5 September 1998
Harry apparated into Platinum Alley and took a breath. With every day that passed, the remnants of Knockturn Alley were disappearing one by one. New businesses helped along by the GSC now dotted this part of the Alley, with plenty of empty shop spaces which would no doubt be snapped up sooner rather than later.
The crowning jewel, of course, was the brilliantly iconic Prism Plaza. Since a very successful opening launch earlier in the week, the hotel had been a buzz of activity. The press had been raving in their praise, many of the guests had rebooked already, and the rooftop bar had been an overnight success. There were already rumours that the Ministry was planning on hosting their yearly New Year's Ball at the Prism Plaza banquet hall instead of the Ministry ballroom.
The Prism Plaza was Harry's destination that evening. The lobby of the hotel was not as busy as it had been on launch day but it was still fairly full. The doorman bowed him in and Harry made his way toward the restaurant through the arched entrance way past the lobby. The hostess in an impeccable knee-length white dress with gold jewellery greeted him by name.
"Your guests are yet to arrive but I will show you to your table," she said, throwing a rather flirty smile in his direction.
Harry nodded back with a fixed smile and followed her into the restaurant. The place was mostly packed and the few empty tables he saw had a 'Reserved' sign on it.
The hostess led him to a table by the arched windows. Spotless white tablecloth adorned the table and the china was a pristine white with gold border. The cutlery was gold and the goblets were crystal, and the whole table made a beautiful picture of luxury and taste. Harry made a mental note to tell Lavinia how wonderful it all looked.
Harry took off his cloak and handed it to the hostess who bowed and left, though not without a lingering glance at him. He took a seat and picked up the menu, running his eyes appreciatively over the dinner options.
He didn't have to wait long until the hostess led over his guests. Though not as formally dressed as before, Kei and Miria Blackwood were no less stylish in their appearance. Harry stood up to greet them; Kei with a handshake and Miria with a kiss to the back of her hand.
"We apologise for our tardiness," said Kei, as they all sat back down.
"Not at all, I was just early," said Harry.
A server arrived and poured water in the crystal goblets before looking at them expectantly.
"Good evening, my name is Nea and I'll be your server this evening," he said. "Our special this evening is Blackened Sea Bass with a side of roasted greens. We also have a lamb rack with a mint and pesto sauce. Shall I get you started with some drinks?"
"How about a bottle of the 1996 Pride Cabernet Sauvignon?" suggested Kei, looking at the wine list before glancing at Harry.
Harry kept his face impassive as he nodded. Kei had picked out the most expensive wine on the list, which also happened to be from the Pride Farmhouse. Wine from the Pride Farmhouse had hit the shops some time ago, but the expensive ones were being saved for the hotels and resorts. Of course, the really expensive ones were being kept carefully in the cellar for future events.
Harry hadn't seen a statement, but from what Daphne had told him, the wine was very popular. They were currently in the process of hiring a full time staff member to manage the inventory and coordinate with suppliers and the house elves to keep the business going.
Nea nodded and left, returning a moment later with bread for the table and the wine.
"I don't need to taste it," said Kei, before Nea could even ask. "The Pride Farmhouse wine has never disappointed."
Nea nodded and looked at Harry. "I'm fine as well," he said.
Nea dutifully poured three glasses of wine and left the bottle on the table. "Are you ready for entrees?"
"Actually, we'll order all of the food now," said Harry. The less interruptions they had, the better. "I'll have the stuffed porcini mushrooms and the lamb special."
"Oh, I'll have the same," said Miria, beaming at Nea.
"I'll have the ricotta puff and the Wagyu steak," said Kei.
Nea bowed and left, and Harry turned to the couple. "How have you both been?"
"Very well, thank you for asking, Harry," said Kei, as Miria nodded. "And thank you for agreeing to this dinner."
"Yes, I admit I'm curious as to the reason why," said Harry, taking a sip of his wine.
Kei sipped his own wine before contemplating his response. "It is a bit of an awkward issue, but I suppose I had no other way of saying it other than bluntly," he said. Miria placed a hand on his arm, in a show of silent support. "You and I are related, Harry."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "Yes, I'm aware of that," he said.
Kei and Miria looked surprised. "You are?" asked Miria, as Kei just blinked.
"I am unsure of the details but I know the Blackwood family is an offshoot of the Fleamont family," he said.
"Yes," said Kei. "My great-great-grandfather was Icarus Fleamont. He was the youngest of the main Fleamont family and was cast out after he jeopardised the family name and fortune because of an illicit affair with a daughter of the Shafiq family. He migrated to the States and adopted the name Blackwood."
Harry tried to remember Icarus Fleamont and realised that Adelheid had been his older sister. He and Daphne had gone through the Fleamont family tree earlier that day to prepare for this dinner. They had seen that Icarus had been disowned but nothing else apart from that. Adelheid had been the last of the Fleamont family before she had married into the Potter family.
"I believe I am familiar with the name," said Harry. "My great-great grandmother, Adelheid Fleamont, was his older sister."
"Yes, yes, precisely," said Kei, as Miria squeezed Kei's arm in excitement.
"You have to understand, Harry, Kei grew up an orphan as well," said Miria. "You are the first family he has met."
"Oh," said Harry, taken aback. "I-I see."
"I apologise if I seem too enthusiastic but as Miria said, I grew up an orphan. My parents died when I was very young and I was raised by guardians appointed by my family's business, who never revealed to me the full scope of the Blackwood Conglomerate. It was already a successful conglomerate which my guardians were benefiting from, though when I was old enough to take control, I raised it to even greater heights."
"They didn't tell you of your connection to the Fleamont family?" asked Harry.
