By right of conquest
Chapter the Sixth
Yes, cliff hangers are evil, which is why I'm posting this chapter earlier than the usual schedule.
Thanks as always to GardenGirl, who appreciates the value of clear vision, and Jeconais, who thinks my (non-existant) taste in beer is execrable.
Chapter the Sixth
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.
She stepped back and then forward again.
“I’m really sorry, Astoria, but I have to do this.”
“Dear God in Heaven, help me,” Daphne murmured. Her hand raised the knife.
“QUEENIE!” Astoria shrieked.
“Harry, I need you, help me,” Daphne whispered.
Harry felt the wave of what he now recognized as Daphne’s magic as she disappeared. He paid close attention to the shape and flavor of the magic, it resembled Apparation, but it was somehow different.
He then felt a different wave of magic, one that didn’t feel like Daphne at all.
“Oh, shite,” he croaked.
The shadows had no substance, for lack of a better word. Willing himself vertical while trying to not move his shoulder he peered into the shadows. There was a smoky something corresponding to the horse barn, but it wasn’t really there. Deeper in the shadows were two luminous things. Concentrating hard he saw what must be Daphne; the other luminous blob most likely was Astoria.
He concentrated on replicating the feeling of the magic Daphne had used to leave the shadows. He felt a strain against his magic. He tried harder, the resistance increased.
Then he heard it, a soft, familiar voice murmuring.
“Harry, I need you, help me.”
“Bugger it all,” he said, punching power into the magic. The resistance increased, wavered and then was gone.
He was back in the barn. Sight, sound, smell and hearing rushed on him, making him stagger. The loudest sounds were coming from Astoria, who was alternating between blubbering and shrieking. Harry slid into the remains of the gate to Deimos’ stall, snagging it with his good hand to stay upright.
Daphne was approaching Astoria, her hand raised, clutching a knife with a short, curved blade.
“I have to do it, Astoria, there’s no other way,” she said, sniffling with tears.
“Daphne,” Harry said.
If she heard him, there was no response.
“Queenie,” he said, slightly louder.
Astoria stopped blubbering. “Harry, please make her stop,” she begged.
“I’m not in much shape to make her do anything right now, Astoria,” he said.
Daphne turned slightly. “Harry?”
“Put down the knife please, Daphne,” he said calmly.
“She tried to kill you, Harry,” Daphne said in a matter of fact tone.
Astoria began wailing again. Loudly. The sound reverberated through his skull, causing his already hurting head to explode.
“Astoria, stop it!” Harry barked.
Astoria whimpered into silence again.
“Look at me Astoria,” Harry commanded.
Astoria twisted until she could see him clearly, albeit upside down, as she was hanging that way from the wall.
“Did you know that Deimos was out of his stall?”
“NO!” she screeched.
“Did you try to hurt me?”
“NO, IT WAS AN ACCIDENT, YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE ME!” Astoria shouted, and then began blubbering again.
“She’s telling the truth, Daphne,” Harry said urgently.
“How do you know, Harry? She’s quite a good liar,” Daphne said, her voice curiously distant and flat.
“I got a lot of things from Riddle. I may not be much of an Occlumens, but my Legilimency is just fine.
“She’s telling the truth; she’s thirteen, she made a mistake,” Harry said, wishing he were able to do something other than hang on to the gate to remain upright.
“Don’t you see, Harry, she’s just going to keep at it until you’re dead. I can’t marry you if you’re dead, Harry, I have to keep my promise,” Daphne said flatly.
Realization came to Harry. He hoped it wasn’t too late. A different line of attack was needed.
“Spirit, let me speak to Daphne now,” Harry said.
The expression on Daphne’s face changed slightly.
“Harry, help me,” Daphne said, urgency in her voice.
“Daphne, put down the knife,” Harry repeated.
“I want to, Harry, but I can’t,” Daphne whimpered.
“My queen, the mother of my children will not be known for murdering her sister,” Harry said, hoping he was doing this right.
“You heard me. Spirit, put the knife down. If she kills the girl, the deal’s off.”
Harry concentrated, pushing his magic through Daphne. He could see a smile come across her face. He warmed the handle of the knife until it became searingly hot. Daphne threw the knife down.
Daphne’s eyes rolled back in her head and she collapsed like a lifeless doll.
Astoria began to hiccup and cry softly.
“Kreacher,” Harry called.
Kreacher appeared, looked about the barn and then said “Master Harry is hurt.”
“Kreacher, please go to the big house next to this barn. Tell whoever you find that we need medical assistance in the barn,” Harry directed.
“Kreacher can help,” he said, concern flowing into his gravelly voice.
“Please go to the mistress of the house, her name is Grace, that’s the best way you can help me right now,” Harry said.
“What is it with me and possessed girlfriends anyway?” Harry said to no one in particular.
Harry woke in the familiar surroundings of the Greengrass guest room, complete with the Technicolor silhouette of Astoria on the wall across from the doorway. Large, rough hands gently put his spare pair of glasses on his face.
“How is the pain?” Malcolm asked.
“It’s not bad. If stubbing my toe is one and being bitten by a Basilisk is ten, it’s about a two right now,” Harry said.
“What was the pain like when you were in the barn?”
“Oh, about a nine,” Harry said glibly. “I’ve never been kicked by a horse before; I can now cross that off my list.”
“Astoria’s sedated while the healer sets her broken legs; Daphne’s not talking, you mind telling me what happened today?” Malcolm asked.
“Where do you want me to begin?”
“The beginning would be fine,” Malcolm said.
“Well, you see, there was this terribly sad child named Tom Riddle who discovered that he was a wizard,” Harry began.
“Perhaps not that far back,” Malcolm said with a smile.
“Oh,” said Harry with a smile. “What have you done to me, by the way?”
“I immobilized your shoulder, healed the superficial lacerations on your face and chest, and placed a pain block on your spine. After setting your collar bone more or less in place, I dosed you with Skele-Gro,” Malcolm reported.
“Impressive,” Harry said.
“I was a medic in the war,” Malcolm replied.
“ The war, the one that started in 1914,” Malcolm said with a grin. “Whippersnapper.”
“After breakfast I went riding with Daphne. We had a picnic. I’d brought a pair of brooms and told Astoria that she could use either of them while we were out riding.
“After we got back from riding, I taught Daphne how to fly – without a broom. It’s something that Riddle perfected and one of the things that I’ve been learning as I go through his papers. When we got back to the barn, we found out that Deimos had slipped his stall, so Daphne went to go return him to the barn and I held the stall door open.
“What we didn’t know is that Astoria was back on the Firebolt-X – it’s an experimental model. She was trying to correct a corkscrew pattern and flew into the barn. Deimos spooked and I got punched by the horse a couple of times. Daphne pulled me into the shadows to keep me from getting trampled.”
“So you know about that,” Malcolm said.
“Yeah,” Harry replied. “I now know; on the whole, I could have done without the honor.”
“Getting back to the story; Daphne checked me out and then said she was going to do something and then get help for me. I felt her magic as she left the shadows, and then I felt some magic that wasn’t her. I figured it was the magic, the guardian spirit that was binding her betrothal promise,” Harry said.
“How were you feeling her magic?” Malcolm asked.
“We had on matching vests – it was something I used to teach her how to fly without a broom. When we’re both wearing them I can feel her magic and vice versa. I can also push my magic through her,” Harry explained.
“Fascinating,” Malcolm said. “Please continue.”
“Astoria crashed in the barn and was hanging upside-down on a wall, tangled in all those bridle things, I don’t know the collective word for it.”
“Tack,” Malcolm explained.
“Daphne must have thought that Astoria did this on purpose, and the guardian kicked in and tried to influence Daphne to slit Astoria’s throat,” Harry said.
“I heard Daphne calling to me in the shadows, so I blundered out and tried to sort things,” Harry said.
“You made it out of the shadows unassisted?” Malcolm asked.
“I was motivated,” Harry said dryly.
“Indeed,” Malcolm said. “Pray, continue.”
“By that time, Daphne was struggling with the guardian spirit. They were in a stalemate, the spirit urging Daphne to kill Astoria, and Daphne resisting as hard as she could.”
“So, how did you break the impasse?”
“Well, I was and am physically messed up – if I’d tried to wrestle a kitten, I’d have put odds on the kitten. I pushed my magic through Daphne, heating the handle of the knife until it was so hot she had to drop it.”
“That explains the burn, which Daphne refused to have treated,” Malcolm said.
