(Rather long) A/N: Here is the final chapter of Daphne Greengrass and the 6th Year From Hell. Thanks so much for following along with Daphne as she stumbles through life, trying to finding herself and a place where she belongs. Thank you to everyone who has left reviews and who have put me and my story on their alerts and favorites. I appreciate your support, and I hope I was able to respond to all of your reviews. Thanks so much to Tincat and to stella8h8chang for being such indispensable help with this story.

The sequel, Daphne Greengrass and the 7th Year From Hell, will be told from the POVs of Ginny Weasley and Daphne; it will focus on the Weasley family and what happens at Hogwarts during the trio's Horcrux hunt. I expect to have the prologue up next week. Please put me on your Author Alerts if you want to be notified as soon as the sequel is hot-off-the-press! And for everyone who has followed this story, please leave a review and let me know what you think about the story as a whole, as well as this final chapter, as it's one of my favorites :0)

Additionally, I just put up my Luna Lovegood one-shot . . . but now I'm contemplating doing one in her voice in a way similar to Ten Birthdays. The piece is quite fluffy, and I'd like to try to capture another side of Luna as well . . . I just need to put pen to paper :-)

I own nothing. JKR owns it all, except for the lyrics to Oasis' "Wonderwall", from (What's the Story) Morning Glory?. The song was written by Noel Gallagher and was released in 1995. I can vouch for the quality of all the bands mentioned in this story and in this chapter. The three mentioned in this chapter alone are among my favorites!

Rated T for strong language and (implied) mature themes. Enjoy!

Chapter 30: Things Fall Apart

Daphne dragged her trunk down to the Slytherin common room. She didn't wake anyone up to tell them she was leaving, nor did she write out any good-bye notes to anyone she thought might care.

The last couple of days had been unbearable for her. She had told no one in Slytherin about Harry's account of what happened on top of the Astronomy Tower. Rumors had circulated that Harry had somehow been involved with whatever had occurred that evening. Certainly, the other Slytherins had asked Daphne about it. However, Daphne had remained tight-lipped and emotionless over the following couple of days.

Arrangements had already been made for Dumbledore's funeral, which was to be held on Hogwarts grounds . . . a funeral that would be lacking a few Slytherins in its attendance, including Daphne herself. A fair number of parents had stormed up to Professor Slughorn and demanded that be allowed to pull their children out of school. Headmistress McGonagall and Professor Slughorn could only comply somberly with those commands.

Although she had no family coming to pick her up, Daphne had already determined that she could get to Hogsmeade, Apparate to Diagon Alley, and from there, catch the Knight Bus or Floo to Miss Proctor's home. Even though the fireplace in her living room was tiny, and Daphne dreaded dragging herself and her trunk through it, she thought that magical transportation would simply be faster and more economical than Muggle transport, such as taxis or buses.

She stopped as she drew closer to the middle of the common room. Glancing over to the longest black leather couch near the Slytherin fireplace, Daphne saw a mound moving under a satiny, dark green quilt. Daphne dropped her trunk and the mound jumped a bit in surprise. Walking over to it, Daphne saw the lump was a human, rather small, pale, and—

"Pansy?" Daphne whispered.

Pansy turned two red-rimmed, bloodshot eyes toward Daphne, and gave a very half-hearted snort. "Bitch."

But there was no anger, no vitriol in her tone.

Daphne strode over and stood just in front of Pansy. Folding her arms, she focused solely on the girl sitting opposite to her.

"What?" Pansy sounded like her mouth was filled with cotton balls.

Daphne paused for a few moments. Closing her eyes, Daphne spoke. "Did you know?"

When she heard nothing in response, Daphne opened her eyes and looked — really looked — at Pansy. Pansy was fiddling with the corners of her quilt, pointedly avoiding Daphne.

"Well?" Daphne spoke after a few beats.

Pansy shook her head. "He never told me," she mumbled. "It doesn't take that Mudblood Granger to figure out that he told Draco to do . . . that." Pansy snorted.

"What, d'you mean, Pansy," Daphne drawled. "Do you mean that Voldemort told Draco to kill Dumbledore?" Daphne snorted as she watched Pansy cringe. "You can't even admit, can't even say Voldemort's name, can you? You can't admit that Draco Malfoy was ordered to kill someone."

