A/N: Chapter Warning: Trigger warning for discussions of dead children.

Last Time

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.

Chapter Forty-Two – Overwrought

Harry was more relaxed the next morning. He'd calmed down once Lucius had come home and assured him that he wasn't being expelled and that his 'suspension' wasn't going to stick or go on record.

He'd spent the rest of the evening just relaxing and enjoying having a little extra time with his family, Rabastan in particular, but now he was ready to get back to Hogwarts and dive back into his lessons. He didn't have all that long left in school now, he would be taking his exams in just four months, which wasn't a lot of time in the grand scheme of things, and then he would be graduating and starting his political career on the back of, hopefully, a successfully argued law reform.

He had eaten breakfast with his family, and Rabastan too, of course, who had stayed at the manor overnight before he'd flooed back to Hogwarts with Lucius, who had come with him to, not only prevent Dumbledore from speaking to him but to 'invite' him to a meeting with the school governors to explain himself.

"Harry, might I have a word?" Dumbledore asked him as soon as he landed.

"No, you may not." Harry said angrily.

Lucius flooed in behind him and gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze.

"To your lessons, Harry. You have missed enough and I would not have you miss any more." Lucius told him before turning to Dumbledore and holding out an official, ribboned scroll. "Headmaster, the governors and I require your presence at a meeting to explain your recent actions."

Dumbledore took the scroll and opened it, but Harry already knew what it contained and while Dumbledore was distracted, he left the office and headed down to his rooms to fetch the books he needed for lessons before he went to the Great Hall.

Breakfast was underway, but Harry had already eaten. He found Draco at the Slytherin table and shoved Blaise out of the way to sit next to him.

"There you are." Draco said, sounding relieved. "Would you care to explain the letter you left for me and exactly what in the name of Merlin happened?"

"I have so much to tell you." Harry said. "It'll have to wait until later, however."

"Harry." Draco said warningly, unhappily.

Harry shook his head, even as he prepared a cup of tea for himself. "It'll have to wait, Draco. I know you're curious, but there are sensitive elements to the story."

Draco nodded in acceptance, though he still didn't look happy, but Harry felt a supportive hand touch his back before Draco went back to his breakfast.

"Have you eaten, Harry?" Blaise asked worriedly.

Harry nodded. "At home. I wanted to come a little earlier than first lesson, however."

"There are so many rumours going around, including that you'd fallen sick again and even that you'd been expelled." Blaise told him.

"Clearly, neither is true." Harry said with a smile. "I will explain later."

"I took notes for the lessons you missed, Harry." Draco told him, finishing his breakfast. "We'll have to have a study session tonight to catch you up."

"That'll be perfect. I can tell you everything that happened then, without risk of being overheard." Harry said, before taking a sip of tea.

"Potter."

Harry looked up as Professor McGonagall approached him.

"Good morning, Professor." Harry greeted.

"Your professors all know of what transpired yesterday." She told him. "A little leniency will be granted because of this missed day, but you are expected to make up the work that was missed. I took the liberty of having your professors write out some notes that you might find helpful."

Harry was handed five pieces of parchment, each headed with a different subject, with different handwriting, of notes and useful books he could read to help him.

"Thank you, Professor." Harry said, looking over the parchment.

Harry noticed at the bottom of some pages his professors had written that, if there was anything he still didn't understand then he could come to ask. He inhaled deeply. A lot of his professors liked his new attitude towards his work and wanted to help him in all ways possible. That they believed in him so much helped him to keep his head down, working hard, and it was this confidence in him that gave him the confidence to believe in himself and go out and do all that he did. With the Wizengamot, with his law reforms, and his goals to become Minister for Magic in the future.

The bell rang and there was a rush to finish having the last bites of breakfast and the dregs of drinks. Harry finished his tea and stood, slinging his bag over his shoulder. Coincidentally, it was a Wednesday and their first lesson was Ancient Runes. Harry had to stop himself from glaring at Hermione as he sat in 'his' seat, in the second row next to Draco.

Professor Babbling gave him a knowing look before calling the lesson to order. Of course, she knew that Hermione had accused him of cheating and that he had almost been suspended, or even expelled over those allegations. McGonagall had said that all of the teachers knew about it, and just why he'd been missing yesterday. He sighed and set himself to the next task. He would catch up on what he had missed yesterday and he would have his revenge on Hermione for this, and on Dumbledore too.


Harry settled himself in his room after dinner that evening. Draco hadn't even bitched about Harry not playing host, he'd just sorted out the tea himself, serving Harry and Astoria, then himself, and letting everyone else help themselves.

"So, what happened, Harry?" Theo asked, Luna snuggled tight to his side. She was playing with the ring on his finger…it was a lordship ring.

"First of all, tell me if we need to start calling you Lord Theo." Harry said nodding to the ring.

Theo gave a small, shy smile, abashed, but he nodded. "It's conditional on me marrying Luna once she graduates, of course, but I am Lord Lovegood in name only. I can't join the Wizengamot or make any sort of decision as a true lord, not until we are married, but both Luna and Xenophilius wanted me to have the ring. I was given it for Christmas. I will use the time granted to me to prepare for the lordship duties and the Wizengamot."

"Daddy and I are very pleased that Theo wishes to join our family and take care of the politics." Luna said dreamily, smiling up at Theo.

"I'm willing to help you with whatever you need, Theo." Harry offered.

"Thank you, Harry. Any books you could recommend for getting me started will be very welcome at this point. Knowing that I'll have over a year to prepare really doesn't help when I don't know where to start, it's a daunting thought."

"Enough stalling, Harry." Draco cut in. "What happened? Where did you go? No one knows what happened, there were rumours that you were sick, that you'd been expelled, even!"

"The latter is closer to the truth." He admitted.

"What?" Blaise demanded.

Harry hummed in agreement. "Yes, I was called to Dumbledore's office, where three school governors were waiting with allegations of cheating."

"Cheating?" Astoria asked. "On what?"

"I don't believe it." Pansy said. She was looking a little under the weather, but Harry assumed that it came with her pregnancy given that she was already two months. The books that he'd read about the subject, back when he'd first found out that he had bearer genes, had mentioned morning sickness and that it typically started in the sixth week of pregnancy and didn't go away until the third or fourth month. Though, there were exceptions and some expecting mothers weren't sick at all and others were sick all the way through their pregnancies. Harry didn't know how he'd feel if he fell into the latter category. One thing was certain though, he and Rabastan would not be having a dozen babies if Harry was sick for the entirety of the pregnancy.

"You remember the mock exam paper we took in Ancient Runes before winter break?" He asked them all.

"The mock paper?!" Draco demanded. "The mock paper?!" He repeated, his voice going higher with indignant rage.

Harry nodded. "They didn't understand how I'd scored a perfect one hundred per cent when I picked up the subject late."

"But, you had a private tutor. More than that, you had Marcus Flint as your private tutor." Blaise pointed out. "Everyone knows that he's a prodigy with runes."

"I tried to explain that, but these three governors in particular had issues with my father."

"They used their personal issues with father as an excuse to try and get you expelled?" Draco demanded, only getting angrier.

