Chapter Thirty-One – Forms of Love

A normal life, as a small part of the big picture. Isn't that enough for you?

"No, it's not."

You want more?

"Yes."

How much more?

"Until there's nothing left."

And what role does Harry play in these plans?

"He'll be with me, as I'll be with him. Together we will take what is ours, we will have our revenge, but above all we will have each other. And in the end, with our enemies at our feet and the scorched earth of our won battles around us, we will be happy together."

Daphne gave her reflection a challenging look, daring it to ask another question if it wanted to... but no further question followed. Her reflection remained silent. Everything had been said, her destiny was clear.

And so she rose from her dressing table. As every morning, she was the first one up, and so she was dressed and made up when the voices of her roommates could still be heard from the adjoining bathroom, giggling happily and loudly about whatever it was that had brought them so much joy on yet another morning in the Slytherin snake pit.

Daphne could stand all this falseness and ignorance less and less every day; in fact, it disgusted her. So she hurried out of the dormitory. She hurried down the stairs and then through the common room, passing by the daily unchanged narrow-minded and disgusting faces of her fellow Slytherins, who thought they were the rising elite of the country. The very thought was ridiculous!

She ignored the stares behind her, and her peers quickly turned away from her as well. It was almost another well-rehearsed morning ritual. She no longer surprised anyone with her behaviour. And on Halloween she had also once again made her message clear: anyone who messed with her would regret it bitterly.

Sometimes Daphne almost wished the others would mess with her.

Daphne's feet led her through the corridors of the dungeons, which were freezing cold in winter, and up several flights of stairs. Finally she reached the Entrance Hall. There she slowed her pace for a sight not uncommon these days – Harry being besieged by a girl.

It was a pretty girl again, much prettier than the girl from two days ago with the tousled hair and the thick nose, but she had made up for it with an almost amusing confidence. Today's girl seemed confident too, the way she smiled at Harry, plus she had cute freckles on her slim nose and – perhaps most importantly – large breasts that bounced with her every move. Yes, the girl, a fifth or sixth year Hufflepuff, was certainly popular with the boys of the school... Unfortunately, her Harry wasn't like the other boys.

His demeanour was perfectly composed as the girl spoke to him, and through their bond, Daphne could even sense a slight irritation emanating from him. Finally, he raised his right hand, a black ring glittering on it.

"Okay, okay, I get it," Harry said. "You want me to take you to the ball."

The girl nodded, her large breasts bouncing again. "We could have a lot of fun together, I promise. If you know what I mean." She gave him a suggestive look and Daphne felt a hot flash of anger inside her. "We –"

"I'll make this quick," Harry interrupted, "I'm definitely not going with you. Now get out of here before my girlfriend sees you."

Too late, my love, Daphne thought. She drew her wand and approached slowly.

The older girl beamed at Harry. "Are you worried about me?"

"Not really. I just don't want her to be punished because of people like you."

"Why would she –"

"That's why," Daphne said loudly, revealing herself. Her wand whizzed through the air. She saw Harry sigh as her spell hit its target.

A flash of purple lightning flashed through the older girl. Her eyes widened in surprise. A strangled sound escaped her lips – and suddenly she opened her mouth as if choking. She gasped for air, and with each breath her body seemed to swell. It started with her large breasts, followed by her ears, her nose, her head and then the rest of her body. She inflated like a Muggle hot air balloon.

And like a balloon she rose into the air, her feet losing contact with the ground. She kicked desperately with her legs, but there was nothing she could do to stop her involuntary ascent. Fear was written all over her pretty, freckled face.

Daphne felt a faint stream of life power leap from her victim to her as she watched the effect of her spell with satisfaction. Harry only shook his head, but she could see the amused smile on his lips.

It had grown quiet in the Entrance Hall as the others watched what was happening. But then some began to whisper, others followed, and eventually the whole hall resembled a busy beehive, buzzing and humming. Some people even giggled in amusement as they glanced at Daphne and Harry.

Daphne was about to turn to Harry when quick footsteps approached. It was Professor Sprout, out of breath as she realised the situation.

"You!" Professor Sprout gasped, pointing at Daphne. "Greengrass, what on earth—detention for you next week, and … yes, fifty points from Slytherin!" She looked up at the ceiling, where a large shadow fell on them. "And now someone get poor Matilda down from there!"

...

When Daphne and Harry entered the Great Hall hand in hand a short time later and approached the Gryffindor table, they were greeted by a very unusual sight. Hermione and Ron were sitting next to each other as usual, but their heads were as red as ripe tomatoes. A few seats to the right, Fred and George and Ginny were all laughing.

"What's going on?" asked Harry, turning to Neville who was sitting next to his girlfriend Susan. He and Daphne sat opposite them.

"Ron just asked Hermione to the ball," Neville said. "Out of the blue. Hermione almost spat her cereal all over the table, but then she said yes. And they've been like that ever since. And those over there" – Neville pointed at the other Weasleys – "haven't been able to get their heads round it since."

"Cute," Daphne commented laconically. She wasn't entirely serious either. To be honest, she couldn't care less about the love lives of Harry's other friends.

"Sure," Susan agreed. "If you're into that sort of thing."

"About time," Harry said. He reached for the pitcher of pumpkin juice and poured himself and Daphne a drink. He also toasted Ron, whose head turned even redder. The laughter to their right grew even louder.

Then they started to eat breakfast. And they were in the middle of it when hundreds of owls flew into the Great Hall. They circled the tables until they recognised their targets and then dropped their cargo – letters, parcels and newspapers – into the laps of the students.

Daphne deftly picked up a newspaper, as she didn't receive any other mail. It was the morning edition of the Daily Prophet. Even though she couldn't stand that rubbish paper, it was the only way to find out what was going on outside Hogwarts in this magical land.

She skimmed the front page – a boring report about a new tax on racing brooms that had been passed by the Wizengamot – and slowly flipped through the rest of the pages when an article caught her eye. It was an article in the Crime section.

Deputy Head of Department Arrested

Craster Davis, Deputy Head of the Department of Magical Transportation at the Ministry of Magic, was reportedly arrested by Aurors at his home in Lancashire last night. There was no official confirmation at the time of going to press, nor were the exact charges against Davis known. At the time of publication there was only speculation about possible abuse by Davis towards his family, but the veracity of this speculation cannot be verified at this time. The spokesperson for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement also declined to comment.

Davis, a respected figure within the Ministry of Magic, has held the position for more than a decade, and in that capacity has been responsible for key functions of the country's magical transport infrastructure, such as the Floo Network and the government-subsidised Knight Bus. For almost two decades he has been married to his wife Stephanie Davis, a Muggle healer who has not yet responded to our request for comment. The Davis's have a fourteen-year-old daughter who is currently at Hogwarts.

