Everything for You
Since her earliest childhood, Daphne had grown up with stories about Harry Potter, the boy-who-lived. In her thoughts, he was a shining hero who lived in a magical castle and spent his free time riding dragons into battle and putting the fear of God into the wicked. A fairytale prince, if ever there was one.
Thus, she was all the more surprised when she finally saw him for the first time.
It was all pushing and shoving on the Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, the air a sea of voices and the anticipation of new sensations. The Hogwarts Express glittered majestically in the sunlight, and the first carriages were already packed with students. Some were leaning out of the windows talking to their parents and siblings, others were loudly fighting for seats.
And in the middle of all the crowds, there he was, Harry Potter, standing next to two red-haired twins who were helping him to lift his trunk onto the train. But he looked very different from Daphne's children's books. He was skinny. His glasses were crooked. And his clothes were far too big and faded, definitely not shimmering knight's armour. His face was not adorned with the perky smile Daphne had so often imagined in her dreams, but a faint shade of red from embarrassment. Only his lightning-shaped scar on his forehead was unmistakable.
"Daddy, why does Harry look so shabby?" Daphne asked her father, who was holding her hand.
Cyrus Greengrass gave the boy a thoughtful look before turning back to her. "I don't know," he said. "His life doesn't seem to have been as good as we all thought. Be kind to him, will you? He looks like he could use some friends."
But his words weren't necessary. Daphne's question had not been meant pejoratively. From the moment her eyes first fell on Harry – and she saw her fantasy confronted with bitter reality – Daphne resolved to be there for him.
She made it onto the train just before it began moving. Outside, her parents and little sister waved goodbye after her, tears streaming down her mother's and sister's cheeks. Daphne waved too, but her mind was already elsewhere.
Time to look for him.
She walked through the train before finally finding his compartment at the very end. She opened the compartment door just in time to catch the last words of a conversation between Harry and another red-haired boy.
"Are you really Harry Potter?" the red-haired boy asked. Harry nodded.
Daphne's heart beat faster. It was indeed him!
"H-Hello, can I sit here?"
The two boys looked up and eyed her briefly before Harry made room on the bench. "Of course. There's plenty of room here."
Daphne sat down next to him, and just couldn't take her eyes off him now that she looked at him up close. His hair was almost as black as hers, only much more tousled. It made her wonder what it would be like to run her hand through it.
"Is something wrong?" Harry's voice snapped her out of her thoughts.
Daphne shook her head, even as her heart drummed as fast as a gnome orchestra. "Just a bit overwhelmed, you know..." she said softly, still unable to take her eyes off him. It was him! She was sitting next to Harry Potter!
Harry blushed and averted his eyes from her. This was not what Daphne wanted. She had to pull herself together, for Morgana's sake! He might think she was a weirdo if she didn't.
Trying to smile, Daphne held out her hand. "My name's Daphne, by the way. Nice to meet you."
Harry shook her hand. "And my name is Harry."
Daphne was glad she was already seated, because she got all wobbly legs when Harry shook her hand.
"My name is Ron," the red-haired boy said from the other side.
Daphne gave him a friendly nod.
"Are you both from wizarding families?" asked Harry then.
"Yeah, I think so," Ron said. "I think Mum's got a second cousin who's an accountant, but we never talk about him."
"My family are all wizards and witches. Have been for centuries," Daphne confirmed.
During their conversation, the train had left London behind. Meadows with cows and sheep passed quickly by the windows.
"I heard you went to live with Muggles," Ron said, turning towards Harry. "What are they like?"
Harry shrugged. "Horrible – well, not all of them. My aunt, uncle, and cousin are, though. I –"
"What did those nasty Muggles do to you?!" asked Daphne without thinking. Her eyes slid again over Harry's skinny figure and his far too large clothes.
Her question must have made Harry uncomfortable because he avoided her gaze and shifted nervously in his seat. Daphne was already regretting her words and was about to say something else when Ron spoke up.
"Do you have something against Muggles?" he asked her. "What's your family name, anyway?"
Daphne raised her head proudly. "I'm a Greengrass. And you're a Weasley?"
"Yes. Do you mind, Greengrass?"
But before Daphne could retort anything, the compartment door suddenly opened. Three boys entered, and Daphne had to muster all her good upbringing not to groan.
Draco Malfoy, Vincent Crabbe, and Gregory Goyle.
The scourge of all the wizarding parties she had had to attend in her life. Her parents had always forced her to play with the other children. As if she could ever muster any sympathy for the offspring of the Death Eater brood that Harry had brought down.
"Is it true?" asked Draco. "They're saying all down the train that Harry Potter's in this compartment. So it's you, is it?"
"Yes," Harry replied whilst eyeing Draco's companions.
