Disclaimer: Everything belongs to J.K.R.
Autor's notes: This is planned to be the first of a multi chapter story. However, I have no idea if or when I have the time to work on the next installment, so for the time being I wrote this as a stand alone. Contrary to cannon, Daphne is an only child. Teddy Lupin was never born, so Harry has no relation to Andromeda.
Part One – From Southampton to New York
Ginny and I got together again the day after the battle. We separated before the end of May, not even three weeks later. I wish I could say we just didn't work, but it was not as simple as that. I thought our shared experiences with the Horcrux in the diary that had possessed Ginny and the piece of Tom inside of me should give us some common ground to start from and help each other to get over it. Man, I've never been so wrong. She was terrified of me and could hardly look at me, lest touch me after I'd told her. But she'd also clung so long to the idea of being together with the Boy-Who-Lived that she couldn't let me go. When I finally decided to put an end to our relationship, it wasn't pretty.
Hermione and Ron weren't there to run interference. They'd left for Australia right after the funerals to search for Hermione's parents and had not yet returned. I'm not sure they could have helped, though. In the long run, my break-up with Ginny also cost me my best friends. Ron didn't take it kindly that I'd dumped his little sister yet again. Hermione was torn in the fight between her boyfriend and her best friend, so I made it easy for her and distanced myself from her.
I felt uncomfortable staying at the Burrow any longer and moved to Grimmauld Place. After three weeks of renovating the house with Kreacher's help and spending my nights drinking, I finally admitted to myself I couldn't go on like that any longer. I swallowed my pride and asked Kingsley for help and he recommended a Squib psychotherapist, who knew about the Wizarding World, so that I could talk to him without breaking the Statute of Secrecy or having to be afraid to be carried off to the lunatic asylum. Mr Freid really helped a lot. He encouraged me not to return to Hogwarts in September and not to begin with Auror training, which I had thought I was duty bound to do. Considering the lifespan of more than hundred years for the average wizard, he reasoned I still had time enough to think of a career. Especially, since money was not really an issue for me.
The problems with the Goblins that were to be expected after my little stunt with their bank and their dragon had been sorted out by Kingsley the day after the battle. I was baffled – and touched – when he told me about it. I'd never have thought of asking him for help. I knew before that I was rich, but now I found out that I was filthy rich, even by Muggle standards. I'd never have to work in my life if I didn't want to. With this option on my hands, I decided to follow Mr Freid's advice, take a sabbatical and have fun.
And that's why I found myself on the balcony of a suite at the bow of the luxury cruise ship "Princess Isabella" one late afternoon in early January and watched how the ship left Southampton behind. I hadn't been bored until late October. The renovation of Grimmauld Place no 12 by magic was as fascinating as it was time consuming, but when it was finished, I didn't know what to do with myself. I had lost what I considered to be my family. Neville and Luna both had returned to Hogwarts for their seventh year, and I suddenly realised that I hadn't any other friends. When I walked through London one afternoon and saw the advertisement of a world cruise in the window of a travel agency, I went in and booked on the spur of the moment.
Little did I know back then that it would turn out to be the best decision I'd ever made. Certainly I didn't know it that early January afternoon when the stiff, cold breeze finally forced me to retreat back into the suite. It was getting dark, and I turned on the lights in the amazingly spacious living room before I went to the well-stocked bar and poured myself a whisky. I've been initiated to booze with Firewhisky, but the rich beverage that swirled in the glass in my hand couldn't be compared to that. No wizard should ever admit it, but it was much better. While I sipped my drink, I decided against having dinner at one of the restaurants the ship offered. I'd booked a cruise with a "casual" dress code, but that still meant suit in the evening. I wasn't in the mood to get changed just to get my dinner.
Eventually, I ordered my dinner to my suite, along with a nice bottle of wine. After dinner I settled down in the living room and treated myself to a movie night with the impressing selection of DVDs the ship offered. However, I'd had a long day, and the slight rolling of the ship, together with the fresh salty air, made me extremely tired and I turned in rather early.
I woke up in the middle of the night to the cry of a woman. My heart pounded. I listened into the darkness, not sure if the cry had been real or a nightmare. No, there it was again!
'Please, mum! Put it down, mum! You'll hurt us! MUM! NO!'
Next thing I knew was the sound of an explosion from the adjoining suite and a wave of strong magic rolled over me as I heard two bodies thudding to the ground.
I jumped out of the bed and grabbed for my wand. Without bothering with my bathrobe I ran out of my suite in my pyjama bottoms. I knocked on the door of the adjoining suite, but no one answered. I looked around. The corridor was empty. No one, except me, seemed to have heard the commotion in the suite. I turned the door knob, but the door was locked. The corridor still was empty, so I whispered 'Alohomora!' and pushed the door open.
The suite was dark. No one was in the small hall or in the living room, as I'd expected. The door to the adjoining bedroom was ajar. A narrow trickle of light poured through the gap and onto the carpet of the living room. I inched closer, wand at the ready, and peered into the bedroom.
In front of me, on the thick carpet, lay a woman. Her face was hidden behind the curtain of her long, honey blonde hair. She wore a plum coloured bathrobe, made of a velvety material, over her nightgown. Slumped over the bed lay a middle-aged woman on her back. She only wore a lacy, yellow nightgown. The colour of her hair, also a rich honey blonde, suggested that she might be related to the young woman at my feet. Her empty eyes stared at the ceiling of the room. Her hand was clutched around an ebony wand.
I quickly made my way over to the bed and ran a basic diagnostic charm over the woman. Hermione had taught it to me during the time we were alone on the run, insisting it would come in handy when I was an Auror. She'd been right, though I hadn't expected to have to use this special charm while I was on a pleasure cruise.
The diagnosis came up with the result I'd dreaded. The woman was dead. Since she wouldn't need help anymore, I turned to the woman on the floor. Carefully, I rolled her on her back to check for her vital signs. I startled. The face in front of me was familiar. I'd seen it every day at Hogwarts, across the Great Hall at the Slytherin Table. I needed a few seconds until I came up with the name that belonged to that face. Greengrass. Daphne, my memory supplied some time later while I was already checking her vital signs.
She was alive and not hurt, as far as I could tell. Her faint was probably caused by the huge magical outburst I'd felt. There was no wand beside her. Neither did she have a wand on her body, I concluded a few moments later when I finished scanning her body for it. The heat had crept into my cheeks, and I was glad she was still unconscious. I didn't want to appear awkward in front of a Slytherin. Even worse, she'd probably hex off my bits if she thought I'd tried to feel her up.
I went back to the bed and pried the ebony wand out of the grasp of the dead woman. When I performed 'Priori Incantatem' with it, my eyes went wide. I hadn't expected the Killing Curse to come out.
Pocketing the wand, I went back to Greengrass. 'Enervate!'
She stirred and groaned and then reluctantly opened her eyes. For a short moment, she was disorientated. Then she jumped up and flung herself over the woman on the bed.
'Mum! Wake up, Mum! Please, Mum, talk to me! MUM!'
When she got no response, she backed away from her dead mother, the dread of understanding written on her face. 'No ... no...That can't be true. No, Mum, please, don't leave me alone, Mum. MUM!' she wailed and it broke my heart. I'd witnessed the deaths of my friends at the battle and grieved with their relatives, but yet I still wasn't used to deal with grief.
Her eyes darted around and finally rested on me, but showed no sign of recognising me. 'Help her, please! You've got to do something!' she pleaded.
I stepped closer and put a hand on her shoulder. She didn't flinch or back away. Instead, her eyes still pleaded with me to help her dead mother.
'It's too late,' I said. My voice was thick and I had to clear my throat. 'She was already dead when I found her. She had this in her hand.' I pulled the ebony wand from the pocket of my pyjama bottoms.
Greengrass' eyes went wide with fear. 'Uh... That's a hairpin my mother used to put up her hair with,' she said.
Her presence of mind was admirable, I had to give her that. Even with the horrible shock she'd just received, she was still keeping the Statute of Secrecy in mind. My estimation of her rose a notch – from zero to zero point five, maybe.
'You don't have to be careful around me. I know about magic,' I replied. 'Whose wand is that?'
'It's mine,' she whispered.
Damn, that complicated things. 'Care to tell me why the last spell cast with this wand was the Killing Curse?' I asked as calmly as I could.
Her shoulders slumped and she let her head hang down, but I didn't get an answer.
'For Merlin's sake, Greengrass! We're on a Muggle cruise ship, your mother is dead and it looks as if Dark Magic has been performed with your wand. You're in deep shit. The Muggle authorities will ask questions, and you'd better come up with a reasonable explanation for whatever happened,' I said, barely refraining from gripping her shoulders and shaking some sense into her.
'You're right,' she finally answered. She looked up, her eyes meeting mine. It was then when she recognised me.
'Potter! What are you doing here?' she gasped.
'Enjoying the first night of my world cruise,' I replied, at once regretting my choice of words.
However, she took no offence, what I thought rather strange for a Slytherin. 'Sorry to disturb your fun,' she said, tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear with her fingers. 'Mum and I are – were – on our way to the United States. Dad was killed by Death Eaters shortly before the Battle of Hogwarts. Mum was put under the Torture Curse and...' Her voice broke. I saw tears in her eyes and she bit her lower lip.
She didn't have to tell me more. Anyone who'd had experienced the Torture Curse and who knew of the fate of Frank and Alice Longbottom knew where her story headed. I'd been treated to the Torture Curse by the best, Bellatrix Lestrange and Voldemort himself, and I knew the Longbottoms.
'She's been tortured into oblivion,' I stated and Greengrass nodded.
Tears ran down her cheeks, but she didn't bother to wipe them away. 'The healers at 's couldn't help her. But they told me about a new treatment developed in the United States. However, they didn't recommend travel by international Portkey for Mum, so I booked a passage to New York on a cruise ship. We had to get a suite, because obviously she can't – couldn't – mingle with the other passengers. It was hard. She didn't know where she was. She didn't recognise me as her daughter anymore. Tonight ... tonight she thought I was a Death Eater. Somehow she got hold of my wand. She pointed it at me and chanted the Killing Curse. The healers had warned me to prevent her from using any magic. Her magic is – was - so disrupted that it could have disastrous results. They were right. When she cast the Killing Curse, the curse got off, but next I knew was I was knocked out by an explosion.' She clapped her hands before her face and sobbed.
