From New York to San Francisco

The next morning it became clear to me that Daphne took her responsibilities as my personal tutor in anything Pureblood etiquette serious. When I went to bed that night, I knew I had created a monster.

We met in the living room before we went down to the main restaurant for breakfast, as usual. It was obvious that Daphne had decided to overcome the stage of deep mourning. During the last week, I hadn't seen her in anything else but black clothes. This morning, she appeared in grey chinos and an off-white blouse. I'm by no means a fashion expert, but it seemed to me that the light colour of the blouse suited her fair skin much better than black.

'Harry,' she said as we lingered over a last cup of tea after breakfast. Something in her voice immediately made me suspicious. It was the kind of voice Ginny used to employ when she wanted to persuade me to do something I didn't want to do.

'Yes, Daphne?' I replied cautiously. I didn't want to appear rude, but I also didn't want to give her an advantage.

'When was the last time you visited a hairdresser?' She looked at me, her head cocked to one side.

'Uhm – never?' I replied, not sure where this was going.

She looked scandalised. 'You're kidding!'

I shook my head. 'My aunt used to cut my hair. She doesn't like it because it's too unruly and has a will of its own. One day, while I was still at primary school, she shaved it off, except for a small fringe to cover up my scar. It looked hideous, and you can imagine that I dreaded the next morning when I had to go to school. However, my hair grew back over night. After that, my aunt never again tried to cut it and it has stayed like that ever since then.'

Daphne stared at me. 'You mean, you never had a proper hair cut?' When I nodded in confirmation, she broke out in bewildered laughter. 'You really are a man of many surprises, Harry. I've never heard about Metamorphmagus-abilities to assert themselves by accidental magic.'

Now it was my turn to look stunned. 'Metamorphmagus-abilities?'

'You didn't know?' she asked back. I shook my head and she said, 'That you managed to regrow your hair over night and needed no haircut since what - ten years? is a dead give away that you are at least a part Metamorphmagus with the ability to control the growth of your hair. However, it's a shame you never got a proper haircut. Properly styled hair is paramount in Pureblood circles.'

For a very horrifying moment I had a vision of myself with my hair sleeked back like Malfoy's, and I shuddered. It didn't help that she chose that moment to look at me like a cat eying an especially fat mouse.

'Finish your tea, we have work to do!' she announced. Her resemblance to Professor McGonagall at that moment was scary. It was not so much in looks – I doubt you'd find two women as differently looking as Daphne and Professor McGonagall – but in attitude. Since I was used to do as my Transfiguration teacher demanded when she wore that certain expression, I did what I'd been told without further questions.

She led the way out of the restaurant to the elevators. Instead of pushing the button for deck ten and our suite, she pushed the button for deck seven.

I tried to remember the layout of the "Princess Isabella" and I blanched. Besides a couple of suites deck seven contained a huge spa area, and somewhere within the spa area was a hairdresser. My head shot around and I glared at Daphne.

'Woman, what are you up to?' I growled, and she smirked. Now I was really afraid.

'Don't worry, it won't hurt,' she said as the elevator came to a stop on deck seven. She took me by the hand and hauled me down the hallway to the reception area of the spa, not heeding my protests.

'Good morning! I made an appointment for a haircut for my friend here. The name is Potter,' she greeted the receptionist.

'Good morning,' the receptionist smiled back. She looked into a ledger in front of her. 'Ah yes, here it is. Mr Potter, you can go right in. Gabby is ready to give you your haircut.' She indicated to a door to her left.

I turned to the door, while a still smirking Daphne made her way over to the waiting area. To be honest, I wasn't that averse to get a proper haircut as I'd made Daphne believe. I only put up some fuss out of principle. Even though I'd asked her to tutor me, it wouldn't do to give her the impression she'd have her way with me just as she wanted. On the other hand, there was no denying she had the sense of fashion and proper attire I seriously lacked. Neither the Dursleys nor the Weasleys were exactly fashion role models. That's why I stopped midways and called, 'Oi, Greengrass!' at her retreating back.

She turned around with a raised eyebrow.

'If you want me to have a proper haircut, you'd better come in with me and see that it's done right.'

She smirked again and walked up to me. Together we entered the hairdresser's salon.

Like all public areas of the "Princess Isabella" – except the restaurants and bars – the salon was furnished with high polished cabinets made out of a reddish wood, with lots of glass shelves in-between, filled with a huge array of beauty products. There was a row with leather chairs in front of mirrors over a marble topped counter, two basins for hair washing were put up in the middle of the room, and there also were the obligatory comfortable chairs beneath hood driers. In short, it looked like a modern mix of Snape's potion lab and a torture chamber.

I was able to identify some shampoo bottles, but had no idea for what the rest of the bottles was used. However, I found it amusing that most of the bottles showed the logo of the Muggle beauty company my grandfather Fleamont had founded, together with some bloke from France. Until today, the Potter family held a big share of that company, from which I got the main part of my yearly income. In fact, I made about hundred fifty times more from my Muggle investments than I did from the not inconsiderable holdings I had in the magical world.

Gabby led me to a leather chair in front of one of the mirrors, and asked me how I'd like my hair cut.

'Uh – Actually, I thought about letting it grow out and hoped that it'd be more manageable then' I said, but was immediately contradicted by Daphne.

'No way! The shape of the back of your head is much too nice to cover it with hair! Besides that, do you really strive for the Malfoy look?'

I felt how I blushed. 'Not really. I thought more of Bill Weasley, Ron's older brother, you know.'

Her expression became thoughtful. 'I know who you mean. He came to our house about a year ago to discuss a new security system with Dad. He surely looks hot, but that doesn't fit in with the kind of respectability you want to achieve.'

She had a point there, and with a sigh, I gave in. 'So, what do you suggest?'

In the end, Daphne and Gabby worked out my new haircut between them. When I rose from the chair, my hair was rather short at the sides and shaved in the neck, but left longer at the top. Gabby had used hair wax to ruffle it into what she proclaimed was a "sexy out-of-bed look", but also said I'd not really need it regularly because of the natural inclination of my hair to stand up in all directions. Most important, I was still able to recognise myself in the mirror.

The haircut was booked to my board account, and we left the spa.

'That wasn't so bad, was it?' Daphne smiled as we took the elevator back to our suite.

I mock-glared at her, and she burst out laughing. It was nice to see her in a merry and playful mood after the depressing time we'd had, even though it was aimed at me. From experience I knew that it was in the human nature to surge back to life after depressing events, though a few setbacks still were to be expected. The human race wouldn't have survived otherwise, I guess.

Back in the suite, we took care of our mail, as every morning. Daphne still was in negotiations with the Goblins of Salem about her mother's trust, so I used the time she was distracted with answering a complicated letter from the Goblins to give Kingsley a detailed report about Dawlish's behaviour during his visit two days ago. Kingsley had promised to send his most experienced Aurors. If that was all he'd come up with, the Ministry was in even worse shape as he'd told me before.

When I was finished, I stood up and stretched. The "Princess Isabella" had made about a third of her voyage from New York to Fort Lauderdale. Heading south, that also meant we'd finally reached a more moderate climate. It was by no means warm yet, but the chilling cold of the north American winter was gone, and I couldn't wait to get back on the running track.

'Care to join me in a run?' I asked Daphne, and she nodded.

'Just let me finish this,' she said and signed her letter.

While I sent our mail through the Banishing Box, Daphne disappeared in the bathroom to change. Unlike most Purebloods, she liked to exercise. Her attitude was probably due to her mother's influence, who'd taught her to enjoy Muggle sports.

A few minutes later, we were running along the track of the upmost deck. To my amazement, Daphne was able to keep up with me just fine, and we didn't stop until we'd both worked up a good sweat.

'That was fun!' she exclaimed as we walked back to the suite to get a much needed shower.

Ever the gentleman, I let her have the first turn. When I was finally showered and dressed, my stomach grumbled and we went to the buffet restaurant, to 'feed the hungry lion', as Daphne phrased it.

During lunch, she delivered the next low blow. 'I've accepted the invitation to the captain's table on your behalf for tonight,' she said as if it was nothing special.

I put my sandwich back on my plate. 'You did what?' It had completely skipped my mind that the start of the next leg of the world cruise would bring another gala dinner on the first day at sea.

Again, she regarded me with that McGonagall-esque no-nonsense look.

'You've asked me to teach you how to behave in Pureblood circles. Those gala dinners aren't much different from Pureblood dinner invitations. So, what better time to get used to it then now?' she asked. Of course, it was a rhetorical question. It was plain to see she had no inclination to let me off the hook.

'Yes, professor,' I sighed and turned back to my sandwich.

She gave me a radiant smile. 'That's the spirit! Keep it up and I'll reward you all Os at the end of the journey,' she quipped.

I couldn't help myself and snorted into my sandwich.

However, the worst was yet to come. When I headed to the elevator after lunch, Daphne took me by the elbow and guided me past the elevators and down a corridor. I knew that the cinema and the library were located on that corridor and briefly wondered if Daphne wanted to check out a couple of books for the afternoon. But she guided me past the entrance of the library toward the bow of the ship. The only place of interest there was the dance club of the "Princess Isabella". I had a strong sense of premonition that nothing good was going to come out of this. Trelawny would have been impressed, I'm sure.

Again, Daphne smirked at me when she opened the door to the club.

Inside, my worst fears became true. It was the time of the daily dance classes. I shot Daphne a withering look, but of course, she was not impressed.

'You complained the other day that you still can't dance,' she smiled.

I was sure that I never complained, but by now I'd learned that it was of no use to discuss with Daphne when she was channelling McGonagall. Not to mention that it was an eminently good idea to learn to dance while I was abroad. But I'd rather be damned than to admit that aloud. Like all Slytherins, Daphne didn't seem to have self esteem problems, and it wouldn't do to add to her ego.

