A/N 1) –Thank you all for your continued support, and thank you to my dedicated Beta CaskettFan5, who is making me a better writer. His comments thoughts and ideas permeate this story and it wouldn't be what it is without him. Check-out his stories in the Harry Potter and the Unexpected Series, they are great reads and I can't wait for you all to see his latest chapters.
A/N 2) – Recommended Reading – So I have taken a bit of a different approach with my recommendation this time around. ShayaLonnie is one of those writers who can immerse you straight into their plot effortlessly or at least it seems so to me. She has numerous fic's finished and still more as works in progress, but please take the time and enjoy some of her great work. Soul Scars & The Safe Word is Devils Snare are two of my favourites of her completed works, the former is such an intriguing idea and well executed, whilst the latter is a Hermione and Neville partnership set to a BDSM theme that is so wonderfully written that it is hard to describe. She has a heap of others, so take some time and check her works out for yourself.
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.
- AFW -
The sun shone through cracked or shattered windows, broken glass and other detritus crunched under their shoes as the made their way through the hallways of Malfoy Manor. Harry wasn't quite sure how Daphne had convinced him to drag Neville and Astoria along with them to go and check on what was left of the Malfoy family, but he was glad that they had come, even if Tori looked somewhat pale and her hands shook occasionally. He'd have ask Daphne about it when he got the chance, but given that they had managed to just walk directly into Malfoy manor he figure that they had more pressing concerns right now.
The fact that even Tibney hadn't come to meet them at the front gate or even the front door had put Harry on alert, their wands were out and they were very watchful as they advanced through the desolate halls of the once beautiful manor. He saw damage that he hadn't seen in their mad scramble through the same halls the day before, testifying to the fact that the Malfoy's had given as good as they had got during the defence of their home.
A crack of apparition resulted in four wands zeroing in on a suddenly very frightened house elf. The elf squeaked and ducked behind a plinth holding what once was a vase or urn of some description. He saw a shaky breath escape from Astoria's lips as he signalled the others to lower their wands and stepped to where the elf was huddling behind the plinth.
Kneeling he said, 'It's okay little one, we didn't mean you any harm, you just scared us when you popped in near us,' Harry made sure that his voice was as soothing and calm. The elf poked a timid head around the edge of the pedestal.
Daphne came and rested a hand on Harry's shoulder, 'I promise it's okay, we really won't hurt you. We were just concerned that we hadn't seen your Mistress or Master.'
The elf stepped out and gulped, a high tremulous voice squeaked out, 'Good morning Masters and Mistresses, how may Moxer be's helping you on behalf of the's Houses of Malfoy?'
It was immediately obvious that the elf was quite young; it would have barely made Kreacher's withered shoulders.
'We are looking for Draco or Narcissa, are they available? Are they well?' Daphne asked.
Moxer nodded his head vigorously, his bat like ears flopping everywhere, and suddenly he was bouncing on the spot, reminding Harry instantly of another Malfoy elf. His eyes prickled as he remembered the brave little elf Dobby, and with great effort he forced a smile onto his face.
'Are they available to meet with us or are they not here?' Harry asked with a small lump in his throat.
'Moxer is unsure he will goes and checks,' and with that the Elf popped away.
'Well he's energetic isn't he?' Neville asked in an amused voice.
Another pop of apparition and the little elf stood once more in front of them, 'Moxer has returned Master, unfortunately the Mistress and Master are still passes outs and is being unable to meets with yous at this time.'
Harry frowned, but was beaten to the obvious questions by Neville who asked in an urgent voice, 'What do you mean passed out? Where are they? And what happened?'
Moxer started pulling on his ears, obviously in distress, so Harry bent and placed a reassuring hand on the little guys shoulder, 'We mean them no harm, we just wanted to ensure that they were alright and see if the House of Black could lend them any assistance after yesterday?' He flicked his eyes to Daphne's to see her nodding approvingly at his statement.
Moxer sagged almost in relief, 'Yous is from the House of Black?' he look curiously at Harry, his big blue eyes bulging slightly.
'He is, and so am I,' Neville replied solemnly, before Harry could answer. He gave his friend what he was sure was a startled look, before shaking his head to clear it he turned his attention back to the little elf hoping that this would garner the answers that they were looking for.
Moxer swallowed audibly, 'Very well Masters and Mistresses, yous follows Moxer and he's being taking yous to the Mistress and Master.'
- AFW -
She knew that Tori like her could hear the mostly whispered conversation between Harry and Neville, because they were on the boy's arms as they followed the little elf deeper into the house. Whilst technically Neville had been accurate that he was of House Black, but given that he was fourth generation unlike Harry and Draco's second, the only way that he could claim to be a scion of said House would be for him to give up his claims to his Houses and seek a blood bonding into the house from Harry.
She stopped briefly struck by the idea; maybe that was the way that he could bring Andromeda back into his house. Filing the thought away for consideration later she hurried to catch up to the others. Daphne followed Harry down the last steps into the seat of the Ancient House of Malfoy still hurrying along, she felt uncomfortable heading down here, this was the inner sanctum of the house, and wasn't somewhere that anyone not of the family would usually be invited down into. And here they were just blithely walking into it, as if it wasn't a big deal.
She was so caught up in her own thinking that she didn't see Harry stop, but she felt it when she plowed her nose into his shoulder. Her eyes watered and she was about to berate him when she saw why he had stopped so suddenly, laying near a shallow cavity in the emerald green marble floor were Narcissa and Draco Malfoy each flanked by an elf, a silver dagger and ledger lay open behind Draco.
A small pool of blood was near each of their left hands, thanks to shallow cuts that crisscrossed their palms from heel to middle finger and from just above the thumb to a fraction below the little finger. The rise and fall of their chests were the only indication that both lived. Pushing past Harry she rushed to Draco's side, withdrawing her wand and started casting diagnostic charms.
She ignored the questions of the others as she moved to Narcissa, again casting the basic diagnostic charms on the statuesque blonde woman. Leaning back on her heels Daphne lifted her eyes to Harry's and loosed a sigh of relief. 'They are both suffering from some magical backlash, they'll be fine in no time most of the power would have been dissipated through the ward scheme. Hopefully they should awaken shortly, but they'll be disorientated and have one hell of a headache to start with.'
'What were they trying to do?' Harry asked as he approached the cavity in the floor.
'Mistress and Master were trying to changes the ward'es, but's they's be's trying to do's too much so Tibney and Zerta tried to add their strength to help protect's the Ancient House of Malfoy from any bad's man's who comes back.' Moxer said wringing his ears, 'Tibney be's ordering Moxer to watch over and protect'es them all.'
Daphne walked over to the cavity that Harry was peering into, 'What is it?' he asked looking at the hovering inverted pyramid of multi-coloured crystal approximately thirty centimetres high. There were veins of what looked like gold that spider webbed their way down the crystal to each of the four points. The pyramidal cavity below seemed to have connecting veins into the emerald green marble of the floor where they became runic arrays and Arithmantical symbols that flowed through three separate tiers.
'It's the focus stone for the wards, Narcissa and Draco must have decided that dropping all the wards on the House and then bringing them all back up again would reset everything, denying access to everyone not of the Malfoy family or currently residing in the Manor. I think that they may have seriously underestimated the amount of magical energy that would be required to achieve their goal,' Astoria answered as she bent down to get a closer look at the faintly pulsing crystal.
