Last Time

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.

Chapter Forty-Three – Head Boy

The weekend ended too soon for Harry's liking. He had tried to take some time off to rest and relax, but he found that he just couldn't help himself when it came to his law reform. He had held a full, two-hour practice session for the Gryffindor Quidditch team, including all of their reserves, and he had made time for both of his charities, but he just couldn't leave his extracurricular activities, as Lucius named them, alone.

He had gone through his creature law reform fully, yet again, and realised with a jolt that he hadn't changed a damn thing. An indication that it was ready to be submitted, but still he held it back and didn't send that owl to Runcorn. His anxiety was only growing with the very thought of changing laws by himself; he wasn't even out of school yet.

He was translating Ancient Laws and Customs as quickly as he could. Now that he was in the thick of the book he was finding more inconsistencies, more archaic traditions that were no longer followed, and more laws that were completely outdated and, in some cases, absolutely absurd. He had found a rather alarming law that allowed the use of the unforgivable torture curse, the Cruciatus, by parents to punish their children. Harry had felt that curse first hand and there was no way, while he still drew breath, would he ever allow any child (but especially not his own) to ever come into contact with that curse. That law had to go. He would not allow anyone to worm themselves out of using that curse on their children just because it was written into law. Despite that it was disused, and he was very sure no one remembered this particular law, it would protect any parent who did decide to punish their child with the Cruciatus and that was unacceptable.

It was Monday morning and Harry had packed his book bag with everything he needed for his lessons, half expecting the recall to the Wizengamot. The Daily Prophet had gotten a hold of the story after some of the parents of the dead children had informed them of what was happening in the small, magical village. The paper was full of theories and speculation, which was incredibly unhelpful, as they tongue-lashed the Ministry to do something, as if they weren't already. They, the Wizengamot, were waiting on the Law Enforcers to do their job of investigation first. Once they had all the relevant information, then they could act. It wouldn't do to accuse the wrong person of this crime, not that that was stopping the Daily Prophet, who was currently blaming the entire company that had produced the botched pepper-up potions. The company would end up bankrupt from the bad exposure if that carried on. The last he'd read in the paper, Saint Mungo's had pulled all of their current contracts from that company just to assuage the panic of the public.

He made it to the Great Hall and he headed straight for the Slytherin table, sitting between Draco and Blaise. He set up his plate and his drinks, of which he had three; a cup of tea, a glass of pumpkin juice, and the small glass of goat milk that he had to drink.

"Good morning, Harry." Blaise greeted.

"Morning all." He said before he started eating.

"You haven't been called yet?" Draco asked worriedly, eyeing up the rings on his finger.

Harry shook his head before swallowing. "No, nothing yet, but that doesn't mean I won't be called today. They must be close to finding the one responsible for this by now. Has the post arrived yet?"

"Not yet." Draco told him.

Harry nodded, eating more of his eggs and bacon, trying not to lose his manners, but aware that he could be called at any moment. He did not want to go into another meeting hungry. It messed with his concentration.

Finished with his main breakfast, Harry drank down the small glass of milk before taking an orange from a fruit bowl, cutting it in half before scooping out the fruit with a spoon.

He was pleased that he had gotten a chance to eat well, even if he was called now and had more catch-up work to do tonight at least he wasn't hungry.

The owls came screeching into the hall and Harry waited until two postal owls came to a stop in front of him, each holding out a leg with a rolled-up paper attached to it.

Harry fished the Knut from his pocket and showed it to the first owl, even as he stroked the soft feathers on the owl's breast. He placed the coin in the pouch and then untied the paper gently from the outstretched leg.

"You made a very good delivery." Harry praised softly, watching with a smile as the owl puffed up and closed its eyes in pleasure under the ministrations of his fingers.

Harry turned to the second postal owl, this time fishing out two Knuts for the delivery and he repeated his actions of paying and praising the owl as he took the second paper.

The owls took off with the others and Harry unrolled the smaller of the newspapers and sighed heavily at the front page.

"The deaths have risen to nine children now." Harry informed the others sadly. "Some parents didn't see the recall in time and the potions they gave to their children were some of the botched ones."

"What do you think the Wizengamot will do, Harry?" Pansy asked him.

Harry shook his head. "We voted for an Azkaban sentence, but with the way the paper keeps escalating the issue, I fear that we're going to end up being forced to act too quickly and we'll sentence the wrong person and that might lead to an even bigger embarrassment further down the road. We all need to keep our heads through this and not rush the investigation. I sent an owl to father last night with my fears and I hope that he can, if needed, stop any rush to blame the first convenient person found."

Harry finished reading the front page article and, of course, there were more slurs against the administration, against Minister Thicknesse personally, against the Wizengamot, more cajoling for the 'Aurors' to act quicker when it was actually the Law Enforcers who were investigating. It seemed the Prophet was up to their old tricks and hadn't hired any competent journalists after the last lot were fired. He didn't know why he had expected anything more; at its heart, the Daily Prophet was a sensationalist rag and not dedicated to truth, fact, or true investigative journalism.

Frustrated, and upset that more children had died as a result of this despite the very quick recall of the affected potions, Harry diligently read the entire paper while he sipped on his tea, but nothing else caught his attention.

He turned to the second, larger paper. The World News. It was more expensive, but it was more comprehensive in comparison to The Daily Prophet. For the first time since Harry had started reading it too, an article from The Daily Prophet had been deemed worthy enough for its pages.

"The World News is reporting on the children." Harry said, sighing, knowing that worldwide interest and pressure would not help people keep calm over this matter.

"Not in the same manner of The Daily Prophet though, surely?" Astoria asked him, looking over.

Harry shook his head. "No. They've laid out all the details that we currently know as fact and have ended the article with a note about how the investigation is still ongoing."

Harry sighed and read through the rest of the paper, seeing what other magical communities in other countries were reporting on and selfishly glad that Britain wasn't the only country currently going through an embarrassing time.

His rings still hadn't heated up before the bell went for his first lesson, so he grabbed his bag, shouldered it, and walked with Draco to Charms. There was nothing he could do until he was recalled to the Wizengamot.

Harry wasn't recalled to the Wizengamot until just after five in the evening on the third of February, eleven days after they first found out about the botched potions.

Every morning, the Daily Prophet had taken to calling out different sections of the Ministry and blaming them for inaction, for incompetence, and even plain not caring about the murdered children. The Wizengamot was featured heavily and was being painted as a collection of incompetent old fools who thought themselves so above the general wizarding public they were supposed to be serving that they didn't care that nine children had died. Harry had not been mentioned at all, not by name at least, for which he was thankful, but Harry knew from Lucius, and from Rabastan's letters he knew that Xerxes too, were incredibly angry and frustrated. That they were being harangued if they went anywhere, from the Ministry to Diagon Alley. All members of the Wizengamot were facing the same treatment and, despite how late the call had come, Harry was relieved that it had finally come. He just hoped his biggest fear wasn't about to come true and the Ministry had found a scapegoat and not the person truly responsible.

"Harry, are you not having dinner?" Draco demanded disapprovingly as Harry stopped dead and turned in the corridor.

"Wizengamot." Harry said shortly. "I've got to go, but I'll eat at home. I promise."

"Do you need me to take anything?" Draco asked.

"No, I need to go and change from my uniform anyway. I'll catch you up tomorrow, I have a feeling this meeting might run late."

That was going to be terrible for him too, as his headache had not abated in the slightest. He had half a mind to ask Marcus to remove the runes so that he could take a headache reliever, before reapplying the runes…only the memory of how excruciating it had been to have the runes applied in the first place stopped him from doing just that, but the constant headache was grating on him now. It wasn't as bad as when he'd been taking the bone-strengthening potions, those headaches had made him feel like his skull was being crushed between two giant hands, but it was still constant and distracting. At least it wasn't preventing him from sleeping, he might have gone to Madam Pomfrey in that case, though what anyone could do when he couldn't take any potions…Harry sighed and pushed it from his mind. It was just a headache and he had dealt with much worse before. Things would be better once he was done with school. It would help when this botched potion debacle was over with too. Surely they had found the culprit by now? Harry hoped that was why they were being recalled today.

He reached his room and he stripped off his uniform, leaving his shirt, trousers, and shoes. He took the robes from the back of his wardrobe door and tugged them on, fastening them as quickly as he could, making sure not to miss any nor skip any out. He was running late.