We will keep you updated and let you know as soon as we have more information on this case and the exact allegations against Craster Davis.

Harry, who had been reading over her shoulder, frowned. "Davis... is that..."

Daphne nodded. Her eyes swept across the hall to the table of her nominal house. Her roommate Tracey was sitting in her usual place, but her eyes were fixed on the Daily Prophet in her hand. Her knuckles were white, so tightly was she clutching the paper. Her body was shaking slightly, but it was obvious to Daphne.

She thought back to Halloween when Tracey had accidentally triggered the runes of pain on her bed. Mostly she thought of the hopeful look Tracey had given her when she'd recovered from the torture.

"And... that's how you protect your bed? No one ... no one can get near you when you're ... sleeping in your bed?"

Daphne felt the bile rise in her mouth just thinking about it. Everything in her tensed at the memory. Back then, she'd advised Tracey that if she wasn't going to defend herself, she should at least go to the Aurors or someone else at the Ministry. Apparently, she had taken her advice...

The other students at the Slytherin table were now giving Tracey curious looks, as was the rest of the Great Hall. Daphne almost felt sorry for her... until her gaze was drawn elsewhere. There was something else going on at the Slytherin table. The Slytherins of her year were standing in the middle of the table, and not one of them was looking at Tracey. Instead, they were crowded around another, younger girl – Astoria.

Daphne narrowed her eyes. Her sister was sitting bolt upright, but her face was pale. Draco was standing directly in front of her, waving his hands as he spoke to her. From this distance, Daphne couldn't make out his words. Astoria's face paled even more, but eventually she nodded. The Slytherin boys began to laugh and Pansy and Millicent patted her on the back as if to congratulate her.

Across the hall, Daphne's stomach tightened. Many years had passed since she had played with her sister when they were both younger, but she still recognised the signs. The way Astoria's nostrils began to quiver, the way her shoulders trembled and her lips twitched... she was about to burst into tears.

Then, suddenly, Astoria stood up and left the hall with quick steps, so fast that it resembled a race. Her face was hidden behind her auburn hair, but Daphne was sure that her sister had lost the battle against her tears.

In an instant, Daphne also rose from her seat. And at the same moment, she felt a hand on hers.

"Daph... what's wrong?" Harry asked worriedly.

"I'm not sure, but let's find out."

She grabbed his hand and pulled him behind her, following closely in the direction her little sister was hurrying off in.


"Daph, what's going on?" Harry called as Daphne pulled him along. She was running so fast, her heels clicking on the stone floor like the hooves of a galloping horse, that he almost had to run as well. They hurried through the Entrance Hall and from there up the grand staircase. Several approaching students had to dodge them to avoid being knocked over.

"That's what I'm trying to find out," Daphne said, looking ahead. And now Harry noticed something ... a familiar head of auburn hair on a slender body turning the corner in front of them.

It wasn't that he'd been paying attention to her all the time, but she was his girlfriend's little sister, and they ate in the same hall, so the sight of her was anything but unfamiliar to Harry. But what on earth had made Astoria Greengrass rush through the corridors so quickly? He glanced at Daphne and saw that she was pondering the same question. Her forehead was furrowed and her golden eyes were hard and determined.

Finally they reached the first floor, turned another corner and stood at the door of a bathroom, a girls' bathroom. This must be where Astoria had disappeared to.

"Wait here," Daphne said and entered the bathroom without looking back.

Harry was left a little breathless. Why the hell had he come along if he had to wait outside anyway?

Then again, he didn't really feel like going to a girls' bathroom. The last time he'd done that, he'd almost died if Daphne hadn't given him her blood, filled with the life power of the basilisk. Ah yes, the good old days.

He leaned back against the wall next to the open bathroom door and listened, ready to step in if his help was needed.

"Do you need a tissue?" Daphne's voice rang out. "Or maybe two or a thousand?"

"D-Daphne?" That was Astoria's voice, higher than Daphne's, and clearly trembling with a fit of tears.

"What's wrong, sister?"

"Nothing... nothing's wrong, what..."

Daphne clicked her tongue. "The lie would be more convincing if you weren't crying like a waterfall."

"You certainly know your way about lying." Astoria's voice was still trembling, but there was also a sudden edge to her tone.

"You're right about that. And I repeat: what's wrong?"

"What do you care? You've only ever cared about yourself!"

There was silence for a few moments, broken only by the loud sniffling of a crying girl. Then Daphne said, "The world isn't as black and white as you think. Now tell me what's wrong. You're obviously not crying for fun."

Silence again. Another loud sniffle. Then the clicking of heels and –

"Don't touch me!" cried Astoria. "Don't you dare touch me!"

"Okay, okay, calm down." Harry imagined Daphne raising her hands in reassurance. "Something is bothering you and I just want to know what it is."

"Why?"

"Because you're my sister."

There was silence again, and this time it lasted several moments. Finally, it was Daphne's voice that spoke again.

"It's to do with what Draco told you, isn't it? Just in the Great Hall."

No reply, just another loud snort. From the distance, the voices of other students drifted towards them and away again. No one approached the bathroom.

"If he threatens you or tries to make you do something you don't want to –"

"It's not like that," Astoria said. Her voice was so low that Harry could barely make it out. "At least not directly..."

"And indirectly?"

This time the silence lasted several more seconds before a sigh was heard. "It's... Draco, he... he wants me to go to the ball with one of his friends. Because he hasn't found anyone else..."

"And who is this friend?" Daphne asked sharply.

"It's... it's... Gregory... Goyle." Astoria had barely breathed out the last words. Another sniffle followed.

But most of all, there was a burning sting in Harry's heart, a feeling that was not his own, at least not immediately. And that was only the beginning. Cold and hot shivers ran down his spine, one after the other and at the same time. He closed his eyes and breathed very slowly to calm his pounding heart. These were unusually violent reactions from Daphne.

"I'll kill him," his girlfriend hissed, "I'll skin him alive and –"

"Daph, no!"

"Don't stop me! That miserable wretch doesn't deserve to be on this earth one second longer! How dare he offer you up to his cronies like a cheap whore who –"

Smack!

Harry jumped as if the slap had hit him. Only the knowledge that Daphne would never forgive him if he interfered now stopped him from running into the bathroom and confronting Astoria. Hadn't she seen that Daphne was only trying to help her?

"Don't you ever call me a whore again," Astoria hissed. Her voice was firm now, all the trembling gone.