As if noticing Harry's look, Draco said, "Oh, this is Crabbe and this is Goyle. And my name is Malfoy. Draco Malfoy."
A slight cough came from Ron, which sounded like a depressed snigger. Daphne felt a hint of sympathy for him.
Draco turned to Ron. "Think my name's funny, do you? No need to ask who you are. My father told me all the Weasleys have red hair, freckles, and more children than they can afford."
Draco turned back to Harry.
"You'll soon find out some wizarding families are much better than others, Potter. You don't want to go making friends with the wrong sort. I can help you there."
He held out his hand, but Harry made no move to offer him his.
"I think I can tell who the wrong sort are for myself, thanks," he said coolly.
Draco lowered his hand. "I'd be careful if I were you, Potter," he said slowly. "Unless you're a bit politer you'll go the same way as your parents. They didn't know what was good for them either. You hang around with – Arghh!"
Before Daphne could think straight, she had jumped up from her seat and punched Draco in the nose. Her hand hurt, but the pitiful howl Draco let out in response made her heart rejoice. A warm shiver coursed through her body.
"Don't you ever dare threaten Harry again!" she cried.
Now Crabbe and Goyle also leapt forward, trying to grab her. But Harry and Ron threw themselves against them. With a loud thump, they fell to the floor.
A full-scale brawl broke out in the compartment.
Harry and Ron scuffled with the two goons, making up for their physical disadvantage with determination. Draco, meanwhile, tried to take the opportunity to pull her hair from behind, but Daphne jumped around and punched him in the nose another time, followed by a juicy kick in the butt as Draco held his nose in pain. Again Daphne felt warm all over, as if hot chocolate was flowing through her veins.
But suddenly she felt herself losing her balance. She fell to the ground. Goyle held her by the leg while holding Ron in a headlock. Beside them, Harry rammed his knee into Crabbe's stomach, only to receive a blow from Crabbe's right fist to the face a moment later, knocking him back onto the seat.
Draco threw himself at Daphne and punched her in the throat. Then he tugged at her hair. "You filthy blood traitor! How dare you attack me! When I tell my –"
Daphne was about to ram her fingers into his ugly eyes when suddenly the compartment door was yanked open and several older students rushed in. Prefect badges were plastered on their clothes. Some pulled out their wands to magically separate the scufflers.
"What on earth is going on here?" shouted a red-haired boy, another Weasley, no doubt. Just how many of them were there?
"They attacked us," Draco cried shrilly. "They're completely insane and –"
"Lies," Ron shouted. "Don't believe a word he says, Percy. They started it. Malfoy –"
"Enough!" shouted another prefect, and after a wave of her wand, Draco and Ron fell silent. Their mouths were still moving, but no more sound came out of them. "We've seen enough. You're lucky you haven't been sorted yet, or you'd be losing dozens of points already. Every one of you! But that comes at Hogwarts. I've never seen anything like this before. You should be ashamed of yourselves. You're wizards, not animals." Her eyes fell on Draco, and her lips curled disparagingly. "Professor Snape will not be pleased, young Malfoy."
"And I will speak to Professor McGonagall," the first – Percy – said again. "That'll be long detention. And just wait until I tell our mother about this, Ron. I'm really disappointed in you."
More words of condemnation and announcements of punishment followed. But Daphne didn't care when they were finally alone again. She sat down next to Harry on the bench, Ron facing them. They all had scratches and bruises – and Daphne was sure she had lost a tuft of her hair – but they also had wide grins on their faces. Ron in particular looked at her with a newfound friendliness.
"Brilliant," he murmured. "Bloody brilliant."
The three of them spent the rest of the train ride eating sweets from the trolley and speculating about their time at Hogwarts. Ron expected to get into Gryffindor, as did his entire family, even if they didn't yet know how the sorting would go. And Harry didn't seem averse to Gryffindor either, if Daphne read his expression correctly.
Until now, she hadn't given much thought to the Hogwarts Houses, but it was true. The house would have a significant influence on acquaintances and friendships for seven years, perhaps even beyond. Who knew if she would be able to remain friends with Harry if they get into different houses. The little he had told her so far about his childhood, and the clash with Malfoy and his cronies, showed her that Harry needed her.
Her parents would probably be disappointed if she didn't come to Slytherin like they had, but there were more important things in life than keeping her parents happy. But she had to be smart about it, so much depended on it. If only she already knew how they would be sorted into the houses...
"When I call your name, you will put on the hat and sit down on the stool to be sorted," Professor McGonagall spoke.
After arriving at Hogsmeade station and crossing the lake to Hogwarts in boats, they had finally been led into a great hall. The Great Hall apparently, and it was without a doubt a great sight to behold. Thousands and thousands of floating candles shone above their heads, and above them, the velvet black night sky, dotted with stars. Behind them were four long tables, at which the other students were seated and which were fully covered with gleaming gold plates and goblets.
