The Lies that Bind
Chapter 1: The Set Up
He could tell from their screams how the victims felt. A high pitched scream, more akin to a wail, was one of disbelief, with undercurrent of terror fueling it. A scream, low and primal, revealed the persons' realization of their fate laid bare to them; a fate to die in pain. A long scream held for seconds spoke of nothing but all consuming pain. He glanced to that left and was not surprised to see Bellatrix administering that brand of agony.
He walked down the cobblestone street and glanced ahead, where the lane ended, looking past the house to the muggle suburban neighborhood beyond. How ordinary the rows of houses seemed, when compared to the grandiose designs of his lesser brethren. The small villa, the subject of this terror strike, was nestled in a park just behind the ever-expanding muggle town. He could not be bothered to remember what the Carrows called it; they had planned the raid from their hideaway not too far from here.
The house before him lay at the end of the street was large and imposing with images of painted golden elephants running on the walls. Their silent trumpets rising to the air every so oft. A few were stilled, casualties of the residences defending themselves, blacked marks marring the gray paint. The creatures also spoke of the family's origin: the Indian subcontinent. They were not the targets of the raid, just collateral damage caught up in his war. He smiled. Victims had a way of moving people in fear more than single targets. Nothing stoked hysteria like massacres.
This was his first ambitious strike of this nature against wizards; he had only targeted individuals who stood in his before. The larger strikes had been against muggles, leaving the Wizarding World gnawing at night on their pillows, wondering when he would strike at them. Now he was fulfilling their nightmares, fueling their imaginations. This would put even more pressure on Scrimgoer and his pathetic attempts to quell the public. Voldemort shook his head. The man was a fool more concerned with keeping the status quo than making the necessary sacrifices to fight him. An easy opponent, one he could not have asked more from.
A blast of light from within the house heralded a black-robed man flying from the second story window. His bone white mask fell away as the figure landed on the ground with a sickening crunch. He dropped his wand and lay moaning, his motions strained. Voldemort calmly looked up to see a man with tan skin and dark hair appear in the frame of the shattered window. The face disappeared a second later, fright filling the dark eyes.
Voldemort pulled out his wand and advanced on his follower.
"Please…" rasped the man as his master's form shadowed him.
Voldemort's heel pressed on the man's head, and the death eater cringed. Voldemort spun his wand and a blue light snaked out to fall over the prone man. A crack was heard and the Death Eater straightened. The pain left his eyes and Voldemort removed his boot. "Don't fail me again."
With that he left the man and approached the house. It would not due his reputation any good if someone survived the massacre. Hope was a disease that needed to be treated one life at a time.
As the door opened, bidding him welcome, the secondary effect of his spell swept over the fallen follower. Like a wave, it started from his spine. Dozens of snaps echoed through his body, ending with three coming from his skull. The man writhed on the lawn, unable to cope with every bone being broken in his body. His movements only intensified the pain, and he realized this too late. A scream ripped from his throat, rising into the air, matching the victims of the surrounding area.
With that dealt with, he entered the house.
He swung his wand in the shape of a rune, the air sizzling as the magic coalesced. In an instant he knew where his target lay hidden. He dispersed the magic and made his way to the top floor, finding his target huddled behind a closet door. Voldemort banished the door and blocked a spell fired by the wizard within; the Indian man had quick reflexes. Voldemort flicked his wand, a black rope, fashioned with a hook at the end, leapt from his wand's tip. The man shrieked and cast another spell; it had no effect on the metal hook. The man watched, dazed, as it pierced the flesh of his leg, a fountain of blood spilled outward.
Rational thought left the man's mind and he floundered with his wand, trying to focus his magic. Voldemort disarmed him. Voldemort flicked his wrist and the rope, still attached to the tip of his wand, pulled tight, yanking the man from the closet. He landed across the hall in a heap. The Dark Lord flicked his wrist again, sending the man flying through a wall. Voldemort walked into the room, admiring the gentleman's stamina. He was still not dazed. A trip through the floor, Voldemort nimbly jumping down to join him, fixed that.
The man lay by the back door, his head rising slowly, pain dulled his dark eyes. Thrice more Voldemort sent the man through various walls, until finally his battered body refused to move. The Dark Lord unhooked the leg and banished the metal piece. He directed the rope into a noose and hung the body from the ceiling. With a tiny wave of his wand, he set it ablaze. As he turned to leave, the raging fire shadowed his face in darkness.
Voldemort emerged from the house to find his Death Eaters looking uncomfortably at their fellow, whose movements had finally forced him to weep between gasps of pain. All save for Bellatrix, who toyed with her wand. She was no doubt pondering if she could add to his suffering. His emergence gathered their attention. He knocked the failure out and addressed those assembled. "Excellent work, save for one failing." He glanced down. "I may allow him the use of his body again." Maybe.
