Last Time

Lucius went to the floo to call Severus. He truly hoped that he could mend things with Harry, and fix his damaged self-esteem. At least Harry being angry with him was better than the alternative. He really did hope that Harry was just angry, and that Dumbledore hadn't found a way to get him back under his thumb.

Chapter Thirty-Four – Ruses and Reconciliation

Harry didn't have anyone to help dress him for his dinner date that evening. He was still refusing to allow anyone into his rooms and he hadn't left them since Friday. So he had to dress and accessorise himself.

It had been over a year, and he had spent it learning and emulating, and he thought he looked passable as he checked himself out in the mirror. He was sure others would be able to find some faults with his outfit, but he didn't care enough to consider what they might be. He was already sure that Rabastan wouldn't point them out and he was the only one that Harry cared about at the moment.

He checked the time and with a sigh he went back into his living room to sit for ten minutes. Rabastan had managed to get them a private room, but it was rather late. It was already eight at night and he did have lessons tomorrow, but he just really needed to see his fiancé and hear from his mouth that he would have supported him. He would have to apologise too for assuming what Rabastan would say instead of giving him the chance to actually say anything. As a pseudo-politician, and a wannabe lawmaker, that was unforgivable of him.

He was sat, running through how he would greet Rabastan, the things he would say and he was trying to think of how Rabastan would maybe answer. He shook his head and stood, there was no point in thinking of such things. It had been assuming what Rabastan would say that had gotten him into this mess.

He checked the time and saw with an eye roll that he was now running slightly late. Groaning at himself, Harry turned on the spot, thinking of The Garnet Swan.

"Ah, Lord Potter-Black, we have been expecting you. Please follow me."

Harry was led up the stairs, still wrapped in autumn foliage and blooms, and to the room on the far end. The Maître d gave a small bow, before leaving quickly. Harry gave a gentle knock to let Rabastan know that he was there, before he slipped into the room.

"Harry, are you okay?" Rabastan asked him immediately and Harry remembered that as far as his fiancé was concerned he had been missing for two days.

"I'm fine, I never meant to worry you, or anyone. I just needed some space."

Harry snuggled into Rabastan, feeling those arms band around him tight. His mind went back to a time when Rabastan couldn't do this for fear of having a spasm and injuring him. He truly had come such a long way.

"Were you truly just hiding in your room?"

Harry nodded. "I got fed up of Draco hammering on my door when I was trying to think. I just needed to be alone, to…absorb the loss in the Wizengamot. I…I put a silencing ward on the door. I wasn't thinking, I just needed to…I wanted to be alone."

"I missed you after the meeting." Rabastan told him, lowering his head to nuzzle at his neck and Harry shivered, clutching at him tighter.

"I am sorry. The last thing I wanted was to worry you, or squander any rare bit of time we manage to get together, but…" Harry trailed off and shook his head. He still couldn't put voice to how upset he felt that Lucius and Xerxes hadn't voted with him.

"You felt betrayed that your father, and my grandfather, didn't vote with you."

Harry just nodded.

"It's stupid, but I…"

"It's not stupid." Rabastan cut in firmly. "Harry, they should have supported you!"

"They cared more about their prejudice than they did about me. It mattered more to them to prove just how much they hate magical creatures than it did to support me. Everyone knew I'd lost, but they also saw that my own father voted against me. That's a humiliation that I won't live down for a while."

"It's unforgivable." Rabastan agreed.

Harry licked his lip nervously, then pulled back a little and looked up into Rabastan's blue eyes.

"Would you have supported me?" He asked, almost not wanting to hear the answer, but asking anyway. "Would you have been able to ignore that a vampire had tried to make another vampire and voted for a stay of execution?"

Rabastan stared at him. "Of course I would have voted with you!" He declared.

"But you hate magical creatures."

"It's not about my own personal feelings, Harry! It doesn't matter what I think or feel about it personally, it's about supporting you!"

"Do you mean that?" Harry asked softly.

"Yes." Rabastan said firmly. "From what I've heard you weren't going to get enough votes anyway, in that situation it would have been more important to support you in your loss."

"Why didn't they?" Harry asked insecurely.

"Because they're fools." Rabastan said angrily. "They didn't see what I could. They didn't think about you, or your feelings, and I have made sure that they know my own thoughts on the matter. They understand now that they should have supported you, to save you from such humiliation, but what's done is done, Harry. You can only move on from this."

"What if I can't? What if I've made a mistake, Rabastan?"

"What sort of mistake? What have you done?" Rabastan asked, looking worried.

Harry shook his head. "I can't be a lawmaker. I can't change anything. It was naïve of me to think that I could. Well…naïve at best, arrogant at worst. That meeting proved that no one will listen to me on matters concerning magical creatures, why should I even bother?"

Rabastan looked at him sadly and pulled him back into a hug. One hand went to stroke through the hair at the back of Harry's neck.

"Don't do this to yourself, Harry. You've had a setback, made all the worse by the lack of support you received from your family, but it's a small setback all the same. You are going to change the world, I believe in you."


"Always." Rabastan assured him. "I am always going to believe in you. I know you have the potential inside of you to be one of the greatest wizards of all time. Please tell me that you'll put this behind you and carry on with your plans. It would devastate me to see you squander such talent and ambition."

Harry looked down at the floor and considered if he'd be able to just forget this, but it would forever be stamped into his brain as his first Wizengamot defeat, and would only be reinforced by the knowledge that Lucius and Xerxes had voted against him. It wasn't going to be something he could just forget.

"You've had a knock, but that's okay, Harry." Rabastan told him, with a hint of desperation to his tone this time. "You can bounce back from this."

"What if I don't want to?" Harry asked him. "What if I don't want to keep feeling like this?"

"You are not a failure, Harry." Rabastan told him sternly, cupping his chin and forcing him to look up into fierce blue eyes. "What you are feeling now should inspire you to try harder, to prove everyone wrong and come out on top. Don't let anyone make you feel like you aren't good enough."

"I love you, you know."

"I do, and I love you. Are you feeling better?"

"A little, but truly, knowing that you would have supported me, that you do support me, it means everything, Rabastan."

"I'm going to be your husband, Harry. You'll be my husband. I will support you in absolutely anything you do, but the one thing I will not support is you just giving up. You are going to keep going, you are going to carry on with your plans and you will achieve them, am I clear?"

Harry smiled then, reaching up to hold Rabastan's face. "Crystal."

"Good, then come and sit down, I know you have lessons tomorrow and I still wish to treat you to a nice meal."

"Your friend might as well just give us one of these rooms and label it as ours with how often we come to solve some crisis or other."

"It's funny, but he said something similar, only a lot less politely."

Harry laughed, feeling a lot better, as Rabastan led him to the table and seated him.

"I ordered for you, Harry. It being a school night I knew you wouldn't want to be out too late."

"Thank you."

They were served very quickly after they had actually sat down and Harry got the feeling that the house-elf had been there, waiting on them, just invisible the entire time.

Rabastan said nothing to the house-elf, and nothing about them either, which Harry counted as a bonus, and he was able to just enjoy his meal, which really was of outstanding quality.

"You haven't been anywhere or taken anything?" Rabastan asked once they were done with their food, having made light conversation throughout.

"I did go to Grimmauld Place to see Remus, that was on the Friday, but yesterday and today I have just been in my rooms."

