“You went to a dance together?”
Thankfully, Ron had asked the question with enough outrage for them both. Draco crossed his arms and glared at Harbin and Hermione as he waited for their answer. They had agreed to meet this day in Diagon to shop together. Even though it was the start of the school year, Diagon was suspiciously quiet. Draco figured it was because Black had escaped from Azkaban. Here and there, he spotted the red robes of the Aurors. Strangely enough, he thought he had seen his Uncle Severus, but wasn’t sure. And, of course, all of the parents (Malfoy, Chevalier, Granger, and Weasley) were alert and surrounding them. Even Neville’s grandmother had her wand out. Of course, since they were so busy looking out for problems, they never saw the little tiff that was happening right in their midst.
“Oui,” Harbin answered slowly, giving Hermione a befuddled look. “Is that a problem?”
George and Fred Weasley were laughing to themselves, for once staying quiet, but it was obvious they knew something they weren’t telling.
“No, Hari,” Hermione cut in, glaring impressively at Ron even as he was getting red in the face. “It’s not a problem. You asked, I said yes. No one has any right to say anything else about it.” She directed those stabbing words right at Ron. Again, the twins laughed and this time Ginny Weasley rolled her eyes. Obviously it was something only Weasleys understood, as long as they weren’t Ron. Hermione raked them with a poisonous glare as well.
Draco was suddenly very glad he hadn’t said anything at all. Even if he was seriously miffed at not having been invited to this party. And no, it did not matter that it was a muggle party. Harbin should have invited him too.
“Guys, could you please stop fighting?” Neville quietly pleaded. “It’s been ages since we saw each other--”
“Well, some of us saw each other more recently than others,” Draco couldn’t help but snidely point out.
“We’re here to do our shopping,” Neville kept right on talking.
Draco glared at him, pouting when it didn’t make any difference. Bloody, fearless Gryffindors.
“So let’s get our stuff and then go to Fortescue's,” Neville declared, and seeing no opposition, led the way.
Hermione was pointedly ignoring Ron as she followed Neville, while the votile redhead was trying to do the same and failing spectacularly. The Weasley twins and their only sister followed, knowing grins on their faces.
Draco staggered when Harbin knocked his shoulder. “May I help you?”
Harbin rolled his eyes, linking their arms. “I am sorry I could not invite you.”
“Why didn’t you?” Draco let his arm remain stiff, not quite ready to forgive him yet. Even if Harbin laid his sweet-smelling head on Draco’s shoulder as they walked.
“I needed someone who could help . . . ce qui est cette expression . . . cover-up?”
“Cover up about what?” Draco stopped outside the bookstore to stare incredulously at his friend.
“Draco,” Harbin stepped closer to whisper in his ear. “Mon père . . . his friends were all muggle.”
The candle lit. “Oh, cover up about Hogwarts.”
Harbin beamed at him. “Oui! So you see, Hermione is the only one I could have invited.”
Well, that made him feel a little bit better. “But you would have asked me otherwise?”
“Évidemment!” Harbin hugged him then.
Draco let himself relax into the hold, savoring the warmth of Harbin’s arms.
Severus forced himself not to shiver as he walked by the dementors.
He cursed the idiotic ministry. He cursed the moronic Fudge for giving into the public’s fear. He cursed the dementors for even existing.
However, he did not blame Albus because he knew that the headmaster had fought tooth and nail to keep the creatures from the school. The board of governors and the minister, unfortunately, had overruled him. Tomorrow the students would be back at the school and in the reach of these creatures. Severus did not want his godson or Harbin anywhere near the creatures, but there was very little anyone could do about it. Once inside the school, the pervasive feel of sadness and hopelessness finally faded. He hurried to Albus’ office, wondering why the headmaster had summoned him.
When he saw who was in the office, he turned right back around.
He stopped mid-stride, absolutely hating that disappointed, reprimanding voice. His father had never used that kind of tone, preferring yelled insults and his fist. Albus’ disappointment hit harder than his muggle father’s hand. “Yes, Albus?”
“Please have a seat.”
Severus allowed himself one brief moment of rebellion before spinning and seating himself. Not once did he look at the other occupied chair. But he could sense him; the knowledge that he was sitting next to a werewolf made his skin absolutely crawl.
“I believe you know our new DADA teacher for this year?” The old man had to be laughing at him, had to be torturing him for amusement, there was no other explanation for it.
Severus chose to remain silent.
“Severus, do we have the ingredients to brew the wolfsbane potion?”
He mentally cursed, using every word, phrase, and expletive he knew. His face remained impassive as he nodded.
“Excellent!” The old man actually clapped. “Then it won’t be difficult for you to brew the potion once a month for Remus.” The old man peered at him over those ridiculous half-moon spectacles. “Will it, Severus?”
He moved his head an inch to the left then an inch to the right.
“Good, good.” Albus shooed them both away. “I’m sure you boys have plenty to do before the students come back tomorrow.”
He felt like his bones had been replaced by steel rods as he stood and followed the werewolf down the stairs, unwilling to put his back to the creature.
“Thank you, Severus, for doing this.”
Good Merlin, the bastard would have to give into his Gryffindorishness and thank him and make conversation, didn’t he?
“I’m glad to be here at Hogwarts, but I’m worried about the search for Harry.”
Good Merlin, more inane conversation, but at least Severus had the opportunity to gloat about his knowledge of Harbin and Harry Potter, even if it was only in his mind.
“Realistically, I know that one less person won’t make that big of a difference, but still, I worry.”
Severus knew he was not a nice person, no matter what Harbin liked to think. And so, he turned towards his dungeons without ever once thinking of alleviating the werewolf’s fears.
There was no doubt about it. This year’s Defense Against the Dark Arts was going to be amazing.
Professor Remus Lupin had yet to spend an entire day sitting at a desk. The tall, golden man – hair and eyes – seemed to hate desks. Therefore, for at least half the class period, he had the desks pushed up against the wall so that the students had plenty of room for practical application of their lessons. Today, after a brief lecture on boggarts, he levitated a large cabinet into the classroom. The cabinet shook and rattled ominously.
Everyone lined up behind Harbin.
Ever since last year, when Harbin had taken his frustrations during his brother’s kidnapping out on Professor Snape in the dueling club, he had garnered a reputation for ruthless and inventive dueling techniques. So, he had no choice but to step forward, even though he loathed having his fears displayed before the class. He knew his was, by far, the most intimate of fears. Nothing like Ron’s fear of spiders or Neville’s terror of Professor Snape. Those were common, and easily shared.
The boggart coalesced into the familiar shapes of his parents and uncle, just like he knew they would.
“Nous ne vous voulons plus, Harbin.” His father said it simply and decisively, turning his back.
“Rien qu'un petit monster,” his mother hissed, arms crossed, never to open in welcome again.
His uncle hefted his gun. “Vous êtes un danger, je devrais vous tuer.”
Harbin stood transfixed as the last little bit of the boggart somehow manifested into a broken, bleeding Sebastien, dying before his very eyes.
“Harbin!” The harsh whisper did not penetrate, but the hands shaking his shoulders did.
He blinked at his teacher, finding Professor Lupin’s golden eyes mere inches from his own.
“Harbin, it’s a boggart, it’s not really your family! Remember the spell? Remember that laughter powers the spell, but indifference will also work.” Professor Lupin supported him even as he turned him to face the boggart.
Laughter he could not summon, but indifference Harbin could muster. “Riddikulus!”
The boggart lost its shape, turning into the black fog, only to manifest as a huge spider for Ron.
Harbin did not laugh with his classmates as Ron put skates on the spider’s feet, making it dance. He did not laugh when Professor Snape ended up with an ugly vulture hat and red handbag. He stood to the side, listlessly watching the others and trying to forget the hurtful words spewed from his worst fears. He didn’t even realize the class was dismissed until Draco and Hermione curled their arms around him, gently ushering him away while Ron and Neville quietly followed.
Thankfully, due to his efforts from the previous year, very few of those who had understood the boggart’s words spread tales. Those who did were quickly shut down by others who liked Harbin and were grateful to him for suggesting the extracurricular activities that were being continued this year. Sometime during the summer, someone had found out that Harbin had been the one to suggest the activities to the headmaster, and thus the popularity of the activities had spread to include Harbin. And his friends in Slytherin, Gryffindor, and Ravenclaw were making doubly sure to quell any more talk of that DADA lesson.
Harbin was grateful, of course, but did not truly feel better until he had snuck away during lunch to use the enchanted cell phone that Gavin and Professor Flitwick had charmed. While electronics would not work in or around Hogwarts, Gavin had figured out a way for the phone to work with the professor’s help. His call to his parents, after confessing about his fears, had well and truly soothed his nerves. He came back to the Great Hall in much better spirits and it seemed to relieve his friends. To show them his thanks, he kissed each of the girls on the cheek (Hermione took it as her due, Ginny had blushed, and Luna had kissed his cheek in return) and shook Ron and Neville’s hands. Draco, of course, he hugged.
He didn’t think of it again until Professor Lupin asked him to stay behind after class days later. Harbin sat at his desk, tilting his head back to look up at his tall teacher. Professor Lupin was leaning against the desk across the aisle from his own, hands in the pockets of his muggle pants. His clothes were a bit tattered, but unlike some of his housemates, Harbin did not judge the competence of his teacher based on that.
“Harbin, I wanted to apologize for what happened during our last lesson.” His teacher’s voice was soft and full of regret.
Harbin heard nothing but remorse and the need to make it right, so he smiled. “There is nothing to apologize for, professeur.” He waved his hand to dismiss the guilt he could feel radiating from his teacher. “Even I did not know that would be my greatest fear; how could you?”
Professor Lupin smiled, a sad, measly little thing. “That’s very generous of you.”
Harbin’s smile grew easily as he prepared to stand. It was nice of the professor to apologize, even if it wasn’t necessary.
“Oui, professeur?” He looked up.
“Have we met before?” Professor Lupin seemed very intent, but merely curious.
“Non, professeur. I do not think so.” He tilted his head in question. “Why do you ask, monsieur?”
“It’s just.” Professor Lupin’s gentle laugh was self-deprecating. “You seem familiar somehow.”
Harbin took a step, peering up into his teacher’s face, carefully studying the man as carefully as he was being studied. “Je suis désolé, professeur, but I do not recognize you.”
Professor Lupin patted him on the shoulder. “It’s all right, Harbin, it’ll come to me. Do you need a pass for your next class?”
“Non, mais merci.”
“Ah, well, if your next professor does say something, please have them talk to me.” Professor Lupin ushered him out with a hand on his back.
Harbin nodded, but his smile fell when he saw Professor Snape looming in the hallway and the glare directed at him. Professor Snape never glared at him with such freezing anger before. “Professeur?”
“To class, Mr. Chevalier.”
Harbin stilled, stopping steps between the two teachers. He’d never seen his head of house so cold before. “Is everything all right, professeur?”
“Fine,” Professor Snape fairly hissed, dark eyes still stabbing at Professor Lupin.
Professor Lupin had a hint of a smile and a shine to his eyes. He was amused by something. “Go on, Harbin.”
He hesitated for another moment, glancing back to make sure that his two teachers didn’t do something . . . bad to each other, before leaving for his next class. It was not until after dinner that he found the time to steal away to see his head of house. “Professeur?” he called through the oak door that guarded the entrance to the potions master’s rooms.
“Harbin.” Dark eyes peered down at him. “Is there trouble?”
“Then why are you here?” The man was clearly not in the mood for company, but Harbin did not let it deter him.
“Why do you hate Professeur Lupin?” He tilted his head back, not as much as previous years, to look the man in his dark eyes, unwilling to leave until he knew why. After everything he did to unite the students, for the teachers to start squabbling was pure stupidity.
“That is none of your business.” Cold, freezing, aloof. Every word that could be used to describe the professor’s tone was negative.
Harbin sensed that now was not the right time to ask. Everything from his tone to his eyes to the way he held his body so rigidly screamed Professor Snape’s malcontent. He executed a short bow. “Mes apologies, professeur. Have a pleasant evening.”
He spun and left without waiting for a dismissal. He knew that another time, a better time would present itself.
“Thank you for walking me back,” Ginny said sweetly, her smile was shy and coy. The same kind of smile Harbin had seen some women give his father when they wanted more than just his friendship.
“You are welcome.” He said no more, did not try to infuse it with more warmth than necessary. While she was a pretty girl, fun and nice, she was Ron’s little sister and Harbin had no intention of inflaming the volatile redhead by encouraging Ginny’s attention. “I could not let a friend walk in the dark by herself.”
She must have caught the slight emphasis on the important word in the sentence for her smile dimmed.
He hated to see the light leave, but he wanted no misconceptions. His father always said it was better to let others know where they stood and not to lead them on. Unless, of course, you wanted something from them.
The sounds of fearful sobbing and hysterical screaming stopped them both. Exchanging looks, they both pulled their wands, creeping forward.
The portrait of the fat lady had been ripped to shreds.
Just like when the basilisk had been loose in the castle the first year, the professors had conjured up squishy purple sleeping bags for the entire school and locked them into the Great Hall. Everyone else was asleep, but not Harbin. He lay there, petting Valére, thinking about why Black would attack the Gryffindor tower. When he saw Professor Snape returning from his patrol of the school, he sat up and waited, knowing that the professor would see him. Sure enough, seconds later, Professor Snape genuflected next to Harbin as he cast the spell to keep their privacy.
“Trouble sleeping again, Harbin?”
“Oui, professeur.” He tilted his head, brow furrowing, knowing that he looked beseeching. “Why did Black attack the Gryffindor tower?”
“Presumbly to find you.” Droll tone implied it was a stupid question from a much indulged child.
“But why would he think I was in Gryffindor?” Harbin countered, raising a brow and daring the professor to call that a stupid question.
Professor Snape inclined his head. “Both of your parents were Gryffindors. For the most part, children sort as their parents do.”
“Oh.” Harbin wrapped his arms around his knees, propping his chin on them. “Did you know them, professeur?”
A firm nod followed a brief hesitation.
“Will you tell me?”
Severus had dreaded this day since he realized Harbin’s other identity. He knew he could turn the boy away from James Potter simply by telling him Severus’ version of events, but the memory of Lily fought with that impulse, subdued it most victoriously. But oh how he wanted. “Your father was very popular. He played quidditch and was charming.” He peered down at the boy. “Lie down.”
Harbin quickly settled, but did not close his eyes. Obedient but, in his own way, quietly rebellious. Very unlike Potter. But then again, even that was not true.
“You are much like him,” Severus forced himself to say.
“But you like me better, oui?”
Severus let the tiny smile through as he tugged on a lock of Harbin’s hair. “Yes, you little miscreant.”
Harbin grinned up at him.
“He and I,” Severus chose his words carefully, “were not friends.”
Harbin’s smile fell away.
“But your mother and I had known each other before we started Hogwarts,” he quickly said, hoping to distract the boy so that he couldn’t ask uncomfortable questions. “She was my finest friend.”
“Tell me about her, s'il vous plait?”
He ran over the memories of Lily Evans, letting himself relax as he sat on the hard floor of the Great Hall, his eyes roving about the room. Even though he was speaking to Harbin, reminiscing about his best friend, he knew his duty was to protect the children against Black. “She was quite brilliant at potions.” He took his eyes away from their patrol to glare down at the boy. “Something you obviously did not inherit.”
An impish grin was his answer.
