Disclaimer: This story is made with characters that are not mine, but belong to the all amazing and wonderful JKR. I thank her for the ability to play around with them. In addition, the decision to pair Harry and Daphne is due to the amazing story with that pairing written by kb0, one of my favourite authors.
A/N: This story is a creature Harry story, and the nature of his... change means that he becomes highly sexual. I tried to walk the delicate balance between describing enough for you to know what was going on without being lewd, but I'm not sure how I will do at that. While there are descriptions, I tried to keep them not to detailed or prolonged. However, there are a lot of sexual encounters in this story, so please do not read it if you are not of age or do not like such things.
July 17, 1823
Delia Mellas shivered in the cold air. She didn't know how she would ever grow to like the frigid air of England. If it weren't for the fact that the old magician of her village had told her she would find her true mate here, she would gladly step back on the ship and leave immediately. But she couldn't. She had been a Siren for nearly a year now, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to function without a mate. She had had many offers to mate, from powerful and well respected wizards in her native Greece, but she wanted to find the one that was truly meant for her. She didn't know much about the magic users of England, but she had been told that they had long been persecuted by the common people. This worried her. Did they even know of Sirens here? How would they treat her?
Perhaps it would be best if no one knew what she was. Except her mate, of course.
She wandered down the streets of Harwich, her large green eyes wide as she looked around. Things were so different here. Not knowing the magical regulations in place, she didn't want to risk using any of her magic, but this left her woefully ignorant of how to survive.
She wandered long into the night before finally curling up to sleep beneath a large tree.
Delia woke up to a gently swaying motion. Looking up, she found that a man was carrying her gently. She couldn't see his features in the dark, but she could tell by the ease with which he carried her that he was strong and young. But that didn't prevent her scream of surprise.
He didn't stop walking. "Shh, beautiful one," he whispered with a warm tone. "I mean you no harm."
"Who is you?" She asked in broken English. "And wheres you take me?"
"I'm taking you to my home. It can't be safe for a pretty thing like you to be asleep out in the forest, and my mother would have me hanged if I left you to be harmed." She smiled to herself. She liked the love in his voice as he spoke of his mother. Her Giagiá had always told her that you can tell a lot about a man by the way he treats his mother. "And my name is Edward Harris. What's yours?"
"Delia," she said softly.
"Where did you come from, beautiful Delia?"
"Greece. I come on boat today."
"Hmm, you'll have to tell me that story in the morning, after you get some sleep."
Still carrying her, Edward stepped into the light of a lit street torch, and Delia gasped.
It was him.
January 31, 1977
James was still staring at her in awe, and she blushed under his gaze. He didn't seem to have fully realised the fact that she had changed her mind about him, despite everything that had happened in the last day. His hand kept coming up to trace her cheek, or the curve of her waist, or her bare shoulder. She giggled when his fascination moved to her toes.
"I just can't get over how perfect you are. And that you're mine."
She laughed. "Yes, I was rather shocked by that myself."
He looked up, carefully guarded. "And are you okay with that?"
She smiled softly at his worry. "Yes. I really haven't hated you much this year at all, you know. I was just keeping up pretences."
He grinned wryly. "Something which I probably deserved."
Her hand came up to cup his cheek. "Don't say that. You've grown up."
"For you." He added, sincerely.
"I know." She leaned into his hold. After several minutes of quiet, she spoke again. "I don't want to tell anyone, James."
He pulled back so that he could see her face. "Why not?"
"I don't want them to treat me differently. I don't want to deal with all the attention. But, most of all, I don't want to give Voldemort a reason to come after us."
James stiffened against her at the name. "He can't take you away from me."
"No. But I don't want him to even try."
He looked down at her with anxiety in his hazel eyes. "You won't to hide us?"
"No, of course not. Just the Siren part."
He sighed in relief. "Okay, I can understand that. But what about... don't you need fairly regular physical contact? Professor McGonagall will never allow that."
She giggled. "Well, we'll just make sure she doesn't find out." He looked down at her curiously. "I'm sure the Marauders can handle sneaking a girl up into the boy's dorm every night. And you must know of secret places in the castle we can meet during the day."
A slow grin spread across his face. "Plenty. And I can loan you my Dad's invisibility cloak to help you get up, and we have a special map that should help us sneak around. Sirius and Remus won't mind running interference for us."
He hesitated. "He's not the best about being discrete. It might be best if we don't tell him anything is going on until after school gets out. Or even then, really."
"Okay. Do you want to tell Sirius and Remus about me being a Siren?"
He looked down at her. "No. Just us, love. They know how I feel about you; they'll just assume I'm the one who is insatiable."
She grinned and threaded her hands through his messy hair, pulling his head down to her. They were going to have to head back to school soon, before anyone noticed they were missing. She had claimed to be ill last night, and so hadn't been expected today, but she knew one of her roommates were sure to come looking for her soon, and she wanted to make the most of their remaining time.
Harry Potter was fed up with life. He had been in a numb daze for nearly two weeks, ever since his godfather, Sirius Black, had fallen through the veil of death to never return. But that wasn't the worst of it. Albus Dumbledore, the self-proclaimed leader of the light, had pulled him away immediately after and told him of the prophecy that decreed that only he had a hope of defeating Voldemort. It was not a very pleasant destiny to have to live with, and Harry had been sent back to his own personal hell on earth to deal with it on his own. Thus it should come as no shock that he was having a bit of a difficult time dealing with his life right now. Added to all his other problems, he had arrived back at the Dursleys' home to be treated to a lovely 'welcome home' present in the form of Dudley using him as his own personal punching bag for several hours. Harry hadn't even tried to fight back; he simply had stopped caring at this point.
Apathy made the world so much easier to deal with, he thought.
His emotions had been out of whack for over a year now, anyway, and he could never seem to get a handle on them. He had had various conversations with Hermione about this, and despite her numerous pep talks about learning to control himself, he always felt like he was lacking the key that would enable him to do so. It was only recently that he had given up trying to fight himself and simply slipped into not caring.
All of this changed on the morning of July 16.
