Small decisions can change canon events. One small decision can change the fate of not only a small boy, but also an entire world. Fusion with Forever Knight. Minimal mentions of past child abuse/n...
Disclaimer: Not mine. I hugged them, squeezed them, called them George, then gave them back like a good girl. Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling, Scholastic Books, Bloomsbury Books, and Paramount Pictures. Forever Knight belongs to Sony Tristar, Barney Cohen, and James D. Perriot.
Author's note: This is a Forever Knight/Harry Potter fusion. This begins in February of 1982, when Harry is eighteen months old. I know he's talking a bit more than the norm for his age, but for this story only, I'm saying that magical children hit key developmental milestones like talking and walking earlier than Muggle children. Please remember to note that Nick's original language is French, so French pronunciations of names apply. “Nicolas” is pronounced “Nicola”, “Henri” is pronounced “Onri”, and “LaCroix” is pronounced “Laqua”.
No ships yet (hey, he's only eighteen months old at the beginning!) and there will be a Manipulative! Dumbledore. Severus will most likely feature in this, 'cause, well, I like him as a character. Eventually, I plan on this nominally being Harry/Ginny and if I can manage to do it believably, Nick/Nat because I ship both. Canon and fanon spoilers warnings for both, though Forever Knight canon may be limited, as I can't see Nick leaving his kid in Scotland and moving to Toronto. Be prepared for a slightly different take on FK canon, because I'm placing the FK vampire into the larger context of the magical world. For the most part, they will remain true to canon, with a few bits added here and there. Also please note, this will be a darker story than I usually write. Mentions of past child abuse, but I rescued Harry when he's young, so no worries. My thanks to my new beta readers, Evan and Colon, who have been helping me sand out the errors.
This is dedicated to my dad, who was just as taken with this idea as I am. He passed away October 23, 2007. I love you, Daddy. I miss you.
A New Life
[/"Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children."
Saturday, 6 February, 1982
Nicolas de Brabant wandered idly through Little Whinging with his hands stuffed into the pockets of his heavy black wool overcoat. He didn't really need the coat, of course--being a vampire gave him a low body temperature, which pretty much made him immune to the cold. It was well past midnight, and most people in the little town were asleep. He wasn't sure what had brought him to Surrey. Really, he was just passing through and wasn't certain where he would settle down next. It wasn't as if he could stay anywhere for more than a decade--the mortals would notice, and Wizardkind was not tolerant of what they termed 'Dark Creatures.' Granted, they did manage to help with Rogues occasionally, which lightened the Enforcers' workload, but it was just as much for the Wizards' safety as it was for the vampires'.
He'd come to the UK after finishing his stint with the Red Cross in Vietnam, but he'd been wandering a bit since then. He wasn't sure what he wanted to do next, but it wasn't as if he didn't have the time to decide. Forever was a long time to live, after all. Nicolas's head shot up as he heard the thin, reedy cries of a young child pushed past the point of exhaustion. It was a sound that he'd heard many times in his unnaturally long life, but it wasn't one he could easily ignore; especially since it was coming from somewhere outside. If it had been coming from a house, well, he could have justified it as a careless parent who'd allowed their child too much leeway. The neat neighborhood he was currently in wasn't one that would lend itself to homeless vagrants, so it only followed that it was the cry of a child in trouble.
Nicolas had spent years flitting from identity to identity in careers that devoted themselves to serving mortals--he could deal with an abandoned baby, if that's what the cry truly was. He walked over to the house, absently noting that a number four was nailed to the door, and into the obsessively tidy back garden. There, he found a naked, bruised, shivering little boy with messy black hair who couldn't have been more than two. The child was dangerously thin and dirty, as if he hadn't had a proper bath or meal in weeks.
Nicolas had seen and participated in many atrocities in his eight hundred years, but crimes against children always angered him. He took a deep breath, forcibly calming his own anger. “Hello, there,” he said. He offered the little boy a smile.
The little boy drew in a hitching breath, stifled a sob, and rubbed at the tears on his face, smearing dirt all around. “'lo,” he said.
Nicolas took off his coat and wrapped the child in it, ignoring the small flinch. “You look cold,” he said, by way of explanation.
“Am,” the little boy said.
“Why are you out here, mon petit?” Nicolas asked.
“Hawwy bad boy,” the child said solemnly. “Had bad dweam an' acksident. Hawwy dirty.”
Nicolas hadn't taken care of a child this young since he'd been mortal, and his mortal memories were somewhat hazy, but a half-remembered memory made him gather Harry close and brush the messy hair away from the child's forehead. It was what he saw next that made him make a split-second decision that would change a small child's fate forever. A few months ago, the Dark Lord Voldemort had been defeated by a fifteen-month-old child on Halloween night. Reports from the Wizarding World had it that the child in question, one Harry James Potter, had survived the Killing Curse with nothing more than a lightening bolt shaped cut.
Five hundred years ago, a prophecy from one of their own seers had named the “Lightning Child” as one who would lead them into an era of equality for all the races. The Council, convinced that the now titled Boy-Who-Lived was the lightening child of prophecy, declared that Harry Potter was to be protected at all costs. It was forbidden to turn him or feed from him, and they were to help the boy if he were in trouble. The Council had required a blood-oath to ensure obedience to that particular edict, which no being in their right mind would break. Nicolas could no more deny the Council than he could deny the fact that he was a vampire. He stood, taking the little boy with him.
“Everybody has bad dreams, Harry,” he said gently. “If you had an accident, it wasn't your fault, and it doesn't make you dirty, either.”
“Weally?” Harry asked, wide-eyed.
“Really,” Nicolas said. If anyone knew about bad dreams, he did, though his were usually memories of all the mistakes and bad choices that he'd made. He'd spent the past century attempting to repent for all of the evil that he'd done, but he didn't think that there was forgiveness for one such as him. Perhaps he could earn a bit by taking care of the child? At any rate, he was bound by the Council's will to protect Harry Potter. It was fairly obvious that he wasn't safe where the Wizards had placed him. “Would you like to come with me, Harry?” he asked. “We'll go someplace warm, and get you some warm clothing.”
Harry's eyes widened, he nodded, and wrapped his little arms around Nicolas's neck.
Nicolas smiled at the little boy and left the back garden. Briefly, he thought about flying to the inn where he was staying, but decided against it because he didn't want to scare Harry. He had to make sure that nobody would take the boy away, which meant that he had to call Larry Merlin and arrange for a binding contract to be created. Magically binding would be even better. Mortals--the wizards called them Muggles--did not have any accessible magic of their own, but the blood magic it would be written with would ensure compliance, as would the Traitor's Payment that he would offer them.
