Thank you for all the reviews as always! Sorry that I haven't been replying to you, I'm not as active on this site anymore because replying to messages here is kind of inconvenient. I still read each and every one of your reviews, but if you want a reply you should do it on AO3 :)
The chirps of the birds outside woke Harry up the next morning. He yawned and rubbed his eyes, trying to shake the stubborn sleepiness that still clung onto him. Finally, after stretching a bit he parted from the comforting warmth of his blanket and headed to the bathroom.
After relieving himself, he brushed his teeth and washed his face before he went back to his bag and took out the pile of dirty clothes that he had to wash. Thanks to his magic, he didn't have to work as hard or wait half a day for his clothes to dry. With the help of some household spells his laundry were clean, dry, and folded in just under an hour.
With the laundry done, Harry walked to the kitchen to make breakfast.
Now… what should he make this morning?
He examined his food stash for a while, trying to decide on what to make. He had some egg, wheat, milk, and sweet potato, so maybe pancake? And maybe a cup of hot chocolate will be good too since the morning here near Cauthess was a bit chilly and it might give Noctis more energy to get through the day.
Nodding to himself, he quickly got to work.
He ground one sweet potato into a paste before doing the same to some of the wheat, turning it into flour before mixing them together with the eggs and milk and cooked the batter layer by layer on a pan. Once he was done with the pancake, he took two sachets of hot chocolate and mixed them with hot milk in a pair of mugs.
He peeked out the window when he was finished. Seeing the sky was already bright, he decided to wake Noctis up.
"Noct, wake up. It's already morning," Harry said, shaking the boy's shoulder lightly.
At first Noctis didn't even react, but Harry kept shaking him and he whimpered slightly before burrowing his face into the pillow further. More amused than annoyed at his determination to keep sleeping, Harry poked his sides lightly, earning him a high-pitched yelp before Noctis finally parted his face from the pillow to glare at him sleepily.
"Harry! That tickled!"
Harry grinned at him, not minding the glare at all.
"Come on, it's morning," he told the still disgruntled boy as he pulled him up. "I made us pancakes and hot chocolates."
There was a small silence as Noctis blinked. Then suddenly the prince looked up at him with a horrified expression.
"You made hot c-chocolates?"
Harry nodded, a bit confused. "Yeah? It's good, I promise. You'll love it."
At his answer, Noctis's eyes watered.
"Harry, no! Chocobos are not food!" The prince exclaimed, hitting him with a pillow and looking so heartbroken like he was about to cry. "They're meant to be ridden and petted and loved, not… not eaten!"
"Wait, wait. Noct, what are you talking about?" Harry asked as he blocked the pillow with his arms, completely lost with what just happened. What's a chocobo anyway?
"Hot chocolate is a drink—just sweetened cocoa powder that I dissolved with milk. No chocobos are harmed in the making of it, I promise," he told the boy who stopped his attacks and stared at him in suspicion.
Harry's lips quirked up, amused at the way the prince was looking at him. He nodded and held his hands up in surrender.
"No chocobos," he confirmed, suppressing a grin so the upset boy didn't get more upset with him. "You can see for yourself, alright? Let's go to the kitchen."
Reluctantly, Noctis allowed himself to be led to the kitchen where Harry presented him with their breakfast. There was a plate with a stack of pancakes, an assortment of fruits to its side, as well as two mugs of the dreaded hot chocolate. Harry picked one of the mugs and showed it to Noctis who were peeking warily at it behind his back.
"This is the hot chocolate. See?" Harry told him. "No chocobo."
When Noctis cautiously peered into the mug and sniffed it, his eyes widened and he looked up to him.
"It smells so sweet!" Noctis exclaimed.
Harry grinned and handed the mug to him. "Smells wonderful right? Here, try it. It's good, I promise."
The prince brought it to his lips to sip it slowly and gasped, his eyes widened again and his cheeks flushed. He turned to Harry with eyes shining with wonder.
"Harry, it's… it's…!"
"Delicious?" Harry finished, grinning as he took out two smaller plates for them to eat their breakfast on. Noctis nodded excitedly and slowly sipped the chocolate again, being careful because it's still hot.
