‚If you're going to San Francisco, Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair' I sang, while I stood on the veranda of our suite and watched how the "Princess Isabella" made her way into the Bay of San Francisco.

'You're a terrible singer,' beside me Daphne remarked. 'You ought to come with a Silencing Charm, like a Fwooper! And you'd look simply hilarious with flowers in your hair.'

'Hey, I resent that,' I pouted, but nevertheless had to join her laughter.

It was a cold, yet sunny morning in late January. We've been told that we were lucky, because obviously fog in the morning was quite a common occurrence in San Francisco, which was also called Fog City by the natives. Thanking the weather gods, we enjoyed the view on the skyline.

Immediately after the "Princess Isabella" had dropped anchor, we entered a bus which took us sightseeing. Our first stop was at the Golden Gate Bridge. I believe, you can't say you've been to San Francisco if you don't get your picture taken with the famous bridge in the background. Daphne and I took turns taking photos of each other, and then Alvirah offered to take a picture of Daphne and I.

'Not so stiff, Harry! Put an arm around Daphne!' she commanded.

Daphne and I grinned at each other, and I obliged. Ever since the first day we'd met her, Alvirah had been on a crusade to get us together. With no luck so far, of course. We both weren't interested in starting a relationship. Daphne was still in an emotionally fragile state after the losses she'd suffered. Though she hid it well, I could tell by the smudges around her eyes if she'd cried herself to sleep at night.

From the Golden Gate Bridge we were taken to Powell Street, where we entered one of the famous Cable Cars. Climbing the steep hill toward California Street in the historic cars was fun. We had a fantastic view over the bay and were adequately impressed when we passed Lombard Street, the "World's Crookedest Street". However, Daphne didn't enjoy the ride as much as I did.

'Muggles are just plain crazy,' she whispered, clinging to my arm for dear life. 'That's like going straight upward with a Firebolt!'

It was by no means like that, and I laughed. 'I'll take you on a ride when we're back home,' I whispered back. 'Then you'll find out that this is actually quite harmless.'

She looked at me and visibly shuddered. 'No, thank you, I've seen your crazy stunts at school!'

That made me laugh again.

The Cable Car finally dropped us off near Fisherman's Wharf, and our tour guide ushered us onto a boat that headed to Alcatraz, the infamous prison island in the bay.

Visiting the prison buildings was an oppressing experience that had the hairs on my back stand up. There was definitely black magic ingrained into the buildings. I could almost hear the screams of the prisoners, the rattling of the keys of the guards and the bangs of the shutting prison doors.

Daphne touched my hand. 'Harry, look!' she whispered.

Behind the bars of a prison cell stood a ghost clad in prison gear, grabbing the bars with both hands and silently screaming. Another ghost glided up to him, this one obviously a prison guard, and silently shouted back. The ghost of the prisoner retreated back into the cell, and the ghost of the guard vanished.

We shared a look. 'That was impressive,' I whispered, covered by the voice of our guide who told the rest of group about the attempted break-outs. 'Though I like the Hogwarts ghosts better.'

'Me too!' Daphne replied. 'These two were scary!'

We were both glad when we were back on the boat and left the island behind.

The guided tour ended with the visit of Azkaban, and Daphne and I left the group to explore Pier 39. It was kind of a tourist trap, but we had fun browsing the various shops and tried clam chowder in sourdough bowls at one of the many eateries. Of course, we didn't miss out visiting the famous sea lions.

We were already on our way back to the ship when Daphne suddenly dragged me into a store that sold Western clothes.

'I always wanted a pair of original cowboy boots!' she exclaimed.

We were the only customers, and I resigned to a long time of waiting and sat down in a chair, while Daphne was approaching a female clerk for help. The clerk had her back to us and was putting away shirts. As she heard Daphne's steps behind her, she turned around. She had short and curly brown hair and large hazel eyes that widened in shock as she saw Daphne.

'Daphne? Is it really you?' she asked.

Daphne startled. 'Tracey? What are you doing here? No one could tell me where you were after you'd left Baltimore! What about your parents and your brother? Where are they?'

'They are all here as well. We live in a small flat on Ellis Street.'

The two women stepped towards each other and hugged, though it looked rather stiff to me.

Daphne turned around and motioned to me to come to her.

'Tracey, let me introduce my travel companion, Harry Potter,' she said as I stepped beside her. 'Harry, this is Tracey Davis. We shared a bedroom in the Slytherin dorms.'

Davis' eyes grew wide as she saw me. 'Potter? I almost wouldn't have recognised you. Where are your baggy rags? Had Daphne sense enough to buy you decent clothes? And had you finally sense enough to tell the Ministry and the "Prophet" to shove it and ran away from your alleged destiny?'

Ah yes, the Slytherin charm in full force. However, this wasn't school and I wasn't the awkward sixteen-year-old she remembered anymore. I was about to answer her barrage of questions, when Daphne stepped in.

'Tracey, how could you? That was incredible rude!' Her cheeks were pink and her eyes shot blue daggers.

I put a hand on her arm. 'It's all right, Daphne.'

She harrumphed, but relented, and I turned to Davis. 'To answer your questions: in the dustbin, I can buy clothes on my own, thank you very much, and I'm right now on vacation after I've told Voldemort to piss off.'

As I'd expected, she squealed like a piglet as I mentioned the name.

'Really, Tracey, get a grip!' Daphne smirked.

We waited while Davis did a poor imitation of a fish on dry land. 'Does that mean ... does that mean the Dark Lord is – gone?' she stuttered.

I frowned. In my experience only his sympathisers ever called him the Dark Lord. Everyone else went with Voldemort or You-Know-Who, depending on the size of their balls.

'As dead as a doornail,' I confirmed.

She gasped. 'How? Who?'

Not bad for a Slytherin, given how they always prided themselves for their eloquence.

'For the how, a simple Disarming Charm did the trick, though it was technically his own Killing Curse, and for the who, that happened to be me.'

That seemed to rob her completely of the ability of speech. She opened her mouth, but no sound came out.

Daphne linked arms with me. 'I think you broke her, Harry.'

The doorbell rang and new customers entered the store. That shook Davis out of her frozen state. She sent a charming smile to the new customers. 'I'll be with you in a jiffy.' Then she whispered to Daphne and I, 'How long do you stay in San Francisco?'

'We'll be leaving tomorrow afternoon,' Daphne replied.

'Will you come to our place tonight at 8 p.m.? My parents would love to see you. You of course, too, Potter. I'm sure they'd like to hear first hand about your – exploits.' The sneer she gave me was thoroughly spoilt by her apparent uneasiness.

Daphne and I communicated silently. I could see in Daphne's eyes that she wanted to visit with her former room mate, so I nodded imperceptibly.

'All right, we'll be there,' she said to Davis.

A sincere smile appeared on Davis face that made her look really nice. 'Good!' She turned to the counter and wrote something on a small sheet of paper. 'You'd best take a cab from your hotel,' she said and handed the paper to Daphne, who looked at it and then put it into her pocket. 'See you then, Tracey!'

Davis nodded her agreement and then turned away from us to meet the new customers, while Daphne guided me out of the shop. We slowly ambled towards the entrance of Pier 39.

'Didn't you want to buy cowboy boots?' I asked her.

Daphne shook her head. 'No, I'm not in the mood for shopping anymore. Meeting Tracey today was like seeing a ghost. It brought back some unpleasant memories of my Hogwarts years.'

She stayed quiet after that, obviously lost in memories, but didn't let my arm go until we were back in our suite. There she sat down in her usual place on the sofa.

I sat down beside her and waited for her to come out of her pensive mood. However, that didn't seem to happen any time soon, so I finally said, 'Daphne!'

She startled and then looked at me.

I ran a nervous hand through my hair, not knowing how I should phrase my next question in order not to offend her friend. 'Uhm – by the way Davis talked about Voldemort, do you think tonight's invitation will be a trap?'

To my relief, Daphne didn't take immediate offence, but considered my question. 'I don't think so,' she finally answered. 'Her father is the son of a Halfblood and a Muggleborn wizard, while her mother is the last member of a side line of my family. She's my third cousin, once removed, while Tracey and I are fourth cousins. The Davis don't belong to the Ancient Families. They are what the Ministry considers as New Purebloods, because they all descend from a magical mother and a magical father. In Pureblood circles, however, they are still considered as Halfbloods. According to the more liberal intended Purebloods, you have to descend from four consecutive generations of magical people to be considered a Pureblood. The hardliners like the Malfoys or the Notts even demand seven consecutive generations of solely magical ancestors.'

She paused and put a strand of her hair behind her ear with her fingers. 'The Davis are a middle class family and not very wealthy. Tracey's parents don't care about Pureblood supremacy, I'm sure. Tracey, however, always wanted to belong to the wealthy Pureblood circles from the day on we entered Hogwarts. She kept her Halfblood descent a secret. I can't blame her on that; Halfbloods were treated like dirt in Slytherin. She always talked as if she was supporting Voldemort's views on Muggleborns and Halfbloods, because she wanted to suck up to the Purebloods in our house, especially to the male ones, if you get my drift. But I can't see her to act on these beliefs.'

