A/N: This chapter is dedicated to Of Stories Told, for two incredible reviews and that last one, lovelie was just epically immense. Thank you so very much and I hope you enjoy this chapter as much as you did the first two.
"I think we can leave it here for today." Lucius said. "The both of them seem 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.
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 fistfight in which Harry had gotten a busted lip and Draco was sporting an imprint of Harry's teeth on the side of his ribcage…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, silent 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. It was almost like he was trying to ruin the betrothal without letting any of the others know. As if he was waiting for Harry to blow up and break the betrothal himself so that it looked like Harry's decision and not as a result of his own actions. 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 he had still 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 by the betrothal contract 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 hare-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 once 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 was wholly good.
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, especially not as he suspected that Draco was receiving the same treatment. They had been getting on better in recent days as they'd both mellowed at the same time out of the blue.
Everything that he had once 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 the involvement of potions, 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, having his name added to the Lestrange family would give him considerable clout and a certain level of respect and he could then pass that on to 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, soothe 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 of complaint because he was learning what he needed to know 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 responsibilities towards the wizarding world regarding the war, he was going to do 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.
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 had sunk in, allowing 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 as 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 at this moment." Lucius told him. "You have worked hard, you've listened to everything you've been taught 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 explicitly that any talk of Rodolphus or Rabastan was forbidden, as was his betrothal or any mention that he would be 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 a 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 four 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, who he likely went to school with, 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 of 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 are 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's proposal."
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 subjects and when he finished those then there would be several new books to read 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.
His education 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. 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. The man was at least civil towards 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 that they hadn't liked one another then. Rabastan told him that Rhadamanthus was a complete stranger to him and that he hadn't appreciated having a stranger coming into his life, demanding respect and obedience, so Rabastan had not listened to a word that his 'father' had said, which had caused friction and a lot of animosity between them. Then, just two short, horrible years later and Rabastan was thrown into Azkaban and neither he nor Rodolphus had seen the man who had abandoned them as babies for another fifteen long years.
No, Harry had decided that Rhadamanthus was poisonous to Rabastan's recovery. He 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 and 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 heartbreaking 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 named as his grandfather's heir as of last week and now had the full weight and pressure of carrying on the Lestrange line firmly on his shoulders. Harry was his only viable prospect at the moment, which meant that if Harry broke off his betrothal to Rabastan, then it was very likely that the Lestrange line would die out with the deaths of Rodolphus and Rabastan, especially as it didn't look like Rhadamanthus had remarriage or more sons on his mind. He'd actually abandoned his two sons before, so he obviously hadn't even wanted them, so why have more?
No, 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 that Harry knew of was Lord Greengrass. He hadn't wanted any children at all but his older brother, Dara, had died suddenly without any children, thrusting all of the pressure to carry on the Greengrass name onto the shoulders of his younger brother. So Lord Harvey had married quickly before he was even 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 children were about as much as his fraying wits could handle, so he had told his lone paternal uncle, Robert, 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. Unfortunately, said uncle only had a daughter, Mya, thus far and there was no clear heir for the Greengrass lordship.
Harry was different to all the other purebloods, 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 to himself 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 to bulk up their depleted family tree.
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.
Albus Dumbledore 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 too, 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 have 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 doubt 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 do to find a connection between the boy and Voldemort, 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 to find that connection. 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 had truly 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 suddenly just known to go and 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 about his lordships and responsibilities 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 lordships 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 lordships in his care, though he would have preferred that Harry had not known of the lordships at all. But it had been such a relief when Black had died without telling the boy about the lordships or the responsibilities he had to the wizarding world. 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 claim to his lordships and he had gone to Gringotts and he had claimed his rightful position. He had claimed both of the lordships that he had been entitled to, seeing as he was the rightful Black heir as 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 too, 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 Minister Fudge, whispering into his ear, he was getting fewer and fewer 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 in an instant and there was nothing that he could do to get it back…unless the boy died. Yet, he still 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, of that he was sure.
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 managed to find out and theorise then there would be a very 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 never told the boy of that little possibility, then it was likely that 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 to be passed and those he didn't want to be 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 of any cheating or bribery 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 during the school year. 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 birthright. 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 in that time or what thoughts he had planted into Harry's impressionable, young mind.
He needed to work on splitting Harry away from the Malfoys, which was proving to be difficult, much more difficult than he ever would have imagined, 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.
