After the initial awkwardness was dealt with between Harry and Cyrus, they slowly came to enjoy their conversations together. Harry respected Cyrus' opinions and ideas about the magical world.
He was a Pureblood, but not a supremacist, from an old family, but not one with a title. It was an interesting perspective on some of Harry's ideas, for example his plans for the expansion of his new Quidditch team. Cyrus couldn't believe what a huge industry sports were in the Muggle world, far outstripping all the magical industries combined, on its own.
It crept up on Cyrus, but he came to respect Harry. He was a young man with supreme drive and intelligence. It pained him to admit it, but he had been wrong, here was someone who would be perfect for his little girl. Sure he had faults, but they were balanced perfectly by Daphne, and her faults in turn were balanced by him.
Daphne was progressing well, or so the healers said anyway. The majority of her bones had been vanished and replaced; it was only her neck and skull left. Her skull was the most difficult part of the whole treatment because it had to be done in sections, requiring supreme control on the part of the healer.
Harry was still visiting every day, although for less time, as Sirius was making it his mission to distract Harry from sitting and moping at her bed all day, every day. It was a difficult balance for Sirius to strike, he needed to let Harry visit her and get over his guilt, but he also needed to prepare him ever so gently for the possibility that she may never wake up from the Draught of Living Death.
Harry wasn't much like Sirius, so he couldn't go with his normal plan for distraction; alcohol and debauchery. Harry was far more driven and so, with a few suggestions from Remus, Sirius set about distracting Harry with work and learning more magic.
The acquisition of the Elder Wand threw Harry's control over his magic, right out of the window when he first started using it. Sirius had already been impressed by Harry's power but now, quite frankly, he was in awe of it. Harry was overpowering every single spell he was using, and didn't seem to be able to stop.
While this may be useful in a duel situation, it was useless for day to day living. For example, he levitated a feather through three floors, with a simple Wingardium Leviosa. Sirius took him right back to the beginning of Hogwart's education and, with much patience, set to controlling the flow of magic. It was difficult, but in the long run would be invaluable for Harry. Varying the power of spells was something not usually taught at Hogwarts. It only came up if you went on to a Mastery, so Harry was once again learning something far beyond his age range, albeit enforced this time as opposed to through curiosity.
Having a goal distracted Harry from drowning in thoughts of Daphne, lying in her hospital bed. He was grateful to Sirius for taking the time out to help him, and for not trying to force him to take a break and have fun too often. They still had fun together, watching a film or playing Xbox, but after an hour or so, Harry began to get antsy and distracted. Sirius recognised this and would move them back to working on spells.
The one distraction that Sirius planned that didn't work out, was taking Harry to visit Ripfang and the others sorting through the Room of Requirement stuff. Rather than be interested in all the fascinating items the trio had discovered, Harry couldn't help but think about how Daphne would react to everything, how excited she would be.
He lasted less than half an hour before he ended up storming out of the warehouse. Sirius found him, nearly an hour later, leaning against some railings, watching the boats travelling up and down the Thames. Knowing it was pointless to do anything else, he took Harry to see Daphne in St Mungo's straight after, so he could work through his feelings.
Privately, Sirius worried what would happen if Daphne didn't wake up; visions of Harry tearing the country apart in a bid to escape his grief, filled his thoughts. The worst thing was he had no idea what he could do to help avoid this, beyond hoping the situation never arose.
It was today, D-Day, the day they were going to attempt to wake Daphne up. Her treatment had been proclaimed a success, all her cursed bones replaced with brand new ones, even her skull. To say Harry was nervous, would be an understatement of epic proportions. Sirius had given up trying to calm him, and let him work his nervous energy off by pacing up and down. They were waiting for 9am so they could go to St Mungo's and be first on the scene for her waking, or not, as the case may be.
They apparated at 8.58, when Harry simply couldn't wait any more. He was so distracted, he didn't even complain about the feeling of side along apparition, as he normally did.
Barely pausing, he weaved through the people in reception, following the well trodden path to Daphne's room. Cyrus and Ana were already waiting outside the room when Harry arrived. They greeted each other quickly, but all were distracted, lost in their own thoughts.
