Chapter 1 – A New Adventure

Stupid.

This was a stupid idea.

A damn stupid idea. Stupidity at its finest.

These were the thoughts that continued revolving in her head as she continued her journey.

But she had no choice.

Briskly, Daphne strode through the crowds and the bawling noise around her. Four days had passed since the Battle of Hogwarts, and besides shared grief, the need to rebuild brought the witches and wizards of Britain together. And Hogwarts was no exception. All around Daphne, people were busy clearing up the wreckage of the battle. It felt like the entire wizarding world had gathered to help with the clean-up. It would be a long time before Hogwarts would be restored to its former glory, but it was nevertheless an exemplary sight of magical cooperation.

Voices from countless throats echoed across the castle grounds The air was filled with the smell of dust and rubble. Just at that moment, someone shouted something to Daphne, and she barely managed to lower her head as a huge block of stone flew inches above her. She only hoped that people had mastered their levitation charms sufficiently, lest the battle claimed late casualties.

Yes, there were a multitude of people gathered, many more than Daphne had ever seen in one place before. Yet she only had eyes for one of them: Harry Potter.

Stupid.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Daphne was still kicking herself for her foolishness, but she saw no other way. He was a Gryffindor and the goddamn slayer of Voldemort and saviour of the nation. No good would come from trying to manipulate him. Only hopeless honesty would help with him, no matter how much everything in her resisted it.

"Potter," she called as she reached near him.

The young man looked up from his work. Potter had just been lifting a charred wooden beam. For once he wasn't surrounded by his bodyguards or fangirls, which – hopefully – would make it easier for her. He wiped the sweat from his brow as he looked at her. It took him a few moments to recognise her, and when he did, his eyes narrowed, if only minimally.

"Greengrass."

Hopeless honesty.

Daphne took a deep breath before saying, "I need the Sword of Gryffindor from you to kill Santa Claus with."


Confused, Harry blinked at her. "Huh? What?"

Greengrass groaned in exasperation. She looked around, and Harry, too, noticed how things had quietened down around them. He felt the gazes of numerous eyes on them from everywhere.

"Where are you living at the moment?" asked Greengrass.

Harry replied nothing and instead continued to look at her. Daphne Greengrass. She was … had been in his year. Before the war. In Slytherin, though, and there she had been one of Pansy Parkinson's friends. The very girl who had tried to hand him over to Voldemort. Actions spoke louder than words, and certainly louder than appearances. Greengrass' attractive appearance – long golden hair, full lips, aristocratic features – couldn't hide the rotten character her choice of friends revealed.

The edges of his mouth hardened.

"Potter ... please, it's very important," Greengrass said. She lowered her gaze. "I beg you to at least hear me out. But not here. Not where everyone can watch us." She raised her head again, looking at him firmly. For Harry, it was the first time he had been this close to her, and the first time he had stared directly into her eyes. Blue they were, and they seemed to him deep, secret, yet clear as the shimmering sea in summer. "Please."

Harry could slap himself – and he was sure his friends, who were already approaching them, would do just that, chiding his damned saviour complex. But he simply could not resist her pleading.

"All right," he said with the hint of a nod. "Come to the Burrow tonight. We can talk then."

Greengrass returned his nod. "I— thank you," she said. And then she turned, disappearing with quick steps before Ron, Hermione and Ginny had reached him.

"What did she want?" asked Ginny. Her hand clasped his. It felt rough under his fingers; like him, she preferred to use her own hands instead of her wand for clearing the debris.

Harry wondered if they were trying to distract themselves from the same things.

Unlikely.

"I haven't the slightest idea," he said.

"You were talking," Hermione said. "What did she say?"

Harry shrugged his shoulders. "She asked me for the Sword of Gryffindor ... to kill Santa Claus with." Saying the words himself only made them seem even more insane to him. Had Greengrass perhaps gotten one of the falling rocks against her pretty head and therefore couldn't think straight anymore?

Ron and Ginny turned their heads away from the receding Greengrass to look at him with wide eyes.

"She wants WHAT?" asked Ron.

Harry laughed out. "Yeah, crazy, isn't it? All that's missing is that she wants to finish off the Easter Bunny as well."

Ron and Ginny looked at him with an expression on their faces that Harry didn't know how to interpret. It almost looked like ... bewilderment? Only around the corner of Hermione's mouth, the tiniest smile began to spread. So apparently, once again, everyone knew more than he did.

"You have to remember that Harry, like me, grew up with Muggles – and didn't pay much attention in History," Hermione said, confirming Harry's assumption.

"So you mean that..."

"Yes, Harry. Santa Claus actually exists. The Easter Bunny doesn't, for that matter, before you ask."

The wizarding world would probably never stop surprising him.

"So Santa Claus does exist," Harry muttered in disbelief. He looked at his friends. "And he brings presents to the children at Christmas?"

"Not really," Hermione said. "He –"

"– is a force of nature," Ron interrupted her. "One of the most powerful magical beings in the world. Ruler of a realm of ice and snow far in the north of Europe. Everfrost they call it. They say there are even ice dragons there. Charlie always wanted to go there, but you need special permission from the Norwegian Ministry of Magic and he never got it."