"You didn't eat or drink anything?"

"I did, but honestly, Rabastan, if it's one person I trust not to try to slip me a potion it's Remus. Besides Marcus' runes will hold against any potion I ingest, so even if there was something in the tea, it hasn't worked."

Rabastan looked a little worried still, but he nodded regardless.

"I know you're worried about what Dumbledore might do. I am as well, but he can't show his hand in the open, love. He's going to get progressively desperate, but I'm making sure not to see him alone unless I have to, and even then, if it's something to do with school I'll call Lucius to represent me. I'm not taking any needless risks where he's concerned."

"I'm always going to worry about you."

"He doesn't know about the runes. I have a safety net." Harry said reassuringly.

Rabastan sighed, then nodded, trying to calm himself. Harry was right, they had those runes to fall back on, and both Marcus and Xerxes were looking for better, stronger ways to combat anything that could affect Harry's mind.

"So you really have just been locked in your room all weekend working on your reform?"

"I never said I was working on my reform." Harry pointed out.

"After the Wizengamot meeting, and the subject matter of it, I assumed it was a given that you would be working on it." Rabastan said, narrowing his eyes on Harry. "What have you done? Harry, please tell me that you didn't destroy your law reform?!"

"I tore it up." Harry admitted softly. "I…"

"Tell me that you kept the pieces and they can be remade and that you didn't throw them into the fire."

"I threw them into the fire, but, Rabastan…"

"Harry, how could you?! You were doing so well and that law reform was a wonderfully written piece of future legislation!"

"Rabastan, no one would have voted for it because it was me." Harry pointed out.

"They would have because it would have worked for the Dark Lord's agenda."

Harry's expression darkened and Rabastan sighed and reached out to take Harry's hand into his own.

"Harry, my love, it was an amazing thing you were doing, I hate that you've thrown it all away over this. Now you'll have to start over again."

"I won't…"

"You will because I will not allow you to give up on yourself. That law reform was sorely needed and you knew it. No one else is going to do it, so it has to be you."

Harry chuckled then. "You keep interrupting me." He pointed out with a smile.

Rabastan blinked in surprise, then settled. "I apologise. What are you trying to say?"

"I ripped up and burnt the old version. I rewrote the entire thing."

"You…you rewrote it in one weekend?"

"I had a lot of motivation to do so after witnessing such a miscarriage of justice. How can someone innocent, who has broken no law, still be executed, Rabastan, how? It near enough destroyed me knowing that he was going to die because of other people's prejudice and for no other reason. He'd done nothing wrong. I can never allow that to happen again."

"I assume that was the basis for completely reworking your reform?"

Harry nodded. "It's better now. I'm going to make it so airtight that anyone who dares ignore the written law will be imprisoned themselves for perverting laws and justice."

"You continually amaze me." Rabastan admitted, before bending over the table and giving him a gentle kiss.

Harry gave him a tenuous smile. "I got a bit of much needed advice when I was ready to just quit and give it all up."

"Oh, and what was this advice that made you change your mind?"

"The only people who are trying to stop me are the ones benefitting from the current laws. If I need any motivation at all, I need to look at the ones who will benefit from my changing of those laws, the ones who are suffering under the laws as they are now."

"Very sound advice. From Remus I assume?"

Harry nodded. "Truly that was all I needed to hear to realise that the magical creatures can't change the laws by themselves, they need someone to do it for them and no one is doing it."

"Only you." Rabastan corrected.

Harry nodded. "Only me. So if I give up, who else will do it? So, I realised that I have to stick with it no matter how much mud gets thrown at me."

"In that case, I can't wait to see what you've done to your reform to make it better when I thought it was already really well worded and covered what was needed."

"It covers much more now." Harry insisted. Then he sighed. "I won't fail again, Rabastan."

"I know you won't." Rabastan said, smiling at him.

The two of them took after dinner tea in the comfortable armchairs, though Harry chose to sit on Rabastan's lap rather than in his own chair. He allowed himself to just rest on Rabastan, and though he knew he would have to get back to school soon, he allowed himself to enjoy some time in the moment too.

"Comfortable are we?" Rabastan teased him, even as he wrapped his arm around him to keep him in place.

Harry hummed and snuggled in more. "I really am. I missed you too on Friday, I just couldn't…I couldn't even look at them."

"I understand."

Harry shook his head. "No, I owe you an apology. I assumed that you would feel the same as they would, and I couldn't deal with you…I couldn't deal with the thought of being unsupported by you as well."

"I would never have turned on you in such a way. I more than learned that lesson after the letter arrived claiming that you were the father to Parkinson's baby. I should have spoken to you first, before allowing my fears and doubts to surface, and in matters of the Wizengamot, even if I do not feel the same way as you do on an issue, I will support you in anything and everything that you decide."

"Even if it's something that goes against your beliefs?" Harry echoed.

"My beliefs are ingrained, but I wouldn't allow them to stop you from advancing, my love. You're the politician, not me. We will likely not agree on every issue, but if it's a matter of public perception or Wizengamot debates, then you have my full support and backing, regardless of the subject matter."

Harry smiled and laid a kiss to Rabastan's cheek.

"Thank you, Rabastan. That's exactly what I needed. It's what I wanted from Lucius and Xerxes. They hadn't joined the debate and I had. They didn't say a single word for or against the proposal, and I see now that I was going to lose. With the laws in the current state they are, I was never going to win, but I still needed them to support me."

Rabastan sighed heavily and held him tighter. "All I can tell you is that they're sorry and feel foolish for not supporting you. Your mother even has Lucius sleeping in a guest bedroom she's so angry with him for hurting you."

Hearing that did actually make him feel a little better. It wouldn't undo what had already been done, but he hoped that it prevented it from happening ever again. He didn't mind debating with others, or even disagreeing with them, but if he was going to have Pureblood etiquette rammed down his throat then he expected those preaching it to practice it also.

He had been told of the importance of supporting allies and family in the Wizengamot, about how not supporting an ally in a debate could sour relations, or even create an enemy, which made the lack of support from Lucius and Xerxes all the worse, because they understood the importance of supporting allies in the Wizengamot, even over their own personal feelings on the subject matter.

No, they had chosen not to support him and Harry needed to know why they had chosen not to support him before he thought of forgiving them for it.

"I am at least glad that you agreed to meet with me."

"It was never you that I was angry with, Rabastan." Harry said, turning a smile onto his fiancé. "I am sorry that I assumed what you would say, before giving you a chance to say anything, but I was rather upset over the entire incident. An innocent man has lost his life because of the loopholes in the laws. Loopholes that I am almost certain were put in purposefully to be exploited like this."

Harry had been thinking of that for a while, even before the Wizengamot debate. He had been pouring over the creature laws already in place and it was impossible to overlook the number of loopholes the laws contained. Given how many of them there were it had to have been done by design. A way for the Wizengamot to make it look like they were protecting the magical creatures by shoving the legislation under the noses of protestors, while leaving a little back door open in the wording so that they could still discriminate against them as they pleased.

It made him wonder why the Purebloods were allowing him to rewrite the laws they liked to exploit so much. It made him wonder why his family, Rodolphus in particular, always praised him on working on his reforms. There was something that he was missing, there must be, and Harry fully believed that that something was input from actual magical creatures. The sooner he took his proposal to the coalition and got it looked at, the better.

