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Author Notes:

Thanks, as always to GardenGirl and to Jeconais.

By right of conquest

Chapter the Second

Part 1 – Veils and Tales

Queenie’s diary – May 1998 – enciphered entry

Some days just stink. In my case, the week has been wretched.

According to the old ways, the betrothal is a bigger deal than the wedding. After the betrothal all that was really necessary to finish the transaction was to bed the bride. That didn’t mean that there weren’t wedding ceremonies, but all the hoopla that goes on today was certainly not the norm. Suffice it to say, after the hand fasting, I lived in dread that each day would bring a summons from Tom Riddle or one of his mouth-breathing morons. The summons, of course, would be to his bed.

Riddle was not known to keep mistresses, so the best case scenario would be a quick bonk and then he’d probably send me away as an inconvenient bride that couldn’t be divorced or executed. Needless to say, the notion that this was the best case scenario wasn’t filling me with a lot of joyful anticipation.

On the plus side, Astoria and I were safe at Hogwarts as neither Snape nor the Carrows, being vassals of Riddle, could lift a hand against us.

October led to November and then December, and still no summons. The drop dead date, of course, was the Solstice, but that was months away yet. The Wizarding world, in Britain at least, was going to hell in a hand basket, but the family was safe. That was what was important – I told myself that several times a day – every day.

In the new year there was the insane hope that came with the whispering about Potter being the Chosen One and that somehow he’d vanquish Riddle, but having come face to face with Riddle, I didn’t put a lot of stock in any of that.

When the rumors began to fly that Potter was back at Hogwarts, a glimmer of hope appeared, no matter how much I tried to convince myself that the hope was delusional. I didn’t expect the battle at the castle. Given the nature of my promises, I was unable to take up arms against Riddle’s vassals, but that didn’t stop me from darting out of the shadows to pull aside the wounded and rendering aid when I could. I was in the Great Hall when it happened. I can’t say that I saw it up close and personal, but I did see the spells crash and watched as Riddle’s spell rebounded against him.

With Riddle dead, I didn’t think much about my betrothal – I figured with him dead, the deal was off.

I couldn’t marry a dead man, could I?

It was Monday this week when we got summoned to Gringotts. It was worded as an invitation, of course, but I don’t think Mother or Father gave any serious thought to declining the call. A fairly good looking human spoke to Mother and Father (I was sitting meekly in the back row, practicing being a good little witch daughter) and announced that I was now an asset of Riddle’s estate, and my promise to wed had somehow transferred to Potter.

The words ‘ I belong to you, we will wed by the solstice ’ came to mind.

I don’t remember much of the meeting after that particular bit, as I was doing my best to not hyperventilate. We were free to back out of the deal, of course, at the price of losing my magic.

I reckoned I could live without magic – Father always insisted that I had to be able to navigate the mundane world, and in fact my plan after Hogwarts was further schooling at Aberdeen, after I’d sharpened my maths and chemistry.

When we got home Father was trying to plot out my course as a witch without magic, when Mother pulled us both up short.

“She should go through with it with Potter,” Mother announced.

“What?” I shrieked.

“He’s not a bad match, Queenie. By reputation he is kind and polite; he’s obviously magically powerful. He’s not a Pureblood idiot, and the girl he was rumored to be sweet on is now out of the picture,” Mother said.

Did I ever mention that Mother was a Slytherin? Dad was a Ravenclaw and most of the rest of the family alternated between Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, but Mother was a Slytherin through and through.

“Right, Mum, I have to walk up to a boy I haven’t said twelve words to in seven years of school and convince him that he needs to marry me. How hard could that be?”
“Oh, Daphne,” Mother cooed. “You’re selling yourself short again.”

“Mum, I’m just being realistic. I’m taller than he is, my bum’s too big and I’m just plain - I’m the girl most likely to get lost in the back row of any group photos. We’re talking Summer Solstice here, Mum, and I don’t even know if he’s the marrying kind.”

“Mister Rufus from Gringotts says that he’s going to be coming into the bank this week. You can talk to him when he does.”

“Right, Mother ,” I said, calling her by the title I only used when I was put out with her. “I can see it now: ‘Hello Harry, dear, you don’t know me, but we really should get married by the Solstice. I’ve got good teeth, I’m not insane, I am a woman, I’m not too repulsive, and I’m told I don’t snore at night.’ Is that what I’m supposed to say when I talk to him?”

“Of course not, Daphne. We’ll think of something better.”

That Wednesday Mr. Rufus told us that Potter would be at Gringotts in the morning. Today is Thursday – since breakfast I’ve thrown up three times.

On the bright side, my control for the ‘Scourgify’ charm is now nothing short of amazing. I’m going to put this biro down now and take the Floo to the Alley.

No pressure, no pressure at all.