I winced. Though I'd got a lot of experience comforting Ginny during the first weeks after the battle, I still was uncomfortable around crying women. I tried what always helped best with Ginny, pulled her in my arms and rubbed her back with my hands in circular moves. While I did so, I thought about my next moves.
Her story fitted with what I'd overheard in my suite. While I wasn't able to perform Legilimency on her or had any Veritaserum with me, my gut told me she'd been honest with me. I waited until her sobs subsided.
'Why don't you sit down in the living room and I call the ship's doctor?' I asked and she nodded. I led her to the sofa in the living room. After she'd sat down, I picked up the phone and called the ship's hospital.
Minutes later, Greengrass' suite teemed with people. The doctor and his nurse arrived first and went straight into the bedroom. Then came the butler, who alarmed the cruise director. After the doctor came out of the bedroom and pronounced Mrs Geengrass dead, the captain was informed and arrived shortly after.
Greengrass sat on the sofa and obviously was in no shape to talk to them. So, I gave them a carefully reviewed version of what I'd heard. I told them I'd been awoken by Miss Greengrass frantic cries and, realising that it was an emergency, ran over to her suite. There I'd discovered Mrs Greengrass on the bed and her daughter in a state of shock and unable to help her, so I'd called the doctor and tried what little first aid I knew.
'There was nothing you could have done to save her, Mr Potter,' the doctor stated. 'She died of a sudden heart failure, probably because of a pre-existing medical condition. But sometimes this comes seemingly out of the blue and happens to a person who seems to be perfectly healthy.'
'Miss Greengrass mentioned health problems. They took the trip to New York by ship because her mother's condition forbade other means of travelling, and they were going to look for an alternative treatment of her mother's condition in the USA,' I told the doctor, and he nodded.
'That confirms my diagnosis,' he said, and I barely managed not to breathe a huge sigh of relief. The last thing I needed in this situation was the Muggle authorities being suspicious of the cause of Mrs Greengrass' death. It would be a nightmare of its own to deal with the repercussions in the Wizarding World. The member of a prominent, supposedly at least borderline dark Pureblood family died on a Muggle ship, the Chosen One was the first to arrive on the scene and discovered that the Killing Curse had been performed with the wand of the deceased's daughter. It couldn't get any worse, and I could already see the headlines of the "Daily Prophet" in my mind: Chosen One Discovers Prominent Pureblood Witch Dead on Muggle Ship! Daughter Cast Killing Curse! Murder or Lover's Tragedy? Ugh, I certainly didn't need that, and neither did Greengrass. Her life was crappy enough right now, with having lost both parents in the span of not even a year.
The Captain and the cruise director then turned to Greengrass. They offered their condolences to her and promised to be of assistance in any preparations that needed to be made. 'Is there anyone who should be told of the demise of your mother, Miss Greengrass?' the cruise director asked.
Greengrass gulped and shook her head. 'My father is dead. I'm an only child, and so were both of my parents. There's no one left of my family than me.'
An expression of pity flickered across his features, and he said, 'I wish I could offer you a different cabin to stay at for the rest of the journey to New York, Miss Greengrass. Unfortunately, I can't. We are fully booked.'
I didn't know what possessed me, but when I saw Geengrass' forlorn and inconsolable expression, I suggested, 'You're welcome to stay in the living room of my suite for the rest of the trip, Greengrass.'
I could have slapped myself the moment the words were out, but then I was rewarded with the most sincere and relieved smile I'd ever got from a Slytherin. 'Thank you, Potter. That's very considerate of you. I'll gladly accept your offer.'
The cruise director looked from Greengrass to me. 'You know each other?'
'We went to the same boarding school in Scotland,' I explained, which seemed to satisfy him.
He gave the butler a small nod, and the butler disappeared to pack off Greengrass' belongings and bring them to my suite. While the butler was packing, I made awkward small talk with the cruise director and the captain. We were interrupted by the doctor and the nurse who rolled the stretcher with Mrs Greengrass body out of the bedroom. Greengrass broke out in fresh sobs, and again I put an arm around her and comforted her.
The doctor motioned the nurse with a small gesture to go ahead without him and turned to Greengrass. 'Miss Greengrass, would you like me to give you something to soothe you, a sleeping pill, perhaps?'
Greengrass shook her head. 'Thank you, doctor, but I rather not take any drugs.'
'All right, if you insist.' He shook hands with both of us, nodded at the cruise director and the captain and then left. The captain and the cruise director also bade their good byes, again offering Greengrass their support.
We left the suite right after them and went into mine, followed by the butler with Greengrass' luggage. While the butler went to the walk-in wardrobe to put her things away, Greengrass sat down on the sofa. It was one of these huge lounges, made for lazy afternoons with a good book, and could easily seat ten. Part of it had already been turned into a bed for Greengrass, but there was still room enough to sit down.
Not knowing what to say or do, I went straight to the bar and poured two whiskies. I put one tumbler on the coffee table in front of Greengrass and intended to take mine with me in my bedroom, when she said, 'Please, stay with me, Potter.' Her voice sounded pleading.
It would have been heartless to leave her alone in her obvious grief, so I sat down in the corner of the sofa and sipped my whisky, waiting until she was ready to talk, but prepared to sit with her all night in silence if she wanted that.
We didn't spea until the butler had left the suite. 'I owe you an explanation,' Greengrass started after the door had closed behind him.
I raised my hand and shook my head. 'You owe me nothing, Greengrass. If you need someone to talk to or to keep you company because you don't want to be alone, that's fine with me, but please, don't feel compelled to do anything out of a sense of obligation.'
She stared at me for a long time. Then she picked up the glass in front of her and took a sip, still staring at me over the rim. 'You're not at all like I was told you'd be,' she remarked after she'd put the glass back on the coffee table.
'If your source happened to be Malfoy, you're probably in for a surprise or a disappointment, depending on your expectations. It's no secret that we both saw only the worst in the other while we were at school.'
Greengrass chuckled mirthlessly at that. 'Yeah, your fights at school have become Hogwarts legend. I'd not be surprised, though, if he and his cronies gave you a dislike for everything Slytherin. The more I appreciate your help tonight, Potter.'
My attitude to Malfoy and by default to the other Slytherins had been one of the many issues I'd worked on with Mr Freid the previous six months. I'd come to the conclusion that Malfoy was a backstabbing coward who'd do anything to save his own hide, but not the evil foe my teenage me had made him, especially in my sixth year. It had been rather humiliating to find out that I'd acted as childish and prejudiced towards him as he did to me. When I finally realised that Malfoy was the product of his education by his Death Eater dad and that most of his actions during the war were motivated by the desire not to get his parents killed by Voldemort, I actually learned to pity the poor bloke. With pity came forgiveness. My changed attitude to Malfoy also lead to a changed attitude to the rest of the house. Admittedly, they had always taken Malfoy's side in any of our fights, but that was only to be expected. My housemates had always taken my side, too, without asking. None of the other Slytherins outside of Malfoy's small circle of cronies had ever actively harassed me, so I learned to give them the benefit of the doubt.
That all went through my head in quick succession while I contemplated Greengrass' words, and I sighed. 'Malfoy was a git back at school, and so was I. I hope I grew up since then and know better.'
Again, we relapsed into silence. Greengrass' hands fidgeted with the ends of the belt of the bathrobe in her lap. Her face was the unmoved mask I knew from our school days, betraying nothing of her feelings. It was all in her eyes. Dark and troubled, they looked down on her hands, not seeing. While I watched, a tear rolled down her cheeks and splashed on her hands, then another. Greengrass didn't seem to notice.
'I'm glad Mum is finally at peace and together with Dad,' she whispered. She picked up her glass and emptied it in one swig.
My glass was also empty, so I stood up and got the bottle. I'd always found it was easier to talk if you hadn't to look your opposite into the eyes, so I said, with my back turned to her, 'I'm sorry about your father, Greengrass.'
As I'd hoped, that made her talk. 'It happened before the Battle of Hogwarts, but I didn't find out until after the battle. When you appeared at Hogwarts with Granger and the Weasel in tow, and McGonagall evacuated the castle, I went to Hogsmeade with the rest of my house. But I only pretended to leave Hogsmeade for my parent's house and came back to the castle with Slughorn, some of the older students and the inhabitants of Hogsmeade.'
I was glad I'd turned my back to her, so she couldn't see the surprise in my face. I'd been told that an amazing number of upper class men and alumni from Slythetin had joined the fight together with Slughorn and the inhabitants of Hogsmeade, among them Varsey, Pucey and Higgs from the Quidditch team and Zabini and Nott from my year, to name a few, but I'd had no idea that Greengrass had also joined the battle. With the bottle in my hand, I walked back to the sofa and sat down. Greengrass didn't pay attention while I refilled her glass and then mine. The floodgates had opened and she was in desperate need to get rid of the memories that haunted her.
'We were held up by the gates. Slughorn and some bloke with flaming red hair started throwing hexes at the gates, but they wouldn't open at first. Suddenly, there was a loud bang and the gates opened. We poured onto the grounds, where already a battle was going on. Hexes and curses were flying everywhere, and I was out of my depth. I mean, I've failed my Defence OWLs, and here I was, fighting a battle against the most powerful dark wizard that ever was and his minions. What was I thinking? It's a miracle I survived the battle without a scratch.'
She picked up the glass and downed its content without even flinching. If she went on like that, she'd be pissed within another thirty minutes.
'I was swept into the castle with the fighting masses. At that point, I simply cast Shield Charms not to get caught in the crossfire. I ended in the Great Hall, like everyone, it seemed. Eventually, the fighting deceased. Everyone was concentrating on the fights between the monster and Shacklebolt and Slughorn and the fight between Lestrange, Granger, Lovegood and the Weaslette.' Greengrass poured herself another whisky and gulped it down, while I still held my second drink in my hands.
'What about the Weaslette, by the way? Weren't the two of you together? Where is she?' She looked around as if she supposed Ginny to come out of one of the closets any second.
'She's at Hogwarts, I suppose. We didn't work out,' I replied. Thinking of Ginny and our break-up still hurt, but it got better with each day that passed.
'I'm sorry,' Greengrass mumbled and poured herself another glass. This time, however, she didn't dump down the whisky immediately, but twirled the glass between her hands.
