Groaning and standing up, Harry moved to his bedroom and stripped off. He considered having a shower, but felt that he just couldn't be bothered. Instead he tugged on his pyjamas and climbed into bed.
He picked up his book for the first time in weeks and cracked it open. It felt nice to be getting back to his version of normal. He settled his shoulders into his pillow and started reading. He would only read a chapter or two, and then he would go to sleep. Tomorrow was going to be stressful enough, and he couldn't stop his mind from going around in circles. He tried to shove everything out and focus on the words in front of him. He really, really hoped that his family never found out about what he'd done.
Chapter Thirty-Two – Belonging
Harry was well rested, and very relaxed the next day, thankful that it was a Sunday, because he'd allowed himself a bit of a lie in, even with his rather early night.
He showered languidly, feeling so relaxed and happy. He dressed himself in a pair of trousers and a sumptuously soft jumper, and on his way out he picked up his book to take down to breakfast with him. After he'd eaten, everything was going to be focused on his remaining homework. He was going to spend the entire day, until whatever time he finished everything, doing his homework, starting with the pieces that were due tomorrow.
"Harry, there you are. I was getting worried." Draco told him.
"I just decided to have a bit of a lie in. I feel much better, so I'm going to spend the day doing homework. You're welcome to join me. All of you are." He said, looking to Blaise, Theo, Astoria, and Pansy.
Pansy looked at him anxiously, knowing as she did what he'd been planning on doing last night. He gave her a quick look, more of a warning not to mention anything here, and he sat down next to Draco and served himself breakfast, before cracking open his book and resting it on a jug of pumpkin juice so that he could read while he ate.
"Harry, may I have a word?" Pansy asked, the moment he finished his food, and had pushed his plate away.
Harry wished that she'd been a little more discreet, as her question got the attention of everyone sat near them.
"Of course. Come up to my room with me, Pansy. We will have privacy there."
"I'll come too." Draco said quickly, already standing.
"Pansy wants a quiet word, Draco. Give us ten minutes and then follow us up." Harry said, standing himself.
"Harry." Draco said warningly.
"Ten minutes, Draco." Harry said back firmly. "Come on, Pansy."
She was nervous, she was hovering beside him. She didn't even know who he had bartered the match to, so Harry didn't say anything about her behaviour. He would be exactly the same in her shoes. In fact he would probably be much worse if he'd been in the same situation as Pansy.
She at least had the sense not to say anything until they were in his rooms. As soon as he shut the door, she turned on him.
"What happened? Did he agree?"
"Sit down a moment, Pansy, please. You need to remain calm. I know it's difficult. I would be raging in your position, but let me tell you everything properly."
"Harry, please. I'm having nightmares of…of Selwyn. I can't marry him. Please tell me you got this man to agree, at least."
"He's agreed. He has signed the contract and will get in contact with you soon to ensure conception before December."
Pansy sagged to her knees right there on the floor, and tears spilled from her eyes.
"Thank you." She croaked. "I can never thank you enough for this."
"You don't know who it is yet."
"No one can be as bad as Lucan Selwyn!" Pansy declared passionately.
Harry thought of young, handsome Giovanni Bellini, now Rowle, and he sighed. He went to make tea for them both, thinking about how to word what he needed to say. He had made an enemy of Giovanni and thinking that the pureblood wouldn't want revenge after this was the height of arrogance and stupidity. Pansy was going to be a life line here, as she was going to be married to Giovanni, and living in his home. Harry picked up both teacups, and took them over to the coffee table, setting them down. He pointed Pansy to the settee and sat himself down wearily.
Pansy pulled herself up, wiped her eyes, and she sat opposite him and drank a deep gulp of the tea.
"I've made a lifelong enemy of him, Pansy. He really, really didn't want to do this. He didn't want to be married. I've essentially forced him to marry someone he doesn't want to and that does sort of stick in my throat. But I couldn't see you married to Selwyn. It's…it's too horrifying to even imagine."
"I understand that he may never love me, or even like me. That wasn't what this match was about." Pansy said. "I never loved any of my matches. Not Warrington, and certainly not Selwyn. I…I might have loved Draco once, but after how he treated me…" She trailed off, looking at him sharply, realising that he and Draco were now brothers. Family.
"You deserved better." Harry said easily, knowing that it was true. Draco had slept with her, gotten careless, had a pregnancy scare and had ultimately avoided all consequences in the end. What had happened to Pansy in the aftermath of that situation was horrendous, and still made Harry angry.
"I will be strong, and endure any treatment this man may give me, and be thankful that it is not Selwyn."
Harry looked at her, aghast. "No!" He burst out. "Absolutely not, Pansy. If he so much as raises a fist to you, hell, if he so much as raises his voice to you or your children, you tell me. I…I've blackmailed him, with something that is better left unsaid, the less you know the better. But I included your care in the contract. If he treats you as anything less than an equal person in this marriage, you tell me immediately, and I will have him for breach of contract and free you yet again, via him going straight to prison."
"You did that for me? But why? I never asked that of you, I just asked you to get me away from Selwyn. That would have been enough."
Harry reached forward and gripped her hand. "You never deserved the horror of being matched to a man sixty years older than you. You don't deserve to be beaten or humiliated by anyone just because you've gotten free of Selwyn's match. If he lays a finger on you, Pansy, if he ever makes you feel threatened, promise that you'll tell me."
"I promise." She said, but more tears were falling now, and she hastily brushed them aside. "Will you tell me who he is?"
Harry sighed, and wondered how this news would be received.
"There was only one person who I could blackmail, with whom I could use a secret as leverage. I've got you into a contract with Lord Giovanni Rowle."
"He…He's only twenty-four, isn't he?" She asked. "But, he wasn't even looking for anyone from Britain."
"Like I said, I've blackmailed him into it. He really didn't want it, Pansy. He fought me every step, but I held all of the cards, he just didn't know it. He's furious with me."
"If he moves against you, I'll tell you."
"You'll be his wife, he'll be the father to your children, Pansy. Don't make those sorts of promises."
"No. I know where my loyalty lies. You were the one who saved me from Selwyn, not anyone else. I will never forget that you are the reason I will have a husband that I won't recoil from. A husband who won't give me nightmares of a future that I didn't want to live through."
Harry squeezed her hand gently. His heart clenching as he read the truth plainly in her eyes. She had been contemplating suicide. Perhaps more than just contemplating it. Maybe she had even planned when and how she would do it, as a backup in case she didn't find anyone to help her break her betrothal to Selwyn. If that was the case then she owed him her very life.
Harry felt sick as he realised that if he hadn't helped her, if he hadn't had leverage over Giovanni, and had been unable to help her, then she might have killed herself before term broke up for Christmas a little less than ten weeks away. The thought left him feeling cold and embittered that Pansy had been put in this position, and himself by extension as he'd felt obligated to help her.
He wouldn't have been able to handle Pansy's death knowing that he had either turned her away when she'd needed a friend, or he had failed her and been unable to help. He felt her decision to commit suicide hang heavy in his mind and he felt relief that he had been able to help her after all, even if it meant painting a target on his own back.
His lips pulled into a self-depreciating smile, it seemed he would always be a martyr. Well, those habits ingrained in him would take a little longer than a year to break. He pushed those thoughts aside and turned his thoughts back to giving Pansy all the information she needed to know. She wasn't pregnant yet. She wasn't out of Selwyn's clutches yet.
