Chapter Twenty-three: Treading Water

Harry lingered over breakfast sighing heavily as he flipped through last month's journal entries between him and Takashi.

Despite completely blowing off Takashi's concerned inquiries about his state of mind, his quiet friend had stuck by him with continuous words of comfort and support. Harry didn't know how he could make it up to him. After all, in the past few weeks, he made Takashi suffer through the most mundane correspondence in the history of mankind.

"Just put pen to paper brat, it's not that hard."

"Hmm," Harry asked distracted playing with the feather on his quill. When Sensei didn't say anything more, Harry looked up started to find Sensei sitting in his seat acting as if he'd lost his mind. His arms fluttered back in forth in front of his chest and despite sitting, he rhythmically kicked his feet around in some absurd pattern like a man swimming in water. "Do I need to floo St. Mungo's?"

"Yes. Tell them I'm drowning from all the teenage angst floating in the air."

Harry gave a Hermione like huff and stalked out the kitchen, Sensei's laughter in his wake as he still clutched the journal in his hand. Harry made his way to his office slamming the door behind him to let Sensei know he was annoyed with him. The office, completely redecorated by Sherry, his interior design, had become his haven. The office with its dark paneled walls, built in bookshelves, and stained glass windows, became a stylish gothic styled Victorian oasis under Sherry's expert hands. The light paint colors and furniture brightened the room and Harry sunk on the sofa feeling the comfort of the cushy antique settle into his bones. On the table was a stack of readings for his classes tomorrow as well as business reports. Harry ignored it all as he continued to stare at the journal he'd been eyeballing for the last several days, not knowing how to begin. Every time he began to put words to parchment, the words died in his throat. He had to think of something before Takashi completely gave up on him.

Hoping for inspiration, he reread for what felt like the hundredth time the journal entries from the beginning of his and Takashi's relationship, until now. So engrossed in what he read, he didn't even register when someone walked into the room and his feet were lifted and settled in someone's lap until his name was spoken.

"Harry."

The journal slid from Harry's hands as he looked over at gaped at Takashi who sat calmly waiting for Harry to acknowledge him, but Harry remained mute, unable to speak, unable to move as he sat there with his mouth gaping open staring at Takashi, stuck dumb. Unfazed by Harry's response, Takashi unlaced Harry's trainers, removed his socks, and gave him a foot massage.

"What," Harry managed. "How?"

"Ojisan told my parents if they didn't allow me to visit, he'd stab you in your sleep." Harry snorted and Takashi mouth quirked slightly before his face smoothed out, looking concerned, the fingers on his foot deepened its massage. "Rough couple weeks?"

"Yeah," Harry croaked still stunned Takashi sat next to him. He lifted the journal that had fallen to the rug laid atop the polished, stone floor. "I've been trying to write you . . . didn't know how to begin."

"How are you?"

"Umm, dealing . . . better than I was."

"Good." Then as if their relationship hadn't been strained, Takashi began to chat about what had been going on with him in school and the Kendo events he'd entered to prepare himself for the World Championship. The soothing timber of Takashi's voice relaxed him like nothing else had been able to, but Harry was selfish. He wanted more.

"Takashi," Harry began.

"Ah?"

"Would you . . .," Harry face colored and he licked suddenly dry lips, hesitant to ask. He didn't know if he would be able to take another refusal and lecture about how they weren't ready to be close to each other right now. "I need a hug," he ended bluntly.

Without another word, Takashi pulled him into his lap and rubbed his back. Harry burrowed himself deeper into Takashi's chest and closed his eyes with a contented sigh as he breathed in the mint and cardamom from Takashi's soap, relaxing into his embrace.

"The more I learn about you, the more I admire you," Takashi confessed right before Harry was about to drift off to sleep.

Needless to say that caught Harry's attention. Not wanting to startle Takashi back into silence Harry didn't move at his friend's startling speech, although his eyes popped open.

"What do you mean," Harry asked speaking into Takashi's chest.

Fingers slid through his hair and massaged his scalp, Harry felt himself moaning at the contact. "I've seen people deal with less than what you have and fall apart. No matter the blows someone strikes at you, you either dodge or deflect them. You always fight."

"I'm tired of fighting."

"Naturally. You've been blocking, dodging, and parrying for too long without being able to strike back. You're exhausted in body and spirit, but you're still standing, still waiting patiently for your next move, your next opportunity to strike."

Harry's mouth curved in a smile. This must be the weirdest conversation he ever participated in and considering he was friends with Luna that said something.

"I checked out for a while. I've tried to figure out the best way to apologize to you for the way I've ignored you."

"I understood."

Harry let out the breath he'd been holding. "How long can you stay?"

"A couple hours, have class in the morning."

Harry frowned, thinking. It was nearly dinnertime in Tokyo. "Do you want to go to London, we can hang out, get something to eat before you leave?"

"Rather stay here, never got a chance to see the estate just your rooms."

