène est la plus importante. Faites comme vos enseignants demandent et n'oublient pas de faire vos devoirs. L'école est très importante, Harbin. Et n'oubliez pas d'écrire ou le hibou ou quels que soit il est ils font dans le monde sorcier.”
Harbin stood there, letting his father prattle on about hygiene and schoolwork, all good reminders, but really, his father was just delaying their goodbyes. He was perfectly fine with that. Soaking in the soothing prattle and the warm hands continuously rubbing his back, he relaxed in his father’s embrace. Soon enough, his father inhaled, bent to hug him very hard, just once, whispering his love before nearly running towards the gateway to the muggle world. He gave his mother a happy sad smile as she blew him a kiss before chasing after his father. Harbin turned to Sebastien, who was still too young to understand that his big brother was leaving for an extended amount of time, but knew that something serious was happening. The toddler hugged him, careful about not squishing Valére, with as much strength as his little arms could before going back into Uncle Jonah’s arms.
“Oncle Jonah.” He hugged the man’s leg, the top of his head barely even reaching his uncle’s waist. Smiled to himself as Uncle Jonah swept his huge hand from the top of his head to the middle of his back, leaving a wake of heat.
“Harbin.” In that one, deeply intoned voice, Uncle Jonah had been able to impart much. Quiet directives to stay safe, to keep them informed, reminders of what code to write if he ever needed to get out of Hogwarts fast. And, of course, the love and goodbye the big man would never say out loud, but was spoken in every action and every look.
One last pat on his back from a hand that spanned nearly his entire back, then he was ushered onto the train. He turned at the window, waving to his uncle and his brother until the station was out of sight.
Harbin smiled at the red haired boy he found in a nearly empty cabin. “Pardon, may I?” he indicated the empty seat across from the boy. He smiled gratefully at the boy as he took the offered seat. “I am Harbin Chevalier.”
“Ron Weasley,” the other boy promptly held out his hand, but his big eyes stared at him.
Harbin smiled as he took the hand. “S'il vous plait, please, call me Hari.”
“Nice to meet you, Hari.” Ron opened his mouth, but said nothing, only to open it again.
“You may ask,” Harbin invited with a little chuckle.
“You’re not British!”
Not really a question, nevertheless, Harbin answered. “Non, French.”
Ron tilted his head in confusion. “How come you’re not at Beauxbatons, then?”
“Yeah, the French wizarding school?” Ron smiled as if something had clicked. “You’re muggleborn, right?”
“Oui,” Harbin nodded, then shrugged. “I am not sure why I was not invited to the French wizarding school. Perhaps they did not want me?”
Ron shook his head. “Nah, can’t be. All wizarding schools take wizards and witches, no matter what. Well, except Durmstrang, but usually it depends on where you live.”
“Ah, well, I was living in America.”
“Wicked!” Ron leaned forward, pelting Harbin with questions on what it was like living with the Yanks. Then he asked what it was like living in Paris.
Harbin talked until the snack trolley came around. That was when he learned about chocolate frogs, Bertie’s Beans, and Headmaster Dumbledore. A little while after that, a pudgy boy timidly knocked on their door.
“Excuse me, sorry to interrupt,” his voice was shyly quiet, his darting eyes never staying on their faces long, “have you seen a toad?”
Ron shook his head.
“Non,” Harbin answered, standing as he dusted his hands. “Would you like help locating your familiar?”
Relief cascaded over the other boy’s face. “Yes, please.” He turned to lead the way out of the compartment, introducing himself as Neville Longbottom.
At first they searched in silence, but Harbin had grown up in a world where speech was nearly a living, breathing thing that he had been taught to tame and exhibit at his will. And so, he smiled gently at Neville and leaned in with a conspiring air. “I am very excited to be going to Hogwarts. Are you?”
It was a simple enough opening gambit, but it worked beautifully as Neville nodded vigorously.
“My gram cried when I got my letter,” the other boy confided. He darted dark brown eyes at Ron. Seeing nothing but an encouraging nod, he continued. “She and my great uncle were afraid I was a squib.”
“What is a squib?” Harbin asked quietly, knowing just by the other boy’s inflection, and by Ron’s shocked expression, it couldn’t be good.
“A squib is a person born into a magical family but doesn’t have magical abilities.” Neville seemed surprised, but pleased that he could answer Harbin’s question.
“Ah.” Well, it didn’t sound like to horrifying a thing to be, but then again, Harbin mused, it would be quite horrible to be the only one in the family like that. Actually, it was a bit strange to be the opposite, being the only person in the family to have magic. “Well, I am glad you are here.”
Neville beamed at him. When they reached the next car, he introduced both of them to Hermione Granger, who was the first person to offer their help in finding Trevor, his toad.
“Vous êtes le français?” she asked him, when Harbin found himself next to her, as the four of them continued to search car by car. Behind them, Ron and Neville were comparing notes about wizard chess.
Harbin smiled; her pronunciation wasn’t terrible, but it definitely needed work. “Oui. Combien de temps avez-vous étudié ma langue?” He ducked into a storage space to give her time to answer his question. It did not take her very long at all.
“Deux ans.” Hermione smiled at him, switching from French to English. “My mother loves French, so when she decided to take lessons two years ago, I joined her.”
“Your comprehension is très bon, but your pronunciation . . .” He trailed off, waving his hand like his father did when he wanted to convey a negative opinion, but did not want to voice it. He did not want to offend his new friend, but Harbin wanted to make sure she did not go about with such an atrocious accent, thinking that it was perfectly fine.
Surprisingly, she laughed deprecatingly. “I know. My mother says I don’t have an ear for sound at all.” She leaned into whisper, “I can’t sing on key to save my life.”
Harbin grinned, linking his arm through her. “We shall have to practice together, oui?”
Hermione’s smile was luminous. “Oui.”
With less than minutes before the train was to arrive at the station, they finally found Trevor. Only Harbin’s quick reflexes caught the toad before it could hop off again. Neville gratefully thanked them, only to have Hermione start haranguing them to get dressed in their school robes. Neville tried to stutter off, but Ron rolled his eyes at her, muttering that she wasn’t his mother. Hermione took great exception to that and opened her mouth, but Harbin merely raised an eyebrow at her, making her flush and apologizing for her forwardness. To allay her self-recriminations, Harbin mimicked his father by pressing his lips to her uplifted hand, thanking her for her lovely conversation and asking her to join him, Ron, and Neville on their ride to the castle. Hermione flushed with pleasure this time and agreed.
Harbin stared up at the huge man before him. Uncle Jonah was big, but he would have been dwarfed by this giant who introduced himself as Hagrid, the Hogwarts groundkeeper. But, like Uncle Jonah, he seemed to be of the gentle giant variety, only dangerous when roused with protective instincts. His smile under his enormous beard was big and friendly. His eyes twinkled in merriment. Harbin grinned at Hagrid as the giant man lead them to the boats and helped them climb in. His first glimpse of Hogwarts filled him with awe and amazement. Beautifully lit with thousands of windows, it rose above the lake majestically. Soaring towers and sweeping arches, it reminded him of all the castles his mother had taken him to for holiday tours. He couldn’t quite believe that this exquisite monstrosity housed a school for children.
Turning, he saw the same awe and amazement on not just Hermione’s face, but on Ron and Neville’s as well. Soon enough, they were welcomed and collected by the deputy headmistress, Professor McGonagall, and swept into the Great Hall. Here again, Harbin stared about in wild wonder: floating candles, banners of the four great houses, students of every age welcoming them with claps and cheers. And ahead, Professor Snape was at the end of the high table, nodding solemnly at Harbin. He seemed to be listening to the man with a purple turban on his head, but Harbin could tell that Professor Snape was doing anything but paying attention to whatever he was saying. Instead, the potions professor was carefully watching the students. Further down the table, was the headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. He looked exactly like the picture on Harbin’s chocolate frog card.
“Before we begin,” Professor McGonagall addressed the entire school as she stepped aside so that all could see the wizen wizard stand up from behind the head table. “Professor Dumbledore would like to say a few words.”
Professor Dumbledore smiled at them all. From where Harbin stood, he could feel immense power, nothing like he had ever felt before, emanating from the headmaster. “I have a few start-of-term notices I wish to announce. The first years please note that the Dark Forest is strictly forbidden to all students. Also, our caretaker, Mr. Filch, has asked me to remind you that the third floor corridor on the right hand side is out of bounds to all who do not wish to die a most painful death. Thank you.”
Harbin had to smirk at how utterly cheerful the man was when announcing that last bit. His smirk grew when he saw Professor Snape’s expression, as if he wanted to roll his eyes at his superior, but knew he couldn’t. He watched intently as Professor McGonagall placed a wooden stool and a battered wizard’s hat in front of the high table. Harbin wasn’t the only first year to jump as the hat began to sing. One by one the first years were sorted, until at last it was his turn. Sitting on the stool, he could hear the hat musing in his mind.
Bonjour. Harbin thought, just to get the hat’s attention.
Well, hello there. Very interesting mind you have here.
Merci? Harbin could not help that questioning lilt at the end of his thanks, as he wasn’t quite sure what the hat meant by that, especially since the voice in his mind seem amused by something only it knew.
I think you’ll do fine in Slytherin. Don’t you?
C'est la maison de Professeur Snape, non?
Yes, the house of Professor Snape and of snakes. Cunning and ambitious those Slytherins.
Harbin mentally shrugged, acquiescing. His mother and father praised his cleverness and wanted him to achieve everything he had ever dreamt. Oui, Slytherin est parfait.
Excellent! Again, it sounded smug, knowing a secret it wasn’t sharing. “SLYTHERIN!” it shouted.
Harbin seated himself at the Slytherin table, greeting his housemates with the same coolness they received him with, knowing from Professor Snape’s behavior that this was normal for the house of snakes. He politely turned back to the sorting, feeling the looks and signals passing around him. He sat up a bit straighter to see when Hermione’s name was called.
From underneath the hat, he saw her glance his way, right before the hat yelled out, “SLYTHERIN!”
Harbin clapped loudly, holding out his arms when the girl rushed to his side. Again, there were those looks and signals from their housemates. Hermione gave him a questioning look and opened her mouth, but he shook his head, leaning in to whisper, “Plus tard.”
She gave him a penetrating look, but subsided with his promise to talk later. Soon enough, they were clapping for Neville as he was sorted into Gryffindor. When it came Ron’s turn, Harbin was shocked to see the look of utter betrayal on the boy’s face when he and Hermione waved at him. He didn’t even spare them one single glance after he jumped off the stool when he was sorted into Gryffindor. Again, Hermione gave him a questioning look, but this time Harbin could only shrug, not knowing why the other boy gave them such looks.
Resolving himself to ask Ron about it later, he discreetly studied his new classmates as he served himself from the plethora of dishes cluttered in front of him. Hermione, he knew from the train and could already tell she was clever, very clever, and a complete bookworm. She had gushed excitedly about their textbooks, which she’d already read, but he idly wondered about the effectiveness of her practical skills. Vincent Crabbe, the boy who had been sorted after Harbin, and Gregory Goyle, the boy after Hermione, where behemoths who were quite busy consuming everything in sight. Their faces were quite similar, perhaps cousins of some sort? Something in their eyes told Harbin that their cleverness, unlike Hermione’s, was very well hidden.
Between them, sat a boy with the palest blonde hair and most assessing gray eyes Harbin had ever seen. Those eyes flitted about the table, evaluating and judging each person they saw, even as the other boy was clearly enjoying his dinner. When those eyes finally landed on him, Harbin smiled serenely, and held out his hand.
“Bonsoir, je suis le Harbin Chevalier.”
“Draco Malfoy, je suis content de vous rencontrer.” Draco took the hand held out to him, seemingly surprised by the French greeting, but answering in kind.
Harbin knew exactly the type of boy he was. Well cut clothing, well coiffed hair, manners that nearly meet his own, perfect French accent, and an air of superiority all placed Draco into the category of old money that did not believe in duty. The Chevaliers had been successful businessmen and politicians for centuries, but they worked, believing that they should return to the world the benefits they received. Every Chevalier child had been instilled with a sense of noblesse oblige to family and to the world. Draco, obviously, was from a family rich in old money, but poor in duty to the community. Harbin would bet money that Draco only knew blind loyalty to his family. This one he knew how to deal with.
“Well said,” he praised, peeking up at the other boy, letting his smile work for him.
“Merci,” Draco murmured, gray eyes wide. “Did you not like Beaubaxtons?”
“My letter came from Hogwarts. I have not bothered to question why.” Harbin flared his hand. There, let him wonder if Harbin truly did not care or if either school would have been the same either way. Same in low stature or same in high would be another question for the other boy to ponder. He glanced at the platter close to the other boy’s hand, letting his eyes and face fall into covetous lines as he looked back up at Draco.
“Not at all curious at all?” Draco immediately picked up on his unvoiced request and offered him more of the roast beef, which he charmingly accepted, letting the other boy serve him. A bit difficult since they were seated across from each other, but Draco accomplished it gracefully all the same. Harbin was impressed.
“Non, I was too busy in New York to truly question.” He smiled at Draco again, touching his hand to get his attention. “Merci.”
“You’re welcome.” Draco stared at Harbin’s fingers, the tips of which lingered on his skin. “What-what were you doing in New York?”
“Mon père had business there. We lived there for a lovely four years.”
Draco blinked. “You actually liked living there? Among those nouveau-purebloods?”
“Mmm, oui.” Harbin liked the new taste of British roast beef, though it was very different from the wine-infused roasts that were his favorite. Forking another piece through his lips, savoring the bite, he swallowed before smiling at Draco again. “This English fare of yours is quite delicious.”
Draco seemed completely out of his depth, merely nodding. It would seem that Draco did not know how to deal with someone like Harbin. Someone utterly content to be where they were, someone who outright stated that they enjoyed something others did not. And, of course, to enjoy being amongst those people they considered below themselves. Harbin had heard of the nouveau-purebloods as his family had shopped Diagon Alley. Nouveau-purebloods were wizards and witches whose family ancestries were traced back to a muggleborn or a halfblood, but had a linear line of wizarding blood since. According to the books, the American wizarding elite were made of them.
Harbin kept it up all through dinner, subtle movements that kept Draco off center, drawing the boy out to talk about himself and his family, but keeping the conversation light enough that he had no chance to spout anything that might be offensive. Draco seemed impressed with his charm, his intelligence, and his clothes; though, not necessarily in that order. Harbin was more than happy to oblige Draco’s curiosity about himself as well. He kept Draco’s attention on himself as Hermione made friends with two of the girls in their year.
He glanced around the Great Hall as dinner plates were cleared away and dessert appeared on the table. Delightedly, he filled his plate, but never stopped observing his surroundings. Glancing up at the head table, he smiled at Professor Snape when he caught the man’s eye. His head of house nodded, before turning back to his decidedly one-sided conversation with the man wearing a purple turban again. Before he could get a better glimpse of the other teacher, Draco demanded his attention.
By the time they stepped into their dormitory for the night, Draco was demanding that Harbin choose the bed next to his. Harbin made a show of thinking about it, letting Draco convince him that it was the best choice, coquettishly agreeing a few moments later. Harbin found sharing a bathroom with five other boys to be a new experience and decided it was easier to wait, letting them all go first before heading in for his own nightly routine.
While he waited, he set up Valére’s new tank. The other first years, and a few of the upper years, had been quite impressed at dinner when Valére had slithered out to explore the new atmosphere. Hermione had squeaked, but had been persuaded to pet the snake. Draco had immediately demanded his turn, staring fixedly at Harbin’s pet before quietly declaring him brilliant. The tank was huge and charmed so that Valére could come and go as he pleased, thanks to the silver collar around his neck, but would keep out any predators. He was glad to have asked Professor Snape if he could bring his pet, not wanting to leave him with his parents. The professor had written the headmaster for special permission, then shown him where to buy everything he’d need to keep Valére happy while at Hogwarts. The large, flat rock Harbin placed inside was charmed to stay the perfect temperature for his cold-blooded pet. Valére had been more than pleased with his new accommodations. Just as he finished with Valére’s tank, the bathroom cleared. He placed his pet inside his tank before grabbing his toiletries.
“What are you doing?”
Harbin grinned at Draco’s horrified exclamation. Glancing in the mirror showed all of the first year boys staring at him with gapped-mouth revulsion. He chuckled, continuing to take out his contacts. Once done, he donned his silver black glasses, turning to cock his head at the other boys. “You have never seen contacts?”
“What are they?” Draco crowded so close to see inside the contact case that Harbin had to nudge his hair out of the way to make sure his contacts would not be contaminated by the long strands. He let his nose stroke against Draco’s soft skin. The other boy froze.
