The atmosphere in the common room was frosty, to say the least. Ron and Lavender, still enraptured in the early days of their affair were snuggling by the fire, while a furious Hermione scribbled away on the last essay of the term. A few voyeuristic third year boys watched the unfolding drama with an almost scholarly interest – though their attention seemed to be focused almost exclusively on the perilous position of Lavender's robes. The rest of the Gryffindors, too young to care or old enough to pretend they didn't, kept well away from the obvious powder keg, many preferring the peace of the dormitories.
The only oblivious member of the house was Harry Potter, who sat across from Hermione, reading a battered potion book. Face almost perpetually caught between a look of deep concentration and a particularly silly grin, he seemed utterly out of place in the less than cordial environment. His hand scratched a quill idly over a sheet of parchment, making shorthand notes about the various spells and theories his miraculous find seemed intent on bestowing upon him.
"Hermione," Harry broke into the silence, "Can I borrow your runes notes real quick? I'm not sure what I'm looking at here."
Hermione snapped up, sparing a quick glare towards the overly amorous couple before looking at Harry. Seeing the book in front of him, her eyes narrowed, fist clenching so tightly that her quill began to snap. "No," she snapped, "not for that."
Harry took a breath, seething inside but unwilling to make a scene in the common room. This wasn't the first time that Hermione had suddenly snapped at him this term. Combined with a recently discovered transgression of her own during the quidditch tryouts… Harry was approaching a breaking point in regards to her hypocritical attitude.
"Fine then," he ground out. "I'll just go ask Angie." Getting up, he was shocked when Hermione stood up too, seemingly intent on following him.
"What are you doing?" he hissed, a wrench in his gut foretelling this wouldn't end well.
"I'm going to tell her what you're up to – studying illicit materials. Let her know what she's getting herself into."
"Illicit material - are you joking?" he swore, cursing himself inwardly as eyes began to focus on his and Hermione's little spat. As softly as he could, he continued, aware of the uselessness of such. "I don't know what to say to you - you're always buried in a book. Just because it's working better for me this once –"
"I am not! And it's not that at all," she interrupted through clenched teeth. "That book is dangerous, you stupid twit. And I don't care if you're outperforming me – at least I know I'm not cheating!"
Harry jolted back as if slapped. "So," he replied slowly, no longer caring nor in truth aware of the entire room's attention focused on him. "I'm a cheat am I? The minute I try and better myself without you having to hold my hand, suddenly I'm no longer playing by the rules. You've got a lot of gall, Hermione."
Hermione, for her part, looked close to tears. She had not intended to call Harry such – the stress of the war, exams, her failing friendships… and her absolute certainty that there was something wrong with that thrice damned book…
She might very well have apologized at that moment, had she not seen Lavender slowly pulling Ron towards the portrait hole, the red headed boy giving her an uncomfortable shrug when their eyes met.
"That's right, Harry, I do hold your hand. I'm the one who makes sure you pass the classes because you can't be bothered to study on your own. I check your essays, I write your exam schedules. Hermione, Hermione, Hermione. You and Ronald are both the same, all you care about is yourselves and quidditch." She made the word sound foul.
"That's not fair," Harry snapped back, filled with the fury of the righteously angry. "I'm not perfect, but I'm not an idiot. I worked my arse off for the tournament, and last year. And for all you know," his voice rose as his tirade worked itself up to full force, "maybe I'm naturally brilliant at potions. My mum was, and we'd never know with the way Snape's always treated me. Maybe a bit of self confidence and a quiet potions lab were all I needed. I seem to be taking to it well enough when I actually understand it!"
A few tears began to cling to Hermione's eyes. Truly, she had not intended for the conversation to go like this at all. And yet, she too clung to the moral high ground.
"You're an idiot, Harry Potter," she shrieked, unable to look at him any longer. "That you still have that bloody book is proof enough. You'll thank me one day you know," she sniffled, then raised her head in stubborn pride. "I've spent six years cleaning up after you and Ronald – nothing you say changes that. You… you – you pillocks!" She spat, before slashing her wand at her stack of parchment. A second later, she stormed towards the girls' dormitories, school supplies obediently in tow.