'You know what happened next. Weaslette's mum stepped in and killed Lestrange, and then you saved her from the monster's Killing Curse with a simple Protego. You know that shouldn't have been possible, don't you? There is no shield and no counter curse against the Killing Curse, and yet you made it work. I've never seen a shield that powerful before.' Her voice sounded awed. 'How did you do it?'
I winced uncomfortably. She was quickly delving into topics I neither was free to discuss or wanted to discuss. She was right, I shouldn't have been able to hold off Voldemort's Killing Curse with a simple Protego. Of course, it had been my willing sacrifice of my life in the forest that protected everyone that night, but that was something I wasn't prepared to discuss outside the circle of my closest friends.
Greengrass interpreted my silence right, for she asked, 'Classified information, huh? You don't have to tell me, Potter, if you aren't free to discuss this.' She looked down at the twirling liquid in her glass and then raised her head and looked into my eyes. For the first time since I knew her I realised she had the most amazing blue eyes I'd ever seen. It was a deep sapphire, almost violet blue.
'It was the happiest moment of my life when your Disarming Charm overcame the monster's Killing Curse,' she said quietly. She downed the next whisky. Putting the glass on the coffee table, she sighed. 'You know how hell broke loose immediately after that. I celebrated with my classmates from Slytherin and some of the Ravenclaws until midday, I think. Then we all bunked in one of the classrooms. I was so tired I slept through until the next morning. By then the Aurors had already arrived to take our statements about the battle. I was questioned by them until almost midnight and wasn't allowed to contact my home. The next morning I was finally able to leave Hogwarts and Floo back home. When I stepped out of the Floo ... When I ...' Fresh tears spilled from her eyes and she couldn't go on.
'I didn't have a home anymore,' she finally managed to gasp. 'The house was destroyed. Only the chimneys were left standing, and by some miracle the Floo was still working. I found my Mum wandering through the grounds. She didn't recognise me anymore. Our house elves had been killed when the house was destroyed, and no one had cared for her for I don't know how many days. She was hurt and dehydrated and ...' Again she wasn't able to go on. Her body was wracked with sobs. I scooted beside her and placed a hand on her back, rubbing it in soothing circles. Greengrass gulped and then took a deep breath.
'She was afraid of me! My own mother cowered in fear when I came near. I asked her where Dad was, and she didn't remember him. I searched the ruins of our house and finally found what was left of him under a heap of rubble,' she wailed. She turned around and buried her face at my shoulder. I kept rubbing her back and rocked her gently. Eventually, she calmed down. Her face was blotched and she looked up at me with bloodshot eyes.
'I took Mum to St. Mungo's, where she was kept in the Janus-Thickney-Ward. Then I returned to our home and buried Dad on the family plot. Our family's affairs were in disarray. Voldemort's reign had been disastrous for business. We'd lost almost all of our clients in the magical world, and the business with the Muggles had declined considerably, because Dad had been watched by the Death Eaters and had to act carefully not to be found out. On top of it all he'd had to pay protection money to the Death Eaters to leave our family alone, so our vaults had been emptied. I had difficulties to pay Mum's hospital bills. Over the summer, business in the magical world eventually picked up. However, many of our former clients were reluctant to deal with us again, because they thought our family has been in league with Voldemort.' Her voice sounded bitter. 'I concentrated on the business connections we had in the Muggle world, and I daresay I've been successful, though Greengrass Shipping is not yet back to its former level. But we made enough money that I was able to take Mum to the USA when the healers at St. Mungos told me about a new treatment developed at Salem General Hospital for Magical Diseases. Well, you know the rest.'
She picked up the bottle and refilled her glass. Then she downed the shot and burped like a patron of the Hogs Head.
Imagine Daphne Geengrass, the epitome of Pureblood composure and grace, burping. I must have looked at her with a real idiotic and unbelieving expression, because at first she started to giggle, which soon turned into full laughter. I couldn't help myself, her laughter was contagious and soon we both roared with laughter, literally rolling.
It took us a while to calm down. Tears were streaming down my face, and hers as well, but I soon realised that she was again crying. When I realised her pain, I again put an arm around her shoulder. It had worked before to calm her down in her grief, but I wasn't sure if she would still tolerate me touching her. Amazingly, she did. She turned toward me and buried her face in my chest. I put my other arm around her and rocked her gently.
The whisky and the emotional turmoil she'd been through finally demanded their price. It didn't take long and she was fast asleep in my arms. I didn't want to, but I'd also had a bad night. That's how I fell asleep with Greengrass in my arms during the first night of my world cruise
HP - DG
I woke up from something tickling my nose. I was wedged between the back of the sofa and something warm and soft snuggling against me. It felt nice. I hadn't slept that well since ... well, I really didn't remember since when. Undisturbed, peaceful sleep had been a stranger to me ever since Voldemort regained his powers, and after his downfall my nights still were haunted by nightmares.
Then the memory hit me and I groaned. I had fallen asleep with Greengrass in my arms after I comforted her grieving for her mother. I prayed to every deity that was that she remembered, too, and refrained from hexing me when she woke up.
I opened my eyes and glanced at the girl in my arms. She looked peaceful in her sleep; a small smile played around her lips. As hard as I tried, I couldn't reconcile the girl that was heartbroken over the death of her mother and had cried herself to sleep in my arms with the girl I'd seen across the Great Hall each day during my Hogwarts days. She'd seemed poised and aloof back then, which had earned her the nickname "Ice Queen of Slytherin" from my house mates. I knew that after last night I'd never again be able to see her that way, since I now knew the warm-hearted girl behind the facade.
She opened her eyes and looked at me. At first, she didn't seem to know where she was and how she'd got there, but then I could tell by the expression on her face that her memory set in. Her blue eyes became dark and haunted. She swung her legs over the edge of the sofa and sat up.
'Thanks, Potter. For everything,' she said quietly, then rose and vanished into the bathroom. A few minutes later I heard the water of the shower running.
I passed the time the shower was occupied reading the day's entertainment program the butler had me provided with yesterday afternoon. It offered a wide range of entertainment, beginning from lectures about the destinations we'd visit during the cruise, lessons in painting, dance lessons, fashion shows and fitness training. The latter caught my interest. At Mr Freid's advice I'd started with jogging and fitness training when I began my therapy, which I'd both found to be rather beneficial. My appetite returned, and I also liked the effects the training had on my scrawny body. A look at the weather forecast told me that it was going to be a sunny, albeit freezing cold day, so I decided to go for a run on the track the ship provided on the upmost deck later in the day. I was still reading the program, when Greengrass came out of the bathroom. She was dressed in one of the heavy terrycloth bathrobes the shipping company provided and had a towel draped around her head. She left the door to the bathroom open behind her, and I took that as my cue to get ready for the day.
When I came back into the living room, showered, shaved and dressed in black chinos and an emerald green dress shirt, Greengrass was already waiting for me. She was dressed in black, Marlene-Dietrich-style trousers and a tight black blouse. Her hair was pulled back in a simple pony tail and she wore no make-up. Around her waist she wore a broad suede belt with a silver clasp in the form of a snake. I'd never noticed at school how narrow her waist was under the bulky school robes. The dark clothes made her look pale and vulnerable, an impression that was enhanced by the sadness in her eyes.
'Are you up to join me for breakfast?' I asked, and she nodded. Together, we took the elevator from deck ten where my suite was, down to deck four where the restaurants were suited. As a passenger of one of the two biggest suites on the ship I'd been entitled to choose my table at the main restaurant ahead, and I'd requested a small and quiet table at one of the huge windows. We sat down at a table for two and made our orders. I was hungry and ordered a full British breakfast, while Greengrass only wanted porridge.
We hardly spoke through the meal. Greengrass' eyes never lost that sad and haunted look, while she stirred her porridge without actually eating any. Her face, however, was once again the emotionless mask I knew from school. You really had to look closely into her eyes to realise she was heartbroken. We were lingering over a last cup of tea when the cruise director approached our table.
'Good morning, Ms Greengrass, Mr Potter,' he greeted. He turned to Greengrass. 'I've come to tell you that your mother has been put in a cabin of the hospital. I can take you to her if you want to say your good byes to her'.
I hadn't thought Greengrass could get any paler this morning, but she did. Her shoulders slumped. Gone was the composed Pureblood princess and the grieving daughter was back. 'Thank you,' she whispered. 'I'll come with you.' She looked up and gave me a pleading look. With an inward sigh I yielded to accompanying her on that hard task.
We left the restaurant and followed the cruise director down the length of the ship until we reached a hallway off the atrium. Greengrass walked beside me. When we entered the hallway, she took my hand. Her hand was clammy and cold. She didn't look at me, and I doubted she realised what she'd done. She'd simply craved for human contact in this difficult situation and I just happened to be there to provide it.
The cruise director led us through an inconspicuous looking door into a waiting area that was fairly packed with passengers waiting for the doctor to see them. The pale faces of most of them suggested that they were suffering from seasickness. Not for the first time I was thankful that Madam Pomfrey had insisted to supply me with enough potion against seasickness to last me for two world cruises when she heard about my "silly idea" (as she'd called it) for the first time. I'd taken one at the beginning of the cruise and so far felt fine. Greengrass also showed no sign of seasickness yet, which suggested that she was either immune or had taken magical means against it.
We passed the waiting area and went into another hallway which led to a small number of cabins. A look through an open door told me they were like hospital rooms, furnished with a hospital bed each and a lot of impressing looking medical equipment. The cruise director opened the last door of the corridor and let us pass. Greengrass went first.
'I'll be waiting outside,' he told me when I went into the room, and closed the door behind us.
I didn't know what to expect. The last time I'd said my last good bye to someone it had been at Hogwarts the day after the battle. They had put the fallen in a huge tent that had been erected on the front lawn. When I came to say good bye to Remus, Tonks, Fred and Colin, the coffins were already closed.
This was different. Mrs Greengrass lay on a hospital bed as if she was sleeping. Her arms were above the blanket that covered her body, and she held a pale, pink rose between her folded hands. A vase with pink roses stood on a small table beside the bed and a white candle in a simple crystal candlestick burned beside them. Her white face looked calm and peaceful. However, the resemblance to the young woman beside me gave me the creeps. They could have been twin sisters, except for the silver streaks that were visible at Mrs Greengrass' temples.
Greengrass slumped down in the chair that stood beside the bed and looked at her mother. I couldn't see her face, but her shoulders shook, so I stepped behind her and put a hand on her shoulder, hoping she'd find comfort in the contact. Her hand came up and she clasped mine.