“A muggle invention that allows me to wear glasses on my eyes instead of on my face.” Harbin was quite proud of his explanation, mostly because it was the remembered explanation his mother gave him a year ago. Mother was not especially vain, but certain things were expected from being Chevalier and a French ambassador’s son.
His dormmates seemed bewildered by his answer.
“Why would you want to wear anything muggle?” Blaise asked.
Harbin tilted his head, quickly studying, quickly analyzing, just as his parents taught him. Glad that he knew that magic could not correct eye problems biological in nature, as that was the first question he’d asked Professor Snape when they had gone to Diagon Alley. He tired of putting on his contacts every morning and taking them out every night. “Glasses can be broken, glasses can be lost, disadvantages, non?”
The other Slytherins slowly nodded before climbing into bed. But Draco’s eyes were still on him.
Harbin smiled at him, blowing him a kiss good night.
The other boy blushed, scrambling into his bed, sharply pulling the hangings shut.
He grinned as the room darkened without any help. Lying back on his own bed, he sorted out the impressions of tonight. Once Professor Snape had shown them how to get to Diagon Alley, Harbin and his family had gone back, exploring to gather more knowledge about this new world. His parents had even found old friends there. The British ambassador to Spain and his witch wife were buying supplies for their daughter, Damara Silsbury, a seventh year Slytherin.
Damara had pulled him aside, regaling him with stories of Hogwarts. She had warned him, as well. As much as she had loved her house, she had kept her status as a half-blood secret. Slytherin house was different from the other houses, she had said, because Salazaar Slytherin had broken from the rest of the founders. He had issues with blood purity and it showed in the students allowed into his house. No muggleborn had been sorted into Slytherin, not in memory. Half-bloods, yes, but not muggleborn.
Even though Harbin was not sure of his ancestry, Damara had indicated that they would see him as a muggleborn regardless, because both of his current parents were muggles. Between her warnings and the recent history books he and his family had read, Harbin had known not to go about proclaiming his status from the hills. He was proud of his family, but he was not stupid.
All of this made him wonder why the hat had put him and Hermione in Slytherin, especially if the founder truly hated muggleborns. Were they supposed to be an implement of change? A catalyst for something darker? The thoughts chased each other in his mind even as his eyes drooped closed. Right before falling asleep, Harbin made a mental note to warn Hermione.
“This cannot be right!”
“Cornelius, please, calm down.”
Severus passively watched as the Minister of Magic paced Albus’ office, ranting about the situation, ineffectively demanding that Harry Potter be found. Typical. After the sorting had been made public and Harry Potter’s name had not been on the roster, the minister had barged into the school and demanded an audience with the headmaster. With a collecting glance at Severus and Minerva, Albus had swept all of them into his office. Then he had to inform the minister of the case of the lost boy.
“We must find Harry Potter!” the short, irritating little man blustered, hands waving about like an inarticulate idiot. That this man was the Minister of Magic shamed Severus for having even one thing in common with the people who had voted the imbecile into office.
“We have people searching, Cornelius, but it will take time.” Albus’ calm was, unfortunately, not infectious.
“But what will we tell the public? They’ll want answers!” At this Fudge seemed nearly hysterical. As if the public was the biggest problem.
Severus rolled his eyes, smirking inwardly when he saw Minerva do the same. They knew, of course, of the headmaster’s fear that Voldemort had not completely been destroyed. As the headmaster’s right and left hands, they, more than anyone else, knew what was at stake.
“If the press asks, then we will tell them that Harry Potter is being given special training.”
Fudge stopped pacing, but his face screwed up. “Why would he need special training?”
Severus tensed; beside him, Minerva stopped sipping her tea.
Albus merely smiled serenely. “His muggle family has requested it.”
It was flimsy at best, but it seemed to make the minister happy as he finally left.
Albus seemed to slump into his chair.
“No word?” Minerva asked quietly.
“No.” Albus sighed as Fawkes landed on his shoulder to trill an encouraging note. “Logically, I should be worried. We should all be worried that this child is missing.”
“But?” Minerva prompted.
“Hogwarts is not worried, even though it has been every time a student has previously gone missing.” He gazed at nothing and at everything, hand gesturing at the almost sentient castle around them. “Fawkes is not worried.”
The bird trilled again, confirming the headmaster’s statements. Widely known to be connected to the very essence of the magical world, the phoenix was how Albus knew that Voldemort wasn’t gone. The magic could still feel his evil tainting the world and so Fawkes had warned Albus through dreams and song. The bird would then know if the destroyer of Voldemort had left this world.
Draco stared at the boy as Harbin readied himself for their first day of classes. Watched in fascination as Harbin slipped on couture robes and handmade shoes. Blinked in surprised when Harbin wrapped his pet snake around his neck; a living emerald green and obsidian choker. Stared at graceful hands picking up parchment and quills and books, slipping all of it into a soft, hand-tooled leather satchel. Harbin Chevalier was like no one he’d ever met before.
He’d known plenty of wealthy wizards, he was one of them and he had his fair share of friends like that. But Harbin was different. Harbin did not play the game like everyone else. He didn’t try to flaunt his wealth, it was quiet and understated. He didn’t try to affect a haughty attitude, insulting others to bring himself up, a common practice among those Draco knew. He savored his food and was open to new experiences without so much as an upturned nose. He even professed to like America! When every person in Draco’s social circle had nothing but contempt for the upstart Yanks.
And then there was the touching.
Draco only got touches like that when he had been ill or when he had done his first bit of magic. He remembered his mother brushing his hair off his fever-sweaty brow and holding his hand as he vomited nastily. He remembered his mother’s enthusiastic hug and kisses, then his father’s proud pat on the back, when he’d set fire to a set of shoes he hadn’t liked but was forced to wear. Harbin though, touched him, all of the time. In the short twenty-four hours that he knew Harbin, the other boy had: shaken his hand, touched his wrist in thanks for placing some roast on his plate, linked their arms together on their first trip to the Slytherin dorms, and sat thigh to thigh on the common room floor as their head of house welcomed them. He had frozen when the tip of Harbin’s nose had moved his hair when he was examining the muggle contacts. And then there was that blown kiss good night that had flustered Draco so badly he had scrambled into bed with nary a word to anyone else.
There was also the way Harbin said his name, all soft, drawn out vowels and rolling r’s, that made him sit up and pay attention every time. Draco shook the confusion off and smiled. “Of course.”
Harbin smiled back at him, like he was always smiling – warm and welcoming – before walking out of the door that Draco held open for him. “Merci.”
“De rien,” Draco answered. His mother would certainly be pleased he was utilizing his French more often.
“I am looking forward to classes,” Harbin confided softly, their shoulders brushing with every step.
“Me too.” Draco grimaced. “Hope we don’t have classes with the stupid Gryffindors.”
Harbin made this noncommittal sound. “I have friends who were sorted into Gryffindor.”
Draco winced at his faux pas, but rallied. “My father says they’re all idiots.” He was forced to stop when Harbin did, wincing again at the disappointed look on his friend’s face.
“Draco, a child should respect his parents, but he should also learn to be his own man. That is what my father says.” Harbin left him then, gaping at his back.
He couldn’t quite figure out what to think or say about that. So instead, he let his feet find follow Harbin’s. He was surprised to find that the other boy had saved him a seat, pleased to find he had been forgiven, only to be rudely awakened when Harbin proceeded to ignore him completely. The other boy spent the entire morning meal speaking to Hermione Granger, the girl he had hugged last night at the sorting. Draco told himself he wasn’t jealous that she was receiving the attention that he wanted. It wasn’t until they started heading for class that he gave in and apologized.
Harbin looked at him, serious light in those green eyes of his. “Will you think about what I said?”
Draco wanted to say that his father’s opinion was his opinion, but he stopped. Thinking about what Harbin said, he found that he really wasn’t so sure about that. So, he mutely nodded.
Harbin beamed at him, taking his hand and leading him to their first class.
Draco stared in surprise at the hand clasped in his, but gamely followed.
Hermione, needless to say, was quite . . . put out by his warnings about Slytherin house when he told her at lunch. “Well, I wish I knew that before I asked the sorting hat to put me in Slytherin.”
Harbin blinked. “You asked? You can do that?”
“When the hat was talking in my head, I asked to be put someplace I could do well.” For some reason, her cheeks had become a pretty pink.
“You will be fine.” He patted her hand. “We need to make sure we do not give ourselves away, that is all.”
She nodded, concentration infusing her features. “Maybe the library can help?”
“Oui, let us go now.” Harbin stood, packing up his things. It had been such a pretty day that he had coaxed Hermione outside to eat lunch so that he could warn her. Their impromptu picnic wasn’t the only one, but he’d found a spot well hidden enough that no one disturbed them. Now, as they headed back to the school, he waved at those he knew. Frowned when Ron gave them an ugly look and turned his back, forcing Neville to do the same.
“What do you think about that?” she asked, nodding at the two Gryffindors.
“I am not sure.” He slowed. “Should we ask now?”
“No, let’s go to the library first.” Hermione grabbed his hand, tugging him along.
The library yielded quite a bit of information regarding pureblood traditions. As they researched, they decided not to hide their muggleborn ancestries but nor would they advertise the fact. The easiest way, of course, would to be to understand the pureblood mentality and traditions. It was easy enough to find all of the books on pureblood traditions. They spent the afternoon researching, but even as the evening fell, Harbin knew that just blending in would not work in the long run.
“Eventually, Hermione, they will find out,” he pointed out.
She tilted her head, sharp eyes studying him. “What are you planning?”
Harbin grinned at her. “We need to make them see us as ourselves, each other as themselves too.”
She was slowly nodding. “Not just halfblood or pureblood or muggleborn, but as people.”
“Oui!” Harbin exclaimed in an excited hush. His eyes gleamed in anticipation. “Will you help me, Hermione?”
She nodded eagerly.
Their heads together, they started making plans.
By the time dinner was ready, he and Hermione had decided on a plan.
While neither would deny their heritage when directly asked, they saw no need to lay claim to a heritage that was not theirs either. They would say nothing about their ancestry, and they would avoid, a much as possible, conversations about blood status. That would mostly be easy as Slytherin House had a reputation for taking only purebloods and halfbloods. Everyone would just assume that they were of one of those categories.
As for the plan to make themselves known as people so that it would be harder for the Slytherins to completely turn on them when the truth inevitably came out, Harbin proposed for them to spend as much time as possible with their housemates. It was easy and beautiful in its simplicity. Familiarity could breed contempt, as the muggle saying went, but it primarily bred familiarity. And it was very difficult to hate someone based on blood alone when you’ve spent so much time with them.
“You must spend less time in the library,” Harbin insisted. In the few days he had known her, Hermione spent the majority of her time among the books and very little among her peers. That would never do.
She looked near to pain. “But, Hari!”
“Non. For this plan to work, you must be where the other Slytherins are.” He held up his hand when she opened her mouth. “Oui, there are Slytherins there, but not as many as are in the common room. It is not as quiet, this is true, but for this plan to work you must spend more time amongst them.”
She sighed. “All right.”
“And . . .” he trailed off.
She leaned forward. “And what?”
He glanced at her from under his lashes. “Well, I am not sure if . . .”
“Just tell me, Hari,” she demanded in that way of hers, pausing as her mind raced. “It’s not bad, is it? I won’t do anything bad or against the rules.”
He sighed mentally. For all of her intelligence, she did not do subtly at all. “Did you see what I just did?”
“What you just did? You didn’t do anything? Unless it was a spell? Was it a spell? But you didn’t say anything that was a spell. Unless you did it nonverbally? Can you do that?” Her eyes were wide and amazed.
He hated to burst her bubble, but made a mental note to break her of the habit of asking nonstop questions. The other Slytherins would not respond well to that. In a way, her spending the majority of the time since coming to Hogwarts in the library with little interaction with their fellow snakes worked in their favor. “Non, Hermione, I did not cast a spell. I manipulated you into wanting to hear more.”
She opened her mouth, then closed it, face scrunched in thought, probably going back over the last few moments of conversation in her head. She slowly nodded.
He grinned. He knew she would get it.
Severus did not pause during his opening speech as he strode up and down the aisles, making sure that these first years knew exactly what he expected of them. As he passed Harbin Chevalier, he was surprised and pleased to see the child was writing down word-for-word what he was saying. Even going so far as to underline those words he had emphasized. The child’s handwriting was terrible, but he did not expect anything less from a muggleborn. Harbin would acquaint himself with writing with quills soon enough.
The class went smoothly, which was enough to surprise the hell out of him. Of course, it was a lecture class and not a practical. He dreaded the next time the first year Gryffindors and Slytherins had class. He followed the last student out, carefully warding and locking the doors. He was to meet with Minerva to discuss the Quidditch schedule for this year. He found the deputy headmistress in a corridor near the Great Hall. Before they could even greet each other, yelling echoed in the hallways.
Severus spun on his heel, heading straight for the disturbances, knowing Minerva was right on his heels. He knew his class had been too quite. The combination of those two houses had never been peaceful, and yet, Albus insisted on pairing them at every opportunity. He skidded to a stop, blinking at the scene before him.
Draco was facing off with the youngest male Weasley, but Harbin was between them, speaking calmly. Hermione was standing behind Draco, clutching her books, eyes darting around. When they stopped on him, they lit up, but he held a finger to his mouth, wanting her silence so that he could observe the boys. He barely intercepted Minerva in time, a swift look stopped her words, the look said ‘trust me.’ She gave him a warning glance, but acquiesced. They both turned to watch the drama unfold.
“You leave Neville alone!” Weasley shouted, wand going from Draco to Harbin.
“But I was not bothering him,” Harbin answered, as if truly confused. “I merely wanted his help in Herbology. He is most excellent in that class, non?”
“Don’t try that crap with me!” Weasley was pushing an equally confused Longbottom behind him. “You’re planning something, I know you are!”
“But, of course, I am planning something,” Harbin admitted.
“I was planning to ask for help.” Harbin’s answer made Weasley go red, but Longbottom seemed very pleased, going so far as to step out from behind his so-called protector.
“You’re lying!” Weasley accused.
“But why would I lie?” Harbin’s expression indicated that he would most welcome an explanation.
“You’re Slytherin! They’re all slimy, evil liars.” Weasley said it with such utter conviction; Severus had to wonder where he got it from. Arthur and Molly were nothing like that.
Draco rolled his eyes. “And all Weasels are poor, ill-bred blood --”
“Draco,” Harbin murmured, reaching out to run his hand down Draco’s arm, easing down the wand even while keeping his body between the two pureblood children. “You are both a bit . . . prejudiced, non?”
“I am not!” Draco gasped indignantly.
Severus promised himself he was going to look up a permanent translation spell because whatever Harbin said to Draco had an immediate effect.
Draco turned and gave a tiny bow of his head. “My apologies, Weasley, that was uncalled for.”
It looked like those words had been forced through his teeth, but it was enough to shock Weasley into dropping his wand as well.
Severus had to hold back a snort at the utter discombobulation of the boy. He watched with even more amusement as Harbin turned his attention to Weasley.
“Ron, mon ami, are Hermione and I so different now that we are Slytherin than when we were on the train?” Harbin’s voice was soft and persuasive, but his question was very straightforward, enough so that the Gryffindor had to stop and think about his prejudices. “You liked us well enough then,” he continued, glancing at the only girl.
She saw her cue -- a credit to Slytherin with her sharp mind, overbearing personality getting better with Harbin curbing her tendency to be an insufferable mother hen -- and immediately stepped around Draco. “I thought you were nice,” she murmured, then distress flitted across her face. “I didn’t understand why you gave me the cold shoulder after the sorting.”
The girl gave Weasley a tremulous smile. The boy fell like a domino. Pathetic.
“I’m sorry, I just, my brothers kept telling me about Snape and what a greasy git he was and how he was always assigning hard work and being mean to everyone. And You Know Who was from Slytherin!” His words started off soft and confused, but they gain volume and confidence to end up justified and sure.
Draco rolled his eyes. “Professor Snape puts stuff in his hair so that, if a potion explodes, it won’t set his hair on fire.” He waved at his own head. “Do you think I like plastering down my hair like this every morning? My hair looks much better without it.”
Severus had to roll his eyes, then rolled them again at Minerva’s muffled snicker.
“And just because someone evil came from Slytherin doesn’t mean everyone is like that,” Hermione refuted. “Hitler was from Germany, but that doesn’t mean that all Germans are mass murderers.”
Even in the magical world, children knew who Hitler was. The tyrant was the reason Durmstrang had hidden itself so well. The despot had hated anyone different, and managed to kill several thousand wizards and witches before Germany’s wizarding population had rallied together to fight him off, and then barricade themselves behind wards. It seemed her words made a dent in Weasley’s thick skull.