He touched his rings and he apparated from his room, landing in the Ministry atrium. He tried not to look like he was rushing, but he didn't want to embarrass himself by arriving late, and everyone was so anxious and frustrated over this issue that they would have jumped the moment they felt their rings heat up. Harry was the only one who had to get changed and come from a school.

He was the last one to arrive and everyone stared at him as he quickly made his way to his seat between Lucius and Xerxes.

"Am I terribly late?" He whispered to Lucius as he quickly sat down, trying to keep the blush from his cheeks while feeling all the eyes of the room on him.

"No, Harry. This issue is just so dire that everyone rushed to arrive as soon as they could." Lucius assured him.

It helped that Runcorn did not immediately call them to attention the moment he sat down. It gave Harry a moment to catch his breath and ease himself down and away from blushing.

Very few people were chatting or whispering to their neighbours as Harry had learned was usual behaviour. No one had greeted him, or indeed anyone else by the looks of things. The atmosphere in the room was serious, almost grave. The Wizengamot were an ancient, proud council of the oldest wizarding families in their society and it actually predated the Ministry of Magic itself. It rankled them that they were being called incompetent, the papers insinuating that the Wizengamot could no longer fulfil their roles, that they were too old or out of touch with the general population to serve them as the highest, and oldest, parliament in their society. It was an embarrassment and if there was one thing Harry had learned about purebloods, it was that they didn't wear embarrassment well.

"This meeting is called to order." Runcorn said seriously, waving his wand. The door slammed shut and locked. "It is thirty minutes past five in the evening on the third of February."

"Has the perpetrator been identified?" Corban Yaxley demanded straight away.

"The Law Enforcers believe so." Runcorn nodded. "I take no pleasure in informing you all that the company who produced the potions in question were negligent in the background checks of their hired potion's masters. Four of them are highly qualified and submitted themselves for review. One of them was found to have forged certification and when questioned, could not even correctly identify the most basic of potions."

Harry felt his stomach sink and he wasn't the only one to look at the ashen faces of Lord Bole and Lord Lawson, who were finding out with the rest of them that the reason their very young relative had died was through negligence.

Harry had read about the funeral of two-year-old Frederick Bole in the paper five days past. The paper had been documenting all of the known victims of this potion debacle and ruthlessly badgering the families, even at the funerals of the young victims, trying to get the names of those the families blamed so they could drag them through the mud. Some families actually complied with the paper in their grief and Minister Thicknesse's name came up very often as the person the families blamed the most, closely followed by the company who had made the botched potions, and even once or twice the clinic the potions had been bought from, for not checking the quality of the potions they had stocked and then sold, and for not checking out the company they had been buying from.

"I have been informed that the Law Enforcers have conducted a very thorough investigation and that they believe this fraudulent potion's master to be the cause of the botched potions and they have taken him into custody." Runcorn told them, looking at them seriously.

"Chief Warlock?" Harry called out questioningly.

"The room recognises Lord Potter-Black." Runcorn called out, his lips twitching as if he wanted to smile but knew it would be inappropriate.

"I would like to ask the Law Enforcers to revise their investigation. It is my belief that the company who hired this fraudulent potion's master is also at fault for not thoroughly checking his credentials before allowing him to make potions to be sold to members of the public."

"I agree." Lucius said from beside him. "If the documents were found to be fraudulent by the Law Enforcers, then those who hired this person could have also found out this information if they'd properly checked, as they were meant to. Was he not even set a test of his abilities before he was allowed to make potions for the general population?"

Harry nodded. That was a good point and it underlined his own. How had the company who had hired this fraud not seen through his lies? Had they even checked?

"I will add this line of inquiry to the notes." Runcorn assured them both, making a notation. "I will have those involved in hiring this person questioned and investigated."

"Given that this person…" Lord Bole sounded as if he had been chewing on glass his voice was so hoarse and harsh and the emphasis he placed on the word 'person' left no illusion that he dearly wanted to say something else. "…applied for a job he was knowingly unqualified for, can I assume that my esteemed colleagues of the Wizengamot will no longer debate against a life sentence?"

That was a question and a half too. Why had this person applied for a job that they were so vastly unqualified for? There was no way that they wouldn't have been found out eventually, and this person had willingly, knowingly, brewed pepper-up potions meant for young children, all the while knowing that they didn't know what they were doing. That they were putting children at risk. Why?

"Chief Warlock?" Harry asked.

"You are on a roll today, Lord Potter-Black." Runcorn told him, though not like he was chastising him. Runcorn was always highly supportive of him and his comments within the Wizengamot.

"I am no potion's master." Harry started by stating clearly. "But surely, surely, those who know what to look for would have seen through this fraud's attempts at producing a correct potion? Is there any way for us to find out if the company that hired this man was also negligent in their quality control procedures? I would also like to investigate the clinic that dispensed the potions, or at least question them about their own quality control procedures. There were so many opportunities for these botched potions to be found, in theory at least. It should have been caught before they left the company that produced them, they could have been caught at the clinic they were dispensed from, but even then, those potions should never have been produced in the first place because the person in question should never have been hired."

"I will pass all of these lines of inquiry onto the Law Enforcers." Runcorn assured him, writing everything down. "Madam Bones, can I entrust you to be sure that your department exhausts itself to answer these questions of the Wizengamot?"

Madam Amelia Bones rarely spoke up during Wizengamot meetings, though she always cast her vote one way or another and she watched everything through shrewd, intelligent eyes. Harry got the feeling that she was silently judging all of them on their conduct and their opinions during these meetings.

"The Department of Magical Law Enforcement will continue to do its job, as expected, Chief Warlock." Madam Bones said firmly, her hands folded calmly on the table, her tone daring anyone to question her leadership or the conduct of her department.

Harry shifted and sat up straight as something occurred to him. Both Xerxes and Lucius looked at him for the sudden movement and they weren't the only ones.

"Lord Potter-Black?" Runcorn questioned.

"A thought has occurred to me, Chief Warlock. How long has this person been employed by the company in question? Are there other deaths accredited to this fraud that have been the fault of a botched potion he has made but determined to be the fault of something else?"

Everyone in the room shifted in their seats and suddenly started looking at neighbours. Lucius patted his thigh and Xerxes pressed a hand to Harry's side for a moment, both silently conveying their support and pride at the direction his thoughts had gone in…and for having the courage to voice them aloud.

"I will write an immediate memo." Runcorn said, his voice shaky and tense. "We will take a small recess."

Runcorn started writing quickly.

"That was a very good thought, Harry." Lucius praised quietly.

"It just occurred to me that maybe this isn't the only time this person has killed someone through negligence, especially not if he couldn't even recognise basic potions. Maybe this is just the first time it's been so many at once or because it's nine children who have been killed we've taken more notice."

"It is very fortunate that you thought of it and asked about it." Xerxes told him. "Now we can truly dig deeply into this person and uncover all of their crimes. I was already planning to vote for life imprisonment…as long as that is what you wanted, Harry." He added quickly.

Harry gave the older man an unimpressed look. "I will not influence your vote in such a way. I want your support, not your obedience. I have already cast my support in favour of Azkaban, whether you decide to vote for a set term or life, that is entirely up to you."

Xerxes gave him a small touch and a smile. "You are a wonderful boy. I could not be more pleased with…with how you have grown."

That was not what Xerxes had been about to say, but it was too dangerous to voice what had been alluded to within the Ministry. Harry understood what Xerxes had meant to say though. He was pleased that Harry was joining the Lestrange family. That, from him and Rabastan would come the next generation of the Lestrange family.

"I truly hope he is a new hire and this is the first issue he's caused." Harry said softly. "I can't imagine how many deaths he might have caused through his fraud otherwise. I just don't understand why. Why would he do this? Risk himself and others. He knew he was attempting to brew pepper-up potion meant for children…why would you risk that sort of thing?" He asked the two men.

"Potion's masters are scarce, Harry." Lucius told him. "Good, competent ones like Severus, more so. They can earn a small fortune and I would wager that that is the motivation here. Greed."

Harry slumped a little. Nine dead children, all for gold. Harry was beginning to think that Lord Bole was correct; Azkaban was too good for a person like this.

"I agree with your father." Xerxes nodded. "I would be very surprised to hear that it was anything other than greed."

"I'm not sure the company can be saved when this information hits the papers." Harry said, shaking his head. "They are to blame for hiring this person, no matter the reason they give, it's not going to be good enough to save them."

"I imagine not." Lucius nodded his agreement.

"How simple is it to check credentials?" Harry said in an angry whisper. "How hard is it to keep to stringent quality control protocols when it is to do with potions meant to be applied to and ingested by members of the public?!"

