Harry took a deep breath in, glanced down at his watch, then let out a contented sigh.
Ten minutes until his shift started. Nine minutes until Hermione's charm would go off. It was the earliest he'd arrived at the clinic since his disaster of a relationship with Ginny.
Harry shuddered as he recalled how she'd changed him during that time, making him more punctual, more reliable, more obedient.
Thank Merlin he'd got out of that mess when he did.
Today, he was arriving early for a very different reason: because he wanted to.
His holiday in Brazil with Hermione had done wonders to their relationship. It seemed like they'd been at each other's throats for years now—the only brief respite being their various rendezvous in Climax Conferences.
But on that magnificent patio in Brazil, drinking luscious orange juice, it had felt like they'd finally mended something that had been broken for so long.
The idea of forming a team of Minions, with the potential decrease in clinic hours, was, no doubt, a wonderful mood booster, as well.
With a smile on his face, Harry apparated into his office and held out a hand for his cup of coffee, looking forward to the day ahead.
He froze at the sound before turning and coming face to face with a seething Hermione Granger-Gibbons. Her hair was frizzier than usual, jaw set, arms crossed, vein throbbing in her temple.
"What did I do?" he said, genuinely confused.
"What did you do?" she repeated. "What did you do?!"
With a flourish of her wand, a pile of papers appeared in her hands that she immediately slapped onto his desk. "What the hell are these, Harry?"
Frowning, he leaned over to read the top one.
PIMMPLE Minion Application - CaptainHindsight
"Ah, wonderful," he said with a smile. "They're here."
Harry picked up the top application before looking at Hermione. "Is there a reason you're repeating yourself today?" he said, wondering if she'd been hit with a jinx.
He ran a quick body scan of her with his wand before placing the back of his hand on her forehead. "Not warm," he murmured.
Pushing his arm away, Hermione grabbed another application and proceeded to read a few questions aloud:
"'If you could invent a colour, what would it be?' 'Do you have a gay list? If so, please list it,'" Hermione said, her face turning redder as she continued. "'Explain a time where you felt bullied by Nauze'? Who even is Nauze!?"
"Ah, that's Brazilian Beta," Harry explained, leaning in to read over her shoulder. "But don't worry, he'd never bully you. Swiftie Stan would castrate him."
Hermione let out a small screech as she turned around to face him. "That's not the point!" she said. "These questions are completely unprofessional, Harry. And how the hell are they supposed to help you learn about these applicants? There isn't a single experience-related question on here at all."
"Well, that's not fair," Harry said, furrowing his eyebrows. "I asked what their previous job description was."
"In four words!" she said, her voice growing louder.
Pinching the bridge of her nose, Hermione took several deep breaths to calm herself. "I have to get to my patients. We'll discuss this later," she said, turning on her heel and stalking out of his office.
Harry watched her go and then glanced back down at the application.
Is No Body No Crime by Taylor Swift a song you bop to or sit, listen, and dissociate to?
That was a bloody good question, he didn't care what Hermione said.
Making his way toward the front, Harry was about to turn into the reception area when he heard it.
Click clack. Click clack. Click clack.
It could have been a number of things, of course. But Harry would be able to recognise the cadence of those high-heeled footsteps from a mile away.
As he reached the edge of the receptionist's coffee-less desk, he gave Tracey a nod and turned to the sole other occupant in the room.
As he watched her make her way over—three coffees deftly levitating in front of her—Harry couldn't help but admire her from the stilettos on up.
For as Brilliant as she was, Daphne was just as beautiful.
If not, more so.
Harry stretched out his arm to accept the cup as it floated into his awaiting hand. "Brilliant," he said, bringing it up to take his first sip.
While his tongue tasted the nectar from heaven, he heard Tracey mutter a 'Brilliant' of her own, no doubt having taken her first sip as well.
"If there was any way to get me to leave the clinic and come work for you," Harry said, raising his cup towards Daphne. "It'd be this."
With a roll of her eyes, Daphne walked over to them. "Hello to you, too," she said before turning to her best friend. "Tracey."
"Daph," she said, raising her eyebrow. "What are you doing here? Thought you were busy with that new big study of yours?"
Brushing her sleek blonde hair behind her shoulders, she turned to Harry. "I am," she said, a sultry smile appearing on her lips. "But the equipment I requisitioned for it is entirely...inadequate. I was hoping Harry would be a dear and let me borrow his."
Taking another sip of his Brilliant coffee, Harry leant back to rest against Tracey's desk. "New study, eh?" he said with interest. "Is this the highly anticipated follow-up to your famous work, The Importance of Intent?"
Daphne smiled. "No, no," she said, shaking her head. "After the Credits, there was simply nothing more to add onto it."
He nodded in agreement. "And while we're on the subject, can I just say...the Booksmart chapter had to be my absolute favourite," he said. "The way you wrote those words…"
"Ha!" Daphne said suddenly, turning to Tracey. "See? It's a good chapter. I know you'd like it if you just gave it a chance."
With a long-suffering sigh, Tracey raised her hands in a calming gesture. "Fine, fine. I'll get around to it, I promise. Look...I'll even pin it to my board," she said, scribbling the title on a post-it and pinning it to the bulletin board behind her desk.
Daphne scowled in response. "Wasted pin," she said before turning back to Harry. "Anyway...I was hoping you could spare some time this week to help with my...research."
Grinning, Harry crossed his arms and looked her up and down. "Oh, I'm always up for a little research if you are."
"Well, I've offered many, many times for you to come join me, but you just don't seem to want to leave this place," Daphne said, practically purring as she leant in closer.
With her finger in her mouth, Tracey made loud gagging noises. "You two can both find an exam room and get the hell away from me with your research," she said, glowering at them.
Harry ignored her as he considered Daphne's request. He thought back to his conversation with Hermione that morning. How he'd worked so hard trying to find Minions, only to be spat on and yelled at.
Despite his renewed feelings of goodwill and friendship since coming back from their holiday, he was quickly finding that he already needed some space away again. This seemed like a Brilliant opportunity for it.
And though, admittedly a bit immature, the fact that it was with Daphne made it all the better. Because if there was anything that bothered Hermione more than his own antics, it was Daphne Greengrass and her research.
"I'm in," Harry said, pushing himself off the desk. "What are we going to be researching?"
Daphne grinned in triumph. "The Impotence of Intent."
Harry opened one of the exam room doors and then stuck out his arm in a gentlemanly manner, gesturing for Daphne to enter before him.
With a flirtatious smile, she thanked him and walked inside.
Two Copper Grove Dark Grey Polyester Power Recliners appeared in the middle of the room with a wave of Harry's wand, and they both took a seat and kicked their leg rests up.
"So, tell me more about this research," he said, steepling his fingers. "Impotence, you said?"
"Indeed," Daphne said, summoning a thick file from her briefcase. "My plan is to conduct a three generation research study to determine the relationship between the variables of Intent and Impotence, with Intent serving as the regressor."
Harry rubbed his chin as he flipped through the file. "And your hypothesis?"
Sitting up straighter in her recliner, Daphne cleared her throat. "If the measured level of Intent during sexual intercourse increases, then it would follow that sexual Impotence decreases," she recited. "Intent, of course, being operationally defined as the concrete property extracted from multiple scans testing the emotional reactivity to one's magical signature."
With a small hum, Harry nodded in understanding. "And how did you choose the research participants?"
At this, Daphne pulled out a large poster board with a picture of what looked like an ill-begotten family tree. In fact, if you outlined it a little more and added an eyeball…
Harry turned his head and squinted.
It looked suspiciously like a whale.
Harry shook his head and focused as Daphne began her explanation.
"I've conducted several small-scale research studies on various members of this family. The wealth of issues among them is simply a researcher's dream," she explained, raising her eyebrows for emphasis. "This branch in particular will be helpful for our Impotence study. Each male member has a different baseline score of sexual Impotence which makes them the perfect set of variable groups."
Whipping out a retractable hand pointer, Daphne pulled it to its full length before smacking a spot on the poster. "Here we have Mr Definer and Mrs Genre, the grandparents. Petrificus Somewhatus and Sharon, the parents. And finally, Nauze and…" she said before pausing for a moment. "Well, I'm not sure who his partner is yet, but he's the son."
Surprised by this turn of events, Harry suddenly felt much more pleased about his involvement in the study. "Never forgot Brazilian Beta after the first meeting, did you?" he said, giving her a supremely serene smile.
He'd taken Daphne to Brazil with him years ago to celebrate completing their final Healing Exam together. They'd both met Brazilian Beta for the first time during that trip, and he must have left an impression on Daphne if she'd thought of him all these years later for her study.
The same was certainly true for Harry, if his repeated trips back to Brazil were anything to go by.
"Yes, well," Daphne said, pushing her pointer back in. "He was actually the one that approached me first. He represents the above average Impotence group. So, naturally he was a bit embarrassed to go to you about it, but, well...I helped assuage his concerns."
"To the point where he agreed to being involved in an entire research study?" Harry said, unable to keep the admiration out of his tone. "Brilliant...only you, Daphne...only you."