"It wouldn't surprise me to find out that you were right about that." Rabastan told him.

Harry sighed and tried to ignore how angry that made him. Instead, he snuggled into Rabastan and rested on him, allowing himself to be held and comforted.

"I'm going to change it. All of it." He swore.

"I'll support you all the way, Harry. Let me know if anyone is giving you grief over it, Dolphus and I will pay them a visit and shut them up for you."

That made Harry chuckle. "I don't think Rodolphus would."

"He would." Rabastan assured him. "He loves violence and fear more than anything, no matter what it was over he would agree just because it would give him the opportunity to curse someone."

"He really is rather unstable. We have to get him some more hobbies."

Rabastan laughed too. "Good luck, love. I don't think Rodolphus is interested in anything if it doesn't cause pain or fear."

Harry frowned then. "How about we get him a girlfriend?"

"No, absolutely not." Rabastan said, rather seriously. "I don't believe he'll ever willing enter into a relationship now, not after Bellatrix, Harry. It would be a mistake to bring it up to him."

"Did he not like dating before? Or has Bellatrix truly ruined it for him that he's sworn off relationships altogether?"

"He didn't really date before, it was all mind games to him, a form of emotional torture. He's never truly loved anyone, or dated them seriously, not even when he was younger and any inclination he had to settle down and maybe have children of his own was destroyed by being betrothed and then married to Bellatrix. That's why I have been named my grandfather's heir, that's why it's so important that our betrothal is successful."

"Because we're the only hope that the Lestrange line has of reaching another generation."

Rabastan nodded. "The continuation of the Lestrange line will not be coming from Rodolphus. It's why my grandfather is usually so indulgent of you, I don't understand why he would put our alliance at risk by voting against you in the Wizengamot."

"He knows that I would never forsake you over something so trivial." Harry pointed out. "I would never hold his actions against you. Whatever else he thinks of me, he knows that, so he knew that he could vote how he pleased without it affecting us, or the future of the Lestrange line."

"Maybe a ruse then, to teach him a lesson, so that he never goes against you in the Wizengamot again."

Harry frowned. "What did you have in mind?"

"We pretend to call off our engagement." Rabastan told him, and Harry frowned harder.

"I don't like that idea." He said immediately.

Rabastan chuckled. "It will not be real and we will 'make up' over the Christmas break."

Harry chewed on his lip. "But how will I see you, or write you letters? I don't want to go the next month without any communication with you at all."

Rabastan smiled and gave a sweet kiss to the tip of Harry's nose. "I will say that I am writing to you to furiously beg your forgiveness and any reply they might see from you will be profanities insisting that I leave you alone."

Harry laughed. "Okay, but are you sure? It'll be a lot of pretence of your side."

"If it forces them to think twice about voting against you again, then yes." Rabastan said seriously.

Harry sighed. "There shouldn't be a need for this. I was the only one to debate in that meeting, I assumed that they would vote with me because of that. They spent so long forcing Pureblood etiquette down my throat, making sure I understood it and then they turned around and broke it themselves at the first hurdle."

"I could curse them for it." Rabastan said seriously, tugging Harry in closer. "All I can say is that they thought it would be a good lesson for you, not thinking further than that. They didn't see how much you would be hurt by it, but I swear they'll never do it again. We will play out this ruse to ensure it."

"What will you tell them about tonight? We've been a few hours now."

"That you had come to break off the engagement in person. That you felt so betrayed by the Lestrange family that you felt you could no longer carry on with the betrothal."

Harry nodded. "That sounds plausible, though I hope you know that I love you more than that. In reality, outside of this ruse, I would never have held Xerxes' actions against you."

"I know that, my love." Rabastan assured him, pulling him into a quick kiss. "They need to answer for their actions. I won't allow them to treat you like this."

"What about my ring?" Harry asked worriedly.

"Let me make a copy of it."

Rabastan took a coin from his pocket and cast a complicated spell, making the coin turn into a replica of Harry's precious ring.

"I'll have to stop wearing it, won't I?" Harry said sadly. He loved the ring and when he was thinking of Rabastan at school he would kiss the ring. It comforted him at times when he was missing his fiancé.

"Only for a little while. I promise." Rabastan assured him. "Put it safe with your cufflinks and when you come home for the winter break I will propose to you all over again and make the ring even more special to us both."

Harry smiled at that idea, but still, he hesitated a moment before sliding the engagement ring off his finger and placing it in his pocket. His finger felt cold, odd, without the ring on it. He was glad this ruse would not be for very long.

It was getting late, it was already gone ten, and neither of them wanted to be the first to say so. They didn't want to separate just yet…or ever.

Instead, Harry stayed on Rabastan's lap, wrapped in his arms, exchanging soft kisses.

"It seems like I'll have to be the one to send you back to school." Rabastan sighed.

Harry snorted in amusement. "I have half a mind to just whisk us off back to Fiji. How long do you think it would take them to find us?"

"A few months, at least." Rabastan chuckled.

Harry grinned and then shook his head, letting out a sigh. It was time that he was getting back to school. It was already well past curfew…not that he would be walking the corridors now that he had his Apparation licence. He stood and stretched, allowing Rabastan to stand.

They held one another tight for another few minutes, then kissed again, and then it was time for Harry to leave. For Rabastan to leave.

"I will see you again at the Christmas break."

Harry heaved a sigh. "Okay. I just hope your little plot works and doesn't end up blowing up in our faces."

"It won't. I'll make sure that it works and that our family will never again go against you in the Wizengamot…or anywhere else for that matter."

Harry gave him a smile and pulled him into a tight hug, offering his mouth up for a parting kiss.

"I'll see you soon, love."

"I'll write you a letter in a few days 'begging' for your forgiveness." Rabastan told him.

Harry chuckled. "I'll be sure to promptly reply with obscene profanities that will make even Rodolphus blush."

Rabastan laughed at that. "Dolphus doesn't blush, so that'll be a serious feat."

It was harder than usual to leave Rabastan, but Harry had to. He had lessons tomorrow.

His rooms were empty when he arrived back and, in his mind at least, rather cold after being cuddled in Rabastan's arms for the last hour.

He sighed and put his kettle on the burner to make himself a cup of tea while he sorted everything he needed for his lessons tomorrow. Then he would be going to bed. He didn't really like Rabastan's plan to play at breaking their betrothal, he wanted Lucius and Xerxes to support him because they saw him as family and not because they thought he might ruin their combined houses, but he was willing to let Rabastan sort this.

Harry sighed and made himself some tea and then packed his backpack ready for tomorrow, making sure he gathered all the books he needed, and the homework too. He sat and drank his tea and reflected on how he was feeling. He always felt better after seeing Rabastan and this time he felt even more reassured. Narcissa's letter had been very reassuring, but hearing from Rabastan's own mouth that he would have supported him, that he would have stood by him and his decision, it meant the world to him.

He sipped at his tea and sighed out, feeling his body relax. Having Rabastan's love and support was the best feeling in the world, now if only he had the same support from Lucius and Xerxes. Harry sighed again, more heavily. Maybe Rabastan's ruse would work…Harry could hope.

Rabastan made sure to play his part well, looking suitably devastated as he Apparated back to Malfoy Manor.

