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Author Notes:

As always, thanks to Tim, who looks at this story because he's a friend and to Garden Girl, who believes the world (at least my part of it) doesn't have enough commas.

By Right of Conquest

Chapter the Fifth

“How many people work here at the estate?” Harry asked as Daphne drove the Land Rover through the gate that marked the outer boundary of the manor.

“Two elves in the house – one cooks, one cleans. There’s a girl who comes in and keeps books, she works in the office but lives in town. We’ve got a bloke who keeps the horses, a gardener and a mechanic and another who’s the general handyman and groundskeeper; they each have small cottages on the grounds. That’s everyone who lives on the grounds, there are others who live off the estate that work the orchards, keep the flocks, and tend the vegetable garden. Most everyone else is seasonal: planting, harvest, shearing, lambing. As few as six, as many as twelve,” Daphne explained while driving over a particularly bumpy stretch of road.

“I thought there’d be more,” Harry said.

“There would be if we lived in one of those obscenely large estates, but there’s just the four of us Greengrasses now, so Father sold the old place and moved here around the time the midget was born.”

Daphne motioned for silence and swung the truck around before backing it into the carriage house.

“Father can do that while holding a conversation, but I’d rather not take out the wall when I’m backing in,” Daphne said.

“Does the midget drive?”

“She’ll start when she can see over the steering wheel,” Daphne said with some satisfaction. “We offered to let her drive one of the tractors, but she didn’t want to sit on a booster seat, and her feet didn’t reach the pedals.”

“Sucks being short,” Harry observed sympathetically.

“Sucks being tall if you’re a woman, don’t talk to me about clothes. If I didn’t sew I’d be dressed in men’s clothing all the time. It’s bad enough being called ‘sir’ in the stores, and that’s when I’m in a dress with long hair!”

“Never thought of that.”

Daphne turned off the ignition. “Okay, open, honest and very vulnerable time here, Harry.”

“Okay,” Harry replied.

“When we met in the bank, I admired you for all the things you’d done. Now I know you better, and I’m getting… very fond of you. I guess what I’m saying is I need you to make a decision soon, because I’m getting emotionally involved.”

“Okay, thanks for telling me. I’ll do what I can.”

“That’s all I ask.”

#@#

 

Dinner that night was far more casual and was served in the kitchen at a smaller, less formal table than that found in the dining room. Malcolm Greengrass wasn’t due to return until later that night, so it was just Harry, Daphne, Astoria and Grace.

After dinner Harry persuaded Daphne to sing while Astoria accompanied. She sang several songs in German, followed by a song in Gaelic that she sang unaccompanied. Grace busied her hands with needlework while listening to her daughters, tapping her toe in time with the beat. Harry clapped with enthusiasm after every song and Astoria and Daphne took turns making bows and curtseys. When they returned to the kitchen Mimsy had already cleaned up and had left a tray with tea and biscuits.

Grace broke out a deck of cards and taught Harry how to play bridge, Harry and Daphne being partners against Grace and Astoria. After two rounds in which he picked up the rudiments of the game but lost soundly, Grace excused herself from the kitchen. Astoria looked from Harry to Daphne.

“You two are looking coupley – can I leave you safely here?” she asked.

“We’ll try to keep the noise down,” Daphne said.

“Don’t do anything that would frighten the horses,” Astoria said before she too left.

“We’re being left alone again,” Harry asked. “Is this normal?”

“Probably not, but I don’t have enough experience to make an informed judgment,” Daphne replied. “I think the normal convention is that the male suitor is not trusted with the female’s virtue, so there’s a good amount of supervision, but there’s just not a lot of precedent for my situation.”

“Care for a walk?” Harry asked.

“I thought you’d never ask,” Daphne said with a broad smile.

#@#

 

“Did I tell you about the mechanics of the betrothal?” Daphne asked.

“You never went into any detail,” Harry said.

“I really don’t want to revisit it right now, but it was like an unbreakable vow,” Daphne said as they walked through the garden.

“Who was the bonder?”

“It’s like an unbreakable vow, but different. An unbreakable vow is really a misnomer, because if you kill the bonder, the vow is also broken, which is why we chose something that wasn’t really alive to serve as bonder. Father and Bellatrix were the witnesses, but instead of a bonder to the promise, we were at a magical ritual spot – some old standing stones and a rocking stone. There’s some really old magic there,” Daphne said. “The magic from the stones is doing the bonding. I’ve felt the magic since I performed the ritual; it was part of how I knew that the promises were still in effect after he died.”

“Okay,” Harry said.

“There’s a mild compulsion involved,” Daphne confessed. “The magic is semi-sentient – it will punish me if I break the promises, but it also will nudge me towards keeping the promises. It’s kind of like a conscience in that regard.”

Magic is not semi-sentient,” Harry said. “Ghosts are sentient, demons are sentient, spirits like elementals and territorials range from semi-sentient to sentient, but that’s all technical - what are you telling me about the compulsion, Daphne?” Harry asked.

“There will be times that I will pull away from you, because I’m resisting the compulsion,” Daphne said. “You need to know that I’m not rejecting you when I do that.”

“I don’t understand,” Harry said.

“You are such a sweet man, Harry. The final promise to be fulfilled is that we will be joined as man and wife on the marriage bed, that’s how the betrothal is executed.”

“So it’s sex?”

“Yes and no. You have to intend to take me as your wife. A quick bonk without the intent wouldn’t fulfill the promise,” Daphne said, looking away.

“Is this embarrassing you?”

“Yes, it is, terribly,” Daphne said. “This is not how I ever envisioned I’d be speaking with any man.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize – you did nothing wrong.”

“I can still be sorry,” Harry said.

“I guess I just wanted you to know that if you’re encouraging me in that way, that you’d best mean it,” Daphne said earnestly.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand, I must be thick,” Harry said.

“No, Harry, it’s that you’re the least lecherous man I’ve ever met,” Daphne said. “Let me be plain spoken. If you call me to your bed as your wife , I will come. Primarily because I’m convinced that being your wife would be really good for me, and secondarily, because that’s what the binding magic is pushing me towards.”

“Will the magic always influence you?” Harry asked in a worried tone.

“No, Harry, it’s not making me a puppet, I really do like you, I can tell the difference between what’s me and what’s the magic.

“When - if I become your wife, the binding magic will dissolve. I had Father put on a charm that would neutralize the effect of the compulsion two days ago. I felt the compulsion dwindle to nothing, but how I felt and thought about you didn’t change a bit. This is really Daphne speaking to you right now, not the binding magic, or spirit or whatever it may be.”

“What happened to the charm?”

“It’s not permanent.”

“Oh,” Harry said.

“Oh, indeed. I need to put something in your room tonight. I’d appreciate it if you weren’t in the room with me,” Daphne explained.

“Because of the compulsion?” Harry said.

“Because Harry, Daphne and marriage bed sound really good right now rolled into one sentence, and I’m pretty sure you’re not thinking that way.”

“I like you, Daphne, but I’m not there yet.”

“I know; that’s why we’re having this conversation.”

“What are you putting there?”

“It’s probably best that you not know, but it’s something that will protect you from the midget.”

“She’s going to attack me while I sleep?”

“Something like that; you I trust with my life and my future. Her? Not a bit.”

 

#@#

 

Harry walked to the border of the estate and Disapparated, reappearing outside the garden at the Tonks house. Inside he found that Andi had prepared a small package for him containing a change of clothes, pajamas, shaving kit and another bag containing two brooms and the equipment he’d made for his latest magic project. He smiled broadly. Andi had left a note that said:

H,

Stuff for your visit – if she’s taking you riding, you should return the favor and take her flying. Have fun, be good, and stay safe.

A

Harry pondered for a moment just what Andi would consider fun, good or safe and decided that he didn’t care; this was his adventure, not hers. He Apparated back to the outer border of the Greengrass estate and walked in through the open gate. He noticed out of the corner of his eye that the gate closed itself after he’d passed through.

 

#@#

 

One of the benefits of the post-Voldemort life for Harry was that he thoroughly enjoyed sleeping, provided that he was sleeping on something other than a pile of jagged rocks. He still had the occasional bad dream, but nothing approaching the visions and nightmares of his past. Notwithstanding this new-found enjoyment, he still slept lightly, waking at small noises, but he usually could return to sleep, so it was still good.

He’d left the window open in his room because he didn’t mind the cool evenings of Scotland in June and was asleep before eleven PM.

When he’d lived in the Gryffindor tower, from time to time Crookshanks would come to visit during the night. He would jump to the bottom of Harry’s bed and walk up the length of Harry’s body, sometimes to curl up next to his head; on other occasions after verifying that it was indeed Harry in the bed Crookshanks would lightly jump off, returning to his nocturnal rounds.