Daphne put on a modest look as she lowered her head and shrugged. "Well...they don't call me the cleverest witch of her age for nothing."
As though the words had set off some sort of alarm, a series of clipped knocks suddenly sounded at the door, causing Harry to jump.
He and Daphne stared at each other for a second, a challenging look in the woman's eyes.
"Go on," she said with a tiny smile. "Let's see what the boss wants."
The emphasis she placed on the word 'boss' was not lost on Harry. But he dismissed the thought for now and braced himself before getting up to open the door.
The sight that met him was not for the faint of heart.
He'd never seen the vein in Hermione's temple bulge like this. Her jaw was clenched tight, arms crossed firmly against her chest, nostrils flared, and face flushed a Weasley red.
"What is she doing here?" Hermione hissed, not caring at all to be discreet.
Harry felt his heart speed up in genuine fear as he glanced between them. He was currently standing in the crossfire of the two most skilled witches in all of Britain, in all the world, perhaps.
He was not about to die today.
Casually moving toward the wall, he cast a silent shield charm before turning to face them once more.
"Ah...Hermione," Daphne said with a sugary sweet smile. "So wonderful to see you, as always."
"Why are you here, Greengrass?" Hermione repeated.
Harry had to admire her ability to get straight to the point.
"If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times...I will never allow you to use my patients for your re...your re...your re…" she said before closing her eyes and shaking her head. "No, I can't do it…"
"For my research?" Daphne enunciated clearly, causing the other woman to collapse against the wall and put her hand to her throat. "Oh, my darling Hermione...as if I would ever need bad faith bargaining children with toys stuck up their noses or splinched monopod morons with two brain cells for my elite research studies. No, don't you worry...your patients are safe from me."
Hermione threw a glare in Harry's direction, but he held up his hands in defence. "Wasn't me."
"Oh, how very typical of you to blame poor Harry for everything," Daphne said, throwing a sympathetic pout in his direction. "He would never break confidentiality, Hermione, you should know that by now."
Pushing off the wall, Hermione pointed a finger as she stalked over to her. "I'll say this one more time, Fafne Greengrass," she said through clenched teeth. "Why...are...you...here?"
Daphne stared at her for a moment, a feral look in her eyes. "I don't want your patients, Hermi," she said before sauntering over to Harry and placing a delicate hand on his bicep. "I want your healer."
With a loud gasp, Hermione swung her head towards Harry, a look of betrayal on her face.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," he said, carefully detaching himself from Daphne's grasp. "The offer was to help you with your research. I never said I was going to be leaving the clinic."
"I can't believe this..." Hermione said, her voice filled with hurt. "Is now really the time to be doing little side projects with the Golden She-devil? We're in the middle of an expansion, Harry. We have applications to look through, interviews to conduct. I'm drowning here, and I need you now more than ever!"
Squeezing her eyes shut, she turned away from him and buried her face in her hands.
Harry opened his mouth to respond, then closed it, at a complete loss for words. He was about to reach out and comfort her when Daphne cut in.
"Oh, there, there, Mione," she said, shaking her head. "Let's do away with the theatrics for a moment, shall we?"
Her words were met with an angry snarl from Hermione, who turned back around to face her.
"How about a compromise? If I promise not to keep Harry away from the clinic for too long, will you please allow him to assist me with the study this week?" Daphne said, placing her hands together in a pleading gesture. "Just think of all the good we could accomplish. How many of your future patients we could help with my rese–"
"Don't finish that word," Hermione said, her voice like a whip. "Fine, okay? Fine! But you–"
She turned on her heel to face Harry now.
"I expect you to narrow down the applicants by this Friday," she said, leaving no room for argument. "We'll need to set up interviews for next week. And we still have to discuss your ridiculous interview questions. My office, lunch time."
"Lunch?" Harry said, appalled. "You can't be serious, Hermione. I need that time to reset. It's my self-care–"
"You just came back from a bloody holiday!" she practically yelled, stuffing a stack of files into his arms before walking out and slamming the door behind her.
The room was dead silent for a moment before a small giggle erupted from Daphne's mouth. "How you work with her every day, I have no idea," she said, shaking her head at him in sympathy. "You're a saint, Harry."
In response, he only forced a smile on his face, watching as she walked out the door after her.
"Did we have to come here?" Harry asked as he swung the door open.
Hermione walked in behind him and led the way over to an empty table. "Tracey is having lunch with Crapne," she said, taking her seat. "And since she refused to do so here, I figured it was the best place to actually get some work done."
Slouching back against his chair, Harry let out a long sigh. "First no coffee-maker in the clinic, and now I have to drink this swill again," he said, staring up at the ceiling. "And after getting to taste Brilliant coffee from Daphne this morning?"
"Not without more Brilliant coffee, I won't," he said, slumping forward now and letting his forehead hit the table.
She clicked her tongue in annoyance. "Her coffee isn't brilliant," she said, pulling out a stack of papers.
Picking his head up off the table, Harry gave her a frown. "Yeah, it is," he said, producing a photograph from this morning that Tracey had taken of him and his coffee cup. "Right there, see? The company is named 'Brilliant'."
Hermione squinted as they both watched the moving photograph of Harry repeatedly taking a sip of coffee and then cradling it near his cheek.
"Brilliant branding, really," he said, feeling nostalgic as he watched the scene in the photo with a fond smile. "'Have a Brilliant start to your day'. It's brilliant!"
"Can I start you with anything?"
Harry looked up. Crinkley Eyes was at the end of the table, two cups in one hand and a half-full pot of coffee in the other. "A coffee, no cream," he said, trying to suppress a cringe.
Almost-decent coffee was better than nothing at this point.
"The usual for you, Hermione?"
"Please," she said, with a friendly smile. "Thank you, Abby."
Harry looked between the two of them and then rolled his eyes. Of course the two of them would get along.
"So?" he said, taking the stack of applications from the middle of the table and skimming through the first one. "What's the problem?"
Letting out a dry laugh, Hermione shook her head. "Too many to count! What possessed you to ask people these ridiculous questions?" she said, flipping through various pages. "The very first one is about gay lists. How is that relevant to being a healer? And why did three separate people answer 'Warden'?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Are you seriously asking me that?"
"Yes!" Hermione hissed.
Stirring his black coffee with a spoon, he shook his head in disappointment.
"What? Are you not giving me an answer because you don't have one?"
He looked up at her and scoffed. "Don't have one?" he said, setting his spoon down. "First of all...Warden is the cutest, softest, most lovable floof to ever exist, and frankly, I'm shocked and disheartened that he wasn't on every single one of those lists."
His tone seemed to quiet Hermione's ire for a moment.
"And second of all," he said, referring back to her original question. "It's not about the question, Hermione. It's about what's behind the question."
She raised a doubtful eyebrow and motioned for him to continue. But before Harry could reply, Crinkley Eyes came back to take their lunch orders.
"Say...er, Abby," he said, trying the name out. "If you were going to apply for a job, and the first question on the application asked you if you had a gay list, what would you think?"
Her lips parted in response, eyes darting back and forth between them. "Well...erm...I suppose I'd seriously consider if I wanted to work there or not," she said with a shrug. "I mean, can you imagine the sorts of things you'd have to put up with on a regular basis if they asked questions like that on their application?"
She paused before adding, "Though...my list would definitely include Queen Elizabeth, Emma Watson, Sharpay–"
Harry smiled pleasantly and dismissed her before turning to Hermione with a smug look. "With the variety of weird cases we get at the PIMPPLE, applicants need to be made of stronger stuff than that."
Pinching her mouth in a thin line, Hermione acquiesced. "Fine," she said. "But what about the next question? 'Explain a time you felt bullied by Nauze?' What's behind that, Harry?"
"Easy," he said, taking a sip of his coffee. "If they have a personal history with Nauze, then there's a good chance I know them already. Figured you'd want to know about any possibilities of nepotism."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "And the calculus question? Was it even a real one?"
"Ah, a question to see how they would react to a difficult problem," Harry said, chuckling. "Some responded tenaciously, some blamed others, and a dedicated few even gave it an honest attempt. A sort of...personality assessment, if you will."
"And the colour question?" she said, flipping through the page. "'If you could invent a colour, what would it be' and…'Is the colour yellow round or square'? These are objectively ridiculous."
"And also a measure of the applicants' executive functioning skill of flexibility," he said, putting down his coffee. "We can't have people that only think inside the box."
With an annoyed sigh, Hermione moved onto the next one. "Hard G vs Soft G when pronouncing the word gif?"
Harry placed both of his palms on the table and leaned forward. "Be honest, Hermione," he said. "Would you really want to work with a monster that pronounced 'gif' with a hard g?"
"Oh God, no," came Abby's voice as she placed their food on the table. "Crab-apple does that all the time,, and it always gives me the shivers."
Slowly turning his head, Harry looked up at her with his mouth open in horror. "How—how do you stand it?"
