Posted 5/4/2014, edited 5/9/2014
This is a work of fiction, based on the book series by J.K. Rowling. Neither do I claim ownership nor do I intend to.
Chapter Thirty-Five - A New Dawn
Without so much as a glance around, she descended the stairs and headed towards her House in the dungeons. Her feet were aching, and she didn't look forward to the next time she would have patrol duty. In fact, she wasn't even sure why they cared anymore. People just didn't sneak out that much. It had been over two weeks since Pansy had last found a couple. From what she had heard, other Prefects hadn't had more luck, which meant all those hours of late-night strolls through the corridors were a waste of time. It was worse since Draco as Head Boy didn't join the regular patrols; Pansy had been stuck with that foolish Macmillan from Hufflepuff.
In her fifth year, Pansy hadn't cared too much about the time spent patrolling even though it had taken attention and time away from her preparations for her O.W.L.s. Whether they'd caught a student or not, it had meant time spent with Draco. That had been nice. During those first months in sixth year, the patrols had been awkward, knowing he would likely have to marry a mutual friend. It had been hard to look at Draco and not think about the future with him Pansy had lost. It had been harder looking at Daphne and not resent her for threatening to crush Pansy's dreams by merely existing.
It hadn't been fair to anyone involved – not to Draco who would have had his choice taken away; not to Daphne who would have had her life turned on its head; not to Pansy who would have had to watch the man she loved drifting away into a loveless marriage, or worse, a happy, fulfilling one. When Daphne had come up with that idea for a draft for a personalized contract that demanded only the barest minimum of contact between spouses, she had made Pansy an early present, but nothing could have topped the one Pansy had found upon her return to the castle – to find the contract activated by Potter.
Pansy had found herself facing a dilemma back then, and although it didn't matter anymore, she still hadn't solved it. On the one hand, Potter activating that contract had freed Draco – Pansy hadn't had to feel bad about wanting Draco's attention, and her dreams of marrying Draco one day had been saved. She knew she should feel grateful to Potter for inadvertently doing her a favour. On the other hand, though, it had meant seeing her friend Daphne facing years with Potter.
Pansy didn't believe the stories about Mudbloods and Half-bloods, no. They were the same as purebloods under their robes. Tracey was similar enough to Pansy, after all. And apart from the obvious, both didn't look that different from Millicent. If it was true for girls, it was true for boys as well. And if those stories were true, how would Half-bloods come about? No, Pansy didn't believe the stories.
It wasn't so much that Potter was a Half-blood that bothered Pansy; she didn't have a problem with them. Millicent was kind enough, Tracey was likeable as well. It wasn't his blood, it was the person. Potter had spent his years thwarting Draco's plans, being a nuisance through and through. He was messy; he was stupid, risking his life for fame and his misguided cause. He was a danger to those around him. All of that Pansy might have been willing to overlook. For Daphne's sake, Pansy might have been willing to act civil around the boy, no matter how much he irked her – and he did, of that there was no doubt.
But she had still never liked him. He was a risk; he was a fool. And due to his betrothal to Daphne, he had put her at risk too. Pansy certainly didn't like seeing her friends in danger, and as a consequence, he had been the cause of much worry for Pansy. Tracey had alternated between amusement and fear for Daphne's safety – it had been appropriate given the situation at hand. Millicent had accepted the truth without putting up much of a useless fight and moved on – she'd always been a follower rather than a leader. Daphne should have been distraught about having to marry Potter, but it had seemed almost as if she had come to terms with it and moved on as well.
While that had been wise and mature stance, Daphne's marriage to Potter had also meant a risk for her friends and another cause for worry for Pansy. Could Daphne be trusted? Draco had brought it up during one of their talks, incidentally. A smart girl like her, surely she would have wanted to join and fight for the proper ways. Daphne had been a proper girl, of that Pansy had no doubt. But with her marriage to Potter, Draco had pointed out, how could they have been sure what Daphne would have told her future husband?
Pansy had disliked that idea. Daphne had been her friend for years. Pansy had trusted Daphne. But then, Pansy had agreed reluctantly, Daphne might have let something slip. Daphne had been a risk. Daphne might have been the reason Potter had found out about Draco's plans. What if she had unknowingly revealed anything of importance? Daphne might have been the reason Draco had had to stop his work at school. Daphne had become a risk to the cause due to Potter; she hadn't trusted her with the most important secrets. In a way, Potter had been the cause for the growing rift and the loss of trust between Daphne and Pansy. Potter was responsible for Pansy losing her friend.
Pansy had had to watch helplessly as Daphne had been in danger because of Potter. Shortly after the contract had been signed, Daphne had been attacked. There was some connection, Pansy was sure. Maybe someone had heard about it before the news broke? And as the months had passed, Pansy had been forced to hope that Daphne's association with Potter would not put her in any danger. For Pansy, the price of losing Daphne and seeing her in constant danger had soured the enjoyment at having Draco. After the attack during the wedding night, Pansy had been out of her mind with worry. What if the Dark Lord wanted to take revenge on Daphne?