'All right, she's your friend, so I trust you to know her,' I said.

Daphne winced. 'I won't call her my friend. We are cousins and got along well enough as room mates, but we were never close. She used the relations to me as a ticket to the Pureblood circles. I used her to watch my back. You can say we had a silent agreement that was of mutual benefit.'

'To watch your back? Did you really have to be on guard against your house mates?'

'Oh yeah!' she nodded with a grim smile. 'You have to bear in mind that most Pureblood males consider their wives and daughters as an article of merchandise. They are sold off to the highest bidder for political or financial gain, and that's not always in marriage. Because of that, almost every Slytherin male thought he was entitled to take advantage of any girl that got his fancy. There were also those who thought I ought to be taught a lesson because I did not always behave as is expected of a Pureblood girl. I've fought off sexual harassment since I was twelve.'

'I'm sorry, Daphne. I had no idea it was like that in Slytherin.' I balled my fists. Neither Dumbledore nor Snape had ever reigned in the Slytherins, thus tolerating their open bullying of other houses, especially Gryffindor. I'd had no idea that the bullying continued within their own house. They always had presented an united front.

'You look like murder, Harry,' Daphne observed. 'There's no need for that, really. I survived. There's a reason why I'm called the "Ice Queen", you know.' She gave me a mischievous grin. 'I might have failed my Defence OWLs, but I'm not completely defenceless.'

I felt how the tension left my body and I returned her smile. 'Good for you, though I'm afraid to ask what you did to them.'

Her grin became feral. 'I won't tell you, anyway, Harry. A girl has to keep her secrets.'

HP – DG

We had an early dinner at a restaurant on the Embarcadero. From there we took a cab to Ellis Street.

Daphne gave me a worried glance and took my hand as we got out of the cab in front of the building where the Davis lived. Though we were not that far from Union Square and the main part of the city, this neighbourhood had a distinct unsavoury feeling to it. The streets seemed to be cluttered with more litter than in the tourist areas. Also, the people that walked on the streets weren't that well dressed. Quite a lot looked downright shady and reminded me of Mundungus Fletcher, Merlin kick his sorry arse. The house where the Davis lived in had a liquor store on the first floor. The stores to the left and right were empty and boarded up.

We rang the doorbell and waited until the door opened. Inside, it didn't get better. The stairway could have used a good cleaning. A faint whiff of urine hung in the air, and Daphne gagged.

The Davis lived on the fourth floor. A woman with short, ash blonde hair opened the door. She had a pleasant face that looked as if she laughed often, and friendly grey eyes, which lit up as she saw Daphne.

'Daphne!' she cried and pulled her in her arms.

'Cousin Melissa, I'm so happy to see you!' Daphne said.

Melissa Davis hugged her again. Then she threw a questioning glance at me.

'Oh, excuse me, Cousin Melissa. This is Harry Potter, my travel companion.'

Melissa Davis' eyes went wide, and like most people, her eyes searched for my scar when we shook hands. 'Mr Potter, it's a pleasure to meet you.'

'Likewise, Mrs Davis. But please, call me Harry.'

'Then you must call me Melissa,' she replied. She took our coats and ushered us in a small living room.

Davis sat on the sofa, reading a magazine. A middle aged man with greying brown curls and a boy who looked like a much younger and male version of Melissa, played wizard chess at the small dining table that occupied one side of the room.

At the sight of Daphne, the young boy of maybe eleven years sprang up, overthrowing the chessboard. The tiny pieces screamed bloody murder, but he paid no heed. He ran to Daphne and threw himself in her arms.

She caught him and whirled him around, and then gave him a rib-cracking hug. 'Matt, I swear, you've grown ten inches since I last saw you!'

'Let me go, Daphne! I can't breathe!' he protested.

Daphne laughed and let him out of her arms, but ruffled his hair a last time before she stepped back.

'Hey!' he protested, but still laughed.

The middle aged man, who had to be Davis father, had in the meantime left the table and come to us. Now it was his turn to greet Daphne, and he did it just as warmly as his wife and his son. He pulled her in his arms. 'Daphne, it's so good to see you again!'

Daphne returned his hug. 'Cousin Matthew!'

Melissa stepped beside us. 'Matthew, this is Harry Potter, Daphne's travel companion. Harry, this is my husband Matthew Davis.'

'Mr Potter!'

'Harry,' I corrected.

'Call me Matthew, please,' he replied and we shook hands.

Melissa then introduced her son Matthew junior, or Matt, as he was called by everyone.

The eyes of the boy grew wide and a look of admiration appeared in his face. 'The Harry Potter?'

I snorted. It was impossible to become exasperated in the face of his juvenile hero worship. 'The one and only,' I quipped.

'Wow!' He sounded awed. Then he turned to Daphne. 'How did you land him, cousin?'

'Matt!' Daphne, Melissa and Davis shouted unison.

He grinned at me, unimpressed, and I winked.

'I'm sure you know my daughter Tracey, Harry,' Melissa tried to distract from Daphne.

Daphne's cheeks had become pink with mortification, while she glared daggers at her little cousin, who smirked in return.

I played along. 'Yes, of course. We've been together in Potions since first year and in Magical Creations since third year.' Since she made no move to shake my hand, I gave her a polite nod. 'Davis!'

'Potter!' she replied in kind.

'Huh, why so formal?' Melissa asked, while she motioned us to sit down.

'Old habits die hard,' I replied, while I sat down next to Daphne on the sofa.

Davis took a seat at her other side. 'Blame it on the house rivalry. Gryffindors and Slytherins never get along. Though, there seems to be the exception to the rule.' She gave Daphne and I a curious side glance.

Melissa frowned at her daughter and offered refreshments. Then she sat down in an armchair opposite of her husband. Matt simply sat down on the carpet and beamed at us.

'How are your parents, Daphne?' Melissa began in an ill-fated attempt of small talk.

Daphne froze. Her face became an expressionless mask. She grasped at my hand and looked at me, her eyes betraying her pain.

Her strange reaction made the Davis' realise that something was amiss.

'Daphne?' Melissa asked. Her voice sounded alarmed.

I pressed Daphne's hand. 'You need to tell them,' I said quietly, and she nodded.

She took a deep breath and looked at her cousin. 'Dad was killed last May when Death Eaters came to Grenian House. They destroyed the house and tortured Mum into oblivion with the Torture Curse. I found out after the Battle of Hogwarts. Upon the advice of the healers of St. Mungos I went to the USA with Mum for a new treatment. Her condition forbade magical means of travel or travel by a Muggle plane, so I decided to travel on a Muggle cruise ship to New York. On her first night on board Mum had an enormous bout of accidental magic that killed her immediately.'

The Davis gasped. 'Oh Daphne, I'm so sorry!' Melissa cried, while Davis put an arm around Daphne's shoulder. She had tears in her eyes. So she wasn't as callous as she appeared to be on first sight.

'Is there anything we can do to help you?' Matthew asked. He also looked saddened.

Daphne gave him a smile. Her eyes were sad, but dry, I noticed.

'Thank you, Cousin Matthew. Dad was killed nine months ago. I still miss him terribly, but I've come to grips with his death. Mum died not quite four weeks ago. It's still very fresh, but I'm learning to deal with it. Harry was an immense help. I don't know what I'd have done without him.' She smiled at me and gave my hand an affectionate squeeze.

'I see,' Matthew replied. He assessed me with a rather cold look. 'I didn't know there were relations of any kind between the House of Greengrass and the House of Potter.'

Something in his voice made my hackles stand up, and I stiffened. Daphne pressed my hand lightly. Meanwhile, I knew her well enough to understand the warning, so I left the talking to her.

'There weren't any,' she replied. 'Harry just happened to have booked the adjoining suite. I even didn't know that he was also on board. Mum's bout of accidental magic knocked me unconscious. When Harry realised what had happened, he rushed to our suite to help. I was in a state of shock and not of much use for a couple of days. Harry dealt with the Muggle authorities and the Ministry of Magic, and he also offered me to stay in the living room of his suite, so I didn't have to stay alone in the place where Mum died. We became friends during the days until we reached New York. Harry was by my side when I buried Mum next to her parents in Salem.' Her voice faltered and she had to wipe away a tear.

I rubbed her back and she smiled at me in return.

'I had no place to go to. Last thing I heard of you was that you'd left Baltimore and no one at the Ministry could tell me where you'd gone to after that. When Harry offered me to stay with him for the rest of his planned world cruise and tutor him in Wizard culture, I accepted.'

Davis let out a snort. 'Finally go it, Potter? It's a shame how little you always seemed to know about your heritage. The friends you chose certainly weren't the role models you needed in that department.'

'Tracey!' Melissa hissed.

I raised a hand to placate her. 'You're right, Davis. After the war I found out that quite a lot of things were not as I was made to believe. I had to take on a lot of responsibilities I'd never thought of befalling me. I've still got to learn a lot, and I have to learn it quick. I'm lucky that Daphne agreed to help me with that.'

