Disclaimer: I own nothing and am making no profit.

Acknowledgments: Alpha-Alliera, and Zaion Indulias for the beta work.

Author's Note: This is a very long (over double the length of a normal chapter) bit that is only posted because it existed in the plan of the story, and I wrote it rather than planning DiP. And it's mostly just being posted so I can soap box about how you should go read my new Harry Potter / Mario Kart crossover, Harry Potter and the Toadstool Cup. It's a collaboration between my betas and I and just a four chapter bit of fun. Check it out!


The twenty-four hour café near the studio was a godsend. I spent the vast majority of my evenings there. It was easier than doing reading in my apartment. Ever since the dreams started I'd spent less and less time in my own home. I didn't really have a reason for it. Somehow I just felt better there.

I'd even parlayed that into a job, surprisingly enough. The owner, a thirty-something named Derek, made an offhanded comment to me that I was there so often I should get paid for it. So I handed him a job application. Derek was fairly shocked that I only wanted to work nights, and we worked out a four day schedule. He didn't really care that I did reading or other homework while I was supposed to be making coffee. At least I typically waited on the drunks, I mean customers, when they showed up.

Sure working twenty-hours a week as a barista wasn't the best way to pay the rent, but my father kicked in for that, and tuition, so my expenses were fairly minimal.

Of course, he didn't really want me to have a job. He told me I should be focused entirely on school and should keep my grades up. It would probably really kill him to know that I worked from midnight to five, four nights a week. But it helped. I'd gone to him about the dreams, but he couldn't help. I suppose I shouldn't have started the conversation trying to beg a prescription for a sleep-aide.

Mom may have provided me with one. But that just couldn't happen anymore. She'd have probably had something for the dreams in general. She was always better with that stuff than Dad was.

Still, even on the three nights I didn't work, I found myself at the café more often than not. Derek didn't care, but he made me pay for drinks on the nights he was working. He claimed something along the lines that pity and smiles could only get me things when I wasn't employed. Not sure how I liked the trade-off, but It worked.

On some nights I could exhaust myself enough dancing that I could sleep uninterrupted, but those nights seemed few and far between.

It was strange to think I'd kept this routine up for over a year. I'd tried other things. But for some reason the café was just the most calming. Derek even invited me to join his younger brother, Ian's, Dungeons and Dragons game. They played most Friday and Saturday nights. I was plenty skeptical at first.

Ian and his friends were certainly skeptical as well. But I showed up every week, for every session. I even bought my own dice and little figurines. And then somewhere in there, Caelya, a level nine cleric came about.

That all could have just been because there was something inherently wrong with me hanging out on weekends with a bunch of teenagers. But strangely, I felt more comfortable when I was with people younger than me. My sister thought I was some type of perverted, pedophile geek.

She was probably right. But for what it was worth I didn't want to sleep with Ian or his friends. Still, that didn't stop them from flirting incessantly with Caelya. It took me some time to realize they weren't actually flirting with me. At least I don't think they were.

Part of me wondered why Derek suggested I get involved with them. I think he had my best interests in mind. Strangely, I became decent friends with everyone in the small group, and my boss. But it was a little pathetic that they were some of my best friends. I barely knew any of the other dancers at the studio, and my classmates were just a blur of images in my brain.

And then there were boyfriends. Some of them stuck around long enough to get to the point where night terrors scared them off. But I guess I was just no fun in general because it was really rare. I guess most were annoyed that I wouldn't let them touch me. But I couldn't help it. I really didn't like to be touched. Every time someone laid a finger on me they just commented on how cold I was. It irritated me.

I suppose it also didn't help that I didn't like bringing them back to my apartment, or going back to wherever they lived. I preferred parks, or coffee shops, to anything. But Derek and Ian only made fun of me when I'd bought a boy there. Of course, he'd fled almost as soon as talk of characters started up.

But our Friday night game was proceeding fairly normally. We were investigating the ruins of an ancient castle. Ian couldn't have known why that gave me the shivers. Although I had confessed to Derek about the dreams. They were always the same. I was trapped in a dilapidated castle. There was no way out, no matter which way I went. Pieces of it fell toward me. And eventually, something got me. Most nights it was something different.

I'd been impaled by a suit of armor, crushed by scaffolding, fallen off stairs into a dark abyss, attacked by gargoyles, both stone and real. I'd been attacked by tress, centaurs, snakes, rats, owls, and just about any other creature you could imagine.

And now, in some imaginary game, I had to fight them. Medically, I suppose there was some type of escapist aggression theory thing going on. But mostly I just didn't like to think about the fake castle we were in, because it made me think about the fake castle I died in on an almost nightly basis.

At least I wasn't screaming yet.

Although I wasn't thinking as quickly on my feet as the boys were accustomed to. I think it was irritating them, but they didn't comment. A part of me knew it was because they weren't willing to comment. Losing the token girl in the group would have made the game so much less fun!

Of course, part of me didn't really want to think about what the younger boys fantasized about when it came to the token girl in the group. But as long as they didn't try anything, I didn't really care too much.

It may have been sad that I needed a group of teenage boys to think I was pretty to give me some sort of self-confidence. I thought it best to not go there.

It took me a minute to realize that it was my turn. I didn't quite remember what was going on in the game, but I bought some time with a smile and thought back to what was going on. I vaguely remembered one of the characters being poisoned and decided to heal that and scamper away from some undead during my turn. I drew a few laughs at using the word scamper.

A couple of customers entered the café. We were fairly busy, but we were always fairly busy, being one of the few establishments open during the course of the night. Derek was behind the counter that evening. I didn't have a shift, so I didn't really pay that close of attention to the customers.

Instead I tried to focus on the skeletons that ambushed our small party. Whatever treasure Ian had put into this stupid castle better have been worth it. At least, I could already tell what was going to kill me the next time I slept.

God, that's a morbid thought.

One of the bastards shot an arrow at Caelya. Thankfully I rolled high enough that it missed. Which was pretty amazing because my elf had to be the clumsiest person in existence. She didn't dodge anything. Even more amazing was that the dodging didn't have me like fall down a set of stairs or something.

All in all, we were doing pretty well against the skeletons. But I knew they'd just be the first stage. So we'd have to keep alert to whatever detail that Ian threw in as some type of clue. He didn't like having us blind to the horrors that waited ahead. Or something like that.

I didn't remember being this much of a geek in high school, but it was surprisingly fun.

I ignored another group of customers that wandered in. They were clearly drunk and clamored loudly. It kind of killed the mood for a few moments, but I didn't suspect they'd spend that long in the shop as they were too busy talking about what clubs they wanted to hit up later in the evening.

One of the boys, Matthew, or Ragthuk, made a comment that as the resident dancer I should take them out clubbing. I rolled my eyes and made some non-witty comeback about how I only did serious dancing. I didn't comment that I was terrible at it, they all assumed I was good, probably because it seemed like all I really did was class, studio, café.

And I didn't like clubs. They were too claustrophobic there were too many people and they were all too touchy. Not to mention that clubs were insufferably warm.

Another patron walked in. He wore a dark coat against the chill, probably rainy night. I hadn't looked outside in a while, but it was that time of year. I didn't mind. A little cold rain could be nice. I took a sip of my iced tea while I waited for my next turn.

"Black coffee," the patron said, rather sternly. Sternly enough to draw my attention back to him. He was glancing up at the menu as he spoke. "Ham and swiss, too."

"Five Fifty," Derek responded. The patron paid and Derek moved over toward the coffee machine. He grunted, hit it, and then shook his head.

"Hey Daph," He said. "Can you make the ham and swiss? Stupid machine is acting up again."

"Caelya is busy, and doesn't work tonight," Ian shouted back. Derek glared at him but I just stood up.

"Caelya likes keeping her job," I said as I moved toward the counter. I washed my hands quickly. Probably too quickly for most health inspectors, but customers tended to prefer that you got to their orders quickly.

I grabbed one of the rye buns and applied some Dijon mustard to it before piling up the ham. I usually used more pieces than Derek wanted, but he was busy with the coffee machine. I added some lettuce and a couple of onions before a slice of tomato.

"For here or to go?" I asked, without looking up at the customer. He didn't seem to hear me, it took a moment for him to respond.

"To go," he said quietly. Derek got the machine to work and he started with the coffee as I wrapped and bagged the sandwich. He just slid the coffee down toward me as I moved to the counter to bag the food. I handed the customer the bag first and grabbed the coffee next. He didn't really pay attention when he took the brown bag from me, but he gaze turned on me as he took the coffee.

I put the cup into his hand and then it just fell. The top popped off as it impacted on the counter. The hot liquid splashed everywhere, but I managed to catch the vast majority of it with my clothing.

"Hot hot hot!" I gasped, grabbing some napkins and attempting to get as much of the liquid off of me as possible.

"Daphne!" Derek groaned and immediately started making another coffee. The patron didn't say anything. He just stood there and stared at me. A few moments later Derek handed him the new coffee. He looked down at it, and then looked at me. I was only thinking about how I was glad I'd worn black jeans and a dark blouse that day. At least the stain wouldn't be too noticeable the rest of the night.

The customer took the new coffee and stared at it, almost as if he didn't recognize the cup he was holding. But then his gaze turned back to me and he just kept staring. I looked back at him and crossed my arms over my chest.

"Do you need something else?" I asked as sweetly as I could muster. My tone certainly didn't match my demeanor. It took him a moment to respond, and when he did it was like he didn't trust his words.

"Can I eat this here?" he asked. I frowned.

"Of course," I said, still managing to act as cheerful as possible. I was putting forth far too much effort for my night off. "Would you like me to get you a plate?"

"No, that's alright," he said carefully. He just kept looking at me. I shrugged.

"Alright. Well, help yourself to a table. Derek can help you if you need anything else." I nodded toward my boss, who was looking at the customer with a curious expression on his face. He didn't trust this one, I could tell. That or maybe he just hadn't tipped.

I didn't give it any more attention than that. I went back to the game and I lost myself in it, and I was rewarded a new staff for my efforts. I didn't notice that the customer sat at a table directly behind me. In fact, I'd forgotten entirely about him until our game ended that evening and Ian and his friends dispersed.

I asked Derek if he needed anything else that evening. He told me to go home and get some sleep for once. And he even commented that I could probably save a fortune in makeup if I got rid of the bags under my eyes the way normal people do. Hate e I told him to go to hell, as cheerily as I could, and left the café.

I'd only made it a few steps when the door opened against behind me. I assumed I'd forgotten something so I turned to ask Derek what I'd done. But it wasn't Derek standing there. It was the patron.

"I will scream and bolt for the door," I said, nodding toward the café. He looked at me and blinked.

"What?" he asked. I just crossed my arms over my chest.

"Why are you following me," I demanded.

"I uhm," he paused. At least he didn't deny it.

"Out with it," I said. He just stared at me and ran a hand through his messy dark hair.

"Don't you recognize me?" he asked.

"No," I said flatly. I'd never seen him before in my life. He looked pretty standard, though. There wasn't anything unusual, or really anything worth mentioning. "And that is the worst pickup line ever."

"Hogwarts?" he asked carefully, saying the word with a hushed reverence. I just blinked at him.

"Is that like a concert? I went to Glastonbury a few months ago," I lied. It was more like two years. But who keeps that close of track of time these days?

"No, it's not," he sighed. "You really don't remember me?"

"I've never seen you before in my life," I responded as sternly as I could. He just looked at me for a few moments, and I'm not afraid to admit that the next thing he said caught me completely off guard.

"Come to diner with me," he said. It wasn't really an invitation, although I suppose it was, to some extent, a question.

"It's three fifteen in the morning and you just had a sandwich. Which you better have enjoyed because I didn't get paid to make it," I responded as coldly as I could.

"It was good," he said quietly, again he didn't seem sure of his words.

"I'm going home now," I said. "Don't follow me or I'll call the police." To make a point of it I fished my phone out of my purse and flipped it open.

"Please?" he asked.

"No," I said. Although I felt pretty happy that someone asked me out. It had been a while.

"Come on," he frowned. "Just once. I'll be a perfect gentleman, I promise. You can pick the place and walk out on me at any time. Just come to dinner with me."

"That's a pretty pathetic thing to say," I commented, tilting my head to the side. "Do girls walk out on you often?"