Kei shook his head. "They led me to believe we were nouveau riche, but I was never satisfied with that response. It was only when I met Miria that we began to dig deeper into my family's history," he said.
"We finally worked out the connection last year but Britain was too dangerous," said Miria. "Especially for a halfblood like me, so we had to stay away."
Nea thankfully arrived with their entrees and Harry was spared having to answer. Daphne had suspected that they would bring up their familial connection and use it in some way. She was partly right, though Harry had no idea how they would want to use it, if at all. From the sounds of it, the Blackwood Conglomerate was doing as well if not far better than the GSC so it wasn't money they wanted.
"And you worked out I was descended from the Fleamont family?" asked Harry.
"Yes, it was not hard to figure out," said Miria, as Kei nodded.
"The more interesting question is, how did you find out that I was descended from the Fleamont family?" asked Kei, shrewdly.
Harry calmly ate his mushroom entree, having expected that question. Or rather, Daphne had anticipated it. "I am in the process of reviewing my family tree. I am the last of my line and there are precautions I must take to protect my interests."
Kei nodded, seemingly satisfied. "Yes, I would not expect anything otherwise," he said. "Miria and I have had to take similar steps."
"Though we are fervently trying for an heir as well," laughed Miria, and Harry turned red, which made her laugh harder.
Kei shook his head with an amused smile. "My point is, it makes things rather simple if you know about our shared familial connection."
"How so?" asked Harry, as he braced himself.
Unfortunately, Nea came by to clear their plates and refill their wine glasses. Harry tried not to fidget, as he waited to hear what the Blackwoods wanted from him.
Kei took a long sip of his wine, further delaying his response.
"I'll be blunt with you, Harry, I am looking to expand my business in Britain," he said. "When I was scoping out my competition, I realised I had two major competitors: an organisation called the GSC, and you."
Harry nodded slowly, face not betraying any emotion. "I see," he said.
"Then, imagine my surprise when I found out that you and the GSC have something in common," said Kei as Harry's eyebrows shot up. "You share the same lawyer. The Verdant firm."
Fuck, thought Harry. He and Daphne knew it would be inevitable that someone would deduce that Daphne was signing off on the applications for the Diagon Restoration Program, not to mention the Verdant seal on all the official documents prepared on behalf of the GSC.
"You don't seem surprised," said Miria.
Harry shrugged and took a sip of wine. "I'm sure I'm not the only client that Daphne has," he said. "I've heard of the GSC before, of course, it's hard not to these days. I wasn't aware that they were Daphne's clients but it doesn't surprise me."
"It doesn't?" asked Kei. "Even though the Verdant firm primarily handles matters of estates and titles?"
"What makes you think it doesn't belong to the estate of one of the families the firm manages?" asked Harry.
Kei and Miria exchanged a look. "I suppose that could be possible," he conceded. "Just an odd bit of coincidence, I suppose."
"It's not coincidental at all," said Harry. "The Verdant firm is the only one of its kind operating in Britain currently. I wouldn't be surprised if most of the old families have the firm on retainer. I personally chose them because Gringotts referred them to me."
"And you don't think this creates a conflict of interest?" asked Kei.
"Daphne is a consummate professional," said Harry, firmly. "I have complete faith in her."
"You seem very close," said Miria, looking at him shrewdly.
"We went to Hogwarts together," he said, coolly. "And she has been instrumental in helping my newest ventures."
"The institute and the orphanage, you mean," said Kei.
"Among other things, yes," he said.
"And you trust her?" asked Kei.
"I do," said Harry, before realising he may have tipped his hand. The more diplomatic answer would have been to say that he was paying her and she was bound by confidentiality oaths.
Kei and Miria gave him unreadable looks as Nea brought up the main course. Harry cut into his lamb, taking a deep breath to calm down. He still wasn't sure what they wanted but it wouldn't do for him to lose his cool. For the thousandth time, he wished Daphne could be there with him.
There was silence as they all ate for a moment. Kei cleared his throat and looked at Harry.
"As I was saying, I have two competitors: you and the GSC," he said. "I was hoping to propose that I reduce my competition to just one."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "I'm not sure I follow," he said.
"The Blackwood Conglomerate is my family's, our family's," said Kei. "I don't know why we have to compete when we should be joining forces."
Harry stared at him for a moment. "You want me to team up with you? Against the GSC?"
"Yes," said Kei. "You have connections here, connections that I don't. Your reputation will also open a lot of doors that will otherwise remain closed."
"In other words, you want me to be your British poster boy?" asked Harry, cutting to the chase.
Kei's smile became fixed. "That's rather harsh," he said. "I was suggesting a partnership instead."
"But I would essentially be a gateway for you into the British market," said Harry. He was sure Daphne or Adrian might have handled it better but he was not fond of beating around the bush in a diplomatic way. He saw Kei Blackwood's words for what they were. Notwithstanding the fact that Kei didn't know that Harry was the one behind GSC, Kei saw Harry as a stepping stone. All that tosh about family had been for show.
"Let me be very clear, Harry, I will break into the British market, with or without your help," said Kei. "I would just prefer it to be with you rather than against you."
Harry took a long sip of his wine and resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "I would say a healthy competition will be good for the economy," he said. "I never saw the appeal in a monopoly." He remembered Daphne having said that previously.
Kei's smile dropped and Miria placed a placating hand on his arm. "Perhaps you wish to think about it, Harry. Consult with your lawyer," she said.
"I'm fine, thank you," he said. "I won't stand in your way but I'm not setting aside what I want to do. Britain is big enough for the two of us. And the GSC, of course." He took a deep breath and appraised the couple with new eyes. "For what it's worth, we are family and I will treat you as such. But I prefer to keep my business dealings out of it."
