Harbin cuddled Bastien, listening to his little brother prattle on about the beauty of the Hogwarts train as Uncle Jonah stowed his trunk. He could feel the presence of his parents behind him as they too listened to Bastien. Harbin swept his hand through Bastien’s silky brown locks that showed just a hint of curls now that it was longer. At four years old, he was almost too big to be carried any more, declaring he was a big boy now, but on special occasions like this one, Bastien allowed Harbin to carry him.
That stopped him immediately, his big blue eyes tearing up, his thin, little arms wrapping themselves around Harbin’s neck. “Pourquoi je ne peux pas aller avec vous?” the boy wailed.
“Ah, mon chéri, vous n'êtes pas assez vieux.” He rubbed Bastien’s back, trying to soothe the tears.
“Quand je suis assez vieux, je peux venir aussi?” Bastien pulled back, sniffling, but had hope in his eyes.
“Mais, évidemment!” Harbin winced at the lie, not needing to see his mother’s disapproving look to know that he was in for quite a bit of trouble if Bastien remembered this lie years from now.
Hugs, kisses, stern, loving glares filled with warnings later, Harbin was on the train, looking for his friends. He found Neville first, then Hermione, then Ron. With Ron, he found his little sister.
“Bonjour, Mademioselle Ginny.” He bowed over her hand, pressing a quick kiss to her knuckles.
Ron rolled his eyes as his sister giggled.
Harbin winked at her; she blushed and hid behind her brother. After the Weasleys, he found Draco. With all of his friends found, they piled into the first mostly empty cabin they found. A blonde girl, who was wearing very retro glasses and reading a magazine upside down, already occupied it, but she smiled and welcomed them. She introduced herself as Luna Lovegood, a new first year. Ginny immediately latched on. As soon as they were settled in, conversation flowed. Boring, normal summers all the way around for everyone made getting into trouble easier. Draco said something that set Ron off into a playful shoving match that ended up with Harbin draped across Draco’s lap and Hermione piled on top of them. Ron was flat on his back on the floor; Neville was squished by the two first year girls.
The excitement of seeing each other after three months finally died down, leaving Harbin still draped over Draco’s lap. He sighed in pleasure when Draco tentatively ran his fingers through his hair. Surveying the cabin with slitted eyes, he saw Neville smiling, nervous but captivated, at a babbling Luna. Hermione, Ron, and Ginny were trying to make heads or tails of the magazine that Luna had been reading.
He liked this, this peace and contentment that only unity could bring. The feel of the cabin made him so utterly giddy that he stretched up, pulling Draco into the curve of his body, and embracing the shock-pliant boy. Harbin buried his nose in Draco’s soft blonde hair, smile nuzzling into the creamy, warm skin behind his friend’s ear. He hugged Draco happily, not letting go even though Draco was squirming and making protesting noises. “Séjour toujours,” he admonished playfully.
Draco huffed an embarrassed laugh. “Harbin, why are you . . . cuddling me?”
“Ah, Harbin?” Ron’s face was a picture of confused discomfort.
Everyone else’s eyes were wide as saucers.
Harbin chuckled, low and pleased. “It is all right. I am merely happy.”
“And that makes you cuddle Draco?” Hermione blinked at him, her lips looking like they wanted to twitch upwards but she was ruthlessly stilling them. She lost the battle with her laughter when he spun and grabbed her, pulling her into his lap and aggressively squeezing her tight, making her squeal, batting at his arms.
Ron jumped out of the way when he saw Harbin surging towards the other side. Neville was squished in with the younger girls, but they were all laughing and hugging anyone they could reach. Harbin blew Ron a kiss, making the other boy’s entire face as red as his hair.
Harbin eventually let them all go, sliding back into his seat next to Draco. The girls laughed at the pleading look he gave the other boy.
Draco glared at him, then rolled his eyes, then softened his posture until he was slumped into the perfect position for Harbin to cuddle him once more. Harbin enthusiastically did just that. It had been a most interesting train ride to Hogwarts and a wonderful start to the school year.
Ginny had been sorted into Gryffindor, like her whole family. Luna had been sorted into Ravenclaw, to the shock of Ron and Draco. And Hogwarts had a new Defense teacher, a woman this time, Amelia Amina. She was quite exotic as she wore colorful robes that made her dark skin glow like ebony jewels. She was also closer to Professor Snape’s age than the other teachers. All of his other classes remained the same, merely the next level. It was quite nice actually, to be settled in like this. The first year had been one new experience after another. This year, with the same classes, nearly all of the same professors, and no flashing pain caused by anyone, Harbin felt this was the perfect time to implement a few of his plans.
Over the summer, he and his family had talked at length about Voldemort, the Death Eaters, and what being Harry Potter all meant. Voldemort, Uncle Jonah had said, was definitely the wizarding world’s Hitler. Both men had risen to power based upon the belief that a small part of the human race was somehow more superior to the rest. With that notion, they knew the best way for Harbin to spike Voldemort’s guns was to show people another way of thinking. A more cohesive way of thinking.
The Chevaliers had theorized that was why he and Hermione Granger had been placed in a house known for its exclusion of muggleborns.
They also wanted to make sure that Harbin had all of the support he could muster at the school because inevitably, what happened at the school would trickle into wizarding society at large through letters home to parents and friends. Once Sophie Chevalier had learned who her son was in the wizarding world, she immediately enlisted her old friend Marie for help. Marie specialized in public relations for dignitaries and politicians. She had drawn up a game plan of sorts, even without knowing that it was being applied to the wizarding world. The start of that plan was to get to know as many people as possible.
With all of Harbin’s classes filled with only his yearmates and all other interhouse interaction done on the competitive quidditch pitch, it would be impossible.
So, he went to see his favorite professor.
“Yes, Harbin?” Severus finished writing the scathing remark on a sixth year’s parchment before glancing up, nearly groaning at the look the boy was giving him. He had no idea if Harbin was a born flirt, inheriting it from Potter and Lily, or learned it at his adopted parents’ knees, but the boy knew exactly how to use those eyes and the rest of his body language to get what he wanted. Harbin’s hands were folded angelically together on top of Severus’ desk, his rounded, little chin propped on them. He had one corner of his plump lower lip caught in his teeth, and those stupidly big green eyes were all but begging Severus to say yes.
“Why are there no clubs here at Hogwarts?” The boy definitely knew how to use his voice too, all softness and sweetness and light curiosity. It was no wonder he had been sorted into Slytherin.
“Oui, over the summer my friends from my old school told me about the clubs they have at their schools. Phillipe is in the chess club and plays in the school band. Swee is in the drama club and got the lead role in the school play! And--”
“I see your point.” He knew that if he let the boy go on, he would hear about every friend Harbin had, and there seemed to be an obscene amount of them judging by the letters the boy received. His muggle friends sent their letters to his parents, who forwarded them onto him. “There is a Hogwarts choir. And the Quidditch teams.”
“Very few people sing well enough to be part of the choir,” Harbin reasonably pointed out. “And the teams only have fourteen members for each house. There is nothing for the rest of the students.”
“And what exactly are you proposing?” Severus just knew he was going to regret this.
Days later, when Albus stood up during dinner and called for attention, Severus was very much regretting falling for Harbin’s charms. Even the knowledge that he was James Potter’s son no longer held any sway. Severus would have thought himself absolutely pathetic, but it seemed Harbin’s powers of persuasion were just that good, because after making his presentation to the entire teaching staff, Harbin had batted his damn eyes and the rest of the staff were falling all over themselves to help him.
“Good evening, everyone! I have an exciting announcement. It has been brought to our attention that there are very few extracurricular activities offered here at Hogwarts and so, we are changing that.”
The hall immediately burst into excited whispers.
Albus held up his hand for silence, waiting until he received it to continue. “Each activity will be overseen by at least one professor, opened to all houses and all years. Most will take place here in the Great Hall on a rotating schedule -- two activities per week. To start, we are offering a chess club with Professor Vector, a gardening and medicinal herb club with Professor Sprout and Madame Pomfrey, and a book club with Professor McGonagall and Madame Pince.”
Many happy murmurs were heard, many students already consulting with their friends on which club to join.
Albus was thoroughly enjoying this, twinkling like mad, smile wide and infectious. “We will also be offering a dueling club--”
Many, many, too many excited whispers about that one. Severus groaned, promising himself more brewing time for his headache potion to have an adequate supply.
“Overseen by Professors Amina, Flitwick, and Snape.”
His name seemed to give many of them pause, but had the opposite effect on his snakes. They seemed more interested than ever.
“Lastly, Madame Hooch and Professor Sinistra have graciously agreed to oversee intramural Quidditch teams--”
Whispers rose to a near roar at that announcement.
“There will be no tryouts, simply show up at the game to play. And it will be opened to all years.”
The cheer was deafening.
Draco had come to the chess club meeting out of mere curiosity. By now, he had played most of the Slytherins. While he couldn’t boast that he won every game, he was nearly there. But with the chess club open to all houses, he was interested in seeing the new blood. Of course, the only true competition would probably come from the Ravenclaws. When he said so to Hermione, she had blinked.
“Didn’t you let Ron guide the chess play last year?”
“Only because I knew something bad was going to happen to the one calling the plays.” Like hell he wanted to admit that Weasley was probably a better player than him.
She had the audacity to roll her eyes.
Unfortunately, she was right.
Ron was playing and winning more often than not. He was even gracious about it. Sportsmanship and all that. And it was being emulated by others when they saw how other players reacted to Ron’s affable thanks for a game well played, even when the other player had lost abysmally. Those players who were bad sportsmen – not all of which were Slytherin, by the way – were shunned until they fixed their attitude.
Draco marveled at Harbin’s cunning. By creating extracurricular activities that brought people together that emphasized individual achievement rather than house rivalry, there were less and less prejudice against any one house. Even the one activity that could have been house against house, the intramural quidditch games, was a mixture of houses and years. There was no clear delineation in the teams that played. Even though the headmaster had not said a word about who came up with the idea of extracurricular activities, Draco knew it had to have been Harbin.
