((A/N: Here's the last chapter in this saga… Really!))
Classes continued and Harry thought the new teachers were working out well, particularly Professor O'Shay in Defense. The professor always seemed to have a little something extra for Harry, some little challenge to stretch him. Sometimes it was a new spell, other times it was the new use of an old spell or even just a new look at old information. Of course, everyone in the class benefitted as well, but it was obvious the professor did this for Harry, as some of the spells required so much power to cast, that he was the only one who could perform them.
After one Defense class in late October, Harry, Hermione, and Ron were walking towards the Headmaster's office. Harry and Hermione had a meeting, while Ron was just killing time for a few minutes.
"Ron, I haven't heard any negative thoughts about Slytherins lately. Have you come to a new decision about them?" Harry knew it was not totally fair to ask that in front of Hermione, but she knew about the issue and they all were good friends, so he was not really concerned.
His friend got a nervous look. "I uh, I haven't said anything like you asked, Harry. I thought it was a good idea, you know, live and let live. They've been pretty good about leaving me alone too."
"That's good to hear." Harry appreciated that Hermione was not asking questions at the moment. "But what do you think about them?"
Ron shifted the book bag on his shoulder. "Like I said, they've been decent, and that's been a surprise," he finally said. "Look, there's the gargoyle. I guess we'll have to finish this later. A little more time wouldn't hurt either," he said, not able to look Harry in the eye.
Harry sighed, not fully understanding what was taking Ron so long. "OK, as you wish. Come on, Hermione. Kilts and drums." The gargoyle moved at the password and the 'Head Couple' walked up.
"I'm sure he'll eventually do the right thing, Harry," Hermione softly said when they were alone at the top of the stairs.
He nodded. "Eventually is the key word there, but as the saying goes, time waits for no man."
"What do you mean by that?" she asked curiously.
"That there are deadlines for some things." He knocked and they were called to enter. Hermione was still trying to figure him out as they entered the office.
It was the last Saturday in November and Christmas break was coming soon. A wedding was coming soon too. Daphne had left that morning to go visit Tracey to prepare for the wedding, as Tracey was helping her finalize the last of the plans. Ron had come to see Harry, hoping to go flying before Quidditch practice, but Harry had a wedding detail to finalize as well.
"Ron, I'm glad you're here early," Harry told him with a smile.
"I thought we might fly for a few minutes before practice. I know you've been busy and well, it could be fun too."
"It could," Harry agreed, but not enthusiastically. "However, we should probably talk about something first."
"Oh, what?" Ron looked a little shifty, as if he had an idea and wanted to avoid it.
"Ron, I need to know what you're going to do about Daphne." Ron did not say anything. "There is about a month until the wedding and I've got to know whether we're still just friends or if we'll be best friends. You see, we're each going to have three people standing up with us at the wedding and I've got one position left to fill. The deadline has come for me to fill it, and I'll either ask a best friend or a best friend of the family. I wanted to give you the first shot."
He grinned. "Thanks, Harry, I'd love to."
"Not so fast, Ron." Harry was not grinning. "I said I'd give it to a best friend and you're not there." Ron hung his head. "Look Ron, we can stay as we are if that's what you really want, but if you really want it to go back to the way it was between us, you have a task to do before the end of this weekend. If not, I'll ask Remus to join me at the front in the wedding."
Ron leaned back in his chair and ran a hand through his hair. Harry just waited, saying nothing.
"Who else will be in it?" Ron asked, finally breaking the silence.
"Neville will be my best man and Blaise will be up there too."
"So I'd have to stand next to Blaise?"
"Yeah, would that really be so hard? You've spent several evenings in here sitting next to him. He didn't bite then."
Ron snorted. "No, no teeth marks." He sighed. "I sat next to him just to see what would happen."
"And?" Harry prompted.
"And I lived. Damn it, Harry! Look, I know in my head that they're all right, or at least some of them are, but I just don't feel it. I'll even tell you that Daphne is a wonderful girl, but I'll also tell you that I think someone else would be better for you."
Harry groaned. "Don't even start on how Ginny would be better for me."
"No, I've given up on that. She's made it very clear that she's happy as she is for now. I just … I just feel like I'll be losing part of myself to give that belief up. Does that make sense?"
"A little. I've been having to learn to forgive Dumbledore and losing those parts of me have been hard, but I think it's also made me a better person. Are you saying you don't want to change and get better?" Harry asked.
"How do I know it's for the better?" Ron rhetorically asked, but Harry kept quiet. "Fine, I'll apologize to Daphne…"
"And you," Ron agreed, "tomorrow evening after dinner. Give me just that much longer."
Harry smiled. "It'll be good to have you back, Ron."
"It'll be good to be back, but you make it bloody hard."
Harry laughed. "Yeah, growing up is hard. Anyway, come on, we need to get to Quidditch practice." Ron smiled, happy to be back on more familiar ground, and the two walked outside to have some fun while working hard.
Daphne had left Harry after breakfast to take care of what she hoped was the last of her major wedding plans. First, she had gone to the library to find a couple books on Pureblood traditions, as she felt she was missing something. That had taken her longer than she had thought, but she finally had found what she was looking for.
That done, she headed off for the Slytherin common room, where she was to meet Tracey to go over the wedding plans. Even though her sister, Astoria, was to be her Matron of Honor, Daphne was leaning heavily on Tracey since she was nearby and easier to communicate with. Daphne was getting concerned about Astoria, as her sister was starting to write less than she used to.
She was so caught up in thought that she missed the sound of a door opening behind her. It was with survival reflexes that she dodged when she heard someone whisper a stunning spell behind her. Whipping her wand out and turning, she again had to jump to avoid another stunning spell from Theo Nott. As she started to cast her own spell, a hex hit in the back and her wand when flying backward. Looking over her shoulder, she saw Pansy Parkinson catch her wand.
"You're later than I expected, but it's still good of you to join me," Nott told her. "Come into this room, we need to have a chat." He motioned her with his wand.
Not having a choice, she slowly moved, trying to anticipate what might be coming, and not liking most of the choices.
Inside, Nott moved her to the middle of the unused classroom and Pansy walked in too, dropping Daphne's wand just inside the door. "There, I've helped you and my debt is repaid."
A scowl came over Nott, but he nodded. "It is repaid as long as you speak of this to no one." Pansy silently left, closing the door behind her.
"What do you want, Nott?" If she could figure out what was going on, maybe she could do something useful.
A look between a leer and a sneer came over him. "I want you to help me hurt Potter."
She almost laughed at the absurd statement. "Why?"
"Because Potter hurt me. I know Potter killed my father and I think you helped him."
Now she laughed, which was a mistake because it made Nott angrier, but she could not take the reaction back now. "Sorry, Nott, but that's ludicrous. If that were true and Ministry could prove it, I suspect Harry would be in Azkaban right now."
"You have a point that the Ministry can't prove it, but I know it's true."
"How?" The doubt she had was very small, but perhaps they did overlook something.
"Because he's the only one with motive and the power. I don't know he did it, because father checks all of his mail very carefully, but the house-elf saw him disappear after reading a letter. Somehow, Potter disguised a Portkey in a letter and sent father away to be murdered."
Daphne hid her relief. "Besides the fact that you're only speculating, it's easily proved we were not even in the country at the time that happened. We had already left and were in Rome."
Theo grinned manically. "Doesn't matter, mail can be sent from anywhere. Now, we're going to have a little fun, and then you and I are going to go on a trip. Don't worry, though," he said said happily, "I won't kill you, although you might wish you were dead by this time next week."
"Why, what are you going to do?" she was getting worried, although she did her best not to show it.
"Like I said, I'm going to have some fun with you, just like Potter has been, then we're going go to Knockturn Alley, where, with some help from a spell, you will prostitute yourself. After you're been used for a while, I'm sure you'll be found by someone who will report your whereabouts. The real question is, will Potter still want you after that?" He laughed cruelly.
It was all Daphne could do to keep her even expression, not to mention restraining herself from attacking him where he stood. The fact that his wand was pointed at her and the distance was too great stopped her. At least he had not tied her up. That gave her an idea. If she could get them close enough together, perhaps she could do what she would have done to Malfoy had Harry not helped.
