Author's note: This is the last chapter before my hiatus, but hopefully a good place to pause. See you on the other side!
Daphne left before midnight, and Harry protected her reputation by rejoining the party, which was still going strong. This would be a perfect use for a Time-Turner, he thought, and he even checked to see if one might be lurking in the Star Chamber. But all he found was a long golden chain with a blinking eyeball at the end, which he returned to its box in horror.
No one remarked on his absence, which Harry appreciated—it was nice to be around people who just saw him as another classmate, and not as a celebrity. But Jamie winked at him, and Hermione shot him a knowing look. I should probably thank her, he thought, since she'd been instrumental in winning Daphne over.
He and Daphne had started with a snog in the bathroom but quickly moved to his bedroom. "I won't stay the night," she warned him, undoing her top, and he assured her he could wait.
"Whatever you want is perfect," he murmured, and by the end of their encounter, she declared him a gentleman.
"I wonder if etiquette books have a concealed chapter on this sort of thing," Daphne mused. "If not, you're more than qualified to give lessons."
"Do me a favour and tell the Chocolate Frog people," he joked. "This definitely belongs on my next card."
They made plans to meet the next day, and Harry was surprised when she turned up in Muggle clothes. "Does this mean we're going out?" he asked, looking down at his robes.
"I wasn't sure," she said, suddenly bashful. "I suppose we should talk first." But their initial kiss of greeting quickly escalated, and half their clothes were on the floor when they finally spoke in earnest.
"So, what are we doing?" asked Daphne. "Besides the obvious."
Harry was reluctant to use the word "fuckmates," which was where he hoped they were headed. So he just said, "I don't know—you tell me."
"We can never marry," she declared. "Even without the surname problem, I don't see myself as the matriarch of three separate houses."
"There's no such thing as House Potter," Harry argued.
"Trust me, there will be. And the last thing it needs is a blood curse."
He inhaled sharply, recalling what she'd said about her sister: "It's a blood curse, centuries old. She'll almost certainly die young, and she mightn't even be able to have children."
"I'm not worried about that. But yeah, there's the surname problem. The Blacks would continue without me, and I at least have memories of Sirius. But I have so little of my parents ..."
"I understand. So, are we agreed we'll never marry?"
Harry reluctantly nodded. Not that he wanted to marry her, but he felt like a cad for stating it so bluntly. He and Lydia had agreed not to marry, and he'd still managed to hurt her.
"All right," said Daphne, in a businesslike tone that reminded him of Hermione. "Are we dating or just ... engaging in clandestine activity?"
"It's called 'hooking up on the sly', and that's entirely up to you. I'd be glad to date publicly, but I realise it would bring you a lot of attention, which I assume you don't want."
"No. If it were just me, that would be one thing, but whatever I do reflects on House Greengrass. And it's not fair to drag my parents through the mud like that, let alone my ancestors."
"Wow, you really know how to flatter a bloke," said Harry dryly.
"I'm sorry, that's not how I meant it. I wasn't comparing you to mud—I was referring to what they'd say about me in the Prophet and Witch Weekly, or on the radio. They'd compare me to Lydia Travers or say you'd ensorcelled me with your world-renowned manhood."
Unable to resist, he flooded her with the Look. "Would they be wrong?" he asked in a low voice.
She met his heavy gaze. "No, probably not." More snogging ensued, and she finally said, "What do you want?"
"What do I want?" he repeated, confused. "More of this, obviously."
"No, I mean for our relationship, such as it is."
Harry pulled back, realising she wanted to talk again. "Er, do you promise you won't slap me?"
"I make no such promise," she laughed. "Go on, just tell me."
He took a deep breath, then said, "Are you familiar with the term 'friends with benefits?'"
Daphne raised a single eyebrow. "No, but I can guess what it means. Is that what you're proposing?"
"Maybe?" he said, encouraged by her lack of outrage. "The thing is, I'm not ready for a serious relationship—not so soon after Fiona. But I don't just want to sleep around."
"And clearly celibacy isn't an option," she noted.
"Honestly, no," said Harry. "I mean yes, I'm capable of it. But between magical transport and, well, being famous, it's way too easy to bring someone home."
"Yes, I suppose it's only a short hop to Penumbra," she said with a chuckle. "Although I assume it's open only at night."