By then, Severus had determined that the confrontation had been diffused, turning to escort Minerva back to her office. He mused upon his newest students, knowing that Harbin and Hermione’s familiar background could put them in jeopardy. But seeing this, he had to wonder if, between her mind and his skills, they wouldn’t fair very well in Slytherin.
“Chevalier’s father is a diplomat, isn’t he?”
“Yes. The boy has obviously learned at his knee.”
Minerva nodded, looking quite impressed. “I see why he was placed in your house.”
Severus said nothing, merely following her into her office.
“Have the rest of your snakes discovered the truth about him and Ms. Granger, yet?” Minerva waved him to a chair before the fire as she headed towards the tea service left by the house elves.
He smirked as he accepted the tea. “No. I believe they are Slytherin enough to hide it from their housemates for a while longer.”
She laughed quietly.
Harbin soared through the sky, flying out his joy.
Below him, the Slytherin quidditch team was going back inside, but he hadn’t wanted to leave just yet. Harbin had been irritated with Draco for taking Neville’s rememberall and for making Harbin fly after him to get it back. He’d been so focused on keeping up with the other boy that he hadn’t had a real chance to experience the flying. It was only as he was diving for the ball that the rush of air and the thrill of flying caught his attention.
Then the stern bark of his last name from his head of house had caught his attention.
Professor Snape had stood looming above him, fathomless eyes staring down at him in judgment. Harbin had stayed quietly by his side, glaring at his friend from behind their head of house. Draco, thankfully, had been shamed into giving him apologetic looks and remaining silent. Of course, with the scariest professor in the school keeping watch over them, the entire first year flying class was silent. Only after Madam Hooch came back to dismiss the class did Professor Snape let him go. Only to come find him after his classes. And offer him the position of the Slytherin team seeker.
Of course, he had to try out against the current seeker, Niles, a fifth year who glared at him throughout Professor Snape’s announcement that Harbin was trying out. The other players had blinked in surprise, the only sign of surprise, before quelling under their professor’s impressive glare. By the end of tryouts, Professor Snape had been smugly smirking, Flint had started to rub his hands in glee, and Niles had hissed unsubtle death threats against him.
Harbin didn’t care. Flying after the snitch had been incredible. Flying was incredible, period.
“Mr. Chevalier, it is time to come down.”
Harbin grinned, lazily spiraling down, trying to draw out the time he spent in the air. The tolerant, half-amused tilt of the professor’s lips said he knew what Harbin was doing and allowed it. He landed right next to Professor Snape, happiness overflowing. He couldn’t help himself: he threw his arms around his professor and hugged him tight.
Harbin grinned to himself at the awkward patting Professor Snape resorted to. He tilted his head back and smiled up at the uncomfortable teacher. “Merci bien pour cette opportunité, professeur.”
While the words were something he’d heard his father say often, the hug was all him. And it made him all the happier when the professor’s face softened, his hand curved around his shoulder.
“You’re very welcome, Mr. Chevalier.”
He grinned. “Hari,” he corrected with a mischievous grin. “All of my friends call me Hari.”
Just like he knew it would, Professor Snape’s eyebrow went up. “I am your professor, not your friend.”
Harbin let his smile turn cheeky, all ready bouncing away. “Who says you cannot be both?”
A surprised huff of laughter was his reward.
Draco would never admit to lingering outside the Slytherin entrance to wait for Harbin, but that was exactly what he was doing. Malfoy pride was one thing, and not admitting he was waiting soothed it, but the cold shoulder from his best friend blasted his pride all to hell. He knew it was a stupid idea to take Longbottom’s rememberall, but he couldn’t stop himself from showing off in front of the other Slytherins. In front of Harbin. But now Harbin was giving him those disappointed looks again. He never shut out Draco completely, but what he did – curt answers, attention somewhere else other than on Draco – made it all the worse. So, here he was, two days after the incident, preparing to apologize. Again.
Draco had never apologized so much in his life, to anyone other than his parents, since he’d met Harbin Chevalier. And, of course, speak of the devil. “Harbin?”
“Draco?” Cool, cool tone, cool, cool eyes.
All that damn coldness hurt when he knew what it was like when Harbin smiled and looked at him with such warmth. “I want to apologize.”
“I am not the one you called a fat lump.”
Draco winced. Of course, Harbin would make him work for it. “I am apologizing to you for getting you in trouble with Uncle Severus.”
“Then you are not sorry for insulting poor Neville after he was hurt?”
Draco resisted the impulse to stomp his foot. Damnit, he didn’t care about Longbottom! He only wanted to apologize to Harbin! But one look at his friend’s face and he knew he would be apologizing to the other boy too. Giving in, shoulder slumped, he sighed. “I’ll apologize to Longbottom too.”
Harbin sniffed. “I can tell you are still not sorry.”
Draco stiffened, but he couldn’t deny it. He watched as Harbin swept past him. Disappointment raged with outrage. He was apologizing! Harbin couldn’t just walk away like that.
“Though,” Harbin’s voice was smugness personified. “I should thank you.”
“What? What for?” Draco was stunned by this turn.
“Thanks to your stunt, I have been awarded the position of Slytherin seeker.” Self-satisfaction could not even begin to describe the tilt of Harbin’s lips, the gleam in Harbin’s eyes, the thrown back shoulders filled with confidence. “My parents are sending me a broom as we speak.”
“But. But that’s not allowed! First years aren’t allowed on the house teams!”
Harbin’s smirk grew. “Professeur Snape petitioned the headmaster and was granted this exception.”
Draco watched as Harbin entered the common room, leaving Draco to stare after him dumbly.
It didn’t take very long for Niles, the former Slytherin seeker, to make his displeasure of Harbin known.
Harbin picked himself off the ground very slowly, sure to keep his eyes on the older boy who was laughing with his cronies, wand negligently pointing at Harbin. He usually didn’t bother to dust himself off with such precision, but it got his hand around his wand.
“Awww, did the little firstie have an accident?” Nile sneered.
Harbin turned, making sure that he could keep all of them in sight. Thoughts whipped by. He didn’t want to antagonize anyone in his house, the most fractious of all the houses, nor did he want to back down and leave himself open for future attacks. Salvation came in an unlikely form.
“You know, Niles,” Draco’s drawl was designed to be arrogant and aggravating, “you would think that a man in your father’s position would have taught his son better.”
Niles whirled, snarling, immediately backing off when he saw who it was.
Harbin relaxed only a notch when Draco came to stand by his side.
“Are you all right, Hari?”
“Oui, merci.” He never took his eyes off Niles and his friends.
“My father will hear about this, of course.” The look on Draco’s face was bland, as if nothing of interest was happening, but the implications were clear. Niles’ father had to be beholden to Draco’s for him to hold such sway.
“Uh, Malfoy, now, there’s no need for that.” The older boy was trying to smile, trying to placate Draco.
“Oh really?” Draco placed himself in front of Harbin, surprising him with the bravery and chivalry of the act.
“Yeah, sure.” Niles eagerly nodded. “It was just a misunderstanding.” The former seeker turned wide, pleading eyes on Harbin. “Chevalier, mate, sorry about that. It was an accident and it won’t happen again.”
Harbin stared at him for a moment too long before nodding. Niles’ shoulders relaxed when Draco flicked his fingers, silently ordering them away. Harbin watched as the older boys took off, waiting until they were completely out of sight before turning to Draco and smiling. “Mon héros,” he murmured, looping his arms around Draco’s shoulders and hugging him with gentle ferocity. “Merci, Draco.”
“You’re welcome.” Draco was very, very stiff, then melted slowly, loosening enough to wrap his own arms around Harbin’s waist. “Does this mean I’m forgiven?”
“Oui, after you apologize to Neville.” Harbin couldn’t resist nuzzling the soft cheek pressed against his before pulling away. He slipped his hand into Draco’s. “Lunch, mon ami?”
Draco stared down at their entwined fingers, nodding slowly.
Harbin smiled, leading the other boy to the Great Hall.
Harbin said some very choice words that would have had his father blushing, his mother scolding, and his uncle smirking when he accidentally tore off Brock’s wing while searching through his trunk. He dropped the books, reaching for the soft golden wing and the stuffed, rounded, golden bird that was now minus one wing. The stuffing was starting to come out of Brock’s body and wouldn’t stay in no matter what Harbin tried to do. Gently petting the toy, Harbin thought about sending Brock home so that his mother could have him mended. The cuddly had been with him forever it seemed. It was the one toy he hadn’t let out of his sight, no matter what happened. It reminded him of soft cuddles, a strong embrace, soothing lullabies, and barking laughter.
Thinking of strength, Harbin blinked when he realized he wouldn’t have to wait to have Brock mended. Shoving his trunk closed, he carefully carried all of Brock’s stuffing and his ripped off wing out of the dorms.
“Come,” answered to his knock.
“Professeur?” Harbin spotted his head of house behind his desk in the potions classroom.
Stacks of parchment were sorted into neat piles, many bearing so much red ink it seemed the scrolls were bleeding. Professor Snape glanced up. “Yes, Mr. Chevalier?”
Harbin stepped up to stand in front of the professor’s very tall desk, barely able to see across the top of it. Raising his hands above his head, he showed his damaged cuddly to his teacher. “S'il vous plaît, professeur, could you fix him for me?”
The expression on the man’s face was quite memorable: shock, bewilderment, and then amusement. Harbin knew it was a risk to take a baby’s cuddly to the dour potions master, but he had great faith in his instincts, and they said that the professor would no more make fun of him than his mother. His faith was rewarded when long fingers reached out to gently gather all of Brock’s pieces. Precise wand waving and a casted spell later, Brock was good as new. Harbin eagerly reached for his cuddly, fingers exploring his toy to find it perfect. “Oh, merci beaucoup, monsieur!”
Professor Snape lifted his mouth in what was a bare hint of a smile. “You’re welcome. Hari?”
Harbin spun back around, having been already halfway across the classroom. “Oui, professeur?”
“Where did you get that?”
Harbin shrugged a shoulder. “I have always had it. Ma mère said I was carrying it with me when she found me.”
“I see.” Those dark eyes watched him in a way that said it was more than mere curiosity.
“Why do you ask, monsieur?” Harbin retraced his route, but veered so that he stood next to his professor instead of across.
Professor Snape touched the top crest of Brock’s head. Long fingers swept across the back and over the rounded body. “This is not a muggle toy.”
“It is not?” Harbin blinked in surprise, bringing Brock up for a closer inspection. All of the other wizarding toys he’d seen in Diagon Alley did something; even the cuddlies did something, like talk. But Brock did nothing; he was just soft and comforting.
Professor Snape nodded once, picking up his wand to levitate a book towards them. Flipping it open, he searched for a page, swinging the book around and holding so that Harbin could read it.
Snidget: A small, spherical bird which can fly with amazing agility, changing speed and direction almost instantaneously. Its golden feathers and red, jewel-like eyes are so prized that at one time the snidget was hunted almost to extinction. The fact that a snidget became such an integral part of the game of Quidditch (and usually died when it was caught) didn't help matters either. The snidget became a protected species; there are now severe penalties for harming or even capturing one. Snidget reserves have been set up worldwide, and a magical device, the Golden Snitch, has replaced the live bird in Quidditch.
Comparing the picture of the bird to Brock, they were nearly identical.
Harbin’s mouth dropped into an ‘o’. “Professeur,” he asked breathlessly, “do you think my biological parents were wizards?”
The professor inclined his head in a way that did not say yay or nay. “Perhaps. At least one of them.”
Harbin stared down at Brock, fingers closing gently over him, unsure of what to make of that.
Severus watched as the child contemplated his toy. An orphan never stopped wondering about their biological parents, no matter how happy they were with their current situation. Harbin wandered out of his classroom with nary a goodbye. He forgave the slight, knowing that ruminations about his birth parents were taking up the boy’s entire mind.
His thoughts segued straight to Harry Potter. The brat was still missing. Lupin had returned to report that, while there were death certificates for the Polkisses in Paris, nothing was ever found regarding Harry Potter. Severus had suggested using veritaserum on the muggles or legilimency, but Albus would not hear of it, due to the possible damage either of those methods would afflict upon the muggles. Severus had to forcibly stop himself from rolling his eyes. The werewolf was off searching for any trace of the boy in Paris, but nothing had turned up.
Harbin was in front of the fire, quietly talking to those around him. Draco couldn’t hear him from his spot by the stairs leading up to the dorm rooms, but he could tell that Harbin was telling a funny story because several fellow Slytherins were smiling, some outright laughing. Even a few of the upper years were listening and smiling.
Draco wasn’t quite sure what to make of the other boy. Harbin was already the leader of the first years by the simple dint of being the youngest quidditch player in a hundred years. The leadership position Draco’s father had assured him would be his, the quidditch position was one Draco had dream of possessing himself. Harbin also had an in with the older students via the quidditch team. Flint seemed quite pleased with his newest seeker and made no bones about telling everyone that. The other team members followed his lead and welcomed Harbin into their popular circle.
And then there were the girls! Harbin seemed to attract them like flies to honey. The girls all cooed about how cute Harbin was, and how his manners and charm were impeccable. Draco had even overheard a few girls talking about bringing Harbin home to meet their parents . . . when he was older. And the other boy even threatened to usurp Draco’s place as his godfather’s favorite, despite his difficulty in potions!
Yet for all this, Draco couldn’t find it in himself to hate his friend. Or even envy him. Harbin seemed too sweet to be in Slytherin, but the other boy seemed to know exactly how to manipulate those around him. It was a kind of manipulation that was never malicious and always yielded results. He’d watched as Harbin asked for things so nicely that people found themselves giving it over without thought. Harbin made deals that were beneficial to both parties involved and everyone walked away happy and willing to deal with him again. And he did it all with a smile that was sincere and never obsequious.
Harbin even manipulated Draco with it!
It had taken an embarrassing amount of time, but Draco finally realized that Harbin used those same wiles on him. After all, only Harbin could talk Draco out of fighting with the youngest Weasley boy. The Malfoys and the Weasleys had been feuding for generations. But with a few choice words, Draco had deigned to ignore the existence of the red haired boy, rather than actively antagonize him. He’d also apologize to Longbottom, for Merlin’s sake!
Draco had never seen that kind of manipulation before. He’d seen his father make power plays before, but the other party always yielded to him grudgingly, never happily, but left with no choice. Comparing his father to Harbin, Draco remembered what Harbin had said to him about respecting his parents and their teachings, but finding his own way of doing things. He settled down in a chair to think and watch.
Harbin stumbled upon them by accident.
He’d lost his way to the library, somehow ending up near Gryffindor towers, thanks to a couple of the moving staircases. He was well and truly lost and thought to head towards the Gryffindor common room to ask for directions, but veered off when he heard the whispering voices. Two turns found him watching as the Weasley twins, Ron, and Neville leaned over a balcony. Shrieks and screams overlaid their muffled snickers and laughter. The four boys were levitating water balloons over the people passing below.
He shook his head, about to turn around to leave, when one of them hissed a curse word. Mere moments later, a soaking wet Professor McGonagall stormed up behind him. Harbin instantly let his face fall into bewildered lines. “Professeur? You are wet!”
She skidded to a stop, blinking at him furiously, water droplets on her eyelashes, glasses, and nose. “Mr. Chevalier, did you see anyone up here?”
“Non, madame,” he answered, shaking his head, but pinching his lips tight, as if he wanted to laugh but didn’t dare. Normally, he wouldn’t lie to a teacher like this, but he had plans. Plans that said that if he could get the well-liked Weasley twins on his side, he would have access to a lot more people. Besides, it was a harmless prank. He withstood her fierce inspection for several terrifying minutes before she regally nodded, well, as regally as she could dripping wet, and stormed off towards her office. He waited until she was well out of sight before softly saying, “You can come out now. She is gone.”
Twin sets of arms clamped around his shoulders. Harbin grinned up at the two pranksters who were grinning down at him.
“Thanks, kid,” Fred said, ruffling his hair.
“Not bad for a Slytherin.” George flicked at his green and silver tie.
Harbin rolled his eyes, but waved to Ron and Neville. “Slytherins are not all bad, you know.”
The twins exchanged considering looks. “Maybe,” they chorused, rushing off with more of the water balloons.
“What are you doing up here, Hari?” Neville asked, falling into step with him.
“I am lost,” Harbin sheepishly admitted. “Can you help me find the library?”
“Yeah, of course!” Neville steered him down the stairs. Ron trailing behind.
Harbin knew that the red head no longer thought that he and Hermione were traitors or devils in disguise, but he was still a little standoffish for Harbin’s tastes. But, he knew the way to Ron would be through Neville. So, he asked Neville Herbology questions until they reached the library. At that point, Neville offered to go get his notes on the subject to help Harbin with his homework. Harbin jumped on the offer with alacrity, knowing a golden opportunity when he saw one. And that was how it all started.