But he hadn't, and as the weeks had passed, Pansy had felt more and more confident that Daphne was in no danger. Things had returned to normal.
With a sigh, Pansy stepped through the portal and into the Common Room. Not many people were around, and those that were sat around the tables and worked on some assignments. Classwork had picked up, and with the addition of Muggle Studies people were struggling to keep up.
Pansy was about to head towards the dormitories and her bed when one of the three students at the table in what many called the moist corner shifted to grab a nearby book. Their eyes met for a moment before Tracey looked back down.
It was time, Pansy decided, time to give it another try. She walked over to the table, trying to keep calm. She hadn't quite decided how to begin when Tracey turned to face Pansy with a hard look.
"What do you want?" Tracey asked once Pansy was close. From the way Millicent tensed, she seemed to agree. Zabini leaned back, crossing his arms.
Pansy swallowed the lump in her throat. "You know I had no choice, don't you?" she tried.
"No choice, you say," Tracey replied. "No choice but to go against us, you mean. Aren't we supposed to be your friends?"
Millicent clenched her jaw. Zabini nodded almost imperceptibly.
"We are friends," Pansy told them. "I had no choice, you have to understand. You tried cursing other students and helped her escape. I know you had nothing to do with what happened earlier, but think how that has to look to others. Professor Snape agreed that you were innocent, though, which is why you were only given light punishments."
"For helping a friend and doing what was right," Millicent spoke up with repressed anger. "We chose the right side. We did the right thing."
"I tried to talk them out of it," Pansy tried. "I wanted you to get off."
"Didn't work, then," Zabini said with a snort. What was he even doing there, Pansy wondered. But then, maybe he just didn't want to be part of the new order; there had been times when he had kept his distance from Draco in the past.
"I still tried to," Pansy insisted. "They didn't listen to me, but I managed to convince them you merely made a mistake – that you misread the situation. They were furious, you know?"
"We do," Tracey said, a dark look crossing her face as she rubbed her arm. "So, what do you want, then? Why did you come over? We don't want to hear your apology and we have use for one."
Pansy hesitated before answering, "I want us to be friends again. I want us to go back to the way we were before."
"Good luck with that," Tracey interrupted.
"I get that you are angry..."
"Angry doesn't begin to describe it," Tracey hissed. "You sided with them. Do you think I've forgotten what you said that day? You insulted us. You blamed Daphne for everything."
"I was," Pansy said, biting her lip while trying to find the right phrasing, "furious. Draco's..."
"You believed them," Millicent spoke up. "You repeated their words." Despite the soft tone, it felt like a slap.
After a moment of silence, Pansy sighed. "Draco, he is... my friend."
"So was Daphne once, I believe," Tracey retorted. "You chose a side that day. You chose to believe them."
"I was furious," Pansy repeated.
"You already said that," Tracey pointed out. "I was furious too. I still am. With you, in fact."
"I'm sorry I couldn't get you out of the punishment," Pansy immediately tried, but Tracey's glare shut her up.
"It's not about that," Tracey told her. "You did what you had to do. I understand. I may not like it, and I won't say the punishment was deserved because we all know it wasn't, but I know you didn't have much choice. No, this isn't about that. You're still doing Prefect duty, despite everything, and I understand why you do it." She sighed. "I know you're sorry for how things turned out in the end. All this time, you've tried to apologize, but it won't change a thing. Have you ever considered that's not what I'm waiting for? That an apology might not be what is needed to make up for your mistakes?"
Pansy blinked, unsure of what to reply or think.
Tracey pinched the bridge of her nose tiredly. "All this time, you've tried to apologize to us, but not once have you said what I wanted to hear."
"What we wanted to hear," Millicent corrected.
"And moments ago, you seemed so close, yet you stopped halfway there," Tracey added.
Pansy looked from one of the girls to the other, still not sure what they were talking about.
Finally, Tracey shook her head. "Not once have you said what we know is the truth about the attack. Not once have you admitted your mistake from that day. You just accepted the story the Malfoys..."
"Daphne attacked Draco," Pansy spoke up immediately. "She hurt him and fled. He was seriously injured by her and may never be the same." A quick look around showed no one being close enough to have heard any of the conspirational words from her friend.
"Neither will she," Tracey said with another glare. "You live only once, after all. And we also all know what we're expected to say. But you what? I don't care. We all know the story the Malfoys have put out," she added with a roll of her eyes. Not even lowering her voice, she continued, "And we also know that's not the truth. Malfoy says now Daphne ambushed him. Wasn't it a trap at first? Malfoy says she was the one who started it despite evidence to the contrary. He also claims Daphne turned on us and tried bringing down society with Potter and his rebels."
"Do you really believe Daphne ambushed Malfoy?" Millicent added. "Lay in wait and attacked him from behind like he claimed originally? Or set a trap for him like Malfoy's now saying?"
Pansy bit her lip. She knew the answer, but so far, she hadn't wanted to accept it. "Well, I... I've only heard his side of the story," she tried.