"If it helps at all, he was very handsome." He told her, aiming at reassuring her. "He can speak English too, so you'll be able to communicate with him. He doesn't know about Rabastan, though, Pansy. He believes the ruse that I'm engaged to Aceline."
"He won't hear it from me." She swore.
"He will be in touch to conceive the child before December. He's going to be using fertility charms. Do you know how to do the same?"
"I can find out." She said, nodding.
"This will all be for nothing if you can't conceive a child, he's going to try his damn best because he's signed a contract that he can't back out of. You need to do the same. If I thought that your father would accept just a marriage proposal, I wouldn't have pushed for a child, but given how…unreasonable he's been over all of this, I think it'll be safer if you have a child that Giovanni can lay claim to."
"You know I will do anything needed to get out of this situation. The last thing in the world I want is to be forced to marry Selwyn in December. The only way to break it is to fall pregnant with someone who can be forced to marry me, I know that, and I know my father. He's trying to punish me for the embarrassment I've caused. I'm being made an example of and I'm clever enough to realise it."
"You haven't caused any embarrassment." Harry said angrily. "It shouldn't even be an issue. That your own father is treating you like this is despicable."
"You've gotten me out of this situation now, Harry." Pansy told him. "My father will have to accept my marriage to Rowle if I have a baby by him. Rowle can demand that I am married to him to legitimise the baby, his baby. You've saved me, and I'll never be able to thank you enough, but truly, thank you."
Harry nodded. They were disturbed by the portrait door knocking furiously. Harry checked his watch. Eight minutes. Harry smirked and planned to leave Draco outside for two more.
"You don't have to thank me, Pansy, but keep in mind that he will contact you, maybe as early as tomorrow, so make sure that you're ready as it may involve sneaking out of the castle to meet him in Hogsmeade, and always remember that if he dares harm you, even if it's only verbal, you tell me. I can free you from him if he's breached the contract I've drawn up. You don't deserve Selwyn, and you don't deserve a marriage of abuse as an alternative."
Pansy stood, and so did Harry. She hugged him tight, and Harry held her back, giving her a gentle squeeze.
"Thank you." She told him softly, but the moment was ruined really by the continued hammering of the door.
"Well, are you ready for homework club?" He asked with a grin. "If I don't open the door now, I won't put it past Draco to break it down."
Pansy brushed her face free of tears, and sat back on the settee, sipping on the remains of her tea in a ploy of normalcy. Harry went to open the door.
"Why didn't you answer right away?" Draco demanded of him, storming into the room without waiting to be invited in.
"I said ten minutes. Not eight."
Blaise laughed. "I told you we were early. Really, Draco, you should know better time keeping."
"Oh, shut up." Draco snapped.
"Stop flirting and get in here. I have so much homework to get through."
"What were you talking about?" Draco asked suspiciously, clocking Harry's teacup opposite where Pansy was sitting.
"If it was something we felt like sharing, we wouldn't have come up here to speak of it away from you. Mind your own business, Draco. It's nothing for you to be concerned about."
"You are my younger brother." Draco said, grabbing Harry's arm and pulling him in close. "I told you she would be looking for anyone to get her pregnant. Coming up here with her alone, it looks bad, Harry." He whispered to him.
"Have more faith, Draco. In both me and Pansy. You know I love Rabastan more than anything. I'm not going to jeopardise my own marriage. Respect me enough to know that."
"You are jeopardising your marriage!" Draco told him, still whispering. "What do you think Rabastan will do if he hears about these little private visits?"
Harry sighed heavily and pulled his arm out of Draco's grasp. "I'd expect him to respect me enough to believe me when I say that nothing has happened, and that we were just talking. If he believed me when I was just talking to Theo, knowing that I'm gay, he'll believe that I wasn't doing anything with Pansy! Now sit down, drop this subject, and help me catch up with my homework!"
Harry went and made more tea, and he served his guests, and he sat down to sort out the state of his homework pile. He had helped Pansy as much as he could. He'd done everything possible to get her out of her marriage to Lucan Selwyn, and now he could relax and forget about it. It was up to Pansy to carry on what he'd started, and she and Giovanni needed to have a baby in the next month. His part was done, despite the fact that he would always be involved considering that he had made a lifelong enemy out of Giovanni, but seeing the relief on Pansy's face, seeing her shoulders ease of the heavy burden placed upon them knowing that she had been planning her own suicide… it was worth it.
Harry was disturbed from his small amount of free time, in which he'd been doing some more work on his law reforms, when Kreacher popped into existence right in front of him.
Harry leapt back, his heart hammering, but he at least managed to quash the undignified screech that he wanted to emit.
"Kreacher." He gasped, a hand on his heart. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, master." The elderly elf told him, his wrinkled hands playing with the Black heirloom ring that was looped around his neck.
"Has there been an Order meeting?" Harry asked.
"Yes, master." Kreacher told him, bobbing his head.
Harry's heart missed a beat, and he wondered if this was anything to do with him being doused with potions.
"Dumbledore is asking someone to spy on the Wizengamot meetings, master."
"Bill Weasley." Harry said nodding.
"No, master. A new person."
Harry frowned, wondering who on earth would agree to spy on Wizengamot meetings if not Bill.
"Did you hear a name, Kreacher?"
"Charlie Weasley." The elf told him, bobbing his head.
"But…how?" Harry asked in confusion. "How could he have possibly gotten Charlie onto the Wizengamot? Bill is already Lord Weasley."
"Dumbledore has set up a plan, master. He has made Arthur Weasley disown Charlie, so that Charlie can claim the Prewett Lordship."
"Well fuck." Harry said, throwing a hand through his hair, thinking about this new development.
There was no way that Arthur, or Molly, would have ever disowned Charlie through choice, so this was definitely one of Dumbledore's little plots to try and gain an upper hand in the Wizengamot, and to try to sway the voting into his own favour.
One more vote wouldn't make much difference, the Ancients still held majority control of the Wizengamot, and always would, but with Bill and Charlie, both holding Ancient seats, voting against the rest of them, it would likely spill over to the New Men and the Neutrals and that could sway them to vote with Bill and Charlie, and against the other Ancients.
Harry did a quick tally, but he already knew that the Ancients were outnumbered if the New Men, Neutrals, and some of the Ancients voted against the rest of them. There were currently twenty Ancients, including Bill as Lord Weasley. Adding in Giovanni Rowle, and now Charlie as Lord Prewett that would make twenty-two Ancients. Bill and Charlie would likely vote against anything and everything they put forward, which dropped them back to twenty, and now that Harry had made an enemy of Giovanni, he couldn't be counted on, as it was likely that he might vote just to oppose Harry.
There were only seven Neutrals, as there were only seven Ministry Department Heads, but there were twenty-six New Men, all of them were purebloods still, and most of them were Death Eaters.
Harry calmed himself, adding Charlie to the Wizengamot was still not going to be enough to derail his plans, or Voldemort's for that matter.
"Okay, thank you for telling me, Kreacher." Harry said.
"There is more, master."
Harry sighed. Of course there was. "Okay, what else?"
"Dumbledore is going to try to force you to stay at Hogwarts over the winter holidays." Kreacher told him.