#@#

“Mr. Rufus, could you please take our guests to the conference room across the hall?” Ragnok asked. “Mr. Potter, on the conference table you’ll find a summary of your combined holdings as well as the Bones grimoire. I took the liberty of assuming that you would want to return the book to your classmate. Ladies and gentlemen, I bid you good day.”

Ragnok returned to the chair behind his desk.

Mr. Rufus held the door open with one hand while gesturing to an open doorway across the hallway. Harry was fairly certain that the door was not there when he’d first come to Ragnok’s office, but the notion of rooms that appeared and disappeared was not unfamiliar to him.

#@#

The conference room was simple, with an understated elegance. A long, perfectly polished table occupied most of the room with a small buffet close to the door. The buffet held a coffee service and an array of pastries.

“I can’t say anything good about the coffee,” Mr. Rufus stated, “but the doughnuts are acceptable.”

He smiled at each of them in turn and then sat back in a corner, looking blandly disinterested.

Daphne tried to pour a glass of water, but her hands were shaking. Andromeda swept in and took the glass from her hand, filling it from the carafe on the table.

“Let’s sit down and talk,” Andromeda announced. Looking at Mr. Rufus she asked, “Do you need to be here?”

“I’m on duty, Mistress Tonks,” he said, as if that were a complete explanation.

“Surely you don’t think that Miss Greengrass is going to attack us, do you?” Andromeda asked.

Mr. Rufus said nothing in reply, spreading his hand in a “what can I do?” gesture. “My opinion on that topic is moot.”

Daphne moved to the side of the table opposite Andromeda and Harry.

“Does anyone mind if I take off this ridiculous veil?” she asked.

Andromeda and Harry both murmured assent and Daphne took off the veil, folding it carefully before setting it on the back of a chair. She then took off the black robe she’d been wearing as well, revealing a grey belted skirt and a dark blue blouse. She sat down and placed her hands together.

“You have no idea how nervous I am right now,” she said, looking from Andromeda to Harry.

“Take a big breath,” Andromeda commanded. “Now let it out. Now tell us the story of why you’re here today.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Tonks,” Daphne said.

“It’s all about magic,” she said, reaching for the Bones grimoire, holding her hand over the cover of the book before picking it up. She then began to tell the tale of the Greengrass grimoire and how she’d ended up handfasted to Tom Riddle. It was an involved, detailed story and once she got into the rhythm of storytelling she visibly relaxed and told a captivating tale. Harry ate two doughnuts during the story, but skipped the coffee.

“So, in summary, your family has this old book of magic,” Harry asked.

“Uh-huh,” Daphne answered.

“But none of you can speak about what’s in it to anyone outside of the family,” Harry continued.

Daphne nodded.

“And your parents negotiated your betrothal, binding Riddle and his minions to do no harm to your family, throwing in the grimoire as some sort of dowry.”

“That’s it in a nutshell,” Daphne said, flashing a nervous smile.

“I think you’re insane,” Harry said calmly. “I also think that you must love your family a lot and that you’re a very brave girl.”

“That’s all good, right? Insane, loving, brave?” Daphne asked rhetorically.

“Before all of this, what were your plans after Hogwarts?” Andromeda asked.

“Our family owns a lot of farmland, worked by tenant farmers. I was going to study privately and then enroll at the University of Aberdeen. It has a very good programme in soil science,” Daphne answered.

“What would you do if you lost your magic?” Harry asked.

“Until recently I hadn’t given that a lot of thought. I think I would probably do pretty much the same thing, except I’d look at Apiary Science,” Daphne said.

“Apiary?”

“Bees, beekeeping; honeybees are very important in agriculture,” Daphne explained.

“Wasn’t your family worried about what Riddle would do with the magic in your grimoire?” Harry asked.

“For reasons that I can’t explain,” Daphne began.

“Because you can’t talk about it,” Harry interrupted.

“Exactly; for reasons I can’t explain, we thought that Riddle wouldn’t be able to use most of the magic. Sure, we thought that he was powerful enough, but the magics in the grimoire are not exactly the sort of things that Dark Lords would use on their path towards domination,” Daphne said with a smirk.

“How very Slytherin of your family,” Harry said.

“Why thank you,” Daphne replied with a smile.

Harry sat up and looked straight into Daphne’s eyes.

“So, apart from saving you from losing your magic, why should I marry you?” Harry asked.

“I was rehearsing an answer to that question all last night,” Daphne began.

She took a deep breath, held it, and then let it out.

“So, here it goes; the ‘ten-reasons-why-you-should-marry-Daphne’ speech.

“You would get the grimoire, and more importantly, you’d get me.

“Magically, I’m very powerful, and I would teach you about the old ways, not the pureblood idiocy that infests the Ministry but the foundations of our magic that aren’t really taught at Hogwarts.