He glanced to the sky and pointed his wand, leaving his infamous mark emblazoned across the starry sky.
His desires here sated, he summoned a stone from the yard and made it into a portkey. As one the Death Eaters stepped forward to touch it. Voldemort puppetted the failure to raise his shattered hand. Before activating it and leaving, Voldemort wished one of his schemes to capture the Boy-who-lived could go as smoothly. Then they were sucked away, leaving the area silent, save for the moans of the few survivors.
Harry Potter was not in the best of moods as he walked the corridors of Hogwarts. The dream he had that morning of Voldemort's recent raid had left him irritable and with little sleep. It sickened him what his nemesis was capable of, and he dared hope one day their connection would be broken. He had gone to the Headmaster immediately and Dumbledore and contacted the Ministry.
It galled Harry that Dumbledore once spoke of choices deciding a person's path in life, how only their choices in life had separated Harry and Voldemort. Harry liked to believe that no matter what choices he made, he would never be anything like Voldemort.
As Harry walked a potion's book lay gripped in his hand, modified by the half-blood prince. Its ratty exterior was a testament to its age. It was the same book Hermione had again been needling him about, dropping not-so-subtle hints about using it as a study guide. This book has helped more than she ever did!
Right after thinking that, he regretted it; he owed his friend more than that. If not for her he would be dead several times over by now. Okay, that's taking it a little too far. My grades would be a lot worse. He amended, but his conscious was not satisfied. He sighed and accepted the fact his friend had helped him out more than the book. Yet, her snippy tone of voice and casual words still stoked his anger. He would normally vent to his best mate Ron, but for the past few weeks his lips had been glued to Lavender's.
"Malfoy doesn't like you snooping around, Greengrass."
Harry stopped in mid-stride at hearing his rival's name. He pulled his invisibility cloak from his bag and donned it; curiosity had gotten the better of him. With careful movements, he listened in on the conversation as he sought its source.
"I don't care what that fool thinks." Came a girl's voice, aristocratic in execution.
There was a heavy sigh. "He knows that. It's why I'm here."
Harry peaked into a room and found a strange sight greeting him. Standing within was Blaise Zabini, a tall, dark boy, pointing a wand at Daphne Greengrass. Long raven locks crowned her head, above deep blue eyes and a pale complexion. Harry looked for her wand and found it on the ground by Blaise's feet. What were two Slytherins doing at odds with one another?
"What are you going to do?" She sneered at him. "Cast a few jinxes on me? Make my hair fall out?"
Blaise shook his head. "This isn't a school-yard fight, Daphne. This is Death Eater business."
"What? Not you?" Daphne's complexion paled.
He scoffed. "I would never take the mark if I could help, but I am no one's fool."
Harry's heart raced at the confirmation regarding Malfoy.
"I don't want to do this, but there's too much at stake. One loose-end is all it would take." Blaise raised his wand and quickly glanced to the door and frowned. She followed his vision. Harry panicked, fearing he had made a sound.
"You're not going to cast the Imperious on me, are you?" She quailed.
Righteous anger suffused through Harry.
Zabini glanced back towards her. "Do you have a better solution? One where you'll keep his secret?"
She nodded her head. "I promise stay I'll quiet!" She cried, her voice carrying into the hallway, her tone nearing panic
"Sorry, Daphne, can't take that chance." Zabini seemed to slowly maneuver his wand in preparation while Daphne looked away. "Im—"
Harry could not stand there and let it happen. Not wasting a moment, he threw off the cloak and pulled his wand free. "Expelliarmus!"
Zabini had no time to respond as the red light struck him, blowing him off his feet and sending his wand flying from his grip. Harry nimbly caught it.
"Potter!" Daphne cried in shock.
Feeling quite proud, considering the ease with which he'd disarmed his opponent, Harry smiled at her. "Yes?"
It took a moment for Daphne to compose herself, relief flooding her face. "Oh, thank-you," she said breathlessly, her gratitude seeming genuine.
The look made him nervous, and he glanced away, gazing at Zabini. The black boy was finding his feet and dusting off his robes. He took a deep breath and looked to Harry, perfectly composed. "My wand?" he asked, offering an empty hand.
Harry looked at him askance. "Why would I do that?"
"You bested me. It's pretty clear I wouldn't stand a chance against you in a duel. So there's no harm in giving back my wand." He noted Harry's hesitation. "What do you have to lose after beating me so easily?"
"I'm not stupid, you know. You could double-cross me."