"Typically it's been the other way around," he joked. I didn't find that funny so I crossed my arms over my chest.

"So you typically abandon people you ask out and after admitting to it, want me to go out with you?" I asked, doing my best to sum up the situation.

"Something like that," he admitted.

"No," I said again, turning and continuing on my way home.

"I'll tell you what," he said as I walked. "I'll be at that place on the counter there Sunday evening at eight. Come if you want." I ignored him. But I knew the little bistro he was talking about. They had a fantastic chicken chopped salad and I as a sucker for the profiteroles. But I still knew I wouldn't go.

I looked around when I got to my building. He hadn't followed me. At least if he had I couldn't spot him. So I ducked inside and continued up to my apartment.

I changed quickly and tossed myself onto my bed. I didn't want to sleep, but I was exhausted. And I knew it didn't matter that we'd slain the lich lord during the evening, my sleep would still be plagued with images of his undead body.

But when I fell asleep I didn't dream of abandoned castles or undead monsters or even my own demise. Instead I dreamed of trenches. It wasn't that much of an upgrade, but it was an upgrade.

I lost myself in images trenches and soldiers. One in specific led me through the maze of pathways, always away from the explosions and sounds of war. And on that night, I didn't witness my own demise.

I didn't go to the restaurant on Sunday night. I made the excuse to myself that I lost track of time dancing. But that was pretty much bullshit. I watched the clock tick by for about a full hour before and after I was invited.

And then I gave up and went to the café.

Both Derek and Ian were off that evening, and, unlike me, didn't spend the majority of their free time at the little shop. I just ordered up some tea and sat at a small table in the corner and studied for my organic chemistry midterm. It wasn't particularly fun, but it needed to be done. After not nearly long enough everything on the page blurred into one stupid glob of crap.

But I soldiered on. There wasn't really anything else I could do. I didn't really like my future being dependent upon a grade in a class. But I still wasn't sold on medical school. Dad wanted me to do it. I'm sure Mom would have wanted me to do it.

And it was a little strange, sometimes, when studying for the medical stuff, I thought I already knew it. I mean, I know I didn't. But things just sort of just made sense. Even now as I read the chemistry book I felt like I remembered most of it pretty perfectly. And the problems weren't as hard as they probably should have been.

At the same time, I'd been taking ancient history and archeology courses as well, and they were very interesting. And I thought going and digging somewhere and trying to unearth the past would be every bit as worthwhile as becoming a doctor.

And I also liked the civics and history courses I'd had to take. It was probably too early to totally switch my focus to pre-law, but I'd heard some of the schools just wanted your test grades and grade point to be high, the actual major wasn't overly important.

Either way, I'd have to start applying to places soon, so I'd have to figure out exactly what I wanted to do.

Maybe I should focus on dancing? That could be fun. I mean I wasn't great, but I wasn't terrible. I mean I'd done it pretty much constantly since I was seven. It had killed a fair amount of my free time in high school. And I'd focused on that rather than many extracurricular.

But I liked it as exercise more than I liked it as a possible profession. I think amateur was the best I'd ever manage in that field. But I wasn't that annoyed with that. Still, I wasn't sure if the boys were more amused by the token girl in the group, or the token ballerina in the group. Either way, I didn't mind. Thankfully they didn't, like, show up at the studio, ever.

I lost interest in studying much quicker than I would have expected. Mostly I just stared out over the dark streets and thought about things. I didn't really think about anything important, but just random things. It was a fairly nice night, for the time of year. At least it wasn't raining.

After a while I just sat and sipped my tea. I couldn't stand to look at the book anymore, so I just didn't. It probably wasn't the best way to deal with my problems. But it was about as much effort as I was willing to expend.

I kind of wished that the boy would show up back at the coffee shop and invite me back out. A look at my watch indicated that I could probably still catch him at the restaurant and that all would be forgiven if I could create a realistic enough excuse.

But I wasn't the type of girl that would just randomly go out with a boy like that! He was so going to have to earn it he wanted my company!

Then again, that philosophy had worked so well for me. You know, Daph, you're just doing fantastic for yourself. It's not like you're so pathetic that you spend all of your free time hanging out in a stupid coffee shop with teenagers. Nothing at all too embarrassing there.

And it's not like you had boys lining up and vying for your attention. Well, again, that weren't teenagers. What would mom have told you? Don't leave an offer of free dinner on the table, you never know what you'll find? Something like that.

Oh well, I probably screwed up. It happens.

And that's how my life was. It could have been better, I guess, but it also could have been considerably worse, I think. I did well enough on my tests that I ceased to be as worried about my future.

I settled back into my routine. I worked nights; I played our silly little game on weekends. I studied, I danced, and I tried to appear normal. But it didn't really help.

Friday night rolled around and we were exploring a desert, heading toward some new town and some sort of lost treasure of some type. I'll admit, I wasn't as interested in the story when we weren't in some sort of gothic inspired undead nightmare. Something about sand worms just wasn't as interesting as skeletons and zombies.

But I played my part well enough. Even if tonight that part consisted mostly of following others around and helping out here or there. My biggest contribution was probably going up and getting drinks for everyone in the group. Or the pan of brownies I'd brought in. There were only a few token remnants of those left.

I wasn't paying any attention to the patrons in the shop that night. Instead I was staring down at my stat sheet and trying to run through the numbers in my head. Everyone else seemed to have a fairly easy time figuring out exactly what they needed, but I was pretty terrible at it. And because of that I completely didn't notice when one of the patrons walked up behind us and started observing the game.

"Can I help you? Ian asked, looking up at the newcomer. I blinked, thinking that was part of the game, but didn't recall if we'd made it to an inn or anything. And then I saw him. He wasn't wearing the black coat this time, but his dark hair was stilly messy. He looked on curiously, scanning our entire group before his eyes rested on Ian.

"What are you playing?" he asked.

"Dungeons and Dragons," Matthew responded quickly. The patron nodded. Then he tilted his head to the side and asked.

"Need a fifth?" he nodded toward the empty chair next to me. For some reason none of the boys ever sat directly next to me. The must have just hated my perfume.

"We play every Friday and Saturday for four to five hours," Ian said sternly. "And we really don't appreciate if people miss time." I was surprised he was considering it. But he had mentioned wanting one more for our campaigns, so he could make them more complicated, or something. I shook my head a bit and hoped that Ian noticed it. He couldn't have known the patron had followed me out of the café a few nights before.

"I can probably manage that," he admitted after thinking for a few moments.

"And you've played before?" Ian asked. He nodded.

"A couple of times, yeah," he said.

"We'll you'll have to make a new character," Ian commented. "We're not going to take some absurd thing you made up here. And it won't be easy as the lowbie."

"That's fine," he said. He grabbed the chair next to me and sat down, looking around the table

"Well, I'm Ian," Ian said after a few moments. He passed a character sheet over toward the newcomer. "This is Nigel, or Torman the magic user, Matthew, or Ragthuk the barbarian, and Daphne, or Caelya the cleric." He nodded around the group as he introduced us. The boys nodded, I just sat there stiffly.

"A pleasure. I'm Harry," he said with a quick smile. "Or Volke, the thief," he handed the character sheet back toward Ian, who just took it and nodded.

"Well welcome aboard," Ian said. "I think it's time we got out of this desert. The sandy town was finally visible on the horizon." And I stopped listening and instead just looked at Harry. He didn't really look back at me. Instead he focused on Ian. And the night continued pretty much as normal.

As did the next couple of months. My classes ended, and before I knew it I only had one semester left of college. I was accepted into med school. So that was a plus. But I tried other things as well. I was still waiting for responses from law school and for graduate classes in Archaeology, but I was pretty sold on medical at that time.

And the boys started calling me Dr. Caelya. I kind of liked the ring to it.

Harry, true to his word, never missed a night. And the thief proved to be a very useful addition to our group. He was a clever little prick, too, and far more often than Ian liked would our devious little thief outsmarted him. He had an incredible knack for spotting traps. Almost as good of a knack as my cleric had for tripping them.

The newest member of our clique didn't socialize with me much. He mostly talked with the other boys. In fact, I don't think he ever really addressed me outside of the context of the game. It was a little strange, because we usually talked about life a little bit, but he just never joined in those conversations.

I mean, it wasn't like he wouldn't answer the questions if we asked him directly, but we usually didn't. So mostly the start of our night consisted of him sitting at the table and not really paying attention to anything while we chatted. But I guess it worked for him.

Typically we'd wrap up around three to four in the morning. We were playing a bit later during the holiday. No one in the group seemed to really mind. I know I didn't. It beat spending far too much time in a destroyed castle. Of course, I'd have probably found something to do that wasn't sleep, anyway.

Then I usually helped Derek with any minor things that were bothering him at that early hour. Typically a lot of it was making sure the breakfast items would be ready by the time the breakfast crowd rolled around.

After that I'd leave and begrudgingly head home, usually wondering why movie theaters weren't twenty-four hours as well, because that would have been a great thing to do at four in the morning.

But instead I found myself standing outside the café and wondering if I really wanted to go home and down some drugs before attempting to sleep. I sighed a bit and started walking when someone fell into step next to me.

"So do you just hate that bistro or?" Harry asked. I stopped walking immediately, pretty much because even if he was nice during the game sessions, I sure wasn't leading him directly to my apartment building.

"No, it's fine," I admitted, glaring at him a little bit.

"Then why didn't you show?" he asked, tilting his head to the side.

"Because I don't just go out to dinner with random creepy men who invite me?" I answered, attempting to make it sound like it was a completely obvious answer that any idiot should have been able to come up with on his own.

"I'm not that creepy," he commented idly. At least he hadn't tried to defend random or man. Although I had better comebacks lined up for those.

"You hang out with teenagers on weeknights," I countered.

"So do you," he laughed.

"Yeah, but we all know I'm pathetic," I laughed a little as well. I suppose I should have thought of that angle before making the comment.

"Can't be that pathetic," he shrugged. "It is fun, after all."

"I guess," I said, trying to not sound too happy, for no apparent reason.

"So how about it, tomorrow night?" he asked with a gesture toward the bistro.

"No," I said without really thinking about it.

"Why not," he asked.

"Because you're still creepy," I said. "And I don't go out with creepy men."

"I thought we established I wasn't creepy," he said, tilting his head to the side.

"You may have established that. I certainly didn't agree with it."

"You know I'm just going to keep asking and asking and asking until you say yes," he said.

"I'm not going to say yes, so I don't advise wasting your breath," I commented.

"Well how can I become less creepy?" he asked.

"So you're admitting your creepy?" I countered.

"For argument's sake," he said, shaking his head but looking at me with a sort of bemused smile. I didn't like that expression. He suggested he knew me far better than he did. The little shake of his head gave the impression that he suspected my response. Like there was just too much familiarity. I don't know, I couldn't really place it, but it still bothered me to all hell.

"Well you never talk about yourself, or what you do, or your interests, or anything. Hell, I don't even know your surname" I said.

"You don't talk about yourself either," he responded. I rolled my eyes.

"Sure I do. They tease me all the time about dancing. And then all the med-school jokes," I said. "So everyone clearly knows what I do. But we have no idea what you do."

"Come to dinner and I'll tell you," he countered.

"That's not going to work," I said.

"Doesn't mean I'll stop trying," he smiled. "Now how about some Indian food tomorrow night?"

"Changing the venue is not going to change my response," I said.


"I'm going home now," I said sternly and I started walking off again. Thankfully he didn't follow me.

Harry was rather true to his word. He asked me out pretty much every time we met up to play the stupid game. He even came into the café once or twice during my shifts. He'd be perfectly personable, and just order himself some coffee or tea or something, then ask me as I handed it to him.

My answer never changed.

He didn't really mention it much when we actually played the game. Which was a little bit of a relief. He usually asked before or after, keeping the boys completely out of the equation, which I guess I appreciated.

Still I could tell they noticed. Nigel glared at him a bit more than usual, and Ian was rather mean to him now, too. Which just served to make me wonder a bit about the boys' intentions. I mean they'd been pleasant before, but now they just glared a lot at him. Harry didn't seem to notice. Or at least he didn't comment.

And that continued and spring rolled around. I shot him down almost on a daily basis. He'd even managed to find me at the dance studio a couple of times and ask there. Still my answer always remained exactly the same.