"Your previous job in four words?" Hermione said, getting back to the questions. She smiled politely as Abby left them to it.
"Did not have one," Harry said, turning back to face her.
"Describe yourself using three words that start with the letter V?"
"Very, very virile," he said, striking a pose.
At that, Hermione's cheeks darkened ever so slightly. "Moving on," she said, fanning herself with the stack of applications. "I understand the reason behind asking about their first impression of you. And there is no way I'm risking Swiftie Stan's wrath by wading through the Taylor Swift disassociative versus bop questions, but...what about this one? Question 12?"
Taking a bite out of his sandwich, he raised an eyebrow at her.
"It literally just says 'Question 12'!" she said, slamming the papers down.
He held up a finger as he finished his bite and swallowed. "It was the only question they didn't have to answer."
"So...whether they chose to answer or not can tell you a lot about a person."
With a loud huff, she turned over the page and read the next question. "In 5 words, explain why you should be chosen to work on Harry Potter's elite healer team."
"Because it sucks working here," Abby said, interjecting into the conversation again. She gave them a pleasant smile before her eyes widened. "Oh, God...was I thinking aloud again?"
Smiling in amusement, Harry nodded.
She was starting to grow on him.
"Anyway, everything come out fine?" she said, staring between them.
They both thanked her before getting right back into it.
"I'm not even going to ask about having them write the longest alliterative sentence they could," she said, rubbing her forehead. "But sex and Fruit Loops, Harry? Really?"
Tilting his head in thought, he considered that for a moment. Sex and Fruit Loops? How would that even work?
Hermione seemed to catch onto his thought process, and she kicked his leg under the table in annoyance. "The questions, you prat," she said, shoving the page in his face. "'Sex: Male, Female, or Yes, please' and 'What is your opinion on Fruit Loops'?"
"Oh, sorry. You did give me some interesting ideas, though," he said, winking at her. "But, anyway, I thought you might want to compare the answers for the Nauze question to those who answered 'Yes please' to sex."
She gave him a flat stare.
Leaning forward, Harry cupped a hand around his mouth. "It means Nauze's lewdness really rubbed off on 'em, if you know what I mean," he stage-whispered.
With a look of disgust, Hermione put up a hand to quiet him. "Fine, whatever," she said. "Then how about asking for their definition of bullying? How does that help us determine if they're qualified at all?"
Sighing, Harry put down his sandwich and gave her a serious look. "Listen...I know I'm not the easiest person to work with," he said. "You and Tracey put up with a lot, and we can't hire someone who won't be able to handle a bit of shenanigans, as well."
He shrugged and then looked down at the next question. "I'll just go ahead and explain the 'preferred type of juice' one," he said, taking another bite of his sandwich. "Imagine going to a conference with one of these new hires and they decide to order pear juice. Pear juice!"
Hermione let out a fake gasp and covered her mouth. "Oh, the humanity," she said.
Closing his eyes, he nodded slowly.
With a long exhale, Hermione seemed to take a moment to consider everything they'd just gone over. "Look...at the end of the day, no matter your twisted reasoning, these questions are still wholly unsuitable for the workplace," she said. "I mean, come on, Harry. You didn't even ask if they were qualified healers, for Merlin's sake!"
"But this will tell me all I need to know about their personality," he said, holding up an application. "I'll select the ones I want to try out, and you can cover all the details. Job requirements and all that bore once I've narrowed it down."
She shook her head. "But that still doesn't excuse how poor this application is," she said, knitting her brows. "And I don't have time to hear how you'd justify the other questions—"
"Not even the 'Is it incest if you have carnal relations with an adopted sibling that grew up in another household' one?"
"Ooh, I'd like to know that," Abby said, appearing as if out of nowhere again.
Blimey...had she been spending time with Brazilian Beta?
"That sounds like the premise of a trashy romance novel I read not too long ago," she added, grabbing their empty plates. "It was about these two best friends who grew up together and were practically like brother and sister. Until one day, the heroine comes to her senses and invites the hero to go with her to a Christmas party. As friends, of course."
"I expect that caused a bit of a Paradigm Shift in their relationship," Hermione said.
Staring at them both, Abby smiled widely. "Oh, it did," she said, turning on her heel and walking away.
With a long sigh, Hermione began packing her things before standing up and placing a parchment in front of him. "By the way, you were supposed to help me pick out the new office furniture for your minions—"
"Minions," Harry said, cutting her off. "Capital 'M'."
"Whatever," she said, brushing him off. "Order some furniture. I've listed everything they'll need, and as you can see, there is a budget to work within."
"Sure," Harry said, grabbing the list. "You head off, I'll cover the bill."
Hermione narrowed her eyes at him, but then squared her shoulders and walked towards the exit.
After the door closed behind her, Harry turned back and glanced down at the parchment with a grin, letting his mind run wild with the possibilities.
"Er...I'll admit...this isn't the first place I would have chosen to run a research study on sexual activity," Harry said, looking up at the sign on the building.
St. Oswald's Home for Old Witches and Wizards.
Daphne locked her arm with his and led him through the door. "This is where Petri chose to run his part of the experiment," she said with a shrug. "His wife, Sharon, is the accountant. I guess he spends a lot of time here on his days off."
With one eyebrow raised, Harry followed her into the lobby where a young witch sat behind the desk, twirling her wand between her fingers.
"Excuse me," Daphne said, lifting her chin up. "I'm looking for a man by the name of Petrificus Somewhatus."
The woman's eyes widened as they fell on Harry. She cleared her throat and sat up straight in her chair, clearing up her desk in a rush to make it look neater.
"Er...Mr. Somewhatus?" the woman said. "Yes, he should be in the accountant's office. If you can't find him there, he might be with one of the residents. He has a lot of acquaintances here."
Daphne quirked a brow at that. "Acquaintances?"
"Well, he's here often," the woman said with a shrug. "All the residents love him, you see. They find his jokes hilarious. Just the other day, he had them all close to tears with some Levis jeans joke...I personally didn't understand it. But I'm not of the same generation, am I?"
Starting to feel annoyed by the rambling witch before him, Harry tuned out whatever else she was saying.
When he'd agreed to take on this research study, he'd been hoping to add some excitement to his day to day routine. While he'd never regretted his decision to go into clinical work over research, every once in a while, he enjoyed spicing things up.
A field trip to a nursing home, however, was not his idea of 'spicing things up'.
"Follow me, Harry," Daphne said, cutting into his thoughts.
They walked past the desk and into a back corridor that led to the residential part of the building. It eventually opened up into a common area where several old codgers sat engaging in their various dull activities.
"Mr. Potter!" said a voice that still haunted Harry's nightmares.
He turned to see Pill Popper walk towards him, ugly comb-over still in place. This time, mercifully, without his box of viagra in hand.
Forcing a smile on his face, Harry greeted him.
"How are you, son?" Pill Popper said, clapping him on the shoulder. "Finally here to take up my offer to have a turn with my girlfriend? The Herpes has finally cleared up a bit."
Holding up a finger, Harry turned around and braced himself against the wall, trying to keep down the bile that was rising in his throat.
"We're here to see Petrificus Somewhatus," came Daphne's voice.
"Ah! The Golden God, himself," Pill Popper said.
The sound of a door opening made Harry turn his head. As though being summoned, a familiar outrageously handsome man walked out of what looked to be the accountant's office, adjusting his belt as he approached them.
Harry couldn't help but notice the lipstick mark on his neck.
"Well, if it isn't old Potter," Swiftie Stan said, taking Harry's hand and giving it a firm shake. "Last I saw you was…"
"Brazil," they both said at once.
Recalling Daphne's words from earlier, Harry turned to her with a frown. "You said you're testing three generations of the same family," he said, looking back at the man and addressing him now. "I didn't know you were Brazilian Beta's father."
At this, Swifte Stan rubbed the back of his neck and chuckled. "Would you believe me if I said I didn't either?"
"Yes," several voices around the room responded in unison.
Swiftie Stan only smiled good-naturedly. "Why do you think I've been going down to Brazil so often these days?" he said. "I'm trying to catch up with the little guy. Play catch, teach him how to shave, give him the old birds and bees talk, get a blood sample for the paternity test."
"He's twenty-eight years old," Daphne said, looking down at her file.
With a shrug, Swiftie Stan turned towards the room he'd just exited, as a woman walked out.
Harry's lips parted as he took in the sight of her.
Bleach blonde hair, tanned skin, bright fuchsia lipstick the exact shade of the fuschia robe she was wearing.
"Harry, Daphne," Swiftie Stan said, placing an arm around the woman's waist. "This is Sharon...my wife."
She turned in his arms to give her husband a kiss, and Harry was shocked to see the word printed on the bum of her robe
SL on one side, UT on the other.
Clearing his throat loudly, Harry turned to face Daphne. "We gonna get started then or what?"
She nodded and gestured for the couple to follow her into the nurse's station down the corridor. They walked into a large exam room with several beds separated by thin curtains.
"Harry?" Daphne said. "Can you go ahead and set up your equipment and sync it with their magical signatures?"