Sometime later, a healer poked her head around the door, interrupting the silence, and Harry's heart flew into his mouth. This was it. The woman wasn't smiling, was this good or bad?
"If you would like to come in, she's just waking up now. Try not to overwhelm her, she could still be a little dazed and confused."
A broad smile worked its way onto Harry's face and he slumped against the wall, steadily sinking down in it in pure relief. Cyrus and Ana entered the room to see their daughter, but Harry hung back, wanting to give them some privacy. Cyrus looked to have been expecting this and frogmarched Harry into the room.
Ana was crying tears of joy at seeing her daughter awake. She hugged Daphne gently, as if frightened she would break. Ana eventually let go and Cyrus moved in wrapping Daphne in an enveloping embrace, before he too stepped back.
Harry was frozen; he didn't know how to cope with this. There were so many things he wanted to say, needed to say, but they had flown his mind as he gazed at the beautiful girl in front of him. Cyrus gave him a light push in the back and he stumbled towards her before catching himself and clutching her tightly.
"I'm so, so sorry" he whispered in her ear as he held her.
She pushed him back, fire in her eyes. "And what are you sorry for?"
"Well, it's my fault, you know…" He flinched as she pushed him back and punched him squarely in the chest.
"Now you listen here, you bloody idiot, it is not your fault. And if you say it is again, so help me, I will curse you to within an inch of your life. I will talk to Godric and get him to teach me the most painful curses he knows. If you even dream of treating me any different, treating me like glass, I will hurt you so badly your worst nightmare will seem like a fond memory."
At this stage, old Harry would have nodded in agreement, but not really meant it. He would have done exactly what she warned him against, treated her like glass. He would have tried to protect her and by doing so, by trying to cage her, he would have lost her.
However, this was new and improved Harry, one who had grown physically but most of all mentally and emotionally over the last year. New Harry now just about accepted, that it really wasn't his fault, that sometimes bad things happen. And so, rather than nodding without meaning it, he pulled his girlfriend into a searing kiss. He didn't care that her parents were in the room, he was practically drunk on the joy of her being awake and back in his life.
They were interrupted by a cough from Cyrus. He may approve of Harry but that didn't mean he wanted to see things like that. He wanted to be able to live in a fantasy land where she wouldn't do anything like that, until she was at least 40. Anastasia, on the other hand, was positively beaming in delight. Before she could say anything though, the chief healer bustled into the room.
"Right that's enough, she needs rest. Go on, get out and let me treat my patient." He ushered the Greengrass parents and Harry towards the door. Clearly, bedside manner was not a requirement of being the chief healer, and identical expressions of anger adorned Cyrus and Harry's faces. Before they could release some of their ire, Ana grabbed them both and escorted them out.
"Don't you go looking at me with that face of thunder, either of you. He may be an odious little man but he is right, she has only just woken up and needs rest. We can come back later." Her tone brooked no argument whatsoever.
Harry's anger faded as quickly as it had risen. "Makes sense. I think I might wait until tomorrow to come visit again. Make sure she's rested up enough, and to give you two some time alone with her." He held up a hand to stall their objections. "I know you don't think it's necessary, but I'd feel better if it worked out that way. I feel so much better just seeing her up and shouting at me again, that I don't think I'd be able to sit with her for any length of time anyway. I need to go and burn some energy off. Cyrus, Ana, always a pleasure." He gave a slight incline of the head, the merest hint of a bow, and walked off, whistling a jaunty tune.
Cyrus looked at Ana, slightly bemused by the turn of events. She just stood there, a knowing smile playing across her lips.
"Come on husband, let's go and tell Astoria the good news. She will be dying to visit her sister, now that she is awake."
Harry felt as though he was walking on the clouds. As if to rejoice along with him, the sun was beaming down with unseasonably hot weather. He couldn't remember, but he would swear that it was grey and dull this morning, before he walked into St Mungo's. Now everything seemed brighter, colours were sharper and he could hear birds chirping over the sound of the hustle and bustle of the crowds.
Sirius was standing just outside the exit of the hospital, leaning against a lamppost. He didn't need to ask how everything had gone, Harry's expression told him everything he needed to know.