“Daphne collapsed and I called for help. I’m not sure how much I was aware of after that,” Harry said.
“You’ve done well today, Harry. You continue to amaze me as to your character and your resourcefulness,” Malcolm said.
“I don’t think your suspended sentence against Astoria helped things,” Harry said accusingly.
“What do you want me to say, Harry, that I screwed up, again?” Malcolm asked, staring at him intently.
“Yes, I screwed up. I was counting on Daphne’s character,” Malcolm said. “Something had to be done to break Astoria’s drive to best her sister.”
“Daphne’s character is the only reason Astoria’s still alive,” Harry said firmly. “She was resisting the guardian spirit, big time. Once Riddle died, the spirit’s presence with Daphne probably doubled; I think it’s a minor elemental.”
“Doubled?” Malcolm asked.
“Of course, the magic won’t be free to return to the rocking stone until the promise is fulfilled or broken. How could I have missed that? I once again regret my past decisions and find myself in your debt, Harry,” Malcolm said sadly. “Astoria probably owes you a life debt too.”
“Oh puh-lease!” Harry exclaimed. “Tell her to be a good girl and I’ll consider it square.”
“I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way, Harry.”
“I’m not marrying them both!” Harry exclaimed. “No way!”
“So, which one do you want?” Malcolm asked, grinning widely. “You don’t have to answer that.”
“Thank you, but there’s really no contest. I find myself quite taken with Daphne.”
“But you are still undecided?”
“It’s becoming clearer, but no, I’ve not decided.”
“I will not ask you to decide before the Solstice.”
“I will make a decision soon, sir, I owe that to Daphne.”
“Very well, I remain in your debt, a condition that does not please me,” Malcolm said gravely. “Are you ready to see her?”
“If I say no, will she go away?”
“Probably not,” Malcolm said. “She’s quite stubborn.”
“Can you sit me up?” Harry asked. “I don’t really like to talk to people when I’m flat on my back.”
“I think I can arrange something,” Malcolm said.
Queenie’s diary – June 1998 – enciphered entry
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
I always thought that line was crap, but now I get to summarize today.
Somehow it fits.
Here’s what happened today:
I discovered that I am in love with Harry Potter. It’s not the magic, it’s really real.
I learned how to fly without a broom, and more importantly, without wetting my pants.
And I almost killed my sister – in cold blood.
I haven’t told him that I’m in love with him. I don’t think I will. He’s got enough on his plate already.
For mistakes, Harry is very forgiving. I heard him talking to the midget. He apologized for not warning her more about the instability of the Firebolt-X. Harry reckons it won’t ever go into production because only the best fliers can control it and those who are less than the best can get killed when they try to fly beyond their skill level. It’s only blind, dumb luck that the midget didn’t kill herself today. She’s a pretty hot flier, but she’s only thirteen.
He also forgave her for the injuries he sustained with Deimos.
Harry’s first words to me afterwards were “which one of you am I talking to?”
That hurt, but he has a point.
He then told me that there’s a grand tradition that his girlfriends have up close and personal experience with being possessed. He told me a condensed version of Ginny’s possession, and confirmed that knowing all about that, he was still thinking of marrying her. Implicit in that story is that he doesn’t consider my own possession to be marriage disqualifying – unless he’s wised up and raised his standards.
Father has reapplied the charm and promises to renew it daily if he has to. I’m no longer attacked by unbidden randy thoughts when I’m near him.
I still think he’s hot though.
Harry’s going home tonight after dinner. He says he has to do some other work, including his postponed chat with Neville about possible treatment for Neville’s parents.
I suppose it’s good for us to be apart for a while, but couldn’t I just let one of my limbs go on vacation instead?
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times, and now I have to go to dinner.
End of enciphered entry – checksum 2067
Daphne knocked on the door.
“Who is it?”
“Midget, it’s me,” Daphne said.
“What do you have in your hands?”
“Ha ha, very funny. Nothing in my hands, nothing in my pockets. May I come in?”
“Knock yourself out. Please excuse me if I don’t open the door for you.”
Daphne opened the door and walked into Astoria’s bedroom.
Astoria was in bed, propped up with pillows, with both legs in temporary casts. In her case the Skele-Gro had to work overnight before she could return to normal activities. There was a stack of magazines and books next to Astoria on the bed.
“Do you need anything?” Daphne asked.
“A big do-over on my second flight on the Firebolt-X? Obliviation for the fifteen minutes that happened after that?” Astoria offered.
“I was thinking more about turning on the radio or putting some CDs on to play,” Daphne said.
“I don’t know – it’s either Rachmaninoff or the Rolling Stones, I can’t decide,” Astoria said airily.
“I’ll put on Rachmaninoff, I can’t talk over the Stones,” Daphne said.
“Yeah, and you hate the Stones anyway,” Astoria said.
“I never said that, I just said that I greatly prefer the Beatles,” Daphne said.
“Old fogy,” Astoria said.
“Yeah, well Keith Richards looks amazingly like Kreacher,” Daphne said.
“That’s a low blow, even for you, Queenie,” Astoria said, smiling broadly.
“Yeah, we’re good. It took me a while, but I finally figured out that there were two of you, and you were fighting hard to keep me alive,” Astoria said.
“I do love you,” Daphne said.
“Isn’t that what I just said?” Astoria asked.
“I guess so,” Daphne said, closing the lid on the CD player.
“Have you told him yet?” Astoria asked.
“That you’re madly in love with him?”
“No, and how did you know that anyway?” Daphne asked.
“I’m a girl, I have eyes. Probably the only person at the table tonight who didn’t get it was Harry,” Astoria said, and then sighed.
“Father says you probably have a life debt to him,” Daphne said.
“Yeah, great; I owe a life debt to my sister’s future husband who isn’t exactly that fond of me anyway,” Astoria complained.
“Oh, I don’t know about that, he said he really liked the new artwork in the guest room and Father said that when he brought up the notion of your life debt with Harry, Harry’s first response was to vehemently declare that he wasn’t marrying both of us.”
“I wasn’t aware that was a possibility,” Astoria said, furrowing her brow. “Nah wouldn’t work. I’m not willing to share.”
“Good thing, I wouldn’t want to have to keep picking up your towels in the bathroom,” Daphne said.
Astoria stuck her tongue out at her.
“Are you going to tell him?” Astoria asked.
“Harry? No, he’s got to figure out what he wants,” Daphne said.
“I’m really glad you’re my sister.”
“Me too. G’nite.”
“G’nite ‘my queen.’”
“You heard that too?”
Longbottom Hall was a mess. The habitable portions of the old house were now gutted as part of the renovation process. Augusta and Neville were living in a Muggle hotel nearby for the two weeks that the living space would be unlivable. Augusta thought the hotel was a big treat, but Neville treated it as an inconvenience. During this time Harry’s regular meeting with Neville was conducted in a coffee shop about a block from the hotel. They commandeered a booth and after being served, invoked aversion charms, guaranteeing that they wouldn’t be interrupted. Their practice was to leave a big tip, so the staff, if they noticed, didn’t seem to mind.
“So, it’s like this, Neville. I don’t think it was the regular version of Cruciatus that was used on your parents. There was an alternate version used by some of the heavy hitters, and my suspicion was that the other version was the curse that was used instead,” Harry said.
“Okay, so what?” Neville asked.
“I think that explains why your parents haven’t responded to treatment,” Harry replied.
Neville seemed to be lost in thought.
“I took the matter to Healer Hodge and explained the difference between the two curses. He called in Mrs. Stevens, an Arithmancer who used to be on the faculty of the Irish Institute of Magic, and she calculated a way to undo the effects of the alternate curse.”
“Okay, what am I supposed to do with that information?” Neville asked.
“If you’re game, they’re willing to try a new therapy on your mum and dad,” Harry said.
“If I’m game, what are you, nuts? Of course I want to try!” Neville exclaimed. “But I’ve got a question for you, Harry.”
“Go ahead,” Harry said.
“I know Healer Hodge, and by reputation, I know Mrs. Stevens – these people are booked months or years in advance, you just don’t call them up and ask them off the wall questions,” Neville said.
“And your point is?”
“What’s going on?”
“Well, it’s like this, Neville, these people are booked months and sometimes years in advance, but there’s this git named Harry Potter who’s famous for something, I’m not sure what, because he surely didn’t cut the head off a ginormous snake with a hat in one hand and a goblin sword in the other, but I digress. It seems when this git calls, people fall over themselves to fit an appointment in,” Harry said, a boyish grin on his face.