At this point, Daphne really did feel like she was in a storybook.
They were standing in front of another long table where the teachers were sitting. And in front of the table, Professor McGonagall had placed a four-legged stool, and on it, she had placed a pointed hat, like the ones Daphne's parents wore on special occasions, only much more patched and dirty. After the hat had sung its song and Professor McGonagall had explained the sorting, Daphne heaved a relieved sigh. All they had to do was put on a hat. She would manage that.
Right at the start, Hannah Abbot and Susan Bones came to Hufflepuff, which was followed by loud cheers and clapping from the Hufflepuff table. More first years came to Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. Milicent Bulstrode – another of Daphne's childhood acquaintances – became the first new Slytherin. Hermione Granger came to Gryffindor, and then it was Daphne's turn.
"Greengrass, Daphne," Professor McGonagall called out.
With her heart thumping nervously, Daphne stepped forward and sat down on the stool. She saw Harry looking at her. If only she knew what house he would end up in later...
The hat sank over her eyes, causing Harry to disappear from her view. Blackness surrounded her. And then suddenly a squeaky voice sounded in her head.
"Oh, a Greengrass, and such a determined one too. Well then, there's only one choice and that's –"
"Not Slytherin, Mr Hat," Daphne thought. "I can't go to Slytherin."
"Unusual. Exciting. A Slytherin who doesn't want to go to Slytherin. How Slytherin of you. Salazar would have his fun, I'm sure."
"Which house are you going to put Harry Potter in?" asked Daphne.
"You're quite taken with that boy, aren't you?" said the Sorting Hat. "I just wonder if these are the signs of friendship, of budding young love, or maybe of a worrying obsession. Perhaps I had better keep you apart before – oh, those are dark thoughts, girl! And I'm afraid I must disappoint you. My makers have ensured that I am very difficult to destroy, and certainly not by the flames you have in mind. You'd have to come up with Fiendfyre."
The hat laughed in her head.
"No, I'm afraid that's far beyond your skill level. Hmm, I haven't had a case as difficult as you in a long time. Where am I going to put you?"
"Wherever Harry Potter will go."
"But I won't know that until I get to him. His parents and grandparents were all in Gryffindor, but there's no certainty that that will be the right house for him too. You yourself show that children sometimes want to go their own way. Oh, you think he wants to come to his parents' house? It is a dangerous wager you are making here, if I read your heart right. But ... perhaps you will succeed in combining the virtues of chivalry with Salazar's tenacity. I expect great things from you, Lady Daphne. And so you come to GRYFFINDOR!"
The hat shouted the last word loudly into the hall. To Daphne's left, the Gryffindor table erupted in cheers. Professor McGonagall took the hat from her head, and Daphne was relieved to look into Harry's smiling face. He was glad that she had come to Gryffindor. Then he would surely follow her to the House of Lions!
Daphne felt as if a great weight had fallen from her shoulders, as if she could finally breathe freely again while walking to the Gryffindor table. The older Gryffindors patted her on the back, warmly welcoming her into their circle. Daphne sat down with Hermione and Lavender, and together they watched the rest of the sorting ceremony.
Neville Longbottom became a Gryffindor – Daphne gave him a warm smile as he sat down opposite them – and Draco became a Slytherin. No surprise there.
And then, finally, it was Harry's turn.
Daphne was stretching her neck as he sat on the stool and Professor McGonagall put the hat on him. She was not the only one. All the students and teachers were staring at him. Some even stood up to get a better look.
Please. Please. Please.
Daphne crossed her thumbs until they hurt.
Several seconds passed and the hall had gone quiet as a mouse. Daphne feared that her pounding heart must be heard everywhere, but no one paid any attention to her.
And then suddenly the hat called out "GRYFFINDOR" and all tension left Daphne's body. Together with the other Gryffindors she jumped up and cheered as loud as she could.
The Weasley twins from earlier shouted, "We got Potter! We got Potter!"
I got Harry, Daphne thought with a pleasant shiver. I got Harry.
Harry joined them, and people greeted him enthusiastically. He sat down opposite Daphne, giving her a beaming smile, which Daphne returned with all her heart.
Today was the best day of her life!
Daphne's first days at Hogwarts flew by. Her roommates seemed sufficiently friendly that seven years of living together would probably not be an unbearable ordeal.
Above all, however, Daphne was interested in all the wonders Hogwarts had to offer, and not too few of them.
Moving knight's armour.
Ghosts that would just float right through you if you weren't careful! Daphne still shuddered at the memory.
