A Quick Note Before You Begin:

The way I see it, Slytherins get a worse rep than they should because the HP books are told from the perspective of characters who dislike Slytherin house. That's not to say that there aren't bad Slytherins - Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, and Pansy were all terrible, bigoted people in the books. But there are plenty of Slytherin side characters who we never get to see because Harry never interacts with them. So that gave me the idea to write this. This is the story of the Slytherin side characters: Daphne Greengrass, Blaise Zabini, Theodore Nott, Tracey Davis, and Pansy Parkinson. They are cunning, ambitious, resourceful, self-preserving, and loyal. They are Slytherin in both the good and the bad. And I hope I do them justice.

I like to pretend that Cursed Child doesn't exist. I'm still in denial that it's considered canon. That being said, this story is based on book canon with some movie canon mixed in as I see fit. I have read all the books and seen all the movies numerous times, and things from extended canon I have researched on Pottermore and Harry Potter wikia. In places where the Harry Potter canon has gaps, I have filled in with my imagination.

There is plenty of romance in this story, but I don't like to spoil who ends up with who. It's not nearly as fun, in my opinion. Hence why there are no tags in the summary.

I appreciate all reviews. Ask me questions, tell me about incongruencies, inform me of typos, guess what's going to happen next, complain about my portrayal of the characters - I love all reviews. You can review every chapter (much appreciated), you can review the last chapter, you can review only the exciting chapters, but please review!


Chapter One: My Friends Are All Swindlers

As I stared out the window of the Hogwarts Express, I came to a realization: I was just Random Side Character #214 in the Life of Harry Potter. Or, at least, that's how it felt sometimes. Well, no more. This year, my fifth year, I, Daphne Greengrass, was going to be the main character of my own life. Take that, Harry Potter.

The train rattled on the tracks, and I snapped out of my thoughts. The rolling, hillside scenery and darkening, blue sky meant that we were almost to Hogwarts and the welcoming feast. I glanced around the compartment of the Hogwarts Express where three of my fellow fifth years were lounging about. Sitting on the opposite side of the compartment was Tracey Davis (I dubbed her Random Side Character #215 in the Life of Harry Potter), a girl with curly, brown hair and a round face. She was playing a card game with Theodore Nott (Random Side Character #216), a weedy-looking boy with sharp features and a height he hadn't quite grown into yet. The final person in our compartment was Blaise Zabini (Random Side Character #217), a tall, dark-haired, devastatingly handsome boy who was reading the frightfully dull business section of the Daily Prophet. I'd known them since our first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry when we'd all been sorted into Slytherin.

In my past four years at Hogwarts, I'd learned a few things about the school:

Firstly, because I was a Slytherin, other students would always assume that I was a pureblood witch who hated muggles and was destined to be evil.

Secondly, we would never have a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for more than one year.

Thirdly, we were all side characters of varying importance in the life of Harry Potter.

First year, Potter and his friends were the reason Slytherin lost the House Cup last minute (blatant favoritism on Dumbledore's part). Second year, Dumbledore canceled final exams after Potter killed the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets (I know for a fact that Tracey was relying on those exams to bring her grades up). Third year, we all had to sleep on the floor of the Great Hall because Sirius Black (who, according to Nott's father, was never a Death Eater) supposedly tried to kill Potter. Fourth year, we all had to put up with Potter being the fourth champion in the Triwizard Tournament (even though it's clearly a TRIwizard Tournament).

Basically, sometimes it felt as though the world revolved around Harry freaking Potter.

"Just once," I said aloud, "I'd like to get through a school year where Harry Potter doesn't cause trouble around final exams."

Tracey and Nott barely acknowledged my words, focused on their card game. They'd heard my rants one too many times before. However, Blaise glanced up from his paper with raised eyebrows and asked, "What brought this up?"

"Just thinking." I shrugged. "I'm sick of the Pottercentricism of this school. Why couldn't I have been born a few years earlier so I wouldn't have to deal with all this?"

"The school isn't Pottercentric," said Tracey.

"Well, I don't know," said Blaise. "Apparently, Daphne spends her free time thinking about him."

Tracey let out a sigh of exasperation and tossed her cards down on the seat. "You win. I can never beat you."