"I didn't –"

"Oh yes, I know. Compared to the great Daphne Greengrass, we ordinary witches are just pathetic. How dare we not fall asleep every night with fantasies of world domination, or spend our free time tearing the wings off little butterflies to use in some sinister ritual, but simply do our duty – no, don't you dare interrupt me! What's the big deal that I had to cry here? Am I excited about going to the ball with Goyle? Of course not! But if it's my duty, I'll do it, as befits a girl of my station and the heiress of my family."

"It is not your duty!" shouted Daphne, and Harry could hear her frustration more than clearly. And feel it. It was like an icy fist wrapped around his insides and slowly squeezing. "None of this is your duty! That's just what our parents told you. With their talk of dishonour and shame and all the manipulation they used to make you –"

"That's not true! You're the one who ran away from your duty and let us down. So don't act so worried. And besides, I'm not the only one who knows how to behave. And that sometimes that includes doing something you're not looking forward to."

"What do you mean?"

"Tracey also has to go with someone she doesn't like, and that's Crabbe. Do you think she's looking forward to that? Of course she's not! But she knows how it is. She has to go with Crabbe, just like I have to go with Goyle. We're at the bottom of the pecking order. Tracey even more so, because at least I'm a Pureblood. Do you think she likes it? Of course she doesn't! But she takes it with grace and patience, as do I, because we both know what we have to do to get by..."

Silence. A second, two seconds, three seconds. Then a small voice, this time Daphne's. "Does that mean you would rather have her as a sister than me?"

"Yes. Yes, I would."

Again Harry felt a sting in his heart, less searing than before, but no less painful. He shook his head. Astoria had no idea. She was blind, completely blind.

He knew Daphne wasn't a perfect sister, far from it, she was far too selfish and self-centred for that, but in this miserable world they lived in, she was a strong rock in the storm, a warming fire in the darkness if you were careful not to burn yourself. She wouldn't hesitate for a moment to spill blood for those she loved, and although Harry knew he had most of her heart, he also knew that Astoria had a part of it too, perhaps even more than Daphne cared to admit. Maybe Astoria wasn't the only blind Greengrass sister.

He sighed. No, Daphne certainly wasn't a perfect sister, or a perfect person, or even a good person, but then neither was he. But maybe things would have been different if he'd had an older sister like Daphne.

The thought filled him with melancholy, with a strange longing for something he had never thought possible, with the feeling of losing something he had never had. Yes, Astoria really was a fool, and not just because she hadn't cursed Draco into the afterlife a long time ago...

"What a shame then that she isn't," Daphne said. Her voice was as sharp as ever, like silver blades in the night. "I can't fight your battles for you, Astoria, but I won't stand idly by if I can do anything about it. Because it makes no difference to me whether it's butterflies or disgusting bastards." Her heels clicked on the floor as she walked to the door.

"What are you doing?" called Astoria.

"Let me worry about that. But you won't have to go to the ball with that scum, I promise."

Harry could only guess whether it was the icy finality in Daphne's voice or whether Astoria simply saw no point in arguing any further, but Astoria remained silent. And she did not follow her sister either. And so it was only Daphne who emerged from the bathroom a moment later.

Her back arched and her shoulders stiff, she walked past him. Her hands were clenched into fists. Harry pushed himself away from the wall and moved next to her as they walked down the corridor together.

"I need the map and your cloak," Daphne said without looking at him.

"For what?"

"Hunting."

Harry looked at her. Daphne's gaze was hard, and her eyes were more like those of a predator than even when they had both hunted mice in the forest in their crow forms.

"You don't have to do this alone," he said.

"It's a family matter, Harry..."

"And you're my family. Let's do it together."

Now Daphne stopped. For a moment she just looked at him, but then she smiled. She nodded. "Okay, together."


Hermione was standing in front of the bathroom sink, warm water running gently over her hands, when Ginny walked in with a huge grin on her face. The youngest Weasley's amusement was obvious, and her next words underlined it.

"So, what was it like being asked to the ball by Ron?" asked Ginny with a twinkle in her eye. It was a twinkle Hermione knew all too well after spending so much time in the Burrow over the summer.

Hermione watched the mirror as her cheeks slowly reddened, trying to ignore the rising heat. "It was... surprising," she muttered, looking away from the mirror.

Ginny laughed softly. "Surprising? That sounds like you didn't see it coming. Like you hadn't been pining for each other for weeks."

"I guess I was just surprised that he chose this moment to ask me..."

"Oh, believe me, he was surprised too." Ginny leaned against the wall beside her, arms crossed. "He looked like he was about to sink into the ground."

"Really?" asked Hermione. "I... I didn't see it." She had quickly lowered her head herself at that moment, afraid of sinking into the ground herself.

"Absolutely. But you should have seen his smile when you said yes. I don't think I've ever seen my brother so happy."

That was a nice thought, Hermione thought. She felt a sudden warmth, a comforting warmth deep inside her.

"So you're really over Harry now?"

The question hit Hermione like a blow. For a moment the warmth inside her disappeared. She could feel her thoughts getting tangled up as she pondered Ginny's question.

Harry, her crush of more than two years. The boy who had saved her from the troll. The powerful wizard he promised to become…

But there was also Ron, with his warm smile and his loyal heart. Whenever she hadn't been feeling well, after Halloween last year or after the World Cup this summer, he had been there for her. He was always there when she needed him. When she needed anyone. And he'd also been there to fight the troll in first year, even though it had somehow been his fault that she'd ended up in that situation in the first place. But he had made up for his behaviour many times over since then...

The two of them, Harry and Ron, were ... different, you could say that without exaggeration. Harry had this ... intense fascination that literally drew you in, but sometimes ... sometimes it was almost too much. Like a blazing hot flame that could burn you. And he had made it abundantly clear that he was even keeping a large part of that flame from them, sharing it with only one other person in the world. She didn't even want to imagine what kind of blazing inferno might actually be burning inside him...

Ron, on the other hand, was different. There was a flame burning in him too, but it was a different flame. It was a flame you could warm yourself with instead of being afraid of burning yourself. It was... pleasant.

Hermione sighed, then nodded. "Yes. Yes, I think I'm over Harry now."

Ginny gave her a smile as she said this. It wasn't an amused smile like the one before, but one of understanding, or so Hermione thought.

"That's good," Ginny said, heading for the door. "I'll leave you to it th–"

"And are you also over Harry now?"

Ginny stopped in the doorway. She turned to face Hermione, a smile still on her lips, even if it seemed a little forced now. "I think so," she replied with a shrug. "I'm not that desperate to spend all my time dreaming about a boy who's been taken and shows no sign of ever wanting to change that. Besides, there are a few too many mishaps happening with the girls who have their eye on him at the moment. Greengrass really is a beast with a wand."