Plus, of course, the classes, especially when they were finally allowed to use their wands. For so long, Daphne had longed to follow in her parents' footsteps, and now she could finally learn all the things she had only been able to observe in her childhood. She was particularly taken with Transfiguration. When Professor McGonagall transformed her desk into a pig and back again without any visible effort, she was incredibly impressed. Daphne couldn't wait to be such a powerful witch one day.
And besides that, she also spent time with Harry every day, not only during their detention together. After just a few days, he was the best friend she had ever had. Not that he had much competition.
Everything was wonderful in Daphne's new life, that was, until their first Potions class on Friday...
Furious, Daphne rushed out of the classroom in the dungeons. How dare that bastard treat Harry like that! Conceited, evil Garlic-face!
"Calm down, Daphne," Harry tried to reassure her. "It's okay. Not everyone here can be nice."
"Exactly," Ron said. "Snape's just an arse, like the rest of the Slytherins. And at least we didn't end up like Neville and Seamus. I don't know how those two managed to get their cauldron to explode."
At his words, an idea occurred to Daphne.
She would show Snape!
And so it came to pass that two days later, Daphne was quietly and secretly making her way through the castle. Snape would still have to be at dinner for a while, like the others, but nonetheless she had to hurry. Her friends thought she was finishing her essay for Professor Flitwick, but she had already done that last night, even though she was still feeling the lack of sleep.
It had been surprisingly easy to steal two rockets from the Weasley twins' dormitory – apparently the pranksters were not prepared to be pranked themselves. But the hard part was yet to come.
It was deserted in the dungeons, and fortunately there were no paintings hanging on the walls; nevertheless, Daphne forced herself to breathe calmly as she tiptoed through the corridors. After each corner, she expected to bump into Filch or Mrs Norris, but she continued to be lucky. Daphne reached Snape's office door, which was right next to the Potions classroom.
Her heartbeat reached a new peak as she pushed the handle down, already prepared to find it squeaking horribly. But it was even worse. The door was locked.
Cursing inwardly, Daphne pulled out her wand. Her whole endeavour would be easier if she had more than a week of magical training behind her, but she had prepared herself. Now it just had to work like her exercises.
"Alohomora," she whispered.
She breathed a sigh of relief as she heard the lock click open. With a soft squeak, the door opened, but only a crack. Holding her breath so as not to move it any further, Daphne squeezed through, and when she made it, she was greeted by a sight as hostile as their teacher himself.
The only light came from a fireplace with greenish flames, above which hung a cauldron containing a simmering potion. On the walls were shelves with slimy-looking somethings inlaid in glass flasks. And in the middle of the room was a dark desk that looked as if it had been used for torturing people in the Middle Ages.
Daphne's target was the cauldron over the fire. Once again, more adept magical skills would have made her task much easier, but until then she had to use rather rudimentary means.
She took the two rockets out of her pocket. She managed to fix them with a thread over the boiling potion. Above it, she attached a pair of scissors, with the thread going through the blades of the scissors. Then she wound another thread on the scissors and pulled it behind her back to the doorstep, where she made a small trip hazard.
Once someone stepped through the door, they would run through the thread, causing the scissors to cut the thread over the cauldron so that the rockets would fall into the potion.
Her plan was simple, but hopefully effective.
Holding her breath yet again, she squeezed back into the corridor. There she pulled the door shut again. While she was unable to magically seal the door, she simply hoped that Snape would not notice anything.
She tiptoed the entire way back. Daphne knew that dinner would probably be over soon. And sure enough, just as she left the dungeons and hurried up the stairs to the first floor, the clock struck eight o'clock in the evening.
Daphne quickened her steps further, and her heart pounded wildly in her chest, but she seemed to make it. She reached the Gryffindor tower, passed through the Fat Lady's portal, and found herself back in the safety of their common room, where only a few students were lingering.
Daphne took a deep breath and was about to sit down in one of the armchairs to wait for Harry and Ron's return when suddenly there was a loud BANG. The bang was so powerful that it seemed to shake the foundations of Hogwarts itself.
It was Professor McGonagall who told them, just before midnight, that Professor Snape had been the victim of a potions accident and that Potions classes would therefore have to be cancelled until further notice. But by then, the Hogwarts rumour mill had already uncovered the truth, or at least as much of the truth as anyone but Daphne could know; which wasn't much, but more than what little was apparently left of Snape's mind after the potion explosion.
Presumably, their revered Potions Master would never be able to wipe his own arse again without help, let alone teach.
And the Weasley twins were kicked out of school.