At twelve thirty he felt a weight on the bottom of the bed, similar to the bounce made by Crookshanks, only more so. He opened his eyes to see Astoria’s face, inches from his own. In the moonlight the tendrils of hair that framed her face were white and luminous. He felt the tip of what he assumed was her wand under his chin.

“What are your intentions towards my sister?” she whispered menacingly.

“I think your father’s supposed to ask that question, and we already had that conversation,” Harry replied in a normal tone of voice. “Astoria, you really shouldn’t be in here, I’d like you to leave.”

She sat up a little and twitched, setting her breasts swinging gently under the thin fabric of her nightgown.

“Like what you see?” she asked, setting her voice into a husky timbre. “It can be yours.”

“Ah, not interested, thanks. You’re a lovely girl, Astoria, but you’re underage, you’re the sister of what I guess is my girlfriend, and I’m a guest in your father’s house,” Harry explained patiently.

“What does she have that I don’t have?” she asked, twitching to set her breasts in motion again.

“Taste and good sense, I suppose,” Harry answered.

The bedroom door swung violently into the room and then fell off its hinges, clattering to the floor with a bang.

“Astoria, you evil, thieving cow,” Daphne growled in a quiet, clear voice.

“Hello, Daphne,” Astoria said sweetly.

“Harry is MINE!” Daphne screamed as a flash of light exploded in the room.

“If Harry’s yours, why am I here and you’re out there?” Astoria countered.

“You know NOTHING!” Daphne shouted. There was another flash and Astoria’s body was hurled off the bed, stopping inches before she should have smashed into the wall. Astoria’s arms and legs were pulled by invisible forces so she was spread out, her wand clattering to the floor.

Daphne’s hair was rising and falling, seemingly of its own accord, bits of static discharging randomly; a blue nimbus surrounded her body. The breeze from the open window was blowing Daphne’s long nightgown, pulling the fabric taut against her lean frame. A minor part of Harry’s consciousness announced that Daphne’s flesh was the only matter beneath her nightgown, and that this was an unqualified good thing.

“He doesn’t want you, he won’t even kiss you unless you ask him to ,” Astoria hissed. “He liked it when I was on top of him, I could tell.”

“Liar!” Daphne screamed, snapping her arm as if throwing a ball. A blob of yellow appeared in mid-air and splattered against Astoria and the wall behind her.

“Harry is honorable, and kind,” Daphne said in a slightly more calm voice as she hurled a blob of color again, this time in red. “He has but to whistle and I will be in his bed.”

“I don’t hear him whistling, do you?” Astoria asked mockingly.

Daphne didn’t bother to reply, instead hurling a blob of blue with her left hand, followed by a blob of green with her right. The green covered all of Astoria’s head and a white ball appeared and stuffed Astoria’s mouth.

Harry could see motion in the hallway behind Daphne.

“That will be enough, Daphne,” Malcolm said calmly.

Daphne hurled a rapid staccato salvo of smaller balls in lurid colors. Her chest was heaving as she tried to catch her breath. This too, Harry’s internal commentator said, was a good thing.

“Stand down, Daphne,” Malcolm commanded.

Daphne turned sideways, her back to Harry, head down as she moved out of the doorway.

“I am sorry, Father; Harry, I am ashamed,” Daphne murmured.

“Compose yourself and wait for me in the parlor,” Malcolm said. “You might consider a dressing gown.”

“Yes, Father,” Daphne said as she disappeared from sight.

“Beloved, please attend to my daughter,” Malcolm calmly directed Grace. “If you cannot get her unstuck, ask Daphne to free her, but don’t let her in the room.”

“Harry, I would like to talk to you in my study,” Malcolm said before turning and disappearing into the hallway.

 

#@#

 

Malcolm was bent over his desk, writing, when Harry found his way to the study. He looked up and silently slid a note to Harry across the desk.

H – There are at least three listening devices active in this room – M

“On behalf of House Greengrass, I apologize for tonight’s actions. I hope you now understand the depth of the twisted competition between my daughters,” Malcolm began. “I appreciate Daphne’s restraint.”

“That was restrained?” Harry said.

“Yes,” Malcolm answered. “Astoria’s still alive, isn’t she?”

“What was going on, sir?” Harry asked.

“There was a recording orb in your room; I suspect it was left there by my brown haired daughter. I have reviewed it twice. My hypothesis is that Astoria was attempting to stage a scene that would lead Daphne to believe that you were acting in an untoward manner with Astoria,” Malcolm explained.

“That was a set-up?” Harry asked incredulously.

“I’m afraid so, my young friend. You are an attractive young man, but I don’t think attraction alone would spur my youngest to such foolish action.”

“Okay, thanks, I think.”

“Knowing Daphne as you do now, what do you believe that she would do if she truly believed that you were fornicating with her sister, or even attempting to do so?”

Harry pondered that question.

“She would be furious, she would be hurt, and she would break the betrothal,” Harry said.

“Exactly, and the binding magic enforcing her betrothal pledge would strip her of her magic,” Malcolm said gravely. “I have done many things during my life, including serving as a jurist, hearing many feud claims between magical clans in the Highlands. Theft of magic is a capital offense. Attempted theft of magic is a banishing offense. I cannot conclusively prove Astoria’s intent, but personally, I have no doubts.”

“Okay, that’s bad,” Harry said.

“Indeed.”

“If Daphne was monitoring things, she knew I wasn’t – doing that – but she was outraged that Astoria would try – all to steal her magic.”

“Exactly; I will be dispensing justice tonight. You are not required to attend, but given the unique circumstance, you are permitted to do so.”

“Yes, sir, I’ll stay. May I go see Daphne now?” Harry asked.

Malcolm smiled broadly. “Yes, see to your woman,” he said.

Harry left the study, bypassing the kitchen where he assumed Astoria would be waiting. There was light on in the parlor, so he wandered in there.

Daphne was dressed in a blue bathrobe over her nightgown and was staring out the window, arms crossed, chewing on a tendril of hair while tears streamed down her face.

She turned as he approached and began to say something but Harry put a finger to her lips and pulled her into a hug.

After a long moment, he broke the embrace and wiped the tears on her face with the balls of his thumbs. He then kissed the tear tracks on the right and then the left side of her face and then kissed her lips tenderly.

When he pulled away from her, Daphne looked confused.

“You’re not upset?” she asked.

Harry kissed her again.

“You’re not disgusted with me?” she asked again.

He kissed her again, tenderly, and then deepened the kiss. He moved away from her mouth and began kissing down one side of her neck.

“Harry, this is marvelous, but you need to talk to me,” she exclaimed.

“Talking’s overrated,” Harry said, moving to the other side of her neck.

Daphne curled as Harry kissed her and then resolutely pushed him away.

“You’re playing with live ammunition, mister, stop it,” she growled.

“As you wish,” Harry said with a flippant bow.

“That was marvelous, by the way,” Daphne said apologetically.

“Tonight, upstairs, that was the hottest thing I’ve ever seen,” Harry began “you were terrible and beautiful and really, really sexy.”

“What are you talking about?” Daphne demanded.

“You, the clever woman defending her claim; you were hurling big time magic in there with absolute control. You were passionate. What have I told you about that?”

“That you think that’s beautiful,” Daphne sniffed.

“No, I think you’re beautiful when you’re that way,” Harry corrected. “That’s the real you, isn’t it?”

“I prefer to think of it as releasing my inner arsehole and I don’t like letting other people see that side of me. I have no desire to become the next Dark Lady,” Daphne explained. “So, let me get this right, you only think I’m beautiful when I’m verging on insane?”

“That’s not what I said, if you want to fish for compliments, you’re going to have to try harder,” Harry said, rubbing his hand across her back.

“You’re not making this any easier,” she complained.

“Nothing about this has been easy, Daphne, deal with it,” Harry said.

“I have been,” she snapped “for almost a year now.”

“I’m sorry, that was flippant and out of line,” Harry said.

“Kiss me,” she said.

“Why?”

“Because it would make you happy too,” she said somberly before chuckling.

“As you wish.”

#@#

 

“Why, Grace, why did she do it?” Malcolm asked in anguish.

Grace said nothing, only sighing as she sat down. She fiddled with the orb on his desk, rolling it from one hand to another.

“Queenie gets everything,” Grace said in an amazing imitation of Astoria’s voice. “You never wanted another child. She gets the magic, the title, and the grimoire. I’m as much a Greengrass as she is, and I can’t even open the blasted book!”