"Come on, you should eat first. I don't want you to be too full to eat later. Here," he said as he handed the plate to the prince.
They ate in comfortable silence, with Harry putting some more fruits onto Noctis's plate when he noticed that the prince actually ate them without much fuss unlike with vegetables.
"What is it made of? And why name it 'chocolate'? That's really misleading, by the way. I was so scared that it's a chocobo-based meal!" Noctis prattled after he finished stuffing his cheeks with the pancake. He cradled the mug of chocolate close to his face, sipping it occasionally in contentment.
Harry shook his head slightly in amusement at the way the little prince was cradling the mug of chocolate and swallowed the food in his mouth before he answered.
"As I told you before, it's made of cocoa powder. Maybe that's where it got its name? Chocolate, cocoa… it's close enough, right?"
"What's a 'cocoa'?" the boy asked him in curiosity and okay, Harry was starting to struggle to answer him. How do you explain something to someone who has never seen that thing?
Before he could answer though, he heard a faint whirring sound that grew steadily louder until it seemed like it stopped just outside the outpost. Alarmed, Harry put down his plate and placed a finger to his lips, silently telling Noctis to be quiet before he peeked outside the small window of the caravan.
Three people, clad in something that resembled renaissance era knight armors was stepping down from a large carrier that hovered above the ground. He could see more soldiers were standing by inside the carrier, likely waiting for instruction before they would come down.
From what he had gathered during his first week after arriving, the only country who have developed that kind of technology was the Empire of Niflheim.
Shit. What were they doing here?
He glanced at Noctis, wondering what he should do. It was too late for them to pack up and get out. Should he hide the prince under his invisibility cloak? But there was evidence in the caravan that there were two people staying there. Should he—oh crap, one of them was slowly walking towards the caravan.
"Harry?" Noctis whispered and tugged on his shirt.
Cursing inwardly, he took out his wand from its holster and turned to a terrified Noctis. He had to think fast.
"Close your eyes, it'll feel a bit weird," Harry whispered before he cast a quick colovaria to change the color of Noctis's hair to brown and his eyes to the exact green shade of his own eyes. Harry slid his wand back to its holster and used his hands to fix the prince's hair.
"Imperials are coming. From now on, do not respond if anyone spoke to you. Don't let out even a single sound from your mouth," Harry told him as he styled his hair in a way that it gave the illusion that he had more prominent cheekbones and sharper chin.
He barely finished it when the door was slammed open and the imperial soldier waltzed in like he owned the place. Harry stood in alarm and Noctis immediately went to hide behind him, clutching his shirt with shaking hands.
"You there. What's your name? Who's the child with you?" The man demanded rudely.
Harry tried not to glare at the man and schooled his expression to a concerned expression as he hunched his body and draped his arms around Noctis's shoulders.
"I… m-my name's Vernon, and this is my brother, Dudley," Harry answered, adding a little stutter to his speech to sell the illusion of a scared and totally normal citizen. He looked up to the tall imperial soldier with a frown and innocently asked, "Sir, what's going on?"
He hoped that the imperial will buy his terrible acting. He was no better at this than Hermione was, but at least she was a quick thinker and could get herself out of trouble in the case that something went wrong.
The man sneered at him and stepped closer to them before grabbing Noctis's small wrist and forcefully yanked him out of his hiding place behind Harry's back, ignoring Harry's protests.
Harry's heart thundered inside his chest. His body was tense as his mind raced, thinking of a way to get Noctis back safely if the man realized that he was the missing Prince of Lucis.
Noctis winced and glanced at Harry with a frightened expression, but then the imperial grabbed his jaw and forced the boy to look at him. He turned Noctis's face to the right and left, examined his hair closely and rubbed it between his fingers before he forced the prince's eyes open and used a small flashlight to examine them.
Finding nothing, the imperial soldier clicked his tongue before he pulled out a strange, brick-like device to Noctis's throat.
"Say something," the imperial demanded to the terrified boy.
Noctis nervously opened his mouth but closed it again when he remembered what Harry told him before. Hearing no answer, the man's face scrunched up in anger and he slapped Noctis's cheek.