Zabini smiled. "We both know you're going to give it back to me anyway. It's the noble thing to do and all."
"How about we take this to Professor Dumbledore and see what he has to say?" Harry replied.
Zabini's eyes widened and fear crept into them as he glanced to Daphne. She swiftly stepped between them. "No. Please, just give him back his wand."
Harry balked. "He tried to cast an unforgivable on you!"
"You don't understand how my house works." She looked to him with large blue eyes, an unspoken plea dwelling within them.
He almost caved. "He'll try again." He reasoned. He glanced at Zabini and saw fear in those dark eyes, behind the Slytherin's calm composure. He's afraid of me. The thought filled him with unease. "Will you try again?"
Zabini shook his head. "I'll leave her alone."
Harry took a step forward. "How can I believe you?"
Zabini gave him a level look. "You can't, but she is right. You don't know how our house works."
"Then tell me."
"Potter, please…" Daphne began, her eyes again filled with an unspoken plea.
Harry noticed she used his name with some familiarity but pushed the thought aside. He sighed and tossed the wand back, trusting to their ways, ignorant to them as he was. Strange I've never heard about this before now. "Don't do anything, or I'll go to Dumbledore."
Zabini caught the wand and hastily left the room, avoiding looking Harry's way. Once gone, Harry turned to the girl. "Why didn't you want to go to Dumbledore? He was going to cast an unforgivable on you."
She eyed to the floor, looking suddenly fragile. "It wouldn't matter. Someone else would just do it. I didn't know what I was getting into…"
Harry gave her a sympathetic look. "Look, we'll just go to Dumbledore, and he can take care of everything."
"Potter," she began slowly, "it doesn't matter because he didn't cast it, and I don't want to make myself into a target by going to the Headmaster."
He could see her reasoning. Involving Dumbledore would rile the Death Eaters in her house, since he was now positive they existed. "Okay, I won't take this to him. But, what good will it do, if they'll just get you later?"
Her face turned warm as she beamed at him. "Because Blaise will tell them who saved me. You. The Chosen-One. They're afraid of you, and if they think you'll help me they'll leave me alone."
He really hated the chosen-one business, but knowing they feared him made him feel oddly good. He knew in theory having people fear you was unethical, but they were Death Eaters.
"Plus, I'll tell Malfoy myself I'll quit snooping around." She waited for his response on bated breath.
Harry perked-up at that. "What exactly have you found out? Is he a Death Eater?"
Daphne looked around nervously, biting her lip before speaking. "Yes and he's on some mission for the Dark Lord, but I don't know what it is. I don't think I want to know now."
Harry crowed victoriously in his mind. Wait till I tell Hermione and Ron this…oh yeah. The thought sobered him somewhat, reminding him why he had been by himself in the first place. "Right, so…" He suddenly realized he had saved a complete stranger, whom he had said no more than a dozen words to in the course of his schooling.
She sensed his awkwardness. "Thanks again." She tucked a stray hair behind her ear and smiled.
He returned it and took a few steps back. "No problem. I'd better be going." He turned and left, but her voice gave him pause. He turned.
"Wait! I want to give my hero a proper thank-you."
She steeled herself, brought her hands to his face, and brazenly kissed him.
For an eternity Harry Potter was experiencing something that had him feeling quite happy with the world. Without waiting he responded to her forward gesture. His body stiffened as he felt her tongue briefly part his lips. The gesture sent sparks racing down his spine.
To his supreme disappointment she broke away, her breathing shallow and her face flushed. She gave him a shy smile. "Thanks." With that, she collected her wand and bid a hasty retreat.
All Harry could do to respond was touch his lips and mutter, "Wow."
"Why didn't you go to the Headmaster, Harry?" Hermione insisted as they walked from the Transfiguration classroom. "That sort of thing should be reported immediately!" In her hands she clutched her mail from that morning. They were correspondences she had set-up earlier in the year, asking various professionals about their jobs. Among the letters was the latest Daily Prophet exclaiming Voldemort's recent attack on the Wizarding World. The news therein had been grim. Harry had not taken the news well when he had heard about it that morning; he had spent most of breakfast brooding.
Harry played with the hem of his robes, trying not to regret telling her. She was making more a deal of it than necessary. "She asked me not to…and it's not like he actually cast it on her. I stopped him before he did."
"And that's when she kissed you?" She arched a brow his way.
"No, she didn't do it in front of Blaise. He left, then she kissed me," he said correcting her.
"What about—" She quickly cut off the statement, catching herself.
"What about what?"
"Nothing." She waved her hand dismissing the topic.