“It’s that simple, just the jealousy?” Malcolm asked.

“Who knows?”

“I can’t ignore this.”

“I know you can’t, Malcolm,” Grace said soothingly.

“How’s Queenie?” she asked.

“She thought that Harry would reject her,” Malcolm said.

Grace arched an eyebrow.

“He said, quote ‘that was the hottest thing I’ve ever seen,’ end of quote” Malcolm reported. “I think that means he approved.”

“Yes, that’s the popular idiom,” Grace said, once again remembering that there were at least two generations separating the time she grew up and the era in which Malcolm was raised. “Did you place an orb in the parlor?”

Malcolm snorted.

“No, there are limits to my skullduggery, although apparently that sentiment is not shared with the female members of the family. I was merely reading lips. She was crying, waiting in the parlor, Harry embraced her, talked to her, and kissed her.

“Providence has been kind to us, Grace.”

“Indeed,” Grace said. “Well, we must do our duty.”

“Call Harry and Daphne in, I want to talk before the unpleasantness.”

 

#@#

 

Grace entered the parlor and stopped. Her child was leaning against a window sill, wrapped in his arms. It wasn’t the frenzied thrashing of youth, and his hands weren’t anywhere that would have gotten him swatted by Aunt Rose. They would kiss, break apart and murmur to one another, and kiss again.

Grace cleared her throat.

Harry pointedly didn’t stop, although she could tell that Daphne was trying to pull away. After one last kiss, he turned.

“Yes?”

“My lord husband wishes to speak to you both.”

“Yes, Mum,” Daphne said obediently.

Grace turned and headed to the office.

#@#

Malcolm was now dressed in a formal robe and sitting upright behind his desk.

“There was a recording orb in the guest room,” he stated. “Do any of you know how that happened to be found there?”

Daphne raised her hand. “I put it there, Father.”

“Is this your work?”

“Yes, Father.”

“Congratulations I didn’t think you were capable of such complex work,” Malcolm said.

“I was… motivated,” Daphne said.

“How did this happen?” Malcolm asked.

“I thought Astoria would try something stupid,” Daphne began. “I never thought it would be so….”

“Let’s play the orb,” Malcolm suggested.

He slipped the orb onto the top of what appeared to be a candlestick holder and stroked the side. The orb began to project a picture against the drapes covering the office window.

“There’s nothing at the beginning but Harry asleep in bed,” Malcolm began.

“It was on a time delay, I set it to start an hour after he retired,” Daphne explained.

Malcolm stopped the display. Astoria was now visible, facing the now-closed door. Runic characters displayed like a subtitle on the projection.

“Real time analysis of ambient magic,” Malcolm observed. “Very impressive. Beloved?”

“Astoria is locking the door with a Class Three charm and then applying a sticking charm to the door frame,” Grace said, interpreting the runes.

Malcolm touched the orb again. Astoria was now pointing her wand at first one breast and then another.

“Grace?”

“She’s applying cooling charms to her nipples,” Grace murmured.

“Excuse me, why is she doing that?” Harry asked.

“Her nipples will stand erect and her breasts will take on a more spherical curve,” Grace said clinically.

“Why?” Harry asked.

“It makes her look aroused. Some men find that titillating,” Grace said.

Daphne was examining her lap with great interest.

The projection then showed Astoria carefully climbing up onto the foot of the bed and crawl up the length of Harry’s body, her hips straddling his when she stopped.

“Do you want to hear the sound?” Malcolm asked.

There was embarrassed silence as Daphne looked from her parents to Harry.

“Yes,” Daphne said. Harry reached over and held one of her hands.

Malcolm stroked the orb and a thin sound came forth replicating the brief dialog. Malcolm stopped the projection.

“Would you like to hear that again?”

“Yes, please,” Daphne said, her face flushed.

Malcolm stroked the orb in a counterclockwise fashion and the projection began again.

“Mother, Father, please stop the playback and turn away,” Daphne said.

She quickly straddled Harry and placed her hands on either side of his head. “Harry,” she whispered. “I am so glad that you are who you are.” She then placed a lingering kiss on his lips. She then returned to her chair.

“Might I continue?” Malcolm asked, trying to suppress a grin.

“Certainly, by all means,” Daphne said.

Malcolm resumed the playback.

The projection went white and then the door was visible as it fell into the room.

Daphne was now visible at the far right of the projection.

“What are you thinking here?” Malcolm queried.

“I knew she was going to try something,” Daphne began. “When I came into the room and found her clothed, for lack of a better word, in diaphanous film, straddling my betrothed, I was furious.”

“Furious at whom?” Malcolm asked.

“At her, of course; I trust Harry.”

Malcolm resumed the projection, letting the orb play to the end.

“How did you stop her from smashing into the wall?” Malcolm asked.

“I cast a cushioning charm before I started the banishing,” Daphne explained. “I was furious with her, but I didn’t want to kill her. Harry, did my hair really look like that?”

“Yup, you had that blue light around you too,” Harry said, grinning.

“Yes, and now I see why Father suggested that I put on a dressing gown,” Daphne said, the top of her ears turning red.

“Like I’d said, it was the hottest thing I’d ever seen,” Harry replied.

Malcolm took the orb from the stand and placed it into his desk drawer. He then brightened the lights in the office.

“Grace, what did you find in the halls?” Malcolm asked.

“Our doorway, the stairwell and the hallway had Class Three wards in place, consistent with Astoria’s signature. There was nothing on Astoria’s doorway or Daphne’s doorway,” Grace reported.

“Very well, bring in my daughter,” Malcolm commanded.

#@#

“Astoria Jacqueline Greengrass, you are before me this evening charged with Attempted Theft of Magic and Violation of Hospitality,” Malcolm began.

Astoria sat straight in a chair placed before Malcolm’s desk. She was wearing a dressing gown over her pajamas but it was evident that that her clothes and skin were still stained with the colors hurled by her sister. Grace had managed to clear most of her face, but the balance of her head, including all of her hair was a brilliant green in color.

“Before I go any further, I will let you know that there was a recording orb in the guest room, and we have everything, sight, sound and ambient magic recorded,” Malcolm intoned.

Astoria turned and stared daggers at Grace who said nothing in reply.

“How do you plead?” Malcolm asked.

Astoria said nothing for the longest while.

“I wish to stand mute,” Astoria said with deliberation.

“Very well; having chosen to stand mute, you may not speak to either the facts of the crime, or any factors in mitigation.”

Astoria’s head bowed slightly.

“I find that you did this evening use magic to increase your allure and approach an unrelated male who was a guest of this house. You did solicit the attention of this unrelated male, knowing that your sister was betrothed to him. Given the years of competition between you and your sister, it was reasonable to assume that your intent was to disrupt the betrothal, although the evidence on this point is all inferred from circumstance, namely that there were wards placed upon your parents’ bedroom door, the stairwells and the door to the guestroom, but there were no such wards placed between your sister’s room and the guestroom. It is again reasonable to infer from the circumstances that you intended that your sister discover you in inappropriate circumstances with her betrothed.”

“Before I pass judgment, I wish to state that the day you were born was one of the happiest days of my life, and that I have loved you as I have loved all of my children. You have been blessed with extraordinary beauty and a fine mind, with a mastery of many subtle magics far beyond your age.

“I find that of the charge Attempted Theft of Magic, you are guilty.

“Of the charge Violation of Hospitality, you are guilty.

“The penalty for Attempted Theft of Magic is banishment. In light of the fact that you are not yet of age, your sentence for both crimes will be suspended for a year. If the year passes with no further incidents of a criminal nature, your conviction will be voided.

“If, during this year you take any action of a capital criminal nature against your sister, Daphne Isabella Greengrass, or her betrothed, Harry James Potter, or any action intended to disrupt their betrothal, either of them may execute judgment against you as they see fit, up to and including death.

“I would remind you that there is no evidence of your existence in the mundane world. No birth certificate, no public records of any sort. Her Majesty’s government, for all intents and purposes, does not know that you exist. As head of the family, my pronouncements tonight are regarded as internal deliberations of an old family and not subject to review by the Wizengamot or any other body of the Ministry of Magic. Were you to disappear tonight, the mundane world would not know of your passing, and the magical world would consider it to be a family matter, if it considered it at all.

“Do you understand the sentence?”

“Yes, my lord Father,” Astoria replied in a whisper.

“Harry James and Daphne Isabella, do you understand the sentence?”

“Yes, my lord Father,” Daphne said.

“Yes, sir,” Harry added.

“This session is now adjourned,” Malcolm said, his shoulders sagging. “Just so you know, Astoria, the orb was placed there by your sister, not your mother.”

