Daphne was well on her way to drunk. She was celebrating. She was free! Free of the old man, free of the uncle who'd sold her to that old man, free of her Death Eater relatives. Rescued! Free!
And here was her savior, coming back to his apartment with food and more wine! That deserved a reward.
Daphne's reward for Harry grew heated and aggressive as her hands felt the not old and not wrinkled man she was kissing. Food and wine could wait.
She was forgetting something. Oh, right. Tracey. Well, Tracey was welcome to join them in the apartment's one bed, or she could sleep on the couch. Daphne had better things to worry about, like getting Harry's shirt out of the way.
The next morning, she had to deal with both a mild hangover and the shame of having spent the night naked with a woman and a man, even if they were her best friend and the man who'd rescued her from her terrible marriage.
Easing out of the bed was a challenge – she had to do it quickly enough to be out before the others woke up and saw her, but slowly enough not to wake them. Finally free, she gathered up her clothes and dashed to the shower to try to wash herself clean.
"Morning, pretty lady." Harry had come in and seen her. Damn! Figuring out how to use the plumbing had taken too long. Daphne covered herself with her hands as best she could, while telling Harry to get out. Honestly! Didn't he know a girl needed her privacy?
The three made plans over a not-quite-adequate breakfast made from Harry's almost empty larder. It wasn't really enough after a stressful day and a long, busy night.
"So, ladies. This morning we need to exchange some of the gold you brought with you for regular money so we can buy food and get you a change of clothes. After that, you need to decide what you're going to do, stay with me or go your own way or what."
"I don't know about Daph, but I'll have to stay with you at least long enough to arrange to leave the country. I can't be seen around here."
"That's fine if that's what you want. I never learned much about it, but I'm sure it'll take money to get you away and more money to get you set up wherever you go. Unless you have another way to get money or can think of another way to do it, you'll have to work in the muggle world for a while."
Tracey grimaced. "If I have to. I'd just as soon stick to my own world, thank you very much."
Daphne put in, "I still don't see why we can't get money from our husbands. It's only fair they have to pay for us. We're their wives, you know."
"Yes, their wives who have left their husbands, after getting a bucket of gold for their families. Don't push me on that, Daphne. I'm having a hard enough time helping you get away from your husbands even without taking their money. Not so much you, but Tracey's husband didn't do anything to deserve me 'kidnapping' his wife."
"Well! I guess I shouldn't suggest killing my husband. I am his wife and beneficiary, you know." Daphne rolled her eyes when Harry startled and drew in a breath to yell at her. "It was a joke, Harry." It was only mostly a joke. She certainly wouldn't cry herself to sleep if she got his money and could rejoin her world.
Over the next several days, Harry showed her and Tracey around Manchester. He'd gotten a small apartment in this city because for some reason almost no wizards and witches lived there. And he gave them lessons in living in the non-magical world. They'd been utterly clueless. Daphne had taken Muggle Studies for three years, but it seemed that the class had been as useless as some of the Muggleborn had said. It had been an easy OWL, but maybe it wasn't a good use of her time.
They traded in their coins and jewelry. They'd had only a bit of shopping money when they'd been "kidnapped", plus their wedding rings and all the jewelry Tracey could justify wearing.
And, last thing, they went about establishing identities for the two women. This was pretty well a failure, as computerization made a simple laminated card almost useless for getting a job or going to the doctor. Fake identities were still possible, but not quickly, easily, or cheaply.
"I'm not sure what we should do, ladies," Harry said, scratching his chin after a week of unsuccessful efforts. "It's going to cost a bucket to find someone in the government and bribe him to set you up."
"I still think we should use spells to get them," Tracey pushed. "Get an appointment with anyone, cast truth and babbling spells so he'll tell us who we really need to see, and then do it again and get it all done in a few hours."
"No," Daphne refuted. "There's too much chance of being caught. The ministry doubled the number of inspectors checking on abuse of Muggles and misuse of magic. I don't know about you, but I don't think I can cast Confundus smoothly enough to get away with it."