A couple of times he even got creative and found me on campus or at some place where I was eating lunch. He'd ask me if he could join me on those occasions, rather than just like sitting down. I'd say no, and he's just smile and leave.

Once I'd debated walking with him back to the café for the start of one of my earlier shifts, but when I'd turned to look at where he'd walked off to, he was nowhere to be found. So I just shrugged and walked myself.

And it never really changed. He never once sounded annoyed, or put out, or anything. Instead he just kept asking, day after day after day after day.

Even the boys started to find it more amusing than anything. They made fun of him for it.

Of course, part of me thinks that just spurred him on a bit. Because right about the point that the boys started to be a little more accepting of his continued attempts to garner my affections, or whatever he wanted to call it, Volke started flirting with Caelya.

I made out like a bandit though. Volke gifted me a new staff, and a new robe, as well as a bunch of potions. It was pretty fantastic.

But finally, it annoyed Ian a bit too much. After a few hours one night of Harry and the boys just pestering me into agreeing to some sort of a date he just shook his head and spoke up.

"Oh for fucks sake," Ian rolled his eyes. "Just roll for it." And everyone paused and looked at him.

"What?" Harry asked.

"Just roll for it. All of you. Volke has the most charisma, so anything above a fourteen and he gets a date, Ragthuk needs an 18, and Torman a sixteen. If you fail, stop asking. This is getting annoying," Ian ordered. Harry grabbed his dice almost immediately.

"This is ridiculous," I said, frowning.

"But it will make them shut up," Ian countered. The other three nodded a little bit in agreement. Harry had a silly smile on his face as he rolled his dice in his hand.

"What about my charisma," I frowned. "It's as high as Volke's."

"Fine, add two due to Caelya's charisma," I frowned, hoping I'd get a bit more of a bonus than that. Or, you know, avoiding the entire thing.

"Just roll," Ian rolled his eyes. I frowned and crossed my arms over my chest and waited. I stared at my character sheet, trying to look for anything that could be construed as an advantage to toss out during their stupid challenge.

Rathuk rolled first. He rolled a three, so I wouldn't have to worry about treating Matthew to dinner one night. Of course, I doubted I'd live up to my end of this agreement, considering that I didn't agree to anything.

Torman rolled a twelve. That was two for two. Nigel would have been a slightly better choice for dinner than Matthew. He would have at least insisted on paying. I'd have not ordered anything expensive or eaten much, because I knew he was fairly broke, but it's the thought that counts.

And then Harry smiled a little bit. He looked over at me and shook his die in his hand. I frowned a little bit and just sat there, with my arms still crossed over my chest. He just looked at his hand for a moment, before turning his gaze back to me and tossing the die.

He didn't even bother to look at what he rolled. Matthew and Nigel groaned and I looked down toward the table. His red die rested on 19. I groaned a little bit and shook my head.

"Well," he smiled a little bit at me. I just frowned. "Sunday…"

"Sushi, five, place two blocks over. I have a test in the morning I'm not going to be out late." I spoke as sternly as I could. Harry looked a little surprised but didn't argue. Instead he just turned back to Ian and smiled. And our game continued.

I arrived at the restaurant shortly after they started their dinner service. I just walked in, ignored the Asian hostess, and moved straight to the sushi bar. I slung the messenger bag, a sleek black Prada my dad had gifted me the last Christmas, over my stool. I carried it rather than a purse most times I needed to have books with me. It worked out well enough.

I took my Euripides out of the bag and got started on Elektra. The classical tragedy class was probably the last Classics class I'd take, and I was rather enjoying it. Although I think I may have been the only one that liked Aeschylus more than Euripides. Either way, the plays didn't take that long to get through.

I ordered some green tea and told the sushi guy that I was waiting for someone. He nodded and fetched me some tea and found me a menu while I waited. I didn't even bother to open it. Instead I just read while I waited.

At around ten to five he sat down next to me. He didn't say anything when he sat down, but moments later someone approached to take his order. He ordered a Kirin Light and just waited for me to close the book. I was tempted to just not. Part of me was rather amused by the thought of just reading through the entire dinner. But I wasn't that rude.

"Hello," I said quietly, leaning to my side to put the book back into my bag.

"Good evening, Daphne," he responded. A moment later his beer showed up. He waved away the glass and just took a sip from the bottle.

"How are you?" I asked stiffly. I took a long sip of my tea, too, as he responded.

"Fine," he smiled a little bit. "Yourself?"

"I'd be better if I was studying," I said.

"You've had plenty of time to do that all weekend," he teased. I rolled my eyes.

"I was doing things for fun all weekend," I responded.

"Campaign is getting tedious," Harry sighed. I just glared at him.

"I think it's fun," I scoffed. He shrugged a little bit.

"Ian is predictable," he said. "We do a lot of the same shit. I kind of want to do something flat out absurd and see what he does."

"If you insist," I responded emotionlessly. I took another sip of my tea and didn't bother looking toward him. "No one asked you to play."

"Well I had to find a way to talk to you," he laughed. "Went and bought all the books Ian had in front of him after first running into you."

"The best way to talk to someone is usually, you know, just talking to them," I scoffed. I found it a bit of a stretch that he'd go and learn the entire game just to talk to me.

"I tried that, you told me that you'd call the police if I followed you."

"Following and talking are two different things."

"I would have had to follow to keep talking," he sighed. I guess he had a point, but I didn't feel like trying to argue logically.

"Well how are you?" I asked, doing my best to change the subject.

"I hate sushi," he said quietly. I smiled a little bit.

"No one asked you to come," I countered with the argument that I'd just used.

"I won this," he laughed.

"Hardly," I said.

"If you really thought that, you wouldn't have bothered showing up," he said.

"Maybe I just wanted free sushi," I commented right back.

"If you just wanted free anything you'd have suggested sushi long ago," he laughed.

"Okay fine, maybe I just needed some dice karma," I rolled my eyes. I was rapidly running out of excuses. Although I suppose they didn't really need to be good excuses.

"You are amazingly difficult," he laughed. I just nodded.

"Well this was your idea," I said.

"No, the absurdly early sushi dinner was your idea," he teased. I just shrugged my shoulders.

"I like sushi. And I'll be in bed by like nine, so it's not that early," I said.

"Nine? That's absurdly early," he laughed.

"Well I don't sleep much. And I want to attempt to be rested for my exam."

"Why don't you sleep much?" he shifted his stool to the side a bit so he could look at me while he spoke.

"None of your business?" I responded. It wasn't supposed to come out like as much of a question as it did.

"Alright then," he sighed. Then he just shook his head and frowned a little bit. "Maybe this was a bad idea. I should go," he said. And for a moment, I thought that perhaps he meant he would leave far more than the restaurant. And a part of me didn't want to be responsible for his leaving the group.

"I'm sorry," I frowned. "I'm not very personable."

"Oh, you can be charming when you want to be," he laughed. "I've seen it."

"When?" I asked, feeling a tad baffled by that. I didn't remember ever being particularly charming around him.

"Oh, uhm, when you're dealing with customers," he responded. But it seemed like he just thought of it on the spot. And I was pretty sure that whenever he stopped by the café when I was working, it had been pretty much empty.

"That's hardly charming," I scoffed. He just shrugged.

"Can we start over?" he asked.

"Have we started?" I laughed. It was a better response than just telling him I wanted absolutely no part of him and that he should go away.

"I guess not," he sighed. "I'm Harry. Harry Potter."

"Daphne Greengrass," I rolled my eyes at the absurdity of his introducing himself. But hey, at least now I knew his last name. "Nice to meet you, Potter." Somehow calling him by his last name seemed more fitting.

"Please don't call me Potter," he laughed.

"Why not? I think it sounds better than Harry," I teased.

"Well I don't," he frowned. "Would you like it if someone called you Greengrass all the time?"

"Indifferent," I responded.

"No way," he said.

"I really don't care," I said. "Although it would be odd during sex."

"Yes, yes it would," he blushed and looked away. A waitress took that moment to ask if we'd come to a decision on anything. Harry just frowned and looked at me, so I grabbed one of the sushi cards and marked a few things and handed it to the waitress.

"So not a sushi fan?" I asked.

"Not really. My friend Hermione loves it. She keeps trying to get me to like it, but I just don't," he said. I narrowed my eyes when he spoke. Something about the name Hermione really rubbed me the wrong way. But it could have just been because I was reading far too much classical tragedy in the last few months.

"Well it's awesome," I said.

"What did you order?" he asked.

"Some Hamachi nigiri, a sashimi platter, and some spicy tuna rolls," I responded.

"Interesting," was all he managed in response. I just sat there for a few seconds before I changed the subject

"So what do you do, Potter?" I asked. He just shrugged

"I dabble," he said.

"Dabble?" I laughed.


"What does dabbling entail?"

"A little of this and a little of that?" he shrugged.

"You realize I'm just going to keep asking, right?" I said.

"And that will probably work as well for you as it did for me," he countered.

"Now you're just being vindictive," I frowned.

"No. Just mysterious. I assure you 'dabbling' sounds a lot more entertaining than what I actually do."

"So tell me anyway. I go to school. It's boring. Dabbling has to be better than that."

"I don't know. Medical school has to be fun."

"Medical school doesn't start until the fall. Just regular school now."

"My mistake," he said.

"So, dabbler," I said.

"Mostly I just do whatever I want," he sighed. "I inherited a lot of money."

"Lucky you," I laughed.

"I guess," he sighed. "I'd have rather known my parents."

"I'm sorry," I said.

"It's alright. How about you?"

"I work in a café. It doesn't pay well, but the hours are flexible," I responded dryly, as he already knew the answer to the question.

"No. You're parents," he laughed.

"Oh. My dad's a doctor. My mom died a few years back."

"I'm sorry," he said. "How?"

"Heart attack, they thought," I shrugged. It didn't really make sense. She'd been healthy, but there wasn't really a coherent cause of death. It was like her heart just stopped for no real reason. I missed her, a lot.

"That's awful," he said quietly.

"She was a doctor too," I said. "But she did a lot more research stuff. I think when I get through med school that's something I'll attempt."

"Research?" he asked.

"Yeah," I responded. "Something about the idea of being in a less bloody environment appeals to me."

"I can understand that," he laughed. "But seems like a bit of an odd thing to do after spending so long in school."

"Well I don't mind the thought of working in a hospital," I admitted. "Or an ER or ICU. It's just that I think I'd be good at it. I've always been fairly good at diagnosing problems and finding a solution," I shrugged. I realized I was saying far more than I wanted to in this conversation, so I just stopped speaking.

"Well I hope that works out for you," he said as he took another sip of his beer. He wasn't a very fast drinker, but I wondered if that was simply because I wasn't drinking alcohol and he didn't want to seem like too much of a lush.

"So do I get more information on dabbling now?" I asked.

"No," he responded with a cheeky smile.

"You're absolutely no fun," I said.

"I get that," he responded.

"So you're telling me that you just pretty much laze around and do absolutely nothing and live off of the money your parents left you?" I asked.

"That about sums it up," he admitted, smiling a bit more cheerfully that I felt was appropriate considering the tone I'd just used.

"Well, that's very unattractive," I admitted. "Nothing like a hopeless veg to bore me to tears. Christ, who do you think I am, my sister?"

"Your sister?" he asked.

"I have a younger sister," I said. "She's dating this jackass I can't stand who lives in his parents' manor and acts like he's better than everyone."

"Sounds fun," Harry laughed. "What's his name?"

"Theodore," I responded quickly, as if spitting it off my tongue as fast as humanly possible was the absolute best way to deal with saying it.

"Lame name," Harry commented idly. I just nodded.

"And being comparable to him certainly doesn't help your cause."

"What's my cause?"

"You're a mid-twenties male. I'm assuming you want to fuck me," I said as bluntly as I could.

"Wouldn't mind," he countered while taking a sip of his beer. It certainly wasn't the answer I suspected. "But don't you think I'm putting forth a little too much effort to just be trying to sleep with you?"

"I don't know," I admitted. "Men our weird. They put forth effort into really random things." But before he could respond our food arrived. I grabbed my chopsticks and dug in, applying ample amounts of wasabi to every piece of fish. He just watched me eat for a few moments before he begrudgingly tried some. He didn't look particularly happy with my choices but he swallowed it down.

Eventually, after I was partially sated, I went back to conversation.