After that, quieter weeks followed at Hogwarts, at least until Halloween. After the encounter with the troll – an event Daphne hated to think back on – Harry became friends with Hermione alongside Ron. And so, Daphne also befriended Hermione. If Harry had befriended Lavender or Parvati instead, then Daphne would have befriended them too. It wasn't about Hermione and Ron, Parvati and Lavender, it was all about Harry. And slowly Daphne began to realise in the depths of her determined little heart that from now on it would always be about him.
At Christmas, she had to go back home, her parents insisted. They expressed no disappointment to her that she had come to Gryffindor, and they only smiled when she told them about Harry. They knew their daughter too well.
Just before returning to Hogwarts, Daphne stashed all her Harry Potter novels in the basement. She didn't want to embarrass Harry if he ever came to visit her. The books had helped her through the lonely moments of her childhood, but now she could have adventures with Harry herself instead of just reading about them. And there certainly seemed to be no shortage of them in his life.
Quirrell, the Chamber of Secrets, Sirius Black.
Through it all, Daphne was by his side. She fought with him, bled with him, feared with him. But one thing she did not do. She didn't cry with him when at moments it all just became too much for them. Because she knew she had to be strong for him. To protect him. He might be the shining hero of the wizarding world – and the most gracious and lovable person Daphne had ever met – but she was his shield and his sword. A sword in secret, never absent, yet never named.
It was she who ensured that the treacherous bastards who turned their backs on Harry in second year, fearing he was the Heir of Slytherin, did not go unpunished. Some still dare not go to the toilet alone years later.
It was she who burnt down the Whomping Willow in their third year for destroying Harry's broom.
It was she who spent hours practising spell after spell with him, whether it was to drive away the Dementors or to get through that damned tournament.
So it irritated her all the more when Harry started looking after another girl. Cho Chang was her name, an attractive, Asian-born Ravenclaw student a year above them. Harry had even asked her to the Yule Ball, and only when Chang had turned him down had it occurred to him to ask her.
But Daphne would never resign herself to being second choice.
She had dressed up for the ball like never before in her life. Her hair was pinned up in a complicated style and she wore a tight-fitting silver dress that matched her eyes well. The dress had a neckline far too low for her taste, but if that was what boys liked...
And the ball also started promisingly. During the meal and the first dance, Harry had made every effort; but now that they were standing at the punch table together with Ron and Parvati, he kept looking back at Chang, who was dancing with Diggory and obviously having much more fun than Parvati or her.
Daphne had had enough.
She grabbed Harry's arm and dragged him onto the dance floor. There she put her arms around his neck while looking deep into his eyes. For a moment Harry looked down into her cleavage before abruptly looking up again. His head turned red.
So he didn't find her entirely unattractive after all. This knowledge only strengthened her resolve.
"This can't go on, Harry," she said, "You can't keep looking at another girl when you already have a charming witch as your date."
"I'm sorry, Daph. I promise you that I –"
But Daphne didn't let him finish. She pulled Harry to her and kissed him on the mouth.
To Daphne, it seemed as if the world had come to a standstill. They were in the middle of the Great Hall, in front of hundreds of witnesses, but Daphne was no longer aware of all that. She saw, heard, and felt nothing but Harry's soft lips on hers. A comforting warmth spread inside her, and she was sure she had found the perfect memory for her Patronus for the rest of her life.
Eventually, they broke away from each other again. Harry looked at her with wide eyes, as if he had never seen her before.
"Did you like that?" asked Daphne.
Harry nodded, speechless.
"Good," Daphne said, giving him a resolute nod of her own. "I did, too, in fact. From this moment on, you belong to me, Harry, and I belong to you."
A wide grin spread across Harry's face. "You're amazing, you know that, Daph?"
Daphne gave him a bright smile, and the next moment Harry pulled her close and kissed her again, this time on his own.
Daphne's stomach did somersaults, only it felt like the most wonderful feeling on earth.
Their first kiss was followed by many more firsts that night.
From that moment on, Harry and Daphne were a couple. And so it was she who Harry had to rescue from the icy depths of the lake a few weeks later.
And it was she who held him in bed in the hospital wing, after the third task, when his nightmares just wouldn't end.
With Voldemort's return, her promise – to herself, to Harry, to God, should he exist – suddenly became bloody serious. The gloves of her life so far had to be taken off, because from now on they played the grown-up's game.
When the din of battle died down, it would be they who still stood tall, their enemies at their feet, Daphne swore firmly to herself as she put her arms around the sleeping Harry.
Everything would be fine. Whatever the cost.
She was willing to pay any price.
A little more than two months passed before Daphne's conviction was put to test for the first time.
Over the summer, the Ministry had run a smear campaign against Harry, even trying to throw him out of Hogwarts just for defending himself against Dementors. The Ministry didn't even shy away from placing one of their own at the school, an agent in enemy land.
Dolores Jane Umbridge.
The very name was a crime for which she deserved punishment.