Harry had been receiving daily owls from him friends. Ron had written constantly about the happenings at the Burrow and the most recent Chudley Cannons game. Each letter also contained a rant about how much he hated and didn't trust Dean Thomas (and although Harry new the reason from this, it still surprised him, as Ron had gotten along better with Dean than any of their other roommates). He also spent many a letter soliloquising about Hermione and whether or not she was going to visit Victor Krum this summer. Harry rolled his eyes every time he read another of these letters. He felt for Ron, he really did. It couldn't be easy to think the girl you fancied liked another bloke. But Harry knew that Ron had nothing to worry about where Krum was concerned. Harry just hoped his best mate got up the courage to ask Hermione out soon; he thought they were quite perfect for each other. And maybe it would get Hermione off his case a bit. He was grateful for her help, he really was. It was her influence than had probably kept him from flunking out long ago and kept him alive on numerous occasions, but he was beginning to resent her attempts to manage his life and emotions as she liked to manage his school work. He wished she would just leave him alone. And maybe, if she was with Ron, her attention would be diverted away from Harry.
Hermione was writing often as well, offering him advice on dealing with grief, and telling him who couldn't keep it all to himself. She had also taken to pointing out all the errors he made that night. Harry had stopped reading her letters.
There were other letters, too. Remus wrote occasionally, as well as the twins and Mrs. Weasley. Neville, Luna, and Ginny had all sent him a handful of letters, and even some other members of the DA had written. But none of them seemed to understand what he was going through. It was nice, on occasion, to take a break from his own mess of a life to read of the fun one of his friends was having, but it always made him feel worse about himself after. Why was it that he could not even leave the house and everyone else was able to do as they pleased?
Harry knew the answer to that. Dumbledore had to protect his precious weapon.
So Harry had received quite a bit of mail, and at least once every few days Hedwig poked him repeatedly until he remembered to write one of them back, so the Order would know he was still alive. His replies never contained much more than a cursory, and blatantly false, status report. It's not like it would change anything if he told them the truth; it had never made a difference before. But on this rather unique morning he was delivered a letter by a rather regal looking brown owl he had never seen before, that bore a crest around its neck announcing it belonged to Gringotts. Harry was shocked, having never received correspondence from the bank before, or, indeed, ever even heard of anyone receiving something from them. Nervously, he unrolled the parchment.
Dear Mr. Potter,
Pursuant to the will of the late Sirius Orion Black, we are sending you notice that, as his sole heir, your holdings have grown considerably with the deposit of the Black fortune. In addition, you now own a house located in London, which we are regrettably unable to locate at this time. We believe it is currently under magical protection to hide its location. The Black summer home in Nice, France, is not under similar restrictions, and we have taken the liberty of commissioning a thorough cleaning and restoration project which should be completed by the end of the month.
Per Mr. Black's wishes, the paperwork has been completed to provide you legal emancipation, and will be filed as soon as you are available to sign it. You will thereby be granted all the rights and privileges of an adult wizard. You should, however, note that any and all magic sensors would still be active. Should you wish to have these removed from your wand or your location, you would have to ask the appropriate office at the Ministry for Magic.
Due to this change in your status, the will of James and Lily Potter was opened and executed. Again, you received a rather large increase in the size of your vault, as well as the deeds to the two Potter homes, and several lesser properties. Gringotts will be happy to assist you in visiting any of these at your convenience. They are ready for habitation.
As per the bequest of Lily Evans Potter, in the case of you reaching majority before the age of seventeen, Gringotts is prepared to offer you the Inheritance Ritual. This will allow you to access any and all changes which you would not have normally achieved until your majority. For most wizards, this is simply an increase in their magical power. However, Lily Potter has left information regarding her heritage which would suggest your own magical maturation might have rather unusual effects. We will be ready to perform this ceremony for you on the morning of July 31, if you so desire.
In the mean time, there are several other services which Lily Potter requested of Gringotts, and which we will be happy to offer you. As these are in regards to rather sensitive topics, it is best to discuss them in person. Please send your wishes by return owl.
Inheritance and Estate Office
Harry stared at the letter in his hand. He had expected that Sirius would probably leave him most everything, though the finality of it hurt, but the emancipation was completely unexpected. He wondered what this meant for Dumbledore's precious blood wards. As they were only supposed to last until he turned seventeen, he didn't think they would work very well after this ritual, if they even worked after the emancipation. And that was another thing: what did Slinghard mean about his mother's heritage. Everyone had always told him she was a Muggleborn witch. Yet this seemed to imply something else, something more. For a few minutes, he considered not going through with the ritual, as it might very well be dangerous and he would be of age in a year anyway, but then he thought back to the prophecy. Any advantage he could have would be much appreciated.
Besides, what was the worst that could happen?
With a shrug, he grabbed a clean piece of parchment and scrawled a quick message back to Slinghard, informing him that he would like to participate in this ritual, and discuss these other measures. However, for the time being he was a virtual prisoner in this room. Hoping he wouldn't offend the goblin, Harry invited Slinghard or another goblin to visit him at their convenience. He couldn't decide if he would rather have the Dursleys aware of that visit or not. It might be amusing if they were.
The owl being sent, he returned to staring at the wall. It was the only thing available to him to do in this room, after all.
Harry was lying on his bed, once more lost in the hopelessness and despair he had been floundering in for several weeks now. Thus he didn't notice when the distinctive crack of apparition sounded through his room. It wasn't until he felt the shake of his shoulder that he blinked and looked around to see a goblin standing by his bed. He bolted upright.
"No apologies are necessary, Mr. Potter. I am Slinghard, and I have come to discuss several things about your inheritance with you."
"Yes, of course. Um, would you like to sit down?"
An odd choking sound came from Slinghard and Harry had the distinct impression that the goblin was laughing at him. He didn't really know how he felt about that. Slinghard snapped his fingers and a plain wooden chair appeared, in which he sat. He stared at Harry in silence for several minutes before beginning.
"First, I understand that you wish to proceed with the Inheritance Ritual on your sixteenth birthday?"
