A/N: I don't own Harry Potter and wouldn't particularly care to. I would like a rental agreement with option to buy for Hermione Granger. A short term contract with Nymphadora Tonks wouldn't be turned down. A Long-term agreement with Luna Lovegood would probably be a whole lot of fun. Any time Padma Patil wants to open negotiations, call me and oh for a weekend with Fleur. Oddly Lavender and Padma's sister (despite being her twin) Parvati do nothing for me…
Harry Potter and the Marriage Contracts.
The war is over. The side of the Light has won. Voldemort is well and truly dead. This is a short story of the aftermath when Harry Potter is attempting his first few steps toward independence. Everything in his life so far was focused toward the war. Now that the war is over, Harry is, for the first time focusing on himself.
Chapter One - Survivors
July 30, 1997
"Harry! Thanks for coming."
Harry picked himself up from where he fell after exiting the floo and took Neville's hand.
"I hate floo travel. Happy Birthday Neville. Your message said that you needed to speak to me, what can I do for my best mate?"
"I think it's more what we can do for each other Harry." Neville led him to the Sitting Room. This was possibly the most formal room Harry had ever seen. Something about Neville's manner screamed "BUSINESS" to Harry. Neville gestured Harry into a chair while sitting himself. On a side table by the chair Neville selected for himself were a pile of parchments.
"So, what's going on Nev?"
"We're officially adults now Harry."
"Well, tomorrow for me, but yeah."
"I got some surprises in the post this morning, and Gran explained what was going on to me. It occurred to me that if I didn't know, and I grew up with this crap, you wouldn't have a clue when yours arrives tomorrow."
"Ok, what are we talking about?" the Man-Who-Won asked.
"These," Neville gestured at the pile of parchment, "are proposals from various pureblood and old line families of marriage contracts with their daughters."
"I wish I was. It's a pureblood thing dating back to the 1200s. It's fallen to the wayside for most people, but you and I are heads of Ancient and Noble houses, for us it stills happens."
"You're kidding. You've got to be kidding."
"Harry, I got 27 offers. Me. I was just the sidekick, you're the fucking hero. You are going to be mobbed."
"I always knew that I should have told everyone that it was you who killed Tom. I'm not going to accept any of these stupid things."
"Neither am I. We just have to be careful not to accidentally accept one. And yes, some are them are written so as to trick you. Gran found two in this pile that were."
"How is Hannah taking all this?"
"She doesn't know. I suspect she's going to be pissed when I tell her." Neville smiled. "I'm hoping she tries to convince me to forget about them. She can be very persuasive."
The pair shared a laugh.
"Anyone we know?"
"Harry me lad, you wouldn't believe me. I am evidently quite the catch."
"Thank you for asking me to spend the night Mrs. Longbottom."
"It's always nice to have one of Neville's friends over. Especially when they want to know about the old ways." the woman's eyes sparkled.
"Have you ever considered teaching Mrs. Longbottom? You certainly know your history, and the history professor we have is, well, not the liveliest teacher."
"I don't believe I have the temperament to teach Harry." She smiled, and then the look faded. "I was sorry when Neville told me of your falling out with Dumbledore and the Weasley clan. It had looked like your future happiness was ensured. Why they would treat someone like that I will never understand." Her expression brightened. "Still, it will be interesting to see how many offers you get given your notoriety."
"I'm hoping for none."
"Ha! Harry I got 27." Neville's eyes danced with laughter. "I'll give odds that you bust three figures."
Neville's estimate as a bit conservative. The final count the following morning was 3,234 contracts offering marriage. After Neville's Grandmother went over the pile some concerned her (she said they didn't 'feel right') she called her brother for help.
Algernon Croaker had been an Unspeakable for most of a century, and had responded to a lot of calls for various mysterious objects. This was his first time inspecting Marriage Contracts. Of the more than three thousand, nine had portkeys incorporated into them, and seven had compulsion spells integrated into the parchment, those were forwarded to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and four were jokes (all from the Weasley Twins) those were deactivated and given to Harry for the purposes of revenge.
The remaining 3,214 were given to Harry with the instructions that to be on the safe side, he should touch nothing with his bare hands, to sign nothing without Augusta looking at it first, and to have a good time. Harry and Neville settled down to sort through the offers.
The pair put on light cotton gloves and between them, they quickly established four categories of letters.
Oh Hell NO!
My eyes! They burn!
When Harry opened his 9th letter he suddenly found the need for a fifth category.
Uh, no, but my, that is an interesting photo of a surprisingly limber girl, and that photo might look nice in the dorm this year, and how does she get her legs behind her head like that anyway?
Neville was complaining that his contract offers hadn't contained any interesting photos as he added several pictures to the fifth pile. It took most of the day to make it through the pile of contracts and destroy all of the oh hell no, and My eyes! They Burn! categories. They found themselves with a large pile of almost 600 photos, 22 contracts in the No category and 19 contracts in the Interesting category.
The Interesting category was composed completely of their classmates. The No category was made up mostly of former class mates and acquaintances.
"I don't know if I should be laughing or crying over these girls." Harry said shaking his head. "Is there much overlap with your list?"
"I don't know. Let me look." Neville picked up the remaining pile. "Pansy Parkinson, check,"
"That one isn't going to happen," Harry laughed.
"I hear you," Neville agreed. "The Patils, check only I got one from each, you got an offer of both together."
"Wait, BOTH of them? At the same time? Is that even legal?"
"Well, yeah, It's not very common these days, but it's legal. Daphne Greengrass – I didn't get anything from her, but you did, AND a photo. Tracey Davis, check. Millicent Bulstrode, check."
"After Lucius was killed, Millie got away from Draco and turned out to be a relatively inoffensive person, but not a chance in hell."
"Yeah, knows her plants, but about as cuddly as Hagrid's brother." Neville shuddered a bit. "You got one from Sue Bones, I didn't. We both got one from Ginny."
"You've got to be kidding me. Why would Ginny be offered to either of us?"
"A lot of possibilities Harry, this could have been processed before Riddle fell, or possibly, the head of the Weasley family isn't aware of your falling out."
"Arthur was right there."
"I know Harry, but I believe the head of the Weasley family is Arthur's Great-uncle Amos, he may be unaware of the problems, or just doesn't care and is making the offer without any expectation of your accepting." Neville shrugged. "Amos Weasley is a contemporary of Dumbledore, who really knows how they think?" Neville picked up the next contract. "Lavender Brown. I didn't get one from her. Luna Lovegood, I got one from her, but her father demands a bride price of a breeding trio of Crumple Horned Snorkacks, so I was out of luck. Hmm. You didn't get the bride price demand… Somehow I feel cheap."
"Wait, a 'Breeding Trio'? How could that possibly work?" Harry's brow furrowed in confusion. "No, never mind I don't want to know. Life with Lovely Luna would never be boring."
"True enough. Romilda Vane? You pervert."
"Is it too late to put that one in the Hell No category?"
"Unfortunately tradition requires that since you know them, you have to personally return rejected offers to the girls in question."
"Are you telling me that I have to go up to the girls whose families made these offers and personally reject them?"
"So tradition requires I be an arrogant abusive ass?"
"Pretty much, yeah." Neville smiled. "Just channel your inner Draco. The girls should understand, I mean it's …"
Before Neville could explain what it was, the hearth flared green "Neville Longbottom?" came a woman's voice from the floo.
"Yes?" He answered, crossing the room to the fireplace.
"Nev, this is Hannah, could I come through? It's important."
"Sure Hannah, come on over." He stepped closer to the fireplace as the flames flared again and Hannah Abbot came hurtling out, catching her.
"Neville, something horrible has happened. If I'd have known, I'd have stopped it, but my father sent Harry Potter a marriage contract, I need to talk to him, please don't get angry, I didn't know anything about it…" it was then she noticed Harry sitting at the table with an ornate piece of parchment in his hand.