It wasn't a hard slap, but it still rattled Noctis and the boy's breath hitched as tears started to pool on the rim of his eyes. Harry cried out in shock seeing the slap and took an involuntary step towards them, but the man simply pulled out a gun and trained it on him to stop him from getting closer.
"I said say something, boy! Do it or I'll put a bullet in his head!" He yelled angrily to the shaken Noctis.
Harry couldn't help it, he yelled back despite fully knowing that it wasn't a good idea and will probably be the death of him.
"He can't, Sir, please. He was born mute, he can't say anything no matter how much you threaten him!" Harry shouted, putting on a scared expression as he lied; his hand inched subtly closer to the wand holster he strapped on his left arm, preparing himself to attack should the need arise.
He swallowed when the imperial turned to glare at him for interrupting, but he didn't avert his eyes from the man in defiance.
"If there's anything you want to know please ask me instead, I'll answer all your questions, but please don't do this to him. He's just a boy," Harry continued, trying to reason with him into releasing Noctis.
The man sneered at him, but he did turn to Noctis again.
"Is what he was saying true?" The man asked, his voice dangerously soft. The boy could only manage a frantic nod, tears streaming down his face as he cried without a sound.
The man grunted in a different language that sounded strangely similar to Latin and put away his gun before pushing Noctis harshly into Harry's waiting arms. Noctis immediately buried his face into Harry's midsection and Harry put his arms around the boy, rubbing his back gently to ease his trembling.
The imperial soldier snorted like he was witnessing something disgusting and sat on one of the chairs, crossing his legs as he grabbed a leftover pancake from the plate.
"Well answer me then, Vernon. How old are you?" the man questioned as he munched on the stolen food.
Harry turned his eyes downwards so that the man couldn't see the rage and disgust he was hiding.
"I just turned 18 and my brother is 10," Harry answered stiffly. There was a faint hum from the man as he finished eating.
"He doesn't look 10 though, wouldn't you say?" the Imperial said, licking his fingers clean as he observed them from head to toe over and over.
Harry suppressed a wince. He should have said a more believable age for Noctis. How could he talk himself out of this…?
"There wasn't a lot of food in Ravatogh since it was during wartime. We have to ration what we have, so he didn't get enough nutrients to grow properly," Harry told him, making up the lies as he goes since he absolutely had no idea what he was talking about.
The imperial raised an eyebrow skeptically at his explanation.
"Ravatogh? Even though you have Tenebraean accent?" he asked as he rose from his seat and circled around them. Noctis tightened his grip on Harry's shirt and flinched when the man got too close.
Harry nodded and wracked his brain for another lie, a convincing one.
"Our dad's Tenebraean, but mom was from Lucis. We lived in Tenebrae until I was 12 before we moved to our aunt's home in Ravatogh when our parents died," he elaborated, mentally patting himself on the back for the believable family drama backstory, but the man still didn't look convinced.
"Is that so?" The man said thoughtfully, still circling them and looking up and down his body, putting a hand on Harry's left shoulder and dragged it across his back until it rested on the small of his back.
It made him extremely uncomfortable, but Harry managed to keep his mouth shut this time. He closed his eyes briefly, trying to stop himself from blasting the man's hands off him. Instead, he sent the man a vulnerable look as he begged the man to believe him.
"Please, it's the truth. We left Ravatogh a week ago—we just arrived here last night. We're heading to Longwythe because I got a job offer from our aunt's friend at the motel there. We don't know anything, whatever it is that you want from us."
The creep narrowed his eyes at his words, but before he could open his mouth again there was a loud bang from the door of the caravan. Harry felt Noctis jump in fright from the sound as he turned his head to see what caused it and saw an older imperial glowering at the asshole interrogating them.
"We don't have the time to play around, Aspero. If the package is not here, then get your ass moving," the older imperial said coldly.
The creep that interrogated them grumbled something back in their native language but heeded his colleague's words and stepped back from their vicinity much to Harry's relieve.
"Fine," he growled, moving to follow his colleague out the caravan.
