Chapter Thirty-Two – The Bloody Feast

The first rays of the morning sun danced through the high windows of the Gryffindor Tower as Harry returned to the common room the next morning. His heart was still pounding in his chest as he reflected on the events of the past few hours. The warmth of Daphne's body, her passion, her fiery touch – it all still flooded him with a sense of happiness that he could hardly put into words.

He knew he was completely addicted to her, perhaps even obsessed. But he also knew that she felt the same way, and that knowledge only made his feelings overflow even more at that moment.

A broad grin played around his lips at the thought. It was almost painful, the way it pulled at the corners of his mouth, but at the same time it felt pleasant, like sore muscles after a day – or night – of hard work. Yes, he felt like the luckiest man who had ever walked this big wide world.

The common room was unusually quiet. On any other day, it would be buzzing with activity at this time, but on this morning after the Yule Ball, there were only a few groups scattered around the room, and a lot of yawning punctuated the lame conversations.

This was also the case with Ron and Hermione, who were sitting together by one of the windows. Hermione's hair was bushy again and instead of her pink dress, she was wearing a crimson woollen jumper with a gold 'H' on the front, a gift from Mrs Weasley. Ron was wearing a jumper of the same colour, but with a gold 'R' on it. They were whispering to each other, interrupted by giggles and shy glances. Their hands lay in each other's.

They looked up when Harry approached. Ron grinned at him cheekily. "Hey, Harry."

"Hey, you two. You look cute. Are you two together now?"

Both Ron's and Hermione's heads suddenly turned red at his words. Hermione cleared her throat. "We, er... we haven't talked about it yet..." She looked at Ron before quickly looking away.

Ron rubbed the back of his neck, which was also bright red. "Yeah, um... definitely good to have you back, Harry. Hermione here was about to run to McGonagall and tell her you'd disappeared."

Now Hermione's head shot back to them. "That's not true at all! I was just worried."

Harry waved her off. "There was nothing to worry about. I was with Daphne."

"All night?" asked Ron.


"Harry!" It was Hermione again. She looked at him indignantly.

"Yes, Hermione?" he said.

She kept looking at him. Her face clearly showed how much was going on in her clever head at that moment. Finally, she threw her arms helplessly over her head. "All right, I won't even try to explain the meaning of the school rules to you. You don't care about them anyway, the way you keep breaking them. Like when you're out of the common room all night!"

Harry just shrugged. He really didn't care.

"Sometimes I wonder," Hermione continued, shaking her head, "which of you two is the worse influence on the other..."

"I thought that was clear? You told me once, to my face, that Daphne brings out the worst in me."

"Certainly not your best," Hermione replied. Her voice sounded slightly resigned, Harry thought. "But then I know what you're like."

There was something about her words that bothered Harry. As if she meant that he and Daphne should behave differently. He frowned. Deep down, he could feel the irritation and anger growing inside him without him being able to do anything about it, like a headache after too many Potions lessons in a poorly ventilated dungeon. What he wouldn't give to have a rabbit or a wild boar in front of him right now to let off some steam. Then this headache would certainly go away...

Okay, maybe they were really not bringing out the best in each other, Harry thought. But the best didn't get you anywhere anyway. Still, he had to control himself.

He took a few deep breaths in and out as he concentrated on his Occlumency exercises. Ron and Hermione hadn't noticed and continued to look at him, half amused, half resigned.

"You certainly look knackered, mate," Ron said.

Harry could only believe that. He could feel the tiredness himself, slowly threatening to overwhelm him now that his own bed was so close. The long night with Daphne had taken its toll. It really was time to sleep, probably for the rest of the day.

"You're right," he said with a yawn. "I'm going to hit the sack. But I'm very happy for you both. I really am. You make a lovely couple."

With that, he turned and disappeared towards the dormitories, but not without seeing Ron and Hermione's cheeks blush at his words.

The frozen lake stretched before them like an endless plain of glittering crystal, covered in snow and frozen in the cold of the winter's day. Daphne sat close to Harry's side, their shoulders huddled together under the warming blanket. She felt the strength of his arms around her and let out a contented sigh.

Most people would probably never expect it from her – and she had tried hard to give the impression all these years – but at times like this she simply loved to be held by Harry like this, to feel his strong arms around her, protecting her, and the cosy warmth of his body in which she could lose herself completely. Yes, even the mighty Daphne Greengrass didn't mind a little peace and security sometimes, she thought with a satisfied smile.

The white flakes danced across the ice like little fairies in a wild round dance. Daphne enjoyed the sight as she flicked through the pages of the books from the Restricted Sections and the Room of Requirement that lay spread out on the floor around them – with protective charms to shield them from the winter weather, of course; they weren't barbarians, after all.

At first she had been a little sceptical when Harry had suggested moving today's study session outside, but now it seemed like one of the best ideas ever. Not only was her beloved boyfriend sweet as sugar, at least to her, and gorgeous to look at, he was also smart – what more could a witch ask for?

"Hey, Daph?" Harry said from beside her, his body vibrating.

Daphne squinted at him. "Huh?"

"I was just thinking about how Davis accidentally set off your runes on your bed. And, well, do you think you could use the runes for something like that on purpose? Not just for protection, but as a weapon?"

Yes, her beloved boyfriend was really very smart, Daphne thought, and so wonderfully ruthless lately. She stifled a giggle.

"What's wrong?" asked Harry.

Daphne shook her head, a few black strands falling onto her face. She brushed them away and smiled at him. "Nothing. I just thought it was an interesting thought. Actually, the thought hadn't even occurred to me. I'm much faster with my wand, after all. But yes, the idea has something to it. Hmm, hmm, hmmm." She nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, it might make sense to look into the possibility of using it more closely. For the right moment."

