By right of conquest
Chapter the Third
As always, thanks to GardenGirl, the sustainable, homeschooling, organic beta, and Jeconais.
By Right of Conquest
Chapter the Third
Harry Potter was sitting on the front steps of Number 12 Grimmauld Place, sipping the perfect cup of coffee he’d received from Kreacher minutes ago. Putting the cup down on the step he said, “Mr. Rufus, I know you’re here. May I talk to you?”
The breeze rustled the leaves of the nearest tree. A vertical ring of fire appeared to Harry’s right.
“Nice try, Mr. Rufus – you’re on the other side.”
The ring of fire sputtered out. A tall man appeared to Harry’s left, handsomely dressed in a suit with a severely black fedora accented with a blood red hat band.
“Mr. Potter?” the man said.
“Is Rufus your first or last name?”
“It’s the name you may use. I’m amused when humans call me ‘mister’ so keep on calling me ‘Mr. Rufus.’
“What are you? I mean, I know you’re a goblin, but are you a shape shifter or are you just really, really good at illusions?” Harry asked.
“You called me out of cover to ask about what I am?” Rufus asked.
“No, that’s secondary. I’m a curious guy some times. So, what is it, shape shifter or illusionist?”
“Thank you, Mister Clarity,” Harry said drolly.
“What do you need, Mr. Potter?”
“I’m wondering if I could hire you to do something.” Harry asked.
“Possibly,” Rufus began.
Harry pulled a small rectangular package from his shirt pocket. “I need this delivered to Hermione Granger, she’s somewhere in Australia. Can you do it?”
“Australia is a rather large place Mr. Potter.”
“Yes, I did look at a map, but I reckoned you, or someone else who works for Ragnok, in one capacity or another, might already know where she could be found,” Harry said.
“Hmmm,” Rufus said noncommittally, reaching for the package. Hefting it in his hand for a moment before it disappeared, presumably into one of his pockets. “Why not use an owl?”
“My owl is dead, I don’t trust the Postal Owls, and I would wager that you could get in and out without being seen,” Harry explained.
“Two pounds sterling – coin only, no bank notes,” Rufus said, “payable after delivery.”
“You drive a hard bargain, Mr. Rufus,” Harry said with a smile.
“I’ll also require your word that you won’t leave the house for thirty minutes or so,” Rufus insisted.
“I suppose that I could do that.”
“It’s a pleasure doing business with you, Mr. Potter,” Rufus said, tipping his hat before he faded from sight.
“I have gotta learn how to do that,” Harry said, knocking back the rest of the coffee before he went back into the house.
Walking up to his bedroom he fished through the bowl that held the loose change he emptied from his pockets, finding a two pound coin at the bottom. Slipping this into his pocket, he went downstairs and busied himself in the kitchen, taking care to leave the coin on the middle of the table. After half an hour he noticed that the coin was gone, although he hadn’t heard anyone enter the room.
“Thank you, Mr. Rufus,” he said to the empty room.
He then heard the sound of a chime coming from his pocket. He pulled a hand-sized mirror from his pocket and sat down.
“Harry?” a familiar voice called.
“Yes, Hermione, I’m here. Tap the mirror with your finger.”
“Oh! I can see you now!” she said with excitement.
“Sirius left a notebook – he’d been writing up notes on how the Marauder’s map was made – there was a long section buried in there that explained how to charm mirrors for communication,” Harry explained.
“You are going to give me a copy of that?” Hermione said expectantly.
“If you’re good,” he replied. “So, how are you, how are your parents, how’s Australia?”
“I’m exhausted, my parents are livid, and Australia’s really a wonderful place. I suppose you’ve heard it all from Ronald,” Hermione began.
“Isn’t he with you?”
“No, he took off two weeks ago. We had… we had a screaming row worse than any we’ve ever had. I don’t think we’re together anymore,” Hermione said.
“I’m sorry to hear that. What happened?”
“Well, we found Mum and Dad, and I was able to reverse the Obliviation,” she began.
“So far, so good,” he commented.
“Yeah, well, Dad’s still not talking to me and Mum screamed at me for more than a day.”
“Ronald suggested that we Obliviate them again and go back to England,” Hermione said with a chilly tone.
“I imagine that you didn’t take to that very well.”
“I think it was Ron saying ‘well, they’re only Muggles,’ that pushed me over the edge. After he left, I realized that I wasn’t much better. I did dangerous, potentially irreversible magic on my own parent’s minds, without their consent, because as a witch, I obviously knew better.”
“But it was for the greater good, Hermione,” Harry said, tongue-in-cheek.
“If I was there, I’d hit you right now for saying that,” she said calmly.