Using her Occlumency to shove all of her revulsion away and to play the part of a lifetime, she looked at him with resignation and slight smile. "Very well, Theo. Since I have no choice," she started to unbutton her robes," come and get it. Show me what you're made of. If you're good enough, I'll make sure you enjoy this like never before. I'll do anything you want." She had no idea what Nott's experience was, but she did her best to play to his ego.
Nott got a smile on his face. "Anything?"
"Anything, Theo." She adapted the sultry look that she knew Harry loved so much, ignoring the anguish of having to do that for someone else. She dropped her robes, revealing a thin blouse and short shirt underneath. Letting him look for a few seconds, she started to unbutton her blouse and take very slow steps towards him. "I can make you feel very good, Theo. When my hands run over your skin -- tantalizing you -- you'll be in heaven." She winked at him and obviously glanced at his crotch. Looking back up at his face, she saw him run his eyes over her body. She was sure that in his mind, she was already undressed.
He started to take his robes off too. Unfortunately, it was only with one hand; his wand was still aimed at her.
"That's it, take those things off and let me show you just how good I can make you feel." She continued her slow glide. There was about six feet of the original ten feet between them left.
Nott hurriedly undressed, practically ripping his robes. He fumbled trying to take his pants off as he could not take his eyes off of her.
Daphne dropped her blouse, her breasts covered only by a bra, and started unzipping her skirt. "Tell me, Theo, have you ever had any fantasies about me?"
"Oh yeah," he said huskily, dropping his pants, pulling his feet out and leaving his boxers slightly pulled down in his haste. He yanked at his shirt, popping most of the buttons, something easily repaired later. He moved his wand to his other hand to keep it trained on her as he finished disrobing.
"Good," she told him delightedly, "that will make things so much better." As her feet came together in her glide, she dropped her skirt, then continued her slow glide over in just her bra and knickers, both lacey and covering little.
Nott seemed to hyper-ventilate as he watched her approach, his eyes practically glued to her chest.
Daphne stepped up to him and lightly put both of her hands on his chest, caressing it for a few seconds. He groaned. "How about a kiss for luck to start this off?" she asked invitingly, almost purring.
He leaned towards her, pressing his chest against hers, while she slid her left hand up to his shoulder and her right hand up to his neck and into his hair to pull him closer.
Just before their lips met, Theo closed his eyes for the kiss and Daphne slid her right hand forward around to his face and with all of her strength, jabbed her thumb into his eye, her long fingernail easily tearing through the soft eyelid and the thumb going in past the first knuckle. As Nott started to scream, her left hand was already moving out along his arm.
"You bitch!" he screamed in his pain, his left hand feebly trying to pull her arm away as he stepped away from her.
Daphne moved with him and did not remove her thumb, but pressed harder. Her left hand found his wand and easily yanked it from him.
"How dare you try to hurt my Harry!" she screamed as her arm came around and she used the wand like a dagger, shoving half of it through his other eye and shoving him backwards away from her. She watched him scream one last time and hit the floor hard, convulsing once and then going silent. "You sick bastard!" she screamed at him, her emotions coming loose. Giving in, she kicked him hard between the legs, but he did not move.
As her emotions took hold of her and all the "what ifs" hit her, she stumbled over towards the door and leaned against the wall, letting herself down slowly, feeling the rough stone scrape her back until she was sitting. A shaking hand picked up her wand and she began to sob.
After what seemed like forever, but was really only about ten minutes or so, Daphne started to pull herself together, concentrating on the fact that nothing really had happened to her or Harry. Sure, Nott had seen her practically naked, but then again, he would never share that with anyone else.
Slowly standing up, she felt the scratches on her back, but they were not too painful. Looking at herself, she saw a little blood on her, especially her right hand. Shifting her wand, she very carefully did a light cleaning spell, feeling the sting on her skin. Now that she was physically clean, she walked over, picked up her clothes, and got dressed again, ignoring the stinging on her back. She did her best to avoid looking at Nott's body. Straightening her robes, with her wand in hand, she left the room, locking it behind her.
With rage to give her energy, she angrily strode to the Slytherin common room. Going in, she looked around. In the corner at a table was Pansy Parkinson. Without hesitation, she cast a banishing charm at the girl, taking her completely unaware. The girl was flung backwards into the wall, hitting with a very audible thud, and fell to the floor unconscious. Amongst all the gasps, Daphne walked over and removed Pansy's wand, bound her in ropes, and started walking with the bound girl levitated in front of her. Daphne ignored all questions and left the common room. She did not fail to notice one of the fifth year prefects running out the door behind her towards O'Shay's quarters to get their head of house, or so she assumed. Daphne did not care; she was headed towards the Headmaster's office.
Harry always knew the password and he always shared, so it was trivial for her to get passed the gargoyle. Pansy bumped into a lot of the stairs and corners on the way, but Daphne could have cared less as some of it had been purposeful. In fact, when she reached the office door, she used Pansy's head to knock, almost like a battering ram.
"Please come in!" came through the door.
Reaching over, Daphne opened the door and pushed her prisoner through. In front of a wide-eyed Professor McGonagall, she dropped Pansy in the middle of the floor.
"Miss Greengrass! What is the meaning of this?!"
"This …", she had to work hard not to say 'bitch', "person … helped Theo Nott kidnap and assault me!"
McGonagall stared at her and then the girl on the floor, partially unable to believe this was happening. She was brought out of her swirling thoughts by her door slamming open to reveal a very concerned and powerful looking Harry Potter with his wand in his hand.
Harry and Ron were returning after practice, and a good one Harry had thought. The Ravenclaw team had beat Slytherin in the last game and he thought they would be tough to win against. They were turning a corner near his room, when he was practically bowled over by Professor O'Shay.
"Potter! How fortunate. Give that broom to Weasley and come with me immediately." He did not wait for Harry, but quickly walked off.
Harry was not sure what was going on, but O'Shay looked serious. So he handed his Firebolt to a surprised looking Ron and raced off after the professor, slowing back down to a fast walk when he caught up. "What's happened, Professor?" Harry could not fail to notice that they were headed in the direction of the Headmaster"s office.
"I'm not entirely sure, Mr Potter, and what I've been told makes no sense." He glanced at Harry as if evaluating him. "I've been told that Miss Greengrass marched into the common room and blasted Miss Parkinson against the wall, tied her up, and then left in this direction. She also refused to answer all questions posed to her."
Harry thought about and could only come to one conclusion, especially since Tracey had said that Pansy had been spending more time around Theo, who was still acting strange. Without a word, Harry took off running again. He shouted the password at the gargoyle from down the corridor, allowing it to move before he got there and allowing him to sprint up the stairs without breaking stride. At the top, he pulled out his wand and flung the door open. Sure enough, there was his intended and a tied up Parkinson on the floor.
"Mr Potter!" McGonagall called out firmly. "You will kindly act in a civilized manner with regard to my door."
Harry rushed to Daphne and pulled her into a hug, which she willingly returned. "My apologies, Professor," he mumbled as he felt his heart start to calm at seeing that Daphne was all right. As he caressed her back, he felt her stiffen. Pulling back, he carefully surveyed her face. "What's wrong? Why is your back hurt?"
"My own stupidity," she said through clinched teeth.
O'Shay took that moment to walk in. He scowled as he saw one of students on the floor.
"Professor, if you'll close the door, we'll get to the bottom of this," McGonagall requested. O'Shay complied.
"How much are you injured, Miss Greengrass? Do I need to have Madam Pomfrey come immediately?"
"No, Professor McGonagall, it's just a few scratches from when I slid down the wall. It will wait."
"Very well, then. Please have a seat and tell me what happened?"
Daphne put her wand up and sat in a chair. Harry enlarged the chair lengthwise into a small sofa and joined her. McGonagall went behind her desk and O'Shay took another chair. No one did a thing about the unconscious tied-up girl on the floor.
"I was heading to our," Daphne looked at O'Shay, "common room to talk to Tracey. From behind me, Nott come out of somewhere and shot a spell at me, a Stunning spell, I believe. I barely managed to dodge it. When I turned to confront him, Parkinson stepped out of somewhere hidden and hit me with a Disarming spell and took my wand. Nott took us into an unused classroom. Parkinson dropped my wand in there and said that her debt was repaid and left, closing and locking the door behind her."
