Eyes of a child
"Seek the wisdom of the ages, but look at the world through the eyes of a child."
Remus was the perfect picture of dejection as he walked through the main castle doors at Hogwarts and headed down to the dungeon. His hands were stuffed in his pockets. His shoulders were slumped. He walked with his head down, studying the stone floor as he went. He didn't even bother to brush the graying sandy-brown hair from his eyes. He'd been searching for Harry on and off for years without any luck. He'd come to realize that perseverance would only take him so far; he needed help. With Sirius in prison, Peter dead or in hiding, Alice and Frank Longbottom in hospital in the long term care ward, most of his list of candidates to aid him was gone. The only person he could think of who had been close to either of the Potters was Severus Snape. It was entirely possible that he would want to find Lily's boy as much as Remus did.
He found his way to Slughorn's old office. Severus was the youngest Potions Master in living memory and had returned to Hogwarts to teach soon after gaining his Mastery, taking old Sluggie's place. Remus hadn't had much reason to return since he had completed school, and he'd never been down to the dungeons on his rare excursions to his old school. He hadn't liked Potions much, anyway. He wasn't a genius in it like Lily and Severus were. He hesitated for a moment before he raised his hand and knocked on the door.
The door opened, revealing Severus. He was dressed in black, and while he looked a bit better than he had the last time Remus had seen him, his nose was a little more hooked, as if he'd broken it again, and his black hair was greasier than usual, as if he'd been brewing recently. Indeed, the dragonhide apron he wore over his clothing backed up that theory. "Lupin," Severus said neutrally.
Inwardly, Remus winced. He and Severus had gotten on tolerably well before The Incident, but Severus had never really gotten over it. He always seemed almost afraid of Remus near to the full moon. It was why Remus had purposely chosen to come and see him at the dark of the moon, when his furry side was at its weakest. "Severus," Remus said. "I believe that there is a matter that we have a... mutual interest in."
Severus raised an eyebrow and his black eyes gleamed. "Come in," he said.
Once Remus entered, Severus closed and locked the door, then warded the room with a few quick flicks of his wand. He took off his apron and hung it on a nearby hook. Remus took a look around Severus's office, noticing that it hadn't changed much since Slughorn's tenure. Alone in a corner, acauldron bubbled and steam rose from the top. "It's about Harry," he said, without further preamble.
Severus swept around him and behind the desk. He sat down and leaned his elbows on the desk, steepling his long, potion-stained fingers. "He is most likely better off where he is," he said. "Wherever he is, he is free of the Headmaster's manipulations and most likely having a much better life than he would have were he still with Lily's sister."
"While that's true, we don't know for /sure/," Lupin said, frustrated.
Severus inclined his head. "The Headmaster came to me the night the wards fell," he admitted. "He was furious! I think he intended to use Lily's child as a weapon. The adoption records will be sealed and there hasn't been a trace of him since that day." He gave Lupin a little smile. "His adoptive parents are, must be, smart; they've hidden and they probably won't emerge anytime soon if they have any great intelligence."
"It wasn't supposed to happen like this," Remus said with asoft growl.
"No, it wasn't," Severus said. "Harry was supposed to be raised by Black, and by the time he came to Hogwarts, I could have safely hated him."
"You were in love with Lily, Severus," Remus murmured. It wasn't a question; it had been obvious to anyone with eyes... except Lily herself.
Severus inclined his head. "Indeed."
"You were more upset with James for marrying Lily than with anything we Marauders did during our prank war," Remus said slowly.
Remus hesitated, and then continued. "You were prepared to be angry at Harry because he's not your son... and part of you thinks he should be." He was rather proud of himself for figuring it out; even after their falling out, Lily had still been Severus's staunchest defender.
Severus glared at him, his dark eyes flashing. "I do not deny it."
"If Lily had survived that night..." he paused, almost afraid to go on.
"I would have convinced her to marry me and treated Harry as my own, yes," Severus finished for him. "Harry will come to Hogwarts in three years... or not. Perhaps he will be home schooled or attend another school. He's most likely safer where he is; hidden from those who would exploit him. Give up, Lupin." He stood, canceled the privacy spells, and gestured towards the door. "I have an experiment to get back to."
Remus sighed, stood, and left the room. As the door closed, he heard Severus whisper, "Stay lost, Harry--stay safe." He almost went back inside, but left the dungeons and made his way out of the castle and outside the wards instead. Perhaps Severus was right, but part of him refused to give up. He wanted to know if Harry was safe and happy. He wanted to see if Harry was still the bright, happy child that had called him, "Unca Mooey," all those years ago. He wanted to be there for birthdays and Christmases. He wanted... he wanted his family back. Harry was currently the only member of his family who was free. He silently cursed the promise he'd made to Dumbledore to stay away from the Dursleys for the first six months. If only he hadn't made that promise... If only. He'd been around this chain of thought millions of times since Harry had disappeared. With a quiet sigh, Remus disapparated with a pop, heading for home.
LaCroix sat in a burgundy leather armchair with his feet propped up on a matching ottoman in the library. He was dressed in black, from his black dragon hide boots to his black button up shirt that had his still fairly-new sword pin stuck through his collar. He was reading a copy of Oliver Twist, the pages turning slowly as he reread the story. It had been... gratifying to watch the reactions of his grandson's tutors when they had seen Henri's new decoration. It was mildly amusing to see the reactions of the new ones every time they saw Henri, as well.
The child had been sick for the past few days, but LaCroix was sure that he'd be better soon. He had to be. He didn't like the feeling of helplessness it gave him to see his grandson sick, like... Divia. He didn't want to remember his mortal daughter, who had become his vampire master, so he pushed any thoughts of her out of his head. Things had been different between himself and his son since he had returned from Delphi, mostly because he had allowed things that he never would have allowed before. But in the past few years, he had felt his son returning to him.
LaCroix knew he could wait, but he didn't want to. While Nicolas was slowly returning, he could still feel his son's mistrust of his motives and especially a great deal of mistrust in him around Henri. He didn't like that at all. As much as he hated being told what to do--he should be the one giving orders--he would have abided by the Council's requests, even if he hadn't grown... attached to Henri. The thought of something happening to that child was devastating, just as it was with Nicolas. He closed his book and leaned back in his chair, then sat up straight when he felt another vampire approach the room. Reaching out his senses, he felt a familiar presence. "Nicolas," he said, as his son entered the room.
"Father," Nicolas greeted him as he made his way to the matching chair nearby and flopped into it. "The Healer just left."
"And?" LaCroix prompted.
"Henri's fine... or he will be," Nicolas answered.
LaCroix frowned. "There is something the matter, Nicolas; Ican feel it."
Nicolas sat up straight. "Perhaps I don't wish to tell you," he snapped. "Perhaps I don't trust your motives at all."
LaCroix sighed; he'd known that this was coming. He stood, unbuttoned his collar and tilted his head to one side. "Drink, mon fils," he said. "I will not hide anything from you." He backed it up with a mental call. '/Come to me, Nicolas/,' he sent, over and over. He could see his son struggling with himself, so he used a sharp fingernail to make a small cut on his neck. He saw the struggle end as Nicolas moved towards him, reared back his head, and bit down, almost faster than humans could see.
He carded his hand through Nicolas's hair and controlled the memories going through the link of the blood kiss. He didn't hide anything, but he showed him the visit with the Pythia and then allowed Nicolas to feel his emotions for his little family, including Henri. While LaCroix would probably never say it in words, he loved them. Slowly, Nicolas pulled back, licking the small wounds closed, then offered his own neck to LaCroix.
It had been a very long time, centuries in fact, since he had tasted his child's blood. Gently, LaCroix bit down and took a few mouthfuls of blood, savouring the taste of saffron, oranges, and spices that he, himself had never tasted. He let go, also licking the wounds closed, then hugged his son. "Tell me, Nicolas," he commanded. "Your blood gave no indication of what is worrying you."
Nicolas sighed and sat down. "Henri only has dragon pox; he should be over it soon. It's not the dragon pox that disturbs me."