Before he left, however, in a sudden dick move he trashed their breakfast to the floor, shattering the plates and mugs into tiny little pieces with a huff as he walked towards the door.
Harry seethed seeing him walk away. He shouldn't have played it safe, he should have just cursed the man from the start. If only Noctis wasn't there and could potentially get hurt in the crossfire that would surely follow, he would have stabbed that guy with his sword—see how he'd like the taste of Basilisk venom on his bloodstream.
He was still fuming as he glared at the leaving air carrier, waiting until he couldn't see it anymore before he crouched down and placed his hands on the sides of Noctis's face.
"Are you alright?" Harry asked the still softly sniffling child, turning his face side to side to check for any sign of bruises from the time he was grabbed. "Did that man hurt you?"
Noctis shook his head as he wiped his tears with his arms.
"It… it didn't really hurt, but…" The little prince sniffled lightly. "I was… scared that he was going to shoot you."
Harry's eyes softened hearing Noctis's confession. He put his arms around the boy and pulled him into his chest, hugging him tightly for a moment before releasing him.
"Ssh, it's okay. I'm alright, see?" he said, caressing his hair comfortingly. "I'm so sorry you have to endure that kind of treatment. I should have done better and stopped him when he touched you, I'm sorry."
Noctis sniffled again but shook his head at his apology.
"It's okay… I knew you wouldn't let anything truly bad from happening to me," the prince said softly, putting on a brave face for him even as his hands trembled.
"Yeah… of course. I won't let anyone hurt you, I promise." Harry nodded, pulling him into another hug. Noctis hugged him back and they stayed like that for a while until he calmed down.
His eyes narrowed darkly as he vowed to himself that he will do a better job protecting Noctis from now on. Not just because the boy was the crown prince of Lucis, but because he found that he couldn't bear to see him cry like that.
If anyone tried to harm Noctis again, he will not hesitate next time.
Harry told Noctis to wash his face and change his clothes as he cleaned the mess the imperial asshole created.
The plates and mugs could be repaired, but unfortunately their leftover breakfast had to be thrown out. It pained him to throw out food, but after what happened the pancakes and fruits were not suitable for consumption anymore.
While Noctis was in the bathroom, Alto, the kind cashier of the mini-mart, came by to check if they were alright, a cup of pudding held in his hand. He was sporting a bruised cheek, likely from the treatment of the other imperials. Harry ushered him in as he wet a clean napkin for him to compress his bruise.
"They said they're looking for a child," Alto told him, wincing as he pressed the napkin to his cheek. "A boy with black hair, blue eyes, and around 7 years old."
Harry stayed silent as the man continued to talk.
"They never said who it is, but I think they're looking for the prince," Alto continued. "I heard from a passing hunter this morning that last night the Crownsguard and the Royal Guards attacked Formouth Garrison. He thought that they must be crazy to do something like that when the war just started to calm down, and I thought so too. It was weird that they would do that unprovoked."
"You thought they were searching for something," Harry finished his unspoken sentence.
"Yeah, and those dickheads pretty much confirmed it when they came in and started throwing things around, demanding information if I have seen a boy with that description." Alto nodded. "The prince must have managed to escape somehow if they actually did kidnap him. Thank the Six."
Harry frowned thoughtfully, giving the other man a nod. Formouth Garrison, huh… that was in Leide, right?
"Gods, I hope the Guards found the prince first. Who knows what the empire would do to him if he was caught again." Alto shuddered before glancing around the caravan. "How's your brother? I was afraid that they were going to do something to him since he kind of fits the description, but I couldn't warn you in time."
Harry smiled tiredly as he shook his head.
"He's fine. Just a bit shook up, maybe. He got scared when the creep slapped him and pointed a gun at me, but he'll be okay. I'll make sure of it," he told the other man who nodded at him.
They talked some more until Noctis came out of the bathroom with another hooded jacket, but short-sleeved this time, and the jeans from yesterday, looking alarmed.
"Harry, my hair and eyes—" he began, but paused when he saw Alto with him. Harry smiled at him and put a finger to his lips which made Noctis gasp, remembering their promise from yesterday, and slap a hand to his mouth.