When he wrote to his father and mother about it, his father had been the one to point that out what Harbin was doing. His father had even offered faint praise for the tactic and then he had urged Draco to follow Harbin’s lead. He had said that Draco’s participation, directed by his father, would further cement their family’s new position as neutrals in the war against Light and Dark.
So, here he was, sitting down to his first match with Ron Weasley, once hated enemy, then tenuous friend. The game was fast and furious as both players were decisive and impatient to see which of them would win.
When Ron said, “Checkmate,” he stared at Draco in apprehension, probably expecting some kind of scathing insult.
Draco couldn’t find it in himself. The play had been fun and challenging in a way that it hadn’t been in a long time. In the Slytherin dorms, failure to win had been seen as a weakness to exploit and every move had been analyzed for underlying meanings. But Ron played because he liked playing, not because he wanted to test Draco for weaknesses. Even with other Slytherins in the room, seeing his defeat, Draco had not sensed the bloodthirstiness that was usually pervasive in the common room. So, instead of offering insult, he offered a sly, little grin and said, “Best two of out three?”
Ron had stared at him for a split second before grinning in return. “You’re on, mate.”
Draco eagerly helped him put the pieces back. Harbin really did have some great ideas.
Harbin cheerfully waved goodbye to the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws as he left the greenhouse. The gardening and medicinal herbs club, who called themselves the Greenies, was off to a wonderful start. While it was not the largest club – that honor going to the dueling club – the Greenies had a respectable showing from every house, including, surprisingly, Crabbe and Goyle and a few other Slytherins. Harbin enjoyed the club immensely as he was free to learn about the plants without worrying about being tested on them. They were learning about magical plants, muggle plants, and those plants that cross both boundaries. They even petitioned the headmaster for a plot of land to start a student garden. Professor Dumbledore had jumped to agree and the plans were now in the works. Seeing the Gryffindors ahead, he speed up, knowing that the Slytherins would catch up quickly.
“Congratulations, Neville! I knew you would win!” Harbin grinned at his friend, laughing at the blush spreading across the other boy’s cheeks.
“He knows the most about herbology,” Ginny piped up, smiling at the older boy. “Of course he was going to win!”
“Well done, Neville,” Luna chimed in as she intercepted them at the doors. She spun on her heel, joining them as they headed to the Great Hall for dinner, her radish earrings spinning wildly to keep up.
“Aaron Pinwhite will be a great president,” Neville said, trying to deflect the attention.
“But he is a seventh year,” Harbin pointed out with a grin. “He will graduate this year, non? You will win the presidency next year.”
Neville immediately tried to protest that a win was not assured, but his Gryffindor friends quieted his objections. Surprisingly, even a few of the Slytherings voiced their quiet approval. Neville had blinked stupidly for a moment before turning to Goyle and asking if he wanted to be running mates in next year’s election. The larger boy’s eyes light up, because for all of his size and menace, Goyle truly loved nature. They fell back as they started making plans.
Harbin laughed, bidding them goodbye as well, heading towards the Slytherin table. He slid into his spot between Draco and Hermione, hugging him and bussing her on the cheek.
Hermione leaned around him to speak to Draco. “He’s happy again.”
“Yes, I can see that.” Draco nonchalantly sipped his drink, a wry smile on his lips. “Hermione, are you sure he’s not sipping some potion and not sharing with us?”
“I could ask Professor Snape and Madame Pomfrey to test him for illegal substances, but I believe this is a naturally occurring phenomenon,” she answered in all seriousness.
Harbin rolled his eyes at both of them.
“Pity,” Draco announced, “I was so hoping we could merely take it away from if that were the case. Then we would not be subjugated to these random bouts of aggressive affection. Are we sure he shouldn’t have been sorted into Hufflepuff?”
Harbin raised an eyebrow at the other boy, then proceeded to blow raspberries on every inch of available skin. Draco held out for only seconds before shrieking with laughter, making everyone in the hall smile.
“See you later, Chevalier.”
“Bye!” Harbin smiled as the waved goodbye to the other students in the reading club. He was glad Draco and Hermione had stayed behind to help choose the next book for the club as he was incredibly tired. Between all of the clubs he participated – all but the chess and intramural quidditch clubs – the official quidditch practices, his mixed house/mixed years study groups, classes and friends, he was quite exhausted.
But everything was paying off.
Four months into the school year and the headmaster had pulled Harbin aside to thank him for making school unity a possibility. They still had quite a ways to go, but there was less fighting, less bad feelings. Professor Snape had even remarked that the tensions against Slytherin House were at an all time low. He gave Harbin a very knowing look.
Harbin’s personal reputation was steadily growing. He had friends in every house and in every year, thanks in part to older siblings of his yearmates and his quidditch teammates. He knew nearly everyone in the school by sight at least, and was working on knowing them by name. He drew the loners out of their shells, integrating them into groups when he could, pairing and grouping them up with each other when he couldn’t. People smiled and waved at him and nearly everyone knew his name.
Placing his things down on top of his trunk, he threw himself on his bed and closed the curtains, which in the Slytherin dorms, was the universal sign for do not disturb. He stretched out and closed his eyes. His grin widened as he felt Valère slither across his pillow to flick his tongue over Harbin’s cheek in greeting. Absently petting the green and black ladder snake, his smile had not faded, but breathing and meditating like Uncle Jonah had taught him, had the tensions of the busy day leaving him breath by breath.
A throat clearing outside his bed pulled him from his meditation. “Oui?”
“It’s Draco, may I come in?”
“Oui.” Harbin didn’t move to let the other boy in, merely scooting over to make room. Valère hissed his displeasure, but moved as well.
Draco smiled at him as he climbed onto the bed and pushed the curtain shut once more. He lay down, huffing an exasperated breath when Harbin immediately cuddled in. “Not going to dinner?”
“I am tired, I may not.” Harbin closed his eyes, relaxing into his friend’s body, fairly sure that if Draco stayed too long, he would find himself used as a body pillow.
“Your plan is working well,” Draco murmured quietly, snapping Harbin’s eyes open.
“Uh huh,” Draco sounded smug as one of his hands began caressing Harbin’s, “your plan to make everyone like each other. It’s working.”
Caught, knowing it, Harbin relaxed again, closed his eyes again. “You do not object?”
Draco shrugged his shoulder; Harbin growled as his comfortable pillow had moved. Draco laughed softly at him. “Watching you work has been interesting.”
“Merci.” Harbin shifted himself, and Draco, until he was perfectly comfortable again.
“My father says I should help you.”
“Yeah.” Draco was playing with his fingers now. Harbin enjoyed the sight of his darker fingers entwined with Draco’s paler ones. “He says it’ll be good practice for me when I’m older.”
“And it will show Professor Dumbledore that he is cooperating, non?”
Draco sighed. “Yeah, that too.”
“And what do you think?”
“I.” Draco fell silent, Harbin could feel him thinking. “I like being liked.”
“Oui, that makes perfect sense.” Harbin squawked at Draco’s pinch.
“I meant that father said it was better to be feared than loved.”
“But?” Harbin encouraged, smiling to himself as Draco’s fingers soothed the tiny hurt he’d caused.
“Professor McGonagall almost gave me a detention for a prank that turned all of her clothing into shiny pink leather.”
“When did you--”
“I didn’t. She saw me laughing and since I was the only one there, she thought I’d done it. She was going to give me detention for a month and write to my father, but the twins appeared out of nowhere and they confessed.”
There was no need to clarify which twins as only Fred and George would cause that much havoc. Harbin stayed quiet, waiting to see where this all lead.
“If someone feared me, then I could order them to take the blame, but I didn’t have to say anything for them to step forward and confess.”
“Did they say why?”
Draco heaved a tremendous sigh. “They said something about being used to getting howlers.”
Harbin chuckled, low and evil. “Your fear must have been written all over your face for them to do that.”
“I did not! I’ll have you know my expression was perfectly bland and superior!”
“Of course, it was, my sweet, little, scaredy cat.” Harbin laughed even harder at Draco’s affronted expression.
“Shut it!” Draco attacked with those wicked, tickling fingers of his.
Albus glanced up from his paperwork when the wards told him he had a visitor. Feeling the familiar tingle of his guest’s magical signature, he bid the guardian phoenix to allow Remus entry.
“Albus, thank you for seeing me.”
He waved Remus to a chair, immediately offering refreshments. He wanted to offer more, Remus looked like he needed it – leather shoes and satchel worn down to the very marrow, clothes threadbare and hanging off the too-thin body of his old friend and student, a face aged too soon – but he knew the proud werewolf did not like charity. “How are you, my dear boy?”
“The search isn’t going well, sir.” Remus looked as though he was fighting between giving his report and sipping the obviously needed tea.
“I did not ask about the search,” Albus said gently. “It can wait. Are you well, Remus? Do you need Poppy?”
Remus sighed, relunctant but too use to answering truthfully. “The last moom was . . . difficult. I did not find shelter in time.”
Albus nodded, leaving his tea to reach for floo powder. After mentioning Remus’ condition, Poppy immediately came through.
Thankfully, Remus was more amenable to her orders, taking potions and submitting himself to healing spells. Soon, he looked much better, his appetite grown so that Albus delightedly ordered more food to be brought. Once Poppy had healed him to her fullest extent and Remus had eaten the weight of a hippogriff, Albus smiled at him.
“Yes, thank you, Albus.” Remus blushed as he surveyed the amount of demolished dishes before him.
Albus grinned, hiding it behind a cookie. “Now, you were saying?”
All embarrassment was quickly replaced by sadness and defeat. “There’s no trace of Harry, sir. The Dursleys maintain that Harry was killed in Paris, but I’ve found no records of a body or a burial.”
Albus nodded, frowning. He wanted to tell Remus that Harry was fine and well and in this very school, but the oaths of protection he had given the Chevaliers stopped him. He had already made too many mistakes regarding Harry that he couldn’t bring himself to assure Remus without the permission of the people who had loved and raised Harry into the fine young man he was now.
“He’s alive,” Remus stated adamantly, “I know he is. The book hasn’t told you differently, has it, Albus?”
“No, it has not.” He made a show of sighing. “Perhaps it is best that Harry not be found. Away from the protections that his aunt’s blood provides, perhaps it is best that no one knows where Harry is. For his own protection.”