“What? She doesn’t have the skills!”

“Apparently she does have the skills, given sufficient motivation,” Malcolm said in rejoinder.

“Please clean up as you can, Astoria,” Malcolm instructed. “Daphne will help you tomorrow to remove any color that remains. I’m going to the kitchen for a drink, and then I’m going to attempt to get some sleep in what’s left of this evening.”

Malcolm then nodded to each in turn, stood and left the office.

Astoria stood slowly and without looking at any of the others, walked from the office.

“She’s walking with a great amount of dignity, given that she looks like an explosion in a paint store,” Harry quipped.

“You will not find either of my daughters lacking in pride, Harry,” Grace said.

Five minutes later, Harry and Daphne were still in the office.

“Do you want to go back to Andi’s now?” Daphne asked.

“No, I’m here through tomorrow,” Harry said.

“Thank you.”

#@#

Sleep did not come easily to Daphne that night, and by daybreak she wondered if she’d slept at all. Giving it up as a lost cause, she threw on a dressing gown and padded downstairs to the kitchen where Mimsy was already bustling about.

“Missy’s tea is on the counter. Missy’s Mister is still sleeping,” Mimsy said without looking up from the counter where she was measuring ingredients into a bowl.

“Where’s Astoria?”

“Little Missy is awake, but she’s still in her room,” Mimsy reported.

“Thanks, Mimsy,” Daphne said, snagging the cup of tea on the way out.

Astoria’s bedroom was empty, but Daphne heard the sound of the shower. Swallowing the rest of her first cup of tea for the day, she pushed the bathroom door open.

“Do you mind?” Astoria bellowed. “I’m naked in here.”

“That didn’t seem to be much of a problem last night,” Daphne observed.

“Ha, ha,” Astoria replied, shutting the shower off and flinging the curtain open.

“Come to admire your handiwork?” Astoria asked, striking a pose with her arms spread out on either side.

“I’ve come to make you look like something other than an Oompa-Loompa,” Daphne replied.

“Is that a secret short joke?” Astoria growled.

“Hands up,” Daphne commanded.

Daphne made gestures with her hands and the color drained away from Astoria’s body, peeling away from her skin and swirling down the drain with the remaining water in the tub.

“Do you want to keep the green hair? It’s quite striking.”

Astoria glared at her.

“I guess not.”

Astoria turned the shower back on as Daphne returned to Astoria’s room, finding a plate with toast and marmalade on a side table, along with a tea pot and cups.

“Thank you, Mimsy,” Daphne whispered.

She heard a faint giggle in reply.

She picked up a piece of toast, spreading it thick with butter and thin with marmalade, setting it aside for Astoria.

“Come to gloat at the convicted felon?” Astoria said haughtily. Her head was wrapped in one towel while her body was wrapped in another.

“Get dressed, I want to talk,” Daphne said.

Astoria shed both towels, dropping them on the floor and then bent over, pulling underwear from the drawer beneath her bed. After some stirring in the drawer, she plucked plain white pants and a matching sports bra.

“Working out?”

“I hope to,” Astoria replied.

“I want to know why, Astoria,” Daphne said, not much louder than a whisper.

Astoria shrugged and then slipped into her underwear. She then found knee length shorts and a crew neck shirt, both pale blue.

“You’ll forgive me if I don’t go for bold colors today,” Astoria said acerbically.

She then sat on the bed and reached for the tea and toast Daphne had prepared for her.

“Do you know what a pain it is to have a perfect sister?” Astoria asked rhetorically.

“I’m hardly perfect,” Daphne protested.

“I try to hate you and you keep loving me back; it’s infuriating,” Astoria said.

“When Father first announced to the family that Voldemort was negotiating for your betrothal, I was livid. There was no way he was going to get my sister,” Astoria said, hands waving for emphasis.

“I went to Mum and told her that I was going to go in your stead. I could be the hero, save the family, and be the one to find out if the Dark Lord’s trouser snake was cold blooded.”

“Yuck!”

“Mum told me I couldn’t do it – I was under age, and I didn’t have enough power to do the blood ritual. I cried for a day because I was going to lose you, and then I cried for another day because I wasn’t good enough to save you. After the hand fasting, things settled down at school. We were safe, or at least safer than most, and I knew you were dreading the call.

“When Potter did it last month, and I was happy, because you’d live and have a life. Then we found out you were still betrothed, and I spent another day crying because I knew you were going to lose your magic.

“You brought him home, and it was clear he was sweet on you.”

“Yeah, right. Still no ring, Astoria,” Daphne said, waving her unadorned hand.

“When do you ever lose?” Astoria asked. “I don’t know why I did it – no, that’s not true, I thought we were finally playing a game where I could beat you without magical power. I’m a natural blonde, I have a nice rack, and boys like me. I really thought I could win, for once.

“You’re the heir, Daphne; you’ll be the Countess after Father’s gone. You have magic in spades. Me, I’m just what’s left over; I’m not even good enough to be a spare .”

“Is that what all this is about? Beating me in a game ?” Daphne asked incredulously. “Midget, I love you. If I could give you the power, I’d do it. I don’t decide who gets the title, and Father may live for another fifty years.”

“See, this is just what I mean,” Astoria said. “I’m trying to resent you and you’re being all sisterly and loving. Game’s over, you win. You always win when it’s important. I just didn’t expect that you’d snag the dark-haired hotness, but he didn’t give me a glance. He asked me to leave and there wasn’t any ‘maybe’ in his voice.”

“I’m sorry,” Daphne said.

“For what? For having a faithful boyfriend who’s not interested in action on the side? Not your fault, sister dear.

“You win, game’s over. I’m going to have to figure out some other way to make my mark on the universe. He doesn’t have a brother hidden away somewhere, does he?”

“I’m afraid not,” Daphne said. “I don’t always win, and I don’t mind the many times I’ve lost to you, because every time you’ve worked so hard. You’re my sister, and I’ll always love you.”

“I hear a ‘but’ coming,” Astoria said.

“Do what you want with me, Astoria. You must promise to never, ever hurt Harry. If you break that promise, I will kill you, personally and without magic. Are we clear?”

“Crystal,” Astoria said with a smirk. “I do so pledge,” she said, raising one hand. “So, what are you and the hotness doing today?”

“We’re going riding. I think he said something about flying too,” Daphne said.

“Well, one and naught isn’t bad. You ride like the wind, but you fly like a turtle,” Astoria said.

“Yeah, I’m really looking forward to that,” Daphne said, making a funny face.

#@#

Queenie’s diary – June 1998 – enciphered entry

What a night!

I simply do not understand the midget. She staged a scene tonight to make me think that she was having her wicked way with Harry (or he with her – somewhat harder to believe). I figured she was going to do something stupid, but never this. The midget has certainly learned over the years how to push my buttons (an idiom that pureblood wizards would never understand), and I certainly reacted as predicted. I blew the door off the hinges, the little scamp having locked and stuck it. She’s brilliant with any type of ward or lock, and even more brilliant with undoing them. Me? Not so much. I applied the “ka-boom” school of dynamic entry and saw my sister astride my betrothed.

To say that I lost it would be an understatement. I threw a lot of magic around and made a lot of booms, but managed to not destroy the house or kill my sister.

My hair, which is never attractive under the best of circumstances was filled with static electricity and was doing a credible Medusa impersonation. My nightgown, a sensible summer weight silk gown with a modest neckline, that reaches down to my ankles, might as well have been a wet t-shirt for all the good it was doing keeping me covered.

While I was proud that I did not kill my sister on the spot, I was also certain that my display of rage would have led Harry to reconsider any interest he might have ever had in me, or in a future that included me.

It seems I don’t understand Harry, either. He thought it was ‘hot,’ that I was beautiful, and very sexy. I don’t know what he sees in me, but I’m not exactly in the position to object much right now. He was incredibly affectionate in the parlor when I thought he was going to call it off (the “it” being somewhat undefined at the moment).

The midget is under suspended sentence right now for Attempted Theft of Magic and Violation of Hospitality. If she’s a good little witch, the sentence will disappear long before she reaches her majority. If she steps out of line again with a capital offense (against either Harry or me) then we have carte blanche to impose justice as we see fit. I don’t see this as being realistic, as I’m not inclined to murder my sister under any circumstances, although last night the temptation was great. I did extract a pledge from her, and I told her privately that if she did anything to hurt Harry that I would kill her, personally and without magic. Harry has had such a wretched life.

I know that I can make a life with him, and that together we can do many of the things that I dream about for Marr and for Wizarding Britain. I used to fear that what I felt for him was from the binding magic of the rocking stone. I’m fairly certain now that very little of what I feel for Harry comes from the compulsion.

