A Simple Act
Chapter Four - Stars
A massive thank you to Dorothea Greengrass for the massive help on this chapter!
"Not sure how I feel about these new quidditch rules," Ron grumbled and eyed the new rule sheet over his bacon and eggs.
The professional circuit had changed so that games were limited to an hour, while the snitch still awarded the same amount of points, but did not stop the game.
"I like them, means the match isn't all on the seeker." Harry forked down a piece of honey cured bacon and closed his eyes in delight as the sweet taste spread around his mouth.
"Valid point, you know, did the chasers and beaters really mean much in most matches over our time at Hogwarts? Save maybe third year?" Neville said, which earned him a nod from Harry.
"I guess so, either way I'm sure we will smash the Ravens today!" Ron let the paper fall to the table with a sigh and resumed eating. "Harry, mate, how do you survive on this little food, I'm ravenous."
That got him a snort from Harry and Neville.
"Breakfast is just to get you started, if you want to be lean you have to watch your intake. Abdominal muscles nearly everyone has naturally, but if you want to have them on show, well, you need to trim the fat," Harry said with a straight face.
"Ha! Harry is calling you fat, Ron!" Seamus hollered from down the table.
A smug grin appeared on Ron's face. "Still got a girl though, didn't I, mate," he called back.
Dean chuckled besides his Irish friend whilst a couple of the girls nearby rolled their eyes at their behaviour.
"Speaking of getting the girl," Harry said and turned to Neville. "When are you and Hannah going to sort it out?"
Neville blushed bright red and looked around wildly for a moment.
"Wha- What do you mean"
"Come off it, Nev, you bloody fought against an army of Death Eaters last year, don't try that timid shite with us now." Ron chuckled and ignored the glare the Longbottom heir shot him.
Ron had a point, however. Neville hadn't been the leader of the Hogwarts resistance for nothing, so he recovered soon from his embarrassment and grinned at Harry.
"You're one to talk! It's a bit rich that you're calling me out on girls when you and a certain blonde have been dancing about each other for weeks now."
"Ohhh, nice pass along. Better be that good on the pitch today, Nev!" Ron cackled with glee, while it was now Harry's turn to resemble a tomato..
"I have no idea what you mean," he said. Even in his own ears his voice sounded far too defensive.
"I mean the looks you both keep exchanging, the shy smiles, the blushing, oh, and don't forget how you both seem to be reaching out with your hands when you stand close." The grin on Neville's face was so broad that it almost split his face.
Harry cursed under his breath. Damn this newfound confidence of Neville's!
He sighed, ever since that moment in the library he couldn't get Daphne out of his mind. The way her skin felt under his hands, so soft and warm… Her shy smile that never failed to make his heart nearly jumping up out of his mouth, and even the simple act of holding her hand gently at the table had done things to him he'd never experienced with Ginny.
A snort from Ron brought him back to reality. He looked up into the knowing smile of his best friend.
"There you go again, thinking of your blue-eyed girl."
Heat shot into Harry's face. He looked around, had anyone heard Ron's last remark? No, his housemates were all occupied with their own affairs and paid them no heed. He let out a deep breath and glared at Ron.
"Will you knock it off! Everyone will be gossiping about it before we know it if you carry on!" He stabbed his fork into his bacon with more force than necessary..
Neville broke out into laughter. "I've got news for you, Harry, people already are!"
A jolt went through Harry, and he sat upright, his brows furrowed. He hadn't heard any gossip, and the student body was not the quietest when whispering about him.
Ron leaned forward. "Come on mate, you must've noticed. Lisa Turpin practically sat on your lap in potions the other day!" he whispered.
Harry rolled his eyes. "You're making a mountain out of a molehill. She stumbled, that's all."
"That's what she wanted you to believe." Ron snorted. "Hermione spoke to Susan Bones after Potions when Lisa had her little "accident", you know."
"And?" Harry raised an eyebrow.
"Apparently some people want to get Harry Potter's attention this year… Slaying dark lords and such does that for a person. And they are seeing the looks you are throwing Daphne. Seems that brings out the competitive streak in some of them."
"Still not seeing your point." Would he get away with feigning ignorance? Yes, he had noticed the glances some girls gave him, he wasn't blind. He wasn't dumb, either, he could imagine the reasons why those girls where interested in him. He'd already been targeted by girls in his sixth year, when he was merely the Chosen One. As The-Man-Who-Conquered he'd become even more attractive to that special set of fangirls. Too bad for them he wasn't interested at all.
He cast a surreptitious glance towards the Slytherin table where three heads were stuck together in an animated talk. His eyes lingered on the golden one, the only one that interested him these days.
As if she'd sensed his eyes on her, she looked up. A faint pink crept into her cheeks, and she gave him one of these sweet shy smiles that never failed to enchant him. Had she an idea what she did to him? The next moment she lowered her eyes and returned her attention to her conversation with Hermione and Tracey, and the Great Hall seemed a little darker and colder. Gods, he was such a sap.
"Well, you'd been ignoring her come hither eyes, as Hermione called them, all lesson. Maybe she thought she'd try the more forward approach?" Ron's voice reached him from far away.
"Turpin has a nice arse too, what was it like?" Seamus piped up from further down the table.
Harry ignored the other boys' comments, it was bad enough that the pretty brown-haired witch had "accidently" tripped and slipped on his lap, now his year mates were having a laugh about it.
"Wouldn't you like to know," Neville quipped.
"Wouldn't mind if she took a seat on me, no!" The Irishman laughed. "Not if the rumours are true, anyway, heard she's slept about a few times"
Harry grinded his teeth. There they went down the gutter again, slandering the name of a girl who'd done nothing but trying to catch the attention of the guy she was interested in. Weren't girls allowed to make a move? They probably felt the same urges as blokes, yet when a girl decided to act on them, she was a slut, easy to lay, but when a guy acted on them, he was a real man.
He raised his chin and stared down at the Irishman along his nose. "And you know that because…?"
Seamus faltered under his glare. "Eh… just rumours I heard."
Harry hardly suppressed a snort, he'd bet, his roommate was all talks and little, if not no action.
"And you've got nothing better to do than to spread them around? That's what they are, rumours, as are most of the stories about the girls in this school."
His roommates flinched at the audible anger in his voice. He cast a privacy spell, leant over and looked at Seamus past Neville with cold eyes.
"Contrary to popular belief, very few people actually have the broom closet encounters that are whispered about. Also, have you failed to notice that once that little rumour is put out the poor individual is normally hounded by the opposite sex for weeks for the same action, as they call it?" He'd become rather hot while he talked, and his voice increased in volume.