“And what does this git pay the Healer and the Arithmancer?” Neville asked.
“Oh, they try to do it for free, but this git insists on paying double their usual rate, and because he’s such a git, he gets his way most of the time,” Harry said.
“Hmm,” Neville said.
“So, what do you say?” Harry asked.
“I say we tell Healer Hodge to go ahead, and it’s a really good thing my friend is such a git,” Neville said.
“Cool,” Harry said. “Now I’ve got a question for you.”
“Shoot,” Neville said.
“How do you buy property?”
“Like houses and such?” Neville asked.
“Muggle or Magical?”
“Muggle,” Harry said.
“Most residential property is sold through agents – ‘estate somethings’ I forget the exact term. Gringotts has a bureau that does that sort of thing so that John Q. Wizard doesn’t stuff things up when he tries to go Muggle. It’s a really good place that hires Muggleborns, ‘cause they aren’t nearly as hard to train as the rest of us,” Neville explained.
“Okay, thanks,” Harry said.
“You looking to buy something?”
“I expect that I’ll sell Grimmauld Place, or rent it when I’m done, and I’ve got to live somewhere,” Harry said.
“Cool – you ready to help me mulch the North Greenhouse?”
“Did you get the dragon dung?”
“Sure did,” Neville said.
“Well then, I’m your man.”
“You know, for being such a git, you’re pretty handy to have around.”
Brigit was back from holiday, which meant that she was back in the office, reconciling the ledger. Daphne walked by the office as Brigit called out.
“I’ve got a note here, somewhere,” she said, shuffling the paper on her desk.
“Okay, here it is,” she said. “Some guy, Henry, or maybe Harry called. I wrote his number down. He says he wants to meet you for lunch tomorrow.”
“Did he say where?”
“Ah, it’s some pizza joint in Aberdeen, it’s on the note,” she said, handing it to Daphne.
Daphne stood transfixed with an enormous smile.
“Hey, c’mon, it’s just lunch,” Brigit said. “Wait a minute; was this that hot guy you were out with a couple of weeks ago in Alford?”
“Well, behave,” Brigit said.
“Thanks, Brigit,” Daphne said.
Daphne showed up at the "pizza joint" Brigit had mentioned, to discover it was a small cafe with a red exterior. She walked in to see Harry sat at a little table near a deli counter. Behind the counter an old woman was berating someone out back in rapid Italian.
Daphne pecked him on the lips as he stood to welcome her, and sat down,looking for a menu. It was stood upright between large salt and pepper shakers.
"While I know nothing about Italian food, this place came highlyrecommended," Harry said.
"Welcome," the Italian lady said as she appeared next to their table."I get you drinks?"
"We'll share a bottle of red," Harry said, "Whatever you recommended."
"What you going to eat?"
Harry blinked a few times, before a grin appeared. Daphne knew that he had no idea how cute that grin was. "Whatever you recommend?"
The woman laughed. "An Englishman with sense, whatever next?" she asked, as she plucked the menu out of Daphne's hands. "You good girl, not on silly diets?"
"I have no food issues," Daphne agreed.
"Smart girl, smart boy, good couple," the woman approved. "Antonio," she yelled, before continuing in Italian. "Starter coming soon, real Italian, best in town," she finished, turning her attention back to them.
"That's what I heard," Harry agreed. "I'm looking forward to it. How’s the midget?”
“Her legs work,” Daphne said. “She’s been running and working the obstacle course, but I don’t think she’s been on a broom yet.”
“Hmm,” Harry said. “Do you think I need to come over and fly with her?”
“As long as she’s not on that killer broom, you either for that matter,” Daphne said. “You’re not going to teach her how to fly without a broom,” she said adamantly.
Harry looked at her quizzically.
“Because it wouldn’t be proper,” Daphne said, flustered.
“I don’t understand.”
“Harry, when your magic was flowing through me, especially with the feedback, it was flowing through me , from my bum to my head. I explained it to Mum and she said it sounded like – what married people do—without, you know,” Daphne said, waving her hands.
“So that would be bad,” Harry said.
“With my thirteen year old precociously hot sister, yes, Harry, that would be bad.”
“Oh, okay” Harry said, a tone of reluctance in his voice. “No flying without brooms.”
He picked at his salad. “You liked it though.”
“Yes, Harry, you are my betrothed, I liked it a lot, and I’d like to do it again , but that’s not the point.”
Harry finished the salad.
“Neville’s parents are going through a new procedure next week.”
“Really? That’s great,” Daphne said. “Are your hopes up?”
“It’ll work, or it won’t,” Harry said sagely. “If it doesn’t work, that will suck, but I figure we’ve got to try.”
“Why didn’t you call me on the mirror this week?”
“I didn’t tell you?”
“Tell me what?”
“It was in my pocket when Deimos was using me as a punching bag. I haven’t had time to rebuild it. If I don’t get it exactly right, I’ll have to make new ones all around. Your mirror should still work with Hermione though.”
“She’s not the one I want to talk to,” Daphne said.
Lunch was excellent. They left the restaurant pleasingly stuffed. Harry began to walk with purpose. Having longer legs, it wasn’t a chore to keep up with him, but Daphne was puzzled.
“Are we going somewhere in particular?” Daphne asked.
“Yeah, I’ve got something I want your opinion on,” Harry said.
The ended up in a residential neighborhood. Harry took a side street that looped back to the street they’d been walking.
“I wanted your opinion on this house,” Harry said.
“Okay,” Daphne said, “it’s a house.”
It was a white two story house with gray-green shutters with a small fenced garden in the front, suitable for flowers, and a larger garden in the back, including a decorative fountain.
“What’s it for, Harry?”
“It’s for when you’re at the University. It’s about a twenty minute walk to campus.”
Daphne’s heart went cold.
“So you’ve decided?”
“Yeah, I have,” Harry said, nodding.
“Just like that? Pat me on the arse, give me the keys to a house and say ‘have a nice life without magic, Daphne.’”
“I don’t understand,” Harry said.
“Yeah, I have, we’ve already said that.”
Daphne began to wave her hands.
“This is the booby prize? Thanks for playing, now get out of here?”
Harry was blinking his eyes. “I thought it would make you happy,” he said.
Daphne pinched the bridge of her nose, remembering Hermione’s advice.
“Okay, Harry, why do you think this house would make me happy?”
“I thought it would be a place -- where you’d wish that time would slow down, because you were happy in the moment…” Harry began, his voice dwindling to nothing.
“…because we’d be together,” Daphne said, finishing his sentence.
“Harry Potter, are you proposing to me?”
“No,” Harry said, looking puzzled.
“Okay, now I’m really confused,” Daphne said.
“I just don’t get the whole proposing thing. It seems like a scam to sell overpriced rings, I mean, a girl wouldn’t say yes just because some bloke bought a big sparkler, would she?” Harry said. “If you wanted a ring, I’d take you shopping and we’d buy the one you wanted. What do I know about rings?”
Daphne pinched the bridge of her nose again.
“Okay, Harry Potter, let’s back up.”
“What was your decision?”
“I’m saying yes,” Harry said, a smile returning to his face.
“You’re saying yes?”
“Well, you’re the one who said that you wanted me to accept the betrothal, and all I had to do was say ‘yes.’” Harry said as if that were self-evident.
“You really were raised by wolves,” Daphne said. “Strike that, you were raised by bower birds.”
“Did I break one of the rules again? Is this like bodice ripping?” Harry asked.
Daphne covered her face with her hand and began to guffaw. She pulled him to her and wrapped her arms around him.
“You wonderful, infuriating, totally un-socialized man,” Daphne said.
She pushed herself away far enough to give him a kiss.
“Thank you for saying ‘yes.’” Daphne said, before she started to cry.
“So, did I get it right or not?” Harry asked.
“Shut up and kiss me,” she said.
“We’re going to have to tell my family,” Daphne said. “Who do you need to notify?”
“Immediately?” Harry asked. “Probably just Neville and Hermione; Ron’s hard to contact at the moment, he’s somewhere in China and I don’t know how to reach him by Floo or phone.”
“Want to make it interesting?” Daphne asked a wicked grin on her face.
“I’m all ears.”
“Are we going through with this?” Daphne asked.
“Are we talking marriage or the pending prank?”
“I think they’re kind of related, Harry. What I’m saying is, are you sure?”