There was a malicious tone to Daphne's voice, and she wanted her words to strangle Pansy until she couldn't breathe. If Malfoy wasn't around to feel the blunt edge of her wrath, then, dammit . . . his little girlfriend would hear—

Pansy let out a gasp, and her shaky hand came up to her mouth. Daphne saw her cheeks growing shiny and wet—

(Oh, of course she'd be crying in front of me . . . dammit!)

(Notfeelingsorryforher. . . . Notfeelingsorryforher. . . . Notfeelingsorryforher. . . .)

Shaking her head, Daphne told herself to just step away from Pansy, to not feel bad for her, because she had helped him . . . she had been part of the deception . . .

Daphne rolled her eyes, flared her nostrils, and sat down on the couch, more in the middle than directly next to Pansy. She left a bit of space between them.

"Er, Pansy?"

Pansy sniffed and kept her eyes forward. "I d-didn't know what he was s-sup-posed to do. I knew Draco was told to do something, b-but I didn't . . ." Pansy lowered her head. "I didn't like that idiot Headmaster, but I didn't want him dead . . . not by Draco at least."

Taking another deep breath, Daphne closed her eyes, and stuck her tongue between her teeth and her lips. Would it do any harm to tell Pansy that Malfoy couldn't go through with the deed? Should she mention Snape's part as Dumbledore's—

Daphne swallowed. "Draco didn't, Pansy."

Pansy lifted her head and looked at Daphne, her brow lowered in confusion. "What d-do you mean?" She rubbed her nose with her tiny, pale fingers.

"Draco didn't . . . he didn't kill Dumbledore."

Pansy shook her head in disbelief. "But, n-no. H-he had a task. If he d-didn't, h-he'd be . . . oh, Circe! " A small choking sound came from her throat, and Pansy once again pressed her fingers to her trembling chin and mouth.

"I don't know how or who, but Draco wasn't alone with Dumbledore," Daphne said, settling on an explanation that didn't give too much away.

Pansy, still tearing up, looked at Daphne. "H-how do you . . . ?" she trailed off.

Daphne held her hand up. "I won't tell you, all right. I just know, and so do you now." Daphne rested her hand on her fist and regarded Pansy with soft eyes. "Does that help?"

Pansy could only shrug in response.

Nodding once, Daphne braced herself on the couch and stood up. Just as she turned around to head toward her trunk, she heard the stampeding of feet coming down the boys' dormitory. Hand going to her wand, she watched as Blaise Zabini sped down the stairs.

"Daphne! What. . . ?" He saw her trunk. "The funeral's not—"

"For another two days. I'm not going," she said flatly.

Blaise cocked his eyebrow. "Apparently. You're going to hang out with the Weasels then, huh?"

"It's the Weasleys, and no, I'm not going to the Bur- . . . er, I'm just going to go to Miss Proctor's for, like, a few days. Clear my head. Stay out of the magical world for a bit." Daphne looked at Blaise from out of the corner of her eye. "Need a break."

Blaise nodded slowly, and suddenly, gave a small flinch.

"Wait a minute." Blaise fished around on his cloak and in the pockets of his trousers for something. "Do you have a parchment and quill?"

Giving him a puzzled look, Daphne opened up her trunk and pulled out the items Blaise had asked for and gave them to him.

Blaise wrote down what looked like a flat number and street address in Diagon Alley area of London. He thrust the parchment and quill back into Daphne's hands.

"This is Eddie's flat in Diagon Alley. His mum wasn't too terribly happy when he told her he'd been accepted into the Healing program at St. Mungo's, and said he'd have to be on his own during his training. He's moving into the place immediately after term's over — got a damn fine deal on it . . . er, anyways," Blaise said, drifing off awkwardly as Daphne looked back up at him.


The boy shook his head, and waved his hand in front of him. "Eddie won't have a problem with it, okay? Just, y'know . . . giving you the option. Nothing more, all right?"

Daphne continued looking at him. "Thanks." She put everything back into her trunk, turned sharply, and walked toward the common room door.

She paused, just before opening it. Daphne turned around and looked back at Blaise over her shoulder. Giving him a quick smile, she walked through the threshold, and started toward Hogsmeade.

Harry and Ginny trailed behind Ron and Hermione into the Great Hall. Both couples had been in somber moods since the fight and Dumbledore's death. Of course, it was perfectly understandable and completely expected. But Harry had used the time since Dumbledore's death and finding out the Slytherin locket was simply a fake left by some R.A.B. person, to think . . . and think . . . and think about the one hard, but right, thing to do.

As much as it hurt him to do what he needed to do, as much as he was giving up the best thing he had had since Quidditch, since Ron and Hermione, since Hogwarts, since ever, he had to do it, for him. For her.

