His esteemed line would continue on through Rodolphus, the only Lestrange, besides himself, who was still of value. He smirked to himself and took another sip of firewhiskey. Soon, he placated himself. He might be running out of time, but there was enough time left before that cursed wedding in August to do away with the embarrassments; the stains on the Lestrange family tree.
Chapter Forty-One – Accusations
The Garnet Swan had become one of Harry's most favourite places and he knew he was seen coming and going from the restaurant often. He knew that he always had his photo taken as he entered as he'd seen them in all the gossip rags, and even the Daily Prophet if they had a slow news day, it was why he always made sure that he was dressed to impress and tonight was no different.
It was the second of January and tonight was his second dinner date with Rabastan, his extra gifts for Christmas. He made sure to take extra special notice of the decorations this time as he was led through the busy restaurant by the maître d, as the hosts and hostesses weren't allowed to escort anyone up to the private rooms, and Harry saw the pine tree wreaths dotted around and he considered if he'd want those, or something similar, as a wedding decoration…he conceded that it was certainly better than flowers or ribbons or netting.
He was led up the stairs to the first floor with the private rooms and as the maître d politely bowed himself away and left back down the stairs, Harry knocked on the third door, the room that was furthest from the staircase, the one that had become 'theirs', just to let Rabastan know that he was there, before he opened the door and slipped inside.
He smiled so widely to see Rabastan, as if they hadn't seen one another for lunch. Rabastan hadn't even gone home over the winter break, they had spent all of their time together.
"Did you have any troubles?"
"What, walking from the front door, up the stairs, and to this room?" Harry asked, teasing.
"I'm just making sure." Rabastan said, chuckling.
Harry embraced him and then lifted himself to his toes for a kiss. A strong, stable arm wrapped around him and lifted him slightly higher. Harry sunk into that kiss and he let out a soft moan. He couldn't wait until they were married, when no one could tell them they couldn't have sex.
They broke apart, breathing heavily, and Rabastan actually shook his head a little, before he led Harry to the beautifully dressed table. Harry made sure to look at the pine tree wreath, seeing the branches woven together with magic…it was too seamless to have been done by hand.
"Do you like it?" Rabastan asked, sitting down and noticing where his attention was.
"Better than flowers and ribbons, at least." Harry said with a grin.
"I think trees and greenery is a better fit for the both of us. It will keep Narcissa happy too."
"It's a good compromise." Harry agreed, as if deciding on wedding decorations was a political situation that needed such compromise…he supposed with Narcissa that was exactly what it was.
Harry perused the menu offered to him. Unlike when he was in school, and they were usually on a time limit to get Harry back to Hogwarts as quickly as possible so that he could sleep before he had classes, during the holidays he could stay as long as he liked and he could order for himself.
"I think I want to try the duck." Harry said.
Rabastan looked at him. "Is that the first time you've tried duck?"
Harry nodded. "Yeah, but I like the sound of plum sauce."
"We'll order the lamb to share, as we both like that, just in case you don't like it."
"Is it okay to do that?" Harry asked.
"Of course. Harry, we can order what we please." Rabastan told him with a gentle smile.
Harry smiled happily at that and he looked the menu over again, but he really wanted to try the duck.
Rabastan was…not quite polite to the house-elf who took their order, but he wasn't rude either. He was completely stoic and brusque, as if he had no emotions, and Harry could live with that.
Their food arrived very quickly and Harry would always marvel at the exemplary service of The Garnet Swan.
"Thank you." Harry said to the house-elf who served him, and to his credit, Rabastan didn't even grimace anymore.
Harry tentatively sliced a piece of the soft, tender meat and popped it into his mouth, considering the flavour. The plum sauce was thick and smooth, with a spicy kick, but there was a sweetness to it too. A tartness that Harry found he actually liked. The duck was tender and delicious, with a rind of crispy fat and skin.
"Do you like it?" Rabastan asked him.
Harry nodded. "I really do, I'm glad I tried it."
Rabastan smiled so softly at him, and Harry smiled back, leaning over the rather small, intimate table to give him a kiss.
"I'm so happy to see you trying new foods without it being forced on you. You have come a long way in just over a year, my love."
Harry's grin went goofy. "It'll be two years before our wedding."
"It's a shame your mother vetoed the idea of having our wedding be on the second year anniversary of the day we met."
"It was too close to my birthday." Harry said, rolling his eyes. "The prissy purebloods need at least a full week to recover from each party." He giggled at the last and Rabastan laughed at him. "Couldn't you have waited an extra day to meet me, my love?"
Harry cut another piece of meat and popped it into his mouth, loving the flavour combinations.
"My only wish is that I had met you sooner." Rabastan told him.
Harry made a noise in his throat, shaking his head. He swallowed. "No, that would have been a bad idea, love. I was not the most open or accepting back then and I was still furious at my adoption. I was very badly behaved."
"You still are." Rabastan teased him.
Harry snorted. "A different sort of ill behaviour." Harry insisted with a grin.
"How is your therapy going?" Rabastan asked him gently, aware that this was a hit and miss topic with Harry, depending on what mood he was in. "Have you had an appointment through?"
Harry swallowed his mouthful. He nodded. "Yes, the tenth. I'm very nervous about it, but…Healer Vasey was really nice to me. He listened and didn't make me feel weird."
"I'm pleased that you can talk to him, you've been through a lot, my love. I want you to feel better."
"I'm getting more used to the thought of sharing my thoughts and feelings with a stranger. I want it to work, Rabastan."
"How are you feeling about the sentencing in three days?" Rabastan asked cautiously.
"Umbridge deserves all that's coming to her." Harry declared. "She was a grown woman torturing children under her care. I don't like the Dementors, you know I don't, but if anyone deserved to be thrown to them, it's her."
"You're in a very vicious mood tonight, Harry." Rabastan said observing him closely.
"Your lord is in a bad mood and it's affecting my own." Harry grumbled.
"Do you know why?" Rabastan asked him seriously.
"No, nor do I want to know, Rabastan. I don't want a vision right now when I'm trying to have a nice meal with you."
Rabastan blinked and tempered himself, and his curiosity. "You're right, we're having a lovely dinner and I don't want anything to disrupt that. Do you have a headache?"
"It's building." Harry said, trying not to grit his teeth. "If this carries on I might get a nosebleed or pass out. Will you stay with me if that happens?"
"I would not leave you alone, my love." Rabastan insisted.
"Even if your lord called you?" Harry pressed.
Rabastan hesitated, but it was only for a moment. "I would stay with you." He said seriously. "You're always going to be my priority, Harry."
That made Harry smile and he stopped eating to reach over the table to squeeze Rabastan's hand. "Thank you."
"There's no need to thank me, Harry. I love you."
"I love you too, Basti."
Harry's headache did come roaring into his brain, but he tried to ignore it as they finished their main meal, shared the lamb dish between them, and then several desserts, most of which Harry ate, trying everything, including something called a panna cotta. It was weird, but he did actually like it.
"Of course you do, it's full of sugar." Rabastan chuckled.
After their several desserts, they moved to the comfortable chairs with after-dinner coffee. Harry ignored the second chair and instead, he took up a spot on Rabastan's lap, cuddling in and just enjoying himself with his fiancé…in just seven months they would be husbands.
"Did your stomach ache pass?" Rabastan asked him.
