The Contract

Chapter 105

As custom dictated, the Lord and Lady's – with their unmarried children – arrived precisely on time, while those who did not have titles arrived fifteen minutes late. The House-elf proudly showed them into the drawing room. The manor was positively gleaming, you could see your own visage in some of the items. The scent of blooming flowers following you as you moved, Harry favoured the honeysuckle, it was such a sweet fragrant scent it produced and its tubular flowers bright and colourful.

The house-elf introduced the couple or family, having long since memorised them all. Either in picture, or through past association. House-elves were largely the first thing people saw or interacted with when they Apparated, Floo called or Portkey'd. The House-elves weren't just bound to their Masters, they were also bound to the property, not as in they can't leave, but they knew everything that happened and felt the wards when they were disturbed.

So, it was no surprise that Lord Aurelius' Slytherin had arrived first and foremost for the gathering. Followed closely by the Malfoy family and the Sheikh and his family, all resplendent in their beautifully tailored clothes. The Sheikh and the family kept their own sort of robes on, with more jewellery on than one strictly needed.

There was only one faux pas created, Lord William Weasley had arrived that customary fifteen minutes late. He most definitely didn't intend to cause insult, but merely forgotten that the family was beginning to gain importance through association. William 'please call me Bill' was doing his level best to lift up his family's reputation by its bootstraps and doing an admirable job and society was impressed with his efforts.

Unfortunately, one didn't wipe out generations of being 'blood traitors' in a few years. Although, considering the way the wind was sailing, it might not be a thing of significance for much longer.

Harry was almost buzzing with excitement, he wanted to be with his friends, as if he hadn't seen them just a few weeks ago in school. Longer for his friends from Egypt, true to the Sheikh's word he had used his manor in Britain to stay for the party and a few weeks afterwards. Unfortunately, it would be improper for him to do so, since he and the Lestrange family were hosting said party, and it was his duty to be introduced to everyone.

"See, look, I told you, he's betrothed to Lord Lestrange! I've said it from the very beginning! I saw it when I fitted him for new clothes." Tamara Travers hissed out to her best friend, as if the fact he was wearing Lestrange jewels meant that it was Lord Lestrange. She'd known for years, of course, ever since she created Heir Potter's first wardrobe, and Merlin, he hadn't half changed since then. He was no longer thin and gaunt, his robes fitted him expertly showing off his toned figure. "He does look good enough to eat!"

Rabastan Lestrange choked on the last sip of champagne in his glass he'd just tried to swallow. Managing to muffle it nearly entirely, so that nobody saw or heard him. Utterly baffled as to why anyone would assume it was his father that Harry was betrothed to. One glance at Harry and he had to admit, she was right, he was gorgeous, he was always dressed very well – except for the first time they saw him – and always clean and tidy. Today though? Today he was mesmerising and so utterly spellbinding beautiful. His back vest tight against his body, shirt crisp and white, black trousers, with silver trim – they used their house colours normally or any colour to 'stand out' – and his cloak had silver trim and all three of his houses crests attached.

"That's disgusting," her friend retorted sharply, whether she was talking about a possible betrothal between Harry and Corvus or her last words nobody knew, not even her friend. "And you really should refrain from gossiping about people while you're in their home." Her tone exasperated as if she'd long since grown tolerant to her best friends' stupidity.

"Not really, I mean they were betrothed when the sons were still in Azkaban, he did need a new heir before he passed away." Tamara Travers explained, oh, how she loved to gossip. "I wonder what it means now…it doesn't seem like they're going to stop the betrothal." After all the sons had been out for a good long while now.

"Heir Potter cannot marry Lord Lestrange," she sighed with strained patience, "He has to marry a second son or daughter if the family doesn't have one." Beyond exasperated, "He is Lord Potter, he has a family name to continue."

Three actually, Rabastan thought wryly, the Potter, Black and Lestrange names. It was asking a lot of someone actually. Most families were lucky to have two children, and if they were extra lucky it would be two boys. Two male heirs. Rabastan lost himself in thought, wondering what any child they would have would look like…would it take after the Black looks? Potters? Or be identical to him? or a mixture of all three families? He wanted at least one child to have green eyes, just like his betrothed…would they inherit the ability to talk to snakes? He would consider himself very lucky indeed to have two children, so that any child of his wasn't an only child.