Wordlessly, LaCroix motioned for him to continue.
"She found Dark Magic radiating from his scar, Father," he said.
Outwardly, LaCroix was composed, but inwardly, he was cursing the name of every god he'd ever heard of. Dark Magic coming from Henri's scar was a very bad thing--by nature, it was dangerous, and for all they knew, it could be slowly killing the child from the inside out. He would /not/lose his favorite grandchild to the Dark, and thus lose everyone else as well. "Of what kind?" he asked.
Nicolas hesitated. "She said... she said that in her three thousand years that she has only seen such a thing once; she thinks that Henri has been made into a horcrux."
LaCroix's internal cursing increased. He had heard of horcruxes; they were the darkest magic to exist. To create one, the wizard in question had to willfully kill another in cold blood and enjoy it while saying a specific incantation that split the soul and put it into a prepared container. He had heard once of an accidental horcrux about a thousand years ago, but like all of them were eventually, they were destroyed. "I see," he said finally. "And how shall we rid him of this unwanted trespasser?"
Nicolas slumped into his chair. "Another ritual that shall be... uncomfortable for us to perform; an exorcism."
LaCroix scowled. "Shall we need holy water, crosses, and apriest?"
"No," Nicolas said. "Just the ritual room, a wooden table, the correct incantation, and a silver knife."
LaCroix headed for the door. He was sure that he had a few books on the subject. After all, it was always a good idea to be familiar with the opposition. "I shall find the ritual," he said.
"Thank you, Father," he heard Nicolas say as he left the room.
LaCroix strode towards his room and the secret that was concealed inside it. After a moment's thought he knew where the horcrux must have come from. He had coerced his agents in England to search for Voldemort's past and managed to find out quite a bit about the self-styled Dark Lord. Most likely, there was an object in the ruins of Henri's biological parents' house that Tom Riddle, for that was Voldemort's real name, had meant to turn into ahorcrux. He would see to it that the abomination was removed from his still-innocent grandchild. It was a strange thing for LaCroix, wanting to preserve innocence instead of corrupting it, but he had to make sure that Henri stayed Light. If not, they were all doomed.
Nicolas sat by his son's bed and placed a cool, damp cloth on the child's forehead. Henri stirred restlessly and pushed the covers off. He kept telling himself that it was only dragon pox-all wizarding children had it sooner or later-but that didn't stop him from worrying. When he'd been a boy, any kind of pox could turn fatal fairly quickly. The Healer had promised that Henri would recover, but he wasn't comforted. There was just too much that could go wrong, and too many ways his little boy could die. To be frank, it was one of the worst things he could think of to live through; knowing that Henri was sick and not really being able to fix it.
Nicolas wanted his happy, curious Henri back. He looked down at the boy just as Henri opened fever-bright eyes. "Papa?" he said. His voice sounded rough and painful as if his throat was badly inflamed.
Nicolas lifted him up, picked a cup off the nightstand, and held a straw to his lips. "Drink," he ordered. "The juice should help your throat."
Obediently, Henri took a drink. "Papa," he tried again, after he had finished.
Nicolas put the cup down and smoothed his son's hair away from his face. "Yes, mon fils?" he asked.
"I'm hot," Henri said.
"I know," Nicolas said. "You'll be better soon."
Henri nodded and leaned against his father. Nicolas looped an arm around him so that he wouldn't slip. He stayed like that for a few minutes, just holding Henri, until the Healer came in. Carefully, Nicolas lowered Henri to the pillow, stood up, and bowed. "Elder," he said.
"Relax, Nicolas," she said. "I refuse to have you stand on ceremony right now."
He straightened up, and then sat back down in the chair that stood next to Henri's bed. He watched as the Healer--he'd never gotten her name--ran diagnostic tests over Henri. "How is he," he asked with urgency in his voice.
She gave him a sharp nod. "He will recover," she said. "His temperature is down, and the rash should erupt fairly soon."
Nicolas picked Henri up and settled him against his chest. Henri grabbed fistfuls of his father's shirt. "How soon?" Nicolas asked.
"Soon," was the answer.
Nicolas gave the Healer a glare and a scowl.
"Nicolas, son of Lucius, son of Divia, daughter of Qa'ra,"she said, using the formal address.
Nicolas's head shot up and he looked at her in shock for amoment before bowing his head. "I apologize, Elder," he said formally.
The Healer sat down in a plush armchair with a swirl of green Healer's robes. "Accepted," she said. "The Lightning Child is important to us all. He will recover, Nicolas."
Nicolas didn't know how far he could push the Healer. LaCroix had seen to it that he'd had little contact with Ancients. He wasn't sure why; it was something his sire was disinclined to share with him. He settled for something safe. "He is more important to me than he is to you,"he said finally. "He is my son."
The Healer inclined her head in acknowledgment. "Perhaps,"she said. "But if LaCroix had arrived at that inn a few hours later, you would be my son, and Henri my grandson." She stood and left.
Nicolas held Henri tightly as he slumped against the back of the armchair. That had been... unexpected. He would have to speak to LaCroix at a later date about that encounter. True, he could do it through their bloodlink, but something such as this latest revelation would be best spoken of in person. Henri stirred slightly. He dropped a kiss into his son's sweaty hair before he disentangled Henri's hands from his shirt front and settled him back in bed. Henri had fallen back asleep. Carefully, he tucked him back in before he called a House-elf. "Mitsy!"
The little elf appeared with a pop, a huge grin on her face. "Master Nicolas called for his Mitsy," she said.
"Mitsy, Henri is asleep. Watch him and call me when he wakes or if anything changes," Nicolas ordered.
Mitsy nodded, her large, bat-like ears bobbing comically. "Yes, Master Nicolas," she said.
Nicolas left the room. He needed to think. He was still worried about Henri, but he needed a little break. This was the first semi-serious illness that Henri had contracted. Sure, he'd had the occasional cold, but nothing like this. He sighed, stuck his hands in his pockets, and headed towards the studio. He did his best thinking when his hands were occupied, and with the recent revelation, he had much to think about.
Ten year old Henri walked through the castle, engaged in one of his favorite activities--looking for secret passageways. It was Saturday afternoon, one of his few afternoons off from lessons, and he just /knew/that there was a secret door along the corridor he was in. Well, at least it was what he called afternoon; it was two in the morning, but he'd been living at night for a long time. Lately, though, his papa had been making noises about adjusting Henri's sleep schedule around so that he slept at night, like most people. He wasn't sure he liked the idea at all. Being awake during the days meant change, and he liked things the way they were.
For as long as he could remember, Henri had known that sooner or later, he would be sent Away to school. His papa said that he needed to be around children his own age, but he didn't think so. He spent his time with people who were centuries older than him and who knew fascinating things. His grandfather and his tutors could make history come alive as he was sure that no one else could; they had been there, after all. He shook his head and started examining the wall in front of him. There was something different about one stone.
Henri traced the seams between blocks of stone until he reached the different one. He prodded it experimentally, but nothing happened. He smiled, then traced his finger on a swirling pattern on the stone and then whispered the equivalent of 'open sesame' in thirteenth century French, his Papa's native language. The stone sank into the wall, and a door swung open. He shouted and danced around a bit in triumph before remembering himself. He quieted down and straightened up. Tante Janette always reminded him of exactly how he should behave in public. At the moment, he was in a very'public' part of the castle, and he knew better than to shout like that where someone other than family could hear him.
Instead, Henri went in the hidden room to explore. There were torches on the wall in brackets that lit when he entered. It was actually a bit of a disappointment. All that was in the room was a bedstead that was falling apart and half-rotted rushes on the floor. A thick layer of dust laid over everything, and it looked as if no one had been in there for years. He sighed, left the room, and whispered the password to close the door. He almost wished for lessons again, but he'd been studying hard all week and needed the time off.
