"I'm what?!?" Daphne Greengrass nearly shouted. She was sitting in the study of her family's home staring in pure shock at her mother and father, who had just revealed a great family secret.

Daphne had the shiny silken blonde hair of her mother, as well as the same smooth, cream colored skin. But her eyes were the same intense brown as her father's. At nearly sixteen years old, she was developing into a very beautiful woman. She was of average height and had a slender feminine build. Her chest was ample, and her legs were stunning. She had often heard boys comment on her backside as being one of their favorite attributes. Daphne Greengrass was most definitely one of the most attractive girls in all of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

She was home for the summer holidays after finishing her fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a year that had been dubbed by many as the Year of the Toad. Though she had kept her head down, and never suffered any punishment at the hands of Dolores Umbridge, Daphne had heard many horrible stories about Umbridge's terrorist-like tactics.

Daphne was a part of a very small group of Slytherins that chose not to agree with the pure blood agenda, or support the dark Lord Voldemort. They had to remain quiet with their beliefs or they might be chastised, or beaten up, or worse. Slytherin house had it's reputation for many reasons, and Daphne did not want to be one of the victims. So she had worked hard to establish a reputation for being cold and distant. She was known throughout the school as "The Ice Queen".

She had been home for two weeks when her mother and father called her to the family library and gave her the news that would alter everything in her life.

"You are betrothed." Mr. Greengrass repeated his statement. "Since you were born, in fact. Your grandfather had …

"How is this possible? To who? Why?" Daphne asked frantically, cutting off her father.

"Not long after you were born, your mother and I entered into a marriage contract with a very influential family at your grandfather's urging. He had promised that you would be very well taken care of, and the union would benefit our family greatly." Mr. Greengrass explained. He looked at his daughter, recognizing the panic and growing anger in her eyes. She was obviously uncomfortable, but he and his wife had made the decision to tell their eldest daughter of her fate.

"Daphne," Mrs. Greengrass said softly, hoping to comfort the fifteen year old. "We're telling you this now because you're about to turn sixteen. If you haven't noticed boys by now…The point is that we thought that you could spend some time over the next two years and get to know your future husband. Perhaps you could even learn to…"

"What?! Fall in love? Have a happy, fairy tale life?" Daphne shivered. "How could you do this?"

"We did it for you. We were trying to make sure you'd be well taken care of." Mr. Greengrass tried.

"You did it for yourselves. Just like everything else. You found a way to fill your pockets, and gain some more power in our world. So tell me, what family did you auction me off to? The Notts? The Flints? Oh Merlin, please don't let it be the Malfoys."

"The Malfoys? I'd sooner boil my own head in shite before I allowed you to even date that pretentious ponce. Do you really think I would ally this family with Lucius Malfoy and fall to my knees in front of that…that… terrorist?" Mr. Greengrass spluttered. "I may have signed a marriage contract for you, but give me a little credit. I said you'd be taken care of, not paraded around like a show pony."

"We all need to calm down." Mrs. Greengrass said firmly, laying a hand on her husband's shoulder and looking kindly at her daughter who had folded her arms across her chest in defiance. "Daphne, you have not been promised to Malfoy, or Nott."

"Then who?" Daphne demanded.

"Harry Potter." Her father said after a long pause.

The silence that fell was deafening. Daphne could only look at her mother, who looked saddened, and her father, still scowling over Daphne's outburst. Daphne tried several times to say something, but her mouth only opened, a strange strangled noise would come out, and she would close her mouth again. After several minutes of silence, Daphne rose up out of her chair slowly, unsure if her legs would support her, and she left her parents in the study.

"Well, at least she didn't try and curse you." Mrs. Greengrass said gently as she patted her husband's shoulder.

"How could she think we'd even think of aligning with the Malfoys? She knows very well how I feel about that man."

"Give her time to process it all, my love. She's just been told she's engaged to the Boy-Who-Lived. That's a lot for a sixteen year old girl to process at once."