She felt Harry take her hand in his, and she noted his concern. She continued her story, noting on some level that her voice was becoming more wooden, more monotone, as she spoke, but she did not care.
"Nott told me that he thought Harry was responsible for the disappearance and assumed death of his father, since Harry had killed Voldemort. He ignored my argument that we were not even in the country when all of that happened. He still thought Harry did it and he planned to hurt Harry by hurting me." Harry growled very softly as she said that.
"Did he say what he planned to do?" McGonagall quietly asked, as if afraid of the answer.
"He did," Daphne said, looking down.
When she said nothing more, O'Shay gently spoke up, his old Auror habits taking hold. "Miss Greengrass, I'm sure it's unpleasant, but we need to you tell us what he said and what happened."
Daphne reached out with her other hand so she could hold both of Harry's hands. She wanted to make sure he did not do something he would regret, but it also gave her a little more strength. In a fearful voice, she said, "He said he planned to use me, and then take me to Knockturn Alley and force me to become a prostitute so Harry wouldn't want me anymore."
Harry jumped to his feet, taking Daphne's hands and arms with him. "Where is he?! I'll kill him!" He looked wild and powerful. In fact, Daphne could feel a tingling from his hands.
"Mr Potter! Control yourself!" McGonagall yelled as she jumped up too, trying to take charge. There was the sound of chairs scraping the floor as both professors stood, hopefully in time to do something useful.
Daphne launched herself to her feet and flung her arms around him. With her mouth at his ear, she whispered, "He's dead, Harry; he's already dead." She felt his arms go around her and squeeze her tightly. Losing herself in him, she enjoyed his presence once again, ignoring the pain in her back. His arms meant safety.
"Mr Potter, please calm down and sit," McGonagall firmly commanded him.
Harry finally let go and stepped back, holding her hands and looking in her eyes. She could feel him searching for the truth, begging for her statement to be true. She looked at him and nodded. As she felt his hands relaxed, she realized how tightly he had been gripping her. Slowly she sat, pulling on him. Harry finally sat too, but he did not release her.
"Then what happened, Miss Greengrass?" McGonagall sat and leaned forward as if eager to hear the story.
Daphne looked at the Headmaster. "Since I had not told him no, I pretended to go along with him and encouraged him." Her voice lost what little emotion it had held and her story became monotone again.
McGonagall looked incredulous and Daphne felt Harry's hands tighten on hers.
"I started taking my clothes off while I talked to him and slowly walked forward. I said anything I could to make him think I was a willing participant, just so I could get close to him."
Harry's hold on her hands became painful, but she did not say anything to him.
"By the time I was down to my bra and knickers, I was standing in front of him and encouraged him to kiss me." Her hands hurt now, but she knew this was hurting Harry to hear it, so she took the pain.
"When he tried, I gouged out his left eye with my thumb."
McGonagall gasped and O'Shay winced. Harry all but released her hands, now only lightly holding on. The blood flowing back into them was almost painful.
"He started to fight back, but I got his wand away from him. Since he was still fighting, I jabbed the wand into his other eye."
Harry grabbed her around the shoulders and held her tightly. She laid her head on his shoulder, enjoying it, while she watched McGonagall close her eyes and lean back in her chair.
"Where is he?" O'Shay quietly asked. The finality in his voice said he knew that Theo Nott was dead.
"I can show you."
"I'm on reserve, as once an Auror, always an Auror," O'Shay told her. "I can tell you that you'll face no charges for his death, assuming we get corroboration from Miss Parkinson. I assume that once you were free that you went after Miss Parkinson for helping?"
She nodded. "I brought her straight here."
O'Shay turned around and revived Pansy, who moaned piteously. He did a diagnostic on her. "You have some bruises and a few broken bones, but nothing major is wrong with you, Miss Parkinson. Now then, Miss Greengrass has told us what you've done in helping Mr Nott commit some serious crimes. You are an accomplice and face some serious charges as well. It will go easier on you if you confess."
When he had started talking, Pansy looked alarmed. When he was done, she was in a panic. "I didn't do it! I didn't do anything to her!"
"If you took Veritaserum, would you still say the same thing?"
Pansy looked even more scared and O'Shay stared at her. "All right! All right!" she finally shouted as her resolve cracked. "I helped Nott capture her by taking her wand, but that's all I did. Everything else was Nott's idea. He really wanted to get back at Potter because he thought Potter killed his father. He called in a debt and forced me to help him."
"Did you know what Mr Nott planned to do?"
The girl cringed, as if trying to sink into the floor. "I'm sorry, Daphne, but it was either help him or he was going to do some horrible curses on me."
O'Shay sighed and looked at a pale McGonagall. "Headmaster, may I borrow your Floo? On duty Aurors will have to be brought in." When McGonagall nodded, as if she did not trust herself to speak, O'Shay walked over to the fireplace.
A few minutes later, a pair of Aurors came through. One pulled out a legal Dict-O-Quill and Daphne had to repeat her story once again. Pansy was questioned again and she admitted her part. One of the Aurors took her to the Ministry and then returned a few minutes later. The group followed Pansy to the scene of the crime.
Since the location was in the dungeons, Tracey and Blaise came upon them. Neither had been present when Daphne had gone after Pansy.
"Daphne, what's wrong?" Tracey looked very worried for her friend. "We heard about what happened in the common room and came searching for you."
"Now is not a good time, Miss Davis, Mr Zabini," O'Shay told them. "Please do your best to restore order in our common room. I shall come there as soon as I can." They nodded and slowly left, looking at Daphne and Harry the whole time.
Daphne opened the door for them, but did not go in. Harry looked in and saw what he needed and stayed with her in the corridor. All the adults went in, although the Headmaster quickly came back out and looked extremely pale, even for her.
"I'm sorry you had to see that, Professor," Daphne told her, "but it was either him or me, and I wasn't going to let him hurt Harry by doing things to me." O'Shay had come out during her statement.
"Miss Greengrass, I stand by what I said. You are not in trouble." O'Shay looked at Harry. "Mr Potter, please take her to the hospital wing so her injuries can be healed. Also request a Calming potion and a Dreamless Sleep potion."
"Yes, sir." With an arm around her pulling her to him, he slowly led her away. Harry looked at her carefully as they walked. He felt she was hanging on by a thread she was so quiet and withdrawn. She did not say a word on their journey. Only the dead body of Theo Nott had really calmed him. If he had not already been dead, Harry was sure he would have gone after him.
Walking into the hospital wing, Madam Pomfrey was there and looked at him. He could tell she almost asked him what he had done now, but one look at Daphne stopped her. "Guide her over here, Mr Potter. What is the problem?" the medi-witch asked as she erected a screen around the bed.
"She said her back was scratched on stone." The witch gave him a look that said there must be more based on what she was seeing. "She'll also probably need a Calming Draught, as she's just been through a traumatic experience."
"Very well. If you'll step out, I'll take care of her."
"No thank you, I'll stay." At the medi-witch's glare, he added, "She is my wife, and I want to see what happened to her, even if the person who caused it is dead."
Pomfrey looked taken aback by that. After a moment, she nodded. "Help me take her school robe off."
When her robe came off, they saw blood spots on the back of her blouse. With magic to loosen it, so as not to pull at the wounds, her blouse came off. Long angry looking scratches with new scabs covered her back.
"I believe a numbing charm, a wound cleaning charm, and then a skin restoration salve will have her back to normal in a few hours," the nurse said with a smile. "I'll be back in a minute."
Harry grabbed a chair and pulled it in front of Daphne, holding her hands and doing his best to give her comfort. She sat there almost listlessly, although he did see the occasional emotion flicker across her face.
The nurse came back with several bottles and handed one to Daphne. "Please drink up, dear. It's a Calming Draught." Daphne downed it without complaint and handed the little bottle back. Pomfrey then scowled at Harry. "Mr Potter, it would be best if you left for a few minutes."
He looked up at her with alarm. "Why?"
Pomfrey seemed exasperated with his slowness. "Because I have to take her bra off."
Harry laughed and he was pleased to see the small smile on Daphne's face. "Madam Pomfrey," he said in an exaggerated patient tone, "she is my wife and I've seen her completely naked. I promise you, I can restrain myself when I see her topless."