Harry closed his eyes, wondering if this was just a ploy to distance him from his family, or if it was going to be another Horcrux hunt. He didn't want to give up his very sparse free time with Rabastan, or his family, for any reason. It was going to be the last time he saw, or spent any time with Rabastan, as he likely would stay at Hogwarts for the Easter week as it was going to be so close to the exams. He was not going to miss out on Christmas with his family, he couldn't ignore Rabastan for pretty much an entire year, it wasn't fair to his fiancé.
"They plan to force a potion into you while you are at your own home, master."
Harry blinked. "They want me to go to Grimmauld Place?"
Harry rubbed his forehead, thinking hard. Grimmauld Place was his property after Sirius had died. He'd willingly allowed the Order to continue using it as their Headquarters, not only to make it seem as if he was still on their side, and willing to see Voldemort taken out, but the biggest reason was clearly so that he could use Kreacher to spy on them and their meetings, so that he always knew what they were doing, so he could try to stay one step ahead of them. That was invaluable to him, and more than worth allowing the Order, and the Weasleys, to continue using his house despite the fact that he didn't like them much.
"Thank you for keeping me informed, Kreacher." Harry said, his mind already ticking over everything that he'd been told.
Kreacher gave him a short bow, and then left, and Harry stayed on the settee, thinking about this new development. Charlie taking on the Prewett Lordship was something he'd have to speak to Lucius about, because Dumbledore was clearly trying to bulk up the Wizengamot numbers with his loyal followers, as many as he could possibly manage. Likely in the aim to derail the Ancients' plans and probably Harry's own law reforms too.
As for going to Grimmauld Place over the winter holidays. He shook his head. Given that it was a time of celebration for the Purebloods, and they had two parties to navigate with the Winter Gala on Christmas Eve, and then the New Year's Ball too, it was ridiculous to think that he would stay anywhere other than with his family, but he would hear Dumbledore out, and then just refuse. Christmas was a time for family, and now that he had a family, he wasn't going to miss out on this time with them, no matter what Dumbledore asked of him.
He looked at his creature law reforms on the coffee table, and then at the time. He sighed and started packing everything away. It was getting late, and he wouldn't be able to concentrate on it now. He was too busy fretting over what Dumbledore was going to say to get him to forsake his family over the winter holidays, and get him to stay at Grimmauld Place, of all places, likely with the Weasleys, who all hated his guts because of the debt he'd saddled them with.
There's no way that he could put himself through that. He didn't want to. He tried to push it from his mind and he started getting himself ready for bed. He wouldn't agree to go, he wanted to spend that time with Rabastan, and nothing was going to take that small amount of time, and joy, from him.
Pansy's mood had visibly brightened over the next few weeks, and Harry had noticeably settled down as well. He was calmer, and more focused on his studies, and the quality of his homework had improved too.
It didn't take the observant Slytherins long to figure out that Harry and Pansy's behaviour had changed at the same time, and rumours were rampant after Pansy had been seen researching fertility spells, and going for early morning visits to Madam Pomfrey.
She had told Harry, in another secret visit to his rooms that had angered Draco, that she'd had two visits with Giovanni, who had treated her courteously and gently, and that she was now in the early stages of pregnancy, which had been confirmed by Madam Pomfrey. Her father had been told via a letter sent by owl, as was the school's custom for such things, and considering that he hadn't stormed the castle Harry assumed that it hadn't reached him yet.
Harry had breathed a massive sigh of relief. Giovanni had kept to his end of the contract, and Pansy was so much happier that she was all but skipping down the hallways. She had managed to escape her betrothal to Lucan Selwyn and despite knowing that Giovanni probably wouldn't have chosen her as a wife if he'd been given any sort of choice, she was much happier with him.
"Harry, a word, now." Draco demanded of him that morning, the moment Harry put down his fork.
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Okay, come with me to my rooms, just be aware that we have lessons in half an hour."
"It won't take that long." Draco told him, all but glaring at him.
Harry knew what it was about, even as he picked up his book bag and slung it over his shoulder. Draco was practically bristling next to him, as he strode off with long, angry strides. Harry followed him more calmly, and he tried to plot out what to say to assuage Draco's anger.
They reached his room, and Harry unlocked the door and let Draco through.
"What is this about, Draco?" He asked, even as he shut the door.
"You know exactly what this is about!" Draco shouted, rounding on him, his cheeks already pink with anger.
"Pansy." Harry said.
"Yes Pansy!" Draco raged. "She's pregnant."
"I know." Harry said easily.
"Is that baby yours?" Draco demanded through gritted teeth.
"Of course not." Harry replied.
"A paternity test will prove it, Harry. I told you that she would be trying to get pregnant by anyone possible, and you've been spending so much time with her, sequestered up here with her in private. Is that baby yours?"
Draco seemed to take a breath, and he calmed down a little.
"Promise me that that baby isn't yours." Draco said, one last time, staring into Harry's eyes.
"It's not mine." Harry answered calmly.
"But you know whose it is?"
Harry nodded. "Yes. But that information can't come out yet. My involvement must remain a secret. Pansy asked for my help, Draco. I was never going to ignore her plight."
"She tried to take Rabastan from you."
"She would never have gotten him from me, but Draco, I understand why she did it. Can't you? Put yourself in her shoes for one moment, and imagine that you were being forced to marry Lucan Selwyn. Wouldn't you try anything and everything possible to get out of that? Even if it did mean trying to take someone else's betrothed, or fiancé, from them? Hell, I'd probably go the whole way and try to take someone's husband from them before I'd marry someone so much older than me. Wouldn't you?"
"I suppose so." Draco replied after a moment of thought.
"I calmed down from when you initially told me that she had tried to take Rabastan from me, and I thought about it more deeply, I put myself in her shoes, and yeah, I get it. I understand why she did it, so when she begged me for help…of course I did everything I could to help her, Draco."
"But…it's not your baby? Because you know the rumours going around are that it is your baby."
"It's not mine. I would never have risked my own marriage for anyone. Not even Pansy. I found someone else to help her."
Draco eased down completely, and he sighed heavily in relief. Harry chuckled at him.
"You know you'll have to prove it, don't you?" Draco asked him. "All the rumours are that you're the one who got Pansy pregnant. Father will hear about it, and so will Rabastan."
"I won't have to prove anything. Pansy will come out and say who got her pregnant, and so will the man who actually fathered that baby. I'm not involved. I was just trying to be a good friend, and a support system for Pansy during this difficult time."
"I can't tell you how relieved I am to hear you say that. Right then, I suppose we shouldn't be late for class. It is Halloween after all."
Harry hummed. "You know I don't celebrate it."
"I know, but that doesn't mean I can't still celebrate."
Harry smiled, clapped Draco on the shoulder, and they both left his room for double Ancient Runes.
Word had gotten out now about Pansy. It wouldn't be long before the adults knew, and then Paimon Parkinson would likely storm the castle to demand answers from his daughter, and probably him as well seeing as everyone thought that he was the father of the baby. He wondered who would be the little snitch to send Lord Parkinson that letter. Knowing her personality, and her proclivity for stirring the pot, his money was on Daphne.
Harry smiled to himself as he took a seat with Draco, and made sure that his Ancient Runes homework was placed neatly on the edge of the desk ready. He had slipped easily back into his schedule, and he was nicely caught up with his homework, with just a few pieces left to do over the weekend. It was Friday today, Halloween, and he wouldn't celebrate, or do any homework tonight. This was his private time, his way to honour the parents that he had lost. Despite everyone's fears, he was never going to forget James and Lily Potter. There was no way that he could. He still heard his mother's screams in his head when Dementors came too close, or when he had the odd nightmare, and his Patronus was still a stag. He loved them, despite the fact that he'd never gotten the chance to know them. They had given their lives for his, on this very day, sixteen years ago. He swallowed hard, this was his day to remember them and their sacrifice, but later tonight. Now he had to focus on his studies, on his classes, but later, he promised himself as Professor Babbling called their attention and started taking the register, he would honour them fully and properly.