Hermione nodded in relief. It was good that Ginny could finally give up her childish dream of her fairytale prince. Before she burned her hands.

"And are you going to the ball with anyone?" Hermione asked as they walked out of the bathroom together.

Ginny shrugged again. "No one's asked me yet, but I don't really have to go. I'd rather not go at all than go with a guy I can't stand. Vanessa, for example, actually accepted Cormac McLaggen's invitation just so she could go." Ginny shuddered feignedly. "I'd rather go with Filch."

"Or Crabbe and Goyle?" asked Hermione.

"Oh, now you're getting mean, Hermione! I feel sorry for the poor souls who have to go with those two brutes."

This time they both started giggling loudly as they walked to their respective first lessons of the day.


Over the next few days, Harry and Daphne kept a close eye on the Marauder's Map. Unfortunately, it seemed, their target was never alone. He was always with Draco and the other Slytherins in their year. The fly was never far from the shit, it seemed.

But neither of them let up, and after a while they noticed a pattern. Every other day, their target would leave the others to do something, or more precisely, to send a letter, probably to please his dear mummy or something. The exact reason was unimportant. All that mattered was that he was all alone in those moments. And that they had a clear path to finish their hunt.

And so, on a cold December afternoon, Harry and Daphne stood under the Invisibility Cloak on the steps leading up to the Owlery. The wind tugged at the cloak and, despite their warming charms, the cold was beginning to cut into them... but they wouldn't have to freeze for long. On the Marauder's Map, the ink blot with the name of their target came closer and closer. He would be with them soon.

And indeed, just a few seconds later, Harry heard the clatter of feet coming up the stairs. The next moment, Gregory Goyle appeared around the corner, his face flushed with cold and effort, his gloved fingers holding a rolled-up letter.

Daphne didn't hesitate for a second and pointed her wand at their unsuspecting victim. Harry felt the air vibrate with magic and then – a violent gust of wind. It hit Goyle right in the chest. He was thrown backwards, down the stairs he had just hurried up. There was a loud scream, followed by a hard thud and the cracking of bones.

Slowly, Harry pulled the cloak from his and Daphne's heads. His girlfriend's gaze was hard, full of hatred and bloodlust. At that moment, she no longer looked like a schoolgirl; her gaze was more like something one would expect from a monster or a demon.

The two of them walked down the stairs together. As they rounded the corner, they saw the aftermath of Daphne's spell. Goyle lay at the foot of the stairs, his limbs spread unnaturally from his body. He whimpered in pain, tears streaming down his face. A smile of satisfaction played across Harry's lips as he felt the stream of life power drain from their victim.

Goyle's eyes widened as he recognised them. Fear now mixed with his pained expression. It seemed he wasn't completely stupid after all. And he was obviously smart enough not to beg for mercy or call for help. He just looked at them in panic. The surge of life power grew even stronger.

Daphne crouched down beside Goyle. Her face was full of disgust as she looked at him, the way one would normally look at a gutted rat left behind by a predator. Except they were the only predators here.

"Stay away from my sister," Daphne said, her voice as icy as the weather around her.

"And if you think about telling anyone about this..." Harry shook his head. "Don't. You'd regret it."

"If you tell anyone about this, we'll kill you."

With that, Daphne lifted her heel and rammed it into Goyle's hand with all her might, shattering the bones.

The screams of pain that followed were music to Harry and Daphne's ears, and the life power that flowed to them was deliciously sweet, even if it came from a bastard as vile as Goyle. Or perhaps precisely because of that.


Goyle said nothing. His story seemed to be that he had slipped and fallen on the icy stairs, and no one seemed to care enough about him to question that story. In any case, he was found later that day by two Ravenclaw third years and taken to the hospital wing. He would have to stay there for at least three days and, unfortunately, miss the Yule Ball. What a shame. His date must be devastated.

In complete contrast to Harry. He felt he had never looked forward to a day more than this Christmas. He had even practised some dance moves with Ron, Neville and the other boys so as not to disappoint his own date. He knew Daphne had been learning to dance since she was little – had to learn, as she would say – and he didn't want to disappoint her.

And so it was that when Christmas Day finally arrived, the day couldn't end fast enough for him so that it could finally be evening. But the hours passed agonisingly slowly, and things got even worse just before the end.

...

Harry looked again at the clock on the wall. Again, only two minutes had passed, and there were still thirty-two minutes until half past seven, the time he had arranged with Daphne.

He was in his dormitory with the other boys, getting ready for the ball. Outside the window of the tower, the snow trickled as it had all day, glittering crystals of beauty in the night. In the distance, the fireplace of Hagrid's hut was visible in the darkness, inviting and cosy, but Harry was sure that Hagrid was preparing for the ball just as they were. Rumour had it that he had managed to become Madame Maxime's partner for the evening.

Harry let his eyes wander further. Not far from Hagrid's hut was the Beauxbatons delegation's huge carriage, no doubt filled with other excited students preparing for their big night. The carriage and the surrounding countryside were covered in freshly fallen snow, shimmering in the silvery light of the moon even at night. It was like something out of a picture book. Harry wouldn't have been surprised if the Snow Queen's sleigh had suddenly appeared, gliding through the winter wonderland, whisking away enchanted children to her ice palace. But in the end, he thought, all of life was like a fairy tale. The only question was whether you were the hero or the villain...

"I look terrible," Ron's voice complained to his right. "Hermione will turn as soon as she sees me."

Harry looked at him and had to agree with his friend. Ron's robes looked awful, with a frilly collar and a hem so long it looked more like a dress than a robe.

"Don't be silly," he tried to reassure Ron. "Hermione's not going to the ball with you because of your looks, but because of your amazing character."

"That's easy for you to say, Harry. Your robes look great."

There was no way Harry could argue with that. He looked at himself in the mirror once more. Yes, he was still happy with the robes he'd bought from Madam Malkin's in the summer, simple but elegant, in a dark green that both Daphne and Madam Malkin agreed went well with his eyes. He had only had to enlarge the robes with a few spells, as he had grown a few centimetres in the last few months.

Not for the first time that evening, Harry wondered what Daphne would wear. After all, she had sent him away when it had been her turn at Madam Malkin's, so he was already very curious.

He glanced at the clock on the wall again. Still twenty-nine minutes to go. That couldn't be true! Now he was finally sure that time itself was conspiring against him...


It had taken longer than Harry would have liked, but the time had finally gone and he had made his way to the Entrance Hall with the others. The first couples had already met in the common room, including Ron and Hermione, both with bright red heads.