Severus talked about her until Harbin fell into slumber. Indulging himself, he ran a gentle hand through Harbin’s dark hair.
Harbin perched upon his broom surveying the field. The Slytherin versus Ravenclaw game had brought out every single person in the castle and into the stands. Even those who may not have come out usually like Professor Trelawney. The entire school was so rowdy Harbin feared for the stability of the stands. The constant fear and pressure of living with Black lurking near the castle had reached near boiling point, so the professors saw to it that the quidditch pitch was completely protected so everyone could let off a little steam by screaming their heads off for their favorite team. That was why Harbin had let the snitch go twice already, wanting to draw out the game a little more, to forget for a little while about their troubles.
He was about to let the snitch go for a third time when the Ravenclaw seeker spotted it too. Harbin leaned over his broom to zoom after it. Eyes on the golden snitch, adrenaline surging through his veins, wind rushing in his ears, he never heard the screams, barely felt the cold until it was too late.
Dementors were swarming the pitch.
People screamed, but none was louder than the voice of his mother, begging for his life.
Draco leaned against Pansy, feeling her fingers carding through his hair, messing it up, but he didn’t care. On his other side, Hermione was leaning against Ron. Neville was sandwiched between Ginny and Luna. Every single one of them was silent as they waited for their friend to wake up. Pansy was here more for him than Harbin and Draco was grateful.
It had been horrible, watching Harbin fall from his broom. He vaguely remembered pulling his wand and casting spells to stop his friend’s fall. He vaguely remembered drawn wands from everyone around him: some aimed at Harbin, some aimed at the dementors. None of them had been successful. Only the teachers had been effective. Dumbledore cast some spell that shot a huge white ghost-like thing at the dementors. While the other teachers followed his example, Uncle Severus, McGonagall, and Lupin had cast something to slow Harbin’s fall. But it hadn’t been enough. Even from high in the stands, Draco could tell Harbin’s landing was far from gentle.
And now his friend slumbered through the pain of regrowing bones.
Pomfrey had tried to get them to leave, the headmaster and their heads of house too, but none of them budged. Everything seemed to happen to Harbin, he always ended up in the hospital, but this time it was worse than the others because they had not been able to do anything but watch as Harbin nearly fell to his death.
Draco wanted nothing more than to climb onto the bed and lay his head on Harbin’s chest. He thought that the pulse of Harbin’s heartbeat against his ear would soothe the horrid knot in his stomach. But the regrowing of bones was delicate; jostling Harbin would ruin the work. It was the only thing that kept him from climbing in with Harbin.
The noise of the door opening and closing caught his attention just enough for him to lift his head and look towards it. Uncle Severus and McGonagall walked in together, floating a tea service between them.
“We thought you might like some tea since you’ve missed dinner,” the head of Gryffindor said as she transfigured an empty hospital bed into a table. “Come, my lions.” Her smile was stern, but loving. Like some kind of benevolent dictator. “And you, young raveness.”
The Gryffindors and Luna obeyed her, settling themselves around the table. At Uncle Severus’ pointed look, Pansy and Hermione followed suit. They all quietly ate.
Draco didn’t want to move, but Uncle Severus’ penetrating gaze dared him to disobey. Knowing whatever punishment his godfather would come up with for blatant disobedience in front of McGonagall would be horrific, he moved towards the table. Tea and scones assuaged hunger he didn’t even realize he had, but when he started blinking sleepily, when he saw the way the others were also blinking and listing to the side, he knew. “You drugged us.”
His godfather’s smug answer was the last thing he remembered. His visage was also the first thing Draco saw when he woke. The sun shining through the windows told him he had slept through the entire night. Glancing around, he found the rest of his friends still asleep in various beds around the hospital ward. Harbin was in the bed next to him, still asleep too. His godfather was reading a potions journal. “I can’t believe you did that.”
“Children should know better than to stay up past their bedtimes.” Uncle Severus didn’t even look up as he drawled that.
Draco rolled his eyes, flopping back onto the bed. “How is he?”
“Fine. He’ll be leaving after lunch.”
Draco relaxed into the bed. “Why did the dementors attack Harbin?”
“Excess emotions draw their attention.”
“If you recall, he was the furthest out as he chased the snitch. They simply reached him first.”
“Oh.” Draco nodded to himself. “Do his parents know?”
Draco turned to look at his godfather when there was no answer and found the man smirking.
From that Draco surmised that the Chevaliers were not pleased. Perhaps between Harbin’s parents and his, they could force the ministry to remove those nasty things from Hogwarts. Escaped convict or no, the dementors had to be worse. Draco dragged himself off the bed to lean against his godfather. “Anything interesting?” he asked, not feeling the need to leave for breakfast, which was undoubtedly happening. He could wait for Harbin and the others.
“Yes.” Uncle Severus turned a page.
Draco rolled his eyes. He glanced down at the article, but didn’t read it. Instead, he gazed at Harbin, still sleeping. His dark hair shone with blue streaks where the black was the heaviest, his face was smooth and painfree, his body sunk deep into the bedclothes. His eyes lingered on the pink mouth lax with sleep. Harbin kissed him, sometimes. On the cheek, of course. He kissed the girls too. Draco was pretty sure that Hermione, Ginny, and Luna all received their first kiss from Harbin, he was so generous with them and his aim wasn’t always dead on. “Uncle Severus?”
“Hari’s very . . . affectionate, isn’t he?”
“Do you think it means anything?”
Draco waited, but his godfather said nothing more. “Are you going to elaborate?”
He glared. “Are you going to say anything else other than yes and no?”
Draco rolled his eyes heavenwards. And people wondered why he was so ornery. Look who he had as a role model.
Severus hid his smile in his potions journal. As he watched his godson sulk at him, he delighted in driving Draco just a little crazier for a moment longer before answering the underlying question that he had not asked. “All of his affection is true, not feigned.”
“But he’s so good at getting what he wants. What if it’s just another technique?”
Severus was proud of his godson for understanding that. “It is not. You have seen him with his parents.”
“They’re very affectionate too,” Draco murmured, eyes softening with remembrance.
“More demonstrative than the Malfoys.” Severus sometimes wished he could be just as free with his affections, at least with Draco, but his life had never engendered such gestures. "Harbin does hold you in great esteem."
Draco frowned, but the lines marring his still childish face smoothed. "Does it mean more?"
Severus did not want to answer that question. His godson was too young to be asking such questions, too young to be thinking about such things. He could still remember when Draco had first been born and Narcissa had asked him to be there when she gave birth. He remembered seeing the pale pink, wrinkly thing that had screamed his lungs out when the healer had cast the lung clearing spell. He remembered seeing Narcissa coo over the little gnome and Lucius beaming with pride. It hadn't been until later, at Draco's naming and inheritance ritual, that Severus saw the boy that would be become his godson and actually cared about his future. It had been the moment clear silver-blue eyes had latched onto his dark ones and held them without fear. Out of sheer curiosity, Severus had cast the most gentle legilimens he could. The baby's mind was filled with images of his life: the smile of his mother, the strong hands of his father, the flopping ears of the house elf that played nursemaid. But it was the shock of seeing his own eyes and nose in those memories that caught him unawares. The child had already imprinted on him.
And now that child was growing into a young man whose feelings for his best friend were starting to grow, mature, into something Severus was not ready to handle. He idly wished for one of Draco's parents to be here. "You are both young. There is no reason for there to be more."
Draco studied him, frown deepening.
Severus refused to say more. Instead, he ushered his godson off to the facilities and then onto breakfast.
Harbin thought about asking Professor Snape about the dementors, but Professor Lupin was the Defense teacher, so it probably fell more into his expertise than the potions’ professor’s. Never again did Harbin want to hear his mother’s dying screams. It had been bad enough the first year when Voldemort’s presence could cause nightly nightmares of her death. Thankfully, Professor Snape’s occlumency lessons had eliminated that problem and continued to do so as long as Harbin kept up the practice before bedtime. But the dementors were another problem. Despite his parents’ and Draco’s parents’ best efforts, the Ministry would not remove the creatures until Black was caught.
So, if the Ministry would not remove them, then Harbin wanted a way to remove their threat – from himself at least. And so he waited until after class to approach his professor.
Professor Lupin blinked at his request, then smiled. “Well, I am not surprised by your request, but you must promise to keep this to ourselves, all right? No showing the rest of the dueling club.”
“I agree, professeur, but why can I not share it?”
“It’s a complicated spell, Hari, but not dangerous. Of course, the Ministry,” the professor rolled his eyes, conveying his utter exasperation and contempt for the ruling body, “believes its one only adults should know.”
Harbin, wholeheartedly agreeing with the eyerolling, nodded.
Professor Lupin grinned at him and proceeded to show him the patronus spell. After nearly an hour, Harbin produced a very large whisp of white.
“Well done, Hari!” Professor Lupin seemed extremely pleased.
“But . . .” Harbin scrunched his face. “The others told me that when Professeur Dumbledore cast this spell, it took the shape of a large phoenix. Mine does not have a shape.”
“True enough, but most wizards take even quite a bit of time just to get even that far.” He clapped Harbin on the back. “You’re progressing far more quickly. Your patronus will have a shape in no time.”
That appeased him. Harbin grinned up at his teacher. “Merci, professeur.”
“You’re very welcome, Hari. But now, I’m afraid I will have to see you off.” Professor Lupin winked. “Scrolls to grade.”
Harbin nodded, still smiling as he gathered his things. “Oh, professeur?”
“Did you remember who I remind you of?” he asked as he walked towards the classroom door.
“Hmm? Oh yes. An old friend of mine. His name was James Potter.”
Harbin blinked in shock. It was his only outward reaction.
“You could have been his son,” Professor Lupin murmured, gracing him with a smile, not realizing that he had given Harbin such a surprise. “James had a son; his name was Harry. I’ve been searching for him for years.”
“You have?” he managed to croak out. Intellectually, he knew his biological father had to have friends other than Black, but to meet one? And to be almost recognized was something Harbin hadn’t thought to prepare for.
Professor Lupin nodded. “He was supposed to start Hogwarts the same time as you, actually. But he never showed up and none of the – none of the people sent by the headmaster could find him. Including me.”
“You did not know where he was?” Harbin asked incredulously, noticing the slight hestitation, but ignored it to ask the question. If Remus Lupin was such good friends with his biological father, why had he not met him before? Were there other friends out there? Others who could tell him about his biological parents, more than the dry facts he had found in the history books or old editions of the Prophet. Professor Snape only wanted to share his memories of his mother, saying very little about his father, so having Professor Lupin talk about James Potter was a bit of welcome shock.
Professor Lupin sighed, leaning against his desk. “No. The headmaster thought it was safest for Harry if no one from the magical world contacted him. It would keep him safe from the Death Eaters out for revenge.” His features hardened, face pulling into fiercely angry lines.
Harbin pulled away from such anger.
“I wish I had never listened to the old man,” he hissed. He seemed lost in his own thoughts, talking to himself; Harbin did nothing to dissuade him. “He said Harry was safe, but now he doesn't know where he is and the search has found nothing.”
The professor seemed to genuinely care about Harry Potter and his explanation on why Harbin had never met anyone from his past life as Harry Potter made complete sense. Professor Dumbledore’s word was nearly law in the magical world and very few would gainsay him after the defeat of Voldemort. Thinking back on his life – that short, brutal period where he was with his aunt and uncle, then the happy times afterwards when his mother had found him – Harbin found he could not hold any sort of grudge against Professor Lupin. While it would have been nice to know of the magical world and to know of his biological parents, Harbin knew that learning about it and them now was much more beneficial than learning about it as a child. He was better equipped to handle the shocks and strains and surprises thrown his way. Especially with the help of his family and friends.
Harbin laid his hand upon Professor Lupin’s arm, smiling up into those golden eyes. “I am sure, professeur, that wherever he is, he is happy and safe.”
Harbin quickly made his way to the office of his head of house. His rapid, excited knocking yielded a forcibly thrown open door.
“Harbin, are you all right?” Professor Snape wrapped strong hands around his shoulders and bodily hauled him into the office, sharp eyes raking the hallway for threats.
“Oui,” he threw out negligently. “Professeur, did you know that Professeur Lupin knew my biological father?”
He watched carefully, but could see no signs of emotion from the potions professor other than the slight tightening of his face. But he could feel the tension coil.
“What did that mongrel say about me? Did he regale you of Potter’s superiority? Of his popularity? Did he tell you how Potter and Black nearly killed me?” Hissing words heralded a grip so tight it hurt. Professor Snape’s face twisted from blank, tight tension into an ugly sneer that Harbin had never seen directed at him. It was as if each question brought back more and more horrible memories, dragging the professor with them.
“Non, professeur.” Harbin carefully, slowly, laid his hands upon Professor Snape’s upper arms. When the man did not react, he began to pet the tensing bands of muscle. His voice was low and gentle. “Non, professeur, he did not say any of those things. He merely told me I remind him of my biological father.”
As Harbin talked, petted and soothed, bit by bit, some of the anger drained away from his teacher.
“Does he know?” Professor Snape demanded.
“That I am Harry Potter? Non.”
Twin gasps jerked both their heads up.
Severus nearly cursed out loud. He had completely forgotten that he had Draco and Hermione in his office, helping him grade his first year papers. The two children were staring at them wide-eyed, wide-mouth, marking quills still in hand, red ink dripping from the nibs. He eased himself to standing, letting Harbin go. His hand inched towards his wand, the obliviate spell already on his tongue.
“Non, professeur.” Harbin’s hand stayed his.
“This is dangerous knowledge, Harbin, they cannot know.” Severus did not want to cast the spell on his own godson, but Voldemort was a threat to the entire wizarding world. A threat to everything he held dear: the tiny family he’d carved for himself, his peace of mind, his livelihood, his very life. And the only one who could defeat the Dark Lord had to be protected at all costs.
Harbin gave him those stupid green eyes again, just like his mother. “Professeur, they could be useful.”
Severus breathed in time and clarity of mind, breathing out panicked first instincts. Draco’s parents had declared their neutrality, but Draco himself – intelligent, cunning, and the drive to succeed at any cost – would be a powerful ally. While the Slytherins let themselves be swayed by Harbin, it was Draco that held more influence as the heir to a well-known and powerful Pureblood family. Hermione was even smarter than Draco, making intuitive leaps that Draco never could, brilliant in ways that had Severus and his fellow teachers scrambling to keep her busy so that she wouldn’t become a nuisance. Yes, he could see how they could be useful. But how to ensure their compliance to the need for secrecy?
Draco almost let his temper fly, but he restrained it, just as his father had taught him. He restrained the need to yell at Harbin for once again keeping a secret from him. He told himself that obviously Harbin was made to keep the secret if Uncle Severus’ expression was anything to go by. He retrained the howl at Harbin’s real identity by reminding himself his parents had declared themselves – and by extension, him – neutral in the fight of Light against Dark. He even restrained himself from asking how Lupin had nearly killed Uncle Severus. He couldn’t restrain himself from flinching though, when he saw his godfather go for his wand.
He swallowed, terrified for the first time of his godfather.
It wasn’t until Harbin calmed Uncle Severus that Draco recognized his mentor. It wasn’t until then that he realized how Uncle Severus could have served the Dark Lord. Still, he jumped when the man turned towards him and Hermione. He stepped closer to her, seeking or giving protection, he wasn’t sure. Held completely still as his godfather passed a gentle, mostly unnerved hand over his hair. It wasn’t until he saw the small apologetic tilt of Uncle Severus’ lips did he relax.
