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Author Notes:

Thanks to Jeconais, who pays for this archive from his own pocket, and to GardenGirl, the free range, homeschooling, well educated beta.

By Right of Conquest

Chapter the Fourth

Daphne was in the business office for the estate, entering last week’s receipts and disbursements into the ledger. The bright Muggle girl from the town who normally did this task was on holiday with her family. The Muggle girl had recommended to Father that they computerize the task, and Father had seemed impressed when she’d dragged him to a demonstration in Aberdeen, but as of yet the ledger was written and reconciled by hand. The phone rang on the house line and Daphne picked it up without much thought.

“Greengrass residence, this is Daphne speaking,” she said mechanically.

“Uh, hi, this is Harry,” said the voice on the other end of the line.

“Harry, hey, what’s up?” Daphne asked cheerfully.

“Uh, a couple of things, I guess,” Harry said hesitantly. “I’ve got a new phone number, for Grimmauld Place, I thought you should have it, even though I’m not here consistently.”

“That’s very thoughtful of you, Harry, and I suppose that’s less restrictive than putting a remote triggered Portkey around your neck, or some sort of tracking charm,” Daphne mused playfully.

“Ha ha, very funny. Hey, am I supposed to write your family a thank-you note for the other night? I just thought of that before calling.”

“It’s never wrong, but it’s not expected,” Daphne explained.

“Uh, okay. Last night I was thinking about you,” Harry began.

Daphne smiled broadly. ”What were you thinking about?” she asked cheerfully.

“Well, I realized that when we were at the bank, I’d asked you the wrong question.”

Daphne’s cheerful mood vanished and she rolled her eyes. “So, what’s the right question?”

“At the bank, I asked why I should marry you; I had it backwards. Your dad said that I was everything you were looking for in a husband, but he didn’t elaborate any further.”

“Uh, Harry, you know that when you call on this line that there’s a better than average chance that the midget is listening in?”


“Is she on right now?”

“No, Mum’s out shopping with her, so I’m pretty sure that it’s just us right now. I think the question you’re asking is where I see my life going, and where are you in that picture.”

“Uh, yeah, okay,” Harry said.

“And I’m not going to talk about that on the phone,” Daphne said. “Come on over tomorrow – we can go riding and have a picnic and talk about that,” Daphne said, crossing the fingers of one hand.

“Uh, tomorrow’s busy, how’s the next day?” Harry asked.

“That would be great, okay, I’ll write it down on the calendar so Mum doesn’t try to book me elsewhere.”

“I wanted to ask you something else too,” Harry added urgently.

An intermediate length of silence followed “Go ahead,” Daphne prompted.

“Uh Shack, I mean, acting Minister Shacklebolt thinks that I’m going to get called to testify before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

“Uh huh.”

“I think I need to get my story out before that happens. I’m thinking of doing another interview in The Quibbler.”

“Okay, that makes sense. The last time you did that you changed a lot of minds.”

“There’s a catch.”

“There usually is with you Harry,” Daphne said.

“Last Christmas, Luna was snatched off the train. I think it was Riddle’s way of pulling Xenophilius into line,” Harry explained.

“We, that is, Ron and Hermione and I visited Xenophilius after that. He called the Ministry, letting them know that we were at his house. He thought that if he delivered Undesirable Number One, he could get Luna back. Then before the goon squad arrived he told us what he’d done. We barely got out of there alive.”

“Okay, what’s the problem?”

“I don’t know if I should work with Xenophilius again.”

“Ah, I understand. Let me think a minute.”

Another period of silence followed.

“Okay, let me try to step through this,” Daphne began. “Xenophilius was a good man who made a bad decision in a bad situation. Any father worth anything would want to free his daughter. He told you what he’d done with just enough time that you could get away. Does that about summarize things?”

“Yeah,”

“What happened after that?”

“Well, we pretty much blew up his house and the Ministry put him in Azkaban – just on general principle, I guess.”

“I think he’s paid for his mistake, Harry. Whether you forgive him or not is a personal decision. If it was me, I’d still be irked at him, but I’d try to forgive him; life’s too short to carry a grudge. As to working with the Quibbler, I still think it’s a better alternative than The Prophet – people have come to believe that the Quibbler tells the truth. If you’re going to boycott everyone who had any dealings with the Thicknesse administration, you’re going to have to leave the UK, Harry.”

“Okay, that’s helpful, thanks, Daphne.”

Daphne pumped her fist while mouthing ‘yes!’

“Harry, can I ask you a question without sounding like a stalker?”

“Sure.”

“What are you doing on the days we’re not seeing each other?”

“Lots of stuff. Taking care of Teddy on days that Andi needs to be out, I’m almost finished with the remodeling and repair here at Grimmauld Place. I’ve been helping Neville rebuild Longbottom Hall, and practicing our dueling when we’re not rebuilding, stuff like that. When I’m not doing that I’ve been reading through the grimoires and Riddle’s diary.”

“Riddle kept a diary?” Daphne asked incredulously.

“Yup, you have to be able to speak Parseltongue to get it into reveal mode, but that’s not a real problem for me,” Harry said.