'They were probably hoping the ley lines would assist them with the power needed to do the job, if they could get the focus stone to start drawing on them,' Daphne mused out loud.
'Yeah,' agreed Tori, before seeing the look of confusion on Harry's face. 'Think of it like this, you have a boulder in a small hollow on the side of a never ending slope, if you can push the boulder hard enough it will shift, climb up the hollow and start rolling down the slope, unfortunately if you don't push hard enough the boulder comes back and smashes your arse,' she clarified.
A groan from Narcissa had them all turning, their topic of discussion temporarily forgotten, no one else commented as Daphne hurried across to the blonde woman. 'Moxer I need you to fetch some, fruit juice, some chocolate and a light pain potion for both your Mistress and Master,' with a quick look of worry at Narcissa, he gave a small nod and the little elf popped away.
Narcissa lifted her left hand and massaged her temples oblivious to the blood that still trickled from the ritual wounds on the palm of her hand, before running it up through her hair leaving pink streaks in the blonde.
Daphne watched as Narcissa slowly opened her eyes and took in the scene around her, her eyes lingering on Harry and Neville somewhat, before she sighed and attempted somewhat shakily to get to her feet in the end Daphne had to aid her slightly guiding her to Neville's hastily conjured seat.
Narcissa inclined her head in Neville's direction before speaking, 'You seem to be making this a habit Lord Black, coming to our assistance,' the older woman's voice was sarcastic yet held no malice.
Harry blushed slightly before dragging his hand through his perpetually messy hair in a way that did funny things to Daphne's insides; she huffed to herself before turning her attention to Draco who was now also beginning to stir fitfully on the floor, noticing that Moxer had returned with the refreshments and potions that she had ordered and had set the tray on a table it had obviously summoned.
'Yeah I guess, well… umm… Daphne thought that… that is to say that we didn't want you to be errm exposed like you were the other day,' was Harry's guileless answer to which Narcissa glanced at Daphne who could only roll her eyes in exasperation.
'My, you are refreshing Lord Black, apparently your advocate here thinks you need some more training in the subtle art of dissemination, yet I think in the short term at least that your approach is likely to keep everyone guessing as to what you are up to not believing for a second that what you say is exactly what you mean. I am sure that Cassandra Greengrass's daughter can make good use of such a strategy.'
Daphne started for the second time that morning, Narcissa was right! Harry's speaking the truth especially inside the Wizengamot would keep people trying to understand his real goals, goals that he was not trying to hide. Most of the other Lords would be trying to ascertain his real goals and would pay no real attention to what he was doing up front. It was a strategy that had a short shelf life, but could be used with devastating effect early on and had potential if she could ever get him to think strategically, like at all.
Again pushing those thoughts aside for later, but noticing that Narcissa had seen the understanding in her eyes, she helped the ash white Draco to his feet and into another chair that Moxer had summoned.
As Draco lurched into his chair, Moxer came to stand in front of him pulling on his ears.
'Master, the ward'es still be down!'
- AFW -
Harry lifted his hand from Daphne's shoulder and eyed the silvery lines from the cuts on his hand; there was still too much that he didn't know about this world that he lived in. Daphne had tended the two Malfoy's as they had recovered from the magical backlash suffered that morning. Within an hour after she had awoken Narcissa was insistent that they try once more to bring the wards back up.
He wasn't sure how it had happened, but somehow he found himself aiding the two Malfoy's to bring the property wards back up and functioning. He frowned at his own thought, that wasn't exactly true was it, he had helped because he could and because he felt it was his duty to assist the two Malfoys even if he was less than thrilled about it.
"It will be gone by tomorrow Harry,' Daphne reassured him as they lay snuggled beneath the blankets of a bed in Malfoy Manor.
'I know, you told me that already, I was just trying to figure out how it is that I am helping my school nemesis and his mother protect their property. When only a couple of months ago they were here witnessing my best friend get tortured?'
Daphne tilted her head back to look at him for a moment before snuggling into him further, 'Draco told me that they were virtual prisoners here themselves.' She must have felt him tense at the suggestion and rushed on, 'True they weren't locked up, but they weren't allowed to leave, they had little say in who came into and out of their home. Bellatrix and the other Lestrange's were put in charge and Draco was told to keep his head down and say nothing, no matter what happened by Narcissa.'
Harry gave a little harrumph, before Daphne continued, 'I am not saying that they deserve your pity Harry, because quite likely they don't, but you can only play the hand you are dealt, and Draco was dealt a pretty shitty hand from the start.'
'I get that Daph, but it's hard to see them as anything less than Death Eaters,' Harry answered in a slightly cold voice.
'Narcissa isn't marked, Harry, she showed me her arms after you almost collapsed from magical exhaustion,' she sighed. 'Don't get me wrong, she is unlikely to go wandering about in muggle London anytime soon and she probably still considers herself above you and your friends because of her blood, but she is not stupid!'
Daphne wriggled a bit closer to him, 'She is aware that the world changed after the Battle of Hogwarts and she is very aware that the future of her family relies on your good graces. This means that she will look to temper her views somewhat, but this doesn't mean that she won't try to influence your choices if she can.'
Harry knew that the blonde witch in his arms was once again unhappy with his actions today, but unfortunately for her there had been no alternative, the wards needed setting and it required magical power and a connection to the family to do so. It had also been one of the more impressive pieces of magic that he had ever seen.
Watching as his blood was drawn into the crystal, along with Narcissa's and Draco's. The pulse of magic that flickered along the spider webs of gold, the inner runic arrays flashing as power was restored to them. But before all that it had taken the Malfoy's a good twenty minutes and a lot of blood to turn off the thirteen, second echelon and seven, third echelon schemes that made up the outer wards, it was as he watched Draco's bloody hand that dipped into the floor turning runic arrays that he finally understood, blood was magic.
- AFW -
Harry blinked as sunlight entered the unfamiliar room, snapping him from what he took as another of Daphne's memories. It took him several seconds to orientate himself before the events of the day before came back to him. The blonde in his arms shifted slightly snuggling closer, somehow moulding her body closer to his, mewling quietly in her sleep as he stifled a laugh at her antics. She was beautiful in the mornings; he had no trouble admitting that to himself as he watched her sleeping form in the dresser mirror.
She had somehow managed in three short weeks to worm her way so intrinsically into his life that he couldn't imagine what his life would be like without her. She was intelligent, almost painfully so, often she would point out his shortcomings, but never in a condescending manner. At times she reminded him of a magically raised Hermione, she had significant amounts of knowledge at her fingertips and wasn't at all shy about sharing that information.
'Stop it Harry!' came the sleepy voice of the blonde in his arms as she snaked her fingers into his hand that was resting on her hip before tugged it around her and planting it on her breast with a contented hum, before trying to wriggle her way closer again.
'Stop what,' he asked confused.
'Stop thinking so loud and go back to sleep, it too early to be thinking,' she murmured before she turned her head and kissed his arm that lay under her neck. He went to answer her, but she shushed him. He felt her smirk against the skin of his arm before she bit him lightly just above the elbow.
He jerked surprised and she giggled turning in his arms and starting to tickle him, her hands roaming across his chest and ribs, until he turned the tables on her, scooping her up in his arms and pulling her on top of himself. She gave a shriek as he pinned her to his chest and started his own tickle torture of her body, she jerked and convulsed on top of him desperately, wailing 'Haaa…rrrrrr…yyy.'