Hermione looked really pretty in her pink dress, Harry noticed, and she had even somehow managed to comb her bushy hair straight, but most of all she was smiling with happiness. Harry was happy for his two friends, he really was, but he couldn't help but relegate them to a more distant part of his brain the longer they stood in the Entrance Hall.

He lifted his head to see the stairs leading down to the dungeons, but it was hopeless. The Entrance Hall was full of people looking for their dates or stepping on each other's toes to get as close as possible to the still closed door to the Great Hall.

A few students glanced at Harry from time to time, but there were far fewer than usual. It seemed that for once he was not the main attraction of public attention, at least for the moment. The other students seemed to be preoccupied with their own nervousness and excitement, and the anticipation of an evening that promised to be something very special for them all.

But then, at last, came the moment Harry had been waiting for. He felt it like warm waves around his ankles, slowly growing stronger and stronger, like a warm wind in his face, carrying pleasant scents with it.

His heart began to pound. He took a step forward.

The crowd parted in front of him, just a little, but it was enough. Amidst the bustle, he recognised Daphne walking towards him, and the sight of her almost took his breath away.

She was a striking contrast to the colourful scenery around her. Her raven black hair, as black as sin, fell in soft waves over her shoulders, framing her graceful face. A touch of make-up accentuated her natural beauty, especially the dark eye shadow that made her eyes shine and the seductively glossy red lips that curled into a slight smile.

Her dress, of shimmering black fabric with silver embellishments, clung to her curves as if she had been born in it. It was almost as if she wore her darkness with pride, her personal armour in a dangerous world. And dangerous she was too, Harry knew that. To everyone else, at least. To the others she might be a dangerous predator, but to him she was more than that; she was his partner, his confidant, his lover – the most beautiful girl in the world.

Daphne approached him. There was a sparkle in her golden eyes, like sunspots caught in liquid amber.

"Good evening, milord," she said. Her voice had a hint of amusement in it, but through their bond, Harry could also sense her other emotions at that moment.

Nervousness. Joy. Excitement.

He felt the same.

"Good evening, milady," he replied, but then he couldn't keep up the act any longer. And so it burst out. "Wow, Daph. You look incredible. I mean ... you're beautiful."

A glow of pleasure lit up Daphne's eyes as she bridged the last few inches between them and wrapped her arms around his neck. The soft fabric of her dress brushed against his skin and her natural scent hit his nose, combined with her perfume – a perfect blend that sent a pleasant shiver down Harry's spine.

"You look good too," Daphne said, kissing him softly on the lips.

Harry would have liked to deepen the kiss, but unfortunately they were not in a secluded broom cupboard or the Room of Requirement, but in the crowded Entrance Hall. And so they pulled away after a few moments.

He licked his lips. They still tasted of Daphne.

His girlfriend had by now noticed the other two behind him. She nodded politely at them. "Hello Hermione, Ron. You look very nice."

Daphne's voice sounded serious, but Harry very much doubted that she was serious about at least one of them. Hermione, on the other hand, had already linked arms with Ron, and if she had been bothered by his robes, she hadn't let it show for a moment, which seemed to be a boon to Ron's confidence. He stood proud and erect as never before, his face full of pure joy and satisfaction.

"Thank you, Daphne," Hermione said with a smile. "You really do look stunning."

"Thank you," Daphne said. "I'm pleased."

Hermione didn't seem to be the only one to notice how stunning Daphne looked tonight, for Harry could see some of the boys in the hall looking over at her – and they were anything but innocent looks.

Possessively, he put his arm around Daphne's waist. She immediately snuggled up to him as if it were the most natural thing in the world. And it was at that moment that Harry realised two things. One, that Daphne's body felt very warm under his fingers, and two, that her dress seemed to be very thin. This thought suddenly made him feel warm as well.

Together with the other students, they waited for the double doors to the Great Hall to open. Shortly before eight o'clock, however, the huge oak portal opened and the students of Durmstrang streamed into the hall, making it even more crowded.

Then, suddenly, Professor McGonagall's magically amplified voice rang out. "Champions, please!"

Harry and Daphne said goodbye to Ron and Hermione and walked together in the direction Professor McGonagall's voice had come from, to the right of the Great Hall, whose doors also opened at that moment.

From one moment to the next, a jolt went through the crowd as everyone flocked to the Great Hall, eager to get a good seat. Harry felt a bit like a fish swimming against the tide as they made their way through the crowd. Luckily, the people backed away from them far enough that he didn't have to use his wand.

Speaking of wands, Harry looked at his date. Where did she keep hers? He couldn't see it anywhere on her, and her dress didn't look like it would hide it either. On the other hand, he couldn't think of anything more unlikely than Daphne going anywhere without her wand. In fact, Snape learning how to wash his hair was much more likely.

They were the first couple to arrive at Professor McGonagall's. The Deputy Headmistress was wearing a festive Scottish patterned robe and a hat of the same pattern with a twisted thistle wreath on the brim.

An amused smile flitted across Professor McGonagall's otherwise serious face as she caught sight of them. "Miss Greengrass, you look lovely," she said, "but what did I tell you about adding some colour to your wardrobe?"

"What can I say, Professor," Daphne replied. "Black is just my colour."

"Sure, if you never wear anything else." Professor McGonagall turned to Harry, "You look elegant as well, Mr Potter."

Soon the other two couples joined them, so Professor McGonagall turned her attention to them. She told them to wait here while the other students took their seats. They themselves would only walk through the hall in a solemn procession afterwards.

Harry took the opportunity to look curiously at the other champions. Krum went with a Slytherin seventh year, whose name Harry didn't even know. But she looked very pleased with herself as she leaned on Krum's shoulder. Krum, on the other hand, looked as bored as ever.

Fleur Delacour went with Roger Davies from Ravenclaw, who couldn't take his eyes off her and talked wildly to her the whole time. Delacour just nodded from time to time, as if she wasn't really listening. Her eyes slipped to Harry and Daphne and her lips twisted in contempt.

"Nice dress, Greengrass," she said, "going to a funeral?"

Daphne raised a dark eyebrow. "I wasn't really planning to, but we can certainly change that, Flower."

Delacour's face flushed a little. Her eyes narrowed as she gave Daphne an angry look.

As much as Harry would have liked to see his girlfriend put the arrogant Frenchwoman in her place, he knew this wasn't the time. Too many witnesses. And so he said aloud, "But not today, darling. We don't want to spoil the evening for our honoured co-champions when they look sooo happy with their dates."

Daphne looked at him briefly, then nodded. "You are right. And I thought we were the only ones here with the love of our lives."