Harry hummed. "Yes. I don't know why I've had so many in the last few weeks, but I feel fine now."
"I told you that you'd eaten too much of Rodolphus' gift in one go." Rabastan said with a smile.
Harry harrumphed. "It's so delicious, though."
"He likes watching you eat it. I've never seen him so…I wouldn't say happy, but he's content. He's more at ease. I like seeing him that way. It's almost how he was before Bellatrix, but it was so long ago now that they were married. All of his adult life has been through the veil of Bellatrix. I hate that."
"I tried so hard to find a loophole for him, but Rhadamanthus didn't leave one. Our only hope now is that Bellatrix dies and frees Rodolphus through death."
"She's very valuable to the Dark Lord." Rabastan sighed. "Perhaps if she weren't we could ask his permission for a favour, but we know better."
"I was the Lestrange gift." Harry said sourly.
"Please, don't think of it that way, Harry. It cheapens what we've managed to build together. I love you. I truly love you and I cannot abide the thought of anything happening to you. I have even defended you against my own family, which, as you know, is against pureblood culture before we are married. I didn't care because I love you."
Harry's shoulders eased down and he sighed. "Sorry, I didn't mean that to sound as hostile as it came out. I'm just fed up of the stomach aches, the headaches, and Voldemort being in a bad mood always puts me in one. It's like his mood leeches into mine. It's a shame I haven't learned to force it the other way yet."
Rabastan gave a startled laugh, but he bent his head to kiss Harry's forehead.
"I don't think anyone quite realised exactly how compatible we'd be when your father first offered you to me. Perhaps you were intended as a gift in the beginning because who could have possibly foreseen exactly how much we'd like one another? We have had our moments, of course, but we've been so willing to work on it, Harry where perhaps others forced together like we were wouldn't have even tried. I know Rodolphus and Bellatrix didn't even try to like one another. I know Rodolphus tried to do his duty to our family in the beginning, but he stopped very quickly. He didn't have the will to keep pursuing something he didn't even want."
"I'm glad it was you and not Rodolphus." Harry said quietly. "I like him, but I couldn't be married to him. He'd try to break me, change me, and I couldn't accept that. I'd have fought him every step of the way and our relationship would be as bad as his one with Bellatrix."
"Rhadamanthus ruined him." Rabastan sighed. "He was more agreeable and open to compromise before he was married, but after…it doesn't matter. I am glad that we are together, Harry. I cannot imagine my life without you anymore."
"Well, thankfully, you don't have to. We're going to be together and very soon we're going to be married and we'll have our first baby, Rabastan. I'm still hoping for a little Rodina."
Rabastan's smile was so gentle as he stroked through Harry's hair, holding him close.
"What about Ru for a boy?"
"As in, rue the day he was born?" Harry laughed, then shook his head. "How about Xanthus, after Xerxes?" Harry said seriously.
Rabastan looked down at him. "I like that name and that it would honour my grandfather."
"So, our firstborn will be either Rodina or Xanthus. It's only taken us several months to decide."
"We are not even expecting." Rabastan reminded him with a chuckle. "Most parents are still arguing six days after the baby is born."
"It's traditional that the baby is announced a week after they're born, right?" Harry asked.
"Exactly a week after they're born." Rabastan nodded. "Any later will cause a complete scandal and there have been occasions of babies having their names announced beforehand by overly excited family members, but I would not have my child disrespected in such a way. I would like to keep to tradition on this matter, for our children's sake."
Harry nodded. "Okay."
Rabastan relaxed under him, as if he had been preparing for an argument, but Harry ignored that. If it was that important to Rabastan then he could keep his baby a 'secret' for a week after they were born. It would allow him to have some much-needed peace and time to bond with his new baby without everyone and their mother descending on him. He liked that thought too.
It was getting late and they'd already had three cups of tea snuggled together. They couldn't keep putting off leaving.
"Your parents will be worried."
Harry scoffed. "Worried that we're conceiving a child." He said cheekily.
"I would rather not be confronted when we arrived back." Rabastan told him. "Your mother is particularly protective of you."
Harry laughed, because Narcissa really was very overprotective of him and Draco both.
"Oh, fine!" Harry sighed, easing up, but he bent down quickly for a deep kiss before he stood and stretched.
Rabastan wrapped strong arms around his waist and hugged him tight.
"I love the freedom of being in this little room." Harry said, looking around it fondly. "Even at home we're always watched and chastised."
"Not for much longer, my love."
Harry inhaled and considered that he would be getting married this year. He would, hopefully, be pregnant this year too, though the earliest he would give birth was in May of next year if he carried his baby full term. He would have a year, perhaps a little less than that given that he couldn't work on his career as much while he was still in school, to settle into his chosen political career. He was going to start his rise to the very top office and he was determined to reach it. His family was always going to come first, his children doubly so, which made this first year so vitally important, but he had the motivation, the determination, he knew he could do it and he would.
Xerxes swept into the courtroom on Monday the fifth of January, the first working day after the winter holidays, and quickly found Lucius in the benches.
"Did Harry get onto the train alright?" He asked as a greeting, sitting beside the other man.
"He did. Narcissa has plied both boys with enough food and drinks to see them to Hogwarts."
"When is that governor's meeting, Lucius?"
"Harry will meet with them on the eleventh. With some luck, Dumbledore will not remain long in his position after that. He is very pleased."
Xerxes nodded, knowing that the 'he' spoken of was their lord. He was also very pleased that Harry would be safer in just a matter of weeks. He'd grown to care for the boy, despite that he'd only cared in the beginning as he was a way to continue the Lestrange bloodline, now was a different matter. Now, he cared for Harry as a person. The boy had a way of worming his way in deeply and making others like him and want to look after him and Xerxes did want to look after him. Any threat to Harry was to be taken seriously and the perpetrator eliminated…and not merely because he was marrying Rabastan in a few months and carrying on his bloodline, either. He truly cared for him and proof of that was, if for whatever reason the wedding didn't go through, and Harry and Rabastan's relationship fell apart, he thought he would struggle to stop caring for Harry, to stop looking out for him, teaching him, protecting him. It would be exceptionally difficult to pull himself back from those feelings and that was how he knew, without doubt, that he cared for Harry as a person. He didn't just care, or have feelings, about just anyone.
They were called to order quickly by the newly elected puppet Minister, Pius Thicknesse, and Xerxes' shifted himself into a comfortable position before the doors to the courtroom opened. His face split into a smug smirk as a rather ragged-looking Dolores Umbridge was brought into the courtroom by an auror and chained to the plain, wooden chair below them.
She was thinner than she had been the last he'd seen her and the dark circles around her puffy eyes were prominent, making her face seem more skull-like. She looked utterly defeated and after what he'd heard about her methods of dealing with mere children, it pleased him to see her visibly suffering for her decision to torture children, and particularly Harry, who he had learned had been permanently scarred by this woman.
"Dolores Jane Umbridge, you are summoned here today to hear the sentencing passed unto you by the members of the Wizengamot and the Council of Magical Law." Thicknesse announced clearly to the room, the reporters already scribbling furiously with their self-inking quills.