Kei's eyes gleamed and he nodded slowly. "Very well," he said, and raised his goblet. "To family, then."
Harry chuckled humourlessly and raised his goblet. "To family."
13 September 1998
Emerald Teacups and Talking Teas: A Conversation with Lady Daphne Greengrass
by Cordelia Woodrow
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Lady Daphne Greengrass has become a household name since receiving the Minister's Special Recognition Award on 31 July this year. Part of the infamous Hogwarts Forty, Lady Greengrass was one of the brave Hogwarts students who fought in the Battle of Hogwarts which saw the downfall of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
Lady Greengrass has also assumed the mantle as the head of Verdant firm, the prominent estate and title lawyers. However, my interview with Lady Greengrass pertains to a different matter entirely.
Cordelia Woodrow (CW): Lady Greengrass, it is an absolute pleasure to meet you.
Daphne Greengrass (DG): The pleasure is all mine. Please call me Daphne.
CW: Daphne, you have had a very busy summer. First, you assumed the mantle of Verdant. Tell me a bit more about that.
DG: Verdant was supposed to shut down. Business had stopped entirely in the last two years, and my father's death all but cemented it. I was going to close the doors.
CW: What happened to change that?
DG: I got some new clients. I cannot disclose who they are, of course, for confidentiality reasons, but it helped me revive the business.
CW: I mean, one of your clients is well-known.
DG: Yes, I suppose it is well-known that I act for Elder Potter. When I first reopened, I was the only one running it. Now, we have two other people, besides me. It has allowed me to take a step back.
CW: Verdant is not your main focus?
DG: In a way, it is. It is my family's legacy and it was what I was raised to inherit. However, there are things I wish to accomplish on my own.
CW: Do you ever see yourself leaving Verdant?
DG: No, I will never leave Verdant behind but I could see myself stepping into an advisory role when it is more stable. Not yet, but perhaps in a year or two.
CW: Wonderful. So let's talk about your newest venture. Emerald Teacups opened its doors this week, and the people have been buzzing about it.
DG: Thank you. The response has been...overwhelming.
CW: I heard reports you were sold out of your first stock within three days.
DG: Yes, particularly our house blend, Emerald Brew.
CW: Tell me more about it.
DG: It was a personal recipe. It aids with sleep, without the usual downfalls of a sleeping draught. It is by far the most popular product we have.
CW: Sounds lovely. So what made you want to open Emerald Teacups?
DG: I have always wanted to start my own business. Something that I am passionate about, and something that is more relaxing than estate law.
CW: That is certainly true. Was the shop's design your idea?
DG: Mine and my sister's, and we had Penelope Clearwater consult on it as well. We wanted to create something reminiscent of a Victorian tearoom.
CW: Well, you certainly managed that. The shop looks absolutely beautiful. What caught my attention were the green jars.
DG: Yes, we wanted a signature of sorts. Something that would identify our brand. The green glass jars with the gold lids seemed like a good idea.
CW: They certainly are. Now, as to your involvement in the shop's day to day running, how does it work?
DG: At the moment, I am preparing the blends myself with help from another tea maker. She also manages the shop and we have two part-time floor staff.
CW: Wonderful. That must keep you very busy, though.
DG: It does, but I am up for the challenge.
CW: That is incredible to hear. So, shall we talk about Talking Teas now? It has been a source of quite the excitement for us here at Witch Weekly.
DG: Certainly. One of my favourite columns in Witch Weekly is Hermione Granger's bookclub. I got the idea for Talking Teas from her column.
CW: For our readers, can you tell them what Talking Teas is about?
DG: Yes, it will be a monthly column discussing one of our blends at a time. Each blend has a history and a story behind it and I am hoping to share it.
CW: We cannot wait. The first column will be published next week. I have had a peek at it and let me tell you, it is incredible.
DG: Thank you. I am very grateful that Marian liked it.
CW: Oh, she loved it. We all did. Daphne, thank you so much for your time.
DG: Thank you.
Harry closed the copy of Witch Weekly and smiled toward Daphne who was currently helping Teddy doggy paddle his way through the lake. Teddy was having the time of his life, giggling his head off as Daphne supported his body through the water. Harry had to admit it, Teddy was a much better swimmer than him.
There was a crack as Minnie appeared with a packed picnic basket. Harry smiled at her gratefully and called out to his two favourite people in the world.
Daphne glanced at him and then picked Teddy up before swimming back to the shore. Harry ogled his girlfriend shamelessly as she stepped out of the water, but then straightened up when she handed Teddy to him. Harry changed Teddy into dry clothes, as Daphne cast a drying charm on herself and put on a light green sundress over her emerald green swimsuit.
He and Daphne, along with the rest of their team, had analysed Harry's dinner with the Blackwood couple in detail and they had all reached the same conclusion: it could have been better but it was overall not the worst outcome. They had tossed around the idea of Harry accepting so he could gain insider information from the Blackwood Conglomerate but Daphne had rightly pointed out that a businessman of Kei's calibre would take precautions to prevent that from happening.
Harry had run into Kei once at a presser for the Quidditch season opening and they had been distant but polite to one another, which Harry supposed was for the best.
"Were you reading the article?" asked Daphne, nodding toward the magazine as she unpacked the picnic basket.
"Yes," said Harry, pressing a kiss to Teddy's head after he had finished dressing him. "Apparently, you are thinking of stepping back from Verdant?"
Daphne rolled her eyes. "Tracey made me say it," she said. "Said it would help me distance myself from the lawyer image and become the approachable businesswoman who is fit to be Lady Potter."