"They did, and father was not happy. Mother less so." Harry assured him. "They wanted to suspend me for a month while they investigated. There was no way I'd recover that amount of work before the exams, I'd have had to repeat a year, which would have looked terrible for my resume. Not to mention it would have pushed back all of my plans for marriage, my children, my career. Who's going to accept law reforms or proposals from someone who had to repeat a year?"

"Is that what Dumbledore was trying to do? Hold back your proposals? Or was it to prevent your marriage?"

Harry shook his head. "It can't be the latter, he doesn't know I'm getting married as soon as I graduate, he already thinks I'm getting married the year after while 'Aceline' finishes her last year in Beauxbatons. My money is on him trying to hold back my proposals and my career prospects because I won't tell him what they're about or what they include and I won't let him 'help' with the law reforms I'm planning."

"He's clearly failed in that regard." Theo pointed out. "You were only gone for a day."

"Thanks, in part, to a certain lord." Harry said pointedly. "Thankfully, he has the Ministry in the palm of his hand. Father triggered an immediate inquest into the three governors, who will have to face Minister Thicknesse and the Head of Education to explain their thought process and their actions, but nothing they say will be good enough to save their skins, of course. Dumbledore, too, will have to face the other governors and Thicknesse as well."

"He'll finally be kicked out of the school!" Blaise said excitedly, understanding what the skewed inquest with the puppet minister would mean.

Harry nodded. "Yes. I might finally be able to relax around here now. Everything I eat and drink I'm worried if it's been tainted. I'm worried about it every time I catch him staring at me so intently from the top table. If he realises that potions won't work, he's going to try something else and we aren't prepared for it. There's no way he hasn't realised that the 'inquest' is an excuse to take the school away from him and his influence, to get me out of his clutches, so until it's finalised, I have to be on high alert."

"We'll keep close to you." Theo insisted.

"You won't leave my side." Draco said sternly. "If I have to sleep here so that you're never alone, so be it."

"I honestly don't expect him to do anything so forward as to blast the door off its hinges and curse me or something. I'm worried that he'll try to force someone else to do it. He likes working from the shadows, getting others to do his dirty work, like Remus."

"What about Professor Lupin?" Pansy asked curiously.

"He was one of my father's best friends, Pansy." Harry told her, giving her a quick rundown of the back story. "Him and Sirius. I've been sending him owls, going to visit him at times, and then Dumbledore tried to use him to get to me. He's drugging Remus with potions and I can't risk going to see him when he's in a compromised state. He sent me a letter, wanting me to visit him before the new term started, but I couldn't risk it. Not knowing what Dumbledore was planning for me, so I sent back a reply that I was unfortunately too busy and that I would try to go to see him when I could."

"But you can't." Astoria said gently.

Harry shook his head. "No. I have no idea what potion is being used to control him, nor how to counteract it. I can't stop them from hurting Remus and it kills me inside to think that I'm leaving him like that, in that state, but mother and father, Rabastan too, would kill me if I put myself in danger to try to save him. I can't risk putting myself in Dumbledore's hands."

"They'll stop drugging him when they realise it's not working, surely." Pansy said softly.

"I'm worried they'll keep doing it just in case I go for a spur of the moment visit and they can take control of me. If they think that's their only chance…" Harry trailed off and threw a hand through his hair.

"He will stop, Harry." Draco told him. "Where do you think he'll go when he loses the school? He'll go to the next place where he thinks he'll be able to get you. He won't need to drug Remus if he's staying in the same place."

"You can't go there, Harry." Astoria said gently. "He's going to get Remus to send you all sorts of messages now, to try to force you to go to see him, but it'll be Dumbledore you encounter, not Remus."

Harry inhaled deeply and he nodded. "It'll be easily seen through, Remus has never been someone to share his problems with others, certainly not me. He sees himself as a protector, he wouldn't try to burden me with anything, so any messages of that sort and I'll know it for the ruse it is."

They lapsed into silence. Harry finished his tea and then sighed.

"It's late." He told them. "I have a lot of catch-up work to do, and homework too. You know now what happened and why. You should head back before curfew."

"Thank you for the tea, Harry." Pansy told him.

Harry nodded. "Take care on the stairs, Pansy."

Pansy nodded firmly, her hand over her belly where her baby grew. Harry wouldn't put it past Paimon to pay a student to 'accidentally' push Pansy down some stairs. If she lost Giovanni's baby…the betrothal with Selwyn would be dangled back over her head.

Harry was left alone in short order. Purebloods were always punctual and if given a dismissal, they never lingered. Harry cleaned up their cups before sitting himself back down with a fresh cup of tea for himself. He took a sip before dragging his catch-up work towards him, along with the notes that Draco had given him, and he flipped open the first subject. It was going to be a very long night indeed.


The weekend had come and Harry couldn't even take a rest. Yesterday had been his first 'official' session with Healer Vasey and he'd come out of that feeling like a wrung-out towel. He'd been emotional, angry, and drained afterwards, with not much desire to do anything, though Draco had come to his rooms afterwards to try to comfort him, and when that hadn't worked, he'd gone with a distraction technique in the form of homework club, though with just the two of them. Harry hadn't been up to other visitors. Not when he couldn't control his emotions and halfway through a normal conversation he started crying and needed to be comforted. He didn't want anyone else to see him like that.

He couldn't even rest today, as he was preparing for his meeting with the governors to try and oust Dumbledore from the school. He already knew that Lucius and the other governors had put Dumbledore under investigation due to his part in trying to get Harry expelled over cheating allegations, but he still had to have the meeting with them over his own harassment claims due to the whole issue with the Law Enforcers and the Ministry sanctioned raid, given that his complains predated the cheating allegations.

He was a little nervous, but he was able to handle himself these days. He knew how to speak to people, he knew how to keep himself calm and on track. He wasn't going to mess this up.

"Lord Potter-Black, please, be seated."

"Thank you." He said, smiling.

Lucius moved forward and sat beside him.

Harry frowned at the unusual move, then immediately schooled his expression into something more neutral when he realised what he'd done. He was getting better at keeping his expression schooled and his thoughts private.

"It is a conflict of interest if I am here as the head of the school governors." Lucius told him gently. "I am here today as your father and not in a professional capacity."

That inexplicitly made Harry feel better and he settled a little more.

"I will be acting as the head of the governors today." A man told him, sitting directly opposite him. "I am Mister Martyn Williams. Please, tell us in your own words the outline of your complaint against Headmaster Dumbledore."

"I feel that he has been harassing me outside of his capacity as my Headmaster." Harry replied. "Chief among my complaints is that he made allegations of child abuse against my parents and had our home raided by Law Enforcers without any basis."

"That, unfortunately, is going to be very hard to prove." A woman that Harry recognised sighed. Madam Portist had been there when his Firebolt had been found in Hermione's trunk. "Allegations of child abuse have to be taken seriously and acted upon immediately and it will be difficult to prove that he had no basis for it."

"It…it has to be acted upon?" Harry asked softly.

"Of course!" Madam Portist insisted. "Any slight mention that a child makes or that a teacher, or the Headmaster, picks up on has to be reported and investigated in full."

Harry felt his lower lip tremble, but the bulk of his emotions had turned to anger and despair.

"Harry?" Lucius questioned, a hand placed gently on his back.