"And thanks to Malfoy, no one will hear hers," Tracey pointed out, her glare returning more fiercely. "Thanks to whatever he did to her, no one will ever talk to her again."
"Pansy," Millicent broke in, "we were both there in second year. The snake hadn't been about to strike when Professor Snape vanished it, and it hadn't been Potter who had brought that snake in. We were both there when that Hippogriff hurt Malfoy. It wasn't the ravenous monster he made it out to be, and no one else got seriously hurt in any of the other lessons since that day."
"Draco has a special relationship with the truth," Zabini told Pansy with a pointed look, "or I'd have to be blind to miss what's supposedly going on around me."
Pansy felt the muscles in her jaw jump and a lump forming in the back of her throat.
"All this time," Tracey finished, "and you've never said anything to the contrary, never voiced doubt about Malfoy's story. Not even in the dorms where you wouldn't have been overheard."
"And his story," Tracey said, sitting up straight and raising her voice slightly, "about the attack is nothing but a lie riddled with unanswered questions and convenient omissions. To begin, the attack doesn't sound like Daphne. She was many things, but she wouldn't side with Potter. She knew better than to take such a risk, and she certainly wouldn't take orders from him." Zabini stretched his fingers, looking bored by the statement.
"Her injuries seemed far more serious and numerous than anything Malfoy admitted to receiving and looked nothing like something he could have inflicted in self-defence," Millicent pointed out, loud enough that Pansy suspected someone at the other tables might have heard her.
"Malfoy couldn't give a convincing motive for Daphne," Zabini added. "So far, he's claimed Daphne joining Potter, which is stupid with Daphne avoiding conflicts as much as possible, and an assassination attempt, which is ridiculous because Malfoy hasn't done anything to be of enough importance for that and he wouldn't have been able to escape one in the first place."
"He changed his story at least once, now claiming she ambushed him instead of luring him into a trap like he had said at first," Tracey continued. "There's a considerable difference between the two, and he changed it after some Gryffindor made Malfoy seem easily fooled to walk into a trap. And don't get me started on Daphne having her books and notes with her. While it might work for a trap, she would have had little use for those with an ambush. Blaming Daphne is just hiding from the truth. If you've ever been her friend, you won't dishonour her memory by supporting Malfoy's lies."
Silence settled at the table while Pansy sank into a chair, staring towards the ceiling and thinking of the sky above the castle.
"It wasn't her," Pansy sighed with a pained expression. She didn't have to look at the others to know they were watching her. Was Daphne watching as well from somewhere, Pansy wondered, but after taking a deep breath, she whispered, "There has to be more to the story. Maybe... maybe someone cursed her. Made her do it. Someone might have forced her. Or maybe she..." Pansy hesitated, not wanting to voice the horrible suspicion that she had tried to ignore. "The stress might have... caught up to her. The last year was hard for her, and... you know." After another moment, she answered the question no one had voiced yet. "No, I don't believe that. I don't think that's what happened, but I know Daphne wouldn't have attacked Draco willingly."
Neither of the others spoke up.
Finally, Pansy sighed once more. "Draco's my friend. Daphne was my friend. I... I don't know." She shook her head. "It's gotten out of control. Friends turning on each other. People getting hurt. Daphne marrying Potter. I don't know what to think. Maybe by some strange twist of fate she did turn on us, joined Potter and his rebels and tried to..." Pansy stared off into the distance, lost in thought. Only when Tracey put a hand on her arm did she wake from her reverie.
"Daphne siding with Potter?" Tracey said with a raised eyebrow. "What, you think they were secretly allies? Conspiring behind our backs? Plotting something the two of them? Now you're grasping at straws."
Millicent smiled at the thought, glancing at her hands.
"It's more likely than Daphne luring Draco into a trap," Pansy pointed out, a single chuckle escaping her. "Although that doesn't say much, I'll admit. Listen, I'm... I'm sorry I didn't admit it sooner. Daphne was many things, but she wouldn't have attacked Draco. Something must have happened. Maybe she was tricked or something."
"Maybe a compulsion," Zabini offered. "I doubt Potter or his allies would use the Imperius, but they might have found something else. Or maybe someone simply needed a tool to get back at Malfoy – to make her hurt Malfoy and take the blame. I get along with him most of the time, but there have been times when I wanted nothing more than to curse him rotten or knock some of his teeth out."
"He does seem to bring that out in people," Millicent spoke up.
Pansy bit her lip from replying and destroying what little success she had made. Instead, she said, "Wherever Daphne is, I hope she... she's happy now."
Hours later, she woke up. Lying fully clothed on the bed, it took her a moment to remember what had happened. She had been angry. Frustrated, if she remembered correctly. But somewhere during her fuming, she had to have fallen asleep. Slowly, the events from earlier came back to the forefront of her mind.