“You’re Harry Potter?” Hermione’s question drew his attention back to his friends to find that she was nearly nose to nose with Harbin.
“I was born Harry James Potter,” Harbin affirmed, but shook his head right after. “But I am Harbin Chevalier.” The boy threw them a cautious, but defiant look. As if fraughtfully daring them to repudiate his friendship for being Harry Potter.
Draco saw the distinction right away and understood why Harbin had never told him. Harbin did not see himself as Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived. Instead, he was the adopted son of a French diplomat and his wife. A boy who spent nearly all of his life in muggle Paris and muggle New York before coming to Hogwarts. Harbin was not the entitled, sanctimonious savior that Draco had always believed Harry Potter to be. Instead, he was charming and cunning, a testament to the House of Slytherin. He was Draco Malfoy’s best friend.
With that realization, Draco left Hermione to figure things out in her head, slipping his arms around his best friend. Hid a smile in Harbin’s dark hair when warm arms closed around him with a grateful sigh. The peace only lasted for mere moments before Harbin was rudely ripped out of his arms. Draco glared at Hermione as she threw herself into Harbin’s arms.
“Oh, Hari, you’re the one Black’s after, aren’t you?”
“Most likely,” Uncle Severus answered for him. He loomed above them; dark eyes studied them while his hand still gripped his wand.
Draco swallowed the nervous stutter that threatened to spill out. He forced himself to calmly wait as his godfather decided what to do. He could see why Uncle Severus didn’t want them to know. He had overheard his father tell his mother that the Dark Lord could not be killed, that he was still alive somewhere, gathering his strength. Since Harbin was Harry Potter, he was the Dark Lord’s target, so the less people who knew the better. So, he waited quietly as his godfather decided on a course of action.
His mind whirled as his godfather stared at him and Hermione. He knew that Uncle Severus was thinking about the obliviate curse. It was the best solution, after all, and Uncle Severus preferred the best and easiest solution. But Draco didn't want him to use it, he wanted to share Harbin's secret, even if he had to share it with Hermione. When he hit upon a possible solution, he stepped closer to his godfather and used techniques he had seen Harbin use on every adult in his sphere of influence. He tilted his head back, face melting into innocent, sweet lines that conveyed the mere motivation of helping. He let his eyes show a hint of sharp steel, but otherwise kept them liquid with innocence. "Uncle Severus, perhaps Hermione and I could take an Unbreakable Vow?"
Suggestion made, he clasped his hands behind his back, consciously mimicking one of his godfather's favorite poses, letting the man ruminate about his proposal. He hoped that everything he was doing -- his posture, his facial expression, his voice -- conveyed his utter commitment to this course of action. An Unbreakable Vow was not to be taken lightly as the punishment was the cost of a wizard's magic. But if it was worded correctly, and Draco knew his godfather would word it perfectly, the Unbreakable Vow would protect Harbin, making it impossible for them to break the vow, thereby, negating the possibility of losing their magic.
Draco saw the clouds of wariness lift from his godfather's eyes and knew the man agreed.
Uncle Severus turned back to his desk, reaching for quill and parchment. Long, spiking letters appeared as he wrote what had to be the vow.
With his godfather's attention on that, Draco turned back to Harbin. "Who else knows?"
"My parents and uncle, the headmaster and Professeur McGonagall. My tutor Gavin." Harbin ticked them off his fingers. He seemed much more pleased with this turn of events, shoulders relaxing, face smoothing out to hint at smiles. "And most likely Voldemort."
Draco couldn't stop the wince, noticing that Hermione only looked repulsed, but not frightened of the Dark Lord's name. He remembered then that Hermione, as a . . . muggleborn would not have been raised with the same sense of fear or reverence for the Dark Lord. Ever since he found out about her heritage, after the basilisk's attacks and his family's subsequent defection to the side of Light during their first year, he had been training himself out of the old prejudiced ways of thinking. His father and mother were his partners in this endeavor. His father had said that if they were to cement their new status, if they were to fully protect their family, they would have to ensure that Dumbledore's side saw cause to protect them. Thus, changing their attitudes or, at the very least, changing their vocabulary, was a necessary survival mechanism. Of course, his father still believed that purebloods were better than muggleborns, but it would not do to shout it from the rooftops.
"But I thought he was dead." Hermione's voice lilted up in question even though she said it as a statement.
"Professeur Dumbledore does not believe that Voldemort is dead." Harbin leaned against Draco, creating warmth up and down his side.
“Do you think Black is after you under his orders? He probably is since he was one of his servants. Maybe that’s why he attacked the Gryffindor tower? Because he thought you were in there. Since he couldn’t get in, maybe he’ll try again. Oh no! Ron and Neville!”
Draco tuned her out as she began one of her thinking-out-loud jags. Harbin had mostly broken her of the habit, but every once in a while, when she became extremely excited or agitated, she couldn’t help herself. He thought about Harbin instead.
Harbin being Harry Potter explained quite a bit, actually. Why Uncle Severus was so very interested in Harbin to the point where Draco was almost jealous of his friend. Why Dumbledore and McGonagall were also very interested in Harbin too. He'd seen the way the head of Gryffindor often went out of her way to speak to Harbin. And Draco had found it strange that the headmaster was constantly watching him. It also explained why Uncle Severus was over at Harbin's so much this past summer.
Draco had been nearly green, but he wasn't quite sure over whom, when he found out that Uncle Severus was making regular visits to Harbin. Draco always begged to go with him, but his godfather never allowed it, never saying why. And of course, with Black on the loose, his parents were dead set against him leaving the manor's wards.
Draco hoped they caught Black soon. Maybe now that he knew about Harbin's alternate identity, perhaps he could visit Harbin's home. Or have Harbin visit him at the manor.
Uncle Severus snatched up the parchment. "Come, you have vows to make."
Harbin took the parchment handed to him, lips pursing as he read them over. Draco read over his shoulder, nodding. He knew his godfather would not take any chances.
"I will act as binder," Uncle Severus said after he instructed Draco and Hermione to take Harbin's hand. "Harbin, read."
Harbin discreetly rolled his eyes at Uncle Severus' behavior. Draco ruthlessly stilled his lips, but Hermione giggled. "Do you, Draco Lucius Malfoy and Hermione Jane Granger, vow to never disclose that I, Harbin Yan Chevalier, am Harry James Potter?"
"I do," they both said.
The vow went on as Harbin listed every single possible method of communication, including legilimency, and every single possible reason why they might try to give away the information, including coercion and bribery. The vow was exhaustively thorough. But once it was over, the burden of the knowledge no longer truly rested on their shoulders because Uncle Severus had made absolutely sure that they would not be able to give away this information either by accident or on purpose.
"Go," Uncle Severus dismissed them with a wave of his hand. "Do not speak of this where others may hear," he cautioned as he followed them out of his office.
"Where are you going, sir?" Hermione had the gall to ask.
Draco rolled his eyes. That one should have been in Gryffindor for her foolish courage or Ravenclaw for her insatiable curiosity.
"The headmaster needs to be informed, as well as the Chevaliers."
Draco had the impression that he answered more for Harbin's sake then Hermione's. Uncle Severus left them at the turn.
"Come on," Hermione grabbed Harbin's hand and tugged. "I have so many questions!"
"Surprise, surprise," Draco muttered.
Harbin laughed, twining their fingers together and tugging him along too.
It felt like a great weight had melted away.
Now that his closest friends knew, Harbin could pour out everything that had happened: how his parents were supportive, but his father had been a wreck at the mere thought of Harbin wanting to know more about his biological father. How his uncle was even being more protective than usual, and not just because of this Black character. How the Hogwarts professors that knew were told to keep a strict eye on him. And how his baby brother had been stolen from his bed to be used as bait for Harbin.
The second half of second year had been quite hellish for Harbin, and even after they had found Sebastien, the stress of the entire situation had stayed with him because he had never been able to share this with anyone. He was strong for his family as they turned all of their attention to reassuring Sebastien of their love and his safety. And then the whole family turned their attention towards ensuring their protection in both the magical and non-magical worlds. He never had the chance to truly rant and rave about the tension that had infused him before and after Sebastien's abduction.
But with Draco and Hermione quietly listening to every word, eyes wide because they never knew how or why Sebastien had been taken, Harbin felt as if his very soul was lightening. It seemed the old adage that a burden shared was a burden halved was true. The outpouring of emotion left him drained, but hopeful as he sprawled in their arms.
"But what about Ron and Neville?" Hermione asked. "Are you going to tell them?"
"Best not to," Draco countered, sounding as if this was rehearsed. "The less people who know, the better."
"But," she bit her lower lip. "It's not right to keep this from them. They're our friends."
"And this is Harbin's life," Draco hissed, face turning belligerent. "This is my family's life. With the Dark Lord still out there, Hari's our only hope."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Just because he defeated him once, doesn't mean Hari has to do it again. Professor Dumbledore won't let Hari fight Voldemort, he's just a kid."
Harbin cleared his throat, earning him the silence and stares of his friends. "Actually, Hermione, Professeur Dumbledore says that I am the only one who can defeat Voldemort."
"What? How? Why only you?" She seized his hand, completely oblivious to the glare Draco was aiming at her.
Harbin scooted closer to the other boy, bringing her with him as well. He told them about the prophecy, much to their horror.
Harbin knew that using his invisibility cloak to sneak out of the castle was a stupid thing to do, what with Black out there, but he couldn’t stand staying inside any longer. He felt claustrophobic, the castle walls closing in, the dementors hovering just outside the castle walls. His patronus wasn’t getting any better. He had plenty of happy thoughts, but for some reason, couldn’t make it take a shape. His patronus was getting larger and larger, but never became more defined than a pulsing cloud of white. Getting out of the castle and away from the dementors was the only thing he could think of.
So the invisibility cloak was used for the first time to help him out of the castle. Harbin didn’t have a destination in mind, wandering until he saw the stacks of Hogsmeade smoking a little ways off. Everyone else had been allowed to go, but, because of Black, Professors Snape and Dumbledore had asked him to stay in the castle. He had agreed, only because he had wanted quiet time for himself. Ever since his friends had found out about his alter identity and the professors’ fears of Black coming after him, they had not given him a moment of peace. Draco and Hermione had even recruited Ron, Neville, and many of their yearmates into watching over him, all without ever telling them why. While he appreciated their protectiveness, the continuous company was wearing him down. So, while he didn’t want to stay in the castle anymore, he still wanted that time for himself. So he veered away from the town and headed towards the forest.
It was peaceful, with the snow and the silence. He wandered far enough away that he could remove most of the cloak, keeping it around his shoulders, just in case. He wandered until he was nearly to the lake before his spidey senses perked.
No sound, no flash of sight, but he knew something was following him.
Harbin froze as a huge black dog prowled from out of the undergrowth and circled him. His uncle said never to show fear, and not to run, because only prey ran. Instead, he stood perfectly still, letting the dog, whose head reached his shoulder, sniff him. It must have thought he was all right because it licked his forehead. “Eww, brut,” he laughed, gently pushing the dog away to wipe at the drool.
Laughed harder when the dog butted his head against Harbin’s chest, playfully nudging him. He wrapped his arms around the big dog’s head, giggling and trying to escape its licks. The dog chased him across the field and over rocks, leading him into the shelter of a cave. Harbin wondered if this was where the dog made his home, but his attention was dragged away from exploring the cave when he saw the animal sprawled across the ground, panting terribly hard. The dog tired too soon; he remembered watching other dog owners tiring long before their animals ever did.
Harbin frowned at him. He could see the ribs sticking out against the matted fur. “Tu es tous sales. Et tu doît avoir faim.”
The dog whined as if it understood what he was saying and agreed.
The dog barked happily, sitting back on his haunches.
Harbin grinned at him. A very smart dog. He hurried to Hogsmeade and straight to the Three Broomsticks. As he waited for his order (everything he could think of that the dog might like), hoping that no one would recognize him and report him to the headmaster, he wondered if he could get his parents to come get the dog. Sebastien had always wanted a dog and this one seemed friendly and smart. His parents would appreciate that in a guard dog. When the food was ready, he dropped by McAlester’s General Goodes. There he went all out, buying a dog bed that promised to grow to whatever size was needed, self-warming blankets, a charmed water bowl that refilled itself, and doggy shampoo that promised to clean any coat to a lustrous shine, while getting rid of unwanted fleas and other pests.
He toted all of those things with him using a levitating charm. He easily found the cave again and immediately set out the food. The dog annihilated it. Harbin watched in amusement as he set up the bedding and water bowl. Once the dog had finished eating, lying placidly on the cold ground in a food coma, Harbin took the chance to dump a good portion of the shampoo on him. Just as it promised, a beautiful black coat shone once the shampoo was charmed away. The dog stood and shook off the wetness, just like every other dog in existence. Harbin laughed, hands ineffectively shielding himself from the water droplets. An easy drying charm finished the process. “Viens,” he said, patting the bed.
The dog dropped onto the bed, which expanded so that it could comfortably sprawl. Harbin spread the blankets over him. “Bon garçon!”
Harbin had no idea if the dog was a boy or not, but it felt strange to keep thinking ‘it.’ “Il ne semble pas que tu es de quelqu'un chien, ainsi croit-tu que tu voudriez être le mien?”
The dog barked what sounded like a happy, affirmative bark. At least, that was how Harbin chose to interpret it. He laughed, ruffling fur and laying his cheek against that soft, rough head. “Maintenant, tu a besoin d'un nom. Que t’appellerons-nous, hmm?”
The dog settled on his paws, looking up expectantly at him.
“Hmmm,” Harbin thought, tilting his head to study his newest pet. “Gizmo?”
He laughed when the dog jerked, looking mightily offended. “Snoopy?”
It growled, low and mean, but made no move other than to sprawl even more.
Harbin would later swear up and down that the dog rolled his eyes at him. “Hmm, Noir?”
That perked up the dog’s ears. Harbin laughed as the dog licked him across the forehead again. “Ahh, Noir c'est alors.”
“Hari! Where are we going?” Hermione was huffing towards the back of the line.
“He said he wanted to show us something,” Draco pointed out.
“Yes, I know that, Draco. I want to know where are we going?” she snarked back.
Harbin rolled his eyes at both of his friends, helping Neville over a tricky spot instead.
“This had better be worth it, Chevalier,” Ron playfully growled, shaking a fist, yelping when Harbin playfully nudged him off balance.
“I believe it is.” Harbin grabbed Hermione’s hand, helping her along.
Several more questions, grumbles and complaints later, they reached the cave.
“Oh, Hari!” Draco’s voice was so utterly false in its falsetto excitement. “You brought us to this wonderful cave! Filled with dead leaves and rocks and dirt!”
Ron cracked up. Neville truly, truly tried, but he snickered. Hermione did not look pleased.
Harbin smacked his best friend before calling out, “Noir!”
The dog came bounding out, skidding to a halt when he saw Harbin’s friends.
“Noir, come meet my friends.” Harbin beckoned, smiling down as the dog leaned against him, nearly knocking him over. “Everyone, this is Noir.”
They all seemed paralyzed, staring at Harbin and Noir. He frowned. “Draco? Hermione?”
“He’s really big, Hari,” Hermione whispered, eyes glued to Noir.
Draco, beside her and clutching his wand, nodded. “It looks like the Grim.”
Ron and Neville both nodded, backing away.