November had just started, it was Wednesday the fifth, and Harry was feeling much better about everything. He was still perpetually tired, and he never had a free minute with everything he was juggling, but his schedule was working. He was just about keeping ahead of everything, and he'd increased the quality of his work too.
Breakfast was in full swing when Dumbledore came into the Great Hall, a visibly angry Paimon Parkinson next to him, and Harry heard Pansy inhale deeply. He gave her a small nod. He knew that she could do this.
"Miss Parkinson, could you come with me, please." Dumbledore said gently.
"Yes, Headmaster." She said, standing, ignoring the little hissed conversations that sprung up all around the hall.
"Mister Potter, you too." Dumbledore told him, turning those blue eyes onto him.
"What is this about?" Harry asked, not rising to his feet.
"You know exactly what this is about!" Lord Parkinson hissed at him, trying to appear calm, but he was absolutely furious.
Harry stood, and decided to go with Pansy purely for support. It looked like she might need it given how angry her father was.
"Has my father been called to represent me?" He asked.
"You're a man now." Paimon spat at him.
"I'm still in school." Harry replied calmly.
"Mister Malfoy has been contacted and he will join us shortly." Dumbledore assured him.
Harry nodded, and he escaped the breakfast table. He had managed to get away without drinking his glass of milk, which was about the only good thing about this situation.
They made it to the Headmaster's office, and Lucius was there waiting for him. He looked angry too, and very disappointed.
"I want him expelled!" Paimon burst out, pointing a finger at Harry, the moment they were all in the office.
"Why? What have I done?" Harry asked, moving to sit in the chair in front of the desk without being asked. Lucius' eye twitched at Harry's behaviour, but he said nothing in front of these people. Harry would expect a lecture about it later, however.
"Miss Parkinson, please sit down." Dumbledore offered, pointing to the last chair.
She sat next to him, and gave him a fearful little glance. He smiled back.
"Would anyone like a sherbet lemon?"
"Enough of the games here, Dumbledore! I want to know what you're going to do about this situation!"
"I have heard your complaints, but when Miss Parkinson was first found to be pregnant, I had a talk with her myself. She is perfectly happy to remain with child. She isn't due until after she has graduated."
"You knew that she was betrothed to someone else. As are you!" Parkinson rounded on Harry.
"Trying to marry your seventeen year old daughter to a man of seventy-one should be illegal." Harry said simply.
"She's my daughter to do with as I see fit!"
"No she's not. She's a person, her own person, not some slave you lay claim to just because you're her father."
"That's enough, Harry." Lucius told him, laying a hand on his shoulder, and putting himself between Harry and Paimon.
"You won't marry her yourself, you wouldn't risk your own marriage." Paimon said, breathing heavily. "Lord Selwyn will surely accept her still, with the baby, or without it."
Harry narrowed his eyes. "Without it?"
"If you don't lay claim to the baby, or to Pansy, a termination is easily arranged."
"I'm not getting rid of my baby." Pansy said firmly.
"Silence!" Paimon roared at her. "You've done enough, you've embarrassed your family for the last time!"
"Don't speak to her like that!" Harry butted in angrily. Lucius' hand clenched tight on his shoulder, but Harry wouldn't be quelled.
"It's okay, Harry. I'm sorry that you've been dragged into this." Pansy told him.
"There's nowhere I'd rather be. I told you I would support you through this, and I mean it."
"So the letter sent to Lord Parkinson is true." Dumbledore asked him softly. "You are the father to Miss Parkinson's child."
"Me? I'm not the father." Harry said. "I've just been supporting Pansy, and helping her to break free of the cruel betrothal she was entered into."
"You're not involved in this?" Lucius asked him.
Harry snorted. "Well I am, but not in the way I'm being accused of. Pansy's baby isn't mine. I love Aceline and I would never do anything to harm her, or disrespect her, though it seems everyone around me will always think the worst of me." He said, aiming the jibe right at Lucius, whose eye twitched again.
"Then whose baby is it?" Paimon demanded. He rounded on his daughter again, presumably as she was the only one who knew.
"Lord Giovanni Rowle." She answered. "I met him on the last Hogsmeade weekend."
Paimon went a reddish-purple colour, and Harry was ready to spring to his feet if needed. He'd seen that colour on Vernon before and he'd always taken it as a warning sign for violence to come.
"You will have a termination. How dare you do this to your family!"
"After what you've done to her, I believe it's warranted." Harry put in, ignoring Lucius' hand still digging into his shoulder.
"Stay out of this, it has nothing to do with you!"
"You're the one who insisted that I come, so you've already involved me." Harry pointed out.
"I'm not having an abortion. I will not marry Lucan Selwyn!" Pansy said angrily. "I have a baby by Giovanni, and we will be married together. It's law that Giovanni has first refusal because of the baby I carry!"
"I will get him to refuse." Paimon promised her, his tone threatening. "Then we'll see what Lord Selwyn wishes done about this. If he wants that baby gone, you will have a termination."
"I won't." She said firmly, strongly, and Harry respected her massively for sticking to her guns. Then if on the other hand he had to marry Lucan Selwyn, he would give it everything he had too.
"This is not helping." Dumbledore said, giving Lord Parkinson a steely glance. "Miss Parkinson has decided that she doesn't want a termination, and I will not let you force her into something she doesn't want. As one of my students, her wellbeing is my concern."
"Where was your concern when she went running around Hogsmeade opening her legs to all and sundry?!"
Pansy flushed, and Harry's anger mounted.
"Maybe she wouldn't have needed to if you hadn't decided to punish her by marrying her to a seventy-one year old man!" Harry cut in.
"Shut up, Potter!"
"It's Lord Potter-Black to you."
"Do not speak to my son in such a way, Paimon." Lucius warned in that silky voice he did when he was most angry. "You've already falsely accused him of fathering your daughter's child, putting his own engagement in turmoil."
Harry's heart skipped a beat at hearing that, knowing that the Lestranges must have been told the false news as well. He calmed himself, he could fix this, he wasn't the father to Pansy's baby, he hadn't slept with her, or anyone, and he could prove it again if needed, though the thought of not being trusted enough by his own family made him feel sick. Surely they knew he wouldn't have risked his marriage to Rabastan? Why hadn't they received this news with scepticism and an immediate denial? Why were they always willing to believe the worst of him?
"I received a letter that insisted he was the father…" Paimon tried to argue.
"Which has since turned out to be false." Lucius said firmly.
"Given that this letter couldn't have come from me or Pansy, I don't believe the person who sent it had any idea of what had actually happened, and was just trying to stir up trouble." Harry put in.
"Clearly. Dumbledore, I know that it is a Wednesday morning, and that my son has lessons to attend, but I will be taking him home until lunchtime. He will be back in time for his afternoon classes."
Harry inhaled, and blew out a ragged breath, psyching himself up for what was to come. He wondered if Rodolphus would jump down his throat before he could even open his mouth or if he would just immediately rip his head off.
"I will ask your Professors to collect any work that you will miss, Harry."