“I will be a good wife; I will be loyal to you and I will never leave you. I will be the mother to your children and our children will be raised in a house filled with love and they will be able to navigate both the mundane and magical world.

“If I didn’t forget anything, I think that’s ten reasons.”

“What about money?” Harry asked.

“I’m a Greengrass, I don’t need your money, and I suspect that you don’t need mine either,” Daphne said.

“What about love?”

“I’ll be the first to admit that we are not in love today, Harry – I think we barely know each other. But I don’t think that’s a problem.

“That sounds terrible, but let me explain. Growing up, I attended many weddings of our tenants’ children. The minister was fond of saying that it was not love that sustained marriage, but marriage that sustained enduring love. I believe that’s true, it certainly was true with my own parents.

“Today I only admire you; it’s a brave man who walks to his death knowing that only his death will protect the people he loves. That’s something I think I understand,” Daphne said, placing her palms flat on the table.

The room was silent.

“I think you do,” Harry said finally. He stood and gathered up the grimoire and the leather portfolio from the table.

“I came to Gringotts today to withdraw enough from my vault that I could finish fixing up my godfather’s house. I didn’t expect that I’d be discussing marrying someone I don’t really know. When’s the solstice?”

“It’s June 21st,” Daphne answered.

“I’ll think about it,” Harry said.

Daphne let out a breath and leaned back in her chair, eyes closed.

“Thank you Harry, you don’t know how much that means to me.”

“How do I get in touch with you?” Harry asked.

“Do you have a phone?” Daphne asked.

“Andromeda has one,” Harry replied.

Daphne reached into the folds of her robe and pulled out a card. “Here’s my number.”

#@#

Part 2

Due Diligence

Harry sprinkled Floo powder on the small fire burning in Andromeda’s hearth and repeated the sequence of numbers he’d found on a note tucked into the Bones’ grimoire. “Four oh, six oh, five oh, one, one, one,” he enunciated as clearly as possible.

“Please state your name and the name of the person you are calling,” a thin tinny voice called out from the flames.

“Harry Potter calling for Miss Susan Bones,” Harry said.

“Please stand by.”

“Hey, Harry!” Susan Bones said as her face appeared in the flames.

“May I come through?” Harry asked.

“If you don’t mind that I look like a charwoman, c’mon over,” Susan said cheerily.

Harry stepped into one hearth and out another, entering a large empty room strewn with drop cloths and ladders. Susan was dressed in an old men’s shirt and jeans with a bandana covering her hair, except for the strawberry blonde plait that hung down the back.

“Welcome to Aunty’s house, minus Aunty, of course,” Susan said with bravado.

“You going to live here?” he asked.

“I’m not sure,” she replied. “I might rent it out after I get it habitable again.”

“I’m doing the same thing with my godfather’s house. I’m pretty certain that I don’t want to live there, but it needs a lot of work before it’s fit for humans. Death Eaters trashed the place.”

“Yeah, same here. Bastards, the lot of them. After a very fair trial, in which the truth is painfully forced out of them, I want them to rot in Azkaban.” Susan hissed.

“I couldn’t agree more, Susan,” Harry said.

“Yeah, you’d know, wouldn’t you,” she said, wrapping her paint brush in parchment paper. “Let’s go to the kitchen.”

“You lose some weight?” Harry asked as he followed her into the kitchen.

“You’re not supposed to comment on a lady’s weight or age, Harry,” Susan said, waggling her finger at him.

“You look good,” he explained.

“Thanks,” she replied. “I’ve lost about a stone. I’ve been doing most of the work here at the house by myself. It’s very satisfying – at the end of the day I can see progress. So, what brings you here, and how did you get that Floo number?”

Harry unwrapped the paper covering the Bones grimoire and handed the book to her. “Returning something to you; Gringotts gave me the number.”

“Where did you get this?” Susan asked in amazement. “After Aunty was gone I searched the house and her office and never found it.”

“It seems that I ended up inheriting Tom Riddle’s property. I’m returning what I can to its rightful owners.”

“Thanks, Harry,” Susan said, as she put the book on the counter. “Can I give you a hug?”

“Sure,” Harry said as she wrapped her arms around him.

“You have no idea what this means to me – wait, you probably do know what this means to me, don’t you?”

“Yeah, Susan, I do. I was eleven before I ever saw a picture of my parents,” he explained.

“Tea, biscuits?” Susan asked opening and shutting cupboard doors.

“Uh, tea, no biscuits,” Harry replied. “Let me change the subject.”

“Okay, shoot,” Susan said as she filled a tea kettle with water.

“What do you know about Daphne Greengrass?”

“Ooooh! Very interesting that you should ask that, Harry Potter,” Susan said with a smile.

“How’s that?”

“She called here just last week asking the same thing about you,” Susan said, a sly smile on her face. “If you were a pureblood from one of the really old families, I’d think that someone was negotiating betrothal.”

