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To Test a Man's Character

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There is no good and evil, there is only power… and those too weak to seek it.

~Lord Voldemort


Harry feels the difference within minutes of Voldemort's last breath. His magic ripples beneath his skin and his head thumps to some unknown rhythm. Something's happening; something within him is morphing, zipping along his nerves and spine, tilting his world sideways and ramping everything around him into more. Brighter colours, louder sounds, stronger emotions.

His temper, always infamous in its own right, gurgles high and choppy, growing hotter and stronger with every clap on his back, every hug, every word of congratulations. He has got to get away from these people.

Claiming exhaustion, he begs off and retreats, turning at the last minute to hide not in the high turret of Gryffindor's tower but within the cold, damp walls of Slytherin House.

The portrait of Salazar nods when Harry stepped into the room. An enveloping sense of homecoming eases Harry's frayed nerves and the remaining tension strumming through him fades away. Understanding and welcome shine in the painting's eyes and Salazar murmurs, "Rest, young one. I will keep them at bay."

Harry takes the founder at his word and falls into a dreamless sleep on the leather sofa. Near to a day later, he wakes to a fire burning in the grate and an adjusted definition of self radiating through him. Hints of newfound knowledge and strong opinions for certain people and places and magics begin taking hold within him. He does nothing to make it go away, to make the madness stop.

"Mind yourself in front of others, young one," Salazar instructs. "Until you truly understand who you are, camouflage the new behind the old. Not everyone will welcome what the Fates have decreed."

"Of course, sir," Harry agrees, not fully understanding what Salazar is on about, but knowing all too well how fickle the Wizarding world can be. Hiding the Elder Wand in his robes, Harry plasters a smile on his face and slips out of the room with one last nod in Salazar's direction.

* * *

Thirty-seven days tick off the calendar and the boy he'd been before has yet to return. Harry has stopped searching for the child the world knows and has started embracing the man he is now.

That boy, the saviour and keeper, the symbol of the Light, is gone.

Harry accepted the fact more than a fortnight before, teetering on the brink of cursing Hermione with a hex he still can't recall learning simply because she wouldn't back off. Her demands for him to return to Hogwarts, to study, to be what the Wizarding world at large expected of their boy saviour grating along Harry's skin until his wand was clutched tightly in his hand and his lips were curling into a snarl.

It had been like a dam breaking. Everything he'd been holding back flooded through him and he just had to get away.

He's reaching that point again. The point where he can't hold on to the image the world expects.

Harry looks down at Ginny and frowns, a curse dancing precariously close to spilling out. She's clinging to him like a leech and nattering on about wedding colours and houses. Then she mentions children – What do you think, Harry? Should we wait for at least a year after I finish at Hogwarts to start a family? – and Harry shatters.

His façade crumbling, Harry jerks out of Ginny's grasp and Apparates away. Reappearing on the edges of Hogsmeade, he takes one deep breath after another until his heart rate slows and his anger ebbs. The final remains of his Boy-Who-Lived mask – the innocent eyes and lopsided grin – fall away, giving over completely to the Harry Potter that he's been hiding since the final battle.

None of his friends seem to realise that he has changed. Between Hermione's constant rambling about how he has to live up to the hero he is – because apparently even now he is not entitled to his own life – and Ron's notion that all things Slytherin should be destroyed – because he must have forgotten that the Sorting Hat wanted Harry in Slytherin – and Ginny's assumption that they're dating again, even engaged already – as if he wants a gaggle of green-eyed redheads calling him 'Daddy' – none of them seem to actually know him at all.

Between them all – Hermione and Ron and Ginny – Harry's palm is constantly itching with the desire to wield his wand and loose his magic on them until they all back the hell away. Avoiding that scenario is becoming harder and harder with each passing day.

Harry slowly makes his way through the streets of Hogsmeade, a smirk curling the edges of his lips.

Perhaps it's time to stop hiding this new version of Harry Potter.

* * *

His house – rented after he realised that peace and privacy were not going to happen at 12 Grimmauld Place – is a small cottage with two bedrooms, one bath, and zero uninvited guests. It's that last feature that makes the place absolute perfection.

Dropping onto his couch, worn and lumpy and more comfortable than one would expect, Harry closes his eyes and sighs. It's time to figure out just what the hell this change in him really is, where it came from and what it means. It's not going away. If anything, it's getting stronger, asserting itself more and more. The Golden Boy image is one that he's finding near impossible to maintain.

Especially since he doesn't want to keep perpetuating it at all.

"Should've let Salazar run off at the mouth some more," Harry mutters. "No way can I get back into the dungeons now."

Old McGonagall had flipped her skirt when she found out Harry had bunked on the Slytherin sofa. Apparently, it was unseemly for a Gryffindor to willingly sleep in the dungeons.

"Now what?" Harry drops his head back against the couch and closes his eyes, lets his mind wander without direction. A theory, an idea of where this incredible knowledge has come from begins to form. A theory that should cause him to cringe and run, to take a wand to his own temple and end the madness before it fully takes root.

Except it doesn't. It makes him feel like he belongs in this world for the first time, like he has a purpose beyond a prophecy.

He has welcomed the changes, embraced the knowledge and pushed himself, testing his strength and his ability, wallowing in the feeling of seduction that comes when he practises the spells on the foliage and wildlife that call the Forbidden Forest home.

Now he needs to know how to confirm it.

Then, just as the spells have suddenly appeared in his repertoire, he knows – just damn well knows – where to go to get the information. A set of books. Private and passed down through the generations. Not keeping within bloodlines but given to those who shoulder the weight given by the Fates.

The books that he is looking for, the titles that are lodged firmly in his brain, should give him a definitive answer, should tell him if his supposition is accurate, will tell him how long he's been playing a part, being someone he isn't meant to be.

He will have them tomorrow. Right after a visit to the tunnels below Gringotts.

* * *

Harry leaves Gringotts with head held high and his legs eating up the distance with a fast clip. His money bag, deep in his pocket and heavy with coin, rests against his leg, a comforting reminder that he is now the head of the Potter line. He keeps to a straight line direction as he leaves the last of the bank's steps and ventures into the shadowed corners of Knockturn Alley.

He ignores the buzz of conversations around him, tunes out the hissed slights and murmured death threats. If Voldemort failed to make him bow down, this vagabond menagerie of whores and drunkards doesn't deserve even a second glance.

His destination is a bookstore that holds tomes filled with the magics of old and is deep in Knockturn Alley, a brisk walk beyond Borgin and Burkes. The battered sign and dusty windows are set back from the other buildings, easily missed if one is not knowingly searching.

How Harry knows the location, knows the contents he is likely to find, is just as much a mystery as the hexes that have wanted to roll off his tongue in recent weeks. He believes he will have the answer though, the answer to all of his questions, in a matter of minutes.

Nodding to a passer-by, Harry stops, looks left and then right, and then opens the door, smiling when a series of bells jangle out his arrival.

"You have finally arrived." The wizard cants his head to the side and stares at Harry with unblinking yellow-green eyes. "You are many years late, m'Lord. We expected you some time ago."

Harry takes a slow turn of the bookshop, making notice of exits and shelves and the distance between him and this unknown wizard. "And you are, sir?"

The wizard's lips twitch slightly, twisting the wrinkles on the old face into an eerie reminder of Dumbledore. "Mashay, decedent of Merwyn the Malicious. My line has been destined by the Fates as the Keepers of Knowledge, releasing it only to those with a blessing from the sisters three."

"I am the one with that blessing?" Harry asks, wanting confirmation of his own theories.

"You are the one who knew to find the store," is Mashay's response. When Harry wrinkles his brow, Mashay adds, "Very few know we exist. Very few, indeed."

Harry nods his head, trying to understand completely.

"Let's start with history, shall we?" Mashay points towards a table. "If you will join me, that is."

Harry chooses the seat that keeps his back to the wall and open fields of vision in front of him. A trait, a paranoia, he learned from Mad Eye.

"There is no light without shadows, a fact that the Fates acknowledged when the world was new. The sun has the moon, the day has the night. For every brightness there is an antithesis. It is no different within both magical and non-magical beings." Mashay looks at Harry, his eyes shining bright in the dim corner of the bookshop. "Do you understand, m'Lord?"

"I am the shadow," Harry says softly, mind processing what he's hearing and what he's experienced.

Mashay gives Harry a clipped nod. "It is the way of the Fates."

"And you are to be my… teacher?"

"A guide, nothing more. A guide to lead you in accessing the knowledge you hold."

Harry tilts his head to the side, thinking back over the years, remembering how the darker the spell, the more questionable the magic, the easier it was for him to cast. He couldn't get the feather to float the first time he'd tried, but he'd sliced Draco Malfoy open with Sectumsempra with barely a thought and flick of his wrist.

"Voldemort…" Harry starts.

"Was not chosen by the Fates. He was a dark wizard in need of a mentor."

Harry huffs a laugh. That Voldemort was in need of something, Harry can agree to. A mentor just isn't the first thing that comes to mind. "A mentor, huh?"

Mashay rolls his shoulders in an easy shrug. "The Dark Lord of Tom Riddle's time deviated from the path, defied the Fates many times over. Tom Riddle was never meant to be a Dark Lord. It is why he failed so miserably at it."

Thinking of the number of lives lost at Voldemort's hand, Harry thinks the man did well enough. "So many deaths."

"Unnecessary," Mashay snaps. "Those chosen by the Fates do not rely on needless death and destruction to seal their place."

"You say Tom Riddle wasn't chosen." Harry waits until Mashay acknowledges the statement and then, with a steel edge in his voice, asks, "Who denied the Fates?"

"I believe we both know the answer to that, m'Lord."

* * *

Harry leaves the bookshop with a rucksack full of books and his mood tempered back into manageable. It'd taken Mashay a good half hour to work Harry away from blinding anger and into something more acceptable for public. The last thing he wants, the last thing he needs, is to draw even more attention to himself. Not yet. Not until he reads and adjusts and finds those meant to stand beside him, advise him and protect him.

He breaks left as soon as he leaves the shop and ventures back through the shadowed corners of Knockturn Alley, heading towards Gringotts and Diagon, to the designated Apparation point for the shopping district. Magic is radiating from him, garnering attention from those strong enough to feel such things. Another thing he has Mashay to thank for, breaking the last restraints on his magic, releasing his full potential, his truth of being.

According to Mashay, it won't be long until his First, a Dark witch or wizard who is destined to follow, to help him strategize and lead, will be drawn to him, appearing by his side with the intent to bow down. Just a matter of days at the most and then he'll have someone who understands, someone to work with, to lean on. Harry picks up his pace as he nears the Apparation point. He has to get home, back to his tiny cottage in Hogsmeade.

Here, now, with only one person knelt before him, is not the way Harry intends to tell the world about his change in status.

He has something a bit more spectacular in mind for that.

* * *

The sound of Apparation pulls Harry's attention away from the book and to the darkened glass of his sitting room windows. He lets the smooth wood of the Elder Wand slide from its holster and into a loose grip of his fingers. He waits patiently, eyes narrowed and body on alert, watching to see if it is the Dark or the Light who has found him first.

It's even odds, in his mind. The Dark because of Mashay's insistence that someone will show, and the Light because Hermione has been deluging him with owls since he left the Burrow three days before. It won't be long until she attaches a tracking spell to the bird and Apparates in.

The answer is obvious as soon as the large form of a wizard steps out of the shadowed corner and into the waning sunlight. Stepping outside, Harry shakes his head and chuckles. He'd know that shock of blond hair anywhere.


The look on Malfoy's face is a jumbled mess of emotions. Disbelief stands out the strongest, oozes from Malfoy's carriage and taints the air around them. It's a simple form of disrespect and Harry knows to nip it fast and hard, cutting it off at the quick. He arches one brow and holds Malfoy's stare.

Harry watches as the disbelief bleeds into wary acceptance and then into the slightest measures of respect. It is enough. For now. Harry knows true respect will have to be earned.

"Malfoy," he murmurs, holding his ground and waiting. Lucius Malfoy has to move first, has to concede to the fact – and the hours spent researching has borne the proof that it is indeed fact – that Harry Potter, Golden Boy and Gryffindor to the core, is the new Dark Lord.

He is the one that has the power, magical and political, to bring sweeping change to the Wizarding world, to go down in the history books not as a Dark Lord who was defeated but as one that was welcomed and adored, effecting change at a slow pace until it was too late for the Light to combat.

He is the one that can rule the world, Muggle and magical alike.

Malfoy cants his head to the side, his lips turning with a frown, his brows furling together in thought.

Harry knows he's being assessed, that Malfoy is determining the depth and breadth of his strength, his conviction. He'd be disappointed if the man had simply fallen to his knees, prostrating himself at the mere hint of power.

The tension builds, the air between drawing taut, the usual sounds of nature – the chirp of the birds, the hum of the crickets, even the rush of the nearby creek – falling away, until they're facing one against one, trapped in a silent battle of wills. Then, long before Harry expected it, the balance shifts and the world around them relaxes.

Lucius Malfoy capitulates, drops gracefully to his knees and whispers, "M'Lord."

Having Malfoy on his knees, his arms extended and his wand resting benignly across his open palms, brings a rush of images tumbling through Harry's mind. Most of them sexual in nature. Harry fights the urge to twine his fingers through the fall of blond hair and strangle Malfoy with his cock.

Harry wonders if this is something he truly desires or if it is a leftover, something haunting his mind because of one of Voldemort's visits. He hopes this, the want to taste and mark and devour, to turn Lucius Malfoy into so much more than a branded follower, is something unique to him.

"Get up," Harry snaps, pushing the echoes of Malfoy – naked and on his back, sweat beading and trailing over his skin as he arches up, pushing himself onto the thick length of a cock – from his mind.

Willing his erection down takes more effort than is respectable. His reaction to Malfoy was unexpected. Not necessarily unwelcome – he has found men attractive before – but definitely unexpected. Rolling his eyes, Harry nearly snorts. The unexpected seems to be his lot in life no matter his affiliation.

Turning back to Lucius, he says, "You have explanations to make before we start on the work to be done. We'll start with how you escaped the Wizengamot's heavy hand again."

He really does snort when Lucius murmurs, "Imperius, of course."

* * *

"Why are you here, Malfoy?"

They are in Harry's sitting room. Lucius, ever the aristocrat, sitting stiff-backed in a Queen Anne chair while Harry is slouched comfortably on the end of the sofa.

"I felt the pull," he murmurs, his eyes reflecting wariness. "I had believed it to be nothing more than a legend; it was never there with the Dark Lo… Voldemort."

Harry smirks. Lucius Malfoy off his game is not something he'd ever imagined.

"Why now?" Malfoy asks. "Why is it that you did not display this before?"

The questioned was expected, Harry had asked it himself. "There were matters that needed to be handled first."

"Voldemort," Lucius states.

"He is one of them. Had he not split his soul, he would have been removed from the equation entirely when he attacked Godric's Hollow." Harry bristles as another wave of anger washes through him. "However, had the other fully embraced his Fate, Riddle would have never made it as far as he did. Not even the first time."

Lucius nods. "He was not meant to be a Dark Lord."

"No more than you were," Harry agrees. Pointing to the books covering the dining table, Harry says, "After a few decisions are made, it would be best for you to read through my findings. There is no reason for me to explain things to you when the original source of the information is available."

"My pleasure, m'Lord."

"Harry," Harry corrects, knowing he is going to need someone that sees the man beneath the Dark Lord. "When we are alone, and only when we are alone, it is Harry."

"As you wish… Harry." Lucius looks around the small cottage, eyes stopping on various points in the room before continuing his perusal. "Are you intending on this being your base of operations?"

"Definitely not," Harry answers. "I needed privacy. The home in Godric's Hollow is a bloody museum and the house left to me by my godfather is under someone else's Fidelius."

"Making neither place secure."

"Indeed," Harry mutters. "While I do intend to keep this place, it is not where I intend to conduct my business."

"Then where?"

"That is one of the items on our to-do list." Harry pushes his way to a stand. "Come on, then. Time for you to start earning your keep."

Harry almost laughs out loud at the look that crosses Lucius' face. He doubts the man has had an honest day's work in his entire life.

* * *

The wards surrounding the cottage are zipping with energy, visible to Harry in shimmering opalescent lines. Their magic – his and Malfoy's – is strangely compatible, feeding into each other, combining to create a formidable whole.

The thought that Lucius possibly shared this with Voldemort, this easy intertwining of magic, has jealousy flaring within Harry. He pushes away the ridiculous urge to demand an answer from Malfoy. Sweat dotting his face, Harry steps back and nods. "You will be the Secret-Keeper."

Shock shows momentarily in Lucius eyes. "As you wish."

Together they cast the Fidelius Charm, binding the house and the single outlying building to Lucius' magic. It is an honor. And, more importantly, a test. Passing keeps Malfoy in high standing, assuring both reward and station.

Failure promises a painful death.

Looking at Harry, Lucius says, "Harry Potter's home is at seventy-nine Centaruea Lane, Hogsmeade."

Harry quirks a grin. "Home, huh? More like bolt hole."

"Home should always be where one escapes to, not from."

"Yeah, well," Harry replies, "I've never had much luck with homes."

Lucius snorts. "Perhaps because you had nine lives worth of luck everywhere else."

"Nice, Malfoy," Harry says with a chuckle. "I didn't expect you to have a sense of humour."

"Lucius, m'Lord. If I am to have the familiarity of your first name, it is unseemly for you not to use mine."

"Just waiting on the offer," Harry says with a smile. "I wouldn't want to presume."

Lucius releases another huff of amusement. "I sincerely doubt it would be considered presumptuous."

"Polite, then."

Lucius cants his head, seemingly accepting the words. "Godric's Hollow now?"

After much discussion, Godric's Hollow, more specifically his mother's greenhouse on the property destroyed by Voldemort, was chosen as the gathering point, the place where Harry shall call the others to.

"Yes, Godric's Hollow. Wards and another Fidelius."

"Do you need to Side-Along or are you comfortable with solo Apparation?"

"I'll meet you there," Harry replies, then disappears with a near silent burst of magic.

* * *

Harry keeps his feet until the Fidelius is in place, swaying slightly against the drain on his magic. The exhaustion was expected, making repairs and laying wards is complex, draining magic.

"M'Lord," Malfoy whispers, stepping close enough for Harry to feel heat along his back. His voice sounds as tired as Harry feels. "How may I…"

"I need to go home to rest," Harry whispers, cutting Malfoy off mid-sentence. They're both too strained to hold on to social niceties. "If you cannot assist me, leave and I will make my own arrangements."

"Do you trust me?"

Harry closes his eyes. "Do I have reason not to?"

"No, m'Lord," Malfoy – Lucius, Harry's brain supplies – replies quickly. "If you'll allow me?"