He shrugged. "Okay, but you still have to admit that I'm right." He looked around and lowered his voice. "Malfoy did take the mark and he's plotting something for Voldemort." He was glad to see her not flinch at the name.
She frowned but conceded him that point. "You're right, and that is something you have to bring up with Professor Dumbledore." Her brown eyes gave him a penetrating stare.
He nodded. "I will after our next class, I just won't mention Daphne or Blaise."
She went to speak, opening her mouth, but sighed and let the matter rest.
It was in the late afternoon that Harry finally got a chance to seek out the Headmaster. He found him conveniently enough in his office going over a long parchment. Upon seeing Harry enter his frown turned into a smile, and he put the paper down. After folding his hands he spoke. "Have you finally obtained Slughorn's memory, Harry?" His tone was hopeful.
Harry guiltily looked to the floor. "Not yet, professor. I'm still working on it."
Dumbledore's face fell slightly. "I cannot stress to you how important retrieving that memory is to defeating Voldemort. It is the solitary key I need to unlock his secrets."
"I know, professor, I know." Harry said lamely.
"If that was not the reason you came to see me, then what was?" Dumbledore arched one bushy eyebrow, his tone becoming pleasant again.
Seeing the awkward mention of the Slughorn's memory put behind them, he jumped to tell about his newly acquired information. "I've just learned that Draco took the Dark Mark and is on a mission for Voldemort." He blurted out.
Dumbledore gave no sign of surprise, causing Harry to deflate. "This is something that is not new to me, Harry. In fact, I learned of this just before the school year began."
"You're okay with having a Death Eater in Hogwarts?" Harry asked, appalled.
Dumbledore's expression became indulgent. "Harry, there are many shades of gray in this world and becoming something does not mean you become darker. Draco is still young and impressionable; his path is not yet set in stone."
"I think I can see that."
"I've already talked to Professor Snape about it and trust his judgment."
"But Snape's trying to help him." Harry declared, rehashing this old argument, recalling Slughorn's Party.
Dumbledore's expression darkened. "We've tread this road before and my stance has not changed." He mellowed his tone. "I suggest you turn your efforts more towards Slughorn and let me worry about Draco. I can assure you everything is in hand."
Harry bit his tongue.
Dumbledore sensed his resistance. "Don't you trust me, Harry?" His voice was small.
Harry sighed and looked away, unable to meet Dumbledore's eyes. "Yes sir, I trust you."
The Headmaster smiled, genuinely relieved. "Thank-you. Was there anything else?"
"No sir. I'll…I'll work more on getting that memory. I promise." Harry turned to leave, feeling guilty gnaw upon his stomach.
It was later that evening he divulged what had happened in the Headmaster's office to Hermione. The bushy-haired witch agreed with the Headmaster's assessment completely. "You shouldn't be obsessing over him. That memory is a lot more important." Her brow knit in thought. "It is strange though, he would let Draco attend, knowing he took the Dark Mark."
Currently they were seated on a cushy sofa in the Gryffindor common room, their books open on their laps. "That's what I thought. " I really should have trusted Dumbledore from the start. It's just—"
"You have a sore spot for the ferret?" She finished for him smiling.
He chuckled. "Yeah."
It was then Dean Thomas and Ginny Weasley entered the common room from the Fat Lady's portrait. Harry missed the scrutiny Hermione gave him as he watched the couple cross the room holding hands. With her free hand she waved to a group of her friends and made her way over. Harry again felt the monster in his chest rear-up, but alongside it he felt sparks shooting down his spine as he imagined Ginny kissing him the way Daphne had.
Hiding a smile behind her hand, Hermione spoke. "Do you need something to drink?"
Her words brought him back down to earth, making him aware of the blush residing in his cheeks. He laughed awkwardly and ran a hand through his hair. "No, I'll be alright."
Hermione nodded to herself and spoke idly. "You know, if she and Dean ever break-up some other boy is going to ask her out. Wouldn't that be a shame?"
Harry could his hear heart hammering in his ears. What about Ron? He looked to find his best mate again entwined with Lavendar. Fuck Ron. He felt guilty at that thought, but he realized just how bitter he had become with Ron spending most of his time with his girlfriend. Were they no longer close because he was fooling around with a broad?
"Well?" Hermione prompted.
Still he stalled, undecided. "What makes you think I want to ask her out?"
"Because you look like a kicked puppy every time you see her with Dean."
Harry winced. "Really?"
She nodded sadly. "It's really cute, actually."
He gave her faux scowl before laughing. "Maybe I will." Doubt seized him, unfamiliar as it was to him. "You think she'll say yes?"
Hermione bit her lip, unwilling to give away Ginny's admission the summer before. "I don't have all the answers, Harry. You'll just have to ask her and see." She gave him an encouraging smile.