"I didn't know your middle name was Clementine Hannah."
"Harry?" she was more than a little flustered.
"What's your take on this prospect Neville?"
"Hannah is an excellent kisser, and can be very affectionate." Neville said, knowing full well that he would be paying for that later.
Harry nodded. "That's important. Oh, Hannah? Could you turn around for me?"
"Harry, I swear I didn't know anything about this" She saw the playful look on Harry's face, sighed and slowly turned around.
"Well Nev, any kids would be well fed."
"Keep me out of this Harry; she's likely to kill me as it is."
As Hannah finished her turn, Harry rose from the table and approached the girl. "A most attractive offer Ms Abbott, but I must respectfully decline, as accepting would make Neville angry, and while Dark Lords and Death Eaters aren't all that bad, an angry Longbottom is scary!"
"Don't you forget it Mate."
August 23, 1997
Harry spent the weeks following his 17th birthday finding and politely declining the contracts from the 'No' category. He finally found Angelina Johnson, Katie Bell, and Alicia Spinnet (the last of the 'No' category) together taking lunch at the newly reopened Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor. They were served by the latest Florean Fortescue, the original's nephew and name sake who had taken over the business. Not one of them knew of the offer of the contracts, and were more than a little amused at the possibility. Angelina kissed him lightly on the lips and whispered that he 'wouldn't survive the ride', to which Harry had responded, that if he had to die, there couldn't be many better ways. That got him kissed again.
He presented the laughing girls their respective contracts with as much dignity as he could manage, and paid for their lunches, and then he escorted them to Weasley Wizarding Wheezes where they all worked. Harry wanted to speak with the Twins.
Unfortunately, Fred met him at the door. That didn't bode well.
"Harry, mate, wanna take a walk to the bank with me?"
"Ron or Ginny?" Harry sighed as he stepped back onto the street and began short walk to Gringotts.
"Ginny's inside now, Ron should be here anytime now. I'm sorry partner, but this is our busiest time and we really can't afford the screaming fit that would result if you went in."
"I understand. I don't want to start any trouble for you with your family."
"Harry, George and I know you aren't the bad guy in this, but… They're family, you know."
"I understand Fred, really I do." Harry sighed again. "I got a marriage contract from the Weasley family offering Ginny."
"You've got to be kidding me." For the first time since meeting him Harry had managed to shock Fred Weasley.
"And four from you and George. I didn't know you clowns cared that much, but I don't swing that way. I prefer my dates to be substantially more female and a whole lot less insane." Fred's expression went from shocked to embarrassed. Harry knew the man well enough to know the embarrassment stemmed from being found out before the prank was triggered, not from any moral issue.
"What are you going to do?" asked the slightly saner half of the twins.
"I find I must decline your offer." From his robes he produced a sheaf of parchments that he presented to the professional prankster. He had timed it just right, and Fred had taken the parchments in his hand just as he crossed Gringotts' outer wards.
"Prat. I mean what are you going to do about Ginny?"
"My intentions are honorable, oh scary older brother of the girl whose contract I hold. I will find a way to approach her when she is alone and decline the offer in accordance with tradition."
"I didn't mean it like that Harry. We know you wouldn't take advantage of her, just… Just don't hurt her ok?"
Harry shook his head sadly. "I don't think I could."
August 31, 1997
Ottery St. Catchpole
Hermione Granger lay staring at the ceiling of Ron Weasley's room. In the candle light the garish Chudley Orange had mellowed into a deep umber. Her body was still covered with a film of sweat from their love making. Ron's head was on her chest. She ran her fingers through his hair as he snored away.
How had she gotten to this point? She didn't understand her attraction to Ron. If she liked something, he hated it. He ridiculed her interests and habits, and she detested his. They had literally nothing in common, other than Harry. And something, she still didn't know what, had happened between Harry and the Weasleys, and they didn't even have that.
Her body responded to Ron like it did to no other person she had ever met. He had to but touch her and her nipple got hard and her juices flowed.
Bur he wasn't Harry. Harry was alone. After all Harry had gone through to save them all, he was alone. Harry needed her, but she needed Ron and… How had she gotten here?
September 1, 1997
Kings Cross Station
Platform 9 ¾:
Harry had entered the train station spot on 10:15. One last year at Hogwarts and then he could get on with his life. It was as he approached the entrance to Platform 9 ¾ Harry noticed a group of 5 children with trunks standing near a larger group of adults who were looking a bit confused. Looking closer several of the adults had pieces of parchment written on in green ink, and the children were all clutching what appeared to be tickets.
Harry approached the group. "Good Morning. Going to Hogwarts?"
A look of relief washed across the faces of the children, a tall woman stepped forward from the adults.
"Yes. How did you know?"
"The parchment in your hands, the confused looking between platforms 9 and 10, kids with trunks. You all look the way I did when I came here for my ride first year."
The Adults relaxed at that. "You're… What did she call it? Muggle born?"
"No, my parents were both magical, but my Mother was Muggle born. After my parents died, I was sent to live with my Muggle relatives. I'm what is called Muggle raised. My Name is Harry Potter, could I be of assistance?"
September 1, 1997
Last Compartment of the Last Car:
When Harry and his new charges passed though the entrance to Platform 9 ¾ Harry was immediately greeted by the Creevy brothers. After Harry had introduced his charges to the 6th and 5th year, the Creevy's took a few pictures You kids will be able to show everyone you know Harry Potter then helped Harry and the kids get all their luggage on the train.
Once inside the compartment, with all their trunks stowed in the overheads (but not before their school robes were removed and carefully hung out of the way) Harry sat and gestured the five Muggle born to do the same.
"Why are you staying with us, and not going off with your friends?" asked the girl with the red hair in a long ponytail asked.
"Well, Megan… It is Megan, right? Megan Puckle?" The young girl blushed and nodded. "I made some very good friends the very first time I rode this train, the pair of them became my best friends, but last year we had a bit of a falling out. My best male friend doesn't want to talk to me anymore, and my best female friend is dating him so she can't spend much time with me without risking her relationship with him. Most of the rest of my close friends are in relationships and use the train ride to be with each other."
"Are you THE Harry Potter? The one they wrote about in Dark Lords and Idiots: The Biography of Harry James Potter?" Asked Stephen Moore, a small boy with glasses, leaning toward the pudgy side.
"Well, I'm 'A' Harry Potter, I'm not sure that I'm the definitive Harry Potter. That book was completely unauthorized and what little I could stomach of it was utterly wrong. Rita Skeeter has a lot to answer for, and that book is only part of it. But to answer your question, yes I'm the one who fought and defeated the dark Lord Voldemort. Beyond that I don't really want to talk about it. "
"But if you're a hero…" Tom Brisson began.
"I'm not a hero. Don't believe anyone who tells you I am." Harry interrupted the Blond boy. "What I did was because Voldemort came after me, and he hurt my friends. I'm a survivor, not a hero."
"Could you tell us about the Houses?" asked Sophie Marconi asked trying to change the subject.
Before Harry could answer, the train jolted as it started to move and the door slid open. "Good Morning Harry, room for one more?"
Luna Lovegood was framed in the doorway. "Of course Luna, there's always room for you." He rose to put Luna's trunk into the overheads. Luna noticed the looks on the young first year girls faces when he lifted the trunk so effortlessly. She smiled, Harry added to his fan club every year without realizing he was doing it.
"Thank you Harry." She rose on her tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek. "How was your summer?"
"Quiet and uneventful. In short perfect. How was Sweden? Did the hunt go well?"
"Oh yes. Six weeks communing with nature and Daddy. Glorious. We found tracks and spore, but no actual Snorkacks"
"I'm sorry the hunt didn't pan out Luna."