Susan’s expression went serious when she saw the stricken look on Harry’s face. “That’s it, isn’t it? How is this happening?”

“It’s a long story, Susan, and I’m not really comfortable talking about it, and I’d appreciate it if you kept this under your kerchief. I’m used to people talking about me, but I don’t want people talking about her; she doesn’t deserve that.”

“Like you do?”

“Point taken.”

“Well, I told Daphne that you were shy, totally clueless about women, and essentially Muggleborn because of how you were raised. I also told her that you were kind, honorable, magically very powerful, and certifiably insane. Tell me, Harry, did you really ride a dragon out of Gringotts?” Susan asked.

“Yeah, I really rode a dragon out of Gringotts – and I really just authorized Gringotts to withdraw a healthy sum of galleons from my vault to replace that dragon, too,” Harry admitted.

“See, proves my point. From anyone else I wouldn’t believe a story like that, but for you, it’s consistent with all the other wild stories about you that just happen to be true,” Susan said. She then turned to pull the kettle off the heat and poured boiling water into the teapot she’d prepared earlier. “How do you take your tea?”

“Sugar, no cream. What’s this ‘magically very powerful’ business?”

“Harry, you were capable of making a corporeal Patronus when you were thirteen, and then you held off a herd of Dementors later that year. That’s real power.”

“Why is that important?”

“Magical families with strong children want to find matches that are equally strong,” Susan explained.

“So that’s the magical equivalent of having a lot of sex appeal?” Harry asked.

“Something like that – if you’re magically powerful, a lot of other shortcomings are overlooked,” Susan answered. “So, what do you want to know about Daphne?”

“I have no idea,” Harry said with a small laugh. “Everything?”

“Well, she’s a girl,” Susan drawled.

“Yeah, I figured that out on my own,” Harry said. “I think it was the skirt and how she looked in the blouse that gave it away.”

“She’s quiet – shy, kind of like you. She’s very bright, but not obnoxious about it. She was in a study group with a bunch of Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs for Arithmancy, Runes and Potions for years. That’s where I first met her in second year. She tutored some kids a few years behind her. She hates Malfoy with a passion,” Susan explained.

“Who were her friends?”

“I don’t think she had any friends in Slytherin, not in her year at least. Malfoy made sure of that.

“I remember fifth year when Umbridge formed her little inquisitor death squads, Malfoy was tormenting a bunch of second year Hufflepuffs. Daphne came out of nowhere and blasted the inquisitors down the hall and then stuck them to the ceiling. I thought Umbridge would have her hide for that, but nothing happened. I don’t think the inquisitors wanted Umbridge to know that a little geeky-looking girl blasted her little darlings without using a wand. Maybe she Obliviated them. I don’t know for sure. I was busy getting the ‘puffs back to their dorm. If I’d had any doubts before, after that I figured she was all right in my book. She has a few friends in Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, nobody really close, but she is easy to get along with, if you could get her to talk.”

“What do you know about her family?”

“Dad’s some sort of Scottish noble, owns a bunch of farms and orchards. He has a lot of business dealings with Muggles. Most of his tenants are Muggles. Her dad lost his wife and his sons during the first war, so he’s not inclined to sympathize with the pureblood idiots or the Death Eaters. Growing up I’d see her at some of the social gatherings when Aunty would drag me to them over the years,” Susan said, pouring tea into two cups.

“Did her dad remarry? She mentioned something about her mum, speaking in the present tense,” Harry said.

“So, you have been speaking with the lovely Miss Greengrass,” Susan said coyly.

Harry raised his eyebrows at her.

“I’m sorry, Harry, I couldn’t resist teasing you a bit. Yeah, her dad remarried after the war. The current Madam Greengrass is her step-mum, and Astoria is her half-sister. Are you gonna tell me what this is all about?”

“Uh, I’d really rather not,” Harry said.

“For you, Harry, I will zip my lips. Why aren’t you asking Hermione these questions?”
“That’s easy – she’s still in Australia.”
“Well, I’m glad you came by. What are you doing these days? Are you going to go back to Hogwarts for the seventh year you missed?” Susan asked.

“Not very likely; I can’t think of any reason why I’d need to take my NEWT exams,” Harry said. “Shacklebolt wants me to work for the Ministry, but I’m done with being anybody’s poster boy. I’m doing the same thing you’re doing – fixing the damage done to a house I’m not sure I’m going to live in – it keeps my hands and my mind busy.”

“Is that the only thing keeping you busy these days, Harry?” Susan asked

“Pretty much – when I’m not playing construction worker with a kinda strange old house elf, I’m playing godfather to my year-old godson. It’s really exciting; you’ll probably see it all in an article in the next Witch Weekly,” Harry said, before gulping down the rest of his tea. “Thanks for the information. I’ve got to get back to work. We’re having some plumbers in and I need to make sure that Kreacher doesn’t lock them in the cellar.”