"All questions that we will have answers to before this trial is over." Xerxes assured him. "The one responsible has now been found. We will question him, the company, the stockists of the clinic, all of them and we will have the truth."

"Small comfort for those who have lost children." Harry said softly, looking at the sickly pallor of both Lord Bole and Lord Lawson.

"You are correct, this should have never happened." Lucius assured him. "But it did happen and now, all we can do is uphold the law and ensure that justice is done for all of those affected by this issue."

They lapsed into silence. There was nothing more to say.

"I would like to call you back to order." Runcorn called out. "It is nine minutes past six on the evening of the third of February."

Runcorn finished writing something as they all settled and gave him their full attention.

"I have made immediate inquiries into what has been discussed within this meeting." Runcorn told them seriously. "We will need to, once again, reconvene at a later date to give the Law Enforcers time to conduct these new inquiries."

"Can I ask that the false potion's master be kept in custody." Lord Bole said, voice as haggard as his appearance. Harry didn't hold it against him, he didn't believe that anyone would.

"He is going to be kept in custody." Runcorn assured them. "He is under the watch of Aurors, to ensure he doesn't attempt to take his own life before he faces justice for his actions."

There were pleased murmurings and Harry held himself still as his stomach rumbled. It was loud enough that both Xerxes and Lucius tipped their heads towards him, having heard the embarrassing noise.

"You will be recalled as soon as the questions asked today have been answered adequately." Runcorn carried on, not noticing the three of them. "This meeting is officially at an end. Good evening to you all."

Lucius stood immediately and Harry followed his lead.

"I assume you did not have a chance to eat yet." Lucius asked quietly.

Harry shook his head. "No. The call came just as I was making my way to the Great Hall after leaving my last lesson of the day."

Lucius nodded. "You will remain at home for the night."

Harry nodded his agreement as he was led out of the room, no one in the mood for lingering and making small talk. Harry was actually glad of this, it wasn't the moment to try to prop up his own interests by speaking of his law reforms, and he was very hungry.

As he had come to expect, Narcissa, Rabastan, and Rodolphus were waiting in the parlour and Harry greeted his mother before going to burrow himself into Rabastan.

"Has this issue been resolved?" Rabastan asked him.

Harry shook his head. "No. We need to wait for more information."

"Surely they have found the one responsible by now?" Rodolphus demanded.

"They have." Lucius said, sitting next to Narcissa after kissing her in greeting.

"The issue is now, that Harry here thought of something as equally brilliant as it is terrifying." Xerxes said, sighing, sitting down. "How long has this person been employed by the company."

"It was a purposeful attack, then?" Rodolphus asked.

"Negligence." Harry sighed. "It looks like the company didn't have a stringent enough hiring process and a fraud slipped through. He knowingly brewed potions intended for the public while knowing that he was neither qualified for the position he held and that he was putting people at risk. He happily brewed that pepper-up potion knowing that it was intended for children, that it could make them sicker, that it might kill them, and he did it anyway. We have yet to hear of what excuse he thinks will be enough to get him out of Azkaban, but I can say already it will not be enough. No matter what he says it will never make up for what he did."

"And, if I'm understanding correctly, you think he might have caused more injuries or deaths?" Rabastan questioned.

"If he has been employed for a time with this company, then yes." Harry nodded. "Perhaps it was just never as serious, or not as many as nine children at once, but the odd death here or there might have been overlooked, or brushed off as something unrelated. So, now we've been dismissed again, once more waiting for additional information."

Harry rubbed at his head, wishing the headache away. Rabastan saw the move and large, steady fingers slipped into his hair and started slowly, purposefully massaging his scalp. Harry melted and all but purred at the pleasurable attentions, resting himself on his fiancé.

"It shouldn't take long, now that we have the culprit in custody, to get the answers we need to proceed." Xerxes said. "It's a matter of looking up his employment records."

"And everything he has brewed while being employed and trying to track down everyone who might have ingested said potions." Harry pointed out. "The Daily Prophet is seriously getting on my nerves over the entire issue, though."

"You and all of us." Xerxes assured him.

"The Prophet has always believed itself to be more important and relevant than it actually is, they are a law unto itself." Lucius said. "I had hoped that the lawsuit I filed against them would have been warning enough, but, I am at the least grateful that they have kept your name from their slanderous pages in recent months."

"Apart from them calling out all the members of the Wizengamot."

"They were always going to do as such." Xerxes waved off. "As if those imbeciles at the printing offices could understand the work we do. I would not let it bother you overly much, Harry. Our decision is for a thorough investigation and that is what we are doing, no matter how long it takes…or how many names we are called in that gossip rag in the meantime."

Harry nodded his understanding. It was incredibly frustrating, but he would just have to deal with that. He took a breath and turned more into Rabastan, easing away from the stress of the Wizengamot, the issue of which was still ongoing. He would be very glad when this particular case came to a deserved conclusion and he could move away from thinking about it and all of those poor children.

"Let us put aside all talk of it for now." Narcissa encouraged. "Let us instead reconvene in the dining room and have a nice meal together and talk of lighter topics."

Harry let out a breath. He would forever be grateful for Narcissa. She always knew when enough was enough and inserted herself into the situation to take control. Harry didn't want to think about the Wizengamot, the Daily Prophet, or the dead children anymore. He was starving. He just wanted to eat and enjoy Rabastan's company for the short amount of time he'd be able to. It was a treat to see him during term time. A treat that he didn't always know he was going to get, it served him to make the most of this precious time and thinking so heavily on the Wizengamot, or how the Daily Prophet was making everything worse, only served to make his permanent headache that little bit worse.

The Daily Prophet had had a field day with the Wizengamot the next morning. They reported that the Wizengamot had met for frivolous reasons, that they were not doing their jobs but instead socialising and having 'a grand old time' on the public's expense. They were going to incite a riot if things weren't handled from here on out, but Harry figured that the Daily Prophet would just love that to actually happen, and to be the ones who reported on it when it did happen.

When he got back to Hogwarts, Harry noticed the caste of the looks being sent to him. As the only member of the Wizengamot at Hogwarts, he was enduring the brunt of the student outcry and suddenly he was being knocked into, had 'harmless' hexes aimed at him in crowded corridors so that he never actually knew who had cast the spell, only that he was the target, and had verbal abuse thrown at him, though he'd been dealing with the latter his entire life, so it didn't bother him as much as the thought that his own classmates thought that he didn't care if a group of children were essentially murdered. The only reprieve he had was from those in Slytherin, many of whom had a parent, or at least a relative, sitting the current Wizengamot and likely knew what was going on and the pressure he was currently under.

The worst part was that Harry couldn't even argue against anyone who confronted him, as he wasn't allowed to speak of Wizengamot meetings, certainly not an unfolding criminal investigation, with members of the public. Strictly speaking, he shouldn't have even been discussing it with Rabastan, Rodolphus, or Draco as they weren't members of the Wizengamot themselves, but he had a level of trust that his own family and close friends wouldn't do or say anything to land him in trouble.

He endured it all silently and with a grace he really didn't know how he possessed and through it all, his headache only got worse. He was at the point where he sometimes caught himself fisting at his own hair, or once when Draco had been shocked when Harry had thumped himself in the head with a large book, as if that was ever going to help a headache. He didn't know why he'd done it…likely frustration more than a genuine desire to harm himself, but Draco had immediately written to Lucius about it. Harry was waiting on a swift owl to chastise him for it.

He was patrolling the seventh floor corridors after curfew as part of his Head Boy duties. It was usually boring, lonely, and a waste of time. Time he would much rather spend on something else, like his law reforms, his translation of Ancient Laws and Customs, or even just making sure his homework was done and up to scratch. Those few he did find out of bed, he merely lightly scolded and escorted them safely back to bed. He never reported them to their head of house nor wrote them up for detention as he was meant to…as if he had grounds to tell anyone off for being out of bed. He was pretty sure he was the worst offender for that that Hogwarts had seen since the Marauders themselves. That thought made him smile.

It was half an hour later, as he was on the fifth floor, just as he'd decided to call it a night and head back to his rooms on the fourth floor when he heard muffled sobbing. Sighing, he wondered if it would be better to ignore it or confront the student. He shook his head. He couldn't ignore a crying student, no matter how much he wanted his bed.

He followed the noises to an empty classroom, which, from the look of the faded posters on the walls, had once been a Muggle Studies classroom.

The student was very young, probably only first or second year, and they were sitting at the teacher's desk, slumped over it, crying as silently as they could into folded arms.