He continued his attack on her body for a further minute, taking pleasure in the fact that he had turned her attack around; by the time he called a truce, tears were leaking from her eyes but she was giggling uncontrollably. He kissed her forehead, basking in the contentment that he felt with this wonderful woman in his arms.
She rested her forehead against his chest, before she wiggled her way up his body a little. Resting her head under his chin he heard another contented hum, 'Harry?' there was a question in her voice.
'Do you…' she paused and raised her head, chewing on her bottom lip.
'It's okay Daph, you can ask me … I am beginning to think that there are very few secrets between us,' he flicked his eyes down to where their bodies rested against each other's, before looking deep into her eyes once more.
A tear tracked out of her left eye and he knew that this wasn't a happy tear. 'Hey, it's okay, just talk to me Daph, you're starting to worry me now. ' He pulled his right hand away from the small of her back and wiped the glistening bead away from her cheek.
She nuzzled his hand momentarily, closing her eyes as she did so, the tension releasing from her rigid body somewhat. When her eyes flickered open again, he could see pain reflected in their depths and he felt her steel herself, 'Do you… do you have any good memories?'
The question hit him like a bludger to the face, 'I… ummm… what do you mean?' he asked tentatively hoping against hope that she wasn't experiencing his life in the way he seemed to be invading hers.
- AFW -
She frowned at him and watched as the shutters in his eyes came down, 'I don't understand what you're asking Daph?'
She gave him a tight smile, I think that you do Harry,' she pinned him down as he tried to wriggle from under her. 'Harry, please… I need to talk about this,' she stared into his green eyes trying to impress her need for him to talk to her about something that she was sure that they were both experiencing.
His eyes flickered searching for something in the depths of her own; she could feel the panic rolling off him through the tether. 'I'm not going anywhere Harry, but I am going nuts knowing that when I fall asleep that, I'm going to be transported into what I assume are your memories … and I suspect that you fall into mine, no matter what you do.'
Harry grimaced and his eyes swam with a barely contained pain, she felt her heart break as his emotional turmoil roiled through the bond and battered against her. Her eyes blurred as hot tears splashed on her cheeks, she closed the space between their lips and gave him a slow lingering kiss.
- AFW -
'Please Daph, I just need some time to think,' he preempted any conversation with the blonde girl, hoping she would respect his wishes as he sat watching the fountain in the gardens of Malfoy Manor. This was as far as the tether would allow him to retreat from her in their current surroundings.
'Well I am blonde, but I am fairly sure I am neither female nor sleeping with you, scarhead,' the snarky, but not hostile response left Harry in little doubt as to who had approached him from behind.
'What do you want ferret boy,' Harry asked in return no heat or venom in his voice, to be quite honest he couldn't be bothered rising to the Malfoy Heir's bait.
Draco moved alongside him and place a bottle of butterbeer on his bench, before taking a swig from his own and claiming a seat on another nearby bench. Harry eyed the bottle, before sighing, grabbing it and raising it to his own lips.
'You know this was built by my father for my mother as a wedding present,' Draco started staring at the fountain as the water made soothing noises in the background. 'It depicts the story of Diana, she was -'
Harry cut him off, 'Yes the goddess of the Hunt, the Moon and the Virgin Goddess of women and childbirth, I know, now what do you want Draco?'
Draco gave him a funny look before turning his attention back to the fountain, 'You're really going to have to work on your small talk skills.' He raised a placating hand, 'Alright, alright, I'm getting to it…'
Harry glared at the blonde boy.
Causing Draco to mutter under his breath, albeit not quietly enough for Harry not to hear him, 'She is so going to owe me for this though.'
Harry's glare intensified.
At which Draco rolled his eyes and let out an exasperated sigh, 'Fine, Daphne's worried about you, she said that she pushed you too hard on something and now she is concerned that you've been sitting out here on your own for more than an hour. She just wants to know that you are alright, but wouldn't come out to check herself and has been driving everyone else inside bonkers with her worry.'
Harry continued glaring at the prat, 'So why are you here?'
'Because I got volunteered, Astoria has expelled too much energy to be safe for her during the past few days so she's resting in bed, Longbottom left to go back to Hogwarts for a couple of hours to help Sprout do something, after being shooed away by Tori and my mother is trying to talk Daphne out of her tree, which left me the really short stirring rod of coming to check on you.'
Harry looked at him incredulously and Draco gave a small chuckle, 'Yes I pointed out the idiocy of this situation as well, but was given zero choice in the matter.'
'Well that's the biggest load of Flying Horse shit that I have ever heard, you are most definitely not fine, but to be quite honest I don't care what's got your panties in a bind, I was instructed to come out here and talk to you so that's what I am going to do even if I am the only one talking. I have no intention in getting on the wrong side of any of those witch's wands.'
'Whatever,' Harry replied before turning his attention back to the fountain.
His thoughts drifted over what had happened in their bed that morning, the revelation that Daphne was experiencing his life just as he was seeing hers had shocked him to his core. He could no longer meet her eyes ashamed for what his memories had likely shown her of his life so far.
She had tried in vain to get him to talk about it, either her memories or his whichever one he wanted to discuss, but he couldn't. He had buried so many memories deep inside, and he never wanted to remember them again.
'So what ever happened to Dobby?'
Draco's question broke through the whirlpool of thoughts spinning out of control in his mind. 'Huh?'
'I said, whatever happened to Dobby? Crazy little thing used to … ' Malfoy trailed off at Harry's pained expression. 'When?'
'As we left the Manor, Bellatrix's knife ended up embedded in his chest,' Harry's voice hitched slightly but he continued, 'He died in my arms minutes later.'
Draco's face had taken an ashen hue and he stared unblinking at Harry for several seconds before looking away. 'He didn't deserve that, shit he didn't deserve how we treated him either. He was forever getting in trouble with my father and having to punish himself.' Draco stood up and walked to the edge of the fountain and gaze at the water with unseeing eyes.
'When I was younger, he used to entertain me. He would look out for me when I was playing in the gardens making sure that I didn't ruin my clothes. My Father would punish me for that,' He turned and gave Harry a sad smile, 'He took some of my punishment occasionally too, telling my Father that it was his fault for random things I accidently broke.'
He took another swig from the bottle in his hand, 'Somewhere along the line I had forgotten that, I don't know when he stopped caring for me in that way, but I don't blame him for it.' Draco sat on the edge of the fountain looking at his feet, 'What did you do with his body?'
Harry considered the boy in-front of him, before answering, 'He's buried in the dunes near Shell Cottage, that's the residence of Bill and Fleur Weasley.'
Draco gave a closed eye nod, 'I should tell Tibney and Moxer, they need to know.'
'Were they close,' Harry asked after several moments of contemplation.
Draco looked up at him, a sad smile on his face once more, 'Tibney was his mate and Moxer is their only elfling, he was born during our second year. It is rare for House Elves to have offspring, Tibney has been with the Malfoy family since my great grandfather was Lord and Dobby came to the family with my Grandmother.
Harry gave Draco a horror stricken look, Moxer had also lost his father to the war, and Tibney her mate, this day just got worse.
- AFW -
She was worried and hurt, Harry had been distant ever since that morning in Malfoy manor. It was like he had checked out, he was still courteous, kind and all the other things that she had come to expect from him, but when she tried to actually talk to him he gave monosyllabic answers. Draco couldn't throw any light onto the situation, the useless boy telling her that the only thing they had really talked about was the death of one of the Malfoy's old House elves. The only advice that he had to give her was to give him time and space.