"That doesn't matter," he said. "Forgive me for sounding arrogant, but literally every time I go out, witches try catching my eye. Hell, I could probably assemble a threesome within half an hour."
Suddenly pale, Daphne said, "Are you expecting something like that with me?"
"Merlin, no!" blurted Harry. "Don't get me wrong—I wouldn't object if that's what you wanted. But it's definitely not required. Fiona and I never had one, certainly."
Daphne let out the breath she must have been holding. "Anyway, back to my question," she said. "it sounds like you're looking for regular casual encounters, but nothing romantic."
"Actually, I like a little romance," he admitted. "Or a lot, even. That's how it was with Valerie, that witch I was with in Chicago. We both knew it was temporary, but there was still plenty of romance."
Daphne's expression hardened, and Harry realised his mistake. "Yes, love was certainly in the air over there," she said bitterly. "Did you and Phil double-date?"
Suspecting she was more hurt than angry, Harry gently stroked her and said, "You know how sorry I am, right?"
Leaning into his touch, she said, "Yes, I know. And I suppose 'friends with benefits' suits my needs as well." They kissed a little longer, then Daphne said, "Are we exclusive, or will we see other people as well? Personally, I'm not ready to resume finding a husband just yet."
Harry paused—he'd given the matter some thought, but it would depend on how far Daphne was willing to go. So far they'd kept things above the waist, which might wear thin after a while.
"I suppose that depends," he said cautiously. "I'd just as soon date exclusively, but I don't want to, er, pressure you."
At first she was silent, and Harry wondered if she'd caught his meaning. "Can you wait till next weekend?" asked Daphne. "My parents are going to Bavaria, and if I'm going to be ruined I'd rather stay the night."
His response was enthusiastic. "Gods, yes!" he exclaimed, and they started planning her fall from grace. "I assume breakfast at Dunnings is out?" he joked.
She made a face and said, "I expect this to remain private, if you're capable of such a thing."
"I am, believe it or not. Although I'd rather not keep it a secret from our friends, if that's all right. A few of them, anyway."
"Who do you have in mind?"
"Well, Ron and Hermione," he began. "And Janet, since she practically lives here. And Ryan, of course, but he can definitely keep a secret. That's true of all my teammates, really."
Daphne was frowning. "That isn't a few! At this rate, you might as well announce it on the radio."
"No, that's not what I want. I just …" He sighed, pushing a hand through his hair. "I just want to be normal. I want to have friends over, or go to the cinema, or do whatever normal people do in their leisure time. And I'd like you to join me when it suits you, without having to worry whether someone will tell Witch Weekly or the Prophet."
"We could just say we're friends," Daphne countered. "No one needs to know what we do behind closed doors. As far as most people are concerned, we'd just be spending more time together. Which is eminently appropriate," she said, her tone more clipped even than usual.
Point taken, Harry thought. "All right, just Ron and Hermione. And Janet, unless you want to sneak out of the house."
"Janet is fine," she said, as if granting a favour. But Harry was only a little annoyed, since this had to be hard for her as well. All told, Daphne was being remarkably obliging, particularly in light of how angry she'd been.
"You're lucky I only slapped you," she said later. "If I'd been thinking more clearly, I might have cursed you."
"My Light magic would have protected me," he said triumphantly. "In fact, the only reason you were able to slap me was because the trip to America weakened it."
Daphne stared at him. "America weakened your Light magic?"
"Well, not the actual country. But I got heaps of attention over there—even more than in Britain—and it wasn't good for me. I think that's why I tried to kiss you instead of just being the friend you needed. So really, I'm genuinely sorry about that."
"I realise that now. And yes, I was hurt—you made me feel cheap. But you also distracted me, in more ways than one. Which helped, I think."
After a bit more distraction, she helped him choose an outfit and they ventured out to Muggle London. To Harry's delight, she showed him a neighbourhood he'd never seen, and he was impressed by her ease in a non-magical setting.
"Side effect of dating a Muggle-born," she grumbled. "Although at least it means I'll never wear a nightdress and wellingtons to the World Cup."
"I'm sure you'd look lovely in a nightdress and wellingtons," he said, deploying the Look at full strength.
But instead of melting, Daphne narrowed her eyes and said, "You are truly the world's biggest flirt! At the Malfoys' ice party, for example—I was ready to slap you again."
"No, you weren't. I gave you every chance to avoid me, but you kept coming back. Admit it—you were enjoying it."