Giving a jerky nod, Harry barely hears Lucius say, "The Refuge is located at Clarence Place," moments before the pull of a Portkey overtakes him.

* * *

"Where?" Harry rasps out seconds later, finding himself in a well-appointed sitting room three times the size of the one in his cottage home.

"Cornwall." Lucius directs Harry toward a large sofa, depositing him gently before turning and firing a charm at the fireplace. Lucius shrugs out of his robe and drapes it over a chair. "Penzance, to be exact."

"Your wife?"

"Neither Narcissa nor Draco know of this location. It was, until tonight, mine alone."

That raises more questions than it gives answers. Harry bites back the request for information.

"I believe we both are in need of services my elf can provide," Lucius says before calling for a house elf, requesting potions and tea and a light meal of soup and sandwiches.

The elf returns directly with the potions, promising tea and food in a matter of minutes.

Harry downs the Pepper Up immediately, but sets aside the mild pain potion. He still has to mark Malfoy, something he's not willing to attempt with his senses dulled even slightly.

"Your mark," he says, noticing Lucius' pointed look at the remaining potions vial.

Stripping off his shirt, Lucius kneels in front of Harry. Head bowed, he murmurs, "Of course, m'Lord."

Harry places a hand over Malfoy's forearm and, moving on instinct, hisses, canting a spell in the Parseltongue. This is the only mark he'll claim using the language of the snakes. He's as sure of that as he is his own name.

The feel of the binding makes Harry gasp. The echo of Lucius, and he is most definitely Lucius now instead of Malfoy, the echo of his magic and his thoughts beat hard and heavy within Harry's mind.

"M'Lord," Lucius groans.

"Harry," Harry says automatically, surprised that the mark is decorating the pale skin of Lucius' shoulder instead of the flesh of Lucius' forearm.

It's not the exact image he'd had in mind. The basic outline, a gleaming sword with the image of a bleeding snake twisted around the blade, is as he'd planned. The differences are in the details, subtle things that make the mark all the more impressive.

The sword is long, with light glinting off the sharp edge of the blade. The grip is engraved with the sign of the Hallows, and the pommel decorated with an emerald green gem. The biggest departure from what he'd intended is the snake. The one branded into Lucius' back isn't the vibrant green of a Boomslang, but instead is a muted brown with black marking, long and thick in body with his mouth wide, jaws unhinged, and his fangs dripping with venom as his blood trails off the sword.

The mark, Lucius' mark, is, in a word, gorgeous.

"M'Lo… Harry?" Confusion and wariness war for dominance in Lucius' tone.

"Your snake," Harry replies, his exhaustion reasserting itself in spades. "It's not what I pictured, I cannot name the breed."

With a flick of his wrist, Lucius conjures two mirrors and then studies the mark Harry seared into his soul. With a smirk, he says, "A Russell's Viper. Found throughout Sri Lanka. Extremely dangerous."

A smug grin breaks across Harry's face. Pleased doesn't begin to define how he feels about the claim he's placed on Lucius. A sense of questioning eases through the bond and into Harry's conscious thought. "Just ask, Lucius," he says. "You can hide nothing from me."

Voice low, like he's worried about the answer, Lucius asks, "Will the others be bound to you so completely?"

Giving the question the attention it deserves, Harry investigates the depth of the link between them before answering. As he thought it would be, the answer is an emphatic no. The idea of having others bound this closely to him makes Harry itch. "No. The Parseltongue must have…"

"Your intent made the binding, the Parseltongue simply made it irrevocable." Lucius' words are louder, drowning Harry's out.

"And that upsets you?"

Wave after wave of emotion – hot lust, acceptance, pride – rolls through their link, battering Harry's senses. Harry's confident he knows Lucius' answer to the question.

"Not in the least," Lucius responds quickly, proving Harry correct. "I would, however, like to know the intended difference between myself and the others."

Chuckling, Harry shakes his head. He sincerely doubts that Lucius would appreciate hearing that he'll hold a unique mark because he's completely fuckable. "You were the first to answer my call."

"So if a Weasley arrived first they would hold this place within your ranks."

"Hardly," Harry snaps, annoyance boiling hot just beneath the surface. In all honesty, he'd expected a Weasley to answer the call. A specific Weasley. Knowing that he is more compatible with Lucius Malfoy than one of his oldest friends has Harry wondering if he shouldn't have let the damn hat sort him into Slytherin seven years ago.

Lucius looks over his shoulder, his blond hair falling around his face and shoulders. "Then why, Harry?"

"Our magic…"

"Our magic sings together, yes. But, please, do not lie to me, m'Lord," Lucius whispers.

"Because, Lucius, you are mine." Harry arches a brow, silently challenging Lucius to deny it. When Lucius' eyes darken, going from light grey to near black, Harry adds, "Mine to work with, mine to confide in, mine to play with, to pleasure and to hurt."

Harry leans forward and places his palm flat against the mark. Heat, hotter than any fire Harry's ever lit, burns beneath his hand. "You belong me to me, Lucius Malfoy. Completely."

Lucius closes his eyes and pants, stuttering rushes of breath. "Of course."

Pressing the heel of his hand against his cock, Harry growls. "Unless you wish for more to happen tonight, now would be a good time to show me to my room."

Before the Malfoy mask slips into place, a spark of interest flits through Lucius' eyes. Extending a hand, Lucius says, "If you'll follow me, Harry. I'll have Tibby bring your meal to your room."

* * *

"Been awake long, Lucius?"

Lucius turns his head away from the book in his lap, using a finger to mark his place, and looks at Harry. "A while. I took the liberty of retrieving the books from the cottage in Hogsmeade."

"Mhmm," Harry hums in acknowledgment, settling onto the couch and smiling his thanks to the house elf. Tea and croissants make a lovely breakfast.

Lucius shakes his head and turns back to the book. "According to this, true Dark Lords are decided upon by the Fates. They bestow their blessing no later than a month after the child's birth."

"Yeah," Harry mumbles around his cup of tea. "And when they choose, they seed knowledge within the child, causing magic spikes over the next few months."

"Have you ever spoken to anyone about what kind of child you were?"

Harry shakes his head in the negative, resisting the urge to ask Lucius exactly who the hell he should ask with his entire family dead and all.

Tapping the book in his lap, Lucius says, "According to this, you should have been showing magical talents within three months of your birth."

"There is no one…"

"Harry," Lucius says calmly, "Your parents did not go into hiding more than ten days prior to Pettigrew disclosing their location."

Harry jerks his head up and stares at Lucius. "Really? Just ten days?"

Meeting Harry's questioning gaze, Lucius replies, "Less than, most likely."

"Maybe some of the people from the Order." Harry starts ticking off a list in his mind, eliminating more names than he keeps.

"Or that Pomfrey witch who runs the Infirmary at Hogwarts," Lucius suggests. "She was guarding the sick and abused long before my time at the school. I have no doubt that she managed your ailments for the first year of your life."

Frowning, Harry asks, "If that is the case, why didn't she say anything to me? She treated me enough times to have mentioned it."

"And go against Dumbledore?" Lucius shakes his head. "Surely you jest, m'Lord."

Harry narrows his eyes and glares. "What do you know about Dumbledore?"

His reaction seems to shock Lucius, assuming one knows what to look for behind the mask. "He was never one to allow the staff even a half-measure of independence. There were numerous complaints made to the board over the years. Unfortunately, none of it could diminish his reputation enough to demand he be replaced."

Remembering something Dumbledore said to him years ago, Harry asks, "He controlled Pomfrey too?"

"Pomfrey the most," Lucius replies. "He stopped many of her agendas. Simple things, such as using the magical birth records to vaccinate Muggle-raised children against magical maladies. Is there a reason for your question, Harry?"

"Dumbledore made a comment once that I'd arrived neither as happy nor as well-nourished as he would have liked, I just wondered if she ignored the fact that I was small and underweight or if…"

"Merde," Lucius hisses. "Not acknowledging even the slightest abuse does not fall in line with the Pomfrey I remember. She, more than once, defended abused children like a mother dragon protecting her young, appearing before the Wizengamot in a right fit until officials were assigned to monitor specific children during holidays."

"Lovely," Harry grouses. "So either my condition was not enough to warrant concern or… " Harry trails off, his mind going in another direction. "Tell me, do you know how the letters from Hogwarts are addressed? Is it assigned to a person or is there some magical quill fluttering about in a room somewhere?"

"Magical births are recorded automatically, for purebloods, half-bloods, and Mud… Muggle-borns." Lucius preens when Harry nods approval for his change in word choice. "The Deputy then uses those records and writes the letters. The Headmaster or mistress addresses all envelopes. It is divided in such a manner so they both have at least a passing exposure to the names of their incoming students. Why would you ask about that?"

"Just wanted to know, well, confirm who sent my letter to the cupboard under the stairs."

"Cupboard. Under the stairs." Lucius' voice is low and flinty, one Harry recognises from the battle in the Department of Mysteries. The man is angry, beyond angry. "The paragon of the Light addressed your letter, you, the long-touted saviour, he addressed your letter to the cupboard under the stairs? No one, not even many a Dark wizard, would believe Dumbledore capable of such things."

Snorting, Harry says, "Gellert Grindelwald."

Lucius shakes his head. "What about him?"

"He'd believe it. He was close to Dumbledore." Harry closes his eyes and sighs. "Until something happened with Dumbledore's sister, they were quite tight, even lovers, I suppose. Then they parted ways and, like everyone knows, Dumbledore landed him in that prison."

"Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald, he did not land him in prison."

"Defeated? Hardly," Harry snaps. "He did not rid the world of Grindelwald. He kept him where he could be contacted, spoken to. Where one could seek his counsel, tell him their secrets."

"What are you not telling me, Harry?"

Sneering, Harry says, "Grindelwald was no more chosen by the Fates than Tom Riddle was. He followed the call from Durmstrang, just as you came in from Wiltshire."

"Then it was…"

"Yes," Harry replies, "the Fates blessed Dumbledore as a Dark Lord."

"He wasn't."

"Wasn't he?" Harry jumps up and starts pacing, walking ten measured steps and then turning, using the counted gait to cover the same ground in the opposite direction. "He ruled this world, he just did it by letting others take the credit, or, if appropriate, the blame. No one questioned him. He had a free hand to do whatever he wanted."

"He wasn't against Muggles, Harry," Lucius says. "He promoted good relations between the worlds."

Harry opens his mouth and then, without a word, snaps it shut again. Sighing, he asks, "If I leave, will I be able to get back through the wards?"

Lucius removes a ring from the middle finger of his right hand. "This is a Portkey, turn it clockwise while saying 'The Refuge' and you will be returned to this room."

Harry nods his understanding and then, without even pulling his wand, Apparates away.

* * *

More than a half hour later, Harry appears in the sitting room, a book clasped tightly in his hand. "Took me a few stops to find a copy."

Lucius tilts his head to the side, curiosity obvious in his eyes. "This supports your theory about Dumbledore."

Opening the book to a specific page, Harry passes it over to Lucius. He points to the reprint of a short, hand-written letter. "Dumbledore to Grindelwald. Read it."

With a soft voice, Lucius starts reading aloud, "Gellert. Your point about Wizard dominance being for the Muggles' own good, this, I think is the crucial point. Yes, we have been given power and yes, that power gives us the right to rule, but it also gives us responsibilities over the ruled."

Lucius looks up at Harry. "When…"

"Finish, Lucius," Harry murmurs.

Slowly, almost reluctantly, Lucius continues, "We must stress this point; it will be the foundation stone upon which we build. Where we are opposed, as we surely will be, this must be the basis of all our counterarguments. We seize control for the greater good."

"For the greater good," Harry repeats. "Sound familiar?"

Understanding dawns in Lucius' eyes. "The prison. Nurmengard?"

"The one Dumbledore landed Grindelwald in." Harry motions at the book. "Go on, then. Finish the last of it."

"And from this it follows that where we meet resistance, we must use only the force that is necessary and no more. (This was your mistake at Durmstrang! But I do not complain, because if you had not been expelled, we would never have met.) Albus."

"Sweet Circe," Lucius mutters. "I have to admit, this is damning against Dumbledore's character. It isn't, however, proof. It doesn't fit with the wizard he presented to the world. The professor, the Headmaster, the leader and defender of the Light."

"No, it doesn't. However, I have it on good authority that Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore was blessed by the Fates with the ability and the knowledge. And, if you're honest about it, he succeeded. He was known throughout the world; people deferred to his desires." Harry gives Lucius a crooked smile. "He was almost Slytherin in the way he took advantage of the personal falling out with Grindelwald and used it to align himself with the right sort to avoid detection."

"You know this about Dumbledore how?"

"Mashay, Keeper of Knowledge."

Lucius closes his eyes, pinches the bridge of his nose, and then says, "Albus Dumbledore was a Dark Lord."

"Yes," Harry confirms. "He was."

Blinking his eyes open, Lucius cants his head and stares at Harry. "No one will believe you."

"Not at first," Harry agrees. "But they will eventually."

Lucius nods. Then, looking serious, says, "You will need to continue to act your part."

Wrinkling his brow in disgust, Harry murmurs, "I know. The Boy Who Lived is still necessary."

"Only for few weeks more, Harry." Lucius smirks, devilment shining in his eyes. "We will plan a grand reintroduction for you."

* * *

"What have you been doing, Harry?"

Harry rolls his shoulders in an easy shrug. Being polite with them, Hermione more so than Ron, takes an effort of sheer will. "Not much. Just reading and relaxing. Trying to put everything into some kind of focus."

None of it is a lie. He is trying to get his life situated. And he has been reading and relaxing. Just not alone. He's spent more time in Penzance than he has Hogsmeade over the past two weeks. It's been rather nice.

With a pout, Ron says, "You haven't been 'round at all."

Before he catches himself, Harry snaps, "I'm here now, aren't I?" Then, squeezing his eyes shut, he mutters, "Sorry. Didn't mean to take your head off or anything."

"You're different."

Hermione's claim has Harry's eyes popping open and his body going stiff. Warily, he says, "Perhaps."

"No," she says, shaking her head. "No perhaps at all. You're definitely different."

"I don't see how that is surprising, then." Harry's lips turn down into a frown. "There was a war."

"We were all in the war," Hermione huffs. "We're not all avoiding our friends, though."

"We were all there. I'll give you that. But, I am the only one who had to walk to his death, to willingly die," Harry returns, a hot, righteous anger flaring within him. He expects some fast retort. His anger isn't the only one bleeding into the room. They don't give him the fight he's suddenly spoiling for. "I had a piece of Riddle attached to my soul, so maybe now, without that, and without the Dark Lord manipulating my every move, maybe now we're all just seeing who I really am."

Hermione opens her mouth and then, with a fast look at Ron, snaps it closed again.

Ron jerks his gaze between Harry and Hermione and then, nodding, asks, "You going back to Hogwarts?"

Harry shakes his. "Gonna sit the NEWTs after my birthday."

The statement sets off another round of questioning. Rolling his eyes, Harry reminds himself that he only has to stay another half hour. Then he can make his excuses and retreat.

Thirty minutes has never looked so long in his life.

* * *

"Very good," Lucius drawls from the shadows. "The strength and precision of your spells is increasing."

Harry grunts and sends another Dark hex into the bank of greenery. It is almost time. He can feel it. Within a matter of days the others will be seeking him out. He needs to be at his best before they arrive; his magic has to be fluid, where just a thought will bring it forward, leaving no doubt to his power and his intent.

He has to combat his youth.

"Your day?" Harry asks, throwing another curse and watching as the plant withers and turns a crispy brown.

"Productive," Lucius replies. "Narcissa is in France, pleased to be out of any possible fray."

Harry looks over his shoulder and arches a brow. "How much does she know?"

"Only that there is a new Dark Lord, a true Dark Lord, on the horizon." Lucius steps forward, adjusting the hold Harry has on his wand. "The curse will travel further with maximum impact if your wrist is not held so stiffly."

He casts the curse again with better results. "She didn't ask for a name, or for your status within the ranks?"

"She knows she'll find out your name soon enough. As for the other, I told her that just as you were blessed by the Fates," a light blush tints Lucius' cheeks, "I was as well."

Harry drops his arm to his side and turns, finding himself scant millimetres from Lucius. "Is that what you believe?"

"It is."

"Because you were raised to accept such things?"

Lucius shakes his head. "Because I was taught that when your magic combines the way ours does, it is a blessing from the Gods. To turn it away is to bring the wrath of the Fates."

"So it is because you were raised to accept such things."

"Incorrect." Lucius steps closer, invades the last vestiges of Harry's personal space. Breath ghosting over Harry's ear, he says, "I was raised to cherish such things."

"Oh," Harry murmurs.

"Indeed." Lucius brushes his lips over Harry's jaw and then, with a hand on each shoulder, he turns him around. "Now, Flagrate is innocent enough, drawing a flaming line in the air. However, Flagrateous will enhance the flame and cause…"

"Irreparable damage to all that it touches," Harry finishes. "Our conversation is not over, Lucius."

"Of course not, m'Lord," Lucius replies, sounding somewhat chastened. "However, we both know that the time for the meeting is near."

"And that takes precedence to more private desires." Harry doesn't even care that he sounds petulant.

Lucius chuckles. "Unfortunately, yes."

Harry returns to the matter at hand, promising himself that later, as soon as the others have joined their ranks, he will have Lucius, he will make sure that the man knows exactly who it is he belongs to.

* * *

Multiple sounds of Apparation echo through the field behind the Godric's Hollow property. Harry cuts a glance at Malfoy and mutters, "Show time."

The sound of Malfoy's snort makes Harry grin. They've obviously moved beyond the row they'd had over Harry's attire. Harry agreed to the button-down shirt, Lucius will learn to deal with the denims. Looking out into the field, Harry gasps.

Witches and wizards fill the grove. Some of them – Death Eaters and sympathizers – were expected. That they answered the call surprises neither Harry nor Lucius. The sight of others – Bill Weasley with the scars of war rippling across his face, Charlie Weasley with his long hair and dragon tattoos, gaggles of former classmates, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff and Gryffindor alike – brings Harry to a full stop.

"Well, well, well," Malfoy drawls. "It seems you inspire deep-seeded loyalty."

Keeping his eyes on the growing crowd, Harry flutters his hand impatiently, motioning Lucius to explain.

"Many are here because of their loyalty to you. The Weasleys, that Ravenclaw chit, parents of fallen students. Had the Fates given your place to another, at least half of those gathered here would not have been drawn to the call."

Neither of them makes mention of those who are missing. Ron, Hermione, Draco. Pansy… Ginny. They head the list Harry is forming. The list of those he will deal with first. The people who have lied to the public, claiming either loyalty to Harry or to the side of the Dark.

Biting back the rush of hurt and anger, Harry decides it's a good thing Dumbledore and Snape are already dead. If his reaction to relatively minor issues is this strong, there is no doubt he'd overplay his hand in a bid to remove those two as quickly as possible.