"Well regardless, you're not getting in my pants if all you do is laze around," I said.

"Well, how would I get into your pants then, if we're having this conversation?"

"Being more interesting would help," I said. He just shrugged a bit.

"But what if I'm not interesting?" He asked.

"Then you're going to have a problem. Although I refuse to believe you're as boring as you've described." I watched him attempt to use the chopsticks for a few moments. It was amusing as he fumbled with one of the rolls. "And you know it's perfectly acceptable to use your fingers when eating sushi."

"Quiet," he said as he got the roll into his mouth with quite a bit more effort. I laughed a little at his attempts.

"So what do you do?" I asked. He just shrugged again.

"Honestly, Daphne, not much. I do a little bit of freelance writing. Travel pieces mostly, but I didn't really keep up with that nearly as much as I should have. Mostly I'd travel somewhere and just stay there, for months. I'd forget to actually write the piece on it."

"I suspect that would cost you your job," I said. He just shrugged.

"Surprisingly no. I never really hard a hard deadline. And the owner of the paper I wrote for loved me, so it worked out," he spoke after finishing off his beer. When the waitress asked if he wanted another he shook her off and ordered a soda.

"So you're just a lazy writer?" I laughed a little bit.

"Not really. I told you, half the time I'd forget to actually write the piece. And I'm a terrible writer, so it wouldn't be any good anyway. Just for some reason people were interested in where I was, what I was doing and why," he shrugged a little bit.

"Why's that?" I asked.

"Never really figured that one out," he admitted.

"So you're a semi-famous lazy bad writer?" I laughed.

"Sure," he said with a smile. "I guess that's as accurate as it can possibly be."

"Well I think you were right," I said.

"About what?"

"Just being a lazy lay about inheritor was a more interesting story," I teased. It wasn't really, but that didn't matter.

"Told you," he laughed a little bit.

"Well, what do you want to do? It sounds like you're capable of finding something that entertains you," I asked.

"Right now I want to go on another date with you," he smiled.

"You are so lame," I said.

"So what are you doing on Wednesday?" he asked with a little smirk.

"Working," I responded.





"Tuesday it is," he smiled. "Eight o'clock, French place?"

"No," I said.

"What if I roll for it?" he asked.

"Still no," I laughed.

"Worth a shot," he sighed.

"Well," I sighed after another minute. "I'm going to go home now."

"Before I've even paid?" he laughed.

"I have studying to do," I said.

"Can I help?" he asked.

"No," I said. He just shook his head and laughed at me.

"Fine, you can bail on me, Daphne. But only if you agree to bail on me again before the check comes on Tuesday."

"You're inviting me out on the condition that I bail on you?" I laughed.

"I figured you've earned the right to do it at least twice," he smiled. It was the annoying smile he had again, the one that seemed to know far more than it let on. I just shook my head.

"Fine, but I also may read through dinner, so just deal with it," I commented, crossing my arms over my chest for a moment. At least before I stood and swung my bag over my shoulder.

"Eight o'clock." He just smiled more and I rolled my eyes and walked out of the sushi restaurant.

I showed up that time. And we had a nice meal. We left together that night, but I didn't invite him home with me. I didn't even go home, really. I went to the café and had a cup of tea, just so he wouldn't have any interest in following me. I think he probably would have joined me for the tea, though, had I offered.

But I didn't offer, because I wanted to be left alone to my own devices to think about things. At least that's what I told myself as I sat and drank the tea.

Harry didn't really talk to me much over the coming weekend. He joined in our games as normal. When the boys teased us about the date Harry just shrugged it off and made some fairly innocent comments. It was nice of him.

Of course, everything about the few hours we spent together was innocent, so I suppose that shouldn't have surprised me as much as it did.

In summary, though, nothing really changed. My routine stayed pretty much exactly the same for a few more weeks. At least until one Friday evening a few weeks later.

On that night, Harry asked me out once more. I didn't say no. But I didn't say yes, either. I told him I'd think about it. But by the time Saturday evening rolled around I just told him I'd be free on Wednesday and we decided to meet for Chinese.

It was uneventful, but fun. I took far more home than I probably should have. But it was always nice to have something that you could just heat up while you were supposed to be studying. That alone made life amazingly easier.

I let him walk me home that night. But I didn't invite him up, and he didn't ask. He just wished me a good night and wandered off down the street as I walked into my building.

The next week we met for Indian food. I didn't take any home that time. Mostly because I ate it all in the restaurant. I didn't have to study that night, and so we sat at our table and drank tea until they kicked us out of the restaurant. He'd asked if I wanted to go to a café after, but I'd had enough chamomile that I was actually feeling a little exhausted. So I went home and went to bed.

Interestingly enough, I lived that night. I was still stuck in an ancient castle. I couldn't find anything that remotely resembled an exit. But nothing attacked me. And I think that was a small victory of some sort. Hey, I took what I could get.

But that routine continued. Every Wednesday we went out. He always paid, which I probably shouldn't have let him do, but he didn't ever make a comment about it or seem to mind. In fact, he just looked at me funny the one time that I took out my purse. So I put it away, but didn't comment.

Part of me really didn't just want to give up a good thing. So I never pressed the issue. And going out with him became rather fun. We'd just talk about stuff. Usually what I was doing in school or current events. But, on occasion, the topics would change to things like books or movies or even music.

Harry did a lot more listening than talking. But I never felt like he wasn't paying attention, or interested in the conversation. So that was a nice. And I found I liked just sort of yammering on while he listened. It was soothing, in a way.

Still I learned a fair bit about him. He never knew his parents, which was sad. And he grew up with his relatives. He didn't talk about them much. I got the feeling that he didn't really have the best feelings for them. But he did imply that he went to lunch with his cousin once every couple of months, so I suppose the relationship couldn't be that bad.

He spent most of his teen years at a boarding school in Scotland. He claimed to have had pretty good grades, despite never making an attempt at university.

He claimed to have watched his godfather die in some sort of accident. And that had a rather lasting effect on him. He said he didn't really want to talk about it, and I didn't press because I had plenty of stuff I didn't want to talk about.

But as time passed and I got a bit busier with finals it became more difficult to fit him into my schedule. I should have probably tried harder. I didn't, though, and instead I wound up canceling on him a couple of weeks in a row.

It was on the third such week that I texted him rather late Wednesday afternoon and commented that I couldn't make it. He never really responded to texts. I'm not sure he even knew how. Hell, when I met him he didn't even have a mobile. I found that a little strange, but I suppose it wasn't overly uncommon.

He got one, though, after I railed on him enough about not having a phone. But I didn't ever really see him use it. He answered if I called, but he never actually called me. I didn't mind that, I preferred to initiate conversations anyway.

I was a bit sad to cancel on him, too. We were planning on trying this new Thai place that just opened and I thought it looked absolutely fantastic. But it could wait until next week. Although that was the middle of my exam week. Maybe it would have to be two.

So mostly I just trudged through the rain and thought about what exam I should study for and how I probably should have let my house with an umbrella that morning. But I never really thought that far ahead. And it had been mostly sunny in the morning. But that never really mattered in London.

But I was pretty much just completely lost in thought when I entered the lobby of my building. I certainly didn't expect to see him sitting in the lobby with a large pack.

"Do I need to call the police?" I asked. It had become a bit of a running joke between us.

"Probably," he said. "There's a creepy man waiting for you in the lobby."

"Well I should run away then," I said.

"Oh yes," he nodded solemnly and I just laughed.

"Didn't you get my text?" I asked. I felt bad enough having to bail on him through emotionless text. Having to do it a second time, to his face, would be a bit irritating.

"Yes," he said.

"So why are you here?" I asked.

"Because I know how you eat when you study and it is very far from healthy," he commented. I frowned a little bit and looked at him.

"Hey now. But I really do need to study," I sighed.

"I'm sure you do. Which is why I'm going to make you dinner. You're more than welcome to read while I cook, study while you eat, and otherwise ignore my presence completely," he explained with a smile.

"So what like Maid Potter?" I laughed.

"Chef Potter, I'm not cleaning anything," he countered.

"Fine," I sighed as I worked my way to the elevator. He followed with a little smile on my face. It wasn't until I got into the elevator that I realized he'd wormed his way up to my apartment.

I just hit the twelve on the wall and frowned. Clever of him, really. But I was a sucker for the offer of a home cooked meal.

I stepped out before him as the elevator door opened. I took a right and moved to the last unit in the hallway, or my home.

It wasn't much. I'm sure he probably had better lodgings with his inherited fortune. But he'd never invited me back there. In fact, I wasn't really that sure where he lived. I just assumed somewhere in the city, but I suppose he could have traveled in. I just didn't think that likely.

Anyway, home was a one bedroom, one and a half bath apartment. It had a fairly decent sized kitchen and an attached living area. The bedroom and the full bath were tucked into the back corner. I had a pretty good view of the city, but it wasn't anything too special. It was perhaps a little messy, but I preferred the term 'lived in.'

Thankfully, I didn't really have anything too absurd. There wasn't any food sitting out and rotting. My most heinous offense was likely the pair of jeans I had drying on the kitchen table. But I hadn't wanted them to shrink! Of course the door to my bedroom was closed, and that was considerably messier than the living area of my apartment.

Harry didn't comment on anything though. In fact, he pretty much ignored me and moved into the kitchen. I sat down on the couch in the living area, mostly because I'd set up some of my books there before I'd gone out. And, after paging through a notebook, I remembered just where I needed to study.

Part of me paused for a moment and waited. I just suspected that after about ten seconds I'd either smell fire, or have to go and show him where stuff was. Neither came to fruition, though, and eventually I just lost myself studying.

And sure, there was the occasional clang of pots and pans, but it wasn't like my kitchen was overly organized. So that was to be expected. It didn't take too long for me to start smelling the chicken though. And I hadn't eaten all day, which just made it all the better.

I hit a button on my iPod dock and then set it to shuffle. I had it set really quiet so I could barely hear it as I started reading. Most of my music was instrumental stuff and it was soothing. It helped me study, but it didn't really help me sleep, which was disappointing.

I focused on my books and notes then. After a few moments I switched to scanning through study guides and previous assignments and tests. I focused on the parts I got wrong before reviewing the things that I got right. I went back and forth for a few moments, and found that I was having trouble focusing.

I think it may have had something to do with the fact that there was a relatively strange man making food in my kitchen. That was new for me, I have to admit. I pressed my lips together and then chewed on my bottom one for a moment. I wasn't really sure what to do. Typically boys and my apartment didn't really end well for either of us.

Suffice to say, I wound up sitting on the couch with my arms across my chest rather than actually studying. If I failed my test tomorrow I was going to murder him.

"Food," he said after a while. I frowned a little bit as I stood and moved toward the kitchen. He was standing by the stove but had set my small little table. Technically, it could seat four people, but I'd never tried and I suspected it wouldn't work out too flawlessly if I attempted it.

I sat at the far spot on the table, mostly to keep myself as far away from him as I could. He'd already set out two glasses of wine and two glasses of water. I sipped the water. I was a tad surprised he'd brought alcohol. I never drank when we went out, and I tried to keep myself away from alcohol.

In my mind, I'd over indulged a few times when trying to cope with my nightly rituals. It hadn't affected me too badly, but I didn't want to really go back down that path. So instead I just glared at the wonderfully dark liquid and sipped the water instead.

Moments later he turned away from the stove, pulling a full chicken out of it and resting it on the counter. He then took out some rolls and a massive assortment of vegetables. I looked away after a few moments because I felt like too much of a voyeur.

But moments later he just put a large plate in front of me. It contained five rather generous slices of chicken, a mass of cooked carrots and broccoli, and a baked potato. I blinked down at it a little bit and picked up my fork as he went to grab the crescent rolls.

I at least had enough decorum to wait until he started to eat to eat myself. He didn't really say anything through the meal. And I ate pretty much everything he put on the plate. I probably should have been a bit more careful about what I gorged down. But I liked food.

"Don't like the wine?" he asked after a few moments. I noticed his glass was empty and he'd gone to get the bottle to refill it. But he'd stopped when he looked at mine.

"I don't really drink," I said. He looked at me curiously.

"Not even a glass of wine with meals?" he asked, and I just shrugged.

"Not usually," I said stiffly.