Beside him, Ginny smiled. "Dad used to tell us scary stories about him when we were kids. That under his gaze naughty children would freeze into ice sculptures. And if we didn't eat up, his minion Servant Rupert would give us coal to eat."

At her words, Ron began to laugh. "Yes! And Fred and George would always say that they would then throw a match after to –"

He faltered, and all their thoughts returned to Fred. An awkward silence spread between them for a few moments before Hermione spoke up again.

"In any case, some of these tales have also found their way into Muggle folklore," she said. "One thing is certain, however: Santa Claus is one of the legendary beings of this world and many myths surround his origin. Binns believes he is a descendant of the mighty ice giants who once ruled this continent. Other historians link him to the sorcerers of antiquity or the gods of Norse mythology. But whatever he may be, he takes no interest in the events of the world and has not interfered in its conflicts for centuries."

"Wow, Hermione," Ron said to his girlfriend, "I don't even remember us learning that in History."

"We didn't really, except for a few comments here and there," Hermione said, her cheeks turning slightly pink. "We wouldn't have studied it in depth until the seventh year. But I did some reading in the seventh-year textbooks, you know..."

"Does anyone do a NEWT in History?" asked Ginny.

Hermione just shrugged.

"Anyway," Harry finally said. "So Santa Claus exists and Greengrass wants to kill him. Why?"

"Didn't she say anything else?" said Ron.

"Only that she would explain it to me in more detail tonight. She's coming to the Burrow to do that. It seemed important to her."

"Good," Ginny said with a resolute nod. "We can keep a watchful eye on her there. Make sure she doesn't do anything stupid." As she said this, she squeezed Harry's hand firmly. Harry returned her squeeze.

"I'm not sure you might not be doing her an injustice, Ginny," Hermione said thoughtfully.

"What do you mean?"

"She was part of Slughorn's reinforcements that turned the battle for us. I heard she fought as fiercely as the others from the DA."

Harry rubbed his forehead, where his scar was fading more and more. Greengrass, one of Parkinson's friends who had wanted to hand him over to Voldemort, was supposed to have gone to battle against the Death Eaters, even if it had only been at the very end? And then there was the matter of Santa Claus. She seemed to be a bigger mystery than he had originally believed. It looked like this was going to be a truly interesting evening.


It was several hours later that Harry looked past Mr Weasley, who had opened the door of the Burrow, at their guest. Greengrass had dressed up, that much was obvious. She wore a close-fitting robe of midnight black silk, adorned with gilded fringe. Her blonde hair fell down her back and sapphire earrings glittered on her ears, reflecting the light of the setting sun, creating a play of light and shadow on her pale neck.

At that moment he noticed all the more what he had noticed before. Greengrass was attractive. Extremely attractive, in fact. He loved Ginny, but he had no problem acknowledging that Greengrass was good-looking. Unlike Ginny, of course, but after all, pumpkin pies and treacle tart were different dishes too, but still both delicious.

"Good evening, Mr Weasley," Greengrass said. "I'd like to offer my condolences for –"

"Miss Greengrass, what do you want from Harry?"

Surprised, Harry looked to Mr Weasley. Seldom had he seen the man, who was usually one of the most hospitable people around, as serious as he was at that moment.

Greengrass returned Mr Weasley's gaze, even though Harry was sure that she had begun to tremble slightly. Her voice a moment later, however, did not reveal her uncertainty. "I would like to discuss something important with him concerning my family. I need his help, I can tell you that much."

"Your family, you say..."

Greengrass straightened her shoulders. "My sister and I. We were not involved in our father's business, Mr Weasley. He has brought great shame upon our family and will have to pay for his crimes."

"He certainly will, unless gold instead of justice will again move the wheels of law."

"We don't want his gold," Greengrass said. "We will give it all back to the victims ... or ... or those who are still there..."

This time her voice failed her, and Harry decided it had been enough. She had done well enough in this lion's den. But he would have to find out more about Greengrass and her family, he had noticed that in the brief exchange between her and Mr Weasley. But one step at a time.

"Greengrass," he addressed her.

Greengrass turned to him and nodded. "Potter."

"Let's go upstairs." Harry glanced at the rest of the assembled – Ron, Ginny, George, Hermione. "I'll talk to her alone."

Ginny opened her mouth as if to protest, but Hermione whispered something in her ear and she closed her mouth again.

Harry walked up the stairs to Ron's room and Greengrass followed him. Together they entered the small room which, seemingly unaffected by the passage of time, still looked the same as it had all those years ago when Harry had first come to the Burrow, except that now there was a second small bed for him by the side; the Weasleys were serious about their home being his home too. The beds and floor were covered over and over with clothes, Quidditch magazines, and the remains of secret midnight snacks. In the corner lay Hedwig's empty cage, which Harry had not yet been able to bring himself to dispose of. But most notable was the huge, bright orange Chudley Cannons banner hanging down the wall. Not for the first time since the battle, Harry wondered at the sight of the banner if perhaps a professional Quidditch career might appeal to him, but he dismissed the thought as quickly as it had come. That was a decision for another day; a day that couldn't be far enough away for him.