Still a bit tired, she sat up. Potter and his mistrust. She didn't want to admit it, but not only could she understand his point of view –she had kept to herself and Potter and his friends at a distance, she liked keeping her secrets, she had been listening in on their talks on at least one occasion, she had sent a spell in his general direction –she was also slightly bothered by his mistrust, no matter how justified. Once one ignored all the reasons she had listed, she was fairly honourable. But no, they didn't trust her. It stung, and perhaps worst of all, Daphne had a sinking feeling they weren't unreasonable.
Turning her attention elsewhere, she thought about her options once more. With a rested head, she felt confident she would find a solution. There had to be something she had overlooked, some detail she could take advantage of. Maybe she could find some half-blood who could take her in? Or she could try to sneak on some Muggle transport? She could steal a broom and fly over the sea to France. Granted, she wasn't all that happy to be on a broom most of the time, she preferred sitting on chairs, but she could still endure the flight, couldn't she? She'd have to fly at night, of course, so she wouldn't be seen, but otherwise...
But no, that wouldn't work. Ignoring for a moment her lack of a broom or the trouble of actually getting over the sea, she was fairly certain she didn't want to weather the wind at the coast. One strong breeze and she'd be hanging over open water in the middle of nowhere. Idly wondering whether it would be worse to fall into the sea or on solid ground, Daphne stood up and started pacing.
So fleeing the country would require more preparation than she felt confident she could pull off with limited time. Hiding on the island was only a short-term solution. Sooner or later, someone would find her. She didn't trust herself to pose as a Muggle, she doubted she could get by in the wizarding world, especially without any money to speak of on her and likely a bounty on her head for harming Malfoy. So there were actually few possibilities left to her.
She sighed. She would have to crawl back to Potter and his friends. She didn't want to, but she needed to find some way to get along with them. As long as they didn't try to obliviate her or butt into the business, they would live relatively peaceful.
Great. That was doomed to fail from the start, Daphne realized. She wouldn't allow her mind to be attacked, would rather leave, despite the high risk of capture. But she was also disinclined to open up to them. And who did they think they were, anyway? How was she meant to trust them? What kind of deal was that supposed to be?
The kind of deal where they would offer a rather safe hiding place, apparently. Why hadn't she joined the Death Eaters again? Oh, yeah, because then she would have had to choose a side. Also, to say they weren't the nicest fellows was an understatement. And then she had gotten Potter involved in the mess. With her being married to him, at least according to law, she had indeed made herself a person of interest. In a way, the whole contract had caused the Death Eaters to pay attention to her in the first place, which had in turn caused Malfoy to try to talk to her, which had then led to him attacking her and her fleeing to Potter. So in a round-about way, she had forced herself into the mess. Well, wasn't that a nice observation?
But how to proceed? She knew what needed to be done, but she was hesitant to go through with it. And so, she spent the next two hours coming up with evermore creative excuses as to why she couldn't comply with Potter's wishes or escape the inevitable meeting with him.
Who was he to ask her to reveal her secrets to them, she grumbled as she left her room to wash her face. Her watch showed her it was close to two in the morning, but she didn't feel tired after her long, unplanned nap. If they got to keep their secrets, why couldn't she as well? It wasn't her fault if they didn't properly ward the rooms, was it? And what was so special about them, anyway? Potter and his little ragtag team of conspirators, sitting around talking about stuff. Didn't they realize they should better use their time to study for their N.E.W.T.s? Well, Weasley, at least. Potter would not make it out of the exam room alive, and Granger would probably not be allowed to sit the exams in the first place. Come to think of it, Daphne doubted Weasley could find the exam room without his friends' help, so he too had no need for studying.
The water felt good on her skin. She had lain with her face pressed into the crumpled covers, and although they were clean, due to the clothes she had sweated quite a bit. Looking in the mirror, she frowned. Her hair looked about as wild as she should have expected. Apart from the odd strand here and there sticking out at an angle, it had lost a lot of the rich colour it usually had. Or perhaps the abysmal light only made it appear so.
Brushing her hair, she watched herself in the mirror. How did the mirror self even know it was so early in the morning? The other Daphne looked quite unhappy to be out of bed. Daphne knew about the magic involved, of course, but it still made her wonder whether the mirror selves even knew about sleep in the first place. Reasonably speaking, they shouldn't, but with magic one could never be too sure.
Checking her reflection about five minutes later, she was pleased with the result. At least she looked presentable. Only that new eye was still unchanged. The healing had clearly stopped, but a part of Daphne hoped the newly grown body part would one day resemble its counterpart. Yet the strange veins were still there, and the discolourations as well. She missed her old eye; she missed her old, comparatively unremarkable face. But then, why should she have expected anything else? Wasn't it just another cruel twist of fate? One misstep to earn a heavy blow while Malfoy had gotten away with everything he had done so far.
Turning away, she headed back to her bedroom, but she didn't walk in. She had spent hours in there. She wasn't tired, she didn't want to train, and she didn't want to read either. Her eyes had fallen on a half closed door at the end of the corridor and close to the street. Thinking about it, she knew what she wanted to do. She wanted to look outside. Stuck in the house, she really wanted to see something else than walls and paintings and books. She wanted to see the sky again. At Hogwarts, she could have strolled through the hallways or spent an afternoon outside. But in hiding, she couldn't do that. She had to keep her head down and stay inside.