"Thank you." Harry said, nodding, and then he was all but pulled from his seat and marched over to the fireplace.
Harry flooed through first, and his father was just a few seconds behind him.
"I cannot even believe the behaviour I have just witnessed from you. Why did you meddle in Parkinson's betrothal?"
"Because she begged for my help." Harry said tightly.
"You should have said no!"
"I was never going to. I was never going to ignore her when she'd begged for help. If I had been in her place I would want someone to help me as well!"
"You are very lucky that you aren't in the same position, or I would…"
"Don't you dare tell me that you would have betrothed me to Lucan fucking Selwyn!" Harry shouted. "If you dared try to put me in the same position as Pansy I would have…"
"Harry, watch yourself." Lucius warned him.
"NO!" Harry yelled, turning and storming off, going to search for Rabastan to assure him that Pansy's baby wasn't his.
This was exactly what he didn't need in his life right now. He felt like he was pushed out onto the fringe of his own family. Like he was no longer a part of it. Maybe he never had been a part of it and it had all been a thin veneer that he wanted so desperately to be true that he had convinced himself that it was real. The thought upset him and fuelled his anger.
He didn't know what he'd do if he couldn't convince Rabastan that he hadn't done anything wrong and that thought scared him. He felt deranged, so angry that he couldn't think straight, and he was trembling with all that pent up rage. Why had his own family believed him capable of fathering Pansy's baby? He could understand Draco asking him, he had seen their serious chats, had heard the rumours around the castle, but his family at home hadn't been privy to any of that. They had received a letter from someone out of the blue claiming that he had fathered a baby on Pansy, and they had just believed it. There had been no immediate instinct to defend him as he would them. Maybe after the year he had spent with them, even after all they had done for him, they still didn't see him as a real member of the family.
"Harry, come back here, right this instant!"
"Fuck off!" Harry shouted back, his rage so intense he couldn't control it.
He slammed his way into the front parlour, but was stopped from reaching Rabastan by an overprotective Rodolphus.
"Don't go near my brother."
"You can fuck off as well, Rodolphus! Whoever sent that letter was lying! Pansy's baby isn't mine!"
"Are you sure?" Xerxes asked him angrily.
"Of course I'm sure!" Harry exploded. "I'm gay, I don't like women, I don't even really like Pansy all that much, I think she's a right bitch. Anyone who thinks that I would actually sleep with her, let alone get her pregnant, is a fucking idiot!"
"Look at me and tell me it's not your baby." Rabastan demanded of him.
Harry met those blue eyes he loved so much and maintained steely contact, even as his heart broke a little at the confirmation that they didn't trust him. None of them did.
"That baby is not mine, Rabastan. It's Giovanni Rowle's and he's claiming the baby, and taking Pansy as his wife! That baby is nothing to do with me! How could you even think that it was?"
Rabastan swallowed, and he stood, coming to hug Harry tightly, shoving Rodolphus out of the way. Harry held an arm up, straight and firm to hold Rabastan away from him, glaring at him.
"I knew you wouldn't do that to me. But when that letter arrived, I was worried that you'd been forced into it by your soft heart."
"No, his soft heart was what saw him meddling in the first place." Lucius said angrily. "He's not the father to Parkinson's baby, but he's the reason that she is pregnant, and why the new Lord Rowle is involved."
"I wasn't going to watch as she went through the horror of a marriage to Lucan Selwyn!" Harry said angrily.
"It wasn't your business to meddle in."
"It became my business when Pansy came to me and begged me from her fucking knees to help her. I told her straight that I wouldn't risk my own marriage, but I would do everything I could to get her out of that contract, and that's exactly what I did."
"You should have left it alone!" Lucius argued.
Harry thought again to Pansy's confession, how one way or another she wouldn't be married to Selwyn, and his resolved hardened. He wouldn't be bullied into think he had done the wrong thing when he knew now what the price would have been if he hadn't helped.
"I've done nothing wrong." He hissed, still holding Rabastan at arm's length.
"The Parkinsons won't see it that way." Rodolphus told him.
"Why do you care?" Harry demanded of him.
"I don't." Rodolphus assured him, looking at him through dark eyes. "You will be a member of my family, however, so whatever messes you get yourself into, you involve the rest of us."
Harry narrowed his eyes. "Am I a member of the family?" He asked. "With the way you all continually turn on me, I don't believe I am."
"No one has turned on you." Rabastan burst out. "Harry, of course we haven't."
"It feels that way when you receive a simple fucking letter claiming I've gotten Pansy pregnant and you all just believe it with no question!"
"We debated about it." Lucius told him, easing down, lowering his shoulders, and removing the anger in the room. "We decided then that perhaps you'd been…not quite coerced into it, but driven by your feelings."
"You could have just asked me!" Harry told them. "You didn't need to debate anything, you didn't need to decide anything from one letter from a questionable source! You're all men of politics, why didn't you seek out my side of things before deciding that I'd done as I was accused?!"
"We're truly sorry, Harry." Lucius said, and that he did look genuinely remorseful eased Harry down just slightly, enough for Rabastan to move past his arm and hold him properly.
"I feel like I'm not trusted. You're supposed to be my family, yet I don't feel like I belong."
"You belong with us!" Rabastan insisted firmly.
Harry shook his head. "Why don't any of you trust me?"
"You do like meddling in things you shouldn't." Xerxes sighed heavily. "You have messed with the betrothal between the Parkinsons and the Selwyns even if you aren't the father of the baby. That betrothal was very lucrative for the Parkinsons. The dowry alone was a fortune that not many could, or would, refuse."
"It would never have gone ahead anyway." Harry said. "Pansy was already planning her suicide."
"You know this?" Lucius asked seriously.
Harry nodded. "If I had meddled or not, Parkinson would never have gotten his hands on that dowry, and this way at least one of my classmates hasn't needlessly died. I couldn't have lived with that guilt, knowing that if I had refused her pleas for help, that she would have committed suicide in six weeks' time."
Harry swallowed heavily and his body shuddered of its own volition. He looked at each of the four men seriously.
"You really don't know me at all if you thought that I could have ignored someone begging me for help with a suicide hanging over my head. Yeah, I feel bad about forcing Giovanni into this, but not as bad as I feel knowing that Pansy would have killed herself before the end of term to escape the horror of being married to Selwyn. I've done nothing wrong, not in my own opinion."
"Pray tell, how did you get young Giovanni Bellini to agree?" Xerxes asked him.
"He prefers Rowle." Harry said, before turning back to Rabastan and clutching him tight. "I…I never wanted you to find out what I'd done, but I never expected to be dragged into it like I was."
"What did you do?" Lucius asked him, an edge to his voice that promised that a punishment was coming.
"I blackmailed him." Harry said.
Rodolphus laughed then, and ruffled Harry's hair like he normally did and Harry's anxiousness eased off, just a little.
"What could you have possibly blackmailed him with, Harry?"
"His cousin's murder."
That got all of their attention, and they stared at him with slack mouths.
"Do you have any idea how dangerous that was? You could have ended up in Azkaban!"
"Well, I didn't." Harry said simply, belying how scared he'd been of that very thing happening. "I…I compiled a file of evidence from what happened, and twisted it to show that Giovanni and his mother were the ones who killed Thorfinn, in a bid to claim the Rowle Lordship. He really didn't want to agree, but after I showed him that file, he didn't really have any other choice."
