A/N 1) –Thank you all for your continued support, and thanks to my Beta CaskettFan5, who is making me a better writer, check-out his story Harry Potter and the Unexpected Friend it's a great read.
A/N 2) – Recommended Reading – it's a brilliant story called A Fine Spot of Trouble by Chilord. This is one of my favourite stories on here and I must have read it a dozen times. It's a post Hogwarts story that is I think a very real possibility and a much more likely epilogue for Harry given what he has been through during his time in the magical world.
Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns it all; I am just playing in her sandbox and just maybe I am getting better at it, tragically I don't own anything of it except maybe Daphne, but then she probably owns me.
He was in over his head, that much he was sure of, he was sat on the stairs of the fifth floor with a pretty witch cradled in his lap her legs wrapped tightly about his waist, arms looped around his neck. In normal circumstances this would have called for a celebration; however this was far from normal.
In his mind's eye, in no way had he ever envisioned what was currently happening, he had assumed that she might hex him or yell at him or really anything other than what she was currently doing, hell at this stage he would be happy if she hit him or something anything other than be the broken mess that she currently seemed to be.
He was wracking his brain as to what he could do to try and get her to stop crying but he literally had no idea of where to start. Her sobs had wracked her body for what must have been at least an hour by now and his shirt clung to his chest, wet with her tears that seemed to be endless.
So he continued to do the only thing he could think of, he cradled her in his arms, slowly rubbing her back as he made soothing noises. Sadly for him her crying had not abated and she seemed to somehow mould herself closer to him every so often. He was beginning to think he was in for a long night and that maybe he should see if he could somehow get her down to the Hospital wing to get checked out.
He checked the time on his watch she was oblivious to his movement and saw that it was well past eleven pm, definitely time to make a move then. She was still sobbing quietly into his shoulder and somehow he knew that she was unlikely to let him go so that he could rise.
He briefly thought of stunning her and just levitating her to the ward but discarded the idea as soon as it entered his mind, she would never ever forgive him should he do that no matter how well he apologised, which was the very reason that he had sought her out in the first place.
Making a decision he gripped her tightly to his chest with his left arm, reached back slightly with his right and pushed up gaining his feet with little effort. She was so light, something was definitely wrong with her as she barely weighed anything at all. Her arms were still wrapped around his neck and her legs gripped his waist as he made his way gingerly down the first flight of stairs.
The war had left him an unmitigated disaster, his mind was a roiling sea of self-hatred, self-doubt and self-loathing and he could no longer stomach his reflection in the mirror but he had made a vow to himself that he would be better, he would do what was right instead of what was easy and he would not allow himself to fail in this first attempt.
- AFW -
It had taken him what felt like half an hour of careful navigation but he had finally managed to negotiate the last flight of stairs on the grand staircase. Twice the damn things had shifted on them when they were half way down a flight and all he could do was hold on as the stairs shifted beneath them hoping that he wouldn't lose his balance and send them both tumbling to their deaths.
Finally with his feet on solid ground, he had moved towards the Hospital Ward. The doors had just come into view as he rounded a final corner when a very strange sight appeared before him, coming from the opposite direction which made him give a double take.
Potter was carrying a very familiar blonde girl bridal style in his arms. Daphne had her arms around his neck looking as content as he had ever seen her. They were talking in low voices, Potter had a soft smile on his face and he looked at Daphne with amusement as she said something that obviously made him laugh.
That was when Potter saw him and they were only fifteen metres apart and neither of them had seen him until Potter had raised his eyes to his own. All his forward momentum had halted as he took in the sight before him and Potter's actions mirrored his own.
Breaking out of his stupor first he called out, 'Oh thank Merlin, you have to help me Potter, she won't stop crying and I have no idea what I am doing.' His arms were still wrapped around the witch that he cradled to his body and she was still sobbing quietly against him.
Daphne's head swung in his direction but it was Potter whose voice cut across the hallway, a small amount of anger clearly evident in his tone. 'What the hell have you done to my best friend Malfoy? If you have hurt her in any way I swear to god that they won't find your body!'
He held a placating hand up to his childhood rival, 'I swear that I didn't do a thing to hurt her … '
'Clearly you did something to her Malfoy, look at her, she wouldn't willingly cry into your shoulder like that, what the hell have you done?' Potter seethed, his eyes flashing dangerously.
'All I did was try to return her wand and try to apologise for what happened to her in our Manor, I swear to all the gods, that's all I did,' Draco said back to him, flicking his eyes to Daphne hoping against hope that she might believe him before Potter did something drastic.
'You gave her wand back?' Potter's voice was full of shock. 'Why the hell would you do something like that?'
Draco sighed, 'because it was the right thing to do,' he held up one finger towards Potter and Daphne with a grimace on his face. 'Yes, I know what you're going to say, what would a Malfoy know about doing the right thing? And trust me this doing the right thing is much harder on me than you.'
He heaved a defeated sigh and looked at the ground no longer willing to meet Potter's or Daphne's eyes, 'I am doing this for my own selfish reasons in a way … '
He was cut off by Potter's derisive comment of, 'Well that's a surprise Malfoy, at least I know that your still the same self-serving bastard.'
He didn't rise to the bait just continuing his sentence from where he had been interrupted, 'but hers and the Weasel's wands have been laying on my dresser since that day … I took them from the parlour after your escape … every night I was home, I would see them before I go to sleep …' he couldn't do this not whilst the girl in question was in his arms.
'Look can we do this later I get it … I am a miserable slimy bastard, but even I know that it's not right that she be forced to continue to use the wand that maimed her … she needed her own wand back!' he finished with gritted teeth.
Granger sobbed harder at the mention of her wand, apparently that had gotten through to her where nothing else had. 'Look can we not do this right now … please she needs help, she has been crying like this for more than an hour.' He hitched her slightly higher in his arms, she was far too light he thought again.
'Once she is in there, then you can berate me all you like but can we please deal with her first?' he asked in the most reasonable voice he could muster.
Potter stared at him hard, eyes narrow and pulsing with obvious pent up anger and rage before Daphne whispered something in his ear. His eyes softened dramatically as he looked at the witch in his arms before he nodded and proceeding to move to the door. He opened it and remained there holding it open for him, 'well come on then.'
- AFW -
Harry watched silently as they tried to pry Hermione from Draco's body unsuccessfully. She remained there sobbing quietly and refusing to budge, he could now see the visible stress on Malfoy's face but what surprised him was the tenderness that he showed his best friend.
At no stage did Malfoy try to pull Hermione from her self-imposed perch instead he showed infinite patience offering his friend soothing gestures as the Medi Witches attempted and failed several times to get her to unwind from him. He felt less than useless as he sat watching the scene unfold in front of him with Daphne seated in his lap giving him calm gestures of her own.