"I agree with Daphne. Maybe it's not so bad for you to be caught, Tracey, but we all know what Daphne's marriage was like. You can bet it'll be worse if she's brought back. And I'll be tried for kidnapping you if anyone magical finds out where you are. I'm not ruling it out, but I'd rather go with something lower-risk. Like…" he paused before continuing in a rush. "Like, a fake marriage. That would work for only one of you. We could go to someplace where it's cheaper to get fake paperwork, Eastern Europe, I guess, and have a fake marriage, then come back here and get real British paperwork for you."
Daphne's mouth curled down. "I'll say No, thank you. I've had enough marriage to last me for a while, I think."
"I'll say Maybe," Tracey said. "It's not my first choice, but I'm not against it. You're not a bad guy, no matter how many times you say you're not going to do anything for anyone. Still, what's in it for you, Harry? You've made it clear that you're not helping people any longer unless there's something in it for you."
Harry shrugged. "You're pretty nice, or that's what it seems these past few days." He grinned. "Plus, we might be inspected by the immigration office. We'd have to share a bed and pretend to be married until your paperwork was final."
Tracey smacked Harry in the shoulder, but she was laughing when she did it. More power to her, if she went that way. Maybe Harry would be so taken with his new "wife" that Daphne could cut down on the wine in the evening.
It would take a while before they could either bribe a British official or travel to the continent and create fake identities there. Harry was as impoverished as he'd said. Cynical Tracey had an explanation for his trouble earning a living. "I'll bet the bigger businesses – the ones which are paying you for endorsements – are helping the ministry punish you for not supporting them. It's all an old boys network. The owners of the bigger businesses and the minister and the department heads all go to each others' parties and marry their daughters to the others' sons."
"All the department heads except Weasley, of course," Daphne clarified. "He should be part of the group, but can't afford to keep up."
"Whatever happened to the Weasleys, anyway?" Tracey asked. "You were always with Ron and the word was that you were friends with all of them."
Harry shrugged. "We drifted apart. Arthur – the father – and Percy – you might remember him, he was Head Boy, and went into the ministry – they both thought I should have played the game. Take the medal, endorse the minister, go to the parties, endorse the products, work the system. I told them I couldn't do any of that because I didn't believe in it, and they just didn't understand. They just kept telling me to compromise, that I wouldn't get anywhere if I didn't work with the system, all that. The rest of the Weasleys went along, called me a fool for not taking everything I could get."
"Bureaucrats," Tracey nodded. "What matters is working the system. I saw some of that, growing up. Of course, my family was mostly interested in pulling down the system and then building up a new system with themselves in charge."
"Was Granger the same, Harry?" Daphne asked. "You were always with her, too, in school."
"Pretty much the same. She's totally rejected her old life and is doing everything she can to fit into her new life. She thinks I need to fit in, too, and that trying to go my own way will doom me to failure." He shrugged. "It looks like she's right, but I just can't kiss ass and play the game."
"Right," Tracey agreed. "Harry Potter kicks ass and takes names."
Daphne was confused, but Harry laughed and asked where Tracey had heard that expression. "Just around" was all she could say.
As everyone got ready for bed, Daphne drank the last of the wine in the apartment, continuing the pattern of the past several nights. Even with comfort charms, the couch just wasn't suitable to sleep on, and she needed help if she was going to spend the night tangled up with the other two.
It was a strained conversation over the kitchen table.
Harry had come in from a day of drudgery on a job which had nothing to recommend it except helping to keep the bills paid. He'd seen Daphne in the middle of changing out of her work clothes, given her an over-the-top leer and lusty chuckle, scooped her up over his shoulder, and deposited her on the bed.
Not many minutes later, they were sitting, cleaned up and clothed, at the table.
"I'm sorry, Harry, but I just don't want to be anywhere near you if I can avoid it. Naked, I mean."
"I don't understand. You were all over me last night. You've been all over me every night since I 'kidnapped' you in London. What's changed? Did I hurt you?"
"No, no, nothing like that. You never hurt me. It was my husband. I'm sorry, Harry."
"I understand that, I guess, but what about you pulling my clothes off and dragging me to the bed every night?"
Daphne shrugged. "I have a glass or two before bed. It gets me through the night."
Her benefactor frowned and thought for a minute. "We only have one bed. I guess we can buy another, but there's no place to put it. The apartment is crowded already, with the three of us. You or Tracey could change the couch, if you're good enough with transfiguration. And it's only been a week, but I've gotten used to sleeping with you, and Tracey, too. And, not to be blunt, lots of sex was part of my price for getting you away."