He knew that he had to toe a line, between being just obstinate enough to get his grandfather's attention, without making things worse for Harry by name calling, or being too angry and putting his grandfather on the defensive.

"How is Harry?" Rodolphus asked. "Was there a raid?"

"Harry's perfectly fine. He's not under any curse or potion. He is thinking clearly and…and…"

"And what?" Xerxes asked him.

Rabastan snapped his head up and threw the fake engagement ring to bounce on the hardwood floor.

"Is that…?"

"Your actions in the Wizengamot had more consequences than you realised." Rabastan hissed.

"He broke off your engagement? Over that?"

"It's no small thing to him! I warned you, I told you that he was already feeling like he didn't belong in this family and you compounded that fact by not supporting him. He is breaking ties!"

"Why did he demand you see him in a private room if he was planning on breaking your engagement?" Rodolphus demanded, already looking angry and rather murderous.

"He wanted to do it in person. He sat down and he explained everything out to me. I tried…I tried to convince him otherwise, but he doesn't see a future with me, he doesn't believe that his place is in the Lestrange family. It's your fault." He directed at his grandfather.

"Basti, I never…I never once believed that he'd break his engagement with you! I swear it." Xerxes said, looking just as devastated as Rabastan was pretending to be.

"You underestimated his feelings!" Rabastan told him. "You assumed that he'd be alright with the lack of support from his family and you've gambled with my future!"

"I'll speak to him." Xerxes said. "I'll make him understand."

"I've already tried!" Rabastan snapped. "For hours I've tried, but his mind is made up."

"Should I pull him from school and have him checked for curses?" Lucius asked, having watched the argument in silence, looking a little paler than usual.

Narcissa looked rather vicious and Rabastan knew, no matter what Harry decided in life, she would always be beside him…it was that sort of loyalty that Harry needed from Lucius and his grandfather too. If only those two had taken more notice of Narcissa and how she thought of her sons, then maybe there wouldn't be a need for this ruse.

"He is not under a curse or under the effects of a potion. He is himself and his mind is made up."

"I am still his father, I can force him to uphold his betrothal."

"I won't take him through force!" Rabastan hissed, his tone angrier and sharper than he had intended, but he was offended on Harry's behalf. "How could I marry him still knowing that he didn't want me?!"

"I will speak with him." Rodolphus insisted, looking more like he would curse Harry into his grave than actually speak with him.

"You will not! Dolphus, you'll make everything worse! You always make everything worse. How do you think you could talk Harry around when I could not?"

Rodolphus gave him a sneer, his right hand flexing as if to go for his wand. He really was thinking of cursing Harry. Rabastan wouldn't allow that and he was thankful that his brother couldn't just walk into Hogwarts and that he and Harry had planned to make up over the winter holiday.

"Basti…I…I am sorry."

Rabastan shook his head. "No. No, you have lost me the best person I could have ever hoped to have by my side. You don't get to apologise and be done with it. Harry has broken our engagement! Through your actions you have damned the continuation of the Lestrange line."

Rabastan turned as if to storm off, but he swung back around and stared straight at his grandfather, the man who had raised him and taught him everything that he knew. The man that he knew knew better than to cut off an ally in the Wizengamot.

"You know about weighing in your votes to keep allies sweet and Harry was the one you needed to keep the sweetest! I don't believe that you forgot that fact, which means that you did it on purpose!"

"Rabastan, I swear, I didn't. I didn't believe for one moment that Harry would react like this. I didn't believe he would ever break his engagement to you."

"Well, he has!" Rabastan shouted. "It was one betrayal too many! He was already feeling like an outsider and this was the final shove. I hope you're happy with your decision!"

Rabastan did storm off then and he took a breath for playing such a difficult part. He reminded himself firmly that it was for Harry. His Harry. He could only hope that this little ploy of theirs deterred both Xerxes and Lucius from voting against Harry in future. Perhaps it might even spurn an apology. It wouldn't make up for what they had already done, the damage was done already and the vampire had already been executed by order of the Wizengamot, but only with an apology could the betrayal start to heal.

He left Malfoy Manor for the Lestrange Manor and he set to writing Harry a letter, detailing how his little performance had gone, with the hope that it would reconcile Harry with Lucius and Xerxes. At this point he could only hope that it worked.

December had come cold this year and the snow was already falling. Harry was keeping mostly to himself, he didn't really have much else to distract him. The first of the Quidditch games had been played, and Gryffindor had narrowly beaten Slytherin after Harry had snatched the snitch out of the air right over the teachers' bleacher, and Hufflepuff had crushed Ravenclaw. The next match Harry had to worry about was not until March, when the weather picked up a little, but he was at least thankful that his team had beaten Slytherin, no matter how marginally.

This weekend was going to be the first trip to Hogsmeade and Harry still didn't know if he was going to go or not. He wasn't speaking to Draco, thus he was avoiding all of the Slytherins, so he didn't really know if there was any point in going to the village. He wanted to see Rabastan again, but it was too dangerous for him to come to the village and it would ruin their little ruse, which was actually working despite Harry's initial misgivings. He'd had two written apologies, one from Xerxes and one from Lucius. Both had asked to meet with him in person, but he had refused without offering any excuse, just a simple no.

In his defence, he was exceptionally busy with homework and his creature law reform. He had finally wrangled a spare weekend and he had gone to visit the Coalition for Understanding Magical Creatures. The founders had been surprised to learn that he was trying to change the current creature laws, but more than that they had a lot of ideas and insight into how to do just that. Truly Harry was coming to realise that he should have gone and spoken to the magical creatures first, before he'd attempted to write his law reform. He was going to have to rewrite it again, but at least this time he knew exactly what to include, and what parts he needed to clarify more fully, or with stricter wording. That was a theme that those at the coalition had pointed out over and over. His words weren't strict enough, he was being too soft, or too political, when instead he needed to be firmer and harder. He couldn't allow any loopholes or wriggle room in his wording and he had left gaps that experienced politicians could drive a hippogriff through. That was why his family had loved his reform, he was sure…he had been leaving loopholes, exactly the same as the current laws had that the old lords enjoyed exploiting, just in different places.

Stephen had been all too happy to help him, taking time to point out everywhere that Harry had left wriggle room in his wording, circling it in pencil and adding in notes and additional clauses that were needed to shore up the loopholes.

It had taken most of the day and after Stephen, Rafe had looked it over, adding in even more that Stephen had missed, and then the straight-talking Bess had cut even more out of it, simplifying his words so that the meaning was plainer and couldn't be misconstrued. Everyone had something to say on the matter, many of them had been waiting for years, decades, for new legislation to protect them, and they had been thinking of it all that time, but they couldn't do it themselves, which is where he came in.

He honestly had so much to work with now that he didn't think he had the time to even go to Hogsmeade. He was still a little uncertain, being a seventeen year old, that he could even write his own laws, but he was going to damn well try. He was the only one willing to try, and even if he failed, he would still have been the only one to try. He would keep trying too. If he failed once, he'd rewrite it and try again. He would try so many times that the ancient, crumbling lords would vote his proposal into law just to shut him up.

Someone hammered on his door and Harry sighed at the unwelcome interruption.

"Will you open this damn door?!" Draco demanded.

"I don't want to see you!" Harry yelled back.