But the moment she forced Harry to write in his own blood at the beginning of their fifth year, she had signed her death warrant. Back then with Snape, Daphne had been a naïve novice, but with Umbridge she would not be so merciful...
And so it came to pass that Daphne was once again sneaking through the school corridors. This time she had borrowed Harry's Invisibility Cloak; he was at Quidditch practice and would not need it this evening.
Thanks to the cloak, Daphne got into Umbridge's office on the third floor unobserved – and felt a strong impulse to burn everything down there. It was so ... pink. Pink wallpaper, pink doilies, and pink plates with kittens playing on them. Umbridge's office was a reflection of the person. Lies, pretence, fiction, and bullshit.
Daphne went to stand in the corner and wait.
She didn't have to wait long.
Punctual as the hour hand, Umbridge entered her office at seven o'clock sharp. With a self-satisfied sigh, she took a seat behind her desk, complacency at perfection.
Daphne felt a wave of blazing hatred as she remembered Harry's bloodied hand.
You really have to want it, Professor Moody had told them in their fourth year. Or rather Barty Crouch Jr. Well, he had been a madman, but even if he had told the truth then, that wouldn't threaten her revenge. She wanted it, oh, she wanted it so much.
Daphne raised her wand and pointed it at Umbridge.
First the pain, then the punishment.
The late summer sun shone down on the four friends – Harry, Daphne, Ron, and Hermione – as they made their way back from the greenhouses to the castle. A double lesson in Herbology was behind them, and still Daphne was busy plucking colourful pollen from Harry's hair.
"Thanks, love," Harry said when she had finished. He leaned forward to kiss her.
Daphne returned his kiss with passion, pressing herself against him. If they were alone in a broom closet, the kiss would have escalated quickly, but here in public they had to maintain decorum.
For some of those present, however, even this minimum of tenderness seemed too much.
"Urgh, guys," Ron groaned, "At least wait until you're alone before you eat your faces off."
Daphne broke away from Harry to stick her tongue out at Ron. "You're just jealous that no witch finds your ugly mug attractive enough."
"Daphne, watch your language," Hermione admonished her, and Daphne didn't miss the look she gave Ron. Maybe soon they wouldn't be the only couple in their group.
Harry laughed out – completely light-hearted for the first time in a long while – and put his arm around her shoulders. Daphne pressed herself against him as they continued their way back to the castle.
They only got as far as the entrance, however, where a large crowd had gathered, talking agitatedly to each other. That was unusual.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione exchanged confused glances, and Daphne joined in. They saw Angelina and Katie standing at the edge of the crowd and stepped up to them.
"What's wrong?" asked Ron.
The Gryffindor girls turned to them, both chalky white in the face. "You'd better not see this..." muttered Angelina.
But Harry and Ron were already squeezing through the crowd, with Daphne and Hermione following shortly behind. Daphne heard the whispers around them.
"Who would do that?"
"I didn't like her either, but this..."
"The position is cursed, that's the only explanation."
When they reached the front, Hermione gave a pointed cry. Even Harry froze. Daphne pressed herself against him and buried her face in his chest ... to hide her smile.
For dangling from the entrance portal was the unmistakable figure of Dolores Umbridge in her ridiculous pink cardigan. At that moment, however, Daphne thought it looked extremely good on her.
Aurors then flooded the castle. Everyone was questioned, but Daphne did not find it difficult to lie. If the Aurors had brought Veritaserum, she might have been worried, but even Fudge could not commit such an obvious breach of the law under such public scrutiny. In the end, the investigation concluded that it was probably suicide.
Suicide was not a good lie for Fudge, but it was still far better than the truth that people had been able to kill his Senior Undersecretary and get away with it. But even that only saved him until the next summer.
After the battle at the Ministry, no one could deny that Voldemort was back. And suddenly the whole wizarding world was in a panic. Everyone apologised to Harry. After all, they could not have known that he had been telling the truth all along. Some even praised him as the Chosen One.
A flock of stupid sheep. All of them.
Dumbledore, meanwhile, began to give Harry special lessons, but they had not yet gone beyond showing him some dusty memories. Daphne didn't yet know what exactly he intended, but she had other concerns anyway.
Harry's crush on Chang had worn off quickly after they'd gotten together. And the other witches in the castle had learned not to come between her and Harry. That was, except for one. A certain red-haired girl a year below them just wouldn't stop making eyes at Harry, thereby invoking her own doom...
With the wind tugging at Daphne's cloak, and the cold beginning to cut into her guts, Daphne waited for her victim on the stairs to the Owlery. Every Sunday she sent a letter to her parents at exactly this time. Predictability was her weakness, a weakness Daphne intended to exploit.