"Back in my first year…" Harry had to stop and swallow heavily. "I told him that the Dursleys were abusive. I told him about them and what they were doing to me and he did nothing!"

"You told him?" Lucius demanded silkily. Harry knew just from his tone that he was furious.

Harry nodded jerkily. "I told him I didn't want to go back, that I wanted to stay at Hogwarts, and why, and he…he just sent me back to them."

"We can certainly investigate that." The man opposite him, Martyn Williams, told him. "I am sorry that happened to you, Harry."

"After…afterwards he just brushed it aside as if it were nothing, I didn't get the courage to tell anyone else for years. Not until I was adopted and even then it was a slip-up. I didn't intend to ever mention it again."

"I am going to ask for the memory of you telling the Headmaster about your living situation." Martyn told him. "All I need you to do is to think of that memory and I will extract it for you."

"It will make a copy." Lucius explained. "It will not take your memory of the event."

Harry had done this before, however, and he nodded. He thought of sitting in Dumbledore's office, pleading to remain at Hogwarts, to not go back to the Dursleys. He felt the wand tip at his temple and then the drawing sensation as the memory was extracted.

"I believe that Headmaster Dumbledore also assisted our rogue colleagues recently in attempting to get you expelled?" Madam Portist asked him a moment later, once everyone had settled after the memory extraction, which Mister Williams had gently placed into a glass vial.

Harry nodded. "He did. He sat behind his desk and he agreed with them that a month of suspension, with expulsion being held over my head, was an agreeable punishment for allegations of cheating on a mock exam paper in class."

"That is a completely ludicrous notion." Mister Williams said while shaking his head.

"What we had already done was enough." A different man spoke up. "We had written a letter to Professor Babbling asking for her opinion. There was absolutely no need to escalate that issue at such a time and…I am not sure about my fellow colleagues, but in my opinion, Headmaster Dumbledore's actions here are at complete odds with the school's code of conduct."

"I agree." Madam Portist said.

"As do I." Mister Williams agreed. "As Headmaster, his due care and attention should have been the student in question and not three rogue governors."

"He should have questioned why only three governors had presented themselves." Lucius said from beside him. "He should have questioned why Harry was being threatened with suspension, or even expulsion, over such a weak matter, but he didn't."

"May I speak my thoughts on the matter?" Harry asked.

"Please, feel free to do so, Lord Potter-Black, we would like to hear any thoughts you have about this." Mister Williams told him.

"Headmaster Dumbledore knows about my proposed law reforms and that I've chosen a political career choice. It is my own opinion that he was in favour of my suspension for a month as it would have derailed my future plans. I wouldn't have been able to make up a full month of school work before my NEWT exams, I would have had to repeat my final year. It would have delayed any career choice I have made, perhaps permanently given the stigma that being held back a year holds."

"If we find out that this is why he did not intervene, to ruin your future…" Madam Portist said angrily. "I am afraid this will be the end of his career in education."

That is exactly what Harry wanted too. He couldn't wait to see the papers reporting about this, especially after Lucius' successful libel suit against The Daily Prophet and Madam Amelia Bones' inquest into the editor of that same paper had seen four of the journalists, and the editor of the paper, fired.

The paper was content to ignore Harry completely these days, which wasn't a bad thing, but they did still report him in the news on occasion, as shown by his appearance in their pages over the winter break when he had voted for the first time.

"As much as there will be opposition against that, I feel that it will come to it." Mister Williams said. "This situation is severe, especially if Headmaster Dumbledore ignored a child confessing abuse to him. There is no excuse good enough that we or the Ministry will accept for such a decision."

"He'll say that it was to keep me safe. That they were my last living blood relatives and that I was better off with them, but, again this is just my own opinion, but given what I've found out since my adoption, and how much I've learned, I feel that it was to keep me out of the magical world. To keep me ignorant of my own birthright while the Headmaster ruled my estate and both of my lordships in my name."

Mister Williams made some quick notes. "He will be asked about this as well, I assure you. Is there anything else you'd like to add that comes to mind, Lord Potter-Black?"

Harry shook his head. "No. Thank you for listening to me."

Lucius' hand flexed on his back for a moment, as if he wanted to say or do something but wouldn't in public.

"There is no need to thank us given what you've been through with that man." Madam Portist sniffed disdainfully.

"All the same, I am grateful that you've taken the time to listen to me. I'm not used to people believing me when I mention the abuse I suffered through."

Lucius' arm tucked around him this time, holding him in a sideways hug.

"We believe you, Lord Potter-Black." Mister William's told him firmly. "We will investigate these allegations on your behalf. If Headmaster Dumbledore tries anything in between, please, contact your father and he will inform us of it and we can add those transgressions to the list."

"Thank you." Harry said sincerely, standing and holding out a hand. Mister Williams shook it.

Lucius was beside him, leading him out of the Ministry office they had used as an interview room, and Harry was grateful for the support as Lucius hid him from view as they strode together through the atrium.

"Do you want to go back to school or do you want to go home for a little while?" Lucius asked him.

"Home." Harry said shortly.

Lucius nodded, not calling him out on his brusqueness. Harry took a handful of floo powder, called out for Malfoy Manor, and then stepped in.

When Lucius flooed in moments after him, Harry was waiting for him and he burrowed in, cuddling, trembling.

"I understand that that was very difficult for you." Lucius said softly.

Harry nodded, swallowing, his throat feeling far too tight.

"Come along."

Harry was pulled to the parlour, where Narcissa was sitting stiffly. She softened and sprang to her feet as they walked in, and she embraced him tightly, ushering him to the settee.

"How are you feeling, darling?" She asked him, brushing the hair from his face and cupping his cheek.

"A little overwrought." Harry said, his voice trembling. "I'm not used to mentioning the…my past living situation, nor Dumbledore's part in it. I want him gone from my life, though. It had to be done."

"You conducted yourself very well." Lucius praised him, pressing a hand to his head and then turning. "Pimsey."

"Master calls for Pimsey?" The little house-elf said, curtseying.

"Tea for three." Lucius said, not even looking at the poor creature, but neither was he as belligerent towards her as he had been just several months ago. They might not think it, but Harry was having an effect upon them, as much as they were on him.

Pimsey was back in the blink of an eye and Lucius set everything up and poured a cup for his wife and for Harry, and then himself.

Harry accepted his cup gratefully, sipping on the hot tea and letting it soothe him.

"You are safe here." Narcissa told him gently. "We would never hurt you. We love you, Harry and we're proud of you. You deserve this justice for all that you've suffered in your life."

That was all it took before Harry started crying. It was just too much emotional upheaval after his session yesterday with Healer Vasey.

Narcissa held him and rocked him, murmuring softly, but Harry didn't hear any words over his own messy sobbing.

It didn't take him long before he calmed down and he was given his tea again. He sipped it with trembling hands, but he was calming now and the release of emotion, while shocking, still felt good.

"The governors will now compile all the evidence against Dumbledore and his reputation will not survive it. Neither will his position of Headmaster." Lucius said.

Harry nodded, but he was feeling tired and drained. A little spacey and unaware. He brought the teacup up to his mouth and drank.

Narcissa reached out slowly with her handkerchief, letting Harry see her, before she gently dabbed his tight, sore-feeling eyes, tracing the tear tracks down his cheeks and to his chin.