Alto greeted him warmly and ruffled his hair, telling him that he was very brave for standing up to the imperials, which made Noctis blush again, pleased. Harry shared a private grin with the cashier as the other man gave him the pudding he brought with him before telling them that he had to go back to clean the shop.
Noctis smiled shyly as he received the gift and murmured his gratitude to the man.
When the man was gone, the prince turned towards him again and tilted his head questioningly. Harry got his silent question and answered as he helped Noctis open the pudding package that was admittedly a little hard for him to open too.
"It was too late to hide you so I changed the colors of your hair and eyes. I didn't know what those soldiers wanted before, but I thought it'd be bad if they find out who you are. Sorry that I didn't ask for your permission first," Harry said apologetically. "It's temporary though, don't worry. I can change the colors back right now if you want?"
Noctis shook his head as he shoved a spoonful of pudding into his mouth.
"No, it's fine. It might be better if I look like this until we reach Insomnia in case we meet those people again. I was just surprised before," the prince told him. Then he blushed, looking down at his feet. "Also… it makes me look like I'm actually your brother."
Harry blinked, then he realized what the boy was saying and his lips quirked upwards.
"Indeed it does," he agreed.
Noctis grinned at him and let out a small giggle. Harry shook his head fondly and patted the boy's hair before he left the boy to eat his pudding as he packed their stuff back into his bag.
When Harry asked him earlier, Alto had told him that the best way to travel if they have no car is to ride a chocobo, the animal that Noctis mentioned that morning. Apparently, chocobo was a big, bipedal bird that 'run as fast as the wind' and loved being ridden by humans. They're fond of children especially.
Normally there would be a chocobo renting shop in every outpost, but as this outpost was newly built, Wiz Chocobo Post hasn't gotten to set up a shop yet. The nearest one was the next one, near the Disc of Cauthess, but usually the chocobos were all rented out by noon.
Seeing that the sun was already high, there was no chance for them to arrive there before noon though. The surprise visit by the imperial assholes earlier really messed with their schedule. He just hoped that there would be no more trouble for them for the day.
He glanced at Noctis, who was nibbling on the spoon he was using to eat the pudding and called out to him.
"I've finished packing. Are you ready to go now or do you need more time? Because it's alright if you want to wait," Harry told Noctis gently, but the little prince shook his head.
"It's alright. I'm better now, don't worry!" Noctis said as he jumped on his feet. Harry eyed him for a moment before nodding.
"If you're sure," he told the prince. "Let's say goodbye to Alto first, shall we? He's been very helpful and kind to us since yesterday."
Noctis had calmed down after he washed his face and ate the sweet pudding, but he still wasn't as chipper as he was the night before. He didn't look shaken anymore, but there was no way of knowing what was in his head. All he could do was to trust Noctis's words.
If they have the time he would have suggested that they rest for another day for Noctis to recover, but the longer the prince was missing, he was worried that the situation will escalate into an undesirable direction. If the war started again because of this…
He glanced at Noctis, who was all ready to go and was waiting for him. He shook his head and put on an optimistic smile, offering his hand to the boy who took it happily.
It'll be alright.
It'll surely be fine.
They said their goodbyes quickly. Alto wished them a safe journey told them to come and visit him when they have the chance in the future.
The road to the next outpost was just as beautiful at the path they traveled through the day before, though instead of a tall forest, the roadside was more barren. The breeze was nice though and the bright green of the grass was easy on the eyes—they even got to walk under the big stone arches that they saw yesterday too.
Noctis begged him to be allowed to climb the stone arches, but Harry adamantly told him no since it was dangerous and would tire him quickly. Not even his best rendition of the kicked-puppy look could sway his decision, much to the prince's disappointment.
As they walked closer to the Disc, the scenery changed rockier with more stone walls from the edge of the crater.
When Harry caught the sight of the crystal formation in the middle of the crater, he was blown away by its beauty. It was like a gargantuan blooming crystal flower that sprouted from the earth, with the tip of its petals looking somewhat translucent and gleaming brightly under the sun.
The prince clearly thought the same too if the way he asked to be carried so he could see it better was any indication, Harry thought; grinning as he indulged the prince's whim.