The Wizards would not contest his guardianship, and the Council would endorse it once they found out, for the safety of the prophecy child more than anything else. It would be useful to not be hunted by the Wizards. As a general rule, most vampires simply wished to be left alone. Nicolas knew that his biggest stumbling block would be his Master, his Sire, LaCroix. While not even his Sire would defy the Council, there was always the chance that the Roman vampire would do something foolish, like turn little Harry over to Social Services, since he couldn't eat him.
A little smile stole over Nicolas's face as Harry laid his head on his shoulder. There were ways to block the wily old General. He, Nicolas, would just have to remind him of old debts that had yet to be paid. Andre. Daniel. Yes, that would work. Though if he knew his Sire, there would be other conditions attached. Most likely it would involve feeding on human blood for the first time in almost a hundred years. His lips curled at the thought that filled him with equal measures of both revulsion and longing. He shook the thought off and lengthened his stride. One thing at a time. First, he needed to call Merlin and the Council, and then arrange for some children's clothing to be delivered to his room at the inn.
Nicolas tucked a sleeping Harry in; then flopped into a nearby armchair. He'd stopped briefly to pick up some nappies on the way back to the inn (he'd managed to get a rather attractive young lady to help him figure out which ones to buy), and ordered some broth from room service after they'd gotten back. The little boy hadn't managed more than half of his portion before he'd fallen asleep. It had taken a few minutes to figure out exactly how nappies went on, but he'd managed, and then dressed Harry in one of his own t-shirts. Nicolas knew that he could manage clothes for Harry later; the shopkeepers could almost always be bribed to bring a selection by in the morning.
Nicolas pulled his chair closer to the bed and ran his fingers gently through Harry's hair. The little boy leaned towards the touch, even in his sleep. Nicolas smiled a little. Children were so innocent at that age, and it was an innocence that he yearned to recapture. He'd lost it long before he'd been Turned... he'd settle for being human again. More than anything, Nicolas wanted to walk in the sun without heavy coverings or restricted, expensive potions. He wanted to eat like a normal human being and not a bloodsucking monster. He sighed a little and pulled Harry's blankets up a bit more. His head shot up as he Felt a presence behind him. He knew who it was, of course... his Sire's aura was impossible to forget. “LaCroix,” Nicolas acknowledged without turning around.
“Nicolas,” LaCroix said, crossing the room with a few short strides. When he reached the bed, he recoiled; then turned to scowl deeply at Nicolas. “What is that?” he demanded.
Nicolas decided to play dumb. “A child,” he said. “His previous guardians were... negligent, so I liberated him from them.”
LaCroix scowled and crossed his arms over his chest. “Really, Nicolas,” he said. “It's not like you to not take the child to the proper authorities.”
Nicolas gave him a mischievous smile. “We are the proper authorities,” he said, then brushed Harry's hair away from his scar. “You know the Council's decree.”
LaCroix inclined his head. “I do,” he said. “We are to protect Harry Potter, we are not allowed to feed from him, nor are we permitted to Turn him.”
Nicolas leaned back and his smile widened. “The Wizards were careless with their choice of guardians,” he said. “I found him locked outside, naked. I very much doubt that his guardians cared at all for the child.”
“And why must you be the one to take him, Nicolas? Are your foolish mortal morals getting in the way again?” LaCroix questioned.
Nicolas leaned forward and rested his hand atop the child's head. “I found him, Father,” he emphasized the last word. It wasn't one he used very often, even if it was technically correct. There had been relative peace between them in the past decade, after all. “The Council will side with me this time; I found him, so he is mine to raise... or not, as I wish.” He pushed back his blond curly hair. “What are a few decades to raise a child to our kind?”
“That is beside the point!” LaCroix's blue eyes became tinted with gold. “Mortal children or even Wizarding children and our kind do not mix!”
Nicolas stood and turned to face him, his face turned into a scowl. “You've made your opinion on the matter perfectly clear,” he said. “You owe me, LaCroix. Andre suicided because of you. You Turned Daniel and he was destroyed because of your stupidity. This one, Harry, is mine, and you cannot take him from me--the Community is blood-sworn to protect this one.” He could feel the internal struggle LaCroix was going through from their link before the elder vampire finally gave in.
“What measures have you taken to secure the boy?” LaCroix asked finally. “The last thing we need is the Ministry's Hunters after us to reclaim the child.”
Nicolas shoved his hands in his pockets. “I have enough of the potion to run errands tomorrow--Gringotts will supply me with the necessary payment, and there should be a contract quill in one of the Knockturn Alley shops. Larry Merlin is arranging for the paperwork, and he promised delivery by noon tomorrow.”
LaCroix nodded slowly. “Legal paperwork or fabrications? And what of the boy?” he asked. “Taking him into Knockturn Alley or anywhere near Diagon Alley would be... unwise.”
Nicolas shrugged a little. “Legal, of course,” he said. “I won't take chances with my son and I haven't figured out what I'll do with him while I'm running errands yet,” he admitted. “A disguise would work. Perhaps a blood-based glamour will work later. Make-up can cover the scar for now, and with a hat, he's just an ordinary baby.”
“You are set on this course of action?” LaCroix asked. “You are determined to keep the child?”
Nicolas gave his Sire a sharp nod. “Yes,” he said. “Harry Potter will be legally my son, and raised as the de Brabant heir.” He gave his father a half-smile. “Before the last of my mortal family died, we produced several witches and wizards. I can hide the boy on my estate, educate him, and by the time he leaves to go to school under a new name, nobody will recognize him as 'Harry Potter' at all.”
“You intend to change his name?” LaCroix asked.
“Perhaps,” Nicolas said. “I am considering it.”
LaCroix sighed. “If you are certain, I must insist that you develop better taste in prey. The bovine swill you drink will not sate your hunger--it weakens you and you can ill afford to be weak if you are to protect your new... acquisition.”
Nicolas closed his eyes briefly against the sudden swell of desire that filled him. He wanted the sweet nectar of human blood again. He wanted the rush of emotion, of magic, of life that he'd been denying himself for the past century in an effort to make it up to those he had wronged and killed. He'd been feeding on bovine blood instead. Aside from being wholly unsatisfying, it tasted flat, bitter, and dead. Cow's blood, however, unlike human blood, was guilt free, because he didn't have to kill or thrall another thinking being to get it. But... bottled blood, blood willingly given, was readily available these days. He wouldn't have to kill for his meals. And it was true that he was calmer and more in control when he fed upon human blood, his natural food. Finally, he nodded. “I will,” he murmured. “I will not hunt, LaCroix, but I will give up the cows' blood while Harry is in my care.”