She apparently could sense his distress through the bond and was doing her best to comfort him in his time of need. 'Why don't they just stun her?' he asked the girl in his lap.
'Because that could do a lot of damage to her brain in the highly wrought state that she is in,' Daphne replied quietly. 'The stunning spell works on the nerve impulses, knocking them out with her in this highly emotional state could leave her with brain function issues, it has happened to people before especially when they are involved in highly traumatic events. The stunning spell isn't usually dangerous but in the wrong circumstances it can be.'
Harry's eyebrows rose as he considered what Daphne had just told him, 'Good to know I guess, so what is it you think they are going to do next?'
Daphne shrugged, 'I have no idea, they have used most of the standard methods of calming and nothing is working, I don't know what they can try next, even the heavy calming draught has done nothing, her magic is burning through it before it can take effect, so I don't know what the next option is.'
Just as Daphne finished talking, Slyvera walked back into the ward room carrying a tray. Daphne rose looking to see what she was carrying. Surprise was etched all over her face as she sat back on Harry's lap. 'What is it?' he asked.
Before Daphne could answer Slyvera had ordered Malfoy to hold her and she drew an old fashioned syringe off the tray. Harry barely had time to register that Slyvera was going to jab it into Hermione before the Mind Specialist had lifted Hermione's shirt sleeve and injected her.
'What the hell,' Harry growled as Hermione seemed to slowly collapse into Malfoy's arms, her breathing slowing and the crying abating.
Slyvera turned to face him, 'Don't stress Mr Potter it was a very mild muggle sedative often used in muggle hospitals for highly distressed patients. It will not harm her but my colleagues here could not agree to the next course of action so I took the only appropriate action I could think of.'
Harry blinked, 'You use muggle drugs?'
Slyvera smirked at him, 'Of course I do, and I may be a magically trained mind specialist but I respect that the muggles are rather inventive when it comes to healing practices and whilst magical draughts are brilliant at what they do a majority have small drawbacks when used on extremely distressed patients.'
Harry just grunted in response unsure what to say regarding that particular revelation. By this stage Hermione had been taken gently from Malfoy's arms and he had vacated his seat on the edge of the bed to allow Madam Pomfrey to levitate and lay Hermione on the bed.
With another flick of her wand Madam Pomfrey removed the glamour that Hermione had wrapped on herself. Shocked gasps were heard from all corners of the room and from all occupants as Hermione's form flickered for a moment and then an almost emaciated body replaced it on the bed.
Harry found himself rising, Daphne clutched in his arms as he looked at the spindly thin frame of his best friend. Her hair looked brittle and dull, her cheek bones were far too prominent and her eyes were sunken black holes.
Her arms too thin, looking like nothing more than skin stretched across too much bone, it was especially evident at her joints. Where once she had been vibrant and full of life, now she seemed lifeless and close to death.
'What the fuck have you done to her Potter?'
Malfoy's raspy voice shook Harry out of his stupor and he looked across to his school boy rival with shock. Malfoy had taken an involuntary step back but what brought Harry up short was the look of horror etched in the boy's face, he was seeing Hermione but it looked like he was seeing a ghost at the same time.
Their eyes met and Harry felt like he was seeing Draco Malfoy for the first time, in front of him stood a young man who like Harry had carried the weight of expectation on his shoulders. Only his expectation had been the expectation of family, he may have worked for the opposite side but Harry suddenly felt a small amount of empathy for the boy in front of him.
Malfoy looked wan and careworn, if Harry was honest with himself Draco looked far older than his eighteen years suggested. Malfoy's face was very pale as though all the blood had run from it; they dropped their eyes together and turned as one to again look at the small frail girl on the bed.
'I haven't done anything to her Malfoy, in fact I have been trying for days to get her to come and see Madam Pomfrey.' Harry managed to turn his gaze away from the bed before finding Madam Pomfrey, 'I thought you examined her last night … '
Poppy Pomfrey cut him off, 'She wouldn't allow me to drop the glamour to run any diagnostics spells, whatever she was using was interfering with the standard suite of spells and I couldn't force her to.' Her wand was still flicking over the girl, 'She said she couldn't afford to be stuck in the hospital, so I gave her a dreamless sleep potion and told her that we would be talking in the morning but by the time I came through to check on her this morning she was gone.'
'She is so bloody stubborn,' Harry muttered under his breath, 'Okay talk to me Madam Pomfrey, what's the damage? What is wrong with her and can we fix it?'
'I don't know at this stage Mr Potter, so until I do I want everyone out who isn't a healer,' Poppy said waving her wand over the now unconscious girl.
'But … ' Harry started before Poppy glared at him.
'I said get out Mr Potter and take Daphne and Mr Malfoy with you and wait outside!'
- AFW -
Daphne watched as Harry paced outside of the examination room like a caged animal, it had been twenty minutes since they had been kicked out and she had tried to calm him but to no avail so instead she turned her attention to the other boy seated several seats away.
Harry had been adamant that he stay here until it was sorted out, his face was etched in horror as though some vision was playing itself out in front of his eyes, 'Are you okay Draco?' she asked quietly.
If the boy heard her he gave no indication of it as he continued to stare into space his lips pressed together so hard that the blood drained from them leaving them a stark white.
She was about to prod the boy again when Slyvera exited Hermione's examination room and found them all in the waiting area, 'Good you are all still here, follow me?' she stated as she started moving away from Hermione's examination room towards another.
She waited at the curtains indicating that they should all go in.
Daphne saw Harry give a final forlorn look at the examination room that housed Hermione before he gravitated towards her grabbing her hand and drawing her onto his lap as he took a seat. His arms wrapped themselves around her before his forehead rested against the curve of her neck.
Draco sat in another of the chairs leaving a gap between himself and the chair that Harry and Daphne now occupied.
Slyvera took out a leather bound workbook and self-inking quill and then she cleared her throat, 'Before we get started she is stable and responding to the treatment that we can give to her in her unconscious state. She is malnourished and looks like she has been skipping meals for the last two or three months.'
Harry sucked in a breath at this before Daphne felt warm tears splash against the back of her neck; she tightened her grip on his arms.
Slyvera continued, 'There is evidence of torture within that last two months, obviously there is the scaring on her left forearm but there is evidence of the cruciatus curse and several other curses and hexes that have been used on her body.'
Daphne saw Draco stiffen at the mention of this and she wondered if he had anything to do with inflicting the damage on Hermione's body. Daphne's attention was drawn away from him as Slyvera continued.
'What I need to know is what happened today to put her in such a state; I can't start to make a diagnosis yet given that she is currently under sedation and will be for the next few hours at least so I want to start on some background. So what happened?' she asked turning her attention to Harry.
Harry shook his head, 'I don't know we were coming up the hall when I saw them Malfoy was already carrying her and said that she had been crying for ages!' he shrugged. 'That's pretty much all we know, apart from him telling us that he didn't do anything to her apart from give her wand back.'