"Well it's an excellent vintage," he commented, pouring himself another glass. "At least give it a sip."

"Fine," I sighed. I lifted my own glass carefully by the stem and twirled it just a little bit. After a brief pause I took a sip of it. It tasted pretty excellent, he was right. But all I did for the rest of the dinner was sip it. And I limited myself to one glass, drinking most of it while he cleaned up the dishes.

"Do you want to keep some of the leftovers?" he asked. I frowned a little bit. I did, because it was delicious, but that seemed a little needy for me. Still, the stomach won.

"Sure. I have some containers under the sink," I sighed. He just nodded and commenced with packaging everything up. It took him surprisingly little time to clean up. He seemed to be able to do about six things at once.

When he finished I just moved back to the couch with my glass of water and resumed studying. Harry looked at me for a few moments before he sat next to me on the couch. He looked at what I was reading, but didn't comment.

After a few moments I just handed him the remote to the TV and turned off my iPod. He turned on some returns of an old time-travel show that was easily ignored as I focused on my studies.

And we stayed like that for a couple of hours before I yawned a little bit and decided I didn't really want him there anymore.

"I'm tired," I lied with a glance at my bedroom door.

"Okay," he said a little bit. He turned off the TV and looked back at me.

"So you're leaving," I said. He frowned a little bit but nodded.

"Okay," he said. And I stood and walked toward the exit of my apartment. He followed.

"I trust you can find your way out of the building?" I smiled. He just nodded a little bit.

"I wouldn't think that overly challenging," he responded.

"Shouldn't be," I smiled. "Thanks for dinner. I do appreciate it."

"Anytime," he smiled. "Good luck on with your exam." And he stepped out of my door. I nodded and shut it as he left. I went back to studying as soon as he left. And strangely, I missed his presence. So I turned on the TV and watched the show he'd been viewing instead.

I ended up acing the test. Despite the fact that I didn't bother studying for it for the rest of the evening. Somehow I felt like I'd already taken the test, or at least something fairly similar. So I just blew through it, checked my work a few times, and left the class surprisingly early. It was a rather pleasant experience.

And the rest of that week passed, and then a few more. And as it warmed up I started to spend a bit more time outside. Mostly I'd just go and sit in parks rather than the café while I did my reading. But it was a nice change. Despite the fact that I'd grow sick of it in a few months.

I was hanging in a park when my phone buzzed from my purse. I pulled it out and saw a text from Harry. It was a Friday night and Ian was sick so our game was canceled. I'd texted him earlier to inform him of that. His response was a simple acknowledgment of my text. I gazed skyward after reading it, noticing the clouds were rolling in. It had been a warm day, but I suspected there'd be some pretty serious storms that evening.

So I decided about that point that I was probably better served by not spending the rest of the evening in the park. I stood and started walking in the general direction of both my apartment and the café. I didn't even realize my phone was still in my hand until it buzzed. I nearly dropped it onto the sidewalk. I flipped it open.

The words 'Let's go on a date' hovered under the word 'Potter' on my display. I shook my head and laughed a little bit. I responded that I was rather affronted to be asked out via text message. Moments later he replied that we went out weekly, to which I just responded that never before had it been titled a date. And that any self-respecting boy would ask me out in far more than a text.

And a couple of seconds later my phone started buzzing in my hand.

"Hello?" I said, hitting the green button that answered calls.

"Daphne," Harry's voice ran through. His cell got terrible reception, he always buzzed a little bit as he spoke.

"Yes Harry?" I asked.

"Do you want to go on date with me this evening?" he asked. I was really tempted to just say no and hang up the phone. But I usually at least was out on Friday nights, and having my routine plans fall through made me feel a bit boring.

"That depends on what you had in mind," I said. "I really don't want to go sit at the pub with you and your friends. I always feel like I'm completely missing something when that happens."

"How about something far more romantic?" he laughed. I frowned a bit, but part of me thought that sounded like a better option anyway.

"Depends on what it is," I said. He just nodded.

"I'll be in your lobby in two hours. Wear something sexy," he said teasingly. I rolled my eyes.

"Flannel shirt it is," I responded and hung up. And I walked back to my apartment. I frowned a little bit when I walked to it. I didn't think I really had anything sexy. I sure never, ever, got dressed up. So that was a disturbing thought.

I dug through my closet, throwing stuff every which way and attempting to find something. Eventually I found a dark purple dress that I was supposed to wear for some party Astoria invited me and dad to at Theodore's house. But it ended up being on a Friday so I didn't go. I used my patented study excuse. But I'd bought the dress incase my excuse didn't work.

It was short and had a ruffled skirt and I thought probably a little silly when I bought it. But it reminded me of something a Disney princess would wear when going for a little more casual look, so I figured it would work.

Once I'd picked out the outfit I went through the typical get ready routine. I showered, changed, put on makeup, organizing a matching purple purse, and all that jazz. I was actually ready before I was supposed to be. But that would never do I waited around so I'd be a few moments late when I wandered down to the lobby. He was waiting, dressed nicely in fancy jeans and a button-up shirt. He had an umbrella in his hand although it didn't appear to be raining outside.

"Evening," he said, trying to sound very formal.

"Hi," I said, making no attempt to sound formal.

"How are you?" he laughed, abandoning the attempt to sound formal.

"Peachy," I responded. "Where are we going?"

"You'll see," he smiled and then took my hand and led me out of the building.

And he took me to some absurdly expensive restaurant. I was underdressed, he was underdressed, and we really had no business being there. But he got us in and seated at a small, private table in the corner with little more than a smile.

But it didn't seem like he knew anyone. So I had no idea how the hell he managed to make everyone so nice to a couple of underdressed twenty-somethings. But whatever he did worked. I'd heard the name of the restaurant before, too, somewhere. But I couldn't place it.

So instead I didn't bother. I enjoyed an absurdly expensive meal and even drank about half a bottle of wine. I know, I'm a total lush.

Dessert was the best part. I will freely admit that. And I ate all of mine and probably half of his. And was tempted to order another one while we sipped tea afterwards. But I didn't. Which was probably a really stupid thing to do, all things considering. He paid without comment when our check finally showed up and then we left.

We emerged into the rain. He opened the umbrella and held it over the both of us. It wasn't very large and it forced me to walk incredibly close to him. I didn't mind that much. It didn't provide us as much protection as either of us would have liked. And it wasn't long before I'd likely ruined my shoes and could feel the dress clinging to me.

We probably should have gotten a cab, but I always complained about them and said I liked to walk. He didn't even ask this time, but my answer wouldn't have changed. I'm stubborn that way.

Regardless, it didn't take that long to walk back to my apartment. We stood and dripped in the lobby for a few moments before I looked at him and frowned.

"Do you want to come up for some tea to warm up?" I asked. He looked at me for a moment.

"No that's oka-actually. I'd love to," he smiled a little bit. And here I couldn't believe that he almost turned me down. Of course, I wasn't really thinking about the possible connotations of my words.

"Alright," I said and we dripped our way to the elevator and then to my apartment. I immediately walked into my bedroom. He followed me, which was slightly presumptuous, if you ask me, but I didn't notice.

"You look like your freezing," I said as I looked at him. The rain had been cold, but it wasn't that chilly of an evening. Still, he was shivering a little as he stood there.

"A little," he laughed. I nodded.

"The shower is right through there, if you want. I can probably find some dry clothes and toss yours into the dryer," I said.

"Okay," he said, staring at me for a few moments. "But you go first. You must be freezing too."

"I'm fine," I said. "I actually kind of like being cold."

"What?" he laughed. He looked completely shocked at my statement. I just shrugged.

"Never minded it really," I said. He just blinked at me. "I'll change while you're showering and leave something on the bed for you."

"Alright," he said, shaking his head a little more. I walked over toward my dresser and started rifling through it for clothing. I found some pajamas to change into. I left my bedroom and changed quickly. When I heard the shower start running I wandered back in and looked through the dresser for something for him. I found some oversized sweatpants and a red t-shirt with a horse flanked by the letters S and F. I left them on the bed and walked back toward my kitchen to prepare some tea.

About twenty minutes later he emerged from my bedroom wearing the clothing I'd left out. He had his wet stuff with him and looked over at me.

"Where did you get these?" he asked, gesturing to what he was wearing. I got down a cup for him and waited for him to pick out which tea he wanted. He walked over toward me, placing his damp clothing on the kitchen table.

"Don't remember on the pants. An ex got me the shirt when he was going to drag me to some event," I said. I pushed the box of assorted teas toward him and moved over to the table to gather up his clothing.

"How long were you with him?" he asked

"Who says it was a him?" I teased. I really didn't like talking about my past relationships. If they could even be called relationships.

"A girl would have bought you a shirt your size," he commented dryly. I couldn't help but laugh.

"Probably," I admitted. "I think that one was about two weeks."

"And all you got was this damn t-shirt?" he laughed.

"Pretty much," I said.

"That common for you?" he asked.

"Judging from my track record you've got about eight more days before you hate me," I said.

"We've been going out for months," he laughed.

"We've had one date. I rarely get to four," I smiled as coquettishly as I could. He just shrugged and picked an earl gray out of the pack. He poured himself some water and I presume started making his tea. I moved his clothing over toward the dryer. It was down the hall a bit, just outside my half bath. I leaned over it to grab a sheet of Bounce and then tossed it all in the dryer. I turned and walked back toward him.

"Well, I'm sure I'll get at least five," he smirked. His had was tilted to the side and he was holding his tea in one hand while he looked at me. I raised my eyebrows at him.

"Were you just staring at my ass?" I asked, crossing my arms over my chest.

"Yes," he said, nodding his affirmation at the same time.

"Pleasant view?" I asked.

"Uh-huh," he said, sipping his tea. I picked my own cup up and did the same.

"Well I'm glad that you enjoyed," I said. I kept my voice as toneless as possible. He could figure out whether or not it had amused me.

"I'm sure you are," he laughed. "Can I ask you something?"


"What's this?" he said, holding up a glass box that I recognized readily enough. It spent the vast majority of time on my dresser.

"Just grabbing stuff out of my room now?" I teased.

"Well it intrigued me," he said. He placed the box carefully on the counter before opening it. He held its contents carefully in his fingertips as he looked at me.

"It's my magic wand," I said dumbly.

"Really?" he said, without a hint of humor.

"Really," I said. "Mom gave it to me a few days before she died, actually."

"So you're a witch?" he laughed, pointing it at me. I rolled my eyes.

"Hey now, don't make fun of me," I scoffed. It had a lot of sentimental value.

"Sorry," he said, but he didn't really look it.

"It's important to me," I said. "It's the last thing my mother gave me. She told me to always look for the magic in the world."

"I see," Harry said. He offered it to me. I took it and held it tightly in my hand.

"Does it work?" he asked with a little bit of a smile.

"Of course not," I scoffed. He didn't seem to understand the not making fun of me bit. "It's a freakin' stick."

"Try it out," he smiled. I rolled my eyes.

"Abra Kadabra," I said lazily, pointing the stick at him. Naturally, nothing happened.

"Damn," he frowned. "Magic would have been cool."

"Yes, it would have been," I sighed. I put the stick back in the glass display box and decided to move out to the living room. I don't think I swayed my hips any more than usual. But I could have been wrong.

"Well you have forty minutes until your clothing is dry," I said after a few silent moments. He wandered around and joined me on the couch. He looked at me, for just a second, with a sort of longing in his eyes. But it wasn't the type of longing I'd expected. For a moment, I thought he actually thought something would happen when he handed me the wand. But when he spoke, he completely changed the subject.

"Got any movies?" he laughed.

"That's so longer than forty minutes," I commented.

"Going to kick me out when my pants are dry?" he teased.

"Probably," I nodded.

"Ouch," he said.

"Just find something to watch," I laughed.

"Okay," he said. And then he grabbed me and pulled me to him on the couch, so I was laying with my back against his chest. "Found something."

"Wow you are lame," I laughed.

"You're freezing," he said.

"I'm fine," I sighed. Like I said, every time someone touched me it was always their first reaction.

"Want me to go draw you a bath? Warm you up?" he asked. Interestingly I wasn't as annoyed by the comment as I should have been.

"Now you're just trying to get me naked," I sighed.

"Maybe a little," he admitted. His arms slid around my waist and he just held me. "But you are a little cold."