She shrugged again, not able to meet his eyes. "Keep wine in the house and I'll do you every night. I can't support myself yet and I'll kill myself before I go back to my husband, so that's something I just have to deal with. Don't worry about it, Harry. It's not that bad. Oh, ah, sorry. I don't mean it like that, Harry; it's not you, it's me. Give me some wine in the evening to get me in the mood and some privacy in the morning to get myself together and it'll be fine."
She didn't know what else to tell him. She didn't know what to tell herself. When she'd been drinking, she was all over him, just like he said. When she sobered up in the morning, she had a cry in the shower. It wasn't great, but it was the best she could do for now.
Tracey and Harry returned to the apartment with giant grins, more groceries than the apartment had ever seen, and hot, savory takeaway.
"Daphne! Wake up! We did it, Harry did it, he sold three of my prototypes today!"
Daphne dragged herself out of bed as Harry was saying "It was all your work, Tracey. All I did was find someone to give us money to make them." She'd been feeling off for several days and had finally gone to see a discrete healer her sister had found for her. (Daphne had quietly kept in touch with Astoria. Her family was very important to her, especially now that she'd given up everything else from her old life.) The healer had given her the news that very afternoon. It was bad news, possibly catastrophic news, depending on how the others took it.
Should she share with Harry and Tracey? It would be a pity to bring them down, they were so happy about their idea for making metal things for businesses. It didn't make sense at all, but Harry had told her that Muggles could make a lot of a thing very cheaply, but it cost a lot to make just one of something. Tracey was the best of them at transfiguration and shaping charms, so she made a few very intricate metal things as samples and then Harry went around to Manchester's many, many manufacturers to see if their new business could get contracts to make other things with their "proprietary secret method". Judging by the food and the smiles, two weeks' work had finally paid off.
Meanwhile, Daphne was working in a small, family-owned restaurant. She was a capable witch, but not an especially skilled one. She wasn't good enough to help on the metal transfiguration and wasn't familiar enough with the Muggle world to help Harry make sales. Her Outstanding NEWTs in Arithmancy and History of Magic were of no use whatsoever in any job, so she was stuck waiting tables under the table, paid in tips and meals. Her only real value to their "family" was sleeping with Harry, and that led to…
Harry was still jabbering along. "Part of my research was looking into how much demand there was for metal prototypes, and how much we could charge for custom work. The answer, a lot and a lot. The three pieces we delivered today paid our bills for most of a month. And it didn't take Tracey too long to do them, either, right?"
"About five hours for the three, including redoing the one about a dozen times to get the, what do you call it, tolerance."
"Right, not very long. I'll spend more time making sales calls and haggling prices. And you, Daphne, if we can make just a few more sales, we'll be able to have you working our front desk and getting the telephone. You'll be able to sit all day, not have to be on your feet all day. I know you hate that job."
She'd never have a better opening for her news. "That's great news. I'm not going to be able to stay on my feet all day for much longer. If I can work sitting down, I can keep working for a while."
Harry frowned and opened his mouth, but Tracey beat him to the question. "What's wrong, Daphne? We can take you to a healer or a doctor if you need it. Are you sick?"
"Not too sick, just a bit of morning sickness."
Jaws dropped, just as she expected.
"Mine?" Harry croaked. Daphne was tempted to laugh. You wouldn't think that the single-handed vanquisher of a dark lord could turn quite that pale.
"It's too soon to test, but I'm pretty sure it's yours, Harry. My husband tried for half a year to father a child and couldn't manage it. You managed it in a month. Maybe even less than a week, depending on just when you caught me."
"Congratulations." Tracey didn't sound sincere. Quite the opposite. "Well done, both of you idiots. What were you thinking?"
"I was thinking I was in bed with two hot babes," Harry said, frowning at her. "Babies never occurred to me. If I even thought about it, I'd have thought you two were taking care of it."
"What about you, Tracey?" Daphne asked, annoyed at her friend's criticism. "Maybe Harry got you, too." Tracey's look of panic gratified her. She was already stressed and Tracey wasn't being a good friend.