Slyvera's attention shifted to Draco, 'Why were you in possession of her wand Mr…?'
Draco's voice was raspy and tight, 'Malfoy,' he coughed in an effort to clear his throat which seemed to work somewhat, 'Draco Malfoy.'
Harry gave a small snort and received confused looks from the rest of the room's occupants. 'Sorry muggle thing,' he said with a small blush, Daphne stored that information away to revisit at a later time.
'Okay Draco, do you mind if I call you Draco?' Slyvera asked in a friendly voice. With Draco's shake of his head she continued, 'Okay Draco can you please tell me how you ended up with Hermione's wand?'
Daphne watched as Draco's already pallid face drained of more colour, he sat in his chair eyes downcast picking at a fingernail on his left forefinger. To Daphne's surprise it was Harry who came to Draco's rescue and started the conversation.
She listened fascinated as Harry told the story of Hermione, Ron and Himself getting captured because of his own stupidity. Her fascination quickly turned to horror when Harry started narrating how he and Ron had been thrown into the dungeon to listen to Hermione's agonised screams as Bellatrix tortured her for information.
By the end of Harry's narration Daphne's respect for Hermione Granger had grown immeasurably and she understood better Harry's fixation on Hermione's health, how could you not do your best to look after someone who had been brutally tortured and yet kept every one of your secrets.
Slyvera was frowning, 'When did this happen?'
Harry shrugged, 'I don't know exactly late March, we sort of lost track of the dates.'
'The twenty-eighth of March,' Draco rasped out, 'it was the twenty-eighth of March, I still have her screams in my head … I don't think that I will ever be able to get them out!' Draco's eyes looked hollow and lifeless.
'And whose wand has she been using since that day?' Slyvera asked.
'Bella's,' came the answer from the two boys.
Slyvera nodded making a note in her workbook, 'Can you give me any further insights Draco, anything you can add will be valuable and will aid me in my diagnosis?'
Draco stood from his chair and started pacing; each time he turned he locked eyes with Harry before he dropped his eyes and continued the next circuit. Slyvera seemed to be content to wait for him to start speaking and just sat back in her chair, her eyes following the blonde headed boy as he made his way up and down the room.
Finally after what seemed to be a small age to Daphne, Draco spoke hesitantly, 'Bella liked to play with her victims … a lot.' He came to a complete stop in front of his chair before taking his seat once more before he resumed in a quiet voice.
'I had never seen her with one of her victims before, but apparently she liked to play with them for hours, she was very inventive with her play from everything that I have heard and felt,' he buried his face in his hands. 'According to Rowle, Bella would cast numerous curses and hexes on her victims but not all of them were what you would think.'
'Other than the Cruciatus, I know that she used Latur Sensus and Voluptatem among others, on almost all of her victims' he shook his head. 'You have no idea what it's like to be at her mercy; even though I was her nephew she followed the Dark Lords words to the letter, well except for when it came to my mother, but then even the Dark Lord knew that she would not to punish her baby sister!'
'First she uses Latur Sensus on you … she had such control over the spell that depending on how powerfully she casts it your sense of touch explodes, small flicks against your arms feel like someone is smacking you or it could be that she casts it so lightly that it just heightens your sense of touch, meaning good things feel much better and bad things feel worse.'
No one in the room made a move as Draco seemed to collect himself for a few minutes, 'And then she would use spells like Voluptatem and she would watch, she knew when you got too much … ugh delight from the other spells she would pick it and then she would give you liberal doses of the Cruciatus. She told me that it helped to keep the patients mind clear and whole for extended play sessions as the "Happy" feelings kept the brain from overloading too quick.'
Daphne felt herself pale at the thought of torture that also involved pleasure, she felt Harry's horror flooding through the bond as he thought about what his best friend had been put through.
Draco rang his face in his hands, 'She watched me, the whole time she was being tortured she watched me and only me, her eyes pleading for me to help.'
'When she started carving that word into her flesh, I almost lost myself. I took a couple of steps forward to stop it … I couldn't stand the screams anymore, screams that sounded so like my mother's, but I couldn't … my father froze me in place I couldn't move I was locked there watching as she got tortured and refused to give up your secrets Potter.'
Draco turned towards Harry, 'She was prepared to die rather than give up your secrets and I had to watch as she stared at me and I couldn't look away. I saw in her eyes when she had just about given up and was waiting for oblivion. She was in so much pain and I could see her eyes fogging over and I could do nothing … my mother's screams were so like hers and I couldn't help either of them.'
Daphne watched Draco as tears streamed down his face; she hadn't seen him cry since her brothers' funeral, when he was seven years old. She felt like she should go and offer him some form of comfort but she couldn't, she could feel Harry's distress coming through the bond as he held her and if she moved she was sure that he too would break down.
Daphne heard Slyvera close her book, 'okay, well I think that is enough to start with, I am going to need to see both of you, Harry and Draco, in the next couple of days. I believe that there is more that I need to know so I will owl you both and arrange a time. Until then I need to get back to my patient and then I need to leave.'
She watched as Slyvera hesitated at the doorway before placing a hand on Draco's shoulder causing him to flinch before saying something very quietly to him. Draco looked at her uncertainly before she said something else to him and he nodded, tears still washing over his face.
- AFW -
Draco felt his tears begin to slow, 'he had let slip to much, he hadn't meant to mention anything about his mother but he couldn't help it, their screams from the cruciatus had been so similar that he could no longer separate their voices in his head and now the mind healer wanted to talk to him about what he had said.'
He raised his head to find Daphne watching him with compassionate eyes, 'he didn't deserve compassion, what sort of a monster uses torture and punishment curses on their own mother even if they were under the imperious. He should have fought harder but he was weak, so very weak that he couldn't even protect his own mother from his failings.'
His tears had all but dried up as his gaze moved to the boy cradling Daphne on his lap, Potter was looking at him with grim eyes at least there was no pity in them, he had grown tired of the pity that he had seen in the eyes of younger Death Eaters that he had gone to school with like Marcus Flint during the summer between sixth and seventh years.
He couldn't help but think that 'if Potter had been in his robes that he would have found a way not to fail, after all he had been the only one who had successfully thrown of the Imperious of Barty Crouch Jr, who from what he had gathered was as powerful a wizard as Corban Yaxley who had taken great pleasure in placing him under the Imperious and using him to torture a sister of the Black House after he had been jilted of his own prize from that house.'
'What happened to your mother Malfoy?' Potter's question jolted him from his own thoughts.
Draco glared at him 'What do you mean?
'I mean that you just told us that your mothers and Hermione's screams were the same and your mother was adamant when we met her today that you had done nothing in the war apart from let the Death Eaters into Hogwarts via the cabinet under duress.'