"I was not!" she said, tilting her chin even higher. But Harry arched an eyebrow, and she let out an irritated huff. "Fine, I enjoyed it. But you were probably using Light magic on me or something. I saw you in the ice garden, and you were practically touching yourself!"
"Lies!" blurted Harry. "I'm sure Narcissa would have told me if I'd behaved inappropriately." With a smirk, he added, "Meanwhile, you looked like you wanted to cast a few charms for the single witch."
Daphne's cheeks flushed pink, and Harry gave her a quick kiss. "Incorrigible," she said when they pulled apart, but her expression was fond.
Harry saw her several more times that week, both alone and with the other Slytherins. Although Harry liked reminding her she was a Gryffindor now, mostly to annoy her, since her fits of pique were enchanting.
"Ten points to Gryffindor!" he said, when she wandlessly parted branches as they rambled through a park.
"You beast! That was Greengrass family magic!"
"So you don't deserve points?"
"No, Gryffindor doesn't get the credit!"
Harry clucked his tongue and said, "You'll never win the House Cup with that kind of attitude. Which is a shame, since you never won it at school either."
"Because Dumbledore cheated! Really, 172 last-minute points? That was outrageous!"
"It really was," Harry laughed, recalling how their first year had ended. "Although Snape was just as bad, only he spread it across the entire school year."
"Exactly. A Slytherin is more subtle."
"Yes, like how you pulled me into a loo and demanded I kiss you. Oh wait, you were a Gryffindor by then."
"I still haven't told my parents," she said, scowling.
"No, that I was re-sorted. They'd probably lock me up for my own safety."
"Are they really that strict?" asked Harry.
"No, because they know how cautious I am. Or used to be ... I still don't know whether to blame you or Phil. But I've definitely changed."
Harry drew closer and said, "The real question is whether you're happier. You look happier, certainly."
"I am happier," she admitted. "And I can't wait for this weekend."
Pansy spotted the change in her on Thursday night, at Malfoy Manor. "You hooked up!" she cried, looking back and forth between them.
"We have not!" protested Daphne, while Harry maintained a neutral expression.
"Oh yes, you have! It's plain as day, on your neck!" she said, pointing.
Daphne touched a hand to her unblemished neck, going straight for the spot where Harry had left a mark the day before.
"What are you on about?" said Harry. "There's nothing there."
"Exactly!" said Pansy. "She normally has a freckle, but you must have glamoured it. You should really be more careful!"
Colour flooded Daphne's cheeks, and she turned on Pansy. "No one likes a busybody!" she snapped.
"That's not true," said Blaise, laughing. "And well done, Harry! You've done what no Slytherin has ever accomplished." He paused, then said, "Assuming you got her shirt off."
"Oh, right," Draco grinned. "If memory serves, there was a bottle of Firewhisky riding on it."
"You had a bet!" exclaimed Daphne, horrified. "I thought you were my friends!"
"Relax, it wasn't us," said Theo, "It was Dexter Vaisey, after he took you to Hogsmeade fifth year. Apparently he got nowhere with you, and when his mates ridiculed him, he said he'd award a bottle of Ogden's 18-Year Reserve to whoever could produce a Pensieve memory of your breasts."
Daphne expressed outrage, but Pansy said, "Why did no one ask me? I could have done it—we shared a dormitory after all."
"That wouldn't have counted," said Draco. "It had to be on a date."
"It's nice to know you'd sell me out for a bottle of whisky!" said Daphne, scowling. "Did any of you try?"
"No, we knew better," said Blaise. "So anyway, Harry takes the prize. In theory, anyway—I assume you won't claim it."
"Of course not!" said Harry, realising too late he'd just confirmed Pansy's theory. "Er, because I've never seen them either," he added hastily.
"Don't bother," Daphne sighed. "Yes, we hooked up. Let the mocking commence."
"Does that mean you're dating?" asked Pansy. "Are you ruined yet?"
"It's a valid question! We're in the same boat, after all, and you should really keep me apprised."
"I'll install a monitoring charm," said Daphne. "Yes, we're dating, and no, I'm not ruined."
Everyone turned to face Harry, their expressions ranging from neutral to plainly sceptical. "What?" he said, indignant.
"Can you really cope with a virgin?" asked Blaise. "No offence, Daphne."
"That's none of your business," said Harry.