I know that I can make Harry happy; now my fear is that he will agree to marry me out of a sense of duty, or his “people saving thing.”

It’s never simple, is it? Why couldn’t I just finish Hogwarts, study privately and then go to Uni at Aberdeen and go on with my plan?

Weirdness note: I asked the midget where she came up with the nipple trick. She said she read it in a book, where the plucky apprentice detective hardens her nipples with a cold bottle of beer and then interrogates an uncooperative (male) suspect. The things I’ve missed, not reading trash.

It still sounds awfully uncomfortable to me.

End of enciphered entry – checksum 307

#@#

Harry woke at 9:00, showered, shaved and after dressing, went to the kitchen. Grace was sitting at a table covered with correspondence.

“Good morning, Harry,” Grace said cheerfully. “I won’t ask if you slept well.”

“Is it always this exciting?” Harry asked.

“I’d love to say that it’s only exciting when you’re here, but Daphne and Astoria have an amazing ability to take common place ingredients and produce explosions,” Grace said wearily. “I wanted to thank you for the time you’re taking to get to know Daphne; I just wish the circumstances were different.”

“You’re welcome, I’m quite fond of Daphne, and I really appreciate the way you’ve welcomed me into your home.”

“Enough of the mushy stuff,” Grace said. “You’ll find breakfast in the chafing dishes, and you’ll find my daughters out at the horse barn.”

“Both of them?”

“They seem to have reached an understanding. One can only hope,” Grace said with resignation.

#@#

After breakfast, Harry brushed his teeth, picked up his equipment bag and walked to the horse barn. The man in charge of the stable nodded politely to Harry and pointed out the back door of the stable where in the foreground he could see Astoria running an obstacle course and in the background what he presumed was Daphne, racing a horse through a different type of course, jumping hedges, ditches and hurdles. He leaned against the door and watched both. When Astoria was at the top of a wooden fence she spotted him and hopped lightly to the ground, heading towards the barn. She picked up a towel and wiped the perspiration from her face and hands. The rest of her body was glistening in the morning sun.

“Hey, Harry,” Astoria greeted him. “About last night…”

Harry looked at her with one eyebrow raised.

“I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry, I was incredibly stupid last night. I’ve been in a struggle with Daphne for years and you got in the way,” Astoria explained.

“You were trying to hurt her, and you were trying to use me,” Harry said, trying hard to be civil. “It can’t happen again.”

“So that was all a show to yank your sister’s tail? You don’t want to have your wicked way with me after the obligatory ripped bodice?” Harry asked trying to change the mood.

“I didn’t say that,” Astoria replied with a grin. “It just so happens at the moment that I am fresh out of bodices. Daphne and I have an understanding. I’m not trying to beat her any more, she loves me, and if I hurt you, she’s going to kill me, personally and without magic.”

“You’re not kidding, are you?” Harry asked.

“Nope, on all three points. I’m a pretty fair witch, Harry, if I say so myself, I was doing NEWT level projects in my second year at Hogwarts.

“What I don’t have is power, at least not at Daphne’s level. You want something locked up? I’m your witch, I can ward it six ways from yesterday, but if Daphne wants to open it, ka-boom, no more wards.

“It’s not very subtle, very direct, very un-Slytherin.

“I’ve been trying to beat Daphne every chance I get, because I can’t take her in direct combat, she’s got too bloody much power. There’s more behind it, but that’s the brief explanation.

“So, can we start over?”

Harry nodded.

“Hi, I’m Astoria, are you going to marry my sister?”

“Hi Astoria, I’m Harry, I’m still trying to figure out the answer to that question.”

They shook hands.

“So, yonder you will see the delectable Miss Greengrass, Runner-up All Scotland Junior Champion, Point-to-Point racing when she was fifteen, All Scotland Junior Champion when she was sixteen.”

“What’s point-to-point?” Harry asked.

“It’s kind of like a race and an obstacle course combined. The horse and rider have to really work together, and you have to really have confidence that you’re not going to go splat when you’re jumping a wall. What Daphne’s running right now has every obstacle that you’d find at the course at Balcoromo Mains, down in the Lowlands.”

“You sound proud of her,” Harry said.

“I am, it’s one of the things that drive me crazy in my relationship with her,” Astoria confessed.

“So, if she was runner-up at fifteen and Junior Champion at sixteen, what’s she been doing since then?” Harry asked.

“Oh, she kinda retired once she made All Scotland Junior Champion,” Daphne said. “There was also this little war going on in Wizarding Britain, she wanted to keep a lower profile, that sort of thing.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard something about that,” Harry said drolly.

“Let me get you kitted up, she really wants to take you riding. Hey, what’s in the bag?”

“A slightly used Firebolt and a Firebolt-X,” Harry said.

“Firebolt I’ve heard of, what’s the Firebolt-X?” Astoria asked, her eyes glistening with interest.

“It’s an experimental model from Randolph Spudmore,” Harry explained. “It’s not in production yet.”

“Ooooh,” Astoria exclaimed. “Forget about my bungling attempt at seduction, Harry, I want your broom instead.”

“Your likelihood of success is a lot higher with the broom,” Harry said with a grin.

“I will be a very good girl then,” Astoria gushed.

“When it’s here and I’m not riding it, feel free,” Harry said. “Be careful on the Firebolt-X, it’s prone to over steering at high speed.”

“Ooooh, I’m going to be an extraordinarily good girl,” Astoria said, picking up the Firebolt-X, looking down the shaft. “Fascinating, it’s asymmetrical, the shaft’s not aligned with the bristle axis.”

Harry took that as his cue to leave; he reckoned that Astoria was good for the morning now, and walked out into the field to get a closer look at Daphne’s jumping.

#@#

He’d been watching for about a half hour, marveling at the coordination between horse and rider as she raced and jumped. It appeared to Harry’s inexperienced eye that there were two different jumps, those where the obstacle was paced so that the jump was part of the horse’s stride, and those where the horse and rider had to break stride to make the jump. For the former, the horse and rider seemed to fly over the obstacle, for the latter it seemed like more work; with a disruptive clatter on landing before the stride rhythm was resumed. She was dressed in what he could only call a harlequin costume, left and right sleeves, torso and trouser legs alternating between black and white. Her helmet was a black and white checkerboard pattern. He assumed that was to allow the spectators to pick their favorite rider from the crowd.

Daphne finished the last jump and sprinted back towards the barn, slowing the horse’s gait at the end to allow a fancy dismount where she flung herself through the air to land next to Harry.

“I am impressed, Miss All Scotland Junior Champion,” Harry said, bowing.

“Thank you kind sir,” Daphne replied, holding an imaginary skirt hem as she curtsied. “I am, alas, merely a former Junior Champion, as another holds the honor this year.”

“Hey,” Harry said.

“Hey, yourself,” Daphne said. “Kiss me.”

Harry did so.

“You’re getting good at that,” she said, undoing the strap of her helmet and shaking her hair loose. She made a clucking sound at the large black horse she’d just dismounted. The horse swished its tail and sauntered back to Daphne.

“Harry, this is Deimos,” she said by way of introduction. “Deimos, this is Harry, he’s very special.”

The horse looked carefully at Harry, snorted and then turned away.

“Yes, I can see we’re going to be the best of chums,” Harry said.

“He doesn’t like men, which is one of the reasons I was able to buy him at auction a few years back. He’s a good jumper, lots of energy, but he’s a bit on the skittish side. His brother, named Phobos, of course, is a little more steady.”

“He’s big,” Harry said.

“Bigger than some, smaller than others,” Daphne said. “I’m not big enough to control the largest jumpers, so I had to find an energetic horse that I could control.”

“Why does the size of the horse matter?”

“The bigger the horse, the bigger the jump – within limits of course. A Belgian draft horse is enormous, but they aren’t built for jumping. The really big jumpers are impressive, but I can’t straddle them, much less control them. Yes, Harry, you can now stare at my legs,” Daphne said with a laugh.

“You seemed to fit him well enough,” Harry said.

“We’ve been jumping together for four years,” Daphne said. “He’s about ready to retire. He’s a gelding, so we won’t be putting him out to stud, he’ll just be a horse that runs around the estate grounds until he’s too old to leave the paddock.”

“Gelding?”

“He’s castrated – it makes him less valuable for breeding purposes, but he’s easier to control and train,” Daphne explained.

Harry made a face.

“Don’t be such a big baby,” Daphne said. “I have long range plans for you, so your precious parts are safe.”

“Thanks, I think.”

“Where’s the midget?” Daphne asked.