Well she had done that, as much as she could, staying away until the tether pulled her back to him, but it didn't seem to have helped, now she didn't know what to do and it was driving her nuts, it had only been a day, but she didn't think that she could handle much more of the golem that he had become. She was consciously walling her hurt feelings away so that she could be around him, but she knew that it wasn't a viable long term solution.
She was getting so desperate already that she was seriously considering tracking down Weasley to get his thoughts on what to do. On top of that her body was betraying her, she was very aroused and it seemed that she could do nothing about that situation on her own. It wasn't like she hadn't tried, in fact if she had tried any harder this morning in the shower then it was likely that she was going to start rubbing some skin off very sensitive places.
Even worse was the fact that she had never given herself an orgasm even half as good as the one that Harry had given her the previous morning and she hated that she wanted him so much even whilst he was being a prick. She had hoped for an encore performance this morning, but as soon as he had woken, he gave her a perfunctory kiss good morning and went to the shower and that was over two hours ago and he hadn't reappeared.
That had hurt even more than the day before, this was a deliberate decision on Harry's behalf to not talk to her, not him withdrawing because he felt uncomfortable. She was busy pacing the infirmary floor, thankful that Madam Pomfrey had once more found them a bed for the night, but she knew that they had to have a serious chat regarding their accommodations going forward.
Sighing in frustration and trying not to give into the temptation and maybe head back to the shower, she looked up to find herself standing outside the curtains of Hermione's cubicle. With nothing better to do and no one else to talk to that was likely to give her better advice on Harry.
She poked her head in to see if Harry's best friend was awake. Hermione had been awakened yesterday afternoon to be fed the Le Renouveau potion. She had been dazed, very confused and weak, she was sure that Harry had broken a little more at the sight of his friend in such a state and the rest of her friends had been little better.
Slughorn had worked through the night to have the potion ready for the morning so that her condition didn't deteriorate any further. Slughorn had been delighted to help Gryffindor's Princess and equally excited to be able to make a round of the Le Renouveau potion, even if it was the simplest of all the potential permutations to make, having only had the opportunity once before.
From what Daphne had surreptitiously read on her chart, due to several factors including the slight misuse of a couple of nutrient extraction potions her body was no longer taking in the nutrients she required to function from food and was slowly starving itself. The added minor complication was that her magic was augmenting her body and keeping it alive by consuming her fat and muscles, if the process hadn't been stopped eventually it would have started in on her internal organs.
Had her condition not come to light when Draco delivered her to the infirmary then it was likely that organ failure would have only been mere weeks away. She was lucky there was no doubting that, she was also lucky that the first round of the Le Renouveau potion was the simplest to make and required very little in the way of prep time. It did however require twelve hours of brewing time and nearly twenty hard to get and therefore expensive ingredients.
The girl in question was propped up on pillows a bandage wrapped the length of her left forearm. She was skeletal thin, her hair looked brittle, her facial features were all angles and bones, but most disconcerting were her eyes, they were cold and dead as though the intervention to save her life had been too late. A novel of some description lay resting in her lap as she looked out the window towards the Black Lake, a single tear was glistening in the morning light, stuck on her far to prominent cheekbone. Daphne followed her eyes seeing several people enjoying the summer sun on the grounds, but knew instantly what had captured the muggle girl's attention. A tall gangly red head was visible on the lakes grassy bank sitting comfortably with a wavy blonde headed girl resting her head on his shoulder.
Daphne must have shifted or something alerting the girl that she had company because she wiped the tear from her cheek before turning her attention to the curtains. 'Oh … you weren't who I was expecting … ' she trailed off before looking down at her hands which were both now holding the book.
'I'm sorry, I didn't mean to disturb you … I just … it's … well,' Daphne found her own voice petering out as she tried to understand her own reason for poking her head into Hermione's room, before she started frowning at the floor.
She heard Hermione sigh before she asked, 'What's wrong with Harry?'
Daphne's head snapped up, her jaw dropping open, 'I umm … what do you mean?'
Hermione gave a small snort of amusement, some life flaring in her eyes for the first time since Daphne had seen her awake. 'Give me some credit Greengrass, we aren't exactly friends, probably closer to rivals if we are honest, but I know that the only reason you would have sought me out would be to pick my brain about my best friend.'
Daphne schooled her features once more before entering the room completely, 'Indicating a chair to the side of the bed she enquired, 'May I?' Hermione gave a nod of assent so she settled herself into the chair before looking up at the other girl, trying to figure out where to start. Figuring she had nothing left to lose, she decided to lay her cards on the table and hope they wouldn't blow up in her face, 'I think I may have pushed him a little too far, about our shared dreams, but I have the feeling that something Harry and Draco talked about may have pushed him over the edge.'
- AFW -
'I can't believe that you're blackmailing me like this, I thought that Gryffindors were supposed to be our society's moral compasses,' Daphne complained bitterly as she pushed Hermione through the front doors of Hogwarts and out onto the grounds.
'And I can't believe you're making me sit in a wheelchair, so stop complaining. All I am asking you to do is help me get outside to enjoy some sunshine for a while,' Hermione answered, though Daphne was sure that she had a smile on her face as she said it.
'You realise that Madam Pomfrey is going to murder me for doing this, not to mention what your best friend is going to do when he finds out, I'm trying to get back in his good books, you know not land myself in more Hippogryff dung,' Daphne scowled back.
'It will be fine Greengrass, I need to talk to Harry to find out what the issue is, but judging from what you've told me it's a combination of factors. Harry bottles things up, it's how he deals with things and then he explodes.' Hermione looked over her shoulder as if to assure herself that Daphne was still there, before continuing her explanation. 'I can usually get him to talk if I prod him right, but there is not a snowball's chance in hell that he will talk to me whilst I am sitting in that hospital bed. He'd clam up tighter than a Gringotts vault.'
Daphne frowned as she pondered this, 'Then why didn't you just tell me that in the first place?'
Hermione turned and gave her a sly smile, 'I wanted to see how much he meant to you, how far you were willing to go to get my help. He's my best friend and he deserved something great for the rest of his life, but instead he has wound up not having a choice in his life again, so I wanted to see if you were worth helping or not.'
Daphne gaped at her as if seeing her for the first time.
'Oh cheer up Greengrass, guess what, you passed the test and I got to go outside and feel the sunshine on my face and at least all that time you guys are spending naked in bed is helping both lengthen both the duration and the distance of the tether,' Hermione quipped as she turned to face the front once more.
Daphne sighed, 'I think you better call me Daphne from now on, I get the feeling I am going to be coming to see you fairly regularly.'
- AFW -
Harry wasn't at all happy when he found Hermione on the grassy bank of the Black Lake reading her book. He'd just poked his head into her room to find the bed empty when an angry Medi-Witch came storming up to him demanding to know where her patient was.
She'd been in full lecture mode and Harry hadn't been able to get a comment in edgeways when Kreacher popped into the same room to advise him that the Mistress wished for him to meet Miss Granger on the bank of the lake.
This had precipitated both Madam Pomfrey and himself looking out the window to see both Daphne and Hermione sitting near one of the Oak Trees some forty metres from the lake's edge. Madam Pomfrey had made some sulphurous remarks about apprentices getting too big for their robes and something about the stupidity of patients, before thrusting some potion vials into his hand and telling him that Miss Granger was to drink them and then eat some more.