“Of course,” Daphne said.

“I’m trying to understand him. I’d like to not have another Dark Lord during my lifetime, so I’m trying to get inside his head, without getting creepy. The thing is, I don’t think anyone knows about the diary, so I’d like you to not talk about that.”

“Sure, Harry,” Daphne agreed, while silently pumping her fist again.

“Do you duel? Is that something you’d like to do?”

“I do duel, but I’m pretty sure I can’t with you,” Daphne began.

“Because that’s something you can’t talk about,” Harry interrupted.

“Actually, that is something that I can talk about. One of the terms of the betrothal is that in the betrothal phase I can’t raise my wand against Riddle or any of his vassals. I’m fairly certain that if we were to duel, the magic would consider my promise broken.”

“What about after?”

“The agreement didn’t specify. I think I’m just limited by human decency after that, so you’re just going to have to behave yourself.”

“Something for you to look forward to, I guess. So, changing the subject back to what you asked, tomorrow morning I’m going to meet with George Weasley at WWW. I’m kind of involved with the business, and I wanted to run some stuff by him in the morning. Are you still open for a picnic after that?”

“Sure. Have you ever ridden before?”

“Does riding Thestrals count?”

“I don’t think so. Only you, Harry, would ask that question. I’ll get a nice gentle horse for you, how’s that?”

“That would be fine. Uh, Daphne?”

“Yes, Harry?”

“I like spending time with you. I gotta run.”

“Thanks, Harry, ‘bye,” Daphne said, a big grin on her face.

The phone gave a gentle buzz, the connection was gone.

#@#

Queenie’s Diary – enciphered entry

I am making haste slowly. Today’s phone call was a breakthrough, I guess.

Harry trusts me with a secret and he’s coming to me for advice. In the words of Hermione-not-the-sweaty-kind-Granger, he’s opening the door, and this witch is walking through.

On the home front, Mum and the midget went foundation shopping today in Aberdeen.

Yes, the midget is now a full cup size larger than her big sister.

Big deal – she looks like Grace (who in her forties is still a hottie) and I look like Fiona, who was tall and willowy, except my birthmother didn’t have my ample bum.

I don’t remember Fiona. In every way possible, except for genetics, Grace has been my mum. If there’s a consolation here, I’m told that Fiona was an exceptionally powerful witch and I managed to inherit some of that. I will say, however, in the trade-off between magical power and cleavage, there are times that cleavage looks like the better deal, but I have to remind myself that I’m playing the long game here.

Telling the midget that I’m having a picnic with Harry seems to top a newly acquired c-cup brassiere in her estimation, which is strangely satisfying. I think I’ll let the midget know that is she interferes tomorrow that I’ll permanently bind her breasts and shave her bald – all over.

She knows I can do it, too.

Mum, of course, would make me reverse it, but it’s good to have a credible threat.

Got to run, Mum’s calling

End of cipher – Checksum 1121

#@#

 

“Daphne, I want you to know that I’m proud of you. I was fully expecting that there would be a blow-up this evening between you and the midget,” Grace said, sitting down in a chair in the corner of Daphne’s bedroom.

“Thanks, Mum,” Daphne replied.

“I wanted to show you some pictures and tell you a story I don’t think you’ve heard before,” Grace began.

She laid a medium sized Muggle photograph down on the bed. Daphne picked it up and made a face.

“Mum, you look terrible here, when was this taken?” Daphne asked.

“That was taken about a week before you were born,” Grace answered. “I was not in good shape.”

“You see, right out of Hogwarts I met a wizard at a Ministry ball. He was handsome, well-to-do, and a pureblood and he seemed taken with me. I lost my head and convinced myself that I loved him. We married using the traditional one year hand fast, against my parent’s wishes.

“Over the next year he blew through my dowry, he often came home drunk, and was physically very brutal, and the sad thing was, I thought it was all my fault.

“I believed if I could conceive a child, that he’d love me, or if I was more submissive, we wouldn’t get into fights, or if I was better in bed that everything would be okay. A day before the one year anniversary of our hand fasting, he broke my wand, beat the living daylights out of me, and left me.

“When I was being treated at St. Mungo’s the healer informed me that my not-so-loving and entirely unfaithful husband had given me a disease that had destroyed my fallopian tubes, which was why I’d been unable to conceive.

“I had no money, no job, no wand, my parents wouldn’t take me back, in short, I was a wreck. I thought I was well and truly cursed in all senses of the word.”

“So, what did you do?” Daphne asked.

“I came here, to the town of Alford. My Muggle great-grandmother was still alive then and she let me live with her in her cottage. About a week after that picture was taken, the Baron, your father, came by and asked if I’d serve as a doula – a birthing assistant- as his wife, Fiona, was about ready to give birth.

“I knew next to nothing about being a doula, but the Midwitch assured me that she would teach me everything I needed to know. I jumped at the chance and became a member of his household. I assisted at your birth, and took care of you the moment you entered the world.

“I was in love with you the first time I ever saw you.