“She’s probably flying somewhere. She saw that I brought two brooms, so I told her she was free to use either of them.”

“That must have made her happy,” Daphne said.

“She seemed pretty happy. She apologized for last night and said that you two had worked out an understanding. She said the game’s over, you love her, and you’re going to kill her if she hurts me,” Harry said. “Was the last point really necessary?”

“I wanted to make clear that you’re off limits,” Daphne explained. “It’s kind of like Hermione’s warning that if I hurt you, she’s going to make the short, bitter remainder of my life miserable beyond compare. The message was sent and received, we have an understanding, I hope.”

“So, where’s this mild, gentle horse you’ve been promising me?” Harry asked.

“I thought I’d let you ride Deimos whilst I rode Phobos,” Daphne said with an evil grin.

“I don’t think so,” Harry said.

“Okay, spoilsport, we’ll go to ‘Plan B’ and put you on a catatonic gelding,” Daphne said. “C’mon, I’ll brush Deimos down and we’ll get you saddled with something gentle and wimpy.”

#@#

The ‘gentle and wimpy’ horse turned out to be a five year old gelding named Mouse. Daphne said that he was Grace’s favorite. Harry helped install bit and bridle and watched carefully when the saddle was being attached and strapped down. When prompted, he attempted to put one foot in the stirrup and then swing into the saddle. Daphne found Harry’s struggles with this equestrian fundamental to be a source of mirth, taking mercy on him on the third attempt by boosting his bum at the critical moment of balance, helping him into the saddle.

“You enjoyed that too much,” Harry complained.

“One must take pleasure where it may be found,” she said philosophically.

“You know we’re going flying after this,” Harry reminded her.

“I’m seriously hoping that you’ll forget,” Daphne said, effortlessly mounting her own gelding, a four year old named Toffee and coming up along side of him as they left the paddock.

“Okay, we’re in motion, what do I need to know?” Harry asked.

“Horses are grazing animals, which mean that they’re towards the bottom of the food chain, and they know it,” Daphne began.

“What’s going to eat a horse?” Harry asked.

“Horses weren’t always this big, Harry, the current thoroughbred size is the result of a century or two of selective breeding. Genghis Kahn conquered most of the world riding a horse considerably smaller than the one you’re riding right now. Just take it as fact that one of the first things a horse does is size up whether or not you’re a predator. The other fact to rely on is that once the horse is trained, he’s looking to you for leadership, because he assumes that you know what you’re doing.”

“Bad assumption on his part, I’m afraid,” Harry said.

“Be easy on the reigns, sit up straight, try to move with the horse, rather than bouncing in the saddle, don’t shout if he starts running, and be prepared to get back on if you fall off,” Daphne rattled off.

“Yeah, right,” Harry said.

“Harry, loosen your grip, your knuckles shouldn’t be white,” Daphne called. “Now catch me!”

Daphne took off at a trot that became a gallop.

Harry looked after her, relaxed his grip on the reigns and said “Go?” to the horse, hoping that he would understand.

Mouse began to saunter slightly faster until Harry nudged his heels into Mouse’s ribcage, at which point Mouse began to trot.

Daphne looked behind her and flashed a brilliant smile. Harry wasn’t certain if the smile was meant for him or for the horse.

#@#

After an hour or so of riding, they crossed a shallow creek and entered into what Harry recognized as the far side of the meadow where they’d had the picnic the day before. They stopped and Daphne showed Harry how to loosen the saddle before the horses were turned out to drink in the creek and then graze in the meadow.

Harry headed towards the grove, taking off his helmet as he walked.

“I think I’ve got this riding thing down, except for the ‘move with the horse, don’t bounce in the saddle’ bit, which I’ll be hanged if I can’t figure out how that’s done. I didn’t have that problem with the Thestrals,” Harry said.

“The Thestrals were flying , Harry,” Daphne objected.

“And your point is? If God had intended us to ride horses, we’d be naturally bowlegged,” Harry said.

As they reached the grove a picnic basket appeared.

“Thank you, Mimsy,” Daphne said.

Harry opened the basket, pulled out a bottle and sat down, leaning up against a tree.

Daphne followed suit, plucking her own bottle from the basket.

“Spread your legs apart,” she said to Harry.

Harry gave her a quizzical look, but moved his knees apart.

Daphne turned and sat down between his knees, leaning up against him.

“If I’m your girlfriend, I get to do this,” she announced.

“Who said you were my girlfriend?” Harry said teasingly.

“You did, it’s on the orb, don’t try to deny it,” Daphne said firmly.

“Busted, I guess,” Harry said, wrapping one arm around her middle.

Daphne sighed contentedly.

“I wish that time would slow down right now and this moment would last a day,” she announced.

“Is that because you’re dreading something happening later today?” Harry asked.

“Oh, you had to spoil it, didn’t you?” Daphne exclaimed. “For the record, no, I’m not dreading anything later today; I’m simply stating that for the moment, I’m really, really happy, and it’s because I’m with you. Way to spoil a buzz, Potter.”

Harry said nothing, but adjusted his grip, pulling her closer.

Daphne sighed again.

“You know, the problem is that one of us has to get up if we’re going to get anything to eat,” Daphne complained.

“Are you a witch or not?” Harry asked.

Pulling a wand from his sleeve, he pointed the wand at the basket, twirled the tip, and then pulled back on the wand like a fisherman reeling in a catch. The basket rose six inches into the air and slid to them across the clearing.

“Are you satisfied, my lady?” he asked.

“Ecstatic,” she said, shaking her head until her hair flipped into his face. Looking back briefly she smiled and reached into the basket.

#@#

The ride after lunch was much slower, allowing for more conversation. They took turns taking the lead, making a lazy arc back to the horse barn.

“Can I ask you a couple of questions?” Daphne asked.

“Sure, you can ask me more than that, no limit today,” Harry said generously.

“Why did Snape hate you so much?”

“Ah, very good question; it all goes back to my parents. I never saw a picture of my parents until I was eleven and came back into the Wizarding world. The first thing people would say when they’d see me was ‘Harry, you look just like James, except you have your mother’s eyes.’” Harry explained.

“Severus Snape was a half-blood living in a Muggle neighborhood. His first, and possibly his only friend, was a little Muggle girl named Lily Evans, who got a Hogwarts letter when she was eleven.”

“Your mother?”

“Yup, Lily Evans, red-haired beauty with bright green eyes,” Harry said.

“Snape was sorted into Slytherin, Lily into Gryffindor. Also sorted into Gryffindor that year were Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew and James Potter.”

“My father was an arrogant little toe rag, and he and Sirius delighted in picking on the Slytherins. I am sad to say that he was quite the bully.

“My father was tormenting Snape one day, holding him upside down by his foot from a tree until his underwear was showing. Mum rushed to Snape’s defense, and Snape lost it, saying that he didn’t need a Mudblood’s help.

“That kind of put an end to whatever friendship they had, which was sad. The next year, my father did something to pull his head out of his arse and he grew up a bit, and he started dating my Mum. That probably broke Snape’s heart. So, to make a long sad story much shorter, the only thing that Snape saw when he looked at me was his boyhood rival, who tormented him to no end and who took the one girl he ever loved away from him.”

“Wow,” Daphne exclaimed.

“Yeah, wow. He was still a prick, but I understand him a lot better now. Great Potion Master, lousy teacher, pretty good headmaster,” Harry concluded.

“That’s some story,” Daphne commented.

“Yeah, so what’s the other question?”

“What are you finding in the Riddle trove?”

“That’s a good story too,” Harry said enthusiastically.

“Aside from this troublesome betrothal that I’m still trying to figure out, it seems that pretty much everything that Riddle did with his wand is remembered, for lack of a better word, by the wand. So as I read through his diaries, or the grimoires, if I try to replicate the magic described in the diary when I’m using his wand, it kind of flows right through me.”

“Wow,” Daphne said.

“Of course, there are a lot of things that I just don’t want to know, like six incremental improvements in the Entrail Expelling Curse, but there are some gems in there as well. The guy was nuts, but he had a big thirst for learning things. Case in point: it seems that there were two versions of Cruciatus, one that almost anyone could learn, and another that could only be performed by the heavy hitters, the wizards and witches with lots of power.”

“So?”

“So, Neville’s parents were tortured into insanity with Cruciatus, and I think that part of the reason that St Mungo’s can’t reverse things is that they’re trying to undo the wrong version of the curse. That’s my hope, at least. I haven’t told Neville about it yet, I was going to bring it up today when I was supposed to meet with him, but my schedule got rewritten by this hazel eyed tigress who thought that I needed to have my bum tenderized by a saddle, so I’ll have to move it to tomorrow.”