"You know, there are better places than this to take a private moment." Harry said casually.

The student startled badly, but there had been no way to prevent that. Whatever way he'd made himself known would have startled the young boy. A Hufflepuff from the crest on his uniform.

"I…I was just…" The boy started, looking nervously at the Head Boy badge on Harry's robes.

"Is your bed so uncomfortable that you'd rather come here? To this dusty, disused classroom?"

"S'not the bed that's the problem." The boy muttered.

"Your dormmates?" Harry asked, as he grabbed a chair, swung it around and placed it in front of the desk, sitting down.

The boy watched him with a confused frown before he nodded mutely.

"Are they bullying you?" Harry asked seriously.

"No." The boy told him, but Harry just stared at him and he watched as the lower lip trembled. "Not so much. It's…it's teasing more than anything, but they won't stop."

"That's bullying." Harry told him. "What's your name?"

"Felix." The boy muttered. "Everyone calls me Flick, though."

"It's nice to meet you, Flick. I'm Harry."

Felix, Flick, gave him a stare as if he thought Harry was stupid, but of course, everyone knew who he was. Harry smiled anyway.

"How long have your yearmates been bullying you?"

"It started…it started when I couldn't grasp the disarming spell before Christmas break." Felix told him sullenly. "It got worse from there, now I can't do any spell the Professors try to teach and they're calling me names and saying I'm actually squib and…and no one will speak to me, or sit with me and I feel so lonely. I just want to go home."

Harry sighed and thought of a way to deal with this situation. He had dealt with his own 'bullying' by physically harming his dormmates and getting his own room. He'd wanted to be alone. Isolating Felix would not have the same result if he was already feeling lonely.

"You're not a squib, Felix." Harry said seriously.

"But I can't do any of the spells!" Felix cried as if Harry wasn't grasping that fact.

"How did you get through your first year, then?" Harry asked, raising his eyebrows. "The disarming charm is second-year level. For that matter, how did you get a wand when squibs don't connect with any wand they touch? Why were you on the list to come to Hogwarts when the register only picks up magic users?"

"I don't know. I feel like everyone made a mistake and I'm here as a joke; the squib trying to learn magic."

"It's normal to feel that way when you feel like everyone is against you, but you belong here as much as everyone else. You're not a squib, but the teasing has created a metal block, where you cast every spell already thinking you'll fail. Why aren't your Professors helping?"

"They're trying, but I can't grasp it, which is making everything worse! I don't know why I can't do it." Felix swiped the tears that fell angrily from his cheeks.

"Because you're trying too hard." Harry told him.

"What does that even mean?!"

Harry chuckled. "Come with me. I'll show you."

Felix shoved away from the desk and trudged after him like a man heading for the gallows.

"Are we going to the Gryffindor common room?" Felix asked eventually, as Harry led him up to the seventh floor.

"No. I'm not really welcome there anymore. After my own bullying, I have my own room on the fourth floor now."

"By yourself?"

"Yes, by myself, but I prefer it that way. I have my brother and my friends to visit and they really enjoy having a bit of privacy from time to time, as do I."

"So…where are we going then."

"To explore one of the secrets of Hogwarts." Harry told the boy with a wink.

Felix was curious and trotted next to him as Harry led him to the bare patch of wall.

"This…is called the Room of Requirement." Harry said, pointing to the blank wall, watching as Felix looked at him as if he had gone mad. "It appears to you as a room filled with whatever you need, just walk in front of this patch of wall three times, thinking of what you need."

Harry was the one who did this, thinking of the same sort of room he'd used for the DA, what seemed like a lifetime ago now. The door formed almost instantly and Felix gasped so loudly that Harry had to stifle a chuckle. He opened the door and led Felix into it.

"This…this is incredible!" Felix said, looking around. "How many people know about this place?"

"Not many. A lot stumble across it by accident, never knowing how special this room actually is. You could pass it one day really needing a bathroom and that is how it will appear. Or perhaps you're trying to get away from Mrs Norris or Filch and it appears as a simple broom cupboard. When you come back to look closer, it doesn't appear again, so you forget about it."

"How did you find it?"

"Only those who have great need can find it, initially, but I was told what it truly was and how to make it appear for everything I need it for."

"What did it appear as to you the first time?" Felix asked curiously and Harry grimaced, thinking back to that painful time when he'd still been friends with Ron and Hermione.

"A place to meet in secret and train." Harry said softly. "But this room, this version at least, I used as a Defence Against the Dark Arts club the year before you arrived, where I taught people to duel, how to cast advanced spells, and they all got Os on their Defence exams."

Felix looked at him with awe for a moment and then his face fell. "But I can't do it."

"Yes, you can." Harry said simply. "Wand out, let me see you attempt the disarming charm."

Felix pulled out his wand miserably and Harry stood off to the side, as a training dummy sprang into existence from nothing, and he watched Felix's form critically, noting everything that needed to be improved as the boy tried to cast a simple disarming charm and couldn't.

Felix's eyes welled up with tears again as he couldn't produce anything, let alone a disarming charm. Humiliated and upset, Felix started crying.

"It's alright, Felix." Harry said as he went to comfort the boy. "Now I know how to help you."

"You can't! My magic is gone. I'll never pass my exams and they'll kick me out."

Harry hid a smile. "It's not gone, but you're going into everything already thinking you'll fail. Your form is off, that's all."

"What…what do you mean?" Felix asked, snuffling his wet face into his sleeve.

Harry carefully positioned the boy, using his own feet to knock Felix into place and lifted the boy's elbow with a cupped hand.

"Your stance is as important as wand movement. It's why duelling, proper duelling, is considered an art form. Have you ever seen a proper duel? It's akin to dancing, a fluid movement between two or more people. Of course, your spell will work if you say the right words and have the right wand movement, but it works best if you are stanced properly too."

"How do you know all of this?" Felix asked, gaping at him.

Harry chuckled then. "You pick a lot up, being me."

Felix blushed then, as if remembering exactly who he was. Harry still remembered Dumbledore and Voldemort duelling in the Ministry Atrium, however. He had seen two powerful duellists going at one another and it was awe-inspiring. Terrifying, of course, but he remembered watching them, from behind the statue that had been charmed to protect him, as the two danced a duel.

Shaking those thoughts from his head, he focused back on Felix.

"It's late, you're out of bed after curfew and we both have lessons in the morning, so I will make this quick just to prove a point." He said. "Your stance matters and you'd curled up, closing off your body. Your wand wasn't held high enough for a disarming spell, you want your wand level with your arm, at chest height."

Harry manipulated Felix's arm and held his wrist.

"The wand movement is very sharp, Felix." Harry pulled Felix's wrist back and then snapped it out, taking care not to hurt him. "Let me demonstrate."

Harry stepped away and took out his own wand. He took a careful stance, as he'd shown Felix. He bent his elbow and then snapped his arm out straight. "Expelliarmus!"

The dummy wasn't just disarmed but went flying backwards to crash into the floor as the young boy watched in excitement.

"That was incredible!" Felix told him, eyes wide.

"You try." Harry said as the dummy reset itself. "Remember the stance and the wand movement. Put all of your will into saying the words. It's enough to say them, but it's better if you mean it, if you visualise what you actually want to happen. Imagine the dummy being disarmed, imagine it flying back off its feet."

Felix nodded but he looked nervous. He tried to get back into position and Harry went and helped him, pulling and prodding until the second year was in the right position. This needed to work first time or Felix would be even more demoralised.

"Visualise, Flick." Harry encouraged. "Now cast."

"Expelliarmus!" Felix called out, not nearly as loudly as Harry would have preferred he screamed it. Probably some residue fear over being caught.

The wand did fly out of the dummy's hand and it did stagger back a little, though didn't fall.

"There you go. Well done, Flick. And you thought you were a squib." Harry chuckled, patting the boy's shoulder.

"I did it. I can't believe I did it." Felix said, stunned as he watched the dummy set itself up again.

"I told you, you just had a mental block. You'd convinced yourself that you couldn't do it, so you failed before you even tried. Going forward, pay very close attention to the wand movement your Professors show you and visualise the effects of the spell you're learning. Whether that's visualising a stream of water for the water-making spell, Aguamenti, or blasting a hole in something for the exploding charm, Bombarda. You visualise the effects, Flick. You follow the wand movement to the minuscule details and even if you don't get the hang of a spell the first time, go to the library, or look through your set books and research the wand movement as, ninety per cent of the time, that will be where you're going wrong. That or pronunciation. Your stance you can work on as you get older, you'll have to change it once you get older anyway, as you're still growing, but as long as you keep your legs spread for balance and quick movement and keep your chest up and open, you're doing fine. Don't curl up or close yourself off."