The silence was deafening. Suddenly, like a splash of cold water, Harry realized he was the center of the room's attention. Uneasy with being such a spectacle, he glared back, tucking his potion book into his robe pocket and heading out towards the portrait – unwilling to spend time in proximity with the witnesses of his most impressive implosion as of late.
The moment he slammed the portrait shut, he regretted it. The Fat Lady was gone, and going back now would be an unnecessary blow to his tattered dignity. He really ought to have at least gotten his cloak before wandering out – the only guaranteed private place around the Gryffindor tower was the disused classroom on the second floor – and he was all too likely to run into Ron and Lavender.
Letting out a deep breath of air, he decided he didn't particularly care if he got caught. He needed to go for a walk – his childhood in the closet under the stairs had left him unable to stay in confined spaces when anxious or angry. Picking a direction at random, he moved south, towards the less common yet properly used parts of the school. Choosing a staircase by chance, he was content to find himself in the stone chamber used as a student darkroom. Now feeling more exhausted than angry, he lay down, resting his head on the cool stone.
He woke up hours later, startled by the unfamiliar room and unsure for a moment how he got there. As the memories of the evening began to return, he sighed, rubbing his eyes to curb off the inevitable headache. Not knowing the time but assuming it was the wee hours of the morning, Harry finally got up, his back aching from being squashed on the stone. Quietly, he began the trek back to the Gryffindor dormitories.
As he passed the row of decapitated statues in the southeast wing, he heard too late the sound of footsteps coming towards him. Fearing Filch (or rather, the subsequent detention and loss of points) he looked frantically for a room to hide in, cursing that this particular corridor had no such hiding places.
Resigned, Harry trudged forward. He was tired, angry – whatever punishment Filch assigned him, it would be worth being able to get back to his lovely comfortable bed instead of huddling in an unavailable broom closet for god knows how long. So steeled, he pressed on, turning the corner…
… and coming face to face with the aloof scowl of Daphne Greengrass.
"Christ! I thought you were Filch," Harry blurted, letting out a ragged laugh. "What are you up to, Greengrass… and why are you in pajamas? … and a cloak?" he amended, ignoring the fact he was out himself, though in perhaps slightly more acceptable walking clothes.
Daphne for her part had not stopped walking, as if seeing the boy-who-lived out on an evening stroll were an ordinary event not worth noticing. Hearing him speak to her, however, she stopped, turning to face him, eyes narrowed.
"Piss off, Potter. Go back to your weasel and mudblood." Nodding her head once, she turned back around, continuing her single-minded trek in the opposite direction.
"Yeah, go fuck yourself," Harry grumbled to himself as he too began to walk away. He winced at his own stupidity when Daphne stopped once more.
"I can't," she… pouted? "Daddy put a chastity charm on me over the holidays." She paused, her scowl giving way to a look of deep reflection. "I think he might have put a wizard repelling charm on me too – everyone's whispering that I'm an ice-queen and I hate it." She looked like she was about to cry.
Harry, for his part, was impressed he managed to keep standing. This was undoubtedly the most surreal conversation he'd ever had – and with a Slytherin, no less. "Right err… sorry about that," he mumbled, aware he was turning a bright red. Fumbling for an excuse to change the subject, he stammered out, "well, I'll be going now. Good night."
"Wait!" Daphne called as he made his next abortive attempt to leave. "Is You-Know-Who really back?"
So much for any attempt at a civil conversation. "Yeah, he is," Harry deadpanned. "I'm having tea with him tomorrow – we're going to do one another's hair then discuss how to be bigger glory hounds."
Daphne said nothing. Then she huffed. "I'm not an idiot, you know. I was just being polite."
"Polite?" Harry asked, shocked. "First you insult my friends, and then you bring up Voldemort –" he took a small measure of enjoyment as she flinched, "that's you being polite?"
"You started it. I was minding myown business when you stopped me." She rolled her eyes, "Anyway, there are way worse insults than telling you to go back to Mudblood."