“Yeah, well, good thing you’re there and I’m here,” Harry said. “Look, I’m sorry that Ron’s being Ron. I don’t think he’s going to change; he is what he is and you’re not going to change him. Have things gotten any better with your mum and dad?”
“Kind of, Dad’s still not speaking to me, Mum, well, she said this morning that she understood why I did what I did, which is a breakthrough of sorts.”
“So, you coming back or are you there for the foreseeable future?”
“I think I’m going to be in Australia for a while. How are you doing?”
“Me? I’m good – Grimmauld Place, you wouldn’t recognize it now. Kreacher and I have been fixing it up.”
“Is Mrs. Black still there?”
“Kind of, she doesn’t speak any more. I think Death Eaters might have done something to her when they were busting things up here. We finally got the picture off the wall – we shrank it down and it’s now in Kreacher’s room,” Harry explained.
“Harry, who was the man who dropped off the mirror?”
“Tall, handsome bloke with a black hat, red hat band?”
“That’s him,” Hermione said.
“His name’s Mr. Rufus, he works for Ragnok, the Director of Gringotts. I think he’s a Red Cap.”
“He’s a goblin?” Hermione asked incredulously.
“I think he might be the goblin equivalent of a Metamorphmagus. Ragnok thinks that he needs to keep an eye on me,” Harry explained.
“Are you in trouble with the bank?” she asked.
“Not with the bank, no. I authorized a withdrawal to cover the cost of the dragon we liberated from the vaults and we seem to be square on everything else,” he said.
“Well that’s good, I guess,” she said, pondering something. “So, why are you calling, Harry?”
“About that,” he began.
“Spit it out,” she commanded.
“Are you alone?” he asked.
“I’m standing on an observation tower in a park, there’s no one for hundreds of yards in any direction – no one visible that is,” she said cautiously.
“Mr. Rufus probably has someone nearby,”
“Don’t try to creep me out, Harry; it’s not going to work. Why are you calling?”
“I miss you, I wanted to talk to you,” he said.
“I’m….I’m seeing someone,” he said.
“What?” she asked incredulously.
“Is it so hard to believe that I would be interested in a witch?”
“Interested? No. Taking the initiative to actually talk to a girl? Yes, I find that hard to believe. How did this happen?”
“Well, it’s complicated,” Harry began.
“I’m not doing anything more important right now, Harry. Who’s the girl?”
“Astoria or Daphne?”
“Daphne, her friends call her ‘Queenie.’”
“You’re dating Daphne Greengrass?”
“Well, we’re not exactly dating,” Harry began. “Well, I take that back, we did go on a date, but that kind of just happened.”
“Harry, start at the beginning.”
And so Harry explained the strange tale of the Greengrass grimoire and how he’d essentially inherited Tom Riddle’s betrothal to Daphne.
“So, she has to marry you, or she loses her magic,” Hermione asked.
“That seems to be the case.”
“But you don’t have to marry her, and if you don’t, your magic’s not threatened.”
“That seems to be the case too,”
“This has really got to be provoking your people saving thing,”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought too.”
“So, what are you going to do? You have until what, June 21st?”
“What am I going to do? I dunno. I’m not wild about the deadline.”
“Do you even know Daphne?”
“Not until this week. We’ve been spending some time together. I’m having dinner with her family tomorrow.”
“Ooohh, the dreaded meeting with the parents,” Hermione said.
“I’ve gone toe to toe with Dementors and Voldemort – I think I can handle dinner with her parents,” Harry said.
“You might think differently about that after tomorrow,” Hermione said cheerfully.
“Always the optimist, Hermione.”
“Only for you, Harry. What do you think of her?”
“She’s... she’s nice. She’s smart, she’s interesting; we get along okay. I’m really impressed that she was willing to marry Voldemort to protect her family. She understands sacrifice ; precious few people understand that.”
“You’re not telling me that you’re wowed by her beauty, Harry.”
“There’s more to being fanciable than looking like a model, Hermione. Models aren’t real.
“Listen, you’re the one who told me most really good looking girls look like everyone else first thing in the morning – the lookers look that way because of how much time they spend on their appearance, which says something about their values.
“Take Ginny, I…I really… liked her. She was good looking, but that wasn’t why I liked her. I knew that in thirty years or so, she’d look like her mum, and I assure you that Molly doesn’t turn my crank, but that didn’t matter.
“I’m a guy – any girl with the requisite girl parts will be somewhat interesting. I mean, under the right circumstances, I could probably fancy Millicent Bulstrode, but not Pansy Parkinson or Dolores Umbridge, if that makes any sense. I’m not so shallow to say that I’m only interested in busty blondes no taller than I am.
“I’m gagging here, but yeah, I’m following you,” Hermione said.
“I don’t know what to do,” he said plaintively.
“Then don’t do anything.”
“I don’t think I can let this go.”