The ragged woman tried to speak, but whatever words she said didn't reach them in the stands. She was not permitted to speak during her sentencing, the trial was already over and the vote cast, so there was a barrier ward to prevent what she was saying from reaching them. They had already voted on the matter, they could not change their minds now…not that anyone would. Xerxes had never known anyone to vote one way, then regret it so shortly afterwards. Unless they had been bribed, coerced, or otherwise forced to vote against how they truly felt in the first place, but he wasn't going to count those.
Thicknesse did not hurry himself, as he made it a point of reading through the thick folder he had in front of him. It detailed exactly how each member had voted. Xerxes would eat his own wand if Thicknesse hadn't already read it and knew exactly how everyone in the room had voted. He would have reported it straight to The Dark Lord, given that Thicknesse was his puppet. He was more interested in hearing if anyone had actually opposed the Azkaban sentence. He knew, from speaking to those lords on the Wizengamot, and a few select friends on the Council of Magical Law, that the sentence would be strongly in favour of an Azkaban sentence and given the severity of her crimes, that sentence would be life. Despite his quirks, and his very opinionated tongue, Harry was rather well-liked by most members of the Wizengamot, and most of those on the Council of Magical Law still bought into the hype of The-Boy-Who-Lived and had not been pleased, at all, to hear that this woman had tortured him for an entire school year. Most of the general public had not been pleased to read that little titbit in the papers, either. If Umbridge was acquitted, as difficult as that was to believe, there would be a public uproar and Xerxes was almost certain that someone would take the law into their own hands, and he didn't mean himself or his boys either. It wasn't that he wouldn't want to do it, it was just that he knew the person responsible would likely be caught given the highly public nature of the accused.
"You have been accused of child endangerment and with the abuse of children placed in your care." Thicknesse carried on. "On those charges, you have been found guilty."
The pleasure that surged through him had him taking in an extra deep breath as he felt vindicated on Harry's behalf and those charges were only the general accusations. Harry's personal accusations were much more serious, including the attempted use of an unforgivable curse.
"For those crimes, you have been sentenced to eighteen years in Azkaban prison." Thicknesse told her, his smile was nasty and Xerxes wanted to smirk. They both knew what was coming next…everyone knew what was coming next as the reporters were scribbling furiously and an air of anticipation grew within the courtroom.
"She'll get life for what she did to our Harry." Xerxes hissed at Lucius, who flicked grey eyes to him and smirked.
"If there is any justice in this world she will." Another voice added in.
Xerxes didn't turn to look behind him, but both he and Lucius tipped their heads just slightly over their shoulders to see Lord Dawson Shacklebolt sitting in the row behind them, looking as vindictive as Xerxes felt.
He had never been that close or friendly with Lord Shacklebolt, but he felt a small connection between them in that moment. Harry had worked hard to cultivate his own connections and allies within the Wizengamot, and Dawson Shacklebolt was among the staunchest of Harry's allies and supporters. In this, at least, they were entirely on the same page. Umbridge deserved her life sentence for what she had done to Harry and numerous other children trustingly placed under her care.
"For the excessive torture of Lord Harry James Potter-Black…" Thicknesse called out, starting little hissed whispers and causing the reporters to lean forward, hanging on his every word. "…whom we have heard personal accounts of the countless torture sessions you forced him to endure via the illegal, misuse of a contract quill, which resulted in permanent scarring, you have been found guilty. For causing him suffering and physical pain due to your own personal agenda against him, which saw you keeping him in a permanent detention, oftentimes past his curfew and sometimes until midnight on a school night, you have been found guilty. On the most serious charge, of the attempted use of the unforgivable curse, the Cruciatus, on a minor, you have been found guilty." Thicknesse declared, glaring down at the withered woman. "For your crimes, you have been sentenced to life in Azkaban prison."
Xerxes felt like his chest might burst he was that pleased with the outcome. He couldn't wait to go back home to tell Rodolphus and Rabastan that Harry had a portion of his justice served.
"The Wizengamot voted for this outcome fifty-one to two." Thicknesse intoned officially and Xerxes' hand clenched. He would find out who those two were, but he had a feeling he already knew as his gaze sought out Nott and Yaxley in the chamber. "The Council of Magical Law voted in favour of this outcome forty-eight to twelve."
Xerxes would find out exactly who those twelve had been to. How anyone could even think of finding her not guilty after all the evidence they had against her, and the testimony they'd heard, not just from Harry, but from a dozen others also, was beyond his comprehension.
He wouldn't need to do much of anything, either. Not personally, at least. He would find out the names of those who had opposed the Azkaban sentence and he would throw them to the public court via the papers and he would watch as their reputations were torn to shreds for their decision to stand by this condemned woman. They had truly committed social suicide by opposing this, especially with the tumult mood of the general public. There had almost been a riot in the Ministry atrium that very morning as they arrived for the sentencing and Xerxes had needed to actually, physically shove his way through them to get to the courtrooms.
"The accused has been found guilty by this court and will be taken immediately to Azkaban prison to serve a life sentence for her crimes against children and her personal, prolonged torture of Lord Harry James Potter-Black." Thicknesse intoned.
Xerxes held in his shiver as the unnatural iciness swept over him. The doors to the courtroom opened and two Dementors glided through. Xerxes was glad that Harry wasn't here to witness this, given his very visceral, distressing reaction to the creatures.
Harry not being here, however, meant that he could sit and watch, smug and pleased as Umbridge tried pleading and begging, screaming as the Dementors grabbed her arms, and then the chains on the chair slid away, allowing them to drag her from the chair and across the floor, all dignity lost and thrown away in the face of what she had been condemned to, her eyes almost rolling at the touch of the two Dementors who would escort her to her cell…her new home for the rest of her miserable life.
Once the doors closed, the effects of the Dementors dampened and people took in relieved breaths and warmth and noise came back, as dozens of people suddenly started talking to their neighbours.
"This court will take a recess of two hours before we reconvene." Thicknesse called out, raising his voice just slightly, before turning from the Ministerial podium and stepping down. Albert Runcorn was right beside him, waiting, making a ploy at congratulating the new Minister on his first official sentencing. Xerxes hid a smirk and turned to Lucius.
"Will you visit the school tonight to see Harry?" He asked.
"He deserves to know of this in person. This trial had set back some of his confidence."
"Surely not?" Dawson asked from above them, frowning.
Lucius turned to Lord Shacklebolt and nodded gravely. "Unfortunately so. Harry felt that he was too emotional during his testimony and he felt that he didn't do himself justice. He has convinced himself that he has failed himself, and the other children she harmed, by not being able to turn his emotions off to speak clearly enough at his testimony."
"He is certainly something else." Dawson shook his head. "He did not come across poorly during his testimony, of course he would be emotional, she personally tortured him for a school year and would press her fingers into his wounds to make damn sure he was permanently scarred from it!"
"The result of the trial will go a way in convincing him that he didn't come across poorly, or ruin his own justice and that of other students. I will speak to him." Lucius said firmly.
"As if he hasn't been through enough." Dawson said shaking his head, before he was distracted by Harfang Longbottom.
"He is right about one thing, Harry certainly has been through enough already." Xerxes whispered to Lucius.
"Will you head home to share the news?" Lucius asked.
Xerxes nodded. "I will see you in two hours, Lucius. With some luck, we can also see Fudge to Azkaban tonight."