Remus violently shook his head. “We don’t know where he is! We don’t know if he’s starving or scared or being abused. I have to find him!”
“No.” Gryffindor stubbornness that kept his schoolhood friends from completely wrecking havoc shone from the golden depths of the werewolf’s eyes. “I have to find him, Albus. He’s all I have left.”
He bowed his head, knowing there was nothing he could do to change Remus’ mind. “If I cannot dissuade, dear friend, then I will make sure that the necessary funds are transferred to your Gringotts account. I believe a few new things are in order.”
Remus blinked at him, wind abruptly leaving his sails with this capitulation, bewilderment settling in when Albus pointedly glanced at the leather satchel that was nearly falling apart and his shoes, in almost as bad of shape as his bag. “Thank you, sir, but I don’t need--”
“Remus,” he murmured gently, “people are more likely to talk to a gentleman of means than not.”
He looked like he wanted to argue, but knew better and nodded.
After Albus saw him out of the castle, he started to make plans for next year. After all, he would need a new DADA teacher by then.
The revelry and normal school year lasted until the middle of January. Winter came in like a hungry mother bear, roaring with fury and storms of snow. It was on one of these cold winter mornings that Harbin hurried into the Great Hall, craving a warm cup of tea and cinnamon-spiced porridge. Mere moments after he sat down with Draco and Hermione, Professor Snape swept in.
“Mr. Chevalier, with me. Now.”
Harbin exchanged questioning, confused glances with his friends, but scrambled to keep up with his head of house. The professor led him straight up into the headmaster’s office.
Harbin knew he hadn’t done anything to warrant being in trouble, but nevertheless, he worried. He truly hoped it had nothing to do with Voldemort. “Professeur? Did I--”
“You are not in trouble, Mr. Chevalier.” Professor Snape ushered him in.
“Harry,” Professor Dumbledore beckoned him forward, grasping his hands when he was in range.
“Professeur?” His heart was racing now. The old man’s expression was dire, sorrowful, compassionate. “What is wrong? Mes parents--”
“Bastien! What has happened to Bastien?” Harbin jerked in his hold, finding himself being held tight by the headmaster’s hands and then from behind by Professor Snape as well, a vial being forced down his throat. In seconds the potion took effect, the fear and anxiety felt as if they were held in a fog, leaving his head clearer. He stared at the two men, tilting his head back to look up at Professor Snape when Professor Dumbledore seemed to be at a loss for words. “Professeur?”
Professor Snape cupped his cheek, dark eyes fathomless. “Your brother was taken last night.”
“Taken?” Harbin parroted numbly.
“His nanny was found bludgeoned in his nursery.”
“Is Beth all right?” He could clearly picture the old matron who had been his nanny before coming to Hogwarts. She was kind and sweet, but old. “Is she okay? Beth takes medicine for her heart--”
“She is fine,” Professor Snape soothed, taking him by his shoulders to turn him around. The dark man was frowning; he seemed to be more interested in looking at Harbin’s pupils than anything else. “She is in the hospital, but your Uncle Jonah said she would be fine. Your parents are with the police, searching for your brother.”
“Bastien.” His sweet baby brother. Harbin distinctly remembered the day they had meet him. Harbin’s parents had always wanted children, but his mother couldn’t bear them. When she found Harbin wandering the streets of Paris, she had said it was destiny. As the years went by, they, his entire family, had talked about adopting another child. Harbin had enthusiastically endorsed the idea of a little brother. His parents had interviewed many children, hoping for a good fit with their family. Bastien had been one of three candidates they had chosen. The moment Harbin had seen the brown haired baby with laughing blue eyes he’d known that he had found kin. They took Bastien home that day. He and Bastien had been inseparable except for when Harbin was at school.
Someone had taken Bastien.
“Professeurs, can we use magic to find him?” He turned his plea to both men in turn.
They both sadly shook their heads.
“Why not?” he asked, forcing himself to stay calm. His father had always said that getting angry did not help as much as some people thought.
“The only spell that would work depends on familial blood. Both you and your brother were adopted, were you not?” Professor Snape bluntly explained.
Harbin jerkily nodded, feeling his hopes dashed. He stood still and quiet, trying not to break down.
“Your parents have asked that you stay here, Harry, where it’s safe.” Professor Dumbledore gently patted his shoulder. “They fear that whoever took your brother may try to take you as well.”
Harbin could feel a wave of power trying to calm him. For once, he let it work, nodding his acquiesce.
“Harbin, would you like to be excused from classes?” Professor Snape asked.
Harbin nodded once more. He did not want to be in a classroom, trying to pay attention when his little brother had been taken from them.
“Go. I will see that Draco brings you your work.”
“Merci, professeurs.” Harbin wandered out of the headmaster’s office in a daze, pausing mere feet from the door, trying to remember where it was he wanted to go.
“Albus, were there any signs of a wizard being the kidnapper?”
“No, I do not believe so. Jonah said that the wooden stick used to render the nanny unconscious was something called a baseball bat. He believes it was a weapon of convenience. This is why the Chevaliers want Harry to stay here. They believe one of their enemies is trying to force their hands regarding some political matter.”
Harbin heard enough, making his feet move. He knew, realistically, that this was a possibility. His parents had seen to it that he knew the dangers of being their son. Uncle Jonah had taught him all manners of self-defense techniques. But Bastien had been at home, with Beth, safe in his own bed. No one should have been able to get into the embassy. Not without inside help. Uncle Jonah was probably intimidating every single employee of the embassy right now.
At the thought of his uncle, Harbin calmed. If anyone could find Bastien, it was Uncle Jonah. Reaching his bed in the Slytherin dorms, he clung to that hope as he climbed into bed, curling around his pillow. Valère uncoiled from his throat, asking why he smelled like sadness. He quietly hissed the new to his pet.
That was where Draco, Hermione, Ron and Neville found him hours later. Hermione and Draco immediately curled around him, Ron and Neville perched on the end of his bed.
“Uncle Severus told us,” Draco murmured, fully wrapping his arms around him. Harbin immediately turned into his embrace, burying his face in Draco’s neck.
“What do they want? Did they ask for a ransom?” Hermione asked, pressed along Harbin’s back.
Harbin shook his head. “I do not know the particulars. Professeur Dumbledore did not say.”
“It’s all right, mate,” Ron said, voice full of forced cheer, “if anyone can get your brother back, it’s your Uncle Jonah.”
Neville vigorously nodded his head. “Keep faith, Hari.”
Harbin forced himself to smile at all of them. Platitudes were irritating as hell, but they were trying and their mere presence was enough waylay some of the harshness of his missing brother.
Within days, the whole school knew. People Harbin had never talked to before came up to hug him or offer a few words. Everyone watched him during breakfast, watching to see if an owl would bring happy news. A few of the muggleborn and halfbloods even offered help via their muggle relatives. Harbin thanked them all, smiled sadly at them all, but even his Uncle Jonah could not find hide or hair of Bastien or the people that took him.
Two weeks after Bastien’s abduction, it became too much.
“Hari! Hari! Wake up! S'il vous plaît, Hari! Vous devez vous réveiller!”
Harbin jerked awake, Draco’s hands still shaking his shoulder, the other boys still screaming. The whole room was shaking, rattling, dust from the stone ceiling thickening the air.
The door to the room banged opened. Professor Snape swept in, raked the room in once glance, and headed straight for Harbin. To the shock of all, he easily picked Harbin up in his arms, turning to leave without a single word spoken. Harbin hazily saw Draco scrambling to catch up and then he saw Professor Dumbledore following close behind.
“Oh my dear boy,” the headmaster whispered, reaching out to smooth down his hair once they reached Professor Snape’s private quarters.
Harbin was on the couch, curled in a cocoon of Draco’s arms and legs and a big fluffy blanket that Professor Dumbledore conjured out of thin air. He could still feel Draco’s shaking, but his best friend merely held him tighter when Harbin tried to leave his embrace. “What happened?” he whispered.
“You lost control of your powers, Harry.” Professor Dumbledore called for tea and it appeared. He fixed tea for all of them, even Professor Snape who had left them for his laboratory. The moment his tea cup was ready, he magically appeared, vial in hand. “Ah, Severus.”
Professor Snape practically ignored him, coming to genuflect in front of Harbin and Draco. He held up the vial, blue green potion swirling inside. “Dreamless Sleep, a variation on the Sleeping Draught. It will keep the nightmares at bay.”
Harbin nodded, taking it immediately, not wanting to be awake, not wanting to remember, right now. “Merci, Professeur Snape.”
Severus watched as the potion took immediate effect. Harbin’s eyes closed and the tension of the last two weeks finally faded. Mentally sighing, he took the only remaining seat, nodding his thanks to Albus for the tea. Silently, they all watched Harbin sleep. Well, Albus and Draco watched Harbin sleep. Severus watched his godson.
Draco was curled around Harbin, his legs over Harbin’s, one arm on top of the blanket, tucking it securely around Harbin’s body. But it was the other hand that caught Severus’ attention. Draco’s other hand, slim and so competent at potions-making, cupped the back of Harbin’s neck. Fingertips caressing the ends of Harbin’s dark hair, palm possessively draped across Harbin’s vulnerable skin. It was a blatant proclamation of sovereignty, that touch. But it was his eyes, dark, stormy silver that held sweet tenderness that truly spoke of the boy’s feelings towards Harbin Chevalier.
Severus knew the boy didn’t even realize it. “Draco, what happened?”
His words woke his godson up from his contemplation of Harbin’s sleeping face. “We woke up to find the room shaking.” Draco paused, casting a quick, suspicious glance at Albus.
Severus almost laughed, but the lessons of a lifetime took time to unravel. “Go on.”
Draco studied him and saw the message to trust the headmaster on his face. “I could feel the power radiating from Hari. I tried to wake him up, but couldn’t at first so I told Blaise to go get you. He woke up just as you were coming in.”
They fell silent, only to have it broken by Draco’s next question.
“He’s very powerful, isn’t he?”
Severus kept his eyes lowered, studying his godson, wondering if Draco had any inkling of who Harbin truly was. He let Albus handle this.
“Yes, my boy, he is.” Refreshingly to the point was the headmaster’s answer. Albus turned to him. “He will need training, Severus.”