Neville went wide eyed and backed away, Dean paled and Seamus, to his credit, avoided his angry stare and looked down on the ground, rather red in the face.
When Harry's tirade came to an end, his fellow lion threw his hands up. "Look, I'm sorry, I was only joking."
Harry continued to stare at him for a long moment. The Irishman seemed genuinely contrite, so he relaxed somewhat and gave him a tight-lipped smile.
"That's fine to joke, hell we are human, and girls gossip just as we do, I'm sure, just don't judge someone by rumours you hear. Or go making them worse, you don't know the damage it causes"
Ron and Neville nodded in agreement, both remembering the damage that the years of gossiping had done to Harry.
"Well said," Dean said.
"Anyway, old seven and a half inches here still needs to catch that snitch!" Ron chuckled and looked at Harry with mirth.
"Oh, bloody hell!" Harry groaned and covered his face with the palms of his hands to the uproarious laughter from his roommates.
"Sounds like an interesting story behind that, Potter," came a feminine voice from behind him. The five lions stopped what they were doing and turned their heads to the source of the voice.
Standing behind Harry was none other than Lisa Turpin, dressed in the blue quidditch robes of the Ravenclaw team.
"It's a, uh... long… story, but I don't think it would make a thick book, you know." Seamus snickered.
"What would that make you? The quill that would go with it maybe?" Dean asked with wide, innocent eyes, and Harry brought his fist in front of his mouth to suppress the snort that escaped him. It didn't help at all that the Irishman glared at Dean, whose sides were shaking with laughter.
"Didn't know you were on the team," Ron said, while he hastily turned his broad grin into a polite face.
Heat shot into Harry's cheeks, Merlin give she hadn't overheard his friend's ribbing about the potions incident.
"Filling in for our seeker, I think his ego is still sore from getting beaten to the snitch in the last game." She chuckled.
"Ouch, and how do you feel about going up against the best seeker this school has ever seen?" Dean smirked.
Lisa's eyes drifted towards Harry.
He gulped, and the heat in his face intensified. She eyed him as if he were a scrumptious dessert. He didn't like the look at all.
"Oh, I don't know, I don't intend to lose. But I guess I'll have to follow Potter here rather closely, won't I? The view from the back isn't too bad." She winked at Harry, allowing her eyes to drift to his seated rear end and turned away.
Harry almost cringed as she confirmed his worst apprehensions about her intentions towards him. He resisted the urge to scoot further on the bench in an effort to hide his backside.
"I feel violated" he muttered.
Ron, Dean and Seamus wolf-whistled, whereas Neville merely patted Harry on the shoulder with a sympathetic smile. Of all his friends he could understand Harry's plight best, after all, Neville 'Snakeslayer' Longbottom had his own posse of fangirls hunting him.
Harry's eyes swerved to the Slytherin table. The three heads, brown, auburn and a particularly fetching blonde one, were still bent together in what seemed to be an intense discussion, so intense that the blonde girl this time didn't spare him a glance. What by Merlin's unmentionables was that interesting?
"Oh, wow, she really isn't being subtle at all, is she?" Hermione murmured as she watched Lisa approach the Gryffindor table. A worried look appeared on Daphne's fair, beautiful face and Hermione did her best not to smirk. If only Daphne knew how much Harry was talking about her in the common room after seeing her!
Tracey, however, scowled at the Ravenclaw. "Honestly, just drop your knickers for him Lisa, why don't you." Tracey hissed.
Hermione raised an eyebrow. "She could offer to give him the world, Harry isn't interested in Lisa anyway."
"Someone didn't get the message." Daphne giggled, her eyes bright with relief.
Hermione gave her a knowing side glance. Oh yes, she had it bad for her best friend. To be honest, Harry would benefit from having someone like Daphne, someone who would care for him as he deserved. She still couldn't think about Ginny without becoming angry, Harry had done everything to protect her and yet she threw it in his face in a childish temper.
Her thoughts wandered back to that night they had danced in the tent; it would've been so easy for them to have given into their grief, their need for comfort and closeness, and she wouldn't have fought it. She loved him like a brother, but back then she just wanted to be held by him. Harry, however, had withstood the temptation and the unmistakable signs she had given him. She'd be eternally grateful for Harry's nobility that night and all the nights that followed, their friendship wouldn't have been the same had they gone down that path.
"So, Hermione, why do you say Harry isn't into the raven harlot? Know some inside information you would like to share?" Tracey asked, her eyes alight and a small smirk gracing her lips.
Daphne leaned forward slightly to listen in, her eyes peaked with interest.
Tracey gave Hermione a not so discreet wink behind Daphne's back, and Hermione suppressed a snort. So much for Slytherin subtlety! Not that she blamed Tracey, Daphne as well as Harry both were unbelievable shy, even infuriatingly so, and both needed every nudge in the right direction they could get. No time like the present to deliver another one.
"He told me as much, he was rather embarrassed about the potions incident. I can't blame him, I mean, he isn't a piece of meat." She huffed. "Really, half the girls are missing the point of what Harry wants."
"Which is?" Tracey asked.
"He just wants to be loved, not for being The-Boy-Who-Lived or The-Man-Who-Conquered, and as sure as hell not for his wealth, either. He grew up without his parents, from the little he told us I'm sure his home life… wasn't good. The only family he knows are Ron and I. Pure and simple, he wants to be loved as just Harry, and he wants a place to call home, something we all want, and it's something I think he's been robbed of for most of his life," she replied quietly.
"What do you mean by that?" Daphne asked. The blonde's eyes had turned dark with genuine concern for Harry during Hermione's words.
"It's not my story to tell, it's Harry's, but I think we can all agree his time at school was not the easiest and the wizarding world wasn't kind to him for most of it." Hermione sighed, and her stomach knotted itself into a hard ball. Would Harry make good on his words and leave the magical world at the end of the school year? Not that she blamed him, hell, even she had a mind to leave, given how the wizarding world had treated Muggleborns. Yet things were changing, and so she'd put off her decision. For now at least.
"Potter and his secrets, eh? I do like a man with some mystery." The smirk on Tracey's face deepened and she cast a feral look towards the man in question.
Hermione raised her eyebrows at this. What was going on there? This wasn't the first time Tracey made a suggestive comment about Harry. Was she also interested in her best friend? Or was this Tracey's weird way of motivating Daphne to make a move? It better had, or the vivacious Slytherin would be in for a disappointment, not to mention the damage it would cause to her friendship with Daphne. Both she and Ron had subtly enquired into whether Harry had any interest in Tracey, well, in Ron's case not so subtle. Harry's answer had been clear, he'd said he viewed her as a friend and she was not really his type.