Felix nodded, looking so happy that Harry couldn't bring himself to complain about how tired he was, or how late it had gotten.

"Come on, you can practice more tomorrow, it's time that you were in bed."

"Are you going to write me up?" Felix asked, frowning, as if suddenly remembering that Harry was Head Boy and that was his duty.

"No. I did much worse when I was your age. Before the welcoming feast had even started during my second year I crashed a car into the Whomping Willow."

Felix gaped at him. "You're lying!"

"I'm not. If you look up the date in the Daily Prophet archive in the library, you'll even see the car. It made the front page of the evening edition."

"How did you get out of that?!"

"The Professors were a little lenient with me, Dumbledore refused to expel me, but I still got detention from Professor McGonagall. It was a new record…a student getting a detention before the first day of lessons had started."

Felix laughed as they exited the room, and Harry saw the boy taking more critical note of exactly where the Room of Requirement was located. Harry hoped that it helped him, whether it was to practice without his bullying yearmates watching, or just to get away from them for a bit, Harry understood.

"Everyone is saying that you're mean and horrible, but you're actually not."

Harry snorted a laugh. "Is this because of my adoption, or what's currently happening in the papers?"

"The Wizengamot stuff, over the little kids." Felix said quietly as they headed through the silent castle.

Harry hummed. "I doubt any of what you've heard is true, no one here would understand what is actually happening behind the scenes. Only the Wizengamot knows and I'm the only member in the castle."

"They're saying that no one on the Wizengamot cares, that you don't care because you don't say anything about it."

Harry gave a grim smile to the young boy. "Yet, they haven't stopped to think that I don't say anything because I can't say anything. It's against the law for me to discuss any Wizengamot meetings with non-members, Flick and I certainly cannot give away details of an ongoing criminal case."

"Oh. Oh! That makes sense." Felix said, trotting beside him. "But then, why is the newspaper reporting on it like it is your fault? I mean, the Wizengamot's fault?"

Harry considered how to tell a twelve-year-old that The Daily Prophet could hardly be considered a newspaper, about how they liked to sensationalise stories just to drum up sales.

"You're a little young to be involved in such politics, but there's a reason that a lot of witches and wizards prefer to read The World News, instead." Harry said. "The Daily Prophet like to stir the cauldron and see what stories they can create from the chaos they cause in the first place. They're reporting on this ongoing case as if we don't care when there are actually members of the Wizengamot who have been affected by the botched potions and have lost a child in their family. We do care, Felix, and we're doing everything we can to bring those responsible to justice. It's just not as simple as it appears on the surface and that is all I can say on the matter."

"But, the Prophet reported that you had the person responsible in custody and that you're just dragging your heels over taking them to trial."

Harry shook his head. "I can't give you any details, Felix, but I can tell you that isn't what's happening. We're gathering all the information we need to make sure that when we do take them to trial, the sentence sticks and this person doesn't get away with what they did due to faulty investigative reasons."

"Oh. Is it very hard being on the Wizengamot?"

"It's one of the hardest things I've ever done." Harry said honestly. "But it's rewarding in its own way."

"I can't believe you're even speaking to me."

Harry snorted a laugh. "Why not? I'm a student here, just like you. I'm not the monster the Prophet is trying to make out I am and you looked like you needed some help. Just remember what I've taught you and if your yearmates keep bullying you then go straight to Professor Sprout, it won't make it worse, Flick…it'll put a stop to it and if you're feeling so lonely you feel like crying in a classroom on the fifth floor in the middle of the night, you come and speak to me." Harry said seriously. "I teach some of the younger years Defence, I don't see why you can't join us if you'd like."

"You mean it? Like, really mean it?" Felix asked.

"Sure. This is my last year. There are only two more terms left, I've got to pass some of my secrets to the younger years before I leave."

"I know where the kitchens are!" Felix said as they headed through the Entrance Hall.

Harry hummed. "That's the best place to find early, especially if you always want a bit of a snack. Some of my older Quidditch team members let me in on that secret young. The house elves are wonderful. As Quidditch Captain, I felt it was my duty to make sure that all of my team members knew where the kitchens were, to carry on the tradition."

"Do you know many of the secret passageways?" Felix asked as they reached the dungeons.

"Oh yes, plenty, but, as Head Boy, it's my duty to keep you safe, so I'll only let you in on the secrets that won't put you at risk, like the Room of Requirement."

"I can't believe there's a room like that here, at Hogwarts!"

Harry laughed. "Of course there is a room like that here at Hogwarts."

"Thank you, Harry. For everything." The little boy said, suddenly shy.

"There's no need to thank me, just, if you're ever in the same position when you're older, and you find a student crying in an abandoned classroom, don't walk away."

Felix nodded and, as they entered the corridor where Harry knew the kitchens and the Hufflepuff common room were located, Harry stopped and watched Felix walk to the stack of barrels at the end, tapping them in a pattern, before a door formed and Harry made sure Felix entered the common room, a little wave thrown over his shoulder, before slumping tiredly and setting back off to the fourth floor.

"Potter, what are you doing out of bed?"

Harry inhaled deeply as the voice came out of the dark as soon as he entered the Entrance Hall from the dungeons.

"Mister Filch, I was scheduled for patrol tonight. I was just finishing up." He replied as politely as he could manage.

"A little late, even for a Head Boy." The grouchy man said, despite both of them knowing that, as Head Boy, he was allowed to be out until midnight if he wished.

"I lost track of time, but rest assured, I found nothing out of place and I am now heading to bed myself."

Filch's jowls quivered, looking at him with a hard stare as if he didn't quite believe him, but he nodded and shuffled off.

Harry turned to the grand staircase and climbed up. It was almost eleven, he'd only meant to be patrolling for an hour, not two, but, well, he'd done a good deed for the day, so he couldn't regret it. It was very late in the school year for a second year to be struggling to cast spells. The exams were right around the corner, as soon as Easter passed it would be upon them like a tidal wave. He was going to start making up a revision plan and getting all his notes into order to review. He would rather be overly prepared than not enough when the NEWTs rolled around.

It was a little under a week, just five days, before Felix sought him out at breakfast. It was a Saturday and Harry had just finished eating and reading the papers when Blaise had scowled at someone behind Harry.

"Are you lost?" Blaise asked.

Harry turned, a little surprised to see a nervous-looking Felix, but not overly so.

"Morning, Felix." Harry greeted.

"You know him?" Draco asked with a sniff.

"Clearly. What's wrong?" Harry said to Draco before addressing Felix.

Felix mumbled to himself, so Harry turned on the bench and leaned in.

"Lonely." Felix muttered.

"Ah, okay. Have you eaten?"

Felix nodded miserably.

"Harry, what's going on?" Draco asked. "Why is a second-year Hufflepuff…"

"I'm Head Boy, Draco. I have the care for all other students, but particularly the younger years. I told Felix he could come to see me if his housemates didn't stop bullying him…you know, the way I was bullied out of Gryffindor Tower?"

"They didn't stop, even though I get every spell we're shown first time now!" Felix told him and Harry could see he was close to tears. The Great Hall wasn't the place for this.

Harry stood from the bench. "Come on, Flick. Let's take a walk."

The young boy followed him as Harry led him from the Great Hall and Harry clocked the small group of Hufflepuff boys looking worried. They looked to be the same age as Felix…Harry guessed that they were the bullies.

"Where are we going?" Felix asked nervously.

"To Professor Sprout's office to wait for her. I told you to go to her if the bullying continued, why didn't you?"

"I was worried."

Harry nodded. "I'll come with you."

It wasn't a long wait, as Professor Sprout had likely watched what had happened in the hall and gotten an inkling for trouble.

"Ah, Harry, Felix, what can I do for you boys?" She asked as she came down the corridor, smiling, but there was a tightening around her eyes that spoke that she knew she wasn't going to like what was coming.

"Professor, we'd like to have a private meeting with you, if that's alright."

"Of course, come in."

She unlocked the office door and ushered them in before following.

The office was cosy and round and filled with plants. It looked like a smaller version of what Harry suspected the Hufflepuff common room looked like, with bookshelves, two squashy yellow chairs by a fireplace and a desk. It was to the desk that Harry led Felix, indicating that he should sit while Harry did the same.