"Very well. I have a portkey here for you that will take you to a secure room in Gringotts that morning. The ritual may take the entire day, so please be prepared." Slinghard pulled a small piece of rope out of his bag and passed it to Harry, who quickly pocketed it. He also withdrew a sheaf of parchment and passed it to Harry. "If you would sign at the bottom there, I will file your emancipation papers for you." Harry did so and handed them back without a word. "Now, we took the liberty of having one of our ward masters evaluate the wards at this home. Due to the emancipation that will go into effect tomorrow, the primary blood wards will fall."
Harry drew in a sharp breath. "Then I am no longer safe here?"
"No. I would advise that you spend the two weeks remaining until your birthday at another location."
"But... you said the Ministry could still track my magic. I'll be a sitting duck."
Again with the odd choking. "Your mother wrote a prevision into her will for this eventuality. At your birth she commissioned a very special object for you. When it was completed after her death, it was placed into the primary Potter vault until such time as you might have need of it." He pulled a small box out of his bag and passed it to Harry. Curious, he opened it to reveal a solid men's ring, dark silver in colour, with runes carved around it and small emeralds inlaid throughout. "This is magical focus ring, made of platinum, which acts like a wand for the wizard it is attuned to. It is also conveniently free of any tracking charms."
Harry stared at the ring in his hand. "This will work like a wand?" He questioned in awe.
"Why don't you try it out?"
Carefully, he pulled the ring out of the box and slipped it onto the ring finger of his right hand. After a brief moment, it flashed gold and shrunk to fit. With a nod from Slinghard, Harry raised his hand. "Lumos." The light that flashed from his hand was brighter than any he had ever gotten from his holly wand. Beaming, he murmured, "Nox." He looked up. "This is brilliant."
"Yes. Very few are aware of such foci for magic. I believe your mother commissioned it from a little known Persian culture. Moving on. I have brought information on several of the lesser known Potter properties, as well as portkeys to these locations. I would recommend using one of them until school starts. They are all warded quite heavily, and have a much lower likelihood of being searched than the main Potter homes."
"Thank you." Harry understood the allusion. Dumbledore would look at the main homes, but he didn't know about all the other places. He glanced briefly at the papers in his hands before setting them aside. He would look at them later. "Can you tell me anything about my mother's heritage? I was rather confused by that portion of your letter."
Slinghard gave a grin. "Few were aware that your mother was what is known as a Siren. Most take this to mean a type of Merperson, but this is not the case. The original Sirens were actually the product of a Veela mating with a Merman, and took characteristics from both."
"Wow." Harry breathed.
"Quite. Of course, like Veela, the only individuals who have displayed any characteristics of being Sirens are females of the line. It is believed that males are only capable of passing the gene on."
"But then why did my mum want me to do this ritual if I won't become a Siren?"
"That, Mr. Potter, is a question that I cannot really answer."
"Oh." Harry frowned. "Is my Aunt Petunia a Siren?"
"No. Your Aunt was born of a different mother, and hence does not even carry the trait. As I understand it, your grandfather left his first wife when he fell in love with your grandmother."
Harry nodded. It helped him understand why she was so very different than everyone told him his mother was and added another reason why Aunt Petunia was so bitter. "What are Sirens like? Are we talking the mythical Greek creatures that lured travellers in with song?"
"These were indeed Sirens, but Sirens under great distress. I rather doubt you would gain the ability to sing." Harry looked at the goblin in shock. Was he teasing him? "From the Merpeople, Sirens gained both incredible strength and, as a male, you would also expect a rather impressive height."
Harry's eyes widened. "That would be nice."
"Yes, I imagine so. It is one of the reasons we are concerned the ritual might take so long. Turning into a Siren would necessitate a great physical change in your body. From the Veela, Sirens inherit grace and speed. These are the basic physical attributes, though Sirens are known for having rather striking features: hair and eye colour that tends to draw the eye."
"My mother. She had bright eyes and hair."
"Yes. As I understand it, your inheritance of her eyes was one of the reasons she thinks you might have part in this inheritance."
"What else? Do Sirens have the Veela allure?"
Slinghard clasped his hands together before answering. "This is the greatest characteristic of a Siren. They are highly attractive to the opposite sex, though their magic is less... obvious than that of a Veela. Once they learn control, it is possible to live among the populace with none the wiser as to their true nature. It is rumoured that they can persuade all but the most strong willed to do their bidding. However, unlike Veela, Sirens are inherently monogamous in nature."
Harry breathed a sigh of relief. "Good."
"Yes. But I must caution you. You asked about the Sirens of Greek myth, and their story should serve as a warning. Sirens are innately sexual beings." Slinghard ignored Harry's reaction to this. "Without intimacy of some form, they lose all control on their magic and feel the need to attract anyone and everyone to get it. Young Sirens are encouraged to find their life partner for this reason."
"So... so I would have to find the woman I'm meant to be with, and rather quickly."
"So it would seem. In addition, there is a Siren bonding ritual that you would undergo with your mate."
"What does that mean?"
"Because of the danger of a Siren being separated from the one individual they crave, the ancient wizards enacted a powerful magic. As soon as a Siren calls upon this magic, there is no force on earth that can separate them from their mate. It is more binding than marriage and unbreakable while the Siren lives. It is also above all the laws that wizards may enact."
"You do not yet understand the need for such a thing. But imagine, Mr. Potter, if you found your mate before the coming school year, and if you were forcibly kept apart from her. Even if she was at Hogwarts with you, societal convention would prevent you from achieving the intimacy that your nature would demand. You would then effectively go crazy, seeking to enthral all those around you because of your own lack of release."
"Oh." Harry closed his eyes and took several calming breaths. This was a lot to digest. Especially for the naive and easily embarrassed young man whose entire knowledge on the issue of intimacy was derived from overhearing conversations in the boys dormitory at Hogwarts. "Is there more?" He asked, without even opening his eyes.
"Yes, there can be. Due to their ancestry, Sirens have a natural affinity for both air and water, a rather interesting combination. Like a Veela, many have the ability to grow full wings, and their ability and control of flight is usually instinctual. If I might be so bold, this might explain the reason that you seem so at home in the air. From the mer-connection, they are often also able to function rather well in the water. These traits tend to depend on the individual Siren. And, as I said, they are not always present."