Lucius nodded and, once they were out of the courtroom, they joined the flow of people towards the lifts at the end of the corridor. They had to remain silent as they were squashed in with numerous others, but once they made it to the Atrium, they found one another and then headed for the floo banks. The protesting people had been moved away by security while they had been in court, so they thankfully didn't have to fight their way back out.
"I will see you after the recess." Lucius said by way of goodbye, and Xerxes raised a hand in farewell, heading to an open floo bank.
The manor was quiet as he arrived, but he knew Rodolphus and Rabastan were waiting for him. It would be a bit of an early lunch for the court, which is why they had been given two hours, and not one.
"Grandfather, did she get life?" Rabastan demanded the moment he entered the parlour, not even allowing him to sit first.
Xerxes looked at Rabastan. He was a whole man now, and not a mere shell or a parody of one. Harry had helped so much in that regard. Rabastan hadn't wanted to do it for himself, but for a partner? A fiancé? A future husband and the promise of a family? Yes, Rabastan had come so very far and he looked strong and handsome. He had grown into the potential he had shown at nineteen, before he'd been locked into Azkaban and started wasting away. Harry had done that. Harry had given him back his dignity and worth and had saved him.
"She did, Rabastan. I assured you that she would."
Rabastan eased down. He swallowed hard, his hands held in tight fists.
"Just the thought of her perhaps getting away with what she did to him. If only half of what was posted in the paper is true…"
"It's all true." Xerxes confided. "Harry suffered greatly at her hands the year before he joined our society."
"Now all we need are those muggle monsters who tortured him as well." Rodolphus put in darkly.
"You are getting ahead of yourselves." Xerxes warned. "Allow Harry to absorb this victory first before you start reminding him of other injustices done to him. He needs the time to process it."
"Do you think he will be alright with hearing this news?" Rabastan fretted, causing Rodolphus to roll dark eyes.
"Lucius is going to see him in person, Basti. He will make sure that Harry is alright."
"What of Fudge?" Rodolphus asked.
"I have a two hour recess before heading back to deal with him." Xerxes said darkly. "It isn't as clear cut if he will also be sentenced, his testimony that he knew nothing about what she was doing at Hogwarts held up under questioning. We will have to wait and see, but his political career is over. He hasn't been out of his house in weeks as people started spitting on him and sending hexes and jinxes his way. Either way, he is finished in decent society."
Xerxes drank a small measure of firewhiskey before he took his grandsons to the dining room for an early lunch. He oversaw them taking what few potions they had remaining, Rodolphus had more than his brother, but he had the overall larger body mass.
He would be back in court soon enough and he would leave Lucius to deal with Harry, and hopefully, the next he saw his sweet grandson-in-law, he was back to his confident, self-assured state.
Lucius kissed Narcissa gently as he prepared to floo to Hogwarts.
"Make sure that you are gentle with Harry, Lucius." Narcissa reminded him.
"I will be, Cissa. He is anxious enough, but he got some portion of justice today. Fudge might have been acquitted, but Umbridge was sentenced to life."
"Good." Narcissa said viciously.
Lucius smiled at her and kissed her one last time before he flooed to Hogwarts.
"Ah, Lucius. Good evening." Dumbledore greeted him genially.
"Dumbledore. As I stated in my letter, I have come to see Harry."
"Of course. If the rumours coming from the Ministry today are to go by, he should be put at ease."
"The news will make the morning Prophet, but I feel Harry deserves to hear the results in person."
"Indeed. I believe he is in his rooms. Draco is with him."
Lucius had expected that as he nodded and left the office. Draco had become so very overprotective of Harry. It was amusing to him and to Narcissa to watch them together, to see how they treated one another now compared to how they once had. He still remembered punishing them both for fighting, Harry stood pouting with a bloody lip and Draco with teeth marks in his side. They had truly tested the limits of his patience back then, but to see them now, it was as if they had been born as brothers and Draco took his sibling duties, as the elder, very seriously.
Lucius' lips twitched to form a smile as he headed to Harry's private rooms on the fourth floor. It was late, the boys had only arrived at the castle perhaps an hour ago.
He knew that the results of the trial would be in the morning Prophet, there were rumours already leaking from the Ministry and the last thing he wanted was for Harry to see those results in the paper, or to be told of them by someone else.
Lucius knocked on the door softly, knowing that his boys would likely be in the living area of the rooms.
It was Draco who opened the door for him.
"Father." He greeted. "Can I offer you some tea?"
"That would be lovely, Draco." Lucius replied as he entered the private room.
Harry was on the settee, already drinking a cup of tea, looking anxious and far too miserable. Narcissa would not be pleased if he left these rooms with Harry still in such a state.
"Harry, you fret far too much."
"I have already told him that he has nothing to worry about." Draco said with a sniff, pouring a fresh cup of tea. "He won't listen."
"Then allow me to dispel any doubt you have. Umbridge was sentenced to life in Azkaban." Lucius said with no preamble.
Harry looked up, a mix of shock, vindictive happiness, and still a touch of worry to his expression.
"I told you she would be!" Draco gloated, passing him a cup and then sitting back down beside Harry.
"She really was sentenced to life?" Harry asked tentatively.
"For what she did to you, yes." Lucius said firmly.
"And the others." Harry added stubbornly.
"She only got eighteen years for the others. She got life for what she did to you, Harry."
"It was the Cruciatus curse that got her life, wasn't it?" Harry asked softly.
"It helped. That she was so willing and ready to cast it upon a fifteen-year-old student in her care showed how truly despicable she was. That she had also permanently scarred you was another strike against her and her character." Lucius explained.
"What about Fudge? I don't think he deserves Azkaban. I'm sure he didn't know what she was doing, when she went to cast the Cruciatus, she put the photo of him on her desk face down, so he wouldn't see."
"Your testimony in his favour spared him Azkaban." Lucius said, trying not to show how displeased he was at this. Fudge had been a bumbling, incompetent fool. Useful when he could whisper into his ear, but dangerous in other aspects, like his utter lack of forethought in posting an unqualified person to a teaching position and giving her almost sole control of a school, the students of which she had tortured and scarred.
Harry looked up, staring at his face as if looking for a lie, before he finally smiled. Lucius sighed. Harry was too good a person for his own good, but, Lucius smiled back at him all the same. He was a gentle boy, sweetly natured. It was perhaps a little foolhardy to encourage such traits, but they made Harry who he was as a person. Lucius didn't want to change him overly much. He just wanted to give him the tools he needed to get through adulthood and Harry had taken on those teachings wonderfully well over the past year and a half.
"I bet Xerxes wasn't pleased that Fudge got off." Harry said, drinking his own tea more happily, even picking up a biscuit to nibble, the anxiety and stress of a few minutes ago gone.
"He wasn't. As you know, he wanted them both to be sentenced to life in Azkaban, he is very fond of you, and protective besides. I would not want to be the one to threaten or harm you with him around."
Harry snorted a laugh, giving him a grin, his miserable mood from when he had first arrived had evaporated in an instant. Lucius was pleased, and so too was Draco, from the smile he sent to his brother.
"Now, were there any issues on the train?" He asked before taking a sip of his tea.
"Not unless you count Daphne trying to crawl into Theo's lap and beg his forgiveness." Draco said, his eyes glinting with mirth.
"It was so disgraceful after the way she'd treated him, and in front of Luna too!" Harry said, angry on his friends' behalf.
