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The Beguile and Devotion of a Black Heir

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Author: StarLight Massacre

 

Title: The Beguile and Devotion of a Black Heir

 

Rating: R

 

Warning: Slash, explicit language, mentions of blood, torture and violence in future chapters, Mpreg.

 

Pairing: Rabastan Lestrange/Harry Potter

 

Disclaimer: I do not own anything from Harry Potter; all rights go to J. K. Rowling. I make no money for this piece of fictional writing and never will.

 

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The Beguile and Devotion of a Black Heir

 

Chapter One - Enlightenment

 

Harry rolled over the side of his small, narrow bed until he was sitting up, his eyes darting around the room frantically as he gasped raggedly for breath, his heart beating a mile a minute as he tried to calm himself down.

He swallowed back the acidic bile that was climbing its way up his constricting throat, his Uncle would be absolutely furious if he actually vomited on any floor of his house. Not to mention that it would likely be him cleaning it all up after he’d been shouted at and sprayed with saliva for an hour. Not a thought he relished.

He was drenched in a cold sweat that made him shiver uncontrollably even as he furiously kicked the thin, tangled blanket that he had covered himself with last night from his body, ripping it from where it was pinned underneath himself, despite the fact that it made him shiver harder. He swallowed hard past a fear clogged throat and breathed slowly, in through his nose and out through his mouth, his mind racing around the nightmare that he’d been forced to suffer through.

Dragging a hand over his face to get rid of the chilling sweat, Harry’s hand found its way up to his damp hair, the messy tufts sticking up even more than normal through the amount of sweat he’d produced that had slicked it in all angles while he’d tossed and turned, caught in the nightmare that he’d been unable to wake from.

The reoccurring, horrific dream had been about Sirius, his beloved Godfather, who had died just days before the end of the last school year, only a few short weeks ago, and the memories of it, the emotions he felt, were still so raw and painful. He swallowed and stood up from where he was sat on the side of the bed, he had to get out of this house, he had to get out, being trapped and locked up in this house with his disgusting, hateful relatives was driving him insane, but he’d been told inexplicitly that he was not allowed to leave the safety of Privet Drive by Dumbledore at the end of the last year. He had also seen for himself the guard that he had continuously around the clock, more than likely Order of the Phoenix people, who were always watching the house, always watching him and likely reporting every single move and sound that he made back to Dumbledore.

Harry wondered how heavy his night guard was when they logically thought that he was in his bed, fast asleep. He kicked open his trunk and dug out some clean clothes, dressing himself quickly before grabbing his wand and his money pouch, making sure that he had his Gringotts vault key in his pocket twice, just in case.

He needed to get out of here, out of this horrid, clinical, hateful house, just for a few hours, a bit of retail therapy around Diagon Alley, having a bit of exposure to the magical world that he’d all but been cut off from, and he’d feel less trapped, less enclosed, he was sure.

He slipped his peeling trainers onto his feet, both socks had holes in them, and he cracked open his bedroom door. His Uncle had stopped locking him in when Harry had ‘casually’ mentioned that he had a guard watching him at all hours, day and night.

Harry first went into Dudley’s bedroom. His cousin’s snoring was so loud that Harry didn’t even bother being quiet as he crossed the large bedroom to his cousin’s dresser. He eased open the top drawer and snatched a few of the notes lying scrumpled up inside. He didn’t take too many, if he had taken them all then Dudley would have known, but if he only took a few then Dudley wouldn’t even notice them missing, which was sad as Harry would have given anything for a few pennies as a child, even if he couldn’t have spent them, he could have still played with them and known that he had something of monetary value, even if it was just a penny.

Harry walked back out of Dudley’s room and slipped down the stairs, he knew logically that his guard wouldn’t be sat on the doorstep or behind his Aunt’s begonia bushes; they were more likely going to be in the corner of the front garden, where the two garden walls met, where they weren’t likely to be found or accidentally trodden on and they’d be under one of Moody’s invisibility cloaks so they wouldn’t be seen by anyone who cared to look into his relatives front garden. Harry easily outsmarted them, he went out of the back door and fence hopped over the Dursley’s fence, over the neighbour’s fence, going around Wisteria Walk, thus avoiding Mrs Arabella Figg, not that he expected her to be up at five in the morning, but it was better to be cautious, just in case and he set off in the direction of Surrey town.

The only thing that could ruin his break for freedom now would be if it was Moody himself who was on guard tonight, thus he’d probably have his magical eye trained on him, but he’d gotten this far already, so he hoped that it wasn’t Moody on guard duty tonight. He really needed this moment of freedom.

Harry slipped down Magnolia Road and past the park and revelled in the early morning air. He was feeling better already and the lingering effects of his reoccurring nightmares that had been plaguing him for the last month were eased away with the fresh air. He couldn’t believe that he was out in the open and as he walked further and further away from Privet Drive, he found his breath coming easier and more steady from the attack of emotions that had woken him up early that morning. Pain, fear and horror had grown and grown inside of him as he tossed and turned in his dreams until he had woken like a shot, only to be confronted with the lingering emotions and the pain of his reality.

He still couldn’t believe that Sirius was gone, his last official family member and he had nothing to remember him by, just a few memories and his beloved Firebolt which he took excessively good care of. He treated it at least once a week and waxed it until he was sure he would slide right off of it if he were to actually fly it, but the polished ebony handle gleamed in the light, he made sure to buff the goblin made iron work on the frame until his elbows ached and it always looked utterly pristine with not a birch tail twig out of place. Every time he so much as looked at it he would smile and he could see Sirius and he would remember that Sirius had bought this for him, he had touched it and he had wanted him to have it. It helped him feel closer to the memory of the man that he could no longer see, touch or talk to.

It was nearing quarter past six in the morning when he made it to Surrey town from his leisurely walk and he went into the nearest open café and got himself a coffee. Sirius had always drank coffee, from morning until night, Harry hardly ever saw him drinking anything else when he actually had a choice in the matter, and when Harry had asked why he drank so much of it his Godfather had let out that bark like laugh that always made Harry smile and told him that it was to keep himself awake and functioning.

His ordered coffee was hot and bitter, despite how much sugar he’d put into it, but he forced it down and went to the train station, he was going to stay in London for as long as he possibly could and he was going to need the coffee to keep himself awake while he shopped. He hadn’t been getting a lot of sleep lately, so he was going to need a lot of coffee.

 

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An hour later found Harry in central London. The train ride had taken him just forty minutes and he remembered exactly how to get from the train station to Diagon Alley from his trip with Hagrid when he was eleven. He was tapping bricks before eight in the morning and he couldn’t believe how good he felt just being out in the open air and really, it just felt better because he’d been told that he wasn’t allowed to leave the Dursleys house. He was done with being told what to do, how dare anyone think that they knew what was best for him! He knew himself and he knew what was best for himself better than anyone else and he would not allow others to push him around just because they believed that they had the right to.

He came into Diagon Alley as it was still quiet and sleepy, shops were only just open and there were yawning witches and wizards here or there, but the bustle of the last months of the summer was not here, not at this hour of the morning, not yet.

Harry went to a small, out of the way eatery, Harry wanted to call it a café, but it was just too small, it had just three, two seater tables and one small stretch of counter and a tired old man yawning behind it on a firm, solid and padded chair.

 

“Good morning.” Harry said cautiously.

 

“What’s so damned good about it?” The old man grumbled, but he smiled at him regardless.

 

“I suppose I deserved that.” He allowed wryly.

 

“Ignore me; I’m a grumpy old man with too many pains and not enough potions to cover them all. What can I do you for?”

 

“I was looking for a place to have a drink and maybe something to eat while I wait for Gringotts to open for business.” Harry answered.

 

“Come in then, what do you prefer to drink?”

 

“I believe I need some toast and I think I need coffee to stay awake this early. I tried some earlier and it wasn’t all that nice.”

 

“First time? Coffee’s an acquired taste, much like Firewhiskey. The more you drink it, the more you fool your brain into liking it.”

 

Harry laughed as he pulled a chair up to the counter and sat opposite the man, who merely waved his wand and clinking and tinkering sounded from the room through a door behind him.

 

“Don’t think I don’t know who you are, everyone knows Harry Potter, even if you age and grow, that scar will always be there. What business can you have at Gringotts, unless you mean to claim your Lordship early? Most little Lords do you know.”

 

“What Lordship?” Harry asked curiously as he took a cautionary sip of the deep mug that had landed in front of him, it was strong and sweet and much better than the coffee flavoured sugar water he’d bought that morning. He was never going back to that coffee shop again.

 

“Your Father was Lord James Potter, his Father was Lord Charlus Potter before him, surely you have been told this?”

 

Harry shook his head as he nibbled on his lightly browned toast. It was buttered just the way he liked it.

 

“I don’t understand why you haven’t been told, it is your birth right after all, you should have at least been told and taught about what it entails, even if you are too young to claim it without a special request from the goblins.”

 

“What is a Lordship?” Harry asked curiously.

 

“All Pureblood families have a Lordship, a seat on the Wizengamot and a voice in the Ministry, surely you know this?”

 

Harry shook his head with a frown. “I don’t know any of this, there’s nothing about this at Hogwarts.”

 

“They won’t tell you in school, school is for general learning and only a single handful in that school will even have a little Lord who will claim their Father’s Lordship upon his death. Who is your guardian? He should have told you all about this.”

 

“My guardians are Muggles.”

 

“Not those guardians!” The man snapped impatiently. “Your guardian in the wizarding world.”

 

“I…I don’t think I have one.” Harry said with a frown.

 

“Of course you do, all little Lords have a guardian if their parents have passed. They need one to tell them about all the things they need to know; the running of their house, their responsibilities in the Ministry and the Wizengamot, how to manage their family and their finances, that sort of stuff.”

 

“I’ve never met mine.” Harry said thinking hard.

 

“You must have. It’s usually a Godparent, though I heard of the mess with yours, anyone could have lain claim to you as theirs after that, though I believe someone would have stopped just anyone from claiming you, as special as you are, so I believe the Headmaster of your school would have taken over, that spineless Minister for Magic, Fudge wouldn’t have stood up to or stopped him, so Dumbledore should have told you all of this.”

 

Harry frowned hard, trying to remember if Dumbledore had said anything about him being a Lord, or his Father being a Lord. He was sure he would have remembered being told that he would one day be a Lord. But then surely Sirius would have told him about this as his Godfather, or at least mentioned it to him, but then Sirius hadn’t been in his right mind and half of the very short, limited time they had actually spent together they’d been getting to know one another after Sirius’ wrongful imprisonment which didn’t leave much time for such…seemingly, trivial things.

 

“I would remember being told such things.” Harry said softly. “No one has ever so much as mentioned it to me.”

 

“Then someone somewhere has done you a grave insult and a serious injustice too. That someone would have his arse parked in your seat on the Wizengamot.”

 

“Are people allowed to hold two seats?”

 

“They can only have two seats if they’re the Lord of two houses, very rarely that happens, those Purebloods always make sure that they have an Heir to pass their seat to and failing that there’s always a lesser male Heir to take the seat, though if the Heir is also the only child to another Pureblood family, they could then claim two seats when their Father passes his Lordship onto his son.”

 

“Doesn’t Dumbledore have his own seat? Isn’t he the Chief Warlock or something, why would he need my seat too?”

 

“Who says he needs it?” The old man grunted. “Could be he just doesn’t want you in it.”

 

“But why?” Harry said with a considering frown.

 

“I say ask the goblins, they’ll sort you out, but only if you ask for their help, vile beasts that they are, they won’t do anything for anyone unless they beg like a common Muggle, but they’re still very shrewd and they’re always willing to help for a price.”

 

Harry scowled at hearing the man calling the goblins vile beasts, but he said nothing. This man had helped him and Harry knew all too well the views that some people in the magical world held of what they considered as ‘lesser beings.’ It disgusted him, but just this once, he held his tongue.

 

“Thank you for the advice.” Harry said as he handed the last few Galleons in his money pouch to the old man. “And for the toast and coffee too, but you’ve given me a lot to think about and I really need to see the goblins now, for more than what I bargained for it seems.”

 

“You tell them that you want to claim your Lordship early, they won’t do squat all if you don’t turn around and tell them what to do and then you get yourself to Flourish and Blotts and get yourself books on Lordships to help you.”

 

Harry nodded his understanding and he waved away the few silver Sickles that the man tried to hand him as he left. He really did have a lot to think about and now that he had a real agenda for being here today, he strode purposefully towards the bank, for more than just the quick withdrawal from his vault that he’d been planning on earlier that morning. He’d only wanted to do a bit of shopping and get some retail therapy done, why did these things always happen to him?

 

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He was sat in an office, it was quite bare really, but he was here to ‘validate his claim’ whatever the hell that meant, maybe he should have gone to Flourish and Blotts first, but then he wasn’t the fastest of readers and he only had today to do this, he had no doubts that the end of month rush for school supplies would leave him very little time to do much other than to actually get just his school supplies. It would be too busy and too hectic to do anything else and with the Weasleys watching over him like a hawk and Ron always trailing after him too, this would likely be his only chance to get this sort of thing done.

He’d done as the man in the small café had told him to do, he’d told the goblins why he was there and what he wanted, as politely and respectfully as he could manage. Just because he had to tell them that he wanted something, didn’t mean he had to do it rudely or disrespectfully, especially as he had a very high respect for the goblins.

His leg was bouncing nervously as he waited and he couldn’t seem to help thinking that he’d made a mistake, what if the old man had been wrong or was just playing him for a fool? What if he wasn’t a Lord at all? After all he’d never heard of anyone in the wizarding world being a Lord, surely if all Purebloods were Lords then Malfoy would have at least tried to rub his nose in it.

Before he could really work himself up the door opened and he jumped as a particularly gruesome looking goblin waddled in and slammed the door shut again before climbing onto the chair behind the desk.

 

“You wish to claim your Lordship early, I hear. What makes you think that you deserve it early?” The goblin demanded of him.

 

Harry blinked and rubbed his sweaty palms on his ripped and worn, far too big, baggy jeans.

 

“I…I don’t know. I didn’t know anything about it an hour ago.” Harry explained nervously.

 

The goblin reared back and blinked in shock.

 

“You weren’t told?” He demanded angrily.

 

Harry shook his head. “A stranger told me that I should come here and claim my Lordship, but before then I had no idea about it.”

 

Snarling, the goblin snapped his fingers harshly and loudly, making Harry flinch. Nothing happened to him, but a large pile of parchment appeared on the desk and the goblin completely ignored Harry in order to read through the stack in front of him.

Bewildered, nervous and not entirely sure he should have mentioned anything, Harry sat restlessly opposite the goblin and his leg started bouncing again, but he also started getting angry, that small build-up of cold fury he’d been getting every now and then, ever since Sirius had died a few weeks before. He’d only felt this cold rage a few times before then and all of those times had happened during the last year and had been to do with Voldemort. He tried to calm himself, getting angry at the goblins would yield nothing, except perhaps get him thrown out of the bank, wouldn’t that be a lovely spectacle for the people on the street? Not to mention the office building for the Daily Prophet newspaper was just around the corner.

He breathed as evenly and deeply as he could, trying to dispel the rage that he felt growing inside of him, his knee jumping more vigorously as he bounced it harder against the floor.

 

“Your guardian is one, Albus Dumbledore. Is this information correct?” The goblin said suddenly, startling Harry.

 

“I…yes…I don’t know.” Harry bumbled. “The stranger told me that Dumbledore was my guardian, but I wasn’t told that before either, I thought he was just my Headmaster. I didn’t know what a magical guardian was.”

 

The goblin bared his teeth and stood up and left. Harry wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do so he just sat where he had been left, bouncing his foot against the floor. He couldn’t believe this was happening; he’d only come here for a quick withdrawal, but one short meeting with a complete stranger had him here for other reasons and now he was stuck, floundering, unsure of anything and everything that was happening around him, despite these happenings being about himself.

The door slammed open once more and the goblin came back into the room and sat back behind his desk, snatching up more parchment and reading angrily, flipping pages over to read those underneath it.

 

“What’s happening?” Harry asked quietly, even though he wanted to shout, scream and rage, demanding answers from the goblin in front of him.

 

“I have contacted the Ministry and have informed them of this case of Lordship neglect, they are sending one of the Lords involved in the Wizardry Protection Movement. We will proceed once he has arrived.”

 

“What’s that?” Harry asked curiously.

 

The goblin gave him such a look that Harry regretted ever opening his mouth.

 

“Do you have no idea of anything of the world in which you are a part of?” The goblin demanded furiously.

 

“I…” Harry swallowed and shook his head. “No. I don’t know anything about this sort of stuff, I was never told and it’s not taught at Hogwarts.”

 

The goblin snorted. “That’s a surprise.” He said nastily, but he countered his harsh tone and sneer by grabbing a small piece of memo parchment and scrawling a list on it. “Buy these books and read them carefully, repeatedly if you must.” He all but ordered and all Harry could do was nod.

 

A sharp knock on the door had the goblin barking out an order for whoever it was to enter. Harry leapt to his feet when a pristine and regal looking Lucius Malfoy walked through the door.

 

“What’s he doing here?” He all but snarled.

 

Lucius Malfoy raised a perfect, platinum blond eyebrow. He was wearing glorious robes in resplendent dark blue and every stitch screamed wealth and propriety as his usual snake headed cane, which concealed his wand, was held in a gloved hand and even they weren’t simple gloves, but made from high quality dragonhide, dyed a blue that perfectly matched his robes of the day.

 

“I happen to be the lucky wizard chosen to come and enlighten you as to your role in our world, Mister Potter.” Lucius told him silkily. “As a founding member of the Wizardry Protection Movement it is my sworn duty to help young wizards who are struggling to come to terms with Pureblood etiquette and the running and ruling of their house.”

 

“What house?” Harry asked with narrowed eyes. As far as he knew he didn’t have any houses.

 

Lucius Malfoy sighed. “I understand now why you asked for assistance, Nagnok. Do you know anything about your heritage, Mister Potter?”

 

“What heritage?” Harry asked, deflating a little, but he kept his hand on his wand.

 

“Sit down.” Lucius ordered as he sat in the second chair gracefully. “We are going to be here for a long while I imagine.”

 

Harry carefully eased himself into the seat beside Lucius Malfoy, but he remained on guard, he was burning with curiosity, but not enough to forget that this man was dangerous, though he hoped he knew the man enough to know that he wouldn’t attack him in a bank, even if they were in a private office. Lucius Malfoy cared for his public appearance after all and had been deeply embarrassed when Mister Weasley had attacked him in Flourish and Blotts four years ago now.

 

“How much do you know about Lordships?” Lucius asked him.

 

Harry shrugged. “Nothing, a stranger told me that I should come to claim my Lordship, so that’s what I did.”

 

Lucius sighed, Harry watched him closely as he put his cane down, he noticed with curiosity that Malfoy had put the cane down on the table in front of him, but the snake head, and thus his wand, was aimed at him and as Malfoy tugged his gloves off of long, nimble fingers, Harry wondered why the man had put his wand out of his immediate reach. He would be able to draw his wand on the elder man before Malfoy even touched the snake head of the cane…was that perhaps why he had done such a thing? As ridiculous as it sounded, the only reason Harry could think of was that Lucius Malfoy was trying to put him at ease and give him subtle signs to show that he wasn’t going to just up and attack him in the bank.

 

“So you believed this stranger, who just wandered up to you and blurted out that you should come and claim a Lordship that you had never heard about and you just did what he asked?”

 

It was Harry’s turn to sigh. “No. I was having coffee with him while I waited for the bank to open this morning and he wanted to know why I was in Diagon so early, so I told him I was coming here and he asked me if it was to claim my Lordship early. The conversation went from there.”

 

“We need to validate your claim, but you are underage so we need the permission of your guardian first before we can proceed.”

 

“My guardians are Muggles and wouldn’t even come here under threat of death and Dumbledore was the one who was supposed to tell me about this stuff in the first place and he didn’t.” Harry said heatedly.

 

“He has a fair point, Nagnok, perhaps I should stand in as his guardian, after all, I am a founding member of the Wizardry Protective Movement, it is my duty to help and protect young wizards, to educate them. That Mister Potter doesn’t even know about his own Lordship is very neglectful, think of the power and influence that Dumbledore gains from holding Mister Potter’s proper titles from him…why, it is almost criminal.”

 

The goblin nodded and snapped his fingers once again and a box appeared in front of him. He opened it and took out an empty vial and one filled with a strange liquid.

 

“I will need your blood.”

 

“Excuse me?” Harry asked, his brows lowering.

 

“Blood never lies.” The goblin told him. “Potions can be messed with, appearances may not be what they seem, mannerisms can be learnt, but blood never lies.”

 

“Simply prick your finger and place a few drops of blood into the empty vial.” Lucius Malfoy told him smoothly.

 

Harry looked at him strangely. “How do I make myself bleed?”

 

“Surely you know the charm to make a small cut? What is Hogwarts teaching you children these days?”

 

Harry went red cheeked and silently fumed. He startled when the snake headed cane vanished just on the edge of his vision and he heard Malfoy sigh before his hand was snatched by one of those long fingered, pale hands and Malfoy had his wand out in his other hand. Before Harry could so much as react or give him a good kick, the tip of his index finger was split open with a small, half a centimetre long cut and Malfoy caught the small flow of blood into the empty vial before another simple charm healed his finger again perfectly, not so much as a red mark to show where the cut had been moments before.

Harry fumed silently as he stuck his finger into his mouth to suck off the remaining blood. Malfoy scowled at him, he was holding out a square of cloth, a handkerchief, but he slipped it back into his pocket as Harry glared at him defiantly, still sucking the traces of blood off of his healed skin. Harry wasn’t that stupid, he wasn’t giving his blood to Malfoy of all people.

He watched suspiciously as Malfoy inserted his wand back into the cane and clunked it back onto the desk; the snake head was again facing Harry.

He turned back to the goblin who had mixed the strange liquid in the second vial with his blood before shaking it vigorously and then tapping it with the tip of his finger, which he then tapped on a piece of large parchment.

Harry watched in fascination as runes started spreading out over the parchment, he wished he could read them. The goblin, Nagnok, then uncorked the vial and tipped it over the parchment and Harry was amazed when it started forming letters and then words.

 

“Harry James Potter, born in July of nineteen-eighty to James Doran Potter and Lily Potter née Evans.” Nagnok read out questioningly.

 

Harry bobbed his head. “That’s right.”

 

“You were legitimised on the twenty-sixth of September nineteen-eighty, correct?”

 

“Legitimised? What does that mean?” Harry asked, looking from Nagnok to Malfoy in confusion.

 

“Your Father wanted you to have the Potter Lordship, which he couldn’t have given to you if you had remained a Halfblood, so he had you legitimised by naming an appropriate Pureblood as your Godfather.” Lucius replied smoothly. “If you marry an appropriate Pureblood, then the Potter line will remain in the Pureblood Directory, if you marry someone who isn’t a Pureblood, then the Potter family will be taken from the Directory and your children will be unable to claim your Lordship when you pass and it will fall into the hands of the Ministry unless you declare your seat voided.”

 

“What if I name a Pureblood as their Godfather?” Harry asked thinking of Ron.

 

“As you yourself are not fully pure and your spouse will not be pure either, then your children cannot be legitimised whereas if you marry a Pureblood, you may then be allowed to legitimise all children you have to claim them as Pureblooded, the lines of the Potter family will remain unbroken, they will be bent a little due to your Muggleborn Mother, but still legally pure as she was still a witch and not a squib or a Muggle.”

 

Harry’s head spun with all this new information and he nodded his understanding. He wasn’t planning on marrying anyone for a long while, so he had time to figure out how important this Lordship was and if he wanted to pass it down to his maybe children.

 

“Why does me being legitimised show up on a blood test?” Harry asked instead.

 

“To fully legitimise you, your chosen Godfather would have given his blood to you, so his blood, which was pure, would run through your veins to a lesser extent than your parents’ blood, to make up for your Mother’s impure blood, but it is still picked up by the blood test administered.”

 

Harry nodded again.

 

“With the recent passing of the Black Heir, Sirius, who was named your Godfather on the twenty-sixth of September fifteen years ago, you also have the most legal claim to the Black Lordship.”

 

Harry felt Lucius Malfoy stiffen beside him and his hand slid down further to touch his wand handle instead of merely hovering over it, just in case.

 

“Would you claim this as well?”

 

“I don’t even know what they are.” Harry sighed exasperated.

 

“I would advise you to claim them both.” Malfoy told him, completely surprising Harry. “Draco is a candidate for the Black Lordship through his Mother’s side, but as Black’s actual blood runs through your veins as his Godson, you are the closest thing to an actual son that he had before his passing. Draco needs to focus on his studies more, I fear a Lordship would be…ill-suited to him at the moment.”

 

“Why not just let him have it?” Harry asked curiously, wondering why the hell Malfoy was passing this opportunity over. “It must be a huge honour from what the man in the café was saying for someone to have one Lordship, let alone two.”

 

“It is, but it is yours by rights and I would prefer that Draco focused more on his studies. He is already very distracted lately, it seems he spends more and more time with his little friends than he does studying and his subject grades are…declining.”

 

“He and Pansy were getting very close last year, a Ravenclaw swore she saw them coming out of a broom cupboard all mussed up.”

 

Lucius Malfoy’s eyes widened slightly and his nostrils flared, but that was the only outward sign he gave that he’d even heard Harry.

 

“How would you know of these things?” He asked smoothly, seemingly unable to ignore the conversation now that it had started playing on his mind.

 

“Things like that don’t stay a secret at Hogwarts. There were stories too about Pansy taking early morning visits to Madam Pomfrey; apparently she’d had a pregnancy scare.”

 

That got Harry the tightening of a fist and he saw the visible effort it took the elegant man opposite him to keep from immediately standing and leaving to chase down Draco and demand the truth from him.

 

“Thank you for informing me of this behaviour, I’ll be sure to correct Draco of his wrong doing and inform Lord Parkinson of his daughter’s behaviours and advise that she has a purity test done, such loose, sleazy behaviour is beneath Purebloods. Her betrothal match will reflect her behaviour accordingly.”

 

“Draco isn’t the worst, just the most sought after. Blaise Zabini is the worst; he’ll sleep with anything that so much as moves.”

 

“If we could get back on track.” The goblin demanded.

 

“So I’d have two Lordships, the Potter and the Black?” Harry questioned after a long silence. “Why did no one tell me this before?! No one has so much as mentioned it in passing to me, not even Sirius.”

 

“They obviously didn’t want you to know.” Lucius told him simply. “All of the sacred Pureblood families have a seat on the Wizengamot; did it never occur to you to ask why Dumbledore, a Halfblood, was the Chief Warlock when he had no rights to a seat?”

 

“No.” Harry replied easily.

 

Lucius sighed. “Dumbledore is using your own seat to preside from, in your name of course. If you claimed your Lordship, he’d have to…step aside, to make room for you. I don’t believe that he’d enjoy relinquishing such power and then to have a new Chief Warlock voted in, one that perhaps won’t be deep in his pocket and willing to play puppet to him. After all, nearly every person on the Wizengamot is Pureblooded; only certain exceptions are made, as the Heads of all reputable departments also have a Wizengamot seat.”

 

“So he’s sat in the seat that I should be in? Who has the Black seat?”

 

“It’s currently being held by Dumbledore too as the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, fancy that.” Lucius sneered. “Two seats that you should have control over are being presided over by him and he didn’t even tell you about them.”

 

Harry’s hand clenched tight as the fury rose in him again. Even if he didn’t know what to do with his two seats, he didn’t want Dumbledore to have them. It would serve him right for locking him back up with the Dursleys after Sirius’ death and ordering him not to leave the house and ordering him not to send out any owls or for his friends to send any to him.

 

“I want to claim my Lordship, both of them.” He said firmly.

 

Nagnok nodded. “We will set this up for you, for a fee of course.”

 

“I think I have enough in my vault to pay a fee, I don’t think I’ll spend all that gold on school things when I only have two more years left.”

 

“What do you mean?” Lucius asked him carefully.

 

“The vault I have here, I think there’s more than enough gold in there to see me through the next two years of schooling and to pay a fee.”

 

Lucius sighed. “This is much worse than I feared. I take it that no one has told you the difference between house vaults and trust vaults.”

 

Harry frowned. “I…no.”

 

“The vault that you are using now would be a trust vault, money laid aside for your use by your parents. Your Father, as Lord Potter, would have had control of the house vault, which would be considerably larger than a mere trust vault, he would then lay aside trust vaults for all those in his house and supply the trust vault with a sum of money, he could choose a lump sum or he could choose to top it up weekly, monthly or yearly with a fixed sum for however many years he wished to, which would then be taken from the main house vault. With his death and with you being so young, that vault would have been sealed off until you either came of age or claimed your Lordship.”

 

Harry swallowed hard. He felt sick to his very stomach. “No one told me that either.”

 

“After fifty years have passed and no one has claimed them, then anything inside the vault goes to the Ministry. The Potter vault has been sealed now for fifteen years already; I can’t begin to imagine the amount of interest that that has stacked up over the last decade and a half.”

 

“It is a substantial amount.” Nagnok nodded. “Lord Potter and his Lady Wife rarely touched the house vault and Lord Potter chose to deposit a lump sum into a trust vault for his son. I believe they only took out what they needed for food and small items and Lord Charlus and his Lady Wife left their son a vast amount to begin with after their untimely passing. If we add in the considerable Black family vault too, which has been sealed for eleven years after the passing of Lady Walburga Black, then you are a very wealthy young wizard.”

 

“Sirius was using his bank vault.” Harry pointed out confusedly.

 

“Sirius was the rightful Heir, but he never claimed his Lordship after his Father passed away and neither did he claim the house vault after his Mother passed away six years later.” Lucius told him patiently. “I believe he was still using his more than considerable trust vault.”

 

“Oh.” Harry felt overwhelmed and a little shocky.

 

“I understand that this is a lot to take in.” Lucius told him and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder.

 

Harry reacted violently and he all but shoved the man’s hand off of him.

 

“Don’t touch me. You have no right to touch me!” Harry shouted, his mind flashing to the events of the graveyard and those of the Department of Mysteries, where Sirius had died that night.

 

“As you wish.” Lucius said silkily. “If we could hurry this meeting along, Nagnok.”

 

“Of course, Lord Malfoy. Now that we have validated who you actually are and that you are Harry James Potter, Heir to the Potter and Black families, we can now start the claiming process.”

 

“What do I need to do?”

 

“This will disrupt your education.” Lucius cut in. “Meetings can be called at any time of day, though we do tend to wait until the next morning if a situation occurs in the night, unless it is gravely urgent of course and cannot wait, but you will be given your Lordship rings and when they heat up, you are to make your way straight to the Ministry for a meeting, one that cannot start until everyone called arrives. Your professors cannot stop you from going to these meetings, but likewise you will not be allowed to slack off on your education, you will have to work doubly hard at your studies than everyone else in that school.”

 

Harry nodded his understanding, he was sure that Hermione would be thrilled if he started taking more interest in his studies.

 

“Okay.”

 

“Can you handle such a workload?”

 

“What does being on the Wizengamot actually entail?”

 

“You will need to give your vote to laws and proclamations that you feel should or shouldn’t be passed; you will need to pass judgement on criminals brought before the Wizengamot based on the reports we are given and the trials we witness and discuss matters brought before the Wizengamot by members of the public, among other things.”

 

“So it’s all of our own opinions?” Harry asked a bit relieved.

 

“There are certain politics to be observed as well.” Lucius told him. “For example, Bellatrix Lestrange is a daughter of house Black, Lord Orion Black, when he was living, couldn’t go against Lord Xerxes Lestrange without damaging his daughter’s union to one of Lord Lestrange’s grandsons.”

 

“So it’s all political rubbish to do with marriage and stuff?” Harry pulled a face of distaste.

 

Lucius smiled. “My Wife is a daughter of house Black as well; you are the new Lord Black.”

 

“I won’t be deferring to anyone.” Harry said stubbornly. “If you don’t like your Wife now after all these years and with Draco too then that’s your problem and I couldn’t give a fuck about Bellatrix having a happy union, she can go die for all I care.”

 

Lucius actually chuckled and nodded to Nagnok. “Let us wrap this up, Nagnok and then I can take Mister Potter to buy the books that he needs.”

 

“I have all of the legal documents here, fully written out.”

 

“When did you do that?” Harry asked in amazement.

 

“When you first asked to claim your Lordship earlier this morning.” Nagnok replied as if Harry were particularly stupid.

 

“Now now, Mister Potter is quite ignorant of all of these proceedings, we need to be patient with him.”

 

The goblin nodded and snapped his fingers and a stack of parchment appeared before him.

 

“You just need to sign here.”

 

Lucius’ hand intercepted his as he went to pick up a very familiar black quill with an abnormally sharp point.

 

“Never sign anything without reading it first, you stupid boy.” Lucius chastised him. “What if you didn’t like the terms? What if the other party have verbally agreed to do something that isn’t in the formal document? What if you are signing away everything you own on the trust you hold for someone that you’ve known for all of five minutes? Read everything before you sign it, even from someone you trust and have known for sixty years, even if it’s your own Wife or child. You always read everything before you sign it.”

 

Harry swallowed and nodded, feeling very foolish, but he picked up the first page from the large stack of parchment and he started reading it slowly and carefully. He had never been a fast reader.

It took him an hour before he finally finished the last page and he felt very self-conscious and embarrassed that he’d kept Lucius Malfoy and a Gringotts goblin waiting quietly for a whole hour while he read through everything, trying his hardest to understand it.

 

“Did you understand half of what you read?” Lucius asked him knowingly.

 

Harry shook his head, feeling even more humiliated, but he saw no point in lying. He hadn’t understood a lot of what he had read on those pages. Lucius hummed and Harry only just noticed then that as he had put a page down, Lucius had picked it up to read it.

 

“This is all in order, nothing I didn’t expect.” He said. “You’re free to sign if you’re willing to accept full Lordship for both the Potter and the Black houses and responsibility for both house vaults, all trust vaults attached to them and responsibility for all patrons connected to your houses.”

 

“Will…will you find me a book that helps me understand the things that I didn’t know? Just in case I need to do something like this again in the future.” Harry forced himself to ask, feeling sick with himself just for asking something of this person, but Malfoy had offered him no aggression or violence, he was just sat there, helping him. It galled him.

 

“Of course I will.” Lucius agreed amiably.

 

Harry picked up the quill and scowled at it, his hand clenching around it tight.

 

“This quill will be unlike anything that you have ever used before.” Lucius told him. “It is used for signing official documents only and it will draw blood from you as you write. As you’ve likely figured out, blood is very important to magic, so naturally all legal, binding, magical contracts are signed in blood.”

 

“I have used a quill like this before, last year.” Harry said grumpily.

 

“I fail to understand how.” Nagnok said. “Only Gringotts and the Heads of each department at the Ministry of Magic are allowed to even have one of them. There are only a handful of them in use at any one time. The loss of one is punishable by a hefty fine and even suspension and loss of position at the Ministry of Magic. One has not been lost in several decades, nor has one of these quills been given to Hogwarts school. They are heavily regulated and all of them are tracked regularly to make sure that they are where they’re supposed to be and with the person that they’re supposed to be with.”

 

“What did you sign with one of these quills? Was it for Dumbledore?” Lucius asked him a bit frantic.

 

Harry frowned at them both. “No. Umbridge.”

 

“What did you sign for that woman?” Lucius demanded. “She had no reason to ask you to sign anything, least of all in a magically binding document signed with blood.”

 

“She wasn’t making me sign anything; she was forcing me to write lines with it during detention.”

 

 Lucius looked aghast. Harry was confused, why did the man care so much? Why was he helping him, he wasn’t sure what the hell was going on here, his brain was telling him that he should be careful, that he should be afraid, but his body was refusing to react. He felt at ease, curious and overwhelmed sure, but he didn’t feel like he was in any danger.

 

“Didn’t Draco tell you?” Harry frowned harder.

 

“I sincerely doubt that he knew.”

 

“He was part of her Inquisitorial Squad that year, of course he knew, he was even there when she threatened to use the Cruciatus curse on me to get information that she wanted from me, I bet he never told you that either.”

 

The look on Lucius’ face told Harry that he didn’t know about that either, he tried to hide that fact, but he seemed to be genuinely shocked, which confused Harry even more.

 

“Overuse of this type of quill can cause permanent scarring.” Nagnok told him.

 

“I know that too.” Harry said as he held out his right hand, twisting it to the candlelight to show the pale white scars in his own handwriting. ‘I must not tell lies.’

 

Lucius actually seized his hand and checked the scars over, brushing over the five words with the pad of a smooth thumb.

 

“This…this is diabolical!” He hissed furiously. “That a student of Hogwarts would be treated this way, that a contract quill would be misused as a punishment for underaged wizards. A fifteen year old!”

 

“Oh I wasn’t the youngest, she had a whole class of first years writing lines, they were openly crying by the end and one little girl wanted nothing more than to just go home and never come back, her shirt was so blood stained that the house elves had to clean it twice to get rid of the stain.”

 

“What were they doing to deserve this treatment?” Lucius demanded.

 

“They were practising their spell casting during their break in the courtyard. She didn’t like us using magic.”

 

“She would never have done this to Draco, never. He wouldn’t have allowed it.”

 

“Like I said, he was part of her Inquisitorial Squad. She left the Purebloods alone, anyone who was a Slytherin was safe, it was everyone else who had to worry, even the first years.”

 

“Are they permanently scarred as well?”

 

Harry shook his head. “No, they never used the quill often enough. I was purposefully targeted because of the Ministry witch hunt against me last year and I was there nearly every night, she found reasons to give me punishment, even for things she just thought I’d done and had no proof of, just because I told her that Voldemort was back and had killed Cedric and that Fudge was a bumbling fool and the wizarding world would be better off if he stepped aside. I think she loves him.”

 

“I am so glad that you have brought this matter to my attention. I will have that woman in Azkaban before the month is out.” Lucius hissed.

 

“She told us that she could do it, she said she had permission from Fudge.”

 

“A bumbling idiot he may be, and an utter incompetent fool, but I very much doubt that he knew anything about this, he wouldn’t have allowed any magical child to be abused in such a way. Not when half of the governors’ children are currently attending Hogwarts and when half of the Wizengamot have young relatives in Hogwarts.”

 

“Where do I sign?” Harry asked as he looked at the pile of parchment.

 

Nagnok snapped his fingers again and a bowl of a very familiar liquid appeared. Essence of Murtlap. Harry steeled himself, he’d done this countless times before, once he had even done it for so long that he’d almost passed out from blood loss on his way back to the Gryffindor common room.

Harry scrawled his signature and ground his teeth together as the familiar, itchy sensation came back to him, his hand had opened with his own name and then it had healed almost instantly, but the back of his hand was a bright, cherry red already.

He signed his name everywhere that Nagnok pointed and it took just three signatures before his hand stopped closing over, blood quickly covering the back of his hand and slipping down his wrist.

Lucius wrapped a handkerchief around his wrist to keep it from staining the documents he was signing, the same one that he had offered when he had cut his finger for him.

Harry finished signing his name and his hand was on fire, but it was immediately submerged into the bowl of Murtlap tentacles and it was soothed instantly.

 

“You’re going to have trouble signing these sorts of contracts for the rest of your life; the quill has left permanent damage.”

 

Harry nodded his understanding.

 

“I sort of understood that. I knew she was doing permanent damage to me, she knew it too, but still she had me writing the same line over and over, sometimes she’d press her thumb to the cut to see how much it hurt me and if I didn’t try to pull away or gasp with pain, she’d have me coming back the following night to ‘get the message to sink in more.’ She wanted to do me permanent damage.”

 

“But you hadn’t done anything further to earn an additional detention?” Lucius clarified.

 

Harry shook his head. “I told you, half of the detentions I served with her didn’t have a real reason, she just kept adding them on and drawing them out by saying I hadn’t written enough lines to serve as a proper punishment and I’d have to come back again the following night and then I’d have more detentions because I was missing homework because I spent half the night with her and I was too drowsy and weak afterwards to stay awake to finish my homework.”

 

“How long were you doing this each night?”

 

“Straight after dinner until whenever she would release me, it went on until midnight once and I almost passed out from blood loss.”

 

“She made you write with a contract quill for seven straight hours?” Lucius demanded furiously.

 

Harry nodded. “Hermione was the smart one; she figured out what was happening and always had a bowl of Murtlap Essence waiting for whenever I got back to the common room.”

 

“If she were truly smart then she would have told an adult.”

 

“All of the Hogwarts staff already knew.” Harry shrugged. “They couldn’t do anything, not even Dumbledore, she had too much power at the school by then and she knew it.”

 

“I will sort this out, she won’t get away with this, my son was at that school and a Pureblood had been injured.”

 

Harry frowned at that as he tried to recall an injured Pureblood. Lucius sighed at him and looked at him as if he were completely hopeless.

 

“You have claimed two Lordships, you are by rights and by legitimisation a Pureblood and you were injured by that woman.”

 

Harry flushed a faint pink and ducked his head. “Are we done here?” He asked, wanting nothing more than to slip away and think about everything that had happened, least of all Lucius Malfoy actually helping him.

 

The same Lucius Malfoy who had cornered and threatened him and his friends’ just weeks ago, the same man who had escaped from the Department of Mysteries with a certain few others to escape the clutches of the Aurors and who was now sat next to him as if none of that had ever happened! It was too much, he was going to explode into a rage if he didn’t get out of here soon, it was too weird for him to handle at this moment.

 

“You just need your house rings, remember when they heat up, no matter what you’re doing, you have to make your way to the Ministry immediately.”

 

“How often can I expect to be called so I know what schedule I need to set up for school work and how will I get there? I’m still too young to Apparate by myself.”

 

“Your rings will act as a Portkey while you’re so young.” Lucius informed him. “It will give you fifteen minutes to get out of the school wards before activating, if you miss that then you’ll have an additional Portkey activation five minutes later, if you miss that then you have to make your own way to the Ministry, remember we cannot start until every member is there. As for how often, it differs, we usually meet every other month or so to catch each other up on events that might have been missed and to discuss things that may need monitoring or changing, but trials can happen at any moment, day or night.”

 

Harry nodded and Nagnok handed over two ancient, chunky rings. One was large, golden and engraved on the band was the Black family crest and motto. It was the other ring that made him catch his breath however, because he knew his Father and before him his Grandfather, had also worn this ring. It was smaller than the Black ring, but no less chunky, both bands were thick with gold, but the Potter ring had a small ruby inset in the band and on the face of the ruby, the Potter insignia was carved carefully, likely by hand.

 

“Which fingers do they go on?”

 

“It will take a while to get used to it, as they will both sit on the same finger, the Potter ring first and then the Black. They will both sit on the fourth finger of your right hand.”

 

“Left is for wedding and engagement rings.” Harry nodded as he slipped both rings onto his finger, surprised that they both fit him perfectly. He loved magic.

 

Lucius nodded and he stood, snapping his gloves back on and picking up his cane.

 

“Come along then, we still need to go to Flourish and Blotts.”

 

“I need to withdraw money.” Harry said as he took out his vault key, remembering the whole reason he had come to Gringotts in the first place.

 

Nagnok handed him over two new, small vault keys, a long rectangular booklet that looked like Uncle Vernon’s cheque book and two huge, thick dragonhide portfolios filled with smaller folders and a lot of parchment.

 

“Purebloods don’t carry around pockets full of coin.” Lucius informed him. “We have exchange books. You write the amount you owe onto the slip, your vault number and then sign your name, you won’t need to sign it with blood, it’s not a formal contract so normal ink will do, and then the shop owners can then come here to the bank and exchange these slips with Gringotts, who will take the gold from your specified vault and hand it over. After validating the signature first, of course.”

 

Harry nodded and smiled, slipping all three of his keys into the same pocket along with the little book and he carried the portfolio cases of parchment that he’d been told were the accounts for all of his vaults and that he had to review them and change what he didn’t like. One was for the Potter family; the second was for the Black family.

 

“How many books will I need?” Harry asked.

 

“A fair few.” Lucius said mockingly. “You need to act like a Pureblood, not like the little commoner you have been. Act more like Draco.”

 

Harry snorted. “So be a selfish, self-centred, boastful prick who taunts and bullies everyone, literally kicks the first and second years out of his way, has no real friends and likes bed hopping with Pansy Parkinson and Daphne Greengrass? Yeah, that’s seriously not happening.”

 

“You’re the Lord of two houses; try to remember that when speaking so crassly in a public area.” Lucius bit out through gritted teeth.

 

“I don’t know how to act like a Lord.” Harry hissed. “I didn’t even know about it until a few hours ago!”

 

“It was purposefully kept from you, I have no doubts certain…people, were involved too.”

 

Harry’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?”

 

“The Weasleys are blood traitors, but they’re still a Pureblooded family, do you really think that they didn’t know that you should be Lord Potter? Foolish they may be, yes, but even I can’t believe they’re that ignorant.”

 

“So Mister Weasley has a seat too?” Harry asked his mind was already running around too much information to take anything else in.

 

Lucius Malfoy let out a small, short, sarcastic laugh. “Of course not, they’re blood traitors, Potter. When they renounced their blood, they renounced the Lordship of their family too.”

 

“Why don’t you like the Weasleys?” Harry asked in a flash of courage. “It can’t just be that they’re blood traitors.”

 

Lucius gave him a look and sighed. “Catch up, Potter. I have no wish to shout my business up and down the street for all the shoppers on Diagon Alley to hear.”

 

Harry jogged a bit to catch up and stood by Lucius Malfoy’s side, matching him stride for stride as best as he could, the Malfoy Lord had seriously long, slender legs. In fact everything about him was long, slender and elegant.

 

“You doubtlessly know that all Pureblood families are interrelated.” Harry nodded, giving his full attention to Lucius Malfoy as he listened intently.

 

He’d always been so curious to know why the Malfoys hated the Weasleys and he hadn’t felt comfortable asking Mister Weasley and asking Ron only garnered him a furious tirade about ‘those evil Slytherin bastards’ which left Ron red faced and him still not understanding the situation.

 

“My great-great grandmother Amorette Malfoy married Lord Bilius Weasley, back when they were still a respectable family, if you can imagine such a thing.”

 

“What happened?” Harry asked as he sensed how…sad the man next to him seemed.

 

“He dragged her down and into the mud and he utterly humiliated and disgraced her. Malfoys…we’re not known for our fertility, Potter. Most of us struggle to get two children, why do you think Narcissa and I only have Draco?”

 

“I thought that maybe you only wanted the one. Believe me, Draco’s more than enough for any parent to handle.”

 

Lucius shook his head. “No, we are infamous for our lone child pregnancies, male or female, it doesn’t matter, we are…cursed almost, with low fertility, but Bilius Weasley wanted more children. More than the two Amorette could give him, the two smart, beautiful children that she almost died to give him. He blamed her for their lack of children, quite rightly, but it was not her fault, he knew that Malfoys struggle to conceive, everyone knew, but he was enamoured by her beauty and overlooked all of the important qualities. He had a secret affair with a Muggle woman, completely disgracing Amorette and the Malfoy family; he had four further children with the Muggle. Amorette was broken hearted and she died not long after she finally found out about her Husband’s affair nearly twelve years later, upon which Bilius Weasley finalised his complete and utter disgrace of her and the Malfoy family by marrying the Muggle whom had given him four additional children and bastardising the two children he’d had with Amorette. The Black family, out of respect for the Malfoy family, actually disowned a daughter when she married Septimus Weasley despite what his Grandfather had done to my own family.”

 

Harry scowled. “That’s terrible. I can understand wanting children, but if you love someone, you deal with it. You don’t just go out and have an affair just to have more children. That’s despicable!”

 

“I am pleased that you see things from my ancestors’ side. After that the Malfoy family swore a feud with the Weasley family until such a time that they disowned Bilius Weasley from their family for what he’d done to our family; they have thus far refused to do so, so the feud carries on to this day.”

 

Harry went silent, thinking fast and hard. He was only just realising that things weren’t always what he’d thought they were. He’d thought that the Malfoys were just snobby, stuck up pricks who bullied Mister Weasley merely for his lack of money and ambition; he’d had no idea of the story behind what had started their feud. He was ignorant and he was beginning to think that maybe Hermione had the right idea; books contained all sorts of information and as Mister Malfoy led the way into Flourish and Blotts, Harry promised himself that before he went back to Hogwarts, he would do his best to read every single book he bought here today, even if there were twenty of them.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter Two – Changing Tides

 

It was a little worse than Harry had first thought. He’d been forced to buy over sixty books and a lot of them had more than five hundred pages! He’d spent most of his time in his bedroom at number four Privet Drive, just reading and trying to understand what the hell the authors were going on about as he encountered words that he had never seen before, so he had no clue as to their meaning and as such he had no hope of understanding what the books were trying to teach him.

The Dursleys left him alone for the most part as they had done all summer because of his guard, he had been interrogated by Hestia Jones though, an Order of the Phoenix member, when he’d come back late at night with a charmed bag bursting with books. He’d ignored her as best as he could, brushed off her questions and then he’d finally lost his patience when she wouldn’t let him enter the house and he’d shouted at her that he’d been gone all day and that it wasn’t his fault that she’d never noticed that he wasn’t in the house like he was supposed to be. He’d gotten a letter from Dumbledore the very next day expressing his ‘disappointment’ that Harry had broken his rules and had needlessly put himself at risk by wandering around on his own. Harry had torn the letter to shreds in his anger that had flared bright and cold, burning furiously inside him.

He spent his days in a virtual rage when he stopped to think about things too much and he’d kicked his trunk more than once…he always regretted it. So instead he had taken to annoying his Aunt, practising the cardinal Dursley sin of asking questions to try and figure out what in the hell these books were going on about. That had ended badly, Petunia had thrown a dictionary at him when he wasn’t looking and the thick spine, the part of the book to unfortunately hit him, had left a knot the size of an egg on the back of his head, but at least now he had a dictionary to help him, not that he understood much more of what the books were about even with the help of the dictionary.

He was back to being confined in his room though. He didn’t know what had changed or why the threat of the guards outside the house no longer worked, but he was back to being locked in his small, bland bedroom, but at least he had a mountain of books to read and a dictionary to give the illusion of helping him when in reality, it didn’t help him understand anything at all.

Locked away in a small room however, Harry had more time to think about everything that had happened and without the distraction of going down to the kitchen or out into the garden, he was stuck with his thoughts and the burning anger was making his head hurt. He couldn’t believe what he’d found out, he still couldn’t believe that Dumbledore hadn’t told him that he had a seat on the Wizengamot, two of them after Sirius had died, or that he was sat in them in his place! He’d had no clue about any of it; about Dumbledore being his magical guardian, the Lordships, the bank vaults he had, his claim to the Black vaults and Lordship…he hadn’t even known that his parents had legitimised him with Sirius’ blood! Why the hell had no one ever told him these things?!

Everything was always about the war, always about him and Voldemort, about that damn prophecy and how he had to kill the Dark Lord to save the wizarding world…it was like that was all he was to them, a shield and sword combo to be pushed in front of Voldemort, something to be used to keep everyone safe and to hell if he was injured or even killed in the attempt.

He scrubbed at his damp eyes with the back of his hand. He’d been pulled around by the hand like a clueless child, doing everything they wanted him to do and they hadn’t even had the decency to tell him about his own birth right. He swallowed hard and painfully past a bone dry throat, it was almost as if they were expecting him to die, so any information about what he could claim as an adult was irrelevant, because they didn’t expect him to live that long.
His body froze as his mind played that over and over again, he felt bile at the back of his throat and he swallowed it back down. He didn’t want to die…all he wanted was to live his life in peace, maybe settle down with a partner, he knew he wanted kids, even if he had to adopt them and he wanted a nice house, with a big garden. He wanted to be normal! He didn’t want to be told of prophecies or be told that he had to kill someone, he didn’t want to be dragged into this war, he didn’t want to fight! Why should he? This wasn’t his war! He hadn’t chosen this, he’d been dragged into it and set up like a lamb to slaughter. They meant for him to die and they were slowly taking his control away from his birth right…his Lordships, his vaults, his property and stock holdings…everything that his parents had wanted him to have, everything that they had planned and prepared meticulously, from his trust vault, to his legitimisation and his Lordship, it had all been slowly removed from him and he hadn’t even known about any of it!

This was all Dumbledore’s doing, he knew it. Lucius Malfoy might have been a filthy Death Eater, but he hadn’t once lied to him. How the hell did it get to the point where Dumbledore had taken everything that should have been his away from him and Death Eaters were actually helping him? He couldn’t understand it and it made his head hurt all the more as he tried to figure out what on earth was happening.

How had it gotten to the point where he could trust Lucius Malfoy more than he could trust Dumbledore? He was confused and angry and he didn’t know what to do or even who to speak to! He’d even contemplated sending an owl to Lucius Malfoy asking him for his advice! He didn’t know where that moment of madness had come from, but he was so confused and he didn’t know where to turn, how had this even happened?

Things got even worse than that though as he had been summoned, via Ministry guard, to go to the Ministry of Magic and he had gone willingly enough as he had been let out of his room for the first time in days to sit at the table to eat his cousin’s half chewed toast crusts and Dudley had been entertaining the thoughts of starting up an old game of ‘Harry Hunting’ and Vernon was in a particularly bad mood that morning, so he had jumped at the chance to leave Privet Drive, even if it was for a couple of hours.

His Order guard had seen him leaving however, he could almost feel their eyes on him, and as he’d climbed into the back of an enchanted, green Ministry car, with all of his belongings as requested by his Ministry guards he might add, he’d seen the pale shimmering of an invisibility cloak as the person underneath it had spun on their heel and Disapparated, likely to tell Dumbledore immediately that Harry had been taken into Ministry custody.

He hadn’t stayed in Ministry custody though, as soon as he’d arrived at the Ministry in London, he’d been greeted, informed briefly of what was going on and then handed right on over to Lucius Malfoy who, he had been informed, had taken legal custody of him in the name of the Wizardry Protection Movement.

He’d tried to fight it, shouted that he didn’t want to live with Malfoy of all people, but no one had wanted to listen, as far as they were concerned, he had no rights as to where he even lived! He was underage and after what Lucius had fed them, they were all eating out of his hand and were eager to put Harry with Lucius, as a founding member of the Wizardry Protection Movement they claimed that he was the perfect person to take custody of him! He was told to calm himself down and go home with his new custodian as there was nothing else he could do, he was underage and nothing he said or did would change what had happened.

It was just three days after his trip to Diagon Alley and all of his things were now in a guest bedroom of Malfoy Manor, which was almost as big as the entire upper floor of the Dursley’s house and he was still reeling from what had happened, the papers were going ballistic with the story that Lucius had taken custody of the ‘neglected’ boy hero and had adopted him as his own son, but Lucius Malfoy refused to comment on anything or his reasoning behind taking custody of him except to tell the media that Harry had been neglected and Harry himself was kept well away from the public and the reporters.

He was Lord Potter and Lord Black, the papers had figured that much out when Lucius had taken Harry to the next called meeting to introduce him, but he still needed a guardian until he graduated and Lucius Malfoy was now that person after filing for his custody on the grounds of severe negligence by his previous magical guardian.

Harry didn’t know who was more shocked really, him or Draco, who Lucius had firmly told that he had to treat Harry like a brother now that they were adopted brothers. Narcissa Malfoy had taken it in her stride, not that she could complain much with Harry now being her Head of House.

It was so strange, Harry had thought that, as stupid as it sounded in hindsight, that Voldemort would have been here waiting for him, but of course that couldn’t be true, Lucius was a top, loyal follower, of that he had no doubt, the very thought of being under the same roof as Lucius had seen him with many sleepless nights, but the man was also a high ranking Ministry official who was accused of being a Death Eater. Surely the Ministry would have tabs on him and his house and they’d know if Voldemort was here, though that still didn’t stop Lucius from being a Death Eater.

Harry didn’t like being here and he made sure that he never went anywhere without his wand, he was even bathing with it and he was having trouble relaxing and sleeping, but everyone knew that he was here now, so he was at least reassured a little that Lucius couldn’t just do away with him, there would be questions asked and Lucius would be in the thick of it.

So no, Harry didn’t outright fear for his life being here and Lucius was actually taking lessons with him to help him understand what being a Lord was all about and what was expected of him and he was running through everything that he didn’t understand from the files Nagnok had given him and from the books that Lucius had made him buy, he was so busy that he didn’t have a damn chance to just sit back and think about what was happening, not thoroughly.

Of course a million and one owls all swooped in on him the morning after it had been made public, two days after he’d actually be brought to Malfoy Manor, that he’d been ‘adopted’ by Lucius Malfoy due to ‘unspecified negligence’ which really could have been anything or meant anything. He had several letters from the Weasleys, one incredibly long one from Hermione, a short, inquiring note from Dumbledore and a panicked letter from Remus who thought that he’d been kidnapped.

He sighed as they all bore near enough the same message, keep his eyes open, keep his wand on him at all times, don’t turn his back on them, don’t trust them, find out what he could from them, follow and report their every move and they’d do their best to get him out as quickly as possible.

 

“I take it from your expression that your letters bear news that you’d have rathered not read?” Lucius inquired as he sipped tea from a fine, bone china vintage teacup that had a matching delicate saucer. It was almost comical to Harry to watch the Malfoy’s eat and drink, especially after the two weeks he’d spent with the Dursleys watching Dudley and Vernon shovel in as much as they could with every mouthful.

 

Harry scoffed. “Something like that. It’s like they’ve all used the same template to write them, just in different words, they all contain the same points and ‘advice.’”

 

“Around the lines of not trusting us and spying on us no doubt. Dumbledore always was a transparent fool.” Lucius told him and Harry nodded absent mindedly as he rolled his eyes at Ron’s letter and his declaration of getting the twins to rescue him once more like they had when he was twelve.

 

Draco was sat opposite him at the small, six seated table. The Malfoys had a larger, much larger, table in their formal dining room, but the family dining room was smaller and more intimate and though it seated six, there were only four chairs. Lucius sat at the head of one side and Narcissa the other, Harry and Draco sat opposite each other on the sides of the table, it had made the first few days nearly impossible as Draco was a very spoilt, childish, petty person and kept kicking his shins, at least until Lucius had found out and had threatened to punish him for it if it carried on that is.

Draco was still reeling from the embarrassment and humiliation of his last punishment, one administered for promiscuous behaviour and a neglect of his studies, and he had no desire to earn another one. He hated Harry even more for telling his Father the rumours flying around Hogwarts and he made sure he knew about it too, he took every opportunity he could to ensure that Harry knew he wasn’t wanted or welcome in his home, which he’d never had to share with anyone in his life, he wasn’t big on sharing, just like Dudley.

It was sad really, he’d been taken from one unwanted home to be put in another, it truly was like he was unlovable, but as he was staying with the Malfoy’s of all people, he tried not to let that bother him.

A week after he had arrived at Malfoy Manor and had everything turned on its head, Lucius had a day off from work and had woken him up at six in the morning, or rather he’d gotten a house elf to come and wake him up at six in the morning and lead him to a room in the maze like manor that he still wasn’t used to.

Harry had been forced to sit through an hour long etiquette lesson before breakfast and then after breakfast, which was perfectly balanced he might add, a tailor and two assistants had come to measure him for robes. That had taken three hours as they’d made him two sets of robes on the spot, complete with shirts and trousers, to wear while his new wardrobe was being created especially for him from a range of colours that suited his skin tone, hair and eye colour and the seasons. Lucius had gotten a house elf to incinerate all of his old robes and clothes while he was being fitted.

Lunch was even more tense than breakfast had been as Harry was furious at being picked apart, pulled about, dressed like a toddler and then he’d found out that all of his own clothing had been burnt without his permission.

 

‘You are a part of the Malfoy household, your actions reflect upon me and your appearance reflects upon me. While you are in my home, you will dress and behave as I tell you to.’ Lucius had told him calmly after Harry had thrown a bitch fit and let out all of his pent up rage and frustration, which had only been growing the longer he remained here.

 

Sullen and still silently fuming, Harry went back to reading his new boring book in a chair in front of Lucius’ desk in his study. He was doing work for whatever it was he did whilst supervising Harry’s lesson so that he could be on hand if Harry didn’t understand something, which was often enough that Lucius had once remarked that perhaps he should read the book to him like a child.

 

“Are you going to start reading or would you rather continue staring blankly at the page?” Lucius asked without looking up at him.

 

Harry sighed and forced himself to go back to the book. He didn’t know what was happening, everything was turned on its head and it was all going far too fast for him to take in, he needed everything to just slow down a little, so that he could breathe and work through it all. He didn’t know what to think, who to trust or what to believe. He’d even made a list in his bed suite at night, because such a large room, with its own attached en suite bathroom and a sitting area with its own fire, could not be called just a simple bedroom, so he’d taken to calling it his bed suite. This list had on it just a few names of people he knew that he could explicitly trust, bulletin points of everything he’d learnt so far and another bulletin list of all the books he’d read since that summer, just so that he could keep track of everything.

 

“I have made a list of all eligible young women for you to peruse if you’re not going to read that book.” Lucius told him several minutes later after Harry had spaced out yet again.

 

“What for?” Harry demanded angrily.

 

“For your betrothal, Harry.” Lucius said patiently.

 

“I am not getting married to anyone and you can’t make me!” He exploded.

 

Lucius Malfoy sighed heavily. “A betrothal is a simple contract that is easily broken if you wish it to be, but it’s traditional for an Heir, or an underaged Lord, to be betrothed, it’s more for protection as you cannot be betrothed twice, it is better to have a hand-picked betrothal than one not of your making. Draco is betrothed, and has been since he was six years old, to Astoria Greengrass, which is why his ‘bed hopping’ as you phrased it, with Miss Parkinson and Astoria’s older sister, Daphne, is deeply disgraceful and is the reason why I put a stop to such behaviours. I don’t expect my son to remain virginal until his wedding night, but I had thought that he’d have more respect for the daughters of other Pureblood lines, who traditionally are expected to remain virginal, as unfair as that might seem to you.”

 

“So there’s no…obligation for me to marry this person?” Harry asked as he took the list of just a handful of names.

 

“None.” Lucius told him smoothly. “This information will be in one of the books that you were given.”

 

“I haven’t gotten around to reading them all yet.” He said with an averted gaze.

 

“Hardly surprising if you just stare mindlessly at the page and don’t actually read them.” Lucius said as he let his gaze linger on the forgotten book on his lap. “I understand that some of them are quite tedious, but it is all information that you now need to know, so I suggest that you apply yourself more than you have and retain the information you are taking in.”

 

“I don’t know any of these names.” Harry said with a frown as he read down the list.

 

“You don’t have to know their names, they are in order of suitability for a Lord of your status, to have two Lordships is a very attractive quality, even if your manners, etiquette, intelligence and personality are lacking.”

 

Harry grit his teeth together, he’d lashed out once, only verbally, but as his guardian, Lucius now had the power and the right to punish him, like he’d done with Draco. Harry would not soon forget that punishment and he had no wish to ever repeat the utterly humiliating experience.

 

“Hmm, so you can learn. Good.”

 

Harry sat sullenly in the chair, glaring at the parchment that had only five names on it. He couldn’t pronounce two of them.

 

“There is a lack of Pureblooded witches in Britain.” Lucius told him as if reading his mind. “Those that are even close to your age group were betrothed years ago. I didn’t think you would like a babe as your betrothed, nor a witch of advanced age, though I suspect Draco would thoroughly enjoy it.”

 

Harry remained silent as he nibbled on his lip. Lucius sighed again. He was doing that a lot around him and Harry wondered if he really was that much of a burden or if the man was prone to sighing over everything.

 

“What is the youngest and oldest age that you would consider?”

 

Harry shrugged. “I don’t like the thought of anyone younger than me, but people, well they annoy me.”

 

“Annoy you how?” Lucius queried.

 

Harry shrugged again; immediately a pain in his shoulder, like being hit with a wooden ruler, had him startling in surprise and rubbing his shoulder as he glared at Lucius, who had his wand out.

 

“I have warned you several times to stop shrugging like an ineloquent Muggle.” Lucius hissed at him. “Tell me, with your words, what you find annoying about other people.”

 

“I don’t know, most people my own age annoy me, little things like the way they act, the things they say, what they expect me to do or how to behave, it all seems so…pointless, so childish.”

 

“Things like what?”

 

“Like pranks, or stupid games, calling other people names because of stupid reasons. I’ve never liked it. Everyone expects me to be this huge prankster like my Dad was, but I have no interest in doing something so ridiculous as using other people for amusement. Or when Ron calls Draco a ferret because of what the fake Moody did to him in our fourth year or the Slytherins calling Hermione a beaver because of her teeth when it’s something she couldn’t control, it’s all so pointless, what’s the point behind it? It doesn’t give either party anything so why bother doing it? It’s stupid.”

 

“Well well, it seems I misjudged you, you are a little bit more mature than I first thought. So you would actually prefer someone older than yourself?”

 

“I suppose.” Harry said unhappily.

 

“Shall we say forty then?” Lucius asked patiently.

 

Harry nodded, the feeling of a ruler smacking into the back of his head had him gritting his teeth. “I mean, yes.”

 

“Good. There are still no Pureblooded witches of that age group in Britain, but it opens up quite a bit for more European Pureblooded witches.”

 

Harry scowled and looked down at his lap. Lucius sighed once again.

 

“What is the problem now?” He asked less patiently.

 

“I’m…I’m not sure that I like women as a whole.”

 

Lucius reared back as if he’d been slapped. Harry blushed and hunched himself over.

 

“I mean…I’m not really interested in anyone, but girls seem to be more annoying to me, so I thought that maybe boys would be better, but I’m really not sure what I am or what I like, I’ve never…I’ve never actually been with anyone in that way, so I don’t know.”

 

“There is no need for such a tirade, I am merely surprised. I didn’t take you for the open minded type, perhaps I should have. I will have you tested to see if you are able to carry children, I was going to do so regardless, but with this development I will do so a little more urgently and I will write up a new list of appropriate candidates that are suitable for you. There happen to be more Pureblooded wizards than witches, so there are quite a few left over in Britain without a current betrothal match.”

 

“What do you mean ‘to see if I can carry children’?” Harry asked dumbfounded.

 

Lucius sighed heavily. “Your ignorance truly knows no bounds. I will find that book for you as well, but certain wizards are able to carry children, others are not. Draco was tested before his betrothal and was found not to carry the gene that enables wizards to carry children, I will have you tested in due course, but thirty percent of all wizards are actually able to carry children, most never find out, as they are heterosexual and never let another man penetrate them in such a way and are never tested, but if you feel that you are more naturally drawn to males, then it might be because you need to be matched with one.”

 

“So…so I would be betrothed to another man and that would be okay?” Harry asked uncertainly.

 

“Perfectly okay.” Lucius clarified. “Now, run along, read your books. I want you to report to me tomorrow that you have made headway on the stack that you still have left. I will have the potion you need to take ready for tomorrow afternoon.”

 

Harry nodded and he stood, taking the book he was currently struggling and bumbling through with him. He ran into Draco on his way to his bed suite.

 

“Having fun, Potter?” He spat.

 

“Save it, Draco, I have absolutely nothing to say to you.” Harry replied to the taller boy.

 

“You will stop referring to me so personally!” Draco hissed.

 

“I’ve been told to call you Draco, so I will. I have absolutely no wish to be punished again and I would have thought that you wouldn’t want that again either, unless you actually like being turned over your Father’s knee and spanked like a toddler.”

 

Draco went pink and shut his mouth. Being spanked by Lucius Malfoy hurt and badly. He and Draco had both been uncomfortable with the whole situation and then the next day they had had to suffer through the humiliation of not being able to sit down properly and as squirming would get them a hex from one or both of the elder Malfoys, they’d had to endure the pain while sitting completely still on an unpadded, wooden chair. Neither of them wanted to repeat the experience.

 

“I don’t like you being here.” Draco told him churlishly.

 

“I actually like being here.” Harry said with a smile. “It’s so surprising and I never would have thought that I’d enjoy being here, but I’m learning a lot and it won’t be for long at any rate, we’ll be back in Hogwarts soon enough. Then it’ll just be one more summer, then I’ll be free of all guardians when I graduate and being the Lord of the Potter and Black houses, I’ll be free to do as I please.”

 

“Not entirely, you’re still expected to act like a Lord.” Draco told him. “You are linked to the Malfoy name now; I won’t let you disgrace us!”

 

“Believe it or not I have no intention of disgracing the Malfoy name; I have a lot to be thankful to your Father for, including setting up my betrothal for me so that I can’t be taken advantage of by anyone else and giving me a respectable match in the process.”

 

That took the wind out of Draco’s sails. “Who is it?”

 

Harry just winked and left for his bed suite.

 

“Don’t you walk away from me in my own home! Tell me who you’re betrothed to!”

 

“It’s none of your business! Though I was surprised to hear that your betrothal was to Astoria Greengrass, especially as you were…practising with her older sister.”

 

“That has nothing to do with you! How did you even know about Daphne?”

 

“Oh please, everyone knows about that, Draco and about Pansy’s pregnancy scare.”

 

Draco went pale at the remembered fury of his Father finding out that little bit of information. He sighed.

 

“That was my own fault.” He allowed. “I wasn’t careful enough.”

 

“I got the impression that you weren’t supposed to be doing that with them, careful or not.”

 

Draco sneered. “How is it my fault if they slid into bed with me? They’re the ones who should be retaining their purity; it’s not for me to do it for them.”

 

Harry conceded to that, the girls should have had more restraint, but still it took two people to agree to sex, Draco could have refused them.

 

“Why should I have?” He asked when Harry pointed that out. “If they’re offering me something that I want, I’m going to take it.” He said simply.

 

Harry sighed. He didn’t think he’d ever be able to accept such a selfish point of view, he hadn’t been raised that way, being kicked and beat upon by his own family members, being forced into near servitude to them…he didn’t have it in him to be a selfish person, at least not to the extent of Draco and the other Purebloods.

He made it to his bed suite and Draco had let him go this time. He had a lot to think about and a lot to read through still, not to mention trying to get the hang of Ancient Runes, which had piqued his interest when he’d seen them at Gringotts, and the very difficult Arithmancy and now he had the added worry of a betrothal set up for him by Lucius Malfoy to an older Pureblooded wizard. There couldn’t be many of them left around either if all the females were snatched up, he was contented and soothed a little with the knowledge that he didn’t have to marry them and that he could break the betrothal once he was a graduated adult.

He sat in his own personal sitting room and settled down with his book, he’d meant what he’d said to Draco, he had absolutely no desire to be spanked like a naughty little boy again and he took Lucius’ threat seriously, so he sat and he read the tedious books that he’d been forced to buy at the goblin, Nagnok’s, and Lucius’ insistence. It was going to be a long, boring night, of that he was sure.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry had settled in relatively well with the Malfoy family he thought, even as his back was smacked again with a hex that made him feel like he was being hit with a thin piece of wood.

This time it was Narcissa Malfoy doing the hexing and he had been assured that the hex was a common one used by all Pureblooded parents to dissuade their children from ill-mannered habits, as he’d been told by all three of the Malfoys. Draco had even told him some of his more prominent memories of being taught with the hex.

 

“Keep your back straight, your natural posture is curved, because your spine is S shaped.” He was lectured as his shoulders were pulled back and an elegant hand pushed at the lower curve of his back, pushing his hips forward. “You’ve lived with bad posture for all of your life, it will take some time to get used to, but you will get used to it with some precise instruction. You have the wardrobe, now you just need the posture to pull it off, you are meeting your betrothed in a week, you need to be walking the walk and talking the talk by then or you’ll be rejected, so learn quickly because being rejected is a huge humiliation for you and for the Malfoy family.”

 

Harry nodded and he held his shoulders back and loose, as he’d been taught. He took precise, elegant strides up and around the huge rectangular ball room, Narcissa following him, her wand out and poised to hit him with another smack if he put a foot wrong or tightened up his shoulders or let them slump. It was hard work keeping the posture and it pulled at his abdominal muscles and his back muscles, what Lucius had told him were his ‘core’ muscles. Apparently he needed to firm them up and get them stretched and strong, because all Purebloods had strong core muscles due to their posture. It hurt.

He was smacked on the hip with the hex and he yelped, only to get a smack to the back of the head for such an undignified sound.

 

“You cocked your hip out.” Narcissa told him. “I don’t need to explain what the second hex was for, do I?”

 

“No, Lady Malfoy.” He replied softly and respectfully. He liked Narcissa the most, she did not carry a Dark Mark and she had never personally done anything to him, so he was content to behave himself more with her around and the level of care that she took with him actually made his heart hurt…she made him feel, for the first time in his life, that he was missing a Mother in his life.

 

“Good, you are one of the rare wizards who are capable of childbirth, so you need to be elegant and poised, gentle yet strong and determined.”

 

Harry took a breath and adjusted his shoulders and his hips, keeping his chin at a right angle to his neck, he wasn’t allowed to look at the floor, he wasn’t allowed to look where his feet were stepping and he wasn’t used to it.

It had come as a huge shock to him when the potion he’d taken had come back positive for the gene that allowed him to carry a child in his own body. He had thrown a fit, been punished and then he’d denied it twice, refusing to believe the test and claiming that it had been rigged just to mess with his head.

Lucius had had enough of his ‘needless denials’ and on his next day off from work he’d dragged him to Saint Mungos hospital and had them administer the test. It was irrefutable now and the hospital had given him two leaflets and a list of books for him to read. He had been forced to accept that the test was true and he was slowly coming to terms with it and the books were really, very helpful and informative, even if he could have done without the moving pictures of the surgery he’d need to undergo to deliver the baby.

Lucius had actually smiled at the hospital results; apparently there hadn’t been a Pureblooded male who had tested positive for the genes in a long while, so Lucius had said that he was going to be well sought after for a full marriage because he had tested positive for this gene and not just a mere betrothal, when he was actually of marrying age that was, which was any age over fourteen with parental consent or seventeen without parental consent.

It was also a point of pride for the Malfoy family to have a male able to bear children in their family, even though Harry hadn’t actually been born to the Malfoys, he was constantly being told, and he was slowly coming to understand, that he was a part of their family now regardless, that his actions reflected on them and that their actions reflected on him, his humiliation was their humiliation and his achievements were their achievements because he’d been fully adopted into the Malfoy family. He had even appeared on their family tapestry!

Lucius was still protecting him from everything and everyone, including the media and reporters and he refused any and all attempts to see or talk to ‘his son’ as he’d reportedly said. Harry was still getting near enough daily owls, but Lucius was a strict man and he had restricted the use of owls for both him and Draco, apparently it was uncouth to send out a mass of owls.

So, due to this restriction, the only person that Harry responded to regularly was Remus, because the man seemed genuinely distressed and upset for him, he wasn’t concerned about the Malfoys or what they were doing, but about him as a person, so Harry responded that he was fine, that he was really well and he was happy that he now had a family and that he was being taught the things that he needed to know. He kept his messages brief, to the point and elegant. Lucius reviewed all his letters and approved them, as he did the same for Draco, and he had even refused to let Harry send out letters in the beginning ‘because his handwriting was abysmal and he couldn’t have such hideous cursive attributed to a member of his family.’ Harry’s hand still hurt with remembered pain from the amount of hexes it had taken as Lucius had painstakingly instructed him on how to actually write with a quill. His knuckles had been bruised and sore for days.

He’d attended a second Wizengamot meeting just after his sixteenth birthday and he understood a little more than he had the first time around, which proved that he was learning from the numerous amounts of books he was reading, but he mostly stayed quiet and sat as close to Lucius as he could while in public, listening and learning. When he was asked for his opinion or his vote, he took a deep breath and actually thought about what was being asked, having taken in the arguments and opinions of the other Wizengamot members at the semi-circular table, and thought about his answer before he gave it. He believed that he impressed at least some of them with his opinions and insight into some matters, or maybe it was merely because he wasn’t bumbling around like a fool or just merely copying Lucius, because he was young, he knew that and as most of the other Lords were forty years or older, it really made him stand out as a teenage boy to them, yet on the same hand, he wasn’t the youngest person to ever claim his Lordship early, one boy had been just thirteen when he had joined the Wizengamot, so Harry was a little uncertain about everything, he was a lot less vocal than all of the other Lords, but he was happy to know that he wasn’t the youngest person to ever be on the Wizengamot and though he hadn’t been raised knowing about his Lordship or what it would entail, he was learning quickly and with Lucius’ help, he thought he was holding his own against the older, more informed Lords quite well, though he knew that they didn't exactly take him seriously, not yet, but they listened…not only was he Lord Potter and Lord Black, which was abbreviated to just Lord Potter-Black for conveniences sake, he was also Harry Potter and because of that fact, he at least got people to listen to him instead of just laughing and cutting him off, which he was thankful for as he’d been shitting himself when Lucius had warned him that the other Wizengamot members might do just that.

He’d met a lot of people that he hadn’t known existed, particularly Lord Xerxes Lestrange, who had taken a great interest in him too. The man was huge and he was at least the size of two people in height and broadness, his hand was firm and rough when he stuck his hand out to shake, only he didn’t shake Harry’s offered hand, he took Harry’s hand like he was a girl and he kissed the back of it with dry lips with a firm pressure that lasted for only a moment.

Harry bit his tongue and smiled softly, even if it was a little forced, remembering Narcissa’s lessons. He was to be strong and gentle, graceful and eloquent; he would be a Consort because of his child bearing abilities, he would be the ‘Lady’ of the house…he’d been repeatedly hit with the smacking hex for the bitch fit that had followed that piece of information. He’d gone over Lucius’ knee again once Narcissa had told him of his disgusting and despicable language and behaviour upon finding out his apparently ‘superior’ status once the man had come home from work.

 

“I look forward to seeing more of you very soon, Lord Potter-Black.”

 

Harry turned to Lucius questioningly when they’d been let out of the Wizengamot meeting.

 

“Please tell me that you never betrothed me to him, he is not forty or under. I’ll eat both of my feet, socks and shoes included, if he’s under seventy.”

 

Lucius smiled at him. “He is seventy-four and he would make you a good match, he is strong, reliable and he is enamoured of you. The Lestranges have good, strong genes.”

 

Harry blanched, feeling a little faint and Lucius chuckled darkly. “You are betrothed to his younger grandson, Rabastan Lestrange, who is thirty-six. Though he will be thirty-seven later this year, we were friends in school and of course we remained friends later in life. They accepted my offered contract of you just yesterday.”

 

“The one in Azkaban?” Harry asked with a frown.

 

“The one who escaped from Azkaban.” Lucius corrected quietly.

 

“How can I be betrothed to an escaped felon?” Harry demanded.

 

“Not in public, my son.” Lucius hissed at him.

 

Harry clenched his mouth shut and shifted his expression to neutral, he corrected his posture and made sure to call upon all of his lessons to avoid going back over Lucius’ knee when they got home. If he impressed the man he might get a lesser punishment, like a restriction on his sweet treats or how many letters he could send, though he was already quite restricted on both of those to begin with, but he had no wish to be restricted on them even more than he already was, but it was much better than being spanked like a little boy and then made to stand in the corner while the pads on all his chairs were taken away.

 

“You’re doing wonderfully well.” Lucius praised quietly when they reached the Atrium. “Keep it up and you may pass for Lord Potter-Black after all.”

 

Harry tried inexplicably hard and he forced the smile to stay mental and not show it on his face as he appeared disinterested and aloof as he tried as hard as he could to keep pace with Lucius, just slightly behind him as Lucius’ legs were really long, unlike his own short, stunted ones. He didn’t look left or right and he kept his chin up. He was doing well he thought, especially as he’d only been with the Malfoy family for a little under a month. He remained calm and he didn’t dodge anyone, he made them move out of his way, like Lucius did. At least until Dumbledore hurried across to them from the opposite side of the absolutely huge Ministry Atrium, there were a few people following him.

 

“Harry, my boy!” He called out to stop their progression.

 

Lucius immediately stepped in front of Harry neatly, and placed a hand on his shoulder to ensure that he knew where he was standing at all times.

 

“Dumbledore.” He greeted silkily. “I don’t believe I gave you leave to speak to my underaged son.”

 

“Now Lucius, we both know that he isn’t your son.”

 

Lucius chuckled mockingly. “I think that you will find that he is legally mine and there is nothing that you can do about that. You do not have my permission to approach my son in such a way.”

 

“I am his Headmaster.”

 

“Yet it is not school term time. All inquiries you have about my son’s education will be directed to me, if I feel that Harry isn’t performing to the best of his abilities, then I will act accordingly.”

 

“Are you alright, Harry?” Dumbledore asked around Lucius’s side.

 

Harry averted his eye contact, not lowering his chin below ninety degrees, but turning his head in the opposite direction. He didn’t answer. Lucius was his legal Father and had expressly said that Dumbledore did not have permission to talk to him; Harry wouldn’t undermine that by talking to Dumbledore, not after everything that Lucius had done for him over the last month, taking him in, teaching him, caring for him in his own way, punishing him when it was called for, setting up everything for him and actually taking the time to tell him everything that he needed to know, no, he wouldn’t go against Lucius, not now. He had nothing to say to Dumbledore anyway. At least nothing that that wouldn’t have him shouting at him in anger in an undignified display that would get him punished when Lucius got him back home.

 

“I assure you that he is better than ever. He is being taught properly and re-educated. Which reminds me, I have taken this time to change Harry’s electives for his sixth year, as is my right as his Father, I am home schooling him myself in the missing subjects to get him caught up before the new school year starts. That is the extent of the conversation regarding my son’s education. Come along, Harry, we have lots to be getting on with.”

 

Harry immediately took a step forward, a nice, even, precise step and he fell in beside Lucius, at least until his arm was grabbed when he was in mid step, which jerked him backwards and he let out a sharp exhale of air, which was the only reaction he gave to being so surprised. He hadn’t expected to be grabbed in such a way.

Lucius spun around on his heel, his wand out and aimed at one of the men who had followed Dumbledore, the one who had grabbed, and still had a hold, of Harry’s arm.

 

“I would suggest that you unhand my son this instant.” He hissed angrily.

 

“He isn’t your son, Malfoy! You’ve cursed him or something.”

 

“I would have expected this sort of blatant disrespect from a muggleborn, but from a Halfblood? Well, well.”

 

Harry turned to see Lord Lestrange striding confidently across the Atrium towards them.

 

“I suggest that you unhand the young Lord. He is a son of the Malfoy family, not one of them I’d want to cross either.”

 

Harry felt a hand shoot out when Lord Lestrange came level with them and it twisted the elbow of the man holding him and Harry was released as the man went to the floor, howling. Harry made his way quickly to Lucius’ side, escorted by the formidable, intimidating Xerxes Lestrange.

 

“I will see you pay for this disrespect, how dare you grab my underaged son from my side! You’ll be hearing from my lawyers.”

 

“Why don’t we ask Harry what he wants?” Dumbledore said, even as he ignored the man on the floor holding his elbow.

 

“Fine, just this once I will allow it, but you have no business seeing or speaking to my son.” Lucius relented.

 

Harry assumed that it was because there was a gathering of people watching them, they’d caused a scene.

 

“I wish to return to my home with my Father.” Harry said clearly and concisely, speaking with care and with eloquence. It had taken several elocution lessons from Narcissa to get him speaking properly. He enjoyed the look on Dumbledore’s face when he heard him speak, for as much as how he was speaking as the words he had said.

 

“You have him under the Imperius Curse!” One of the men shouted out loudly to the crowd.

 

“That is a very serious allegation.” Harry said. “To accuse me of being under such a dark, debilitating curse, though I assure you no such thing has occurred.”

 

“I believe that the Lord Potter-Black is just finally coming into himself.” Lord Xerxes Lestrange said simply. “It is always eye opening to be taught the things one needs to know, things he really should have been taught in his childhood yet, for some unknown reason, wasn’t. He was a disgrace to all Purebloods, I am glad that someone has finally taken him in and has set to teaching him what he needs to know. Someone needed to.”

 

Harry had to clench his teeth together to stave off the smile at the look on Dumbledore’s face. Those blue eyes dropped to his right hand, where the two Lordship rings were sitting perfectly, looking chunky on his small finger, but no less regal and important. He had obviously missed the newspaper article about him claiming his Lordships; Harry was glad that he’d gotten to see this first reaction in person.

Harry saw immediately when the penny dropped and Dumbledore realised why he hadn’t been called to any recent Wizengamot meetings…because he wasn’t on the Wizengamot anymore.

 

“I would have hoped that you would have come to see me before making such a drastic decision on your own, Harry.” He said in a quiet, disappointed voice. “This will seriously disrupt your schooling; it is a huge responsibility to hold on your own.”

 

“He wasn’t alone when he made the decision, I was with him.” Lucius said smugly. “I told him of the disruption and what would be required of him and he has agreed that though it will be difficult, he will reschedule his school work to fit in his duties as the Lordships he has claimed demands. I have been helping him in the last two meetings, so he isn’t technically holding them on his own either and despite what I would have previously thought, he’s learning quickly.”

 

Harry lifted his chin a fraction at the praise and he wanted to grin, but he didn’t. Praise from Lucius Malfoy, even in the roundabout, insulting way that it was delivered, was high indeed.

 

“I think that this…conversation is concluded.” Lucius said as he put a hand on Harry’s shoulder and steered him away. “Say goodbye to your headmaster, Harry.”

 

“Goodbye, headmaster.” Harry said dutifully as he turned with Lucius and left. Xerxes Lestrange walked behind them.

 

“Such an annoying, meddlesome man.” Xerxes commented to Lucius.

 

“Indeed.” Lucius answered. “It won’t be long now before he is dealt with. I’m more annoyed with that Halfblood actually laying his hands on one of my sons, disgraceful.”

 

“On my future Grandson and the soon to be carrier of my great-grandchildren.” Xerxes said. “I would not have stood idly by and let such a thing happen, even if you did have everything under control.” He said respectfully.

 

Harry sighed silently, everyone knew before him it seemed that his betrothal was to Rabastan Lestrange, he didn’t understand the whole, carrier of the Great-grandchildren though, because he had no obligation to marry Rabastan when the contract ended, he’d seen that for himself in the contract that he’d signed.

 

“If he likes Rabastan, that is.” Lucius put in silkily and Harry relaxed a little as he was reassured that his information was correct.

 

“I have every faith that he will like my Rabastan. He’s a prominent Pureblood, he’s wealthy in his own right, he’s intelligent, he’s a handsome devil and he’s fertile. I had him and Rodolphus checked when Bellatrix didn’t fall pregnant after two years of marriage, there’s no problem with either of them, but Bellatrix refuses to get checked.”

 

“I could help you with that.” Harry said smoothly. “I’m her Head of House; I could…insist that she gets her fertility checked if you have concerns about it as her marital Head of House.”

 

Xerxes chuckled and he touched Harry’s shoulder gently. “I would appreciate that, Lord Potter-Black.”

 

Harry nodded and he held Lucius’ arm as they reached the Apparation area.

 

“I will see you soon, Xerxes.” Lucius said and the two of them shared a knowing look. Harry took that to mean that there would be a Death Eater meeting soon. Nearly every letter he got now asked about Death Eater meetings and encouraged him to ‘pass on’ all of Lucius’ comings and goings or anything he’d heard the Malfoys say, even if it was out of context. Harry wasn’t going to do it, he was learning so much from Lucius, he didn’t want that to end and for all intents and purposes, Lucius was his legal Father, he was family and he wouldn’t sell out family.

 

Harry took a half step closer to Lucius and clenched his hand on his arm tighter and then he found himself suddenly back in the foyer of Malfoy Manor. He took a half step forward on the landing, but he was getting much better at it than when he had used to face plant the floor on his landings. Lucius had helped him with that too.

 

“You’re getting much better at that now.” Lucius told him, helping to steady him a little. “Your lessons are paying off.”

 

Harry nodded. “All of them, I believe. I understood more of what was said in the meeting this time around.”

 

“Yes, I was very proud of you during that meeting. How you conducted yourself, how you thought about what you wanted to say before opening your mouth and especially how much sense you actually made while speaking. I was immensely proud.”

 

Harry smiled widely, almost beaming at the praise he’d received and he excused himself and rushed away, he wanted to delve deeper into his books so that the next meeting that was called, he could do even better.

 

“You stop running in your home this instant!” Lucius called after him sharply, not raising his voice, but making it carry to him, where he immediately stopped and looked back at Lucius with a sheepish smile.

 

“Sorry.” He said a bit bashfully.

 

“You had better need the bathroom really badly.” Lucius told him as he climbed the stairs to join him on the landing above.

 

“I wanted to get to my room so that I could read more, so that the next meeting goes even better.” Harry said excitedly. “There were some things that I didn’t understand still, so I wanted to check up on those and I wanted to finish the one book that I’m reading so that I could get onto the next one.”

 

“You’re prattling.” Lucius told him and Harry shut his mouth and ducked his head to the floor. That got him a hex to the back of the head and he lifted it up again automatically. “I never said that it was a bad thing, only something which you need to…limit.” Lucius said as they carried on down the hallway. “I am pleased that you’re so excited about your duties. Let us hope that you show as much enthusiasm towards your betrothed in a few days.”

 

Harry bit his lip and nibbled at it.

 

“What if he doesn’t like me? Just because I like older men doesn’t mean he’ll want a recently turned sixteen year old for a match.”

 

“If his Grandfather has any say in the matter, Rabastan would be proposing and whisking you off for a bonding ceremony before you went back to Hogwarts.” Lucius remarked dryly.

 

“Doesn’t he need your permission for that, and mine?”

 

“Exactly right. Something I will not be giving, my sons will finish their formal education before they decide to start a whirlwind romance and fly off to get married.”

 

Harry chuckled. “I never thought of getting married so young, I quite like the idea, just not yet. I’m still new to everything, so I want to learn as much as I can first.”

 

“Then go and do that reading you were so eager to do just a few minutes ago. I will see you later this evening to see how much information you have actually retained.”

 

Harry nodded and he said his goodbyes and he once again veered off for his bed suite, at a much steadier, calmer pace than before. He didn’t know what to think about having a convicted, escaped felon as a betrothal match, but it was Lucius’ decision, not his, and while he was under this contract, he had to have so many meetings with his betrothed and so much correspondence with him to fulfil the terms of the contract he’d signed, but there was still no obligation for him to marry Rabastan at the end of it, which he was thankful for.

He was a bit nervous about meeting him in a few days and he hoped that everything went well, because he knew that Rabastan had been incarcerated in Azkaban for a very long time…fifteen years if he remembered right, Sirius had been bad after twelve years and he’d had his Animagus form to help him, he didn’t want to think of the mental state Rabastan was in and if he was anything like his sister-in-law Bellatrix, then there was absolutely no way in this lifetime that he’d even consider an engagement at the end of their betrothal contract, let alone a marriage.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Xerxes Lestrange smiled at the document in his hands. Irrefutable proof that Harry James Potter was fertile and able to carry a child within his body. Lucius had willing produced the document when he had, rightly so, demanded proof of the nearly unbelievable claims that Lucius had made that the son he’d adopted had the gene that allowed him to carry a baby when he’d made the initial contract request for his Rabastan.

He laughed to himself, he should have suspected something like this…that boy was far too small and slim to be anything other than a gene carrier, but he had reasoned that the boy was still growing.

It was his soft face and that delicate, fragile looking body combined with this document, which was signed by two different Healers from Saint Mungos, that made the connection click. It had been so long since there had been a confirmed gene carrier who actually wanted to exercise their rare ability and have a child grown in their bodies that it was just a natural reaction now to disbelieve someone who claimed that they carried the gene.

The problem now was his stubborn, idiot son and his overprotective older Grandson, both of whom opposed the match. His son was easily cowed, having abandoned his own sons to go and live in India for a decade and a half, leaving him to raise his two Grandsons, one of whom had been just an infant, so Xerxes readily pointed out that they were more his sons and that Rhadamanthus had no right to claim them as his own.

Rodolphus however was harder to convince, he felt that Rabastan wasn’t ready for the complicated bonding process of a betrothal contract and that the meetings would be a disaster because it was too soon. Xerxes was ready to agree with his older Grandson when he thought back to the way that Rabastan had to take the lead from Rodolphus before he could do anything, but Lucius was looking for an immediate betrothal for his newly adopted son before anyone tried to do so on the boy’s behalf, Dumbledore for example. Lucius and Harry couldn’t afford to wait and neither could he. He needed Rabastan married and he needed him to have Heirs and soon and as an escapee of Azkaban, it was going to be very difficult for him to even question another Pureblood family about a possible marriage between them and his Grandson…this way, with Lucius’ contract, he could have the marriage between Rabastan and a fertile Pureblood to get the Heirs his family needed and keep his Grandson safe at the same time. It was the only way and he couldn’t afford to wait until Rabastan was more himself before accepting this contract, because Lucius was not going to wait around. Who knew when another offer like this would come up for Rabastan?

Azkaban had ruined the both of his Grandsons and Xerxes was never more distraught or furious as the day that they had been arrested and sentenced to life in Azkaban. He’d had his manor house searched several times after that incident looking for ‘evidence’ that it had been a planned attack, but they’d never found anything at his home because it hadn’t been planned at his home. His Grandsons were both reasonably intelligent men and had known that if he’d gotten so much as a sniff of what they were doing then he’d have put an immediate stop to it, not because he wasn’t loyal to his Lord, and his very old school friend at that, but because he would have known that it was a suicide mission and he would have stopped them and encouraged them to wisely bide their time instead of going after the Aurors Frank and Alice Longbottom.

In hindsight it was obvious that they hadn’t known anything, what with their Lord telling them what had really happened with the baby Harry Potter, but emotions had been running high and for them, the truly loyal, it had been a time of great despair and a good few of them had almost outed themselves in the emotional lack of sanity that had followed the demise of their Lord. Or at least they had believed it was his demise until the rumours had started spreading of him still being alive.

Xerxes had followed these rumours carefully; he had subtly searched and gathered together some compelling evidence. He had never been more happy than when he’d seen his Lord again for the first time. He hadn’t been in the graveyard for his Lord’s rebirth, though. He’d been in Albania searching out information, which had become more than just mere rumours to him at that time. He’d been welcomed back as an old friend once he’d gotten himself back to Britain after he had felt his mark heat up for the first time in thirteen long years and after his Lord had seen from his mind that he had been searching for him and planning for his return, he had been named as one of his Lord’s most loyal followers, as he always had been.