"When you head back, Harry, do not let him know what this meeting was about. I don't want him to be overly prepared for the inquest. Let him think that it was to do with the suspension threat."

Harry nodded. "I hope he doesn't even speak to me. I know he will, but I am not in the mood."

Harry's voice was hoarse and rough, but his words were understandable, at least.

"I want you to stay here for a while, until you feel more yourself." Narcissa said sternly. "I will not send you back to school in such a state, you need comfort."

"Okay." He said softly, sounding, even to himself, a little fragile.

"Oh, sweetheart." Narcissa sighed, shuffling closer and pulling him back into a hug.

"I'll be okay." Harry assured her. "Just…with the session with Healer Vasey yesterday, it was a little much for me to handle all at once."

"No one minds you needing a little time to centre yourself after such things."

"I didn't like the thought of seeing a mind healer. I suppose that's my own bias against it after years of the Dursleys saying that only crazy people need to see one, I just…it wasn't until I actually went and got some things off my chest that I realised that I do need it. I do need to talk it all through with someone impartial. It is helping, but it leaves me feeling emotionally raw, so scheduling the meeting today was perhaps a little too much for one weekend."

"You won't have to do it again." Lucius assured him. "Though, it is likely that this issue will be debated through the Wizengamot, or even through the Court of Magical Law if it reaches trial. You may have to defend yourself again, if it comes to it. But the positive side of that is, naturally, you will be free of Dumbledore once and for all."

"I'm willing to do it." Harry said firmly. "It's upsetting thinking about that time of my life, worse still to speak about it, but…but I can do it."

"You have your family now, darling." Narcissa told him. "We will be behind you, we will support you in everything you need us to, whether it is getting Dumbledore out of your life, through your law changes and trials, or even just through your therapy, we will be here. Rabastan will be here for you. Would you like to see Rabastan for a few hours?"

Harry sniffed a little, rubbing his sore eyes with his sleeve before he nodded.

"I will go and collect him." Lucius said, standing, while Narcissa tutted over Harry using his sleeves to mop up his face, utilising her handkerchief again to dab at his eyes.

"It might not feel like it, Harry, but this pain you are going through, it is healing." Narcissa told him. "You're healing from the pain of your past and you should feel comfortable to let that poison out. Us purebloods might seem stuffy and uptight, but that is only a public persona. If you need to cry, or scream, or rage in the privacy of your home, it will be fully encouraged. We only know a small fraction of what you have suffered through, and even that, I feel, deserves your rage and upset, without knowing the full scale of what you went through."

Harry swallowed and looked at the carpet. "It was…I…I kept it secret for so long. It's difficult for me to share anything about it."

"We understand, darling, we really do. We want what is best for you, but we know that holding that poison to yourself is not healthy. We just want you to be able to move on, Harry, to be happy and healthy, with the justice you deserve."

"I'm working on it." Harry said softly.

Narcissa smiled at him. "We know, we can see you working so hard for yourself and we're so proud, but I also want you to know that we're here to support you as well. Not every day or every session you go to is going to be easy and we understand, Harry. If you need to cry, or even shout and scream, we will understand."

Harry stayed snuggled with Narcissa until the parlour door opened again and Rabastan came into the room, looking worried. Harry gave him a smile.

Narcissa pulled back a little, calling Pimsey for more tea as Rabastan sat beside him and Harry hugged him tightly.

"Lucius said that you were in need of comfort after the weekend you've had."

Harry hummed. "I could use a lot of comfort. Not only was the meeting with the governors hard, but…but my therapy session was also."

Rabastan held him tighter, a large hand stroking up and down his back, his chin resting on the top of Harry's head. Harry breathed in and out slowly, calming, taking the comfort that Rabastan offered. He was feeling calmer…and less like he wanted to burst out crying.

"Harry, have a fresh cup of tea." Narcissa said, passing Rabastan a cup and saucer for him. There was a bar of chocolate next to the spoon and Harry chuckled, even as he accepted it.

"Thank you, Mother."

It was what he needed. To sit calmly, with those he loved, sipping a hot cup of tea and nibbling on chocolate. It wasn't going to be every week that he had a meeting with the governors to oust Dumbledore from Hogwarts. It wasn't even going to be every week that he met with Healer Vasey. It was just bad luck that he'd had both on the same weekend.

He was happy to sit and listen as Rabastan recounted what he'd done since they had last seen one another, including another private healer visit that had resulted in him cutting down yet again on his daily potion regime. Harry was so pleased for him that it had almost set him off crying again, but that weekend had been overall very emotional for him and he was still feeling fragile, so the exceptional news had made him tear up again.

He had stayed for dinner, but after, he had said his goodbyes and then he went back to the school to catch Draco up on everything that had happened during homework club. He was feeling better and calmer and with some luck the governors could do as they said and get Dumbledore out of the school. Once that happened, and Dumbledore's reputation was in tatters, then they would start on the work they needed to get him into Azkaban. From there…they could kill him.


Harry was glad that Lucius had investigated the level of homework they had been getting because if the workload he had at the moment was considerably lightened, then he feared what it would have been like without the governors' interference.

Draco was worse than he was, ill-tempered and snappish, even Astoria had started giving him a little more space.

Harry was trying to juggle so much, to keep on top of everything, and it was a struggle. He was making time for his charities. He was working on his law reform, though for as often as he was going through it, he was changing very little with every do-over. He was translating Ancient Laws and Customs as quickly as he could, keeping a running notation of exactly what needed to be changed or just struck out completely. He had his homework too, but homework club every evening really knocked a dent in the pile of work they were getting. They could help one another out as they all had different strengths. Harry could help with Defence Against the Dark Arts and he could even help with Ancient Runes now, which was amazing given that he had needed tutoring and was newest to the subject. Draco was their go-to for Potions and Herbology. Pansy was the best at Transfiguration, Blaise was better than all of them with Arithmancy, and Theo was their expert in Charms. Everything else, they could pool their knowledge together and get their homework done relatively quickly.

Harry still had his Head Boy duties on top of everything else, and his duty to the Quidditch team as their Captain. Their next match wasn't until March, which gave Harry a little under two months to prepare his team, and himself. Gryffindor were currently second on points to Ravenclaw after their victory against Slytherin back in November. Ravenclaw had steamrollered Hufflepuff and were winning on points. Ravenclaw faced Slytherin next, in February. Harry was planning to wear his new Slytherin apparel for the game, the ones that Draco had given him for his seventeenth birthday.

It was a lot to deal with and Harry had had a permanent headache for a week now. He was taking on too much and he'd barely found the time to write to Rabastan, who, far from being upset, had sent him a present in the middle of the week. It was unexpected and odd, Rabastan didn't usually send gifts so as to not draw attention to them, he would instead slip something into the monthly care packages that Narcissa sent both him and Draco, so receiving the large box of expensive chocolates out of the blue had made him smile. A much-needed distraction from everything else that was going on and Harry believed that they were a gift for getting through the difficult therapy and the governor's meeting all in one weekend. He had taken to eating a couple of them every evening, with a cup of tea while he did his homework. Now, if only Harry could get rid of the permanent headache…he couldn't even take a potion for it thanks to Marcus' runes carved into his throat.