In short, Henri was bored. The House-elves had work to do, and very few of the vampires would drop their dignity long enough to play games with him. Well, Grandfather would, but only if he chose the game. Henri was tired of playing old Roman games and chess. He supposed he could go play the violin or the piano, but he was tired of doing that, too. If Tante Janette hadn't forbidden him to mess up his clothes, he'd go to the studio and make amess. He sighed again and decided to head to the library. Maybe he could find his papa and convince him to take him flying. That never got boring!
With that thought in mind, Henri sped up, almost running to the library. He pushed open the heavy door and hurried inside. His grandfather was sitting on one of the chairs with a glass of what Henri knew was blood in one hand, and a book in the other. He stopped before he bumped into something and immediately bowed. "Grandfather," he said.
LaCroix raised an eyebrow at his grandchild. "Snack," he said.
Henri hated that name. "Surely I'm bigger than asnack /now/, Grandfather," he complained.
LaCroix closed his book and looked Henri up and down before replying. "Ah.. yes," he said. "You are closer to an... appetizer now. But Ishall still call you Snack, because I've grown quite used to it."
Henri stuck his lip out in a pout as LaCroix opened his book again. "Grandfather, I'm boooorrrrred," he complained.
"Cease whining, Snack. I suggest you do it /now/."
Henri heaved a large sigh that was mostly for effect. He really was bored... maybe he could convince his grandfather to take him flying? It had been a long time since they'd gone together. Well, it couldn't hurt to try, he thought. "Grandfather, may we please go flying today?"
LaCroix looked up again. "I suppose," he said. "You must ask your father if he will allow it."
Henri grinned. Flying was his most favorite thing in the world! "Do you know where Papa is?" he asked.
"Check the stables," LaCroix said, once again looking at his book. "He said something about riding Moonlight today."
Henri hurried out of the room, out of the castle, and across the grounds to the stables. He stretched out his senses and /concentrated/, trying to find his papa. It was a talent that he hadn't told anyone about; he could find other vampires and his papa especially. From what he'd overheard, it was a vampire trait, so he must've gotten it with the heightened senses and photographic memory. As far as he was concerned, it was almost criminal that he hadn't also inherited the ability to fly without a broom or some sort of aeroplane. He sensed his papa close by, in Moonlight's stall. "Papa?" he called. He spotted his papa's curly blond hair over the top of a stall.
Nicolas turned around and came out of the stall. "Yes, Henri?" he said, giving the horse a pat on the nose.
"Can I go flying with Grandfather?"
"May you please, and yes--on one condition."
Henri was bouncing a little. "May I please go flying with Grandfather?" he asked obediently. "Pleeeeeaaaaasssse! What's the condition, Papa?"
Nicolas smiled. "I'm coming, too. Now, do you want your training broom, or do you want to fly with me or your Grandfather?"
Henri had to think about that a little. His training broom didn't go very high, nor very fast, but he controlled where it went. "I want to fly with you," he said, deciding on speed and height, rather than control. Flying was always fun, but the faster he went, the happier he was. "My broom doesn't go high enough, and it's slow, too!"
Nicolas laughed and picked him up. "Papa!" he protested. "I'm too big for you to pick me up."
Nicolas shook his head and tickled him. "Nope," he said. "One of the perks of being a vampire... I'll always be able to pick you up, mon fils."
Henri couldn't help laughing as his Papa tickled him mercilessly. "Papa!" he protested again through his laughter.
"Let's go get your Grandfather," Nicolas said as he started back to the house, still carrying Henri.
Giving in to the inevitable, Henri wrapped his arms around his Papa's neck. He'd seen his Grandfather carrying his Papa once when he'd gotten hurt, so maybe it wasn't too babyish to let his Papa carry him. Maybe. After all, he'd be carried when they went flying, though in Henri's mind, that wasn't the same thing. It was nice to be carried... sometimes, Henri reflected as he laid his head on his father's shoulder.
Other times, well, sometimes it seemed as if his Papa wouldn't let him do anything on his own. His family could be pretty overprotective, and they rarely left the estate. It was smothering sometimes, but it also felt... nice. Especially after he'd dreamed of Other Harry. Sometimes after those dreams, especially after particularly scary ones, he still went to his Papa's room for comfort.
"Is there anything wrong, mon petit?" Nicolas asked.
"Nooo," Henri said. "I'm just bored. There's nothing to do that I haven't already done a gazillion times!"
Nicolas laughed and Henri felt comforted by the sound of it. Nicolas tweaked his nose. "You can't say that until you're a few hundred years old, Imp. And as my son, your aging process will slow when you're in your twenties, so you could outlive most wizards."
Henri nodded. He'd heard this before. Most wizards could expect to live around two hundred years. Very powerful wizards lived longer than that, and because he'd been adopted by a vampire, he could easily live into his third century. It was young for a vampire to pass into True Death, but fairly old for a wizard, and unheard of for a Mortal. By the Ancients'standards, his father, at around eight hundred years old, would be considered barely an adult. But what was eight hundred years to people who'd been alive for six thousand? Henri had met an ancient once, and been frightened of him. They were... different from your average vampire, and he didn't want to run into one again. He hugged his father and smiled. They were going flying. And as soon as they took off, he wouldn't be bored anymore. For that moment, it was enough.
LaCroix studied the way the ritual room was set up, satisfied. He wasn't sure he believed that spirits could actually possess people, but he knew what horcruxes were. He'd chalked runes of protection all over the space to keep the horcrux from seeking another vessel. He knew that spirits existed; he'd seen too many ghosts not to know that. He knew that those gifted-or cursed, depending on the way you looked at it-with the Sight were more often correct than not. He knew that holy water, crosses, and wooden stakes worked on his kind. What he didn't know-and didn't really believe in, or so he told himself-was the existence of some sort of God or higher being. He'd scoffed at his Crusader son's notions of sin, repentance, forgiveness, and redemption. But he was now preparing for an exorcism, to remove an unwanted, unasked for, piece of soul from his grandson.
It had taken quite some time to locate and research a spell that would expel the soul shard that didn't contain some sort of religious dogma that would cause him pain or give him hives. In fact, it had taken almost a full year, even with his magical library.
Over the centuries, LaCroix had amassed a collection of scrolls, manuscripts, and books-all about magic-that was now probably the best collection in the world. He even had the only remaining copy of the Abbarat, which was erroneously thought to contain a cure for vampirism within its fragile pages. His was now the only known copy, especially since he had burned the other copy to prevent Nicolas from getting it a few decades earlier. It had taken some study after acquiring the ancient manuscript to determine that the so-called cure truly nothing more than a legend. It was for the best anyway; he refused to lose his son to True Death.
Of all his children, Nicolas had given him the most problems. The stubborn fledgling had spent centuries chasing his dream of becoming mortal again. Sometimes, LaCroix wondered why he didn't just let the boy walk into the sun if suicide was what he wanted. As far as he was concerned, wanting to become mortal was foolish. He certainly didn't want to; he would live forever, outlive all his enemies, and have more power as avampire than he ever did as a Wizard who was also a General. He shook himself out of his reverie and turned back to the task at hand.
LaCroix placed the large wooden table in the exact middle of the room, and laid the sterilized silver knife on a small table that he'd placed next to the large one. He examined his preparations and nodded in satisfaction before calling Nicolas and Henri in. He smoothed down his undyed silk robes as he motioned the two inside. Once they had entered, both wearing robes identical to his own, he sealed and warded the door.
LaCroix knelt down in front of Henri, put a finger under the boy's chin, and tilted his face up so that Henri was looking at him. "Has your father explained why this must be done?" he asked.
Henri nodded. "He said that the evil wizard who killed my first parents performed a ritual that is the darkest of dark magic to split his soul. Papa said that the ritual that Voldemort did is an example of magic so evil that it should be lost. He said that Voldemort meant to make something called a 'horcrux', and that he accidentally made me into one." The little boy looked at him with a troubled expression on his small face. "Since there's a piece of an evil man's soul in me, does that make me evil, Grandfather?"
Part of LaCroix was horrified at the thought that his innocent grandson could somehow become as twisted and evil as his daughter, his mother, Divia had been. "Certainly not, Snack!" he said. "Remember when you learned a bit about Mortal surgery?"
