I guess this means that I'm not dead…at least not until one of you tries to kill me for taking so long. This chapter is more of a bridge/filler as I try to pick the story back up and get back into the swing of things. I won't make excuses about life or burden you with any of those tales, I merely apologize for leaving you hanging. There were many moments when I came very close to putting up a note that my stories were abandoned because I did not know when I would have a chance to write again.


Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or any such related things so sit back, enjoy the story, and don't sue me.

Chapter 9: Damage Control

Harry couldn't sleep that night, he kept waking up as his body refused to relax and let go of the high he had been riding all day. Not only had he survived the first task but his father was awake. He could have failed miserably today and still felt as if he had come out on top the moment he had seen his father smiling at him. It was as if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders and he finally could acknowledge that as time had passed he had begun to feel fear. Fear his father would not wake, fear that if he did wake that he wouldn't have been himself or would have been damaged somehow. Instead Harry had only found his father, found the Manuel that he knew and loved. He knew it had to be thanks to Severus' potions. Harry would never tell anyone, but he had spent long evenings researching the effects suffered by individuals who had been stuck in long lasting comas and none of it had been promising. In normal cases the longer people were in a coma the more they lost—brain functions, physical abilities, personality…

Harry knew he owed Severus despite what the Potions Master would say, knew he owed the man everything because even as good as Trevor was when it came to potions he had not had the skill or knowledge to help Manuel and there had been no one else they could have safely turned to but Severus. He even knew what he could do to help the Potions Master, but it would take a lot more research and magical control than he currently possessed. His goal was to remove the older man's Dark Mark and free him from not only Voldemort, but Dumbledore's supposedly benevolent clutches as well. He would have to let Trevor and Bill in on his plan and coerce the two men to assist him with his research. He'd have more time now to work on this pet project as well now that his father was awake and could take over some of the clan business again.

Now he really couldn't sleep. He was afraid that if he closed his eyes that he would wake up and discover that it was all a dream. Harry dithered for another moment before getting up. Maybe he could sleep better in the common room. He wished his father and Trevor had been able to stay in the castle overnight, but they had promised to visit soon. Harry was going to hold them to that. Padding over to his favorite couch to curl up on, Harry smiled to see that Blaise was already curled up there sleeping, waiting for him. Carefully lifting Blaise up slightly, Harry curled up under her summoning another blanket to keep them both warm.

"Stubborn." Blaise mumbled sleepily as she snuggled back against him. "Been waiting for you."

"I know." Harry wrapped his arms around her. "I'm sorry I kept you waiting."

"Sleep now." Blaise replied and Harry smiled.

"Yes ma'am."

And he did.

… … … … …

The next two weeks fell into a somewhat normal pattern for Harry and Blaise as they went to classes and Harry continued to handle the clan business that Trevor and Manuel sent his way. In keeping with their promise, Manuel and Trevor had come the weekend after the first task for a longer visit with Harry and Blaise and that was when Manuel had revealed his plan that Harry was to continue to handle the Clan business along with him. Harry had groaned good-naturedly but his eyes had shown brightly at the trust his father was showing in him. Now, fate was conspiring to throw another wrench into things.

"Yes, you heard me correctly." Severus sneered as he gazed out upon his classroom. "There will be a Yule Ball held on Christmas Day. Fourth years and above will be permitted to attend, but the lower years can only attend if asked by an upper classman. Our Champions…" Here Severus paused to smirk good-naturedly at Harry. "…will be expected to open the dance with their partner for the evening. I expect all my Slytherins to be on their best behavior and to not disappoint me by acting improperly. Dismissed."

Harry groaned as he and Blaise made their way to the Great Hall for lunch, already dodging numerous requests to attend the ball.

"Why are they even bothering?" Harry groaned as they slipped into their usual seats. "They should know I won't accept any of them. After lunch we'll have to write to Trevor and have him pick us up a set of dress robes that are complimentary if we'll have to be on display to open this ball. Though maybe this will be a good opportunity to…"

Harry trailed off as Blaise abruptly stood and walked out of the Great Hall. What on Earth was wrong with her?

Shrugging, Harry decided not to follow Blaise and so missed seeing her slip down a side hall and let loose a small scream before punching the wall in an effort to give vent to her feelings.

"You too?" The words held a twist of irony as Hermione said them.

Blaise huffed a sigh. "What is wrong with guys? He just assumes that I'm going to be at his side, doesn't even bother to ask…and I don't know why I'm this upset when that's exactly what I want."

Hermione's lips twisted up in a sad smile. "You want him to actually want to take you instead of just picking you for convenience. At least in your case I saw Harry turning down other girls left and right, he probably did that for you. In my case I was asked as a convenience, because Ron failed to ask Fleur Delacour and is now too discouraged to ask anyone else."

Blaise eyed the other girl appraisingly as an idea blossomed in her mind, Hermione wouldn't look bad once she had a little makeup on and did something with her hair. "If you're set on the Weasley, I can help you make him jealous. We just need to find you the right dress."

"I don't know…" Hermione was hesitant, but Blaise waived her off. "Just leave it to me. If you can find a date it'll be even better, but there's no harm in going single. I have a feeling that's what I'll end up doing."

Hermione looked at the other girl oddly. "Why wouldn't you find someone else to go with? I can't imagine that no one would ask you."

"Trying to make Harry jealous wouldn't work. Now when I'm just a convenient choice." Blaise sighed and began to walk away, muttering under her breath. "And he'd probably kill anyone I took just because he could or if he thought the guy was getting too hands-on. Maybe I am just another clan member to protect, a conveniently available girl who he doesn't have to pretend around."