"Do you think we did the right thing by telling her?"

"You know as well as I what would happen if we waited. This way she has a chance to form some kind of relationship with the boy. If he's anything like we've heard, she may even…"

"Let's just hope they can find some kind of common ground. You know as well as I that when we signed that contract we doomed her."

"Time will tell my love. Time will tell." Mrs. Greengrass smiled her secret smile, staring at the door her eldest daughter had left through.

Daphne closed the door to her bedroom softly and sat in front of her vanity, staring hard into the large mirror. Her life had just been thrown so far off track that her head was still spinning with all of it. There was too much to think about to focus on any one thing. She was betrothed to the savior of the wizarding world.

"Harry Potter." She whispered to herself. Of all the boys in the school, in the world even, why him? The Gryffindor Golden Boy, the Tri-Wizard champion, the freaking Boy-Who-Lived. The bane of nearly every Slytherin's existence. The one person who Slytherins loathed above all others. Daphne Greengrass was contractually obligated to marry the boy, and she had never even spoken a single word to him, not even to insult him. Did he even know? Was it possible Harry Potter had no idea they were to be married one day?

"Knock Knock!"

Daphne turned to see her only friend in the entire world, Tracey Davis, poke her head in the door way. In all the travesty, Daphne had forgotten that Tracey was arriving today so they could spend two weeks together. They did it every summer, two weeks at the Greengrass manor, and then two weeks at the Davis beach home.

Tracey was a bit taller than Daphne, with shoulder length straight auburn hair, which she often tied in a loose ponytail. Her eyes were sparkling blue, and her face was rarely seen without her mischievous smile. Unlike Daphne, Tracey was more forward and she spoke her mind, often without thinking about what she said.

"You're folks said you were up here and I should just come up." Tracey said in her cheeriest voice. "Your mom seemed a little distracted, though."

"Oh, I'm so glad to see you." Daphne said as she ran over to hug her friend. "How's your holiday been?"

"Not so bad, actually. My brother was home for a bit, and he brought me presents, so of course I was happy to see him." Tracey laughed. Daphne helped her friend with her bags and the two friends and Slytherin housemates settled on Daphne's bed to catch up. Tracey talked about things going on at her home and what her brother had been up to. He worked for a private treasure company as a Cursebreaker. He'd been offered a substantial amount of gold to come to work for Gringotts, which he'd accepted.

"So he'll be home for another month and then he's going to Egypt. He says it'll be better than traipsing about Romania. So, what about you? Has Astoria been her typical pain in the arse this summer?" Tracey asked.

"Actually, she's been holed up in her room writing letters. I think she's got a girlfriend." Daphne remarked casually.

"So you're still sure she plays for the other team?" Tracey grinned.

"I'm positive. And I don't care. So long as she's happy, and leaves me the hell alone. I have enough problems as it is." Daphne grimaced.

"Why, what's going on?" Tracey asked worriedly. "Nott still sending you love letters?"

"That I could handle. I simply trip near the fireplace and it falls in, burning before I can read it. Oh no!" Daphne feigned hurt and despair. "No, this problem is a little bigger."

She took a breath before continuing. "I'm betrothed." Daphne said quickly, as if ripping off a band-aid. Her nearly life-long best friend just stared blankly for a long moment before a smile began on her face.

"And people say you have no sense of humor. You almost had me. How long have you been cooking that one up?' Tracey giggled.

"I wish it were a joke. My parents just told me that they signed a marriage contract when I was a baby."

"Seriously?" Tracey's smile melted away. "This isn't some really bad prank?"

"You have no idea how much I wish it was. And it gets worse…"

"What? Did they promise you to Malfoy?" Tracey asked, still shocked by the revelation.

"No. That would be life ending. You'd be talking to my corpse hanging from the rafters if that were the case. No, my future husband is none other than Harry Potter." Daphne said.