Harbin rolled his eyes, petting the furry black head. “Just because he is big enough to put his chin on my shoulder means nothing. Hagrid is very big too, but he would never hurt anyone.”
He dared his friends with his eyes, especially Ron and Neville since they were from the house of lions. It didn’t surprise him one bit when Ron snuck a glance at Hermione and then stuck out his hand. Noir could probably smell his fear, so he merely extended his snout and sniffed at Ron’s hand. Noir chuffed at him, offering him a doggy grin before pulling back.
“W-where did you find him?” Neville asked as he inched forward. The other boy held out a shaking hand.
This time Noir moved forward too, performed the same introduction, but then licked Neville’s hand. The Gryffindor held his hand away from his body, but he grinned. Hermione came forward next, whispering “good doggy” the whole time. She too got a licked hand, but she whipped out her wand and cleaned off the drool.
Harbin turned expectantly to Draco, but found him with his arms crossed. “Draco?”
“If you think I’m going to let some mangy mutt lick my hand -- hey!”
Noir had pounced, licking and lipping at every bit of exposed skin on the blond boy.
Ron and Neville were shrieking with laughter. Hermione was trying to cajole Noir off with no success. Harbin stood back and grinned, shoulders shaking with mirth.
Noir didn’t stop until Draco surrendered and petting the long, black coat, tears of laughter still glittering in his eyes.
Harbin loved Hermione, he really did. She was one of his best friends. She helped with his homework, she helped him tease and teach Draco that muggles weren’t second class citizens or animals that needed to be mastered, she laughed at his “muggle” jokes. But sometimes, he really wanted to cast a silencing spell on her.
“Hari, it’s not fair for you to keep this a secret from Ron and Neville. They’re your friends. It’s not right.”
He heaved a quiet sigh. He had heard this all before, and he agreed. In his family, secrets were not to be kept, they were to be shared with those they trusted: family and tribe. Ron and Neville were part of his tribe, but this was dangerous information. No one – not his parents and uncle, not Professor Snape or Dumbledore – wanted this information released. It would make him a target, it would lose them the advantage. All valid reasons not to tell Ron and Neville.
“You know I cannot, Hermione.”
She sighed, but resolution was still writ upon her face. “It just feels wrong.”
“It does, but --”
“Your safety is most important.”
Harbin nodded. They both fell silent as they walked the courtyards of Hogwarts. Hermione had originally dragged him outside so that they could talk about keeping his identity from Ron and Neville, but it was a nice day, so he laced his fingers through hers and steered her towards the next courtyard. The courtyards were the only outside spaces they were allowed ever since Black had escaped Azkaban. Usually, the stone courtyards were empty, but a few students had discovered them and were doing as he and Hermione. Entering the next courtyard, they found Draco reading.
Harbin exchanged a bewildered glance with Hermione at the scowl on Draco’s face. “Draco?”
“Where were you two?” he demanded, crossing his arms over his now shut book.
“Just walking,” Hermione answered. “Were you looking for us?”
Draco squirmed, just the slightest bit, eyes lowered and focused on their entwined hands. “No.”
This time they exchanged knowing glances. Ever since the beginning of the year, after Draco and Ron had found out that Harbin and Hermione had gone to the cotillion together, Draco had become vaguely possessive. He never got really upset, but he did always ask where they were, what they had been doing, and then became quiet. Hermione unlaced their fingers, nudging Harbin towards Draco. From the tiny grin on her lips, he knew she knew something. He made a note to ask her later as he wrapped his arms around his friend; it was the surefire way of getting rid of Draco’s mood.
Draco melted into his arms, even with the book between them. Harbin huffed a laugh as a corner tickled him.
“Hey! There they are!”
They all looked up at the sound of Ron’s voice; he and Neville were coming towards them.
“Look what Fred and George just taught me!” Ron surged forward ahead of Neville, wand already out and pointed at Draco. “Scribo malum!”
Neville tripped, sliding into Ron. The bolt of merry yellow from Ron’s wand didn’t hit Draco.
Harbin jerked as the spell slammed into his forehead, nearly falling except Draco and Hermione jumped for him. He blinked the stars out of his eyes, glaring at an instantly apologetic Ron and an abashed Neville.
“Er, sorry, mate.” Ron looked apologetic, but he also looked like he was fighting laughter.
Neville just looked plain horrified.
Harbin tuned to find Draco snickering, glaring even harder at the other boy, he huffed and turned to Hermione with a raised eyebrow.
She, thankfully, ruthlessly stilled her laughter before pulling out a small mirror.
Harbin found the words “I AM A STUPID PRAT!” spelled out on his forehead in bright, neon colors. He could only calmly return Hermione’s mirror. He slowly turned, increment by increment, to face Ron.
Ron swallowed hard.
Harbin tugged at his shirt sleeves, straightening them, eyes never leaving Ron’s.
Ron backed up.
Harbin peeled the robe sleeve concealing his wand up as if it was the most delicate of fruit. He slid the wand out of its holster more gently than he would have handled a baby.
“Weasley,” Draco fake whispered, devilish grin completely gleeful and nonhelpful, “I would run if I were you.”
Ron took another step back.
Neville backed away, too.
Hermione rolled her eyes and huffed. “Just don’t hurt him too badly, Hari.”
“Of course not,” Harbin answered word by word, now firmly gripping his wand.
Ron ran away screaming before he could even cast the first spell.
After he exacted his revenge – Ron wouldn’t sit comfortably for hours afterwards, because every time he did, his middle name became ‘flatulence’ – they worked on getting rid of the embarrassing signage on his forehead.
“I think we’re going to have to go to Madam Pomfrey,” Hermione sighed, shoulders slumped in defeat.
“You think?” Draco snarked, exhaustedly lowering his wand. He had just finishing casting a borderline illegal spell that was supposed to be able to remove any kind of enchantment. Surprisingly, it hadn’t worked.
“Are you sure you cast the spell right, Ronnikins?” Fred asked, once again peering at Harbin’s forehead.
“One wrong syllable and the counterspell won’t work,” George reinterated, joining his brother. When they couldn’t get it undone themselves, Ron had taken one look at Harbin’s face and ran for help from the two who had given him the spell in the first place. Unfortunately, they had been of no help.
“Yeah, I’m sure.” Ron’s arms were crossed and his face was getting redder and redder, scowls starting to mar his face. “I did it exactly the way you showed me.”
“How sure are you?” the twins asked in unison, grinning madly at their brother.
Ron brandished his wand. “Stop asking or I’ll show you how I did it!”
“Enough!” Hermione barked at the three redheads before turning back to him. “Hari, let’s go to Madam Pomfrey. She can fix this.”
Harbin saw no other choice but to agree. He trudged to the hospital wing, his friends following.
Madam Pomfrey had her back to them, sorting out potions in one of her medicine cabinets. She threw them a quick, welcoming look over her shoulder. “How can I help you, Mr. Chevalier?”
“A spell gone wrong,” he answered, waiting until she turned around to wave at his forehead.
Madam Pomfrey’s lips tightened, but he could tell from the gleam in her eyes that it was from mirth not displeasure. “Well,” she finally said, clearly controlling the laughter. “Let’s see what we can do.”
Two spells and a multitude of questions later, Madam Pomfrey leaned back with a satisfied smile. “There, give it a moment and the spell should dissolve.”
Harbin knew something was wrong the moment Draco and Hermione’s eyes widened.
Madam Pomfrey stared. “Oh Merlin.”
Ron’s eyes widened. “Bloody hell, you’re mmph!”
Draco jumped on him, hands clamped over his mouth.
“Shut it!” Draco hissed, eyes frantically darting around the thankfully empty hospital wing.
Hermione stood ready to stop Neville or the twins from saying anything, but none of them did. Neville’s eyes were wide and blinking, but the twins had calculating looks on their faces.
Harbin knew Ron, Neville and the twins were his problem to handle, so he turned to Madam Pomfrey first. “You should speak to the headmaster, madame.”
Her face was paler than he had ever seen it and she was slumped against the bed next to his. Her hands, including wand, were pressed to her chest as if she was having palpitations, but her eyes were steady on his. “The headmaster . . . he knows?”
“Oui, madame.” Harbin nodded slowly, eyes still on hers. “For years now.”
She mimicked his slow nod. “Stay here.”
They all watched as she swept quickly away, heading towards her floo.
Harbin turned back towards his friends. Ron was still being held by Draco. Neville was a statue, eyes still staring at the scar. Fred and George, seeing his attention was on them, bracketed him, their blue eyes trained on his eyes. He alternated between them, only blinking when they both grinned suddenly.
“So, you’re the Boy Who Lived?” George announced quietly.
“Weren’t what we were expecting,” Fred said, grin growing wider. “You’re certainly more interesting than we thought you’d be.”
George nodded. “Never thought you’d be a little Frenchie, either.”
Harbin laughed, then quietly began to explain, telling them everything he could. By the end of the story, Draco had been able to let Ron go. He studied his friends, knowing that it was Ron’s reaction that would be the problem. Neville already had signs of acceptance: the relaxed posture, the easing of his facial features, he even had a tiny smile for Harbin. The twins, of course, were enraptured with the tale and were nodding, smiling, making disappointed but ultimately joking remarks about not getting the Boy Who Lived in Gryffindor.
Unfortunately, Ron was still frozen, so Harbin sighed and closed his eyes. He would need to rebuild the glamour. He did not know the spells, but he remembered when he had wished the scar hidden. If it didn’t work, they would need Professor Dumbledore, but, he could feel the magic wrapping itself around the scar. When he finally opened his eyes, Hermione had on a relieved smile, while Draco was carefully studying the glamour.
“It’ll do,” he decided.
Harbin rolled his eyes.
“Uh, guys?” Neville’s nervous words easily got their attention.
Ron’s face was quickly turning the same shade as his hair.
Harbin glanced at Hermione, but it was clear that the girl didn’t know how to diffuse the situation.
Neville apparently did. He smacked Ron’s arm, much to the delight of Ron’s brothers.
“Ow! Nev!” Ron rubbed his injury, glaring at his friend and at his laughing brothers. “What’d’ya do that for?”
“You’re getting mad for no reason,” Neville said peacefully, pointedly.
“But he’s been lying--”
“Because Headmaster Dumbledore, Professor Snape, and his parents have been telling him to.” Neville gave him a look that said volumes. “If the headmaster and your parents told you to lie to your friends about something this important, would you?”
Ron’s mouth opened and closed, but eventually his shoulders slumped and he gave Harbin an apologetic look. “Sorry, mate, for--”
“It is already forgiven and forgotten,” Harbin quickly forgave, relief washing through him. He gave Neville a beaming smile in thanks, which Neville bashfully accepted with a tiny grin.
“This is great and all,” Draco drawled, “but now we have to go see Professor Snape.”
“What? Why?” Ron demanded.
Draco rolled his eyes. “You don’t think you’re allowed to have this information without some kind of safeguard put on you, do you?” He eyed Ron’s face. “Awww, isn’t that precious. You actually thought we’d trust you to keep your mouth shut.”
Harbin barely had time to grab Ron as he lunged towards Draco. He struggled with the redhead, aided by Fred and George. Sadly, they were losing.
“Petrificus Totalus!” Hermione’s spell hit Ron square in the face, freezing him instantly.
George grinned at her. “Good going, Hermione!”
Fred patted Ron’s petrified head. “He looks good like this. Think Mum’ll let us keep him this way?”
George rolled his eyes at his brother.
Harbin eased away from his friend, leaving the twins to stop him from toppling over, turning a glare on Draco.
“What?” his best friend asked, innocence all over his face.
“You snark when you are uncomfortable or scared,” Harbin murmured quietly enough that no one but Draco could hear, “but did you have to say that to him?”
Draco squirmed. “I do not!”
Harbin rolled his eyes, tugging the other boy into his arms. “Professeur Dumbledore and Snape will ensure my safety; do not worry so, Draco.”
Draco couldn’t breathe until Uncle Severus finished binding the Gryffindors. The twins and Neville had no problems taking the vow, but Ron had flinched all the way through. He wondered if it was because Ron didn’t want to take the vow or if doing something so significant and adult scared him. He was fairly sure it was the latter when Ron wilted with relief at the end, instead of being belligerent or bitter. They escaped from his godfather’s frowning presence as soon as the binding was done. They found themselves in the same abandoned classroom as before.
Between Hermione and himself, they warded the room against all possible surveillance. Fred and George even took their turns and made sure that anyone even trying to get close to the door would get some very unpleasant surprises.
“Harry Potter, huh?” Fred broke the silence.
Harbin smiled and nodded.
Draco found himself used as a cuddly again, Harbin pressed against him, arms wrapped around his waist, chin propped on his shoulder.
The twins smirked at them. Draco glared back.
“So why the secrecy?” George asked, lounging on a desk next to his brother. Both of them were supremely unconcerned and relaxed, as if the answer didn’t matter either way.
“Privacy,” Harbin answered serenely. “And a tactical advantage.”
Draco snorted quietly. That last one had to be from Harbin’s uncle. He knew the man had been some kind of muggle soldier, and from what Uncle Severus told him about the fate of Sebastien’s kidnapper last year, a very good but deadly one at that.
Surprisingly, Ron was nodding. “Does You Know Who know that you’re--” He waved, as if he didn’t want to say it out loud, as if he didn’t want to take any chances that his magic would take revenge for him spilling the secret.
“Oui, but we believe he is too weak to tell his Death Eaters. The one who took Bastien did not know why he was to be taken.”
The Weasleys and Neville nodded.
Hermione grinned at them. “I’m so glad you know!” she bubbled. “This has been eating away at me for weeks!”
Draco chuckled at Harbin’s relieved sigh, hissing his displeasure when his best friend pinched him, but his smirk stayed on his lips. Harbin had complained, frequently, about Hermione’s crusade to get him to tell their other friends. He had borne it because Harbin was his best friend, but he could still laugh at said best friend for his overly dramatic relief.
“I will see you later, professeur.” Harbin waved to Professor Lupin once more before turning to his bag to pull out the latest meal he had saved for Noir. Ever since he had introduced his pet to his friends, they had banded together to sneak food out to the dog. Harbin was pretty sure Noir was getting fed at least six times a day. But, he didn’t really care. The dog had looked so starved when he found Noir that even if every single one of his friends were sneaking out to feed Noir at every meal, Harbin always saved him something as well.
“Yes, professeur?” He tilted his head back to look up at his tall teacher. Professor Lupin was looking at the food in amusement.
“Why are you smuggling food in your bag?” The man looked like he was trying not to laugh, in his hand he held the steaming goblet of medicine that Professor Snape had delivered to him during class. It looked completely full.
Harbin grinned. “It is for Noir.”
“And who is Noir?”
“Your dog?” Professor Lupin blinked at him. “I didn’t realize Hogwarts students were allowed dogs at the school.”
“Oh no, he is a stray dog that I have been feeding.”
Tension suddenly infused the room, originating from Professor Lupin. The professor dropped the goblet, genuflecting down onto one knee, hands clenched on Harbin’s shoulders. “Harbin, is the dog about this big?” He held his hand to nearly Harbin’s shoulders. “And black?”
Harbin nodded. He was wide-eyed as Professor Lupin clutched at him, muttering angrily. “Professeur Lupin?”
“You must stay in the castle. Don’t go anywhere near that dog again. Promise me, Harbin.” Golden eyes shone with desperate savagery.
But Harbin knew better than to make promises like that, without knowing the reason. “I will promise if you tell me why you do not want me playing with him.”