He nodded, stealing another look Ginny's way. He was surprised when they locked gazes and she looked away embarrassed. He smiled. Yeah, I think I will.
Later that night, as he lay awake in bed, he practiced his weekly routine with thoughts of a red-haired girl frolicking through his mind, feelings of a tongue playing across his lips at the forefront of the fantasy.
The following week found Harry Potter in the library researching memories and magic. He went through several volumes without any luck and wished Hermione were with him to help, but again she had been snippy with his potion's book for it had been the first place he had checked. She had snapped at him. "The book's not going to answer all your problems, Harry."
A few more words had been exchanged with her parting in a huff and him leaving annoyed. That afternoon he had pushed his fellow Quidditch players harder than necessary, and the results had not been that positive. The only bright point was trading a few words of friendship with Ron, who seemed to be finally drifting away from Lavender and closer to him. This also brought Harry closer to the ongoing conflict between his best friends.
He felt someone's presence next to him. He glanced up to find a nervous Daphne looking down at him. Remembering how their last encounter went, he did not quite know what to say. "Er…yes?"
She fiddled with her robes before quickly looking to a table behind her. Harry followed her gaze and recognized several seventh year Slytherins sitting there. They seemed to be ignoring him and Daphne. "Can I…can I sit with you, please?" Those pleading orbs were again beset upon him.
He caved. "Sure."
Relieved, she took a seat and quickly brought out a quill and parchment, setting beside them a transfiguration book.
Several of the Slytherins finally looked up from their work and gave the pair questioning looks. Seeing where this might be going Harry played his part and gave them a challenging stare. Hastily they looked away.
Daphne saw the exchange and slowly extended her hand to cover his. "Thank-you." Her lips were carefully parted, inviting Harry to lean forward.
He eyed those lips and his mind remembered their kiss. He pulled his hand away from hers, not too quickly as to give her the wrong idea, though. "No problem." Rather than dwell on her lips he asked: "Have they been giving you trouble?"
She gave him a grateful smile. "No, but a few thought we weren't friends and doubted the story."
Friends? He cleared his throat. "We're not exactly friends, you know."
She flushed a pretty shade of crimson. "I know that, but anything less would not have been enough. It would have been suspicious."
He saw a logical hole in her ploy. "And them suddenly seeing us hanging out isn't?"
"I told them I had kept it discreet because of house tensions. It convinced most of them—"
"—but not all of them." Harry finished with a sigh. "Okay, so you hang around me a few times and that will convince the rest?"
She pouted. "Am I so bad to be around?" Again her lips were parted, drawing his attention.
Harry floundered. "N-no." He collected himself. "I really don't know you that well so I can't even say."
"Then what's the harm in finding out? We can take it slow if you want? Just hang out do homework together."
He quickly realized there was no harm and her continued association with him would help give her some protection. "I guess that could work." He amended pleasantly. "Though, I think it would still be better to just go to Dumbledore."
Her face became blank. "Please, just try it this way for now."
He opened his mouth to argue further.
She quickly spoke over him. "If it gets worse I promise to come to you and then go to the Headmaster, alright?"
Mollified, he nodded. From there the conversation trailed as she concentrated on her work and he on his research. When queried about it he told her it was for a special project for Slughorn. He was nowhere near trusting her with any of his secrets. She accepted that and they continued on in relative peace.
In the following days Harry's research was becoming fruitless and in desperation he sought out Hermione's help. She caved to his pleas and said she would meet him in the library after her study session with a few Ravenclaws. What she found upon entering was an odd sight. There in a corner of the library, tucked away, with books out around both were Harry and Daphne laughing. She heard no sounds thus assumed a silencing spell had been cast around their table.
She fumed as she marched over. How irresponsible! He should be doing research not flirting. With narrowed eyes she approached their table, entering the space of the spell and hearing their laughter. It took a moment for her presence to become known, but she diligently waited, her arms crossed.
Harry turned his head, smiling. "Oh, hey Hermione. Thanks for coming." His smile faltered at her withering expression. "What?"
"Shouldn't you be—I don't know—studying?"
He became defensive. "I am."
She held up her hand and gestured to Daphne. "You were."
He balked. "No, I am. She just joined me a couple of minutes ago. Was it wrong for us to start talking? Am I so pressed for time that I can't enjoy talking with someone?"
His reasoning was sound, but she would not be diverted. "Will Voldemort wait?"
Daphne flinched at the name. That drew Harry and Hermione's attention and Hermione cursed inwardly. I should have watched my tongue.
Harry glared at his closest friend but spoke to Daphne. "I think you should leave now. What we're discussing isn't safe for you to know."