"She's up and about then?" he asked conversationally. Harry's smile only grew, so much so that it looked as if his face may split in two. "Needs her rest I suppose. How about we take the bikes for a spin around the countryside somewhere, and get some decent lunch in a pub? Relax a little, enjoy the sunshine?"
"Sounds good Padfoot, maybe go to the coast? It seems like a day to see the sea."
"Now you're talking" Sirius whooped, and clapped Harry on the back. "Come on let's get going, today is a day of celebration."
It certainly was a day of celebration. They ended up taking their bikes to the South coast and spent an enjoyable morning whipping through the lanes and along the coastal roads, all the way down to Cornwall.
Caught up in the thrill of life, they pushed their bikes close to the limit, speeding through the sunshine. It was only thanks to the numerous safety charms on them, that the bikes actually managed to make some of the corners at the speeds they were travelling.
Around 1pm, they came to a country pub and there was a quick application of a glamour to Harry, to make him look 18, so that the two of them could share a meal and a pint. The steaks were cooked to perfection and the local cider had a kick to it that had even Sirius wide eyed at its potency.
One pint quickly became two, and by the time they had finished their meal, they were in no condition to ride anywhere, so Sirius simply apparated them back to Grimauld Place. They then sent Dobby out for supplies, and started a marathon Xbox session, all the while continuing to polish off more of their store of alcohol.
Sirius refused to start a bottle of firewhiskey, claiming that was only for when you wanted to get absolutely hammered. In his, self proclaimed, expert opinion, Muggle alcohol was far better for a night out, as it wasn't as powerful. Harry agreed, it was certainly a lot more pleasant to take the occasional drink from a bottle of beer, than to down a shot of throat-burning spirit.
It was soon evident to Harry, that drinking alcohol adversely affected a person's coordination (who knew?), as both his and Sirius' ability to play Xbox suffered.
Giving up, they started watching films while Dobby served them a surprisingly junk food laden meal. Chicken wings, ribs and a giant pizza, as well as sides and a continuing flow of alcohol. Unbeknownst to either though, Dobby had started to sneak in the occasional alcohol free beer for the pair.
As the night wore on the ratio of alcoholic beer to non alcoholic altered, so that by 10pm, they were only getting alcohol free. Dobby watched them both fondly from the doorway, as they cheered at Rambo taking on a whole army by himself, spilling copious amounts of beer in the process. It was good to see Harry acting like a child, well perhaps child wasn't the right word. It was good to see Harry having fun. It was after midnight when the inebriated pair dragged themselves off to bed.
Harry's first ever hangover was nowhere near as much fun as his first drinking session. Stumbling down the stairs towards the kitchen, he silently vowed never to touch a drop of alcohol ever again, no matter how special the occasion was. Sirius was already at the kitchen table, bleary eyes fixed on his greasy fry up. Harry plonked himself down opposite and grunted in response to Sirius' muttered 'morning'.
His stomach rebelled at the mere thought of food, but he knew he really ought to eat something. He was interrupted from his thoughts by the arrival of Dobby, carrying a pale blue vial.
"Morning Harry, feeling a little fragile are we? Here you go, this ought to clear you up straight away." Dobby had the ghost of a smile playing across his face.
"Make…better?" Harry croaked out and at Dobby's nod, he grabbed the vial and drank it. Amazingly it quelled his stomach, the thumping in his head faded to nothing and his dry mouth disappeared. "Wow, that's amazing Dobby, what was it?"
"Hangover cure Harry."
"Where's mine then?" Sirius looked indignantly at the elf.
"You however, are old enough to know better. So, no cure for you, until at least midday. What was that Sirius? I didn't quite catch that. Nothing? Excellent, because I could always allow you to recover naturally."
"You know, I think I prefer normal House Elves, they are more eager to please and less of an annoyance" Sirius grouched.
Harry laughed at his Godfather's discomfort and got started on his newly arrived fry up with a will.
He was halfway through when Sirius suddenly looked up from his breakfast, face adorned with what Harry called 'the Marauder look'. As quickly as it appeared, it faded to a look of such over the top innocence, that anyone would be suspicious.
"Oh Dobby. How about if I have something really important to talk to my Godson about? You wouldn't want me to get some of the details wrong, because I have this easily cured, little, teensy headache would you?"