Harbin couldn’t resist smiling to himself.
Most students would not be smiling if they were surrounded by the huge tomes meant for research, for doing their homework. But, Harbin was not smiling about the homework. He was smiling because he finally managed to get his Slytherin friends and his Gryffindor friends to study together harmoniously.
It had taken nearly two months, but he did it. He had started off slowly, by first asking Neville for help in Herbology. The boy was a genius at it and was very happy to be of help. When he saw how much Neville struggled in Defense, he offered to tutor him in payment for the help in Herbology, excelling in that class despite the bothersome twinges he suffered every time he was in Professor Quirrell’s presence. The other boy jumped on the deal. Ron, of course, still suspicious of Slytherins near his best friend, joined them at all of their study sessions. At first, he was standoffish, but then began paying attention, learning as well as discussing their homework. His help in Astronomy proved to be invaluable, as both he and his mother, his first teacher, shared a love of the heavens.
With Harbin giving and receiving tutoring with the Gryffindors, his Slytherin friends would not be out done. Soon enough, Hermione was with them, helping with Charms and History of Magic. Her notes for their history class were impeccable and she picked up on the nuisances of Charms much faster than either Gryffindor. Hermione’s friend, Tracy Davis, whose immense talent in Transfiguration was well known throughout Hogwarts, joined them. Harbin was happy to have his fellow snakes with them. Draco, of course, he had to approach. Unlike Hermione, who merely plunked herself down next to him, Draco had to be coaxed, wooed, and negotiated into studying with them.
Harbin knew Potions was his worst subject. Even with the preparation before coming to Hogwarts, even with his intense concentration in the class, he could not understand all of the minutiae that somehow affected his potions. Neville was not any better, nor Ron for that matter. Hermione could help, but she was not the best of Professor Snape’s students. She could read and memorize well enough, she could even tutor them to gain some understanding, but never truly understood the material the way that Professor Snape or Draco seemed to. And so Harbin made it his goal to lure Draco into his study group.
It had taken flattery and a healthy dose of competition, but Draco had eventually given in. Of course, the first time he came to study with them had been an utter disaster. Just because Harbin had been able to stop them from hexing each other in the hallways did not mean that he had been able to broker a lasting peace between the two forever-feuding families. While they were both from old, pureblood families, their views upon life could not be more disparate.
Ron had started it all, loudly exclaiming, “We don’t need his help!”
“He has the best grade in the class, Ron, and some of us need that kind of help,” Hermione had logically pointed out, even though it was clear she wasn’t speaking about herself.
“Yes, Weasley, some of your grades are so dismally pathetic that the professor is going to need a whole level under Troll to grade your work.” Draco had stared pointedly at Ron.
From there it had deteriorated into a screaming match that had Madame Pince booting all of them out of the library.
It was clear to Harbin that he was going to have to start small when it came to integrating the irascible Slytherin with the Gryffindors and it was going to take some kind of miracle to integrate the volatile Gryffindor with Draco in the group. So Harbin had talked Neville into approaching Draco with him. After all, they both needed the help and Neville seemed be all right with Draco as long as Harbin was there with him.
At first, Draco had been condescending and arrogant.
Harbin sighed, glancing at Neville’s miserable features. “Draco,” he murmured quietly, injecting disappointment into every letter of his name. “Thank you for trying, but I do not think this is working.”
Draco blinked. “What?”
Harbin shook his head. “I think that perhaps I should ask Blaise and Hermione. They have high grades as well.” He glanced at Neville, hoping he conveyed the right message with his eyes. “Perhaps their teaching style would be more conducive to our learning.”
Neville, bless him, didn’t catch the message, he merely answered truthfully. “Hermione knows I’m a little clumsy, so she always goes really slowly to show me everything, so I can understand.” He looked uncertainly at the two Slytherins. “And Blaise seems nice?”
Draco was all confusion and pride. “But I have the highest grade in the class.”
“Oui, you do.” Harbin placed his hand on Draco’s arm, fingertips just barely grazing the skin of his pale wrist. “But we are not learning anything that will help in class. We still do not understand the subtleties needed for this class. For instance, why is it important for the cauldron to be taken off the heat before we add the porcupine quills? I do not understand, as the potion is still hot, it should not matter, non?” He raised wide eyes to his friend, seeing Neville in the corner of them, nodding intently. It was the very mistake he’d made in class days before.
That seemed to catch Draco’s attention. “It has to do with direct contact with heat sources, the solid quills sinking, and the magic of the cauldron . . .”
From there, Draco became so engrossed in teaching them the absolute minute details that made potion-making an art that he had no inclination towards superiority. The next step was to bring Ron back into the group. It had been ridiculously easy, relieving Harbin’s fear that it would take a miracle. The stubborn Gryffindor had only to see how enthusiastic Neville had been about their tutoring sessions with Draco, how much his grade had improved in Potions, much to Professor Snape’s consternation, for Ron to quietly join the study group. Tension had been in the air the first few times, but no eruptions had lead to an easing into studious camaraderie. Soon enough, more and more first years, from every house began studying together, working together.
Harbin sat back and smiled.
“You know, mate, I should hate you right now.”
Harbin turned at Ron’s words. It was a beautiful day: cool enough to be refreshing, but warm enough for just sweaters and jackets instead of bundles of coats and gloves. He and all of his friends were out by the lake, working on homework (Hermione and Draco) or relaxing in the sun (Harbin, Ron, and Neville). “Oh?”
“Your team beat us!” Ron was up now, pacing and waving his hands. “250 to 20! That’s just plain embarrassing!”
Harbin fixed an appropriately repentant expression on his face. “I am devoutly sorry.”
Neville snickered, the other Slytherins smirked.
Ron rolled his eyes. “No, you’re not.”
“Non, I am not,” he answered truthfully. “My team played well--”
“They cheated,” Ron accused.
“We’re Slytherins, Weasley, of course we cheated,” Draco interjected.
“Non.” Harbin put a stop to that immediately. “We did not cheat. I watched my team. Slytherins play rough, Slytherins have very low sportsmanship, but they did not cheat. We broke no rules.”
Ron froze with his mouth opened, but then he closed it, face going pensive.
Harbin turned to Draco, grabbing his attention by the most efficient means, grabbing his friend’s face in both hands and putting them nose to nose. “It is no fun to simply break the rules. That is what Gryffindors do. We Slytherins should think around those rules. That is the challenge.”
Draco’s eyes gleamed even as Ron and Neville protested that Gryffindors didn’t break rules.
Harbin gave them a raised eyebrow. “Ron, who are you related to?”
Ron’s brow furrowed. “What does that have--”
“Oh honestly,” Hermione huffed. “Your brothers break more rules than I’ve even heard of. Now be quiet! I’m trying to study!”
“She has a point,” Neville laughed quietly, picking up his transfiguration book. “Fred and George are always in trouble.”
Ron sighed. “Yeah.” Then he brightened. “Makes me look good though!”
Harbin laughed. They ended up discussing his flying for the rest of the afternoon.
Halloween, First Year
Harbin tossed himself over to his other side, glaring into the darkness about his bed. The chronic headache that plagued him would not go away. Every night it was the same: he would fall asleep, the nightmare would wake him up and the headache resulting from it would last until a few hours until he had to be up for school again. On the weekends it wasn’t so bad, he could sleep late unless he had Quidditch practice, but the weekdays were getting so bad that professors were giving him detention for inattention. His parents had not been happy about the punishment, but sent him medication. None of the little pills helped.
Tossing over to his other side, he remembered that Hermione had advised him to go to Madame Pomfrey, suggesting that perhaps muggle cures would not work well with a wizarding physiology. He had argued that they had worked before. His friend had walked away pensively, heading to the library, no doubt to research that within an inch of its life. But now, with the pain growing, he admitted defeat. Not wanting to bother the school nurse in the middle of the night, but giving into the pain and sleeplessness, Harbin tossed aside his duvet and pulled on his robe and slippers.
Hari? Valére drowsily lifted his head.
Everything is all right. Go back to sleep. He ran his fingertips down the length of his pet’s back, smiling when the snake nodded, coiling back up. Making sure that Valére would be warm enough in the cold dungeons, he quietly slipped out of his dorm. A mere fifteen feet out of the Slytherin dorms’ door, a voice stopped him.
“Out of bed, Mr. Chevalier?”
Harbin turned, smiled up at him, but could feel how shaky his smile was. “Bonsoir, professeur.”
Professor Snape’s long-fingered hand cupped his chin, the other hand lifting his lit wand. “Why have you not been sleeping?”
Harbin sighed, glad that he would not have to explain to himself, but forgetting that his professor did not speak French in his exhausted pain. “Les cauchemars et les migraines, professeur.”
Even though the professor did not speak French, somehow he still understood what Harbin said. Gently, but firmly, guiding him towards his office, Professor Snape ushered him in, selecting a purple potion from a nearby cabinet. “Sleeping Draught.”
While Harbin had never heard of it before, he trusted the professor and downed it one go. It, like every other medication he had ever taken, tasted horrible. He was handed another, this one a sickening shade of orange.
“Headache potion.” Professor Snape smirked. “I have a limitless supply.”
Harbin huffed a laugh before downing it as well. The relief was immediate. He nearly wept at being pain-free for the first time in days.
“What are your nightmares about?” the professor inquired quietly.
Harbin wasn’t sure why the professor was asking, perhaps it was part of his duty as the head of Slytherin house, perhaps it was his own curiosity. Either way, Harbin answered, it was the least he could do for being headache-free. “A red haired woman screaming, green light, an evil laugh, and a baby crying. Over and over, every night.”
Harbin barely lifted his eyes, sleep already pulling at him, at the sharp gasp from his teacher. But lift them he did, only to be caught by fathomless dark eyes.
Severus ruthlessly stilled his shaking fingers as he cupped the boy’s chin, holding him still. “Legilimens,” he whispered.
There, right at the surface of the boy’s mind, was Lily Potter. He pulled the memory forward out of the fog of the nearly asleep mind. Watched in fascinated horror as Lily died, as the Dark Lord raised his wand to cast the Killing Curse.
Shaking, he pulled out of the boy’s mind. Stared at him.
The boy was asleep, held up only by the chair and Severus’ own hand. Green eyes were covered now, but the memory showed him how much those eyes were like hers. The hair was dark like Potter’s, the boy even needed glasses. But the scar. There was no scar.
Severus lifted his wand, casting spell after spell. Finally, one revealed that the boy had two spells wrapped around his head. One on his hair, another on his forehead. The spells were stratified, wrapped around and around, layer after layer. It would take years for spells to layer like that. But the boy had been in a muggle household all this time. Perhaps his own innate magic?
Severus wondered if the boy knew. If Harbin knew he was Harry Potter and that was why he hid the distinctive scar. But why the glamour on his hair? He stared at the boy, unable to reconcile that one of his favorite students was the son of his most hated childhood nemesis. He had dreaded this year, knowing that Potter was of age, but had breathed a sigh of relief when Albus had called him and Minerva into his office and explained that Potter had been lost. Minerva had been livid, berating Albus for leaving Potter with his muggle relatives in the first place, raging like the lioness she was about a missing cub. The search for the boy, headed by Lupin, had found nothing.
He had been here the whole time.
Numbly, Severus scooped the boy into his arms, taking him back to his dorm, moving easily despite having been bitten by that monstrosity that Hagrid called Fluffy. Automatically, he tucked the boy in, absently placing the snidget cuddly into his hold.
“Shh.” He smoothed the soft locks of Draco’s hair, caressing his godson’s downy cheek. “Go back to sleep, Draco.”
The boy had already done so.
His feet knew where to take him, the phoenix guarding the headmaster’s door knew to let him in without the password. He walked straight into the headmaster’s private chambers.
He blinked at Albus and Minerva, taking tea together in front of the fireplace. “Harbin Chevalier is Harry Potter.”
Minerva’s tea cup shattered on the floor.
“What?” Albus was standing up, his power radiating through the room and beyond.
He relayed the night’s revelations, numbly sitting down.
Minerva seemed to relax, then tense as he told the story of tonight’s events. Albus, after reseating himself, was contemplative.
“Has Harbin reported such nightmares before coming to Hogwarts?” Minerva asked, repairing her fallen tea cup. She still seemed unsettled. It had to be quite a shock to the woman. Before Harry Potter had disappeared, she had told Severus that she was sure the boy would be sorted into her house. After all, while there were exceptions, most children sorted just as their parents did. She had clearly been looking forward to teaching the next generation of Potters, but then again, she had good memories of Potter and his friends.
“He has made no mention of them before tonight.” Severus leaned back into the chair, exhausted.
“Does Harbin know his true identity?” Albus’ quiet question made Severus growl.
“The boy is Harbin Chevalier. That is his true identity.”
“Of course, Severus, of course.”
His mind refused to think of the boy as Harry Potter.
“Why is he with the Chevaliers?” Minerva demanded, turning to first Albus then him. “Are they related? Is Petunia Dursley friends with Sophie Chevalier? If they were--”
“No,” Severus barked out the word, gentling his voice as Minerva’s reprimanding glare. “No. Sophie Chevalier is as far from Petunia Dursley as unicorns are to dementors. They would have never been friends.”
“Then how?” she asked, frowning, obviously not liking the implications, but clearly reluctant to voice them.
Severus had no such problems. “Perhaps they sold him, perhaps they gave him up for adoption, perhaps the Chevaliers, aristocratic French family, kidnapped him in a fit of insanity.”
He clamped his mouth shut. Albus gave him a look, he could feel it, but refused to meet it. He forced his mind, still reeling and roiling with confusion, to slow, to occlude so that he could think more clearly. Shield by shield, he was able to calm his mind. So what if Harbin was the son of James Potter, childhood enemy? Harbin had proven himself in these last two months to be nothing like Potter.
Well, in some ways he was like Potter, protecting those he called friends and gathering about himself a cadre of followers, some who were the cream of the crop and some who were not. But he never singled out an individual to tease or bully. Actually, the boy was much more interested in making peace, in enjoying his time here, rather than making it miserable for someone else. In fact, other teachers had made mention of seeing a unity amongst the first years that had been absent in the higher levels. Irma had said that it had started with Harbin and his little study group of Slytherins and Gryffindors and flowed out to the other students.
The boy was respectful, not a hooligan like his father. He did well in his classes, making an effort to improve, especially in Potions. The boy had even managed to cajole Severus into giving him private tutoring lessons, augmented with Draco’s help in exchange for Harbin’s help in Defense. No, Potter would have never used sweet pleas or bargained deals. Potter would have never talked a Gryffindor and a Slytherin down from a fight, let alone befriending both groups. Severus inhaled deeply. Harbin was not his father. This, he could live with.
“This information goes no further than this room,” Albus stated, sighing quietly. “Harbin’s parents will not be able to protect him from Death Eaters.”
He and Minerva both nodded.
“And,” power flared again, making them shiver, “we will find out why he came to be with the Chevaliers.”
It was a beautiful winter day. Snow covered Hogwarts but the sun shone brightly. Most of the students who had not gone to Hogsmeade were playing in the snow around the castle.
Draco wasn’t one of them, but Harbin was. He watched his raven haired friend as Harbin dashed about in a snowball fight that involved nearly every first year in the school. It was quite easy to see that it was not house against house in this particular snowball fight, it was every boy or girl for themselves. Draco was disinclined to play. Pansy, also disinclined to play, was sitting beside him, huddling with him for warmth.
“I’m cold,” she whined.
Draco rolled his eyes. “Then why don’t you go inside?”
“Because everyone else is out here.” She waved her hand to indicate the fighters.
“Since when did you do everything everyone else is doing?” Draco turned to look at her. One of his best friends from childhood, mostly because their parents were always throwing them together, Pansy wasn’t normally one to follow a trend. When it had been fashionable to have long hair, she cut hers short. Her mother had had a fit, but Pansy was never easily swayed. Actually, the only time she ever followed anyone was if Draco had been adamant about something.
Pansy shrugged. “It’s different than what I expected,” she confessed quietly. Her gloved hands twisted a hair ribbon.
She nodded. “Father said that the houses kept to themselves, but.” Pansy waved the ribbon at their yearmates.
He nodded. “I think its Harbin.”
She nodded again. “He’s very good at it.”
“His father’s a diplomat.”
“We’re all following the lead of a half-blood.” Her face and voice was disbelief and awe.
Draco nodded. “It’s not so bad,” he offered.
“That’s the craziest thing of it all!” Pansy shook his arm. “No one has said a word! Other than Niles, but that’s because he’s bitter about losing the seeker slot. And because Harbin’s better at it than he ever was.” Her voice went low and secretive. “Do you think he’s cast some kind of enchantment?”