One more shared look and Harry steps forward. He lets his power loose, lets it ripple over the chattering crowd until silence reigns and every eye is locked onto him. He meets the gazes without flinching, lets the myriad of emotions – disgust, shock, acceptance, longing – cascade over him with a dispassionate mask in place.

"Now is the only moment you have to leave without either giving an oath of fealty or being weighted by a promise of my retribution." Surprisingly few – less than ten – take his offer of escape. Harry scans the crowd again, smirking when he sees that those that left were all followers of Voldemort. They will be back, seeking power and fame and riches.

They'll be back when they realise that Harry Potter, once the saviour of the Light, is now the only saviour at all.

He has no doubts that they will return. He wonders if any of them took the time to weigh his words, if they took notice to the fact that he did not promise a pain-free return.

The sound of nervous chattering, people wondering if they are about to be sold out by those who left, drifts through the air. Clearing his throat, Harry says, "Those who left, like those of you who remain, are bound by silence until such a time you bear my mark. Reprisal from the Ministry is the last thing you should be worried about."

Relief moves through the crowd like a tangible thing.

With a small quirk of his lips, Harry says, "Now, let's talk about what we all want for our world."

* * *

Harry waits quietly until the grove empties of everyone except for those he's asked to stay behind, those he can trust, whose opinions matter to him. Bill, Charlie, Luna, Neville. And, to a lesser degree, Dean Thomas, both of the Patil twins, and, much to Harry's surprise, Justin Finch-Fletchley.

"So, wow. I can't say that any of you were expected, but…" Harry stops and drags a hand across the back of his neck.

After a near minute of silence, Neville steps away from the group. "We trust you to do what's needed, what is right and proper now."

Licking his lips, Harry chuckles softly. "I'm a Dark Lord, Nev. Chosen by the Fates."

"So you've told us."

"And you stayed."

A small smile breaks across Neville's face. "I've followed you into battle since fifth year, Harry. You haven't done me wrong yet."

Turning away from Neville, Harry refocuses on the group. "Bill?"


"Are you sure? You and Charlie, your family…"

The two Weasleys look at each other and smirk. "Neither of us," Charlie says, "are exactly Light wizards. Even before his run in with Greyback, Bill was wielding Dark magic for Gringotts. And anyone who believes that you can subdue a dragon with a simple Petrificus Totalus is mad. Stark, barking mad."


"Listen, kid," Bill interrupts, "We both felt the pull of the Fates and followed it. Unless you refuse us, we're here for the long haul."

Harry smiles, relaxing. These will be marked before the others; they will become his core group, those he turns to first for opinions and assistance. "Okay, then. All of you need to be here this Saturday, half two in the afternoon. That's when we'll do your marks."

"Um," Justin stammers, "why not now?"

"I've been told I need to curb my Gryffindor habit of rushing into things headlong and with nary a thought." Harry ignores Lucius' amused snort. "Saturday, Justin. It's soon enough."

Watching them leave, Harry smiles. He didn't have to give everyone up after all.

Turning, walking towards Lucius, Harry asks, "Yes?"

Lucius stares hard at Harry. "They are trustworthy. You could do worse."

Ignoring the snide tone, Harry asks, "But could I do better?"

"Unlikely," Lucius admits, his brows pulling into a frown.

Harry chuckles softly. "Hurt to say that, did it?"

Lucius' lips quirk into a small grin. "Perhaps."

Rolling his eyes, Harry stops in front of Lucius. "I can go to my home in Hogsmeade or I can return to Cornwall with you. Which do you prefer, Lucius?"

"That is your choice, m'Lord."

Harry cocks an eyebrow. "If I go with you, I will not be sleeping alone. But," Harry holds up a hand to stop Lucius' comment, "I refuse to take someone who isn't willing to my bed. I will not demand sexual favors from you, Lucius. It is your choice."

Lucius holds out a hand. "The Refuge."

Clasping Lucius' hand in his own, Harry says, "Cornwall, then."

* * *

A tidal wave of emotions crashes over Harry as the sitting room materializes around them. Lust – a pure, all-consuming desire that has his dick hard and his heart rapping against his ribs – and anticipation – a heady and breathless want that, until now, has only assailed him in his dreams – and, flitting along the edges in a bright, vivid red, panic – a knee-bending desperation to run from this unknown situation, to find his release the way he always has: with his right hand.


Lucius' voice pulls Harry's attention away from his growing trepidation. "Yes?"

Dragging a hand over Harry's arm, Lucius says, "What are you thinking about?"

"This, you," Harry replies honestly. He's in over his head and he knows it. Want and need aren't enough when you have nothing more than theory and dreams to work with.

"Would you prefer to simply retire to the guest room?"

Harry arches a brow in question, motions for Lucius to continue with a wave of his hand.

"You're pale, and," Lucius curls his fingers around Harry's wrist, "trembling. It has been a long six weeks, m'Lord. Perhaps the stress has finally become somewhat overwhelming? Now that you know who will stand beside you and who will not."

Snorting, Harry shakes his head. "If only."

One of Lucius' brows wings up, mimicking Harry's questioning look.

"You'll think me a fool," Harry murmurs.

"I do not believe that," Lucius replies, his grip flexing and releasing in a steady cadence. "You have done nothing thus far to engender those thoughts; I hardly think you will begin tonight."

Heat flames beneath Harry's skin, embarrassment racing over his cheeks and down his neck, skin colouring in a hazy pink. Focusing his eyes on the floor, he mutters, "I have no idea where to even begin."

Lucius' intake of air is audible. Then, stepping in even closer, leaning until their breaths are mingling together, Lucius whispers, "Then let me teach you."

Harry jerks his head up, searching Lucius' eyes for the slightest hint of mockery. He finds none.

"Open the bond, Harry," Lucius directs. "Feel it, feel me."

It takes only seconds for Harry to release the tight hold he has and open his link to Lucius. Yearning, Lucius' desire, slams into him and mingles with his own. He shivers under the onslaught.

"Trust me," Lucius murmurs, his lips mouthing the words into Harry's skin. "Trust me with this."

Eyes fluttering shut, Harry sighs, "Yes."

With a gentle kiss against his temple, Lucius leads Harry out of the sitting room and towards the master suite.

* * *

It's easy to give over the control to Lucius. Easier than Harry had expected. The months of hiding behind a façade and then weeks of learning, of settling into this role decided by the Fates, all of it on the heels of a year spent in tents and the final battle. He's worn thin and hurting, not that he'd have admitted to it if asked.

He wants, he needs a shelter. Somewhere he can let it all go and just be. To be all that he is – the good and the bad, the young and the old. A place where he doesn't have to worry about who is watching and what they might think of him.

Apparently that place is wrapped in the strong grip of Lucius' arms.

Harry sighs as Lucius eases him down, nestling him between the heavy weight of Lucius' body and the ridiculous fluffiness of the duvet. He feels safe and cocooned, the real world a million miles away from this place in Cornwall with the winds rolling in off the water and the scent of night jasmine infusing the air.

Lucius nuzzles Harry's neck, licking and nipping at the skin, raising goosebumps over Harry's arms. Then, with the warmth of his lips lingering on Harry's neck, he sits back on his haunches and starts popping the buttons of Harry's shirt. Slowly, his fingers sliding beneath the fabric, his thumb adding the perfect pressure, he rids them of first Harry's shirt and then his. It's a contrast of colour, his flawless pale skin a contradiction to Harry's honey brown chest, marred with more than one faint scar.

"You were injured," Lucius says, his fingers dancing over the fine lines.

"War does that to a body," Harry returns, fighting against arching into – or maybe away from – the flittering, tickling touches.

His hands dip lower, palms cupping the sharp jut of Harry's hipbones, his fingers working their way beneath the waistband on Harry's denims. The blunt edge of his nail scraps over Harry's cockhead, dragging the damp cotton on his underwear in its wake. "Stop me at any time, Harry."

Stopping is the last thing on Harry's mind. He hopes the jumbled mashup of syllables he can force out of his mouth conveys as much to Lucius.

It must. In the space of a blink, the cool night air caresses Harry's cock, his thighs. Then the wooly scratch of Lucius' trousers catches in the hair on his legs, and Harry, forcing his eyes open, glares at Lucius and bites out, "You too, Lucius."

Lucius chuckles, a dark and rough sound that goes straight to Harry's dick. Then he waves his wand and his trousers melt away.

"Yes," Harry groans, his hips canting up, cock fucking into the empty air.

Hands flat against Harry's chest, Lucius pushes into the muscle, massaging thighs and abdomen, until his fingers are stroking across Harry's nipples, pulling the flat discs into hard, pebbled peaks. Thumb and forefinger close around the twin nubs and Lucius squeezes and releases, rolling his prize between his fingers until Harry's eyes shut and his mouth opens, releasing a raspy, guttural moan echoing through the room.

"Lucius," Harry says, "kiss me."

"Gladly," Lucius murmurs, stretching his body out over Harry, his weight resting on his elbows. He brushes his lips over Harry's, once and then once again. It's a light, steady pressure demanding nothing but, beneath the sounds of their breaths, asking for everything.

Harry opens his mouth, darts his tongue over his bottom lip, and then over Lucius' lips. Lucius meets him half way, their tongues sliding against each other, tasting and retreating, teasing until finally, finally Harry pushes into Lucius' mouth, tasting and mapping, claiming ownership over this newly discovered land.

He pulls back panting, then hisses when the sharp sting of Lucius' teeth roves down his neck, pulling at the skin covering his collarbone. Harry knows there will be a bruise, a splotch of red and purple that marks him just as surely as Lucius is marked.

He finds he doesn't mind, that he actually wants a keepsake, no matter how fleeting, of this night.

Lucius drags his mouth over Harry's shoulder as he levers himself up, keeping his weight off Harry completely. "Turn over, Harry."

Harry tenses and then, forcing himself to relax, rolls to his stomach, raising up for Lucius to shove a pillow beneath his hips and then splaying his legs wide when Lucius pushes against his thighs.

Lucius slides along the sheets until he's lying flat between the vee of Harry's legs, his body is resting against the mattress and his face centimetres away from Harry's arse.

"Lucius?" Harry questions, his body locking up again.

"Trust me," Lucius says, his hands kneading Harry's arse, thumbs dimpling the flesh and holding the cheeks apart. Then, before Harry can utter another word, Lucius traces the edge of Harry’s hole with first his finger – leaving the crackle of a cleaning charm buzzing along the nerves of Harry's arse – and then the tip of his tongue, laving the ring of muscle with a steady pressure until Harry whimpers and goes lax against the sheets.

With his face soaking, spittle dribbling down his chin, down the crease of Harry’s arse, wetting the pillow holding his hips in the air, Lucius works his tongue past Harry's tightening sphincter, advancing and retreating without any true rhythm.

Harry keens with the intrusion, wiggling back and forth, seeking both a reprieve from and more of the shocks spiraling up his spine. He rocks between the soft grip of the pillow and the slick heat of Lucius' mouth, moaning when the scratch of whiskers pulls against sensitive skin.

This isn't what Harry expected. Not these gentle, easy touches and the slow slide of teeth and tongue.

Then, when Harry thinks he can't possibly take any more, when he just knows he's about to come all over Lucius' expensive sheets from nothing more than Lucius' tongue – his tongue – in his arse, Lucius pulls back and away, leaving Harry empty and open.

Harry whimpers with the loss, his body teetering on the edge of pleasure, the ache in his balls growing with each second.

Lucius slithers up and over Harry's back, dragging his cock through the saliva dampening the cleft of Harry's arse, pressing in against Harry's hole and then backing away, Lucius asks, "Yes or no?"

"Yes," Harry hisses, pushing his hips up and back.

Bussing his lips along the sweaty span of Harry's neck, Lucius rolls them both to their side. Then, with Lucius guiding him, Harry finds himself flat on his back, a bottle of oil drifting lazily in the air above Lucius' shoulder.

"If you'd rather," Lucius murmurs, motioning towards the delicate crystal bottle.

"No," Harry responds. "Not this time." His words slur together in a tangible example of how relaxed he is. It's the first time in years that he's felt this tranquil. He blinks, once, and then lets his eyes drift closed, soaking in the touches and the feelings.

"As you wish."

Harry hears the unspoken, the 'm'Lord' that Lucius' tone reeks with. He understands then, the tender way Lucius is approaching him, this, them. Lucius is reading him through the bond, giving Harry exactly what he wants. He doesn't know if he appreciates it or not. He does know that it's not worth worrying about at the moment.

Over the hard beat of his heart, Harry hears the clink of glass against glass and, seconds later, feels fingers slippery with oil tease his hole and then, when he shifts and spreads his legs wider, a single finger slips into his arse.

"Oh," Harry whispers. And, when Lucius curls his finger and lightning explodes over Harry's skin, again, "Oh."

Time bends, twisting into a madness of fast, blurry images steeped in slow – molasses slow – movements: Lucius' lips dragging over his collarbone, over his chest, sucking and lapping and biting at his nipple… fingers – one and then two and then four – twisting and curling… magic sparking and dancing over their skin, the same milky iridescence of the wards only brighter and stronger, corporeal in their being. Then, a hand on each thigh, Lucius forces Harry's legs higher and wider, until his muscles burn with the pull, and, with a harsh grunt, Lucius nudges his cockhead against his Harry's hole, stopping only after he's settled balls deep against – within – Harry's arse.

Then time snaps back into place and, dropping his head back, Harry groans.

Lucius curls one hand over Harry's hip, slowing Harry's stuttered jerks, directing him, until they're rolling their hips in time, moving in a point-counterpoint unison. The drag and pull – in and out and in – is intoxicating and time loses all meaning.

Seconds, minutes, hours pass and then a hand wraps around Harry's cock and he explodes. He grinds himself down on Lucius' dick as magic seeps from his very pores, zipping and humming and lighting the air around him. With a breathy sigh – Lucius – Harry's body goes rigid and he comes.

The brightness of the magic increases twofold when Lucius pumps into Harry and stills, his release streaking the cleft of Harry's arse as he pulls out and rolls to Harry's side.

Minutes crawl by and then Harry says, "Wow."

"Indeed," Lucius replies, his voice sated and satisfied and smug, so damned smug.

Harry doesn't have it in him to correct the snotty tone of voice. He thinks it might just be justified.

* * *

"Draco," Harry says, dropping into a chair across from Lucius, a plate overflowing with bacon and scones and fruit settling in front of him.

Folding his paper down, Lucius looks at Harry and then refocuses, shifting his gaze to the window at Harry's back. "What about him?"

"He didn't answer the call." Harry watches as concern flits across Lucius' face, hidden a second later by the indifference of the Malfoy mask. The blank look on Lucius' face does not lessen the worry Harry can feel through their bond. "What do you want to do?"

"There is nothing to be done, m'Lord."

Harry snorts. They're a little beyond the m'Lord as far as Harry is concerned. There have been too many recent hours spent doing filthy – enjoyable but entirely filthy – things to one another for the honorific to be appropriate over the breakfast table. He ignores it, leaves Lucius' defense mechanism in place, and says, "You could send him to France with Narcissa."

Lucius shakes his head. "Narcissa is due a certain amount of protection and compensation due to our marriage contract. Draco is an adult wizard capable of making his own choices."

"And if he opposes our agenda?" Harry asks softly. He knows what the answer is; he wants to make sure Lucius does too. He has to hear Lucius say it, to acknowledge the consequences that are almost sure to come if Lucius can't be persuaded to make Draco go away.

"He will be dealt with in the same manner as the others that fail to see sense." Lucius' voice is tight with emotion.

Harry sighs and lets the matter drop. He appreciates Lucius' loyalty, he really does. He'd just rather the man pack his son off to some remote island in the South Pacific. It'd be a lot less nerve-racking to have Draco out of the picture completely.

* * *

A hand in the small of Harry's back directs him to the shade of a large tree. Eight marks in less than an hour is obviously too much. He'll have to mark the others in smaller groups. There is no way he'll let any of them see him at anything less than his best. Not yet, maybe not ever.

"M'Lord," Lucius whispers, pressing a glass vial into Harry's hand. "Drink this."

Harry downs the potion without a second look, smiling as steam erupts from his ears. "Thank you, Lucius."

Canting his head, Lucius drawls, "You looked to be in need but refused to say anything."

"Why ask when I have you to anticipate?"

Behind him, Bill snorts and then laughs outright. "He's always needed a keeper, Malfoy."

"Lucius," Harry corrects. "When we are here, like this, all of you are on even footing. A common goal demands a certain level of respect among each of you."

"Of course, m'Lord," Bill replies.

Harry frowns. It sounds so pretentious when those he claims as friends, the man he claims as a lover, call him m'Lord. "And, when it is just us, I'm Harry."

Bill smiles, the scars lining one side of his face pulling into a macabre caricature of a grin. "Got it, Harry."

Harry looks over the group. Eight plus Lucius. Nine people that he trusts. Some more than others. Luna, Charlie, Bill. Neville and Lucius. Those he trusts with his life. He's still surprised that Lucius Malfoy is someone that he honestly trusts so completely. "Okay there, Neville?"

Neville drags a thumb over his mark, the snake and sword colorful and bright against his calf. "I expected something… darker, something ugly that I'd need to be sure to always hide."

"I've got better taste then that," Harry says. Then he looks down and grimaces. He's sweaty and there are dirt stains on his shirt, grass decorating his jeans. "Current appearance withstanding."

Everyone chuckles when Lucius hits Harry with a cleaning charm.

"They're not all the same," Dean says, looking between the tattoo on his bicep and the one decorating Charlie's forearm.

"It's the magic," Harry replies. "They all reflect my impressions of you. Like Lucius' snake is deadly, Neville's sword is the Sword of Gryffindor, and Luna's is in colours that are, frankly, unnatural."

Dean's brows pull together as he examines his mark, more like a water-coloured sketch than the full tattoo of the others. "I thought all Dark Marks were the same?"

"Only for imposters," Luna says. "It's what happens when people try to be something they're not. The wrackspurts steal their creativity."

Amusement lances through Harry. Shaking his head, he says, "Give me about a week and then we'll start meeting and planning. I need to get my NEWTs out of the way before I take on anything else."

He pushes to a stand and moves over to Lucius' side, more than ready to hide away with the man in either Hogsmeade or Cornwall. He isn't too particular at the moment.

Bill blows all of his plans away with one simple question. "Need to Side-Along to the Burrow for your birthday party, Harry?"

"Dammit," Harry hisses. "I'd forgotten about that."

"You have to maintain the charade, Harry," Lucius says. "If only for a little while longer."

"I know," Harry snaps. "I just wanted…"

Lucius smirks. "I am quite sure I can imagine exactly what you would prefer to be doing tonight."

"Or who," Charlie mutters, low enough so that only Harry can hear.