The nurse was beside herself with indignation, but stopped her muttering when Daphne giggled.
"Thank you, Harry." It was the first thing she had said since they had left the scene of the crime. "Please proceed, Madam Pomfrey. Harry will stay with me."
The bra came off and Harry could not help but give her bare breasts a good look, which caused him to grin at her. She grinned back, her experience momentarily forgotten.
An hour later, with a bloody blouse in hand and wearing only her school robes over her top, Daphne walked back to her room with Harry beside her. With the Calming Draught, Daphne was almost her normal self, but Harry could tell she had yet to fully come to terms with the incident.
Back at their room, they found a very concerned Hermione, Tracey, and Blaise. The girls went into the bedroom to help Daphne change her clothes while the boys went to the kitchens for lunch. Harry was thankful it was a Saturday. During lunch, they talked of light subjects, basically anything but the attack. After lunch, they sat in the semi-circle of chairs and couches around the fireplace. Daphne snuggled into Harry's side under his arm. It was not lost on Harry that Tracey and Blaise seemed to be sitting closer together than normal. In this setting, Harry gave a brief overview of the morning, leaving out many details of the attack.
Tracey sighed heavily. "I'm sorry, Daphne. We knew something was off with Nott. If only we had paid more attention to him…"
Daphne shook her head but didn't say anything, so Harry did. "Thanks, Tracey, but it's really not your fault. If he didn't say or do anything around you to indicate he was going to attack us, you have nothing to blame yourself for."
The girl nodded in acknowledgement. "I know, but I still feel like we should have done something." She looked over to her friend as Blaise patted her hand.
"I feel the same way too," Blaise said, "but Harry's right. If we had known, we would have done something, but we didn't know."
Surprising everyone, a house-elf suddenly popped in, standing in the middle of them.
The elf turned to the familiar voice. "Mistress Daphne." He bowed and glanced at Harry, but talked to Daphne. "I am very sorry to bother you, but there is an emergency at home." He glanced at Harry again.
"What is the problem?" Daphne hurriedly asked.
"It is your sister. She suddenly came home for a visit. She is telling your mother things are not going well when her man come to the house and demand in a loud voice that she come home. This is much yelling between everyone. Sister's man yells the loudest that it is your fault his brother is dead and he wants your father to punish you. Your father tells him to go away, but he won't. I is afraid they is about to fight."
Harry stood up and pulled his school robes off for easier movement, leaving jeans and a long-sleeved T-Shirt.
"Harry?" Daphne asked with concern.
"I have to go. He is challenging you and I must respond." He glanced around; his eyes lit up when he saw his Firebolt leaning against the wall. Ron had returned it then instead of later.
"Harry!" She paused as it because obvious he was going to go no matter what, and she knew he had to. "I'm coming too," she finally said.
He wanted to argue, but understood that she would want to see how this ended; he knew he would. "Fine." He grabbed his broom.
"Out the window again?" she asked with a touch of humor.
"Again," he grinned, thinking of a happier time. Then he had one more idea. "Solly, after we've been gone for a couple of minutes, please go tell the Headmaster what you've told us and ask her to send Aurors to Greengrass Manor."
The elf looked to Daphne for confirmation.
"Do as he says, Solly. Where are my sister's husband and my father?"
"They is yelling near the front door."
The scheming Daphne returned. "Then before you go talk to the Headmaster, go back and tell my sister to meet us at the gazebo in the back garden. We must talk to her first." Daphne mounted the broom behind Harry as the elf popped out.
"Be careful, Harry," Blaise told him.
Harry nodded. "Always," before he slowly flew out the window. When they were clear, he coaxed the broom to its best speed, which was slower than he preferred because there were two people on it. Of course, even the "slow speed" was still many times faster than walking and they were at the gates of the school less than two minutes later. Landing on the other side of the gates, he shrunk the broom and put it in his pocket.
"Do you remember the gazebo, Harry?" she asked with a wicked grin before she Apparated away.
How could he not remember the gazebo, after how she had teased him out there one evening? Recalling the little structure, he Apparated after her.
He had seen a picture of Astoria before, but that did not prepare him for how much they looked alike. While not looking like twins, there was no way not to miss that they were sisters, they looked so much alike, except for the forming bruise on Astoria's face.
"Harry, this is my sister, Astoria; and," she looked at him with much love, "this is my husband, Harry Potter."
"Mr Potter." The older sister held out her hand.
Harry grasped it and kissed the back of it in the way Daphne had shown him. "Mrs Nott."
"Astoria -- please," she almost begged him.
"You must call me Harry. Now, what is happening?"
"Aurors came to our house an hour or so ago and told us that Theo had -- threatened -- Daphne." She looked down.
"Did they…" Harry started to ask, but had trouble saying it.
"Yes, they said exactly what he threatened. Then they said the she killed him in self-defense. Hector, my husband," she said with some distaste, "dismissed the Aurors and flew off the handle the moment they were gone.
"He hit you, didn't he?" Daphne accused, looking at the dark red mark that seemed to be slowly turning purplish.
Astoria looked down before she quietly said. "He was nice in the beginning, but I wish that father had not had to create that contract. I envy you, my sister."
Harry's blood wanted to boil, and he could see the anger on Daphne's face. "Are they still at the front door?"
"As of a few minutes ago," Astoria confirmed. "Hector will not go away and father can hold him off indefinitely with the help of the house wards."
Harry pulled out his wand. "You two, go in the house and stay safe. I will Apparate to the front gate so that I can safely approach. Since his argument is with Daphne, I will respond."
"His argument is with you too and he will fight you, probably to the death," Astoria told him with a look of fear. "Be careful, Harry; he is a good fighter. While he wasn't a Death Eater, he has the temperament of one, and he will have no qualms about casting the Killing Curse."
He nodded. "Thanks for the advice."
She put her hand on his arm to keep him there a moment longer. "And Harry, do what you have to do." Astoria paused and looked him in the eyes. "Your life is more important than his. I can accept any outcome except having to grieve for my sister."
Daphne flung herself onto her sister. Harry nodded in understanding before he Apparated away.
A scant second later, he was at the front gate to the house. A hundred yards in front of him was the front door to the Manor, which contained Hugo Greengrass. Hector Nott was twenty yards from the door and shouting with large gestures. Harry could not quite make out the words, but the angry tone was clearly audible. He started marching towards the confrontation with wand in hand.
When he was fifty yards from the house, and thirty yards from Nott, Hugo looked at him. Harry was sure he had been seen before, but this acknowledgement was meant to make Nott notice him too, and he did. Turning sideways, so he could try to keep Greengrass in his vision, Nott saw Harry.
"Potter!" he spat. "Did you do the manly thing and come to defend your murdering bitch?!"
"It was self-defense, Nott. Didn't you hear what the Aurors said?"
"The Aurors said she killed him with her bare hands," he screamed. "He couldn't even defend himself because she took his wand away."
"Which was after he cowardly forced someone else to hit Daphne in the back to take her wand way." Harry hoped he could make Nott do something stupid. He was not quite prepared for the response he got.
"Liar! I challenge you to an honor duel!"
A glance to Hugo showed him to be surprised too. The nearest window contained the three women in the house, who also looked surprised, as well as fearful. He wished he had not seen that.
With calmness that Harry was not sure he felt, he replied, "I could challenge you as head of your family for what your brother tried, but I will accept your challenge."
A maniacal grin came over Nott as he turned to fully face Harry, knowing that Greengrass would not interfere. "The fight is to the death, Half-blood, Avada Kedavra!"
Harry stepped to the side. He was thankful for Astoria's warning. "Reducto!" Nott barely got out of the way after needing a brief moment to recover after the Unforgivable. The Blasting hex appeared to hit only robes and continued on to splash on some shield over the front of the house, but Harry did not give it any thought as a new spell was coming towards him. He jumped back the other way and sent a strong Cutting curse back silently -- after a quick mental berating for forgetting to be silent and giving away what he had cast.
But Nott was not there. He had Apparated away.
Harry immediately sprung to the side and he was glad that he had as a curse went through the space he had just been in, since Nott had Apparated to a few feet behind where he had been. Harry Apparated ten yards way, using that movement to get back to his feet, and he cast a quick Stunning spell.