Draco snorted. “Pans, do you really think Uncle Severus would ever succumb to an enchantment?”
She huffed in defeat. “You’re right. The day Snape falls under a spell is the same day he wears something other than black robes.”
Draco muffled his laughter into his glove. With his luck, his godfather would walk up right at the moment. Instead, Harbin bounced over and smiled at them both.
“Venir,” he coaxed Imperiusly, “come join us! We are competing to see who has the best snowman. I want both of you on my team.” Harbin’s grin was infectious; his eyes were bright with laughter and demand. He held out both of his hands towards.
Draco took one without even thinking about it. He turned to see the debate flashing over Pansy’s face, joining in was losing.
Draco saw the second she gave in, trying to hide his smile but wasn’t fast enough. He yelped when she kicked his shin.
Harbin watched with barely concealed amusement.
Christmas Holidays, First Year
Harbin was nearly vibrating with excitement. Yes, Hogwarts was very cool. Yes, he was a wizard and learning to use and control his powers. Yes, he had friends that were just as unique as he and he fit in perfectly. He fit in at Hogwarts even better than he had at his old school.
But, he missed his family.
The letters from his parents both assuaged and deepened their daily absence. The drawings Bastien sent were getting better and better; his baby brother was growing up and Harbin was missing months of it. Two weeks at Christmas was not going to be enough to make up the time he’d lost with his little brother. But it would have to be.
As the train rolled into the station, Harbin and his friends began gathering their things to leave. As all of them were a little homesick, none of them had plans to see each other over the holidays. Instead, they promised to write. Once off the train, Harbin spotted his family immediately. He wanted to run into his family’s arms, but stopped himself just in time. There, only a few feet away, stood a couple that had to be Draco’s parents. Both had the cool blonde beauty that Draco was so adept at portraying before he forgot to be Malfoy and just be Draco instead.
Seeing that none of his friends were rushing off to their families, he asked if they’d like to meet his. Draco declined, heading towards his family, but the others followed.
His family must have read something in his face, for them donned their diplomatic masks and greeted his friends with warm distance. The Slytherins took it in stride, but Ron and Neville were a bit off put until both Harbin and his father winked at them, darting their gaze at the Malfoys, who were heading their way. The Gryffindors seemed to immediately catch on, surprising Harbin. Before the Malfoys reached them, Ron and Neville spotted their families, said goodbye and departed. That left Harbin and his family with Hermione and Tracy to greet the Malfoys.
“Lucius Malfoy,” Draco’s father introduced himself. “And my wife, Narcissa. Draco has told us much about your son.” The man was just as aloof and arrogant as Draco once strived to be. But to Harbin, the father had a touch of hardness, a razor edge that his son did not. He knew to be on his guard with this man.
“Yves Chevalier.” Thankfully his father could size people up in a heartbeat, therefore, he project even higher levels of aloofness and arrogance than Malfoy had. “My wife, Sophie and our youngest, Sebastien.” He did not introduce Uncle Jonah, even though he normally would have. One did not introduce the help to men such as Malfoy. “We too have heard much of Draco.”
Harbin gazed serenely at the Malfoys, but gave Draco a smile. The other boy nervously returned it, but let it vanish the second his father turned his eyes upon him. This would be a test; he had absolutely no doubt in his mind. When Damara had pulled him aside two weeks after school started and told him who his new friend’s father was, Harbin had known this meeting would eventually happen.
“Forgive us, Monsieur Chevalier,” Malfoy drawled, with a touch of feigned penitence, “but neither my wife nor I know anything of your family history.”
“Yes,” Narcissa Malfoy spoke for the first time, her voice demure, but something in her eyes caught Harbin’s instincts. Perhaps it was the way they had lit up when Draco had stepped off the train. “We would be remiss in our duties as hosts if we did not make the acquaintance of the families of note.”
His father smiled, one that said he knew exactly how powerful his own family was and did not need the recognition of the common bourgeois. He waved his thin, elegant hand, the one that sported the Chevalier family ring, in a continental flair that Malfoy would never hope to mimic correctly. “Our family is an old French one, so old we are quite boring.” He winked, as if sharing a secret. “Why, most of Europe and the Americas would not even recognize our name!”
Harbin internally smirked as Malfoy froze as he understood the implications and inflections of his father’s words. Much like the Malfoys, the Chevaliers were king-makers, unlike the Malfoys, they did not court the notoriety that such power brought. Thus, only the most powerful elite would even know their name. And for the Malfoys not to have heard of them? Well.
“Of course, of course,” Malfoy murmured, saving face as gracefully as he could, only to turn to his attention to Hermione. “Miss Granger, I believe?”
Only the tightening of Hermione’s hand in his betrayed her tension. “Yes, Lord Malfoy. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Indeed.” He darted a glance at Harbin’s parents, saw their cool disinterest and sneered. “I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting any Grangers in Diagon Alley.”
Oh, Malfoy was definitely looking for more information. Luckily, Hermione had needed only his warning from months before. “My family is an old obscure one from France. There would be no reason for you to notice any of us.”
She obviously hit just the right tone of simpering and awe for Lucius Malfoy merely nodded. Bidding them all a good day, he swept his family away. Harbin watched as Draco left with his family, but not before the other boy discreetly turned and waved. Harbin couldn’t resist teasing him one last time, blowing him a kiss and a wink. Laughed to himself when Draco flushed before disappearing with his family.
Harbin turned to his family as soon as they were out of sight, sighing in relief, but did not say anything since Tracy was still with them. Instead, he hugged both girls as they spotted their families, sharing one telling look with Hermione, before they both left.
“C'était intéressant,” his father murmured, escorting his mother towards the gateway.
“Oui, très,” his mother agreed. “Les amis très intéressants vous avez fait, mon chéri.”
He grinned cheekily. “Oui, je constate vraiment qu'ils sont capables de garder mon attention.”
Uncle Jonah snorted.
They spoke no more until they reached the car, careful about listening ears. Once there though, his father turned to him and gleefully demanded to be told everything.
Laughing, he told his family everything he couldn’t quite convey in letters. The excitement of becoming the youngest house Quidditch player in nearly a century; the joy contrasting sharply with his consternation with Draco teasing Neville at that time. He told them of the troll being let into the castle and how Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall had fought it off, of how Professor Snape had gotten hurt defending the school. They expressed their fear for his safety; he countered with how the students had been safely ensconced in their dorms the entire time.
He told them of his successful plan to make peace between Slytherin and Gryffindor. His father had laughed, praised him for his efforts, and then proceeded to help him plan more ways of winning people over. His mother had rolled her eyes at his and his father’s scheming, but smiled in pride. Uncle Jonah had muttered something about a chip, a block, and no surprise there. His father punched his uncle.
Harbin leaned back into the warmth of his mother’s hug, watching his father and uncle playfully pummel each other, his little brother warm and laughing in his arms, and grinned, hugging the breath out of Bastien. It was great to be home.
Harbin smiled into his mother’s hair as she kissed him goodnight.
“Je suis désolé, le chéri, mais nous ne pouvions pas refuser cette invitation,” she murmured, carding her fingers through the spikes of his hair. Her evening finery glowed in the low lamp light next to his bed. Red silks and gold jewelry, her sleek, dark hair upswept into a flowing style.
“Oh, Hari, je vous ai attendus toute la saison pour faire des courses avec moi!” His mother bubbled with laughter. “Votre père regarde près de la chaque fois de déchirures je mentionne de faire des achats.”
Both of them snickered.
Harbin hid his smile from his mother, nodding anyway. He loved his mother but she couldn’t cook to save a country. The cookies always turned out misshapen and burnt, but his mother loved the process, so he and Bastien always indulged her. Of course, they never ate a single one. Instead, the cookies became ‘so ugly they’re cute’ ornaments for their tree.
Bastien’s laughter shrieked in his ear, but Harbin didn’t mind. He spun them both again.
The sun glinted off the fallen snow, the air was crisp and scented with evergreens, and they had the entire afternoon to play in the white stuff. Their parents were off working, their uncle was off guarding them, and Nounou Beth was resting. They were supposed to stay inside, but the day was too beautiful and beckoned them into the snow. Christmas was days past and Harbin was set to return to school soon. Bastien had started to mope as soon as the New Year had arrived and the realization that Harbin was leaving again had set in. So Harbin made it his mission to reassure his brother, hence, sneaking outside to play.
“De nouveau, Hari! De nouveau!” Bastien was wobbling and weaving like a drunken sailor, but his smile was wide and infectious.
Harbin shook his dizzy head, rolling his unsteady eyes. “Hé! Faisons un bonhomme de neige!”
Bastien pouted. “Non! Nous l'avons fait déjà!”
“Ah, mais vous n'avez pas fait de bonhomme de neige de sorcier,” Harbin cajoled, tugging at his brother’s hand. “Nous pouvons faire Professeur Dumbledore. Il a un chapeau pointu et une longue barbe et des robes avec les étoiles et les lunes partout.”
Bastien looked intrigued. “A-t-il une baguette comme vous?”
Harbin grinned. “Oui, comme moi.”
By the end of the afternoon, their yard was filled with wizarding people and animals. Their parents would have to explain away the large snitch, the dog with two tails, and the dragon as whimsical creations from an overactive child’s imagination to that evening’s guests. But Harbin and Bastien knew better, giggling behind their hands.
He knew the moment that his uncle came into his room and closed the door, that something serious was about to happen. His uncle had no secrets from his parents, especially his father, so Harbin immediately wrote a goodbye on his letter to Marco. The letter was the last in a long line he had spent the afternoon answering, he even included copies of non-wizarding pictures of his friends at Hogwarts. “Oncle Jonah? Est quelque chose qui ne vas pas?”
Uncle Jonah beckoned for him to join him on the bed, swinging an arm around his shoulders. His smile was a tiny thing, but it conveyed everything the man never said. “Perspicace comme votre père.”
Harbin waited, letting his head rest against the strong chest. Surprised when Uncle Jonah angled him so that he could reach Harbin’s left wrist with both hands. A supple, black leather cuff was snapped on. It was nearly two inches wide, thicker than other cuffs he had seen the goth kids wear, and was perfectly fitted to his slim wrist. The cuff held no adornment save his initials embossed into the leather and the silver latch on top. “Oncle Jonah?”
“Vous apprenez des façons magiques de vous défendre dans ce nouveau monde,” his uncle spoke quietly, intently. Long, blunt fingers traced the initials once before turning Harbin so that they were eye to eye. “Mais quelque chose plus qu'une baguette peut à votre disposition être nécessaire.”
Harbin could sense that his uncle knew something, but was holding back. Why else would he give Harbin something to protect himself? He could also sense that his uncle was not ready to tell him. He kept silent, knowing that trying to extract information from this man would be useless. Not with the past his uncle had. “Merci, Oncle Jonah. Que fait-il?”
Uncle Jonah turned him again, putting them back to front. “Ce vous a été conçu.”
Harbin didn’t need to know that his uncle had been the designer; concealed weapons were his specialty. While his uncle knew hand-to-hand combat and was a fair marksman, it was his concealed weaponry that made the man deadly.
Step-by-step, Uncle Jonah walked him through revealing why the cuff was so thick. The top layer detached from the bottom, revealing a row of long needles nestled between. Half the needles were silver, the other half gold.
“Oui, monsieur.” He carefully didn’t touch, knowing better after his professor’s lecture. He briefly wondered how his uncle acquired the wizarding poison, but didn’t bother asking. His uncle and his connections were never anything they spoke of. “Et les d'or?”
Harbin took the gift for what it was, even though he wanted to ask why he thought Harbin needed more protection, turning to hug his uncle. “Merci, Oncle Jonah.”
Harbin knew he shouldn’t be wandering the castle at night, but he couldn’t sleep. His nightmares were back, with their friend, the perpetual headache. It seemed that the moment he stepped back into Hogwarts after the Christmas holiday, they had started again. It almost made him wonder if he was allergic to something in the castle. Tonight’s headache wasn’t so bad that he had to bother Professor Snape or Madame Pomfrey, but he couldn’t sleep. So, he wandered. Coiling Valére around his neck for quiet company, he let his feet go where they may, not even realizing he had drifted so far from his regular routes until he stumbled into a cloth-covered wall. Stepping back, he found it wasn’t a wall, but a tall rectangular thing covered by a sheet. The sheet that was slipping off to reveal a mirror. Huge and ornate, but incredibly dusty.
Harbin peered into it.
“What do you see, Harbin?”
He jumped around, hand going to his thudding heart. “Headmaster!”
“Bonsoir, Harbin.” The headmaster smiled softly down at him, joining him near the mirror.
“Bonsoir, sir.” Harbin wasn’t sure why, but something in those twinkling blue eyes caught his attention. Ever since Halloween, a few of the faculty had been acting strangely around him. Mostly, everything was back to normal now, but for a few days, Professor Snape had been colder to him, distant. Professor McGonagall had smoothed his hair, her eyes misty for some unfathomable reason. And the headmaster had given him more attention at mealtimes, often smiling whenever their eyes met.
“What do you see, Harbin?” Professor Dumbledore indicated the mirror with a tilt of his head.
It was a strange question. “I see myself, professeur. And now you too.”
The headmaster froze, moving to genuflect before him, placing old, but sure hands on his shoulders. “Nothing else, Harbin? Just us standing here?”
He nodded. “Why, sir? Should I be seeing something else?” Perhaps it was one of those fun mirrors, like the one at the carnival his mother and father had taken him to?
Dumbledore blinked, standing once more, carefully maneuvering so that he did not face the mirror. “This is the Mirror of Erised. It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts.” A flick of his wand brought the cloth to hang suspended just in front of the mirror. He paused before the cloth could cover it, glancing back at him. “You see nothing else at all, Harbin? Your first family, perhaps?”
Harbin didn’t hold back on his sneer. “Before my parents found me, I remember pain, of being locked in small, dark place, of a fat man yelling and hitting me. I remember a skinny woman grabbing and pushing me, hissing at me. Hate filled her touch.” He could feel himself getting hotter and colder, burning anger and freezing voice. “When ma mère found me, she said I had been severely malnourished and barely able to speak, even though I was nearly three years old.” He turned to leave, barely glancing up at the headmaster even though he could feel the distress pouring off the old man. “I care nothing for them. They are not my family.”
He stopped. The professor pronounced it wrong, but it was his name nevertheless. Did not look up, even when those strong hands wrapped around his shoulders again. He let the professor hug him, feeling something familiar about the old man’s touch, something familiar in that wash of power flowing over him.
“I’m sorry, Harry, I didn’t know.”
He shrugged a shoulder, not sure what to say. After all, it wasn’t the headmaster’s fault he had been born into such a horrible family. Two familiar vials appeared before his eyes.
“Go to bed, my boy.”
He woke with her screams still ringing in his ears. Harbin grabbed his wand, forgetting everything else.
He didn’t pause at Draco’s sleeply question, running straight to the first prefect’s room he could find. Adrian Pucey was not happy with his banging, but he didn’t care. “Vous devez voir si Hermione Granger est dans sa pièce!”
“Chevalier,” Pucey drowsily glared, poking at his shoulder. “I don’t speak French.”
“He said you need to check if Granger’s in her room,” Draco translated before he could.
Harbin threw him a grateful smile, but immediately turned his attention back to the prefect.
“S'il vous plait! Please! Just go check.”
Pucey finally saw the panic in his eyes and nodded. He woke his female counterpart, together they went up to the first year’s girls’ dorm. Pucey came back, running too fast for Hermione to have been in her room. “She’s not there.”
“I’ll get Snape!”
Harbin ignored them both. He knew where she was, had seen the route her kidnapper had taken in his dream. He knew it was more than his imagination. Knew it in the same way he knew that the red haired woman who screamed in his dreams was important somehow. He ran so fast he never saw the soft body he collided with, crashing into them painfully.
“Oi, Hari!” Ron yelped down at him and Neville in surprise, arms full of food.
Harbin picked himself up, grabbing his felled friend. “Je suis désolé, Neville,” he breathlessly apologized over his shoulder.
“Hey, what’s going on?” Ron yelled to his back, but Harbin didn’t answer.
“Hermione’s missing!” Draco yelled back, from somewhere next to and behind him.
Footsteps rang in the empty hallway. “Hari! Draco! Wait for us!”
Harbin ignored Neville’s shout, Hermione’s screams still drove his feet. He barely stopped in front of the right door, skidding, sliding, catching himself just in time. The door was locked, of course. One whispered spell and it opened for them. He jerked to a stop just inside, staring in fascinated horror at the three headed beast slumbering in the room. In a corner, a harp played on. He could feel the heat of three more boys pressed behind him.