'When did you meet with my Mother?' Draco deflected back at him his mind reeling that his own Mother would seek an audience with Potter.
'Today!' was Potter's blunt reply, 'I just told you that!'
'What did you discuss?' he bit back.
'Girls, as much as this brings back fond memories of our school days, can you please just not,' Daphne interjected. 'We met you mum today Draco, she met with Harry under the auspices of House Black and asked its Lord apparent to intervene on behalf of a son of House Black.'
'She had no right …' he muttered softly to himself. However it was obviously not quiet enough though as Potter's voice cut through the exam room.
'She had every right to do what she has done and I will keep my word and keep her son from Azkaban, but what I want to know now is what happened to one of the daughters of House Black that her son hears her screams in his head!'
'And what do you care about a daughter of House Black, you never have before cousin, I sought you out on the train to introduce myself to you as my mother had asked me as one son of House Black to another! And you turned your nose up at my hand of friendship!' Draco spat at him how dare he act like he cared about his mother now.
'I didn't know Draco, I had no idea what it was you were doing. As I explained to your Mother, when you arrogantly barged your way into my cabin that day you reminded me once again of my cousin from my mother's side of the family, just like you had the day we first met in Diagon Alley in Madam Malkin's when you said that you would leave if you were sorted into Hufflepuff.'
Draco felt his face freeze in horror, his anger dying as fast as it had come he was to tired and worn thin for anger anymore anyway; 'he now remembered the boy who had come into the shop at the same time that he had been getting his robes fitted but at the time he had dismissed him from his mind thinking him a son of a poor pure blood family given his poor and obviously muggle clothes.'
When he finally got his mind under control, his voice was somewhat rickety, 'That was you?'
Harry nodded, 'You really didn't make a great first impression or a second obviously on the train.'
Draco looked at the face of his school rival, before his face fell, 'You're right I didn't but to be fair I didn't really know how to approach you, I knew where you sat in the ranks of peerage. My mother said that I should be courteous and polite but my father's training in pure blood affairs had left me with the understanding that we Malfoy's were at the top of the food chain even though he had been stripped of his seat on the Wizengamot after the first war, he swore that by the next election he would be back amongst the peers.'
Draco ran a hand through his hair in an action that looked remarkably like his rival's, 'and by my father's training I mean that although I had been taught all the correct forms of address, I never saw him defer to anyone and he always told me at the end of every session "that a Malfoy bow's to no-one".' He gave a snort of disgust, 'what a total load of hippogriff shit that was, considering all I saw him do once the Dark Lord returned was bow and grovel.'
'Draco what happened to your Mother? Daphne tells me that I am responsible for the welfare of all the House Black members of which you are one as any of your children will be also, so I ask again what happened to your Mother?' Harry's voice was tempered but clearly showed evidence of the stress he was currently under. 'I will order you to tell me if I have to!'
Draco looked to Daphne with a raised eyebrow, this was obviously Daphne's work but as of right now he had no idea how the relationship that the two obviously shared had come to pass.
'Please Draco, take the chance offered to you and do this of your own volition,' Daphne watched him thoughtfully. 'Take the opportunity that your Mother asked you to all those years prior and take the opportunity to make your own decisions rather than being tied to those of your father.'
Draco starred at her, 'she had no idea what she was asking him to do, he had pushed those memories into the furthest recesses of his mind using his skills in Occulmency to bury them deep. He had just about convinced himself that those memories didn't exist and that they were just figments of his imagination.'
He dropped his eyes to the floor once more, 'he wished to all the gods that he hadn't gone home that Easter, but the Dark Lord had ordered him back to the Manor for more "training to ensure he didn't repeat his failures." Just seeing Granger in the state that she was in had brought all those memories of that previous summer back to him, bubbling them to the surface, requiring him to force them back down again.'
Daphne obviously saw him wavering and pushed him again, 'Please Draco, don't let the Dark Lord keep his power over you, they are obviously memories that involve him in some way, you have already told us that much. Please just tell us and maybe we can also help your Mother when she has her interview with the Aurors.'
'And why would Potter want to help me, all I have done in the time that I have known him is make his life difficult,' he gave a weak sneer but his heart wasn't into it, he couldn't even be bothered to put up a front anymore.
'Because you are a son of House Black and it is my duty according to Daphne to see to the wellbeing of those members,' Potter said mildly, his voice controlled and steady.
Draco gazed at Harry for a long couple of moments before, nodding in defeat. 'I think I would almost prefer that you order me to do this but I cannot allow my Mother to shoulder the burden for any more of my mistakes.
- AFW –
Harry listened in shock at the brutality that Draco Malfoy had to live through, during the summer between his fifth and sixth years after his Father's failure to return the prophecy to Voldemort. Multiple short exposures to the cruciatus at the hands of lessor members of the Death Eaters at the behest of Voldemort had been initially used to galvanise Draco's will to complete his task as the Dark Lord tested him after his lessons with his Aunt.
He had also revealed that he was forced to choose between his Mother or himself taking the Dark Mark and then given a task to prove himself. A task that he had ultimately failed to complete which Harry knew only too well apart from his small success with the vanishing cabinet.
'I couldn't allow my Mother to shoulder the shame that my Father had brought down upon our family, she has sheltered me, protected me and watched out for me … so …' his voice was hollow and dull.
'So I stepped up for once in my life and did the only thing I could to protect the only person who cared for me unconditionally ... I took the cursed mark and did my best to ensure my mother was protected,' he looked away from them as he finished his statement, 'More fool me I guess.'
His failure like his Father's led to a significantly more sadistic summer break the following year. When he started to describe what Corban Yaxley had done to him to motivate him further, Harry nearly wanted to vomit.
Draco was given over to the "tutelage" of Corban Yaxley and Thorfinn Rowle, his Aunt Bellatrix having been deemed to have been too lenient with his education the previous year. Whilst Rowle instructed Draco it was Yaxley who disciplined him when he thought that Draco was failing to comprehend the lesson at an adequate speed.
For every slight or wrong answer Narcissa had lost meals, if he lost all her meals on any given day Draco had then been subjected to the imperious curse forced to use the cruciatus or other pain inducing hexes on his own Mother. By the end of the summer Narcissa had been a broken woman in most ways. Emaciated and her body damaged only her force of will had kept her going for her son's sake.
Draco had been forced to remember it all by Yaxley ensuring that his control of the imperious made Draco aware of what he was dong to his own Mother. When Harry asked why Yaxley, Draco had given a sad shake of his head.
'Because he was deprived of his bride from the House of Black,' at Harry's look of confusion Draco had continued, 'when Andromeda Black walked away from her intended betrothal with Corban Yaxley at the end of her seventh year at Hogwarts.'
'It slighted the man even though the unsigned and unfinished contract was brought out at a fair price after she had eloped. He has held a grudge against the House of Black ever since and what better way to get his revenge than make a son of that House torture his Mother who was a sister to the girl who turned her back on him?'