Laughter came from his left immediately after Nott disappeared again. Harry Apparated twenty yards away and cast another Blasting hex back to where Nott had been, with 'had been' the important part. Nott had Apparated to his right and was sending another curse.
Harry Apparated behind Nott, who disappeared again. This was getting annoying, so Harry tried something different. He spun and dropped to his knees, making sure he was slightly to the side of where he had been. Sure enough, Nott had Apparated a couple feet back and was casting another spell where Harry had been.
Avoiding the wand arm of Nott, Harry shoved his wand forward through a tear in the man's robes and up with all of his strength like a short sword, catching Nott in the stomach. Nott's spell was aborted in mid-cast and he looked down at Harry with wide eyes. With his wand embedded at least a couple of inches in Nott's stomach, Harry silently cast the Banishment charm as it required no wand movement. Nott flew up nearly five feet in the air with blood spewing out his mouth. He landed in an ungainly heap several yards away and did not move.
"Accio wand!" Nott's wand flew to Harry, who deftly caught it. It was the vigilant thing to do.
He stood and looked down at his opponent. He almost wished he had not; the body was a mess. "Harry!" he heard screamed. Looking up, he saw Daphne running out of the house for him. She hit him at a full run and it was all he could do to not fall down. He managed only by turning around in a circle and carrying her too, causing her feet to fly out. Setting her back down, he reveled in her fierce hug and then passionate kiss.
A crunch in the yard caused them to stop their display of affection. Harry saw a grim but smiling Hugo Greengrass, with his wife on his arm. Cassandra looked very relieved. Astoria was next to her mother with an expressionless look, and Harry was concerned about what she might say, despite what she had told him.
Astoria slowly walked over and gently pulled Harry from Daphne and gave him a hug. "I'm sorry you had to do that, Harry," she whispered to him so that only he could hear, "but I'm very grateful to you for fixing Father's mistake. I owe you and Daphne." She kissed him on the cheek before she pushed him the half step back to Daphne and then stepped back to be next to her mother again.
Harry was not sure what to make of that, but he was sure that he needed to sit down. With the fight over, he felt like he was going to fall over soon. "I need to sit," he softly said.
"Of course," Hugo said, suddenly springing into action after the moment of enjoying the relief of the battle being done. "Daphne take him in and have Solly get him a shot of Firewhiskey. I shall get the Aurors. They're outside the wards trying to get in."
Glad for the help, Harry leaned on Daphne as they walked in. Cassandra joined them, but Astoria stayed outside. Inside, Harry gratefully sank into the large leather chair that Daphne guided him into. He was barely down when Solly appeared with a small glass. Not thinking about it, Harry gulped it down, then wished he had not. It burned going down and made him cough, which sent small tongues of flame shooting out of his mouth. Daphne giggled and dropped into his lap. Harry held her close, burying his face into her hair and chest.
He knew he would have to talk to the Aurors and give his story. A terrible thought came to him. "Was he the last of the Notts?" Harry asked to the room.
"He is the last of that branch," Cassandra replied. "Hector was the head after his father went missing and was declared dead. There are some relatives, but those branches are not as … extreme," she finally said after thinking for a second. "You will have no problems with them, Harry. I believe it is really over."
"What about his mother?" Harry asked worriedly.
"No," Cassandra said with a sad shake of her head. "Margo died about nine or ten years ago under mysterious circumstances. I always felt her husband arranged her death, but nothing was ever proved."
Harry felt the relief wash over him. He was done fighting the Notts. The Aurors chose that moment to walk in. Harry was pleased that Hugo was smiling, that gave him confidence. He would give his statement and then stay here through dinner. He really did not want to face the school just yet. Daphne had a lot happen to her today too, and despite the calm face she wore most of the time, he knew that tonight would be hard for her.
Harry and Daphne had returned that evening to find a very worried Tracey, Blaise, and Hermione. Hermione was having trouble sitting still once Tracey and Blaise clued her in on what could happen, based on Pureblood traditions, or the Old Laws. She had thrown herself on Harry when he returned, then she had apologized to Daphne for doing that. Over Butterbeers, which Solly had brought them, much to Hermione's dismay even if she did drink one, Harry told about their afternoon.
Blaise informed him that Pansy had been expelled and taken away by Aurors while they were gone. He also said they knew of no one else who was as hostile. A handful of other students bore watching, but not even Crabbe and Goyle, who had also lost their fathers this summer, should be a problem. However, Blaise and Tracey both promised to be vigilant for their friends.
The next morning, the article in the Daily Prophet was mostly accurate, but very unflattering to the Potters. It went so far as to question Harry and Daphne's motives of killing off a Pureblood family. Daphne was very angry and Harry barely stopped her from getting up and explaining the facts to the editors with her wand. He took her back to their room to cool off.
Daphne paced for a few minutes and Harry let her. Suddenly she turned to him. "Harry, you said that Sirius left you some money. How much?"
He looked at her, wondering what she was up to. "A couple of million Galleons, I think, plus a few houses. Why?"
"That should take care of most of it," she said smugly, before she fixed him with her scheming expression. "I'm going to write a counter article and they will publish it tomorrow or face a lawsuit. I will not allow you or myself to be slandered like that. Also, tomorrow you will start the process of buying the Daily Prophet."
Harry jerked up from his slouch in the chair. "Are you serious?"
"Yes. They probably won't sell you very much, so you'll have to get proxies to buy parts of it for you. Once you get majority ownership, there will be a change at that newspaper. If they print stories about us, it will be factual or else they will be very sorry."
Harry hoped she meant they would only be sacked, but decided not to ask. She was still wound up from the article this morning. "OK, I can do that. I'm sure your father, Lupin, and some others would buy up shares with money I can give them. I can also probably get the goblins to act like an agent for an anonymous buyer for a fee."
"You can, but approach them last as that fee will be expensive." She sighed. "Countering disinformation is the sort of thing Dumbledore should have done for you over time and never did. I believe it would have helped you avoid some of the trouble you had."
"This would be the PR stuff you mentioned?"
"Yes. Most people will believe whatever they read in the newspaper, so you can't let bad information stay out there like that. When you own the Daily Prophet, that will be a good first step towards your hope of fixing the Wizarding world," she explained.
"That would be nice," he agreed with a wistful smile.
"Then we'll get you on the Wizengamot and eventually make you the Minister for Magic. Then you can really effect change."
"Ah yes," he said with a grin, "your plan for me." He reached out and grabbed her, pulling her into his lap. The action instantly broke her seriousness.
"Harry!" she squealed in surprise. He moved his hands to grab her in more private places. "Harry!" she groaned, ceasing to struggle. They did not come out of their room until lunch time.
At the end of dinner, which the Potters were having at the Slytherin table, a very nervous Ron walked over. "Harry? Can I talk to you and Daphne?"
Harry looked at him, wondering what this was about, until the memory of his last conversation with Ron came back to him from what seemed like forever ago. Their troubles with the Notts had pushed everything else from his mind. "Is this about stating your beliefs?"
Ron swallowed hard, glancing at the Ice Queen sitting next to Harry. "It is."
"All right, then. Please escort Daphne back to our room. I need to give a few messages to people while I'm here. I'll join you in a moment." Harry offered a hand to Daphne, who used it. She stood and then walked over to Ron. She did not take his arm, but she indicated she would walk next him. The two slowly walked out, leaving a grinning Harry behind.
Harry whispered to Blaise before walked over to the Gryffindor table. A minute later, a small group was walking behind him through the halls.
Entering his common room, Harry saw Daphne sitting on one of the small settees and Ron standing in front of the fireplace with a look of shock on his face at the group at the door. Harry smirked as he walked in and sat beside Daphne, letting Hermione, Neville, Ginny, Blaise, and Tracey take whatever seats they wanted.
"Ron, you stated your beliefs in front of these people, so it seems only fair to have them present when you correct that."
"But Harry," Ron protested, "not all of them were there." He had tilted his head towards Blaise and Tracey.
"True, but you have affected them and will have to work with them closely if you want to become a best friend again. So it seems only right to have them here." Harry was calm and gentle on the outside, but he was about to bust a gut on the inside; it was tough to hold his laughter in. A glance at Daphne showed a small satisfied grin.