Harry had blinked at the vials in his hand and was about to ask Madam Pomfrey a question when he noticed that the Medi-Witch had already left. Scowling and angry that Hermione had left her bed he stalked outside planning to give both of the witches a piece of his mind.
- AFW -
Daphne watched them from the corners of her eyes as she paced along the lakeshore for what felt like the one hundred and fiftieth time. They had been talking in most hushed tones now for a good twenty minutes and she had still yet to be called over to face the wrath of an angry Harry Potter for extracting his best friend from the Hospital Wing.
Harry had been as angry as she had ever seen him, looking ready to curse first and ask questions later. Hermione had seen him coming and told her to go down there and wait. She took another look at the very angry wizard on the warpath and decided that perhaps the Gryffindor Princess had a valid point, there was a reason after all that she was considered the smartest witch of the generation, even if that title did hurt Daphne's pride just a little bit.
She suppressed another sigh as she finished her circuit between the two rocks again taking her to the furthest point away from Harry and Hermione and started back. She had seen Astoria and Neville further along the bank in the other direction. The couple were talking to Tracey, she had almost gone over to join them, but decided that she would wait as she wasn't sure if she was going to be called over to speak with Harry and Hermione soon, although she had noticed that the trio were starting to meander in her direction when she had completed her last loop.
As soon as Harry had joined the girl in the wheelchair he'd put up a privacy ward, muffling whatever they were saying. She waited for five minutes before becoming agitated and starting to pace. She estimated that she was probably walking a loop of some fifty to sixty metres now, when she heard a pop off to her right. She continued walking, but turned her head towards the source of the noise. Two black cloaked individuals stood some fifty meters up the bank. Her heart stopped as they turned, masks glinting in the sun as they finally stood facing her, before she was falling stumbling over a small rock in her path, twisting her ankle painfully in the process.
It had taken them ten seconds to locate her, somehow she just knew that they were looking for her. The exclamation of 'There's the bitch,' from one of them quickly brought her back to her senses and she pushed off the ground drawing her wand from her holster as she regained her feet. The two Death Eaters surged forward some ten metres closing the gap before the one on the right stopped bringing his wand to bear. She tried to run back in the direction that she had come, but could only manage a quick hobble.
She heard someone yell of 'Daphne, watch out,' and reflexively she turned, bringing up Harry's holly wand and casting a protego shield, none too soon as a spell crashed into it mere seconds later. She heard a growl in frustration from the Death Eaters as she was turning, hobbling forward once more, noticing as she did so that there were five people converging on her from different angles.
Tori was racing towards her along the lakeshore some thirty metres away, her hair streaming out behind her, fear etched on her face. Neville was another five metres further back, also limping slightly as he tried to keep up with her sister. Even further behind Neville though running as fast as she could was Tracey, she could see her face even from this distance, panic written all over it as she tried to keep up with the other two.
The closest to her, but to her right and up the bank some twenty five metres Ron Weasley was cutting the angle on the attackers and firing stunners as he went. Bisecting her sister and Ron charged a messy black haired youth with glowing green eyes and a look of pure fury written all over his face. Harry may have started some hundred and twenty metres away but he was now easily half that distance and closing fast.
She saw Tori start to scream and ducked on instinct, unfortunately her reflexes weren't quite fast enough and whatever the spell was clipped her left shoulder somersaulting her over, knocking the wind out of her and slamming her head into the ground, hearing the ground detonate in front of her as her vision swam briefly and she groaned in pain.
She was still trying to get her bearings again when fresh new pain lanced her left bum cheek, followed by a male's scream of 'Tori,' together with another cry of pain and a furious yell of 'You fucking bastards!' Her vision was narrowing as a thunderous boom sounded behind her, which resulted in dirt and other debris raining down on her moments later, before she passed out.
- AFW -
He felt her pain as she tripped and he was moving a second later jogging down towards her prone form when he noticed them. Two men in black robes with masks glinting in the sun, searching for someone that they obviously knew was in this location, his heart felt like it wanted to come out his throat, Daphne!
He turned his run into a sprint, watching as the others converged on the blonde girl. She turned once after a warning shout from Neville, but instead of facing her opponents she tried to continue moving towards her sister. The warning shout from Tori was always going to be too late, even with Ron firing stunners at one of the two assailants they had moved closer and whilst one was dealing with Ron the other lined Daphne up with another Bombarda.
He saw her fall and pain flashed through the tether, but was burnt off by his rage. He saw a geyser of soil and debris crash into Tori throwing her a good fifteen meters into the lake and peppering Neville who threw his hands up in front of his face to protect himself. The grunts of pain which came from his friend indicated that at least a few things had hit him.
He saw Ron prepare another salvo, but left himself wide open to the cutting curse the first Death Eater threw in his direction, from the corner of his eye he saw blood fountain from his friend's chest as he crumpled and fell to the ground, a furious scream of 'You fucking bastards,' issuing forth from Lavender as he closed the gap to fifteen metres.
Without thought he cast, a seething mass of yellow energy flowed out of his wand directly towards the pair of Death Eaters who both hastily erected shields. Not that they did either of them much good, Harry's Bombarda Maxima was a force of nature, easily a metre and half tall and a least double that in width the ball of energy plowed into the ground between the two attackers blowing them twenty metres in different directions.
The assailant closest to Ron was picked up and thrown up the slope, landing on his head with a sickening crunch, the other was slightly luckier in one way. He may have lost his foot in the explosion, but at least he landed relatively softly in the Black Lake. Before Harry could even contemplate fishing him out his body disappeared leaving only a foot behind as evidence that he'd been there.
Splashing further along in the lake alerted him that someone was in trouble and with a quick look to see that Lavender had reached Ron he broke into another run to where Tracey was approaching Daphne. He could see Neville divested of his robes and shirt, frantically wading out into the Lake before he dove forward and disappeared beneath the surface.
He fell to his knees as he got to Daphne's side, praying that she was okay. He'd been a bastard to her since yesterday morning at Malfoy manor, but it had taken Hermione beating him over the head with how poor his behaviour had been to see it. He'd been so ashamed thinking that she had seen how he had lived when he had been stuck at the Dursley's, he didn't want to see pity in her eyes, that had been there when she had pinned him down that morning and he didn't know how to talk about it, so he had been avoiding the issue by avoiding her whenever possible.
She at least had stopped trying to get him to talk about after the first hour, instead she had just watched him with those sad, knowing eyes. Tracey was in hysterics, clutching at Daphne's still frame, sobs hiccoughing from her as she tried to get Daphne to wake, muttering occasionally under her breath that she was sorry and that she'd been a bad friend. Giving himself a mental shake, he bent forward stopping her movements and listened for her breathing, placing a hand on her ribcage at the same time.
'Oh thank Merlin,' he breathed out resting his forehead against Daphne's after he felt her breath on his ear and felt her ribcage rise and fall slightly under his hand. 'She's alive Trace … just unconscious I think,' he kissed her forehead noticing the bruise already forming on the side of her face, he cupped her cheek. 'Stay with her, I've got to go collect Hermione, she's unprotected at the moment, if they come back...'