“Non,” he refuted, “I deserve an answer.”
Professor Lupin shook his head, hesitating.
Harbin knew he was giving the professor his Snape eyebrow. “Then if you will excuse me, professeur, I have a pet to feed.”
“Hari! Merlin, sometimes I wonder if you’re really a Slytherin and then you go and do something like this.” Exasperation took over the desperation, a tiny smile lifting his professor’s lips before they fell back down.
Harbin smiled, but stood resolute. “Professeur?”
Professor Lupin hesitated for another moment, before quietly confessing, “Sirius Black is an unregistered animagus. His animagus form is a big, black dog.”
Draco blinked stupidly as Harbin came whirlwind fast into the common room. Dark head whipped around as green eyes searched. Spotting Draco and Hermione, Harbin dashed forward and grabbed their hands. Without a word, he hauled them outside.
“Hari! What are you--” Hermione struggled in Harbin’s hold.
“I will explain.” He spoke no more as he continued to tug them through the castle and towards the DADA classroom.
There they found Ron and Neville, quietly ensconced in a dim corner.
“We’re here,” Ron muttered, squeezing back to get everyone into the crevice. “What’s going on?”
“Professor Lupin and Sirius Black were friends!” Harbin recounted his time with the professor to the shocked audience. They were all disturbed to learn that the friendly Noir was Black in disguise.
“But what are we doing here, Hari?” Draco asked, craning his neck to see the door to Lupin’s office. Now he understood why the Gryffindors had chosen this spot. What he didn’t understand was why Black had been so friendly? If he was after Harry Potter, he obviously didn’t know that Harbin was he. Perhaps he was hoping that by befriending students they would sneak him into the school?
“I think he may go after him.” Harbin reached into his bag, pulling out his invisibility cloak.
“Wait.” Ron’s brow was impressively furrowed.
Draco gallantly refrained from warning Ron to not hurt himself by thinking too hard.
“Is Lupin going after Black? Or is Black going after Lupin?”
“Honestly, Ronald.” Hermione, bless her, rolled her eyes. “Professor Lupin will go after Black, of course. He probably feels betrayed.”
Just as Professor Lupin’s door opened, Harbin was able to drape the cloak across the entrance of the alcove. He struggled to keep it up until Neville grabbed one side while he kept the other. They watched in silence as their professor closed and locked his office door and headed towards the castle’s entrance.
“Will the four of you fit under there?” Draco whispered before casting the charm that made him go invisible.
Harbin scrambled with the others to get under the cloak. It was a seriously tight fit, but they managed. Hermione whispered a silencing spell on their feet then they were off.
They caught up with their teacher just as he was entering the Forbidden Forest. Tricky as hell to not step on branches and twigs while under an invisibility cloak, but they managed it. They watched as Professor Lupin began searching, lighting his wand, bending low to the ground.
“Sirius, where are you?” he called out, loudly whispering, half afraid of being heard even way out in the Forbidden Forest. “Why are you here? You can’t be here to hurt the children. I know they’ve been feeding you, but you haven’t hurt them. If you’re here for Harry, he’s not at Hogwarts.”
“Don’t be silly, Moony, of course he’s here.”
Professor Lupin jumped at the voice, wand instantly extended towards the trees from whence the voice came.
The professor wasn’t the only that had jumped. Harbin flattened himself against the oak, feeling Hermione, Ron, and Neville do the same. The glimmer that he could see of Draco’s disillusionment charm moved closer too.
The man that emerged from the underbrush didn’t look as insane as the Prophet’s picture. He was better nourished too, thanks to Harbin and his friends. Mostly clean, but his clothes were ill-fitting rags.
“What do you mean Harry’s here?” Professor Lupin kept his wand on Black. “His muggle relatives wouldn’t let him come to Hogwarts.”
“Ah, Moony, you don’t expect me to believe that, do you?” Black stepped closer, smiling and relaxed. “He’s a bloody Slytherin, but he’s definitely here.” There was an affectionate exasperation in his voice when he talked about Harbin's house, but he was still smiling, seemingly not at all put off by Harbin being a Slytherin.
Harbin furiously wondered how Black knew he was at the school. No one had spoken of it; Professor Snape had made sure of that.
“It’s the truth,” Professor Lupin stubbornly insisted. “If he was here, I would have known.”
“Not if he was wearing a glamour.”
Harbin could see as the pieces fell into place in Professor Lupin’s mind, but his teacher shook his head.
“Why are you here, Sirius?”
“Peter.” Black spit out the name.
“Peter? He’s dead.” Professor Lupin stabbed his wand in Black’s direction. “You killed him.”
Black shook his shaggy head, snarling, “He’ll wish I had killed him when I’m done with him.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The youngest Weasley boy’s rat, Moony. Did you ever notice it was missing a toe?”
Harbin was too busy helping Neville and Hermione restrain Ron to see how Professor Lupin reacted. He could feel Draco adding his weight to the effort too.
“What are you saying, Sirius?”
“We switched, Moony. James and I, we thought I was the too obvious choice.” Black was eager to explain, eyes so like Draco’s shining with fervor.
“You were the decoy,” Professor Lupin reasoned out, his wand lowering.
Black’s head nearly jerked off in his enthusiasm to nod in confirmation. “When I got to the house that night, I knew, I knew it had to have been him.”
“He cut off his own finger.” Professor Lupin’s eyes glowed golden, the feral light shining in the moonlight. “He betrayed us. He betrayed the Potters.”
Ron’s head was shaking in denial, Harbin and Neville had to lean on him harder to keep him quiet.
“Ron,” Hermione urgently whispered, “think about it! It all makes sense! Black’s had how many chances to hurt Harbin? But he never did! He could have taken any of us hostage or hurt us, but he didn’t! He attacked Gryffindor tower because he knew you were a Gryffindor, not because he thought Harry Potter was a Gryffindor. Even after he found out that Harbin was a Slytherin, he never tried to get into the dungeons. How long has your family had Scabbers? Rats, even magical ones, don’t live that long!”
He stilled, staring at her. Hermione’s near breathless jumble of logic was making an impact; they could literally see the cogs whirling into place. Ron shuddered under Harbin’s hand, pulling Neville’s hand off his mouth. “I let him sleep in my bed!” he hissed.
Harbin could only shudder in sympathy. A murderer sharing your bed. A grown man masquerading as a pet, sharing your bed. Disgusting. But now he understood why Professor Lupin had acted so strangely when he told him of Noir. He thought perhaps that Black had not come to Hogwarts to hurt him. But to get revenge. That, he understood very well.
“How? How did you know?” Professor Lupin was even closer to Black now. The two men seemed to lean towards each other, needing to be near. Harbin blinked, realizing why that was important.
“Fudge would visit Azkaban – on one of his trips, he tossed a paper near my cell. There, in the picture, the damn rat was sprawled nice as you pleased on the kid’s shoulder.” Black’s hand raked into claws, teeth bared like the dog animagus he was. “I couldn’t let him go free. Not with James and Lily dead. Not with Harry stuck with Lily’s miserable sister instead of with his real family.” Black brightened, hands relaxing back to normal. “I’m glad I was wrong about that though.”
“Wrong about what?” Professor Lupin seemed more relaxed now too, amused even.
“Harry’s happy, I can tell.” Black said it so happily he nearly bounced.
Professor Lupin patted his shoulder. “How did you figure it out it was him?”
“His smell. And his forehead.” Black smirked. “I licked it.”
Professor Lupin threw his head back and laughed.
Hermione murmured, “Ewww,” staring at Harbin as if it had happen just minutes before and he was dripping with dog drool.
He rolled his eyes, murmuring, “I have washed since then.”
Neville and Ron snickered. Draco’s shimmer shimmied with laughter too.
“The glamour hides the scar from sight, but not by feel.”
“And he smells like James?” Professor Lupin was still smiling, the smile was knowing somehow.
“And Lily, yes.” Black seemed positively gleeful now. “He has her eyes.”
“At least he was spared James’ hair.”
They both snickered at that, but fondness marked their features. Seeing that, Harbin made a decision, slipping out from underneath the cloak. Hands reached for him, but it was too late. Both men spun, Professor Lupin’s wand at the ready. They both froze when they saw him.
“Non, I do have his hair.” He waved at his head. “But it is under a glamour as well.”
Draco was going to kill Harbin’s arse.
He kept his wand on Black as the escaped convict bounded towards Harbin. What was he thinking? Jumping out like that with the murderer right there! Even with the explanation of why Black was innocent, Draco couldn’t quite get the image of the deranged Black screaming and straining against the chains around his wrists.
“Harry!” Black glommed onto Harbin, hugging and petting him.
Harbin, the idiot, laughter going from soft to loud as Black transformed from man to dog, still foolishly bounding about like some demented puppy. Their DADA teacher was absolutely useless, merely standing there and smiling indulgently. And then he got in on the act! Reeling Harbin in for his own hug! Merlin! What was it with these people and hugging? Draco knew they should have stopped to get Uncle Severus. He grabbed his friend, yanking him away, but found himself being flattened by the dog.
And then slobbered all over.
“Ugh, get off!”
Harbin, the bastard, took his dear sweet time hauling the slobbering menace off.
Draco stood, canceling the disillusionment spell, then cleaning off the slobber with a cleaning charm. “How did you see through the disillusionment?”
Black transformed back into his human self, grinning madly just as before. “I could smell you.”
His mouth fell open, but snatched it back up when he saw Harbin grin. A ruffle of noise from behind him and the widening of their DADA professor’s eyes told him the others had pulled off the invisibility cloak.
“I can’t believe you’re a Slytherin!” Black moaned theatrically at Harbin. “And best friends with a Malfoy!”
Harbin smirked, looping his arms around Draco’s waist and propping his chin on Draco’s shoulder. “But he is so cuddly and sweet.”
Draco whirled, outrage stealing his very breath. “I am not!”
Harbin, the unmitigated bastard, kissed him on the cheek and cuddled him some more. “Oui, you are.”
Draco pushed him away, ignoring the other boy’s laughter. He spun to face Black and Lupin. “Pettigrew is Ron’s rat?”
All laughter died.
Black nodded, his features snarling once more.
“We can’t have him near Harbin.” Draco surveyed them all, satisfaction bubbling up when he saw they were all in agreement. He turned to Black. “If we can get you into the castle, can you take care of him?”
Black’s snarling face morphed into grin that rivaled a dementor’s. “Yes.”
“We’ll take care of him together.” Lupin stepped forward, resting his hand on Black’s shoulder. The convict threw him a smile, hand reaching up to cover the professor’s.
Draco nodded. “First step, talk to Uncle Severus.”
“Snivellus?” Black scoffed. “Why do we need him?”
Draco glared at the man, insulted on behalf of his godfather for that offensive name. “You’ll not call him that, Black.”
Black sneered, so much like his mother when she encountered rabble in Diagon Alley. “It’s his name.”
“Non,” Harbin stepped around Draco, glaring up at his godfather. “Non, his name is Professeur Severus Snape. You will respect him as such.”
Black stared down at Harbin, shock and surprise all over his face. “Harry?”
“He has been good to me,” Harbin insisted. “He is an ally; you will treat him with respect, Monsieur Black.”
Black knelt, carefully taking hold of Harbin’s shoulders. “Sirius, Harry, you’re supposed to call me Sirius.”
A gentle smile stole across Harbin’s lips. It was the smile he used whenever he was going to make a deal with someone. “Then you will respect Professeur Snape, oui?”
Black was smart enough to get the implication: Harbin would only call him Sirius if he used Uncle Severus’ proper name. He would have to take it since Harbin would always be polite, but if Black resisted, it would only make him look the fool and not get him what he wanted.
Draco did so love watching Harbin work.
Black reluctantly nodded.
Harbin beamed at him.
Some days, Severus Snape rued the day he meet Harbin Chevalier.
His office was filled with a Ravenclawish Slytherin, Gryffindors – past and present – and a big, black dog that wouldn’t stop its infernal yapping and barking. Severus had no idea why the damn dog was in the room, but didn’t have the chance to demand its absence. The invaders were all spinning tales about switching secret keepers and animagus rats living in Gryffindor Tower. Talking over each other, filling in blanks, sidebars and commentaries and arguing the exact sequence of events. It was utter pandemonium. And it was giving him a migraine.
He pinched the bridge of his nose and wondered how many of them he could stun before Albus realized people were being attacked in the castle.
A warm weight against his side broke through his building rage. He expected Harbin, the chaos-bringing brat, but it was Draco, blond head on his shoulder, gray eyes fixed on the ongoing explanation melee. Draco did this sometimes, wanting reassurance and comfort, especially when he was younger. Instinct had his arm wrapped around his godson before conscious thought could stop him. Amazingly enough, the sight of him cuddling his godson was enough to bring blessed silence.
He knew it was the planned result of Draco and Harbin’s machinations when he saw the two boys exchange smirking glances. He mentally rolled his eyes, but knew to take advantage. “Mr. Chevalier, and only Mr. Chevalier, will explain what is going on.”
He listened to the boy’s tale, not needing to ask any questions as the boy reported as if a soldier, giving all pertinent information. He was sure Jonah was the cause of this behavior. Severus turned to his godson, still pressed into his side. His raised eyebrow got him the information Harbin hadn’t thought was pertinent.
“Black’s animagus form is a big, black dog.”
His wand was out and pointed; his other hand pushed Draco under his sturdy desk, then grabbed Harbin, pressing him down beside Draco.
Lupin’s wand was out, his body covering Black. “Severus--”
The dog growled, trying to get out from behind Lupin, held back only by Lupin’s fingers dug into its ruff.
The children not under his desk were yammering, angling their own bodies out of the line of fire.
Torn between moving to protect the other children and staying right where he was to protect Draco and Harbin, Severus dropped his guard enough for Harbin to make his move.
Adolescent hands wrapped around his hand and wand, gently pressing both down and away.
“He is not dangerous, professeur. He has had many chances to hurt me, but he has not.” Those damn eyes stared up him. “S’il vous plait, professeur, help us catch Pettigrew? Help us clear Sirius’ name?”
He could withstand the Dark Lord’s rages. He could withstand Albus’ ridiculous efforts to socialize him. He could withstand years of humiliation dealt at the hands of the Mauraders. But he could not withstand sweet pleas for noble help from such beseeching eyes.
He lowered his wand.
Thank Merlin he’d had insisted that they went to Uncle Severus. Black and Ron had been all for charging into the lions’ den to catch the treacherous rat. Neville and Lupin had held them back, the four of them arguing their sides.
A loud bang spun them around, wands at the ready.
Uncle Severus lowered his wand and glowered at all of them. “Desist at once,” he growled at Ron and Black. “This is the plan.”
Draco had been relieved by the order to stay outside of the tower. He, and all the others, were waiting as Uncle Severus, Lupin and Black entered the Gryffindor common room. Black was under Harbin’s invisibility cloak. He was not supposed to do anything except act as a backup in case something went wrong. Uncle Severus had even gone so far as to force a Calming Draught down his throat. This left Black excited with clarity. Lupin was supposed to identify Pettigrew and keep the other Gryffindors out of the way so that Uncle Severus could catch him.
The silence was so unnerving that the creaking of the Fat Lady’s portrait startled all of them.
“Did you get him?” Ron burst out, silenced only by Uncle Severus’ glare.
Uncle Severus was followed by Lupin, who was levitating a glass box with tiny air holes in the top. A rat scurried around it, desperately trying to find a way out.