I don't know how long she remained like that, silently saying good bye. Finally, Greengrass let go off my hand and rose. She leaned over the bed and kissed her mother on the forehead. Then she turned around to me. Her face was wet with tears.
'She's so cold,' was all she said.
I took my handkerchief out of my pocket and handed it to Greengrass. She took it and dabbed her eyes. Her free hand grabbed for mine, and after a last look at the still form of her mother she led me out of the room.
As promised, the cruise director waited outside in the corridor. 'Is there anything else we can do for you, Miss Greengrass?' he asked.
'Thank you, you've already done so much to help me. Please, also convey my heartfelt thanks to the captain,' she replied.
The cruise director gave a short nod. 'I'll do that. If you need anything else, please don't hesitate to let me know.' He interrupted himself, but then went on, 'I suppose you're not in the mood to attend tonight's gala dinner?' and Greengrass nodded in confirmation.
I remembered vaguely the announcement of a gala dinner to celebrate the beginning of the cruise in the program for today. With the program I'd also got an invitation to the captain's table. My travel agent had warned me that the passengers of the most expensive suites (as mine and Greengrass') were regular guests at the captain's table for special events. It was a gesture to honour valued guests I could have done without, but apparently there were people who lived for stuff like that.
'All right, then I'll take you from the guest list for tonight. Perhaps you'll join us another time?'
Greengrass simply nodded to that.
The cruise director turned to me. 'What about you, Mr Potter?'
'You don't have to stay with me in the suite if you'd rather go out, Potter,' Greengrass interjected, but I shook my head. I didn't have it in me to abandon her to a lonesome night of grieving after all she'd been through. 'I'll stay with you, if you want.' The thankful smile I got in return was reward enough. 'All right, take me from the list, then,' I told the cruise director.
The cruise director led us back to the atrium and then took his leave. Greengrass and I looked at each other, not knowing what to do next. Her face was blotchy from crying, I noticed, and still as white as a sheet. I grabbed her elbow and gently guided her to the elevators.
'What about getting our winter cloaks and then take a stroll outside?' I asked. Greengrass merely nodded. She was much too apathetic for my taste, but grieve can do that to people. We made a quick detour to the suite, which had already been put back to order by the house service, grabbed our cloaks and took the elevator down to the promenade deck.
A sharp, biting wind greeted us as we stepped outside, while the winter sun smiling down from the clear, blue sky was reflected myriads of times in tiny sparkles by the ocean. In spite of the sunshine, the promenade deck was fairly empty. Most of the passengers were prevented from venturing outside by the sharp wind. Greengrass and I both shoved our hands in the pockets of our cloaks, braced ourselves against the cold and started to circle around the ship. The vast ocean stretched ahead of us and no other vessel could be seen. Wherever we looked, there was only water and waves. It made me feel insignificant and small. Greengrass seemed to feel that way, to, because she withdrew even more into herself, much like a turtle withdrew into its carapace. Her small hand, however, found her way into the pocket of my cloak and grasped my hand. She was as cold as ice. I pressed her hand reassuringly, and she seemed to relax a little.
'Mum was a witch from Salem, Connecticut,' she suddenly started talking. 'Dad fell in love with her during a business trip to the USA and managed to convince my grandfather not to enter him into a marriage contract with a Pureblood witch from Britain, but allow him to marry Mum instead. Grandfather gave in. Personally, I'm convinced it was because Mum was an heiress and the last of her line. The money she brought into the Greengrass family undoubtedly was more than the dowry the Prewetts could afford.'
'Prewett?' The name sounded familiar. Then I remembered. Mrs Weasley had been a Prewett before she married. 'You mean, as in Molly Prewett?'
Greengrass smiled, though the smile didn't reach her eyes, and nodded. 'Yes, your best mate's mother was supposed to become my mother.'
I gave her an appraising look.
'What?' she asked.
'I try to imagine you with red hair, but I can't. Red is not really your colour.'
She let out a small laugh and shook her head at that. Then she went on with her story. 'The Wizarding society over in the USA is not as backwards as we are in Britain. In the UK the Ministry for Magic's stance on keeping the Statute of Secrecy is to hide ourselves from the Muggles and not mingle with them unless it is absolutely necessary. The stance of the Ministry for Magic of the USA is rather to hide the magic. In my opinion that makes much more sense. Wizards and witches in the USA grow up among Muggles and know how to blend in. They even send their children to Muggle schools. Apparently, they've developed a potion that can prevent outbursts of accidental magic, so that the parents can send their children to Muggle schools without having to be afraid of breaching the Statute of Secrecy. That's why my mother grew up among Muggles and knew how to move among them without raising suspicion. My father, on the other hand, came from a very traditional British Pureblood family.'
'I guess that was kind of a culture clash?' I interjected.
'Oh Merlin, yes!' she confirmed. 'Dad adhered to the policy of the British Ministry for Magic. Our house is well hidden from the Muggles, and Dad never ventured into the Muggle world if he could help it. Of course, we didn't have any Muggle appliances at home. Mum complied with that way of live, though she thought it rather strange and backwards. On the other hand, Dad raised no objections when she told me about the way she grew up. I had to pretend to be the perfect young Pureblood lady whenever we had guests at home and of course at school, but Mum would frequently take me to outings to New York, Paris, Rome and Munich, show me the sights and go shopping with me. We'd also go to Muggle restaurants and theatres. That's how I know how to blend in with Muggles. I know how to book a trip with a travel agency, how to use the Muggle transportations and how to behave in Muggle restaurants and hotels. I know about the different European Muggle currencies and I even have my own Muggle bank account and credit card. I even know how to operate a computer. Also, I know how to dress like a Muggle. Mum loved fashion. She never liked the robes British wizards and witches still wear. I grew up with a mother who dressed in jeans and shirts when we were at home and had no Pureblood guests, and in smart Muggle attire when we were travelling. She also subscribed to a couple of Muggle fashion magazines and made me read them, too, so that I'd always know about the latest Muggle fashions. That was a part of my education I never once complained about,' she added dryly.
'I imagine,' I chuckled.
We had reached the bow of the ship and leaned against the rail side by side. The sharp wind made our eyes water.
'I miss her,' Greengrass whispered. 'I miss her so much. She was my mother and she was also my best friend. You don't have friends when you're a Slytherin. I had seven horrible and lonesome years back at Hogwarts, never knowing whom I could trust. And now she's gone and I'm all by myself.' She palmed her face in her hands and sobbed.
I put my arm around her shoulders. Until today I don't know what made me say, 'You're not without a friend, Greengrass. You've got me.' Maybe it was because she was as alone in the world as I was, maybe it was because she was the only familiar face on a ship full of strangers. It doesn't matter; I've never once regretted it.
She turned in my arms and buried her face in my chest. Rubbing small circles on her back with my hands, I waited until she had calmed down.
'Thank you, Potter,' she said as she finally looked up at me, her face wet with tears. 'You are really a good friend.'
I smiled down into her red rimmed eyes. 'Friends don't call each other by their last names. Do you think you have it in you to call me Harry?'
'Only when you call me Daphne – Harry,' she smiled back, though rather watery.
I looked up to the sky as if I had to give that some contemplation. Then I grinned. 'I think I can manage – Daphne.'
'Prat!' she replied and slapped my arm.
'Your most obedient servant, my lady,' I replied and offered her the crook of my arm.
Shaking her head at my antics, she took my arm and we continued our walk. However, the cold wind soon forced us back inside. I secretly resolved to postpone my daily runs outside until we'd reached a milder climate.
We both weren't very hungry, so we decided to grab a sandwich at the buffet restaurant. It was delicious, but to my dismay Daphne only managed to eat a few bites.
After lunch, we returned to the suite. A strange, buzzing sound greeted us as we entered the living room. It came from an ornate iron strongbox I'd put on the desk in the living room. Daphne gave me a questioning look.
'That's my Gringotts Banishing Box, telling me I've got mail,' I answered her silent question.
'You've got a Gringotts Banishing Box?' she gasped. 'That service is only available for their most valued customers!'
'And for a hefty fee,' I added while I opened the box with a tap of my wand and took a bundle of letters out of it.
'How does it operate?' Daphne asked.
'I've got an owl post box with the post office at Diagon Alley and a Muggle post box with the Muggle post office in Islington. They've both a Banishing Charm on them. Every bit of mail I get is sent to Gringotts. The Goblins then scan my mail for curses, dark items, love potions, Compulsion Charms and what else. They also separate the fan mail and the business proposals. The fan mail is sent to my personal assistants, who answer it, and the business proposals are sent to my Board of Financial Advisors, who'll look at them and tell me which one are worth my attention. These they sent to me, together with their daily reports and my personal mail from my friends. Everything dark or with charms or curses on it is sent to the Auror department.'
She nodded thoughtfully. 'That makes sense. Considering some of my former house mates and their families, I guess you get quite a lot of nasty mail.'
'Tons!' I replied, looking through the letters in my hands. There was one from the Goblins and another one from my Muggle advisors. But there also was a letter from Ginny. I grimaced at the latter and shoved it into the back pocket of my trousers for the time being. Then I opened the letters from Gringotts and my Muggle accountants. They'd be most unhappy with me if I didn't answer their letters immediately.
It had been a big surprise when I found out that my father had been disowned by my grandfather in favour of me. Also, my family history was not at all what I'd been made to believe. My parents had been Gryffindors and fought for the light, so much was true, but during the course of the centuries the Potters had been a neutral family. There had been no house preference for Potters; there were alumni of all four houses among my ancestors, albeit Slytherin and Hufflepuff were slightly ahead. My grandfather Fleamont, a Slytherin alumnus, had loved his only son dearly, but he also mistrusted Albus Dumbledore, and was most unhappy that my dad followed Dumbledore without questions. Afraid that my father would squander the family fortune in the fight against Voldemort, he'd set up a generous trust for my parents, but made me his sole heir. In hindsight, I have to say grandfather Fleamont's fears were well grounded. Dumbledore had manipulated everyone in the order, and I won't even start with the way he'd manipulated me all my life long. Also, my father had given away the bigger part of his enormous yearly income for the war effort. What I found in the vault my parents left me when I came to Diagon Alley on my eleventh birthday were the remnants of the yearly payment my parents had received for 1981.