"Oh, don't be Harry. The joy is in the hunting, not in the finding. If Daddy and I ever actually found one, we would probably release it and obliviate each other so that we could begin the hunt again." Her eyes lost focus for a moment. "In fact the possibility that we have already done this several times exists."
Harry shook his head and smiled. That was pure Luna. The firsties were probably going to be traumatized.
September 1, 1997
Hogwarts School or Witchcraft and Wizardry
We don't need no education.
We don't need no thought control.
No dark sarcasm in the classroom.
Teacher, leave those kids alone.
Hey, Teacher, leave those kids alone!
All in all it's just another brick in the wall.
All in all you're just another brick in the wall.
We don't need no education.
We don't need no thought control.
No dark sarcasm in the classroom.
Teachers, leave those kids alone.
Hey, Teacher, leave those kids alone!
All in all you're just another brick in the wall.
All in all you're just another brick in the wall.
"Well, that was different." Harry looked across the table to Hannah. "I wonder who let the Hat listen to Pink Floyd?"
"Yes," Hannah said suspiciously, while leaning against Neville and hoping that none of the teachers noticed that she wasn't sitting at the right table. "I wonder who could have done that Harry…" She held the frown as long as she could before starting to laugh.
McGonagall and Dumbledore were both staring open mouthed at the Sorting Hat while the various Muggle born and Muggle raised in the Great Hall explained to their classmates why they were laughing so hard. Then Minerva shook the shock off and started the sorting.
The class was the largest since the first war, with 74 firsties to be sorted. Gryffindor got 19 new lions, including Harry's red haired friend from the train Megan Puckle. Harry made room for her next to him and she sat relieved to at least know someone in her new house.
During the meal, Harry surveyed the table for his other friends. Ron was down on the far end, next to the Head Girl, Hermione, who spotted him looking and smiled sadly. Dean and Seamus were deep into a conversation with Parvarti and Lavender. Megan hit him with a nonstop series of questions that he did his level best to answer.
Finally the meal was done; the golden plates and cutlery vanished from the table. Dumbledore made his final comments, the Forbidden Forest remained as the name implied, forbidden, Filch's list of prohibited items had started a second volume, and the students were excused from the hall for their dormitories, the firsties being led off by the fifth year prefects.
Harry looked around the Great Hall. No dark lords, no plots, no reason for Dumbledore to return to his manipulative ways toward Harry. Those were all pluses. No Ron. No Hermione. Those were minuses. Maybe this year was just going to even out. Harry decided that he could learn to like a life that evened out. He looked at his watch. 8pm… A smile snuck onto his face. With any luck, Tonks was where he asked her to be. This should be good.
September 1, 1997
The Leaky Caldron:
Nymphadora Tonks sat in the back of the pub wearing the face and body of a male middle aged wizard she had arrested a few months before. The note had asked her to keep an eye on the Weasley twins tonight, and to make sure she remembered everything for a pensieve memory.
Tonks wasn't sure what Harry was up to, but she'd do pretty much anything for that kid, his life had been hell, like having a Dark Lord personally putting you up as number one on his 'to kill' list wasn't bad enough, he also had to deal with the crap that Dumbledore, the Weasleys and sadly, even Remus had done to him and his life. That was what had moved her to end it with Remus. She loved the man deeply, and he was the best physical lover she had ever found, but she found that she no longer respected him after the truth about what he had done to Harry came out.
As was their habit on a Monday night, the Twins were taking their dinners in the Leaky Cauldron.; spot on 7:45 they sat down to the House Special. They were far too predictable for her taste, if either of her trainers, Moody or Shacklebolt had ever found her being predictable enough for someone to be able to know where she would eat or what she would have, they would have used the most painful hexes they knew on her.
She sat and watched them while nursing her drink. The clock on the wall started to chime. On the eighth chime, Fred Weasley (being a Metamorphmagus made her very aware of the physical difference in people, she really never understood why people couldn't tell so called 'identical twins' apart, it was so obvious) suddenly stood up, the skin on his face contorting, his hair lengthening and losing its red color. His male feature softened into what was possibly the more beautiful woman Tonks had ever seen, his hair was now long enough to reach down his… her back and was a silverish blonde.
Tonk's was admiring the time delayed hex that allowed Harry to remotely change Fred Weasley into a beautiful woman, when the full force of the most powerful allure she had ever felt hit her full in the face. Every man in the pub was suddenly highly aroused and responding to Fred. It was only after her transfigured body started to respond to Fred's new form that Tonks realized what Harry had done. He hadn't changed Fred into a woman; Fred Weasley was now a Veela. A Veela in full rut.
Tonks smiled widely, while changing her body toward a neuter status. Whatever the twins had done, Harry had definitely won this round. It was then a mesmerized George reached out and drew his transfigured brother into a kiss.
Harry was going to love this memory.
September 01, 1997
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Gryffindor 7th Year Boys Dorms:
Following the feast, Harry was in his dorm unpacking, and laying out his robes for the next day. Neville, Dean and Seamus entered to begin their own unpacking.
"Gentlemen, it's good to see you, we've got something to discuss.
"Harry, mate," Dean said, "We know you and Ron are having problems, but we can't be getting in the middle of that."
"This is nothing to do with Ron, Dean. I happened to have come into possession of some interesting Art work, and I thought I'd share the wealth." From his trunk he withdrew the photos that had come with the marriage contracts. "I present some Artwork. I call this set, 'Surprisingly Limber Girls'" He dropped the largest pack of photos. "This set I call, 'Surprisingly Limber Girls and their very affectionate Girlfriends'" A second smaller package joined the first. "And this one is 'Surprisingly Limber Girls and their amazing collection of Toys" a third package joined the others on the others. "I thought everyone might enjoy the artwork this year."
"Bloody hell Harry" said Seamus "Where did you get these things?" His eyes bugged out when he noted the face on one of the women in the photos. "That's Tamara Oakley; she works at Honeydukes in Diagon Alley and would never give me the time of day. Where did you get theses?"
"They came with Marriage Contracts."
Dean opened and closed his mouth several times. "You are an unspeakably lucky bastard. You're sharing these with us?"
"Gentlemen, art of this quality is to be shared."
September 02, 1997
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry:
Harry Potter sat with his back against an ancient oak tree enjoying the crisp air and the grandeur of the Scottish sunrise.
A lifetime of habit had robbed Harry of the ability to sleep any later than dawn. This day he had waken well before dawn, and knew instantly that trying to go back to sleep would be futile. He had risen then, gotten his shower before the crowd, and dressed quietly in the dark, appreciating the 'normal' sounds of the dorm. Neville would suddenly thrash about in his bed and then quiet down again for several minutes. Dean would mutter running commentaries of football games in his sleep, with occasional demands that the referee get his eyes checked and other less polite suggestions. Seamus hugged his pillow as if it were a woman, maintaining a constant whispered drone of endearments to it.
Ron's bed was empty. Completely untouched. Harry tried not to think about what that meant. Ron wasn't really part of his problems with the Weasleys, the break came because Ron needed to support his parents and sister. He wished Ron and Hermione well, and hoped the pair of them all the best. If only he didn't miss them quite so much.
From the dorm he made his way out of the castle and out onto the grounds. He found his quiet place and enjoyed the show. Something tickled in the back of his mind. Trust the old man to spoil a perfect sunrise.
"Good Morning Headmaster." Harry said without turning to look. "The sunrise always makes me feel small, you know?"
"Indeed Mr. Potter. I am unused to students being able to detect my coming and going. You startled me."
"Tommy caused me to learn a few things. What can I do for you Headmaster?"
"I was hoping you would finally reveal just how you defeated Tom."
"No," Harry said after a few seconds of reflection. "I don't think so."
"Why not? Why do you keep your accomplishment from the Historical Record?" The ancient wizard asked.
"You know, when my friends and I fell apart last spring, I tried to research how you killed your dark lord. Not a single word in the record."
"There are good reasons for that, I assure you Harry."