“Okay, tell me more.”
“Andromeda Tonks put her finger on it, she’s not a fan-girl, and she’s not a gold-digger,” Harry said.
“And that qualifies her to be your wife?” Hermione asked archly.
“Well, when you put it that way it really sounds stupid.”
“Exactly, that’s my point.
“I know her, Harry. She was what Slytherin was supposed to be, cunning and ambitious. She’s quiet, but I always felt that she had a plan and that she was working on making things happen rather than just waiting for things to happen,” Hermione said.
“Unfortunately I don’t know her well enough to say if she’d be a good match for you. Do you even want to get married? You’re only seventeen! What’s driving this, Harry?”
“I dunno. Being with her feels right. When I say it that way it sounds simple minded, but that’s all I can put together in words. I figured you’d tell me what I’m thinking.”
“I don’t tell you what to think, Harry,” Hermione objected.
“Yes, but most times you know me better than I know myself.”
“I think you’re lonely and you’re enjoying her company. I think most of your life you’ve thought that you wouldn’t live to see twenty, and now everything’s wide open. My only piece of advice is don’t rush things. I don’t know why I’m giving you advice, I’m not exactly a poster child for savvy relationships, I just broke up with my first boyfriend, and one of my parents isn’t talking to me.”
“Yeah, I can see that. But you know what? Talking to you has made me feel better,” Harry shared.
“Glad to be of service, Harry. Anything else we need to talk about?”
“Nah, I gotta go to Gringotts with Neville, we’re signing on some financing for rebuilding Longbottom Hall,” Harry said.
“I miss you, Harry,” Hermione said.
“I miss you too, but stay there until you work things out with your parents.”
“Thanks,” Hermione said, touching the surface of the mirror to break the connection.
Andromeda gave Harry’s clothing a careful look. “Okay, how are you dressing for dinner with Daphne’s family?”
“What do you mean?” Harry asked. “I figured I’d go like this.”
“No,” Andromeda said firmly.
“What do you mean no?”
“You’re dining with the Patriarch of a very old family who also happens to be a noble of the realm. If you throw on a formal robe over that you will be adequately dressed, although wearing a family sigil wouldn’t be wrong either. You are the last representative of four old families – the Blacks, the Gaunts, the Potters, and through them the Peverells – you should dress the part, Harry,” Andromeda said solemnly.
She ducked upstairs, returning in a moment with a dark grey robe with black piping, opening it up for Harry to put his arms in the sleeves. Working quickly she lengthened the sleeves, took in the body, and then traced a pattern on each sleeve, leaving a scarlet threaded emblem on each sleeve – the bisected triangle and circle sigil of the Peverell family.
“Now you look like the young head of a family, ready to meet the Patriarch,” she said with certainty.
“I’m not the last Black,” Harry said.
“Could you fetch Teddy please?”
Andromeda raised an eyebrow, but went to pick a dozing toddler up from the playpen that Harry called the ‘Teddy containment field.’ Teddy woke and began to grunt.
“Andromeda Black Tonks, you are reinstated into the Black family along with your husband, daughter, son-in-law and grandson. Welcome back to the family,” Harry said with a smirk.
“That’s not how it’s supposed to be done!” Andromeda protested.
“Are you contradicting the head of your family, Andi?”
“Oh, you!” she fumed. “Take off those robes and change your godson, he just mutilated this nappy.”
Harry Apparated to the area just outside the gate leading to the Greengrass manor house. Looking about, he saw Daphne coming out of the shadows under a tree next to the fence. She was dressed in a chestnut brown gown with gold embroidery work on the sleeves, yoke and neckline.
“You clean up nicely,” she said as she touched the hem of his sleeve.
Dipping her head she brushed his cheek with a kiss. “I’ve missed you,” she whispered into his ear. “Ready for the show?”
“If I say no can I just take you out for pizza instead?” Harry said, smiling.
“That would be ‘no’ but I appreciate the thought,” she answered.
Harry turned towards the gate, which was opening before him. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Daphne heading back to the shadows.
“It’s show time, boys and girls,” he muttered to himself as he walked the brick path to the front door.
The door was wood reinforced with hand worked steel bands and hinges. In the center of the door was the largest door knocker Harry had ever seen outside of the great doors at Hogwarts. He lifted the knocker and let it fall to the door plate three times, wincing at the noise it made.
“Who seeks entry to these halls?” a clear, feminine voice called out.
Drawing himself straight he lowered his voice and said loudly, “I am Harry James Potter, son of James. By blood I am Peverell of House Peverell, by blood and inheritance I am Black of House Black, and by right of conquest I am Gaunt of House Gaunt.”
“Come in peace, Harry, son of James,” the voice replied.
The door opened, showing a miniature version of Madam Greengrass, dressed in a gown similar to the one worn by Daphne, only deep blue with silver embroidery.