"I really wish you wouldn't do things like this, Harry." Lucius said wearily. "You're already taking on too much, without meddling in these sorts of affairs as well. It had nothing to do with you, and now you've made an enemy of Giovanni, and the entire Bellini family, as well. Not to mention the Parkinsons and the Selwyns."
"Maybe a bit more than enemies." Harry said. "He's threatened to ruin me if he ever gets the chance."
"Which could well happen if he knows that you're engaged to Rabastan!" Lucius reminded him.
"He doesn't. He believes I'm with Aceline."
"Well, that is a relief to hear, at least." Lucius sighed.
"It's over and done with now. Pansy is pregnant with Giovanni's child, and he will marry her to claim his child. I've saved her the fate of being married to that gross old man, or the hard decision to take her own life. She has a future now, and a brighter one than she had been granted previously and I feel as if I've done nothing wrong, quite the opposite, so no amount of shouting at me will convince me otherwise. It's over and done with and I've started to focus back on myself, and my studies. I'm doing very well, despite the little wobble caused by the stress of blackmailing someone, and my personal schedule is working for me."
"I am glad to hear that." Lucius said.
Rabastan led Harry over to the settee, and they sat cuddled together. Harry tried not to fret that he was missing Ancient Runes, Arithmancy, and History of Magic while he was here, and that it would put him behind, he just had to enjoy that he was back in Rabastan's arms, no matter how briefly.
"I'm juggling everything I need to rather well."
"You're still taking on too much, and it will lead to you collapsing." Rodolphus told him matter-of-factly.
"It hasn't happened yet." Harry pointed out.
"You've been back in school for two months." Rodolphus said. "I'm estimating just after the Easter holiday, when your final exams are looming and your homework is piling on top of you."
"It always is so nice to hear how much you care, Rodolphus." Harry said sarcastically. "I mean, actually plotting on when I might collapse, really?"
"You're doing it to yourself. You won't be told, so I'm going to see how you look over the winter holidays, and then amend my estimation if needed."
Harry rolled his eyes, but it did poke at that part of him that was stubborn, that liked to prove people wrong. He would manage himself, and his responsibilities, and he would make it through the year without collapsing.
He turned back into Rabastan and tipped his head up to smile at his fiancé. The smile was a little tenuous, and from the look on his face, Rabastan knew it. His arms clutched him tighter still, as if that could undo what had already been said and done.
"How are you?" Harry asked. "I've barely had a moment to write to you, I'm sorry for that."
"I understand that you're going to be exceptionally busy. I will survive the lack of correspondence with you, just focus on yourself, and your education, so that you can realise your dreams, Harry."
Harry swallowed, and his heart swelled. What had he ever done to deserve this man? Not a perfect one, not by a long shot, but a loving, supportive one all the same, even if there was a lack of trust. He reached up to pull Rabastan into a kiss.
"My dreams are getting a little closer to becoming reality now."
"Have you thought more on what subject you'll want to teach?" Xerxes asked him. "After getting private tutoring from Marcus Flint, you should think about going into Ancient Runes."
Harry blinked stupidly, wondering what Xerxes meant, before realising that he hadn't told anyone here of his plans to become Minister. He'd told Narcissa before the Ministry party, he'd told his friends on the train, but he hadn't told Lucius. He hadn't told Xerxes or Rodolphus. He hadn't even told his own fiancé.
"I don't want to be a teacher anymore." He said.
"Really? But you seemed so sure." Rabastan said, looking at him worriedly.
"I've been thinking of something else for a while now." Harry said, giving him a smile. "I've decided it's much better for me, and I'm more invested in it than I was teaching."
"Must we beg?" Xerxes asked him.
Harry chuckled. "I've decided to pursue a political career. I'm aiming right for the top position. I want to be the Minister for Magic."
Harry got to witness the proud smiles, and the pleased, smug looks.
"That, I think, is a much better career choice for you." Lucius told him.
"I thought so too." Harry said.
"I'm proud of you." Rabastan told him.
Harry gave his fiancé a big smile, and snuggled into him.
"It makes me happy to know that you'll support me." Harry told him.
"Of course I will. You have supported me throughout my recovery, in a manner that went beyond anything expected of you." Rabastan said. "I love you, and I will support you in anything you decide to do."
Harry was a little embarrassed, but very pleased too, and he buried his face in Rabastan's chest and hugged him tightly.
"I love you." He declared softly. "Thank you."
"If you want to become the Minister, you know that I will back you all the way." Rabastan insisted.
"As will the rest of us." Xerxes agreed. "I'm even more pleased now with your match to Rabastan. Your ambition is only growing larger the more you age and learn."
"Dumbledore was holding you back." Rodolphus added shortly.
Harry blinked, as that reminded him of what Kreacher had told him, and he sat up straighter.
"That reminds me, my Order of the Phoenix spy told me something rather alarming."
"What is Dumbledore planning?" Lucius asked, looking concerned, likely thinking to the plots to douse him with potions.
"He's going to try and force me to stay at Hogwarts over the winter holidays, and then take me to Grimmauld Place, where he hopes to force whatever potion he's chosen onto me."
Rabastan's arm clenched tight around him, and Harry sunk back into him.
"You will refuse." Lucius told him.
Harry nodded. "Family is more important. I was planning on refusing, regardless of what ploy he uses to try and get me to stay. I just thought it would be best to let you know that he is going to try and force me to go to Grimmauld Place, where he intends to douse me with a potion."
Lucius sighed, and looked slightly stressed. Harry hated that he was causing his family stress, but it was much better that they knew what Dumbledore was planning, so they could counteract it, rather than pretend he was untouchable and completely safe.
"If you have any problems with him at all, you will go to Severus…"
Harry immediately pulled a face.
"No, Harry, you go straight to Severus who can contact me immediately. Send your brother if you feel more comfortable, but you make sure that I am aware of what is going on, am I clear?"
Harry nodded. "Yes. I will refuse to go with him though. My family is the most important thing to me. I don't want to spend any time with anyone else."
"This is just in case he does use something to try and force you to go with him."
Harry nodded, and he sat back against Rabastan.
"There was one more thing I was told." Harry admitted.
"Is it better or worse?" Xerxes asked him.
Harry shrugged. "That depends on how you view both situations, but Dumbledore has found a way for Charlie Weasley to claim the Prewett lordship. He'll be joining the Wizengamot."
There was disgust and outrage at that announcement.
"How did he manage to do that?" Rodolphus demanded.
"By forcing Arthur Weasley to disown Charlie." Harry told them. "With him being disowned by his father, he was free to claim the Prewett Lordship from his mother's side. So he will be joining the Wizengamot as Lord Prewett."
"I swear to Merlin Dumbledore has a lot to answer for." Xerxes growled. "Messing around with the politics of our country, trying to force his own influence onto everything, it's galling!"
"The worst part is he can get away with it." Harry pointed out.
"Hopefully not for much longer." Rodolphus said darkly.
Harry pretended that he didn't hear Rodolphus' words. He was pretty sure that he wanted Dumbledore dead himself for what he'd put him through, for the lies, the pain, but that didn't mean he wanted to hear about it right in front of him, because Rodolphus didn't make idle threats.
"How are your studies going, Harry?" Lucius asked him, seemingly calmer than he'd been when they'd just arrived home, and apparently willing to ignore that Harry had shouted at him to fuck off in his own home.