Ron looked down shuffled for a moment, as if screwing his courage up. "Daphne," he finally looked up at her, although he could not quite hold her eyes. "I would like to apologize for the things I said last June. Over the last few months, I've seen that you're not a bad person. In fact, despite my earlier statements, I think that you're a good choice for Harry. You seem to make him happy. In my defense, I was prejudiced by the actions of Malfoy, but Harry was correct to tell me that Malfoy is not how all Slytherins really are. I -- I hope you'll forgive me and be my friend."
Harry was really quite impressed. His friend seemed very sincere. However, Daphne was staring at him, her gaze boring into his eyes. He understood what she was doing and hoped for a good outcome. After a moment she gave a slow nod. "On behalf of the Slytherins here, I accept. I understand that Draco Malfoy made this difficult on you, but it was still your decision. I'm glad that you've changed your mind. I believe you have one more thing to say?" While it was a question, there was not doubt in anyone's mind it was really a command.
Ron nervously nodded and looked at Harry. "Harry, well, you've just heard what I think now, but I can say that I'm sorry I said those things to you. I was wrong in everything. I appreciate you still being my friend, but I hope we can now go back to being best friends."
"We can be best friends again, Ron," Harry said with a sad smile, wishing the break had never happened, "but know that you're not my only best friend now. You'll have to share me not only with Daphne, but with Hermione, like you always have, and now with Neville and Blaise. They are all best friends. And so you know, Ginny and Tracey are becoming best friends as well, friends I will not do without. Do you think you can fit in?"
Ron quickly nodded. "Yeah, I think that would be great."
Daphne looked at Harry. "Yes," he told her before looking back to Ron. "So Ron, would you like to be in my wedding? Neville will be my best man, Blaise will be joining me, but I've got one spot I've been holding for you…"
Ron considered it, several emotions going over his face. It was not hard for Harry to guess at his thoughts. He suspected Ron had always thought he would be Harry's best man, but Ron had lost that spot due to his own stupidity and prejudice.
"Yeah," Ron said after a few seconds. "Yeah, I'd really like that."
"Excellent, mate," Harry said with a real grin. "Get yourself a chair and relax. Del!" The elf popped in. "A round of Butterbeers for everyone." The elf grinned and left, returning a half minute later. It was nice to have all of his friends back where they belong.
In the privacy of their room that evening, Daphne looked at him. "You're happy that Ron's fixed his mistake, aren't you."
"Yes," he admitted while taking a boot off.
"I'm glad too. You need friends, even if they are stupid Gryffindors who don't use all the brains they have."
Harry chuckled, not bothered at her jibe at all.
"There's still one loose end. What are you going to do?" When he gave her a confused look, she simply said, "Snape."
Harry pulled his other boot off and leaned back, looking at her. "I'm not sure I can bring myself to just kill him, but I know I can't just let him go either. Even with an Unbreakable Vow not to harm us, I have a feeling he'd find some way around that and do it anyway, even if it was with his dying breath."
"He would," she agreed. "I could make a Vow that would stop him for hurting us, but my fear is that he would do something to our children, or their children. You need to make it permanent, Harry. Someone may find him one day and revive him. It may be ten or twenty generations from now, but that would not stop Snape from declaring war on our family."
"It may not matter," he said after some consideration. She gave him an "explain now" look. "I'm not saying that you made a mistake, but I think something is wrong with him."
"What do you mean?" Daphne had stopped undressing too and sat next to him.
"Last time I was there, he looked different, paler or perhaps a little more gray. But I know that potion is supposed to put him in stasis, so that shouldn't be happening. Yet, I'm sure he's changing."
Harry looked into her eyes and dropped his barriers, showing her the memory of when he first placed Snape there and then the next two visits. When seen together, it was obvious that something was happening to Snape.
"I didn't see any changes in Voldemort," she said after a long moment.
"He wasn't under as long, but I agree. I didn't notice any change in him."
"So maybe it's something only with Snape…"
"Could be," he agreed.
"I'll research it."
"Tomorrow," he told her with a grin. "Tonight, the only research I'll allow you is with me."
Daphne matched his grin. "Yes, my husband…" His lips did not let her say more for quite some time.
Christmas was in a few days and there were home for the holidays. With a wedding the day after Christmas, they were about to not have any free time until their honeymoon, and they did not want to deal with this on their honeymoon. So they Apparated to a special cave by the sea and entered. Harry opened the hidden door and guided Daphne through.
Going over to the alcove where the last body lay, they saw Snape. He was slightly grayer than last time.
"Well?" Harry asked. "You're the potions expert."
She did a few diagnostic spells on the body; all came back negative. "It's hard to tell, as the Draught tries to make the person look dead, but I think he really is dead. The Draught is only slowing down his decay and making it look like he's still alive. However, I still think you should dispose of him, just to make sure."
Harry grunted, still not happy. "Why? Why would he be dead anyway?"
"How should I know?" she shrugged. "Maybe he was cursed with something else? Maybe he had a disease? Maybe he was allergic to the Potion? Who knows? But the point is, anything you do to him won't be killing him."
"That just because you think he's dead. We don't really know." He did not want to kill anyone if he had the choice, even someone as messed up as Snape.
She gave an exasperated sigh. "If it will make you feel better, I'll give him to the Inferi."
"No," he quickly said, "I'll do it in a minute." He would spare her that, he thought. He looked down at the body, wondering why Snape had made the choices he had, choices that had harmed a lot of people, while later helping many through his bravery as a spy.
Snape's body suddenly flew away, skimming over the water of the underground lake. When it splashed, Inferi broiled out of the water and ripped at Snape. He was gone forever a few seconds later.
He looked at Daphne, seeing her put her wand away. "Why? I said I'd do it."
She gave him a look that made him feel like a little boy. "Because I can deal with this easier than you can, Harry. I could tell by the way you were looking at him. You were agonizing over having to do it, weren't you?"
"Yes," he admitted, knowing he could not lie to her about this.
"Then it's better that I did it. Besides, I already told you he was dead, so I didn't kill him. I just hid the body," she told him with a smirk. "Now let's go, we have lots to do before next Friday."
"Yes, dear." He chuckled when she rolled her eyes at him. It was a new "game" he had started recently with her. Neither of them was fooled by Harry's apparent meekness.
Christmas came and the Potters opened presents at their home before going over to the Greengrass home. With both daughters there, it was just like old times, except for Harry being there too. Astoria was looking much healthier than the day her husband had died.
Boxing Day brought the official Potter/Greengrass wedding. Harry did his best to stay out of the way. Daphne had everything arranged and he just went with the flow. Cassandra had found a little castle that had been "perfect" for the wedding. Harry was not sure he agreed, but then again, Daphne seemed to be happy, so he assured her that it was great. Daphne was not fooled by his response, but she did not give him a hard time about it either.
When the wedding ceremony started and Harry saw Daphne in her white robes, ones that hinted at so much but covered everything, he was once again amazed that she was his. She looked so beautiful, but he also thought she looked that way because she was also a beautiful person on the inside.
The reception afterwards was a test of patience, Harry thought. He knew a number of people there, so he had no lack of people to talk to. However, there was a sizeable number that he met for the first time, and people he would just as soon not met at all. These were the people, who did not directly follow Voldemort, but they did believe in the Pureblood supremacy theories that Voldemort had tried to advance. Harry considered that this was part of Hugo carrying out his promise to reach out to these people, and the wedding was the first step to show that Harry and the winning side were not bad people. He knew there were other reasons as well, but he tried to think only of the positive possibilities.
One person that really surprised Harry by showing up was Percy Weasley. Harry had invited all of the Weasleys, and Percy had recently reunited with them, so he came too.
"Harry." Percy held out his hand. "Congratulations to you and Daphne." At the mention of her name, the bride turned around to see who it was. Her sister looked on too.
"Thank you, Percy," Harry said very slowly, looking at the wayward Weasley very carefully.
Percy did not stand the scrutiny for very long before he looked away. "Er, Harry, while I'm here, I feel it would be a good time for me to apologize to you. I know that I did not treat you as I should have, and for that, I sincerely apologize."