He had mourned for the lost men that his boys were though and what they could have been, what they could have done had they stayed out of Azkaban, but Frank and Alice Longbottom had been famous, popular Aurors, the reason why his two Grandsons, Bellatrix and the young Barty Crouch had believed they’d had information on their Lord, but inevitably the Wizengamot, devoid of most Pureblood Lords that day thanks to Barty Crouch senior, had punished them harshly with a life sentence in Azkaban.

He had tried over and over again, as many times as he could within a singular calendar year, to appeal the sentence for Rabastan and Rodolphus, but if he wasn’t ignored completely, he was denied without anyone hearing his full appeal, which angered him immensely.

His house had been raided twice so far this year by the Aurors, with warrants to search his property as he wouldn’t let them onto his grounds without one, to search for his two Grandsons as he was continuously accused of harbouring them. Something he was actually guilty of, but this house was old…old, crooked and misshapen. It was incredibly easy to hide small alcoves behind tapestries, in the back of cupboards and even in the walls themselves, the very reason for the unsymmetrical exterior that the Lestranges were ridiculed for, but not a single raid on this manor house had ever yielded results, something that the other Pureblood families, with their perfect, pretty, immaculately measured manors, couldn’t boast.

His wards would alert him to the presence of Aurors on his grounds, as they had to walk up his driveway as he refused to lift the anti-trespassing wards on his estate, at which point he sent his house elf to Rodolphus and Rabastan and they hid themselves in the very walls of the manor house until the danger had passed.

Xerxes got the feeling that the Aurors knew that his boys were here, it was obvious that they were here, but without the proof, every failed raid was a stain on the Auror records and built proof for him to file against them for selective harassment, which would look terrible in the newspapers for them as he was now of an ‘advanced’ age. Regardless of who he was or what his Grandsons had done, the harassment and continuous hounding of an elderly wizard who had proved his ‘innocence’ repeatedly was not going to go down well for the Aurors with the wizarding public. Thus he and his beloved Grandsons were mostly left alone for them to heal and when they did have any visitors he could hide them safely without any fear that they’d be found.

He thanked his early ancestors for being paranoid bastards and being intelligent and cunning enough to be able to build this house themselves with so many hidden rooms, alcoves and hollow walls that everything the Ministry would class as ‘unsavoury’, even his Grandsons, could be hidden safely and the Aurors who came to search his house didn’t find anything that they were looking for, even though they found the more obvious hidden rooms, even the steps to the underground basement which were located in the back of the pantry, the only found them because he had let the Aurors see these rooms and he happily allowed them to think that they’d uncovered his ‘secret’ hiding places, all of which were clean and free of all subjects that were considered ‘dark’ by the Ministry, which left the Aurors frustrated and angry at their continuous failed raids.

All of his books on Dark magic were kept in a second library that was completely sealed off on all sides and could only be accessed by a painting on the second floor that had to be tapped with a wand in the correct sequence before it turned into a doorway. All of his dark artefacts were in several rooms that were all sealed in a similar way, but never exactly the same way, for safety reasons.   

He went to find his Grandsons now, not surprised to find Rabastan sat nearly on his brother’s lap, clutching at him as Rodolphus tried his best to accommodate his more than bulky brother while attempting to read a book.

 

“Rabastan, stop trying to climb your brother like a tree. Sit properly.” He encouraged as he took the seat opposite them.

 

Rabastan did so reluctantly, but his hand slipped down to entwine with his older brother’s. Xerxes sighed, it was likely the best that he was going to get, which was an improvement from when the two had first been broken out of the prison several months ago when Rabastan wouldn’t even go to the bathroom on his own and they’d slept together in the same bed, entwined tightly around one another’s bodies like lovers.

 

“I’ve just finalised the contract for you to sign. It has been confirmed by Saint Mungos that Harry Potter is a gene carrier and he is fully able to fall pregnant, so there are no problems in going ahead with the betrothal, our Lord is very pleased with this contract, tying Harry Potter to one of his most loyal followers and with the boy actually going through with it too, he’s very pleased.”

 

“It’s too soon, Grandfather. Rabastan isn’t ready for such things…it’s too intricate, the fine nuances and political manoeuvres are going to be too much for him, for the both of us, to handle and neither of us want to embarrass the Lestrange name through our actions at the bonding meetings, in front of the Malfoys no less.”

 

“I’m sure it’ll all be fine, Rodolphus. We have some time to prepare, but your brother will be forty years old in just a few more years, it’s far past the time for him to marry. You yourself were married at fifteen; thanks in part to your idiot of a Father, but still, you are married. All Lestranges have married straight out of school, Rabastan is the only exception.”

 

“This is because I can’t have a child with Bellatrix, isn’t it?” Rodolphus asked through gritted teeth.

 

“It certainly doesn’t help.” Xerxes said sternly. “After you both, there is no Heir to the Lestrange line…our family; our heritage, will die with you both if you remain childless. Do you want that?! To be the ones to end our proud, noble heritage because you didn’t feel ready to take up your mantles and produce a legitimate child for our line? We are the only ones left! We are down to just four men in the entire line and there are no more out branches of our family tree to rely on, they’ve all died out. I have done my part, your Father, as useless as he is, has done his part by having you both, at this moment we are on the cusp of extinction, it’s time for you to have as many children as possible to bulk up the chances of our line surviving another generation and as you are never going to have a child with Bellatrix then this pressure will fall solely on Rabastan as the only one left to do so…I will see this betrothal match made and I will see you married and with children.”

 

“Where do I sign?” Rabastan asked.

 

“There.” Xerxes pointed out to his Grandson and watched critically as Rabastan took out the wand he was using in place of the one that was in Ministry control, split the tip of his finger and took the quill that was handed to him, dipped it into the well of blood on the tip of his finger and then signed his name neatly, if a bit shakily, with his right hand, on the line at the end of the contract. Harry’s signature was already signed neatly on the contract, in blood, which made this betrothal a legally binding, magical contract where the terms outlined in the contract had to be fulfilled.

 

“I still say that it’s too soon for Rabastan to even be thinking of a betrothal contract. We are not even fully healthy, Grandfather!”

  

“I will hear no more of this, you have time to prepare and there is a week before Lucius has scheduled the first meeting, we are to go straight to our Lord afterwards, he wishes to know, from us personally, how the meeting goes with Potter. He is counting on us and we will not let him down.”

 

Xerxes strode away with the signed contract and he immediately sent it back to Lucius. He mourned for the men that his Grandsons could have been, but he would not see his line end with them both, there would be a new generation of Lestranges, even if he had to force the issue in order for it to happen.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry bounced his knee against the floor and he shifted his shoulders uncomfortably as Narcissa had dressed him impeccably to the back teeth, not only in his finest, most expensive set of new robes, but also in Malfoy family heirlooms, Potter jewels and Black gold and silver. He felt like a fucking pack horse.

 

“Calm yourself.” Lucius insisted. “You are a Pureblood, a Lord to the Potter and Black families and an adopted son of the Malfoy family. Stay calm, clear and be concise.”

 

“I remember my first conversation with Astoria.” Draco told him, his face pulling into a thoughtful faraway look as he stretched his memory all the way back to when he was six years old.

 

“Was it over which toys you wanted to play with?” Harry chucked.

 

Draco snorted. “Funnily enough, it was. She wanted to play with my brand new toy broomstick, that I’d only gotten a few days before if I remember rightly, and I didn’t want her to touch it. I think I hit her with it.”

 

“You did.” Lucius said. “I was sucking up to Lord Greengrass for the next two years until I finally got him a deal that he couldn’t refuse and the power was rightfully switched back to me. The things I went through for you.”

 

Draco huffed. “I was six!” He insisted.

 

“You hit a three year old girl over the head with a toy broom because she wanted to play with it.”

 

Harry couldn’t hold in his laughter and after a short burble, he had to struggle with himself as he strived to contain his amusement, taking in huge, deep breaths and holding it to regain his composure.

 

“Laugh it up, Potter.”

 

“Less of that, Draco. You’re brothers.” Narcissa chastised. “I would not have had any sons of mine refer to each other by anything other than their first names.”

 

“Yes, Mother.” Draco acquiesced meekly.

 

“It’s no wonder you prefer her sister if your first meeting with Astoria was you not willing to share anything and then hitting her.”

 

“Less of that too, Harry.” Narcissa told him. “Draco’s…activities will not be shared so loosely with others.”

 

Harry nodded. “I understand.” He said before he could get a hex to the head for not using his words.

 

“Rabastan isn’t so bad; you could have been stuck with any other number of hideous and weak wizards.” Draco assured him. “Of course he is my Uncle’s brother through marriage, so I’m obligated to tell you his good qualities.”

 

“What about his bad qualities?” Harry asked nervously.

 

Draco shrugged. “I’ve only met him a handful of times since he got out of Azkaban and I was too young to remember him before he was imprisoned. He never leaves his brother’s side and he doesn’t speak either. He relied heavily on his brother while in Azkaban and now he can’t do anything without him. It’s only in the last few months that he’s stopped clinging to his brother’s arm all day every day. I’d heard that they even had to share the same bed.”

 

“Enough.” Lucius cut in sternly. “Our guests will be here momentarily, the Lestranges are not known for lateness. I will not risk having them hear such talk which could then compromise Harry’s betrothal.”

 

“Will…will he even speak to me?” Harry asked. He got a smack to the back of the head with the familiar hex for speaking when Lucius had closed the topic.

 

“He will.” He was told tersely and he bit his tongue to stave off his other questions.

 

He sipped at his tea and tried not to spill it in the flimsy, vintage, china cup, nor slam it down on the matching saucer. Narcissa hit him with a hex every single time he did that and she got a sour look on her face too, for daring to risk her finest china with his rough handling.

 

“I’m going to be sick.” He said softly.

 

“No you’re not, you’ll be just fine.” Lucius all but demanded of him.

 

Narcissa came over to him however, standing behind the settee that he was sat on and she stroked her hands across his slim, narrow shoulders and hummed lightly to him, calming and soothing him and Harry sunk into her hands, into her care for him, he’d never known anything else like it before and he found himself craving it desperately.

 

“Stop pandering to the boy Cissa, he’s sixteen, not four.”

 

“He wasn’t raised as we raised our Draco; he’s a different boy entirely, Lucius. We taught Draco how to handle pressure and nervousness, Harry hasn’t had that luxury.”

 

“You handle Quidditch matches alright.” Draco told him.

 

“That’s different. I can play Quidditch and I like it, it’s just a game and the nerves make me perform better when I’m in the air. This is completely different; this is my future marriage I’m trying to sort out. It’s not a game.”

 

“Try and apply the same tactics.” Narcissa told him kindly. “Use your nervousness to perform better today. Just remember what you’ve been taught. No nervous laughter, no embarrassing topics of conversation and don’t create awkward silences, keep the conversation flowing.”

 

“How do I do that when he won’t speak?” Harry asked.

 

“He will speak, just be patient with him, he’s still a man, Harry and he will have his pride. He just needs his brother to fall back on after all of the hardships that he’s been forced through. He’s just a little lost, is all.”

 

Harry nodded and sucked in a shaky breath and let it out slowly. His nerves spiked back up when he thought about what the hell he was going to say, what did he say to a man who was thirty-six and had spent fifteen years in prison?

 

“What do I talk about?” He asked quietly.

 

“Your studies.” Draco told him immediately. “How you’re doing in school, what career you want, how many children you want. You’re not here to talk about niceties; you’re here to set up the budding beginnings of a marriage. Talk about your wealth, your Lordships, how you’re enjoying the Wizengamot meetings. Do not mention the weather or anything else just as inane and nothing to do with the war, or you risk offending them or making yourself look completely foolish. Talk about anything you think will help the Lestranges realise that you’ll be the perfect bride for Rabastan.”

 

Harry snarled and went to stand up to pummel Draco into mush, but Narcissa jerked on his shoulders and sat him back down, swatting his head as she did so.

 

“There will be none of that.” She declared fiercely. “Don’t goad him, Draco. It’s far beneath this family. You know that he will be a consort, not a bride.”

 

Harry calmed himself down, simmering the cold rage that had just been there, under the surface, waiting to come out. He didn’t like this cold rage; he didn’t like the thought that he’d take it out on just anyone when the one person that he wanted to unleash it on was Bellatrix. She had been the one to kill Sirius, it was her fault that he was dead and his body lost to the veil. He’d even tried to cast the Cruciatus curse on her…the next time he’d take her advice and really, truly mean it, right down to his very soul. The next time, she wouldn’t be getting back up again and his curse would stick…

Harry felt a pinch to his shoulder and he took in a deeper than normal breath, but he didn’t show any other sign that he’d been pinched by Narcissa. He looked to where Lucius was greeting four people, who had been shown in by a house elf, and he swallowed, his heart started racing and his palms started to sweat.

He remained seated as was expected of him and he greeted Xerxes Lestrange first as the head of the Lestrange family. He smiled genuinely; he liked Xerxes, even if he was always sniffing around his ankles. Which was a hilarious analogy really as the man was three times the size of Harry at six foot six at least, where Harry was still waiting for a growth spurt at five foot three.

 

“This is my son, Rhadamanthus.” Xerxes introduced and Harry had to force a smile at the cold, calculating glitter in those pale eyes.

 

Rhadamanthus was shorter than his Father, at six foot two, but he had the same amount of muscle bulk and the same broad shoulders. It seemed that everything else he must have taken from his Mother, from the pale hair to the paler eyes.

Rhadamanthus squeezed his hand hard as he brought it to his lips, but instead of laying a simple pressure on the back of Harry’s hand with his lips, the man flicked out the tip of his slimy tongue and licked it, the angle made it impossible for anyone to see him doing such a thing, even Harry himself couldn’t see it, but he could feel it and he knew that the man had just offered him an insult.

He calmed himself and forced his body not to react to what had been done, he forced himself to ignore the glistening wet patch on the back of his hand and he had to fight with himself to keep from wiping it. Xerxes he liked…his son, Rhadamanthus, was a complete filthy pig.

 

“This is my oldest Grandson, Rodolphus.” Xerxes carried on, not knowing that his son had just offended and insulted him and had actually slobbered all over the back of his hand.

 

Rodolphus looked a lot like his Grandfather, tall at six foot five, broad shouldered, bulky rib cage and narrow hips, but that thick, dark hair had thinned out and looked a little listless, there were lines on his face that had nothing to do with age and his left hand twitched randomly, sometimes the twitch would carry on through his arm and up to his neck which would bulge with the effort it took the man to suppress the tick from finishing its movement.

Rodolphus was the ruin of a man, a man who had once been young, strong and handsome, who was now plagued with nerve damage, thinning hair and a body that would have been stunning if not for a serious amount of prolonged weight loss. He was too thin to carry off the broad shoulders and the robe he was wearing was oddly misshapen because his body was supposed to be carrying at least double the amount of weight that it currently had.

 

“A pleasure to meet you, Lord Potter.” The man said darkly, those dark eyes that he shared with his grandfather glittered in almost the exact same way that his Father’s had. Harry wondered if this man was going to lick his hand too or just full out bite one of his fingers off.

 

He hadn’t realised he’d been holding his breath until Rodolphus merely brushed his hand with his thin, too pale lips and then backed away. He was most definitely going to be sick, he swallowed hard.

 

“And this is my youngest Grandson, Rabastan, your betrothed.”

 

Harry didn’t want to look, but the lessons that Narcissa had beat into him wouldn’t let him avoid looking. Rabastan seemed completely lost. There was no other way that Harry could describe the way that Rabastan was staring at his older brother, almost longingly, like he wanted his brother to come and get him and lead him to where he needed to be and he couldn’t understand why his brother wasn’t doing so.

 

“Rabastan, go and greet Lord Potter.” Rodolphus told him in a quiet hiss, as if he were trying to keep the rest of the room from hearing him.

 

Rabastan was tall, taller than his Father, but shorter than his brother; it was hard to tell exactly how tall he was because he was hunched in on himself, as if for protection. His long, thin, rake like arms were crossed over his belly, as if to keep himself standing, his dark hair was just as thin and lifeless as his brother’s.

His face was wrinkled, like a raisin that had once been a grape but had had all of the moisture slowly sucked out of it. It didn’t look natural, it looked like it needed feeding and then all of that wrinkled skin would be full, perfect and unlined once again. Harry wondered if that was what Rabastan, and his brother, needed, feeding. Surely it couldn’t hurt to feed them both, they were rail thin, where he suspected before they’d been imprisoned they’d been strong, healthy and reasonably big men.

They’d been out of Azkaban for several months now; Harry wondered how long it usually took to counter that amount of starvation. He knew from experience that he had to take things slowly once he got to Hogwarts after a summer with the Dursleys or he’d be sick, that was usually only two months’ worth of a couple of missed meals. He couldn’t imagine fifteen years in that prison, being fed the slop that Sirius had told him the prisoners were kept alive on.

Rabastan still didn’t move though, staring beseechingly at his older brother, Harry could almost see him wondering why Rodolphus wasn’t coming to his aid and he could sense the mounting embarrassment of the remaining Lestrange family members as Lucius, Narcissa, Draco and him just sat and watched Rabastan expectantly. He understood that this must have been highly humiliating for the Lestranges and particularly entertaining for the Malfoys. Harry wasn’t having any of that though, he wouldn’t let anyone sneer or poke fun at this poor, lost man regardless of anything else.

With the whole room looking on at him expectantly and with an air of amusement, it heaped a great deal of pressure onto Rabastan and he was clearly ill equipped to deal with it, so, as no one moved to help Rabastan at all, and another hissed command from his Father this time didn’t garner any reaction either except to spurn Rabastan to stare harder at his brother, Harry stood suddenly, yet elegantly and he made his way to Rabastan, who cringed away from him, but thankfully he didn’t take a step back. Harry had no wish to chase his betrothed around the front room of Malfoy Manor.

He smiled reassuringly at Rabastan and slipped his hand into one of the huge, but almost skeletal thin, hands of Rabastan and he tugged him to the settee he’d been sat on. He sat down and thankfully Rabastan followed suit. He didn’t think it would be taken too kindly if he shoved the man to get him to sit down.

Now that Harry could see his face properly, he saw that Rabastan’s eyes were a very dark blue, though they were dull with nightmarish memories, not the brown of his grandfather and brother and not the pale brown of his Father. Harry wondered where the blue had come into the Lestrange line.

Harry only realised that he was still holding Rabastan’s hand when that thin, claw like hand clenched tight around his with an uncontrollable spasm. Harry gasped and tried not to yank his hand away and do more damage to it, but once the spasm had passed, he couldn’t help but pull it away, cradling his injured hand to his chest protectively. There was some serious strength in that ruined body, enough so that he’d thought that Rabastan could have easily crushed his hand with a bit more pressure.

 

“This is not going at all like I’d hoped.” Xerxes sighed sadly as he watched Harry inspect his hand critically.

 

“I told you that it was too soon, Grandfather.” Rodolphus said as he came to sit behind Rabastan and he clenched those shoulders tight in a hug, comforting his confused, lost looking brother, who turned to him and smiled for the first time since he’d arrived upon recognising who was touching him.

 

“Dolphus.” He said happily.

 

Rodolphus sighed and he looked at Harry with a little less venom than he had before.

 

“I apologise for my brother’s actions, he can’t control them. Neither of us can.” He said sourly.

 

“I understand and I don’t hold it against either of you.” Harry replied clearly after a short pause. “If Rabastan isn’t ready for this, then maybe it was a mistake.”

 

That venomous, glittery eyed look came back quicker than a flash and Rodolphus actually bared his teeth at him like an enraged, feral dog.

 

“Is that your attempt at subtlety? Your roundabout way of rejected my brother? He is still a Lestrange and deserves the respect of at least one full meeting before you just up and reject him!”

 

Harry took a breath and calmed himself, pushing away his fear and his anger.

 

“I can see how my words have been easily misconstrued.” He said politely. “I wasn’t subtly or otherwise trying to break the betrothal between us, just observing that perhaps this could have waited another couple of months, at least until the Winter break. The news of this betrothal is new to the both of us; perhaps it would have gone smoother if we’d had more time to digest the contents of the contract first.”

 

Rodolphus had the wind taken from his sails at that and he deflated a little, his shoulders shaking from the exertion of keeping them raised even for a short amount of time. He looked to his Grandfather.

 

“I see what you mean, Grandfather. He has got a tongue of silver.”

 

“You should have seen him put down that jumped up mudblood Head of Magical Transportation in the Wizengamot meeting. He ripped him to pieces in a slow, deliberate way that completely ruined all of his points of view and left him unable to come back from such a blow. A little sixteen year old wisp of nothing rationalising such a complex situation and coming up with that compelling argument, on his own mind you, and that mudblood was completely lost for words, he couldn’t even formulate a comeback, he was just gaping and mouthing like an uncivilised beast. I’ve never laughed so hard internally; I thought I was going to rupture my spleen.”

 

Harry let out a soft choke of laughter before he inhaled deeply and got control of himself again, adjusting his posture and relaxing his shoulders as he dropped his hands to his lap.

 

“It was my pleasure to…enlighten him on the flaws of his proposal.” He answered instead, to cover for his slip of composure.

 

“You’ve really done well with him, Lucius. Imagine, just five weeks and you’ve turned him into this magnificent, intelligent beauty.” Xerxes complimented.

 

“Thank you, Xerxes. It wasn’t at all as difficult as you might believe. There is a reasonably strong, sound mind hidden under that hair.”

 

“You’re really beautiful.”

 

Harry looked, startled, at Rabastan to find the man studying him incredibly hard, focusing on every feature of his face. It immediately stopped him from pouting at Lucius’ roundabout compliment or complaining to him for making it, which likely would have earned him a punishment later, once the Lestranges had left.

Harry had expected Rabastan to have a shaky voice, that perhaps cracked or went through different pitches and octaves, but it was the opposite. His voice was strong, deep and even, an almost complete contrast to his appearance. His voice hadn’t changed over the years, but his appearance had. Harry found himself desperate to see the healthy body that matched that strong, deep voice.

 

Harry smiled at him. “Thank you for your compliment.”

 

“Your eyes are different. Most Purebloods have brown or blue eyes, or grey, but they’re rarer. Your eyes are green. I hope our children have your eyes.”

 

“Calm yourself, Rabastan; you’re here to talk about an engagement, not about potential children.” Rodolphus chastised his brother.

 

“Since I lost my last betrothal fourteen years ago I’ve had no one else of worth express interest in me.” Rabastan told his brother. “Who else will I marry and have children with if not the one who took the initiative and set up a contract with me?”

 

“What did I tell you about not sounding desperate?” Rhadamanthus snarled.

 

“He doesn’t sound desperate, I assure you.” Harry cut in as Rabastan drew back and reached for his brother’s hand. “There’s nothing wrong with thinking about children nor asking if your betrothed would like them. I would like them. I haven’t much thought about how many I’d like yet as I am still young, but if I’m honest; I’d like at least three.”

 

“Most Purebloods don’t have more than two, Harry.” Narcissa told him patiently.

 

“I know, but I’m not most people, am I? I’d like as many children as I can get, but three is a minimum. Though I am open to hearing debates.”

 

“You won’t get any from me.” Rabastan told him. That made Harry smile at him.

 

“Under usual circumstances I would advise you to stick to two or three children, but as the Lord for the Potter and the Black families, I would believe you have enough wealth to cover more if you wished for them and that is without carrying the Heir for the Lestrange line or taking into account the wealth of your potential Husband.”

 

“Rodolphus is still the Heir as my oldest son.” Rhadamanthus hissed.

 

“Don’t act foolish.” Xerxes demanded of his son. “Rodolphus and Bellatrix are not going to have children together; they can’t even stand in the same room without infuriating each other. You well and truly messed that match up, if I had known about it, I would have stopped you, those boys are more mine than they are yours and a Ministry hearing would declare them as such, as you well and truly know.”

 

Harry had done as he had sworn to do and he’d sent a clipped letter to Bellatrix, sealed with a blob of black wax with the Black family crest blotted onto it, which ordered her to have a fertility test. The results had come to him as her Head of House and the test had come back positive, she was fertile and able to have children; the problem it seemed wasn’t an issue of fertility, but an issue of actually getting the two parties into bed together and actually engaging in activities that would lead to a child and not to the death of one or both of them.

Bellatrix was completely in love with Voldemort and Rodolphus resented Bellatrix for a multitude of reasons including her disinterest in him, the disrespect she showed him, her obvious love and longing for their Lord and to an extent, her older age over himself. That and Bellatrix was no beauty like her other two sisters. It was widely believed that overuse of dark magic had disfigured and twisted her and Azkaban was no spa resort either.

 

“What electives have you taken this year?” Rodolphus asked him, seemingly content to warm up a little to him from his venomous malice that he’d shown when he’d arrived.

 

“I’m still taking Potions, Charms, Transfiguration, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Astrology, History of Magic and Herbology, but I’m also taking Arithmancy and Ancient Runes as I passed in both of the exams I took over the summer to catch up. I had to take both my entry level exams and my O.W.Ls within weeks of each other.”

 

“Which electives were you taking before?”

 

Harry grimaced. “Divination and Care of Magical Creatures, both of which I was going to drop as useless subjects this year. I regret taking them both now and in hindsight, I wish I had taken Arithmancy and Ancient Runes from the beginning, I have so much to catch up on, but Draco is helping me too.”

 

“I was looking forward to Care of Magical Creatures.” Draco put in.

 

“I was as well.” Harry sighed. “Unfortunately Hagrid’s idea of a magical creature doesn’t fall below four X’s on the Ministry’s classification guide, which would be brilliant if not for the lack of direction and safety. Those Blast-Ended Skrewts were particularly dangerous and disgusting.”

 

“I’m telling you he bred those things himself. There is no way that the Ministry’s Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures department would have allowed those beasts out to the public.”

 

Harry chuckled. “You just didn’t know how to handle them!” He insisted.

 

“Funny, I seem to remember you being dragged around on your belly in one particular class. Leashing those monsters and having to walk them like they were mere crups!” Draco huffed indignantly.

 

Harry couldn’t help it as he threw his head back and laughed. “Do you remember the lesson where one of them set Crabbe on fire?”

 

It was Draco’s turn to snort in laughter. “I couldn’t forget it, I share a dorm room with him, he was blistered all along his one side, including his face.”

 

“Did it make much of an improvement?” Harry inquired in his best innocent tone of voice.

 

“Boys, calm yourselves.” Lucius cautioned them.

 

“Oh, let the boys talk, it’s entertaining. No one cares for those Crabbes; Vincent was matched to a thirty year old witch from Slovenia. Her blood is questionable as they claim she was born of her Father’s Pureblooded Wife who died in ‘childbirth’, but there are rumours that she’s the daughter of her Father’s Muggle bit on the side and that he killed his Wife to stop her from telling the truth about his Halfblooded wench.”

 

“Wouldn’t a blood test clear that up?” Harry questioned politely.

 

“It would clear it up perfectly, but adding fire to the rumours, he refuses to produce definitive proof that his daughter had Pure blood and hides behind a wall of indignant anger that anyone would dare ask about his daughter’s blood purity or dare call him a liar. I refused a contract between her and Rabastan immediately and answered back that I was insulted that he even considered his Halfblooded bitch to be a worthy match of my Rabastan.”

 

Harry chuckled politely, but he had to wonder what Xerxes thought he was, because Harry was actually a Halfblood, even if he had been legitimised. Was the Lestrange family actually that desperate for a match for Rabastan? Draco had told him that the four men were the last of their line and that even the far out branches of their once large and illustrious tree had thinned and then dwindled to nothing until the four men in this room were the last of their line and Rodolphus was married to Bellatrix who would not be producing an Heir for the Lestrange line and Rabastan, who was not a good catch at the moment because he was an escaped felon and he was ruined by a decade and a half in Azkaban.

Harry didn’t care for such physical aesthetics; he knew that given some time and a lot of decent meals and certain potions then Rabastan and Rodolphus would be perfectly healthy, handsome men again. They’d always be mentally scarred from their fifteen year stint in Azkaban, locked in with the Dementors, but the physical damage done by the prison and the lack of truly nutritious food would disappear over time.

They were served tea and tiny, dainty little cakes an hour later at Lucius’ command to a house elf; neither Rodolphus or Rabastan touched the food and Harry wondered why, surely such a little cake would help them.

 

“We’re on strict diets.” Rodolphus told him when Harry had politely inquired. “To help us gain the maximum weight in as little time as possible we have to stick to a strict regime of food and potions to help us combat the damage that Azkaban has done. Even something as small as those cakes would throw us off of a seven month plan and could do us more harm than good. We need to stick to our scheduled eating times and our specially tailored meal plans or we might be forced to go back to square one and start all over again.”

 

“Do not mention that to your brother’s potential suitor!” Rhadamanthus hissed.

 

Harry could hold back the chuckle. “It’s not as if we can’t all see the ramifications of their fifteen years in Azkaban. Why shouldn’t it be mentioned?”

 

“Harry!” Lucius growled at him and Harry closed himself off immediately.

 

He resettled himself, straightened his spine, pulled his shoulders back and adjusted his chin to sit at a ninety degree angle. He looked straight ahead and kept an empty, vapid smile on his face as his hands curled together in his lap.

 

“No, he’s right. It’s obvious that we’ve both been in Azkaban, look at us! We’re hardly the picture of virile health and with our uncontrollable twitches, it’s not like we can hide it. Rabastan almost crushed Lord Potter-Black’s hand!” Rodolphus spat at his Father.

 

A soft touch to said hand had Harry curiously peeking, he couldn’t help it as his curiosity won out over a potential hex to the head for dropping his chin, but he found Rabastan’s hand touching his own, not gripping it like he had when Harry had led him to the settee, but his shaky fingers brushed over the top of his hand gently as he cradled it in his hand.

Harry smiled and put his other hand over the top of Rabastan’s holding it tight.

 

“I think we can leave it here for today.” Lucius said. “They seemed to be receptive to one another and that’s really all the first meeting looks for between the betrothed.”

 

Xerxes Lestrange agreed with Lucius and Harry said a soft goodbye to Rabastan, honestly sorry to see him go. They hadn’t interacted much, but there was a smothered vulnerability to the youngest Lestrange that Harry couldn’t help but notice and it made him want to protect the older man and nurse him back to health. He hoped that he got to see more of Rabastan before he had to go back to Hogwarts; he had genuinely enjoyed his company.

 

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Chapter Text

Chapter Three – Hogwarts

 

Harry had finished all of his sixty-three books by the third week of August, including three apiece on Arithmancy and Ancient Runes, which Lucius and Draco were helping him with.

He’d been spanked again twice, once for throwing his book in a fit of anger (it had gone through a window and had hit one of Lucius’ prized albino peacocks) and the second had been for fighting with Draco. It had gone from duelling practice to a full out fist fight in which Harry had gotten a busted lip and Draco was sporting an imprint of Harry’s teeth in the side of his rib cage…indents that had broken the skin and had welled up with drops of blood. Draco had been called uncouth and had gone over his Father’s knee; Harry had been called a barbarian savage and had gone over his Father’s knee. They had been further punished by being forced to stand in opposite corners of Lucius’ study, facing the wall while Lucius worked at his desk behind them. They had stayed there, silently and unable to move or even fidget, for forty minutes. Which had seemed like an eternity to Harry, who had wanted nothing more than to stretch his legs out.

They’d been made to apologise to one another and shake hands ‘like civilised men’ before they’d been allowed to leave Lucius’ study.

Harry had met with the four Lestranges a further five times since his first initial meeting and he was now a little more comfortable talking to Rabastan and his older brother, Rodolphus, but he still did not like or trust Rhadamanthus at all. The man, and Harry used that term lightly, made sure to insult and belittle him as often as he could without letting on that that was what he was doing. Harry swore that he would not forget a single instance where Rhadamanthus had insulted him and he would repay him back in kind once he was in a better position to do so. He would bide his time and he would get his own revenge on the vile man.

Allegedly his and Rabastan’s betrothal meetings were going very well; Harry didn’t know what was happening, so he just went with it and agreed. The next time that he met with Rabastan, they were going to go on a chaperoned walk around the gardens of Malfoy Manor. Harry had almost laughed himself sick at that and had earned two hexes to his head for lack of composure and still he had been wiping away tears of laughter afterwards.

He still got a barrage of owls daily from the Weasleys, from Dumbledore, from Hermione and from Remus. He even got letters from members of the Order, some of them he’d never even spoken to before …but Harry was now required to reply to letters from Rabastan, so he could only send half the amount of the letters he had been sending to Remus previously because his ‘mail allowance’ was being eaten up by required letters to Rabastan as his betrothed.

He was surprised to find that he actually enjoyed receiving letters from Rabastan, the man was a little hair brained in his letters and his cursive needed a lot of work because his random twitches meant that he had huge score marks through his parchment, leaving behind blots and scrawls of ink that made it difficult to read, but when Harry had deciphered the words under the scratches and blots, he found himself laughing and smiling at the letters. Rabastan was able to make him laugh at just a letter and it always made him wish that their next meeting was that much closer, so that he could see him sooner.

It was very, very difficult to place Rabastan, and hell, even Rodolphus, into the mould of Bellatrix. Though they had been in Azkaban for the same amount of time, Harry reasoned that Bellatrix had had to have been insane before she’d gone to Azkaban, or at the very least she’d had to have been mentally unhinged. He remembered how she was from the Ministry, how she acted and spoke, the irrational mutterings and the gleam of insanity in her dark, hooded eyes.

Comparing her to the Lestrange brothers, it was like comparing a pair of wolves to a manticore. All of them were dangerous, but the wolves were more likely to back away from a fight and a manticore never would. It was incredibly violent and dangerous and would not give up until its prey was dead.  He understood that the Lestrange brothers were no saints, of course he did, but after everything he was finding out about people he had thought he’d known, he was beginning to think that no one in the wizarding world were.

He was also sure that Lucius Malfoy was drugging him with potions or something, a few drops of calming draught in his breakfast, it’s not like he couldn’t buy them easily enough, or even get them made for him, he was friends with Snape after all, but Harry just couldn’t bring himself to care anymore.

Everything that he had known was a lie, his world had been turned upside down, what was he supposed to do now? He hadn’t wanted to stay with the Dursleys, he didn’t want to impose on the Weasleys and frankly speaking, there was nothing he could do about his adoption. He was the legal ward of Lucius Malfoy whether he liked it or not, so why shouldn’t he take advantage of what that offered to him while he could? He was having lessons, he was learning two new subjects, he had all the books he could wish for, he was being taught what he needed to know about his Lordships and his estates and he was learning things that he knew Dumbledore would never have taught him. Why shouldn’t he accept all of that for himself, even if it was from Lucius Malfoy?

He was taking all of this a lot better than he thought he would have, especially after his blow up in Gringotts bank and the icy anger he’d been carrying around with him, which is why he suspected potions involvement, but he really did not care. He would learn everything that he possibly could, he would set up a name and a life for himself, and he would marry Rabastan Lestrange. The man was too influential to pass up, his name added to the Lestrange family would give him considerable clout and a certain level of respect and he could then pass that onto his future children. Plus he knew that Dumbledore would hate him marrying a Lestrange, which was part of why he had accepted the man in the first place, so that he could spite Dumbledore and his fucking plans, but seeing Rabastan, so hurt and lost and utterly ruined from Azkaban, a skeleton of a man, Harry found that he wanted to marry Rabastan to help him, not to abuse him further. He didn’t have it in him to abuse a man who was already suffering so much. Who was he to kick a poor man who was already down on the floor and hunched over?

No, he would marry Rabastan and he would make a life for himself and even if he had to spoon the potions into his mouth, sooth him through nightmares in the middle of the night and massage his muscles through the painful twitching and cramping, he would raise and nurse Rabastan back to full health. Or as much as he possibly could, as he was almost sure that Rabastan would never be fully recovered from his long years spent in Azkaban, a place like that with so much exposure to the Dementors had to cause permanent damage in one way or another, but he would do his utmost best to help Rabastan. He would get the life that he had always dreamed of, he would have a Husband and he would have children and he would live as peacefully as he could. No Dumbledore, no Dursleys and no war, just him, Rabastan and their children. That’s all he wanted and he was going to do his all to get that, even if he had to take orders and spankings from Lucius, if he had to take elocution and posture lessons from Narcissa and even if he had to let Draco stare down his nose at him and teach him Arithmancy and Ancient Runes in that haughty drawl.

He would sit and take it all without a murmur, because he was learning what he needed to know in order to advance himself. He would make a name for himself and he would make Lucius and Narcissa proud of him, because it’s all he’d ever really wanted and now that he was free of the Dursleys and free of Dumbledore and his responsibilies towards the wizarding world regarding the war, he was going to everything that he wanted to do and what made him happy, starting with learning as much as he possibly could, making his adoptive parents proud in the process and he was going to start the budding of his future marriage to Rabastan, he would get what he wanted, because he wasn’t going to give up until he had his dream come true.

 

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Today Harry was being taken to another Wizengamot meeting, only this time Lucius was actually going ahead of him and Harry was to use the Portkey in his ring for the first time in preparation for the new school year and to prove that the lessons he’d been taking on magical forms of travelling were going to allow him to keep his feet and walk away elegantly once he landed at the Ministry.

He was naturally nervous as Lucius was going to be watching his every small movement upon landing. Harry just hoped that he didn’t fall flat on his face like he had two years ago at the Quidditch World Cup…at least then he’d had several other people fall flat on their faces like he had, today he was going to be alone, he was going to have to land alone and there would be no one to laugh it off with if he did land flat on his face. He would be thoroughly humiliated and he would bring shame to the Malfoy family and to himself. He couldn’t allow that to happen.

He took several deep, even, calming breaths and waited for his Portkey to activate, counting it down so that he was prepared for when it actually activated instead of being caught off guard. As a result, he arrived at the Ministry and had taken a nice, even step forward on his arrival and he carried on taking steps forward, despite how blurry and unfocused his eyes were and how confused and dizzy he felt.

He blinked rapidly and his vision finally cleared and his head stopped spinning and the wave of nausea ebbed away and he found Lucius staring at him hard, his mouth a neutral line, but his slate grey eyes glittered with pride and as Harry made it to him and Lucius fell in step beside him, one long, slender hand touched his elbow and squeezed.

 

“I am very proud of you in this moment.” Lucius told him. “You have worked hard, you’ve listened to everything you’ve been told and today, you didn’t even hesitate to take a step forward, you looked so elegant and poised.”

 

Harry’s lips twitched, but he pulled it back and took another breath; he found that it helped to centre him so he could keep his composure better. 

They took the lift down into the depths of the Ministry and they got off on the second level which held the meeting room for the Wizengamot, they only used the courtrooms for actual trials.

Harry went out of his way to greet Lord Xerxes Lestrange before anyone else in the room and he fell into easy conversation with him. He knew explicably that any talk of Rodolphus or Rabastan was forbidden, as was his betrothal, or any mention that he was joining the Lestrange family. He’d already shoved his foot into his mouth at the last Wizengamot meeting by exclaiming, loudly, that he was betrothed to an escaped felon…if anyone had heard him that day then he and Lucius could have been arrested and questioned with Veritaserum. He’d been punished incredibly harshly for that slip up and he’d been made to swear that it would never happen again.

 

“Lord Potter-Black, it is nice to see you so close to the new school year.”

 

Harry plastered on a false smile as he turned from the witch he had been greeting to face the short, stumpy wizard with the thick, black moustache that took up most of the lower half of his face. “Of course. I have to come to every meeting called, you know that.” Harry replied in a way that showed his scepticism of the man’s intelligence without actually coming out and saying it, Lucius had taught him how to do that too. Harry remembered this vile wizard from his hearing last year…he’d voted in favour of him being convicted of all crimes. Him and his little posse of ugly, elderly witches. He’d never forgive any of them for trying to convict him and get him expelled from Hogwarts.

 

“I would have believed you’d be getting ready for school.”

 

“I’m all ready for the new term. Draco and I went with Mother and Father to collect our new books, robes and equipment earlier this week, neither of us wanted to deal with the rabble that comes from the last minute rush to fight and argue over the remaining dregs.”

 

“Well, my niece’s daughter is about your age, you know. Perhaps you’d like to get to know one another so that you might get closer? She goes to Beauxbatons you see.”

 

“I’m sorry; all betrothal suitors must go through my Father.” Harry said promptly, grinning internally as he imagined the look on Lucius’ face if this Halfblood actually petitioned one of his sons for a betrothal.

 

The man blustered. “A betrothal? You are a sixteen year old boy and Pollyanne is just fifteen. Children your age shouldn’t be thinking of marriage or things like betrothals!”

 

“Might I remind you that I am Lord Potter-Black and my status as such far exceeds yours. My Father believes me in need of a betrothal. He is currently searching for a match for me and I shall not go against his wishes. Excuse me.”

 

Harry strode away to stand with Lucius and Xerxes, a few other Lords with them who were either accused of being Death Eaters themselves or their children were accused of being Death Eaters. He held back his grimace at being in such company by the skin of his teeth. He hated the situation that he had been forced into, associating with Death Eaters and the like and it was all because of Dumbledore, and Lucius to an extent for adopting him, but that had only been made possible because of Dumbledore’s lies and manipulations, not to mention the neglect of him as his so called magical guardian.

 

“Your conversation with that imbecile seemed to be quite…riveting.” One of the accused Death Eaters sneered.

 

“Not particularly.” Harry answered calmly, his left hand fisted tight that social decorum insisted that he couldn’t ignore someone who had directly spoken to him. “He wished to introduce me to his niece’s daughter, apparently she is fifteen, around my own age, and he’d hoped that we would get closer.” Harry stressed, keeping his facial expressions under control so that he wouldn’t sneer at the thought of being with a fifteen year old girl.

 

“That’s not quite in your desired betrothal prerequisites, is it?” One Lord, who actually wasn’t a known Death Eater as far as he knew, teased him.

 

“Not entirely.” Harry said allowing a small smirk to peek through.

 

“Gentlemen, and ladies, if you’d like to take your seats, I would call this meeting to order.” The new Chief Warlock, a man definitely not on Dumbledore’s preferred persons or recommendation list, called out to them as he took his seat at the head of the ‘D’ shaped table. His chair was the only one at the straight section of the table, which was otherwise filled with folders and pieces of parchment.

 

The rest of the Wizengamot members were sat around the curved table that allowed them all to see the Chief Warlock and able to see every member of the rest of the Wizengamot too. Harry was sat between Lucius and Xerxes again, as he had been in the previous meeting, ever since his betrothal had been officially signed with Rabastan.

 

“Our first order of business for this called meeting is a case of underaged magic in Hull. A twelve year old seems to have turned her Mother into a bird late last night.”

 

“Were there witnesses?” One elderly wizard asked.

 

“Four. The girl was having a sleepover with her Muggle friends. It seems the Mother interrupted them and told the group of girls to be quieter, it being the middle of the night at the time, and the girl lost her temper and suddenly her Mother was flying around their heads and bouncing off of the windows. The Muggle girls saw everything.”

 

Harry listened carefully and patiently as the members of the Wizengamot hemmed and hawed back and forth, each trying to be the one to get the others to agree with their points of view, yet not giving any clear solution to the situation. One member’s solution was so harsh and over the top that Harry felt the need to offer up his own solution quicker than he usually would have, given that he was still observing and learning, but he couldn’t see a young, twelve year old witch be expelled and have her wand snapped and her life ruined for an accidental outburst of magic. He wouldn’t allow it.

 

“I believe.” Harry started carefully and deliberately after hearing enough of his fellow members’ mindless, insipid arguments and their weak points of view. “That this is just a case of magic reacting to high emotion, where the underage witch in question was feeling one particular strong emotion and she couldn’t maintain her control over her juvenile magic. It lashed out which resulted in her Mother, the cause for the witch in question’s emotional distress at the time, being ‘removed’ from the situation. I vote that the underage witch gets a warning and additional lessons on controlling emotional outbursts and the four Muggle witnesses be Obliviated.”

 

“Lord Potter-Black raises a very strong observation. The witch in question claims to have not had her wand on her, or even near her when this incident occurred and to give credit to her story, there was no alert from the Trace on her wand and the last spell she had cast with it was the levitation charm. There were no other wands found at the property.”

 

“Then there is no case against her. I vote in favour of Lord Potter-Black. The girl should be warned and have additional lessons and the four Muggles should have their memories of that night removed.” One member said pompously.

 

“Have the four Muggles told anyone else of what transpired at their little sleepover?” Lucius asked silkily.

 

“No, Lord Malfoy. They have been under Ministry care since the incident.”

 

Lucius nodded once. “Then I also vote in favour of Lord Potter-Black.”

 

Harry controlled himself and kept still and calm as the majority of the Wizengamot voted in favour of his offered solution to the problem. He was getting better and better at this and he was making a name for himself, a real, proper name that he was building all on his own.

He was elated and overall, he was so very glad that Lucius Malfoy had adopted him as his own son six weeks ago now. He’d come such a long way in just six weeks, he’d learnt so much, had been taught so much and very soon he’d be back in Hogwarts, where Draco would help direct him, but where he’d mostly be left to stand on his own two feet, to bring pride to the Malfoy name, but more importantly, to bring pride to his own name.

He’d worked so hard, he’d done absolutely nothing else in these last six weeks but read, learn and work hard, listening to instructions and receiving lessons from Lucius and Narcissa and even Draco. It had been such a hectic time, where he was always doing something, where he was always learning and being taught something new. He’d been dragged through a crash course in Ancient Runes and Arithmancy, Draco had tested him and then tested him again, correcting him and showing where he was going wrong and why and he’d managed to only just scrape an ‘A’ in both subjects, just enough to get into the N.E.W.T classes, but he was still reading through several books on the subject and when he finished those, there would be another several afterwards. There was always something else to learn, always another book to read. It was never ending, but still he wouldn’t change things, because he’d been blind to the deception and he’d been lied to and led around in the dark. He’d had no clue how deep it had gone until Lucius had opened his eyes for him. He couldn’t go back to that now. He wouldn’t ever go back, no matter what that now meant for his future. Everything had changed and his trust in Dumbledore had been thoroughly demolished and there would be no rebuilding anything. He was far too busy to waste his time on Dumbledore.

It was non-stop, but he was learning so much that he didn’t care and with Lucius continuously pushing him, he never really had the time to just stop and think about anything. He continued with his lessons, he continued with his books, he studied hard for the Wizengamot meetings and he was perfect, poised and elegant in his meetings with Rabastan, which were going very well and Rabastan no longer needed his older brother, Rodolphus, to sit next to him when he came to visit him now. Rodolphus was able to sit on the settee opposite them and hold his own conversations with Lucius, Narcissa and Draco, or with his Father or Grandfather if he chose, while Harry sat and spoke softly to Rabastan, who had latched onto him on their fourth face to face meeting and now looked to him to help him and direct their conversations instead of relying solely on Rodolphus, which eased the stress off of both of the brothers.

Harry was getting better at coaxing an answer out of Rabastan and he was getting better at following the threads of their conversations, so that he would be able to offer words to Rabastan when he lost his train of thought or got tongue tied, which not only helped Rabastan, but it proved as well that Harry was listening and following what he was saying, which boosted his confidence.

Rabastan himself was also getting better and more comfortable and he was slowly creeping out of his shell. Harry had made his own observation that Rabastan’s Father, Rhadamanthus, was not helping Rabastan to recover at all, what with his hissed comments and his sneers and snarls. He was at least civil to Rodolphus, but he was utterly vile to Rabastan and when Harry couldn’t hold his tongue any longer and had pointed out the unfair treatment. His betrothed had told him that he hadn’t seen his Father until he was nineteen years old and they hadn’t liked one another then as Rhadamanthus was a complete stranger to him and Rabastan had not listened to a word his ‘Father’ had said thus causing friction and a lot of animosity between them. Then, just two short, horrible years later and Rabastan was thrown into Azkaban and he or Rodolphus hadn’t seen the man who had abandoned them for another fifteen years.  

No, Rhadamanthus was poisonous to Rabastan’s recovery, Harry had to find a way to get rid of him and soon, especially after all the insults he’d given to him, especially the one on their very first meeting, he hadn’t forgotten about that, he never would, and he would find a way to repay the man who had slobbered all over his hand and continued to insult him despite the fact, or maybe because of the fact, that he was betrothed to his youngest son.

The vile man was hurting his future Husband, he was holding him back and was threatening their marriage prospects, Harry couldn’t have that happening, not when he had found that he actually liked Rabastan, who was such a strong, prideful man, who wanted so much to just protect him, but was currently unable to do so.

It was…mind opening to see, yet heart breaking at the same time to watch this ruin of a man trying to act like the strong protector that he wanted to be when he couldn’t even stand up for more than half an hour at a time. It saddened him and it made him want to help Rabastan achieve the strength that he craved, the man that he needed to be to be fully happy. It was going to be a slow, painful road, but Harry was not going to give up on this. He was not going to give up on Rabastan or his betrothal contract. He was fully committed to his betrothal and he was going into this contract with the thoughts of a marriage at the end of it fully in his plans, if he’d done anything else then he would have been discounting Rabastan without giving him a proper chance and that wasn’t fair to the youngest Lestrange, who was now legally his Grandfather’s Heir as of last week and now had the full weight and pressure of carrying on the Lestrange line and Harry was his only viable prospect at the moment, which meant that if Harry broke off his betrothal to Rabastan, then it was likely that the Lestrange line would die out with the deaths of Rodolphus and Rabastan.

Rabastan needed to produce a child, preferably more than one, or rather as many as he possibly, physically could, which actually suited Harry quite well with his three child minimum request.

As Lucius had pointed out to him, most Purebloods as a rule did not have more than two children; in fact most of them didn’t even want children in the first place but needed at least one of them to carry on their Pureblood lines. One such man was Lord Greengrass, who hadn’t wanted any children at all, but his older brother had died suddenly, thrusting all of the pressure to carry on the Greengrass name onto his shoulders. So he had married quickly, before he was out of Hogwarts, and he’d hoped for only the one ‘snivelling brat’ but his Wife had had a daughter, Daphne. He had forced himself to try again and his Wife had again given him a daughter, Astoria. Two was about as much as his fraying wits could handle, so he had told his lone paternal Uncle that if he now had a son then the title of Lord Greengrass would pass to the boy, because he just could not deal with any more children.

Harry was different, he wanted as many children as possible and if he had to pass on the Lestrange, Potter and Black names to his children then he not only needed three children at a minimum, but he needed three boys. He grinned in the privacy of his bed suite, he was going to try for as many children as he could and as he was going to be the one to carry them, then he couldn’t see how Rabastan could complain overly much, especially not if he promised to name more than one child of his as a Lestrange.

He laughed to himself as a mental image of Rabastan fussing over two young children and three toddlers while shushing a newborn in his arms popped into his mind. If he had his way, then Rabastan was going to be a very busy man after they’d gotten married.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Albus Dumbledore was sat in a soft armchair with a cup of soothing tea as he carefully mulled over everything that had happened this summer. Everything had changed and all because of one boy. He sighed and wondered what on earth had gone wrong. Where had everything turned off of the path that he had meticulously set up over the years and carefully laid out one event, one situation, at a time?

He’d planned for little steps off of the path, nothing ever went completely to plan after all, so he had given enough room to allow for such things, for example who would have ever believed that Sirius Black was capable of escaping from Azkaban prison? He certainly hadn’t and it had come as a nasty shock when he had been informed that Sirius Black had escaped from the allegedly unbreachable, inescapable prison.

Yet he had made adjustments accordingly and the path, though it was now a little meandering, had carried on as he had planned. Black had actually ended up being rather useful, which had pleased him. He’d gotten the use of the Black townhouse for the Order of the Phoenix, which had already been heavily layered with wards built into the very foundations of the house, and he’d made Harry and Remus very happy, which suited his plans just fine as it created a closer tie between him and them.

Everything had started going wrong last year, in the summer before Harry’s fifth year at Hogwarts. He had come to Grimmauld Place angry and unsettled. The slightest little nudge set off his anger and in those furious green eyes, he’d seen shadows of things that he would rathered have not seen. That was another step off of his path…he had immediately started researching and digging into small, hidden wells of lost information, was it even possible for a living person to be a Horcrux?

He’d given Harry over to Severus, and under the guise of Occlumency lessons, he’d instructed Severus to see if he could find the Horcrux fragment that was no doubts buried somewhere in the boy’s mind, likely under the cursed scar that had made a sort of opening into the boy’s body for the soul fragment to enter. He’d told Severus to do whatever he needed to in order to find the Horcrux, to rip past any barrier, to delve as deeply as he could regardless of the pain and disorientation it would cause Harry, no matter how far into the boy’s mind he had to go in order to find it. He needed to be sure, but what Severus had found had still surprised him, even as it also confirmed his suspicions, Harry was indeed a Horcrux. He was a piece in the puzzle that was keeping Voldemort alive, no matter how unwittingly or unknowingly. The boy now had to die.

It was a shame really, he’d liked Harry and he knew that the boy would have gone far in life after this war, if he had survived it to begin with that is, but now, now he had to repave his path…it had to take a different route to the one that he had originally planned and set up, and now, as unfortunate as it was, Harry had to die on that path for there to be true peace in the world.

The boy had taken such a huge step off of the path this summer though. He had never expected Harry to disobey his orders and leave Privet Drive, let alone go all the way to London and then on to Gringotts. It had troubled him greatly that Harry had known to claim his Lordships. It had been a struggle to keep Black quiet, insisting that it would be too disruptive to Harry’s studies and that his O.W.L grades were low enough as it was, without adding in the responsibilities of the Potter Lordship.

He had only managed to silence Black by promising him that he could tell Harry on his seventeenth birthday, when he was legally a man in the wizarding world, and they’d then let him decide for himself if he wanted to claim his Lordship in his seventh year of Hogwarts or leave it in his care. Naturally he would have spun it in such a way that he’d have had a strong chance of getting Harry to leave the Lordship in his care, though he would have preferred that Harry had not known of the Lordship at all. But it had been such a relief when Black had died without telling the boy about the Lordship, he had breathed much easier.

Yet something had happened this summer, something had changed and Harry had chosen to disobey him and he had gone to Diagon Alley, someone there had told him about his rightful Lordship and he had gone to Gringotts and he had claimed it. He had claimed both of the Lordships that he had been entitled to seeing as he was the rightful Black Heir a well now that Sirius was dead and from one day to the next, he had lost both of the seats he’d had on the Wizengamot and his position as the Chief Warlock, a position of esteemed power and influence.

He’d tried to do some damage control by offering up a selection of wizards who he believed were ‘suitable’ for the position of Chief Warlock. Of those people, Albert Runcorn, the new Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation after the death of Bartemius Crouch senior almost two years ago now, had not been one of them. One move from the boy, and everything had changed and had come tumbling down around him and his carefully laid out path had taken a right angle from the direction he had wanted it to go in.

He had lost more than he cared to count when Harry had claimed both of his Lordships, he now had very little influence within the Ministry and with Lucius Malfoy giving more and more subtle advice to the Minister Fudge, whispering into his ear, he was getting less and less owls asking for his opinion or advice on things that he’d much rathered have had a say in.

His grip on the Ministry was weakening and he had to find a way to change that, to reaffirm his hold on the Ministry and get some power back from it. The Potter and the Black Lordships had been perfect, becoming the Chief Warlock was even more perfect, but now that was all gone and there was nothing that he could do to get it back…unless the boy died, yet he needed the boy to die at the right moment. It had to be Voldemort who delivered the killing curse to destroy the Horcrux; Harry would not survive a second direct curse.

The first time had been a fluke…he had told the boy that love had saved him, and really it had in a way, but not because his Mother had sacrificed herself for him, but because Voldemort had killed her at all. The Dark Lord’s soul had splintered with the death of James Potter and the unstable, fragile fragment had broken free without permission, or the use of the dark magic which would have seen it sealed in an inanimate object, with the death of Lily Potter and it had latched onto the nearest living thing that wasn’t its original host…Harry. So that when Voldemort had then turned his wand on the year old boy, the Horcrux had lashed back at its former home and though Harry had vanquished the Dark Lord that night with the help of the magical backlash that the new soul fragment had given him, he had also kept him anchored to life, no matter how flimsily, by harbouring that piece of soul within his own body.

A second curse from its host now would destroy the Horcrux and would more than likely kill Harry in the process too. It had only been strong enough to rebound the killing curse the first time because of the overwhelming magic it had taken for the soul fragment to fuse to the baby Harry after it had broken free of its host. It was a once in a millennia occurrence and the timing had fallen perfectly for Harry, as Voldemort had cast the killing curse just as the soul fragment was establishing itself in his body. It was unlikely to ever happen again.

From what he had read there was a slim chance of Harry’s survival if he willingly offered himself, and the Horcrux, up as a sacrifice, but if he twisted that a little and he never told the boy of that little possibility, then the boy would die and he could take over the Lordships once again. It would be a struggle to win back the position of Chief Warlock, but it was all for the greater good in the end.

He needed to have some clout in the Ministry to ensure that it was being governed properly. It just wouldn’t do to have the Pureblood Lords taking over and passing unfavourable and unsavoury laws without his veto. He dreaded to think what those Lords were plotting and what laws they were passing in his absence and Albert Runcorn would not oppose those Lords or their proclamations as he had done when he was the Chief Warlock.

It would take him an age to correct and reverse all of the new laws they were going to be passing in his absence. He needed to find a way to get himself back onto the Wizengamot, or at the very least he needed someone on the Wizengamot that he could trust to relay all the laws being passed and to tell him who was voting for what. Such a thing was illegal, so he needed to pick carefully, but he hoped that that person could still be Harry. He hoped that he could still influence the boy and then he could get his votes heard by going through Harry, but he had to get back onto the Wizengamot by any means necessary. He needed to have the laws he wanted passed and those he didn’t want passed heavily opposed. He dreaded to think what would happen to the wizarding world that he had patiently moulded over the last eighty years otherwise.

It would take longer than he was prepared to wait, but this couldn’t be rushed. If this was not planned thoroughly, then things could go very wrong and if someone other than Voldemort hit Harry with the killing curse, then everything would be ruined and the Horcrux would survive to latch onto another host and Voldemort would live on. It had to be Voldemort; otherwise he would have dispatched the boy himself and then gone after Voldemort himself.

No, it had to be planned with precision. It had to be done properly and this had to go smoothly, otherwise years’ worth of planning and preparation to get rid of Voldemort for good would go down the drain and without Harry to fulfil the prophecy, the world would fall to Voldemort and he couldn’t allow that to happen.

Lucius Malfoy had thrown a huge spanner into the works by adopting Harry as his own son, he had tried to speak to Harry recently, but the boy hadn’t spoken to him until Lucius had given his permission. Harry had changed so much in a short amount of time and he was now under Lucius’ thumb, completely it seemed from his interaction with him, but he’d have to test the boy at school to see how far Lucius’ influence on him ran.

Harry had ignored all of his letters and those of almost everyone else that had written to him. He’d sent a small letter to Ron Weasley and a longer, more detailed letter to Hermione Granger, but the only difference between the two was that the letter to Miss Granger contained a list of what books the boy was reading, books which he had rathered the boy had never known existed, let alone read. But the boy talked of how excited he was to be learning so much and he had informed the girl that he had picked up Ancient Runes and Arithmancy as electives for this year. That had come as a huge shock to him as well, even more so when Harry had actually scraped two A’s in the subjects at the Ministry in just five weeks, subjects that he had never taken or shown even the slightest bit of interest in before. He suspected foul play on Lucius’ part, but he had no proof to throw at him.

He could only hope now that he could do some damage limitation and get Harry back to his way of thinking. Perhaps if he told the boy that it had been Sirius who hadn’t wanted him to know of his Lordships, after all, he was dead now and couldn’t contradict him and Harry would be appeased that it had been Sirius’ intervention that had prevented him from knowing of his birth right. That might work….yet he could only hold on to mere hope that it would work at this point, after all Harry had been living with Lucius Malfoy for six weeks now and there was no telling what the man had done to the boy or what thoughts he had supplanted into Harry’s impressionable, young mind.

He needed to work on splitting Harry away from the Malfoys, which was proving difficult, but Harry would be at Hogwarts now for the year, so he had some time to work on that, until then though, he had one more week to wait until Harry came back to Hogwarts and then he could assess the damage that had been done to poor Harry and he could plan and act accordingly.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry was sat on the scarlet steam train, the Hogwarts Express, in a compartment that was empty except for him and Draco. He was currently quilling an expressive letter to Rabastan. It was already nearing two foot in length and it was only growing longer. He was writing it in several different coloured inks, a new colour for each new paragraph, because he believed that it would help Rabastan keep track of lengthy letters and allow him to easily know what he had already read and what he hadn’t.

 

“I have a pot of silver ink if you need to use it.” Draco offered, even as his pointy nose was still buried in his book. He was looking for questions to test Harry with on Arithmancy.

 

“That would be helpful, thank you, brother.” Harry said with a grin, knowing that Draco hated being reminded that he and Harry were now legal brothers from Harry himself, as ridiculous as that seemed.

 

“Do not call me that or I’ll curse you.”

 

“You can try. I will remind you that I am the top of our year group in Defence Against the Dark Arts and that I scored the highest ‘Outstanding’ grade that the examiners have given out for over seventy years.” Harry said with a smirk.

 

Lucius had written to the board of examiners and he had demanded a breakdown of all of Harry’s grades and his examination marks. He was incredibly pleased and proud of his achievement in Defence Against the Dark Arts…it was just everything else that he wasn’t too thrilled about.

 

“Just hurry up and finish your love letter. You’ve been writing it for a week and a half; your betrothed is going to be going out of his mind with worry.”

 

“Our contract states that we have to send so many letters and they have to be a certain collective length. I’ve been so busy over the last three weeks that my letters have been a little short and clipped, so I wanted to take the time to pour out everything into this one letter, because I’m sure that once we get to school I’ll be swallowed back up by school work and learning. Not to mention homework and my duties to the Wizengamot and I need to review some more of the neglected Black family accounts. Eighteen huge, thick folders and I have to personally read them through and change everything I don’t like, which is a lot.”

 

“I noticed that you removed the disownment on Sirius, Alphard and Andromeda.” Draco stated in false nonchalance, trying to hide his interest and curiosity.

 

“You’ve been itching to question that for the last week, haven’t you?” Harry chuckled. “Yes, I welcomed them back into the Black fold. I don’t think Sirius’ behaviour was warranted a disownment, so I reversed that decision and I really don’t think giving money to your nephew is grounds to be disowned, so I reversed that decision as well and I don’t think marrying a Muggle is grounds for disownment either. Andromeda is a woman, she could never have had the title of Lord Black and with only the one daughter, she is unlikely to ever produce a son. Besides, I am Lord Black now and I fully expect to produce several sons and daughters to carry on all three lines that I’m connected to, so I don’t see her or her choice of Husband as a threat to the Black family.”

 

“Every man fully expects to have a son, sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.”

 

Harry chuckled. “Yes, I understand that. But I’m prepared to keep trying and having children until I am completely incapable of having any more children. With that amount of children planned, at least one of them has to be a boy.”

 

“But you need at least three.”

 

“Ah, no. You see I thought that too, but then I started thinking harder about it. I am Lord Potter-Black. I am the Heir to two houses. If I do by some misfortune only have the one son and a gaggle of girls, then my lone son will be named as the Heir to all three houses, the Potter, the Black and the Lestrange lines and then Rabastan and I will set him up with a suitable match and then he can name his sons as separate Heirs…of course this is all just a hypothetical situation in the event that I only produce the one son in my lifetime.”

 

Draco shook his head. “I never would have believed that there was a mind capable of thinking such analytical things inside your head.”

 

Harry laughed. “I’ve always been good at problem solving. I have a surprisingly quick mind, but only if it’s actually applied to the task, before it was only really fully engaged when my life or others’ lives were in danger. But if I don’t push myself and have the drive and desire to do something, then it goes in one ear and out the other.”

 

“Then I suggest you apply yourself one hundred percent this year, otherwise Father will be most displeased and I’ll smirk at you internally as you’re unable to sit on your chair comfortably.”

 

Harry laughed harder. “I hate that he has the house elves take the pads from the chairs as an added punishment. Those chairs are hard and horrible without a cushion at the best of times, it’s only worse when you have a sore bum.”

 

They didn’t mention any more about their home life as the compartment door was pulled open only a few moments later and Draco’s Slytherin friends came in and arranged themselves around the compartment as if nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened and that Harry had always been there amongst them. Harry deduced that their parents had told them that he was a Pureblooded Lord of two old, powerful houses and that they weren’t to do anything to him to jeopardise their delicate politics with him. That or they were too composed and refined to say anything after they’d heard of him being adopted into the Malfoy family.

Many of the Lords were cosying up to him now, likely aware of his strengthening position with the firm betrothal contract between him and the, now Heir, of the Lestrange line. Not that that was public knowledge of course, but it was travelling through certain Pureblood circles.

He’d learnt that as Rabastan was a wanted criminal, he couldn’t actually take up the mantel of Lord Lestrange when his Grandfather died, so if Xerxes died then Harry would take Rabastan’s seat on the Wizengamot as well, as his Husband’s bonded spouse. But what went on in the Wizengamot halls, stayed there, so only the members inside the Wizengamot would know of him being Lord Lestrange and as they were unable to tell anyone outside of the Wizengamot without facing life in Azkaban, he would be safe from any backlash concerning his choice of Husband.

Though Harry got the feeling that before Xerxes even came close to dying of old age, Rabastan would be able to walk down the streets and live his life normally without fear of being attacked by members of the general public or the Ministry.

He had been living with the Malfoy family after all and sometimes the dinner topics were a little more than just Lucius’ day in work or Narcissa’s gossip from afternoon tea with the other Pureblooded Ladies. He didn’t know what to think about that, but he always held his tongue. He got the feeling that he was being tested and that he was being ‘scoped out’ so to say. But he’d learnt now that before he could do or say anything, then he needed all of the information and all of the facts, his time at the Wizengamot had taught him that, so he waited, silently, he was always listening and retaining the information that was said and though he knew that the Malfoys were biased, so too had been those around him before. He needed to take each side with a pinch of salt.

He did not like Voldemort’s methods, definitely not, they were far too violent, far too discriminate and downright evil…but what Dumbledore had done to him, ruining his childhood as he had, planning to steal everything from him, including his bank vaults, his Lordships, his Pureblood heritage, all for himself. It hit closer to home, it made him feel sick. All he wanted was to live, he wanted his own life and he was going to carve one for himself, no matter what it took him to do so and he didn’t care how many bridges he needed to burn for it to happen or how many new bridges he needed to build, he would have his own life, no matter who he needed to ally himself with in order to achieve it.

He swallowed hard and took in a deep breath, keeping his composure. He’d known that this was a high possibility, siding with Voldemort of all people, but in his mind, what Dumbledore had done to him was worse than anything else he’d ever known…it wasn’t just keeping his Lordships from him, it was keeping a part of his Father from him and he couldn’t forgive that, he couldn’t ever forgive someone keeping a part of his parents from him and especially not something that his Father had not only wanted him to have, but had actively taken steps to make it possible for him to have.

Yet it wasn’t just the Lordships either, it was the theft of his birth right, something which he had found out was a very serious offence, it was cases like his that had seen the need for Lucius Malfoy to found the WPM, the Wizardry Protection Movement, in the first place. To help wizards like him who were completely clueless and being lead around in the dark over their birth rights. Everyone had assumed that he’d known about his Lordships, about his heritage and his status and that he had knowingly and happily left them in the hands of Dumbledore, which is why no one had ever told him or questioned him over it…the man’s manipulations truly knew no bounds and he couldn’t forgive that either.

But it didn’t even stop there. Lucius had told him that as his magical guardian, Dumbledore had been responsible for everything in his life, from his upbringing, to his education, to the very subjects that he took in school.

He’d been told that he’d been put with Muggles for the simple reason that if he’d been left with a witch or wizard, then they would have automatically become his magical guardian as well as his custodian guardian. Harry felt sick when he thought of Sirius…who had been innocent all along and should have been his guardian throughout his life. Instead he’d had Dumbledore, who hadn’t told him anything, who had shut him out and kept him ignorant and in the dark while leaving him to rot with the Dursleys while he enjoyed all the benefits of his birth right.

Well not any more. Lucius was his adoptive Father and his magical guardian now, Lucius had changed him and was moulding him for the better. He’d pushed him so hard that Harry had feared that he’d fall and never get back up again, but so precise and guiding was Lucius’ instructions, Harry was always caught by firm hands and set back on his feet before he could hit the floor. He had learnt so much that if he took a moment to think about it all, his head spun around until he was dizzy.

But Lucius had taken up his role as his guardian with a fierceness that Harry wouldn’t ever have expected. He’d always thought that Draco was spoiled and allowed to get away with murder, but it just wasn’t true. Though Draco had mostly everything he wanted, he got more than most of the kids at Hogwarts did, he got a sweet parcel from Narcissa every month, he sent owls to both of his parents every other day, he had everything and he was spoilt to an extent, but Lucius was a firm and strict Father and Harry had seen, and felt, for himself that he was not above punishing either of them if they needed it. Draco was spoilt, but he wasn’t ruined like Dudley had been.

This sort of action and consequence routine was completely alien to Harry, who with the Dursleys had been smacked about and punished on a whim, starved and locked away in a cupboard and then in his tiny bedroom that he couldn’t get out of…imprisoned in what was supposed to be his own home.

He admitted, at least to himself, that he’d pushed the Malfoys a little at the beginning, testing to see if there was anything that he could get away with, if the punishment would always be the same of he behaved in different ways. He hadn’t been able to help himself as he’d thrown bitch fits and had emotional outbursts and displayed pure, shameful behaviour, but always the punishment fit the crime and he’d never been beaten or even hit with anything that wasn’t a few slaps of the hand or a simple charm that was annoying more than it was painful. He’d never been denied food or told he wasn’t allowed to have breakfast or dinner, he’d never been locked up or even told to stay in his room. He wasn’t punished any harder than Draco himself was, they were treated like equals and that was something that Harry had never known before and he found himself craving it. It was so strange that he even worried that something might be wrong with himself.

Yet it was this mind-set that made him want to prove himself even more, he wanted to please Lucius and Narcissa, he wanted to impress them and make them proud of him, as he’d done the same at the Dursleys when he was younger, before he’d come to the realisation that nothing he would ever do would be good enough for them. They were truly despicable people, he realised that when he’d seen pride in Lucius’ eyes for the very first time, when he’d seen for himself those thin lips curl slightly into a smile. If Lucius Malfoy of all people could feel pride at the things he did and what he’d achieved, then why couldn’t his own blood relatives? The people that Dumbledore had happily left him with time and time again, despite Harry begging him not to go back and pleading with him, telling him what they were like, but he was always forced back…always.

 

“It seems that you had a more interesting summer than most of us, Draco.”

 

Harry looked up to see Pansy sat next to Draco, one hand on his inner thigh, her fingers brushing incredibly close to his groin, while she looked coyly up at the blond through her lashes.

 

“It was eventful.” Draco replied simply, but Harry frowned slightly when he heard how throaty Draco’s voice had gone. Was he ill?

 

Blaise Zabini laughed happily and Draco scowled at him.

 

“You still have absolutely no self-control, do you? I heard that the three of you were punished severely over the summer, how can you just start all over again this year?”

 

Harry blinked and he looked from Draco, to Pansy and a flushed Daphne, to Pansy’s hand on Draco’s leg and he connected the dots.

 

“Father would be most displeased.” Harry said calmly, even as he carried on writing his letter to Rabastan, his heart beating a mile a minute at what he was actually seeing with his own eyes…they were doing that right there in front of him!

 

“You would tell him too, wouldn’t you?” Draco growled.

 

Harry sent him a wide grin. “If only to see you be punished, yes. I’d tell him in a heartbeat because you’d do the same to me if the situation was reversed.”

 

Draco sighed and pushed Pansy’s hand off of his thigh and shifted closer to the window, away from her. The pug faced girl stared at the distance between her and Draco and grit her teeth.

 

“I lost my betrothal match because of what we did together, we almost created a baby together, Draco. Why are you behaving like this? You promised me marriage when we were in bed together.”

 

Harry couldn’t control the urge to grimace at the thought of Draco lying, all sweaty and naked, in a bed with Pansy and promising her marriage. He felt queasy at the very thought and he almost gagged. Draco noticed and scowled at him furiously. Harry turned to look out of the window and regained his composure.

 

“You know that was only said in the heat of the moment and your pregnancy test came back negative and we were never so lax again.” Draco replied calmly. “It was nothing to do with me that you lost your contract, it was your actions that lost you your betrothal, not mine. I still have my contract and I will honour it.”

 

“I still have mine, too.” Daphne said, she was smirking slightly, goading the unfortunate girl.

 

“Only because Nott is too much of an ingrate to get rid of you.” Pansy sneered at the other girl.

 

“He’s completely in love with her beauty.” Blaise scoffed. “Even though both Draco and I have had Daphne in our beds and he knows that, he still wants you for some reason.”

 

“His Father want’s the Greengrass fortune, you mean.” Draco replied scathingly.

 

Harry was appalled that these people were speaking like this to one another when they were supposed to be friends. He wouldn’t dream of talking like this to Ron or Hermione. This picking and biting at one another was alien to him and he would never have dared treat his friends so appallingly and he wouldn’t expect anyone to put up with him if he did act like this. He couldn’t understand it, how did they remain friends when they spoke like this and acted as they did towards one another?

 

“You’ll be in need of a betrothal contract too, won’t you, Potter?” Zabini asked him and Harry turned to look at him quizzically. He had expected them to just ignore him, not actively talk to him.

 

“Who in their right mind would want him?” Pansy scoffed before Harry could answer.

 

“He might be your only option left. It’s him, old Lucan Selwyn or Amycus Carrow. That is unless you want to go and live in some other country where you don’t know the language or the culture with a foreign wizard that you can’t understand and will never get on with.” Daphne taunted the pug faced girl, getting her own back for the earlier, scathing comment.

 

Pansy went white and she swallowed. “I’ll write to my Father and have him petition Lord Malfoy at his convenience then.”

 

“Such a thing would be useless.” Harry said calmly.

 

“It is up to Lord Malfoy to accept a suitable contract, not you.” Pansy told him scathingly.

 

“I know that, but you see I already have a betrothal set up for me and it actually seems more like we have the possibility of marriage after I graduate, maybe even sooner than that if my Father is amicable. We have already talked about children and the ceremony.”

 

“You never told me that you were actually considering a marriage.” Draco said, completely affronted.

 

“It has been a busy week, I apologise for not telling you sooner, but it is a recent development. We found ourselves talking about the décor for our bonding ceremony at our last meeting and it took the both of us almost an hour to realise that we were actually planning our future ceremony.”

 

“Father will be thrilled, you need to tell him.”

 

Harry nodded. “I will, as soon as I finish this letter.”

 

“Are you writing to your betrothed? That is a massive letter.” Zabini told him. “Is it true that you’re betrothed to Thorfinn Rowle? I had heard that your prerequisites were more towards the male gender and Rowle is known for liking both genders.”

 

“Don’t be ridiculous, Rowle is a member of the Pureblood directory, no one on that list is going to be interested in Potter.” Pansy told Blaise.

 

“You’re only saying that to make yourself feel better because the Rowle family turned you down.” Daphne bitched.

 

“No, it isn’t him.” Harry replied distractedly before the girls could start spitting and biting at one another again as he quilled another paragraph, using Draco’s silver ink. “I’m betrothed to Rabastan Lestrange.”

 

Harry took huge pleasure in seeing their faces as he dropped that bomb shell on them, as the Lestranges were definitely a family in the Pureblood directory and they literally were the very last family anyone would have ever expected him to be linked to. It’s what made it utterly perfect really, because no one would believe it until given irrefutable proof.

 

“He wants to marry you?”

 

“Of course, he’s very happy with our match. As is his brother and Grandfather…his Father is a poisonous, petty bastard, though.”

 

“You shouldn’t speak ill of your betrothed’s family.” Daphne warned him “I take it that you are a gene carrier?”

 

Harry nodded again. “I am and I don’t speak ill of Rabastan’s family, only his Father and we’re both in agreement that he has no right to call himself a Lestrange. He abandoned his own sons after all.”

 

“I can’t believe that the Lestranges wanted you of all people. They really must be desperate.”

 

“I will warn you that if you speak ill of my betrothed’s family like that again, I will curse you.”

 

“As will I.” Draco countered. “If you speak ill of my brother, then you speak ill of me. If you insult him, then you insult the entire Malfoy family and I won’t stand for it.”

 

Pansy looked at a loss as she looked between Harry and Draco and then the letter that Harry was still writing, he’d moved on to purple ink. He’d stoppered the silver ink bottle and handed it back to Draco.

 

“Why are you writing in different inks? Such gaudy colours too.” She sneered instead. It was like she needed something, anything, to sneer at in order to make herself feel bigger and better. It was pathetic to Harry.

 

“If I want to test out different coloured inks, why shouldn’t I?” Harry asked.

 

“Rabastan Lestrange definitely will not like receiving a letter set out like that.”

 

“You talk as if you’ve actually ever seen or spoken to him.” Harry remarked. “He enjoys getting letters from me, no matter what form they’re in or what colour ink I use. I could send him a singing dwarf to relay my message and he’d still enjoy it and he’d reply as well. Do not talk of my betrothed as if you know him or have even met him before.”

 

Pansy suffered her humiliation for only several seconds before the compartment door was opened and Harry was looking at Ron and Hermione. He smiled at them widely, excited to see them again after so long.

 

“How was your summer?” He asked them. “You won’t believe how much I’ve learnt this summer, it’s been amazing! I have so much to tell you!”

 

“How can you say that after everything that’s happened?” Ron burst out.

 

“Excuse me? I don’t seem to understand what the problem is.”

 

“Merlin, you even talk differently!”

 

“Of course I do, I’ve been educated in elocution to help me with my role as Lord Potter-Black in the Wizengamot. Don’t fault me for that when I’m helping to make a difference to the world we live in.”

 

“Professor Dumbledore was making a difference!” Hermione told him angrily.

 

“He stole my birth right from me. He was using seats on the Wizengamot that were rightfully mine and I had no idea about it. He stole my rights from me and he’s lucky that he isn’t facing trial and Azkaban prison because of it.”

 

“He said…he said…”

 

“I bet that there is a lot that he’s said and told you about everything that’s happened, but until you hear both sides, until you hear my side of things, then you have no hope of making an informed decision. If you only take one side as the truth without listening to the other, then you’re only being purposefully ignorant.”

 

“Seven weeks you’ve spent with the Malfoys and look at you!” Ron spat.

 

Harry looked down at his new, pitch black robes trimmed with silver that had matching sterling silver fastenings that he’d had tailored for him at Twilfitt and Tattings. The crest was still the red and gold Gryffindor lion, as was the tie done perfectly at his throat, but Harry thought that he looked rather good.

 

“He looks perfectly fine to me.” Draco complimented. “Unlike you, Weasley. How many of your brothers wore that robe before you?”

 

Ron’s ears went red and Harry sighed. This was not going at all how he’d hoped. He’d hoped that his friends would understand, that they’d be righteously angry on his behalf when he told them what Dumbledore had done to him…he’d forgotten that they’d been following his orders too. That Dumbledore had told them not to send owls to him and they hadn’t, then suddenly, as soon as he was in Malfoy manor, he was getting at least a letter every day from them both, most likely on Dumbledore’s orders too. That thought upset him, he loved them, they were his friends, his first two human friends in his life and he didn’t want to let them go. It was hurting him. The way that they were looking at him was hurting him.

 

“What has this got to do with you, ferret?”

 

“Do not insult my brother in such a way.” Harry demanded angrily. “I still want to be friends with you both, but I will not let you speak to Draco in that way.”

 

“Why would anyone want to be your friend now?!” Ron exploded. “You’ve made your choice, you’ve picked them over us!”

 

“I haven’t chosen anyone over anybody else! It is you who is breaking off this friendship. I still want to remain friends, I just won’t stand idly by and allow you to offer insult to my brother and to my family!”

 

“They’re not your family, Harry. You’re the son of James and Lily Potter, not the Malfoys.” Hermione told him quietly.

 

Harry sighed raggedly in frustration. He didn’t understand why everyone kept saying that to him. “Yes, I am. I will always be their son, as Sirius will always be my Godfather, but they’re all dead, Hermione. They’re all gone and I have no one left to be my family. Yet why does that mean that I can’t have another family? A family willing to adopt me and take me in and care for me? Why can't I have that too just because my parents happen to be dead? Why does them being dead mean that I can’t have a loving family? They’d want me to be happy and I am.”

 

“You had your Aunt and Uncle….”

 

“You know what those people did to me!” Harry exploded suddenly, jumping to his feet and staring up at them furiously. “You saw the marks on my body; you knew what they did to me during the summers. How dare you stand there and say that I had them to love me and care for me when you knew that they never did!”

 

“It was only for a few weeks, then you came to mine for the summer.” Ron tried to tell him.

 

“You say that as if it’s alright. Oh, you only have to put up with being beaten and starved for a few weeks, you can handle that, it’s alright. It’s not!” Harry shouted. “It’s not alright, it has never been alright! How dare you try to diminish what they did to me, how dare you make light of it and say that it was only for a few weeks when you knew damn well that Dumbledore was going to keep me there all summer! It doesn’t matter if it was for only one day, I never wanted to go back there and I’d see those people dead for what they did to me!”

 

Harry was panting like a wounded rhino when he finished and his ears were ringing from his own shouts. He could feel his hammering heart in his throat and the blood rushing through his veins as he glared at the two people that he had trusted to always stand by his side. The two people who had just told him that he wasn’t worthy of a loving home and had told him that they didn’t want to be friends with him anymore just because he’d been adopted into a family that didn’t treat him like a slave and a punching bag.

 

“If you don’t leave now, I’ll curse you until your own Mothers can’t recognise your faces.” Draco promised coldly.

 

“Harry?”

 

“Go. Now.” He said in splintered fragments as he tried to regain his composure and bottle up all that cold, icy anger that had flared so quickly and so easily within him with the merest provocation.

 

“You three, leave too.” Draco said to Daphne, Pansy and Blaise a few moments later, after the compartment door had been slammed shut.

 

They didn’t argue, they just got up and left, closing the door behind them again. Harry didn’t see if they went the same way as Ron and Hermione or not, he didn’t care right at that moment.

 

“Beaten and starved?” Draco questioned him immediately once the compartment door was closed again and they were alone. “Something that you forgot to mention to us, Potter?”

 

Harry averted his gaze, looking out of the window as he chewed on his lip. Draco moved to sit next to him and he physically turned Harry to face him.

 

“Do not make me tell Father that you’re keeping secrets, because he will get it out of you and it’ll be better for you if you just tell me now, so that I can inform Father and he can act accordingly rather than having him get the information from you himself. Now tell me, what did those filthy Muggles do to you?”

 

Harry shook his head. “I can’t believe I blurted it out like that, in front of so many people too, I was just so angry, so very angry and I couldn’t control it.”

 

“What did they do?” Draco demanded, not letting Harry change the subject or avoid it.

 

Harry sighed. “I was left on their doorstep the night my parents were killed.”

 

“You were left on a doorstep?!” Draco said aghast. “A year old baby on a doorstep where anyone could snatch you! Merlin, a passing foxcould have mauled you to death!”

 

Harry nodded. “Allegedly my Aunt found me when she opened the front door to put out empty milk bottles.”

 

“You were left there all night?!”

 

“As far as I know. But from then on…my life was a sort of painful existence. It’s all that I can remember, Draco. Everyone assumes that because I’m the Boy-Who-Lived, something I didn’t even know about until I was eleven, when I found out about magic for the first time I might add, that I was treated like some sort of prince, but I wasn’t. They hated me, because they hated magic. My Aunt was jealous that my Mother had magic and she didn’t, my Uncle hated anything that was out of the ordinary, he even hated dreams where things were acting out of the ordinary and as I had magic and I did have accidents over the years…he hated me too.”

 

“So he beat and starved you?”

 

Harry bit his lip and nodded. “He said that he could stamp the magic out of me and then when that failed, he tried to keep me from going to Hogwarts, saying that he wouldn’t pay for me to go, but I found out then that I had my own trust vault and that my full tuition had been paid for upon my birth. But coming to Hogwarts, it made everything worse. He got more deranged, more violent and instead of just missed meals here or there, he started leaving me for days without anything to eat. He even put bars over my window and locked me in a room that’s smaller than the house elf rooms at the manor and I’d be in there for days at a time without being let out and then I’d only be allowed out for half an hour or so and then I’d be locked back up again.”

 

Draco looked grey when Harry finally got the courage to look at him and he seemed completely unnerved.

 

“You suffered through that all this time and you said nothing?”

 

“As I shouted at Ron and Hermione, I begged Dumbledore not to make me go back…I actually begged him Draco. I told him that I’d go anywhere else, but he always refused and sent me back to them. I told him about it and he did nothing, so I never told anyone again. Ron and Hermione knew, Ron and his brothers actually ripped the bars off of my window to get me out in my second year and they told their Mother that I was being starved and she didn’t do anything either. They saw the bruises and scars on my body, but nothing was ever said, nothing was done, so I stopped mentioning it. I sort of…I realised that nothing was ever going to be done and that I’d have to put up with it, it was like I was brainwashed into accepting their treatment of me instead of telling anyone and everyone or even doing something about it myself. I felt like I had to accept it, like it was right for them to treat me like that and I don’t know where that mentality started or where it came from, but it’s only since being with your family that I’ve realised how a real family should be like. Mrs Weasley has always said that she saw me as a son, but she never treated me like one, she treated me like a brainless kid who was incapable of making decisions and…it’s only been your family that has shown me what I’m missing, it’s been you and your parents that have shown me what true families are like and I don’t think I can go back to how it was before, Draco. Now that I’ve had a taste of it, I can’t go back.”

 

“You won’t have to. You’re a Malfoy now, maybe not in name, but you’re family and you’re betrothed and you said that it’s looking more and more like marriage. You have a family now and you’re making your own family. You won’t have to go back to that, you won’t have to go back to them.”

 

Harry’s throat felt tight and he had to swallow hard twice before he could even speak.

 

“I just can’t believe how different everything is. I’ve come to depend on you and your parents so much, having that striped from me now is going to hurt me deeply and…everything is different now. I can see things more clearly, I’m coming to realise my self-worth and I don’t want that taken from me. I hate those people for what they did to me.”

 

“I’m going to owl Father and tell him, he’ll know what to do. Until then, I suggest that you finish that letter to Rabastan, we’re almost at the station.”

 

Harry nodded and went back to the letter, changing from purple ink to navy blue and started telling Rabastan that he needed to see him in person to explain a few things to him. He wondered then if he should tell Rabastan about the Dursleys, but he decided against it, it wasn’t something that he wanted to put in a letter. Instead he told his betrothed that there was something important that he really needed to tell him, something that he needed to know, and he’d explain everything to him the next time that they met up face to face and he left it at that. He signed his name at the bottom of the letter before he took out a new piece of parchment and wrote to Lucius. He couldn’t leave something like this up to Draco to explain, he needed to tell his adoptive Father his own version of events as well as Draco’s version and as Draco sent his letter off, Harry hurriedly tried to catch up, knowing that Draco’s Eagle owl, Saracen, was faster than his Hedwig. He squashed as much as he could into the letter before he took Hedwig from her cage and he handed the hastily scribbled letter to her and gave her feathery head a soft kiss before he sent her off after Saracen. He’d have to wait a little longer to send his letter to Rabastan, he hoped that his betrothed didn’t mind too much.

All of this being dragged up, his beatings and his starvation, it made him wonder if that was why he had made such a strong connection to Rabastan in the first place, a person who was a ruin of a man after fifteen years in Azkaban. A man who was so damaged and skeletal that he didn’t look healthy enough to be alive, and that was after several months of intensive care and consumption of potent potions.

He could relate to Rabastan because he had been beaten and starved for fifteen years as well…he swallowed hard and he vowed to talk about this with his new family and his betrothed and his family, especially as he had been forced to watch Draco send off his Eagle owl with the letter that would inform Lucius Malfoy that his newest, adopted son had been abused and starved as a child. Hedwig wouldn’t be able to out fly Saracen, he was too fast and much bigger and stronger than his little snowy owl, he only hoped that his Father read his letter too before he did anything or tried to claim that he was hiding things from him on purpose and he hoped that Rabastan wouldn’t mind his letter being a little late or that he didn’t think that he was hiding things from him either. This was all such a mess; he just hoped that it was at all salvageable after it was all said and done.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

Chapter Text

Anger Issues

 

He had been expecting it, of course. But after the events that had happened on the train, Harry had hoped that Dumbledore would have waited until at least the next day before summoning him to his office to demand answers from him, but no. As soon as the welcoming feast had ended and all the students had been dismissed, Professor McGonagall had come right up to him and told him that the Headmaster wanted to see him immediately in his office and that he particularly enjoyed Bertie Botts Beans this term.

It was bad enough that his own house was shunning him, every single one of them, and he’d been forced to sit on his own after being split apart from Draco when they’d arrived at the Great Hall. Some of the other Gryffindors were even glaring at him and he didn’t understand it, he was completely confused. So he’d been adopted, did that actually warrant this amount of vitriol? What business was it of their anyway? Why did they get a say in his life or where he lived when they were nothing to him? He didn’t understand it.

He’d kept his head down and he’d eaten his dinner quietly, trying to ignore the glares and hissed comments going on around him. This wasn’t how he’d imagined the beginning of his sixth year to go, not merely because he’d been adopted, against his knowledge and wishes at first, into the Malfoy family.

He sighed and made his way up to the seventh floor and instead of going with the other Gryffindors and heading to the Tower to get some much needed sleep, he went the opposite way and made his way to the Headmaster’s office for a little chat that he could have really done without, even if he had been expecting it.

 

“Bertie Botts Beans.” He said clinically to the stone gargoyle that guarded the office.

 

He climbed the winding stairs once the gargoyle had moved aside with a heavy heart and he knocked on the door sharply, wishing that he could just go to bed, but he cleared his mind and steeled himself for the talk that was about to be forced on him.

 

“Please enter.”

 

Harry did so and he found himself swept into a tight, crushing hug as soon as he set foot through the door. He laughed when he smelt a familiar scent.

 

“Hello Remus. How have you been?”

 

“I’ve been going out of my mind with worry.”

 

“I kept telling you that there was nothing to worry about.” He said as he pulled back to look at the haggard looking werewolf.

 

“I know you did, but I didn’t know if you were forced to write that under duress or not, I had to see you with my own eyes. The words you were writing, hell even the way you were writing them was so different from what I know of you. I couldn’t trust the letters.”

 

“Oh Remus, if I’d known that then I would have set up a meeting between us at the Leaky Cauldron to assure you that I was fine, all you had to do was ask. Lucius helped me with my calligraphy, so my writing is actually legible now. I don’t smudge the ink all over the parchment with the side of my hand anymore either.” Harry said with a grin.

 

“So you are alright?”

 

“Of course. I’ve never been better. You should see how much I’m learning, Remus! And I’ve found out that I really like Arithmancy and I have a natural affinity for Ancient Runes. It’s brilliant and with what Lucius and Draco have been drilling into me, I’m really excited to start my classes this year.”

 

“Well, you seem perfectly fine.” Remus sounded amazed, but relieved and his stance sort of shrunk as he relaxed. “I’m so happy.”

 

Harry nodded. “James and Lily will always be my Mum and Dad, always, and nothing will ever change that, but I never knew them. I have no memories of them, only of the night they died when a Dementor comes too close to me and that’s not a memory that I like thinking about, it’s too painful. Yet I never had anyone to replace them once they were gone, not until now and Lucius…he’s the only Father that I’ve ever known. No one else has ever been a Father figure to me, and Narcissa is the same, she’s a Mother to me now and I’m so happy. I’ve never had any sort of parental figure before, no one I could call family before. I was just getting used to Sirius and then he was snatched away from me. Lucius is stern, of course, but he cares about me, Remus. He’s teaching me so much and he’s sorting everything out for me, absolutely everything. He’s getting me back on track to be a true grown man and I’m so grateful. He and Narcissa are teaching me things that I actually need to know, things that aren’t taught at Hogwarts and no one else thought to teach me, things like how to magically pay bills, how to run a magical household, how to conduct myself in the Wizengamot, even how to care for a magical newborn. I had no idea how to do any of that, yet it’s only since I was adopted by the Malfoys that I’ve been taught how to do these things.”

 

“I know your relatives are Muggles, but weren’t they showing you how to run a household?” Remus asked bemusedly.

 

Harry snorted harshly. “They taught me how to cook and clean and how to garden and paint a fence and the outside of a house with no ladder. Oh and how to ration food, but that’s about it. They were unfit to care for a child, Remus. What did you think the newspaper article meant with ‘unspecified neglect’? It’s why Lucius adopted me when it came out at Gringotts.” Harry lied.

 

He and Lucius had talked endlessly about him going back to Hogwarts and it was by mutual agreement that they decided not to mention Dumbledore’s neglect as a magical guardian. Lucius wanted Dumbledore to believe that Harry was still ‘on his side’ so to say, just in case something happened to him while he was at the school and Lucius was so far away.

So instead of skirting the issue or changing the topic as he had discussed with Lucius, Harry was twisting the truth slightly and the ‘unspecified neglect’ that the papers had mentioned as the reason behind Lucius adopting him was now the abuse that the Dursleys had put him through seeing as all of that was going to come out too. He could easily make that the reason behind his adoption, despite the fact that Lucius didn’t know about the abuse of the Dursleys yet and it had actually been Dumbledore’s neglect as a magical guardian that had spurned Lucius into adopting him almost two months ago now.

 

“You should have come to speak to me before all of this, Harry.”

 

Harry looked to Dumbledore sat behind his desk for the first time and he crushed the wave of cold, icy rage before he could give himself away.

 

“I had very little choice in the matter. I was taken to the Ministry via a guard without being told what was going on, just that my immediate presence was required at the Ministry and that I was to bring all of my belongings and then, when I arrived, I was immediately handed over to Lucius and I was told that he’d adopted me and that he was now my legal guardian. I admit that I was very unhappy in the beginning, I did pitch a fit, but I was unceremoniously told to shut up, that I couldn’t do anything to change what had happened and to go home with my new custodian. Frankly I don’t care anymore, the Malfoys are the best thing to ever happen to me.”

 

“Do you really mean that?” Remus asked him.

 

Harry nodded. “I do. Everything that has happened in these last seven weeks…everything I’ve learnt, everything I’ve been given and taught, to how I’ve been treated…I don’t ever want to lose that now.”