"The first heir would be a Potter," Tamara said gleefully, "They're the older house, strictly speaking, at least here. It's a Noble and Ancient house!" the Lestrange name was just as old, but they did not have the distinguished Noble or Ancient in front of their name. "Which means two heirs at least!"

"He wasn't introduced as Lord Consort to be, he was introduced as heir Potter," her friend pointed out, he would have been introduced as Lord Consort to be, to Lord Lestrange if they had been betrothed. It was not a mistake a family such as the Lestrange's would make.

Rabastan disbelievingly shook his head, Merlin's balls, that was the sort of rumours going around these days? How many of these people were under the mistaken impression that his father – who had never expressed an interest in anyone since the death of their mother – would sudden take an interest in his boy? He silently slid by everyone, finding his father presiding over the party proceedings with grace and happiness.

Rabastan easily slotted himself in near his father, and Harry gravitated towards him unconsciously. "Are you aware of the rumours about you, father?" wondering if his father was aware or if they had been smart enough to keep it quiet around him.

Corvus stopped listening to the conversation, as he glanced at his son in confusion, "Rumours?" he queried, "Regarding what?" there were always rumours about their families, and he paid them no mind or credence.

"Your betrothal of course," Rabastan asked, his dark eyes positively gleaming with merciless delight. Grunting when he was elbowed by Harry in the stomach, "Don't tease your father!" he said in reprimand, seeing the sheer amusement wafting from Rabastan. "What Betrothal?" he couldn't help but ask curiously.

Rabastan laughed, his arm coming around Harry without realizing it, "Why yours and father's of course."

Harry's eyes widened comically, "What?" he squeaked out, before straightening up, slightly embarrassed by his slip up of composure. "People are saying what?" regaining his equilibrium with haste. Aware that people might be looking, those closest to them were listening despite their own conversations.

Corvus had his eyes closed, face lowered, looking close to facepalming, incredulity enveloping them whole. "Who is responsible for that particular rumour?" slightly aghast, his stomach turning a bit, while some wizards remarried, they didn't exactly go for someone sixty years their junior.

"Not too sure," Rabastan frowned, he still wasn't familiar with everyone yet, sure he recognised some due to the familiar looks but everyone had changed in the years he'd been in Azkaban. Judging by the age she had been a little kid when he was sentenced so it's no surprise, he didn't recognize her. "She did say something about fitting Harry for his clothes. Short brown hair in a bob."

"That would be Tamara Travers," Corvus stated unimpressed with her conduct. "I might have to find a different tailor if that's the kind of rumours she's perpetrating. I will be speaking to her father." That was with a contract to prevent her revealing information, sly thing must have gotten around it a bit. He would have respected her tenacity if it had been anything but that kind of rumour. Considering the money, she gained from his services, she'd most definitely made a big mistake.

"It doesn't matter, when the meal begins, they'll realize how wrong they were," Harry said, calming Corvus who seemed very angry over the slight. Not that Harry blamed him, it wasn't just Corvus she'd slighted with her rumours but his wife, whom Corvus still loved so very much. It was true enough, Harry was not going to be beside Corvus at the head of the table, he would be beside Rabastan as his partner just as Rodolphus and Sirius would be seated just so.

"Very true," Corvus conceded, but he definitely still had plans to speak to her father, it was either that or blacklist the family. He wasn't feeling very generous right now, and if they had not been in the middle of a party, he would have surely been showing his disproval.

"Please excuse me," Harry said, as he was gestured by his friends reluctantly leaving Rabastan and making a beeline for Draco "Come on, I want to introduce you to my friends properly!"

Draco sniffed haughtily, feeling a smidgen of jealousy over Harry's friends despite having written to them himself. "Jamal, Ahmed, Omar, Zaynah I'd like you to meet one of my best friends, Heir Draco Malfoy, son of Lucius Malfoy. Draco, these are Sheikh Abd al Alim's sons, did Norah not come?" Norah was named after her grandmother, who was much too old to socialise at parties.