He blinked at the scene before him. "Sure, er…" he said, as the couple started furiously snogging in front of them. "Are they just going to…"
"To…?" Daphne said, looking confused before realisation dawned on her. "Oh, have sexual intercouse? Yes, that's the idea, Harry."
Darting his eyes towards the now horizontal couple, Harry shifted away, so they were at least obscured by the curtain.
"Mr. Somewhatus and his wife represent the first variable group—hypersexual baseline activity," Daphne explained, mercifully casting a silencing charm over the occupied bed. "You'll need to retrieve the readings on their Intent levels throughout, and I'll analyse the data on Impotence—or lack thereof—as it comes through."
Harry nodded, still in somewhat of a daze.
At the very least, this was definitely 'spicing things up'.
After the nursing home, Harry really thought nothing else could surprise him when it came to the locations of this research study. But as they entered the building with the bright, fluorescent, orange sign that read 'Orange Juice Factory', he realised he was wrong.
Merlin knew what the third location would bring.
"What type of Orange Juice do they make here?" Harry asked, curious about the overly generic title.
Daphne shrugged. "Every type," she said. "This is an orange juice lover's heaven. A magical factory that reproduces every variety of orange juice that currently exists in the world."
As they walked into the reception area, Harry observed what looked to be a bright orange pipe organ embedded into the walls, almost as if they were in a church or cathedral. And upon closer inspection, he noted that each pipe converged to meet at a single point.
"Each one distributes juice with varying levels of pulp," Daphne explained, gesturing towards the pipes. "Starts with no pulp and ranges all the way up to so-much-pulp-you-need-a-utensil-to-eat-it."
Harry walked to the medium pulp section, conjured a glass and held it below the tap, marvelling as crisp orange juice poured out of it.
Bringing his glass up to his lips, he sampled it and then smacked his lips together. "Simply® Orange Medium Pulp with Calcium & Vitamin D," he said before putting his glass under the next tap. "Tropicana Pure Premium® Homestyle (Some Pulp) with Vitamin C, Folate, Potassium, and...Thiamin."
Daphne's lips parted as she stared at him. "Brilliant," she breathed, giving Harry a sultry look that made him a bit hot under the collar. "I'd love to see if you could correctly identify every flavour, but we do need to meet Nauze and his partner."
"Right," Harry said, shaking his head of the sudden fantasy that formed in his mind involving Daphne and several orange juice taps.
He hurried after her as she approached the receptionist's desk, speaking to the witch sitting there in a language Harry couldn't understand.
The receptionist stood up and gestured for them to follow her through a pair of Sliding Doors and into a storage room that was lined to the ceiling with bottles and bottles of orange juice.
Without deliberating, Harry knelt down to set up his monitoring equipment, wondering what was taking Nauze so long, and who he was bringing in as his partner.
Based on Swiftie Stan's impressive performance in the nursing home, Harry could only assume that Brazilian Beta would be up to his teeth in women.
Like father, like son, after all.
"Is he going to be here soon?" Harry said.
"I gave him the directions in Spanish," Daphne said, frowning. "I thought he'd be here before us."
Shrugging, Harry went back to his monitoring equipment and began double checking the calibration. Just as he was finishing up, Brazilian Beta finally walked in through the door, his breaths coming out hard and fast.
"Sor...ry," he said, pausing between each syllable to catch his breath. "I...had...to...help...some...one."
Brazilian Beta being overly helpful. Harry should have known.
"How nice of you," Daphne said flatly. "Where's your partner?"
Scratching the side of his head, Brazilian Beta looked around. "Was I supposed to bring someone?"
An awkward tension filled the room, at that.
"The instructions I sent were very clear," Daphne said, rubbing her temples. "You and your partner were to name your favourite drink and then show up at your prearranged location of choice. They were written in Spanish!"
"But...but I don't speak Spanish," Brazilian Beta said, holding his hands up. "I don't even like Orange Juice, and I—"
"Spanish-Portugeuse! That's what he speaks," Harry said, smacking his forehead. "How could I have forgotten?"
Taking a deep breath in, Daphne's jaw tensed as she looked between them. "Look, we don't have time to reschedule," she said, shaking her head. "We'll just have to make do."
Brazilain Beta looked around. "Uh… What am I supposed to be doing, exactly?"
"We're testing for the Impotence of Intent," Daphne said, as she stalked towards the door in a huff.
Harry quickly followed after her, having no desire to stay and watch.
With a sigh, Harry paused, placing his hand on Daphne's shoulder. "You go, I've got this."
It was the least he could do for his friend. He doubted Daphne verbally lashing out at him would help matters.
"She's testing sexual activity based on several variables," Harry said, cringing. "You'll need to show how...active…you can be within the time limit."
Brazilian Beta's eyes widened. "You mean I...I have a set time to jerk—"
Harry held his hand up and nodded.
"But I'm in an Orange Juice Factory, and I'm alone without my phone or…"
Yeah, this wasn't going to go well.
"How can I…?" Brazilian Beta said, looking around at a loss.
Giving him a sympathetic frown, Harry patted him on the back. "You can be creative," he said, before making his way out of the room.
"Here, how about this one," Hermione said, showing him an application with several highlighted answers.
Harry glanced at it over his coffee and grimaced. Both at the coffee and the application.
"What?" Hermione said, exasperated. "He says he's a medical doctor! And I can't believe I'm saying this, but that's the best answer I've seen from all 19 of these applicants on why they should be chosen."
At this, Harry let out a bark of laughter. "Mr. Samsub here can take his medical degree and shove it up his–"
"Doughnut hole?" came Abby's voice, presenting a plate of delicious looking chocolate doughnut holes. "I see you two are working hard again. Thought I could offer a treat."
Harry smiled up at her. "Now that's what I call initiative," he said, winking at her. "Maybe you should apply, eh?"
With a thoughtful frown, Abby shrugged and walked away.
"Anyway," he said, turning back to Hermione. "How could you say that's the best answer when we have an applicant like NatureEnthusiast who says 'i shall follow all orders'?"
Hermione gave a disappointed frown at this and spoke in a very grave manner. "Harry...do you know who NatureEnthusiast is?"
"Er...no," he said, wondering if he'd just made a huge misstep.
Sighing, Hermione shook her head. "That's zapt's arch nemesis. He was the one who caused all the disruption at the art exhibit."
With a horrified gasp, Harry pulled out his wand and disintegrated the application all together.
"Harry!" Hermione said, glancing around the cafe. "We're surrounded by muggles!"
"Don't care," he said, gritting his teeth. "That bastard hasn't seen the end of me. The next time I come in contact with him, I'll kick him right in the–"
"Peanuts?" came Abby's voice, presenting a bowl for them. "I always find it's a nice little snack while I work."
They both thanked her before returning to the applications.
"Anyway, here are a couple of other excellent choices besides that filth," Harry said, popping a peanut in his mouth. "There's a Mr. Kill who says 'I shouldn't, I prefer trolling'. Wonderful priorities."
"Are you kidding me, right n-"
"Someone by the name of Admiral Goose who states 'I believe I am amazing'," Harry said, ignoring her. "Simple, to the point, and very accurate, I'm sure."
The vein in Hermione's temple was bulging at this point.
"And...a Mr Boozewizard who says 'I like pie and coffee'," he finished, piling the three applications on top of each other and pushing them towards Hermione. "I do, as well. And great minds think alike."
Slapping a hand down on the papers, Hermione scowled at him. "Those aren't even remotely good enough reasons to hire someone!"
With a sigh, Harry nodded. "All right, all right," he said, pulling out another application. "How about this one? Mr CaptainHindsight aka Sir Cappy who says 'I shall abuse my powers.'"
Much to Harry's shock and dismay, Hermione immediately crumpled up the paper in her hands before throwing her head back and letting out a loud groan. "I can't handle much more of this at the moment," she said, rubbing her eyes. "We'll reconvene another day. Right now, I need a-"
They both looked up as Abby pulled out a prescription bottle of anxiety medication and offered one to Hermione. "Helps when I work, anyway."
But Hermione stood up and backhanded the bottle out of Abby's hands. "That's illegal!" she said, before stalking out of the restaurant.
Harry offered the waitress a sympathetic smile before handing her an empty application. "I like the way you think," he said. "Do consider applying."
She shrugged and accepted the application before turning back around.
Secretly pulling out his wand, Harry grabbed the crumpled up parchment for CaptainHindsight and charmed it back to its original state. "No one messes with Sir Cappy," he muttered.
With slight trepidation, Harry followed Daphne down the road of the midwestern suburban neighbourhood that they'd just apparated into.
"We're in Ohio," Daphne said over her shoulder. "Time to meet our last couple. They'll be representing the control group. Normal baseline levels of sexual activity."
Harry grimaced. After visiting the nursing home and OJ Factory, he couldn't help but dread whatever sick environment the final couple had chosen to conduct their experiment in.
So far, the houses looked relatively normal.
Then they reached 1991 Elephant Lane.