“At the time I was convinced that no wizard would ever want to have me, and I knew that I was never having children, so I latched on to you as the child I could never have.

“The weeks turned into months and Fiona didn’t regain her strength. The healer assumed that it was some variety of post-partum depression and suggested that I stay on until things improved.

“Things never improved; as it turned out, Fiona had stage four cancer of the liver and died before you were nine months old. I was asked to stay on as your nanny.

“You became my world. I was raising you and having the time of my life; other than colic, dragon pox and teething, you were a lot of fun.

“When you were a year old, the Baron asked me to marry him. I had no idea that he even knew that I was a woman – I was just another part of the well-oiled machine that was his household. I turned him down, fully expecting that he would turn me out and I’d be back in the street.

“Instead, he doubled my salary as a nanny and a month later asked me to marry him again.

“This time instead of just saying ‘no’ I told him the whole story – the hand fasting, the beatings, the disease; he didn’t bat an eyelid. I asked him why he wanted to marry me. I remember to this day what he said: ‘the most important thing a man can do for his daughter is to love her mother.’

Grace’s lip began to quiver and tears began rolling down her cheeks. Daphne started to sniffle in response.

“And so, I married the Baron, your father,” Grace said with another sniffle, producing another photograph.

“You didn’t look a whole lot better on your wedding day, Mum,” Daphne said truthfully.

“No, I wasn’t very attractive then. I wasn’t sleeping well, you were teething, constantly it seemed and I was still nursing you.

“Wait, you were nursing me?” Daphne asked.

“I’m a witch, dear daughter, there’s a charm for that,” Grace answered dismissively.

Anyway, I became the Baron’s wife, and officially your mother. Your father was a loving, attentive father, which I already knew. He was a kind husband and he turned out to be a gentle, marvelous lover. I began to think that perhaps I wasn’t cursed after all.

Grace handed Daphne a third photograph.

“Wow, Mum, when was this taken?” Daphne asked.

“About a year before the midget was born,” Grace replied with a smile.

“You look gorgeous,” Daphne gushed.

“Thank you, dear,” Grace said. “Your father’s love made me feel beautiful. The fact that my broken nose was reset and had healed helped a bit, but most of the difference came from the inside. So, what is it that I always tell you?”

“That real beauty comes from inside,” Daphne recited.

“So, at the risk of undoing everything I tried to explain in this story, I bought you some things in Aberdeen,” Grace said, producing a small box.

“Oh, Mum, I hate it when you do that!” Daphne grumbled.

“Try one on, dear,” Grace insisted.

“Okay, Mum,” Daphne said obediently, taking off the top, tank top and bra she’d been wearing, slipping into a new teal colored bra.

“Adjust yourself and look in the mirror,” Grace commanded.

“Mum! These are magic!” Daphne exclaimed.

“Nonsense, dear, it’s a Muggle product. I assure you that there’s sound engineering and some sleight of hand in the garment, but not a drop of magic,” Grace said with a smirk.

Daphne quickly pulled the tank top on, preened in front of the mirror so she could see from different angles, and then put the other top on.

“Mum, I look huge!”

“Hardly, if we brought the midget up here, she’d look huge and you’d merely look fetching,” Grace explained.

“I’ll try to take that as a compliment,” Daphne said.

Daphne sat and thought a while.

“Won’t he be disappointed when he takes it off -- when I’m not wearing it?” she asked hesitantly.

“Whomever would you mean, dear?” Grace asked innocently.

“Harry, Mum,” Daphne said with exasperation.

“Take this as an unshakable truth, Daphne, when your husband undresses you, he won’t remember what you looked like dressed, and I guarantee you that he won’t ask you to put this back on,” Grace said drolly.

“Why are you doing this, Mum? Am I supposed to seduce him or something?”

“No, Daphne, nothing like that. Sometimes a girl needs a little something to make herself feel confident. It’s like believing in a magic feather.”

“You think this Dumbo is going to fly?”

“Oh, eventually, I’m told that Harry’s quite the flier.”

“I didn’t mean that literally, Mum. Flying is Astoria’s thing, not mine.”

“So now my youngest child has a name?”

“Maybe when I’m feeling confident, I can be a little nicer to my sister, the midget.”

“So, what do you say, Daphne?”

Daphne drew herself up straight. “Thank you, Mother, for once again interfering in my life in a wonderful way.”

“You’re most welcome, dear,” Grace said. “Get some sleep; you need to be fresh tomorrow.”

“Thanks, Mum, I love you.”

“I love you too, dear.”

#@#

Before Harry left the house that morning, he used his mirror to call Hermione, trying to calculate the ten hour time difference between London and Melbourne in his head. He heard a chiming sound; the mirror lit up and then was filled with Hermione’s face.

“Hello, Harry,” she said brightly.

“Is it too late there?” he asked.

“No, it’s about 5:00 in the evening – we won’t eat dinner for at least an hour yet,” Hermione answered. “What’s up?”

“I was wondering if you knew what’s happened to Ron. None of the Weasleys have heard from him.”

“Huh, that’s weird. I’ve talked to him twice on the phone since we last talked. The first time I think he was drunk – he was trying to apologize. The second time he was more coherent. He’s in Macau.”