Tracey nearly fell off the bed they were sitting on in awe. Tracey regained her balance with a little help from her friend and tried repeatedly to say anything. Daphne thought Tracey looked like a fish out of water, her mouth opening and closing with no sound, and her eyes blue eyes bugged out in dismay.

"The Gryffindor Golden Boy?" Tracey finally asked when her power of speech returned. "How lucky can you get?"

"Lucky? I'm betrothed to a boy I've never even spoken to. A boy who is hated above all others in our house, and the number one target on You-Know-Who's hit list. Have you not been paying attention these past five years? He gets in more trouble than any other person on earth!"

"Ok, yeah, all good points, but let's not forget he's one of, if not the most attractive boy in school. He's fairly smart, humble. You never hear him brag about himself, nor does he use the pity card."

"The pity card?" Daphne asked, looking at her friend oddly.

"Oh, poor me, my parents are dead, and You-Know-Who is out to get me."

"That's not how the Prophet wrote him."

"And we all know why. They were trying to hide the truth about…"

"I know. I know."

"You could do worse. Is this really so bad? He's supposed to be loaded."

"Why should that make any difference?" Daphne asked indignantly.

"I don't know. I just thought it might be a factor."

"If he's so rich, why does he dress like a pauper. Is he trying to make some kind of new fashion trend? Homeless beggar?"

"How am I supposed to know? Besides, you never cared how rich a boy was. Why now?"

"I don't care. You brought it up. I just don't want to be betrothed to him. I don't want to be betrothed to anyone. I'm not even sixteen yet!"

"When is the marriage supposed to happen?" Tracey asked.

"I don't know. I walked out before my parents could finish. I was too overwhelmed by it all. I thought marriage contracts were a thing of the past. I can't believe my parents would take part in such a horrible custom."

"What did they say about it?"

"Get this, they were just looking out for me." Daphne huffed.

"It's possible they were." Tracey observed.

"Possibly, but I know my father. If he signed a marriage contract, he's getting something out of it."

"So what are you going to do?" Tracey asked her best friend, who looked sad and scared.

"I don't know. I suppose I'll have to talk to Potter. Chances are really good that he doesn't know anything about this mess. With his parents dead, I don't know if anyone else would know about it to tell him."

"Oh, that poor boy." Tracey giggled. "Promise I get to be there when you drop the bombshell. I want to see the look on his face when he finds out that the 'Ice Queen' is to be his wife."

"He might die before You-Know-Who gets his claws into him." Daphne shrugged.

"Oh, wow." Tracey sobered. "I forgot about that. He's pretty much marked for death. Did your parents consider that? Can they break the contract because of that?"

"I don't know. Seems like it should be possible. It seems like it would be smart to have some sort of clause to break it, in case something goes wrong. One party goes to Azkaban, or something. Let's go ask." Daphne said hopeful.

The two girls found Daphne's father in the study, pouring over paperwork, most likely regarding the family's wealth, some new law that the Wizengamont wanted to pass, or any number of offers of alliance to other ancient families. Her father was often approached to join with another family to support or oppose something or other. Jonathan Greengrass was a very good politician, though he held no office. He had followed in his own father's footsteps and kept the Greengrass family neutral working in the private sector, investing in many wizarding businesses. It had ensured the family's survival through one war, and now he hoped to repeat his previous success.

"Father." Daphne said tentatively. "I have some questions." Daphne fell into her "Ice Queen" persona as easily as slipping on a coat. In this persona she was firm, and business like. She had noticed her father had the same sort of act when he had to deal with business associates or politicians. She always figure it was from him that she learned to protect herself behind her mask of frigid stand offishness.

"I thought you might. Come, sit down. Hello, Tracey." Mr. Greengrass said easily.

"Hello, Mr. Greengrass." Tracey smiled politely as she sat next to her friend across from Mr. Greengrass, who sat behind a large oak desk.

"Ask your questions." Mr. Greengrass directed his eldest child.

"When is this marriage supposed to happen?" Daphne began without any preamble.