Harry nodded and though he was loathed to move, he climbed out Takashi's lap, and held out his hand to help pull his bigger friend up.

"Fresh air would do me good."

They bundled up in their coats, hats, and gloves and Harry spent the rest of the morning showing Takashi the estate grounds, gardens, groves, greenhouse, animals, and temple. They walked the estate hand in hand while dodging tourists doing the same. Harry leaned into Takashi's side and groaned. It now took a longer reach for Harry to rest his head on Takashi's shoulder.

"You've grown since the holidays."

Takashi chuckled. "Ah."

"You better stop. I'm tired of being the midget," Harry pouted, despite now standing at sixty-five inches, he was still one of the shortest boys he knew. "The healers said I'll go through another big growth spurt in a year or so, so hopefully, I'll catch up."

Takashi reached down and patted Harry's head despite the hat he wore. "Like you the way you are."

"You would. I've seen you with Mitsukuni, I think you have a fetish for small things," Harry teased.

Takashi chuckled and tangled their gloved hands together. It had rained yesterday and the rain caused the snow to turn into slush and sleet. Despite that, it was still chilly and you could see the ducks walking across the frozen pond. The perfect winter morning and he was sharing it with Takashi.

"You reread the journal?" Takashi asked out of the blue.

Harry flushed and felt his face light up as bright as the Weasleys' hair. "Yeah."

"Me too," Takashi admitted softly.

They shot a quick glance at each other, both looking away when they realized the other blushed. Takashi squeezed his hand. They walked in silence a little longer, until Takashi spoke again.

"A heritage to be proud of."

Harry smiled as he looked over the estate. "Yes. I am grateful I was able to discover it." Harry said as they walked through the temple where the Potter Crest was carved prominently in the stone. "It's strange. Despite being angry and depressed, and frustrated about everything that happened and what Dumbledore is still trying to do to me, I no longer feel empty. I know who I am," his hand swept the estate. "I know my past, my present, how important my responsibility to this is, to preserve it. I know the history of honor and service my family has, I understand why Mum was determined to share what she could of the history to the world. I know why my parents were willing to sacrifice their lives to protect my heritage and me. I am a Potter and that's a great thing to be," he finished proudly.

Takashi stopped and pulled him in a quick hug before they separated and walked out the temple continuing the tour. Takashi pointed to an imposing rounded domed columned building in the distance, devoid of tourists.

"What's that?"

"The mausoleum," Harry answered quietly as he walked towards it. "It's closed to tourists. It's where my family has been buried since the castle was built."

"Your parents?" Takashi questioned quietly.

"Yeah, I was able to move them."

"I'd be honored to meet them, Harry."

Harry nodded and they walked to the mausoleum in silence though Harry relished the feeling of Takashi's hand trailing down his back. They entered the chapel. Once again, the Potter Crest of a stag and griffin with crossed swords and wands dominated a wall with the Potter motto of honor, justice, freedom, duty, mercy, and hope written in Latin underneath. The other walls were decorated with mosaic images. Harry showed Takashi the artwork depicting various important moments in Potter family history to include the Tale of the Three Brothers, the founding of Hogwarts, the history with the Vikings, and an ancestor being presented with the Ulfberht sword, the ultimate Viking sword, made by a the master wizard craftsman Ulfberht himself. Harry had discovered the sword and an account of its history inside his vault. After leaving the chapel, they went underground to the crypt where they spent time speaking with Harry's parents. Takashi's hand was a gentle presence on his as he sat on the floor in front of his parents loculi and listened as Harry explained the turbulent emotions he'd experienced the last couple of weeks. Once he finished he felt renewed as he always did when he spoke to them and he and Takashi walked back to the castle where they ate, lunch for Harry and a late dinner for Takashi. But all too soon, Sensei appeared to take Takashi away. They held each other tight making Sensei clear his throat sharply. With one last lingering hug and the press of lips to Harry's hair, Takashi pulled away and left with his uncle.

Harry went back into his office to prepare for school in the morning and did his best not to remember how Takashi had looked sitting beside him on the sofa. How right it felt to have Takashi at his side and how lonely it felt now that he was gone. It was getting harder and harder saying goodbye. Harry didn't know how long he'd be able to keep up the pretense of just friends.


After a quick knock on the door, Harry poked his head into the ministry office of the new Chief of the Wizengamot, Tiberius Ogden.

"I'm not too late am I?" he asked cheerfully as he stepped into the room knowing very well it was exactly sixteen minutes pass the time he was due to arrive for his hearing.

"No," Tiberius Ogden drew in a breath and plastered a smile on his face as he managed not to glare down at Harry with annoyance. "You have good timing."

"Perfect." Harry scanned the small conference table inside the Chief's office and saw that it was filled with the older members of the Wizengamot, most likely Dumbledore's lackey's. The only exception was Sirius, who waved at him.

"Hey puppy," he said amused.

Harry wondered how Sirius had managed to work around Dumbledore's group and barge into the meeting. Harry grinned and held up the box and large pitcher in his hands. "Hey Sirius. I brought tea and donuts."