"And this is something so important that it couldn't possibly wait until after midday?" Dobby asked with a straight face.
Sirius scowled briefly before remembering he was being innocent and the wide eyed look reappeared. "Oh it is vital, would I lie to you?"
Dobby tapped his chin in an exaggeratedly thoughtful manner. "Well, if it is that important I suppose you should have the hangover cure as well. But just remember, next time I won't be so easily swayed." He handed over a second pale blue vial which Sirius grabbed and drank greedily.
As soon as Dobby turned his back Sirius began doing a dance to celebrate his success. Harry rolled his eyes at how easy it was to fool his Godfather, despite him being a 'legendary prankster'.
"So, Harry. Don't really know how to start this but the sooner I let you know, the more time you have to think about it."
Harry looked up in surprise. "You mean you actually do have something important to talk to me about?"
"Of course I do, I've been putting it off for a while but now is as good a time as any really. You see Harry, I can't have children. The years in Azkaban, combined with the fact my parents were first cousins, has left me…sterile." He forced the last out with grimace.
Harry was confused "ok, while that is terrible, what does it have to do with me? Wait that sounds really harsh, I didn't mean it like that."
"It's ok Harry, that is the right question to ask. Given the choice I wouldn't have told you, far too bloody embarrassing. Anyway, you see the Blacks are an Ancient and Noble family like the Potters and as such they have a lordship. Because I am…well you know…I can't become Lord Black, even though I am the next in line. Therefore it will pass to you, my heir when you come of age.
"Now here's the interesting part. As your guardian I can get you emancipated on your 14th birthday. This means that you would be wholly in control of your own finances, you could choose where you live, be free to do magic whenever and so on. I could emancipate you for the Black title and this would automatically gain you the Potter title as well.
"Before you start jumping around with excitement there are issues with this. Firstly, you personally would be liable for any debts you would incur, or either family has already incurred. Personally, I doubt this will be a problem, as I know the Blacks aren't in debt and the fact there was any money in the Potter vault, suggests that neither are they.
"However, by becoming emancipated you would become eligible for any marriage contracts that are currently dormant. Again, I'm fairly certain that the Blacks don't have any contracts that haven't been fulfilled, because otherwise I'd have had to marry, and I know your parents wouldn't have signed one. However, that doesn't take into account the decade or so that Albus was your guardian for all intents and purposes. I wouldn't put it past him to have signed one for you, although Merlin knows what he would get out of it."
Harry was deep in thought, "can't we just ask the goblins if there are any debts or contracts? Surely they would know."
"That would be the easy route, however they aren't allowed to reveal the status of debts or marriage contracts to anyone other than the Head of the family. So you can't find out until you become the Head, and by then it's too late, they already apply."
"So if I agree to this, Albus might have set up a contract with some random girl, and I'd have to marry her straight after my 14th birthday?"
"That's not to mention the clauses and stuff that could be in the contract, hell it's possible that you would have to take her surname. However, fear not, your rather smart and incredibly attractive Godfather has a way out of it. It is possible to write a marriage contract that supersedes any others that may exist.
"It requires a rather unique set of circumstances though, for example that the person must the last remaining member of an Ancient and Noble House, so far so good. Also, the person that signed the possible other contracts on your behalf, must be either dead or incapacitated, again fine as Albus being thrown in the Loony Bin counts as incapacitated. Now, all you need is to find a girl, and thanks to our Ministry's arcane laws she needs to be a pureblood. Now where, oh where, could you possibly find a girl like that?" Sirius smirked at his rapidly thinking Godson.
"Wow, so basically there might not be any contracts but if there is and I don't do this, I will have to abide by them. If I do sign a contract with Daphne, then I will have to marry her, what, straight away?"
Sirius shook his head, "likely within a year of the signing, so basically some time before your 15th birthday."
"I'll have to talk to Daphne about it, before I even begin to think about it for myself." He got up from the table and went to shower muttering, "what a conversation that's going to be."
'What a conversation indeed' Sirius thought, 'don't think I'll stay for that one, who knows how violent it could get.'
It is perhaps surprising, that Sirius was quite correct in his assessment of how the conversation would go, in terms of violence at any rate. However the actual aspect of the violence, was a long way from the mark.