For the whole bloody wizarding world.

He just had to make himself do it.

And he couldn't until the absolute last possible moment . . .

Harry heard a cough to his left. Apparently, so had Ron and Hermione and Ginny, because they stopped and turned to face—

"Blaise Zabini?"

"Ye-eah, Pot- . . .er, Harry," Blaise Zabini muttered. He scratched the back of his head. "Look, I'm really not comfortable coming over here to talk to you," Blaise' nostrils flared slightly, "Gryffindors—"

"Can say the feeling's mutual, Zabini," Harry deadpanned.

"—But I know you and them," Blaise gestured with his thumb over his shoulder, "are friends with Daphne, so I thought you'd want to know. She's left Hogwarts."

Harry stared at him. "No . . . when?" Ron and Hermione strode forward to stand next to Harry, keeping their hardened eyes trained on Blaise.

"She left this morning. She's going back to Miss Proctor's."

"Damn," Harry mumbled.

"Shit," Ron swore. "Was she all right?"

Blaise shrugged. "Well, I saw her downstairs with Pansy Parkinson—"

Harry stiffened upon hearing Malfoy's girlfriend's name.

"—And they didn't tear apart the common room. They actually looked like they'd been talking civilly for once." Blaise looked among the four of them. "I gave her a — well — she's got the address of my, er . . . my summer home." He crossed his arms and gave the Gryffindors a dark look. "I just wanted keep you posted on her whereabouts." With a curt nod, he spun around and headed toward the Slytherin table.

Harry looked among his friends. "Well?"

Ron scratched his head, mussing his hair with his hand. "Maybe once we get back to the Burrow, we can tell Dad and we can try to get a hold of her at Miss Proctor's. Maybe see if we can Floo or Apparate—"

Ron spotted Michael Corner striding into the Great Hall. Michael was looking over to the Slytherin table himself.

"Hey! Michael," Ron called out.

Michael jogged over to the little group.

"Hey there . . . um, Ginny, hi," Michael said awkwardly to his former girlfriend. She nodded in response.

Ron quickly told Michael what had happened to Daphne. The Ravenclaw's shock and surprise registered clearly on his face.

"Damn!" he exclaimed in a low, harsh tone. "She's been withdrawn for a couple of days, so she really wasn't talking to me about much of anything." Michael looked back up at the Gryffindors. "Unfortunately, I have no idea where Miss Proctor's house is, but I'll send an owl to her right after we're done." Michael gave a half-hearted shrug and chuckled sadly. "Probably send a bloody owl every day until she responds." He looked back up at the Gryffindors. "I'll admit, it's pretty pathetic of me—"

Harry shook his head. "Nothing's wrong with making sure she's all right, Michael." Harry gave Ginny's hand a quick squeeze, which she returned.

Nodding at each teen in turns, Michael turned and made his way toward an empty spot at the Ravenclaw table next to Terry Boot and Anthony Goldstein.

Sighing, Harry allowed his gaze to travel toward the teacher's table, almost by force of habit. He swallowed a lump that leapt up his throat when he saw the empty chair in the middle of the table, McGonagall just sitting to its left. It would be so easy, so natural after the year they've had, to just believe Dumbledore was away on some mission or assignment for the Order. Indeed, Harry himself almost believed it . . .

Harry then let his eyes travel to the end of the table, to the other empty chair toward the right side of the table. Harry felt his face darken, his mood shifted to cold fury.



(Dumbledore's murderer.)

Swallowing his anger and his desire to avenge his mentor's death, Harry moved back toward the Gryffindor table and took his seat with Ginny, Ron and Hermione.

"Ron," Hermione said, pulling him into the empty classroom. They had just finished with their meal (what little they could eat, at least), and waved as Michael Corner left the Great Hall, ostensibly to dispatch an inquiring missive to Daphne Greengrass. "Ron, you've been oddly quiet this morning. Is something wrong?"

Ron ran his hand to his ever-lengthening locks. It was true that he had been quieter than normal, merely asking "Anyone we know in there today?" as Hermione read through her copy of the Daily Prophet. He couldn't really say anything else.

Not when he was about to do what he needed to do today . . . what he needed to make Hermione understand.

"Hey, can we sit down?" Ron asked, pointing at the floor in front of the teacher's desk at the head of the classroom. Ron spread out his cloak so he and Hermione would have a barrier between themselves and the chilly stone floor.