Nott grinned. Personally, I thought it was Tracey's fault for agreeing to play with him in the first place. The only person who could beat Nott in games was Blaise and that was because Blaise cheated. After Nott had put me out ten sickles in our third year, I'd refused to play cards with him ever again.

"I only talk about Potter so I can complain," I said. I turned sideways on the compartment seat, propping my legs up on the cushions and leaning back against Blaise's left arm. "Where's Pansy? She's always happy to whine about Potter with me."

"She's serving prefect duties with Draco," said Nott, shoving the deck of cards back into his bookbag.

"Pansy's a prefect?" I asked.

"I know," said Tracey.

The image of either of us being a prefect was ridiculous, but both of us would've been a better choice than Pansy Parkinson. The other two girls in our year, Georgina Runcorn and Millicent Bulstrode, were too petty… Now I thought about it, the fifth-year Slytherin girls really lacked good prefect candidates.

"What was Dumbledore thinking?" asked Tracey.

"And Snape. You know Pansy is going to abuse her power like no one else." I rolled my eyes. "The girl's great for a good laugh, but she has no sense."

"Especially where Draco's concerned," said Tracey. "Did she tell you? Ever since she was Draco's date for the Yule Ball last year, she's decided to renew her efforts in seducing him."

I shook my head at the horror of the whole situation. I'd nearly fainted when I'd received the letter from her over the summer saying that this was the year she was going to claim Draco Malfoy's heart. "After four years, she still thinks she has a fighting chance."

Blaise scoffed, and I dug my elbow into his ribs to let him know that, as my pillow, he wasn't allowed to move. He whacked the side of my head with his newspaper.

"Draco has no interest in her," said Nott.

"We know," said Tracey emphatically. "We keep telling her that, but she's convinced he's her Prince Charming."

"Prince Charming?" repeated Blaise.

"Her perfect man who will sweep her off her feet," explained Tracey. "She wants a prince in velvet robes with a white horse and the magical abilities of Cyprian."

Blaise snorted. He, like the rest of us, knew how impossible it was for Draco to care about anyone whose last name wasn't Malfoy.

"Cyprian was a creep," said Nott. "He was a genius, sure, but he was also a pervert and his experiments usually involved human sacrifice."

Tracey pulled a face. "Why are all the weird ones in Slytherin?"

"Because the weird ones end up being evil," I said, "and we have to uphold Salazar Slytherin's reputation."

Blaise groaned. "Not this again."

"Because most Slytherins are perfectly normal people who just happen to value ambition, the Sorting Hat has to throw in an evil nutter now and again to keep up the reputation. And while we wait for our next evil nutter to come along, we have pureblood elitists to tide us over. The rest of us sit back while they do all the work, and Slytherin keeps its reputation as the house named after the bloke who kept a basilisk in a chamber beneath a school full of kids."

Nott muttered something that sounded like "extreme form of punishment" but I couldn't be certain.

Blaise returned to reading the business section of the Prophet. I'd be damned if that article had anything more interesting to say than I did.

"The 'all Slytherins are purebloods' is a bunch of hippogriff shite," I continued. "Wizards have been around for thousands of years, and there's a limited amount of us. Every line that claims to be pure undoubtedly has muggles and mudbloods on the tree. I mean, my family is one of the Sacred Twenty-Eight, but I know for a fact that I have a great-grandmother who's muggleborn on the Rowle side and a great-great-grandfather who's a muggle on the Greengrass side. Which actually makes me a thirteen-sixteenths blood."

Blaise had listened to my rants about the Slytherin image before (the pureblood rants usually happened during our Arithmancy class, in which we were the only two Slytherin students); Tracey and Nott, however, seemed a little surprised by the revelation of my thirteen-sixteenths blood status.

"Blood status is such a ridiculous notion," I said. "And it's not like I get special treatment in the Slytherin common room for being one of the Sacred Twenty-Eight." I nodded at across the apartment the other scion present. "What about you, Nott? Any skeletons in your family closet?"

We all looked over expectantly at Nott, who seemed uncomfortable with the question. Like me, his family was supposed to be one of the Sacred Twenty-Eight, whose bloodlines had remained pure throughout the centuries. However, after some awkward shifting about and running his fingers through his hair, he said, "I have a muggle for a great-great-grandfather."

"Feels good to get that off your chest?" I asked with a little laugh. "Join the club. Those great-great-grandfathers are scandalous."