"It is a little like that," LaCroix said. "The horcrux inside you is like an infection that we will be removing to make sure you are not harmed by it. Did not your father explain?"
"Yes," Henri said. "But I wanted to make /sure/."
LaCroix stood, picked Henri up, and set him on the table. "We were foolish last time, Nicolas," he said. "We should have hypnotized Henri so that he wouldn't feel the pain before we began."
Nicolas looked chagrined. "I will do it," he said. He walked next to the table and focused on his son. "You will not feel any pain from the cut," he said.
Henri just looked at him, puzzled. "Papa?" he said. "What did you just try to do? 'Cause it didn't work."
Nicolas groaned and shook his head. "My son would be a Resistor," he said.
LaCroix caught Henri's attention and focused all his will on the child. He could hear his grandchild's heartbeat, and it resounded in his ears. "Henri," he said.
Henri's eyes unfocused. "Yes, Grandfather?" he responded.
"Listen only to my voice," he commanded.
Henri nodded; then seemed to snap out of it. He looked confused. "Grandfather?" he asked hesitantly.
"Henri, we need you to allow us to convince your mind that you're not feeling the pain," he said, exasperated.
Henri took a deep breath. "Okay," he said.
LaCroix tried again. He focused only on his grandson until he heard the child's heartbeat resound in his ears. "Henri, you will not feel the pain," he said.
Henri's eyes glazed over and he nodded.
"Nothing we do will hurt at all," LaCroix said. "You will sleep."
Henri nodded again and his eyes drifted closed. LaCroix leaned forward, placed a kiss on his grandson's forehead; then laid the boy down on the table. "As I say the incantation, I need you to cut open his scar," he instructed.
Nicolas nodded, took a deep breath, and picked up the dagger.
LaCroix took three steps back and recited, "Expulsum spiritus quod expello," while doing a complex wand movement. At the same time, Nicolas cut open the scar and then staggered back away from the table as ablack cloud tinged with green burst forth from the lightning bolt shaped cut.
LaCroix put his hands over his ears to try and muffle the scream that came from the soul shard as it was forced out of Henri and disappeared. He stepped forward and applied a healing charm to Henri's forehead, sealing up the cut. Nicolas stepped forward and picked Henri up. "Wake up, mon fils," he whispered.
Henri opened his eyes. "Is it over?" he asked with a yawn.
"It is," LaCroix said before Nicolas could answer.
Henri rubbed his eyes and laid his head on Nicolas's shoulder. "I don't feel different," he complained.
Nicolas and LaCroix exchanged a glance. "I'll put him to bed," Nicolas said.
LaCroix didn't respond. Instead, he cleaned the room with afew flicks of his wand, then holstered it. He had to admit that he felt alittle... relieved at the fact that Henri could no longer be harmed by the foul abomination that was Voldemort's horcrux. It would be much harder for someone to turn Henri to the dark without the horcrux inside him. Tomorrow would be soon enough to see if the child's magic had changed at all from removing the soul shard. He wiped his hands on his robes and left the ritual room. There was time enough for that later, but he needed to contact his spies to find out what the situation was in the UK.
Ginny put her Harry Potter doll next to the Ginny doll that her mother had made her for her birthday. She was nine whole years old, and doing one of her favorite things in the world-having a wedding with her dollies. She was sure that one day, she would meet Harry Potter, and they would fall in love and get married... only without the kissing her parents did,'cause kissing was icky. She was playing in the living room at the moment. She had wanted to play Quidditch with her brothers, but they'd refused to let her play, too. Stupid boys. As far as she was concerned, her Harry and her Daddy were the only good boys in the whole world!
She frowned as she heard the Floo flare up and tiptoed over to the door. It was a little open, so she peeked through it and smiled alittle when she saw Professor Dumbledore step out of the fire. He was the headmaster of her brothers' school. The twins would be going there soon, and Bill had already finished, leaving Charlie and Percy there. Someday, after Ron went, it would be her turn to go, and maybe she'd meet the real Harry Potter there. It was possible, even though he'd gone missing.
Ginny focused her attention on what was going on in the kitchen.
Her mother smiled at the Headmaster. "Good morning, Professor," she said. "Might I interest you in a cup of tea?"
The professor politely declined. Instead, he changed the subject. "Molly, I've come to you on a matter of great importance."
Mrs. Weasley smiled again. "How can I help?" she asked.
Dumbledore seemed to hesitate a little. "Lily and James would want their son settled," he said finally. "I've come to ask if you'd consider a betrothal contract between your daughter and the Boy-Who-Lived."
Mrs. Weasley put down the dish she was holding. "And what right do you have to make arrangements for Harry?" she asked. "He might even be dead, for all we know."
"I--" Dumbledore said. "It's what James and Lily would want."
"Fair enough, Headmaster," Mrs. Weasley said. "But you're five years too late."
Dumbledore looked gobsmacked. "Too late?"
Mrs. Weasley nodded firmly. "Her betrothal contract was set when she was three. If both she and her betrothed are willing, they'll marry soon after she completes school."
Professor Dumbledore looked angry to Ginny. "Who may I ask is she contracted with?"
"Henri Nicolas Lucien Andre de Brabant," Mrs. Weasley replied promptly. "He's Ron's age, so the gap isn't too wide, and a handsome and accomplished boy. His mother was British, which is perhaps why his father and grandfather wanted him to marry a British witch."
"I... see," Dumbledore said. "Is there any way you would change your minds and break the contract?"
Mrs. Weasley looked scandalized. "I should say not!" she said. "The penalties for breaking it without just cause are quite severe. Iwill not have my Ginny's name bandied about as a scarlet woman!"
"I apologize," he said, but Ginny didn't think he was really sorry.
"Headmaster," Mrs. Weasley said formally.
Dumbledore gave her a nod, tossed some Floo powder in the fireplace, and stepped in. "Hogwarts, Headmaster's Office," he said, then disappeared.
Carefully, Ginny pushed open the door and entered the kitchen. "Mummy?" she began.
"Yes, Ginny?" Mrs. Weasley answered.
"Why can't I marry Harry Potter?" Ginny asked with a pout. She wanted to marry Harry Potter and nobody else.
Mrs. Weasley held out her hand. "Come with me," she said.
Ginny slipped her hand into her mother's and followed her into the formal sitting room, which was rarely used. She sat down when her mother waved her to a seat and waited with her hands folded neatly in her lap, the way a lady's should be. She watched as her mummy took a packet down off one of the shelves and enlarged it.
Mrs. Weasley handed the packet to Ginny. Curious, the little girl looked through the photographs inside before she reached the painting. It wasn't Harry Potter at all. "Who is it, Mummy?"
"That's Henri de Brabant, dear," Mrs. Weasley said. "Someday, when you're all grown up, you and Henri will get married if you don't like anyone better."
Ginny frowned and at that moment, decided that she didn't like Henri de Brabant /at all/. He was yucky, just like her brothers, and she wanted nothing to do with him... though perhaps she'd like to try out the hex that Bill taught her, because it was just as yucky as boys! After all, who really liked to be attacked from bats made from bogies and snot?
Nicolas flipped through the school pamphlets one more time. Henri would be eleven fairly soon, and it would be time for him to go off to school. He dreaded it. He knew that they could teach the child at home, but it was time and past time that Henri learn how to interact with people his own age, and it was time he met Wizards that weren't Vampires. For him, Henri's childhood thus far had been an eye blink. Before he knew it, Henri would be ready to leave home, and him, for good. He didn't like the idea at all. He could almost empathize with LaCroix for wanting to keep him nearby. Almost.
Nicolas sighed and read the names at the top of the pamphlets. Beauxbatons. Durmstang. Salem. Spartan Academy of Magic. Il Accademia di Magico. Virginia Magical Institute. Hogwarts. Madam Laveau's School of Voodoo and Witchcraft. The Quebec School of Magic. All reputable schools with fairly long histories and traditions of academic excellence. For him, the problem was distance, as every single one of them was a boarding school. He wasn't ready to let go yet, and to be truthful, he might never be. His eyes closed as he felt the presence of two familiar vampires approaching-Janette and LaCroix.