"But if I had wings, they wouldn't be there all the time, right? I could hide them so no one knew?"
"That is our understanding."
"And my mother thought I would become a Siren, even though there has never been a male Siren before?"
"Yes. She shared with us that you had displayed several traits already. The eyes, of course, as well as a natural affinity for the air, and a strong love of water. But her greatest reason for believing this was something that she did not share with us. She only said that for some reason she was sure it was destined for you to inherit this power."
Harry's blood ran cold. A power he knows not. It would make sense. It also was, ironically enough, even love based as Dumbledore had claimed. Not that he trusted much of what the Headmaster thought or said recently. This brought up an important question.
"Was Dumbledore aware of my mother's ancestry?"
"No, Mr. Potter. She explained that she had learned of it from her own mother, who was also Siren, and that it had long been a carefully guarded family secret. It was only shared with one's mate and the children who might carry the gene. It had, of course, been much easier for them to hide this secret in the Muggle world, as no one was looking for the unusual. Evidently, your mother was the first of Siren blood that displayed the ability to perform non-Siren magics. It is an amazing feat that your mother managed to hide her nature in the world of magic as well, especially as she underwent her transformation while still at school, and under Dumbledore's nose."
Harry wasn't really paying attention as Slinghard said his goodbyes and left, too engrossed in thinking about all he had learned tonight. Several things made more sense now. He had heard from numerous, usually male, sources how wonderful his mother was, and he wondered how much of that was her Siren pull. Also, it made sense that her seeming drastic change in attitude towards his father was fuelled in part by her transformation, as the timing would suggest. It made him feel better about the situation. Given her nature, it was obvious that she had really loved his Dad, something that had concerned him ever since his ill-fated trip into Snape's memory.
He also thought that Slinghard's comment about his affinity for air might have some merit. While he had heard numerous comments about how his father was an excellent Quidditch player, his flying had always seemed to be something more. He wasn't the youngest player in a century for nothing. The affinity for water, however, he couldn't see at all. The only time he had really spent a great deal of time in the water was during the second task, and he hadn't noticed any special affinity. He certainly enjoyed the water, and was famous for his long showers at Hogwarts (the only place he had ever been allowed the luxury), but nothing unusual.
Unless you count the fact that the Mermen had actually allowed him to take more than one hostage, despite their orders not to. Maybe there was a reason they had listened to him, more than just his threat of magic. After all, they had seemed to be a warrior race; they shouldn't have been completely frightened by the magic of a fourteen year old boy, whom they must have realised didn't have the capabilities to do much at the time.
However, Harry had never seen any evidence of him having any kind of special pull for girls. And he had always made a complete idiot of himself around them. The only girl who had ever showed an unusual interest in him was Ginny Weasley, and hers had started before she even met him, so it couldn't have been do with anything Siren. He was actually worried what such a transformation might do to her infatuation with him, which had seemed to be toned down last year. He very much hoped it stayed that way.
Harry dragged his hand through his unruly hair. There was really no use worrying about all this right now. He didn't even know if he was a Siren, and every piece of conventional wisdom insisted that he couldn't be. If it happened, then he would deal with it. For right now, he had more important things to do. Like determining where he was going to live for the next few weeks and getting there before Voldemort realised how unprotected he was, or Dumbledore noticed his wards had failed and came to collect him again.
Neither option was really appealing at the moment.
Harry Potter, a hat pulled low to hide his scar, was wandering the coastal town of Cardigan, Wales. One of the Potter summer homes was located nearby, and he had found references in the library to a small area of the town that held magical shops. Evidently, there was a rather significant magical population within the area. He had been walking for most of the morning, and was just about to give up and find someplace to eat before heading home, when a store sign caught his eye. He wouldn't put it past the Muggles to have a store called Merlin's Landing, but they certainly wouldn't have a sign with moving pictures on it. Tugging on his hat to insure his rather crude disguise, he entered the small store.
It appeared to be a shop catering to many needs. One corner looked like an apothecary, there were several display cases containing odds and ends, and one entire wall was covered in bookshelves.
"Can I help you?" Came a lilting voice from behind him.
Harry turned around quickly to see a girl about his height. His eyes widened as he looked at her. She had black hair that fell in loose curls to the middle of her back, and was so full and thick he wanted to bury his hands in it. She was wearing a tight pair of jeans and an odd red shirt that was tight in places and flowing and loose and others; he had to force himself not to look at her rather pleasant curves that were so clearly displayed. But it was her eyes that were the most entrancing. They were a startling Persian blue, framed by thick lashes. She was looking at him with a raised brow, obviously amused at his reaction. "Um... I was just looking around."
"You're new here."
"Yes. Just moved here, and heard there were several magical shops. Guess I just wanted to see what was here."
She nodded, a strange look in her eyes. Harry watched her, trying to figure out why she looked familiar. He was sure he would have remembered seeing her around. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever come across. "We carry most everything you typically might need, but there are a couple of other shops around. There's a robe shop around the corner, and a creatures shop next to it. And then two streets over there's a... well, I guess you would call it an art shop."
"An art shop?"
"Yes. They mostly do commissions of any kind, magical portraits and sculptures and such. But they'll also give you body art."
His eyes went wide. "Oh." He cocked his head to the side as he considered this. He never knew there was a magical version of a tattoo. At least, that's what he thought she meant. He was oddly curious.
She seemed to recognise this. "I never took you to be the type of boy who would go for that sort of thing."
He stepped back quickly, his eyes darting around the empty store. "Um... I..."
"Don't worry, not many would recognise you here."
His eyes narrowed at her. "Then how did you?"
She raised one delicate eyebrow. "Now, now, Mr. Potter. Don't you recognise me?"
He stared at her, and then shook his head. "Should I?"
"We have shared classes together for five years, but I suppose you wouldn't care about a Slytherin."
Harry looked at her carefully, thinking. She looked his age, but his mind wasn't recognising anything but the fact that she seemed familiar; who were the Slytherins in his year? He knew there were a couple of other girls besides Pansy and Millicent, but for the life of him, he couldn't remember their names. He shrugged sheepishly. "Sorry. Usually, I'm paying too much attention to Malfoy to notice anyone else."