She walked over to the drawing room. It was dark, naturally, as the sun hadn't risen yet, but the light from these Muggle street lamps shone into the room and cast shadows on the walls and ceiling.
Daphne walked over to the windows and looked outside. The little square looked deserted, the patches of grass grey in the night. Small piles of leaves had collected in some corners, carried there by the wind. The summer had clearly ended, and autumn had brought the first cold days with it. Daphne wondered about the name of the place once more. From what she could see, the house was in some big city, and the relatively rainy, but otherwise mild weather made her think of southern England. Not that it really mattered, but she would have felt slightly more comfortable knowing where she was, other than standing at a window in a poorly lit room of a gloomy house.
One of those Muggle contraptions drove past the house. Its light fell on the park, and the slight distortion in the air under one of the trees told Daphne of the presence of someone magical watching the area. They really didn't give up so easily. She should have guessed.
The contraption turned a corner, leaving behind the invisible person in the mostly dark square and a witch staring outside and down onto the scene.
Part of her wondered how those Muggle things worked. She knew they weren't pulled by something. After the first year, Tracey had commented about the carriages of Hogwarts driving by themselves. It had taken Daphne a while to understand her friends couldn't see what was pulling the carriages. Somehow, that had led to them talking about these Muggle cars. Tracey had been sure they weren't pulled by something, and that they had an engine.
Well, Daphne knew an engine already, the Hogwarts steam engine, as the Prefects had called that giant, smoking behemoth that pulled the train. So it was likely these cars had something similar, yet decidedly smaller hidden somewhere. And somehow, they needed to be steered, that much was obvious. These cars were comparable to a carriage, Tracey had said. Well those were steered by having the horses go left or right, but lacking them, cars needed something different, which was what that strange wheel was for, Daphne thought, remembering Muggle cars in front of King's Cross Station.
But that still didn't answer the car's lights. Tracey had said Muggles used that electricity for light. Daphne imagined it had to be something like a Lumos spell for the cars –light that could be carried around. But how it worked, she didn't understand. While magicals could do that with runes – taught in fourth year – Muggles wouldn't know how to do that, would they? They were mysterious, Daphne decided, and she felt reassured once more that she wouldn't fit in that strange world of theirs.
She turned around, and her eyes fell upon the tapestry on the wall. Even in the dark room, she could still see it, mainly because it was an even darker shade with skulls of faded, ghastly yellow. She walked over, the unnatural light from outside reflected from the ceiling as a cold glow, light without a source but a presence of its own.
Daphne lit her wand and inspected the tapestry. She had no trouble finding what she was looking for. Her name was still there, still linked to that other name; the one many had spoken about in her childhood. Of course they were still speaking about him, but their tone had changed repeatedly over the years.
Harry Potter, Head of House Black and husband of Daphne Greengrass, Heiress of her house. Daphne Greengrass, Heiress of her house and wife of Harry Potter, Head of House Black. She still hadn't quite come to terms with it. For some reason, she half expected to wake up or maybe see her name vanish in front of her eyes. She didn't feel like a wife. She didn't feel married. She extended her hand, trying to run her fingers over the letters to feel them and maybe also feel connected to this family and the house.
"It's there," a voice sounded behind her.
A shower of sparks burst from her wand, hitting the tapestry and lingering. Daphne whirled around, seeing Potter staring back at her.
"We are both there," he said as if nothing had happened. The sparks had vanished; her wand had been extinguished by her spell. All that could be seen of him was the dark outline. How had she not noticed him when she had entered? How long had he been there? Why hadn't he said anything?
"I know," she told him, a slight edge in her voice, relighting her wand. "I wasn't checking whether we were still on there, I..." She broke off. With him in the shadow of the chair and her standing in front of him, she felt exposed. "What are you doing here in the dark?" she asked, trying to cover up her anxiety. "And why did you scare me like that?"
"I was thinking about something," he replied. She had a feeling he wasn't completely honest with her. "I could ask you the same, though. We both didn't turn on the light. You also didn't announce your presence."
"The same, I guess," she spoke, forcing new confidence in her tone. "Although I did make some light, which is more than can be said about you. Why are you looking at the tapestry in the darkness? You can't see a thing from there."
"I'm seeing enough," he said, but didn't elaborate. Did he try to make her uncomfortable? Perhaps it was his little revenge for the attack from the previous day. "I hadn't expected anyone else to be up."
"I couldn't sleep any longer," she admitted. "I fell asleep sometime during the day, after our... disagreement. Well, day or night, it doesn't really matter in here, does it? But when I woke up, I couldn't get back to sleep, so here I am."
"I can understand that." He did sound honest, but Daphne also had the impression he wasn't quite paying full attention. Something was off, and she guessed he was feeling melancholic. "I was much the same, except that I didn't go to bed quite so early."
"I'm thinking about this marriage," she told him. "I don't feel it. Isn't that strange? I mean, there it is, on the tapestry, but..." she broke off, shaking her head.