“Do you think it’s going to make a difference?”

“I don’t know, but I’d certainly like to try; if I could give Neville back his parents….”

“You’re a good man, Harry Potter,” Daphne exclaimed.

“I wish that were true,” he said with a sigh.

“I’d just like to point out that the betrothal isn’t at all troublesome; you just have to say ‘yes.’”

“I’m here, aren’t I?”

“Thanks.”

#@#

Upon their return to the horse barn they were met by Hector, the man who ran the stable. He brushed Toffee down while Daphne showed Harry how to brush down Mouse. Once the horses were put away, Harry found a note on top of his equipment bag.

H

Thanks, the broom was brilliant! The Firebolt-X really does tend

to oversteer at high speeds.

Please marry my sister; I want to ride this broom again!

The Midget

Harry laughed when he read the note, passing it to Daphne.

“You seem to have an ally,” he said.

Digging into the equipment bag he handed a black wad of fabric to Daphne. She unfolded it and looked at it.

“It’s a leotard,” she said.

“I call it a vest, much manlier that way. Put it on, over your clothes,” Harry said.

“Will it fit?”

“It should, it’s stretchy as all get out.”

“Why am I putting this on?”

“Because I want to show you something really, really cool.”

“You do know that it’s not going to look like the nightgown did last night,” Daphne said with a puzzled look on her face.

“Last night was great, but this is a functional garment, not for show,” Harry explained.

Daphne pulled off her boots and sat down on a bench outside of the horse barn and then carefully threaded her legs through the neck of the leotard and out the leg holes. She then pulled the leotard up her torso until she could reach back and place her arms in the neck and out the arm holes, stretching it on over her blouse.

“Okay, I look like a confused dance student who forgot to get undressed before suiting up for class,” Daphne observed.

Harry was struggling with his own version of the leotard, pulling it on with a grunt.

“The suits are matched – there’s runic work on the inside and outside of the leotard. Hold out your wand with your dominant hand,” he directed.

Daphne did so.

Harry closed his eyes briefly and then said “I’m going to do ‘Lumos’ through your wand.”

Daphne’s wand tip glowed weakly at first, and then cast a brilliant light.

“That was weird,” she said. “I could feel your magic coursing through me; it was kind of nice, actually.”

“This is something mentioned in Riddle’s diary. He came up with the idea of something like these suits as a way of teaching magic to new recruits. I can explain what ‘Lumos’ is supposed to do until I’m blue in the face, but when you feel the magic coursing through your own body, it’s better than any instruction I could imagine.”

“You’re kidding me, Riddle invented these?” Daphne objected.

“Nope, no kidding, like I said, the guy was twisted as a corkscrew, but he spent a lifetime learning some really neat magic, not all of which was loathsome,” Harry explained.

“Can you make me like a robot? Is it like Imperius?” Daphne asked.

“I don’t think so,” Harry said. “I’ve not tried to control anyone with this. I tried it out last week with Neville, he was guinea pig number one, and you’re guinea pig number two. It goes both ways – I can feel your magic, you can feel mine.”

Daphne furrowed her brows for a moment and put her wand behind her ear. Holding her now empty hand like she was using a wand, she concentrated. Harry felt a surge of magic through his spine and out his arm. A spray of blue flowers exploded from the end of his wand.

“Wow, I see what you mean, that is nice; it - it feels like you. That might explain why Neville looked embarrassed last week,” Harry said.

“He didn’t mention it?”

“Daphne, we’re guys, we don’t talk about feelings,” Harry explained.

“Oh, right, I forgot,” she said, rolling her eyes. “So, why am I in this geeky costume, Harry?”

“I’m going to teach you how to fly,” he said.

“I already know how to fly,” she objected. “I’m just not very good at it.”

“I’m going to teach you how to fly without a broom,” Harry said.

“No way!”

Harry concentrated and slowly began to rise until he was three feet off the ground. Daphne then began to rise until she too was three feet off the ground.

“Wow, that’s different. The flying is cool, but feeling your magic flow through me is really personal ,” Daphne gasped. “You need to put me down, right now Harry,” she said, a tone of panic in her voice.

Harry brought her to the ground gently.

“Now come give me a hug,” she demanded. She was panting.

He did so, and she sighed in relief. “This is what it feels like, only more so, and inside ,” she said.

“Yeah, I’m feeling it too,” Harry said. “I think we’re getting feedback.”

“This didn’t happen with Neville?”

“No, not like this,” he said. “Maybe it’s a male/female thing.”

“Good, I’m not going to have to smack him for putting the moves on my boyfriend,” she said.

“There you go using that word again,” Harry said.

“There’s another word I’d rather be using, I’ll have you know.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Harry went back to his equipment bag, pulling a notebook out. Riffing through the pages he came to a page filled with diagrams.

“Okay, I think I can make a change here,” he said, pointing to a diagram.

He walked to Daphne and traced a series of runes on her leotard, slightly above her navel.

“Careful, that tickles,” she warned.

“Miss Greengrass is ticklish?” he asked. “Tell me more.”

“None of your business,” she answered.

“Okay, again,” he said, levitating three feet above the lawn and then levitating Daphne to the same level.

“Better?”

“Yeah, it’s less stirring . It’s still very personal; I like feeling your magic.”

“Okay, that’s stage one,” Harry said.

#@#

“We good?”

“I’m on the broom, aren’t I?” Daphne replied.

“No feedback?”

“I can feel your magic, but I’m not getting all tingly,” she said.

“Okay, follow me,” Harry said, launching into a lazy spiral that took them both to an altitude of one hundred feet.

“Why do we have to be so high?” Daphne shouted.

“It’s actually safer,” Harry answered, moving closer so he could be heard.

“Yeah, right,” Daphne muttered.

“Daphne, look at me, look into my eyes,” Harry said.

She did.

“Am I going to let you fall?”

Daphne shook her head.

“Am I going to let you get hurt?”

Daphne shook her head again.

“What are you afraid of?”

“I’m afraid that I’m going to let go of this blasted broom and fall to my death,” Daphne said earnestly.

“Good, I can work with that,” Harry said.

Harry flipped on the horizontal axis of the broom so he was now flying upside down, his back to the earth.

“Do what I’m doing,” he instructed.

“You are insane, you know that right?” Daphne shouted.

He pointed at Daphne’s head with his wand and released a bit of magic. “I’ve heard it said a time or two,” Harry replied, but this time Daphne heard it directly in her ear.

“It’s a linked charm so you don’t have to shout,” he explained.

Daphne slowly rolled to the right until she too was upside down.

“If I don’t think about what I’m doing, this is kind of pretty,” she said.

“Do you trust me?” Harry asked.

Daphne said nothing, but he could see that her lips were moving.

“Do you trust me?” he repeated.

“I am choosing to trust you,” she replied.

“Let go of the broom.”

“ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?” Daphne screamed.

“Yes,” Harry replied.

“YOU’RE NOT HELPING, HARRY,” she shouted.

“I won’t let you get hurt. Trust me,” he whispered.

Daphne closed her eyes and then unwrapped her fingers from the broomstick; then she moved her legs away from the shaft of the broom.

Nothing happened.

Then she felt herself falling backwards as Harry’s magic flowed through her. Opening her eyes she saw that she was no longer upside-down; the ground was now below her. She felt fingers wrap around her wrist. She clamped on to Harry’s hand.

“We’re about eighty feet up, constant altitude. What’s that mean, Daphne?”

“Constant altitude?”

“Constant altitude.”

“It means I’m not falling,” Daphne squeaked.

“Say it positively,” Harry said.

“It means I’m flying.”

“If there’s no broom, there’s no broom to fall off of,” Harry explained.

“Okay, but what happens when you stop flying me?”

“I’m not flying you now,” Harry answered.

“WHAT?”

“Feel your magic, do you feel mine flowing through you right now?

“Now that you mention it, no.”

“I’m going to let go right now and you’re going to follow me,” Harry said.

“NO!”

“Okay, Plan B I guess,” he said.

“What’s that?”

Harry twisted and flipped about so he was behind her.

“If you wanted to snuggle, Harry, I would have been quite willing to do this on the ground,” Daphne said.

“What’s the fun in that?”

Harry flipped about again, and Daphne was behind him, grasping each of his wrists.

“Fly me,” he whispered.

“You’re not a broom,” she objected.

“You’re right, I’m better than a broom. I’ve got a magical core and my own power supply.”

“You know, Harry, I’m over-thinking this; I’m just going to go with the flow,” Daphne said.

“Good girl,” he said approvingly.