Delacour's head turned even redder, but she couldn't think of anything to say. And what could she possibly have said? Her lack of interest in her partner spoke for itself.

Krum just gave them a grumpy look without saying anything.

A short time later, Professor McGonagall returned to them. "Everything is ready in the hall now. Please form a line and follow me. I'll leave the order to you."

Delacour quickly grabbed Davies' hand and lined up with him as the first pair directly behind Professor McGonagall. The reverse was true for Krum and his date, as it was the unknown Slytherin seventh year who grabbed his hand and quickly pulled him into the spot behind Delacour and Davies. All that was left for Harry and Daphne was third place in the short line, but they didn't really care. Then they would be the grand finale again, just as they had been in the first task.

The two of them exchanged a smile and then began to leave with the others. They walked through the double doors and into the Great Hall to thunderous applause.

The walls of the hall were decorated with glittering ice crystals, and hundreds of garlands of mistletoe and ivy covered the night-black ceiling. White snow trickled down from above, but never reached the floor.

The large house tables had disappeared, replaced by dozens of small round tables with lamps, where the students had taken their seats and applauded the champions.

Together with the other champions, Harry and Daphne walked past the applauding students, and Harry had to pull himself together not to sneer. Yes, suddenly the other students were applauding them again, after having mocked Daphne so much during the first task, and they still wouldn't hesitate to plunge a poisoned dagger into their backs if the tables were turned again. But at least for this one evening, he decided to forget his dark thoughts and just have a good time with the girl he loved. He even made it a point to do the same as the other champions, waving cheerfully to his classmates.

On their way to a large round table on the podium where the judges were already seated, they passed many familiar faces. Malfoy, who glared at them contemptuously, Parkinson, who looked like a pig in her pale pink frilly dress, Ron and Hermione, who waved at them, Parvati, who averted her eyes.

Harry helped Daphne onto the podium before they sat down in the last two empty seats at the table of honour. He sat next to Roger Davies, Daphne next to Krum's date. Across from them sat Dumbledore, who was giving them a look that Harry couldn't interpret; in any case, he was strengthening his Occlumency shields.

Next to Dumbledore sat Cornelius Fudge, who gave Harry and the other champions a broad smile, like a family father welcoming his children to Christmas dinner. Karkaroff had his usual scowl on his face as he listened to Bagman's chatter. Madame Maxime, meanwhile, was chatting in rapid French with Delacour, glancing over at Hagrid from time to time, who was sitting at one of the other teachers' tables in a hairy brown suit. Harry wished his giant friend an evening as magical as his and Daphne's.

When there was a moment's silence, Dumbledore made a sweeping motion to grab the menu on the table in front of him. He looked at the menu for a few moments and then said loudly in the direction of his golden plate, so that it could be heard throughout the hall: "Pork chops."

And indeed, the next moment, pork chops and garnish appeared on the plate. Now everyone else in the room realised what had happened and ordered their food from their plates. Soon the air of the Great Hall was filled with the aroma of delicious food and the clinking of cutlery, accompanied by the excited murmur of hundreds of conversations.

New conversations began at the head table as well.

"Mr Potter, I would like to congratulate you on your great performance in the first task," Fudge said to Harry from across the table. "The best performance of all, if I may say so. You did your country proud." The Minister for Magic toasted him before leaning over to him. There was something almost conspiratorial about it. "Between you and me, I hope you repeat your performance in the next tasks and bring victory to Great Britain."

"But Cornelius, we must remember to put our subjective interests behind the integrity of the Tournament," said Dumbledore, who had obviously decided to join the conversation. His plate of pork chops remained untouched in front of him. "After all, we have the honour of acting as impartial judges. And I'm sure Harry and Daphne will appreciate the value of an honest competition with integrity, after all, they want to prove what they are capable of, don't they?"

The heavy gaze of Dumbledore's pale blue eyes turned to Harry and Daphne. Not for the first time in his conversations with their Headmaster, Harry had the feeling that he was trying to look deep into them, as if they were a dark pond that promised a mystery at its bottom. But if he thought they were just an unfathomable mystery, he wouldn't see the danger coming until it was too late.

"Exactly, Professor," Harry said. "We're going to prove that we were rightly chosen as the best of Hogwarts."

"You could also read that in the papers," Dumbledore said. "In the interview with the charming Miss Skeeter."

"You should know better than anyone that you can't take everything you read in the papers at face value. Especially when it comes from the charming Miss Skeeter."

"You said that to my face too."

Harry nodded. "Yes, we did."

For a moment there was an awkward silence over the table, or at least the part of the table they were sitting at. Around them, the excited and intense voices of their table neighbours and all the other people in the Great Hall continued to drift towards them. Dumbledore's wrinkled face – Harry had the feeling it was getting wrinklier by the day – creased slightly as the Headmaster frowned.

Finally, it was Fudge who broke the silence. With a feigned cheerfulness in his voice that only politicians could muster, he said, "Yes, the newspapers are a tricky mistress, as I always say. You can't live with them, but you can't live without them either. But the interview you had with dear Rita was indeed ... how shall I put it ... a little clumsy. If you like, I can perhaps give you some tips on how to do it better next time."

"With pleasure," Harry lied. "We should definitely do that sometime."

Daphne nodded beside him, the black varnish on her fingernail glittering in the light of the lamps as she twirled it aimlessly through the air. "I am sure we still can learn a great deal from you, Minister. And who knows, maybe one day we will even be sitting in your seat." Daphne's finger stopped and pointed at Dumbledore. "Or in yours, Professor."

Fudge laughed as he nodded patronisingly at them. "Ooh, people with ambition around here! I can tell right away. But of course I would be honoured to assist you with my immense experience of manoeuvring in the political and public arena. If you like, I'll take you both under my wing, so to speak." He nodded enthusiastically. "Yes, that doesn't sound too bad. If you're still interested in a few months, just get in touch with my Senior Undersecretary, Miss Umbridge. I'm sure we can arrange some sort of internship or something for the summer."

Harry and Daphne exchanged a meaningful look. They had to keep from laughing out loud. Fudge really was such a conceited busybody and as stupid as they come. There was even a hint of an amused smile around Dumbledore's wrinkled lips.

The rest of the meal passed quietly, and when everyone had finished eating, Dumbledore rose from his seat. He asked the students to rise as well.

Harry held out his arm to Daphne and together they watched as their Headmaster moved the tables to the edge of the hall with a wave of his wand, leaving plenty of room in the centre. With another wave of his wand, he conjured up a stage with several instruments on it, including a drum kit, guitars, cellos, lutes and bagpipes.