"There isn't really anything to feel, is there?" Potter asked her. "In a marriage, you'd assume some kind of connection or... or shared history. Well, shared past or present, I mean. But we both know the truth, don't we?"
She had no sufficiently smart reply for him, but she knew what he meant. Instead, she said the next thing that came to her mind. "They are still watching the area," she found herself saying. "I saw the distortion in the air when I looked outside."
"I know. They desperately want to catch me." He paused, and for a moment, she thought she were alone in the room. It was as if he didn't breathe, didn't move, didn't live. "It's why we are here, after all, and not outside."
She considered advising him to be somewhere the enemy didn't expect him to be, but before she could come to a decision, Potter spoke once more.
"So you are still here," he said. He hadn't asked her, he had made a statement, yet she still answered.
"That I am. For now, at least." She shifted her weight, trying to subtly gain a better footing.
"Which means, sooner or later, the issue of trust will come up again," Potter stated as if presenting a logical conclusion.
"Probably, yes," Daphne agreed, waiting to see where he would steer the conversation. If she wanted to find some possible future with them, she needed to lay the groundwork sometime, so why not now? And he had indicated that he had an offer for her, even if she had a good idea she wouldn't like it. "But I still disagree with your attitude. I..." she hesitated, trying to find the best phrasing, before settling on, "I know it is thanks to you that I've healed as well as I have, and this house might be the closest to safety I can currently hope for."
"You know that is probably the closest you've come to showing any gratitude, right?" Potter asked, raising an eyebrow.
She refrained from biting her lip, wishing she had a good reply for that. Finally, she told him, "I guess so, yes. Well, thank you, Potter, for bringing me to this house and offering me shelter for the time being."
"And we found the counter for Malfoy's work," Potter added.
"That too," Daphne agreed. "That was very... But that doesn't give you the right to demand answers from me," Daphne continued, "especially not since you try to keep your own secrets. Demanding that I repay you by letting you pry into my business is not a fair deal. Your secrets are no more important than mine, Potter, yet you want to keep yours. You want me to earn your trust, but don't invite trust in turn and instead interrogate me? That's hypocritical of you."
"When you're as old as I am, you learn to live with being a hypocrite. It's called gaining perspective. And you're the kettle calling the pot black, you know?"
"I'm older than you, Potter," she reminded him. "Over seven months older."
"You are, yes," he said, but somehow, she had the feeling he didn't agree with her statement. Wasn't it straight-forward enough for him? She was born nineteenth of December, he on the thirty-first of July of the following year. What was there to misunderstand?
"So I'm your age," she pointed out, "and I still consider it a bad deal if only I have to share my private business. Our secrets aren't any different, whatever you might think, Potter."
He snorted. "That, I think, is where you are mistaken." He hesitated, before adding, "We are not trying to keep you out of all of our business, just some. We don't want to know everything about you, just some things."
"You wanted to obliviate me, just because you suspected me of overhearing something," she reminded him. "What do I care whether you have," she hesitated, thinking of some possible secret of Potter's, "I don't know, webbed toes, or stash naughty tabloids under your bed, or whatever you get up to with Granger."
He cleared his throat. "We both know we're not talking about secrets like that where I'm concerned, Greengrass. You make it seem like my friends and I are merely bystanders in this war – that our secrets are about private affairs. They are not, and you know it. We learn a lot – some we shouldn't have to deal with – we know a lot, and we have to keep many things secret or else people are in danger or this war may be lost. I'd love to have the choice of leaving the war behind me simply to have the choice in the first place, but I don't have that luxury." He rose from his seat. "Our secrets are not the same, Greengrass. We are not the same. Whether I want to or not, I'm part of this war because I'm the nemesis of Voldemort." She twitched hearing his name, but kept from squeaking like a mouse. He continued. "He believes the rumours about the prophecy, about me being the Chosen One. As long as I live, he will try to find me to prove himself once and for all. This war is about me because both sides think it is. People look to me for help, hope, and leadership."
"So you have someone after you," she conceded. "That is no secret to protect, but even if it were, it'd still be your decision whether you tell someone or not. A decision you wanted to take from me, mind you. It's a choice I want to have."
"Ah, but to survive in this war and hopefully make a difference, I need to prepare myself for it, don't I?" Potter told her. "I need to gain insight into the movements of my enemies; I need to delve into their secrets without them finding out about it. I have no choice in the matter. I need to know when and where they are and what they can or cannot do. And I need to protect my allies and all those who look up to me. Those are the secrets I have to protect. As a member of the resistance, I can't allow myself to trust you blindly."
"So you don't trust me, but Weasley is fine?" Daphne asked him, raising her eyebrow questioningly.
"I know he wouldn't willingly pass information to the enemy. I cannot say the same about you," he replied calmly.
"What, you think I would betray you? You honestly think I'm working for the Death Eaters? Laughable."