Harry dropped the tea and donuts on the middle of the conference table and went to grab one the crème filled ones dipped in chocolate for himself. Taking a bite out the donut, he looked around the room filled with the older Wizengamot members and chuckled.

"Just out of curiosity is there anyone in this room beside Sirius, who is not an old friend of Albus Dumbledore's or owes him some type of favor or life debt?"

Silence was his answer. Harry rolled his eyes and flitted about the room disabling listening devices and tracking charms from people and things. Chief Ogden's face went florid, and his jaws shook when Harry removed several from on his person. Harry supposed it didn't help that Sirius was in the background laughing helplessly as he did so.

Once he collected them all and dumped them dramatically in a bucket of conjured water, he arched an eyebrow at the senior wizards. "Am I the only one who thinks that was just sad?"

Sirius snorted. Chief Ogden went to sit at the head of the table and gripped the edge, his fingers turning a shocking pale white. "Thank you for your assistance," he bit out barely repressing his anger, Harry thought that Ogden's anger should have been directed at the situation, not him, but who was he to judge. "If we may begin, Mr. Potter."

"Lord Potter," Harry countered smoothly. "I have a distinct family history and heritage that predates Hogwarts that I'm proud of." Harry looked around the room curiously. "Can we even begin without an advocate? Do I have one? I don't see a representative of Wizarding Children Services. Is it even legal for you to have this meeting with me? I am just a child after all."

With the exception of Sirius who snorted at the 'just a child' comment, none of the Wizengamot members present had the nerve to meet his eyes.

"Your godfather is here, Lord Potter," the Chief informed him.

"Yes, but he's here as a member of the Wizengamot, not as my personal advocate. Excuse me, but as you know I haven't had the best experiences with meddling old men, so forgive me if I'm on edge."

"I know you have seen little reason to believe this Lord Potter, but children are our most valuable resource in the wizarding world," A man Harry believed to be Elphias Dodge, one of Dumbledore's oldest friends began. "Your friends the Weasleys aside, most wizarding families are lucky to have one to two children, so we value each child that comes into this world. Unfortunately, with the way the war ended, you slipped through the cracks. We don't want that to happen again. We just need to make sure you're okay. To make sure you're in good hands and make amends for the past."

"And you know best in what would make me okay, I suppose, Mr. Dodge."

Harry smiled placidly at the man before his eyes landed on the article Jessica had wrote for the Daily Telegraph sitting on the table and sighed. He'd become a bit more famous since the running of that article. The muggle press had taken to calling him the Royal Ward, his popularity was on par with Prince William, and Prince Harry. He'd been recently named one of the hottest bachelors in England. His press secretary had reserved more than a dozen domain names in his honor and wanted him to start a personal blog of all things.

He picked up the paper and set it down in front of Chief Ogden.

"Why am I here if you already have your answer?"

"We have nothing to verify your claims, Lord Potter, just your interview in the muggle paper."

Harry sighed and rose from his seat. "Then do what the muggles did, go to the source and ask if you want proof Chief Ogden. I'm sorry, I will have to leave, as I am a minor and your office failed to provide a child's advocate for my safety. Strange behavior for a society who supposedly values wizarding children as Mr. Dodge has said. Unfortunately, you're actions do not meet you pretty words. If you do not believe I am a royal ward, contact the British Prime Minister." Harry smiled showing his teeth. "He and I became good friends after I was able to remove the portrait from his office and deactivate his fireplace from the floo network. He requires courtesy from wizards who seeks an audience with him. So I suggest you be mindful of what a busy man he is and make an appointment before you drop by." He swept his audience with a cool look. "Please take care. Her Majesty's government isn't too pleased with wizarding Britain at the moment. If you go in like typical wizards assuming you know best, you will find that the government will do what it has been tempted to do since the start of the first wizarding war, revoke the charter that allows magical Britain to self-rule and place us back under the Crown's rule." The older wizards all gasped in horror. "Yes, and if that occurs who do you think will get the blame? Surely not Dumbledore though, he is the master pulling all your strings. He cleverly removed himself from the seat of power so when everything blew up, he would not be the one holding the reigns, despite the fact that through you, he is still running the show. Oops, I've gone on too much, haven't I? I better go. I hope you have a good day."

With a nod, Harry rose from his chair and swept out the room. Once they were in the hallway, Sensei and Emil disillusioned themselves and began chuckling.

"Amazing," Emil said with a proud nod.

"Yes," Sensei reached out and ruffled his hair. "Good job, brat."

Harry smiled basking in their approval. He was going through a winning streak; hopefully it'll stay that way.


Author's Notes:

*It's still Monday somewhere right? (Wishful thinking) Been swamped with life and holiday stuff. I haven't had time to sit and respond to reviews lately and I sincerely apologize for that. My bad. Just know that you guys rock and I appreciate each and every one of you.

*As always don't own Harry Potter or Ouran High School Host Club. All mistakes are my own.