"She has no marriage prospects anymore." Lucius told them. "She has no safety net to keep her from the likes of Lucan Selwyn or Amycus Carrow, the only ones who would be desperate enough to take her as a wife. Of course she is trying to beg Theodore's forgiveness. Keep a watch out for her, and keep an eye on each other. If there is any sign of a love potion, floo call me immediately."
"You think she would be that desperate?" Draco asked worriedly.
"I would be if I had to marry Selwyn or Amycus Carrow." Harry said darkly.
"I do not believe she would have any qualms about hurting her own sister, either, Draco. She is definitely the sort who would look after herself and no one else." Lucius warned. "So do not think yourself safe from her by the grace of your betrothal to Astoria, she will try anything, with anyone that she can and she will be seeking a pregnancy, as Pansy did, to escape whatever fate befalls her."
Draco had paled a little and Lucius did not like that his words had been the cause, but he would rather that the boys were prepared for this eventuality. Draco had proven himself willing to sleep with Daphne before this, and his betrothal to Daphne's sister had not stopped him, so Daphne might well take that as permission to trample all over Astoria to save herself by trapping Draco into a loveless marriage via love potions and a pregnancy.
"Look out for one another." He reiterated sternly. "If either of you start acting strangely, or profess love for Daphne, you will go straight to Severus and floo call me from his office, am I clear?"
"Yes, Father." Both boys said seriously, in unison.
Lucius stared at them both for a moment, then nodded. "Good. I do not want to have to tell your mother that you were not taking care of one another, nor that you will have to be married to Daphne Greengrass to legitimise a baby neither of you want with her."
Harry actually shuddered, and Lucius sighed, knowing that his tastes ran into men, it would likely be worse for Harry than Draco, but neither of them would be happy if such a thing happened. He would have to think seriously about what his next steps would be if such a thing happened, though hopefully it wouldn't come to that. Xerxes would likely take matters into his own hands if Harry became Daphne's target, but if she went for Draco, as they had once shared a bed, then he would have to be the one to clean up…even if it meant murdering the girl and his unborn grandchild to save Draco's happiness.
Harry had only been back at Hogwarts for a single night when he was called to the Headmaster's office. It was Tuesday the sixth of January and he had been excused from his morning lessons for this, and Harry was furious. He couldn't afford to miss classes this close to his exams and he stomped all the way up to the Headmaster's office, intent on giving him a piece of his mind.
Those thoughts flew out of his head, along with his black mood, when he entered and found a selection of the school governors already seated before Dumbledore's desk. Lucius was not one of them. Alarm bells started sounding as he remembered that his meeting with the governors, which was not supposed to be in front of Dumbledore, was going to be held on the eleventh of January, not the sixth.
"Ah, Harry, please take a seat." Dumbledore said jovially, as if having Harry here was his greatest joy in life.
Harry was ill at ease and he didn't know why. He quickly argued the pros and cons of sitting or asking to remain standing.
"Sir, I don't like that my lessons are being continually interrupted. Is this matter of vital importance?" He tried.
"I am afraid it is, Harry." Dumbledore told him, his jovial tone turning grave.
He'd tried to get out of it, but he would have no choice but to sit now and he didn't want to. He didn't know why.
"Can I ask that my parents are called to represent me and my interests?" He asked, though everyone there knew he was not asking, but demanding.
"Your parents were contacted, but your father is busy at work and your mother was not at home." Dumbledore told him, his voice pitched to sound sad and regretful this time.
"Then, I would ask that this meeting be postponed until such a time that they can represent me." Harry insisted.
"I am afraid that this is too important a matter to be put aside." One of the governors said primly.
"You're asking me to forgo parental representation, as is my right." Harry pointed out. "It doesn't matter how important you feel the reason is, I have the legal right to have one or both of my parents here as needed."
"You are correct, of course, you know you are." One man said, a look of barely concealed disdain on his face. Harry knew this man just from his demeanour, recounted by Lucius; Mister Cordant, and he knew that his father didn't like him at all. "But you are facing expulsion, this matter cannot wait, unless you agree to a period of suspension until a date can be set for your parents' convenience."
Harry hated him immediately and knew exactly why Lucius didn't like him either. He was a fan of Dumbledore, which meant that he hated Harry for turning on the old man and would do anything Dumbledore asked of him to get back at Harry for it.
"And why am I facing expulsion?" Harry asked calmly. If this was Dumbledore's latest plot to try and control him, by ruining his future, Harry was going to kill the man by any means necessary.
"For allegations of cheating!" Mister Cordant told him with a firm nod of his head, as if it was already a fact.
"Cheating at what?" Harry asked, his temper starting to rise.
"On one of your mock NEWT papers last term." Dumbledore said softly, patting a pile of parchment beside him and Harry saw that it was his Ancient Runes mock exam, on which he'd scored a perfect one hundred per cent and got an O.
"For starters, I never cheated on it. And secondly, since when has cheating on a mock exam been grounds for suspension, let alone expulsion?" He asked. "It's not as if it was my actual NEWT exam that would affect my career choices."
"So you admit to cheating?" Mister Cordant burst out loudly.
Harry's heart started beating faster as his anger rose hot. He took a controlled breath as he made a conscious effort to keep his hands relaxed and not ball them into fists.
"I had no need to cheat when I'm already achieving top marks as the highest scoring student in my year." Harry said.
"How is this possible when you changed electives late and only picked up the subject in your sixth year?" A woman asked snobbishly.
"I had a private tutor, which is neither against the rules of this school nor against the law." Harry said his tone clipped.
"We at the schoolboard don't believe you to be capable of these sorts of scores with less than two years of learning." Mister Cordant told him angrily. "We fully believe that the complainant is correct that you cheated on this test, among others."
Harry's eyes rose to Dumbledore sitting behind his desk and wondered if he was the complainant.
"How do you believe I managed to cheat on it?" Harry asked, holding his mouth firm when it wanted to lift into a smirk.
"It is not for us to guess at how you did it…"
"Actually, yes it is." Harry interrupted. "You're accusing me of cheating, it is entirely your duty to prove how I did so if you wish to punish me for it. As per the school rules, enacted by the governors of the school, it is for you to prove that I am guilty and not for me to prove I am innocent."
Harry was so glad that Lucius was a school governor or he wouldn't know half as much as he did about how the school was run or how matters such as this were handled. Lucius, for all his faults, was a dedicated father and because of his insistence that he have a say in how the school was run, Harry knew how to circumvent an apparent wish to see him suspended or expelled from Hogwarts.
He could tell that none of them, not even Dumbledore, had expected him to know that, but Harry refused to be pushed around or bullied. It was bad enough that they had denied him parental representation…just wait until Lucius heard about that!
"Well, it could be something as simple as copying off the child next to you!" Mister Cordant waved away.
"When I scored higher than them?" Harry intoned innocently. "How could I have copied off of anyone when my score was the highest in the class?"
"Then you stole the test from your professor beforehand and memorised the answers!"
"In that case, I believe that Professor Babbling should be called in and asked about how she prepared the mock exam and how I might have gotten hold of a copy of it if that's how you think I managed it." Harry replied calmly, his lips twitching to smirk, but he was more controlled these days. He could hold back the urge, though seeing how uncomfortable everyone else was, it was difficult.
"Professor Babbling is currently teaching." Dumbledore cut in smoothly.