"I don't believe it, no," he admitted with a smile. "I don't think you're our enemy. I'm even willing to accept you might have a kind side and, given the choice in the heat of the moment, might help others. But I can't risk the lives of people by trusting my gut feeling. You might not even know you're working for them. There are spells to make you do whatever they want you to, including passing on information and forgetting all about it. You are an unknown risk right now. All we really do want is to be sure about is whether you would intentionally betray us or not."
"That still doesn't require an interrogation," she argued weakly, but something in the back of her mind accepted his reasoning. Yes, the Dark Lord would probably be very grateful to whoever helped him find the young wizard and rumoured Chosen One. It wouldn't be good for their health, but the damage would already be done by then and Potter likely dead.
Potter pursed his lips. "Hermione has stood by my side through ups and downs. She has proven herself to me and knows how to protect our secrets. Furthermore, she can watch my back and make sure I don't falter. She is worth the risk of confiding in her. Ron has fought with me and stood by my side in the heat of battle. I know he wouldn't willingly give up my secrets to the enemy. He has earned my trust." He made a pause. "You have made it obvious in the past that you don't really care whether I live or die. When you arrived here, you made it clear you want your revenge, which is why you didn't join... my rebels, wasn't it? Since then, you have kept to yourself. Yesterday, you were caught either overhearing us or actively listening in. You refused to give us any proof of your loyalty, and even though it might have been an accident, you did send a spell my way. Lastly, you only thanked me for what we have done for you after prodding on my part, not on your own.
"You seem to value privacy. I respect that. You don't want to open up to us for whatever reason. Fine. Harry understands that, but I'm also part of this war; I do have a responsibility to think of. I'm not just Harry - a member of the resistance, that is a role I have to play as well. You want a choice and a say in the matter? All right. So tell me, Greengrass, would you trust me if you were in my place? And if not, how would you solve the problem of trust we are dealing with? Let's see whether we can't find a solution." He sat back down, hiding in the shadows again. But she knew he was looking at her, not only because his eyes shimmered in the dark, but also, because she could feel them resting on her.
So how to solve the situation? She had to agree with his reasoning. Assuming they did know something they had to protect to that degree, then they would have to be careful with whom to allow learning the secret. And she did understand the wish to keep some matters private. Wasn't that why it had escalated so far? Her unwillingness to let them poke their noses into her business? Like the healers, always prodding, judging, asking? And her actions from the previous day would seem suspicious when looked at from their slightly paranoid point of view; she knew about paranoia to know that much without a doubt. Would she have trusted herself if their places had been switched?
"I don't think I would trust you, no," she conceded, focusing on the second question. "I don't suppose ignoring the issue for now will work any more, and I doubt it's what you have in mind. Living in the same house, someone is bound to stumble upon something the other wants to keep secret. It's like the houses at Hogwarts in that respect – people simply find out." She started pacing to the side. "The easiest would be an oath stating I wouldn't betray your secrets, but..."
"Oaths aren't perfect," Potter agreed. "Depending on the phrasing, they can easily back-fire and cause more harm than good. I've said as much yesterday, yes."
"The simplest and in line with the comparison to our houses at Hogwarts would be the compromise Granger proposed yesterday – to build a relationship by sharing our secrets. But the trouble is, I don't want to share with Weasley. He's an idiotic slouch. The only reason he does know his front from his back is because he's facing one way. He might very well blab to anyone he meets. He might even do it to hurt me since I also got the distinct impression he doesn't like me all that much."
Potter chuckled. "Ron not liking the ungrateful Slytherin sneaking around and trying to curse his friend? Possible, yes. He's rather protective when it comes to his friends, and he's really not happy with you as a person due to the whole contract business."
"And then there is Granger, of course. I don't know exactly why, but she just rubs me wrong. She's..." Daphne struggled for an explanation, but found nothing she could voice. She knew why she didn't want to reveal herself to the intelligent Muggleborn – that Granger was too perceptive to not notice the underlying issues. Worse, she might try helping – but if the mind healers hadn't been able to, what chance did Granger have? "I don't know. She's... something, and I'm sure she's a nice girl and all that, it's nothing against her or her ancestry, but she's just... I don't feel comfortable with the idea of confiding in her."
A sigh came from Potter. "That's too bad. I had hoped you might get along if given the chance, but I guess it's not meant to be."
"I get along with my friends," Daphne told him. "But our shared time and experiences at Hogwarts forced us together, whether we wanted to or not. Granger? I don't feel much of a connection to her. Also, from what I can tell, she's mostly friends with boys because they don't notice her behaviour. Remember third year when she tried to cheer Brown up?"
"You weren't there," Potter spoke up, surprise in his voice.
"Do you honestly think that hadn't been talked about? Every girl in school knew just how inconsiderate Granger was stomping all over Brown's feelings. Frankly, I'd have spurred her on – I like Brown less – but that doesn't mean I like the idea of confiding in someone with the social grace of a rampaging rhino whenever she doesn't feel like being nice."
Potter coughed. "And you call me a hypocrite? Ignoring for a moment that I'm not sure whether you ever feel like being nice, and that I'm basically offering you yet another chance to prove me wrong."