"Well met," Draco said kindly, inclining his head, feeling much better after that introduction. He wasn't being replaced; he was just being introduced to another part of Harry's life.

"Well met," they replied in kind. "And no, Norah's just given birth, she's bed bound for at least a week."

Harry's eyes widened, "Again?" he hadn't even realized she was pregnant again. "What did she have?" he asked enthusiastically, making a mental note to buy something for the baby. Not surprised they'd kept it quiet; her first pregnancy had been a tremulous one, which surprised him that they'd dare to have a second.

"A girl, Akilah Norah Amal," Jamal replied, smiling it was kind of cool being an uncle. He couldn't wait until he could play with them properly, until they could run around and play hide and seek. Right now, they were both too young for that.

"You're so lucky," Harry said with a wistful smile, Draco nodding emphatically, it was true. It would have been nice to have a brother or sister growing up. "Jamal has five brothers and three sisters. He's the uncle to three boys and two girls." It was so difficult to keep up with the entire family, especially when they reuse names.

Draco's eyes widened comically; it was beyond his scope of understanding to have such a large family. The Black's used to be quite large, but he could barely remember any of them, he'd been too young when the majority of them had passed away. "That's…just wow," he said, probably the most genuine words to ever leave his mouth.

"Most of the time," Omar said dryly, grinning in a way that said he wasn't being serious, overly much.

After the introductions were over, they began to talk as if they had been friends for years. Daphne and a few other of his friends joining them. Harry felt more at peace and content than he had in a long time. All his friends under one roof, getting to talk to them all, and in the safety of Lestrange manor, he couldn't have asked for more.

Nothing could spoil his mood, or so he thought.

Draco and Daphne had their eyes narrowed over Harry's shoulder, causing the befuddled teen to look around himself. There shouldn't be anyone at the party that could cause his friends to look that way. It was one they usually held for Ronald Weasley – who was long gone from this earth – or Ginny Dumbledore formerly Weasley, who definitely wasn't here.

His own eyes narrowed into slits, displeasure surging through him, seeing witches practically fawning over a greatly amused Rabastan. He wasn't exactly actively encouraging them but he wasn't dissuading them either. Now that would not do at all. "Excuse me," he said sweetly, before he was on the move, easily slipping around people, until he got around the back of Rabastan and listened and watched.

"Oh boy," Draco murmured, watching the train wreck waiting to happen. Harry was far from meek or quiet when he felt passionate about something. In the beginning he'd been quiet, sure, but that had been the newness, pain and probably his lack of understanding of the wizarding world and its subjects. Now though, well, now he was well educated and made his opinion known. Then again, he knew better than to cause a fuss at a party, although he'd be very cutting with his words instead.

"And this is my youngest Michelle Carrow," the proud father proclaimed, he wasn't of the main family branch, merely a cousin branch. Still, even being from the cousin branch afforded him invites to best of parties. Especially considering he was preferred over the main branch, especially with the Carrow twins – he would never admit to being their uncle if nobody knew – being rather…mentally ill. Aramis had never been able to get a betrothal for either of them, added to the rather incestuous rumours between the twins. Well, it didn't help matters or the family reputation either. That's what happens when they were raised by a mother on her own without any male influence – on her own wishes at that – no they had no hope whatsoever.

"Well met," Rabastan murmured, kissing her hand as was expected of him. Amused by everyone thrusting their daughters at him. Oh, he was well aware of their thoughts, with his brother betrothed to Sirius they assume he was going to ultimately become Heir and Lord upon his fathers passing it to him or when he passed away. The kicker was, he had a damn ring on his finger that spoke of the fact he was taken…very much so. He wasn't even hiding it either, he was using it to hold their hand.

"She graduated Hogwarts with very high scores! And did her first piece of accidental magic before she was five years old!" he was practically crowing in delight. Truth was, for most people actually achieving your first piece of accidental magic by the age of five was quite good. Some didn't even show signs of magic until they received their letters.

"Very impressive," Rabastan replied to the father who was clearly waiting for a response.

"For some," Sirius grumbled as he passed, "Harry was doing accidental magic before he was one years old." He added smugly, and he had it in writing, as a matter of fact. He was just as smug as he had been back then.