I found out about that on my eighteenth birthday. Grandfather Fleamont had stated in his will that I should come into my inheritance when I finished my NEWTs or turned eighteen, whichever came first. While I had full access to the interest from my eighteenth birthday on, he'd placed a Board of Financial Advisors in front of me who were supposed to educate me how to manage the vast Potter holdings. I'd had a crash course in financial management since then, and they only agreed to my sabbatical on the premise that I'd contact them on a daily basis. That's why I'd acquired a Gringotts Banishing Box.
Deciding I'd be a good boy, I sat down and answered the letters of my financial advisors immediately. It had turned out that I seemed to be a natural at financial management. While the Goblins as well as the Muggle managers frequently regaled me with stories about my dad's irresponsibility when it came to money, they praised me for my instinct and compared me to my grandfather Fleamont, who'd been a legend in the business world in his days. Oh well!
Then I started a letter to Kingsley, describing what had happened last night and asking him to keep it out of the papers, if possible. I was still scribbling my letter to Kingsley when Daphne's hesitant voice interrupted me. 'Harry, may I impose on you once more?'
I looked up and smiled at her. 'You didn't impose yourself on me. I offered you to stay here, remember?'
She nodded and bit her lips. 'May I use your Banishing Box to send some letters? I need to Ambassador Temple, the British Ambassador to the Ministry of Magic of the USA, to ask him to make arrangements for Mum's funeral on her family's plot in Salem.'
'Of course you're welcomed to use it. It's attuned to my magic, which means that I have to write the address of the recipient on the envelope. Also, your correspondents have to put their letters to you in an extra envelope with my name on it, or the letters won't be sent to the Banishing Box.'
'Thank you, Harry. I'll bear that in mind.' She stood up and went to the walk-in closet, from where she returned moments later with a quill and parchment in her hands. She settled down at the small table of the dining corner in the living room and began writing her letter.
I also resumed my work. When I looked up about half an hour later, Daphne was just finishing her letter. She handed her mail to me, and I scribbled the names of the recipients on the envelope and then send it away with a tap of my wand on the Banishing Box.
Daphne had settled down on the sofa again. I sat down in the corner opposite of her and leaned back. After a few minutes, she took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. A new resolve seemed to have come over her.
'You look at peace,' I observed.
She put a strand of her hair behind her ear with her fingers. 'I've finally made all the necessary decisions about Mum's funeral. That was the hardest part for me. I guess it will get hard yet another time when the funeral takes place –.' She choked and interrupted herself. I could see tears well up in her eyes. 'But it will get better from now on. I guess I've cried myself out, and I try to find comfort in the thought that Mum is now in a better place where she doesn't have to suffer anymore and will meet Dad again.'
I reached over and clasped her hand in silent comfort. She linked her fingers with mine. We sat side by side in silence, both lost in our thoughts, and watched dusk falling.
We were startled out of our contemplation by a knock on the door. I went to answer the call. It turned out to be the butler, who insisted on serving us a bottle of champagne and pralines as a kick-off for the evening's festivities. I remembered vaguely that champagne and pralines in the evening were one of the many extras that came with the suite.
'I'm not really up for celebrating,' Daphne said after the butler had left, and eyed the champagne in the cooler.
'I've been told that champagne is a drink that fits in all circumstances. And chocolate is great comfort food,' I replied and handed her the platter with pralines.
'If you put it that way,' she conceded and took a praline. She also made no objections when I handed her a glass of champagne. 'You are right, it's both great comfort food,' she admitted after the first glass.
With not a small degree of satisfaction I noticed how some colour returned back into her cheeks that had been pasty white all day long. We'd already decided not to go out for dinner, do we ordered our meal to the suite. Some of her appetite had returned, but she still left most of her meal on the plate, I noticed with dismay.
After the butler had cleared away the plates, we again settled down in the living room and talked.
'We have a pond at home,' Daphne began. 'Mum taught me how to swim when I was small. Dad was scandalised. Swimming and wearing skimpy swimsuits is not considered proper for Pureblood ladies in Britain. Mum simply laughed at him, and he made no objections anymore. He loved her and me so much, he always let us have our ways when something fun clashed with Pureblood traditions.'
'You seemed to have had a rather unusual upbringing for a Pureblood,' I observed.
Daphne nodded at that. 'Even though I was taught all the Pureblood traditions I needed to know and have been educated to become Dad's successor in our business as well as on the Wizengamot, I had a hard time behaving like it was expected of me. I stood out like a sore thumb in my house because of that. There was always something slightly off with me, if you know what I mean.'
That was something I could rely to. I'd never really fitted in, too, no matter how hard I tried. I had needed six months of therapy sessions until I finally accepted that I wouldn't be the man I was today without everything that had happened to me in the past. I'd made my peace, with the bad memories as well as with my unloved fame and the wealth I'd inherited, and vowed to make the best of what had been handed to me for the remainder of my life.
'I know what you mean,' was all I replied. Again, we relapsed into silence, until Daphne started yawning and we decided to call it a day. I retired to my bedroom, while she called the house service to put up her bed for the night.
I put my clothes back into the walk-in wardrobe while I waited for my turn in the bathroom, and never remembered Ginny's letter I'd left in the back pocket of my trousers.
HP – DG
The next morning, I received a letter from Kingsley. As always, it was straight to the point.
Thank you for informing me about Isabella Greengrass' death. I won't deny that this can become a rather ugly affair as soon as the press gets wind of it, considering the circumstances of her death. I'll do my best to keep it under wraps as long as possible, but you know the state the Ministry is in. It will be impossible to keep this silent indefinitely.
Please, convey my condolences to Miss Greengrass. Unfortunately, there has to be an official investigation as soon as you reach New York, due to the fact that the Killing Curse has been cast with her wand. I'll send two of my most experienced Aurors to conduct the interview as soon as you've entered port.
I grimaced and handed the letter to Daphne. While she read it, her face once again assumed the stony expression I'd by now learned hid high emotional stress.
'That was to be expected,' she said as she handed the letter back to me. I had to admire her composure. Had I been in her shoes, I'd have kicked the furniture or at least have ranted for a while. However, her eyes betrayed a trace of fear.
'It's a formal matter,' I tried to assure her. 'No one can blame you that your mother snatched your wand and cast the Killing Curse.'
'Of course not,' was all she replied, but I could see the doubt in her eyes.
HP - DG
We settled into kind of a routine during the remaining days until we reached New York. We'd have breakfast at the main restaurant, then take a walk around the ship. It was still sunny, but butt freezing cold with a sharp wind blowing, so we were never able to be outside for long. After that, we'd return to the suite to deal with our correspondence. It turned out that especially Daphne had a lot on her plate after her mother's death had been made public to the Goblins.
'Mum's family was by far wealthier than Dad's,' she explained on our fourth day at sea when she received yet another thick letter from the Goblins of Gringotts, Salem. 'The fortune is tied in a trust, and Mum was paid the interest into her vault at Gringotts of Salem. She was the only one who could access that vault, and things were really difficult when she wasn't able to handle her affairs anymore and we practically had no income from the Greengrass holdings. That was one of the reasons I had to take her to the USA. The Goblins of Salem insisted on seeing her before they'd allow me to handle Mum's affairs for her.' She gulped. 'I've spent so many sleepless nights last summer, not knowing how I'd be able to pay the bills for Mum's treatment. I really prayed that I'd be able to access the income from Mum's trust soon so that our financial troubles would be over. It never occurred to me that my prayers would come true like this.'
She palmed her face in her hands and cried. That would happen to her seemingly out of the blue at least once or twice during the day. She'd found some degree of comfort in the thought that her mother hadn't to suffer anymore, but then something would happen that reminded her of her loss and she'd break down. I'd become quite adept at comforting her.
'Thank you, Harry,' she smiled at me with red rimmed eyes as she extricated herself from the hug I'd given her. 'You are a great friend.'
'You're welcome,' I replied and returned to my own letters.
After we'd dealt with our duties, we'd have lunch at the buffet restaurant and then go for a work out at the gym. Daphne still wasn't up to join the festive crowd at dinnertime, so we had dinner at the suite and spent the evenings in the living room, talking, reading or watching DVDs. We learned quite a lot about each other during these days. I was amazed how easy it was to get along with the girl I'd known as the Ice Queen of Slytherin. Instead of being a pampered Pureblood princess, she'd turned out to be the down-to-earth girl from next door. She was very much like Ginny in that regard, minus the temper. However, she was interested in far more topics than Ginny. Ginny and I had snogged or talked about Quidditch. Daphne was already the hard working Head of House of the Greengrass family, had to manage the family's holdings and taken care of her mentally disabled mother, not to mention that she had to take her father's seat on the Wizengamot as soon as she turned twenty-one. That was something we had in common. We bonded over hours of talk about our duties. She was impressed about my instinctive grasp of business matters, while I was impressed by her profound knowledge of the Wizarding society and how not to observe sacred customs could seriously endanger any success in the business world, not to mention on the Wizengamot.
'We'd make a good team,' she quipped on our last night before we reached New York. 'Just imagine, your fame and the connections you'd be able to make, and my Slytherin cunning and knowledge about the way the Wizengamot works. We'd be able to get through every proposal we want to make. These stuffed shirts on the Wizengamot wouldn't know what had hit them!'
'No kidding,' I agreed, swirling the whisky in my tumbler. I gave her a sharp look. 'Are you proposing an alliance between the House of Greengrass and the House of Potter, Daphne?'
She gasped at that. However, the gleam in her eyes told me that she'd at least considered that possibility. She wouldn't be worth her salt as a Slytherin otherwise, I smiled inwardly. Of course the close proximity we'd been thrown into the last week and our quickly developing friendship had given her a head start in any negotiations with me over the other families who held seats at the Wizengamot, and vice versa.
'Because I've been thinking of a proposal that'll be of mutual benefit for both of us, I'm sure,' I went on.
That got her interest. She sat upright and put down her tumbler onto the coffee table. 'Go ahead!'
I had been thinking of asking her to tutor me in the many things I still had to learn about the Wizarding World as soon as I returned from my cruise. But during our long talks I'd realised that we were literally in the same boat. She had no family to return to. Even her home had been destroyed, and she had no friends where she could stay.