"I swear to Merlin I'll curse you, Harry! I see now why Purebloods only have one child, who the hell would want a little brother?"

Harry slammed his hands on the coffee table and went to rip open the door to give Draco a piece of his mind. Draco shoved him back into the room, kicked the door closed and then pulled Harry into a hug.

That stopped Harry in his tracks and he frowned.

"What are you doing?"

"Hugging you, idiot." Draco replied. "I'm sorry that I upset you. It's been weeks, Harry, please forgive me."

Harry couldn't say anything. He didn't know what to say. Draco held him tighter.

"I was just stressed over homework." Draco told him. "It wouldn't have mattered what you would have said about that meeting, I likely would have reacted the same. I'm sorry, Harry. Please forgive me."

"Never do that to me again." Harry said, before wrapping his arms around Draco and hugging him back.

"I won't." Draco assured him. "Are you okay?"

Harry nodded.

"Really? Father sent me an owl telling me that you broke your engagement to Rabastan. That doesn't speak of you being fine, Harry."

Harry sighed and moved back to his sitting area, sinking into the settee. Draco sat next to him instead of opposite.

"I…I was so angry, Draco." Harry said, throwing a hand through his hair. He shook his head. "I wanted a clean split from the Lestranges. Xerxes went against me in the Wizengamot. I just…" Harry shook his head again. "I can't forgive it, Draco. They didn't speak, they offered nothing to the debate and I did. People are laughing at me already and he has now made that worse. How can I ever become the Minister for Magic now? How can I ever write my own laws if even my own family won't support me? I'm done."

"But you love Rabastan. I know you do."

"I can't reconcile what Xerxes did. Love doesn't come into it, not anymore. I can't sit at the same table as Xerxes, I can't speak to him, look at him…how can Rabastan and I ever survive that?"

"Then I'm truly sorry, Harry."

Harry fell on Draco then and cried out all of the stress he was feeling, letting his brother hold him, feeling the hand stroking his back and hair to comfort him.

"You're stressed too, I imagine." Draco murmured. "Just let it out, Harry."

"I think we're all stressed now. It's getting closer to the winter break and the professors are piling the homework on. How can they ever expect us to keep up?"

"Father is sorting it. He wrote me a letter asking how I was finding the work given to me and I told him how awful I'm feeling and how stressed I've been and how that led to us fighting. I think he's going to get the governors involved."

"I hope so. I'm not going to last much longer with this stress."

"Pushing your friends away won't help. You need us."

"Missing homework club already?" Harry teased, sitting back and rubbing his face free of lingering tears.

"Of course!" Draco said, grinning, before sobering and looking at him seriously. "Mostly I'm just missing you though. I never thought that I'd be saying that either. I've gotten used to you in the last year and a half, Potter. You are my little brother and I don't want to see you hurting like this. Are you sure you can't forgive Xerxes, just so that you can stay with Rabastan?"

"I don't know." Harry admitted. "I'm trying to become the Minister for Magic, having father and my grandfather-in-law voting against me, after that Prophet article too, I just…it reflects so badly on me. I'm not sure that I can do this anymore."

"Of course you can!" Draco said immediately, firmly. "I know you haven't really been in the Pureblood circles for very long, but you really need to start taking more notice of us and our airs."

"Your airs?" Harry asked, chuckling.

"The confident, slightly arrogant airs." Draco elaborated. "You can do this, you can become the Minister for Magic, so you don't give up until you have what you want."

"I'm not sure that I can do that."

"Yes, you can." Draco said, this time more sharply.

Harry gave him a smile and knocked his shoulder into Draco's.

"Let Xerxes and father stew for a little while longer, but don't punish Rabastan for this, Harry, and don't punish yourself, because truly that's what you're doing. Make up with Rabastan, but let them squirm a while more for going against you."

Harry bit his lip, playing at indecision, but he did eventually nod. He knew that he and Rabastan were going to make up, it didn't hurt the ruse to make Draco think that he had talked him around into forgiving Rabastan.

"Father has been messaging me, you know." Draco told him. "He's very worried, mother more so."

"I've been messaging mother!" Harry insisted.

"I think that's what has them so worried. That you might not forgive father for this."

"I can't have that happen again, Draco. I was so humiliated. I've never wanted to crawl in a hole and die as much as I did in that meeting. Worse than that though was the damage done to my reputation. I was just getting back on track after that Prophet article and they went and ruined all my progress by voting against me."

"Well, if mother has her way then they'll never vote against you ever again, she was furious. She has father sleeping in a guest room in a separate wing of the house. I've never known her to be so angry with him before."

"Because of me?" Harry asked worriedly.

"For you." Draco insisted. "She's very protective of you, you know. You're her youngest son now and anyone who hurts you can look out, even father."

Harry chuckled then. "Maybe I will go home for Christmas then."

"You were thinking of staying here?" Draco demanded.

"I didn't feel able to face them, or be in contact with Rabastan constantly after the decision I made to break off our engagement."

"Damn it, Harry, you're not allowed to leave me by myself! I can't go back to not having you there now that we're brothers! You are coming home, even if I have to drag you there, and if you make up with Rabastan then all the better! He was good for you, he made you happy. I want you to be happy."

Harry smiled then and pulled Draco back into a hug.

"Thank you, Draco."

"Anytime, Potter."

Harry snorted and shoved him off.

"Now that that is over with, come for dinner and then we'll all come back here for homework club, our Defence marks are really suffering!"

"Oh, I knew there was an ulterior motive for you coming up here." Harry teased.

"You're damn right there was! I have been cushioned by straight Os this term and now because of your abandonment I've slipped to an EE in Defence and I won't stand for it. Come on!"

Harry smiled and stood, wiping his face with his handkerchief just in case any tear tracks were still showing, but he was so much happier as he and Draco left his room for the Great Hall. Maybe things could now fall into place and Rabastan's little ruse would work better than expected. Harry would like that.

Harry had been all but dragged to Hogsmeade for a bit of 'stress relief' as Blaise had named it. He was sat in the Three Broomsticks, a butterbeer in hand, taking a foamy sip and listening as Astoria recounted an argument that she'd had to Draco.

"…she actually tried to tell me that my designs were hideous, Draco!"

"I can't believe that anyone would dare." Draco insisted dutifully.

"I was only drawing in my spare time, but even so it wasn't so terrible. I didn't even ask for her comments, she was spying over my shoulder! How dare she even say that my designs are not worthy of being for Purebloods! Can you believe that, Harry?"

Harry looked up as his name was mentioned and he smiled.

"Do you want a diplomatic answer or do you want the 'you're my future sister-in-law' answer?" Harry asked with a smile.

"I will remind you that we will be family." Astoria replied. "I obviously require the sister-in-law filter."

Harry laughed. "Oh, in that case, I whole-heartedly agree with you. This person had absolutely no right to look over your shoulder and say your deigns were hideous, I have never seen you design anything that wasn't wonderful…you should have cursed them. I have been teaching you some very useful curses too, you should have tried them out on such a willing target."

The table chuckled and giggled at his answer and Harry smiled, feeling better. It was the right thing to do to take a break and come out today.

"Thank you, Harry." Astoria said primly and Harry chuckled and took another gulp of butterbeer.

"I'm very curious about how both answers differ." Theo said.