It was as he was eating breakfast on Friday the twenty-third of January when the rings of his fingers heated up.

Harry cursed colourfully, getting looks from those around him.

"What is it? A Wizengamot meeting?" Draco asked him.

Harry nodded, even as he abandoned his breakfast, drank down his small glass of milk like it was a shot of potion, and grabbed his book bag.

"You haven't eaten much." Draco fretted.

Harry shook his head. "There's nothing for it, Draco, I can't be late. Please get notes for me. A bloody Friday, of all days!"

"Of course I will, just make sure you're on time and that you eat a bigger lunch."

"Depending on what this is, and how long it takes, I might stay at home for lunch." Harry said. "You know that mother won't let me get away with not eating properly."

That eased Draco down, at least, and he nodded, watching as Harry gathered up his bookbag that he'd just packed.

"Take care of yourself and be careful."

"I will." Harry assured him. "Just take notes for me and I'll catch up what I can at homework club tonight."

Harry hurried back to his room on the fourth floor. He entered and threw the bag onto the settee and then stripped off his school uniform and grappled for the neatly pressed robes hung on the back of his wardrobe door.

He dressed quickly and made sure that he was accessorised a little with cufflinks, the silver and dragonhide bracelet that was one of his first gifts from Rabastan, and his coming-of-age pocket watch.

Harry took a deep breath, touched his rings and he apparated to the Ministry, mentally preparing himself for what was to come.

He entered the Wizengamot meeting room sedately and he milled around, greeting those lords he knew and respected.

"Lord Potter-Black, how are you?"

It was Danforth Longbottom who had greeted him and Harry smiled genuinely.

"I'm well." He insisted. "Yourself?"

"Perfectly fine." The old lord told him, smiling genially. "I do hope that you haven't allowed your last meeting to influence any of your thoughts."

Harry shook his head. "No. I re-wrote my magical creature law reform and it has doubled in size. I was upset at the last meeting, I won't try to deny it. I was upset with witnessing such a miscarriage of law, but all it did was spur me to carry on, to try harder, to do better and I hope I've done that."

"I have heard on the gossip vine that that reform is very close to being submitted." Danforth said.

Harry had to force himself not to nibble on his lip. To not show any of his usual signs of uncertainty or anxiety.

"That's correct." Harry said softly. "I had hoped it would be ready for the New Year, but given the need to completely re-write it after our last meeting back in November, it has taken a little longer. I am hopeful now that it'll be submitted before Easter."

"What is this?" A new voice asked from behind him.

Harry suppressed the flinch and he kept his smile in place through hours of practice. It was only Lord Dawson Shacklebolt, but still, Harry wasn't overly fond of anyone coming up behind him.

"Did I overhear correctly that your reform will be submitted before Easter?" He asked.

Harry gave a small nod. "You heard correctly. I was originally delayed through a desperate need to re-write the entire proposal, but that is now finished and…truthfully, it's ready." He told them both. "I am dithering over it, as my father would say. My inherent need to make sure that it's perfect the first time is holding it back, but…but it is very close to being submitted. I am nervous in truth, but if it doesn't pass, then I'll just keep tweaking and submitting it until it is."

"You truly are an amazing young man." Lord Dawson told him.

"I agree." Lord Danforth nodded.

"Well, we'll see what happens once that reform is submitted." Harry waved away.

Harry didn't have to endure any more talk, as Runcorn entered swiftly and Harry said his goodbyes and quickly slipped away, to seat himself between Xerxes and Lucius as the rest of the room did the same.

"How are you feeling, Harry?" Lucius asked.

"Well enough."

"You look stressed." Xerxes put in helpfully.

"I am stressed. More than I'm letting on, but I can deal with it. I'm just juggling a lot at the moment."

"I would like to call this meeting to order." Runcorn called out. "I am aware that it's early, but I would like your full attention."

That was a warning to a small group on the other side of the table who had been muttering, rather loudly, between themselves while Runcorn had been speaking.

Runcorn snapped several sheaves of parchment on the table in front of him and then laid them down flat.

"Several children have been killed in the last twenty-four hours." Runcorn said dramatically and Harry's heart missed a beat…from the angry snarls and gasps of horror, he wasn't the only one to feel soul deep shock and sadness either.

"How is this possible?" Lucius demanded. "How have these children been killed?"

"Yesterday, it was believed that they had died of colds."

That didn't sound right to Harry. Even young babies got and survived colds.

"All the children affected live in the same magical village and it is known that they passed this cold to one another. In the last hour, however, it has come to light that it wasn't the illness that killed them, but a batch of botched pepper-up potions that all of them had been administered."

Harry felt sick as he thought of young children, clearly under eleven as they weren't old enough for Hogwarts, being killed by the very potion that was supposed to make them well again.

"How has this happened?" Xerxes demanded, and he wasn't the only one to say something along the same lines, all of their angry voices blending together into noise.

"Calm yourselves." Runcorn called out, though he was clearly as angered by this as the rest of them. "At this present moment, we do not know who is responsible for this heinous tragedy."

"Chief Warlock?" Harry called out softly, once he was certain that Runcorn had stopped speaking and everyone else was still muttering angrily.

"The room recognises Lord Potter-Black." Runcorn called out.

"You mentioned that all of the pepper-up potions were from the same batch, can that batch be traced back to where they were brewed? I'm concerned that there are more affected potions that could be ingested and it is my opinion that we would all feel more reassured if the batch was traced and removed for public safety."

It didn't need to be said that the death toll would rise if that was the case, but it was the biggest fear here.

"I will send an immediate memo." Runcorn announced, clearly as worried about that as Harry was.

"That was a very good contribution." Xerxes told him.

Harry gave him a small frown. "You don't have to praise me for every little thing." He assured the other man.

Xerxes shook his head. "That wasn't what it was." Xerxes' hand came to rest on his shoulder, squeezing gently. "No one else thought of there being more of those botched potions being given to children. The last thing anyone wants is more dead children from this debacle."

"Xerxes is correct. We need to stop this issue immediately, at the source." Lucius added. "Imagine that, as we sit here debating and arguing, more of those potions are prescribed to ill children and they died as a result."

"That was my first thought." Harry said softly. "That there might be more of those potions stocked somewhere, but what I really want to know is who is responsible for this and was it purposeful. Has someone purposefully targeted small children in such a horrific way to terrorise parents? Is it an accident? It's why I asked that the batch of potions be traced back to their origin…and to who brewed them. I'm afraid to admit that I'm completely ignorant of where potions come from or how they're stocked."

"Well, Saint Mungo's brews and stores its own potions." Xerxes told him. "As the only magical hospital in the country, they employ a vast number of potion masters to brew their personal stores and sometimes, if there is an outbreak, they will offer out contracts for additional supplies of potions."

"But small, magical communities like this village will be supplied by an independent clinic." Lucius added. "There are several companies who employ potion masters and they are the ones who brew for these clinics, and will take the contracts that Saint Mungo's offer if needed as well. If a batch of potion has been botched it would have likely come from one of these companies."

"Unless someone at the clinic that supplied this village tampered with the potions." Harry pointed out.