With shaking hands Daphne gathered her things and bid them good-bye.
Harry spoke. "You shouldn't have talked about it like that." He accused.
She huffed, realizing then her reaction had been unjustified, but there was something about Daphne's sudden entrance into her friend's life that made her wary. "And just what was she doing here? Were you saving her from another unforgivable?"
Harry clinched his hands. "What does it matter? Can't I have friends in Slytherin?"
Hermione plowed onward. "How long have you two been talking?"
"She's only been coming around for the past few days."
Hermione grew suspicious. "Has she taken an interest in your studies?"
"No and she didn't care either until you blurted it out."
Hermione looked away. "What about Ginny?" She asked as a last resort, wanting him to see beyond Daphne's flirtations, remind him of another young woman close to him.
Harry had a sense of déjà vu as Hermione said that. She had said something similar, tone and all, after he had saved Daphne; save she had not mentioned Ginny's name. Suddenly, he was suspicious and he played through his and Hermione's conversation from last week again. With shrewd eyes he regarded his friend. "What about Ginny? She's with Dean so it doesn't matter to her who I spend my time with."
Hermione opted to speak, but slowly closed her mouth. "It doesn't matter," she said instead. "I'm sorry I got mad." Regardless, there is something going on with her. And now she knows we're doing something involving Voldemort. Hermione made a note to do some research on the Greengrass family.
Harry frowned, but accepted the apology grudgingly. "Listen, let's just put it behind us and figure this out, okay?"
Finally, letting go of his anger he fumbled through his notes and showed them to Hermione. "This is all I could figure out on my own. To alter the memory means to change it for good, but Dumbledore thinks the real one's intact."
Following the logic Hermione finished the thought. "Which means he didn't actually change it, he only invented one and placed it over the original. Or maybe he copied it and altered the other?"
Harry nodded. "Right. So I think he has it in a jar somewhere in his office so he wouldn't remember it."
Hermione took a seat and shook her head. "No. Memories don't work like that. The silvery substance that comes out is only a copy. You can't really remove the memory yourself. That takes an accomplished legilimens."
Harry saw the logic. "So he brought out a copy, changed it and put it back in?" He slumped in his seat. "That means I have to actually have him hand it over." He had feared that was the only solution; he had hoped to find another way. "I bungled that last time with him." He kicked the chair across from him.
Hermione looked at the notes, pensive.
"Is there any way we can force it from him?" Harry asked idly, a small amount of hope in his voice.
"Don't even joke about that." She said distastefully. "To rape someone's mind is something we shouldn't even consider." She gave him a penetrating stare.
"You're right…but I just don't know any other way." He sounded dejected.
Hermione nodded to herself, grateful her friend had not seriously considered the horrible idea. She placed a hand on his, giving him some comfort. "We'll figure something out, Harry, I promise. We'll make this our top priority."
He regarded her solemnly. "Thanks."
"I'm not that good on a broom." Daphne spoke with some trepidation as she warily mounted his firebolt.
Harry brushed aside her worries. "It's really not that hard, especially if you have a good broom."
Daphne swallowed nervously and kicked off, choosing to only float a few feet off the ground. A bright smile dominated her face when she saw how easy it was. "This is nothing like the first flying class we had." She marveled. She started the broom forward, choosing to fly a circle around Harry, careful to not go too high.
Harry chuckled. "To be honest those brooms weren't very good. And old." He shook his head in wonder. "The charms were fading on them quickly, it's no wonder Neville lost control like he did."
"Oh!" Daphne found herself floating higher, but a bit of concentration brought her back down. "It's no wonder he broke his leg." She glanced to the left and saw the expanse of the lake laid bare. She willed the broom forward at a sedate pace. "Let's go for a walk." She did not bother to wait for his ascent, before angling towards the lake's shores.
Harry smiled softly and followed behind her. They traveled in silence for a time, him enjoying the cool afternoon, on a rare sunny day, with a lovely witch at his side.
"You were pretty incredible that first class, you know."
She giggled at his clueless expression. "Remember when you caught that thing of Neville's? The one Malfoy tossed?"
Harry smiled at the memory; it was one of his most treasured. "Yeah, it's what got me on the team."
A contented lull fell between them, and Harry wondered if this was what happiness was like. No worries of madmen and Death Eaters. Just a bloke and a girl. He stole a glance at her, eyeing her pale legs, exposed from her straddling the broom. She cleared her throat. "Like what you see?" Harry's face became flushed. He looked away. The red deepened when she laughed. "You're very cute when you blush, did you know that?"