 

“Have you signed anything for Mister Malfoy, Harry?” Dumbledore asked.

 

Harry scrunched up his face. “No, why would he have me sign anything?”

 

“Would you care for a lemon drop?” Dumbledore offered randomly.

 

“No, thank you. I’ve just eaten dinner.”

 

“Are you sure he hasn’t made you sign anything?”

 

Harry frowned. “I’m not sure I like the way that you’re insinuating that I have poor memory, headmaster.” Harry stressed. “I haven’t signed anything, only the papers in Gringotts to allow me to claim both of my Lordships early and that was my doing, not my Father’s.”

 

“This really has to stop, my boy.”

 

“What does?” Harry asked, just a slight bite of anger in his tone.

 

“You know that Lucius is not your Father, James Potter is.”

 

“As I said just a moment ago to Remus, James and Lily will always be my parents. Always. They loved me, cared for me, did everything for me and they even died for me. I’m not forgetting what they did and I’m not replacing them, because to me there’s nothing to replace. I don’t remember anything about them, I didn’t even know what they looked like until I looked into the Mirror of Erised in my first year and I never had a picture of them until Hagrid gave me that photo album in my first year. I was eleven before I even knew what they looked like…what else am I supposed to do? If someone offers me a loving, caring home where I can learn to be a strong, independent man, but still have all the love, care and support that I need, I’m going to take it with both hands, because I’ve never had it before and now that I have had it…I crave it. I crave all of it and I won’t be able to let go, I don’t want to let go of that.”

 

“You disappoint me, Harry.”

 

“Why? Because I choose to live in a loving home instead of the abusive hell that I was living in before? Why does that disappoint you? No, in fact, what the hell does it have to do with you in the first place?” Harry demanded. “As my Father said at our last meeting, you are the headmaster of my school, nothing more. So why am I even here? Is this meeting to do with my education? Why are my living arrangements so interesting to you? It shouldn’t matter to the headmaster of a mere school where I’m living!”

 

“You know why.” Dumbledore said quietly. “You know about the prophecy, I told you…”

 

“Fuck that stupid prophecy, it was made by an insane old woman who drinks far too much cooking sherry and suffocates herself with incense in a tiny room stuffed in the top of a tiny tower. I don’t believe a damn word of it!” Harry shouted.

 

A hand landed on his shoulder and squeezed. “Watch your language, Harry.” Was all Remus said and Harry breathed in deeply and composed himself.

 

His arse would be red raw for the next week if Lucius had been there to witness his severe loss of control and decorum, and to actually curse like an uncouth Muggle, he’d be standing in the corner with his sore bum for several hours before being forced to sit on a hard, wooden chair.

 

“My opinion still stands; I don’t believe that foolish old woman. She’s a drunk and she gets high on incense fumes. You can’t believe a word that comes out of her mouth. She spent all of my third year predicting that I was going to die a horrible, grisly death, which only got worse when I was going through the Tri-wizard tournament. Do you have any idea how afraid she made me? Predicting my death in class when I had to go out and do those stupid tasks when I never wanted to do it in the first place! No, I don’t believe her.”

 

“You know her true predictions….”

 

“No! I know that you told me that they were true predictions! But I’ve made my own decision…nothing that comes out of that woman’s mouth is real.”

 

“Voldemort needs to be stopped.”

 

“Then why do I have to be the one to do it?!” Harry exploded. “I’m sixteen; does that mean anything at all to you? You can’t tell a sixteen year old to save the world and to fight in a war that started before I was even born! I don’t care if Voldemort killed my parents, it was their choice to fight in the war, not mine and people die in wars! I want nothing to do with it, I’ve made my own choice and my decision is that I won’t fight just because my parents did. I don’t have to be included in this war just because they were. I want a nice, peaceful life and that’s what I’ll get…I’ve seen and suffered too much death in my life already and I’m only sixteen.”

 

“Voldemort will never leave you alone.”

 

“I still don’t care. If he believes that rubbish, that’s his problem. I’m going to live my own life the way I want to, I have a family now and I’ll make my own one day in the future too and I’m happy to do so. I want a nice, ordinary life. I want a partner, I want to get married and I want kids. I want a nice house; I may or may not want a full sized, professional Quidditch pitch for a back garden. I don’t want any pets outside of Hedwig and I’m hoping to get an extended family too, with in-laws, the works. I don’t want to fight, I never have, so I’m making a stand, I won’t fight in this war. So you need to find someone else to be your gullible scapegoat because I refuse to do so anymore. This war is your problem now, not mine.”

 

“There is no one else, you know…”

 

“I only know what you’ve told me.” Harry said through clenched teeth. “There is always someone else! You can’t possibly believe that me, a sixteen year old boy, is capable of murder! That I’m even remotely strong enough to take out that evil bastard. I’m not and I won’t sacrifice my life to that beast just because you tell me to, headmaster.”

 

Harry turned smartly on his heel and he left the office, hurrying down the spiral staircase and striding angrily down the corridor. He had to get away or he was going to say something that would alert Dumbledore that he knew that he had been his previous magical guardian…he could not allow that to happen.

He’d done as he’d meant to and he’d declared that he was no longer going to play a part in this war, he didn’t need to blurt out that he knew Dumbledore was a cold, manipulative fucker as well.

He needed to send another letter to Lucius, immediately. He had to tell his Father about everything that had happened and had been spoken about in that office, including his loss of control and his furious cursing. He had to be completely honest, even if it meant a punishment awaited him when he went home for the Christmas holidays. Until then, he needed to keep his head down and he needed to study hard, Lucius would not accept substandard grades for any reason, not even if he spent a month in the hospital wing, as he’d been told by Lucius after Draco had mentioned that Harry spent at least several weeks in the hospital wing a year. He had to work hard, study harder and keep his head down until he was out of school, it would be difficult, but he was sure that he could do it. He just needed to try as hard as he possibly could.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

The large, cavernous room was lit by a huge, burning fire in the massive fireplace at the far end of the room and the long, narrow wooden table was filled with seventeen bickering people and Albus Dumbledore wearily stroked his beard with a wrinkled hand.

He was concerned; Harry’s passionate speech had left him nervous, an emotion that he didn’t feel all that often. If the boy refused to fight, the wizarding world would fall to Voldemort…if the boy didn’t die, he would never regain his power at the Ministry.

He’d called an emergency meeting of the Order of the Phoenix and he’d told them all about Harry’s explosive declaration in his office. The people sat at the table were arguing and shouting at one another about how best to deal with the situation.

 

“You have to make the boy see sense, Albus!” Alastor Moody growled out over the rest. “This is a war, not a game. He can’t just stop and pack it up like a set of cards! This has Malfoy written all over it.”

 

“That was my thought also, Alastor. It is obvious that Lucius Malfoy is planning, not to kill Harry as we had originally feared, at least not yet, but his goal now seems to be to convince Harry that he doesn’t need to fight in the war and thus he’ll remove the threat to his Lord. Harry is the only one who can defeat Voldemort for good. With Harry refusing to fight, Voldemort is free and unopposed to take over the wizarding world. He already has the Wizengamot, Albert Runcorn, a secret Death Eater, was voted in as the new Chief Warlock and with Lucius Malfoy whispering into Fudge’s ear, I’m afraid that the Ministry holds no friends for us at the moment.”

 

“The boy refused to pass his seats back to you?” Elphias Doge asked in outrage.

 

“I’m sure that that is Lucius Malfoy’s doing too. He is using Harry to garner more votes for his proposals, with Harry controlling the Potter and the Black seats; he has two very influential seats and two votes, not just the one. If he is copying Lucius Malfoy and agreeing with every word that he puts forward, then I fear what new laws and regulations are being passed.”

 

“I asked my Uncle about the Wizengamot meetings, Dumbledore. He’s refusing to tell me anything about them; he is disgusted that I, an Auror, would ask him such things when it is illegal to speak of anything to do with the meetings outside of other Wizengamot members.” Kingsley Shacklebolt said in his slow, deep voice.

 

Albus sighed and steepled his hands together and rested his chin on his fingers.

 

“I’m afraid that everything seems to have gone wrong. We’ve lost the Ministry, we’ve lost Harry and as a result, we may lose this war.”

 

“We will not give in!” Moody raged. “The Ministry needs to be cleaned out and the boy needs to be made to see sense!”

 

“And how would you do that?” Remus demanded furiously. “Force him to fight? He’s a sixteen year old boy; he’s not even a legal adult in this world! If he doesn’t want to fight, then I don’t see how we can make him. He’s scared! He’s had enough of having his life put in danger and after what he’s been put through, what teenager wouldn’t? He came into this world only five years ago and since then he has been attacked and hurt and in constant danger, he’s afraid and in pain. He’s had enough and I don’t blame him. We need to find another way.”

 

“There is no other way!” Emmeline Vance burst out. “If there was then we would have used it already. We need the boy.”

 

“He doesn’t want to fight anymore! You can’t just force him to do it when he won’t!”

 

“We’re going to have to, Remus.” Albus said quietly. “We need him to fight Voldemort; we need to get rid of him once and for all. Forcing Harry to fight is for the good of the wizarding world.”

 

“Do not say that to me!” Remus shouted loudly. “Do not sit there and tell me that forcing Harry to fight is for the good of the wizarding world, because unlike everyone else here, I am more concerned about Harry than I am about anything else.”

 

“Do you not want the Dark Lord stopped then?”

 

“Of course I do! As Harry himself does, he said as much in the headmaster’s office! I just don’t want it to be at the expense of Harry’s health or happiness. He doesn’t want to fight, he’s never been a violent boy anyway and forcing him to fight and to kill is going to destroy him. I won’t let you do that to him. If you can’t convince him to fight willingly, then you’re going to have to find a different way. Harry has been through too much as it is, he’s tired of it.”

 

“But what else can we do?” Bill Weasley asked. “We can’t allow Voldemort to win.”

 

“How would you feel about being Lord Weasley?” Dumbledore asked. “Being the Order’s eyes and ears on the Wizengamot.”

 

“I can’t be though; our family gave up the Lordship decades ago.”

 

“If you disown Bilius Weasley, then your feud with the Malfoys will be resolved and if you then announce that you, and you alone, agree with the Pureblood ethics and traditions and denounce all blood traitors, then you’ll be able to claim the Lordship for yourself. With the loss of the Black and the Potter seats and with the Lord Shacklebolt refusing to reveal the topics of the meetings, it is now imperative that we know what the members of the Wizengamot are voting on.”

 

“We have refused for decades to disown one of our ancestors for something so ridiculous.” Arthur said softly. “How can we disown someone from our family just because they loved a Muggle, because they loved children and wanted more of them?”

 

“The circumstances have changed drastically. We need to know what the Purebloods are planning, what laws they’re passing in order to counter them. The Wizengamot are mostly made up of Pureblood Lords and with a Chief Warlock who is now a suspected Death Eater, there is no telling what laws they are passing. We need to know and we need to expose them and their plans to the public. I imagine that they are trying to increase the regulations on Muggleborns, Lucius Malfoy proposed such a thing two years ago and as the Chief Warlock at the time, I shut that dangerous idea down immediately. I fear that without me there and Runcorn the Chief Warlock that things will be very different if the same proposal is brought before the Wizengamot again.”

 

Arthur nodded. “I’ll go to Gringotts tomorrow morning. The Wizengamot would never accept me as Lord Weasley, so I understand the need for it to be Bill, but it’s going to take a long time for this to go through the bank and that’s if the Ministry doesn’t make things difficult.”

 

“As long as it is eventually accepted, that is all we need. There is nothing we can do about the length of the process.” Dumbledore sighed, wishing fervently that there was some way to speed it all up. It would likely be the New Year before he had any insight into the Wizengamot at all and that was at the earliest. “I’m still unsure about what we can do with Harry, but I’ll think of something and I’ll approach him again once it gets further into the school year. Minerva, can I trouble you to keep an extra close eye on him and who he’s talking to, this dependency on the Malfoy family might stretch to young Draco as well.”

 

“Of course, Albus.” The elderly witch agreed immediately.

 

“Then I believe that this meeting is concluded. Good evening to all of you.”

 

Albus swept out of the kitchen of Grimmauld Place, thankful that Harry hadn’t closed it off to them and that he seemed to have not told Lucius Malfoy their whereabouts. Perhaps there was still hope after all and this was just a phase of a teenaged boy rebelling. He didn’t have much time left before he was sure that Tom would strike out and he needed to tell Harry about the Horcruxes, perhaps that would incite the boy to fight.

Even so, everything had gone wrong this summer and Harry had been damaged more than he’d first thought if he was truly serious about not fighting in this war. He hadn’t thought that seven weeks was long enough for Lucius Malfoy to do so much damage to all of his plans and his carefully constructed path, but he had been very wrong and now he was paying the price for it.

He should have tried harder to get Harry away from Lucius Malfoy sooner, but he’d trusted that Harry would protest more than he seemingly had. He had expected him to fight the Malfoys and to stay true to his own parents, but he hadn’t. Harry had just accepted it all easily and he had integrated himself with the Malfoy family so completely that he was even defending them and was now declaring that they were his own family.

A mere seven weeks, not even two months and everything had gone so completely wrong. He had to act fast now and he had to get Harry away from the Malfoys if he had any sort of hope of righting the wrongs that had been done in the last month. His plans had been ruined so completely by Lucius Malfoy that he now had to get rid of the man, and quickly.

This couldn’t continue, he had to get Harry to fight and he had to have the boy take a killing curse from Voldemort. It was the only way to right the wrongs that had been done. It was the only way to shift everything back to how it should be. One way or another, he would make Harry fight and he would put everything back to how it should have been. It was the only way.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry was drowning under a sea of homework and essays. It did not help that he was also taking two brand new subjects either as he had to get used to the Professors and their teaching style, which was naturally different to Draco and Lucius’, and he was behind his other classmates in said new subjects too; he was struggling a little with the work load and all of the assignments he was given not only in Arithmancy and Ancient Runes, but in his other lessons too as the subject level became harder in preparation for the N.E.W.Ts. The only subject he wasn’t having any problems with was Defence Against the Dark Arts, but then he’d always had an easy time of that, even if nonverbal spells were incredibly difficult and a new subject matter for him.

He had taken to haunting the library as much as Hermione had in their previous school years, though she never seemed to be in there when he was, and he was spending a lot of time in the library lately, so he knew that she wasn’t there nearly as much as she used to be. He hardly cared though, he didn’t have the time to figure out her sudden aversion to the library, though it was likely because he was suddenly spending so much time inside it that she was avoiding coming in here. He hated her for that too, he thought as he once again left his stuff on the table that he was currently occupying and went to find yet another reference text book on the dusty shelves that were far too high in his opinion.

 

“You really are embarrassing.” Said a voice several minutes later, disturbing Harry from his intense perusal of books, trying to find one that would actually help him.

 

Harry grinned and turned from the shelf to see Draco leaning on the table he had vacated and reading through his homework seriously, frowning at whatever he was reading.

 

“Is that any way to speak to me? I’m your younger brother.” Harry teased.

 

Draco scoffed at that and then he grimaced at something he had just read as he took the quill that Harry had left on the table, dipped it into the black ink and crossed out something on his parchment.

 

“This is wrong; I suggest that you read your books more closely.”

 

“I have been, honestly! I’m just so far behind everyone else. Can you help me, please?”

 

“Of course, all you had to do was ask. Now sit down and pay attention as I generously impart my wisdom onto you.”

 

Harry snorted as he walked back to his table and sat down next to Draco, who started telling him where he’d gone wrong, how and what he needed to do to work out the right answer. With this one on one, more concentrated teaching, Harry understood more because he could question Draco as much as he needed to and ask him to go over something if he needed to hear it again and he could have him check over his work for him to make sure that he was handing in the best quality work that he possibly could.

It took hours for him to finish his homework to Draco’s level of expectation, and with the subjects that he understood more in and didn’t need any help with as the only assignments that he had left to do, Draco got his own homework out and finished his own assignments off.

Draco even asked for his help on Defence Against the Dark Arts, which made Harry feel happier that he’d needed help with Arithmancy and Ancient Runes. He had thoroughly enjoyed teaching the DA after all, maybe he should have a harder think about his career choices and think seriously about what he wanted to do once he graduated, perhaps being a teacher would suit him better than becoming an Auror.

 

“Draco, what career do you want?” Harry asked with a frown.

 

“Hmm?” Draco hummed as he meticulously finished off his sentence. “I was thinking of starting a career in Potions. I want to be a Potions Master, so I’ll have to Apprentice to a Master for several years first before I can get a proper career and become a potioneer.”

 

Harry smiled. “That seems perfect for you; you’ve always done well with Potions.”

 

“I’ve had to work at it, but I’m proud of where I am. What do you want to do?”

 

Harry sighed. “I wanted to be an Auror, but I’m fed up of all of it. I don’t want to fight anymore or spend my life catching people and throwing them in prison, putting my life in danger day after day. I was thinking that maybe I could be a teacher. Maybe Defence Against the Dark Arts or Care of Magical Creatures.”

 

“You can’t be any worse than Hagrid; you know that absolutely no one is in his classes this year?”

 

Harry grimaced. “I know, Hagrid isn’t speaking to me because of that.”

 

“Good riddance.” Draco huffed. “Now stop procrastinating and help me with this question.”

 

Harry went back to helping Draco and everything was quiet and perfectly fine at their lamp lit table in one of the numerous study areas dotted around the library. It was peaceful, this sort of interaction with another person. He was doing all of his homework on time, he was doing it to a very high standard and not just doing a half arsed job and he was actually enjoying it because he was doing it with someone else. Blaise Zabini even found them and joined in on their little study group and he even got Harry to help him with his Defence homework in exchange for help with Astrology, a subject that he excelled in.

It was a far cry from trying to concentrate in the loud, noisy and busy Gryffindor common room with Hermione berating him every five minutes for not doing his homework sooner and Ron trying to beg off on playing chess or disturbing his thoughts to ask him what he was writing. It was no wonder he’d never truly applied himself to his studies before. He’d never really gotten the opportunity to try before.

 

“Cosying up with your new pals, hmm?” A scathing voice spat at him from behind as he bent over the table he was sat at, measuring the length of his parchment.

 

Harry let go of his homework and turned to look at Ginny, who was furious and puffing up in anger like her Mother and brother both did and he sighed.

 

“It’s not like that, Ginny. As I told Ron and Hermione on the train, I had no choice in my adoption. Lucius filed for my custody at the Ministry after it emerged that I was being neglected at home and his application was accepted. I never even knew what was happening until after it had all been done and finalised. I’m finally being taught all the things that I need to know, my Father is helping me with my Lordships, my Mother is helping to teach me spells to help around the home and how to care for children. Draco is my brother now, why wouldn’t I be doing my homework with him? I haven’t changed all that much, I’m just putting more effort into my school work, why is that such a bad thing?”

 

“They’re Malfoys, Harry! Death Eaters!”

 

“They aren’t.” Harry said calmly.

 

“I saw him at the Ministry! He fought against us! You said yourself that Lucius Malfoy was in the graveyard with you!”

 

“Hmm…I don’t recall ever telling you such a thing.” Harry said consideringly. “But I don’t want to lose any of you over this. So I have a family now, I’m being looked after and cared for, why does everyone see that as such a bad thing when it really isn’t?”

 

“We were your family!”

 

“I was never taught anything by your family, I was never told anything and I never felt cared for like I do now. I won’t apologise for seizing this opportunity while I can.”

 

“Why them?!” Ginny hissed.

 

“Because the Malfoy family were the only ones to offer.” Harry said as calmly as he could while his anger was being roused and stoked so expertly. “No one else thought that I was worthy of a family, no one else even tried, so why not them when they saw how miserable and run down I actually was? I was not in a good place, Ginny. I’m finally being looked after like every human being deserves to be, I’m being taught and brought up properly and I don’t care who it’s with, I’m so very happy now, why can’t you just be happy for me too?”

 

“I just can’t, not with those creatures.”

 

“I saved your miserable life.” Harry reminded her, his anger flaring bright and icy cold, going from a warm simmering to blazing white hot in an instant. “You would be dead right now if it wasn’t for what I did for you!”

 

“Ron came down…”

 

“Do you think an idiot like Ron would have ever figured out what had happened?!” Harry demanded of her. “Do you think that he would even have been able to get into that chamber when it has Parseltongue passwords? No! You would be dead without me, you would have died four years ago if I hadn’t gone down in that damn Chamber to find you and you thank me for that by turning your back on me just for being adopted into a real family. You really need to look in a mirror and have a long, hard look at yourself and ask if the ungrateful bitch looking back at you is the person you really want to be!”

 

Ginny ran off and Harry took in a deep breath and he sat himself down again. He couldn’t even remember standing up.

 

“I lost composure, didn’t I?”

 

“Definitely.” Blaise told him. “But due to the circumstances, I say you handled that really well. Her face when you reminded her that you’d saved her life was worth it.”

 

Harry sighed. “I’m just so angry lately. It flares up and I lash out without thinking, I don’t even have time to think! One minute I’m fine, then the next minute the anger surges and I’m up on my feet, shouting.”

 

“I think you’ve thoroughly burnt your bridges with that load of riffraff though.” Draco said with a haughty sniff. “Now come here and write this paragraph out again, you’ve gotten mixed up with your information yet again. I’m sure you don’t pay attention.”

 

Harry groaned and went back to his homework so that he could rewrite it yet again because Draco wasn’t happy with it. He needed to stop getting so damn angry and he needed to get on top of this mountain of homework. He had been made the Gryffindor Quidditch Captain this year as well and he needed to start holding try outs for new Beaters, a new Chaser and a new Keeper very soon as the first game was on the Saturday of the second week of November.

He was going to be so busy this year, what with his duties to his Quidditch team, his mass of homework and his lessons. Not to mention his self-study to catch up with Ancient Runes and Arithmancy, keeping up his correspondence with Rabastan and his duties to the Wizengamot as Lord Potter-Black. His schedule was literally jam packed this year and he couldn’t work out where he was going to find the time for all of it, but he would come up with something. He had to, even if it meant that he had to drop himself from the Quidditch team. He’d hate to do so, he loved Quidditch so very much, but his studies, his betrothal and his duties to the Wizengamot came first. They had to come first, even if it meant that he had to give up the sport that he absolutely loved. He had much more important things to deal with this year, after all.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Lucius Malfoy knelt in front of the high backed chair and allowed his Lord to sift through his memories at his will. He allowed all of the memories of Harry to come to the forefront, as he’d been instructed to do, thinking about the boy’s talents, his strengths, his intelligence and thirst for learning. How he was slowly opening the boy’s eyes and turning him permanently away from Dumbledore, how he had immediately thought to adopt the boy once the opportunity arose so that he could, one way or another, take the boy out of the coming war, including his very real thoughts about how he would dispose of the boy if it was asked of him, at least before he’d gotten to know Harry as a person. He allowed his Lord to see the growing fondness he had for the boy, how he had come to care for Harry, who was so spirited, yet sat silently for hours devouring every book that he gave to him.

He let his Lord see how he had immediately thought to put Harry with a loyal Death Eater once the boy had told him that he believed that he liked men more than he did women and how the Lestrange family had eventually came to his mind as a loyal, suitable family after he had probed a little at Xerxes to hear about the state of Rabastan.

He didn’t hold anything back or try to hide anything from his Lord, who had been pleased with him for his forethought in adopting the boy quickly when the chance had arisen before Dumbledore had had the chance to block this avenue of opportunity. His Lord who had been pleased with Harry taking up his seats on the Wizengamot and being taught to his full potential, and especially with the contract that put Harry with Rabastan Lestrange, one of his most loyal followers.

 

“The boy seems to be progressing well.”

 

Lucius brought up the letters that he’d gotten, first from Draco, and then several hours later the one from Harry and then the second letter from Harry that had arrived with a school owl the next morning. The former had been Harry’s admission of abuse by his Muggle relatives, told to him in the letter by Draco. The second had been Harry’s version of what had happened to him by the disgusting Muggles that he’d lived with and the third had been Harry’s guilty confession that he had used several coarse, vulgar words in front of Dumbledore and that he had lost composure and his temper several times, but ultimately that he had screamed at his Headmaster that he was not going to fight in the war, that he refused to be a part of it and that all he wanted was a life of his own and a family.

 

“The boy is receptive of the idea of a family with Rabastan?” The Dark Lord questioned softly.

 

“I believe that it is correct to say that he adores the ground that Rabastan walks on, my Lord. They are very receptive to one another.”

 

“Is that so, Xerxes? This pleases me.” The Dark Lord hissed, his red eyes gleaming happily at all the new ventures he could delve into with the boy out of the way and kept busy with Rabastan. “Make sure that nothing happens to destroy this bond that they have, I will see them engaged and then married. If I can keep the boy busy and out of my way, then there will be nothing to stop us, my old friends. How are Rodolphus and Rabastan coming along on their recovery plans? I will have need of them in the coming months.”

 

“Well, my Lord. I was initially worried about Rabastan, as I informed you he seemed to be merely going through the motions because he was told to do so, but now, he is throwing himself into his recovery plan and he’s working harder and asking about what else he can do to help himself. I believe that this is fully because of Harry. He wants to get stronger and fitter for Harry. They had no mirrors in Azkaban, they could see what each other looked like, but not what they themselves looked like and I’m sure that coming out of the prison and seeing his own face for the first time horrified him and it made him lose all hope…until Lucius came to me with the proposal for a betrothal between him and Harry. Now, since he’s met Harry and they’ve spent some time together, his lust for life has come back and his hope and his pride, his emotions are coming back and he’s showing more interest in the things and the people around him. It’s all thanks to Harry.”

 

Voldemort nodded his bald head. “This pleases me too. Rabastan is one of my most loyal followers, seeing him and Rodolphus wasted to nothing angered me. The wizards who put them in that prison will pay. I am pleased that he is becoming the man that he once was. Keep him and the boy interacting, they must not be allowed to drift apart and we must break the boy away from Dumbledore once and for all. If he truly doesn’t want to fight again, I will accept that, but I will not allow him to oppose me. I will kill him if he stands in my way.”

 

“I will speak to Harry when I see him at the next possible opportunity, my Lord. I will see what he’s thinking and if he actually meant what he said to that old fool.” Lucius said respectfully.

 

“Dumbledore believes that what he said was true. He called an emergency Order meeting the very same night. He is concerned and afraid. He’s talking about forcing the boy, by any means necessary, to fight in this war, but he fully believes that the boy doesn’t want to and so does the werewolf, Remus Lupin, who was also in the Headmaster’s office when Potter had his outburst.”

 

“Do you believe that the boy will stand by and let my plans commence, Severus?” The Dark Lord asked with a sibilant hiss.

 

“If he is anything like his old self, then no. But by all accounts, from Lucius, Xerxes, Rabastan, Rodolphus and Dumbledore himself, the boy has changed significantly. If he truly has changed so much, then I don’t see any reason why he would intervene with your plans, my Lord. The rift between him and Dumbledore is only growing.”

 

“Look after him in the school.” The Dark Lord ordered. “I will not have that old fool damaging what Lucius and Xerxes have started moulding. If I don’t have to worry about the boy, then my plans can progress that much quicker and that much smoother. This pleases me. Leave me, all of you. I have plans that need to be made.”

 

Lucius stood, bowed respectfully and he left the room immediately. He and his fellow Death Eaters remained silent until they made it outside of the property.

 

“Make sure that you do look after Harry in that school, Severus. He’s my son now and I would see no harm come to him.”

 

“He is to be my grandson-in-law as well; you won’t like what my family will do to you if anything happens to that boy.” Xerxes added. “Rabastan is very fond of him and since he’s been betrothed to Harry, I’ve seen a vast improvement in his behaviour and his mental health has improved as well. That boy is good for my Rabastan. I won’t have anything stand in the way of Rabastan’s recovery.”

 

“I will keep a closer eye on him, but as a Gryffindor, it is harder for me to be around him at all times than if he had been in my house.”

 

“I understand that, but the boy is a true Gryffindor at heart and he wouldn’t consent to being moved, even if there was a way to move him, I’m sure of it. Just do what you can and if there is anything that you see or hear, get in touch with me immediately. I will do what I can as his Father.”

 

“How is he as a son?”

 

“He’s more intelligent than I would have expected. There is a surprisingly quick, focused mind under all of that hair. He’s usually well behaved and he responds well to punishments when he isn’t well behaved. He is surprisingly easy to teach, he picks up things quickly and easily and when he actually applies himself, he can understand things to a depth that I wouldn’t have believed him capable of. You should see a new side to him this year, Severus. I’ve told him that if he doesn’t apply himself one hundred percent then he will be severely punished and he will have all of his privileges stripped from him once he’s home.”

 

“I am surprised to see him with that hair still.”

 

Lucius sighed aggravatedly. “There is nothing to be done for it. I tried to have it cut back respectably, but that never worked as I planned, so I had him use copious amounts of potions on it and still nothing worked…I gave up and told him that as long as he brushed it twice a day that I wouldn’t have him completely shave his head. Not that you could tell that he’s brushed it at all, but I trust him to do as I say.”

 

“Has he taken to instruction well?”

 

“He has taken to it wonderfully well. He needed a parental figure, someone to give him a structured set of rules and guidelines to follow and to give him punishments that are both fair and just to reprimand bad behaviour and someone to be strict enough to stick to them. He has had no direction throughout his life and hearing of how those abhorrent Muggles treated him, I can understand why he craves a known set of rules and a punishment that he knows isn’t going to change daily. I need to speak to him about the letter Draco sent to me, I need to find out how badly he was treated other than his rushed admission of being beaten and starved, I need to break it down into more finery as well, then I’ll make a decision to see if he needs a Mind Healer or not.”

 

“Draco told you that it was that bad?” Severus questioned with surprise.

 

“Draco told me that the boy was beaten and starved since he was a young child. Harry confirmed that he said as much to Draco, but it could be a lot worse from the way the boy is acting about it. Such a thing repulses me.”

 

“As soon as Harry tells you where they live…” Xerxes trailed off, his strong, age lined face was pale and tight with anger. “I’ve come to like that boy and what he’s doing for Rabastan. He’s good for my boy, that he’s been hurt deliberately in such a way…I’d kill those beasts in a heartbeat.”

 

“I think we’re all in agreement for that, Xerxes.” Lucius said. “I would be happy to invite you to pay them a visit once I have their address from Harry.”

 

“I wouldn’t mind a night with them. Several hours under a heavy silencing ward with them at my mercy in revenge for Harry.” Xerxes sighed. “I’m sure it would make Rabastan and Rodolphus happy too, once I’ve told them. Perhaps letting off some steam will do them both some good and aid in their recovery.”

 

Lucius nodded as they reached the property boundaries. “I will contact you once I have spoken to Harry then. Good evening gentlemen.”

 

With that, the three of them Apparated away to their respective houses, leaving the grounds of the heavily warded, heavily guarded, previously abandoned manor house that their Lord was hidden inside.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Xerxes was very confused when he finally found his Grandsons in the mismatched house, only to see Rodolphus comforting a sobbing Rabastan in the front room when he got home. He’d only just told their Lord how well Rabastan was coming on, only to find him in this disgraceful state upon his return.

 

“What in the name of Merlin has happened?” He demanded of his Grandsons.

 

“It’s Harry.” Rodolphus told him.

 

“Is he alright? He hasn’t been injured has he?” He asked quickly.

 

“No, he hasn’t sent Rabastan a letter in three weeks, but an hour ago a letter turned up with Hedwig, one that looked like he’d been writing it for two weeks, but it isn’t finished. Harry cut himself off in mid-sentence, left a cryptic ending about needing to talk to Rabastan face to face and ended it with a rushed signature.”

                                                                                                

“He’s going to break off the betrothal, I know he is!” Rabastan growled in a rough voice that was harsh from his tears. “I’m not what he wants, of course I’m not. I’m ugly and old and decrepit! He’s going to want some young thing that’s handsome and strong, who hasn’t been ruined by years in Azkaban and I’m not regaining my strength quickly enough, I know that. I’ll never be able to regain what Azkaban has taken from me and he sees that too, he doesn’t want to be stuck with the likes of me for the rest of his life.”

 

“I think you have the wrong end of the stick.” Xerxes told his Grandson, easing himself down beside him. “Young Draco sent his Father a letter a week or so ago. Harry unwittingly revealed some rather…unsavoury facts about his childhood and he’s been forced to come out with the truth. If this is about what I think it is, then he sent you that letter in haste before the news could get to you from someone other than himself, so that it doesn’t look like he’s hiding anything from you. He sent a message to Lucius just hours after Draco did and then he must have waited for his owl to come back before sending this letter to you. I assure you though he is not looking to break the contract, in fact, from what Lucius was saying he’s already preparing for a quick engagement, so I suggest that you have a ring fashioned for him ready for when he comes home for the winter holidays.”

 

“What happened to him in his childhood?” Rabastan demanded, becoming the protective man that Azkaban had tried to whittle away and that Harry had rekindled.

 

Xerxes sighed. “I know very little, as does Draco and Lucius I imagine, as Harry wasn’t very forthcoming with details on the train journey, and his letter to Lucius was rushed, but from what he let slip, he was abused, beaten and starved as a young child by those Muggle beasts that he lived with. It’s why he accepted the adoption with the Malfoy family so easily, he’d never known the love and care of a real family before and now he craves it.”

 

“They hurt him?” Rabastan growled. “My betrothed? I’ll kill them. I’ll kill all of them and I’ll make it slow, for all the years that my Harry had to suffer from them! I will find out what they did to him, every last little thing and I’ll make sure that they suffer for every single one of the instances where they hurt or upset him.”

 

“That was the thought of Lucius and I.” Xerxes nodded. “He’s going to talk to Harry, see if he needs a Mind Healer after everything that he’s been through, as he is clinging to the three Malfoys quite tightly despite how little time he’s actually truly known them, and then he’s going to find out from him where those Muggles live and he’s going to invite us to go with him to pay them a little visit. Those pieces of filth will regret every instance that they laid a finger on him or denied him food before the end.”

 

The three of them slipped into contemplative silence and stayed with their own thoughts, thinking about all the painful, horrifying curses that they knew and would use on those Muggles once they found out how very badly they had hurt Harry.

 

“Does our Lord have any news or new missions for us?” Rodolphus asked after several minutes of internal pleasure, thinking of the effects his curses would have on mere Muggles.

 

“No, he asks that you remain on your recovery regimes and that you work on making yourselves healthy and combat ready. He also asks, Rabastan, that you do your all to keep Harry attached to you and that you do nothing to sever the bond between you, he is very pleased at the progress you have made with the boy and he is pleased that you are both getting healthier and fitter. He is content to plan and send out lower level Death Eaters for the assassinations that he needs completed, he is content to wait until you are both better.”

 

“I dislike not being able to help the cause.” Rodolphus said in frustration. “Rabastan has a mission of sorts. He has Harry and he has to work on his betrothal, I have nothing to distract myself with.”

 

“You could always try to get that Wife of yours with child. It wouldn’t hurt to at least try, even if you had to force her.”

 

Rodolphus’ face pinched in disgust at the thought of sleeping with his own Wife.

 

“I wouldn’t put it past her to purposely thwart my reluctant attempts by injuring herself while carrying the baby and then I would have done so for naught. It would be just like her.” He sneered.

 

“I say it often, but your Father is the biggest fool I’ve ever had the displeasure of knowing.” Xerxes sighed. “If it weren’t for the both of you, I would be happy to call him my biggest mistake. He took too much from that bitch Wife of mine and I was always away on missions for our Lord, so Lyvia got into his head and the sparse time that I spent with him was not enough to combat her potent poison. I’m glad that he never had the chance to do the same to you both, that he left you to me and flounced off to India after the death of your Mother to leave me to raise you both in peace. You two are the sons that I always wanted to have, but all I got was Rhadamanthus.”

 

“You know we see you more as our Father than him.” Rabastan said. “I didn’t even meet him until the year after I graduated Hogwarts and then I was thrown into Azkaban only a few short years afterwards. The one and only time that he actually came and visited was when Rodolphus was fifteen and he only came back to set up his engagement with Bellatrix and I was spending that summer in Brazil with that penfriend I had. I never had enough interaction with him to see him as anything other than a distant relative; he’s a near stranger to me.”

 

“I feel the same way. I was three when he left and I don’t remember that far back. All I can remember of my childhood is you, Grandfather. How happy I was, how happy we were. How you taught us and built us up. You are my Father in my mind, even if it’s not official. That man came back when I was fifteen, because he thought I was actually a year older, he thought I was sixteen already and he was actually angry with me when I informed this stranger in my home that I was only fifteen. He set up that engagement immediately, regardless of anything else and he told me that it was my duty to the Lestrange line to accept. You were away on a mission, Grandfather, I had no one to help me, so I was pressured into signing the contract over that summer and I have regretted it since.”

 

“You boys are the apples of my eye. I care for you both, but I can’t forgive that son of mine for abandoning you both, even if it was the best thing that could have happened for all involved. I will never forgive him for what he did to you Rodolphus, it is as simple as that. If he puts another foot out of line, I will dispose of him and I hope that you boys don’t think ill of me for that, if it comes to pass.”

 

“Of course not, Grandfather.” Rabastan said. “After all the meetings, Harry has been hinting at the same thing. He says that my Father isn’t good for me and that he’s hindering my recovery and if he had to, he’d be willing to eliminate the threat to me.”

 

Xerxes was surprised but he chuckled darkly. “I’ve said it numerous times before over the last month or so, but I really do like that boy. I’m glad that he’s joining the family. He’ll fit in well. I must remember to tell Lucius that his son is planning cold blooded murder, he’ll be so proud of how far Harry has come in just seven weeks.”

 

“He’s said now that he wants five children at a minimum. It was in the letter that he just sent me. I’m not sure if he’s testing my reactions or if he really wants even more children than that but has been told to only have the three children. It feels like he’s working on bringing me around to his way of thinking and his desire to have more than the three that he’s been told to have. But as of our last correspondence, he wishes for five children.”

 

Xerxes laughed. “You get a ring on that boy’s finger this winter, Rabastan, you hear me. You can’t let a treasure like that get away from you. The most you could expect from a Pureblooded witch is one or two children, if you had a Wife like your brother then you’d have none. Five! I can hardly wait for you both to be married. I don’t care if he’s testing you or being told to only have so many by others, you get that boy with as many children as you can.”

 

“Tell Grandfather how Harry formatted his letter for you, brother.” Rodolphus teased with a smirk.

 

Rabastan laughed scratchily and pulled a long, actually an incredibly long, letter from his pocket and unfolded the piece of parchment that had to have been at least two feet in length, if not longer. He could definitely understand why his Grandsons had come to the conclusion that Harry had been writing it for two or so weeks.

Xerxes took the letter and looked at it and he laughed as he saw that each different paragraph was in a different coloured ink.

 

“I mentioned to him just once that sometimes I have trouble following long passages of text because I forget where I was and I can’t find where I’d left off in a passage easily.”

 

“So he wrote you a two foot long letter and put each paragraph in a drastically different colour so that you knew exactly where you were and if you did lose your place, you’d know what you’d already read from the colours. That boy is coming very close to worming his way into my cold heart.”

 

“Rabastan almost had a heart attack when he saw the length of the letter, then he realised what Harry had done for him and he almost cried from happiness.” Rodolphus said, getting a shove from his younger brother in the process.

 

Xerxes smiled as he read the words that Harry had written. He could tell that the boy really had come to love his Rabastan and he couldn’t be happier…except perhaps when Harry presented him with his very first great-grandchild. The next generation of Lestranges.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry was upset and fed up. This was the second time in a month that he had to hunt all over the school and the grounds for his belongings. He contented himself with the knowledge that this would be the last time though. He’d gotten permission from Professor Flitwick to get an advanced Charms book from the Restricted Section of the library. One that contained an incredibly powerful locking charm that the imbeciles in his dorm room wouldn’t be able to break in their wildest daydreams.

As he snatched up another one of his books that had been jammed into the visor of a suit of armour, its spine twisted and the leather cover and the pages shredded, he vowed that he would have his revenge for this.

 

“What are you doing?”

 

Harry turned to look at his brother and Draco and his friends actually took a step back from the anger and hate in his eyes.

 

“They won’t get away with this.” He hissed.

 

“They took all of your stuff again?!” Draco demanded.

 

“Everything, even my robes this time. I had to transfigure my pyjamas into a normal shirt and trousers to come looking for my things. They even took my fucking trunk.”

 

“I thought you were going to get a locking charm.” Blaise asked.

 

“I got one, but it took a while to convince Flitwick of why I needed a book from the Restricted Section, too long. I was going to cast the charm tonight, after I’d gotten used to the spell, but it seems that they got there before I did and they spent the night throwing my stuff all over the castle.”

 

“Come on, let’s look for it all.” Draco sighed as he headed off in the opposite direction, looking high and low for books or clothes stuffed into alcoves or behind statues.

 

Harry was so angry and it fed the cold, icy anger inside of him, engorging it and causing it to grow bigger until he could barely see straight from the anger. They would come to regret this; he’d make damn sure of it.

It took him hours to find everything that he’d lost, including spotting his trunk bobbing in the lake from the third floor. By the time he’d gotten all of his things back, dried those that were soaking wet from being thrown into the lake or down a toilet, it was almost dinner time.

He’d wasted an entire day, that he had previously planned to spend studying, chasing down his own possessions. Some of which were so wet or so damaged that he didn’t even want to keep them, including the shredded robes that he’d found pieces of all over the fifth and sixth floors.

 

“I sent a list to Father of all the things that are too damaged or not worth saving. He’ll have new ones sent to you soon.” Draco told him.

 

“Even my trunk has been warped by spending the night in the lake.” He groused. He was in a foul mood.

 

“I say that we curse them.” Blaise said.

 

“No need. I found a very handy charm in that book that I got from the Restricted Section. If they try to open my locked trunk again…they’re going to seriously regret it.”

 

“What does it do?” Draco asked eagerly.

 

“Let’s just say that they won’t be using their hands again for a while.” Harry grinned.

 

“You know that they’re going to try again.” Draco said with a happy smirk.

 

“I’m counting on it.” Harry grinned wider.

 

“I love this new side of you.” Blaise insisted.

 

“It’s always been there, I just never exercised it much.”

 

“You’ve always wanted to curse people?” Draco asked with disbelief and a touch of surprise.

 

Harry looked at him seriously. “Can you keep a secret?”

 

“Of course. On my honour as a Malfoy.”

 

“I actually cast the Cruciatus curse on Bellatrix right after she killed Sirius, before any of this happened and before I was adopted. That fake Moody in fourth year really shouldn’t have demonstrated those spells; he not only showed us their effects, but he taught us all the incantations and wand movements for the Unforgivables too.”

 

The two sixteen year olds opposite gaped at him and Harry shrugged. “She is the person that I hate most in this world.”

 

“But, the Dark Lord, he killed…you know.” Blaise said uncomfortably.

 

“Yes, but I never knew them. I can’t even draw upon one memory of them; I was too young to remember so they’re just a concept to me, something I knew I had, but I don’t have anymore. You can’t miss something that you don’t remember having. But I knew Sirius well, I loved him, I had memories and presents off of him. I remember how he looked and smelt, how tightly he used to hug me, the sound of his voice, the feel of his robes under my hands, his loud laugh, the way he prepared the coffee that he was always drinking from the moment he got up until the moment he went to bed, he always put it in his favourite mug. I loved him, I remember everything about him and she killed him right in front of me, a memory that haunts me every single night and leaves me bathed in a cold sweat. I hate her the most…her and Umbridge. I’ll never forgive either of them.”

 

Harry left the two boys staring after him and he went to redo all of his homework, as his originals had all been destroyed last night. He’d had to borrow a quill, ink and parchment off of Draco.

He reached Gryffindor Tower with no problems and he sighed as he went up to the boys’ dormitory and made it to his bed, where all of his salvageable things were waiting for his attention. He had no robes, no clothes, hardly any books left (none of them were undamaged), no trunk and his Firebolt was still missing. The one thing that he had off of Sirius was his beloved Firebolt and he was not going to let them get away with taking such a precious gift from him. They had no right to even touch it.

The broom was personalised to him anyway, so they couldn’t even try to claim it as theirs, everyone knew that he was the only person in Hogwarts with a Firebolt, but it was an inconvenience, because he was holding Quidditch try outs tomorrow. He needed new Beaters, a new Chaser and a new Keeper, and if certain members of the Gryffindor team were as difficult as his dorm mates were being, especially after the way Ginny had reacted to him in the library, then he would need to hold more try outs for more players on top of the new Beaters, Chaser and the Keeper that he already needed. Maybe he should just replace the entire Gryffindor team, it might actually be easier, but then he hadn’t seen Katie Bell yet, maybe she didn’t care that he’d been adopted at all, he’d have to find out otherwise he’d be the only member of the team that had been on the team last year.

He sat on his bed and he redid his homework, using the notes that Blaise and Draco had kindly given to him, because again his had gone missing in the night. Instead of learning more about Ancient Runes and Arithmancy and reading more to make himself understand more, he was now redoing homework that was due in next week. Thankfully it was a Saturday and not a weekday, so he had the time he needed to do it all again, even if it did ruin all of his plans of self-study.

Hopefully all of his new things would arrive by Monday morning, because he only had what he was currently wearing and he couldn’t keep transfiguring them into pyjamas and back and he had no socks to wear and no change of underwear either, he felt like he was back in the cupboard, wearing his cousin’s too big, baggy briefs and a pair of trousers and a shirt that were several sizes too big for him.

He clenched his teeth together and took in several long, deep breaths. He would have his revenge on them, even if he had to wait weeks to implement it. He would pay them back for what they’d done to him twice now. It was only a matter of time and he could hardly wait to take his revenge on them now.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry had been forced to hold try outs on a borrowed school broom, but Professor McGonagall had promised him that she wouldn’t accept thievery and she’d have his broom back with him soon. He’d tried to summon it twice now, but wherever it was, it wasn’t responding to his spell.

He’d still shown up most of the applicants for the team positions on the school broom and he’d thrown Ginny off of the team after she refused to stop belittling him and had petulantly and blatantly ignored his Captain’s orders. From her face, she hadn’t expected him to react at all, let alone by throwing her off of the team. It was her own fault for being so puerile and bitter over his adoption. If she couldn’t be happy for him, then fine, but if she couldn’t even put it aside long enough to get ten minutes into a practice session without sneering and belittling him, then he was not going to put up with her. It made it better because he knew that she wanted to be a professional player, her chances of that now were slimmer, because any team she applied to could look into her school records and see that she had been kicked off of her school team for unprofessional conduct.

He’d made a whole new team, though Katie Bell was still a Chaser with the new addition of Demelza Robins and a new girl to replace Ginny named Sarah Priskin. His two new Beaters were third years and his Keeper was a second year. He had a young team, with a touch of experience from himself and Katie. If he played his cards right and trained them superbly, then this team would be Gryffindor’s triumph for the next four years.

He had also prepared a reserve team, who were very, very young, all second years with one third year as a Beater. The twelve year old Seeker was being trained personally by him and the poor boy had almost wet himself when Harry had told him what would be happening from now on and that he would be having personal lessons to help him fly and to hone his skills to be an excellent Seeker. He had this year and the next to get this young boy into shape and up to the standard that he expected and then, when he graduated, he’d leave behind his handpicked team as his legacy.

Monday morning saw a regal owl landing in front of him with a large parcel and Harry smiled as he took the letter from the owl’s beak and tore it open, thankful that he had as Lucius warned him that as soon as the parcel was free of the packaging, it would all resize and the weightless charm would disengage.

He abandoned his half eaten breakfast and took his parcel back up to Gryffindor tower and into the dormitories. He tore it open eagerly and watched as his brand new, sleek trunk resized itself. He grinned as he noticed the personal touches on it, the dark wood, the gleaming polish, the little carved vines around the edges, the Malfoy crest stamped onto the front and the small inscription of his name in gold on the front of the rounded lid, just above the seam where the trunk opened.

He grinned wider and flung it open and his mouth actually hurt from his smile when he saw all the new books, the pristine robes (both school ones and his brand new Quidditch robes in scarlet red and yellow) and all of the things that he needed, plain black socks, plain black boxer-briefs, two sets of black gloves, one pair was sheepskin for the winter and the other pair was dragonhide for the summer, everything that he had lost had not only been replaced, but had been upgraded with a Malfoy twist of flair. He loved it and what he loved more was the letter and the small, wrapped gift, right on the top of everything, with Rabastan’s distinctive, shaky writing on the front. He was just sad that he didn’t have the time to open it just yet, he had lessons in just twenty minutes. He swore that he would do so at lunch time now. The waiting would just make him that much more excited to open it.

He immediately cast the locking charm on the trunk and the little added extra, he wouldn’t make the same mistake twice and they were not going to destroy any gifts that he’d been given by his adoptive Father.

He went to his bedside drawer, thankful that his dorm mates hadn’t bothered to look through the drawers of his bedside table, likely to avoid waking him up as the bedside table was right next to his head, and he took out his Father’s invisibility cloak, several framed pictures of his parents, the album that Hagrid had given to him, his three vault keys and his exchange book. All of them went right into his trunk to be covered by the protective charms and he smiled. All he needed now was his Firebolt back, and he would get it back, of that he promised. He would get it back and he would have his revenge on those who had taken it in the first place.

He immediately changed himself out of the clothes that he’d been wearing for the last few days (it was a relief to finally change his boxers and actually get on a pair of socks), wearing all fresh clothing and the pair of highly polished new shoes that Lucius had sent to him before he slung his new backpack over his shoulder and he made his way to his lessons feeling so much better and he was happy to know that it would never happen again. Those imbeciles would not be able to break that locking charm and after the brilliant effects of the additional charm that was on the trunk kicked in, they would regret even trying to touch his stuff.

His day passed well enough and he loved the looks on his dorm mates faces when they saw him not only wearing brand new, high quality clothing, but also handing in his completed homework. It made him smile as he sat himself next to Draco, who he’d informed of all the goings on and his new delivery of items.

 

“Your trunk matches mine, only my name is done in silver.”

 

“You do have a fondness for silver.” Harry said with a smile.

 

“What is your favourite colour? I don’t think you’ve ever said.”

 

“I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about it, but I am drawn to several different colours for different reasons. Gold definitely, because it’s the colour of the snitch, blue because it’s the colour of the sky, which represents freedom to me and my love of flying, green because of my eyes, which always make my think of my Mum, yellow because of the sun, which represents happiness. I just…I don’t have one colour that I like, I’m drawn to several of them.”

 

“You really are special.” Draco told him and Harry chuckled quietly. “And speaking of special, have you heard more from that special person of yours?”

 

Harry grinned. “He sent me a letter this morning. It was in the trunk along with a small gift. I never had the time to open it; I’m going to do it at lunch. I really can’t wait, I want to know what he has to say and what he sent to me.”

 

“You have it so bad for him.”

 

“I know, but I can’t help it. It’s insane, I never expected to even like him, but I do, Draco. I really do. I want to help him, I want him to get better and I know it’ll take a long time, but I want to be there for him, to help him. He’s letting me do everything that I want to, if I say I want five kids, he says fine, if I said I wanted ten of them, I’m sure that he’d agree. He let me talk about our ceremony for three hours and he just agreed with me. He’s not at all what I was expecting.”

 

“What, you thought he’d be an insane, rambling lunatic who fired off curses at shadows?” Draco murmured under his breath, barely audible to Harry, who was bending his head near Draco’s mouth and even he had trouble hearing him.

 

“Well, that’s not exactly what I thought, but I did say to myself that if he was like that then I wouldn’t even consider him, but I wasn’t expecting him to be so caring or attentive. So…normal, I guess, despite what that place did to him. He’s damaged, jumpy and twitchy, but that will get better with the right potions and the right medical attention, I’m sure of it. Despite that, he actually seems near enough normal. He reacts normally, not like Bellatrix. She not only jumped at shadows, she cursed them too without thinking. No, Rabastan comes across as normal to me, did he come out of Azkaban like this, or is it thanks to his recovery programme?”

 

“He was much worse when he first came out, Harry, believe me when I say that. You didn’t get to see him at his worst and thankfully I missed a lot of it too because I was at school, but I remember seeing a bit of him during the holidays and when I got home for the summer, Mother and Father were talking a lot about too. You missed the worst of the effects, when Rabastan was clinging to his brother and refused to let go of him, when they had to walk around holding hands and they had to share the same baths, the same bed and they refused to be separated long enough to go to the bathroom separately. That was a very bad time, but they’ve both improved a lot since that time and given some more time, I’m sure that they’re only going to get better.”

 

Harry nodded his head in agreement and he then turned to actually start on his class work. He did like Rabastan and he was surprised that the man was actually near enough normal, or as normal as someone really could be after fifteen long, harsh years in Azkaban, but he was sure that given a few more years then he’d be much better than he was at the moment, he had already improved. Draco had told him what he’d once been like and he was much better now than he had been then and now that Rabastan had him, Harry was going to help him to recover as much as possible, because he wanted Rabastan to be better, he wanted Rabastan to regain his strength and he was sure that Rabastan wanted that as well.

Together he was sure that they could get Rabastan to where he needed to be and he hoped that he was enough to help Rabastan, was he enough of an incentive for the man to get better? Would he want to get better for their potential future family? Would that be enough of an incentive for the man? If he wasn’t enough, then would the thought of their future children be enough of a drive to help Rabastan recover as fully as possible? He didn’t know the answer to that and it drove him crazy. He just wanted Rabastan to get better and to recover from his awful ordeal. He wanted them to be a proper, normal family. He wanted Rabastan to get better so that they could love one another, so that they could have and love their future children. He wanted that so badly that he was willing to do absolutely anything to make it a reality.

On the other hand though, even though he knew that Rabastan’s body would mostly heal from the damage that had been done to it over the decade and a half he had spent in Azkaban, he was also sure that as he spent more time with Rabastan, talked to him more and got to know him a little more, then he would find some very dark secrets, after all, he himself had nightmares from what he’d gone through in his life…he would be incredibly surprised if Rabastan didn’t have some nightmares of his own.

 

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Chapter Text

Chapter Five – Revenge

 

Life for Harry was going well, as October came to a slow end with him taking the Thursday evening, Halloween night, to remember both of his parents and their sacrifice for him. He really hoped that they would have approved of his choices in life as he really was trying his best. But he’d had no direction at all as he was growing up and all he had to go on was the Dursleys and how they had acted and behaved and yet, despite them being the only role models that he’d had, he knew that they were the worst sort of intolerable people imaginable and that he didn’t want to act or turn out like them.

He had needed someone like Lucius to take over and steer him onto the right path, otherwise he had no idea where he was going to end up or how he was going to look after himself when he was eighteen and Uncle Vernon kicked him from the house. He had the money, but he’d had no idea how to use it or what he’d need to do to get his own house set up and running smoothly until Lucius had actually spent the time showing him and teaching him.

Perhaps if Sirius had been alive things could have gone differently, but he wasn’t and he hadn’t told him about his Lordship either. Though now that he’d seen and spoken to Rabastan and Rodolphus, he had to wonder if Sirius had even remembered the Lordships. The two brothers were scatter brained at times too, perhaps Sirius just hadn’t remembered and thus couldn’t have told him. It comforted him a little to think that Azkaban had just destroyed Sirius’ memory rather than the thought of his Godfather keeping something like that from him purposefully. He really hated Azkaban and he wanted it closed down, though he would settle for banishing the vile Dementors from being near humans as they really, really should not have ever been allowed around people, regardless of what they’d done. He would change the way that the prison system was run, he was already researching everything that he could get his hands on and the little that he’d already found out was very disturbing and greatly concerned him. Things really needed to change…quickly.

November had arrived cold and bitter, dragging with it Gryffindor’s first game of the season. He’d had a little over a month to get his new team up to scratch and the other teams were openly laughing at him because he had such a young team and an even younger reserve team. He refused to rise to any provocation and he just ignored Draco, who was the Slytherin team Seeker, and Blaise, who was one of the Slytherin Chasers, when they pressed him and teased him about it.

He had a good, solid team, despite their young age and if his worst fears came to be realised and his young, inexperienced team fell apart under the pressure of an actual official game, then he was still the best damn Seeker in this school and he would catch the snitch before they were completely pulverised. Not that he expected them to be of course, that was just in case the worst case scenario came to pass, but he had every faith in his team. They would win this game, and this entire season and the Quidditch cup too, and show up all of those people laughing at them. That really would show them all up rotten.

But it was currently breakfast time and Harry had been told to go to the Headmaster’s office once he was finished with his meal by Professor McGonagall. Harry had a very good idea of what this meeting was going to be about too.

It had taken another few weeks, a little over a full month later, but eventually his idiot dorm mates had gone after his trunk yet again, as if they thought that he wouldn’t protect his things after the first time that they’d targeted him. The second time they’d managed to destroy his things had been a bit of bad luck on his part and some poor timing due to extenuating circumstances, but a third time? No…they hadn’t been able to get into his locked trunk, nor could they lift it from where it was placed by the end of his bed and all of his dorm mates had taken it in turns to try and lift his trunk like the idiots that they were. They’d gone back to sleep frustrated and planning to talk about something else that they could do to him the following day…only to wake up in agony late the next morning with their hands blistered and leaking pus, clear, sticky plasma and in some places, even blood. Half of the school had seen Ron, Dean and Seamus rushing through the corridors, still in their pyjamas, and running with their leaking, grotesque hands out in front of them towards the hospital wing, as the other students made their way to the Great Hall for their breakfasts.

Harry had caught up to Draco and Blaise, who had only just heard about the incident from a Ravenclaw seventh year, who had had the good fortune of waking up early to send off a letter, and he had insisted that he’d passed three Gryffindor boys screaming and running towards the hospital wing on his way down to the Great Hall. He had followed them curiously and he had found four boys in the hospital wing all in agonising pain due to a spell that had affected all of their hands.

 

“What did you do?” Draco had immediately demanded when he’d first seen him that morning.

 

Harry had laughed happily. “I did say that the curse on the trunk would make them think twice about coming near my things again.”

 

“Did it really make their hands fall off?”

 

Harry’s eyes had widened comically at that. “No! Where on Earth did you hear that? It just blistered their hands to teach them a lesson for stealing, they’ll be bound up with healing paste for a few days, but they’ll be just fine.”

 

Harry had been so satisfied when he’d seen his dorm mates again, it had been no less than the lot of them had deserved; though he was very surprised to see Neville with bound up, blistered hands too. He hadn’t been in the dorm room when the others had woken up, so Harry had assumed that he had had nothing to do with the attacks on him. He had been wrong and Neville had just woken up earlier than anyone else and had made his own way to the hospital wing before the other three had woken up and started screaming bloody murder. That had saddened him, he had thought that even if Neville hadn’t wanted to be his friend anymore that he wouldn’t sink so low as to damage his stuff. It seemed that he was wrong about that and he hardened his heart, blocking out the pain he felt at that particular perceived betrayal.
At least he no longer felt torn in half about being in a betrothal contract with one of the men who had tortured his ‘friend’s’ parents. If Neville had stayed out of all of this and had remained amicable, if a little distant, towards him then Harry might have had a harder time getting over what Rabastan had done fifteen years ago in his youth to Frank and Alice Longbottom, but now that Neville had been revealed as one of the people who had stolen from him, and as one of the people involved in damaging all of his possessions, he brushed aside such consideration for their previous friendship. As far as he was now concerned war was war and there were always two sides and casualties and tragedies on each.

Neville had targeted him first, had attacked him first, so he hardened his heart and he shoved aside all thoughts of what Rabastan had done to the Longbottom family, as far as he was now concerned, he and Neville were nothing. Rabastan was his future and Neville had made his choice very clear by attacking him and as a result of that, Harry had been able to make his own choice more easily and with less guilt too. Rabastan would have always been his choice regardless of Neville’s behaviour, but because Neville had attacked him, it took away the guilt that Harry had felt in taking Rabastan for a Husband and the eventual Father to his children and that made him feel better.

But now, today, less than a week after the charm on his trunk had been activated, he had been called to the Headmaster’s office and he was sure it was to answer for why he had such a charm on his trunk in the first place. He’d already sent a letter to Rabastan telling him all about what he’d done, including subtle pictures of what his dorm mates had looked like before their hands had been treated, taken with his wand when they’d been screaming and shouting to each other, and at him, in the dorm room, and then a second photo of them all with heavily bandaged hands and arms afterwards. He’d shown these pictures to Draco and Blaise as well, to give the Slytherins a laugh at his ex-friends’ expense, and he had then sent them on to Lucius.

He wasn’t rushing to the Headmaster’s little meeting though; he was leisurely taking his time with his breakfast, he’d eaten his bacon, eggs and toast and now he was enjoying a bowl of fresh fruit salad as well, all washed down with three chilled glasses of pumpkin juice.

Breakfast was almost over when he finally drained the rest of his glass and got smoothly to his feet. It was a weekend thankfully, otherwise he would have refused to attend the meeting due to the disruption it would cause to his schooling. The look on Dumbledore’s face would have been a real picture, but instead the man had wisely waited for the weekend to pull him up on his charmed trunk. He hated to admit it, but Dumbledore had probably guessed that that was what he would have done, which was why he’d waited a full six days, and the start of the weekend, to summon him to his office.

Harry sighed and made his way up to the Headmaster’s office for the second time this year…it was only just the second of November! He gave the same password as he had the first time he’d been here and climbed the revolving stairs before knocking on the door and waiting to be told to enter.

Remus wasn’t in the room this time, but Snape and McGonagall were.

 

“Nice of you to keep us waiting for you for half of the morning, Potter.” Snape sneered at him.

 

“I was finishing my breakfast, Professor. Surely you wouldn’t deny me the chance to finish eating?” Harry questioned softly. “If you wanted me here just after I’d been told about the meeting, then why not schedule it closer to the end of breakfast and not before I’d even started eating? Or even for ten or eleven in the morning, which likely would have been best for all involved, it seems.”

 

“Do you know what this meeting is for, Harry?” Dumbledore asked.

 

Harry pulled up a chair between Snape and McGonagall without being asked, despite Narcissa’s lessons on etiquette swirling around in his mind and his shoulders hunched instinctively, expecting the familiar hex to the back of his head for his social faux pas.

 

“Not really, sir. I was hoping that my Firebolt had been found, but as I can’t see it anywhere, I doubt that that is the reason that I’m here.” He answered, being purposefully obtuse. He knew that he was here because of the charm on his trunk. He doubted that the Headmaster was even looking for his Firebolt. Lucius was going to sort it out for him, he’d already promised him in his last letter to get it back.

 

“You are here under the allegation of using dark magic against your fellow housemates in the form of a curse on your school trunk.”

 

Harry didn’t even need to fake his surprise. “Dark magic? Are you teachers at this school or not? It was an anti-thievery charm. I brought my complaints personally to you twice about my things being stolen, and then stolen and completely destroyed, all of which had to be replaced at my Father’s expense. I was not going to allow that to happen again for a third time, so I charmed my belongings. But at least now you have that proof that you wanted about who was stealing my property, sir and I’m sure if they were questioned, then my missing broomstick would be found too.”

 

“Potter has a point, Albus. Those boys were purposefully stealing and they damaged nearly all of Mister Potter’s things to the point where they actually had to be replaced and a very valuable broomstick is still missing. I will not stand for this behaviour to happen within my house.” McGonagall said sternly.

 

“What charm did you use, Potter? I didn’t recognise it, but I could tell that it wasn’t a curse and certainly nothing to do with the dark arts. Where did you find the book?” Snape asked.

 

“It was in the Restricted Section, Sir. Professor Flitwick gave me permission to go into the Restricted Section to find a spell that would help me to protect my newly replaced belongings and he even recommended the book to me after I told him that people kept taking my stuff, he said that there was a very strong locking charm in there. I found that charm and while I had it, I read the whole book from cover to cover, the other charm was also in the book and I added it to my trunk as well. The way I see it, they shouldn’t have been trying to steal my stuff for a third time and potentially trying to destroy it again for a second time. They were a bit discomfited for a few days, but no lasting or permanent damage has been done to them. Madam Pomfrey could tell you that herself.”

 

“Even so, don’t you think such a thing is a little…uncalled for?”

 

Harry blinked incredulously, but he held his temper back by the skin of his teeth.

 

“They not only stole off of me, but they damaged all of my belongings, tore up all of my robes, clothes and my homework, smashed all of my bottles of ink, ruined all of my books and even my trunk and they were going to do so again and you think that me protecting the brand new books, clothing and trunk that my Father sent to me is uncalled for? No, I don’t think so and as my very valuable broom is still missing over a month after it was stolen then I think it is fair to say that you aren’t even looking for it. I think I’ll take my Father up on his offer of bringing the attention of the school governors to this matter.” Harry threatened him. “I want my Firebolt back and I want those pestilent boys to leave me alone. I will petition to have my own sleeping quarters if this matter…persists.”

 

“I don’t believe that this is a matter for the governors to discuss.”

 

“Under usual circumstances, neither would I.” Harry insisted. “But twice I’ve been attacked in this way and almost a third time and my Firebolt is still missing. I think that if this continues for much longer then I’ll have to inform the governors and let them decide on the best course of action to take. I want my Firebolt back by the end of today, or I’ll send an owl to the governors. I think that’s all we have to discuss, headmaster. I have homework I need to do.”

 

Harry stood without being dismissed and he turned smartly on his heel and he left the office. He took a moment to breathe at the bottom of the stairs as a flare of ice cold anger had him pausing. It had taken him a lot to hold on to his anger in the office and he needed a moment to regain his composure.

He kicked off from the wall and made his way to the Owlery, he had a letter to send to Lucius Malfoy, who could get the other governors involved with this matter, especially after the Umbridge debacle. Her trial would be coming up soon and he really, really couldn’t wait.

He would get his Firebolt back and he refused to entertain the thoughts of apologising to his dorm mates when they had been trying to steal from him. He was not in the wrong on this issue, he was the victim of thoughtless, blind attacks of petty jealousy and hate and he would not put up with it. He had no reason to put up with it and he wouldn’t and if he had to call on his adoptive parents for their help, then he’d been assured that that was perfectly alright. He would not be used or made into a victim by anyone, he would make this stop by any means necessary, even if he did have to charm all of his belongings and petition to have his own rooms. He would not let them win. 

 

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Harry was grinning behind his glass of pumpkin juice when twelve people walked into the Great Hall, including Lucius Malfoy, who had been reinstated as a governor, and incidentally as chairman of the board of governors, when he’d shopped Umbridge to them and to the Ministry. He had waxed-poetic about his two poor sons, one of whom had been seriously injured and permanently scarred and had almost had an Unforgivable curse used on him by the Senior Undersecretary to the Minister. He’d been welcomed back onto the board as the previous chairman had been, very quickly, fired for not checking on the welfare of the students of Hogwarts and allowing Umbridge to hurt over two hundred students with the serious and severe misuse of a contract quill.

 

“This is a surprise, Lucius.” Albus said genially from the top table, standing up from his golden chair and smiling welcomingly at the entire board of governors who had entered the Great Hall.

 

“It is?” Lucius asked in false surprise. “I believe that my son told you that I would be arriving with the other governors. May we proceed to your office? I’m sure the children have better things to be doing than listening into our conversation.”

 

“Of course. Of course.” Dumbledore said with a twinkling smile.

 

“Harry, come with us, if you would.” Lucius called out to him, not having to raise his voice in the silent hall.

 

Harry stood and slung his bag over his shoulder, moving to walk to his Father.

 

“Is it really necessary to bring Harry into this discussion?” Dumbledore asked.

 

“As the student to bring these allegations forward, you know that it is necessary for him to be present.” Lucius replied smoothly. “I have been reinstated as the chairman for the board after Mister Wibblum’s ah…unfortunate dismissal. I have no doubts that you cowed him into letting you do as you please, but as you know, I am not so easily persuaded. I have spent the week implementing all of my old rules and regulations; you will find things changing for the better around this school once more. Now, if you would like to lead the way to your office so that we might settle this matter quickly. I have a lot to be getting on with.”

 

Harry allowed Lucius to prod him in front, so that Lucius could watch him walk and they went up to the Headmaster’s office, where Lucius waved his wand to conjure thirteen, very impressive, sumptuously upholstered armchairs and Harry sunk into the one next to his Father happily.

 

“Now, as Harry’s Father and the chairman for the board, I would like to ask you first and foremost why you allowed my son’s personal belongings to not only be stolen more than once, but also allow them to be completely destroyed by the other boys in his dormitory. Harry tells me that he came to you with this issue the moment that he’d realised that it had happened, yet not only did it happen a second and almost a third time, but my son’s broomstick is still missing over a month later. Yet that is not even the end of it, no, I have checked and double checked, but the perpetrators have not even had a single hour of detention nor any loss of house points. They haven’t been punished at all for attacking my son or stealing his property. This is unacceptable.”

 

“Harry did put a charm on his trunk which severely blistered his dorm mates’ hands. They couldn’t use their hands at all for four days, which severely affected their school work. I believe this to be punishment enough.”

 

“Punishment enough? A mere theft charm on a trunk?” One of the other governors scoffed. “I believe the charm was only used on their third theft attempt as well, why were they not punished right from the offset? They should have been punished from the very first instance that they stole another student’s property and not doing so has only enabled and even encouraged their unacceptable behaviour to continue. Their parents never even had a letter to explain that their children had stolen another student’s belongings twice and had tried to do so for a third time. Why should Lord Malfoy have to foot the bill to replace all of his son’s damaged belongings? It should be the parents of the children involved who bought all of young Harry’s new items.”

 

“I spent rather a lot on my son’s belongings just this August, having to replace them all again in October, just two months later, is preposterous. This should have been stopped at the very first instance of theft.” Lucius said silkily, his voice soft with anger. “Harry has given me the names of those involved and as governors we have written to the parents of all involved and informed them of what their children have done and as of today, they will spend an hour every evening for the next month serving detention with their head of house.”

 

“A month seems a little harsh.” Dumbledore tried.

 

“I believe that it is too lenient, but I was outvoted by my fellow governors.” Lucius Malfoy inclined his head to the other eleven governors. “I admit that as my son is involved, I might be allowing my personal emotions to influence my decisions, but I refuse to allow them to get away with a slap on the wrist for what they have done.”

 

“I hardly calling blistering their hands a slap on the wrist, Lucius.” Dumbledore cajoled.

 

“Harry had every right to protect his belongings after they had been stolen twice. This is not up for discussion, we have laid out the punishment that all twelve of us have agreed on and it will be implemented. Now, onto Harry’s missing broomstick, where is it?”

 

“I do not know, I have been searching and following leads, but so far it hasn’t turned up. I’m sure that Harry has just misplaced it.”

 

“Don’t you dare blame my son for ‘losing’ his broomstick when everyone in this room knows that it was stolen and is being kept from him. Do you know where the missing Firebolt is, yes or no?”

 

“No, I do not.”

 

“I tried summoning it.” Harry said softly, waiting just the right amount of time so that he didn’t cut Dumbledore off, yet didn’t speak over his Father either. “I am the only one in this school with a Firebolt, so I tried summoning it, like I did in my fourth year for the first task of the Tri-wizard Tournament. It came to me then, so I thought it would work this time, only it never responded. I think, that where ever it is, it might be under an anti-summoning charm.”

 

Lucius chuckled. “It is in one of the girls’ dormitories then. They have anti-summoning charms built into them, as they also have charms to prevent young gentlemen from entering the ladies dorm rooms. The wards were set up to prevent said young gentlemen from summoning the ladies’ underwear.”

 

Harry pulled a face. “People actually think to do that? That’s just distasteful.” He said with a grimace.

 

“Yes, but I will have the girls’ dormitories searched. Madam Portist, perhaps you could do the honours, with Professor McGonagall as a school representative, of course.” Lucius said. “If we could do that now, the sooner that this is all done with, the better.”

 

Harry had to subtly suck in his bottom lip and bite on it to keep away his grin. He was almost bouncing as he walked alongside his Father and the other Governors. They picked up Professor McGonagall from her office and they went into the Gryffindor common room, where only a few students were lingering, watching them curiously, including a group of people, two of whom had bandaged hands.

The two women went up to the girls’ dormitories and the two boys looked at each other nervously. Harry smiled. Lucius was right, his beloved Firebolt was inside the girls dormitories and from the look on the face of a certain bushy haired girl’s face, he knew whose trunk it would be found in too.

He wished he’d known about the anti-summoning charms on the girls dormitories before, he might have linked it together a little sooner and had his Firebolt back earlier, but as long as he got his broom back, he didn’t care.

 

“Have you been well?” Lucius asked him quietly, moving them both a little away from the main group of governors.

 

“Yes, I have been fine, a little stressed because of everything that has been going on here, but my school work is going well, Draco and Blaise are helping me a lot.”

 

“I hope they aren’t doing your work for you.” Lucius said with a raised eyebrow.

 

Harry laughed softly. “No. Draco wouldn’t allow me to slack off even if I did ask, he’s just helping me a lot and he reads through everything I write for me. He actually crossed out half of my Ancient Runes essay two days ago and told me that I had to write it again because I’m a shame to the family.”

 

Lucius’ mouth twitched into a smile and Harry smiled back.

 

“I also have a gift for my special someone. I was given the most beautiful dragonhide and solid silver bracelet.” Harry said, showing his wrist, with said bracelet wrapped around it, to Lucius. “So I ordered something special to be commissioned for him, it came this morning.”

 

“I hope that it is both tasteful and appropriate.”

 

“It’s cuff links.” Harry said with a frown. “Do you think that he won’t like them? I didn’t want to get him a bracelet or a necklace because of his severe weight loss, they wouldn’t fit him anymore once he puts that weight back on and I didn’t want him to have anything that physically reminds him of how much damage that place did to him once he’s better.”

 

“That is very thoughtful and considerate of you, I’m proud of you for thinking of such things. You’ve also been paying attention; you overheard that he likes good quality, custom cuff links, didn’t you?”

 

“Maybe.” Harry said with a grin. “I miss him.”

 

“Soon, you’ll be coming back home for Christmas. Your Mother and I have planned to invite the four of them over as our seasonal guests.”

 

Harry groaned. “Can’t you knock the one of them off? I know I’ll end up saying or doing something.”

 

“You will not if you plan to be sitting comfortably over the holidays.” Lucius warned him seriously. 

 

“But him!” Harry whined. He felt the tell-tale smack of the familiar hex on the back of his head.

 

He pouted but he remained silent. “I am looking forward to coming home.” He said quietly.

 

“I admit, the house has been quiet since you left. Draco is a quiet boy anyway; you brought so much noise to the manor.”

 

Harry laughed. “Draco’s only silent when he doesn’t have someone to clash with.”

 

“As long as you both don’t come home and start biting at one another like rabid dogs again.”

 

“We’ve been getting along better at school, but the Quidditch season is only just about to start, Gryffindor versus Slytherin is the first game of the season and it’s scheduled for only a little over a month before Christmas. Naturally Gryffindor is going to win, so Draco will be in a bit of a mood I expect when I catch the snitch from under his nose.”

 

Lucius’ mouth twitched with the beginnings of a smile. “Don’t be too hard on him.”

 

“There is no mercy in Quidditch.” Harry said passionately.

 

“Indeed.”

 

Harry snapped his head to the side and stood on his tiptoes when he heard the two women coming back down the dormitory stairs and he was practically bouncing on his toes to see if they had his beloved Firebolt with them. He grinned when he caught sight of it, but was ultimately dismayed when he realised the hideous state that the tail was in.

He let out a horrified cry and rushed to seize it from Professor McGonagall and check the handle for any damage. Someone had even attempted to scratch out the golden licence numbers that proved that the broom was his.

He turned his teary gaze to Lucius who made a slight movement with his eyebrow and Harry sucked in a huge, deep breath and composed himself, his hands tightening on the broomstick that had been given to him by his now dead Godfather. The very broom that his ex-friends had tried to destroy. There was no going back from this now, they knew how very much this broom meant to him and they had still tried to damage it beyond repair. He swallowed all of the upset and the raging anger that was burning him up on the inside; he glared at the table that held Ron, Dean, Hermione and Ginny, who were all trying to avoid the gaze of so many authority figures.

 

“Miss Granger, would you care to explain why this missing broomstick was found in your trunk, in the state that it is in?” Professor McGonagall, her lips white and pressed into a thin line, her nostrils flaring in anger, demanded of the red faced girl.

 

“It was already like that.” Ginny jumped in quickly.

 

“So you were involved in this too, Miss Weasley?”

 

“I can assure you that my son’s broom was not in this state when he came to school just a month before it was stolen. I have pictures of him playing on it with Draco in the Quidditch pitch at the manor and it is in perfect condition with not a single tail twig out of place. Harry takes incredibly good care of his broomstick as it was a gift to him by someone very special and he treasures it deeply.”

 

“I…I have the kit up in my trunk, I service this broom at least once a week, sometimes twice. It means so much to me, which is why I desperately wanted it back, but this…this is severe damage. The tail is ruined, the licence numbers have been severely scratched, likely to hide that it is my broomstick, though as the only one in this school with this broom, I can’t see how that would have worked, and the handle could be compromised. This is deliberate damage and defacement and I won’t stand for it.”

 

“How much will it take to fix the broom?” One governor asked.

 

Harry swallowed down the tears and the anger that were both battling for dominancy.

 

“It’ll have to be sent off so that it can be professionally evaluated by the company that made it and that won’t be cheap, the entire tail could need replacing and the licencing needs to be smoothened out and re-engraved. I’m looking at a hefty bill of a couple hundred Galleons and that’s only if the tail can be salvaged. If it can’t, or if the handle is at all compromised, then it might not even be worth it to fix all of the damage. It would have to be fully replaced with a new broom and then it would lose all of the sentimental value that it holds for me.”

 

Harry was so torn between utter devastation at what had happened to the Firebolt that Sirius had given to him and such furious anger at his former friends that his vision had tunnelled until all he could see were the faces of his house mates, four people that just last year he had called his friends, including two people who had been his very best friends in the world.

A hand landed on his shoulder and he flinched away from it, startled. He looked over his shoulder to see Dumbledore stood behind him. His bitter, hostile anger flared colder and his head started searing in pain. He gasped and raised a hand to the scar on his forehead and he pressed against it hard.

Lucius was there then, with a handkerchief and a furious anger in his eyes as he glared at Dumbledore.

 

“What did you do to my son?” He demanded coldly as Harry was pulled away from Dumbledore, his hand was peeled from his forehead and Lucius looked at his bleeding scar, pressing his handkerchief over it again.

 

“This is Voldemort’s doing.” Dumbledore insisted to the worried governors. “Harry’s scar often hurts him when Voldemort is being active and it has bled before.”

 

“Stop lying!” Harry shouted out. “Stop feeding me these lies, you’re always lying to me! This happened when you touched me! I didn’t even have a headache or anything before you touched me!”

 

Lucius squeezed him tightly, warning him to calm himself down and keep his composure, even as he kept pressure on his forehead.

 

“Keep your temper; you are revealing more than you know in your anger.” Lucius whispered into his ear.

 

“You know that this is Voldemort’s fault.” Dumbledore told him.

 

“You were always telling us that it was his fault when your scar was hurting you, Harry.” Hermione spoke up quietly.

 

Harry gritted his teeth. “You have no right to speak to me or to use my given name. I told you what I was told by the headmaster, I only knew what he was telling me, but he’s lying about it, this happened when he touched me, he did something to me.”

 

“This is unacceptable, Dumbledore.” One of the governors said angrily. “This child is bleeding after you touched him, just what is going on in this school?!”

 

“I assure you, governor Lettna, I did no such thing. This type of event is common for Harry.”

 

“Nothing like this has happened in the seven weeks that he has been with me over this summer and he has been fine for the first two months of the school term.” Lucius hissed. “It is very strange, I think, that he has had this type of reaction just as you touch him.”

 

Harry just stood there and allowed the governors and Dumbledore to fight it out in the middle of the Gryffindor common room. He went back to his ruined Firebolt and looked at it sadly, even as Lucius’ hand cupped a handkerchief to his forehead. It seemed to him that his friends had repeated bashed and forced the tail into the floor at a vertical angle, snapping the perfectly sleek, honed birch tail twigs, making an utter mess of them when he’d done nothing but groom and clip them since he’d received the broomstick. It was sickening what they’d done to something that had meant so, so much to him. He would never forgive them for this. Never.

 

“Come Harry, we shall send this broomstick off immediately and whatever the bill, those involved will share the cost of that as well. My my, I wonder if your parents can even afford that, young Weasleys. The cost of destroying all of Harry’s school things and I having to replace them was going to be hefty enough, but a Firebolt in this condition to repair as well, that is going to cost excessively.”

 

“You can afford to buy it yourself!” Ron exploded.

 

“Why should my Father have to?” Harry demanded furiously. “Whether rich or poor, it was still you who destroyed all of my things and they all had to be replaced. You need to take responsibility for what you did and if you couldn’t afford to replace it, then you shouldn’t have destroyed it all in the first place!”

 

“There is no need to lose your temper, Harry. Not over such a matter as this.” Lucius told him with a sniff. “At least now we know what happened to your broom and we can have it repaired, no matter the cost.”

 

Harry nodded and allowed himself to be led away, going to the Owlery where he could send off his broom to be repaired. It was only once they were actually in the semi-privacy of the Owlery that he let two hot tears slide down his cheeks.

 

Lucius sighed. “Why are you crying? It will be fixed within a month. I’ll make sure of it.”

 

Harry shook his head. “I know that. It’s just…Sirius gave me this, I’ve loved it as I loved him and now he’s gone, so I…”

 

“You cling to the broom in his place.” Lucius surmised as Harry fell silent.

 

Harry nodded. “Now it looks like this and it’s all going to be replaced and it won’t be the broom that he gave to me anymore, the parts of it that he actually touched with his own hands will be removed and replaced.”

 

“The handle is still intact, it doesn’t look to be compromised and ebony wood is very hard and dense, thus it takes considerable force to damage. It is only really the licencing that needs to be re-engraved and the tail twigs need to be replaced, he would have still held this broom in his hands, he still paid for it with his own money and the intent behind the gesture will not diminish merely because it needs to be serviced. He still loved you enough to buy this broom for you, he still wanted you to have it and you will have it back once it has been repaired. The memories attached to it will not leave you.”

 

Harry sniffled and he nodded his head. “I understand, I just hate seeing something so precious to me like this.”

 

“Then let us send it off and be gone with this upsetting sight.”

 

Harry nodded again and handed the Firebolt to Lucius, who used one of the numerous school owls to send the broomstick off to the manufactures company, Ellerby and Spudmore.

He watched the large owl carry off the ruined broomstick with a note written by Lucius about what had happened to it and what he wished to be done about it. Harry swallowed hard when it was finally out of sight and he turned back to Lucius, his face now dry of the few tears that had fallen.

 

“I have so few things to remember the people I love by.” He said softly. “When anyone damages those things, I get so angry and I lose control of my emotions. I’m sorry for that.”

 

Lucius nodded. “I understand quite well, Harry, there is no need to apologise. I have only ever struck Draco in malice once in my life and he was just a boy, no more than six. He idolised me, as I believe he might still, but he often played with my jewellery and my dress robes. I would come home to find him in one of my most expensive robes, trailing it behind him and walking all over the internal fabric, wearing my chains and rings that were much too big for him. I never minded and it used to amuse me, so I never thought to stop him. He found a lock box of mine in a cupboard out of his reach and he’d gotten our house elf, Dobby, to open it for him and as I had never told him not to open it, the elf did as he was told. Inside was a rather ancient family heirloom, dating back hundreds of years to Armand Malfoy. The gold was pure, meaning it was very soft and malleable and in the hands of a six year old, it did not last for very long until it broke. I was so furious that something so precious to my family, that had become so precious to me, had been broken by anyone, that I actually struck Draco across the face. Of course such an action had severe consequences, none more so than my Wife threatening to take our son and leave me. I regret what I did to my own son, but when I saw the ruined heirloom, I didn’t even think before I acted. It is one of only a handful of times where I have acted without thought and it has served to remind me exactly how important it is to think before I act. I am unsure whether Draco remembers the incident or not, but he never played with my jewellery again and he never dressed up in my robes again and just a few months later, he hit another person for the first time, Astoria Greengrass. I have a feeling that that was a direct consequence of what I’d done months earlier to him, but I could never be sure if it was a coincidence or not.”

 

Harry had no idea what to say about that, so he stayed silent and held his tongue. Lucius ran a large hand over his shoulder and squeezed.

 

“Come, I think I’ll spend an hour or so with you and Draco and check over all of your school assignments to make sure that you’re exercising your full abilities.”

 

“I am! I swear I am. I even considered dropping myself from the Quidditch team, though now I won’t…I’m going to make that team the best I can and I’ll do it on a school broom if I have to!”

 

Lucius smiled at him. “Strength of character…good. Keep that up and you might find yourself making something of yourself, now come along, I don’t have endless amounts of time to spend here and I do want to spend some time with you and Draco before I have to leave.”

 

Harry nodded and he turned on his heel and he followed Lucius out of the Owlery. He took the man to the library, where he found Draco and Blaise waiting for them with their homework spread out already. Harry settled himself down and he very much enjoyed the time that he spent with the three, even if it was just doing homework in the dusty school library.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Lucius sighed as he received the breakdown invoice from Ellerby and Spudmore. The Firebolt was in a bad way, but he had been correct, the ebony handle was not compromised and there were no fractures or splinters which could possibly cause a fatal accident for Harry if he flew it, it didn’t need to be replaced. The birch tail twigs, however, were another matter entirely. They were unable to be salvaged and had needed to be completely stripped from the broom and fully replaced. The golden engraving of Harry’s personal licencing numbers had been professionally retouched without damaging the broom handle and Lucius was very pleased. Very much so, especially after he’d seen exactly how much these services were going to cost.

He had made sure to inform the Minister of the incident in the form of small talk, which wasn’t actually small talk at all but a perfectly placed, well thought out plantation of subtle information meant to discredit the Weasleys and Dumbledore under the guise of meaningless small talk about his adopted son, who just so happened to be Harry Potter, a boy that everyone was very interested in.

 

“Darling, I was making up Draco’s monthly treat package and had the thought to make one for our Harry too, do you think he would prefer a gift card from Quality Quidditch Supplies or a subscription to Which Broomstick?”

 

Lucius smiled and turned to look at his Wife, who was taking to Harry like a Grindylow to water.

 

“I believe that he would much prefer a subscription to The Quibbler, Dear. I have seen him reading it on occasion and I believe that it amuses him greatly. Lovegood is a friend of his.”

 

“Are you sure that that girl is still talking to him? Draco says that since the start of the school year, our Harry has been very isolated from his house as they reacted very badly to his adoption.”

 

“I’m sure that given the chance they would still interact. They are in different houses, I believe that Xenophilius’ daughter was sorted into Ravenclaw and she has never reacted normally or with the general masses. I don’t believe that such a thing as a mere adoption would faze her and it might help to remind our Harry that he does still have friends, if he cares to look for them a little harder.”

 

Narcissa nodded and filled out the owl subscription form.

 

“Did Harry seem settled when you last saw him? I hate what Draco is telling us is happening to him in that school.”

 

“He seemed settled and well adjusted, Dear. Just angry. I have no ideas on where such crippling anger comes from within him. It doesn’t seem natural how he flares up so quickly and easily and certainly not within his character.”

 

“His Mother was always fiery tempered.”

 

“She was and I’m not saying that Harry might not have inherited that fiery temper, but this anger he carries seems to swallow him, it blinds him with fury until he can’t even think straight. Such a thing is terrifying to consider, but all the same, I do not believe that it is normal.”

 

“Perhaps we should have him tested by a Healer then, especially after this revelation about his…previous guardians.”

 

Lucius’ lips pulled into a sneer, as they always did these days when Harry’s mistreatment by mere muggles was brought up. He hadn’t had the chance to talk to Harry about it while he was at the school, he’d only been there for a short time and Harry had been upset and angry already, but winter was rapidly approaching and he’d have both boys home for the holidays, he would speak to Harry about it then. He would not allow any mistreatment of his sons to stand. It was why he had taken out the vile Madam Umbridge at the very first opportunity that arose. Her trial would be happening in the New Year and he couldn’t wait until he could destroy her indefinitely.

Of course it helped that he had regained his position as a Hogwarts governor and chairman of the board as well. He’d seen to it that Dumbledore was kicked out of the Ministry, which could only be credited to Harry himself for claiming his rightful Lordships, he himself had the Minister’s ear and now he had considerable control over Hogwarts too. He would ruin Dumbledore and he was sure that once he was ruined and not trusted by the wizarding public anymore, his Lord would destroy him once and for all, leaving their path completely clear with only the odd bump due to the remaining Order of the Phoenix members.

The Ministry was now being cleaned out. Madam Umbridge was currently in a Ministry holding cell, waiting for a trial that would see the unpalatable woman stripped of all dignity and prestige and sent to Azkaban to rot where she belonged. Lucius knew that others would soon follow.

Harry had set in motion a series of events that would see a new reform blossom, much sooner than they ever would have been able to implement without him.

He was personally very pleased with the way things were progressing and he knew that his Lord was too. There had been a few, very subtle, assassinations over the last month, a disappearance here, an ‘accidental’ death there and everything was falling into place. They were swiftly and smoothly moving into the place that they needed to be and it was all because he had had the forethought to put aside his own thoughts and feelings and adopt a neglected, and according to recent information abused, boy who was clueless, lost and alone.

He had snatched up the Boy-Who-Lived and he had worked and worked on the boy to bring his, rather sharp and analytical, mind around to his way of thinking and it had worked. Only now, after getting to know Harry personally and not through books, rumours, scathing reports or through the jealous gossip of his own son, he found that Harry was completely different to how he had once believed him to be. Surprisingly sharp and adept, he was more intelligent than he had thought, and definitely more open minded too.

He had expected a fuss, the boy had had his world turned upside down and he had lost his beloved Godfather on top of everything that he had learnt at Gringotts, but the things that Harry had chosen to kick up a fuss over hadn’t been the things that he had expected him to have reacted to.

He had had a harder time managing Harry’s day to day behaviour than he had over the betrothal contract. He had had more of a challenge getting Harry to respond to receiving gifts, mere trivial things like books and clothes than he had over being a Death Eater loyal to the Dark Lord. It was very strange and he had to wonder if it all stemmed from the revelation of abuse by those muggles that Harry had been forced to live with just because Dumbledore didn’t want to raise the boy himself, yet couldn’t risk anyone else becoming Harry’s magical guardian because then he would lose all of his power and prestige with the Ministry. Most notably he would have lost the Wizengamot seats for the Lord Potter and the Lord Black, and he had needed those seats, especially after he had been stripped of his title of Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards the previous year. The Wizengamot seats had been all that he’d had left by the way of power in the Ministry and thanks to Harry, he had lost those too.

He was worried about Harry being in Hogwarts. He’d talked it over with the Lestranges and his Lord, but with all the other upheavals that Harry had faced lately, removing him from Hogwarts was probably not the best way to go. Yet with Dumbledore’s loss of influence in the Ministry, and now that he was once again a governor of Hogwarts and the chairman of the board, Dumbledore was going to start losing influence at the school as well and once the public turned against him, then he would be nothing and he worried that Harry would be in danger because of that, especially if Severus was right and Dumbledore was insistent on forcing Harry to fight by any means necessary.

He had been, they had all been, charged with protecting Harry. He had gone from a priority target, to being their primary mission, and it wasn’t to capture him, but to protect him and because of Harry’s cooperation and his open mindedness on dealing with everything that had happened, everything was moving along that much more smoothly. It made a wonderful contrast to a few months ago where they were hitting snags in most of their plans and the boy himself had blockaded their way in the Ministry itself. He had to admit, even with Dumbledore still in the picture and the Order of the Phoenix still active, with Harry out of the way everything was falling into place and he felt more relaxed and confident that his life views would soon become law and as a plus, he finally had a second child to care for.

He loved Draco, his son was the embodiment of his love and care and he had always done and would always do his all for him, despite the few hiccups they had experienced over the years. But he and Narcissa had tried for a second child four or five years after Draco’s birth, but after all the necessary tests, he had found that he had a very low sperm count that was getting lower with his increasing age and thus, at just thirty-one he would be unable to conceive another child and it would be unlikely that Draco would have more than one or two children himself.

This opportunity had been a blessing to his family really, not only because of Harry’s social standing, his rare bearing abilities and his two Lordships, but because he and Narcissa had always wanted a second child and now they had that opportunity.

It was difficult because Harry was already a teenager, it had now emerged that he had been neglected and abused, to what extent he didn’t know yet, but such a thing disgusted him and he would sort this out for his adoptive son. Things would have been much easier if this had been done a decade before, when Harry was still a small boy, but he had been shaped by abuse and manipulation and as a result of that, he was damaged and angry and he naturally lashed out.

Lucius sighed as he filed away the invoice from Ellerby and Spudmore in a file that he had created just for Harry. It was getting quite full already and it had only been four months since he had adopted the boy. But of course between the actual adoption papers, the betrothal contract, the Healer’s papers on his fertility and bearing abilities, the documentation of the neglect by his previous magical guardian, all of the relevant paperwork, like Harry’s birth certificate and his Healers notes on his vaccinations (that he had been appalled to see hadn’t been completed, which he would rectify as soon as possible.) as well as the case that he had built against Umbridge and the case he would now build against his former relatives, the file was getting very full.

He would help Harry with his anger issues, he would help him with anything that he needed and now that they were all on the same side, there didn’t need to be any animosity between them, they could make this work. He and Narcissa could have the second child that they had always wanted, as well as a sibling for Draco, and Harry could have the family and structure that he so obviously needed. They could be good together, they could be a family until such a time that he handed Harry over to Rabastan as a Husband. That day would be sooner rather than later as well if all the signs and indications had been read correctly, he just hoped that Rabastan was ready to handle Harry when the time came.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry grinned as he thought about his new, private, rooms which was more like a small apartment. He had four rooms all to himself. A living room cum kitchenette, a bedroom, a bathroom and a study room that was the smallest room, but had three bookshelves, and a study desk where he could do his homework.

Dumbledore hadn’t wanted to let him have it, not at all, but the governors had bullied him into it and had insisted that it was necessary for his own protection due to the hostility shown to him by his own dorm mates. They had insisted that they couldn’t allow him to remain in a dorm room where he was in constant danger of being attacked, so they had forced Dumbledore to remove him from the Gryffindor dorm rooms and he now had his own rooms on the fourth floor.