Unfortunately, their view was quickly blocked by another wall of stone, but he could also see the outpost in the distance. He didn't even realize that they had passed the imperial military base since he was so drawn to the sight of the crystal structure.
The chocobos, as Alto had warned him, were all rented out and they have to wait until at least the next morning for the replacements to arrive. They couldn't afford to waste their time waiting, unfortunately. The sooner they arrive at Insomnia, the better.
Harry apologized to Noctis for not being able to secure their ride, but even though disappointed that he couldn't see a live chocobo, Noctis determinedly told him that he was fine with walking even though he might need a break once every so often.
Though not being able to rent the illustrious animal, since it was way past lunchtime Harry took Noctis to eat in the Crow's Nest Diner there. He ordered two Kenny's Salmon for each of them and he almost choked when he heard the price.
500 gil for a single meal… he thought this was a fast food chain, not a freaking gourmet restaurant.
He wondered if every restaurant was this expensive or if it was just because he still haven't completely understood the value of gil yet. Maybe his 5000 something gil (4000 now, actually) stash was actually not as much as he thought it was.
Whatever it was, it made his head hurt from thinking and he decided to just shove it to the back of his mind.
Whatever, if he needed money he'll just take up a hunt or something.
They continued to walk west after they rested a bit. It was impossible for them to reach Longwythe before nightfall, so Harry searched for the nearest haven, the Turncouth Haven, for them to head to.
But then he took a closer look at the map and realized that Wiz Chocobo Post, the ranch that provided the animals to be rented on all the outposts, was actually not far from the haven. They could even reach there just in time before nightfall, actually.
Harry felt a tug on his shirt and looked down to see Noctis's eyes, shining with excitement, beaming up at him.
"It's not far, right? Let's go there! Please, Harry, I want to see chocobos!"
The prince begged him shamelessly and Harry's lips quirked up in amusement. He pretended to think about it, frowning as he tapped his chin thoughtfully.
"Hmm… I wonder," Harry hummed, glancing at the way the boy's face fell in disappointment. He resisted the urge to snicker as he continued, "Well… if someone promised me to eat all his vegetables tonight, I will consider it. How about it, Noct?"
Noctis scrunched up his face in disgust and he seemed really torn between visiting the chocobo post and not having to eat his veggies, but his love for chocobo won in the end.
"…Urgh…! Deal!" He finally grumbled with a pout and Harry grinned, satisfied with his victory.
"Alright then, let's go!" Harry took his hand cheerfully. "We need the chocobo for tomorrow so I was going to suggest we go there anyway, but since you promised me to eat your vegetables…"
Noctis gasped in realization and stared at him accusingly.
"You tricked me!" The prince covered his mouth, horrified. "Harry, that's so mean!"
Harry just looked to the side to conceal his grin as Noctis griped at him. Kids are so amusing.
They arrived at Wiz Chocobo Post at dusk.
Noctis, even though he was still miffed from being tricked, gasped in excitement and immediately ran towards a flock of big, tall, and bipedal yellow birds despite having complained that his feet were about to fell off from overuse just minutes before. The admittedly adorable birds allowed him to pet them indulgingly, leaning down when they noticed Noctis had to stand on the tip of his toes to reach their head.
Harry was watching him coo and pet the birds in amusement when a man, maybe in his early 30s, approached him with a warm smile.
"Welcome to our chocobo post. I'm Wiz Forlane, the owner of the ranch here," the man greeted him cheerfully, offering a hand for him to shake. Harry took it and smiled back.
"I'm Harry, and he's Noct. Sorry for coming by so late, Mr. Forlane, but the kid wants to see a chocobo," Harry said apologetically, but the man just laughed and waved off his apology.
"Don't be sorry! We're open until midnight actually," he told Harry before he glanced to Noctis's direction. The boy was petting a particularly motherly bird who was grooming his hair in return. Or maybe just nibbling on it, he wasn't sure.
"Is he your kid brother?" Forlane asked, watching as the bird keep nudging Noctis's face affectionately.
