Disclaimer: Everything belongs to J.K.R.
AN: This story was written as a contribution to the Haphne Summer 2021 Collection. You will find the collection here:
The collectionis a community project to celebrate 500 members on the Haphne discord server,:
discord dot gg/pKSdvJQvhU
Just delete the spaces and replace 'dot' with '.' after you copy and paste into your browser.
A big Thank you! to my betas, Akamoroti, who helped pull the plot to the light of day and checked my sometimes weird English, and Federer Rex for the Brit-picking. It's thanks to them that everything reads smoothly and not weird.
The unfamiliar owl pecked on the windowpane when the Weasley family and their honorary members just sat down for breakfast.
"I'll get it," Ron said. He got up, went to the window, and opened it. The owl held her leg out for him. Ron untied the letters and returned to the table, shuffling the letters in his hands and reading the names of the recipients.
"They are for the three of us." He handed a letter each to Harry and Hermione, then sat down and opened his letter.
"Probably another invitation to another party," Hermione said.
Harry made a face. "Without me." He pushed the letter aside.
"You're wrong, Hermione," Ron said. He looked down at the letter in his hands with a frown on his face. "Strange, I thought the Shafiq family had died out. Didn't Voldemort murder all of them during the first war?"
Mr Weasley lowered his newspaper and looked at his youngest son over the rim of his reading glasses. "A Death Eater raid early on in Voldemort's initial rise, destroyed the wards and killed everyone in the house. There wasn't much left at all, apparently. There have always been rumours that the youngest son and his wife weren't there and fled the country."
"Is it from Nihal Shafiq?" Bill asked as he and Fleur sat down at the table. Two plates floated over from the cupboard at a wave of Fleur's wand. "I worked with him in Egypt. Nice bloke, said he was from MACUSA and that his parents had gone across from Britain during the first war."
Ron checked the bottom of his letter.
"Yes, that's the name."
"What does he want?" Bill asked.
"He and his wife have recently returned to Britain to take up the family seat on the Wizengamot and to help with the rebuilding effort. He has heard horror stories of the last year at Hogwarts, and they want to help. It's a big thing in America to have summer camps over the summer holiday. They have decided to fund a camp for first and second year's if they are interested, that is. They are both mind healers and think they could help them look beyond the house colours and overcome the trauma they've experienced. He's asking for students from our year to apply to be student counsellors."
"For the cat herding, I suppose." Mr Weasley laughed and disappeared behind his newspaper.
"I think that is a wonderful idea." Hermione opened her letter and read it. She put the piece of parchment beside her plate. "If I hadn't already booked the Portkey to Australia, I'd send in my application. However, I want to unlock my parent's memories as soon as possible and get them back to England. I miss them." Her voice quivered at the last words, and she lowered her gaze.
"Of course you do, dear." Mrs Weasley reached across the table and patted Hermione's hand.
Ron put an arm around his girlfriend's shoulder and gave her a peck on the cheek. "Family comes first, love." His eyes flickered to George, who was having his breakfast in unusual silence. "That's why I'm also out. I have promised George to help him this summer with the restocking of the shop."
George turned his head and gave Ron a small nod in acknowledgement of his declaration.
"What about you, Harry?" Hermione asked.
"Huh?" Harry looked up from the letter. He pushed his glasses up on the bridge of his nose and shrugged. "I don't know. Sounds interesting, but…" His voice trailed off, and his eyes flickered to Ginny, who sat at the end of the table between her mother and George.
Some colour rose into her cheeks, the only sign that she had noticed his glance.
Gods, he was so pathetic. Harry sighed to himself and returned to his breakfast. After the meal, he went out of the backdoor and ambled towards the broom shed. Maybe some flying would clear his head and take his thoughts off Ginny and what he had lost.
A soft hand on his arm held him back. He turned around to look straight into Ginny's chocolate brown eyes.
There was nothing left of the blazing fire they held whenever she looked at him during their time together. His stomach dropped in expectation of the conversation to come.
Ginny worried her lower lip with her teeth. "May I have a word with you, Harry?"
"I don't know if that's a good idea, Ginny," he said with a sigh and raked his fingers through his hair. "You made it pretty clear that you don't want to pick up where we left off. While I respect your decision, I still have a hard time accepting it, sorry."