Harry hits him with a stinging hex. Then, after a growled, "Meet you all there," he Apparates away.

* * *

Presents open and the cake demolished, Harry thinks he might just make through the gathering without cursing anyone, literally and figuratively. He's sure being flanked by three of his own – Bill to the left, Charlie to the right, and Neville across from him – is helping to keep his emotions balanced and his wand holstered. Another hour, maybe less, and he'll be able to make his escape without offending anyone.

"So, Harry, Hermione tells us you're plan to sit your NEWTs this week," Mrs. Weasley says as she shoos Bill to the other side of the table and takes the seat next to Harry.

Stifling the urge to glare at Hermione, Harry nods. "Yes, I have appointments beginning this Tuesday. I should finish the last of them up Thursday night."

"Do you really think you're ready for that?" Mrs. Weasley raises a hand, moves like she is going to touch Harry's arm or his shoulder or, Merlin forbid, his cheek. "You only have one chance, Harry. Pass or fail, these are the scores you will be saddled with for the rest of your life."

One brow arches before Harry thinks better of it. "You don't think I've been preparing for these tests?"

"Well, this past year…"

"Has been very educational," Harry interrupts. "In a practical sort of way."

Mrs. Weasley cants her head to the side and then, her voice soft and cajoling, says, "Surely you'd rather have another year at Hogwarts with your friends, with Ginny?"

Harry bursts out laughing. Charlie's muffled snort doesn't help matters at all. Finally, Harry manages, "No, ma'am, I would not."

"But," she jerks her gaze between Harry and Ginny, shock and confusion and then, when Ginny shakes her head no, understanding filtering through her eyes. Her voice is a little cooler, a lot more detached, when she asks, "What exactly do you plan on doing then? After you have sat your NEWTs?"

He takes a moment to form his answer and then, aware of the attention focused on him, says, "At first, simply learn. Learn about the Wizarding world, the customs and the traditions and the politics. Spend time learning the history, discovering the foundation of magic."

"Another year at Hogwarts would help you with that," Hermione says, tone friendly enough but the look in her eyes is daring Harry to contradict her.

"Seeing as my previous six years there didn't, I highly doubt that, Hermione." Beneath the table, Charlie's hand grasps Harry's thigh and he feels some of the anger bleed away. "Hogwarts bypasses a lot of Wizarding tradition in favor of Muggle."

Eyes narrowing, Hermione snaps, "Such as?"

"Things like Christmas instead of Yule, Hallowe'en instead of Samhain. And let's not even get started on Easter." Harry leans forward, his eyes on Hermione but his awareness tuned to his marked followers. He has their attention and, if he relies on the hum of the bond, their complete support. "I want to know why the ancient ways, the things like blood magic and wandless magic, are considered taboo now. I want to know how we went from a proud people with our own customs and ways to a people that hides and converts our traditions to something more acceptable, more pleasing to only one part of our population."

Hermione frowns. "You sound like a Pureblood elitist, Harry. Next you'll be saying that Muggleborns have no place in the Wizarding world."

"No," Harry corrects, "I'm saying Muggleborns and Muggle-raised need to learn the customs and ways of the Wizarding world instead of the Wizarding world conforming to Muggle ideas."

Colour flames high on Hermione's cheeks. "I don't see anything wrong with witches celebrating Christmas."

"Neither do I," Harry responds slowly, swallowing back the urge to flip Hermione off and Apparate to his little house in Hogsmeade. "What I am saying is there is an entire world out there that I know nothing about. A world that I died to save. Is there something wrong with wanting to learn and uphold the traditions and values of our culture?"

"I think it's a noble plan," Neville says. "Not everyone is willing to learn something so personal, something that may change the way they have believed since birth. I wonder why Hogwarts teaches Muggle Studies for the Wizard-raised but has nothing for the Muggle-raised. Seems they should offer both or, better yet, make them both required."

Harry's lips twitch with the beginnings of a smirk. This is working out better than he'd ever thought it could. The first step of his agenda, the need to reestablish pride within the old ways of the Wizarding world, was now on the table.

He sits back and sips his butterbeer, watching the growing debate between Hermione and Neville with amusement. At least there'll be sufficient entertainment for the remainder of his visit.

* * *

Harry sleeps for a full twenty-four hours after completing his NEWTs. And even then he is reluctant to leave the drifty peacefulness and admit he is truly awake. Keeping his eyes shut, he curls in closer to Lucius' side.

"Finally awake, are you?"

"No," Harry murmurs, grinning when Lucius chuckles softly. "I'm still utterly spent."

Lucius drags a hand over Harry's back, petting and soothing Harry's frayed nerves. "There is a reason they are called the Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests."

"Did you know Neville was testing out?" Harry asks around a jaw-cracking yawn.

"Weasley and Weasley said something to that effect." Lucius releases his hold on Harry, rolling to the side and calling for a house elf and ordering breakfast for two. "The curse breaker was to handle enrolling Longbottom for the testing, and the dragon tamer was to spend time revising with the boy."

Harry snorts. There is no getting beyond Lucius' high-brow attitude. "Someone could have told me about it. Would have kept me from gawking like a damn fool when Neville sat down next to me."

Lucius leans his back against the headboard, motioning for Harry to follow suit. Seconds later the house elf returns, a lap tray overflowing with food in each hand. "It is, as your inner circle, our prerogative to adjust our schedules and tasks to mirror yours when necessary."

"I have a hard time picturing you telling Voldemort that," Harry grumbles good-naturedly. The idea of always having someone trustworthy close by is not a bad one; it fills Harry with a strange warmth knowing they will do what is necessary to achieve it. "Should I just expect you all to be scheming against me in this?"

"I do believe that we have discerned that you need a keeper, Harry."

Swallowing a sip of tea, Harry asks, "So just accept it and move on, huh?"

"Indeed," Lucius murmurs, slicing a sausage into bite-sized pieces.

Breakfast passes in near silence, Harry too intent on filling the gaping hole in his stomach to worry overmuch about things like conversation. He savors the last bite as much as he had the first, then, sighing, sits back and rubs a hand over his abdomen. "I needed that."

"You have been stretching your magic; add the NEWTs to that and it is no wonder that you were ravenous this morning." Lucius waves his wand and both trays float to the side table. "There are some items that need to be discussed. Here, or in the sitting room?"

As much as Harry would like to stay in the bed with Lucius, he says, "Sitting room."

"Then might I recommend a shower?"

"Together?" Harry asks hopefully.

"I will promise you a bath tonight," Lucius says, the heavy rasp of his voice sending shivers down Harry's spine. "However, as we have business waiting on us, you will shower alone."

Rolling his eyes, Harry slips out of the bed. "Don't think I'll forget about that promise, Lucius Malfoy."

* * *

"The Weasley patriarch has been spreading your message through the Ministry," Lucius says after Harry settles in the chair by the windows. "Not that he realises what he is doing. It is more along the lines of regurgitating Longbottom's words about instituting a class at Hogwarts. Apparently he believes that if such a thing existed you would have rushed back through the gates of Hogwarts and possibly reopened the door for relations with the youngest Weasley."

Harry files the personal bits away for dissection later. "What type of response is he getting at the Ministry?"

"There are a surprising number of people who agree with your stance."

Harry nods. "Those working in the Ministry must be marked tonight then. Possibly also those at Mungo's. That will be the two places for the gossip to spread the quickest. We'll need a way to monitor them."

Lucius gives a slight nod of his head. "Your plan, m'Lord?"

"Give them enough rope and let them hang themselves," Harry mutters. "The idea is out there; let's see what Hogwarts does with it. Our next step will depend on how they respond to the idea. If there is no class offered, and they choose to continue to ignore tradition in favor of Muggle holidays, I believe a meeting with the Board of Governors will be necessary."

"Why are you focusing on the students, Harry?" Lucius asks. "Why not start with the Ministry?"

"The Weasleys stopped celebrating Yule because, after being introduced to it at Hogwarts, Bill insisted on Christmas." Harry looks at Lucius and cocks one brow. "Parents see no harm in giving into the whimsy of their children. Start with the youngsters, who we have in a controlled environment, and it will get carried back to the parents. They, in turn, will talk to their families and to their neighbors. We get the businesses to promote the traditional holidays and then, with the pressure coming in from all sides, the Ministry will fold to our wishes."

"And what of the Muggleborns returning to their homes over the holidays?"

Harry shrugs. "We do have a secrecy act, do we not? It seems that it is time to start enforcing it to the letter of the law."

Lucius gives him an appraising look. "A more subtle infiltration than I expected from a Gryffindor."

"It is only the beginning, Lucius." Harry turns and looks out the window, repeating, "Only the beginning."

Turning back towards Lucius, Harry says, "Tell me about the traditions, the rituals that follow along with them."

Lucius motions Harry over to the sofa and, after they are curled comfortably together, says, "In potions, you remember that some ingredients must be harvested on a full moon while others demand to cut in the first light of a new dawn?"

"Yes," Harry replies. "It affects the potency of the cutting, therefore the quality of the potion."

"Exactly. Just as the solar cycle determines the quality of a cutting, it also heightens natural Earth magic." All through his teaching, Lucius keeps a hand on Harry – on his shoulder or his arm or his thigh – grounding Harry's magic with his own. "There are eight specific times within the calendar year when the Earth's energies are higher, the magic more easily accessible. These are our Sabbats."

"Yule, and Samhain, I know about." Harry's brow furls, his tongue darts out and swipes along his bottom lip. "Beltane? In May, right?"

Nodding, Lucius says, "Correct. Beltane is one of the fire festivals."

Feeling like an idiot, Harry drops his head to Lucius' chest and says, "Maybe we should just start with the one that is coming up next, yeah?"

"A reasonable way to approach it." Lucius' hand cups the back of Harry's neck, his fingers digging into the tense flesh, kneading and stroking in a steady rhythm. "It will give us time to concentrate on each one, allow you to learn the decorating customs and rituals."

Harry still feels like an idiot. He should have learned these things years ago. "What's up first then?"

"September twenty-one. Mabon," Lucius replies, "the Autumnal Equinox. It is a day of balance."

Harry listens, filing away information and vowing to search out more. Nothing is going to stop him from being ready for the ritual on September twenty-first.

* * *

The wards around Godric's Hollow are humming, feeding off the magic Harry is expending as he marks each of his followers. He places all thirty-three marks before he feels winded.

The marks for those he isn't emotionally attached to are easier to make. They are small and similar to one another, lacking the individuality of his inner circle. Each one is a tiny image of a bright green Boomslang coiled around a sword. The majority of them resting in the small of their carrier's back, hidden beneath layers of clothing and radiating only a miniscule amount of magic.

Lucius is waiting with a steaming mug of hot chocolate laced with a liberal shot of whiskey; the rest of his inner circle is circulating in the crowd, monitoring those newly marked. He loses focus for a moment, wafting in the echoes of emotion he can pull from the bonds.

"M'Lord," Lucius says, drawing Harry's attention away from his inward pursuit.

"I'm okay," Harry replies, taking another sip of cocoa. "They were less trying than we expected."

After another sharp look, Lucius leads Harry to the front of the crowd. "They have all heard the basics of your plan, m'Lord. Perhaps now is the time to tell them the role they need to play."

With a slight grimace, Harry nods. He's ready for this. The entire speech isn't planned; he knows himself well enough to know he does better when he goes from his heart. But Lucius questioned him so much throughout the day that he knows the key facts backwards and forwards and upside-down.

When Lucius slips back into the shadows, Harry straightens his back and stares out over the crowd. He waits until silence reigns and all attention is focused on him. He looks out over the group, and, clearing his throat, he starts, "Mabon. How many of you know what it is?"

More than half of his followers raise their hands.

"Good. How many of you celebrated it last year?"

Less than ten remain in the air.

"And right there is the problem." Harry shakes his head, his voice growing in volume as his agitation heightens. "We are losing our history, our heritage. It's no longer Yule that we celebrate, participating in rituals as old as witchcraft itself. It is Christmas, a Muggle holiday that does not focus on our beliefs, does not celebrate the returning of the sun after the longest night of the year. We have adopted a tradition of passing gifts and given up the burning of the Yule log."

Harry stops, takes a sip of his hot chocolate. Snatches of murmuring, things like Muggleborns brought this upon us spin around him. He turns and, when Lucius steps forward, pushes the near empty mug into Lucius' hand.

"Muggleborn, Muggle-raised witches and wizards aren't to blame," Harry says, looking pointedly at the Muggleborn and Muggle-raised in the crowd. "You wear my mark, the mark of a Half-blood. You share that bond, that connection to me, with both Muggleborns and Muggle-raised Half-bloods. Muggleborn, Half-blood, Pureblood. The blood isn't what has caused the loss of our history."

He pauses for a breath, draws it out while the tension builds in the air. "It's the Ministry. The Board of Governors. Headmasters and professors. It is those who are in charge, those who make the regulations that have allowed this to happen."

"How do we stop it?" The question comes from a short, portly wizard standing midway to the back. "Do we take over the Ministry? Hogwarts? What?"

"Nothing so blatant," Harry replies. "By the time we are prepared to take over completely, the Ministry, along with the people, will believe it was their idea."

A smattering of laughter moves through the crowd.

"For now, we celebrate the old ways, we bring back the traditions and rituals of the Sabbats. Those of you who know the rituals are tasked with teaching them to those who do not." Harry watches as understanding starts to seep in. "Celebrate. Make a production of it; sign your children out of Hogwarts for the rituals, and then protest to the Ministry and the Board for the reinstatement of our heritage."

Harry holds up his hand, stopping the excited chattering of the crowd. There is one last thing that must be said, one directive that has to be conveyed. "Be sure to keep the animosity where it belongs. Do not direct it at Muggles, or Muggleborns. Misplaced anger and random violence will not bring about the change that we are seeking; it will only attract attention before its time. Failing to conform to this request will earn you a private audience at my home. Trust me when I tell you that it will not be an enjoyable experience."

Harry smirks when a majority of the crowd pales. His message has been received.

"Well done, m'Lord," Charlie murmurs when Harry steps into the crowd. "Band them together in a common fight and when the time comes the distinction will be Muggle versus Wizard, instead of the idea of blood purity."

"We can hope," Harry murmurs. Then, smirking, he says, "Stop by the Hogsmeade house tomorrow, yeah? Lucius and I have been talking and I have a task for you."

"Am I going to like this at all, m'Lord?" Charlie asks.

Chuckling, Harry shrugs. "How much do you like children?"

Harry laughs harder when Charlie grimaces. "Nowhere near as much as I like dragons."

* * *

An owl scratching on his window pulls Harry from his slumber. Looking out the window, he frowns. "Who the bloody hell is sending me an owl before the sun even comes up?"

"Dawn is an enjoyable thing to experience on occasion," Lucius drawls from the bed.

Harry contemplates hexing the man.

The bird flies in and, arcing in a circle, drops the envelope at Harry's feet before escaping through the window and soaring into the clouds. Dragging a fingernail over the ornate wax seal, Harry says, "It's from the Ministry."

"Ministry?" Lucius sits up, a bedraggled display that shows none of his usual aristocratic flair. It's the version of Lucius Harry likes best.

"Thought that might wake you up," Harry mutters, breaking the seal on the envelope. He scans the letter quickly and then, snorting with disbelief, he rereads it. "Kingsley offers his congratulations on completing my NEWTs."


"And," Harry says, drawing the word out unnecessarily, "due to a disturbance of Dark magic in Godric's Hollow last night, he is wondering if I am still interested in continuing on my path to qualify as an Auror."

Eyes still on the parchment, Harry asks, "The Ministry can truly monitor Dark magic?"

"They can set wards over a specific area to notify them of Dark magic." The bed shifts as Lucius moves in closer, reading the letter over Harry's shoulder. "There is no way, however, for them to monitor an unknown, large area."

"The museum," Harry looks back at Lucius and cocks a brow. "It's because of my old house and that bloody museum they turned it into."

"Most likely," Lucius agrees.

"Which means we need a new meeting place," Harry sighs. "Even with the Fidelius, we need to move. They'll sure to be watching it more closely now."

"True," Lucius agrees. "More pertinent than a new location, however, is how you plan on answering Shacklebolt's missive, because, friend or not, not even you can ignore the Minister."

"I'm going to tell him the same thing I've told everyone else. I'm taking time for myself, to learn about what I deem important." Harry tosses the letter to the floor and then pushes until Lucius is flat on his back. He drags his lips over Lucius' jaw, his tongue darting out to pull along the scratch of Lucius' morning scruff.

"Harry," Lucius whispers, his head tilting back and his body arching, bare chest pushing against Harry's hands. "What are you doing?"

"Discovering the enjoyable part of dawn," Harry murmurs, mouthing the words into Lucius' neck. Then he closes two fingers around one of Lucius' nipples and pinches.

"A noble pursuit," Lucius groans, hands closing on Harry's hips, pulling Harry down as he arches up, grinding their cocks together with the stuttered push/pull of skin-on-skin friction.

"Mhmm," Harry says, scratching light pink trails over Lucius' chest as he undulates, chasing his release with a steadily gaining rhythm. "We spend so much time in Cornwall, I rarely have you here, spread out beneath me. Taking pleasure," Harry rolls his hips again, "giving pleasure."

One of Lucius' hands creeps off Harry's hip, sliding around to cup a cheek of Harry's arse, his fingers dipping into the shadow of Harry's cleft. Harry gasps, "Lucius, now."

Then, when Harry rolls his hips back and down, Lucius pushes one dry finger into Harry's arse and, muscles clenching, Harry comes, coating Lucius' stomach in sticky, wet heat.

Lucius is moments behind Harry, adding to the mess between them, grunting, "Harry."

* * *

Under Lucius' direction, Harry waits two days before going to the Ministry. He walks into Kingsley's office, taking the offered seat with a short nod. Lips twitching, he says, "Minister."

Kingsley's booming laugh echoes through the room. "None of that now, Harry. We've been in battle together, there is no reason to stand on pretense."

Harry cants his head, accepting the familiarity with little more than a blink. It's not like they actually know each other; it is, as Lucius predicted, Kingsley's attempt to establish a rapport with him. It raises the hairs on the back of Harry's neck, his temper spiking at the blatant attempt to manipulate and use him. Swallowing against the bitterness, Harry says, "I was surprised to receive a personal comment from you regarding my NEWTs."

"I have to admit that while I'd never have suggested it, I was hoping that you would bypass returning to Hogwarts. I've been watching the testing groups, keeping an eye out for your name." Kingsley motions towards the tea service positioned at the side of the office. "Tea?"

With a small smile, Harry shakes his head. With the way his magic is bubbling, he'd probably shatter the fine china cup. "Thank you, but no. Any more tea right now and I'll be floating for the rest of the day."