"Honestly Tracey, you're nearly as bad as Lisa," Daphne muttered. The side glance she cast her friend wasn't very friendly.
"Well, if someone would get a move on, like I said… You carry on and Corner is going to think he has a shot with you." Tracey glared at the blonde, who blushed and lowered her eyes.
"Michael Corner?" Hermione asked, a touch of concern forming, given he'd been the one who went after Ginny.
"Yeah, the guy is always staring, last I heard he was planning on asking Daph to the after match party," Tracey said in a bored tone.
"And you know my feelings well and clear on that Tracey," Daphne replied. Some heat crept in her face at these words, and she gave her friend a hard look..
"Well, carry on and Harry might get the wrong idea."
"This isn't the place to talk about this!"
"Oh come off it, Granger has to know you're sweet on her best friend, with the way you keep staring at him everyday," Tracey said.
Daphne blushed even deeper and glanced about to make sure no one had heard what Tracey said.
Hermione gave her a placating smile. "I cast a privacy charm when Michael got brought up, the last thing we need is him getting an even bigger ego."
Relief flooded Daphne's face.
"And if it helps, I already know you like Harry." Hermione struggled to keep in a chuckle when Daphne flinched a little and glared at Tracey. "No, don't blame Tracey, no one told me, it's just something I've observed over the last few weeks. The pair of you never stop looking at each other when you think the other isn't looking."
"I don't - Wait, does he - Oh, this wasn't meant to come out!" Daphne stuttered, her face a deep crimson by now.
"Why not? Aren't you sure about your feelings?" Hermione asked. Why would Daphne be so worried about someone finding out? They were seventeen, nearly eighteen now after all, why did she still behave like a young teen?
"She's hopelessly in love with him," Tracey stated very bluntly.
"Tracey!" Daphne shrieked, and her eyes flashed with a mixture of anger and embarrassment.
The brunette rolled her eyes in response.
Hermione put her hand on her wand pocket. Would there be hexes flying any moment? Tracey's confession on Daphne's behalf was a bit below the belt.
She cut in before the situation got worse. "How long?
Daphne shifted her angry stare from Tracey to face her, the blonde's beautiful face softened as she did so.
"Er, I've liked him since third year, but I think I began falling in love with him during sixth year." Again, the colour of her cheeks deepened, and she avoided Hermione's eyes.
Hermione suppressed the broad smile that threatened to creep on her face. It wouldn't do to embarrass the poor girl even more. At the same time everything inside of her went light and giddy. Was that - finally! - what she'd been hoping for her best friend ever since Ginny turned her back on him? A woman who'd love him for what he was, all his insecurities and dark secrets included, and wouldn't drop him when the going got tough?
"Wow, and do you want to be with him?" she asked..
"Of course! But I cannot tell if he feels the same." Daphne still didn't look at her.
The broad smile refused to be suppressed any longer and almost split Hermione's face in half. "I'm glad. My advice, just keep doing what you are doing… Only make it a little clearer to him. He might be the Saviour-of-the-Wizarding-World, but he's still a man, not a mind reader."
There was a commotion behind them as the Gryffindor team all stood up and made to exit the Great Hall; Hermione blew a kiss to Ron.
Daphne looked up, a hopeful light in her eyes as she sought out Harry.
Hermione held in a squeal when Harry caught the blonde's eye and a big grin spread across his face, right up until the moment he collided with a rather slow rising Neville. Both young men fell to the stone floor in a crumpled mess.
The Great Hall erupted with laughter while both Harry and Neville struggled to untangle themselves.
"Gods, Nev, sorry mate!" Harry said whilst trying to stand.
"No, my fault!"
"These bloody robes are a nightmare!" Harry growled, scrambled up and pulled Neville with him. When the stood, they looked at each other and burst into laughter, all the while the rest of the team howled with laughter near the doors.
Harry corkscrewed through the air and dodged a bulger that whistled past. It may have missed its intended target, but it had caused him to lose sight of the snitch. The game was in the lion's favour, with the ravens causing the lions difficulty in the air after the Gryffindor chasers came out to a lead fast. The score was ninety to forty and forty-two minutes had gone by, the Gryffindor supporters were by far the loudest in the stands as the crimson garbed chasers weaved in and out of the blue.
Harry had spotted the snitch fairly early into the contest, however, they had clearly increased the speed of the little pest, for it put his Firebolt through its paces. To make matters worse it seemed to sense his movements and would dart away at the last moment, as always in the way he least expected, but that added to the thrill of the chase. Less thrilling, however, was a certain Ravenclaw seeker tailing him very closely. Lisa's broom was not able to keep pace with his, but her lighter frame meant she was more easily able to adjust to sudden changes in direction from the snitch. Still, she never seemed to press the advantage and hovered nearby instead. Was she hoping for her team to score a couple of more goals before she went for the snitch to give them an advantage in the race for the cup? Good luck with that, the Gryffindor chasers were still better and would leave the ravens in the dust. Or was she just trying to make him uneasy? He suppressed a snort, good luck with that, too. Others had tried before, Cho came to mind, but he'd not once let himself get distracted from the task at hand.
"Dean Thomas scores another for Gryffindor!" the announcer called into his musings.
Harry cheered for his teammate and gave himself an inner shove. No matter how annoying Lisa's tactic was, he'd better do his job, or she'd be successful in the end, and that just wouldn't do.
He scanned the pitch for that familiar glimmer of gold. No luck; he huffed and pulled his broom into a sharp turn that had Lisa shot past him for at least ten yards. He grinned and tried again from another angle.
There it was, at last, lingering near the Gryffindor supporters. Without a moment's pause he pushed forward. The wind battered his face, and the familiar tug of the excitement of the hunt made his heartbeat speed up.
"Potter has seen the snitch!" cried the announcer.
Damn the idiot, now Lisa would be all over him.
There was a fluttering of blue robes in the corner of his eye. Shit, he didn't favour their chances if Lisa caught the snitch, the lions lead by only fifty points, and the ravens were now focusing on their defence and preventing his team from scoring. On top of that the ravens had quite an effective pair of beaters. As on cue, the telltale buzzing sound of a bludger aimed at him forced him to make a sudden dip to the side. The bludger whizzed past where his head had been only a split-second before. He clenched his jaw in a grim smile; no, make that a brutal pair of beaters. This was the second time he'd nearly been struck by them and almost sent to the infirmary, if not worse.