Nott scowled. "There are some things you don't talk about in my dad's circles."

"It's not that bad," said Tracey with a shrug. "You lot know that my mum's a mudblood. I'm certainly not getting any special treatment in the common room unless it's the wrong kind." We all winced. For the most part, the other Slytherin students didn't say anything, but there were some arseholes like Graham Montague, Draco Malfoy, and Jeanne Selwyn who decided that her muggle grandparents made Tracey less a Slytherin than the rest of us. Nott chased them away if they got too annoying.

"What about you, Blaise?" asked Tracey, her voice a little too cheerful to be true.

"I don't know about my biological father," said Blaise flatly. "Never met him, and my mum doesn't say much about him."

"Which means you could be a half-blood," said Tracey.

Blaise shrugged, which caused his shoulder to dig into the back of my head.

"Ouch." I hit Blaise's chest with my left hand. "Stay still."

"I'm not your pillow."

"But you're so comfy."

Blaise gave up on me and turned to Nott. He flipped to a certain page of the paper and then held it up for Nott to see one of the article titles. Blaise asked, "So is it true? Is Harry Potter lying and Dumbledore's a crackpot, or is the Ministry lying and You-Know-Who has really returned?"

"Call him 'the Dark Lord', Blaise," I said. "We have to keep up our future Death Eaters image."

Blaise ignored me (nothing new), Nott shot me a scathing look (also nothing new), and the two continued to look over the article. As the only one of our group who was actually the child of a Death Eater, Nott kept the rest of us up-to-date when it came to the Dark Lord. Despite being supposed future Death Eaters, Blaise, Tracey, Pansy, and I had no connections to those circles. Blaise's mum was an Italian seductress who was on her sixth husband (an Egyptian business tycoon), Pansy's parents were barristers who'd put more than one Death Eater in Azkaban, my divorced parents were decided neutral on the whole mudblood debate, and Tracey's mum was a Hufflepuff.

"I'm not supposed to know most of the things I tell you lot," grumbled Nott. "I'd be in serious trouble if anyone found out."

"But who else is going to keep us up to date on the Dark Lord gossip?" asked Tracey. "Malfoy?"

I nodded. "What kind of Slytherins would we be if we didn't know what was going on with our future career path?"

"Just don't go calling it our 'future career path' in front of some Gryffindors," said Tracey. "Some idiots might believe you."

"How did you even get started on the Slytherin image thing?" asked Nott.

"In third year, Blaise and I overheard Ernie Macmillan in Arithmancy saying that all Slytherins were either future evil villains or future evil henchmen."

Nott scowled.

"Ernie Macmillan's a prick," said Tracey.

I grinned. "Three sickles say he's a prefect this year."

"Not taking that bet," said Nott.

"Me neither," added Tracey.

I elbowed Blaise, which earned me another smack on the side of the head with the Daily Prophet.

"Do you think I'm stupid?" asked Blaise. "Of course, I'm not taking the bet."

Just then, the compartment door opened, revealing the pug-nosed Pansy Parkinson with a green and silver prefect badge glimmering on her chest. With long, brown hair and a heart-shaped face, Pansy was one of the prettiest girls in our year. The only problem was she had a horrible personality to go with her good-looks. Don't get me wrong, Pansy was a great friend; she just happened to be the perfect image of a bitchy Slytherin elitist. As proven by the first thing she said when she entered the compartment:

"Can you believe that mudblood Granger is a prefect as well? And here I thought this was a respectable position."

"Dumbledore loves mudbloods, half-bloods, purebloods, and whatever-bloods all the same," said Nott. "Are you really surprised?"

Pansy sighed with more dramatic flair than necessary. "No. But I had hoped."

I moved my legs and shifted back to an upright position so that Pansy could take the seat next to me.

"Didn't you hear?" I asked, peering at the headlines of the Daily Prophet over Blaise's shoulder. "Dumbledore's a crackpot old fool."

"I know, I know," grumbled Pansy. "I just can't stand that Granger. I heard rumors last year that she was shagging both Weasley and Potter in the broom cupboard on the second floor."

Blaise made a sound that was somewhere between a choke and a laugh, while I giggled until a stitch formed in my side. Tracey and Nott had to lean on each other as they laughed.