“I wasn’t sure when I walked into the Chamber of Secrets; I wasn’t sure when I faced the dragon in the tournament; I wasn’t sure when I walked into the Forbidden Forest to meet Riddle. Are you catching a theme here?”
“Your judgment stinks?” Daphne said with a smile.
Harry smiled. “I prefer to think of it as making a decision and then sticking to it.”
“You’re asking me now ?”
“Yes, humor me.”
“I dunno, I think it must have been how you looked in your nightgown.”
“Harry, I looked like Medusa with static cling!”
“Yeah, but static cling looks good on you when you’re going into battle.”
“Pig,” she said affectionately.
“Your pig,” he replied.
“Thanks, you haven’t answered the question, but it’s show time, you have to take your place before the guests arrive.”
Through a series of Floo calls and phone calls, the immediate circle of friends and family were assembled for a pizza dinner at Andromeda Tonks’ house. Harry arrived after all of the guests, bringing a chilled case of butterbeer and a smaller pack of Black Isle’s Red Kite ale.
The more astute guests noticed that Daphne’s eyes were red and puffy, and that when Harry arrived, he choose the seat furthest from Daphne.
Andromeda, being a good hostess, tried to keep conversation going, but it was strained.
Daphne stood, sniffed and pointed at Harry, who also stood.
“Well, we said that we had an announcement to make. Your turn,” Daphne said, pointing to Harry.
“As all of you know, Daphne bravely contracted to marry Tom Riddle as a means of protecting her family. The real prize for Riddle was coming into the Greengrass bloodline so as to gain access to the Greengrass grimoire,” Harry said.
“And then Harry defeated Riddle and when he claimed Riddle’s wand as his own, he ended up inheriting Riddle’s estate by right of conquest,” Daphne explained.
“So, late last month Gringotts called us in separately and let us each know that Daphne’s betrothal was deemed an asset of the Riddle estate, and I had to decide whether or not to accept that betrothal,” Harry said.
The audience was watching this narrative unfold like a tennis match, the conversational ball moving from Harry to Daphne and back.
“One of the first questions Andromeda asked me was what my plans were if I was to lose my magic. I answered that I’d planned on studying privately and then going to Uni at Aberdeen. So, today Harry and I looked at a house in Aberdeen, close to the Uni,” Daphne said. “Harry wants to buy me a house.”
“When Daphne’s no longer able to Apparate or use the Floo, it will be important to be close to campus,” Harry said.
“Oh, Daphne!” Andromeda exclaimed, sorrow pouring into the expression.
Astoria stood up. “You rat bastard! How can you do this to her?”
Grace stretched out a hand to pull Astoria back to her seat, but Malcolm put a warning hand on Grace’s shoulder.
“Hawa bad?” Teddy asked earnestly. Andromeda whispered something in his ear.
“Astoria, what was the first thing you said to Harry when you saw him at our estate?” Daphne asked.
“Um, I think it was ‘Hi, I’m Astoria, are you going to marry my sister?’” Astoria said with a bit of bewilderment.
“The answer is yes,” Harry and Daphne said in unison.
There was a second of silence after that, followed by an explosion of voices.
“Andromeda, the look on your face was priceless!” Daphne exclaimed.
“What’s this business about losing your magic and needing to be close to the Uni?” Astoria asked.
“I don’t think either one of us actually said anything about Daphne losing her magic,” Harry said.
“But you said when she can’t Apparate or use the Floo…wait, is Daphne preggers?” Astoria interjected.
Daphne chuckled. “I assure you with one hundred percent confidence that I am not pregnant. But in a year or two, I could be pregnant, and if I’m a student at Uni then, it would be nice to still be able to get to classes.”
Augusta Longbottom stood and glared at Harry. “Whose idea was this very clever dinner announcement?”
“Uh, it was my idea,” Daphne said “but Harry worked out the fine details.”
“But your eyes,” Grace said, “you’ve obviously been crying.”
“Yes, Mum, I did spend a good amount of time crying this afternoon, but not like you thought. To make sure, before you all arrived, I spent some quality time in the kitchen with an onion and a very dull knife, which is why I look so attractive,” Daphne explained.
Harry had moved around the table by this point and was now standing behind Daphne, arms around her waist.
“Truly a prank worthy of my cousin,” Andromeda exclaimed. “I propose a toast, to Sirius Black, may he enjoy this prank, wherever he may be.”
“To Sirius!” they exclaimed, clinking glasses together.
“Now we’ll tell you what really happened,” Daphne said.
“I called the house and left a message for Daphne that I wanted to have lunch today in Aberdeen. I left the name of the restaurant and a time. We had a marvelous lunch, and then went for a walk and Daphne asked me why I was walking so fast and I replied that I had something I wanted her opinion on,” Harry said.
“And so, we’re standing in front of this really lovely house in a quiet neighborhood in Aberdeen, not far from the Uni, and Harry asks me ‘What do you think of it?’” Daphne said.
“She says ‘it’s a house,’” Harry added.
“And then the light dawns on me and my heart turns into ice and I say to Harry, ‘so you’ve decided?’ and he nods yes, and then I get really, really, really shirty with him about what I think his decision is and then I look at his face and he looks like his owl just died and he says ‘I thought it would make you happy’ which just fueled the fire until I remember that our hero here really wasn’t raised by human beings, so I ask why the house is supposed to make me happy,” Daphne said.
“So I said ‘I thought this would be a place where you would wish that time would slow down because you were happy in the moment.’” Harry said.
“Which is something that I’d said to Harry when I was telling him how happy I was being with him,” Daphne explained. “So I said ‘Harry Potter, are you proposing to me?’ and he said ‘no.’”
Grace began to giggle. It was infectious, and soon the table was bouncing with laughter.
“So Harry then starts telling me how he doesn’t understand the whole ring-and-man-on-bended-knee cliché of marriage proposals, and that it really didn’t apply in his case, because I was asking him to agree to accept my betrothal, so he didn’t have to ask me, he just had to say ‘yes.’” Daphne explained.
“So she cut to the chase, thanked me for saying yes, and then she told me to kiss her,” Harry said.
“So, where’s the ring?” Astoria asked in a loud voice.
“Midget, he’s buying me a house , I don’t think I need a ring too,” Daphne said. “Besides, it’s going to be one of the world’s shortest engagements; we have to get married in twelve days.”
“Have you decided any of the details?” Grace asked.
“No, and when I ask him about most everything, he says ‘I don’t care.’” Daphne said, in an exaggerated male voice.
“That’s not quite right; I said ‘no elephants, no horses, and no pink tuxedos.’” Harry interjected.
“Scratch the elephant, Malcolm,” Grace said.
“At the risk of sounding crass, why do you need a wedding?” Neville asked.
“I did offer to visit the blacksmith at Gretna Green with him,” Daphne said.
“Let me guess, he said ‘no, you deserve more than that?’” Neville volunteered.
“Guessed it in one,” Daphne said.
“That’s Harry,” Neville said. “So, what can we do to help?”
“We need to find a place to get married,” Daphne said.
Malcolm cleared his throat. “I, uh, I’ve already done that, after a fashion,” he said.
“Um, you want to elaborate, Father?” Daphne said.
“In late May I had one of my associates makes some quiet inquiries with the churches in Alford,” Malcolm said.
“All three of them?” Daphne interrupted.
“The Kirk and the Scottish Episcopal church. I gave up the Roman church as a lost cause. Father Snoozen know what we are and -- disapproves,” Malcolm said diplomatically.
“The usual dates are already booked,” Malcolm continued.
“So what are the unusual dates?” Harry asked.
“You could get married at either church on a Sunday afternoon,” Malcolm answered.
“There’s only two Sundays left before the Solstice; the second Sunday is the twentieth,” Harry said.
Daphne flashed him an appreciative look and a smile.
“I was paying attention to the calendar,” Harry said, giving her a squeeze around the middle.
“You want a church wedding?” Harry asked.
Daphne smiled and nodded. “The twentieth will be fine.”
“What about clergy? I have no idea as to the politics or theology involved,” Harry began.
“I have a friend, from the war, who would probably be available if I asked,” Malcolm said.
“Pray tell, Malcolm,” Grace asked.
“Father Backer, he’s a Greyfriar,” Malcolm said.
“He’s still alive?” Grace asked incredulously.
“Ahem, he’s not that much older than I am, dearest,” Malcolm said, making a lump in his cheek with his tongue.
“What else?” Harry asked.
“I’ll need a dress,” Daphne said. “I don’t do off-the-rack clothing, Harry, it doesn’t fit. Either the sleeves and hem are too short, or I look like lolly stick in a sock.”