LaCroix smirked in what Nicolas interpreted as triumph. “I will watch the boy while you take care of your errands. I will send for my tailor to properly outfit the child.”
The comment amused Nicolas immensely. "I seem to recall that neither mortal nor wizarding children his age wear silk and Egyptian cotton,” he said.
LaCroix's smirk widened. “My tailor can provide... appropriate selections,” he said. “And by sundown tomorrow, the Community will know that my grandchild is the Boy-Who-Lived.”
Nicolas snorted, kicked off his shoes, and climbed on the bed next to Harry. In that moment, he made a decision that he hoped would help to protect his child. “And by sundown tomorrow, we will hopefully be on our way to de Brabant land, and little Henri will be my son.”
Nicolas nodded. “An English name will stand out. Tomorrow, he will become 'Henri Nicolas Lucien Andre de Brabant', heir to everything I have managed to save of my family's legacy. I'll arrange for his birth certificate and new Christening when we get there--it has long been rumored that faerie rings have been found near my lands, and I know of a few changeling children that have been left behind over the years.”
“We must make sure to nail some cold iron over his nursery door, as well as over his bed,” LaCroix said.
“Yes,” Nicolas agreed. He leaned over and pressed a cool kiss to Harry's forehead. “Sleep well, my son,” he murmured.
Nicolas chugged the potion and grimaced at the taste--it was worse than cow's blood. It was a waste of good blood, as far as he was concerned. Vampires simply couldn't digest non-blood substances easily--alcohol was the exception rather than the rule--so the potion to allow him to walk in sunlight was actually blood based. That fact was one of the reasons why it was so expensive. Unlike mortal blood, which due to blood banks, was fairly common, fresh, willingly given Wizard blood was hard to get. Because the potion was technically blood magic, it had barely escaped being banned by the Ministry of Magic as being 'dark.' It wasn't something he used often, either. It had terrible side effects if used too frequently, and a very short shelf-life.
He walked over to the side of the bed that Harry currently occupied and sat down on the edge. “Harry,” Nicolas whispered, studiously ignoring the sound of the child's heartbeat and the enticing smell of wizard blood.
The little boy stirred slightly and rolled over. “Henri,” Nicolas called instead. He had decided that it would probably be best to call the child what he would officially be named in a few hours.
Slowly, the child opened his eyes and sat up. He rubbed them and yawned before giving Nicolas a sleepy smile. “Hi,” he said. “No dweam?” Harry crawled across the bed and leaned against Nicolas.
Nicolas's arms automatically came up around Harry as the little boy snuggled trustingly against him. “No, it's not a dream, Henri,” he said.
“Why you call Hawwy dat?” he asked.
Instead of answering right away, Nicolas asked Harry a question. “Do you know what happened to your Mummy and Daddy?”
Little Harry frowned. “Bad man with green light comed,” he said. “Mummy no wake up, and Hawwy woked with the mean people.”
“Would you like not to go back with the mean people and come and be my son?” Nicolas asked. “I'll be your new Papa.”
Harry wrapped his little arms around Nicolas. “Hawwy likes you,” he said.
Nicolas picked Harry up, stood, and walked over to the bed where LaCroix was still asleep. "This is your new Grandpère," he said. "And he's going to look after you while I make it official." The little boy laid his head on Nicolas's shoulder and stuck his thumb in his mouth. Nicolas rubbed Harry's back gently.
"Seepy," Harry commented around his thumb.
Nicolas gently laid the child down and covered him with the bedclothes. "I'll be back soon, Henri," he said.
Harry gave him a drowsy smile and closed his eyes. Nicolas looked into the mirror as he grabbed a long, dark, hooded cloak and threw it over his shoulders and fastened it. He looked like a respectable wizard--he would blend in nicely in the Alleys. Quickly, he checked to make sure that his daggers and long sword were accessible and hidden from Mortal eyes. While the goblin-forged weapons wouldn't be remarked upon by the Wizards, they would draw unwanted attention from Mortals. All of Voldemort's followers had not yet been caught, and it would be foolish of him to go anywhere near Wizarding enclaves in Britain unarmed.
Nicolas had known about Wizards since his mortal days; he and his sister had both been disappointments when they'd proved to possess no accessible magic of their own. He and Fleur had both been what Wizards termed "Squibs". Most people who survived being turned were either incredibly lucky, Squibs, or Wizards--more ordinary Mortals died than ever became vampires. Nicolas rather thought it had something to do with the level of magic in their blood. He'd long since decided that the absolutely magicless were the ones who died, not being able to accept and incorporate vampire blood magic into their beings.
While Vampires were considered masters of blood magic--they knew more about the subject than Wizards could ever hope to learn--fledglings weren't proficient in it until they were a few hundred years old, if then. It really depended upon who the fledgling's Sire was, and even then, how much the Sire was willing to share his or her knowledge. Luckily for Nicolas, LaCroix had never seen the value of letting his children wander around unarmed and ignorant. While there were some things that he was sure his Father hadn't taught him, he had spent the better part of his first four hundred years learning how to use his own innate magic. Wizards were taught to defend themselves from rogue Vampires, but even they knew better than to try and attack a Master Vampire. Even if it weren't for the Treaty of 1257, Nicolas was sure that the Wizards would leave them alone if for nothing else than their own senses of self-preservation.
Nicolas spared a glance at both LaCroix and Henri; then left the motel room, making sure to lock the door behind him. He pocketed the key and hurried to his rental car, wincing a bit in the bright light of the sun. He slid on his sunglasses, got in the car, started it and headed for the nearest Tube station. The sun was barely peeking over the horizon, which meant that traffic was light. It didn't take long once he arrived at the station to park his car in the long-term parking and pay his fare into London.
As he boarded the train into London, Nicolas hoped that Larry Merlin would be prompt with the paperwork--he preferred to get the unpleasant business of arranging for legal custody transfer over with as soon as possible. With the fees Nicolas was paying for his services, though, he thought that the paperwork would be ready when he returned to the inn. He pulled his first edition copy of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein out of his pocket and started to read, but he couldn't seem to keep his attention on it for any long stretch of time. He was impatient for the train to reach his stop, so it really wasn't surprising that it seemed to take forever.