Draco nodded. Good. He couldn’t count the number of times Ron had brought the damn rodent around Harbin, none of them ever knowing it was a damn Death Eater. He followed the others as they followed their professors. Black had removed the cloak and was telling Harbin about a time when he and James Potter had used it to trick Peeves into thinking that another poltergeist was moving into his territory.
“— and then – Remus?” Black broke off, running towards his friend.
The look of absolute horror on their professor’s face made Draco latch onto Harbin.
“Lupin, did you take it? The Wolfsbane potion, did you take it?” Uncle Severus placed his body between them and Lupin and Black. “Lupin!”
“No.” The answer was agonized, drawn out, gritted out between clenched teeth.
“Take him outside,” Uncle Severus ordered Black, but the convict was shaking his head, backing away.
“It’s too late, he’s transforming now.”
Transforming? Into what? Draco screamed, along with the others, as Lupin howled and screamed, bones cracking and skin stretching, muscles grotesquely rippling under furry skin.
“Werewolf,” Draco hissed, pressing closer to Harbin and his uncle. He pulled his wand, mind already going to the spell his father had taught him to be used against werewolves. It would send splinters of silver straight at the creature. At the moment, Draco couldn’t care less that this was once a well-liked teacher. The werewolf lost its human mind when it transformed, attacking everyone. Draco had no intentions of being eaten or turned.
Neville and Ron were whimpering, Hermione was utterly silent in her terror, all three huddling behind Uncle Severus. But Harbin merely watched, going so far as to move to get a better look. Draco dragged him back behind his godfather, but Harbin still craned his neck.
“Protect the kids,” Black ordered his godfather seconds before transforming into Noir. He lunged at the werewolf, playfully nipping. It was obvious that Black had plenty of experience dealing with the werewolf. Draco prayed to Merlin that his plans worked.
Playful nipping changed into forceful attacks, Noir trying to make himself the object of the werewolf’s anger.
Uncle Severus was shooting hexes and curses at the werewolf, but most of them bounced off, barely making an impression. Draco wanted to fire off the curse his father taught him, but Harbin’s worried eyes stopped him. The shattering of a glass cage barely made an impression, but the scrambling of the terrified rat caught the werewolf’s attention.
Lupin took off after the rat, Noir right behind them.
Draco was so busy wilting in relief he missed Harbin slipping past him and Uncle Severus. “Hari!”
“I need to make sure that they will be all right,” Harbin threw over his shoulder.
“Harbin Chevalier!” Uncle Severus called sharply. “You idiotic child, come back!”
“It is all right, professeur, I will be fine!” With that he disappeared.
Harbin felt the cold the moment the dementors arrived. He had followed Professor Lupin and Noir out to the forest, keeping a safe distance behind. He was sure Pettigrew had gotten away since there wasn’t a sign of blood anywhere, but he wanted to make sure that Moony did not hurt Noir. The black dog had herded Moony away from the school, more successful now that the werewolf hadn’t been distracted by all of the human smells. Harbin knew that Noir was making sure that Moony was staying upwind from Harbin’s scent, so he carefully kept himself downwind, just as Uncle Jonah had taught him.
When he felt the same cold that infused him at the quidditch match, he froze.
Moony and Noir were growling and barking, jumping and biting at the creatures that surrounded the three of them. They were no deterrent for the dementors.
Harbin raised his wand. “Expecto Patronum!”
White clouds billowed forth, but only held them back.
Moony howled, charging the nearest dementors. The creatures tossed him away like the raging werewolf was nothing but a leaf on the wind.
Noir barked, howling in grief, but didn’t leave Harbin. Noir changed back into Sirius.
“Harry! You have to run!” Sirius grabbed him, hugged him hard, filling him with the scent of sweaty dog, sweaty man and the love of a man who was his godfather and a connection to his past.
“Non!” Harbin grabbed him, pulling him towards the castle.
Sirius shook his head, pushing him away. “I won’t make it, Harry. You must go!”
A doe flew past them, taking out several, but more dementors took their place.
“Hari! Run!” Professor Snape yelled, charging at them, robes billowing, wand out and pointed at the dementors.
“Professeur! Look out!”
It was too late. Professor Snape never saw the dementor behind him until it was upon him.
Harbin never saw the dementors behind them. He only saw Sirius and Professor Snape fall under the dementors’ hoods as he fell into unconsciousness.
He woke to the infirmary wing’s ceiling and a warm, heavy weight curled into his side. Blond hair spilled across his shoulder and onto the pillow. “Draco?”
“Hari?” came the choked, sleepily murmur. “Are you okay?”
“I am fine.” Harbin didn’t move except to hold onto Draco tighter. He could hear the pain in the other boy’s voice. “What happened?”
“Black was Kissed.”
He shut his eyes against the prick of tears, clutching Draco even tighter. He mourned the loss of his godfather, for the life that had been taken. He barely knew the man, but he remembered the affectionate playfulness and the intense love he saw in Noir’s gray eyes. He remembered the hours he had spent curled up with Noir, reading, doing homework, or just basking away from the dementors’ coldness.
"And Professeur Lupin?"
"No one can find him."
Silence fell again, only to be broke by a quiet sob that came from his shoulder.
“Uncle Severus too.”
Harbin buried his face in Draco’s hair, tears leaking. He remembered now. The professor had tried to save them. The dementors attacking from behind. “Je suis désolé ainsi, mon amour.”
Draco nodded, but his hand, once lax with sleep on his chest, now sought out his.
Harbin gave it to him, clutching back just as hard. He couldn’t believe they had lost the professor too. All of Slytherin house would be mourning. Until his family had planned to unite the school to protect him, the Slytherins had been persecuted because Voldemort had come from their house. Professor Snape had been their only champion. Harbin mourned his wizarding mentor.
The opening and closing of a door caught his attention. He turned to see Draco’s family, his family, and Gavin walking slowly in. They all looked horrible, but Gavin’s eyes were red from unshed tears.
Harbin felt just as bad for his tutor as he did for Draco. His godfather was lost, yes, but Draco had been assured of the professor’s love for him. Gavin’s feelings had grown more and more for the professor as they tiredlessly worked together to help Harbin harness his magical power, but they remained unrequited, leaving him devastated by unfulfilled promise.
Draco stirred when he saw his parents, but his mother pressed him back down.
Draco nodded, giving both his parents a sad smile. His father awkwardly patted his shoulder before moving away.
“Hari,” his mother murmured, taking his free hand. “Comment font vous vous sentez, mon chéri?”
“Salut, Hari,” Sebastien said quietly, knowing that one should be quiet in a hospital.
“Salut, Bastien.” He left his mother’s hand to take his baby brother’s.
Uncomfortable silence fell upon the group. Harbin could not bring himself to break it even though it made the sadness of losing both Sirius and Professor Snape worse. Thankfully, Lady Malfoy quietly murmured that they should leave to let him and Draco rest. After brief, emotional embraces, they all left.
All but Gavin.
His tutor sat in silence before pulling out a long chain with a tiny hourglass encircled with silver dangling from it. “I kissed him, you know.”
“Non, I did not.” Harbin kept his voice just as quiet as Gavin’s. Draco shifted on his chest, clearly awake, but he did not speak. When Gavin said no more, he too fell quiet.
The older man held up the pendant. “This is a time turner.”
Draco inhaled sharply while Harbin nodded, knowing that his tutor liked a certain rhythm when teaching him about magical objects.
“Time turners do exactly that, they turn back time. They are limited, of course, they can only go back as far as twenty-four hours, but that’s usually plenty of time.” Gavin bent a telling look on them both. “Time turners are carefully controlled by the ministry as they have been used to change the outcomes of elections and other historically significant events.” He stared at the device, tilting it this way and that, as if fascinated by the play of moonlight on the glass and silver. “My father’s family invented these back in the 1600s, keeping the knowledge of how to produce them to ourselves. This one is probably the only time turner in existence that the ministry doesn’t have, can track, or even know about. Each inversion of the hourglass takes its wearer back one hour.”
Harbin held his breath as Gavin pulled the chain off his neck and placed it around his and Draco’s.
“The only rule about using this is that you can’t be seen . . . by anyone.” The look in Gavin’s blue eyes reminded Harbin of Professor Snape and the headmaster. They had the intensity of the potions master, but the mischief and knowledge and confidence of Dumbledore’s. All of it tempered by grief and hope.
Harbin nodded slowly, carefully wrapping his hand around the magical device.
Gavin patted that hand. “I trust you’ll know the best way of going about this.”
With that, he left.
Draco’s head lifted, excitement burned bright in his eyes. “We can save Uncle Severus!” he whispered harshly.
Harbin nodded. “And Sirius.”
“It’s eleven o’clock now,” Draco pointed to the hospital wing’s only clock. “We’d need to turn it at least four times to save Uncle Severus and Black.”
Harbin nodded again, but then frowned. “Draco, how would we save them?”
That effectively burst his friend’s excitement. They quietly went over what they knew had happened that day, detail by detail.
“The cup,” Draco said slowly. “You said that as you were leaving, Lupin had a cup filled with a smoking potion. The one that Uncle Severus had brought him during class.”
“Oui, he spilt it.”
“We need to make sure he drinks it.”
Harbin tilted his head.
“It’s the Wolfsbane potion. It’ll help Lupin keep his human mind. He won’t go crazy and attack.” Draco sat up completely, the excitement back in his eyes, his body nearly vibrating with it. “If he’s okay, then the fight won’t have happened. Pettigrew won’t have escaped!”
“But we cannot allow a werewolf, even with his human mind, inside the castle,” Harbin pointed out. He did not know much about werewolves, but from the others’ reactions, he knew that Professor Lupin as a werewolf was a feared creature. Goodness knows what would happen if a terrified student or professor saw him and attacked, thinking to defend themselves. “If he goes outside then the dementors will attack again.”
“Lupin told you that the reason why you couldn’t produce a corporeal patronus was because the despair caused by the dementors was overwhelming, right?” Draco paced as he thought.
Harbin slid off the bed, readying himself, knowing that as soon as they worked out a plan, they would be turning back time to save their godfathers. He checked the bag left at the foot of his bed and found his invisibility cloak. That would take care of the “do not be seen” caveat that Gavin had warned them about.
“Let’s go.” Draco grabbed his hand, tugging him out of the hospital ward.
“You figured it out?” Harbin willingly followed him out, spinning the cloak around their shoulders just as they left the doorway.
Draco nodded. “We’ll need to turn the Time Turner at least eight times.”
Harbin held the cloak closed as Draco slipped the time turner’s chain around both their necks once more.
“We’re going back far enough to make sure Lupin drinks that Wolfsbane potion. That’ll solve at least half of our problems.”
“Brilliant, amour.” He smiled at Draco, pressing a kiss to his soft cheek.
Draco blinked, but then focused on the time turner, spinning the hour glass eight times. All around them the day reversed like a movie being rewound. Once it stopped, Draco led them towards the DADA classroom in time to see Professor Snape walk in with the steaming goblet.
“I wonder if he did that on purpose,” Draco whispered into his ear, body relaxing when he saw his godfather alive and well. “If he was trying to tell us that Lupin was a werewolf.”
He shrugged. “Only a few select people – you, Hermione – would have known what was in the goblet. I am sure he merely meant to disrupt the professeur’s class.”
Draco smirked. “That does sound like Uncle Severus.”
Harbin had to agree. For all that he looked up to Professor Snape, he was not blind to the man’s faults. Petty cruelty was definitely one of them. He sometimes wondered what their relationship would have been like if Professor Snape had known from the beginning, before getting to know Harbin, that he was James Potter’s son.
They quietly watched as Professor Lupin finished the class and dismissed the students. Harbin and Draco flattened themselves along the wall to keep out of the rushing students’ way.
“Wingardium leviosa?” Harbin whispered as his past self spoke to their teacher.
Draco nodded. “I have better control.”
Harbin nodded. While he was able to get most spells to work before Draco, once Draco could do it, the control he wielded was more finely tuned than Harbin’s more blunt force power.
Draco carefully parted the cloak so that only the wand tip poked through. Just as the cup was about to drop, he cast and caught it. He gently hovered it onto Professor Lupin’s desk.
Harbin thought that perhaps the professor would be too preoccupied to drink the potion, so he cast the strongest “Notice Me” spell on the goblet he could.
It worked. As soon as his past self left the room, Professor Lupin wandered over to his desk, absently picking up the goblet to take fast, deep draughts. They waited until he left the room to ease their way out.
“Now what?” Draco asked as soon as they found a quiet corner.
“Everything else that happened today was perfectly fine. I do not believe we should interfere with any of it.” Harbin took Draco’s hand, heading to the one place almost no one would see them. “Come, I need to practice the Patronus charm.”
Draco watched as Harbin practiced the charm until it was time to go back inside. Harbin made enough progress for them to see the white mist form a vague shape. Before heading to the tower, they stopped by the kitchens to snitch a few things. Eating on the run, they stationed themselves outside of the Gryffindor tower to wait for their teachers, friends, and their past selves.
Everything unfolded just as before, but when Uncle Severus barked the question about taking the Wolfsbane potion, Lupin nodded.
Unlike before, the werewolf was distracted by the dog, but something else kept its attention. Something in the others’ direction. It kept jerking forward, unnatural amber eyes glowing with need as it inched closer and closer to them.
Just like before, Uncle Severus kept his body between their past selves and the werewolf, moving and blocking, but the creature would not be deterred.
“Professeur?” Past-Harbin murmured, grabbing at the back of Uncle Severus’ robes. “I think it is me he wants.”
“No.” Implacable and harsh, just like Draco wanted to say too, but his godfather did it perfectly.
“What the hell do you think your past self is doing?” he muttered to the boy next to him. He hoped to Merlin that the werewolf would not notice them at all. The invisibility cloak did not mask scents.
“I am not sure,” his Harbin whispered back, but clearly he was interested and not worried at all.
“Si’l vous plait,” past-Harbin was saying to both Uncle Severus and past-Draco.
“No, Hari.” Past-Draco hissed as he dug his hands into Harbin’s robes, glaring at the others for help.
Neville snapped to, but missed as Harbin jerked away.
“Hari,” the other Draco pleaded, trying to step forward to stop the other Harbin, but was caught in glowing eyes and low, menacing growls. “Don’t be stupid, you Gryffindor-wannabe!”
“That was not very nice, mon ami,” Harbin whispered into his ear.
Draco rolled his eyes. “The very least you deserve.”
“Draco,” past-Harbin said, stepping back towards the other Draco.
Draco watched as his past self didn’t take his eyes off the werewolf, but started at the feel of the soft brush of lips against his cheek and the hands prying his own off Harbin’s robes.
The other Harbin darted out of Uncle Severus’ reach and over to Noir. The black grim kept its body between him and the werewolf, watching warily, but obviously deciding to trust Harbin’s instincts. “Come, Moony, let us go play.”
Both Dracos screamed when the werewolf bounded full tilt at Harbin. This wasn’t supposed to happen! They didn’t go back to save Severus and Black just to lose Harbin!
No blood was shed, no limbs rendered.
Miraculously, the werewolf pounced on Harbin with only aggressive licking and snuffling, mouthing at Harbin, pulling him and Noir away from the humans. Harbin went, waving reassuringly over his shoulder, his laughter actually more heartening than the wave. The three of them ran out of sight and presumably into the Forbidden Forest.