The snitch caught onto the two seekers on its tail and shot straight up into the air. Harry was expecting this and pulled up to an almost vertical ascent. The cheering of his house spurned him on as he hurtled after the little gold object, which seemed to be aiming for the heavens. That's the one thing wizards had seemingly not accounted for with open air flying: lack of oxygen. How high up could he follow the snitch until his lungs gave out? The snitch kept its upwards assent, seemingly testing the seekers resolve. Up they went, high and higher, until the snitch finally decided on a path parallel to the ground.
Harry chanced a glance back to the stadium. It had become a tiny speck in a landscape of grey rocks and green pastures, the spectators in the stands not discernible anymore, next to a slightly larger brown blob: the castle. How far up were they? Thousand feet? No, it had to be more, at least three-thousand feet. His breath came in short, hard gasps. Was that due to the strain the fast, steep ascent had put on his body, or was it already the lack of oxygen?
It didn't matter, he almost had the damned thing. About time, too; Lisa was about to catch up with him. He stretched out his hand. Just a couple of inches more… three… two...
The snitched jerked, then dove to the ground like a hawk plunging down on its prey.
With a growl of annoyance Harry pointed the handle of his broom into a vertical dive down. Hah, try to match that, Turpin! His stomach leapt upwards, as if in a fast descending elevator, and his eyes on the snitch, he barely registered the ground rapidly coming into view. He was going to catch this bugger, even if it killed him.
Was Lisa still right behind him? He didn't dare to turn his head, he had to focus on not losing control of the broom, not to mention he wouldn't let escape that damned snitch. He strained his ears, there was still the telltale flapping of robes above the rushing of the wind in his ears. The closer he got to the ground, the rushing of the wind was overlaid by a roar that became louder by the second.
He was maybe thirty feet from the ground now and the snitch still hadn't pulled from its dive. Was that damned thing trying to run him into the ground?
In the last possible moment it arched and skimmed the grass covered pitch. The carpet of green raced towards him, the roar of the crowds became deafening, he pulled the handle of his broom up and kicked with his legs to level out from his dive.
The momentum nearly sent him crashing into the grass, he fought against the centrifugal force and clenched his teeth as his muscles screamed in protest.
The crowds still roared with excitement. He blended them out, all that mattered to him was the tiny golden ball that still zoomed ahead, close to the ground, mere inches away. He stretched alongside his broom, yet his knees skimmed the ground. Thank Merlin for their heavy padding, or Madam Pomfrey would have his head. He reached out with his hand, the snitch was mere inches away…
A cannonball hit him in the right side, a sharp pain raced through his body. His sight blackened at the edges, he swayed on his broom and had trouble breathing. That damned bludger seemed to have splintered at least two ribs.
"Oh, now, that has to be a foul!" called the commentator.
Harry let out a grim snort, that guy was such a bright spark. He concentrated on the snitch again, the damned thing seemed to be tired from its crazy flight - at last! - and hadn't made much headway while he fought to stay on his broom. He still could make it…
He reached out with his right hand; a blinding pain seared through his right side, and his eyes watered. He changed the grip on his hands on the broom handle, reached out with his left arm, the cool metal of the snitch against his finger tips. With a grunt of pain he closed his hand around the offending object.
"Potter has caught the snitch, and with only five minutes to go! Gryffindor leads two-hundred-and-forty to fifty!"
Harry brought his broom to a slow pace and eased to the ground, relief flooded him and he took a deep breath. Again, pain seared through his body, and he gritted his teeth. Ouch, this had been a mistake.
From his spot on the ground he watched the few remaining minutes of the game. The Ravenclaw team's spirits were broken, it was visible in the way they hunched on their brooms, and that one of their chasers managed one last goal before the whistle with an hail-Mary-pass didn't change the outcome. Gryffindor had won, and the warmth of victory spread in his chest.
The Ravenclaw team moved over to Lisa who had hovered over the house supporters.
He sat on the grass, the bugger of a snitch held firmly in his hand, too much in pain to move, when Ron swooped down and hopped off his broom.
"Bloody hell, mate, you trying to give me a heart attack? And where's that bloody beater, I'm going to batter the git!" Ron grumbled as he reached him.
"I caught it, didn't I?" Harry laughed and then winced as his ribs and lungs burned in protest.
"Harry James Potter!" a familiar voice shouted.
Both boys winced.
"Sorry, mate" Ron said sheepishly as a very irate Hermione appeared beside him.
"What the hell was that little stunt? And where is that beater, you wait till I get my hands on him," she ranted.
Harry and Ron exchanged a smirk at her echoing of Ron's statement.
"It was the snitch! And he is over there, not with us. Who was it?" Harry said.
"I think it was Michael, mate, not sure." Ron glared at the team on the other side of the stadium.
"Mr Potter! Hospital wing, now!" Headmistress McGonagall's shrill voice shouted over the hubbub in the stadium.
Harry opened his mouth to argue, however, the firm glare from his former head of house silenced him.
"It's either get examined behind a screen in private, Mr Potter, or in the middle of the pitch, your choice. Now, where is that beater? Madam Hooch!" She marched off to the Ravenclaw team, her angry expression didn't bode well for the Ravenclaw beater.
"Come on, mate." Ron still chuckled about McGonagall's wrath as he and Hermione helped ease Harry up from the ground. "Let's get you booked in, by now why don't they just rename it the Potter wing?" Ron said, and exchanged a look of concern with Hermione when Harry let out a cry of pain.
"Harry?" Hermione asked, her eyes wide with worry.
"It's nothing, I think a rib or two might be broken, just easy on the way up, yeah?" He winced when he straightened and another sharp pain stabbed his side .
"You could've had a punctured lung, you idiot!" Hermione hissed.
"Come on, love, it's not his fault the beater sent it right at him." Ron jumped in, but shut his mouth with and audible snap when his girlfriend whirled around and glared at him.
"It's dangerous Ronald!" she snapped. The next second her voice was all solicitude. "Come on Harry, let's get you to the wing, I think Ron has a point, they need to rename it now."
"Oh great, just another thing the attention seeking Harry Potter would demand from the world." Harry sniggered.
"I mean, it would be a small thing to claim. I mean, what have you had from your fame over the years? Though, personal the harem of Veelas was my favourite so far." Ron laughed, albeit he had grown more serious since his slight dressing down by Hermione.
"Don't! Did you see the way Gabrielle looked at me for a week after she read that?" Harry groaned, which earned him hearty chuckles from his two friends. His insides grew warm. How blessed he was with friends like them!
He tightened his arms around his two friends as they held him steady and walked back to the castle.
"You know, you nearly scared poor Daphne half to death on that dive," Hermione said in a casual tone.