'You know how much I still have to learn about the Wizarding World,' I began, and Daphne hung on every word I said. 'There are so many unwritten rules to observe that I'll probably find myself in deep shit as soon as I start to attend to the many official functions or if I'm invited to a private dinner, or, Merlin forbid, a ball! Heck, I still don't know how to dance!'
Daphne chuckled at that, but she didn't contradict me. Of course, she'd seen me and my abysmal performance on the dance floor at the Yule Ball.
'So, what do you think about staying with me and teaching me about everything I still have to learn while we are abroad? While we are away, we can discuss what kind of alliance we want our houses to have. I leave it up to you if you want to be open about that or if you will keep it a secret to maintain the neutrality of the House of Greengrass. You can also help me to work out the future stance of the House of Potter. As of yet, I'm undecided which fraction to choose. Everyone will expect me to be on the side of the Light, but believe me, they are as fanatic as Death Eaters in some regards and I don't like that.' I knew I was beginning to ramble, so I stopped myself with some difficulties and looked at her expectantly.
Daphne looked at me as if Christmas had come early. For the first time since I'd met her on board, her eyes shone as bright as sapphires and she gave me a broad smile, full of joy.
'Thank you, Harry, I'd like that!' she simply replied.
'Good!' I beamed, and then pumped my fist into the air.
'You're still such a boy,' she shook her head at me. 'Dignified members of the Wizengamot don't do a jig if they succeed with something. They at most allow themselves a small smile of triumph, like this.' She quirked the corners of her mouth and then resumed her best Ice Queen poker face.
I snorted and she grinned in return. We celebrated our deal with another whisky and went to bed rather late.
HP - DG
It was again in the middle of the night when I woke up with a pounding heart. There was a muted whimper, coming from the living room. I rose and padded on my bare feet into the adjoining room.
Daphne was tossing and turning in her sleep, whimpering softly. Her face was wet with tears.
I went to her bed and grabbed her by the shoulder, shaking her gently. 'Wake up, Daphne, you have a nightmare!'
She startled in her sleep, then sat up bolt upright with wide open eyes. For a second, her eyes darted around the room until they rested on me. With a small cry she flung herself at me and sobbed.
I sat down on the sofa, put my arms around her and rocked her gently. After a rather long time she quietened down and began to talk, her head still buried in the crook of my neck.
'I was back home. The Death Eaters came for my parents, to punish them for Dad's defiance against Voldemort. Dad fought them, but then he fell to a Killing Curse cast in his back. Mum tried to escape, but there were too many of them. They cast the Torture Curse at her again and again, until she had lost her mind and then –.' She gasped for air. 'And then they laughed at her,' she wailed. Again, I felt her tears trickling on my neck. 'And I did nothing to help them, I only stood and stared!'
'Daphne, you couldn't have helped them. You were not there, you were at Hogwarts, remember?' I soothed her while I rubbed her back. She clung only tighter to me, her shoulders still shaking.
I leaned back on the sofa, resigned to losing a lot of sleep that night. I should have expected something like that to happen.
We were nearing New York and today Daphne got a message from the DMLE that two Aurors were going to talk to her as soon as the "Princess Isabella" had entered port. Another letter from Ambassador Temple had told her that her mother's funeral would take place in the morning of the day after. It really wasn't surprising that she'd have a nightmare tonight.
I don't know how long I held her in my arms, rubbing her back and murmuring soothingly in her ear. After what seemed an eternity, her breathing got even. However, I didn't dare to move yet, lest to wake her again. I still contemplated when it would be safe to lower her back to her bed, when I also fell asleep.
Again, I woke up wedged between the back of the sofa and Daphne snuggled up to me. I looked at the clock that hung at the wall of the living room. It was almost eight a.m. The "Princess Isabella" was scheduled to enter port around noon. No matter how sad and troubled Daphne was today, I wasn't going to miss watching the "Princess Isabella" nearing the skyline of New York. I gently shook Daphne by the shoulders to wake her up.
She opened her eyes and looked groggily at me. Then she turned beet red. 'I'm sorry, Harry. I didn't mean to fall asleep on you yet again.'
'Don't worry about it,' I replied. 'But I'll get first use of the bathroom for that today!'
'Agreed,' Daphne smiled, and I went into the bathroom.
I showered and dressed in new record time. While Daphne was in the bathroom, I quickly went down to the cruise agency and booked her trip in my suite for the remainder of the world cruise. It felt a little awkward. I couldn't help but wonder what the cruise agent would think about the nature of our arrangement. But she went on very professionally about it and never did so much as raise an eyebrow.
I arrived back at the suite just in time with breakfast.
'I thought we'd better have breakfast at the suite. You'll have a better view from here when the skyline of New York comes closer than from the restaurant,' Daphne said.
I felt touched by her thoughtfulness. Over the last couple of days she'd often surprised me with little things she'd done for me, like ordering a movie I mentioned I'd like to see from the rental service, or noticing how I liked my tea and preparing it for me that way every time we sat down for breakfast.
'Thank you,' I said while we sat down.
We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast while the skyline of New York made a first appearance on the horizon. After breakfast, we bundled up in our winter cloaks and scarfs and went out onto the veranda of the suite. The view from here was breath-taking. The suite was right above the bridge, and we really had first row seats as the "Princess Isabella" passed the Statue of Liberty and then Ellis Island.
Daphne turned her head and smiled at me. Her eyes were bright, and the cold wind had turned her cheeks pink. 'Isn't that fantastic?' she enthused. 'I've often been to New York with Mum, but we always travelled by international Portkey. I've never arrived here like this. It's beyond words.'
I had to agree with that.
Slowly, the ship made its way up the Hudson River. The "Princess Isabella" was by no means a small ship, but it was dwarfed by the tall buildings of New York. I'd heard about the skyscrapers of New York and of course I'd seen pictures, but nothing had prepared me for the real thing. It was a once in a lifetime experience, that was sure.
It was almost noon when the ship was manoeuvred to anchor at New York Cruise Terminal. Daphne had become rather quiet by then. We watched how the gangway was put up, and then, after what seemed like an eternity, the first passengers left the ship and entered the busses that were waiting for them at the pier to begin their sightseeing tours. We had no idea when the Aurors would arrive, so I persuaded Daphne to go back inside and wait there. I'd just put back our cloaks and scarfs to the walk-in closet when there was a knock on the door.
When I returned into the living room, we had two visitors. One of them I recognised as Dawlish, the Auror who'd come with Kingsley to Hogwarts in my fifth year to sack Dumbledore. The other Auror was unfamiliar, but he eventually introduced himself as Auror Proudfoot. Tonks had told me at the beginning of my sixth year that he was also on guard at Hogwarts.
Both wore what most wizards consider as proper Muggle attire. In Dawlish' case that were a dark knitted sweater, pink jogging pants and felt slippers, very much like those Arabella Figg loved to wear. Proudfoot had done slightly better, in jeans and a leather jacket. However, you'd might think the t-shirt he wore under the leather jacket a trifle eccentric. It depicted a sleeping blue Care Bear under a rainbow, snuggling to a little star and with its thumb in its mouth.
Daphne and I exchanged a look and hardly suppressed our laughter. By the way the two Aurors had dressed, it was obvious that they'd Apparated on board, thus circumventing the Muggle security. There was no way they'd been let on board by the crew, dressed like that. At least I hoped they'd Apparated and not Confounded their way to our cabin. I shuddered at the mere thought.
Daphne asked them to sit down and offered tea, which both of them declined.
Auror Dawlish pulled parchment, a bottle of ink and a quill with a garish green feather out of the pocket of his jogging pants.
I immediately objected to the quill. 'You're not going to take notes of this interview with a Quick Quotes Quill. These things do nothing than record a load of drangondung and screw the truth!'
Auror Dawlish looked offended. 'I've worked with these quills for the last ten years, Mr Potter, and no one ever objected.'
'Then you've dealt with idiots,' I replied bluntly.
Auror Proudfoot sniggered, which he quickly turned into a cough as Dawlish glared at him.
Unimpressed by my objections, Dawlish proceeded to put up the Quick Quotes Quill to record the interview. I let my wand slip out of the invisible holster on my right arm for about an inch, unobtrusively aimed at the offending quill and silently cast 'Incendio!'
The quill promptly burst out in flames. Dawlish squealed like a girl, Daphne startled and Proudfoot didn't bat an eyelid, though he'd let his wand slip in his hand. His shoulders shook with silent laughter and he winked at me.
'Mr Potter, you're hindering an official Auror investigation!' Dawlish finally managed to shout, every inch the indignant Ministry official.
'No, I'm not,' I replied as I stood up from the sofa and walked to the desk. 'I'm only preventing you from recording rubbish!' I grabbed a biro from the desk and threw it to Dawlish. 'Use this the good old Muggle way to take your notes!' I sat back on the sofa and crossed my arms in front of my chest, while Dawlish turned the biro in his hand, obviously not knowing how to use it. I reached over with my hand, took the biro from him and pushed the button. Then I gave the biro back to him.
Perplexed, Dawlish took the biro from me and scribbled hesitantly on the parchment. 'Weird!' he mumbled as he saw the lines appear.
Proudfoot had tears in his eyes, but still didn't say a word, while Daphne was pink in the face and avoided looking at me.
Dawlish straightened and turned to Daphne. 'Ms Greengrass, why decided you to travel with your ailing mother on a dangerous Muggle contraption?'
Daphne stiffened. During the six days I'd spent with her in close proximity in my suite, I'd never once seen the haughty Pureblood. At the implied criticism of Dawlish' question, however, it was suddenly there in full force. Her face became an unmoved mask and she looked down at him along her nose. I don't know how she managed that, since he was at least five inches taller than her five feet five, but she definitely looked down at him.
'Auror Dawlish, I don't doubt that an experienced Auror as you are made the necessary inquiries back in England about my family.' Her voice clearly implicated that she doubted just that. 'So, you'll probably have found out from the Healers at St. Mungo's that my mother's condition forbade any means of magical travelling. Travelling by plane was also deemed too dangerous because she was prone to bouts of accidental magic. That left only travelling by ship.'
That left Dawlish speechless, but he recovered quickly. 'What happened on the night of January the second to January the third?' he asked, glaring at Daphne.