Harry raised his eyebrows at the dripping sarcasm and chuckled. "Tracey knows best," he said, repeating what Daphne had told him many times before.
Daphne scowled playfully. "Yeah, I am questioning the wisdom in that," she said. "Do you want me to feed Teddy?"
"No, I've got him," smiled Harry, holding the bottle to Teddy's mouth.
It was a quiet afternoon as they ate their own lunch between feeding Teddy. There was a storm roiling overhead, so they decided to pack up and head indoors. Harry went to Teddy's room and put him down for a nap in his crib, before returning to his own room. He could hear the shower running and knew Daphne was most likely cleaning up after swimming in the lake.
Since the first night she had stayed over, Daphne had been staying over almost every night. Neither of them had discussed it as such, and Harry knew that it was a discussion they would need to have at some point or another. Their physical relationship had been heating up, but they were yet to cross the line, despite sleeping in the same bed every night for almost two weeks.
Harry knew he was still hesitating, because his relationship with Daphne was markedly different from his previous relationships. He was afraid to step too quickly and ruin the wonderful balance they had created. At the same time, he didn't wish to hesitate too much.
Daphne emerged from the ensuite, freshly showered and dressed in her green sundress, though she was also wearing a matching cardigan on top of it, which wasn't surprising considering the weather was starting to get colder. She smiled when she saw him sitting in the armchair by the unlit fireplace in his bedroom.
"Is Teddy asleep?" she asked, as she walked over and sat down in the other armchair. Harry nodded, and waved his hand which caused the fireplace to spring to life with flames. Daphne grinned gratefully. "I still can't get used to your wandless magic," she added.
"It only works this well at Potter Hall," he said.
"And you still don't know what's caused it?" she asked.
He hesitated. "I have some ideas," he said. When she gave him an expectant look, he smiled. "I never told you what I had been doing this past year, did I?"
She blinked. "I figured you would when you were ready," she said.
He nodded slowly. "I think I am ready now," he said. Daphne smiled and held out her hand. He took it and inhaled deeply. "I told you that in my sixth year, Dumbledore began giving me lessons. The lessons were memories he had of Voldemort, from his youth which told us something very important." He took another deep breath. "Have you ever heard of Horcruxes?"
17 September 1998
Daphne sat in her office at Verdant, carefully going through the guest list for the Halloween event. The invites had been sent two weeks ago, and most if not all of the guests had RSVP'd. The event was shaping up to be at least 300 people, if not more, and Daphne was glad she had Tristan and Ayesha now because there would absolutely be no time for her to plan an event that size and still maintain a sleep schedule without their help.
Speaking of which, she heard a knock at the door and Ayesha poked her head in.
"Mr Scamander is here," she said.
Daphne nodded and quickly put away the papers from her desk, as Ayesha showed Newt in. "Good afternoon, Newt, how are you?" she asked, standing up to greet him.
Newt walked into her office and smiled as he took a seat. "Very well, and you?"
"Good, thank you," she said. "Tea?"
"Of course," he said, and Ayesha bowed and left to fetch it. "Thank you for making the time."
"Nonsense," said Daphne, sitting down as well. "I'm sorry Harry can't be here, but he was needed at Hogwarts. I am having my associate, Tristan Lee, join us, if that's okay."
"Of course, not a problem at all," said Newt, as Tristan walked in and Daphne made the introductions.
"Why was Harry needed at Hogwarts?" asked Newt, when Ayesha returned with a tray of tea and biscuits.
"One of the children at the Lily Potter Home was injured after his flying lesson," said Daphne. "I have been told it's not too serious, but Harry went with the Matron to see for himself."
Newt nodded understandingly. "He is very dedicated to them, isn't he?"
"He is," said Daphne, without hesitation. "He writes to them regularly, and sent care packages this past week."
"That is wonderful," said Newt, taking a sip of his tea.
"So, what did you want to talk about?" asked Daphne, picking up her own cup of tea.
Newt took another sip before speaking. "I have been getting more and more applications, from both Masters and apprentices, over the past week. I am working my way through them, and I am expecting our numbers will be growing soon."
"That is great news," smiled Daphne.
"Yes," nodded Newt. "However, we will need more space."
"Of course, the Iola Castle is quite extensive, as you know, so we can get started on that," said Daphne.
"I thought the same, but when I mentioned it in a staff meeting the other day, Emily said something interesting," said Newt.
Daphne's brow furrowed. Emily Holbury was the genius arithmancer at the James Potter Institute, and one of their most valuable academics. She was also the most eccentric person Daphne had ever met.
"Emily said she had figured that the reason why we were in such a large castle was because there were plans for it to become an institution for education after Hogwarts," said Newt.
Tristan's eyebrows shot up. "Like a university in the Muggle world?" he asked, sounding intrigued.
"Yes," said Newt, nodding along. "When she said that, it was like opening a can of worms. Other Masters jumped in with ideas, and needless to say, everyone is very enthusiastic about this idea."
Daphne blinked. "Okay," she said, slowly.
Newt smiled understandingly. "We haven't done anything yet, of course, but with suggestions, I have prepared an initial blueprint of what that might look like," he said, and pulled out a scroll of parchment from his robes. "Essentially, the current Institute would remain as is, with the research division continuing. However, there would be a course-based education system as well, reminiscent of Hogwarts, but with specialised focus."
Daphne unfurled the scroll of parchment that he offered and read through it quickly with Tristan. The structure was quite simple. Students who had completed three or more NEWTs could apply to study an advanced course in their chosen field of study. The advanced course was for a period of three years and upon completing the same, they could apply for an apprenticeship and choose their specialisation for a Mastery.