“Hi, I’m Astoria. Are you going to marry my sister?”
“Astoria!” Daphne hissed from the corner of the anteroom
“I just wanted to know, because if you do, I get her old bedroom,” Astoria said mischievously.
Harry considered bantering with Astoria, but reckoned that it wouldn’t make the best impression. “We’ll see,” he answered noncommittally.
Harry had been briefed by Daphne on the course of dinner. Malcolm, her father, would begin with a Gaelic blessing, and the meal would begin with a first course of bread, oil and salt, which presumably meant that Harry was now a guest of the house and couldn’t be killed by any member of the family for three days. Harry appreciated the background, but wondered at the logic, or lack thereof, behind the rituals.
“ Beannaigh sinn, a Thiarna, agusna bronnta naisseouait, a bhfuilimid le glacadh ó do rath. Amen ” Malcolm intoned.
Everyone at the table answered “Amen” before Grace lit the candles on the table.
“You are a guest of ours, Harry,” Malcom stated gravely, passing him a plate with an unsliced loaf of bread.
Harry tore a chunk off the end of the loaf, dipped it into the oil, and then sprinkled it with salt before eating it.
“Do you have questions of us, Harry?” Grace asked cheerfully.
“I’ve not spent much time with the old families,” Harry began “although Andromeda Tonks has been trying to fill some of the gaps in my education. Was that a Christian prayer?
“There’s a Christian prayer much like it,” Malcolm said hesitantly “but that prayer was rather more generic than Trinitarian. I take it you don’t speak Gaelic?”
“Not a word. Although I was born in Wales, I grew up near Aldershot, outside London,” Harry replied. “How long has your family been here?”
Malcolm chuckled. “We can prove that we’ve been here since the fourth century, but precious few records on land ownership in Scotland survived before the year 1000.”
“Wow, that’s a long time,” Harry said.
“The Highlands have been good to us,” Malcolm said.
“Harry, Queenie has told us next to nothing about you,” Grace began.
“Goodness knows I’ve tried,” Astoria said “but she won’t say anything about what you do or say when you’re together.”
Harry smiled and locked eyes with Daphne. “Thank you, Daphne.”
“To begin, I can categorically say that everything you read about me in The Daily Prophet is wrong, and none of the histories of ‘the-boy-who-lived’ have a shred of fact in them. I didn’t wrestle trolls as a five year old, I didn’t grow up in a magical palace hidden on an island in a lake, and I didn’t have any magical pets. My parents were murdered when I was a year and a half old, and no, I don’t know why I survived the killing curse. Albus too-many-names Dumbledore ordered that I be whisked away and I was literally left in a basket on my Muggle aunt’s doorstep with a note pinned to my blanket, explaining that my parents were dead and the Dursley family was supposed to raise me. I can say without hesitation that Dumbledore messed up when he sent me there.”
“Why’s that?” Malcolm asked.
“Vernon Dursley hated magic – he thought it was abnormal. He was convinced that if he was brutal enough, he could stamp the abnormality out of me,” Harry answered. “Quite obviously, it didn’t work. Although I had bouts of accidental magic, I didn’t know that I was a wizard until I received my Hogwarts letter when I was eleven.”
“What sort of accidental magic?” Astoria asked.
“Oh, lots of things. I Apparated to the roof of my school one day when I was being chased by my cousin. Clothes that would change color, a bit of Metamorphy when I grew my hair out overnight after a particularly wretched haircut performed by my Aunt, things like that.”
“Cool,” Astoria gushed.
The conversation picked up pace, alternating between quite thorough questions posed by Grace or Malcolm Greengrass and questions posed by Harry. Astoria’s comments and questions seasoned the conversation in the fashion of a thirteen year old witch. In the midst of this interrogation a fish course was served, followed by a main course, and dessert with tea and coffee.
Harry was about to start a new line of conversation when he heard a chime from the pocket of his gown. He pulled the mirror out of his pocket and touched the surface.
“Hello Harry,” Hermione said from the face of the mirror. “I hope that I’m not interrupting dinner. Can you pass this mirror to Daphne? I’d like to talk to her.”
Daphne took the mirror with an enigmatic smile and looked to her father, who nodded. She held the mirror to her chest as she stood, bowed to the table and said “Please excuse me.”
Grace then stood as well. “Astoria, we’re going to leave your father and Harry alone now.”
“But, Mum!” Astoria complained, managing to draw the word into seven syllables.
“None of that, young lady,” Grace said firmly.
Once the door closed Harry could feel a slight drop in air pressure, which usually indicated some sort of privacy charm.
“So, I guess we’re getting some privacy,” Harry said to Malcolm.