Harry too, had been expecting to dodge one of Daphne's impressive right hooks and so, after he finished explaining the situation to a stone-faced Daphne, he unconsciously edged backwards. He turned to flee when he saw her rising from her hospital bed but he wasn't quick enough to escape.
She grabbed him, flipped him to face her and pulled him into a toe curling kiss. Harry tensed at first but was soon overwhelmed by the feelings, allowing himself to sink into the kiss.
It could have been seconds or even hours before they finally broke apart, leaving Harry fighting to regain his breath.
"Er, what were we talking about again?" Harry asked sheepishly.
Daphne giggled, "You were asking to marry me. Although I must say, you need to work on your delivery, it was certainly lacking in romance."
"And you're fine with this?" Harry spoke cautiously, it seemed as though he was in the clear, but he'd been wrong before.
"Of course I am, you idiot. Would I have kissed you, if I wasn't more than fine with it?"
Harry shrugged eloquently, causing Daphne to shake her head in exasperation.
"Look Harry, we have spent the last six months or so, spending near enough every day together. Of course we argue and all of that stuff, but we get along really well, we even share compatible magic for Merlin's sake. This will work, we will make it work. I know we're young but I…" she trailed off.
Harry looked deep into her eyes, "I love you Daph."
She eyes shimmered with tears, and she pulled him into another breathtaking kiss, releasing him eventually and hugging him tightly.
"I love you too," she whispered in his ear.
They pulled apart, but not too far, and they remained holding hands. "I spoke to the Healers before I came in to see you, and they think you're ready to leave the hospital. So I flooed your parents, to ask if they would let me take you out of here and spend the day together, there are a few things I want to show you. They are fine with it, so come on, let's get out of this place, hospitals give me the creeps."
"Where are we going?" Daphne was very confused as Harry led her straight past the fireplaces in the entrance hall of St Mungo's.
"Trust me, it will be fun."
Daphne looked at him sceptically as he walked into a nearby alley, took something out of his pocket and enlarged it.
"You expect me to get on that with you?"
"It's only a motorbike Daph, I'm a good rider, honestly. Here, just put this helmet on and hold on, it's nearly impossible to fall off, believe me I tried."
He pouted at her, until she gave in and took the proffered helmet, pulling it onto her head. She swung her leg onto the bike, behind Harry, and held onto him for dear life.
"Not so tight Daph, I'm not going to go fast. Just sit back and enjoy the ride."
Against her better judgement, she did just that. Harry guided the bike away at a sedate pace, to get her used to the feeling, and moved into the traffic.
A twenty minute journey later, Daphne was slightly disappointed that Harry seemed to be slowing down. She wouldn't say it outright, but she had thoroughly enjoyed being on the back of the bike and had silently been urging him to go a bit faster. They pulled up outside a nondescript looking building near the Thames. It was surrounded by a wire fence, which looked to be in slightly better condition than the fences around any of the other nearby buildings.
Harry unlocked the gate with a key from his pocket and grabbed her hand to pull her inside.
"Welcome to the first official business site of Marauder's Inc. This is the building where all of the stuff from the Room of Requirement is currently in storage and is being sorted." He had a mischievous gleam in his eye as he watched Daphne's eyes light up in understanding, and her start to fidget as she itched to go exploring. Laughing lightly at her, he beckoned her inside.
The outside may have looked a little rough, but the inside was a different story. The entire area was well lit by huge lamps on the ceiling, as well as standing lamps that could be moved to where they were needed. Near the entrance, there were three large desks arranged in a U shape, facing towards each other.
Each desk was distinctly different in its contents, with papers, books and other curious items covering their surface. However, each did have a large swivel chair on wheels and a computer set up.
Currently, only one of these chairs was occupied. Peering intently at his computer screen, Ripfang didn't even hear the two enter the warehouse. Harry lightly coughed, causing the goblin to jump slightly. He hid it well though, and calmly spun his chair to face the intruders, not quite able to stop the slight smile as he did so.