Harry let the barest touch of his Legilimency out; Percy was either being truthful or hiding very well. "Thank you, Percy, I accept," Harry told him graciously. Percy did not seem like the type of person to lie about this. Be a git and believe the wrong thing thing -- yes; but lie about an apology -- no.
With a small grin at an idea, Harry turned to Daphne's sister. "Astoria, do you remember Percy Weasley from school?"
Percy gave a start as he looked at her closely. "Astoria Greengrass?"
Astoria gave him a small smile and a nod. "Percy, it's nice to see you again." She looked at Harry. "Of course I remember him. He was Head Boy when I was in sixth year."
There were times that Percy seemed Slytherin to Harry, so he said, "Percy, would you be so kind to escort Astoria around for awhile? Her escort left her about a month ago and I think you would be a good one for her."
Percy looked at Harry for a long few seconds before he suddenly smiled. "Of course, Harry." He looked at Astoria and held out his arm. "Miss Greengrass, with your permission?"
Astoria gave Harry a look that he interpreted as "you better be right about this". "Thank you, Mr Weasley." She took his arm and they walked off towards the punch bowl.
"Are you sure about that?" Daphne quietly whispered to her husband.
Harry shrugged. "It's only for the evening, but otherwise, yes. I think there could be some common ground between them."
Daphne stretched up just slightly and kissed her husband. "Then I hope it works out for her. She could use someone good in her life."
"He's honorable and a Slytherin in Gryffindor's clothing at times." He shrugged. "I guess time will tell." They returned to visiting with guests.
As soon as the reception was over, Harry and Daphne left for a week long journey around the Mediterranean Sea on a Muggle cruise ship. After that week, they spent a week in the family villa in Spain. Harry found out why it was one Daphne's favorite places to go, and he had to agree. It was truly a lovely place.
When they returned to school, everyone that knew them wished them well. Daphne had a hard time keeping a goofy grin off of her face for the first week back whenever someone called her Mrs Potter. Her Ice Queen personae slipped more than she liked for that week.
Quidditch was going very well for Harry. By the end of the year, Gryffindor was undefeated and won the Quidditch Cup. Harry took great pride in it, and Daphne even more. During his last game, Quidditch scouts had come to the game and Daphne made sure she sat next to them and talked up Harry's abilities.
School went well for the Potters, except for one thing: Hermione. As she had done for OWLs, she tried to put everyone around her on a revision schedule and got upset when no one used it. It was Harry who finally sat her down and explained that they all appreciated her help, but they already had their own schedule. Having anticipated this, Harry pulled out one that he had had Daphne create. Hermione was not pleased when she looked at it, as she thought they were not doing enough revising. In the end, Harry got her to let up when he pointed out that she would have more time to revise if she only worried about herself.
Harry invited all of his close friends into the common room for the Head Boy and Girl. Besides Hermione and Daphne who lived there, Neville, Tracey, Blaise, and Ron were there. A late addition to the usual crowd was Hannah Abbott, who had recently started dating Neville seriously. Ginny and Luna were also there, although they still had one more year to go. Everyone grabbed a bottle of Butterbeer out of a large tub of ice, courtesy of Del, and took a seat. Each of the couples had their own settee, the singles had chairs.
"What's the problem, Hermione, you look sad?" Harry asked.
The Head Girl lightly tapped the bottle with a fingernail, as if trying to see if it was soundly made. "It's over, Harry. School is over. We've taken our NEWTs and we ride the Hogwarts Express for the last time tomorrow. Everything we strived for ends tomorrow." She took a sip of her drink and looked around.
"Thanks, Hermione," Ginny said a little sarcastically. "I've got another year to go and you're making me depressed."
"Sorry, Ginny, but I really wasn't trying to do that, it's just, well, so many of my goals are done…"
"Then it's time to make new goals," Tracey said pragmatically. "Didn't you say that you wanted to go to a Muggle university?"
"Yes, I've already been accepted into a small private one. I'll attend there for a year or two then transfer to Oxford."
"How long do you plan to be there?" Harry asked her.
"At least four years, but probably six. I'd like to get a masters degree."
Harry smirked. "I think that will work just fine. Just don't forget to practice your magic." Daphne joined him in a smirk.
"What do you have planned, Harry?" Blaise asked. "That's a 'I've got a plan' look if I ever saw one."
Harry smiled at his wife and casually grabbed her hand. "I've agreed to Daphne's plan." A number of surprised looks greeted him. "In two weeks, I become the starting Seeker for the Arrows."
"Yes!" Ginny shouted while Ron groaned.
"Harry, why couldn't you have picked the Cannons? They'd have a winning chance then."
Everyone laughed at Ron. "Sorry," but Harry did not really sound that way. "I prefer to play for a team that has a chance of winning. The Arrows finished second this last season because of their very good Chasers. I'd like to hope that with me as Seeker, that will be enough to get us into first place. I didn't think their old Seeker was all that good."
"He wasn't," Ginny agreed. "He was next to last in Snitches caught, only beating the Seeker from the Cannons." She rattled off the stat without hesitation.
"So Quidditch? Any chance of free tickets?" Neville asked with a smile, to let Harry know he was not totally serious.
"I'll see what I can do," Harry said good-naturedly. "I'll do that for five to eight years, while also being a part-time member of the Wizengamot. Hugo seems to think I won't have any problem getting a seat in a year. That will allow me to get my name known there as well as find out who can be trusted and who can't."
Hannah spoke up. "I thought you didn't like your fame?"
Harry gave her a wry smile. "Deep down, I really don't, but Daphne has convinced me that if I really want to change the world, there's nothing wrong with using every tool at my disposal."
"Of course not, Harry. You would be mad not to do so," Luna softly told him as she looked at him with her large eyes that rarely blinked. "Do you think you could get them to release all the data on the various creatures they haven't told us about? I know they know but don't want us to know, you know?"
He looked at her as he thought that through, deciding there was only one safe answer. "I'll see what I can do, but I can't make any promises as I don't know what's there yet." Luna nodded and went back to studying the label on the bottle in her hands.
"Why do you plan to only play that long, Harry?" Ron asked. "Except for permanent injuries, you should be able to play for ten or fifteen years."
"True, but Daphne thinks that I should be able to peak in popularity at about that time, which will be a good springboard into my political career: working on the Wizengamot full-time. That will allow me to affect a little more reform. She thinks I should also be able become an advisor to the Minister too."
"You mean like Lucius Malfoy was?" Blaise asked.
"Yeah, except I won't be corrupt like him." Everyone laughed, including Harry. "When the next election comes along a couple of years later, I'll win the Minister's position and then I can really bring about change and pull us all into at least the late twentieth century, only about ten or twenty years behind the Muggles."
When everyone finished laughing, Hermione asked. "And what does all of that have to do with me?"
Harry gave her a grin as if it should have been obvious. "When I start working with the Wizengamot full-time, I'll already have the sneakiest witch as an advisor, but I'd like to have the smartest witch of the generation as my chief of staff."
Hermione blushed only a little. "The flattery is nice, Harry, but why would I want to be chief of your staff? I don't mean to belittle your idea, but I can do a lot more challenging work than that."
"You can," he admitted. "But there are three very good reasons for you to accept when I ask you a few years down the road." She crooked an eyebrow at him. "First, it gives you direct input into the changes that will be made. I have some ideas, as does Daphne, but we both acknowledge that you are a master at research and thinking things through. Daphne will be around to help you make the ideas workable in the political arena, but if you really want to affect change, Hermione, you have to be part of the game."
"I'll think about it. What are your other reasons?"
"When I become Minister for Magic, my chief of staff can become the Senior Undersecretary, if she likes."
Hermione eyes grew wide. "That's the number two position in the Ministry."
"It is," Harry said with a grin. "The last reason is, because when I'm done with my reforms, I'll be stepping down, but the people will want someone who understands them and me to continue to lead them. Also, it will be easy for you to become the first Muggle-born Minister. Don't you want that? It's the only think that I can think of that is better than Head Girl."
She looked very torn. "I had thought about coming back her to teach too."
Harry knew he had her now. "Do both Hermione. Do you really think the Board of Governors would turn down a former Minister for Magic who wanted to teach? No way."
"He's right," Neville agreed.
"Bloody right," Blaise added.