Daphne pressed the doorbell and put on her most pleasant smile as the door opened to reveal an elderly couple.
"Ms Greengrass?" the man said.
"At your service," she said, walking forward as he gestured for them to step in.
Glancing around, Harry cautiously followed after. He noted the relatively normal interior of the house—warm browns and beiges, family photographs adorning the walls, a crackling fireplace in the sitting room, the television set to the news channel.
It was the picture of a normal household. And for the first time, Harry allowed himself to relax.
"Mrs Genre, Mr Definer," Daphne said, sitting on the sofa across from them. "This is Harry, my research assistant."
Harry couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at that title, but he remained quiet.
"He'll be helping us with the experiment today," she said, throwing him an appreciative wink. "We can just get right into things, if you'd like. Can you show us to your room?"
The couple turned to look at each other before facing Daphne. "Um...do we have to use...our bedroom?"
Brilliant, Harry thought. He knew it was too good to be true for things to go normally.
"Of course, not!" Daphne said. "You can choose whatever setting you'd like that'll help produce the best results."
With equally sly grins, the old man and woman took each other's hands and led the way down the hall to the bedrooms.
Harry gulped as he followed after them, bracing himself for the worst. But whatever he imagined wasn't nearly as bad as the reality before him.
"You—you want to—this is where you—are you serious?" he said, taking in the sight of the bedroom.
The walls were littered with posters of Taylor Swift from each of her musical eras, numerous accounting textbooks sat on an old wooden desk, shelves and shelves of trophies lined the walls. Harry walked forward to look at them closer.
Young Professional Baseball League - Participation Award
Ohio Music Educators Association - Participation Award
Society of Young Artists Annual Competition - Participation Award
Mathletes Challenge Championship - Participation Award
Average Achievement in Accounting Education Award
Distinguished Fanfic Writer Award - 3rd Place
"Only three participants," Mrs Genre said from behind him. "He was always frustrated that he could have been first place amongst any other group, but happened to choose the one with writers more renowned than him."
Harry turned around to face him.
"Our Petri was never particularly accomplished, but by God, did he participate," the man chuckled, clapping a hand on Harry's shoulder.
"Oh, hush you," Mrs Genre said, walking up and leaning into her husband's embrace. "Our boy grew up with our legacy on his shoulders. He was bound to come up short."
With a frown, Harry took in the man and woman before him. "Legacy?"
Daphne raised her eyebrows at that and hurried over to whisper in his ear. "Mrs Genre and Mr Definer?" she said, placing emphasis on their names. "Between the pair of them, they've defined every single genre of writing to ever exist!"
Staring back at the elderly couple, Harry cringed as he saw them engage in a bout of heavy petting.
"But Swiftie Stan…" Harry whispered back. "He's an amazing accountant, from what Nauze tells me. Like a…like a…a golden god or something."
At this, the other three occupants of the room burst out laughing.
"Golden god?" Mrs Genre said, wiping tears from his eyes. "Our boy?"
Mrs Genre shook her head in amusement. "You must be mistaken, son," she said. "He's adequate...but nothing special."
Feeling irrationally upset by this all, Harry set up the research equipment in a huff, paying extra care to be as loud as possible.
"You're all mad," he said once he finished, looking around at them. "And sick as well! Using your son's bedroom for...for...well, for this!"
The couple shrugged.
"We've found we don't need the pill if we use our child's old bed," Mr Definer said, wrapping an arm around his wife's shoulder. "It's where we conceived him, after all. Brings back good memories of that night."
They smiled at each other while Harry tried hard not to gag.
He was just about to open the door and leave when a drawing on the wall made him pause. It was clearly done many years ago, if the yellowed paper was anything to go by.
A picture of a stick figure in yellow, crown resting on his head, and the shaky handwriting of a child:
Petri the Golden God!
Harry closed his eyes for a moment and exhaled before walking out the door and slamming it shut behind him.
Wasn't this just a Most Splendid Expedition? he thought dryly.
Daphne apparated back to the clinic after Harry, doing her best to remain calm. "That was rather unprofessional of you, you know," she said.
He turned around on his heel and stared at her. "I find I don't particularly care," he said. "Those two were absolutely rotten people, and I have no interest in being pleasant to them."
Her nostrils flared as she breathed in and out. "Research requires objectivity," she said, following him into his office. "You think I love every participant I meet?"
Pinching the bridge of his nose, he let out a sigh. "Look, I think you're under some incorrect assumption that–"
A new voice cut into the conversation then, immediately setting Daphne on edge. It was like nails on a chalkboard to her.
"What's going on, here?" Granger-Gibbons said, walking into the room with narrowed eyes.
"It's nothing, Hermione," Harry said, putting his white coat back on. "I'm getting back to work, I promise."
The two women watched him grab his things and exit the office without another word. After he was out of earshot, they both spun around to face each other.
"What are you playing at, Lean-ass?" Granger-Gibbons said with a scowl.
With a dry laugh, Daphne took a seat on Harry's desk and smiled. "Don't act dumb, Mi, it really doesn't suit you," she said, looking her up and down. "And trust me, you need all the help you can get in that regard."
Hermione's mouth popped open in indignation. "You think you're so clever...I know exactly what you're doing," she said, through clenched teeth. "You're trying to turn Harry against me. Steal him away from the Potter Institute of Magical and Mundane Pathologies, Lurgies, and Endocrinology Clinic!"
Daphne let out a fake snore before startling awake. "Sorry, sorry...fell asleep halfway through the name."
"Oh, you are vile," Hermione said, pulling out her wand.
"Ah, ah, ah…" Daphne said, wagging her finger. "I wouldn't do that if I were you. What would Harry think if I ran to him crying that you'd hexed me?"
Hermione slammed her hand down on the desk. "He'd side with his best friend because that's what best friends do!"
At this, Daphne threw her head back and cackled. "Best friend?" she said through her laughter. "Best friend? Oh, Hermione...how you amuse me."
Pressing her lips together, Hermione shifted her eyes away from her. "Look, we—we may not always see eye to eye, but Harry and I–"
"Harry and you, what? You two are practically enemies," Daphne said, strolling over to her. "You're constantly trying to control him, he's constantly trying to undermine you…"
Still looking away, Hermione shook her head.
"Guess that's why they say never to go into business with your friends," Daphne continued, giving her a sympathetic look. "Blimey...when was the last time you two had a single conversation without being at each other's throats?"
"We just came back from a holiday together in Brazil, and it was lovely," Hermione said, crossing her arms tight against her chest.
Letting out a long sigh, Daphne placed a hand on Hermione's shoulder. "Brazil? Really? You could send Harry with You-Know-Who to Brazil, and they'd get on," she said, actually feeling an ounce of pity for the woman before her. "The real test is the day to day, Hermione. And what I see…is nothing but a broken friendship. It's just sad, really…"
Daphne stared at her for a moment before heading towards the door.
"So, what are you saying?" Hermione said over her shoulder, her voice biting. "You're going to steal Harry away from the clinic? From me?"
She looked back at her and frowned. "Steal? Never..." she said, shaking her head. "I'll merely make an enticing offer. But...something tells me, he won't refuse."
With that, she exited the office and closed the door behind her, a sly grin on her face.
If all went according to plan, the PIMMPLE would soon become the IMMPLE.
Harry stuffed his hands into his pockets as he walked into the one place in the world where he truly felt he could be himself.
He made his way towards the familiar headstone, conjuring a chair and sitting down, his eyes travelling over the name:
The Delacours weren't too pleased when their daughter was buried in an old English graveyard. They'd wanted her beneath a tree, somewhere the sun shone bright and her grave would be surrounded by beauty.
He understood. The graveyard at Godric's Hollow was old, dark, and dreary. But Harry was selfish.
She was his wife. She belonged near him.
In life and in death.
"It's been a hell of a week," Harry said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a bottle of Ogden's Finest. "Hermione wasn't too pleased about the applications, no surprise there. Daphne turned up with the most bizarre research proposal…"
He stared off into space for a moment, the memories of the past week flashing through his mind.
"It's funny, I...sort of thought her and I might…" he added before trailing off. "But maybe we've both changed too much..."
Shutting his eyes, Harry bowed his head.
He breathed in and out, trying to push away his emotions. But it wasn't helping as much as he hoped it would.
"It's still hard," he said barely above a whisper. "We were soulmates, Gabby. We were supposed to Live Forever, happily ever after...Married With Children."
His voice broke slightly on the last word, and he busied himself by cracking the seal on the bottle and taking a swig.
"How am I supposed to just replace you, eh?" he said, leaning his forehead on the bottle. "I keep trying, but none of them are you. None of them ever will be."
In response, the only sound he heard was the wind rustling through the leaves. Time after time he came here and demanded answers, only for none to come.
"Maybe I'm cursed," he said, taking a large gulp. "Maybe I'll be alone forever. Healing people I couldn't give two shits about...annoying Hermione and taking the odd research project... Is this what I'm living for?"
A sudden feeling of shame ran through him. It was as if Gabby was looking down on him, judging him for what he was saying.