When the train arrived at the Charing Cross station, he hurried to the Leaky Cauldron and through it to the wall in the back alley. Nicolas glanced around to make sure nobody was watching; then tapped the correct bricks with his fingers. It just wouldn't do for a wizard to see him open the gateway without a wand. While very powerful wizards could do it, it was fairly well known that vampires could, too. He didn't need for his status to become common knowledge, because it would complicate matters.
Quickly, he went through the newly opened gate and, ignoring the rest of the Alley, headed straight to Gringotts. At this hour, there weren't many lines, so he found himself in front of a teller within minutes. Nicolas gave the goblin behind the desk a deep nod and asked to be taken to his vault in flawless Gobbeldegook.
“Vampire,” the goblin answered, also in the same language.
“Yes,” Nicolas said. “You and your kind have no reason for enmity from me and mine--we have long fed from mortals almost exclusively.”
“Almost?” the goblin behind the counter questioned.
Nicolas closed his eyes and allowed his fangs to drop. He opened his eyes, letting the gold color show through and quirked a half-smile, allowing one fang to show. “Wizard blood is still a delicacy,” he murmured. “I, however, have been drinking bovine for the past century.”
The goblin gave him a long stare as he retracted his fangs and his eyes faded to their normal blue. “This place is under compact,” Nicolas reminded the creature. The conversation reminded him just why he preferred to keep the balance of his funds in Mortal banks in Switzerland. He'd once considered entrusting his valuables to the gnomes there, too, but Gringotts' security was unmatched, and few people dared to attempt to steal from the goblins.
Goblins and Vampires had an enmity dating from the Goblin War of 1352 when a young wizard-born vampire had bitten and killed the son and heir of the then goblin manager. That idiotic act had led to war with both the vampires and the Wizards, until the foolish fledgling had met a grisly end at the hands of goblin executioners. Unfortunately, the hard feelings had been passed down to the next generation, and the next, and so forth. Goblins never forgot a slight against their kind, which was why there had been so many wars with them.
The goblin finally nodded. “Do you have your key?” he inquired, switching to English.
Nicolas reached in his pocket and produced a much-rubbed black velvet pouch, opened it and emptied it onto the counter, producing a ruby, a gold dubloon, an uncut emerald, a gold sovereign, a galleon, a sickle, and a little gold key. He scooped up everything but the key and stuffed it back into the pouch. It had been a very long time since he'd used the key; he didn't go to London often, and he ventured into the Wizarding world even less. It wasn't the only Gringotts vault he owned, though. There were at least five more in various countries. In times of economic upheaval, he'd made it a policy to transfer his funds back to there, because the goblins' bank was the most stable.
Because of this cautious policy, he'd never really lost massive amounts of money due to depressions and recessions. He always had plenty, waiting for him at a branch of Gringotts. Of course, the divisions of his charity, the de Brabant Foundation, that dealt with scholarships for impoverished magical children were easier to administer from there as well. Most of the trust was dealt with by a firm in Canada, whom he'd been dealing with for the better part of fifty years. He met with them a few times a year, to disperse portions of his fortune--with the fifty billion American dollars he had in Switzerland, there was plenty of good he could do with his burden.
“Griplock,” the goblin called, “show Mister de Brabant to his vault.”
A young goblin who was standing nearby bowed as the teller handed him the key. “Follow me, please,” he said.
Nicolas followed Griplock into the bowels of Gringotts. A short cart ride later, and they were standing in front of vault 237. Griplock inserted the key, turned it, and motioned Nicolas forward. He put his hand in a depression and winced as it took a sample of his blood. His body objected to having blood removed, but he wrestled the beast back as the vault opened. His eyes took in the piles of coins of various denominations, ages, and nationalities. Galleons, sickles and knuts were piled high in the front, taking up about half of the enormous vault.
The rest was filled with piles of American double eagles, various gemstones, set and unset, Spanish dollars, jewelry, pandas, krugerrands, gold drachmas, some gold bars, dubloons, and even a small pile of coins he'd received from LaCroix over the years that had the image of some emperor or another stamped on the sides. Nicolas pulled three pouches from the pockets of his cloak. The first he filled with wizarding money. He threaded his way through the various piles of money to the Spanish dollars and counted thirty of them into each of the other two pouches. He'd briefly considered obtaining small, one ounce silver bars for the same purpose, but the Spanish dollars would suffice. He was taking no chances--both Vernon Dursley and Petunia Dursley would receive the payment for their... services. It would make it impossible to ever return the child to their dubious care.
He tucked the money back into the pockets of his cloak, made his way back to the entrance of the vault, and endured the cart ride back to the surface. A few minutes later, he pulled the hood of his cloak over his face and headed into Knockturn Alley. He went to Borgin and Burkes first. Contract quills were hard to come by these days. After all, they'd been made a regulated item in 1503 and were illegal to use by law for anything but magical contracts. Since what Merlin was preparing for him was definitely a magical contract, Nicolas knew that, despite being bought at what Magical Britain considered a black market, his use of it was perfectly legal.
Luckily, Mr. Borgin had a single blood quill in stock. Ten minutes, and fifty galleons lighter, Nicolas left the store and headed back to Diagon Alley after a short stop in a potions shop to replenish his stock of the sun potion, and to obtain an adoption potion. Flourish and Blotts was open by this time, so he made a quick detour inside to buy a few books on child care. Neither he nor LaCroix had much experience with small children, so he was sure the books would help until they could engage a nanny or something for Henri. While he did keep house elves, they weren't suitable for looking after small children because they followed orders too well. After paying for the books, Nicolas made his way out of Diagon Alley and back to the train station with a sigh of relief. As soon as the proper paperwork arrived, he could arrange everything to his satisfaction... and the Mortals who had mistreated the child would never remember that it was he who had been there.
LaCroix woke to find bright green eyes staring at him. He pushed himself up in the chair as the owner of the eyes climbed up into his lap. “Hi,” the child said, then patted his cheeks.
LaCroix frowned at the child. “You are annoying,” he said. “And you're not big enough for a meal.” He paused and studied the child, who was smiling at him crookedly.
“I'm not allowed to eat you... pity. Though, you're only big enough for a snack.”
“On-wi not snack,” the child said.
“Yes, you are,” LaCroix corrected. “I think I shall have to call you that,” he said.
Henri stuck his lower lip out in a pout.