Hermione sat cross-legged, facing Ron, who slid down the front of the desk. Ron took one of her far-smaller hands, rubbing them gently in between his palms. She waited for him to speak, to gather the courage he knew he needed to do this thing . . .

"I can't help but blame myself for what happened, Hermione," Ron said softly, his voice barely louder than a whisper, as he looked at her hand. Hermione sighed audibly.

"I know. I feel the same way, too."

Ron looked at her. "What do you think, then?"

Hermione's face set in a thin, grim line. "I don't think Harry will be coming back to school next year."

That wasn't quite the answer he had been expecting.

"W-what? Why—"

"Dumbledore told him about the Horcruxes, Ron. He clearly intended for Harry to search for them. And he needs to start soon. Honestly, he needs to start once he turns seventeen, which is barely in two months."

Ron breathed out. "You're right, of course." He looked at her and brought one of his hands up to gently touch her cheek. His other hand continued to rub hers. Hermione closed her eyes and leaned into his palm. "You're always right." With a twinge to his own heart, he saw tears already running down her cheeks. He continued to hold her face with his big, clumsy hand. "So, we'll go with him, won't we?"

He tried to make it sound like a question, but it came out as a statement. Cringing as he thought Hermione wouldn't want him to speak for the both of them, he was surprised to watch her nod her head slowly and deliberately.

"He needs us, Ron. He needs us more than ever."

The lump drifted to Ron's throat and, to his own utter horror, he realized his own eyes were growing wet. "Maybe, then, we need t-to . . ." Ron had to take a breath; he felt his will, his determination to do the right thing starting to crumble. "We n-need to slow us down. Be just 'Ron' and 'Hermione' for a bit." He chanced a quick glance to Hermione, who was shedding tears in earnest. Ron dropped her hand and brought his other hand to her face; he didn't care if both of his palms were both growing wet from cupping Hermione's cheeks, or that he could feel the water spilling out of his own eyes. He looked at Hermione. He couldn't stop looking at her, even as her face grew more wet, her nose more runny, her chin wrinkled with her sobbing.

She was beautiful.

She was beautiful and he loved her . . . and she knew this.

She had to know this.

He watched as Hermione nodded twice. "I-I've been th-thinking the s-same thing. Maybe we w-were too wr-rapped up with us that we forgot about Harry . . . what Harry had to d-do, a-and what he suspected about Malfoy." Despite having started the whole conversation, Ron couldn't help but feel something hard fall onto his heart as Hermione mentioned that, by starting a relationship with him, they had neglected Harry.

" I think y-you might be right, R-Ron, that while we help Harry, while we go with him to find the Horcruxes, we ha-have to st-stay focused. A rel-relationship while we're out there with Harry c-could distract us. It could prevent us from seeing or listening to what Harry needs us to." Ron marveled as she wiped away at her face, her nose and cheeks with a decisiveness, that inner Hermione-strength that she possessed that made her her.

(The girl you love.)

He smiled as he watched her compose herself. "It won't be forever, y'know," he said in a thick voice filled with more tears. "We'll get him through this. We'll help him do what he needs to do to defeat . . . defeat . . ." Here, Ron took a deep, deep, deep breath and shut his eyes. "V-Voldemort," he stammered.

When he opened his eyes, Ron saw Hermione staring at him, her eyes wide in surprise, in shock. She grasped the side of his face and kissed him hard and firmly on the mouth. Pulling away only slightly, she leaned her head forward, so their foreheads touched and they breathed in sync.

"I thought we were going to, y'know, Hermione . . . 'Take things slow'?"

"You said 'Voldemort', Ron."

Ron shrugged, looking at her. "If I'd known you'd have that reaction to it, I would've said it a long time ago."

Hermione shook her head vigorously. "I know the amount of courage and strength it took for you to say his name. Don't joke. Don't. " She continued to gaze on him, his face in her hands. Ron didn't want to breathe, move, make a sound, for fear of breaking this trance . . . this spell . . .

Hermione was the first to move. She brought out her wand, pointed it at the door, and performed a Locking Charm and Silencing Charm.


She turned back to him. "We have right now, Ron. We're together now, here, in the present." Hermione brought her hands to the back of his head, and ran her fingers through his hair. "When the future comes, we'll do what we need to do. I want to be with you now."

Ron had never seen her look at him when her eyes were so dark, her face so crimson, and her breath growing more and more deep and slightly ragged.