She laughed. "I didn't know you swung that way, Potter."
His jaw dropped. "No! I mean, I have to watch him to make sure he doesn't curse me in the back. Not like that."
"I know, I was just teasing." She held a hand out, and after a brief pause he shook it. "Daphne Greengrass."
"Hello, Daphne. I'm Harry Potter."
She dropped a teasing curtsy. "Pleasure to meet you."
He chuckled. "So you live around here?"
"Fairly close by. Mum and Dad let me work here over the summer to keep me out of trouble."
"And do you often get in trouble?"
She laughed. "Only at home." He looked at her in question. "I am very different at school than at home; I have to be."
"I'm afraid you lost me."
"The hazards of being a Slytherin. Girls have three options in my house. One, we can be a happy little Death Eater like Millicent. Two, we can be the house slag like Pansy. Or three, we can stay away from everyone and keep to ourselves. I'm sure you understand why I chose the third option."
Harry frowned. "I'm sorry. That hardly seems fair."
"And being alternately vilified or lauded as a hero is fair?"
He gave a crooked grin. "No, it isn't." He was oddly pleased that she seemed to have seen through the media hype about him and recognised that it was utter crap.
"We all have to live with our lot in life, Potter." She shook herself briefly, clearing the look in her eyes that Harry couldn't identify, but didn't like. "Enough of that. I prefer not to worry about Hogwarts during the summer; a girl needs a break, you understand."
"Of course. I guess I'll let you get back to work, then." He hesitated briefly. "It was nice to talk to you Daphne."
She looked at him, as if analysing him carefully, and then spoke quickly, before she could lose her nerve. "I have to be home soon today, but if you like I can show you around the rest of the town tomorrow."
Harry's surprise showed clearly on his face, but a slow grin took over. "I'd like that."
"How about we meet next door for lunch, at about 1?"
He grinned, and gave an exaggerated bow. "It would be my pleasure, my lady."
She giggled and swatted his arm, then hurried away as he chuckled.
Harry, a grin on his face, exited the small shop and wandered away. It didn't occur to him to question the ease with which he had conversed with Daphne, he just relived the memory. He was well aware that he had to be careful. Very few people would interact honestly with him, and Daphne's house made him cautious, though not immediately distrustful. He knew that Moody would be horrified that he had agreed to meet a girl he barely knew, and a Slytherin at that, but Harry was confident in his ability to escape if he had to. No one would be expecting him to be able to use magic, and he had taken to carrying several portkeys in his pocket just in case. He could get away if he needed to, though he very much hoped it wouldn't be necessary. He wished there was someone he could ask about Daphne, but he had a feeling Hermione would blow up at him if he asked about her (and promptly run off to tell Dumbledore), and Ron would freak that he was talking to a Slytherin.
It took him the entire walk home to come up with a plan. He scribbled a hasty note and sent it off with Hedwig, hoping it would have time to get back before he had to meet Daphne tomorrow.
"Oy, Fred! C'mere!" George shouted as he untied the letter from Hedwig. He offered her a treat, and she gave him a look that quite clearly asked if it was safe. He chuckled. "Course it is, girl. Harry would skin me alive if I hurt you." Hedwig nodded her beak and took the treat, before making herself comfortable on the owl perch.
Fred stumbled through the door, and it was immediate obvious why. His feet appeared to be large flippers. "Hey, can't you see I'm busy here?"
"Harry sent a letter."
"Oh! What does he have to say?"
"Dear Gred and Forge."
"Ah, I love his terms of endearments." George shot his twin a look, and Fred shut up.
"I have a rather delicate question for you that I'm hoping can be kept between the three of us. Due to the obvious reasons, I've scampered from dear old Number Four. Don't worry, I'm well protected and perfectly fine." The two looked at each other quickly before turning back to the letter. "I've run into a school mate that seems to be nice enough, but I'm understandably cautious about. What can you tell me about Daphne Greengrass? All I know is that she's a Slytherin in my year that doesn't hang with Malfoy and his crowd. Do you think she's alright? Have you heard anything about her? Thanks for anything you can tell me. I'd really like to tell you where I am in, but you know how dangerous that can be. Daphne looks to be the only one that could keep me company here, and I'd really like to trust her a bit." George stopped reading aloud for a bit and skimmed the rest. "He then says the usual, asks after the family and the shop some. Wants to know how we are."
"Daphne Greengrass, huh? She's quite a looker."
George waggled his eyebrows. "Figure Harry is interested in more than friendship?"
"Might be. I wouldn't blame him."
"Do you want to write him back, or should I?"
"You do it. I've got to get rid of these flippers. Make sure to tell him about Katie."
Fred disappeared out the door only to pop his head back in a minute later. "Can you imagine Ron's face if he finds out Harry's dating a Slytherin?"
"Maybe we should keep this to ourselves for a bit."
"Good idea, twin of mine."
Albus Dumbledore was sitting at his desk, with steepled fingers, as he waited for the floo to go off. He had sent Remus Lupin to visit with Harry and check on him. Albus was not worried. The lad had been sending regular updates, and he had been pleasantly surprised by how upbeat and healthy the boy sounded. He had expected Harry to fall into a mild depression after the death of his godfather and the revelation of the prophecy, but Harry seemed to be coping well with both. It was merely as a precaution that he had sent Remus today. The wards were not strengthening as quickly as he had expected; indeed, this morning they had started to weaken.
Albus considered how he wanted to forward his plans for Harry. He knew the boy would probably want to begin intensive training now that he knew of the prophecy, but Albus did not want him too powerful. He would be easier to control if he was floundering in the war. He would need to find something to distract Harry from the prophecy.