If LaCroix had been anyone else, he might have found the small boy to be adorable, but he didn't. At least, he did his best not to. He firmly believed, and he had taught all of his progeny, that a vampire's heart must be cold. Eternal life would be far more difficult if it were not so. He loved his children, especially Janette and Nicolas, though it would be near impossible to get him to admit it. As Henri gave him a sunny smile, a part of LaCroix that he usually ignored whispered that he could learn to love Henri, too. It said that like Nicolas, Henri would become his baby boy, his light. With the ease of long practice, he dismissed the thought and focused on his responsibility to the boy instead.
Henri pulled at his diaper. “Wet, yucky,” he said.
LaCroix pulled in a deep breath and almost choked. It smelled awful. He glared at the child. “We shall have to obtain a nanny for you,” he muttered as he stood and grabbed the paper bag that Nicolas had told him contained supplies for the child. “I have never done this, and I do not plan on making a habit of it.”
He laid Henri on the bed and dumped the contents of the bag on the bed. He pulled the child's shirt up and examined the plastic diaper that he was wearing. After a few minutes, he figured out how to open the diaper LaCroix opened it, and clumsily cleaned the child's bottom, then disposed of the wipe and diaper. He pulled out a diaper and turned it over, trying to figure out how it went on. He leaned over the boy, only to be hit by a stream of pee. He glared at Henri as he wiped his face with a handkerchief. “You are most definitely a Snack,” he said, then, after a few false starts, put the diaper on the child.
Henri sat up and wrapped his little arms around LaCroix's neck, then kissed him on the cheek. “Fank you,” he said.
LaCroix picked the boy up; then walked over to the desk where the phone was. He hoped that Nicolas returned soon; he had a feeling that he was in for a very, very long day.
Nicolas unlocked the door to his room and entered, making sure to shut and lock it behind him before he hung up his cloak and divested himself of his weapons. LaCroix was ensconced in one of the armchairs, reading a thick, leather-bound book, while Henri was on the floor in a corner, quietly playing with a stuffed rabbit. The little boy looked up when he came in, abandoned the toy and threw himself at Nicolas's legs.
Nicolas picked Henri up and settled him in his arms. The child wrapped his arms around Nicolas's neck. Automatically, he rubbed the child's back, but pulled back a bit in surprise. The child was dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy. “What are you wearing, mon petit?” he asked.
Henri pulled at the white lace collar of his black velvet suit. “Itchy,” he said.
Nicolas looked at LaCroix for an explanation. “I was assured it was the height of fashion for Wizarding children his age,” LaCroix said. “And my tailor had it on hand. He will be delivering some shirts and trousers for the boy by tonight.”
Nicolas nodded. “He still needs toys and things,” he said. “But I think that can wait until we get home. If everything can be wrapped up today, I'll arrange for one of the Foundation's jets to be ready for us tonight, and call one of the house elves to tell them that we're coming.”
“I wish you would not keep those... things,” LaCroix said with distaste.
“They are bound to keep our secrets,” Nicolas reminded him.
“They are annoying,” LaCroix said.
“They are low-risk, low-cost servants,” Nicolas countered. He put Henri down and sent him off to play as he went to rummage in his nine-compartment trunk. He'd been grateful when they were invented; he never had to travel without important belongings that could mean life or death. It was also very useful to be able to climb inside the last compartment if he were caught outside with the sun rising. The only inconvenient part was that he didn't have the magical ability to shrink it down, making actually transporting the thing a pain. He was just lucky that multi-compartment trunks didn't rely on the magical abilities of the user to work.
Nicolas removed a black Armani suit, a silk Cambridge stripe tie, and a white shirt from the trunk and headed into the bathroom to change. He emerged a few minutes later, carrying the clothes he'd been wearing before, neatly folded, which he placed in the top compartment of his trunk. “Did the paperwork arrive?” he asked as he watched Harry play with his toy. The child was making it hop around him and twitch its whiskers. Nicolas smiled a little. Henri, his son, would be a powerful wizard; at eighteen months old, he just shouldn't be able to animate an inanimate object.
Nicolas could remember his older brother struggling to master that bit of magic as a teenager quite well, as he'd been fascinated with it, and unable to perform magic himself. He watched Henri for a few more moments before turning to LaCroix. “Have the papers arrived yet?”
LaCroix shook his head. “Merlin called about an hour ago. He said it might take a few more hours to get all the proper clauses into it and to enchant the parchment but that he'd get it here before close of business today. You know he usually just arranges very good forgeries to be put in place, should anyone check backgrounds.”
Nicolas nodded. “I know,” he said. “But for an extra fee, Merlin can and will provide perfectly legal paperwork for stuff like this. I assume he's sending a wizard courier?”
“Yes,” LaCroix said. “He's in Ireland at the moment...”
Nicolas didn't comment, but instead walked over to the bed and sat down, careful not to wrinkle his suit. Harry picked up his rabbit, came over, and handed it to Nicolas. He accepted the fuzzy toy and examined it gravely. “What's his name, Henri?” he asked.
The little boy seemed to think hard about that for a few minutes before answering. “Bway,” he said.
Nicolas made the rabbit “hop” into Henri's arms. The little boy giggled and hugged the toy, then held out his arms to be picked up. He obliged, hugging the child close. They were interrupted by a knock at the door. Nicolas stood up, holding Henri easily, and answered it. He accepted the folio from the courier and tipped him before putting Henri down and closing the door. Once that was done, he examined the paperwork inside and let out a low whistle. “Merlin did a good job with this one.”
LaCroix held out his hand, silently ordering Nicolas to hand over the paperwork. Without a second thought, he obeyed. While he, himself wasn't particularly sly or cunning, he could and did admire that kind of thinking when it was so nicely hidden in a simple legal document. Merlin had arranged it so that Henri's guardians would effectively disown themselves and their progeny from Henri's family. As soon as they signed it, they would make themselves and any descendants ineligible for any inheritances that Henri would be eligible for once he came of age. There had also been a dossier of the family. It looked as if their son, Dudley, was magical as well, as the mother, Petunia Dursley, was a squib. The documents were designed so that Dudley and any children he might have would never be able to inherit from Petunia's side of the family.