Severus inclined his head, already making plans.
His leg was going numb, his back was aching just a bit, and he knew he would have a crick in his neck when he woke. But Draco didn’t care. He merely curled around Harbin even more. Holding his best friend, he thought about what the headmaster had said about Harbin’s power and about his godfather’s behavior. It seemed strange that the headmaster would come down to the dungeons just to see to one student. Of course, Harbin had been rattling the very foundations of the great castle and his brother was missing. Maybe that was the explanation for the old man’s presence, but Draco thought there was more to it.
And then there was Uncle Severus’ behavior: how he had deferred to the headmaster, how he knew exactly what Dumbledore wanted him to do when he said that Harbin would need training. It would make sense for Uncle Severus to defer to his employer, but it had seemed more than that. It was as if there was something deeper than just employer-employee. There was a sense of depth and loyalty between them. Draco wondered about that, and he wondered about Harbin’s power.
When he woke up to the castle’s shaking, he’d nearly pissed himself. The screams and shouts of the others had only added to the chaos. Even through the stone walls, he could hear the screams and shouts of the other Slytherins. When he realized it had to be Harbin, fitfully sleeping but emanating such pain and misery, he could only think to wake him. He had no idea what he’d said, no idea if he had slapped his friend, but finally Harbin woke and the shaking had stopped.
His father believed that careful control and complete mastery was the only way to be truly powerful, that those who were more powerful than others merely had better control. But the way the headmaster had spoken about Harbin implied something else. That power was inherent in the wizard and learning control only enhanced it. No one had ever managed to measure a wizard’s magical core, to test and measure the true extent of power housed in a person, regardless of control. So when Draco had asked about Harbin’ power, he had been surprised when Dumbledore had answered in the positive, rather than ridiculing Draco’s question.
So, perhaps his father was wrong on this, much like his opinion on muggleborns.
Draco laid there and thought about that as he drifted into sleep.
Severus turned at Higgs’ question. For the most part, the student body had believed the fabrication that the shaking of the school’s foundations had been the result of the Chamber of Secrets caving in on itself. He was not surprised that the moment he stepped into the Slytherin common room, his snakes immediately came to attention. And it looked like Higgs had been elected the official spokesperson. He raised an eyebrow.
“Professor, what the headmaster said this morning about the castle shaking. Was it really Slytherin’s chamber caving in?”
Severus nodded slowly. “A true loss for the house of Slytherin.”
While his words seemed to be enough for some of his house, there were others whose eyes held disbelief or knowledge. Of course, none of them would gainsay him to his face, but he knew the whispers would start the moment he left. He knew, because of the other boys in Draco’s dorm room, that those whispers would probably hold several grains of truth. He could only hope that those rumors would die down, but even if they didn’t, thankfully, there was no chance that Harbin’s identity would be revealed.
He moved about the common room, stopping here and there to speak to his students. He arranged tutoring when necessary, continuing Harbin’s plan for a more unified Hogwarts by setting his snakes up with tutors from other houses, as well as vice versa. He saw Draco lingering by the door. He was not surprised to find his godson dogging his steps to his office. He waved him in, calling for tea. “Draco?”
“Not all of them believed the story.” Draco nodded his thanks for the cup. He sneered. “Nott can’t keep his mouth shut about what color his underwear is, let alone something like this.”
“Violent explosions of magic are not uncommon.” He sipped at his own tea, savoring the heat and sweetness.
Draco nodded, but still seemed tense.
Severus could count on one hand the number of times he had seen Draco away from Harbin since Bastien had been taken. Not really thinking about it, he reached over to smooth his godson’s hair. Draco slumped into his touch.
“I’m really worried about him.”
Severus did not answer, not wanting to voice his fears of what would happen if Bastien was not found. What would happen to Harbin if something dreadful happened to Bastien, what would happen to the wizarding world if the Dark Lord came back and Harbin was not strong enough to defeat him. “How are you?” he asked, just to change the subject, even if he knew that Draco’s state of mind was closely tied to Harbin’s.
Draco shrugged a shoulder, elegant movement despite its mundaness. “Classes are okay. Pansy and Blaiese and the others are okay. Hermione’s trying to distract Harbin, but it’s not going well.”
“And your mother and father?” Severus merely wanted to keep the conversation going and away from Harbin, to give his godson a break.
Clearly his efforts weren’t working. He fell into silence, staring at the fire and letting the quiet grow. Draco seemed disinclined to break the mood, slumping into his seat and staring at the fire as well.
Three days had passed since Harbin had lost control of his powers. His parents still wrote him every day, telling him what they had found, what they hadn’t. He still went through school in a daze. Thankfully, not only did his teachers understand, but his grades had been good enough that they weren’t suffering too much from his inattention now. But even with his school work failing, his extracurricular activities soared. It was mindless and absorbing to plunge his hands into dirt, to read and listen without contributing anything to the discussion. And it was liberating, cursing and hexing and protecting himself against all comers. It got to the point that Professor Snape consistently chose him as a partner, to spare the other students his exploding wrath.
At night, Draco would climb into bed with him and hold him until he fell asleep. He would wrap himself around the warmth of his friend, bury his face in the soft skin of Draco’s neck and attempt to hide from the fear that his baby brother was dead. Nearly four weeks and not a sign of Bastien anywhere. His parents told him not to lose hope, but he could feel it slipping away.
Another listless morning, another day in which he attempted to pay attention, with Hermione’s constant efforts to engage him in his studies dawned. He sat at the breakfast table, moving his eggs and fruit around. The owl with his parents’ letter had come and gone, so the appearance of a new owl brought quite a bit of attention.
Harbin never noticed. Instead, he stared at the note. It demanded his presence tonight, in Hogsmeade, or his brother would die. He could feel his heart constricting in excruciating pain, his heartbeat fast and fevered as it pounded in his ears.
Bastien had been taken because of him.
“Hari!” Hermione viciously pinched him. “What does it say?”
He jerked the letter from her seeking hand, only to have it taken by Draco instead.
Severus had seen the other owl. He had then seen the way Draco and Hermione conspired around Harbin, without the boy even noticing what his friends on either side of his body were planning. Draco had neatly plucked the note while Hermione had provided the distraction. Simple and easy were definitely the way to go sometimes.
Harbin tried to get the letter back, but Draco held it away from him with the help of Crabbe and Goyle. The disturbance was starting to attract attention. Severus could see the frown marring his godson’s face from here, instantly came to his feet when he saw the panicked look Draco flashed his way. His strides ate up the distance. To his gratification, all of his snakes instantly froze at his arrival. “Mr. Chevalier, Mr. Malfoy, my office. Now.”
He walked away without looking back.
Severus was not surprised to see Albus and Minerva already in his office. He was surprised to see Hermione, Longbottom, Lovegood and an assortment of Weasleys scurrying behind Draco and Harbin. He rolled his eyes to the heavens, praying for patience, wondering if a patience potion should be his next project. “I believe I only requested the presence of Misters Malfoy and Chevalier?”
The Gryffindors cringed satisfactorily. The strange Lovegood girl merely smiled absently at him as she pet Harbin’s arm.
Hermione, at least, kept her wits about her. “Harbin needs our support,” she stated quite simply. Turned a self-satisfied look on him when Harbin smiled at her in gratitude.
Severus rolled his eyes. If the girl wasn’t running the entire Ministry of Magic by the time she was thirty, he’d eat his favorite cauldron. He held out his hand.
Harbin reluctantly handed him the note he’d finally managed to retrieve from Draco.
Reading it quickly, Severus handed it off to Albus and Minerva. He began making plans as he waited for the others to read the note. Albus, of course, seemed to wilt when he realized it was a wizard after all. Quite possibly a wizard after Harry Potter.
Minerva seemed to blaze all the more brightly in her anger. “You will not be putting yourself in danger, Harbin Chevalier, do you hear me?”
“But my brother!” Harbin protested.
“We will help you, Harry, but you must not do this alone.” Albus was handing the note back, but he caught Harbin’s eyes, making Severus wonder if Albus was trying to use compulsion on the boy. “You must not do this alone.”
“But the note,” Harbin protested once more, but his eyes and face said that he was already using his mind to find a way around the restriction of ‘come alone and tell no one.’
“No one will see your help, Harbin,” Albus reassured him, twinkle back in his eyes.
Harbin took measured steps to the part of the wizarding town of Hogsmeade the note told him to go. He saw the flash of a dark gray cat’s tail as it paced him in the shadows. He couldn’t quite see the glimmer of Professor Snape or the headmaster’s disillusionment charms, but he could feel their presence. And he knew that his Uncle Jonah was already at the rendezvous spot, hidden under an invisibility cloak.
He truly was not alone this time as he went to face whoever had his brother.
Harbin knew it had something to do with Voldemort. After all, he had his suspicions that despite the glamour over his scar and his different name, the dark wizard had known it was him. And no matter what the headmaster and the other professors told him, Harbin just knew that Voldemort was still out there, gathering power to return.
He must have arrived at the rendezvous first, for no one was there. He leaned against a tree and waited, unwilling to leave his back unprotected despite the presence of the professors and his uncle. Harbin’s wand came out and up at the pop of a broken branch. “Bastien,” he breathed, watching as a man emerged from the woods. His baby brother was dangling from the man’s hold, squirming to get away, yanking at the back of his shirt where the robed and masked man clutched at him.
“Hari! Hari! Permettez-moi d'aller! Laissez vont! Hari!”
“It is all right, Bastien, everything is all right. He will let you go soon.” Harbin raised his wand, hoping to keep the man’s attention on him so that any movement made by the others wouldn’t be notice. “Is that not right, monsieur? I am here, as you have asked.”
The masked figure nodded. “I don’t know why my lord wants you.”
Harbin could hear the man’s curiosity in his voice, found it strange that a Death Eater would be willing to make conversation at a hostage exchange. He wasn’t going to assuage the man’s curiosity, but he did want to keep him talking to give everyone else time to move. “And who is your lord?”
“There is only one lord, boy! The Dark Lord!”