"The earrings probably weren't a good idea," he told Greengrass as he locked the door behind them. "They rather emphasise the differences instead of being polite."

Instinctively, Greengrass reached for her earrings, but she said nothing more.

Before Harry could offer her a seat, she then pulled out her wand and used it to clean a corner of the minimally neater bed. She sat down on the outer edge of the bed; not a comfortable position to sit in, Harry found, but if that was what she wanted...

Harry sat down opposite her on Ron's bed and now drew his wand as well. "Muffliato," he whispered, which earned him a curious look. "I love my friends, but sometimes they worry too much about me. Now you can be sure no one can overhear us."

Understanding flickered across Greengrass' face. "I didn't know that spell. Where did you learn it?"

Harry shrugged. "From an old family friend." He straightened up and looked at his visitor. They were sitting so close that their knees were almost touching. "So, Greengrass. I can't hide the fact that your words earlier made me curious. So now would be the perfect opportunity to convince me that you haven't completely lost your mind."

Greengrass avoided his gaze, instead looking past his head at the wall. "Is it true you used the Sword of Gryffindor to kill a basilisk?" she asked. "And Longbottom used it to cut off Voldemort's snake's head?"

"You don't mind saying his name?"

"Longbottom? I may be a Slytherin, but I'm not that bad."

Harry couldn't help but smile at her words. "Voldemort."

Greengrass turned her head towards him. "It's hard to be afraid of someone when his body was lying in the middle of the Great Hall being used as a shoe mat."

"I suppose that's true," Harry said, slumping back slightly. He crossed his arms. "Why would you even want to know that? Were you serious about using the sword to kill Santa Claus?"

"So it's true? That you killed a basilisk with it and that Longbottom used it to –"

"Yes, it's true. Though I'm surprised you heard of the first."

Greengrass made a gesture that could mean anything between heaven and hell. "People talk, you know. And I listen."

"Not this time," Harry said. "You want something from me, so you have to talk. And I'm listening."

Greengrass looked at him for several seconds before finally nodding slightly. "All right. What do you know about Santa Claus, Potter?"

"Very little," Harry said, remembering Hermione's words from earlier in the day. "He's supposed to rule over a magical realm far to the north of Europe. He is said to be very old and very powerful, but has not interfered much with the course of history in the past. Some believe he is descended from the ice giants, but others link him to the sorcerers of antiquity or the gods of Norse mythology."

Greengrass nodded thoughtfully. "I see you've been listening to Binns."

"He's broached the subject here and there."

"True," Greengrass said. "It's not until the seventh year that Santa Claus and the Northern Kingdoms play a bigger part in the curriculum."

"That's what Hermione told me. Did you read ahead in the school books like she did?"

"No, I sat in Binns' class."

Harry felt his eyes widen in surprise. "You did a History NEWT? I thought no one does that."

"It wasn't crowded in the classroom, that's correct," Greengrass said with a shrug.

Harry rubbed his forehead. "Okay, we're going in circles. You still haven't answered my question about why you want to kill Santa Claus. And why you want the sword to do it."

"The second question is easy to answer," Greengrass said. "Because Santa Claus is a magical being through and through and also very powerful. So I want to make sure that I actually have a way to take him down. The sword of Godric Gryffindor himself, forged by the goblins of Gringotts in the golden age of their craftsmanship, imbued with basilisk venom, unconquered in all its battles, that seems a more than viable option for my endeavour."

"And my first question?"

Greengrass lowered her gaze before speaking softly, "I have been anticipating this question. There is a curse on my family, Potter. Long ago, one of our ancestresses entered the magical realm of Everfrost. Santa Claus, ruler of the land since time immemorial, beheld and desired her, for she was said to be of incredible beauty. But my ancestress was a proud woman and resisted his lusts. She managed to escape him and flee the land. But... you don't defy powerful men like Santa Claus without consequences. He put a curse on our bloodline. In every generation a blood curse manifests itself in a Greengrass child. We ... my family has tried everything over the centuries to break this curse, without success. My mother was already taken by the curse, and then it fell on my little sister..."

Greengrass' body had begun to tremble, and her voice dripped with hatred. "That's why I want to kill Santa Claus, Potter. To avenge wrongs done and to save my sister. I will never let her die. It's my only chance ... to kill the originator of the curse."

Harry let out a sigh. He hadn't known what to expect, but this wasn't it. His mind was whirling with thoughts.

"So I would really appreciate it," Greengrass said, "if you could give me the sword and we can end this conversation that must be very awkward for both of us."

Harry returned Greengrass's gaze. He could understand her. The same fire had burned in his heart, it had only been a few days. And yet ... this story was unbelievable. Should he really give her such a terrible tool of death without at least doing a little more research first?

"So what would your plan be?" he asked, trying to buy more time to think. "I thought you needed special permission to even enter the realm of Everfrost? Or are you going to sneak in?"