“Harry?”

“Yeah, Susan?”

“If there’s a ceremony, will you invite me?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about Susan, but if there are invitations, I’ll make sure you’re at the top of the list.”

“Thanks, Harry.”

#@#

Part Three

A walk in the park

Grace Greengrass put down her book, slipping a bookmark between the pages before closing it.

“Queenie dear, making faces at the phone isn’t going to make it ring,” she said.

“What? Oh. I wasn’t growling at the phone, Mum, I was thinking,” Daphne said.

“Oh?”

“Susan Bones sent me a note; it said Harry came by to talk.”

“So, it’s ‘Harry’ now, is it?” Grace asked.

“Mum, whether I like it or not, I’m still betrothed, the only thing that’s different is that instead of being bound to a monster, I’m bound to a young man who I think is about as frightened as I am,” Daphne said quietly.

“What were Harry and Susan talking about?”

“Apparently they were talking about me.”

“That’s good, right?”

“How would I know, Mum? I’ve never done this before,” Daphne growled with exasperation.

“I’m going riding. With any luck I’ll get thrown by the horse and break my neck.”

“Don’t be morbid dear, and wear your helmet.”

“Yes, Mum.”

#@#

Harry finished writing out a long list of supplies that were needed to finish the last of the carpentry work at Grimmauld Place. The plumbing was done, new carpets were scheduled for late June and he was waiting for bids on the electrical work, bringing Grimmauld Place into the 20th century. He posted the list on a bulletin board next to the refrigerator. It would be gone before evening; Kreacher might be more than a little odd, but he was growing in efficiency.

“So, Harry, what are you thinking about all of this?” Andromeda asked.

“The renovation’s going just fine, Andi,” Harry said.

“I’m not talking about that project; I’m talking about the enigma with hazel eyes,” Andi said with a smirk.

“Stop smirking at me, Andi, and I don’t think she’s an enigma, she’s being pretty up front about what she wants,” Harry grumbled.

“I’m not smirking, Harry, although I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t amusing.”

“I don’t know what to do.” Harry stated.

“You don’t have to do anything. Just because the damsel’s in distress, it doesn’t mean you have to play the gallant knight.

“What do you think of her?” Andi asked.

“I don’t know – she’s a girl, she has nice teeth. I think she’s interesting.”

“We’ll table any discussion of teeth. Why do you think she’s interesting?”

“She’s a Slytherin, but she’s not like Malfoy. She’s a traditionalist, but she’s not a pureblood whacko. She’s got guts.” Harry paused. “What do you think of her?”

“She’s not asking me to marry her,” Andi countered.

“More’s the pity. It would be nice to watch someone else have this sort of issue once in a while. No, really, what do you think of her?”

“I think she thought through everything she said and did yesterday. She showed up in very traditional widow’s weeds, but then took them off to show you that she’s a girl who wears flattering muggle style clothing. She was obviously very nervous, but she’d also given what she had to say a lot of thought. She’s not a fan-girl and she’s not a gold-digger,” Andi observed.

“So what do I do, Andi?”

“I think you need to get to know her better,” Andi replied. “I also think that it’s time that Teddy gets a bath, a story and then to bed.”

“Can I do that?” Harry asked.

“Sure, the bathroom gets pretty wet when the two of you go at it, but I could use a break,” Andi replied.

Andromeda sat back in her chair, pondering how much more exhausting it was to raise a toddler as a witch in her fifties than as a witch in her twenties. Then, listening carefully for the sound coming from upstairs, she went into Ted’s old home office, fingered through some files until she found one particular file and jotted down a phone number. Picking up the cordless phone she rang the number.

“Hello, Grace?”

“This is Andromeda.

“Andromeda Tonks. I’m fine, thanks.

“I have a bewildered young man at my house.

“Yeah, I wish he was my son.

“Uh huh, exactly.

“Harry and I are taking Teddy to the Zoo tomorrow – yeah, Regent’s Park. Yes, it’s frightfully expensive, but if I’m going to spoil my only grandchild it’s not a bad way to go.

“Uh huh.

“I think it might be a good idea if your daughter got out tomorrow, take her mind off things.

“Yeah, subtle like a Bludger.

“No, Harry doesn’t know.

“He thinks she has nice teeth. Yeah, that’s what I thought, but he also says that he thinks she’s intriguing.

“Okay, we’ll probably be there 10:30ish, it’s hard to be precise with a toddler.

“Good, I’ll see you there.”

Andromeda put the cordless back in its cradle and then went to make some more tea. She’d tell Harry about tomorrow’s plans before he went to bed tonight.

