The Headmistress stood there gaping like an extremely fat fish that had eaten a disgustingly juicy worm attached to a hook that had been reeled in to leave the fish gasping in futilely for air. Harry decided that this would make the perfect time to exit and perhaps the woman would learn to never go up against a Darkov in the future, though with the way the stupidity rate of the general population kept rising it was a slim hope.
"Good day Headmistress Chauvez" he smirked and left "do let me know how your nephew's nose is, with some much blood pouring from his face I couldn't tell if it was broken or not though it sounded as if it was."
Blaise was waiting outside when Harry opened the door and was able to catch the parting remark Harry made to the Headmistress and catch the stunned face. With a snicker Blaise fell in beside Harry demanding details as they leisurely made their way back to their class.
By lunch the entire fifth year seemed to know what had gone on inside of the Headmistress' office and many were congratulating Harry on so far avoiding expulsion while Chris' cronies were sneering at Harry in a hateful manner. By the end of the day it seemed that the whole school knew and Blaise was ready to pull some twits hair out. If she heard one more idiotic female tell Harry how brave he must have been to go up against the evil Headmistress she was going to pull out her guns, no, forget the guns, she was going to start rearranging some of those pretty faces with her bare hands. Finally Harry and Blaise managed to make it to the car where their guard was waiting to take them home.
"You sure took that bi-uh-fish down a peg today Mr. Darkov" the guard greeted him with semi-formality as most of them were prone to do "She's a worse hag now then she was when I had her for a teacher. Here, got a present for you."
The guard reached over onto the front seat next to him and flipped a small tape back at Harry and Blaise.
Blaise stared at the tape with an evil grin "is that...?"
The guard nodded "bugged her office with video and sound equipment the first day of school."
Blaise and Harry grinned at each other before slapping the guard companionably on the back "wicked." The drive home was spent with Blaise and Harry playing and replaying the office meeting on a specially designed viewing screen in the backseat of the car, with powerful connections came luxuries unknown to most.
At the Darkov mansion, or home as it was fondly referred to by both Harry and Blaise, they raced through the entrance hall, dropping their school bags as they went, heading for the stables and their horses. Only to be intercepted. They were almost free when Trevor stepped from the shadows, blocking the back door.
"Your headmistress called" Trevor informed Harry "requesting a conference with you and Manuel on Monday. He is waiting for you in his study."
Harry groaned; there went his day and most likely his weekend. He had been hoping for a few free hours with no pressure on him but that of being a kid. Now though he would have to deal with his father who would be upset over the pending conference even if he wasn't expelled, and then he would be sent to Sensei to train his discipline. And it wasn't training in fighting he would be given, but annoying meditation techniques and exercises in keeping his emotions under wraps. Last time he had been forced to stand and hold a heavy book straight out at shoulder level while Sensei said things to anger him while occasionally lashing out with a stick. If he showed emotion or gave into retaliation the lesson started again. A Darkov must always be composed in public unless it was a rare occasion such as their annual father-son outing to the amusement park or some other such informal recreation.
Harry sighed, his father wasn't a hard man, not all the time. If you could get past the hard Darkov exterior you would find a warm and loving man, but Manuel made sure that people rarely saw that side of him, even his son barely saw that side of him except on occasion. It was tough being the heir to the Mafia throne and the expectations that went with it. Sometimes Harry didn't know what he would do without Blaise and Trevor. Blaise was his best friend and Trevor was like an uncle to him. Sure Trevor was just as hard as Manuel at times, but he at least gave comfort when it was needed without holding himself in reserve though to give his father credit he was getting better at the parenting thing.
In a nearly visible sulk Harry entered his father's study and flopped into a chair. Right now he didn't care if he was putting himself in a position where he was giving his father superiority over him, stuff like that shouldn't matter when something was just between him and his father. Besides, the second part of the superiority lesson was how to gain the upper hand when you had put yourself and remained in a submissive position, not that he thought it would work against his father as Manuel had been his main teacher in such lessons.