"Something like that." Harry nodded. "I'm escorting him to Insomnia and we need a chocobo because he tires really fast. Do you think we can rent one tomorrow?"
Forlane nodded. "Absolutely! Our girl Vanille there seems fond of your brother, you can take her with you if you want."
"Thank you," Harry smiled at him. "We'll take her."
Forlane, who insisted on being called Wiz, showed both him and Noctis where everything was. The café, the kiosk, the chocobo pens, the Culless truck if they need to restock, as well as the caravan.
A group of 6 hunters had gotten to the caravan before them, however, so Harry asked Wiz if he could build his tent beside the caravan and got the okay.
He waited until no one was looking before he took out his tent from his bag and set it up quickly with an erecto; then learning from his mistake from that morning he cast a quick muggle-repelling and imperturbable charms at the tent so no one but he and Noctis will be able to go near the tent or hear anything from inside.
Noctis's gasp at seeing the inside for the first time made him smile, reminded of his own experience which felt like a lifetime ago. He knew how enchanting the sight was despite the old-fashioned décor of the tent.
It seemed he was just overthinking when he thought the tent wouldn't be proper for a prince since Noctis seemed really fascinated and hounded him with questions after questions about it with enthusiasm as he unpacked his things to prepare their dinner.
He decided to make a casserole with the ingredients that he had, putting in a lot of minced vegetables so that Noctis would have no choice but to eat them.
Noctis pouted seeing all the greens in the mixture, but Harry sagely told him that 'a prince will always keep his promises, even if he was tricked by a mean adult; otherwise no one will recognize him as the prince anymore' when he begged him to reduce the veggies.
Harry almost felt bad when the boy fell for his trick again, but he wasn't. Not really. The situation was far too amusing for him to feel bad about it.
He put in cheese and a lot of alstroom too so that it covered any bitter taste though since wanted Noctis to eat healthily, not to make the boy despise vegetables even more. Hopefully, that combined with the taste of the chickatrice meat he put in will overpower the vegetables.
Once the mixture was done, he poured it into a pan… only to realize that he made way too much for the two of them to finish by themselves because he was having too much fun messing with Noctis and got distracted. Oops.
He poured the rest of the mixture into two other pans and baked everything anyway. He could always share them with the hunters or Wiz or maybe just store them for lunch tomorrow.
While the casseroles were baking, Harry told Noctis to take a shower while he boiled water in a kettle to make some tea for after dinner.
He sat on the dinner table as he waited and closed his eyes for a moment—then was startled awake when he heard a loud yelp and a clatter.
When did he fall asleep? He thought as he rubbed his eyes sleepily.
When he heard a small whimper, he turned around and noticed Noctis cradling his hand to his chest in pain, the kettle he used to boil the water had fallen to the floor with its content spilling everywhere. He quickly put together what had happened and gasped, immediately running to the prince's side.
"Harry…" Noctis whimpered, teary-eyed as he showed Harry his burned hand.
"Oh, Noct… you shouldn't have touched it with your bare hands," Harry admonished gently as he carefully examined the burn. It was really red and Harry knew from experience that it must be really hurt, poor boy.
"Did the water splash you anywhere?" He asked as he summoned his potions kit. Noctis shook his head in answer, thankfully.
He took out a burn-healing salve before applying a thin layer of the orange paste onto the red skin of Noctis's hand. The prince sniffled but didn't cry even though he was in pain.
"I'm sorry…" Noctis murmured quietly when his hand was healed. Harry sighed slightly, but he smiled at the prince and patted his head to show that it was alright.
"Just be more careful next time, okay?" he told the boy before adding curiously, "Why didn't you call for me?"
Noctis looked down as he answered, "You fell asleep. I thought you must be tired from cooking and everything so I want to help."
Unconsciously Harry's fingers had moved to pinch the boy's cheek lightly.
"Hawwy!" Noctis whined as he tried to get away. Harry grinned as he released the boy's cheek, not at all sorry for what he'd done.
"Sorry, I can't help it. You're adorable."
Noctis pouted and stomped his foot petulantly at his words. "I am not!"