Everyone looked at Hermione as she thought it all through, the concentration on her face was intense. "Uhh," she finally growled. "Why do you have to do this to me? I thought I already had the next ten years planned out."
Harry grinned. "You don't have to decide now, but promise me you'll think about it."
Hermione nodded. "Are you not going to try to change things sooner?"
"I've already started on one of the most important parts," Harry said with a chuckle. "I now own fifty-three percent of the Daily Prophet."
"What?!" everyone but Luna shouted, although the Ravenclaw did give him a very interested look.
"I'm tired of them printing lies about me, so I started buying it a little at a time. When we get home tomorrow, Daphne and I are going to go by their offices and explain that if they want to keep their jobs, they will only print the truth from now on, especially about us," Harry said with a little anger in his expression. "The first part of fixing things is to show everyone how bad things really are so they will want to change."
"That's very Slytherin of you, Harry," Tracey said with a smile. Her boyfriend nodded his agreement, so she kissed his cheek. Blaise looked very happy with her.
"You can thank Daphne for that idea." Harry leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.
"Daphne?" They all looked at Hannah. "What are you going to be doing, besides advising Harry?"
"I'm his agent too…"
"And a very good one," Harry interjected. "She got me a great deal with the Arrows," he added in a conspiratorial whisper to everyone.
"Thank you, dear." Daphne gave him a peck on the cheek. "I'll do that for about the next eight months, then I plan to take some time off."
There was a moment of silence before the girls all squealed, even Luna, although hers was more subdued. Tracey rushed over and gave her friend a hug. When she released Daphne, each of the other girls gave Daphne a hug too.
"What?" Ron asked.
Blaise rolled his eyes. "Really, Weasley." He looked at Harry. "So a boy or a girl?"
"Daphne will give me an heir," Harry said majestically and with a grin that split his face.
"Way to go, stud!" Blaise got up and took a large step over and high-fived Harry, as did Neville.
"She's pregnant?" Ron finally got out; he looked stunned.
"Just found out yesterday," Harry said smugly.
"That's … wow … uh," Ron stumbled over his words. "Better you than me, mate,"
Ginny laugh loudly. "Yeah, Mum would really be ticked if you had a son on the way, Ron. Congratulations, Harry." She looked genuinely happy for him.
"Thanks, Ginny. It's still a little hard to comprehend, but we're happy."
"Harry, do you really think you can do everything you've planned?" Hermione was obviously still thinking about this offer.
"I could say that after defeating Voldemort, this will be easy, but I think I have a better reason for being successful." Harry turned and looked at his wife. "I have Daphne."
(Fourteen years later)
Harry handed out the last of the Butterbeers to the small crowd in his back garden. Taking his, he opened it and cleared his throat. Everyone stopped talking and looked to him. He could not help but be pleased. They had stuck together, as well as added a few more people, but his best friends were with him at the beginning of the end of his plan.
"Although it may have taken a little longer than originally planned," Harry winked at his beautiful wife, who raised a finely manicured eyebrow at him, causing him to grin, "here's to a successful conspiracy to make me Minister for Magic. May the rest of our plans go as well!"
"Here, here!" was shouted by everyone as they clinked bottles.
"So what now, Mr Minister?" Neville called out in jest, everyone laughed.
"I think I need to take office tomorrow first, my friend." Harry looked at Neville, who was not only his best friend, but also a fellow Wizengamot member of several years. His wife, Hannah, stood by him. She had been a great help, especially after she had taken over running the Leaky Cauldron. Hannah let them know what the 'common wizard' thought, and she also helped to push out Harry's thoughts.
"Pish, you've practically been running the Ministry for the last year," Hugo Greengrass told him, his wife next to him.
Harry just smiled, all of his shyness gone, thanks to nine years in the spotlight as a Quidditch star and then five more as a full-time Wizengamot member.
"I had plenty of help. For example, Percy has been invaluable." Harry pointed at the blushing Weasley. Although he may have been embarrassed with the praise, his wife, Astoria, was beaming.
"So, Harry, what's left for you to do?" Ron asked him.
Harry looked at his long time friend, as well as his wife turned Muggle super-model, the former Lavender Brown. She had used her fame to help Harry get his ideas across to the general Wizarding public, while Ron had worked as an assistant coach for the Chudley Cannons. "Plenty, Ron. Most of the changes I've made over the five years, or even the eight before them were the easy ones. Now it's time for the hard work."
Hermione MacMillan snorted. Her husband, Ernie, looked amused too. "Getting the Fair Beings Act passed was amazing. I mean, who would have thought that all the sentient magical beings being treated equally in the eyes of the law would have been possible twenty years ago?" she asked rhetorically. "That's special, but we have so much more to change."
"That's our Hermione," Tracey Zabini said. "Ready to change the world with nothing to stop her." Blaise led the laughter.
"But we wouldn't want her any other way," Ginny Wood said.
"I don't think anything can stop her," Oliver Wood said with a grin. "She's more powerful than a well hit Bludger."
Hermione groaned, but it was Ernie who said, "Leave it to you, Oliver," he told the Quidditch star, "to use a Quidditch analogy for Hermione."
"What's wrong with that?" Ron asked, and it did not look like he was teasing.
"Nothing for you, Ronald." Ron looked at Luna, who was balancing her empty Butterbeer bottle on one finger. Even more amazingly, her husband of three years, Rolf, seemed just as entranced with her ability as she was.
"Do you still want to work in the Department of Mysteries, Luna?" Harry asked.
"Certainly, Harry. I'm sure they have many mysterious things there that just need a little extra help to be explained. How hard can it be?" There was not a trace of mischievous on Luna's face.
"It's hard to argue with that," Ernie said quietly, but everyone seemed to hear him anyway.
"Daddy! Daddy!" a young voice yelled. Everyone turned to see six year-old Hugo Potter-Greengrass come running towards them. "Tell James to quit turning my hair blue."
Harry looked at Daphne with a hint of asking for help.
"Don't look at me," she told her husband. "You're the one that wanted four, AND you taught James that charm."
Harry caught his youngest as Hugo barreled into his legs. There was a blue streak in the boy's hair. "Where is your brother?"
"Over there," the boy pointed, "behind that bush."
Pulling out his wand, Harry cast, "Accio Wand!"
"Hey, no fair," the thirteen year-old cried as his wand went flying through the air to his father. Now that he was found, he came out from behind the shrubbery. Everyone who saw him thought he was a clone of the younger Harry, right down to the green eyes and messy black hair.
A tinkling laughter came from behind Harry's oldest, followed by his eleven year-old daughter, Jade. She was the image of her mother, except for her green eyes. In fact, all of the Potter children had green eyes, even nine year-old Sirius, who walked with Jade.
"James, what have we told you about changing your brothers' and sister's appearance with spells?" Harry gave him the disappointed father look, causing the boy to look down.
"Then I think I'll keep this wand for the next week."
James started to protest, but a look from his mother stopped him cold. "Yes, Dad."
With a smile, Harry walked over and put his hand on his eldest's shoulder. "A wand is not a toy, you know that." James nodded. "Then act like you know it or I'll keep it for the rest of the summer."
He looked horrified. "Y-yes, Dad."
"I know you'll do the right thing now." The boy puffed up with pride, his indiscretion momentarily forgotten. Harry patted him on the shoulder and sent him back inside. The rest of his children went into the house too.
"Not bad, Harry," Hugo Greengrass told him. "Now if you can just do that for our society."
"I think he can," Daphne said as she walked over to him, putting her arm through his. "I think he can do anything … with me to help him," she said with an impish smile.
"Well, I am the Minister for Magic -- tomorrow," Harry said.
Everyone laughed and clinked bottles. Harry called Del out to collect the empties as he passed out full ones. With family and friends such as this, making the world right seemed possible.
((A/N: OK, this really turned out to be almost another complete story, as this is roughly the size of the original four chapters. I hope everyone enjoyed it, but this is really the end of this universe. I won't add any more, no matter how many people ask.
Again, thanks to ReadingFreak2005 for his help in beta'ing this story. I find it maddening as an author to read through my stories multiple times, thinking I've got all the errors, only to find the return from my betas to have more errors highlighted. As painful as that is, I truly appreciate the help as it makes for better reading. Thanks Andrew!
I have more stories or continuations of stories coming… Kevin))