The beautiful eyes not once wavered. There still was warmth in them, even though the passion was gone.
"Our time together was wonderful, yet surreal," Ginny said. "We were at war and grabbed the chance of a little happiness, but we've both changed and I don't think we would last much longer. We've spent too much time apart, fought too many battles. All the losses we have suffered showed me that life can be over in the blink of an eye. I have to follow my dreams, I don't want to wait, because maybe there won't be time for them later." Her eyes darkened. "Unfortunately, my dreams don't align with yours, Harry."
His heart was a heavy stone in his chest. They'd been over this before, and yet, it still made little sense to him. He opened his mouth to contradict. Surely there was a way to make both of their dreams work?
Ginny shook her head. "No, Harry, I don't want to spoil what we had, and I don't want to ruin our friendship. If we get together again, there's a good chance we will get married and years later it will all end in bitterness and disappointment. Where will that leave my family? They all love you, but they'll take my side, out of family loyalty. Where will that leave you?"
The stone in his chest became almost unbearable.
She shook her head again. "The answer is still no, Harry. I want you to move on. I want you to be happy. If you value what was between us, take the offer Nihal Shafiq made to you. Spend your summer at that camp. Show the young ones how to play Quidditch. You are a fantastic teacher. Make some new friends. Enjoy yourself."
Did she have any idea what she was asking of him?
Her eyes became pleading. "Please, Harry, if you don't want to do it for yourself, do it for me!"
He deflated. Damn, she still knew how to pull his strings. He ran his hand through his hair once more.
"Alright, I'll do it. For you, Ginny."
One week later, Harry entered the Leaky Cauldron and walked to the bar.
Tom, the barkeep, turned around to him with a toothless smile and a dishrag in his hand.
"Good morning, Mr Potter. What can I do for you?"
"I am here to meet Mr Nihal Shafiq."
Tom gestured with the dishrag towards a door next to the staircase.
"In there. He booked our private room for the meeting."
Harry thanked the barkeep and was almost to the door when a female voice that sounded familiar called out to him.
He stopped and looked over his shoulder. A girl about his age walked towards him. Like many young wizards and witches of their age, she wore Muggle clothes: a pair of faded jeans that hugged her slim hips, a white t-shirt, and a dark blue dress jacket that matched the colour of her eyes, and she had tied her blonde hair into a ponytail at the nape.
He returned her smile. She looked familiar, with blue eyes, a pert nose, and delicate features. He should remember a beauty such as hers.
The smile turned into a grin. "Greengrass. Daphne Greengrass. I'm not surprised you don't recognise me, Potter. We didn't speak once at school." She held out her hand to him.
He returned her handshake. Her grasp was firm and warm.
"Sorry, Greengrass. Now I remember you. You had your practical OWLs together with Hermione, didn't you?"
"Yes, I did. Did you also apply for the summer camp?"
"I did, it sounds like a great idea."
A shadow flickered across her face. "It is. You don't know what it was like at Hogwarts last year, Potter."
They had reached the door during their talk, and he opened it for her and let her enter first. Her ponytail fell down to the small of her back, a cascade of gleaming gold.
A long table took up most of the space in the room with the majority of seats already filled. A young swarthy man in his mid-twenties rose as they entered and walked towards them, holding out his hand.
"Good morning. I am Nihal Shafiq. As you are the last to arrive, you must be Daphne and Harry?"
"We are, Nihal. This is Daphne Greengrass and I am Harry Potter," Harry responded for them both and took the older man's hand. "It's good to meet you."
Nihal was tall, slender and handsome, with horn-rimmed glasses and wavy dark hair and dark eyes. He had a friendly smile and sported a fashionable designer stubble. He motioned to the young woman next to him. "This is my wife, Azadeh."
Azadeh shook hands with them. "Welcome to the team." Her short, curly pixie cut enhanced her mischievous smile, and Harry took an instant liking to her. She had dark, almond-shaped eyes and pearly skin. Were there Veelas in the Arabian Peninsula? However, the pull he associated with them was missing.
Azadeh introduced them to the other older couple at the table, Anthony and Jessica Fawley, who were of a similar age. She gestured towards the table and the current occupants. "I'd expect that you know everyone else. Please, take a seat."
Harry nodded towards his former classmates as he approached the two empty chairs and drew them both out to allow Daphne and himself to be seated. "Hi guys," he greeted them. "I suppose we can catch up after the meeting is finished."