Daphne swallowed, trying not to meet his eyes. Finally, she shrugged. "What I am or not isn't the topic here, though. It's about why I don't want to open up to you lot and confide in you."
"What about me, then? So you don't want to talk to Ron or Hermione, fine. If you don't want to, I don't plan to force you, but I'm curious. You haven't said anything about me, haven't said why you can't try to convince me that you mean no harm. After all, that's mostly what we're after – knowing you won't betray us. So here's the deal I had in mind and my offer – that you earn the trust of someone who can vouch for you. The logical choice would be someone readily available to talk to you – one of the people in the house. After you excluded two thirds of the trustworthy people you can't order to vouch for you, that leaves me, doesn't it? That way, Hermione and Ron aren't involved, satisfying your wish to keep them out of it, and my friends and I know we can trust you enough to keep you around since I'd vouch for you. I can't force them to like you, but they wouldn't try to curse you either."
"Well, with you, that'd be... I don't know you, do I?" she tried, but the more she thought about it, the more acceptable of a compromise it seemed. "And you are... Well, I mean... You mean you'd vouch for me?" Daphne raised a challenging eyebrow. "Should I convince you of my..." she hesitated, "you would keep the others off my back? They'd stay out of it?"
"Well, I can understand the wish to keep some things private. So you don't want to share it with Ron or Hermione. I get that, I don't tell them everything as well." Daphne crossed her arms, and he elaborated, "Well, I didn't tell Ron about our agreement. As far as he knows, the cover story is still the truth. Hermione found out, true, but there are also some matters I don't tell her, for example stuff about the boys in my dorm. If it's not her business and not really important, why should I betray their trust in me?" He paused, letting it sink in. "So, I do not tell them everything. I understand the concept of privacy. If it's not their business and not really important, why should I betray your trust in me? Although you could have saved us a lot of trouble if you had given in yesterday or opened up before."
Daphne refrained from pointing out that she currently didn't trust him, knowing fully well how hypocritical that thought was, and blocked out the reminder that she likely had made things worse for herself all on her own. Instead, she made another step trying to buy her some time to think about it. Considering the options, she doubted she could get a better deal, but that still didn't mean she liked it. "I'm not comfortable with it," she began.
"You don't trust your own husband?" Potter asked, laughing quietly.
"Hardly," she countered, noticing an opening. "And don't you not trust your wife?"
"If I did, we wouldn't be in this mess, so touché. For what it's worth, Harry might be willing to give you space, but... as a member of the resistance..." He sighed.
"I'm not comfortable with it," she repeated. "But I can understand where you're coming from. If that's what it takes so you'll leave me in peace, then fine. But this is between you and me, not those other two."
"So that once I die, your secrets are safe once more?" Potter guessed. She could hear the humour in his voice.
"Something like that, yes. But I wasn't finished." Daphne paused. "I just have to prove I'm not your enemy. I don't have to reveal every bit of my life; that would be ridiculous. It's just to put your fears to rest. You said you understand the wish for privacy. I don't believe you, but maybe you can convince me. If I don't want to talk about something, I don't want to talk about it." Remembering the confrontation from the previous day, she added, "And no obliviations. I don't want you messing with my mind."
He leaned back. Even in the dim light she could see him moving. "You really don't like obliviations, do you?"
"Whatever gave you that idea?" she asked sarcastically.
"Eh, I'd say you calling it killing yesterday," Potter replied. "Repeatedly, in fact."
"I did say that, yes," she conceded. "No, I don't like them, but then, do you?" she countered, raising her eyebrow in the darkness.
"Not particularly, no," he told her. She wasn't sure, but something told her he did mean it. "They have a nasty tendency to backfire or cause serious harm, I know. They have their uses, though. So only between us. That might be a problem if I learn something relevant."
"I can assure you I don't know anything that has any significance," Daphne replied.
"Don't be so sure about it," he commented. "There might be some things you just don't see the deeper meaning of. No offence, but..."
His eyes sparkled in the darkness, locked on her as they were. It was unnerving, but she knew she had to stay strong.
"I don't like it," he spoke up. "Especially the restrictions you want to include. But I can see where you're coming from. Fine. No obliviations, if something really is too personal for your taste, you may ask to shelf it to be revisited at a later date should need be."
"And you are not to tell anyone about what you have heard," Daphne reminded him.
"Assuming you don't give me permission to?" After receiving a slow nod, he continued, "Yes, that too, even if it might cause trouble later on. But I understand the wish for privacy, so I cannot deny that." He got to his feet. "But right now, I think I'll return to my room. I still have a bit of thinking to do, and we can have our talk when we're both well-rested."
"Instead of in the dead of night?" Daphne asked, nodding. "Agreed."
So there you go. Some sort of compromise and shaky alliance, the second attempt. This time with more talking since I know how much you love that.
Fixed some typos. Added a line to Harry's dialogue to reference the conflict of roles he is confronted with - Harry as a person wanting to give her space and privacy, the member of the resistance having to pry.