'Due to her condition, my mother had lost any sense of the time of the day,' Daphne started. She was calm and collected and ignored Dawlish's glare. 'She was confused about her new surroundings and couldn't understand that she was on board of a ship and on her way to Salem for an alternative treatment the Healer's at St. Mungo's recommended. Also ...' her voice trembled slightly, but she maintained her composure. 'She didn't recognise me as her daughter anymore. I had to lock our suite, lest she not run away and harm herself. It took hours until I could finally persuade her to get ready for bed. I think it was already past midnight by then, and I was exhausted. It had been hard work to get her through the security and on board without the Muggles getting suspicious. I was tired and for a moment I was inattentive and she managed to snatch my wand. She thought ... she thought ...' Tears welled up in Daphne's eyes and she interrupted herself.
'She thought what?' Dawlish snarled. He had a gleam in his eyes I didn't like at all.
Daphne pulled out a handkerchief and dried her eyes. 'She thought I was a Death Eater,' she said quietly. Her voice sounded thick.
'Ah!' Auror Dawlish exclaimed. 'But she wasn't that far off the mark, was she, Daphne?'
Daphne startled. Then she became furious. 'I never was a sympathiser of that monster and I definitely didn't take the Dark Mark!' she hissed.
Dawlish regarded her with a look from her head to her feet that gave me the creeps. It was leery and obnoxious, as if he was undressing her with his eyes. My fists curled on their own accord and Daphne's face turned rather pink.
'You're a Slytherin, honey,' Dawlish remarked as if that explained it all.
Daphne raised her chin. 'And your point is?'
'Everyone knows that Slytherins are a bunch of murderous Death Eaters, rotten to the core, all of them,' he sneered.
I'd heard enough. 'Auror Dawlish, it seems to me that your personal prejudices are getting in the way with your duties. Your conduct is not what I deem professional and I will make certain that Kingsley will hear of that. It's his priority objective to rid the Ministry from the corruption and unprofessionalism of the past, so I doubt he'll be impressed by your performance,' I drawled. Merlin, I sounded like Lucius Malfoy, but it certainly was worth it, because his face turned first red and then white. His wand slid out of his holster, and I knew he was going to hex me the next second. Too bad for him I was ready for him. I had my wand already in my hand and silently cast 'Stupefy!'
Dawlish slumped in his seat and Auror Proudfoot jumped up, also brandishing his wand. However, before he could raise it, I had my wand in his face.
'You'd better sit down, Auror Proudfoot, and continue this hearing in a professional manner, unlike your partner.'
He stashed his wand away and regarded me with a long look. Then he sat down and pulled the parchment and the biro towards him. His eyes never left my face. However, it was not before he took the biro in his hand that I lowered my wand, though I still kept it in my hand.
Proudfoot began to chuckle. 'Potter, I really hope you'll consider joining the Aurors. We need men like you, fast with a wand and not afraid to stand up for what they think is right. Dawlish was a good men in his days, but he was put under the Imperius Curse by the head of the DMLE during the war and that gave him a massive hate of those affiliated with the Dark Wanker, or even those he supposes were affiliated with him. Having been exposed to the Imperius Curse over a long period of time also damaged his ability of rational thought.' He turned to Daphne. 'Ms Greengrass, I apologise on behalf of my partner and the Auror department.'
Daphne accepted the apology with a nod of her head.
'What happened after your mother snatched your wand from you, Ms Greengrass?' Proudfoot continued the questioning.
'She pointed the wand at me. I knew she was going to curse me the next second. She had bouts of accidental magic, and the Healers at St. Mungo's had told me that she had to be prevented from using any magic, because her magic was so disrupted that it could have disastrous results. So, I tried to talk with her. I begged her not to hex me. She didn't listen.' Daphne's composed façade crumpled at the memory. 'She ... she cast the Killing Curse at me!' she cried and broke out in tears.
Auror Proudfoot waited patiently until she'd calmed down and dried her eyes.
'It turned out to be as disastrous as I'd feared,' Daphne finally went on with a hoarse voice. 'The Killing Curse missed me, but it must have done something to her magic. There was kind of an explosion and I was knocked out cold. I don't know what happened then. I woke up some time later. At least I think so. Harry was in the room, though I didn't recognise him at first. Mum lay on the bed. I rushed over to her and talked to her, tried to wake her up. She wouldn't respond. I begged Harry to help me, to do anything, but he said it was too late, that she was dead.' She palmed her face in her hands and cried silently.
After a few minutes, she looked up. Her face was wet with tears and her eyes were bloodshot. 'I don't remember much of what happened then. I think Harry must have informed the crew, because there were the doctor and the captain. Harry offered me the bed in his living room. I was so thankful for that! I couldn't face staying in the rooms where my mother had died for the rest of the trip.' She reached over and clutched my hand.
Auror Proudfoot didn't look up while he finished his notes. I suspected he wanted to give Daphne time to recollect herself. When he finally was finished with his notes, he turned to me. 'Mr Potter, can you add to Ms Greengrass' testimony?'
I nodded. 'I was already sound asleep when I suddenly woke up. Then I heard the voice of a woman beg her mother not to do something and to put something down. There was a loud noise, like an explosion, and I felt a wave a magical energy wash over me.'
He raised an eyebrow and interrupted me at this point. 'Did you recognise the voice?' I shook my head, and he immediately added, 'How did you know then that Miss Greengrass was talking to her mother?'
'I didn't know the voice belonged to Daphne. But I knew the woman was talking to her mother because she used the word "Mum".'
'All right,' Proudfood said after he scribbled some more on the parchment. 'What's that with that magical wave? You're not honestly telling me that you can feel magic?'
'Yes, I can. In fact, I've been able to feel magic ever since I came to Hogwarts, though I never made an effort to improve that skill. Albus Dumbledore showed me how to do it when we were on a mission together the night he died. Later in the year I came across a magical artefact that simply radiated dark magic. After the war, I renovated the house my godfather had left me. It was a death-trap, full of dark magic, and I got lots of opportunities to practise how to feel magic. I think it's a talent that will come in handy if I ever join the Aurors. Though I didn't know that it's that uncommon among wizards.'
'Yet it is,' Auror Proudfoot said while he took some more notes. He looked at me and grinned. 'You must be of the power level of a mage, Potter. Only mages are known to have talents like that. Of course, something like that was to be expected of the Chosen One.'
I rolled my eyes at the silly moniker and hardly supressed a groan. Sensing my discomfort, Proudfoot grinned even broader. With a wave of his hand he motioned me to go on.
'I took my wand and went into the adjoining suite. In the bedroom I found two women, apparently unconscious. Mrs Greengrass lay on the bed, Daphne was on the floor, near the door. I first checked Mrs Greengrass vital signs.' I gulped and gave Daphne, who still held my hand, a look of regret. 'From the way she lay on the bed I already suspected she was dead, and the spell confirmed that.'
Proudfoot gave me a sharp glance. 'Which spell did you use?'
'Revelio Vitam,' I replied, and he seemed to be impressed.
'That's a standard Auror spell you are not taught at school,' he remarked.
'My friend Hermione Granger taught it to me while we were on the run,' I replied.
'That explains it,' he said. 'Go on, please.'
'Mrs Greengrass' hand was grasped around a wand. I took the wand from her and performed "Priori Incantatem" with it. It showed the Killing Curse,' I finished quietly.
'How did the wand look?' Auror Proudfoot wanted to know, and I gave the description. 'Daphne later told me that it was her wand,' I added.
'Where was Miss Greengrass during your examination of the wand?' he then wanted to know.
'Still unconscious on the floor. I pocketed the wand and went over to her. First, I checked if she had a wand on her, but came up empty.'
Daphne looked at me with raised brows. 'And how did you do that, Potter?'
Oops! I felt the heat rush into my face. 'Uhm – I had to feel with my hands,' I admitted.
Proudfoot sniggered at my obvious discomfort, while Daphne gave me a look that made clear how she'd come by the moniker "Ice Queen".
'Pervert!' she said, but the corner of her mouth twitched.
'Then I checked if Daphne was all right,' I hurried on with my story.
'About time!' Daphne uttered under her breath, and Proudfoot sniggered again. That man must have an excellent hearing, I thought.
'I woke her up with "Enervate". She was very distraught and at once hurried to her mother to make sure she was all right. When I'd to tell her that her mother was dead, she broke down.'
Proudfoot scribbled down some last notes. 'Thank you,' he then said. 'Miss Greengrass, is the body of your mother still kept on the ship?'
Daphne shook her head. It was plain to see that the question pained her, but she answered, 'Ambassador Temple had arranged that Mum is transferred to the magical mortuary at Salem as we speak.'
'All right. I guess we have to go there,' Auror Proudfoot replied with a side glance at his still Stunned partner. 'I'll wake him up as soon as we've left. I imagine he'll not be happy about you, Mr Potter,' he chuckled. Then he sobered. 'Please, make sure the Auror department can reach you until this investigation is over. We might have additional questions.'
'I'll be staying on the "Princess Isabella" until May first, and so will Daphne,' I replied. 'During this time you can reach me through my mail box. After that, I'll be back in my house in London. It's still under the Fidelius Charm for security reasons, but Minister Shacklebolt knows where it is.'
He didn't look happy with my answer, but it was all the information about my whereabouts I was going to give him. There were still enough Death Eaters on the loose and I knew that in certain circles a bounty had been promised for whoever would be able to kill me. Not to mention the many Snatchers and sympathisers who never took the mark, officially changed their tunes after the war and now lurked in the shadows, biding their time. The Ministry and especially the Wizengamot was still full of them.
'As Harry said, I'll be staying on board until May, but I don't know where I'll live afterwards. Our house has been destroyed during the last days of the war. I guess I'll rent a flat in Diagon Alley, but I'll let you know where I'll stay as soon as I'm back,' Daphne added.
Proudfoot seemed to like that even less, but made no comment. He shook our hands in good bye, took his still Stunned partner by the arm and Apparated away with barely a noise.
'Now, that was weird,' Daphne said, still staring on the spot where the two Aurors had been only a second before.
'It surely was,' I agreed. 'I wonder what has got into Dawlish. He acted as if he wanted to accuse you of the murder of your mother.'
'Oh that,' Daphne shrugged. 'Actually, I expected something like that. It's one of the many benefits of being a Slytherin. Makes you automatically suspicious until you prove yourself,' she added sarcastically.