"I'll worry about that when the time comes. Are you going to give me the sword or not?"

"That doesn't sound very well thought out to me."

Greengrass jumped to her feet, her blue eyes more like a stormy sea than the secretive summer waters of earlier. "If you don't want to help me, Potter, then just say so, but don't waste my time. But then you'll have blood on your hands."

Not exactly cunning, but her words did not miss their mark. "I appreciate your love for your sister," Harry said. "I really do. But even if I wanted to help you, I can't at the moment. The sword was taken by Aurors after the battle."

"Does that mean..."

"No, no," Harry said. "I would probably get the sword again, but ... can you please give me some time to think before I decide? We've never had anything to do with each other before, Greengrass, and this was a truly outrageous story."

Several moments of silence passed before Greengrass finally nodded curtly. "I think that's ... fair."

After finishing their conversation, the two left the room. Harry accompanied Greengrass back to the front door, where they eyed each other one last time.

"Thank you for at least hearing me out," Greengrass said. "Many wouldn't have done that. But don't wait too long to make your decision. I will carry out my plan whether you support me or not. If you wish to reach me, our Floo address is Elysium." With that, Greengrass stepped over the threshold, and after a few seconds, the pop of her Disapparating could be heard.

Harry walked back into the house where the expectant faces of his friends awaited him.

"So, what did she want?" asked Hermione.

"To save her sister from a deadly curse and, incidentally, avenge a centuries-old sin."

His friends looked as stunned as he felt.

"So ... what are you going to do now?" said Ginny.

Harry shrugged his shoulders. "Write a letter, I guess..."

How busy a newly appointed Minister for Magic was, you wonder?


Not too much, apparently, or maybe he took extra time for Harry, because already the next morning he had Kingsley's answer on the breakfast table.

And so it was that Harry stumbled out of one of the many fireplaces in the atrium of the Ministry of Magic at 10:50 am. The great hall seemed brighter than the last time Harry had been here. The wood-panelled walls and the golden-blue ceiling shone with a new glow, as if even the building itself wanted to decorate itself to celebrate the victory over the Death Eaters.

Even at this hour, the atrium was still full of witches and wizards hurrying towards or away from the golden gates at the end of the hall. Every few seconds someone would come or disappear into one of the fireplaces, and each time the atrium would be lit up by a bright green flame. Harry had hoped to go unnoticed in the crowd, but unfortunately he was not so lucky.

His fame was something he had not yet learned to deal with, not in all his years in the magical world. And the last few days it had become even worse, even now as he strode through the atrium. People were pointing, staring, whispering to each other as he passed. He knew it was generally not meant as an insult. It was just the surprise one felt when someone one had only read about in the Daily Prophet suddenly appeared in the real world. Most of the muttered conversations he picked up as he walked past consisted of "Is that Harry Potter? I think that's Harry Potter."

But when two witches even tried to cut a piece of cloth out of his trousers leg, it became too much for Harry. Annoyed, he pulled his leg out of the hands of the two witches, who cried out loudly, and quickened his pace to get to Kingsley's office as quickly as possible.

He passed the black stone MAGIC IS MIGHT sculpture that had been erected by the Death Eater regime. Or rather, what was left of it. The sculpture had been so thoroughly destroyed that only a charred stump surrounded by numerous pieces of debris remained.

Good thing, Harry thought. But his joy faded abruptly when he spotted a donation box that had been placed next to the rubble. A sign in front of the box read:

Donate now for the statue of Harry Potter, our Saviour and Liberator and Hero of Magical Britain

Harry hurried on.

Through the security check he was only waved through. At least one advantage of his celebrity status.

He managed to enter one of the golden lifts and press the locking mechanism before more people could enter. He leaned against the wall, taking several deep breaths. Why did he feel like he'd been through a three-hour Quidditch match? And would this go on for the rest of his life?

Harry shook his head to clear his thoughts before pressing the button with the number one on it. Clattering, the lift began to move, but after a few seconds, it stopped again. A cool female voice said "Minister for Magic and Support Staff" and the grate slid open.

Harry stepped out into a thankfully empty corridor. The corridor seemed to be built of white marble and the floor was covered with a purple carpet. Paintings of past Ministers for Magic in golden frames hung on the walls, looking down on him with smiles. Bright sunlight shone down through artificial windows, and it seemed to Harry that a pleasant cool breeze was gliding over his heated face.

He followed the corridor, past a multitude of locked doors, until after a few minutes it finally widened into a circular room. In the middle of the room was a sort of counter, the likes of which Harry had only ever seen in Muggle banks – out of the windows of the car, for the Dursleys had always refused to take him inside. Behind the counter sat a pretty witch, who eyed him intently.

And on the opposite side of the round room, a large purple door stood open. Two men were in the process of carrying through a man-sized object covered with a blanket. Obviously, however, this would not fit through the door just like that, if the quiet curses and heated discussions of the two men that came up to Harry were any indication.

Harry stepped up to the counter. "Good morning," he said. "My name is Harry Potter and I have an appointment with the Minister at eleven."