"Harry" Manuel sighed "your headmistress called complaining of your rude attitude and disrespect. Can't you stay out of trouble just for once? You need to be around other kids and getting expelled isn't going to make that happen."
Harry shoved his hands inside of his pockets, didn't his father think he knew that; he knew that he needed to be around kids his own age, sort of a balance to his training. He knew that as well as he knew he had to watch his back every time he set foot off of Darkov grounds, knew that no matter how many guards surrounded him he was always vulnerable in some way. And he hadn't been disrespectful, but he also was not going to betray his upbringing in order to let others walk over him so they could feel their own superiority. Manuel was berating him for doing exactly what he had been raised to do and believe in, it was bloody hypocritical of him.
Harry's fist clenched inside his pocket, he could never seem to do things right sometimes, something hard cut into his hand. The tape.
"Here" Harry snapped practically slamming the tape down on the desk, it hurt that his dad hadn't even asked his side of the story before berating him "here is an intelligence recording of today's conflict retrieved from the state-of-the-art espionage equipment from your very own lab."
Manuel saw the hurt in his son's eyes as the boy left, but resisted going after him. With a heavy feeling that he had royally screwed everything up Manuel reviewed the tape taken from the spy devices one of the guards had planted in the Headmistress' office. Dejectedly Manuel placed his head in his hands; he was right, he had really messed up with Harry a few moments ago. The boy he had seen on the tape was more mature than any kid had the right to be, Harry had handled everything like a true Darkov and Manuel had doubted him on the words of a woman he didn't truly know just because she was supposed to be an unbiased authority figure. He wondered if this is how his father had felt when put into similar situations by his older brother and himself.
Harry was upset, angry, and near tears as he stormed out of his fathers office. He didn't know where he was going, but it didn't matter he just wanted to get away. His fingers twisted helplessly in the chain of the pendant around his neck, the Darkov crest. Angrily he ripped at it until the chain snapped and crest fell to the floor with a clatter to be left behind as his feet unconsciously carried him forward. Somewhere down the hall he heard Blaise call after him but his feet only sped up and he burst outside into the evening air, at that moment he wanted nothing more than to get away from everyone and let his emotions run rampant. The sound of his sneakers hitting the ground was answered by the comforting whickers of the horses. None of the stable hands were around as Harry quickly fitted Azrael with a bit and reins before scrambling on the stallions back. Blaise came bursting into the stables as Harry spurred Azrael out into the open fields.
"Harry" Blaise cried "Hhhaarrryyyy..."
But Harry was free, the wind blowing across his face and cutting through his thin shirt as the tears finally came pouring free without anyone to see his weakness.
Blaise burst back into the house at a full run yelling frantically "Dad! Manuel! Daaadddd!"
Trevor heard his daughter's frantic cries and ran to her, praying everything was alright, that she wasn't hurt. In his study Manuel roused at hearing his name being shouted and tensed, none of the alarms had gone off so the problem was internal. Horror filled Manuel, he could hear Blaise still yelling but there was no sound from Harry. Where was Harry? Harry and Blaise were almost never apart lately.
Manuel nearly flew through the halls following the cries, men following in his wake, ready for action. Suddenly Manuel dropped to the floor next to Trevor who was trying to calm Blaise.
"Where's Harry?" Manuel's voce was filled with terror "where is he?"
It was all Manuel could do not to shake the answers he needed out of the upset girl.
"Gone" the word chilled Manuel "he was upset. He took off on Azrael as if he were being chased."
Manuel's eyes closed in anguish, his son had run off because of him. He stood quickly, he had to make things right and fast before something happened to his precious angel.
"Dress warmly" he instructed the men "bring lights and get to the stables. Trevor, try and get a lock on the tracer."
Moments later Trevor was radioing in to give the foreboding news of Harry's abandoned tracer and Manuel ordered the search to be picked up a notch. They had managed to pinpoint a section of the forest where Harry was from following Azrael's hoof-prints, but it was too large an area and night had fallen bringing a chill to the air.