I was taken aback. It never occurred to me what impact the last war had on the neutral Slytherin families. Though, I should have expected something like that. Prejudices against Slytherin had already been common before the last war, Hagrid and Ron's attitude to members of the house being prime examples of that. If I really wanted to make a change in the Wizarding World, I also had to do something about that, I mused. Equal rights for shunned minorities like the werewolves and getting rid of the corruption were important goals, but it must apply to every member of our society, not only to the winners of the war.
'What did you mean then?' I asked, choosing to ignore Daphne's sarcastic comment until I'd given the problem more thought.
'I meant you! You sounded like bloody Lucius Malfoy when you talked to Dawlish! That was not the Harry Potter I know from Hogwarts! The kid I knew back then would have crawled under a stone before his fifth year and jumped at Proudfoot's throat after that! You surely have changed!'
I shrugged. 'I grew up. War can do that to you, you know.'
She gave me a long look. 'I sense a story behind that. Will you tell me?'
The question hit me by surprise. I never was one to talk. Well, I'd talked to Mr Freid, but that was different. Was I willing to talk to Daphne? I didn't know – yet.
'Maybe one day,' was all I answered.
Strange enough, she seemed to be satisfied with that.
HP - DG
The next morning we rose early. Daphne hardly spoke a word. She looked pale and withdrawn. Today was going to be one of the hardest days of her life. She had to bury her last parent and come to grips with the realisation that she was alone in the world after that.
I knew the feeling. It had been like that for me until I came to Hogwarts, and then again after I broke up with Ginny and was shunned by the Weasleys for that. Though I had worked on coming to terms with that with Mr Freid, it was still hard to going back to be all by myself.
Guessing that Daphne was not in the mood for company that morning, I ordered breakfast to the suite. However, she only nibbled at a slice of toast and drank some tea. My appetite also had left me. Funerals tend to have that effect on me. It was a relief when it was finally time to take the Portkey Ambassador Temple had sent us to the cemetery.
We landed on a snow covered meadow that was situated between two busy main roads of Salem. Lichen-covered tombstones dotted the snowy ground like pockmarks. In spite of the hustle and bustle of the Muggle traffic, the graveyard was eerily quiet. I sensed Privacy Wards and Muggle Repelling Charms around us.
The grave was already dug out. The coffin hovered in the air in front of the grave, suspended there by magic. On one side of it stood who I assumed to be the officiator. He wore black Wizarding robes over a black Muggle suit. On the other side was a couple, both dressed in expensive looking Muggle winter attire. They gave Daphne a respectful nod and stepped aside to let her say a last good bye to her mother.
Daphne grabbed my hand, and together we stepped in front of the coffin. Her face was stony. Her eyes, however, were full of emotions, sadness and loneliness being dominating, but I could also see traces of fear and even anger. She looked down on the coffin of her mother for a long time, gripping my hand so hard that it hurt. Then she nodded at the officiator to begin.
I have to confess, I didn't pay much attention to the eulogy. In my opinion, they are all the same and hardly ever do the deceased justice. How can anyone sum up years of life and love spend together in a few lines? But as a ritual, they serve the purpose to prepare those left behind for the inevitable last good bye. I'd learned to appreciate that during the seemingly never ending string of funerals after the Battle of Hogwarts.
Daphne trembled beside me, whether of the cold winter wind blowing over the meadow or out of grieve I couldn't tell. Finally, the officiator came to an end. He pulled out his wand and moved the coffin over the open grave. Daphne's knees buckled under her, and I put my arm around her to hold her upright. Slowly, the coffin sunk into the grave. That was the moment Daphne's Pureblood façade cracked Tears steamed over her face, and she was hardly able to throw a handful of dirt in the grave as a last farewell. For a long time she looked down on the coffin of her mother, until I gently pulled her aside.
After us, the couple paid their respects, and then the officiator raised his wand again and Levitated the small mound of earth from beside the grave onto the coffin and covered it. Daphne looked as if she'd faint any moment, and I tightened my grip around her shoulders.
The couple walked up to Daphne, giving her their condolences. Then they waited quietly by the side.
For a last time, Daphne stepped to the grave of her mother. Her body was wracked with sobs, and finally she couldn't stand it no longer and buried her face at my chest. I put my arms around her and hugged her, hoping to give her some comfort. When she seemed to calm down, I gently lead her away from the grave toward the waiting officiator and the couple.
The officiator invited us to tea in what he called the Magical Community Centre of Salem. Daphne obviously was in no shape to talk, so I accepted the offer for both of us. I had no idea where to go, but the strange couple seemed to know, for the man pulled a length of rope out of the pocket of his coat and created a Portkey for the five of us to share.
We landed in the backyard of a white house with black shutters that was built in what I later learned was the Federal Style. Though I didn't expect any danger, I'd let my wand slip into my hand the second we departed from the cemetery and now looked around for any possible threat before I stashed it away.
The officiator and the strange couple looked at me with raised eyebrows.
'Sorry, old habits die hard,' I murmured, while I felt the heat creeping into my cheeks.
'Why would you feel the need to guard yourself in our community centre, Mr...?' the officiator asked.
'Potter. Harry Potter,' I introduced myself.
We shook hands, and he introduced himself as Thomas Ingersoll. From the corner of my eyes a saw the couple having a silent exchange with their eyes. The officiator beckoned them forward and introduced them as Ambassador Howard Temple and his wife, Mrs Annabelle Temple. We exchanged the expected pleasantries, while Daphne mostly remained silent and went through the introductions very much like a puppet on a string.
'Well, Thomas, you shouldn't be surprised about the behaviour of this young man,' Ambassador Temple said with a chuckle as we walked up the snow covered path to the back entrance of the house. 'He is Britain's greatest living hero, after all.'
It was well hidden, but I could sense a trace of disdain in his voice. I wasn't fazed at all. Everything about him and his wife screamed "Pureblood", so something like that was to be expected. Even though most Purebloods had changed their tunes after the war, most of them secretly still were supremacists and quite a lot among that number still were Voldemort supporters, if not yet undiscovered Death Eaters. Unfortunately, they still played key roles in Britain's society, something I intended to change in the long run. But today was neither the time, nor the place for that, so I gave him and his wife one of my most charming smiles, as if I was taking his remark as the compliment I was due.
'Are you really?' Ingersoll exclaimed. 'Well, it's an honour to meet you, Mr Potter!'
Used to that kind of talk I gave the appropriate answers while he led us into the house. We entered a small tea salon, and Ingersoll ordered tea and biscuits. Daphne still was withdrawn and didn't talk much, so it was left to me to make rather strained small talk with complete strangers for about thirty minutes. Ambassador Temple and his wife excused themselves after that, saying they had other appointments to attend. It was clear they had come to the funeral only out of a sense of obligation to his office and to a member of one of the Sacred Twenty-Eight. Mr Ingersoll took his leave a few minutes after them, and Daphne and I were finally alone.
Ambassador Temple had provided us with another Portkey back to the suite on the "Princess Isabella". I looked at my wristwatch. After I'd broken up with Ginny I'd replaced the golden watch the Weasleys had given me for my seventeenth birthday with a platinum Patek Phillipe watch. Somehow I felt like I hadn't the right to wear the watch of Fabian Prewitt anymore since they practically cast me out. Though, I still kept the watch in a place of honour in my family vault. The mechanical Muggle watch was less conspicuous, anyway, and more practical for me, since I'd spent most of my time in the Muggle world after I'd left the Burrow. My watch told me that it was near lunch. The "Princess Isabella" was scheduled to leave New York for the next leg of her cruise around the world at five a.m., so I wasn't inclined to return to the ship immediately.
Daphne still was apathetic, and I persuaded her to take a stroll before we returned to the ship. She agreed, and after I'd asked the waitress for directions, we stepped out of the house and found ourselves on Chestnut Street. It was right in the middle of the historical district of Salem, the waitress had told me, and boasted quite a number of well-kept houses built in the Federal Style. Well, I'd never been interested much in history, and I doubted Daphne could find interest in anything that day, so we probably didn't appreciate the nice town as we should have. Eventually, we found our way to the port, but a sharp wind coming from the sea quickly made us retreat in the shelter of the streets again.
I shouldn't have been surprised, after all the town wasn't that big and the cemetery with the family plot of Daphne's mother was one of the three historical cemeteries of Salem connected to the town's magical population, for after a few minutes we again found ourselves at the gate of the cemetery where we'd buried Daphne's mother in the morning. A few Muggles visited the cemetery, obviously enchanted by the history displaced on the old tombstones, but I noticed they gave the fresh grave on the side of the cemetery a wide berth. Apparently, the wards and charms I'd sensed in the morning still were at work.
Daphne grabbed my hand, and together we entered the cemetery. As I'd thought, the Muggles didn't notice us when made our way to the grave of Daphne's mother.
This time, her eyes were dry as Daphne looked at the fresh mound of dirt at her feet. We stood in silence for a long time, until she finally whispered, 'Good bye, Mum.' Then she turned to me. 'I think I'm ready to return to the ship.'
I pulled out the Portkey Ambassador Temple had given me. Daphne held to it, still looking at her mother's grave, and the next second we were whisked away, back to our suite on board of the "Princess Isabella".
I had to admit, I was frozen to the bone. The last winter I'd spent on the run in a draughty tent had given me a deep dislike of being uncomfortable ever again, so when we appeared in the suite, I went to the bar right after I'd shrugged out of my coat and poured each of us a whisky. When I handed the tumbler to Daphne, our hands touched briefly. Her fingers were ice cold.
We sat down on the sofa and sipped our whisky in silence. However, some colour returned in Daphne's cheeks, and she quit shivering. Eventually, I rang the cabin service and asked for a light lunch, though I suspected Daphne still wasn't hungry. She'd eaten this week only out of habit and because I made her, and had visibly lost weight.
After lunch, we settled down in the living room. Daphne looked out of the window at the skyline of New York, though I doubt she saw anything. I attempted to read a Muggle mystery novel, but my heart wasn't in it.
When dusk fell, the butler brought us the obligatory champagne and chocolates. By now, Daphne and I both considered it as comfort food. We drank champagne and ate chocolate while the "Princess Isabella" slowly moved out of the port of New York, her sirens blaring good bye. It was an impressing sight as the skyline, lit by myriads of tiny lights, eventually disappeared on the horizon.
The "Princess Isabella" headed to Fort Lauderdale and the everlasting Florida summer, leaving wintery New York behind. Somehow, I had a feeling that his was an omen, for Daphne as well as for me.