The witch gave him a bright smile, and Harry would have been flattered if he hadn't felt that she was trying to undress him with her eyes. "Of course, Mr Potter. Please take a seat for a moment until the Minister sees you." She gestured to one of the chairs that stood against the walls. "In the meantime, can I get you anything while you wait? Tea, coffee, water, or anything else?" She leaned forward, allowing Harry a deep look at her cleavage. "You can have anything from me, Harry. Absolutely anything."

"Um, no, thanks. I don't need anything," Harry said quickly, before sitting down on the chair furthest away from the counter; and his admirer, who continued to make eyes at him from a distance.

Eventually, the two men managed to push the large object through the door.

"Told you, we have to angle it," said one.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," the other replied in an annoyed voice. "Still, they could have made it smaller. Makes you wonder if they have to compensate for something."

Laughing, the voices of the two wizards disappeared in the direction of the lifts, and shortly afterwards Kingsley stepped out of his office. Harry rose from his chair.

"Sorry to keep you waiting, Harry," Kingsley said in his deep voice before shaking Harry's hand. "The mirror was driving us all crazy."

"Mirror?" asked Harry.

"Come on, I'll show you." And with that he led Harry into his office, but not before waving his receptionist back. "No, Lindsay, we don't need anything. Thank you. No disturbances while Harry's with me. Thank you."

Lindsay, who had already jumped up, sat back down with a disappointed look on her face.

Harry followed Kingsley into his office, which like the rest of the floor was bathed in gold and purple colours. The only exceptions were a monstrous desk in the middle of the room and a man-sized, wide mirror set against the wall. The mirror was unadorned, with only a plain silver frame surrounding the glass, which gleamed as if freshly polished.

"A gift from the Norwegian Ministry of Magic," Kingsley said. "Was a real slog to get that one here, as it's very sensitive to magic."

"And you need the mirror to admire yourself?" asked Harry. "And I thought you were less arrogant than Fudge."

Kingsley laughed out. "Not quite. I already get tired of all the other pageantry, even back when all I had to do was stand guard here." He shook his head. "No, the mirror is for communication."

Harry understood suddenly. "Like the mirror Sirius had given me." At Kingsley's curious look, he continued, "Sirius and my father had two small mirrors they used to talk to each other."

Kingsley gave a thoughtful nod. "Yes, I am not surprised that the Potters or Blacks have obtained such mirrors. They've been around for centuries, but they've been unaffordable for average citizens – and institutions funded by taxpayers' money – until now. The crystal glass needed for them from Scandinavia is wickedly expensive. But the Norwegians have somehow managed to magically duplicate the crystal glass. They are now planning to sell their mirrors on a large scale. Worldwide. They have always been good businessmen. This one" – he pointed to the large mirror – "is a gift as a gesture of recognition of our victory over Voldemort and a promise of better international cooperation. Hasn't got them to lift the ban on British witches and wizards entering the country that was imposed nine months ago, though..."

Kingsley dropped into the chair behind the desk. "Oh, Harry. You have no idea how much there is to do. The Death Eaters have destroyed so much during their reign..." He straightened his shoulders. "But I'm sure you haven't come to listen to me whine – oh, before I forget!"

He drew his wand and levitated a large sack towards them from a corner of the room. Harry saw several envelopes protruding from it.

"These are all letters for you, received by us for you today, and that is" – he looked at his watch – "exactly, until 11:07. Where can we send the letters in the future?"

Harry suppressed the urge to groan as he sat down opposite Kingsley. "To an incinerator?" he said.

Kingsley laughed out loud, and his laugh was so infectious that Harry had to smile broadly too, as if he had just made the best joke of his life. "I thought as much," Kingsley said. "It shall be done as you wished." He let the sack float back into the corner, where it disappeared into a dark hole in the floor.

"So, Harry," Kingsley finally said. "What can I do for you? Your message was rather cryptic, wasn't it?"

"What do you know about the Greengrasses?" asked Harry without further ado.

Kingsley's face darkened noticeably at Harry's words. "Does your question have a specific purpose, Harry?" he asked.

"Daphne Greengrass has asked me to do something."

"If it's about her father," Kingsley said slowly, "then I can tell you right now that it's pointless. Even you can't stop him from getting his just deserts. The Malfoy thing was a one-off, Harry."

Did his voice sound slightly sour? Harry thought. And again Greengrass's father was mentioned.

"What about her father, anyway?" he said. "Mr Weasley had mentioned him too."

Kingsley leaned back in his chair, his gaze fixed on the distance. "Cyrus Greengrass is one of the most despicable men I have ever met. A man who would stop at nothing for his own gain, and has done so abundantly over the past few months."

Harry noticed Kingsley clutching the edge of the table.

"Pius Thicknesse had appointed him to look after the assets of the imprisoned and displaced, to put them to socially beneficial uses. Which in practice meant turning it into gold to fund the Death Eater regime. And in the process, Cyrus Greengrass also lined his own pockets handsomely. His informers even denounced people so that he could take their fortune. After the battle, he fled, but his face was too well known. The day before yesterday, we were finally able to capture him after receiving several anonymous tips from the public. Now he awaits his trial and just punishment."