Davis looked as if she was about to deliver another scathing remark, but was interrupted by her mother.

'Actually, you went about that in a very traditional manner, Harry. Until today it's common for male offspring of Pureblood families to take the Grand Tour which leads them through the European capitals and the most important magical places. Usually, they have a male tutor with them who teaches them about social customs and advanced magic before they return home and start a mastery or, in case of the heir presumptive, are taught how to manage the family estate. However, it's certainly unusual that you travel on a Muggle cruise ship and have a female tutor travelling with you.'

Her husband looked as if he wholeheartedly agreed to the latter statement, and Davis looked as if she'd smelled something unpleasant. We were saved by Matt.

'I think it's cool!' he exclaimed.

Matthew laughed and ruffled his hair. 'And what would you know about that, mister?' Then he turned to Daphne. Anything he obviously wanted to add to that topic died on his lips as he noticed the glare she gave him.

For the second time since I'd met her on the "Princess Isabella", Daphne adopted her Pureblood Head of House persona. Her face was polite, yet impassive, and the message her eyes sent was unmistakeable. 'You have no right to tell me what to do!' I swear her magic flared, emphasizing her point.

It was impressive. She had to teach me that. It certainly would come in handy the next time I had to deal with Mrs Weasley and her meddling.

Matthew faltered under her glare. In an obvious attempt to change the topic, he asked, 'Harry, when Tracey came home tonight she said you claimed to have killed You-Know-Who. Is that true? You see, I brought my family to Baltimore right after he was spotted in the Ministry for Magic, because I knew we'd be killed for besmirching the bloodline of one of the Sacred Twenty-Eight Pureblood houses with my Muggle blood. I was an Unspeakable and managed to secure a job with a magical research company in Baltimore. However, we had to flee soon after, because Death Eaters turned up to recruit Americans, and we didn't feel safe anymore. We left the magical world and went to San Francisco. Money has been tight since then, that's why we have to live in this part of town. We had no contact to the magical world, so I have to ask you, is it true? Is it really over? And most important, is it safe to return to England?'

I'd known we'd come to this point ever since Davis asked us that afternoon to visit with her family. So, I was prepared to answer Matthew's questions.

'Yes, Voldemort is dead,' I began, but was interrupted by their cries of fear. Oddly enough, only Matt stayed calm.

'Get a grip!' he admonished his family. 'It's only a name!'

I smiled at him, and he grinned back. The more I saw of the little rascal, the more I liked him.

'Matt's right,' I affirmed. 'His real name was Tom Riddle, so call him that if you can't stomach Voldemort.' They flinched again, but I ignored that and went on with my story. 'He'd anchored his soul to this world by using dark magic and a couple of artefacts. Because of that, he couldn't really die. As soon as we'd destroyed all of the artefacts, he was mortal like any of us.'

'Who finished him off?' Matthew asked.

'Technically, he himself,' I replied. 'His own Killing Curse backfired onto him.'

Daphne didn't want to have any of that. 'It was Harry, of course,' she interrupted before any of the Davis' could ask another question. 'You should have seen them! He and Voldemort circled around each other, and Harry told him that all of his artefacts were gone and that he was mortal. Of course, Voldemort didn't believe him. He got angry and cast the Killing Curse at him. Harry was ever so calm and cast the Disarming Spell at the same moment. Voldemort's own wand turned against him, and his own Killing Curse backfired on him. The next moment he keeled over and was dead, just like that.' She snapped her fingers.

Matthew gave me a long look. 'I think there's much more to this story than you care to tell us, Harry. But I guess it's strictly confidential information, isn't it?'

I nodded to that. As a former Unspeakable Matthew probably would have an idea how horrible the things were Voldemort had done to secure his immortality.

'So, you're the hero of the magical world once again, Potter, because you single-handedly killed the Dark Lord? Do you expect us to get on our knees and hail our saviour?' Davis sneered.

'Tracey!' her family and Daphne shouted.

However, she was not impressed by that. Her eyes dared me to turn into the moron I'd been during my Hogwarts days whenever Malfoy baited me.

I wasn't intended to oblige her. 'Of course not, Davis. If you'd used your brain, you'd have realised that no one in their right mind could take on a wizard as knowledgeable and powerful as Voldemort on their own,' I replied in kind, and was rewarded with a gleeful snigger from Matt. I winked at him and went on. 'I had a lot of help from many different people. Dumbledore found out what he'd done to anchor himself to this world and which artefacts he'd used. He also destroyed one of the artefacts. Hermione and Ron went on the run with me after our sixth year and helped me find the artefacts that were not yet destroyed. Hermione, Ron and Neville Longbottom each destroyed one of the artefacts. Not to mention the part my mother and Voldemort himself played in making me the only one who could kill him in the end. I also won't forget Severus Snape, who saved my life more than once and who spied on Voldemort and gave me the crucial information I needed to finish him off.'

That silenced her.

'Shows again that everyone has an Achilles' heel, even V-Voldemort,' Matthew remarked. He looked sick. 'I think I have an idea what he did to endure his immortality, Harry. What worries me is that you mentioned – artefacts - as in more than one.'

The way he chose his words told me that Matthew knew exactly what I'd talked about.

'Can you tell me how many there were?' he asked.

The number had never been a secret. Just the contrary, Kingsley had used it as a method to drive home how dangerous the means were Tom had used to secure his immortality, considering that he was more snake than human in the end.

'There were six of them, seven, if you also count the one he made involuntarily as he came to kill me when I was an infant,' I replied.

'SIX?!' Matthew yelled. 'That's madness! But wait, you said there was also an unintentional one ... and he's dead...' He stared at me. 'Merlin, I think I'm going to be sick!' He bolted out of the room.

His family looked after him, not understanding what had him that agitated.

Daphne had tears in her eyes. 'He knows, doesn't he?' she whispered at me.

'It seems so,' I whispered back. 'He's an Unspeakable, after all, so I wouldn't be surprised if he knows.' I nudged her gently with my shoulder. 'Hey, it's over. There's no need anymore to cry about it!'

She snorted at that, though it sounded rather watery. We were interrupted by Melissa, who'd recovered enough from her husband's strange behaviour to ask Daphne a question.

'Daphne, when you described how Harry killed V-Vol ... You-Know-Who, it sounded as if you've been there?'

'Yes, I was,' Daphne affirmed. 'It happened on May the second in the Great Hall of Hogwarts at sunrise. Harry and his friends had come the night before. Harry said that Voldemort was going to come. The castle was getting ready for a fight. McGonagall evacuated the younger students and everyone who didn't wish to fight. All Slytherins opted to leave the castle. Actually, I didn't want to. I wanted to see the monster gone, but ...'

'But as a good Slytherin you weighed your options and decided to play along with your house and return in secret, so that you'd still be able to join the winning side when everything was over,' I interrupted her.

'Why, yes,' she admitted, and actually sounded embarrassed.

I laughed. 'No need to be embarrassed, Daphne. Eventually I learn to appreciate the Slytherin way of thinking.'

She joined my laughter, while Davis gave me a look as if I'd grown another head.

Daphne snorted as she continued, 'Obviously I was not the only one who thought that way, because Nott and Zabini also returned and joined the fight.'

'What, Theo fought Voldemort?' Davis exclaimed.

'Yeah, I also was surprised,' Daphne agreed.

Davis leaned back in her seat. She looked as if Daphne had just given her a lot to think about.

Daphne regarded her with a knowing smile.

'What ...' Matt began, but he was interrupted by his father, who returned to the living room, carrying a tablet with a bottle of whisky and five glasses in his hands.

'I think we need something stronger as coke after what Harry told us,' he announced while he poured the whisky.

Daphne and I nodded to that, while the expressions of his wife, daughter and son betrayed that they didn't know what he was talking about.

'I'll explain later,' he said to his wife and raised his glass. 'To freedom!'

'Freedom!' we echoed and also raised our glasses. Even Davis looked as if she meant it.

We downed the whisky.

'So, Harry, is it safe to return to England?' Matthew asked as he put his glass on the table.

'That depends on if the Death Eaters still have an old score to settle with you,' I replied. 'Quite a lot of them escaped after the battle and are still on the run. There are also numerous snatchers still not counted for, not to mention the many ordinary wizards and witches who were supporters, but haven't taken the Dark Mark or haven't been found out. Each and everyone of them poses a threat. That's the reason why I've been living under a Fidelius Charm ever since the end of the war, and so have my friends. I hardly ever venture into the Wizarding World, but spend most of my time in the Muggle world, and even there I'm constantly on my guard.'

Matthew looked taken aback. Apparently he hadn't thought of the repercussions of the war. 'What about the Ministry,' he asked. 'Aren't they doing anything? I suppose we have a new Minister for Magic, don't we?'

I nodded. 'Kingsley Shacklebolt. He's a good man, but he can do only so much without money and an administration and a Wizengamot that still rely heavily on their old inside relationships.'