He brought his lips to hers, entwining his fingers into her wild hair. Turning her around, Ron continued to kiss her as she fell backwards onto his cloak and he leaned forward, still connected to her mouth. Their hands sought to loosen their clothes from their bodies and to touch whatever bare skin could be reached and stroked and smoothed, and they kissed each other and stopped only to give themselves the opportunity to explore their bodies with lips and tongues and only the slightest, most enjoyable use of teeth.

And Ron remembered something that his brothers had talked about in front of him . . . something that they said was the most incredible thing to do, something that a girl would never, ever, in a hundred years, ever forget.

Curiosity and desire seized him and he started moving down her body—

Hermione reached down and brought his head back up, his lips once again meeting hers.

"Maybe, we should leave a bit to look forward to," she said, her face flushed and a lopsided grin growing on her face.

Ron looked back at her, a smile of his own plastered on his. He smoothed her hair down with one hand. "Her-Herm-mione . . . would you mind, though, if, I . . ." Suddenly blushing, Ron's face rearranged itself rather awkwardly as he continued to look at her. "If I . . ." and he leaned over and whispered into Hermione's ear. When he lifted his head back up, he saw that she was blushing.

Blushing . . . but nodding.

Still looking at her, Ron kissed her cheeks . . . her nose . . . her forehead . . . he kissed her lips so very gently, so utterly softly, and he allowed his free hand — the one not currently tangled in her hair — to slide down her chest . . . past her navel . . . past her hips . . .

His hand found its destination.

And Ron found himself breathing steadily and he matched Hermione breath for deep breath and he watched her face, her eyes, her mouth widen and gasp and he continued to touch her because she never stopped him and she smiled with her mouth still open and she brought her head back and closed her eyes and Ron found his lips kissing her neck, touching her . . . touching her . . . touching her . . .


"Not yet, Harry."

"But . . . I hate this . . . I dunno where we are!" he whinged.

Harry heard Ginny "tsk" in mock annoyance.

Harry heard this because he couldn't see.

Harry couldn't see because Ginny had told him to keep his eyes shut or he would feel the wrath of her Bat-Bogey Hex.

So, countless numbers of steps, corners, and winding paths later, Harry had decided to break the silence.


"Ohh-kay!" she exclaimed in exasperation. "We're here, Potter. Open 'em."

Before he opened his eyes, Harry took a deep breath, smelling the sweet fragrance of wet grass and fresh air. He could hear the chirping of birds flying in the air, the rustling of fabric in the breeze and, if he leaned forward and concentrated hard enough, he could hear the distant, echoing call of the domesticated Thestrals Hagrid kept in the forest.

He knew where they were . . . but he didn't know why.

Harry opened his eyes, and, sure enough, they were standing in a patch of open field with the Quidditch pitch behind him, and the lake and Forbidden Forest on either side. Harry looked at Ginny Weasley, her hand still holding his with fingers entwined, and a smile playing on her lips.

"Okay, so you've kidnapped me?" Harry asked, with a smirk. Ginny cocked her eyebrow.

"Oh, like you weren't willing."

Harry reached for her other hand . . . and finally noticed that she had his Firebolt in it.

(You're losing your touch, Potter! You didn't even realize the thing was missing!)

"What're you doing with that?' Harry asked her, pointing at his broom. "And how in the world did you nick it?"

Ginny continued to smirk, although now her mouth was turning more and more into a grin. "Apparently, you're easy to distract."

Harry snorted. "Am not!"

Ginny kissed him firmly on the lips, dropping the Firebolt onto the damp grass.

(Okay, so I'm easy . . .)

"Are too," she whispered against his mouth, coyly grinning at him. She pulled back a bit, and brushed a fringe of his black hair off of his forehead. "I thought we'd go for a fly on your broom. I know you've had so much on your mind, and you and I haven't really had too much time for just the two of us." Ginny nudged at the right side of his body with her left. "What d'you think?"

Harry felt a smile growing on his face. For the last couple of days, he'd been walking around in a state that could only be described as a grim daze. His brain had been on constant rotation between Dumbledore . . . Snape . . . Malfoy . . . Horcruxes. . . .

And, of course, the one thing he had to do in order to go through with his plan . . . the one thing he had to do before meeting his destiny.

His bloody destiny . . .

(It's sad that that's more true than not.)

But now, looking at Ginny . . . looking at her looking at him . . . Harry remembered Dumbledore's advice to him during their second lesson. . . .

("But for now, Harry, just live. . . .")