“I think we can take care of that,” Grace volunteered.
Augusta cleared her throat. “I have several vintage gowns that could be altered, and Coni, my elf, is amazing at alterations. There were many tall willowy witches in my family.”
“The pub will be open after 12:30,” Malcolm said.
“You’re having her reception at the pub ?” Grace asked.
“I’m sure the publican can make it presentable,” Malcolm said.
“No,” Grace said adamantly.
“Yes,” said Daphne “I think it would be fun.”
Grace turned to Harry, glaring at him.
“Don’t look at me, I don’t care . Whatever Daphne wants, except for the elephant, is okay with me,” Harry said.
“Good man,” Malcolm said.
“We will talk about this later, Malcolm,” Grace said.
“Bridesmaids?” Astoria asked.
“Yes,” Daphne said, “but I get veto power over your dress.”
“Spoilsport,” Astoria said, winking at Daphne as she said it.
“I know a florist and a lady who has a business limited to wedding cakes.” Andromeda offered.
“Check and see if they’re available on such short notice,” Malcolm said.
“I’d like Hermione to be in the wedding party as well,” Daphne said.
“As best man or bridesmaid?” Neville asked.
The older members of the dinner chuckled.
“She really could do either,” Harry said.
“I think she’d rather wear a dress,” Daphne said.
“We’ll ask her,” Harry said.
“Music?” Astoria asked.
“Homer plays the pipes,” Malcolm said helpfully.
“I meant inside the church, Father,” Astoria said, rolling her eyes.
“Pipes outside, organ inside,” Daphne said.
“I’ll be responsible for finding a suitable musician,” Grace said.
“Is that it?” Harry asked.
The women all laughed.
“I guess not. Let me know when the bills come in,” Harry said.
Malcolm harrumphed. “Traditionally, the expense of the wedding is borne by the bride’s family.”
“Is there wisdom in that tradition?” Harry asked earnestly.
“As applied to this circumstance? Probably not,” Malcolm conceded.
“We will settle that in private then,” Harry said.
“Very good,” Malcolm said. “About dowry…”
“Father, don’t start,” Daphne said urgently.
“Actually, the dowry’s already has been set,” Harry said. “It’s the grimoire.”
“But…” Malcolm protested.
“A deal’s a deal, sir,” Harry said.
“We will talk of this in private,” Malcolm said firmly.
“I’m sure we will,” Harry said with a chuckle.
“Is there pudding with this dinner?” Astoria asked.
“Pud!” Teddy shrieked, clapping his hands.
Pudding was served and planning continued until Andromeda announced that she was putting Teddy to bed, which most took as the cue to leave. Harry and Daphne walked into the front garden and sat on a bench facing the pond.
“I wish I were shorter now,” Daphne said.
“I could snuggle with you better.”
“Maybe I should get a booster seat.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Daphne said with a huff. “Penny for your thoughts?”
“I was drifting – I thought how nice it was to sit here with my arm around you – I thought about whether we’d live at Grimmauld Place or in Aberdeen – I thought that I might be able to fix the mirror tonight after you leave,” Harry replied.
“We will spend our wedding night at Grimmauld Place,” Daphne said.
“Well, that will make Kreacher happy,” Harry said. “He’s always wanted to serve the Mistress , seeing me as a poor substitute.”
“There’s no way we’re going to get the house in Aberdeen furnished and stocked before the wedding – there’s just too much to get done,” Daphne said.
“Am I going to see you again before the second Sunday, or are you going to disappear into the bridal cloud?”
“You’d best see me again before the wedding, if you know what’s good for you, Mister Potter,” Daphne said.
“I’d like that,” Harry said.
Queenie’s Diary – enciphered entry
I wish to state for the record that Harry was not raised by wolves. It must have been bower birds.
Harry really does want to make me happy. I just have to watch what I say, because usually he interprets it literally.
Note to self: I should probably banish “bugger me” from my stable of choice expletives.
We’re going out tomorrow to look at rings. I think he really did want to buy me an engagement ring, but I’ve convinced him that a plain gold band on my right hand will suffice; it’s very traditional.
He is right; the whole cult of the diamond solitaire engagement ring is a marketing triumph of the DeBeers Company. I’m frankly surprised that the custom has made its way into the Wizarding world.
End of Entry – checksum 2257
Addendum – enciphered
It was a different nightmare this time. In the dream I didn’t get to Harry in time and Deimos split his skull like a melon. I woke with a start and picked up my mirror, but then thought that Harry probably hadn’t rebuilt his mirror yet, so I went down to the office and called the Tonks’ residence. I unfortunately didn’t look at the clock to check the time until after Andi picked up.
“I’m very sorry, Andi, I just had a bad nightmare.”
“Do you want me to wake Harry?”
“No, that’s not necessary – if you could just tell me he’s still there I would be very grateful to you.”
Andi put the phone down and in a moment picked it up again.
“You’re going to love this,” Andi said.
“Teddy must have escaped from the crib. He’s snuggled up to Harry, one hand grabbing a fistful of Harry’s hair, the other hand stuck in his mouth, sucking his thumb. Teddy’s hair is black and wild.”
“That’s got to be really cute,” I said.
“I’m going to take a picture of it – if it turns out, I’ll give you a print. You’re very lucky, Daphne, he’s going to make a great father.”
“Please tell him that,” I said. “He’s of two minds on that topic. He desperately wants a family, but he’s terrified that he’ll be rubbish as a parent.”
“I’ll talk to him – are you feeling better now?”
“Yes, thank you.”
“When Dora was an Auror, I often had dreams of her dying in the line of duty. I know what it feels like to wake up from those dreams.”
“Thanks, Andi, you’ve been wonderful, really.”
“All I ask is that you love Harry and take care of him as best you can.”
“With all my heart.”
“Good night, Daphne.”
End of entry – Checksum 237
Ring shopping took a grand total of thirty minutes. At first Harry would not believe that the austere gold band was indeed Daphne’s first choice until she explained that Grace wore such a band, Fiona had worn such a band, and similarly on through three generations of Greengrass brides.
“I don’t know what my great-great-great grandmother wore, but frankly, I don’t care, Harry. This is what I want,” Daphne said earnestly.
They spent more time discussing the engraving and enchantments for the rings than selecting the rings themselves.
“Are you up for a quick coffee?” Daphne asked, pulling him into a café near the jewelers.
They were briskly seated and served. Daphne took her coffee black with sugar; Harry took his with cream and sugar.
“You on a schedule or something?” Harry asked.
“Augusta wants me to drop by and look at gowns,” Daphne said.
“You want company for that?”
“No, definitely no,” Daphne said resolutely. “I’ll be spending more time out of the gowns than in them, and I wish to preserve some mystery as to my physical charms between now and the twentieth.”
“I’m not sure that there’s a lot of mystery left,” Harry said. “But I’m looking forward to it.”
He finished his coffee and kissed her.
“I certainly hope so,” Daphne said, after he’d left.
The day had been a long one for Harry. After the ring shopping, he’d stopped by Gringotts to talk to the human specialist who was in charge of wrangling the paperwork for sale of the house in Aberdeen. It was a cash transaction, which should have simplified things, but Harry quickly learned that simple and real estate rarely fit together in the same sentence.
After he escaped Gringotts, he had a brief bit of time to do some shopping before the first of his scheduled interviews with Luna, preparing for the series of articles that would appear in the Quibbler. Xenophilius was not quite ready to deal with meeting Harry, according to Luna, so it was an one-on-one meeting held in the public garden not far from Grimmauld Place. They were in plain view of anyone in the park, but they were layered behind multiple privacy charms.
“You’re looking good, Harry,” Luna said.
“Thanks,” he replied.
“Your soul is much more firmly rooted than the last time we spoke,” she said in a matter-of-fact manner.
“Well, that’s good, I guess,” Harry said.
Luna then got out a dictation quill, tested it, using both of their voices, and began a thorough question and answer session that ran two hours straight.
“Luna, do you want to take a break for dinner?” Harry asked.
Luna gave him an appraising glare and then turned off the quill.
“I don’t think that would be proper,” she said.
“What are you talking about?”
“You’re obviously in love, I don’t remember any dalliances I ever had with you after the Slug Club, so I’m fairly certain that you’re not in love with me , so I’m questioning the propriety of whether we should be dining in private together,” Luna said, looking at him with a perpetually surprised expression.