Rabastan struggled to keep his amusement showing, while his brother just laughed, as if Harry needed anyone to defend him. Especially where his magic was concerned. The thought was utterly ludicrous really. Smiling in thanks when another glass of champagne was put into his hand by his brother. Rodolphus was getting a kick out of this. Rabastan would get him back, just wait. Maybe Harry would help him, he was very creative.

"Uncle Aramis said you've just recently passed your Runes Mastery," Michelle said, "On the highest percentile than anyone else he's ever apprenticed. Uncle Aramis doesn't impress easily. Congratulations, I, myself, got an outstanding in my Ancient Runes NEWT's." mentioning her relation to Lord Aramis Carrow. Adding something about herself to give them a tentative connection to one another. So, that if Rabastan wished to talk about it, he would. It would be rather uncouth to do all the talking after all.

"I did," Rabastan agreed, all without having actually met the wizard – not since he was a kid – the only time they met during the entire apprenticeship was when he came to tell him he passed and spend the evening chatting with his father. His accent had faded with all the time he spent in France. "I'm sure your Uncle is very proud; do you intend to follow his footsteps?" the other witches that had been trying to get his attention pouted but inevitably left. The lure of other wizards beckoning them.

"Maybe one day," she said coyly, reaching out and touching Rabastan's arm, "I'd very much prefer to settle down and have a family first." She added flirtatiously. Saying all the right things, that would entice a pureblood wizard of great standing. After all, it's what everyone assumes a wizard wanted.

"You mean if you find your head and heels?" Harry asked with deceptive mildness, stepping forward causing everyone to startle. He wanted to hiss for her to get her perfectly manicured figures off of Rabastan before he chopped it off and beat her to death with it. It could cause a... incident that might get out of hand, not for him, no, but it would still be an embarrassment to Corvus. Someone he would never want to upset or disappoint. It didn't help that she was rather attractive in her own way. Not the most attractive female in the room, but definitely a step up from a lot of the witches.

The father puffed up like a pufferfish before he deflated as if someone had let the air out of him. Paling a bit, his gaze going back and forth between Rabastan and Harry or more accurately, their matching outfits, right down to the silver trim and more importantly matching betrothal rings. His gulp could be heard in his general vicinity.

Rabastan bit the inside of his mouth, to the extent he could taste copper. Trying to keep a straight face, the wizard honestly looked ready to faint dead away. Finally, finally, someone had noticed what was right in front of them. It did not help that Sirius' own laughter was muffled in Rodolphus' back. Sirius had no decorum whatsoever. His laughter, however, was rather infectious and made his situation worse. He had not bitten through his own cheek to lose his composure now.

"Who the h…" Michelle bit off, wincing at the grip her father had on her elbow. She confusedly turned to find her father looked ready to pass out. "Father are you alright? Do you need a healer?" beginning to panic a little, she'd never seen her father so pale and clammy.

"I'm fine," Jules Carrow reassured his daughter, his pale features beginning to gain some colour. Thank Merlin he'd realized who it was before he spoke, it was just sheer coincidence that he'd peaked that lightning bolt scar amongst his fringe. "I'll be just fine, and I apologise Rabastan, heir Potter, I had no idea you two were betrothed, please excuse my impudence and may I offer my sincerest congratulations?"

Harry locked hands with Rabastan, possessiveness like he'd never felt running through him. Rabastan was his, he had been there for him since the beginning. Helped him when he needed it most. In turn Rabastan had helped him when he needed it most. Nobody was going to get to try and muscle in on him now. Not just because they think they'd get to be the next Lady Lestrange and their child Lord of the manor. Not because he was hot and good looking, either. He'd seen the good and bad, Rabastan was his damn it.

Rabastan turned to stare at Harry, brow arched, as if to say 'Well, are you going to forgive him?' he was getting tall, tall enough that he didn't need to stare down at him anymore. He would never be as tall as him, or as tall as all previous Potters had been. The abuse the Dursley's had heaped upon his mate had lasting consequences, and his short stature would be one of them. Not that he minded, he rather liked that Harry fit against him like pieces of a puzzle. Like right now, it was as if holding hands wasn't enough, like he was laying a claim and Rabastan was delighted by the display.