Harry looked at her, his face warmed at that faint pulse in his gut, caused by the mentioning of Daphne's name. What was Hermione up to? Her tone had been just a tad off to be casual, she had tried too much.
His stomach gave a nervous jerk. The last thing he wanted was scaring Daphne, she'd been through too much lately. "I'm sorry."
"When are you going to tell us you like her, then?" Hermione still was much too casual.
His heart skipped a beat. How did she know? Heat shot in his face.
"What?" Harry all but shouted, and ignored Ron's chuckling.
"Oh, come on, ever since the first day of term you've looked out for her in the great hall or lessons. Do you think we are blind? She's got it as bad as you, you both always look at each other first when we all meet up," she replied.
Ron nodded."That and your face when you know we are meeting up with her and Tracey, mate, I've never seen you so happy." There was no trace of teasing in Ron's voice.
"I... I haven't really thought about it. I mean, sure, we are friendly and I enjoy seeing her, like a lot" Who was he fooling here? He was attracted to Daphne, and when he found out she was single he'd been giddy with relief. Each day he did look forward to seeing her. Oh yeah, he liked her and fancied her quite a bit. However, would she find him good enough once she got to know him better?
"But?" Ron asked.
"Well, its awkward, but Ginny didn't exactly think I was worth waiting for, and Daphne is a good looking girl, guys are always looking at her and quite a few are even making a move on her. Outside of my fame, what do I have to give that others don't?" he asked, and his shoulders sagged.
"Well, you're kind for one" Hermione said.
"Brave and loyal" said Ron.
"Smart and generous" she added.
"Got a great body and a good sized –"
"Ronald!" Hermione jerked her head around to her boyfriend, her cheeks tinted pink.
"Oh right, it's fine for you lot to say that, but the minute I do it's weird?" Ron protested.
Harry suppressed a grin. "Last time I use the locker room showers," he muttered.
"Do I need to be worried, Ron?" Hermione giggled, and now it was her boyfriend's turn to flush red.
"Are you saying I'm not good enough for Harry if I were gay?" Ron tried to sound affronted, but the grin on his face gave him away.
"Oh god, will you both get me to the hospital wing before this gets out of hand?" Harry groaned, followed by the laughter of his two best friends.
Hermione floated the last of the balloons to suspend midair in the room of requirement, and placed her hands on her hips, happy with her work. They were throwing a post match celebration, however extending it to the rest of the houses in spirit of interhouse relations.
"I know we won, love, but red and gold balloons everywhere?" Ron asked from the doorway.,
His girlfriend spun around on the spot with a large grin. "There is nothing wrong with a little house pride, is there?" she asked.
Ron chuckled whilst leaning against the door frame, and let his eyes roam the room. His lips were still curved in a smile, but eventually the laughter left his eyes.
Hermione's stomach dropped. "Ron, what's wrong?" she asked, her concern for her boyfriend evident in her voice.
"I miss Fred, you know," he said. Although he tried to sound casual, the quiver in his voice was obvious.
Hermione was next to him in a moment and embraced him.
Ron relaxed into her arms and looked at her with shining eyes. "I just see everyone getting along, and finally there is no hate, you know. He and George never really bought into the house rivalry, sure, they pranked the snakes more than anyone else, but mainly just Malfoy, Nott and them lot." He paused and stared at the door.
"He died just outside of this room." He gestured to the hallway in front of the room. "He died fighting for something he would never get to see. Percy told me that when… it happened, he and Fred had come across a few death eaters who had been chasing a group of young Slytherins who panicked when Flitch tried to take them to the dungeons." Ron paused again for a moment, he gulped, and he balled his hands into fists and opened them again in an attempt to keep his emotions in check. "Fred and Percy gathered the children behind them and defended them against the death eaters, one of the death eaters got struck down by Percy, but… the spell the death eater cast still left his wand and raced towards the kids. Fred… just stepped between it and the kids." His voice choked, and he averted his face.
Hermione held him close, this was news to her, the Weasleys did not talk about Fred's death. Both she and Harry had wondered what had caused Ron to do a sudden u-turn on his hatred of Slytherin but now she had a rough idea.
"Is that why you have had no issue with Daphne and Tracey?" she asked in a quiet voice.
He gave a small nod in reply. "Fred didn't think about what house those kids were in, he put himself in harm's way because they needed help. How could I go on hating a person purely by their house when my brother died protecting them?" He turned his head to look at her. His eyes were dry, yet still shining, and dark from the memory that haunted him.
Hermione straightened herself. "We can skip this if you don't feel like celebrating. Get some hot chocolate, a bit of cake and sit by the fire, just the two of us."
He smiled, but shook his head. "Another time, we have all the time in the world now."
She gave the red and gold balloons a contemplative look and turned back to Ron. A small smile appeared on her face. "I think I know what Fred would've liked," she whispered.
Ron raised his eyebrows in a silent question.
She broke off their embrace, pulled out her wand, and waved it at the balloons in a complicated pattern.
The balloons swayed in the air, their solid colours gave way to blotches of green, silver, blue, bronze, yellow and black. The blotches morphed, turned into tiny rivulets, and then red and gold, green and silver, blue and bronze, and black and yellow spiralled around each one, the colours of each house twisted together.
Ron stared at the balloons, a huge smile on his face. "I think he would have liked that." His smile became broader. "Though, he probably would've thought them rather plain. Can you make fire shooting from them, love?"
"Hermione is going to have my hide for being late." Harry groaned as both he and Hannah made it to the top of the last set of steps and onto the seventh floor. Poppy had kept him far longer than he deemed necessary, not that he was going to tell her that, of course.
Hannah chuckled. She had been coming by the medical wing on the way to the party just as Harry had all but ran out following a telling off from the stern matron.
"Well, if you stopped getting hurt, Potter, you wouldn't have been late, for everything."
Harry glared at her, but couldn't help the grin that broke through..
"What did she say it was? You were in there all afternoon?"
"Two broken ribs and some splinters had hit my lung. Didn't pierce it, mind you, just needed a few healing spells and an observation period," he replied casually.
Hannah rolled her eyes. "Honestly? Only you, Harry, will say that's nothing. Anyone else would have stayed in the infirmary overnight. Anyway, why are we rushing? You've never cared for being on time!"
"It's not me rushing, it's you walking in a snail's pace. You sure you aren't just avoiding Nev? I mean, why else would you walk so slow." He wriggled his eyebrows at her and had to take a leap backwards when she took a swipe at him.
"I am not avoiding him," she hissed.
Harry smirked and raised an eyebrow. "Really? What was that in the library yesterday? You all but dove into the isles between the bookshelves when you saw Neville speaking to Madam Prince."