"The contract stipulates that the marriage must happen within one year of your graduation from Hogwarts or no later than your nineteenth birthday. There are no clauses regarding children. This was mostly for political alignment. The reason we told you now was so you would have a chance to get to know the boy. In most arranged marriages, the participants do not even meet until their nuptials take place. Consider yourself lucky."

"We know quite a bit about him already." Tracey said.

"Oh, are you friends with the boy?" Mr. Greengrass asked, a suspicious eye cast upon the auburn haired girl. His tone was sarcastically firm. Tracey actually shrank under the man's unwavering gaze.

"Not really." she nearly squeaked.

"Then you only know what you've heard about him. Rumors and bad articles in the Prophet are not good ways to measure a man. You can only know him by talking to him, and spending time with him. Especially a teenaged boy. They never truly show you who they are until you've spent significant time together. We men have fragile egos and so we often hide our true selves away."

"Is there any way out of this?" Daphne asked changing the subject. "Potter is number one on He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's list. If I become chummy with Potter, You-Know-Who might come after me. Not to mention that I have no interest in being forced into marriage."

Mr. Greengrass steepled his fingers and rested his chin upon them. He looked hard at his first born, sighing quite deeply.

"When the contract was signed, there was no threat upon the boy's life. That came after. The only stipulation that would have ended it was if he had died, or you had died. It was iron clad, Daphne. It is magically binding. You and Harry Potter must be married by your nineteenth birthday. We have no choice now. If his parents were still alive, we may have spoken to them. We may have been able to come to some agreement that would allow you both to walk away from it. But since they are no longer with us, we simply must move forward."

"Can't you just tear it up?" Daphne asked, her "Ice Queen" mask falling away with her rising desperation.

"No, not without the agreement of his parents. They were the ones who signed it with us. If we tried to nullify it on our own, there would be serious consequences. That includes death." Mr. Greengrass said with finality.

Daphne sighed and looked to her best friend who looked just as frightened and anxious as Daphne felt.

"Thank you, father." Daphne said as she rose from her seat. "You've given me much to think on."

"Daphne, do not think of this as some sort of imprisonment. We did this to help you. We did this for your future. We did this at a time where people were dying and losing everything. I know that you believe it was for our own gain, but it wasn't. We gained virtually nothing from this."

"I would very much like to see this contract for myself." Daphne said firmly, hands on her hips. She thought she saw her father give a small shiver, which made her smile inside. Just like her mother, Daphne could make her father bend to her will with but a look. Her mother was far better at it, but Daphne knew one day she'd be able to apply the same principal to her own husband one day. That thought made her shiver a little herself.

"Then it would be wise to speak to Potter on this matter. The contract is in the Potter family vault. Only he can access it." Her father gave a knowing smile.

"That seems odd." Tracey uttered. "Why wouldn't you have a copy?"

"We did." Mr. Greengrass bowed his head towards the paper work he was looking at when the girls arrived. "It burned up in my father's house the night he was killed.

Daphne and Tracey excused themselves politely. The two teenage girls went back up to Daphne's room where the blonde girl threw herself on her bed and screamed all of her frustration into her pillows.

Tracey sat down and gently rubbed her friend's back.

"He pretty much guaranteed you have to talk to him now, didn't he?" She asked. Her blonde friend nodded her head, which was still buried in her pillows.

"So what are you going to do?"

Daphne sat up and looked to her best friend. She had tears forming in her large brown eyes and she sniffled lightly. "I really don't know. I know nothing about him."

"That's not true." Tracey said vehemently. "You know that he won the Tri-Wizard tournament. We know that he's the best flyer on a broom in the entire school. He's wealthy, though we don't truly know how wealthy. He's lousy in potions, and Snape hates him, while Dumbledore and the rest of the school seems to worship him."

"I don't know that the rest of the school worships him. There's a definite split as to worship and loathe." Tracey smiled.