"It is if you cheat on her," said Blaise. "I realise we can't curse you, because of Light magic, but we can still make your life unpleasant."
"I won't cheat on her. And again, this is none of your business."
"It certainly isn't," said Daphne. "Although at least we can sit together now." She stood up and ejected Pansy from the loveseat, and when Pansy complained, she said, "Oh, come off it—I had to watch you and Draco for years. Now it's my turn."
Harry knew public display of affection was bad manners, but he didn't complain when Daphne leaned against him and even played with his hair.
"Great Salazar, you'll make his mop even worse," Draco sneered.
"No, I won't," said Daphne. "And it's softer than it looks—I thought it would be stiff like a scrub brush, but I think magic is holding it up."
Pansy insisted on feeling it, which Harry allowed, and she surprised him by asking about the Patronus Charm. "Do you think I could learn it? I know Umbridge could cast one, so clearly it doesn't require any good qualities."
Harry shot a glance at Draco, who'd been avoiding Patronus lessons for months. "I'd be happy to teach you," he said. "Just name a time."
"What about now?" asked Pansy. "I'm sure the wine can only help."
"Hm, I've never cast a pissed Patronus, but you're probably right. Is everyone else willing?"
Draco didn't reply, but when the others said yes, his only objection was logistical. "Will the room be all right?" he asked. "I'm rather fond of it, so I'd rather keep it intact."
"Certainly the charm won't hurt it," Harry said. "And if you have happy memories here, so much the better."
A huff of disdain from Draco. "It was the Dark Lord's favourite room. Which means any self-respecting Patronus will wither and die here."
"Not true," said Blaise. "Prongs did just fine."
Harry winced, recalling how he'd sent Draco his Patronus during a broadcast months earlier. "The whole point is that they work around Dementors," he said. "But if there's another room you'd prefer, we can go there."
"No," declared Pansy, "I love this room. And I'm sure Draco has good memories here, thanks to all of us."
Draco didn't comment, and Harry began the lesson. "The wand movement is fairly simple," he began, "and I assume you know the incantation. But the hard part is the memory."
Harry had taught the Patronus Charm multiple times, and he had a standard lecture about choosing a happy memory. But this time he shared what he'd learnt more recently, about using a strong emotion.
"Honestly, I don't use a memory anymore—I just use love. But start with a memory, since I assume you all have happy ones. From childhood, maybe."
He could see the group thinking, and while Blaise and the two witches seemed all right, Draco and Theo were clearly struggling. Bugger, they were both raised by Death Eaters, Harry realised too late. He still assumed anyone with parents would have loads of happy memories, but that wasn't necessarily true.
"If childhood is too remote, use something more recent," he added, and Daphne caught his eye. They exchanged a knowing smile, which prompted a question from Blaise.
"Can I use a sex memory?" he asked. "I have some fantastic ones—truly outstanding."
"You're welcome to try," said Harry, "but I've heard they don't work." He knew Darren had tried it, but what had ultimately worked was his love and gratitude towards Luna for expanding his world.
After everyone selected a memory, Harry told them to close their eyes and sink into it. "Bring it to life," he said. "Don't just think about the memory—feel it throughout your body. Imagine you're hollow, like a flask, and the memory is filling you with joy."
Several people were smiling, but not Draco. "This feels like a trap," he grumbled, and there were deep lines between his eyebrows. "You're trying to make us practise Light magic."
"No, I promise I'm not," said Harry, hoping that wasn't a lie. "Remember, Umbridge could do it too, and she's definitely not a Light witch."
He gave them a few more minutes to strengthen their memories, then told them to open their eyes and try casting. At first no one succeeded, but after multiple attempts, Theo produced a puff of silver smoke.
"Look!" he cried, grinning.
"Brilliant!" said Harry. "Now pour your happiness back into the memory, to make it even stronger."
Theo produced several more puffs before needing to sit down. "That's not easy," he said, collapsing into an armchair.
"No, not at first. But that's a great start—you can try again later."
Daphne also produced a puff, and so did Blaise. "You were right about sex memories not working," Blaise admitted. "Which is a relief, honestly—I'd hate to think Umbridge was using one."
"Can we stop talking about Umbridge?" snapped Draco. "I'm having a hard enough time already."
"Ugh, so am I," Pansy groaned. "Harry, can I try feeling your hair again?"