And indeed, almost to the second, she heard the patter of feet coming up the stairs. The next moment a red-haired head appeared around the corner, followed by the rest of her body. Ginny Weasley froze as she recognised her.
Their voices were as frosty as the weather around them.
"I need to get up here," Ginny said as she tried to push past Daphne.
But Daphne stood in her way. "Now, now, Ginny. Why the rush? When we finally have the time to talk."
"I have nothing to discuss with you, Greengrass," Ginny hissed.
"What an ugly expression you're making, Ginny. If only Harry could see that, the way you're treating his girlfriend. All your embarrassing attempts to get his attention would be in vain from one moment to the next. Because Harry loves me, dear. Only me."
Ginny stopped her attempt to get past her. Her eyes widened as she saw Daphne reach for her wand. Ginny tried to reach for her own, but Daphne was faster. Much faster.
Her spell hit Ginny, and rolling over, she fell down the stairs. At the bottom, she lay motionless. Daphne descended slowly. Ginny was the first person she'd harmed who didn't deserve it, but it was necessary.
Arriving at the foot of the stairs, she knelt beside Ginny. The young witch was bleeding from a wound on her head. Her eyelids were fluttering.
Gently, Daphne placed Ginny's head on the bottom step. Ginny looked at her in horror.
Daphne gently stroked her shoulders.
"You haven't done anything wrong. We just both love the same boy."
Ginny tried to straighten up.
Daphne pushed her back. Ginny's neck rested on the edge of the step. Daphne pushed harder ... Ginny gasped, wanting to scream. Then a short, dry crack sounded. Ginny's gaze went blank.
"I'm sorry, Ginny. But you would have tried to take Harry away from me. You couldn't help it, because you were like me. Only weaker. You could never have protected him like I did."
Daphne listened for the soft cooing and flapping of wings up in the Owlery.
Time to clean up the evidence.
It turned out that owls really did love bacon in any form, even if it had been a very lively student just a few minutes before.
Ginny's disappearance caused great distress at Hogwarts. The entire castle was searched for her, but she was nowhere to be found. The Weasley family, and Harry too, were worried sick.
Eventually, however, after several weeks, the search was called off.
"Ginny's not coming back, is she?"
When Ron uttered these words one evening in the common room, no eyes were left dry. Daphne, too, shed tears. What a cruel world they lived in that made such acts necessary.
From then on, everything only got worse and worse.
Dumbledore died at the end of their sixth year, killed by Bellatrix Lestrange in an ambush right inside Hogwarts. The Ministry tried desperately to give the impression that they had the upper hand, but it was becoming increasingly clear that they were about to lose the war.
Daphne's parents fled to Greece with Astoria, and they also urged Daphne to come with them. But she had chosen her allegiance long ago. At least fleeing abroad would protect her family from the Death Eaters, if they were smart about it. One distraction less.
She herself went underground with Harry, Ron, and Hermione when the Death Eaters took over.
Months of darkness followed. Months of hardship and an overwhelming-seeming hopelessness of their mission.
They struggled. They fought. Tooth and nail, with everything they had. They were thrown to the ground, only to get back up and continue the fight, even more determined than before. And all their efforts finally brought them to this one moment in the Great Hall of Hogwarts.
Tom Riddle lay dead at Harry's feet. His own killing curse had fallen back on him.
Silence reigned for a shivering second before the tumult broke out. The screams and cheers and roars of the watchers rent the air. The fierce new sun dazzled the windows as they thundered towards him, and the first to reach him was Daphne.
She threw her arms around Harry, hugging him tightly. Tears were streaming down her face, she just couldn't stop crying. Harry hugged her back.
"It's okay, Daph," he whispered in her ear while all around people were shouting at him. More hands grabbed him, pulling at him, trying to hold some part of him, but his arms remained wrapped solely around Daphne. "It's okay, it's okay. I'm all right. I'm alive."
But before that, he had died! Her Harry had been dead and it was due to pure luck that she had not lost him forever.
Daphne let out a sob. Harry stroked her back soothingly, but Daphne could not calm herself. She had to do something. She had to make sure that this would never happen again!
That very evening, Daphne's feet carried her up to the seventh floor. Three times she walked up and down the stone wall opposite the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy, thinking hard.
I need to learn more about Horcruxes. Everything there is.
It was two weeks later that Harry and Daphne found themselves in unbridled lovemaking, just as they had every day since the battle. It was as if the awareness of their own mortality had raised their passion to a whole new level. But Daphne could not give in to her lust without limits. She had to retain a spark of rationality.
Her fingers clawed at Harry's bare back, covered in sweat, as he thrust inside her.
"Ha-Harry!" she moaned, "do you belong to me?"
"Yes, Daph! Yes!"
