Disclaimer: Harry Potter is property of JK Rowling. The Dresden Files are property of Jim Butcher. Original story concept and books 1 and 2 belong to Silently Watches. For the events of those books, see his story A Deal with a Devil available on at s/11188292/1/Deal-with-a-Devil
Chapter 22: Approved Premises
Sally-Anne wasn't sure what to expect from the upcoming summer. She would be living with Susan, her aunt, and their house elf at the family manor for the duration. She had managed to go the whole year without getting into any fights or arguments with anyone in a position of authority, even managing to avoid Professor Snape's ire somehow; with any luck, her clean record would lift the probationary statute on her removal from the List of Malcontents and she would be able to leave the house without an approved escort. With that happy thought, she reopened the book Tracey had lent her for the trip.
"I think I'm going to spend some time travelling," Harry said, apropos of nothing several hours later. "Clear my head."
"I was hoping you could stay with me for a few days?" Tracey offered, hesitantly. "My dad's a tosser, but he can't exactly say no to the hero who stopped Voldemort."
"I can probably manage that," He replied with a small smile, which turned thoughtful.
"Uh oh," Susan murmured. "He's thinking."
"D-don't be mean, Susie…" Sally-Anne giggled softly into her hand.
"Tracey… if I agreed to a contract with you… if we worded it right, so we could end it if at graduation we didn't 'get on sufficiently well'," He offered, slowly. An ugly feeling reared its head in Sally-Anne's heart. She pushed it away, unwilling to confront the implications of her jealousy.
"That would get dad off my back for a year at least," Tracey realised. Nobody missed the way she glanced at Sally-Anne though.
"I- I think it's a good idea…" Sally-Anne managed. "It- it's not like you're going to ac-actually get married…" She looked down, forcing herself to add; "Or- or even if you did…it wouldn't be the end of the world…"
"You'd have to be very careful," Susan noted quietly, watching the two girls. "But I will help you draw the contract up. I'm quite fluent in legal language. My aunt could check it over for me as well."
"Thanks, Bones," Tracey gave her a cautious smile. Outside the window the brick canyons of London started to flash by. Tracey closed her eyes for a moment, then stood up and turned to face Sally-Anne. "That aside… I've been trying to work out how to say this all term... "
"Tracey?" Sally-Anne asked, looking slightly confused. She didn't dare acknowledge the hope soaring in her chest. There was only one thing, surely, the more outgoing girl could segue to after that discussion. Sally-Anne didn't think she'd been subtle. She didn't know if she was capable of subtle any more. The only real question was whether the brunette was about to validate that hope, or crush them.
Tracey reached out and took her hands gently.
"Sally-Anne. Over the last year, you've become one of my closest friends and confidants," she said quietly. "Over the summer, would you like- that is- would you do me the honour of going out with me?"
"Like-like a-a-a da-date?" Sally-Anne asked, stammering worse than she had in months and blushing. There was no way.
"Not like a date, Sal," Tracey relaxed enough to quirk her usual grin. "An actual date. Maybe... to the cinema? And a nice meal?"
"W-won't people object?" Sally-Anne asked, nervously.
"Muggles might at the cinema," Susan said with a smile. "But if you have dinner in the Wizarding Quarter nobody will blink an eye. You could have a proper romantic date there."
"I-I'd like that, Tracey," Sally-Anne replied, looking back up at the brunette Slytherin. "But… we'd have to be chaperoned." She bit her lip. "And, w-won't it cause problems if y-you're getting engaged to Harry?"
"I think I'll survive." Tracey smiled.
"Congratulations," Harry murmured, relaxing back on the bench with a smile.
All too soon they were back in the platform. Susan and Sally-Anne got off first, checking in with the Patrolman who was there to pick them up and take them back to Susan's Aunt's estate. Sally-Anne had a noticeable bounce in her step.
Harry sighed, watching them go, and transferred his trunk to a trolley with a grunt of effort. Damn thing still weighed a ton even after all his exercise and enchanting the inside the same as his magic bag. He started heading towards the barrier with Tracey. "Where do you think we should try first? Maybe Glastonbury," he murmured, thoughtfully. "We could go together," he added for Tracey's benefit.
"It's worth a look, there are a lot of legends about the Tor," Lash agreed, thoughtfully. "Supposedly Avalon lies under it. There's also the barrows on the Ouse to consider…"
"How about the Isle of Ely? There has to be some kind of story there… I mean, it's never actually been an island, has it?" Tracey mused.
"Mr. Potter!" The squat witch in a pink cardigan who had apparently had something stuck in her throat snapped his name with an irritable tone as she was forced to follow them.
"Can I help you, madam?" Harry asked, turning to her curiously. Tracey paused to wait for him.
"Now that you are finally paying attention," the witch said in a high voice that was trying for girlish but managing grating, "I am here to escort you to your new, ministry-approved guardians, Mr. Potter."
"I'm sorry, madam, but you have me at a disadvantage." Harry frowned, slightly. "And I have made other arrangements, as you can see." He gestured to Tracey.
"Of course," She smiled, like she was speaking to a small child. "I am Senior Undersecretary Dolores Umbridge. The minister has asked me to ensure you arrive at your new home safely, given recent… tragic circumstances."
"What an unfortunate name," Lash commented. "It seems to suit her."
"I… see. I assume you can prove your identity, Madam Umbridge?" Harry asked.
"Of course." Umbridge looked irritated to be questioned, but she produced her identification parchment nonetheless, in a rather nice blue leather folio. Harry looked it over.
"It does seem to be legitimate," Lash admitted, regretfully. "We may as well see what foolish decision the government have made regarding you before beginning our research."
"Very well, madam Umbridge." Harry gave the parchments back, speaking with exaggerated courtesy. "I'll see you in a couple of days?" He asked Tracey.
"Guess so. You've got my address. Just write when you know where you're staying." Tracey nodded, hiding her disappointment poorly.
"We'll see," Umbridge said impatiently. She took Harry's wrist in a surprisingly firm grip and twisted them away in disapparition without further warning.
A/N: And so we come to the end of year three.
As I remarked in my last author's note, I'll now go on hiatus until I've finished writing (and, gods willing, Silently has edited) year four, in which Harry will have to deal with impostors, maniacs, dastardly plots and in-laws... as well as other dangerous figures from the dark and distant past.