'All right, might as well do something about that as long as we are on board,' I admitted defeat.

I was rewarded with another blinding smile that made me wonder who of the many idiots in my house dubbed her the "Ice Queen".

About forty-five minutes later I was able to dance the slow waltz. Daphne, who of course excelled at ballroom dance, deemed my efforts as "passable".

Back in the suite, I plopped down in the sofa. 'Not even ten Hippogryffs are going to take me away from here,' I vowed.

'You're going to haul your sorry arse into the shower in exactly one hour and dress up for the gala dinner, mister,' Daphne said over her shoulder before she disappeared into the bathroom.

Glad for the reprieve, I reached for my Muggle mystery novel and stretched out on the sofa.

About an hour later Daphne emerged from the bathroom. She still wore the terrycloth bathrobe the shipping company provided, but her hair was done up in an elegant bun and for the first time since we'd met on the "Princess Isabella" she wore make-up.

'Time to get ready,' she reminded me before she disappeared into the direction of the walk-in wardrobe.

I sighed and rose from my comfortable position on the sofa. About thirty minutes later I was showered and shaved and had even managed to style my hair again in the way Gabby did it that morning.

'It's a dinner jacket affair, if you have one,' Daphne called through the open door as I made my way to the walk-in wardrobe.

I'd bought a tailored dinner jacket after I'd booked the cruise, and Daphne let out a very un-ladylike whistle when I emerged from my bedroom.

'Wow, Potter, who'd have thought you had it in you,' she exclaimed, eyeing me appreciatively from head to toe.

'Thanks, Greengrass. You also clean up nicely,' I returned the compliment. To be honest, she did far better than clean up nicely. She looked drop-dead gorgeous in a tightfitting, yet simple black evening gown. The cleavage was modest, which was good, or she'd be the reason for quite a lot of marital arguments on board tonight, considering everything else the gown featured. All of a sudden, the prospect of attending a gala dinner with Daphne on my arm didn't seem that outlandish anymore.

I'd arrived just in time for the butler to serve the customary champagne and chocolates. I don't think Daphne considered it as comfort food that night, and neither did I.

Fortified with champagne we made our way to the restaurant. It turned out the dinner at the captain's table was much less nerve wracking as the dinner during the Yule Ball had been. It might have been because this time I really enjoyed my company.

Inevitably, Daphne and I raised a lot of curiosity. We were by far the youngest members of the dinner party, and I was sure Daphne's story had by now made the rounds on board. But at least, the questions were delivered in a well-mannered way. I'd experienced worse from wizards and witches. The nice American lady beside me, who introduced herself as Alvirah Meehan, was thrilled when she learned that Daphne and I had attended the same boarding school.

'Oh, high school sweethearts,' she exclaimed, and I blushed. Before I could correct her error, she went on, 'You have to tell me everything about your school!'

So I made up a rather convincing story of a small elitist boarding school with an esoteric curriculum. She lapped it all up, but seemed to be disappointed when I told her that Daphne and I weren't girlfriend and boyfriend, but just travel companions.

'What a pity, dear! You make such a cute couple!'

I blushed. It didn't help at all that beside me Daphne assumed her best expressionless society face, though her eyes danced with laughter and the corner of her mouth twitched slightly upwards. Next time, she wouldn't get any champagne before we went down for dinner!

'I didn't know you can lie as glibly as a Slytherin, Harry' she said after we were back in the suite. 'That was an impressing load of dragondung you delivered to that nice lady.'

'It wasn't a lie, I merely circumvented the truth,' I replied and grinned at her.

She snorted. 'Are you sure you're a Gryffidor? You could have done great in Slytherin!'

'Yep, that's what the Sorting Hat also told me at the Welcoming Feast. But I'd met Malfoy before and asked it to put me in another house.'

'Malfoy!' she spat. It didn't sound like an endearment. Then she grasped what I'd said. 'You mean, you could as well have been in Slytherin all these years?'

I grinned and nodded.

She stared at me with wide open eyes. 'I don't get it. Gryffindor's Golden Boy is a closet Slytherin.' She sat down on the sofa. 'I'd never have suspected that. Oh, the irony! You surely didn't advertise that fact while we were at school.'

'Well, I wasn't exactly on chatting terms with any Slytherin back then. You know how it was,' I replied and sat down beside her and loosened my bow tie.

She sighed and leaned back. 'Yeah, Malfoy made pretty clear you were the enemy and that everybody in our house had to treat you like that. If you were a Slytherin, valued your health and didn't want to cause problems for your family, you did what the little ferret wanted. He had the nasty habit to tell daddy whenever someone irked him, and daddy had the money and the political clout to make your parent's life hell. So, you kept your mouth shut and went along with whatever the ferret wanted, no matter how much you'd have liked to get to know Harry Potter.'

Now it was my turn to stare at her. 'I didn't know that anyone in Slytherin wanted to be friends with me.'

'Just the contrary, quite o lot of us, in fact. Actually, when the Yule Ball was announced, Millie, Tracey and I would have given anything to be your date. Blaise even had a Harry-Potter-Action-Doll when he first came to Hogwarts, and I ...' She broke off and blushed furiously.

'Zabini had WHAT? Ugh, never mind.' I grinned and narrowed my eyes at her. 'Tell me, what merchandise related to me did you have when you were small?'

Her face got even redder. 'Harry Potter bedclothes,' she admitted.

My mouth hung open. 'You're kidding!' I finally got out.

She shook her head. 'I'm not. But if you'll ever mention that to anyone, I'll hex you into the next millennium!'

'That's only fair,' I conceded, shaking my head and trying to wrap my thoughts around the fact of Slytherins wanting to be friends with me.

Her thoughts obviously followed the same lines, because she said, 'Apart from that, it would have been hard to get to know you, Harry. You were always so unapproachable with your two bodyguards around. To be honest, I'm amazed how easy it is to get along with you. At school, I've always had the impression you didn't want to have anything to do with someone outside of your select group of friends.'

I almost choked. 'It ... it never occurred to me someone else than Ron and Hermione wanted to be my friend.'

'Why not? Certainly you must have realised how famous you were?'

'Yeah, I did. You'll probably not believe me, but I was never comfortable with that Boy-Who-Lived dragondung when I was younger. I never thought of myself as someone special. Also, I never had friends before I came to Hogwarts. Ron actually was the first friend I ever had and he just happened to stay around and stick with me through thick and thin. I got to know Hermione a little later under circumstances that simply forced us to become friends. It just happened. I'd never have thought of actively trying to find friends.'

She gave me a rather odd smile. 'If I'd listened to Malfoy griping about you, you'd be right. But I have eyes to see in my head, so I knew right from the start you didn't like your fame. I mean, you were terrified when your name came out of the Goblet of Fire, we all could see that. Only someone as blinded by his hate and his own self-importance as Malfoy couldn't. However, I always thought you somewhat haughty while we were at school, with the way you kept to yourself. It wasn't until recently that I realised that you're actually shy.'

I blushed at these words. Of course, she was right. I'd always felt awkward around people I didn't know, especially if they were female, and I never expected someone to take interest in me or even like me. Blame my infernal maternal relatives for that, who told anybody who'd listen that I was an incorrigible juvenile delinquent. She'd stated that she was surprised how easily she got along with me. That was nothing compared to how easy I found it to get along with her, given my track record with the female sex. Of course, it helped a lot that she'd been distracted by her grief and needed someone to take care of her.

She chuckled. 'Don't be embarrassed. It's rather cute. I promise not to tell anyone your dirty little secret and destroy the mystery that surrounds the Chosen One!' She gave me an appraising look. 'Tell me, what has changed, Harry?'


'You said that you didn't like your fame when you were younger. That implies that you've changed your attitude since then. I'm curious to know why.'

Trust a Slytherin to pick up on that, I thought. It was something I'd worked out during my sessions with Mr Freid and hadn't talked about with anyone yet, not with Hermione and certainly not with Ron. Our relationship was strained enough right now and I knew he wouldn't understand. I wasn't sure about Hermione. She had a tendency to turn down any idea that didn't come from herself. I'd never have thought of running my idea by a Slytherin, but my gut told me that wasn't a bad thing to do. After all, it was her playground, she'd be able to tell me if I was on the right track or if I'd better forget about it.

'It started right after Voldemort's downfall,' I began and noticed that she didn't even so much as bat an eyelid when I mentioned his name. My estimation of her rose yet another notch. 'You were there, you know how people crowded around me after that.' She nodded to that, and I went on, 'I was their hero, the one they looked up to. They'd come to help me, to fight with me, and too many had lost their lives in that fight, so it behoved me to show my respect for their sacrifice. I stayed, let them celebrate me, thanked them and grieved with them, whatever they needed at the moment. But the whole time it felt unreal, as if I was detached from my body, if you know what I mean.'

She nodded again. 'You were probably in shock. It's how I felt after I'd found my father's body in the ruins of our house and...' she paused.

'Last week?' I finished for her and she smiled shortly in confirmation.

'I hit a rough path right after the battle. I'd lost three friends, one of them being the last link I had to my parents, and I was devastated. Things with Ginny also weren't going well. She'd lost a brother and didn't know how to deal with that. I was so messed up right after the battle that didn't know how to deal with her. On top of that all she was appalled by something that happened to me during the battle.'

'I sense another story there,' Daphne interrupted me.

'You're right,' I replied, 'But I won't tell you.'

She accepted that without any fuss and told me with a motion of her hand to go on.

'I finally broke up with Ginny, thus losing the only family I ever knew. The Weasleys are protective of their daughter and sister, and they didn't take it well that I dumped her for the second time.'