“What do you mean?” Harry said.
“The Churzwizzles are gone; love drives them away. There’s probably not a Churzwizzle in a block or two in all directions,” she said confidently.
“Ah, Luna, do you mind if I make a quick call?” Harry asked.
“Go right ahead, would you like some privacy?” Luna asked.
“That won’t be necessary.”
Harry pulled out a duplicate to the mirror he’s made for Daphne, having concluded that it was as easy to fabricate a clone of Daphne’s mirror from his notes as it was to rebuild his original mirror. He touched the hazel colored dot on the mirror rim and waited patiently.
The mirror chimed quietly and then lit up.
“Harry, how delightful,” Daphne said as the connection opened. “We are finally done. Sixteen dresses, eight fittings and we finally have something that works. Augusta has been wonderful,” she gushed.
“I’m here with Luna, doing the first interview,” Harry began.
“I remember you saying that you were doing that today,” Daphne said.
“Hi, Daphne,” Luna said, looking over Harry’s shoulder and waving.
“Hi, Luna,” Daphne replied, returning with her own wave.
“Luna thinks that it would be improper for us to go grab a bite to eat,” Harry said.
“Well, she is correct,” Daphne said.
“Is this another rule?” Harry asked.
“Ah, more of a recommendation,” Daphne said. “You’re never wrong to be out socially in a group, but almost always wrong to be with a young, single woman, unless she’s your employee, your ward, or some sort of relative.”
Harry pondered this for a while.
“We’ve been alone together, lots,” Harry objected.
“Yes, and it’s been with my parents’ direct permission, besides, you are my betrothed, as far as magic is concerned, you’ve been so since Riddle died,” Daphne explained.
“This is all terribly fascinating,” Luna exclaimed. “I suppose this is off the record?”
“Oh, shite,” Harry said. “I’d forgotten that Luna was a reporter.”
“That’s because you think of me as a friend, Harry,” Luna said.
“You are my friend, Luna,” Harry said firmly.
“Thank you, Harry. I value your friendship,” Luna said.
“Luna, how would you like an exclusive on this story, but sit on it until Sunday?” Daphne asked. “I suppose I should probably ask you first, Harry, but I was assuming that you’d say ‘I don’t care.’”
“I do care, but I think that would be okay. What’s happening Sunday?”
“The reading of the banns,” Daphne explained.
“What’s that?” Harry asked.
“A public announcement that a couple will be getting married – usually it’s done every Sunday for a month prior to the wedding, but that’s not practical in our situation,” Daphne said. “We’re getting off track – you asked about dinner.”
“Yeah,” Harry replied.
“Harry I trust you with my life and with my magic, I certainly have no qualms about you grabbing a bite to eat with Luna,” Daphne said. “Luna?”
“He’s mine, just keep that in mind and everything will be fine,” Daphne said cheerfully.
“I will try to comport myself with dignity and keep my hands to myself,” Luna said solemnly.
“We’re good then,” Daphne said. “Is there anything else?”
“No, I can’t think of anything,” Harry said.
“Can you pop by for breakfast tomorrow?”
“Good, see you then,” Daphne said and blew him a kiss. The surface of the mirror went dark.
“She didn’t say she loved you,” Luna observed.
“No, we haven’t said that yet,” Harry said.
Luna raised one eyebrow.
“Harry, I have a confession to make,” Luna said.
“Oh?” Harry said, somewhat distracted.
“I can’t really see Churzwizzles,” Luna said. “You just looked happy, and the last time I saw you this happy you were with Ginny.”
“You played me,” Harry said.
“This isn’t a hobby, Harry, it’s my job.” Luna said.
“Good thing you’re my friend then,” Harry said.
“I think so,” Luna said. “How about kabobs?”
“Kebabs?” Harry asked, feeling confused.
“No, kabobs, it’s like a kebab but it’s from Afghanistan.”
“Oh, where can we get one?”
Luna paused. “Afghanistan?”
“Why don’t we settle for kebabs – there’s a good place in Leicester – and plan an international trip another day?”
“I guess,” Luna sighed.
They Apparated to the unassuming looking take-away in Leicester, Harry ordered for both of them, and they carried the food to a different park, and continued the interview under the lights that illuminated the paths in the park. Two and a half hours and one warming charm later, Luna closed her notebook and silenced her quill.
“I’m cream-crackered, Harry, we’ve got to finish this interview another time,” Luna said.
“We’re not done?”
“Oh no, we’ve got lots more kebabs and maybe even fish and chips to go through before we wrap up the first story. Plus, I’ve got to interview you, or Daphne, or maybe both of you together for the story that’s running next Monday,” Luna said.
“I was hoping you’d forgotten about that,” Harry said.
“I think it was you who said that hope was not a strategy, Harry,” Luna said with a smirk.
“Okay,” Harry said with resignation.
“I’ll call Daphne and set up the next interviews. I’m assuming that she knows your schedule?”
“Pretty much,” Harry said.
“You look happy, Harry. I’m really glad for you,” Luna said, smiling broadly.
“It’s been amazing,” Harry said.
“Save it for the interview, I’m off the clock,” Luna said.
“Good night, Luna. Do you need me to walk you somewhere?”
“That won’t be necessary,” Luna said, fading and disappearing with a puff of steam. “I’ll see myself out,” a disembodied voice said.
“Long day, Harry?” Andi asked as he walked into the kitchen.
“Yeah – almost five hours interviewing with Luna,” he replied. “She only looks spacey – there’s a very sharp mind under that eccentric persona.”
“Let me make you some tea,” Andi said.
“I need to sleep, Andi,” Harry objected.
“I’ll make it herbal, it will help you sleep. Did you eat while you were out?”
“Yeah, I’m good.”
Andi bustled about the kitchen and minutes later a steaming cup was in front of Harry.
He sipped it cautiously and then murmured his approval.
“What’s in here?”
“Oh, this and that,” Andi said, “it’s my own blend.”
“It’s good, thanks,” Harry said.
“You’re welcome. Did I ever tell you what I did after Hogwarts?” Andi asked.
“I thought you helped Ted in the brokerage.”
“That’s what I did after Nymphadora went to school. Before that I worked in an apothecary, compounding potions,” Andi explained. “You need to know that I’ve frozen you to your chair and with that tea in your system, you won’t be able to Apparate for another hour.”
“I don’t know what to say, Andi,” Harry said, noticing that he did feel a little light headed. It was a pleasant buzz.
“Did Sirius ever give you the Wizards and Witches talk?” Andi asked.
“You have to remember that I was just fifteen when he died, and we didn’t spend all that much time together,” Harry said. “He said that sex had two purposes, making babies and building the love bond, and that anyone who said you could separate the two purposes was lying.”
“Did he now?” Andromeda asked. “I’m impressed, that’s rather mature for him.”
“Do you agree with that?” Harry asked.
“More or less.” Andi said, “What do you know?”
“I know that I like girls, and I like Daphne a whole lot, and tab A goes into slot B, but other than that, not much.”
“Oh good,” Andi said, opening a cupboard, pulling out a medium sized box. Opening it, she pulled out two cloth dolls, each slightly less than two feet tall. The dolls were male and female, dressed in typical Wizarding robes.
“These are teaching props, we’ll call them Adam and Eve,” Andi said, loosening the ties that held robes on the dolls. Beneath the robes the dolls were naked and incredibly detailed. “I’m going to give you a lesson in how to make a witch happy. We can do this the easy way or the hard way.”
“What’s the hard way?” Harry asked.
“The hard way is the dolls are transfigured to look like you and Daphne,” Andi said.
“You are an evil witch,” Harry said. “I’ll be a good little wizard and we can do this the easy way.”
“Oh good,” Andi said brightly. “Now pay attention.”
Harry was sluggish the next day. The tutorial with Andi had alternated between being enlightening and horrifying, with large doses of embarrassment to spice the mix. Thanks to the tea he’s slept like a rock, but he was groggy when he woke the next day. He showered, shaved and gave Teddy a hug before Apparating to the Greengrass estate.
Daphne met him at the gate, kissing him before taking his arm.
“You look peaky,” she said.
“I was ambushed last night,” Harry explained, “by Andi, with Adam and Eve dolls.”
“The little cloth dolls with gentleman and lady parts?” Daphne asked.
“You’re familiar with them?”
“Father has a set,” Daphne said.
“Because he uses it when he investigates child abuse allegations; little children may not have words for things, but they can tell horrifying stories with those dolls,” Daphne said.