Draco and Blaise were both very jealous and they spent a lot of time over the next few days around at his rooms and they often spent their free time doing their homework at his coffee table with drinks and snacks from his stocked kitchenette that the house elves stocked every day for him with fresh food, fruit, tea and juice. It was enough for snacks, but he didn’t really have anything in the way of making a full meal for himself, so he couldn’t avoid going to the Great Hall for meal times, but outside of that and lessons, then he spent most of his time in his rooms.

His Firebolt had been returned to him better than brand new in record time thanks to Lucius influence and the knowledge that it was Harry Potter’s broomstick and he’d been assured that the handle hadn’t been touched, except for the high quality varnish and polish that it had been given after the re-engraving of his personal license number. It was so polished that it gleamed and Harry was so happy, knowing that this handle was the same one that Sirius had touched with his own hands.

The first Quidditch game of the season was rapidly approaching and Harry was so excited as he tested out his broom on his own to make sure that it worked as well as he remembered. He sped up and down the Quidditch pitch, pushing the broom as hard as he could, urging it to go faster and faster, turning at the last moment on a hairpin. It reacted to him just as he remembered, as if the broom was reading his thoughts instead of his body movements it was that sensitive and he flew around the Quidditch pitch for hours, just reconnecting with the broom that he hadn’t been able to fly for the last month and a half. He practised his diving and all of his manoeuvres and he felt so much better.

The icy anger that had plagued him for the last several weeks had left him up here in the air and in the clouds and he felt relaxed and happy and able to think again.

He touched back down gently and shouldered his broom and he headed back to the castle when he started feeling a little chilled. It was November after all and it was getting late, dark and cold.

He made it to his rooms and he collapsed onto his settee with a groan, broomstick in hand. He couldn’t bring himself to let it go just yet. The quiet of his rooms relaxed him and he closed his eyes to savour it, at least until Hedwig joined him and nibbled on his ear.

 

“Hey girl, how are you?” He asked her as he stroked her head and beautiful plumage. “It’s been a while since we had a moment to ourselves.”

 

Hedwig clicked her beak at him and Harry smiled, relieving her of her burden and grinning widely as she walked along the chair to perch on his leg. She clicked insistently at him and he chucked as he resumed his grooming of her soft feathers.

He put his broomstick beside him and opened the letter one handed. There were three other envelopes in the first and he looked at them excitedly, knowing that one of them had to be from Rabastan. He was right, he recognised the shaky letters on the second envelope caused by Rabastan’s weakened muscles and his cramps and he dived on it immediately.

He opened this letter quickly, taking his hand away from Hedwig before shaking the parchment out and letting his hand fall back to her feathers as he quickly read the letter that had been sent to him. He could see that Rabastan had really tried when writing this letter, but it was immediately apparent where Rabastan’s arm had jerked out of his control and he had scored the parchment with his quill, leaving long lines of black ink.

Harry still read the letter and he couldn’t help grinning like a loon, a warm feeling filling up his insides as he read it through several times. He liked hearing that Rabastan was missing him and that he had loved the cuff links that Harry had gifted to him and how he couldn’t wait until they could spend more time together during the winter holidays.

He hated that Rabastan had apologised for his shaky, often illegible, cursive and the jerked lines through the writing. He’d definitely have to sort that out once he went home for the holidays, he wouldn’t have Rabastan apologising for the damage done to him by Azkaban, it wasn’t his fault and he couldn’t control it. He was already doing everything that he could to rectify the damage done, he was on a very strict dietary plan, he was taking all sorts of potions and doing all sorts of strengthening exercises to help himself. He was doing everything that he possibly could and Harry would not have him apologising for anything because he knew it was going to take years for the damage to heal, it wouldn’t happen over days, weeks or even months, but years and it was all thanks to Azkaban.

He hated that fucking prison with a furious passion, it was unnatural and inhumane and there was no going back if an innocent person was put in that hell hole like Sirius had been, they came out just as fucking damaged and no amount of Galleons thrown at them in the form of ‘compensation’ helped the years’ worth of recovery and therapy that was needed to try and rectify the damage that had been done. That prison really needed to be sorted out and those damn Dementors needed to be cleaned out. Azkaban had ruined two people that he cared about greatly, three if Rodolphus was counted as well, as he got on well with his future brother-in-law, not to mention how badly the Dementors affected him as well. He could only imagine Azkaban as hell on Earth and it needed to be addressed and sorted out.

 

“I’ll make him better, Hedwig.” He said into the silent room. “I didn’t really understand with Sirius. I was only thirteen and though I knew the effects of the Dementors, I passed out before they had much of a chance to torture me. I didn’t understand the effects and certainly not the long term effects of what being in Azkaban meant. I have a better idea now that I’m older. Sirius was innocent and he could cling to that, he had Padfoot to use as an escape and I know now that he hid a lot from me because I was so young and he didn’t want me to worry. Looking back on it now, I can see the pain as he moved, I saw the haunted eyes and the gaunt face and the emaciated body, even though he’d been staying in Grimmauld Place. Though thinking on it that probably wouldn’t have helped him either. He suffered through that for twelve years, Rabastan and Rodolphus suffered for fifteen years, that’s as long as I was stuck at the Dursleys. They were in prison though, with the Dementors and I couldn’t imagine going through that day after day, year after year. They have to be some of the strongest men I know, just to even survive that place. I know most people get sick and die or they stop eating or they just straight out commit suicide, but they never gave up, they didn’t commit suicide or stop eating. They clung to something, for Sirius it was hope and the knowledge that he was innocent, but what did Rabastan and Rodolphus have? They were guilty, they did torture the Longbottoms into insanity, so what made them cling to life?”

 

Hedwig hooted and Harry sighed as he dug his fingers into her feathers and scratched down the full length of her body and his lovely owl clicked happily in pleasure of the action.

 

“I suppose I’ll never know now, I’m not as tactless as to ask. Though maybe in a few years, when their imprisonment isn’t quite so raw, I’ll see if I’ll get an answer then, but I won’t hold my breath for it.”

 

Harry sighed again heavily and he sent Hedwig off. It was getting dark and she’d want to hunt soon. He put Rabastan’s letter back in its envelope and left it on the table as he turned to the other two that had arrived. One was from Lucius, just generally asking after him and if he was alright, which Harry found difficult to admit, but it made his chest tighten with unfamiliar emotions.

He swallowed as the letter choked him up a little and he viciously shoved it aside. What the hell was wrong with him lately? First the sudden, icy anger, now he was getting choked up and weepy because Lucius had sent him a letter. He was sure that someone was messing with his food, but the house elves of Hogwarts were under a contracted oath to never, ever put anything in the students food. The serious binding oath had been administered to all Hogwarts elves in eighteen-forty-three after some nut case in Ravenclaw had invented a new poison and had tested it out on all the students who had bullied her by asking the elves to put the poison in their food, claiming it was a harmless prank. It had killed fourteen people and had made twenty-seven others seriously sick. The Governors at the time had forced the oath on the poor house elves and it still remained to this day. So no, Harry wasn’t worried about anyone playing with his food or drink, but with how he was feeling lately, he could well believe that someone had been slipping him potions.

The third letter was written in unfamiliar cursive, but it had been forwarded to him by Lucius, so he trusted it, to an extent.

The neat, elegant words were even spaced on the parchment and there was no signature to speak of at the bottom of the letter, even Rabastan, who obviously couldn’t put his signature on anything, especially nothing that he sent to him, left an elaborate letter ‘R’ at the end of the parchment. It was always perfect, as if Rabastan forced himself to do at least that right when the actual letter was a mass of shaky scrawls, jerked lines and unintentional ink blots.

Harry read the letter through and he gritted his teeth as he realised exactly why this letter didn’t need a signature…he knew exactly who this was and his hands physically ached to tear it into tiny fucking shreds that he would throw into his living room fire. He didn’t though. He controlled himself and breathed deeply and as calmly as he could through the urges to tear up the letter. He was surprised somewhere in the back of his mind that the anger he was feeling was warm and passionate, not the sudden, icy cold explosive anger that he had been feeling recently.

The letter itself would have been quite innocent, had it not been for the person who had wrote it. Voldemort himself was asking after his health and wellbeing, though he was sure that that was just ‘social niceties’ as he had phrased it two years ago in that Graveyard when he had forced him to bow before their duel. His real reason for writing was very clear further down, when he started ask…no, demanding, he couldn’t see the Dark Lord asking anything of anyone, after his thoughts, feelings and his motivations.

Voldemort insisted that he just wanted to be sure of his stance, that he wanted to be sure that he wouldn’t interfere or get in the way of his plans. Harry ground his teeth together and clenched his hands, crumpling the letter in his one fist.

He had been doing his best to ignore the pink elephant as the expression went, but Voldemort had stripped that away by directly contacting him and Harry knew the red eyed bastard would expect a reply as soon as possible as well. He couldn’t help but wonder if this was another goddamned test as well or maybe it was just another level of the same test. He hadn’t reacted to Lucius talking of the Dark Lord at Malfoy Manor, he hadn’t reacted to being betrothed to a loyal Death Eater, hell he hadn’t even really kicked up much of a fuss about living with and being adopted by a Death Eater, so were they now testing him further?

He couldn’t stand the situation he was in, he hated that he had been forced here, into this position and it was all down to Dumbledore. He may have hated Voldemort, but at the moment he hated Dumbledore even more. This situation was all kinds of wrong and he didn’t like it, but he had no one left! What was he supposed to do as the adults all fought over him like a mere possession just because he had been indicated in a prophecy and had survived when he damn well shouldn’t have? His options had been limited before, but now, thanks to what he’d found out in Gringotts, he had even less options now than he’d had before.

He could have chosen to ignore all that he had learnt, though the anger he carried within him, which was slowly fermenting into resentment, would have made that incredibly difficult. How did one forgive and forget something of that magnitude? The abuse, the neglect, the lies and the manipulations. The complete disregard for him as an actual person, the theft of his birth right, the little games that could have easily killed him over the years…all to prepare him for his future purpose of course. He couldn’t do it, he couldn’t face off against someone so powerful, so much older than himself. He was sixteen and he was sure that he didn’t know a fraction of what Voldemort had stored up in his arsenal over the decades. He would not be anyone’s lamb to the slaughter, he didn’t care what the reason was. There was always another way. No, he could never have forgiven and forgotten what Dumbledore had done to him. He just couldn’t.

Of course he could have struck off on his own. He certainly had enough money for it, but again, he was only sixteen. What would he do? Where would he go? He had had no idea how to buy a house, he didn’t know how to run one or how to pay bills. He couldn’t ward his new house as he didn’t know how to, he hadn’t even known if he was even allowed to buy a house while he was still a minor! All he would be able to do was cook and clean, because that’s all the Dursleys had taught him in his fifteen year stay with them. He had needed someone to take him in and teach him how to do everything on his own.

He certainly would not have chosen Lucius Malfoy of all people to be the one to take him in, but he had been the only one actually willing to take him in and the man had started to teach him everything that he’d wanted to know about everything. All he had to do was ask and suddenly a new stack of books would be delivered to him by a house elf and if he had any questions after reading them, all he had to do was ask them. It was a foreign concept after the Dursleys, it had taken him a while to get into the rhythm of it, so to speak, where he would read the books given to him and then question Lucius on the things that he was unsure about. He even had his knowledge retention tested when Lucius asked him questions in turn to make sure that the information he had read had gotten through and stuck in his mind. He was learning at the Malfoy home and it was everything that wasn’t taught in Hogwarts that he actually needed to know in order to live a normal, independent life!

It was as if Dumbledore didn’t expect him to live, so teaching him anything on how to be an independent adult would have been just a massive waste of time and it was that more than anything that panicked Harry and made him cling to the Malfoy family, and even to Rabastan, tighter. He wanted to live, he wanted his own family and his own life. He didn’t want to die!

He couldn’t just forgive and forget what Dumbledore had done and he’d needed someone to teach him what he needed to know to live a normal life, being adopted, or even just taken in by someone, really was the only option he’d had where he sort of got what he wanted and got exactly what he needed.

No, he would never have chosen Lucius Malfoy of all people, but after seven weeks spent in his home and four months now of being ‘a Malfoy’ he had to admit that it really wasn’t that bad. He was happy, he was looked after, everything he needed or wanted was given to him, he was a lot more protected now and he had a family to call his own. Things could have been better, he knew that, but looking back at where he had come from, he also knew that things could also be a hell of a lot worse. He was happy with the Malfoy family and he was very happy with Rabastan. Things would work out for him, because he’d force them to if he had to and it was with that thought that he got out his parchment and ink and he calmly and cleverly replied to his three letters. If they were testing him, he wouldn’t let them win, and if they were just genuinely curious and concerned for his wellbeing and his stance on things, as difficult as that thought was to believe, well, so much the better.

 

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Chapter Text

 

Chapter Six – Conscious Realisation

 

Rabastan Lestrange often thought of himself as a cold, unfeeling man. Even before Azkaban had stripped him bare and had ruined him down to his very soul, he had been cold and uncaring of almost everything that didn’t actually relate to himself.

He’d had countless trysts before Azkaban, he was a Pureblood from a prominent family, he’d been young, fit and handsome and his inherited body musculature hadn’t hurt either. He could still remember countless people, men and women both, and even a few who could only be classed as boys, crying and sobbing as he informed them that everything he’d told them had been lies, just to get them into his bed.

It had naturally started at Hogwarts. His older brother had often regaled him with tales of his trysts with women the night before, laughing as he saw their wet, red eyed faces over the following weeks and Rodolphus had been so…joyful. He had liked hurting those girls. He had told Rabastan that he liked the power that it gave him, so he had naturally emulated his older brother and he had done the same. Only he hadn’t limited himself to just girls.

He had made something of a reputation for himself while in Hogwarts, but he’d been at his worst when he was in his late teens and graduated from Hogwarts.

He still remembered the face of the one woman, a mere mudblood he had slept with just to amuse himself. He had made a grave mistake and he’d strung her along for a month, listening to her babble about how they were going to get married and have a family together. As if he would have even considered embarrassing and lowering himself to marrying a mudblood, to think that she had thought that he would ever sully his bloodline by having a child with her. But she had amused him greatly, so he had kept her for longer, which she had taken to interpret as true love, insisting to her friends and family that he was a changed man and that he was going to stay with her and start a family with her.

He still remembered the day that she had told him that she was pregnant. He could still feel the horror and the disgust, how had he not been more careful, how? He had told her then and there that she was mere amusement for him, that he would never lower himself to marry a mudblood and she was a fool for even thinking such thoughts. When she had been in tears and begging on her knees in front of him, pleading for him to reconsider for the sake of their baby…that had been when he’d ripped his wand out of his holster and slashed his wand over her midsection. The curse that his Grandfather had meticulously taught and instructed him to cast, just in case there were any unsavoury ‘accidents’ in his youth, had insured that the baby within her was no more, whether it truly was his or another man’s, he didn’t care, he would not bear the shame of an unworthy mudblood carrying his child. A bastard child no less.

He had left that woman, her name and face eluded him now, on the floor of her small, ratty home and he had never seen her again. He had never played the game again. He had realised exactly how dangerous it had been. If she hadn’t believed that they would be married, that they were in love and that he had changed. If she hadn’t told him that she was pregnant right away…if he hadn’t strung along that game for his own amusement, then he might have had the utmost, compounding shame of a bastard, halfblood child in the world. The embarrassment of such a thought stung him even now. He had never told his Grandfather or his brother about that mudblood and for as long as he lived, he never would, that haunting secret would go with him to the grave.
His trysts had trailed off after that, his Grandfather had been pleased, thinking that he had finally grown up and in a way, he had. He’d realised exactly how dangerous the little game he’d been playing was and he’d stopped immediately. All of his trysts over the following three years before he was thrown into Azkaban were carefully chosen, and were mostly men. He would never have a bastard child, ever.

His roundabout thoughts brought him to Harry and he fingered his new cufflinks holding the cuffs of his shirt closed. He loved them, they reminded him of Harry in a way, smooth silver ovals with a ripple of green through them that sometimes exploded with colour and made green shadows dance on the walls when the candle light bounced off of them. Plain, simple, elegant and utterly unique.

He twitched hard and clenched his regrown teeth together, fighting the aftershocks of smaller twitches and ticks that followed. How could Harry even stand to look at him? He’d seen himself in the full length bathroom mirror. He had seen the damage, the wastage that Azkaban had inflicted on his body. He was ugly, inside and out, what would a boy as young, beautiful and as powerful and influential as Harry want with a broken man who couldn’t even write a letter properly?

Harry was a kind, soft person, he deserved someone better than himself, but he was a selfish person also and he always had been, so though he knew that Harry deserved much better than himself, there was no way that he was going to give Harry up. Though now that his Lord was actively seeking for their marriage, he would have been unable to break off his betrothal with Harry, even if he had the inclination to do so, which he definitely didn’t.

Harry was different and not just because he was someone influential and from a good family, in a roundabout way. He hadn’t just slept with mudbloods or sluts of no proper bloodlines or import in his youth, he had slept with Pureblooded men and women as well over the years and he had treated them all the same, he had played with every single one of them. He didn’t know why Harry was different to everyone else, he just was.

He wasn’t sure if it was because of Azkaban, or if it was because he was the ruin of a man who was hideous to look upon and yet Harry was so beautiful and he looked and smiled at him like he was still in his late teens, with his perfectly fit body, his handsome face and all of his hair.

Harry treated him like he was still normal where other people recoiled in horror and disgust. Some of them had even dared to sneer and hiss comments about his appearance, though he got a feeling that they were the people that he had played his games with in his youth. He couldn’t be sure because Azkaban had blurred the faces of all of them.

But Harry looked into his eyes, Harry sat next to him and kept eye contact and he didn’t recoil away. Harry touched and held his withered, skeletal hands with their peeling, brittle nails with no sign of disgust. Harry spoke to him like a person, not like a cripple on his deathbed. For some reason he couldn’t actually fathom, Harry wanted to marry him, he wanted to have children with him and he couldn’t understand it.

He might have thought that Harry was blind, but he had stared deeply into those beautiful, magnificent, eyes for long enough to know that that most definitely wasn’t the case. Harry wasn’t blind, Harry saw him and Harry still wanted to marry him.

He might have thought that Harry had been paid by someone, anyone, to marry him, but Harry had enough in the way of money in his own right, he had inherited the stagnant Black and Potter vaults, which would have made him considerably wealthy in interest alone, even if he didn’t know that both vaults would have been piled high with gold to begin with.

He might have thought that Harry had been forced or blackmailed into being with him, but from what he had learnt of the fierce, feisty boy, that most definitely wouldn’t have been the case. Rabastan doubted that the Dark Lord himself could blackmail or force the boy into anything and he liked that thought. He needed a strong partner, one who wouldn’t let him call all the shots, one who wouldn’t let him walk all over them, otherwise his own marriage would turn into one of his games…one that he’d be unable to get away from and he didn’t want that.

Harry was perfect. He was young, beautiful, fertile and strong. Everything that Rabastan had always wanted, and needed, out of a partner. Everything else was just a bonus, his wealth, his power and social standing, his kindness…that smile that could infect a room and never failed to make his own thin, rough lips curl into some semblance of a smile. The tiny, soft hands that would hold his own without care, that would comfort him through another twitch. Those big, beautiful eyes that crinkled around the edges when Harry smiled from ear to ear. That infectious laugh that had been tormenting him in his dreams.

He needed to see Harry again and soon. He hated that his young Husband-to-be was so very far away from him at the moment and almost completely unprotected. He wanted Harry with him, by his side so that he could look after him. He wanted to talk to him face to face, but he was unable to and that frustrated him.

He tried to keep busy, the meticulous designing of Harry’s engagement ring was taking up most of his time, but the ache to see Harry, to hold him, was growing bigger and deeper by the day and every letter he received resonated inside of him. He wanted Harry in his arms and in his bed. Yet he couldn’t do the latter even if Harry was there with him! He was physically incapable at the moment because he was a ruin of a man and he wouldn’t even be able to pick Harry up, let alone carry him to his bed and show him exactly how much he meant to him.
It was likely a good thing that the wedding was so far away in the future, because there was no way that he and Harry would be having a proper wedding night until he was much, much stronger and at the moment he struggled to stay standing for more than half an hour at a time…it would be many months, maybe even a year or more, before he would even be able to unleash his passions on Harry, but fuck he couldn’t wait for that day to arrive, it really could not come soon enough he thought as his mind raced around the images of Harry, and the tantalising fantasies he created and the whimsical wondering of what Harry might look like fully undressed and spread out on a bed. His bed. He grinned happily, it wouldn’t be long now. These next few years were going to fly by.

 

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Harry couldn’t have asked for worse conditions for flying. The rain was sleeting down in a mush of part rain and part snow, making visibility near impossible. It was freezing cold and his entire team, including him, were shivering so hard they were actually vibrating, making movement difficult. It was wet, which compromised their grips and they were playing Slytherin, the dirty bastards.

Harry had already waterproofed his glasses so that he’d be able to actually see, but it was about all he could do as he led his team out onto the soaked, muddy pitch.

Urquhart was waiting for him with the rest of the Slytherins. They jeered as Harry led his young team out to face them, but Harry had done well with them and their small, determined faces started up at the bigger, taller Slytherins in outright defiance.

 

“Captains, shake hands!” Madam Hooch demanded and Harry thrust his hand out for Urquhart to try and crush. The Slytherins were so predictable. It was why he wore steel boned gloves for Quidditch. That and it made clasping the snitch easier.

 

Harry watched with amusement as Urquhart tried and failed to crush his fingers. He took a moment to look around the stadium as they got into position and smiled as he spotted Lucius in the teachers stand. He’d said that he would be coming to watch him and Draco play together for the first time.

Harry looked to his brother and smiled wider at the sodden blond hair that was plastered all over his pale, pointy face. He was sure he looked no better, but he didn’t much care about how he looked, not as much as Draco did.

He straddled his broom and waited for Madam Hooch to blow her whistle after releasing the bludgers and the snitch before he kicked right up into the air like a popped cork. His broom was so fast that Harry was up and gone, looking for the snitch before the game had even really began.

The wind drove the breath from his lungs and the rain stung at his skin, but he was so happy up here on his Firebolt and playing the game that he loved.

“Are you sure you can actually see anything?”

 

Harry turned to laugh at Draco, whose hair was all over his face and his cheeks were stained a brilliant red from the wind. He was shivering on his broom.

 

“Of course. I can see fine. You, however, look like you’re going to drop dead at any moment.”

 

“Your young team look despondent.”

 

Harry snorted. “They look like bedraggled puppies, you mean. That doesn’t mean they’re not determined to win. They’re going to be fine, you’ll see.”

 

Draco huffed and sped off and Harry laughed at having rattled his brother’s cage. He looked around for any hint of the snitch, but despite what he’d said to Draco, he could barely see three foot in front of him thanks to the wind and rain.

He couldn’t even hear the commentary over the gale force wind gusting past his ears. He was soaked to the bone and sure that he was going to get a cold from this…or pneumonia.

He had no idea how long he’d been flying and searching for the snitch when he heard a shrill, amplified, whistle pierce through the wind. He snapped his head around, his heart in his throat and he only relaxed when he realised that it was a call for a time out…Draco hadn’t caught the snitch before him. Fuck, he’d never be able to live that down if Draco caught the snitch, especially not with Christmas just a few weeks away…the holiday that he’d be spending at Malfoy Manor. No, he had to win this game or he was going to have to spend Christmas locked away in solitude.

He landed under the Gryffindor bleachers and looked at his wet, miserable little young ones. They were huddled together like the puppy pile he’d envisioned when talking to Draco. He couldn’t help but smile as he cast a heating charm over them all.

 

“How are we all doing?” He asked.

 

“Urquhart called the time out, the sloth.” Katie sighed ill temperedly. “We’re twenty points up, it’s too close, Harry. We need the snitch.”

 

“I’m working on it, I swear. Unless it flies up my sleeve though, it might be a long game, just hang in there guys….and girls.” He added, remembering Oliver’s ribbing when he’d forgotten the girls. “This rain can’t last forever and we’re ahead, let’s keep it that way and try to survive this game. I think Pepper-Up potions all around after we’re done here and hot chocolates of course.” He added with a grin.

 

His two young Beaters slapped hands in a high five and Harry smiled at their antics.

 

“A spoonful of sugar and all that. Medicine first though.” He said with a face.

 

“As long as you lead by example, Captain.” Demelza teased him.

 

“You know I will. It just means that I’m the first to get my hot chocolate.” He said with a laugh.

 

Madam Hooch approached them and Harry gave her the double thumbs up to indicate that he and his team were ready to get back into the air and back to the game. She nodded and Harry turned serious for a moment.

 

“Game faces now, people. Katie, you, Demelza and Sarah keep up what you’re doing. You’ll be alright, I trust you.”

 

“We trust you to catch that snitch too.” Katie told him and Harry nodded.

 

“Jimmy, Ritchie, you two are doing good too, I saw that bludger smash into one of Slytherin’s Chasers.”

 

“That was me!” Jimmy Peakes said excitedly.

 

“Keep up moves like that.” Harry encouraged. “Try and take out the Keeper and the Seeker.”

 

The two boys’ faces fell. “But the Seeker is Malfoy, everyone knows that he’s your brother now. So he’s off limits.”

 

Harry laughed. “Do you think he’s going easy on us because I’m his adopted brother? No, there is no mercy in Quidditch. He’s my brother off of the pitch, on it, he’s the opposition. You take him and the Keeper out.”

 

His Beaters nodded their understanding and Harry nodded back curtly.

 

“Pauley, you’re doing brilliantly.” Harry told the young, sodden Keeper.

 

“I’m letting too many in.” He sniffled and Harry got the distinct feeling that it wasn’t just raindrops wetting his face.

 

“You’ll let even more in if you dwell on it.” Harry told him seriously. “You’re a second year, Pauley. This is your first year on the team and your very first official game and you’re facing older, larger people throwing Quaffles at you and these are far from perfect conditions. Let it go and concentrate on saving the next throw. You’re doing fine and it doesn’t matter how many you let in as long as you’re practising and trying out a few of those moves we made up. I told you, this team is in it for the long haul, in a few years you’ll all be world class and ruling the inter house matches, until then practice, practice, practice. Now let’s get back out there and give Gryffindor a brilliant Christmas present by smashing Slytherin to smithereens.”

 

His team cheered and Harry quickly led them back out into the sleeting rain that seemed to be coming down harder than before. Harry cursed internally.

The game started off again and Harry searched harder when he saw Draco doing the same. He was at a huge disadvantage because he had glasses and Draco didn’t need them. He had perfect vision without the help of glasses.

Harry dived several times, but Draco never fell for his bait and Harry calmed himself, if he got angry then he would miss something or he’d be too tense to fly on a hairpin.

As the game carried on, becoming more brutal as he lost poor Demelza to a bludger and almost had his own head taken off by another, Harry knew he had to finish this game and soon. The sleet was getting heavier and harder and it was becoming more solid as it turned more to snow than rain, which was hindering everything from vision, to manoeuvers, goal shots and saves.

Harry went higher and looked down at the match from his vantage point and he took a moment to breathe, the sleet driving into his back so that he wasn’t inhaling water and partially formed snow.

A flash of gold was all it took and Harry was there one moment and gone the next, following the snitch, getting a face and nose full of snow, the wet and the wind biting at his face, making his skin sting, but he ignored all of it as he chased after the tiny speck of colour in the otherwise grey background.

He dodged players and balls alike, he was joined moments later by Draco, who tried to barge him off course with his bigger, heavier and broader body, but Harry urged his Firebolt faster and he laughed in joy as he closed in on the snitch, following it as it darted left and then dived down into a vertical rush of air that made Harry’s eyes water. The snitch pulled up five feet from the ground and zig-zagged away, just under the playing level of the Chasers.

Harry dodged under Sarah and then went over Ritchie as he chased down the snitch, Draco dogging his heels all the way and Harry gritted his teeth as the wind turned violent, ripping at his Quidditch uniform as he turned against the wind. He wondered how the fuck the snitch was even able to fly in these conditions.

His heart was in his throat, his excitement and anticipation was ramped up and he threw himself after the snitch, putting his absolute all into catching that tiny golden ball. He was panting when his hand finally closed around it. He almost let it go again, the tiny ball was ice cold and the exposed tips of his fingers burnt and stung where they touched the ball, but he clamped it tight in his hand until the silver wings folded over and lay quiet.

He was so happy and he rushed to his team and they converged on him, laughing and thumping him on the back. He was so cold that he could barely feel it, but he didn’t care.

 

“Let’s get back to the locker rooms and out of these wet uniforms!” Harry shouted out happily.

 

“Do you think you can come out of your private rooms for long enough to celebrate with us?” Katie ribbed him.

 

“After we’ve all gone to see Demelza in the hospital wing.” He said with a nod and he led them all back to the Gryffindor locker rooms.

 

He, Jimmy, Ritchie and Pauley went into the boys section and Katie and Sarah went into the girls section. Harry stripped off without caring, he was so cold there wouldn’t be anything on show anyway as he all but moaned as he stepped under the hot water.

He was joined by the three younger boys and they were all shuffling around self-consciously and Harry sighed.

 

“We’re all boys, we’ve all got the same parts. Just get under the water and warm up before you freeze to death.” He told them sternly as he stood under the spray and felt the tension ease out of his muscles.

 

“It’s embarrassing.” Jimmy muttered with pink cheeks.

 

“Why?” Harry demanded, turning around to see the three of them all trying to hide not only their cock and balls but their arses as well. He rolled his eyes. He wasn’t much for public nudity, hell he wasn’t happy with any nudity at all, not with his scars and blemishes, but he was freezing cold and he wanted to warm up. Besides, after seeing Rabastan and Rodolphus…things could always be worse and if he started bitching about his body when his betrothed had survived fifteen years of starvation and malnutrition in Azkaban, how the hell would Rabastan feel about his own body then?

 

“It just is.” Pauley grumbled, but he couldn’t help but give a furtive glace to Harry before his cheeks pinked and he turned away quickly.

 

Harry sighed. “You do know that it’s natural to look, don’t you? Curiosity is normal and there is nothing wrong or dirty in looking. When I was a tiny, scrawny eleven year old and I was allowed onto the team, I didn’t care about anything because I was so happy to play. Then I noticed that the older boys were looking at me while we showered, naturally I was very freaked out about it…so I asked Fred and George Weasley why they were looking at me and they just shrugged and told me that it was just curiosity. That was when my own curiosity was peaked and I looked at my team mates as well the next time that we showered together. We all had a good laugh about it and then we got dried off and dressed and went to celebrate as normal. It’s normal, guys.” Harry told them, remembering fondly his talk with Fred and George over their shower time antics.

 

“It’s just embarrassing because….”

 

Harry actually lowered his eyebrows as he cottoned on to what wasn’t being said.

 

“You’re worried about size? Merlin! You two are thirteen year olds and you Pauley are only twelve. Trust me, you shouldn’t be worried about something so ridiculous. Your body and size will change as soon as you start puberty and it won’t stop until you’re adults. So take a look at me, at one another and then get it out of your systems because curiosity is normal, let’s get dry and dressed and go to that party.”

 

The three young boys grinned and they took a moment to check one another out, checked out Harry and then the moment was over as Harry rinsed himself off, grabbed his towel and rubbed himself dry. It was too cold to mess around as he dressed quickly and then scrubbed his hair furiously, before he picked up his wand and cast a drying and warming charm on himself and he sighed as his body, now warm and toasty, relaxed and he was much happier.

The three young boys, also much happier, were messing around as they dressed and Harry grinned as he threw his arms around their shoulders and pulled them back out into the main area of the locker rooms and they met up with the two girls.

They all got under three large umbrellas and they made their way to the castle. Harry led them up the main staircase to the first floor and they went to visit Demelza in the hospital wing as a priority. He was relieved to see her sitting up, a little battered after her run in with the bludger, but no worse for wear.

 

“Did we win?” She asked them as soon as she saw them.

 

“Oh yeah!” Ritchie said excitedly. “Harry got the snitch! It was amazing, Demelza!”

 

“Are you alright, Mel?” Harry asked her. “No lasting damage?”

 

“No, I’ll be just fine. It was a hard hit, but nothing’s broken and I should be out tomorrow. It’s sad that I have to miss the party, but Madam Pomfrey wants to keep me in overnight, just in case.”

 

“Likely for the best.” Harry told her. “I’ll send Dobby with some party food and butterbeer for you, but make sure you rest and get better. A Quidditch match isn’t worth dying for.”

 

“I never thought I’d see the day that I’d hear something like that coming from your mouth.”

 

Harry smiled as he turned to Madam Pomfrey. “I never thought I’d see the day that I wasn’t injured in a Quidditch match. It would have been better if none of us were injured, but I do not miss waking up here.” He said seriously. “But I’ve come to realise that I have my whole life ahead of me, I don’t want to kill or mangle myself before I’ve had a chance to live over a mere school game. Now if this was a professional team in the Quidditch World Cup, now that is an entirely different matter.”

 

Madam Pomfrey rolled her eyes and checked on Demelza.

 

“How is she?” Harry asked concernedly.

 

“She’s going to be just fine. I want to keep her in overnight, just to be sure, but other than that, she’ll be fine to leave tomorrow morning.”

 

Harry nodded and he and the team stayed with Demelza, each of them taking their Pepper-up potions when Harry asked if they could take them to keep on top of any colds they might have contracted thanks to the game and they stayed until they were kicked out by Madam Pomfrey.

 

“Come on then, let’s get to the kitchens, send up some goodies for Demelza and then we can go to the party that is no doubts raging like a wildfire in the common room.” Harry said with a grin.

 

The team made it down to the kitchens easy enough, the younger ones being awed that Harry knew where the kitchens were in the first place, let alone how to get into them, but when Dobby broke away and all but fell on him, that was when their mouths dropped open.

 

“What can Dobby be doing for Master Harry Potter, Sir?” He squeaked excitedly.

 

“We won our Quidditch match, Dobby.” Harry said with a grin. “We were just hoping that we could have some snacks and butterbeer to celebrate with.”

 

The house elves were beside themselves as they pushed several large baskets of food at them filled with cakes, pastries, biscuits, bottles of butterbeer and pumpkin juice.

 

“Thank you so much!” He said empathetically, knowing that they’d enjoy hearing his praises as several of them sobbed in happiness. “Oh, there was one other thing I needed, if I could ask.”

 

“Of course Master Harry Potter, Sir! Anything!” Dobby replied tearily.

 

“One of our team, Demelza. Well, she’s in the hospital wing. Could you maybe sneak her a few cakes and a butterbeer? So she can celebrate with us even though she won’t be at the party.”

 

Harry had gotten several more wails over that and nods and promises to deliver the cakes to Demelza as soon as the hospital wing was clear.

They left with their arms laden with baskets of food and drink, all talking and laughing happily as they made their way up to the Tower to celebrate their win, exclaiming happily what they were going to eat first once they got there.

That idea fell through though when they ran into Lucius and Draco just past McGonagall’s office on their way to the Gryffindor common room with their arms laden with food.

 

“So this is where you’ve been.” Lucius said, his mouth a thin line, but his eyes were gleaming with hidden amusement.

 

Harry smiled. “We went to see Demelza in the hospital wing first. She’s fine, no thanks to that brute of a Beater of yours.”

 

“I’m not the Captain, Urquhart is and I’d like to remind you that you were the Captain and I almost had my head taken off by one of your snot nosed Beaters.” Draco said, eyeing the thirteen year old Jimmy and Ritchie.

 

“There is no mercy in Quidditch!” Harry said passionately. “You’re the Seeker, you needed to be taken out. Not that you could have beaten me anyway.”

 

Draco huffed and rolled his eyes and Harry handed his basket of food to the others and sent them on their way to the common room, telling them that he’d be along a little later.

Harry led Lucius and Draco back down to his rooms and called on Narcissa’s ingrained etiquette lessons and offered them both seats and tea before he sat down himself.

  

“How are you?” Lucius asked.

 

“Exhilarated.” Harry said with a wide grin. “A little chilly still, but nothing a good night’s sleep and a couple cups of tea won’t cure. I already took a Pepper-up potion.”

 

Lucius nodded and settled down more after hearing that he was alright and that warmed Harry in a way that had nothing to do with temperature as he sat in his cosy living room and chatted happily with two people who he had hated not that long ago, but were very rapidly becoming very important to him.

 

“Everything is prepared for you to come home.” Lucius told them. “Your Mother will be waiting for you at home, but I will be waiting for you both at Kings Cross. I’m sure that Dumbledore will be trying to keep you here for the holidays, Harry. He might even try to force you to go somewhere that you don’t want to be, but the fool doesn’t have a leg to stand on, you are entitled to come home for the holidays. If he tries anything, anything at all, get in contact with me and I’ll come and pick you and Draco up directly from the school at the end of the term. The Lestranges will be arriving as our seasonal guests the day before you come home, to ensure that they are settled into our home before you bring all of your noise and commotions back to the house.”

 

Harry grinned and he couldn’t help but get excited, only a few more weeks and he’d be able to speak to Rabastan again face to face after four months apart. He was really looking forward to it and he’d missed his betrothed. He wondered, and not for the first time either, how much Rabastan had changed in the four months that he had been in school, how much had he improved, had he gained any weight? Did he look a bit healthier?

Naturally he knew that the process of healing was going to be very long and arduous, he wasn’t expecting miracles. He was intelligent enough to know that when he went home for the holidays that there was going to be minimal change and he knew that if he showed any hint of disappointment or upset over the minimal change then it would ruin any progress that Rabastan had actually made and would more than likely thoroughly dishearten his Husband to be.

That said though, he did want to see some improvements, perhaps with Rabastan’s confidence, or his speech, little things that would show that the slow, gradual process of healing was actually having some sort of effect.

It wasn’t fair, he wanted to be there for Rabastan, he wanted to help him so much, but it was very difficult to do so when he was hundreds of miles away and unable to see or speak to him on a daily basis. He had the overwhelming need to just protect Rabastan from everything, the effects of Azkaban, the struggle that would be ahead of them because of those effects, the Ministry for obvious reasons and from the wizarding public too and then there was Rhadamanthus…oh how Harry was not looking forward to spending Christmas with that man.

 

“Now, I’ll leave you to your little party.” Lucius told him as he finished his tea and stood to smooth down his robes. “Do try to conduct yourself in a proper manner and remember that your homework is more important than celebrating a Quidditch win with your little friends.”

 

“I know. I was only planning on staying for a few hours, I’m not going to stay there tonight, I’ll be coming back here. I’ve got most of my homework already done and what little needs to be done now, I’ll sort out tomorrow. How is Rabastan?” He couldn’t help asking.

 

“He is doing rather well. Him and Rodolphus both. Rabastan is speaking more and though the twitches make things difficult, he is a little more coordinated than he was before. I don’t believe that he would crush your hand again, at any rate.”

 

Draco snorted and Harry grimaced as a phantom pain had him shaking his hand out. “That’s definitely an improvement.” He said with a small smile.

 

“I will see you boys very soon, be productive, keep up with your homework, behave yourselves and look out for one another. I will be on the platform for you in a few weeks.”

 

Harry shut up his rooms and waved goodbye to Lucius and Draco, who would walk their Father out on his way down to the dungeons. Harry went back up to Gryffindor Tower and he used the password that Katie had told him to enter the common room to a raring party and he ducked in and found his team mates. The young ones were very, very happy to be included in the celebratory party, getting pats on the back, slaps to the shoulder and ruffling of their hair. They looked very happy and Harry was proud and pleased with them all.

The party grew in volume when the Gryffindors realised that their winning star Seeker was there at the party with them at last and he was subjected to his own slaps, pats and hair ruffling. He was very happy and joyous and he stayed with his team for the most part. He did get several filthy looks and some who were obviously and blatantly ignoring him, but he didn’t care about his ex-friends. They could do as they pleased, it was absolutely no business of his anymore, just like his own business was not any of their concern either.

He did not stay for too long, as he’d promised to Lucius, but he’d given his all in the match and he was exhausted and in need of a good sleep. Adrenaline and exhilaration could only take him so far. So he had a few butterbeers and a couple of Cauldron cakes as he caught up and had a laugh with the fickle Gryffindors, some of whom had been glaring at him just the other week, but suddenly he was their favourite person once again, just because he’d caught the snitch and led the team to victory.

He really hated the shallowness of people sometimes….then there were people like Katie, who had known him for years and didn’t care. She had been a little concerned, as he himself had been in the beginning, so he couldn’t really fault her for that, but after assuring her that he was fine and happier than he’d ever been, she had been fine with everything and they had carried on and conducted the full scale Quidditch try outs together.

Why couldn’t everyone be as accepting as Katie? Why couldn’t they just be happy for him instead of believing that they had some sort of right to tell him what he should be doing or where he should be living? It wasn’t any of their business, it was his, so they needed to just leave it alone and leave him alone. He was an adopted Malfoy now and he was soon to be a Lestrange.

His eyes sought out Neville in the crowd as he turned to leave for his own rooms and he once again hardened his heart. Neville had nothing to do with this, they’d been on friendly terms once, but even then there had been days where they hadn’t even spoken to one another. Neville had been the one to target him first, not the other way around. Neville had tried to take his trunk with the other Gryffindor boys. He had likely taken and destroyed his things the first two times it had happened as well and he had likely been involved in the attempted destruction of his Firebolt.

Harry clenched his teeth and left the Gryffindor common room. This was his life now and he was going to live it whether anyone liked it or not. They had made the choice to abandon him merely because he’d been adopted, something which had been completely out of his control. They hadn’t even given him a chance to explain anything before they’d gone straight for his throat.

Besides it was none of their business what he did or with who. He could be marrying Voldemort and it still wouldn’t be any of their fucking business. He grimaced at that very thought and almost gagged a little. That most definitely would not be happening, but the thought still stood. He could do as he pleased and it didn’t matter if anyone liked it or not because this was his decision to make and he’d chosen to marry Rabastan Lestrange.

He had chosen to help the poor man despite his evil past and he had chosen to look past the rumours and stories that surrounded him and at the moment, all he saw was a beaten, battered man who couldn’t stand up without holding onto something and couldn’t control his muscles enough to prevent himself from twitching and dribbling on occasion.

Rabastan had never done anything to hurt or humiliate him, in fact, quite the opposite was true. Rabastan made him feel wanted and useful. Harry could talk to him and feel as if someone was actually listening to him for once, instead of just brushing him aside or laughing at his wants and wishes as a mere childhood fantasy. That humiliation still stung. He’d told his friends and those whom he’d thought of as family that he wanted a nice wedding and a large family at dinner one day in Grimmauld Place and the only one who hadn’t laughed and patted him on the head like a toddler who had said something hilarious had been Sirius, who had looked wistful and a little lost, as if he was caught in the past. Thinking back on it now, he had probably been thinking back to his parent’s wedding.

It made Harry wonder, as he stepped into his private rooms and sat on his settee, if they had all laughed and mocked him that day because they’d known that, thanks to Dumbledore’s plans, that it was unlikely that he would ever reach adulthood. The thought made him feel sick and dizzy as his stomach dropped out and his heart lodged into his throat. Had they all known back then that he was being set up to die? He swore to himself then and there, that if they had known, if they’d even had a hint that that was what was going to happen to him, he would never, ever forgive them. In fact, if they had been in on the plans that were setting him up to die, with the way that he was feeling right now, he felt like he could turn around and kill them himself.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

The rest of November and into December was dreary and wet. It rained more often than not and it was seriously trying to snow as the slush gave way under his feet as Harry made his way back into the castle after Herbology.

Just two more weeks and he would be going home to meet with Rabastan, who would already be at Malfoy Manor when he got home. He was so excited that he was finding it difficult to concentrate. Not that the teachers cared as they assigned more and more homework onto the sixth years in preparation for their N.E.W.Ts, which wouldn’t even be for another year and a half as the end of year exams for sixth years would be mock N.E.W.Ts, again in preparation for their final year of schooling and the real deal which would then dictate their entire lives after they graduated.   

Harry kept up with all of his homework though and he would do as much of it on the train as he possibly could because he wanted to spend all of his time over Christmas with Rabastan, not doing homework for exams that didn’t even really matter. Though he was sure that Lucius wouldn’t see it that way if he came home for the summer with anything less than all pass grades.

He’d received a sweet box, as Draco had, on the first of December and he’d opened it to find a plethora of goodies, including magazines, books, sweets, biscuits and chocolate. He loved that he was being included in this little tradition as he saw Draco opening his own gift box and immediately taking out his favourite magazine, a new issue was released every month and Draco was addicted to it, not that he’d ever admit to it of course.

Harry looked at the newest edition of the Quibbler and he frowned. Why had Narcissa sent him this particular magazine? Sure he found it funny and he liked reading it, as he’d proved at Malfoy Manor by buying a copy and spending the next day laughing over every article in the family living room, but he wasn’t an actual fan of the magazine.

He looked over to the Ravenclaw table and wondered if perhaps the elder Malfoys were trying to tell him something else. Was it alright for him to still talk to Luna? She was Pureblooded after all, so maybe that was what they were trying to tell him. He smiled. He had always liked Luna, even if Hermione hadn’t and her odd outlook on life had always amused him greatly, but he had never teased her about it. He had always accepted her as she was, perhaps she could return the favour and accept him as he was as well. He would really like that because he was getting very lonely and as they got more homework piled on them, Draco got more and more frantic about doing well with his grades and Blaise it seemed was obsessed with his newest conquest, a girl in Ravenclaw who had apparently rebuffed everyone except Blaise, for what reason Harry couldn’t even fathom, but they barely surfaced from whatever bed they’d stolen to lie in to eat meals and attend lessons.

Harry sighed, perhaps he really did need a friend and this was Narcissa’s way of reminding him of that fact coupled with a, sort of permission, to interact with Luna at least. Or maybe he was just thinking about it far too much.

He’d finished his breakfast and carried his treat box back to his rooms. He’d been spending so much time isolated up in his own rooms that it was almost like he wasn’t even in a school, but like he had his own apartment that he lived in alone. It was almost pathetic.

He hadn’t been flying since he’d held a Quidditch practice for the Gryffindor team the other week and frankly, that had been the last time he’d spoken to anyone as well. He was getting isolated and lonely and that wasn’t good for anyone, especially not him.

He made it to the castle and he shook the slush off of his boots before heading right back up to his rooms, the very rooms he had been insisting that he would get out of once in a while outside of lessons or meal times. He sighed and pulled some homework towards himself. He’d go and find Luna, if he could, at dinner time. Until then, he had a lot to be getting on with.

He was almost finished with his homework and he had been contemplating making himself a cup of tea and picking up his newest Ancient Runes book after he was finished with his last assignment when the rings on his right finger heated up and he actually jumped. He cursed and sent a fervent thanks that no one had been there to see him.

He packed away his things, took five minutes to change out of his school uniform into something more respectable and then rushed like hell from his fourth floor rooms to the outside grounds. He missed his first Portkey, but he had just enough time to wipe his sweaty brow and catch his breath before his second Portkey activated and he kept hold of his stomach as he took a measured step forward and took another and then another as his vision cleared and he could see the evening shift at the Ministry. It wasn’t as busy as it was during the mornings, but there were still a few people lingering around, unlike when he’d come here months before on the back of a thestral, in the dead of night, when it had been completely deserted.

 

“Excuse me, visitors need to present their wand and explain their business at the Ministry!” The security wizard shouted after him.

 

Harry stopped, turned and looked at the wizard who had chased after him.

 

“I am Lord Potter-Black and I am not a visitor. A Wizengamot meeting has been called and I need to get there as soon as possible, so if you’ll excuse me, I have a meeting and debates to conduct that are no business of yours.”

 

Harry turned on his heel and strode towards the lifts, calling one and going to the second level, where the Wizengamot meeting room was.

He slipped into the room and smiled as he saw Lucius had been watching the door and he had been subtly observing him, even as he spoke to Xerxes, and Harry saw the approval in those steel grey eyes as they scanned him from head to foot, taking in his change of clothes, his brushed hair and his unflushed, non-sweaty face.

Harry slipped between the two men and smiled up at them both happily.

 

“You look far too happy to be here.” Xerxes groused gruffly. “I was contentedly relaxing with a glass of the finest, vintage Merlot with a book that I’ve been having trouble finding the time to actually sit down and read and then this, very late meeting was called.”  

 

“I was just finishing my last homework assignment. I was thinking of getting a cup of tea and breaking out my new Ancient Runes book when I felt my rings heat up.”

 

“Your last homework assignment?” Lucius questioned. “So you have finished all of them bar the one?”

 

Harry nodded. “I was just wrapping up my conclusion. I made a few hurried notes on a piece of scrap parchment so I know what my thought process was for when I arrive back at the castle and finish it off.”

 

“Good lad.” Xerxes praised him, clapping him on the shoulder. Harry only just managed to brace for it and keep his feet. “Basti misses you a lot, he hangs onto every word you write to him.”

 

It took Harry several moments to realise that Basti must have been Xerxes’ nickname for Rabastan, that of course he wouldn’t use his Grandson’s name in such a public place where any one of the Lords and Heads of Departments could overhear them and he grinned. He couldn’t wait to see Rabastan face to face and now he couldn’t wait to call him by his cute nickname. He did wonder exactly how long Rabastan had had a nickname like ‘Basti’ and he wondered if his Husband to be actually even liked it. He’d have to ask.

 

“I miss him a lot too. I can’t wait until I get home for the holidays.”

 

“Yes, your Father has graciously invited us into his home for the festivities. You and Basti can spend your time there together and reconnect with one another after your unavoidable separation, I’m sure.”

 

“They will have separate bedrooms.” Lucius interjected very sternly and even on the edge of rudeness and Harry had to hide his grin in his sleeve. That had sounded like, and had even felt like, something only a real Father would say and Harry’s heart swelled with joy and devotion. He would never willingly give up this feeling of love and belonging. Never.

 

“Of course, Lucius! I would never dream of forcing such an issue between the boys when they are so newly acquainted. That will come much further down the line, when they are both ready for it.”

 

Lucius nodded his head tightly and he placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder and steered him to a chair. Harry grinned harder into the sleeve of his robes for a few moments more before he composed himself and reined in his face splitting grin.

He settled himself in the large, comfortable chair and folded his hands in his lap, waiting for the Chief Warlock to call the meeting to order while he silently observed everyone else in the room. Despite the harsh words exchanged and the tension between them, Xerxes still sat on Harry’s other side, but he pointedly looked in the other direction to Lucius, who was sitting stiffly on his other side. Harry found the whole thing rather hilarious.

 

“Lords and ladies, if I could call you to order.” Albert Runcorn said just a little bit louder than the ambient noise in the room.

 

There was no rush for chairs as men and women leisurely took a place at the table and settled themselves down in comfort before giving their full attention to their Chief Warlock.

 

“Chief Warlock, might I bring something to your attention before we proceed?” A woman asked primly.

 

“It is unusual, but I shall let your interruption stand, Madam Wilkes.”

 

“I just wanted to draw attention to the fact that it is ten O’clock at night and there is a sixteen year old in our midst on a school night.”

 

Harry looked at the frizzy haired witch, the same utter bitch who had voted against him when he’d been illegally given a full trial for a mere case of underaged magic, all thanks to Fudge. He really hated this woman.

 

“Pardon me?” Harry said in the stunned silence that followed. “I am a member of this Wizengamot. I hold two seats and regardless of what time it is, or on what night, I am required to be here despite my age. I would wholeheartedly suggest, Madam Wilkes, that you leave my business to me. I do not appreciate the input, least of all from the likes of you.”

 

The witch was blushing to the roots of her very frizzy hair and Harry felt more than he saw Lucius and Xerxes’ smirks. He got the feeling that they were both very happy with him and with how he’d conducted himself as well as what he’d just said.

 

“You may be able to talk the talk, Madam Wilkes, but you cannot walk the walk.” Albert Runcorn said spitefully. “Please refrain from making such ridiculous observations in this room. If you do not like the way that this Ministry is run, then kindly leave it. Perhaps then we might get down to why we have actually been called here.”

 

Harry had to hide his smile, especially when all he wanted to do was laugh. Some of the other members sniggered, but none of them laughed and neither Lucius nor Xerxes laughed or smiled, so Harry emulated them both and he kept himself composed and still. He promised himself that he would laugh about this later, once he was in private.

 

“Now, this emergency meeting has been called because a wizard in Kent has decided to go on a drunken traipse through a muggle city, firing off his wand and his mouth.” Runcorn sighed. “The Obliviators have already been called in, but there is no telling how many people overheard him or who they told in turn, but the Obliviators have done their jobs as best as they can and the wizard in question is in custody.”

 

“This is completely unacceptable!” One of the Lords burst out, his face already reddening. “These were no secret affairs or bastard children that he was spilling, none of the information was personal to himself. These secrets affect us all, could endanger us all!”

 

“The man was drunk…”

 

“It shouldn’t matter if he was drunk or not!” Another Lord burst out, a vein throbbing in his neck. “This is a serious breach of the Statute of Secrecy! This imbecile should be held fully accountable for his actions!”

 

“I fully agree! Alcohol abuse should not rule him out of answerability of this heinous crime!”

 

Harry sat and he listened intently. This debate could go one of two ways and it was all down to the Wizengamot and which way they voted that would determine the future of the wizard in question. It took hours upon hours of back and forth debating, some insisting that as alcohol lowered inhibitions that the man couldn’t be held accountable for his actions, but others were adamant that despite how intoxicated the man was that he should still be held responsible for his actions and for the danger that they had put the entire wizarding world in. Harry was getting incredibly tired and slightly irritable as the same arguments were repeated over and over, being slightly reworded each time, yet no one was giving a definitive opinion or solution to the problem.

 

“Does anyone else have an opinion that they would like to share?” Runcorn asked, wide awake and still alert and sat stiff backed in his chair, despite how long this meeting had already taken.

 

“He had drunk two full bottles of vintage Firewhiskey, he could barely walk in a straight line. The Muggles have been Obliviated, I say that we let Mister Jute sober up, pay a fine and then we let this matter go.”

 

“I disagree.” Harry said softly, he was very tired and he couldn’t help feeling nervous as everyone turned to stare at him. This was the first time that he was expressing an opinion on this matter, a matter that was very much in the grey area of the law and neither Lucius nor Xerxes had said anything in this meeting yet either. “This is a very serious breach of the Statute of Secrecy and it cannot be brushed off with a mere fine and a slap on the wrist. Perhaps if he hadn’t been firing off spells as well as shouting the odds about the wizarding world. The latter could be explained away as his alcoholism, or even mental health issues, the former cannot be ignored nor rationalised as the ramblings of a drunken fool. He damaged six cars, several buildings and two people. The DMLE had to wipe out footage from over a hundred surveillance cameras and they had to fix so much damage before any more Muggles saw them and had to be Obliviated on top of the thirty-nine Muggles who had already been Obliviated because of this matter. The two people who were hit with his spells are still in Saint Mungos and they’re not only being treated magically, but they are scared and have no clue what is going on, which could possibly cause deep psychological trauma that could reoccur given the right trigger. This cannot be brushed under the carpet and vintage Firewhiskey or not, this man had the responsibility of protecting the Statute of Secrecy. The same responsibility that each and every single one of us have to our world! This is our secret to keep and Mister Jute should have known better than to go drinking Firewhiskey in a Muggle city. He should not be excused from his serious lack of judgement. My vote is for this matter to be put to the Minister and to trial. My vote is for Azkaban.”

 

“You cannot be serious!” One wizard exploded.

 

“I knew you were just a child!” Another shouted out. “A mere child playing at being a man. You shouldn’t be here and you shouldn’t be allowed two votes in such serious, adult matters!”

 

Harry held himself still and stoic, he forced himself not to react, but inside he was a quivering wreck at being confronted in such a way. Having his opinion ripped to pieces and scrutinised and then ultimately being told that he was wrong, that his thoughts and opinions were wrong and didn’t matter because of his age knocked all of his confidence. It had him running through everything that he had heard tonight and everything that he had said, questioning everything, thinking back to all of the books that he’d read, all of the things that Lucius, and even Xerxes, had taught him and he pulled into himself as he realised that perhaps he hadn’t been ready to voice his opinion on grey areas as much as he’d thought he was.

 

“Are you going to sink so low as to pull Lord Potter-Black’s age into this matter once more just to try and gain precedence for your own opinion?”

 

Harry looked to the Lord Shacklebolt, and seriously hadn’t that been a massive surprise, and he took a calming breath as his words sunk in and he realised what was actually going on. This was all politics. He hadn’t done or said anything wrong at all, those bastards had just been trying to make him, and everyone else, think that he’d said something wrong in order to push their own points of view across to the Wizengamot. The fucking underhanded bastards.

 

“I actually agree with the Lord Potter-Black.” Dawson Shacklebolt continued. “This idiot should not be excused from the crime he committed because he couldn’t handle his Firewhiskey. He endangered us all, he endangered the Muggles and even hospitalised two of them. I agree fully with Lord Potter-Black, this matter should be taken to trial, the Minister should be briefed and Mister Jute should face Azkaban over this matter.”

 

The meeting room exploded into angry shouts and arguments and Harry took a moment to catch his breath, which he hadn’t even realised that he’d been holding as Shacklebolt had been speaking and he took a tiny glace to either side of himself, even though he had tried not to show such insecurity, seeking reassurance that he hadn’t embarrassed either man. That he hadn’t embarrassed his family.

Both men caught his tiny little glance and reacted accordingly. Lucius squeezed his knee gently and Xerxes touched his back with a slight touch of his fingertips.

 

“You did brilliantly.” Lucius told him in the merest whisper as he watched interestedly as Madam Amelia Bones jumped into the argument.

 

“Better than brilliant. You were completely ruthless and I love it. You certainly are coming into your own. Basti will be so very proud and pleased when I tell him. But before that, let’s wrap this up, Lucius. I’m not a young man anymore, I need my sleep and I’m sure that Harry needs his sleep too.”

 

“This meeting has taken a lot longer than I thought it would. It’s gone midnight and I do have lessons tomorrow.”

 

“Then let us pass judgement on this meeting.” Lucius said before turning back to the room. “I motion that we vote now.” He said loudly, cutting across the arguing and the shouting. “I vote in favour of Lord Potter-Black’s proposal.”

 

“As do I.” Dawson Shacklebolt said fiercely.

 

“I put my vote in favour of a fine!” One of the Heads of Department raged.

 

“My vote goes in favour of Lord Potter-Black.” Xerxes said calmly.

 

Harry had to bite his lip to stop his internal grin from showing on his face when the Wizengamot voted in his favour forty-one to just eleven. With business concluded, several members immediately stormed out and Harry rose himself. He gracefully and modestly accepted the handshakes and congratulations on his conduct in the meeting, but he soon excused himself, taking Lucius and Xerxes with him. He was just too tired to stay much longer and now that official business had been concluded and they had to wait for a date for the trial which would include the Minister himself to be set, he was flagging and he seriously needed his bed.

 

“Come, we need to get you home.” Lucius told him.

 

“But it’s a school night and I have to get back to the school.” He said, trying to supress a massive yawn and almost walking into a wall because of it.

 

“Not tonight. I will bring you home with me tonight and you can floo over to the school tomorrow morning with ample time to make your lessons.”

 

Harry nodded, too tired to argue He just wanted a bed and at the moment, any bed would do.

 

“He is almost completely out of it, Lucius.” Xerxes chuckled. “Perhaps you should carry him.”

 

“‘M not that tired.”  

 

“Oh, he’s slurring his words now too.” Xerxes laughed. “I’m too old to be out past midnight and he’s too young.”

 

“I still look better though.” Harry laughed and Xerxes harrumphed.

 

Lucius chuckled as they made it to the far side of the deserted Atrium and he said a pleasant goodnight to Xerxes, waited for Harry do the same, before wrapping an arm around Harry’s back and Apparating them to Malfoy Manor.

Harry barely remembered the walk up the stairs as he was shoved gently into his room and Lucius said goodnight to him.

Harry only just had the presence of mind to strip himself down, pull on a spare pair of pyjamas from his dresser and crawl into bed. It took him a few minutes to wind his mind down after the last few hours of heavy debating, but he did manage to remember to have a sleepy chuckle over the frizzy haired bitch, Madam Wilkes. That was proper payback for what she’d done to him in the summer between his fourth and fifth years. He didn’t remember much after that, he remembered chuckling into his pillow and then the next, he was fast asleep, his exhausted body and mind dead to the world.

 

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Harry was forced awake a mere five hours later at just six O’clock in the morning and it was with a lot of grumbling and curses that he climbed in and out of the shower within fifteen minutes and got himself dressed in his cleaned and pressed school uniform. The robes that he’d worn to the Wizengamot meeting were also cleaned and pressed and were hanging up on the door of his, admittedly very large, wardrobe.

He felt slow and sluggish as he stumbled his way down to the family dining room and met Lucius and Narcissa, who were both up, showered and impeccably dressed, talking to one another over their half-eaten breakfasts.

 

Narcissa chuckled lightly. “Oh, well you look like you’ve been trampled by the Hippogriff.”

 

“It dug its talons in on the way past and grinded me into the floor with its heels too.” Harry replied grumpily.

 

Lucius laughed at him as his large, slender hands cupped the mug that he was drinking from. From the smell of the contents it was incredibly strong coffee, which was unusual enough as it was seeing as Lucius never drank coffee.

 

“I prefer to drink coffee after late nights.” Lucius told him when he caught Harry’s confused, suspicious look. “I find that it gives me the kick I need to convince my body to wake up and get moving.”

 

Harry laughed at that, properly laughed and he sat smiling as a plate of bacon and eggs was brought out for him by a house elf along with a side plate of toast and a bowl of fruit salad. He thanked the little elf and made himself a mug of strong coffee, hoping it helped him as much as it seemed to help Lucius as he started eating his large breakfast. This was something that he enjoyed too, regular meals. He didn’t have to pace himself because he’d been starved over the summer, he didn’t have to watch out for who came into the room and he didn’t have to worry about having his meals snatched from him on a whim.

 

“I’m told that you conducted yourself wonderfully well in the emergency meeting.” Narcissa told him and Harry chewed, swallowed and then smiled.

 

He nodded his head as he looked to Lucius with a grin. “I did have an attack of nerves and I started second guessing myself, but I should have known that it was all politics.”

 

“He conducted himself brilliantly, Dear. Even Dawson Shacklebolt agreed with his eloquently presented opinion. I am very proud of you and I am proud to call you my son. That Halfblood deserved Azkaban. Imagine firing off spells in a Muggle city, putting us all in danger.”

 

Harry shook his head. “I can’t believe that anyone would be that stupid and I will not accept lack of judgement as an excuse just because the imbecile thought that it was a good idea to drink two bottles of Firewhiskey before going out into the Muggle world. No, alcohol or not, he should be held accountable for his actions. Let him off with a fine and a warning.” He scoffed. “What a joke, I was trying to save my fat cousin from Dementors and they wanted to expel me from school for trying to save him! There was no way that I was going to let that slide.”

 

“I actually agree with you.” Lucius told him. “Believe it or not I was livid with Fudge for holding a full Wizengamot trial, minus the Lords of course, as none of them would have accepted such a misconduct, for a mere case of underaged magic. I told him so too.”

 

Harry smiled. He liked hearing these little things, small truths that proved that Lucius was not the bastard that everyone had always made him out to be. He’d assumed when he’d seen Lucius talking to Fudge after his trial that he was trying to find out the outcome of the trial and if he’d been expelled or not. He’d had no idea that Lucius, as Lord Malfoy, was actually a member of the Wizengamot and should have been told about his trial and should have been present for it. All of that had only come out recently.

Harry finished his breakfast and he stayed sitting and he sipped at his coffee delicately. He still wasn’t used to the taste and this cup was a lot stronger than he’d tried thus far, but it was still a nice coffee. Then again Lucius had bought it, so it was likely going to be the best coffee that Galleons could buy.

He was feeling a little more awake and a little more lively, but he still could have done with another hour, or several, in bed. That meeting had gone on for much longer than he’d ever expected, but then it hadn’t really been a clear cut, black or white decision like the other meetings he’d been called to had been.

It had been an easy decision to make for him because the way he’d seen it had been very clear in his mind, but naturally others had disagreed with him and thus they’d spent half the night debating back and forth.

 

“I woke you so early because I wished to speak with you before you went back to school.”

 

Harry nodded, though he had to wonder what this was about. He had the sinking feeling that it was going to be about the Dursleys and not about the meeting they’d just had last night or anything about Rabastan.

He was actually nervous as he made his way to Lucius’ study and he took a seat with Lucius on the other side of the sturdy desk.

 

“I believe that I’m right in thinking that you already have an inkling of why we’re having this little talk, am I correct?”

 

Harry nodded glumly. Lucius sighed.

 

“What have I taught you about using gestures instead of actual words?”

 

Harry grinned sheepishly. “Sorry, I’m a little slow this morning.”

 

“I will let it slide for today only then, as a reward for your impeccable conduct last night. Now, onto more serious matters. I’ve been hoping for a chance to sit you down and ask about your childhood since your letter arrived at the beginning of September, would you like to explain it to me?”

 

Harry chewed on his lip and averted his gaze for long moments before he lifted his head and caught Lucius steel grey gaze for a moment. “I don’t know where to begin.” He said a little overwhelmed by the whole situation.

 

“Start from the earliest memory you have of this type of behaviour, even if it is something small.” Lucius encouraged.

 

Harry’s face screwed up as he thought about it. He shook his head and fell back into his old habit of nibbling his lip and the inside of his cheeks.

 

“I suppose I was about four. They’ve always looked down on me and sneered and belittled me, that was nothing new. Dudley pinched and kicked me whenever he could, but he was only a few months older than me and I fully believe that it should have been Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon who should have stopped that before it escalated, but they didn’t care. They always turned a blind eye where Dudley and his behaviour were concerned. I learned early on that I was different, that I wasn’t the same as them. Nothing compounded that to me more than when Dudley caught me off guard and hit my nose really hard. It was a snap minute decision, I don’t think I even thought about it, I was angry, I was in pain, my nose was throbbing and my eyes were watering from the pain. I hit him back.”

 

Harry fell quiet as he remembered that day. How he could clearly remember certain things, but other, more inconsequential things were blurry or lost. He could remember the pain of Dudley catching his nose as if it had only just happened, he could remember where they were both standing and exactly what had happened, but he couldn’t recall the colour of his shirt or what day of the week it was. He couldn’t remember if it was sunny, but he did know that it wasn’t raining.

 

“What happened?” Lucius prompted.

 

“He ran to Aunt Petunia, she told Uncle Vernon and…and that was the first time that I was smacked.”

 

“Don’t refer to those people as your family members. They are not.” Lucius told him mildly. “You are a part of the Malfoy family now. Can you remember where you were hit?”

 

Harry sighed loudly. “My hand. He took my hand and he smacked it as hard as he could before he hit the side of my head and he threw me…he threw me in the cupboard under the stairs.”

 

“Did he throw you into this cupboard often?” Lucius asked.

 

Harry nodded. “It was where I slept when I was younger.”

 

“Pardon me?” Lucius asked in his softest, most deadliest of voices.

 

“I slept in the cupboard.” Harry said a bit breathlessly. He could feel the icy anger inside of him being stirred awake, like an uncoiling snake that was being prodded with a stick.

 

“Draco mentioned a bedroom. He said that you had mentioned a bedroom with bars over your window.”

 

“That was after.” Harry told him, trying to calm himself. “It was after I’d gotten my Hogwarts letter. It was addressed to the cupboard under the stairs and it worried them, they thought that wizards were watching the house. So…so they told me to move all of my things upstairs, into Dudley’s second bedroom.”

 

“Your cousin had two bedrooms?” Lucius asked, those eyes glinting like a knife edge.

 

Harry nodded. “It was a four bedroomed house. My Aunt…Petunia and Vernon shared a room, Dudley had two rooms and one was a guest room.”

 

“Those vile muggles had a four bedroomed house, two of which were free for you to use and you slept in a cupboard?”

 

Harry nodded. “They did it to punish me. To prove to me, even at that young age, that I was nothing. That I wasn’t worth anything to them or anyone else. They told me lies about my parents and how they’d died as worthless nobodies. They actually told me that my Dad had killed my Mum because he was drunk and that that was how I’d been left with the Dursleys. Orphaned and left over night on their doorstep like a bag of rubbish.” Harry took in a deep breath and calmed himself. “They never wanted me, I was nothing to them and they made sure that I knew it too.”

 

“Did you hate them even then?”

 

Harry considered the question seriously. “I think I did, but in my young naivety, I wanted to change their mind about me. I wanted them to like me, love me even, as they did their own son. I pushed myself so hard, I forced myself to complete all the tasks they set for me every day, convincing myself all the while that if I did, then they would love me. They never did. I was maybe thirteen before I stopped caring, though I was eight or nine when I realised that nothing I did would ever be good enough for them. That I would never be good enough. I still wanted them to like me, but I knew that they never would. I could become a self-made millionaire or a world hero tomorrow and they’d still see me as nothing. As the little boy they beat, starved, trod on and locked up like an animal and I will never forgive them for that.”

 

“I don’t think anyone would expect you to forgive them for that, Harry. I certainly don’t.” Lucius assured him.

 

“It’s difficult for me to speak of any of this. I never…it’s not something that I ever wanted anyone to know.” Harry said quietly.

 

“I understand that, but I need you to speak of this, Harry. I need to know what has happened in order to help you.”

 

“I think I’m dealing with it alright.” He muttered defensively.

 

“Don’t grumble into your chest, if you have something to say, look up and say it clearly.”

 

Harry sighed heavily. “I think I’m doing okay. I mean, I’m not completely messed up, am I?”

 

He hated that his supposed statement turned into a question at the end and he threw his head back against the chair, furious with himself.

 

“You’re not messed up. You’re surprisingly level headed and pulled together, but there is no doubt that you have suffered and that you are still suffering because of their treatment of you. This anger of yours is perhaps a very good indicator that something isn’t right. You’ve become desensitised to pain and fear because when you live with either for as long as you have, you learn to deal with it in any way that you can, which might not be the healthiest or the best way of dealing with such things, but you learnt to cope. You got yourself through this ordeal and you are perfectly functional, I believe that you have lingering damage from those people still, but you are not messed up.”

 

Harry felt oddly reassured that Lucius didn’t think that he was messed up and he relaxed a little from his tense, defensive stance.

 

“Now, if the physical abuse started when you were four and the mental abuse has been going on for as long as you can remember, it is my belief that you may need to see a medical professional so that they might evaluate yourself and help you to deal with anything that might need to be dealt with.”

 

“No.” Harry said immediately and stubbornly. “I don’t need any Healer poking around and asking questions about what happened in my past. Do you know how hard it was for me to open up to you about these things after the short amount of time we’ve known one another and especially after our own past? How do you expect me to tell actual strangers?” Harry demanded angrily.

 

Lucius sighed. “I am not a Healer, Harry. I am not qualified to actually help you in a way that will…unburden you of this life time of suffering. If I draw up a solid contract that a highly paid, trusted mind Healer would be required to sign before anything is even revealed to them, would that be more of a comfort to you and reassure you a little more that this is not intended to harm you in any way?”

 

Harry scowled and he felt like pouting, or doing a repeat of the end of his fifth year when he’d smashed up all of Dumbledore’s spindly, delicate little trinkets. He had the feeling that Lucius would not sit still and just watch as Harry raged around and trashed his study though.

 

“Harry? This needs to be sorted out. This could be an issue that will affect your betrothal.”

 

Harry’s head snapped up and he stared at Lucius in teeth clenching anger and disgust.

 

“You would use my betrothal against me to get what you want?” He demanded icily.

 

“Me? No. You’ve misunderstood, Harry. I wouldn’t use this against your betrothal. It is in my interests to marry you into such an old, rich and influential Pureblood family such as the Lestranges. If Xerxes finds out and realises that you’re not even having an evaluation when he is pushing Rabastan through all sorts in order to help him recover that little bit faster for the betrothal between you, then he might feel aggrieved and like our family is just mocking his. If anyone is to break the contract between you it’ll be Xerxes or Rhadamanthus, despite the fact that Rabastan is an almost forty year old man, he is not in the best of health and he therefore cannot conduct his own betrothal. His Grandfather is doing it for him and as his actual Father, even Rhadamanthus, despite not being the recipient of the formal contract or the Head of the family, can break the contract if he has a good enough reason. You being potentially mentally or emotionally unstable when Rabastan is in a vulnerable condition would be just the reason Rhadamanthus would be looking for as I don’t believe for a moment that you haven’t realised that he isn’t particularly fond of you or the budding relationship between you and his youngest son.”

 

Harry was fuming. He was being backed into a corner and he didn’t like it. He didn’t want anyone messing around with his head or trying to tell him how he was feeling or why. He already knew that he hated the Dursleys and would never forgive them and he knew how he was feeling. That was all there was to it. He didn’t want anyone telling him that in order to move on he had to forgive those people for how they had treated him or telling him that he needed to let go. He didn’t fucking want to!

Yet he didn’t want to lose Rabastan over something so simple and trivial either. He didn’t think Xerxes would break the contract over this apparent ‘issue’, but he had no doubts that Rhadamanthus would delight in breaking the contract between him and Rabastan, even over something so ridiculously small.

He seriously hated that man and he wanted to curse him until he wasn’t a threat to him or to Rabastan anymore. He saw it in those oddly pale, cruel eyes, Rhadamanthus would do anything to hurt Rabastan, even if it ended up killing him in the process. He wanted Rabastan to suffer and with the betrothal between them, Rabastan was getting fitter, healthier, better and Rhadamanthus didn’t like it.

He needed to do his all to help Rabastan. If they were married, then Rhadamanthus would have no legal or otherwise claim on Rabastan as he would be considered his own man, even if he still lived at home. If they were married then they would start a main branch of the Lestrange family and Rhadamanthus couldn’t do anything to make his son suffer because Harry would be there and he would absolutely not allow anyone to harm is own Husband, especially not his own supposed Father-in-law. He needed to do this, he needed to protect Rabastan.

 

“I’ll do it.” He told Lucius softly. “Just make sure that it remains quiet. The last thing I want or need is for the entire wizarding world to find out that I’m seeing a mind Healer, especially after the articles everyone read about me last year in the Prophet.”

 

Lucius nodded and Harry all but tuned out the rest of the conversation, he answered on automatic as his chaotic thoughts whizzed around his head, distracting him from giving Lucius his full, undivided attention. He was thankfully excused only a little while later so he could floo back to Hogwarts. He chose to use McGonagall’s fireplace rather than Dumbledore’s. He had a lot to think about and he didn’t feel like being questioned incessantly this morning.

He just simply explained about the Wizengamot meeting to a slightly startled Professor McGonagall, informed her that it had run very late into the night so that he had spent the rest of the night at home and then he was free to go to his rooms.

Rhadamanthus was an even bigger threat than he’d believed him to be. Foolishly…incredibly fucking foolishly, he’d underestimated the man. He didn’t know why, he knew that the Lestranges were all dark wizards, he knew what they had done as a family and he knew they were loyal to the Dark Lord. Why had he believed that Rhadamanthus wouldn’t use lethal force to get what he wanted, which was apparently Rabastan’s suffering and eventual death?

Harry wouldn’t allow it. Rabastan was his betrothed, was his Husband to be and was his to love and protect and he did…love him that was. He did and he would not allow anything to happen to the man that he was only just coming to love. He wouldn’t lose Rabastan so soon, he would protect him and they would love one another and they would have a life together. They would be married, they would be a family and they would have children together.

Harry’s back straightened from where he’d been bent over, gathering his needed text books and the required homework that he needed for today’s lessons into his backpack that already had a hard case with his quills and ink inside it.

Would Rhadamanthus dare to harm his and Rabastan’s children? Harry swallowed painfully as he realised that he would, especially if the baby was a girl, because it would hurt Rabastan and make him suffer more and Rhadamanthus was hell bent on making Rabastan suffer.

Harry’s fists clenched tight until his fingers hurt. He was breathing too fast and his head started to spin, but all he could see was Rhadamanthus laughing uproariously as he held the broken body of a faceless infant in his huge hands.

He was almost hyperventilating when he came to his concluding thought. It had been a half thought up plan…something that he had wanted to do, to protect Rabastan more than anything, even if it would make his life so much easier as well, yet he had put it to the back of his mind, because he had underestimated the twisted, warped mind of Rhadamanthus Lestrange.

But now he needed to plan more thoroughly, he needed to do this, not just for Rabastan, but because he had no doubt that Rhadamanthus would target their children as a way to further hurt Rabastan. He could not ever allow that to happen. He was coming to love Rabastan, he would assuredly love him when they married, but his children were his children and he could not, would not, ever allow anything to happen to them. He had to kill Rhadamanthus Lestrange and it had to be done before he and Rabastan were married.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

Chapter Text

 

Chapter Seven – Plans

 

Harry didn’t know what was more annoying for him really. It was a tossup of Dumbledore continuously trying to get him alone in his office to talk, the pathetic, second year level ‘prank’ attempts by his ex-house mates or trying to find a way that he could kill a man without drawing the suspicions of any of the students or the Professors onto him first.

Naturally as his friend and brother, he had told Draco what he was planning to do about Rhadamanthus, but no one else. Not even Blaise, who knew something was going on, but also knew enough not to pry into his personal business.

Draco had been stunned and a little fearful that he was deadly serious about going through with this idea, the blond was very…squeamish for a supposed dark wizard, but Harry definitely didn’t hold it against him. After all, he himself had turned out to be very dark for a supposed light wizard.

He rationalised that everyone was different, that everyone had their own thoughts and opinions regardless of which family, or which side, they had been born on. After all, Sirius was a prime example of that, he had been so against his family and the stigma of supposed ‘dark’ wizards that he had actually run away from his own family while still a minor.

He had to wonder though how much of Sirius’ passionate hate had been a fear or disgust at the allegedly ‘dark’ magic and how much of it was actually Walburga Black’s fault. According to Sirius’ stories and dark reminiscing, she had hated him long before he had stepped foot in Hogwarts and she had liked playing favourites between her two sons, setting one against the other in a destructive, vile game for her own amusement. Harry was glad that she was already dead.

Today was the first day of the Christmas holidays, they had finished all of their lessons for the year the day before and Harry had eaten just a few pieces of toast for breakfast as he scribbled furiously on a spare piece of parchment. He checked over his information and rearranged the order of words to make it sound more sophisticated and intelligent before he transferred his words to the piece of parchment that held the finalised piece of homework that he would hand in to his Professor when the term started up again in January.

 

“Come on, Harry. We won’t find an empty compartment if we don’t leave now.”

 

Harry startled and looked up at Draco who had spoken, Blaise was stood at the doors waiting for them. The words filtered into his brain before he nodded and quickly packed up his books, ink and all of his rolls of parchment before he leapt up and caught up to Draco, who was already out in the Entrance Hall.

They still ended up waiting for Blaise, who had cursed halfway to the grounds outside and declared that he’d left his Mother’s gift on his bedside table that morning. Draco had climbed regally into the front carriage to wait for Blaise to return, but Harry went to see the thestral pulling it.

Skeletal and bony thin, in a way it reminded him of Rabastan and Harry felt sick for thinking such things as he stroked his hand gently over the thestral’s reptilian face. He was just nervous about seeing Rabastan again for the first time in four months later on that night, that was all. Of course he was going to be nervous of such things, he hardly knew what to expect and all of the Lestranges were going to be there. It was a very nerve wracking experience.

Pansy and Daphne greeted him and he nodded to them both cordially as they climbed into the carriage with Draco and Harry clenched his fist when he caught sight of Theodore Nott, who was walking with a few older Slytherins just behind, sigh heavily and turn away from where his betrothed had just been stood. He looked crestfallen and Harry just didn’t understand why he put up with Daphne’s behaviour. Harry liked Theodore Nott and they’d had a few conversations over the last term. He was a well put together, level headed person and he was definitely going to do well once he graduated from Hogwarts. He just didn’t understand why he wanted Daphne so much or why he put up with her vile, disrespectful behaviour.

He watched as Theodore and the other Slytherins climbed into another carriage and Harry went back to the thestral. He couldn’t imagine holding such an unrequited love. The cruel thing was that they were betrothed and were going to marry one another one day. Theodore loved her and he was going to marry the woman that he loved, but that love was not reciprocated, not even a little bit and he knew it. Theodore had to live a lie, knowing that his Wife had slept with anyone and everyone while they were betrothed and that she didn’t respect or care at all for him and his happiness or his status. He would never be strong enough to do something like that, Harry was well known for his temper and he knew that if his betrothed acted like Daphne, if Rabastan acted like her, then he would have thrown a fit and torn up their contract, no matter how much it would have hurt himself to do so. He would not let himself be treated in such a way.

 

“Got it!” Blaise exclaimed happily, red cheeked, panting and out of breath, but he waved the small box with a grin on his face.

 

“Come on then.” Harry said with a smile, pushing all the thoughts of Daphne and Theodore from his mind.

 

The both of them climbed into the carriage and Draco waved his wand impatiently to set them off towards Hogsmeade. He had a part grimace, part sneer on his face and Harry hid a smirk as he realised that he had been stuck in the carriage waiting for Blaise to get back with just Pansy and Daphne for company. No wonder he was a bit bad tempered.

The ride was slow paced, but quiet as no one felt the need to talk while they were moving and they found themselves at the station in Hogsmeade quickly enough. They grabbed a hold of their trunks and owl cages and moved so that they could climb aboard the scarlet Hogwarts Express and find an empty compartment for themselves before the majority of the students joined them.

Harry went first and he purposefully picked a compartment near the front as it would be quieter than any of the compartments near the back of the train. He planned to do as much homework as he possibly could while he was on the train so that he could spend the majority of the Christmas holidays with Rabastan, who was already settled into Malfoy Manor waiting for him.

He was oddly nervous about the whole thing as he set up his books, parchment, quill and ink pot on the small half table in the compartment. He hadn’t actually seen Rabastan since the end of August even though they’d corresponded through letters and gifts. His belly was knotted and his heart was racing and he felt a little light headed. He couldn’t actually believe that he had faced off against Voldemort and his Death Eaters numerous times in the past, had held off over a hundred Dementors, survived with the Dursleys, competed in the Tri-wizard tournament and killed a sixty foot basilisk at twelve years old and Professor Quirinus Quirrell when he was just eleven and he was really this nervous about going home and coming face to face with Rabastan for the first time in four months. It was laughable.

He blocked out Draco and Blaise who were laughing and chatting directly opposite him and he ignored the two girls who were sat either side of the door giggling at something they were talking about. The seat next to him was empty of people, but he’d filled it with his text books. He was determined to get all of his work done.

It was harder to block out the rest of the students when they started arriving in droves and filling up the rest of the train, but Harry tried his utmost best as he scribbled on his scrap parchment before carefully quilling each letter onto his actual piece of homework.

It took an hour before the shrill whistle had some younger students, and even a few immature older students, cheering. Harry pulled his hand away from his work and held his inkpot a moment before the train lurched forward to prevent it from spilling and from then on, every moment would bring him ever closer to Rabastan.

Once the train had settled at a constant speed and stopped lurching about, Harry went back to his work and only stopped once the trolley witch came around at lunch time. He bought two bottles of pumpkin juice, some pumpkin pasties and some cauldron cakes to nibble on, but happily accepted when Blaise asked to swap a chocolate frog for a cauldron cake.

He quickly dived back into his homework as the rest of the compartment talked, joked and laughed. He didn’t join them. He had to get his homework done otherwise his entire night had been wasted and he wouldn’t achieve what he’d wanted when he’d first started.

 

“You’re very quiet.” Daphne Greengrass told him as the four Slytherins exhausted their topics of conversation for the moment and had lapsed into silence.

 

Harry looked at her and bit his tongue at the immediate urge to scream at her. He hadn’t had much to do with Daphne since the start of term, he mostly stayed with Draco and Blaise, but he’d had a bit of interaction with some of the other Slytherins outside of them too, mostly Daphne, Pansy and Theodore Nott. Harry liked the unusually quiet Slytherin and every time he’d caught sight of Daphne flirting with yet another boy, he’d felt angry on Theodore’s behalf. He didn’t deserve such disrespect and humiliation from his own betrothed.

Despite not having much interaction with the other Slytherins, however, we was still kept well informed of the latest gossip through Draco, who was very, very gossipy. Daphne had been shamelessly loud and vocal in bed with a Slytherin fifth year the last he’d heard and the entire of Slytherin house knew of it and still Theodore Nott thought the sun shined out of her arse.

He was sure that she was only sleeping with other people now because she knew that she could get away with it. Of course it was Theodore’s fault as well, he should have given himself a bit more dignity and self-respect. He didn’t deserve to be betrothed to someone who would sleep with anything just because they could get away with it, whether he was madly in love with her or not. Harry wouldn’t even dream of disrespecting Rabastan in such a way. Then he supposed that that was the difference between a betrothal of convenience and a betrothal where those involved actually felt attracted to one another and were coming to love one another.

 

“I’m just thinking.” He replied to her quietly. “You might want to try it occasionally.”

 

The rest of the compartment laughed at her, because that was what Slytherins did. As soon as one was singled out and belittled, they compounded that fact by joining in, even if it was just laughing at others misfortune.

The hat might have been right in a way, he had the ambition and ruthlessness that suited Slytherin house and he would have done well there, but he ultimately failed at being a Slytherin because they were like a pack of ravenous jackals. Any sign or the merest hint of weakness and they leapt upon it, made it worse and drew everyone else’s attention to it just to make themselves look better by comparison. He just couldn’t do that. 

Harry sighed before he stood up on the seat and dug in his open trunk, up in the trunk rack, for his Herbology text book so he could sort out the piece of homework that he was currently working on. He’d done most of his homework last night, staying up as long as he possibly could so that he could knock off several assignments. He’d used his head and he’d done all of his hardest essays first, while he was still at the school and able to take advantage of the library and the Professors. He’d then done his easier essays. The written essays took up the longest amount of time after all. Doing that had left him with just a couple question sheets to answer, a translation for Ancient Runes and several calculations for Arithmancy along with his Defence assignments and a piece of homework that he couldn’t actually complete yet as he had to observe the night sky twice a week over the holidays and note down the positions of the planets and the meaning of their positions for Astrology.

 

“Why are you doing your homework now, we’re on holiday!” Blaise told him, looking at him as if he were completely mad.

 

“You might not have heard, but my betrothed is staying over for the holidays. I don’t want to waste time that I could be spending with him on homework.” Harry said simply as he flipped open his Herbology text book and set about answering the questions that Professor Sprout had set them. They were quite simple to answer as the text book told him everything that he needed to know. He just had to embellish the clinical information that he read to give an answer that didn’t look like he’d just copied it straight from the book. His scrap parchment came in very handy for doing that perfectly.

 

“Don’t remind me.” Daphne sighed grumpily. “I’m staying over the Nott’s manor for Christmas this year. My parents think that I’m old enough now to spend the holidays with him alone, so they won’t be there. It’s completely ruined my holidays, I don’t want to spend Christmas with him or his family! I’m going to use my homework as an excuse to get away from him as much as I can.”

 

“You should count yourself lucky that you even have a betrothal still.” Harry told her through gritted teeth, unable to continue holding his tongue when she spoke so candidly about avoiding her own betrothal partner. Especially when he knew that Theodore was looking forward to spending the time with her and was excited to spend the whole of the Christmas holidays with the woman he loved. It made him so mad, more particularly because he himself was doing his absolute all just to ensure that he and Rabastan spent as much time together as possible during the holidays.

 

“Just because you’re happy with your match doesn’t mean that everyone else is.” Daphne snapped back.

 

“If you’re not happy with your match then break the contract yourself and find someone else, because absolutely no one deserves to be disrespected in such a way.” Harry answered, his voice rising a touch as his anger was stirred.

 

“It would be a different story if your betrothed was doing the same as…”

 

“If I ever found out that Rabastan was so much as entertaining the thought of being with another person while we were betrothed together then I’d break our contract faster than he could think to apologise for his disgusting behaviour.” Harry spoke over her, his eyes hard and cold at the very thought of Rabastan sleeping around with other people. “I deserve better than someone who would treat me so appallingly, just as Theodore deserves someone better than you and if our situations were the same and I were doing that shameful act behind Rabastan’s back, then I would most definitely expect him to throw me out on my arse! You cannot treat someone in such a way and still expect the same level of respect afterwards. It just doesn’t work that way.”

 

“It’s just sex, it doesn’t mean anything.” Daphne tried to defend.

 

“Sex always means something.” Harry told her bitingly. “Even if you think it doesn’t, it does. You entered a formal contract, you signed on the dotted line, didn’t you? You made a promise to the person who you were entering that contract with and then you just shit all over it and all over him by fucking as many people as you could without any thought, without even considering your actions or the consequences of them. This contract is a pathway to potential marriage, not an opportunity for you to mess about before the marriage ceremony to someone you are betrothed to and know you’re going to be marrying at the end of said contract. You’re disrespecting him with every action and even every thought that you are doing nothing wrong as you stick to your meagre defence of ‘oh, it’s only sex. It doesn’t matter.’ Because it does matter and one day, you’ll fuck the wrong person or just one person too many and Theodore will be gone and you’ll have absolutely nothing left to fall back on. You’ll be unmarriable and then what will you do?”

 

The compartment remained silent and Harry kept his burning eyes on Daphne for a moment more before he went back to his Herbology questions.

 

“What assignments do you have left?” Draco asked him over ten minutes of utter silence later as Harry had finally answered all twenty-five Herbology questions with several decent sized paragraphs each.

 

Harry put his Herbology homework safely back into his trunk after a quick spell to dry the ink and pulled out his Ancient Runes translations. He had done the essay for Ancient Runes but he had actually asked for additional homework because he was so far behind everyone else. Professor Babbling had been surprised but incredibly pleased with his request for additional homework.

 

“Just the essay and questions for Defence Against the Dark Arts and I still have the Astrology homework to do, obviously, and then it’s just my extra homework for Ancient Runes and the extra calculations for Arithmancy.”

 

“That’s all you have left?” Blaise asked in shock.

 

Harry nodded smugly. “I did all of my essays between last night and this morning and I did all of the harder pieces first, so all I’ve got left to do are all easy pieces that won’t take me more than a few hours each to complete. Of course I left Defence for last as it’s my favourite subject and it’s very unlikely that I’ll get stuck or lost writing that particular essay and it probably won’t take me more than an hour or two to finish. I’m going to have the entire holiday to myself and all the homework I’ll have left to do is just observing the planets at night, twice a week for an hour.”

 

“How, in the name of Merlin, did you write nine essays in one night and one morning, did you not sleep at all?” Pansy demanded. 

 

“No, not much. I went to bed well after three in the morning and I was back up at just gone seven this morning, I had less than three hours sleep. I got eight essays done last night, that is the reason why I disappeared just after I’d finished dinner. I went straight to my rooms and I started on the hardest piece of homework that I had, which of course was the Arithmancy essay for Vector and then the essay for Transfiguration. I had a good, uninterrupted nine, ten hours to do eight essays and I finished off the ninth essay this morning at breakfast and then I started on all of the question sheets. I was determined that I was going to finish as much as I could before I got home, even if I am completely tired right now because of how late I stayed up and how early I forced myself awake, it doesn’t matter, because I no longer have any homework to distract me from spending time with my betrothed.”

 

“I can’t believe you have the entire holidays to do nothing.” Draco groused as he watched Harry do more of his homework.

 

“It took me a day, Draco. True it has taken about seventeen hours and I’m still not done, but if you started now, as we still have six hours left of this train journey, in a few days you’d be all finished too.” Harry told him.

 

Draco groaned like a drama queen, but he still went into his trunk and got out a few pieces of homework. He didn’t have the drive that Harry had had though. Harry had wanted to finish as much as he could so he could spend as much time as possible with Rabastan, so he had pushed himself to finish as much as he could and now because of that drive, he was almost finished.

The eleven hour train ride passed very quickly for Harry. He had finished all of his homework, eaten a snack of pumpkin pasties and cauldron cakes washed down with pumpkin juice before he had taken the time to check through every single one of his essays, had Draco check through his Ancient Rune translations and made sure all of his answers on the question sheets were correct.

 

“Why are you still doing homework?” Blaise asked him as he played yet another game of exploding snap with Draco.

 

“I’m just making sure that it’s all correct and that it makes sense. It’s fine to do it all, but I’d rather not have to re-write it all if I’ve done something wrong or answered a question wrong. I’d rather do it, check it through now while I’ve got the rest of the train ride to go and then relax.”

 

“You look fucking exhausted.” Blaise told him bluntly. “I would have taken a nap by now if I’d only had three hours last night.”

 

“I’m going to get an early night, sleep a good nine hours and then the rest of my holidays will be relaxing and spent with Rabastan. I’m all set.” Harry said as he snapped his parchment against the small table of the compartment, which he had claimed as his the minute they’d set foot in the empty compartment, and he smiled as he tucked them all away.

 

He took out his Ancient Runes book, sat back in his seat and opened it to his bookmark so he could carry on where he had left it off.

 

“Why in the name of Merlin are you reading now instead of just sitting back and relaxing or just taking the last half an hour to sleep?”

 

“If I slept now for a mere half an hour it would kill me for the rest of the night and I don’t want to meet my betrothed again, for the first time in four months I might add, looking half dead with bleary eyes.”

 

“Good point.” Blaise conceded. “At least it’s almost eight in the night. You don’t have long to wait if you’re planning on going to bed at ten.”

 

“And that is what’s keeping me awake at the moment.” Harry said with a grin. “That and a mix of excitement, adrenaline and nerves.”

 

“Dinner will be served shortly after we arrive home.” Draco told him. “We’ll have time to wash up a bit beforehand and to greet our guests, but you won’t have long to wait before you go to bed.”

 

“I hope it doesn’t come across as too rude that I leave so soon after getting home. I didn’t think of that when I came up with my plan. Will the Lestranges take it the wrong way?” He asked worriedly as he realised that he hadn’t thought of everything after all and that he might actually offend their guests just after he’d arrived home by leaving them so soon to go to bed. It could give them the false impression that he didn’t want to spend time with Rabastan and that wasn’t true at all. In fact, he wanted just the opposite.