'And how is your Mother doing now, even though we met today, I find myself wondering if I was missing something given what you are saying,' Harry asked again confused as to how Narcissa appeared to be the same as she had always been.
Draco gave a wan smile, 'Slowly during the school year she had been healed with the help of Severus. He had to virtually rebuild her body piece by piece. He vanished and regrew bone and flesh, taking out pieces marred by dark magical curses that I was forced to use on her before brewing and running her through two full courses of a potion simply dubbed "Le Renouveau" or "The Renewal".'
Daphne gasped at the mention of the potion. 'What? What is the issue with that potion?' Harry asked her quickly.
Daphne was still staring at Draco as Harry tried to garner her attention, 'There's nothing wrong with that potion Harry except that it cost more for a full course that most people will earn in a decade of work because each round of the potion has to be tweaked to target a specific thing within the body.'
She shook her head, 'The potion itself was invented by a French Witch in the late 1800's but is so very complex and costly to brew and align that it is rarely used. But its results are astounding; with careful manipulation of the patient's body the potion can restore you to the best version of yourself of your current age.'
Harry joined Daphne in watching Draco as he simply shrugged after a moment's thought, 'It was worth every knut that I gave Severus to procure the ingredients and brew the potion for my Mother. Of course he brewed it for free significantly reducing the cost but still, I would have paid him double to have him make it and administer it to her for all the pain and torment that I have caused her.'
Harry didn't know what to think or where to steer the conversation next, luckily Daphne rescued the situation for him by unsheathing her wand and casting a tempus charm, 'Okay boys, its well after midnight we should all be heading to bed and trying to get some rest.'
Her eyes lingered on Draco momentarily, 'Where are you staying Draco?'
Harry watched as Draco's face grimaced slightly, 'I will floo back to the Manor from the teacher's atrium I will need to reset the watch stone shortly anyway.'
Daphne nodded and started to rise, 'Come Harry, let's go to bed.'
Harry saw Draco's eyebrows shoot into his hairline and watched as he tried to formulate some words, only managing a rather idiotic, 'err.' Harry smirked at him causing Draco to frown before he shot a glance at Daphne.
'None of your business Draco,' Daphne also smirked at him. 'Maybe we will see you tomorrow,' and with that she pulled Harry to his feet and half dragged him from the room by his hand.
- AFW -
The sun was barely starting to creep over the horizon the next morning when Daphne woke cradled in Harry's arms his warm body snuggled up behind her, his arm wrapped over her with his right hand again glued to her left breast. She was topless again but she found herself unconcerned by this fact as they were covered by the bed clothes.
She wriggled her way back attempting to get closer to Harry trying to get as much of her skin touching his as so physically could, basking in the simply joy of his touch. Her own right hand was in the small of her back causing a small amount of pain in her shoulder because of the angle her elbow bent at to allow the contortion. Her trapped hand was between their bodies holding him through what he called the fly of his shorts but she didn't feel the embarrassment of previous mornings until he twitched under her hand causing her to tense and flush slightly.
She felt Harry stir and waited for him to help her extricate her hand but he surprised her with a soft kiss to the back of her head which sent a jolt of electricity down her spine. His wand twitched once more, again surprising her. She felt his right hand shift and trail those lines of fire across her skin as he help extract her hand from his shorts.
Instead of letting his hand go however she locked her fingers with his and brought his hand back to her breast placing her own atop his and holding it firmly in position. She felt him tense slightly as she folded his fingers around her flesh, 'it's okay, I want you to hold me Harry, I like it … it makes me feel safe.'
She felt him relax slightly, 'Go back to sleep, it's early and we have a long day, we will need all the rest we can get.'
Harry gave a small chuckle, 'you do realise that what you just did isn't conducive to sleep right?' Nevertheless she felt him give her another kiss to the back of the head a smile on his lips as he tried to settle behind her once more.
- AFW -
After a lazy morning and a late breakfast, they arrived just inside the property boundary of a modest two story Georgian house in the small hamlet of Dane End, which according to the information Daphne had was part of the Parish of Little Munden. The portkey and apparition point was a secluded section of the property but there was pedestrian gate access to the road behind them.
All Harry knew was that they were in Hertfordshire north of London because it was an area that Vernon used to talk about moving the family to once they were rid of the freak.
They had been transported to their destination using the portkey that Andromeda had sent Daphne that morning via Kreacher. The old house elf had a look of consternation on his face when Daphne had requested that Kreacher go and request an appointment with Andromeda but had eventually schooled his features and done as requested.
The house was a beautiful dark red brick building with the traditional white trimmed large panel windows on the ground level with smaller versions on the upper story; sitting on what Harry thought might be an acre of grounds with a pebbled driveway leading to the front door. The grounds looked as though they had been previously well maintained but were now starting to show a general lack of maintenance except watering.
There were large expanses of lawn, tall trees that shaded sections as well as a tall hedge row fence that surrounded the property giving it a feeling of seclusion. Their feet crunched the pebbles as they strode towards the house hand in hand. Harry couldn't help but gawk around him, the house was the perfect place to raise a family in comfort and privacy.
He was shaken from his musings as they stopped at the front door and Daphne waited for Harry to ring the doorbell. He was nervous, the only time he had met Tonks' mother was straight after he had fled Privet Drive and she had scared the daylights out of him with her resemblance to her mad sister Bellatrix.
No sooner had he started reaching for the bell when the door opened, he physically had to stop himself from flinching as Andromeda Tonks opened the door and gave him a piercing stare.
After a few moments she dipped in a shallow curtsey, 'My Lord and Lady, thank you for gracing my humble home, won't you please come in.'
- AFW -
Daphne heard Harry's sigh as they left the Tonks residence and moved back to the entry point, she had to agree with his sentiment that their trip as far as House Potter was concerned was a complete bust. Andromeda had left Hogwarts the year after James Potter had arrived and although Dorea Potter was her great Aunt they had never been close.
She had baby sat a young James once or twice when they were much younger but that was about the extent of their interaction. Andromeda also had no idea who the Law Wizard or Witch of record for House Potter might be or what companies or investments House Potter may have been involved with.
She had a better understanding of the House Black obviously however, her knowledge was twenty years out of date but it at least gave them a place to start understanding the businesses of House Black.
Only Harry's first visit with little Teddy had made the day seem worthwhile. Harry had been so very adorable as he held the small babe in his arms and talked to him about his parents, but by far Daphne's favourite moment was when he had morphed into a combination of the two of them collecting Harry's green eyes and her blonde hair. In that moment she had seen a possible future that she could share with Harry a future that she had never given any thought to before today.
Andromeda had informed them that he had shifted for the first time two days prior, she had excused herself from the room after that for several minutes but Daphne could see that when she returned her eyes showed fresh evidence of tears.