Nothing is said while Kingsley prepares his tea with a slice of lemon and more sugar than even Harry can stand. Then, after he resumes his place behind his desk, he says, "As I mentioned in my owl, I was wondering, hoping, to be honest, that you are still planning to test for the Auror division. There was a disturbance of Dark magic near Godric's Hollow the other night and having someone with your strength and knowledge would be a boon for the department."

"How do you know?" Harry blurts out, ignoring the question about Auror training completely. "I mean, with all of the Dark magic Voldemort bandied about that never went detected, how do you know?"

"A very good question," Kingsley says with a nod. "The museum…"

"You mean my home," Harry interrupts.

Kingsley chuckles softly. "Albus always did say you were never one to leave things unsaid. The wards that allow the public onto the Godric's Hollow property include Dark Arts detection. After your parents' death –"

"Murder," Harry mutters under his breath.

"– the Ministry worried that the Dark Lord –"

"Voldemort," Harry corrects, louder than before, wanting to be heard this time.

"Voldemort," Kingsley says, acceptance of the name showing in his eyes. "We were all concerned that Voldemort would attempt to use Godric's Hollow for personal gains."

"That would have definitely appealed to Voldemort's sense of humour," Harry snorts. He can't argue the placement of the wards, it actually makes sense. "Do you know what was cast the other night?"

"Nothing definite," Kingsley replies. "The magic was faint, almost like it was dampened with a Fidelius. There was no recognizable signature, making us suspect wandless magic."

Harry curls his hand into a fist, his nails digging into his palms. It's the only thing that keeps the rising smirk at bay. Pulling as innocent a face as he can manage, Harry asks, "Fidelius dampens magic?"

"It's a little known byproduct of the charm," Kingsley explains. "So, Harry, when can I expect to see your application for Auror training?"

"No time soon, sir," Harry says. "Maybe not at all. I've decided to take some time for myself, see exactly what cause I want to attach my name to."

Spluttering, Kingsley sets his tea down hard, sloshing the hot liquid over the sides of the cup and into the delicate matching saucer.

Kingsley's reaction – and the following string of denials and demands – is the most amusing one Harry's experienced to date.

* * *

"I can't believe you told the Minister no, Harry," Hermione says, swirling her spoon through melting ice cream.

The hot August day fairly demanded a visit to the reopened Fortescue's. It has the added benefit of having people milling about, taking some of Hermione's and Ron's attention off of Harry.

"I don't want to be an Auror. No reason to tell him otherwise." Harry spoons another mouthful of chocolate ice cream. The new owners changed the recipe. He thinks they should have changed the name too. The new blend is nowhere near as tasty as the one Fortescue had made.

Irritation is rolling off Hermione in waves. "The Minister asked for your assistance."

"And if he asked you? Would you change your plans to suit him?"

"Of course not," Hermione snaps. "But I'm actually going back to school, doing something."

"And I'm just sitting around on my arse so why not, huh?" Harry shakes his head and, turning away from Hermione, stares at Ron. "You have something to add?"

"Not really, mate. I wouldn't want to go through Auror training right now either." Ron pushes his empty bowl away. "You take your rest and then maybe we can go through together, after I do my last year at Hogwarts, yeah?"

Harry grunts, not committing himself either way. He won't shut the door to the Auror department completely, not yet. There may come a time when it'll be useful.

A glint of blond hair has Harry jerking around. "Is that Malfoy?"

"Yeah, the slimy git," Ron growls. "Ran into him at the Ministry last week. Looked kind of dodgy then," Ron's gaze follows Malfoy's slow moving form through the crowd. "Doesn't look like he's doing any better now. Don't know why he doesn't just go to a healer."

"He's not exactly welcomed, now is he?" A frighteningly smug look crosses Hermione's face. "Everyone knows what he did; doubt he can find anyone to actually attend him."

"Wow. Nice," Harry says, disappointed but not really surprised. Standing up, he looks at Hermione and shakes his head. "You'll fight for House Elf rights, but condemn a fellow student to a life where he can't even get medical care? Unreal."

"He fought for the other side," Hermione hisses.

"And because you were on the winning side, you get to be the self-righteous bigot? I hope you get over yourself in the next two weeks. I can't see that attitude working too well for you at Hogwarts." Harry turns and starts walking, hand thrown out in disgust. "But, you know what? Whatever. I won't be there."

"Where are you going?" Ron's voice carries the few steps Harry has taken.

"See if I can catch Malfoy." Harry replies, and then breaks into a slow jog, ignoring the plaintive sound of Ron's voice telling him to wait up.

* * *

Catching up with Malfoy isn't hard. The streets are crowded, slowing everyone's progress. It helps that Malfoy ducks into one of the first stores they come across.

The interior of Flourish and Blotts is dark, much darker than the streets reflecting the cloudless sunshine. Harry moves to the side and waits for his eyes to adjust, then slips quietly around the end of the stack and nearly gives his position away with a gasp.

Malfoy looks like hell. Thinner than what Harry remembers, his face pasty instead of simply pale. Then Malfoy flicks his wand and whispers, "Wingardium Leviosa," and nothing happens.

The look on his face is one of complete devastation.

Concern, along with a sudden sympathy, nearly moves Harry to helping, to stepping in and retrieving the book for him. It's only knowing that Malfoy would hate that, would hate the pity more than he would welcome the help, that keeps Harry in place.

Closing his eyes, Malfoy casts the charm again and slowly, slower than any first year, the book jerks and moves, making a staggered flight from the high shelf into Malfoy's hands.

Shaking his head, Harry eases back, leaving the store with the full intent of finding Lucius. Blinking against the bright sunshine, Harry changes direction mid-stride.

Away from the sorry sight of Draco Malfoy, it's Mashay he's being compelled to see, not Lucius.

* * *

"Your former cohorts are still alive and well?"

Looking up from the book in his lap, Harry chuckles. "Yeah, there was no maiming and cursing to be had."

"Pity," Lucius drawls. Then, pointing at the book, asks, "From Mashay?"

"Did you know that you can ignore the call? Well," Harry amends, "you probably couldn't because you're my First. But, the others? They didn't have to show."

Lucius arches a brow. "That pertains to your seeing Mashay, how?"

Again, Harry ignores Lucius' question and says, "I saw Draco yesterday."

None of the concern that lances through the bond shows on Lucius' face.

"Ron, Hermione, and I went to Diagon and there he was, pushing his way through the crowd and looking like he took too many rides on the Knight Bus." Lucius' face remains impassive, unconcerned. Harry focuses on what is coming through the bond, on the thread of anguish and upset that Lucius can't hide from him. "I followed him into Flourish and Blotts and then watched him go to the apothecary. The one time he used his wand, his hand was shaking and he had to cast the levitation spell twice before his magic responded."

"Why…" Lucius stops and clears his throat. "Why are you telling me this?"

"Because he is your son and, according to Mashay, to this book, he is showing all the signs of denying the pull." Harry stands and pushes the open book into Lucius' hands. "I spent the night reading that. The choice to follow me or not is ultimately his. But, if he keeps denying the initial pull, well…" Harry pulls a hand through his hair, cups the back of his neck. "He's got a long road ahead of him if he continues to refuse to answer my call."

Stepping back, Harry moves towards the open doors leading into the garden. "I'll be in Hogsmeade; you need to go talk to your son. If he agrees, bring him to the house in Hogsmeade. The first time we see each other again needs to be in private."

* * *

When Harry's finally alone, he gives into the rage and hurt that's been brewing since the day before. Having proof, instead of just thinking that his first friends, that the people he's turned to and depended on for seven years, will be on the other side brings an overwhelming rush of melancholy and, to an extent, a sense of shame, of embarrassment in how poorly he'd chosen friends, how easily he'd been manipulated.

Harry keeps his sulk throughout the day, finally shaking free of it when, his stomach grumbling, he notices the sun setting and the sky turning purple with the hues of twilight.

"Well, shit," he mutters, pushing to a stand, searching for parchment and quill to scribble out a note for Lucius. Not that he believes the man is going to make enough headway with his son to actually show up any time soon. Then, he snatches an over-robe from the closet – Merlin knows he doesn't want another lecture from Lucius on proper presentation, not right now with the mood he's in – and slowly makes his way to The Three Broomsticks.

The small shops in Hogsmeade are gearing up for the start of a new school term, one without the threat of Voldemort and Death Eaters. The excited chatter draws a tiny grin from Harry.

Then, in a little shop between Zonko's and Honeydukes, he sees something that makes him smile: a display for Mabon.

"We heard you were wanting to get back to the old ways."

Harry turns to acknowledge the comment, to reinforce the idea that, yes, indeed, he wants to learn, to embrace the old ways, the ways that the Wizarding world was built on. The voice, he finds, is attached to an elderly witch, stooped over a cane and more wrinkled than any raisin Harry's ever seen. "Yes, ma'am," he replies, more polite than he'd first intended. The woman's apparent age demands it of him. "Our heritage is something that should be taught in the early years. Hogwarts does a great disservice to all Muggle-raised witches and wizards by not introducing it in our first year."

The woman nods and then, voice strong and unwavering, says, "That was not the case until Albus Dumbledore became the headmaster. Not meaning to speak ill of the dead, you mind, but he is the one that brought about celebrating the Muggle holidays. At first they celebrated both, the Sabbats and those the Muggleborns knew. Then, word around here was that the parents of the Muggleborns complained, said it went against their religion to be teaching about rituals and such. Without allowing the other parents any say, he up and changed it. Eliminated the customs classes and then, one by one, stopped celebrating the Sabbats."

Harry isn't surprised. It's another piece of the puzzle that Albus Dumbledore is turning out to be. "Madame, I was just on my way to the Broomsticks. Would you care to join me for a meal, tell me about Hogwarts before Headmaster Dumbledore was in charge?"

The offer is more than being polite, more than winning a witch to his side. It's a way to gather the information he needs, to know what the standards were before Dumbledore. Having that will give him a fighting chance when he approaches the Board of Governors.

The witch looks at him with shrewd eyes. Then, with a fast clipping nod, says, "Might as well call me Mattie then, short for Mathilda. What my parents were thinking with that name is beyond me."

Harry's lips twitch with amusement. Offering his arm, he says, "Well, Mattie, I'm Harry Potter. Might as well just call me Harry though, seeing as we're on a date of sorts."

"Cheeky man," she murmurs, wrapping a gnarled hand tightly around Harry's forearm. "Tongue that wicked, I bet you've quite the following of fawning witches and wizards, don't you?"

The amusement bubbles out in a bark of bright laughter. "I suppose I do, ma'am. I suppose I do."

* * *

Harry returns to his little cottage on Centaruea Lane with his stomach full and his mind whirring. He can't picture everything Mattie described. He can't imagine a Hogsmeade full to overflowing with wizarding tents around the Sabbats, or rituals so grand on Hogwarts' lawns that the hum of magic lasted for days.

It's a sight he wants to see, a ceremony he almost needs to be a part of.

Stepping through the door, Harry comes to a full stop, the grin bleeding off his face, morphing into a blank mask devoid of emotion. It had taken Lucius more than two weeks to bring Harry's ability to hide his emotions into something resembling natural, even longer for it to happen without Harry's conscious thought.

"Lucius," Harry greets, and then canting his head, "Malfoy." He directs his gaze back to Lucius. "I take this to mean your talk went well?"

"So it appears, m'Lord," Lucius responds, so proper that Harry's half afraid that Lucius is planning on dropping to his knees in supplication. "As you told me, things were in dire straits. It took longer than I anticipated getting through his stubbornness."

Biting back a laugh, Harry nods. "I actually expected it to take longer. There was an enormous amount of animosity to overcome." Harry uses the time hanging his over-robe in the closet to gather his thoughts. Unlike the others of his year, Draco will have to be approached in a no nonsense, direct way. Harry has to let his authority, his power, bleed through and fill the room; he can't depend on friendship and history to pave the way.

Turning, he looks at Draco. "What finally convinced you?"

Draco clears his throat and then, in a voice Harry hardly recognises, says, "Father says that your goal is to take us back to the old ways. I find that honourable."

"My goal includes welcoming anyone with magical blood. I will not abide by name-calling and bigotry based on something as ridiculous as blood status. Not abiding by that will earn you an introduction to my temperamental nature." Harry cocks a brow. "Do you still find my goals as honourable?"

Harry watches Draco swallow, his Adam's apple bobbing up and down as a light stain of pink colours his cheeks.

"The separation should be between Muggles and Wizards, Malfoy," Harry adds, pressing the point. "Our culture should not be lost to theirs. But we, as a people, should not deny any magical folk the opportunity to learn about their heritage."

"And if they choose to not embrace our customs?"

The question is encouraging. It shows Harry that Draco is actually thinking instead of simply reacting. "As I've discussed with your father, we do have the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy. It's time we actually start enforcing it, manipulating those Muggle families that know of us to secrecy with the use of magic – a charm or a geas, something similar to Fidelius – to keep our existence a secret."

"You would extend it to those witches and wizards who wish to live or work with the Muggles."

Harry smiles, pleased with the way Draco is connecting the dots. "I would."

Draco nods, his expression relaxing from wary and stiff into hopeful, approachable. "Is that your only objective?"

Looking at Lucius, Harry arches a brow in question. Lucius gives him a slight shake of his head in return. "No, it's not. However, I have only discussed my other ideas with Lucius. I won't slight all of those who answered my call by revealing them to you first."

"You're not the same as Voldemort," Draco murmurs.

"I should hope not," Harry replies, some of his earlier humour returning. "The man, if you could even call him that at the end, was mad as a hatter."

Draco flashes a small grin, then, almost instantly, goes serious again. "May I… if you don't mind…" Sighing, Draco bites his bottom lip and then blurts, "I'd like a moment with my father, please."

"Of course," Harry says, stepping around Lucius and retreating to his bedroom. He resists the urge to cast a listening charm, sure that Lucius will relay the conversation if anything important is said. No to mention, with Lucius this close, there is no hiding from the bond. Harry can feel each of Lucius' emotions as if it were his own. Should the conversation take an alarming turn, he'll know before Draco finishes a single sentence.

Relief flows through the bond seconds before a knock sounds on the bedroom door. His wait was a lot less than Harry expected it to be.

Opening the door slightly, then, when Harry motions, stepping fully into the room, Lucius says, "M'Lord, if you will, Draco is ready to speak with you again."

"Are we going to have to Obliviate him, Lucius?"

Lucius chuckles softly. "No, Harry, we are not. However, I do suggest that you demand to question him under Veritaserum if for no other reason than to let him know he is working at a deficit as far as trust goes."

"Do you have access to Veritaserum to make that possible?" Harry asks. "I seriously doubt wanting to question potential followers falls under the Ministry approved guidelines."

"I can have it before the next meeting. M'Lord," Lucius says, then stops. After sighing, he starts again, "Harry, Draco needs to be questioned and marked in front of those who will be his peers. He has to see that while he held back, the others, those he has disparaged before, came to you without questions. They, in fact, showed a greater understanding and acceptance of their nature, their destiny, than he did."

If Lucius wants to teach Draco, and by extension, the others bearing Harry's mark, an object lesson with Veritaserum, Harry is more than willing to let him. "Guess we should get out there and send him on his way then."

"I would like to accompany him home. If you do not mind, that is."

Shaking his head, Harry says, "Don't mind at all. I have things I need to be getting on with. It'll probably be faster done if you aren't here to distract me." Pushing Lucius to the door, Harry says, "Now, let's go. I'm stretching my patience by having you in my bedroom knowing it's going nowhere good tonight."

* * *

Neville nods his head. "Gran said pretty much the same thing. Her mum and dad would come in for the Sabbats, spend the whole week before in Hogsmeade. She said she asked about the Sabbats when my dad was a first year and Dumbledore shut her down right fast." Neville drags his fork through the remains of his Shepherd's Pie. "She's behind you, you know? Heard through Mr. Weasley that you want to bring back the old customs, said that if there was anything she could do to help, she would."

"I just don't understand how no one made a stink about him changing things," Harry mutters, looking between Neville and Charlie, hoping one of them has an answer.

"He'd just defeated Grindelwald," Charlie says, shrugging. "Guessing people thought he could do no wrong right about then."

Harry snorts. "People followed him like sheep to a slaughter." Swallowing the dregs of his butterbeer, Harry looks at Charlie, "You ready for classes to start?"

Charlie growls low in his throat. "Can anyone really be ready?"

Harry chuckles softly. Having Charlie apply for the Care of Magical Creatures position had been Lucius' idea. They needed someone within Hogwarts, someone that McGonagall trusted.

"I mean, really, it's not even the younger years that are worrisome." Charlie waves a hand around, talking right over Harry's quiet giggling. "But, can you imagine the returning seventh years? None of them are going to appreciate the restrictions of school rules."

"Oh," Harry says, amusement waning. "I hadn't thought of that. Maybe someone else…"

"Nothing doing, Harry." Charlie twirls his glass, watching the Firewhiskey swirl inside. "We needed someone in there, I was the logical choice. And, really, McGonagall about wet her knickers when I showed up asking about the job. Just, you know, be expecting me on your doorstep during the week some."

"You're always welcome," Harry replies. "We'll add you to the wards, give you an escape even if I'm not here."

"Appreciate it," Charlie murmurs, toasting Harry with his glass.

"You're welcome to celebrate Mabon with us, if you want," Harry offers. "Assuming Hogwarts doesn't, of course."

"They're not," Charlie says. "McGonagall says that Dumbledore instituted the current holidays and there is no reason to fix what isn't broken."

Harry curses under his breath. He'd hoped she'd notice all the buzz and change her mind. Apparently that was too much to hope for. "Neville, think your grandmother would be up to talking to the Board of Governors the day after Mabon?"

"Yeah," Neville says, confusion showing in his voice.

"They'll listen to me faster if she is my introduction," Harry explains. "It'll hold more weight than if I go in by myself or, if, say, Lucius is my way in."

Understanding dawning in his eyes, Neville says, "I'll talk to her." Then, more warily, he asks, "Harry, is Malfoy really okay? He seems it, but, I mean, we always heard such nasty things and his son…"

"His son was, probably still is, a rich, obnoxious prat and, yeah, Lucius has been known to be a nasty piece of work. I doubt that has changed any more than Draco Malfoy has. But, to answer your question, I trust Lucius," Harry replies, without hesitation. He looks up and blinks, smiling softly when he adds, "I trust him with my everything."

Charlie chokes on a mouthful of whiskey. "Bill owes me ten galleons," he wheezes out. "I told him you two were going at it."

Harry decides that wandless, wordless magic is a wonderful thing when Charlie yelps and starts rubbing his side.

* * *

From the distance, Harry and Lucius watch the Express pull into Hogsmeade station. It's as much sentimentality as Harry will allow himself.

"Are you rethinking your choice to not return?"

"God, no. I'd be hexing Hufflepuffs inside a week." He can't imagine having that many people staring at him, trampling over his personal space. It's bad enough when he ventures into Diagon Alley.