Harbin had to hide his amusement. Why did every Death Eater sound like a bad cartoon minion? Maybe he had been watching too many cartoons? He forced himself to shudder like a frightened child would, like a wizarding child who had grown up hearing the boogey man tales about Voldemort. “But I thought he was dead? Why,” he let his voice quake, “why would he want me?”
“I don’t know, but you’ll soon find out.” Again with the bad cartoon minion. “Come, boy!”
“But, what about my brother?” Harbin glanced at Bastien, seeing that his brother had caught on because he had been still and quite. It was a trick they’d been taught by Uncle Jonah. Let your captor think you’ve given in, let them relax their grip, jerking away when they were the most distracted. Harbin took one step forward.
A cat screamed.
Bastien jerked away.
The man raised his wand.
Harbin dove for his brother, rolling them both away.
Red spells shot out.
Severus watched impassively as the Chevaliers fussed over both of their sons. Of course, the youngest was receiving the lion’s share of their attention, as well as his older brother’s. While Harbin’s face was once more carefree and laughter-filled, his eyes said something else. Shadows haunted them. Severus knew that the boy blamed himself for his brother’s kidnapping. He hoped the Chevaliers would rid him of that notion posthaste. The way the uncle was watching Harbin like a hawk, Severus was sure it was a moot point. He left them in the infirmary, under the care of Poppy and Minerva. The women would see to them.
He had a Death Eater to interrogate.
Albus had the Death Eater under Hagrid’s stern guard. Both the groundskeeper and his enormous mutt stood over the bound man, both glaring with a ferocity that promised a painful recapture if he even thought of escape. Hagrid had not been amused when he heard this was the man who had kidnapped a toddler from his very bed.
Finding Albus ready for him, Severus ripped off the hood and mask. “Evan Rosier, not one of the Dark Lord’s better servants.”
“Traitor!” Rosier hissed. “Wait until I tell him of your treachery, you--” His mouth moved but no sounds could be heard.
Severus mildly turned to see Albus tucking his wand back into the folds of his robes. He held up the veritaserum, dosing Rosier at Albus’ nod. Before he could ask the first question, Jonah and Harbin slipped into the room.
Albus was immediately on his feet, trying to usher the boy out, but Harbin was not having any of that.
“S'il vous plaît, professeur, I must know why Bastien was taken.” Harbin was guiding the headmaster back to his chair behind the desk and then stayed there.
Albus stared into Harbin’s eyes, seeing what Severus did not know, but eventually he nodded to proceed after taking off the silencing spell.
“State your name and your familial lineage.” Severus started with the question that began all interrogations.
“Evan Rosier, son of Damian Rosier and Wilhemina Sawbridge Rosier, grandson of Radcliffe Rosier and--”
“Enough. Are you a Death Eater?”
“Why did you kidnap Sebastien Chevalier?”
“The Dark Lord told me to.”
“What was his motive to kidnap a muggle child?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did the Dark Lord tell you why he wanted Harbin Chevalier?”
Severus turned to Albus. It was evident that Voldemort was keeping his plans for himself. Or didn’t have the power to elaborate on his plans to his servant.
“Why did it take you so long to reach Hogwarts?” Albus asked, leaning forward.
“I had to travel using thestrals and a carriage.”
“Why didn’t you apparate?” Severus asked, hating that persons under veritaserum could not elaborate, merely answer the question posed.
“I don’t know.”
“Why didn’t you use the Floo network?” For surely he could have used the network to get to Scotland, or even England, from Spain faster?
“It wouldn’t work.”
“I didn’t have one.”
Severus did not bother asking why on that one. “Why did it take you so long, even on land it should not have taken more than a week?”
“Accidents, broken wheels, bad weather, lame animals. . .” Rosier continued to list everything that went wrong on his trip.
Albus looked pleased, his eyes twinkling once more. “That’s enough, Severus. We’ve learned all that we can.”
From the look he was given, he knew what Albus wanted him to do. “Obliviate! Rosier, you have failed your lord. You brought the brat to Hogwarts, but aurors were waiting. You left the boy to save yourself. But now the Dark Lord is angry with you. You must flee England or you will face his punishment.”
Instantly, Rosier jumped up, terror in his every expression and cell, running from the headmaster’s office. Watching at the window, Severus made sure he left the castle. A touch on his elbow had him turning to find Harbin’s eyes piercing him.
“Why did you let him leave?” The boy did not sound betrayed, merely curious. Did he trust Severus that much?
“Jonah, no!” Albus yelled.
Severus spun, wand in hand, but it was too late.
Rosier was on the ground, just outside the castle doors, the echo of a gunshot still ringing in the air.
Jonah was unloading the rifle that no one had even known he had, hands slow and sure, not even glancing at the two men who had their wands pointed at him. When he was done, he raised his head, spearing them with cold blue eyes. “I do not allow threats to the Chevaliers to live.”
Jonah nodded to Harbin. The boy smiled up at his uncle. It was a chilling smile, it should not have been on a twelve-year-old’s face. Severus realized then that the question had been a diversion. He stared down at the boy in shock. He didn’t know whether to be proud at his practicality or to drag the child away from an uncle who taught him such lessons.
“C'est bien, professeur.” Harbin crooned as he patted his hand. “La famille doit toujours être protégée et certains animaux doivent juste être déposés.”
Harbin knew he shocked both professors with his attitude, but that was how he had been raised. His father was a diplomat that worked his hardest to help keep peace, to help France’s relations with its allies run smoothly. His father was a peacekeeper, a man who thrived during time of peace because it gave him time to enjoy his life, his family. But for all that, Yves Chevalier had been in danger for most of his life. As the youngest son of Harbin Chevalier III, one of France’s most ruthless business magnates, he had been a target for his father’s enemies. It did not help that he inherited his stature and his looks from his petite, blonde fey-like mother. And so, Harbin’s grandfather had found him a bodyguard. Uncle Jonah had been with Yves Chevalier before he had married Sophie Lisle. Jonah never went on vacation, never left their family’s side. He never spoke of his past, of any family he might have. He protected Harbin’s father because he loved him, considered his family his own.
It was this man that had instilled in Harbin the need to protect their loved ones. His father protected their family in other ways, preventing disasters before they could occur, but the man could not handle crises without the support of his formidable wife and his lover. Harbin had grown up seeing that, seeing how outside threats were neutralized in the best way possible so that they did not re-emerge. With a Death Eater, one who was still willing to follow Voldemort, who showed no remorse in taking a baby from his home and hurting the old woman who protected him? Well, Harbin never wanted to have to do it himself, but he fully understood why his uncle did it.
Harbin turned as his parents entered the headmaster’s office, Bastien in their father’s arms. Bastien turned away from their father, arms held out towards him. It looked like it was Harbin’s turn again. His baby brother had been eagerly possessive of each of them in turn, demanding to be held by each of their family until he felt he needed another. He sat down in an offered chair, curling around Bastien.
“Thank you for your help, headmaster,” his father murmured, relief lighting his once haggard features. When his parents had arrived at Hogwarts with Professor Snape, his father’s face had been so very devastated, his composure hanging by a thread and the death grip he had on his spouses’ hands.
The headmaster offered them tea and coffee before he informed them of the results of the interrogation. “We are so very sorry that Voldemort has intruded on your lives like this.”
Harbin’s mother snorted. “He has intruded before this, headmaster, and it seems he will continue to intrude.”
The headmaster sighed. “Yes, I believe you are right.”
“What can be done?” his father asked, sipping at his tea, leaning tiredly against his mother. She stood beside him, her hand slipping to the back of his neck, soothing him with touches to his hair.
“Your home will need wards and protections embedded into the stones and foundation.” Professor Dumbledore used his wand to create an outline of a house, golden lines appeared, lining the walls of the house. More lines radiated outwards along the grounds until they shot up into the air, forming a dome around the entire house. “This particular ward would stop apparition and portkey travel from the inside of the house.”
“Is there a ward like this on the French embassy?” his father asked, coming alert.
“No.” Professor Snape shook his head.
“Non, of course, not,” his father leaned forward, confusion marring his brow. “Why, then, did Rosier not use such means to escape? Why did he attack Beth? Could he not have . . . stupefied her? Why did it take him so long to reach Hogwarts? All that trouble could not have been coincidence.”
The headmaster smiled, eyes twinkling for the first time since Uncle Jonah shot Rosier. He waved his hand, a gargantuan book sailed off a nearby shelf to land on his desk. He held his hand over the book as it flipped pages on its own.
Bastien roused at that, eyes wide as the pages moved on their own. Harbin smiled at his brother. While Bastien was no stranger to Hogwarts, having visited him when he had landed in the hospital wing last year after dealing with Voldemort and Quirrell, he had not seen much more than the mostly bland hospital wing. As a consequence, now that he had been roused from his sleepily stupor, he was gazing at the room in wild wonder. Especially at the self-moving pages and the beautiful red and gold phoenix, Fawkes.
“Ah, here we are.” The headmaster levitated the book so that they could all read it.
There, in the Cs, was Bastien’s name.
Harbin stared at it, then stared at his little brother. Bastien was too busy reaching for Fawkes to notice Harbin’s stare, let alone everyone else in the room. Harbin grinned. So he hadn’t lied to his brother after all. He turned to see his parents and uncle smile in relief. “What is it?”
“We thought our minds were playing tricks on us again,” his mother answered, moving away from his father to curl her arm around him. “When you were little, we knew it had to be you doing those magical things. We could see your eyes as they followed your floating toy, we could see your hands or fingers instructing the toy to move. But things were happening around Bastien that we couldn’t explain or clearly attribute to him. A blanket was blue instead of green, when Nounou Beth thought she had put out the green one to be used. Little things.”
“Well, it seems that Bastien was using his magic to slow down his kidnapper,” Professor Dumbledore heartily announced. “A child’s logic would dictate that if he slowed them down enough, his parents would be able to catch up.”
His mother turned, catching Bastien up in her arms, kissing and cuddling him. Bastien allowed it, but in the resilience that is childhood, he squirmed to get away. He looked like he was contemplating how to get up high enough to reach Fawkes.
“Bastien,” their mother warned.
His brother threw her an abashed look, but still his eyes remained on the headmaster’s familiar.