A romance would do nicely, and Harry was at that age. Now he just had to determine who to push the boy at. Hermione Granger would have been an excellent choice, but Albus knew that Ronald Weasley fancied himself in love with her. It would not do to drive a wedge in between the two friends. He needed Ron to remain friends with Harry so that he could continue to hold him back academically. Albus considered other girls. Neither of the other two Gryffindor girls in Harry's year would do, as they were much too flighty for Harry's personality. Cho Chang would be a bad idea, as she tended to remind Harry of Cedric and depress him further. Indeed, Albus wanted to stay away from Ravenclaws in general, as he didn't want Harry drawn into more studying. And, of course, the lad would never go for a Slytherin, not that any of them would date him anyway. A Hufflepuff would do nicely. He didn't think either Susan Bones or Hannah Abbot was currently seeing anyone. But Harry had never shown any particular inclination for either. If he were to suggest such to Harry, it might be obvious that he was trying to interfere, and that would be counterproductive for his plans. No, the best choice seemed to be little Ginny Weasley.
The next time he saw Harry, he would point out to him how loyal she was. Maybe he could even throw in an allusion to the fact that the silly girl was so infatuated she would likely do anything he asked. To a sixteen year old boy, there was nothing better. That should be enough to get things started. And maybe he could casually remark about how much she looked like his mother; it would be like history repeating itself.
A smiling Albus turned expectantly as the fire spewed out Remus Lupin. His smile fell when he saw the look on the werewolf's face.
"Remus? Is something wrong with Harry?"
Remus looked at him with haunted eyes. "I don't know, as no one has seen him in two days."
"All his things are gone, and Petunia hasn't seen or heard from him in two days."
Albus collapsed further into his seat. "When was the last time anyone received a note from him?"
"I heard from him three days ago, and Fred and George got a note from him last night."
Albus sat up sharply. "What did it say?"
"They claim to have misplaced the actual note, but said it only contained the usual, along with questions about their new shop."
"We have to find him, Remus."
"I know. I just have no idea where to look."
Daphne Greengrass was up early in the morning, sitting on her balcony with her arms wrapped around her legs as she looked at the stars. Her thoughts were swirling around her meeting with Harry Potter yesterday, and her rather unusual promise to meet him today.
The Greengrass family was old and respectable, but traditionally remained neutral in wizarding conflicts. Most seemed to assume that they would side with the Dark if they had to choose, but this perception came mainly from the fact that they were pureblooded and practiced many of the old forms. Before she started Hogwarts, her parents had carefully instructed her in how to remain above the conflicts that she would find there. Her mother also cautioned her about boys, especially after she was sorted into Slytherin. If she did not want to be used by most of the males in her dorm, she had to make sure they knew she was off limits, to everyone.
Thus had begun Daphne's dual persona. At home, she was feisty and passionate at times. She didn't always follow rules and her magic, which she practiced regularly within the wards of her home, was remarkable. At school, she was calm and level-headed. She never strayed from the expected and her work, though near the top of the class in theory, never called attention to her in class. She was the Ice Princess of Slytherin.
While this had been necessary for her protection, and had provided a good bit of protection for her sister as well, it had also made her existence rather lonely. She and Tracey were good friends, though they rarely shared anything truly important, and most of their time spent together was doing homework. Blaise was a decent bloke, but, again, he didn't know the real her. So she had spent her time studying carefully, and watching those around her. She examined everything she learned, looking for weaknesses to exploit and allies to court, and she never let anyone see under her facade.
This was how she first noticed Harry Potter. From watching him she knew he was much more than he appeared. The question was whether he himself knew this or not. Based on several of Granger's rants in the library she knew that Harry had lived a rather dismal childhood, something that was shocking for the Potter heir and the Boy-Who-Lived. He had certainly displayed all the signs of being emotionally and physically abused as a child, and she had to wonder how much of it was still going on. Either this had caused him to hide his true potential from the world, or it was hidden so deep he had not even found it yet. But she knew that he would tap into it eventually, and it would be a fantastic sight to behold.
She tried not to acknowledge the fact that she was undeniably attracted to the Gryffindor Golden Boy. If things had been different, she would have approached him years ago. If things had been different, she would have gone to her father immediately upon returning home yesterday, and put in her own request for a contract. But things were not different. She knew this could never happen, however it didn't stop her from wishing it could.
All of this had led to her decision yesterday to talk to him. And she hadn't talked to him as the Ice Princess, but as Daphne. The decision to invite him out today, however, had shocked her when she had blurted it out without thinking.
Was it even possible to open up to him? Was this all going to backfire in her face?
Merlin, she hoped not.
"So you really knew nothing about magic before you got your letter?" She had trouble understanding how someone could be raised without this knowledge. Her whole life revolved around her ability to use magic.
He shrugged. "Yeah. I didn't even believe the letter, at first. I mean, here was this giant of a man telling me that I could do magic and that I was some kind of hero, and I knew nothing about it. I thought that if I was magic I would have been able to get revenge on my cousin more often."
"Sounds like you got him a couple of times."
Harry grinned. "Yeah. When we were little, I silenced him once. Took over a day to wear off. And right before I turned eleven I set a boa constrictor on him. That was the first time I realised I could talk to snakes. Hagrid gave him a pig's tail, too, that summer. They had it surgically removed at some posh private hospital because they refused to use magic to get rid of it. Dudley still holds his arse whenever a wizard is around in fear that they'll do it again. And last summer he was with me when I was attacked by Dementors. Completely freaked him out."
"You were attacked by Dementors over the summer?" She asked in shock.
"Sure. Umbridge sent them trying to discredit me. And then they put me on trial for underage magic use when I used a Patronus to get rid of them."
Her draw dropped. "You can conjure a Patronus? A corporal Patronus?"
He shook his head at the number of times he had been asked that. He didn't think it was all that spectacular. In answer, he brought his hand up and thought of the smile on Daphne's face when he had showed up today at the shop. She had beamed so brightly at him it set his heart beating furiously. "Expecto Patronum!"
The giant silver stag erupted from his hand and cantered around, before coming back and bowing low to the couple where they sat with their feet dangling over the edge of the cliff.
"Wow!" Daphne exclaimed as she watched it. "That's fantastic. Can you teach me?"
"Sure. But can you do magic without getting in trouble?"
Her face dropped. "No. Only at home; the wards block the Ministry detectors." She turned to level a curious gaze at him. "How is it you can do magic? I would imagine they are watching you much more closely."