The next moment there was a loud bang, mist rose and The Weird Sisters stormed onto the stage to enthusiastic applause. They looked really wild with their long manes and torn black coats – Aunt Petunia would probably have called the police if she had seen them. The band picked up their instruments and at the same moment the lights went out, leaving only the centre of the hall illuminated.

Harry led Daphne to the centre and gently placed his right hand on her hip while his other hand took her left. Daphne put her right hand on his back. From this angle, Harry had a perfect view of her cleavage. He felt himself suddenly warming up, and not just from the tension of being watched by the whole school at the opening dance.

Next to them, the other champions and their partners took up their dancing positions.

"Don't step on my toes," Daphne whispered to him. Her breath slid down his neck, giving him goose bumps.

"Wouldn't dream of it, princess."

Daphne gave him a mischievous smile. "And you are my prince."

The music began, a slow, festive tune. Harry took a deep breath before taking a step forward and joining in the slow waltz.

He had been a little worried beforehand that he and Daphne, who had never danced together before, might not harmonise well, but that worry had been completely unfounded. Daphne moved with the grace of a black panther, and whether it was because of their bond or simply the feelings between them, she swept him along. Their steps quickened. Their posture became even more intimate. Daphne beamed happily at him and he returned it wholeheartedly. He laughed freely as they twirled around the dance floor.

Their surroundings blurred in a play of colours and impressions. Harry briefly noticed other couples entering the centre and starting to dance, but then Daphne turned again and everything spun around him. He saw Neville and Susan whirl past them, also huddled close together, but they disappeared as quickly as they had come, as did Ron and Hermione, Seamus and Lavender, Hagrid and Madame Maxime, yes, for a moment he even saw Daphne's roommate Tracey Davis dancing with Crabbe, a stony expression on her face as Crabbe grabbed her bottom. But even that was lost in the whirl of their dance.

It was like a frenzy. Harry didn't know how long he and Daphne had been dancing like this, how many songs they had conquered. Together they danced. Like the Black Swan and the Prince, they danced in a sea of colours that Harry had long since lost sight of, lost in the golden irises of his dreams and desires. They danced like the gods of old, like Merlin and Morgana in the stories of yore, before all bridges were broken. And for that moment they were invincible, two restless souls who had found each other and could forget the world around them for a moment.

...

But even the most escapist dancers are eventually caught up in reality. At some point, Daphne threw herself at Harry, panting heavily and her body shaking. "Oh, Harry, I'd love to go on, but I think I'm going to collapse. I need something to drink."

Harry smiled and brushed a slightly sweaty strand of hair from her face. "Let's go then, I could do with some refreshment myself."

Hand in hand, they left the dance floor, where other students were still dancing, but the Great Hall was already a little emptier. They must have been dancing for hours, and it was getting late.

They walked past the crowds at the edge of the hall and reached a long table at the entrance, where there were punch bowls and glasses. Harry poured them both a drink and handed a glass to Daphne, who drank greedily. He started to drink too; it was terribly sweet but pleasantly cool. It felt wonderful.

"Hey, yeh two, having fun?" a familiar voice sounded next to them.

Harry turned to see Hagrid coming towards them. He was still wearing his hairy brown suit, even though the hall had become oppressively warm in the last few hours. But maybe he didn't feel the heat that much, Harry thought, just like the fat beetle that had nested in the fur of Hagrid's suit and was rubbing its antennae contentedly.

Walking beside Hagrid was Madame Maxime, who nodded kindly at them. The two adults looked rather exhausted, as if they had had a boisterous evening.

"We have," Harry said. "We danced a lot." He indicated the dance floor with his thumb.

"Oh yes, we saw tha'," Hagrid laughed. "Wanted ter talk ter yeh all night, Harry, an' yeh too, Daphne. But yeh're harder ter catch than two flobberworms..."

Madame Maxime giggled as if Hagrid had told the best joke she had ever heard. The tall woman's giggles were so loud they shook the table next to them. Hagrid gave her a puppy love look – Harry and Daphne looked at each other meaningfully.

"Why did you want to talk to us?" asked Daphne.

Hagrid stepped closer, as if to tell them a secret. "You see, ey showed Olympe the dragons before the first task... just because ey thought she might find them as excitin as ey did, not to cheat or anythin. But... well, she told me afterwards tha' she had told her student as well, which wasn' quite fair, o' course, but... well, ey wanted to tell ye as well, but ye didn't have time..."

"What are you getting at?" asked Harry. The fact that Delacour had cheated on the first task was nothing new to him.

"Olympe wanted to thank me and... well, ey told her that ye asked me about the egg and if ey knew what kind of creature it was that made those noises."

"Yes, and you didn't," Daphne said.

Hagrid nodded quickly. "Yes, but Olympe knew. An' she told me." He leaned further forward and whispered, "Harpies."

"Harpies?" Harry repeated questioningly.

"Shh!" said Hagrid, putting his finger to his lips. "Not so loud! But yes, Harpies. The voices in the egg are those o' Harpies. They're on'y found in Greece, not here. Tha's why I didn' recognise 'em."

"And how can we understand what they're saying?"

"Olympe told me tha' too. Harpies are air creatures. Yeh have ter bring the egg high inter the air an' then yeh should understand wha' they are saying."

Now Madame Maxime joined the conversation. She put her hand on Hagrid's shoulder and said in her thick French accent, "Come on, Rubeus, you told them. Now let's go dancing again. They'll be playing the last song soon."

"Go," Harry said to Hagrid, gesturing towards the dance floor. "You shouldn't keep your date waiting. And thank you for the information. It will certainly help us."

With that, Hagrid said goodbye to the two of them before hurrying to the dance floor with Madame Maxime. Some of the students quickly stepped aside to avoid being trampled by the two giant figures. Even the fat beetle in Hagrid's hairy suit had to hold on tight to keep from falling off.

Harry turned back to Daphne and saw his girlfriend's gaze fixed on him, an adventurous green glint in her amber eyes. He chuckled. "I think I know what you're thinking."

"Then this won't surprise you," she said, reaching for his hand. "Come on, we've got a sky to conquer."

Together they hurried to the exit of the Great Hall. They ran through the open double doors and then through the Entrance Hall, although Harry stopped short because he thought he saw a girl with bushy brown hair and a boy with red hair in a corner who looked suspiciously familiar – and, more importantly, suspiciously close together with their lips suspiciously pressed together – but Daphne immediately pulled him on.

They passed through the entrance portal and found themselves in some sort of artificial cave with rose bushes, small sculptures and hundreds of fairy lights flying around; it really was kitsch. Daphne clicked her tongue contemptuously and Harry could only shake his head at the sight. But they quickly left this strange place, which Gilderoy Lockhart couldn't have imagined any worse, behind them.