"And I should also be in class, but you happily interrupted my learning." Harry pointed out coldly.
"You are accused of cheating!"
"On a mock exam that has no bearing on my future or on my final marks." Harry added sternly. "Forgive me for saying, but this is feeling more and more like an inquisition. You've already judged me as guilty and want me expelled and now you are grasping at straws to try and make it stick. Your weak attempts stink of desperation and you cannot even argue a legitimate scenario in which I might have been able to cheat on this mock paper."
"I see you haven't offered to take it again in a controlled setting!" Mister Cordant snapped at him.
"I don't need to." Harry insisted. "As I pointed out, it's not for me to prove my innocence by any means, not even by taking another test in a Ministry exam room. It's for you to prove how I cheated and you can't do that, which means I have not done as accused."
"I'm afraid that it isn't that simple, Harry." Dumbledore told him, his soft tone raising Harry's hackles as he knew it was all falsified. He took a breath to control his temper.
"Is it not?" He asked.
"This accusation is very serious and will have to be investigated. It is, unfortunately, school policy that you be suspended while these inquiries are being conducted."
Harry hid his right hand behind his back when it started trembling with rage.
"I am innocent until proven guilty and I will remain at the school, and in my lessons, until you can offer definitive proof that I have done as accused."
"This is not a matter of debate, Harry." Dumbledore told him.
"No, it isn't. It's a matter of false allegations over cheating on a classroom test. I am within my rights to remain at the school as a student while the matter is investigated. The only exception is violent conduct towards another student or a member of staff which could be a matter of safety. This incident does not fall into that exception clause."
"You will be suspended for the month." Mister Cordant told him, looking much too happy.
"A month to investigate an allegation of cheating?" Harry demanded. "All it will take to disprove this is to speak to Professor Babbling, even if you don't wish to take her from classes, and choose to speak to her tonight, it will only need one day."
"We do not have to explain our investigation timeline to you." Mister Cordant snapped at him and Harry narrowed his eyes on him.
"No, but you will have to explain it to my father when I go home and tell him." Harry said. "I wonder why you have decided to conduct this investigation without his approval, or his knowledge, when he is the head governor."
"It was kept from him because you are his adopted child! He will naturally defend you and choose not to investigate these allegations, it is a conflict of interest."
"I don't think he'll see it that way. Good day, governors."
"You haven't been dismissed!" Mister Cordant told him angrily.
"I have dismissed myself. I am sure I will be back at the school by the morning." He added cockily. "I am sure there is a very good reason why less than half the current governing body of the school is present here, and not all of you."
He walked out of the office and bared his teeth, seething with rage. His hands clenched into fists and his hate for Dumbledore doubled. He couldn't afford to miss a single lesson, let alone a whole day. He was just glad that it was the beginning of term and he didn't already have homework to do or he'd have been in an even worse position. They had wanted to suspend him for a month! A missed month going into his NEWT exams would have been unrecoverable. He couldn't allow that to happen, but he knew the rules were on his side. The moment Lucius heard of this he would be straight back to school and in his lessons again. Oh, but the hate he felt in that moment. The rage filled him so completely that he felt it pique Voldemort's attention.
He snorted to himself. Of course his intense rage would get Voldemort's attention through their Horcrux bond or whatever it was. Harry had been feeling his intense bouts of anger and his glee, and given how much hate he was currently feeling, yeah, he could guess that it would be enough to finally cross through to the man.
He went to his private rooms and wrote an angry, jerky letter to Draco so that he wouldn't worry when Harry 'went missing' for the day and he gathered some of his more pressing work into his book satchel, which he dumped out onto his settee. He wouldn't need his school books for the moment, he had no work to do yet, so instead, he packed it with his law reforms, hoping that he might be able to calm himself long enough to actually do something productive.
His head seared with pain and he collapsed to his knees, passing out on the floor.
He saw Voldemort standing in a room that looked like a library. He'd been reading when Harry's intense hate and anger had interrupted him.
Harry felt the questioning curiosity. Voldemort wanted to know what had happened to make him so angry. There was a small sliver of concern. Just the tiniest hint of it under that curiosity.
Harry couldn't control anything, he didn't know how, so he just bombarded his most recent memories into Voldemort, hoping that he could filter through them and control it for him. Harry's anger spiked, his head feeling like it was being crushed, but he hated anyone messing with his life and he had so many plans for the future. Being suspended for any length of time would show poorly on him. An expulsion would absolutely ruin his career path and every single plan he'd made for his future would be in tatters. He wanted it sorted.
"Leave it to me." Voldemort told him, his voice high and cold as it echoed around his brain before he pulled out of Harry's mind.
Harry woke on the floor, his head splitting into two and blood pouring from his nose. He grunted and forced himself up, using his sleeve to wipe away the blood. Narcissa would kill him for doing that and not using a hanky.
He finished packing his bag and he stormed out of his room. It was just before lunch so the corridors were empty and he didn't meet anyone. He walked right out of the front doors and started the long trek to the gates, where he could Apparate back to Malfoy Manor. He could have done it from his room, but he needed the walk to calm himself first. He wondered if the governors had even contacted his parents in the first place or if they truly had both been out at the time. He would soon find out.
The walk had done very little to calm his raging anger, so when he reached the gates, he needed to take a few moments to breathe deeply, so that he could concentrate on Apparating without splinching himself.
The manor was calm and quiet as Harry went storming through it. Pimsey popped in curiously, looking at him with worry.
"Young Master." She greeted cautiously. "Is yous being well?" She asked.
"Where are my parents, Pimsey?" Harry asked with great care not to snap at her. He had to actively remind himself that this wasn't her fault. He refused to take out his anger on convenient targets, especially not someone as sweet and helpful as Pimsey, who was already so used to anger and abuse aimed at her. He would not add to that, no matter how angry he felt.
"Master is at work and Mistress is with wedding organisers, young Master. Can Pimsey offer a towel for young Master's nose?"
Harry nodded his head jerkily. "I…can you fetch Rabastan please, Pimsey?" He asked.
Pimsey snapped her fingers and handed him a towel and then popped away, likely to Lestrange Manor.
Harry went to the front parlour and slumped into a chair. He held the towel to his nose and waited.
Pimsey came back first and she curtseyed.
"Young Master, is there anything that Pimsey can be getting for you?" She asked.
Harry shook his head. "No, Pimsey. Thank you for your help, you can go back to your duties now."
She curtseyed again and left him, silently fuming, on the chair with a towel held to his nose and the torrent of blood was finally starting to slow.
It was only a few minutes later that Rabastan came barrelling into the room, out of breath and looking worried and angry. He came right for Harry, dropping to his knees in front of him, his hands hovering nervously.
"Harry! What happened?"
"Dumbledore." Harry snarled through his teeth.
"He gave you a nosebleed?" Xerxes' angry voice came from the door.
Harry looked over and saw Xerxes and Rodolphus hovering in the doorway.
"No, Voldemort did."
"He sent a house-elf to tell us that we needed to be with you. Your elf arrived just after, but we don't really have much information, Harry. What happened? Where are Lucius and Narcissa?"
"Narcissa is wedding planning and Lucius is at work."
"Tell us what happened." Xerxes said, coming to sit beside him and laying a hand around his back.
Harry growled angrily. "I've been suspended."