'The Auror?' Matthew asked with a thoughtful nod. 'I've heard about him. He's got the reputation not to be afraid to do what needs to be done. After what you said about Fudge and Scrimgeour, he seems to be just the man we need to get out of the chaos V-Voldemort left in his wake.'

'That's true,' Daphne added her two Knuts. 'And I hope that Harry and I will be able to help him there.'

That earned her a round of raised brows from Melissa, Matthew and especially Davis. However, she wasn't fazed at all and just smiled at them sweetly.

'Well, the Death Eaters never focussed on us,' Matthew mused. ' We left England as a precaution, because sooner or later they'd have come after us. That means returning home should be safe enough. What do you think, dear?' he asked his wife.

Melissa nodded. 'I agree.' She turned to Daphne and I. 'When will you be back in England?'

'The "Princess Isabella" arrives at Southampton on May, first,' Daphne replied.

'Then we ought to be back no later than by the beginning of April,' Melissa told her husband decidedly.

Davis smirked at Daphne, and Daphne's cheeks turned slightly pink. Her eyes gleamed dangerously and she raised her chin, but didn't say anything.

Again, Matt saved the awkward moment. 'Brilliant! I'll be attending Hogwarts in September!' He pumped his fist into the air and added a jig for good measure.

Melissa looked at her son, a mix of motherly pride and comical despair on her face. 'Poor old Hogwarts will not know what had hit her,' she smiled. 'Somehow I doubt Matt will be a Ravenclaw like his father or a Slytherin, like I.'

'No, that boy surely has Gryffindor written all over him,' I agreed, watching the boy who was still dancing through the living room.

'May Merlin help us all,' Davis groaned, and Daphne and I couldn't help sharing a gleeful grin.

HP – DG

'Argh, I can't believe the nerve of her!' Daphne ranted as soon as we were back in our suite.

We had left the Davis' soon after our talk about their return to England. They and Daphne promised to keep in touch until then by the use of my Gringotts Banishing Box. I'd Apparated us to the backyard of the restaurant where we had dinner before we met the Davis, not wanting to walk through that unsavoury part of town in search of a cab, since the Davis didn't have a telephone.

I leaned against the doorjamb and watched Daphne's tantrum. That was a new side of her. Normally, she kept her countenance, even when she was angry. She might hiss and and growl and glare, but she never ranted.

'Care to tell me what this is about?' I asked.

She gave me a sharp look. 'Harry James Potter, don't act all clueless Gryffinfor on me! I know that you understood exactly what my relatives implied as they told you how unusual your travel arrangements are and why they think it necessary to be back in England before I come home!'

I gave her a rueful grin while I went to the bar and took out the bottle of whisky. 'Unfortunately, I do,' I admitted and showed her the bottle.

She nodded. 'Make it a big one,' she said, obviously still miffed.

I poured the liquor into two glasses and then stepped beside Daphne.

She stood in front of the window and looked at the nightly silhouette of San Francisco. It was a beautiful sight, with all the lights, but the deep frown that marred her face showed that she was still angry about the behaviour of her relatives.

Handing the glass to her, I said, 'They are only looking out for you, Daphne. You can't blame them for that. Our travel arrangements surely must seem scandalous to traditional wizards. I should have thought of that before and never have asked you to stay with me.'

She whirled around. 'Are you telling me that I should leave?'

I shook my head. 'No, I leave that decision up to you. You're a grown up woman and head of your house. You deserve to make your own decisions.' In fact, I'd been terrified she'd tell me that she couldn't continue travelling with me ever since we'd left the Davis', but of course I couldn't hold her back if staying with me meant endangering her reputation within her own social circle.

Her face lit up while I talked and the deep frown vanished. She leaned into me and kissed my cheek.

'Thank you, Harry, I'd hoped that you'd say that.' Then she downed the whisky with one gulp. 'I'll stay,' she announced, handing me the glass for a refill. 'To hell with all the stuck-up Purebloods who think a girl ought to be chaperoned until she marries so that she's pure on her wedding day and ought never to be allowed to make her own decisions! I'm definitely not looking for a husband among them, so I don't care what they say about me!'

I didn't even try to hide the broad smile that spread over my face at that.

HP – DG

We left San Francisco the next afternoon without seeing any of the Davis again. I can't say I was unhappy about that. They seemed to be nice enough people, well, except Davis, but I worried about how they might try to influence Daphne against staying with me.

At sea, we immediately resumed our daily routine with sports and fulfilling our obligations to our family holdings in the morning and fun in the afternoon. I'd thought Daphne would let me off the hook once I'd finished the complete course of dance lessons the "Princess Isabella" offered. However, I had no such luck. I'd forgot the afternoon tea.

'That's a good opportunity for you to practice your dancing some more before we go to a ball, Harry,' she reasoned. I won't admit it, but of course she was right – once again. So, with much outward grumbling I allowed her to drag me off to the afternoon tea, but she finally made me admit that it was actually fun.

Each day Daphne would receive a letter from either Melissa or Davis. She didn't tell me what they wrote, and I wouldn't pry, but by her sour mood after reading the letters I could tell that they still weren't over the matter of Daphne and I travelling together.

'Who do they think they are?' it finally broke out of her on our fourth day at sea. She slammed the letter on the table.

I looked up from my own mail. 'Are they still giving you a hard time because you're staying with me?'

'No, that can be covered up easily, they think, so I'll still be able to catch a Pureblood moron after I've returned,' she growled and glared at the letter in front of her. 'This one is about moving in with them as soon as I'm back, because it's improper for a young witch to live of her own. I'll most definitely will not agree to that! I am the Head of House Greengrass. Melissa and Tracey have to be deferential to me, not the other way round.'

'So, it's basically all about Slytherin power play?' I asked.

'It's always all about power play among Slytherins,' Daphne sighed and began to compose a polite yet scathing answer to her cousin.

I returned to my own letter that I also found quite disturbing. I'd forgot about the letter I'd got from Ginny the day after Daphne's mother died and couldn't even remember where I'd put it. Apparently, Ginny thought it necessary to bring herself to my mind, and wrote me another one. That was something I could have done without, I thought while I read her letter for a second time.

Dearest Harry, it began and I winced at that. I had obtained an excellent memory since I got rid of the part of Tom inside of me, and I as sure as hell already hadn't been her dearest anymore two weeks before I officially broke up with her and left the Burrow.

How are you? You're a bad boy for never writing!

Was I looking like Padfood or what?

Mum is ever so worried about you.

I snorted. That I'd believe easily. The first positive side I discovered about my break-up with Ginny was my escape from Molly Weasley's overprotective clutches. She'd been unbearable before we went on the run, but she got even worse after Fred's death.

It's weird here at Hogwarts without you. I'm missing you. I keep going back to all of our secret places and thinking of the wonderful time we had.

I put the letter down. She was right there, we'd had a wonderful time during those three weeks after the Quidditch Cup and before Dumbledore's death. While we were on the run, I'd always thought back to that time. It had seemed to be like something out of another life, and the memories of those happy days were the only thing that kept me going. But Ginny had also done a thoroughly job in destroying all the trust I had in her when she turned away from me after I'd told her about my special connection to Tom.

Don't you think it's time to quit moping and come back to me, sweetie? I promise I won't give you a hard time about the things you said to me. It was too soon after the battle and you apparently weren't in your right mind then, so I'll forgive you.

She'll forgive me for the things I said? I'd said exactly two sentences to her: "Look, Ginny, you can't seem to get over the fact that Voldemort made me his unintentional Horcrux. So, let's end it now and try to stay friends, all right?" Well, these were probably not the most original lines for a break-up, but surely they weren't mean or hurtful. That is, as long as you didn't consider telling the truth as hurtful. But it got even better.

Hermione thinks she can persuade Ron to be your best friend again, but of course you'd first have to apologise to him for the things you did.

They must be delusional, all three of them. Either that or I'd lived in a parallel universe ever since the battle.

The letter continued with a detailed description of the last Quidditch match, many complaints about the workload she had approaching her NEWTs and a lot of gossip about who dated and who broke up, and she concluded her letter with assertions of everlasting love.

I folded the letter and put it in my briefcase.

'Harry? Everything all right with you? You look pale!' Daphne said.

She was right. I felt nauseated after reading Ginny's letter, but I managed to give Daphne a small smile. 'Thanks, I'm good, Daphne. That letter was a trifle vexing.'

Daphne left it at that, though she looked doubtful. 'All right. You know where to find me when you want to talk about it.'

I had to grin about her choice of words. By now, we were comfortable enough with each other to talk about everything that was bothering us. Maybe not straight away, but we'd come to it eventually. So, Daphne knew it was only a matter of time until I'd tell her about Ginny's letter. It was a new and surprising development, but also a very pleasant one. During the last couple of days I'd told her more about my time with the Dursleys and the many times I felt like a cast out at Hogwarts as I'd ever shared with Ron and Hermione in seven years, let alone Ginny. In return, she'd told me quite a lot about her lonely time with no friends in Slytherin. We'd made similar experiences, though at different times of our life, what made us understand how the other one clicked.