"Goody-two-shoes Granger?" asked Tracey. "With not one but two boys? It will never happen."

"I'm just—" The fit of laughter took me again, and I buried my face in Blaise's shoulder. "Bloody hell. It hurts to laugh. Make it stop."

"Who told you that rumor?" asked Blaise.

Pansy frowned. "During the Yule Ball, I overheard Padma Patil telling her sister that their dates had gone off—probably to shag Hermione Granger in some broom cupboard."

"Oh yeah," said Tracey. "Jessica told me that Padma told her that Weasley and Potter were pretty inattentive dates during the Yule Ball. But then Parvati met a nice Beauxbatons boy, so it turned out all right for the twins."

"Ah, I haven't laughed that long in a good while," I said, still holding a hand over my stomach.

"Who else has been named prefect?" asked Nott.

"Ernie Macmillan and Hannah Abbott for Hufflepuff," said Pansy, looking upwards as she tried to remember. "Anthony Goldstein and Padma Patil for Ravenclaw. And—you'll never believe this—Ron Weasley is the other Gryffindor prefect."

"You're kidding," I said, genuinely shocked. Potter's red-haired sidekick was the last person I'd peg as the Gryffindor male prefect. I would've guessed Neville Longbottom over him.

"What about Potter?" asked Tracey.

"Not there." Pansy practically glowed with delight. "Draco and I were laughing so hard when we realized that Dumbledore had chosen Weasley over Potter."

"Maybe the Daily Prophet is right," murmured Nott. "Maybe Dumbledore really has cracked."

"No way," I said. "You forget how Pottercentric this school is."

Blaise groaned, Nott sighed, Tracey rolled her eyes, and Pansy looked at me in confusion.

I ignored my so-called friends' reactions and spoke to Pansy alone. "Dumbledore loves Potter. There is no way Dumbledore chose Weasley over Potter simply because he thought Weasley would make a better prefect. I bet you there's some convoluted thought going on here where Dumbledore believes that being a prefect will slow down Potter's save-the-world tendencies or where Dumbledore believes Potter is above the rules or where Dumbledore believes Potter's life is just too hectic to throw prefect duties on top of everything else."

Blaise tugged on a stand of my ash-blonde hair. "One of these days, your crackpot theories are going to get you into trouble."

I slapped his hand away from my hair and then grinned at him. "But that's okay, because you'll be there to bail me out."

"Unfortunately."


The train arrived at the station around six o'clock, and the compartment doors open to give way to the usual clamor as everyone grabbed their luggage and headed for the platform. When I had my trunk and the cage containing my horned owl, I hopped off the train and waited for the others. Tracey was right behind me, carrying her over-sized trunk, backpack, bookbag, and a gray owl.

"Merlin's beard," muttered Tracey, "I hate the rush. It's not a race to get the Great Hall. The feast doesn't start until everyone's seated, you know, so it doesn't matter if we get off first or last."

"Yes," I said. "But it doesn't matter if we're seated near the treacle tart or not."

Halfway through my first year at Hogwarts, I'd realized that the plates of treacle tart always appeared at the same places along the Slytherin table. And since I had an unquenchable addiction to said tart, I always made sure that we were seated around one of the spots where the pudding materialized. Every year, Pansy warned me I would end up fat, but I knew she was a heathen who didn't understand the importance of treacle tart.

"Get of my way, newt-face! I'm a prefect!"

Speaking of Pansy, the girl was pushing her way through a crowd of third-year Ravenclaws. She had taken her dark hair out of its ponytail—which made her look even prettier than before—and the third-year Ravenclaw boys she had just shoved out of her path were looking at her with open-mouthed awe. Sometimes, the world just wasn't fair.

"You really shouldn't abuse your prefect privileges like that," said Tracey when Pansy reached us.

"Getting to boss around third years is part of the privilege," said Pansy. "They were just standing in a group in the middle of the platform like they're so important that the rest of us have to move for them."

Eventually, one learned it was best not to argue with Pansy. Instead of commenting, I looked around and asked, "Where's Blaise and Nott?"

"Draco caught sight of them when we were getting off the train," said Tracey. "He's probably bragging about his new prefect powers."

"Draco?" asked Pansy, running a hand through her hair and looking around the platform. "Where is he?"

Tracey and I exchanged grimaces.