"Harry!" Manuel shouted for what seemed to be the millionth time, his voice going hoarse as he played his light through the thick trees.
They had been searching for hours and hope was beginning to fail. Another hour passed and Manuel picked up his radio, intending to send half the search party back to be replaced with fresh men, he would keep looking but it was getting too cold for those who had been out there the whole time to safely keep going for much longer without rest.
"Dear gods" Manuel prayed in a rare gesture at religion "let Harry be safe, let him be well."
The radio crackled as if answering his prayer and a shout came from somewhere to his left "we found him."
The position was rattled off and Manuel spurred his horse through the forest following the guiding shouts, ignoring the rest of the message and heedless of the branches that whipped at his face.
Not but two minutes later Manuel happened upon the sight of a few of his men standing near the prone body of his son while another tried to revive the freezing boy, Azrael lying protectively at the boys side as if knowing Harry needed all the warmth he could get. Manuel fell to his knees at Harry's side as the stallion rose and moved slightly away. A slight knot was beginning to show on the forehead of his sons' pale face and he was shivering wildly. Quickly Manuel shrugged out of his jacket and pushed aside the now cold-jackets the men had piled upon Harry to cradled his son in its warmth. An obscured branch overhead attested that Harry had been knocked unconscious and had fallen off his horse, in the dark it would have been impossible for a person riding at a gallop to see. Manuel moved to Azrael, Harry securely held in his arms, his horse was too exhausted to make the wild ride home as fast as Manuel wanted to.
"Radio Trevor" he barked "tell him the situation and to be ready for when I arrive. We must warm Harry up and quickly, there's no telling how long he's been lying unconscious in the cold."
Manuel rode Azrael hard, but the stallion didn't seem to mind the frenzied pace that took them through the bitter English night and didn't try to slow. In fact the horse seemed to force itself to go faster as if he realized the gravity of the situation. Azrael took his riders right up to the back door where he plowed to a halt. Manuel was met by Trevor and a worried Blaise who was carrying fire-warmed blankets. Trevor tried to relieve an exhausted Manuel of his burden, but the Mafia King was having none of it as he practically flew through the house to his son's room, Trevor and Blaise following, leaving a heavily breathing Azrael to make his own way back to the warmth of the stables.
Manuel moved through Harry's bedroom and to the adjoining bath where warm water already filled the tub. Quickly stripping Harry of his chilled and mud-caked clothes Manuel placed Harry in the tub, cradling his injured head above the water. They washed Harry down quickly, allowing the water to warm his cold and stiff limbs before pulling him out of the tub to quickly dry him with heated towels. Leaving the wet towels on the floor Manuel and Trevor guided the unconscious boy's limbs into black silk pajamas and wrapped him snugly in the blankets before tucking him quickly into his large four poster bed, Blaise hovering worriedly in the background when it became apparent she was only getting in the way. Throughout all the minstrations and jostling Harry remained still, his thready pulse and shallow breathing the only indication he was still alive.
Finally Manuel allowed his exhaustion to claim him.
"I'm staying here" Manuel informed Trevor wearily as he lay down next to his son and pulled the boy close.
Manuel barely took the time to kick his riding boots off to the floor and pull a blanket up around himself as he settled in to watch Harry sleep, he hadn't realized how chilled he himself had become on the ride back so great had his worry for Harry been.
Trevor nodded and pulled Blaise out of the room behind him, they would also be staying the night in the rooms Manuel kept available for them, not that they went to their home that often anymore as it was. Trevor took his daughter to her room down the hall and tucked her into her bed before seeing that the rest of the men had come back safely and that none had suffered too badly while out. Finally it seemed as if everything was alright and Trevor collapsed onto the bed in his room next to his daughters.