Kingsley let go of the edge of the table and gave Harry a deep look. "So you understand, I hope, why I will not grant requests for clemency."

Harry, meanwhile, was deep in thought. Greengrass had never once mentioned her father to him, only to Mr Weasley, but only when he had virtually forced her to do so. He had brought great shame upon their family, she had said, and would have to pay for his crimes. It had almost sounded as if she no longer saw him as part of her family. Certainly not as part of the family she was willing to challenge a powerful magical being for...

Harry still felt Kingsley's eyes on him, and returned his gaze. "No, Daphne Greengrass did not seek me out for her father," he replied. "Tell me, Kingsley, what else do you know about the Greengrasses?"

Kingsley folded his arms before saying, "They are a proud family. I don't think you've been to their estate, have you?" Harry shook his head. "It's a very ... depressing sight. The whole property is covered with mausoleums. The family has long suffered from a blood curse, and every generation it afflicts one member of the family. In the past, when the cursed family members felt their end approaching, they retreated to these purpose-built tombs to await death. And over the centuries, the family shrank and shrank, but the number of mausoleums grew steadily. What does that do to a family, I ask myself. Growing up with such stories and surrounded by the pompous graves of their ancestors. Death as a constant companion, right from the cradle."

"How do you know all this?" asked Harry.

Kingsley smiled mirthlessly. "You mean, apart from the fact that I am now Minister for Magic and must know about everything important in this country?" Harry did not return his smile, and Kingsley averted his gaze. "Elara Greengrass was only a year above me at Hogwarts, and she was a wonderful and gracious woman. She deserved a better husband than Cyrus Rosier."

Silence reigned between them for several moments before Kingsley abruptly rose from his chair. "Are your questions related to that?" he said. "The curse on the Greengrass family?"

Harry rose as well. "Yes. Daphne Greengrass has sought me out to help her break the curse."

"But you're still undecided?"

"I haven't made my decision yet," Harry confirmed. "Most importantly, you don't know the details of her plan yet. Daphne will need the Sword of Gryffindor and passage to the realm of Everfrost for this."

Kingsley raised an eyebrow. "Those are indeed unique requests. Especially since, to get to Everfrost, she needs permission from the Norwegian government. And the international travel corridors are still closed." He pointed to the mirror on the wall. "Although I'm sure the Norwegians would make an exception if such a request was made by you."

"As I said, I haven't made up my mind yet."

"Of course you haven't," Kingsley said with a smile. "Just let me know if there's anything I can help you with that, for once, doesn't involve pardoning war criminals."

Okay, he was still holding the Malfoy story against him, Harry decided.

They said their goodbyes and Kingsley even escorted Harry to the lifts before pausing one last time.

"Oh yes, Harry, before I forget," he said. "You will also be receiving official letters about this soon, but in advance so you can think about it. We, by that I mean the Ministry, would love to have you and the other DA members join us for Auror training. We would even, given the special circumstances, soften the NEWT requirements for this so that you can start straight away. Merlin knows this country needs good Aurors."

"I don't know what I want to do yet, Kingsley."

"Just give it some thought. I just wanted to throw my hat in the ring quick enough before you can't save yourself from job offers very soon."


Back at the Burrow, Harry was greeted by the loud voices of his friends. Stepping into the living room, he found them in a heated discussion.

"Harry!" exclaimed Hermione when she caught sight of him. "There you are at last! Please tell Ron that we will, of course, be returning to Hogwarts for the final year."

"Oh rubbish," Ron said, shaking his head violently, now turning to him as well. "Harry, you don't want to go either, do you? We can't just go back to being students after all that. And we'd be eighteen already!"

Ginny said nothing, but her burning gaze told Harry that she too wanted to hear his position.

He, however, first raised his hands placatingly. "What's the matter anyway?" he asked. "How come you've come up with this all of a sudden?"

Hermione handed him an envelope, and Harry recognised the Hogwarts crest on it. "Ron and I got this earlier," she said, "and there was one for you too. The letters are from Professor McGonagall. She said she would be happy to welcome us to Hogwarts after the summer for our seventh year. To finish our magical education in a proper way. And I'd be Head Girl if I wanted to be. I'm sure she'd make you Head Boy, Harry. Just think what an honour that would be! In any case, she said she wanted to officially open up this opportunity for us, before we're soon to be overwhelmed with job offers."

Harry eyed the letter in his hand. "Funny, Kingsley used almost the identical words earlier."

"What do you mean?" asked Ginny. "How did your meeting with him go, by the way?"

"Okay," said Harry. "But he said that we'll be getting an official invitation from the Ministry to join the Auror training soon. All of us from the DA, that is."

Ron's eyes widened at his words. "Aurors! They're the best of the best. The elite, the absolute elite. And he wants us for that?"

"That's what he said," Harry said with a shrug. "He said he wanted to throw his hat in the ring before it was too late. And the country needs good Aurors."