"What?" said Harry. "No, that won't work!"
"Are you sure? Your hair has weird properties—it grows back overnight, and it turned your portrait rogue."
"No harm in trying," said Daphne, admiring her newest bright puff. "Go on, Pansy—you have my permission."
"What about my permission?" asked Harry, but the two witches just glared at him. "Fine, go ahead."
Pansy placed her left hand atop Harry's head. "Expecto Patronum!" she cried, and a bright silver cloud flowed from her wand. "Look, it's even bigger than Theo's! Daphne, you try!"
Daphne laced her fingers through Harry's hair, and he felt a thrill from her touch. "Expecto Patronum!" she said, producing a graceful silver bird.
"A snowy egret!" she exclaimed. "One of my favourites!"
Astonished, Harry told her to try again on her own, but she only produced another puff. However, it was bigger than before, and she was pleased with her progress.
"A snowy egret!" she repeated. "How perfectly lovely!"
Blaise also tried touching Harry's hair, and from his wand came a shimmering stoat. "That's basically a weasel," said Draco with contempt. "This is why you need to choose your friends more carefully."
"You're just jealous Ginny likes me best," retorted Blaise. "I can't wait to tell her."
Theo was too tired to try again, and Draco stubbornly refused. "I don't need to touch Potter's hair. For Merlin's sake, he's not a talisman!"
"Actually, he kind of is," said Pansy. "But maybe if you ask nicely he'll leave you a lock."
"I think we've done enough for one night," said Harry quickly. "But that's a great start."
Daphne kept practising when they were alone, and they enjoyed watching her egret interact with Prongs. "But why are his antlers smaller?" she asked.
Still embarrassed about his brush with Dark magic, Harry said, "Er, it has to do with what happened in America, and how my Light magic got weaker."
"But hasn't it recovered yet? Or did I set back your progress by letting you have your way with me?"
"My way with you?" he said, intrigued. "Is it the weekend already?"
"Surely you've enjoyed what we've done so far!"
"I have done. And yes, it's possible you've set back my progress, but I don't mind Prongs's new antlers. The old ones were a bit much—I think Lee once described them as 'overcompensating.'"
"The new ones are lovely," said Daphne. "And I can't wait for the weekend."
Their weekend began on Saturday, after her parents left for Bavaria, and they had the house to themselves. "Ron and Janet are visiting his brother in Cornwall. And I can communicate silently with Kreacher, so you won't even know the elves are there."
She gave him a probing look. "I feel like you're a little too good at this."
"No, seduction. Do I even want to know how many witches you've been with?"
"Er, I try not to count," he admitted. "But it's probably not worse than you're imagining, since everything's been public until now."
"Until now," she said darkly. "We didn't last ten minutes at Draco's house."
"Excuse me, how was I to know Pansy had memorised your freckles?"
"You couldn't. But so many people watch your slightest move—I'm sure someone will figure it out."
"Are you getting cold feet?" he said, his tone gentle. "We don't need to rush things."
"Yes we do. I'm tired of being a virgin, and I trust your expertise."
"Right ... then why are you worried I'm too good at this?"
He was hoping she'd laugh, but instead she looked down at her hands. "Because I might not measure up. Consider your last partner."
At first Harry was confused, since he hadn't told her about Jasmine. "Oh, Marina," he said awkwardly.
"Yes, her. Arguably the most beautiful witch alive, and far more experienced than I am. Or so I assume."
Lush memories arose, but Harry anchored himself in the present. "Yes, she's beautiful, and experienced," he said. "But why do you think I'm with you?"
"Because she's in America?"
"True, but that's not the only reason." He explained the situation with Marina's ex, and how she was with Harry to make him jealous.
"So she was using you?" exclaimed Daphne.
"More or less. And when you get down to it, I was using her. At least we were upfront about it, and I'm genuinely fond of her, but it was mostly superficial."
Daphne bit her lip, then said, "And what about me?"
"Well, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't partly superficial. You're very pretty, after all." She smiled, and he said, "But I also really like you. I know we didn't interact much at school ..."
"That's an understatement."
"But we still have a lot in common," Harry continued. "And you don't see me as the Boy Who Lived, or a league Seeker. At least I don't think you do."
"No, I don't. Your flying is impressive, and I'm mad about your clothes, but I'll never quite forget how clueless you were in school—and even now."