While Nicolas had long since discovered that LaCroix was right--wealth was a burden--it served the Dursleys right to lose out on what might have been theirs considering the way they had treated Henri. Once they had signed the paperwork and accepted the Traitor's Payment, there would be no legal recourse for them. He would be happy to mete out this small measure of justice, and wished that he could do more. It wouldn't be possible, however, without drawing unwanted attention to the matter. It would be best if the Wizarding World found out long after he and Henri had left the country. Also in the folio were all the documents he needed to leave with Henri, including a passport in the child's new name.
“Merlin does excellent work,” LaCroix commented with a raised eyebrow as he handed back the paperwork.
“Yes,” Nicolas agreed. He slipped the papers back in the folio. “Hopefully, they'll be home, so I can get these signed. The potion I took should last another few hours, and I purchased more just in case.”
Henri, seeming to sense that he was about to leave, threw himself at Nicolas and wrapped himself around his legs. “No go,” he demanded. “Stay wif On-wi.”
Carefully and gently, Nicolas pried the child loose and sat him on the bed. “I won't be gone long, mon petit,” he said. “I have to go see the mean people so that you can be my little boy.”
“Don't wan' to go dere,” Henri said with a frown.
“I know you don't, mon petit,” Nicolas said gently. “I'll be back soon, I promise, and you'll never have to see them again.”
“Pwomise?” Henri asked.
“I promise.” Nicolas said. He brushed the wrinkles from his suit and tucked the folio under his arm before turning to LaCroix. “Was there a hat with that outfit?” he asked.
“Yes, why?” LaCroix asked.
It had occurred to Nicolas on the way back from Diagon Alley that the Potters had been a very wealthy family and with adopting the last Potter, it would be his responsibility to protect that and even increase it. “How hard would it be for an unscrupulous wizard to help themselves to the Potter fortune?” he asked absently.
LaCroix considered the question for a few moments. “They would have to be declared a magical guardian, which might not be hard considering that the boy was left with Mortals.” He paused and watched Henri. “Wealth is a burden, Nicolas, you know that.”
“Yes,” Nicolas agreed. “But would you condone leaving an opportunity for someone to steal from Henri?”
“No,” LaCroix answered. “I wouldn't.”
“Then I need to take him to Gringotts to secure it once the paperwork and the blood adoption are complete.” Nicolas shook his head. “You would think that the wizards would learn from history--leaving magical children with Mortals is... inadvisable.” With that and a hasty farewell, he left, making sure to lock the door behind him.
He made his way to the car park, found the Aston Martin that he'd rented, and headed to the house where he'd found Henri only the night before. It seemed like longer, to be truthful. From the profile on the Dursleys that he'd obtained, he knew that obvious wealth would sway them in his favor, that they would try to impress him and he could go a long way to convince them to sign over Henri with his appearance, thus the Aston Martin and the Armani suit. It wasn't long before he pulled up to number four, Privet Drive. He parked the car in the driveway, got out and walked sedately up to the front door. It wouldn't have done to be seen to hurry, after all.
Nicolas rang the bell, and it didn't take long for a tall, thin, horse-faced woman with stiff blonde curls answered the door. “Madam,” he said with a regal nod, “I have business with yourself and your husband.”
She looked him up and down, most likely assessing him by his appearance, before answering. “Why yes, Mister--” she paused, most likely hoping that he would fill in his name.
Deciding to oblige her, he supplied an alias that he hadn't used since the sixties. “Forrester,” he said. “Nicholas Forrester.”
“Come in, come in,” she simpered, fluttering her short, stubby eyelashes at him as she lead him into the lounge. “Vernon, this is Mr. Forrester.”
A fat man with thinning blond hair and watery blue eyes grunted him a hello and held out his sweaty hand. Nicolas shook it, inwardly wincing and promising himself a very hot shower to wash the Dursleys off when he got back to the inn. The woman, whom Nicolas could only assume was Petunia turned off the telly and put the grossly overweight toddler who'd been watching it in the playpen with a chocolate bar before returning to them.
“Mister and Missus Dursley,” he began, “I have a business proposition for you.” He opened the portfolio, pulled out the paperwork, and the blood quill. “You see, I was on an early morning constitutional, and I discovered something that concerns me greatly--you left a naked, obviously mistreated toddler in your back garden sometime last night. You're lucky he didn't die from the experience. I assure you that the authorities look... badly... on people who abuse and neglect small children.”
Vernon and Petunia both started to bluster and protest, but Nicolas could see what they were thinking. They were trying to figure a way out of the situation that wouldn't involve prison time. Usually, in this country and day and age, he would've simply called Childline... if the child in question had been anyone but Harry Potter. “Since you obviously wish to rid yourself of the child, I have a proposition to make.” He paused to make sure that they were listening.
Both of the odious people were giving him their full attention. He pulled a small vial, a silver knife, and the two pouches of money from an inside pocket and placed them on the table. “You-you're one of them,” Petunia spat.
“I am not a wizard,” Nicolas said smoothly. “I do however possess knowledge of their world, and these measures will ensure that the boy will never be returned to you.”
“What do we get in return?” Vernon asked, a greedy light in his eyes.
“Aside from not turning you in for child abuse, giving the authorities the pictures I took as evidence, and getting what I want anyway?” Nicolas asked mildly.
“But that's blackmail!” Vernon sputtered.
Nicolas released some of his power to cow the stupid Mortals. Really, this kind of intimidation wasn't his style; it was something that his Sire was more fond of than he was, but sometimes subtlety paid off more than heedless rushing into situations. “I prefer to call it... negotiation,” he responded. “I shall also give you each one of these velvet bags. I believe that the market value of the contents of them is a bit higher than their stated worth.”
Vernon glanced at his wife, then at the bags, and nodded. “What do we have to do? Good riddance to the freak, anyway. We never wanted him.”
Nicolas handed the quill to Vernon. “Sign here,” he said indicating the correct places. “Mrs. Dursley, I also require a vial of your blood as an added protective measure.”
Scowling, Petunia held out her hand. Nicolas made a small cut on her palm and collected the blood, restraining the instinct that made him want to simply drain her dry. When he had enough, he handed her a handkerchief, then capped the vial and slipped it into his pocket before showing her where to sign. When both of them had signed the document, he handed over the pouches, one to each. It was time to cover his tracks. He caught Petunia's heartbeat and her eyes. Her heartbeat resounded in his ears as he captured her mind. “You will forget my name and what I look like,” he said. “When wizards come to investigate, you will say only that you gave your nephew up for adoption.” Petunia nodded submissively as he repeated the process with Vernon. He finished quickly and left, and as he left, he heard a quiet, but resounding pop and saw a flash of light that gathered around him. He increased his pace, because he'd only ever seen something like that happen when blood wards fell. He got into his car and started it, heading as fast as he legally could, back to the inn.