~~ ~~ ~*~
It was dark when Harry began to stir and he surprisingly felt no cold. In fact he felt warm and the ground no longer felt so hard. His aching eyes cracked open and he found himself staring at the dim outline of his room, a tiny crack of light peeking through the heavy drapes pulled across the windows. How had he gotten home? The last thing he remembered was a sharp lancing pain to his head and then the bitter cold of the hard ground piercing through him. Azrael had lain down next to him then and he had struggled to talk to the horse but every word was sluggish and impossibly slow and not even Azrael could keep him warm any longer. There was a heavy weight across his body as well, had something fallen on him? It was then that Harry realized that the weight on his chest was a pair of arms encircling him protectively. His head turned and he came face to face with his father's rugged countenance, relaxed in sleep though a worried frown was present. Harry sighed and snuggled deeper into the comforting warmth of his father's arms, if this was a dream he didn't want to wake up.
Unfortunately reality has a way of making its presence known and Harry woke up a few hours later to the feeling of his father's hand gently brushing a strand of hair off his forehead and against the familiar lightening bolt scar usually kept concealed by makeup when they were around anyone. Harry sighed and briefly closed his bright green eyes before gazing again at his father; he wasn't used to such a tender acting Manuel.
"You scared the shit out of me last night" Manuel whispered softly, emotion choking his voice as he pulled his son close "don't ever do that to me again. I don't think I could stand it. When we finally found you, you were lying so still, so cold..."
Manuel trailed off as the fear of the night before gripped him again.
Shame filled Harry, he hadn't been thinking when he took off, hadn't realized how much it would hurt people.
"I'm sorry" his voice was soft and guilt laden.
Manuel moved back slightly to gaze upon Harry's face. The boy had his eyes closed tightly as if he were trying to ward off tears and his face was set into lines of sadness.
Slowly Manuel lifted Harry's face up towards his and wiped at his son's eyes with a gentle thumb, seeing the shine of tears beneath Harry's closed eyes almost broke him "don't be sorry. I was the one who wasn't listening. I'm used to hard facts and authority; things were so much easier when you were the little angel in my arms. I'll try harder to understand, but you'll have to work with me too, you're way too mature for your age sometimes and I find it hard to remember you are only a kid."
Harry was pulled into the safe haven of his father's arms with his head buried against the strong chest. That was how Trevor and Blaise found them when they came to check up on the pair and see if Manuel or Harry wanted breakfast.
Harry was forced to stay in bed for the rest of the day to make sure there were no ill side effects from the night's escapades though he did manage to escape a trip to the doctors by acting exhausted. The inactivity grated on the restless Harry but he was content enough to stay there if it meant his father spent time with him. Some of their time was spent reading in companionable silence or engaged in heated discussions of weapons and defense techniques. The rest of the time Harry and Manuel spent playing board games and card games with Blaise and even Trevor who joined them to lounge on Harry's insanely huge bed.
Sunday Harry was finally let out of bed to his relief and he spent the day making up for a Saturday spent doing almost nothing. He spent the morning training with Sensei even though he was forced to go easy. The biggest surprise was when his father joined him, but he hid his reaction except for a happy smile that wouldn't be suppressed. After lunch Harry dragged his father out to the stables to check on Azrael and beg to be allowed out for a ride. Manuel finally gave in but restricted the ride to the field; he was not ready to let Harry go out into the woods again just yet. It wasn't till after dinner that they sat down with Blaise and Trevor to discuss how to deal with the Headmistress the next day, you did not mess with a Darkov or their protected and expect to get away unscathed.
~~ ~~ ~*~
Headmistress Chauvez was not prepared to enter her office Monday morning to find Harry Darkov and a dangerous looking man lounging comfortably in her office. Smoothly Harry and the man the Headmistress supposed to be his father rose to their feet, muscles taunt and ready. Their standing as she entered was not out of respect as many might think, but in veiled threat, part of a power play.
"You requested a conference" Manuel purred softly, stressing the word requested in a taunt letting the Headmistress Chauvez know that he had picked up on her own threat during their phone conversation.