"Cheers," he said, chuckling. "And yes, I truly was clueless." With only the hint of a smile remaining, he looked deep into her eyes. "But there's some things I've learnt. Rather well, I'm told."
"Then show me," she said, and he led her upstairs.
He didn't think about Marina that afternoon, or even Lydia—all his attention was on Daphne. Her comfort came first, and he asked one last time if she was ready.
"More than ready," she assured him, and by sunset the deed was done. She clearly enjoyed it—as did he—and while he wasn't in love, Harry relished their close connection. Three cheers for friends with benefits! he thought.
"I don't feel ruined," she said, lying next to him.
"That's because you aren't. And not just because there's no such thing as a ruined witch."
"Oh? Then why not?"
He traced a finger down her abdomen, still damp from their exertion. "I don't know, but you're like a unicorn somehow. Shining, almost."
Daphne paled. "Great Salazar, don't tell me I'm glowing!"
"No, not at all," he laughed, allowing himself to glow a little. "But you're rather standoffish, and I had to earn your trust bit by bit."
"And shatter it," she said, not unkindly.
"Yes, and you know how sorry I am." She nodded, and he said, "But now I feel like I've been, I don't know, admitted to your private glade."
"Sorry, I know that sounds crass, but that's not how I meant it. More like now that your barriers are down, I can see just how radiant you are."
Daphne bit her lips, and a tear slid towards the pillow. "I have a goldenhair wand," she said. "They're very rare—hardly anyone can use them."
"From a foal?" he said, awestruck.
"Yes. According to wandlore, it means I have the potential to be a shining example."
"Maybe you'll start glowing after all," he joked, and she gave him a playful shove. "No, I can see it. There's definitely something about you—like you're a little above the ordinary world."
"I think the word you're looking for is 'uptight,'" she said dryly.
"That's only how it seemed. But no one calls unicorns uptight."
"You're right, they don't. But I had to be careful, both as a witch and as the heir to an ancient house. So many rules and expectations!"
"I can only imagine," said Harry sincerely. "Obviously I'm not a witch–"
A sniff of amusement. "Very obviously."
"Excuse me, I was making a point," he said, with mock indignation. "I'm not a witch, and even though I'm head of House Black, I probably can't relate to the Head of House thing either."
"But surely you're familiar with expectations! After all, you had the whole 'Boy Who Lived' thing, not to mention several prophecies."
"Only one of them was bad," he said. "And it's still not the same as family expectations."
"Perhaps. But you didn't get a family at all. Do you have anything that belonged to your parents?"
Harry knew she didn't mean gold. "Er, no. Just my Invisibility Cloak."
"But what about a house? I know your parents' cottage was destroyed, but a family as old as the Potters must have had an ancestral home."
"They did, but it was also destroyed—before I was born, I think."
"Have you seen it?"
"No, I've been putting it off," he admitted. "It's hard to get excited about a pile of ruins."
His heart sank as he said it, and Daphne clearly noticed. "Some would call me a ruin right now," she said provocatively. "Maybe we can explore that instead."
It was just the distraction Harry needed, followed by dinner in Muggle London. Daphne spent the night, since her parents were still in Bavaria, and she didn't need to hurry home.
"This is lovely," she said, enjoying breakfast in bed. "If the sex doesn't ruin me, surely this will."
"You don't take breakfast in bed at Greengrass Manor?" he laughed.
"It's called Leycross. And no, not unless someone is ill. As my grandmother used to say, there's a fine line between leisure and sloth, and we mustn't cross it."
"She's not wrong," Harry mused. "But I've decided I've earned the occasional lie-in. Although if I'm still at it after I retire from the Cannons, that could be a problem."
"Do you know what you want to do after you retire?"
"No. But I should be able to play for another decade at least, and hopefully by then I'll have some ideas."
"Will you always live here? Or will you eventually move to the country?"
Harry looked around his bedroom, which most people would still call gloomy. "I couldn't even say. Personally, I like the house, but none of my girlfriends have. And when I have kids I won't want them stuck inside all day."
"Will you have a Quidditch pitch?"
"That would be nice, although probably not full-sized," he said, thinking of the orchard behind the Burrow, where the Weasleys played Quidditch.
"Why not?" asked Daphne.
"Well, secrecy for one thing. And a regulation pitch is a bit much, don't you think?"
"Not for the home of a world-famous Seeker."