"That is a possibility as well." Xerxes agreed. "These potions will have to be traced back, through every person who so much as touched the vial, to find where the corruption entered. Dead children, what is our world coming to?"

Harry didn't point out that Voldemort, Xerxes' lord, had targeted him as an infant barely over a year old. He knew to keep his mouth shut about such personal things in these halls, where their words were recorded for reference. He did find it highly hypocritical, though.

Runcorn was done writing his memo and several people watched as he tapped the purple paper with his wand, which folded itself into an aeroplane and zoomed out of the room.

"We will need to decide how to proceed." Runcorn told them once he had their attention. "Lord Potter-Black has, rightfully, put a block into place by bringing our attention to the remaining potions of this deadly batch. The Law Enforcers are already tracing the batch back to the company who brewed it and ideally, to the one responsible as well."

"The one responsible for this should face trial."

Harry agreed with that sentiment. An accident or purposeful, several children were still dead and whoever was responsible for that had to answer for it. It would be a prison sentence, Harry already knew that, but whether it was for a couple of years or for life, that was going to be the debate here. Harry just hoped that it had been an accident, that it hadn't been a purposeful choice to target ill children. He swallowed back the bile in his churning stomach. He couldn't fathom someone actively choosing to target ill children to murder in such a horrific way.

"It will be an Azkaban sentence for all of those responsible for this." Runcorn agreed. "I like to believe that I know all of you in this room rather well, and we will take a vote to make it official, but I would be disappointed in all of you if the perpetrator, or perpetrators for this crime were not sentenced to Azkaban."

Harry suddenly got a few looks, some side-eyes, as if these people thought that he might be the block in their plans, as if he was the obstacle to get over, but in this, at least, Harry agreed that a sentence to Azkaban was the best, lawful, decision in this case. He would not be the one to argue against it, he would be a forerunner in making sure that the perpetrator was brought to justice and that was going to be a stint in Azkaban. It wouldn't bring back those dead children, but Harry hoped it would bring their families some small measure of peace that justice had been upheld and the one who was responsible had been punished.

"Would anyone like to start the debate?" Runcorn asked, cutting through the sudden muttering and sly glances at Harry.

"I would." Lord Manton Lawson spoke up, his eyes red-rimmed and he was looking distinctly dishevelled. "My nephew…" He had to stop to clear his throat before he tried to speak again. "My nephew was a victim of this botched potion." He told them, his voice wavering and his eyes threatening tears. "My youngest sister, Malia, it was her son, her only child, taken from the world, gasping and clutching his throat. He was two."

Harry felt his own tears threaten as he listened to the horrific story.

"We are all very sorry for your loss, Lord Lawson. Please, tell us in your own words what happened." Runcorn said delicately.

Lord Lawson, who was Milo Lawson's father, looked unable to speak. He mouthed for a moment, before managing to collect himself.

"Malia is married to Lucian Bole…" Here Lord Lawson shared a look with Lord Broderick Bole who was sitting stiffly in the chair next to him.

"Lucian is my only son." Broderick said, looking shell-shocked, ghost-pale and wide-eyed. "Frederick was his only child, my only grandchild and the continuation of my line. A two-year-old child. We had to watch him…we watched him die. There was nothing that could be done to rectify the damage the botched potion had already done to his body. We had to sit at his bedside, as he cried for us to help him, and we could do nothing. We watched him die. Regardless of who is at fault, for whatever reason, I, at least, will fight for the full force of the law. I will tell you now that my vote will be for life imprisonment."

"As will mine." Lord Lawson said, a tear cutting down his cheek that no one mentioned.

Harry remembered Lucian Bole from Hogwarts. He had been on the Slytherin Quidditch team, one of their Beaters. He had graduated in 1995, though they hadn't played Quidditch that year because of the Tri-wizard tournament.

Harry swallowed hard at the thought of Lucian losing his son. A two-year-old. His eyes burned with the effort to keep his tears from falling. He couldn't imagine such a horror and he had to swallow again, trying to get the lump down.

"Would anyone else like to add anything?" Runcorn asked into the silence of the room, looking at them all expectantly.

Harry felt like he couldn't speak, his throat was too tight, his stomach in knots. They were debating over dead children…even the thought of it was enough to make him feel violently ill.

"I would like to add something."

"The room recognises Lord Kabir Patil." Runcorn announced.

"It is my opinion that this debate is premature. Before I make any step towards imprisonment or punishment, I would like to first know if the one responsible did this purposefully or accidentally."

Harry had been thinking along the same lines, but he would never have said it. Not today, not with the harrowing story that Lord Bole and Lord Lawson had just told them about a dead two-year-old. He would have waited until he had more information and then argued for life imprisonment or a set term of a few years.

"You wouldn't be saying that if it had been your grandson!" Came the predictable, enraged response from Lord Bole.

Emotions were running too high, any argument against life imprisonment would be met with vitriol and scorn by Lord Bole and Lord Lawson. Harry had seen it coming a mile off. He tried to calm his breathing, to regain control of himself as the room devolved into arguing and screaming and Runcorn tried to call them to order, but was ignored.

Lucius shifted forward, an arm out as if to protect Harry sat beside him from anything that was thrown, but it wasn't a physical object, it would be verbal if it came. It made Harry smile for a moment, that Lucius would try to protect him from any verbal barbs aimed at him, but the reason why they were there that morning wiped his smile away rather quickly. He couldn't imagine the pain those families were currently going through.

"Please, if we could all allow one another to speak in turn." Runcorn tried to call out, trying not to be as undignified as to shout, but the ambient noise in the room was at a dull roar and he could hardly be heard.

Harry's headache, which hadn't abated for the past week, throbbed at his temples and he ground his teeth together to deal with the sudden stabbing pain.

"This is getting us nowhere." Harry said, not needing to conceal his words as only Xerxes and Lucius were close enough to hear him.

"It is a very undignified loss of control." Xerxes allowed. "Within this room, as well." He added, shaking his head.

"Surely the Chief Warlock can't allow this to continue?" Harry asked. "It'll come to duelling next."

"I fear that you might be right." Lucius said and he shifted a fraction further forward in his seat…Harry blinked. Perhaps Lucius had realised that this argument might spill over to duelling before he had, and that was why he was shielding Harry with his own body, in the case of a stray curse.

"Chief Warlock?" Harry called out, his young voice gaining the man's attention, over the shouting and screaming of grown men. "Perhaps a recess so that we can all regain control of our emotions?" He offered, as if he, too, had engaged in screaming, shouting, and vulgar words within the meeting room.

Runcorn looked at him a moment, before looking back to Lords Bole and Lawson, who were both red-faced and standing, squaring up to, not just Lord Patil, but also Lord Martin Macmillan, Lord Luke Brown, and Lord Eugene Abbott. Runcorn shook his head, knowing that he'd well and truly lost control of the room.

"Lords, madams, gentlemen!" Runcorn called out, his wand held to his throat to amplify his voice, which was, at least, better than shouting. "We will be taking a recess of ten minutes and when we come back into this room, decorum will be held onto! There will be no shouting, no cursing, no grandstanding, and no offers of a duel within this room! Kindly remember that you are esteemed members of the Wizengamot and refrain from such base behaviour."

His warning delivered, the wand was taken from his throat and Runcorn sat back down, clearly indicating that he would remain in his seat.