He grinned. "Surely you don't expect me to tell you all my secrets, Miss Greengrass?"
She huffed. "Fine. Now, let's have lunch. I'm starving, and you promised to take me to the cineme that you were telling me about yesterday. I want to see the moving pictures."
He laughed. "Sure, Daphne. We'll go to the cinema. There's an action movie I think you'll like. There ought to be plenty of people being beaten to a bloody pulp to satisfy your blood lust."
She smirked. "You know me well, Potter."
He grinned at her as he helped her up and they started walking into town. His quick note to Fred and George had relieved his initial concerns. Neither of them knew the Greengrass sisters personally, but they wrote that Katie Bell often studied with Daphne, and said she was decent. Evidently, she had a bit of a reputation of being aloof at school, but she stayed out of the typical Slytherin politics. The Greengrass family was known for rarely choosing sides, and none of its members had ever been accused of being a Death Eater. This was enough for Harry to let his guard down enough to get to know her, and he was glad he had. She was intriguing, and he felt like she was weaving a spell around him. Everything about her was fascinating to him.
Harry was shooting her strange glances as they walked, and she was just waiting for him to say his piece. They were wandering around near the river, taking in the scenery as they talked.
"Is it really that bad in Slytherin House?"
She sighed. "It can be. I've been lucky, because my parents were careful to teach me and Astoria enough to protect ourselves. I knew going in that I was probably going to Slytherin, and I learned how to put them off without making them want to hurt me." She gave a wry grin. "Of course, I wasn't expecting to end up begin the most sought after girl in Hogwarts."
Harry chuckled nervously. "Well, you are rather beautiful."
She smiled. "Thank you, Harry. Some days I really wish I wasn't."
He smiled softly. "You shouldn't ever wish that. You should never let anyone make you not want to be yourself."
"You should take your own advice, you know."
He chuckled. "Yeah, probably. Only I wish that everyone would leave me alone so that I could be myself. I'm not what they all think I am. I don't understand their fascination with me."
She shook her head. She knew that no matter what she said, he would never believe her. He really was worth all the hype. She had seen and heard about the spectacular things he had done, and she understood the reasons why everyone was in awe of him. In fact, she had the feeling that he was even more than anyone knew and deserved even more attention. But she was kind of glad that he was wary of it. It meant that much more that he was willing to spend time with her.
"Telling more about what is was like growing up in the Wizarding world?" He asked, and she accepted the change in topic. He never did like talking about himself that much.
"Have I told you the story of the first time Astoria and I stole mother's wand for the day?"
Harry stared at her as she walked ahead of him, her black hair shining in the sun and dancing in the wind that was blowing through. She was humming slightly to herself as she walked, and her steps were oddly dancelike. Harry was entranced. He wished he had the courage to tell her how he felt about her, or even touch her. But he knew he never would. Daphne was too perfect for him to ever be anywhere on the same level as her. He knew that he wouldn't even be able to talk to her once he left their little world here. It would be too dangerous for her to be seen associating with a Gryffindor, let alone Harry Potter.
She turned around to see what was holding him and grinned at the look of awe on his face.
"You coming there, Potter?"
"Yeah. You just seem so carefree. I like it."
She laughed happily. "I'm rarely allowed to just be happy like this. I'm enjoying myself."
"I wish I could help you, Daphne."
"You are, Harry. You make me feel safe out here. I've never just wandered town like this; I was always worried about being alone out here."
He grinned. "I'm glad you know that I'll take care of you."
She smiled at him. "I could take care of myself if you would let me into the secret of how you can use magic."
He laughed. She had been asking him that since they first met. "It wouldn't do any good, Daph. It only works for me and it would take years to set up the same thing for you."
She pouted at him, but her mind was thrilled at the way he said her name. His tone seemed to caress it as he shortened it.
"Will you explain to me about your father's politics?" He asked quietly as they sat eating lunch at a small diner.
She sighed. She knew why he was so interested in this. "The Greengrass name has been synonymous with neutrality for centuries; my father is loath to cross that. He was raised with the idea that we never choose sides. It will take a lot for him to go back on that path. However, with the Dark Lord around, it is getting harder to do. The Dark Lord does not accept neutrality easily, so my father has had to make himself invaluable in certain business operations. This makes it unwise for the Death Eaters to get on his bad side."
"But doesn't that make it look bad to the Light side, your dad doing business with Death Eaters."
"Yeah. Which is why most people assume we're dark. But since Dad never does anything illegal, there's nothing they can do about it."
"And what does that mean for you?"
"It means that I have to be somewhat civil to certain slime of the earth. Or, at least, as civil as I am to anyone at school."
"But they don't have enough on you for you to have to... do any more than that?"
She looked down, deciding how much to tell him. She thought it likely that if she mentioned the marriage contract deals to Harry he would explode, and this certainly wasn't the place to do that. "No, they don't. But if it gets much worse... I don't know."
He stiffened visibly and was silent until they finished their meal. As they were walking away, he spoke quietly. "You'll let me know if it gets that bad?"
"Because I'll figure out something to help."
"Okay, Harry." And she really believed he would. But she hoped it didn't come to that.
Harry couldn't even begin to explain how shocked he was about the last two weeks. He had come here to get away and hide until his birthday. That first day, he had wandered into the town simply to find something to do.
And then he had been recognised.
At first, he hadn't known what to make of Daphne. She was beautiful, of course. The most beautiful thing he had ever seen. It shocked him to realise that he must never had really looked at her before; if he had, he would have noticed her long and full hair that called to him, or her startling blue eyes that held so much, or her curvy little body that had him panting after her. He had had to work very hard in their time together to hide his rather... substantial reaction to her.
But the surprising thing is that it was more than just her looks that attracted him to her now. Her mind was sharp, and yet she never talked down to him or ragged on him. Instead, she would prod him until he came up with his own thoughts and then beam at his brilliance. She also had a rather unique perspective on the current conflict. Most everyone he had run into was either staunchly Light, like Dumbledore or the Weasleys, or firmly Dark, like Voldemort and the Malfoys. Daphne, however, believed that Voldemort was wrong but there were better ways to fight him than Dumbledore's. She helped Harry understand how Dumbledore in power was nearly as bad as Voldemort, and how it was Dumbledore's policies that had allowed Voldemort to fester into existence.