"Really well." Harry said. "Before today I had only one piece of homework left to do. I'm going to have homework and catch up work to do now thanks to Lord Parkinson." Harry rolled his eyes. "As if anyone could even think that I'd gotten her pregnant!"
"I'm sorry that I doubted you." Rabastan said immediately. "I just…I knew you didn't like her situation, and I thought that maybe she had played on your soft heart and convinced you to have a baby with her."
Harry shook his head. "I was willing to meddle and do everything I could to help her, but I would never have risked my own future with you. I would never have disrespected you so much."
"I am at least glad to hear you say that." Xerxes told him.
Harry knew why as well. He got the feeling that Rabastan would let him get away with much more than he would usually accept from anyone else, because they truly loved one another. Harry made a silent promise then and there that he would never take advantage of that, and he would never take Rabastan for granted. He just wished that his family could trust him, and defend him when he needed them to, not blindly believe people like Daphne, who were trying to stir up trouble.
Harry had gotten to eat lunch with his family, with Narcissa who had come home from a pleasant morning with her friends to find Harry at the dining room table. She had been immediately worried, and she had hurried to him, laying a small hand on his head to check for fever or illness. Harry still felt all soft and gooey inside when he thought of her immediate care of him.
She had been rightfully angry when told that Harry had been accused of fathering Pansy's baby, and she had burst out with a quick 'I don't believe it, she isn't good enough for our son, Lucius!' as if she couldn't believe that any of the men at the table would ever believe the letter that had declared Harry the father.
That alone had reassured him more than anything else, more than anyone else. She had immediately defended him, and declared the letter a lie without even knowing the source. That had been what he'd needed from Lucius…from Rabastan, his own fiancé. That immediate denial, and the trust placed in him. Narcissa at least saw him as a son, a real member of her family, and she was willing to fight his corner no matter what and Harry clung to that tightly.
Harry had finished his meal, said goodbye to everyone, and had a bit of a kiss and a cuddle with Rabastan, and then he'd had to go back to Hogwarts for his afternoon lessons. The catch-up work was going to throw him out of his schedule a little, but if he stayed awake a little later than he usually did, and sacrificed some sleep, he would be able to catch up relatively quickly. He was sure that Draco would help him at the very least, perhaps even Blaise, and Theo too.
Dinner was rather lively, as Pansy found him and sat right beside him, ignoring Draco's narrow-eyed gaze, and the little hissed whispers that flared up at the action. The Hogwarts rumour mill at work that he and Pansy were expecting a baby together.
"Were you in much trouble?" She asked him.
Harry shook his head. "I explained everything, and everyone calmed down. How about you?"
"My father wanted to pull me from Hogwarts, to take me home as your father did to you, but I refused, and Dumbledore, as much as I hate him, he refused to allow my father to take me. I just knew he'd perform some curse to make me lose the baby if I had gone home."
Harry tried to control his disgust, but considering Pansy looked away and avoided his gaze, he likely hadn't been all that successful.
"You're due in August, will you remain here for the holidays?"
Pansy nodded. "As much as I like going to the parties, it's safer if I remain here. I wouldn't put it past my father to force me to marry Selwyn over the holidays regardless that the laws allow Giovanni first refusal. We are making plans for me to go straight to his home in Italy once I graduate."
Harry laid a hand on her back, just for comfort. "You're away from Selwyn now. You're seventeen, a legal adult, you can stay here for the winter and Easter holidays, and then have your baby, and Rowle will claim you both."
"Thank you for what you did for me, Harry."
Harry just nodded and turned back to his meal.
Daphne couldn't help herself though, as she came into the hall and saw them both sat so close and cosy together.
"I never thought you'd be so desperate, Pansy. Then I would get pregnant by anyone I could too if I was being married to an ugly, old man. But truly, a halfblood? Potter of all people?" She sneered before turning to Harry. "I knew you were lying about being so in love with your fiancé." She chuckled. "As if anyone could love a decrepit cripple."
"What are you talking about?" Harry asked loudly, raising a curious eyebrow.
Daphne seemed taken aback, but she looked between them both, and got a second wind as she noticed everyone at their part of the Slytherin table watching them.
"You two, and your baby."
"I don't have a baby." Harry said.
"What does Harry have to do with my baby?" Pansy asked curiously, playing up her surprise.
Daphne blinked in confusion, as if the two of them were playing a game where she didn't know the rules.
"Harry fathered your baby." She told them, as if explaining something they should have already known.
"No he didn't." Pansy replied.
"I absolutely did not. I love Aceline, and I would never have disrespected her in such a way."
"But…then who…?" She mumbled, looking back at Pansy.
Harry had just known that Daphne was the one to send the letter to Paimon Parkinson, probably to Lucius as well, telling them that he was the one who had fathered Pansy's baby. It made him angrier to think that they would rather believe her lies than trust that he hadn't done as accused.
"None of your business!" Pansy snapped. "Just know that it isn't Harry, and I'm no longer marrying Selwyn!"
"Moving away from this embarrassing conversation, do you need any help with your catch up work, Harry?" Draco asked him, very firmly changing the subject.
"I wouldn't say no to help, you know that. Homework club after dinner?" He asked with a grin.
"Oh good, you can help me with that Defence essay we were just given." Blaise answered.
Harry smirked. "Because I mastered the severing curse so quickly in class, I was allowed to sit at the back of the room and write my essay."
"You've already done it?" Blaise demanded of him.
Harry nodded smugly.
"We're definitely having homework club then. Are we skipping study hall?"
"We do better on our own, and we all have different strengths so we can all help one another out." Draco insisted. "I like homework club better than study hall."
"Come on then, the sooner we start the more we can get done before curfew."
"Are you patrolling the corridors tonight?" Astoria asked him.
Harry shook his head. "Tomorrow night." He answered.
He hated his duties as Head Boy sometimes, as they took away from his sparse free time. It would look better on his dossier though, especially as he hadn't been made a Prefect. He would put up with it, patrol the corridors looking for students out of bed, not that he cared, it would be highly hypocritical of him to chastise them for it when he was forever wandering the corridors at night in his younger years. He smirked as he thought of the invisibility cloak folded up carefully in his trunk.
The small group of them, including Pansy and Astoria, made it to Harry's rooms and Harry tapped the keyhole with his wand, letting them all in. He went to immediately make tea for his guests, and make up a plate of biscuits.
"Right, I want that Defence essay out of the way, so I'm starting there." Blaise declared.
Harry brought the tray over and placed it in the middle, letting people help themselves…he was only willing to play host to a point and pouring their tea for them, and offering milk and sugar was definitely a step too far.
He got the essay he'd written in class while his year mates had struggled with the severing curse they were being taught, and he handed it over to Blaise.
"I have to go through all of the material we missed in our morning classes before I can even think of doing anything else." Harry sighed, getting out the notes and catch up work that Draco had gotten for him.
"It's not too bad." Draco assured him.
"History was a complete bust." Theo agreed. "Now that you've mentioned it, and put it into my mind, I've started taking more notice of what Binns is saying and doing. I can't believe I never noticed how biased he was!"
"How are you doing with those books I gave you?"
"I'm almost done, and you were right, it was so informative. It's rather dry, but I'm enjoying it all the same."
Harry smiled and nodded. He'd thought the same.
"Binns needs to be sacked, and a teacher who knows what they're doing needs to be brought in. I don't know what Dumbledore is thinking letting him stay here and teach us so poorly. Our own history!" Harry said, shaking his head.