“Harry, why don’t you take your brother on a tour of the castle?” Professor Dumbledore smiled at him. “I’m sure your parents will fill you in later?”
Both of his parents nodded, his uncle looked torn: stay here and discuss further security or follow to make sure the Harbin and Bastien were all right.
Professor Snape solved the problem for him by standing. “I will accompany them.”
The professor shadowed them as Harbin showed Bastien where he would be going to school in a few years. The light in his brother’s eyes made up for the fear that had been in them hours before. When classes let out, more than one person had excitedly exclaimed over Bastien’s return. His brother was a little confused, a little overwhelmed, but he handled it by smiling and clinging to Harbin’s hand. And, when the attention became a little too much, Harbin had only to glance at his head of house. The most feared professor at the school only had to step forward and people vanished.
That is, everyone except his friends.
The girls (Hermione, Tracy, Ginny, and Luna) all cooed over Bastien, who flirted with them with his peekaboo eyes and shy smiles. The boys (Draco, Ron, Neville, and the twins) rolled their eyes at the girls and wanted to know all the details of what happened. He quietly told them all, the girls listening in as they kept Bastien distracted with all of Hogwarts’ amazements. They ended up in the Great Hall in time for lunch.
Professor Snape left them at the Slytherin table to whisper to Professor McGonagall. She nodded, glancing at the headmaster’s empty chair. The potions professor nodded as well, spinning to leave the Great Hall. Probably to continue discussing security measures with Harbin’s parents.
Harbin sat down, letting those worries leave for the moment, pulling Bastien into his lap.
“Got your brother back, I see.” Theodore Nott grimaced at the invasion of the Gryffindors, but said nothing about it.
“Oui.” Harbin smiled at everyone at the table before serving himself and his brother, letting Bastien choose what he wanted first. “We have been showing him around the school he will be attending in a few years.”
“Another Frenchie at Hogwarts, Merlin help us,” Pucey laughed from several seats down.
Harbin grinned at the prefect, but focused on his brother and his meal. From the looks the other Slytherins were giving them, approval with less wariness, the news that his brother would also be attending Hogwarts was received just as he thought it would be. They simply saw it as another sign that the Chevaliers were a French halfblood family. Harbin could only wonder how they would take the news that they were anything but.
Even with that sword hanging over his head, Harbin firmly turned his attention to enjoying lunch with his little brother and his friends.
Year Two: Summer
Harbin stared in wonder as his new home rose before him. It was, in essence, a tiny castle with three main, interlocking sections: a tower and two different-sized square buildings. Tall narrow windows with a pointed arch at its top decorated the tower, while large bay windows of plate glass adorned the rest of the front. The castle itself sat on top of a hill, overlooking the lush greenery of the countryside. They were only a few miles outside of London, but Harbin would have never guessed by the rolling hills and forests of trees surrounding his new home.
“Il a dix chambres à coucher, tous avec leurs propres salles de bains et tous les espaces pour vivre normaux aussi bien qu'une pièce d'amusement,” his father enthusiastically informed him, hands flying everywhere as he sketched out the castle’s interior in the air. The car was still ascending so they had quite a bit of ways to go. “La connexion Floo a été mise en place juste la semaine dernière et tous les pupilles sont dans l'endroit.”
“La magie ne se mêlera pas de l'électronique?” Harbin asked, nearly clapping with glee when he saw the stables filled with magnificent horses just off the drive. They were almost home.
“Pas selon les sorciers qui ont installé la connexion et les pupilles.” His father winked, but the tension that suddenly infused him, Harbin’s mother and uncle spoke of carefully questioned logistics regarding all of their protection.
Harbin nodded. After his brother’s abduction at the end of the first term, his father had asked that the French president transfer him to the French embassy in the British Isles. When the president had balked, his father had merely handed in his resignation. The president would not accept it and so had him transferred to London posthaste. But even with all of the security in the embassy, his parents wasted no time in searching for a home that would offer the family protection from both muggles and wizards alike. With the help of Professor Dumbledore, they had found this castle, a real fixer-up according to his mother, and immediately contracted renovations. His mother had hired a wizarding company that specialized in combining muggle conveniences with wizarding security. According to his parents, the company had been worth every galleon they had spent.
Once they reached the castle, his father and Bastien dragged him on a whirlwind tour, his mother and uncle following indulgently behind. The main hall which housed the living room and dining room was all dark wooden beams, stone flooring, and tapestries lining the stone walls. Huge fireplaces on either end of the hall gave warmth and light, highlighting the rich black walnut furniture softened by touchable fabrics and enveloping cushions. The kitchen was a cook’s dream of modern appliances, an embarrassment of storage, and large workspaces. His father said that Uncle Jonah had salivated when he saw it.
Brief glances into each of his parents’ offices, before his father revealed the incredible master bedroom located in the tower. The four-poster, dark mahogany bed was monstrous in size, perfect for three people. The master bath had been the selling point for his mother, especially the large Roman bath converted into a Jacuzzi. Bastien’s room, while not in the tower itself, was right next door to their parents. His little brother gleefully showed him the platform that their mother had installed for him so that he could aim his telescope out of the skinny window at either the night sky or the grounds surrounding their home.
Finally, Harbin was able to see his room, located across the hall from Bastien’s. It was very much like his parents’ room, merely at a smaller scale. A desk with a computer took up the wall under the large bay window, surrounding it were bookcases filled with knick-knacks and books. His television and gaming consoles filled the entertainment center across from his bed. His school trunk was already at the foot of his bed, much like at Hogwarts. The room was a soothing mixture of whites, blues, and greens. Harbin smiled at the touches of green, wondering if his mother added them just to remind him of the Slytherin dorms.
After he set up Valére’s tank and placed Brock in the place of honor on his bed, he curled into overstuffed armchair near one of his bookcases. His father was a great believer in reading nooks, and always made sure that everyone had at least one nook for their use. The chair cradled his body, encouraging Harbin to relax. It was strange, but the moment he had entered the castle, he had felt immediately at home. The feeling said that this was home and that he would always be loved and protected here. Finding it odd, but willing to trust this feeling, Harbin sank into the chair. Sitting there, surveying his new room, Harbin thought about the previous year. Thankfully, other than Bastien’s kidnapping, it had been a very quiet year. Well, quiet for him. The rest of the year had merely been classes and the carrying-on of his plans to make more friends and to integrate the school.
His parents, on the other hand, had had a very busy year. Not only had his father lobbied to be stationed in England, he, his mother, and Uncle Jonah began making valuable contacts in the wizarding world. Thanks to his father’s work and the wide-reaching Chevalier business contacts, they had all the help they would ever need in the muggle world. But not in the wizarding world. They had set about rectifying that. While Harbin had been busy making friends and contacts at school, they had been making friends and contacts in the wizarding world thanks to help of Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy.
With Lucius’ renouncement of Voldemort, Harbin’s father had made sure to use this connection to the very limit. He frequently wrote to Lucius, engaging him in a game of “I bet you can’t introduce me to . . . .” Pureblood pride would never stand for it, and so the Chevaliers had become the newest faces at the socials that had once been for the pureblood elite. But while Yves and Sophie Chevalier had been wining and dining the elite, Uncle Jonah had been making the acquaintance of the other half. Not only regular wizarding folks who may be of use, but also the seedier side. Knockturn Alley had yielded street contacts with information that the upper echelons of the wizarding society would rather not see the light of day. Information such as that high ministry official whose wife did not know about his liaisons with his mistress and the mistress’ brother. Information like that would be worth its weight in gold.
But more than just making contacts in the wizarding world, his parents became very conversant with wizarding law. Such as the one on underage wizards practicing magic outside of Hogwarts. With the threat of Voldemort looming over their family, and especially over Harbin, his parents were not complacent enough to believe that what he learned in school would be sufficient to protect himself or his family and friends. And so, they teamed together with Professor Snape to petition Professor Dumbledore and the Wizengamot to exempt Harbin from the restriction on underage wizards. Citing the exemption made for purebloods, the Chevaliers subtly and judiciously used information gathered throughout the year to ensure that their petition was granted.
In two days’ time, a wizard would be moving into the Chevalier household with the expressed mission of teaching Harbin as much defensive and offensive magic as he could fit into his brain. Not only that, but Professor Snape would be making an occasional visit to start teaching Harbin occlumency. During their discussions, Harbin’s parents had wrest from Professor Dumbledore his fears that Voldemort may have a connection to Harbin’s mind via the curse scar. If occlumency would stop Voldemort from invading his mind, Harbin had enthusiastically agreed to lessons.
“Harbin? Hello! I’m Gavin Gresham!”
Harbin had no choice but to smile up at the green-eyed blond who had bounced up at his arrival, immediately sticking out his hand. He took the offered hand. “Bonjour, Monsieur Gresham, it is a pleasure to meet you.” He turned to his other visitor. “Bonjour, Professeur Dumbledore.”
“It is good to see you, my boy.” The professor smiled, waving at the other man. “Mr. Gresham will be your tutor this summer.”
“I can’t wait to teach you everything I know!” The enthusiastic man, who had to be in his mid- to late-twenties, without more ado began pulling out books and charts and all manner of magical instruments. Harbin knew that his new tutor knew his other identity, as Gresham would be acting as magical security much like Uncle Jonah was muggle, and would have been put under an Unbreakable Vow regarding that information. He wondered if all this enthusiasm was due to his Harry Potter identity or if the man was always this hyper.
“Ah, Gavin?” Professor Dumbledore couldn’t hide his beaming smile, sharing it with Harbin.
“Yes, Professor Dumbledore?” Mr. Gresham did not stop his animated movements as he answered.
“Perhaps it would be best for you to unpack your things in your rooms? And in the practice room that the Chevaliers have so kindly put aside for yours and Harbin’s use?”
Harbin had to bite back a smile as his befuddled tutor blinked. He was fairly sure this was the man’s usual behavior and not due to Harbin’s fame.
Mr. Gresham beamed a moment later. “Of course! How silly of me!”
“Harbin, would you like to show us the way?”
He received the distinct impression that Professor Dumbledore was very close to laughing. As he lead the way to the tutor’s rooms, Mr. Gresham cheerfully asking questions about the castle, Harbin found himself liking him. The man was energetic and positive, bubbling with excitement about teaching Harbin, and looking forward to living in the newly renovated castle.