"What?" Rabastan demanded. "Why would he do that? Surely it's in his interests to keep you closer to him and away from your family."
"That wasn't working, he must have changed tactics." Harry said, removing the towel from his nose. It was bleeding sluggishly still, so he turned the towel to a clean area and then pressed it back. "I apparently cheated on my Ancient Runes test just before Christmas break. You know the one I scored really highly on and was top of the class?"
"The mock exam?" Rabastan demanded.
Harry nodded. "The mock exam. That apparently warrants a suspension and the threat of expulsion too."
"Dumbledore can't do that without the governors!" Xerxes raged.
"Oh, he had a few governors there to back him up, chief among them was Mister Cordant."
"That imbecile that Lucius hates because he's a supporter of Dumbledore?" Xerxes asked.
"The very same."
"This will never stick." Rabastan assured him. "My love, your father will wipe the floor with them all and our lord controls the Ministry. It won't stick, please, don't let your anger fester over this."
"I can't afford to keep missing lessons." Harry explained. "My exams are in four months, Rabastan."
"You will be back in the school by tonight." Xerxes said confidently. "I will go to the Ministry and explain things to Lucius. I am sure that Narcissa would rather be here with you, Harry. Send the house-elf to get her."
Xerxes squeezed his shoulder and then stood, leaving the parlour and Rabastan took his seat, offering himself up to comfort him. Harry took that offer wholeheartedly.
"I don't understand why he's changed direction." Rodolphus said, looking angry.
"Maybe he hasn't, though he certainly didn't argue against my suspension." Harry said. "The governors said that there had been a complainant, so either they're lying and doing Dumbledore's will or someone did actually accuse me of cheating and they're going with what they have."
Harry's mind went to his Ancient Runes class and he couldn't pick a single person who would have been angry or frustrated enough with his score of a mock exam to complain to the governors…then he backtracked. Perhaps there was one in the class who would be frustrated enough with his rise in Ancient Runes. Hermione.
His heart started thudding in his chest again, from where he'd just been calming. Maybe this wasn't Dumbledore at all, but her no longer being the best in Ancient Runes and her bookish mind unable to comprehend how he could grasp the subject so quickly. She wouldn't have known he'd had a dedicated, private tutor either.
His fists clenched in Rabastan's robe.
"My love, what is it?" Rabastan asked, his hands curling over his and holding him.
"Just a thought on who might have done this, but I have no proof yet."
"You should send the elf to your mother." Rodolphus told him.
"Pimsey." Harry called out.
"Young Master needs Pimsey?" She asked.
"Can you go to my mother and ask her if she can come home for me, please?"
Pimsey nodded vigorously before she popped away. Harry threw himself onto Rabastan's chest and he tried to calm himself with his fiancé.
Rabastan was very good at comforting him, as he held him close and stroked a hand through his hair while the other stroked his back.
"He won't ruin you." Rabastan assured him. "We'll destroy him."
"Promise me." Harry said.
"I promise you." Rabastan said firmly.
"I promise it as well." Rodolphus added. "You are our family, Harry. No one gets to harm you."
Harry gave a soft smile. "Thank you…both of you."
That was Narcissa and she came at a jog, her eyes wild and her hair in disarray.
"Sweetheart, what has happened?"
She shoved Rabastan away from him and gathered him into her arms, kissed his forehead, before she tipped his head back and used a hand to pull his hand, holding the towel, away from his nose.
"Harry, I'm going to need you to explain what happened." She said urgently, even as she took out her wand and cast a simple healing spell, which finally stopped the sluggish trickle of blood.
Lucius came striding into the parlour with Xerxes and he came right to him, taking the blood-sodden towel from his hand and using his own handkerchief to clean up the remaining blood.
"Xerxes has told me that you've been suspended."
"What?!" Narcissa demanded. "Don't be ridiculous, Lucius! Of course our Harry wouldn't have done anything to get suspended!"
"They accused me of cheating on my Ancient Runes mock exam." Harry said quietly.
"Your mock exam?!" Narcissa demanded dangerously. "Surely that doesn't warrant this level of punishment, Lucius!"
"They wanted to expel me."
"No, absolutely not!" Narcissa snapped. "They wouldn't dare! I won't let them. Lucius, you must go and fix this, right now!"
"They cannot expel him for cheating on a mock test, dear." Lucius told her calmingly. "Even if I believed for one moment that he had actually cheated."
"They refused me parental representation as well. I demanded it and they told me that neither of you could be contacted and that the matter was so grave that it had to be sorted then and there, despite my protestations."
"A grave matter?" Lucius echoed silkily. "An accusation of cheating on a mock test?"
"I didn't know what to do for the best." Harry admitted softly. "They were threatening me with expulsion which would have ruined my entire future. I was going to just walk out until I could get representation, but…they threatened to expel me so I stayed."
"This isn't your fault, darling." Narcissa told him.
"Did they offer any evidence that you had cheated?" Lucius asked, completely practical.
Harry shook his head. "They tried to make me explain how I was innocent. They actually expected me to offer to go to a Ministry exam room to prove I'm as good at Ancient Runes as the test indicates."
Lucius' grey eyes showed nothing but anger.
"I will sort this for you, Harry. Do you happen to know who the governors were?"
"There were only three of them, but one was Mister Cordant. The one you don't like."
"Of course." Lucius said, a smirk to his mouth. "I might have known. I don't want you to worry over this, Harry. You can have a nice, free day here at home and you will be back in school by tomorrow morning."
"I'm so stressed over everything. I have so much to do and now I've missed my first day of lessons! What if something important was covered and I wasn't there?"
"Don't push yourself too hard, darling." Narcissa chastised. "Remember to take breaks."
Harry shook his head. "I don't want to take breaks. Not like this."
Lucius touched his shoulder and then, when Harry looked up, he pressed a kiss to his forehead. Harry blinked, wondering if he'd fallen into an alternate reality.
"Rest for today. You will be able to catch up on one day of work. I will be back shortly."
Lucius left with quick strides and Rabastan tentatively reached out for him again. He didn't try to take him from Narcissa's arms, but he did join them.
"Your father will sort this." Narcissa told him with confidence and surety.
"I just…I don't know why they've decided to do this. It's not a strong enough offence for them to suspend me, or threaten me with expulsion, and it's not for me to prove my innocence! They had no evidence and they were grasping at straws, Mother! When I asked, they couldn't tell me one likely scenario in which I could have cheated. They accused me of copying the student next to me, and I rightly pointed out that I had a higher score. Then they accused me of stealing the exam beforehand from Professor Babbling and memorising it! But when I told them to ask her, they made up some excuse about not wanting to disturb her other classes, as if disturbing my classes with a suspension in my last two terms before my NEWT exams was no big deal."
"Your father won't let them get away with doing this, sweetheart." Narcissa said soothingly, and Harry felt himself actually calming a little. "Pimsey!"
"Mistress calls for Pimsey." The sweet house-elf said, curtseying.
"Tea for five." Narcissa said, still cradling Harry between herself and Rabastan.
Pimsey popped away but she was back a moment later with a tea tray with five teacups and saucers, a large teapot, milk and sugar and a plate of posh biscuits on the side.