Hagrid's booming voice breaks through Harry's wandering thoughts. He watches as close to two dozen children scramble to Hagrid's side.

"Magical births," Harry says, lips quirking as two first years give chase after a tiny ball of grey hair. Someone's cat is making a grand escape. "How do they get recorded?"

"Within the school?" Lucius asks. "Or the Ministry?"

The kitten is scooped up and passed over to a girl with a head full of spiraling blonde curls. Harry doesn't know which of them – the critter or the girl – is the more terrified. Glancing at Lucius, Harry says, "The Ministry."

"Most magical communities have something similar to our Hall of Records. When a magical child is born within their jurisdiction, a birth certificate simply appears and the clerks manually file it." The heavy material of Lucius' cloak hood takes his voice to a near whisper. "If the birth is to a magical family, they file it within that family's line. If the child is Muggleborn, they begin a new line."

"We need someone in that department." The tone of Harry's voice brooks no arguing. "Sooner rather than later."

"To what end, m'Lord?"

"Look at them, Lucius," Harry says, nodding towards the group of first years on the boat dock. "More than half of them are Muggle-raised. You can see it, they're terrified. They get their letter on their eleventh birthday and within months we whisk them away from their families and their friends. We take them away from everything they know and drop them here to sink or swim. We're the bad guys before we even begin."

As the last of the boats leave shore, Harry steps back and turns, expecting Lucius to follow him through the small alley and back to Centaruea Lane.

Once their cloaks are off and hanging by the door, Lucius says, "You plan to contact them earlier."

"I do," Harry agrees with a nod. "We need time to acclimate them and their families to our world. Make it less like we are stealing their children away."

"It will take some maneuvering, m'Lord, but it can be done."

* * *

"Have you thought of a new location for meetings, Harry?"

Harry pushes his near empty brunch plate away and takes up his pumpkin juice. "Nothing has come to mind. Did you have a suggestion?"

Refilling his tea, Lucius says, "The Muggles that ran the camping site, Mr. and Mrs. Roberts, abandoned their home shortly after the Quidditch match."

Harry bites back a snort. He doubts there is a memory charm strong enough to forget being danced through the air by masked men in robes. "Okay."

"With a few cleaning charms and then wards, their house would be ideal." Lucius blows across the surface of his steaming tea. "There are Muggle Repelling charms in place still, and yet the magical world, namely the Ministry, has forgotten about it."

Harry arches a brow. "You know this how?"

"I thought it prudent to have a small look around before bringing it to your attention."

Glaring, Harry snaps, "And if something had happened? If you had tripped some Ministry ward or run across a group of Muggles?"

Lucius meets Harry's glare head on. "There is no reason for me not to be there as far as the Ministry is concerned. The site is not on any blacklist. As for Muggles? I can handle any Muggle I may come across, Harry."

"Jumping in with no backup. How very Gryffindor of you," Harry snaps, lips curling into a sneer.

The stand-off lasts only a few seconds and then, wincing, Lucius backs down. "Point."

Nodding, Harry says, "Tell me about the area then."

"The Ministry never dismantled the stadium. Unspeakables were called out to Obliviate the Muggles while Aurors searched the woods." Lucius looks up, then continues after a nod from Harry. "Before the investigation was completed, you found your way into the Triwizard Tournament."

"Thanks to a certain Death Eater," Harry mutters.

Lucius cants his head at the words. "The Aurors were reassigned to Hogwarts at Dumbledore's request."

"And they never went back to it? You're sure?" The idea that the Ministry just left the stadium to rot in the middle of a Muggle field makes Harry's head spin.

Lucius shakes his head. "Never. It is heavily protected and with the Muggles gone from the campsite, there is no reason for us not to use it."

"We'll need to cast the wards before Saturday."

"Our next meeting?"

"Yes," Harry replies. "Weekends are easier for Charlie now that he is working at Hogwarts."

The look on Lucius' face is comical. After banking the urge to laugh, Harry asks, "You disagree with me being considerate of others?"

"I am unused to it from those in your position," Lucius replies.

"Get used to it then," Harry tells him. "I want loyalty earned through mutual respect rather than that acquired with fear."

Lucius grunts, as if the concept is too impossible to contemplate.

"If we're done," Harry says, "there're some papers in the second bedroom from Gringotts. I would like your opinion after going over them."

"Perhaps this evening, in Cornwall?" With Harry's questioning look, Lucius adds, "You have a meeting with Weasley and his father at half-one. A casual robe will suffice."

"Casual robe. Right," Harry sighs, pushing back from the table. Looking Lucius, he hopefully asks, "Cornwall?"

Lucius smiles, a gentle curve of lips. "I will be there when you arrive."

* * *

Sitting outside Fortescue's, a small scoop of pumpkin ice cream melting in the bowl in front of him, Harry lets his mouth drop open in shock. Mr. Weasley has gone round the twist, Harry's sure of it. "Excuse me?"

"Harry, we all understand the need to take a break before settling down with Ginny, but," Mr. Weasley shakes his head, "some of your choices are raising questions. We're worried that you're floundering with the sudden lack of guidance in your life."

The anger that Harry has worked so hard to contain, to force into the background, surges forward, crashing over him in violent waves of red. "You overstep yourself, Mr. Weasley, assuming to have the authority to tell me how to live. I am beyond the age of majority, and have sat my NEWTs. I am not related to you through blood nor through marriage."

"Yet," Mr. Weasley interrupts. "We all know that eventually you and Ginny…"

"Will never be anything more than what we are right now. I have no designs on your daughter, as she well knows." Harry takes in a stuttered breath, Bill's hand on his thigh the only thing holding him physically in place and keeping his temper flittering safely at the edge. "Who sent you to tell me all this? Hermione? The Minister? I doubt it was Ginny, but I could be wrong."

"Your friends are worried about you," Mr. Weasley says, confirming for Harry that it was indeed Hermione who tattled, pulling in reinforcements to rein Harry in. "You abandoned Hermione and Ron to follow behind the Malfoy boy."

"I did," Harry agrees. "Because he is ill and apparently, no one cares."

"He's not your concern. There was a time when you understood that," Mr. Weasley replies. "Let his parents tend to his needs."

Harry finally tumbles over the edge. Pushing Bill's hand away, he stands up and, leaning across the table, hisses, "The same could have been said when Ginny was in the Chamber. I didn't leave it alone then, I won't leave it alone now. To do that makes me no better than… well, than you and Hermione and everyone else who, by refusing to extend a hand, continues to destroy what little integrity is left in our world."

Harry pulls back and, standing straight, loudly says, "My concerns are focused with rebuilding our world, in taking back a heritage that no one saw fit to teach me. I am a wizard, Mr. Weasley, not a pet or a puppet or a wayward child. I'm head of the Potter line with a fate to fulfill. That is my only task. Not becoming an Auror, not rushing off and marrying your daughter, not holding on to childish hatred because others can't see beyond the nose on their face."

With a nod to Bill, Harry says, "Now, if you will excuse me," and, with a turn of the ring on his finger, activates the Portkey and leaves Diagon Alley behind.

* * *

Harry finds Lucius on the bench beneath his favourite arbor. Ignoring Lucius' frown, Harry strips off the robe and flops down onto the ground, leaning back against Lucius' legs. He nearly purrs when Lucius scratches fingers over his scalp.

"You are stressed," Lucius says, making another pass through Harry's hair.

Harry snorts. Loudly. "I'm annoyed."

"The meeting was not pleasant."

"The meeting," Harry growls, "was nothing more than an attempt to bring me to heel. There will be banner headlines tomorrow, I'm sure."

Tugging gently on a hank of hair, Lucius asks, "What did you do?"

Harry starts replaying the conversation, smirking when Lucius' eyes light up with amusement. "Then," he says, finishing the story with a tired voice, "I used the Portkey and left them sitting there. Bill can sort his dad out, or not. I really don't care."

With a nudge, Lucius pushes Harry away. "Come on, time to go inside."

Harry expects them to go into the sitting room, or maybe the small office at the front of the house. Instead, Lucius steers them towards the stairs and up to the master suite. "Um, Lucius?"

"You need to relax. Now, strip." Lucius slashes his wand through the air and two towels float in from the attached bath and a bottle of oil sails off the dressing table and into Lucius' hand. He spreads one towel over the duvet and, pointing, says, "On your stomach, Harry."

"Bossy," Harry mutters, intrigued despite himself.

Lucius straddles Harry's thighs, the smooth skin of cock resting heavy and hot against the cleft of Harry's arse. Warm oil splashes down on Harry's back, followed by the Lucius' hands, splayed wide and pushing over the length of Harry's spine.

A moan slips out before Harry can stop it.

"Clear your mind, Harry," Lucius whispers, "and relax."

Harry gives in, into the scents – the buttery vanilla blending with sharp bursts of cinnamon – and the sensations – the way the oil warms with each the pass of Lucius' hands, the deep kneading of his fingers working into tense, knotted muscles – and focuses on the steady rhythm of Lucius' breaths, the easy in and out and in, until they're breathing in time and the only thing on Harry's mind is the feel of Lucius cock dragging across his arse, damp and hot and teasing, and the absolute need starting to course though him.

Lucius leans forward and, his lips moving against the skin of Harry's shoulder, whispers, "The picture you make. All that power humming just below the surface and yet you're willing to yield, to submit to me." Then he darts his tongue out and licks Harry's shoulder, up and over the back of Harry's neck.

Harry shudders, the wet pull of Lucius' tongue a startling contrast to the strong warmth of his hands.

"Here, like this, you tell me that you are mine just as much as I am yours," Lucius' hips move in a steady roll, working his cock into the cleft of Harry's arse, dragging up over his hole and back down again. "Somehow, by the twist of the Fates, we belong to each other."

A deep groan rumbles through Harry. Lucius' words curl their way deep inside Harry, confirming something he wasn't sure he had, was afraid he could never have. Not with Lucius, another woman's husband. "Lucius… more."

Lucius' smile presses into the valley between Harry's shoulder blades. "As you wish."

With a flurry of murmured words, magic wraps around Harry: the light touch of Lucius' cleaning spells, the tight clench of his arse loosening, the feeling of slick spreading around his hole, then up and inside. Goosebumps break out over Harry's skin, a physical reaction to his magic welcoming Lucius', coaxing it deeper and deeper within him.

Their fingers twist together and, with a low grunt, Lucius pushes forward, his cock stretching the puckered skin around Harry's hole as he sinks in, balls deep in one steady thrust.

Slowly Lucius undulates, moving in and out and in again, and Harry thinks it's going to slow, be one of those times when Lucius builds him up and holds him on the edge, wanting – needing – release. Harry is looking forward to it.

Then Lucius moans – a cracked, broken sob – and the air around them shifts. The delicate thing budding between them shatters as an uncontrollable urgency sweeps over them.

Harry bucks up and back, grinding himself on Lucius' cock, tightening his arse as he drags himself forward again. Lucius meets him move for move, slamming into him harder and harder, pushing Harry deeper into the bed, closer to the headboard with each thrust.

It's ferocious, an almost feral joining of body and soul. The magic between them becomes suffocating in its intensity, twisting and twining, growing stronger and brighter, demanding more and more and more. More from them, more of them.

Sweat drips off Lucius, beads and pools on Harry's oil-slick back, then rolls, trailing over his ribs and his spine, wetting the cleft of his arse. It's slippery and hot, the room reeks of sex and sweat, and the magic crackles between them, tiny starbursts of current zipping and humming over their skin.

It's a perfect maelstrom of sensations.

Harry keens as his orgasm rips through him, leaving him exhausted and panting. Then Lucius bites down, teeth sinking into Harry's shoulder until blood pools on Harry's skin, and, humping into Harry's arse, spends himself.

Forehead pressing into Harry's shoulder, Lucius murmurs, "Mine."

Harry drifts off to sleep with a smile curling his lips.

* * *

Stepping back, Harry releases the hold on his magic and sighs as the wards fall into place. The old Roberts' home is now ready. Looking over to Lucius, Harry asks, "We have time for me to walk around the pitch?"

Arching a brow, Lucius drawls, "We are men of means, Harry. We have all the time in the world."

"You sound like an aristocratic arse," Harry says, shaking his head. Then the stadium is in sight and all he can think is he really needs a broom. It's been too long since he's kicked off from the ground and lost himself to the clouds and the sky.

"Saturday would be a good day for a fly," Lucius says. "We can arrive early, midafternoon when it's warm and the sun is high."

"Reading my mind, are you?" Harry wonders if maybe Malfoy would be up to a little one-on-one. He's pretty sure Malfoy's competitive nature will override Harry's position as Dark Lord.

Lucius steps in close behind Harry, slipping an arm around his waist. "The bond between us is much stronger now."

Harry nods. He felt the difference late last night, when he woke up and stumbled to the toilet. "Is it because of the mark?"

"The mark most likely sped the process up, but, with our personal relationship, it would have happened eventually no matter what," Lucius replies, his fingers wriggling their way beneath Harry's shirt to make teasing sweeps along Harry's waistband. "It has been getting stronger as the days pass, the more our magic intertwines, but this morning, the change in it is tangible."

"It's because of last night." The bite mark on Harry's shoulder tingles and, with the memories, his cock jerks, slowly filling beneath the cover his denims. "It changed for me too. I don't know why… I mean, it's not like this is…" Harry stops and, dragging a hand through his hair, tries to find the words he needs to say. Finally he just blurts out, "How can our magic keep tying us closer and closer together? You're married. It doesn't make sense."

"It did not dawn on me that this is yet another area that is not covered at Hogwarts or I would have spoken to you about it weeks ago." Lucius pulls his hand away from Harry's stomach, trailing around until it rests in the small of Harry's back, and then leads him to the row of team benches. Sitting down, he says, "Narcissa is my wife, yes. But she was raised with the same beliefs that I was. Beliefs that, had your parents lived, I believe James would have instilled in you. To find the person your magic can intertwine with is truly a gift, one that overrides many other types of commitments."


"Listen to me, Harry, please."

Closing his mouth, Harry nods.

"As it stands right now, how this is handled is up to you. Not because you are the Dark Lord, but because your magic is the dominant one. If you wished me to separate entirely from Narcissa, I would go before the Wizengamot and do just that." Lucius reaches out and grasps one of Harry's hands in his. "I ask that you do not request that. It would only accomplish denying Narcissa any measure of respect, and nullifying Draco's place as my heir."

"What happens then?" Harry asks, still not sure he understands what Lucius is saying.

"Narcissa remains my wife in name, giving both her and Draco legal protections and a respectable inheritance."

"So she just has to deal with you sneaking around with me?" Harry shakes his head. That is so not going to work.

"No," Lucius says, tightening his grip on Harry's hand. "I'm not explaining this properly. Narcissa is planning on returning for Mabon. After the ceremony, once she has witnessed our magic combining, she has promised to release me from the marriage binding."

"Then you'll be separated," Harry says. "I thought you didn't want that."

"We'll still be married in the eyes of the Ministry. Narcissa's lifestyle will not change." Lucius stops and swallows. "However, by releasing me from the marriage binding, she is dissolving the magical contract between me and her. She is acknowledging the wonder that is our bond and releasing me to fulfill it with you completely."

Harry stares up to the sky, letting Lucius' words roll through his mind. He's not sure he quite agrees with what Lucius is saying, he's not sure he will until he speaks to Narcissa. It seems too easy, too much like stringing people along to get what you want. "She'll be here for Mabon?"


With a clipped nod, Harry says, "I won't ask you to separate from her, Lucius. But I do want to talk to her alone before the celebration."

Harry feels Lucius relax beside him and realises he wasn't the only one this uncertainty was bothering. "Of course."

* * *

Buying necessaries for Mabon on Hogwarts' first Hogsmeade weekend is spectacularly trying on Harry's nerves. Too many students, too many people he used to call friend, not to mention the professors and small smattering of parents. It's enough to chase Harry to Cornwall, never to return.

The timing, however, is intentional. The more he's seen in public, the more people he can talk to, the more word about Mabon, about returning to the old ways, spreads. Glancing at his watch, he wonders just how much longer he needs to be visible.


Hearing his name, Harry turns, ready to make nice with another former classmate. Instead, he finds himself face-to-face with a familiar redhead. "Charlie," he returns, a real smile breaking free. "Get stuck chaperoning?"

"Nope," Charlie replies. "Have the weekend pretty much free. Figured I'd pop over and see Mum and Dad, then meet up with some friends tonight." He motions to the bag in Harry's hand. "More books?"

A light blush steals over Harry's cheeks. He does have more books hidden away in his robe pocket, most of them on the nature of magical bondings and the Wizarding world's view of them. "I'll have you know I do more than read all the time," Harry retorts, sticking his tongue out. Then, before Charlie can embarrass him more, Harry waves the bag and says, "This is for Mabon. Candles and blackberry wine, to be exact."

Hermione's voice sounds from behind Harry. "You really are planning on celebrating it, this Mabon thing?"

Closing his eyes, Harry takes in a calming breath and then, opening his eyes as he exhales, turns. "Hermione! Ron! I was hoping I'd run into you today."

"Mabon?" Hermione arches a brow. "I thought you needed to perform the ritual with a group of people."

Harry nods. "The magic is stronger that way, yes."

"I know for a fact the Weasleys aren't joining your little crusade to go back to the old ways."

Bristling, Harry bites down his tongue, stopping himself from reacting to Hermione's tone. He's marginally comforted when Ron looks more embarrassed than upset. He hopes that means Ron is thinking things through instead of blindly following his girlfriend.

"So," she asks, "who exactly are you celebrating with?"

Before Harry can answer, Charlie speaks up. "Neville and Mrs. Longbottom invited both of us to participate with them. No matter where he decides to light his candles, come Wednesday next, he will have others sharing the ritual with him."

"You're celebrating Mabon?" Ron looks absolutely flabbergasted.

"I am," Charlie replies with a tilt of his head. "Even made my candles myself."

"But… why? No one else in our family is."

"Wrong, little brother. Bill is practising the ritual with Fleur's family." Charlie licks his lips and then, rolling his shoulders, he says, "And we're celebrating because we are wizards, Ron. Celebrating the old ways or not should be a personal decision, not one you make because of what Mum and Dad or Harry or Hermione say. You need to decide what is important to you."

Charlie steps back. "Harry, good to see you, but if I want a hope of making all the rounds, I need to get going. Ron, Hermione, see you Monday at breakfast."

Once Charlie is gone, Ron steps from behind Hermione and asks, "You really want to do this?" Ron waves a hand towards Harry's bag. "Learning the rituals and celebrating the Sabbats?"

"I grew up in a cupboard, Ron," Harry says softly, feeling that Ron is finally ready to actually hear what he has to say. "I watched the Dursleys celebrate all of the Muggle holidays, doing everything they could to exclude me. This," he raises the bag, "this is a connection to my parents, it's a part of who I am. Why is it wrong to want to celebrate the Sabbats, to embrace the rituals and welcome the magic of our holidays?"