Harry had bluntly asked if she needed some help tending the house whilst she was looking after child causing Daphne to wince slightly but Andromeda had merely asked what kind of help he was thinking of providing.
When Harry had answered a house elf, Andromeda had snorted, 'I do not believe that I would trust Kreacher with my Grandson, besides which I would be forever having to ensure that he did as instructed given I am no longer a member of House Black.'
Harry had laughed at that, 'No doubt but it wasn't Kreacher I was thinking of, I will have to check but I have another house elf in mind that potentially would be available, would you consider that?'
Andromeda had eyed him carefully before consenting, 'if the elf was happy to serve here then I would appreciate the help, My Lord.'
Harry frowned and then much to Daphne's chagrin asked again in his blunt way, 'That is the second time you have called me My Lord, I thought that you were no longer a member of House Black?'
Andromeda had given him a tight smile, 'Although my family has turned their back on me it doesn't mean that I have turned my back on them. I may not be an official member of my family's House but I am proud of my heritage even if they were trying to marry me off to a pig of a man.'
Harry had gone to apologise but Andromeda had cut him off, 'I am not offended My Lord, my only regret is condemning my sisters to the very thing I escaped.'
Daphne watched as Harry had pondered that statement for a while, 'I wonder if there is any way to bring you back into the fold so to speak?'
Andromeda's face had turned pale and her eyes had widened significantly at Harry's casual utterance and Daphne had felt her own eyes goggle a bit as well.
'The Black Family has never to my knowledge ever rescinded a disownment of one of its members, I am not even sure that it is possible,' Andromeda had choked out obviously struggling to keep her emotions under control.
Harry had just shrugged, 'Something to look into then at a later date.'
- AFW -
Harry watched as Daphne eyed the gate to the Burrow, 'what's wrong?'
A frown passed across her face before she turned to look at him, 'Nothing is wrong exactly, it's just that once I step across this barrier it will be only the sixth house of one of our classmates that I have visited in seven years … I just found myself a little saddened by that fact is all.'
Harry gave a sad smile in return, 'This is the only house of a classmate that I have been invited to in my time at Hogwarts or even before that.' He gave a squeeze of her hand, 'Maybe that is something that we can rectify in the future.'
She gave him a weak grin but soon settled her features back to neutral expression, 'perhaps.'
Giving her a gesture of after you he waited as she passed through the gate and the outer wards to the home of the Weasley's, he watched her face as the crested the rise and she got her first look at the impossibility that was the Burrow.
She blinked a couple of times before a smirk crossed her face and she turned to him again, 'Well that is unexpected, it's kinda fantastical even for a Magical house isn't it?' And then she laughed, 'someone must be bloody good at stabilisation charms and wards; I mean my gods it looks like it would fall over if I sneezed in its general direction.'
Harry had felt himself start to come to the Weasley's defence before he gave another look at the closest thing to a home that he had ever known. A small chuckle escaped his lips, 'I guess I never looked at it that way, but you are right it is kinda fantastical isn't it.'
'It is … are you sure that I will be welcome here, I mean you were dating their daughter before the war and everything … '
Harry cut her off; she had made the same point half a dozen times during lunch and Harry could feel the nervousness rolling through the bond in waves. 'It will be fine Daph, you saw the letter that Mrs Weasley returned with Kreacher, you are welcome.'
Daphne gave him a wan smile but nodded her head, 'I just don't want to cause any trouble is all, I know how much they mean to you already and I am sure that I haven't heard half of what they have done for you over the years.'
Harry gave her a warm smile, 'They have done more for me than I will ever be able to repay in my lifetime, they are good people and see the best in almost everyone … they will be pleased to meet you.'
As they walked down the hill towards the house Harry saw Molly appear at the door, she lifted her hands to shield her eyes looking towards them as they descended. Harry raised his right arm and waved which Molly returned before beckoning them to hurry down and come in.
He should have been expecting it but Molly's hug caught him completely by surprise as she pinned his arms to his side and tried to break his ribs. As Harry tried to maintain some air in his lungs what also caught his attention was that Molly now barely came up to his nose, he distinctly remembered his last hug from her before they went on the run and they had virtually been eye to eye.
'How are you doing Mrs Weasley,' Harry croaked out of his semi functioning lungs, smiling down at her as soon as she stepped back from him to give him a once over.
'Just fine Harry and you look good, not as skinny as I thought you'd be after being on the run for so long but still a little peaky, nothing that a good feed won't remedy though, she smiled up at him before turning to take in Daphne.
'And you must be Daphne, I have heard many things about you my dear but the reports do you little justice,' Molly said with a warm voice as she gave Daphne a welcoming hug. 'You are a beauty and obviously talented as well to have saved so many off your classmates.'
Harry suppressed a laugh as Daphne went from shocked to pleased to embarrassed all within Molly's sentence before she shot him daggers as Molly let her go.
'You both need a good feed, luckily I have just finished some baking and we can have a lovely afternoon tea,' she said as she led them into the kitchen.
- AFW -
Daphne felt like she was waddling away from the Weasley house, never had she felt so obligated to eat than during their afternoon at the burrow. No sooner had she finished off a portion of something than something else would appear that Molly insisted that she just had to try and give her opinion on.
She felt like she had put on thirty pounds in three hours, but she could not believe how included and welcomed she had been during the entirety of their visit, but Molly as she had insisted on Daphne calling her had ensured that Daphne had always understood the context of the conversations flowing around her.
Over the course of the afternoon it seemed to Daphne that the Weasley matriarch was doing her best to keep herself and her mind busy but she didn't always succeed as on more than one occasion Daphne saw her wiping fresh tears from her eyes, before she bustled about endeavouring to make sure that everyone was catered for.
Daphne had met every living Weasley in one go as far as she could tell along with their partners including surprisingly the former Beauxbatons Triwizard Champion who was apparently married to the eldest Weasley son and Fred Weasley's former girlfriend Angelina Johnson.
Only the youngest Weasley's seemed to have any reservations about her being in their home although the remaining twin was clearly still struggling to come to terms with the loss of his brother and didn't say much to anyone. Ron had been less than enthusiastic about her being in his home but he had been nothing less than civil, even holding a small conversation with her.
But Ginny had been very aloof when she had first entered. Daphne observed as Ginny seemed to scrutinise all of Harry's interactions with everybody in the house and especially Daphne's own with her ex-boyfriend. Daphne had felt Ginny's eyes on her more as the afternoon moved on but couldn't pinpoint the reason for it, especially when Daphne caught her eyes the last time and Ginny had given her a small but sad smile and a nod.
She was still trying to puzzle her way through the behaviour of the Weasley girl and keep track of all the conversations that she found herself involved in when about two hours after they had arrived Harry had asked Arthur discretely if he could go and repay his respects to Fred at his graveside.