Holding his finger to his lips, he tilted his head at the trapdoor very near the dog’s body. The three of them nodded, eyes still wide and plastered to the dog. They inched their way forward, silent and scared. They all winced when the door creaked open, but thankfully, the dog never woke. One by one they dropped down the trap door.
Harbin sighed in relief when something soft and giving stopped their fall. “Can anyone see the way out?”
“Bloody well can’t see a thing,” Draco groused before whispering a lumos to light his wand. It was weak, the other boy being smart enough not to give away their position with a bright light, but it was good enough to see the long, thick vines surrounding them.
Ron, who had been trying to move, screamed as the plant tightened around his body.
Harbin instinctively reached for him, only to choke when a vine wrapped around his neck.
“Stop! Stop moving,” Neville’s calm voice ordered. “It’s Devil’s Snare, just relax and it’ll let us all go.”
“You’d better be right, Longbottom,” Draco, caught just like Ron and Harbin, threatened, but did as he was told.
Neville, Harbin and Draco all relaxed and, like Neville promised, the plant let them go. Ron, on the other hand, was panicking.
“Help! Help me!”
“He’s not relaxing,” Draco commented wryly.
Harbin glared at him; his comments were not helping the situation at all. “Neville?”
“Someone needs to cast Lumus Solem,” he answered, pink flushing his cheeks as he admitted, “I’m not very good with it.”
Harbin squeezed his hand, casting the spell.
Ron dropped down, unharmed, jumping up and patting himself down. “Right, mate,” he clapped Neville on the shoulder. “Good thing you knew what to do, good thing we didn’t panic, eh?”
Draco snorted and opened his mouth, only to grunt when Harbin elbowed him.
“Yes, good work, Neville.”
The other boy blushed under the praise, gamely following them deeper into the maze. As they walked, Harbin explained the dream, patiently explaining to Ron again and again how he knew that it wasn’t merely a nightmare. Finally, Draco harshly broke down Ron’s objections with the fact that Hermione was not in her room and the girl was not one to blatantly break rules; the Gryffindor shut up. In the next room, they found a locked door that did not respond to alohomora, one suspended broomstick and hundreds, if not thousands, of fluttering keys.
“Well, this should be easy,” Draco drawled, eyes glued to the flying keys.
“It’s like finding a particular needle in a box of needles.”
“Weasley, I’m impressed.”
“Don’t be. My mother once made me look in her needle box for her favorite needle.” Ron shuddered in memory. “I love her, but the woman is nutters.”
“We don’t have time for this,” Harbin gently reminded them. “Which one is it?”
“If I had to guess,” Draco pointed to one key that moved slower than the rest because of a broken wing.
“I’ll get it.” Harbin reached for the broom, but the second he mounted it, the keys became a furious hurricane of movement. No longer fluttering and flitting lazily about, they zoomed and raced throughout the room. He surged after the broken one, but it was caught up with its flock and swept along just as fast as the rest of the keys could go. Around and around he flew, but the key was just out of reach as the spells kept it away from his reaching hand. Finally, it clicked. “Draco, I’ll herd it your way, catch it!”
It worked. Draco had snatched it out of the air like a snitch, grinning triumphantly at Harbin. They opened the door to find an enormous room with an equally enormous chess board. As with the other tests, they knew they wouldn’t be able to get around it. Each taking a spot, they followed Ron’s orders.
“Does anyone else sense a theme here?” Draco idly asked as he moved to where Ron directed him.
Harbin was glad to glad to see that Draco was not arguing with Ron over every play. They were fierce opponents over the chessboard, but once he’d explained his dream, explained why he knew it was real, Draco and Ron had stopped any inclination to fight with each other.
“That first test, the dog, had to be Hagrid’s.” Ron pointed an open square. “Neville, move to D-5, no, no, the next square on your right. No one else is going to have a three headed dog.”
“The Devil’s Snare was Professor Sprouts’,” Neville offered.
Harbin glared at him, but Neville, surprising everyone, stuck his tongue out at Draco. The other boy was so flabbergasted he couldn’t think to do anything but to stick his tongue out back at him. Harbin laughed for the first time since he woke. “The keys had to be Professor Flitwick’s work. The four houses,” he mused, moving where Ron directed. “Each test is from the four heads of the houses.”
“This one’s got McGonagall written all over it,” Draco said, his voice trailing off as his eyes squinted as he followed Ron’s next play.
“That leaves Snape’s,” Ron concluded, voice also going strange. “Glad you’re with us, Malfoy.”
Harbin stared at his two friends. “What’s going on? Why are you two--”
“He’s going to sacrifice himself, Hari.” Draco tilted his head at Ron, still seated on the knight’s horse. “As soon as he makes his next move, the queen will take him.”
“But. . .” Neville trailed off, staring at the decimated pieces that had been “taken” off the board before this. “Ron . . .”
“It’s the only way.” Ron was firm, eyes boring into Harbin’s even from this distance. “When the queen takes me, you’ll check the king, we win the game and you and Draco can go on.” He flashed a wobbling smile. “Face it, mate, if the next test’s Snape, you’re not going to get past it without him.”
Harbin swallowed. “But you’ll--”
“I’ll be fine, Hari, Neville will stay with me. Won’t you, Neville?” Ron tried to fling a careless grin at their friend, but it didn’t hide his fear of what was going to happen.
“Yeah, course.” Neville fervently nodded.
“It’s the only way, mate.”
Harbin swallowed. Up until now, things had been scary, and he knew Hermione was in danger, but faced with the real consequence of Ron being hurt made him wish he’d waited for Professor Snape. He nodded. It was agonizing, watching as Ron was flung off the horse at the queen’s attack, jerking towards him.
“Hari! Stop!” Draco commanded, voice harsh enough to catch his attention. “You must keep playing!”
Harbin nodded, moving to check the king. The moment it toppled over, he ran to Ron’s side. Neville, being closer, got there first.
Harbin fell to his knees beside them. “Is he all right?” He leaned into the warm hand that gripped his shoulder. Draco stood next to him, eyes wide as he stared at his favorite nemesis.
“I don’t know,” Neville whispered, hands still moving slowly up and down Ron’s arms and legs. “I can’t see anything wrong with him, but he’s not waking up.”
“Concussion,” Draco diagnosed, he looked shaken, eyes still glued to Ron’s unconscious body. “Probably.”
“Neville, get him out of here if you can, get help, okay?” Harbin knew he could do nothing for this friend and that another was waiting for his help. “Draco and I are going to go get Hermione.”
Neville nodded, face firming into determination.
Harbin patted his shoulder before turning to grab Draco’s hand. “Ready?”
Draco nodded. They found the next test easily and soon enough, but of course, it was the hardest of them all.
Harbin stared at all of the bottles. It was merely a riddle, a series of clues to lead to the answer, but his patience was wearing thin. Ron was hurt, Neville was left to help him alone, and of course, Hermione was still missing, still in the hands of her kidnapper. “Draco,” he murmured, helplessness in his voice, hoping that his friend would be able to figure this out soon because the fear was clouding his mind. He couldn’t think straight enough to help.
“Shh,” Draco soothed, hand absently petting his arm. “I almost have it.” He plucked the smallest bottle, carefully studying it. “This should be it.”
Harbin wrapped his fingers around it, catching Draco’s fingers in his hand. “Are you sure?” There was only enough left for one sip, but it could be poison and there was no indication that the antidote was one of the other bottles.
Draco swallowed, rereading the riddle. Those silver eyes of his caught Harbin’s, slowly he nodded. “Yes.”
“I trust you,” Harbin whispered, detangling their fingers, eyes not leaving Draco’s, he downed the last sip. Feeling no ill effects, he smiled at Draco, grunting in surprise when the other boy threw himself at Harbin, hugging him hard.
“Be careful,” he whispered into Harbin’s ear.
Harbin hugged him back, before turning towards the wall of blue flames. He glanced back at Draco.
“I’ll go help Long-Neville and Ron,” he offered.
“Thank you.” Harbin blew him a kiss just to see Draco blush again and stepped through the fire. He found himself in a large room, brightly lit with torches, and the Mirror of Erised standing proudly in the middle of the room. It was just like his dream but with one glaring exception: where was Hermione?
“I certainly didn’t expect you, Mr. Chevalier.”
Harbin spun, eyes wide as he saw his turbaned teacher. Wincing with pain, cursing his headache for coming back at such an inopportune time. “Professor Quirrell?”
“Yes, p-p-poor st-st-stuttering Professor Quirrell,” the teacher exaggerated his speech impediment until it was comical. “I bet you thought it was Snape that had your loved one, eh? He does seem the type, doesn’t he?”
Harbin did a fair imitation of his head of house by raising a single eyebrow. “Actually, I never thought it was him.”
Quirrell paused, as if surprised, then shrugged. “Well, no matter. Give me the stone.”
“What stone?” Harbin had no idea what the man was talking about and now that he knew that Hermione wasn’t here, there was no reason to stay. He inched back towards the doorway.
“Stop him!” a voice hissed.
Quirrell spun, wand out, Harbin froze.
“Use the boy,” the same voice ordered.
Quirrell used his free hand to beckon him. “Come here, Chevalier! Now!”
Harbin tried to resist, but Quirrell’s magic was yanking him towards him. He refused to get any closer than beside him. The closer he got to the man, the more profound the headache became. He stopped in front of the mirror, as far away as the teacher’s magic would allow him.
“Tell me, what do you see?”
As always, he saw nothing but himself standing in front of the mirror, but then the image changed. He was reaching into his own pocket, withdrawing his hand to show himself a rock. He had no idea what it was, but he knew it had to be what Quirrell wanted. And so he lied, “I’m shaking hands with Dumbledore. I’ve won the House Cup.”
“He lies,” the voice called his bluff.
“Tell the truth! What do you see?” Quirrell demanded again.
Harbin mentally rolled his eyes. His father always said that if someone didn’t want to give you something, demanding it again with the same words weren’t going to get you a different result.
“Let me speak to him.”
Harbin had to wonder if Quirrell suffered from multiple personalities and was a ventriloquist to boot. The second voice came from him, but he never moved his mouth.
“Master, you are not strong enough.”
“I have strength enough for this.”
Harbin inched away as Quirrell busied himself with removing his turban. The pain became nearly unbearable as the turban came off. Flinched when he saw the face embedded into the back of Quirrell’s head.
“Do you know who I am, boy?” Quirrell walked backwards so that the face could stalk him.
“Non, should I?” Harbin couldn’t stop the bravado, the pain distracting him from the wisdom of such words, wincing when the face roared.
“I am Lord Voldemort!”
Harbin absently nodded. The name was familiar only because he and Hermione had looked up who You Know Who was when Ron had mentioned that the man was from their house. His reign of terror had ended right after he and all of his friends had been born. But apparently, he wasn’t dead.
“Why do you not tremble at his name?” Quirrell furiously demanded from the other side. “He is the greatest sorcerer of all time! He is the Dark Lord!”
Harbin bit his lip, trying not to laugh at how much the man sounded like a cartoon minion.
“Quirrell, get me closer to him.”
Harbin wanted to moan his misery. Every step closer to Quirrell and the other face brought pain and agony to his head.
But closer they came.
He stared at the face, brow furrowing in confusion when the face seemed to recognize him.
“Well, well.” It seemed pleased, somehow amused.
For the first time, Harbin was unnerved.
“Give me the stone, boy, or you’ll die screaming like your mudblood mother and blood traitor father.”
Screams of fear echoed through his mind, begging and pleading for a son’s life. A cackle that grated on nerves and skin, pain and howling misery raged.
Harbin held out his hands, desperate to hold it all off. Never realizing that the screams were more than just nightmares, nor that were they more than just his own.
Draco never hated hospitals before today.
While he had escaped their little adventure completely unscathed, Harbin had not. He had yet to awaken and Madame Pomfrey didn’t think it was a good idea to force him awake. So all Draco could do was sit here and wait.
“I can’t believe you fell asleep in the library!”
And listen to Ron yell at Hermione. Now, normally, Draco would have never allowed that, but 1) she could handle one pissed off redhead by herself, and 2) he was too focused on Harbin to really care.
“I was studying, unlike some people!”
“We’d’ve never gotten into this mess if you studied like a normal person!”
“Are you saying this is my fault?”
“Well, yeah. Ow!”
Draco winced as the slap echoed through the hospital wing.
“Bloody hell, woman, that hurt!”
“It’s like watching a really good, but scary, quidditch match. Or maybe two dragons fighting?”
Draco laughed into his hand, glancing over to see Neville staring at the two combatants with something akin to fascinated horror. “They’re going to marry each other.”
Neville couldn’t have been more flabbergasted. Then his look turned calculating. “You think?”
“Nobody fights like that unless they’re meant to be together,” Draco affirmed with all the wisdom of a child repeating what his mother had said about another couple.
“Heavens! What is going on out here?” Madame Pomfrey stormed from her office, took one look at the fighting couple and kicked them out.
Draco found himself walking companionably with Neville to the Great Hall.
“It’s okay, Draco.” Neville quickly, nervously patted his shoulder. “Hari’ll be okay.”
He nodded, but the words didn’t assuage his worries. Nothing would until Harbin actually woke up.
He woke to whispers.
His mother’s, his father’s, his uncle’s, and the tiny, childish voice of his baby brother. There was a weight, tiny and warm, nestled into his side. He recognized that baby smell, powder and milk, sweet like nothing else. “Bastien?” he quietly croaked.
“Hari? Maman! Papa! Hari éveillé!” Little hands patted his cheeks even as Bastien rose up onto his knees, sending jolts of pain where his rounded kneecaps sunk into his side.
“Hari?” His mother’s voice was sure and solid as always.
He forced his eyes open, feeling his smile wobble as he saw the faces of his family, worryingly hovering over his bed. “Maman?” Tilted his head when a firm, pen-callused hand folded around his own. “Pére? Quels sont tous d'entre vous en faisant ici?”
His father snorted even though his eyes gleamed with unshed tears. “Vous avez embauché un méchant sorcier et vous êtes évanouis. Où d'autre serions-nous?”
Harbin breathlessly laughed, sobering as he remembered. “Hermione? Ron? Draco et Neville?”
“They are fine, Harry.”
All of their heads turned at the headmaster’s voice.
“They are all right?” he asked, cautiously moving to sit up. He smiled gratefully as his father helped him, relaxing into his father’s embrace when he propped his hip onto Harbin’s bed.
“They are all fine.” The headmaster smiled at them, his blue eyes twinkling merrily. “Ms. Granger was never in danger, Harry. She had fallen asleep in an unused corner of the library.”
Harbin frowned, opening his arms to allow his little brother into his embrace. “But my visions? I saw her being kidnapped and tortured.”
“Ah, it was a spell. A powerful one that made anyone capable of finding the stone have nightmares and visions about a friend being taken into the room that housed the Mirror of Erised. It was a trap; one, I’m sorry to say, dear boy, you fell into quite neatly due to circumstances out of your control. Those who knew of the mirror had been on guard against a spell such as this. It was bad luck that Ms. Granger fell asleep where you could not find her and that your vision revolved around her.”
Harbin groused. “From now on, I will personally walk Hermione up to her bedroom.”
The headmaster laughed quietly.
With his family surrounding and supporting him, Harbin knew that there would be no better time to ask a few questions. “Professeur, the stone, you and the other professeurs were protecting it, yes?”
Professor Dumbledore glanced at his parents before nodding. “Yes, Harry. My old friend Nicholas asked me to hide it. Rumors were abounding that Voldemort was trying to steal it, you see.”
It made sense to give it to someone else to hide, but things still didn’t make sense. “But, sir, those obstacles? They were not very effective.”
Blue eyes twinkled merrily. “Why do you say that, Harry?”
“My friends and I made it through so easily, surely a grown wizard would have brushed them aside?”
“Ah, my boy, perhaps it was because you were children that you made it through so easily?”
Harbin blinked, turning to his parents but they seemed just as confused. “Professeur?”
“We adults tend to forget things,” Professor Dumbledore pointed out with a laugh, eyes sweeping to include Harbin’s parents. “Alas, how many facts have we learned at a young age that have been forgotten by the wayside?”
Harbin opened his mouth, but then shut it when he saw his parents nodding.
“It is like that game, Hari,” his father clarified, grinning, “Parents versus Kids?’”
Harbin remembered that family board game from his childhood, which pitted adults against their school-aged children and, many times, the adults lost. Harbin played against his own parents, delightedly cheering when he beat both his parents. He slowly nodded, understanding now. They had only gotten through the devil’s snare because Neville had remembered his Herbology lessons, the rest of them had forgotten. Harbin wondered how long Quirrell had to fly to get the key, how hard it probably was for the heavier teacher to gain enough speed to catch up with it.
“The chess game,” Professor Dumbledore broke into his thoughts, “could only be won through a sacrifice. Not many who would steal from Hogwarts would sacrifice themselves to win the game.”