"And I have my reasons as well, Headmaster. I wouldn't want the next Dark Lord defending against it, nor do I want my own technique used against me."
"I'm afraid that I must insist Harry."
"Headmaster, you would never believe me."
"You will find that I can believe quite a few things Harry."
The boy sighed. This was ruining his morning; dealing with the old man had a way of doing that.
"Alright. I'm not the Harry you know. I'm from a future where Voldemort won."
"He won?" That answer seemed to have flustered the old man a bit. Good.
"Yes. In the original time line, I never found out what you and the Weasleys were doing. I spent 6th year allowing you to drive a wedge between Hermione and myself over a stupid Potions text. You made a big deal of showing me your home movies about the life of Tom Riddle as if knowing that the bastard killed his father or that he got Horace Slughorn to tell him about horocruxes would be any help at all." Harry paused again, feeling the brush of an Legilimency probe. Giving no outward sign he pushed the appropriate memories to the surface and continued. ""You took me on a horocrux hunt to a cave by the sea, where we recovered a locket after having to deal with a poisoned potion and inferi. While we were gone Draco had let Death Eaters into the castle via a vanishing cabinet in the Room of Requirements. We returned to Hogsmeade to find a Dark Mark over the castle. We borrowed a pair of brooms and flew to the Astronomy tower." Harry sighed sadly. "We heard fighting, and someone running up to the tower. You had me put on my Invisibility cloak, and hide in a corner. When Draco Malfoy burst in, you petrified me. The Poisoned Potion from the cave had you almost too weak to stand, and Draco had been tasked with killing you, but he wasn't a killer yet. You had him just about talked into surrendering when three Death Eaters burst in. They were waiting for Draco to kill you, egging him on, when Snape appeared."
"And Severus dealt with the Death Eaters?"
"No, he killed you. If the Killing curse hadn't been enough to do the job, his spell blew you completely off the tower. The sudden stop at the end of the fall was more than enough to kill you. Snape took Draco, and ran with the Death Eaters back to Tom. We buried you right over there." Harry gestured to where the cairn would have been erected.
The thought of his death seemed to have unnerved the ancient wizard. "Then what happened?"
"Ron, Hermione and I went on a horocrux hunt. The Ministry fell to Voldemort a few months later, a Pure Blood centric pogrom started. Half bloods were restricted to serving Pure bloods, Muggle born were 'relocated' to 'reeducation camps' which is to say executed after prolonged torture."
"We lost Hermione in 2000, when a hunter killer squad found our tent in the forbidden forest. Ron and I kept going. In 2007 we were captured as we destroyed the final horocrux, we had to break into Gringotts to get that one, stealing a Dragon to get away. The Goblins were pissed. Ron was executed on the spot, but I was taken to be presented to Voldemort himself."
"Harry, I'm so…"
"Old man, you wanted to know what happened, so shut up so I can tell it." Harry shook his head in frustration toward his Headmaster. "I was bound hand and foot and was being transported to Tom, when an assault team hit the convoy. I was captured by the resistance. I don't know what surprised me more, the existence of a resistance, or who the leaders were."
"Who were they?"
"Luna Lovegood and Daphne Greengrass. They had been keeping the Ministry under Tom off balance for years; they were what allowed us to get away with as much as we did. They had a plan to win, but to do that they needed me."
"To deliver the death blow to Tom?"
"No, to prevent his final rise to power. They had worked out a method of time travel using potions, runes and a specifically designed spell. The Runes setup a temporal containment field, the spell cast the field into the past. They projected that the field would go between ten and fifteen years backwards, so they needed someone who could make a difference in the period 1992 -1997. They chose me."
"What of the potion? And what powered the Rune cluster?"
"Caught that did you? Well you see, they couldn't send any mass back in time. They believed that the Runes properly powered would cast my soul and they hoped my magical core back to my own body, where they believed that my 'present' soul and 'future' soul would integrate to a single entity. They hoped that my 'present' magical core would do the same thing with my 'future' magical core. The potion was designed to eject my magical core from my body. I got inside the rune array, drank the potion, cast a killing curse on myself to power the runes and the girls cast the time displacement spell." Harry made a slight gesture and a glass appeared in his hand, and then the glass filled with water. Harry took a sip. "I woke up in my bed in the Gryffindor dorm last November 9th, with my two souls in the process of integrating. We had quite the conversation during that hour, and we agreed to do what needed to be done. I skipped breakfast and went to the room of requirements to experiment with my magic. I found that I knew and could perform all the magic I learned 'in the future' and that I was stupidly more powerful than I had been the first time."
In December I discovered your plot with the Weasleys, lost Ron and Hermione, found that I had other allies I had been unaware of, and started on my new path. My new allies and I gathered and destroyed the horocruxes, then last May, Tom made the mistake of letting me get close, and I ended it."
There was silence between them for a few moments. Harry checked his watch, almost time to go to breakfast and get his class schedule.
"That is an amazing tale Harry. If anyone else had told it, I would have my doubts, but from you, I have to believe it."
Harry nodded sadly. "Thank you Headmaster. You know, I'm thinking of financing a study to determine just what happens to Wizards after they leave Hogwarts. If I was to tell that story in the common room tonight, I wouldn't get as far as Luna and Daphne teamed together to head the resistance before everyone in the room would be yelling 'Bullshit!', but our elders, including yourself buy a cock and bull story like that without blinking. It is truly amazing."
"That was a… story?"
"Of course it was a story. How I dealt with Riddle is no one's business but my own, and Neville's because he was with me. Now if you'll excuse me, need to get to breakfast, I'm hungry and I owe Neville Longbottom 10 Galleons. I never thought you'd buy such a ludicrous story."
September 01, 1997
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
The Great Hall:
Harry slide into his seat at the Gryffindor table across from Neville, and slid the 10 coins across the table.
"The old man believed your little story did he?" Neville asked pocketing his winnings.
"Yeah. I would have though living a century and a half one would develop a bullshit filter, but you were right." Harry looked at the selection on the table and selected some scrambled eggs and fried tomatoes for his plate. "The photos were a hit."
"Large surprise there. I thumbed through them and didn't notice any of those from class mates past or present."
Harry shook his head. "I've culled those out and have returned them to the senders, or will when I decline their offers. Having those photos around would be disrespectful, and if the girls ever found out, they'd hurt me."
"No argument from me Harry. I was looking to pull them before Dean or Seamus found them. I should have known you'd do the right thing." Neville dug into his eggs while reaching for more bacon. "Starting with the declines today?"
"Yeah. It seems that most of the women in question were unaware their families made the offer, so I'm starting with the Slytherins today, and work my way up to the girls who will likely hurt me if they feel I'm insulting them."
"You don't think the Slytherin girls will try to hurt you?"
"Oh, sure, but they don't need to feel insulted to do so. Speak of the demons, here comes Malfoy and Parkinson." He smiled "Got your inbred Pure Blood Twit routine ready?"
"I resemble that remark." Neville said smirking.
The Slytherin pair drew near. Neville ruffled the newspaper he was reading. "I say Potter," he said in a loud voice that carried throughout the hall, "The Aurors keep finding more and more families that are claiming their marked loved ones were weak minded fools under the imperius for years."
"I know Longbottom old boy," Harry said in an equally loud voice, "It's bad enough the fools are dead, now their families are claiming they were all weak minded as well, well breeding will tell, if anyone would know that the death eaters were all week minded fools, who better to be able to say than their inbred off spring."
"Are you talking about my family Potter?"
"Good morning Draco. How are you this fine Death Eater free morning?"
"You'll pay for what you did to my father Potter."
"You've been making that threat since first year Draco. If I didn't know better, I'd be thinking you didn't like me or something. I certainly didn't do anything to your weak minded father Draco, I only killed the Dark Putz, your father killed himself when he took the mark and slaved his life and magic to a half blood, under the imperius as he was, being weak minded and all."