During the following two days, however, we put all thoughts of obnoxious family members and ex-girlfriends out of our heads. After four days at sea we'd reached the Hawaiian Islands and were both keen to get off the ship and do some exploring.

When we got the suggestions for tours on Oahu, Daphne and I didn't have to think twice. We both picked a private surf lesson.

'You can't go to Waikiki without at least trying to stand on a board,' Daphne had said, and I wholeheartedly agreed.

We were picked up at the gangway and then drove to Waikiki beach. Standing on a surfboard looked easier than it was. At the beginning, Daphne and I were more in the water than on the board.

'Now I know how a shirt in the washing machine feels,' I sighed as I emerged out of the surf for the umpteenth time.

Daphne laughed at me, and our instructor also showed no mercy. 'Try again,' she adviced. 'You'll get the hang of it – eventually.'

To be honest, neither Daphne nor I got "the hang of it" till the end of our lesson, but we'd both got hooked.

'It's a shame we're already leaving this afternoon,' Daphne said as we sat down in the Shorebird Beach Bar for lunch. 'I wouldn't mind to try this again!'

'Yeah, me too!' I agreed, while I perused the menu. After a morning spent mostly under water, I was famished, so I ordered an Hawaiian Loco Moco. Daphne, mindful of her slim waistline, shook her head at my unhealthy choice and opted for a pineapple and papaya salad with cotton cheese.

While we waited for our orders, we watched the many surfers, who all seemed to be much more skilled than Daphne and I, and bet who'd be the next one in the water. We were interrupted by the waitress who served our lunch.

'We'll have to come back one time and have another lesson,' I said, eying the strange combination of rice, hamburger pattie, fried egg and gravy in front of me.

Daphne startled and gave me a rather strange look. 'I'd like that,' she finally smiled at me.

HP – DG

After another day at Lahaina, Maui, which we spent lazing on the beach, four days at sea followed. By now, I'd learned to appreciate the long, relaxing days at sea. It was just what I needed, considering the rollercoaster of angst and danger I'd had this time in the previous year, not to mention the lack of food and the constant cold.

'A Knut for your thoughts,' Daphne said as she entered the sun island beside me and handed me a cold coke.

'Do you think they're worth that much?' I replied and took the bottle from her.

'That depends,' she grinned and daintily sipped out of her bottle. I really had corrupted her.

'On what?' I probed.

'Whether I'll keep them to myself or will sell them to Rita Skeeter. I'd make a fortune, you know.'

I regarded her with a smile and stated, 'You'd never do that.'

The grin vanished from her face and was replaced with a curious expression. 'What makes you think that? You barely know me!'

That made me snort. 'Daphne, we've lived together for five weeks now and spent almost every minute of the day together. I'd say we know each other pretty well by now. I know you're fiercely loyal to those you care for. You've shown it in the way you took care of your mother, and you've also shown it that day in Cartagena. Do you think I don't know that your first instinctive reaction when those thugs Apparated in front of us was to Apparate yourself back to safety? And yet you stayed, though you were frightened to death, and saved my life.'

She stared at me with suspiciously shining eyes. 'Thank you for your trust, Harry,' she finally said. 'That means a lot to me.'

'You're welcome,' I replied.

We settled into silence. Daphne made herself comfortable beside me and leaned her head against my shoulder, so I put my arm around her back to give her more room. 'Better?'

'Much better,' she replied and skidded closer.

We squinted into the sun and sipped our cokes.

'Care to tell me what you were thinking about?' she finally asked.

'Oh, nothing spectacular. Mostly about how my life was this time last year, you know.'

' I imagine your life is extremely different now,' she remarked.

I chuckled at that. 'You can say that again. This time last year I was still recovering from my fight with Voldemort's snake.'

Daphne shuddered. I'd told her about that horrible Christmas and how Hermione managed to save me last week, as she shook me out of a terrible nightmare of those events.

'We'd reached rock bottom. I think we hardly ever spoke with each other. I was trying to find out which lead to follow, Horcruxes or Hollows. Either way, I had no idea how to go on. And then there was the cold, and the lack of food ...'

'At least I had food,' she said quietly. 'Though, most of the time I was so frightened and nauseated by what I had to witness that I hardly could eat.' She shuddered at the memory. 'I'd never have thought there are people as cruel as the Carrows. For the first time I was happy that I'd failed my Defence OWLs, because that meant they couldn't force me to practice the Torture Curse on my classmates from other houses. But that didn't mean I'd escape them. They had the authority to visit each dorm any time of the day, and they abused it, I can tell you. Both of them had the uncanny ability to enter my bedroom whenever I was changing. Their eyes ... I can still see their greedy eyes in my nightmares. I was used to sexual harassment from my housemates. They were my peers and I could handle them. Against the Carrows, I was helpless. They were professors and had authority over me. I've never felt so dirty and useless in my life.'

I didn't know what to reply to that, so I put my other arm around her and held her close.

HP – DG

We were still in a pensive mood when we went down to the main restaurant for dinner that night, so I suggested to watch a film at the cinema. Today's program had advertised a romantic comedy, "When Harry Met Sally". Just what we needed to get rid of our dark mood, I thought. Comedy sounded good to me, and romantic always went over well with a girl. At least that was what I had been told by Dean Thomas, back in another life when we still were at Hogwarts and had no other worries than homework and the upcoming Quidditch match. I leave Voldemort and Malfoy out of that. They'd been a constant pain in the arse I'd got used to.

I didn't know better. My only excuse is that I never had the opportunity to watch TV or go to the cinema while I lived with the Dursleys, so I knew next to nothing about films you just had to know.

The film was hilarious, but to Daphne and I the theme was rather embarrassing. We diligently avoided to look each other in the eyes on our way back to the suite.

In our suite, Daphne went straight out onto the veranda and leaned against the railing, looking at the moonlit sea.

I got two bottles of beer from the fridge and joined her. I had the vague feeling that we needed to clean the air right now, or we'd be in for a couple of uncomfortable and embarrassing weeks until we were back in Southampton.

'I'm sorry, Daphne,' I said as I handed her the bottle. 'I had no idea what the film was about, or I'd never have suggested it.'

She took the bottle from me and asked, 'Do you think it's true? That men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way?' She blushed at these words, but looked me straight in the eyes.

'I think it's not true,' I replied. 'It certainly never got in the way between Hermione and I.'

Her eyes grew wide at that. 'Not even during all these lonesome months after the Weasel deserted you? Did you not once think of comforting each other?'

'Not once,' I confirmed and took a swig out of my bottle, wishing I'd something stronger right now.

'Can you explain that?' she asked.

I winced. 'You know that I'm not good at explaining stuff like this, Daphne!'

The Slytherin in her showed no sympathy with my plight. 'The more reason to practise, I think,' she remarked.

I sighed, which had her chuckle. I glared at her, but she was not impressed. After another fortifying swig from my bottle, I gave her the best explanation I could think of.

'Hermione and I never had that kind of relationship. There was not once a sparkle or romantic tension. I never thought of her as a girl, you know. She was my mate, like Ron, or maybe like an older sister or cousin, the way she always nagged me about my homework or tried to make sure I ate proper meals. Sleeping with Hermione would have been like sleeping with my sister, so the idea never even entered my mind.'

I needed another swig from my bottle, and Daphne waited patiently until I was ready to continue, though her eyes never left my face.

'Besides that, she's always been Ron's girl, you know? She was heartbroken over him. It would have been mean to take advantage of her emotional state. There are probably men who'd do just that, but I can't. I like to be able to look at myself in the mirror, thank you very much.'

I paused. Then I added with a bitter laugh, 'And of course I still fancied myself to be in love with Ginny back then.'

'Fancied?' she asked quietly.

'Yeah. Whatever I felt for her, it wasn't love. Infatuation, maybe, but certainly not love. I think there's more to love than a couple of heated snogs and a mutual love of Quidditch.' I felt how I blushed at that, but I'd started to bare my soul and somehow couldn't stop. 'When I think back to those times, I see that Ginny and I had nothing in common except Quidditch. We never talked to each other before we got together, and even then we didn't talk much, if you know what I mean.' I blushed even harder. 'I think you need to be friends before you can love someone, and Ginny and I never were friends.'

She'd turned away from me and looked out onto the sea again. 'Thanks for telling me, Harry.' A slight smile curved her lips and I couldn't help but think that she looked decidedly smug. What on earth had I told her to cause that reaction?

We stood side by side in companionable silence and sipped our beer.

All of a sudden, Daphne began to chuckle.

'What's so funny?' I asked.

'Oh, just a line from the film that popped into my mind,' she grinned.

'Which one?' I asked. I should come to regret my curiosity the next second.

'"I'll have what she's having!"' Daphne replied and laughed even harder.

I palmed my face with my hands and groaned.