LaCroix traced some runes onto the floor of the bathroom, spilt a little blood to key them to him, then tapped them with his wand. The room expanded to five times its normal size, giving him plenty of floor space in which to work. He consulted the dusty book that he'd laid on the vanity, making not of the exact configuration and placement of the runes on the floor. It was a good thing he'd anticipated what his son had planned and obtained ritual robes of plain, undyed silk for the occasion. Before the day was out, young Harry Potter would obtain a vampire clan as relations. (LaCroix had made many children over the centuries, though he had only ever remained close to Janette and Nicolas.) While it wouldn't actually replace his original parents in his DNA, it would give him a new father, which would make it impossible for the government to interfere.
LaCroix had never had reason to use this particular spell. He'd never held with vampires caring for children and, in his mortal days, being a wizard was like any other trade, and he had chosen the Legions as a better path to power. It was a decision that he'd never regretted. While he could use magic, it wasn't really part of his daily life. He rarely used it as a mortal, and even less as a vampire. He'd much preferred battle magic to everyday charms, anyway. Over the centuries, he'd developed a habit of collecting magical texts, though, so he now had what was probably the greatest library in the world, with manuscripts dating back to ancient Egypt, all carefully preserved and ready for perusal at need.
With a quick spell, he transfigured the floor into slate, then began to chalk in the diagram. Once he finished, he cleaned his hands and returned to the bedroom where he dressed the squirming child in undyed silk robes that matched his own. When his son returned, they would add their own blood to key places in the diagram, place Henri in the center, and begin the incantation, culminating in the child drinking the adoption potion, which would contain Nicolas's blood. By sundown, Henri would irrevocably belong to them.
Nicolas walked in the door and spotted the ritual robe laid out on the bed. He sighed, and promised himself he'd shower later. He put the portfolio down on the bureau, stripped, and pulled on the robe. He was just lucky that the adoption ritual didn't require a ritual bath before hand. “LaCroix?” he called.
“In here,” LaCroix's voice floated in from the bathroom.
Nicolas walked into the room, carefully, so as not to smudge the chalk work on the floor. He stepped around them, making sure not to touch any of the runes with his bare feet. He spotted Henri, who was seated in the middle of the diagram. “Henri?” he said.
The little boy flashed him a big smile. “On-wi be your baby?” he asked.
Nicolas smiled back automatically. “That's right, mon petit,” he said. “We're going to do a spell that will make you my little boy.”
Henri grinned at him. Nicolas looked at LaCroix. “What do I need to do?” he asked.
LaCroix picked up a dagger that Nicolas knew had to be silver. “Blood goes in certain places in the diagram,” the elder vampire said. “I'll put mine in first, and then yours needs to overlap it.” He slashed his wrist and massaged above it to get the blood flowing. Carefully, he dripped blood over certain places in the diagram, making sure that blood landed nowhere else. When he was finished, he licked the wound clean, sealing it closed. He handed the dagger to Nicolas, who copied his Sire.
After he finished, he laid the bloodstained dagger back on the vanity and turned to LaCroix. “What next?” he asked.
“The potion should be in the pocket of your robe. Add three drops of your blood into it and go stand next to Henri,” LaCroix instructed. “You may hold him if you wish. After I recite the incantation, feed the child the potion.”
Nicolas hesitated. He had no wish to bring Henri into his eternal darkness. “Will it bring him across?” he asked.
LaCroix shook his head. “No, it won't,” he answered. “He may look a little like you, and perhaps even me, but he will still be fully mortal... barring unforeseen circumstances, that is.”
Nicolas nodded, picked up the knife, nicked his finger, and added the blood to the potion vial. He capped it again and licked his finger to seal the cut before carefully stepping into the middle of the diagram with Henri. Henri held up his arms in a wordless plea to be picked up. Nicolas complied.
He settled the toddler in his arms. “When your Grandpère nods at me, I have a potion for you to drink so you can be my little boy.” He leaned a little closer. “It probably tastes yucky,” he said conspiratorially.
Henri seemed to consider his words carefully. “On-wi dwink,” he said.
Nicolas gave LaCroix a nod. LaCroix Pulled out his wand and, going anticlockwise, started tracing fire runes into the air while he chanted in Latin. "Sanguine et magica arte nunc alligati,
"Parens et parvulus:
"E duobus, parentes tres:
"Per dilectionem, per fidem,
"Per sanguinem, per magicam,
"Alligati ut gens una in aeternum,
"Per omnia saecula saeculorum,
As LaCroix chanted, light gathered around Henri. When he finished, Nicolas uncapped the potions vial and held it to Henri's lips. The little boy grabbed it and drank it quickly, grimacing at the taste. As he finished the last drop, tears began to roll down his cheeks and he whimpered quietly. His limbs lengthened slightly, as did his fingers, and his wild, messy hair relaxed into loose curls, much like Nicolas's, except in color. Henri's eyes turned blue-green, and his nose changed shape slightly, making it resemble his new Grandfather's.
Nicolas tucked the vial into his pocket and brought his free hand up to rub Henri's back. He murmured comforting nonsense into Henri's ear and the child's eyes fluttered closed, tears still streaming down his cheeks. He walked over the diagram, this time not caring as the chalk marks smudged, and into the bedroom where he laid Henri on the bed and covered him with a blanket. Nicolas ran his hand through the child's hair comfortingly as he hummed a lullaby. He'd gotten his father's plans through the link while he was on his way back from Privet Drive and, after a bit of thought, approved. Originally, he'd planned on a simple legal adoption combined with an adoption potion. The blood adoption ritual they'd just performed, however, would serve to further conceal Henri from his enemies, make him the de Brabant heir by blood and magic, and make it impossible for the Ministry to interfere with his custody once his birth name came out, as it would eventually.
The adoption hadn't taken away his original parentage; to the contrary, it had only added to it. If Henri took a heritage test, it would now show that he had two biological fathers, rather than just one. It was the closest a vampire could ever come to fathering a biological child, other than bringing someone across. Even with the latter, it depended upon the Master vampire what the relationship was. With LaCroix, his children were just that--his children. With some, they wanted companions or sexual playthings. Not so with his Master. As much as LaCroix had espoused letting go of mortal bonds, he, himself, held on to vestiges of his mortality. Certain... attitudes still held true, even after two thousand years.