"I don't know how to say this gently," said Tracey, resting a hand on Pansy's shoulder, "but Draco Malfoy isn't interested in you."

"There he is!" squeaked Pansy.

We watched as Pansy shoved her way across the platform to where the tall, thin Draco Malfoy stood, flanked by his minions (I mean, friends) Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle. Draco was wearing his usual I'm-better-than-thou smirk as he spoke to Blaise and Nott. To anyone who didn't know Blaise and Nott, they looked as though they were interested in what Draco had to say, but I could see the glaze in Nott's eyes that meant he was thinking about something else and the arrogant twitch in Blaise's lips that meant he bored with the conversation.

With the exception of Pansy, our group had always had a semi-friendly semi-you-annoy-us relationship with Draco's group. Draco didn't like Tracey because her mother had been a mudblood. He endured Blaise because of how rich Ms. Zabini was. He tried to get along with Nott because their fathers were both Death Eaters. And he disliked me because I'd once referred to him as a "stuck-up blond rodent". That was shortly after not-Mad-Eye Moody turned him into a ferret, so he was very touchy about the subject at the time. Pansy was the only one of our group that Draco liked and that was because she followed him around like a love-struck puppy.

I think part of the reason Pansy had a crush on Draco was because he was the cutest Slytherin boy in our year, and as the best-looking girl and the best-looking boy, she thought they made a natural couple. Then again, maybe I was wrong—maybe Pansy actually liked Draco for his sparkling personality. I'd long ago given up on trying to understand the inner workings of Pansy Parkinson's mind.

Tracey and I watched as Pansy reached Draco's side and started complaining about something (probably entitled third years). Blaise and Nott seemed relieved at the reprieve.

"We're going to end up eating ice cream, using boxes of tissues, and bad-mouthing Draco Malfoy until three o'clock in the morning again, aren't we?" asked Tracey as Pansy hooked her arm around Draco's and gave him a flirtatious smile.

I grinned. "What's Hogwarts without some Draco drama?"

"Peaceful."

I opened my mouth to respond when I heard a crisp, female voice call out, "First years, line up over here, please! All first years to me!" Instead the hulking half-giant who usually led the new students across the lake, the severe-faced Professor Grubbly-Plank held the lantern and called for the first years to gather in front of her.

Tracey had noticed the switch in professors as well. "Did they finally give Hagrid the sack?"

"I doubt it," I said. "Potter's good friends with Hagrid, so firing him would upset Potter. You know Dumbledore would never want to do that."

"You're never going to let this Pottercentrism thing go, are you?" asked Tracey.

"I spent all summer reading about Potter in the Daily Prophet. Then, when I come back to school, what's the first thing I hear on Platform 9¾?"

"Let me guess… 'Harry Potter'?"

"Bloody annoying."

Blaise and Nott had finally escaped Draco and were now making their way through the dwindling crowds toward Tracey and me. The platform had cleared over the last few minutes as the students headed down the steps to the horseless carriages.

I took one look at the cage containing Blaise's black cat before I rolled my eyes and said, "You still haven't seen sense and gotten yourself an owl?"

"Leave Pierre alone," said Blaise as he led the way to the carriages.

"I just don't get why you'd want a cat or a toad as a pet. I mean, owls deliver your mail. They're useful. What do cats do?"

"They're good for cuddling," said Tracey.

"So buy a throw rug."

Tracey decided it was better to ignore me at this point, so she turned to the boys and asked, "What did Draco want?"

Nott snorted. "To ask about our summers. To know how my dad is doing. To know if we'd stopped hanging out with you yet."

"Stupid blond ferret," I muttered.

"He's sensitive about the whole ferret thing," said Tracey, mimicking Pansy's slightly nasal voice.

"I miss Mad-Eye Moody," I said. "He was a great Defense Against the Dark Arts professor and all—but mainly I liked him 'cause he turned Draco into a ferret."

"Didn't he turn out to be a Death Eater in disguise?" asked Tracey.

"Well, yeah," I said, "but we're Slytherins, so he was never any threat to us."

"You bank too much on our Slytherin reputation," muttered Blaise.