"And what about the NEWTS?" asked Hermione. "You need at least five Os to be admitted to training. That's what Professor McGonagall had told you at the time."

"Kingsley said these requirements would be dropped."

"Then my mind is made up," Ron said with a grin. "I'll become an Auror and then I'll teach the bad guys a lesson."

Hermione shook her head. "Kingsley's invitation honours me, but I'm not interested in getting back into the thick of battle. I want to do some good in the world after Hogwarts instead. Therefore, I will start at the Ministry and work my way to the top."

"All of you with your earth-shattering goals," Ginny said. "I don't want anything to do with life and death battles or political intrigue ever again. No, I'm going to be a Quidditch player. That's always been my big dream."

And then all three of them looked at Harry. "What about you, Harry?" they said as if in one voice. "What do you want to do?"

Harry, meanwhile, had made a decision.

He called out to Mrs Weasley, who was pottering about in the kitchen, "Mrs. Weasley, can I use your fireplace, please?"

"Of course, my dear," Mrs Weasley called out. "Floo powder is on the mantelpiece. Make yourself at home."

And with that, Harry stepped over to the fireplace, ignoring the puzzled looks from his friends. He threw a pinch of Floo powder into the fire, spoke "Elysium" and stuck his head into the emerald flames.

It felt like his head was being flushed down the toilet. Everything around him was spinning so furiously, as if he were in a merry-go-round of green and black. For a moment Harry was afraid he would throw up, but then it was all over.

Blinking, he looked around. In front of him stretched a vast library, or so it seemed from his angle of vision. He recognised towering bookshelves with wooden spiral staircases so that one could reach the upper levels. Bright sunlight broke through imposing windows on the right. It looked like a place out of a fairy tale; Hermione would certainly love it here.

There were armchairs scattered around the room, and on one of them, in front of the fireplace, a girl with blond hair was lying with her legs bent. She had apparently not noticed him yet, for she had hidden her eyes deep in a heavy tome, the cover of which looked as antique as if Morgana herself had been reading in it. Harry estimated her to be a few years younger than himself. That – and the fact that her face looked strangely familiar, as if he had passed her in the corridors of Hogwarts before – told Harry that she must be Greengrass's younger sister; the dramatis persona of this mystery of love, ire, and fear.

"Um, hello?" said Harry loudly.

The girl looked up, glancing at him. "And who might you be?" she said. "I hope not one of those ghastly Aurors, or are you? We've already told you all we know."

Harry shook his head, or at least did the closest thing to shaking his head in his current position. "No, I'm not an Auror," he said. "My name is Harry. Harry Potter. And you're Daphne's sister?"

At his words, the girl jumped up, and Harry recognised a colourful magazine that had been hidden behind the thick tome. "Oh, Daph said you might Floo in, your flame face just looks very different, that's why I didn't recognise you. I'll go get her. Wait here."

She hurried out of Harry's sight, and a moment later he heard the slam of a door.

Harry didn't have to wait long. After only a few minutes, he heard the slamming of a door again, and shortly after, two young women entered his field of vision. One he recognised immediately – Greengrass, who gave him a curious look. Her hands were only shaking slightly, so Harry probably wouldn't have noticed if he hadn't made a point of paying attention. The other – about half a head taller than Greengrass, with short brown hair and a broad grin – Harry recognised shortly afterwards as well.

"Harry Potter," she said, "I don't think you've spoken to us once in six years at Hogwarts. And now you just stick your head out of Daph's chimney like that. Well, anyway, nice to meet you. Tracey Davis, Daphne's best friend and keeper of her most embarrassing secrets, as well as her future co-worker and scandalous lover. At your service."

Greengrass gave her friend a look that looked practised, as if it wasn't the first time she'd used it. Then she looked back at Harry. "She's just kidding," she said, "Tracey has a peculiar sense of humour." A sense of humour I don't share. She didn't say it, but she didn't need to.

"Oh, you'll eventually come out of the closet," Davis said. "And then I'll be waiting for you."

Harry chuckled in amusement before a detail in Davis's introduction caught his mind. "What was that about a future co-worker?" he asked.

"Daphne and I are going to start together in the Department of Mysteries," Davis said. "Oh, that will be so exciting! All the mysteries of magic, of love, of time that we'll uncover."

"But there's something to be done before that," Greengrass said coolly, bringing the conversation back to the reason for Harry's visit. "Have you made your decision, Potter?"

"Yes. I will help you, Greengrass."

Silence spread through the room, broken only by the crackle of flames around his head, and Harry felt as if that had not been the decision they had expected him to make.

"Thank you, Potter," Greengrass finally said, her words slow and accented as if her tongue were made of glass. "Would you like me to come and get the sword from you?"

"No," Harry said. "I don't know yet what all this is about that you've told me. So I can't just give you one of the deadliest weapons in the world. Besides, I don't think murder – and the chaos in the magical world that your scheme would surely cause – is actually the best of all ways."

"But you said –"

"I will accompany you and carry the sword myself. We will travel together to Norway and from there to the realm of Everfrost. I will do everything in my power to help you break the curse, I promise. But the sword will stay with me, and it will be my decision alone whether we use it or not. These are my conditions. Do you accept them?"