Harry brought his hand to Ginny's waist, gazing at her with a loopy smile. He leaned forward to, once again, meeting Ginny's lips.

"Just live . . . " Harry breathed against Ginny's mouth.

"What's that?" she asked, kissing him with small, feather-light pecks.

"We should fly."

With that, Harry took hold of his broomstick and held it out to Elongate the seat to accommodate both of them. Ginny climbed on first and Harry settled in behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her tightly into his chest.

It was times like this that Harry felt strong. Even though there was no doubt in his mind that Ginny was a powerful young witch, initiating such an intimate, protective gesture around the small redheaded girl filled Harry with a power and happiness that he had never known before.

Just before they kicked off the ground, Harry breathed on the side of Ginny's pale neck, watching as the stray strands of hair flew off of her skin. Smiling as he felt her tremble and heard her giggle, Harry kissed a small patch of freckles sprinkling her neck. Ginny's only response was a small sigh.

"Ready?" Harry asked her, kissing her ear. Ginny nodded.

Harry kicked off the ground and the couple soared high into the air, flying above the castle, the lake, the Quidditch pitch. Ginny threw her head back and laughed and Harry felt it coming from her guts, from the very depths of her. She turned her head and looked at him, allowing Harry to steer the broom from behind. Harry marveled at how this girl trusted him so completely, trusted him to keep her safe.

"I do, you know."

"What?" Harry asked her with a furrowed brow.

Ginny looked at him, licked her lips and blushed that famous Weasley blush.

(Godric, I love it when she blushes . . .)

"I just do, Harry." Ginny reached up with one hand and, with the other remaining firmly on the Firebolt, touched Harry's cheek, stroking it gently. "Just remember that, okay? Always remember that."

Harry watched as Ginny's face fell just the tiniest bit, and he thought he heard her voice hitch slightly in her throat. However, he reckoned he imagined it because Ginny's face instantly brightened and she kissed him vigorously and passionately.

It startled him so much that he nearly lost his balance on the broom.

"Circe's ghost!" Ginny exclaimed.

"Oh shite!" Harry immediately righted them and laughed heartily into Ginny's shoulder.

"You need to warn me before you do that," Harry said, his voice muffled against her body.

"So snogging me's overloading your sensory system, eh, Potter?" Harry could hear the teasing in Ginny's voice and, even though he wasn't looking at her, he knew she was smirking in that adorably flirtatious way she had about her. "Who'd've thought 'The-Boy-Who-Lived' could be taken down by a simple kiss!"

"Gin, I hate to break it to you, but kissing you is never simple."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Ginny looked at him with a raised eyebrow, lopsided grin still on her face.

"What I mean is that you've got this crazy effect on me."

"And what's that, Potter?"

"That every time I kiss you," Harry said, kissing her shoulder and the nape of her neck after each word, "I don't want to stop. And then I think to myself, 'Well, nothing's ever gonna get done if I keep this up.'" Harry kissed a trail up from the back of her neck, toward her ear, taking his sweet time. "But I never want to stop doing this."

"Then don't, Harry." Ginny turned her head back toward him. Harry brought the Firebolt to a stop, hovering over the Astronomy Tower.

"Ginny . . ." Harry began. Ginny shushed him and put a finger to his mouth.

"No, I don't mean don't do what you have to do, Harry. I'm young and crazy as hell about you, but I'm not stupid. What I mean is, do it with me by your side. You've got my brother. You've got my sister. They stand with you, Harry. And so do I."

Harry shut his eyes and kissed Ginny's finger still planted firmly on his mouth. It was all he could do to stop his eyes from watering. He couldn't talk. Which was quite all right, because Ginny continued to speak.

"I do, Harry. I do . . . far more than you know, okay?"

Harry opened his eyes and looked at her.

And he knew.

He knew without ever being told.

He didn't care that they'd been together less than a month. He didn't care if they were only teenagers.

She did.

And he did.

"I know you do, Ginny. And you should know . . . so do I."

Ginny's lips turned up just the slightest amount, and they hovered in the air, kissing . . . and touching . . . and kissing each other, lost in themselves, clinging to their bodies and the freedom of air and open space, all untouched by the darkness and evil that threatened to destroy their world.

(It's been two days . . . )

The girl in the black v-necked cotton shirt, denim cutoffs and natty flip-flops with the worn heels from constant use on concrete sidewalks, walked into Select-A-Disc on Berwick Street in London, her tatty billfold holding a small amount of Muggle money.

(Two whole bloody days . . .)