HP – DG

Our recreation at sea was interrupted once again when we reached Samoa. Daphne and I took a tour around the island, but by now we'd both reached a state of laziness that we just as well could have stayed on board without feeling we'd missed out something.

My "How to act in Pureblood circles" training also advanced nicely. Just as Daphne had prophesied, I'd got used to wear a suit each evening and dress up like a monkey for the formal evenings and did it by now without even thinking about it. I also got used to sitting through six course meals and making polite small talk with complete strangers, especially with the elderly ladies. However, Daphne commented that special skill of mine less flattering.

'If you ever find yourself broke, Harry, you can still make a career as a gigolo. The lady beside you was practically eating out of the palm of your hand!' she grinned when we'd returned to our suite after another gala dinner at the captain's table.

I narrowed my eyes, picked up a pillow from the sofa and threw it at her.

She caught it and threw it back at me with a wicked grin. Before I knew what was going on, we were in the middle of a pillow fight which I won by resorting to dirty tactics. I dodged the pillow she threw at me, and made a bolt for her. Then I tickled her mercilessly until she shrieked with laughter.

'All right, Harry! I surrender! You've won!' she panted, tears of laughter in her eyes.

'And don't you forget it!' I grinned and pulled back.

She stuck her tongue out at me.

I should have known that she wouldn't leave it at that and get her revenge on me. The next day I finally found out about the project Daphne had been working on since the Caribbean. After I'd finished my daily correspondence with my Board of Financial Advisors, she put an impressive stack of papers in front of me.

'These are dossiers about the current members of the Wizengamot, their names, their career, their voting behaviour, their likes and dislikes and so on. You'll have to read them all and best also memorise them, Harry.'

I was rendered speechless and stared from the papers to Daphne and back.

'You did all that?'

She nodded with evident pride on her face. Of course, she had every right to be proud of her work. It was an impressive research project. Hermione couldn't have done it better, I'm sure.

I jumped up and took her face between my hands. Then I gave her a resounding peck on the lips.

'Thank you, Daphne! You' re wonderful!' I exclaimed and turned back to the papers.

'You're welcome,' she said.

I shuffled through the papers. They were all there, sorted by fractions: the Ministry appointed proxies, the Dark Families, the Neutrals and the alarmingly few Light families, the Macmillans, the Diggorys and the Robins'. I looked up at Daphne. 'You've already done some research into who the original owner of each seat is?'

She'd regarded me with a strange little smile on her face and startled when I addressed her. 'Uh – what?'

I repeated my question.

'Ah yes, the original inhabitants of the seats. That wasn't as difficult as I'd thought, though I don't have access to all the sources I need for a complete research right now. I know for example that all of the Sacred Twenty-Eight hold a seat from the time the Wizengamot was founded, because the families are that old. Except the Shacklebolts and the Shafiqs, of course. These families came to England after the founding of the Wizengamot. From what you told me, I was also able to add the Potters, the Peverells and the Princes, oh yes, and the Gaunts and the Bones, too. About the remaining twenty-nine seats I'm not so sure. I'll have to research that when we're back home. I need access to my father's papers. He kept all the records of the Wizengamot in his office. Do you think that Mr Weasley will let me work there?'

I rubbed my neck. The Weasleys and I hadn't parted on the best terms, but Mr Weasley had kept out of it. He'd also always seemed to be a fair-minded man to me, so I doubted he'd give Daphne a hard time just because she was doing some research to help me. Or would he? It probably depended on how much he was influenced by his wife, I mused.

'Sure,' I replied. 'But you'd better not mention your connection to me!'

She snorted at that. 'Are you afraid that the Weaslette's dad will come after you with his wand?'

I raised my eyebrows at that. ' No. Why should he do that?'

'Well, maybe because you've corrupted his lovely maiden daughter?'

'Uh-what?'

She rolled her eyes. 'Gryffindors! Always need everything spelled out in bold letters. Because you've slept with the Weaslette, Harry!'

I felt how I turned beet red. 'I never slept with Ginny!' I defended myself.

That seemed to surprise her. 'You didn't? And there I thought for sure there was more behind your break-up than you've told me, given the harsh reaction of her brothers to you and the way you're avoiding the family since then.'

I still didn't understand what she was getting at, and it must have shown on my face, because she took a deep breath and said, 'All right, Harry, I think it's time for another lection in Pureblood tradition. I'd thought the Weasel had delivered that lesson to you, given that he's supposed to be your best mate, but either he's an even bigger moron than I've thought or it's all part of the plan.'

'Plan? What plan?' I still had no idea what she was talking about.

She sighed and pulled up a chair from the dining table to sit beside me at the desk.

'Harry, you remember that I told you that even in the non traditional Pureblood families the children are raised knowing about the old traditions?'

I nodded at that.

'Good. I've also told you that most Pureblood families think of their daughters as an article of merchandise, right?'

Though I had no idea where she was going with that, I nodded again.

'Because of that young Pureblood girls have to obey to a certain standard of conduct. We are allowed to date – though the Purebloods prefer the term courting – but Merlin forbid that we ever do more with a boy than kiss, if you know what I mean.'

The heat crept into my cheeks, but I nodded again.

'Dishonouring a Pureblood girl, or in blunt words, sleeping with a Pureblood girl before you're firmly entered into a betrothal contract is a serious offence in Pureblood circles. You damage the goods without paying the price.'

That was disgusting, and I opened my mouth to say just that, but she raised her hand and prevented my from that.

'I didn't say that it's right, Harry. In fact, I find that attitude as appalling as you do and am glad that my own father never thought that way. But there's no denying that if a wizard robs a Pureblood witch of her virginity, he's got hell to pay. Firstly, he'll be forced to marry the girl, because she can't be sold off to anyone else anymore. If he refuses, the head of the girl's house can challenge him to a honour duel to the death. The head of house does not necessarily have to fight, he can order any male member of his house to fight in his stead. In case the wizard agrees to marry the girl, and that happens in most cases, he's forced to pay the bride price to the girl's family, and in addition to that also a compensation for the scandal he's caused.'

She regarded me with a grim look. 'I know there have been cases where wealthy Muggleborn wizards have been lured into exactly that trap by younger daughters of Pureblood families. It's a very convenient way for the families to fill their coffers, get fresh blood into their family tree and simultaneously be able to moan the fact that they've been disgraced by an uncouth Muggleborn who doesn't know our ways.'

Her face became soft. 'I'm glad you never slept with the Weaslette, Harry. As you started dating her back in sixth year, many of us were afraid she'd lure you exactly into that trap. You were firmly under the influence of Dumbledore and the Weasleys who'd not teach you about Pureblood traditions, for what reason ever. Your ignorance was a disaster just waiting to happen. I remember that the Pureblood boys of our year discussed who should be the one to warn you. But then Dumbledore was killed and you broke up with the Weaslette, so it didn't come to that anymore.'

'I don't think I'd have listened to them back then,' I replied.

'At least you never slept with her,' she consoled me.

'Yeah, but not because of lack of trying from her side,' I replied. 'From our first day on she did anything to seduce me.'

'And you withstood? Remarkable. I always thought any hormone ridden sixteen year old would jump at that chance,' she mused.

I looked up and shot her a withering glance. 'I happen to think I'm not any hormone ridden teenager, thank you very much. After all, I resisted Voldemort's Imperious Course!'

'I imagine, that's not quite the same,' she replied and the corners of her mouth twitched.

For a moment, we looked at each other and then broke out laughing.

'No, definitely not quite the same,' I finally wheezed, which set her off again.

'Just to satisfy my curiosity, what is the bride price of the average witch?' I asked after I was able to breathe normally again.

'Fifty thousand Galleons, plus an additional compensation of another fifty thousand, twice as much if you dishonour an heiress' she answered.

I let out a low whistle. Fifty thousand Galleons amounted to five million pounds, so in the worst case sleeping with Ginny would have cost me ten million pounds, not to mention that I would have had to marry her. That was about the amount of money my parents had left me in their vault. Today, my yearly income was sixteen times as much, but last year that sum would surely have caused me sleepless nights. As insignificant as the sum seemed to me now, it still was a huge fortune for the Weasleys.

'Merlin, what a mess,' I sighed and rubbed my face with the palms of my hands. 'So, you're practically accusing Ginny that she tried to seduce me to marry me and get money out of me for her family? And you think the Weasleys have known it and encouraged her?'

'I'm not accusing her of anything,' Daphne said firmly. 'I know too little about your relationship to be a judge about her intentions. You have to determine that, Harry. Also, I can't say what her family knew and maybe condoned. But by what you told me about the reactions of her mother and her brothers, they seem to be of the impression that you dishonoured her. However, it's strange that Mr Weasley never called you out. They might not adhere to the old traditions anymore, but this is such a serious matter in the eyes of the Wizarding World that he ought to do something about it, if he thought you wronged his daughter.'

'Thank you for telling me, Daphne,' I said. 'You surely gave me a lot to think about.'