"No, I didn't know that." He looked around awkwardly, seeking an observation that could change the subject. His eyes alighted on the clouds. "Would you like to go higher?" He asked too quickly.
She looked up and considered his question. "Sure. Any pointers?"
His face became serious as he ran his hands over the wood. "Grab hold and don't let go. Let your hands guide where you go, not the broom." She looked at him quizzically. "You can control the broom with your magic, but it's hard to steer. So just use your hands to steer and your magic to move it forward. Since firebolts are so receptive you have to keep that in mind." His hands found the bristles and he fiddled with them a moment, fanning them out.
"What are you doing?"
"Slowing you down. Firebolts are fast, really fast. The bristles are used as lag in turns and accelerating. If you want to make your right turns sharper, you adjust the bristles. If you want more maneuverability and less acceleration, you fan them out." A few more moments passed until he was satisfied. "I need to replace a few of them, they broke in the last game, but I haven't found the time."
"You know a lot about brooms, don't you?" She sounded impressed.
He shrugged off the compliment. "Any Quidditch player takes care of their broom." He thought of Ron's own messy broom. He amended his statement. "Any serious Quidditch player."
She quirked her head to the side, an odd expression on her face, one that seemed out of place to Harry. "You know, I think you're good enough to go pro after school. Everyone thinks so, except Malfoy." The expression faded away, replaced with a more familiar one. "Though, he'd never give you any credit if he could help it."
They shared a quick laugh before he gave her a few more pointers. "Keep your head down, and if you're going too fast, don't panic! Just slow down. It's that simple." He gave her an encouraging smile before she rose into the air.
He watched her flying with some trepidation, he had his wand out in case she fell. In time, she got the hang of it, effortlessly accelerating and decelerating, she even got brave enough to try a loop-to-loop. Finally, she returned to earth, her face flushed with exhilaration and a smile that would not fall. "That was amazing!" She said, trying to remember how to walk. She stumbled a bit, but regained her balance.
In that moment, as Harry slung the broom over his shoulder, Daphne seemed more real, more genuine, than she ever had. She needs to learn to cut loose more often.
"Do you think we could do this again sometime? I really enjoyed it." She gave him hopeful eyes. The genuine expression faded.
As they walked towards the castle their conversation shifted to idle talk of the upcoming game.
That night, as Harry performed his usual routine, thoughts of a red-haired girl were chased from his mind by a raven-haired maiden, and the kiss she had once bestowed upon him.
"Oh for Heaven's sake! I only asked you to the dance to make someone jealous! There is nothing between us!" Hermione raged, as she whipped her wand out and pointed it under her agitator's nose.
Cormac McLaggen bid a hasty retreat, bringing his hands up to indicate he meant her no harm.
She eyed him like a hawk until he left the common room. Their encounter had garnered several people's attention. She looked to them. "Yes?" She snapped. They hastily went about their business.
Hermione quickly scanned the room and muttered a few choice words. Harry Potter was nowhere in sight. He's not in the library, either. Her eyes fell on Ginny and Dean, sitting with a few others their year. If anyone might know it was Ginny.
She deftly maneuvered herself through the sea of students, quickly stepping over books, bags, and outstretched legs until she was by her friend's side. "Got a minute?"
Ginny nodded and rose. "I'll be back." She gave her friends a quick smile before being ushered from the scene.
Once alone Hermione wasted no time. "Do you know where Harry is?"
Ginny 's concerned face became guarded and she drew away from Hermione. "No." She answered curtly.
Hermione was puzzled, but had no time to worry about Ginny's change in attitude. "Do you know where he might be?"
Ginny looked heavenward. "Have you tried a closet?"
Bewildered, Hermione shook her head. "What? Where did that come from?"
"Oh, get off." Ginny spoke annoyed.
Hermione stiffened her back. "I'm sorry?"
"You really don't know?" Ginny sounded surprised. "You spend a lot of time with him."
"No, I don't know and yes I do, but these past few weeks I've only really seen him in the library. We've been doing research for Dumbledore. Outside of that not much." She failed to mention a lot of her time was being devoted to finding out about the Greengrass family. Of which she was expecting a parcel from St. Mungo's Maternity Ward.
"Oh. Well, he's been hanging around that chit recently, and I'm pretty sure they're now an item." She sounded grave and forlorn.
It took a moment to realize who Ginny was referring to. "Daphne?"
Hermione brought a hand to her head. "Not to be a stick in the mud Ginny, but you have no right to get jealous. You're dating someone yourself."
"Only because you said I should!" She hollered, her temper flaring suddenly.