"Look it's nothing!" the tall blonde haired girl replied, throwing her arms into the air.
Again Harry just raised an eyebrow.
The Hufflepuff sighed. "Fine!" she paused, folded her arms and opened her mouth. Yet nothing came out.
"Well?" he pressed.
She murmured something barely indistinguishable.
"You are going to have to speak up, Hannah."
"I kissed Neville, alright!" she whispered, cast her eyes to the ground and turned bright red.
Harry's jaw slackened, why had Nev been keeping this a secret? Hannah was a kind and beautiful girl, nothing to be ashamed of and hide in a cupboard.
"Like an hour before we saw him in the library," she muttered.
His eyebrows went up. Why the hell did she dive into the stacks then?
"Well, when I say I kissed him, I basically mauled him when we were talking about our herbology essay. Needless to say he was not expecting it, I have no idea what came over me, Harry!" She grabbed his arms and shook him.
Harry broke out into laughter."Well, I guess that explains the dive, what happened after you… what was it? Mauled him?"
Hannah glared at him. "I don't know, I ran off"
"Aah..! Well, there is only one thing for it, then" Harry said, took her arm and propelled her forward to their destination.
"You go find Neville and talk it out… Or snog it out"
"Ouch!" Harry yelped and rubbed his backside. "Hannah, touching another man's bottom, what would Nev think!" he cried in mock horror.
"Carry on, Harry and that seven and a half of yours will be a two in a flash!" she said with a flushed face and flaring nostrils.
Harry's face dropped, how in blazing hell did she know about that?
"Right, has Hermione been talking, I am so going to have words with her later about privacy!"
This time it was Hannah's turn to laugh. "Nah, Lisa overheard this morning and told us as the girls were getting ready." She chuckled and gave him a seductive smile.
Harry's inside went cold. What was she up to now?
"Say, if things go south with Neville… Maybe we could also go south together?" she whispered and bit her bottom lip.
Harry's eyes goggled, and he recoiled.
Hannah burst out laughing. "Oh gods, that was fun! Harry, you're great and I won't lie you're fit, but I like Neville"
Harry blew a sigh of relief and chuckled along.
"Lisa however did say she would love to give you a -"
"Not another word!" he muttered and pulled her along the corridor. "We are late as it is, come on!"
Hannah looked at her watch and nodded, and the pair of them continued on their way to the room of requirement quietly.
Hannah was clearly mulling over her next move with Neville, whilst Harry's mind was occupied by one Daphne Greengrass. The whole time he'd sat in that damned hospital bed he'd been thinking of her and wanted nothing more than to just see her, talk to her and more and more recently kiss her. He suppressed a groan, he was head over heels and fancied the hell out of her, and judging by what Hermione had hinted she might feel the same way. How did he tell her, though?
He was bought out from his musings when they reached the doors to the room of requirement. They both stopped, looked at each other with a small nod and pulled open the doors.
Loud music blared into their faces, and a cacophony of cheers greeted them.
Harry blinked. Were that flaming coloured balloons?
Hermione skipped over to him with a bottle in hand. "Harry! You're late! Hi Hannah!" she chimed and pulled him into the room, leaving Hannah to go off and find Susan and company. "Ron, Harry is here!"
The redhead smiled, came over, and pulled him into a one armed hug. "How's the ribs, mate?"
"Tender, but otherwise good, how is the party going?" Harry said and took the glass with an orange liquid Hermione shoved into his hand. He was thirsty, so he took a gulp. Liquid fire seemed to burn down his throat, and he coughed. "Merlin, Hermione, what did you put into that drink?"
"Orange juice and dry gin, it's wonderful!" She giggled.
Well, that was debatable, but considering Hermione's behaviour it was probably better to drop that matter. "Is she drunk?" Harry whispered to Ron, who merely shrugged and laughed as Hermione darted onto the makeshift dance floor and started dancing solo. "Oh, I am so going to rub this in tomorrow morning!" Harry laughed, Ron joining him.
"Mate, I think your fair lady needs rescuing." Ron gestured towards a corner across the dance floor.
Harry looked to where his friend was pointing, and his stomach dropped.
Michael Corner stood with Daphne and Tracey, his eyes firmly on the former with a gleam he didn't like at all. What was he supposed to do? The small boy in the cupboard told him to leave it, he was not worthy of Daphne, but the grown up Harry part was screaming at him to do something.
Well, he was a Gryffindor, and head boy and the son of James Potter, wasn't he? That, and Sirius would kick his backside if he knew he just stood back like a meek child.
He pushed his glass into Ron's hand. "I'll be right back," he said, and raised his chin in determination.
"Go onward, my noble knight, rescue the fair maiden!" Ron gave him a small salute.
He shook his head, seemed Ron also had one too many of the orange poison.
He passed through the crowd of people, the whole of sixth and seventh year must have been in attendance of the party, there were even some fifth years mingling.
As he approached the trio, Corner's overly self-confident voice reached his ears.
"I must say, Daphne, you're looking beautiful tonight, has anyone ever told you that?"
His cocky grin had Harry ball his fists.
"Going to take me up on my offer of a date to Hogsmeade next weekend?" Corner's tone indicated he didn't expect a rejection.
"I have other plans…" she replied with wide eyes, and she retreated a step from the git. It was obvious she had no idea how to deal with him.
Tracey was glaring at the boy.
What did Ron say about the knight in shining armour? Seemed the time had come now. However, would he have the guts to pull it off? His stomach gave an uncomfortable leap, and his heartbeat sped up.
His eyes met Daphne's. The unmistakable relief in them when she saw him did nothing to quieten down his stomach. This time, however, a swarm of butterflies had taken residence there. He squared his shoulders.
"Sorry to cut in, but I believe this is my dance." He held his hand out to Daphne.
Her eyes brightened, and his heart gave another delighted jolt, though he could've done without the hungry look from Tracey.
"It's rather rude to interrupt!" Michael said over his shoulder. He turned around, and when he recognised Harry, a smirk crossed his face and he puffed out his chest. "How's the ribs after that cracker in the game?"
What a git! Well, two could play that game. "Splendid, although not half as good as winning," Harry replied and allowed his smugness about their win to colour his voice.
Tracey snorted, and the corner of Daphne's mouth twitched.
Had she an idea how cute she looked? The butterflies in his stomach swarmed out for another round. "Now, as much as I'd like to chat, Corner, I owe Daphne here a dance." He gave her a small bow, his hand still held out to her.
"I'd love to!" Daphne said, and put her hand in his. The butterflies in his stomach went haywire.