“I’m a halfblood,” Mr. Gresham winked, “so I got used to things like the TV and cable when I was younger. Can’t get things like that in Diagon Alley.”
Harbin laughed, nodding. “Oui, I have missed my favorite shows very much.”
When they arrived at the tutor’s quarters, Mr. Gresham was ecstatic about the large room set aside and heavily warded for the teaching of defensive and offensive spells. The dueling room, as his parents called it, had been set up with everything he would need to practice his skills, both magical and muggle: targets, dummies, and weapons. Unsurprisingly, it had been Uncle Jonah who had insisted upon such a room and then designed it. Mr. Gresham had animatedly exclaimed over the perfection of the room, barely glancing at his bedroom and living quarters, before diving into his bags and coming out with those books, charts and magical instruments again.
“Harry, why don’t we leave Gavin to his unpacking and take a walk?”
Harbin knew instantly that this wasn’t going to be a leisurely stroll around the grounds, but he gamely followed the headmaster as they left the castle. They ambled down gravel and paved trails, ducking low-hanging branches of trees so old they had to have been here before time began. The sounds of song birds and insects filled the summer air. Lush greenery bloomed, filling Harbin’s nose with the smell of flowers.
They had made an entire circuit around the small castle before Professor Dumbledore deigned to speak. The professor twinkled at him. “How do you like your new home?”
Harbin did not trust that twinkle. It was more than the headmaster’s normal jovial outlook on life. “It is lovely.” He gave him a side-long look. “Why do you ask, professeur?”
Professor Dumbledore chuckled softly. “I cannot get anything by you, can I, Harry?”
“Non, professeur,” he cheekily grinned. “Professeur Snape would disown me if I let you slip by me.”
The teacher’s laughter grew as he patted Harbin’s shoulder. Professor Dumbledore steered him with that hold to face the front door. “Harry, what do you see?”
Harbin tilted his head, looking carefully. It took a mere moment for one of the stone bricks to shimmer and a plaque appeared. He gasped. Written on the golden square was Pottere Hale. Harbin jerked about to stare at the headmaster. “Professeur, is this?”
“Indeed, Harry, your ancestral home.” Professor Dumbledore picked up Harbin’s right hand and pressed it to the plaque.
Harbin could feel the surge of power in the stone and gold. He could feel shields he couldn’t see erecting around him, surging out towards the rest of the grounds. “Professeur?”
“The old Potter wards have accepted you, my boy.” Satisfaction dripped from the old man’s words. “You are the last Potter, Harry, and therefore, lord of not only this castle, but lord of every holding your family has ever acquired since the Battle of Hastings.”
Harbin stared at the box Professor Dumbledore handed him. He opened the box to find a set of keys and the invisibility cloak Uncle Jonah had used to hide from Bastien’s kidnapper.
“The cloak was your father’s.” Old hands patted the material with a remembering touch. “He gave it to me for safe keeping. I think you should have it now.”
Harbin stared at the cloak, at a loss for words.
Professor Dumbledore edged the keys out of the folds of the cloak. “These are the keys to your estates and to your family’s vaults. This one,” he pointed out a small golden key, “was to be your school vault when you came to Hogwarts for your first year. Your parents had set it aside for all of you needs throughout your time at school.” Professor Dumbledore singled out a large iron key. “This is your mother and father’s vault.” His voice noticeably softened. “Anything left from your home in Godric’s Hollow will be there.”
Harbin slowly nodded, eyes not leaving that iron key.
“The others are to various other vaults belonging to your family.”
Harbin kept nodding, eyes still on the iron key. Part of him wanted to head to Gringotts immediately, but another part, the part that called Yves and Sophie Chevalier mother and father, didn’t. Strong, knobby fingers closed his hand around the keys.
“When you’re ready, Harry, I will take you to see them.”
He nodded again.
“And this.” The headmaster pulled out a large, soft bundle, gently placing it in Harbin’s arms. “Your father’s invisibility cloak. He asked me to keep it safe.” Professor Dumbledore smiled. “I think it’ll be very safe in your hands.”
Harbin stroked the soft material and fingered the keys, completely unaware when the headmaster slipped away.
Severus knew it was a mistake to let Albus choose Harbin’s tutor without some kind of input from either himself or Minerva. Pretty as hell, but apparently dumb as a rock, Gavin Gresham stood there, silent and dumbfounded, staring at him. He had flooed to Pottere Hale for Harbin’s first occlumency lesson, finding his student in the room that had been specially warded for his practice. Harbin had been cheerfully dueling the young blond man, stopping only when he saw Severus. Greetings and introductions had happen, but the tutor had not had the presence of mind to speak, let alone offer any kind of salutation.
Thankfully, Harbin stepped in. “Gavin, Professeur Snape and I have lessons now, would you please excuse us?”
Gresham nodded like a puppet, stumbling as he left the room because he wasn’t watching where he was going.
Severus gave him a sardonic eyebrow as he followed the man to the door, closing it in his face. He turned to find Harbin smiling at him. He did not like that smile at all. “Stop smiling.”
“Of course, professeur.” The brat did not stop smiling.
Severus waved him to a chair.
“Have you seen Draco this summer, professeur?” The boy was nothing but sweetness as he made his inquiry.
“Yes.” He moved another chair to face Harbin.
“We have been writing, of course, but I do miss him.” Harbin was relaxed as he seated himself, that damn smile still lingering on his mouth. “I hope to see him soon. Hermione, Ron, and Neville as well.”
Severus glared him quiet, but he was sure that the boy had not been cowed into silence, merely humoring his professor. “Clear your mind. Hide your thoughts so that I cannot see them.”
“I may choose any method of hiding them?”
He blinked at Harbin’s sensible question, nodding swiftly thereafter. Harbin closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and then opened them. Severus raised his wand. “Legilimens.”
He found himself in a crowded party. Pretty people, some he recognized as students at Hogwarts, dressed elaborately and elegant, danced and drank and ate and talked. The dancers whirled in incomprehensible patterns. The conversationalists kept a constant hum of noise echoing in the ballroom. Toasts were raised, food appeared and disappeared at an alarming rate. He stared in dumbfounded, slack-jaw incomprehension. He had seen all manners of shields. He had seen foggy skies, brick walls, locked vaults, and deep oceans. His own mind had been described to him as a warded grimoire encased in a thick, impenetrable glass case. He had never seen a mind so busy. It was almost as if the boy had not listened at all.
Except . . . there! Hidden in the pattern of a man’s waistcoat was the memory of Harbin’s first flying lesson. Severus recognized his own face when he confronted Harbin and Draco as they landed. And there. In a painting behind a woman, Harbin reveling in a hug his mother bestowed for a good grade. The boy had camouflaged all of his memories, using the party to distract the invading mind. It was good, very good, actually, but not good enough.
Severus pulled back, staring at the boy in front of him. “Who taught you that?”
“Uncle Jonah and ma mère.” Harbin was rubbing at his forehead.
“Did I hurt you?” Severus found his hands cupping the boy’s head, holding back a gasp when he felt power rippling from the very air through his hands and into Harbin’s head.
“Non, professeur, just a twinge.” Harbin blinked, all smiles and light again. “Merci, monsieur.”
“For what?” Severus remained still, but sent his senses out for the origin of the power. Perhaps Gresham had snuck back in to spy on their lesson?
“For making the headache go away,” Harbin said slowly, eyes intent on his face. “You did not do that?”
“No.” Severus began casting detection spells, but found nothing. He slowly sat back down, turning his attention to Harbin.
“Will you teach me those, professeur?” Harbin’s green eyes shone with the same curious light that used to be in Lily’s.
Severus felt himself smile. “If your idiot tutor does not, come see me.”
“Gavin is not an idiot,” the boy was smiling again, that knowing smile that made Severus want to strangle him. “He was merely . . . distracted.”
He sneered. “By what?” Groaned mentally when the damn boy just kept smiling, refusing to answer. “Your shields need work. You must learn to better camouflage them.” He rejected the need to further question Harbin, focusing instead on the occlumency. Severus was sure with his uncle and mother’s teaching already in place, Harbin would not need much work.
Harbin nearly bounced as he watched Gavin watch Professor Snape leave. Wanted to desperately giggle into his hands, but he manfully did not. But, of course, he couldn’t help the wide, knowing grin he turned on his tutor.
Gavin groaned when he saw him, elegant hands covering his face. “I was idiotic, wasn’t I? Obvious as all get out? He probably thinks I’m some kind of mute imbecile, right?”
“Non, of course not.” Harbin carefully kept the truth to himself, especially since he saw the way Professor Snape had raked Gavin with his eyes and then followed him with them as Gavin left. Just like how Gavin had been watching him.
“You’re a sweet kid for lying through your teeth about that.” Gavin, whom after their first lesson asked Harbin to call him by his given name, slumped into his favorite chair in their dueling room.
Harbin patted his arm. Helpfully, he added, “I believe Professor Snape is single.”
Gavin groaned even louder, hands going back over his now flaming face. “Merlin, I am obvious! If a twelve year old can tell, of course he could tell.”
Harbin gave into his laughter, resolutely resolving to try his hand at matchmaking.
It was a quiet Sunday.
Harbin had no lessons, his parents were away at a function, Uncle Jonah watching over them as always, and Bastien was down for his nap with Nounou Beth. Harbin was walking his home. Pottere Hale. Ever since Professor Dumbledore had shown him the plaque and given him the keys to family vaults and his father’s cloak, Harbin had carefully avoided all thoughts about his past. Carefully avoided all thoughts about Harry Potter.
He trained with Professor Snape and Gavin, of course, but he enjoyed those lessons for the sake of the lessons. Never did he really think about the reason for them. Never did he think about his other identity. On this quiet Sunday, his past and his identity called to him.
And so he walked. Felt the age old panels of wood and wondered how many other Potters had touched it. Wondered if his biological father had touched it. Walked from room to room, wondering what they had been used for in the past. Who had used them? Who had loved and fought and lived in these rooms? He felt the magic embedded in the stones and wondered if his ancestral home was protecting him in more ways than just providing shelter and sanctuary.