"Our first year…"

"Was my first Christmas," Harry finishes. He looks at Hermione, takes in the crease of her brows and the pinched edge of her lips. "You don't agree?"

She shakes her head. "No, I don't. You're not the same Harry I spent months camping with. You're doing things, being rude to the Minister, to Mr. Weasley, chasing after Malfoy, wearing robes all of the time… you're doing things that I don't understand. Things that I can't agree with. We're all just trying to help you and you're turning us away."

"No," Harry snaps. "None of you are trying to help, none of you are even listening to me."

"You prove my point," Hermione says. Stepping away from Harry, she looks at him and asks, "What do you think Dumbledore would say about all of this?"

"What makes you think he'd care?" Shaking his head, Harry huffs, frustrated beyond reason. "I'm not out killing kittens and eating babies for lunch. I'm learning about Wizarding customs."

"Customs that he stopped following."

"No," Harry says. "Customs he stopped teaching. No one knows what he did on the Sabbats, we only know what he allowed us to see. Don't make him into something he may not have been."

"You really think he celebrated the Sabbats?"

Shrugging, Harry answers Ron's question, "He was never in less than proper Wizarding dress, colourful but still proper. What's to say he wasn't celebrating the Sabbats? All of the rituals can be done alone just as well as with a group."

"Huh," Ron mutters. "Didn't think about it that way."

Lips quirking, Harry fights down the urge to tease. Hermione is still too much of a wild card, too against what he's doing to let his guard down. Harry looks at her and arches a brow.

"No," she says, shaking her head. "You're just trying to make everything you're doing sound okay."

"You're looking for dragons where there are none," Harry replies. "I'm not doing anything wrong."

"We'll see, won't we," Hermione says, squaring her shoulders and pushing her nose a touch further in the air. "Either way, Ron and I have to go. We don't have much longer before we have to be back at the school."

Harry waits until they're far enough away he has to shout to be heard. "Hey, guys, have a blessed Mabon!"

Hermione's scandalized look makes him laugh. Still chuckling, he turns and heads back to his house. He has little more than an hour before he's supposed to be at the stadium, and then the meeting a few hours after that.

* * *

Harry watches as Malfoy's eyes glaze over and his face goes lax, losing all expression. Holding back a wince, he keeps his mask of indifference in place. The change is, in Harry's opinion, disgusting. There is something inherently wrong about a Draco Malfoy without his sneer firmly in place. Pushing that particular thought away, Harry says, "You ignored my call."

Not expecting a response to the statement, Harry arches a brow when Draco replies, "I did."

"Why?" Harry asks. Then, seeing Draco's brow crease, clarifies, "Why didn't you follow the pull?"

Draco licks his lips and, voice lacking any type of inflection, says, "I didn't know what I would be heading into. We, my family, had just escaped Ministry clutches. I did not want to do anything to draw attention back to us."

Harry nods, more for himself than for the benefit of anyone watching them. The answer fits with what Lucius told him. Question after question, Harry leads Draco through the changes that came about with Draco's refusal to respond to Harry's demand – the fever, the chills, the inability to properly wield magic. He keeps his focus on Draco, trusting Lucius to monitor the others.

"Why did you finally seek me out?"

Blinking, Draco says, "Because you sent my father to me."

It's the first answer that catches Harry by surprise. "Why did that change your mind?"

"You showed me mercy. Extended a kindness that was both unnecessary and unearned." Then, with another sweep of his tongue over his lips, Draco adds, "He also explained what you are trying to accomplish. I agree with your agenda."

The lack of emotion in Draco's responses is grating on Harry. He almost snorts when he realises that he truly misses Malfoy's usual sarcastic, contrary nature. "You are here now by your own choice?"

"I am."

"Even knowing you will be expected to work with, to defend Muggleborns and Muggle-raised witches and wizards?"

"Yes." Draco swallows, his brows crease together again, and then, as if it is against his will, he blurts, "Father has been teaching me, helping me accept the changes between the ideals I was raised with and the current expectations."

Harry narrows his eyes. "Are they expectations you can own? Ideas that you accept as true?"

"After an amount of time, I believe I can. I do believe in returning to the old ways, and the old ways did not include separation based on blood purity."

That's the answer Harry wanted everyone to hear. Having it come from a Pureblood, under the effects of Veritaserum, is exactly what Lucius had planned. After a glance to Lucius, Harry steps back. Then, smirking, he asks one final question. "Today, did you let me beat you to the snitch?"

Draco obviously fights the answer spilling out, his hands clench into fists, his face flushes. And then he says, "No. I wanted to win."

"Good," Harry says, nodding. "Never let me win."

Relaxing back into the chair, Draco says, "Of course not."

"Give him the antidote, Dean," Harry says, waving his hand towards Malfoy. "We've got a marking to do."

* * *

"You were surprised." Lucius cups his snifter of brandy. "You expected his mark to be like the others, bland and small, given and received out of duty."

Harry shrugs in answer. He's not ready to admit that having Malfoy's mark appear personalized, reflecting Harry's relationship with and opinion of the man, is disquieting, is making him think once again about past decisions.

"The Occamy is rather appropriate," Lucius says, setting his snifter to the side and motioning Harry to the spot between his legs. After Harry drops to floor, Lucius starts massaging his shoulders and continues, "Aggressive but not venomous, rarely deadly. Wings that make them graceful in flight. Extremely protective of their kin."

Looking up, Harry grins. "I guess it really is a good choice then."

"It is," Lucius agrees. "Not all relationships are defined as friends or lovers, Harry. Whether you want to admit it or not, you have had a relationship with Draco since entering the Wizarding world."

The smile slides off Harry's face. "It's not that I don't want to admit it."

Lucius arches a brow.

"It's not the relationship," Harry explains. "It's the depth of the relationship. I mean, I didn't realise until he was under Veritaserum that I like him when he's being a snarky git. Not once was he impressed with who I am. Not when I was the Boy Who Lived and not now as the Dark Lord. I guess I'm just curious what would've happened if I had taken his hand when he offered first year."

"Do not live with would have, should have, could have." Lucius leans in and brushes his lips over Harry's. "Concentrate only on what you have now and where you wish it to go."

"Is that what you do?" Harry asks, doubting it is as simple to do as Lucius is making sound.

Pressing one kiss and then another to Harry's temple, Lucius murmurs, "It is what I do now."

* * *

His palms are a sweaty mess and his heart is about to beat out of his chest. Harry's beginning to think that meeting with Narcissa Malfoy is one of his least brilliant ideas ever. That the most logical place was in the Malfoy gardens, where they'll all be celebrating Mabon, is just adding to the internal turmoil.

"You gained her respect when you asked to meet with her," Lucius says, stopping Harry's pacing in its tracks. "She was surprised, and trust me, surprising Narcissa is not an easy task."

"I don't even know what I'm supposed to say to her." Harry winces. That was most definitely bordering on a whine. Dragging in a deep breath, he sighs. "It seemed right at the time. Right now, though, I'm pretty sure it's the dumbest thing I've ever thought of."

Chuckling, Lucius grabs one of Harry's hands, and leads him to a nearby bench. Straddling it, he motions for Harry to do the same. When they're sitting together, Harry's back pressed against Lucius' chest, Lucius's arms holding Harry around the waist, Lucius says, "I sincerely doubt meeting with my wife is anywhere near the scale of breaking into Gringotts and riding a dragon for your escape."

Harry snorts softly. Put like that, yeah, this really isn't that big of a deal, he supposes. Narcissa already knows about him and Lucius. It's not like there is a dark cloud of lies and deceit hanging over his head.

"Tell me," Lucius says, "have you ever held magic?"

Shaking his head, Harry replies, "I didn't think it was possible." He knows he's being distracted. He's more than happy to let it happen.

"Not everyone can do it. However, I have faith that we are not in that majority." Lucius holds a hand out in front of them, palm up. "Hold your hand over mine, palm down. Leave a about an inch between them."

Curiosity piqued, Harry holds his hand out.

"Now," Lucius murmurs, "imagine a ball of pure, wild magic. Tiny, like a marble, and the same milky colour of our wards."

"It's always that colour," Harry says, lips quirking as the heat builds between their palms. "Every time our magic connects, it's the same colour."

Harry feels Lucius nod, errant strands of his hair tickling Harry's cheek. "My magic is white, has been as long as I can remember. I blame the ridiculous rainbow of pinks and purples on you."

Snorting, Harry gently elbows Lucius. "No picking on my magic. I like the colours."

"And the shimmering effect?" Lucius drawls. "Not exactly what one would expect from a Dark Lord."

Harry's retort is lost, forgotten to the sudden appearance of a tiny luminous ball dancing between their palms. "It's so small."

"Add to it," Lucius directs.

Slowly the pea-sized piece of magic grows, shifting to a near solid white and then, as Harry forces his magic to follow his command, a translucent swirl of colours. "Wow."

"Eloquent, as always, Mr. Potter," Lucius replies, laughing when Harry jabs him in the ribs again.

"I don't know, Lucius. It is a rather impressive display."

Harry jerks his head up at Narcissa's voice and, his focus lost, the magic disappears with a sizzle. Narcissa Malfoy looks as imposing as he remembers.

Lucius kisses the back of Harry's neck and then stands, greeting Narcissa with a loose hug and fast kiss on her cheek. "Cissa, welcome home."

"Lucius," she replies, then turns her attention to Harry.

"Mrs. Malfoy," Harry says, swiping his hands over his denims and pushing to a stand. He offers his hand in greeting. "A pleasure to meet you."

"Given the circumstances," Narcissa replies, gently squeezing Harry's fingers, "I do believe first names are more than appropriate. Please, call me Narcissa."

Harry cants his head to the side. "It's Harry, then."

Lucius clears his throat and then, looking between Harry and Narcissa, says, "I'll be in the study whenever you two are finished."

Narcissa draws Harry's attention away from Lucius' retreating back with a softly spoken, "Be a gentleman, Harry, and offer me your arm. There is something I believe you need to see."

Extending an arm, Harry pulls from his renowned courage and meets Narcissa's gaze. "Where to?"

"The path to the left," she says, gesturing with a tilt of her head. "I am sure that Lucius failed in his explanations, and with your lack of a Wizarding upbringing, this situation must be causing you an unnecessary amount of confusion and second-guessing."

"I understand more now than I did when Lucius first attempted to explain." Despite the fact that Narcissa is wholly correct in her assessment, Harry feels the need to defend Lucius.

"You've researched magical marriage contracts?"

Nodding, Harry adds, "Along with natural forming bonds." He swallows twice, trying to form his comment, the thing he feels he has to say, into something resembling coherency. Then, when the words refuse to settle in his mind, he opens his mouth and lets them rush out, "I didn't mean for this to happen, but…"

"No one means for it to happen," Narcissa says, interrupting Harry's stuttered attempt at an explanation. "However, very few are so distressed when it does."

"I'm breaking up your family."

"How? Are you taking my son away from me?"

"Not your son, it's your husband I'm taking," Harry snaps, annoyed with himself and with Lucius and even Narcissa.

Narcissa stops walking and, with a finger beneath Harry's chin, forces him to look up, to meet her gaze head on. "Lucius was my best friend during our Hogwarts years. Our parents arranged our marriage and neither of us saw a reason to contest it. Not when it would then mean our parents were free to arrange our marriage to someone else, perhaps someone we couldn't even claim as a friend. Then, when we first married, we both attempted to force that friendship into more. We nurtured the love we had for one another, and yet, it never grew into an all-consuming passion. We have been content with one another."

Linking her fingers with Harry's, Narcissa gives him a gentle tug and starts walking again. "I watched you two today."

Harry looks at her with wide eyes, replaying his conversation and actions, praying to all that is holy that they did nothing embarrassing, nothing unseemly. He doesn't remember doing anything that was exactly untoward, but he blushes anyway.

Laughing, she pats Harry's hand. "Do not worry, Harry. Had you two appeared to be on the verge of becoming intimate, I would have announced myself. I must say, however, your actions were more revealing than if you two had been in a moment of indiscretion."

"What…" Harry stops and clears his throat. "What do you mean?"

"I know Lucius. Have known him for many years. Today was the first time I've seen him so comfortable with another person in many years, myself and Draco included. He was laughing and teasing and making magic, magic that, no matter what he said to you, is extremely hard to conjure. It was a glimpse at the Lucius I remember from fifth year, before our parents announced our betrothal."

Harry's heart clenches at the wistful expression on Narcissa's face. They may have never found passion, but Harry's pretty sure that Narcissa loves her husband. "You said I wasn't breaking apart your family."

"Just a few more steps and I will explain."

Rounding the bend, Harry stops short, the Malfoy family crypt looming in front of him.

"Lucius isn't the first Malfoy to be lucky enough to have the type of bond you two share." Narcissa leads Harry closer to the mausoleum and then, glancing at the cold stone, stops. "Serpens Malfoy, Lucius' great-great-great grandfather, married a young witch, Adele Gastons, and produced three children, two girls and a boy. Then, one year while traveling to Egypt on business, he met Violetta Yaxley."

Harry reads the names etched into the marble: Serpens Malfoy and Violetta Yaxley, and then, on the crypt directly below, Adele Malfoy.

"Depending on how we approach this," Narcissa says, "You will not be breaking up my family, you will simply become a part of it."

Family. The word echoes through Harry. It's something he's never really had. Voice cracking, he asks, "How?"

"With great care," Narcissa replies. "I will denounce the magical bond I have with Lucius. Draco and I will live here. You and Lucius will protect and feed the bond between you, either here or …"

"Cornwall," Harry says softly. He's sure they will be in and out of all of their houses, but home will be, already is, Cornwall.

"Cornwall," Narcissa repeats. "Sabbats and birthdays we would celebrate together. Eventually, I would like to be able to think of you as my friend, just as Lucius is my friend. The Wizarding world will question it only until they witness the connection between you and Lucius, then the old families will accept it and will demand that others see it for what it is: a blessing to be respected."

"You're really okay with this?" Harry asks.

"I would have loved if it were me that Lucius formed this bond with," Narcissa replies. "But the Fates have decided otherwise. I have had time to think about this, Harry. Time to work through the envy that nearly overwhelmed me at first. I have accepted it and now, especially after seeing the two of you so candidly, I would not deny either of you the chance at this happiness."

Blinking, Harry offers up a shaky smile. "Thank you."

"You are welcome," she says. "I do believe we have time to settle this before our Mabon ritual. If, that is, you are comfortable with everything now."

Harry closes his eyes and plays everything he knows through his mind. It all comes around to family and finally having one of his own. Even if it does include Draco Malfoy. Opening his eyes, he smiles as he offers an arm to Narcissa. "I believe Lucius said he'd be waiting in the study."

"I suppose it would only be polite to let him know of our decision." The grin lighting Narcissa's face is downright wicked.

A weight lifts from Harry's shoulders as he leads Narcissa back along the path to the gardens, and then to the house, to Lucius.

* * *

An hour later, Harry is still reeling from the influx of magic borne of Narcissa denouncing her tie to Lucius. He greets Justin, Dean, and Charlie fighting back the silly smile he's been wearing, almost afraid of touching them with so much magic coursing through him. He hadn't realised how much the bond would change, how much it was holding back due to Lucius' tie to Narcissa.

"No trouble getting here?" Harry asks, leading them toward the garden area set aside for the ritual.

Dean shakes his head, his eyes darting all over the place, taking in as much as he can. "Do you think Malfoy'd let me come and sketch here sometime?"

Harry shrugs. "You'd have to ask the lady of the manor."

Charlie grabs Harry's shirt and holds him back, letting Dean and Justin get a few metres in front of them. "Everything okay with that?"

"Yeah," Harry says, the goofy smile peeking out again. "There's a lot going on, but, yeah, that worked out rather well."

"You look happy, Harry," Charlie says. "It's good to see."

"It's good to feel," Harry admits. Then, picking up his pace, he adds, "Come on, Lucius is looking for us."

A questioning look crosses Charlie's face.

"Not now," Harry says, pushing off the unasked question until later. "This weekend, come to the house and we'll talk. Assuming you don't figure it out tonight."

Harry and Charlie step into the clearing and, after introductions, are shown to their spot in the circle. Harry is directly opposite Lucius. The hairs on Harry's arm stand up the minute their gazes lock onto each other, their magic connecting and churning, in lieu of the physical confirmation they can't give into yet.

White robes swaying around her, Narcissa steps into the circle. As she spreads her arms, the brown and yellow candles dancing in the air flare to life, lighting the area in the flickering glow of firelight. The light reflects off the polished faces of the altar, and throws shadows over the apples and gourds decorating the ground and altar. The chalice of blackberry wine stands out bright and strong from the muted earthy tones surrounding it.

"Spirits of the north, element earth, your golden fields provide the promise of a comfortable winter. Let us celebrate in abundance of your blessing this night."

Harry joins the others with an answering, "Join us this night."

Turning a quarter, Narcissa calls for the spirits of the east. With each word, the magic ratchets higher, the temperature spiking from cool to warm.

Harry cannot not look at Lucius.

When the circle is complete, the magic comes to life around them. The rich chocolate brown from Draco and Charlie's Gryffindor red, Narcissa's icy blue and near blinding yellow from Dean, a silvery, slate grey leaking from Justin. The colourful strands twist and swirl, never crossing or merging, just filling the air with energy and light.

Then Harry's and Lucius' magic join in the fray. Arcing over the others and colliding high in the air, melding from two into one, and then settling over the circle, trapping everyone in a net of glittering opalescence.

Over the snap of the magic, Harry vaguely hears Charlie mutter, "Merlin's balls," just before Narcissa takes a sip of the blackberry wine and then passes it to her left.

He doubts he has to have that talk with Charlie after all.

* * *

Even with Narcissa and Charlie hustling everyone towards the house, Harry can hardly bear the wait to have Lucius alone within the web of their magic. What had been a quiet hum reached the tipping point when their magic connected. There is no holding back now, no banking the need and the want until they're home, alone.

Stripping free of his robe, Harry has a sudden appreciation for the old ways of being nude beneath ritual robes.

Lucius meets him in the middle of the circle, muscles flexing with every step.

"I want you," Harry says, reaching out and dragging a hand over Lucius' chest, down over his abdomen until he wraps his fingers tightly around Lucius' cock.

"Yes," Lucius murmurs, then he slides gracefully to his knees.

Leaning in, he nuzzles Harry's groin, pulls his cheek against the thick length of Harry's cock.

Wrapping his fingers in Lucius' hair, Harry rocks his hips forward and growls, "Suck me. Now."

Lucius spends seconds – minutes – mouthing the head of Harry's cock, flicking his tongue against the slit and then slipping it beneath the foreskin, licking and slurping until saliva wets Harry's cock and collects in the tight, dark pubes curling around the base.