She said it so casually, and the entire situation was so out of hand that Harry felt a small compulsion to ask what would otherwise be an absolutely unthinkable question.
"You… you don't actually think Hermione's name is Hermione Mudblood, do you?"
"No of course not," Daphne sneered, instantly defensive. "Unless Granger is a nickname or something?" she asked, suddenly appearing a lot less sure. She nibbled her lip, before she beamed at Harry, showing off two rows of perfect teeth. "It's a hyphenated muggle name, like the 'Puff in our year. Hermione Granger-Mudblood!"
He'd never seen Daphne smile before, much less wear an ear-to-ear grin. She seemed almost desperate for praise, something he'd never have imagined.
"You've lived with Malfoy for six years… surely by now you know Mudblood isn't a bloody name that people give themselves." Harry was unsure whether he was screaming at the girl or the idiocy of the situation.
Daphne's happy expression came crashing down, her usual scowl coming to the fore. "Not always," she snapped. "I know loads of names that aren't very nice but people go by them anyway. You don't choose your own name. And it's not like I hang out with muggles to know there aren't any Mudbloods. And anyway…"
Fuck scowling, Harry thought to himself, she had skipped straight ahead to stormy.
"… if anyone deserves to be a mudblood, it's Hermione. Oh look at me answering all the questions right," she mimicked in a nasally whine, "I'm always putting my nose where it doesn't belong because I know everything. Oh no, you're all doing it wrong, you have to add the moonlace after the frog eyes. I've only been a witch for five years but I know best."
In light of his most recent conversation with Hermione, that struck a nerve, and Daphne seemed to notice as she smirked at him.
As she turned to leave, Harry prepared to fire a final salvo. It wasn't much, just a parting shot that moonlace and frogs eyes would never be used in the same potion… until he saw her ass.
Perhaps it was because she was angry, or maybe it was intentionally done as a final snub. For whatever reason, as he looked up at Daphne's retreating form, he couldn't help but note the fantastic sight of her posterior. Hips swaying ever so slightly, her firm, tight ass moving with them… tapering into two very nicely shaped legs. Dammit, but he was a sixteen year old boy, and what was she doing out of school robes anyway?
And in a moment, the most glorious idea popped into his head. It was rash, stupid, and very unlikely to work… but it would piss Hermione off to no end, and maybe that's what he needed right about now. And it really was a very fine ass…
"Daphne!" he called out. "Greengrass," again, when she did not stop. "I'm sorry."
She turned around once more, looking slightly wounded. "I really am." Harry spoke softly, like talking to an injured puppy. "It's just… had a bit of a fight with my friends last night – s'why I was out here in the first place – and even though we had a bit of a tiff, I thought you were insulting my best friend."
He gave her what he hoped was a friendly and not-at-all-forced-or-creepy grin. "I overreacted, and it's been quite nice talking to you. You're a neat person really – guess house rivalries just make us assume the worst in each other."
He paused, taking it as a good sign that she was looking more unsure again rather than hurt or angry. She gave him a half-hearted glare, shrugging her shoulders as if to say he hadn't hurt her at all. With full Gryffindor courage (and not a shred of Gryffindor nobility) Harry pressed on. "Anyway, let me make it up to you. And a way to get to know each other better at the same time. How would you like to go to Slughorn's Christmas party with me tomorrow?"
Daphne squealed. "Yay! I love parties. Daddy thought it was ridiculous when I wasn't invited into the club in the first place!"
Harry thought it unlikely that Mr. Greengrass had such doubts at all, if the chastity charm was anything to go by. "Anyway, I would love to! Blaise has been going on about it all week, and Pansy can't stand the fact that she's not invited," Daphne's tone dripped with malicious glee. She frowned slightly, "the house won't be too happy that I'm going with the boy-who-lived." Despite the craziness of the evening, Harry was a little surprised she'd actually sneered at his moniker. Silly bitch, he thought amused.
"Just tell them it's part of a ploy to discover my secrets," Harry replied, eager to not let this opportunity pass him by.