 

Draco chuckled. “It’s our home and we’ve just had an eleven hour train journey. They can’t say anything about either of us going to bed early. Besides, you stayed awake for most of the night, you only had three hours of sleep and finished off every scrap of homework that you had been assigned in one day. Even the extra homework that you asked for, for Ancient Runes and Arithmancy, just so that you would have more time to spend with Rabastan once you got home. They really can't complain about you going to bed early, Harry.”

 

Harry smiled and he breathed a little easier thanks to Draco reassuring him a little. He was just overthinking everything, he was sure. It was probably just a side effect of only having three hours sleep. If there were any misunderstandings because of his early leave, he would work to dispel it over the next two weeks where he wouldn’t be leaving Rabastan alone for a single moment. He had just two weeks with his betrothed before he was back in school for three more long months before he would be back home for another two weeks for the Easter holidays and then it was the last two and a half months before the end of the year and he’d be home for ten long weeks. Ten long, glorious weeks that he could spend happily and entirely with Rabastan.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Meeting Lucius on the platform was what ramped up Harry’s nerves until he felt like he couldn’t keep still. He’d always been good at dealing with fear and with nerves, but this was a different kind of nervousness. He’d never been nervous because he was going to meet the man that he’d one day be marrying before. This was all new for him and it was that unknown factor that was doing him in.

 

“Have you boys got everything?” Lucius asked as Draco said a final goodbye to Blaise, Pansy and Daphne.

 

“Yes.” Harry answered softly.

 

“You look dead on your feet. Please tell me that you haven’t been so anxious about this evening that you weren’t able to sleep.”

 

Draco scoffed. “No. The little love struck fool stayed awake all night to finish off all his homework so he could spend all of the holidays following Rabastan around like a puppy. He’s exhausted.”

 

Draco threw an arm over Harry’s shoulder and Harry rolled his eyes.

 

“You just couldn’t wait to mention that, could you?” He demanded.

 

“No. He also spent the entire train journey home doing homework too.” Draco said. “So he’s completely done with all of his homework, but he’s so tired now that he can’t walk in a straight line.”

 

“Well well, no wonder you look dead on your feet. Come, let’s get you both home and then I’ll be looking over your work, Harry. If it isn’t up to standard then all of your hard work will have been for nothing, as you will be re-writing it under my direction.”

 

Harry nodded. “I checked it all over on the train. It’s all correct and Draco said that my Rune translations were correct too.”

 

“He actually asked for additional homework.” Draco told his Father.

 

“Only in Ancient Runes and Arithmancy, just to help me get closer to where the rest of the class are.”

 

“Well, I’m very proud of you. Now come along, we have guests waiting for our return.”

 

Harry walked beside Draco, their trunks hovering behind them thanks to a spell and they went to the bank of fireplaces that were at the far side of the platform. Lucius stood back and he saw Draco through with his trunk and empty owl cage and then he urged Harry forward to do he same.

Harry was nervous, but he held his feather light trunk and Hedwig’s empty cage tight and shouted out his destination. He landed in the receiving room of Malfoy Manor and he left his trunk and cage next to Draco’s and he waited for Lucius to arrive.

 

“Have you forgotten the way to the drawing room?” Lucius asked once he had arrived in the room.

 

“No, I just…” Harry ducked his head and then raised it again immediately as he realised what he’d done and in front of whom.

 

Lucius actually smiled at him and placed a hand on his shoulder. “You are nervous. This isn’t a bad thing. But would it help if I told you that Rabastan is a nervous wreck waiting for you? He has been since he arrived at the manor.”

 

Harry grinned. “That does help.” He said as he imagined Rabastan sat in the other room, Draco likely with them, waiting for him.

 

“Don’t keep our guests waiting.” Lucius told him and nudged him forward. “Always face your fears and push through any nerves or anxiety or you will never achieve your full potential. You will always be held back.”

 

Harry swallowed, squared his shoulders and left the receiving room and went to the main drawing room while Lucius organised for his and Draco’s trunks to be taken up to their rooms.

He had no idea what he was going to say or do, he didn’t know what was acceptable or what would be a serious embarrassment to him, his family or to the Lestranges, but he also had no idea how he was going to react when he saw Rabastan again.

He wondered again, and definitely not for the first time either, if Rabastan had made any improvements in the four months since he had last seen him. He steeled himself not to react, to keep everything positive, even if Rabastan had deteriorated for whatever reason. He was going to be marrying Rabastan and they would be having children together, it didn’t matter what he looked like.

He came to the door of the drawing room, he composed himself a little, made sure that his casual robes (that he’d changed into on the train just before it had pulled into Kings Cross station) were straight and clean. He tried to fix his hair up a little and he took a moment to just breathe as he inhaled deeply, before he squared his shoulders, stood up straight and took the plunge and he walked into the room.

It took him a moment to take everything in, Narcissa and Draco were sat happily on a settee with Xerxes who had a glass of deep, dark red wine dwarfed in his hand. Rhadamanthus was floating in an odd armchair on the edge of everything, as if he had been excluded from everything, even though he was still there in the room with them and then, on the other settee, sat the intimidating brothers, Rodolphus and Rabastan.

Harry couldn’t prevent the automatic smile that blossomed over his face when he laid eyes on Rabastan, he didn’t even think to check him for progress or signs of improvement or lapses. He just caught those deep blue eyes and he couldn’t look away and he was so happy to see him again that the smile was involuntary and absolutely genuine.

His betrothed stood up, with a little lean onto the arm of the settee as he did so, and Harry walked right to him and stood a little uncertainly in front of him as he craned his head back to smile up at Rabastan.

It was the youngest Lestrange who broke the awkwardness by pulling him into a gentle hug, his arms were shaking and Harry felt one of his forearm muscles spasm against his back, but he ignore it.

 

“It’s good to see you again.” Rabastan told him.

 

“I missed you.” Harry said as he slipped his arms around Rabastan and made sure that he didn’t squeeze him at all or make him uncomfortable about his bony body.

 

“You are supposed to come and greet me first as the head of the Lestrange family.” Xerxes told him neutrally.

 

Harry pulled back from Rabastan and he blushed so hard that he felt lightheaded. He could actually feel his face flaming like a beacon. He had been so worried about how he would greet Rabastan when he first saw him again that he hadn’t even thought that it might have been protocol to have greeted Xerxes first, or even Narcissa, who was his adoptive Mother after all. He was so embarrassed that he just wanted the floor to open up and swallow him whole, but he couldn’t run away from this or take that luxury of escape, he needed to do some quick damage control to try and make this right.

 

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t…I just wanted….” He stammered and that humiliated him even further. He was a Lord of two houses, he was supposed to be smooth and eloquent and now he was stuttering as bad as Quirrell had. He shut himself up before he could do any further damage and tried to think of something to do to make this in any way better.

 

Xerxes laughed loudly and stood up, leaving his wineglass on an end table, and he yanked Harry into a crushing hug.

 

“The look on your face! As if I would turn this visit into a formal one. No, you go and sit with Rabastan and greet one another properly. I’m just glad to see that you are well and happy.”

 

Harry smiled at the huge man in utter relief and he sat himself next to Rabastan, squashing himself between the arm of the chair and his betrothed. He definitely didn’t want to sit between the brothers. He didn’t want to come between Rabastan and his brother in anyway. Rodolphus had been his brother’s support system for so long, through so many long, hard years. He understood that Rabastan still needed his brother and that he would likely always need his brother after what they had suffered and survived through together and he also understood that because of that dependency, even if it lessened over the years, Rodolphus would always be extremely overprotective of Rabastan. It was something that he understood and had already accepted.

Lucius walked into the room and he looked at Harry squashed in next to Rabastan and one eyebrow rose a little, but he didn’t say anything about his choice of seating. He broke the small layer of ice by sitting down and immediately drawing Xerxes into a conversation, leaving Harry free to shift his body more towards Rabastan and start a conversation with him.

 

“How have you been?” Rabastan asked, beating him to the punch.

 

“I’ve been well. A little stressed over school, but nothing that’s worth complaining of.” Harry said with a smile. “How have you been? Have you been busy?”

 

Rabastan sighed. “It has been a little hit and miss, I won’t lie. I’ve had some dark days, but they are fewer than they once were.”

 

“I would have been very surprised if you hadn’t had any bad feelings or moods. It’s normal.” Harry said soothingly. “I wouldn’t want you to hide those feelings or moods from me either. I want to help you, Rabastan. I can’t do that if you hide everything from me. You never mentioned any of those moods to me in your letters.”

 

“I didn’t want you to think any differently about me.”

 

Harry smiled wryly. “Do you think any differently of me because I told you that I was upset on some days and angry on others?”

 

“No. Of course not.”

 

“Exactly. I wouldn’t have felt or thought any differently if you had just told me that you were having a bad day or dark thoughts. I don’t mind hearing about it, Rabastan.”

 

He got a thin smile for his efforts, though it was interrupted by an almost full body spasm that locked Rabastan’s jaw and made him drool slightly.

 

“Will you control yourself?!” Rhadamanthus yelled at a shrivelled, humiliated Rabastan. “You’re an embarrassment. A complete disgrace!”

 

“You will not speak to him in such a way.” Harry said coldly as he took out his handkerchief from the inside pocket of his robes and he wiped Rabastan’s chin, ducking his head so that he could get eye contact with a cringing Rabastan. “You can’t help it and it’s completely fine.” He said firmly. “This isn’t your fault, Rabastan. That place is utterly vile and isn’t fit for human habitation. I’m already looking into ways to have it shut down.”

 

“You can’t shut down a prison.” Rhadamanthus scoffed at him. “The Ministry would never consent to such a thing and thinking otherwise is just a child’s dream.”

 

“I’m sure that all such ambitious plans are seen to be just ‘child dreams’ in the beginning, but I am determined to see this through until the end. An island in the middle of the North Sea, protected by all the wards and spells that Azkaban has around it should be enough on its own. The Dementors however, are another matter entirely and I will not sit back and allow people to be tortured in such an inhumane way just because the Ministry wants to look the other way because it’s the easiest option for them to take. Those creatures should not be allowed near humans and they certainly should not be allowed to freely feed from whomever they please. Human guards would be better able to take care of the prisoners and can actually evaluate potential flight risks and suicide risks, unlike the Dementors. I won’t rest until I have achieved this, even if I’m knocked back again and again, year after year, I will achieve this before I die.”

 

“You don’t have to.” Rabastan said quietly.

 

“Did you not listen to a word that I just said?” Harry asked him with a hard tone. “I’m already doing it, I’ve already started researching everything that I need to, to make this an issue that people will listen to. I won’t stop just because I fail once, or even several, times. I won’t back down and I will keep forcing people to listen and I won’t be quelled just because people won’t listen to me. I’ll force them to listen and I’ll make them see that giving the Dementors such a free reign will ultimately make them harder to control. They need to be evicted from the prison and bound somewhere that no humans currently, or will ever, populate. We don’t need them, they are not helping us or our world, they are actually endangering us!”

 

“If you keep talking like that then you’ll even convince me.” Xerxes laughed.

 

Harry fumed at the condescending comment.

 

“I requested records from the Department of the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.” Harry said calmly, reigning in his temper and controlling it. “Did you know that since Azkaban became a prison in the early seventeen hundreds, Dementors started going missing from the fortress? The number of Dementors going missing increases every single year, running the risk of exposure of the wizarding world to Muggles, Dementor attacks to the entire population of Britain, which is before taking into account that they might have gone even further into the world than just the British Isles. They are dangerous creatures and it greatly concerns me that they’re just leaving the prison and going missing and no one is doing anything about it! They could be doing who knows what without any regulations placed on them at all. Imagine if they were breeding in the remote corners of the world without any control? We need to act now and get rid of the lot of them.”

 

Xerxes and Lucius shared a look and Harry quivered angrily before turning away and ignoring them both. He didn’t care what they thought, he was doing this whether anyone backed him or not. For Sirius and for Rabastan.

He had always hated the Dementors and to an extent he feared them and what they were capable of and particularly how they affected him. The wizarding world was biased and prejudiced against any and all magical creatures, they slammed tighter and tighter restrictions on them needlessly, yet they happily ignored the one creature that needed controlling the most. It was infuriating.

What Damocles Rowle had been thinking when he’d allowed the Dementors to remain when he’d initially chosen the island to be the new wizarding prison was completely beyond him. Couldn’t anyone else see the escalating danger? The increasing numbers of Dementors, the higher and higher amount of them that were disappearing from Azkaban? The signs were all there and they were a glaring red. Something needed to be done and quickly, before it was too late.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry had excused himself just after dinner as Rhadamanthus had taken it upon himself to spend the entire meal alternating between telling him how ridiculous Harry and his thoughts were and belittling and shaming Rabastan.

He was so angry when he reached his room that he had to beat his pillow several times just to work through the rush of angry adrenaline.

He sat back up and he went to his trunk, taking out some of his sentimental things and putting them around his room, the most important of which was the framed photo of his parents that he put on his bedside table. With his room a little more homey, he changed into his pyjamas and climbed back into his bed with a book.

He didn’t care what anyone said or did, he had his own mind and his own thoughts and feelings and he’d be damned if he let anyone tell him that they were wrong or childish, especially not Rhadamanthus of all people. He really needed to do something about him, if the scant hour and a bit that he had spent with the vile man was any indication, then he was determined, committed and ruthless in his attempt to completely destroy Rabastan. Harry didn’t know why Rhadamanthus wanted to hurt and possibly even kill his own son, but he would not let him do so.

He was only sixteen years old, he was limited in what he could do, he already knew that. Yet that didn’t mean that he was completely useless or that he’d stand aside and allow Rhadamanthus to destroy his budding family without even trying to do something about it. It did mean that he needed help, the problem was, where did he go for that help? He couldn’t ask Rabastan or Rodolphus to kill their own Father, he couldn’t ask Xerxes to kill his own son. Draco was only a month older than he was and Lucius was an eternal diplomat and might have tried to talk him out of killing Rhadamanthus and trying to work things out instead. But Harry couldn’t leave such a powerful threat to his family alive, not when he didn’t know what was actually motivating Rhadamanthus’ hatred towards his youngest son in the first place. Not when he didn’t know if that hatred would spill over onto his and Rabastan’s future children. So where did he go about finding someone to help him kill a man?

He was sure that he could pay someone to help him, but he only had one real shot at this, if anyone, especially Rhadamanthus, caught on to his plan, then it would all be over. The man would kill Rabastan, maybe Harry as well for good measure, as well as any children they had. No, he needed to do this right, even if it took a year or more of planning and another couple of years to implement the plan, he was adamant that Rhadamanthus had to be dead before he and Rabastan had their first child at least. He needed to eliminate the danger as quickly as possible without risking his one and only shot at this and preferably it needed to be done before he fell pregnant, before he was married and before Rhadamanthus completely destroyed Rabastan. There was a lot to plan and a lot to figure out beforehand, he couldn’t just jump in and start firing off curses, he was worried that it would be several years before he had a shot of eliminating Rhadamanthus and he was scared of the damage that could be done in that time to Rabastan and possibly even their children as well.

Harry was so tired now that he wasn’t even feeling tired anymore. He cracked open the book he’d taken to bed and he hoped that reading it in a warm, cosy bed would help to lower his anger and help him relax enough to sleep as he pushed away all thoughts of planning to kill Rhadamanthus.

It worked in less time than he would have thought it would as his eyelids started drooping after just five minutes. He put the book down and switched off his bedside lamp, snuggling under the covers and falling asleep very quickly, his mind playing around naughty thoughts of Rabastan. He’d been having these dreams for a while now and they always made him feel more relaxed. He only woke up when a house elf insistently prodded him awake ten hours later, telling him that breakfast would be served soon and that ‘Master’ had said to get him up.

Sitting himself up, Harry stretched languidly and with a jaw breaking yawn, he got himself out of bed, found an outfit and a set of casual robes in his wardrobe and he headed for his en suite bathroom for a shower. He took his time, but he didn’t linger too long either, he wanted to see Rabastan again to reassure him that his going to bed early had nothing to do with him and had everything to do with Rhadamanthus making him overly angry and his almost all-nighter the previous day. Three hours was definitely not enough sleep to go a whole day on.

He dried himself with a quick spell and dressed as quickly as he could in dark jeans, a nice jumper and his matching casual robes. He made sure that he looked presentable in his full length mirror as he brushed his naturally messy hair before he left his rooms and went down to the formal dining room where all the residents of the manor were already starting their breakfasts.

Harry sat opposite Rabastan, as was expected of him, and he grabbed a piece of toast and buttered it lightly.

 

“Would you like tea or coffee?” Rabastan asked him quietly.

 

Harry smiled at him. “Good morning.” Harry greeted him happily. “Tea please. A bit of milk and no sugar.”

 

The smile that lit up Rabastan’s face made Harry’s belly flutter and he found it difficult to swallow as he put his toast back on his plate.

 

“Watch you don’t throw the tea over your suitor. We would hate for you to scald him.” Rhadamanthus commented from a few seats down from Rabastan, sounding entirely like he would absolutely love for such a thing to happen.

 

Harry noticed the immediate change in Rabastan as everyone turned to watch him. Harry saw how his hand clenched the teacup tighter, straining his damaged, weakened muscles and making the cup shake ominously as he poured boiling water into it with his other, equally shaky hand.

He reached out and cupped both of Rabastan’s hands lightly, applying a bit of pressure before he pulled back, letting his fingers drag across the backs of Rabastan’s hands.

 

“I’m sure he won’t do such a thing.” He said lightly. “Rabastan knows that pushing himself too hard will be detrimental to his recovery and I’m sure that he’s smart enough to know not to push himself by now.”

 

“He almost crushed your hand.” Rhadamanthus sneered at him.

 

“Once, when we first met.” Harry replied with a small smile. “Something I now look back on fondly. Rabastan has since held my hand a hundred times and we’ve never had a repeat of that incident. I trust him and I wouldn’t care even if he did throw it over me, as long as it wasn’t purposefully, of course. I would forgive him for such actions as I know that they are out of his control at the moment.”

 

The distraction had served its purpose as all the attention had been on Harry as he spoke and not on Rabastan as he made the tea, which had taken the pressure off of him and thus had allowed him to pour the cup of tea to Harry’s liking without everyone watching him and waiting for him to do something wrong. As a result he didn’t do anything wrong and he handed him a cup of tea that Harry took a deep drink from. He sighed happily and thanked Rabastan before he went back to his toast.

 

“I will require all of your homework after breakfast, Harry.” Lucius reminded him.

 

He nodded. “I left them all in a folder at the top of my trunk so that I could get it out easily and none of them would be damaged on the train journey home.”

 

“Yes, Lucius told me last night that you had spent all night and then all day finishing all of your homework. I had wondered why you looked particularly tired when you arrived last night.”

 

“I just wanted it all done and out of the way.” Harry said with a smile and a glance at Rabastan. “I don’t want any distractions getting in the way of our short amount of time together.”

 

Harry got the impression that he had embarrassed the larger man, so he changed the subject before anyone could notice or draw attention to it.

 

“Besides, it’s a good thing for me because I can now spend these next two weeks just relaxing without worrying about homework because I know that it’s all done. I’m still reading my books, of course, but I won’t get a detention for not reading those.”

 

“It’s doubtful that we will have a Wizengamot meeting in these two weeks either.” Xerxes commented. “Though I’ve been a member for far too long to completely disregard the stupidity of others. So we may have an emergency meeting at one point, though I hope not. You and Rabastan need time to bond.”

 

Harry shared another look with Rabastan and smiled almost shyly. He didn’t know if it was strange that he could see himself marrying Rabastan and having children with him at all, let alone so soon after meeting him for the first time, but he did know that he had never thought this way about anyone else before.

Then again he had never thought of it before. He’d had a childish crush on Cho last year, they’d shared a few kisses, but she hadn’t made him feel this nervous or as excited as Rabastan did. He’d been nervous to speak to her, because he had no idea how to go about doing it, but it wasn’t the same as this feeling he had with Rabastan.

He’d realised since that it had to be because he was actually gay and Cho had done nothing for him. He’d gone with her because he could see that she was a beautiful person inside and out and he’d thought that it was only normal for him to ask her out, so he had. It had been her jealous outburst in Madam Puddifoot’s tea shop over his friendship with Hermione that had made him rethink everything, it had been that incident that had planted the seed in his head that perhaps being with another boy would be better than being with a girl. It had only taken him a few months after that to realise that he didn’t want a boy either, he wanted an older man.

Now here he was, another couple of months after the end of his fifth year and he was betrothed to an older man and he wasn’t even speaking to Ron or Hermione anymore. He had to wonder what they would have thought of his relationship with an older man. He obviously would never have told them that it was with Rabastan Lestrange of course, he could just imagine the reaction that that would have gotten him.

After breakfast he went and got his homework for Lucius to look over before he and Rabastan secluded themselves into a spare sitting room to talk. It was a little awkward, mainly due to their age difference and Rabastan’s damaged and emaciated body, but he still had a reasonably sound mind. He wasn’t insane and he was rational and able to talk, but that was another obstacle, what did they talk about? Rabastan had been in prison for the last fifteen years after all and had only recently gotten out.

Sighing, Harry moved from his chair and went to sit beside Rabastan. He didn’t care if it wasn’t the ‘done thing’ during a betrothal period, he hated putting any sort of distance between them and with Rabastan being the way that he was, it was probably more detrimental to him and planting false ideas into his head that Harry was displeased or disgusted by his body.

 

“You’re not supposed to sit….”

 

“I know.” Harry said. “But I don’t care. I’m not going to sit opposite you like this is some cold, clinical interview for a job position. I want to sit beside you, is that a problem?”

 

“No. No problem.” Rabastan answered. “But you really should have a chaperone if you’re going to sit this close to me.”

 

That made Harry laugh. “Why, are you going to take advantage of me?” He asked with a grin.

 

Rabastan grinned back. “Perhaps.”

 

Harry laughed. “Is it still taking advantage if I don’t care?”

 

“Possibly, as you are still under the age of seventeen.” Rabastan answered, but Harry realised that he was somewhat distracted.

 

Rabastan was staring at his mouth and his hands kept moving and clenching, as if Rabastan was trying to prevent himself from touching him.

Harry took the initiative. He’d never been one to ignore such obvious signs, especially not when it was something that he wanted as well, and he usually dealt with things by charging head first at it. He was still a true Gryffindor at heart after all.

He moved forward and pressed his lips to Rabastan’s in a kiss that was shorter than most toddlers gave to their Mothers and probably just as innocent and chaste. Had he mentioned before that his only experience had been with Cho and that that had gone horribly as well?

He blushed at his horrific attempt at kissing and he stood up to flee until he could control his raging embarrassment when a large hand gripped his wrist and pulled him backwards until he was sprawled over Rabastan’s lap.

 

“Was that your first kiss?” Rabastan asked him gruffly.

 

Harry shook his head. “No, but it actually went better than the first one if you can believe it, which really is saying something.” He almost whined.

 

Rabastan chuckled and before Harry could shift, move or even think about being humiliated over his childish and pathetic attempt at kissing, Rabastan had taken over and intently taught him exactly how a proper kiss should be performed.

Harry was addicted from the first moment. He was breathless and his heart was hammering with excitement and still a touch of nervousness as they kissed again and again, stopping only long enough to draw in a few quick breaths, pulling back only slightly as their noses pressed and brushed against one another as they panted heavily, before their lips met and they were kissing again, but fuck was Rabastan a good kisser.

Harry felt the tell-tale smack to the back of his head and he broke away from Rabastan sharply, looking over his shoulder to see the furious face of Narcissa Malfoy.

 

“Well it seems that you two have just proved indefinitely that you do need a chaperone at all times.” She said in a harsh hiss.

 

“It was just a kiss.” Harry said a little put out that he’d been caught in such a position. It didn’t help that he was very, painfully, hard in his jeans either, or that he could feel an identical hardness pressing against the side of his hip.

 

“No, that was much, much more than just a simple kiss.” Narcissa said dangerously. “Go to your Father’s study and cool off.”

 

Harry sighed but he rolled off of Rabastan’s lap and shared a sly look with him, grinning happily when he caught the pleased, smug look that Rabastan was wearing.

Narcissa was less than pleased and the narrowing of her blue eyes had Harry moving just that little bit faster. He climbed the stairs and knocked on Lucius’ door, hearing the command to ‘enter’ and doing so.

 

“Harry? It was to my understanding that you were spending time getting to know Rabastan better. I am halfway through your homework and I must say that I am very pleased with the quality and standard of it all. Well done.”

 

Harry looked at the floor and scuffed his socked toes against the carpet. Lucius sighed heavily.

 

“You haven’t come here of your own free will. What have you done? If you’ve curse Rhadamanthus, I will be very unhappy with you.”

 

“It’s not that…though I do wish I could curse him, the loathsome bastard that he is.”

 

“Watch your foul mouth.” Lucius commanded seriously. “What did you do?”

 

“Narcissa caught me and Rabastan kissing.” He said and he had the pleasure of watching Lucius’ eyebrows fly off into his hair.

 

“She wouldn’t have sent you here for a quick peck on the cheek, or even the lips, either.” Lucius sighed.

 

Harry shook his head. “No…we were more than likely mauling one another’s mouths. Or at least from her face that’s what it must have looked like we were doing. He’s a fantastic kisser.”

 

“Alright, that’s enough. I could have gone my entire life without hearing that piece of information.” Lucius said, putting up a hand for emphasis. “You know you’re not to have any contact of that manner until you are engaged.”

 

Harry sighed. “It’s a stupid regulation. Like the one where I always have to sit opposite him.”

 

“That stipulation is there to prevent such contact as what you have just engaged in.” Lucius told him sternly. “Any sexual conduct is prohibited until you are engaged.”

 

Harry scoffed. “Yeah but Daphne Greengrass can open her legs for all and sundry, yet I’m not even allowed to kiss the man who I’m betrothed to and plan on marrying? How does that work?”

 

“Do not compare a rock to a diamond. You are no Daphne Greengrass and I would have hoped that you’d have more decorum and much higher aspirations than her, of all people. Her trysts are well known and her reputation is in ruins, even if she doesn’t realise it at this moment in time.”

 

“But I’m betrothed to Rabastan!” Harry said upset. “Why can’t I kiss the man that I’m going to marry? It’s stupid.”

 

“Stupid it may be to your mind, but the regulations are there to protect you. You can kiss and cuddle with Rabastan after you’re engaged to him.”

 

“When will that be?” Harry demanded.

 

“When the Lestranges deem it the right time.”

 

“Can I propose to him?” Harry asked thoughtfully.

 

“No you certainly may not!” Lucius told him. “It is for Rabastan to propose to you, not the other way around.”

 

Harry groaned and kicked his one leg out, scraping his foot across the carpet.

 

“I didn’t realise this betrothal would be so limiting. I want to spend all of my time with Rabastan, yet I have to have it dictated to me exactly what I do. What can I do if I’m not even allowed to sit next to him?”

 

“Surely you can think of something other than kissing to pass the time?” Lucius drawled.

 

“Not at this moment in time.” Harry said cheekily.

 

Lucius sighed. “Whatever happened to simply talking?”

 

“Rabastan has been in Azkaban for fifteen years.” Harry said darkly. “He’s not exactly the best person to hold a conversation with.”

 

“You need to push past that and actually talk to him or your marriage is doomed to fail before you are even engaged.” Lucius told him sternly.

 

“I know. We have talked a little, it’s just a little awkward because we don’t really know one another yet. Letters aren’t really enough.”

 

“Which is why you need to talk to one another.”

 

Harry nodded his understanding.

 

“Now, I won’t punish you for kissing one another this time, but if you do it again you will be confined to a corner of whichever room I am currently residing in. I’m sure the embarrassment of such a thing in front of our guests and your future family will prevent a second infraction.”

 

Harry snorted. “How did kissing become an infraction? I was just getting to know Rabastan better. Intimately.”

 

“That is more than enough on this topic. No more kissing or sexual contact of any kind, do I make myself clear?”

 

“Can you run through everything that sexual content entails so that I’m sure on the matter?” Harry asked.

 

“Harry.” Lucius said warningly.

 

“Alright, alright. We’re clear. I understand perfectly.” He said sadly. “But just so we’re extra clear, once he proposes and I accept, then we can kiss and cuddle all we want?”

 

“Within reason.”

 

Harry pulled a face. “What does within reason mean? We’ll be engaged!” He asked.

 

“I will not allow you into one another’s bed chambers without a chaperone and I do not want to see you ‘mauling each other’s mouths’ like you were allegedly doing today.”

 

“Will I have any restrictions on my love life when I’m married?” Harry demanded.

 

“Of course not. You’ll be married.” Lucius told him exasperatedly.

 

Harry left the study a little sulkily, he made a quick detour into his bed suite and took a moment to calm himself down and regain control of his emotions. It wasn’t fair, but Pureblood tradition was something that both the Malfoys and the Lestranges held with utmost seriousness. Everything had to be done by the letter and though it was annoying, Harry had known what he was getting himself in for from the very start…to an extent at least.

He hadn’t known that he wouldn’t even be able to kiss Rabastan until they were officially engaged, and that even after they were engaged their kisses couldn’t be overly passionate, but he was sure that he could wait a little longer, he had school to distract him after all. But fuck was Rabastan an amazing kisser, he was going to be thinking of those kisses now until he could get another taste. Already he was getting hard again just thinking about it.

He squeezed himself through his robes and his jeans. Damn Rabastan and those addictive kisses! There was no way, absolutely no way, that he’d now be able to sit in a room with Rabastan and not think of those hot, open mouthed kisses, or prevent himself from wishing for another one.

He banged his head against his bedroom door and sucked in a deep breath. He could do this. He had to do this, he had another two weeks at home with Rabastan…Rabastan who he couldn’t touch or kiss. He groaned. Who the hell knew that Rabastan had the strength to grab him as he had, drag him backwards over his lap and snog him like that. It had been beyond his wildest fantasies. Which wasn’t really saying much as he hadn’t really thought of anything like that before. That was going to change now, however. His dreams and fantasies were going to be a lot more prevalent and graphic now thanks to Rabastan, and they were going to be a lot more realistic too now that he actually had something to go off of.

He sighed and left his room and went back to where he’d left Rabastan, only to find a stony looking Xerxes sitting in the dead silent room, staring at a shame faced Rabastan.

 

“Is your Father cancelling the contract?” Xerxes asked him.

 

“No, of course not.” Harry said in surprise. “I wouldn’t let him even if he tried.”

 

Harry plonked himself next to Rabastan and took his hand, about all he could do while merely betrothed and with a chaperone sat in the room with them.

 

“You were gone a long time.” Rabastan said worriedly.

 

“I was getting a lecture about exactly what I could or couldn’t do with you while we’re only betrothed and not engaged. I even asked if I could propose to you, but I was told that I absolutely could not and that I had to wait for you to do it…hint hint.”

 

The ice was not just broken but completely smashed through as Xerxes roared with laughter and Rabastan grinned happily, his hand tightening only slightly around Harry’s. He was too aware of his damage limitations to try and squeeze any tighter, but Harry understood the gesture and smiled at him cheekily.

 

“So what can we do?” Rabastan asked. A muscle ticked in his jaw and he growled at himself angrily.

 

“Apparently very little.” Harry sighed. He lifted their joined hands and swayed them a little. “This is about all we’re going to be allowed to do until you propose and I accept.”

 

Rabastan smiled at him and it was so naughty that Harry’s heart automatically started beating faster and suddenly it was him who was starting at those thin, cracked lips, hoping that he’d get another kiss. Rabastan caught the look and bent to kiss him, only for a cushion to smack the both of them in the face.

 

“Enough of that now.” Xerxes chastised them both, looking far too amused to truly be annoyed at the both of them trying to kiss one another in front of him as he summoned back the cushion that he’d banished at them. Harry had forgotten that he was even there.

 

Harry huffed and rested his head against Rabastan’s bony shoulder. He made sure not to rest his full weight on him and cause him discomfort or even pain.

An arm slipped around his waist and rested against him and Harry pressed his own arm on Rabastan’s and he sighed happily, snuggling in.

 

“You two look so contented.” Xerxes snorted. “I can see why Narcissa demanded that you have a chaperone at all times during this two week break.”

 

“She’s being a killjoy.” Harry said miserably. “It was just a kiss. What’s wrong with a simple kiss?”

 

Xerxes laughed and Rabastan chuckled.

 

“It’s tradition.” Xerxes told him.

 

“I know, I know. I got the lecture from Lucius. It still doesn’t make it fair, though. There’s nothing wrong with kissing.”

 

“You two aren’t even supposed to be sat next to one another, but luckily for you both, I’m a very lenient man.”

 

Both Harry and Rabastan laughed at that and Xerxes joined in.

 

“Watch it the both of you. I can force you to sit on opposite chairs.” Xerxes threatened.

 

“We’re bonding.” Harry said. “You can’t interrupt our bonding!”

 

Xerxes scoffed. “You’re lucky that I like you. You’re far cheekier than you have any right to be!”

 

“You like me this way, don’t try to deny it.” Harry said with a wide grin.

 

“I definitely like that smart brain of yours more than the smart mouth.”

 

“I like both.” Rabastan said.

 

Harry laughed and nudged him gently. “I like your mouth too.”

 

“Enough.” Xerxes warned them. “You will be confined to separate rooms at this rate.”

 

Harry snorted and moved so he shifted his position on Rabastan so that he didn’t become too heavy for any one part of Rabastan’s body.

It happened in an instant. One moment they were all fine, talking and laughing, the next Rabastan’s arm had clenched vice tight around his body and had driven all of the air from his lungs, making Harry gasp in pain and choke for breath.

 

“I’m so sorry.” Rabastan said loudly as he clutched his violently spasming arm tightly with his opposite hand to keep it controlled.

 

Harry held up a hand and tried to catch his breath back, his one arm around his ribcage to ease away the remaining pain.

 

“What happened?” Lucius demanded and it was then that Harry realised that Xerxes had sent off a house elf to get the head of the Malfoy family.

 

“I’m alright.” He insisted a little breathlessly as he was still a bit winded. “It was an accident. That’s all.”

 

“That wasn’t what I asked.” Lucius growled out as he crouched down in front of him and pulled his arm away from his ribcage, his wand in his hand as he checked him over for any damage.

 

“It was nothing.” Harry said firmly and with a slight bite. People making this much of a fuss over what had happened would do more harm than good for Rabastan’s mental health and his confidence. Harry didn’t want that at all.

 

“There are no broken bones. You may bruise, however.”

 

“I’ve told you that I’m fine. Rabastan, I could use a drink. Will you accompany me to the kitchen?”

 

He didn’t even give Rabastan the time to answer as he stood up, stepped forward, took his hand and all but dragged the man out of the room and towards the kitchen.

 

“I am sorry.” Rabastan repeated.

 

“You don’t need to apologise. I told you, I’m completely fine, which is why I don’t like people fussing over me as if I was smashed in the face with a bludger.” He scowled. “I know you can’t control it, Rabastan. I know you didn’t want to hurt me, so I got angry when Lucius and Xerxes started fussing and demanding what was wrong. I’m sure it made you feel much worse than when you actually squeezed me!”

 

The averting of Rabastan’s eyes told Harry all he needed to know. He moved to snuggle in to Rabastan and wrapped an arm loosely around his waist.

 

“It’s alright, Rabastan.” Harry assured him. “I still care about you and I still want to marry you.”

 

“I don’t understand why.” Rabastan all but growled. “I’m a mess and I’m not getting any better!”

 

Harry chuckled lightly and nuzzled his face against Rabastan’s robes. Underneath them he could feel how thin and unnatural his betrothed felt, but he forced himself to ignore it.

 

“You are getting better and I’m amazed that you can’t see for yourself any of the progress that you’ve made. You’re so much better now than you were just four months ago and I’m incredibly proud of you.” He said, smiling up at Rabastan and letting him see the stark truth of his words on his face and in his eyes.

 

Rabastan stopped walking and Harry was forced to stop as well, one of those huge, but almost skeletal hands cupped his face, pressing lightly, but Harry could still feel the strength that was hidden there, belied by its weak and brittle appearance.

It was the smile on Rabastan’s face however, that stopped Harry short and his eyes were drawn to that smiling mouth, to those lips.

Rabastan had him up against the wall in the next moment, their bodies pressed tightly together and they were snogging furiously. Harry put his arms up around those shoulders, playing with the dry, straw-like hair at the back of Rabastan’s neck.

 

“Watch you don’t get caught doing that.”

 

The two of them sprang apart like naughty boys to see a grinning Rodolphus walking down the hallway towards them.

 

“Couldn’t you have just walked past without saying anything?” Harry groused. “I was enjoying myself.”

 

“I can see that.” Rodolphus said seriously. “Rabastan, you know that the betrothal contract doesn’t allow this sort of behaviour.”

 

“You sound like an old man.” Rabastan told his brother and Rodolphus’ face split into a, slightly deranged, grin. 

 

“I am almost forty-one.”

 

Harry laughed. “That’s not old.” He told his future Brother-in-law.

 

“It is for him. I’ll send my Christmas gift for you back and I’ll buy you a tombstone instead.” Rabastan told his brother.

 

“Damn…does this mean I have to exchange my gift as well and buy him a coffin?”

 

“A matching pair of gifts from a matching pair of complete imbeciles.” Rodolphus drawled. “Wonderful.”

 

Harry couldn’t hold back the laughter and he saw Rodolphus roll his eyes and walk away.

 

“We better get to the kitchen. He’s probably going to send a chaperone or two after us.” Harry said as he calmed himself down and grabbed Rabastan’s hand again.

 

They made it to the kitchen and Harry asked for two drinks from the little elf who was happily scrubbing the numerous breakfast dishes. Harry had tried to get the drinks himself, but the elf had almost had a fit. At least it had made Rabastan laugh and anything that made Rabastan laugh was definitely a good thing. Harry wanted to make him laugh as much as possible while he was home. He wanted to make a good impression on him. He wanted Rabastan to want to marry him as much as he wanted to marry Rabastan.

 

“Those robes look really good on you.” Rabastan complimented as he watched interestedly as Harry bent over the table to take the plate of biscuits off of the elf. The movement showed off the tight form of his body and Rabastan swallowed as his imagination took off. He had to forcibly remind himself that Harry was sixteen, which didn’t really help at all, and that as his betrothed he wasn’t even allowed to touch him as he wanted to. The engagement ring that he had designed and had had custom made was upstairs, sitting ready and waiting on his bedside table and it played heavily on his mind.

 

Harry looked down at the robes he was wearing and shifted a little uncomfortably. He’d chosen a nice, deep blue set of robes and the jumper underneath matched the colour perfectly, but other than that, they were just robes. Was Rabastan teasing him, or just struggling for a topic of conversation?

 

“Thank you.” He accepted the compliment graciously, as Narcissa had taught him to do before offering the plate of biscuits to Rabastan. He’d asked, and received, a copy of Rabastan’s diet sheet and he knew biscuits were classed as extras, but if he ate wholemeal ones, and not too many of them, then he would be alright.

 

“Are you feeling better today?” Harry asked Rabastan as he sat down with his cup of tea and his biscuits.

 

“I am. I had a good night last night and the kisses this morning really helped.”

 

Harry laughed happily.

 

“Are you feeling better after your late night yesterday?”

 

“Definitely!” Harry replied empathetically. “I slept for so long, I almost missed breakfast. I really needed it though.”

 

“You looked almost sick, I had wondered if it was the thought of meeting me again.”

 

“No! Of course not. I mean, I was nervous, I’ll admit. It had been four months since we’d last seen one another, I was nervous about seeing you again, but I was just very, very tired.”

 

“How much sleep did you get?”

 

“Yesterday? Only three hours. It almost killed me, but I feel so much better today and all of my homework is now done and out of the way.”

 

“I still can’t believe that you did that, just to spend more time with me.”

 

“Well, I really wanted to spend as much time as possible with you. It’s not that surprising. We’re supposed to be bonding and getting to know one another, I won’t let anything get in the way or jeopardise that, especially not homework.”

 

The smile that Rabastan gave him made butterflies erupt in Harry’s belly and his eyes were drawn to his mouth yet again.

 

“Do you have any hobbies, Harry?” Rabastan asked, his voice noticeably deeper.

 

“Not really. I like Quidditch, though I love just flying for the freedom of it more, but other than that, no.”

 

“I’d love to see you fly. Your Father says that you’re spectacular.”

 

“Perhaps if I can get Draco to agree, I can have a friendly match with him so you can watch.”

 

Rabastan smiled as he bent closer and anticipating a kiss, Harry closed his eyes, only for lips to brush against his ear.

 

“I’d really love to see that.” Rabastan whispered into his ear before he pulled back and kissed him softly, cradling his head in his hands.

 

A throat cleared and they sprang apart like a fire had erupted between them for the third time that day. This chaperone business was getting old. Harry plucked up the courage to lift his head to see who had interrupted them, only to feel his stomach drop at the sight of Draco stood in the doorway. 

 

“You know that such behaviour is not allowed during a betrothal period.” He said pompously.

 

“It was a peck.” Harry tried to explain.

 

Draco scoffed. “That was more than a peck, Harry.”

 

“Only a little more.” Harry tried.

 

“A lot more. Come on, if I have to be your chaperone, I’m not staying in the kitchen of all places.”

 

“Why are you our chaperone?” Harry demanded.

 

“Any family member can be a chaperone.” Draco told him, his voice dripping with self-importance. “I am older than you after all.”

 

“By eight weeks!” Harry said incredulously.

 

“I’m still older and thus I still qualify as a chaperone, now come on.”

 

Harry groaned and stood up. He took Rabastan’s hand and glared Draco down when he rose an eyebrow at the move.

 

“Where are we going?” Harry asked as he followed Draco through the house, holding tight to Rabastan’s hand going up the stairs when his betrothed slowed down and struggled a little to climb the numerous steps. He was angry with Draco for walking so fast and up so many stairs when he knew that Rabastan would find it difficult.

 

“The library, just because you have finished all of your homework, doesn’t mean that I have.”

 

Harry grinned, cheering up a little. He loved the library, which is something that he’d never thought that he’d ever say, but the Malfoy library was cosy, warm and secluded. The loveseats inside were also small, he and Rabastan would be touching shoulder to hip to knee sat together on one of those seats.

They reached the library and Harry settled Rabastan down on a seat, as he was looking a little pale and shaky, before he sat next to him.

 

“Here, read this.” Draco threw a book at Harry and he caught it reflexively.

 

Harry scoffed, but he opened the book and he snuggled into Rabastan, a cushion behind his head and he started reading aloud softly.

It was all about Arithmancy, so it was terribly boring, yet it was interesting all the same because it was all new to him, he just wished that it wasn’t such a clinical textbook, but he did his best to make it interesting for Rabastan.

Rabastan’s hand in his hair was very nice though and Harry felt like he didn’t want to move as he rested against the older man and let those strong, shaky fingers tug and massage his hair and scalp as he read from the textbook. Now and then Rabastan would tug too hard or his fingers would spasm and dig into his head, but he ignored these instances and carried on reading, not drawing any attention to the little slips.

 

“You have a lovely voice.” Rabastan told him as he bent over him to whisper softly to him when Harry had paused to take a breath. He kissed Harry’s hair and nuzzled the top of his head. Harry heard him inhaling gently.

 

“This must be terribly boring for you.” Harry said with a grimace. “I’m reading from a textbook after all.”

 

“Not at all. I always liked Arithmancy. Having it read to me instead of trying to read it myself helps me keep track of the information. It’s nice not having to struggle through it on my own. No one has ever read anything to me before.”

 

Harry smiled and then turned back to the book, reading slowly and softly. At least until a house elf popped into the room and announced that lunch was almost ready.

Harry closed the book and stole a quick kiss from Rabastan as Draco was packing up his own books. Rabastan grinned as Harry gave him a sly wink before helping the man to his feet.

They walked with Draco escorting them, hand and hand…well, they were touching from shoulder to hip, or Harry was at least, seeing as Rabastan was a foot taller than he was, but they were brushing and snuggling together like honeymoon lovers as they made their way to the formal dining room.

 

“Will you two stop that?” Draco snapped. “It’s sickening.”

 

“No more sickening than when I had to sit and watch Pansy’s hand caress your lap on the train.” Harry said with narrowed eyes. “At least I’m betrothed to Rabastan.”

 

Draco had the grace to flush, but his silvery eyes glared at Harry and promised him retribution.

 

“Do you want to play Quidditch tomorrow?” Harry asked suddenly and seemingly randomly, but it had actually been a planned question to disarm Draco.

 

Visibly taken aback, it took a few moments for Draco to recover, as Harry had wanted.

 

“If you wish.” He answered after a few moment’s pause. “Will you have the time?”

 

“Of course. I have nothing but time, unlike you. I need to keep up my toned flexibility and speed for the match against Hufflepuff in March.”

 

“It’ll be cold.” Draco warned. “It’s been snowing here.”

 

Harry nodded. He’d seen the snow through his bedroom window that morning. “That’s alright, it’s nothing we aren’t already used to. You need to get used to the snow anyway, your next match is against Ravenclaw in February, it’s likely to be freezing cold and snowing then too.”

 

Draco nodded. “We’re going to flatten Ravenclaw.”

 

“Good luck.” Harry said with a smile. “I’ll be cheering for you.”

 

“A Gryffindor cheering for a Slytherin.” Draco snorted.

 

“Well, I suppose you are my brother. I need to show you some support.” Harry said with a crooked grin.

 

They made it to the dining room, Harry hand in hand with Rabastan still, and before Lucius could say anything about them not being chaperoned, Draco walked in just behind them.

 

“Where have you been, Harry?” Narcissa asked, but Harry detected the hint in her voice, the slight distrust and then the glare she gave to Rabastan. Harry hid his smile as he realised that she was angry with Rabastan, not himself.

 

“In the library with Draco.” Harry answered with a smile. “He insisted on having a turn at chaperoning Rabastan and I, so we accompanied him to the library so that he could do his homework while still keeping an eye on us.”

 

“And what were you two doing?” Lucius asked nonchalantly.

 

“I was reading an Arithmancy book aloud to Rabastan.”

 

“He was.” Draco confirmed as he sat down.

 

Harry ignored the looks of the older men and he sat himself next to Rabastan. He looked up as Lucius cleared his throat and looked pointedly to the chair on the opposite side of the table.

 

“Oh, come on! What am I possibly going to do at the table with you all sat here?” Harry said as he poured himself and Rabastan a drink.

 

Lucius sighed, but he was smiling. “What do you think, Xerxes?”

 

“Let the boys stay where they are. I’m not so old that I can’t remember my own betrothal period and how frustrating it was.”

 

Harry grinned happily at Xerxes as he handed Rabastan a glass of water (he and Rodolphus were strictly not allowed any alcohol at all) before he sat himself down next to his betrothed and took a sip of his own water. He would have preferred pumpkin juice, but he would do anything to support Rabastan, even if it meant drinking water at mealtimes with Rabastan.

The chatter around the table was light and Harry joined in happily before going back to giving his undivided attention to Rabastan, which seemed to bolster his confidence if his expression and progressive animation in their conversation was anything to go on. Not even Rhadamanthus’ odd snide comments could penetrate their happy bubble as Harry took to feeding Rabastan fresh raspberries with his fingers for dessert.

 

“Must you do that?” Draco complained, bringing the attention of the table to them.

 

“What are you doing?” Lucius demanded.

 

“Making sure that Rabastan gets his five a day.” Harry answered blithely.

 

Xerxes laughed, but he was the only one. Rodolphus just stared at them, Narcissa glared, Lucius looked very unimpressed and Rhadamanthus looked like he was barely restraining himself from leaping over the table and choking the both of them with his ham like hands.

 

“I’m still not doing anything wrong.” Harry said. “We’re not touching, we’re not kissing and it’s not sexual. So therefore it’s within the betrothal limits. It doesn’t expressly say that I can’t feed my betrothed with my fingers.”

 

Draco snorted and Rodolphus smiled and Rabastan chuckled, squeezing the fingers of Harry’s left hand lightly. Harry had lied when he’d told the table that they weren’t touching, because they were. They were holding hands under the table, in Harry’s lap, and their knees were touching.

 

“Carry on then.” Lucius sighed, giving in to Harry’s steely determination and fierce defiance.

 

Harry grinned and plucked up another raspberry to feed to Rabastan.

 

“Lucius!” Narcissa cried out scandalised.

 

“No, Dear. Harry is correct. The contract that he and Rabastan signed did not forbid feeding one another fruit and they are still under chaperone supervision while we are in the room with them.”

 

Narcissa exhaled through her nose, but she sat back and sipped at her after dinner tea, saying nothing more.

 

“I disagree.” Rhadamanthus exclaimed loudly.

 

“There’s a surprise.” Xerxes grunted, giving his son a warning look.

 

“I don’t believe that they should be allowed to sit next to one another at all during their betrothal period. It is against tradition!” Rhadamanthus insisted. “They are breaking strict betrothal layouts.”

 

“The betrothal guidelines are set out according to the two families who set up the contract.” Harry said mildly. “That would mean my Father and Xerxes. Not you.”

 

“He is my son!” Rhadamanthus snarled.

 

“And I love him!” Harry declared passionately. “I won’t allow you, or anyone else for that matter, to come between us for such ridiculous reasons! I understand about the traditions, I’ve been taught about them meticulously and I respect them, which is why I am trying my hardest to follow them…for the most part. That said I will not force myself to adhere to them when the attraction between Rabastan and I is so high. I will not bat away Rabastan’s hand if he tries to touch me, I will not recoil away if he goes to kiss me and I would very much hope that he wouldn’t do those things to me if our positions were reversed. I understand the need for chaperones and I respect the need for tradition, but I won’t let either dictate the pace that Rabastan and I interact with one another.”

 

The table fell silent and Harry stared at all of them in turn for a few moments before he picked up another raspberry and he gave his attention back to Rabastan as he offered it up with a smile.

He had meant every word that he’d said and he was going to stick to what he’d said. He hadn’t meant to publically declare his love to Rabastan, at least not before privately telling the man how he felt first, but that didn’t mean that it was any less true.

It had taken four months of separation and then suddenly meeting face to face again for Harry to realise that his ‘budding’ love had actually been the real thing. He loved Rabastan and he wouldn’t let anyone stand in his way of getting what he wanted. He had a chance of love and happiness, of a family of his own and anyone who tried to stand in his way would not like what would happen to them, because he wanted this. It had been all he’d wanted for so long, to have it dangled in front of him, so tantalisingly close, but just out of reach, it was maddening. Anyone who tried to keep him from grasping his biggest wish now that it was so close to him would pay and they’d pay dearly. He’d make sure of it.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Bill Weasley rubbed at his tired eyes and wrinkled forehead with a hard, firm pressure. He had a blinding headache forming and it was all thanks to the massive stack of old, dusty books in front of him.

He had never wanted to be a Lord, he’d never wanted to be involved with the Ministry and he’d never even thought of becoming part of the Wizengamot. This entire process was frustrating and not something that he’d ever wanted to do. He liked Egypt, he liked being a curse-breaker. He’d taken a desk job at the London bank a little reluctantly at the behest of Dumbledore, he wanted to help the Order of the Phoenix, of course he did. But this was more than he thought he could handle.

The old laws and traditions were not something that he’d ever been interested in and he could think of nothing more eye wateringly boring than sitting around a table and debating said old laws and traditions with equally old and boring men.

He didn’t know how Harry could stand it, then Dumbledore had shared his fears with him, fears that Harry was just copying the votes of Lucius Malfoy. A very frightening prospect seeing as the man was hell bent of eradicating Muggleborns and raising Purebloods to a higher status than they already had and enjoyed.

He hadn’t had much contact with Harry Potter, he’d seen the boy perhaps a handful of times when Harry had been fourteen, first when he’d come to the Burrow for the Quidditch world cup and then later when he and his Mother had gone to see him at the last task of the Triwizard tournament as family members of a competing champion as Harry had no family of his own. But outside of that, he hadn’t really seen or paid attention to the short, scruffy little boy whom had been friends with his youngest brother.

Now Harry wasn’t speaking to Ron, he had upset Ginny and he was declaring that he wasn’t going to fight you-know-who at all in this coming war. He couldn’t believe this same boy was the son of James and Lily Potter. Two famously well known, extraordinary people who had given their lives to keep Harry safe and had died at the hands of you-know-who and now Harry wasn’t even going to try and stop the evil wizard. He didn’t understand the audacity of Harry’s decision not to fight against the very man who had killed his own parents. The same vile man who wanted to destroy their entire world.

So now they found themselves lost. They were now fighting he-who-must-not-be-named and Harry Potter, the boy who had abandoned them when they needed him to fight the most. He understood that it was a frightening prospect, but they needed to band together and face that fear and stand up to you-know-who and his Death Eaters. They couldn’t give in just because they were afraid. It went against everything that they and their house stood for, they were Gryffindors! They were a part of the house of bravery and now Harry had tucked up his tail and run to the enemy just because he was scared.

Bill sighed and thunked his head into the boring book that he was trying to force himself to read and memorise. At least Percy was happy about it all. He was definitely back on his high horse and he was declaring that he’d known all along that Harry had been the enemy and that Ron should have severed ties with him years ago. He was strutting around the Ministry in his brand new robes, carrying a dragonhide briefcase as if he were the Minister for Magic himself. He was boasting to anyone who would listen, and a lot of those who wouldn’t listen and didn’t give a stuff, that his oldest brother was to become the first Lord Weasley in several generations. He would have made a much better candidate for Lord Weasley, Bill thought miserably. Unfortunately as the oldest son of his Father with his Wife, he was the Heir to the Weasley family, so only he could take the place of Lord Weasley in the stead of his Father. The only way to get out of it was if he were to die, then the Lordship would fall to Charlie, as the next oldest son of his Father.

Which reminded him that he needed to write to Charlie again, he hadn’t heard from his brother in a while and he hadn’t seen him in two years now. He was still sending letters to their Mother, but they were becoming increasingly bare, which was upsetting their Mother. It made him wonder if Charlie had found a girlfriend and was just busy with his new relationship or if something had actually happened to him. Being a Dragon handler was a dangerous job after all and if Charlie had been permanently or seriously injured then it could account for his short words and his tension filled letters and his non-existent visits.

He really needed to invite his brother home so that he could talk to him face to face and see what was going on, until then he more than had his hands full with Percy acting like a Prince, the twins falling over themselves laughing at his new position as a Lord, Ginny’s morose brooding and Ron’s anger and jealousy issues.

Unfortunately his Great-Aunt Muriel was of the same mind set as Percy about the whole thing and when his Mother had sent a letter to Muriel telling her about him taking on the mantel of Lord Weasley, she’d sent him a set of garish robes that might have been in fashion during the goblin rebellion of sixteen-twelve to congratulate him. Needless to say, he would not be wearing them to the Wizengamot meetings. Or ever for that matter.

He was still waiting to be processed into the archives as a Lord, he didn’t have the Galleons needed to speed up the process like Harry had had at his disposal to fast track his early claim of his titles. It was made harder for him as the Weasley family had been stripped of their Lordship generations before and getting the title back was always going to be a hard fought, uphill struggle.

The Ministry were stonewalling him and insisting that his application could wait until after the seasonal holidays, which meant that he wouldn’t even get to see the inside of the Wizengamot meeting halls until at least March. He’d thought about bribing the wizards in charge of his application to get them to do a faster job, but he didn’t want to use such an underhanded, not to mention illegal, tactic to have his application processed a few months early. If he got caught by the wrong people then he would be in huge trouble and his application would be torn to shreds and he’d be unable to help the Order with their needs in relation to the Wizengamot. He was their only chance, he had to get this right.

He sighed yet again. At least it gave him a bit more time to read through this mountain of books that were older than the Ministry itself. He wasn’t understanding half of what he was reading and though Dumbledore was helping him, he could only do so much because he had his duty to the school as the Headmaster and Lucius Malfoy was not making that easy for him at the moment. If half of what Dumbledore was telling him was true, then Harry wasn’t making it any easier for the Headmaster either.

His hands clenched and he flipped the page of the book over to continue reading the boring tirade of information. Harry had abandoned them to their fate and he had joined with the enemy, in his eyes, that made Harry part of the enemy too and he’d never thought that he’d be saying that about the boy-who-lived. But then he would never have thought that their apparent saviour would have joined with you-know-who and allowed himself to be adopted by a Death Eater. It was only a matter of time before he was completely corrupted and started properly fighting against them and then what?

They couldn’t give in, not ever, they had to fight the growing darkness, with Harry or without him. Perhaps if they killed enough Death Eaters and contained the growing darkness, they could get Harry back long enough for him to kill Voldemort and then they could throw the treacherous boy in Azkaban for his abandonment of them and the side fighting for freedom for all peoples.

With more determination than before, Bill went back to his current reading material and tried to understand more of what the ancient, dust spotted book was trying to teach him. He had to be prepared for when his application was accepted, because he had to stand toe to toe with men who had been raised and spoon fed these old laws and traditions from the moment they were born. He needed to be able to hold his own, because unlike Harry, he didn’t have someone to dictate to him what to say and no one to copy when it came to casting a vote.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Voldemort was exhilarated as he heard the news personally that his latest subtle assassination plan had been a success. The chosen Death Eater had reported to him immediately afterwards and so far, no one in the Ministry had noticed any of the carefully planned disappearances nor stumbled upon what was left of the bodies. Not that he expected them to as they were well hidden and transfigured into something else on top. He was being very cautious while the Ministry so kindly blinded themselves to his plans.

Everything was finally coming together and it made him very happy. His followers were more ruthless in their missions, his loyal followers who had been incarcerated in Azkaban were recovering well, though he suspected that Bellatrix’s mental abnormalities would be permanent. After all, the Black family had never been known for their rational, sane way of thinking. However, every once in a while, one of them turned up and they compounded all of the negative Black family traits so completely that they were almost completely unable to carry out the simplest of tasks.

He believed that Azkaban had amplified these traits in Bellatrix, who seemed almost incapable these days of any rational thought. She was completely loyal to him and to the cause, of course, but unable to follow orders to the letter. She worked wonderfully well as a threat and deterrent, but her mind wandered aimlessly and she threw random curses, mostly into the air, but sometimes at other people.

He had hoped that she would get better in time, but the more freedom she got, the worse she became. He was toying with the idea of keeping her busy with menial tasks, but it would be a waste of her particular talents. Giving it some more thought before casting it from his mind, he absently stroked the head of his beloved Nagini as she wound around his shoulders and neck, a comforting warmth that a fellow human had never given him. Nagini, and Nagini alone, was different. It’s why he kept her so close, so protected, it was why she had been chosen, the only living thing, to be one of his precious Horcruxes, of which he’d had six, making seven fragments of his soul, including the part that was still within himself. Now he only had five Horcruxes, he no longer had seven pieces, the most magically powerful number.

Severus, one of his most loyal, had already told him that that incessant fool Dumbledore was looking for his Horcruxes. He’d already destroyed the one…his old diary. He had been absolutely livid with Lucius over the lost Horcrux and he had punished him harshly for losing the diary.

He was thinking of making another one, to replace the one lost, but it took considerable amounts of magical power, not to mention the fact that he needed a suitable victim and a fitting object to contain the soul fragment into.

Running a hand over his smooth, bald head, he considered all of his options seriously. He wasn’t in a position to greatly weaken himself just yet with such a use of magical power needed to make another Horcrux.

 

‘What to do, Nagini?’ He hissed in Parseltongue, his mind exploring several avenues that seemed plausible to him.

 

He knew logically that he was in no position at the moment to make another Horcrux, but the thought of having one less Horcrux than he’d wanted when he’d set out to protect himself really stuck in him.

His eye caught the meticulous, well formatted letter on his coffee table. He smiled despite himself. He had read the same letter half a hundred times and he couldn’t believe the difference in the Harry Potter he had met several times and had once wanted nothing more than to kill and the forming young man who had written him the letter.

He hadn’t killed Lucius over the Horcrux incident because of his amazing forethought to snatch up Harry Potter while he could. He had sifted through Lucius’, admittedly incredible and stunning, thought process of when he’d received the floo call from the bank and had opened that office door to see Harry Potter sitting forlornly in one of the high backed chairs.

He’d gotten the surprise and the anger, the immediate thought to find a way to use this to his advantage, a way to hand Potter over to him as a gift. But he’d also come across the curiosity, the burning curiosity to know why Potter was sitting in the bank, why he didn’t know anything about his heritage, his Lordships or even his bank vaults.

The neglect by Dumbledore was surprising, yet entirely unsurprising at the same time. He knew what the man was capable of, after all, but the extent of what Dumbledore had done to the boy was overall surprising and disgusting. He didn’t blame Lucius for his protective feelings for the boy. After all, tradition and the old laws were a large part of Lucius’ life, of any Pureblood’s life. Finding out that Dumbledore had been using these laws illegally for his own gain had angered Lucius enough that he had informed the boy of everything, had given him the help he’d needed, which had confused Harry Potter visibly, and Lucius had then gotten the boy to claim both of his Lordships, thus greatly weakening Dumbledore’s influence at the Ministry. This had pleased him greatly, as had the forming anger and hate he could see in Potter’s eyes from Lucius’ memories when he was told what Dumbledore had done to him.

Once assured from Lucius’, and Xerxes’, memories that the boy would not stand in his way, even if he wouldn’t outright join him, he had been content to leave the boy to Lucius and allow the man to explore the protective, defensive feelings that he’d developed gradually for the boy.

It was strange to see the process from Lucius’ mind, the forming bond that was only growing stronger. It may have started as a way to discredit Dumbledore and to use the boy for his own gain, but Lucius had come to genuinely care for the boy in a relatively short amount of time, and after reading the letter sent to him by the boy himself, he believed that he understood why. The change in Harry was phenomenal.

He picked up the letter and he chuckled darkly at the emotions he could sense behind the written words. Harry had been angry and frustrated when writing this letter, but it didn’t come across at all in the words that he’d written in very fine calligraphy. Instead the elegant and eloquent letter was a masterpiece in polite, respectful penmanship and Harry had impressed him with his control and his carefully selected words. He hadn’t written Harry back. Harry’s letter didn’t require a reply and he’d perceptively picked up on the merest thought that perhaps his initial letter to Harry had been what had caused his anger and frustration in the first place. He’d have to wait to find out, he was already planning for them to meet face to face again, just to see how the boy reacted. That, more than anything, would clue him into how the boy really felt and if he really would step back and stay out of this war.

If Harry failed this test, then Lucius and Xerxes would have failed in their mission and the boy would have to be eliminated. It would be a shame, especially with his loyal follower, Rabastan, becoming emotionally invested in the boy due to their budding betrothal. But he couldn’t allow any threat to his plans to remain alive, it was why he was orchestrating so many assassinations now, while the Ministry was lax and not aware of what he was doing. It would become infinitely harder to set up and implement such assassinations when everyone was on high alert and expecting an attack.

He sighed and sat contemplating a little more before he stood to get himself a drink, Nagini asleep around his neck still and draped in looping coils down and around his body. Coming to a decision, he called out for a house elf to call one of several Death Eaters that always stayed in this abandoned manor house with him.

He poured himself a drink and sipped at it thoughtfully for several minutes, thinking his forming plan through from all angles. A sharp, solid trio of knocks at the door had him calling out a soft grant of permission to enter the room.

 

“You wished to see me, My Lord.” Antonin Dolohov asked, bowing low at the waist.

 

“I need your arm, Dolohov.” He said softly.

 

The man pushed back the sleeve of his robes in one quick, fluid movement, even as he was already walking towards him.

Voldemort smiled at this show of loyalty, there had been no hesitation in Dolohov at all and as he pressed a finger to the red mark on Dolohov’s arm, turning it jet black, he felt the slight flinch at the sensation, but Dolohov didn’t even try to pull away. He knew that it was burning, but Dolohov looked stoically ahead, not showing any sign of the pain that he must have been feeling.

A small pop of Apparation was heard a short while later and he turned to his new guest.

 

“You called for me, My Lord?” The new voice asked carefully.

 

“Yes, I did. I have need of you for something. Dolohov, leave us.”

 

Dolohov bowed at the waist yet again and left the room, closing the heavy, solid wood door firmly behind him, leaving Voldemort to look happily at his new arrival.

 

“Come, have a seat. We have much to talk about.”

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- X

Chapter Text

 

Chapter Eight – Winter Blues

 

The first few days of the winter holidays were a little stuttered and awkward for the two betrothed, but very quickly Harry found a niche with Rabastan and they both fell into it easily and comfortably until the awkwardness just melted away.

They could converse about things now, where before Harry had been struggling to find subjects and topics that wouldn’t bore Rabastan to death and he had worried about it constantly. Now he looked forward to talking to Rabastan about anything and everything. As soon as he stopped worrying about making a fool of himself, he found that Rabastan was surprisingly easy to talk to and very understanding about their age difference, and thus their naturally different interests.

It got easier once he found out that Rabastan really liked Arithmancy, as in it had been his favourite subject when he had been in Hogwarts. He’d also found out that talking about the Ministry was a good middle ground for them both, despite it being responsible for imprisoning Rabastan and his brother, Rabastan was very interested in the goings on of the Ministry and all the politics that were at play within it.

So though it was strictly forbidden by law, Harry enjoyed sharing his Wizengamot debates with Rabastan, who enjoyed hearing in detail about everything that was being currently voted on and how Harry was personally doing in the courts. It wasn’t like Rabastan could go out into Wizarding public and tell others about what Harry was saying after all and Harry trusted Rabastan not to rat him out, even if he could have gone out into the public. That and it was never spoken of, but universally understood that most of the Lords would tell their Wives about the happenings of the court. It was just one of those things that happened but was mostly ignored until one of said Wives gossiped to her friends, then it became a problem. But most of them understood that they would get their Husbands into serious trouble if they talked, so they kept their mouths shut and instead gossiped about other things.

Someone knocked on Harry’s bed suite door and he put a bookmark into his current Ancient Runes book and closed it while he called for whomever it was to enter.

He grinned when Rabastan entered his sitting room. He put the closed book onto the square side table beside his armchair so that he could give his full attention to Rabastan.

 

“I believe that you’re taking liberties now.” Harry told him teasingly. “Imagine coming into my bedroom at night without a chaperone? You could do anything to me in here.” Harry winked at him naughtily.

 

The door slammed off of the wall and Harry grimaced as he realised that Rabastan had not been as alone as he’d first thought. Rodolphus had his arms crossed over his chest and a very serious, icy looking glare on his face.

 

“Oh…oops. Evening, Rodolphus.” Harry said with his best innocent grin. “There’s absolutely no chance that you aren’t going to tell everyone what I just said, is there?”

 

“Absolutely none.” Rodolphus replied stonily.

 

Harry sighed. “I was only joking you know.”

 

“I’m not taking that chance with my brother.” Rodolphus told him seriously.

 

Harry rolled his eyes and stood up from his chair and went to hug Rabastan.

 

“I came to ask if you wanted to take a walk with me in the garden. I asked Rodolphus to chaperone us because he’s the least invasive and the least intruding.”

 

Harry smiled. “I’d like that. Just…no more flowers, okay?” He said with a grimace, referring to the walk in the gardens that they’d taken when they were newly betrothed and before Harry had gone to Hogwarts for his sixth year where Rabastan had plucked a flower from a bush and handed it to him. “I’m just really not a flower guy.”

 

Rabastan chuckled. “Alright. No more flowers. I’m not much of a flower guy either.”

 

The two of them walked hand in hand down the corridor, Rodolphus following after them like a looming, solid shadow.

 

“Can you try to be a little less menacing?” Harry turned to ask him as the hair on the back of his neck continued to prickle uncomfortably. “We’re just going for a walk in the twilit garden. We’re hardly going to start rolling around in the rose bushes. Too many thorns.”

 

Rabastan laughed, but Rodolphus’ scowl only deepened, making his skeletal face look even more sinister.

 

“It isn’t funny.” He declared sharply. “There is ancient tradition to uphold here. A contract that has strict guidelines to follow. I will not let you ruin my brother. I won’t let you hurt him.”

 

Harry sighed and he let go of Rabastan’s hand. He went right up to Rodolphus and stood in front of that skeletal thin, impossibly tall man and looked at him seriously, dead in the eye without flinching or cringing back. Lucius had taught him the importance of eye contact and Narcissa had taught him the importance of a straight back.

 

“Believe it or not, Rodolphus, I have absolutely no intentions of ever hurting Rabastan or ruining him. I’m trying my best to help him! It might be hard for you to believe, but I do love him and I will not let him go and I won’t allow anyone to tell me otherwise. I was adopted by the Malfoys, yes, but only because I’m underaged, I am still Lord Potter and Lord Black. I am still my own man and I can make my own decisions if I feel I have to. I love Rabastan and nothing is going to stand in our way, because I will not let it! The only person who can destroy this betrothal is Rabastan himself.”

 

“Good.” Was all Rodolphus grunted, but Harry got the distinct impression that he’d passed some sort of big brother test as Rodolphus looked much happier and his stance relaxed a fraction.

 

Harry went back to Rabastan and slipped his hand back into the older man’s. They carried on their way to the garden and Harry no longer felt the sensation of a glare boring into the back of his head, so he was a lot more comfortable.

 

“He’s just worried.” Rabastan whispered as they started their walk around the garden, Rodolphus falling a few feet behind them to give them the illusion of privacy while still keeping them in his sights.

 

“I know. It’s wonderful that he loves you so much and that he’s so protective of you. I just wish he’d realise that I’m not the enemy here. I meant what I said, I don’t want to ever hurt you.”

 

“Yet I’m the one who can’t stop hurting you.” Rabastan said with a growl of frustration.

 

In the scant few days since he’d arrived home from Hogwarts, Harry had had more minor injuries than he had actually had meals. Rabastan had bruised his ribs, had elbowed him in the side of his head, given him a black eye, split his lip, knocked him down the stairs, kicked his shin twice, yanked some of his hair out when he’d had a spasm when running his fingers through it, dug his nails into his elbow and dropped a heavy jug of water onto his left hand. Harry had ignored it all as best as he could while Narcissa had applied bruise salve for him and healed his minor cuts with a deft wave of her wand.

Rhadamanthus found it all incredibly entertaining and never failed to remind Rabastan of how utterly useless and inept he was at every opportunity. Which seriously wasn’t helping Rabastan’s confidence at all and caused even more instances of spasms and muscle locking as the thirty-six year old tried too hard to control himself and put more strain on his recovering body, which then caused his muscles to twitch and to move out of his control even more frequently.

Rhadamanthus was undoing all of Harry’s calm and patient care methodically and with a practiced ease that spoke volumes of how much he had given time and thought to the best ways possible to ruin his own son.

 

“You should see my list of Quidditch injuries if you think that the few whacks you’ve given me are anything.” Harry said, letting go of Rabastan’s hand to link his arm through Rabastan’s and reaching down to link their hands back together.

 

“Please, don’t joke about it, Harry.”

 

“You’ve got to give yourself time to recover.” Harry told him patiently. “You can’t expect a miracle recovery to happen overnight and you need to realise that I understand that and I did before we’d even met for the first time. I believe in you. I know that you can get better, but you have to let go of all the small lapses you have had and will have in the weeks and months to come. Your recovery was never going to happen overnight, we both know that, Rabastan. It’s going to take months, if not years of help and specialised care to get you back to health and fitness.”

 

“I know that.” Rabastan snapped angrily. “But when I see Rodolphus doing so well, I…”

 

“Rodolphus is a different man to you.” Harry interrupted sternly. “You are not Rodolphus, you are not your brother and you need to stop comparing your own recovery to his. You were younger than he was when you first went to that place and the younger you are the worse the effects the Dementors have on your mental health and overall wellbeing. Rodolphus is doing so well because he is a different person to you. This doesn’t mean that you are not as strong as he is.” Harry added softly. “It just means that you were both affected differently and he is having an easier time overcoming what happened to him. He still twitches, he still has stiff, aching muscles and joints, just like you do. He dropped a glass of water just this morning because his hand spasmed and he lost his grip. The difference between him and you is not how strong or weak either of you are, it is that he can let those small instances go. He knows that they’re going to happen and he accepts that and when they do happen, he lets them go, Rabastan. You need to learn to do the same.”

 

“I don’t know how.”

 

“Then sit down and talk to Rodolphus and ask him how he does it.” Harry replied, not giving up in the face of Rabastan’s pessimism. “I can let it all go when you accidentally injure me because I know, and I accept, that you can’t help it, that you can’t control what your body is doing. For me, as long as you never hurt me purposefully, I can let go of being injured by accident.”

 

“But you wouldn’t be injured at all if you weren’t betrothed to me in the first place! If you were with a man that wasn’t ruined by Azkaban then you’d be safer, you wouldn’t have to worry about being hurt just from sitting next to me. You could be happier with another man, a whole man who hasn’t ever been to Azkaban.”

 

Harry sighed. “That’s true, but you’re forgetting one thing. I love you. I love you, here and now, as you are stood before me and I am happy. I love you. I don’t want another man, whole or otherwise. I don’t care if he’s the personification of perfect! I don’t want anyone else because I don’t love anyone else. I love you, I want to marry you, I want children with you. Why can’t you just accept that? Why isn’t my love enough for you? What more do you want from me, Rabastan?” Harry demanded, his temper flaring as they had this conversation yet again. This was the fourth or fifth time that Rabastan had urged him to go off with another man. It didn’t seem to be sinking in that he damn well didn’t want to! “I can’t change that I love you, I can’t change how I feel or how much I want to help you, if you don’t like that then maybe you should think instead about what you do want and consider your options instead of trying to push me away towards other men, making me come off like the bad guy so that you can play the victim some more! If you can’t let go and help yourself and you can’t love me as I am, then you need to be honest and break off the contract yourself because I refuse to marry a man who refuses to help himself and can’t love me for who I am or doesn’t accept my love when I offer it so heartfelt and willingly.”

 

Harry left the silent Rabastan and went back towards the house. He considered going inside for a moment, but he changed his mind and he instead went to the front garden to pet at Lucius’ prized albino peacocks. He wasn’t in the mood to be around other people right at this moment. He wanted to be alone to reflect on the anger fuelled spiel that he’d just delivered. Why didn’t he ever check his mouth before opening it? Why did he always let his anger get the better of him? He really needed to learn how to stay calm and speak through his anger, not because of it. It was almost a mindless reaction now when he was angry to just speak what came to his mind, to blurt out exactly what he was feeling or what had made him angry in the first place. It was almost like he couldn’t control that kneejerk reaction at all.

But on the other hand, he had meant every word that he’d said to Rabastan, but all the same he would be completely devastated if Rabastan decided to break off their contract, which is why he should have controlled his anger better instead of planting the thought to break their contract into Rabastan’s head. He was just so angry, he wanted to help Rabastan so badly, but how could he even begin to help a man who refused to help himself?

Rhadamanthus really had done some serious damage and Harry couldn’t help but wish that the bastard would just fuck off back to India and leave them in peace, but no, the man was hell bent on ruining everything because he was a sadistic prick that took pleasure from maliciously destroying his youngest son and harming him in any way his mind conceived. It was just Harry’s rotten luck that Rhadamanthus was a very intelligent man to boot. His mind could come up with all manner of disgusting, psychological tortures to use on Rabastan and it was a tactic that was damn well working as well.  

There was only so much that he could do to counter that tactic, he saw that now. He could help Rabastan all that he could, he could tell him a thousand times that he loved him, that he wanted to be with him, but in the end it wouldn’t matter, because Rabastan was listening to Rhadamanthus and his fucked up little mind games and not to him and as long as he did so, nothing that Harry said or did would matter at all.

A tear tickled his cheek and he fisted it away angrily as his other hand stroked the super soft white feathers of the peacock in front of him. How had everything gone so wrong so quickly?

 

“There you are. I’ve been looking all over for you.”

 

Harry didn’t look around as Lucius came to stand behind him, though more tears fell when a hand went to his hair and tugged gently and rhythmically. The repetitive motion was calming.

 

“Rabastan is inconsolable and Rodolphus is hunting the house for you. Would you mind telling me what happened?”

 

Harry said nothing as more tears fell and he all but hugged the poor peacock to his chest for comfort.

 

“I can’t help you if you suffer alone in silence. What happened tonight to change everything? I thought you and Rabastan were coming on so well.”

 

“I’ve tried my best, but he won’t help himself.” Harry said thickly, his tears having made his voice gruff.

 

Lucius sighed and tugged at his hair hard until Harry had no choice but to stand up, letting the peacock slip through his arms and make it’s hasty escape as he did so. Lucius turned him so that they were face to face and he dug out a handkerchief and dabbed away his tears.

 

“It is almost the middle of the night, in the middle of winter and you are crying out in the gardens. You’ll make yourself sick.” Lucius chastised him as he pulled him towards the house.

 

Harry hesitated as he thought about what everyone would say if they saw him looking like this.

 

“Xerxes and Rabastan are in the front parlour, Draco is in his room, blissfully ignorant of everything that is going on and I believe that Narcissa would have found Rodolphus by now and is explaining to him exactly why he doesn’t want to harm one of her sons, especially not in her own home. Now come along.”

 

They didn’t meet anyone on the way to Lucius’ study and Harry slipped into a chair and remained silent as Lucius sat in the chair beside him, his body turned to face him, instead of in the chair behind his desk as per usual.

 

“Explain to me what happened. Rabastan is saying nothing and all Rodolphus is saying of the matter is that he’s going to find you and curse you until you aren’t recognisable.”

 

Harry said nothing as he gathered his thoughts. Lucius wanted patiently, and then increasingly impatiently for several minutes before he lost his temper.

 

“Speak to me, Harry. Now.”

 

“It started out fine, we were happily walking around the gardens, but then Rabastan started yet again on how much he’s injured me since he’s been here and how I’d be better off with a ‘whole’ man who hadn’t been to Azkaban. I love him, not anyone else. I don’t want him to keep pushing me away and towards other men!” Harry said and suddenly his anger was just there, warm and fierce, and he threw himself up out of the chair and he started pacing furiously, in tight motions. “Why aren’t I enough for him? Why can’t he love me? I don’t want another man! I understand and accept that it’s going to take years for Rabastan to get better and to recover his lost strength and health. I understand and accept that he actually might never be fully recovered, I know what that means for me, for the both of us in the future and I’m prepared for it. It doesn’t matter at all to me, I still love him and I still want him, but he can’t see it! He wants to feel sorry for himself, he doesn’t want to help himself and he keeps pushing me towards ‘whole and undamaged’ men as if my thoughts and feelings mean absolutely nothing to him! He hurts me more when he says things like that than when he accidentally catches me with a hand or foot! When he undermines my thoughts and feelings and my love for him as if they don’t matter at all to him. I refuse to marry a man who doesn’t love me enough to fight for me and I refuse to be with a man who won’t accept that my feelings are important. If he doesn’t want me, doesn’t love me and wants me to be with another man so badly then he should stop saying it and break off the contract himself instead of trying to make me do it so that he can keep on pretending that he’s the victim and I’m the one solely at fault!”

 

“You don’t want him to break off the contract?”

 

“Of course not!” Harry answered immediately. “I love him, but I refuse to be in a loveless marriage! I want a man who will love me and will accept it as the truth when I tell him that I love him. Nothing I say is enough for him, he doesn’t believe a word that I tell him about anything!”

 

“I believe that is his Father’s fault.”

 

Harry snorted. “I know that it’s his fault. Why does he hate Rabastan so much? He doesn’t treat Rodolphus nearly as badly as he does Rabastan, why?”

 

Lucius sighed. “What is the one startling difference between Rabastan and Rodolphus?”

 

Harry blinked as he was caught off guard. His anger simmered down as he thought about the strange question as he tried to think of the answer. It came to him in a moment of insightful clarity.

 

“Their eyes.” He said softly. “They have different coloured eyes.”

 

“Exactly. The Lestranges have predominantly all got brown eyes, Xerxes and Rodolphus have the same dark brown eyes and Rhadamanthus has a pale hazel, all except for Rabastan, who has dark blue eyes. His Mother’s dark blue eyes.”

 

“No.” Harry shook his head, unable to take in what was being hinted at, it was completely inconceivable to him. “Please tell me that Rhadamanthus doesn’t hate Rabastan so much just because of his fucking eye colour!”

 

Lucius glared at him, but said nothing about his use of foul language as he started up his pacing again at a much more violent pace, his tight turns becoming almost jerky as he moved.

 

“Rhadamanthus loved his Wife, he loved her from the moment he laid eyes on her in Hogwarts and he pestered Xerxes to make them a betrothal match.” Lucius said simply. “She wasn’t as keen as he was in the beginning, but her Father refused to allow her out of the betrothal contract as the Lestranges have always been very influential and wealthy and they’re one of the sacred twenty-eight, so they did enter a contract and a courtship and they eventually married.

Rhadamanthus only ever wanted the one child. One son and Heir to carry on his line, so when Rosia gave him Rodolphus, he was a very happy man and Rosia was very happy with her son and thus she began to show more affection towards Rhadamanthus. He was incredibly happy with the family that he had. His beloved Wife was coming to love him in return, he had the one boy child that he’d wanted and everything was perfect in his life. Until Rosia announced that she was pregnant again a little over two years after Rodolphus had been born. Rhadamanthus was not pleased with the news and he tried increasingly desperately to convince Rosia that they didn’t need a second child. He failed miserably as Rosia had always wanted more children and seven months later, when Rosia was into her ninth month of pregnancy, she gave birth to another baby, Rabastan. He was as hefty and as healthy as Rodolphus had been, but in Rhadamanthus’ eyes, he would never measure up, he was an unwanted intrusion into his perfect life and family. Rhadamanthus has never loved Rabastan and he’s never wanted him. He has come to resent Rabastan and that resentment has bred a dark desire to completely destroy him, mentally, physically, it doesn’t matter as long as he causes Rabastan as much pain and torment as possible.”

 

Harry’s fist clenched tight at that and he took longer strides in his pacing, trying to work out the rage that he was feeling, but as Lucius’ story progressed, he was only getting angrier and more worked up. He wanted to find Rhadamanthus and destroy him before he got the chance to destroy Rabastan, which was apparently his life’s only desire and a fervent mission of his. Harry would die before he let that bastard completely crush the already injured and suffering Rabastan. He swore it.

 

“As you can imagine, Rosia kept Rabastan incredibly close to her after his birth, knowing as she did how passionate her Husband had been in terminating Rabastan before his birth. I believe that she even slept in his nursery with him, which naturally, did not best please Rhadamanthus at all. The way that he saw things, Rabastan was coming between him and his beloved Wife who had previously been showing him love and affection, and now suddenly she was sleeping out of his bed and was spending every single moment with this new, unwanted baby. In reality Rosia was just trying to keep her son safe from the anger and hate she could see in her Husband’s eyes. I believe that all of her previous misgivings came flooding back to her and she realised exactly why she hadn’t been keen on the betrothal to Rhadamanthus in the first place.

When she suddenly became sick just a few short months later, Rhadamanthus was distraught and he found her the best possible care, but despite all of the finest medical care and specialist Healers that Galleons could buy, she still died just three weeks after falling ill. Rhadamanthus was unable to deal with her death, so he fled from it to India, leaving a near newborn Rabastan and a three year old Rodolphus in Xerxes’ care. He didn’t come back for twelve years and then it was only to ‘do his duty to his line’.”

 

“He came back just to set up Rodolphus’ betrothal and his future marriage?” Harry asked with a frown.

 

Lucius nodded. “He had forgotten how old Rodolphus was, however. He thought that his son was actually a year older than he really was, not that it stopped him. Rodolphus and Bellatrix didn’t have much of a betrothal, they went almost straight to engagement and then a month later they were married. But as soon as he had trapped Rodolphus into a loveless, hate filled marriage that he didn’t even want with Bellatrix Black, Rhadamanthus flounced back off to India and left Xerxes to deal with the mess that he’d left behind. Xerxes tried everything, and I mean everything, to break the marriage between Rodolphus and Bellatrix, but Rhadamanthus’ wording of the contract had been airtight, Rodolphus had signed and had gone through with the ceremony and the consummation and Bellatrix’s Father, the late Cygnus Black, was very uncooperative. He’d married his oldest and least beautiful daughter to a very prominent family, after all. Why would he want to break their marriage? Especially as Rodolphus had ‘already sullied’ his daughter.”

 

“He actually said that?” Harry grimaced in distaste.

 

“Almost word for word. So Rhadamanthus had ruined his oldest son’s life at just fifteen. He didn’t come back from India again until Rabastan was nineteen. He’d always hated his youngest son, he even blamed Rabastan for his Wife’s death, insisting that it was he who had made her so sick in the first place, but as soon as he saw those eyes, his Wife’s eyes, on Rabastan he made it his mission in life to destroy him as he believed that Rabastan had destroyed his marriage and killed his Wife, at least from the way that he had seen things. Two short years later and Rabastan and Rodolphus were in Azkaban, where they were unreachable by both Rhadamanthus and Xerxes and where they stayed for fifteen long years, but the damage had already been done in those initial two years and Rabastan went into Azkaban thinking that he was lower than dirt and knowing that his Father didn’t want him, didn’t love him and believing fully that he’d killed his own Mother.”

 

“Then he started on Rabastan again, as soon as they were freed.” Harry said, his hand clenching.

 

“Exactly. Xerxes does what he can, but the damage has been done by a lifetime of hate, because despite not being there, he always made sure that Rabastan knew how much he was hated and unwanted. Rhadamanthus’ brand of torture works so very well because it’s the truth, at least to an extent, and the truth always hurts worse than any lie that can be fabricated. Rabastan naturally and subconsciously seeks his Father’s love and approval, which only makes it that much easier for Rhadamanthus to hurt him with the truth that he was unwanted and unloved. Nothing Rabastan does, or has ever done, will ever change Rhadamanthus’ mind, but still he tries and it completes a vicious circle where Rabastan sets himself up for Rhadamanthus’ torture like a pig walking blindly to the slaughter.”

 

“Why can’t he just go back to India and leave us all alone?!” Harry declared, changing the direction of his pacing before he became dizzy and fell down.

 

“Because he wants to see Rabastan dead.” Lucius replied.

 

“Over my dead body!” Harry hissed.

 

“I believe that would make him very happy as well.”

 

Harry muttered under his breath about wanting to kill the vile man as his pacing picked up yet another level of speed. It wasn’t working at all, the pacing was not helping him to calm down his anger. The more he heard, the more he wanted to rage and lash out.

 

“Yes, Xerxes had mentioned that to me, about your desire to kill Rhadamanthus. How serious are these desires, Harry?”

 

Harry looked at Lucius and then looked away again, carrying on his pacing.

 

“That serious, hmm? I knew that you disliked him, you make it plain and obvious enough, but I never thought to that extent. Murder is a crime, Harry. If you’re caught, you will face life in Azkaban for it.”

 

“He is trying to kill the man that I love! His own son!” Harry exploded.

 

“Murder is still murder, no matter the reasons. You have too much potential, too much to live for, to throw it all away by killing Rhadamanthus. He would love knowing that he’d ruined your life in such a way, even if you did end up killing him.”

 

Harry had known that Lucius would try to talk him out of killing Rhadamanthus, so he just sighed and nodded his head, sitting back down in the chair in a show of calm. An image of Rhadamanthus harming his child as he’d done to Rabastan popped up and he crushed it viciously. He was still going to go ahead with his plans to kill Rhadamanthus, he just couldn’t tell anyone about them.

 

“If Rabastan does break his betrothal with you, then I have a backup betrothal contract for Thorfinn Rowle.”

 

Harry clenched his jaw so hard that the joint cracked. He didn’t want anyone else!

 

“If he doesn’t break the contract, then there is no reason why you can’t dangle Rowle in front of him. A bit of jealousy is healthy in any relationship. It shows, at the very least, that you both care about one another. It might help to prove to you that Rabastan will fight for you, because I’m very sure that he isn’t going to break the contract because he loves you just as much as you love him. He’s just inept at showing it.”

 

That made Harry smile. “What does Rowle look like, anyway?”

 

Lucius smirked and Harry didn’t like it. “He is an incredibly handsome man. Tall and muscled, he’s blond with blue eyes and though he’s loyal to a fault, he’s fiercely protective of anything he perceives of as his. I didn’t pick him as a first choice because of that. He’d treat you as a possession, not as a person who could think and feel for himself, and I didn’t want that for you.”

 

“He sounds awful.”

 

“Still, a bit of harmless flirting wouldn’t go amiss in this situation. He likes pretty things, so you’re likely to catch his eye regardless.”

 

“Excuse me? When will I catch his eye?” Harry demanded.

 

Lucius’ smirk grew. “My, did we forget to tell you that every year we, the Pureblood society, hold an annual ball on New Year’s Eve?”

 

“No.” Harry shook his head. “I won’t do it.”

 

“You won’t have to do a thing, Harry. Rowle will inevitably spot you at the ball and he’ll be drawn to you. As I said, he likes pretty things. The Lestranges already know that Rowle was in my list of candidates for you. So this little set up should all fall together nicely.”

 

“The New Year is over a week away, what if Rabastan and I make up before then? He could ruin everything!”

 

“If you’ve already made up by the New Year, then it is unlikely that Rowle taking an interest will do either you or Rabastan any harm. If you haven’t made up by then, then he could be just the catalyst that you both need to sort things out.” 

 

“I hope we have made up by New Year…it’s a little over a week away and I don’t think I could stand to stay here for that long if he isn’t speaking to me.”

 

“Go to bed, Harry. We’ll see how things pan out in the morning.”

 

Harry nodded at the clear dismissal and he stood up and walked to the door. He opened it and stopped just before he walked out.

 

“Thank you.” He said quietly. “For everything.”

 

He closed the door behind him and he went to his own rooms. He still didn’t know how things had gotten this bad so quickly, but he did know that if he gave in and apologised, then nothing would be resolved and he and Rabastan would never move forward. He needed them to move forward for the sake of their relationship and the chance of a future together.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry ignored the summons for breakfast the next morning and instead he took a lengthy bath. He’d taken his Ancient Runes book in with him and he easily read several chapters in the hot water before he’d even started on washing himself.

 

“Young master, Master be asking if you are coming down for breakfast.”

 

Harry looked at the elf and he shook his head. “Can’t you see that I’m having a bath? I don’t want breakfast.” 

 

The elf nodded and left him again and Harry rested back against the side of the bath and luxuriated in the still hot water. He really loved magic.

Hammering on the locked bathroom door ten minutes later had him getting angry.

 

“I’m bathing!” He shouted out.

 

“It’s been three hours, Potter. You can’t still be in the bath!” Draco yelled at him. Of course Draco would be the only one egotistical enough to enter his rooms without permission to come and disturb him while he was in the bath.

 

“Well I am. Go away, Draco.”

 

“Stop hiding away!”

 

“I’m not hiding, I’m having a damn bath!”

 

“Tell me what happened!” Draco demanded. “Why has everything changed? I don’t like being out of the loop, I’m the only one who doesn’t know what’s happening, tell me!”

 

Harry sighed and he got out of the bath, drying himself with a spell before he tugged on his towelling robe. He opened the door and looked at Draco’s stubbornly set face.

 

“Rabastan doesn’t believe a word that I say.” Harry told Draco as he walked past him and he went straight into his wardrobe to get himself dressed as Draco took a seat on his bed. “I told him to his face that I loved him and he turned around and he told me to go and be with another man! I could have handled him not saying he loved me back, it has only been a short amount of time, after all. I understand that he might be uncomfortable with the idea of love, but to tell me to go to another man! He said I should be with someone who hasn’t been ‘ruined’ by Azkaban. He just doesn’t get that I love him! That I want to be with him! He doesn’t believe that I love him and he won’t let me help him at all, but most importantly, he won’t even try to help himself. I’m so frustrated with him, Draco.”

 

“So you’re going to give up?” Draco asked sceptically.

 

Harry actually laughed. “Merlin, no. I’m just going to show him that he has to take me seriously or I will walk away. Father thinks I should…tease him with Thorfinn Rowle. Apparently he’s coming for the New Year’s Eve party?”

 

Draco bobbed his head. “It’s basically a social gathering for Purebloods, of a certain standard.”

 

“You mean Pureblood Death Eaters.” Harry corrected as he yanked on his chosen clothes and came out to join Draco on the bed.

 

Draco winced, but he nodded his head.

 

“Do you think it’ll work?” Harry asked him.

 

“It could do. Rowle is handsome and clever, but he’s very possessive. You should have seen him when he first saw me for the first time. I was twelve, it was the first party I had been allowed to attend as I was finally old enough and the moment his eyes landed on me, he wouldn’t leave me alone. He hounded my Father for the next two years trying to set up a betrothal between us.”

 

“But you don’t have the gene.” Harry said with slight shock that Rowle obviously didn’t care about little pureblood heirs. He was one of the sacred twenty-eight families as well, the only male Rowle left! It should have been one of the only things he cared about.

 

“Ah, you see, that was my Father’s problem with the contract too. Rowle had written a stipulation into the contract. That the both of us could each have a chosen Pureblood mistress to birth our heirs for us. I was to be his Husband by law, but the way I see it now, I would have been a married pet to him while he went and had sex with his chosen mistress. With how possessive he is, I doubt I would have even seen my so called mistress.”

 

Harry actually laughed. “Seriously? Oh hell, I bet Lucius was not happy about that.”

 

“He wasn’t and neither was Mother. I was a little too young to understand what was going on at the time, but now that I’m older and I look back on it, I can’t believe the audacity of him. He would not be a good Husband for you.”

 

“Or anyone.” Harry stated.

 

“Maybe Daphne.” Draco amended. “But he definitely is not Husband material for my brother. I will not have Rowle in my family.”

 

Harry laughed. “Oh, don’t worry, I know that we won’t be seeing that come about, he sounds dreadful. As for Daphne, well I actually like Theodore and he doesn’t deserve to be treated like that just because his Father wants a claim on the Greengrass fortune. Maybe we should push her at Rowle. It would be no less than she deserves.”

 

“His Father has been obsessed with money ever since he invested a lot of gold in the wrong stocks. He thought of himself as a genius investor and delighted in ‘giving advice’ to everyone and he claimed to be giving them hints and imparting his ‘wisdom’ onto everyone else. He put the majority of his gold into this new, upcoming company and he started hinting to everyone else that it was going to be the next big thing and that it was going to make them all millions. Father always refused to buy stocks in most of Nott’s little imparted hints, though he did sometimes humour the man when it suited him. But this one venture he outright refused to put his gold into and he advised many others to do the same. He could read in the market what was going to happen, so when it did crash, spectacularly, many of the Lords owed him a debt of gratitude. Nott lost almost everything and he’s been trying to regain his fortune and his former status ever since.”