“Where’s that?” Harry asked.

“It’s in China – it’s a city like Hong Kong, only it’s nominally Portuguese,” Hermione answered.

“What’s he doing there?”

“Well, it seems that during the day he’s working in a casino as a dealer, and in the evenings he’s playing in casinos other than the one that employs him. He seems to be in his element. He wired me a wad of money and says that he’s going to do the same with his family.”

“That’s weird,” Harry said.

“Yeah, well, he says that in Macau he’s considered exotic, and ‘nobody’s heard of Harry Potter or his sidekick.’ I think he’s having some fun, and he doesn’t want to go back home until Molly can pull it together,” Hermione explained.

“Yeah, I’ve been avoiding the Burrow for the same reason. I hired some workmen to repair the Rookery, Luna’s house. It seemed only fair after we’d blown it up. I probably should check in on Arthur and Molly, but I’m not really eager for that yet.”

“Yeah, I understand,” Hermione said.

“So is he wearing one of those eyeshades, like in the movies?

“I think those are Westerns, Harry, but honestly I don’t know what the fashion is in Macau,” Hermione said.

“What, you don’t have a book on that?”

“Bite me, Harry.”

“Hermione, language! Whatever is the world coming to?”

“So, how is the lovely Miss Greengrass?”

“Oh, Astoria’s just fine. It turns out that she’s a pretty fair pianist. I wouldn’t know Dvorak from Debussy, but it really sounded nice,” Harry said.

“That’s not the Miss Greengrass I was asking about Harry, and you know it.”

“She’s good – we’re going on a picnic later today.”

“Behave yourself.”

“What’s that mean? The woman has asked me to marry her; I don’t think she’d object to moderate amounts of hanky or panky, but probably not both at the same time, she is a lady after all.”

“Stick to your day job, Harry, stand up comedy’s not for you.”

“Seriously, she asked me to kiss her last night; she said it would make her happy.”

Hermione smiled knowingly. “Did it?”

“I dunno, I liked it – I think she did too.”

“You know what, Harry? I’m looking forward to the day when your life quiets down.”

“Yeah, let me know when that happens, I don’t think I’ll recognize it.”

“You know I love you, don’t you Harry?”

There was a long silence. Harry looked away from the mirror.

“Yeah, I know, you’ve always had my back.”

“And I always will.”

“Thanks – I’m going to say ‘bye’ now.”

“Bye, Harry, take care,” Hermione said.

Harry touched the mirror with his finger, making it go dark.

“And I love you too, Hermione.”

#@#

Harry spent the rest of the morning with George Weasley, helping with stocking the shelves before the store opened at 11:00, and leading George through a copy of the notebook Sirius had written on the construction of the Marauder’s Map. Eventually Harry took out his mirror.

“George old bean, I’ve been tinkering with this – I can make a mirror using the instructions in the notebook and link it to four different mirrors, but that’s fiddly at best,” Harry said.

“What’s stable?” George asked.

“Two’s really stable,” Harry replied.

“Can’t think of a joke that would use this right now, Harry, but I’ll think of one, maybe. It’s just not the same without Fred.”

“How’s your Mum?”

“She’s not on the potion any more, but she’s still not sleeping well. She needs another grandchild to take her mind off things,” George observed.

“Don’t look at me,” Harry said.

“Seeing anyone, Harry?”

“You ready to make Angelina an honest woman yet?”

George laughed. “Right, I read you loud and clear, your life is none of my business, unless, of course, I want to confess about my various shenanigans with Angelina.”

“Shenanigans?”

George sighed and slumped down. “You know the worst thing?”

“No?”

“I’ve not felt like shenanigans.”

“Bugger,” Harry stated.

“None of that, either.”

Harry paused. ”Can I give you some advice?”

“I’ll brace myself. Can you use the word ‘tits’ in it?”

“Probably not. Anyway, here goes: you know the Veil of Death?”

“I know of it, I’ve never been there,” George said.

“When I was there, I could hear voices behind it – it sounded like I was hearing a party going on down the hall. I haven’t a clue what happens after we die, but I know that the people who love us – watch us, for lack of a better word, and they recognize us. In some way, Fred’s still alive, and he doesn’t want you to die – not yet. Harry paused. “Tits,” he added.

George looked at him for the longest moment and then started to laugh and laugh. Harry looked down and rubbed the back of his neck. “Sorry, I couldn’t figure out how to work that in with what I was going to say.”

A second later, George was hugging him. “Thanks,” he whispered. “I needed that.”

“Right. Can we leave this emotional stuff and get back to work?” Harry asked plaintively.

“Yes, yes we can. Now, can I show this diagram to anyone, or is this an eyes-only project?”

“Who were you thinking of?”

“Oddly enough, Luna, rumour on the grapevine is that she’s fiercely good with runic arrays, she might see something here that I can’t,” George said.

“She sees all sorts of things,” Harry said with a smile.

“I don’t think there’s a Snorkack hiding in the diagram, if that’s what you’re getting at,” George said, breaking into a familiar grin, the first Harry had seen from him in a very long time.