They entered the room a few minutes later. Janette practically pounced upon the pamphlets and rifled through them quickly. She sneered at the ones from VMI, Quebec, and Madam Laveau's. "Choosing a school, Nicolas?" she inquired as she tossed the the three she'd sneered at into the garbage.
"We could home school him," Nicolas murmured.
"Really, Nicolas, we must cut the apron strings sometime,"LaCroix said. He took the pamphlets from the Spartan school and Durmstang from Janette and flipped through them. "You should pick one; I, myself, like the idea of sending him to Sparta. It's a fine school. The Greeks trained their war wizards there."
"I don't think so," Nicolas said. "It doesn't seem as if their practices have changed much, and I don't want Henri to learn that he has to steal to fill his stomach. I really don't want to send him to America--it's too far away--so that leaves out Salem, VMI, and Madam Laveau's."
"Italy," Janette suggested. "The Accademia has an excellent reputation."
"And he doesn't speak Italian," Nicolas said.
Janette waved the comment away as if it were a wayward fly. "Beauxbatons, then. They turn out polished ladies and gentlemen."
"And they also can't fight their way out of a tough spot and survive," LaCroix said. "Henri is likely to have to defend his life sooner or later. Durmstang has the best dueling program in Europe."
Nicolas sighed. "And they also teach Dark Arts, which by your own admission, Father, we need to keep Henri from even dabbling in them. Hogwarts, then. We could move to your townhouse in London, so we wouldn't be too far away."
"I hate London," Janette grumbled. "But for Henri, I will go." She paused a minute, then smiled. "Henri's betrothed will be attending Hogwarts--it will be an excellent opportunity for them to get to know each other."
Nicolas slumped into his chair. "That is a consideration,"he said. "I still think we should just home school him."
"Nicolas," LaCroix said with a warning tone in his voice. "Time away will be good for him; he needs to learn some independence, and you can't keep him locked away here forever." Nicolas almost missed what his Sire said next. "As tempting as that sounds."
"Hogwarts," Nicolas said with a sigh. "Aristotle is on this side of the pond this year; I'll have to call him to arrange for us to have legal identities for the next seven years or so in Great Britain."
LaCroix actually smiled. "Already done," he said. "Hogwarts is our best choice for a school for Henri." He lapsed into silence for a moment. "Salazar certainly liked it--when I met him, he was upset over the argument that caused him to leave."
Nicolas sighed again, and then stood up. "I'll go break the news to Henri. We still have five months before he starts school, but I think we should be settled before I see the current Headmaster about admitting him."
"Tell him that it will be an adventure," LaCroix said unexpectedly. "Tell him that my town house has several secret passages built into it for him to discover."
Janette gave him a small smile. "He will fight it," she warned. "He has known very little but this castle since you brought him here."
"I know," Nicolas said with a nod. He was well aware of how isolated they were on the estate. Henri had no playmates, other than vampires who were at least a century and a half old. He spent most of his time in study, and Nicolas was aware that he would probably be ahead of his year mates in quite a few subjects when he arrived at school. He left the room and headed to Henri's bedroom. His son had to know of their decision.
Nicolas was almost sure that his son wouldn't be happy. He hurried up the stairs, and then down several hallways until he reached Henri's door. He knocked, and then entered.
"Papa!" Henri's face was covered with a huge smile. The little boy was laying on the floor, surrounded by Lego blocks, while an animated dragon toy from one of the magical toy shoppes patrolled around the Lego castle he'd been building.
Nicolas picked his way over the toys and sat down in anearby chair. "Put away your things, please," he said in his boyhood language.
Henri nodded, picked up his toys, and put them away. "What's wrong, Papa?" he asked in the same language.
Nicolas held out his arms, and Henri willingly gave him ahug. "Nothing is wrong," he answered. "I just have some news for you. Remember how the girl you're betrothed to lives in England?"
Henri's brow furrowed and he frowned. "Yes..."
"The Family has been looking for a school for you; you'll be eleven in a few months, and it will be time for you to go,"
Henri's eyes widened, and he grabbed hold of Nicolas's shirt. "You're sending me away?" he asked, his voice panicked.
Nicolas hugged Henri, and as he lifted the child into his lap, the thought that his son was really getting too big to be held like that crossed his mind and saddened him. "I'm not getting rid of you, mon fils," he said. "You will always have a place with me, wherever I am, I promise."
Henri had an iron grip on Nicolas's shirt. "You're not going to abandon me?" he asked.
Nicolas kissed his son's forehead. "Never. Remember when Iadopted you? Remember what the spell said?"
Henri, who had learned to speak Latin fluently since that night, answered with one word. "Forever."
"Yes," Nicolas nodded. "I will always be your papa, Henri."
Henri's eyes were wide and frightened and he chewed on his lower lip. "Mummy and Daddy left," he whispered.
"I can guarantee that they didn't want to leave you,"Nicolas said as he rubbed Henri's back. "I won't leave you-I'm a vampire, remember? As long as I avoid sunshine and sharp sticks, I'll live forever. You still have to go to school, though; you need to learn to interact with children your own age."
"Promise you'll avoid the sun and sharp sticks?" Henri asked.
Nicolas nodded. "I promise," he said. He looked at his watch. "It's almost time for your piano lesson."
A small smile spread over Henri's face, and then disappeared. "What about my music lessons when I go to school?"
"We'll make arrangements for them to continue," Nicolas promised. "You'll be going to Hogwarts. That's where your betrothed will go, and where your biological parents went."
Harry nodded slowly. "Can we do my lesson now?" he asked as he slid off Nicolas's lap.
Nicolas nodded. "Meet me in the music room," he said. "You'll need to pack your belongings in the next week or so. Mitsy will help."
Henri bowed. "Yes, Papa," he said, and then left the room.
Nicolas stood and left Henri's bedroom for the Music room. He walked slowly, giving his son the chance to beat him there. Moving was always a hassle, and despite centuries of experience in doing it, it never really got easier.
Nicolas walked up the cobblestone street that went through Hogsmeade and past, to Hogwarts. It was well maintained, and had never been paved by modern methods, because Wizards, at least in Great Britain, didn't really use automobiles. It was dusk, and the lamplighters were just lighting the streetlights. He climbed the hill that separated the small town from the castle and approached the gates. As he looked at the castle, he briefly wondered when all the fortifications had been taken down. He clutched the handle of his cane a little tighter as the gates swung open without being touched. It was quite a way from the gates to the front doors of the castle, and he limited himself to what speed was humanly possible as he walked down the wide cobblestone drive to the castle.
Nicolas finally reached the front steps. He climbed them and walked up to the front doors. They were huge, made from wood and bound in iron. Smaller doors that would be much easier to block were set into the large ones, and one of them stood open. He walked inside and was stopped by astern-looking woman with dark hair that was pulled into a tight bun. "May Ihelp you?" she asked.
Nicolas didn't know how she happened to be in the entrance hall, but as he didn't know the way to the Headmaster's office, it was fortuitous for him that she was there. He bowed. "Nicolas de Brabant," he said with a very French accent. "I have an appointment with the Headmaster, but I'm afraid I have never been here before."
Her eyes swept up and down his form. He knew that he was impeccably dressed for an appointment at a Wizarding school, so he ignored it. Finally, she smiled a little. "I'll escort you, Mr. de Brabant," she said. "May I ask why you are here?" She started up a staircase, motioning for him to follow her.
Nicolas gave her a nod as he followed her unspoken command. They were moving fast enough that he wasn't paying much attention to his surroundings; he knew he'd remember the way back, anyway. "I'm sure you're aware that magical children who live in countries that do not have their own magical school receive brochures from most of the schools in Europe."
The woman nodded. "Of course; I'm the Deputy Headmistress, and I send them out for Hogwarts. It's rare that a foreign student decides to attend, and I believe an owl is all that is necessary."