“That we are,” Malcolm said. “Harry, I’m not going to beat around the bush, I need to apologize for dragging you into our problems with Voldemort.”
“The rest of Wizarding Britain didn’t seem too bashful about doing that,” Harry said wryly.
“I don’t want you to marry Queenie out of any sense of obligation,” Malcolm said seriously.
“So, you don’t want me to marry her?” Harry asked.
“I didn’t say that,” Malcolm said with a chuckle. “I think that you would make a fine husband for my daughter, which is something said by very few fathers. I’m not going to discuss dowry or any of those other fussy issues. Any decision you make should be made because you want to marry my daughter, not for any other reason.”
“That doesn’t seem very traditional,” Harry said mockingly.
“A true understanding of tradition means that you deviate from tradition when necessary,” Malcolm said. “Tradition is inherited wisdom, not random, arbitrary laws.”
There was a long silence. Malcolm didn’t seem in any hurry to break the silence.
“I want to know why,” Harry began.
“Why I would betroth my daughter to scum like Riddle?”
“Yes, sir, something like that,” Harry said.
“How old do you think I am?”
“I dunno, sixty, seventy?” Harry guessed.
“Next month, I will be one hundred and ten years of age. I married Fiona, my first wife, when I was not much older than you are now. We had a daughter, who emigrated to Canada, and two sons, who chose to remain in Britain. Then, rather late in life, we had Daphne, which was a delightful surprise. Then during Voldemort’s first rising, I lost my sons to Death Eaters, and then I lost Fiona. After my sons died, she took ill suddenly, I suspect it was mainly grief, but she died none-the-less, leaving me as a widower in my nineties with an infant daughter. I remarried, in part so that Queenie would grow up with a mother.”
“I don’t understand,” Harry said.
“Yes, it seems that I’ve gotten lost in the story I’m trying to tell. Let me begin again. I have a duty to my family, of course, but I am the lord of this region. As the English reckon these things I’m an Earl of some sort or other. The Scots call me “Baron” but what it really means is that I’m responsible for the well being of the people of the Marr area. We don’t call them vassals any more, but I still have a duty to protect them.
“When Voldemort came sniffing around for the grimoire, I had several choices, none of them good. I could take up arms against Voldemort. I doubted that I could prevail quickly, which would make my family and my tenants and the people of the area targets for reprisal; my next option was that I could go into hiding with my family, which would again subject my tenants and the people of the area to reprisal. Taking all of the people of this region away to some sanctuary was not feasible. I could give the grimoire to Voldemort, but once he realized that he couldn’t read it, he would capture members of my family and attempt to torture them until he was granted access, which would not work, given the magic binding the grimoire. Or, finally, I could negotiate a bargain.”
“Bargaining with your daughter,” Harry said dismissively.
“In the end, she volunteered,” Malcolm said. “She thought I was insane at first, but she calculated all the angles and agreed this was the best way out.”
“I still don’t like it,” Harry said.
“I didn’t like it either, Harry. It was the least bad choice. Then you defeated Voldemort,” Malcolm sighed. “We thought we were in the clear.”
“Sorry about that,” Harry said contritely. “I didn’t know that all this would happen.”
“You have nothing to apologize for, young man, we were caught in our own web. We’d bound Riddle with the betrothal contract, and now it is time to pay the bill. Daphne wanted to take the consequences and move on with life as a Muggle.”
“So why am I here?” Harry asked.
“Because sometimes life has very strange turns that bring opportunity you never anticipated.”
“I’m an opportunity?” Harry objected.
Malcolm sighed. “I’m not illuminating things very well. I’m going to try to explain something to you; I know you were not raised with money, or position, or power. They each have a curse. If you have daughters, you will someday ask yourself the question, ‘are my daughter’s suitors interested in her, or in the money she will inherit, the title that may pass, or the power that comes with the family name?’ It’s a terrible thing to contemplate.”
“Okay, I can see that, I guess.”
“I know that through inheritance, you are fairly well-to-do. I suspect you wouldn’t know a Viscount from an Earl, and you don’t give a fig for having any more fame or notoriety,” Malcolm said. “I’m not going to blow smoke, Harry. If you marry Daphne, I will do what I can to persuade you to use our combined wealth and influence to bring Wizarding Britain out of the Pureblood morass it’s been in since the time of Queen Victoria; but that potential for change is not why Daphne came to see you at Gringotts.”
“So, why did she come?” Harry asked.
“In part, to save her magic if she could, but primarily because after she thought about it deeply, she concluded that you are everything she would want in a husband,” Malcolm explained.
“Okay, that’s different. I like Daphne,” Harry said calmly. “I don’t know if that’s a good enough reason to marry.”