As Harry led Daphne onto the dancefloor, she breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you so much for getting me out of that one! Tracey was enjoying herself far too much!"
"Anytime, we don't have to dance if…"
"No, I want to." She cut him off and blushed. "I mean, we have to, right? Otherwise he might get the wrong idea."
It took him a moment to get her hint.
"Sound reasoning, we couldn't have that, could we?" he replied.
She smiled and shook her head. "No, that wouldn't do."
He laughed, they had yet to start dancing, and they both appeared too nervous to make the first move.
From the corner of his eyes Harry caught Hermione approach the wireless. When she sensed his gaze on her, she gave him a broad grin and an exaggerated wink. To what was she up to?
She fiddled with the dials, moments later the soft, slow rhythm of Leann Rimes' song 'How Do I Live' drifted through the room of requirement. As if on cue, people paired up and moved together.
"I don't know this, it's definitely not wizard music," Daphne said. A faint blush appeared on her cheeks as she watched the couples on the dance floor snuggling so close together that a sheet of parchment wouldn't fit between them, and swaying to the music.
"It's by a muggle singer and Hermione's favourite. She heard it in a pub over the summer and never stopped playing it since." He looked across the dancefloor towards his best friend, his eyebrows creased in a slight frown. What's the point of that? Was that her not-so-subtle-way to push him and Daphne together?
Across the room Hermione made a motion as if pulling someone to her chest and then swayed her hips to the music.
He suppressed the urge to roll his eyes at his best friend. Real subtle, Granger. He chanced a glance at the girl beside him. Had she noticed Hermione's bold meddling?
"It's delightful, wizarding music is so… bland," Daphne said and looked him straight in the eyes, while the blush on her cheeks seemed to deepen.
His breath hitched. Was there an invitation in these beautiful blue orbs?
She averted her eyes, then looked again.
The glare he got from Corner from the edge of the room gave his inner Gryffindor the final push.
"May I?" he said and stepped closer, careful not to seem too forward or make her feel uncomfortable.
She looked up at him, a strange little smile around her lips, and gave a slight nod of her head, her cheeks now a deep pink. Gods, was she beautiful!
His heart beat a drum roll as he gathered his courage and placed his hands on her waist, high enough so not to risk brushing the top of her backside and low enough that he did not risk go anywhere near her chest. Delight fired through him at the feel of her slender form beneath his hands.
She looked up at him again, there was a shift in her blue eyes, as if a small fire had been lit there, and his heart beat so loud she had to hear it.
Ever so slowly Daphne placed her hands on his forearms. Was she going to push him away?
The next second her hands slid up his biceps, over his shoulders, and settled near his neck. It took everything within him not to shiver with delight, everywhere her hands went it felt warm and pure. They hadn't broken eye contact yet, his face burned and her pink blush had darkened, yet there was something in the depth of her eyes that assured him he was doing just right, and encouraged him to continue.
Harry relaxed, he allowed his body to react with the music, and they joined the rest of the dancers in a slow swaying movement. It was rather intimate, and now Daphne seemed to move even closer to him, or had he moved his hands a little further around her back, just because this was so good?.
He glanced down at her. Was she uncomfortable, or worse, offended by his boldness? At the same moment she looked up to him, and their eyes met.
"You played well today," Daphne said in a soft voice. .
He had been told that all day, but that compliment coming from her made his chest burn with pride. "Thank you, the team did well."
Her fingers locked behind his neck, and the bare skin of her slender arms that touched his sent the butterflies in his stomach into overdrive. "I didn't say the team though, did I Harry?" she said with a small laugh.
"Just trying to stay humble." He chuckled.
"Never change that, it's one of your most endearing traits." The colour of her face deepened, yet she didn't avert her gaze.
Merlin, she really meant it. His hands slipped even further around her waist as if on their own accord.
"How are your ribs, now that the measuring contest is over?" she asked in an obvious attempt to cover her embarrassment.
"You caught that? They are tender, so no squeezing." He shot a grin at her; as if he'd complain if she wanted to squeeze him.
Her eyes darkened, and she bit her lip. "I was… worried when you nearly hit the ground, and then that damned bludger hit you…"
"I am touched by your concern, but there was no real danger. Besides that, it's Quidditch, injuries during a game are the norm." He gave her what he hoped was an encouraging smile to alleviate her concern, no matter how her obvious worries about him made his heart soar.
She grimaced. " I know, but I prefer you in one piece." She turned bright red at that admission and averted her eyes.
His breath hitched, that was more than just friendly concern. His heart seemed to get ready to jump out of his chest with giddiness. Yet, she was embarrassed about her boldness. He had to find a way to show her how much he appreciated her concern and assure her she didn't make a fool of herself. He tightened his grip around her just one tad, careful not to seem overbearing.
"Michael was right about one thing though." He paused, and she turned her eyes back to him. Gods, his stomach wouldn't stop flipping. "You are beautiful tonight, well more so that you normally are, I mean..." The words stumbled out of his mouth, and heat shot into his cheeks. Smooth, Potter, James Bond has nothing on you when you fluster like that! Where was the ground to swallow him up? He didn't dare look at Daphne.
"I… Thank you," she said in a breathless, small voice.
He chanced a glance at her.
She looked down, her face was almost buried in his chest, and her warm breath caressed his skin through the thin fabric of his t-shirt. Her body melted against his, the pulse point on her delicate neck throbbed and betrayed her quickened pulse.
He tried to withdraw a bit from her, if this carried on much longer, his body would betray him and make Daphne fully aware of how he felt right now.
"You're welcome." His voice sounded hoarse.
"No, I mean it, it sounds genuine coming from you, and not like some ploy to try and get me into bed." She gave him another gentle smile that made him almost lose his senses there and then.
How dared those pricks to make a move on her? Couldn't they see just how special she was? He took a deep breath, no, they probably hadn't it in them, after all, most teenage males tended to think with their dicks. Once again his cheeks became warm. Who was he fooling? It wasn't like the thought of sleeping with the wonderful girl in his arms hadn't entered his head. Yet, when… no, if he ever got the chance, it had to be special, for both of them, and not just a spur of the moment thing, caused by an excess of hormones.
"Well, I can't say I blame them for wanting you. Though I feel they are missing on many beautiful things about yourself." Gods, had he just talked aloud? How much gin did Hermione put into that drink?
Daphne's eyes dilated and glazed over, her gaze flicked to his lips, and her arms tightened around him as a slight breath exhaled from her lips.
"And what might those be?" Her voice sounded breathless.
He looked down on her upturned face. Had she an idea what she did to him? Every nerve in his body was on fire, his feelings were in overdrive, all he wanted to do was kiss those lips of hers until all sense and logic had abandoned him.