"True, Professor," Nicolas said. "But I must make sure of Henri's place here; we recently relocated to London so that he could attend."
They approached a carved stone gargoyle. The Professor nodded deeply to him. "Tangtastics. I hope to see your son in September," she said, then left.
The gargoyle sprang aside, leaving him to walk up the spiral staircase. He walked onto it, and was shocked that it moved. He shouldn't have been; after all, some of the staircases on the way up had moved, too. When he reached the top, he knocked on the door. "Enter," a voice answered.
Nicolas went inside and immediately bowed. "Headmaster," he said. He looked up to see an old man that rather reminded him of the descriptions of Gandalf sitting in a high-backed leather chair behind a big, heavy desk. A perch sat nearby with a large red and gold bird sitting on it. The old man's blue eyes twinkled at him, and there was something about the man that put Nicolas on his guard. "Thank you for seeing me," he said.
"Not at all, Mr. de Brabant," he said. "Have a seat. What may I do for you today?"
Nicolas sat down in one of the chintz armchairs in front of the desk. "We have recently moved to the country," he said. "My son will be starting school soon, as his birthday was in February, and I need to enroll him here."
"From Belguim?" Headmaster Dumbledore asked.
Nicolas nodded. "Yes," he said. Before he could say anything more, the bird, which Nicolas finally recognized as a phoenix, let out a soft trill, launched itself from the perch and flapped over to his lap, where it landed. Hesitantly, he reached up to pet it, and it butted his fingers. He'd never heard of a phoenix liking a vampire before. Like cats, phoenixes usually hated his kind. He petted the bird gently for a few moments before it returned to its perch.
"Your English is very good," Dumbledore said.
Nicolas allowed himself a smile of pride. "My son is fluent, also," he said. "He should have no problems keeping up with the curriculum. I do ask that if he is injured or sick that I am notified, of course."
Dumbledore was silent for a moment, and then nodded. "Of course," he said. "I will make sure your son's name is on the list."
Nicolas shrugged casually. "He received a brochure," he said. "I just wanted to make sure that he will be sent a letter."
Dumbledore pulled out a long list and a quill. "I will need his full name, Mr. de Brabant."
"His name is Henri Nicolas Lucien Andre de Brabant," he said.
Dumbledore gave him a sharp glance, and then wrote the name down.
Nicolas stood. "Thank you, Headmaster," he said with his most charming smile. "May I use your Floo to return home? We have had a long trip."
Dumbledore smiled, but it did nothing to reassure Nicolas. Every instinct in him was screaming that the old man would be dangerous to him and his. "Of course," Dumbledore said.
Nicolas took a pouch out of a pocket in his cloak. He opened it, removed a handful of Floo powder, and threw it into the fire. It flared green. "The Leaky Cauldron," he said; then stepped into the flame and towards home.
Henri sat at the breakfast table, working his way through abowl of porridge with berries sprinkled on top. He wasn't sure he liked the new house, but at least his family was with him. He wasn't sure that he'd like going to school in September, because they wouldn't be there. His papa sat next to him, with a mug of blood next to his right hand. "Papa?" he said.
"Yes, Henri?" Nicolas took a sip of the blood in front of him and set it back on the table.
"Do I really have to go to school?" he asked.
Nicolas reached over and ruffled Henri's hair. "Yes," he said firmly. "I spoke to the Headmaster of your new school soon after we arrived, and your letter should be arriving any day now."
Henri sighed and ate another spoonful of his breakfast. He didn't want to be whingey and admit that he was scared. He was too old for that, anyway. He wasn't a baby, and he refused to act like one. Nicolas put his free arm around him and hugged him quickly. He gave his father a grateful smile. "I'm just apprehensive, I guess," he admitted finally.
Nicolas caught Henri's face and tipped his chin up so that he was looking at his father. "It will be fine," he said. "Just remember your manners and do your best to be nice to everyone, and you'll make friends."
Henri frowned. "But what if there are bullies?" he asked.
Nicolas pushed Henri's hair back from his face. "Stand up for the kids that the bullies are trying to hurt," he suggested.
The idea had merit, Henri thought. He might've stood up to the bullies, anyway, but getting what amounted to permission... "Won't I get into trouble, though?" he asked.
"You might," Nicolas said with a smile. "But I'll be proud of you for doing the right thing. Remember this, mon fils, true courage isn't from being not scared--it's from doing what you know is right, regardless/of the consequences that /might follow. It's acting whether you're scared or not." He took another sip from the mug. "Do you understand?" he asked.
Henri frowned a little as he thought about it. "Oui, Papa,"he said finally. "But do I just automatically do the right thing without thinking?"
Nicolas gave him a sharp look. "If you did, I might be disappointed. You've been taught tactics and strategy, Henri--don't fail to apply what you have learned. Bravery and courage are completely different from foolishly rushing into battle without thinking things through."
Henri nodded and continued with his breakfast. What his papa just had said wasn't new; it was something he'd heard, in one form or fashion, many times. A few minutes later, just as he was scraping the bottom of the bowl, he heard a tapping at the window. He got up, opened the curtains, and then opened the window for the owl who'd been making the noise. He reached into a nearby jar, and fetched an owl treat for the bird. It hooted quietly and held out its leg, which had a letter tied to it, before accepting the treat.
He unrolled the letter and read the name on it; it was addressed to him, and there was no mistake. It even had the name of his Grandfather's house on it. It read:
Mr. H. de Brabant
"Papa, is this from Hogwarts?" he asked.
"Most likely, yes," Nicolas answered, keeping well away from the morning light that was streaming through the window. "Send the owl on its way and close the curtains, please."
"Yes, sir," he answered as he obeyed the instructions. He sat down at the table next to his papa, and opened the envelope. He pulled out the letter and read out loud for the benefit of his father:
of WITCHCRAFT/and/ WIZARDRY
Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore
(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock,
Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)
Dear Mr. de Brabant,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment. As you are new to the country, please notify us if you wish aguide to show you around the Wizarding shopping area.
Term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.
Henri looked up at his papa. "Do you think we should ask for a guide?" he asked.
Nicolas seemed to think hard about the matter for a few minutes before he answered. "Yes, I do," he said. "We shouldn't seem too familiar with the area; remember, we aren't supposed to have ever been here."
Henri nodded. The biggest secret he was supposed to keep was his birth identity. It would be dangerous for him if it got out; as there were Death Eaters around who'd bought their escapes from justice. He didn't mind, though. He'd much rather be Henri de Brabant, pureblood heir to the de Brabant fortune, than be famous. Being famous would take too many of his choices away. As Henri, he could become what he wanted to be without worrying too much about public expectations. Being famous would only get in his way. He'd much rather earn recognition by things he accomplished /now/, rather than something his papa said was accomplished by a mixture of blood-based protection spells that his parents had cast and sealed in their own blood, and his own innate magic.
He'd much rather be known as a potions master who invented the cure for vampirism and lycanthropy, or the first Minister of Magic to abolish laws that persecuted fringe members of their society or even the Head of Magical Law Enforcement who fought for equal justice under the law. Those were, in his opinion, better things to be known for than mysteriously surviving an evil curse that no one else had ever survived. Henri knew that all three were good dreams, but that all of them would take a lot of time, and a lot of hard, grueling work to achieve. His papa had been a police officer once, so he knew something of how it went... at least amongst the Mortals.
"I guess I'd better answer then," he said. "When shall Irequest our guide to come?"
"LaCroix has called for a wandmaker that he has known for fifteen hundred years to come by tonight to fit you for a primary wand... How about next Monday?"
Henri nodded. "Are you okay for taking the sun potion?"
"I haven't taken it much in the past few years because Iknew this was coming," Nicolas replied. "I should be okay for this trip, taking you to the train, and all the other trips to pick you up this year." He smiled. "Your grandfather has been talking of making a thrall to ferry you back and forth to Kings Cross."