"It makes sense, you see," said Newt, as they read it. "Currently, an apprentice will start their apprenticeship right out of Hogwarts but they will only finish their Mastery between six to eight years after that point. As Madam Quinton put it, it is because the first two to three years are heavily focused on learning the advanced techniques in the first place. More often than not, this knowledge is imparted by the older apprentices rather than the Masters themselves. And as the applications for apprenticeships grow, it will become impractical very quickly to manage them."
Tristan nodded slowly. "On the other hand, if it were in a course based format, that knowledge would be delivered to them as a class, preparing them for the Mastery," he said.
"Exactly!" agreed Newt, enthusiastically. "It won't just be classroom based learning. Depending on the subject, there would be practical and field work components as well. Then if they wanted to proceed to a Mastery after that, it would only be between another three to five years for them to achieve that."
"If?" asked Daphne, confused. "What would be the purpose of doing this course-based path if not to progress to a Mastery?"
Newt smiled. "I'll give you an example," he said. "Say someone chooses to do a course in Advanced Runes, with a focus on warding. They finish the three years of learning and instead of wanting to go into research to get a Mastery, they decide to apply for a position as a warder at the Platinum Warders. They will have had extensive knowledge and practical training during their learning at the Institute, and will need little to no training to apply their skills as a warder."
Daphne let that sink in. "That would change...everything," she said.
"It will," nodded Newt. "But in a good way."
She looked back at the scroll and read through it with new eyes. "This is incredible, Newt," she said, without bothering to conceal her wonder and excitement.
Newt beamed at her, looking very pleased. "It is still in very early stages, mind you," he said. "It will need a lot of work but I think it is worth pursuing."
Daphne nodded slowly. "I will speak to Harry and the rest of our team," she said. "It will be a lot of work, like you said, and no doubt we will be consulting with you and the other Masters along the way as well."
"I would expect nothing less," laughed Newt. "We are at your disposal. When I say this idea was universally liked, I was not exaggerating. The Masters are all very excited."
"That is wonderful to know," said Daphne. "Thank you for this, Newt. I will discuss this with the others."
Once Newt had left, Daphne turned to Tristan. "What do you think?" she asked.
"I think it's a splendid idea," he said, without hesitation. "I would also look into the training programs offered by St Mungo's and some of the Ministry departments. If those courses can be offered at the institute with a combination of practical experience at the relevant organisation, that would also be immensely impactful. Additionally, professions such as ours or even ones like business management, journalism, public relations can be taught. And another thing to consider is vocational training provided by the guild."
Daphne's eyes went wide. "Start looking into it," she said. "Put together a list of relevant existing and potential educational programs. Cross reference with what is offered in similar institutions around the world and prepare a concise report for me."
Tristan nodded, taking diligent notes. "I will have it for you by the end of the week."
Harry arrived through the fireplace in the Headmistress' office and brushed off the soot from his robes before turning and smiling at Professor McGonagall.
"Mr Potter, I had a feeling you would attend," said McGonagall as she stood up and shook her head with a fond smile.
Harry stepped aside as Belinda exited the fire behind him. "Hello, Professor," he said, sheepishly. "This is Belinda Sawbridge, the Matron at the Lily Potter Home."
"We've met," said Belinda, with a smile. "It is nice to see you again, Minerva."
"You as well, Belinda," said Professor McGonagall. "Come, I will walk you to the Hospital Wing. Mr Braxton's injury was minor but Poppy will likely keep him there overnight for observation in case of a concussion."
"What happened, exactly?" asked Belinda.
"His broomstick lost its enchantment during the flying lesson," said McGonagall as she led them to the Hospital Wing. "He was not too high up, thankfully, so he only suffered a broken ankle."
"Has Madam Hooch found out what was wrong with the broom?" asked Harry.
"It was an old broom and they tend to lose their enchantment with age," said McGonagall. "Madam Hooch is currently in the process of checking all of the school brooms and getting rid of ones whose enchantment is wearing off so this doesn't happen again."
Harry nodded, already thinking about what he could do to fix it. School brooms acting up was an unfortunately common thing. They reached the Hospital Wing and walked in to see Madam Pomfrey fussing over a sulky Kai. Mila and Luca sat at his bedside, and their faces lit up when Harry walked in.
"Harry!" greeted Luca, with a bright smile as he immediately ran forward to give him a hug. Harry laughed as he hugged Luca and then Mila, who had been more sedate in running over to him though no less enthusiastic.
Harry glanced at Kai, who looked shocked to see Harry but then immediately glanced away when he noticed Harry's gaze on him. After exchanging pleasantries with Mila and Luca, Harry said hello to Madam Pomfrey who beamed at him.
"Following in your footsteps, this one, Mr Potter," she said, nodding toward Kai.
"I don't doubt it," smiled Harry. "How are you feeling, Kai?"
Kai frowned, still not meeting Harry's eyes. "Fine," he said. "No need to make a fuss."
"That is up to me to decide, young man," said Madam Pomfrey, firmly. "I have fixed his ankle and he's showing no signs of a concussion but I will observe him overnight," she added, looking at Harry and Belinda.
"That's good to hear," said Belinda. "Thank you, Poppy."
The bell rang signalling the start of the next period and Harry looked at Mila and Luca. "Go on," he told them. "I'll stay with Kai."
They hugged him goodbye and left after another concerned look at Kai. "We will come by after dinner with Jolene," said Mila.