"Maybe just him," Harry muttered petulantly, so low that only Rabastan could hear him.

"You're forgiven, and thank you," Rabastan said, realizing that this was the only third congratulations he'd had outside of the family. The Dark Lord and the Abbott family were the only ones who had congratulated them.

The relief almost bowled Carrow over, then again, only an idiot would antagonise the Lestrange and Potter families. Especially considering everyone had been warned about so much as upsetting Harry from the Dark Lord himself. He was off limits entirely. The Carrows were not just dark sympathisers some were actually Death Eaters.

Giving a jerky bow, Jules Carrow made a swift get away, taking his daughter with him. Harry and Rabastan watched them talking quickly and quietly. It actually looked like a heated argument, but probably just father warning the daughter away.

"I am going to kill you, slowly." Rabastan glared at his brother, "You are enjoying this too much." Huffing when Sirius just laughed, "How much have you had to drink?" he wasn't normally quite so…laidback especially in the company of a lot of pureblood's half of which were known dark sympathisers or death eaters.

"He had three whiskey's before we even came down," Rodolphus said in amusement, and their bodies weren't used to drink like before. Three whiskeys weren't anything when you were used to drinking illegally as a teenager. Admittedly, making themselves sick for days afterwards. Still, fun times all around. He was also limiting his drinks and making sure he was going to eat enough to prevent himself getting sloshed. He would look after Sirius, as he always did. If this was what Sirius needed to get through the night, then so be it. He didn't socialise well, which was just weird, he recalled seeing him always surrounded by people, Gryffindors. How much of it had been a façade? "And no, you won't." he had lost count of the number of times he and his brother had threatened to kill one another.

"I snuck another one when he was getting dressed," Sirius told Harry winking at him. Grinning in that roguishly handsome way. Attempting to whisper, but Rodolphus and Rabastan heard regardless and both rolled their eyes. Again, subtly was not Sirius' strong suit.

Harry sniggered, a smile appearing on his face, he might not have a brother or sibling. Luckily, he had a childish godfather. Who made him feel like a big brother and more importantly made him feel childish and when inventing together…like a genius. He'd always been smart, but he'd never been allowed to show it for an entire decade. It still dazed him when someone complimented him on his intelligence. He vowed never to take it for granted.

"How are you feeling?" Rabastan asked, well aware that Harry had been very nervous about this party. It was natural to have your nerves rankled, to be nervous, he had been, although he'd been quite a bit younger.

"Much better," Harry said, all his anxiousness seemed so pointless now that it was here. He was finding it quite a pleasant experience. Having all his friends and family surrounding him, it meant a lot. Although, the thought of going back to Hogwarts was rather…daunting. He would miss Rabastan all the more.

"I have something for you," Rabastan said, "I was going to wait until tomorrow…" he trailed off, but he didn't want to wait.

"A present?" Harry perked up, curious and excited, wondering what it could be.

A fond smile graced Rabastan's lips, seeing just how bright Harry's green eyes got at the prospect of a gift. He got the same look every single time and it made Rabastan happy to see it. He handed him over the envelope. They had come just before the party.

"Dunblane Magical Zoo, special admittance, guided tour?" Harry said, excitement thrumming through him, "What kind of animals are there?" there was nothing there like a brochure for him to look through.

"Nearly every single magical animal that thrives here, and even a few that don't." Rabastan told him, he could barely remember going. Although, he remembered glimpses. He wasn't sure if it was his imagination after his father told him they'd visited. He'd find out for sure in a couple of days. He'd given them more than a generous sized donation for the afternoon to themselves. Harry was alright here, because it was a safe place, but being surrounded by people outside? In an unfamiliar place? He didn't want Harry looking over his shoulder instead of enjoying himself.

Rabastan watched in amusement as Harry struggled to maintain his unmitigated glee. He was almost dancing on the tip of his toes. "Thank you, Rabastan!" there was a slight squeal in his voice.

"You're welcome," Rabastan said fondly, rancorous laughter to their left caught their attention. Rabastan looked over to find Antonio talking to a few of his fellow lawyers, with his Lord and Bill Weasley.