"Morning Rip, good to see you're still enjoying the spinning chair. How is it going in here today?" Harry asked, desperately trying to keep from laughing at the stern look he was now on the receiving end of. Any other goblin looking at him like that, and he would be worried but he knew Ripfang well enough now, to know when he was actually angry as opposed to his normal grouchy.
"That girl has got to go" he exclaimed, throwing his arms skyward.
"Ah" said Harry, deciding to push his luck a little, "and which girl would this be then Rip?"
"You know full well who I mean. She flits around like an overactive cave fly. It's impossible to get anything done while she's making a racket and interrupting everyone's thinking."
Harry nodded solemnly. "I'll talk to her. Found anything interesting lately?"
Ripfang's annoyed expression disappeared and was replaced with a slightly creepy smile. "We have come across an axe that may be the long lost weapon of the Great Goblin, Zagrod. I need to do some tests to make completely sure, but I am hopeful. If it is indeed the legendary weapon, Skullcleaver, then the Goblins will pay handsomely for its return. Alternately, if you gifted it back, you would gain vast amounts of favour with the Goblin Nation. The choice will, of course, be yours. How it came to end up at Hogwarts, I have no idea, the last we know of Zagrod, is that he was fighting the Dwarves somewhere in Scandinavia."
"Sounds interesting Rip, keep me updated if you confirm that it is indeed that axe. I'll go and talk to Jess. See you later."
Daphne was slightly bemused by the whole situation. Seeing a goblin on a spinning, office chair and using a computer had temporarily thrown her. Seeing said goblin then proceed to glare at her boyfriend, but him completely ignore it, had only added to her current confusion.
As they got around the corner, out of earshot, she turned to Harry. "Why weren't you worried when he glared at you like that? Goblins can be incredibly dangerous."
Harry shrugged it off, "Nah, it's just Rip, he's always like that. Same thing with Jess. He complains bitterly about her, every single time I speak to him but if I actually did fire her, as he constantly suggests, he would be livid with me. He's very protective of her; it's almost like an exasperated father with an incredibly precocious child. Come on, lets go find her, see what she's done to annoy him this time."
They wandered through the maze of different items. According to Harry, there was a system in place, at least he was told there was, but it just looked a mess to Daphne. All around them were different things, you never knew what you would see next, as you rounded a corner. There might be an antique cupboard, an abandoned trunk, potions vials or a thousand other things that Daphne couldn't even begin to recognise.
Finally, they reached an area that actually looked to be vaguely organised, or at least more so than the rest of the warehouse. There were bookcases stretching right around a twenty square metre area. There were some books on the cases, but most seemed to be stacked on the floor inside the square.
"This is Jess' domain. She is currently trying to organise the thousands of books, into some sort of order. I'll let her explain. Hey Jess, you got a second?"
A blonde head poked around an especially large and dusty pile of books. She pushed her glasses back onto her nose, as they had slipped down again, and walked over, giving Harry a hug.
"Harry so good to see you and this must be the lovely Daphne. Hi I'm Jess, Chief Librarian of this dusty little corner. Oh, you must come and see this book I've just found, it seems to be the original, handwritten notes from Yarlington, detailing his trip through the Amazon rainforest studying the plants there. It must be 300 years old at least, but it's in remarkable condition and the diagrams are beautiful."
She looked to be about to explain more about the book but Harry held up his hand to stem the flow. "Jess, what have you done to upset Rip this time?"
She shrugged and wrinkled her nose, "nothing as far as I know. We were having such fun yesterday, he found a scroll written by a contemporary of Ptolemy and we were looking through it together."
"Well, can you try not to annoy him, you know how he gets."
"Of course" she scoffed, "but I'm always careful not to interrupt him now, especially after the telescope incident."
Harry rolled his eyes, it was nearly impossible to keep the two of them from arguing or coming into conflict. They simply saw the world in two completely different ways.
"Anyway Jess, do you want to explain to me and Daph, how you're getting on here?"
She smiled radiantly and rolled up her sleeves. "Of course. So, I've managed to collect most of the books into this one area now, although there are a few dotted around here and there. At the moment, I'm going through each individual book and categorising it by subject.
"Each bookcase here has a clever bit of magic that we discovered, which allows the books on it to be stored in a pocket dimension. This increases the capacity of each bookcase by about one hundred times, but doesn't change the size of the bookcase at all. This gets over the major drawback of space expansion charms.