Kai rolled his eyes but nodded as they left. Belinda and Professor McGonagall retired to her office to sign off on the paperwork. Harry had no idea that parents or guardians had to be informed of any injury received by a student while at Hogwarts. That certainly hadn't been happening consistently during Dumbledore's time, but McGonagall seemed to be enforcing the law to the letter. As Madam Pomfrey retired to her own office, Harry took a seat by Kai's bedside.
"How are you really feeling, Kai?" asked Harry.
"Crappy," said Kai, sulkily. "Everyone was laughing."
"It had nothing to do with your flying," said Harry. "This was an accident, it happens."
"Did it happen to you?" asked Kai.
"What, falling off my broom? Yes," said Harry. "More times than I can count, if I'm honest."
Kai gave him a suspicious look but then accepted his answer. He paused awkwardly for a moment. "Sorry I haven't answered your letters," he said.
Harry smiled softly. "That's alright," he said. "I know how busy it gets in the first few weeks of the term. Did you like the care package?"
Kai nodded, still not meeting Harry's gaze. "Thank you," he mumbled finally.
"Of course," grinned Harry. "How's Hufflepuff house?"
Kai shifted awkwardly again. "It's alright," he said. "They're friendly."
"That's good," said Harry. "And you, Mila, Luca and Jolene still seem to be getting along as well."
Kai nodded. He looked at Harry finally and opened his mouth as if to ask a question. Harry waited patiently until he had worked up the nerve. "Mila said she wrote to Veronica."
Veronica Bradshaw had been the Mind Healer hired by the Lily Potter Home. She did weekly visits to the orphanage and was counselling the children and providing mental health support.
"Yes, I know Veronica has said she doesn't mind continuing counselling through correspondence," said Harry.
Kai nodded but then fidgeted again. "Can I- can I see her?" he asked.
"You want to see Veronica?" asked Harry.
Kai nodded vigorously. "I suck at writing letters. It's easier to talk in person."
Harry hummed in agreement. "I'll speak to Professor McGonagall and see what we can arrange," he said, and Kai looked visibly relieved. "Thanks for telling me, Kai."
Kai nodded and Harry stood up and ruffled his hair fondly. Saying goodbye, Harry noticed Madam Pomfrey beckoning him to her office and he made his way to her.
"I heard what he said," she said. "Veronica Bradshaw is an excellent Mind Healer. I had told Albus several times over the years that we needed a Mind Healer to counsel children but there were never enough funds for it and the school governors would shoot it down as well. I know Minerva is in the process of reconvening the board of governors and I think you should seriously consider applying."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "I thought the board was intact?" he asked.
Madam Pomfrey shook her head. "It's in tatters and the ones who remain haven't been at Hogwarts for over a century. We need new blood if we are to see change happen."
Harry nodded. "Thank you, Madam Pomfrey," he said. "I will look into it."
18 September 1998
It was the end of the day meeting at the GSC and the agenda was packed. It was also Ernie's first meeting since he had been invited into the fold.
After his initial meeting with Harry where they had briefly discussed what the GSC did, Ernie had been busy taking over his new duties as the Junior Undersecretary to the Ministry of Magic. It had not left him time to join the GSC fully until this week when he had finally managed to wrangle some sort of a schedule for his job at the Ministry. Ernie had briefly met the members of the GSC but it was his first time attending the regular meeting.
"Good evening, who would like to start today?" asked Daphne.
"Perhaps we should," said Draco, looking at Fleur who nodded.
"We had a meeting with Finn Fortescue this week. He has plans of opening a branch in Hogsmeade later this year," said Fleur. "He was hesitant at first because he thought we would only help if it were in Diagon or Platinum so I said we would get back to him."
"Do we own any premises in Hogsmeade?" asked Harry.
"No, but that is what we wanted to talk to you about," said Draco. "Fleur and I have looked at property prices in places outside of the Alley and we concur that it should be our next area of focus."
Ernie blinked and then cleared his throat. "I believe you are referring to Project Atlas," he said.
All eyes turned to him and Ernie realised that the spotlight had been cleverly turned onto him. Bloody Slytherins, he thought wryly but had to admire it.
"What can you tell us about it?" asked Adrian.
"The Ministry is developing magical villages across Britain," he said. "They are releasing plots of land for sale, giving grants for construction of residential and commercial premises, and will encourage businesses and citizens to relocate."
"And it's all hush-hush for now?" asked Parvati, wide-eyed.
"Not for long," said Ernie. "It isn't the kind of project that would benefit from being hush-hush. The first village on their list is Hogsmeade because it is already an existing all-magical village, but they will be offering further land for expansion. It's due to go public in three weeks."
"What do we need to get ahead of this?" asked Harry.
"Well, we could purchase the land as soon as it goes on sale but that won't necessarily help," said Draco. "Also, it might bring the Ministry's eye on us in a bad way."
"What do you mean?" asked Tracey.
"Think about it," said Daphne. "The Ministry is wanting to encourage citizens to expand their land and then one business comes along and buys all of it. It doesn't look good, nor does it help what we are trying to do here."
"What then?" asked Parvati.
"I think we should be strategic about this," said Draco. "What's the one business that will absolutely benefit from all that land for sale being available?"
"Construction," breathed Tracey, eyes going wide.
"Brilliant," said Harry.
"We will still buy some land, of course, particularly commercial land but I think our focus should be a construction business," said Fleur. "Draco and I have started drafting up a plan, if you would like us to present."
Over the next thirty minutes or so, Draco and Fleur went through a detailed plan for a construction business. The business would offer new home and commercial construction, addition and renovations. Subcontractors would be used for framing, roofing, and plumbing work, and in-house project managers and magical engineers would form the first lot of employees. Platinum Warders would collaborate to develop the warding and defenses around the properties. An office space would be cleared in Platinum Alley, and the hiring would begin as early as the following week.