She heard a song wafting through brown speakers hanging up in the corners of the store. The man's voice, a nasally whine, sang about being the one to "saaaa-ve me," because "afta' ah-aaaahll, you're my won-dah-wa-a-alll," and she bobbed along to the rich orchestration of cellos, piano, and drums. Posters upon posters of Muggle rock groups hung on the wall, a couple of them chipping and falling off. There was shelving upon which album sleeves were propped. Even though the pictures never moved, the girl in the black v-neck smiled at sounds and sights in the charming Muggle store.

(God, Greengrass, your housemates would kick your arse if they saw you in here!)

(Thank Salazar you never told them about your thing for Muggle music, then, eh?)

"'Ello?" the bloke behind the counter asked her, "are you looking for somethin' specific?"

Daphne hoped desperately that he wouldn't be able to hear her heart give a great leap of surprise, because as she saw his face, she thought she was staring at . . . "Michael?"

Except, the bloke had two hoops going through his right eyebrow, and what looked like a dagger sticking out of his chin. Plus, his right ear had piercings running up and down its length. He frowned at her. "I'm actually Jay."

"Oh," Daphne said, rather vaguely. "Right . . . er, yeah." She fumbled for a quick recovery. "What's this?" she asked, pointing in the air toward the speakers.

"Jay" raised his eyebrows then brought them back down quickly. Crossing his arms, he spoke to Daphne in an utterly incredulous tone. "Only Britain's greatest band since The Beatles! Where in the world have you been for the past year?"

Daphne shrugged. "Attending Britain's only school of witchcraft and wizardry."

Jay looked at her like she had just turned into a ferret.

"I'm kidding, of course," Daphne smirked. "I've been out of the country . . . um, with family."

"Where? Antarctica?"

Daphne rolled her eyes. "Are you gonna answer my question? And what's all this 'greatest band since The Beatles' shit? This is nice, but it ain't no 'Hey Jude'."

Daphne didn't even see Jay reach down to grab a small, flat, square case, as quick as the kid moved. He emerged from behind the counter and held the piece of plastic directly in front of Daphne's face. Jay spoke to Daphne like a teacher giving a lecture to a group of very young children. "This is a compact disc, or a C-D." He made a huge show of opening the plastic case, and Daphne saw the disc inside. Jay continued to talk slowly, like he was reading a book to a toddler. "It's a shiny, silvery, circular object that makes the cassette tapes that you were eyeing the moment you walked in here as current as Frankie Goes To Hollywood—"

Daphne snatched the plastic case out of Jay's hands, narrowing her eyes into sharp daggers at him. She read the name on the bottom right corner of the picture in the case.

"Oasis?" she asked, raising one eyebrow.

"Da-aamn . . . well, you're clearly 'n need of a massive overhaul in your music collection . . . Y' should get the Oasis CD, the one that's currently playing, and also . . ." Jay rummaged around behind his counter. "Where 'n the hell's those bloody — Ah-hah! Found you." Jay pulled out two more CD's, and spoke directly to them. "I'm counting on you to rescue this poor girl from musical purgatory." With a decisive shake, Jay handed them over to Daphne.

She regarded the new offering. "Pulp . . . Different Class—"

"I guarantee 'Common People' will change your life." Jay said reverently.

Daphne looked at the second CD, and frowned.

(The hell?)

"You," Daphne addressed Jay, "are seriously making music recommendations for a group that names their album after a condiment?"

Jay rolled his eyes. "Stereolab will transform how you listen to music." Daphne watched as Jay's eyes glazed over, apparently lost in a daydream about his beloved Emperor Tomato Ketchup. "As soon as you put this into your player, you'll wonder how your ears, hell, your very soul, could have gone for so long without this glorious piece of sound-art."

Daphne simply cocked her eyebrow . . . but realized that Jay had just raised a very good point.

"I . . . er, don't exactly have a CD player."

Jay's mouth fell open. He was completely shocked.

"I've been away!" Daphne exclaimed defensively.

Shaking his head, Jay held up a single finger, and moved away from the counter, leaving Daphne alone, tapping her foot impatiently. She kept looking at each of the three CDs that were in her hand, flipping them over and looking at the lists of song titles.

"Ah . . ." she breathed out to herself. "'Wonderwall'. Makes sense now . . ."

"Here ya go!" Jay came running back up to Daphne, shoving a clear plastic container into her hands. Daphne looked at the flat, boxy Discman in the package, black with "Sony" written in raised letters on the bottom edge of the cover.