“Sure, let me know what comes of it. I’m going to ring her up later this week,” Harry said.

“How do you do that?” he asked quizzically.

“It’s a Muggle idiom,” Harry explained.

“Oh, a telly-fone,” George said. “I’m thinking of getting one installed.”

“Here, in Diagon Alley?”

“No, at Land’s End, of course here in Diagon Alley, that’s where the shop is,” George huffed.

“I think this comes under ‘it’s easier to obtain forgiveness than permission’ when it comes to asking the Ministry about this.”

“Righto, Harry,” George said, smiling again.

“I gotta go,” Harry said.

“See you next week?”

”Righto,” George said.

#@#

A chime sounded, indicating that someone had just Apparated next to the gate. Daphne closed the ledger with a satisfying thump and said “about time, this job was driving me crazy.”

Grabbing a sun hat, she raced out the door.

“Harry, you’ve come to save me from the fearsome ledger,” she exclaimed dramatically.

“What ledger, and do I need a sword?” Harry asked, playing along.

“Only if you can do accounting with it.”

Harry was walking with his hands in his pockets, so Daphne kissed him on the cheek and then slipped her hand into the crook of his elbow.

“The girl from town who normally keeps the books is on holiday, so Mum asked me to make all the entries and get it to balance,” Daphne explained. “I thought I was fine, until I discovered £600 missing from the accounts payable. I just found it before you arrived.”

“You know accounting?” Harry asked.

“I wouldn’t attempt it if I didn’t,” Daphne said. “I was raised to run this estate, or to run someone else’s when the time came. I can balance the books, drive the tractors, shear sheep, and haul produce to market in the small trucks along with etiquette, deportment, ballroom dancing and vacuous small talk. I can cook adequately, I can sew, but I can’t do needlework, I can sing but I can’t play piano. While we’re at it, I have good teeth and I’m told I don’t snore at night,” she said, making a manic smile while twisting her finger in a dimple.

“Okay, I get it, you’re highly qualified,” Harry said with a laugh.

“Thank you for noticing, kind sir,” Daphne said.

“Think nothing of it, my lady.”

“No one’s home this morning; Mum’s in town, the midget is having lessons with her piano teacher, Father’s in Ireland, doing some sort of manly business transactions, leaving the house to me, substitute chatelaine and bookkeeper. Let me get my purse, we need to go to the grocers.”

Daphne dashed into the house and a minute later returned with a small clutch purse and some string bags.

“Come this way, we need to drive into town,” Daphne said, heading to the back of the house.

After a brisk walk they reached the carriage house and Daphne slid open the door with clatter, revealing an old, but well maintained Land Rover.

“We don’t lock it, so get in,” Daphne said.

“You drive?”

“Yes, Harry, weren’t you listening earlier? I’m eighteen, I have a C-1 license, and I’ve been driving here on the estate since I could see over the steering wheel.”

“Okay, that’s something I need to work on, I guess,” Harry said.

“Harry, if you live only in the Wizarding world then Floo and Apparation will get you by, but if you live in the Wizarding world and the mundane world, you really need to learn how to get around like the Muggles do,” Daphne said.

Harry got into the car and buckled himself into the seat.

Daphne smiled. “Good, we’re not going to have a fight about safety.”

“Wizards are tough, but I’ve seen enough hospitals to last me for a long while,” Harry said.

#@#

The drive into town was uneventful. Daphne found a parking space and then handed half of the string bags to Harry. They walked through an open-air market and then visited in turn a bakery and a butcher shop, returning to the car with several bags each.

Once they were on the road again Harry broke the comfortable silence.

“Daphne, what’s ‘Sassenach’ mean?”

“Ah, so you did hear the muttering,” she replied. “Literally, it means ‘Saxon’ and it’s what Highlanders call Englishmen. It’s not entirely pejorative, but if the townspeople like you, you won’t hear it much. If you were proficient in Scots Gaelic, you would have also understood people muttering ‘Baron’s daughter’ and ‘boyfriend.’ I may have miscalculated, coming into town with you.”

“Am I embarrassing you?” Harry asked.

“No, that’s not it, I just know that you like your privacy,” Daphne said. “This is the first time I’ve been seen in public with a male my age who’s not a relative. Apparently it’s a gossip-worthy event.

“The Statute of Secrecy is a funny thing around here – a lot of the Muggles know a fair bit about our world, and they have a pretty good idea which laddies and lassies are actually wizards and witches, but it’s not something they talk about,” Daphne explained.

“Any problem with witch burnings?” Harry asked.

“No, that was mostly a Lowlands problem a couple of centuries ago. The Saxons historically really liked to burn witches while the Scots were more live and let live, unless we’re talking Dark Wizards, which they had no problem feeding into the fire. It’s something you should ask Father about, he’s written some papers on the topic.”

“So, are you a Scot or a witch?” Harry asked.

“Perceptive question, that’s one of the things I wanted to talk to you about today, we might as well start now.