"Each bookcase is now a different subject, although some, like charms, have been further divided into different areas like duelling and so forth. There are books going back hundreds of years, but there are quite a lot that are the same. For example, there is usually at least five of any book that was a core textbook for more than a year. That's not to mention something like Hogwarts a History, there must be 150 copies of that around.
"Interestingly though, different editions say different things, it's only in the last century or so, that Slytherin has begun to get such a horrible reputation in the book. Before that, the books were essentially fair although usually a little biased to one Founder over another. You can track the different authors or editors throughout the years if you want. For example, the editions from 1643 to 1692 are favourable towards Gryffindor, and then they change and for the next 84 years are more favourable to Hufflepuff. It is a fascinating study of the different things each author chooses to emphasise over another."
"I should very much like to read these different versions sometime" said Daphne.
"Of course, after all they are your books. I'm just glad I have the chance to play around with them, even for a short while." Her face fell here, before she forced a smile again.
"What is it Jess?" Harry asked.
"Oh its nothing, I'm being silly."
"Oh it's just you're going to sell all of these wonderful books, and I won't get a chance to read them all."
"Jess, while we are going to sell some of the books, we are only intending to sell the duplicates. Everything else is going to form the start of the Potter Library. A library that it is likely you will have full access to, if not be in charge of. You heard Daphne, she is just as excited as you to look at the different editions of Hogwarts a History and I can't wait to read some books that have been thought lost for centuries." His tone was gentle, but it was clear he was not going to be dissuaded from this course.
"You really mean it?" Jess asked plaintively.
"Of course" answered Daphne and she was immediately grabbed in a fierce hug by the blonde. She might only have been small but she had some strength to her.
After a few seconds, Jess let go with a horrified look on her face, "oh God, you have just come out of the hospital, I haven't hurt you have I?"
Daphne laughed, "No, I'm fine. I got the all clear today; after we have finished here I'm going home."
Jess, too, laughed in relief and grabbed Daphne's hand to lead her off to some wonder in the library. Harry chortled at the sight. "Will you be alright here for a while Daph? I'm going to go look for Steve."
Daphne waved her hand absently, too engrossed in the tattered book she was being shown. Harry knew he might as well be invisible for a while now, and so swiftly took his leave.
Steve was in the process of directing Dobby to move different items, as they were currently in a tangle. His ever present cigarette was tucked behind one ear, while another one hung from the corner of his mouth, as he gesticulated wildly. If Ripfang and Jess made an amusing pair, then that was nothing compared to the double act formed by Dobby and Steve.
"What are you doing, you long eared cretin? I said move the red thing not the blue." Steve shouted in the direction of a pile of junk.
There was no verbal response from the pile, but an elf shaped hand emerged with one particular finger raised in salute in Steve's direction.
Steve was about to respond when he spotted the arrival of Harry. "Alright Boss?" he asked, flicking the ash from his current cigarette.
This was another quirk of Steve's; he refused to call Harry, or anyone else, by their actual name. It was always 'Boss' or 'Sunshine' or most confusingly 'Dave'. When asked why this was, Steve merely shrugged and answered 'don't rightly know Dave'. Harry had given up and learnt to accept it, although he did still laugh whenever Ripfang was referred to as 'Sunshine'.
"Not too bad Steve, how are things coming along down here?"
He was about to reply, when his attention snapped back to Dobby, "left, I said take it to the left Dave."
"That is the left, can't you tell left from right? Want me to write it on your hand, so you can tell the difference?" Dobby shouted back.
"Well, I want you to take it to the other left then, you little midget." Steve responded before looking back to Harry. "It's going alright, could do with a bit more intelligent help but I can make do with Dave over there. Pretty much everything is nearly sorted now, into different sections. Not a lot more I can do then, until I get some stuff from the other two to sell. Probably be years before that happens though, they take ages to look at every single little thing, rather than say it's a chair and move on."
"That's because they are actually interested in the historical value of each item and not the monetary value like certain mercenary scumbags I could mention" said Dobby, as he returned from depositing whatever it was that he was carrying.