Trying to dull the pain, he drained the bottle further before he couldn't take it anymore. He grabbed it by the neck and chucked it as far as he could.
Harry winced as he heard it smash into the ground. He'd just desecrated a graveyard.
Standing on weak legs, he looked at her name one more time. "I love you," he said before turning and walking away.
When he reached the next set of headstones, he conjured a chair once more and sat down.
"Hey Mum, Dad, Sirius..." he said, leaning forward against his knees. "You've no idea how much I wish I could talk to you right now. Get some advice and figure out what the hell I should do."
Dropping his head in his hands, he stared down at the ground. "Look at me," he said, shaking his head. "Every time I face even the smallest of problems, I come running here. As if you knew how to help me...as if you even could."
He closed his eyes and slumped back in his chair.
This week of research was supposed to reinvigorate him. He'd switch up his routine, possibly have a fling with Daphne, learn something new along the way. But nothing had gone according to plan.
It had been like a bad One Night Stand in Three Acts, never properly gaining any satisfaction.
The research had been amusing at the start, and it was nice to catch up with Nauze and Petri. But what did he really care about the Impotence of Intent?
He knew what Daphne was doing. The 'faulty equipment' had been a poor excuse; she hadn't really needed him for her research study. Her real aim had been to take another run at stealing him from the PIMMPLE.
And while switching to full-time magical research held some perks, namely not dealing with clinic patients, it was the lack of challenge that kept him from ever truly considering it.
Well...that and not abandoning his best friend.
Harry grimaced as he recalled Hermione's look of betrayal when she'd found out about him working with Daphne. The two had always butted heads, but recently it seemed as if they couldn't even bear to be in the same room together.
A small breath escaped Harry's lips at the thought.
Couldn't bear to be in the same room together...
The sentiment felt all too familiar. And as though playing on a reel of film, a series of memories suddenly flashed through Harry's mind.
The past several months, the past several years. Argument after argument, push and pull, and back and forth, the only reprieve tarnished by botched memory charms and lies.
Harry closed his eyes as the chaos of his mind came to head before pausing on a single memory.
"You're a great wizard, you know...books and cleverness! There are more important things…"
"Friendship and bravery," he said quietly into the silence of twilight.
It wasn't until Harry shivered that he realised how long he'd been sitting in the graveyard.
Groaning, he stood up on stiff legs, his groin feeling tight as he took a step.
Leaning to his left first and then to the right, Harry did some active groin stretches to loosen things up.
Once he was feeling spry and limber again, he turned to walk to the apparition point when he heard a voice calling his name.
Withdrawing his wand, Harry moved behind a large grave marker and prepared to confront whoever, or whatever, it was. Only Ron and Hermione knew how often he came here, and they would never disturb him.
Hearing his name once more, he saw a figure coming toward him in a black robe, their hood pulled up and wand held forth.
Tightening the grip on his own wand, Harry slowed his breathing and attempted to remain calm.
If this was someone coming with ill Intent, he had a good chance of getting the upper hand.
With his back still against the grave marker, he counted to three in his head and then peeked out again, trying to gauge how far the person was.
They were only fifteen to twenty feet away, and they clearly noticed his movement.
"Harry, is that you?" the feminine sounding voice called out.
Knowing any chance of an ambush was well and truly dead, he stepped out. "Who are you and what do you want?" he demanded, his wand levelled at them.
The person threw back their hood and shook out their long, luscious blonde hair.
"I've been looking for you all day," Daphne said, coming closer, her eyes narrowed. "We weren't done with our research."
Harry frowned. They'd gone through each of the three study groups. "Was there a fourth generation to monitor?"
He wasn't sure how much more disturbing things could get.
Giving him a charming smile, Daphne sauntered over to him. "The thing is, Harry...I already had all the primary research done. Studying the Family Whale was just an added little side project. They were far too interesting to pass up, but a definite outlier to my research."
'Far too interesting' was one way to put it.
"Plus," Daphne said, a fond look crossing her face. "I've always felt this...kinship to Mr Definer, Mrs Genre and Swiftie Stan. Like we're all connected somehow."
Harry nodded. He'd observed that, too. "So there was no point in studying them?"
Daphne giggled. "Oh, there's always something to be gained from research, Harry," she said, placing her hand on his arm. "They're some of the most fascinating specimens I've ever met, after all."
Rubbing his chin, Harry thought the same. "Normally Impotence increases as you age, but for them…"
"Their Impotence and Intent didn't regress," she finished for him.
"No," Harry said, shaking his head. "There was something off in their magical scans…almost like a unique magical trait that intensified their sexual drive."
"But what of Nauze?" she said, her eyebrows furrowed. "Clearly his Impotence was correlated with his Intent issues that resulted from a lack of stimulating environment and partner?"
Harry pursed his lips. "No," he said after a few seconds. "I believe it has more to do with his unactivated magical trait."
"But...I've never seen evidence of magical traits in my research," she said, crossing her arms "If it was anyone but you, I'd laugh in your face. There hasn't been any conclusive proof of it."
With a shrug, Harry leant against a tree behind him. "It's subtle. Would probably show up as a result of one's environment rather than genetics."
She pursed her lips. "Elaborate."
Rubbing the back of his neck, Harry considered his best way to explain. "You know how everyone in the Malfoy family besides Draco has always seemed to have a keen business sense?"
Daphne nodded, her eyes narrowed.
"I've always thought that Draco had the potential buried deep within him. That he just needed to stop being a ponce and living off his daddy's money," he said. "And perhaps his spectacular blunders–i.e. PrimJax–are simply his magic punishing him for failing to fulfil his potential."
"Primjax's horrible incompetence aside, I can't accept that," she said, shaking her head. "It has no basis in empiricism!"
Smiling thinly, Harry shrugged. He wasn't going to get into the topic of empiricism and rationality of magic in a graveyard.
"Draco keeps visiting his father in prison and getting his advice, taking his commands and following them," Harry said. "I bet if he cut himself off from his daddy's fortune and made an honest go of things, like Astoria implores him to do, he'd find success like all his forebears."
With a sigh, Daphne rubbed her forehead. "But how would that even relate to our current research?"
"Well...Swiftie Stan knows who he is, he's defined his genre—no matter what his wack job parents say," Harry said. "And as for the wack jobs themselves, Mr Definer and Mrs Genre…"
"Okay, okay, I see what you're saying," Daphne said, tapping her chin. "Brazilian Beta is overly helpful, but he's not defined anything yet. And you think that once he has his, his sex-drive will get a monumental increase?"
Raising both his eyebrows, Harry slowly bobbed his head up and down.
"Interesting," Daphne said, her nose scrunched in thought. "But what about Swiftie Stan having the highest sex-drive? Shouldn't it be Mr Definer or Mrs Genre?"
Harry rubbed his chin again. "Swiftie Stan has defined his genre and moved on to more," he said, thinking aloud. "But his parents are happy where they are…and now their Impotence is increasing because they lack—"
"Intent," they both said at the same time.
"Brilliant," Daphne said, looking at him with awe.
Though he nodded along with her, Harry still felt there was something missing. "What if Brazilian Beta also has an Intent issue?" he said. "I mean, think about it...what do all sons want in regards to their fathers?"
The corners of Daphne's eyes tightened as she considered the question. "To be more sexually active than them?"
Harry stared at her. "Huh, not...what I was expecting you to say," he said. "But you're not wrong, I suppose."
"They want the approval of their father," Harry said, thinking back to his experience with his own dad. He hadn't known he'd had this hole in his heart, this yearning for something, until his father had said he was proud of him that day in the Forbidden Forest.
Since then, he'd always thought back to that. How his mother...his father approved of him.
"You think his Intent is to win his father's approval?"
"I know it is," Harry said, after a moment. "He's always been overly helpful but since he's met Swiftie Stan, he's been even more so. Anticipating the needs of others, going out of his way, sacrificing himself. He's not trying to define a genre, he's trying to get his father's approval."
Daphne's eyes lit up as Harry felt the euphoria of solving a case.
"So. Utterly. Brilliant," Daphne said, dashing forward and wrapping him up in a hug.
"You're Brilliant, too," Harry said, whispering the words into her ear before breaking away from her. "Why were you here looking for me, anyway?"
Her cheeks reddened in response. "Oh," she said. "We...hadn't completed the fourth test yet."
"The fourth?" he said. "But Three is a Magic Number…"
Staring at him over her eyelashes, she bit her lip. "I originally planned to do this at the clinic," she said, her voice more tentative than Harry had ever heard it before. "Specifically Hemione's desk...but as we've seen this week, location doesn't really matter. It's all about the...Intent."
"You're trying to seduce me," Harry said, looking around. "Here?"
"Swiftie Stan was able to do it in a nursing home," she said, grabbing the front of her robes. "Brazilian Beta got creative in an Orange Juice Factory, and Mr Definer and Mrs Genre re-defined Swiftie Stan's childhood bedroom… Location doesn't matter. Only Intent does."
Taking a step back from him, she removed her heavy black robe with a flourish.