All of this was fascinating to him, but he was even more amazed that he had actually discussed it with her in the first place. For some reason, he felt safe with Daphne as he hadn't felt with anyone before. And comfortable. He couldn't remember the last time he had been completely comfortable in someone else's presence.
His heart wrenched as he remembered that he was going to have to leave her the day after tomorrow. The next time he saw her after that, she would have retreated back into the Ice Princess, and most probably wouldn't even glance in his direction.
Sometimes he really hated his life.
Harry strolled into the small shop and grinned at the girl behind the counter. "Evening, Daphne."
She smiled when she saw him. "Hi, Harry. You ready?"
She rolled her eyes and stepped out from behind the counter. "Let me just close up, and then we can go."
Harry leaned up against one of the counters as she tidied up and locked up the till, his eyes following her every move. In the two weeks he had been here, he had spent time nearly every day with Daphne, and his time was now at an end. He couldn't understand why that thought hurt so much.
With a last look around the store, Daphne practically skipped to his side and took his hand to yank him out of the store. She locked the door on her way out, and then started pulling him. He laughed and hurried to catch up.
"You seem more excited about this than I am."
"Of course. I get to watch you try to be all manly and pretend it doesn't hurt. I'm sure it will be entertaining."
He rolled his eyes. During their first walk around town, Daphne had shown him the magical art studio, and after watching him eyeing it each day as they passed, she had finally dragged him in one day. By the time they left, he had already commissioned his own piece, and they had been back twice already to check on the design. As he was leaving tomorrow, something which Daphne didn't seem happy about, it was time to get his work done.
As they stepped into the shop, the wiry man behind the counter looked up and smiled. "Hey, kids. You ready for this?"
Harry nodded and followed the man, known as Clio, into the back where his equipment was set up. To Harry's amusement, Daphne followed them and curled up in a chair to watch. With a shrug, Harry pulled his shirt off and sat in the chair.
Over the next hour, Clio placed an intricate series of designs in a band around his right bicep. The design was done entirely in blue, which Harry had secretly chosen because it was the colour of Daphne's eyes, and in a style reminiscent of the Greek pottery he had once seen during a school trip to a museum. Placed carefully in the design were four specific shapes: stag, wolf, dog, and a lily with wings. Harry didn't speak as Clio worked, and Daphne was amazed that he seemed not to even notice the pain. She had no way to know that it was nothing to him, not coming near to what he had endured in his short life. Instead, he watched in fascination as the design took shape.
She had not asked him what the design meant, recognising that it was painful to him. But she was curious. Particularly over the fact that the wolf he had chosen was distinctly Were in shape. And who ever heard of a winged flower?
Clio finished up the design, and then tapped his wand against it to heal the irritation his tools had caused the skin. Then a final tap animated the design. Harry looked down in awe as the stag curled around the lily while the dog and wolf ran happily together. It was as they should have been, had things been different.
"Thank you, Clio. It's perfect."
"Always happy to help. I had fun with that design, too."
Harry and Daphne left the small shop and headed to their favourite restaurant for dinner, both oddly quiet. Harry had told her that he had to leave the next day, and didn't know if he would be back. He still didn't know what to expect from the ritual tomorrow, and didn't think that he could bring himself to come back if his mother's expectations came true. Would she even want to be near him anymore? And both knew that it would be very hard to maintain their friendship once school started.
Harry would be shunned and Daphne in danger if it ever came out.
So they ate quietly, and Harry walked Daphne home. At the edge of her family's wards, he pulled her into his arms and held her tightly. He had found a friend that didn't seem to want or expect anything from him, and accepted him exactly as he was. Unfortunately, there was a very large chance that he would no longer be that person after tomorrow.
For the first time in many years, Harry Potter cursed the unfairness of his life for a reason that had nothing to do with Voldemort. And, without a word, he let Daphne walk away from him, expecting to never really be able to talk to her again.
It was a dejected Harry Potter that took his portkey to Gringotts the next morning. He had debated all week whether to tell Daphne the truth of what was happening today, but decided against it in the end. It was dangerous for her to know, and he was still convinced that there was no way to maintain their friendship any longer. It was not a happy thought.
He arrived in a small room containing a large bed. Through the open door he could see a solid marble room which was bare except for a rather ornate series of etchings on the floor. Waiting for him were three goblins. He smiled, and bowed slightly. "Hello, Slinghard."
"Mr. Potter, welcome to Gringotts and happy birthday."
"If you would leave your belongings here, we will begin the ritual." Harry nodded and set down his trunk and Hedwig's cage. "It is also advised that you enter the ritual unclothed." Harry blushed slightly but complied.
He followed the three goblins into the other room and lay in the centre of the floor as directed. He closed his eyes and tried his best to relax as the goblins moved around him arranging things. A gruff voice came from above his head. "The ritual is ready, Mr. Potter. We will return at its conclusion. Good luck."
He listened as their footsteps left the room and the heavy door was shut, and then there was silence. He waited nervously for whatever was to come.
Hundreds of miles away, a teenage girl was entering a small shop. "Well good morning, Miss Daphne. I didn't expect to see you again so soon." He didn't comment on the lingering redness in her eyes.
She offered a small smile. "Hello, Clio. I came to get some work done."
Clio's eyes widened in recognition as he looked down at the paper she handed him. Without a word he set up his equipment and got to work. He knew that the lad had left today, without knowing if he was coming back, and wondered if he would ever find out what she had done for him.
Clio was rather ashamed to admit that he hoped so. He idly wondered if there was something wrong with him; he usually wasn't such a sap.
A/N: So, clearly this story is very different than what I have done before. It is mostly finished, with a few scenes later on I still need to work on, but I still want to hear your opinion. I might even be willing to change things (One reviewer asked me nicely not to be too mean to Ginny, and I changed quite a bit after some thought and realising how right they were).