The Headmistress took her place behind her desk and turned to business, oblivious to the danger she was getting herself into "Yes. Your son was disrespectful upon our last meeting and we still have to deal with the infraction that occurred last Thursday."
Manuel nodded as if agreeing to what had been said and Harry was forced to hide a smirk.
"Yes, it was disrespectful of my son to not invite the injured party to the meeting you had and the infraction must be dealt with."
Manuel turned to the door and opened it "Blaise, Trevor, I believe you have a formal complaint to make against Chris Chauvez for harassment in the form of sexual innuendos."
Fifteen minutes and with a few careful mentions of members of the school board later the paperwork concerning the brief suspension of Chris Chauvez was filled out.
The four turned to take their leave of the Headmistress when she foolishly spoke up "but what about your son's infraction!?"
Manuel turned swiftly back, eyes blazing "Harry did nothing that you can fault him for; he was not on school grounds at the time and therefore it is a family matter, not something the school should handle. Do not think to drag my son down to avenge your nephew's injured pride."
Before the Headmistress could react the door to her office was closing with soft finality leaving her blinking around at her empty office.
~~ ~~ ~*~
The next couple of months before the winter holidays found Harry and Blaise fitting in with their classmates and making friends easily, the age difference no longer seemed to matter as it had in the beginning. The prestigious school was also being swept by a prank wave that the teachers could not solve, no clues were ever left behind that could be linked to a student, and though Headmistress Chauvez had her suspects she was unable to do anything for fear of meeting those deadly blazing eyes again. She shuddered as she remembered the meeting with Manuel Darkov when she tried to pin the first prank on his son and son's friend, never again did she want to look into those cold pits of fury. Blaise and Harry would only grin and look innocent when they heard the professors or students discussing the pranks. Some of their better pranks involved sneaking into the school in the early morning, with some aide from their guards, before the doors were unlocked to wreak havoc.
One time they removed the seats from all the toilets and piled them in the Headmistress' office, slipping out the window right before she came in. Another time they rigged all the chairs of the most hated teachers so that the seats fell off when sat on and sprayed a slippery wax substance at certain spots in the hallway. It was interesting to see the students slide through the corridors, shrieking happily before going back to do it again while the teachers fell, sending stacks of books and papers flying everywhere.
They also did the usual pranks of stink bombs; snitching the lesson plans; letting loose the classroom pets and those kept in the science rooms as well as leaving reptiles in various desks in random classrooms, one girl screamed so loud it echoed through the whole school. The fifth years also had fun with substitute professors when Harry and Blaise organized a random seat switching routine. They gave fake names and even convinced one girl to fake having some sort of attack or fit and mumble portents of death before sitting back up and acting as if nothing had happened. A few of the female substitutes left nearly in tears from the many pranks and never came back. Only a few teachers were safe from the ingenious pranks concocted in the minds of Harry and Blaise, such as Miss Walker, and only because they were liked by them and many of the students and it didn't seem right to cause them any trouble.
The day before the holidays Harry and Blaise pulled a huge prank with the help of a handful of the bodyguards Manuel employed, not that Manuel knew about the prank, to run ropes from the ceiling pipes in every classroom and string the chairs from them while leaving the desks overturned, some with the legs unscrewed. Needless to say classes could not be held until the janitors fixed and righted the desks and found a safe way to get the chairs down without springing some of the minor booby traps the guards had set up to keep them from simply cutting the chairs down. Harry and Blaise didn't envy whoever had to get the chairs down, just cutting the string would work but then the chairs would crash everywhere, it had to be done just right for anyone to avoid injury. The students spent the day being shuttled between the library, gym, meeting hall, playground, and cafeteria as the teachers tried to find someway to keep the mingled classes busy and not all trapped in one place until the end of the day. It was pure havoc. Harry and Blaise waited until they were in the car at the end of the day before high-fiving each other and sharing a conspiratorial grin with their guards, Manuel would never find out about this one.