For seconds, he waited, unsure how she would respond – the girl seemed to jump from one conclusion to another without any logical connection. He was relieved when she smiled, giggled, and agreed, before turning back around, leaving a very confused Harry in her wake.
I should have asked Luna, Harry thought to himself. Then he remembered the ass and Hermione's guaranteed reaction when she found out, and it was a grinning Harry Potter that reentered the empty Gryffindor Common Room, before heading up to bed to catch a few short hours of sleep. It was most certainly worth it.
By the next evening, Harry was beginning to believe this was, in fact, a very bad idea. Ron had been awkward the entire day, unable to confront Hermione at all, yet unwilling to fully side with Harry. Hermione had ignored him completely, save for giving him sorry frowns when she thought he wasn't looking, punctuated by angry if muted glares when she laid eyes on his reading material. The snowstorm outside had prevented him from seeking solace elsewhere, and the entire day had descended into prolonged torture.
Unsure what to wear to such an event, he had settled on his old dress robes from the Yule Ball some two years before. They were too small for him, but it appeared that the Half Blood Prince once again came through – proving to be something of an amateur tailor. The golden trim was thinned and turned a pale yellow – though silver was a tempting choice – and the sleeves were extended with a simple textile elongation charm. Using the same charm on the robe itself, Harry noted with satisfaction that they once more fit him well. He had not mastered the more complex charms that would allow him to change the style, but he doubted anyone would remember what he wore anyway – much less care even if they did.
Snapping out of the temporary comfort his successful spellwork had provided him, he paced the room, counting down the minutes until he could reasonably make an appearance. He had sent Daphne an owl that afternoon, arranging a rendezvous before the party in the northwest atrium, just a quick walk from where Slughorn was hosting his get together. It was pivotal, after all, that he make an entrance…
Finally, he left. Ron seemed to remember he had not been invited, as he was sulking in the corner, Lavender noticeably absent. Harry gave him a small wave that Ron ignored, instead focusing on the chessboard in front of him. Shrugging his shoulders, Harry walked out – noticing that a number of girls in the room looked completely put out. They'll have kittens this time tomorrow, Harry sighed inwardly.
When he arrived in the atrium, every concern that he was going too far and that this was a bad idea went barreling southward. Standing in the middle of the room was Daphne, wearing a sky blue robe that was far from anything that would normally be allowed within Hogwarts; Harry wondered if technically it still wasn't – but only for a moment, before he decided he didn't care. She hadn't noticed him, as she was looking down and muttering to herself, as her hands fiddled with the lining of the robe, causing her breasts to jiggle in a delightful way that Harry immediately hoped to study more closely in the near future. Heels that must have been magically enchanted completed the delicious ensemble.
"Hello, Greengrass," Harry began, uneasy about what exactly he was doing, before his brain shut out such treasonous thoughts. "It's good to see you," he gave her a smile.
"Harry, there you are! I hoped you would show up." She gave him a smile, before flouncing towards him. "It's my favorite dress – do you like it?"
Harry could only nod, his eyes locked on her dancing tits. "Yes, very nice," Harry managed to get out.
She grabbed his hand, giving it a squeeze before dragging him towards the door. "Pansy is going to be pissed," she said cheerfully. "I told them I'd been invited, but I didn't say by who. Didn't believe me, the slag. Even Tracey who usually sides with me just kept giving me funny looks all day. Gugh!" she finished eloquently.
To Harry however, this sounded like an interesting train of thought. "You don't get along with your housemates?" he asked, innocently enough.
"Oh, some and some," she said vaguely. "I support the magical superiority theory and the shame of secrecy as much as the next witch," she responded in a single breath with an air of oft-recitation, "but I think they think I'm not worth much, to be honest. Tracey's been my best friend since forever, and I think she gets sick of me sometimes." She huffed, "I got four OWLS, you know. It's not like everyone is the next Merlin and can get six or a hundred." Harry noted that her cheery disposition was quickly being replaced with her 'normal' aloof expression as they got closer to their destination.