Standing and before Tracey could say anything, he twisted on the spot and Apparated back to Hermione. He heard Hermione's startled gasp as he appeared in front of her, but again before she could say anything other than a questioning 'Harry?' he had moved behind her and was reaching out for the handles of her wheelchair, he wasn't sure if he could Side-Along-Apparate with her condition so he started pushing her chair down the hill as fast as he could safely go.
Hermione held the arms of the chair, her breath hitching occasionally as the chair threatened to tip over. It seemed to be taking forever, but they eventually arrived back to a slightly more composed Tracey who now had Daphne's head in her lap stroking her hair.
Sliding to a halt and nearly tipping the chair over again, drawing a howl of protest from Hermione in the process. He didn't stop moving, with a hurried shout of 'Do what you can,' he started jogging down to where Neville's discarded clothes were, watching the lake's surface looking for a sign of his friend. He cast another quick look around to see what was happening, other people who had watched the events unfold were now approaching Ron & Lavender offering assistance, others were approaching the remaining body of the Death Eater and the crater that he had created. In the distance he could see a people hurrying towards the Castle, hopefully on their way to get help.
Neville broke the surface with a panicked look on his face gulped another couple of lungfuls of air and dove back below the surface never saying a word.
Harry contemplated his options, he couldn't swim that well without the help of Gillyweed and it was likely that he would be more of a hindrance than help. He couldn't summon her either as he couldn't get a good mental picture of her clothes and who knew what she might hit underwater as she was pulled through the lake. He was still trying to figure out what he could do when a mostly naked Lisa Turpin with wand held in her teeth, flashed past him taking a running dive into the lake before swimming powerfully out to where Neville had disappeared. For some reason his mind registered the fact that she was wearing deep red knickers as she kicked her legs up and disappeared beneath the surface as well.
Thirty seconds turned into a minute and he was getting worried, another fifteen seconds passed and he was about to start divesting himself of clothes when a bleeding Neville broke the surface of the water, and started towing a limp Astoria towards the shore. Lisa's head popped out seconds later, before she took another breath and ducked back under, pulses of light issuing forth from her wand.
Harry finally gathering his wits, levitated both Neville and Tori from the water depositing them on the bank. He heard Lisa's head break the surface once more and quickly levitated her alongside Neville and Tori before joining them next to the unmoving girl.
Both Neville and Lisa were blue, teeth chattering and their bodies shivering, even in summer the Black Lake wasn't warm. Casting warming charm on them both he fell to his knees near Neville, who was trying to get some response from Tori.
Neville was bleeding from cuts to his forehead and left cheek. He also had cuts and scratches on his shoulders, chest and stomach, blood was also pooling between the fingers of both hands obviously cut from throwing his hands up in an attempt to protect his face. Lisa was still shivering slightly in just her bra and panties, pushed them both aside before feeling for a pulse.
Her lowly muttered 'Shit,' got a look of concern from both. 'Her heart's stopped, Harry cut her robes off her, don't vanish them we want to leave her with some modesty if we can,' Lisa commanded him.
He looked at her confused, 'What?'
'Use your wand and cut her robes off her and any other clothes too, we need to do CPR and get her heart beating again. If she is like other purebloods then her clothes, specifically her corset is just going to get in the way,' Lisa said bruskly leaving no room for dissent.
Harry swallowed, before positioning his wand at the collar of Tori's robes. using what he hoped was just enough power to cut only the cloth, he drew his wand down the centre of the pale girls chest stopping when he reached her stomach. He could see that he hadn't quite succeeded, with a shallow cut along her breast bone starting to ooze blood.
Without any ceremony Lisa pushed the now rags off of Tori's body, exposing the girls upper body. Harry blinked, his mind cataloguing the differences between the sisters before he could stop it.* Disgusted with himself, he focused his attention away from Tori, mentally kicking himself as he went, knowing that Daphne would want privacy for her sister, he leapt to his feet and conjured a half circle of curtains that ran from lakeshore to lakeshore around their position, shielding the four of them from the view of those moving towards them.
Lisa by this stage rolled Tori to the side and forced her fingers into her mouth before commencing mouth to mouth. Neville was frozen solid unable to move and was staring at the lifeless girl's face. 'Neville, watch what I am doing and where I put my hands,' Lisa barked at the boy snapping him out of his dazed state.
Neville nodded his head moving to Lisa's side and watching closely to what the petite girl was doing.
Lisa shuffled slightly measuring something with her fingers on Tori's ribs before starting to pump up and down on her chest counting out loud in thousands. When she reached fifteen thousand she tilted Tori's head back and gave another couple of breaths in to the girl's lungs, before moving back and positioning her hands again. 'When I tell you to I want you to do exactly what I am doing, if you hear a rib break just keep going, better a broken rib than dead, I'm going to be breathing for her keep going until you're exhausted and then Harry can take over. Also talk to her, will her back, tell her to fight whatever, I don't know her that well, but it's obvious that you do.'
Neville gulped and then nodded, adding in a hoarse voice, 'Come on Tori, come back to me, I need to get to know you properly.' Lisa shifted to breath for the girl and Neville moved into position and commenced pushing on his girlfriend's chest when instructed by Lisa. On eight thousand there was a crack and Neville froze for a moment.
'Keep going,' instructed Lisa, 'You're doing a great job.'
Harry watched as two more cycles were completed, with no response from the lifeless girl. Neville's blood was pooling on Tori's chest along with her own painting her pale skin an obscene red. 'Come on Tori live, you have to live you can't leave me alone, not now.' Neville pleaded his hand still on her chest as Lisa tried to breathe life into her again.
'Please Tori,' Neville half sobbed, a couple of tears falling from his eyes and splashing the pool of blood a little, 'Live, you have to live Tori … fight, damn it Hekate don't you dare take her away from me.'
He thought he saw a small pulse of light from Neville's hands, but it could have just been a reflection from the lake, when Tori coughed, water bubbling from her mouth.
'Tip her on her side,' Lisa barked the instruction to a shocked Neville who moved with haste to comply, Tori coughed again and took a ragged breath, and Lisa sagged back on her haunches slightly, 'She'll live, but we need to get her to the hospital wing.
- AFW -
She awoke in the Hospital wing again, sore and with a headache, it was getting to be a habit since she found herself in Harry's company. Hermione had made the offhand comment as they had chatted about Harry and his inability to open up to people that cared about him. She raised her head and look around the room, Harry was asleep in the chair beside her bed, the same way that he had been when she woke after the battle, only this time he wasn't holding her hand.
She frowned at him, he had hurt her by not trusting her and speaking with her that morning, but from what Hermione had told her, he was an immensely private person. Still it had been like a punch to the gut when he had retreated from her, hadn't he just said that she could ask him anything? She glared at the sleeping man, he was sharing her bed, most of her body, but he wouldn't share his thoughts! It was not acceptable!
She poked his rib and he jolted awake.
'Whaaa,' he trailed off when his eyes fell on her.
Good, she was angry and hurt and she wanted him to know it. 'You hurt me Harry.' She held up a hand to stop his protest, 'You said I could ask you anything and then you shut me out. You lied to me Harry Potter.'
'But I…' she cut him off.
'I know you have what you think are good reasons, I talked to Hermione remember … and maybe they are, but that still doesn't mean that you just shut me out and not talk to me!' She poked him in the ribs again and he flinched at her touch, 'You said we were in this together, but you didn't mean that at all, based on your actions at Malfoy Manor.'
'Daph … I,' Harry looked at her with pain filled eyes.