"You talking about Hemione Granger, right?" Sirius asked, clearly having heard the topic of their conversation. Disapproval written across his face, he'd heard everything about this girl and wasn't impressed at all.

"Yeah, I have the letter she sent framed," the lawyer admitted sheepishly.

"Who is Hermione Granger and why?" Barty asked joining the conversation, he'd stuck closely to Lord Slytherin. Giving Rabastan an amused look, the wizard wasn't subtle at all. It was clear that he was totally enamoured with Potter.

Antonio amusedly caught Barty up on the events he'd missed out on.

"I'll give her points for her tenacity," Bode replied wryly, "She most certainly never gave up." Even when it was clear she was wrong. He'd heard the same tale told so often by others in his office, and they were free to discuss it, it wasn't as if she had been taken on as a client by any of them so confidentiality didn't exist.

"Another victim of Dumbledore's I'm afraid," Lord Slytherin sighed, shaking his head perplexed, for a bright girl she believed a wizard she'd known only a year…it was almost as if she had fixated on him.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Harry asked, hearing the conversation and wanting answers.

"She came to my office, I ensured her head of house was there with her," Lord Slytherin explained, dramatic flare coming to life. "Tried to talk some sense into the girl, and she let it slip that 'the headmaster agreed' when I pushed her on her belief. I do believe she may have been in contact with Dumbledore for a time. She has a very…concerning attachment to him. It's as if she saw him as her own personal god, he could have claimed the sky was green and she would have not only gone along with it, but tried to convince others of the same thing. Nothing anyone does or says seems to get through to her."

"Wonder if the Troll incident knocked a few screws loose?" Antonio pondered, it was a shame, she was quite a bright girl, but she was just going about it all wrong.

"I had thought the same," Lord Slytherin said sombrely, entirely feigned of course, he detested the girl. Maybe with Dumbledore out of the way he could arrange an accident at Hogwarts for her? But he really enjoyed being Headmaster, he didn't want any death marred on his new reputation and name. "I requested she visit the hospital wing; the healer informs me that there's no lingering effects of that accident. It's her own doing, she's allowing her bitterness and prejudice get in the way of her own standing." Not that she had much, she was a Muggle born in a pureblood dominated society, regardless of the new information brought forth.

There were a few blatant snorts, standing, as if.

"Of course, it doesn't help that you were so easily able to slide in amongst your fellow classmates after nearly a year out of Hogwarts." Lord Slytherin explained, amusement playing across his features, recalling the fit she had in his office. Yes, she was annoying, but it was hilarious listening to her whine, huff and complain. She was destined to leave Hogwarts and venture back into the Muggle world and probably for good. That day couldn't come soon enough. Perhaps he'd be lucky enough that she would refuse to return after her OWLS. "Since then, she's quietened down, spends all her free time in the library." Oh, he kept a close eye on her, knowing Dumbledore had been in touch with her? Yes, she'd bear constant monitoring.

Harry just grinned in turn, showing a bit more teeth than was necessary.

"She wrote to McGonagall, trying to get an apprenticeship." He informed them, "Draco copied one of her letters. Then proceeded to spend the entire evening reciting it, it got annoying, fast." Especially with Draco trying to copy Hermione's annoying voice, which he got down to a T actually.

"Let me guess, after the article in Transfiguration weekly?" Antonio replied, naturally, Minerva was not welcomed back by the wizarding world after her sentencing was finished. Once she got out of Azkaban, she slunk away into the Muggle world, into an apartment she'd had since she married – keeping her own name – the marriage had ended up with McGonagall a widow very fast. Now she was doing articles in a teenagers Transfiguration weekly amateur magazine. Despite her person non grata, she still held some considerably sway in the Transfiguration world. She was quite well known and respected for the craft itself, if nothing else.

"You read it?" a derisive scoff came from Antonio's left.

"I have a daughter who happens to love Transfiguration and magazines," Antonio declared, eyes gleaming darkly, as he glared at the wizard who had scoffed at him. Warning the wizard, he was on very thin ice indeed. "I happen to encourage all her pursuits especially academic ones." His daughter loved to gossip too much for his tastes, but that's just a teenage girl for you, but academically? She was performing very well indeed according to all her tests. She'd mentioned it in her letter.