“But Quirrell still made it through,” he countered pointedly.
The headmaster nodded. “But then, he had help, didn’t he, my boy?”
He nodded, giving the headmaster that one. Voldemort was powerful, that much was clear. “Sir?” Harbin had only one last question. “What happened to Professeur Quirrell?”
“We do not know, Harry.” The headmaster’s voice was sad and sincere, but something about the way he answered made Harbin suspicious. The man knew something.
Harbin did not call him on it. Instead, he tightened his arms around Bastien and cuddled into his father’s embrace.
Harbin smiled to himself. The hospital wing was quiet as he dressed, but he could hear his friends before they even entered. He turned, watching as Draco strolled in front, Neville by his side. Hermione and Ron were still fighting behind them.
“Hari!” Neville called happily, jogging up to him and sticking his hand out. “I’m glad you’re all right!”
“Merci, mon ami.” Harbin took his hand in both of his, releasing him just in time to catch Hermione when she threw herself into his arms.
“Oh, Hari! I’m so sorry!”
He hugged her tight. “Hermione, it is not your fault,” he said firmly, pulling back to glare at her. “Did someone tell you that?”
He raked his friends with fiery eyes. Draco and Neville both smiled, but Ron was staring at the ceiling. “Ron,” he drawled out slowly.
“I’m sorry!” the other boy burst out, blue eyes darting at Hermione, still in Harbin’s arms. “It’s just. I. You were. And I thought she was. But she was.”
Harbin decided to save Ron from himself, patting the redhead’s arm. “You were worried about her and then me and couldn’t figure out how to express it.”
Ron blinked at him. Harbin could see the warring emotions: manly refute the feelings, or be grateful that Harbin understood. Again, he saved Ron by taking his limp hand in a firm handshake. “Merci, Ron, for all that you did down there.”
The other boy nodded in relief, smiling happily now.
Harbin turned to Draco, who had stood away from them all. Harbin took the requisite two steps necessary to hug his friend. There was no hesitant stiffness as Draco wrapped himself around Harbin.
“I’m glad you’re okay,” Draco whispered in his ear.
Easter Holidays, First Year
Harbin closed Modern Magical History, left it lying on his lap as he stared out into the gardens of his family’s new home in Spain’s capital. Pomegranate flowers, red carnations, Spanish bluebells, Valencia red roses, and red and white striped lilies blossomed and bloomed, a riot of color that he did not see. Instead, he saw her, screaming and dying in his mind’s eye. Saw the red haired woman and the dark haired man. They were proud and poised in the picture in the book, but in his mind, he could only remember her dying moments.
James and Lily Potter.
His parents. His biological parents.
He opened the book again to stare at their picture. James’ hair was wild, a crazy storm of cowlicks, untameable. Just like his hair. He remembered then, remembered when he was very young, and his mother’s amused exasperation with his hair. How she would patiently comb and brush it, hoping to smooth it down for important functions. He remembered how he wanted to please her so much, how he wished his hair would lie down like she wanted. He remembered she had nearly given up, but one day, she had huffed a merry laugh when it finally stayed down.
He looked just like James. Except for his eyes. His eyes were her eyes. Green, green, green. His mother loved his eyes and had him fitted with contacts so that they wouldn’t be hidden behind glasses. Harbin stared down at the picture of a baby boy, barely two years old. A lightning bolt scar marring his otherwise pristine forehead.
He knew that scar too.
Remembered how his father had bought medication after medication, doctor after doctor, to look at the scar, to find some way to heal it. After a time, it was no longer an angry red, but still his father had disliked seeing any sign that his son had experienced pain. Harbin remembered wanting the scar to go away. And so he wished it, just like his hair, to make his parent happy.
He touched his forehead. He couldn’t see it. But he knew it was there, could feel it. Even with it covered all these years, he had known it was there. His parents had known it was there too, feeling it every time they kissed his forehead. It was one of those things they could never explain. Until now.
And now he knew why he had the scar.
Not a traffic accident, like his parents thought. Not abuse, like Uncle Jonah had thought. But because of the murder of his biological parents. He grieved for them, only because they gave birth to him, because they sounded like good people, lost to a senseless war, lost to the greed of a power-hungry wizard. He did not grieve for them as his parents.
Instead, he thought about the face on the back of Quirrell’s head. Thought about how it seemed amused right before it attacked.
Harbin stood, walking as if in a daze down to his parents’ study. He found them there, with Uncle Jonah, just as he knew he would, working. They stopped when his father saw him.
“Je sais qui mes parents biologiques sont.” That did not send them into a flurry. Harbin smiled sadly, placing the book down onto his father’s desk. He left it open at the right page.
“Nous avons soupçonné.” His father barely glanced at the book. “Mais nous n'avons pas été sûrs. Pas avant le directeur nous a dit que vous aviez été attaqués par Voldemort.”
Harbin nodded, moving to stand by the window overlooking the front drive. He did not know what to say. Did not know what to think. To know one’s history, after all of this time, was enough of a shock. But to know that a mad man, one who had already died once, was still in this world and was a threat to his safety was a whole other matter. “Que ferons-nous?”
“Nous apprenons. Nous planifions.” Uncle Jonah answered.
Harbin smiled for the first time since he read the book. It was as close to a family motto as the Chevaliers had. It was, after all, what they did best.
He could feel the curious eyes of the professors trailing him as he and his parents made their way towards the headmaster’s office. His parents had written and requested a meeting with Professor Dumbledore before the students were set to arrive back from the Easter holidays. Professor Snape had shown up to portkey them to Hogwarts; Professor McGonagall had been there to greet them. With the password, the phoenix statue spiraled open, taking them all up into Professor Dumbledore’s office.
“Good evening,” he greeted them. “Tea? Coffee? Lemon sherbert?”
Good manners had them accepting cups of tea, but declining the candy.
Harbin was not surprised to see that, even though they had asked for a private meeting, the heads of the Slytherin and Gryffindor stayed. She sat beside his desk, a place she was obviously familiar with in her role as deputy headmistress. He leaned against a cabinet, mostly in shadow. Harbin was sure that it was a place Professor Snape was well acquainted with as well.
His father stared at the headmaster as he sipped. “You know why we are here, headmaster.”
The headmaster nodded even though it was not a question.
His father threw him a glance, letting Harbin know that this was the time to ask the professor any of his questions. And so he asked him the basic one, “What happened?”
The headmaster glanced at his seconds, turning sorrowful eyes on him. “We are not sure, Harry.”
He ignored the name, knowing now that the headmaster wasn’t just old, wasn’t just forgetting the French pronunciation of his name. “S'il vous plait, just what you do know then?”
Harbin listened as the headmaster weaved a tale of a little boy who had survived the Killing Curse, of his parents dead and gone, and of a spell that had protected the little boy, that was bound to his blood, to his mother’s blood. Found out why the headmaster’s hug had felt familiar, of how the old man had hugged him goodbye before reluctantly leaving him with the only family he had left, at the only place where Voldemort’s shade and his Death Eaters would not be able to hurt him because of his biological mother’s sacrifice. Then he learned of their frantic search when Hagrid failed to return with him at the start of the school year. Finally, the discovery of his true identity by Professor Snape and their subsequent vow to keep his identity a secret to protect him.
His father pounced on that. “Only those who are in these rooms know, correct?”
“Yes, Mr. Chevalier.” The headmaster nodded with certainty.
“The portraits?” Uncle Jonah rumbled, pointedly looking at the pictures of those who had once been headmasters of the school.
“We are bound to keep the confidentiality of all students,” one of them replied, clearly offended by such an accusation. “We would never betray any of the students like that.”
Uncle Jonah nodded, but still looked at them with suspicion.
“We would like to keep this secret as long as possible,” his mother said. She raked them all with fierce eyes. “We do not want attention drawn to Harbin in any way.”
“Yes, of course,” Professor Dumbledore assured. Both of the professors nodded as well. It reassured him to see the seriousness of their expressions.
“We would also like a faster method of communication,” his father held up his hand to forestall Professor Snape’s about-to-be-voiced objection, “for cases of emergency, of course.”
“Of course,” Professor Dumbledore agreed. “I will have Professor Flitwick look into it.”
“Thank you, we would greatly appreciate it.” His father nodded. “Headmaster?”
Harbin tilted his head down to hide the smile he couldn’t stop. He recognized his father’s tone of voice. It was the one that had many other diplomats giving way to what his father thought was best. It was also the voice that indicated that his father was going on gut instinct. That his instincts were telling him something important was being kept from him. It was why Harbin had never been able to lie to his father.
“Yes, Mr. Chevalier?”
“Is there anything else you would like to tell us? About Harbin’s situation? Anything that may be important in the future?”
Professor Dumbledore’s eyes cut towards him. “Harry, perhaps you would like to visit Hagrid?”
He was trying to get rid of him! Harbin shook his head. “Merci, monsieur, but I would like to stay.”
“I think it would best if you were not here for this.”
“With all due respect, monsieur,” his father interrupted before he could argue. “Why does Harbin need to leave? Is it not his life we are speaking of?”
Professor Dumbledore did not hesitate, turning to him, eyes intent, face set in determination. “Harry, you are a child. You should not have to worry about such things. You should enjoy your childhood for as long as possible.”
Harbin wondered if something had happened to the headmaster when he was a child, wondered if he had to grow up before his time. That would be the only explanation for this adamant desire to protect Harbin from growing up too fast. He stepped forward, taking the old man’s hand in both of his own; his eyes intent on those blue ones. “Headmaster, knowing what danger I am in will only help me live to have those moments to be a child.”
“You are safe here. Hogwarts is the safest place in the wizarding world,” he insisted quietly.
“Headmaster, Quirrell attacked me here. He let in a troll.” Harbin tried to explain for the old man to understand. “Headmaster, my father is an ambassador. I have known since I was four that bad people would try to take me away from my parents. I had to listen to my caretakers, but my parents taught me how to take care of myself as well. They showed me how to fight off an attacker. They gave me the tools to protect myself. This is all you are doing, helping me protect myself.”
Professor Dumbledore studied him even more intently, staring into his eyes. Harbin felt as if the old man was reading his mind, and so he strove to show him all of the knowledge his parents had imbued in him: the vulnerable spots on the human body for attack, the best route of escape involved keeping silent to learn all that he could and watching for opportunities.
The headmaster nodded, and then began to speak of prophecy, of his suspicions that Voldemort had ways to ensure his immortality, more than just the possession of a willing servant. He spoke of the death of Quirrell, thanks to the charm embedded in Harbin’s skin, also thanks to Lily’s sacrifice. He spoke of Death Eaters, whose children were students here at Hogwarts, who may want Harbin harmed. Draco’s family was just one of them. He spoke of the infiltration of the Ministry and the corruption of their government with fear and greed.
Harbin’s father barked a laugh. “Just like muggle government officials, then?”
“Indeed,” Professor Snape spoke for the first time, sharing a tiny smirk with the muggles in the room.
With those comments, the atmosphere lightened enough for them to make plans.
Harbin sighed as they returned home via portkey. He did not like to travel using it, but it was definitely better than wasting hours on a plane trip home. They had left after discussing a few more matters. Professor Dumbledore had promised them that he would look into the necessary magic for a cell phone to work in Hogwarts, or anywhere else in the wizarding world for that matter. Professor McGonagall had given Harbin a photo album, filled with pictures of his parents, and an open invitation to come speak to her whenever he had questions. Professor Snape had nothing more to offer than a mere nod, but somehow, Harbin knew that that nod had meant so much more.
Even with all that, he resolved to put all of the events out of his mind. He had one more day before he was due back at school and wanted to spend it playing with Bastien and being with his family.
His master came to him in a dream. He saw the diary entrusted to him before the defeat of his master. He saw it in the hands of a Hogwarts student.
Lucius woke with plans to visit the school.
Harbin stared at the locked doors of the Great Hall, glad that he had brought Valére with him tonight instead of letting him hunt. Shrill screams had rent the air during dinner. Silence fell. The professors had immediately jumped up. The headmaster swished his wand and the doors had slammed shut. He swept out, taking Professors Snape and McGonagall with him.
The screams could only mean another attack.
In the weeks that they had been back from Easter holidays, two students had been attacked, messages scrawled in blood announcing the arrival of the Heir of Slytherin. No one knew who the heir was, but speculation ran rampant. Ron had jokingly accused Draco, but the words had spread like wildfire. Draco, the idiot, seemed to preen under the terrified glances of the muggleborn. Harbin had to restrain Hermione from slapping or hexing his head off every time he spouted his father’s pureblood supremacy ideology. Had to tame his own urges to beat his friend’s head into the wall. Hermione had stayed her wand and hand only because she saw him working on Draco. The blonde was getting better, becoming less and less offensive as Harbin manipulated him into new ways of thinking.
Like now, with what was undoubtedly another attack, Draco had not said a word, offensive or otherwise. He merely scooted closer to Harbin and continued his meal.
Harbin sighed, worrying about these attacks. He had yet to write his parents, but knew that he should. Uncle Jonah would never forgive him for not telling them immediately. Especially after the long talks they had with Professor Dumbledore about the safety of the school. He knew he should, but he hadn’t because of the voice.
He heard it at all times of the day, hissing about death. He followed it whenever he heard it, but had found nothing. He had not told anyone about the voice, knowing that it would set him apart from the other students. Attention, now knowing who he was, was only asking for trouble. He knew where to start looking for information because Valére could hear and understand the voice. His pet had shivered and coiled around his neck, refusing to leave Harbin for a single moment. Valére could not tell him anything but that the owner of the voice scared him. And so he kept silent, researching on his own, finding that the talent was parseltongue, the language of the snakes. It was how he could talk to Valére. When he had found his pet, all those years ago in the backyard of his family Parisian home, his childish mind had believed that Valére was the special one, that his snake was magical and could talk. As he grew older, he never thought about it, because Valére was his friend, one of his firsts, and so he merely accepted the fact that he could talk to his snake. Now he knew that it wasn’t Valére who was special, but himself. Now he knew that Voldemort had had this gift and he believed that Voldemort had let loose some kind of monstrous snake that was stalking the students.
Harbin jumped when the great doors opened.
McGonagall marched in, gaze raking the Gryffindor and Slytherin tables. “Chevalier, Malfoy, Davis, Weasley, Longbottom, come with me.”
They scrambled after her.
Unease settled like a stone in the pit of Harbin’s stomach. It grew as they neared the infirmary. The weight threatened to buckle his knees when he saw Hermione frozen on the bed. He slipped his hand into her strangely curled one, pressing a kiss to the frozen warmth of her cheek. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I should have worked harder to find it.”
Distantly, he was aware of Tracy crying, of Ron and Neville’s confused and scared exclamations. Professor McGonagall was assuring them that the mandrake antidote was almost done, assuring them that the headmaster and Professor Snape was out hunting the creature right now and that everyone would be sent home within the next day. But nothing penetrated until Draco said, “I don’t understand.”
Harbin slowly turned, eyes closing as soon as he saw Draco’s expression. It was ugly, marring his fair features. “Draco.”
“Heir of Slytherin,” he stated calmly. “Purebloods, even half-bloods, are safe from the wrath of Slytherin. There’s been a mistake.”
“Draco,” he called softly, reaching for him.
Draco yanked away, sneer growing, cementing as the pieces fell into place. “You knew. You knew she was a mudblood.”
“Don’t call her that!” Ron yelled, restrained by Neville and Professor McGonagall.
“Yes,” Harbin whispered.
“You’re one too.” Draco pronounced, a judge handing down a death sentence.
Harbin lifted his chin. “Yes, I am.”
“You filthy, disgusting mudblood. Don’t ever come near me again!” Draco spun on his heel, angry earth-eating strides taking him towards the door.
“Mr. Malfoy! Come back here! It’s not safe!” Professor McGonagall ordered to no avail.
“I’m a pureblood,” Draco sneered over his shoulder, “I have nothing to worry about, Professor.”
Harbin slumped against an empty hospital bed.
It would be the last time he saw Draco alive.
I can’t believe he lied to me!
Over and over that ran through his mind as he ran blindly through the castle. Draco could care less if he got caught by some stupid teacher.
Everything had been an illusion, false. His best friend was nothing more than a dirty mudblood. His father was going to be furious. His mother was going to be so disappointed. Letting something so dirty anywhere near him. And in Slytherin no less! Desecrating the founder’s house with tainted blood. The both of them! How did this happen? How could the sorting hat put them in Slytherin? Did they fool it? Did Uncle Severus know?