The memory of that last fight I'd had with George, Charley and Percy and the cold shoulder treatment Mrs Weasley gave me afterwards still hurt. Also, I still vividly remembered the Howler Ron had sent me all the way from Australia. I hadn't talked to any of them since I left the Burrow. Oddly enough, Bill and Mr Weasley had stayed out of the fight, but I hadn't had the balls to talk to them since then. The memory made me restless; I couldn't sit still any longer, so I jumped up and went to the fridge to get me a coke. I could feel how Daphne's eyes followed me.

'Of course your noble Gryffindor side prevented you from telling them of her part in your break up, didn't it?' she said and I almost knocked my head at the edge of the fridge. I straightened up, two bottles of coke in my hands. I opened them and handed one to Daphne. While I took a sip out of the bottle, she gave me a reproachful glare, stood up and got herself a glass from the pantry. 'Sorry,' I grinned when she sat down and poured the coke in her glass. 'How did you know that?' Still too restless to sit down, I leaned with my back against the bar.

She gave me a level look over the rim of her glass. 'Because it's something idiotic only a Gryffindor would do.'

I accepted her statement with a grin. 'I'd stayed with the Weasleys after the battle, but things got awkward after my break-up with Ginny, so I left their house and moved to my own house.'

'You've got a house? I always thought your home had been destroyed when Voldemort killed your parents.'

There, she'd mentioned his name without flinching! She really was remarkable, for a Slytherin, that is. 'My godfather left it to me,' I answered her question. 'And a real dungheap it was. He came from a very dark family and the house was filled with dark stuff up to the rafters. Kreacher and I had our hands full cleaning out the bad stuff and renovating the house.'


'My house elf,' I explained. 'I inherited him with the house from my godfather. However, I was on a downward spiral the first few weeks after I'd left the Burrow. I couldn't sleep, I had nightmares and I...' I hesitated, not relishing to tell her about a time that counted among the worst times I'd ever experienced in my life. Given I'd come across some rather mean patches already before that, that was really telling something.

'... drank too much?' she finished the sentence for me. 'You don't have to tell me, Harry. Been there, done that, right after I'd lost my father.'

'Yeah,' I admitted with a blush. 'However, I had still sense enough to realise that I couldn't go on like that. I asked Kingsley for help,' – and I would never admit to anyone how much that had cost me. 'He brought me to a Squib who is a Muggle psychotherapist. I had sessions with him from July until the end of December. It really helped to get things back into perspective.'

Considering her upbringing, I was sure I didn't have to explain to her was a psychotherapist was. She didn't disappoint me and said, 'Yeah, I can see that.'

'Well, during my sessions I came to the realisation that I've been manipulated by others my whole life long. It was because of Voldemort's actions that I became the Chosen One and literally the only human in the world that could stop the monster. It was because of Dumbledore's machinations that I did it willingly, very much like a sheep that went willingly to the slaughter. He made sure that I wasn't raised in a loving environment. It was because of my relatives brainwashing me from when I was a toddler that I actually believed that my life wasn't worth much.'

She gasped at that, staring at me with an expression I didn't know what to make out of. It was a mix of horror and sympathy, but there was also the tiny sparkle of something else that was gone the next moment.

'The therapy taught me to care about myself. I learned to accept me just the way I am, Boy-Who-Lived and Chosen One included. The fame is part of me, without it I wouldn't be the man I'm now. I also found out that I don't want to be manipulated any longer. Everything I did in my life, the things I'm famous for and get celebrated for until today, were forced upon me. I didn't do anything of it out of my own will.'

'You could have run away,' Daphne objected.

I shook my head. 'And leave people I love at the mercy of that monster? I couldn't do that.'

She looked as if she wanted to object to that, but then decided to stay quiet.

'My task could have been much easier if our government hadn't been so corrupted. I think you remember what they did to me just before and during our fifth year.'

She grimaced and nodded.

I raised my hand and stared at it's back. The scar had faded, but if you knew what to look for, the words were still visible. 'I must not tell lies,' I muttered to myself. Bile rose up in my throat. I'd thought I was over it, but the memory still had the power to unsettle me.

A sharp intake of breath startled me out of my thoughts. I hadn't noticed that Daphne got up from the sofa and now stood beside me.

'What is that,' she asked, taking my hand in hers and looking at the fading scar. 'It looks as if the words were cut into your skin permanently by a Blood Quill.' She was obviously appalled by the thought.

'That's because they were,' I replied calmly.

'But ... But that's torture,' she gasped. 'Whoever did that, belongs into Azkaban. Was it the Dork Lord or one of his minions?'

'I doubt she ever took the Dark Mark. Kingsley had every employee of the Ministry checked for that right after the battle. As far as I know she's still working at the Ministry, albeit not in the position she held before. But she surely is a nasty piece of work.'

'Umbridge!' she gasped, her face struck with horror. 'She did it to you to punish you because you'd told the truth and just because she could, because you were an orphan and had no one to defend you.' She looked sick.

I nodded. 'Exactly. Umbridge and her ilk are the reason why I finally decided to use my fame. We need a Ministry that is free from corruption, or the rise of the next Dark Lord is only a matter of time. People like Umbridge have to go. But Kingsley isn't able to purge them out of the Ministry without a strong support in the Wizengamot, or he will be ousted on accusations fabricated by people like her.'

'That's very likely,' Daphne agreed. She listened to my story with rapt concentration.

'Well, I decided to use my fame to get Kingsley the support he needs. My goal is to get a comfortable majority of seats to support him.'

She looked thoughtful, but did not oppose the concept immediately. 'That's a rather ambitious goal, worth of a Slytherin. But then, we've already stated that you are a closet Slytherin, so I shouldn't be surprised. However, expect a lot of your friends not to understand what you're doing and why you're doing it, because it's so out of character for a Gryffindor.'

I grimaced. 'I know. Did you know that most members of the Wizengamot are Ravenclaws, followed by Slytherins and the odd Hufflepuff thrown in? Out of sixty seats there are only two Griffindors.'

'I didn't know that,' she exclaimed, looking rather surprised. 'Are you sure?'

'I did a lot of research on that,' I explained. 'I wanted to know against what I'm up to. For once in my life I don't want to rush into an adventure completely unprepared. I have a feeling that won't do me any good with the members of the Wizengamot.'

'They'd make mincemeat out of you,' she said, absentmindedly rubbing the scar on my hand with her thumb. 'Figuratively spoken, of course.' She gave me a long, level look. 'Have you any idea against what you are up to, Harry?'

'I think I'm beginning to get it,' I shrugged. 'As I said, I've started researching the Wizengamot and how it works, but I'm far from finished with that and, I hate to admit it, far from understanding everything.'

'The seats of the Wizengamot are hereditary,' Daphne began to lecture. 'There are sixty of them, representing the sixty Wizarding Clans that are now known as Ancient Houses and that ruled Britain before the Ministry for Magic was established. During the centuries, a lot of these clans became extinct or the heir isn't known or still minor. By an ancient decree the Ministry for Magic can take over these seats – as long there is no heir that can prove claim to it or the known heir is not yet twenty-one – and appoint it to a Ministry employee. During the centuries, about fifty percent of the original clans died out. As far as I know, about twenty seats are currently occupied by Ministry employees, most of them getting their seat during the Bagnold administration. About ten of the seats were given to wizards or witches who have received an Order of Merlin. Of the remaining thirty seats, fifteen are occupied by dark families, and the rest are occupied by light or neutral families. Since the seats currently held by Ministry employees are appointed for a lifetime, you'd have to find the true heir to the seat or have to prove that the current inhabitant is unworthy to keep the seat any longer. In that case the seat can be revoked by the Wizengamot and given to another house. It has been done in the past as a special reward.'

'I'm impressed. You really know your stuff.'

She shrugged. 'Harry, my family has had a seat on the Wizengamot for centuries. I'm the current Head of House Geengrass, so I was raised to represent my family on the Wizengamot one day. There isn't much about the workings of the chamber I don't know. I'm going to claim my seat as soon as I'll turn twenty-one and am finally eligible to take office. I've been informed that in the meantime Minister Shacklebolt has appointed the seat to Arthur Weasley. I don't mind, my father always said he's a good man. However, to get a majority in support of Minister Shacklebolt's anti corruption agenda on the Wizengamot, you've got to get rid of quite a number of the Ministry-appointed members. Short of presenting the heir to the seat, I don't know how you will do that.'

'Ah, but that's the point. I know of at least six seats currently inhabited by Ministry employees that have to be given back to their houses within the next three years,' I grinned.

'Six?!' She seemed to be surprised by that number. 'I only know about two, Longbottom and Bones.'

'You forgot the Potter seat.'

'Ah yes,' she nodded. 'The Potters belong to the Ancient Houses, but have rarely used their seat. I know of only two Potters who did so, Ralston Potter in the fifteenth century, and Henry Potter back in the twenties.'

I nodded. I'd found out about them when I finally got access to all my family vaults and assets when I turned eighteen.

'You're right. However, very few know that the Potters are also holding the seat of the Ancient House of Peverell,' I told her, somehow smug, and waited for her reaction. I wasn't disappointed.

'THAT'S why you're a Parselmouth,' she exclaimed. 'The Peverells are descendants of Salazar Slytherin. But I didn't know of their connection to the Potters.'

'It dates back to the thirteenth century,' I explained. 'A Potter married the oldest daughter of the last male Peverell then and so became Heir to the Ancient House of Peverell. My family kept that always under wraps because they didn't like the connection to Slytherin.'

She laughed. 'I can see that. But that finally explains why Potters frequently have been sorted into Slytherin over the centuries, much to the dismay of their family. My, Mr Potter, you are full of surprises. Any more you like to share?'

I grinned at her. 'I'm also the Head of the Ancient Houses of Black and Prince.'