Harry got an eyeful of what she had on underneath. Or rather...what she didn't have on.
"Focus on your Intent," the half-naked Daphne said. "Just let it flow."
He took one look at Daphne and lowered his jaw to speak. But words wouldn't come, his mouth was too dry.
As enticing as she was, this was the last thing he wanted to do. Not here, not now.
With his heart pounding in his chest, Harry stood there, unable to articulate anything. Focusing on his desire to get as far away from here as possible, he willed his magic to make it happen.
And with a loud pop, he disapparated.
Daphne Greengrass stepped out of the grate and into the Weasley's sitting room, her lips curled as she glanced around the mismatched furniture and hideous decor.
With a shake of her head, she peeked into the kitchen to see where everyone was. And then continued out through the backdoor, recalling Harry's many stories throughout healer training of dinners in the Burrow's garden.
As luck would have it, she spotted the entire Weasley clan sitting outside and quickly made her way over. The youngest one, Jenny, was standing up, presumably making a speech. But Daphne had no time for that.
"Now that I finally have everyone here without a certain somebody to steal the attention away, I'd like to make a very important announcement," Jenny said, smiling at everyone. "This summer, I will be-"
"Excuse me," Daphne said, cutting her off and glancing around the table.
She grit her teeth when she found Harry missing.
Where on earth would he go? Wasn't at the clinic, his house, or the graveyard...
Hearing a throat clear from beside her, Daphne looked to the right and felt her ire rise at once.
"What are you doing here, Bratne?" Hermione said, her voice already grating on her ears.
Pushing down her loathing, she forced a smile. "I'm looking for Harry," she said in a bright tone. "Have any of you seen him?"
She glanced up and down the table but was only met with shrugs and confused looks. A beautiful woman with silver-blonde hair met her gaze, her eyes narrowed.
"Finally scared him off, did you?" Hermione said, standing up with her arms crossed. "I knew it would happen sooner or later with the way you practically throw yourself at him every chance you get."
Several oooh's erupted in response.
"Yes, well," Daphne said, a smirk forming on her face. "Some of us are headstrong and actually know what we want in life. Or should I say...who we want."
She gave a significant look to Ron, causing another round of oooh's from the dinner party.
Everyone's heads turned from Daphne to Hermione, and then to Ron before circling back to Daphne.
With an indignant scoff, Hermione opened her mouth to retort, but Daphne refused to let her get another word in.
"Do you know where he might be, Ronald?" she said, speaking loudly to drown out Hermione's words. "You are his best friend, right?"
Seeing his cheeks gain a little red hue, she knew her tactic had worked.
"Er...did you check if he was home?"
Mentally reminding herself she needed his input, Daphne shut her eyes for a second. "Yes," she said, keeping her voice as neutral as she could. "After he got off work, I checked his home."
The fork that was halfway to Ron's mouth stilled as he scratched the side of his head. "If he's not at the clinic and he's not at home, did you try the Hog's Head? He likes to chat with Abe sometimes."
"Thanks," Daphne said, brightening up and giving him a smile. "Well, with that...I'll leave you all to your lovely dinner. I have some...negotiations to complete with Harry. Though I'm sure it won't be much of a negotiation after I work things to his satisfaction. Our...mutual satisfaction."
At this, both Hermione and Fleur stood up from their seats, causing their utensils to clatter against their plates.
But before Hermione could finish her words, an owl swooped across the table and dropped an envelope into Jenny's soup, causing her to let out a yelp and jump up, spilling the contents onto her lap.
Silence fell over the table as everyone's eyes focused on a very familiar red envelope.
Much worse than a regular one, if only for the fact that it was Hermione's shrill voice that always screamed from the other side. Daphne had received her fair share of them from her arch nemesis in the past.
But as she glanced at the other woman, she was surprised to find her just as confused as everyone else. Which made it all the more curious when the Howler began speaking in Hermione's voice.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
I DON'T CARE HOW BLOODY BRILLIANT YOUR RESEARCH IS OR HOW GREAT BRILLIANT COFFEE IS! THERE IS NOTHING, AND LET ME REPEAT THAT, NOTHING, THAT WOULD MAKE ME LEAVE THE PIMMPLE TO WORK WITH A CONNIVING LITTLE SNAKE ASS BITCH THAT WOULD STOOP TO SUCH TACTICS!
I'LL HAVE YOU KNOW THAT TREATING THE FAMILY WHALE AS IF THEY WERE SOME KIND OF TEST SUBJECTS FOR YOUR OWN ENJOYMENT IS SICK, DISGUSTING, AND ABHORRENT.
BRAZILIAN BETA DESERVED BETTER THAN YOU GIVING HIM INSTRUCTIONS IN SPANISH RATHER THAN SPANISH-PORTUGEUSE. ANYONE WOULD HAVE A HARD TIME PERFORMING IN AN OJ FACTORY WHEN THERE WAS SO MUCH GLORIOUS ORANGE JUICE AROUND!
AND YOU DARED! DARED! TO TURN THE OUTRAGEOUSLY HANDSOME AND MULTIPLE AWARD WINNING GENRE DEFINER, SWIFTIE STAN, INTO A TEST SUBJECT? DO YOU NOT HAVE ANY DECENCY?
BUT I KNOW ALL ABOUT YOUR MORALS NOW. WHAT KIND OF TWISTED PERSON TRIES TO SEDUCE SOMEONE IN A GRAVEYARD? EVEN THINKS OF THE IDEA OF A SEX SCENE IN THAT SETTING? IT'S UTTERLY ABOMINABLE.
I DON'T CARE ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR WORK NOR THE INTENT BY WHICH YOU MADE THE OFFER. I'M NOT LEAVING THE PIMMPLE, AND I'VE ALREADY SECURED TRACEY'S SERVICES FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE, SO YOU CAN FORGET ABOUT HER TOO!
IF I NEVER SEE YOU AGAIN, IT WILL BE TOO SOON.
AND PLEASE NOTE BOTH INTENT AND IMPORTANCE HAVE A LOWERCASE 'I' BUT IMPOTENCE DOES NOT.
HERMIONE JEAN GRANGER-GIBBONS
A stunned silence fell over the garden as everyone turned to look at Daphne with identical looks of horror on their faces.
She opened her mouth and then closed it again, unable to defend herself. Seeing the triumphant expression on Hermione's face made Daphne sick to her stomach.
Taking a few steps backwards, she tried to make a discreet escape. But before she could get much further, a sudden loud explosion blasted around them causing everyone to snap their heads up.
Fireworks? At a time like this?
They were followed by a large banner that read: "Congratulations, Ginny!"
Everyone turned to stare wide-eyed at the youngest Weasley who stuttered out a reply. "It-it was on a timer!" she said, as Molly shook her head in disappointment.
"For Merlin's sake, Ginny," Bill said from across the table. "There's a bloody time and a place, you—"
"Dickhead!" Bill and Fleur said at the same time.
Everyone murmured in agreement, including Daphne, who was frankly appalled at the girl's behaviour.
With her face quickly turning a bright shade of red, Jenny stood up from the table and slammed her hands against it. "How is it that even when he's not here, he manages to ruin EVERYTHING," she said, her voice echoing around the garden. "And anyway, I think we're forgetting the main point here!"
"Which is?" Ron said, looking up from his food in confusion as though he'd just missed the last several minutes.
"Her," Jenny said, pointing at Daphne. "She tried to steal Harry away from the PIMMPLE—"
"It's pronounced P.I.M.M—"
Several heads whipped around to Hermione and yelled "Piss off, it's PIMMPLE!" in unison.
With a nervous laugh, Daphne spoke up again. "Well, er...I think that's as good a sign as any that I should see myself out," she said, hoping to make a quick escape.
She rushed around the table to head to the back door, but paused when she heard someone shout. Turning around, she spotted a small boy flanked by two garden gnomes, grabbing two handfuls of mud to aim at her.
Daphne yelped and jumped aside at the last second. But a scream behind her made her look back over her shoulder.
"You little—!" Jenny said, flinging mud off her face and onto Ron's plate of food with a splat.
"Oi!" Ron said, looking up at his sister. "Way to go, Ginny. You've ruined my food."
Several disappointed choruses of "Ginny!" rang out around the table. Angelina gagged as she looked at Ron's plate, George placing a soothing hand on her back. Molly tutted about improper table etiquette and shooed her daughter away with a grimace.
"Me?" Jenny exclaimed. "I'm the one sticking up for Harry while Ron just stuffs his face full of food!"
"What?" Ron said, moving the mud-covered food off to the side of his plate. "Harry's already told her off with Hermione's Lecture-Mode-Howler™. S'not like he doesn't know how to deal with rabid fangirls on his own."
Murmurs of agreement rang out across the table as Ron forked another over-sized bite into his mouth.
Smoothing out her robes, Daphne attempted to sneak out for a second time, but had to duck under a barrage of mud that the adorable little boy and his gnomes threw.
A sickening splat was heard behind her once again, and Daphne saw Jenny was now almost fully covered in mud.