"Potter, I'm going…"
"Oh Pansy?" Neville interrupted the blond's rant. "It's good to see you this morning as well; Harry and I have some personal private business with you. Perhaps Draco would be so kind as to toddle off?"
"Nothing you have to say to me interests me in the slightest blood traitor."
"I'm sorry you feel that way Pansy." He reached into his robes and withdrew a rolled up parchment, which he handed to her. "In accordance with the old ways, Pansy, I decline your family's offer of your hand in marriage, as tempting as that offer might be."
Pansy unrolled the parchment and stared open mouthed at her families seal. This was real. "My family offered me… To you?"
"Me as well, Pansy old girl." Harry smiled at the stricken girl. "That personal note you attached bemoaning the extremely small size of Draco's willy while begging me to rescue you from a life time of sexual frustration was heart rending, really it was. I'm not sure what everyone in the common room was laughing about when I read it to them last night, but I find that I too must decline. As charitable as I am, I'm afraid that there isn't enough hot water and soap in the world to wash the unmistakable taint of Draco from your body and soul. Sorry."
Pansy stared unbelievingly at the two contracts in her hands, and then ran away from the great hall in tears.
"Potter!" Draco hissed. "You are dead, when I bring the Malfoy fortune against you…"
"Malfoy fortune?" Neville interrupted again. "Didn't see this morning's Prophet Draco? It seems that the Goblin that the Death Eaters kidnapped and tortured to death trying to find a back way into the goblin tunnels was Grethok, the son of Ragnak, the head of the Goblin Nation. The Ministry managed to head off a Goblin Rebellion by signing off on the confiscation of the personal fortunes of every marked Death Eater. That leaves the Malfoy fortune at pretty much what you've got in your pockets right now…"
Draco paled. Then left the Great Hall without another word to verify this information.
"That was wrong. We should be ashamed of ourselves Neville."
"I know, but it was fun." Neville once again dug into his breakfast.
"You know the funniest thing about it? Ragnak didn't even like Grethok, though he was proud that his boy didn't break under torture. Ragnak was going to call it a wash because Grethok kept trying to raise a rebellion against Ragnak's rule, but then I suggested that he might as well make a galleon or two out of the deal. He cut me in for 2 percent for the suggestion."
Neville fell off his seat laughing.
"I just didn't want the fortunes of the Death Eaters financing the next Dark Lord." He shrugged. "Who knew that it would be both amusing AND profitable?"
Neville was picking himself up and more students filed into the Great Hall to break their fasts. Not long after the students were seated, the morning post arrived. Hedwig landed in front of Harry and extended her leg. Attached there was a small package and a sheet of parchment. Harry took the letter and the package, and gave his best girl most of a rasher of bacon. Then a small barn owl landed in front of him and offered its leg with a single sheet of parchment attached.
Taking the letter, Harry offered the owl some bacon, it took the offering, then winged off. Suspicious, he ran several detection charms on this newest letter. Nothing. Using his fork and knife he opened the letter without allowing it to touch his flesh. As he suspected it was from the Twins. The letter head had the Weasley Wizarding Weezes logo.
Dear Partner: It read
We hate you.
That Veela Prank was cruel beyond all belief.
(You have to tell me how you did it – Fred)
(I am still gargling to get the taste of Fred out of my mouth – George)
We should have known better than to challenge the son of a Marauder.
We only know it was you because we couldn't prove it was someone else
Love: Gred and Forge.
"What?" Asked Neville. "I know that look, and normally it means trouble."
Harry held up the small package. "I'll show you later. Believe me, it will be worth the wait."
"Excuse me Millicent?"
"What do you want Potter?"
"Beyond some Slytherin to eventually call me 'Harry'? Not much. I just have to tell you something."
Millicent Bulstrode nodded. She then stood with a questioning look on her face.
"Miss Bulstrode, In accordance with the old ways, I must respectfully decline your family's offer of your hand in marriage. At this time I am not looking to take a wife. At some point in the future that may change and I will certainly keep you in mind."
She blinked. Twice. Then she began to laugh. "I can't believe that father would do that without asking me. You're alright Potter. The majority of the bastards in this school would never have said a thing to me, just skulked off like cowards. Thank you Potter… Harry."
"No problem… Millie."
September 01, 1997
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Gryffindor Heads Common Room:
For more than an hour the only sound in the room was the scratch of Hermione's quill. Ron had finally had enough. He heaved himself from the sofa he had been laying on and came up behind Hermione at her study desk. He leaned over, nuzzling her neck and cupped her breasts.
"Ron, I've got to finish this."
"It's the first day of class love. We've got rounds to make at 11 o clock. That gives us two hours to relax." He nipped at her ear.
Hermione found herself leaning back into him, the quill falling from her fingers as she reached up to pull his lips back to her neck. All thoughts of her studies left her when his right hand left her breast and moved down to probe her through her panties.
They were 15 minutes late for their rounds.
September 03, 1997
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Outside the Transfiguration Classroom:
It had taken Harry two days to track down his last two Slytherins. As usual, they were together. The pair were leaving transfiguration and heading to the Great Hall for lunch, Harry fell into step along side Tracey Davis.
"What do you want Potter?" The shorter of the pair, Tracey Davis asked.
"A chance to speak with each of you in private."
The two girls exchanged a look, and then pulled Harry into an empty classroom.
"This is new." Daphne Greengrass said. "I've never been propositioned by a Gryffindor before."
"And you aren't now. I would prefer to do this in private."
"Anything you have to say to me, you can say in front of Daphne, Potter."
"Alright. Miss Davis, In accordance with the old ways, I must respectfully decline your family's offer of your hand in marriage. At this time I am not looking to take a wife. At some point in the future that may change and I will certainly keep you in mind." He handed the blonde the contract.
"My family offered me to you?"
"Yes they did. You don't really care all that much do you?"
"No, I guess I don't." She fixed Harry with a stare. "Ok, go ahead with Daphne."
"No. For Daphne I insist on privacy. If today isn't good, I'll try later."
The girls exchanged a look. Since first year they always had each other's backs.
"Go ahead Tracey, I'll be ok with Potter, he's harmless."
"I wouldn't go as far as harmless, but she is safe with me."
With a concerned look Tracey left the room.
"Well that was dramatic Potter, what do you want?"
"I thought I should return your photographs personally." Harry handed the five photos to Daphne.
A blush flooded Daphne's face, but she carried on with her traditional attitude. "Already made the rounds of the Gryffindor common room have then?"
"No. The only person other than myself who has seen them is Neville Longbottom. He only saw them because he opened the envelope they were in."
"So, Longbottom's your social secretary now?"
"You aren't going to get a rise out of me Daphne, you can quit trying. Neville was helping me because I was at his home when I received over 3000 contracts, including yours. Neville won't tell anyone, he's a good person." He looked her in the eye. "Miss Greengrass, In accordance with the old ways, I must respectfully decline your family's offer of your hand in marriage. At this time I am not looking to take a wife. At some point in the future that may change and I will certainly keep you in mind."
"Is that all?"
"Not at all. You are the first person among our classmates that was aware of that a contract was offered. The fact that you sent photos intrigued me to no end. Why would your family do that to you?"
"How do you know that it wasn't my idea?"
"How do I know that it wasn't your idea to display yourself like a piece of meat? Well, given your general distain for most of our classmates, much less me, that it was your idea seemed unlikely, especially when I looked at your eyes in the photos. The smile on your face didn't reach your eyes, they were dead and empty. Those were the eyes of someone going through the motions, someone who doesn't expect anything good to come from her life. I recognized those eyes; I saw them every time I looked in the mirror before I managed to kill Tom Riddle." He saw the questions in her eyes. "You knew him as Voldemort."