'You're kidding, Harry. The Blacks forfeited their seat when the last heir was found guilty of murder by the Wizengamot and was thrown into Azkaban. And the Prince family died out in the eighties without an heir.'

'You're wrong on both accounts. The Black heir was thrown into Azkaban, so much is true, but he never got a trial. Because there was no vote of the Wizengamot, the Black seat couldn't be revoked. I know Minister Bagnold claimed that it had been revoked and gave it to one of her friends, but actually there's no legal ground to that. The last Black died without kids of his own, but he made his godson his heir, who happens to be me. Same goes for the Prince family. The last male heir died around the middle of the seventieth. He had one daughter, who'd died a year before him. They weren't on speaking terms because the daughter married a Muggle, but she'd never been disowned, and her only son became the Head of House. He died during the Battle of Hogwarts. Imagine my surprise when the Goblins informed me six weeks later that he had appointed me as his heir.'

She gaped at me with an open mouth, reminding me strongly of a fish stranded on dry ground.

'Close your mouth, Greengrass, or you will catch a fly,' I grinned.

She glared at me, but shut her mouth with an audible snap. 'So, you'll be holding four seats when you turn twenty-one and are eligible to claim them? It's legal, of course, but I doubt it has been done ever before,' she said when she finally regained the ability of speech.

'Five,' I corrected her, relishing her reaction once more when her head flew up an she stared at me incredulously.

'FIVE?' she repeated, her eyebrows raised.

'I'm going to claim the seat of the Ancient House of Gaunt by conquest as well as by inheritance,' I explained and waited for her reaction with baited breath.

She frowned, obviously trying to figure out my relation with the Ancient House of Gaunt.

'The Gaunts were nutters,' she finally stated, not sounding impressed. 'They were destitute and hired out their seat to the Ministry because of that. The last known male heir was Morfin Gaunt. He went into Azkaban because he was accused with murder of a Muggle family. You should think their seat was revoked because of that.'

I shook my head. 'No, it wasn't. After all, they were only Muggles.' I couldn't keep the bitterness out of my words as I said that. 'I've looked into the Charter of the Wizengamot. A seat can only be revoked if the inhabitant was sentenced to Azkaban for life because of murder of a wizard or witch.'

'I didn't know that,' she said. 'But it makes sense in a twisted sort of way.'

'Of course, you're a Pureblood, you'd agree with that,' I replied. Damned, she'd been rather decent so far, but what did I expect? She was a Pureblood and a Slytherin, she'd agree to any law that supported the Pureblood agenda.

Her eyes threw sapphire daggers at me. 'Don't you dare assume anything about me, Potter! You know nothing about me and my family. How dare you accuse my supporting that Pureblood nonsense?'

I almost recoiled from the wrath in her eyes. 'S...sorry!' I managed to get out, and it sounded more meekly than I care to admit.

She still glared at me. She didn't talk again until she'd made sure she'd stared me into total submission.

'Look, I'm really sorry, Daphne. You're right, I shouldn't assume anything about you,' I finally said, running my free hand nervously through my hair. My other hand, I now realised, was still held by Daphne, who pressed it rather hard right now. It hurt, but I didn't dare to complain, afraid she'd pull out her wand instead and start throwing hexes at me.

Eventually, the wrath in her eyes ebbed away. 'Good,' she said, giving me one last, hard stare. 'My family doesn't support the Pureblood agenda. I won't say we think Muggleborns and Halfbloods our equal, because that would be a lie, we don't. But we welcome them into our society because we know our society needs fresh blood or we'll die out because of inbreeding. Just look what their marriage policy has done to the old Pureblood families like the Blacks or the Gaunts. Nutcases, all of them, or almost-Squibs. Also, our economy needs the Muggleborns. After all, a Galleon from a Muggleborn is worth as much as a Galleon from a Pureblood.'

'That's a rather practical approach,' I ventured to reply. 'Care to tell me why you think yourself above Muggleborns, Daphne?' I couldn't hide that I was miffed at her attitude.

'I don't think myself above them. I said they are not our equal.'

'Sounds the same to me,' I grumbled.

She shook her head. 'No, it means that our backgrounds are different. I won't lie, I have reservations against Muggleborns, but that's not because of their blood status, but because of the ignorance they show to our traditions. They come into our world, not knowing anything about us, but judge us by the Muggle standards and values they have learned. Most of them never make the effort to get accustomed with our society. Just take Granger and her S.P.E.W. I won't deny her heart was in the right place, but she went about it all wrong. You can't help house elves by setting them free. They'll slowly but surely die if they are not bound to a magical family to draw their strength from. Of course it's a shame that some families treat their house elves worse than dirt. But Lucius Malfoy was the bad exception to the rule. Most of us treat their house elves decently and regard them as family members. Granger never cared to ask about that. She just assumed we were all the same and went on her crusade.'

She'd talked herself into a passion and was breathing hard when she finished. Her eyes were blazing, and I was glad that this time her ire wasn't directed against me. She had a point, I had to agree. I'd always felt that Hermione was slightly going over the top with spew. Daphne just gave a sound reasoning why.

'I can see your point,' I told her. 'But if our ignorance irks the Purebloods so much, why are there no classes of Wizarding Culture? After all, there are classes for Muggle Studies at Hogwarts.'

'That would be because of the general attitude of the wizard population toward the newcomers. They come into our world and it behoves them to make an effort to learn about us, just as it behoves us to make an effort to learn about their culture so that we can blend in if we need to. If you really want to learn about Wizarding Culture, there's a whole section at the Hogwarts library dedicated to that topic.'

I was baffled. I didn't know that and it must have shown on my face, because she gave me another icy stare and went on, 'Of course, most Muggleborns would never dare to venture into that section, because they are told by non traditional wizards like the Weasleys, the Longbottoms and the Bones that keeping these traditions is a sign of a Slytherin Pureblood and imply that that equates to being a dark wizard. On the other hand, it won't keep them from raising their own children at least knowing about the old traditions, if not following them. What's that about being bigoted, hmm?'

My head reeled. She'd given me a lot to think about. But she didn't give me the opportunity to dwell on what I'd just learned.

'We digressed, Harry. You were about going to tell me why you can claim the Gaunt seat. So, Morfin Gaunt was the last known male heir and he didn't forfeit the seat because of his time in Azkaban. I get the inheritance angle. The Gaunts were descendants of the Peverells and by extension of the Slytherins, just like you. You can claim that link, albeit it's a weak one. You'd never know if a heir with a better claim will show up. But I don't get the conquest angle.'

'Morfin Gaunt had a sister, Merope, who eloped with a Muggle and married him. Her father and brother never took the steps to disinherit her,' I went on with my story.

'They were probably too stupid to know about that possibility, inbred as they were,' Daphne interjected.

'Probably. Merope gave birth to a son and died shortly after. Before she died, she named her son after his father and his grandfather, Tom Marvolo Riddle.'

Daphne gasped again. I'd made Voldemort's real name and his Halfbood lineage public knowledge right after the battle. It had caused quite a lot of malice in the Wizarding World, not to mention the ridicule the known Death Eaters and their families had to endure because of that. It made me wonder why Dumbledore hadn't played that card. It would probably have prevented some families from following the monster.

'That's brilliant, Harry!' she breathed, and I puffed my chest and buffed my fingernails at the front of my shirt, which made her giggle. When she looked down, she realised she still held my hand. Turning a deep shade of red, she let it go as if it had caught fire. I had difficulties to suppress a snort, but it would have been mean to embarrass her even more.

She stepped away from me and let herself plop down on the sofa in front of me, her legs sticking out over the armrest. The hem of her long skirt rode up, revealing shapely lower legs with smooth skin. She crossed her arms behind her head. 'That gives you five votes on the Wizengamot. You can probably talk Longbottom and Bones into voting along your line, so that's seven out of the thirty currently held by the Ministry. You'll need to strip that fraction of at least ten more votes to overcome any resistance against your planned anti corruption campaign, because quite a few of the non-Ministry members of the Wizengamot will oppose you, too, assuming the light and neutral families will follow your vote.'

'I know,' I sighed. 'That's what I'm working on. I try to understand how the Wizengamot works, especially, how the majorities are formed. If I know that, I can go about campaigning to gain a majority for the changes I want to make.'

'You've got your work cut out,' she remarked. 'I can help you there. I can teach you how the Wizengamot works, everything about the official alliances and the secret alliances behind the stages to get through certain projects. For your anti-corruption legislation you can also count on the Greengrass vote. I've told Dad again and again that the wheeling and dealing in the Ministry is a shame and prevents a sustained economic growth, but he didn't dare to join the opposition because he was afraid of the repercussions from the Death Eater families. Thankfully, you've changed a lot in our world, Harry. As a family, the Greengrasses can only benefit from joining your side. Mind you, I won't guarantee you that I'll see eye to eye with you on every topic, but I'll follow you at least with this one. Our society needs to get kicked into the twentieth century!'

We looked at each other and grinned, both knowing that tonight we'd made huge progress into the direction of a future alliance between the House of Greengrass and the House of Potter.


The next day was one of pure holiday bliss, besides the obligatory mail from my Board of Financial Advisors, of course. By now I had resigned to the fact that the extent of the Potter holdings made it necessary that I was always accessible. Mind you, my trustees had done a marvellous job since Grandfather Fleamont died, but they were all too happy to leave the last responsibility to me.

It had become considerably warmer, so we had our run before breakfast.

'I think I'll change to laps in the pool from tomorrow on,' Daphne said on our way back to the suite and lifted her pony tail from the nape of her neck. Her skin was damp with perspiration.