The rest of the adults smiled pleasantly at the boy's antics, Fleur blowing a kiss to her son.
"I don't know where that boy gets his silliness," Fleur said, chuckling to Bill as Jenny slipped on the grass while trying to run away.
Daphne was about to take advantage of the lack of attention on her and try to escape for the third time, but a sight near the little boy made her pause. It was the sold-out garden pond she'd been trying to get her hands on for ages.
"Is...Is that the August Grove's Hand Crafted Cinda Stone Pond and Bridge Fair Garden with a Resin Solar Tiered River Stream Cascading Fountain with Staggered Rocks and Red Blue Green Orange Yellow and Red Pond LED Lights with Automatic Timers with Six Customizable Settings?"
Molly stood and preened. "Why yes, it is," she said, stepping over Jenny's puddle of mud to walk over to Daphne. "The maker had a spot of trouble that Arthur sorted for him."
Putting a hand on his wife's shoulder, Arthur joined the conversation. "Just a spot of bother with a few gnomes," he said, gesturing to his own gnomes, who were in the process of preparing more mud balls for Louis to throw.
"He's such a dear," Molly said, putting her hand on Arthur's before turning back to face Daphne, her expression changing rapidly. "I'll put in a word with the maker for you...to make sure you can never buy one. Nobody tries to steal family from us, you see."
"Or from me," Hermione said, walking over to stand next to Molly with her arms crossed. "As if Harry would ever leave the P.I.M.M.P.L.E for you. He needs mental stimulation and a thriving work environment. After all...you know what they say. Those who can't do, teach. And those who can't teach...research."
Multiple gasps sounded around the table, the loudest coming from Daphne herself.
Whispers of 'she said the word!' and 'so brave' could also be heard, causing Daphne's nostrils to flare in anger.
"I'll get you back, Granger-Gibbons," she said through clenched teeth. "You and your little Focus, too. You mark my words."
With that, she turned on her heel for the fourth time and furiously walked away, slipping on the piles of mud and landing on top of Jenny who was still struggling to get up as Louis and the gnomes continued to pelt her with gobs of mud.
"For Merlin's sake, Jenny!" Daphne said, pushing off her and stalking away.
Applause rang out throughout the garden as everyone stood up and cheered fervently, patting Hermione on the back while she bit her lip and hung her head, a shy but proud smile on her face.
Harry looked around the table at his friends who had quickly become like family to him, holding his ice-cold glass of bliss as he lounged away on the sun-kissed patio in Brazil, munching away on his dinner Of Fish, Chips, and Salad.
Swiftie Stan was furiously debating with Tracey about whether No Body No Crime by Taylor Swift was a song to sit back and disassociate to, or one to bop to.
Brazilian Beta was offering his services to every person who walked by.
And as Harry took it all in, he couldn't help but feel reinvigorated.
They really were The Best Kind of Weird.
It had been five days, and he was still HYPED about the week despite knowing that there was one more day left before he had to go back to work and select his Minions.
"Look, I never said I didn't like it!" Tracey said, rolling her eyes at Swiftie Stan. "It's a great song, I just...can't imagine myself listening to it while I'm trying to relax, okay? It's a bop."
Letting out a genuinely judgmental laugh, Swiftie Stan stared at her as if she'd just sprouted another head. "A bop? A bop? Of course, it's a bop. All Taylor's songs are. But why should a bop not hold as much weight as all your dissociative crap?" he said, so much hating. "Goddamn hipster..."
The familiar argument washed over Harry as he took another sip of his oh-so-crisp orange juice, one Nauze had been kind enough to bring straight from the Orange Juice factory, itself. He'd befriended the receptionist while he was there, and somehow ended up offering to beta-read for her.
A complimentary orange juice had been sent to him once he'd faxed back his Sugar Momma's latest work.
Sensing that the thirty-sixth round of the great Taylor Swift debate was coming to a close, Harry put his hand on Swiftie Stan's knee.
"I tried out that Active Groin Stretch you kept doing on the other side of the fence," he said, thankful that his groin felt so relieved. "It's really done wonders for me."
Shuffling over to them, Brazilian Beta looked his newly found father in the eye and engaged in his own thorough Active Groin Stretch, causing Swiftie Stan to let out a small gasp.
"Nauze, that...that was perfect form," he said in awe.
"Really?" Brazilian Beta said, his tone hopeful. "I just...I've been practicing for so long. I wanted to find a way to grow closer to you after I discovered that you were my real dad, Dad. And...I thought this might be the way to do it."
Looking overcome with emotion, Swiftie Stan nodded. "It was," he said, choking up. "It was."
Nauze glanced down before looking around at everyone. "For the record," he said to his dad. "I think you defined your genre a thousand times better than your parents ever did. You are a Golden God, Dad."
Sticking a hand in his pocket, he pulled out a piece of paper and unfolded it. "I've done some beta work for zapt, as well, and...in return, I commissioned this piece from him."
Everyone looked over to see a beautiful drawing of Petri as the Golden God he truly was, and Harry couldn't help but be reminded of the picture young Petri had drawn in his bedroom all those years ago in yellow crayon.
It was enough to make a grown man cry.
Indeed, Swiftie Stan blinked rapidly as though to stem his tears. He cleared his throat gruffly and clapped a hand on his son's shoulders. "That's my boy," he said, causing Nauze's face to light up.
Harry watched the scene with a pleasant smile on his face, always happy to see a father-son bond.
"Did you break the news to Hermione yet about keeping me on for the foreseeable future?" Tracey asked as she sipped her drink. "Things were a bit rocky this week and—"
"You have to tell her! We can't have her finding out and getting angry. It's been a Harry Hermione Dramapalooza lately," Swiftie Stan interjected, suddenly leaning forward with a sense of urgency to him. "You two need to stay together."
Rubbing his forehead, Harry let out a groan. "I knew there was something I was forgetting," he said before shrugging. "Ah, well...I'm not going to worry about it, now. We fight and get annoyed at each other all the time, but...I've realised recently that no matter what...we've always got each other's backs. And Hermione will always keep the PIMMPLE running smoothly."
Swiftie Stan was about to comment, but Tracey stamped on his foot. "You've been friends since first year," she said, giving him a pleasant smile. "You'll work through this."
"I know," Harry said. "I think she's just been more stressed recently with all the changes, and I...well...these past few years haven't been easy on me."
They all gave him sympathetic looks, Nauze coming to hug him from behind with Petri following after to hug Nauze, and Tracey following after to hug Petri hugging Nauze hugging Harry.
They all gave him sympathetic looks.
Nauze was the first to move forward, opening his arms wide to hug Harry. But Petri did a quick active groin stretch and then threw his arms out and went to join his son, too. And Tracey, not one to be left out, glomped over toward them, as well.
Harry leant into Brazilian Beta's hug, feeling Swiftie Stan wrap up his son with his own warm hug. And though it seemed as though Tracey's arms were not long enough, she piled on and hugged Petri, who was hugging Nauze who was hugging Harry, thereby hugging Harry as well.
They could've stayed that way for hours, but an incessant 'meow' finally forced them to break apart.
"Oh, sorry, that's my cat," Tracey said, leaning down to pick him up. "He wants me to feed him."
They all nodded in understanding, but before Tracey left, she held up her glass of orange juice. "To a great week together," she said. "May the HYPE never cease."
The three men clinked their glasses with hers. "Cheers, we'll drink to that."
Firstly, balme Nauze for creating yet another unnecessary delay in the publication of Healer Harry. The amount of outstanding bottles of orange juice, and their corresponding paperwork, have created a severe blockade of Eucla's major roadways. Delivery trucks are being scorched by the sun and Euclanites are being blocked from the Scurvy Clinic.
Secondly, we'd like to thank Petrificus Somewhatus for writing the Genre-Defining Haphne fic, Daphne Greengrass and the Importance of Intent and lending inspiration for this chapter so that we could capitalise on his ideas and make them better. We'd also like to thank him for elegantly accepting the third place role amongst his friend group of distinguished fanfic writers.
Thirdly, we'd like to blame all Minion applicants applying for the position among Healer Harry Potter's Team. Given the excessive number of thoroughly qualified candidates, further time will be needed to sift through the applications. Our HR representative will be in touch via our new streamlined fax system.
Fourthly, we'd like to thank Taliesin19's second job for keeping her hard at work and on task for the first time in five years. Without such a busy schedule, there is not a snowball's chance in hell that this chapter could have been finished. She would have simply lazed about and fed her cat at the appropriate time, forever staying in the Hiatus Penthouse.
Fifthly, we'd like to blame Sir Cappy for his excessive adding and dropping of the Minion role. If he had just stayed yellow, then Carl the bot would not have crashed on numerous discord servers, creating chaos and a distinct lack of moderation for all seven minutes that he had a partial outage. May the lord have mercy on your soul for your transgression.
Sixthly, we'd like to thank all of STS for participating in HYPE 2.0. May the HYPE never cease!
Stay Classy, Eucla!