"The business should be a subsidy of Larkspur Incorporated," said Daphne, which made Harry smirk.
Larkspur Incorporated had been the first company Daphne had created in his name after they had realised how notorious GSC was becoming. While the initial plan had been for the GSC to be the umbrella organisation (and which was still the case as far as the people in the room were concerned), they had to essentially treat GSC as solely a consulting business that assisted other businesses in the public's eye. Everyone was becoming curious as to who was behind GSC, so they had agreed that Harry's other business ventures would need to be under a separate parent company to cover their bases. On paper, Larkspur was no different than any other business that the GSC had helped.
Larkspur Incorporated was the parent company of the businesses that Harry owned which were not known to the wider public, including but not limited to the hotels, the Pride Farmhouse wine, Platinum Warders and the Pottery. While the latter two were an extension of the James Potter Institute, and it was understood that Harry owned or at least partly owned them, the fact that the name Larkspur was not known to anyone but the people in the room or people who had signed a contract to maintain their silence, meant that the other businesses would not be connected to Harry directly. It had been one of many precautions Daphne had insisted on taking to keep Harry's name out of things and he had agreed wholeheartedly.
Privately, he and Daphne had essentially agreed to start treating Larkspur as the Potter-Greengrass company, and Emerald Teacups was also a subsidy of Larkspur Incorporated as a result. They had also discussed Larkspur "acquiring" the Verdant firm down the line.
"Have we got any idea of who we are hiring?" asked Harry.
"Somewhat," said Fleur. "I spoke to Bill and he has put me in touch with a father-daughter pair from Egypt, Ammon and Maye Tarek. Ammon is an experienced magical engineer and Maye is a very adept project manager. They have only moved to Britain two months ago and were thinking of starting their own business and Bill initially told me about them as a potential client for the GSC. However, I think it is worth making them an offer to run this business instead. They have contacts for subcontractors in Egypt, Monaco, Turkey and Morocco that they can call upon as well."
"Invite them for a meeting next week," said Daphne. "Present them with the standard confidentiality agreement and liaise with Tristan to draft an offer."
Draco and Fleur nodded, as they made notes to that effect. "What about a name?" asked Draco.
Harry leaned back in his chair. "Cardinal Constructions," he said, and a wave of agreement chorused around the room.
There were brief discussions of the start of the Quidditch season, of the ongoing Death Eater trials, and an update on the Alpine Onyx with the positive confirmation that launch day would be the 1st of November. Todd Boot had informed them that the resort was already booked for November and over the Christmas period and he anticipated that the rest of December would be booked out before launch day. Tracey had added they would help things along with some marketing if Boot's prediction did not eventuate, though no one had any doubts about it.
The next major item on the agenda was the Hogwarts board of governors. "Professor McGonagall was granted permission to supercede the board under the Minister's wartime power to reopen for this year," said Harry. "However, in my meeting with her last week, she explained that currently only five of the twelve governors remain. The others were either removed or resigned."
"Removed?" asked Ernie.
"Some by Voldemort, some by the Aurors after the end of the war," said Harry, shortly. The room collectively shuddered when he said the name. "She is extending invitations to various alumni to nominate themselves for a position on the board. It will be voted on in two weeks by the existing board."
"Are we nominating anyone?" asked Parvati.
"Andromeda, for one," said Daphne. "Also, Newt Scamander, Owen Sayre and Bianca Macdougal. She is the wife of the second Macdougal son."
Ernie raised his eyebrows. The choices were not what he expected, but they made sense. Owen Sayre was the middle son of Elder Sayre, and had been a Head Boy and a high achiever in his day who was currently the main brewer at Sayre Potions. One of the board members who had resigned had been an elderly member of the Macdougal family, so it made sense that the family still wished to be involved. Newt Scamander was a legend, of course, and given Andromeda's involvement in the Lily Potter Home, she was an obvious choice as well.
"My father is also applying for a position on the board," Ernie felt compelled to point out.
"Not surprising," said Adrian. "That brings the count to ten. Anyone else?"
"What about your father, Adrian?" asked Tracey.
Adrian shook his head. "He is currently in Aruba with my stepmother. It is doubtful he is returning to Britain anytime soon," he said, and then paused. "Perhaps, your parents, Tracey?"
Tracey frowned. "I will ask my mother," she said. "She would most likely be interested."
"No doubt Professor McGonagall will also find some more options," said Daphne.
Harry nodded. "In the meantime, she has given permission for Veronica Bradshaw to conduct regular counselling sessions at Hogwarts for any of the children from the Lily Potter Home," he said.
"They all bloody need counselling, not just the children from the Lily Potter Home," said Parvati.
"One step at a time," said Daphne. "For the time being, we have no authority over anyone except the children from the Lily Potter Home. Once the board of governors is formed, Andromeda has agreed to raise the issue for the appointment of an onsite Mind Healer at Hogwarts."
"And new school brooms," added Harry.
There were murmurs of agreement. Daphne cleared her throat. "The last item on tonight's agenda is to do with the expansion of the James Potter Institute."
Everyone sat up with interest, even Ernie. He had only briefly heard about this and he was very curious.
Daphne pulled out a sheaf of parchment. "Tristan put together a report of his research for me, following which he and I consulted with Newt and we have now developed a list of possible courses that can be offered. Have a read of it," she said, distributing the copies to all of them.