Having gotten the other two in a nice tizzy before they rushed out to buy a Muggle home pregnancy test, Daphne put away the groceries and then sat down to Chinese take-away. She was eating for two now.
After just a month, their business was running steadily enough to end their financial worries, even with Harry's insistence on paying that ridiculous debt from St Mungos. And after Daphne accidentally revealed to the others that she had kept in contact with her sister (and after she'd defused the others' annoyance over that), she relayed a message from Astoria, that another young woman needed to be rescued from her marriage. She'd been wondering how to give Harry the message for a week now, but her slip of the tongue the day before made that part easier, anyway.
"Harry, do you remember Gemma? Gemma Delisle, a Ravenclaw a year ahead of us?"
"Long, straight, brown hair, pretty?"
"Oh! Right, Gemma Delisle. Friendly girl."
Daphne laughed. "You mean 'flirty'. Yes, that's her. Some of her relatives were Death Eaters."
"Let me guess, sold to a rich husband who's not treating her well."
"Worse than my husband, it sounds like. Do you think—"
"Why should I bother?" Harry interrupted. "I get that maybe she's not doing great, but why is it my problem? I rescued you two because, ah, you were very persuasive in changing my mind that afternoon—" He had to wait a moment for the snorts to die down. "What, you wanted me to say you blew my brains out?"
And now Harry had to wait for Tracey to stop hitting him. Daphne was too embarrassed to respond in any way. She did things when drunk that she didn't like to think about when sober.
"Ahem. If I may continue, I helped you two because I got something out of it, and now we're all working together to make a life and a business. We're doing things for each other, that's the main part, it's not just me doing something for someone for nothing. Are you suggesting that Gemma do the same as you?"
"She might be willing to…" Daphne began, thinking that Harry might leave her alone some nights if he had a new girl to sleep with.
Harry seemed neither approving nor disapproving of the suggestion, but Tracey was clearly disapproving. "I think Harry is stretched quite thin enough as it is, Daphne. He doesn't need any other women in his life." Daphne almost thought she heard her muttering, "I don't need to share a bed with any more women."
Harry scowled. "I'm not your property, Tracey. I'm not even your husband. You don't make decisions for me and you don't tell me what to do. If you want any say in my personal life, we can talk about getting married, or some other long-term thing."
Damn Harry for being so prickly and damn Tracey for being so possessive and not keeping her mouth shut!
"Can we ignore our relationship issues and focus instead on whether Gemma can pay for being rescued?" Daphne suggested. "I believe she can. Her husband has a number of valuable paintings. If you 'kidnap' her from home rather than from Diagon Alley, you can take the paintings at the same time. I don't know about you, but I would love to decorate our apartment a bit."
"I don't think I'll be stealing from her husband, Daph. Not unless there's more to it than just him not being nice enough to her."
"No, Daphne, I'm serious. It's the same as I told you two, a couple months ago. I'll help rescue some women from abusive husbands if I get something out of it, but I'm not going to steal from them beyond taking the wives they paid for. Not unless they've done something to hurt me themselves."
"Why are you being so stiff-necked about this, Harry? We're not talking about good men here."
Harry gazed flatly at the two witches for a moment before answering. "Think about what I did last year. Almost all by myself, just one or two people helping once or twice, I ambushed about a dozen teams of Death Eaters. I beat them every time, and usually did it so fast and so easily that I could capture most of them instead of kill them or let them get away – that's why there were so many who were buying their way out of trials. And then I found where Voldemort was staying and I just walked in and blasted every living thing to pieces. I took some spells – I spent a week in the hospital, you know – but that's not much, considering I fought over a dozen Death Eaters plus Voldemort all at the same time. And I killed them all in a few minutes."
"I… didn't know any of that," Tracey admitted.
"How on earth did you do it, Harry? No one could manage that, not even Dumbledore."
"Power. I have no idea how it happened, but after Dumbledore died and I realized it was all down to me, I started learning and practicing and got more powerful by the day.
"And the power hasn't dropped any, that I can tell. That's why I live in the Muggle world and hardly do any magic. I can't control my spells very well. If you want me to banish something to the moon or drill a hole through a mountain, I can probably do it. If you want a warming charm in the winter, you'd better do it yourself."
