AN: First I want to thank everyone for the reviews. It is great hearing from you. Next I want to say it is use your imagination time. A large part of my story takes place in Italy. Obviously they would speak Italian, but I don't speak Italian and if I wrote the conversations out in Italian, no one would understand what I was writing. I have added hints of Italian here and there for flavour, but not a whole lot. Hope you enjoy this chapter. ~Ryz
Harry sighed with relief as he left his last class for the day. He loved his advanced craftsmanship class, but it was incredibly draining. As he walked back to his dorm, he thought about the past seven and a half years. It had been a shock when he had found out that he wasn't going to go to Hogwarts. He had heard countless stories about the old school. About his father's adventures with his friends, his mother's love of the library, and how wonderful the professors were. He had been looking forward to attending. He and the twins had had plans.
His first year had been beyond tough. Not only did he not know anyone, but almost no one spoke English. The little bit of Italian he had managed to learn before coming had helped some, but for the first few months he had felt very lost and alone. If he hadn't been such an easy going child, he would have begged his parents not to send him back at Christmas break, but they had said that it was for the best, so he had kept quiet. Slowly he started feeling fluent enough to interact with his classmates. Antonio Zabini was the first to reach out to him. The two boys quickly became friends. Not only did they have similar personalities, but thanks to a British cousin, Toni spoke some English. Francesca and Luca joined them later, and by the end of the year the four were inseparable.
It was when he returned home following his third year that he noticed that things felt a little strange. He hadn't noticed it before, but since he spent the majority of his time in Italy he had picked up the culture. Over the years he had become less British and more Italian. A normal occurrence, but still disconcerting for the not quite twelve year old who now felt like he didn't "fit in" anymore. This discovery led to him spend more and more time with his friends and their families. As the years past his bonds to the UK became less and less. In fact he hadn't been back for almost two years. Oh he still loved the Potters, but his parents seemed more like a distant Aunt and Uncle than parents. No it was Toni's parents who had stepped into that role. If he had a problem it was to Giuseppe or Maria that he turned to. They who understood and encouraged his dreams. Besides he understood that James and Lily were busy with his brother. Why force the issue when you have nothing in common?
"Hey Luca," Harry greeted his roommate.
The dark haired boy looked up from his packing. "Hey Lio, you all set to go?"
Harry wearily sat down on his bed. "Si, I packed last night with Toni. Merlin, I need these two weeks!"
Luca chuckled. "Yes you look it." His expression changed to concern. "We don't leave for a few hours, why don't you take a short nap?"
Harry bit back a groan before slipping off his shoes and lying down. It was pointless to argue and the last thing he needed was Luca telling Giuseppe that he was "neglecting" himself. He'd be put to bed for a week! He supposed he should be grateful that Toni had left for Florence last night. If he became involved there would be a Healer waiting for him when he got home. Honestly, ever since his "condition" had been discovered their over protectiveness had known no limit. Francesca sympathized with him. Being female she had experienced over protectiveness since she was born. She tried to reign Toni in, but Zabini stubbornness was legendary. Most mules were more lenient than that family.
Harry sighed as he closed his eyes. He understood that being a bearer was special and rare. Yes it caused him to be small and slender, but by the saints! Just because he looked delicate didn't mean he was delicate! He was just as healthy, strong and powerful as any other wizard, but convincing his family of that seemed impossible.
A few hours later he was awakened by Luca. "Well, you look a little better. You still appear tired though."
Harry smiled at his friend. "Luca, I had five exams and four midterm projects due this week. Of course I am tired. You needn't worry so much, I am fine."
"I just want to make sure you take care of yourself."
"Si Mamma. I promise."
Luca laughed and swatted the back of Harry's head. "Fine, fine, I will back off. Just don't come crying to me if Signore Zabini gives you another lecture." He laughed harder at Harry's shudder. "Well come on Lio. We don't want to be late for dinner."
The moment that Harry stepped out of the floo he was swept into an embrace.
"Lio, welcome home!"
Harry relaxed into the warm affection of Maria. "It is good to be home Mamma." He was soon claimed by another pair of arms.
"Figlio (son) it is wonderful to see you again," Giuseppe said, kissing him on the top of the head. Stepping back he studied Harry intently. "You look drawn Lio. Perhaps we should have Healer Castillo come and look you over."
Harry bit back a groan. It was wonderful knowing that his family cared so much for him, but if Healer Castillo got involved he'd spend his entire holiday in bed! Ringing laughter told Harry that he didn't do as good of a job hiding his grimace as he had thought.
"Now Giuseppe, leave the poor boy alone. He has just gone through his midterms. I am sure he'll be fine after a good night's rest."
The head of the Zabini family turned his attention back to Harry. "Hmm, well I suppose we can wait a few days. I won't call Castillo, but I expect you to take full advantage of this break and get plenty of rest."
"I promise Papa," Harry answered in relief. He sent a smile of gratitude towards the elder woman and received a wink back. Giuseppe might be the head of the family, but not even he would go against Nonna (Grandma) Melita. His mother took Zabini stubbornness to a whole new level! Harry smiled again as he thought back to his first meeting with this family. He had been so overwhelmed. But he had quickly learned that behind the imposing figure of Giuseppe lay a warm and generous heart. The man had taken one look at the lonely ten year old and had claimed him.
Toni, Luca, and he left the room to prepare for dinner. "Lucky escape there brother," Toni commented with a smirk. Even though he was almost as bad, he found his parents coddling of Lio hilarious.
"Si, I was having visions of being confined to bed before Nonna stepped in. You know I would have hated missing your betrothal ball."
Toni laughed at that. "Oh you know perfectly well you would have been allowed to attend. It is a well known fact that you have Papa wrapped around you finger. You know, I should feel jealous that Mamma and Papa love you more than me. Even my fiancé's family likes you more than me!"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Oh please! The Medicis like you just fine. Any hostility they hold towards you is due towards you taking Francesca away from them." He replied ignoring the first part of Toni's comment. When he was new to the family he had been afraid that his friend would resent the amount of attention he received from Giuseppe, but he had soon learned that the big bear of a man had more than enough love to go around.
"Perhaps, but relations between the Medicis and the Zabinis have always been good."
Luca looked at his friend in disbelief. "When it comes to the ONLY daughter of Vincenzio Medici, it doesn't matter how good your family relations are. San Paulo himself would have been sneered at. It is nothing short of a miracle that they didn't kill you for daring to suggest that you are worthy of her!"
Toni gave a wry chuckle as he remembered the four hour interrogation he had suffered when asking permission to court her. "Oh I have been informed many times that I am not, nor ever will be worthy of her. Apparently the only reason they put up with my inferiority is because Francesca insists that I am necessary for her happiness."
"She always has been able to get what she wants from her father and six brothers."
Toni shared a smile with his brother and friend. "Si, and as long as I never upset her I can live a long and happy life."