Ernie ran his eyes over the list and his eyebrows shot up. Apart from advanced studies in most of the subjects offered at Hogwarts, the list also had courses such as Technomancy, Magical Engineering, Healing, as well as Accounting and Bookkeeping, Business and Economics, Law, Marketing and Public Relations, Media and Journalism, Politics and International Relations, and Art and Design.
"This is amazing, Daphne," said Parvati, awed.
"It's just the basics for the time being," said Daphne. "Newt and the Masters are finding instructors for the courses, who will then develop a syllabus. Newt has a meeting with the full committee of the guild to propose that we also add some vocational courses. They might be shorter in length than the other courses, but no less valuable."
"Speaking of which, I assume this will be a private institution?" asked Draco.
"It's a little bit of both," said Daphne. "Tristan did some research and upon registration, any students who apply will be subject to a means test with access to interest-free Ministry assistance. We would also offer scholarships, though those would be limited in numbers."
"So our income will come from students who can afford to pay the fees and from the Ministry for those that cannot afford it," surmised Fleur.
"Yes," said Daphne. "We are still consulting on finalising the fees but we don't expect them to be exorbitant. Enough to cover room, board, supplies, and the salaries of the instructors."
"When are we aiming to start?" asked Ernie.
"In autumn, next year," said Daphne. "We need to get it up and running and give the graduating Hogwarts students enough time to decide."
Ernie took a sip of water, sufficiently impressed. He remembered how everyone had contributed suggestions based on their area of expertise during the course of the meeting. Each member brought something unique to the table. Time would tell, of course, but he was happy with his decision to become a part of this team.
"Are we going to rename the Institute?" asked Tracey. "It is currently the James Potter Institute for Magical Research. Might get confusing."
"We will only be changing it slightly," said Daphne, with a nod at Harry. "It will become the James Potter Institute for Magical Research and Education."
22 September 1998
"I think the Autumn Equinox might be my favourite Sacred Day so far," said Harry.
Daphne laughed at him as she sipped her wine. The two of them were standing side by side in the arboretum on the East End of Potter Hall, leaning against the empty dining table. The house elves had just finished clearing the table from the feast they had hosted for Andromeda, Teddy, Draco, Bill and Fleur that evening, their guests having left about half an hour ago.
In keeping up with the traditions of the Autumn Equinox, they had dressed in their best finery and conjured ivy to wrap around each of their arms from wrists to elbows. Daphne had then burned an incense of benzoin, myrrh and sage, and they had all dined in the luxurious arboretum of the East End which was Harry's favoured dining room for hosting guests.
The Potter house elves had cooked an enormous feast of pot roast with all things harvested, fresh bread, caramel apples and homemade apple cider. Harry had been unable to take his eyes off Daphne, who was dressed in an exquisite peacock blue sleeveless Grecian gown, her hair loose down her back with honeysuckles woven into the golden tresses, and sapphire jewellery adorning her ears, wrists and neck.
After dinner, they had buried the ivy they'd been wearing in the garden at the base of the tallest Noble fir and had made an offering of wine to the tree, before returning to the arboretum to drink some wine. The evening had begun winding down after that as people went home one by one until it was just Harry and Daphne.
"Why is it your favourite?" she asked, finishing her goblet of wine and setting it down on the table behind her.
Harry followed suit and reached over to touch one of the honeysuckles woven into her hair. "Because you look so damn beautiful," he said, too drunk to hold his tongue.
Daphne, it appeared, was equally drunk because she laughed again and pulled out the flower he'd been touching and tucked it into the lapel of his robes. Harry smiled and bent his head to kiss her hand as she did that, lips gradually drifting to her wrist.
"These flowers are going to be a pain to get out of my hair," she murmured, as Harry held her wrist and continued to press kisses down the inside of her arm.
Harry hummed in agreement and raised his gaze to hers. "I could remove them for you," he said.
She smiled and retracted her arm before turning her back to him and shaking back her hair in apparent invitation. She had shed her poison pin after the last guest had left.
Harry leaned forward and began plucking the flowers from her hair, slowly creating a pile of sweet smelling flowers onto the empty dining table. When he removed the last flower, he undid the clasp of her gold and sapphire necklace and removed it as well.
"Turn around," he whispered.
Daphne turned around and Harry cupped her face and tucked her hair behind her ear before removing the dangling gold and sapphire earrings, setting them next to the necklace. The bracelets were next to go and he kissed her naked wrists before pulling her in for a kiss.
Her arms wrapped around his neck as Harry kissed her, tongue brushing hers in a playful dance.
"Stay with me, Daph," he murmured, pulling back just enough to speak. "Stay here at Potter Hall with me."
"Haven't I been doing that already?" she asked, laughing lightly.
He shook his head. "You went to Greengrass Manor to get dressed today," he said. "I know it might not be proper or whatever, but I want you here all the time. I want this to be your home, and with every day that passes, I become more and more confident about us. About you."
Daphne's cheeks flushed pink and she pulled away slightly. "You're drunk, Harry," she said.
He just held her tighter but tilted his head back so he could meet her gaze. "I am," he confirmed. "But that doesn't mean I don't mean what I say."
She chuckled and nodded. "I like it here too," she said.
"Then stay," said Harry. "Daphne," he beseeched.
She looked at him for a long moment and then sighed. "Alright," she said.
His heart thudded in his chest. "Really?" he asked.
"Really," she nodded. "It isn't proper, but I don't care. I want to be here. With you."
Harry beamed at her and the two moved as one to kiss each other again. Harry knew he was too tired and drunk to do anything that night, so he reluctantly pulled away after a few moments.
"Come on, love," he murmured, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "Let's go to bed."
Daphne grinned, and the two of them retired to their shared bed upstairs, as the first Autumn Equinox came to an end.