"I'm not sure I like that idea," Henri said. He didn't wait for his father's response. Instead, he grabbed some parchment and a never-out quill and wrote both his acceptance and when they would be going to Diagon Alley. He folded it, then gave his father a swift hug and headed to the owlery to mail his response. Perhaps going to school wouldn't be so bad after all. Diagon Alley certainly sounded like an adventure.
Henri was reading in the drawing room when he heard the bell ring. "Papa, the Hogwarts person must be here," he called as he headed to the front door to answer it.
He opened the door to find a tall man dressed in black with sallow skin, a hooked nose, and lank greasy hair that, to Henri's mind, identified the man as a potions master. The man also had a deeply graven scowl on his face that looked as if it were habitual. "Potions Master," he said with a deep bow. "Come in, sir," he said as he straightened up and held open the door.
The man came inside, and Henri closed the door behind him. "Mr. de Brabant?" he said.
Henri nodded. "Yes, sir," he said. "My papa will be joining us. If you'll follow me to the drawing room, sir, my father will be there shortly."
The man inclined his head then motioned for him to continue. Henri obeyed the silent order, and walked back to the drawing room. Just as the man that Henri had pegged as a potions master was about to sit, his papa walked in. "The letter I received said to expect you," he said.
"Mr. de Brabant, my name is Severus Snape, and I'm the--"
"Potions Master," Henri said quietly.
"Henri," his papa's voice was stern.
"Yes, Papa," Henri said. He bowed slightly at Potions Master Snape. "I apologize for interrupting, Master Snape," he said.
"Accepted," Master Snape said. "I will be your professor soon. Call me Professor Snape."
Henri nodded. "Yes, sir."
Professor Snape turned to his papa. "Have you connected the Floo yet, Mr. de Brabant?" he asked.
"For family only," Nicolas said. "We've altered the wards for today to allow you to Floo from here as Flooing is faster than walking to the Leaky Cauldron."
Professor Snape looked startled, but the expression passed so quickly that Henri was almost sure he imagined it. "You've been to the Leaky Cauldron?" he asked.
"Briefly," Nicolas said. "I didn't have a chance to go to Diagon Alley, but Tom the barman said that the entrance was somewhere behind the pub."
Professor Snape nodded. "Very well."
Nicolas walked over to the fireplace and pulled down asilver canister from the mantle and opened it. "If you don't mind, Professor, I would rather that I go first so that someone will be there when Henri arrives."
Professor Snape gestured to the fireplace and inclined his head. "Not at all," he said.
Henri was fairly sure the man realized what kind of trust he was being given--he was being left alone in a strange house that if he'd a mind to, and a time turner, he could probably burglarize before Flooing over. His father handed him the tin, grabbed a handful, and threw it into the fireplace. "The Leaky Cauldron," he said clearly, and the stepped into the green flames.
Henri followed his example by first handing the canister to Professor Snape before throwing in his own handful. After a dizzying ride, he stumbled out of the fireplace and was caught by his papa. He waited next to him for the Professor to arrive, and then, together, the three of them headed out of the pub into the back alley.
The professor tapped a brick, and Henri watched in fascination as the bricks rearranged themselves into an arch. The Wizarding section of Brussels had a much different opening; though it was hidden. To most Mortals it looked like a pile of junk and he'd only ever been there at twilight, right before the shops closed. Diagon Alley was bright, colorful and cheerful. Henri knew that his grandfather would probably hate it. With the ease of long practice, he hid his reaction so that prying eyes wouldn't see it. Grandfather had taught him that allowing the enemy to know one's emotional state was to hand said enemy a weapon. As Henri didn't know yet who the enemy was, it was only prudent to hide his emotions from people he'd barely met and strangers. Covertly, he glanced at his father, who was also wearing a poker face.
"The bank first, I think," Nicolas said.
Professor Snape raised an eyebrow. "I didn't know that Gringotts dealt in international accounts," he observed.
Nicolas waved a hand. "I transferred a trifle here to cover expenses-Henri has a trust account here, of course, to pay for his schooling."
The Professor eyed Henri for a moment before giving his papa a sharp nod. "Follow me, then," he said.
Henri studied the man as they walked. It was obvious, at least to him, that the last thing the Professor wanted to be doing was escorting him through the Alley. He decided that he'd better be on his best behaviour to avoid irritating the man. Not that he wouldn't have anyway; he was in public, after all. He'd hate to see Tante Janette's reaction if he'd misbehaved in public. She gave 'scary' a whole new meaning when she was upset. His eyes scanned the poem above the lintel; aside from the language difference, as well as the rhyme and meter, it was much like the poem that graced the door of the branch in Brussels.
They went inside and waited in line for a teller. When they reached the front, the goblin behind the counter eyed the three, then looked shifty-eyed at Professor Snape before he spoke. "What business have you with Gringotts?" he asked.
Nicolas stepped forward. "I need to make a withdrawal from Henri de Brabant's trust vault," he said.
"Key, please," the goblin said.
Henri watched as his papa fished a small golden key from the pocket of his cloak, and then handed it over. Nicolas looked back at his son. "After today, I expect you to keep track of your key, mon fils."
"Oui, Papa," Henri responded, mostly out of habit. He still wasn't used to this speaking one language thing.
The goblin examined the key, nodded, and handed it back. "It all looks in order. Griphook! Take the de Brabants to their vault." he said.
A young-looking goblin who was standing next to a large, heavy door nodded. "Follow me," he said. Griphook led them inside a cavern, very much unlike the exterior room. They were ushered into a small, rickety-looking cart that stood on metal tracks. "Is this like the fun park, Papa?" Henri asked.
With a sidelong glance at Professor Snape, Nicolas answered in French. "Yes, Henri. It is a bit like a roller coaster."
A huge smile spread across Henri's face and he hurried into the cart to sit down. "Brilliant!" he said.
He watched as his papa and Professor Snape filed into the cart after him. Before the grown-ups were seated, Griphook threw a leaver, and the cart took off. "Hands inside the cart," Griphook ordered.
The ride down to the vaults was wild, and Henri was sure that he saw a flame from a dragon once. Finally, they coasted to a stop, and the four of them stepped out of the cart. "Key, please," the goblin said.
Nicolas handed him the key, and he used it to open the vault. They were greeted by a substantial pile of gold, silver, and bronze coinage. His papa pulled a large silk bag from a pocket of his cloak, and started to pile some money in it. Henri rushed over to help and listened to his papa. "There are seventeen silver sickles to a galleon, and twenty nine bronze knuts to a sickle," he explained.
Together, they finished filling the bag. "Will that be enough?" Henri asked.
Nicolas nodded and they walked back to the cart with Professor Snape following. "You should have received a list with your letter, de Brabant," he said as they climbed back into the cart and started the trip back to the surface.
"Yes, sir," Henri said in English. He pulled the letter out of his pocket and separated the pages. Nicolas looked over his shoulder. "Robes first," he said.
Professor Snape gave them a short nod and led them over to Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions. He excused himself quickly, by saying that he needed to visit the Apothecary to check and see if the ingredients for the students stores had arrived yet.
Madam Malkin was a squat, smiling witch dressed all in mauve. "Hogwarts?" she asked.
Nicolas nodded. "He'll need several sets of uniforms, robes included, and I'd like them tailored to him, complete with growth charms. He also needs some casual robes-five sets."
She nodded and led him towards the back. "Have the lot here-another young man being fitted up just now, in fact."
A boy around Henri's age was standing on a stool, with another witch pinning up his long, black robes. He was blond and very pale, as if he'd never seen the sun. He was also a little shorter than Henri and had pointed, sharp features. As directed, Henri stepped up on the stool and allowed a robe to be slipped on over his head. It itched a little more than he was used to. His papa took one look at it and shook his head. "Madam Malkin, I require my son's uniforms to be made from something a bit better than that. He's unused to much besides Egyptian cotton, fine linen, silk, velvet... well, I'm sure you understand."
Madam Malkin nodded and took helped Henri remove the garment. She returned a few minutes later with another, and slipped it on over his head. He straightened as tall as he could and removed his hair from under the collar of the robe before standing perfectly still. The witch started pinning up his robes, and his papa sat down in a spindly chair a short distance away.