The other Draco turned to their godfather. “Uncle Severus?”
The professor’s eyes were dark, haunted, defeated. “Let us hope that Mr. Chevalier knows what he is doing. Come,” he ordered, floating the glass cage and rat behind him. “Let us finish this business.”
They waited until the others left, Pettigrew’s glass cage intact, before running out to the forest.
Severus kept one ear on the conversation between Albus and Fudge, the minister blustering and idiotic as usual, but his main focus was on the three figures chasing each other at the edges of the Forbidden Forest. He had no idea how Harbin and Black managed to get Lupin to stay so close to human civilization. Nevertheless, he was grateful, as he could see Harbin from the headmaster’s office. Behind him, the rat scrambled and scrabbled in its cage, Albus mournfully casting glances at it every so often. The headmaster was ensuring that Harbin would have his godfather back by coercing Fudge to bring enough of the Wizengamot to pardon Black. He went so far as to ask Madame Bones to join them, ensuring that an impartial and rule-abiding Wizengamot member would be present. Also present were the children – Draco, Hermione, Ron Weasley and Neville Longbottom – witnesses to all that happened tonight, and all the heads of the houses.
The floo fire whooshed, expelling Fudge, Bones, Dolores Umbridge, Tiberius Ogden, Griselda Marchbanks and three others that Severus only had a passing acquaintance. While not the full high court, it was enough to pardon Black. If they voted to pardon Black, that is. Fudge had brought several of his own supporters and the man was anything but one to admit his mistakes. No matter that he ran to Albus for every little thing, Fudge was a sniveling, power-monger who would do anything to keep it. The pardoning of Black would make him look weak; Fudge would do anything to keep that from happening. Along with the Wizengamot members, aurors arrived as well.
To Severus’ surprise, the Floo flared once more, leaving behind Lucius Malfoy, Yves Chevalier, and Jonah. There was immense satisfaction in watching as Fudge’s eyes widened with horror and understanding when Lucius stepped up to Albus and cordially greeted the headmaster, before taking a quiet position behind him, clearly showing his support. Yves, meanwhile, greeted the Wizengamot members he knew, which seemed to be all of them except Fudge and Umbridge. Jonah, of course, nodded to all those present, but then hid himself in the shadows.
“Well, Dumbledore, what’s this new evidence that’s supposed to clear Black?” Fudge demanded, arrogantly glancing around, dismissing everyone else in the room, and not even acknowledging Yves’ presence even though he seemed perturbed that the man knew everyone else in the room.
“Severus, if you would, please?” Albus waved his hand at the rat.
Two spells later, one to enlarge the glass cage and another to return the rat to his human form, people gasped.
“Peter Pettigrew!” Madame Marchbanks exclaimed, the wizened, tiny woman peered at the now blubbering traitor. “I tested him during his NEWTS! I thought he was declared dead!”
“Apparently not.” Severus nodded at the youngest Weasley. “Pettigrew has been living as a familiar in the Weasley household for the last twelve years.”
“The average lifespan of a rat, even a magical one, is only 4 to 6 years,” Hermione piped up, bringing all adult attention to her.
Albus, of course, beamed at her. “Quite right, Miss Granger.”
“I was hiding from Sirius!” Pettigrew yelled, visually pleading with the Wizengamot members. “He tried to kill me that night!”
“I don’t see how this man’s testimony pardons Black.” Fudge glared at Albus. “Did you call us out here for nothing?”
“Perhaps this will help?” Severus produced a clear vial of Veritaserum at Albus’ nod.
Fudge sneered. “How do we know that was correctly brewed?”
Severus was tempted, so very tempted, to give Fudge a taste of what he did when he was a true Death Eater.
“I brought some too, Minister.” Auror Dawlish stepped forward, producing his own clear vial.
Fudge nodded, waving his hand for the auror to proceed, as if not expecting anything different.
Severus let Dawlish administer the potion, but stepped in before anyone else could do the questioning. “State your name.”
“Petter Ignatius Pettigrew.”
“Where have you been these last twelve years?”
“I lived with the Weasleys. First as Percy’s pet, then Ron’s.”
“Are you a Death Eater?”
Gasps met his answers, many recoiling from Pettigrew and his cage.
“Prove it!” Fudge demanded even as he cringed away.
But Pettigrew didn’t move, only fearfully looking from one person to another. Veritaserum made one tell the truth, it did not force you into action.
Severus solved that problem by banishing Pettigrew’s left sleeve. There, just as faded as his own but still slightly visible, was the Dark Mark.
More mutterings and speculations from those in the room. The children edged away even further, especially the purebloods. Jonah was the only one to move forward, his hand flicked. Severus knew he now had a weapon in hand.
“I think you’ll find, members of the Wizengamot, that Sirius Black bears no such mark.” Albus was looking quite satisfied in his chair.
“Who was the Potters’ secret keeper?” Severus picked up his line of questioning again.
“I was.” The sorrow on Pettigrew’s face made his stomach turn. On the surface it was genuine, as was the fear, but he could see the cogs whirling in Pettigrew’s mind. Thinking and plotting of how he could save himself.
Severus would not let that happen. “Who revealed the Potters’ location to the one known as the Dark Lord?”
Pettigrew fought against the Veritaserum, against answering the question, but the potion won as it always did. “I did.”
Fudge was calling for another bottle, unconvinced of the potency of the Veritaserum. His supporters wondered, out loud, what hold Albus had over Pettigrew for him to make this confession. Minerva, Marchbanks and Ogden vehemently protested against such accusations against the headmaster. Dawlish fervently avowed the freshness and potency of the potion he had brought. Bones was ordering her aurors to take Pettigrew into custody. The only ones silent were the children, and that was only because Lucius and Yves were keeping them from joining in on the arguments.
The cold stopped them all.
Severus turned back towards the window, unable to help the horror showing on his face.
Dementors were heading towards the forest.
He ran faster than he ever thought possible. As soon as he was close enough, he sent his patronus shooting out of this wand, but a single patronus wasn’t enough for the horde descending upon Harbin and the two mutts.
“Professeur! Look out!”
He felt the cold too close too late. He spun. The dementor was already lowering its hood.
As the creature began the process of sucking out his soul, Severus spared a few hopes that Harbin would be saved. He thought of nothing for himself as he always knew that the last ten years had merely been a reprieve from his true fate.
But as his consciousness was slowly being drained, he thought he saw Potter, wand pointed at him. Little did the fool know the dark creature had already beaten him to Severus’ demise.
He and Draco stayed long enough to make sure that Professor Snape, Sirius, and his past self were tended to by Professor Dumbledore and his staff before making their way back to the school. With Professor Lupin still in his werewolf form and roaming the Forbidden Forest, they knew they had to get back to the castle quickly. Harbin tugged and teased Draco along, elated by the very first corporeal manifestation of his patronus. When he saw it, he knew immediately that the beautiful silver and gold fox embodied everything his parents and uncle had embued in him. Even though it was smaller than the doe, the fox was extremely vicious in the protection of the three men and Harbin’s past self. The two patroni were able to fight off the dementors until Professor Dumbeldore and the remaining heads of houses charged onto the scene.
They returned to the hospital wing, still hidden under the cloak and watched as Professor Snape and Sirius were levitated into the wing. Once Madam Pomfrey saw to all of them, the ward quieted to let them all rest. The magic of the time turner allowed them to reincorporate themselves with their past selves and Harbin found himself once more in a hospital bed, this time without Draco. Instead, his friend was sitting in the chair between his bed and his godfather’s. As soon as Draco made sure his godfather was all right, he climbed into bed with Harbin. It had been a very long day for them both.
They jerked awake when a jubilant cry echoed throughout the ward. The room was filled to the brim with people. His family, Draco’s family, their friends, the headmaster and his deputy were all there, smiling indulgently at Sirius’ exuberance. Well, all of them except Professor Snape, but he seemed content enough to quietly observe with Gavin by his side.
Harbin smiled as Sirius threw himself into Professor Lupin’s arms, hugging the very breath out of the extremely tired-looking man. “Sirius?”
“Harry! I’m free!” Sirius bounded over to them, carefully extracting Harbin from Draco’s hold before grabbing him in a fierce hug. “Snape’s plan worked! I’ve been cleared of all charges!”
“Congratulations, Sirius. I am so glad for you.” He grinned, hugging back just as hard.
“Harry,” Sirius knelt down, putting his hands on both of his shoulders. “I know it’s a little late, but would you like to come live with me?” His haggard face was filled with hope, his very body vibrated with anticipation and excitement.
Harbin smiled, pleased with the offer, but hating that he was going to break this man’s heart. While Sirius may be his godfather, a link to his biological parents, it was the tense stillness infused in his parents – especially his father – that concerned him most. “Merci, Sirius--”
“But I must decline.” Harbin had to catch his godfather when the shock of his negative answer registered.
“No?” Sirius looked so confused that Harbin just had to hug him tight.
“It is a very generous offer, Sirius, and if circumstances were different, I would say yes in a mere moment,” he whispered into his ear, squeezing tight once more before pulling away. He cupped Sirius’ cheeks, staring into those gray eyes. “But I have a family. A mother and a father. A little brother and an uncle. I love them, Sirius, I could never leave them.”
Sirius swallowed, eying the people he had just mentioned, seeing the relief in the Chevaliers, clutching Harbin to him. “I understand,” he whispered back.
Harbin glanced at his parents, and wondered how much trouble he would be in for the next words out of his mouth. “Would you like to come live with us instead?”
Sirius pushed him back to arms length, surprise and delight lit up his features into the handsome man he once was. “Really? With you?”
“Oui, really,” Harbin smiled, turning it on his professor. “Professor Lupin, I would like to invite you, too.”
“Thank you, Hari, for the generous offer,” Professor Lupin came forward, squeezing his shoulder, moving his hand to lay over Sirius’. “But we just can’t move in. Your parents--”
“Would be happy to have you.”
Harbin grinned brilliantly at his father.
Year Three: Summer
It was the best summer he’d ever remember having.
Pottere Hale was filled to brimming with Sirius and Remus sharing a room, both recovering from Sirius’ years in Azkaban and Remus’ years of being alone and thinking that one of his best friends had betrayed his other. Remus was even giving Sebastien rudimentary magic lessons. After their mother caught Remus teaching Sebastien a lesson in levitation, she insisted upon paying him. When he pointed out that she was already giving him steady meals and a warm sanctuary, she pointed out that she gave the same to Nounou Beth, as well as wages. Remus could not fight her after that.
While Remus was teaching Sebastien, Sirius did his best in tutoring all of the Chevaliers in the finer points of pureblood politics and culture. While his mother and father’s current demeanor helped them pass marginally well as pureblood, there were still nuances to learn that Sirius – even with his years in prison – could teach them. Harbin could see that these lessons, vital in their efforts to further decrease Voldemort’s potential power base, helped Sirius as much as they helped his parents. As the summer and lessons continued, Harbin could see purpose and drive and improvement in Sirius. His godfather seemed happier and more stable as the heat gave way to the cool of autumn.
Harbin continued his defense lessons with Gavin and his Occlumency lessons with Professor Snape. After Harbin had returned the time turner to Gavin and explained why he had it, Gavin began his campaign to win the professor’s heart in earnest. Thankfully, his efforts were slow and insidious, allowing Professor Snape to relax his guard and allowed tentative steps towards a much deeper friendship. Harbin had a front row seat as he watched his teacher slowly fall for his tutor. Of course, that was not to say that he didn’t nudge them together every now and then.
In addition to spending time with his family and the four men, this summer Harbin had been allowed to invite his friends to his home. They had come in ones and twos, and of course, for his birthday all of them had come and it was one of his best birthdays to date. His friends from every house had come to celebrate, bringing presents and fun with their friendship. Those in the know were able to see the ancestral name of his home, but no one else was able to, keeping him and his family safe.
Of course, this did not mean that life was completely perfect.
Usually, Professor Snape avoided Sirius and Remus, but every once in a while the three men would run into each other. Remus would be polite and friendly and the professor would treat him with frosty civility, but nothing could be as nicely said about Professor Snape’s encounters with Sirius.
Severus inwardly smirked as he watched Black sputter and rant about his influence upon Harbin. This time the mutt was raving about Harbin’s study ethic. Just because the idiot was more interested in playing and the interactive lessons, like dueling, did not mean he could belittle Harbin’s book learning.
“He’s a kid! He should enjoy his summer!”
Severus could see the little grin playing on Harbin’s lips even as he bent over his transfiguration books. His younger brother was also studying his own lessons, beside him. While harder for the young child to sit still for long periods of time, they had found that being next to Harbin helped to stretch that time.
“It is all right, Sirius, I enjoy this.” Harbin, of course, tried to make peace. He reached over to help Sebastien correct an answer.
“Ah, c’mon, Harry! It’s unnatural for a kid to be studying in the summer!”
“Just because you can’t write your own name, does not mean you should encourage the same ignorance in Harbin, mutt.” He smirked at the other man when Black growled low and mean. He loosened his wand from its holster.
“Just because you didn’t have any friends, and had nothing to do but study, doesn’t mean Harry has to do the same thing!” Black jumped up, wand pointed and ready.
The hex was on the tip of his lips when Harbin slammed his book closed and stood. He began gathering his things.
“Mr. Chevalier, where do you think you’re going?” Severus snapped, crossing his arms to glare at his student.
Harbin did not stop gathering his things. “Leaving.” The boy turned his own glare on him, holding out his hand for his brother. “Come, Bastien, we will go find maman.”
“Harry,” Black protested, hand reaching out to stop both boys. “No, come on, don’t leave.”
“Non,” he shook his head, face falling into distressed lines, “I cannot stay in a room so filled with hate.”
Severus inhaled, staring up to the ceiling, gathering his shields. He turned to his nemesis. “Black?”
At least the mutt was smart enough to catch his meaning since Black nodded. “Yeah.” He turned back to Harbin. “We promise not to fight any more.”
Relief and pleasure filled the boy’s face. “Merci.” Harbin sat back down, resuming his lesson.
An hour later, his mother called for him and his brother.
“Pathetic,” Severus bit out the moment Harbin left the room.
Predictably, Black surged to his feet. “He is not--”
“Not Harbin, you imbecile.” Severus ignored the looming threat, conjuring tea for all of them instead. “Us.”
“Us?” Lupin was amused, nodding to thank him for the tea.
Black was still too stupefied to take the tea, so Severus offered it to Gavin.
“Yes,” Severus sipped his tea. “That slip of a boy has five grown men wrapped around his fingers.”
“More, if you count everyone he knows,” Gavin said, smirking into his teacup.
Severus rolled his eyes.
“He gets it from his mother,” Jonah added, taking his own cup.
“Yeah, but which one?” Black questioned, getting into the spirit of things.
“Both,” Lupin promptly answered.
Severus nodded, acknowledging the truth in that statement.
The screams and yells woke him in the middle of the night. It was not the first time, nor, Harbin knew, would it be the last.
Sirius often woke like this, still thinking he was in Azkaban. Sirius, Remus and Gavin had put silencing wards around the room his godfather and Remus shared, but somehow, Harbin always heard the screams. He had asked Professor Snape if it was because he was the lord recognized by Pottere Hale; his teacher concurred with his theory. It must have been some ancient defense ward built into Pottere Hale; for surely, if there was screaming like that, then the lord must be alerted to whatever was wrong.