"We know he's got his own fan club, led by Ginny Weasley, though he is most likely unaware of it. In fact, he seems oblivious to a lot of things. You'd think he'd know more about our world than he seems to."

"We have nothing in common."

"Except that you're going to be married." Tracey added.

"Not helping." Daphne glared.

"Wasn't trying." Tracey winked.

"You're supposed to be my friend. Help me!" Daphne pleaded. Tracey laughed and shook her head.

"I will help you. I'll be right there when you tell him, and I'll be right there when you say I do." Tracey laughed hard, and received a pillow to the side of her head. Tracey continued to laugh as Daphne stood up and went to her window. Tracey could see her friend was not enjoying this, and decided to cool it. She stood up and went to her friend.

"Daphne, look. You're in a bad situation, but it could be a good thing. Maybe, just maybe, Potter is who you're meant to be with. Who's to say that without the stupid marriage contract you two wouldn't have ended up together anyway. Just because you've never spoken to him in school, and may never have, doesn't mean that a few years down the road you wouldn't bump into him in Diagon Alley and sparks wouldn't fly. You have to admit, he's quite good looking. The fact that he's Malfoy's enemy is a plus as well."

Daphne seemed to think it over for a few minutes before nodding slowly. "Maybe." She said softly, still staring out her window.

"So what do you want to do?" Tracey asked.

"Well, it seems that I'm trapped in this. So I suppose I have very little choice. I'm going to have to speak to Harry Potter on the train to school."

Harry Potter sat under a tree in the Weasley's yard. It had been a rather interesting holiday so far. Though it had started off grimly with the death of his Godfather, Sirius Black, Harry had learned quite a bit about his predicament.

He'd learned that he was being hunted by the Dark Lord, Voldemort, because of some prophecy made by his batty Divination teacher sixteen years ago. He'd learned that Dumbledore, a man he'd looked up to had made a great many mistakes in regard to Harry's well being. Harry sat under the shade of the tree, thinking about the last conversation he'd had with the Hogwarts headmaster, the night he'd arrived at the Burrow.

It had all began when Dumbledore arrived at Privet Drive late that evening. He had invited himself into the Dursley home, and gathered them all in the sitting room where he told them that Harry would be returning for a very short time the following summer, and that Harry nor the Dursleys would see each other again unless they chose to. Harry had felt a rush of deep relief at this news. The Dursleys had never been kind to him in all the time he'd lived with them. He'd been a slave for them, doing yard work, cooking meals and barely getting any food himself. Then, after he'd started going to Hogwarts, they become fearful of him, though never truly stopping their mistreatment of him.

Then to Harry's great surprise, it was revealed that Sirius black, his late godfather, had willed him nearly everything left in the Black family estate. Dumbledore said that Harry could find out all about it later, and that it mattered little now. The only thing that mattered was if Harry could truly inherit it all.

"You see, You are not related by blood, and as such, the magic that bonds the estate, may not be allowed to fall to you. It may go to the next male heir in the Black family, that would of course, be Draco Malfoy. However there is one simple test that will answer this for us." The headmaster had said.

"What do I do?" Harry had asked.

"You must call Kreacher to you. If he comes, then we will know for certain if you are now the rightful owner of the Black Family Estate and all it's holdings."

Harry nodded once and then called out clearly, "Kreacher, Come to me."

There was a long pause in which nothing happened, and the suddenly a loud pop, and the ancient, withered Elf lay upon the floor, slamming his fists and kicking his feet."

"Kreacher does not want to belong to the Potter brat. Kreacher does not wish to serve him. Kreacher wants to serve the noble Malfoy."

"Kreacher! Shut up!" Harry spat scornfully.

Instantly Kreacher silenced, though he continued to kick and writhe upon the floor like a toddler throwing a tantrum.

"Well, that settles it. Congratulations, Harry. We have solved one major problem this evening. Well then, If you are all packed, we shall leave these people in peace." Dumbledore said, gesturing to the Dursleys who were watching the actions of the strange creature on their floor.