Arthur and Ginny had volunteered to join them and had walked them both out a groaning gate at the back of the house and along what seemed like a previously little used path but now had numerous fresh footprints through the calf high grass.
The journey they were told would be at least a 10 minute walk and neither Daphne nor Harry were sure if he would be able to traverse that far on his own. Daphne had waited a little way away in the shade of one of the large Oaks that circled the small Valley with Ginny as Harry had knelt by Fred's freshly raised grave with his head bowed for a while.
Daphne could see the multiple graves of centuries worth of Weasley's and further away in the distance the ruins of once had been a large house, which she assumed was the ancestral seat of House Weasley. After a minute or two Arthur had left them to it returning to the house and after several more awkward minutes Ginny had broken the silence.
'How is he?' she asked quietly indicating Harry with a nod of her head, 'He looked ... happy most of the time today, which is unusual for him.'
Daphne flicked her gaze across the still kneeling form of Harry, before giving her full attention to Harry's ex. 'Most days he is good, though we have our ups and downs, most of those are because of me and my issues,' she didn't know why but she felt that the girl deserved straight answers.
Ginny gave a semblance of a smile, 'He blames himself though doesn't he?' When she saw Daphne's look of confusion she continued, 'for your current predicament.'
Daphne finally caught on to her meaning, 'Yeah he does, it's not his fault and I have forgiven him, not that I needed to as there was nothing to forgive as he saved my life, but yes the moron does blame himself for tying us together as he puts it,' she pulled up a piece of grass and started playing with it between her fingers.
Daphne continued, 'I'm sorry too for what it's worth, I know that he was hoping to get back together with you after the war and I have gone and gotten tangled up with him now … but I wanted you to know that I am sorry if I have taken away something that was helping you get through the war,' Daphne reached out and squeezed Ginny's hand.
Ginny gave her another parchment thin smile and a sigh, 'It wasn't your fault any more than it was his, but thank you … I am not sure even if we got back together whether or not we would have made a good go of it.'
'I think maybe too much water had passed under that bridge and that we were both changed too much by this last year of war.' Ginny's eyes drifted back over Harry's form now sitting on the grass near Fred's grave one knee pulled up under his chin the other crossing beneath his raised leg. There were several more minutes of a more comfortable silence as the two of them watched Harry continue his conversation with Fred's grave.
'Would you do me one favour?' Ginny broke into the silence quietly her watery brown eyes meeting Daphne's blue. At Daphne's nod of acquiescence Ginny continued, 'If you can leave me out of any information that you discuss with him about this school year, I would appreciate it. He already holds enough guilt about what happened to our family supporting him,' she gestured to Harry once more and Daphne could see his shoulders shaking as he cried quietly.
'He doesn't need to know what it was like for me last year as his ex-girlfriend, I know that it probably would have been much worse if we had still been together, but he doesn't need any more burdens at this stage. If you could let the others around him know I would be grateful.'
Daphne gave a solemn nod, 'You love him still don't you?'
Ginny sighed, 'Yes … and no, I think that I will always love him in some way, he saved my life once and I couldn't help but fall in love with him, and at the same time there is a part of me that still loves the hero that I dreamt of from those Harry Potter books when I was a child and the boy hero that always saves the day.'
Ginny's eyes look out over the orchard, 'But he is flawed as well in a way that many people will never see but that I think I do now … and maybe you are beginning to see.' She looked quizzically at Daphne before looking away, 'Anyway, I don't think our particular strains of darkness would play all that well together anymore, but I hope that he finds happiness, if anyone deserves it, it is him.'
Ginny gave her a smile full of mirth for the first time that day, 'Maybe it will be with you, he is far more comfortable with you than I have ever seen him with any girl except Hermione so maybe you were fate's reward for him,' and then she gave a small chuckle, 'You're definitely good enough looking to be a reward,' she said with a sly wink, 'and you're good for him as he is seems lighter now than I have ever seen him.'
Daphne snorted, taking the back handed compliment in the manner intended, 'Take care of him Daphne and he will spend his life trying to do his best to take care of you, in this way he is the best man I know, because once you are his friend there is nothing that he will not do for you, even to his own detriment.'
With that statement Ginny surprised Daphne by rising and pulling her to her feet as unnoticed by her Harry had started his return to them. His eyes were shimmering with tears and Daphne watched as Harry pulled Ginny into a hug whispering something in her ear before Ginny whispered something back and gave him a sad kiss on the cheek, her hand coming up and lingering for several moments on his other cheek before she slowly moved away from him.
And then Harry's eyes were on her and she found herself pulled into an emotional hug as Harry engulfed her, his pain and anguish flooding the bond though for the first time it was tempered with a feeling of lightness and healing. Arm in arm they walked back to the Burrow returning to the kitchen table, for more light conversation and far too many baked goods.
- AFW -
Harry sat pensively through a very late dinner lost in his own thoughts; things had been moving at such a pace that he felt that he hadn't had time to stop and think. He felt better for visiting the Weasleys today and specifically spending some time at Fred's grave just talking to him and thanking him for his sacrifice, a sacrifice he still felt guilty that he had asked people to make.
He should have asked Andromeda where Remus and Tonks had been interred as well but it had slipped his mind during his time with little Teddy, his godson. He still couldn't believe that he would be partly responsible for the little bundle.
When Remus had asked him it was an abstract idea that he would bring gifts and presents at the appropriate times during the year but he would be raised in the loving arms of his parents, not that Andromeda wouldn't raise him with love but Harry knew that it would not be the same thing.
He had been moving his food around on his plate when Daphne had risen from the table and held out a hand silently leading him from the depths of Hogwarts kitchens back to the Astronomy tower where the same style chair and blanket were waiting.
Daphne had pushed him down on to the sunlounge before she again straddled him but instead of lying down against his chest as she had done the previous evening she just sat astride of him watching his face with a small look of concern marring her own features.
After several silent minutes he could no longer bear her silent scrutiny, 'What's wrong?'
'That's my question Harry, you have been the one who has been in his own little world tonight, giving monosyllabic answers to my questions, so you tell me what's wrong?'
Harry started slightly, he hadn't realised that he had been so outwardly detached that Daphne had been trying to hold a conversation with him and he hadn't noticed.
'I am here to help you Harry, something has obviously caught your mind and unless you tell me I can't help you with it remember, I'm not a mind reader,' Daphne gave him an encouraging smile before she leaned down and gave him a gentle and slow kiss. Sitting back up she asked him again, 'What's wrong Harry, please let me help you or at least listen to what the problem is it might help if you talk about it.'
Harry shrugged, 'its many little things really, but mostly I was just thinking about all those people whose lives were cut short by me coming here.'
'That's a bit conceited don't you think Harry?' she asked a little coldly. 'So you were the only one who had the right to fight for what was right, were you?'