Harry was suddenly very uncomfortable – he was technically taking advantage of the girl himself, and he'd said more words to her in the last day than the last six years. Giving her a reassuring squeeze, he tried to brush away his own guilt. "Don't listen to them – like you said, you're here and they're not. You're the nicest Slytherin I've ever met." He wasn't about to add that he was still clueless how someone with so little grasp of tact could have ended up in the snakepit.
"Well… here we are then," he said as they approached the giant oak door to the room Slughorn had commandeered for the night. "Let's show them how a real witch and wizard make an entrance."
It turned out it wasn't the entrance that was an issue – it was the three hours following that proved to be the powder keg. Slughorn, another Slytherin with an appalling lack of understanding for subtlety had greeted the pair of them in that booming voice of his, even making a very loud note of how wonderful it was to see such interhouse cooperation, much to the uneasiness to all students within earshot. Blaise Zabini had made a deliberate effort to 'introduce' himself, much to the pair's unease, and McLaggen's initial congratulatory smirk had slowly changed into a furious glare as it became increasingly obvious where Hermione's attention wasn't.
"It's not really any of your business, is it?" Harry fumed as his return to the common room had turned into an inescapable intervention.
"Harry, can't you see what's going on here? First you spend all your time with that dreadful book, and now you're dating the most obnoxious, pureblood supremacist supporting –"
"I knew it!" Harry interrupted, eager to take the argument to less potentially better-reasoned grounds. "It all comes back to the book. That's what's pissing you off. Aren't you always saying we need to be getting along with the other houses? It's got nothing to do with that."
"Woah, steady on mate," Ron jumped in, hands raised pleadingly. Spurred into action by Hermione's description of the evening, he tried feebly to play the middle-man before this spun more out of control. Judging by Harry and Hermione… and the absolutely venomous expressions of about a third of the girls around the room – including his own sister - he realized it was about as likely as a Cannon victory.
"I don't think Hermione's saying you shouldn't try and befriend the snakes, or that she's trying to tell you who to spend your time with." Ron shook his head, amazed that he'd ever be forced to even comprehend Harry hanging out with the enemy, but now was not the time. "Just that it's Daphne Greengrass. You remember? She who always scowls? Hangs out with tossers like Parkinson and Davis? I can think of at least two times she's gone out of her way to lose you and me points – third year Herbology with the Prickpuss ring a bell?"
"Harry," Hermione interjected, fighting to keep her voice level. "This isn't like you. I'm sorry I didn't investigate it more at the time, but I really do think you might be under the influence of a love potion. I've been looking them up so I know how to brew the antidote and watch for signs, and every one of them suggests irrational and substantial behavioral changes –"
"– Bollucks!" Harry shouted, laughing almost hysterically. "This is the most insane thing you've ever said, and that's saying something."
"Harry, will you listen to yourself!" Ron yelled, frustrated. "This isn't you. This isn't anything like you. We're dealing with Daphne fucking Greengrass, the most sneaky, untouchable, I-avoid-the-ground-you-walk-upon, devious of the Slytherins. We all know Malfoy's a git, Zabini's an arrogant prick, and Millicent's as dumb as they come. But Daphne's a wild card – I wouldn't put such a devious trick past her."
It was only too obvious Ron didn't know Daphne, Harry thought to himself. Even a two minute conversation would dispel half these theories. And yet… he really did not want to fight with Ron. He didn't really want to fight with Hermione either, but she seemed adamant to not meet him halfway, especially over the bloody book of all things. "Fine, Ron, I'll talk to Slughorn in the morning about a love-potion antidote. When it all comes back to mean nothing, I expect you to lay off of me. Daphne too," he added, realizing the in his bid to hit back at Hermione, he had not anticipated quite the level of fallout.
Ron seemed unsatisfied, but Hermione grabbed his arm, silently begging him to agree. "Yeah, okay," he sighed, clearly at odds. "But I'm going with you."
Harry nodded. "Sure. Right now though, I'm going for a walk."
Nobody followed him.