"You have seen one of these before, right?" Jay asked her, his voice thick with condescension.

Daphne merely glared at him. "No, I just came in on a time machine from the Middle Ages!"

Jay held his hands up. "Fine. Sorry."

Daphne looked at all of the merchandise she was now holding . . . looked at the price tags of all three CD's and the Discman . . . and her eyes went round.

(Merlin! I barely have enough for two of the CD's.)

Daphne continued to look at Jay cautiously as he moved without saying a single word toward the back of the counter and to the cash register.

(Don't do it . . .)

(Shut. Up!)


Daphne silently cursed the voice in her head, telling her that what she was thinking was a very bad idea, indeed.

It was made that much worse as the voice sounded like Ron giving her a stern warning.

(Well-llll . . . Weasley ain't here, now. Is he?)


"How will you be paying, then?" Jay asked, after he pushed some buttons on the register.

Daphne acted like she was looking over the counter for something. "Got a blank sheet of paper back there? Oh, and a plastic bag?" she asked, her voice bright and casual sounding.

Jay's brow creased, but he reached behind the counter, and pulled out a blank sheet of paper and a bag; he handed both over.

Daphne pulled out her wand out of her back pocket. It was rather uncomfortable, as it had been poking her in the back, but it had remained nice and concealed under her tee-shirt.

"What in the name of the Queen is that?" Jay asked, goggling at odd-looking stick Daphne was currently brandishing.

"Just a special pen, is all," Daphne kept her voice light. She waved the wand one time over the paper and handed it back to Jay.

(That better've worked . . .)

"That settles it then, right?" Daphne asked brightly. She smiled, more to herself than anything, when Jay's eyes slid in and out of focus. He shook his head, as if trying to clear it.

"Er, y-y-yeah . . . sure." Jay hit the side of his head a couple of times. "All right, then . . . wait, did I give you your receipt?" He checked the cash register.

"Yes you did," Daphne responded in that same bright voice.

"Fine. Hold on, d'ya need a bag or anything?"

"Got one!" Daphne said brightly over her shoulder as she walked toward the door; her "purchased" merchandise already settling down inside the bag for the trip back on the Underground. She bolted out of the store without further conversation or incident.

Once outside, she ran a few blocks until she found a bench. Sitting down to catch her breath, she shut her eyes and pushed down an almost nauseating wave of guilt.

(Well, good to know your back to your old tricks. Learned a lot this year, didn'tcha, Greengrass?)

(Oh, shut up! He was a dickhead, anyways—)

(Y'know, the MLEs would probably have been alerted to the unauthorized use of magic on a Muggle . . .)

(Oh, but don't they have a whole lot on their plates right now than to be worrying about the shit I just pulled? I dunno . . . Voldemort ring any bells?)

Quickly using her wand to open the plastic container, she pulled out the Discman and eyed it with a bit of admiration. It was certainly a damn sight nicer than her old tape player.

Daphne let herself calm down for a few moments. Once again, closing her eyes, Daphne conjured up the spell Mr. Weasley had taught her over the Christmas holiday; the spell essentially focused magic into the Muggle device where the batteries or other power source would normally go.

"Operate per Veneficus," Daphne pronounced, clearly and strongly. A bright yellow light surrounded the Discman. Daphne raised her eyebrows and breathed out slowly.

"Well, there's only one way to test this sucker out, isn't there?"

She unwrapped the Oasis CD first. For some inexplicable reason, she felt compelled to listen to the song that had been playing in the record store.

Daphne placed the CD into the device, and snapped the cover shut. Putting on the headphones, Daphne fumbled for a couple of seconds with the instructions. Once she had determined that she could actually skip to the song she wanted ("Whoa . . . wicked!"), Daphne held her breath as she pushed the "PLAY" button. She pushed what looked like the "Next" button three times . . .

"To-day is gonna be the day that they're gonna throw it back to you . . ."

Daphne felt a small smile growing on her face, and she felt her head moving in time to the guitars, then to the cellos, then to the drums—

"And all the roads we have to walk are winding,

And all the lights that lead us there are blinding . . ."

Daphne gathered her things and stood up from the bench, making her way to the nearest Tube stop to get back to Miss Proctor's house.

It took her a few listens, but she found herself singing along to the chorus, the masculine voice filling her head with its supremely nasally, yet oddly compelling sound:

"I said, maybe

You're gonna be the one who saves me?

And after all,

You're my wonderwall . . ."