 

“And he thinks forcing his son to marry a girl like Daphne is going to help?” Harry asked sceptically.

 

Draco snorted. “Obviously so. It will get him a good amount of gold at any rate. Harvey Greengrass knows very well what his older daughter is like and is fully aware of how she behaves, despite his attempts at curbing her, so he’ll be willing to pay through the teeth to ensure her a good match. Despite his lack of intelligence and his lack of wealth, the Nott family is still a prominent and pure one.”

 

Harry rolled his eyes. “So who else doesn’t have a match, or are my options really between just Rabastan and Thorfinn?”

 

Draco frowned consideringly. “Blaise doesn’t have a match, but he’s outside of the sacred twenty-eight.”

 

“What, why doesn’t Blaise have a match?” Harry asked, this news having shocked him a little. “I’ve been glaring at him for sleeping with that Ravenclaw.”

 

Draco snorted in amusement. “I know, it has been quite amusing to see you chastising him for so much as looking at another person when he isn’t betrothed like the rest of us, but luckily he sees the funny side of it too. His Mother, however, never wanted to limit him in such a way. She wants him to choose his own match.”

 

“Really?” Harry asked in total surprise.

 

“She was matched by her parents and it was a very bad match. Her husband was cruel and abusive and she had no way to get out of the marriage and she worried constantly about him hurting Blaise as well, she saw no other option. She killed him and covered it up and now she can’t trust any man and often gets frightened and ends up killing them too as she’s paranoid that they’ll kill her and Blaise if she doesn’t do so first. She doesn’t want that life for Blaise, so she’s letting him choose his own spouse, though she has stipulated that they must be Pureblooded.”

 

Harry nodded, still a little shell shocked at what he had learnt. It seemed he owed Blaise an apology for glaring and nagging him about going off with his Ravenclaw conquest.

 

“Amycus Carrow doesn’t have a match either, but you really don’t want to be matched to him, Harry. He makes Bellatrix look sane and I think he’s having a sexual relationship with his own sister, Alecto. They’re both odd and very touchy around one another and at one of the social gatherings a few years ago, Alecto got very drunk and kissed her brother full on the mouth. They tried to play it off and laugh it away, but I seriously think that there’s something going on there between them. Lucan Selwyn is looking for a new spouse too, but he’s seventy years old and already has four children, unfortunately for him, they’re all girls and all ugly, so he hasn’t been able to match them to anyone, even Goyle’s family turned one of them down and Selwyn gave them a choice of which one they wanted. He’s looking for a new spouse now so that he can try and get a son, or at the very least a better looking daughter that he can match up to get heirs to his line. The Selwyn’s will be extant only in the female line if he dies without a legitimate male heir. It’s every Pureblood Lord’s nightmare to know that you are the last male of your line and you run the risk of making your own name and house extinct.”

 

“So really, those are my only options?” Harry grimaced in distaste.

 

“Well, you remember Marcus Flint don’t you? He’s just thrown his Fiancée out on her arse. They were engaged and about to be married in March, I think. Anyway, he caught her in bed with a foreign Pureblood who had come to see him on work related business. The wizard was staying at his manor for the week because Marcus still needed to be in work at the time, so he opened his home to this wizard, let him eat his food, trusted him and he just happened to come home really early one afternoon and he caught them in the act. He beat the wizard almost to death with his fists, then he cursed him to never be able to close his mouth and threw him out of his manor. Then Marcus kept his would be Wife locked up for four days. No one knows what he did to her, but she came out unharmed with no signs of any magical abuse, but Marcus is very happy and she bursts into tears if she so much as sees his picture. As for the wizard, I believe that the Healers are still trying to find a counter curse for the one that Marcus cast, the man can’t eat or drink anything, has trouble sleeping and breathing and he can’t talk. He’s getting weaker by the day and Father thinks that that is Marcus’ real revenge, he gets to die a slow, painful death knowing that the Healers can’t help him and that the one person who could perhaps help him, Marcus, isn’t going to.”

 

“I’m not sure whether his Fiancée deserved whatever he did or not because I’m not entirely sure what he did to her. But if I caught Rabastan in bed with anyone while we were engaged I would not be happy either. It’s why I get so angry with Daphne and her ridiculous behaviour and why I was unhappy with Blaise.”

 

“Then Marcus is another potential match for you. He’s protective more than he’s possessive and he has his own manor house. He actually bought it himself with his own money instead of it being a wedding gift from his parents.”

 

“Really? He was so thick he had to repeat a year, how did he get his own manor house?”

 

“He had to repeat a year because he failed in most of his core subjects in his final exams. He is incredibly proficient in Runes however. As you know, Runes are very difficult to master and jobs that use Runes are very high paying. Marcus was so skilful and talented in Runes that when he surpassed the N.E.W.T level curriculum in his fifth year, he gained the attention of specialists. He was so focused on Runes, that everything else fell to the way side, so he inevitably failed his last year, but when he actually did graduate a year later, he already had a job waiting for him when he got out and it wasn’t an entry level job either. He went straight in as a specialist and he’s been climbing the promotion ranks since.”

 

“Wow. He’s only been out of Hogwarts for what, a year and a half?”

 

“Exactly, and he already has his own manor and the title of special consultant. Not to mention he’s on a very, very large salary.”

 

Harry laughed. “I think I need to apologise to him for thinking that he was as stupid as Crabbe and Goyle for all these years.”

 

“He does lack a certain amount of common sense and he is quite stupid when it comes to anything other than Runes, so I doubt any apology is needed. You’ll see him at the Parkinson’s winter gala tonight.”

 

“Wait, what? What winter fucking gala?” Harry demanded.

 

Draco rolled his eyes. “This is a season of celebration, Harry. The Parkinson’s are hosting the winter gala this year and we are hosting the New Year’s Eve party, Father managed to beat the other Lords back and claim this honour over everyone else because of you. All the other Lords are very curious about you and I think that they worried that if they didn’t give Father hosting privileges this year then he would stop you from going and they wouldn’t get to sate their curiosities by meeting you.”

 

Harry flumped back onto his bed. “Seriously? Two parties in what, a week? Plus Christmas is tomorrow as well.”

 

Draco moved to sit next to him and smirked. “It won’t be so bad. The Parkinson’s were given hosting privileges before Pansy lost her betrothal match, usually such an embarrassment would have the family being overlooked for such an honour. It’s going to be hilarious to watch them overcompensate tonight for the humiliation while they proposition every wizard who doesn’t already have a match to take on Pansy for a Wife.”

 

“You’re very sadistic.” Harry told his brother, who grinned at him and pushed him to sit up.

 

“It’s all a part of the culture that I’ve grown up in. Social standing is everything in these circles, Harry.” Draco told him as he picked up a comb and started doing his hair for him. “Nothing comes before our family.”

 

Harry smiled at that. “I like that family is so important, it’s just…I can’t imagine being so cruel to others just to make me and my family look better.”

 

“That’s just the way it is.” Draco replied dismissively as he sorted out Harry’s hair.

 

“Will you help me get dressed for tonight?” Harry asked unsurely. “I don’t know what to wear and I don’t want to make a fool out of myself.” He didn’t mention that he wanted to look his best to try and entice Rabastan’s attention to him.

 

“Your wardrobe will include three winter dress robes for these occasions. One for the Christmas Eve party, one for the New Year’s Eve party and one spare, just in case. I used my spare set of dress robes in our fourth year for the Yule Ball.”

 

Harry nodded his understanding, only to be smacked on top of his head by Draco and his comb. A loud knock on the outside door interrupted them.

 

Harry groaned. “That better not be Rabastan.” He muttered under his breath. “Come in.” He called out loudly as Draco continued doing his hair for him.

 

They had to wait a moment as whoever it was walked through Harry’s sitting room to reach his bedroom, but Harry was overall glad that it was Lucius who was the one who walked in and he hesitated only slightly as he saw them on the bed together as he slowly closed the bedroom door behind him.

 

“I came because I thought that you were moping around. It seems that that wasn’t the case.”

 

“Why would I be moping about? If Rabastan doesn’t want me, then it’s his loss.” He said firmly.

 

“That’s the spirit.” Draco nodded his approval as he finished combing Harry’s hair to the best of his abilities.

 

“So you’re seriously considering breaking your betrothal?” Lucius asked surprised.

 

Harry shook his head. “No. Our talk from last night still stands. If he doesn’t want me, then he’ll have to break our contract himself, until then, I’m going to fish the waters at the gala tonight, that you never told me about I might add, and if he still hasn’t bucked up his ideas, I’ll do the same at the New Year’s Eve party.”

 

Lucius nodded. “I’m not sure that you’ll have a chance to implement your plan. Rabastan was devastated that you never showed up for breakfast. It seemed to agitate him and it seems to have affected his behaviour as well, he broke two glasses, dropped his food onto the floor and hit his own brother when he lost control of his arm.”

 

Harry bit his lip and immediately the feelings of guilt and regret surged inside him. The very last thing he’d wanted was to cause a lapse in Rabastan’s recovery when he’d been doing so well lately.

 

“It’s not your fault.” Draco told him sternly. “He’s the one who won’t listen to you. He needs to learn to listen to you or he is never going to respect you and he’ll never listen to a word that you say if you give in now. Carry through with your plan or he’s just going to continue ignoring you and disbelieving everything that you say, even about you loving him.”

 

“But I never wanted to be the cause of him getting worse.”

 

“You’re not the cause.” Lucius told him. “He is the cause and he will never fully recover if he doesn’t realise it.”

 

Harry swallowed and nodded.

 

“Now, you missed breakfast and it’s almost lunch. Are you hungry?”

 

Harry shook his head. “No. I’m just not hungry at all today.”

 

“Perhaps I should call that therapist to see if he’ll see you today.” Lucius murmured thoughtfully.

 

“I don’t need a therapist just because I’m not hungry.” Harry said.

 

“I’m more concerned about the reason behind you not being hungry.” Lucius replied.

 

“I’m fine. I just can’t stomach anything. I can’t believe how wrong everything has gone.”

 

“Things will work out.” Draco assured him.

 

Harry nodded, but he didn’t feel as confident about it. He still loved Rabastan, he didn’t think such a feeling would disappear overnight, just as it hadn’t come overnight, but the thought of trying to replace Rabastan with anyone else made him feel sick.

 

“You’re not going to be marrying these men.” Lucius told him. “You’re just going to talk to them, be polite and perhaps let them get you a drink. Then if the natural order of things occurs, then Rabastan should storm over and remind everyone that the both of you are betrothed.”

 

“What if he doesn’t?”

 

“Then the man’s a complete fool and you should definitely scout out someone else to be your Husband.” Draco told him simply.

 

Harry laughed then and he thanked both Malfoys. He actually felt much better for talking with them.

 

“Are you both staying in here? I’ll have the elf send up your lunches, if you eat your lunch, Harry, then I won’t call the therapist to see you today.”

 

“We’re staying.” Draco said firmly. “Look at this hair. It’ll take me all day to fix for the Parkinson’s gala.”

 

Harry rolled his eyes. “As if it’ll stay whichever way you put it.” He huffed.

 

“I’ll sort it out for you. I picked up a potion especially for tonight and our own New Year’s party.” Draco insisted.

 

“I’ll leave you boys to it then.”

 

Lucius saw himself out and Harry breathed out and slumped. “Must I really go to this party? I like Pansy more than Daphne, but she’s not my favourite person. Tracey is much more level headed and she’s quieter.”

 

Draco laughed. “She is more watchful than mouthy, but don’t turn your back on her. She can be dangerous with her wand.”

 

Harry smiled. “What do you think of Astoria, Draco?” He asked curiously, wondering if everyone had trouble with their betrothals.

 

Draco frowned. “I’ve never really thought about it. Our parents brought us together for play dates when we were children and then when I went to Hogwarts I sent her the occasional letter and now that we’re both in Hogwarts, we sit down after dinner once or twice a week to talk for an hour to fulfil the terms of the contract.”

 

“That’s not really what I asked. Do you even like her?”

 

“She’s not too bad I suppose.” Draco answered. “She’s nothing like Daphne, thank Merlin, but she’s not very talkative either. I have to struggle to get her to say anything. I don’t think she’s that interested in me.”

 

Harry rolled his eyes. “I remember what Hermione was like with Viktor Krum. He liked her because she was the only person in Hogwarts who wasn’t fawning over him because he was an international Quidditch player, but she was really embarrassed and shy and it took him a while to get her to talk. Do you know what Astoria likes? Perhaps if you talked about her interests then you’d have more luck.”

 

Draco shrugged. “She reads Witch Weekly, she likes keeping up with the latest robe colours, cuts and patterns, and I think she once said she likes interior decorating.”

 

“Please tell me that you don’t just talk about yourself when you’re with her.”

 

“Well she doesn’t talk.” Draco scoffed. “What am I supposed to talk about?”

 

“How about shutting your mouth and letting her talk?” Harry suggested with a grin. “If she likes interior decorating, show a bit of bloody interest.”

 

“But I don’t have any interest!” Draco answered.

 

“That’s not the point at all.” Harry said. “It’s called being supportive and showing that you care about her thoughts and interests, that’s why Rabastan and I are having trouble. Because he isn’t listening to me and he’s brushing aside my thoughts and feelings. Just, try asking her how she is or how her day has been once in a while.”

 

Draco nodded thoughtfully. “Alright. I’ll make the time to do so tonight. But don’t try to distract me, I will be getting that potion onto your hair.”

 

Harry laughed and nodded. “Okay, I’ll let you do as you please with it, but if I don’t like it, I’m putting it back to normal.”

 

“Your hair will never be normal.” Draco said seriously.

 

They were interrupted by the arrival of a house elf with a bowl of food in each hand.

 

“Thank you.” Harry said kindly while Draco just scoffed and snatched his bowl.

 

“You’re too soft.” Draco scoffed at him.

 

“You’re an utter bastard.” Harry replied. “It won’t kill you to be polite once in a while.”

 

Draco rolled his eyes, but he ate his lunch and Harry dug into his own bowl of fancy beef stew with warm, fresh bread rolls. He would stay in his rooms with Draco and he’d get ready for the party tonight. He was a little apprehensive about everything, as he knew he’d have to be on his best behaviour, which meant behaving like a Pureblooded Lord of two houses. He sighed. He’d have to behave like he did in the Wizengamot meetings and that was going to be difficult for him to maintain for more than a few hours, less than that depending on how bored he was or how other people acted towards him. It was going to be a long, exhausting night.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry was dressed in the softest, most sumptuous and expensive dress robes that he’d ever imagined himself wearing. They were a brilliant red colour and made from brushed cotton. They were light, but warm and with a fitted black shirt and tailored, smart trousers on underneath, they looked wonderful.

He and Draco had spent most of the afternoon talking to one another and laying out a plan of action, which had mostly just been Draco talking while Harry laughed until his stomach hurt.

Draco had helped him get ready, had paired the black on black underclothes before laying the red robe over the top for a glare of colour to stop him from looking like he was attending a funeral, or worse, like Snape’s mini me.

The earthy red made his cheeks look more flushed than they actually were as it picked out the warm undertones of gold in his skin and he just looked healthy, youthful and full of life, he thought as he stared at himself in the mirror.

Draco had dumped a load of potions into his hair, one to make it soft and shiny, another to make it more tamed and a final one to style it. Harry had to hand it to Draco, he could definitely become a hairdresser if he wanted to. His hair looked shiny, sleek and was styled to be tousled instead of just plain messy. Draco had tried to make it lay flat and when that had failed he had tried to slick it back, but when that hadn’t worked either he had compromised and worked with Harry’s natural hairstyle to make his hair look a little windswept. Harry rather liked the effect.

 

“Are you ready? We’re going an hour early to catch up with the other ‘kids’.” Draco told him, rolling his eyes at the stressed ‘kids’.

 

“Yeah, do I look okay?” He asked nervously.

 

“You look perfectly presentable, now come on. I need to try and catch up with Blaise before we greet Pansy.”

 

They met Narcissa in the receiving room and she straightened out both of their collars, even though they didn’t need it.

 

“You boys behave at this party, do you understand?”

 

“Yes Mother.” They both answered respectfully.

 

“Draco, you go through first and you wait for Harry on the other end, do you hear me?”

 

Draco nodded with a smirk that was aimed at him and Harry rolled his eyes, but he was glad. The last thing he wanted was to be lost in an unfamiliar manor house, he’d only just gotten used to the Malfoy manor.

 

“You look lovely, Harry.” Narcissa told him. She was being a little strange as her small hands brushed over his robe. “Very presentable. Remember your manners tonight and behave yourself, but try to enjoy it too.”

 

Narcissa shooed him off and Harry flooed over to the Parkinson’s. Harry hadn’t seen Rabastan once that day…in fact he hadn’t seen any of the Lestranges that day, but he was sure that he’d be seeing them in an hour or so.

He arrived at the Parkinson’s manor and Draco was stood waiting for him, as soon as Harry stepped out of the fireplace, he snorted and shook his head. Harry realised then that there was no one to receive them.

 

“This is ridiculous, someone should be here to greet us.” Draco scoffed before leading the way out of the receiving room and he went right up the stairs.

 

Harry was a little apprehensive about this, he wouldn’t have liked anyone just arriving in his house and walking around without him knowing about it, but then if he was going to be hosting a massive social event in his home he would have been sure to greet people in the receiving room, if only to direct them where to go once they arrived. Narcissa had taught him that much.

 

Draco led them down numerous corridors before hammering on a door. It opened to reveal Pansy in a beautiful gown of peridot. The pale green went well with her short, black hair and the peridot necklace, bracelet and earrings added a touch of repetitive colour to her pale skin and contrasting dark hair.

 

“You look lovely.” Harry complimented her naturally and she and Draco both looked at him in surprise before Draco stood back and looked at her properly.

 

“Harry’s right, you do look nice tonight. Is anyone else here yet?”

 

“Daphne, Astoria, Blaise and Theo are already here, come inside.”

 

They went into the bedroom and Harry realised that it was just a very, very large bedroom. Where his, and Draco’s, bedrooms were split into three rooms, Pansy’s was just one massive room with a very large bed at one end and a seating area around an ornate fireplace at the other.

 

“You look good enough to eat, Harry.” Blaise teased him and Harry laughed.

 

“My tailor picked out the colours and made my entire wardrobe, so I have him to thank for the robes and Draco dressed me. I take no credit for the way that I look tonight.”

 

“You look nice, Astoria.” Draco complimented his betrothed, being reminded of his need to do so after Harry had complimented their host and remembering suddenly his promise to talk to her more.

 

Harry looked at the young fourteen year old wearing a pale blue dress that went wonderfully with her long blonde hair and her matching blue eyes. She was wearing dark sapphires to contrast with the pale blue of the dress and it looked fantastic.

 

“Draco’s right, you look good.” Harry told her with a smile as he noticed the matching, small heeled shoes she was wearing. “Very elegant and sophisticated.”

 

Astoria flushed with pleasure at the attention she was getting, which Harry assumed was mostly given to Daphne, and of course for being called ‘sophisticated’. What fourteen year old didn’t want to be praised on looking grown up, after all?

Daphne in contrast was wearing a knee length gown, which Harry guessed had been forced onto her by her parents, but it was the low cut of the top of the dress and the strappy heels she was wearing that made her so different to her younger sister. 

 

“Hi, Theo.” He greeted instead as he sat himself next to Theodore, who was wearing dark blue and black dress robes.

 

“Blaise is right, you’re looking really good tonight, is it for the benefit of your betrothed?”

 

Harry sighed. “No. Rabastan and I are having…problems.” He said.

 

“What sort of problems?” Blaise asked in friendly concern.

 

“Not so easy to be in a contract now, is it?” Daphne said snidely.

 

Harry just looked at her neutrally before purposefully snubbing her and focusing back on Blaise and Theodore. He’d learnt that move from Lucius at the Wizengamot meetings and it always worked a treat.

 

“Just a few complications from his previous Azkaban stay and his Father, that’s all.”

 

“That doesn’t sound so bad.” Theo told him.

 

“He’s dressed to find himself another betrothal match.” Draco put in. “The Malfoy family deserves better than someone who isn’t interested. If Lestrange doesn’t buck up, then Harry will be betrothed to someone else.”

 

“Perhaps we could…” Pansy started before Draco cut her right off.

 

“You’re not worthy of my brother.” He told her cruelly.

 

“I’m gay, Pansy.” He said more gently. “I have the gene and I want another man to marry.”

 

“You’ll both be competing with one another then.” Daphne said gleefully at the idea. 

 

Harry rolled his eyes, but he saw Pansy’s face fall at the thought, then she got a calculating gleam in her eyes that Harry really didn’t like. He hoped that he wasn’t about to have his leg broken or something due to an ‘accidental’ fall down the main flight of stairs.

A knock on her bedroom door and Pansy left to go and greet someone else, who turned out to be Millicent Bulstrode. Harry tried not to cringe at the sight of the tall, broad, almost square shaped girl being confined in a mandarin satin dress. He was sure that it would have looked lovely on absolutely anyone else. The dress did absolutely nothing to flatter her, it wasn’t the right cut for her body shape and the colour was completely wrong for her skin tone, hair and eye colour. Whoever had chosen the dress for her, whether it was the seamstress, her parents or Millicent herself, they really needed to put more thought into such things in the future.

 

“What do you think?” Blaise leaned forward to whisper into his, Draco’s and Theo’s ears. “Would you rather fuck her face to face in that dress, or suck off Dumbledore.”

 

The three of them all made disgusted noises and pulled faces and Draco pushed a laughing Blaise away.

 

“That is utterly foul.” Draco insisted as Pansy and Millicent did the whole girl greeting at the opposite end to the large room.

 

“I know one thing for sure.” Harry said, pausing to gain the guys’ full attention. “I’d look better in that dress.”

 

That set the four of them off laughing, loudly. He got a hand on the knee as Theo bent forward, trying to hold himself up. Draco flung an arm around his shoulders and Blaise punched his shoulder, his purple eyes wet with tears of mirth. Harry just laughed and revelled in the feeling of being accepted, despite the odd circumstances. He was the only Gryffindor here after all.

The door knocked again before Pansy and Millicent could make it over and Pansy opened the door again to let in the lumbering forms of Crabbe and Goyle. The boys greeted Pansy and Millicent and then came right on over, the two girls following.

 

“Are we waiting for anyone else?” He asked curiously.

 

“No, the adults have started milling about downstairs, though.” Pansy told him.

 

They spoke to one another, laughing and joking, Harry keeping mostly to Draco, Blaise and Theo, but when he noticed something that didn’t sit right with him, he nudged Draco and nodded to a totally excluded Astoria, who was staring at the group of older girls on her left in an imitation of being included in their conversation, despite all of their backs being turned to her. It must have been awful for her to be sat on her own as everyone else formed groups around her, it was only because she was the youngest, he was sure.

 

“Astoria, I feel like a drink. Would you mind accompanying me down to the ballroom?” Draco stood to ask, offering her his hand.

 

The younger girl looked so pleased at the offer as she accepted Draco’s hand and allowed him to pull her to her feet before she brushed the back of her dress down and agreed to accompany him. She slipped her arm through Draco’s and they both left Pansy’s bedroom to go down to the ballroom that would, by now, be filling up with the adults.

 

“I suppose that it’s time to go down now.” Pansy said as she stood and checked her reflection in her mirror before leading the way.

 

Harry walked with Theo and Blaise, laughing happily. At least until he reached the ballroom, because it was nearly impossible to miss Xerxes, he was towering over everyone else and Harry knew, that if Xerxes was here, then so too were Rhadamanthus, Rodolphus and Rabastan. He immediately turned and walked in the opposite direction.

 

“Are you okay?” Blaise asked him, turning with him to follow.

 

Harry smiled and nodded, trying to ignore the people staring at him.

 

“Yes, Draco went for a drink, so if he’s anywhere, he’s going to be at the drinks table.”

 

“Good thinking. I saw you trying to play match maker.” Blaise winked at him.

 

“I just thought that it was sad that Astoria would be excluded just because she’s younger. She is Draco’s betrothed after all. I just gave him a shove in the right direction. A shove that shouldn’t have been needed as he should have taken the initiative and done it first, without any prompting, I might add. She’s his betrothed, he should have noticed her needs before I did.”

 

Blaise wrapped an arm around him and pulled him to the drinks table, where they found Draco and a very happy Astoria in a discussion about the latest home styles.

 

“Would you…would you allow me to decorate our home when we’re married?” They arrived to overhear Astoria ask a little timidly.

 

“Of course.” Draco replied amiably. “As long as I can have a personal study to my tastes.” He compromised and Harry beamed at him for taking his advice and showing an interest in Astoria’s interests.

 

“Oh Draco, thank you.” Astoria gushed. “I’m thinking more and more that I want to do home decorations as well as robe and dress making.”

 

“I think you’ll be very successful with that.” Harry told her, smiling as she spun around startled. “You obviously know how to put an outfit together, perhaps you could use Draco to trial your robe making skills.”

 

Astoria’s face lit up and she turned back to Draco shyly “Would you let me practice my robe making skills?”

 

“I don’t see why not, but I have particular tastes and my colouring makes for very few combinations that don’t look ridiculous.”

 

“I would of course take in all of your opinions and wishes.” Astoria said excitedly.

 

“You never know. I might be bringing my children to you in the future to get their robes.” Harry teased.

 

“Is it true that you have the gene?” Astoria asked. “It’s been so long since a boy has been born with the gene and I overheard what you said to Pansy.”

 

Harry nodded. “Yes, I tested positive. It helps that I like men too.”

 

“I’m a man.” Blaise said with a smirk.

 

Harry rolled his eyes. “What happened to your Ravenclaw?” Harry asked.

 

“I was going to keep her for a few more months, but if I had you, I’d get rid of her immediately. After all, you’d be a betrothal match, not just a girlfriend.”

 

“I feel so special.” Harry said with heavy sarcasm.

 

“Oh no. Rowle’s spotted you, Harry.” Draco said, looking high over his head. “He’s coming right over.”

 

“Damn. It hasn’t even been ten minutes yet!” Harry groaned before he weaved his way past Draco and snatched a drink before diving into the mingling people.

 

He evaded Rowle while making mindless small talk for a full half an hour, which Harry thought was quite impressive, but ultimately, he almost barrelled into the man after he’d stopped at a table to refill his glass.

 

“There you are. I’ve been looking for you since the beginning of the night.”

 

Harry looked up at the tall, blond, blue eyed man. He was broad and muscled and if he had to guess, Harry would have put him in his early to mid-thirties. He was very, very good looking and his eyes were all over Harry, taking in the tailored cut of his robes which accentuated his trim waist and the slim line of his body.

Harry calmed himself, took a deliberate breath and took a moment to peruse Rowle slowly as he slipped into his ‘Lord’ persona that he used in the Wizengamot. He’d been slipping in and out of this persona since the party had begun and he had used it in all his previous conversations when meeting up with other members of the Wizengamot, who all wanted to introduce him to their Wives, children, brothers and friends, it was tiring.

 

“I’m not exactly hard to miss.” Harry replied calmly as he indicated the bright red robes that he was wearing. He was the only one tonight wearing red and the only thing that came closest to his robes was Millicent’s mandarin orange dress and a few spots of pink here or there from some of the women’s dresses.

 

“It is a lovely colour on you.” Rowle complimented easily. “It brings out a nice flush to your cheeks, unless you’ve been sneaking wine.” He joked.

 

Harry laughed politely. “No, just pumpkin juice for me. I have no wish to kill off my brain cells before I’m even an adult.”

 

“It’s refreshing to meet someone so young who recognises that they’re not adults yet. Most of the little shin lickers here tonight would insist that they’re mature, in the process proving just how immature they actually are. By recognising that you still have room to grow, well…I think that you’re the most mature person in this room who is actually under the age of seventeen.”

 

“Thank you. It helps that I sit on the Wizengamot.”

 

“Ah, yes. Spending that amount of time around a table with very old men has the tendency to age people.”

 

Harry couldn’t stop the genuine laugh that came out. 

 

“You came over to get a drink, may I have the honour of refilling your glass?”

 

Harry nodded and watched as Rowle took his empty glass from his hand and refilled it with the jug of pumpkin juice. He handed it back and his hand lingered longer than strictly necessary.

 

“I’m Thorfinn, everyone just calls me Finn, however.”

 

“It’s nice to meet you, I’m Harry.”

 

Thorfinn laughed. “You are probably the single most known person in this room. Everyone knows about you and your adoption.”

 

Harry nodded. “The papers have been going on about it a lot.” He replied ambiguously. Of course he knew Rowle was talking about Voldemort and his current orders for his Death Eaters, but Harry didn’t want to ruin his night so early on by thinking about it.

 

“Indeed. So, I suppose you already have a betrothal match?”

 

“I do. Rabastan Lestrange and I are betrothed together.”

 

“You could do so much better than him.” Rowle insisted. “I always thought that Lucius was punishing you by pairing you with that old cripple. I’ll have a word with him and see if he won’t reconsider.”

 

Harry frowned and blinked as Rowle looked around the room, before he patted Harry’s shoulder and walked away determinedly, apparently he’d spotted Lucius. Harry turned to look at him walking away and he was sure that he was gaping. Rowle had asked about his betrothal despite apparently already knowing about it and now instead of asking him if he liked Rabastan and wanted to be betrothed to him, he was assuming that he didn’t and was taking it upon himself to ‘liberate’ Harry in order to be betrothed to him himself.

He definitely understood what Lucius and Draco had meant by possessive…they’d only just met one another and Rowle was already treating him as if he couldn’t think for himself. It didn’t bode well for anyone who married Rowle in the future, but he knew that it definitely wouldn’t be him!

He shook his head in bemusement and moved off, greeting some of the Lords he knew from the Wizengamot politely and allowing himself to again be introduced to their Wives or children. Really it seemed that that’s all they wanted to do tonight was introduce him to everyone under the sun that they knew.

He smiled the most at the shy preteens, he knew from Draco that these were adult parties and that it was incredibly unlikely that anyone under the age of eleven would be there, so he was extra kind to them when he did see some twelve year olds and there was one newborn sleeping in a tiny little gown in her Mother’s arms.

This entire gala seemed to be over the top and extravagant. There were ice sculptures everywhere, depicting winter animals that he assumed were magically made and hollow. Everywhere he looked there were frosted glass tables holding an array of drinks in frosted glasses and every canapé and appetiser ever invented on frosted glass plates. Everything was white and glittered oddly, like freshly fallen snow and the massive glass doors on the one side of the ball room were flung open into the softly lit garden beyond. Draco was right, it was very over the top and gaudily showy.

 

“I will not allow you to speak of my brother in such a manner!”

 

Harry turned automatically as he heard the furious voice of Rodolphus and now that he looked, he could see the man hissing at Rowle. Lucius had been standing with the Lestranges when Rowle had gone to proposition Lucius, it seemed and instead of taking Lucius off for a private conversation, he’d just mentioned taking Harry’s contract from Rabastan in front of the entire Lestrange family. Harry really didn’t like Rowle and he was glad that Lucius hadn’t lumbered him with a betrothal to him.

 

“I’m just saying that someone as young, supple and gorgeously stunning as Harry deserves better than some spluttering old cripple from Azkaban.” Rowle said simply.

 

“And what does Harry say about this?” Lucius said calmly, as if considering the proposal.

 

“He likes me.” Thorfinn boasted.

 

Harry looked from his vantage point behind the back of a very old man who seemed to be mostly deaf and half asleep on his feet. Rabastan was standing behind and between Rodolphus and Xerxes saying nothing and that angered Harry. He wanted Rabastan to fight for him, to fight for their future, but he was just stood there, as if considering the proposal himself.

 

“Say something, Rabastan!” Xerxes burst out furiously.

 

“If it’s what Harry wants.” He said quietly.

 

“It is.” Rowle declared. “How could you possibly think that he’d prefer you over me?” He sneered and indicated his own face and body. “I can offer him this, you would likely break your own back trying to lift him and he’s such a tiny little wisp of nothing that I could lift him with one arm. He deserves only the best.”

 

Rabastan said nothing and Harry balled his fists up. He’d have to deal with this himself it seemed.

 

“If Harry agrees to it.” Lucius told Rowle, neither accepting nor declining his proposal.

 

“Of course he will, it’s a better deal.” Rowle said cockily. “I at least would be able to pleasure him properly.”

 

Harry smarted at the disrespect and the attack of his dignity and he would have expected Rabastan to immediately jump to his defence, but he didn’t. Lucius was just about to remind Rowle that Harry was his son, adopted or not, when Harry decided that it was time to take things into his own hands.

 

“How dare you say such things about me!” He hissed.

 

“There you are.” Rowle smiled at him. “I was just sealing the deal with your adoptive Father.”

 

“I just heard what you said about me.” He growled.

 

“It’s alright. Everyone here knows that I’d be able to satisfy you. That cripple wouldn’t even be able to pull a moan from your pretty lips. Unless it was one of pain, of course.”

 

Harry’s hands clenched so tightly his whole arm shook with the tension. He tried to breathe deeply to calm himself, but his temper was too roused to be calmed.

 

“How dare you.” He bit out from between clenched teeth. “I am not some bed slave given to you merely for your pleasure. I deserve better than that from a betrothal. I want someone to talk to, someone to start a family with, to spend my life with…not merely someone who thinks that my only use is in the bedroom!”

 

“There’s no need to get so angry over such a comment. I take pride in the knowledge that I’d be able to pleasure you.”

 

Harry didn’t even think as he ripped his wand out of his sleeve and sent Rowle flying halfway across the room to smash into one of the gaudy ice sculptures. It wasn’t hollow as he’d initially thought, it was solid ice and Rowle left a blood smear on it as he fell to the floor, unconscious. Harry hadn’t even uttered a spell, he hadn’t had time to think of one, his magic had just immediately reacted to his rage.

 

“If that man comes anywhere near me again then he’ll lose his head.” Harry told Lucius before turning to glare at Rabastan. “Way to stand up and defend me. So much for being betrothed.” He spat before turning on his heel and striding off.

 

He went outside to cool off, walking around the wooden decking at the back of the house and several minutes later he found himself sat on a low stone banister that boxed in a patio seating area before leading out onto the lawn.

 

“Way to keep your calm, Harry.” He chastised himself as he growled and fisted his hair in frustration.

 

That wasn’t how he wanted people to see him. As some angry thug who attacked people at parties. Damn it he was supposed to be a Lord of two houses, he held two seats on the Wizengamot and he couldn’t even control his own anger. It was pathetic.

He was trying to convince people that he was suitable to sit in on the wizarding court and vote on incredibly important laws and in trials despite his age and here he was, attacking another person at the Pureblood’s winter fucking gala just because he’d lost his temper.

Damn, he knew he shouldn’t have come to this damn party, he had known that it would be a massive mistake and now he’d gone and shown himself up and embarrassed himself and most likely the Malfoy family too, in front of every other pureblood family, including Rabastan and his family, his betrothal family. He felt humiliated and lower than low, he just wanted to hide away, but he knew that if he did that then it would make everything a thousand times worse. It would be better to stay and face up to what he’d done with as much dignity as he could muster rather than run away and give everyone even more ammunition to fire at him. He was no coward after all and he would face up to what he’d done. He wished that it had never happened, but he had lost his temper and he had attacked someone. There was nothing that he could do to change that now.

 

“I saw what you did, Potter.”

 

Harry startled and looked around, over his shoulder, to a face that was only partially familiar to him. Then it had been over a year since he’d last seen Marcus Flint. He no longer looked quite so trollish, though he was still tall and massively muscular.

 

“Flint.” He greeted with a nod.

 

“Why were you attacking, Rowle?”

 

“Because he’s a cocky, arrogant son of a bitch and needed to be taken down several pegs! As if I’d allow anyone to get away with saying those sorts of things about me!” He defended himself and his actions hotly. Just because he regretted his rash behaviour didn’t mean he had to show it to others. He had done it and the best way to deal with it now was to stand by his actions and act like he had been entitled to act as such. It helped that he didn’t really regret attacking Rowle, just that he’d let his temper get away from him enough to do it in front of all of those people.

 

“He was disrespecting you?” The tall, muscled twenty year old man asked him tightly.

 

“Yes, he was and you can bet that if someone talks to me like that they’re going to end up regretting it!”

 

Flint nodded and he looked out over the garden, standing next to where Harry was sat.

 

“I hear from the rumours spreading tonight that you have the carrier’s gene.”

 

Harry blinked at the topic change and calmed down. “That’s right. I tested positive at Saint Mungos.”

 

“You went to the hospital to be tested?” Marcus said, looking pleased.

 

Harry nodded. “I didn’t believe the home test that Lucius administered, so he took me to the hospital to have it done professionally.”

 

“You would have the papers signed by the Healers then?”

 

Harry scrunched up his face in confusion. “Yes. Lucius keeps them in his study for me. What are you getting at here, Flint?”

 

“Marcus. I was working my way up to asking you to go for a walk.”

 

Harry clicked on. “You were making sure that I could carry your Heirs before wasting any time on me.”

 

Marcus grimaced. “That’s one way of phrasing it. A blunt, very negative way of putting it, but still, would you like to go for a walk, or perhaps you’d like a drink.”

 

“A walk sounds nice.” Harry replied. “If I go back in there, Rowe won’t ever be getting back up.”

 

He moved to turn around and slip off of the stone banister, but he was overall confused and oddly pleased when Marcus slipped a strong, muscled arm under his knees and behind his back and picked him up easily, turning around to face the lawn. The arm under his knees slid away and Harry stretched his legs down to touch the wooden decking as the arm around his back squeezed tight to support him before falling away once he was back on the ground.

It was a small thing. A nice gesture and it hadn’t lasted for longer than Harry felt comfortable with and he found himself smiling at the move. It had been completely unnecessary, of course, but he appreciated the gesture all the same as he and Marcus started their walk, keeping to a winding path that had been laid out for the occasion through the trees and bushes, and he found, much to his surprise, that he was very much enjoying himself in Marcus’ company.

 

“Are you still playing Quidditch?” Marcus asked.

 

Harry bobbed his head. “Yes, I got made Captain too. I made a new team, they’re mostly young. I kept Katie as a Chaser and paired her with a fifth year named Demelza and a second year named Sarah. Both of my Beaters are third years and my Keeper is a second year called Pauley.”

 

“You made a young team.” Marcus told him, looking at him like he was mad.

 

“I did and I’ve worked with them all personally, even one-on-one when it was needed. I’ve built up their skills, their courage and defiance and their confidence and we slaughtered Slytherin in November.” He said proudly.

 

“I knew leaving Urquhart as Captain was a mistake.”

 

“He’s a gormless worm.” Harry agreed with a grin. “That team is going to be my legacy, all my reserves are young too, but I might switch a few of them in or out next year, depending on what the new second years who try out are like. My reserves have reserves.” He joked. “That team is mine and they’ll last for the next four, five years at least! Long after I’ve graduated.”

 

“Are you still the star Seeker?”

 

Harry grinned. “You know that I am.”

 

“I hated playing Quidditch against Gryffindor when you became the Seeker. I knew I didn’t have anyone to beat you unless it was by lucky chance, like the chance that Diggory got in my last year.”

 

They wandered around the little path in the beautiful garden and Harry didn’t really feel anything and he wasn’t sure if Marcus did either. They weren’t walking close together or hand in hand like he’d done with Rabastan. It always came back to Rabastan. Perhaps it was because he was still in love with Rabastan, despite being angry with him, that was causing him problems with seeing Marcus as anything more than a familial acquaintance. 

 

“Draco said that you worked with Runes?” He said.

 

Marcus truly smiled then. “Yes. They’ve always been a special passion of mine. You never took Runes, did you?”

 

Harry grinned. “Actually, I am taking Runes now. Lucius changed my electives when I told him that I was unhappy with the ones I’d chosen. I’m doing Runes and Arithmancy now.”

 

“I could help you with Runes, if you’d like.” Marcus offered and Harry all but bit his hand off at the offer. Someone who had been scouted out at fifteen for a top job was going to be a massive help and asset to him.

 

“Please! I even asked for extra homework just to try and help myself get more used to Runes. I have a good basic understanding, but I definitely get confused still over some of the things that my other class mates would find easy.”

 

“I would be happy to help you. I’ve never offered to tutor before. I’ve been busy and I am very blunt and brusque, so I doubt I’ll be any good at it, but I will get you understanding Runes better if you can put up with me for long enough.”

 

“I never was one for talking riddles or beating around the bush.” Harry told him.

 

They made it back to the manor and without saying anything, they went back inside to get drinks. Harry’s hands clenched and he literally went red hazed when he saw Pansy Parkinson all over Rabastan. So that had been her little plan, she was trying to take the man that he was betrothed to from him!

He took a deep breath and turned to accept the glass off of Marcus.

 

“Are you alright?”

 

“Parkinson is all over the man that I’m supposedly betrothed to.” He said through clenched teeth.

 

Marcus looked to where he was glaring, found Pansy and he sneered.

 

“You shouldn’t accept that disrespect from him. She’s pawing at him and he’s doing nothing to stop her.”

 

Harry growled under his breath.

 

“You obviously love him.” Marcus said.

 

“I do, but he doesn’t even care about me.” Harry answered tightly.

 

“Hmm, I’d say differently if the way he’s glaring at me is any indication.”

 

“Are you sure he’s not glaring at me?” Harry harrumphed.

 

Marcus moved to the table to pick up a different glass and then came back.

 

“No, definitely me.”

 

Harry became interested then and wondered if perhaps his flirting with Rowle and Marcus had worked.

 

“He’s a fool if he’d even try to risk a true marriage with you.” Marcus commented. “He should be over here beating my face in. At least that’s what I’d do if our roles were reversed. You’re worth a few busted knuckles if I thought that I was losing you to another man.”

 

Harry chuckled and Marcus kissed his cheek and told him that he’d be in touch about the Rune tutoring before he left into the throng of people, leaving Harry blushing and shyly ducking his head. From the corner of his eye he saw a furious Rabastan storming over, it seemed that Marcus’ parting kiss had been what had finally, FINALLY, tipped him over the edge and got him reacting.

He was pleased and he mentally prepared himself to have this out with Rabastan so that they could get their betrothal back on track. It was long overdue and it shouldn’t have taken him flirting with anyone to get Rabastan to fight for him. He should have done it because he loved and respected him and didn’t want anyone speaking to or about him in such a way, because he wanted to be with him and wouldn’t let anyone come between them, as Harry would do for him if their roles were reversed.

He took a deep breath and held it, getting himself into the right mind set to have this talk, or at least he was until a huge, powerful shove from behind had him flying into one of the numerous frosted glass tables. The edge of the table dug hard into his chest, but thankfully the table didn’t break, the glass in his hand, however, shattered into several large pieces and the glass cut his hand and arm, digging in deeply as his arm was forced against the table and then the shards dragged across his skin as he slipped to the floor after losing his feet.

For a wild moment he thought that Rabastan had actually attacked him, or even Rodolphus, but when he turned around, sitting on his folded knees as he tried to control his shock and the shaking that had started all throughout his body, it was to see Rowle standing over him.

 

“You will be mine!” He hissed. “Then you’ll know how big a mistake you’ve made tonight!”

 

“In your fucking dreams you nut job!” Harry answered back as he stood himself up, cradling his profusely bleeding right arm and locking his knees to try and stop the shaking. He felt like he was going to collapse back down to his knees at any moment.

 

Someone pressed against his back and an arm was wrapped tight around his waist as he was pulled back protectively, being supported and he was grateful for the hold as he knew he no longer had to fear stumbling and falling back to the floor where he’d be an easy target for Rowle. He recognised the too thin, quaking body immediately and he relaxed minutely.

 

“Get away from him.” Rabastan growled deeply. His strong, steady voice, as always, a complete contrast to his weak, shaky body.

 

“Oh, now you’re interested, Lestrange? Maybe you only like things that bleed. You two deserve one another, you’re both insane and there must be something wrong with you, Potter to actually like a cripple!”

 

“Do not call him that.” Harry defended easily and immediately. “Unless you want to go back into another sculpture, then we’ll see who the real cripple here is.”

 

Xerxes and Lucius were there in an instant and Lucius when caught sight of Harry’s bleeding arm, he immediately took hold of it and raised it into the air. Rodolphus waded over, saw Harry’s arm and his upset brother stood at Harry’s back, an arm wrapped tight around his waist to support him on his feet and he turned around and slammed a massive fist right into Rowle’s face with all the force of someone who had been aiming to hit right through the thing that they were aiming at.

Harry laughed when Rowle went flying off of his feet again, landing hard on his back. He was unconscious again and blood spurted from his mouth and nose. Rabastan’s arm clenched around his waist tight from the stress of the situation and his betrothed tried to release his one arm with his other arm. Used to this happening Harry didn’t panic and he sucked in a deep breath when he was able to, not drawing any attention to Rabastan’s slip up, especially not in this public situation, instead he patted Rabastan’s cramped arm with his good one, letting him know that it was alright.

 

“Come, Harry. This arm needs seeing to.” Lucius told him, his tone brooking no room for argument.

 

He nodded and he wriggled out from Rabastan’s hold and took hold of his hand instead, pulling him along as Lucius led them out of the Parkinson’s ballroom, still holding his arm up, bent at the elbow.

Draco followed with Narcissa and Xerxes came with a grinning, very self-satisfied Rodolphus, who was wiping blood off of his knuckles with a handkerchief.

They left the Parkinson’s winter gala and Harry found himself back in Malfoy manor where Lucius had already called for the house elf to get the medical supplies.

Rabastan ushered Harry to sit down and he sat next to him looking very worried and concerned as he used his own handkerchief from the inside pocket of his robes to dab at the blood on Harry’s fingers, taking over Lucius’ task of holding Harry’s bleeding arm up. Lucius took over again and used his wand to cut the sleeve from his robe and the shirt underneath before carefully removing it, Harry grimaced when he felt the pinch of a piece of glass being pulled out with the cloth.

His arm wasn’t as bad as his hand, but Draco still went grey when he saw the state of him.

 

“It’s alright, Draco. This is nothing.”

 

“Nothing.” Draco breathed incredulously.

 

Harry smiled as Lucius unstoppered a vial and dipped a clean cloth into it so that he could wash and cleanse Harry’s arm and hand.

 

“Wormtail cut my arm open worse than this at Voldemort’s rebirth. He cut through the main vein in my forearm.” He said mildly. “That bled so much that I needed a blood replenisher.”

 

Lucius’ movements stopped, but it lasted only a moment before he carried on. Harry ignored the sting and the lingering burn of the potion as he instead watched with morbid fascination as someone actually cared enough about him to clean up his cuts.

Rabastan’s arm slipped back around his waist and his hand gripped his hip in comfort as he pulled Harry to rest more firmly against him, worried still that he might collapse.

 

“This will be easy to heal.” Lucius told him in the quiet of the room as everyone watched Harry’s arm bleed. “They are simple, straight cuts.”

 

“My chest hurts too.” He admitted. He rather liked being taken care of in this way.

 

“Your chest?”

 

“He shoved me into one of those stupid tables, I wasn’t prepared for the attack, so I landed on the edge of it so it’s probably just bruised.”

 

“I’ll take a look at it after I’ve sorted out your hand and your arm.” Lucius told him and he sounded pleased too. As if he liked knowing that Harry wanted to be cared for.

 

Lucius took his wand to Harry’s arm them, meticulously healing the cuts, leaving nothing, not even a scar behind.

Rabastan was the one who used another, clean handkerchief to gently swipe away the lingering blood after the cuts were healed. Harry could barely restrain himself from grinning happily as he sat there, Rabastan beside him, Lucius crouched in front of him, as they both tended to his arm.

 

“I’m going to kill that Rowle.” Rabastan swore furiously, his voice tight with anger and a vicious promise.

 

“Don’t kill him.” Harry said mildly as he watched Lucius heal the last cut.

 

“Don’t tell me you still like him after he did this to you?” Rodolphus hissed.

 

Harry looked up at that. “No! I didn’t like him in the first place.” Harry said tightly. “I just meant that it would be much more fun to…keep them alive, so to say.”

 

Rodolphus’ anger cleared and he grinned that wide, evil smile that allowed Harry to clearly see how a younger Rodolphus had easily tortured two people into insanity without losing any sleep over it.

 

“Yes, keep him alive so that his punishment lasts longer. I do like the way that you think, Harry.”

 

“What about Flint?” Rabastan asked. “You seemed to be cosying right up to him!”

 

“Are you jealous?” Harry asked.

 

“You told me to stand up and defend you, from your face I could see that you wanted me to fight for you. This is me fighting for you. If Flint lays his slimy lips on you again, I’ll break him!”

 

Harry grinned at Rabastan, he felt utterly elated and he rested his body against Rabastan.

 

“I don’t like Marcus. No, that isn’t quite right. I do like him, but not in that way. He’s going to tutor me with my Runes! He said he’s going to be very blunt and hard on me, but he’ll get me achieving higher than everyone else. It’s going to be brilliant!”

 

“But you don’t love him? You don’t want a betrothal with him?”

 

Harry shook his head. “I didn’t stop loving you! Of course I don’t love Marcus or want a betrothal with him.” He insisted firmly. “You’re a thick headed idiot, but I still love you. I met Marcus for half an hour at the most, that’s not long enough for anyone to fall in love, but I do think that he’ll be a good friend. I just wanted to make you jealous so you’d damn well stop trying to push me towards other men all the time! I don’t want anyone else, I wanted you to realise that for yourself. So I decided to let you see what me being with other men was going to be like.”

 

“I’m definitely not going to do that again.” Rabastan told him. “Listening to Rowle ask for you to be betrothed to him, seeing Flint holding you, carrying you, kissing you…I was so angry and I hated that he was doing those things to you when I wanted it to be me. I was on my way over to you to pull you into my own arms when Rowle came up behind you and hit you. Then my anger transferred easily to him.”

 

“It should have been you who hit him.” Rodolphus told his brother.

 

“I thought it was more important to check on Harry.” Rabastan answered his brother immediately.

 

“Besides, you did a fantastic job.” Harry told Rodolphus with a grin. “I heard his nose break and I had a wonderful view of his eyes rolling up into the back of his head when your fist connected with his face. I think it was best to leave that to you when you so obviously enjoyed it, while I enjoyed having Rabastan’s hands on me.”

 

Xerxes laughed and placed a hand on Harry’s head for a moment, his thumb moved in a stroke before it was gone and Harry felt so accepted, so loved that his heart swelled with it. He felt that he’d finally found his place in the world, that he’d found his own little niche to thrive and grow in and he loved it so much.

Lucius repaired his shirt and his robes with an easy flick of his wand and very soon after that they found themselves in the drawing room, cups of hot chocolate in hand, or in Lucius and Xerxes’ cases tumblers of Firewhiskey, and Harry was curled up, resting himself on Rabastan, who was playing with his soft, potion styled hair.

Lucius had checked his chest as he changed from his dress robes into pyjamas and he had been right, just a bruise that was going to come out in a wonderful starburst of colour soon, but nothing more serious than that. Harry had swallowed a pain reliever and currently he was feeling very, very good as he cuddled with Rabastan, though he knew that very soon, likely as soon as tomorrow, they’d have to sit down and seriously sort out their thoughts and feelings. He wanted this to work, he needed this relationship to work because he wanted it so very badly, because he loved Rabastan so much. They needed to talk to one another and they needed to sort out their damn feelings before they had any hope of progressing, but as he looked up at Rabastan, who was gazing softly at him with his fingers still massaging his scalp, Harry was very, very hopeful.

 

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Chapter Text

Chapter Nine – Signs of Acceptance

 

Harry didn’t remember how he’d gotten to bed last night. He must have fallen asleep on Rabastan and been floated up to his bed as he just didn’t remember, but he’d woken up tucked up in his bed, well rested and cosy, though his chest was aching a bit.

He made it down to breakfast with a grimace of pain only to find a pain reliever already waiting for him, which he shot back immediately in one large swallow. He groaned happily as it worked within a minute to ease away the aching pain in his chest.

 

“Do you hurt terribly?” Rabastan asked him, looking unhappy at the thought.

 

“No, it wasn’t really painful, it’s a horrible ache more than anything, but it was more painful when I breathed in. This helps a lot to ease my breathing.”

 

“You made an utter fool out of yourself.” Rhadamanthus informed him scathingly. “You assaulted a prominent, powerful Pureblood and threw yourself at another like a Mudblood whore. You’re disgusting.”

 

It was, of course, too much to ask for that Rhadamanthus had gotten drunk at the winter gala and fallen into one of those damn ice sculptures and killed himself, or even just fucking stayed at the Parkinson’s, but of course he was here being his easily loathable self for breakfast.

 

“You’re just upset because you missed everything.” Harry told him tonelessly, not even looking at him as he poured Rabastan another glass of water before filling his own glass and plate up so that he could have breakfast.

 

Rhadamanthus flushed horribly, as he had missed the drama last night. He had been meeting with a few of his associates, but he had been well informed of what had happened when they’d returned to the gala. Healers had been called to escort Rowle to the hospital and it had been all anyone could talk about for the rest of the night. Though most of them had been gossiping easily about how the young and handsome Lord Potter-Black had put Lord Rowle in his place after the older man had insulted and then physically attacked him.

Harry spoke softly to Rabastan as he ate his breakfast and he was very happy that he and Rabastan were back to how they were before they’d had their fight. Their disagreement had lasted for a day. If all of their fights would last that long and be resolved so quickly then Harry was certain that they’d have a wonderful future together, because he wasn’t so utterly naïve as to believe that they’d never have another fight or argument in the future.

 

“Merry Christmas.” Rabastan whispered to him softly.

 

Harry smiled widely as he realised that yes, today was actually Christmas Day.

 

“Merry Christmas, Rabastan.”

 

Draco had told him how today would progress and breakfast was always first. After that they’d reconvene to the family drawing room and exchange gifts. Then they’d have Christmas lunch and then there would be wine and cheeses set up in the drawing room where they’d stay and talk until they’d eventually leave and they’d retire to bed.

It all seemed very formal to Harry, but then he had never really had a normal Christmas before. He’d been locked in a cupboard for Christmas during most of his childhood and on others, mostly when he was at Hogwarts, it had been spent lounging around the castle or encroaching on the Weasley’s Christmas.

This…being here with the Malfoys and with Rabastan, who would one day become his Husband, it felt like he had his own family, like he was accepted and a part of everything and not just there because he had nowhere else to go. It felt amazing.

His excitement grew as he thought of the gifts he’d bought for everyone. He’d been told by Draco that only one gift per person was acceptable etiquette, so Harry had stuck to that, though he couldn’t see himself sticking to such formal rules when he had his own home and his own children.

He finished his breakfast and sat talking to Rabastan on his one side and Draco, who was sat opposite him. They were waiting for Lucius, as their host, to finish his morning tea. Thankfully he didn’t have his usual morning paper today or they’d be waiting for another hour for him to finish reading it.

 

“Come along, boys.” Narcissa stood gracefully and came to their area of the table.

 

Draco stood and offered his arm to his Mother, Harry walked around the table and did the same, so that Narcissa had a son on either side of her.

Lucius stood and gestured for his guests to go before him as Draco and Harry escorted Narcissa up the stairs, down the corridor and into the family drawing room.

Their Christmas tree was real pine and decorated in real, solid silver ornaments that had been polished to a high sheen and had been in the Malfoy family for generations. There were several plain white candles in silver holders on every other branch. It looked beautiful to Harry as he went and touched one of the branches, leaving the scent of pine on his fingers. He’d never been allowed to touch the Dursleys ridiculously expensive plastic tree that was decorated in gaudy lights, tacky coloured glass baubles and ratty tinsel.

There were several wrapped gifts under the tree, all decorated in coloured paper with a ribbon wrapped around it, their tags poking out and Harry’s excitement grew as Narcissa smoothed down her gown and sat on one of the settees facing the tree. Draco sat next to her, but Harry chose to walk over to the other settee, where he sat next to Rabastan, squeezing in tight as the Lestrange men were not small by any means.

 

“How are you this morning, Harry?” Xerxes asked him. “How are your ribs?”

 

“I’m alright, thank you. My ribs were aching earlier this morning, but that pain reliever took the edge right off.”

 

Rabastan’s arm slipped around his back and his hand slipped up to rub at his bruised ribs and Harry smiled.

Once again Rhadamanthus was sat on his own, excluded from the rest of them by his own choice. Harry really didn’t understand why he’d even bothered to come, but he took an educated guess that it was because he wanted to ruin the day for Rabastan as much as he could. Well…Harry wasn’t going to let him.

 

“Ladies first, I believe.” Lucius said with a smile towards his Wife.

 

Lucius used his wand to summon the first gift toward him and he handed it over to Narcissa with a kiss to the cheek. She made a show of checking the tag and reading it slowly before sending her Husband a smile. Meticulously untying the ribbon and unfolding every corner of the paper from the large present, Narcissa uncovered a beautiful square box, which she opened with care.

 

“Oh Lucius, thank you.” She exclaimed happily as she stood up and pulled out the most beautiful dress that Harry had ever seen with a matching shawl that was draped around the shoulders of the folded dress, held together with a brooch made of gleaming silver and black iron, engraved with the Malfoy crest made out of emerald and onyx.

 

Narcissa pulled out three smaller boxes from the bigger box and opened them each in turn to reveal a matching set of a necklace, bracelet and earrings. All of the jewellery would complement her new dress magnificently.

Harry grinned at how happy Narcissa was and he waited patiently as Lucius distributed more gifts out, watching as his gift to Draco was happily received and his own from Draco made him laugh.

Then Rabastan summoned a small wrapped box and he handed it over with a smile, Harry delicately pulled the ribbon, even though he wanted to tear into it like an overexcited child.

Inside the box was a pendant necklace in an odd, spiky shield shape made of an unfamiliar, highly polished black gem. It was surrounded and etched with symbols in real gold and when he turned the pendant over, the back was made of gold too and it was inscribed with the Latin words mihi parta tueri. He run his fingers over it before turning it back around to face him and he swallowed as he made out that the symbols on the front were actually letters. They spelt out ‘Lestrange’ in an odd, mixed up order, but Harry knew what this was. It was the Lestrange family crest. He was being given the Lestrange family crest to wear as his own.

 

“I had this made for you.” Rabastan told him as he remained silent. “Black sapphire and gold. The inscription on the back is the Lestrange family motto. I will fight for what is mine. It’s a promise to you, that I will not let you go now that I have you. There will be no more pushing you away or any mentions of other men. You are mine and I will fight for you.”

 

Harry’s mouth was so dry that he couldn’t even swallow as he played the pendant, on a short, stout masculine chain of gold, around his fingers. It was lovely, beautiful even, and the symbolism of him receiving it as a gift were undeniable. He was not only being welcomed into the Lestrange family and being given permission to wear their crest, but Rabastan was also staking a claim on him, a warning to other Purebloods who might have any designs on him that he was taken, that he was a member of the Lestrange family and he wore their crest. I will fight for what is mine. Harry stared at those words and he ran his thumb over them, he was going to hold Rabastan to those words for the rest of their lives.

 

“Do you not like it?” Rabastan asked him insecurely.

 

“Harry, you give thanks for gifts you have received.” Lucius told him sharply.

 

Harry looked up from the pendant and at Lucius with wide eyes before looking to Rabastan, sat beside him looking nervous again. He tried to swallow to dampen his mouth, but he couldn’t. Instead he reached forward and hugged Rabastan tightly, ducking his head into his thick neck and holding him, trying to tell him without the words that he couldn’t get past his tongue that he loved his gift.

Rabastan’s shaky arms wrapped around his back and squeezed him tight before he pulled back and kissed his forehead.

 

“I love it.” Harry managed to get out at last. “Thank you.”

 

Rabastan took it from him and fought with the clasp to get it open. Harry didn’t offer to help and he waited patiently with a smile as Rabastan finally opened the chain and placed it around his neck before struggling to redo it. Harry waited happily as he rubbed his fingers over his new pendant.

 

“I know you can’t wear it in public, it would be too suspicious.” Rabastan told him after he’d gotten the necklace done up, his voice quiet and strained from embarrassment. “But I wanted you to have it.”

 

Harry cuddled back up to Rabastan and held him tightly, uncaring of the odd jut of bones under his hands as he tilted his head back for a kiss to the mouth. Lucius cleared his throat and Harry grinned as he pulled his mouth away from Rabastan’s.

 

“He doesn’t deserve a crest of our family.” Rhadamanthus declared. Harry had been wondering when he was going to butt in and try to ruin everything. “They are not even engaged! He is not a member of our family.”

 

“Yet.” Harry said loudly and sharply to Rhadamanthus before turning back to Rabastan. “I love it, Rabastan. I’m not going to take it off.”

 

Rabastan grinned at him and they laced their fingers together before turning back to the room at large as Lucius gave out more presents. For Harry, nothing beat the pendant he’d been given, especially not the atrocious gift that Rhadamanthus had given him, being forced to give him a gift merely because social etiquette demanded it.

He’d thanked Rhadamanthus for the female lingerie set and turned the man’s face almost purple by promising to wear it for Rabastan on their wedding night as he took it from the box to show everyone what he’d been given. Xerxes had roared with laughter and Rodolphus had been forced to thump Rabastan on the back after the poor man had almost choked on an inhaled sip of water.

Harry had shared a grin with Draco and winked at his brother before snuggling into a calmed Rabastan and enjoying his Christmas morning with his family. Of course things would have been better and much nicer without Rhadamanthus there sneering and making snide comments, but he knew that he couldn’t have everything his own way.

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- X

 

Christmas lunch had been tense with Rhadamanthus dining with them, but Harry ignored him as best as he could, as much as polite socialism allowed at least. He filled up on goose, pheasant, vegetables and potatoes and then retired back to the family drawing room.

He and Draco started a game of chess and Harry’s good mood steadily evaporated. He’d gotten better at chess since he’d spent time playing against Ron, but he was still no match for Draco.

 

“I win again.” Draco said smugly.

 

“I don’t want to play anymore.” Harry huffed.

 

“Why not?” Draco demanded as he set the board back up. “You’re getting better. Slowly.”

 

Rabastan shifted over to sit next to him and he picked up the first white pawn and moved it. Harry grinned and settled back against his betrothed and watched Draco make his move.

Harry made the next move after looking to Rabastan for direction and he was much happier as he and Rabastan played together against Draco.  

They still lost, much to Draco’s smug satisfaction, but Harry couldn’t bring himself to care about that as he and Rabastan had had so much fun laughing and strategising together.

The pendant around his neck was a warm weight that he couldn’t stop playing with and every couple of minutes he would lift his hand to touch it, to play with it as he rubbed it with his thumb, feeling the contrast between the very precious black sapphire and the equally precious solid gold. He would have loved it all the same if it had been made from aluminium and glass. It was the thought behind the gift that made it so precious, so sentimental to him. It was a symbol of the love that Rabastan couldn’t voice and it was a symbol of their coming engagement, the Lestranges were welcoming him into their family and it was a promise, mihi parta tueri, Rabastan would fight for him. Rabastan was telling him without words that he wanted to marry him and he would have had to ask Xerxes for permission to give him anything with the Lestrange crest on it as the current Head of the House Lestrange. Xerxes was welcoming him into the family too by giving his permission for the pendant to carry the Lestrange crest and Harry loved the feeling of acceptance he was getting from having the pendant around his neck. He raised his hand to touch it again and he couldn’t hold back the grin.

Rabastan saw him and his arm wrapped around his hips and squeezed. He didn’t trust himself to hold around his chest because of his bruised ribs, so he’d started holding around his hips instead. Harry loved the thought behind the action and he sneaked a look around subtly before darting in to peck Rabastan’s lips.

His betrothed laughed so happily that it drew everyone else’s attention as Harry sat right beside him, grinning so happily and holding Rabastan’s hands.

 

“I love you.” Harry whispered to him as he stared at Rabastan’s face and into those dark blue eyes that he loved so very much, but were the reason that Rhadamanthus loathed his own son.

 

“I hope our baby has your eyes.” Rabastan told him and it was Harry’s turn to laugh.

 

“I was just thinking that your eyes were so very beautiful.” He told his betrothed. “I want our children to have your eyes.”

 

“We’ll compromise. Half of them will take your breath taking eyes and half will take mine.” Rabastan said with a grin, as if they had any sort of control over those sorts of things, but Harry still chuckled.

 

“Deal.” He agreed, pausing for a moment before thinking of something. “They’re all going to have brown eyes now.” He laughed. “All of your family have brown eyes and my Dad had brown eyes too.”

 

Rabastan pulled gently on his hair. “You’ve gone and cursed it now.” He told him and Harry laughed yet again.

 

“What are you two giggling so hysterically about?” Draco demanded.

 

“Our future children’s eye colour.” Harry told his adoptive brother. “Rabastan wants all our children to have my eyes, but I want our children to have his blue…we compromised and then realised we’d cursed all our future children to have brown eyes, like Rodolphus.”

 

“And just what is wrong with my eye colour?” Rodolphus demanded.

 

“Nothing.” Harry insisted. “If you like tree bark and mud.” He mumbled under his breath to Rabastan, who laughed in surprise.

 

“What was that?” Rodolphus narrowed his eyes.

 

“Nothing! Nothing!” Harry placated as he shifted closer to Rabastan and buried his face in his betrothed’s chest so he could hide his grin and muffle his laughter.

 

Rabastan petted at his back and head and smiled down at him as Harry laughed into him. Harry enjoyed the attention and the way that Rabastan was looking at him with that smile on his thin, chapped lips. His betrothed needed a drink and Harry pecked at those too dry lips before standing up and going to pick up both of their glasses, topping them up with water and handing Rabastan’s glass to him.

 

“At least you know the baby will have dark hair.” Draco told him.

 

“Not exactly.” Harry said with a smile. “Dark hair is more dominant, but my Mother and grandmother were red heads and my Aunt and Grandfather were actually blonde. My cousin was blond too, despite his Father also having red hair.”

 

“My mother was blonde too.” Rabastan told him with a soft smile.

 

That was when their Christmas went wrong as a glass smashed and Rhadamanthus was on his feet looking furious.

 

“You have no right to talk of her!” He exploded, his face going a horrible shade of red that Harry had become familiar with due to Vernon Dursley. “You killed her! You are the reason that she is dead, you have no right to even think of her!”

 

“She loved him.” Harry said firmly when everyone else remained silent in the ensuing minutes after Rhadamanthus’ violent outburst. “She loved her son and that’s what you don’t like. You didn’t like the new baby and you couldn’t stand that your Wife loved him when you didn’t even want him. Well she did want him and she did love him and there is nothing that you can do to change that! Rabastan didn’t kill her, you did when you broke her heart by hating her beloved son.”

 

“You have no clue what you’re talking about!” Rhadamanthus told him furiously, that dangerous glint back in his pale eyes. “You weren’t even born when my Wife died.”

 

“I don’t need to have been.” Harry said, glaring back just as hard. “I know one thing though. In the end, before she died, it was you that she hated. She hated you for hating the son that she loved and adored. It’s you who have no right to talk or think of her, not Rabastan, because she loved him, not you.”

 

Rhadamanthus let out a ferocious scream and lunged at him, but it was Lucius who shot off a body binding spell that had Rhadamanthus falling flat on his face before he even came close to reaching him.

 

“I would advise you against lunging at one of my sons like some sort of wild beast in a menagerie.” Lucius said mildly, but with a bite of steel to his tone and in those grey eyes.

 

“You are a fool of the biggest kind.” Xerxes spat at his son. “You will go back to Lestrange Manor and you’ll stay there!”

 

Xerxes lifted his son with a spell and they left the room, Harry assumed so that Xerxes could Apparate Rhadamanthus back to Lestrange Manor to give him a real dressing down without anyone watching or hearing his private business.

Harry turned to Rabastan and cupped his face, smiling at him.

 

“Are you okay?” He asked quietly.

 

“You…you stood up to him for me, when I couldn’t even do it myself.” Rabastan said in a strange bemusement.

 

“Of course I did.” Harry replied with a soft smile. “I love you and I’m not going to let that poisonous, petty bastard fill your head with lies. Your Mother loved you, Rabastan, it was him who never has, not your Mother. Love her and remember her fondly, as she did you. Never let Rhadamanthus poison you against her, as he’s trying to do. I know that you know deep in your heart that she loved you, hold on to that.”

 

Rodolphus sat at Rabastan’s back and slipped both of his arms around his brother in a way that would have looked too close, too intimate if it had been anyone other than these two…the two who had survived through so much between them, Harry knew, he understood and he didn’t hold it against either of them.

 

“She did love you.” Rodolphus told his younger brother. “That old fool knows it too, it’s why he reacted as he did. As Harry said, she loved you, you and me, not him.”

 

Harry patted Rabastan’s hand and left him and Rodolphus to have some time to themselves. He went over to Draco and asked if he wanted to play one-on-one Quidditch, which really wasn’t anything more than releasing Draco’s snitch and the both of them chasing it down.

 

“Sure.” Draco agreed easily as he stood up and stretched.

 

“The both of you put a jumper on.” Narcissa told them. “Lucius, go with them.” She ordered her Husband. “I don’t want either of them to get hurt.”

 

Lucius sighed, but he stood up as well as Harry and Draco rushed to get their jumpers and broomsticks from their bedrooms before they made their way to the back reception room, where Narcissa was waiting for them.

 

“I’m going to make up for my losses in chess.” Harry swore to Draco with a grin.

 

He allowed Narcissa to fuss around him, making sure that his jumper collar and hem were covering him fully before she cast a warming charm on him before moving to do the same to Draco.

Lucius joined them wearing a very expensive, calf length winter coat and he had his ever present cane with him in one hand.

Harry darted outside and rushed across the back decking and down the porch steps with Draco. He flat out run over the lawn towards the Quidditch pitch then, they weren’t allowed to run inside the house, but outside of it was another matter entirely.

Lucius joined them, having walked at a more dignified, sedate pace, just as Draco was unlocking his own box of Quidditch balls. He only took out the snitch before closing the lid again.

 

“If I see either one of you cheating, you will be placed in a corner for an hour. I don’t care if it’s Christmas, you’ll still be punished.”

 

Harry hugged Draco and got a slap to the back for his trouble.

 

“There’s not going to be any cheating on my part.” He said with a grin. “I don’t need to cheat to win.”

 

Draco scoffed but let the snitch go after Lucius had tapped it with his wand to activate it, its tiny silver wings beating against his hand.

Harry climbed onto his Firebolt and he and Draco watched Lucius intently as he smiled cruelly at them as he waited, and waited, and waited to send them both into the air.

 

“Father!” Draco whined impatiently as he’d finally had enough of waiting.

 

Lucius chuckled. “Begin.” He commanded and the both of them shot off like corks from a bottle of shaken butterbeer.

 

Harry whooped like a maniac as he weaved around the private Quidditch pitch, it was smaller than a professional pitch, but it was still a decent size, more for use by a five-on-five team (one keeper, one beater, one seeker and two chasers per team) instead of seven-on-seven.

It was very freeing and Harry didn’t focus too much on finding the snitch, he just wanted to practice his dives and moves and Draco was doing the same. It felt amazing to fly during the holidays, he didn’t care that it was bitterly cold, windy and that there was a couple of inches of snow covering everything. He just loved the freeing experience of being able to fly around something that wasn’t actually the Hogwarts grounds for once, though flying around the Weasley’s orchard, catching apples, was alright, but it was nothing like this. This was an actual Quidditch pitch, with actual hoops and real balls. Catching thrown apples was so easy for him, he’d been catching golf balls thrown by Oliver Wood in his first year, apples were bigger and slower and he could see them easier. But this, practicing with an actual, real snitch on a good sized pitch was incredible.

The both of them were red cheeked from the wind and cold after just twenty minutes, but they were both laughing and funnily, neither of them were actually looking for the snitch, they were having a good time just flying around and trying to outdo one another’s stunts.

Harry didn’t notice precisely when Rabastan had come out to watch him, but on his next turn around the south side goal hoops, he noticed that Lucius was no longer standing alone. Rabastan and Xerxes had come out to watch them too and he grinned and he started showing off a bit more. After his most hair raising dive yet, where he pulled up, away from the ground, with less than a fraction of a second to spare, his shins sunk in the few inches of snow that had fallen, Lucius shouted at him, actually shouted at him, and told him that if he didn’t stop doing such ridiculous, reckless stunts then he’d have his broom confiscated from him for the rest of the holidays.

Harry cut back on the stunts then and he went looking for the snitch instead, his grin hurting his frozen cheeks and he ignored his bright red, cold fingers that gripped his broom handle numbly. He was having too much fun and he went up to a hundred and forty feet and looked down. A dive from here would be spectacular, but he knew that Lucius would keep good on his promise and he didn’t want to push him into doling out a punishment.

He caught a glint of gold and he grinned, already moving before he’d fully turned his head to sight the snitch properly and that was what made him a brilliant seeker, he moved on automatic, his body was one with his broom as he went after the snitch with single minded determination. He loved flying, he loved this freedom, he loved everything about it as he chased down the snitch, following it, weaving, swaying, diving and climbing. He reached eighty feet and then the snitch dived and he followed, his body low on the handle of the broom, making himself as streamlined as possible, he only outstretched his hand at the last possible moment to reduce air drag and just three feet from the ground, he caught the snitch, pulled out of the dive and added a half spin to the side to bring himself to a complete stop in the air.

He laughed so happily as he clutched the snitch and he flew a little lower and slid off of his broom, landing on his feet in the snow. He made his way over to the adults, watching as Draco landed too, shaking himself with the chill in the air.

He handed the snitch back to Draco, who locked it into his trunk and Harry went to wrap his arms around Rabastan.

 

“You flew superbly.” Rabastan told him, hugging him tightly and letting go before he could have an ‘episode’ and crush him too tightly. “You could play professionally.”

 

Harry grinned at the praise. “I’ve never wanted to fly professionally.” He said. “I like just flying more than actually playing Quidditch and I don’t think I’d enjoy it as much if I made the hobby I love into an actual career.”

 

“What do you want to do?” Rabastan asked curiously.

 

Harry frowned. “I was talking to Draco about this at school. I was thinking I’d like to be a teacher. Maybe for Care of Magical Creatures or Defence Against the Dark Arts. I’m not too sure. I might change my mind this year, next year or even once I’ve graduated, but at the moment I want to be a teacher.”

 

“That is an admirable career choice.” Lucius told him approvingly as they started off back towards the manor.

 

Harry smiled shyly and ducked his head. He wasn’t used to sharing his thoughts with other people and sharing his career choices and having them praised was something he was very unused to as it had never really happened before. He was very pleased and he hoped that, even if he didn’t go on to be a teacher, that Lucius still approved of whatever career he did choose later in life.

They made it back to the manor and they slipped back into the drawing room, where Narcissa was taking advantage of the peace to read a novel with a dust jacket that was moving, lightning flashing over the tops of trees while a bear suddenly appeared, prowling around the tiny stone cottage in the middle of the supposed forest.

She immediately slid in a bookmark and put the book down, standing to come and check them over, putting a pale hand on both his and Draco’s cheeks. She tutted in disapproval.

 

“You are both too cold. Pimsey!”

 

A house elf immediately appeared in the room and curtseyed low.

 

“What can Pimsey be doing for Mistress?” It squeaked out.

 

“Hot chocolate for the young masters, now.” Narcissa ordered curtly.

 

The house elf was gone in the space of a blink and Harry sat down with Rabastan on the same settee that they’d been sat on that morning. His hand rose again to the pendant around his neck and he played with it. Pimsey was back not two minutes later and she handed a large mug of hot chocolate to Draco and then gave one to him.

 

“Thank you.” He said automatically and the house elf looked like she’d burst into tears while the Malfoy’s and the Lestranges just stared at him as Pimsey left.

 

Harry took a big gulp and sighed happily as it warmed him.

 

“What?” He demanded when he realised that he was being stared at.

 

“You did that thing with the house elves again.” Draco sneered at him.

 

“He’s done that before?” Rodolphus asked in absolute disgust.

 

“He does it all the time at school.” Draco ratted him out.

 

“What does it cost me to thank someone for doing something for me?” Harry demanded. “Nothing!”

 

“It’s a house elf!” Xerxes said aghast.

 

“They’re still living! They still have emotions!”

 

“Granger got to you.”

 

“I am a founding member of S.P.E.W.”

 

“Excuse me?” Lucius demanded. “A founding member of what?!”

 

“S.P.E.W. The Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare. I was the Secretary.”

 

Draco snorted with laughter and almost choked on his hot chocolate.

 

“You make a good secretary.” Draco told him.

 

Harry grinned. “I never actually did anything and there was no way that I was going around wearing a badge that said Secretary for SPEW on it. It was a good idea in theory, but Hermione went about it in completely the wrong way.”

 

“How was it a good idea?” Xerxes demanded. “Those creatures are happy to be servants.”

 

“Exactly, servants, not slaves and they’re treated as slaves by most people. It doesn’t cost me anything to say thank you for a service they’ve given me and it makes them feel better, why is that so difficult?”

 

“You’ve been doing wonderfully well, but it is times like these that remind me that you were raised by foul Muggles.” Xerxes commented and Harry glared at him until Lucius checked him with a hex to the back of the head.

 

Harry took a deep breath and looked away, letting the conversation drop and letting the room be plunged into a stiff, cold silence where the tension just grew and grew the longer the silence stretched on.

Lucius was the one to break it after realising that no one else was going to do so and that neither Harry nor Xerxes were going to apologise. He broke it by telling Pimsey to serve wine and cheeses, he didn’t thank her, but neither was he quite so venomous with his order. Harry acknowledged and accepted that Lucius was trying to keep the peace, so he didn’t kick up a fuss.

Rabastan distracted him anyway, by feeding him bites of cheeses on lightly salted crackers after finding out that not only had Harry never tried any of the cheeses on offer, but that he’d never seen or heard of most of them.

 

“This one is brie.” Rabastan told him, holding out the cracker with the aforementioned brie on it for Harry to take a bite out of.

 

Harry chewed and then pulled a face and Rabastan laughed and held out a napkin so Harry could spit it out.

 

“That’s disgusting.” Draco told him.

 

“No, that cheese is disgusting! It tastes like it’s gone past its use-by date.” Harry corrected him, washing away the taste of the brie stuck in his mouth with water.

 

“This one is Crawford stilton.” Rabastan told him, having far too much fun at his expense in Harry’s opinion.

 

“That one even looks disgusting! I’m not trying it.”

 

“How will you know if you like it or not if you don’t try it?” Rabastan told him.

 

“Taste is only one sense, sight and smell are two and they’re both telling me that I’m not going to like that smelly, mouldy hunk of cheese.”

 

Rabastan burst out laughing and so did everyone else, all at his expense and Harry bristled.

 

“Just try it.” Rabastan encouraged once he’d stopped laughing and regained some control. “Look, it’s good.” Rabastan took a bite out of the cracker then held out the rest for Harry to try and he scowled, but he opened his mouth and allowed Rabastan to feed him the half cracker and bite of cheese.

 

The flavour was overpowering, as his nose had told him it would be, and he dived for the napkin to spit it out, getting more laughter at his expense. He gulped his water and glared at Rabastan.

 

“No more.” He insisted.

 

“You need to try new things.” Rabastan told him, smiling at him so happily that Harry relented almost immediately. He’d do anything to make Rabastan smile like that more often.

 

He grudgingly took a bite out of another cheese presented to him, a little hesitantly as this cheese was filled with holes, but as he chewed, he found that he actually liked this one and he swallowed it and took the other half of the cracker and cheese into his mouth.

 

“I like that one.” He said once he’d finished.

 

“See.” Rabastan said with a soft grin. “If you don’t try them, then you won’t know if you like them or not. That was Emmental.”

 

“How have you never tried any of these before?” Lucius asked him. “I assume that the Muggles have cheeses.”

 

Harry automatically thought back to the Dursleys, who always had a bog-standard cheeseboard on offer at Christmas, he knew as he’d taken it from its supermarket packaging often enough, but he’d never been allowed to so much as nibble them. He was to prepare the food while Dudley was opening his thirty odd presents, then he was to go back to his cupboard and stay there.

 

“Of course they did.” Harry said softly. “They just never let me have any.” He said, not looking at anyone as he took the cracker from Rabastan and bit into it. He neither liked nor disliked the double Gloucester with chives.

 

All at once the room was reminded forcibly that he had been mistreated in his childhood by Muggles and Harry watched as Rabastan bared his teeth and clenched both fists.

Lucius sighed and pushed the platter of cheeses more towards Harry, calling Pimsey back and ordering her to get even more cheeses.

 

“I want you to try all of them. Every single one.” Lucius instructed him and Harry grimaced.

 

“Some of them look gross.”

 

“Try them.” Lucius insisted and Harry relented and took a slice of a cheese with red bits in it from between a garnish of fresh melon and red grapes.

 

He nibbled it without a cracker and he pulled a face and handed it to Rabastan, whose smile was a little forced.

 

“It has fruit in it! Who put’s fruit in cheese?!” Harry demanded.

 

“You uncultured swine.” Draco teased him.

 

Harry huffed and picked up another piece of cheese from the platter that Pimsey had just served, which was more white than the creamy yellow of some of the others. Nibbling on it carefully gave him nothing except that it was mild and very fresh tasting. He put more into his mouth and chewed it consideringly.

 

“Do you like that one?” Rabastan asked him gently and Harry nodded. “That was goats’ cheese.”

 

Harry picked up a little cube next, of what he thought was more goat cheese, but was very crumbly and salty on his tongue. He grimaced as he hadn’t expected it, before actually realising that he did like it a little bit.

 

“That was actually feta.” Rabastan told him with a laugh.

 

“Isn’t that a salad cheese?” Harry asked.

 

“It is a salad cheese.”

 

“Not very traditional.” Harry said with a grin.

 

“I think your Father is just making sure you try every cheese in existence.” Rabastan told him with a small, forced grin.

 

“I don’t like this game.” Harry frowned as he eyed another ordinary seeming piece of cheese. “I like cheddar, can’t we just leave it at that?”

 

“No.” Draco told him simply as he ate his own cheeses, sipping on a glass of red wine. Harry had declined the wine to support Rabastan, who was strictly not allowed any alcohol on his recovery diet.

 

Harry grimaced and tried another piece of cheese. It wasn’t too bad, if a bit rubbery for his tastes.

 

“That was edam.”

 

“Not too bad.” Harry sighed and he tucked himself into Rabastan.

 

He took some melon and a handful of grapes and he tried them, finding them at their perfect ripeness, naturally. He then turned to Rabastan and repaid the favour, feeding him bits of fruit, knowing that Rabastan was allowed to eat a bit of fruit from his written diet sheet that he had studied extensively so that he knew what his betrothed could have at what time.

Harry wiped Rabastan’s chin for him from the juice that dribbled down it from the melon pieces and he did so willingly and lovingly. He didn’t care and now that Rhadamanthus was gone, no one else cared either, in fact Xerxes was watching them with a satisfied smile on his face and Rodolphus looked over every now and then approvingly.

Harry ignored them both and Rabastan’s back was to them so he couldn’t see. Rabastan let him know he’d had enough when he touched Harry’s hands and held onto them. Harry finished off the last bit of melon and the few grapes himself before settling into Rabastan and just enjoying the peace with him. He didn’t know why he’d ever been afraid of spending time with Rabastan, or why he thought it would be awkward. He laughed now at his previous thoughts on the matter, being with Rabastan was just…it just was. It was easy, it made him happy and the thought of a real future, a future he actually wanted, it was the best feeling in the world and he wanted it with all of his heart. He wanted Rabastan and he wanted children with him. It was as simple as that.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

The Christmas period flew past, too quickly for Harry’s liking as he tried to spend even more time with Rabastan. It wasn’t fair that they would be split up again in just a week’s time. He didn’t want to say goodbye to him.

 

“Don’t say goodbye while we still have time left together.” Rabastan told him as he caught Harry glowering at the date on the corner of the newspaper that Lucius was reading.

 

“I can’t help it. I don’t want to go back.” Harry said sullenly as he fingered his Lestrange pendant hanging around his neck. He’d kept his promise, he hadn’t once taken it off, not even when he slept, showered or had a bath.

 

Rabastan smiled and cupped his hands, stilling them. He bent forward and pecked his lips while a suspicious Narcissa watched them closely, anything more than a full, second long kiss on the lips would be repaid with a hex to the back of the head, or whatever particular body part she could aim clearly at.

 

“You have to go back, it’ll only be until Easter, then you will be back again for a week.”

 

“It’s not enough.” Harry sighed. “It’s not nearly long enough.”

 

“It’ll only be for a little while.” Rabastan insisted. “You’ll be out of Hogwarts sooner than you know, then we’ll start our family.”

 

Harry smiled as he heard that, deliriously happy that Rabastan wanted the same future that he did. It made him fall a little deeper in love with the man sat next to him.

 

“I finished off the last of your homework last night, Harry.” Lucius said as he folded up the offending newspaper as he finished with it. “It’s perfectly acceptable and even exemplary in some cases, well done, I’m very proud of you.”

 

Harry grinned and sat up a little straighter, ignoring Rabastan’s small laugh at his actions. He’d never get enough of having praise, especially from one who rarely gave it and barely had a nice word to say to, or about, anyone.

 

“If you keep up that level of concentration throughout your school work, you should be looking at Exceeds Expectations throughout your examinations, except for your Defence examinations of course, I would be highly disappointed if your standards slipped now and you got anything less than Outstanding.”

 

“I find the Defence work too easy.” Harry admitted. “Though we are moving onto non-verbal spells, which are more difficult as I find that my magic works better when I channel my emotions through it in the form of shouting, but I can still pick up the spells easily.”

 

“Seeing Granger’s face when you scored a hundred and forty percent on that test made my day.” Draco smirked.

 

“You scored a hundred and forty?” Xerxes asked, his eyebrows touching his hairline. “I’m very impressed.”

 

“Yeah, I scored perfectly on the theory exam and when it came to the practical, I outdid what was asked of me, the Professor had no choice but to mark me based on the skill I’d shown and I ended up with a hundred and forty percent of the mark.”

 

“What did you have to do?” Rabastan asked interestedly.

 

“We had to disarm and immobilise a charmed dummy.” Draco answered. “Harry had to go one further.”

 

“I disarmed and immobilised it.” Harry told his brother with a grin.

 

“You disarmed and demolished it.” Draco argued. “There was nothing left! Not even a pile of ash or dust!”

 

“What spells did you use?” Rodolphus asked interestedly.

 

“Expelliarmus and Reducto.” Harry said. “They’re my favourites.”

 

“Your Reductor curse was so powerful that nothing was left after your spell hit?” Rodolphus demanded.

 

“It’s not that impressive, it’s not supposed to leave anything behind, is it?”

 

“Yes! It’s supposed to leave behind particles of the object it hits, whether a pile of ash, dust or mist, something. It’s not supposed to just disappear.”

 

“Oh…well I haven’t left behind mist or ash for the last year. I just assumed I was doing it wrong or not putting enough focus behind the spell before.”

 

“He got bonus points for only using two spells.” Draco told the table. “Most of the class had to use nine spells to disarm and immobilise the dummy, it kept breaking free of the weaker spells or deflecting the disarming charm.”

 

“I hope you weren’t one of the ones who took nine spells to combat a simple training dummy.” Lucius drawled.

 

“Of course not! I took three. My freezing charm wasn’t strong enough.”

 

“I can help you with that.” Harry insisted. “It was the last wand movement that let you down, you jerked your wand too hard, it’s a softer flick.”

 

“You really would suit at being a teacher.” Lucius told him.

 

Harry blushed. “I taught twenty-seven people in secret last year while Umbridge was failing at Defence. Every single one of my students got top marks in their exams that year.”

 

“That was the secret club you were running!” Draco burst out. “It was a defence club?”

 

“Yes, you have to agree that Umbridge was an inept teacher, so I took matters into my own hands and I taught others how to defend themselves, no thanks to you and your Inquisitorial Squad.” Harry sneered at him. “I was trying to help them fight, trying to teach them how to defend themselves as Umbridge was a tyrannical fool who taught us nothing because the Minister Fudge is more afraid of losing his office than the education of young witches and wizards.”

 

Rabastan’s hand touched his right hand, where the scars that Umbridge had left lay. Any mention of what that woman had done to him sparked fury within Rabastan and Harry could see that rage in those beautiful blue eyes.

 

“Her trial is coming up soon, isn’t it?” Narcissa asked calmly.

 

“Yes, dear.” Lucius answered. “She will be getting her comeuppance soon.”

 

“Good, I don’t want her to get away with harming my child.”

 

Harry’s gut squirmed pleasantly at that and he felt a warm sensation of acceptance and love wash over him. He’d never get tired of that feeling, never.

 

“She won’t, dear.” Lucius insisted. “With the evidence stacked up against her, she will be going to Azkaban. If our Harry doesn’t have it shut down before then.”

 

Harry bristled with fury at the dig and he struggled to hold his tongue and his temper. He took a deep breath and thought of how to civilly word all of the slurs and the rage fuelled torrent running through his mind that he wanted to spit out all at once to defend himself.

He breathed and calmed himself as much as he could manage and he used his most civil tone of voice to answer, trying to imagine that this was a Wizengamot meeting and not a discussion around a private table.

 

“I do not want Azkaban shut down. I understand the need for a secure prison and a justice system. I am objecting to the presence of the Dementors only.” Harry said calmly, if a bit shakily due to his suppressed anger.

 

“Good. You’re gaining a greater control over yourself and that terrible temper of yours. Well done.”

 

Harry blinked and frowned in confusion and then he blew out a breath as he realised that Lucius hadn’t been picking pieces out of him, but had been testing his control over his anger issues. His shoulders slumped and he blew out another controlled breath before letting his feelings on the matter of being tested in such a way be known to all of them by turning to Rabastan and engaging him in a conversation. 

Unfortunately, the Malfoy New Year party was drawing closer, it was tomorrow evening, and Harry was definitely not looking forward to it, especially as Lucius had told him that he couldn’t exclude an invitation to Rowle, who had unfortunately sent his invitation back replying that he would be attending, but Lucius had assured him that he’d warned the man to stay well away from him during the party.

Harry hoped that Rowle listened to Lucius, because if he didn’t then he would be very happy to curse him…if Rodolphus didn’t cave in his face again. Now that could turn out to be very amusing, maybe the Malfoy New Year’s Ball wouldn’t be quite as bad as he’d been imagining after all. Maybe it could even be fun, after all, he and Rabastan weren’t fighting this time around, so he’d have Rabastan right there next to him all night. He smiled and his hand gripped at Rabastan’s under the table, as they still weren’t allowed to touch while sitting next to one another. He was actually looking forward to this now, though he definitely wasn’t looking forward to Draco poking and pulling on him for half of the afternoon to get him ready. He wasn’t fond of feeling like a human doll.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

Chapter Text

Chapter Ten – The Malfoy Ball

 

Harry nervously tugged at his robes, this time they were a bright, Egyptian blue with gold embroidery along the hem, cuffs and on either side of the gold fastenings that held his robe closed over his smart shirt underneath.

He was once again wearing black underneath his robes, as apparently, according to Draco, black worked really well as his base colour. But his black shirt had gold cuff links, which no one could actually see as his robe covered his hands but according to Draco that wasn’t the point, and his black sapphire and gold Lestrange crested pendant was on show around his neck. His shoes were highly polished and Harry was really nervous. He didn’t like parties, he’d never been invited to any before the Parkinsons winter gala the week before and that had been disastrous. The Quidditch parties didn’t count as they weren’t really formal parties and he didn’t need to be dressed impeccably for them, most of the time he’d still been in his muddy, sweaty Quidditch robes. The Yule Ball didn’t count either, he’d been forced into that because the fake Moody, Bartemius Crouch Jr, had put his name into that damn goblet and as a ‘champion’ he’d had to perform the first dance. He had danced once and then sat down for the rest of the evening. He would never have chosen to go to the ball by himself if he hadn’t been forced into it by being a Hogwarts champion. He hadn’t even bought his own dress robes for that either, he really did have a terrible dress sense.

 

“You look fine.” Draco insisted. “Stop pulling on your outfit or you’ll ruin it.”

 

“I can’t help it, you know I don’t like this sort of situation.”

 

“You need to get used to it, these sorts of social gatherings happen often throughout the year.”

 

“Please tell me that there isn’t one for Easter.” Harry sighed.

 

“No, the next one is at the beginning of the summer, though you will attend more than I will, seeing as you’re a member of the Wizengamot and they hold a party in April and then the Ministry hold a gathering in August and you will certainly be invited to that too as a technical worker for the Ministry as a member of the Wizengamot. The Ministry pay you, even if they didn’t technically employ you, you’re automatically on their payroll and the employment list because of your Lordships.” Draco happily informed him.

 

Harry groaned and rubbed at his eyes. “I don’t have enough sets of dress robes to cover all of these parties.”

 

“Of course you do, your third set now will be used for the Wizengamot party and before August we will have gone shopping for our new school things. Mother and Father will have parties for their birthdays, but we’ll be in school for those and then there are our own birthdays, of course, but those won’t strictly be a dress up affair as it’ll just be a few friends and family, so dress robes won’t be required. Father has worked it all out, stop fretting.”

 

Harry scowled at himself in the mirror. He was in Draco’s bed suite and they were waiting for the ‘children’ to arrive, as they had at the Parkinsons party, only this time they were the hosts.

 

“I can’t wait for this to be over.” He complained as he watched Draco fluff up his baby fine, blond hair.

 

“Midnight.” Draco reminded him yet again. “Some of Father’s friends may stay for a while afterwards, but we won’t be required to stay with them, now hand me that brush, I don’t like the parting of my hair.”

 

Harry rolled his eyes but he dutifully got Draco’s brush and handed it to him, watching curiously as Draco once again brushed all of his hair back, parted his hair yet again and styled it meticulously.

 

“How does the back look? And Merlin help me don’t just grunt ‘fine’ again.”

 

“You look stunning.” Harry told him with another roll of his eyes. “There are no creases in your robes and there isn’t a hair out of place.” Harry answered dutifully.

 

Draco nodded in satisfaction. “Perfect then.”

 

There was a knock on the door and Draco got rid of his brush.

 

“That had better be Blaise.” He muttered to Harry as he went to pull open the door.

 

Narcissa was down in the receiving room and she was greeting everyone as the hostess of the party and she was directing them where to go, the children up to Draco’s bedroom and any early arriving adults into the ballroom where Lucius was with Xerxes, Rodolphus and Rabastan. Xerxes had banned Rhadamanthus from coming as ‘punishment’ for his lack of control on Christmas Day. Harry was incredibly grateful for that. He hadn’t seen Rhadamanthus at all since Christmas Day and things had been infinitely more peaceful and relaxed without him lurking and skulking around.