Oh, he definitely was, Harry thought as he patted his head fondly. He quickly boiled the water again and took out the casseroles with a mitten. After cutting everything up he moved them to a serving plate, made some tea in a pot, and turned to Noctis.
"I accidentally made too much. What do you say if we share some with the hunters?" Harry asked him.
Noctis nodded, approving of his idea.
"Yeah! We can eat together too!" he added animatedly.
They did end up eating together in one big table in front of the caravan.
The hunters thanked him profusely for the meal. Some of them even got teary-eyed, saying that it was the first homemade meal they ate in months. Harry thought that they were just exaggerating, but the tips of his ears reddened anyway, pleased that they liked his cooking so much.
Again, despite his reluctance to eat the veggies Noctis ended up returning to him with a clean plate, which made Harry grin. At this point, he thought that Noctis was just stubbornly hating vegetables for the sake of hating it, not because he actually hated it, which Harry found kind of endearing.
They chatted until late at night with the hunters, with Harry and Noctis drinking their tea while the hunters their beers.
The hunters were a wealth of knowledge, he discovered. They gossiped about the imperials, about the wild beasts in the area, and about how some of them saw black-clad people heading to Lestallum and Galdin Quay in fancy black cars.
Huh. So black was the color of the Kingdom of Lucis, Harry thought. No wonder Noctis requested a change of clothes yesterday.
When he shared that he used a pistol to fight, the woman whose weapon was also a firearm even gave him tips on how to maximize damage and corrected his terrible posture—which made him more than a little embarrassed by his cluelessness. Clearly he wasn't as skilled with his gun as he thought he was.
When Noctis began to yawn, Harry finally excused themselves and retreated back to their tent. Just like the previous night, he sent Noctis to brush his teeth before he went in to take a quick shower before bed.
Harry thought everything was alright, but then in the middle of the night, he was awakened by a tug on his blanket. He blearily opened his eyes and saw Noctis standing in front of his bed, sniffling slightly as he wiped at his teary eyes.
He sat up immediately, alarmed.
"Noct?" He asked softly when the boy didn't say anything. "Did you have a nightmare?"
The boy nodded but didn't tell him anything about this nightmare of his. Was this because of the incident that morning or was it because he missed his home and family Harry wasn't sure, but the little prince's cries tugged at his heart anyway and he pulled him into a hug.
Harry only rubbed his back comfortingly at first, then he recalled that Aunt Petunia used to hum a lullaby for Dudley when he couldn't sleep back when they were kids. Harry's face flushed in embarrassment at the idea of doing it, but whatever. He had humiliated himself worse back when he was younger anyway.
Clearing his throat, Harry began to hum a song that he once heard from the radio during the Horcrux hunt last year as he caressed the boy's hair.
The melody was originally sung by a girl's soft and high voice and his mediocre voice couldn't replicate it perfectly (not at all), but he noticed Noctis's sobs steadily calming down anyway until all he could hear was his soft breathing.
Look at that. The prince had fallen asleep to his mediocre voice.
Harry sighed in relief. It was terribly embarrassing, but if it could help Noctis he thought he wouldn't mind doing it again. Maybe. As long as there were no other witnesses.
Knowing that he would wake the boy if he moved him back to his bed, Harry scooted over and pulled the boy in with him. He yawned tiredly and rubbed his eyes, chuckling at the little prince sleepily. Murmuring a quick goodnight, he pulled the blankets over them both before he closed his eyes again.
End of Chapter Three
*The box thing the imperial soldier used in the beginning is a voice-recognition device, but Harry didn't know what it was so I never elaborated. There was no sugar in the game (as far as I know), but wiki said that the sweet potato in Eos is as sweet as sugar. Chocolate also didn't exist in the game, but maybe it does in Brotherhood. Idk though I forgot. Kenny's Salmon is 1400 gil in the game, but as with anything everywhere, price in the past is cheaper so it's 500 gil here.
The song that Harry hummed is Noel's Theme. Also I just bought FFXV's 2nd OST and I saw there's a track in Episode Ignis's CD titled 「友として、兄として――」and I just burst into tears. Goddamn this game for making me feel too much for these characters. I don't think I will ever recover from Episode Ignis's canon ending.