It took what felt like an eternity, but eventually Greengrass nodded. "I accept them. But then you have to start calling me Daphne."


However, five more days passed before they were finally ready.

It was exactly ten days after the Battle of Hogwarts that Harry, accompanied by Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, Apparated to the Greengrass estate. They were greeted by a truly depressing sight. As Kingsley had told him, the estate was covered all over with mausoleums, and the most frightening thing was that they all looked the same. White, marble stone ostentations of death. There had to be hundreds of them, covering almost every open space, and between them, fighting for every inch of habitat, sickly green grass.

A garden of graves.

Elysium.

What a fitting name.

"Charming sight," Ron said dryly. "Are you really sure, mate, that this is the right thing to do. I'm just saying, look around..."

His friends had spent the past few days trying to dissuade him from his resolve. But Harry had made his decision. Something told him that there was more to this story than they knew, and that perhaps not everything was as it first seemed. And he couldn't let someone innocent die when he had the power to prevent it.

The more he told himself that those were the only reasons for his decision, the more he began to believe it himself.

"Let's go. I'm sure the others are waiting for us," he said, reaching around Ginny's hand. He squeezed it and she squeezed back feebly. She had been far from pleased with his plan to go with Daphne and had made her displeasure clear, but she had finally accepted it.

You are who you are, Harry, her voice echoed in Harry's memory. Girls like me can't change that.

They meandered past the mausoleums until they finally reached the family home in the middle of the grounds. It too was magnificent – more like a small castle than a house, with twisted towers and oriels – but in a more pleasant and inviting way than the eerie grandeur of the mausoleums. And already waiting outside the house were the shapes of Kingsley, Daphne, Astoria, and Tracey.

Daphne broke away from the others to join them. Harry noticed a silver rapier hanging from her hip. It gave her something dashing that Harry hadn't noticed before.

"Harry," Daphne greeted him. To the others, she gave a curt nod.

"Daphne," Harry said. "Not unarmed, I see."

Daphne's right hand rested on the handle of the rapier. "If I can't have your sword, I'll bring my own."

Ginny's fingernails dug into Harry's hand, but he didn't let it show.

"That's a very nice sword," Hermione said, emphatically friendly.

"Thank you," Daphne said. "It's an old family heirloom. My great-grandmother served in the Greek Wizard Navy. She was given the rapier by the Emperor of Thebes himself for her bravery in the Second Battle of Leuctra."

Harry's head was spinning with so much family history. "Can you handle it?" he asked.

"I had one or two fencing lessons as a kid. I –" Daphne stopped as Kingsley stepped up to them, a sword wrapped in cloth in his hands.

"Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny. Good to see you," he said. "I hope you're all well?"

They greeted Kingsley, and for a few moments they chatted about the general state of things – Kingsley especially praising Ron's decision to become an Auror. But then Kingsley took Harry aside to talk to him alone. Daphne, meanwhile, had gone back to Astoria and Tracey, and Harry saw the three of them talking quietly.

"So, Harry, are you ready for another adventure?" asked Kingsley.

Yes.

Harry shrugged, to which Kingsley gave him a warm smile.

"In any case, here's the sword." Kingsley handed him the bundle, and Harry stowed the Sword of Gryffindor in his bag, which Hermione magically enlarged for him.

"Thank you, Kingsley. And what about –"

"That's been taken care of, too," Kingsley said. "You'll be an honoured guest of the Norwegian Ministry. They will take care of everything else, I'm assured." He looked at his watch. "Oh, we must hurry."

And with that he led Harry to a stuffed fish lying on a tree stump in front of the house, their means of transport to Yggdrasil, the Norwegian capital. Kingsley turned towards Daphne, calling out loudly, "The Portkey activates in two minutes."


"If you need help with anything, I'm sure Tracey will –"

"I already have someone," Astoria said. "Now she just has to find a way to come back to me."

Daphne didn't trust herself to speak. Worried that if she opened her mouth it would turn out into a sob. She didn't want Harry, the Minister, and all the others to see that. So instead she hugged Astoria and pulled her tight until neither of them could breathe.

"Come back," Astoria whispered one last time.

If she had wanted to say anything after that, she stopped suddenly as the Minister's voice rang out. "The Portkey activates in two minutes," Schacklebolt called from the stump.

A lump formed in Daphne's throat and the glare of the sun in the sky burned her eyes, making them water.

"Time to go," Tracey said.

Daphne let go of Astoria, squeezed her best friend's hand one last time, the last time maybe, and turned away from them both to take the Portkey with Harry.


AN:

I hope you enjoyed the first chapter. Feel free to share your opinions and guesses about what will happen next with our two adventurers in the comments!

Otherwise, all I can say is that this is an idea that has been on my mind for a very long time. I have a plan and I know where I want to go with the story, even if some details are still hidden in the fog of the unknown, but which I intend to pass through as I write. Real life is unfortunately busy, which is why I won't be setting an upload rhythm.