#@#

The London Zoo at Regent’s Park was new to Harry; his first and only zoo trip with the Dursleys had been at Marwell. Teddy was nestled in a sling resting on Harry’s chest and burbling at the animals and people. It was a lovely day.

Harry thought Andromeda had been a bit ‘off’ this morning, but dismissed it out of hand. Then he’d been caught up in Teddy’s excitement of a ride in the Tube and the sights, sounds and smells of the zoo. He saw a familiar shape at the corner of this vision and then turned to see Daphne walking with an older blonde woman, no doubt her mum, or step-mum, or whatever. It clicked then, the conversation he’d had with Andi the night before and this sudden urge to visit the zoo.

As Daphne rounded the she spotted Harry and after a moment, realization showed on her face. She covered her face with her hands and turned to the woman next to her.

“Mother, you didn’t!” she wailed.

“Grace dear,” Andi called. “Such a delightful surprise to see you here.”

“Andi, you lie like a rug,” Harry hissed quietly.

“You must be Madam Greengrass,” Harry said as she held out her hand. He lowered his head and air-kissed her knuckles, just as he’d been tutored by Andi.

He then turned to embrace Daphne, kissing her cheek before whispering in her ear, “I didn’t know she was planning this, and from the look on your face, you didn’t either.”

”Thank you,” Daphne whispered against his ear, her arms tightening around him for the smallest amount of time.

“Harry, dear,” Andi said with a smile, “let me take Teddy. I think you need to take Miss Greengrass for a walk.”

Harry hoisted Teddy, sling and all, and deposited him in Andi’s arms.

“Direct, isn’t she?” Daphne observed. “Mister Potter, would you escort me, please?”

“It would be an honor, my lady,” he said, holding an elbow out towards her.

“Years from now I’m probably going to think that this was sweet,” Daphne said after they’d been walking for a few minutes.

“Are you okay? You seem, I dunno, pale,” Harry inquired.

Daphne pressed her lips together and then said, “My period started yesterday. It’s usually no big deal, except when I’m under a lot of stress, and then it hits me like freight train.”

“Do you need to sit down?”

“I’m not an invalid, Harry, I’m just … cramping.”

“What would help?”

“How’s your warming charm?” Daphne asked.

“Pretty good.”

“Right here,” Daphne whispered, pointing to a spot an inch below her navel.

Harry crossed his arms, touching the wand concealed in his left sleeve with his right thumb and invoked the warming charm.

“Oooh, ohhh,” she hissed. “That’s gooood, thanks.”

They resumed walking; threading their way through a few exhibits until they found the walkway along the towpath.

“My warming charm has two settings,” Daphne explained, breaking the silence. “It’s tepid or extra crispy. I can’t seem to get anything between the two.”

“That’s odd,” Harry said. “So, this is a date, then?”

“It looks like it,” Daphne said wryly.

“Pretend that I was raised by wolves and just learned how to speak the human tongue last week. What do people do on dates?” Harry asked.

Daphne gave him an odd look and then looked ahead as she kept walking.

“Well, it all depends,” Daphne began. “If you were a muggle boy in college, you’d take me out for drinks and try to get me to sleep with you once I got sufficiently drunk.”

“Not going to happen today, sorry,” Harry said.

“I don’t know if I should be offended or not,” Daphne said. “If you were an older Slytherin you’d try to take me out of sight and snog me while getting inside my blouse.”

“Nah,” Harry said. “You look better in the blouse than I ever would. What would a decent human being do on a date?”

“Well, that’s pretty rare,” Daphne said. “A decent human being would walk and talk and get to know the woman. He might offer to buy her a snack at a cafe, say vanilla ice cream with lots of hot chocolate topping. After a while they would hold hands and then at the end of the date he’d give the lady a kiss – or not. Sometimes the chemistry isn’t there.”

“Okay, thanks – I think I can work with that,” Harry said.

“Do you really not know?” Daphne asked incredulously.

“Daphne, I was a toddler when my parents were murdered. By Dumbledore’s orders I was whisked off to my Aunt and literally left in a basket on her doorstep. That family hated magic, and hated me too, so long story made short, I don’t have a lot of good examples of what real people do.”

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t know,” Daphne said. “You seem so normal.”

“Yeah, well, appearances are deceiving. I identify with Pinocchio a lot, always wondering what it’s like to be a real boy.”

And so they walked, trading stories back and forth about their lives before Hogwarts. They stopped at a café for ice cream, including lots of hot chocolate topping.

After the café, Harry, as casually as he could, brushed his fingers against hers as they walked, and when she didn’t pull away, he took her hand.

The feeling of warmth that shot through him when she briefly squeezed was very comforting.

“I like touch, but I’m not very good at it,” Harry explained. “Hermione and Mrs. Weasley were big on hugs; it freaked me out at first, but I decided I liked it.”