Gods damn him, if he continued to look at her like that she was going to melt like chocolate left in the sun. She looked away from him managing to keep her composure, 'I know you're sorry Harry, you don't need to tell me that, but I want to know that you're not going to shut me out again if I ask you something that upsets you.'
She turned back to face him to find tear tracks on his cheeks, she knew that he was in pain from her words. She could feel it through the tether, 'We aren't getting a chance to determine the direction of our lives at the moment Harry. What is happening to us is seemingly beyond our control, our only choice is how we deal with it and until that morning I felt like we were a team, but you took my concern for you and spat it back in my face Harry and it hurt me … deeply.'
She reached for him and drew him on to their bed, her own tears falling now, 'Please don't hurt me again Harry, you don't have to tell me everything, just talk to me. Like you said there are very few secrets between us and the longer we are together the less there are going to be.'
- AFW -
Daphne watched as Harry leaned against the wall near his allotted ward stone. Occasionally he pushed himself upright and alternated between bouncing on his toes impatiently and looking worriedly in her direction, she was standing opposite him on the other side of the room. She knew that he was worried about her, she could feel it in the bond, but she felt rested enough after two days in bed to participate in this once in a lifetime rite.
Her concussion seemed to have healed as much as it was going to, leaving behind a lingering headache that not even Harry's touch could alleviate, she suspected it was another lingering effect from her suppressed memories, but had no proof. She gave him a reassuring smile and he returned it with a crooked one of his own, at least there was one good thing to come out of both sisters Greengrass almost dying, both their respective others were being very attentive.
In fact she felt quite sinful with how much pleasure she was getting from watching Harry turn red as he massaged Scarremol Cream into her bum to ensure that the Piercing Hex wounds disappeared. Added to this was the fact that Harry was making a conscious effort to let her into his thoughts, his childhood was not a happy one and she wasn't pushing him too hard about that, but she had taken Hermione's advice and was nudging him occasionally.
She pushed her random thoughts aside and focussed on the task at hand. Professor McGonagall had delayed the attempt by a single night allowing her to participate rather than try and find a suitable last minute replacement from Slytherin House. At eleven that evening a House Elf had popped into their room and invited them to meet the Headmistress at the gargoyle guardian of her office. When they had all arrived McGonagall had whispered a password into the gargoyle's ear and Daphne had watched in amazement as the statue had turned and grasped a previously unseen lever in the wall.
A grinding of stone on stone could be heard and a door opened up opposite the stairs to the Headmistress' office. McGonagall had lead the way down into a large room with numerous runic arrays on the walls, floors and even the ceiling.
She shifted her attention back to the central focus stone, the ward master and Professor McGonagall were discussing last minute details of the ritual. Midnight was approaching and she knew that this was their best shot at bringing the famous Hogwarts wards back online.
From what she understood this array was unique and it had taken the warding team this long to isolate different clusters allowing them to be bypassed to what they hoped was a manageable load of forty nine different ward schemes. These schemes from what Daphne could comprehend controlled the animation of the stairs and numerous other thing that made Hogwarts what it was.
The magical load on these compared to the nine that Draco, Narcissa, Neville and Harry had turned on at Malfoy manor was immense. Having said that whilst the Malfoy property sat on a single magical ley line, Hogwarts sat on the convergence of four major lines and another four minor ones roughly on the eight points of the compass.
The ley line that Harry was stationed next to was the most isolated and powerful, it had taken the ward masters several minutes of debate before finally just deciding to test of all the volunteers' blood to determine who would be responsible for re-aligning that ward cluster. It hadn't been an argument for long, as soon as the results appeared on the parchment connected to the De Rais' Wheel.
Unsurprisingly Harry's magical quotient was the largest, the wheel wouldn't register the actual magical potential just whose blood that had been feed into it was comparatively stronger. What was more surprising to her was that, her name was the second one out of the wheel. She had never considered herself extremely powerful and none of the testing at eleven or fifteen has shown anything remarkable. Before she could ponder any more however the wardmaster started talking.
'Can I have everyone's attention please we are about to start,' Jonathon Applebee looked around gathering the attention of the assembled group. 'You all know the sequence in which we have to engage each quadrant.' There were nods all round so he continued, 'I will count you in Mr Potter, good luck to us all and I hope that we will be successful in our endeavours tonight.
Daphne felt her eyes be drawn back across to Harry's, he gave her a shy smile and mouthed good luck, giving into impulse she dashed across the room and pulled his lips down to meet hers, whispering 'Good luck to you too,' in his ear before scampering back to her position at the southern ley line with a slight blush on her cheeks.
'Yes well, if we a quite ready now,' Jonathon asked with a wry smile on his face, 'Mr Potter get ready, in ten, nine, eight …'
Daphne watched as the silver blade twice sliced through the palm of Harry's left hand, his face barely registering the cuts. At the count of one he placed his hand on the multi-faceted crystal, fingers facing up and pushed. A pulse of light came from deep within the crystal and Harry hand slowly slid into the heart of the crystal stopping when his wrist was covered. Harry braced himself and seemed to grip something and started to twist, his hair stood on end and his clothes moved as if caught in a breeze.
The muscles in his neck were like cords, slowly his hand rotated until his fist faced down and there was a click, light pulsed along runic pathways towards the central crystal, causing it to hum quietly. His hand stayed within the crystal holding it in position, the strain still evident in his body, but not nearly as evident as it had been at the start.
'Miss Greengrass your turn, in ten, nine … ' she tuned Jonathon out, focusing instead on her hand and the cuts required. She bit back a whimper, as she sliced her palm north to south and then east to west, almost dropping the athame when she was finished.
'Three, two, one and commence,' the ward master's voice finished and she placed her hand on the crystal. The flash of light flickered away and she felt her hand sink as though it were moving through tar. She could feel the handle like structure as her hand stopped moving and suddenly it was like she had dipped her hand into a scolding hot river.
She felt energy pulse through her body like a second heartbeat, a deep primal rhythm that vibrated her core. Clenching her fist around the bar she poured her own magic into the crystal and started to try and turn the handle. The effort was immense it felt like she was trying to rotate a broadsword through treacle.
Finally after what she was sure was minutes she felt the handle click into position and the pressure on her body dropped markedly, she was still having to hold the ephemeral bar in place, but she thought that she could manage.
- AFW -
She rested her head against the stone, she had now endured what she estimated to be approximately twenty minutes of both ecstasy and agony. The magic thrumming around her body was intoxicating never before had she felt so suffused with power, but with that power came the torture of holding her gate open. Her arm felt like it was being ripped off, her shoulder was cramping and her fingers were numb. Sweat beaded all over her body as she fought to keep the control gate open, only once the entire array had been activated would the gate stay open on its own.
She felt another gentle pulse of reassurance that she could do this through the tether, she didn't know how he was sending her encouragement, but she was grateful that he was. She let her mind drift somewhat, trying to ignore the pain in her arm. When they had first arrived in the room she had listened to the debate raging between the ward master and his crew regarding what Voldemort had done to bring down the wards. The only consensus seemed to be that he got very lucky, and had somehow managed to trip one of the gates, causing a cascade failure in the arrays.
- AFW -
They were nearing the end now, he just knew it. He could hear Professors Flitwick, Vector, Sprout and Babbling counting down together, preparing to open their gates. They were the inner circle, and it would leave McGonagall only fourteen more arrays to power up. A random thought that she must be getting sick of slicing her hand open almost made him chuckle. Whilst he, Daphne, Susan and Oliver held the major ley lines open and the four board members whose names now escaped him held the minor ones open, Professor McGonagall had to charge and power up each cluster before it would start to self-siphon from the ley lines, which in turn would hold open the gates.