"How are you feeling?" Harry ventured to ask Barty, who he could see was feeling very uncomfortable. It was normal really, he'd gone from being imprisoned in Azkaban, then stripped of everything, even his voice by his father and lived under the Imperius curse. Then a hospital with only a few people to interact with. This sort of thing after barely any social interaction must be quite daunting. He hoped to get along with Barty, especially seeing as he was Rabastan's friend.

Barty startled a little, glancing around as if he expected someone to be behind him. It took a few moments to compose himself. There was a genuine look in Harry's eyes, he truly just wanted to know. "I'm significantly improved." Was his rather diplomatic answer.

"If you need to, don't sweat having to leave early," Rabastan stated firmly, "We get it, really, it wasn't exactly easy for us to be amongst so many people." With Barty just out, yeah, it definitely couldn't be easy.

Harry nodded emphatically in agreement, "It's like drowning, isn't it? Not being able to breathe, then the panic sets in." he'd been lucky, he had help from Corvus, to become a little more confident before Hogwarts otherwise it would have been ten times worse for him.

Barty was giving Harry an incredulous look, why the hell would he know what it was like? He'd described it perfectly. That was exactly how it felt, but with the Dark Lord there, he felt…shielded a bit.

"Your friends want to talk to you," Rabastan pointed them out, "We have maybe ten minutes before the meal begins." And Harry would be sitting next to him, his friends would be spread out, they wouldn't get another opportunity to talk until after the meal.

Harry craned his neck, missing Barty's look, noticing Vincent, Draco, Daphne, Greg, Pansy, Jamal, Omar and the others all standing around the small buffet table. They were gesturing for him to come to them, no doubt curious to know how the confrontation went. Nosy, all of them, so they were. "I'll be right back!" with that he took off, having laid his claim, no doubt everyone would be aware by now and would keep their hands off his man.

"You don't know anything about him, do you?" Rabastan asked his friend, seeing the look on his face. That incredulous disbelief spoke volumes to Rabastan. "Have you not been getting the newspaper?"

"I didn't have the funds to get the newspapers let alone anything else," Barty confessed, he'd been very secluded. Only really speaking to his therapist, and his time there was about him, about recovering, not the outside world. He was only now able to access funds, he had after all, been legally dead. He was feeling very lost, so much so that he hadn't been asking much in the way of questions. "I just know what I've been told, and that is he's off-limits and yours."

"I'll come by tomorrow morning and fill you in," Rabastan promised, patting his shoulder absently, "I'll bring copies of the Daily Prophet as well. This isn't a conversation that can be covered in…seven minutes." Which was true enough.

"I'd like that," Barty said, eyes shadowed with loneliness.

Rabastan bit his tongue, realizing what a shit friend he'd been to Barty. Unfortunately, he'd been recovering himself, then nobody except family were allowed to visit Barty. His…condition had been a lot worse than theirs had been, which meant no visitors except for a lawyer of some kind. Then they had to sign a contract that stated they weren't to blame for any outburst that occurred, whether magically or physically. It had been that bad, the Imperius curse had very nearly wiped out everything that Barty was. "Hey, you'll get there, it just takes time."

"A lot of time," Sirius snorted, "It took me years to get back into a decent mind space and peak physical condition."

"Which wouldn't have happened if you hadn't come with us," Rodolphus pointed out wryly, having no shame about being openly affectionate. He wasn't being too outrageous, but he was most definitely keeping his betrothed close.

"You mean if Healer Bello hadn't all but manipulated him into it?" Lord Slytherin declared wryly, joining the conversation. Bill smothered his amusement at that announcement, not surprised that he knew. Aurelias had been there every step of the way, he took his duties as Headmaster very seriously.

"That too," Sirius admitted sheepishly. He was a Gryffindor though, not a Slytherin at the end of the day. Not that it had taken much, just using Harry as a gateway into making him go along with the regime.

"How is your father, Lord Weasley?" Harry asked, despite Arthur working with Sirius, Harry hadn't asked about him. He did hear about him quite often but only in the work aspect of it. Re-joining the group, sliding back next to Rabastan.