“I am a witch. I can speak both Scots Gaelic and English with the proper accents. I am the Baron’s daughter. My brothers died before I was born. They were supposed to take over the Baron’s duties, but they can’t, so I’ve always known that I’d have to take over the estate, which means that I also have a responsibility to the people of the area.

“What would you say the median age is for the Muggles in the town?”

“Fifty, sixty?” Harry guessed.

“It’s about that. The people who are born here, most of them move away for a job or for school, and then never return. A few new folk have moved into the far edges of the area, but they’re largely just commuters to the bigger cities like Aberdeen. Father’s tried for years to invest in businesses in the area so that people won’t have to leave to get jobs. That and his rents policy have made him pretty popular.”

“What’s his rents policy?” Harry asked.

“The tenant farmers don’t pay a set amount of rent for the property. At the New Year they pay a nominal coin, usually an old six-pence, the silver ones, and then after harvest they pay a portion of their profits above a certain cutoff. If you clear £20,000 on a good year, you owe 10 percent rent on the net profit above £15,000. Years that the tenants do well, we are pretty flush. Years that they don’t do well; they pay no rent beyond the six-pence,” Daphne said.

Harry pondered that for a while. “I can see why that would be popular – I thought rent would be a fixed amount per month.”

“That’s how it’s normally done,” Daphne agreed.

“So, are you going to become the Baroness?” Harry asked.

“Technically, Father is the Earl of Marr, with two r’s, not to be confused with the Earl of Mar with one r or the Earl of Mar and Kellie, again with one r. His title is so old it doesn’t even show up in the records any more. I don’t really know why the townspeople call him the Baron instead of the Earl, but that’s the way it is. So, to answer your question, when Father dies, I will probably become the Countess of Marr, but the townspeople will probably call me the Baroness,” Daphne said, looking over briefly at Harry to smile.

“I don’t give two pence about the title, but I care about the people.”

Daphne carefully pulled off the road and then drove into a field, heading towards a grove of trees.

“Here’s our picnic spot. It’s got a lovely view.”

Daphne got out of the truck and opened the back gate, pulling out a blanket and a wicker basket. Handing the basket to Harry, she then pulled out her share of the string bags and walked towards the grove. Harry picked up his share of bags and followed.

“The view from behind’s not bad either,” he muttered under his breath.

#@#

Daphne carefully spread the blanket on the ground and then gracefully sat and began pulling items from the basket, knives, cutting boards, bottles and plates and napkins. Closing the wicker basket, she then used it as an impromptu table.

“How’s your Scourgify?” she asked.

“Ah, not so good,” Harry said. “I tend to blast things across the room.”

Daphne smiled. “Hold out your hands,” she commanded.

Harry did so and Daphne cast a silent, wandless Scourgify on his hands.

“Wandless and silent, I’m impressed,” Harry said.

“You shouldn’t be. People think that wandless magic is hard, it just takes practice. Everyone who learns to Apparate has actually learned wandless magic, they just don’t know it. Take away the average witch or wizard’s wand and they will thoroughly believe that they can’t Apparate, so they don’t,” Daphne said.

“Hmph,” Harry said, pulling two wands, one from either sleeve. “Hold these please.”

He then concentrated and Apparated across the grove.

“I’ll be switched,” he exclaimed.

“You do know that asking me to hold your wands is a big thing in traditional Wizarding culture, don’t you Harry?”

Harry sighed. “What does it mean?”

“It means that you trust me,” Daphne said, smiling with some nervousness.

“Is there any reason why I shouldn’t?”

“I sincerely hope that there will never be a reason you wouldn’t trust me.”

“Okay,” Harry said, Apparating back to the blanket and sitting down. “You can keep them during lunch if it makes you feel important.”

Daphne stuck her tongue out at him and tossed his wands into his lap.

“I guess not.”

Daphne cleaned her own hands and then began slicing bread, meat and cheese. “What do you like on your sandwiches?”

“Ham and cheddar? That would mean mayonnaise and brown mustard,” Harry said. “But I’m not fussy. I didn’t have many condiments the year that I was on the run from the Ministry.”

“Father made sure that everyone in the family could wandless cast at least three charms, curses or hexes. Even the midget managed to do that before she started Hogwarts,” Daphne said with some pride.

“What are yours?”

“Initially, I worked on summoning, banishing and light,” Daphne explained. “Later I figured out the sticking charm and the cleansing charm.”

“So when you blasted the Inquisition Squad, that was a banishing and then a sticking charm?” Harry asked.

Daphne looked at him quizzically. “Where did you hear about that?”

“From a friend,” Harry said.

“Okay,” Daphne said grudgingly. “Yeah, a banisher to throw them off the ‘puffs’ then I used my wand to silence them, then I stuck them on the ceiling.”

“Did you Obliviate them?”

“Do you think I’m the kind of witch that would do that?” she asked with a pout.

“Yes,” Harry said with a grin.

“Yeah, I did – they all lost five minutes of their life, complete blank, nothing fabricated. I’d do it again, too,” Daphne said.

“My kind of girl,” Harry said appreciatively.

“Why thank you,” Daphne said demurely.