Harry gaped at her, 'that's … I didn't mean …it's not.' He frowned at her, 'I didn't mean that!'
'But that's what you just said, you said that their lives were cut short by you coming here, that's Hippogriff shit Harry and you know it, every person who came here came willing to fight and die if necessary to help bring freedom to the world, you're belittling their sacrifice by questioning why they came here.'
She drew a breath and cut him off by holding a finger up, 'They may have come at that time because you were here but they came knowing what it was they were facing, why they were doing it and what it may cost them? Do you think those that died would change what they did if they had the chance, do you think that Andromeda Tonks' daughter and Professor Lupin would not be happy to sacrifice themselves so that their son could be raised in a better world?'
'They came Harry because it was an opportunity to make a stand, perhaps the only chance they were going to get to make the world a better place, do you think that Tracey, Blaise, Susan and the others made a stand outside the Hufflepuff common room for you?' she gave a derisive snort.
'If you do Harry then your sadly mistaken, I was there for my sister so that she might have a better future; I was there for myself because those bastards were trying to take my future from me!' she poked a finger into his chest, 'Yes you were the rallying point but everyone who came or stayed did so for their own reasons which are just as valid as yours, you may have killed that prick but don't you dare guilt trip yourself into thinking that it was your fault that they died defending our world, it was their right!'
She glared at him, he could tell that she wasn't angry but she was not happy with him either, the bond pulsed with an indignation that Harry had never felt before. 'I am sorry, I didn't mean to belittle anyone's contribution to the final victory, but I just can't help but feel guilty that so many died because I announced my presence in the castle. But you're right I didn't ask any of them to come they came on their own.'
'You are not responsible for other people's decisions Harry; they have their own minds and are responsible for their own lives. They didn't have to come when it was announced that you were here, but they did because they wanted to make a difference. You don't get to take that decision away from them because it makes you uncomfortable; it was their choices that led them here that day.'
Harry nodded, everything she said was logical, but it would take him some time before he could assuage himself of all the guilt he felt he rightly carried because of his decisions.
Daphne eyed him carefully before she spoke again, this time with an impish smile, 'What else is going on in that convoluted mind of yours Harry, I am sure that isn't the only thing that has been keeping you distracted.'
Harry found himself smiling back at her before he realised it, 'Well no actually, I have a couple of other questions around things that have come up over the past few days or so.'
'Such as?' Daphne quirked an eyebrow.
'Well, if the Houses are so important why have I never seen any evidence of it during Hogwarts?'
Daphne gave a broad smile, 'Ah an easy question, that would be because of the Hogwarts Treaty of 1863. During this year dozens of Hogwarts students lost their lives due to a series of running duels fought between the heirs of various House that had longstanding blood feuds.'
She paused to gather her thoughts, 'There had been duels and fights between rival factions before but never to this extent, no one is quite sure why the hostilities escalated to the extent that they did but the corridors apparently became open war zones.'
'The battles fought between these students were the cause of more than one House being wiped out and no fewer than fifteen houses lost all their school aged heirs during a ferocious single battle that occurred in April 1863. The final result was that the Aurors had to be called in to allow the Headmaster to regain control of the school and the end became known as the Heir's Peace.'
The school board drafted up a treaty that all of the Houses had to sign up to the treaty and all new students guardians sign on to that treaty when they sign up to come to the school.'
The final result is that Heirs of House cannot conduct any House business on any Hogwarts property whilst school is in session apart from a few strictly regulated instances such as succour agreements and during the great celebrations. If breach the treaty they risk expulsion not just for themselves but for their family in perpetuity, with the first possibility of appeal after two hundred years.'
'But haven't we been conducting other House business on Hogwarts properties?' Harry asked a little worriedly.
'Yes but school is no longer officially in session, McGonagall declared the school year defunct the night of the battle knowing that House business was going to have to be conducted here in the weeks that followed,' Daphne said with an indulgent smile.
'Ah, right,' Harry gave a small smile back to her.
She leaned down and kissed him once more, 'Anything else that you want to talk about?' she asked as she lay down on his chest, his arms automatically coming up to wrap around her.
'Well I did have a query about the succour agreement, I mean I get that it's there to help me understand my duties as a Lord but our agreement feels more like a business treaty drawn up between the three Houses?'
Harry felt Daphne smile against his chest, 'That's because that's the way that Neville and my father set it up, neither of them knew enough about House Potter's interests to add any significant detail, added to this is the fact that we are both over the age of seventeen and they agreed between them that we could determine together what level of access to House Potter I would have even though it is a full access agreement hence the agreement spells out what exactly that means to all parties.'
'Oh … well I guess that makes sense then,' Harry mused. 'Daphne?'
'If I ever over step the mark please let me know, I don't want to make you uncomfortable whilst you are trying to help me,' he said in a hesitant voice.
Daphne raised her head to look him in the eyes, 'I will Harry, but I don't have any fears that you will, as Tracey said what feels like a life time ago, I don't think that it is in your nature.'
They spent the better part of three hours on the Astronomy tower, talking and discussing topics involving the Houses and what could and could not be discussed when Hogwarts was in session and other inane subjects as the fancy took them before Daphne somewhat abruptly it seemed to Harry ordered him to carry her to bed as she was tired and needed her beauty sleep.
Harry obliged picking her up and carrying her once more down the stairs to their bedroom where they separated to complete their ablutions, this time Harry beat Daphne back and climbed into his side of the bed.
When Daphne entered the room a few minutes later she appeared deep in thought and Harry thought slightly nervous. She looked at him quizzically for a few moments but before he could ask what was wrong she moved to the bed straddling his hips once more before delivering a deep and yet soft kiss which seemed to linger. Daphne pushed herself off of him, gave him a little smirk before moving around to her side of the bed where she extinguished the lights and climbed into bed with him after a few moments.
As she snuggled up against him and he went to wrap an arm around her, he stiffened and halted all movement, 'Daphne where is your pyjama top?' he finally managed to squeak out.
Daphne gave a tiny snort of laughter, 'Harry for the past two days I have woken up without it, what is the point in wearing it if it is just going to end up on the floor anyway?' and with that she pulled his hand up to her breast, gave a small satisfied sigh before saying, 'go to sleep Harry and sweet dreams.'
Leaving a completely bewildered Harry to wonder what he had done to deserve this type of beautiful torture.
- AFW -
A/N 3) – When I was originally planning this story the original question I asked myself was "what would happen if Harry took a walk after the battle and stumbled across a mixed group of students who were dying and in saving them he tied himself to one of them?" and hence A Fateful Walk was born.
The second question that was also bouncing around in my head at the same time was "what if Draco found Hermione after the war and gave her wand back to her?" I guess we will find out together as the story progresses but I want it known up front I am not really a Dramione reader or shipper it was just a question I wanted to answer.