Each time she turned on a cluster the strain to hold the gate open lowered, he only wished it would lower faster. Unfortunately the big clusters were arrayed around the central focus stone, meaning that they still had to hold the gates open.
He heard the call of 'Turn' said in unison by the Professors and felt a more significant flow energy pull through the gate, helping keep it open and taking pressure off his arm. He heard a grunt of effort from Babbling who was closest to him as she fought to open the gate and allow the magic to flow fully to the central stone once more.
He lost track of time again, his arm was shaking with effort sweat had long since drenched his clothes and every muscle in his body ached, then without warning the pressure dropped away leaving a nothing but the feeling of energy pulsing through his body, confused as to what happened he looked around the chamber for the first time since he'd watched Lady Kildare who was stationed on the North Western ley line open her hand for the blood offering.'
'We're good, the feed is strong and holding, the final array is active,' one of the warding team said from where he was stationed. A chorus of 'Same here,' and other similar words of confirmation ran around the room
'You can release your holds now Ladies and Gentlemen, excellent work,' said Jonathon Applebee from somewhere near McGonagall.
Harry opened his cramping fingers and pulled his hand from the crystal, collapsing to one knee as his hand came free and his vision swam. He rolled his stance and sank gratefully against the wall, blinking his eyes trying to clear his vision. A vial was placed in his hands.
'Drink this Mr Potter, you will have lost a lot of blood.'
He blinked again trying to focus, but gave up instead tilting his head back and swallowing the blood replenishing potion, before his vision narrowed and he knew no more.
- AFW -
Daphne was sick of her perpetually worried state, it seemed that the only good news in the last five days was the reestablishment of the wards on Hogwarts. It had taken a great weight off all those ensuring that Hogwarts remained hidden from the muggle world as well as securing it from unwanted incursions from outside forces. The success in raising the wards had allowed Minister Shacklebolt to recall many of the remaining Aurors and point them in the direction of the escaped Death Eaters.
Everything else though seemed to be going wrong, Astoria was still in the hospital wing, but now in a coma with her magic acting up, her parents were worried that the blood curse Astoria was afflicted from birth with was asserting itself early, it shouldn't have become active until sometime after her twenty fifth birthday.
The only thing indicating that it possibly wasn't the blood curse was that Neville was lying in the bed right alongside her, he had apparently been suffering from headaches and was experiencing massive fatigue, both physical and magical.
Two days ago he had also slipped into a coma, his magic flaring occasionally before settling down again. Poppy was unsure what was happening, to either patient, but from what she and a series of specialists from St Mungo's could tell, neither patient was deteriorating.
At the moment though, Astoria and Neville weren't really on her mind as she waited for Harry to emerge from one of Madam Malkin's dressing rooms. Today could make or break the boy who had become the centre of her universe, in less than twenty minutes, Harry, the Minister, the new Director of the DMLE - who ever that was - and several others including herself would be meeting with Gringotts to discuss reparations due to the Nation for damages.
She paced and passed the curtain again looking towards the black drapes which hid Harry from her view, she had apparently nearly caused the aged Madam to have a heart attack when she went to follow Harry into the cubicle.
She had just started another circuit when the curtain fluttered to the side and Harry stepped out in stylish grey robes trimmed with emerald green that accentuated just what dashing young man the Boy-Who-Lived had turned into. Her breath caught in her throat as his burning green eyes turned to her and his roguish grin split his face causing her heart to do flips in her chest.
Somehow collecting her brain before it turned to mush and he noticed it pouring from her ears, she walked to him smiling. Coming to a halt within inches of him, she started sliding her hands across his chest smoothing the material unnecessarily before reaching up and straightening his collar. 'You look good Harry, they suit you.'
'Good enough to be arrested by the Goblins?' he quipped.
She felt her stomach clench as thoughts of him being shackled and dragged away by goblin warriors had plagued her thoughts and dreams for the last few days as the meeting drew nearer. 'Please don't say that, the Goblins are touchy creatures and who knows what they are going to hold you responsible for,' She gave him a tight smile hoping that he hadn't just cursed himself with bad luck.
He rubbed her shoulders in a soothing manner, but it did nothing to relieve her anxiety, 'It will be fine Daph, I am sure that whatever happens we can reach an accord with the Nation that is agreeable for all.' He gave her another crooked smile and closed the gap between their lips giving her a gentle kiss that she melted into.
- AFW -
Harry stared up at the white edifice that was Gringotts remembering the very first time he had looked upon the intimidating cool white marble of the Goblin Bank. Daphne's hand was clutching tightly to his and he knew that she was extremely worried about how today was going to go.
To her side on their left stood the surprise for the day, Arthur Weasley had been shanghaied by Kingsley into becoming the new Director of the DMLE. From what Arthur had told them whilst they waited for Kingsley, his undersecretary and the new Goblin Liaison Officer a mid-twenties witch named Miriam Twelvetrees, Kingsley had basically browbeat him into accepting the role for three reasons.
Firstly Kingsley knew that Arthur was as incorruptible as they came and secondly they were comrade-in-arms and the Minister knew he could trust him with sensitive issues, and finally Kingsley trusted him to come to him for support if he needed it rather than just muddle along as best as he could.
Harry couldn't think of a wizard that he would rather have in the role, he considered the most important position behind the Minister. He knew Arthur wouldn't be a popular choice within some of the more traditional families one of which was likely standing at his side. He had seen her goggle slightly when Arthur had told them the news, but she had quickly schooled her features.
The other surprise was standing to the right of Kingsley, Percy Weasley had worked with the previous two Ministers and according to Kingsley was a fount of information regarding the inner workings of the Ministers Office. It wouldn't be a long term appointment however Kingsley had already earmarked Percy to head the Department of Transportation sometime in a the next twelve to eighteen months, but right now he needed someone that could help him transition power from the current war footing to a peacetime government.
'Are you ready Harry?' Kingsley asked in his smooth deep voice.
He looked down at Daphne, 'As I'll ever be,' he answered before moving up the steps and into the bank foyer. He could still see some evidence of their escape, a crack in the wall here, a missing desk there, but his attention to these little fact was torn away as soon as he stepped across the Gringotts seal some five metres inside the bank. A wailing alarm sounded from the bowels of the bank and twenty armed guards spewed forth from places unknown, dressed in battle armour and carrying polearms. Seconds later his group were surrounded and the weapons were lowered and pointing in their direction.
Harry gulped nervously as a tall goblin dressed in a black suit stepped between two of the guards and spoke softly, 'Welcome back to Gringotts Mr Potter, we've been expecting you!'
- AFW -
* This scenario is from personal experience, doing CPR on a friend and having to cut her clothes away. To do so as a young man it was impossible for me to stop that little bit of my brain registering the fact that she was most definitely female and had amazing boobs. A fact that she liked to remind me of quite often, after she made a full recovery. I couldn't look her in the face for weeks. It wasn't a conscious thing and I felt really awful about it for a long time even though I had helped save her life. With regards to cutting clothes away, at the time I was trained to cut clothes away due to my emergency services background to allow the Ambulance Officers and Paramedics to attach heart monitors and use crash paddles if required.