It was Rabastan who bent forward and he made a cup for Harry, passing it to him and Harry eased out of his mother's arms, holding the saucer with his left hand and using the right to lift the cup to take a deep drink. He felt calmer, more centred and settled. Lucius would get to the bottom of this, Harry knew he would. It was wonderful to realise that he could trust Lucius to handle this for him. That he could just stay home and have a cuddle and some calming tea and just let Lucius handle it.
At lunchtime, Harry ate while sitting next to Rabastan and he was much calmer and no longer so angry he couldn't think. He'd washed his face of the bloodstain and his nose had stopped bleeding from Voldemort's invasion of his mind.
After he'd eaten, he had more tea and he was going through his law reform and doing more work on it, seeing as he couldn't do any schoolwork as he didn't have any. Rabastan was sitting behind him and was playing with his hair in a soothing way that didn't aggravate him or disturb him as he talked out his ideas with Narcissa, Xerxes, Rabastan, and Rodolphus. It was nice. Peaceful. But the threat of his future was still hanging over him and Lucius hadn't come back yet.
"Your idea to run it through your charity coalition was genius." Narcissa praised him, as he finished outlaying all the changes he'd made since his visit to the coalition, after his request for them to go through it so that he could give them the law changes that they actually needed.
"It's now eight rolls of parchment long." Harry said, smiling proudly.
"How close are you to finishing it?" Rodolphus asked him.
Harry looked at the proposal nervously. "Not yet." He said quickly.
"You're closer than you think." Rabastan told him gently. "You're nervous, that's understandable, but you're so close to completing it."
"It's missing something." Harry insisted.
Rabastan shook his head. "It's not, Harry. You're worried about it obsessively as it is your first dabble into lawmaking, but it is perfectly acceptable as it is. Numerous people have told you the same, and now magical creatures have told you that it's acceptable too. It's almost ready."
"The language used is politically acceptable and it is free from emotion, which I warned you would look poorly on you as the author." Xerxes said. "You've done well to keep control of your words but still present a strong case for your proposal by emphasising the need for this law change. As long as you argue your case with just as much eloquence, it will pass, Harry. You have a lot of friends and allies among the Wizengamot, and even those who aren't so friendly towards you will still see the value in your proposal."
Harry frowned, doubting that people like Yaxley, or Nott, or Giovanni Rowle would vote in favour of his proposal.
"I was thinking of those Weasleys." Xerxes said with a disdainful sniff, obviously reading Harry's thoughts on his face.
Harry considered that. "Yeah, I can see at least Charlie voting for it with that clause protecting the rights of dragons."
Harry's eyes automatically tracked back through his proposal to find the clause he'd written to protect the dragons and the reserves they were housed on. If nothing else, no matter what their personal feelings were towards one another, Harry thought that Charlie would absolutely vote in favour of his proposal because of those dragon protections. That was one of his 'enemies' who would be won over. Possibly Bill too, because he certainly wasn't against magical creatures, just him.
Lucius came striding into the parlour and Harry sat up straight and tried to decipher the look on his face for clues as to how the meeting went.
"There is no need for you to look so fretful." Lucius told him, patting his head gently as he walked past him to sit down next to Narcissa. "You will stay here for the night and you will be back in Hogwarts for your lessons tomorrow morning."
Harry all but inflated he was that happy as he grinned.
"Will you tell us of the meeting?" Xerxes asked.
"I first contacted the entire board of governors." Lucius said, settling down as Narcissa poured him a cup of tea. "I wanted to know who was involved, and those who had knowledge of what was going to happen after Harry said that only three governors were involved. Thank you, dear."
Lucius took the cup of tea from Narcissa and he had a delicate sip.
"It seems that only those three in the meeting with you were involved, Harry." Lucius told him. "Led by Mister Michael Cordant, who acted outside of the guidance of the governors to personally take it upon himself to head the investigation into the allegations brought against you."
"But he doesn't have any sort of case against him?" Narcissa demanded.
"None. It is not justifiable to suspend, or indeed try to expel a student over mock exam papers or in-class tests." Lucius said calmly. "If found to be cheating on either, it is expected that the student would serve a term of detention set by their teacher or their head of house. Mister Cordant is now facing our dear Minister Thicknesse to try and explain his actions." Here Lucius gave a sharp smirk and Harry's grin widened. "I believe he will be out of a job by morning, Harry. Him and the two other governors who tried to do this to you."
"They deserve it!" Harry said viciously. "Did you find out if it was Dumbledore who accused me?"
"I found out that it was a Miss Hermione Granger who brought these allegations to the governors' attention. Nearly all of them dismissed the allegations outright, but, even so, a letter had been sent to Professor Babbling to ask her opinion of the allegations, but Mister Cordant saw an opportunity to try to discredit me by using you. He found two other governors who either had a grievance against me, or didn't like your sudden rise in popularity in the 'wrong' circles."
"So, the matter has been dropped?" Harry asked seriously. "It won't go on record or anything?"
"No, nothing of the sort, Harry. It has been dropped in full after a rather aggrieved, and dare I say protective, Professor Babbling sang your praises to the governors and insisted that she could clearly see the skill building you were learning that led to your grasp of the subject. She regaled us all with stories of you begging her for extra work so that you could catch up with your year mates and she told us of the little slips you had mentioned about a certain tutor named Marcus Flint, a man she says is the most brilliant student she has ever had in her class and that if you had Marcus as a tutor, she could perfectly understand your incredibly high marks."
"There is nothing more that our Harry needs to do?" Narcissa asked.
"Nothing except to enjoy a few more hours of leisure at home." Lucius said, watching with a smile as Rabastan played with Harry's hair.
Harry smiled himself. "I am almost done with my law reform." He said tentatively. "It might be ready in a few more months."
"Weeks, Harry. Not months." Xerxes told him. "You are procrastinating on it out of fear and nerves. It is understandable, of course, but unneeded. Just wrap it up with a brief conclusion and then present it."
"I want to go through it again…"
"There isn't any need, Harry. It is done." Xerxes told him more firmly.
"I at least want the coalition to go through the finished thing first." He replied stubbornly.
Xerxes sighed, but waved a hand. Harry went back to looking through the proposal, but his mind was still on the governors.
"You're sure that this won't come back on me?" He asked uncertainly.
Lucius gave a soft sigh, then smiled at him. "The matter is already forgotten, Harry. You could go back now, if you wished, but given that it is getting on, and you'd only have one more full lesson left, I would have thought you'd prefer to remain here. It will not go on record, you have not been expelled or suspended, you actually left the castle without permission…" Here Lucius gave him a raised eyebrow and Harry grimaced. "…and Cordant and the other two governors will face Minister Thicknesse tomorrow morning. They have been relieved of their duties and will not be returning as governors."
"Good." Harry said, letting his shoulders slump as he relaxed.
"Just enjoy the rest of today at home. I am sure that Draco will have collected any work you need to do and he will be happy to help you catch up. You are an intelligent young man, you can catch up one missed day easily."
Harry smiled at that and he stopped fretting over everything and just sat back, against Rabastan, and drank his own tea, very pleased with how this debacle had turned out. No one was going to stop him from enacting his plans for the future and he was going to make damn sure that Hermione didn't try to ruin those plans. She didn't get to do that to him now, after everything that had happened between them, and he was going to make sure that she knew that. She was going to rue the day she had tried to accuse him of cheating just because he had scored higher than she had on a mock paper.