Ever since he’d come home, he felt calmer, cosseted. During that first occlumency lesson, when his head had ached, Professor Snape had not healed him, had not detected anyone else in the room. Harbin wondered if there was healing magic in his home. He wondered what it meant that he was lord of the Potter holdings. He sighed, knowing that he would have to speak to his parents.
Surprisingly, his father threw himself into the research about the Potter line with the enthusiasm of a playful puppy.
Harbin could see past the enthusiasm though. “Père?”
His father glanced at him absently from the ancestry papers he was perusing and smiled, “Oui, Hari?”
His father blinked, bemusement coloring his smile, but he smiled just the same. “Je. Je vous aime aussi, mon chéri.”
“Évidemment non! Je n'en ai pas été inquiété. Avez-vous cru que j'en ai été inquiété? Aucun soin, du tout, j'ai peur. Bien, sauf je suis inquiété de la crise financière que les américains semblent avoir. Comment l'ira faire affecter le reste du monde? L'Euro est fort, évidemment, remerciez la bonté, mais on ne peut jamais être sûr. Et les américains--”
His father huffed a breath, sounding relieved and happy, as he hugged him back. Out of the corner of his eye, Harbin saw his mother. She blew him a kiss, leaving them to their research.
Harbin smiled up at the man who answered the door, holding out his hand. “Bonjour, Monsieur Granger. I am Harbin Chevalier, it is a pleasure to meet you.”
Mr. Granger was obviously taken back, his eyes wide under his glasses and his hand still by his side before his mind kicked in and he raised it to take Harbin’s. “Harbin, it’s a pleasure to meet you too. Please come in.”
“Merci, Monsieur Granger.” Harbin let Hermione’s father take his coat, but he kept the flowers he had brought.
“Ah, Hermione’s still getting ready. Her mother is helping her. They’re bonding over it, I think. Hermione’s usually not into such things but ever since she got your invitation it’s all she can talk about.”
Harbin listened politely as Mr. Granger rambled, sitting down on the couch when he was invited. Hermione’s home was warm with family photos and displays of all of her awards, of which there were many. Her father seemed very nervous, making Harbin wonder if it was because Harbin was a wizard or because he was the French ambassador’s son. Either way, he gentled the man’s nervous by getting him to talk about being a dentist.
Harbin immediately stood, smiling at Hermione’s mother. Mrs. Granger looked a lot like Hermione, so it was easy to take her hand, bowing over it and kissing the back. “Madame Granger, je suis le Chevalier Harbin. C'est un plaisir de finalement vous rencontrer.” He swept up the larger bouquet. “Pour vous, ma dame.”
“Mais le merci, Harbin. C'est un plaisir de vous rencontrer aussi.” She seemed genuinely pleased by the traditional English bouquet of pansies, hydrangeas, garden roses, sweetheart roses, and ranunculus. Mrs. Granger smiled as she arranged them in a vase whose previous occupants were on their last legs. “Hermione aura baissé dans juste un moment.”
“Merci, Madame Granger. She still has time if she needs it,” Harbin said, switching back to English for the benefit of Mr. Granger. “Thank you again for allowing her to come with me to the cotillion.”
“It is our pleasure,” Mr. Granger said. “Hermione says you and your family attend this cotillion every year?”
“Oui, monsieur.” Harbin reseated himself at Mrs. Granger’s direction, laying the corsage box in his lap. “A reunion of sorts, for my father and many of his old school friends. They are far-flung from each other and have made an effort to see each other once a year.”
“Your father went to school in Paris?” Mrs. Granger asked, fingers still brushing the gifted bouquet. An inspired choice it would seem.
“Oui, madame, but one of his friends lives in London now and so is hosting it here this year.” Harbin shared a relieved smile with them. “It will be nice to have Hermione there this year.”
“Oh?” Mr. Granger asked.
“Oui, Hermione is quite brilliant and will help me . . . what is the phrase? Field questions?”
“About Hogwarts?” Mrs. Granger exchanged knowing looks with her husband. “Yes, it is a bit difficult to explain where you’ve been going to school to non-wizarding folks.”
“Oui, très,” Harbin firmly nodded, attention caught by the clack of heels on the stairs. He stood, knowing it could only be Hermione.
She looked lovely. Her knee-length, pale pink dress had a handkerchief hem, flowers of red and dark pink bloomed upwards from the bottom corner, while the bodice and straps were of the same dark pink as the flowers. Her hair, no longer frizzy for months now thanks to Tracy’s advice, was pulled up off her face and neck with a simple clip. Understated and elegant, Hermione pitched the perfect note as a good friend accompanying him to the cotillion.
Harbin swept her a low bow before taking her hand, pressing a kiss to the back. “Hermione, you look magnificent.”
Her smile was utterly pleased. “Thank you, Harbin.”
“For you.” He opened the little white box, showing her the pale cream orchid, brilliant against its background of dark green leaves. The throated ruby-and-gold center of the orchid added just the right bit of exotic color and matched the reds of her dress and the gold of the simple chain adorning her slim neck.
Hermione’s smile grew as he held the wrist corsage’s band open for her to slip over her hand. “Merci, Harbin. It’s beautiful.”
“Une belle fleur pour une belle fleur.” The line was cheesy but it made her laugh and that was all he wanted. Offering her his arm, he turned to say good bye to her parents.
“What did your research turn up, Hari?” Hermione asked once they were settled into the limousine and on their way to the party.
“You know about the Battle of Hastings, oui?”
Hermione nodded, but stayed silent. Harbin had been very pleased when he had finally broken her of the habit to plunge in with questions before listening to what a speaker had to say. He knew the questions were in her mind, but now she mentally ticked them off instead spewing them out in one go.
“Apparently, the Potters used their magic to help the Duke of Normandy win and that is where the title comes from.” Harbin reached for a soda, thinking about all the research he and his father had done. Offering her a drink yielded a firm shake of her head. “When the wizarding community completely pulled away from muggles, the Potters took their title with them. They are one of the oldest pureblood lines in Britain and have adhered to most pureblood traditions, so the family line has died out due to having only one or two children every generation.”
Hermione nodded. “The Weasleys are the exception to the rule. What about the vaults?”
“My school vault is more than adequate, but mére and pére want me to hold it instead of using it at Hogwarts. They want me to use it if I should continue my magical education.”
Hermione’s eyes lit up and she leaned in. He could tell this was an exciting idea to her. “Will you? Continue with your magical education after Hogwarts, I mean?”
Harbin let his head wobble in a strange yes and no fashion. “I want to do both. A magical and muggle education.”
“Me too!” Hermione, honest to God, squealed, hands going out to grab his. “We can go together!”
Harbin laughed, sitting back to listen to her plans, glad he didn’t have to tell her about what he had found in any of his family’s vaults. Mostly because he hadn’t been ready to see. It was just like the research he did with his father. They had found out the basic information regarding the Potter line before Harbin put a stop to the research. He wasn’t ready to know yet. Perhaps in a few years.
“Professeur Snape!” Harbin opened the door to find his teacher there. He scrunched his face, trying to remember if he had forgotten an appointment for occlumency lessons. But before he could ask, Professor Snape urgently ushered him inside, slamming the door shut. “Professeur?”
Professor Snape ignored him. “Jonah! Gresham!” He didn’t wait for their answer after his very loud summons, the closest he ever got to actual screaming. He knelt at the floo, tossing in power. “Hogwarts! Dumbledore’s office!”
The floo flared green. The headmaster’s head could easily been seen. “Severus, you’re at Pottere Hale?”
“Yes. He’s fine.” Professor Snape reached out one long arm, roping Harbin to his side so that the headmaster could see for himself.
Harbin placidly leaned against his kneeling teacher, waiting for an explanation. Behind them, his parents, Uncle Jonah, and Gavin appeared.
“Excellent. See to the defenses and tell the Chevaliers--”
“Yes, Albus, I know.” Impatient and gruff, that was the potions master’s way.
Harbin patted the arm around his waist. “It is all right, professeur, I am safe.”
The professor gave him a half bemused, half incredulous look. “So I can see.”
The headmaster chuckled. “Goodbye, children.”
Professor Snape raised his eyebrow at that, but stood, keeping Harbin close to his side.
“Professeur Snape, a pleasure as always,” his mother held out her hand.
He took her hand, but refused the seat she indicated.
Harbin moved to her side, curling into the warmth of his mother.
“A prisoner has escaped from the wizarding prison Azkaban,” Professor Snape launched in without preamble. “Sirius Black. Reports indicate he’s heading for Hogwarts.”
Everyone remained silent except Gavin. His tutor gasped, met Professor Snape’s eyes and nodded, immediately leaving the room.
“Gavin?” Harbin asked, turning to watch his tutor go.
Gavin turned, walking backwards to give him an encouraging smile, but did not stop. “Professor Snape will explain everything to you, Hari.” And then he disappeared.
Harbin turned back to his teacher. “Professeur?”
“Black was the man that betrayed your parents to the Dark Lord, Hari.” Blunt, unequivocal statement, but his eyes held sorrow and fear.
“He’s coming for Harry Potter,” Uncle Jonah said, already up and moving towards the security panel.
“That we don’t know.” Professor Snape shook his head. “The other inmates said he was chanting ‘he’s at Hogwarts,’ but Black never said who ‘he’ was. It is being assumed, of course, that he is after Harry Potter.” He turned, pulling Harbin to stand so they faced each other. “Hari, you must stay inside the wards. While it would be better for you not to go to Diagon Alley for your supplies, it would raise too many questions if you were kept away. People may start to equate Harbin Chevalier with Harry Potter, we cannot take the risk.”
“We will have security for the trip, oui?” His mother’s imperial tone broke no argument.
“Of course, madame.” The professor patted him on the shoulder. “I will see to the wards now. I will strengthen the ones Gresham hasn’t done. When it is time for you to go to Diagon Alley, I and your security will be back.”
Harbin nodded, watching as Professor Snape strode from the room. Uncle Jonah followed him, probably to check on the muggle side of the security. He sighed, leaning even more heavily on his parents. None of them said anything. Even when Bastien hurtled into the room, his father merely caught his little brother and cuddled them both.
The End of Year Two