“Getting back to your question; I’m a witch, and I’m the Baron’s daughter.

“I don’t give a fig about the long running distrust between Highlander and Lowlander, or Scot and Englishmen; I figure all that happened a long time ago. I care a lot about the people living in Marr today; because that’s something the Baron does.”

Harry nodded, and then accepted the sandwich Daphne handed to him, putting half of it down on a plate beside him. After finishing the sandwich he picked up some apples, inviting Daphne with a gesture to clean them, and then proceeded to slice and core them, handing half of the wedges to her.

“Is this what happens on a picnic?”

“Is that a Pinocchio question?”

“Yeah.”

“A picnic is a meal shared outside. If it were a multi-family event, there’d be games before and afterwards. If it were a Greengrass family picnic, Mum and Father would be keeping the two girls apart or trying to insure that we didn’t wander off and make mischief. It’s pretty simple, really,” Daphne said.

“It’s my first.”

“Oh, I guess the wolves didn’t do picnics.”

“Actually, that’s a slander on wolves. I think in many ways it would have been preferable to be raised by a pack,” Harry said lightly. “The Dursleys were more like rats, maybe, or some other form of vermin.”

“Well, most of us can’t pick our family,” Daphne said sagely. “Speaking of which, the midget reads too many cheap romance novels, and thinks that we must be having a torrid affair with lots of bodice ripping.”

“That might be a bit hard,” Harry said. “I don’t know what a bodice is, or why I’d want to rip one.”

“You’re not kidding?”

“Nope.”

“It’s like a vest or a sleeveless jacket worn above a skirt and on top of a blouse or other top. It would usually lace up the front.”

“Why would you want to rip it, if it’s laced?”

Daphne put her head down and covered her face while she began to laugh.

“Oh, Harry, you are so precious,” she said.

“It’s a figure of speech; imagine an amorous couple who are too impatient to unlace the bodice, or if you read the midget’s novels, the hulking hero is ripping the bodice off so he can have his way with the heroine who is weakly protesting.”

“That sounds too much like rape in my book. Getting back to the bodice, wouldn’t it just be easier to lift her skirts?” Harry asked.

Daphne went back to giggling. “No, it’s a rule , in the midget’s novels the bodice always rips.”

“Wouldn’t that kind of be a giveaway as to what they’d been doing?”

“Oh, Harry, don’t ever change,” Daphne said, rising to her knees and leaning forward to kiss him soundly.

“I did something right?” Harry said.

“Yeah, you could say that.”

#@#

After cleaning up the picnic lunch, the blanket, basket and leftovers were returned to the truck and they went for a walk.

“What if Malfoy had inherited your betrothal?”

“Yuck, you have a sick imagination.”

“So I’ve been told. Answer the question. Please?”

Daphne sighed. “My family would have pleaded with Gringotts to not disclose the betrothal as an asset of the estate, and I would have refused to go through with it.”

“At the price of your magic?”

“At the price of my magic. It would be humiliating to be magically dominated by the midget for the rest of my life, but not as demeaning as living with Malfoy.”

“But you would have married Voldemort.”

“Only to protect my family. He wanted the grimoire, not me, so I suspect I would only have only spent one night in his bed, if that long. I have nightmares about it still.”

“Anything you want to share?”

“Oh, they’re great – Voldemort and Malfoy Senior holding a ginormous big snake as a battering ram, trying to break into my pants – that’s a recurring nightmare. Being dressed as a bride and finding myself in a newly dug grave, that’s been a repeater too,” Daphne said.

“The snake was real,” Harry said. “He had a familiar, named Nagini, it was a ginormous big snake, kind of like a big python, only it was venomous. Snape died when Riddle commanded Nagini to bite him.”

“Do I want to know how you know this?”

“Probably not.”

“So, ask your question, Harry.”

“Why me?”

“Because you’re you. You care about people enough to sacrifice for them. You’re kind and honorable and funny. Because you loved a strange little house-elf enough to dig his grave by hand. Because you think family is important, even though you didn’t have much of one growing up. You’re not trying to get into my pants for the bragging rights; you’re not after my family’s money or title. You being cute and magically powerful doesn’t hurt either.”

“How’d you find out about Dobby?”

“Elves talk, Harry, even if most people don’t listen.”

“Where do you see yourself going, and what’s my part?”

“Well, I told you about Marr, the place needs jobs so that families move here and their children stay if they want to.

“Wizarding Britain is screwed up, stuck in a Victorian, bigoted mindset. The Muggleborn leave, because they can’t find jobs and they eventually figure out that nothing’s going to change. The gene pool for Purebloods is shrinking; in another generation we’ll start to see birth defects and more and more squibs.

“We need to provide a place where people can walk both worlds and the Muggleborn don’t have to leave the country to find a place where they can be accepted as first-generation magic users. If you and I put our money and influence together we can invest in businesses, generate jobs and promote change. I’m the Baron’s daughter, and I’ll do what I can for the people of Marr, but I’m also a witch who cares about Magical Britain.

“We’ll have a family, we will learn to love each other, and we’ll have clever, beautiful kids more obnoxious than the midget, who will succeed in both the Magical world and the mundane world.