The further they walked out into the dark night, the colder it got. Harry quickly cast a warming charm over them, especially over Daphne, who was only wearing her thin dress.

His girlfriend nodded gratefully as they slowed their pace. By now they had reached the lake, which lay still before them. Nothing moved on its surface, no animal stirred on its banks, only an old rowboat lay overturned on the shore. Suddenly it seemed unnaturally quiet to Harry after all the excitement of the last few hours.

His breath formed clouds as he turned to Daphne. "Your egg is in the dungeons, right?"

Daphne nodded. "It would have to break through several doors and walls to get here."

"In my case, it's just a window pane. And I'm sure the guys will understand."

With that, Harry pointed his wand at the Gryffindor Tower, which rose dimly against the night sky, and thought, Accio Golden Egg.

It took a few moments, but then he heard a rustle in the air, accompanied by a sparkle and glitter in the darkness, coming closer and closer. It was the artificial dragon egg, the light of the stars and moon refracted on its golden surface.

The Golden Egg flew straight into Harry's outstretched hand.

"There, that's it," he said. "But how are we going to get it into the air? We can't carry it in our crow forms... Hm, we could borrow some of the school brooms..." His eyes wandered to the Quidditch pitch, where he knew Madam Hooch always kept a few brooms in the catacombs.

"We can do magic," Daphne said as if it were the most natural thing in the world. "So let's do magic."

With that, she pointed her wand – Harry had no idea where she had suddenly got it – at the overturned rowboat on the shore of the lake. Her magic turned the boat around so that you could sit in it, but more importantly, it now floated waist-high above the ground.

Her intention was clear.

"If I fall to my death because of you, I'll never forgive you," Harry muttered as he climbed into the boat with Daphne.

Daphne snorted. "Have a little faith in me. And anyway, you can fly. So stop whining."

Harry nodded. Fair enough.

As the two of them sat in the boat, Daphne tapped three times on the wooden outer wall – and from one moment to the next, the boat shot upwards at a speed that Harry would have found hard to match at the start of even the wildest Quidditch match.

A cold wind whipped around them and Harry felt a shiver run down his spine. He hastily increased the warming charms around him to defy the icy wind as he clung to the boat. Perhaps he should have gotten the brooms after all...

"This is more uncomfortable than I thought!" Daphne called to him, and he had to read her words rather than understand them over the roaring wind around them. Her jet black hair swirled around her head like the fluttering wings of a crow.

"You don't say!" he shouted back, but his voice was also lost in the roaring wind. But Daphne must have understood him, because her white teeth flashed in a smile.

Finally the boat slowed down again and Harry breathed a sigh of relief. The wind had died down. They were now hovering at a considerable height above the ground, several thousand feet. He looked over the railing at the landscape below them and at the castle, which now seemed tiny and insignificant.

Not just seemed, Harry corrected himself. It was insignificant. All of them down there, the other students and teachers, the Minister, every single stone of the thousand-year-old castle. They were all unimportant. And before this was all over, they would find out.

They would show them.

Harry looked back at Daphne, who smiled at him knowingly. Her fingers pointed to the Golden Egg on his lap.

"Let's find out if Hagrid was right," she said.

"Okay, but be prepared to cover those pretty ears of yours. Just in case."

With that, Harry slid his fingernails into the groove that ran once around the belly of the egg and opened it. But instead of the horrible screeching that sounded like rabid birds, there was something else now. It was voices. Scratchy, crooked, ugly voices that made Harry wince. And they were all speaking at once.

"Champion, champion, champion, did you think you were the greatest? Did you think you were –"

"The thought will vanish from your mind! The worst is yet to come. For –"

"The worst!"

"Yes, the worst! Because we will take it from you!"

"Take, take, take!"

"What is most important to you. It will be ours!"

"No, we'll give you one hour! One hour to climb the mountain and face the dangers."

"Because we are so merciful."

"Merciful, merciful, merciful!"

"But after one hour, you'll never get it back."

"We will take it from you."

"And never give it back!"

"Never, never, never!

"You will lose what is most important to you – forever!"

Hysterical laughter rang out from the harpies' voices, accompanied by the sound of fluttering wings... and then suddenly everything fell silent. It was quiet again in their boat, high above the world. It was a heavy silence after all the noise before. Harry's heart pounded in his chest as he took in the words.

He frowned.

"They want to take the most important thing from us," he muttered. "But the most important thing to me ... that's you."

Harry looked at Daphne, who was smiling brightly at him. It was only now that he realised what he had just said. He knew he'd said similar things to her before, and even cornier things, but he couldn't help but feel the sudden warmth in his cheeks. It wasn't just because of the powerful warming charms that surrounded them.

"You are also the most important thing in the world to me," Daphne said, her voice unusually soft for her. She stood up and sat down on his lap. Harry's arms instinctively wrapped around her delicate body. "You are precious to me, Harry. You are..."

"Sunlight to your darkness?" Harry said. His voice was very serious.

Daphne nodded. Her fingers stroked his cheek, the line of his jaw, brushing a few stray dark hairs behind his ears. "And darkness to my sunlight. We complement each other. And we spur each other on. The world has no idea what they're up against."

Harry looked deep into her eyes. He saw in them the glow that lurked behind the calm surface of her words, but in her eyes it was as clear to him as a beacon on a dark night. Daphne's thoughts and feelings flooded him, so tumultuous that it was impossible for him to hold on to any of them long enough to think about them. But he knew there was a hungry fire in Daphne, a burning desire, an immense greed, and he knew he loved all that about her. He knew that he wanted to burn with her.

He bridged the distance between them and kissed her wildly on the lips. Daphne let out a sound of obvious pleasure as she returned his kiss just as wildly. Their hands slid over each other's bodies, exploring every line and curve, and they pressed against each other as if they wanted to melt together. Then Daphne took his hands and placed them on her breasts. Harry squeezed lightly and Daphne made another moan of pleasure.

Meanwhile, her delicate fingers began to undo his belt. Harry inhaled sharply. He shivered. It felt so good, but he had to know. Had to know for sure.

It took all his willpower to pull away from her and he barely managed it. "Daph... Are you sure?"

Daphne just smiled at him. "You should know by now that I only do what I want. And I want this, Harry. Do you?"

Instead of answering, Harry pulled her close again and kissed her again, this time even more passionately than before. A bloody taste spread across his tongue, which he greedily absorbed.

More and more he lost himself in Daphne's warmth as they surrendered to their love and each other, with nothing but the distant stars as their silent witnesses.