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 feet 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 to 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 by 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 at the very 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. Harry hadn't even known that he could do such a thing, which had earned him a withering stare when he'd voiced that thought. But, Lucius 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 and he'd sat Harry down in his study and had told him that he expected his grades to be much higher this year…or else.
"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 schoolwork 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 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 against Alphard as well. I really don't think that 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, surely."
"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 lord 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 per cent 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 included 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, 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 currently 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 at 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, and 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 for 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 birthright too, something which he had found out was a very serious offence in the wizarding world. 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 led around in the dark over their birthright. Harry had come to learn that everyone had assumed that he'd known about his lordships, 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 birthright.
Well, not anymore. 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 that he wanted and he got more than most of the kids at Hogwarts did, for example, 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 if 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 as 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 mindset 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 had realised that when he'd seen the pride in Lucius' eyes for the very first time, pride aimed at him. When he'd seen for himself those thin lips curl slightly into a smile because of something that he'd done. 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 that Pansy was sitting next to Draco, one hand on his inner thigh, her fingers brushing incredibly close to his groin, while she looked coyly up at the blonde 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 up all over again this year?"
Harry blinked and he looked from Draco to Pansy and to a flushed Daphne, back to Pansy's hand on Draco's leg and he connected the dots.
"Father would be most displeased." Harry said calmly, pointedly, 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 get 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 he 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 in anger.
"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. I was expecting to hear that you'd broken your betrothal over the summer so that you could enter one with me."
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 fought to regain his composure.
"You know that was only said in the heat of the moment. Your pregnancy test came back negative and we were never so lax again after that." 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 wants 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 completely 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 need a betrothal contract too, won't you, Potter?" Zabini asked him and Harry turned to look at him quizzically. He had expected them all 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 heavily. "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 bombshell 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 in the form of their marriage certificate, but by then it would be too late to do anything about it.
"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, his own family for decades 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 at 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 came across as utterly pathetic to Harry.
"If I want to test out different coloured inks, why shouldn't I?" Harry asked.
"Rabastan Lestrange will definitely 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 ever 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 angrily.
"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 in the world we live in."
"Professor Dumbledore was making a difference!" Hermione told him, just as angrily.
"He stole my birthright from me. He was using seats on the Wizengamot that are rightfully mine and I had no idea about it. He stole my rights from me and he's lucky that he isn't facing a trial and a stint in 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 got it?"
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 Dumbledore's 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 this year! 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 animal 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.
"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 also 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 by the Ministry. But coming to Hogwarts made everything worse. He got more deranged and more violent and instead of just a few 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 and 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. Missus 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 stripped 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 he 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 that 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 he 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. Harry hadn't seen him just after his escape, he didn't know how bad it had been right at the beginning of his recovery but hearing what bits Draco knew was bad enough.
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 with his betrothed and his family too, 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 outfly 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. He hoped too 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.
A/N: The response for this story has been amazing and seriously intense! I hope that I can continue to keep you all interested and entertained with this story as it progresses.
A massive thanks to Muuwi for being the 200th reviewer for this fic. I never thought I'd be saying that after just two chapters either, I'm incredibly happy with the response and feedback for this story. Keep it up, lovelies.
The Huntress: Lucius did both. He took custody of Harry and adopted him as his legal son. This does not mean that Harry has to change his name. He is still Harry James Potter and James Potter is still his Father on his birth certificate, but due to the adoption Lucius is his legal Father as well, but this does not change Harry biologically and it won't affect his name or birth certificate. He's still just a Potter.
Stachelbeere: According to J. K. Rowling, all Purebloods used to marry Muggles. But some when before the 1930's certain families were 'purer' than others and thus they became known as the sacred twenty-eight of the Pureblood directory. The Weasley family deplored their inclusion in the directory and happily pointed out that they had Muggle ancestors, thus they became known as blood traitors.
Perfidious: I'm hoping that it'll be about twenty-five-thirty chapters long, but I really couldn't estimate any closer than that.
I hope all of you have enjoyed this chapter. The fourth will be up soon enough and we have some more of Lucius and Xerxes, Rabastan pops back in and we have the first of the Voldemort scenes. I would like to take this moment to say that I've denounced the film version of him and gone back to the, slightly saner, version of him in the books. He was an incredibly intelligent man, completely deluded and maniacal, of course, but he is intelligent and I refuse to think of him as nothing more than an insane, corpse like beast with a powerful wand. There has to be something more to him than that, so to make this plot work, you have to accept that he's not an insane, rambling idiot with no nose. He is actually capable of rational thought in this fic, just to prepare you for the next chapter.
StarLight Massacre. X