“We can do this, Harry, together.”

“Has anyone told you that you’re beautiful when you’re worked up?”

Daphne looked down at the ground and chuckled.

“No, beautiful and Daphne are not words that often are found in the same sentence, but I like it when you say it. My mum is pushing forty and is still smoking hot, my sister’s already a hottie, and it will only get worse. I’m… I’m just me,” Daphne protested.

Harry looked like he was about to speak, but stopped himself.

“I, I like your vision of the future. I don’t know if it can be done, but it certainly needs trying,” Harry said.

“Do, or do not, there is no try,” Daphne croaked.

“Thank you, Yoda,” Harry said.

“What about your part in my vision?” Daphne asked.

“It’s attractive, maybe not the obnoxious kid part, but the rest of it is pretty good,” Harry said.

“You do know that I love the midget and she loves me?”

“If you say so,” Harry said.

“I do say so; we just have this dysfunctional competition. I’m hoping we grow out of it someday.”

“What’s the latest competition?”

Daphne rolled her eyes. “This is so embarrassing, but I want to tell you the truth.”

“Would it help if you looked away when you told me?” Harry asked.

“No,” Daphne said, stopping in mid-stride. She turned to face him and took his hands in hers. “Harry, look me in the eyes. Mum and the midget went out bra shopping yesterday.

“The midget came home crowing because she’s now wearing a c-cup bra, and she’s still growing. I’m done growing and I’m wearing a b-cup bra with a little bit of room to spare.

“Okay, now you can look at my boobs.”

Harry closed his eyes instead and began to chuckle.

“Try to take this the right way, Daphne. I – don’t – care.”

Daphne hugged him, pushed herself away from him far enough to kiss him and then hugged him again.

“You’re a girl; you have girl parts, nice girl parts I might say, which are being pressed against me right now and I’m finding that I like that. Hermione says that the only times breasts are relevant is when it comes time to nurse a baby, and that there’s no correlation between size and ability to feed a child.”

“Hermione, I so owe you,” Daphne. “Wait, did I just say that out loud?”

“Yeah, you did, which reminds me,” Harry said, pulling away from Daphne and digging in his pocket.

He pulled a small, clumsily wrapped package from his pocket and put it in her hand.

Daphne let go of Harry’s hand and unwrapped the package, shoving the paper into her pocket. It looked like a compact mirror that might be found in any lady’s purse. She opened the mirror and saw two dots painted on the right and left sides, one green, one brown.

“Is this what I think it is?” Daphne asked.

“Only if you’re thinking that it’s a two channel communication mirror. You’re holding the first working prototype.”

“That’s amazing!” Daphne exclaimed.

“Nah, I was only fiddling with Spellwork my father and godfather came up with when they were in school,” Harry said.

“Who’s the green dot?”

“Me.”

“Who’s the brown dot?”

“Hermione, those are the only working communication mirrors that I know of.”

“Can I talk to you both at one time?”

“Eehhh, not reliably, I’m still working on that. Having two channels open works about half the time. The most channels I could fit on one mirror was four channels, linking one mirror to four other mirrors. After that, it just stops working. I don’t understand the magic enough to figure out the problem. It almost tempted me to go back to Hogwarts for another year, but I figure if I need charms and runic expertise now, I can rent it by the hour,” Harry explained.

“Harry, I still say that this is amazing. This is the type of thing that could spawn a new industry.”

“Maybe, it could also land me in Azkaban for violation of the Statute of Secrecy.”

“Harry, that just proves my point, Wizarding Britain has to change or die, and I’m not interested in it dying.”

“You’re doing it again,” Harry said.

“What?”

“You’re getting worked up.”

“Which means you think I’m… beautiful,” Daphne said, looking embarrassed.

“Yeah, passion is exciting – which in this case is good. Of course, the late Bellatrix Lestrange was passionate too, which was also exciting, but not so good.”

“Don’t ever change, Harry.”

“Never? Not even acquiring better manners?”

“Well, we shall make an exception for that,” Daphne said, speaking in her ‘royal’ voice. “Wait, the sun’s going down. Where did the afternoon go?”

Harry looked down at their linked hands.

“I think it went right here.”

“Can you spend the night?” Daphne asked before considering how that could sound. “I mean, in our guest room?”

“I don’t see why not, I’ll just have to call Andi and let her know I won’t be home.”

“Good, I’d like to be able to make good on my promise to take you riding.”

“I’d like that.”

“Plus, it will drive the midget crazy.”

“No comment.”

 

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Author Notes:

There is an area in the highlands of Scotland known as Marr, and a town called Alford.  There are two Earls of Mar and one Earl of Mar and Kellie.  The Earl of Marr (with two r’s) is a figment of my imagination, as is the town of Alford and the countryside of the Marr area in this story.

Stories have their own pacing - if this were a roller-coaster, we'd be at the top of the really big hill right now, getting ready for the big drop.

If you have a question to ask of any of the characters, please feel free to ask them a question in the reviews.  They may well answer you in the reply.

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