"Good, you're here."
"Um… was I supposed to be?" Harry asked, taken aback by both her presence and her hostile tone.
Daphne shrugged. "You were yesterday. Why wouldn't you be today?"
By now, Harry was slowly catching on the random jumps of illogic that Daphne seemed fond of making. "Yes, yes I was. S'pose you're right."
Daphne nodded, satisfied, before scowling once more. "I'm the laughing stock of Slytherin right now, you know," she spat, her voice cracking. "I told them I had seduced you to tell me stuff, but they didn't believe me. Malfoy… Draco says you probably only asked me because Hermione asked McLaggen."
Not surprisingly, Harry felt like shit. "Draco's a tosser," he replied frantically, trying to avoid the main accusation. "He'd say anything to make me look bad wouldn't he – especially after he was humiliated when he tried to sneak into the party. He just doesn't like anyone doing something he's not allowed to be part of."
Daphne however, refused to be mollified, tapping her foot on the hard floor, a persistent tap tap tap echoing in the hallway. Harry raised his hands, surrendering to the inevitable. "Anyway, I didn't know she'd invited McLaggen, and I don't really care right now. And it's not like Hermione and I were going to go together anyway… but, to be truthfully honest I did –"
Harry was saved the devastating blow of having to apologize when his mouth was covered by a pair of lips. Unthinkingly, he kissed back as soft hands pressed against the sides of his face, his own hands making a desperate grab for the prize he had first set his sights on, that magnificent bum. Success! Both hands seemed to cry in jubilance as they made an uncharacteristically bold and greedy grab of the tender flesh.
And suddenly, there were tits. The lack of tears had made this infinitely better than his last attempt at snogging, but now there was no contest. True, the tits in question were still hiding behind a robe and whatever else was underneath that, but the soft flesh pressing up against his chest was most assuredly tits.
Love Potions, could anything be more redundant on a teenage boy? Harry wisely kept this thought to himself.
And just as quickly as the moment of glory had been given to him, it was taken away.
"Brilliant," Harry whispered, fighting and failing to keep a massive grin from spreading across his face. Daphne giggled. "You can thank Astoria. She found out about daddy's wizard repelling charm ages ago. You won't believe what I had to do to get her to remove it from me and not tell anyone. It's only when I pointed out that she'd taken it off herself and I could tell Daddy, that she agreed. And only then if I told her why."
"Astoria's brilliant," Harry replied dumbly.
"Well don't tell anyone," Daphne replied, serious. "I don't want to get in trouble. And I still have the chastity charm –"
"I wasn't even thinking about that!" Harry exclaimed, completely and utterly mortified. "I'm not that type of chap." A small voice in Harry's head told him perhaps he ought to be.
"What, I was just saying, no need to get prickly over it. I was just pointing out that Astoria's not as brilliant as she thinks she is. Why, what were you –" she giggled, scrunching her nose as she did so. "Ewwww."
Harry's mortification only grew. Amazing how with girls he could go from hero to chump in mere seconds. "You're the one who kissed me, you know."
"Yes, and I shouldn't have had to! We've been dating for a full day now, and there was plenty of mistletoe if you needed an excuse. Anyway, now that I know you weren't using me to make Hermione jealous, it's okay. Merry Christmas, Harry."
For a moment, Harry was at a loss as to what to say. Whether to inform her that while she wasn't quite right, he had been using her. Or that they most certainly weren't dating. His libido balked at verbalizing such self-defeating claims, and in the end he simply said, "Merry Christmas, Daphne. Have a nice night."
For the second time in two nights, he enjoyed the spectacle of Daphne Greengrass Walks Away. For the first time, he thought perhaps it wasn't entirely nonsensical that she ended up in Slytherin.
Either which way, he wasn't inclined to think too much about it.
Special thanks to Amerision for unintentionally and unknowingly solving my problem of 'how to start'. Thanks also goes to Taure, Seratin, DarkSov, Inibaz, and Le Rob for allowing me to bounce ideas off of them and for putting up with my Daphne fanboydom.