"I'm fine," I sighed. I closed my eyes and just leaned against him. He didn't say anything. He did tilt his head down into my hair. But mostly we just rested like that. I probably dozed off, because a few moments later I jolted up.

"Are you okay?" he asked. He sounded rather surprised.

"Yeah, fine," I said. I could tell I was blushing. It was embarrassing. Nothing like bad dreams you can't even remember!

"You sure?" he asked.

"Yes," I said. "You should go."

"What? Why? And my clothing is still in your dryer." He had a point there, I guess.

"Well I'm going to bed," I said. "So you're leaving." And I jolted off the couch and fled to my bedroom. I knew I shouldn't have just left him in my living room. Despite how stern my words had been, I had no certainty that he'd actually leave. But I really didn't want to wake up screaming with him holding me. That would scare him off for sure. And I didn't want to scare him off.

I got into bed and curled up with the blankets and tried not to think about him. I didn't work though. I thought about him. And then my bedroom door opened. And I did my best not to not look at him, and to fake being asleep. But it didn't work. I watched out of the corner of my eye as he walked toward my dresser. That was creepy enough. I couldn't imagine what he'd want to do with my clothing.

But he didn't open any of the drawers. Instead he just put the glass case he'd taken earlier back on top, precisely where it had been before. Nice of him, I suppose. I'd forgotten he'd grabbed it. After a few moments of just standing around he spoke.

"So, uhm, what was that?" he asked. I didn't move, or answer. After a few more moments of silence he sighed. "You're not asleep. Tell me what's wrong, Daph."

"Nothing's wrong," I said meekly. "Go home."

"Uh-huh," he said. "Now tell me what's wrong." And he walked over toward the bed. After a moment he sat down on the end of it.

"I'm going to scare you off if you stay," I said quietly.

"Well you're doing a decent job of that as is," he tried to tease. It didn't work and I wasn't really in the mood.

"So leave," I said.

"Nope," he said. "Now what's up?"

"Nothing," I said quietly.

"You realize that's not going to work, right?" he said. I just nodded.

"Yeah," I sighed.

"So, why do you want me out of here so badly?" he asked. "What do you like turn into a werewolf at midnight?"

"No," I scoffed. "And it has to be at least one by now."

"One seventeen," he responded with a glance at the clock, although we both knew that the time was a complete irrelevancy.

"Well I don't appear to have any excess hair," I scoffed.

"Not that I can tell," he said.

"Pavor nocturnus," I said.

"Et tu Brute?" he countered giving me the indication that all he recognized was the Latin.

"Night terrors," I said quietly. He just shrugged a little bit.

"Isn't that usually just with kids?" he asked.

"Most commonly," I sighed. "But I have them. I remember them, which is unusual. And it's nearly nightly."

"I see," he said quietly.

"I bolt upright, screaming," I said. "If anyone's around I pretty much attack them. I usually have the same dream. I'm trying to run away from the ruins of a castle. When I wake up I'm violent."

"Like how you bolted upright on the couch?" he asked.

"Pretty much," I said. "Usually there's more screaming and flailing."

"And you're afraid that will freak me out," he said.

"Yes," I said.

"Well that's silly," he said. I rolled my eyes a little bit. "Now move over."

"Excuse me?" I said as he pulled the covers back on the bed.

"Move over," he said again.

"What are you doing?" I gasped. I was lying on my back in pretty much the middle of the bed.

"I'm tired," he sighed. "So I'm going to bed."

"Sleep on the couch!" I ordered. "Or even better, go home to your own bed."

"Comfortable," he said as he rested under the covers. A moment later he rolled onto his side, then grabbed me and pulled me against him. So my back pressed to his chest.

"Potter!" I gasped.

"Quiet," he said. "Trying to sleep." And I just fumed. But I shut up. So at the very least he had that going for him. But I couldn't help but think this was a terrible idea. Something was going to happen. I'd hurt him, somehow, during the night, and he'd never want to speak to me again. So I did just about the only thing I could think of to do. I closed my eyes and let sleep take me.

I didn't dream.

When I woke the sun was shining through my windows. It was one of the most annoying features of my apartment. The sun beat straight through the windows in the morning and made it about a million degrees.

I was on my stomach and I was on top of something. I lifted my head up and saw Potter smiling down at me. I groaned a little bit, but still felt completely exhausted.

"What time is it?" I yawned a little, resting my head back down on his chest. It was more comfortable that way. I doubted it was much past sunrise, as I never really slept for long.

"Around eleven thirty," he said.

"What?" I gasped. "And I didn't attack you?"

"Well we may have wrestled a bit, but I'm tough," he said dryly. I blinked a little bit.

"Are you teasing me?" I asked.

"You are the one that has me pinned," he said. I rolled my eyes, but since I wasn't looking at him, I doubted he noticed.

"I thought you were tough," I commented.

"Is that a challenge?" he asked.

"You're the one that brought it up," I commented. And then he rolled us over. I yelped.

"Tough enough?" he asked as he pinned me. I struggled against him, but not really seriously.

"I guess," I said after I glanced around as a fake attempt to assess the situation. And then I just leaned up and kissed him. Well, I doubt anyone would really call it a kiss, I did little more than brush my lips over his.

"You guess?" he asked, he returned the kiss in exactly the same way.

"I guess," I said. But I didn't let him know whether or not I was guessing that I was guessing, or just affirming my entire situation. And before he could really respond I just kissed him again, but it was more of a real kiss.

"Daphne," he said quietly, as I let my lips slide away from his.

"Yes?" I asked.

"Why did you just kiss me?" he asked.

"Because I wanted to," I laughed. He just smiled a little bit.

"Why," he asked.

"Because I'm finally not tired and you're so warm and I don't really want to get out of bed," I said with a shrug. I figured that was a succinct enough summary of my intentions.

"So all I had to do to get into bed with you ensure you had a good night's sleep?" he asked.

"Technically you got into bed with me before that," I said.

"I suppose you're right," he said, and he leaned down to kiss me. His hands slid under my shirt and I didn't protest. "What does the night of sleep get me, then?" his voice was soft.

"I don't know," I said quietly, my voice little more than a whisper. And then I gave him a little, coquettish shrug and locked my eyes onto his. "Only one way to find out."

And so I found myself starting medical school with a lover and a boyfriend. Interestingly enough, they were the same person.

Things hadn't changed right away. Quite the opposite, really. Our routine stayed pretty much normal. But he started coming home with me on weekends. We never went to his place. He claimed it was a terrible mess not worthy of showing anyone. He never really struck me as the messy type, but I didn't argue too much. He talked of getting a newer apartment. I wasn't sure if he was implying for us or for himself, so I just let him talk.

School was odd. I started to feel like I knew more and more as I went into my classes. It was strange. Half the time I felt like I knew what the professors were going to say before it came out of their mouths.

By the time school started back up in the fall, Potter had pretty much moved in. There were still some nights when he didn't come to my apartment, but they were growing fewer and fewer. And I appreciated it. I still had nightmares, but never when I was in his arms. I dreaded the nights when he slept in his own bed. Still, part of me thought I should probably start charging him rent. But part of me suspected he'd just start paying the entire rent if I brought it up. So I didn't.

The boys in our little café group didn't seem to notice anything new. They still flirted with me. Harry joked about it fairly constantly as we left. I wasn't sure if it bothered him or not, but I certainly didn't do anything to deter their intentions.

From that point on, though, everything moved pretty fast. Somehow, looking for a new apartment for him morphed into looking for a new apartment for us. My father expressed some concerns, especially as I was still in school and not really able to support myself. But after going to dinner with Harry and myself that started to fade. I don't know what it was about Harry, but my dad seemed to trust him shortly after meeting him.

The dinner I insisted on going to with Astoria and Theodore; however, was a completely different experience.

Astoria had joked countless times about meeting the only boy-toy that could hold my interest for more than a few minutes. So eventually, I'd caved. And we'd wound up at a fancy London restaurant waiting for Astoria and Theodore.

"I'm still not sure this is a great idea," I said cautiously as we waited. I was drinking wine like it was going out of style. So much for the whole 'Daphne doesn't drink' phase. Potter wasn't good for my alcohol consumption.

"It was your idea," Harry laughed. "You can't hate your sister's boyfriend that much."

"Oh I do," I said.

"You never told me why," he asked. I suppose I hadn't. But the reasoning for that was simple enough.

"I don't really have a reason," I said. "I just hate him."

"Your sister too good for him?" Harry teased. I shrugged.

"Doubt it," I said. I had mixed feelings toward my sister on most days. If we weren't related I highly doubt we'd be friends.

"So why'd you want to have this dinner, then?" He asked. He seemed nervous as well, but he was doing his best to not bring that up. At least for now.

"So Astoria would stop talking about my mystery boyfriend," I scoffed.

"Does that mean I'm mysterious?" he asked.

"I guess," I scoffed.

"And if they hate me?" Harry asked.

"Fuck them?" I said.

"Well if your sister is half as pretty as you, maybe. But I doubt I'd go for Theodore," Harry commented idly.

"Gross," I said.

"There they are," Harry said, gazing across the table to the entrance of the restaurant. I looked up and spotted them quickly.

"How could you tell?" I laughed. He looked a little surprised by my question and it took him a moment to respond.

"Your sister looks enough like you," he said with a little bit of a shrug. It felt like an excuse, but he was right, Astoria and I looked alike.

"I guess," I said. And Astoria saw me. She smiled and waved and started walking toward us. But both her and Theodore stopped after just a few seconds and stared at Harry. I could have sworn Theodore swallowed hard. Harry just smiled at them. He stood when they eventually reached the table. I didn't.

"Harry Potter," he said, offering his hand to Astoria first, then Theodore. They both took it cautiously and introduced themselves. They each seemed to be walking on eggshells. "Pleasure to meet you."

"Likewise," Theodore said. Astoria just looked at Harry for a few moments and then sat down.

"So how did you two meet," she said stiffly, looking at Harry.

"We frequent the same café," Harry answered jovially. Theodore just stared at him, leaning away a little bit in his chair and looking rather tense.

"The one where you work?" Astoria asked, looking toward me. She also looked a little more tense than I felt appropriate.

"Yes," I responded. "I spend a lot of time studying there when I'm not working."

"Ew," Astoria laughed. "Why would you want to study where you work?"

"I like the atmosphere," I said.

"Creep," Astoria commented. I just rolled my eyes as Harry ordered another bottle of wine for the table. Theodore just glared at Harry and I couldn't help but wonder just how much of a pissing contest this would turn into.

"How's the wedding planning going?" I asked. It took just about all of my freewill to not gag on the words. Thankfully Astoria didn't insist I look at her ring some more. I noticed Harry gaze between the two of them, almost as if he couldn't believe what he'd heard.

"Wonderfully," she sighed happily as she spoke. "We've got almost everything picked out. We should be mailing the invitations soon."

"So you've decided on a venue?" I asked.

"Not yet, but we're narrowing it down," she smiled.

"Well I look forward to it," I sighed. At the very least I hadn't been dragged dress shopping yet. But I was sure that would take up one of my weekends. I wasn't looking forward to it. I also wasn't looking forward to whatever type of dress she'd want to throw me in.

"I think we're going to go with a classic motif on the whole thing," she smiled.

"Please tell me I won't have to wear a corset," I frowned.

"I'd be lying," Astoria teased. And the meal continued. I let Astoria ramble on about her wedding a bit more. The boys didn't really talk. I tried to initiate them into some sort of sports conversation, but it failed pretty miserably when they both showed no interest in Liverpool.

Mostly they just glared at each other a little as Astoria and I talked. Well I should say as Astoria talked and I nodded a little bit at her words. I commented where appropriate, but letting her talk was the easiest way out of it.

Eventually the food came. We ate. Harry paid. Theodore seemed annoyed by that but didn't comment. And then we all left. Theodore and Astoria walked the opposite way down the street from us. I wondered where they were staying in London, as I knew they didn't spend much time in the city.

But when Harry and I walked away I didn't bother thinking about it more.

"I don't think they liked me," Harry said.

"Astoria is always like that," I laughed. "She likes talking about herself."

"Well Theodore just stared at me the entire time like I was going to jump across the table and punch him," Harry laughed.

"You should have," I said.

"Why?" he asked, taking my hand as we wandered down the street.