Harry snorted, almost choking on his drink, but he answered anyway.

"The diplomatic answer is that we all have our different tastes and just because one person didn't like Astoria's designs doesn't mean that everyone will dislike them. I'd say ignore them and carry on designing and prove them wrong in the long run when Astoria becomes a famous designer."

"I like that answer also." Astoria told him with a sweet smile.

Harry gave her a smile. "I mean every word." He assured her. "You are an amazing designer, Astoria. Not everyone will like your designs, we're all different after all, but ignore the one person trying to drag you down and focus instead on those who love your work."

"I shall." Astoria declared firmly.

Harry went back to his drink and the topic changed again and Harry drifted out. His mind was on Rabastan. It was on the two new owls who had arrived at breakfast, more apology letters from Xerxes and Lucius.

Harry didn't care for either apology, they came across as false because he was only getting them because he'd broken his engagement, and he didn't like that. He liked Narcissa's note more, as she declared unwavering support for him, on top of his newest monthly 'care package' filled with sweets, chocolate, the newest edition of the Quibbler, three different publications for business and politics to keep him abreast of what was happening outside of Hogwarts, a book that she had seen that she'd thought he might like, two packets of owl treats, and a new scarf that came with a note that it was from 'Aceline' and naturally Harry had wrapped that scarf around his neck and hadn't stopped wearing it yet. Harry was convinced that it smelt faintly of Rabastan and he kept dipping his nose to it to have a sniff. He was being very, very spoilt and it made him feel so loved and cared for, though now he had Remus' voice in his head telling him that the Malfoys were 'buying' his affection and his smile slipped.

"Harry, are you okay?" Blaise asked him, looking worried.

Harry hummed and dredged up a smile. "I'm okay. I have a lot on my mind of late."

"Oh, he's slipping into his lord speech." Draco teased. "You're with your peers now, Harry, not in the Wizengamot."

Harry smiled faintly.

"I have had a lot on my mind. Marcus is coming tomorrow for a tutoring session and I haven't even done the work that he gave me the last time."

"It was nice knowing you. I hope your will is up to date." Blaise said seriously.

That made Harry laugh properly. "Yeah, he is going to kill me if I don't do it. I have time tonight, though. My other homework is done thanks to homework club and I don't have anything else to do tonight."

"Enough talk about homework and lessons, we're in Hogsmeade. This is supposed to be a break away from school." Draco complained. "I didn't drag you from your rooms for the first time in weeks only for your mind to remain in the castle."

"No, you did it so that you could annoy me for several uninterrupted hours." Harry quipped. "That and I really need to visit Scrivenshaft's for more parchment."

"Exactly." Draco said with a grin. "I want to visit Honeydukes too."

"Mother just sent us a package of sweets." Harry pointed out with a chuckle.

"Well, I want more, obviously, Potter!" Draco told him.

"You'll have no bloody teeth left." Blaise warned.

"Yeah! How can you expect Blaise to snog you with no teeth, Draco?" Harry cut in.

Draco just rolled his eyes. "That joke is getting very old, Harry."

"No, it's not." Harry waved off. "It's funny."

He was ignored, but he still laughed. The five of them finished their butterbeer and stood, freeing the table for others to use as they exited onto the street.

"Oh, there you are, Harry." Luna's dreamy voice came from his right.

He turned and automatically offered Luna his arm. She took it with a smile.

"Luna, how are you? Would you like to join us? We're just heading to Honeydukes."

"I'm very well, thank you." Luna said, and it might have been his imagination, but she shot a bashful look past Harry.

Harry looked and was surprised that Luna was either looking at Blaise or Theo, both of whom were steadfastly not looking in her direction. Harry frowned at such peculiar behaviour.

"I'd love to join you." Luna carried on.

"You're more than welcome." Astoria insisted. "I feel a little outmanned, especially as Pansy dumped us to go gallivanting with Lord Rowle."

"He is going to be her husband and the father to her baby besides." Harry pointed out. "It's good that they spend Hogsmeade weekends together."

"It still doesn't help me feel less surrounded." Astoria sniffed.

Harry chuckled at her but he was pleased that his new group of friends were being very accepting of Luna. He loved her in a platonic way, she was one of the only friends he had from before the fallout, from before his adoption, and she knew about Rabastan as well and hadn't immediately called the Aurors…she was invaluable to him.

Honeydukes was packed and loud. They got separated and as Harry went searching for some high protein treats for Rabastan, he saw that Draco had Astoria tucked under his arm, glaring at anyone who came too close to her. He smiled to himself, he was enjoying watching the relationship between Draco and Astoria flourish.

He found some suitable treats that were high in protein, with a higher cocoa content. Rodolphus in particular enjoyed darker chocolate. Harry's hand hesitated as he realised that he couldn't buy Rodolphus anything…or Rabastan for that matter. He scowled. He hadn't liked this ruse from the start and now he liked it even less.

He probably shouldn't be wearing the scarf that Rabastan had gotten for him either, but thankfully Draco thought that their mother had given him it and he assumed that Narcissa was trying to chide him back towards Rabastan by including the gift in his care package. He blew out a breath and decided to get Rabastan the treats anyway. He couldn't give anything to Rodolphus, but he could send the treats with Kreacher, making sure to stipulate to only give them to Rabastan when he was alone.

With that thought in mind, he got a nice sized box of the protein chocolates and some treats for himself before paying and then slipping outside to wait for everyone to come back. It was just common practice that once you got everything that you wanted you waited on the quieter street, out of the way of the manic shop.

Unfortunately, Harry ran almost straight into Hermione and Ginny and they immediately made a beeline for him.

"Must we do this yet again?" He sighed, almost to himself.

"Harry, how have you been?" Hermione asked him, ignoring his rather dramatic exclamation.

"You have no right to ask me that." Harry told her. "Just carry on walking."

"You're not wearing your ring." Ginny pointed out immediately. Yeah, Harry was going to kill Rabastan for this ruse after all.

"So? I didn't want to lose it in the village so I left it on my coffee table in my room. That's the best thing about having a private room, I can leave my things around without fear of them being stolen or destroyed!"

"We don't want to fight with you, Harry."

"Then go away. I was having a nice day before you interrupted it."

"Remus contacted us." Hermione said softly. "He's worried about you, Harry. He asked if we could talk to you, keep an eye on you."

Harry inhaled deeply and the hand holding the Honeydukes carrier bag clenched tight, into a fist.

"Remus is mistaken."

"I don't think he is. I think you're having second thoughts about the path you've chosen." Hermione said and Harry's entire jaw clenched in anger and slight humiliation that Remus had apparently been gossiping about him to his former friends.

"I never had any say in my adoption!" He hissed. "How many times must I explain that to you all before it sinks in?!"

"So you are scared." Ginny murmured.

"No!" Harry snapped, barely managing to stop himself from screaming. "I went to Remus for advice about the Wizengamot, not about my family and not about my adoption!" He said firmly. "I am finally happy. I am finally safe and you will not take that away from me!"

"It's okay to admit that you made a mistake, Harry."

Harry had never wanted to hit someone quite so much in his entire life. Only the thought of the nose dive his reputation would take after the public heard that he'd punched two girls stopped him.

"What mistake would that be?" Harry demanded, breathing heavily to control the urge to lash out physically.