She had a point there, but I still didn't know how to swim. It didn't take her long to get that bit of information out of me, and before I knew what was happening to me, Daphne announced,

'All right, Harry. Swimming lessons have just been added to your curriculum! You simply can't miss out such a fun activity when we're going to visit some of the most beautiful beaches on earth during this cruise.'

I didn't contradict. First of all, I'd always wanted to learn how to swim, and secondly, a look at her face told me she was channelling McGonagall again. I wondered if she had an idea how cute she looked whenever she raised her chin in determination.

The rest of the morning was spent in the usual way. The mail brought a letter from Kingsley to Daphne with a formal apology for Dawlish's conduct.

'Did you complain to Minister Shacklebolt about that idiot?' Daphne asked me, looking up from her letter in surprise.

I nodded while I scanned the letter Kingsley had written to me. 'Yeah. I thought Kingsley should know what's going on in his ministry.'

She left it at that and I returned to my letter.

'You're right, Dawlish is an idiot and should be kicked out as soon as possible. But the Auror department is dangerously understaffed. The idiot has two feet and two hands and can relieve the few decent Aurors that are left after the war,' Kingsley wrote and I sighed. The aftermath of the war and the constant exchange with Kingsley had taught me that things were never as black or white as I'd believed while I was still at Hogwarts. Kingsley was a good man and he really wanted to change things, but his hands were tied. The coffers of the Ministry were empty and he had to deal with a for the largest part incapable and inflated administrative organisation, not to mention the strong opposition he still faced on the Wizengamot. The only bright spot was that the Minister for Magic, once elected by the Wizengamot, usually stayed in office until he decided to step down. A vote of no confidence, as Fudge had been submitted to, was extremely rare. That gave us time to work on the changes we wanted to make in the background. For the first time of my life I was into something for the long run. This wasn't going to be over by the end of the school year like my former adventures. I needed patience for this, an attribute I wasn't sure I possessed.

We went to lunch after that. All hopes that Daphne would be content that I was able to dance the slow waltz and stop the dance class vanquished as she led me straight to the dance club after lunch. I gave into the inevitable. An hour later, my feet hurt, but I could now dance the foxtrot.

The sunny and balmy weather lured me out onto the veranda. The veranda of our suite really was one of a kind. It encompassed the suite on its whole length and width on two sides. The part overlooking the bow of the "Princess Isabella" was big enough to house two deckchairs and a small table as well as a sun island under an awning. The part on the side of the ship was smaller and had only two comfortable looking deck chairs standing there.

I was drawn to the big sun island. Some caring soul from the house service had already placed a warm blanket there, since the wind still was rather chilly. I entered the sun island and covered myself with the blanket. From here, I saw only blue sky dotted with tiny white clouds and the sparkling, deep blue sea. I folded my arms behind my neck, closed my eyes and let my face bathe in the sunshine.

'You look cosy there,' Daphne's voice interrupted my dreams. I hadn't noticed her coming out onto the veranda and laying down on one of the deckchairs.

'It is cosy,' I confirmed. 'You're welcomed to join me. There's room enough for two here.'

I didn't have to tell her twice. The next moment she entered the sun island and slipped under the blanket beside me.

'This is really comfortable,' she said, stretching out on the lush cushions.

I opened my eyes just long enough to see she directed her wand at me. With one move, I shot upright, grabbed her hand and forced the wand out of her fingers.

Her eyes widened in shock. 'Harry, what was that for?' Her voice sounded hurt.

I narrowed my eyes at her. 'You were pointing your wand at me!' I accused her.

'Why, yes. I was just going to cast a Sunscreen Charm on you. I thought you probably forgot to cast one. Dad always did and complained about sunburn the next day.'

My grip around her wrist lessened. I felt really foolish. 'Sorry,' I mumbled and handed her wand back to her. 'For a moment I thought ... oh bugger, just forget it.'

She put her hand on my arm. 'You thought I was going to hex you, didn't you?' Her voice was full of understanding, and I nodded sheepishly.

'Don't worry about it, Harry. I should have known that you'd react like that. After all the time you spent on the run last year that was only to be expected. I didn't think, so I have to be the one to apologise to you. I'm really sorry that I startled you and brought back bad memories.'

We looked at each other. The embarrassment I saw on her face mirrored mine, and we both broke into laughter.

'All right, let's do this right this time,' Daphne said, still chuckling. 'Do you want me to cast the Sunscreen Charm on you, Harry?'

'Go ahead,' I invited, and she silently performed the charm on me.

We settled back into a comfortable silence, both enjoying the sunshine and the warmth.

'You were wrong yesterday, you know,' I finally interrupted the silence.

'Huh? What are you talking about?' Daphne asked. She sounded bewildered.

'About what you said about Muggleborns and that they should make an effort to fit into the magical world, because wizards and witches make an effort to fit into the Muggle world. The latter isn't true. Wizards and witches don't make that effort. It's half-hearted at the best,' I elaborated.

'But we have Muggle studies and the leaflet the Ministry provides about how to behave like Muggles,' Daphne objected.

I snorted. 'You must be joking. Have you ever looked into the Muggle Studies textbook? To say it's antiquated is like saying Hagrid is a little on the big side. It's ancient and I bet it hasn't been edited since the Edwardian era. And if the Ministry leaflet is like anything I've seen from our government, it's probably rubbish. I was at the world cup and I've seen what wizards consider being like a proper Muggle. It was ridiculous. One bloke wore a women's nightgown and insisted it was proper Muggle attire! I've seen Mrs Weasley going to Kings Cross in the middle of the day, wearing an evening dress!' I shook my head and looked at her. 'No, Daphne, wizard and witches don't make an effort to get to know the Muggle world. Tell me, if that's so, why should the blame for not knowing about Wizarding culture only be laid at the feet of the Muggleborns?'

She'd sat up and folded her arms around her knees while she listened to me. Instead of answering my question right away, she asked, 'You've given that a lot of thought, didn't you?' An odd smile played around her lips. 'Thank you, Harry. As a Slytherin girl I'm not used to a boy actually listening to me and considering my point of view worthwhile.'

'Hey, I've listened to you when we talked about the Wizengamot and when we discussed what I needed to learn about the Wizarding world and Pureblood traditions,' I protested.

'That was different. We spoke about a possible alliance between our houses and we bargained over what you were going to get in return for letting me stay here with you until May,' she contradicted. Not giving me the time to answer to that, she went on, 'I see your point. In continuation of your reasoning that means that not only the curriculum for Muggle studies has to be overhauled, but also that a class for Wizarding Culture needs to be introduced at Hogwarts.'

I hadn't thought that far. 'All right, you're already ahead of me,' I chuckled.

'You'd need to talk with Headmistress McGonagall about that,' she mused. 'She has some leeway about the curriculum and can introduce Wizarding Culture as an extracurricular activity. To make it part of the curriculum, the Wizengamot has to approve. A change of books in Mugglestudies should be possible as long as you find a better one that's also Ministry approved.'

'You seem to know an awful lot about that,' I remarked. Again, she'd impressed me with her knowledge about the workings of our government.

She shrugged. 'Dad taught me how to set changes in motion. Since I was still at school back then, he thought it'd be easiest for me to learn how I had to go about a change I wanted to make at Hogwarts. He taught me who was in charge of the different aspects of our education, who held the office in question and how to approach them.' Her voice sounded wistful.

'You miss him as much as you miss your mother,' I stated quietly.

She nodded, while a single tear ran down her cheek. She wiped it away in an impatient motion. 'Mind you, Dad and I never saw eye to eye about the matters we discussed. I was much too progressive for his taste. He blamed it on Mum's disastrous American upbringing, as he called it, and her bad influence on me, but of course he was only taking the mickey. Though, we had pretty hard arguments, but we loved each other nonetheless.'

By now, her tears were running freely, and I put my arm around her and let her cry on my shoulder once more.

'Sorry, Harry, I resolved after Mum's funeral not to be a leaking hosepipe anymore,' she said with a thick voice after she'd cried herself out.

I didn't want to tell her, but I knew she was going to cry for both of her parents many times still to come, so I just gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze.

Daphne extricated herself from my arm. 'I think it's about time I get ready for dinner,' she announced, avoiding my eyes. She slipped off the sun island and walked into the living room.

'Are we not going to have dinner at the suite?' I called after her.

'Nope. We're going to have dinner at the "La Gondola". It's time for you to learn how to behave in a posh restaurant. Purebloods go to places like that all the time.'

I groaned theatrically and was rewarded with a giggle before the bathroom door closed.

About a hour later I appeared in the living room, dressed as instructed in a light grey suite with a matching dress shirt, albeit without tie.

Daphne looked at me critically. 'Saville Row?' she asked, and I nodded.

Grandfather Fleamont's portrait had me pointed to his former Muggle tailor. When I first visited the family vault on my eighteenth birthday, I'd still worn Dudley's cast offs. Three months after the battle I wasn't yet in the shape to go shopping. Grandfather Fleamont, whose portrait had been stashed away in the family vault to keep it safe during the first war, had been delighted to see me, but had almost immediately taken offence at my appearance and insisted I had to visit his Muggle tailor and order a complete wardrobe. Happy I'd finally met one of my relatives, even though only on canvas, I'd complied. But if I had to be honest, it was not really my style, though I still had no idea what my style was.

Daphne seemed to share my sentiments, for she wrinkled her nose. 'It's all right, I guess. A trifle stiff, maybe, but if you're happy with it ...'

'I'm not,' I interjected, foolishly and much too quick.

Daphne cocked her head and regarded me with a gleam in her eyes. 'I suppose we can do something about that tomorrow,' she mused. She looked at me and laughed. 'Don't give me that deer-caught-in-the-wandlight look, Harry. I promise it won't hurt!'

'Says you!' I grumbled while I led her out of the suite.