"My father is hungry for status; everyone believed our family to be supporters of the Dark Lord, even though we were neutral. I knew that he was offering a marriage contract in my name, but I didn't know who to. I guess he decided that the House of Potter was on the rise, and that an alliance with you would secure a place in the new order for our family."
"I thought it might be something like that. I was wondering Daphne, would you like to go out with me?"
The girl was gobsmacked. She really hadn't been expecting that. "What?"
"Now that I can have something that resembles a normal life I would like to try dating. This Gryffindor vs. Slytherin crap has isolated most of us into our houses. My house has three girls in my year. Lavender and Parvati do nothing for me; all they care about is fashion, makeup and divination. I like smart girls. In my house in our year, that leaves Hermione. She's with a friend and isn't available to me. That means I need to look outside Gryffindor. You are scary smart, much smarter than me, not that that is so hard. You are drop dead gorgeous, and my intelligence network tells me unlike our brainy classmates in Ravenclaw, you have never dated since you've been here. I tried once or twice and those ended in absolute disaster. I thought that put us on equal footing."
"So, you don't want to marry me, but you want to fuck me?" She asked trying to shock him with her ready use of profanity.
"I said date Daphne. If I wanted to fuck you I would have exercised my rights to clause nine of your contract. I would like to get to know you. If you'd like to know me, Saturday I'll be at the big oak by Hagrid's house at noon. I'll pack a picnic lunch; we can talk and get to know each other. Would you like me to escort you to lunch?"
"No, Tracey will be outside the door." She hesitated, and then appeared to make a decision. "I'll meet you on Saturday, but you won't touch me."
"It's a date then. Thank you."
Harry opened the door for her, and Tracey was indeed waiting for her. Harry left the girls to go to lunch.
"What did he want?"
"He got a contract from my father as well. He was the one Daddy sent the photos to."
"What did he do?"
"He gave me the photos back and declined the contract. Then he asked me out for a date."
"He wants to get in your pants." Tracey was clearly furious, her manner suggesting that Potter was going to pay for this.
"I thought so too. But he said that if that's what he wanted, he would have just exercised clause nine. I need to see what he was talking about." She unrolled the parchment, and scanned down to the ninth clause. The tall girl paled.
"What is it Daph?"
"Understanding that the traditional separation of Houses in Hogwarts may have left you with no personal knowledge of my daughter, I hereby authorize a period of no more than ninety days for sexual experimentation between yourself and Daphne. For that period, Daphne will be yours body and soul." The Raven haired beauty looked up at her friend with tears in his eyes. "Potter turned this down. Can you imagine if Malfoy or Nott, or Zambini had been made that offer? What kind of man is Potter anyway?"
September 05, 1997
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
The School Grounds:
The waiting was the worst part. Harry found himself wondering if it was the same for all men, waiting to see if a woman was actually going to show up. He had arrived half an hour early for the picnic date, with a basket lovingly packed by the kitchen elves, who had fallen all over themselves to help him. The little beings were so deliriously happy to serve, Harry found himself wondering why more picnics weren't happening each weekend. From somewhere the elves had produced a bottle of wine. Harry tucked that down at the bottom of the basket and covered it with several bottles of butterbeer. He didn't want Daphne to get the wrong idea.
"Hello Potter." Daphne's distinctive voice came from behind him. His early warning system had let him know she was there, but why not let her think she had succeeded in surprising him.
"Hello Daphne." He looked up; she was clad in denim jeans and a black jumper. Her clothing molded to her leaving no doubt as to her femininity. He found that his mouth had gone very dry. "I've never really done this before; let me know if I start acting like an idiot, ok?"
She actually smiled. "I think you can count on that Potter. So, are you ready to start your master plan to charm me?"
"The first step of my master plan is to get you to call me Harry."
She considered that for a moment. "Perhaps after you earn it, Potter. Where are we going?"
"There's a secluded spot by the lake. I like to study there on nice days, unless you know of a better spot?"
"The large stone near the lake? I've seen you there on occasion. No, I don't know a better spot for a picnic, lead on."
Harry led the way to the large stone that had become 'his place' since his falling out with the Weasley's the previous year that had cost him Ron and Hermione's company. "So, are you catching abuse down in the dungeons for knowingly associating with a filthy Gryffindor?"
"All of Slytherin knows that I am not to be trifled with Potter. Since you so skillfully neutered Malfoy, no one challenges me in my house. Do you expect to receive any abuse for associating with me?"
"Nah, I'm fairly untouchable, that and they think I'd do to them what I did to Riddle. What do you mean I neutered Malfoy? I didn't do anything to him."
Daphne fixed him with a stare. "Oh yes Potter. Voldemort and his fools kill the son of the Head of the Goblin Nation, you defeat Voldemort and his marked minions die, the Goblins make no mention of any retribution for the death of the Goblin that has attempted to lead four rebellions against Ragnak. You visit Gringotts the Friday before school starts and the goblins confiscate the fortunes of all marked Death Eaters. You obviously had nothing to do with it."
"That's all I'm saying." Harry smiled. "Your intelligence gathering is excellent. I didn't think anyone was paying attention to my coming and goings." They had reached Harry's 'spot'. He spread a blanket he conjured on the spot onto the ground, placed the basket down, and offered Daphne his hand.
"You expect me to sit on the ground to eat?"
"Traditionally, that's how a picnic works Daphne."
"Oh." She seemed surprised. "I've never actually been on a picnic before." She said in a small voice. "I've read about them though, they always sounded like fun." She smiled. "Now that I think about it the stories never mentioned chairs."
Daphne took his hand and settled to sit upon the blanket. Harry folded himself to sit with his back against the stone, with the basket between them. "A new experience for both of us then, I've never been on a picnic either. I wasn't allowed."
"No, as ass of an Uncle who hated magic, Wizards, and me. Not necessarily in that order. Until I was eleven and Hagrid took me to Diagon Alley for the first time, other than primary school, and the occasional shopping trip when they wanted something carried, my entire universe was an eighth acre lot in Little Whinging Surrey." Harry reaching into the basket he found a bottle of butterbeer and offered it to Daphne, which she accepted. He found another for himself.
"So. You got three thousand Marriage contracts?"
"Yeah. I don't know if that says something about Wizarding Society, or if it says something about me."
"It says you are the insanely rich head of two ancient and noble houses, Potter. It says that making an alliance with you would profit anyone who could manage it. It isn't really all that complicated." She sipped at her butterbeer. "Why am I here?"
Harry studied her face. "I don't understand."
"You got offers from three thousand women, me included. From what I could find out, you've declined almost all of them, again myself included. Why am I here? What is the purpose of this… date?"
Harry sighed. "Daphne, I'm seventeen years old. For my entire life I've been controlled, manipulated, guided and was expected, by those who claimed to love me, to die gloriously in defense of a culture that has abused and hated me since I was eleven. Well, I disappointed them by surviving and I've been free of all that for not quite four months. In those four months I've spent some money, I've traveled a bit, I bought a house and a company, and I've fired an employee. On my seventeenth birthday, I am offered my choice of three thousand women, the vast majority of whom I've never met. Yes, I've declined most of them. All but fourteen to be exact and those fourteen I will be approaching as soon as I can to personally decline them." Harry paused, taking a pull on his butterbeer. "Why did I ask you out after declining your hand in marriage? I am not ready to give up my new found freedom. This doesn't mean I want to be alone. I would like someone to spend time with."
"But why me?"
"I already told you. Because of your photos."
"Liked what you saw then?" her voice went ice cold.
"Of course I did. You are gorgeous. I wasn't commenting on your body, exquisite though it is. I told you before, it was your eyes. I knew those eyes; I've seen them in the mirror. I wanted to get to know the person behind them. That's why I asked you out." He shook his head in frustration. "That came out wrong. It wasn't the photos of you. I got hundreds of photos of women in various states of undress. Hell, the dorm is wall-papered with the stupid things. Only you can answer the question as to why you are here."