"All of…this!" Ginny said vaguely, but she waved her hand over Harry himself and Harry wondered if maybe he could get away with a subtle curse instead of a punch.

"I am not a mistake." He said pointedly.

"Not you personally." Hermione said quickly. "But what you've become, Harry. You're so different now that it's actually upsetting to see. You used to be sweet, kind, brave, and loyal."

Harry's head snapped up at that last, to glare at her.

"Oh, but it wasn't me who was disloyal first, was it?!"

The two of them said nothing to that.

"Was it?!" He demanded. "No, I am still loyal, just not to you anymore. That's the difference here! You were the ones who abandoned me!" He reminded them. "I owe you no more loyalty than you showed me. I am still loyal, I am still kind and brave, but you don't get to see that part of me anymore!"

Harry stared them both down.

"I am sick and tired of rehashing this same argument with you all." He said angrily. "I am done with all of you! Do you understand me? Done! This is the last time I spell things out for you, if you approach me again I will insist that the DMLE issues you with a harassment order!"

"But…we're worried about you, Harry. We really are." Hermione tried. "Especially now that Remus has sent us a letter to keep close to you."

"Stay away from me." Harry said seriously. "I am happier, healthier and safer than I have ever been in my life. I actually have a future that I can be proud of. I am a Lord, I sit the Wizengamot and I will be a lawmaker. Face up to it, you weren't enough for me!" He snapped. "You didn't challenge me, you couldn't keep me safe, and at the first opportunity, you all turned your backs on me and then actually tried to blame it on me! Just stay away from me, the further the better!"

"Harry, are you okay?"

Blaise appeared from nowhere, laying an arm across Harry's chest as if to shield him, as he came up beside him.

"Go away!" Blaise snapped at Hermione and Ginny. "He doesn't want you near him and honestly, he could do without it today!" Blaise turned his head slightly and whispered into his ear. "I saw you through the window and I sent Theo to get Draco."

"Probably a little overzealous." Harry pointed out with a smile. "I don't need Draco to fight my battles."

"He's your brother. It's how families work." Blaise waved off. "He's very protective of you, you know."

That made Harry feel better and he wasn't surprised when Draco came storming out of Honeydukes and immediately stood in front of him.

"What are you doing here?" He demanded of the two of them.

"We're allowed in Hogsmeade, Malfoy." Ginny snapped.

"I'm surprised that you didn't have your permission revoked because of your treatment of my brother! After the bill given to your families, I wouldn't have thought you'd have any money to spend either."

Ginny flushed and Hermione went quiet.

"That's what I thought." Draco said angrily. "Just leave him alone. Do whatever you want, but leave Harry alone. He doesn't want to speak to you, he's told you so many times, just stay away from him."

"Is that what you really want, Harry?" Hermione asked softly.

"I've told you so many times before, yes, that is what I want! How could you think I could ever forgive what you did to me? You know how much family means to me, how much I loved you as my friends. You turned your backs on me and this is the last time I'll say this, we're through! Stop approaching me, stop speaking to me. You're the ones who burnt the bridge between us and then destroyed the pieces when you dared to touch my Firebolt!"

Draco gripped his arm and Harry realised that he'd been trying to step closer to them. He took a deep breath instead.

"Whatever comes, whatever happens." He said, more quietly this time. "You only have yourselves to blame for it. I never asked for any of this, though admittedly it is the best thing that ever happened to me. I don't want any of your false concern or any of your conniving words." He told them. "Just stop, because this really is enough now, it's getting embarrassing."

"We just want…"

"Don't you understand yet that it's not about you?" Harry cut in harshly. "It's not about what you want! Why should I forgive you after what you did to me? Why should I forget the way you treated me? Why is everything always on me?!" He demanded.

"You're right." Draco told him. "They're asking too much of you. You are within your rights to not want to see or speak to them."

"Shut up, Malfoy!" Ginny shouted.

"No, unlike you, Weasley, Harry actually values my opinion. I get to speak to him and offer my opinion and you don't."

"Harry, please, we can help you." Hermione said, giving him what was likely a meaningful look, likely indicating that if he was frightened of Blaise, Theo and Draco then he could seek her out in private.

"You talk about the arrogance of Purebloods, while with the next breath you say something so profoundly arrogant it just makes you a hypocrite." Harry pointed out. "I don't need help, I don't have anything I need help with! I will say this only once more before reporting you, leave me the hell alone! I would think after the financial burden given to your families that you wouldn't risk being expelled as well when I complain of harassment to the school governors!"

Hermione in particular visibly baulked at the thought of being expelled, as Harry had known she would. He was counting on it to keep her from coming near him in future. Ginny was less daunted, and Ron definitely wouldn't care, but if it kept one of them away from him, he'd be pleased.

"What is going on?" Luna's dreamy voice asked as she came to stand at his other side, slipping her arm through his.

"Nothing, Luna, we're just leaving." Harry told her.

"You're still speaking to him?!" Ginny demanded.

"Of course, Harry is my friend." Luna answered.

"Unlike you, Luna never turned her back on me!" Harry snapped.

"I like having friends." Luna told him.

Harry smiled at her gently. "Let's go, before my mood is ruined any further."

Draco moved them off, towards Scrivenshaft's knowing that Harry needed more parchment.

Harry didn't miss the considering look that Hermione shot Luna though and his arm tightened on Luna's. He wouldn't have Luna badgered or coerced into telling his former friends any details of his life. She was his friend and he wouldn't let any harm or upset come to her.

"How much parchment did you actually need?" Draco asked as he held the door open for them.

"A lot." Harry insisted as he went immediately to the largest bundles of parchment.

"Pass them here then, you can't pay and carry all of those."

Harry grinned and made Draco regret offering to hold anything as he loaded his arms up.

"Damn it, Harry, you can't need all of this!"

"I've incinerated my law reform three times this term." Harry insisted. "You know the last time it was almost four rolls of parchment long. I am going through parchment at an alarming rate."

"Fine." Draco groused, moving over to the counter, where the poor old man manning the till looked just as daunted as Draco.

Harry threw a few more bundles in Blaise's arms as well, before grabbing more to carry over himself.

"Seriously, Harry?" Draco asked. "Are you sure this isn't too much?"

Harry shook his head. "No. This is probably a little optimistic, but there will be another Hogsmeade weekend in January or February, so I can pick up more then if I need it."

Theo actually whistled at the total, spent just on parchment, but it was needed. Harry likely needed more, as he'd said, but this would tide him over, though if he was in dire straits he would owl Lucius to…no, he wouldn't. He'd either owl Narcissa to get him some more parchment and send it via owl, or he would owl Scrivenshaft's directly and get them to send him more parchment at Hogwarts.

He scowled to himself, as the old man helped to bag up all of the bundles of parchment. He hated being at odds with Lucius, Xerxes too, but Lucius was supposed to be his father.

Harry took the large bag of parchment and then he was content to follow the others around, going into various shops, paying the customary visit to Zonko's joke shop, and then to Tomes and Scrolls bookshop.

It wasn't that late when they started the trek back to Hogwarts, but it was getting dark already and it was getting much colder. His right hand full of bags, Harry had his other arm wrapped around a shivering Luna, holding her close and tight and walking at a fast pace to keep them warm.