“Oh,” Harry said.
“Yes, oh, they weren’t created just to torture you,” Daphne said. “Enlightening?”
“Very,” Harry said. “I might start blushing randomly when we’re together, but… she wanted to make sure that I could make you happy.”
“I’m sure you will,” Daphne said, pausing in the path. “Harry, I’m a virgin, I’m terrified that I’m going to be rubbish in bed, but I’m really glad my first time is going to be with you.”
“I feel the same way,” he said.
“We’re in this together,” Daphne said.
“Always,” Harry said.
A marvelous smell permeated the kitchen when they came into the house through the back entrance, closest to the kitchen.
“Smells great, what is it?” Harry asked.
“Mum got up early this morning and made cinnamon buns,” Daphne said.
“I thought Mimsy ran the kitchen,” Harry said.
“Not all the time, sometimes Mum wants to make things special. When I was a little girl growing up, whenever I was sick, Mum would make this after I’d recovered. Some sort of minor celebration, I suppose. She’d also make it when I came back from competitions, win or lose,” Daphne explained.
“So, what’s this?” Harry asked.
“I think she’s happy that we’re getting married – or that I’m moving out of the house, it could go either way,” Daphne said in a perfect deadpan expression.
“Hmm,” Harry said noncommittally.
They served themselves from the chafing dishes on a side table and carried their plates to the kitchen table.
As they were pouring tea, Astoria came in.
“Sticky buns! What’s the occasion?” Astoria asked.
“I think it’s anticipating your new bedroom,” Harry said.
Astoria stuck her tongue out at him.
“Is this a couple-y meeting, or can I eat here?” Astoria asked.
Harry looked to Daphne.
“We’re going over some details, but nothing that would harm your maidenly ears,” Daphne said.
“Oh, good, I hate eating breakfast alone,” Astoria said.
Harry watched with some amusement as Astoria piled her plate with buns.
“Are you eating anything other than buns?” he asked.
“Probably not,” Astoria replied.
“You need something more than that, midget, the sugar crash is going to flatten you,” Daphne commented.
Astoria went back to the side table and spooned a minute portion of eggs onto her plate and then added one rasher of streaky bacon.
“Satisfied?” Astoria asked.
“I’m thrilled,” Daphne said, rolling her eyes for effect.
They ate for a while in silence, excepting Astoria’s noises of enjoyment as she ate three buns in succession.
Daphne pulled out a clipboard.
“Okay, some details. We have the rings,” she began.
“I thought you weren’t getting a ring,” Astoria interrupted.
Daphne brandished her right hand where her wedding band was now serving as a sigil of engagement.
“When we get married, it will move to the other hand,” Daphne explained.
“Oh,” Astoria said. “Does Mum have an engagement ring?”
“No,” Daphne said with a mild amount of annoyance. “May I continue? Without waiting for a reply, she said, “Rings are done; Mum says she’s got a musician signed for that date.”
“Good,” Harry said.
“Homer’s bringing some pipers with him; they don’t seem to be available as anything other than a set.
“Father Backer has let Father know that he’ll be officiating. There’s something about a license for him to perform up here that didn’t make sense to me, but I’ll leave that to someone who cares.”
“Father Backer is Church of England, and we’re in Scotland,” Astoria volunteered.
“So?” Daphne said.
“He’s got to get permission from the local Scottish Episcopal bishop to perform services in that bishop’s diocese,” Astoria said.
“Where’d you learn that, midget?” Daphne asked.
“I paid attention in my history lessons,” Astoria said proudly.
“You are truly a well-rounded marvel,” Daphne said. “Harry, how is the house coming along?”
“The paperwork is done, its title is in your name,” Harry said.
“Why?” Daphne asked.
“They asked how I wanted it done, and that just seemed right,” Harry explained. “I was buying it for you, after all.”
“Any houses after this will be titled in both names,” Daphne said.
“Okay,” Harry replied. “Is that one of the rules?”
“Yes,” Daphne replied curtly.
“We have a cake, the pub is providing all the rest of the refreshments, which is kind of them, since Father’s paying the tab for the bar, and my gown is finished.”
“May I see it?”
“No,” Daphne said flatly. “You’ll see it on the twentieth.”
“How will I know which dressed up woman is you?” Harry asked.
“I’ll be the one dressed in blue, glaring at you, asking you to behave,” Daphne said playfully. “The veil might be a giveaway too.”
“Not white?” Harry asked.
“No, Harry, virgin brides in white is a Sassenach custom, and while I’m eminently qualified to wear white, this is a Scottish wedding,” Daphne said proudly. “Getting back to the list, Father Backer has some questionnaires he wants us to fill out, and he’s going to be dropping by for some counseling.”
“We have to have counseling?” Harry asked.
“It’s not required, but it’s a good idea,” Daphne said.
“Why?” Harry asked.
“Managing expectations, mainly; it’s coming to agreements on money and property, children, if we’re going to church, where we’re going to church, whether toothpaste tubes are squeezed from the top, the bottom or the middle, things like that,” Daphne said.
“How do you squeeze toothpaste?” Harry asked.
“From the middle,” she said. “You?”
“From the bottom, usually,” Harry said.
“You going to be freaked out if you find it squeezed in the middle?”
“No, I’ll probably just re-squeeze from the bottom and roll it up a bit,” Harry said.
“She’s a blanket hog,” Astoria warned. “She also kicks the sheets out at the end of the bed.”
“Why?” Harry asked.
“It’s more comfortable that way, the bed’s usually not long enough,” Daphne said.
“Yeah, we probably need to talk about that stuff,” Harry said.
“Have you talked to Hermione?” Daphne asked.
“I forgot, sorry,” Harry said.
“Let’s call her now – it’s about 6:00 PM her time,” Daphne said. “We’ll do it out by the fountain.”
Daphne pulled out her mirror and then saw Harry pull out his mirror too.
“It’s just like mine,” Daphne exclaimed.
“Not so, it has a manly Celtic knot inscribed on the back,” Harry said.
“Is that what the scratching is supposed to be?”
“I never said I was an artist,” Harry said.
“What happens if we both call her?” Daphne asked.
“I’m not quite sure – she should see a split screen with both of us,” Harry said. “It works most of the time. This is experimental; it’s not quite ready for the big leagues.”
“Okay, here goes,” Daphne said, touching the spot on the mirror frame that activated the mirror. Harry touched his mirror at the same time.
They heard background noise before they saw Hermione.
“Hang on, hang on, I have to pull this out of my purse – it was at the bottom,” Hermione said.
Her face appeared in both mirrors.
“Cool, split screen – I can see both of you!” Hermione exclaimed.
“Not a really difficult feat, since we’re sitting together on a bench,” Harry said. “It is something I’ve been working on.”
“So, the two of you are calling me, am I to assume that you’ve reached some sort of understanding?” Hermione asked.
“You could say that,” Daphne said, looking at Harry.
“What are you doing Sunday the twentieth?” Harry asked.
“Are you talking the day before the solstice? Cutting it a little fine, aren’t you?” Hermione asked. “I assume that I’m going to be scrambling to find a way to Scotland.”
“What if I can bring you here?” Harry asked.
“Harry, international flight is expensive, and the international Portkey takes forever to get approved,” Hermione objected.
“Are you inside or outside?” Harry asked.
“I’m inside my parents’ kitchen,” Hermione said. “It’s my turn to do dishes.”
“Help me out with an experiment here, Hermione,” Harry said. “Go outside and show me the outside of the house.”
“Okay, let me get out the door,” Hermione said.
The picture jumbled and tossed as Hermione walked out the door and then stabilized.
“I’m placing it on top of the bird bath,” Hermione explained, and then walked back into the picture.
“This good enough?” Hermione asked.
“Yeah,” Harry said. “We’re going to ring off, and in a minute we’ll either call you right back, or we’ll be there.”
Harry touched the surface of the mirror and Daphne followed his lead.
“What are we doing, Harry?” Daphne asked.
“Come into the shadows with me,” he invited.
She took his hand and they both faded from sight.
At the best of times the shadows was a disorienting place. They saw smoky images corresponding to the Greengrass estate: house, fountain, barns in the distance.
“Are you going to try Apparating from the shadows?” Daphne asked.
“I’ve already done it,” Harry said. “I’m good for about five hundred miles in the reality we know, but I haven’t yet found my limit in the shadows.”
“Where’d you go?” Daphne asked.
“Cape Town, South Africa,” Harry replied.