Draco slammed to a stop, nearly running headlong into the suit of armor. Thoughts tumbling and connecting. Harbin’s muggle contacts that allowed him to see. The memory of that brought another memory to the fore. Severus, his much beloved godfather, a man he called uncle and thought of as family. He was a half-blood. Draco knew because he’d seen something in his house years ago, a picture that didn’t move. It was of a red haired girl. He had asked Severus why the picture didn’t move. His godfather had distracted him, but even that young, Draco knew it was important somehow. It was. His uncle had the blood of muggles running through his veins.
Just like Harbin.
Guilt rose and warred. His father’s teachings versus his love for his godfather and his friendship with Harbin.
He never got the chance to work out the ramifications.
The slide of scale on stone and the hissing of a snake loomed behind him. Malevolent yellow eyes, reflected on the suit of armor, stared at him.
Lucius could feel her eyes on him even before he looked up from the parchment she had thrust under his nose. “Narcissa --”
“You did this,” she hissed. “Our son, our heir has been petrified and it is your fault.”
“It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”
“I do not care.” Narcissa’s wand jammed itself into his throat. “You will fix this.”
Lucius Malfoy did not fear much in this world, but he had never seen his wife like this and she was right. This was not what he expected when he had followed his lord’s order. The Dark Lord was supposed to raise the purebloods back into power, not attack them like common muggles. Especially not the son of his faithful servant. He kept his eyes on his wife as he nodded. “I will speak to Severus.”
“See that you do.” She whirled, tearing through the manor’s wards to apparate to their son’s side.
He followed, but instead of heading to the infirmary, he let his feet take him on that old familiar path down to the dungeons. He found his old friend, his son’s godfather, in his labs. “Severus?”
“Lucius, what a surprise.” His tone was utterly bereft of moisture or welcome. It seemed Severus was not happy with him either.
Lucius decided to just get this over with. “The Dark Lord once mentioned a chamber, hidden in the school, which held Slytherin’s familiar. A basilisk.”
“Oh really? Sharing idle conversation over tea?”
“Why, yes, we were.”
A sleek, black raised eyebrow, clearly disbelieving the mild tone Lucius had used. There was, of course, no doubt why he had known this information.
“Did he happen to mention where it was?” A mild inquiry to match his own.
Severus let his long legs eat up the stones to the headmaster’s office where he knew the other teachers were making arrangements for the children’s passage home. He cared not one whit about waiting for Lucius to keep up. He knew he should have used this opportunity to turn one of the Dark Lord’s most powerful servants, but the rage he felt upon finding Draco petrified in the corridor just off the infirmary fueled his steps and blinded his rational mind. Of course, if Lucius could not see what a power-hungry madman the Dark Lord was after the basilisk had attacked his pureblood son, then nothing would.
Their entrance caused no shortage of exclamations or accusing glares. Severus’ short, clipped explanation brought Albus to his feet, ordering the rest of the teachers to see to the students. They put up a mild protest about leaving only him and Severus against the basilisk, but left soon enough when Albus said, “Well, if push comes to shove, we’ll let it have Lucius while we run away.”
Severus carefully avoided looking at the offended man, lest he laugh his ass off, thoroughly inappropriate in such a dire situation. With a still glaring Lucius accompanying them, they headed to, of all places, an abandoned girls’ bathroom.
They were just in time to see the tail end of the basilisk disappear down the hidden entrance.
Albus’ spell blocked the entrance. “Quickly,” he urged, jumping down the tunnel with more energy and grace than a man his age should possess.
Severus threw one irritated glance at his old friend before jumping down the tunnel. He could hear Lucius cursing the disgusting tunnel all the way down. He bit back the smirk that threatened when he landed on his feet and Lucius tumbled to the ground.
He turned to find Albus transfiguring rocks into mirrors of all shapes and sizes. One of which was a large, heavy, handheld one. Severus cast a featherweight charm on it before using it to advance through the snake-embedded doors that Albus had also charmed to stay open after the basilisk’s entrance. The doors lead into Slytherin’s chamber, great columns of snake carvings, large pools of murky black water that Severus took pains to avoid, using the mirrors that Albus had transfigured to see. Torches lit with a whispered spell.
The sound of scales and skin against stone was their only warning.
Spells flew, roaring hisses followed thrashing and thumping.
The pain flared from nowhere.
Harbin reeled into Neville’s arms, jerking back upright when he realized he knew that pain. Valére hissed, tightening in concern.
“Hari?” Neville clutched at him.
“Voldemort,” he hissed, spotting a Ravenclaw boy, clutching a black notebook, skulking away from the rest of the students being herded into the Great Hall for protection. He ran without thinking. Footsteps behind him signaled Ron and Neville following behind. They slammed together like those perpetual motion balls when he stopped dead outside the opened girls bathroom. From inside, he could hear the boy calling for something.
“They’re all in there, in the Great Hall, yours for the taking. Now is the time for the enemies of Lord Voldemort to fall.”
Harbin leaned in, just enough to see one of the sinks lowering, just in time to see the top of the head of an enormous snake emerging. Jerking back, not wanting Voldemort’s monster to see them and giving them away.
“What is it?” Neville whispered, hand clutching his wand like the talisman it was.
“A basilisk.” Harbin’s mind raced, trying to figure out how to get help. While researching parseltongue, he had found the entry about basilisks and knew it was the probable monster stalking the students. Unfortunately, he hadn’t found anything that could stop it.
Ron leaned around them both, wanting another look apparently. “How do you know--”
Harbin yanked him back, not wanting his sometime clueless friend to get petrified. “Think about it, Ron, what other snake petrifies people?”
“How did you know it was a snake?” he hissed back.
Harbin rolled his eyes. “Ron, why are Slytherins known as snakes? Here is a hint: it is not just because they both start with ‘s’.”
Harbin rolled his eyes, catching Neville’s smothered snicker out of out the corner of them. “We need help.”
Harbin couldn’t glare at Ron for that one; he knew he never should have taught him any of the Americanisms he’d picked up there. “We need help, but we need to keep the basilisk away from the Great Hall too.”
“We need a plan,” Neville added.
“You don’t need a plan, everything’s fine.”
Jumping, scrambling, they surged away from the new voice.
Harbin spun, wand out, feeling Ron and Neville doing the same beside him.
A dark haired man in Slytherin robes stood before them. At his feet were the Ravenclaw and the notebook he’d been clutching.
“Who are you?” Harbin demanded, not recognizing the older boy. Valére lowly murmured that the other boy wasn’t right, that there was something bad about him. Harbin was inclined to agree.
“A memory,” the boy said, waving his hand at the notebook. “Preserved in a diary for fifty years.”
“What did you do to Gramhame?” Ron nodded at the Ravenclaw.
“Him?” He shrugged. “He tried to destroy my book. Couldn’t have that, could we?” He winked.
“Who are you?” Harbin demanded again, even though he was pretty sure he knew who he was.
The boy pulled a wand, it had to have been Gramhame’s, out from his pocket and began to trace it through the air, writing three words: "TOM MARVOLO RIDDLE." Then, with a wave, he re-arranged them: "I AM LORD VOLDEMORT."
Ron thoroughly cursed, Neville froze.
Harbin pushed both of them back, farther away, desperately wishing for help. For Dumbledore and for Snape, for McGonagall, hell for Filch even.
Voldemort started hissing.
The sound of his snake crawling out of the bathroom, heading for them, made Harbin desperate, knowing they could not run fast enough. He cast spell after spell, anything that would slow down Voldemort’s call. Even as a memory, he was still too powerful, easily deflecting every spell thrown at him.
“Too late, little boy.”
The snake emerged from the bathroom. Harbin immediately shut his eyes, yelling for Ron and Neville to do the same. Valére hissed, fearful sounds that had no meaning, tightening around Harbin’s neck as he threw himself to the ground, hoping that Ron and Neville were all right. Blinded, Voldemort throwing curses at them whenever he felt like it, Harbin knew they didn’t have a chance of surviving this. Praying with all of his might for a miracle.
A bird cawed, jerking him from the ground. Surprise opened his eyes to see a beautiful red and gold bird carrying him, then swooping down to grab Ron and Neville as well. It deposited them in a tiny closet, narrow and long enough to keep them safe from the basilisk, before heading back towards Voldemort and his snake. They were trapped, but they were safe.
They scrambled up in its wake, watching in awe as the comparatively tiny bird took on the basilisk. Voldemort was yelling, directing the snake to leave the bird, to go after the children. The snake ignored him, striking at the bird, finally roaring in pain when the bird plucked out its eyes.
Seeing his chance, Harbin grabbed the Gryffindors, heading away from the battle between bird and snake, heading for help in the Great Hall.
“Fools! Think you're safe? It can still hear you!”
Harbin kept running, shock freezing him when Voldemort’s screams of pain echoed. He spun in time to see Professor Snape cursing Voldemort. The snake screamed then too because Professor Dumbledore and Lucius Malfoy were targeting it.
“Run, children!” Dumbledore shouted even as the surprisingly spry man jumped out of the way of the snake’s thrashing.
Harbin ran for the corridor leading to help in the Great Hall, but he timed it so very wrong. The pain was excruciating as the snake clamped down on his leg, shaking him like a rag doll, throwing him away from his friends. Valére screamed at the snake, nearly spitting as he yelled at the much bigger snake for biting his master. Harbin almost wanted to laugh as his little, bitty snake insulted the gigantic basilisk, but he could only lay on the ground, venom from the basilisk tooth embedded in his leg seeping through the wound, dazedly watching as the battle raged.
Professor Snape was still fighting Voldemort, but he was failing. Mr. Malfoy was on the ground, knocked unconscious or dead, Harbin did not know. Professor Dumbledore was still battling the basilisk, but his spells were barely making a dent in those thick, protective scales. Ron and Neville were hiding behind one of the larger sets of armor littering the castles. He couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw what the Gryffindors were up to. Perhaps the basilisk venom was giving him hallucinations, but he was fairly certain he saw Ron carefully prying the huge jousting lance from the suit of armor’s grip while Neville kept the base steady, keeping an eye on the battle to ensure both their safety. He hoped they weren’t doing what he thought they were doing to do.
Arms wrapped around it, they braced it against the wall, angling it towards the snake. Ron and Neville screamed their fool heads off, attracting the basilisk. The monster slithered at its top speed, so focused on capturing the screaming boys that it impaled itself. It roared in pain. Voldemort roared in fury. Even as his snake fell, Voldemort screamed a curse that threw everyone to the floor.
Harbin ducked down, feeling the power wash bare inches over his body, leaving him unaffected. No one else was as lucky. Bodies littered the floor in unconscious heaps.
Only Voldemort still stood. He turned to face Harbin, sneering when he saw the wound in his leg. “Remarkable, isn't it? How quickly the venom of the Basilisk penetrates the body? If you have any final words you'd best speak them now. I'd guess you have little more than a minute to live.”
Harbin refused to answer him, standing instead between Voldemort and his fallen professor and the Ravenclaw, even though he could feel the poison working. Raising his wand, he watched as Voldemort surveyed the damage. The basilisk was dead; everyone had been blasted unconscious except Harbin.
Voldmort smirked, dropping his wand hand as he obviously felt that there were no more threats. “Funny, isn't it? The damage a silly little book can do? Especially in the hands of a silly little boy.”
Harbin glared at Voldemort as he gloated. Said nothing as he sank to his knees, the poison taking his strength. But one thought was clear in his mind: a memory stored in a book. He yanked the fang from his own leg, slipping the diary free from under Gramhame’s body.
“What are you doing? No. Stop . . .” Voldemort's face creased in fear as he saw Harbin position the basilisk’s fang above the book. He lunged, but was too late.
Harbin plunged the fang straight through.
Voldemort shrieked as he writhed in pain, his body withering, fading away.
Harbin sat between the beds of his two friends. Hermione’s parents were with her, holding her hand, each other’s hands, and talking softly. Draco’s parents were present as well. But only his mother held his hand, occasionally whispering an endearment to him. His father was in the bed next to her. Apparently, during the fight, Lucius had tried to reason with his Dark Lord, only to be felled by one of his curses and then been flung hard by the thrashing basilisk to suffer a concussion. The Ravenclaw, Gramhame, was still here too, resting from the attempted drain on his life. Voldemort had almost succeeded in becoming corporeal, but thankfully, destroying the diary had saved Gramhame’s life.
Professor Dumbledore and Professor Snape had been treated and released hours ago. Harbin, despite having Ron and Neville coaxing him away, did not want to leave. Thanks to Fawkes, he had been healed and no longer needed to be in the hospital ward, but both of his best friends were here and to tell the truth, he wasn’t feeling quite up to dealing with an entire school who wanted to talk about the battle. He was happy to leave that tale telling to Ron and Neville.
The doors swung open revealing the headmaster, as well as, the four head of houses. The bottles in Professor Snape’s hands made his spirits lighten.
Harbin moved to the side, not wanting to leave, not wanting to be thrown out by becoming a nuisance. Watched as Madame Pomfrey dosed each of the basilisk’s victims. Mr. Malfoy woke just in time to see his son receiving the last dose.
One by one, they woke.
Harbin nearly bounced in his anticipation. Even though he knew Draco would probably still hate him, he wanted the other boy alive and well. His heart hurt at the knowledge that Draco would no longer be his friend, but he knew that Draco really couldn’t help being raised that way. His father had taught him that no matter the evidence shown, some people could not move past their upbringing. He just wanted his friends alive and well, that was all he asked.
Hermione woke first, flinging herself into her parents’ arms. When she turned and saw him, her smile was beatific. He slid into her waiting arms, letting her envelope him in warmth.
She pulled back too soon, her sharp eyes narrowed and searching. “What’s wrong, Hari?”
“He found out.”
She knew immediately. Those eyes saw Draco in the next bed and lasered into him, as if the ire in her eyes could alone wake him. “What did he say?”
Harbin could only shrug. He was not protecting Draco, he was not excusing his reactions and actions. He merely hoped that by not repeating Draco’s hurtful words, that the other boy would have the space to change his mind.
Severus stood by his godson’s bed, holding Narcissa’s free hand. It would seem that his friend had not forgiven her husband yet for his actions. Glancing over his shoulder, he idly wondered if the events of the past two days had changed Lucius’ mind.
From the way the pureblood aristocrat seemed to slump in defeat, staying quiet rather than demanding anything, it would seem that the events at least made an impression.
Severus found Harbin’s reunion with Hermione nauseatingly sweet, but he doubted that Draco’s waking moment would be as charming. He had heard from Minerva the poisonous words Draco had spouted upon realizing Harbin and Hermione’s ancestry. He mentally sighed. He wished he had more of a hand in raising the boy, but Draco worshipped at his father’s bigoted feet.
“Mama?” Draco’s childish voice was a beautiful thing to hear.
Severus smiled down at the boy as he hugged his mother and caught his hand, disregarding the proper greetings for the more intimate. Draco jerked when he saw his father, but relaxed when Lucius smoothed his son’s hair instead of reprimanding him. Severus let one finger trail down a still soft cheek, letting his godson know of his love through the simple touch. Draco smiled up at him, leaning into his side. He held his breath when Draco caught sight of Harbin and Hermione.
“Hari!” Draco launched himself at the other boy, clutching so tightly at Harbin that Severus worried about the boy’s ability to breathe. Only Severus was close enough, with his better than average ears, to hear the softly whispered, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it, I was just angry. I’m sorry.”
“Shhh.” Harbin held him close, his smile buried in Draco’s hair, hands rubbing the tension out of his back. “Je comprends pourquoi vous étiez furieux et je vous pardonne. Mais s'il vous plaît, Draco, ne dites pas s'il vous plaît jamais de choses comme ça de nouveau.”
“Je promets,” Draco whispered.
Severus stared at the way the two boys clung to each other and mentally sighed, again, praying to Merlin. He did not look forward to five years in the future, just knowing that there was no way their relationship would be smooth and untroubled.
“Hermione.” Draco had yet to relinquish his hold on Harbin, merely gazing at her over the other boy’s shoulder. He even managed to smile politely at her muggle parents. “I’m glad you’re all right.”
She gave him a penetrating stare, something seemed to have been communicated for she nodded, relaxing and giving him a sweet smile. “I’m glad you’re all right too, Draco.”
“Lord Malfoy,” Albus’ voice was quiet, yet apocalyptic in its intensity. It caught everyone’s attention.
“Yes, headmaster?” The mere title from Lucius’ lips said volumes. Severus couldn’t remember the last time Lucius used Albus’ title rather than sneering his last name.
“Will there be any other interference with my school?”
The question, of course, was not just about the school.
Lucius must have seen the way Narcissa stiffened, definitely saw the way Severus was boring holes in his head. There was no possibility that he did not see the way Draco clung to Harbin. He looked as if he was holding in the sigh. “No, headmaster, I do not believe there will be any more interference.”
“Excellent!” Albus actually clapped his hands.
Severus prayed to Merlin for patience. Again.
The End Of Year One