Lord Bole strode out of the room, followed quickly by Lord Lawson as they clearly needed the time granted to calm themselves. If Harry had just lost a grandchild then he wouldn't have even bothered coming into what was essentially 'work', he would have either sent his proxy or just not turned up and taken the flack for it later. He would like to see the person who said anything on the matter to his face because he would abandon magic altogether and start throwing fists.

The room was more sedate once everyone had retaken their seats, barring those who had left to calm down. Harry subtly raised two fingers to circle his left temple, which was pounding in time to his heartbeat.

"Headache?" Xerxes asked him.

Harry hummed. "I've had it for a week now, maybe a little longer, I don't remember, but of course, the headache relievers don't touch it."

Both Xerxes and Lucius knew that he couldn't take any potions because of Marcus' runes and they both sent him sympathetic looks.

"Perhaps a relaxing bath and then an early night, Harry." Lucius offered. "Have a night off from homework and extracurricular activities."

Harry hummed again. "Maybe I will. It's Friday. I'll have to catch up with the work I've missed today, but Draco is always willing to help me with it. If I can get that done tonight, then maybe I'll just take the weekend for myself."

"I believe that'll be the smartest thing you could do." Xerxes told him.

"I am, at the least, pleased to hear that Draco is helping you to achieve your goals."

"We help each other, Father." Harry insisted. "I'm still top of the year in both Defence and Ancient Runes. Draco has everyone beat in Potions, though. No one is going to take that spot from him, he's had it since our first year."

Lucius tried to control the prideful twist to his lips, but Harry caught it and smiled. It felt good to know that Lucius, a parental figure, was proud of both him and Draco.

"Tell Draco to take some more time to rest. I know you have extra duties given that you are Head Boy, but this is your final year and it will be your most stressful and you are coming up to your exams as well. I would like to know that you are both eating and sleeping."

Harry managed a hushed chuckle. "We are both eating and sleeping. I even managed to drink some water yesterday."

Xerxes chuckled.

"Your sense of humour needs some improvement." Lucius deadpanned.

Harry had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. All it took to wipe away the humour was the door opening and Lord Bole and Lord Lawson coming back into the room. Lord Bole had been crying or Harry was no judge. He didn't hold it against the other man. Harry didn't think anyone was so callous as to hold it against him.

"This meeting has reconvened at nineteen minutes past ten on the morning of the twenty-third of January." Runcorn called out officially.

Runcorn puttered about with papers and stamps for a moment, before looking up at all of them in the meeting room.

"Would anyone like to restart this debate?"

"I stand by what I said previously." Lord Patil said firmly. "We need more information before we can decide on a suitable punishment."

"I believe…" Harry spoke up gently before the room could devolve into the arguments of ten minutes prior. "…that we should be debating if anyone is against a sentence to Azkaban once the perpetrator is uncovered and not on what term might be given."

"I suppose you are against sentencing to Azkaban?!" Lord Bole demanded of him.

"Not at all, Lord Bole." Harry insisted. "But as Lord Patil has pointed out, we cannot properly set out a sentence until we know the perpetrator's motives. For example, I will be entirely in favour of a life sentence if it comes to light that whoever is responsible for this horrendous tragedy did so purposefully and with the intent to kill mere children. It is my own opinion that we need more information on this crime first, but I assure you, I am not debating against a sentence to Azkaban, I am merely directing a question to the room, is anyone here against an Azkaban sentence with the limited information we currently have?"

Lucius gave a small pat to his thigh, a non-verbal signal that Harry had done something right and he was proud. It was a good question, a way for the room to continue this debate without the useless fighting. Harry had given them all a way to continue forward without the emotions or the arguing.

"I would speak."

"The room recognises Madam Valerie Wilkes, Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sport." Runcorn said begrudgingly.

Harry hated Madam Wilkes as well. The frizzy-haired bitch who had voted against him with Fudge and Umbridge when he'd been given a full trial, illegally, over his use of underaged magic back when he was fifteen. She had always been against him and he hadn't worked out why yet, but she never missed a chance to belittle him, demean him, or use his age against him. She had once tried to use his age to get him thrown out of a Wizengamot meeting.

Most of those within the room would immediately disregard everything that she said too, and not because she was a woman, but because she was muggleborn and only had a seat within the Wizengamot on a technicality…as she happened to be the head of a Ministry department.

"This might have been a complete accident." She tried to cajole them. "You are all speaking of Azkaban as if it is the lightest sentence we can dole out, but what about Ministry lock-ups?" She asked.

"Madam." Harry spoke up when it looked like everyone else was too stunned to speak. "An accident or not, there are several dead children here." He told her, taking deep pleasure that he had been granted the opportunity to shut her up. "Whether it was purposeful, accidental, or even through negligence, a mere apology will not bring those children back and in my opinion, this terrible crime deserves a sentence to Azkaban. For me, there is no question about it and the only true question is how long that sentence should…"

"A sentence to Azkaban…"

"I am speaking, Madam." Harry cut back in "Please wait until I am done before expressing your own opinion."

Harry heard Xerxes holding back a chuckle…truly, Xerxes was like a big kid during these meetings compared to how stoic and composed he showed himself to the public.

"The opinions of all within this room will be respected at all times." Runcorn chided. "Members will wait until the one speaking is done before speaking themselves. Lord Potter-Black, please continue."

"As I was saying, I believe that a sentence to Azkaban is warranted in this situation and the only true question we should be asking, once we have more information, is how long that sentence should be, whether a set term or a life sentence depending on the motives of the perpetrator involved."

"This is what I was trying to convey earlier." Lord Kabir Patil spoke up before Madam Wilkes could do so. "I am not averse to an Azkaban sentence, but I believe, like Lord Potter-Black, that we need more information before handing down any sort of sentence."

"It is my own opinion that a sentence to Azkaban is too harsh…"

"My grandson is dead!" Lord Bole said, trembling with rage, his hands clenched into fists on top of the table. "My two-year-old grandson, the continuation of my line, dead because of this unknown person's actions! In my opinion, Azkaban is too lenient!"

Harry noticed that Runcorn did not chastise Lord Bole for cutting over Madam Wilkes. There was bias in this room. Everyone knew it, but it was unspoken. The Neutrals among them could expect this sort of double standard, where they were held to the full etiquette of the room, but the Ancients, and even the New Men, the Lords and Ladies that sat the table, were not. Not unless it was another Lord, or occasionally Lady, who called them out.

"Would anyone like to advance the debate?" Runcorn asked once the room had been silent for a touch too long. Everyone was discomforted by Lord Bole's outburst.

No one spoke, the room remained silent with a strange, heavy tension overlaying it. It was almost oppressive.

"Then we will vote on this matter until we have more information." Runcorn told them. "Those in favour of an Azkaban sentence."

Harry reached and gripped his wand, pointing it into the air. They had the majority by a very large margin.

"Those against a sentence to Azkaban." Runcorn asked.

Only a handful of wands went up to the ceiling.

"Has anyone declined to vote at this time?" Runcorn asked.

A few more wands went into the air, but Harry believed that they were merely waiting for the full information before voting either way.