"Headmaster? What do we do with Kreacher?"

"Well, he is your elf. What would you have him do?"

Harry thought carefully over this dilemma. He truly did not want the wretched elf in his presence as it was a constant reminder of his loss. Then an idea struck him.

"Sir, would it be acceptable for Kreacher to work at Hogwarts?"

"I daresay it would. We can always use more help, and the other elves would keep a close eye on him."

"Kreacher, you are to report to the Hogwarts kitchens, and you will work there until I call for you. You will speak to no one, nor will you send any messages." Harry said sternly to the distraught ancient elf.

Kreacher glared at Harry for a long moment, his eyes cold with hatred, before popping away. Harry felt contempt for the elf, but he couldn't think of what he might do with him. Sending him to Hogwarts had been a temporary solution at best.

Harry rushed upstairs and gathered up all his belongings. He had already sent Hedwig off to the Weasley's. When he made it downstairs, Dumbledore flicked his wand and Harry's trunk and Hedwig's cage vanished.

"They shall await you at the Weasley home. Now, we must be off."

Harry waved a goodbye to his still frightened relatives cowering on the sofa, and followed Dumbledore into the night. The walked in silence for a few minutes before Harry spoke at last.

"Sir. I feel I should apologize for breaking your things at the end of term. It was wrong."

"Ah, Harry. They are but things, and can be replaced. Your anger was not misdirected, and it is I who must apologize. I am human, and I do tend to forget the details when trying to help the world. I had forgotten of you as a person, and that you needed information. Especially as you are at the center of this war. Keeping it all from you was a mistake. But please understand I only wished for you to have a chance at a normal childhood. It is clear now that your childhood had been anything but ordinary. Perhaps if I had been honest with you from the very beginning, things might have turned out very differently. But, as I said the last time we spoke, I cared to much for you to place that burden upon your shoulders."

"Are we okay, sir?" Harry mused.

"I think we are. I promise that this year, you will be better prepared for what lies ahead. I would very much like to take you into private tutelage, if you are willing."

"Yes. That would be good. May I ask what I will be learning from you?"

"History mostly. Ah, do not make such a sour face, Harry. We can learn a great deal from history. And this I dare say, is very important. But now is not the time for such a discussion. This is as good a place as any. If you would take my arm…"

Harry reached up and took the headmaster's arm. He noticed that the hand was blackened and shriveled. Harry was about to inquire as to the cause when he felt as if he were being forcibly squeezed through a tube.

That evening he had met Horace Slughorn, who would be returning to teach at Hogwarts. Dumbledore had used Harry to lure the professor out of retirement to take up his old post.

Slughorn was quite a character. When they had arrived at his home, it looked as though there had been an attack, but it turned out, Slughorn was merely trying to hid. He was a large man, not in height but girth. He was completely bald but had a very bushy mustache. After a brief conversation, Dumbledore excused himself to the restroom, leaving Harry with the stout professor.

Slughorn knew who Harry was, of course, and the two talked a little about Harry's mother and her talent in his class. Harry liked the man, but also felt a little wary of him. He got a feeling he was being eyed by a hungry walrus.

When Dumbledore returned, Slughorn agreed to return to teaching at Hogwarts, though he made a few demands, which Dumbledore happily agreed to. As they were leaving, Harry had asked what Slughorn would be showing the students that year, Slughorn replied that he had some very interesting potions in mind.

"You're a potions master?" Harry asked of the stout, portly man. Slughorn's eyes lit up with delight.

"Yes, and if you're like your mother, I expect that you will be quite a genius with the subject."

Before he could ask anymore, Dumbledore escorted the youth back into the night, and apparate him to the Burrow, where, despite the late hour, Molly Weasley was still up and awaiting them.