"Body and heart?" She moaned. "W-with your soul?"
"Yes, yes, yes!"
"Say it, Harry, please say it!"
Harry increased his pace. "I belong to you! With my body, heart and AHHH" – he came inside her – "with my soul..."
Daphne was panting hard as she ran her fingers through Harry's soft hair. A warm feeling spread inside her that wasn't just the aftermath of sex. Sometimes it was an advantage that Harry had grown up with Muggles and was only slowly beginning to understand the importance – and immense dangers – of soul magic in its fullness.
After that, it was just a matter of finding an undisturbed place, and the right sacrifices.
The first was easy. Once in October, they had camped in a secluded cave that would be the perfect place for the ritual. No one would disturb them there.
The question of the sacrifices, on the other hand, was trickier. According to the book in the Room of Requirement, the sacrifices – two for two souls – had to be people they cared about, to support the magic of tearing their own souls apart. This would probably lead to remorse, but on the other hand it also held certain advantages. It would be easier to get to them than to some strangers, especially since he had returned to Britain. And the suspicion for their disappearance would never fall on her...
Both prisoners squirmed in vain in their bonds, naked fear in their eyes.
Daphne decided not to let them suffer any longer. Slowly she stepped out of the darkness of the cave into the circle of candles. The men reared up. Stifled sounds came through their gags. She could imagine all too well what they were trying to tell her at that moment.
Daphne stepped to the left of the bound men, running her hand over his cheek. "I'm sorry, Daddy," she said gently. "But you said yourself that I should be kind to Harry."
She looked to the other bound figure, pure panic raging in his eyes. "And you, Ron, are Harry's friend yourself. Surely you'll understand."
Again the two reared up, but Daphne ignored them. Standing in the middle of the candle circle, she placed her left hand on her heart. She snapped her fingers. Instantly, bright flames burst from the candles. A heavy, rancid smell spread through the cave.
And then Daphne began to chant softly, in ancient words devised by dark sorcerers long ago. The shadows that lurked in the corners danced in rhythm with her song against nature. The floor seemed to vibrate slightly.
At the same time, a strange change was happening to her father and Ron. Their skin shrank and wrinkled. Their eyes widened.
Daphne continued to sing. Her voice had taken on a raspy, rough sound. She felt the magic coursing through her veins. She exhaled, and with her breath, two threads of sticky golden light rose from her mouth. Writhing like worms, the threads danced to Daphne's song.
Cyrus Greengrass had grown smaller. His skin now stretched tightly over his skull like an old man's. All his bones were clearly visible. He looked as if all the flesh had been melted out of his body. His eyes were milky white. He was blind and no longer had to watch the euphoric expression on his daughter's face.
With her wand, Daphne directed the golden threads to her father and Ron, still singing, faster and faster, in tune with her pounding heart, until it seemed to her that it would explode at any moment. Her eyes went black, but still she continued to sing, driven by a fiery desire.
She heard screams. Screams so horrible that not even the gags could suppress them. And then, suddenly, a tearing sound, followed by the toppling of two bodies.
Daphne paused, panting hard. It was now completely silent in the cave. She felt a comforting warmth to her right and left, and a smile captured her lips.
Now she and Harry would be together forever.
Forever and ever.
Soft sounds woke Harry from his sleep, and a dream in which he had just been about to close his hand around the Golden Snitch. But it didn't bother him.
Hearing Daphne open the door to their small flat brought him calm. Her errands had taken longer than he'd thought; he suspected she wanted to get him something really elaborate for his birthday this year. Not that he would ever want more than he already had.
Hearing Daphne step into the bedroom, placing her earrings on the bedside table as gently as if they were the most precious thing in the world, brought him bliss – and an almost tingling anticipation of what was to come. For soon he would give her an even more graceful piece of jewellery. He was only waiting for the right moment. Maybe it would be tomorrow, maybe the day after, but in any case not much longer.
Hearing, and feeling, Daphne lie down in bed with him brought him peace. Hearing her heartbeat brought him peace. Because it told him that she was alive and well. And as long as she was alive and well ... as long as she was alive and well, he knew he was not alone anymore.
Daphne stroked his side and he stroked her back. It was their little ritual. Words were not necessary. After only a few seconds, Daphne had fallen asleep. Her soft snores filled the room and brought a smile to Harry's face. Like her heartbeat, the sounds of her sleep reminded him that life was worth living. It reminded him of warmth and security and everything he had searched for and yearned for as a child.
Harry straightened and gazed into the sleeping face of his girlfriend of so many years. "Thank you, Daphne," he whispered. "Because I know wherever my path takes me, whatever challenges I face, you will be by my side." Putting his arms around her, he gently kissed her on her dark crown. "I love you, Daphne."