"I was wondering about that," Daphne acknowledged. "I thought you'd simply rejected the magical world."
"So what does this have to do with what we were talking about, stealing from rich wizards?" Tracey asked.
"If I wanted to take over the ministry, do you think anyone could stop me? I could just walk in to the ministry building, kill or stun everyone there, and announce I was in charge. I'm probably more powerful than every auror put together. Who could stop me?"
"I'm not sure it's quite that easy to take over," Tracey objected. "Even if you beat everyone in a fight, how are you going to rule?"
"And there are rumors about all sorts of emergency defenses at the ministry," Daphne put in.
Harry shrugged. "I'd rule by terror, I guess. Or get some lackeys to do the day-to-day work. Haven't really put any thought into it. As for emergency defenses, maybe, but they didn't stop Voldemort, did they?
"Anyway, those aren't what I'm getting at. The point is, there's nothing to keep me from doing anything I want, except myself. There's nothing keeping me from becoming a monster, except myself. Nobody can be trusted with power. I'm not so egotistical that I think I'm the one person in the world who's above temptation, so that means I can't be trusted with power, which means I have to be very careful about using it, to make sure I don't abuse it at all. Slippery slopes, you know. And it's not like I ever had any good role models, growing up. That makes it even worse.
"That means I've had to to make some lines that I can't cross. One of those lines is not doing anything to hurt anyone who hasn't done anything to me. And that's why I won't steal from wizards who haven't done anything to me."
Both of the women frowned for a minute, thinking over Harry's revelations.
"What about stealing from people who have done something to you, Harry? Like the Fudges, after the ex-Minister smeared you for a whole year."
"I guess maybe. I'd have to think about it. For the past few months I was mostly thinking about getting away from all that and living quietly."
"I agree with Daphne. We should look into it. And there are plenty of families with Death Eaters who fought you. They should be fair game."
"Huh? Your family had Death Eaters I fought. Both of you. Are you saying I should steal from your families?"
"Of course not. I'd hope you'd exercise some judgment. The other families…" Tracey shrugged. "They're not my family. What do I care what happens to them? They'd throw my family to the wolves just as readily."
Harry shook his head. Daphne knew what he was thinking. "Can we drop family politics for now, and return to Gemma?" she asked.
"Fine. I'll take your word for it for now that she's being abused by her husband. I'll check that myself when and if I meet her. See what she can pay us without stealing from her husband, or else what she can do to make it worth my while. I'm not against robbing, say, the Fudges, but we'll need to decide who and work out the details.
"And Tracey? I'm not against something long-term and exclusive with you, but you have to ask me about it, not just tell me to stay away from other women."
And so, two weeks, an owl, and a dozen phone calls later, Daphne accompanied Harry to the Williams residence, oddly enough an apartment in a Muggle city, albeit a very nice one. In order to accompany him, she'd had to persuade him that she wasn't that pregnant. It was rather funny, watching the prospective father turn into a worry-wart before her eyes.
Not so funny was her other line of persuasion, that she wasn't really that important for their business. Harry lined up contracts and Tracey did the work, and Daphne sat in the office and looked pretty and fussed with papers and answered the telephone. (The utterly useless Muggle Studies professor hadn't even taught them the correct term for the device.) Harry tried to tell her that she was doing important work, but had to admit that they could do without her for a day or two.
In any event, Daphne found herself with Harry in a large apartment building in London one fine Monday morning.
"Daphne! Come in, come in. And hello, Harry, I recognize you. You must be my kidnapper."
She had to grab Harry's arm to pull him in. She had told Gemma to dress to impress. She had done so. Harry seemed poleaxed. Quite amusing, to be honest.
"Ah, Gemma, you don't plan on going out like that, do you?"
The brunette in the doorway, whose beauty was barely impaired by the recent lines around her eyes, winked. "Kidnappers have to be paid. I'd seen Harry around once or twice since, you know, and saw that he had grown up to be quite tasty. If I'm going to be kidnapped, I might as well enjoy it, right? Come on, Harry, before kidnapping me you wanted to make sure I was worth it. You should defile me on my marital bed, don't you think? You can make your test and I can give my husband a message."