 

“Thank Merlin it’s you.” Draco said as he opened the door and pulled Blaise into the room.

 

Blaise gave a short whistle and an appreciative look to Harry when he spotted him. “Are you still free?” He asked with a lecherous grin. “Please tell me that you’re free.”

 

Harry scowled and looked down at himself. He didn’t think he looked that good, he’d definitely preferred the red robes to the blue, but other than that, he looked normal. He turned back to the mirror and frowned harder, he was exactly the same as always.

 

“Stop perving on my brother.” Draco snapped. “He’s not free anymore, he worked out his problems with his betrothed like a man. Now come here, I have something to tell you before everyone else arrives.”

 

Harry chuckled at Draco’s protectiveness and he ignored the both of them as they started gossiping like old women in a tea shop about this and that, Harry certainly wasn’t interested as he sat and daydreamed about Rabastan and how good he’d looked in the charcoal grey dress robes he’d chosen to wear for tonight. Harry was almost sure that Rabastan had ordered them especially for tonight because he’d commented on how good Rabastan would look in dark grey and fuck did he look good in dark grey.

The door knocked again and Draco and Blaise were too busy giggling like girls over whatever Draco had needed to tell Blaise to take any notice, so Harry rolled his eyes and went to open the door.

He smiled genuinely at Theo and invited him in.

 

“How have you been?” Harry asked him.

 

“Alright.” Theo answered unconvincingly. “You?”

 

“Fine, but I get the feeling that you aren’t being entirely truthful, Theo. Are you sure everything’s okay?”

 

Harry clicked then, as he remembered that Daphne was supposed to be staying with the Nott’s for Christmas and that Daphne should have arrived with Theo.

 

“Where’s Daphne?”

 

“Who cares?!” Blaise called out from where he and Draco were sat.

 

Harry sighed. “Don’t listen to them, what’s happened?”

 

“I’m not sure how much longer I can keep up the façade that nothing’s wrong.” Theo told him quietly, so that the others couldn’t hear him.

 

Harry nodded. He opened Draco’s door wider and led Theo out and down the corridor, all the way to his own bedroom and he shut the door and offered Theo a seat and then sat next to him.

 

“We’ll have privacy here, now tell me, why do you feel the need to keep up the façade in the first place?”

 

“Because my Father wants me to!” Theo told him, hunching forward and putting his face into his hands.

 

“Theo, this is your life, not his.” Harry said kindly. “If you don’t love her, then you shouldn’t be with her.”

 

“I don’t. I don’t love her, I haven’t for a while now.”

 

Harry was surprised at that, he hadn’t seen past the façade that Theo had put up, if truth be told he hadn’t actually looked all that hard, he’d just accepted it which was even worse as Theo had probably wanted someone to see past the ruse and to reach out to him, but now that carefully constructed façade was cracking, Theo was at his absolute limit.

 

“Break off your contract.” Harry urged him. “You have other options.”

 

Theo snorted. “What other options? One of Lord Selwyn’s hideous daughters? Pansy?”

 

“There are foreign Pureblood witches.” Harry told him. “Think of how much harder it’ll be for them over yourself. They have to leave their home country, their family, perhaps not even knowing any English, to come here to marry you, to live in your home. But think about it Theo, you might actually like someone else, you could actually fall in love, don’t you even want to try for that instead of letting Daphne humiliate you time after time?”

 

“She does humiliate me, doesn’t she?” Theo sighed, as if he’d been trying not to think of it. “She…she actually fucked one of my Father’s business associates in my bed the other day. He was fifty-four years old and she didn’t care, she made sure that it was in my bed, not the one in the guest room that she had been given, but my own bed at a time when she knew that I’d come to find her. I think that was once too many. It was too unforgivable, but my Father is insisting that I let it go, like all the other times, that I still go ahead with the betrothal and the wedding, but I don’t know if I can anymore, Harry.”

 

“Then don’t. You should not accept such behaviour from anyone, it’s so disrespectful, Theo and you know it too. You know you don’t deserve it or you wouldn’t be having such thoughts and doubts. You’re right, Theo, what she’s done is unforgivable, it was unforgivable from the very first instance, but this, she’s pushing you with the full belief that she’ll get away with it, that you’ll just take it because you always have before and she’s doing it purposefully. She knows that your Father want’s the money, the prestige and the title of Heir of the Greengrass line that’ll come with her marrying you for his own house, so she believes that she can always get away with it. Everything that she’s done to you is unforgivable and you shouldn’t have to accept it. Do you really want to look at your children in ten years’ time and have to wonder if they’re actually even yours? Fuck what your Father wants, what the hell do you want?”

 

“Not this.” Theo told him. “Not her.”

 

“Do you have any idea what people say about you, Theo? How weak they think you are because you put up with Daphne and everything that she does to humiliate and shame you? She thinks that she can do no wrong, that she can do anything and get away with it and still have a respectable marriage at the end of it. People think that you’re a push over because you won’t get rid of her, this isn’t your Father’s betrothal, it’s not his marriage or his life, it’s yours!”

 

“I’ve tried to broach the subject with him, but…”

 

“Don’t ‘broach the subject’ with him, bloody tell him!” Harry insisted sternly. “In his quest to get more money and power, he’s going to ruin your entire future, your happiness! How can you just stand passively by and watch him do that to you, Theo?”

 

Theo looked away unhappily and Harry was saddened to see how broken Theo was over all of this. He shook his head and reached forward to hold Theo’s hands comfortingly.

 

“You need to do what makes you happy, Theo. You need to break off this poisonous betrothal and put it behind you. Your Father can’t dictate to you who you love. He put you into this betrothal when you were just a child because of greed, because he wants the Greengrass money, you know that yourself. Everyone knows that. He isn’t thinking of the most important thing in all of this, you. Don’t let him ruin your life for money, Theo. Please, I don’t want to see you hurt.”

 

Theo chuckled mirthlessly and pulled one hand from Harry’s and covered his eyes.

 

“You’ve only known me properly for a couple of months, how can you care more about me than anyone else? Than my own Father?”

 

“Because I’m not a greedy, money grabbing prick?” Harry said and he got a laugh for his efforts. “You’re worth more than this, Theo. You deserve more than a dirty slut who’ll sleep with anyone and everyone, even a fifty-four year old married stranger, and a Father who cares more about money than he does about you and your happiness. Fuck them both and do what you want.”

 

“What if he disowns me?” Theo said quietly, voicing one of his deepest fears Harry realised by the way that he avoided eye contact. “I couldn’t take the shame of being a Pureblood with no house.”

 

“There is no shame on you for his actions, but there is for your own, you gather more shame the longer you allow yourself to be treated like a doormat by your Father and by your future Wife, that is your shame because it is your choice to put up with it. If that bastard you call a Father actually disowns his only child, bereaving his own line of it’s only Heir, then he’s a complete fucking fool. He won’t risk it, Theo.”

 

“But what if he does?” Theo argued angrily.

 

“Then I’ll adopt you as a member of the Black family, or did you forget that I’m the Lord of House Potter and House Black?”

 

Theo looked totally shocked. “You…you’d do that? You’d adopt me as a Black?”

 

“If you needed me to, I will. Of course I don’t expect your Father to disown his only Heir, no matter how foolish he is, but if he actually did, yes, I would adopt you. I already have to worry about producing an Heir for the Potter and Lestrange families, without worrying about the Black line too. Three houses is just too many to juggle. I’d need three sons just to cover all of the houses.”

 

“I…I don’t really know what to say, Harry. Thank you.”

 

“You may not even need it, your Father can’t afford to lose you as his only Heir, you don’t even have any sisters who could bring the Lordship of the Nott family to her Husband, but if you do need it, the offer is there.” Harry insisted with a smile. “Now you do what you want to do and you don’t need to worry about anything or about being disowned, because I’d adopt you straight away into the Black family and I would strike your Father down to nothing, discredit and ruin him in all social and professional circles and I’d make sure that he thoroughly regretted ever disowning you in the first place. For not seeing the son he actually has and instead thinking only of monetary gain.”

 

Theo stood up and pulled Harry to his feet and embraced him so tightly that Harry was worried that his very newly healed bruises on his ribs would come back, but he happily hugged Theo back and just held him as Theo cried silently in gratitude and released tension and emotion into his neck, having to slump down in order to do so.

Of course that would have been when Draco came storming in to demand where he’d gotten to.

 

“What in the name of Merlin are you doing?!” Draco raged. “Are you trying to destroy your own betrothal? With him of all people!”

 

“Calm down, it’s not what you think it is.” Harry said calmly as he blocked Theo from Draco’s view so that he could subtly wipe his eyes and tidy himself up a little. “I’ve just helped Theo in a massive way, that’s all. I love Rabastan with all that I am, you know that better than most, Draco.”

 

“Then you shouldn’t be touching him like that!” Draco insisted.

 

“It’s not what you think.” Harry rolled his eyes.

 

“What would Father think? What would Rabastan think?!” Draco demanded.

 

“You really love making drama, Draco.” Theo said as he squeezed Harry’s shoulders in thanks. “You always have. If you must know, Harry has convinced me to break off my betrothal with Daphne.”

 

Draco frowned then and looked from one to the other as if trying to work out if he was being railroaded or not by a fake story.

 

“You aren’t getting together with one another, are you?”

 

“I’m not gay.” Theo said simply.

 

“Still very much in love with Rabastan and definitely not changing my mind.” Harry said tonelessly. “I want to marry Rabastan and have lots and lots of babies with him.”

 

“That’s disgusting, I’d rather not have to think of that, thank you!” Draco sneered.

 

“Then stop seeing things that aren’t there.” Harry demanded. “I’m helping out a friend, nothing more! It’s none of your business!”

 

“Oh? Is it Rabastan’s business to know you’re cosying up to another man, do you think?”

 

Harry grit his teeth. “I was not cosying up to another man!” Harry hissed.

 

“Why don’t we see what Rabastan thinks.”

 

Harry dived at Draco and yanked him backwards by his robes as he turned to scurry off. They both ended up on the floor, Harry laying on Draco’s back.

 

“If anyone is going to say anything to him, it’ll be me!” Harry shouted. “It’s none of your fucking business, Draco! Stop trying to make trouble when you know that Rabastan and I are only just getting over our last fight.”

 

“Then maybe you shouldn’t be secluding yourself away in your bedroom and being intimate with another man!” Draco shouted.

 

“What?”

 

Harry’s stomach vanished and his heart missed a beat as he looked up to the open door and to the furious dark brown eyes of Rodolphus Lestrange. For a moment he feared that he was going to be cursed, or even killed, and then Rodolphus stormed off and Harry knew, he just knew, that he was going to Rabastan. That he was going to tell Rabastan what he’d overheard before Harry had a chance to explain and everything was going to blow up in his face again. All because he’d been helping and comforting a friend. Why did it always happen to him?

Harry stood up quickly, stumbling a little in his haste, and he kicked Draco in the ribs. Hard.

 

“If I lose my betrothal because of your loud mouth I will never, ever, forgive you.” He said seriously. “Pimsey!”

 

“Yes, young master, what can Pimsey be doing for you?”

 

“Take me to Rabastan Lestrange, now.” Harry ordered her, holding out his hand.

 

Pimsey took it and they were just gone and Harry took a deep breath and opened his eyes, to see a startled Rabastan looking at him.

 

“Thank you, Pimsey.” Harry said as kindly as he could manage in that moment.

 

“Harry, you’re supposed to be upstairs greeting our young guests.” Lucius told him. He was stood beside Rabastan, in a group of several other men who were all looking at him curiously.

 

“I know. Rabastan, I need a word, quickly.”

 

“What has happened?” Rabastan asked, looking him over in obvious concern.

 

“Time is of the essence.” Harry insisted primly.

 

“Okay.” Rabastan agreed easily and went to walk out the double doorway that led further into the manor house, the same way that Rodolphus would be coming in and Harry tried not to panic, knowing that he had only minutes to get Rabastan out of the ballroom and away from the path of an irate Rodolphus.

 

“No, not that way. Let’s go into the garden.”

 

“Harry.” Lucius warned as the group of men he was stood with all got smirks or knowing grins on their faces.

 

“You can give me a chaperone if you wish, Father.” He said respectfully. “I just really need to talk to Rabastan, right now.”

 

“What in the name of Merlin has happened?” Xerxes asked him.

 

“Nothing!” Harry insisted, his gaze darting to the door without his permission. Rodolphus would be storming through it at any moment. “We need to go, now.”

 

Xerxes sighed. “I’ll chaperone you, but whatever you’ve done, this is a poor way to try and hide from it.”

 

“I’m not hiding from it, I’m actually trying to head it off. The ‘it’ being the rage monster that is Rodolphus, now can we please leave this room before he comes in here and breaks my neck, please?”

 

“Rodolphus is angry?” Rabastan said, digging his heels in then and looking to the doorway, looking like he wanted to go and comfort his brother.

 

“What did you do?” Lucius sighed.

 

“I didn’t do anything, Draco and his loud mouth have done all the damage and Rodolphus got the wrong end of the stick and now I am trying to explain to my future husband what is going on before Rodolphus comes storming in here with half-truths and a partially overheard conversation and blows my betrothal to pieces.”

 

“Well in that case, get moving.” Xerxes insisted, pushing the both of them along. “Start walking, Basti, Rodolphus can cope without you coddling him for five minutes while you talk to Harry.”

 

They made it out into the garden and Harry blew out a relieved breath, he’d managed to buy himself a little time at least, now he just needed to get Rabastan to understand that nothing had actually happened with him and Theo. He pulled Rabastan quickly into a half hidden walkway of balled rose trees and fragrant herb bushes and made sure that Xerxes wasn’t within earshot, as Rabastan deserved to hear this first, before he stopped and looked firmly at Rabastan.

 

“What is going on?” His betrothed asked confusedly.

 

“You know Theodore and I are friends?”

 

“The Nott boy, yes. What of it?”

 

“He’s betrothed to that complete tart, Daphne.”

 

Rabastan snorted. “That’s one way to put it. I don’t think there’s a man in that ballroom whose son, grandson or nephew hasn’t had a taste of her. Some of them have slept with her personally and they’re thrice the age of her.”

 

“Well, I’ve been saying for a while that Theo should break off his engagement to her, he doesn’t deserve the shit she puts him through. He’s only still with her because his Father is forcing him into it because he wants the Greengrass fortune and the Greengrass title for his own son or grandson.”

 

“Everyone knows this, what does it have to do with my brother?”

 

Harry sighed. “I finally convinced Theo to break off his engagement tonight, he was visibly upset when he arrived, so I took him to my bedroom so that Blaise and Draco wouldn’t see and humiliate him more than what Daphne already does. It was just for him to calm down. We sat on my settee, talking, about what he actually wants out of his life, out of a marriage and why he thought that he couldn’t have it and I convinced him to break off his contract. He was mostly worried about his Father disowning him.”

 

“He’s an only child, the only Heir, not even Nott would be so stupid as to end his own line with a disownment, especially not merely because his Heir won’t marry the whore he set him up with. No one has an obligation to marry from a mere betrothal contract, they can be broken as easily as glass.”

 

“That’s what I said, but he was still very worried about it, he seemed convinced that he would be disowned if he stood up to his Father and broke off his contract, so I told him that if he was disowned then I’d adopt him into the Black family. He was very grateful and he hugged me, he was actually sobbing on my shoulder, but Draco burst in, got the entirely wrong end of the stick and started shouting and Rodolphus overheard him and he couldn’t wait to come and tell you that I was sequestered away in my bedroom with another man when that wasn’t what happened at all.”

 

Harry fell silent and stared at Rabastan, who was blank faced and unmoving. One large hand clenched into a fist.

 

“That boy touched you?”

 

Harry wrapped both his hands around that fist and kissed it. “No. Well, yes, but not like that, Rabastan, not like how we touch one another. It was just a hug because I’d taken the burden from him, I’d enabled him to do what he wanted to do for once. I’ve given him the means to break off his betrothal and taken the worry away from being disowned.”

 

“The Black title should go to our children!” Rabastan hissed.

 

“Our children will still have the Potter and Lestrange titles.” Harry argued. “Technically, neither one of us is even a Black! I only got that title because of my Godfather, Rabastan. Otherwise it wouldn’t even be open for us to use! Isn’t two Houses enough? I’m struggling to juggle my responsibilities for two houses, Rabastan, sorting out those damn portfolios and all the responsibilities, what if we only have one son? Are you really going to lumber him with three titles? Three Lordships? It’s too much!”

 

“So you’re going to give away all of our titles?!” Rabastan demanded.

 

Harry took a deep breath when the red hot anger spiked inside him. He tried to calm himself and he squeezed the hand that he still held between both of his own.

 

“I offered my friend, who is stuck in a betrothal with a witless whore because his Father is a greedy, money hungry bastard, the option of being adopted into the Black family if his Father disowned him when he breaks his betrothal contract because he deserves better. How is that giving away our titles and lordships?” Harry bit out as calmly as he could through gritted teeth.

 

“You barely know him.”

 

“You know what? I don’t care! I’d do exactly the same thing again, if you can’t accept that then it’s fucking tough!” Harry said angrily, dropping Rabastan’s hand and moving to walk away. Rabastan grabbed him and Harry found himself face to face with an angry Lestrange, those beautiful blue eyes sparking with his fury.

 

“Do you want Nott?”

 

Harry glared back. “Are we going to do this again, Rabastan? Again?”

 

“Do. You. Want. Him?!” Rabastan ground out.

 

“No!” Harry shouted out. “I only want you, you thick headed, overly jealous prat!”

 

“So there’s nothing between you?”

 

“You know what? I can’t deal with you anymore. Are you trying to tell me that I can’t have any friends?!”

 

“No! I just don’t want them touching you.”

 

Harry sighed and rubbed his forehead. “He was hugging me in gratitude, it wasn’t the same!”

 

Rabastan grabbed him and pulled him into a tight hug. Harry fought for a moment, before he all but melted into the embrace and snuggled his face into Rabastan’s neck.

 

“So it wasn’t like this?” Rabastan asked quietly.

 

“Not even close.” Harry replied as he pushed one hand into Rabastan’s hair and massaged his scalp with his fingertips.

 

“You still love me?”

 

Harry laughed. “Rabastan, I’ve only ever loved you. You’re the first and only, just, please, please stop being so jealous over nothing, you’ll set us onto a road to destruction before we’re even married and I can’t have that. It’s not an environment I ever want to bring children into. If I was hugging him like this and confessing everlasting love then I’d understand, but I wasn’t. I’ve just helped him out of a terrible situation and he was grateful. He doesn’t even like me that way, he likes women.”

 

“I didn’t mean what I said. You can have friends and you can do what you want with your own Lordships, as long as you still become a Lestrange, as long as you marry me, I don’t care about anything else. I just want you and I want you to want me.”

 

“I do. Of course I do. I don’t like boys, Rabastan, I like men. I love you. How can you still doubt me?”

 

“I don’t, otherwise I would have been upstairs cursing that Nott boy instead of still down here with you.”

 

Harry sighed and he pulled Rabastan back into a tight hug.

 

“So we’re okay and you don’t mind that I said I’d adopt Theo if his fool of a Father disowns him? I’d still be Lord Black, but Theo would be my Heir.”

 

“No, I don’t mind, but I still don’t think Nott will disown his only son and Heir. As for us, we’re going to be fine.”

 

Harry smiled and he pulled back slightly to kiss him full on the mouth and Rabastan responded immediately. Rabastan’s arms wrapped around him and Harry went up on his tiptoes to wrap his arms around Rabastan’s neck as their kiss grew in intensity.  

The addiction to that mouth, to those lips, to Rabastan’s tongue, came back to him in full force and Harry’s arms clenched tighter as the kiss deepened and one of Rabastan’s hands cupped his cheek and tilted his head and the new angle made everything that much more perfect as Rabastan’s other hand slipped down to grope his bum…and that was when their kiss ended as Harry suddenly found himself yanked down to the ground and he looked up to see Rabastan picking himself out of a rosemary bush.

He laughed, he couldn’t help it as he watched an enraged Rabastan struggling out of the herb plant, picking the needles from his robes and his hair in furious swipes of his large hands.

 

“I thought that you two were getting a little too cosy.” Xerxes told them unapologetically, twirling his wand in his fingers. “I let it go on for a little while, knowing that you needed to reconnect after your little spat, but when it looked like you’d throw off all of your clothes right here in the garden, then I had to step in. Can I assume that from your passionate lip lock that things are once again fine between you both?”

 

Harry looked at Rabastan and smiled.

 

“Everything’s fine.” Rabastan answered, smiling back at Harry and pulling him into a hug. “Harry is a good friend and the Nott boy was a bit, handsy, in his gratitude towards Harry’s kindness. There was nothing to the exchange but friendly interaction. Draco has a loud mouth and Rodolphus overheard a fraction of a conversation and jumped to conclusions.”

 

“Your little spats really must stop. Communication is the key here.” Xerxes told them seriously.

 

“We’re just working everything out.” Harry insisted with a grin. “We’re both passionate men, our tempers run high so we have little fights, but we’re also intelligent, rational men too, we’ll work it all out and find where everything fits.”

 

“Is everything fitting how you wanted it to?” Xerxes asked with narrowed eyes.

 

“Not exactly, but that’s how relationships work, it’s all about compromising to accept another person with their own thoughts and feelings into your own life. Compromise is an important requirement in any relationship, not just marriage. If Rabastan fit exactly into me and my schedule with no compromise or wriggling around or any need for me to compromise my own life around him, then I’d have been highly suspicious and worried. So though it doesn’t fit exactly, we’re working on it and I actually think Rabastan and I fit together really well because we’re accepting of one another’s personalities and faults.”

 

Xerxes grinned at him and Rabastan smiled softly, bending down to give him a peck on the lips.

 

“You really are incredibly mature for your young age.” Xerxes complimented him. “Come on, the both of you, I think we’ve been away from the gathering for far too long already. Lucius will start to question my motives and he’ll prevent me from being a chaperone in future. He’s far too overprotective of you, Harry. He’s like a jealous bear when it comes to his sons.”

 

Harry laughed and looked at himself, he was perfectly clean and unrumpled, though he brushed his robe down regardless. The pathways had all been cleared of snow so that their guests could walk through the garden unobstructed by snow, so there was nothing for him to get wet or dirty on.

Rabastan on the other hand was distinctly rumpled and still covered in rosemary needles. Harry chuckled and brushed him down and straightened out his shirt and robe for him, smiling up at him once he was done. He got another kiss, this one slightly longer than a peck, for his care.

 

“I love you.” Rabastan declared strongly.

 

“I love you more.” Harry insisted with a grin, taking Rabastan’s hand and leading him back into the manor via the ballroom.

 

He’d almost forgotten about Rodolphus in his joy over his love for Rabastan. Or at least he’d forgotten how very angry the man had been, all it took was one look into his fuming face, those enraged eyes, and he knew that he was still in trouble.

 

“He’s going to kill me.” He said with a grimace.

 

“Who?” Rabastan demanded protectively, before he caught sight of his older brother’s face. “Let me deal with him, you go and get a drink.”

 

“We should do this together.” Harry insisted.

 

“Dolphus likes to act first and listen later, go and get a drink and then come back, so I’ve had a chance to start talking to him.”

 

Harry nodded and squeezed Rabastan’s hand before he made his way to the drinks table.

 

“Did you make up?”

 

Harry glared at Draco, who had Astoria on his arm, before ignoring him, picking up a glass of pumpkin juice.

 

“Don’t ignore me.” Draco hissed.

 

“You’d deserve it.” Harry hissed back. “You could have lost me my betrothal!”

 

“I didn’t mean to!” Draco whined. “I wasn’t even going to tell Rabastan, I didn’t know Rodolphus was walking down the corridor at that exact moment!”

 

Harry sighed and tried to see the Lestrange brothers through the backs of the thronging people in the ballroom. They’d moved off into a more secluded corner of the ballroom for privacy.

 

“Rabastan and I are fine. I explained what happened before Rodolphus reached the ballroom and Rabastan understands that Theo and I are just friends. There was nothing in the hug he gave me, just gratitude and relief. It’s completely different to even holding Rabastan’s hand. I’d go one further and say that there was more intimacy in me just sitting next to Rabastan than in the hug that Theo and I shared. There’s no passion, no attraction there. There is only Rabastan for me.”

 

“And Flint.” Draco put in helpfully.

 

Harry smiled. “No.” He shook his head. “I liked Marcus, he was easy to talk to, but again, there was nothing there between us. It was slightly awkward to tell you the truth. There is only Rabastan. I’m drawn to him, there’s just something about him and I can’t resist it. He makes me laugh, he makes me happy and dear Merlin is he a good kisser!”

 

Astoria giggled and Harry winked at her before turning back to his brother.

 

“There’s only Rabastan for me, Draco. I don’t want anyone else. Anyway, enough about me, how are you, Astoria? You look very beautiful tonight.”

 

Astoria was in a flowing dress of the palest pink that Harry could imagine, from a distance it might even be mistaken for white. Her pale blonde hair was tied up in an elegant knot with pale, pearlescent pink clips and she seemed to have made more of an effort for this party than she had with the last. He wondered if it was because her future in-laws were the ones hosting or if it was because Draco had actually paid her some attention during the Parkinsons’ winter gala and she was expecting him to do the same at this party so she’d taken more care. Maybe it was both.

 

“Thank you, I am very well. You look very handsome tonight. That shade of blue really suits you, slightly darker and paired with the black, it compliments you very well. You should try a darker green too, paired with your eyes, it would look stunning.”

 

Harry grimaced. “My last set of robes are dark green. Draco told me to save them for the Wizengamot party in April.”

 

Astoria looked approvingly at her future Husband. “Yes, you always save your best colour and the most expensive cut for the more important parties.”  

 

Draco held out his hand, looking a little shamefaced. “I’m sorry for almost ruining your betrothal.”

 

Harry sighed, gripped Draco’s hand and pulled him into a hug. “You’re forgiven, just don’t do it again! I’m in control of two Beaters on the Quidditch pitch who will happily take your head off if I tell them too.”

 

Draco laughed and Astoria giggled.

 

“I need to get back to Rabastan. He should have calmed Rodolphus down by now.”

 

“Be careful. Rodolphus is the scarier of the two.”

 

Harry grinned. “I’m sure he’s like a guard dog, you just need to find out where to rub him to get him flat out on his back.”

 

Astoria blushed hard and even Draco looked shocked. Harry laughed.

 

“I don’t recommend trying it!” Draco called out after him as Harry picked up two glasses of water and made his way over to where he’d last seen Rodolphus, from there he worked his way to the nearest corner, where a private, hushed conversation could be held.

 

He found them only too easily, they were still big, tall men even if they were slightly skeletal to look at still. Rodolphus was looking furious and unconvinced and Rabastan was looking as equally angry and frustrated.

 

“You!” Rodolphus hissed as soon as he laid eyes on Harry. “You will take Veritaserum and prove without all doubt that you were not being intimate with anyone!”

 

“Rodolphus, no!” Rabastan growled out. “I don’t care what you think, I believe him! That should be enough!”

 

“It’s not!” Rodolphus insisted with a harsh scowl that made his face seem more like his wanted posters from Azkaban. “If he doesn’t have anything to hide, then what’s the problem? Or are you afraid of finding out that perhaps your dearly beloved boy has been messing with others while you’ve been singing his praises and raising him up on a pedestal as the perfectly pure consort?” Rodolphus challenged.

 

“He hasn’t been!” Rabastan insisted firmly and Harry’s heart swelled with love for this man. How could anyone think that he would ever cheat on Rabastan? How could they not see how much he dearly loved him? He had no need for anyone else.

 

“I’ll do it.” He said simply, cutting through their hushed argument in one of the corners of the ballroom, where they’d gone for a bit of privacy, though naturally everyone close to them were leaning in and straining their ears to try and hear them, even though they’d cast a privacy ward.

 

“No! I won’t let you! You’re my betrothed, not his! It’s up to me to demand such testing, not him and I won’t do it. I don’t believe any of these falsehoods and lies, Rodolphus. No!”

 

“Actually, I believe it’s up to me if I want to do it or not and I won’t stand by and watch you two fighting with one another over something that can easily be cleared up with a few drops of potion. I haven’t done anything, I have nothing to hide and therefore nothing to fear. I don’t know why it’s so hard for you to believe that I truly love your brother, Rodolphus, but I do. There has been no one else and I consent to your test.”

 

“I’ll send Lucius to Severus immediately.” Rodolphus said shortly and stormed off.

 

“I don’t want you doing this, Harry.” Rabastan said upset. “I believe you, I know there is nothing going on. I trust you when you say that. What does it matter if Rodolphus doesn’t? You’re marrying me, not him! He can accept it or he can leave us alone.”

 

Harry smiled softly and handed over the second glass of water and he used his free hand to cup Rabastan’s cheek. It was firmer than it had been when he’d first met him, there was more flesh to it so it didn’t feel like the skin was stretched right over the bone. His Rabastan was getting better, he was getting healthier in almost unseen ways. Harry was so proud of him and it was ridiculous, but he couldn’t help it.

 

“I don’t want you and Rodolphus fighting, least of all over me, Rabastan. You need your brother, you two have been through so much together and I never, ever want to come between you both. I’m going to pass his little test and if it at all helps him to accept that I haven’t been messing you around, I’ll do it. He’s so protective of you and at the moment he fully believes that I’m playing with you and your emotions, he thinks that I’m humiliating you and disrespecting you without your knowledge and he isn’t going to accept that I’m not until he’s got irrefutable proof that I’m not. I’m willing to give him the proof that he needs to stop all this fighting, because I don’t like seeing you upset and fighting with Rodolphus always makes you upset.”

 

Rabastan swallowed and hugged him tight, pulling him into his chest. He felt firmer to Harry, less bony and he could stay standing for up to forty minutes now before he needed to sit down. Harry hugged him tighter and pressed his face into Rabastan’s robes.

Lucius looked furious when he came over to get him, Harry thought that it was because he was breaking the betrothal terms by being so close and openly affectionate to Rabastan in public, but as Lucius directed him and Rabastan to a private sitting room, where an equally angry Xerxes was waiting with a stubbornly set Rodolphus, Harry had to think if Lucius wasn’t actually offended at being asked to prove his adopted son’s intentions in such a way.

 

“Let’s get this over with quickly.” Xerxes muttered, sending a filthy look towards Rodolphus. Harry had the insane thought that perhaps Xerxes didn’t quite believe that nothing had happened and it made him even more determined to do this.

 

“Stick out your tongue, Harry.” Lucius told him shortly.

 

Harry did as he was asked and the three Lestrange men watched closely as three precise drops were placed on his tongue.

One moment he was fine, the next his head had gone blank and fuzzy and his body relaxed completely, his arms going straight and loose by his sides as his back and shoulders slumped.

 

“You are Harry James Potter.” Lucius stated.

 

“Yes.” He replied automatically, he hadn’t even thought about the question, he’d just answered immediately.

 

“You are Heir to the Potter and Black houses.”

 

“No. I am the Lord of those houses.” Harry answered again without thinking about anything. It was like his brain was no longer attached to his mouth.

 

“The sorting hat put you into Gryffindor house.”

 

“I chose Gryffindor. The hat wanted me in Slytherin.” Harry couldn’t have held that statement back if he’d tried, he couldn’t even think, he couldn’t react, he just answered.

 

“You are an adoptee of the Malfoy house.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Are you satisfied that the potion is in full effect?” Lucius asked Rodolphus smarmily.

 

“Get on with it.” Rodolphus growled.

 

“Harry, were you in any way intimate with one, Theodore Nott, this evening?” Lucius asked him.

 

“No.” Harry answered simply.

 

“I told you!” Rabastan insisted furiously.

 

Rodolphus bared his teeth. “Have you been intimate with anyone other than my brother, Rabastan Lestrange?!”

 

“That wasn’t one of the predetermined quest…” Rabastan started furiously, but Harry, forced to answer because of the potion controlling him, cut across.

 

“Yes.”

 

“With who?” Lucius asked as Rodolphus looked triumphant and Rabastan looked crushed.

 

“Cho Chang, we kissed in my fifth year. I didn’t like it.”

 

“Before his betrothal, before I’d even adopted him.” Lucius sneered at Rodolphus.

 

“Do you love my brother, Rabastan Lestrange?”

 

“That is enough!” Lucius commanded.

 

“Yes.” Harry answered simply.

 

“Are you completely untouched and pure?” Rodolphus asked quickly as Lucius took out the small bottle of antidote, glaring at Rodolphus.

 

“Yes.” Harry answered just as Lucius cupped his cheek and placed more drops onto his tongue and slowly, ever so slowly, Harry felt the fuzziness slipping away.

 

His mouth felt strange, like someone had rubbed a fluffy sock over his tongue and he was slightly disorientated, almost confused, but he remembered everything clearly. He worked his mouth, testing that it was back in his control as his thoughts came back and he was able to think again.

He blinked and accepted the glass of water that was offered to him, drinking it down to get rid of the strange, cottony feeling in his mouth. As soon as he was done and he had handed the empty glass back to Lucius, Rabastan was there, holding him close and tight.

 

“You owe him an apology for forcing him through this, Rodolphus! You accused him falsely of impurity and you demanded answers from questions that we did not agree to ask!” Rabastan growled to his older brother.

 

“Rabastan is correct. You accused Harry of all sorts and now you must amend your mistake.” Xerxes insisted, looking so much happier, his back was straighter, his shoulders held high. He had thought that Harry had done something, either with Theo or Marcus or even someone else, it didn’t matter. Harry was glad that he’d proven them all wrong. Or right in Lucius and Rabastan’s case.

 

Rodolphus blew out a heavy breath, before standing straighter, looking him dead in the eyes and holding his gaze. “I’m sorry that I wrongly accused you of being with others. I was merely protecting my brother and I will always do so, but in this case, I was wrong and I’m sorry.”

 

Harry nodded. “I know you were doing it for Rabastan, that’s why I agreed to it. But I do love him, I really do. No one else has ever turned my head.”

 

“What about that Cho Chang?” Xerxes asked.

 

“I only went out with her because I thought that it was what I was supposed to do, that that was what people did, asking girls out on dates to Hogsmeade. It was before I realised that maybe I’d prefer men instead. She kissed me and it just…it was just terrible.” He confessed.

 

That broke the tension and set everyone off laughing. Rabastan’s arms clenched around him and he nuzzled into his hair. Harry felt a kiss and he smiled.

 

“I need to go and wash my face a moment, it feels strange and all rubbery, like it’s not mine.” He said with a grimace.

 

“An after effect of the potion.” Xerxes told him and Harry nodded his understanding.

 

“Excuse me a moment.”

 

Harry was smiling happily as he made his way through the manor to the downstairs bathroom. Thankfully it was free because he didn’t really want to wait. He wanted to get back to Rabastan. He ducked his face and cupped his hands into the flow of cold water to splash his face.

He felt a little more normal and he swished his mouth out too, to get rid of the dry feeling he had that seemed stuck to his tongue like an unmovable coating. He’d never tried Veritaserum before, he really didn’t like the effects of it, nor the after effects for that matter.

He hoped that now he had been proven to be ‘pure’ and in love with Rabastan that all the aggression and tension would ease off, he didn’t want to fight with Rodolphus all the damn time. He was his brother-in-law, he wanted to get on with him, for Rabastan’s sake more than anything else, but Rodolphus would be his children’s Uncle one day, everything would be so much easier if he got on with Rabastan’s family and Rabastan with his family.

He sighed and lifted his head and he had no time at all to react as he saw another reflection in the mirror, right before his head was bashed into it. Dazed, confused and now in pain, Harry collapsed to the floor and he couldn’t react in time when a large body dropped onto him, forcing all the air out of his lungs as large hands wrapped around his throat and squeezed painfully tight, cutting off his windpipe so much that he was reduced to fighting for every breath, inhaling in painful, stuttered gasps.

 

“You little shit, how dare you humiliate me in front of all of those people!” The man snarled at him.

 

Harry was shocked to find that it was Rowle sitting on top of him, looking no worse for wear after Rodolphus had rearranged his face for him exactly a week ago.

 

“Get…off!” Harry demanded, trying to draw in enough air to breathe.

 

“I am Thorfinn Rowle! I am a Pureblood of prestige, I will not let some half-blood scum pretending to be a Pureblood reject me!”

 

“You…deluded…fool.” Harry choked out, his own hands curled around Rowle’s fingers, trying to pry them off of his neck to no avail.

 

“Let’s see if that drooling, twitching cripple still wants you when I’ve had you and you’re growing with my child.” Rowle snarled, letting go of his neck suddenly and ripping open the front of his robes, the gold fastenings flying everywhere as the expensive fabric tore. “If he actually does, seeing as the pathetic excuse for a man is desperate, then I’ll just have to dispose of him and take you for myself. It shouldn’t be too difficult with the poor state of heath he’s in and I’d have the biggest claim to you, being the Father of your child. No one else would even look at you, you soiled whore!”

 

Harry used his hands to push at Rowle, trying to get away from him and cursing the fact that he hadn’t thought to lock the bathroom door, he was only going to wash his face, he hadn’t thought he’d need to lock it behind him.

The icy anger flared when a hand popped the button on his smart trousers and forced its way into his boxers to paw at him. He yelled in fury and tried to dig his thumbs into Rowle’s eyes, only to be head butted for his efforts and then punched in the mouth.

He tasted blood and it infuriated him as Rowle tried to pull his trousers and boxers off of him, yanking and tearing at the fabric like a man possessed. He was completely committed to raping him, here on the bathroom floor of his own home.

Harry plunged his hand into his inner robe pocket, clenched his hand around his wand and he drew it out with a sharp slashing movement. He didn’t even think, his icy anger took over and before he knew what had happened Rowle was gone from between his legs and he was screaming blue murder some four feet away from him, next to the bathtub.

Panting hard and coming down from the adrenaline high, Harry scrambled to his feet and looked around, Rowle was holding an obviously broken arm (he could see the bone jutting out through the sleeve of his robe) and Harry sneered at him, his mind clouded over with utter resentment.

 

“Reducto!” He shouted without even thinking about it or the consequences of his loss of control and he watched impassively as his spell, aimed right between Rowle’s legs, hit his left leg instead as Rowle had moved, wriggling around like a worm impaled on a hook.

 

The result was catastrophic and it rained blood in the bathroom as Harry’s spell blew Rowle’s leg clean off, the severed limb all but exploding from the force of the spell and spinning off into a corner, sending blood in every direction. The stump that Rowle was left with was spurting blood at an alarming rate, creating a puddle of it very quickly on the tiled floor that was spreading with every single second.

Rowle’s screams hit a higher, more animalistic pitch, a sound that Harry had never heard before, and Harry took a breath, finally realising exactly what he’d done in his anger as he’d shouted out the first spell that had jumped into his head, he realised then that maybe it would be better if he let Lucius handle this from here.

He walked out of the bathroom quickly and went to look into the private room where he’d taken the Veritaserum test, hoping that Lucius was still there. He wasn’t. The room was empty.

 

“Pimsey!” He called out.

 

“Yes, what can Pimsey be do…?”

 

“Get Lucius here, now. Immediately, with no delay.” He ordered as he licked his lips nervously and Pimsey almost fell over herself to do as he’d asked.

 

He only had to wait a few minutes before Lucius, escorted by the three Lestranges and a huge, fearsome looking man that Harry had never seen before, stormed into the private room with a cowering, but determined, Pimsey.

 

“What happened to you?” Rabastan demanded as he immediately came to hold him, but his hands wavered and sort of hovered over his body as he didn’t know if he was hurt or not or if touching him would make everything worse.

 

“You only went to the bathroom!” Lucius said, completely appalled at his blood covered form.

 

Harry stared at the unknown man, biting his bleeding, bottom lip.

 

“This is Fenrir Greyback, he’s a family friend.” Lucius told him shortly, letting him know that anything he had to say, he could say it. This Greyback was obviously another Death Eater.

 

“Rowle attacked me in the bathroom.” Harry said shortly and to the point.

 

He had the pleasure of seeing the anger flare in Rabastan’s eyes, which was mirrored in Rodolphus’.

 

“I suppose I didn’t teach him enough of a lesson last week.” Rodolphus snarled, his large hands curling into fists, the knuckles cracking menacingly at the move.

 

“Where is he now?” Lucius demanded.

 

“I…well you see, he took me by surprise and when he knocked me to the floor, well, he tried to rape me.”

 

“What?!”

 

Harry closed his eyes at the volume of at least three men shouting.

 

“He said that Rabastan wouldn’t want me if I was defiled and pregnant with his child, so he tried to rape me.”

 

“Then he doesn’t know me very well.” Rabastan growled harshly. “I wouldn’t break our contract because he’d done that to you, I’d have killed him instead.”

 

“He said that if you did still want me afterwards, then he’d dispose of you, leaving himself as my only suitor as the Father of the baby he’d given me.”

 

“I wouldn’t betroth you to a man who’d murdered your love and had raped you. Pregnant or not.” Lucius insisted firmly, his grey eyes glinting like polished steel.

 

“I’m not so easily killed.” Rabastan snarled. “Did he hurt you, Harry?”

 

“He…not really, just a little. I was more scared than hurt, then I got angry. He’s a lot bigger than I am, so I couldn’t stop him physically.”

 

“He actually started to rape you?” Xerxes demanded fiercely, making a violent hand gesture.

 

Rabastan gently tugged on his robes, opening them to show that they had no fastenings left, that they were torn and his trousers were ripped open, misshapen and missing a button.

 

“Did he touch you?” Rabastan asked dangerously.

 

“Yes, he did manage to fondle me, but that’s not what I need help with.”

 

“I’m going to kill him.” Rodolphus declared seriously.

 

“Ah, well…I may have already done so.” He admitted with a grimace.

 

“What do you mean?” Lucius asked, everyone, even the unknown Fenrir Greyback, looked at him interestedly then.

 

“He was threatening to kill Rabastan and he was trying to rape me!” Harry told them angrily. “Do you really think I’d just lie there and bloody let him?! I couldn’t fight him off physically, but I am a wizard still.”

 

“What did you do?” Rodolphus asked curiously.

 

Harry licked his lips. “Well, I did say the reductor curse was one of my favourites…” He grimaced and closed his eyes. “I…I may have blown off his left leg.”

 

Whatever he was expecting, it was not raucous laughter. He blinked open his eyes to see Rodolphus completely beside himself with mirth, almost bent double with his uncontrollable laughter.

 

“Are you hurt?” Lucius asked him calmly. “You were vague when Rabastan asked you.”

 

“Not really, he head butted me and punched my mouth, he also tried to strangle me, but all this blood is actually his from when I blew his leg off. The blood went everywhere, he was bleeding a lot when I left, there was a puddle under the stump where his leg used to be and it was getting bigger and bigger as I watched. I also broke his arm, I could see the bone poking through the sleeve of his robe.”

 

Rodolphus started laughing harder and he stepped forward to pet his head, ruffling his hair.

 

“I will go and clean up the mess in the bathroom, then.” Lucius sighed.

 

“I’ll come with you.” Xerxes insisted.

 

“I’ll get rid of the body.” The man, Fenrir, insisted firmly with a gleam in his eyes that Harry didn’t like. It made the hair on his arms and the back of his neck stand up and his skin prickled with goose bumps.

 

“You will keep your cannibalistic tendencies out of my home.” Lucius told him sternly.

 

Harry’s stomach knotted and his gorge rose at hearing that.

 

“He was alive and screaming when I left the room!” He insisted in a squeak.

 

“He won’t be when I’m done with him.” Greyback grinned, showing off his pointed teeth.

 

Harry’s eyes widened before he could stop them and he instinctively sought out Rabastan for protection. He sidled closer and pressed against his betrothed, gripping that large hand tightly.

 

“Go and finish off Rowle before I beat you too it.” Rodolphus told the frightening man.

 

Harry felt a hand on his shoulder and he knew it was Rodolphus’ because both of Rabastan’ hands were around his chest, holding him tightly.

 

“Ignore him, he likes frightening people.” Rodolphus told him kindly and Harry wondered if he was trying to make amends for forcing him into that Veritaserum test or if he liked him more because he’d blown off Rowle’s leg and broken his arm. “I’m going to go and see what Rowle looks like.” He said with a demented grin and Harry thought then that it was the latter.

 

Rabastan waved his wand over Harry and the blood peeled off of him and another spell had the pain in his mouth and head vanishing as his split lip was healed, along with the unnoticed cut he’d had at his hairline from hitting the mirror.

 

“I can’t do anything for your throat, it needs to come out into a bruise and then have a bruise salve applied and there’s no fixing this robe. Let us go and get you changed.”

 

“I only have one robe left and it’s supposed to be for the Wizengamot party. Can’t I just go and stay up in my room and not come out?”

 

“No, we have to alleviate you of blame by giving you a room full of alibis while Fenrir eats what’s left of Rowle. I’ll buy you a new set of dress robes as a gift.”

 

Harry grimaced as he thought of Fenrir eating Rowle alive. It made him feel queasy and faintly light headed.

 

“Do you think we need a chaperone?” Harry asked as Rabastan peered out of the doorway and then pulled him out and down the corridor to the stairs.

 

“No, dealing with Rowle is more important and I don’t want to jump you after what that scum has just done to you.” Rabastan said gently. “I want to clean you up, get you changed so I can’t see what that filth did to you and then I am not going to let you out of my sight.”

 

Harry smiled and snuggled in tightly to the man who was doing his all to make him feel better after what had happened to him only minutes before.

They reached his bed suite quickly and without incident and Harry went into his bedroom, pulling Rabastan with him.

 

“I’ve never been in your bedroom before.”

 

“And so you shouldn’t have!” Harry teased him.

 

Rabastan laughed and took a seat on his bed as Harry went into his walk-in wardrobe and stripped off his ruined robes, taking out his best green robes.

 

“If anyone asks I’ll say I had a slight accident with a glass of water.” Harry said as he brought the robes out. “I’m not poor enough to have the need to repair mere dress robes! I can just buy new ones, how dare you suggest otherwise.” He sniffed in an imitation of Draco that sent Rabastan into peals of deep, rumbling laughter.

 

Harry chuckled and took the robes off of the hanger, but before he could put them on, Rabastan reached out and pulled him between his legs, his large hands holding the dip of Harry’s waist before he kissed him full on the mouth.

It was Harry who took things further and he climbed onto the bed and straddled Rabastan’s lap, their kiss deepening as Harry opened his mouth to allow Rabastan entry.

They had nothing to distract them, nothing to interrupt them and neither of them had the will to stop as their passionate kiss intensified. It was Rabastan who found the will to stop first, when his hand accidentally brushed against the damaged trousers with their missing button.

He broke apart from Harry, panting heavily and lust clouding his mind. Harry tried to kiss him again, before giving up and nibbling his neck instead. Rabastan groaned in pleasure, before he pulled back and separated them firmly.

 

“If we don’t stop now then it’ll be too late.” He groaned. “I don’t want to hurt you, I love you.”

 

“I love you too, that’s why I don’t care what Rowle did. I can look after myself, I’m not some weak, little boy who will curl up and wait for rescue. I can and I will defend myself and what he did means nothing, absolutely nothing to me. You are not him, not one little bit and the biggest difference of all is that I love you, not him. So this…” Harry indicated the both of them. “Is everything to me, everything I want and dream about. What he did was vile and wrong and he got what he deserved because of it.”

 

“Merlin, you’re amazing.” Rabastan grinned. “Now get dressed and let’s go before we’re caught and the both of us get spanked for our behaviour.”

 

Harry roared with laughter and he nodded, wiping the tears from his eyes. “Okay. Alright, I think we managed to push our luck enough for one day, but tomorrow is a new day and I’ll expect more kisses.”

 

“I wouldn’t dare deny you.” Rabastan swore, watching lustily as Harry covered his tight black shirt and trousers with the stunning dark green dress robes that perfectly matched the eyes that he adored.

 

“Do I have blood on me still?” Harry asked worriedly as he went to his mirror to check his face.  

 

“No.” Rabastan answered, standing up and walking over to Harry to wrap his arms around him. “You’re just insanely beautiful and I can’t tear my eyes away from you.”

 

Harry was mortified to realise that his cheeks had pinked at hearing that and Rabastan smirked at him as he saw the added colour.

 

“I adore you.” Rabastan insisted as he hugged Harry tightly. “Now come, before I make use of that bed and ravish you completely.”

 

“I wouldn’t complain.” Harry said with a grin.

 

“Everyone else would, though.” Rabastan told him as he led them out into Harry’s sitting room and then out into the corridor. “I’d never hear the end of how I’d taken advantage of you after you’d only just been attacked. Your Mother in particular would skin me alive.”

 

Harry laughed at that and he reached out to lace his fingers with Rabastan’s, holding tightly and just relishing being close to this man whom he loved.

They walked right by the bathroom door and Rabastan pulled him along, right past it without stopping and led him straight back into the ballroom.

 

“May I have this dance?” Rabastan asked him and Harry laughed.

 

“I’m a terrible dancer, just so you know. It’ll be entirely likely that you’ll come to regret the decision of asking me to dance. It’s not too late to back out, I will understand completely, I’m a hazard.”

 

“What are a few bruised toes?” Rabastan said with a wide grin. “I want to dance with you.”

 

Harry sighed. “Fine, but don’t complain to me later, after I’ve crushed all of your toes numerous times.”

 

Rabastan gave him a short bow and held out his hand formally and Harry chuckled, placing his hand in Rabastan’s and letting him lead him into a free space on the dance floor. The classical background music was just loud enough for couples to dance to if they so wished, but it wasn’t loud enough to drown out the numerous conversations taking place all around the ballroom. Lucius and Narcissa had argued on and off for three whole days about the perfect, acceptable level that the music should be played at for the evening. Harry had decided then and there that he was never going to be hosting a party of his own. Ever.

Rabastan led the dance, naturally, and Harry followed his lead as best as he could. It turned out to be less of a chore and much more enjoyable than Harry had initially imagined as Rabastan kept him laughing throughout their dances and he chuckled madly every time Harry accidentally trod on one of his feet and he even caught him without fail every time he stumbled with a misstep or tripped over one of Rabastan’s feet.

 

“I told you I was terrible.” He groaned.

 

“I don’t mind.” Rabastan said with a smile. “I find you rather endearing actually.”

 

“Can we please go and get a drink.”

 

Still laughing, Rabastan agreed and they finished their last dance and then left their little space on the dance floor to make their way to the drinks table. Harry happily grabbed two glasses and filled them with iced water from a jug and he handed one of the glasses to Rabastan before taking a deep drink from his own.

 

“Why have you changed robes?”

 

Harry almost spluttered in shock as Draco hissed from right behind him, almost in his ear.

 

“Not here!” Harry hissed back before saying loudly, for the sake of the several witches and wizards who were close by and listening in. “I had an accident with some water earlier.”

 

“You’re lying.” Draco insisted in a whisper.

 

“Shut up! Later, Draco. Later!” Harry ground out quietly through clenched teeth.    

 

“Why do you hide things from me?” Draco demanded.

 

“I’m not hiding things from you, but it’s not for just anyone to overhear either!”

 

“Enough.” Rabastan chastised them both. “After the ball has ended, then will be the time to converse about such matters, until then you will be silent and mention nothing of Harry’s wardrobe change.”

 

“Is it bad?” Draco asked under his breath.

 

“Very.” Harry answered. “Now if anyone asks, I spilt water over myself and I changed robes because I can afford to discard dress robes so casually.”

 

“You will tell me what happened tonight, after the party.”

 

Harry nodded. “I will. Just keep quiet until then. It’s serious.”

 

“Hush now.” Rabastan coached them both. “You never know who has cast an enhancement charm on their own ears and are listening in to conversations that the participants believe are private.”

 

Harry nodded and he touched Draco’s elbow and squeezed, before he let go and turned back to Rabastan. A good look around the ballroom showed that Rodolphus, Xerxes, Lucius and the frightening man, Fenrir Greyback, were still missing.

 

“Harry, dear, where is your Father?”

 

Harry smiled at Narcissa and he embraced her, placing a kiss to her cheek to disguise his whispers.

 

“There was a bit of trouble earlier, they’re in the front bathroom.”

 

“Would this trouble have anything to do with these splendid robes that you weren’t wearing an hour ago?”

 

Harry nodded grimly. “It would.”

 

“Are you hurt?”

 

Harry smiled as his gut clenched pleasantly at the blatant concern shown to him. He was addicted to it already, he would never have enough of it. “I was, but Rabastan healed me up, though I may have bruises around my neck tomorrow.”

 

“Someone tried to throttle you.” She gasped, her clear blue eyes widening as her small hands rose to his shoulders just to either side of his neck and her long, slim fingers reached up to touch his jaw and chin so she could tilt it to get a better look at his throat without touching it or causing him undue pain.

 

“It’s not too bad.” Harry exclaimed.

 

“Nonetheless I will have Pimsey go to Severus to get a bruise salve from him. You will apply it tonight to try and head off the bruising.”

 

“Yes, Mother.” He took joy in saying. He couldn’t even be put out that she was fussing over something as small as a bruise because he adored this sort of motherly attention far too much.

 

She kissed his forehead and Harry couldn’t keep the grin from his face.

 

“I’m going to go and see what’s taking them so long.” Rabastan said, bowing to Narcissa and giving him a short peck to the lips.

 

Harry watched him go with a smile and he sighed.

 

“Can I get you a drink, Mother?” He asked Narcissa politely.

 

“A small white wine, please darling.”

 

Harry grinned and went to find a white wine and some juice for himself. Now that Rabastan had excused himself, he could sneak a glass of juice.

 

“Hello again.”

 

Harry chuckled and he turned to face Marcus Flint, who looked exceedingly good in a dark, almost black, set of blue dress robes.

 

“Hi, Marcus. How are you?” He asked.

 

“I’ve been trying to find someone to be my betrothed.” He sighed. “It’s been difficult and has become more of a chore.”

 

Harry looked at Marcus consideringly.

 

“Perhaps you shouldn’t have killed a guy and terrified your previous fiancée witless.” He suggested and he got a dark grin back.

 

“Perhaps she shouldn’t have spread her legs for one of my business associates in my own home while I was at work earning gold for her to spend.” Marcus answered. “Anyway, I have no lack of proposals, I would assume that some are afraid of coming near me, the rest see that I have my own manor and a very, very large salary and it’s I who don’t like them.”

 

“You’re hopeless.” Harry sighed with a laugh.

 

“There has been one who I like, she just isn’t very feminine. Her Mother died when she was really young and her Father didn’t know what to do with a daughter and he adored her so much that he never denied her anything, not even when she refused to wear a dress for parties or learn womanly etiquette. She plays Quidditch, doesn’t really like gowns and jewellery and she looked disgusted when I gave her flowers at our first meeting.”

 

“What the hell does that have to do with anything?” Harry demanded. “If you like her, what the hell does it matter what anyone else thinks? Stop letting others dictate what you do, Marcus. If she doesn’t like flowers or jewellery, don’t bloody buy her any and find out what she does like and buy her those instead.”

 

Marcus grinned at him and touched his shoulder. “Perhaps I should.”

 

“You definitely should!”

 

“You are going to be a wonderful friend.”

 

“We’re friends now?” Harry asked curiously.

 

“I’m not letting you go now.” Marcus insisted with a wide grin. “Especially not if I’m going to tutor you in Runes. You do still want tutoring, don’t you?”

 

“Absolutely!” Harry said excitedly, almost biting Marcus’ hand off with the repeated offer of tutoring.

 

“We’ll work around your school schedule. I can get special permission to come and see you at weekends at the castle. It’ll be nostalgic to go back, I’ll enjoy it.”

 

“Won’t that interfere with your work?” Harry asked worriedly.

 

Marcus chuckled. “No. You don’t seem to understand what I do, Harry. I’m a specialist consultant, I tell my employers when I’m working, not the other way around.”

 

Harry laughed. “Oh, that would be brilliant.”

 

“It is, so if you work hard, you can get to the point where you can do the same. So we’ll start when you’re back in Hogwarts and if you can spare an hour or two every Saturday, I’ll have you understanding and even enjoying Runes by Easter.”

 

Harry grinned and he reacted on impulse when he reached out and hugged Marcus around the waist.

 

“Thank you! I can’t wait! I’ll send you a letter with Hedwig to finalise everything! I need to go and tell Rabastan.”

 

“Are you two back on track now after the Christmas Eve party?”

 

Harry nodded and he had a gooey smile on his lips as he thought of Rabastan. “Yeah, actually it was the kiss you gave me that spurred him into action.”

 

“As I had planned.” Marcus told him with a smirk. “I heard that Rowle attacked you just after? I wish I’d stayed with you for a minute longer, I’d have broken more than his nose.”

 

Harry laughed nervously while thinking that he had broken more than Rowle’s nose all by himself.

 

“I was actually expecting that scum to be here tonight.” Marcus carried on, peering around the ballroom consideringly.

 

“He was here earlier. I had an…altercation with him, so Father sent him away.”

 

Marcus snorted. “I knew that bastard couldn’t control himself. What sort of decent Pureblood can’t even control himself?”   

 

It happened suddenly, as a distinct big cat Patronus darted into the ballroom and an unfamiliar voice gave them a two word warning. “Ministry raid.” The voice was shouting, echoing throughout the entire manor house so that there was no possible hope of anyone not hearing it and Harry had no doubts that everyone from the ground floor to the attic had heard the warning. It still took him a few moments to process what he’d heard before the panic set in.

 

“Rabastan!” He cried out in complete fear and panic, but Marcus caught him around the waist and held him.

 

“Calm. Calm!” Marcus coached him. “This happens at least once a year. They probably picked this party because of your recent adoption to the Malfoys, we know how to handle these and Rabastan and Rodolphus will already be gone, I promise you. If you look suspicious and panicked, that is what will make it worse, so just calm down.”

 

Harry breathed and looked around as a few people were popped away by house elves, but everyone else acted as though they hadn’t even been warned as they laughed and joked and sipped on their glasses. It helped him to calm down and he held on tightly to Marcus.

Marcus grabbed at him, groping at his chest and he lifted his Lestrange pendant and Harry’s eyes widened. That would be a dead giveaway if a Ministry worker saw it, but Marcus drew just two runes on the back of it with his wand and the pendant shimmered and vanished. Harry groped for it himself and he could still feel it, but he couldn’t see it.

 

“I’ll wipe the runes away after these idiots leave, until then, would you like to dance?”

 

“As I warned Rabastan, I’m a hideous dancer and I will stomp on your feet.”

 

“That’s okay, I’ll likely do the same to you.” Marcus told him with a deep laugh.

 

Harry laughed too and accepted the hand onto the dancefloor. He didn’t need to act shocked when, with a racket that could have woken the dead, tens of people in bright red robes flooded into the Malfoy ballroom. There were shrieks from women and shouts from men and Marcus held Harry as if protecting him as three Aurors converged on them and prodded them with wands, looking for enchantments or potions that would disguise their true faces.

 

“I found the Potter boy!” One shouted out over the din the commotion had created in the ballroom as the noise level dropped dramatically when the music was shut off.

 

Harry bristled. “Excuse me! I am Lord Potter-Black and you will address me as such!” He exclaimed in his best Wizengamot voice. “How dare you storm in here while we are hosting a New Year’s ball! What right do you have?”

 

“We have every right to investigate such a large gathering of dark affiliated witches and wizards!”

 

“On what grounds are you here?” Harry demanded. “I am on the Wizengamot, I know that you can’t just set up this…this invasion without a legitimate, legal reason!”

 

“We are here on the suspicion that you are harbouring escapees of Azkaban here.”

 

“Oh yes, I’ve escaped from Azkaban, I fancy an hors d’oeuvre at a public social party.” Harry sneered. “Well have a good look around, don’t forget to look under the serving tables, your escapees might be hiding under the tablecloths.”

 

Harry glared down the Aurors in front of him, ignoring that the ballroom had gone silent and that nearly all of the occupants were listening to him.

 

“We’re just doing our jobs!” A red faced man, who could have only been in his early twenties, insisted.

 

“Not particularly well, apparently.” Harry answered as quick as a snap. “Just because you lazy, imbecilic fools can’t find a trace of several degenerates, you actually come and raid a New Year’s party just to make it seem like you’re actually doing something. This is unacceptable! Just what does the Auror department think it is doing?!” He demanded furiously. “You are supposed to be the top law enforcers of our world, you are supposed to be the elite at tracking and hunting down these dangerous, convicted criminals and yet, here you are, terrorising innocent members of the public by raiding a mere party! What could possibly have crossed your minds to make you believe that this was ever a good idea? You do not look good, you do not look in control of the situation and you do not look like you’re doing something to hunt down these criminals, you look stupid! You all look lost and clueless, like you have no leads and are merely grasping at whatever straws first come to hand!”

 

Harry ignored the deathly silence of the room and what felt like Marcus suppressing furious laughter at his back.

 

“Is this who the members of magical society have to protect them?” Harry demanded when everything remained silent. “Idiots who crash a party searching for Azkaban escapees instead of actually tracing their whereabouts and hunting them down? You should be ashamed of yourselves! You who dare to call yourselves Aurors. You’re all pathetic. Who is in charge here? Which one of you actually came up with this ludicrous idea?”

 

“Harry, calm yourself.” A hand on his shoulder and Harry relaxed, easing down from the edge of his anger as Lucius took over. “I’m sure that the Aurors have legitimate information and intelligence to go on and aren’t just harassing us for the sake of it.” Lucius said silkily in such a way as to imply that that was exactly what they were doing. “It wouldn’t do to hamper their search of our home, I would like it known that were are fully compliant with such Ministry intrusions. You need to remember, Harry, that the Ministry have allowed several very dangerous criminals to escape into our community, criminals who need to be caught and placed back into Azkaban and if the Aurors believe that we are hiding these criminals under the floorboards, then they have every right to search our home to check for them, no matter how preposterous it seems.” 

 

Lucius waited for a few heartbeats and then rose a sculpted blond eyebrow. “Well then, get to it and search, we are in the middle of a party and we would like to get back to it before the night is over.” He said sternly. “We have to make up for this deeply embarrassing faux pas that you’ve inflicted upon myself and my family.”

 

The Aurors looked too embarrassed themselves to do anything, but the one in charge of the raid called out to them all and rallied them and they started searching, using spells and charms to search out any unsavoury objects or people. They searched everywhere and then searched again, but they found nothing and that only compounded their embarrassment and the pointlessness of their raid.

 

“If that was all.” Lucius drawled scathingly. “Perhaps now that you are absolutely sure that there are none of the Ministry’s wanted criminals hiding behind the tapestries you could leave us in peace and I might be able to salvage the party that you decided to assail purely for the sake of seeming proactive in the search for your elusive criminals.”

 

“We’re sorry for the intrusion.” The head of the raid was forced to say. He avoided Lucius’ gaze and shuffled out, after his team of Aurors.

 

“I apologise deeply for this humiliating interruption to the festivities.” Lucius called out loudly, while the Aurors could still hear him, just to rub the salt in of course. “I and my family would be appreciative if you all forgot that this Ministry blunder has happened and you carried on enjoying yourselves as you were before they arrived.”

 

Chatter broke out and the music, which had been silenced by an Auror upon arrival, was set to play again.

 

“You did really well.” Lucius told him proudly. “I’m proud of how you held your nerve and didn’t panic.”

 

“I did panic.” Harry admitted. “Marcus was the one who stopped me from ruining everything. I was so worried about Basti!”

 

“They’re gone now, you don’t need to censor yourself.” Lucius assured him. “Thank you, Marcus for calming him down.”

 

Marcus bowed to Lucius. “Not at all, Lord Malfoy.”

 

Marcus took hold of Harry’s pendant and he waved his wand in an incredibly complicated manner and suddenly Marcus was holding the Lestrange crest again. Marcus dropped it and Harry picked it up to play with it.

 

“I need to see Rabastan.” He said quietly.

 

“Not yet. The Aurors will be waiting for anyone to Apparate or floo out of the house and they’ll lock onto them and follow them. You’ll lead them right to Rabastan and Rodolphus.”

 

Harry swallowed and nodded, fingering his pendant harder. “I just need to know that he’s okay.”

 

“He’s fine.” Xerxes strode over to inform him, pulling him into a tight hug. “He and Rodolphus were gone as soon as we heard the warning from a Ministry insider we use to warn us of these numerous Ministry raids. They’re safe, they’ll be fine. Now stop fretting.”

 

“I can’t help it. My heart is only just calming down.”

 

“You handled those Aurors spectacularly.” Xerxes grinned at him. “You really are coming into your own.”

 

“You never did get me that wine.”

 

Harry turned and pulled a face as he realised that he’d forgotten about Narcissa’s wine when he’d bumped into Marcus.

 

“Sorry.” He replied a little shamefacedly. “I got to talking with Marcus about him tutoring me, I couldn’t pass that up, it’s too good an opportunity.”

 

“I thank you for offering to tutor Harry.” Lucius again said to Marcus.

 

“It’s a pleasure. Sharing my love of Runes with anyone is a pleasure, especially if that person can stand to remain in the same room as me while I tutor them.”

 

“I’m sure I can handle you.” Harry sniffed. “I was handling you on the Quidditch pitch when I was eleven.”

 

Xerxes snorted and Narcissa laughed lightly. Marcus growled playfully at him.

 

“I was going to try to be lenient with you at first, now you’d better watch out.”

 

Harry laughed and nodded. “I understand and I will always try my best. I want to learn.”  

 

“Good boy.” Lucius praised him. “You make sure that you learn all that you can from Marcus.”

 

“I will! Now can I please go and see Rabastan? I wanted to see in the New Year with him.”

 

“You’re so sweet.” Narcissa told him with a smile.

 

“I’ll take you to the boys, if we Apparate around then those dullard Aurors won’t catch us.”

 

“I don’t want to put either of them at risk, but I do want to see him.”

 

Xerxes shared a look with Lucius and then laughed. “Come on, say goodbye to your parents and I’ll take you to Lestrange Manor.”

 

“Bye.” Harry said quickly. “Bye, Marcus, I’ll send you an owl soon.” He promised before he looked expectantly at Xerxes, who shook his head and laughed again.

 

Harry was pulled into a hug and he felt the awful, squeezing sensation of Apparation. Several more Apparation journeys and he felt queasy, but Xerxes stopped and he took the time to steady him, letting him have a moment to reorientate himself.

 

“Here we are, welcome to Lestrange manor. Remember that that idiot of a son of mine is here too.”

 

“He had better not have started in on Rabastan!” Harry growled protectively.

 

“Rodolphus wouldn’t have let him.” Xerxes told him surely.

 

Harry looked curiously at everything, this being his first time in Lestrange manor, and apart from the darker woods used it was pretty much a normal house, though he did notice that sometimes the walls didn’t meet up flush with one another and sometimes there were dips or odd crevices which piqued his interest and curiosity immensely.

There were slumbering portraits on the walls and Harry automatically quietened his steps, his head filled with vivid memories of Walburga Black, Sirius’ Mother, screaming the house down if anyone so much as sneezed in that main hallway that housed her horrid portrait.

Harry was led into a family sitting room and there was Rabastan and Rodolphus, perfectly safe and well, sat on a settee talking to one another. Harry all but leapt onto Rabastan.

 

“I’m so glad that you’re okay!” He said, hugging the life out of his poor betrothed.

 

He blinked as he found himself twirled around and he looked up to see Rabastan’s face. He’d been pulled around to sit in Rabastan’s lap again. They kissed, long and passionate until Xerxes pointedly cleared his throat and they were forced to break apart, though they were both grinning like loons.

 

“Raids like that are pathetic.” Rodolphus insisted as he petted Harry’s hair, as his head was very close to Rodolphus.  

 

“You should have heard this brilliant boy tear those Aurors a new one!” Xerxes laughed. “You’ll be sorry you missed it! You really are coming on so well, Harry.”

 

“After what he did to Rowle, what were you expecting?” Rodolphus demanded. There was a hint of pride in his voice that made Harry feel even more nauseated than the Apparating around had made him.

 

“I killed him then.”

 

“He would have died eventually. He was bleeding out rapidly and none of us cared enough to prevent it.” Rodolphus said unconcernedly. “He begged for us to help him. How beneath his status as a Lord.”

 

“What will happen to his Lordship now?” Harry asked curiously, trying to think of something other than Rowle’s death or the manner in which he’d died.

 

“That’s the best part. It’s going to go to his least liked Aunt’s son. His Father’s sister’s son whom he has never liked and never acknowledged. She’s married into the Bellini family of Italy. Her children are all Bellinis and now one of them, the younger boy, Giovanni, is going to become the new Lord Rowle. It’s hysterical.”

 

“I don’t think salt in the wound is a harsh enough description of how Rowle felt, dying knowing his Lordship was going to the branch of the family he hated.” Xerxes said.

 

“I think the biggest dose of salt came knowing that Greyback started eating him alive and while he was conscious.” Rodolphus grinned.

 

“What?!” Harry demanded, his face paling dramatically.

 

“It was nothing less than he deserved for attacking and trying to defile you.” Rabastan said quietly.

 

“He wanted to kill you off too.” Rodolphus added to his brother with a growl. “If Harry hadn’t done such a good job, I’d have taken great pleasure in hurting him before handing him over to Greyback to finish off. After all, Greyback is only happy when his peculiar cravings are sated.”

 

“Peculiar cravings?!” Harry demanded weakly. “He ate him alive!”

 

“He would have bled out before Fenrir got to the good parts.”

 

Harry heaved and at once Rabastan had him sat up and pressed against him tightly, petting his back and hair.

 

“Enough, Dolphus. He doesn’t need to hear any of this.” He said sternly.

 

“If you insist.”

 

“I do.” Rabastan said forcefully.

 

Harry kept his face buried in Rabastan’s neck, trying to keep his mind clear so he didn’t picture Rowle with a broken arm and a severed leg trying fruitlessly to get himself away from that fearsome man Greyback, who was intent on eating him alive.

He squeezed his eyes closed and buried in deeper, snuggling in as far as he could, trying to blot out the images in his mind with Rabastan. The smell and the feel of him, those arms around him, the knowledge that he was here with him.

 

“Are you okay?” Rabastan asked him, petting his back and pulling gently on his hair. He was getting much better at being able to control that too.

 

Harry nodded. “I don’t want to think about it. Rowle was a bastard, he attacked me, tried to rape me and he threatened to kill you if you still accepted me after he’d finished and kept my baby as your own, but…but the thought of him being eaten alive by that…that, whatever the hell Greyback was!”

 

“He’s a werewolf.”

 

Harry snorted. “That doesn’t give him the excuse to act like that! What is wrong with the man?!”

 

“He plays up his werewolf attributes to terrify others. As a result he works incredibly well as a scare tactic and a deterrent. He’s invaluable to us.” Xerxes explained. “One mention of his name in a conversation would have people rushing to do as you want them to do or stop them from doing something that you don’t want them to do.”

 

Harry turned and considered that for a moment. He could definitely see how just the mere mention of his name would strike fear into people, especially if they knew what he was like and what he was capable of, but enough to have them do what you want? He filed that little piece of information away for a later date, Lucius had said that he was a family friend and Greyback knew the Lestranges too, his future family.

 

“Are you sure you’re alright? You still look pale.” Rabastan said concernedly.

 

Harry nodded. “I’m okay. I just wanted to be with you to see in the New Year.”

 

Rodolphus groaned and flicked the back of his head, making Rabastan growl at his brother.

 

“What? That’s so sickening I want to vomit. Why don’t you just get married now and save the rest of us the revolting shows of affection. Once you can fuck one another freely you can keep your disturbing sentiments confined to your bed chambers.”

 

“That’s never going to happen.” Harry said firmly. “I am always going to want to touch and kiss Rabastan, in our bedroom and out of it. Get used to it, Rodolphus or just don’t fucking look!”

 

“You watch your language, your Father would have my hide if he heard you.” Xerxes chastised.

 

Harry huffed and accepted the chastisement and moved on, turning back to Rabastan and shifting off of his lap before his weight could become too much for his legs and he cuddled into his side instead.

The conversation was light and they stayed well away from the topic of Rowle and Greyback, for which Harry was thankful for as he sunk into the settee and waited for midnight. He almost obsessively watched the clock as it started to get closer to the New Year, though he answered questions that were asked of him and he contributed to the conversation without being prompted as well.

At five to midnight he turned to Rabastan and held his hands, waiting. Rabastan chuckled and mirrored him, before bending forward to peck at his lips. Rodolphus scoffed loudly and pointedly looked away when Harry turned to glare at him.

 

“Something to say?” Harry asked coldly.

 

“No.” Rodolphus grunted.

 

“Good, keep it that way. I’m excited to be sharing my first New Year together with Rabastan, the man that I love, what’s wrong with that?”

 

“Nothing.” Rabastan told him. “Ignore him.”

 

Harry turned back to Rabastan and when Xerxes announced that it was exactly midnight Harry kissed Rabastan.

 

“Happy New Year, boys.” Xerxes said happily.

 

“Happy New Year, Grandfather.” Rodolphus answered.

 

Rabastan broke away from him to say the same, before turning back to him.

 

“Happy New Year, love.”

 

Harry grinned. “Happy New Year.”

 

“The start of a new year, the start of a new journey.” Xerxes said. “This year we welcome Harry into the Lestrange home and our family. May you boys be happy and have a fulfilling life together.”

 

“Thank you.” Harry said with a grin. “I can’t wait to graduate now, I have another year to go, but hopefully it goes quickly now, so that I can start my life properly with Rabastan.”

 

“I can’t wait either.” Rabastan whispered in his ear and Harry chuckled. “For the most part, I can’t wait until I can see you every day, talk to you every day and hold you in my arms every night.”

 

Harry blushed at that last and buried himself in Rabastan’s chest with a groan. “You had to add that last one.” He moaned.

 

“I can’t wait.” Rabastan breathed into his ear. “I’d hold you close to me through the night, place my face into the back of your head and sleep with your scent wrapped around me, as thoroughly as my body will be wrapped around yours.”

 

Harry went a bright red and his breathing picked up slightly with arousal.

 

“Please.” He whispered. “I want that too.”

 

Rabastan smirked at him and wrapped his arms around him, holding him tightly. Harry ignored when the one arm jerked and tensed against him, he was too happy to care as he used both hands to cup Rabastan’s chin and kissed him lingeringly.

 

“I have asked your Father for his permission to take you out tomorrow evening, well, later today actually and he has agreed. Now it’s up to you, do you want to come and have a meal with me?”

 

“How can we?” Harry asked. “Won’t you be spotted?”

 

Rabastan grinned. “I’ve set it all up, you don’t need to worry about such things, I promise.”

 

Harry bit his lip nervously, before he nodded. “Okay, but only if it doesn’t put you at risk.”

 

“I like you more and more.” Rodolphus said from behind him. “I wouldn’t let Rabastan risk his freedom for you, don’t fear.”

 

Harry actually smiled at that. “Thank you. I wouldn’t want him to risk himself for me, so I’m glad he has you to curb him and look after him when he refuses to do so himself.”

 

Harry felt a hand in his hair, yet again, as Rodolphus petted him with what he was rapidly coming to realise was Rodolphus’ way of showing him affection. His smile widened.

 

“Lucius expects you back at your home.” Xerxes told him. “He will most definitely not allow you to stay here tonight. He’s too suspicious and too protective of you, especially after you were attacked this evening.”

 

Harry sighed and he cuddled into Rabastan and kissed him.

 

“Thank you for coming to see the New Year in with me. I’m sorry the Ministry ruined our first New Year together.”

 

“They didn’t.” Harry said with a smile.

 

“Alright, wrap it up before I have to forcibly separate you both.”

 

Harry sighed. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”

 

“Definitely. I want to take you out for our New Year’s meal.”

 

Harry grinned. “Okay, I can wait until tomorrow, but be careful.”

 

Harry kissed Rabastan one last time and then allowed Xerxes to grab him and Apparate him around a bit, not as often as the journey to the Lestrange manor, before they stopped just inside the Malfoy manor. Xerxes steered him right into the family parlour and there was Lucius, sat up waiting for him like an overprotective Father waiting to see if his child came home safe.

 

“No problems I hope.” He said, standing up as soon as he saw them and he came to place a hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently, and Lucius looked him over. It gave Harry that warm, pleasant feeling that he was addicted to. The one that made him feel loved, cared for, that made him feel like he was actually part of a family.

 

“None at all. Rhadamanthus never even knew that he was there. We stayed in the front room the entire time, though as you knew, Basti invited Harry to dine with him tomorrow evening and Harry has accepted.”

 

“I expect the rules to be followed to the letter.” Lucius insisted sternly. “Harry, you will go with Rabastan, dine with him, and then you will come home. You will not be alone with him for any other reason, do you understand me?”

 

“Yes, Father.” Harry replied promptly. “I understand fully and I will not disobey you.”

 

“Good boy, now go and get changed for bed. I believe Draco is waiting in your room to ambush you, do not stay up too late or you’ll be overly tired for your dinner tomorrow evening.”

 

Harry nodded firmly. “I won’t. Goodnight.”

 

“Goodnight, Harry.” Xerxes told him, touching his back for a moment as Harry passed him on his way out of the door.

 

It was already gone midnight and Harry was tired from the events of that day, but he had promised to tell Draco everything that had happened and exactly why he’d changed his dress robes an hour into the party. It was too much to ask for that Draco would have accepted his general answer of spilling water on himself. He sighed, he didn’t much relish the thought of being grilled for details by Draco, but he supposed he could share such a thing with his brother, adopted or not.

He found Draco sat unhappily in his sitting room, waiting impatiently, and grumpily, for him to return.

 

“There you are!” He said as soon as Harry walked through the door. “Tell me why you changed your robes.”

 

Harry sighed and he rubbed his head. “Give me a minute to change into something more comfortable.”

 

“I’ve been waiting all night!”

 

“It was a very distressing moment for me, Draco, let me get comfortable first.” Harry insisted as he walked right through his sitting room and into his bedroom. He shucked his dress robes and trousers right away before putting his wand and his gold cufflinks on his bedside table before stripping off his shirt. He found his most comfortable and warm, favourite pair of fleece pyjamas and he all but sunk into them.

 

He took a breath and went back into his sitting room and sat next to Draco.

 

“Well then?” Draco pressed when he remained silent.

 

“I really started when Rodolphus demanded that I take a Veritaserum test to prove that I hadn’t been intimate with anyone.” Harry started, easing himself into the memories of earlier that night.

 

“You passed right?”

 

Harry snorted harshly. “Of course I did. I haven’t done anything with anyone and I proved that tonight. Rodolphus was forced to apologise, but the potion had left my mouth dry and my face all numb and rubbery, so I went to the bathroom to swill my mouth out and to splash some water onto my face. I didn’t see the need to lock the door, so when I looked up, I was taken by surprise when my head was forced into the mirror.”

 

“Rodolphus?!” Draco gasped in horror.

 

“Rowle.” Harry growled. “He attacked me, tried to strangle me, which is where these bruises came from.” He said, showing Draco the marks he was sure were forming around his neck from the tightness he could feel in the skin. “They’re going to be much worse tomorrow and then he….”

 

“He what?” Draco asked quietly as Harry stopped and remained silent, drawing a blank over the words.

 

“He tried to rape me, Draco.” He said blankly, trying to cut his memories and emotions off from the words he’d spoken.

 

“What?!” The blond exploded. “Did he mange to…to…you know?”

 

Harry shook his head. “No, he ripped my blue robes and tore all of the fastenings off of it and he did…he did manage…he forced his hand into my boxers to fondle me.” He forced out in one breath.

 

“What happened? How did you get away? Did Rabastan find you? Or Father?”

 

“No. I always take my wand everywhere, so I ripped it out and blasted him away from me. I broke his arm badly.”

 

“Good!” Draco replied viciously.

 

“That’s not all I did. I was so angry, so humiliated that he’d managed to do that to me that I didn’t even think before saying the first spell that came into my head. The Reductor curse. I blew his left leg off, Draco.”

 

Draco went even paler than he usually was, which left him looking sickly. “It’s only intended for use on inanimate objects, it shouldn’t be powerful enough to sever living limbs. Are you saying that your Reductor curse was powerful enough to blast off a human leg with that much muscle and bulk on it?”

 

Harry nodded.

 

“What happened to Rowle?”

 

Harry sucked on his bottom lip and debated on what to tell Draco. He decided on a partial truth as his brother already looked like he was going to be sick.

 

“He bled out. I was aiming for his lap, but he moved at the last moment and the sever was very high up his leg, near his hip. I hit the main artery in the thigh. Father cleaned it up, along with Xerxes. Rabastan took me back into the ballroom to give me a room full of alibis, but Rowle had already ruined my robes, so I needed to change them.”

 

“No wonder you didn’t want anyone to know that you were wearing different robes. I hushed up Astoria too. I told her that you’d had an accident with a trifle.”

 

Harry laughed. “I do like trifle.”

 

“You’re okay though, aren’t you?” Draco asked, looking at him hard.

 

Harry nodded. “I’m fine. I’ve got a bruise salve to put on my throat tonight and I’m not hurt and I can’t be afraid of anything because Rowle is dead. I’m going to be just fine. I can take care of myself, I’ve been doing it for a while now, though I have to admit that it is nice to rely on someone now and then, it feels nice to take the pressure off and give it to someone else for a little while.”

 

Harry smiled and then the subject changed and he asked how Draco and Astoria had been through the night and they made a bit of small talk about what ese had happened during the party and Draco had a good laugh over the memory of Harry’s handling of the Aurors and then Draco was gone and Harry could fall into his bed and just sleep.

He didn’t want to think, he didn’t really want to do anything at all, he just wanted to sleep and rest so that he could forget what had happened tonight. He did remember to plaster on the bruise salve though, that’s all he really needed when going on his first dinner date with Rabastan, an imprint of Rowle’s fingers wrapped around his neck. So he made sure to cover every inch of his throat and the back of his neck, just in case. Tomorrow he wanted to focus purely on Rabastan and nothing else.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

Chapter Text

 

Chapter Eleven – Promises

 

Plastering the bruise salve onto his throat the night before had not headed off as much of the bruising as Harry would have liked. He’d woken up late and showered, washing the dried, flaky paste away, to reveal the faint bluish-green bruises of Rowle’s finger imprints on the front of his neck, wrapping right around to the base of his skull, where eight large, dark bruises were located from where Rowle had dug the tips of his fingers into the back of his neck while his thumbs had dug into his windpipe.

He had been very badly bruised if keeping a salve on overnight hadn’t healed it completely and it only went to prove just how tightly that Rowle had been squeezing. Rowle had been aiming to kill him, of that he had no doubts. Harry was glad that he was dead.

He plastered his throat and neck with even more bruise paste and unhappily went down for breakfast. The bruise had better be gone before his dinner date with Rabastan or he was going to find some way to bring Rowle back from the dead just to kill him all over again. Slower this time, much slower, without the option of unconscious oblivion or a quick bleed out.

 

“You are still marred?” Narcissa asked as he joined them for breakfast.

 

She immediately stood up and came hurrying to him, she gently picked up his chin without touching the paste and got him to open his mouth so that she could check his throat for him.

 

“Your throat is sore on the inside. Pimsey!”

 

“Mistress called for Pimsey.” The House elf asked as she popped immediately into existence in the dining room.

 

“Get a potion for Harry’s throat from the store room. Come and sit down, Harry. Drink some tea, it’ll help.”

 

Harry was settled into a chair and given a freshly made cup of tea.

 

“Is there anything left of Rowle?” Harry asked as he took a sip of his tea and grimaced as his sore throat made itself known for the first time.

 

“This is hardly the place or the time for such conversations.” Narcissa chastised him, but Harry kept his eyes on Lucius.

 

His Father sighed. “No, I would imagine that there is very little left after last night, Harry. Why do you ask?”

 

“I was going to try and find something that could reanimate him so I can kill him all over again.”

 

Lucius sighed. “Let it go, Harry. He’s dead and he died in a painful, humiliating and horrific way. Let that be enough and bury your remaining feelings and grudges. It’s over now.”

 

Harry nodded and took a deep breath. He thanked Pimsey for handing him the potion vial and he sipped on it slowly, grimacing and gagging at the taste, but it had to pass slowly past his throat in order to sooth and heal it.

He groped for his cup of tea and gulped it down as soon as he was done with the potion, trying to wash away the thick, syrupy potion still clinging to his tongue and throat.

If he had any lingering grudges with Rowle, or any feelings to do with the vile man at all, then he’d transfer them into his plans for Rhadamanthus, who was admittedly going to be much harder to kill off and whose death would be much harder to hide as he was very involved in the Ministry. He was an employee of the International Magical Cooperation Department, and in particular the International Magical Office of Law. Unlike Rowle, who only did his Lordship duties to the Ministry as he didn’t work and lived off of his ancestors’ wealth, Rhadamanthus would be missed as soon as he went missing because of how involved he was with the laws of other magical communities of other countries. He worked six days a week and would even work the seventh if it was needed of him and due to differing time zones, Rhadamanthus was on call throughout the night as well and he regularly went into work at strange, odd hours. If he suddenly went missing with no warning, his work colleagues and friends would immediately be alerted. It was just another obstacle in his plans that he had to fully consider and take into account before he could act to remove Rhadamanthus permanently from his and Rabastan’s lives.

He ate his breakfast in silence and when he was done. He just sat and waited for…something, anything. Without Rabastan to talk to and interact with, he found himself strangely bored and unoccupied.

He was tired too, he had not slept well last night, not only because of the discomfort of trying to sleep with a thick paste slavered over his neck and getting into his hair and all over his pillow and sheets, he’d also suffered from several nightmares and as a result his sleep had been broken.

The nightmares had all started normal enough, memories plaguing him from the attack, scenarios where he hadn’t had his wand on him and hadn’t been able to get Rowle off of him, where Rabastan hadn’t wanted him afterwards or had for whatever reason blamed him and the like, but they had changed to the one, persistent problem that was plaguing him. Rhadamanthus. His nightmares had changed to Rhadamanthus attacking him, to Rhadamanthus doing those vile things to him and then Rodolphus had been accusing him of being impure and Rabastan had been shouting at him that he’d slept with his Father and he should be disowned for the shame of it. He’d woken up in a cold sweat, panting for breath.

He needed to see Rabastan in order to push those nightmares away. He hadn’t personally killed Rowle, Greyback had by eating him, but there were no doubts that he had been the catalyst to Rowle’s untimely death by severing his leg so close to his groin. He had died by bleeding out, but if he hadn’t have bled out, then Greyback would have killed him by eating him. It was like they’d worked together to kill Rowle in a way.

 

“You look entirely unproductive.” Lucius told him.

 

“It’s the holidays.” Harry whined. “I’ve done all my homework, I’ve been observing the night skies for Astrology and I won’t see Rabastan until later. I have nothing I need to do.”

 

“Oh? Allow me to rectify that for you. Follow me.”

 

Harry groaned and hefted himself up and slouched after Lucius.

 

“Stand up straight or the hex aimed at you will hit your bottom.” Narcissa called out after him.

 

Harry scowled and straightened his back and shoulders, measuring his steps more so that he looked perfectly eloquent and graceful.

He was taken to Lucius’ study and, after being told to take a seat, he sat in the chair in front of his Father’s desk while Lucius perused the bookcase to his right.

 

“Ah, here we are. Read this.” Lucius told him, handing him the thick, ancient looking book before going around his desk to sit down in his own dragonhide chair. Lucius pulled his paperwork towards him and picked it up where he’d left off by dipping a quill into his inkpot and commencing a new paragraph on the parchment.

 

Knowing that arguing was pointless, and would likely lead to a punishment, Harry cracked open the book and started reading it. He couldn’t wait until later, when he could not only see Rabastan again, but have their first official date together. He was very much looking forward to it.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Albus Dumbledore dismissed Severus with a wave of his hand and he sighed heavily, steepling his fingers and resting his chin on them. Things were going from bad to worse and with the coming war, he was frightened of what it would mean for the Wizarding world as he knew it.

The Ministry were still resolutely denying Voldemort’s return and with Harry’s adoption to the Malfoy family and into a respectable Pureblooded household, the wizarding public believed that Harry had ‘stabilised’ and that he was no longer deranged or delusional. It didn’t help in the slightest that Lucius Malfoy had released a statement in the Daily Prophet on his ‘son’s’ behalf claiming that Harry Potter had never told anyone the ‘lies’ about Voldemort’s return and that it had been a cheap ploy, by him, to discredit Harry Potter and to use his famous name to try and confuse and terrify more people. Lucius Malfoy had carried on to say that Harry couldn’t have said anything that he was claiming he had as he had been deserted into the Muggle world and had no access to anyone in the magical world in order to give a truthful statement. That he, Dumbledore, had been doing it for him and passing his own ‘poisonous’ and ‘dangerous’ lies off as Harry’s own.

Thanks to this newspaper interview his name was now mud as a lot of people now believed that he’d been using ‘The-Boy-Who-Lived’ an orphaned, underaged young boy, as a way to further his own agenda.

He was losing ground and he was being discredited by everyone around him and at every turn. There were even calls for his dismissal from Hogwarts as Headmaster and even his imprisonment on the charges of using a minor, and a famous name to boot, for his own political gain. Things were such a mess and he really needed to get back into Harry’s good graces.

The boy knew that Voldemort had returned. He had seen his rebirth with his own eyes, had been one of the ingredients used in the ritual even and he had fought Voldemort in that graveyard, in the Ministry Atrium, the boy had even been possessed by Voldemort. Harry knew that Voldemort was back, he knew what it meant. He just didn’t understand why Harry was suddenly claiming that it had all been a lie. Unless Harry had no knowledge of Lucius releasing that statement on his behalf. That would make much more sense than Harry claiming that Voldemort’s return was a lie and as he had checked the boy for any potions or enchantments personally, he knew that Harry wasn’t being outwardly influenced. He hadn’t found anything more than a few everyday potions, which even taken together couldn’t explain Harry’s behaviour and attitude change. The only thing he could think of was a very dark curse that was resistant to detection spells, he just didn’t know how to go about proving such a claim.

Severus was having no luck in finding out Voldemort’s future plans or attacks and even worse, Severus had no idea what Voldemort wanted to do with Harry. He was worried that it meant death for the young boy and if Harry was under a curse, then he would walk into the trap unknowingly and uncaringly, like a lamb led to the slaughter by the farmer who had cared for it. He couldn’t let this happen, he had to do something.

He needed to get Harry into his office under the guise of something else in order to find the curse or potion used upon him so that he could research a counter curse and break its hold over Harry. Only then could they have a hope, a ray of light, in this coming war. Without Harry, all was lost.

A solid knock on his office door had Albus calling out a cheery greeting, which slipped away as Remus Lupin entered his office. Remus, as well as a few others, knew of his concerns and his thoughts on the matter of Harry.

 

“Sir, have you had any word?” Remus asked him.

 

“I’m sorry, Remus. I haven’t. Harry hasn’t once sent anyone an owl and Hedwig has not been seen since he left for the holidays.”

 

Remus swallowed visibly and audibly.

 

“I’m so worried and if it is a curse or a potion like you believe, then he’s in danger. I can’t stand being here, doing nothing, while he might even now be being hurt or even killed.”

 

“I don’t believe that the Malfoy’s would kill Harry during the holidays, Remus. They’ll wait, build up the public’s trust in having them look after Harry and then, once they have that trust, that is when I believe they’ll harm Harry. It’s too dangerous for them to act now, they’ll want to wait for a time that they can do it and pass it off as a tragic accident so that they aren’t implicated.”

 

Remus looked more distressed at hearing that. “We’re running out of time then. The public are happy that Harry is being looked after by a Pureblooded family. They’re happy that he’s showing more interest in the magical world. They’re happy about this arrangement, Dumbledore! We need to do something to help him!”

 

“I have been trying, Remus, my boy. There is little I can do myself with Harry being so uncooperative. If I could just find a way to get him on his own and calm enough for a small amount of time, then perhaps I could find the curse or potion that is influencing him and break it, but until then, Harry is firmly under Lucius’ thumb and if the talk that Severus has heard is true, then he is going to be betrothed to a dark affiliated witch very soon.”

 

Remus’ eyes widened. “No, please don’t let that happen! Merlin, James, Lily and Sirius would be rolling in their graves if they knew that Harry was being married off like a raffle prize. We have to stop this!”

 

“There isn’t anything that I can do, Remus. Lucius Malfoy is Harry’s adoptive Father and his magical guardian and as such he has the right and the power to betroth Harry to whomever he pleases, though it’ll be up to Harry if he wishes to marry his betrothed afterwards. However if he’s being controlled by a curse or a potion, then it may not be his true desire. I suppose we can be thankful that Bellatrix Lestrange is already married.”

 

Remus was hyperventilating and he collapsed into a chair and put his head in his hands between his knees to calm himself down.

 

“This can’t be happening.” He whimpered painfully. “We need to get him away from Malfoy. We can’t just do nothing.”

 

“I’ll see what I can do during the next school term. I will find this curse and I will break it, Remus. Perhaps if you came to visit him during the weekends too, remind him of his actual parents, and of Sirius too, of course. It would be easier if he had his friends around him as well, but alas, I believe that things there have gone too far to be brought back.”

 

Remus nodded. “I will talk to Ron and Hermione and see what they think, perhaps if they’re told that it’s a curse or a potion they’ll be more accepting and I will definitely come to visit him. Harry already has a family. They’re dead, but they loved him and he loved them, or at least I thought he did.”

 

“I’m sure that it is just the effects of the curse, Remus.”

 

“So you think it’s definitely a curse?”

 

“I’m not entirely sure, but it is more likely to be a curse than a potion.” Albus explained. “A potion’s effects will wear off and unless Draco Malfoy is the one dosing him while at the school, a curse is much more likely and will last until the caster either removes it, or dies.”

 

Remus nodded at the logic of that and he sat up straight again.

 

“This silence bothers me.” He admitted. “I sent him a gift and a card for Christmas and I haven’t heard anything back yet. I know Hagrid and Molly sent him a package as well, but they haven’t heard anything either. It’s unnerving.”

 

“We can take solace in the fact that we know that Lucius Malfoy cannot act currently.” Albus said solemnly. “We have a bit of time to plan and then we’ll need to prepare to act. I will call an Order meeting in a few days, before the new term starts, until then, try writing to Harry again and see where that gets you. If you hear anything from him, come straight to me.”