Little did Blaise know that as she was muttering to herself Harry had gotten worried when she had not come back and had left the Great Hall to look for her, running into Severus on the way.

"Professor Snape, can I speak with you for a moment?"

Severus looked around, ensuring they were alone before beckoning Harry into a nearby classroom that was not currently being used. "What can I do for you Harry?"

Harry sighed. "Blaise is upset over something, I'm guessing it's something I did, but I have no idea what."

Severus repressed a smirk. He had a good idea what this was going to be about and had wondered when something like this would happen. "Why don't you tell me what happened between the two of you leaving the classroom and Blaise getting upset. We'll see if we can figure out what has happened."

Harry recounted the events with clinical efficiency and Severus' smirk finally bloomed across his face. "I feel all warm and tingly getting to tell you this, but you really messed up this time. You are supposed to ask Blaise to the Yule Ball, not just assume she will be willing to go with you even though you know she is."

Harry looked sheepish. "I screwed up royally, didn't I?"

Severus dared pull the younger man into a quick hug; he was really starting to view Harry as one would a nephew. "Yes, you did, but you can still salvage the situation. You're just going to have to be willing to grovel a bit."

Harry nodded. "I'm thinking a little public embarrassment is what it's going to take myself. I really did not handle this one well at all."

Severus raised an eyebrow and then shook his head with a laugh. "Just remember to comport yourself as a Slytherin. Not even for love are we allowed embarrass ourselves like a foolish Gryffindor would."

… … … … …

It was four days later and Blaise was still giving Harry the cold shoulder, making things awkward between the two of them. It was also becoming dangerous for anyone of the male persuasion to approach Blaise as Harry's glares were no a rival to Snapes's and many were suddenly feeling that pissing Snape off was a safer bet. Given all that, anyone who would happen to see Harry at this moment as he nervously stood outside the doors to the Great Hall as he waited for dinner to get further underway would have probably turned and walked the other way. Of course only Severus was there, having held his young snake back a few minutes to help facilitate the drama about to play out; he still couldn't believe what Harry was about to do but it was in keeping with pureblood tradition, Trevor had given his consent, and as head of House Potter Harry had the right to embark on this crazy scheme even at his relatively young age.

"Are you sure?" Severus asked one final time.

Harry sucked in a breath, let it out, and nodded sharply once. "Yes."

Severus shook his head in amusement. "Then let's get this over with and for Salazar's sake remember that you are a Slytherin and remember your composure. I've seen Gryffindors do this and forget all dignity. Embarassing."

Harry smirked at Severus. "Just who do you take me for? You do us both insult by implying that I am anything less than a Slytherin—that's like saying I'm not a Darkov."

Severus smirked back, pleased to see that even if Harry was still nervous that he had hidden it well; it amazed him that even at so young that the young mafia heir could wear such confidence so easily when he had to be nervous inside. Manuel and Trevor had certainly trained Harry well, well enough that even when he had tried Severus could not find a trace of James Potter's attitude in the boy. Oh sure, Harry enjoyed mischief and pranks just like James had, but it wasn't in a petty or malicious sense.

"Then go take care of this little mess of yours so I can actually sit down and enjoy my dinner—or at least enjoy as much of it as I can with all those noisy brats in there."

Harry took another deep breath and pushed open the doors to the Great Hall, his eyes firmly fixed on the Slytherin table and Blaise despite knowing that most every eye in the hall was now on him. Instead of his normal school robes, Harry wore a dark blue robe that hung open to reveal the neatly pressed slacks and starched white dress shirt he wore underneath. The only other ornamentation he wore were the Potter and Darkov crests on his right hand. More than a few of the students knew what Harry's attire meant, and after a moment gave him the required courtesy of acting as if nothing was out of the ordinary. Blaise on the other hand, watched Harry with wary eyes as he approached her—perhaps comparing this entrance to the last such entrance that Harry had made in such a manner.

"Blaise Eilin Zabini." Harry began formally, bowing to his friend. "With the permission of your father I ask that you consider the suit I put forth to officially court you. You would do me great honor by accepting." Harry dropped his voice so that only Blaise could hear. "I was an ass, Blaise. I took our feelings and your acceptance for granted. Please let me make it up to you. To prove that I care and that I am not just taking your presence in my life for granted."

Blaise nodded, tears shimmering but not falling and Harry pulled a chain from which dangled the Potter crest out of his pocket and spoke a few quiet words over the necklace before fastening it around Blaise's neck.

"Though I wear both the Potter and Darkov crests tonight, I am only presenting you with the Potter crest as a symbol of our courtship because no matter what happens you shall always have the right to wear the Darkov crest unless you should betray that trust. At any time should you wish to end our courtship and cease any sort of romantic relationship with me you merely need to remove the Potter necklace and state your intention to nullify the courtship. The crest cannot be removed by anyone but you or myself and it must be done willingly, should either of us be under duress the magic will not recognize it as a true end and the courtship will still be in place."

Blaise made a motion as if to say something or protest, but Harry stalled her with a touch.

"Now I hope that I have at least partly made up for being such a bloody cad, but I hope to further redeem myself by officially asking you to the Yule Ball. Will you, Blaise Zabini, also do me the honor of accompanying me to the Yule Ball as my date?"

Blaise nodded, swallowing any of the other words she might have said on his actions. "Yes, I will. Now will you sit down and eat your dinner, I think Professor Snape is getting a bit annoyed."

Posted On: April 14, 2012