"Because it would have been hilarious?" I asked.

"I'm not sure that's a reason for getting into a brawl," he laughed.

"Suit yourself," I said and we just continued our walk home.

By the time December rolled around we'd moved in together. We split the rent on a two bedroom apartment not far from where I'd last lived. It was nearly triple my rent, but also about triple the size. I insisted on paying half of the rent, which was pretty much every last pence I made.

He'd argued with me about that. But I insisted. It wasn't until February that he managed to change my mind.

Shortly after we went to our weekly game as normal. I was far more nervous than he was. He told me there was no chance they'd notice. Boys didn't pick up on those types of details. Especially, when they were new. They'd have to be looking for it.

The group bantered a bit before the game, as was usual. Nothing special came up. Apparently Matthew had a date the last week that hadn't gone so well. I didn't feel that bad for him. I hated when they talked about girls, anyway.

When they finally got around to me, the only thing they seemed interested in was that I had, once again, not baked the batch of cookies I'd promised. But with school it was getting harder and harder to find time to bake. I almost told them that Harry had enough free time to make them some damn cookies, but we hadn't really bothered to tell them that we lived together.

Like I said, personal lives weren't something we really discussed.

And after that we continued wandering through some mysterious dark forest. It was a little silly. Harry scoffed a bit at Ian's version of the centaurs. He kept asking the leader about Mars. And he kept trying to get them to play with poker with Tarot cards. Ian wasn't particularly amused by his antics, but I thought it fairly entertaining.

Harry and I left together after we'd finished. The boys stared after us a bit. I think that deep down they knew two of their members may not be around for much longer. We were enjoying the time we spent together too much. And I was starting to have less and less time to just fool around.

But we both still enjoyed the weekend adventures. We were just enjoying other things a bit more.

And he'd been right, not one of the boys had noticed or commented on the ring on my left hand.

Mallorca in June was a surprisingly good idea. Even if Potter had come up with it. He figured I'd like the island. He'd been right, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't anticipating the walks through Palma and trudging after me through Roman ruins.

Apparently he'd been operating on the assumption that I'd enjoy spending the majority of my time lying around on the beach in a bikini. And while I'm sure that he'd have loved to watch me in a bikini all day, I found some slightly more interesting things to do.

But he didn't comment as I lectured him on the ruins. In fact, really, he seemed to enjoy the situation. So much so that he kept talking of extending our vacation and heading to Rome and then Athens.

And really that's not to say that I didn't enjoy spending a few hours a day laying on the beach and reading a book. I'd brought a few with me. Unfortunately, he'd made me agree to no medical tomes or things for school. So instead I just had a random assortment of relatively new fiction.

I told him that two weeks in Palma was more than enough and not to do anything silly. But he'd just smiled and nodded and asked me if I preferred Gucci or Prada. I slapped him. And told him Versace.

But I'd been teasing. Still, it hadn't taken me long to learn that teasing with Potter was a little strange, and teasing could often turn into something. I mean, hell, I'd joked I wanted to try a fountain pen and a few days later a shiny thin Waterman sat next to a packet of ink cartridges, a converter, and a bottle of ink on our kitchen counter.

Naturally I'd made an absurd mess.

But it was little things like that. On one hand, they amused me, but on the other, it was still a little surprising and irritating when he just did stuff like that. But after looking at his bank statement, I wasn't sure why I was bothering getting a medical degree.

Except for the fact that I wanted to.

Of course, after a solid four days of dealing with a near-hysterical Astoria in March made me fearful for June. But I was always more mellow than her.

Of course, when Harry mentioned Mallorca I'd wanted to do the entire thing on the island, but he'd vetoed that idea. I don't think it was so much that he didn't want to just do it on the island, but he didn't think it was fair to my father and some of our friends and he talked me out of it.

He rarely mentioned his own friends. And at the ceremony only a few people showed up on his side. It was a strange looking group. Far, far too many gingers, for the most part. But they all seemed nice. They didn't stick around and talk much, although Ian flirted pretty hard with a red-head who was probably a few years younger than me. She hadn't seemed interested.

A strange little blond girl was very nice to me. Although I wasn't sure whether or not she was all there. The only other two that really talked to me were a brunette and another ginger. Hermione, I learned her name was, was kind, but rubbed me the wrong way. Ron, I just had a strange sensation to completely ignore.

"Enjoying yourself?" he asked from behind me. I was perched in a chair on our balcony in Palma, sipping some Spanish wine.

"Immensely," I smiled back at him. He placed an ice bucket with a new bottle of wine in it on the table and sat in the chair opposite of me. He just wore a pair of pajama pants and looked a little silly, but I wasn't about to comment. "You?"

Of course, I was just wearing a short green nightie and wasn't sitting in a very ladylike position as I perched in the chair. But I doubt there were any voyeurs about, and I didn't really care. I was far too content to worry.

It had been a very long time since I felt this happy. There were some moments in school, in my later years, where I could sort of recall being happy, but when I tried to focus on those memories, I could never quite recall just why.

"The Albarino is fantastic and the company is wonderful," he smiled and refilled the wine glasses. "So I'm feeling pretty content."

"Just content?" I teased. I shifted a little bit, stretching my arms above my head for a few moments before lowering them slowly and reaching for my wine. I let one of the straps slide down my arm a bit and just sipped the alcohol.

"For now," he smiled a little bit at me, his eyes lingering on the displaced part of my outfit.

"Well is there anything I could do to assist you?" I asked. I looked away from him for a moment and then gazed up at him through my eyelashes, attempting a faux-submissive look. He just smiled at me.

"I could probably think of something," he said with a cautious sip of his wine.

"Oh?" I asked, placing mine back down on the table.

"Come here," he smiled. I nodded dutifully and stood before walking over and plopping down into his lap. He immediately put his arms around me.

"Better?" I asked.

"Oh yes," he smiled.

"So what are your incredibly exceptional plans for tomorrow?" I asked.

"I've no idea," he smiled. "I hadn't thought much past breakfast."

"Couple eggs, some toast and some bacon?" I teased. He was pretty predictable with his breakfast choices.

"May spice it up and go with some granola," he responded.

"Seriously?" I laughed.

"No," he responded.

"I think that it may be a good beach day," I said.

"Okay," he smiled. He'd agreed to pretty much everything I'd wanted to do for the last few days. I'm sure he hadn't expected the walking and the exploring and all that, but he was having as good of a time as I was.

"I haven't worn the blue bikini yet, have I?" I asked. He was surprisingly good at remembering which outfits I wore. Well, at least which outfits that didn't cover much.

"Nope, just green and white," he said. "But I think it's supposed to rain tomorrow."

"In the morning," I sighed. I'd read it in the paper. "I don't plan on being out of bed until the afternoon."

"Anything special for breakfast or lunch?" he asked. He always had diner planned, pretty much regardless of my opinion on the matter. But so far I hadn't minded. Usually we went someplace rather formal. He liked to take me out. I liked to go out. So it all worked out.

Although I was going to convince him to have a night in the hotel room here in the next couple of days. But so far the only parts of the days he really wanted any control over were the evening meal. So I let him have that control.

"Fruit," I smiled. I typically just picked at a room service assortment for both meals. We ate much more in the evenings, and I liked to have an appetite.

"And you say I'm predictable," he teased me. He pressed his lips to the corner of my mouth.

"Uh-huh," I sighed. "But I never argued I wasn't."

"Touché," he said. And I just leaned against him and closed my eyes for a moment. I spent the time fantasizing about the next weeks. All the things we'd do. And it was a wonderful assortment of images. I couldn't wait for them to become a reality. After a few quiet moments I just sighed contentedly in his lap.

"Well, Potter," he sighed, his hands sliding gently up my back and briefly into my hair. "Would you like to turn in for the evening?"

"Uh-huh," I sighed and he just lifted me up and carried me back into our hotel room.

Even years later I still thought about those days and smiled. It took me a very long time to realize just how lucky I'd been that Harry hadn't simply wandered away into the darkness on that first night when I'd blown him off.

But he'd always been more stubborn than that. I'd learned that very quickly that if he wanted something, he'd eventually get it. I actually kind of admired it.

I didn't admire his general lack of interest in working. But I'd see him writing things in journals. He'd even let me read them. Often, it was just detailed logs of our time together, or exposes on areas where we'd vacation to. We'd vacationed a lot during the first few years. It was much easier when I had breaks from school. After that I'd stack some time here or there for a few trips.

I suppose he did do some 'consulting' work for people he knew on occasion. I wasn't sure just what that entailed, and usually didn't press. I didn't think he'd keep it from me if I asked, but I knew most people who needed consulting preferred if it stayed a private matter.

And he'd even written a couple of books. They hadn't been huge successes, but they did well enough. He didn't do much publically with them. In his mind they were just fanciful tales of fantastic events. Something about them rung true to me, but I was one of the few people who didn't seem to think they were too far-fetched.

Now, though, that it was easier for me to take a couple of weeks off whenever we wanted I appreciated the fact that he could have a vacation pretty much whenever. But it seemed rare that we'd really want to go anywhere on those occasions.

He managed all the finances. I was a bit skeptical at first. Especially when I was the one putting in massive amounts of hours and collecting paychecks. But he showed me his statements, and things he accumulated interest on, and even his portfolio, which was filled with all sorts of things I didn't understand.

But at the very least he had a substantial enough income. And it wasn't like we didn't have joint-access to the accounts, so I didn't mind that he did all the paperwork. It wasn't like I didn't do enough of that at work anyway.

I'd only lasted a few years in the hospital itself. After that I'd switched toward more of a research role. I was heading up a team working on non-radiation treatments for cancer. At this point we weren't having much success. But I had more standard hours and it was considerably easier to do all of the family stuff.

I liked my work though. It gave me something to do and I felt better after a day of trying to figure out how to help people than after doing just about anything else. Harry was very encouraging too. He'd even learned some medical stuff. I don't really know how or when but it must have simply come from having me around. Still, he was more than willing to listen to me ramble or rant on about why something was or wasn't working. And eventually, he wound up turning into a pretty good resource for bouncing ideas off of. Even if all that really did was force me to think about and discuss my own ideas. It helped.

He'd been a little annoyed with me when I'd woken up early that Saturday. But I had some things I wanted to check up on at the lab, and then I wanted to go get some exercise. And it wasn't like we ever slept in on weekends anymore, anyway. But I think he'd probably wanted to make me breakfast or something.

Even now he did stuff like that. I appreciated it. We took turns with dinner most of the time that we ate at home. Tonight was his turn, but I suspected we'd try to go out. We liked to go out on Saturday. It just wasn't always feasible.

I left the studio, stretching my arms above my head as I walked. The little freestyle sessions always helped my mornings. I really needed to get back into a sort of routine with them. But every time I tried it seemed like some other weekend engagement came about.

I stopped in the café. Derek was behind the counter. He made me a couple of coffees and I grabbed a small bottle of apple juice and tucked it into my purse. We exchanged pleasantries while he made the coffee. He asked me all the standard questions. Harry and I still stopped by the café probably once a week or so, but Derek had gone on to open a couple more in the city, and he wasn't always working when we stopped in.

It was nice to catch up. He was doing well for himself. Ian wasn't doing so well for himself. Derek wasn't as big of a fan as his new friends as he had been his old. I wished him my best, but couldn't really think of much more to say.

I checked my phone to see if I had any new messages before I picked up the coffees and thanked Derek. He gave me a little bit of a smile, told me we should get together for lunch, and waved me on my way.

I wandered back outside and kept walking toward our home. We still lived in the same building we'd moved to all those years ago, but we'd moved into a larger unit. The extra rooms were life savers.

It only took me a few minutes to walk near the building. We had a rather nice park across the street and since it was a nice morning I decided to jaunt through it. I wasn't overly surprised when I stumbled upon them.

Harry was sitting on a bench, his arms out to his side, resting on the back. He was leaning backward and looked completely relaxed. But his attention was focused squarely on her. She was feeding the birds with crumbled up pieces of bread, despite the nearby sign suggesting to not do that.

I just smiled at the scene, standing a few feet away from him and just watching the scene. He didn't notice me and I just watched for a couple of minutes, sipping my coffee as I did. But eventually, I figured it was rude to let his coffee cool off too much so I snuck up behind the back of the bench and then slid onto it, next to him. I handed him the plastic cup that didn't have lipstick smears around the lid.