Harry wasn't surprised by the silence from the girl. He had definitely bollixed this up. She would no doubt be storming back to the castle any second; spreading the word that Harry Potter was a complete and utter idiot. He waited a ten count for her to bolt, and was surprised that she remained.
"If a copy of one of my photos is part of the 'wall-paper' in your dorm, no one will ever find your body."
"None of the pictures in the dorm are of any classmate past or present. I pulled those and have personally returned all but one, and she will get hers back when I decline her family's offer, just as you got yours." That seemed to satisfy her; she remained sitting on the blanket. "I think this is where we get to know each other." He said, breaking the new silence.
"Good idea. You first."
"You never give an inch do you Daphne?"
Harry laughed, sipped his butterbeer and began to tell his story, his early life, the cruelty of the Dursleys and the odd things that happened around him. He told of his introduction to the Wizarding world at the hands of Hagrid and his tour of Diagon Alley, his first meeting with Draco, then seemingly fortunate meeting with the Weasleys outside platform 9 ¾ and his first real friendship with Ron. He told of meeting Hermione on the train, and the slow bonding of the trio that culminated that Halloween night first year with the troll.
During his story, they both began to eat from the basket, cold chicken, sandwiches of several types, hot sausages, and potato crisps. Daphne gasped at his description of facing the troll and later a Voldemort possessed Quirrel over the Philosophers Stone. She had heard stories, but never truly believed them. Harry's tales of second year facing the Basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets chilled her. He showed her the scars on his right forearm where the fang had pierced completely through.
His tales of third year with the dementors, the Hippogriff, and the murderer Sirius Black, culminating in Black being cleared, at least in Harry's eyes, and a rescue involving a time turner. Fourth year had the Triwizard Tournament, which she remembered well. She was surprised that he still denied entering, claiming that a death eater masquerading as Moody had plotted the entire episode. Her eyes teared when he told of the death of Cedric Diggory, of his escape from the Dark Lord and Harry's struggle to return Cedric's body to his parents.
Fifth year brought Umbridge, and the fight in the Ministry, his friends falling to their injuries one by one, until only he and a badly injured Neville Longbottom remained standing, the destruction of the prophecy, the loss of his godfather, the shame he still felt over using an unforgivable against Bellatrix Lestrange, the awe he felt seeing Dumbledore dueling Voldemort, and the horror of being possessed by Voldemort and asking Dumbledore to kill him.
Sixth year brought the discovery of the betrayal of Dumbledore and the Weasleys, the discovery that he had been carefully steered to this point, that they expected him to die and had taken steps to profit from his death. The loss of his friend Ron who though innocent of the deceit of his parents and sister, when forced to choose between Harry and his family went with family. The loss of Hermione who remained with the boy she had come to love. Harry's discovery of a new ally willing, even eager to stand with him against the darkness. Of the final battle, of pain, blood, loss, and surprisingly survival, even victory.
Harry told her of his first summer of freedom, his discovery of his family properties, of his subtle quiet revenge against the Dursleys, and his first tentative steps toward making a life of his choosing.
Daphne pulled the bottle of wine from the basket and inspected the label. "A pedestrian vintage Potter. You've got the taste of a House Elf." She said, removed the cork from the bottle with a flick of her wand. She placed the open bottle under her nose and inhaled. "Not too horribly bad I suppose." She put the bottle to her lips and took a long pull.
"Not using a glass?" Harry gently snarked.
"We're on a picnic Potter, which means we're roughing it." She then passed the bottle to Harry who hesitantly took a sip himself.
Daphne moved the basket from between them, and moved next to Harry. "I'm cold Potter. Put your arm around me. But don't get any ideas."
Harry's first inclination was to cast a warming charm, then came to the startled realization what Daphne could have done that easily, but chose not to. She was actually asking for him to put his arm around her. Desperately trying to not get his hand tangled in her hair and to avoid touching anything he shouldn't he lay his arm upon her shoulders. Daphne moved closer, almost molding herself to him. Maybe she really was cold.
Daphne retrieved the bottle and took another pull. Holding the trembling hand of the arm around her shoulders Daphne began to tell her own story, of growing up on the Greengrass estate. Of being lonely, so very lonely. She told of learning to ride a horse, of upsetting the house elves by insisting on caring for her horse herself. Being taught by tutors instead of going to school with other children. Both parents so very busy with 'important' things, leaving Daphne with her studies, the house elves and her horse. That pattern continued until her first trip to Diagon Alley, the first time she had seen more than a few people at a time. She told of her own trip to Platform 9 ¾ and the terror she had felt as she suddenly found herself in public without her parents in a crowd of strangers.
She told him of meeting Tracey Davis, and recognizing another frightened soul among the boisterous children, of begging the Hat to place her into Slytherin after seeing her friend go there, those first frightening nights in a strange dormitory, of joining Tracey in her bed to hold each other as each cried herself to sleep.
Daphne explained how she had built her Ice Queen public personae bit by bit until she was so intimidating that few would approach her. Of avoiding the hands of older boys until she was avoiding her own classmates. She told of watching the maelstrom what was Harry Potter from a distance as he inexplicably escaped death every single year, of the despair she felt as the Dark Lord built his power over the years, the terror that reasserted its self when those closest to 'The Chosen One' had seemingly abandoned him. (Harry choked when she used his nickname) And of the day last May when in the middle of a potions class Snape suddenly grasped his right forearm and began to scream, thrashing upon the floor until he died, then later that very evening, Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom, both broken and bloodied painfully hobbled into the Great Hall supporting each other and announced that Voldemort was dead. Then her anger and self loathing while posing for the photographs that Harry had returned to her.
When Daphne finished the pair were quiet for a moment. Then Daphne lifted the bottle and shook it, then raised it to her lips and swallowed the last of the wine. "We killed the entire bottle." She said as she put the empty back into the basket. "That gives me the excuse to do this." She rose to her knees, straddling him. She leaned over and sealed her mouth to his, her hands on the back of his head pulling him into the kiss.
Daphne had never kissed a boy before, but this seemed right somehow. She broke the kiss when she realized just how much she was enjoying it, smiled at the expression on his face and kissed him again. She then returned to her place beside him, pulling his right arm around her shoulder.
The couple spent the rest of the afternoon cuddled in quiet conversation, watching the antics of the Giant Squid playing with a floating log out in the middle of the lake.
Daphne rose to her feet. "It's almost five. We should get back." She smiled. "Tracey will be worried, and might come out her looking for us and hex you."
"Well we wouldn't want that." Harry stood and tapped the picnic basket with is wand. It returned to the kitchens. He was going to have to go down tonight and thank the elves. He then vanished the blanket he had created earlier and together the pair began the walk back to the castle.
As they got to the entrance to the castle Harry said, "Thank you Daphne, I had fun. I hope the story of my pathetic life didn't bore you too much."
"I wasn't bored Harry. You've shown me what kind of date you are on the grounds of the castle… Next weekend is a Hogsmeade weekend, I think I'll give you a chance to really show me a good time."
The Green eyed wizard smiled. "A second date?"
The girl sighed. "I suppose." Her eyes hardened. "Don't be getting any ideas Potter."
"I'll see what I can come up with in the way of plans. In case I don't see you between now and next Saturday, meet here at 9am?"
"I don't have to get up at dawn to milk the cows Potter, make it a civilized hour, and say 10am."
"10am it is. Any requests for the day?"
September 06, 1997
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Gryffindor Common Room:
Hermione entered the Common Room. It was odd how little time she spent in the Common Room this year. She would have to work at that. She really didn't want to lose touch with her friends.
In the chair nearest the fire she saw Harry quietly reading. Hermione sat down in the chair closest to him. "Hey stranger."
"Hermione!" his face broke into a smile, then quickly glanced around the room. "How are you? Won't this cause problems?"