“I understand,” Malcolm said with a sigh. “I think I’ve made enough of a mess trying to explain things tonight. I suspect the longer we two are alone, the more Astoria will be convinced that I’m torturing you, or vice versa. The child is gifted with a vivid imagination.”
“Yes, and apparently she has her eye on moving into Daphne’s bedroom,” Harry said.
“No doubt measuring for new drapes as we speak,” Malcolm said. “Let’s get some fresh air.”
Daphne tucked the mirror into the pocket of her gown until she was outside the house, safely ensconced under the gazebo in the garden, protected by multiple layers of privacy charms. Sitting down on the bench she pulled the mirror out and set it on her knee.
“I was expecting this call,” Daphne began, “but I thought you’d be using a telephone.”
“You have a telephone?” Hermione asked.
“My parents do.”
“Am I interrupting dinner?”
“No, we were just putting out coffee, and my father was about to dismiss us so he could speak privately with Harry,” Daphne explained. “Is this the phone call where you threaten me, saying that if I ever hurt Harry, you’ll chain me to a rock and have an eagle rip my liver out for breakfast every morning until the end of time?”
“Uh, not exactly,” Hermione said. “I wasn’t planning on using an eagle; although it’s good that you understand that I will make your life hell if you hurt Harry.”
“So, to what do I owe the honor of this call, Miss Hermione Granger?”
“How are things with Harry?” Hermione asked.
“Hah! I wish I knew!” Daphne exclaimed. “Did Harry tell you about our date?”
“He mentioned that there was one.”
“Andromeda Tonks called my mother and set up a day at the zoo, only neither Harry nor I knew that the other was coming. Harry thought he was going out for an adventure with Teddy and I thought Mum was trying to cheer me up. We met at the zoo; Andromeda took Teddy and more or less commanded that we spend the day together. It was nice, in an awkward sort of way. He kissed me at the end of the date, on the cheek.”
“That’s Harry,” Hermione said with a nod. “He’s fairly certain that he likes girls, but he doesn’t particularly know why.”
“He loves you, you know,” Daphne said. “It was Hermione said this, Hermione that – he’s really proud of you.”
“That’s nice to hear,” Hermione said.
“So, apparently you’re not involved in a sordid love triangle with Victor Krum and Harry?”
Hermione laughed. “No, unfortunately, once again, Rita Skeeter was spinning her stories without being burdened by facts. I think Harry thinks of me as a favorite sister.”
“I love Harry, but not in the sweaty sense of the word,” Hermione explained.
“That’s an interesting way of putting it. So, to answer your question, we spent the day at the zoo, a couple of days later we spent a day taking care of Teddy, and today he’s having dinner with my family. I think he likes me, but I don’t think he likes me enough to marry me,” Daphne said.
“I don’t think he knows what he wants,” Hermione said.
“That doesn’t help, not one bit.”
“I wanted to tell you some things about Harry that might help,” Hermione explained.
“He’s not exactly normal. His life growing up was awful. He doesn’t know what love looks like, he doesn’t know what healthy humans do, all he knows is that he wants a family, but he doesn’t want a family like the Dursleys.”
“Yeah, he said that I should pretend that he’d been raised by wolves.”
“Did he? That’s really significant. He’s letting you in to see the real Harry then,” Hermione said appreciatively.
“So, what would help with Harry?”
“Don’t push, but if he opens the door, by all means, walk on through. If you show up naked on his doorstep he’s going to slam the door on you, but if he kisses you, you really need to kiss him back . There’s a little boy inside of Harry that’s desperate for love and approval, but if he thinks you’re lying to him or manipulating him, he’s going to shut you out.
“I think Harry likes you. If he takes the step and marries you, he will spend the rest of his life trying to make you happy, but he doesn’t know how to do that.”
“What do you mean?”
“Girls play games with boys, punishing them when they don’t do what we want,” Hermione explained.
“Yes, of course,” Daphne agreed.
“Harry has no way of knowing what normal behavior is; he’s seen so few healthy relationships. If you play games with him, he’ll either think that he’s being rejected, or manipulated, both of which are bad things when it comes to Harry.”
“Oh,” Daphne said thoughtfully.
“The words ‘he should know what I want’ should never come out of your mouth.
"If you want flowers on your anniversary because that would make you happy, you’re going to have to tell him that. If you want him to listen to you at the end of the day, you’re going to have to tell him that. If you want to make love under the stars, or have him drizzle you with hot chocolate syrup because that would make you happy, you’re going to have to tell him that.
"Harry will be extremely accommodating, but he can’t fathom what you want – he doesn’t have any role models beyond the wretched Muggles who raised him..”
There was a lengthy pause. “Daphne?” Hermione asked.
“I’m sorry, I got distracted with the chocolate,” Daphne said.