I stood up and went out on the veranda, where I sat down in one of the deckchairs and looked out on the sea. My view on my relationship with Ginny and the Weasleys had just been thrown upside down. Why had Ron never told me about that when I started dating his sister? He was supposed to be my best mate; a slight heads up would not have been too much to expect.

The more I thought about it, I only came to one logical conclusion: Ginny had tried to set me up, and Ron had helped her by leaving me ignorant. I'd thought I was over my break-up with Ginny and the obvious end of my friendship with Ron. But these new revelations broke up the old wounds again.

HP - DG

I was still feeling hurt and confused when we reached Nuku'Alofa the next morning.

During breakfast, Daphne suddenly said, 'Stop brooding, Harry.'

I looked up from my plate with fruits. In the warm climate my usual British breakfast didn't taste as good as at home, so I'd started to copy Daphne's eating habits.

'You won't know for sure what her intentions were as long as you've not talked to her. And even then she might lie to you. You've already broken up with her. What I told you yesterday and the conclusions you draw might add to the reasons for your break-up, but it's of no use to go through all the pain once again,' she elaborated.

'If it would only be as easy as that,' I sighed.

She gave me a small smile. 'Yeah, you've never been one to shake off problems easily,' she agreed. 'At school, it was always plain to see when something was bothering you.'

'Comes probably with being a Gryffindor,' I mumbled, and she laughed.

She stood up from the table and gathered her things. 'Come on, Harry, let's enjoy a day on land. You'll get over it!'

I sighed again, grabbed my backpack and followed her out of the restaurant. While the other passengers entered the ancient looking busses that were going to drive them to the sights of the island, Daphne and I had scorned the offered tours. They all sounded rather boring and made for people already beyond their prime.

In situations like this it really paid off that Daphne was an experienced traveller. She had the good sense to ask the travel agency on board of the "Princess Isabella" for ideas for a private tour, and they'd suggested a kayak tour to one of the many islands near the town of Nuku'Alofa. We were handed a picnic hamper at the reception – another of Daphne's ideas – and then went down the gangway.

The town of Nuku'Alofa at fist sight really didn't look inviting, so we were glad that our kayak was already awaiting us. We entered the kayak and put out to sea. After some difficulties in the beginning we soon got the hang of how to paddle.

The colour of the day was blue – the blue sky above us and the darker, velvety blue sea around us that sparkled in the sunlight. The water below us was crystal clear. We could see coral reefs and millions of fishes who swam among the corals. At one time we even saw a sea turtle majestically heading out to the open sea.

The route to the small abandoned island that had been pointed out to us was littered with dozen of ship wracks. From the kayak, we could easily see that quite a lot of them had already been captured by corals and fishes looking out for a hiding place. Even with little imagination it was plain to see that soon a new reef would be born out of the wreckage.

After not even an hour of paddling we reached the small island. We'd been told it was an abandoned copra plantation. The rotting remains of a concrete landing pier and a wooden house were still to be seen, but Daphne and I headed toward a hidden bay to the left of the pier.

The half-moon shaped stretch of almost white sand could only be reached from the water. Soon, the water became too shallow to paddle, and we had to get out on the kayak and haul it onto the beach.

I looked around. No soul was to be seen, so I let my wand slip an inch out of the invisible holster and cast silently 'Locomotor kayak'.

Unfortunately, I hadn't warned Daphne about what I was going to do. She let out a surprised yelp, stumbled over her own feet and fell headlong into the water with an ungraceful splash. That was definitely not the finest moment of the always poised and graceful former Ice Queen of Slytherin.

Coughing and spluttering, a soaked Daphne scrambled to her feet. Her hair as well as her t-shirt and shorts stuck to her body. She looked like a drowned rat. Well, a drowned rat that wore a wet, white t-shirt with no bra or bikini top below. I felt how I became uncomfortably hot, and that was not due to the raising temperature on this fine day in the South Sea.

Daphne wiped the water out of her eyes and glared at me.

In typical Gryffindor fashion, I was dumb enough not to hide my amusement.

'Harry James Potter!' she hissed.

'Yes, Daphne?' I replied as innocently as I could.

The next moment she tackled me with a move worth of a professional rugby player. Daphne might look slim and delicate, but she was used to a good daily work out, and her sylphlike figure hid solid muscles, as I was about to find out.

Her onslaught made me stumble backwards. Daphne helped me on my way down. She hooked her foot behind my ankle and pushed against my chest with both hands. With an even bigger splash than Daphne I fell backward into the tepid water, while my hands in vain groped for something to hold on to.

Now it was my turn to get back to my feet coughing and spluttering.

A smirking Daphne watched my progress, her arms folded under her breast, thus pushing them up nicely.

Merlin!

I narrowed my eyes at her, which unfortunately gave away my intention. She whirled around and ran away from me, shrieking with laughter. Of course I followed her.

She was fast, even though she was hindered by the water, that I had to give her. But I was bigger than she and had longer legs, so in spite of her advantage I eventually caught up with her and tackled her.

This time, we both fell into the water. Daphne was back on her feet in an instant an began shovelling water at me with both hands. I retaliated in kind, and soon we had a water fight like some hyperactive preschool kids.

Daphne was the first to admit defeat. She made a dive to the deeper part of the small bay and began to swim. I followed her. For the next fifteen minutes we swam side by side and occasionally dived down in the crystal water to have a better look at the colourful corals below us.

In mutual agreement we finally made our way back to the beach and slumped down in the sand beside the kayak.

'That was fun!' Daphne grinned.

'Yeah!' I admitted, somehow breathless.

Her wet t-shirt still clung to her torso. She took out her wand and performed a Drying Spell on herself and then on me, and I let out an inward sigh of relief as her shirt became opaque again.

An unbidden thought came into my mind. Men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way. Damn! I'd lived with Hermione for months in a tent without once thinking of her that way, so I'd thought myself above the hormone craziness. Daphne was just another friend, wasn't she? Merlin, what a fool I'd been! Thinking back, I discovered that I not once thought of her as just another friend. From our first day together I'd been aware that she was a beautiful young woman and felt myself attracted to her because of that.

I let out an involuntary groan and covered my eyes with my arms.

Daphne rolled to her side and propped her head up on her hand. 'Harry? Everything all right?' Her voice sounded concerned.

I moved my arm back to my side and looked at her. 'I'm fine,' I assured her with a smile I hoped to be convincing. 'I just thought of something I almost forgot.'

The look she gave me clearly indicated that she didn't believe me, but as always she left it at that, respecting my privacy. Of course, by now she'd developed her own tactics to make me talk. I don't know how she did it, she never badgered like Hermione. She just gave me that knowing look and then kept close, seemingly occupied with something else, but subtly indicating that she was still ready to listen. And at some point I'd start talking – and always felt better afterwards.

But not this time, I swore to myself. She was still grieving for her parents and I was the only one she'd been in closer contact with since then. I couldn't take advantage of that.

We dozed for a while in the shadow of the palm trees, then Daphne unpacked the picnic hamper. After our meal it was time to get back to the "Princess Isabella".

Back in our suite, we took turns in the shower to get the salt and sand off our skin. When I returned to the living room, Daphne awaited me, already dressed for dinner in a simple light grey shift dress and light make up applied on her face. The colour suited her; it made her pearly skin glow. It was quite the contrast to the drowned rat in sportswear, and I had to smile.

'You look gorgeous,' I told her as I sat down beside her.

Her cheeks pinked. 'Thanks,' she said and then handed me the program the butler had brought a few minutes ago, together with the customary champagne and pralines.

I skimmed the program. The most prominent header was a reminder to the gentlemen on board to make their pre-orders for flowers for Valentines Day not later than tomorrow, and with a groan I put the program back onto the table.

Daphne gave me a curious glance over the rim of her champagne flute.

'The day of horrors is upcoming,' I explained and pointed to the header.

'Valentines Day? Why is it so horrible to you?'

'Well, let's say I'm still suffering from the Lockhart trauma in our second year,' I replied and rolled my eyes.

'Oh yeah, don't remind me! I've never seen something as hilarious as his lavender coloured robes. And those dwarfs dressed up as cupids! Merlin, they were so ugly!'

Her laughter was contagious and I couldn't help to join in. 'You wouldn't have thought them as half as hilarious had you been serenaded by them,' I grumbled.

She gasped. 'Oh, how could I forget about that? "His eyes are as green as fresh pickled toads..." The whole school laughed about that.'

I groaned loud. 'Greengrass! Did you really have to remind me?'

'Yes, if I get to see that look on your face again!' she giggled. 'Honestly, I begin to understand your Valentines Day trauma. Though, I'm glad that I never had to suffer through something like that.' Her face suddenly grew sad.

'What's the matter, Daphne?'

'Oh, I just had to think of Dad. Each year on Valentines Day he'd send flowers to Mum and I.' She wiped a tear out of her eyes and than squared her shoulders. 'I've got to get used to it that he isn't here anymore to spoil me.'

'The "firsts" are the hardest thing to get over. You know, first Christmas without someone, first birthday ...' I remarked. Even though I hadn't spend that much time with Sirius, it had been like that for me after his death.