Hermione absently cast a silencing spell around them; some things needed to be said in private. "Don't pin this blame solely on me." She said heatedly, matching Ginny's anger. "I told you to date around and have fun, wait for him to notice. Not date his dorm mates to try and make him jealous." The red anger in Ginny's face was replaced by the red of embarrassment. She looked away. "I thought as much. I never said he wouldn't date other women. I just said, 'give him time'." Hermione's anger was quickly cooling.
"I might have lost my chance." Ginny spoke with an edge.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "You're fifteen," she said exasperated. "You still have plenty of time. If you really want him that badly, dump Dean, interrupt Daphne and Harry, and snog his brains out. Problem solved."
Ginny met Hermione's chilly gaze. "You make it sound easy. Why don't you show me how?"
Ginny smiled sweetly. "Go find my brother and show me how."
Two red points appeared in Hermione's cheeks, with some effort she maintained her composure. "This is stupid," she said plainly.
Ginny smirked. "Not so easy, then is it?"
Hermione shook her head and canceled the spell around them. This is getting me nowhere. She walked away, hearing Ginny sniff as she left.
That could have gone better. She thought as she exited the common room. Lately, she had not felt like herself, being worried about her classes, getting the memory from Slughorn, her suspicion's about Daphne...
Ron. She let out a long breath. I spend too much time thinking about him. Realizing that train of thought would get her nowhere, she resumed her search.
It was later in the day that she finally got a hold of Harry eating dinner in the Great Hall and asked if Slughorn had ever mentioned his mother to him. The conversation went quickly from there, as Harry remembered Slughorn wishing he had acquired her when he had first met the professor.
"How'd you know?"
She shrugged. "I've been thinking about a personal connection between the two of you for some time. Dumbledore obviously used you to tempt Slughorn here, but there is more to you that he thinks you could get the memory from him. He mentioned your mum at the party, remember?"
Harry shrugged. "Not really."
"He did. I only now just made the connection."
"So what should I do? Somehow use that to get the memory?" It sounded near impossible.
Hermione, too, was at a lost. "We'll think on it. Ask some of the professors for ideas about their relationship." Both stared at one another and thought of Snape. Then they thought of Snape romantically pursuing his mother. They cringed and shared a look of disgust. "Someone besides him."
Harry agreed, trying to keep his dinner down.
Hermione wanted to shift the conversation towards Daphne but wished to avoid an argument. At least until she had more information on her.
It was the next morning at breakfast that the missive from St. Mungo's dropped into her morning eggs. Harry was seating across from her and Neville next to him. Neither blinked an eye, used to her incoming-mail falling into her meals. Hermione swiftly tore into the envelope, thanking herself for setting up so many correspondences earlier in the year; it had been an attempt to see what the job market was like out in the Wizarding World.
She scanned the birth record, checking for details that stood out. The father signed three days after delivery. The nurse made a note about the child being underweight and the mother looking sick giving birth. Her middle name was Helena. The she read who had accompanied the mother in the father's stead; Daphne's godmother. She dropped the letter in shock and it took a moment for her mind to begin working again.
Neville and Harry gave her concerned looks.
With trembling hands she retrieved the letter for a second time from her eggs. She looked to Harry and spoke gravely. "We need to talk." She paused. "Alone."
A/N:: Well, there's the first chapter, written quite a few months ago. The entirety is finished and waiting on my hard-drive for one more read-through before posting, this being the case I'll be updating once a week, like I did with The Eternal Legend, save this will be about 170,000 words less. :). I will say this now: only the first two chapters have been beta'ed, by celeborn01 and swimdraconian. One has a fairly original Zelda fic worth checking out, his writing style is very engaging, the other has an HP fic that is not your usual Harry-goes-back-in-time. I suggest checking out both for an entertaining read.
Post the two chapters, nothing has been reviewed by anyone save myself, so there may be several well-intentioned bumps. As with a lot of my work, there will be grammar problems that I tend to not notice in my edits, no matter how hard I try. So to both fronts, I ask anyone to point them out and I'll correct what I can as I go along. On the lines of critique...all is welcome. Praise is nice, but I'd prefer hard truth over flowery renditions, that includes flames to those so inclined; expect the usual response.
As is customary, I would like to thank all who have read this and hopefully enjoyed. I write mainly for myself, but it's nice to know people can garner enjoyment from it.
EDIT: Changed a few lines to lesson Hermione's focus on Ginny and Harry's relationship and added more on her suspicions of Daphne. Caught a few grammatical errors. If you see any drop me a line; I'm no good at catching them while editing.
EDIT 2: Adjusted the dialogue to make Hermione appear less testy, inserted a missing word, and added a few lines to justify Hermione's stress. Thank-you to the reviewers who catch these things. With your help the final product will be something I can be proud of.