“Oh, grow up! That was just the first example of marital weirdness that I could think of. I discovered chocolate stained sheets in the family laundry when I was ten; it wasn’t until I was sixteen that my mum finally told me the truth about those sheets.
“Harry’s a virgin as far as I know, and believe me, I spent a year on the run with him, there’s not much I don’t know about him. The sum total of his experience with girls is this: he took Parvati Patil to the Yule Ball as a friend, he had one date with Cho Chang that went down in flames (which was mostly my fault), he took Luna Lovegood to a Slug Club Christmas Party, again, as a friend, and he had an intense two and a half month something with Ginny Weasley that he broke off because he had the stupid noble idea that he needed to protect her.”
“Did he love her?”
“Probably, that was the happiest I’ve ever seen him, ever . Did he say ‘I love you’ to her? Probably not.”
“Thanks, I think.”
“One more thing,” Hermione said. “Harry has big issues with trust and abandonment. Trust is everything with Harry. If he feels that you’ve betrayed his trust, it’s over. If you walk away from him, he’s not going to come after you – he fully expects that everyone will leave him. If he marries you, you have to do everything you can to outlive him, because he would take your dying as abandonment.”
“You can’t be serious,” Daphne protested.
“Everyone who loves him has died, Daphne,” Hermione said firmly. “His parents, his godfather, his familiar, even Dumbledore.”
“But not you,” Daphne said.
“No, not me,” Hermione said. “I’m in Australia because I’ve got to work out some things with my mother and father, and Harry knows that has to take priority – for now, but I really feel conflicted.”
“Hermione, I’m so glad you called. This is very illuminating. I still have no idea what I should be doing, but I think I know more now than I did before.”
“Give Harry my love, and make sure you give the mirror back to him.”
“Thanks,” Daphne said, but the mirror was just a mirror again.
Daphne slipped the mirror back into the pocket hidden in the side seam of her gown, dismissed the privacy charms surrounding the gazebo and rose to walk back into the house. Poking her nose into the doorway of the kitchen she asked her mother “Any dessert left, or did the midget eat it all?”
“Daphne, I wish you’d stop needling your sister,” Grace said.
“Mimsy?” Grace called.
A dark green house elf popped into the kitchen.
“Please prepare a slice of cake for Daphne and her gentleman friend, and serve it in the parlor when he returns from walking the grounds with my husband,” Grace instructed.
“Certainly Mistress,” Mimsy replied.
“Mum, I’m certainly capable of serving myself,” Daphne protested.
“I know, dear,” Grace replied, her voice then lowering to a whisper “but Mimsy so likes being useful.”
Daphne rolled her eyes.
“If Missy rolls her eyes at Mistress, Mimsy will give double portion to gentleman friend and half portion to Missy,” a disembodied voice announced.
“Mimsy!” Daphne growled in exasperation.
A barely audible tinkling laugh was all she heard in reply.
“So, how are the men faring?” Daphne asked, turning to Grace.
“No bloodshed yet, although I’m certain it’s not been pleasant for your father. He’s apologizing for drawing Harry into our dealings with Riddle.”
Astoria walked into the kitchen, ostentatiously scraping the bottom of a parfait glass with her spoon.
“Sorry Queenie, it’s aaalllll gone,” she said with an ingratiating smile.
“Yeah, right,” Daphne said. “Well, what do you think?”
“If you don’t want him, I’ll take him,” Astoria volunteered.
“I think you’re a bit young yet,” Daphne said.
“I can wait.”
Grace turned to Astoria. “Astoria, dear, please go to the conservatory. You own me a half hour of Debussy.”
“Mum!” Astoria whined.
“I think Harry would like to hear live music filling the halls when he returns. It will be a treat,” Grace said.
“Okay,” Astoria agreed, immediately perking up, before dashing out of the kitchen and into the hall leading to the conservatory. The sound of ferocious scales came down the hallway as she warmed up, followed by the opening movement of ‘La Mer’ transcribed for piano.
“She’s really good,” Daphne said.
“You should tell her that someday,” Grace replied.
“Maybe I’ll just write it in plain text in my diary,” Daphne said dismissively.
“Daphne, part of why she’s being such a brat right now is that she’s worried about you,” Grace said.
“You’re kidding, right? The midget worried about me?”
“Daphne, she’s your sister.”
“Yes, Mother, and Cain was Abel’s brother,” Daphne replied.
“Yes, but that happened quite some time ago,” Grace said, trying to contain a smile.
“Thanks, Mum,” Daphne said, going to the window to look for her father.
Malcolm was returning from the tour he’d given Harry of the grounds, stopping briefly at the stables to retrieve a pipe and pouch of tobacco he’d stashed in the pocket of his barn coat. Harry watched with interest as he loaded the pipe and then took a long pull to set the fire in the tobacco.