He didn't correct her phrasing, even though it wasn't accurate—he was world-famous for surviving the Killing Curse, not for catching the Snitch. But he still questioned the need for a full-sized pitch, which he'd only seen at Malfoy Manor.
"Does Leycross have a full-sized pitch?" he asked.
"No, but other houses do. I'd bet the Potters had one—didn't your dad play Quidditch too?"
"He did," Harry said, unsure what to make of his rising discomfort. "But he was a Chaser."
It was a weak attempt to change the topic, and Daphne didn't fall for it. "If anything, that's more of a reason to have a full-sized pitch," she said. "Don't you want to go look? It's the obvious place to build your own house, after all."
"Why are you pressuring me?" he snapped—to his own shock.
Daphne pulled away. "I'm sorry, that wasn't my intention. I just thought it was weird you've never visited your family seat."
"I don't have a family seat—it's just ruins," he said sharply. "If any house is my family seat, it's this one."
His heart was racing, and Daphne's pained expression made him feel even worse. "I'm sorry," she repeated. "I shouldn't have brought it up."
They were silent, and Harry thumbed the edge of the blanket. After a long pause, he said, "I probably should go. Get it over with."
"Would you like company?" she asked gently. "I'd be glad to come with you, if that would help. Although maybe you'd prefer someone like Hermione," she said, averting her eyes.
Daphne's demure expression—in contrast with her relative state of undress—bought Harry back to the present. "No, I think I'd like you there with me," he said. "We could explore on my broom, even."
"A racing broom?" she said, wincing. "Not today I can't."
"Oh!" said Harry, realising what she meant. But he still had the Comet Cruiser XL, which he'd used with Dudley, and an hour later they were off.
The house was in Yorkshire, so they Apparated to a village nearby. Did my dad ever come here? Harry wondered, and he half-hoped someone might recognise him. But no one did, and they walked until it was safe to start flying.
He gave Daphne his Invisibility Cloak and Disillusioned himself—the broom itself had concealment charms—and they flew the rest of the way to the site. "It should be somewhere around here," he said, on the ground and visible again.
"It's probably hidden," said Daphne. "Anti-Muggle wards can last for decades, and there might be other protections as well. But just announce yourself—you have Potter blood, after all."
"Right, let's have a go," he said, stepping onto a small mound, "Hi, this is Harry Potter," he declared. "I'd like to come in."
A tree rustled nearby, despite the lack of wind, but nothing appeared. "Er, maybe not come in, since the house is gone," he continued. "But I'm here to see the property." He held up a parchment and said, "I even have the deed."
Nothing happened, and Daphne said, "It might need actual blood. I've heard some houses require that sort of thing. Just a few drops onto the earth."
"No, I'm sure that's not it," said Harry, recalling the protections on the cave containing the locket. "It'll be something friendlier than that."
"A strand of hair?" she said, and he actually tried it, but still no result.
"Trust me, I'm definitely Harry Potter," he called out. "Everyone says so."
"That's not true, you changed your name," said Daphne, and Harry tensed. Oh my god, it no longer recognises me! I'm not a Potter anymore!
"Maybe Gringotts can do something?" he said, thinking aloud. "I'm definitely the owner, name change or no." At least I hope so, he added silently.
"Just tell it your new name," she said. "Maybe it'll understand."
Harry was already resigned to failure, but he said, "Hi, this is Harry Potter-Black. Can I come in?"
The ground shifted below them, and a new landscape appeared. There was no drive, but a curving path led through an overgrown tangle that was clearly once a lawn. A stone wall hugged its contours, waist high, and Harry's hand skimmed the top as they walked.
"I don't see any ruins," said Daphne tentatively.
"No, but there's not a house either. Maybe it's past those trees."
He held his breath as they approached, and sure enough, thick stones littered the earth. Welcome home, he thought dully.
"Oh!" said Daphne, stricken. "It's really just ruins."
"That's my family," said Harry. "Mouldering ruins, the lot of them."
"I'm so sorry—I shouldn't have suggested we come."
"No, it was time for me to see it," he sighed. "Come on, let's get on the broom again, see what it's like from above."
From the ground it was hard to tell how large the house had been, since the foundation was overgrown. But the aerial view revealed a significant footprint, to Harry's surprise. It was nothing like Malfoy Manor, of course, but definitely larger than Everbrook, where Fiona lived.