The "La Gondola" was a small Italian restaurant off the main restaurant. The shipping company advertised the fact that it was under supervision of an Italian chef who'd earned I don't know how many stars in the Guide Michelin for his main restaurant. To me that only meant that they probably won't serve pizza.

Daphne gave me a reproachful look when I mentioned that after the maitre d' had handed us the menu and retreated discreetly, though the corner of her mouth twitched.

Thanks to the many times Aunt Petunia had forced me to cook for the Dursleys, I was able to make head and tail out of the Italian names of the dishes. Aunt Petunia liked to boast with Italian cuisine whenever they had company, so by the time I was eleven, I knew the recipes in her Italian cookbook by heart. Daphne and I discussed what to choose, but in the end we went with the recommendations of the maitre d' and were not disappointed.

After the meal, we ambled back to the elevators. The three bars on deck four still were fairly empty. Most passengers were heading to the theatre at the bow of the ship where the daily show program was going to start soon. I asked Daphne if she wanted to see the show, but she still wasn't in the mood to go out. In the end, we agreed to a short stroll around the promenade deck and headed back to the suite right after.

The next morning found us ready to leave the ship at eight a.m. The "Princess Isabella" had dropped anchor at Port Everglades while we were still at breakfast in our suite. The port was in an industrial area, but the glimpses we'd caught of the city as the ship manoeuvred into Stranahan River were inviting.

We'd booked a private airboat tour through the Everglades. As we left the gangway, a car and driver were already waiting for us. The drive wasn't long. Not even an hour later we'd boarded the airboat and put somehow squishy earplugs in our ears. Then we headed out into the Everglades at full speed, though I had to say the big ventilator behind us made an infernal noise that couldn't be suppressed completely by the earplugs. I wished I could cast a Silencing Spell, but of course that was impossible with our Muggle tour guide on board. By the suffering look on Daphne's face I could tell she shared my sentiments.

Soon after, we reached our destination, and the tour guide curbed the engine. The airboat slowly glided through the swamp, and our tour guide regaled us with facts about this amazing landscape. He pointed out the infamous alligators – swimming handbags Daphne called them jokingly – and the many plants that grew there. What really impressed us were the many magical animals and plants we saw, but of course couldn't talk about them in front of our guide. Daphne swore afterwards she counted at least four different species of magical frogs, while I was sure I'd seen an ancient Snargaluff in the hammock he showed us. The tour ended with a visit at the guide's house, where we had a breath-taking view from the rooftop deck.

We were back in the city around noon. Daphne'd asked the driver to drop us off near a street called Las Olas Boulevard instead of returning us to the cruise terminal. Again, I had a strange sense of premonition when I realised Las Olas Boulevard was lined by countless little shops and boutiques.

Daphne grabbed me by the arm and led me straight to a boutique which sold men's fashion.

'Daphne, I really don't need any more clothes,' I protested.

She turned to me and smirked. 'Of course you do. You've complained just yesterday evening that you don't like your suites.'

'I didn't complain,' I replied, rather hotly.

'You did!'

'Did not!'

'You did!'

We were still bickering back and forth when Daphne dragged me into the shop. I'd like to think of myself as slightly better mannered as Ron, so I immediately kept quiet when a sales assistant walked up to us and required after our wishes.

'My friend here is looking for light summer suites, with matching shirts, of course, and maybe a tie or two,' Daphne told him with a triumphant side glance at me. Had she been fifteen years younger, she'd have her tongue stuck out at me.

About an hour later, I had two more suites and half a dozen more shirts in my wardrobe, and about ten thousand quids less on my bank account. Slightly dazed, I followed Daphne out of the shop and into the pizzeria next door.

'You look pensive,' she observed after the waitress brought our drinks and took our orders for pizza.

'I'm still not used on spending so much money for clothes, and especially not on clothes for me,' I admitted.

She frowned and looked around. The tables around us were still not occupied, and the other patrons of the pizzeria seemed all to be engaged in conversations. 'Why's that? Everyone knows that the Potters are loaded. It's common knowledge in Pureblood circles that your grandfather hit a goldmine when he became cofounder of that Muggle beauty company,' she said in a low voice.

'Everybody knew, except I,' I replied, somewhat bitterly, and took a sip of my coke. 'I didn't find out before my eighteenth birthday. If you grew up wearing the cast-offs of your whale of a cousin, it's not easy to get used to designer clothes.'

She gaped at me, but was prevented from a reply by the waitress who served our pizza. I felt already uncomfortable, having given away such a personal detail from my life with the Dursleys, and immersed myself in the delicious pizza in front of me, and pretended to ignore the pensive glances Daphne gave me throughout our meal. At least she kept silent and wasn't bombarding me with questions, unlike Hermione.

After lunch, we still had a couple of hours left until we had to return to the ship. We took a watertaxi to the beaches. The beach really was amazing, seemingly stretching for miles in each direction. We kicked off our shoes and walked in the surf, kicking the small waves with our feet like children. I don't remember when I'd felt that carefree for the last time.

We were among the last passengers that returned to the "Princess Isabella". I had sand in my shoes, and my face burned, a painful reminder that I'd forgotten to renew the Sunscreen Charm Daphne had applied on me before we'd left the suite that morning. But that day was marked in my book as one of the most relaxing times I'd had for ages, in spite of the shopping trip.

Daphne had mercy and agreed on having dinner at the suite, so I grabbed a beer from the bar and lounged on the sun island. Daphne joined me a few minutes later, also a bottle of beer in her hand. I raised my eyebrows at her.

'You've got a bad influence on me, Potter,' she shrugged and I grinned.

We clinked our bottles and watched how the "Princess Isabella" was slowly manoeuvred out of port. It really had been a perfect day.


Two days at sea followed, while the "Princess Isabella" made her way into the Caribbean.

'Get up, lazybones,' Daphne called early the next morning.

I rubbed my eyes and grabbed for my glasses. Daphne stood in the doorframe, the terrycloth robe draped over her shoulders. Beneath, she wore a modest one piece swimsuit. The simple cut left no doubts that she had a perfect figure. What a nice way to start the day!

'Put on your swim trunks and let's get going!' she urged. She was exited as a small child at the prospect of swimming.

A couple of minutes later we left the suite and headed to the pool. The pool deck was deserted. I yawned. 'Woman why did you have to drag me out of bed at this unholy hour of the day?'

'Because you told me the other day you wanted to learn how to swim,' Daphne replied.

I opened my mouth to contradict, since I was sure these swimming lessons had been her idea, but when I once again saw that McGonagall-esque expression on her face, I shut it quickly, afraid she'd give me detention.

Though it was still early, it was already rather hot. In contrary to that the water of the pool was cool and refreshing. Daphne showed me the correct movements, and after a surreptitious look around, she pulled her wand out from between her breasts. She grinned as she saw that I blushed like a girl.

'You've got to tell me where you got that amazing invisible wand holster,' she grinned. 'I want one of those, too! Until the, I have to stash away my wand the old fashioned witches way. I'm now going to cast the spell on you that my mother used when she taught me how to swim. It will keep you above water while you practise the movements and wear off eventually the better you get.'

'Go ahead,' I said, and after another glance around she cast the spell. It really was amazing. I was able to keep up with Dsphne while she did her laps in the pool, though I'm certain she looked much more graceful than I. It was obvious that she enjoyed being in the water.

'You seem to feel at home in the water,' I remarked on our way back to the suite.

Daphne looked around. When she was sure the hallway was empty, she took my arm and leaned into me. 'There's this legend in our family grimoire that my mother's family are descendants of a sea nymph. I don't know whether it's true, but fact is my mother loved to swim and loved to visit the seaside, and so do I.'

We laughed and went to our suite, to shower and dress for our well earned breakfast.

That day, a rather thick package arrived for Daphne through the Banishing Box. I admit I was curious, but though she looked rather excited when I handed it to her, she didn't say what it was and I didn't want to pry. For the rest of the morning Daphne immersed herself in the stack of papers, oblivious to my curious glances.

Any hope I'd harboured that she'd want to return to the papers after lunch was shattered when she dragged me off to the dance club – again.

One hour later I rested my burning feet on the sun island, but at least I could now dance the Viennese waltz. About an hour later Daphne shooed me into the bathroom. 'Get ready, Harry, the Captain's Cocktail is about to start in an hour.'

I groaned. 'Daphne, are you really going to tell me that Purebloods are doing cocktail parties?'

'Silly, of course they do. About seventy percent of them are secret alcoholics and they'd take advantage of every opportunity to get a free drink,' she said. Her calm face didn't give away if she was just taking the mickey.

The cocktail party took place in one of the smaller bars and was for passengers of the world cruise only. Daphne had persuaded me – or rather demanded of me – that I'd wear one of the new suites. To me, one grey suit looked like the other, but I couldn't deny that there were subtle differences that made this one look much cooler than the one Grandfather Fleamont's tailor made for me. Judging by the approving glance Daphne gave me when I took her arm to guide her to the party, she was of the same opinion.

We'd barely entered the bar, when the nice American lady we'd met at the gala dinner waved at us.

'Daphne, Harry, it's so nice to see you here. I had no idea you'd also booked the world cruise. Oh, you remember my husband Willy, don't you?'

Daphne and I shook hands with the pudgy friendly woman and her unassuming husband and made some small talk while we waited for our turn to shake hands with the captain.

Maybe it was because I wasn't a naive schoolboy anymore, maybe it was because of the hilarious stories Alvirah told of her and Willy's adventures as lottery millionaires, but I actually enjoyed myself.

The next day was spend in the same manner. Again, Daphne poured the whole morning over the papers she'd received yesterday, but she still didn't tell me what she was working on, and I didn't ask. After my daily torture (quickstep) I retreated to the sun island and worked on my tan, while Daphne turned back to her papers as if drawn by a magnet. She didn't even object when I suggested dinner at the suite to avoid to having to wear a suit two days in a row.