Professor Sprout came around the desk and sat facing them.

"Now, what is this about, boys?"

"I am here in my Head Boy capacity after I found Felix crying in a disused classroom, Professor. He confided in me that he's being bullied by his yearmates, particularly his dormmates."

Professor Sprout was shocked.

"Is this true, Felix?"

The second year nodded sadly. "They…they started calling me a squib and saying I didn't belong at Hogwarts because I struggled with learning spells."

"Your Professors have said that you have improved vastly in the last week."

Felix gave a very obvious look to Harry. Professor Sprout turned to him.

"I've been giving Felix some private tutoring in spell casting. It was the least I could do when he was so upset. I've been on the receiving end of bullying myself, I know how lonely it feels to be a target, so I reached out to Felix and now, this morning, he's come to me to say that it's still happening, so I would now involve you in this matter, Professor."

"You should have come straight to me, Felix. I will put a stop to this right now. Harry, I will take this matter from here."

Understanding the dismissal, Harry stood from the chair. "Thank you, Professor. Felix, feel free to seek me out if you still feel lonely, or if you struggle with any spells. I don't mind helping."

"Thank you, Harry." A tearful Felix told him.

Harry nodded and left the office, going back to the Great Hall to find Draco.

"All sorted?" Theo asked him.

"I took him to Professor Sprout and she's assured me that she can handle it from here."

"How did you even know he was being bullied?" Draco asked.

"I'm Head Boy, students come over and ask me for advice all the time, Draco. Enough about poor Felix, now, it took a lot of courage to come over while I was sat with all of you. He needed help and hopefully, he'll get it now that Professor Sprout is involved."

"Homework club, then?" Pansy asked, looking slightly pale and nauseated this morning. The morning sickness had definitely hit her hard.

"Absolutely. I want all my homework done and out of the way, so I can relax a little tomorrow." Harry said.

"You won't relax." Blaise said, laughing. "You'll be doing more work."

"Did you drink your milk?" Draco interrupted.

"Yes, Mother. Now come on. I've only got a few pieces left to do and I hope to be done by lunch."

As a group, they stood and left the Great Hall. The Slytherins went to their common room to collect up what they needed and Harry went to his private room and started making space on the coffee table, which he did tend to take over when he was on his own. His law reform, the translation work, letters, his charity work, his homework, and now his revision work too.

He cleaned everything up and got rid of what he didn't need for that moment, taking it to his smaller study room, which he rarely used for its intended use and instead used it for organising all of his work.

He went back out to his sitting room and started making tea. No one would want snacks, they'd just had breakfast, but he did put some ginger newt biscuits on a plate, mostly for Pansy if she needed something to help her feel less nauseated.

The door knocked and Harry went to let them in.

"I need help with Potions, Draco." Astoria was saying as they came in.

"Of course I will help you." Draco assured her.

"You'll be in demand." Harry teased. "I need help with Potions as well."

"You're damn lucky I'm good at it."

"And you're all lucky that I'm a prodigy with Defence and had private tutoring with an Ancient Runes prodigy that I can now pass on to you." Harry chuckled.

"Yes, yes, we're all grateful for both of your unique talents." Blaise waved. "Just share your work so we can get this done."

Harry brought over the tea and set it down, before grabbing his Defence and Ancient Runes work, both of which were already done.

"Here. Give me Potions and Transfiguration."

It was amicable and peaceful as they shared everything and got their work done. The amount of homework they were set was no longer unachievable and they had more free time, which was wonderful for their stress levels.

"Oh, that's it, I'm done." Harry said, sitting back and stretching.

"I'm done too." Pansy said, smiling at her work before handing Harry his Ancient Runes notes back.

Harry tucked them away so that they were safe and he stood, going to fetch a fresh round of tea for them all.

His head was throbbing and he sighed. It wouldn't be long before the Easter break was upon them and he could go home for two weeks. He was very much looking forward to that little break too.

"Do you still have that headache?" Draco demanded, watching as he rubbed at his head.

"It's just a headache, Draco." Harry waved away. "We're all under a lot of stress and my Head Boy duties aren't helping and neither is that Wizengamot case."

"You've had it for three weeks, Harry."

It was more than three weeks. It was five now, but Draco didn't have to know that, he'd go straight to their father and there was nothing that anyone could do.

"Probably because I can't take anything for it." Harry said, even as he rubbed harder at his forehead. "It's just a headache, Draco. The exams are coming up fast, I'm surprised more people don't have them."

"I get them, but I can take a headache reliever at the first sign of one starting." Blaise shrugged.

"You're doing too much." Draco insisted, as he stood and took the tea tray from him.

Harry chuckled. "Draco, I'm fine." He said. "I'm not going to die from a headache."

"At least the Easter break is coming up in a little over a month." Blaise said soothingly. "Two entire weeks without thinking about homework or the exams."

"That'll change as soon as we're back." Theo said.

"Which is why I'm going to enjoy my two weeks off." Blaise answered with a grin.

"I'm going to do the same." Harry insisted.

Everyone laughed at him and Harry scowled.

"The day you take a break and leave all of your projects alone for any length of time is the day I take up Blast-Ended Skrewt rearing as a career." Draco told him.

"It would be a very short career." Harry teased. "Those things were lethal. I'd rather be a dragon handler than a Skrewt handler."

"Weren't they seized and destroyed by the Ministry?" Pansy asked.

"No." Harry said, shaking his head. "For the most part, they killed each other off. I think Hagrid only had a handful left by the end of the year. The last of them died shortly after the tournament."

"I can't believe he was never charged for doing that to us!" Draco growled angrily. "Surely the Ministry couldn't have overlooked the ban on experimental breeding if nothing else?!"

Harry snorted. "He got out of it by putting the few remaining Skrewts into the maze for the final task of the tournament and then claiming he had bred them solely for that purpose and, as none of them survived afterwards, it was just let go."

"That is outrageous!" Astoria said primly, an angry pink flush over her cheeks.

Harry hummed. "A lot of the laws are lax where they shouldn't be and others are completely ridiculous and outdated. Did I tell you that I found a valid law that allowed parents to punish their children with the Cruciatus curse?"

"What?!" Blaise demanded.

"Dear Merlin!" Draco said, shaking his head. "There's no way that law can stay, Harry."

"Imagine punishing your actual child with that curse!" Astoria said in horror.

Pansy's arms had gone rigid around her belly protectively.

"My thoughts exactly!" Harry nodded. "I will not allow anyone to argue against removing that law when it comes to it, but if a parent did use it, and was brought before the Wizengamot for it, the case would have to be dropped. It is a valid law and they would get away with it."

"Fucking hell." Theo cursed. "That's just completely deranged! Was there even an age limit on it?"

"Nope." Harry said, shaking his head. "The law merely stipulated that it had to be your child, and adopted children and legal wards are included, as long as they were living in your household and it couldn't be held for more than five seconds at a time, but there was no limit on how many times you could cast it, as long as each time was less than five seconds. Could be a newborn baby, or a grown adult in their forties, as long as they're your child, living in your house, and you don't exceed the five second cast, it's legally enforceable."

"That is just wrong. I can't even imagine my mother using that curse on me." Blaise said, shaking his head.

"I could." Theo said darkly. "And my father."

"Me too." Pansy nodded.

That was just sad and Harry took a deep breath.

"I'm going to get it repealed." Harry assured them. "If they dared do it then, it would be life in Azkaban for use of an Unforgivable. But, I have had personal experience with that curse before. Let me assure you that five seconds feels like an eternity when you're under it. I literally cannot imagine a child being subjected to it, no matter their age."

"You've found so many laws like that now, haven't you?" Astoria asked after a very long pause in which the silence in the room was deafening.

"Too many." Harry said. "I'm up to twenty pages of things that need to be changed or removed now. It's too dangerous to leave those sorts of gaps and loopholes in our laws, however. It needs to be done and considering that no one else is bothering to do it, I will."

"Yeah, there's no way that you're leaving any of that alone over Easter." Blaise joked, trying to lighten the darkened mood in the room.

"I'll try." Harry insisted. "I need some sort of break before the revision drowns us in the last term and then the exams will wash over us like a river of stress. It's important to take a bit of time out now and then, and that break is when I plan to get mine."

"Five Galleons that he picks up that project in the first few days of the break." Blaise faux whispered.

"Come now, children." Harry said, rolling his eyes.

As he'd intended, they all started laughing again and the mood lightened as they all finished up their homework for the weekend.

"Did Rabastan get you anything for Valentine's Day?" Pansy asked him.