He sat down and looked at the faces around the table. There was Neville, who nodded and smiled at him. Beside him sat Hannah Abbott, holding his hand, who also gave him a friendly smile. Harry twitched an eyebrow. He didn't know that they were an item. Hopefully, that wouldn't get between Neville and him. While Hannah was friendly enough these days and had been a member of the DA, she'd shunned him in their second year and had worn one of those horrible 'Potter stinks!' badges in their fourth year, two incidents he had not forgotten.
Next to Hannah sat Morag MacDougall, another Hufflepuff. He did not really know her apart from that she had not worn a badge and had not gone out of her way to avoid him. He gave her a smile and a nod, which she returned.
Lisa Turpin and Terry Boot were old friends from the DA who had never bothered him. They both greeted him with broad grins.
Blaise Zabini brought up the rear, and Harry suppressed the urge to grimace. While Zabini had never been openly offensive like Malfoy, he hadn't been friendly, either. Today, Zabini acknowledged him with a nod and the ghost of a smile, which was a vast improvement to their last encounter on the Hogwarts train at the beginning of the sixth year.
Nihal cleared his throat.
All heads turned towards him.
"As I already told you in my letter, my wife and I recently returned to magical Britain now that the threat to my family has gone." He nodded at Harry in acknowledgement.
Harry's face grew warm at the recognition. However, by now he was used to the attention and only nodded slightly as the rest of the table murmured agreement.
"Ever since our return, my wife and I have heard stories of terrible things that have happened at Hogwarts, in particular this last year. We were especially appalled at how much the youngest students suffered from the Death Eaters who ran the school."
Nihal paused and took a sip of water from the glass in front of him.
"We also heard how deep the animosities between the houses ran. Gryffindors belittling and pranking Slytherins at every turn for being dark, Slytherins retaliating with hexes in the hallways that became increasingly darker as Voldemort's rise neared, Ravenclaws becoming insular and taking out their frustrations by bullying the weakest members of their house, all three houses looking down at Hufflepuffs and belittling them, while Hufflepuffs became downright feral to anyone they perceived as a threat to their house."
He paused and looked into the youthful faces around the table.
The eight young people were avoiding his gaze. Quite a few had become rather red in the face.
Nihal slapped on the table.
The eight young people jumped.
"This has to end!" A furious glint in his eyes, he paused and took a deep breath to calm himself. "My wife and I have come back to magical Britain to re-establish our family in the country of our parents, and so have our friends, the Fawleys." He smiled at Anthony and Jessica. "I refuse to send my children to a school where the houses are poisoned against each other to a point where they are at open war. I refuse to support such a system. It has to change, and we will do all within our power to achieve that."
Azadeh, Anthony, and Jessica nodded at that.
Nihal took a deep breath. "Anthony and I will take up our seats on the Wizengamot and lobby there for changes. However, that will take patience and time. So, we also want to try to change the system from within. Hence our idea for a summer camp for the first and second years only."
His gaze wandered down the two rows of Hogwarts students in front of him.
"You have probably already noticed that I chose two students from each house as counsellors for the camp. You are supposed to set an example for the younger years. If you can't put aside your differences and work together for the sake of the next generation of students, speak now and you may leave." He pointed a finger towards the door.
The room went quiet. The only sound was the faint traffic noise coming through the closed windows from Charing Cross Road. The quiet lasted a long minute, and the eight students exchanged uneasy glances. Nobody got up, though.
A broad smile appeared on Nihal's face. Azadeh and the Fawleys also beamed.
"Good!" Nihal clapped his hands, then pulled out his wand and summoned a stack of papers from the sideboard behind him and handed them out. "There are thirty-two spaces available. We hope to get more sponsors in the upcoming years and expand the camp, but this is all we can do for now. From the applicants, we chose sixteen students who were first years last year, and sixteen from second year. There are eight boys and eight girls from each year, and we made certain to get a mix of Nomag-borns, Halfbloods and Purebloods. These ridiculous prejudices have to end!" He huffed.
Harry's stomach fluttered with excitement. This was amazing! Why had nobody thought of this earlier? Then again, the likes of the Malfoys and the Parkinsons would never have consented to send their children to a summer camp like this, and other Pureblood families, like the Zabinis and the Greengrasses, might have thought twice, out of fear of bringing the wrath of the Dark Lord upon themselves.