Flying in tandem they did a lazy roll and then a loop.

“Once you get past the pants-wetting terror, this is fun,” she exclaimed.

“Yeah, that’s why I brought you here.”

They flew in tandem for a while, banking and curving.

“I’m going to let go now,” Daphne announced.

Harry felt her hands release and then felt air rushing over his back. He peeled aside and found her gently ascending.

“Was this a test?”

“What do you think?”

“I think you love to fly. I think that trust is important to you, so yeah, it’s a test.”

“Did you pass?”

“I think I’m supposed to ask you that,” Daphne said.

“Then you know the answer already. For what it’s worth, I’m proud of you.”

They played a game of follow-the-leader, dipping to tree-top height for a while and then returning to what Harry called “a decent height.”

“Harry?”

“Yes?”

“I’m loving this, but I’m getting cold,” Daphne said. “How do you stay warm when you fly?”

“Well, a jacket and hat help, but some witches are known to use warming charms,” Harry replied.

“I already told you that I’m pants at that, Harry,” Daphne said.

“Okay, if I must,” Harry said.

Daphne relaxed as the warmth spread through her.

“Thanks,” she said.

“Do you want to try landing or would you rather that I bring us in?”

“I’ll let the expert do it,” Daphne replied.

“Good choice. Neville flew like a champ, but his landings sucked the first time out.

Harry flew until he could link up and hold one of Daphne’s hands. She then felt his magic flow through her core as she began to bank into a shallow spiral, bleeding off speed and altitude.

She closed her eyes and enjoyed the feeling of his magic. The spiral turned into a slow spin and she knew without opening her eyes that she was now upright, slowly touching down inside the paddock next to the barn. Her feet touched the earth again and the thrum of his magic vanished.

“This is your captain speaking. We hope you enjoyed your flight with Air Potter and when your future plans call for air travel, we hope you choose to fly with us. The local time in Alford is now four thirty in the afternoon and the temperature is a cool 18.3 degrees Celsius.”

“That was sooooo cool,” Daphne exclaimed.

“Still think that flying is a dumb idea?” Harry asked.

“I’m still not wild about brooms, Harry, but I really liked flying Air Potter,” she replied.

She tugged at his hand and pulled him to her, wrapping him in an embrace.

“Uh, sorry to interrupt, Daphne, but is Deimos supposed to be out in the paddock?” Harry asked.

“Damn,” she said. “Little monster is an escape artist, he lets himself out of his stall on a regular basis. Hector went home at four o’clock, so Deimos has probably been out wandering all the while we were flying. I’ll get a halter and bring him in; you make sure that his stall door is open, okay?”

#@#

Harry walked into the horse barn, noting that his equipment bag was where he’d left it previously, but now only one broom, the Firebolt, was sticking out of the bag. He assumed that Astoria was back on the broom and headed further into the barn to find Deimos’ stall, which was indeed open.

He pulled the door to its widest open position and looked about the stable, noting the other stalls, some with horses, some empty. The door he’d walked through faced east, and another door at the end of the barn was also open, facing west. The walls were cluttered with leather equipment he assumed was bits and bridles and other pieces of equine equipment whose names he didn’t know.

He heard Deimos nickering and felt a flicker of Daphne’s magic. He assumed that she was cleaning the horse’s coat, given the feel of the magic. He then heard her come in through the west door. She’d evidently put the halter on him and was now leading him to his stall.

“Mischief managed?” Harry asked.

“I have the escaped prisoner,” she replied, patting Deimos on his flank.

Daphne led him into the stall and began to remove the halter

Harry saw something from the corner of his eye and turned.

Deimos flattened his ears and began to snort and stomp.

At that moment, a shrieking, twisting mass flew through the eastern door; it was Astoria, flying at extremely high speed on the Firebolt-X.

Deimos began to rear, striking at the walls of the stall with his hooves, scattering shards of wood as he did so. Daphne pulled on the halter, which was halfway off already, and ended up holding a halter without any horse attached. Deimos went into full panic mode, rearing and striking randomly with his hooves.

Harry yanked at Daphne, pulling her from the stall while pushing on the swinging door with one hand. One of Deimos’ hooves struck the side of his face and then the next hoof hit beside his neck, smashing him to the ground as the gate swung backwards. Daphne screamed as she threw herself on Harry’s prone body just as Deimos shot out of the stall.

Astoria, meanwhile, had almost cleared the barn, until she glanced off a support beam and then bounced against a wall covered with leather straps. She ended up hanging from the wall, snarled in leather as the Firebolt-X flew out the barn and came to a gentle stop in the western yard. Astoria moaned gently as she hung upside down.

#@#

It was dark, much darker than the interior of the horse barn, but not completely black. It was quiet, abnormally so. His head hurt, his shoulder hurt, and he was underneath something warm and heavy. He couldn’t see worth anything, which meant he must have lost his glasses.

It came back in a rush – Deimos, the stall, Astoria careening out of control.

“Daphne?” he called.

“Right here, Harry,” she replied. The warm mass on top of him moved.

“What happened?” he asked.

“Deimos got spooked, I don’t know why,” Daphne said as she began to carefully look Harry over, touching his face tentatively.

“Astoria was flying through the barn,” he said.

“Idiot, we could have been killed,” Daphne said sharply. “Okay, your face is a mess. You’ve probably got a broken nose and your glasses are smashed. You’ve got some lacerations on your face. I suspect that you have some sort of concussion and your collarbone is broken. Wiggle your fingers for me,” she commanded.

“Now wiggle the others. Okay, toes? Okay, probably no damage to the spine, which is good. You’ll live to fly again,” she said. “I’d kiss you, but your face is kind of messed up and bloody right now.”

“I’ll take a rain check. Where the heck are we?”

“Ahh, officially, I’m not supposed to tell you, but that’s been overtaken by events,” Daphne temporized.

“Is this yet another grimoire secret?”

“No, this is something that never made it into the grimoire, so I’m physically able to talk about it.”

“I’m listening,” Harry said.

“About ten years ago Father was trying to manipulate the magical properties of shadows. He goofed and found himself transported into someplace else – a place near our reality, but not quite touching it. He describes it as being perpendicular to reality, which is nonsense as to maths, so I called it shadow land, because we can see reality when we’re in the shadows, but we can’t be seen in the shadows,” Daphne explained.

“So it’s invisibility?”

“No, when you’re invisible you’re not seen, but you’re still there. If you’re in the shadows, you’re not in our reality any more. You can’t be seen, because you’re really not there.”

“So, how did we get here?”

“When Deimos was freaking out I landed on top of you and pulled you into the shadows. You would have been trampled otherwise. Thanks for pulling me out of the stall, by the way,” Daphne said calmly.

“Thanks for not letting me get trampled.”

“I’ve got a big investment in you, Harry,” Daphne said.

She sat still for a moment, competing emotions showing on her face.

“There’s something I need to do, and then I’ll come get you some help. Moving you is not a really good idea, because that collar bone is going to hurt like crazy,” Daphne explained.

“I don’t really feel like moving anyway,” Harry said.

“I’ll be back,” she said. She closed her eyes and faded out of sight.

#@#

Daphne reappeared in the barn, standing in the now empty stall where Deimos had gone berserk seconds ago. She looked around the barn until she spotted Astoria, still hanging from one of the walls, tangled in tack. She went to Hector’s work area and brought back a leather knife, a short, curved blade used to cut straps for leatherwork.

“Queenie!” Astoria exclaimed. “I’m so glad to see you, cut me down from here, will you?”

Daphne stood stock still, the only thing that moved was the knife, which she twisted in her hand.

“I wanted to believe you, Astoria. I wanted to believe that you were quitting the game, and more importantly I wanted to believe your pledge to not hurt Harry,” Daphne said bitterly.

“What are you talking about?” Astoria cried.

“Your little stunt – you almost killed Harry,” Daphne said.

“Queenie, what are you talking about?”

“We were putting Deimos away and you spooked him,” Daphne explained. “You were quite clever; you made it look like an accident, very Slytherin.”

“It was an accident!” Astoria wailed.

“I don’t want to kill you, Astoria, but now I have to, promises have to be kept; it’s going to break my heart,” Daphne said softly.

Astoria screamed in fear.

“Help me,” Daphne murmured as she stepped forward, knife in hand.​

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Author Notes:

We introduce here one of the magical secrets of the Greengrass family, the ability to move into the shadows.  Look back to prior chapters that mention Daphne moving into or out of shadows.  Daphne is hiding in a different reality, not staying out of direct sunlight, although she is of fair stock and should come with a warning that states: “Of pure Highland stock, do not expose to direct sunlight.”

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