"My dad grew up here," he said, mostly to himself. "No wonder he was spoilt."
"Are those Quidditch hoops?" asked Daphne, pointing to their left.
"Of course they are," said Harry bitterly, and he flew towards them. It wasn't a full-sized pitch—it was probably three-quarters scale. But even so, Harry felt the enormous gulf between himself and his father.
"This is lovely," said Daphne as they circled the pitch. "A few of the hoops are crooked, I think, and the ground is covered with brambles. But it wouldn't take long to make it usable again."
Harry was barely listening. At least Sirius also grew up in a hellhole, he thought. But his dad felt like more of a stranger than ever. How could I possibly relate to someone who grew up like this?
"It's a beautiful setting," Daphne continued. "Do you think that woodland is part of the property? I don't think it was visible when we first arrived."
"It probably is," said Harry, imagining Prongs galloping through it, with Padfoot chasing behind.
He couldn't remember ever feeling this jealous—not even with Dudley. But Dudley wasn't a wizard, and he lived in sodding Little Whinging. Harry's father, however, grew up in what looked like paradise.
"Why did my grandparents have to die?" he grumbled. "If I could have just lived with them ..."
"Did they also die in the war?"
"No, Dragon Pox, before I was born. And the house was destroyed sometime after that." He shook his head. "Fucking Voldemort. You'd think an orphan would know better, but I guess he wanted to make people suffer like he did."
They landed near a pavilion, which was untouched by whatever had destroyed the house, and Daphne used Greengrass family magic to clear the surrounding overgrowth.
"It'll be beautiful when you rebuild it," she said, looking out from the pavilion. "And you'll have all the latest enchantments, as opposed to centuries-old charms like at my house."
"I guess, although I still like Grimmauld Place, even though there's no grounds. But who knows—at this rate it might have a Quidditch pitch too." He smiled, in spite of himself. "By the way, I never asked what you thought of the conservatory."
"Oh, it's gorgeous—like nothing I've ever seen!" she exclaimed. "I think that's where you really won me over."
Her look of admiration was just what he needed. "Let's go there," he said. "No more ruins for today."
"Except for me," she whispered, and a few minutes later they were on the chaise longue, no longer dressed in warm clothes.
"I suppose I'm spoilt too," said Harry, during a pause from what they were doing. "A beautiful house, a beautiful fuckmate–"
"Fuckmate!" gasped Daphne.
"Sorry, friend with benefits," he said hastily.
She dropped her head in her hands. "Great Salazar, you're going to describe me that way on the radio. Anonymously, of course, but the secret will come out, and my parents will read about it in the Prophet."
"Trust me," said Harry, "that definitely won't happen."
Her eyes narrowed. "What makes you so sure?"
"Because I can't say 'fuck' on the radio," he smirked. "Lee will use the delay." But she still looked upset, and he said, "Really, I promise I can keep a secret. And with Quidditch season approaching, people will be more interested in the new rules than my private life—particularly if I keep saying 'No comment.'"
"I hope you're right," she said dubiously. "But I suppose I've made my bed." Smiling, she added, "So let's lie in it."
When they emerged from his bedroom hours later, Ron and Janet had returned. "So, how was it?" asked Janet. "Better than you imagined, right?"
"Janet!" cried Harry, and Daphne blushed to her ears.
"I meant breakfast in bed! Specialty of the house, you know."
"You aren't required to answer," Harry told Daphne, but she said it was good.
"I won't often stay overnight, though," she added.
"It's just as well," said Janet. "He needs his sleep this season, with Quidditch turned upside down. Isn't that right, Snitchbottom?"
Harry paused as her words sank in. Quidditch was completely upended, it was true, but everything else was sliding into place. He was in a casual but steady relationship; all his friends—including Draco and Ron—were on good terms; there was no immediate pressure to reshape wizard-goblin relations; and his Light magic was back on solid ground.
Instead of answering Janet, he took Daphne's hand. "You can stay anytime you like. And Janet might take the mickey, but she can definitely keep a secret."
"I suppose Hufflepuffs are loyal," said Daphne, with a nod towards Janet and Ron. "And the hat still insists you're a Slytherin, despite all appearances." She let out a hollow laugh. "Perhaps I'm the weakest link."
"Only time will tell," Harry heard himself say, trusting completely in whatever might happen.