"Wait, when was it?" Harry asked with a frown.

"It's today, Harry. Didn't you have dinner plans with him tonight?" Draco asked worriedly.

"Dear Merlin, you're right. I completely forgot! I can't remember if I sent my gift or not."

"You're not normally this forgetful." Draco said pointedly.

"I'm fine." Harry insisted, standing and going to find where he would have left a gift for Rabastan.

He found it in his bedroom and scowled at himself as he took it back into the living room.

"You did forget to send it?" Blaise asked, looking at the present.

"Yeah." Harry said in aggravation.

"It isn't the end of the world, Harry." Astoria said. "You will see him for dinner and you can give it to him in person. It will mean more giving it in person and I assume that is why you never received a gift at breakfast."

"We agreed that it would be too dangerous to send gifts in the open, not that he listens very well. He keeps sending me chocolates." Harry said with a grin. "Really expensive, the best chocolate you've ever had in your life, chocolates."

"Your sweet tooth is legendary." Blaise teased.

"He gave me even more in the care box that mother sent at the beginning of the month. I will have to remember to thank him for them, it slipped my mind the last time I saw him."

"I'm sure he knows how thankful you are and that you have a lot on your mind." Pansy told him.

"I wouldn't want to take him for granted. The last few times I've seen him have been off the back of Wizengamot meetings, so naturally, the topic of discussion was dominated by what happened in the meeting room and it did completely slip my mind to mention it. I would hate it if a gift I bought for him went unacknowledged too."

"He will understand, he knows the sort of pressure you're under. Just see him for dinner, explain that you've been a bit distracted and thank him for his gift. As with receiving a gift, it will mean more being said in person." Pansy assured him.

Harry blew out a breath and nodded, knowing that they were right, but he was a little worried about his shoddy memory. Was it the headaches causing it? Was it merely stress and not enough sleep? Or was it simply that he was piling too much onto his own shoulders and it had just slipped his mind that Valentine's Day was getting nearer?

He blew out a breath and settled himself. It was probably just stress. His creature law reform was ready and he was planning to submit it before Easter, which was just eight weeks away. The thought of that was causing him a fair share of stress and restless sleep. Maybe it would be good to just submit it and get it off his plate and out of his mind. Though he knew himself well enough to know that he would fret about the reform until it was actually approved…if it was approved. No, he couldn't think like that or have a defeatist attitude, just as he'd told Felix, if he went into something already expecting failure then he had already failed.

He took a calming breath and pushed that from his mind. His reform was ready, he would wait until the Easter break to submit it, but it was as good as he could currently get it. There was nothing more he could do for it at this stage, so he would let that slip from his mind also. He had too much to do to waste time and energy on fretting over something that hadn't yet happened.

That evening, Harry was dressed and primped ready for his dinner date with Rabastan at The Garnet Swan. Harry honestly couldn't wait until he graduated and they were married and Thicknesse pardoned all of the Azkaban escapees so that Harry could go out in public with Rabastan. It would be dangerous, of course, for both him and Rabastan, which is why they were waiting a few extra months before they announced it so that Harry wouldn't be trapped in the castle when that news broke to the public.

"Harry, how are you?" Rabastan greeted, standing and coming to kiss him before leading him to his seat.

"Better now for seeing you." Harry replied, placing his gift on the table and allowing Rabastan to seat him before walking around the table to sit down himself.

"The tone of your letters lately suggests that you're very stressed. Are you sure I can't convince you to take it a little easier?"

Harry chuckled. "I'm fine, Basti. A little stress is going to be good practice for me for when I become the Minister for Magic. I've finished the creature law reform now, I'm planning to submit it when I'm on the Easter break."

"You've finished it?" Rabastan asked, grinning proudly.

Harry nodded, feeling a little bashful in the face of Rabastan's pride. "I haven't changed a thing about it in recent weeks. I've gone through it several times and just…I haven't felt the need to change a thing about it, not even the wording. The Coalition are very pleased and happy with it, they're actually excited for it to be discussed in the Wizengamot, which is a good indication that it will help them, as I'd intended. I just need to gather the courage to submit it."

"I'm very proud of you, Harry and I can't wait to read the final edition. You've worked tirelessly on it, I know it will pass."

"I hope so. I've worked so hard on it, it'll actually hurt to hear it wasn't good enough to pass if I fail to get it through the Wizengamot."

"I will go through it for you, but if you feel that you can't add anything to it, then I know it'll be perfect."

Harry smiled and he settled in his chair. It was a weekend, so they had plenty of time to enjoy themselves and Harry could peruse the menu and choose what meal he wanted instead of having Rabastan pick for him to save already limited time.

"Before I forget, Lucius asked me to question you on a certain book-to-forehead moment that Draco was worried about."

Harry rolled his eyes, looking at Rabastan over the menu. "I had a headache. It's frustrating is all, that I can't just take a headache reliever to get rid of it and instead, I have to suffer until it goes on its own, but as the exams get closer…" Harry shook his head. "It won't be for much longer, four more months and it'll all be over with."

"Your parents are worried that you're harming yourself over it. Draco said that you'd had a permanent headache for three weeks?"

Harry sighed. "It's more like five, but it's sort of like, it will ease off at times, but then it comes back when I do too much or stress myself out. I am fine, it's annoying, but I'm not losing any sleep over it, I promise."

Rabastan hummed, then chuckled. "You won't listen if I tell you to take it easy, but if you've had a headache for five weeks, Harry, maybe you should see a healer?"

"And tell them what? That I have a headache from the approaching exams, but can't take a potion for it because I have runes carved into my neck?" Harry shook his head. "A few more months and all this stress will be gone. The exams are in early June and I'll graduate shortly after."

Rabastan sighed. "I just worry for you, love."

Harry smiled. "I know you do, but there's no need. I promise I am okay. I just want to do well. I have so many dreams and aspirations now. I have things that I actually want, goals I want to achieve. I don't want to slow down or put my plans on hold just because I have to take care with people trying to slip me potions. The runes have to stay, but the downside of that is I can't take a measly headache reliever, but I'd say the trade-off was actually worth it given Dumbledore's plans."

Rabastan smiled. "Alright, Harry. Just remember that I'll be here to support you. You can always turn to me if you want to talk."

"Four more months and I can speak to you every single day, in person!" Harry said excitedly.

Rabastan gave him a soft smile.

The two of them ordered their food and then spoke to one another, just catching up with one another's lives. It was difficult being separated so thoroughly for months at a time, but it was almost at an end.

"Oh, I wanted to thank you for the gifts you've been sending. It keeps slipping my mind and I feel terrible for it. I particularly love the chocolate."

Rabastan laughed at him. "You've been fretting over not thanking me? Harry, I don't buy you gifts to be thanked, I buy them because I know they'll make you happy and I like you being happy, but, rest assured, I will continue to buy you gifts and it won't stop when you graduate."

"Well, they have definitely made me happy, thank you. It's become a nightly routine now to settle down with some tea and chocolates to do my homework or, if that's done, to work on my law reform or my translations."

"How is that translation work coming along?" Rabastan asked curiously.

"I have twenty pages of things that need revising or abolishing, Rabastan! Can you believe it? Twenty pages! It'll actually be twenty-one soon as I'm under no illusions anymore that I won't find more to change in the second half of the book. I'm terrified that it'll double, that I'll have forty pages of outdated laws and customs to overhaul."

Rabastan was back to looking proud and Harry was back to feeling shy and bashful.

"I suppose that will follow nicely after your creature law reform has passed through the Wizengamot."

"Hopefully." Harry said quietly, a little flutter of nerves in his belly. "If the creature law reform doesn't pass, then I'll have to stop work on the translation and writing up those law changes and instead, revise the key points that made the reform fail and try to get it to pass with the next submission. I hope, when I do submit it over Easter, that it doesn't take too long before it's debated. I'm going to be distracted and worried until it comes up, which is why I wanted to do it during the break."

"Understandable." Rabastan nodded.

The subject was dropped for a lighter topic and, as Harry had come to expect, they were served quickly and the food was of impeccable quality.

Very little was said over their food as they both enjoyed their meals, Harry sipping on a small glass of wine.

"Oh, they've added new items to the dessert menu." Harry said excitedly, perusing the new options.

Rabastan chuckled at his enthusiasm, watching him fondly as he tried to decide what he wanted.

"Don't limit yourself to just one option." Rabastan told him. "If you want to try a few, or even all of them, then that's what we'll order."