She nodded. 'I know. It was like that at my birthday last year and then Christmas. Though, I had my hands full with Mum and not much time to dwell on what I'd lost. Maybe that's why I'm suddenly so sad about stupid Valentines Day.'

I put my arm around her and hugged her lightly. She leaned her head against my shoulder. There were no words needed. Moments like this had happened frequently over the last six weeks. Something insignificant would trigger a memory of her parents, and the grief came back with full force.

After a few minutes, she raised her head and kissed me on the cheek. 'Thank you, Harry. I'm feeling better now. Come on, let's go down for dinner!'

It was not until I got ready for bed that night that I again thought of Ginny and Ron and their betrayal. Somehow, it wasn't important anymore.

HP – DG

We were back at sea and heading to what most of the passengers thought the highlight of the cruise: New Zealand and Australia. Daphne and I got hundreds of suggestions from well-meaning fellow travellers what we just had to do down there and what we shouldn't miss. Admittedly, I hadn't spend much thought on what I'd do on board when I booked the cruise. It had been a spur of the moment decision to escape my loneliness and boredom, and of course the grey British winter. Daphne, who hadn't thought of taking a cruise around the world at all, had even less ideas than I.

So, we spend the next day amicably squabbling over the tour prospects for Auckland and the Bay of Islands, until we finally agreed on a coast and rainforest tour in a small group.

We reached Auckland on Valentines Day. When we met in the living room that morning to go down to the restaurant for breakfast, Daphne seemed composed. Nothing in her demeanour betrayed if she felt any sadness.

The bus already waited for us when we left the ship after breakfast, and we drove to the Waitakere Ranges National Park. On our way we made a stop at the Arataki Visitor Centre, where we admired Maori carvings and had a fantastic view on the Tasman sea from the outdoor deck. A walk through the coastal rainforest followed. The narrow forest path led alongside a crystal clear stream that burbled happily over moss-covered stones. Giant fern trees shaded the path, and we listened in fascination as our guide pointed out the New Zealand fauna and flora.

The walk ended in a secluded beach that was covered with black sand. Our guide led us along the beach, and on the other side of the beach we had not only a fantastic view on the Tasman Sea and the rainforest, but were also treated to an excellent picnic lunch.

Daphne and I each took a sandwich and a bottle of coke and sat down on a flat rock in front of a bigger one that made a decent backrest.

'Isn't that wonderful?' Daphne asked, sipping her coke, and leaned against my chest.

I looked at her with raised eyebrows.

'You're way softer than the rock,' she giggled and made herself comfortable.

'You're welcome,' I chuckled and shook my head.

We held our faces into the sun and enjoyed each other's company until the tour guide announced that it was time to move on.

We now walked through a forest of ancient kauri trees, some of them as old as a thousand years, as the guide told us. Even more impressing was the ancient magic that radiated from the ancient trees and that made the hairs on my arm stand up.

Daphne and I exchanged a look.

'Do you feel it, too?' I asked and she nodded to that.

Our guide called to move on. Daphne and I each put a hand on the stem of the ancient tree in a good bye gesture. The magic surged through us like an electric jolt, though not unpleasant, and fulfilled us with a feeling of comfort and peace.

'Wow!' Daphne breathed and reluctantly pulled her hand away.

'Yeah!' I agreed. The feeling had rendered me speechless.

She grabbed for my hand, and we hurried to catch up with our group. We were both rather silent on our way back, both still relishing the feeling the ancient kauri tree had inspired in us.

Back in our suite, Daphne's eyes first fell on the bouquet of pink roses on the middle of the coffee table. She stopped in her tracks and gaped.

'Who...?' she asked and picked up the card that lay beside the flowers.

'Happy Valentines Day – Harry,' she read out loud. She let the card sink and gave me a blinding smile. 'Oh Harry, that's so sweet of you!' she cried.

Next thing I knew was she flung herself at me and kissed me on the cheek.

'You're welcome,' I managed to call after a still beaming Daphne that retreated to the bathroom when I finally found my voice again.

HP – DG

The next day we reached the Bay of Islands. Again, Daphne and I had opted for a more active tour rather than exploring the historical and cultural sights, as most of the other – and much older – passengers did.

We were tendered to Waitangi Wharf, where our tour guide already waited for us in a boat. From there, we cruised about forty minutes along the picturesque coast, enjoying the views of the bay. Then we transferred to kayaks and paddled up a river through a mangrove forest. Our guide pointed out the many birds that nested in the trees, and Daphne ever so often asked me to stop so that she could take pictures.

The tour ended at a waterfall, and here the real fun started. Our guide showed us to paddle into the foaming white water, and then guided us behind the waterfall. It was a breath-taking experience to watch the masses of water rush down only a yard away.

Thoroughly soaked and spent we finally paddled to the shore. We were able to change into dry clothes, and then got a picnic lunch with a view onto the waterfall and the surrounding mangrove forest.

After that, a bus took us back to the small town of Paihia, where we spend some time watching the sights and window shopping. Daphne seemed to admire the pretty jewellery made out of the mother-of-pearl paua shell, but when I asked her to go into the shop and have a closer look, she shook her head.

'I'd better not,' she said, though she gave a bracelet that was made of playing dolphins in all colours the shell offered, a wistful look.

'Why not?' I asked bluntly. I'd noticed before that Daphne seemed to love shopping, which was not amazing, considering the way she'd been brought up by her mother, but hardly ever bought something for herself on this cruise, except the essentials as toothpaste and every now and then one of the fashion magazines her mother had loved.

Daphne looked up and down the street. We were alone, the many other visitors of the small town either still lingered over lunch or had disappeared in one of the many shops.

'I know I'm being ridiculous,' she whispered, 'but when Grenian House had been destroyed I vowed at the grave of my father to rebuild it as soon as possible. Well, you know everything about the financial troubles I had last summer. My situation is better now, since I don't have to take care of Mum's medical bills anymore and now also have access to her income from her trust.' Her voice choked at that and I waited patiently until she regained her composure. 'However, magical construction is costly. I have to contract the Goblins to rebuild the house and set up the wards again, and I need to obtain at least two house elves, not only to keep the house in order, but mostly to maintain the magic of the place with their own magic. Even with the business of Greengrass Shipping picking up and the income from Mum's trust, it'll take years until I'm able to afford that all.' She bit on her lower lip and looked rather embarrassed. 'Until then I have the feeling that I ought not to spend a single Knut at frivolities that aren't strictly necessary. And you may laugh at me now, I know that buying a bracelet at the price of twenty pounds won't be a set back in my plans, but I simply can't help myself.'

I didn't laugh. From her description it sounded as if she'd taken a magical vow at her father's grave. Snape's example had shown me the hard way that magical vows were nothing to trifle with. She'd probably worded her vow in a way that her magic forbade her to do anything for her own fun until she'd reached her goal. Given her desperation at the time of her father's death, I thought that very likely.

On the other hand, she'd wanted to buy cowboy boots in San Francisco. Though, I reminded myself, there was no saying whether she'd really have made the deal. Aunt Petunia, for example, loved to try on things in shops that were too expensive for her and left without ever actually buying something.

Without another word I pulled her into the shop.

'Harry, what are you doing?' she asked bewildered.

'Buying the bracelet for you, since your magic obviously won't let you,' I told her under my breath, mindful of the approaching clerk.

'Harry, you can't be serious, you...' she protested.

I blended her out. Five minutes later a beaming Daphne thanked my with a kiss on my cheek for the trinket that now adorned her wrist, and I caught myself at he thought that I'd gladly buy all the paua shell bracelets in the world, and the moon and the stars on top, only to see that look of joy on her face again.

That almost made me stop dead in my tracks.

'Harry? Everything all right?' Daphne asked.

'Everything's just wonderful,' I assured her, and it wasn't a lie. I was falling for her, fast and hard, and something in her demeanour told me she also wasn't indifferent towards me.

We still had ten weeks of travel ahead of us. We could take our time, considering that Daphne still wasn't over her grieve.

HP – DG

We had another two days at sea before we reached Sydney. Again, I'd neglected my Board of Financial Advisors two days in a row in favour of exploring New Zealand with Daphne, so I sat down at my desk the next morning after breakfast to make it up to them.

When I opened my briefcase, Ginny's letter fell out. I picked it up from the floor and stared at it, not knowing what I was supposed to do with it.

Daphne looked up from her correspondence. 'Are you finally going to answer the letter from your ex?' she asked.

I was flabbergasted. 'How do you know the letter is from Ginny?'

'By the hurt in your eyes,' she replied quietly and returned to her correspondence.

I stared at her bowed head. It was uncanny how well she knew me after only seven weeks of staying together. With a sigh, I pulled a piece of parchment toward me. She was right; I had to write to Ginny. I had to put an end to this misery, if I really wanted a new start with Daphne. I picked up a quill and began to write.

Ginny,

Stop writing to me. I meant every word I said. Do yourself a favour and move on, as I have done.

Harry