"As a preliminary vote, this decision is not yet final." Runcorn told them. "But as the count stands, the decision of this body is to sentence to Azkaban. I will recall you all once the relevant information has come to light. For now, we are all dismissed."

Harry didn't rush to get up. Instead, he sat and absorbed the confident feeling he had gained once again in this room. It felt good. Powerful. He liked the feeling and he certainly wanted more of this feeling, as opposed to feeling like a failure.

Both Lucius and Xerxes had voted with him, though this was hardly the sort of test that would break them apart, not like the previous meeting. Harry would need a test of that calibre before he truly settled and believed their words of support. He had expected them both to vote in favour of Azkaban and indeed a life sentence as it was every lord's nightmare to lose the 'next generation' of the family. They would have both put themselves in Lord Bole's shoes and would have happily gone for the highest sentence. But for now, he would take whatever small victory he could, with whatever support he could get, and use it to bolster his confidence. It felt good to get back on track.

"Harry, let us reconvene at home where we will be more comfortable." Lucius told him.

"I am getting hungry." Harry confessed. "The alert came before I could finish my breakfast…in fact, I had barely gotten started."

Lucius looked at him worriedly, a small dip down his body as if Lucius could see him wasting away before his eyes, and a protective hand was laid over his shoulder.

"Then let us get you home so that we can have an early lunch." Lucius insisted.

Harry was led through the room, past gathered groups of other Wizengamot members, some of whom congratulated his prose and his stance. Harry nodded to them in thanks, but he carried on walking.

It didn't take them long to get to the atrium, nor to reach the floo banks. Harry took a pinch of floo powder and threw it into the flames, turning them green, before taking a breath, stepping in and calling out for Malfoy Manor.

He felt like he could breathe again, though his headache had only gotten worse with the floo travel. He made his way to the parlour, where Narcissa was sitting, reading a book. Rabastan and Rodolphus were there, waiting, talking softly to one another, though Rabastan smiled when he saw him.

"Harry." He greeted, standing, but his mother got there first, having abandoned her book and she came to hug him and fuss about his hair and collar.

"How are you feeling, darling?" She asked him, cupping both his cheeks and angling his head up so that she could make clear eye contact with him.

"I've got a headache, but I can't do anything about it because of the runes." He groused, wrapping his arms back around Narcissa and hugging her for a little longer.

Narcissa gave his brow a kiss before chiding him over to Rabastan. Harry happily fell into his fiancé's arms.

"Pimsey." Narcissa called out. "Tea for six."

Harry sat down with Rabastan and kicked off his shiny shoes, curling his legs up as he snuggled.

Narcissa was pouring tea for them all when Lucius and Xerxes entered together.

"Thank you, dear." Lucius said gratefully, as he accepted the teacup handed to him, kissing Narcissa's cheek.

"How was the meeting?" Rodolphus asked, looking at how weary they all looked.

Harry shook his head. "It's a bad one." He admitted.

"Several dead magical children due to a botched potion." Lucius informed, shaking his head.

"What a terrible tragedy!" Narcissa exclaimed. "I am glad that we always had Severus to personally make any potions for Draco."

"I think, after this, I will always ask Draco to make any potions for our future children." Harry admitted. "I couldn't imagine taking my sick child to a clinic, getting them a potion to make them better, only for it to kill them."

Rabastan's arms squeezed around him tight and Harry could feel the tremble of fear and anger go through his fiancé as he clearly imagined just that scenario.

"Broderick Bole has lost his grandson." Xerxes informed them.

"Isn't the boy only a year old?" Rodolphus asked.

"His second birthday was seven weeks ago." Xerxes replied. "I remember being shown the photographs. Broderick was so proud of how well the boy was growing."

Harry swallowed around his tight throat.

"Harry, I know you want to argue the length of imprisonment based on motive, but…I understand where Broderick, and Manton too, are coming from. If that was my only grandchild, yours and Rabastan's first child killed…Broderick is correct, Azkaban is too lenient."

"I understand where you're coming from." Harry said, nodding. "I was mostly using my prose to gather supporters within the meeting room. As I said, I am not averse to a life sentence over this tragedy, but I wanted to stop the arguing and the threat of violence by suggesting a solution that could appease both sides…well, those who voted against Azkaban won't like my stance, but they were in the vast minority."

Xerxes growled. "They shouldn't allow people like that to become Wizengamot members! A loophole! A mere technicality!"

"A mudblood?" Rodolphus asked, earning a glare from Harry.

"Not in my house, Rodolphus." Narcissa warned and despite that she looked prim and proper, daintily holding the fragile china teacup between her finger and thumb, she could, and would, curse Rodolphus into a babbling mess if need be.

"I apologise, Narcissa. Harry." Rodolphus said, but he clearly didn't mean his words. Harry rolled his eyes. Every family had one.

"She's the same woman who has a grudge against me." Harry said. "You remember the one I told you about, who tried to get me expelled from Hogwarts when I was fifteen over the use of underage magic? She was sucking Fudge's dick or I'm no judge."

"Harry!" Narcissa exploded, having knocked her teacup and spilt her tea over her hand and the saucer.

Harry heard Rabastan stifling a chuckle and Rodolphus didn't bother hiding it, as he reached over and ruffled Harry's hair, none too gently either. Rabastan shoved his brother off him, but Harry gave an unapologetic shrug.

"I am sorry, Mother, but I believe my words to be true. Her and Umbridge did everything that Fudge wanted and Madam Wilkes actually looked at Fudge before casting her vote to expel me! She has an even bigger grudge now that I was the one instrumental in getting Fudge fired. You know that she once tried to get me thrown out of a meeting because I was sixteen and it was a school night?"

"Oh, that's right." Lucius said, chuckling.

"That doesn't excuse your incredibly vulgar insinuations!" Narcissa told him, having waved her wand to clean up the spillage.

"Even if they are true?" Harry asked, smiling, watching as Narcissa's stern frown flickered and she fought to keep from smiling herself.

"Even if you had witnessed as such personally!" She insisted.

Harry shuddered in horror. "Mother, did you have to put that thought into my head?"

"You are the one who brought it up, darling." Narcissa pointed out.

"A line has been drawn." Lucius insisted. "Let us move on."

It was nice, having some time to reconnect with those he loved. He stayed for a big lunch, Narcissa fussing over him and how much he ate once she had been told that Harry had near enough skipped out on breakfast thanks to the early meeting.

He had only missed two subjects, a double period of Ancient Runes and Potions. He would be back in his afternoon lessons, so he would have less to catch up on and his planned weekend of relaxation was actually looking very likely. He still had to get through Transfiguration, double Arithmancy, and then for an hour that night Astronomy. If he called homework club after dinner, that gave them three hours where they could get their homework done before Astronomy, and if he could manage that then his weekend would be pretty much clear. So much so that he could even book the Quidditch pitch and hold a practice session for his team and the reserves. They had been getting by on snatched moments here or there, but a full, proper session would be great for all of them, the team morale, and Harry's stress levels. Things were starting to look up for him as he got a handle on everything that he was juggling. Now all he needed to do was keep this balance going until the exams were upon them, then pour everything he had into revising and he knew that he could get through it. His plans were almost at their fruition and he wouldn't let anything, or anyone, get in his way. Not now. Never again.