He leaned forward so as to not miss anything.
Beside him, Daphne mirrored his actions. He turned his head towards her. Her cheeks were flushed, and she grinned, a sure sign she was as excited as he was.
The other six also showed various degrees of approval and excitement.
"We will have eight tents, with four boys or four girls each. Each one of you will be responsible for a tent and a group of four. You will sleep in their tents, although in a private area so that you are close by in case of an emergency at night."
The eight young people nodded in understanding.
"Four boys and four girls of one year will make a group, for example, for camp games or excursions. For that reason, we have put you into pairs. You have to take care of your charges together. The pairings are Neville and Hannah, for obvious reasons." Nihal grinned at the young couple, and they blushed to the chuckles of their classmates.
"Morag and Terry, Lisa and Blaise, and Daphne and Harry. Any problems with that?" He looked from one to the other.
The six young people in question shook their heads.
"Very well." Nihal pointed towards the papers in their hands. "The Fawleys and Azadeh and I will have tents of our own. There is one large tent in the middle of the camp, where we will take our meals and where we can gather in case of rain, although I doubt that will be necessary."
"Why's that?" Terry asked. "I still have to see an English summer without rain."
Nihal grinned and pointed towards the papers once again. "It's all in there. The camp is on a large magical campground in southern France. We will not be the only camp there, there are camps from other countries as well. There is an all campground Quidditch competition, and we might want to have our own team."
Harry perked up at that. Showing a bunch of excited twelve and thirteen-year-old the ins and outs of Quidditch sounded like fun.
His classmates gave him knowing glances and chuckles.
"Cool!" Terry grinned. "I've always wanted to go to France."
"Don't forget to stock up on sun cream and Anti-Mosquito-Potion. The mosquitos down there are tiny and mean, and there are myriads of them." Daphne made a face.
"Excellent advice," Nihal said. "Since we four"— he gestured from himself towards his wife and the Fawleys— "are all healers, we are prepared for emergencies. We'll have another tent where we can treat cases if need be. That is only the secondary purpose of the medical tent though. Tony?" He nodded towards Anthony Fawley.
"As Nihal said, we are healers, but we specialise in the mind," Anthony Fawley said. "We have worked for Gringotts ever since we left healer school in New York. You might not know it, but some curses on those old tombs where Gringotts sends their teams of curse breakers have rather nasty side effects on the human brain, no matter how careful you are in dismantling them. Almost as a rule, the teams had at least one nasty accident each year. We are used to helping with people who have suffered through trauma, and we will use our expertise with the children. They'll be having regular meetings with us, although the three weeks at camp might not be enough. However, we hope the board of governors will consent to have us at Hogwarts for the next school year."
"Of course, we are also available for you, should you wish to talk," Azadeh said in a quiet voice.
Again, the room fell silent.
At last, Morag cleared her throat. "What will our jobs be, besides being there at night and supervising the young ones during outings?"
"You are the cat herders." Jessica grinned at her.
The eight students looked at each other.
"You can't herd cats," Terry said.
The four healers broke out into laughter.
"Exactly," Azadeh said, still laughing. "It's your job to entertain them, keep them out of mischief, and tire them out so that they'll fall asleep the moment their heads touch the pillow."
"Don't underestimate the importance of that," her husband said. "Lots of exercise in the open air will help them overcome the terrible memories faster."
His wife and friends nodded in confirmation.
"We have already listed a couple of activities in the papers Nihal gave to you," Jessica said. "However, it's what we did at summer camps while we grew up in the MACUSA. Kids here might like different things, we wouldn't know. We ask you to come up with your own ideas and develop a programme for the three weeks."
"The emphasis should be on team-building activities since the aim of the camp is to overcome the house animosities," Anthony said.
Harry leaned back in his chair. Nihal and his friends had given him a lot to think about. Their idea was so simple, and yet so promising. He couldn't wait to take part in it.
The meeting ended shortly after that. While the four healers left for a meeting they had with the board of governors at Hogwarts, the eight young people crowded around a table in the taproom's corner in silent agreement.
"How are we going about this?" Terry asked, as soon as they sat down.