They had to get out of here, had to find a place to be alone and talk, where he could tell her how he felt about her...
"Do you trust me?"
"With my life." The conviction in her tone was undeniable.
Something tightened in his chest, and he clenched his teeth. How could she give him, a male, her trust so freely, given what she nearly endured not two months prior? He would not break that trust.
"Come with me." He let go of her waist and took her hand. He whisked a laughing Daphne Greengrass through the crowd of dancers and cared neither for their indignant protests and the looks of confusion on their faces, nor for Ron's wolf whistle.
Daphne's laughter was infectious, and they didn't stop laughing all the way to the Astronomy Tower. When they reached the top, they were both out of breath.
Daphne was first to get her breathing under control. "So, my trust in you brings me to the highest point in the castle? Do you intend to throw me off the edge?" she asked with a gentle smile as she walked around the spacious tower.
"Not at all. I hope you don't find this strange, but we haven't been able to spend much time alone together…" That sounded wrong. He kicked himself up the backside mentally and straightened. He was the son of James and Lily Potter, he would sort whatever there was between him and this wonderful girl out. "I mean, I wanted to just have time to talk… You know, away from all the noise and prying eyes."
She didn't look at him and froze, and his heart dropped into the deepest pit of his stomach. Had he misread everything?
She turned her head to face him, her cheeks flushed a petty pink, and gave him a long look.
That expression in her eyes… Was that hope? His stomach jolted, and his heart seemed to want to jump right out of his chest that moment.
"What would you like to talk about?" she asked. Her voice quivered slightly.
"Anything… everything…" Gods, he sounded like an idiot. He looked up at the night sky, dotted with a million stars like a sequin blanket above them. "What do the stars mean to you, Daphne?"
The fabric of Daphne's dress rustled, he caught a whiff of her enticing perfume, and the next moment her warmth permeated his side. Merlin, she had to stand right beside him. The hairs on his arms rose, and his heartbeat sounded like a drum in his ears.
"I will admit I've never given it much thought, what do they mean to you?"
"They mean a lot to me." He paused. Would he have the guts to tell her about his most intimate thoughts, thoughts even Ron and Hermione didn't know? Then again, if she was as special as he thought her to be she would understand and not judge him.
He took a deep breath. It was now or never. Still looking at the nightly sky, he said, "For eleven years all I would do at night was look up at the ceiling of the... windowless room I had in my aunt's house and feel so... empty, like no light existed in the darkness. Only when I came to Hogwarts, for the first time I got to see the night sky clearly, with the lack of light pollution, and I thought how beautiful it was." He looked down on her at last.
Her eyes, full of curiosity at what he meant, caught his and didn't let go.
It was like a surge of electricity rushed through him. Yes, he could tell her everything. He took another deep breath. His eyes never leaving hers, he said, "When I learned about my parents and this whole world I almost thought the stars magical in their own way, you know. I often find myself wondering if all those we've lost linger up there, watching over us."
"That's a very beautiful way of thinking, there is something pure in starlight," she whispered, and shivered.
"Are you cold? I could cast some warming charms."
"No, it's fine," she replied, yet she leaned closer to him, her bare arm brushed his covered one, and her face flushed.
He caught his breath. Ever so slowly he brought his arm up and put it around her shoulders, and allowed his body heat to warm her. Merlin, he was a jittery bundle of nerves right now.
"Better?" he whispered.
"Much," she whispered back.
Merlin, she was so beautiful, he couldn't keep his eyes off her. He pulled her closer. She didn't resist and melted into his body.
"Sometimes I wonder if my parents are looking down at me, mum maybe frowning when I hand in homework late, dad waving his hands wildly when I miss the snitch. I know I've done good things, I'm not going to say I haven't, I avenged my parents deaths and all those others who died needlessly. But I wonder if I make them proud outside of that?"
"A parent is always proud of their child in one way or another, Harry, but yours? Believe me, if they are looking down at you they are doing nothing but smiling at who you have become, who you have been. You have done so much for our world, even when we didn't deserve it, you even died for us." Her voice caught at the last words.
Another jolt went through him. How did she know? His almost-death at Voldemort's hand in the Forbidden Forest was one of magical Britain's best kept secrets. Minister Shacklebolt himself had obliviated all Death Eaters who were present in the clearing from that memory.
"What gives you that idea?"
Tears leaked from her eyes.
Oh gods, what had he done?
She snuggled closer. "It isn't hard to know Harry, we all saw your body and that... filth gloating about it. He wouldn't have gloated like that if he knew you weren't dead. I couldn't believe it when you were alive… The relief... I thought I'd never have a chance…" She clammed up right there, but didn't pull away.
"A chance?" he asked.
She looked up at him, her eyes still running with tears, and a look of determination on her facet he hadn't seen on her before.
"What do you think of me, Harry?"
His breath caught, and his stomach somersaulted. This was the tipping point, if he didn't take his chance now he never would be able to. From the corner of his eye he caught a twinkling star. Was that Sirius? He almost laughed out loud at the thought that his godfather was right now palming his face and shaking his head.
That did the trick. He leaned towards her and looked right in her hopeful eyes.
"I used to think the stars in the night sky were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Then I saw you for what I felt for the first time. You were always beautiful, but the house divides prevented me from seeing it. I got to know you, and gods, Daphne, I'd trade all those stars just for a moment to look at you. "
It was out there, the words would never return. His heart seemed to stop, the small child in the cupboard clung on like a dead weight as he waited for her response.
She turned in his arms to face him, and the light in her eyes almost blinded him.
"Do you know how many times I've dreamed you'd say something like that to me?"
His heartbeat was back, his body almost floated from the weight of unease being taken from him. A smile crept into his face, he pulled her closer and dipped his head. The final invitation was hers to make.
"And what do you think of me?"
Her eyes flickered to his slightly parted lips, she paused, then closed the remaining distance and pressed her lips against his in a brief, gentle kiss that had his knees buckle.
She inched back, as if to judge his response, her eyes full of unease all of a sudden.
He did not allow her to pull back farther, pulled her even closer against him and caught her lips with his own, all his self-restraint thrown to the wind.
Daphne let out an excited little murmur, slid her arms around his shoulders to anchor herself, and returned his kiss.
It was a slow, gentle kiss, he tasted the salt from her tears on her lips and tightened his embrace, for once at ease in the arms of someone who truly cared for him.
So I have decided to extend this by one additional chapter, one where were will get to see Harry & Daphne's relationship at school. I also have a one-shot in the works.
Let me know your thoughts!