As Nicolas took the blanket off Henri, undressed him, and redressed him in a disposable nappy and pyjamas, he reflected that it wouldn't be long before his Sire insisted upon sharing blood again. For the first century of so of his immortal life, his meals had been his Master's blood supplemented by human blood. It was meant to strengthen the bond between parent and fledgling. In times of great distress, when he was badly injured, half-starved, or otherwise weakened, LaCroix would show up out of the blue and insist that he, Nicolas, feed from him. It was unavoidable... even if he'd wanted to resist.
LaCroix came out of the bathroom, walked over and laid his hand on Nicolas's shoulder. "No traces of the ritual remain. I have removed all signs of magic from the room as well."
"Thank you, Father," Nicolas said quietly. He took his Sire's hand and kissed it, for once almost following etiquette.
LaCroix inclined his head and examined Henri. "He will awake soon," he said.
A few minutes of silence later, Henri's eyes fluttered open, and he hugged Nicolas. "Mummy say you On-ri's Papa now," he said. "Mummy say you good bampiwe." He looked at LaCroix. "She say be caweful 'wound you."
Nicolas threw back his head and laughed. "Your Mummy was very, very smart," he commented.
Henri beamed. LaCroix glared at them, a scowl flitting over his features.
"Your Grandpère won't harm you, mon petit," he promised, shooting a look at his Master that promised pain if he did. Nicolas picked Henri up and simply held him for a few minutes before LaCroix interrupted.
"Is the paperwork all in order?" he asked.
"Not quite," Nicolas admitted. "I still need to sign it, and I need you to witness."
LaCroix gestured imperiously for him to get on with it. Nicolas settled Henri back in the bed, with blankets covering him, and fetched the adoption papers and the contract quill. He signed in all the appropriate places, not even wincing as the quill magically drew his blood, and then handed both items to LaCroix, who signed as well. The papers flashed gold, duplicated themselves, and one of them flew into Nicolas's hand. The other set of papers rolled themselves up, sealed, then disappeared with a flash of light.
"Thank you," Nicolas said as he returned to sit by Henri on the bed. "I don't trust the potion to last through another trip to Diagon Alley, and I don't want to take another dose for a few months, so we can go tonight to secure Henri's inheritance."
LaCroix raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms over his chest. "That is," he paused a moment, "wise of you, for once, Nicolas. After eight hundred years, it is long past the time for you to stop acting the impulsive fledgling."
Mentally, behind the meager shields he'd learned to erect by trial and error over the centuries, Nicolas rolled his eyes. He picked Henri up again and held him close. The little boy lay contently in his arms and put his thumb in his mouth. There were still arrangements to be made, but it looked as if they'd be on their way to the de Brabant estate before midnight. Nicolas knew that over the next twenty years, he would be in for much, much more conflict with both his father and the Wizarding world, but at the moment, he didn't really care. He felt content, if not happy, for the first time in years. The guilt that plagued him was still there, but it was more muted than he could remember it being, except in the beginning when he'd reveled in what he was. He still believed with all he was that he was damned for eternity because of what he had allowed himself to become, but at the moment, he felt more, well, human than he could remember feeling in centuries.
Nicolas swore that he would raise Henri properly and teach him to be a good, strong, upright man. He'd teach his son to be better than he was. While it wasn't forgiveness, which was what he really wanted, it felt... good. For the moment, it was enough.
Nicolas held Henri's hand as they walked into the Leaky Cauldron. LaCroix was behind him, despite his disdain of the Wizarding World. Together, the trio made their way to the alley, where LaCroix opened the gateway. Henri was wearing a miniature set of robes and a cloak over his little velvet suit and a pointed hat to further conceal his scar. They'd covered it with Mortal makeup and a glamour, but it never hurt to make sure.
Nicolas led the way to Gringotts, walking slowly for Henri, who'd insisted that he could walk by himself. They ended up seeing the same teller than Nicolas had done business with earlier in the day.
"Vampire," the goblin said in gobbeldegook.
"Yes, we went through this earlier today," Nicolas answered in the same language. "I am here to see the Potter account manager."
"What business do you have with him?" the goblin demanded.
"That," Nicolas said, "is none of your concern."
The goblin glared at him through narrowed eyes; then nodded sharply. "Bentneb will escort you," he said, with an abrupt wave towards a side door. A goblin with a very crooked nose met them and after a short but dizzying cart ride, they entered a plushly appointed office. The wizened old goblin behind the desk gave them a pointy-teethed leer and gestured towards a couple of chairs. Nicolas sat down, pulled Henri into his lap, took out the paperwork, and laid it on the desk. "We're here as the guardians of the Potter Heir."
The goblin examined the papers, waved his hands over them to feel the magic, then pushed them across the desk. "It all seems in order," he said. "What do you require?"
"We require all Potter possessions to be immediately returned to the main vault, all keys recalled, and access cut off for all but young Henri," LaCroix answered.
"I trust the goblins to manage his fortune until such a time as he can manage it himself, but I will oversee it," Nicolas said. "I suggest that you look into investing in Mor-Muggle computer companies like Apple Computers and Texas Instruments in the States. An investment in them could easily triple in the next decade."
The goblin nodded and wrote down what they'd said. "Anything else?"
"Statements can be forwarded by the Brussels branch of Gringotts," Nicolas said. "They know where to reach me." He tucked the adoption papers into his cloak pocket, stood, and settled Henri in his arms. Henri fussed a little, but settled down quickly, his fingers playing with Nicolas's buttons. Nicolas bowed. "Thank you," he said.
LaCroix gave the vampire a deep nod, and they left Gringotts the way they came. They hailed a cab outside the Leaky Cauldron, and took it to Heathrow. Once they were inside the car, Nicolas pocketed Henri's wizard's hat and replaced it with a stocking cap. All of their possessions, including Henri's new wardrobe, were shrunken in LaCroix's pocket. With their seeming lack of luggage, it didn't take long to get through airport security and to the private jet that was waiting on the tarmac for them. Soon they were in the air on their way to Belgium and home.
LaCroix had contacted the Council to inform them of recent developments that afternoon, while Nicolas had put out feelers for a halfling nanny, no more than a century old, and tutors for his son. By the time Henri left for boarding school when he was eleven, he would have the best education that Nicolas could give him. But all that could wait until after they'd settled in. The house elves had been informed and were probably busily preparing a room for Henri. In a few scant hours, they would return to a small castle that Nicolas hadn't been to in over a century--home.