"Wait a moment." Harry pulled out his wand and cast a Privacy Ward and a Notice-Me-Not-Charm around them.
"What's that for?" Morag asked.
Neville made a face. "To keep away the adoring masses. Neither Harry nor I can walk down Diagon Alley without being accosted by them."
"Must be hard being a celebrity, Longbottom," Zabini said.
"You wouldn't know anything about that, Zabini." Neville reciprocated Zabini's sneer with one of his own.
Harry clapped inwardly.
Daphne, who had once again ended up next to Harry, growled. "Stop it, both of you! Didn't you listen to what Nihal said? We are supposed to work together, not to continue old feuds!"
Both young men looked abashed and dropped their heads to the ground.
"Sorry, Daphne," Zabini said.
"It's not me you should apologise to, Blaise." she said with a pointed look.
Zabini nodded at Neville with a rueful grin. "I'm sorry, Longbottom."
"Me, too, Zabini," Neville said.
Daphne threw her hands in the air and huffed. "You are impossible, both of you! We are supposed to be friendly, so stop using your last names, for Merlin's sake!"
Blaise gave her a contrite smile. "Yes, mum."
They all broke out into laughter.
"Let me repeat my question," Terry said, when the laughter died down. "How are we going about this?"
"Maybe we should come up with a list of what activities each one of us can offer," Lisa said. "I'll start. I'm good with horses and could offer horseback riding lessons or supervise rides for those who already know how to ride."
"I can help you with that," Daphne said. "I can also offer dancing classes."
The young men groaned at that. "That will go over so well with young boys," Neville muttered, and the other three chuckled.
Hannah shoved her elbow into her boyfriend's side. "I heard that! It's a good idea, the girls will love it." She nodded at Daphne. "Before you go on, let me take notes." She flicked her wand, and a quill, a bottle of ink, and parchment appeared in front of her. She picked up the quill, dipped it into the ink, and jotted a few words on parchment. "Go on." She nodded at Daphne and Lisa.
"I could also give Yoga lessons," Daphne said.
Terry made a face, but nodded, and so did Lisa and Harry. The others, however, looked nonplussed.
"Eh… What is Yoga?" Neville asked.
"Yoga is a spiritual discipline based on an extremely subtle science, which focuses on bringing harmony between mind and body. It is an art and science of healthy living," Daphne said.
"The word 'Yoga' is derived from the Sanskrit root 'Yuj', meaning 'to join' or 'to yoke' or 'to unite'," Lisa added.
Morag smiled. "Then it is just what we need, I guess."
Neville opened his mouth. A stern look from his girlfriend made him reconsider, and he leaned back in his seat with a wink at Harry.
Harry grinned and shook his head. What had come over his shy roommate? The year as the leader of the resistance at Hogwarts had done wonders to his self-esteem and finished a transformation that had started with the DA in their fifth year.
"Add archery and fencing for me," Morag said.
Harry's eyebrows shot up. "Fencing?"
"My grandfather taught it to all the children of our clan, together with archery. You'd better not get on my nasty side, Harry." She grinned and turned to the other young men. "You either."
Terry ducked his head in mock fear. "Sounds like I should ask Nihal for another partner. There's no way I'll get through the summer without putting my foot in it."
"Don't we all know that," Lisa said and rolled her eyes.
Morag's grin turned feral. "Don't worry, Terry, I'm also rather good at magical combat healing."
Terry dropped his forehead on the tabletop with an audible groan, and the young people howled with laughter.
"Talking about the field, I could offer field trips and teach about plants and herbs that grow near the camp, magical as well as mundane," Neville said as the laughter died down. "And what about a camp garden? With magical fertiliser and a few growing spells you can grow a lot within three weeks."
"We can harvest everything at the end of the camp and cook the fruits and vegetables at the Leaving Feast," Hannah said. "We can even have a cooking class."
Terry sat up, wiggled his eyebrows, and grinned. "There will be a Leaving Feast?"
"And a Welcoming Feast," all four girls said in unison and laughed.
"My stomach will love that." Terry patted said part of his anatomy.
Lisa snorted. "You and your hollow legs!"
Terry shrugged. "I think I have earned it after the time in the Room of Requirement."
The eight young people became silent. The two Slytherins looked to the ground, their faces pale. The other five who had stayed at Hogwarts during the last school year avoided looking at them.