Steve looked thoughtful, "you're probably right Dave." He flicked his cigarette again, "now come on, this time actually move the red one."
Harry left them to it. They might only be able to communicate through abuse but they made a very effective team and were very good friends underneath the bluster. Already, they had saved each other's lives in their time working together. Dobby had pulled a cursed ring off of Steve, after it caused him to light on fire and Steve had tackled Dobby out of the way of a falling cabinet from an unstable pile of stuff.
Of course, neither had ever thanked the other for this, but Harry knew for a fact, that Steve had found a bottle of 25 year old single malt whiskey on his desk the next day, and Dobby had found a brand new pair of high quality, dragon hide gloves.
He walked back at leisurely pace to where he had left Daphne in Jess' slightly erratic care. He meandered through the piles of stuff, pausing now and then to look at something that had caught his eye. He might not be too interested in the furniture at the moment, but it would come in handy in the future, when he got a place of his own.
He caught sight of a gilded corner of a picture frame, and idly wondered if there was anyone as interesting as the Founders in the liberated painting. Daphne and Jess were hunched over a pile of books, talking excitedly. He looked on in amusement, before clearing his throat slightly, startling the pair.
"How are you getting on?" he asked.
"Oh it's wonderful, there are so many fascinating books here. Some have been thought lost for centuries, it's so exciting. I could stay here and look through them all for hours."
Harry grimaced slightly, "I don't think that will be possible. I promised your parents I'd have you home this afternoon." He saw her face fall so he added quickly, "but we can come back tomorrow, if it's ok with them. That will give the guys here a chance to organise a proper tour to show us the most interesting things, and we can begin deciding what we want to keep and what to sell."
She looked about to argue but then seemed to agree with Harry's idea. "Fine, but we are definitely coming back tomorrow."
"Of course, come on let's get going before your Dad hunts me down."
They were about to leave when Ripfang stopped them. "Harry I have been wondering what exactly your plans are for this facility, and us, once we have finished sorting these items?"
Harry paused thoughtfully. "At the moment, I have no particular plans, surely that is quite a long way off though isn't it?"
Ripfang nodded, "in a way yes, but also no. I have been considering this problem and I may have come up with a solution. Despite our differences, we work well together here, and this has been a most satisfying few months.
"However, at our current rate, we are almost certain to finish before the end of this year. I believe that with a few additional staff and some investment, this could become the premier organisation to deal with ancient artefacts and antiques.
"The use of Muggle technology, already gives us a huge advantage over the likes of Gringotts when it comes to research and cataloguing. However, with a little work on your part you could adapt some more Muggle technology to allow us to actively search for more ruins. For example, I have been reading of a Muggle technique called Geophysical Surveying. This allows them to find structures far below the ground, so that they know where to dig. With some modification, this could search for wards or magical traces, and could be the key to finding long lost places like Atlantis."
Harry goggled, "really? Atlantis?"
Ripfang shrugged lightly, "it is well documented that such a place existed, however we have no real idea where it could be, other than under the sea, nor what wards could be hiding it. Gringotts has been searching for centuries but has come up blank. Atlantis is merely the tip of the iceberg, who knows what else could be out there; that we currently have no idea exists?" His eyes lit up at the prospect of all the hidden treasures.
Harry whistled, his mind too running through possibilities. "Rip, this sounds like a fantastic idea but I'm not sure I currently have the capital on hand to invest in this along with the other stuff I have going on. However, and you must keep this a secret, I will be taking up my Lordship on my birthday at the end of July.
"This will give me full access to the Potter accounts, such as they are, but more importantly the Black accounts. This will provide in influx of capital that I can use to develop a few ideas I have and begin making some more money. I tell you what, why don't you begin a little research on how we could set this all up. I'm talking the full works; potential costing, an idea of staffing, projections for how long it would take to get up and running, everything. I would be less concerned about monetary returns on this project, as the potential for gains in knowledge outweighs it. However, that does not mean that I would want the project to be a black hole, that keeps sucking in money with no benefit."
"I will begin right away. Progress in here should increase now that you can visit, as we will have a little more guidance as to what we are keeping and what we are selling."
"Sounds good to me, we'll see you tomorrow Rip." He held out his hand which the goblin took and shook firmly.