"Now Harry, before we go inside, I must speak with you for just a moment. First I must thank you for your help with Professor Slughorn. I was unable to convince him by myself, and having him at Hogwarts is most important. You will learn why later on. Second, I believe that it is in your best interests to share with your friends all that you know. This includes the prophecy. You friends give you strength Harry, it is a great disservice to them if you hide secrets from them. And finally, though the future might seem bleak, try you best to live and experience life and all its wonder."

"I plan to, sir. Sirius would never forgive me if I wallowed in my own guilt. I know it wasn't completely my fault, but I do hold some of the blame. But even so, Sirius, and my parents would be very disappointed in me if I clung to tightly to it, and let life pass me by."

"Indeed. A very good outlook, Harry. I am very proud. Now, let's not deprive Molly her chance to feed and dote upon you any further."

Harry had meant what he'd said, and over the next few weeks, he had finished his summer homework and really enjoyed being with his friends. He and Ron and Ginny had played Quidditch and he'd had several long and fun conversations with Hermione. Each day the four teens had tried their best to enjoy being young and free.

During his stay with the Weasleys, two very curious things happened. The first was that he'd learned that Ron's oldest brother Bill was engaged to be married to none other than Fleur Delacour. Harry had been surprised, but he was happy for Fleur, though he'd only met Bill once just before the Quidditch World Cup. Fleur had not really ingratiated herself with the Weasleys, least of all Mrs. Weasley, who didn't seem to liked the pretty blonde French woman a bit.

Harry and Fleur had spent a little time together during the summer holiday getting to know each other, as they never spent much time together during the Tri-Wizard Tournament two years ago. Harry came to respect the French woman who was struggling to find acceptance from the Weasley women who were making her feel unworthy of Bill. Harry had no advice to give the poor girl other than to stick it out and fight for what she wanted.

Presently, Harry sat against his favorite tree, not far from the pond where the he, Hermione, Ginny and Ron had spent several hours swimming during the holiday, contemplating the other curious thing that was happening to him.

Ginny Weasley had changed a lot since he'd last seen her, or so he thought. He found himself staring at her for no reason, or blushing when she looked at him. It was a strange sensation to feel when he looked at the sister of his best friend, and Harry had no explanation for it.

For years, it had been Ginny who had usually been unable to speak, or else doing something clumsy and embarrassing in front of him. But during the last year, she had matured, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. She spoke to Harry many times with out blushing, or tripping over anything. She had even dated Michael Corner. She was currently together with Harry's housemate, Dean Thomas, and she seemed really happy and Harry was happy for her. Yet, he felt a weird bitterness whenever he thought of Dean and Ginny together.

Harry couldn't understand why he felt butterflies in his stomach when she looked at him now, or why he worried about how he looked before going down to breakfast. It was all so strange to him. He barely knew her, really. They'd never had any deep conversations before. Still, he found himself thinking of her often.

Perhaps it was true, sometimes the very best things in life are always right in front of your eyes. Harry realized that it might be a good idea to really get to know Ginny in the coming year. She was one person who had never wavered in her support of him, and she could be trusted to keep a secret, and Harry had a huge secret, one he had yet to share with his friends, despite Dumbledore's encouragement. Harry wanted to, but he'd not found the right time. And with the school year fast approaching, time was running short for telling them in some place where they might not be overheard.

So when he looked up from the struggling gnomes he'd been absentmindedly watching to see Ron, Hermione and Ginny approaching, Harry decided that it was now or never.

"There you are." Hermione said as they stopped in front of him.

"I told you we should have looked here first." Ginny smiled triumphantly.

"You were right, big deal." Ron scolded. "No need to get all uppity.

"You guys need to sit down. I've got something I need to tell you." Harry said quietly. The three sat down, and Harry began his tale. He was unsurprised by the various reactions. All of them were horrified when he finally revealed the contents of the prophecy, and Harry was encouraged when all three of them pledged to do whatever they were able to help him. Harry knew then that the coming school year would be very enlightening. Harry felt more prepared than he ever had.

He was about to be proven wrong.