"Don't we all, mate?" Harry asked with a shudder at the memory of the many hungry days in the cold and draughty tent.
"They didn't starve us, but don't think we could gorge ourselves with our classmates disappearing to the left and right, and not knowing what became of them," Daphne said in a low voice. "And after what happened to Finnegan—" She shuddered.
Blaise touched her hand in a brief gesture of comfort.
Harry watched the two Slytherins closely. Daphne had not been lying. They looked almost as haggard as the rest of them. How had life in the dungeons been for the less vociferous Slytherins during the last year? Certainly not a bed of roses, going by the way they looked.
The silence stretched on.
"Way to put your foot in it, Boot," Lisa said at last with a fake glare at her housemate. "You'd better come up with a few suggestions about what you will do to entertain the small fries."
That broke the tension.
"Since my father is a Muggle, I grew up with Muggle sports. I'm still a member of our local swimming club. I could teach swimming and other Muggle sports, and organise popular Muggle ball games I played as a kid."
"That sounds fun," Hannah said, and jotted down Terry's suggestions. She turned towards Blaise. "What about you?"
"Well, I love music and play several instruments and sing."
"Blaise has a beautiful voice," Daphne said.
Blaise blushed. "If you say so. I could teach how to play the guitar, and we could have a camp choir. Oh, and singing around the campfire, it won't be a real summer camp without that."
"Don't forget ghost stories." Daphne gave the Italian a warm smile. "Blaise knows the best ghost stories. He frightened us out of our socks with them in our first year."
They chuckled at that. Harry regarded the two Slytherins. It seemed there'd been a rather healthy house community going on in Slytherin, at least at one time, if they sang together and frightened each other with ghost stories. He couldn't recall anything like that from the Gryffindor common room. With disruptive students like the Weasley twins and Lee Jordan, Seamus and Dean, and the ever-giggling and whispering Lavender and Parvati, such entertainments were doomed to fail right from the start.
For the first time, he wondered if putting together students with similar traits and a similar background was the best way to educate children.
Daphne elbowed him in the side. "Hannah addressed you, Harry."
"Huh?" He looked up. "Sorry, Hannah, I was wool-gathering."
"That was obvious." Hannah chuckled. "What is your contribution?"
"Flying lessons, and a flying club," he said without hesitation. "And I'd love to train our Quidditch team if we have one."
Nobody looked surprised at that.
"I can also do a magical self-defence group. Teach them some basic stuff, like the Shield Charm and the Disarming Charm, in case they'll get into trouble in the hallways."
"That's a good idea," Hannah said, and added his suggestions to the list.
He thanked her with a smile. "I know my way around a kitchen and could help you with the cooking classes."
"Thank you, Harry, I appreciate that." She beamed at him, then looked at the others. "Any more offers?"
They shook their heads.
Neville looked at his wristwatch. "Why don't we call it a day, then? I suggest the assigned partners meet and work on their suggestions, and put together a tentative programme?"
Everybody agreed to that and the group parted.
Harry and Daphne were the last to leave the Leaky Cauldron through the entrance that led onto Charing Cross Road. In a comfortable silence, they turned into a narrow cul-de-sac off Charing Cross Road, where high waste bins from the adjoining restaurants made undetected Apparating easy.
Daphne held out her hand to him. "Goodbye, Harry. It was nice to meet you properly. I'm looking forward to seeing your beautiful owl with your letter."
The friendly smile drained off his face. "Hedwig is dead." He turned away, he didn't want her to see his grief. This would lead to more questions he wasn't willing to answer.
Her face scrunched up in sympathy, and she placed a hand on his arm, turning him back around to look into his eyes.
Damn, hopefully she didn't notice that his sight had become blurry.
"Harry, I am so sorry. I didn't know. She was one of the most beautiful owls I've ever seen. I'm sure she was a very special owl."
"She was, she really was," Harry said around the lump in his throat. Fond memories of Hedwig came to his mind and outweighed the sadness of her departure, and he couldn't help the proud smile that formed around his lips at the thought of his beloved owl.
Daphne squeezed his arm, then let go. "I'll send you our old family owl with my ideas tomorrow."
"I look forward to it." The abrupt absence of her touch made him realize how comforting it had been.
She waved him a goodbye, spun on the spot, and Apparated away with the faintest crack he'd ever heard.