Bill smiled, "Call me Bill," he asked of the teenager, Lord Weasley made him feel three decades older. It still hurt, it really did, that a teenager, a young boy, had seen what was staring him in the face after just one meeting. Just one little meeting was all it took for Harry to realize what was wrong. It made him feel blind and stupid, but as Aurelias said, Harry knew what to look out for and assumed the worst every given situation. "He's very happy." And it was true, with Amelia it was like a whole new world opened up for his father. They were spending Yule with Amelia and Susan as a matter of fact.

"I'm glad," Harry said sincerely, whatever else he was about to say was cut off as the dong went off, announcing that the first course was ready. It was time to adjourn to the dining room. Now came the exciting part of the evening, Harry felt a grin creep up on his face.

Which made everyone stare at him, Lord Slytherin merely smirked, Sirius grinned and Rodolphus and Rabastan just rolled their eyes. Deny it all they wanted; they too were looking forward to everyone's reactions.

"What was that all about?" Bill couldn't help but ask as Lord Slytherin escorted him out of the room, startling when he was led quite far up the head of the table. Aurelias wasn't wrong either, his name plate was right next to his, which confused him. He'd made more moves than he cared to admit…only to be rebuffed every time.

"You'll find out soon enough," Voldemort said, sounding deeply amused. Bill was dressed in deep blood red robes, with a gold trim. The attire screamed Gryffindor, but surprisingly, despite his red hair, the outfit was stunning on him. Then again, Gladrags wouldn't allow anyone to walk out of their store with anything less than perfection.

Flushing a deep a deep red – just like his robes – when his chair was held out for him like he was a maiden. Despite it, he pulled out Aurelius' chair for him with a grin before sitting himself down. All that accomplished was a satisfied chuckle. How could a bleeding chuckle sound attractive? Why was he doing this to himself? Like seriously? Aurelius was contradictory. One minute it was like he was wooing him; the next Bill swore he just wanted to be friends. It was worth the torture; without Aurelius he wouldn't have found the strength he needed to be there for his family.

The moment Harry sat next to Rabastan, everyone stared, whether they were sat down or not. Aghast that Heir Potter had committed the ultimate faux pas, he'd been in the magical world long enough to know surely, that seat was definitely not for him!

Rodolphus and Sirius sat across from the two, while Corvus Lestrange stood at the head of the table waiting patiently for everyone to take their seats. Which everyone did, casting confused looks, or rather most people, all of whom were unaware of the youngest Lestrange's betrothal.

Tamara was even more confused, as to why Harry was not sat at the head of the table with Corvus. There wasn't a seat available next to his, only the one was stationed there. As it had been since the death of Lady Lestrange all those years ago.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to thank you all for coming this evening," Corvus spoke, still standing, a glass of champagne in hand. "Not only is this evening for my son and heir Rodolphus Lestrange and his betrothed, soon-to-be Sirius Lestrange."

"You're Sirius-ly le-strange," Harry mouthed to Sirius, muffling his amusement.

Sirius' eyes twitched, facepalming, he hated his godson some times. Harry had just about bust a lung the first time he said his possible marriage name. Literally ending up on the floor from laughing so much, his entire body bowled over. Rabastan had been no help whatsoever, if anything he'd practically joined Harry on the floor!

A/n – I'm not sure about showing the Rabastan/Barty scene myself, since it would be mostly a re-cap from Rabastan's POV…what do you guys think? Along with the talk with Dorea! Hmm it will be a first writing her as a portrait :D I think I'm going to have fun with that since she's a bit 'vulnerable' right now in My Time but I think still kick ass 😉 Oh, and Harry's action was MY reaction when I realized what his name was going to be HA! Poor Sirius his name is awful but at least as a Black it wasn't as bad as his marriage name :D and of course, some more of the evening to come, mostly just the talk with some of the wizengamot members...flashback or just a little add before we get on to the next part? it's already over 7K and it's now the evening and I'm exhausted and I did sort of promise it would be updated so here we go! I hope you all had as much of a laugh as I did at Sirius' name ;) LOL Read and Review please!