“I’m over a hundred years old, and my wife wants me to stop smoking,” he complained.
“I don’t think it’s because she wants you to be miserable, sir,” Harry said.
They walked in silence to the top of the ridge that gave a brilliant view of the surrounding country as the sun set.
“It’s all so green – much greener than the area around Hogwarts,” Harry said.
“Hmm,” Malcolm said, blowing a smoke ring. “One might say ‘magically green.’”
“Hmm,” Harry said in reply.
Walking back to the house they heard the sounds of a piano spilling out of an open window.
“I don’t know much about music, but that’s really nice,” Harry commented.
“I’ll let Astoria know that you approve,” Malcolm said.
“Do both girls play?”
“No. More’s the pity. The two are extremely competitive. Let me give you an example, if Daphne takes up knitting, Astoria will knit her fingers raw until she can outperform her sister. They both realize it, so if one sister takes up an activity, the other usually gives it a wide berth,” Malcolm explained. “On occasion Daphne will sing – she has a lovely voice – and Astoria will play accompaniment. It’s quite a treat when they cooperate. I’m hoping that the competition will die down as they grow up.”
Malcolm stopped by a fountain, bending to knock the bowl of the pipe on the heel of his boot, scattering dottle on the ground.
“Do you have to hide the pipe now?” Harry asked.
“No, she knows I do this – I just don’t do it in the house, it’s much more peaceful that way,” Malcolm said. “Something you’d do well to learn.”
“Yes, sir,” Harry said.
Queenie’s diary – June 2, 1998 – enciphered entry
Harry came to dinner tonight. All told, it was a nice night. He looked quite handsome in his formal robes; the Peverell sigil was quite striking. If Father questioned him about it, he certainly didn’t mention it to me. We started with the old traditional ‘who-goes-there’ drama, which in Harry’s case was quite impressive. I’m proud to say that the midget did not screw it up by giggling at him when he said his lines.
Dinner was probably marvelous, but for the life of me I can’t tell you what I ate. As we were breaking for coffee, Harry’s communicating mirror chimed. To say that I was surprised to find that it was Hermione calling for me would be an understatement. I knew Hermione at school, of course, having several classes with her. She sat in on some study groups I had with Bones, Brockelhurst and Turpin. She is, apparently, Harry’s best friend, although not, as alleged in the Daily Prophet, Harry girlfriend, ex-girlfriend or secret mistress. She said she loves Harry, but not ‘in the sweaty way,’ which was an odd turn of phrase. Hermione gave me some very useful intelligence and insight into how Harry thinks. I think I owe her for this, but I’m fairly certain she wasn’t doing it for me; she was doing it for him.
While I was chatting with Hermione, Father was talking to Harry. Neither of them said much about what they said, other than saying that he was apologizing for putting Harry in a bind. Father seems taken with Harry, as are Mum and the midget.
We reconvened after our respective conferences, listening to the midget torture the piano. She’s really quite good, and it was soothing; I really like Debussy.
And so does Harry. The midget’s face lit up when he praised her playing. I think she seriously wants to pursue him if I fail.
Afterwards we played a table game and my parents in a not very subtle manner shooed Astoria away so I could walk Harry to the border of our grounds.
I stopped by the fountain because a) it’s really pretty; b) the noise of the fountain makes it hard to be overheard and c) the only windows in the house facing the fountain are in the conservatory, which I knew was empty. We lingered for a while and then I conjured a small platform, about the size of a Muggle briefcase, asking Harry to step up on to it.
Then I asked him to kiss me.
He had no problem stepping up on the platform, but looked at me as if I’d grown a second head when I asked him to kiss me.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because it would make me happy,” I replied. That seemed to be an acceptable reason, and he kissed me.
I can’t say that I have vast osculatory experience, but I liked it, and he seemed to like it too, given that we spent the better part of the next quarter hour in the activity. I then walked him to the entry gate and gave him another, briefer kiss, this time without the platform. The difference in height didn’t seem to be too difficult to overcome.
Thank you, Hermione Granger. I may name a daughter after you if this all works out.
Well, maybe Granuaile Hermione Potter, because Hermione as a first name would give some people the wrong impression.
End of enciphered entry – checksum 991
Please see the notes from Chapter the First regarding disclaimer.
Copyright 2014 - firstname.lastname@example.org - all rights reserved.
I will say that I'm sorry right now to any Gaelic speakers, the blessing got mangled when I uploaded the file, I fixed it as best I could. If you're seeking a story where Harry is a bad ass who smites everyone in sight, this is probably not your story. This is not the last time we'll see Hermione, but she's going to be "phoning it in" for most of the story.
And finally, the name Granuaile is significant, but not to this story.
For those of you who observe Halloween (or All Hallow's Eve) you may consider this chapter my treat. The tricks come later.
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