We found an empty carriage and put our trunks and animal cages on the floor before settling in the seats. The horseless carriages always freaked me out a little because I knew they weren't actually horseless. At the beginning of second year, Nott, mumbling and shuffling his feet, had informed us that there were these almost reptilian, horse-like beasts standing between the carriage shafts. None of had wanted to believe him at first, but it was hard to deny when he described the animals in detail, saying that they had black coats that clung to their skeletons and leathery wings tucked up at their sides. After some research, which involved me dragging my friends to the library, we learned that the animals were thestrals, visible only to people who had witnessed death. Nott had watched his mum die when he was five-years-old, which was why, out of all of us, he could see them.

"So, Nott," said Tracey, leaning back in her seat, "You never answered our question about you-know-who."

"The Dark Lord," I corrected automatically.

Nott sighed. "What do you want to know?"

"Is he back?" asked Tracey.

"Yes."

"Then Potter's story about the Triwizard Cup being a portkey and Cedric Diggory dying in the graveyard are all true?"

We'd assumed as much at the end of last year, but it was always good to have confirmation from Nott's dad.

"I guess so," said Nott. "My dad only tells me bits and pieces, and a lot of it I overhear."

"So, the Dark Lord is lying low at the moment." Blaise was stroking the head of his cat through the bars of the carrier. "And his contacts in the ministry are spreading rumors about Potter and Dumbledore."

"Actually," said Nott, "I think the rumors are all Fudge's doing."

"Fudge?" Tracey's eyes widened. "Why would the Minister of Magic help the Dark Lord hide his return?"

"Because Fudge is probably in denial," I said. "The idiot. This is why you don't elect a man named after a type of chocolate to run your government."

Blaise hid a smile, and I grinned across the carriage at him.

"Well," said Tracey, "I'd be pissed if I were Potter."

I groaned. "See, it all comes back to Harry bloody Potter."

Tracey opened her mouth to respond, but then she actually thought about it. "You know, for someone I've never spoken to before, Potter does come up in my conversations a lot."

"Don't give her anything to go on," said Blaise, but it was too late.

"You see!" I cried. "I'm sick of it. I don't know Harry Potter. I've never spoken to Harry Potter. The only time I've interacted with him was when he accidentally bumped into me in the hallway outside Potions class. I have no reason to talk about Harry bloody Potter, but he always manages to sneak into my conversations. Well, I've had it. I'm not Random Side Character #214, I'm Daphne Greengrass, and from this moment on, I will never mention him again."

Nott snorted. "Give her two minutes, and she'll be back to ranting about Potter and Gryffindor privilege."

"I won't," I said through gritted teeth.

"You will," said Blaise. "The moment someone brings up Potter in conversation, you're done for. You're incapable of not giving your opinion."

I scowled at my supposed best friend and folded my arms over my chest. "I can do this, and I will. Look, every time one of you catches me mentioning his name, I'll pay you a sickle."

"Really?" A mischievous glint appeared in Tracey's eyes.

"Don't take her up on that, Tracey," said Blaise. "She'll be bankrupt before Christmas."

"I can do it," I cried. "I can go a whole year without mentioning him."

"I'm willing to take that bet," said Tracey.

"Me too." Nott grinned. "You can pay for your own Christmas present this year, Daph."

I glanced at Blaise. I could see the debate running through his mind. He didn't want to go along with yet another one of my convoluted plans, but he did like making money without much effort. Not that I intended to make this easy for them.

He sighed. "Why is this such a big deal now? Talking about Potter has never bothered you before."

I folded my arms over my chest and said stubbornly, "I'm not a side character."

Blaise's eyebrows shot up, and I knew he was reading more into that comment than there really was.

"All right," said Blaise. "I'll call you out on it whenever you mention Potter."

I grinned at him. "Great. Then the Daphne Greengrass Shall Not Talk About Harry Potter Bet begins…now."

"So," said Tracey, leaning forward in her seat, "did you lot hear about Potter's trial for the use of underage magic? A load of dragon dung on the ministry's part. If Potter was going to lie about it, he'd come up with something more believable than dementors."

"I heard a group of fourth year Hufflepuffs talking about how they can't believe they attend school under a nutter like Dumbledore," said Nott. "Believe it or not, people are buying the Daily Prophet's headlines."

Blaise smirked at me. "What do you think, Daph?"

I groaned and buried my face in my hands. "You're doing this on purpose."

"Of course," said Tracey, beaming at me, "I'm a little low on cash at the moment."