That finally shook Harry back into awareness of anything besides perfumed skin. "Ah, no, wait a minute. Part of the arrangement was that I needed to talk to you to make sure you were worth kidnapping. Oh, wait, I get it. You can put a robe on, Gemma. Defiling you certainly is tempting, but what we meant by 'worth it' was making sure that your husband is a bad man or you are in danger and that you can pay to be taken away."
A problem came up. Gemma wasn't really in danger, or if she was it was her own fault.
"I just can't stand it! It's 'be careful what you say to the neighbors' this and 'here's how Muggles do it' that and 'keep your wand out of sight'. Every day it's something more. And the obliviators have been here three times in the past two months and they say I'll be arrested the next time they have to come."
Gemma, clever Ravenclaw though she had been, could not or would not learn to live amongst Muggles. Her husband, a younger son of a wealthy Muggle family, had found it deliciously amusing to buy a beautiful wife from a family which had persecuted him and his fellow newcomers to the magical world.
"Does he beat you? Abuse you other ways?" Harry pressed her.
Under his relentless gaze, Gemma eventually let the truth out. "No, he doesn't beat me. He's not very nice all the time and he makes me live here, surrounded by all these Muggles who can't do any magic and will never understand me."
Harry and Daphne stepped aside to confer.
"What do you think?"
"I am sorry, Harry. I really thought she was in trouble. What do we do now?"
"I don't know. We can't just walk away, can we? She knows who we are and she can tell the aurors or just anyone that we were going to kidnap her, and even the morons at the ministry would figure out that I probably got you and Tracey."
"We have to take her, don't we? I'm scared, Harry. I won't go back to my husband, I won't."
"Yah, I think we do." He looked as if he had just swallowed the most bitter pill in the world. "I don't think I can wipe her memory of the past hour without totally wiping her mind. I think I'll take her to India and leave her there. Enough people there speak English that she should be able to find a job and a place to live."
There was a bit of a problem because Gemma wanted to steal everything of value in the apartment, and complained bitterly when Harry wouldn't let her.
There was a bit more of a problem when Gemma dropped her dressing gown and invited Harry to ravish her "just for a bit of fun before I'm carried off against my will.
Harry refused. He was polite about it, and deflected her suggestion with the observation that the woman he was living with would be upset if he slept with anyone else. Even Daphne's offer, to keep watch for Gemma's husband while Harry wore Gemma out too much to resist being kidnapped, didn't change his mind; he deflected that by saying they'd have to hurry if Gemma were to be on time to meet her friend at the Taylor house … and for Harry to follow her to the Taylor house so he could steal from the family of a Wizengamot member who had voted to convict him for defending himself from dementors.
He told her later that the real reason for his refusal was that Gemma had really offended him. "It wasn't just her bigotry and it wasn't just her wanting to cheat and insult her husband. It was the way she was trying to manipulate me, coax me into things I don't want, and then kept pushing when I said No. I'm really annoyed with her, and I don't want to have sex with anyone I'm annoyed with. That would start a bad habit for sleeping with you and Tracey.
Not having another witch for Harry to slake his lusts on: bad.
Not having Harry learning to slake his lusts while angry: very, very good.
Overall, Daphne scored this day as a win.
Daphne checked on the children before she went to bed.
She didn't check on Alison, though the girl was barely more than a child herself. It wasn't, really, her business where their "kidnapping victim" slept, nor what she and Harry did when they were alone. Neither of the two was complaining about their arrangement. Alison had jumped into bed with her "kidnapper" at her first chance. Daphne didn't know which of them had first put the move on the other, but they both seemed happy enough and Alison didn't need to be drunk to sleep with him, and it let Daphne sleep alone, so she was happy enough, too.
Daphne liked and respected her second husband, possibly even loved him in some way, but most importantly she needed him. She needed him to provide for her children. She needed him for at least a couple more years so that she – or rather, her false identity as the Polish bride of a British subject – could legally stay in the United Kingdom. And this meant that she needed him to be content with his "family" life. Preferably without sleeping with her. Really, the current arrangement was just about ideal, from where she sat.
Although Daphne would certainly make sure that when her daughters were sixteen, they wouldn't be sleeping with a man ten years older!
Author's Note: Yes, another chapter is coming. I'm a jerk, but not such a jerk as to leave the story here.