"When you're the Minister, you can change what you want." Blaise told him, waving a hand. "Come and do your work."
"Wait, the Minister controls the curriculum?" Harry asked, sitting down on the settee, and grabbing himself some tea.
"Of course. Dumbledore has some influence as the Headmaster, but the Ministry is still the controlling force. Did you really think Dumbledore would have allowed Umbridge to teach us solely from books in our fifth year if he'd had any choice in the matter? You can fire anyone you want, though as we found out from Trelawney, you can't expel them from the school."
Harry looked thoughtful. "The sooner that is done the better. I might have a word with Thicknesse about it, and see if he won't consider firing Binns for incompetence."
"You are voting for Thicknesse then?" Theo asked him.
"I am being…coerced into voting for him, yes." He said evenly, even as he looked over Draco's notes.
"We should all be voting for him." Pansy said softly. "We know that."
Harry nodded his agreement, no matter how much he didn't like it.
They all lapsed into silence, all working on their homework, swapping notes, and essays, and Harry settled nice and easy, as he caught up with the work he'd missed, and then started on his homework.
He was exceptionally pleased that, with the help from his friends, he was able to finish all of his homework by half nine that night. He breathed a happy sigh, and drained the last dregs of tea in his cup. He would bask in the feelings of accomplishment for a few minutes, before he took out his law reforms and started the gruelling task of writing more paragraphs of law changes. His estimate of being done by the New Year were dashed. There was no way he would be able to meet that self-imposed deadline now. He'd be lucky if it was ready by the time he graduated.
He sighed and put all of his homework away into the coloured folders he used to keep everything organised, and then grabbed his law reforms. He was focusing more on the magical creature bill, because that one was more important. He would sort out the state of Azkaban, and the Dementors, at a later date, but securing protection and rights for magical creatures was definitely at the heart of his personality, and of paramount priority to him. He would focus on that one, and he would hopefully finish it soon. But he didn't want to rush it, he had to absolutely make sure that his wording was precise, and left no room to be misinterpreted or misconstrued by anyone who would be reading it. There could be no loopholes or absent legislation that left room for people to exploit his written word. It was a very heavy burden, one which he had taken on much too young, and he felt the weight of it heavy across his back and shoulders. But no one else had been doing anything to help, no one else had thought to take on this burden, no one else cared, Harry had realised, and so he had taken on that mantle. No one else was doing anything to help the magical creatures, so he would do something about it.
"You've gotten so much done for that." Draco said, sounding surprised and impressed. "It's twice as long as it was when I last saw it."
"I've been working on it every spare moment I've managed to claw out. It's been difficult with everything I've taken on. My reading for the Wizengamot, the translation work I need to do for these law reforms, tutoring with Marcus and whatever work he gives me to do, I just, it's a lot to take on, but this is just as important as everything else, if not more so given that this legislation will affect people's lives. I wanted it done by now, so that I could pass it around and take criticism, and have a period of time to edit and write it again, but it's not finished yet. This year has been more difficult than even I had believed. Then certain things outside of my control have interfered with my time and prevented me from working on things as much as I'd have liked to."
Pansy shifted next to him, but Harry didn't even look at her. She had disturbed his plans, and his schedule. He didn't blame her for it, he couldn't, as the situation she had been in was horrendous, but the notion stood. She had disturbed him, she had disturbed his plans, and though he had chosen to help her, he was now behind on all of his little personal projects as a result.
"Can I have a look at it?" Draco asked him.
Harry debated it, then decided it would be more useful to have Draco read and criticise it, than write a few more paragraphs, so he handed the reform over to Draco, and then pulled over his stack of notes for it and started jotting a few things down, just to keep everything clear in his mind.
"This is amazing work, Harry." Draco praised. "I don't know why you're so concerned for the magical creatures, but I can't see anything wrong with this, or your wording."
"I'm concerned because no one else is." Harry said tightly, taking back his law reform. "I'll get as many people as possible to read this through before I submit it, but I just hope that it works, that I can get these people, these magical creatures, the rights that they deserve, and the airtight laws they need to protect them."
It wasn't too long later that everyone left his rooms, as the curfew approached not one of them wanted to be caught by a Prefect, the Head Girl, or worse, Filch. Harry said his goodbyes, and then shut the door.
He took a deep breath, and went to make himself a hot chocolate. He deserved the little bit of extra luxury as he planned to tackle a good few paragraphs of his creature law reform before he took a shower and went to bed.
He sipped on the delicious drink and thought of Rabastan. He didn't know why this was reminding him of his fiancé, but he suddenly wanted to hear his voice desperately. He sighed and sat back, picking at the bracelet on his wrist. He had never hated that his fiancé was a wanted man more so than in that very moment, when all he wanted was him to come around and spend some time with him. It probably wouldn't have been allowed even if he hadn't been an escapee of Azkaban, and a Death Eater to boot, because of the restricting Pureblood traditions.
Harry calmed himself, it would be Christmas soon enough, and he would be out of the castle and back in Rabastan's arms before he knew it. He would be kept very busy in the next several weeks until the holidays. It was November now, and it felt like time was slipping away from him as he looked to his unfished law reform. He closed his eyes and pushed away the sudden feeling of loneliness.
He drank down the last few swallows of hot chocolate and he placed down the mug, sitting forward and picking up his quill, he pulled both the law reform and his notes toward him. He could do this. He was determined and ambitious enough, and he would be seeing Rabastan very soon. Perhaps it had been the short visit that morning to his lover that had caused these sudden feelings, but he could push them aside easily enough. He had more than enough things to keep him busy and occupied until the winter holidays.
Harry inhaled deeply and dipped his quill in his inkwell. In his very best handwriting he wrote out another complex, carefully thought out paragraph. No matter how long this bill took him to write, he would not rush it.
He hoped that he had at least another good chunk of it written by the time the winter holidays rolled around, so that he had a bit more to show Lucius and Xerxes, and of course Rabastan and Rodolphus too. He wanted to make them proud, but more than that, he wanted their older opinions on what he was doing. Lucius and Xerxes had been on the Wizengamot for decades, and they knew how these sorts of things worked, and they could help him, and he wasn't above asking. He would do right by the magical creatures that others overlooked, or just straight out abused and persecuted them because the laws were so flimsy, and so thin, that there was nothing to stop them discriminating against them. Well, hopefully not for much longer, Harry thought to himself as he sat back and looked at his newest paragraph. He was getting there, slowly but surely, and very soon this reform would be ready to be submitted to his fellow peers on the Wizengamot. He would do his very best to help the magical creatures gain the legal rights and protections that they were entitled to as living beings, he refused to do any less.
A/N: I've been away from this plot for a little while, because the next chapter includes a decision that will reverberate through the entire plotline of this fic, and it needed to be handled carefully, or it could ruin the entire story, but I believe I've managed to navigate through that very complicated situation, so I can hopefully carry on with this fic a little more.
A lot has happened since my last update, not least I've got a brand new fic, The Antlered Lion posted, and I also have a brand new nephew, Tommy, who was born in May this year. I finished my first uni course too, passing with a distinction. I actually received the books for my next course today, so I've got that to look forward to, but I do hope you lovelies have enjoyed this update, and that you'll forgive me for taking my time with it to get it just right. No matter how long it might take me to update, I will not abandon this fic, or any fic.
StarLight Massacre. X