"Hello," the boy standing next to him said. "Hogwarts, too?"
"Yes," Henri said. "My family moved here to be closer to me while I attend."
"Where are you from, then?" the boy asked.
"Belgium," Henri replied. "It's standard for those of us who live in countries without Wizarding schools to receive invitations to most of European schools. Papa decided that Hogwarts was in my best interests. Not many do, because most stick to the same language group."
The boy nodded. "Your English is good," he commented.
"My mother was British," Henri said, sticking to the cover story.
"Was?" the boy asked.
"She died during the war, so Papa took me back to Belgium,"Henri said.
"Oh, sorry," the boy said, not sounding sorry at all. "Play Quidditch much?"
"Not really," Henri said. "There weren't any wizarding children around the estate to play with. I love flying, though."
"Me, too," the boy said. "I'm quite good at both flying and Quidditch. Father says that it would be criminal if I'm not allowed to play Quidditch at Hogwarts. I'm going to try and sneak a broom in."
Henri wasn't sure if he'd ever be friends with the boy; it was too obvious that he was an absolute spoilt brat. "I'll miss flying," he said wistfully. "Papa promised me a racing boom for Christmas." A sidelong glance showed that the boy was a bit jealous.
"Were your parents our sort?" the boy asked, changing the subject.
"Were they magical? Yes," Henri said, knowing full well the prejudices amongst some circles in the Wizarding World. "Can't see that it much matters, but I'm a pureblood. Without the infusion of new blood that muggleborns and muggles bring, the magic would eventually be bred out of us."
The boy looked shocked, and part of Henri was gleeful that he'd been able to provoke a reaction. "My father says--" he began.
"Parents can be wrong," Henri said. "Diseases can be passed through family lines, and if you marry cousins too much, not only does the magic leave, but the children start being born squibs, and ugly ones to boot. It's happened to a lot of pureblood families who refused to marry outside their own family."
The boy looked thoughtful, but soon changed the subject. "Do you know what house you'll be sorted into?" he asked. "I'll be Slytherin; all if my family has been. Ravenclaw wouldn't be bad, but Hufflepuff..." he shuddered. "I think I'd leave."
"No idea," Henri said, his face carefully blank. "Mother was homeschooled, and Papa attended elsewhere. I suppose they'll place us where we fit best."
"I guess," the boy looked dubious at the thought.
"There, dear, you're done with the robe," Madam Malkin said.
Henri hopped down from the stool and, with help, removed the robe. He was sent to a dressing room to change into a uniform, sans robe, which was then perfectly fitted to his frame. Luckily, it was done somewhere else, so he didn't have to listen to the pale boy again. He examined himself in the mirror while the uniform was fitted. He was a little bit taller than average for his age and slender thanks to his papa's insistence on a healthy diet and the exercise he engaged in, rather than the short, emaciated form of the other-Harry. His hair wasn't messy; instead it fell in loose curls to his chin, and was usually tied back at the nape of his neck. His blue-green eyes were unobstructed by glasses, and, thanks to the blood adoption, his features had refined slightly so that he was a mixture of his papa and his biological parents.
Madam Malkin soon finished with the uniform and carefully helped him remove it. He changed back into the clothes he'd come in and followed her out to the main room. "You can pick up the clothes in an hour,"she told his father.
Nicolas bowed slightly and nodded before pulling out his money bag and paying her.
"I'll see you at Hogwarts then," the pale boy said, who was still being fitted.
"I suppose," Henri said, and then followed his papa out of the shop. They were met by Professor Snape, who led them to an instrument store next, where they picked out the cauldron, phials (Nicolas paid to have Henri's initials monogrammed on them), a telescope, and a set of brass scales.
The next shop was Flourish and Blotts, a bookstore. Henri eagerly went inside and started browsing. He took copies of the required texts from the shelves, along with a few others for extra reading. The Professor helped, adding extra potions books to his stack. Nicolas just watched with an amused smile, and Henri knew that he'd probably be teased about being abookworm later on. They paid for the books, which were shrunken and placed in a bag.
The Apothecary was next but before they could do anything, Professor Snape went to the front counter. "A Slytherin potions kit, please,"he said.
The shop witch nodded and pulled a wooden box out from under the counter and handed it over. Without a word, they paid for it and left the shop. "You'll need a trunk, Henri," Nicolas said.
A trunk shop was a little ways away. They walked inside and were greeted by an old, stooped man. Henri took a quick glance at the old wizard's hands and was unsurprised to see them rough and calloused from working the wood. He knew that while it was a simple matter to construct an ordinary trunk with magic, magical trunks required quite a bit of hand work so as not to be contaminated with different magic before they were enchanted.
Nicolas nodded to the shop wizard. "I require a three compartment trunk," he said. "I would prefer it in cedar, with enough space for his clothing, both winter and summer, and all his school supplies. I'd also like it spelled so that only he or a blood relation can open it."
The old man raised an eyebrow. "The latter will be extra,"he said.
Nicolas smiled. "Not a problem," he said.
The old man led them to a trunk that was a piece of beauty. It was cedar, polished to a high shine, and bound in brass. Satinwood inlay, in a simple geometric pattern, chased across the surface. A brass nameplate was centered on the top. "Magical locking charms," the old man said. "It will only be accessible to the owner, blood relatives, and House-elves."
Nicolas examined the trunk minutely and nodded. "How much?"
The old man named a price, and his papa paid the man. "Lay your hand on the nameplate," the old man instructed.
Henri obeyed and felt a sharp prick to his middle finger. He watched in fascination as his name wrote itself across the brass. He opened the trunk and placed his purchases inside, and then his father closed the lid and picked it up. "You need a pet first," he said. "And then we'll see about a wand."
The Professor, who had been watching the whole transaction, led them to the Magical Menagerie. Henri felt a pull the moment he walked inside. It was a feeling he'd been taught not to ignore, so he followed it towards a snowy owl. He examined the markings, smiled, and held out his arm. "Hello, girl," he said. "Would you like to come home with me?"
The owl hooted and hopped onto his arm, then climbed up to his shoulder where she nipped his ear gently. Henri reached up and stroked her, then turned to his father. "May I please have her, Papa?" he asked. "She can deliver my messages home."
Nicolas smiled a little. "What will you name her?" he asked.
Henri stroked her feathers a bit while he thought. He touched the platinum religious medal that his father had given him for his second birthday that he never took off. Despite the fact that he had a family now, he was still an orphan... "Hedwig," he said finally.
"The patron saint of orphans?" Nicolas asked.
"Yes, Papa," Henri said with a small smile.
Nicolas picked out a cage and the equipment necessary to take care of Hedwig, and paid for all of it. Ollivanders was their next stop. Once inside, an odd little man measured him and had him start trying wands. They went through twenty-five wands without success. The shop was wrecked by the time they'd finished. Ollivander finally stopped handing him wands. "I wonder..." he said, and then headed towards the back. He returned a few moments later with a box that he laid on the counter and opened. Henri picked up the wand and gave it an experimental wave. Sparks of all different colors shot out of it, and he felt a wave of warmth sweep through him.
"Most unexpected," Ollivander said.
Before they could find out what was unexpected about it, Nicolas put the money on the counter, and they left. After a quick stop back at Madam Malkin's, they headed back to the entrance of the Alley. Once they reached the Leaky Cauldron again, Professor Snape spoke. "It is here that Ileave you," he said.
Nicolas bowed slightly, and Henri followed his example. "We thank you for you time, Professor," Nicolas said.
Professor Snape gave them a brief nod. "It was not as... unpleasant as I expected." With that, the professor left. Nicolas and Henri Flooed home. Henri tripped once again coming out of the fireplace, and was caught by his papa. "Keep your wands on you at all times," Nicolas said. "Remember, to use the one we bought today most often, as it is the one registered with the Ministry."
Henri nodded and followed his papa's unspoken directions and headed up to his room. School started in a little more than a month, and there was plenty to accomplish between now and then.