"Why hello" he said, taking it. "But I'm not sure my wife would like me accepting gifts from strangers."

"As long as you don't sleep with them she won't care," I deadpanned. He slid his left arm off the bench and around my shoulder. I leaned against him a little bit.

"I'll keep that in mind," he laughed. "What if they're really pretty?"

"Still no," I laughed with him.

"Thanks for the coffee," he smiled.

"Anytime, babe," I said.

"How was dancing?" he asked. Both of our eyes settled on her. I guess we couldn't help but be protective.

"Fine," I said quietly. "Didn't really do much other than flit around."

"Isn't that normal?"

"More or less," I sighed.

"Well I'm sure you looked awesome doing it," he laughed. I shook my head.

"I doubt it," I smiled though.

"Oh but you looked awesome when you had those small parts!" he laughed. I smiled a little bit.

"Well I appreciate that. But it was years ago," I laughed.

"We're not that old, Daphne," he smirked. I looked at him and shrugged. We really weren't. In fact, he still pretty much looked like he had outside that café all those years ago. I thought I did, too, but that could have simply been vanity.

"We just age well," I smiled.

"Honey, don't pick up the birdie." It took me a moment to realize he wasn't talking about me.

"But Daddy," she frowned and turned to look at us. She didn't seem overly surprised by my sudden appearance, but I suppose in her mind mommy just showing up wasn't anything to take note of. "It ate all the bread. Do you have more?"

"No, Claire," he said. "And we shouldn't feed them anyway. It will make them dependent."

"What's that?" our daughter asked. She looked back at him. She looked a lot like me, except she wasn't quite as pale. She had the same hair, and her facial structure was similar to mine. She'd lucked into a dimple though. Something I couldn't claim. She had his eyes, though. The large green orbs were certainly better than anything I could have given her.

"It means they won't be able to care for themselves," I said.

"Oh," Claire frowned. "Is that bad?"

"It could be," I smiled. And I reached into my purse and pulled out the small apple juice. "I got you this."

"Oh!" she smiled brilliantly and ran to the bench we were sitting at. I opened the juice for her and handed it to her as she approached. She got far more on her face than was probably appropriate as she started to drink, and I found myself cleaning her off a moment later.

After that she wedged herself between us on the bench. I just sighed and stared out around the park. It was starting to become a bit busier. I wasn't sure what Harry had told her we'd be doing all day, but I didn't have work to get to, so I wasn't particularly worried about that.

"I don't want to go shopping," Claire said with a frown a few moments later. I looked at Harry, a little surprised at that.

"Don't you want new clothes for school?" he smiled.

"I don't want to go to school," she frowned. "I want to stay home with you."

"But school will be fun," Harry said. "You'll make all sorts of friends."

"What if they don't like me?"

"They'll love you," he assured her. She pouted for a few moments, as if thinking about that statement. I tilted my head down to the side and placed a gentle kiss on Harry's hand, which now rested on my shoulder.

"Okay," Claire said quietly. "But can we get ice cream after?"

"Ask your mother," Harry said. I frowned and glanced at my watch. It was still early in the day, but shopping was always hard to predict.

"As long as it's not too close to dinner," I sighed. It probably wouldn't matter, anyway. We spoiled her a little too much. But after that we all stood. I took Claire's hand and Harry walked off in front of us to find a cab and commence with the rest of our day.

And more time passed. Claire grew every day. She loved school, naturally. I'm not sure how she couldn't. She was always good at it too. But we both knew that. She was a smart girl. We had her reading before she'd even entered primary school. And she made so many friends so quickly that we both had a hard time keeping track of all of them.

I am also not ashamed to say that I started taking more days off during the week once she was out of the house. It was always nice to be able to stay home with Harry. It made the weeks worlds better.

We fought a little bit at first. I think mostly because he wanted another kid and I didn't really want to go there. Claire had been hard enough. Of course, with her, I'd been finishing medical school and trying to work in a hospital. It hadn't worked well to start. And now there was much less pressure on me in that area.

I'd probably relent at some point. A boy may have been fun. Not that I could control the outcome. But it didn't help his cause that I felt no impending rush to do so. When I looked in the mirror I'd have sworn I still looked twenty-five. Even our friends commented on how youthful we managed to look. I felt it, too. And I don't think it was just from the dancing.

We'd finally moved out of the apartments a few years after Claire started school. We'd moved to a townhouse just the other side of our favorite park. It was a three story building that cost us more in taxes than our rent could have ever dreamed of being. But it was something that he'd inherited, apparently. I didn't like the fact that the house number was thirteen, but I couldn't really control that.

And there were some spooky things about it. A few of the rooms looked more suited for an early-Victorian brothel than a London town house. And I'm pretty sure some of the plumbing and furnishings probably dated from the late seventeen hundreds. Harry thought I was being silly, but I would have sworn some of the paintings on the third floor moved.

This also fails to mention that one of the walls had some sort of unidentifiable scorch marks on it. And that the building had a gloomy feature that didn't quite suit it. And sometimes I'd have sworn I forgot just where it was. But we fixed all of that.

It took us about a year of working on it to touch up the outside, repaint the interior, put in all new windows and carpeting, modernize all of the appliances and plumbing, bring in all new furniture, and make most of the rooms inhabitable for normal people. He kept one of the third floor bedrooms as an office and didn't change much about it. He claimed he liked it the way it was. I thought he was a little silly.

I was a little surprised that the house had fallen into such disarray, but we'd taken care of that. Of course, with the amount of money we spent to refurbish it, we could have probably bought a house in London and another home in Tuscany.

I liked it, though. It certainly had a home feel.

I set the timer on the oven and walked out from the kitchen and back into the living room. He was relaxing in a chair, the television displaying a rerun of some crime show I never really got interested in.

But all I noticed was that he hadn't started on any of the decorations like he said he would.

"Really Harry?" I sighed. I picked up the string and started sliding letters onto it, hoping I could make a passable banner before the baked goods finished.

"Sorry," he frowned. "What do you want me to do?"

"Balloons now. I'll deal with the banner," I tried to sound annoyed. But I'd really expected it. He'd been a bit down all week, and even more so today. I had no idea what was wrong with him. When I asked he just told me he was fine. I'd been too busy to really press.

"Okay," he sighed. He grabbed the bag of balloons and started blowing one up. I went back to the banner. It didn't take me long to string 'happy' together. I looked around and grabbed the two ones sitting nearby and added them. Before I knew it the banner was complete.

I wandered over toward the door between the kitchen and the living room. So Claire would see it when she wandered down to breakfast in the morning. I hopped on a chair to help me hang it. It didn't go well. I was too short.

But a few moments later, Harry was behind me. He chuckled quietly and pulled me down from the chair, before hanging the banner himself with a smile. I just shook my head and tossed him up a couple balloons he'd blown up with the instructions to tie them to the banner.

"Now what?" he sighed.

"Go get her presents and box of gift wrap," I said. He nodded a bit, they were in a second floor closet. He walked up the stairs to get them and I went back to work on the balloons. I'd hang a few more in the kitchen just to make a more festive atmosphere.

Harry returned a few moments later carrying the clear plastic bin I kept all of the wrapping paper in, whether it was for Christmas or Birthdays. And I immediately started on wrapping Claire's gifts. I probably shouldn't have put it off to the last minute like this. But oh well, there wasn't a whole lot I could do about that now.

Harry just sat in his chair and looked at me as I wrapped. Usually he'd offer to help, and I'd let him, despite the fact that I could wrap about four gifts in the time it took him to do one. And even make them look better. But hey, it was one of those situations where it was the thought that mattered far more than the outcome. When we were done I brought them into the kitchen and placed them on the table just in time to hear the timer go off on the oven.

I moved over to it and took the brownies out. We'd bought a decorated cake, too, but I always liked to make something for special occasions. Claire preferred very basic chocolate brownies with powdered sugar on top. So that's what I made.

I walked back into the living room. Harry had migrated to the couch so I sat down on it as well. I let out a deep sigh as I rested against him.

"I don't remember birthdays being this much work," I sighed. He just chuckled a bit under his breath, and slid an arm around my waist. I glanced up at the banner I'd just made and frowned. I'd forgotten the 'th' and it just read 'Happy 11 Birthday'. I'm sure Claire wouldn't comment, but it bothered me.

"Me either," he sighed. It took him longer to respond to me than normal. It was almost like he heard me, but then just not registered that he should say something. I frowned a little bit.

"What's wrong, love?" I asked as sweetly as I could. His arm slid around my waist but he didn't answer. I'd have argued with him had he tried to move away from me or anything. But instead he was silent, so I was silent too.

"They told me you were dead," he said quietly after some time.

"What?" I laughed. "Is that some sort of beginning for a novel or something?"

"No," he sighed.

"Well it would be better than the one where the main character complains that the whole last year was boring as a cheap way of setting the mood," I said. He just frowned. I could sense he didn't like the teasing, and I was torn. Part of me thought that I should just lead him upstairs and comfort him. He'd never kept something from me. He'd tell me. I just had to be patient. But part of me thought he was acting too strange. And I decided to press.

"Please just tell me what's wrong," I said. Again, he was silent. And then he stood.

"Give me one minute, okay?" he said. I just nodded and he walked upstairs. He came back moments later with a black, leather-bound journal. He handed it to me. I looked at him for a moment and then opened it. The title page just had my name written on it in my mother's flowing handwriting.

"What is this?" I asked.

"Your father gave it to me on the morning of our wedding," he said. "He told me to give it to you when I felt the time was right."

"Have you read it?" I asked. Part of me was afraid to flip it to the next page. But I did anyway. It was a hand written table of contents with things like 'Year one' 'Year two' and all the way through 'Year six'. And then 'Memories.' Each of the chapter headings was in a blue-black ink, a favorite color of mine. And under each was a summary of the chapter, but this was in a silvery-gray ink that was hard to read on the paper. And this handwriting wasn't my mother's. No, these entries were in my handwriting. It had to have been a forgery. I never wrote things down. I just didn't.

"It isn't for me to read," he said. I frowned a little bit.

"Why is the time right? And who wrote this?" I asked. He just shrugged and shook his head.

"I have no idea, Daphne. I think you did. But, can you promise me something?"

"Of course," I said. That seemed like a silly thing to ask me. I'd already promised him everything, what more could some reassurance of that be worth?

"I'm going to tell you a story," he said slowly. I closed the journal and looked at him. "Please just listen until I'm done. Then I'll try to help."

"Okay," I said, tilting my head to look at him. At this point I was seriously confused.

"Everything is going to change tomorrow," he said. "The world that you know. Everything."

"What?" I laughed. "You're not like, part of a terrorist cell or something, are you?" I was teasing, but my heart fell. Just what could he be talking about? What had he kept from me?

"They told me you were dead," he said. "And so I did what I had to do. I did what needed to be done. It was violent and it was surprisingly quick. When it was over, I left. I had no more place in that world."

"What are you talking about?" I interrupted him. He just shook his head at me and I frowned. "Sorry."

"I left. I abandoned it all. They'd used me and I'd let them. I came back to England only briefly, years later. And only because I'd read two of my friends were getting married. I went to see them. But I couldn't. I got close. We'd agreed to meet for dinner, but I just couldn't go through with it."

"Please just tell me what you're talking about," I said, this time waiting until he stopped to take a breath. He just nodded at me.

"So instead I walked away from them, again. Away from the diner. And I'd just walked through the streets. I have no idea what brought me to that café. But I walked in to get a coffee. And a sandwich. I was hungry. I'd skipped dinner, you know. I wasn't paying attention. And then there you were. Behind the counter with coffee. But they'd told me you were dead."

"Harry," I frowned. He was always vague about what he did before he met me. And this wasn't really helping with that now.

"But you weren't dead. You were there, smiling at me despite the coffee. Helping out despite being off the clock. And everything came back," he sighed. But I just let him talk. He told me something. A story, a history, a lie, or a fantasy. I didn't know what to think. It all had to be fiction. An elaborate story he was working on.

But he was right. Everything did change when the morning post arrived.

Author's Note 2: As always, thanks for reading, I do appreciate it. Check out my new fic, Harry Potter and the Toadstool Cup. It's just comedic fun that doesn't take long to get through!