"I really want to try that lemon and lime white chocolate cake." Harry said, his mouth all but watering at the description.

"Anything else?"

"No, not just yet."

Rabastan ordered their desserts, rather civilly, from the house elf and Harry finished off the remainder of his wine.

"Have you had any issues with Dumbledore?"

Harry shook his head. "No, none. I haven't seen much of him in the Great Hall either. Hopefully, the governors have had a meeting with him, they said it would be quick after what they learned and it's been a month. I haven't heard any news about it, though."

"As long as he is leaving you alone, now." Rabastan said darkly.

"He is." Harry assured his fiancé. "No sly little messages, no attempt to corner me or drag me to his office, those meetings have stopped too. He knows I'm serious about not helping with Voldemort because it'll mean my own death."

Rabastan growled angrily. "I still can't believe he said that to you. What was going through his mind when he thought that that was an acceptable thing to say to you."

"He didn't see me as a person. You know my home life before I was adopted wasn't a good environment, I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, I had no goals or aspirations, no real career picked out, it was almost like I was just waiting to die on Dumbledore's orders." Harry shook his head, thinking back to before his adoption, before his sixth year and he couldn't believe the difference in his mental health. His emotional stability. "He wanted it that way." He said softly. "He didn't want me to have dreams or plans for a future. He wanted me abused and small and meek so that, when the time came, I would be willing to throw my life away for him."

"I am glad that will now never happen." Rabastan said furiously.

"I'm much happier. More settled and stable." Harry said with a sigh. He shook his head. "The difference in my life now, I can't believe I was living like that before my adoption. It wasn't even living, not really. I was just existing, trudging through each day, no direction, no plans, not even a destination in my mind of where I wanted to go after I finished school. It was in my mind that maybe I wouldn't even live long enough to graduate. I'm so much happier, love. I can't tell you how much I don't want to go back to how it was before."

"It won't." Rabastan told him. "I will never let that happen to you, Harry."

Harry smiled softly and, thankfully, they were interrupted by the arrival of their desserts. The large wedge of cake was calling to him and he happily pulled it towards him.

"Is it as nice as you were expecting?" Rabastan asked, watching as Harry shoved a large forkful into his mouth.

"Even better." Harry insisted once he'd swallowed. "It's really tart and zesty, but I like it. The cake isn't dry either. I don't like dry cakes."

"There's something disappointing in a dry cake that sucks all the moisture from your mouth."

Harry laughed. "Oh, definitely!" He agreed.

After they had finished eating, they moved to the sitting area and Harry claimed a spot on Rabastan's lap, cuddling in with a heavy sigh. For the first time in weeks, his head was calm and he didn't have a headache. His stomach was feeling a little unsettled, but he put that down to how much he'd eaten; his wedge of cake had been a decent size, after all.

"How are you feeling now?" Rabastan asked.

"Good. Peaceful, like I just want to stay here with you all night."

"We can stay for a while."

Harry inhaled deeply and then rested himself against Rabastan with a soft sigh. At least it was confirmed that it was the stress he was putting himself through that was causing the headaches, as just a few hours with Rabastan, having a nice meal and not fretting over school work, his law reform, or his translation work and the headache was gone.

The two of them spoke softly to one another, petted each other gently, and Harry enjoyed lounging on Rabastan, feeling the difference in his body, which was now so strong and healthy. Rabastan could hold him like this with ease, with no ill effects. There were no body spasms, no muscle contractions, and no pain or discomfort. Rabastan was on a single potion for just a few more weeks and then his entire healing regime would be at an end. It had been more than two years in the making. Twenty-six months and still counting.

Rodolphus was going to take a few extra months to fully heal, as though he hadn't been in Azkaban any longer than Rabastan, he had an overall bigger body mass to try to heal. They were both very determined though, and Harry was proud of them.

"You've slipped into your head, love." Rabastan cajoled him gently. "What are you thinking?"

Harry hummed, turning to cuddle in more fully. "Only how proud I am of you for all you've overcome in the last few years."

"You mean the effects of Azkaban?"

Harry nodded. "Yes. I know how difficult it is to stick to such a strict potion regime. There are days when you just want to skip a potion because of the effects, or even just the taste, but you can't. I just…I am proud of you, for taking the potions, for doing the exercises, for sticking to such a strict meal plan for two years, and for getting yourself healthy, for wanting to heal yourself."

"I wanted to be the best version of myself for you, Harry." Rabastan said quietly. "For our future family, so I could be the husband you deserve, the father our children deserve."

Harry tipped his head back and smiled up at Rabastan. "I wanted you to do it for yourself, but I'll take a family man over not wanting to try at all."

"I had nothing to live for before you." Rabastan told him seriously. "Why would I have done anything for myself when I had no will to live? It was Dolphus who dragged me through the dark times before you arrived. Your sheer kindness was akin to the sun when you finally arrived in my life and took the time to see me as a person. To see past the injuries and damage inflicted on me. I can't tell you how much I wanted to cling to you when you didn't grimace or stare at me in horror when we first met, how you didn't recoil from me or my touch. When you actually stood to come and take my hand at our introduction, even though it wasn't traditional. It…it meant everything to me, Harry. I knew then that I would do anything for you."

"I just wanted to help you." Harry said softly. "I've always just wanted to help you."

"And I appreciate it so much. You may never know how much, Harry, I could never put it into words, but believe me when I say that I love you and I will always be loyal to you for the kindness and care you've shown me. I'll never forget it."

The two of them shared a soft kiss and Harry tried not to let his passion overwhelm him. That had been happening more often than not, where he and Rabastan would kiss and things got a little out of hand until one of them remembered that they couldn't go any further without dishonouring themselves and the other.

They did lose themselves in the other. They usually did and they lost track of time and it was Rabastan who came to his senses first, gripping Harry's arms and physically moving him away, the both of them panting hard.

Harry was straddling Rabastan's lap, his lips tingling and sore from kissing, unable to think past getting another kiss.

"We need to stop." Rabastan said raggedly, his blue eyes blown wide and sounding pained.

"Why?" Harry asked, purring softly, tipping his head sideways to press their mouths back together.

The kiss didn't last nearly as long as Harry wanted, but his chest was heaving when Rabastan once again strong-armed him backwards, putting a bit of physical space between them.

"Fuck, Harry, we need to stop. I don't think either of our control will last much longer if we don't."

Harry was breathing heavily, hardly able to think past his throbbing dick. He swallowed hard and placed his hands on Rabastan's chest, grounding himself as he tried to force himself to think.

"Deep breaths." Rabastan encouraged, doing the same.

It took several minutes before Harry's blood started to cool and he dropped his head onto Rabastan's shoulder.

"Six months." Harry said, hardly recognising his rough, strained voice.

"Six months, my love, and then we can do what we please, when we please."

Harry inhaled deeply, exhaling shakily.

"I might not survive." Harry chuckled.

"We will." Rabastan said. "I love you and we can survive this. Even if it is just barely, we can get through it."

"We have no other choice." Harry bemoaned.

"Let us get you back to the castle, Harry. I don't think our control will last another round."

Harry chuckled, slipping back, off of Rabastan's lap. He sighed as Rabastan stood and then bent down to kiss him.

"What time is it anyway?"

"Just gone ten." Rabastan said, after taking out his pocket watch and checking. "We truly lost sense of time."

Harry shook his head. "I love you. I will likely see you soon, thanks to the Wizengamot."

"I look forward to it." Rabastan told him, smiling softly.

Harry stole a last kiss and then he spun on the spot, apparating to his private rooms, thankful that he didn't have to walk through the entire castle from Hogsmeade, or worse, floo in through Dumbledore's office.

He threw himself down onto his settee and grumbled a little about having to leave Rabastan in such a state…himself in such a state! It wouldn't be long. He would graduate in June and he would have his birthday in July and he would be married in August. It wasn't long in the grand scheme of things, but having to peel himself away from Rabastan, it felt like forever until August.

Standing again and going to brew himself a cup of tea to, hopefully, calm himself down, Harry tried not to think of Rabastan, or how he had felt under his hands, or how he had smelled.

He shook his head and took his tea back to the table. He needed to calm down, not wind himself up further…then, maybe masturbating would actually help his stress levels and ease off his headaches.

He smiled to himself, he had no other plans for tonight, so why not?

He gulped his tea down in one and put his cup in the sink before heading to bed. He was already wound up and riled, his mind filled with Rabastan, he might as well put himself out of his misery and he was sure he would feel better for it. It could be just what he needed to end such a perfect night.