The next morning we arrived at Willemstad, Curacao. During the cocktail party Alvirah had rhapsodised about the shopping facilities the town offered, while Willy smiled indulgently at his wife. Apparently, she and Willy frequently took cruises to the Caribbean and Alvirah knew all the best places to shop. Noticing the gleam in Daphne's eyes, I once again had a strong sense of premonition, but when we were asked to book the tours for Willemstad, she'd insisted that I'd chose.

Knowing how much she loved to swim, I'd suggested an hour of swimming with dolphins that was offered at the local aquarium. Daphne's eyes had lit up at that, and when the "Princess Isabella" arrived at Willemstad, she was as excited as a small child about to visit the fair.

'Come on, Harry, what are you waiting for?' she asked and took my hand to drag me down the gangway to the waiting taxi. The drive to the aquarium wasn't long. The dolphins were kept in a lagoon next to the aquarium. Daphne again had cast the spell on me that enabled me to stay above water, since I wasn't that confident in my new abilities yet. We got an introduction how to deal with the animals, and then we were allowed to swim next to the gentle creatures. It was an unforgettable experience to be dragged through the water by one of the great mammals. All too soon the fun ended. Daphne and I explored the interesting aquarium, but then took a taxi back to the pier and the old town of Willemstad to grab some lunch. While we drove back, she leaned into me and kissed my cheek.

'Thank you, Harry, for choosing this tour. I know you're not that comfortable in the water yet and did it only because you knew I'd enjoy it. I had a wonderful time, not only because of the dolphins, but also because of my company!'

'Uhm -!' was all I managed to get out while my cheeks went hot. I'm sure my blush could have rivalled any Weasley's.

'Eloquent as always,' Daphne laughed and gave me another peck on the cheek. 'Please, never change, Harry!'

I was saved from an answer by the taxi arriving at our destination.


Another day at sea followed. The morning after we arrived at Cartagena, Columbia. We took the bus to the historic centre together with the other passengers. The moment I stepped out of the bus, I felt uneasy. There was something off with this place.

Daphne stepped beside me and took my arm. From the way she stood as close as possible to me, I could tell that the place also gave her the creeps. Her face was a calm mask of politeness, as always when we were in public, but her eyes darted around, taking in her surroundings and watching out for possible threats, just like mine.

We followed the tour guide to the historic centre. Daphne still kept close by my side, holding my hand in a death grip. I couldn't blame her. The hairs on my neck raised when we entered the historic district, and I was ready to draw my wand any second.

Admittedly, the old town was beautiful. I was not surprised when our tour guide told us that it was a World Heritage Site. It finally hit me when the tour guide told us about the role slaves played in the founding of this beautiful place, and the times of the Spanish Inquisition. The old buildings around us simply reeked of dark magic.

Finally, the tour was over and we were told we had some time to explore the historic district on our own. Daphne and I shared an uneasy glance.

'Do you want to explore?' she asked.

I shook my head. 'No. This place gives me the creeps. I'll be damned if I venture in one of those narrow alleys. I might be a Gryffindor, but I've had my fill of bloodcurdling adventures, thank you very much!'

She laughed at that and dragged me to one of the small cafes that lined the main square. It was still before lunch, but the temperature was already beyond 25° C, so I wasn't averse to a cool drink under a shady awning.

We sipped our cokes and watched the people milling around us. Suddenly, Daphne's eyes grew wide. She touched my arm with her hand. 'Harry, look!' She motioned to an old woman slowly walking across the square.

The woman wore a long robe in a violent pattern of yellow, red and green and a pointed hat made of straw. Everything about her just screamed "witch" to me, but the tourists and inhabitants of the city didn't spare her another glance.

Our attention piqued by the old woman, we soon saw more witches and wizards among the muggles crowding the square. They went on about their business and no Muggle gave them as much as a side glance.

'This must be a place like Godric's Hollow, where wizards and witches live together with Muggles, but the latter not knowing about it,' Daphne mused as we slowly ambled back to the agreed upon meeting point to join the rest of our group.

We had to walk through one of the narrow alleys. It was lined with low, colourful residential houses. Their shutters were down to keep out the heat. Exotic flowers adorned the windows and lined the entrance doors. Bathed in sunshine, the alley was deserted, quiet and peaceful. And yet, the hairs on my back stood up. I let my wand slip in my hand, while my eyes darted around, trying to find out what was so unsettling about my surroundings.

Daphne also had her wand in her hand, I noticed. She looked calm, but her eyes darted around, just like mine.

Suddenly, six wizards Apparated in front of us. They wore the violently patterned, colourful robes and pointed straw hats we'd learned to associate with the native magical population. The colour of their skin varied from a light, yellowish brown to a dark brown, and they all had shaggy black hair.

'Give us your Galleons or we will kill you!' the one I supposed was their leader demanded.

The second I'd heard the cracks of Apparition I'd retreated to a wall and shoved Daphne behind me.

'I don't think so,' I replied. 'If you want my Galleons, you have to come and get them.'

Daphne punched my back and hissed something that sounded like 'Idiotic Gryffindor!', but I didn't turn around. My attention was trained on the six thugs in front of me and their wands. I saw the supposed leader raising his wand, but before he could cast a spell, I sent a wide-area Blasting Curse at their feet, causing the street to blow up and throw sand and debris in their eyes. Two of the thugs were down and didn't move, but four were still standing, though their view was obviously capacitated by sand in their eyes. I shot a couple of well aimed and silent 'Expelliarmus' at them. Three wands sailed towards me and I caught them with my free hand. At the same time, the two wands of the thugs on the ground flew towards us.

'Gotcha!' Daphne crowed and caught them. Apparently she'd used a silent Summoning Charm while I dealt with the four thugs who were still standing.

The supposed leader still had his wand in his hand. He glared at me with murder in his eyes. Suddenly, his eyes widened in recognition.

'Enrique el Alfarero!' he screamed in a high-pitched voice. It didn't sound like an endearment. He raised his wand again and shouted 'Aveda Kedavra!'

The sickening green light of the Killing Curse flew toward me as if in slow motion. I froze. I was back again in the forest. The swarthy face of the thug in front of me morphed until it became Voldemort's snakelike face. I knew I was going to die, this time for real. This time, there was no thought of love to comfort me during my last seconds on this earth. I'd lost Ginny. There was nothing left for me that was worth living for.


In the next moment I found myself in the living room of our suite at the "Princess Isabella". A very irate Daphne Greengrass pummelled my chest with her fists.

'You idiot! You fucking brave Gryffindor! What the hell were you thinking to take on six thugs at a time? Next time you get a Killing Curse thrown at you, MOVE!'

She was shaking like a leaf and tears poured down her face.

I had to admit, I also was shaken and my knees felt like jelly. I put my arms around Daphne to steady myself. She gave me a last hard punch, then threw her arms around me and cried.

We both needed a couple of minutes to calm down while we clung to each other for dear life. Then Daphne pulled away and glared at me with bloodshot eyes.

'Thank you, Daphne. You saved my life out there,' I said. My voice was thick.

'Don't you forget it, Potter!' she hissed. Then her face became soft. 'Harry, what in Merlin's name happened to you? You practically froze!'

I hugged her a last time and then let her go. 'I have no idea. When that Killing Curse hurtled towards me ...' I broke off. The memory made me break out in cold sweat. After a pause I tried again. 'I was suddenly back in the forest, you know.'

Her eyes had never left my face. 'You mean, when you've gone to Voldemort during the Battle of Hogwarts?'

I nodded. Suddenly, I felt the urge to tell her everything. But not now. The Muggles waited for us to return to the bus. Maybe tonight... Aloud I said, 'We have to get back. The Muggles will have kittens if they discover that we managed to return to the ship without passing their security checks.'

'All right,' she gulped. 'Just a minute, it wouldn't do for the Muggles to see that I've bawled my eyes out. But we will talk about this, Harry!'

With that she disappeared in the bathroom and returned a minute later, her face immaculate.

Fifteen minutes later we sat in the bus that brought us back to the ship. We'd Apparated behind a row of rubbish containers and were the last to come back to the bus. That had of course led to a lot of teasing from the older couples who seemed to make up the majority of the passengers, that young people were never able to be on time. Still like on autopilot, we followed our group to lunch, though neither Daphne nor I managed to eat much, and took the first opportunity to excuse ourselves.

We were both emotionally exhausted when we were back in the suite and slumped down on the sofa.

Daphne reached for my hand. 'Do you want to talk, Harry?'

Oddly enough, I wanted. 'Yeah.' I took a deep breath. 'Tom Riddle, also known as Voldemort, was afraid to die. He took certain precautions to make sure to anchor his soul to this world. That's what I said during the interview I gave on the wireless after the battle. Everyone who was in the Great Hall before Voldemort fell, heard me telling that he made Horcruxes to prevent himself from dying.'

She nodded. 'I remember you used a strange word I've never heard before and that he seemed to become agitated, and then he threw the Killing Curse at you.' She shuddered and pressed my hand. 'I forgot all about it after I returned home.' Her voice faltered.

'Well, you had enough on your plate then,' I replied. 'I'm not so conceited to think you should have paid my words more attention. In fact, most people who were there didn't understand what I was talking about. Which was lucky, because Kingsley doesn't want to become Horcruxes public knowledge. In fact, there are only four people I told about this, Ron and Hermione, Kingsley and ... Ginny.'

If she noticed me hesitating before I said Ginny's name, she didn't recommend on it.

'A Horcrux is a soul container, an item prepared with dark magic to keep a part of the soul safe. You'd have to commit a murder first to split your soul into two halves.'

Daphne paled. 'That's horrible! And Voldemort made one of this?"