Head dropping back, Harry tightens his grip in Lucius' hair and tugs, dragging Lucius forward until his cock is hitting the back of Lucius' throat. He holds him in place, relishing the feel of Lucius swallowing convulsively around his dick. Then, when Lucius struggles, Harry releases him, pulls back until his cock, spit shiny and leaking precome, bumps against Lucius' lips. Dragging his hands through Lucius' hair, Harry cups Lucius' jaw, his thumb smearing through the spit and precome slicking Lucius' lips.

"Harry, please."

It's as close to begging as Harry's ever heard from Lucius. Knowing he can push the man to sounding so needy, so wanton, shatters the last vestiges of Harry's control. He wants Lucius on his back, his legs spread wide and taking whatever – no matter how or how little – Harry gives him.

With a sharp intake of air, Lucius maneuvers himself to his back, legs bent at the knee and his arms over his head, fingers curling into the grass and earth beneath him.

Swallowing back a moan, Harry kneels between the spread of Lucius' legs, his hands hovering over Lucius' thighs. He doesn't even know where to begin. Then, leaning forward, he drags his mouth over Lucius' abdomen, licking and nibbling, sucking up a mark first by Lucius' navel and then at the juncture of thigh and groin.

He loses himself in Lucius' scent, in the taste of sweat and magic, in the teasing pulse thumping below the skin. Working teeth and tongue against skin, he litters Lucius' thighs, his hips and the tender area around the base of Lucius' cock with bruises, splotches of light pink and purple and deep, dark red.

Harry strokes each bite, running the tips of his fingers around the edge, pushing against them with his thumb until Lucius shudders and moans, arching into – away from – Harry's touch.

With an intense look marring his brow, Harry concentrates until his fingers are coated with a slippery oil. He rubs Lucius' hole, massaging until the muscle relaxes. He works Lucius open, one finger becomes two and then three, until Lucius is rocking back on four fingers, his mouth open and his breathing heavy and harsh.

Then, swiping his hand over his cock, Harry holds Lucius' thighs open, spreading them until he feels the muscles tremble beneath his palms, and, in one swift movement, he pushes forward, encasing his cock in the heat of Lucius' arse.

Their magic draws in the ritual magic in the air and the Earth's magic from the ground, combining in ways Harry never thought possible.

Power floods through Harry, each thrust of hips echoed with a burst of magic. Bright and colourful.

Lucius arches his back, digs his shoulders into the ground and pulls Harry's cock in deeper.

Harry tightens his grip, adding to the array of bruises decorating Lucius' body, and slams forward, grinding his cock into Lucius' arse with a series of fast twists of his hips.

The magic licks over Harry, demanding and needy and then, after he – they – comes, content.

Utterly spent, wrecked beyond coherency, Harry summons his robe and covers them both, giving into the need to sleep before the light of their magic fades away.

* * *

Five minutes into meeting Augusta Longbottom, Harry decides that she is one witch he never wants to brass off. Not only did she schedule the meeting with the Board of Governors, but she set it for half-three in the afternoon and then notified other families. The gallery behind Harry is full. Purebloods, Half-bloods, and Muggleborns.

All of them here supporting Harry's agenda.

He doubts the Board is ready for this. He doubts the Wizarding world is truly ready for this.

With a nod to those he knows, Harry steps forward and, offering Mrs. Longbottom his arm, follows her to the podium set before the twelve Board members.

"Augusta," an old wizard with a closely cropped beard says. "I thought your grandson was quit of Hogwarts."

"He is, Acton," she replies. "Doesn't mean I no longer have a say in how the young ones are educated. Seeing as I'm not dead yet, I'd like to know that future generations will be knowledgeable about certain things outside of potions and charms."

"Now you know as well as we do that Hogwarts teaches much more than those two things."

Mrs. Longbottom turns her full glare on the witch at the far end of the table, holding it until the woman pales and shrinks back into her chair. Harry bites down on his lip to keep the laugh at bay.

"Practical magics," Mrs. Longbottom snaps. "They come out with a head full of it. There is more, however, to being a magical person beyond the swish and flick of a wand."

"What is your point, Augusta?"

"My point, Acton, is that there are entire generations leaving those sacred walls not knowing one whit about who they are or the customs the magical community has practised for centuries." Motioning to Harry, she says, "Harry Potter, the boy weighted with destroying the evil that was Tom Riddle, has had to take it upon himself to learn about the Sabbats and Wizarding politics and even the very basics on manners and respects that have been staples of our community for centuries."

"Mr. Potter," Acton says. "Is this true?"

Harry steps forward and, with a general nod towards the Board, says, "Gentlemen, ladies. It is. Just last night I participated in my very first Mabon ritual."

An older witch leans forward and asks, "How is it that you've made it eighteen years without experiencing one?"

"Because, madam, after my parents were murdered, I was placed with my aunt and uncle. My Muggle aunt and uncle. They knew nothing of the Sabbats."

"You entered Hogwarts at age eleven," the snippy witch from the end of the table says. "Are you telling us that you heard nothing, learned nothing of the Sabbats at any time during your school years?"

Harry licks his lips and swallows. He's about to open Pandora's box and he knows it. After this meeting, everything is going to change. "Yes, ma'am, that is exactly what I'm saying. At Hogwarts we celebrated Christmas and Easter, Hallowe'en. There were decorated trees and carved out pumpkins, chocolate eggs and Christmas crackers. There was not, however, any mention of Yule and Samhain."

The youngest and only wizard on the panel not wearing robes motions to be heard. "I am Muggleborn, Mr. Potter. Are you suggesting that there is no place for the traditions that I grew up with at Hogwarts?"

"Not at all, sir," Harry replies. "I am saying, however, that if Hogwarts students are only going to celebrate one set of customs, then it should be the ones that represent our world, the magical world. To do less than that is a slight to every witch and wizard that came before us."

Meeting the gaze of each member in turn, knowing he has their attention, Harry continues, "Not too long ago, Neville Longbottom, Mrs. Longbottom's grandson, pointed out that Hogwarts offers Muggle Studies, a course that benefits only those raised in a completely Wizarding household, yet offers nothing for those raised in Muggle homes. There is no course on customs and rituals and politics. No classes explaining Wizarding bonds, and the particulars of oaths in the Wizarding world."

Harry stops and, after a glance over his shoulder, seeing Lucius give him a slight nod, straightens his shoulders, finishing as he started: proud, confident of himself and his message. "There is a gap in expectations. It is frowned upon to expect the Muggle-raised witches and wizards to give up their customs, yet no one seems to be concerned that giving up our customs is exactly what is happening to the Wizarding world as a whole."

The chatter is instantaneous. From the gallery to the Board, everyone is now giving due consideration to Harry's words. He waits another full tick of the second hand then, clearing his voice, says, "We just finished a decades long war brought about by the ridiculous notion of blood purity. The Purebloods blamed the Muggleborns, the Half-bloods fit in nowhere. They overlooked what we have in common, overlooked the magic that connects us all, that literally creates our community, and instead tried to lay blame for the changes within the community, the loss of our culture."

"It sounds like you blame the Muggleborns, lad."

Harry looks at Acton and shakes his head. "No, sir. Not at all. I blame every person in charge that let it happen, every person with a position of power that allowed our culture to be strangled and filtered out, allowed our customs to be replaced with beliefs built on religions that, in all honesty, do not even condone the practise of magic."

"You've given this some very serious thought."

"I've suddenly found myself with some free time," Harry replies, lips curling into a grin. "And, as distressing as it is, even I can't spend every day flying about."

The gallery behind Harry chuckles, easing the tension in the room.

"Well," Acton says, "thank you, Mr. Potter, for bringing a younger viewpoint to our table. This topic will be addressed tomorrow, in private, and then our decision will be handed down."

Harry cants his head to the side. "Thank you for allowing me time to speak."

Harry waits until the Board leaves the room, escaping through an unnoticed side door, and then extends an arm to Mrs. Longbottom and starts walking towards the rear exit of the room. "And thank you for the introduction."

"Posh," Mrs. Longbottom snorts. "If I'd known you were so steady on your feet, I'd have left you to it yourself."

"Nonsense," Harry says. "They may have listened to me because of who I am, but my words held weight because of who you are."

"I agree with him completely. He needed a respectable introduction." Lucius nods in greeting. "Augusta, it has been a while. You, of course, have not aged a day since our last meeting."

"Lucius, Narcissa," she returns, curt and clipped. "I am surprised to find you here supporting the Boy Who Lived."

Narcissa smiles coolly. "Mr. Potter is the first rational voice to approach the Board in years."

"The boy does know how to woo a crowd," Mrs. Longbottom agrees with a bob of her head, setting the vulture atop her hat to wobbling.

Heat infuses Harry's cheeks. "Really. Stop it now."

Mrs. Longbottom barks out a laugh. "Embarrassed, are we? Good. A dose of that every now and then will keep you honest."

The blush staining Harry's face darkens.

"You know the Malfoys?" Mrs. Longbottom asks, then, before Harry can answer, she adds, "Wouldn't trust them as far as I can throw them, but they are a good lot to have on your political side."

"We have met before, yes." Harry looks over to see pure amusement dancing in both Lucius' and Narcissa's eyes. They're enjoying this far too much in Harry's opinion. "It was Mrs. Malfoy who helped me deceive Voldemort in the Forbidden Forest."

"So it was," Mrs. Longbottom says. "Knew which way the wind was blowing, that one did." Then, dropping her grip on Harry's arm, she says, "Seeing as you all are familiar with one another, I am going to leave you here and take advantage of the empty Floo station."

"Are you sure?" Harry asks. "I'd be more than happy to see you home."

"Been coming and going alone for more years than you've been alive." Her overlarge handbag, just as red as Neville has described, swings back and forth as stabs a finger in Harry's arm. "You just mind yourself around these two."

"Yes, ma'am." Harry sketches a bow over her hand, brushing his lips over the parchment thin skin. He smirks when he sees her blushing with the attention. Leaning in, he whispers, "Nice to see you blushing, I've heard it keeps you honest."

With another loud laugh, Mrs. Longbottom steps back and, with a shake of her head, leaves Harry standing with Lucius and Narcissa at his side.

After the Floo returns to its normal orange flame, Harry looks back at Lucius and Narcissa. "Anyone up for an early supper out?"

Narcissa's lips twitch but the smile never fully forms. "Making more than one grand statement today, aren't we?"

"Might as well," Harry replies, rolling his shoulders in a shrug. "Besides, I can blame it on Mrs. Longbottom. She's the one that left me here in your evil clutches."

Lucius huffs a near silent chuckle. "Better watch out, Harry. Augusta was a champion dueler in her day."

Laughing, Harry ignores the flash of multiple cameras as he makes his way out of the Ministry. He's sure that the Board of Governors meeting will be front page news now, even if it is just to explain how in the world Harry Potter ended up having a meal with the notorious Malfoys.

* * *

Harry runs into Kingsley Shacklebolt in the Ministry atrium, too busy clipping his visitor's badge into place to pay attention to where he's going. "I'm so sorry," Harry says, then looks up and, smiling, adds, "Minister Shacklebolt."

"I was hoping to catch you today," Kingsley says, giving Harry a tight nod. "I figured you'd be here when the Board released their decision."

The distant tone has Harry stepping back. Cautiously, he replies, "Yeah, thought it'd be the fastest way to find out."

"They released the decision ten minutes ago. They agreed with your assessment." Kingsley frowns, a small downward twist of his lips. "Hogwarts can either celebrate both the Sabbats and the Muggle holidays or, if the Headmistress determines there is time for only one, only the Sabbats."

"Good," Harry says, wariness banking his reaction to the news. "It is a school for witchcraft and wizardry. Celebrating the Sabbats seems the logical choice. Did they mention anything about the classes?"

"They did, the Headmistress should be interviewing for positions immediately. Perhaps we can finish this in my office?" Kingsley motions towards the lifts. "There're a few other things I'd like to discuss with you."

Harry tries to ignore the internal alarm bells going off. "Of course."

The short trip to Kingsley's office is done in a tense silence. By the time the door closes behind them, Harry is itching to let his wand drop into his hand. This has the potential to go pear-shaped very, very fast.

As soon as they're alone, Kingsley bites out, "Lucius Malfoy, Harry? He is the last person I expected to see you having a meal with."

Harry shakes his head. He should have anticipated this. "Mrs. Longbottom reintroduced us after the meeting yesterday. It seems we share quite a few opinions about the state of the Wizarding world."

"Share quite a few opinions," Kingsley mutters. He looks up at Harry and, frowning, snaps, "I can't believe you just said that. The Malfoys are not the type of family you want to associate with." Kingsley drops down into his chair and, hands together and steepled beneath his chin, stares at Harry from across his desk. Finally, when Harry says nothing in return, Kingsley sighs. "Arthur Weasley came to see me a couple of weeks ago. Worried and in a snit because you were changing, weren't the same boy he's welcomed into his home. Give him some time, I said. He's just come off a major battle, did things that most adults never even have to think about facing."

Beneath the bland look on his face, Harry is boiling.

The silence stretches out for a long sweep of the minute hand. Then, exasperated, Kingsley asks, "Do you have anything to say?"

Harry blinks. And then blinks again, gathering his thoughts and emotions, forming them both into something useful. Just as Kingsley opens his mouth, Harry cuts him off. "You were at their trial. You voted to free them."

"On your word." Kingsley stops, then, softer, says, "I voted to release them based on what you said."

"I only testified for Draco and Mrs. Malfoy," Harry points out with a smirk. "You, right along with the entire Wizengamot, freed Lucius Malfoy on your own."

"There was proof of the Imperius curse."

"Well, I guess you all released him because he was innocent." Harry sits back and, head canted, waits for Kingsley's rebuttal.

Closing his eyes, Kingsley draws in a deep breath. "You have no idea of what you are doing."

"Then tell me," Harry replies, tone smooth and sharp. "Since I have no idea, tell me."

"Harry, people are concerned, worried about the amount of power at your disposal. For many people out there, it is only a matter of time before you become the next Dark Lord. Being seen as friendly with the Malfoys will only add fuel to the fire."

"The next Dark Lord." Harry repeats.

"I know it would never happen," Kingsley says, so earnest it makes Harry's teeth clench. "I know the last thing we need to worry about is you becoming an evil tyrant."

Harry figures Kingsley has that much right. "Evil? No, never. I have no desire to be a mass-murdering megalomaniac."

"Exactly," Kingsley says, beaming.

"But," Harry says, cutting across Kingsley's next sentence. "I don't see how that has anything to do with the Malfoys."

"They're a Dark family, Harry. Even their name means bad faith."

Rolling his eyes, Harry says, "And my name means one who makes earthen vessels, and Hermione's last name has something to do with farming. Saying that their name means bad faith really doesn't mean a whole lot, Minister."

"Now, Harry, that's really over-simplifying it."

"No, it's finding an excuse. Their name means they're bad makes about as much sense as saying all Dark wizards are evil." Harry spreads his hands wide, needing some type of physical outlet for the rush of energy moving within him. "Evil wizards come in all shapes and sizes. Pettigrew is a prime example. Just as Remus, a Dark creature, is a counter-example. It's the intent, a person's moral makeup, that makes someone, wizard or Muggle, evil."

With a narrow-eyed glare, Kingsley says, "Are you making a case, Harry? Putting in the groundwork now for when you prove everyone right and come out as the next Dark Lord?"

"Even if I do," Harry says, tone icy and emotionless, "I still won't be an evil person. Most powerful wizards are labeled as Dark. Not because they are all out to take over the world, but because they practise a broader base of magic. They practise it because they can, because they have the power to control the spell."

Pushing to a stand, Harry says, "The Wizarding world interchanges Dark and evil when they are, by their very definition, different things. I expected better of you, an open mind offering fair judgment."

"You're off the rails." Kingsley stands and steps around his desk, makes like he's going to reach out and restrain Harry physically. "No one even knows what you're trying to accomplish, meeting with the Board and establishing contact with the old families."

Smirking, Harry says, "I'm sure it will be come apparent soon enough. However, before I'm summoned to your office or accosted by you in the streets again, it'd be best to make sure I've actually committed a crime. I'm tired of defending my choices."

"You forget yourself," Kingsley starts, obviously flustered.

"No," Harry says, suddenly calm as he realises a certain truth. "I've forgot nothing. Actually, now that I think about it, I can see that I've just recently found myself. Good day, Minister."

* * *

The fire dancing in the grate is the only light in the room; the doors are flung open, the perfumed scent of the Night Jasmine working to relax Harry just as much as the amber liquor in his glass and the steady rise and fall of Lucius' chest, his current – and preferred – pillow. "I haven't taken a stand, or shown my loyalties," Harry says, taking a small sip of Firewhiskey. "I'm hiding who I am."

"I disagree," Lucius responds. "You would not be causing such an uproar if you were indeed hiding yourself as much as you believe you are. And, honestly Harry, how much have you truly changed?"

"I have minions."

Snorting, Lucius corrects him. "You have a small group of trusted advisors, and then others who will help promote your agenda. An agenda, I might add, that focuses on helping. Helping the Muggle-raised, helping our entire culture."

Harry opens his mouth and then, just as quickly, shuts it again. Lucius may have a valid point.

"You also," Lucius continues, "have made connections outside those bearing your mark. There are a multitude of people, from every class and station, who agree with what you are seeking. They see the benefits and have, very publicly, put themselves in your corner."

"But everyone seems so shocked."

"Not everyone, Harry. Only those who no longer have control over your future. The Minister, Miss Granger, the Weasleys – minus the eldest two sons, of course." With a finger pressing against Harry's chin, Lucius tilts Harry's head back until they're looking directly at each other. Arching a brow, he asks, "Did you even read the article in the Prophet or the one the Lovegood girl did?"

Harry shakes his head. His record with the press isn't all that great; avoiding them seems to be the best way to handle them.

"Both articles proclaimed you to be the one who will unite the Wizarding world. I believe that Miss Lovegood went so far as to say that now, with the prophecy fulfilled, you are free to follow the path the Fates had intended for you from your birth."

A shocked bubble of laughter bursts out of Harry. "She didn't?"

Lips quirking, Lucius drawls, "She most certainly did. Both articles were well received."

"Merlin," Harry whispers, amused and humbled in equal measure. He never wanted to lead and yet here he is, the path of the Wizarding world resting on his shoulders. It's not as daunting as he'd feared it would be.

"You are doing an admirable job at fulfilling your destiny while maintaining your personal moral code," Lucius responds, his words just as quiet as Harry's whisper.

"I am the Dark Lord," Harry says, owning it for the first time.

Satisfaction rumbles through the bond as Lucius replies, "It is my honour to be marked as yours, m'Lord."

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.

~Abraham Lincoln