"Relax Harry. Ginny is at Quidditch practice. No threats of problems with Molly." Her smile dimmed. "How are you Harry? Ron and I miss you."
"And I miss you 'mione, both of you. It just doesn't seem right to go through the day without you two. I've barely seen Ron at all. What are you doing to the poor guy? I don't think he's managed to get to bed since school started." He waggled his eyebrows at her.
"I don't know how to explain it Harry. I've never felt like this about anyone, I love him so much." She blushed. "I hadn't realized we were being so blatant about it."
"If you don't share a dorm with Ron, you wouldn't know Hermione. You two just appear to be a normal couple. I doubt that anyone outside of the 7th year guys know for sure."
"Harry, we're in love." She whispered desperately.
"Hermione, after all we've been through, you don't have to justify yourself to me. I know you; Ron is the luckiest guy in this castle. You've done pretty well too."
"How about you Harry? I've heard you went for a picnic with Daphne Greengrass."
"Yeah, we had fun."
"Ron is convinced she's going to kill you."
"Ron needs to relax. The War is over."
"I wish we had been there at the end."
"I don't Hermione. Neville and I were luckier than we deserved, if anything had happened to either of you that would have killed me. I was deliriously happy that you two were out of the fight. Seriously Hermione, everything worked out for the best. Nev and I are closer than ever, I'm amazed, he and I are closer than Ron and I ever were."
The portrait swung open and one of Gryffindor's new beaters entered, covered in mud. Hermione's eyes widened. "Ginny will be up soon. We'll talk later Harry." She stood and made toward the door.
"Good bye Hermione." He said sadly. The three of them had faced Death Eaters, but their lives were being controlled by a vindictive 16 year old girl and her mother.
September 08, 1997
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Neville looked up from the Clingvine he was repotting. These Nocturnal Carnivorous plants were a pain to work with, but he was at a point where he could stop.
"Back here Millie."
Millicent Bulstrode made her way back to the carnivorous section of the greenhouse followed by a Daphne Greengrass. Greengrass's nervousness annoyed Millie. Like most of 'The Gardeners' (a small group of herbology students made up of students of all houses) she never really understood that the rest of the school was indoctrinated with the truism that you didn't go into Greenhouse #6 unless you were very tired of living and you were interested in particularly slow and painful ways of dying.
"Greengrass wants to talk to you Nev. Where are you at in this?"
"Got the primary root-ball repotted. I've got the nine secondary root-balls all staked and marked. I was sure that's all we'd get to tonight; we'll get to the tertiary root-balls tomorrow."
"Has anyone got a census on them yet?"
"Su said that she thought that there were nineteen, but she hadn't staked them yet."
"Sweet. Ok, I've got this; you go have your talk."
"Thanks Millie." Neville inspected his clothing. He frowned. "Daphne, if you want to talk to me, we probably ought to get out of the greenhouse." He edged around her, giving her as wide a berth as he could, then led them back to the exit. Outside he stood beneath a large shower head, and gestured with his wand, a torrent of a purplish liquid fell over Neville for more than a minute, he then stepped clear of the spray and waved his wand again cleaning and drying himself.
"Sorry about that, Clingvines have some nasty toxins, and I was covered in its sap. If I'd touched you, you'd wake up in a few days in the Hospital wing."
"How bad could it really be? You were covered with it."
Neville smiled. "We 'Gardeners' build up something of an immunity over the years. What can I do for you Daphne?"
"Is my picture wallpapering the 7th year Gryffindor dorm?"
Neville shook his head. "No. There is quite a collection of photos on the wall, most but not all coming from Harry's collection of Marriage Contracts. None of the photos Harry allowed the others to see were of anyone we were or have been in class with, though he did get a few of those. I believe he has returned those to the ladies in question. You got yours didn't you?"
"Do you know why he's asked me out?"
"Ah a moral dilemma. Do I do what I think is right for Harry, or do I keep his secrets?" Daphne started in on the intimidation she used so effectively. "Daphne, quit it. We've known each other far too long, that isn't going to work on me."
Daphne blushed. Neville was one of the few playmates she had as a child. Her maternal grandmother and the Lady Longbottom were friends from their days at Hogwarts.
"Daphne, Harry's a damaged guy. He was deeply in love with a girl who turned out to be the way you are supposed to be, but aren't. When the vindictive little bitch didn't get what she wanted, she went out of her way to take Harry's best friends away from him, running to her mother every time they even speak to him."
"Harry isn't looking for a life time commitment just yet. He wants to have some fun with someone who doesn't want anything from him. He doesn't want anything exclusive from you. I believe he's planning something very special for this weekend, and I'm not going to spoil it for you.
"Daphne. Trust Harry. He isn't looking to use you. He isn't looking to get anything from you. He wants to have fun and enjoy life, and he wants to do that with you.
September 11, 1997
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
The Great Hall:
Daphne had just sat down for breakfast when a small brown owl lit in front of her and offered its leg. She untied the letter, and thanked the bird as it flew off. Who might be writing her? Her mother's weekly letter always came on Wednesday. This was the first time in her memory that she had ever received any post on a Friday. Most odd. She opened the letter.
Your surprise is ready, dress casually.
See you at 10…
What was he up too?
September 12, 1997
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
The Entry Hall:
"Just don't be stupid Daphne."
"I can handle Harry Potter Tracey. It's just a little fun. Ignore Malfoy, no one has ever come back from a date with Potter and claimed rape. That isn't something Malfoy can say. "
"The Dark Lord thought he could handle Potter too Daphne. Just be careful."
"Voldemort never tried to handle Potter. He tried to kill him, a very different thing. This is nothing serious, just a little fun."
They arrived at the Entrance Hall exactly 9 minutes late in the theory that waiting on a woman is good for a man's soul. Together Tracey and Daphne exited the castle. Harry was waiting.
"Good morning ladies. Ready for an interesting day?"
"I prefer my days to not be all that interesting Potter." Tracey said. "Your level of interesting tends to end in the Hospital wing."
"You wound me Tracy." The Man Who Won said with that same smile. "I'll have you know I haven't been under Madam Pomfrey's care for four months now. Granted that 's a new record, but still."
"Quit teasing him Tracey. What do you have planned Harry?"
"You told me to surprise you; do you want me to ruin the surprise?" He offered Daphne his hand as she climbed up into the carriage for the trip to Hogsmeade; he did the same for Tracey, and then climbed in himself. "Will you be joining us today Tracey? There will be plenty of room."
Tracey glanced to her friend. Her answer was in Daphne's eyes. "No thank you Potter. I just need a few quills, and then I'll be heading back at the castle."
"If you're sure. Is there anything special you'd like to do Daphne?"
"After three years I doubt that there's all that much new to do in Hogsmeade Potter. I don't know how you think you're going to 'surprise' me."
"Ladies, please. It's Harry, just Harry. You asked to be surprised, so surprised you will be."
The thestral drawn carriage pulled into Hogsmeade; Harry hopped down and assisted the girls out of the carriage.
"You're sure you don't want to come with us today Tracey?"
"No thank you Potter. Daphne?" The tall raven haired woman went to the shorter blond. "Be careful Daph. He's up to something." She said in low tones.
"I know, he thinks he's going to sweep me off my feet. I won't be swept Tracey."
Daphne returned to Harry's side and together they watched Tracey make her way into the crowd of students in the town. Harry turned to face her, and startled her by putting his hands on her hips and pulling her close to him. Their faces were inches apart when he spoke.
"Do you trust me Daphne?" he asked with a smile.
Her Slytherin instincts made her want to laugh in his face, but when she opened her mouth to respond she was surprised by the word that came out. "Yes"
The green of his eyes burned into the violet of hers. "Hold your breath."
Tracey looked back to her friend in time to see them disappear in a shimmer of color. Where had that arrogant Gryffindor taken her friend?