When he woke those nights his godfather had nightmares, Harbin would merely wait, knowing that Remus would soothe Sirius back to sleep. But this night, after the initial screams, Harbin could hear sobbing. His name was interspersed with tears.
Leaving his bed, he quietly made his way down the hall. Only because of his connection with his ancestral home did he know that his uncle had left his parents’ bedroom. Harbin smiled at Uncle Jonah, waving his hand to indicate that he was going to check on Sirius. His uncle nodded, body relaxing into a lean against the door jamb. Harbin mentally shrugged, knowing that urging his uncle back to bed with his parents was a futile endeavor, and continued on his way to Sirius’ room.
After a quiet knock and an equally quiet bid to enter, Harbin found them in bed, Sirius shaking in Remus’ arms.
“Look, Padfoot, look. Hari’s here. He’s safe and sound. He’s loved and happy, Padfoot. Look.” Remus’ warm tones echoed softly as he repeated his litany, hands trying to turn Sirius so that he could see Harbin.
Sirius refused to budge, only shaking harder.
Harbin didn’t need to think twice about it; he climbed into bed with the two of them, wrapping his arms around his godfather’s neck. Tears wet his t-shirt collar, lean arms held him tight.
Quietly, slowly, Sirius spoke of waking in nightmares where James and Lily had been tortured before their deaths, of screams and accusations, and unrelenting unforgivness. He dreamt of Harry screaming and crying for Paddy, begging for help, but nothing Sirius did let him reach his infant godson.
Harbin whispered back: knowledge that his parents didn’t blame Sirius, that he didn’t blame Sirius either for his rash actions that lead him to Azkaban that fateful night. Told his godfather of the happy times he had with his mama, papa, and uncle. Then the joyful anticipation and happy arrival of little Sebastien.
Bit by bit, Sirius calmed, hands and arms holding rather than clutching, tears drying as Harbin told them of the time he, Sebastien, and their father tricked battle-ready Uncle Jonah with a simple bucket and a half-opened doorway. Sirius and Remus both laughed, watery, but laughter nonetheless.
“Thank you, Harry,” Sirius murmured, laughter leaving, but a smile stayed. “I missed you all these years.”
Harbin hugged him hard once more. “We have time now.”
Remus smiled at both of them. “Yes, we do.”
Harbin stared at the multitude of wizards and wizarding tents that littered the grounds surrounding the Quidditch World Cup stadium. Beside him, Sebastien bounced with undisguised glee. Thankfully, he was holding Sirius’ hand, and Sirius was bouncing just as gleefully. The two of them made quite the sight. Harbin shared a commiserating smile with Remus.
“Sirius, for Merlin’s sake, act your age!” Remus clamped a hand onto Sirius’ shoulder, a tiny smile growing when the other man leaned into his touch.
Harbin hid his own smile, not hearing Sirius’ response because he was preoccupied with thinking about the growing relationship between the two men. He knew he wouldn’t have to do much to push them together. He glared over his shoulder at Gavin, and the missing, but invited Professor Snape. Unlike some people. He was bound and determined to see his tutor and his professor together before the end of his tenure at Hogwarts. After all, without him and Draco there, Professor Snape would go back to being surly, miserable, and lonely. He could not have that, not at all!
“Come on, let’s find our tent, dump our stuff and start exploring!” Sirius didn’t have to tug Sebastien along, the little boy was already running ahead, Sirius’ longer strides keeping up with him easily.
“I would like to find Draco,” Harbin told his father and Remus as they, his mother and his uncle, followed more leisurely in Sirius and Sebastien’s wakes.
“Did he tell you where to find him, love?” His father held out a hand to help his mother over a stray mud puddle.
Even though his mother’s smile said it was sweet but unnecessary, she took his hand anyway. After hopping over the puddle, she kissed his father’s cheek in thanks.
“I do not believe he will be hard to find,” Harbin laughed. “I am sure I just need to ask for the Malfoy tent. I am sure it will be easily recognizable to all.”
Everyone chuckled; never let it be said that the Malfoys did anything small or ordinary or under-the-radar.
Draco grinned as Harbin enveloped him in a hug, returning the hug just as exuberantly. “The Quidditch World Cup!”
Harbin laughed at his excitement, but Draco didn’t care. It was the Quidditch World Cup and he was there with his best friend and their families! Glancing over, he found his parents thoroughly engaged with speaking to Harbin’s parents, while Harbin’s tutor was busy with Black, Lupin, and Sebastien. Too late he remembered that Sirius Black was his mother’s cousin.
“Black.” His father sneered.
Black sneered right back. “That’s Lord Black to you, Malfoy.”
Draco wasn’t surprised as the two men went wand to wand in seconds. He also wasn’t surprised when his mother stepped up behind his father, wand in her hand, but indecision in her eyes. She was staring at Black, as if remembering him from her childhood. Lupin was beside Black, of course, but he too seemed reluctant to raise his wand. Thankfully, Harbin’s father seemed to have no reservations regarding his course of action whatsoever.
“Put down your wands, gentlemen.” Mr. Chevalier used the tips of his forefingers to nudge wands down and away, finding only the barest resistance from both men. “We are here with our families, with our children to celebrate, not to fight.”
Draco’s father straightened, obviously deciding to be the bigger man, especially when he saw the number of eyes fastened on the unfolding tableau. “Of course, you’re right, Yves.” He smirked at Black. “We should let bygones be bygones, Black. After all, we are family.”
Black looked like he wanted to refute that, but he glanced at Harbin and saw Draco by his side. The forced smile on his lips was pained, but his voice was nice enough. “Yes, of course, since my little cousin Draco is such a very good friend to Harry.”
Draco could see the wince his father was trying to hide, but he stood straight, refusing to cower under his father’s eyes. It wasn’t his fault he was related to Black. When his father’s steely eyes meet his own, he could see logic filtering in and the resignation as his father wrapped an arm around his mother.
“Narcissa, have I ever told you I don’t like your family?”
His mother’s laughter pealed through the air.
With that, the tension broke.
“Come on, let’s go!” Draco didn’t want to stay around for another possible confrontation breaking out amongst their families.
Harbin nodded, laughing, not even noticing that he had taken Draco’s hand to lead them towards the merchants selling their wares. Draco said nothing, merely tightening his hold on Harbin’s fingers. They roamed for a little while, Jonah unobtrusively following at a distance, waiting for the Cup to start. When an amplified voice called for people to start seating, they raced back to towards their parents.
“Draco, at last,” his mother admonished as she hugged them both. “We thought you had decided to forgo watching the Cup,” she teased.
Draco rolled his eyes, tugging Harbin after their fathers as they ascended the stairs. On the way up, Sebastien insisted upon showing them every piece of memorabilia and souvenir Black and Lupin had bought for him. Harbin, the wonderful big brother that he was, indulged his little brother with enthusiastic exclamations for every little thing. Black jumped right in, showing Harbin the things he had bought for him. Draco rolled his eyes when he saw that, understanding now why Harbin had refused to buy anything while they explored. Obviously, he knew Black couldn’t resist spending his newly restored galleons on his godson.
Draco eased himself between Black and Harbin after a little bit and took Harbin’s hand. Harbin grinned at him and squeezed his fingers. Strangely, Draco felt better after that smile and let Harbin return to his conversation with Sebastien, Black, and Lupin.
Finally, after steps and steps and more steps, they reached their seats. They were, of course, the best seats in the stadium. Father had told him that they were sitting with the ministers of magic from England and Bulgaria, and that he was to be on his best behavior. Draco held his chin high as he stepped inside, but his lips sneered as he took in the loud, boisterous family of redheads occupying several seats in front. While he and Ron were friends of sorts now, and while he had always looked up to the twins’ ingenuity and deviousness, the entire pack of redheads, a bushy-haired Hermione, and a dark-haired Longbottom were too noisy, too gauche to be in the same box as the ministers and other VIPs, such as the Malfoys and their guests, the Chevaliers.
Harbin must have sensed something because he leaned over and kissed Draco’s cheek. “Be nice, Draco.”
Draco reluctantly nodded, following Harbin as he made his way over to greet his Gryffindor friends and Hermione. He sometimes wondered about that girl’s taste in friends. Other than himself, Harbin, and Tracy Davis, all of her friends were from Gryffindor and Ravenclaw. All right, so Ravenclaw wasn’t so bad, but the Gryffindors?
Draco plastered on the most benign smile he could muster as he was introduced to the Weasley patriarch and Ron’s older brothers. Then Black and Lupin came over and had to be introduced too. Even though they were being introduced as if they had never met, Draco noticed that Mr. Weasley seemed to know Black and Lupin. He filed that away for another time, busy watching with curious dread as the Chevaliers led his parents over to the Weasleys as well. Oh, this could be a disaster.
Draco sat back to watch.
His mother and father were very obviously discomfited by the presence of the Weasleys. After all, the generations-old feud between the two pureblood families was legendary. Draco was never sure what had started it all, but he was of the opinion that it probably had something to do with star-crossed lovers. All great feuds started with star-crossed lovers. But as he carefully studied the red-haired, befreckled clan, he shuddered to think what Malfoy had the bad taste to fall for one of them.
Although, the two oldest brothers weren’t too bad looking.
The Chevaliers, on the other hand, looked completely at ease as they bridged the gap between Malfoys, Weasleys, Black, and Lupin. Draco rolled his eyes. His father liked to give backhanded compliments regarding Harbin’s father, such as, “He’s quite an accomplished diplomat, for a muggle.” But Draco knew better. His father had very few actual friends, many acquaintances and business associates and lackeys, but very few people he actually enjoyed conversing with. Yves Chevalier was one of those few. So much so, that both his father and mother never mentioned the fact that Sophie Chevalier never acted like a witch, that she never showed her wand. It was a common assumption that since Mr. Chevalier was a muggle diplomat, Harbin’s halfblood status had to be because of his mother. It seemed his parents were surely working past their prejudices, just as he had, because of the Chevaliers.
Draco jerked at the sudden ruckus breaking out among the Weasley progeny. He sneered, moving away, then smirked at himself. Maybe he wasn’t past all prejudices, but he could continue to work past the ones left. For Harbin, of course.
Not soon enough, he was able to pull Harbin away from the others. As they were seating themselves, Fudge and the Bulgarian minister entered with their entourages. Soon enough the Quidditch World Cup was underway.
“Oi, that was brilliant!” Ron exclaimed, hands waving, eyes alight with glee. “Did you see Krum?”
“Oi! Shut up about Krum already, Ronnikins!” one of the twins hollered backwards as the entire group made their way down from the stadium.
“Seems to me our little Ronnikins got a crush,” the other twin jeered to his brother.
“I do not!” Ron practically jumped on his brothers, trying to get them to stop as they continued to expound on his mancrush on Victor Krum.
Harbin could only laugh with Draco and Hermione, watching from a safe distance back. He turned to Draco when he felt a tug on his hand. “Draco?”
“Do you want to stay with me tonight?” His friend’s lovely silver eyes were carefully guarded, but still hopeful.
Harbin could not say no to them. “I will ask my parents.”
Draco gave him a small, beaming smile. “Let’s go ask now.”
Harbin nodded, running to catch up to his parents. “Maman, may I stay with Draco tonight?”
His mother tried to answer, but Sirius jumped in, grabbing Harbin.
“You can’t! He’s a Death Eater!”
Draco glared so hard his eyes turned to steel.
“Draco is a little too young to be a Death Eater, Sirius,” Harbin stepped in smoothly, hoping to forestall the coming argument.
He was unsuccessful.
“His father,” Sirius muttered, glaring at Lord Malfoy, who was still talking to his father.
“His father gave up his old ways,” Harbin calmly assured his godfather, while he stroked his thumb across the back of Draco’s hand, hoping that would keep Draco from exploding at Sirius.
“He’s faking it!”
“The Dark Lord’s pet basilisk nearly killed me,” Draco growled at Sirius. “My father would never ally himself with someone who would kill his only son, his only pureblood son.”
Harbin stood back, hiding his smile. All throughout the summer, Sirius had kept his peace about Harbin being friends with Draco, but every time his friend had come over, his godfather had kept suspiciously close. While he would rather not have them fight here at the World Cup, perhaps this would ease Sirius’ fear that Lord Malfoy would try to harm Harbin. “Our tent is not far from the Malfoys,” he quietly pointed out, hoping that would ease his godfather’s worries.
Sirius blinked again, turning to Remus and Harbin’s parents.
His mother patted his hand, slipping her arm through the crook of his. “He will be fine, Sirius.”
Sirius huffed a breath, detangling himself from Harbin’s mother to loop both arms around Harbin instead. “You have fun with Draco.”
Harbin grinned up at him. “Merci, Sirius.”
The screams woke him that night. Draco jerked upright, feeling Harbin doing the same beside him.
His mother rushed inside their room, still in her nightgown, robe haphazardly thrown on. “Come, children, hurry!”
Draco scrambled for his wand and shoes; Harbin was already done and waiting, hand held out.
“Hurry, Draco, my family.”
Draco nodded, not surprised that Harbin wanted to get to his family. Grabbing Harbin’s free hand, they followed his mother out into the main room of the tent. His father was at the tent entrance, carefully watching the chaos reigning outside. Maniacal laughter interspersed with shrill screams.
“Hurry,” his father urged, hand waving them forward. “Narcissa, go first. Draco, Harbin, follow her. Make your way to the woods.”
“But my family!”
His father shook his head. “Your family is with your uncle, your tutor, Black, and Lupin. They are more than well-protected.”
Harbin nodded, quickly following Draco and his mother.
Draco kept low, like his mother, but continued to glance back at Harbin and his father, who took up the rear. Once they reached the woods, his mother and father cast spells to conceal their hiding space. Draco curled into Harbin, hoping his friend’s warmth would dispel the fear-caused shivers.
“Did you know about this?” His mother’s voice was low, but still loud enough for both of them to hear her.
His father shook his head. “It cannot be one of our families.”
Draco absently nodded. Ever since the Malfoys pulled away from the Dark Lord, they had been working to take with them the more prominent dark families. Pansy and Blaise’s families were among the first to join them, especially when his father told them that the Dark Lord had been a halfblood bastard. There were families that held out, still loyal to the long gone Dark Lord, of course, but they were ones desperate to regain power. Or fanatics like the Lestranges. The Malfoys and their allies needed no such crutch, nor were they so unbalanced they couldn’t see the truth before their eyes.
It seemed like hours later when the screams finally fell silent.
His father dispelled the glamour hiding them, before helping his mother to her feet. Cautiously, they made their way back to their tent.
Harbin jerked away from them, running full tilt towards his family.
“Hari, sont vous d'accord?” Harbin’s father ran frantic hands over his son, his hands tangling with Harbin’s mother’s.
“Je suis parfait, papa.” Harbin rushed to reassure his parents, brother, uncle, Black, Lupin, and Gavin. They were all gathered around him, petting and checking over him, but still keeping an eye out for more trouble.
“Lord and Lady Malfoy hid us in the woods.” Harbin pointed towards where they had hid. “What happened?”
“Death Eaters,” Black spit out the words, sending a mild glare at Draco’s father. “They decided it would be fun to levitate the muggle groundskeeper and his family.”
“Are they all right?” Harbin asked, eyes wide.
“Yes, the aurors rescued them, but the Death Eaters escaped.” Lupin explained.
“They left the Dark Mark as a warning.” Gavin pointed over their shoulders.
Draco shivered as he saw the ugly green skull and snake floating in the sky.
The End of Year Three