Draco had copied him after Astoria had elbowed him and nodded in their direction. Harry had laughed at that and made a note to tease Draco over it when they were alone.

Blaise was giving Harry rather odd looks and Harry wondered if he had a thing for Luna, especially after that bashful look Luna had given in his direction earlier. The thought came that perhaps they were dating in secret, but Harry shook his head, no. That couldn't be right, Blaise couldn't keep any of his relationships a secret, it must be something else.

The walk was long and cold, but the castle was warm as they entered and they all hurried to the fourth floor, to Harry's private rooms, where they offloaded their bags and Harry set to making tea for all of them.

"Here we are." Harry said, placing the tea tray down on his coffee table and handing out cups.

"I really liked today." Luna said with a smile.

"I did too." Astoria agreed.

"I'm glad to be back in the castle now though." Harry added, laughing. "It's getting really cold out there and this tea was needed."

"After heaving back your cartload of parchment." Blaise laughed.

Harry rolled his eyes, but he went to the bag and started stacking his parchment nicely on his coffee table. It was a lot when it was laid out like this, but Harry knew that he'd need it and that he would use it all within a few months.

Harry sat back and savoured the warm tea, feeling much better. They would go down to dinner in a few hours and then Harry would come back to his room while the others went back to their house dormitories. He would have a few hours to himself then to make a start on the runes work that Marcus had set him before their tutoring session tomorrow. It would mean more than his life if Marcus came and found that he hadn't done it.

Harry was rightfully nervous as Marcus silently looked through his work. It had been a little bit of a rush job and he accepted that, but he was pretty sure that Marcus wouldn't accept that as an excuse if he found any mistakes with it.

"You've done well." Marcus said eventually, putting down the last worksheet. "How are you finding your actual lessons now?"

"I'm understanding a lot more since I started doing the work you set me." Harry replied. "I'm finding your work harder than the work that Professor Babbling is setting!"

Marcus scoffed. "I don't doubt that. I am a master of runes after all." He insisted arrogantly. "Some of the work I'm setting you is graduate level and you're still keeping up. Have you considered a career in runes? I could use some competent co-workers."

Harry grinned at that. "Sorry, Marcus. I'm going all in for politics."

Marcus scoffed again, harder this time. "Your brain is wasted on politics."

"I'm not just going to give up all the skills I'm learning." Harry assured him. "I'm going to keep them honed, that way I'll be able to pass them onto my own children. Maybe then you can have your competent underlings." Harry chuckled.

Marcus grinned. "As long as they are actually as competent as you then they won't need to fear me."

Marcus shoved the worksheets back at Harry, and as he went through them all looking at all of Marcus' additions, Marcus got another stack out of his bag.

"This is all graduate level work, Harry. The same sort of work that my underlings are doing. If you can actually get through this, then I don't think you even need tutoring anymore."

"Not trying to get rid of me before my final NEWTs are you?" Harry teased.

"No. I'll still be taking all the credit for your marks, but if you can do this work then I don't expect anything less than an O from you, and a high O at that."

Harry tried to calm the quell of fear that that brought up in him. No, Marcus was a master with runes, if he, for whatever reason, believed that Harry could get an O in his exams then he had to believe it too. He could do this. He had been finding the work that Professor Babbling was setting recently rather unchallenging and he could get through it relatively easily, and quickly too. It wasn't any wonder either if Marcus had been giving him graduate work.

"Right, come here, do these sheets with me." Marcus told him, pulling a sheet from the top of the pile. "If you can do this then your NEWTs won't be a problem. I'm going to explain this once, so listen closely."

Harry fell back into the flow of things with Marcus, listening intently and following what Marcus was explaining to him, steadily going through the stack of worksheets. The work Marcus was setting was definitely challenging, difficult too, but Harry could reason it out quite well and get himself to the right answer eventually.

"You see? You're understanding graduate level work, Harry. There are idiots working for me who don't understand this work and they wonder why I throw folders at their stupid heads. I think our tutoring is at an end. There's not much more I can teach you without you actually going into a specialised field."

Harry looked through all of the worksheets he'd just gone through and he blew out a breath.

"Thank you for everything you've done for me, Marcus. If you need anything, don't hesitate to ask."

"I'm saving this favour for when you become the Minister." Marcus said seriously.

Harry chuckled. "Whatever you want. I wouldn't have survived the late switch to Ancient Runes without your help."

"I'm going to miss you, you know."

Harry chuckled. "I'll miss you too. Don't be a stranger. Not at parties, or that awful Ministry ball. I want to stay in touch with you."

"Your husband won't like that."

"He's calmed down a little in recent months. His potions are balancing him out and he's really healing. He's still emotionally stunted because of how long he was in Azkaban, but I'm working on it. We both are."

"That's good to hear. You don't want a jailor who won't let you have friends."

Harry nodded his agreement. "That's pretty much what I told him. We can't be married if he doesn't trust me. I won't allow it. For me, trust is even more important than love."

"Save me the disgusting details." Marcus complained.

Harry laughed. "How is your courtship going?"

"Very well. I may be married at nearly the same time as you if everything keeps progressing as it is."

"I'm happy for you, Marcus."

Marcus nodded, then sighed. "You are right, though. This time around trust means more to me than love. Not that I loved Amelia, we were betrothed as children, but you understand what I mean. I didn't trust her either and that turned out to be for a very good reason. Eleanor…Eleanor I can trust. I'm not here or at work wondering what she's doing at home, or who she's doing at home. I don't feel the need to go home on my breaks to see what she's doing, to check if she's cheating, I trust her not to."

"It sounds like you've found a really good person to marry, Marcus. Don't frighten her off now!"

Marcus snorted. "She's the one that frightens me." He said.

"Maybe that's how it should be." Harry laughed. "I know I frighten Rabastan more than he scares me."

"You are bloody terrifying when your temper explodes." Marcus agreed.

"I'm getting better at controlling it now that I'm on the Wizengamot."

"I'll still remain leery of you. Even the Dark Lord fears you, you know."

Harry scoffed at that, but he smiled too. "Yeah, I know."

Marcus collected his stuff back into his bag and then stood. Harry stood with him.

"Good luck with your exams, Harry. If you keep up this level of work then you should have no problems with it. I've given you seven practice NEWT exams to complete in the last few months and, except for the first one, you've gotten an O on all of them. You're ready."

Harry took a breath and he was feeling rather good about himself. Dropping the tutoring sessions would have the added benefit of giving him more free time to work on other things as well. He was pleased.

He saw Marcus out of his rooms and then turned to settle into his settee, blowing out a large breath. Things were looking up for him and he was making progress. He no longer needed private tutoring and, if nothing else, that would make Rabastan happy.

He stood after several minutes of preening to himself to make a cup of tea, grabbing some biscuits while he was at it. His homework was done, his tutoring was at an end and he didn't have any extra work to do, so he'd suddenly found himself with several hours of free time that he hadn't planned for.

He ate some biscuits, drank half a cup of tea, just absorbing a bit of peace for a few minutes, but then he sat up and pulled his creature law reform towards him.

He had a lot of work to do on it and a lot more information to add in after he'd taken it to the coalition. He was in a unique position of having several uninterrupted hours to write for it and, damn it, he was going to do his very best to make those hours productive. He didn't know when he'd next have the chance.