 

Remus nodded and took the order for the dismissal it was and he left the Headmaster’s office and went back to Hogsmeade to Apparate. He was so worried about Harry and the silence around him that he was having difficulty sleeping and controlling Moony. He was thankful that the next full moon wasn’t until the twenty-third of January as he was getting more and more stressed and antsy the longer he went without hearing from Harry and the last full moon, just a little over a week ago, had really taken it out of him, but he was incredibly worried that Harry hadn’t sent him a letter after Christmas had passed. This next full moon was not going to be a pleasant one, even with the Wolfsbane potion. He hoped that he heard from Harry before then, just to give himself a bit of peace of mind that he was at least still alive and unharmed.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Draco was insistent on helping him dress and get ready for his dinner date, of course. Harry had been ordered to bathe and then, as soon as he’d gotten out and dried off, Draco had been on him with potions and combs and instructions.

 

“Damn it, Draco! Just calm down.” Harry said in frustration as Draco darted off again to get something or other as Harry sat in a chair in just his boxer-briefs.

 

“This is a serious matter!” Draco told him sternly. “The first dinner date is very important and it’s a very important, intricate part of the betrothal contract. Do you know how many betrothals are broken on the night of the first dinner date?”

 

Harry was sure his expression personified bemusement. “Why?” He asked.

 

“Eating habits.” Draco told him.

 

“Eating habits?” Harry said with a chuckle.

 

Draco nodded seriously. “Eating habits and chosen conversation topics. If either are terrible, well, it’s a probable deal breaker.”

 

“I’ve already eaten meals with Rabastan and we’ve been betrothed for five months now, Draco. I think the dinner date should have been much earlier in the betrothal calendar if it’s to test eating habits and the ease of conversation.”

 

“It should have been at the end of your first month of being betrothed.” Draco nodded. “But that’s when we went back to Hogwarts and it’s difficult with Rabastan’s current status as a fugitive. It’s a little late, I grant you, but don’t become complacent. This is an important part of the betrothal contract and if your conversation fizzles out, then it could spell disaster for your betrothal and future marriage. It’ll also be a blockade on any new betrothals if it was you who was at fault for the breakdown of the contract.”

 

Harry let Draco poke and prod him as he had his hair messed with and his clothes laid out for him. At least the bruise had vanished after a full night and half a day of wearing the medicated salve. Unfortunately his throat was still a little sore when he swallowed, but he’d have to deal with that as best as he could.

 

“Will you stop pulling already?” Harry sighed. “I’ll be late to dinner if you don’t let me get dressed soon and Rabastan has already seen my hair when it isn’t controlled and styled with potions.”

 

“You have to look presentable.” Draco bit out. “I won’t let you walk off to your first date looking like a poor, unkempt ruffian.”

 

Harry had to bite his lips to keep from laughing at Draco. He sat back with a long suffering sigh and let Draco slather his hair in potions and hair care products before he was finally allowed to get himself dressed in the outfit that Draco had laid out for him. They were just plain robes, not dress robes, but they were still expensive and lavish and tailor made to fit his body like a glove.

 

“You look perfect.” Draco said factually, looking him over critically and brushing out the wrinkles of his robes as he stood up.

 

“Do I pass? Can I go and meet Rabastan now?”

 

“Go on, just try not to spill anything on yourself and remember, the salad fork is on the inside, closest to your plate and for Merlin’s sake do not use your dessert spoon for your soup.”

 

Harry rolled his eyes. “I did that once! Once while I was learning why a table needed four knives and forks, three spoons, three glasses and a cup.”

 

“Just remember where everything is placed and keep the conversation flowing. Don’t speak or laugh with your mouth full either.”

 

“Excuse me! When have I ever done that?”

 

“It’s just a reminder.”

 

Harry rolled his eyes and they both walked off and left Harry’s bedroom. They went down to the living room and Narcissa took over where Draco had left off, brushing his robes down and fiddling with his collar and the tie around his neck that was tucked into the waistcoat that perfectly matched the colour of his robes.

 

“Are you ready?” Lucius asked him and Harry nodded happily, with a slight edge of nerves.

 

“Yeah, I’m really excited, but I’m still worried. We’re going out in public, what if someone sees him and recognises him? The Azkaban escapees were broadcast on the Muggle news too.”

 

“Stop fussing.” Narcissa told him, pulling him to her chest and pressing her lips to his forehead in a brief kiss. It brought a massive grin to Harry’s face. “Rabastan has planned it all out and you’re not going to the Muggle world, just stop stressing about it. All you need to do is enjoy yourself and behave, darling.”

 

Harry nodded and he took Lucius’ arm and allowed himself to be Apparated away. He opened his eyes and took in the beautiful restaurant they had arrived in. Lucius pulled him away from the round, carpeted space they had landed in, that had a beautifully carved wooden bannister that held a variety of potted plants and flowers around it, and went to the podium directly in front of them with an elderly gentleman wearing a smart set of black robes.

 

“Lord Malfoy. Lord Potter-Black.” The shrewd man greeted primly, politely and respectfully. “Right this way. The owner of this establishment has given strict instructions and I wish to assure you that they will be followed to the letter. Our patrons’ discretion is our highest priority here at The Garnet Swan.”

 

Harry was impressed as he was led through a cluster of intimately laid circular tables, every single one of them were set for two and were draped with the clichéd dark red tablecloths with red pillar candles. They were led up a set of wide, red carpeted stairs, away from the main floor and the view of all the other patrons, to a balcony that had only three, very wide spaced, doors set into the right side wall and the two of them followed as the maître d let them across the open corridor, which had no wall on the left side, just another beautifully carved wooden bannister covered in plants and flowers that looked out onto the floor below and all the other diners eating and talking in low voices at their little intimate tables.

They stopped at one door, the one right at the very end of the long balcony, and their maître d bowed to them formally and then left again. Lucius waited until he was halfway down the stairs again before he knocked on the door once and let them into the room.

Harry grinned as he walked in to see Rabastan waiting for him at a small, round table like the ones below them. Xerxes was sat at the other end of the room, in one of a cluster of four armchairs gathered around a coffee table and fireplace.

 

“Rabastan.” Harry greeted, his steps widening and quickening until he reached Rabastan, where he threw his arms around his betrothed and kissed him.

 

“Harry, you look wonderful.”

 

Rabastan indicated their table and Harry allowed Rabastan to help him sit. He turned to look at the group of armchairs, which were almost at the opposite end of the room, and he frowned at the distance.

 

“You’re here, dining with me. Ignore them, they’re just chaperones, they’re not a part of our dinner plans tonight.” Rabastan told him and Harry turned back and gave his full attention to Rabastan.

 

“How have you been? I’ve been so bored without you. Lucius had me reading all day waiting for tonight.”

 

Rabastan chuckled. “I admit, my day has been very boring too, but at least I’ve distracted myself with making these plans and finalising everything.”

 

“I’ve had Draco poking and prodding me all afternoon.” Harry grimaced. “I’m a fashion disaster. You do know that when we get married it’ll become your job to dress me, don’t you?”

 

The grin that Rabastan gave him was so naughty that Harry blushed.

 

“As long as I get to undress you every night.” Rabastan told him in a lusty whisper.

 

“Oh, I don’t think that’ll be a problem.” Harry said with a smile and a covert wink.

 

Rabastan laughed and Harry relaxed, settling down. This wasn’t any worse than having dinner with Rabastan at Malfoy manor. It was exactly the same, only there were less people around them and they had the seclusion and the privacy to converse and interact like lovers were meant to.

They made small talk until a house elf came into the room with a large tray of food and drinks and it settled the plates and drinks down on their table with magic.

 

“Thank you.” Harry said politely to the elf, who squeaked in pleasure and left them alone.

 

“I wish you’d stop doing that.” Rabastan sighed.

 

“I’m not going to, so get used to it.” Harry said back sternly.

 

Rabastan wisely changed the subject.

 

“I hope you don’t mind that I ordered for you. I ordered when I arrived an hour ago to help set this room up, so that no one would see me. Our family know the owner of this restaurant and I was best friends with his son in school, so he was very happy to help set this up for us.”

 

Harry took that to mean that the owner of The Garnet Swan, and his son, were either Death Eaters or sympathisers, most likely Purebloods too. In fact they probably were Purebloods if the Lestranges were friends with them.

 

“I’m really not fussy with my food, as long as it doesn’t have eyes.” Harry said, which made Rabastan, who’d just taken a sip of water, laugh and choke on his drink.

 

“Not a fan of seafood?” He teased once he got his breath back.

 

“I’m not sure. I’ve tried a bit of cod, but outside of that, I’ve never had much seafood. So like the cheese at Christmas, I probably wouldn’t like it because I’ve never tried it before now and I’m set in my ways. But no eyes.”

 

Harry made sure to use his soup spoon for the first course and not his dessert spoon as he had done when Narcissa had been teaching him about table placements. At the time he’d thought that it was a waste of time, now, looking at the amount of silverware and bone china on the table in front of him, he was grateful.

After the light soup came a crisp, jewelled salad with a tangy dressing and then another course was brought out, a thick medium rare steak served with a baked potato and sautéed vegetables and though they were steadily eating, their conversation wasn’t awkward, uncomfortable or forced.

It was during that third course that Harry realised that this was not a struggle for him, that being here, eating and talking to Rabastan was not forced nor a chore. He was enjoying himself and he was loving every minute of being here.

 

“I really love you, you know.” He said softly during a natural lull in their conversation as they ate their food.

 

Rabastan looked up and he caught sight of the look being sent his way and he smiled, putting his fork down and reaching for Harry’s hand.

 

“I know. I’m working on truly accepting that when you say it. I just don’t see what you see when you look at me, clearly. But I adore you, Harry. I love you and I want to keep you, I want to marry you and start a family with you. I just don’t want you hating me in several years when you look at me and think that you could have had so much better than me.”

 

“There is no one better than you.” Harry insisted firmly. “I’m going to spend the rest of our lives together proving it to you, Rabastan, but you have been kind and accepting of me and that’s all I want from a marriage. I want love and respect and you give that to me. Why wouldn’t I stay with you when you’re offering me everything I’ve always wanted?”

 

“I was going to wait until after we’d finished eating, but I can’t wait any more. I love you too much to keep you waiting.”

 

“Waiting for what?” Harry asked, his heart going into his throat with fear at a possible break up.

 

Rabastan fumbled at something in his robe pocket and then he slid a square box over the table towards him. Harry’s fear morphed into something else and his heart started beating impossibly faster as his breath caught in his lungs.

 

“Is…is this what I think it is?” He asked softly.

 

“Open it and see.” Rabastan told him with a croak in his voice.

 

Harry looked up and he noticed that Rabastan’s hands were quivering with nerves and he put his betrothed out of his misery and opened the velvet box to show the plush satin insides and the beautiful ring nestled within.

 

“I’m in love with you, Harry. I adore everything about you. Will you do me the great honour of marrying me and becoming my Husband?” Rabastan asked as Harry stared at the ring in the box.

 

He looked up with tears in his eyes and he took hold of Rabastan’s quaking hands.

 

“Of course I will, Rabastan. Nothing would make me happier.”

 

Rabastan pulled the ring out of its satin bed and he took Harry’s left hand and slid the perfectly fitting ring onto his third finger.

Harry smiled and admired the ring on his finger. It fitted his finger perfectly and it was beautiful. So beautiful.

 

“It’s platinum, blue tungsten and diamond.” Rabastan told him. “I designed it myself and had it custom made for you.”

 

“Thank you so much. I love it. It was truly worth the wait.” Harry said with a massive grin.

 

He shifted and bent over the table to kiss Rabastan and he couldn’t stop at just one kiss, he was too happy and as one kiss became two and then several, he realised that he was engaged to this man. He and Rabastan were not betrothed anymore, they were engaged, they were fiancés. He shifted again to make himself more stable in the chair and he moved to wrap his arms around Rabastan’s neck and their kiss became more passionate and they didn’t break apart.

 

“Please do remember that you have an audience.” Lucius drawled from across the room.

 

Harry broke the kiss to heave in several deep, much needed breaths.

 

“At the moment I don’t care who’s watching.” He declared before he pulled Rabastan’s head into another searing kiss.    

 

“Let the boys be, Lucius. They’re engaged now after all.”

 

Harry pulled back to grin at Rabastan and he went back to looking at and admiring his ring. The outer edges of the ring were shining platinum with an inside ring of a bright blue metal that Rabastan had called tungsten and it was studded with five diamonds around the band. Harry loved it. It was definitely masculine, but it didn’t take over his whole finger and it wasn’t too heavy. It was perfect.

 

“You’ve given this so much thought, Rabastan. I just love it.” He insisted happily as he tore his gaze away from the ring to kiss Rabastan again. “But more than that, I can’t believe we’re finally engaged. You could have given me a plastic ring or the end of a copper pipe and I would have been happy just to be engaged to you.”

 

“It had to be special. Like you.” Rabastan told him.

 

Harry grinned and clutched at Rabastan’s hands.

 

“With this ring, Harry, I promise to love you forever. I promise to care for you and love you and our future family. I adore the very ground that you walk on and I can’t wait until we’re married and we start having children. I love you.”

 

“I love you, Rabastan.” Harry said. “Are you sure we can’t marry this summer?”

 

“I’d love nothing more, but your Father is insistent on you being graduated first. A baby really wouldn’t fit in with your school plans or your exams and as much as I hate to admit it, I’m not fit enough to look after a child just yet. Hopefully given another year and a half to regain my health and past strength with this diet and fitness program, I’ll be in a better position to look after you and a child. I’ll work very hard, I swear it. I’ll do everything I can to regain my health and fitness for you, for our future.”

 

“I don’t care if you never regain your old strength, Rabastan, as long as you’re healthy.” Harry said seriously. “I want you to be happy and healthy and I’ll still love you just as much.”

 

“I want to regain my strength for you.” Rabastan insisted. “What sort of Husband will I be if I can’t carry you up the stairs to our bed?”

 

Harry grinned naughtily. “There are always levitation charms.”

 

“What about the actual wedding night?” Rabastan asked.

 

Harry’s grin widened and he winked. “I have enough strength and youthful enthusiasm for the both of us.” He declared.

 

Rabastan’s look immediately went predatory and those beautiful blue eyes darkened with lust.

 

“I’ll hold you to that.” He replied huskily. “But I still promise to work as hard as I can to overcome my weakness.”

 

“Don’t push yourself too hard.” Harry told him.

 

“I know, I know. Now you sound like ‘Dolphus.” Rabastan laughed.

 

“You should listen to him more.” Harry said. “He’s looking out for you, we both are because we both love you. Now where’s my dessert?”

 

Rabastan chuckled and snapped his fingers and immediately their house elf server was back.

 

“We’d like our desserts now.” He demanded.

 

Harry narrowed his eyes on Rabastan as the house elf cleared away the table and popped away.

 

“Can’t you be a little nicer to them?”

 

“What? No.” Rabastan said as if the very concept was unbelievable and unreasonable to him.

 

Harry huffed and took a drink from his glass of water.

 

“Look, I’m sorry that I’m not falling over myself to thank the damn elves, can we please not let it ruin our night?”

 

Harry sighed. “Okay. I love you and this is our engagement night and I’m incredibly happy, I just…please stop being so nasty.”

 

“They’re elves!” Rabastan insisted in bemusement.

 

Harry sighed and rubbed his eyes. He let it go. They’d gotten engaged tonight and he wasn’t going to change Rabastan’s mind set in one night. It was going to take much longer than that, but he wouldn’t allow such abuse in his own home. Either Rabastan was nicer to the elves, or they wouldn’t have one when they moved into their own home.

Their desserts came and Harry made a point of thanking the elf before he used his dessert spoon to eat the shaped milk chocolate mousse that had a layer of dark chocolate ganache layered on the top with fresh raspberries. It was gorgeous and it perked his mood right up.

 

“This is amazing.” He groaned in happiness and he looked up to see Rabastan watching him with those lusty eyes again. “What?”

 

“Seeing you suck on that spoon is making my imagination run wild.”

 

Harry blushed before he burst out laughing. “Only you could look at me eating and get aroused.”

 

“Actually, I don’t think that’s true. You’re just a little unobservant.”

 

“How dare you.” Harry said teasingly. “I’ll have you know that I need to be very observant to be the best Seeker in Hogwarts!”

 

Rabastan smiled and took his hand again after they finished their desserts, standing up and leading them over to Lucius and Xerxes and they sat and relaxed to let their meal go down on the group of chairs around a low table where they’d taken their after dinner coffee to join Lucius and Xerxes.

 

“Are you happy, Harry?” Lucius asked him.

 

“Of course. How could I not be?” Harry said. “I love Rabastan so much and now we’re engaged!” He said excitedly, showing his ring off to Lucius and Xerxes, as Rabastan had not allowed anyone to see the ring before Harry himself had seen it. “I wish we could get married this summer, not next, but I do understand why we need to wait.”

 

Lucius narrowed his eyes. “Yes, you do need to wait. No son of mine will be married before he’s graduated and you will not saddle yourself with a baby before you’ve settled into your own home with your Husband. Am I clear?”

 

“Crystal clear.” Harry sighed. “I suppose I could content myself with planning my wedding and studying for my exams.”

 

“You make sure that you do.”

 

Harry smiled and held Rabastan’s hand, about as much as they could do as they were sat in separate armchairs as this room didn’t have a settee. He would have preferred to snuggle with him, especially as they had gotten engaged tonight. He couldn’t wait to show off his ring to everyone, he was so excited and he’d never felt as in love with Rabastan as he did right now tonight. Everything was perfect…he should have known that it would be too good to be true to last too long.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Bill was disgusted as he listened to his Mother cry and had to watch his ashen faced Father attempt to comfort her.

They’d had a letter from the Hogwarts Governors and a bill from Lucius Malfoy. Ron and Ginny had been implicated in the theft and destruction of Harry’s trunk, Firebolt and other belongings and now they were being forced to pay for it.

Their Mother had already screamed at Ron and Ginny before sending them to their rooms, but the hefty bill was still sitting open on their table, taunting them, and Bill felt sick looking at the amount they owed to the Malfoy family…all because of Harry.

It always seemed to come down to Harry Potter these days and Bill had no idea where things had gone so very wrong. Harry had used to be a friend of both Ron and Ginny, of the whole family, and now he was billing them for money that he knew they didn’t have.

The amount that was being asked of them would ruin their family for the next several years, if not the next decade. They just couldn’t afford to pay this kind of money, but he understood why Ron and Ginny had to be held accountable. They had destroyed another student’s belongings, it just hit them all the harder because it was Harry.

Harry who had been welcomed into their family, Harry who knew they were not a well off family. Bill just didn’t understand why Harry would send this bill to them when he could easily afford to replace the belongings damaged in a fit of temper by Ron and Ginny without even making a slight bump in his finances.

He understood that Ron and Ginny needed to be punished for their actions, even if it was just replacing a set of robes or a book and a written apology, but to bill them for absolutely everything that was damaged, especially the ridiculously expensive Firebolt, it was excessive.

 

“What are we going to do, Arthur?” His Mother sobbed.

 

“We’ll get through this, Molly.” His Father said, but Bill saw his Father’s face. He saw the lost, haggard look that had paled his face and the desolate look in his eyes as he looked at the amount they owed.

 

He swallowed and looked back at the letter and the bill that was given to them. It was disgusting and made even worse knowing that the bill had been split between six people. Two of them just happened to be Ron and Ginny.

He sighed and rubbed his forehead. He’d already applied for overtime at the bank and he knew Fred and George were furious. They’d been by earlier and they’d sworn to give their parents as much of their profits from their shop as they could spare to help pay the debt their family now owed, despite both of their parents insisting that it wasn’t needed and they’d manage somehow. All of them knew that it was a lie.

Bill had even contacted Percy and Charlie, but so far neither of them had answered. He wasn’t too surprised about Percy and he hoped that Charlie was just wrapping things up at the dragon reserve before taking a leave of absence to come and support the family, but even with all of them doing what they could, he wasn’t sure it was enough…he was afraid that this would utterly ruin their family’s finances for years to come. If this continued then they’d never rise above the poverty line.

 

“Wh…wh…why did they have to bill us for Ron and Ginny?” His Mother sobbed yet again. “Gin…Ginny wasn’t even…even involved in taking Harry’s trunk!”

 

“I know, Molly, I know. But she still tried her best to ruin Harry’s broom. They took it in turns to try and demolish it and they need to be punished for it and they need to be held accountable for their actions.”

 

“But…this just seems so unfair! They’re only children, Arthur, just fifteen and sixteen!”

 

Bill felt awful for his parents. His Father looked like he’d aged twenty years and his Mother’s eyes were red and puffy from crying. He couldn’t stand seeing his parents like this and he wanted to punch Harry fucking Potter straight in the face for this.

The flames in the fireplace turned green and Bill was almost relieved to see Charlie stepping out and dusting the soot off of himself.

 

“Oh! Oh, Charlie. It’s so good to see you, dear.” Their Mother stood up and brushed her tears away before embracing her second born son, pulling him down into a crushing hug.

 

“Mum, what’s going on? I got Bill’s owl. What’s happened?”

 

“Oh, it’s just…things have broken down between the family and Percy and now…now Harry’s gone too.”

 

“Harry? Ron’s friend? What happened?” Charlie asked with a frown, trying to keep up with what was happening. He already knew about Percy going off, Bill had owled him about it and Charlie had owled Percy himself, trying to get him to see sense all to no avail.

 

“It’s all been a complete mess.” Molly sobbed as she clutched at Charlie tighter.

 

“I heard about Bill becoming Lord Weasley too, just what is going on?”

 

“Sit down, Charlie, we have much to talk about.” Arthur said.

 

Charlie gently extracted himself from their Mother and sat down. Bill sat next to him and their parents took the seats opposite them both.

 

“So, what’s happened? It’s only been two years. That’s not that long.” He insisted.

 

“It’s far too long, Charlie, dear. I wish you’d get a job closer to home.”

 

“I’ve told you, Mum, I love working with the dragons. I’m not leaving my job.” Charlie said firmly.

 

“Could you at least come and visit more often?”

 

“This is not what we need to talk about.” Bill interrupted as Charlie fidgeted, not answering the question.

 

“Yeah, tell me what in the name of Merlin is going on!”

 

Arthur handed Charlie the letter from the Governors and the bill they’d been given. Bill watched as Charlie read them through slowly.

 

“What is this? I don’t understand.”

 

“I suppose it starts with Harry being adopted by the Malfoys.”

 

“What?! How in the hell did that happen?” Charlie demanded.

 

“It happened last summer, what’s worse is that Harry is now ignoring Dumbledore and doing near enough the exact opposite of everything he says.”

 

“I take it that he stopped speaking to Ron after he was adopted.” Charlie said in righteous fury.

 

“Yeah, according to Ron, Harry snubbed him on the train. He was sitting with his new Slytherin buddies and when Ron and Hermione went to talk to him he was like a completely different person. His voice has changed, his appearance and mannerisms have changed and even his handwriting, all different. It’s all very worrying.”

 

“Right, what does this have to do with you becoming the new Weasley Lord? I thought our family didn’t care about such things.”

 

“We don’t.” Arthur insisted. “But Dumbledore asked us to put aside our disgust at such things so that we could have an ear on the Wizengamot.”

 

“Why would he need us to do that? He’s the Chief Warlock, isn’t he?”

 

“I’m afraid not, Charlie. Malfoy forced Harry to claim his Lordships, which means that Dumbledore could no longer sit on the Wizengamot and was forced to give up his Chief Warlock position. With Harry now Lord Potter and Lord Black, he has two very influential votes and Dumbledore has no seat left on the Wizengamot, so he needs us to be his eyes and ears for him.”

 

“What does Dumbledore hope to achieve from that?”

 

“He hopes to head off any unsavoury new laws that Malfoy wants to pass by getting the public behind him to oppose the laws before they’re written into official legislation.” Arthur explained.   

 

“The key here is knowledge and forewarning so that we can counter anything that Malfoy wants passed that’ll damage our world as we know it.” Bill explained with a sigh. “Harry has proven to be incredibly unhelpful.”

 

“Have you checked him for potions or the Imperius curse?” Charlie asked.

 

“Dumbledore has, several times now, and nothing has shown up. The only potions that Harry has been taking recently are calming draughts, nutrient potions and a few headache relievers and there are no spells on him that can be found. Dumbledore is hoping that it means that Harry is under a very dark curse that doesn’t show up with a basic detection spell.” Arthur said sadly.

 

“You don’t sound so certain.” Bill said with a frown and his Father hesitated before sighing.

 

“I’m afraid that there are no spells or potions detected on Harry because there aren’t any to be found. I’m afraid that Harry is acting under his own influence and he’s behaving the way that he is because he wants to.” Arthur answered grimly.

 

“Our family have done so much for him though!” Charlie said hotly. “Why would he be acting this way of it isn’t a potion or a curse?”

 

“I saw him as a son.” Their Mother sniffled. “I loved him like my own and the first chance he got, he ran off with Lucius Malfoy, of all people. Now that stuck up, cold, snob Narcissa is taking my place. Harry’s calling her Mum, when I did everything for that boy and he never once called me Mum!”

 

“It’s alright, Mum. We don’t need him.” Bill said, running a hand through his long hair in agitation.

 

“So, what about this letter?” Charlie asked, looking back to the letter and the bill that he was still holding in his hand.

 

Arthur sighed heavily. “It seems that Ron and Ginny and some of their other friends took exception to Harry’s new…life choices. They stole all of Harry’s belongings and destroyed them and tried to ruin his Firebolt, which had to be sent for specialist repairs. Lucius Malfoy decided to bill our family for Ron and Ginny’s actions, backed by Hogwarts’ school Governors, of which Malfoy is now the head of once again.”

 

“This is ridiculous! We can’t pay this much!” Charlie said aghast. “This is more than I make in three years at the reserve!”

 

“Unfortunately Ron and Ginny did destroy all of Harry’s property, which was all tailor made robes, a selection of very expensive books, a collection of thirty, sixty millilitre bottles of coloured ink, hand crafted quills, a hand carved trunk and the world’s most expensive racing broom. Thankfully it only needed to be repaired and not completely replaced, or the bill would be even more.” Arthur said sadly.

 

“I can’t believe that Harry is billing our family!”

 

“That’s what I said.” Bill told Charlie.

 

“He has every right to claim damages from us, boys.” Their Father sighed. “I thought I’d raised my children better than to damage someone else’s property, but I guess I failed at that too. I’ll be in my shed.”

 

Bill watched his Father leave through the back door sadly and he felt a well of anger bubble up inside him. Harry Potter would not get away with doing this to his family. He wouldn’t let him humiliate his Father any more than he already had, he wouldn’t let him stomp all over his family as if they were nothing.

 

“What are we going to do?” Charlie asked him as their Mother buried her face into her hands to hide her tears from her sons.

 

“I’m going to work my arse off to get on that Wizengamot and I’m going to do my utmost to take that boy down, Charlie. No one treats us like dirt, not after we welcomed him in like family.”

 

Charlie nodded his head and steeled himself as he tucked away the letters and the bill.

 

“We need to sort this, Charlie, especially with Percy not talking to us, this is probably the worst thing that could have happened. Our family was just getting back on its feet. Me you, Perce and the twins are all out of the house and have jobs, it was just Ron and Gin left and now this. I’m already working as much as I can and I’ve requested overtime too.”

 

“How are you going to work five days, plus overtime and get ready for your acceptance into the Wizengamot and the Weasley Lordship?” Charlie demanded. “It’s too much to take on, Bill.”

 

“I’ve got to try, Charlie.” Bill said softly. “It’s worth it to try.”

 

Charlie nodded and steeled himself to stay at his childhood home for a few weeks. It was going to be near torture, especially as his beloved dragons were going into their breeding season soon and the females would have nests and eggs that the handlers were all charged with protecting, but he had to do this. He had his orders and he had to follow them. It would only be for a few weeks at least, he consoled himself with that knowledge.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

 Neville Longbottom ducked his head away from his gran’s irate anger as she berated him over and over for attacking Harry Potter, the Lord of two houses and respected member of their society.

She’d had a letter from the school Governors that very morning as well as a sixth of a bill for the damage and destruction of Harry Potter’s belongings and she was furious with him.

 

“I didn’t do it, gran.” He said tearfully. “I woke up the third time because of the noise to see Ron, Seamus and Dean trying to pick up Harry’s trunk and I put my hands on it to stop them from taking it. That’s why I was affected by the curse, I swear. Harry was one of my first friends, I wouldn’t have done anything like this to him, gran.”

 

“Lord Potter-Black and his Father seem to think otherwise!” Augusta Longbottom said harshly, but she looked over her grandson critically.

 

“It was only because of how it looked, gran!” Neville insisted.

 

“Then why didn’t you try to explain this to them?” Augusta asked promptly.

 

“Harry wouldn’t let me. He started avoiding me and he’d cut me off as soon as I started talking to him, but I did try to explain what had happened. He just wouldn’t listen, gran.”

 

“I don’t blame him!” Augusta said. “Have you seen how much this bill is for? And it is only a sixth of the total! If I had spent this much on you and then I had to turn around two months later and replace it all again I would be just as livid! This is completely unacceptable, disgraceful behaviour for young gentlemen to engage in and I cannot believe that two young ladies were involved in this scandalous scheme. That boy is a Lord of two houses and he is a celebrity to boot, Neville.”

 

“I know, gran, but I swear I didn’t do it. I was just trying to stop them from taking Harry’s trunk again. I’ve been bullied too often to stand by and watch others do it to someone I thought of as a friend.”

 

“If that’s true then I’ll write to the Governors, I’m sure they wouldn’t want to implicate an innocent young man and I’m sure that if this is true, then you won’t object to proving it.” Augusta gave Neville a beady eyed, hawkish look and narrowed her eyes until her grandson nodded his head.

 

“Of course I won’t object to it, gran. I promise I was trying to help. I wouldn’t bully anyone else like that! Not when…not when I was the subject of it a few years ago. It was Harry who stuck up for me back then, I wouldn’t turn on him now just because he’s been adopted without any say in the matter.”

 

Augusta nodded, proud of the man that Neville was becoming from the pudgy, shy and unconfident boy he’d been when he’d first started at Hogwarts six years before.

 

“Well I am glad that you are at least thinking about this rationally. You, as a Pureblood, know that that boy had no say in the matter of his adoption, but I for one am glad that someone took that boy under their wing and that he’s getting taught all the things that he needs to know.”

 

“I know, gran. I tried to tell him all of that, but he won’t even look at me and now that he’s in his own rooms, I don’t get to see him as he never comes to the common room and he’s not in the dorm room. I can’t even see him in class as when Slytherin have lessons with Gryffindor, Harry sits with Malfoy and when it’s another house, he finds someone to sit with who isn’t a Gryffindor.”

 

“I don’t blame that poor boy.” Augusta insisted. “But if you are innocent, then I will petition the Governors to have you removed from the bill. An innocent person shouldn’t have to pay for another’s crime.”

 

Neville ducked his head and worried over that. If he was taken off of this bill, then that would mean that the others would have to pay more, as it would be split between five and not six and he had already listened to Ron moan about it after Harry had threatened to bill him for the damages.

Ron hadn’t thought Harry would actually do it, even though it was within his rights to do so, so he’d really been groaning about Harry actually threatening him with the bill for the damages when he knew that his family couldn’t afford it more than anything else. Ron was going to be awful to live with now that Harry had actually billed them all for his damaged belongings.

Neville firmed himself, they had done wrong and they needed to pay for it. It wasn’t fair what they’d done to Harry and he knew it, it was why he’d tried to stop them, even if it had been three onto one. Now none of them would speak to him as even though he’d been caught up in Harry’s revenge curse by trying to help him, he still refused to take their side and they’d turned on him because of it, even Ginny, who’d been so sweet to him last year when he’d asked her to the Yule Ball.

It was all such a mess, but he knew that he was innocent, and he hoped that when this was over with and he’d proven himself innocent, that he and Harry could go back to being friends.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry was very happy to show off his ring to Narcissa and Draco when he flooed back home later that night with Lucius.

 

“Oh, it’s beautiful, Harry, darling.” Narcissa gushed as she took his hand to look at the ring closer.

 

“I love the blue ring with the edge of platinum.” Draco said as he examined the ring critically. “Paired with the five, beautifully cut diamonds too, Rabastan has done well. It’s a very simple design that actually looks as expensive as it is instead of cheap. This is a well thought out ring and as soon as anyone with any hint of knowledge about jewellery sees it, they’ll know it too.”

 

“Who the hell has knowledge of jewellery?” Harry scoffed.

 

Draco smirked nastily. “Daphne and Pansy for two.” He said and Harry felt a matching evil smirk take over his own face.

 

“Oh, I can’t wait for the train ride.”

 

“Remember not to tell anyone outside of certain…circles about who you’re engaged to.”

 

Harry nodded. “All anyone else is going to know is that the ‘witch’ I’m marrying is a Pureblood from another country.”

 

“A witch? Why a witch?” Draco asked him with his platinum eyebrows lowered in confusion.

 

“To keep my bearer genes a secret from those who don’t deserve to be in the know.” Harry said simply. “It keeps me safer and it’ll keep everyone as far away from guessing that my Fiancé is Rabastan as possible.”

 

Lucius’ eyes gleamed. “I’m very proud that you’ve given such thought to this. I agree, telling those not already in the know that you’re engaged to a lovely young lady from…France, shall we say? Is a very clever idea. I’ll start spreading the news covertly around the Ministry.”

 

Harry grinned. “I want to shout from the Astronomy Tower that I’m marrying Rabastan, but I know that I can’t and I need to keep the both of us safe and our future children safe until the time is right. If that means lying through my teeth about an engagement to a witch in France, so be it.”

 

Harry was missing Rabastan more tonight that he had that morning and talking about being engaged to some fictitious witch from France wasn’t helping. Knowing that his real Fiancé was at his ancestral house, with his vile Father, brought his own mood down. He just wanted to stay by Rabastan’s side, but unfortunately it was too risky to bring the Lestranges over to the manor, just in case the Aurors were still watching their house. Though Lucius was delighting in telling him and Draco that he’d gone to the Minister’s personal home during the afternoon, while Draco had been poking and dressing Harry up for his date, and the elder Malfoy had ripped into the Minister for such an atrocious act of embarrassment in his own house. The elder Malfoy hoped that the Auror observation would be lifted very soon, unfortunately it wouldn’t be soon enough for Harry, who was going to be going back to Hogwarts in just four days. Normal Ministry work wouldn’t be resumed until the day after Harry was back in Hogwarts.

The Minister had all but stumbled over himself to apologise to Lucius and Harry had learnt a valuable lesson with that story. If you’re confident and slightly arrogant, those lesser than you will fall over themselves to do your bidding.

 

“At the end of the day, boys.” Lucius told them as both he and Draco sat the living room with mugs of hot chocolate, hanging on every word of his recounted visit with the Minister. “People will respect authority, and the more gold you earn, the more you can pass on to those in higher offices, like our dear Minister Fudge. If you have gold and authority and don’t use them, it’s a massive waste of potential.”

 

“You’re hinting at me.” Harry said softly.

 

“I am, yes. Whether you like it or not, Harry, you’re a political figure and a famous celebrity. You can sway the masses to your way of thinking, you are a bigger influence than you realise and if you learnt to use that to your advantage…”

 

Lucius trailed off and Harry sat thinking about those words. He couldn’t get them out of his mind, even as the conversation turned to lighter topics. Could he really be such a huge influence? It didn’t seem remotely possible to him that people with their own brains and thoughts would follow his orders just because of his name…it seemed utterly preposterous. But Lucius Malfoy was a very sharp, shrewd man, if he said that he could use his name, fame and gold to bring people around to his way of thinking, then he was probably right. He just needed to learn how to utilise such weapons to his advantage.

 

“How do I use my fame to get people to do what I want?” He asked curiously.

 

Lucius blinked, having been cut off in mid-sentence, and he turned to him. Harry expected a punishment, not a satisfied smirk.

 

“Well now. I certainly didn’t think you’d enjoy the idea of selling yourself to the public. I admit that I’m rather taken aback.”

 

“I don’t like it, the very thought of it makes me feel dirty and wrong, but I recognise that sometimes we have to do things that we don’t particularly like to reach our end objective.”

 

Lucius smiled, truly smiled at him and turned his body to face him fully.

 

“You are growing by the day, in front of our very eyes. I will teach you how to use your name and influence to get others to do as you want. If you’re clever, it’ll be much easier for you, as you’re still a boy. If you can make it seem like the idea you have is that of the one you’re playing, you’ll find other’s suddenly doing absolutely everything you want them to do without them ever knowing that they’ve been played in the first place.” Lucius told him.

 

Harry nodded and he steeled himself to listen to the lessons that Lucius was going to teach him. The thought of using himself in such a way made him feel uneasy and if he were truthful, a bit like a tool. But…but if it helped him to achieve his goals, then he was prepared to give it a try. For example, if he could use his fame where he could and subtle bribes elsewhere to get people to listen to his fears about the Dementors, then it would be worth it to feel used and a bit grubby afterwards.

He needed to test the lessons out first though, he couldn’t go straight from listening to the lessons that Lucius taught him to using it for his cause to kick the Dementors out of Azkaban. He’d have to test it out first and practice it on his fellow students at Hogwarts.

 

“Can you start teaching me tomorrow?” Harry asked, knowing as he did that Lucius wasn’t due back in work until the sixth of January, with the majority of the Ministry work force, and because he and Draco went back to Hogwarts the day before, on the fifth of January, which was a Sunday ready to begin lessons the following day.

 

Lucius looked at him knowingly, as if he knew that Harry wanted to practice on his fellow students, before he nodded. “Yes, I believe that that would be agreeable. Draco is going to visit Astoria tomorrow, I’ll be free to teach you how to use your name and command authority for it.”

 

Harry nodded and went back to his mug of hot chocolate, his mind racing. If he could do this properly, it might actually be worth it if he got what he wanted in the end.

His gaze caught the new ring nestled on his left hand as he lifted the mug to his mouth and he smiled, going back to admiring it. He loved Rabastan and he couldn’t wait until they were married. He hated that the Ministry had ruined their last week together, especially as he and Rabastan had gotten engaged tonight, but it was too risky to have Rabastan come here and downright dangerous for him to go and sleep in the Lestrange manor with Rhadamanthus creeping about. Not that Lucius would have ever allowed him to sleep at Lestrange manor, despite him and Rabastan now being engaged and their wedding planned for the summer of nineteen-ninety-eight, it still wasn’t proper etiquette. Harry hated proper etiquette sometimes.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Twelve – Trials and Debates

 

Harry grinned at Draco as his brother and Blaise messed around in the compartment that they’d chosen. Lucius and Narcissa had come to see them off. The elder Malfoys had gotten the both of them settled into their compartment and then they’d gone again as soon as they were on the train with their trunks and both of their owl cages. Hedwig was on a letter delivery to Remus and Draco’s owl, Saracen, was flying to Hogwarts as he found it more comfortable.

Harry had been given several cards and a few presents by Lucius a few days earlier. His Father had extensively checked them all for any sort of harmful potions or spells before giving them to him, which was a good thing as he’d found a few subtly placed compulsion spells worked in to certain passages of text which, when read by him, would have urged him to do exactly as the passages had instructed. The compulsion spells had all been carefully removed before he’d even been allowed to hold them.

He’d already owled Remus back to thank him profusely for his amazing gift, a small portrait of a much younger Sirius, from before Azkaban, that he could actually talk to and get an answer from, to an extent at least. But he was just so thankful to be able to talk to Sirius again, to hear his voice, that he didn’t care if this version of Sirius had no clue what had happened in the Ministry or anything about the Order of the Phoenix, because as soon as he told the younger version of Sirius what had happened, he’d brushed it off and told him that the best way he could think of dying would be in the place of his friends or Prongs’ baby. Him. Talking to this hilarious, fun-loving Sirius helped to draw out the awful, festering guilt that he was carrying around. It helped him let go of Sirius, even as he talked and joked around with this new one.

Harry had also gotten a tin of fudge from Hagrid and he planned to go and have a talk with him once he was settled back in his private rooms as the half-giant had told him in his letter that he had missed him and his visits last term. As for Ron and Hermione’s written apologies, well, they weren’t fit to wipe his arse with if he was honest. Hermione’s was marginally more sincere than Ron’s, but he assumed that her parents had had a hand in that, what with the incredibly hefty bills they would have received during the first week of the New Year. He assumed that they were trying to get back into his good graces in order to convince him to pay the bill himself or to convince his Father to pick it up instead of themselves. He knew that the two sixths of the bill that had been sent to the Weasleys would have crippled them, but he wiped away those thoughts of guilt and remorse. They had turned on him, they had all turned on him and they’d attacked him without provocation. They’d all brought it on themselves. He had nothing to be guilty for, he had no reason to be remorseful about billing them for his damaged belongings.

 

“What’s that?!”

 

Harry looked up, slightly startled at the sudden, loud noise, to see that Pansy, Millicent and Daphne had arrived in their compartment. Astoria had also arrived and she was sat primly next to Draco, as was her right as his betrothed. Harry was very pleased to note that their hands were entwined together. Draco had already told him that his afternoon with her had gone really well now that he actually knew how to talk to her properly instead of taking her shy silence as disinterest.

 

“What’s what?” Blaise asked, looking in bemusement at Pansy, who’d made the alarming outburst.

 

“That!” Pansy pointed to Harry’s hand, and to the stunning, gleaming ring nestled on his finger.

 

“It’s my engagement ring.” Harry drawled slowly. He was definitely learning the Malfoy family mannerisms.

 

“Oh, you and Rabastan got engaged?” Astoria said happily. “May I see?”

 

Harry held out his hand and Astoria’s tinier one took his and looked the ring over.

 

“It’s so beautiful!” She gushed. “Those diamonds are amazing, very beautifully cut, and the contrast of the blue with the silver is stunning, or is it platinum? It certainly seems whiter than silver.”

 

“It’s platinum. Platinum and blue tungsten. We got engaged on New Year’s night.” Harry said. “He took me on a dinner date to The Garnet Swan or something. I really wasn’t expecting it. I thought he’d propose in the summer.”  

 

“Let me see!” Pansy demanded as she snatched his hand and looked at his ring critically. Harry watched her face and he could almost see that she was pricing it up in her head.

 

She huffed and sat down again. Harry assumed that she could find no fault with the ring, or with how much it had obviously costed, and it made him very smug.

 

“For the sake of the Mudbloods…” Draco trailed off as Harry glared so hard at him he could almost feel the heat of it. Draco sighed. “For the sake of the other students who aren’t in our superior circle, Harry is engaged to a witch from France. We’ve been ordered not to reveal his true Fiancé to anyone.”

 

“Why a witch when you’re obviously gay and have bearer genes?” Blaise asked confused.

 

“Because it’s safer for me and Rabastan if people didn’t know about that particular ability of mine. The Healers aren’t able to reveal anything confidential about me or my medical records as per their oath and the only other copy of the record is locked in my Father’s study.” Harry sighed. “It’ll keep people as far away from thinking of Rabastan as possible if they think that I’m straight and engaged to a foreign witch.”

 

“What is this foreign witch’s name?” Millicent asked. “I’ll drop it in conversation.”

 

“Aceline and she’s from Nantes. It’s too dangerous to link her to an actual Pureblood family though, so don’t bring up last names.” Harry warned.

 

“Make it a lesser Pureblood family.” Pansy said. “With you being a Lord of two houses and incredibly wealthy, it would be suspicious if your bride was also from an incredibly wealthy and influential family. It won’t be noticed if she’s from one of the lesser Pureblood families.”

 

Draco was already nodding. “We have, Pans.” He explained. “She’s not real and not who Harry is actually marrying, so it doesn’t matter. The only thing that does matter is looking after him and keeping him and Rabastan safe. We have our orders.” He stressed again.

 

Everyone in the compartment knew who those orders had come from and not a single one of them dared to go against the one who had made those orders. Harry’s secret was safe, which meant that he and Rabastan would be safe.

After they’d been moving for a while and after the witch with the trolley had been by and Harry had eaten a few snacks and sweets as well as downed a bottle of pumpkin juice, he stood up and stretched himself.

 

“I’ll be back soon.” He said, speaking mostly to the puzzled looking Draco. “I want to go and see Theo for a bit.”

 

Daphne scoffed. “Why do you want to actually talk to that spineless dimwit? He never has anything good or intellectual to say. He has no brain and no spine, he’s like a mollusc. Perhaps I should start calling him slug. It suits him.”

 

Harry’s eyes flashed dangerously and his right hand clenched into a fist, making his knuckles crack.

 

“Be very, very careful, Daphne. Theo is my friend and if you carry on you’ll find out exactly why I’m the top of our year in Defence.”

 

Harry left before he could make good on his promise and he went searching for Theo. He wanted to find out why he hadn’t kicked Daphne out on her arse yet and if he had, for whatever reason, changed his mind about keeping his betrothal to Daphne, then Harry would make sure that he changed it right back again. Daphne was far too poisonous to have such a wonderfully tolerant person such as Theo for a Husband. She didn’t deserve him.

He found Theo in a compartment further down the train from the one that he was in and he was once again sat with a group of seventh year Slytherins.

 

“Harry, how are you?” Theo greeted him like they were the bestest friends as he stood up and hugged him instead of offering a handshake.

 

“I’m good, Theo. I just wanted to come and see you.” He said. “I’m in the same compartment as Daphne.”

 

Theo grinned then. “I suppose you’re wondering why she didn’t blow up at you as soon as she saw you?”

 

“Yeah.” Harry said bluntly. “I am.”

 

He peered around at the very interested seventh years.

 

“Don’t worry about them, they know all about what you did for me and about my troubles concerning Greengrass.” Theo said as he sat down and offered a seat to Harry, which he took.

 

“Then I don’t feel bad in blurting out what the fuck are you still doing with her?”

 

That earned him several laughs, but he wasn’t in a joking mood.

 

“I’m planning to thoroughly humiliate her, don’t worry, Harry. I’m not going to change my mind now that you’ve given me a way out. I’ve already been owling a girl in Poland. She seems really nice.”

 

Harry breathed out a huge sigh of relief. “You don’t know how happy that makes me. When she came waltzing into the compartment as though everything was fine and nothing had changed I was worried that you’d actually changed your mind.”

 

“She’ll get what’s coming to her.” One of the seventh year’s said with a nasty looking smirk to his fellow Slytherins.

 

“Good.” Was all Harry said and he relaxed a little bit.

 

“How was the rest of your holiday? I heard about the Auror raid after I’d left.”

 

Harry grimaced. “It was utterly ridiculous! I was not pleased.”

 

“I was there with my Mother and younger sister.” One of the seventh years said with a grin. “I heard exactly what you thought of the Ministry’s prejudice against us. Very apt.”

 

“I think by now everyone has heard of what he said to the Aurors.” Another one piped up.

 

“I had to protect my interests.” Harry said with a smile.

 

“One particular interest named Rabastan Lestrange?” Theo winked.

 

Harry laughed. “Yes. Exactly.”

 

“I see you’re wearing a ring.” One of the seventh years pointed out and Theo’s gaze narrowed on the beautiful white-silver and blue ring studded with diamonds.

 

“Rabastan and I got engaged on the first.” Harry nodded. “But for the sake of protecting him, I’m engaged to a witch from Nantes called Aceline. The less that those of certain circles know, the better.”

 

“You mean Dumbledore.”

 

“I do.” Harry nodded. “There are certain things that he just does not need to know about me or what I’m doing.”

 

“We all understand that.” Theo nodded. “I can’t believe you and Rabastan are engaged, though!”

 

“I know.” Harry said excitedly. “I wasn’t expecting it, I thought for sure that he’d propose this summer, seeing as we can’t marry until after I graduate.”

 

“Where did he propose?” Theo asked.

 

“Some restaurant called The Garnet Swan. I don’t know where it was, I didn’t ask. It just didn’t seem important at the time.”

 

“That place charges half a bank vault for a salad.” One of the seventh years snorted. “It’s almost impossible to get a table too, they’re always fully booked and you have to make reservations over a year in advance, you haven’t even been seeing Rabastan that long.”

 

“We had one of the private rooms on the upper floor.”

 

Harry got incredulous looks when he said that.

 

“What did you expect?! Rabastan can hardly go out in public!” He scoffed.

 

“I thought he was using Polyjuice or something! Those rooms are for the most important of Pureblood dignitaries! They even turned away the Minister for Magic and several foreign guests once, just because he didn’t have a reservation and he hadn’t booked one of the three private rooms, even though all three of them were empty at the time! They can afford to turn away customers with how much they charge!”

 

Harry grinned. “Rabastan knows the owner and his family.” He boasted. “The owner’s son was Rabastan’s best friend in school and now Rabastan can eat there whenever he pleases with only a pittance of forewarning.”

 

“Merlin, wait until I tell my sister! She’s been trying to get a date to take her there for years, but it’s virtually impossible.” One of the Slytherin’s laughed.

 

“I suppose it helped that you’re Harry Potter too.”

 

“I doubt it, if the owner and his family are friends with the Lestranges then I probably wouldn’t be able to get a reservation even if it was ten years in advance.”

 

“Things have changed now.” Theo said cryptically. “Everyone of import knows it.”

 

Harry nodded seriously. “They have changed, insurmountably so over the last couple of months.”

 

Harry stayed with Theo and the seventh years for a while. He felt much better knowing that Theo was still planning on getting rid of Daphne, that he was just waiting for the right moment to utterly humiliate her to make up for all of the humiliation and disrespect that she had offered to him over the years of their betrothal.

He left their compartment and he made his way back down to where Draco was, typically, it just happened to be his luck that he ran into Hermione, Ron and Ginny on his way back.

 

“Harry! Can we talk for a minute?” Hermione asked him, darting out of a compartment to head him off.

 

“I have nothing to say to you.” Harry said haughtily, pulling up his Lord Potter-Black persona that he used in the Wizengamot.

 

“Please, Harry. We just want put all of this behind us.” Hermione tried.

 

“We were friends once.” Ginny added. “Please, just hear us out. For old time’s sake.”

 

“We are sorry about everything, Harry.” Hermione told him after he remained silent. “We were just angry and we overreacted.”

 

“Overreacted?” Harry drawled slowly. “Is that what you call turning on me for something completely out of my control?”

 

“We realise now that it truly wasn’t your fault that Malfoy adopted you.” Hermione ploughed on. “I didn’t know anything about magical adoptions, only a little bit about Muggle ones, but I’ve been reading up on them and well…I know now that Malfoy held all the cards and you were given to him without your knowledge or consent. You don’t have to be alone in this anymore, Harry. We want to help you through this.”

 

“Please say something, Harry.” Ginny pleaded after he remained still and silent.

 

“I apologise for my lengthy pause, it was rude of me to stagnate the conversation. I’m merely trying to wrap my head around the sheer audacity you have to even approach me.” He forced himself to say.

 

A couple of months ago he would have begged for this to happen. He had even dreamed of it on occasion, of his friends apologising and admitting that they’d overreacted through lack of knowledge about what had happened to him over the summer. But now, it was different now. How could he ever know for sure if they truly wanted to apologise and tentatively rebuild their friendship, or if they just wanted to get into his good books so that he’d take the debt hanging over their heads away? There was no way he could know for sure, so he couldn’t accept their apologies and he couldn’t let them back in his life. The thought of that made him feel like he was in actual, physical pain.

He thought of Rabastan and calmed himself down. He was engaged to be married, he loved Rabastan with all that he was and he would have a family with him. It was too dangerous to let Hermione, Ron and Ginny back into his life with any doubts or uncertainties over their loyalties or motives. If they read one of his letters and saw something that they shouldn’t or they got so much as a hint that the person he was engaged to was a man then he would be putting Rabastan in danger, but more than that, he’d be putting the Malfoy’s in danger too. He couldn’t risk it, their meagre friendship wasn’t worth his entire future. The future that he’d been planning and mapping out for himself and Rabastan since he’d first heard that he was going to be betrothed to Rabastan Lestrange whether he liked it or not.

 

“That you even dare to come near me, let alone speak to me, after what you did at the start of the school term. Where do you even get the nerve?!” He demanded. “Do you think me so inept and utterly brainless you actually believe that I can’t see what this is really about? I know the breakdown of the final bill for my damaged possessions was in my Father’s hand on the twenty-third of December. He sent all relevant documents to the correct person in the correct department at the Ministry, who split the cost of all of my school replacements and the repair work done on my broom into six equal parts and your parents would have received the bill in the first week of the New Year. A bit suspicious that suddenly you’ve all had a change of heart and want to be friends again just after those letters arrived. How very obvious of you.”

 

The three of them shared a look and that was all Harry needed to know that they were never serious about being his friend again. They were doing it because of the debt that each one of them now owed, a debt which was a very substantial amount of gold. Being a Malfoy, all of his belongings had been of the very best quality, handmade, hand tailored and that was without throwing in the repairs on his Firebolt, the world’s best, and most expensive, racing broom on top of everything else too. They had all been expensive to buy and expensive to replace and repair too.

 

“That’s not why we’re doing this!” Hermione insisted stubbornly.

 

“Liar.” Harry snapped at her. “It’s the only reason you’re here, trying to get me to remove the debt. Well, I’ll save us all the time of day. I am never going to accept an apology off of you now. It is too late. If you’d done this before the end of the last term, I would have considered it, but not now. Now I know you’re only trying to get me to call back the debt that all of you owe for damaging everything I own!”

 

“Will you never forgive us?” Hermione pleaded softly.

 

“No.” He said simply. “The books, robes and the trunk I could have easily forgiven, the material items I could have forgiven, but you maliciously tried to destroy the one remaining thing that Sirius had bought and given to me. You knew how much that Firebolt meant to me. Not because it’s the best broom in the world or because it’s still unmatched three years later, no, but because he gave it to me, because it was one of the only gifts he was able to give to me, because he had touched it with his own hands! I loved that broom because of the sentimentality attached to it and now that Sirius is dead, I cling to it harder! You tried to rip that away from me! It had to be stripped back to a bare handle and meticulously tested to make sure it was safe before it was repaired. You did that knowing full well how devastated I’d be if I ever lost that one remaining physical link to Sirius. Just seeing it in that damaged state was enough to devastate me, you’re just lucky that the handle that he’d touched with his own hands wasn’t chipped or fractured in your cruel attempt to rob me of the memory of Sirius.”

 

“He’d be so disa…”

 

“If you finish that sentence, Hermione, you will not be walking off of this train.” Harry threatened softly, his eyes glinting icily. “You knew nothing about Sirius, you have no idea what he’d say in this situation or what he’d be thinking, so don’t even pretend that you know.”

 

“Remus knew him best and…”

 

“Did you know that Remus has been to see me several times since I was adopted and that we correspond through owls regularly?” Harry put in, false nonchalantly.

 

Hermione looked startled and Harry knew that she hadn’t known that he and Remus were talking to one another. She had obviously expected him to have cut Remus off like everyone else or for Remus to be too angry to speak to him.

 

“I take it from the flush creeping up your neck that you didn’t know. Allow me to enlighten you, seeing as you are very deluded on your view of both Remus and Sirius. Remus knew that I had no choice in my adoption from the very beginning, seeing as he wasn’t stupid enough to think that I’d organised it myself or agreed to actually go and live with the Malfoys. Naturally he was worried about me and my safety, so he came to see me at the very first opportunity he could, where I reassured him that I was safe and being very well looked after. He’s happy for me and he told me that as long as I’m happy and safe, he doesn’t care who it’s with and he told me that not only Sirius, but my parents would have wanted me safe and happy too, no matter who it was with. So before you even dare to try and emotionally blackmail me with my dead family members, remember that the person who knew them the very best has already told me that they’d be fine with my living arrangements and how I’m currently living and conducting myself. I’m happy, Remus is happy for me, it’s your downfall if you can’t be happy for me too and it’s no fault of my own.”

 

“Please, Harry.” Ginny tried.

 

He sighed, they’d gone back to begging. He’d had enough. There was only so much pain and heartbreak he could take in one day.

 

“If that was all?” He snapped, making a move to slip around the group of three.

 

“You liked me once.” Ginny said softly. “Like liked me.”

 

Harry sighed and rubbed his face with his hand.

 

“I think it’s fair to say that that ship sailed when you turned on me and tried to destroy my Firebolt.” Harry hissed.

 

“It doesn’t have to be!”

 

“Yes, yes it does.” Harry said sternly. “You tried to destroy one of the only things I had left of my family! I don’t want to be anywhere near someone who is so cruel or malicious.”

 

“No, you see I had nothing to do with destroying your stuff. The others had a misguided view of things, but I love you, Harry. I always have.”

 

“No you don’t!” Harry hissed. “You don’t even like me, so stop pretending!”

 

“I’m not pretending, Harry! I’ve always liked you.” Ginny said defiantly, with a flush reddening her freckled cheeks. “Don’t you remember Valentine’s Day in first year, well, your second, my first year?”

 

“Honestly? I’m trying to block that particular horrifying memory from my mind.” He said.

 

Ginny glared at him and Ron swelled with anger.

 

“You were a little, eleven year old girl and I was twelve. What the hell did you think would come of that?” He demanded.

 

“I liked you even then!”

 

“No! You had no concept of those sorts of feelings as a mere eleven year old!” Harry shouted. “You wanted the stories of The-Boy-Who-Lived! I am not a fucking story, Ginny! I am a living, breathing person and you can’t have me.”

 

“You liked me last year!”

 

“A hell of a lot has changed since then, Ginny, and even then I didn’t see you as a girlfriend. You’re Ron’s sister, I was nice to you because of that, nothing more.”

 

“You’re lying! You do like me!”

 

Harry blew out a breath and thrust his left arm out, splaying his fingers and letting his platinum and blue tungsten ring catch the light streaming through the train windows, making the five large, cut diamonds sparkle.

 

“What’s that?” Hermione asked breathlessly.

 

“I would have thought the most intelligent witch of our school year would recognise a ring when she saw one and would realise the significance of a ring on the third finger of the left hand.”

 

“You went and got married.” Hermione whispered, as if she were having problems breathing or getting her words out.

 

“Married? Hell no. Not yet at any rate, but I am engaged. I got matching rings for me and my future bride, Aceline. She’s truly wonderful. I took her to The Garnet Swan on New Year’s night to propose to her. Of course she said yes.”

 

“You’re following that barbaric Pureblood tradition that forces young women to move to a different country with near strangers, just to preserve bloodlines?!” Hermione demanded shrilly. “She’s going to be forced to leave her home and her birth country, her family and friends, just for the sake of marrying you! All this male supremacy and the patriarchal society that Purebloods hold is archaic and disgusting. You expecting her to move just because you’re the man is sexist, callous and inhumane!”

 

“Are you quite done? Aceline is not the one moving because she’s a woman, if you actually knew anything of Pureblood culture or our traditions then you’d know why she’s the one moving to me instead of sprouting your biased, Muggleborn assumptions…again. I am from the more influential, wealthy family.” Harry insisted haughtily. “I would expect my bride, who is from a lesser family, to move into my home, of course, as I am bringing more into our marriage than she is. If she were from the more influential family, then I would be moving to her. Aceline is very happy with our engagement and she is busy planning our wedding to her desires. Price is, of course, no issue for me, she can have whatever she wishes. Though thankfully she knows a bit of English, so we can actually converse together, but I am still learning French to help make things easier for her and her family.”

 

Harry left the three of them speechless and he forced himself past them and he made it back to his compartment.

 

“You were gone for a very long time.” Draco said, looking him over critically and visibly relaxing at his still pristine appearance as Harry sat himself back down.

 

“I ran into the two Weasleys and Granger on my way back.” Harry said simply.

 

“They didn’t give you any trouble did they?” Draco asked, his face hardening and his hand flexing towards his wand.

 

“No. They did try, but I’m very capable of outwitting them. I told them all about Aceline though.” He said with a laugh. “Ginny seemed to think that me and her would be perfect together, so I shoved my ring in her face.”

 

“Such a ring is wasted on her, as if she knows how much it costs or even what was used to make it.” Pansy sniffed. “She’d probably mistake the platinum for mere silver!”

 

“As if Father would allow you to marry so low. He’d rather you be with another Half-Blood than a blood traitor.” Draco told him.

 

“Need I remind you that I was legitimised at birth?” Harry drawled. “For all intents and purposes, I am a Pureblood and I need to marry another Pureblood to keep the line Pure.”

 

“I’m glad you understand that.” Blaise said before winking at him. “But is there no way I can change your mind? I’d be a good Husband for you too.”

 

“No you wouldn’t.” Draco snapped at his friend, giving him a glare. “If I so much as hear of you touching my brother, you’ll regret it, Blaise! I mean it!”

 

“It’s beside the point.” Harry cut in. “I’m engaged and I’m very happy. I’m not leaving Rabastan for anyone, for any reason.”

 

“He might get rid of you.” Daphne told him with a sniff.

 

“Why?” Harry asked her. “Unlike you, I haven’t given Rabastan a reason to distrust me or be displeased with me or my behaviour.”

 

“Give it time, you’re not married yet.” Daphne answered.

 

Harry rolled his eyes. “You’re ridiculous and shallow. Unlike you, Daphne, I’m not risking everything I have for nothing and I’m not throwing Rabastan away like he’s nothing. We love one another and we’re going to get married and have a family.”

 

“Don’t delude yourself. He’s with you because he’s been ordered to.” Daphne scoffed and Pansy and Millicent both gasped and even Blaise looked shocked at her daring, presumably for revealing the Dark Lord’s orders to one who wasn’t supposed to know.

 

“That isn’t true.” Draco said calmly. “He didn’t know about Father choosing Rabastan as Harry’s betrothed until after the Lestranges had accepted the contract.”

 

“It’s beside the point. Rabastan loves me for who I am.” Harry said easily. “You haven’t even spoken to him, how would you know what he’s thinking and feeling? You make me laugh sometimes, Daphne, you really do. Just because you’re a complete bitch and think that way doesn’t mean that we all do and one of these days, you’re going to regret everything you’ve said and done.”

 

Daphne scoffed, but Blaise looked at him curiously, as if guessing that he knew something and he was incredibly interested to know what he did about Daphne and her betrothal, or future lack of one. Blaise was very observant with the things that people said, and even more so with what they didn’t say. Harry gave him a covert wink and settled himself back in his seat, waiting for the new school term. He got out a book and started reading up on Ancient Runes. He’d already sent a letter to Marcus about his tutoring, now he wanted to brush up on the basics at least, just to make sure he didn’t make a stupid mistake and make Marcus regret offering to tutor him.

 

“I thought you’d already read that book.” Pansy pointed out.

 

“I have. I’m reading it again ready for the new term, just to assure myself that I have the basics down and memorised.”

 

Harry ignored everyone then and sunk into his book. He had ten weeks to survive before the Easter holiday came around and he could go back home and see Rabastan again. Now that they were engaged, those ten weeks were going to seem longer than the three and a half months it had taken from September to the Christmas holidays. He couldn’t wait until he was graduated and they could get married and actually live together.  

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

It took five days for Dumbledore to call him back into his office, the man was learning and he had waited for the end of lessons on Friday the tenth to send McGonagall to him to call him to his office.

He was annoyed, he’d planned to start his homework straight after dinner and now he was going to be behind in his schedule and Marcus was coming on the third weekend of term to tutor him and he still needed to read fifteen more chapters in his review of the basics of Ancient Runes.

His annoyance lasted until he got through the office door and he was once again crushed into a hug by a werewolf.

 

“Remus!” He laughed as he hugged back tight. “What are you doing here?”

 

“You never answered my letter and I sent you a gift and a card for Christmas.” Remus said frantically.

 

“I answered it a few days ago, Hedwig will be with you soon if she’s had to double back on herself and come to Hogwarts. Poor girl, you give her extra treats when she finds you.” Harry said sternly.

 

“Why did you get them so late? I made sure to send them with enough time to reach you exactly on Christmas Day.”

 

“I was so busy with the Parkinsons Winter Gala and then the traditions for Christmas Day and then my parents hosted the New Year’s party. There was only a week between them! I didn’t mean to, but I left them on my bedside table when they arrived and only just managed to open them this week. I loved the painting of Sirius, Remus. Thank you. I framed it and I keep it on my bedside table where I can easily see it. Speaking to him again has really helped me and I’ve stopped having so many nightmares. I can’t thank you enough for it.”

 

Remus sighed and visibly relaxed after Harry had explained why he’d been so late in responding.  

 

“You never told me that Sirius snores quite that loud though!” Harry teased, forcing a surprised laugh from Remus. “I have to silence him at night just to get any sleep at all!”

 

“We did the same in the dorms. It drove James mad as he couldn’t sleep if there was even the slightest noise.”

 

Harry grinned and soaked up all the information being given to him. At least until Dumbledore made his presence known.

 

“I owe you an apology, Harry.” Dumbledore spoke up from behind his desk. “I realise that perhaps I have handled things wrong these last several months. Will you please take a seat and listen to me?”

 

Harry wondered what new tactic this was as he cautiously sat in one of the chairs opposite the desk. Remus sat next to him and Harry took his hand and squeezed it, giving Remus a smile.

 

“Now, can you explain what this meeting is about? I have homework to be doing.” He said primly, straightening his back and relaxing his shoulders as Narcissa had taught him.

 

“I wanted to clear the air between us, Harry.” Dumbledore insisted. “Perhaps a monthly meeting, just once a month, to sit down and talk to help rebuild the trust that we once had.”

 

“I don’t think that’ll ever happen.” Harry said simply.

 

“Can’t you try, Harry?” Remus asked softly.

 

Harry looked into imploring eyes and he sighed. “I’ll owl my Father and see what he thinks. He may want to be here, just to ensure my safety.”

 

“I’m not going to hurt you, Harry.” Dumbledore told him seriously, those blue eyes very sad.

 

“Regardless I’d feel better if someone were here with me for these meetings. Just in case.”

 

“How about if I stay here for the meetings, Harry?” Remus asked. “I wanted to spend a bit more time with you anyway, you’re all I have left now.”

 

Harry’s face softened and he reached back out to lace his fingers with Remus’, squeezing comfortingly.

 

“Okay, but I still want to confer with my Father first. He’ll know what’ll be for the best. I have to wait for Hedwig to come back first though.”

 

“You do still want to defeat Voldemort, don’t you?” Dumbledore asked suddenly and Harry got the feeling that he was under a microscope, his very movements being dissected and scrutinised by old, blue eyes.

 

He acted quickly, not entirely acting either, and he grit his teeth and clenched his hand tight. He needed to play this right. He was staying out of this war, completely out of it, but if he could stay out of it by pretending to still be fighting with Dumbledore against Voldemort, then he might be able to stay out of the war for a lot longer and keep himself and his family safer.

 

“Of course I do! He’s a monster and he killed my parents!” Harry raged. “He killed Sirius and Cedric too! I want him gone! I just don’t see why I’m the one who needs to do it. There are others, the Aurors, the Order, you! Why can’t all of you pitch in together to get rid of him? I’ve had enough and I’m not fighting, but that doesn’t mean that I still don’t want Voldemort gone and out of my life. I do.”

 

“Good, that’s good, Harry. We can work with that if it’s what you want.”

 

Harry let out a deep breath and sat back again, relaxing from his tensed posture.

 

“It is. I’ve seen far too much in my life and I can’t take any more. I’ve done enough already!” He insisted. “Last year was devastating to me. Do you have any idea how I feel having seen Sirius die in front of me, knowing that it was my fault that he was there in the first place?! It was the last straw, I’m not putting myself through that anymore.”

 

“Harry, it wasn’t your fault!” Remus insisted firmly.

 

“It was. If I’d learnt Occlumency properly, then I wouldn’t have had that vision and gone charging off to the Ministry.”

 

“Occlumency is an incredibly rare, obscure branch of magic, Harry and it’s very difficult to do.” Remus explained.

 

“But…I managed to cast a Patronus.” He said sadly.

 

“Oh Harry.” Remus sat on the edge of his seat and turned to fully face him, cupping his cheeks and resting their foreheads together. “The Patronus charm is based on magical power, Harry. I never thought that you’d get more than mist, but you got a full, corporeal Patronus at just thirteen. Do you know how extraordinary that is? But Occlumency isn’t based on magical power, it’s based fully on mental ability, meditation and cutting off the emotions. Only one in one hundred will be able to meet the prerequisites for even achieving the basics in Occlumency, Harry. It’s not your fault that you couldn’t get the hang of it within a few months. It takes years and years of practice and building up to certain levels to achieve anything in Occlumency. We always thought that we had more time, that you would be in those lessons for the next few years, not mere months.”

 

“Why did I believe the vision, Remus?” He asked softly, trying to hold back the tears, but they still shone through, making his eye extra bright and shiny.

 

“Because you loved him, Harry. Because you saw him captured, trapped and in pain and you reacted to that because you loved him and Sirius went after you because he loved you. You both loved one another fiercely and the both of you just wanted to protect one another. What happened to Sirius wasn’t your fault, it was Bellatrix Lestrange’s fault.”

 

Harry swallowed and his fists clenched again. He’d tried to dissolve the marriage between Rodolphus and Bellatrix, as a favour to the Lestrange family, but the contract that Rhadamanthus had drawn up with the late Cygnus Black had been air tight and there wasn’t a fault or loop hole that he could exploit. He’d even asked the goblins if it could be broken, but they had told him that it couldn’t…except in the case of death of one of the spouses. That had a new plan forming, one that included Bellatrix’s death. He could get his revenge for Sirius. He was already planning Rhadamanthus’ death, why not kill two birds with one stone and take out Bellatrix too?

It seemed to be the only way, he couldn’t dissolve the marriage between Rodolphus and Bellatrix, so he couldn’t disown her from the Black family without offering massive insult to the Lestranges, and as they were to be his Husband and in-laws, he couldn’t afford to insult them in such a way, nor take credibility from their family by disowning Bellatrix like he wanted to as it would harm his own marriage. It was infuriating and it made him hate Rhadamanthus all the more.

He calmed himself. Soon. Very soon. He would take his cold revenge on them both and free the Lestranges from Bellatrix and Rhadamanthus both. Then Rodolphus could marry whomever he wanted and he could finally have the child that he desired without his poisonous, petty father dictating to him what to do or who to tie himself to for the rest of his life.

 

“I wish things had been different. If Sirius were still alive then none of this would have happened.”

 

“How do you mean, Harry? Are you talking about your adoption? Are you unhappy at the Malfoys’?” Remus asked him, his eyes widening in panic at the thought of him being hurt or upset.

 

“What? No! I just…I wish that things had been different. If Sirius were still alive, my parents were still alive, things could have been so much different. Why is it always me? Why are my parents dead, why is my Godfather dead, why is it my name on a prophecy, why is it always me who has to fight? Why me and not someone else?”

 

“Oh, Harry.”

 

He was pulled back into a hug and he held on tight to Remus as a few tears slipped out for good measure.

 

“I’m making the most of things, Remus. The Malfoys adopted me, I couldn’t control that and I had no say, but they’re helping me so much! They’re the family I always needed, despite everything. I’m so happy, I just wish that everything had been different and that none of this had happened in the first place. I wish there had never been a Voldemort.”

 

“It’ll be alright, Harry. As soon as you’re graduated, you’ll be free to do what you want to do.”

 

“I already know what I’m going to do.” Harry said with a smile, pulling back and wiping his eyes with the sleeve of his robe. Narcissa would have scolded him if she’d seen him do such a thing.

 

“You wanted to be an Auror, didn’t you?”

 

Harry shook his head. “Not any more. I’m done with fighting in all forms, including being a part of the Aurors, they’re just Ministry lackeys. It’s a wonder they can even function properly with how stupid they all are. No, I think I want to be a teacher. I’ve looked into it and France has an amazing trainee teacher programme and they make spaces for apprentice teachers on the Beauxbatons teaching staff.”

 

“You want to be a teacher at Beauxbatons?” Remus asked, completely shocked.

 

Harry nodded. “It was you who made me think more seriously about being a teacher, Remus and then I got the bug for it when teaching the DA. I think it’ll suit me so much better than anything else.”

 

“But, why Beauxbatons?” Remus asked.

 

“Because they’re the only school who run this trainee teacher programme. I’m already learning French and really…” Harry took a breath and made a point to make it look like he was warring with himself. “I’m getting a lot of help too, seeing as my Fiancée is French.”  

 

“Fiancée?!” Remus looked like he was going to pass out and even Dumbledore looked shell shocked, in a miserable, grave way that made him look fifty years older.

 

“Yeah, her name’s Aceline. She’s amazing. We’ve been betrothed since August and on the first of January I took her to The Garnet Swan and proposed to her with matching rings as she wanted us both to have a ring to wear.”

 

Harry held out his left hand and let them see the ring on his finger.

 

“She doesn’t speak much English, but she understands enough and she’s teaching me French too, so we are able to have a conversation now. It’s customary for her to move in with me, as she’s from the lesser family, but if I get into this teaching programme, then it’ll make a lot more sense if I move to France with her. She’s so excited that she’s even started planning our wedding already.” Harry laughed. Remus and Dumbledore did not join in.

 

“Are…are you getting married this summer?” Remus asked weakly.

 

Harry laughed louder. “No! I’m not getting married while I’m still in school! What sort of married life would that be, with me stuck here and Aceline stuck elsewhere? No, our wedding is planned for two summers after this one coming. In nineteen-ninety-nine. After we’ve both graduated. I have to wait the extra year because Aceline is a year younger than I am, but that’s not a bad thing as the training programme is very extensive and time consuming, we might even have to put the wedding off until early two thousand if my training keeps me too busy. That way I can focus on securing my teaching post while Aceline gets her final examinations over and done with and goes into her Healer apprenticeship, then we can get married.”

 

He didn’t know what had made him lie about the date of his wedding, but his gut had told him that it would be safer to tell Dumbledore that it was another year or two on top of what it was actually going to be. As Dumbledore relaxed and got a twinkle in his eye, as if he were already scheming, Harry mentally congratulated himself on his lie. He just hoped that he’d done enough to keep Dumbledore from ruining his wedding upon his own graduation.

 

“Are you sure this is what you want, Harry?” Remus tried.

 

Harry nodded seriously. “I love her, Remus. She’s so kind and gentle, she’ll make a wonderful Mother one day. She’s also smart and very thoughtful and she’ll be an amazing Healer. She fully supports my decision to become a teacher too. She’s amazing, but hell does she have a temper. When she gets fired up, everyone knows about it.”

 

“She sounds like your Mother.” Remus said softly.

 

Harry pulled a thoughtful face. “Hmm…maybe that’s why I love her so much.”

 

“She’s not a redhead, is she?”

 

Harry grinned. “No. She has dark hair and beautiful, bright blue eyes. I love her eyes.”

 

“Now you sound like your Father…I mean James.” Remus said a bit awkwardly.

 

Harry cocked his head. “He’s still my Father, Remus. He’s always going to be my Father. I told you that at the beginning of the year. Lucius is filling in because I don’t have anyone else to do so, but James will always, always be my Dad, no matter who I’m calling Father right now.”

 

Remus nodded and he looked happier than when Harry had come into the office, but he looked worried too, presumably over his engagement and his plans to marry.

 

“Was that all? I really need to make a start on my homework. Anyone would think that my NEWTs were this year, not next.”

 

“Of course, Harry. I think we’ve kept you long enough. But remember my offer for a truce, please.” Dumbledore insisted.

 

Harry nodded once, curtly, before he hugged Remus one last time and strode from the office. He got to the bottom of the spiral staircase and he let out a sigh of relief. He’d survived yet another meeting between himself and Dumbledore. He was doing well and he hadn’t even lost his temper this time. He really needed to owl Lucius though, he needed his opinion on these ‘truce’ meetings with Dumbledore.

Instead of going back to his rooms, as he so dearly wished to, he went straight to the Owlery and called down Draco’s owl, Saracen.

 

“Can you deliver a letter to home for me, Sar?” He asked as he groomed the pretentious owl gently.

 

The handsome Eagle owl cawed out loudly and nibbled his finger, a lot rougher than Hedwig ever did, but not breaking his skin either.

Harry sat down on the Owlery floor, not caring about the straw or owl droppings, he’d be changing as soon as he made it back to his rooms anyway, as he placed Saracen on his lap and quilled a quick letter to Lucius with a self-inking quill.

He tied it gently to Saracen’s leg and gave him a last, firm grooming, before getting him onto his arm and standing up, going to the glassless window.

 

“Take this straight to Lucius for me, Saracen, as quickly as you can.”

 

Harry flung his arm out and Saracen took flight, looking majestic as always as he glided for several feet before he flapped his wings in perfect unison.

 

“Bloody show off.” Harry muttered fondly. “Just like your Master.”

 

Harry turned and went back to the castle and to his rooms. He was going to have to tell Draco tomorrow morning that he’d used Saracen for an emergency letter.

He made it to his rooms without any problems, everyone was in their common rooms or getting ready for bed. He changed into his pyjamas, but unfortunately he didn’t have time to do his homework now, he’d have to do it all tomorrow. He was thankful now that he’d moved the Gryffindor Quidditch practice to Sunday at any rate as he settled onto his settee with a cup of tea and his Ancient Runes book. He’d read it for half an hour and then get himself to bed, he was going to have a long, busy day sorting out all of his homework assignments, so he needed to get up early.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

The first fortnight back at Hogwarts was so jam packed and stressful that Harry just wanted to drop to the floor and stay there so that he could just rest. He had so much homework that he barely had time for anything else. He’d held Quidditch practice last Sunday and when he’d woken up on the Monday he’d been so sore that it had been agony to move.

It was Thursday today and Harry was desperate to finish his Ancient Runes basics review before Saturday, when Marcus would be coming to tutor him for a couple of hours, he was nervous about that as he had no idea what to expect from it. Every spare moment had been dedicated to reading the last few chapters of the basics book he’d been given by Lucius last August. It was currently breakfast time and he had the book open at the end of the Gryffindor table, reading furiously and eating very little.

He was very stressed as he still hadn’t heard anything from Lucius and Dumbledore was pressing him for their little meetings, exclaiming that they were very important and urgent. Harry couldn’t think of anything that would be that urgent, but he was getting increasingly ratty every time he had to tell Dumbledore that he was waiting on his Father’s advice and he would get back to him when he had an actual answer. At the moment he was considering telling Dumbledore to shove his little meetings, just out of pure frustration from being hounded over it constantly.

At ten to nine in the morning, he packed up his things and quickly made his way, with the majority of the Great Hall, to his first lesson of the day. Double Potions.

He was partnered with Draco, as usual, so Potions wasn’t quite the torture that it used to be as Snape wouldn’t pick on Draco and with Harry being Lucius’ son now too, it was difficult for the man to insult or belittle him and he couldn’t rip apart his work either, because Draco was one of the very best at Potions. It was only really when they were working on separate potions that Harry sort of fell apart, but with Draco sat next to him, he was always on hand to help him.

 

“All of you, cauldrons out.” Snape ordered.

 

Harry sighed. It was a solo potion, not a partnered one, as if he wasn’t already stressed enough. He was too exhausted to be doing this, he was likely going to cause an accident, like Neville always did.

Harry had just finished that thought as he bent down to get his cauldron from his satchel when the rings on his right hand heated up and burnt for several long seconds.

He sat bolt upright and looked at his Lordship rings. They had never done that before, but he didn’t hang around to question it. He immediately packed all of his books and quills back into his bag.

 

“What? What is it?” Draco asked urgently.

 

“Wizengamot meeting. Get the set homework assignments for me, please. Oh and don’t forget to get my extra homework for Arithmancy, Professor Vector knows what I’ve done and what she’s going to give me next.” Harry whispered back. “Professor? I’m going to have to leave.”

 

“Mister Potter. What is this disturbance? Do you think you are too good to learn potions with your peers? You chose this subject for your NEWTs after all, and argued about your right to be included in this class despite not achieving the required OWL grade.”

 

“I know, Sir, I’m sorry, but a Wizengamot meeting has been called. I’m needed at the Ministry.”

 

Snape stared hard at him for a moment, before he nodded once and Harry was gone, sweeping out of the classroom and all but running back to his rooms where he threw down his bag, stripped off his uniform and forced his limbs into the expensive robes he had chosen and hung up waiting for his next Wizengamot meeting. He tore his Gryffindor tie off and did his shirt up to the collar before he tore back out of the room and all the way down the four floors and out onto the grounds and over to Hogsmeade. He made it just in time to catch his breath and wipe his sweaty face with a handkerchief which he had only just tucked back into his pocket before his second Portkey activated and he took a step forward and kept walking, expecting everyone to move out of his way as a Lord of two houses. He couldn’t see at the moment anyway, so if they didn’t move, he was going to bump into them.

He automatically made his way towards the lifts to take him to the Wizengamot meeting room on the second level, however he met Lucius and Xerxes right outside the lifts and they seemed to be waiting for him, which was unusual in itself.

 

“You’re almost late.” Xerxes told him with a critical look to his face and clothes, making sure that they were up to standard.

 

“Snape wasn’t going to let me leave Potions until I explained what was happening.” Harry said, breathing deeply to make it seem like he was in control of himself when his heart was racing and his chest was heaving from his run through the castle and the grounds. “It took forever to get from the dungeons to the fourth floor, where my rooms are, get changed and then get to Hogsmeade before I missed my Portkey…thank Merlin I’m not in Gryffindor Tower anymore, because I don’t think I’d have made it up to the seventh floor from the dungeon and then back down and out to Hogsmeade before the second Portkey went off.”

 

Lucius nodded and touched his shoulder before the three of them climbed into a lift.

 

“Did you feel the difference in your rings?” His Father asked him.

 

Harry nodded. “I was wondering why it felt different. It burnt for a lot longer than usual.”

 

“A trial has been called.” Xerxes answered. “It’s why we waited for you in the Atrium instead of letting you arrive to the meeting room by yourself as we have taken to doing. You would have found it empty and you would have disgraced yourself and your family by turning up late to a trial hearing.”

 

“Now now, Xerxes, he wasn’t late and we weren’t expecting a trail so soon in the year so Harry wasn’t told about the differing meanings of the rings. Let us put this matter behind us and get to courtroom seven.”

 

“I had my hearing in courtroom ten.” Harry said, more for something to say after his chastisement by his future Father-in-law. It seemed to him that Xerxes was in a very bad mood and Harry didn’t want to make things worse or draw that anger onto himself any more. He wanted to make Xerxes proud, not angry with him.

 

“That was a farce.” Xerxes growled angrily. “Never before have the Lords been banned from a hearing, or even been denied the knowledge of one taking place! We were not happy, Harry, regardless of who you were, it was the principle of excluding us from an ancient practice which the Lords of the old families set up in the first place!”

 

“Fudge more than paid for his oversight.” Lucius assured them both. “I made sure to stress to him that the next time he tries to pull such a stunt that it might cost him his job.”

 

“I bet he didn’t like that.” Xerxes chuckled, lightening up a little, causing Harry to relax slightly.

 

“Of course not.” Lucius replied with a smirk. “It pulled him back into line though. It seemed to me like he was getting ideas above his station.”

 

“But…he’s the Minister.” Harry said with a frown. “What higher station is there?”

 

Xerxes and Lucius looked at him and then each other, as if to say ‘isn’t he just adorable?’ and Harry scowled.

 

“Harry, dear one, who do you think controls the Minister?”

 

Harry pulled a face and then remembered Lucius’ lessons on implanting information and using bribery and coercion to get what one wanted from others without their knowledge. “You?” He asked Lucius.

 

His Father smiled and patted his shoulder. “Someone has to control him. We of noble blood take the backseat and rule from behind, Harry. The public don’t know that we rule, they see Fudge leading them, so anything that goes wrong, and it does because I orchestrate things that way, they blame Fudge and he takes all the heat and scorn for it.”

 

“So, you’re making him do things that you want him to do, without him knowing, or the public knowing, so that when things go wrong, which they do, he gets the blame and not you?” Harry asked.

 

Lucius and Xerxes nodded. Harry nodded his own understanding.

 

“Okay. I take it that he prefers bribes then?”

 

“Bribes in the form of charitable donations, yes.” Lucius answered. “It makes him look good because he can be seen giving more gold to these different organisations, so it keeps him in the publics favour. Of course I only donate to the causes I believe in.”

 

Harry sighed, but said nothing more as they arrived in a corridor that was thronged with people. He made a mental note to watch Lucius interact with Fudge more closely, hoping to pick up on a few tips. He needed to start practising on his school peers too. He was going to start small and simple to begin with and then gradually move up. He wanted to one day be as good, if not surpass, Lucius’ level of manipulation and control.

 

“Stay close.” Lucius told him, touching his elbow protectively.

 

They milled around for a little while, greeting and making small talk with the other Lords and Heads of Departments, until a chime sounded and everyone neatened themselves into lines and filed into the courtroom in an orderly fashion.

 

“Who are they?” Harry asked softly. “They aren’t members of the Wizengamot.”

 

“They’re members of the Council of Magical Law.” Lucius answered. “Some on the Council are also Wizengamot members, like Amelia Bones, but some are not, so you won’t have met them before…but you may have seen most of them from your hearing. It was conducted only by the Council of Magical Law, and not by both the Council and Wizengamot.”

 

“A thing which is unheard of, as the Wizengamot is superior to the Council.” Xerxes added as they took three seats in the half circular stone benches centred on one wooden chair with chains wrapped around the arms.

 

Harry shivered as he stared at it, remembering sitting in that chair and the chains rattling menacingly…he had been relieved at that time that the chains had not bound his arms to the chair.

Two comforting hands touched his knees at almost the same time and Harry relaxed, smiling gratefully at his Father and Father-in-law, who had sandwiched him between them, as per usual.

The man in front of them turned to greet them and Harry smiled wider, greeting Dawson Shacklebolt politely and respectfully.

He actually liked the Lord Shacklebolt, as he had liked Kingsley, his Nephew, too. It was just a shame that Kingsley was so close to Dumbledore in his Order and had stopped supporting him because he wouldn’t support Dumbledore blindly like the rest of them.

 

“Lord Potter-Black. You’re looking very well, radiant even, would it perhaps have something to do with that ring on your finger?”

 

Harry looked automatically to his left hand and his smile morphed into a grin.

 

“Yes, I believe it does.” Harry answered. “I got engaged on the first. I’m very happy.”

  

“Who is the lucky one?” Dawson asked.

 

Harry smiled and looked left to Lucius and then right to Xerxes.

 

“Can I assume that it has something to do with your family, Lord Lestrange?”

 

“You can assume all you like, but whether you get the correct answer is yet to be seen.” Xerxes replied stonily.

 

Dawson inclined his head respectfully and aware that he’d crossed a line, he turned back to face the front.

 

“What trial is this?” Harry asked quietly. “I thought we were supposed to receive all evidence before the trial.”

 

“That’s why we’re here, Harry.”

 

“But…” Harry cut himself off and thought about what he wanted to say first, instead of blurting everything out in a jumble of words. “I assumed that we’d be receiving the evidence in the meeting room and debating it there and that we’d only come to the actual courtroom to hear the accused’s testimony.”

 

“No, all proceedings of a trial have to be held in a courtroom.” Lucius told him patiently, taking the time needed to actually teach him. “The evidence will go straight from this courtroom into a sealed evidence room at the end of this hallway and vice versa. The evidence isn’t allowed to travel too far from the sealed room, there would be too much of an opportunity of tampering and then the evidence could be called into questioning and the trial might very well fall through and a criminal might walk free.”

 

Harry nodded his understanding, it made a lot of sense to do things that way, to preserve as much of the evidence as possible without any hope of tampering with it.

 

“Is it Umbridge?” He asked tensely.

 

“No. You wouldn’t be allowed in the trial as you’d be a witness.” Lucius told him patiently. “I believe this is the bumbling drunkard who thought it a good idea to send off blasting hexes in Muggle Kent. The one you voted to be brought before the full court and face Azkaban.”

 

“Ah.” Harry said. “I remember, he should face Azkaban for what he did. I wasn’t expecting such a quick turnaround, especially when Umbridge hasn’t had a trial yet. It’s only been a month.”

 

“She’s still in a holding cell while Magical Law Enforcers gather the evidence against her.” Xerxes told him. “Her offence was more grave than shouting out about the magical world, she injured children at a school. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was another year before we were called to her trial. The MLEs are going to make sure that they have every single scrap of evidence they can gather before bringing her to court.”

 

Harry nodded his understanding, just as they were called to order by the Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge. Harry smiled sickly sweetly at him when he caught the Minister’s eye and he watched as the man who had been trying to have him expelled and had, until very recently, tried to slander him in the media and tried to make him out to be a delusional little boy who liked attention went very, very pale.

Fudge blanched and quickly looked away from him. Harry chuckled and on either side of him, Xerxes and Lucius chuckled too, having caught the exchange.

 

“The members of the esteemed Wizengamot have voted to have a matter brought to trial and today we will look at the evidence collected from the alleged crime committed.” Fudge called out loudly as with a wave of his wand a hundred or so folders floated out and hovered in front of each member of the Council of Magical Law and the Wizengamot.

 

Lucius and Xerxes both turned to the first page, so Harry emulated them and did the same and he quietly read the first page, detailing the background of the offence, how Mister Dennis Jute had downed three glasses of vintage Firewhiskey before glugging straight from the bottle before doing the same to a second bottle.

Harry read through the folder, rustling sheets of parchment as the report went on to detail how Dennis Jute had gone out into the Muggle world and started stumbling about, talking loudly about dragons, telling the Muggles where the reserve in England was located even, before he started talking about magic and swaying along the streets and that was when he’d started firing off blasting hexes.

He’d injured two innocent Muggles, destroyed six cars, numerous buildings and even the road he’d been staggering down.

The senior Obliviator on the scene that day had given a statement of what she had seen and the damage done and the work and highly stressed environment her team had been put in and she called for the person responsible to be held accountable. It was noted on the end of the report that she would be one of the witnesses against the accused.

The next sheaf of parchment was from the Healer in charge of the two terrified Muggles who’d had to be taken to St Mungos to be healed and it documented the extent of the damage done to them both, how that damage had been healed and how long it had taken, perhaps the worst though had been the lingering psychological trauma that had been left behind in both Muggles who’d been attacked. They’d been Obliviated as soon as they’d been healed and released, but the Healer had warned that they would have psychological triggers relating to the event and that they wouldn’t even know the cause of those triggers because of the powerful memory charm. Their quality of life had been significantly reduced because of this trauma and if their triggers were engaged, then they would possibly be spending the rest of their lives in a Muggle mental hospital to treat the damage with no apparent cause. It was utterly galling.

Harry turned to the next sheaf of parchment and read the account of the first Magical Law Enforcer on the scene, who detailed the utter destruction done to the several streets that Mister Jute had managed to wander and the statement from one of the first to apprehend Mister Jute, who had claimed in his drunken state that he was ‘cleansing’ the world for future generations of magical children.

On the next page, Harry was surprised to find a complete, full statement, which had been made by himself, in the Wizengamot meeting hall a month ago, outlining his view on the matter and the punishment that he believed fit the crime that had been committed. A note at the bottom of his statement clinically specified that the Wizengamot members had declared in favour of Lord Harry James Potter-Black’s proposed punishment forty-one members to a mere eleven who opposed him.

The last page was an overview, detailing the laws that had been broken, how serious a breach of the Statute of Secrecy there had been and where the law stood on the breaking of said laws and Statutes…if Mister Dennis Jute was found guilty, he would be going to Azkaban for his crimes. He, Harry, would have sent someone to those soul sucking monsters.

Harry took a deep breath and calmed himself. Dennis Jute was guilty. He had done those terrible things to those who could neither defend themselves, nor had any clue what was going on or what they were seeing and as he’d said in the Wizengamot meeting, he would not allow inebriation to become an excuse for a witch or wizard’s actions. Mister Jute should have had more sense than to guzzle two bottles of vintage Firewhiskey, which was an incredibly potent drink from what Rabastan had told him when Harry had shared his Wizengamot meeting with him. A wizard who had that little sense had no business running amok in the Muggle world and he needed to pay for his crimes. In the meantime, Harry would work on his proposal for the permanent removal of the Dementors. It couldn’t be rushed, he had to present it in such a way that the other members of the Wizengamot started to believe the same as he did. It had to be planned down to the letter, right down to the very tone of voice he used while outlining his proposal. He had to get fifty or so other people to believe that the Dementors were a serious danger to them and their world as well as the Muggles too. He had to get them behind him and his way of thinking and that was going to be difficult enough without rushing it and overlooking something important that could be used against him in a debate and ruin his entire proposal. He had to think of every single angle himself and that was proving almost impossible as no one else, not even his family, were taking him or his concerns, not even his cold, factual research, seriously and thus they weren’t any sort of help to him. He was on his own with his idea and his plans, so he had to go that much slower.

Once everyone had finished reading the folder and had closed it on their laps to show that they had finished, Fudge once again spoke to them.

 

“Members of the court that serve the wizarding public, the Wizengamot have voted on this crime and have declared the accused fit for Azkaban. I have reviewed this matter myself and all material included and I suggest a ten year sentence to Azkaban for the accused, Mister Dennis Jute, with a chance of parole after serving a minimum of six years.”

 

“Yes, he suggests. He should be giving you more credit, Lucius.” Xerxes whispered under his breath. Harry could only hear him because he was sat right between the two men, though he pretended not to have heard a thing.

 

“Indeed.” Lucius replied. “You forget, Xerxes. All I did was advise him on the correct imprisonment term for this sort of offence.”

 

“You did, and then you inflated it by several years.” Xerxes chortled.

 

Lucius smirked nastily and chuckled himself. “That Mudblood should be lucky I couldn’t get away with giving him a life sentence.”

 

Harry cleared his throat angrily, staring straight ahead, but his body had gone tense and he felt like the merest touch would send him flying at someone’s throat. The warmth of the anger settled deep in his belly, as it always did when he heard that dreadful word. He had to do something about that too…especially in schools. Perhaps an automatic loss of points and a couple of night’s worth of detention for anyone who dared use that filthy word. It was disgusting, degrading and discriminatory and those with the power to do so needed to be doing much more to put an end to that sort of verbal prejudice. There was name calling and then there was name calling. Differences such as Draco calling Hermione a beaver and then calling her a Mudblood. Harry had been guilty of the former, calling Draco a ferret for instance, but he had never, nor would he ever, single someone out purely because of their blood status, skin colour, ethnicity or sexuality.