I shook my head. 'He made six, at least six that he knew of. He wanted to split his soul into seven pieces, because he considered seven to be the most powerful magical number.'

Her eyes went wide with horror and her face had a slightly green hue. 'Six Horcruxes? He must have been mad!'

'I don't know about Voldemort as a young man, but during the last year he was certainly unbalanced and had no control over his emotions,' I agreed. 'When he came to murder me on Halloween 1981, he'd already made five Horcruxes, and that had changed his appearance. He looked more like a snake than a human, even back then. Dumbledore theorised that with each time he made a Horcrux, he tore the remaining part of his soul into halves. This means that he had only about three percent of his original soul left when he came to kill me.'

Daphne gasped. 'I think I know where this is going to go,' she interrupted me. 'When he tried to kill you, something went wrong and the curse backfired at him. He couldn't die because of his Horcruxes, but his soul was already so unstable that it split again and ... and the tiny piece of his soul latched onto you. That's how you got your famous scar. Oh Harry!' Her face crumpled and she launched into me.

It took her some time to regain her composure. I was thankful for the reprieve. The last person I'd told that tidbit of information was Ginny. She certainly hadn't launched herself into me. Quite the contrary, she'd become rigid with horror and recoiled from me.

Daphne pulled away from me. She raised her hand and her fingertips touched the barely visible line on my forehead. 'He's dead, so you must have got rid of him. Your scar also looks different like it did during our school days. What ...' An expression of horror and comprehension appeared on her face. She gasped. Her fingertips still lingered on my scar. 'Oh no!' she breathed.

'I found out about that piece of Voldemort in my scar during the battle. The only way to get rid of it and make sure that Voldemort could be finished off this time, was to let him kill me. Either must die at the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other one survives the prophecy said. So I went to him. He and his minions were in the Forbidden Forest. I let him cast the Killing Curse on me. My last thought before the curse hit me was Ginny, the way her lips felt on mine and the way she used to look at me.' My voice sounded oddly detached, as if it didn't belong to me. 'The same Ginny who vomited when I told her that I'd had a piece of Voldemort inside of me and who couldn't bear to touch me ever after.'

I took a deep breath. 'When that thug started to scream at us, his voice reminded me of Voldemort's. Then he cast the Killing Curse at me, and I froze. I was suddenly back in the Forbidden Forest and it was Voldemort who cast the curse. This time I knew I was going to die, but there was no loving memory to make it easier. Ginny made pretty clear that she abhors me.'

My sight became blurry. I was vaguely aware that Daphne pulled my head onto her shoulder and rocked me gently. For the first time since I could remember, I cried.


I woke up to the grey light of dawn. My head lay on a soft cushion that moved up and down ever so slightly, and I was cuddled up to a warm body. Opening my eyes, the first thing I got was a prime row view of Daphne's breasts, which I currently used as a pillow. I felt how the heat rushed into my cheeks and I hastily sat up, thus waking Daphne.

Her eyes fluttered open. 'Good morning,' she smiled at me.

'Good morning,' I replied. I was sure I looked like a beacon with my flaming cheeks. I ran a hand through my hair. 'Look, Daphne, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to fall asleep on you.'

She laughed and sat up beside me. 'Don't worry about that, Harry. I'm just returning the favour. After all, I fell asleep on you twice!'

Still feeling extremely embarrassed, I put my arms around her and hugged her to me. 'Thank you, Daphne, for being there and listening.'

'That's what friends are for,' she replied and stood up and walked into the bathroom.

I couldn't put my finger on it, but somehow my relationship with her had changed since yesterday. I'd taken her in out of a sense of obligation and pity to a former classmate. Becoming fast friends with her was not on my agenda, and yet we did. I took care of her, because she had no one else in her life and obviously needed someone to be there for her. Hermione probably would blame it on my saving people thing. I didn't care, it had been the right thing to do.

Yesterday's events, however, had turned the tables. She'd saved my life, and then she'd been there to listen and to comfort me when I needed it. Not once through my story she'd judged me. That was a new experience for me. Ron had never been one to turn to. Seeing me bawl like an infant would have made him extremely uncomfortable. Hermione was definitely better and always willing to listen, but she'd never been able to respect my boundaries and made me more than once feel like a child in front of a teacher. Ginny – Ginny hadn't even come that far. She'd chickened out the first time I'd needed her.

I shook my head. What were the odds that Daphne Greengrass, of all people, would become the only one I felt comfortable talking to about the demons that haunted me? She listened, she asked questions, but she never prodded when she sensed that I didn't want to talk.

Daphne came out of the bathroom, and I got ready for the day.

The "Princess Isabella" was waiting in the roadstead for permission to enter the Gatun Locks, the beginning of our passage through the Panama Canal. I'd learned about this masterpiece of engineering in primary school and couldn't barely contain my excitement at the prospect to see it with my own eyes. So, I walked out onto the veranda as soon as I was ready for the day. The captain just announced over the loudspeaker system that the pilot who'd guide us through the canal had arrived on board. Minutes later, the "Princess Isabella" started to move again.

'Let's have breakfast here,' Daphne suggested with an amused smile. I didn't contradict. The veranda of our suite gave us a prime view we'd hardly find anywhere else on board.

We reached the Gatun Locks when we were having breakfast. Daphne snorted when I picked up my cup of tea and a buttered toast and went out on the veranda. However, she followed only seconds later, with her own cup of tea and toast in her hands.

Watching how the "Princess Isabella" was manoeuvred into the lock by locomotives was fascinating. We had to pass three chambers to be lifted up to the level of Lake Gatun. The ship traffic on that artificial lake reminded me somehow of the London rush hour. The suite came with a pair of binoculars, another of the many extras. Daphne and I took turns and scanned the jungle that lined the lake down to the shores for signs of wildlife. Daphne saw a family of monkeys, but they'd already disappeared behind the trees before she could give the binoculars back to me. It was I who saw the big alligator on the log of a dead tree in the water. The beast sat there, it's jaw open and showing off impressive rows of sharp teeth.

'Wow!' I exclaimed and handed the binocular to Daphne.

' Where is it? I can't find it,' she complained, holding the binoculars to her eyes.

I stepped behind her and reached with both hands around her shoulders and took the binoculars to guide her, and she leaned back into me.

'You make a very comfortable back-rest,' she giggled. 'Ah, there, go it! Thanks, Harry!'

'You're welcome,' I replied.

She handed the binoculars back to me, but stayed leaned against me. We kept trading the binoculars back and forth until it was time for lunch. After lunch, Daphne made herself comfortable on the sun island with her V.I.P.s – Very Important Papers, as I'd dubbed them – while I kept watching the passage. Every now and than she'd look up when I pointed out interesting sights to her, but I could tell by the way her eyes darted back to her papers that she was only doing it to humour me.

Finally, the "Princess Isabella" passed the Bridge of the Americas and sailed into the Pacific Ocean, and I left my post at the railing and joined Daphne on the sun island.

She looked at her wristwatch and exclaimed in amazement as she noticed the time. 'I'm going to take a shower,' she announced and gathered her papers. 'Tonight there's going to be a ball, which means formal dress in all restaurants and bars.'

I groaned and buried my face in the cushions of the sun island.


After that we had two lazy days at sea. Well, the first day wasn't that lazy for me. I'd neglected my financial advisors two days in a row and they were not happy with me. I spend the whole next morning making up to them by working diligently through their letters and answering them.

I'd also had a two days reprieve from the dance classes. Actually, I thought I'd put the torture behind me, since I now also knew how to dance the tango.

Alas, my hopes were smashed when Daphne dragged me off to the dance club after lunch once again.

'You still need to learn Latin dances,' she told me with a grin that was much too broad for my taste. In moments like this she couldn't deny that she was a Slytherin to the core. They all just loved to torment me.

'I promise you, Harry, this is much more fun as learning to waltz.'

As usual, she was right. Learning the cha-cha and the jive was much more fun than learning the slow waltz. For the first time I got an inkling why people thought dancing was fun.

My feet had a chance to recuperate the day after when we reached Huatulco. With our adventure in Cartagena fresh on our minds, neither Daphne nor I felt especially adventurous, so we took a catamaran cruise along the coast to the less frequented bays and spent the day swimming and lazing in the sun.


The next two days we again spent at sea. Daphne holed up with her papers on the sun island after our morning swim and breakfast. Mindful of the mood of my financial advisors, I took care to answer their mail before I joined her. I'd always been told that Goblins were mean little buggers, but my Muggle advisors certainly could give them a run for their money.

Free of any obligations for the rest of the day – oddly enough I didn't count the upcoming dance lesson as that – I joined Daphne on the sun island.

'Care to tell me what's got you so occupied during the last days?' I asked.

'Huh?' She startled. Obviously she'd been that immersed in her work that she hadn't noticed me settling down beside her, and I had to repeat my question.

'Oh, that,' she answered, and then smiled. 'You gave me the idea to a research project, Harry. I'm almost done and will definitely talk to you about it when I'm there. Now leave me alone, I've got work to do.' She made a shooing motion with her hand, while she gave me an impish grin.

Whatever it was she was working on, she wasn't going to tell me yet. Hermione had taught me better than to disturb a witch who was working on a project, so I took my leave, but not without gripping theatrically at my heart with my right hand and saying, 'You hurt me, Daphne.'

She laughed at that. 'Go for a workout at the gym or watch sports in the bar, Harry, or whatever males find interesting. I'll meet you at the buffet restaurant for lunch, all right?'

I grumbled, but gave in. While I walked down the hallway to the elevators, I felt somehow abandoned. For almost three weeks we'd spent every minute of the day together, and I'd not only got used to her company, but suddenly realised that I enjoyed it immensely and felt not right when she wasn't with me.