“I had a really good picture,” Harry answered. “Do you have the image of Hermione’s house set in your mind?”
“Uh, not really,” Daphne said.
“Come here,” Harry said.
“Oh, if I must,” Daphne said dramatically. “Seriously, I think this is the best way to Apparate.”
She molded herself to Harry as he put his arms around her and they disappeared from the shadows.
They reappeared in a small walled in garden. The Granger residence appeared to be the end unit of a row house. Daphne looked at Harry and gave him a quick peck.
Hermione cleared her throat.
“Yes, it appears that you have reached an understanding,” she said. “Congratulations.”
“Hey, Hermione,” Harry said in greeting.
“Hey, yourself,” she replied. “That wasn’t Apparation.”
“Um, no, it wasn’t,” Harry said.
“You are going to tell me what that was?” Hermione asked.
“Um, no,” Harry said. “It’s not my secret.”
Daphne looked from Harry to Hermione and back.
“We’ll talk to Father,” Daphne concluded. “To make it official, Harry has accepted the betrothal and we’ve set a date for the twentieth.”
“Okay, I guess transportation is not going to be a problem,” Hermione said.
“Probably not,” Daphne said.
“Do I have to get all cuddly to travel that way?” Hermione asked.
“That’s up to Daphne,” Harry said.
“You have him trained already,” Hermione said.
“It’s hard, but yes, he is teachable,” she said, smiling brightly at Harry. “Go hug your friend, Hermione.”
Hermione sprang across the distance and applied one of her signature hugs. She then reversed the field and hugged Daphne.
“You two look happy,” Hermione said.
“Well, we had a choice between scared out of our wits and happy and chose the latter,” Harry said.
“Harry, I think I can find my way back, can you excuse us and let us talk for a while?” Daphne asked.
“Sure, call me on the mirror if you need help,” Harry said, and then disappeared.
“You done with the dishes?” Daphne asked.
“I just started,” Hermione said.
“You dry, I’ll wash. I don’t know where anything goes in your kitchen,” Daphne proposed.
“Sounds like a deal,” Hermione said.
“Can you warm the water a bit?” Daphne asked.
“Add more hot water or with a warming charm?” Hermione asked.
“You know, I didn’t even think about adding hot water,” Daphne said. “As I told Harry, my warming charm has two settings, tepid and extra crispy, so I don’t use it much.”
Hermione cast a quick charm, raising the temperature.
“Thanks,” Daphne said, sinking her hands into the dishwater.
“So, what are we talking about?” Hermione asked.
“I need to know why you’ve been so helpful and why it’s not you getting married to Harry,” Daphne said.
“What difference would it make?” Hermione asked.
“If you’re the one he really wants, I’ll break the engagement,” Daphne said.
“At the price of your magic?”
“Yes,” Daphne said fiercely.
“Okay,” Hermione said, composing her thoughts as she dried the pot that Daphne had just handed to her.
“I guess it boils down to the notion that I love Harry, but I’m not in love with Harry,” Hermione said.
“Elaborate, please,” Daphne asked.
“Harry was my first friend in the Magical world, and it’s all or nothing with Harry, if he’s your friend, he’ll be your friend to the end,” Hermione explained. “There’s practically nothing I wouldn’t do for him, and I expect he feels the same way.
“There’s a catch, though. Harry’s wife will need to give birth to or be willing to adopt a pack of children. I simply don’t want to be a mother,” Hermione said.
“That’s it?” Daphne said incredulously.
“I would like to marry, someday,” Hermione said. “If my husband-to-be is willing to be childless, that would be optimal, if not, I would bear one child to make this as-of-yet hypothetical husband happy, but that’s about as far as I’m willing to think of going right now.”
“Harry wouldn’t be happy with just one?” Daphne asked.
“Harry would do whatever his wife wanted,” Hermione said. “But if his wife wanted only one child, or preferably no child, a little part of Harry would die inside.
“What do you know of the Mirror of Erised?”
“It’s a legendary artifact, it shows you your heart’s desire,” Daphne answered. “Does it really exist?”
“Harry saw it in his first year at Hogwarts. Dumbledore had it hidden in the castle, which of course meant that Harry found it,” Hermione explained.
“What did he see?”
“He saw what he can’t have,” Hermione explained. “His family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, brothers, sisters, a wife and children in abundance.”
“What did you see?” Daphne asked.
“What makes you think I ever saw the mirror?”
“Let’s call it a hunch,” Daphne said.
“I saw myself in the Headmaster’s office at Hogwarts, or rather, the Headmistress’s office. The desk was littered with books that I’d written. There was a picture of someone, probably Harry, on the desk, but no pictures of children,” Hermione said.
“So, you can’t both be happy,” Daphne said.
“No,” Hermione said, tears welling in her eyes. “I love him enough that his happiness is more important than mine.”
“I thought about it, I thought about it a lot.
“I had plans and schemes by the dozen.
“Very Slytherin,” Daphne said.
“Most people think the Hat wanted to put me into Ravenclaw,” Hermione said.
“It offered you Slytherin?” Daphne asked incredulously.
“Harry’s not the type of man that you have a brief, brilliant affair with and then move on – that would devastate him.”
“He doesn’t find me that attractive, although he enjoys my friendship. If we were married, the situation that would make him happiest would make me miserable, and vice versa.
“I’m not going to do that to him.
“Harry could make me happy, but I can’t make him happy, not in the long run, so I will cherish his friendship, hope that he marries a witch who can make him happy, and wait for the wizard who will make me just as happy.
“I’m very content with the possibility of being his children’s favorite aunt,” Hermione concluded.
“So that’s why you helped me?” Daphne asked.
“I was rolling the dice, hoping that you had what I lacked. The fact that we’re having this conversation means that you love him, truly love him, which makes me very happy,” Hermione said, tears running down her cheeks.
“Which is why you’re crying right now,” Daphne said.
“Of course,” Hermione said, sniffling. “Didn’t you cry when Harry proposed?”
“He didn’t exactly propose, but yes, I cried. It confused him a bit,” Daphne said.
“There’s a story there,” Hermione said.
So Daphne told that story, and then another, and then another.
Queenie’s Diary – June 1998 - enciphered entry
Written from what I hope is a guest room at Grimmauld Place.
And so it came to pass that Harry Potter was loved by two Slytherin women, one of whom loved him so much that she conceded the field to the other.
How I respect Hermione Jean Granger!
I worry about a lot of things, most of which are inconsequential.
I worry that Harry is marrying me not because he loves me (or thinks I’m ‘hot’ in a clinging silk nightgown – as if) but from a sense of duty.
It doesn’t matter in the long run, because I know I will be a good wife to him, and a good mother to his children (very plural) and we will come to love one another.
But still I worry.
Tomorrow is another day, and I must bring this entry to a close if I have any hope of not being a sleep deprived zombie.
End of entry – checksum 3223
Author’s notes on Gretna Green, bower birds and Cinnamon Rolls
England and Scotland are two different countries, with two different legal systems.
In Scotland, one of the options for marriage in the old days was to hold yourself out in public as married.
English couples would take advantage of this by going to Gretna Green (a small Scottish town on the Scot side of the border) and say "Hey, we’re single and we want to be Mr. and Mrs. Brown" to the first members of the public they found. Gretna Green had a pub, a blacksmith shop, and a store of some sort. Depending on the time of day, you were most likely to run into citizens in the blacksmith shop, hence the tradition of blacksmith weddings.
Scotland has changed the law on this point, so don’t try the "Hey, we’re single and want to be married" trick.
Gretna Green is now the Las Vegas of the UK, with lots of little wedding chapels, all of which have blacksmith anvils.
As a blacksmith, I can only say "what a waste of a good anvil."
Bower birds have a somewhat odd courtship pattern in which the male will build a gaudy nest and the female inspects the nest - if she finds it suitable, the pair will mate, if not, then not.
Jeconais tells me that Cinnamon Rolls (a/k/a sticky buns, a/k/a cinnamon buns) are a recent development in the UK. If you travel by air, you will likely find a Cinnabon franchise somewhere in the airport (or in the mall). It's a weak cinnamon roll smothered in industrial strength buttercream frosting. Now, I like buttercream frosting, but I'm of the opinion that a good cinnamon roll doesn't need frosting of any sort (I used to call the pastry I made "naked buns" to the delight of my nephew and niece, who thought that was somehow scandalous). In this story Grace is using a good recipie and doesn't use frosting on her cinnamon rolls, which is as it should be.