“What about Miss Weasley?” Daphne asked.

“I’m told that gentlemen don’t talk about that,” Harry said.

“Oh, of course,” Daphne said, looking slightly embarrassed.

“Ginny was…delightful. She was very demonstrative; I liked it a lot.”

“Why’d you break up with her?”

“I thought it would protect her,” Harry said.

“It didn’t,” Daphne replied. “The Carrows made her life hell, until she disappeared at Easter. I never knew if she’d managed to escape from the castle, or if she’d been taken to one of the camps.”

“It was one of my many mistakes,” Harry said sadly. “She was in hiding with her family until I came back to Hogwarts. If she’d stayed away she’d still be alive.”

“And if you hadn’t picked up Voldemort’s wand, I’d be a free woman,” Daphne said.

“Don’t apologize, Harry Potter, not for the wand, not for any of it! We can’t change the past; we can only try to make things better today.”

Harry stopped walking and turned to face her. “Thanks,” he said simply.

She reached to stroke his hair with her free hand and then leaned in to kiss his cheek. “You’re welcome,” she said, with a small smile. Turning away from him she tugged him back into motion. They’d long ago left Regent’s Park and now were on a walkway by the Thames.

“Hey, you said that the kiss came at the end of the date,” Harry objected.

“Does this date include lunch?”

#@#

Astoria saw a brief flicker at the outer edge of the estate’s boundary. She smiled as she recognized her sister with what could only be Harry Potter, standing behind her, arms wrapped round her waist as they’d dual Apparated home.

“Sure beats ‘here, grab onto my arm,’” she said to herself.

She saw the pair turn to face one another and after a brief pause of an unheard conversation, Harry rose up and kissed her sister on the cheek. Astoria scrambled into the entryway of the house. Daphne was ambushed as she opened the door.

“Well, you seem to be making good progress. Did he get his hand up your jumper?”

“You loathsome midget!” Daphne shouted, loud enough so Mum could hear her, wherever she might be, before she shot a blob of color out of her wand at her sister’s departing backside.

“Mum! Queenie’s using magic in the house!” Astoria wailed.

Grace swept into the entry hall, holding her finger to her lips. “Queenie, stop blobbing your sister; you know how hard it is to get the color out of her clothes,” she yelled in faux anger, pulling her daughter into the sitting room. Several privacy spells later she invited Daphne to sit down.

“Well, Queenie, I’m waiting,” Grace said.

“Thank you, Mum, for interfering in my life in such a wonderful way,” Daphne said.

“You’re welcome, dear. Actually, you have Andromeda to thank for that, I was just a lowly accomplice.”

“What is she to him?” Daphne asked.

“Formally, he’s the head of the Black family and she is or was a Black; I’m not sure of the current status. Her late daughter was married to the late Remus Lupin, who was a close friend of Harry’s parents. Functionally, she’s his surrogate mother as he’s playing big brother to Teddy Lupin.”

“I meant to ask you, did you see Teddy’s hair change color at the zoo?”

“Yes, Metamorphy runs in the Black family. Nymphadora was a full Metamorphmagus. It seems Teddy will change his hair color to match whomever he’s talking to if he’s happy. When we took him to see the Great Horned Owl, his hair rose up in little tufts just like the owl’s; it was darling.”

“Doesn’t that violate the Statute of Secrecy?”

“I don’t think anyone cares right now. So, was it a good day out?”

“Yes,” Daphne said. “I asked him to put a warming charm on me; I told him I was cramping.”

“You didn’t,” Grace protested.

“I did, it was wonderful. He was a perfect gentleman – we walked and talked and then fed me lunch and then we dual Apparated here so he’d know how to get back again.”

“Any conclusions?”

“He seems to like me, but I don’t think he’s proposing any time soon,” Daphne said. “Aside from having a newly dead girlfriend, I don’t understand why he’s not taken, he’s so nice.”

“No doubt tongues will start to wag that you had her eliminated,”

“Slytherins never get a break,” Daphne said in agreement.

#@#

“Well?” Andi drawled.

“Well,” Harry drawled in reply. “I wish we didn’t have this deadline looming over us. She’s a nice girl but I’m not sure I want to wake up next to her for the rest of my life.”

“What are you doing tomorrow?” Andi asked.

“I haven’t a clue.”

#@#

The next day came and went, and after supper Daphne braced her mother.


“Mum, I need Andromeda’s number,” she said urgently.

“Proper witches don’t call wizards on the phone,” Grace chided.

“Get over it, Mum, proper witches don’t get betrothed to Voldemort. Desperate times, desperate measures.”

Grace went to a rolodex by the kitchen phone and copied down a telephone number. Daphne snatched it out of her hand and said, “Let the midget know that if she listens in on this call, I’m going to shave her bald.” She then retreated into a small workroom, pushing the door shut with an audible click.

“Hello, Mrs. Tonks?”

“This is Daphne, I’m fine thanks.

“Ah, it’s kind of obvious why I’m calling, is Harry there?

“Thanks, I’ll wait.

“Hello Harry.

“I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed spending time with you yesterday.

“I don’t know, what am I doing tomorrow?

“I’d love to, thanks.

“I’ll see you then,” she said, placing the phone back on the hook. “Why does this have to be so hard?”

#@#

Queenie’s Diary – Enciphered Entry – June 1, 1998

When I got up this morning I looked at the hand that touched the rocking stone as I pledged away my liberty to protect my family. I wonder if I really like Harry, or if it’s some odd compulsion of the magic.

Today was a nice day. I took the Floo in the morning to Mrs. Tonks’ house; she’s just recently been connected to the network. Now that I know where the place is, I suppose I’ll Apparate in the future.

I had breakfast with Harry, Andromeda and Teddy, then Harry and I took Teddy out for errands whilst Andromeda got the morning off. She loves Teddy to pieces, but I can tell she appreciated the break.

We went to Aldi’s for baking ingredients and then when Teddy was down for his nap, we made biscuits together. The oh-so-sophisticated might pooh-pooh such pedestrian activities, but it was fun.

Mrs. Tonks doesn’t have any elves in the house aside from Kreacher dropping in from time to time. I’m going to suggest to Harry that he do something to change that.

Teddy is such a cute baby. Before going to the store I mixed up the classic peek-a-boo game by palming my wand and hitting my face with a low power color blob. When I opened my hands Teddy would shriek with delight at seeing my face bright yellow, or green, or red. He’d match the color with his own face and then I’d cover my face with my hands again. Again, not sophisticated, but I figure I need to have fun with magic while I still have it.

Teddy’s not walking – Andromeda says that babies either decide to talk or walk first, and then the other catches up. Teddy is a talker. I’m “Daf” to Harry’s “Hawa.”

We got some looks in the store, I’m sure that more than one old woman looked at the poor young couple that had a child together too soon. I caught more than one of them looking at my hand for a ring.

Note to self – Harry bakes a great biscuit.

After lunch, Harry took me to Grimmauld Place for a tour. Andromeda gave me a disapproving glare, I suppose because we were out without a chaperone, but she had the good sense to say nothing.

Harry’s told me what the place looked like, so I was pleasantly surprised to see how much progress has been made – at least to the interior.

The home at one time had an impressive garden, but it’s been neglected for decades. The shrubbery in the front is either completely overgrown or dead. The back is choked with weeds and the soil is old, worn out. It’s nothing that a half ton of composted muck wouldn’t improve, but I don’t think it’s at the top of Harry’s “to-do” list. Harry understands gardening, so I might raise the subject in the future – assuming that there is a future with him.

End of enciphered entry – checksum 876

QUEENIE LUVS HARRY!!!! - AJG

Queenie’s Dairy – enciphered entry.

And that, dear diary, is why all of my entries are in cipher. I’m too tired to punish the midget (Astoria) for messing with my diary, but I will let my ire season for an opportune moment.

Kreacher was plain weird today – which given Kreacher’s baseline of weirdness is saying something. When I entered Grimmauld Place he stopped me at the threshold and pulled my hands to his head. He started to shake and continued shaking for almost a minute. He then scurried away, talking to himself about “Mistress” and “must prepare.”

Harry gave me a top to bottom tour. The whole house has been neglected for decades, but the foyer, dining room and kitchen were pretty much destroyed by Death Eaters last year. Harry told me that the topmost bedroom once housed a hippogriff, which I would have thought was a joke, until I caught a whiff of the unmistakable tang of horse muck and saw the scratches in the floor. Harry’s life has been so weird that he doesn’t have to make this stuff up.

Much to Astoria-the-midget’s dismay, there were no bodice-ripping moments. He pointed to his room as we toured through the second floor, but that was as close as “Harry” “Daphne” and “bedroom” came together in one sentence that day.

The plumbing’s done and Harry says the house will have electricity soon. After the tour we went back to Mrs. Tonks’ house.

I swear that there are some days that I wonder if I’m possessed. Before leaving from the Tonks’ garden I heard my mouth say, “Would you like to come to dinner tomorrow?”

Harry was silent for a moment. I gave great thought to either Obliviating him on the spot or Disapparating before he could answer.

“Tomorrow’s booked. How’s the day after tomorrow?” he answered.

“That should be good, I’ll let you know if it’s not,” my traitorous mouth said before I could say something sensible.

“See you then?” I asked. I didn’t stick around to hear his reply – I Disapparated, heading to the outer boundary of our home.

End of enciphered entry – checksum 287

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Author Notes:

Disclaimer, I don't need no stinking disclaimer, see notes from Chapter the First

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