"It could be an ace in the hole."

"Ace?" asked Daphne, confused.

"A Muggle phrase. Whatever. What I'm saying is, we'd have another arrow in our quiver. Another feather in our plumage. Another spell in our –"

"Okay, that's enough," Daphne said, slapping him on the shoulder. But she could hear how amused her voice sounded. And Harry just grinned at her. "And instead of smiling like that, your lips could do something else. Like kiss me."

"Oh dear, as selfish as ever, my little witch."

"You know me, don't you? I'm the most selfish person on the planet. And now kiss me or I'll kiss you!"

They moved their heads towards each other at the same time. Their breath brushed against each other's faces. Daphne closed her eyes, preparing herself for the soft, familiar feel of Harry's lips on hers – when suddenly she heard the sound of approaching footsteps in the snow.

Daphne let out an exasperated growl. She had to pull herself together not to let out an even more frustrated groan. But when she glanced over to see who had dared to disturb their cosy togetherness, her anger gave way to confusion. It was her little sister, Astoria.

The second year Slytherin was wrapped in a deep blue cloak, a fluffy hat on her head, a few of her auburn strands peeking out from underneath, blowing in the sharp wind. Her cheeks were flushed from the cold and her body shivered as if trying to warm itself. Yes, Astoria really did look out of place here, Daphne thought, like a doll that someone had left outside to be exposed to the winter weather. Like a princess far away from her fairytale castle.

But if Astoria was thinking the same thing, she didn't show it. She walked towards them, determined and purposeful, and the look in her sky-blue eyes was hard.

"Daphne," she said as soon as she was within earshot. "We need to talk."

At her words, Daphne rose from the frozen ground, and beside her, Harry did the same. The blanket they had snuggled into fell from them, but Harry caught it deftly and tucked it into his bag.

Daphne met his gaze. Although she could sense his annoyance at their disrupted togetherness through their bond, he gave her a gentle smile. "I'll leave you to it," he said. "I'll see you at dinner, yeah?"

She nodded. The sun was already starting to set on the horizon. It wouldn't be long before it got dark. She clicked her tongue as Harry trudged through the snow back to the castle. So no romantic sunset for her. A fight with her sister instead. Because that's what it would undoubtedly come down to, that's what it always came down to. How wonderful.

Slowly she turned back to Astoria. Her sister had folded her arms and was scowling at her. Yes, there was definitely a fight in the air.

"What is it, dear sister?" said Daphne.

"A fine collection of books you have here." Astoria nodded at the books still lying in the snow. "Are these the ones you stole from the Greengrass Library?"

"Oh, our parents noticed that by now?"

"I noticed." Astoria's voice was as cold as her gaze. "Well, are they?"

Daphne waved her hand. "They're bigger treasures than the ones in our library. At least after our ancestors squandered all the treasures of our family heritage in an attempt to slow their self-inflicted decline at least a little." Now she too crossed her arms. "But I've put that behind me."

"So you'll give the books back?"


For a moment the two very different sisters just looked at each other. Hard sky blue stared into amber gold. Finally, it was Daphne who broke the silence.

"But that's not why you wanted to talk to me, is it?" she said.

"No, that's not it." Astoria moved closer, so close that Daphne could see her nostrils quivering. She wasn't going to start crying again, was she? But Astoria didn't cry. Instead she hissed, "What the hell have you done to Goyle? He avoids me, he doesn't even dare look me in the face. It's as if he's afraid the devil himself will appear behind him if he even looks at me the wrong way! Even the others can tell that by now something is wrong!"


"And? And? You're really asking, "And?"! This is all your fault! I told you to stay out of my life, but you couldn't even do me that little favour! You always have to ruin everything!"

"I did it for you –"

"For me?! For me?! If I meant anything to you, you would have done it when I asked you! You would never have let me down!" Astoria's nostrils now flared as violently as a crow's wings in a raging storm. Her sky-blue eyes sparkled with fury. "Stay out of my life, Daphne! Leave! Me! Alone!"

She had almost shouted the last words in Daphne's face. With that, Astoria spun around and hurried back to the castle, her hands clenched into fists. She didn't look back.

Daphne's eyes followed her until she was a dark blur against the snow-white background. She let out a deep sigh. "You're welcome, little sister."

She drew her wand and sent the books around her flying back into her bag, disappearing into its magically enlarged interior. Then she made her way back to the castle.

By the time she reached the entrance, it was already dark behind her. Evening had come, and with it the time for dinner. So she went straight from the entrance gate into the Great Hall, which was already full of students.

As always, she went to the Gryffindor table on the right, where Harry was already sitting with the others; as always, the seat next to him was empty. And as always, she sat down beside him.

She immediately noticed the scowl on his face, worse than after a double Potions lesson, and she felt his annoyance through their bond, which had become as hot as a burning fuse.

"What's wrong?" she asked, meeting his gaze.

Harry handed her the evening edition of the Daily Prophet. "Best you read it yourself."

Daphne's eyes narrowed as she saw the headline. With an uneasy feeling she began to read.

Harry Potter and Daphne Greengrass - Frauds, Weaklings, Impostors?

Scandalous revelations come from Hogwarts and the Triwizard Tournament. After the selection of Harry Potter and Daphne Greengrass as the champions of Hogwarts – through brazen manipulation and in defiance of all the rules of the legendary tournament – caused a serious international uproar (as reported by the Daily Prophet), the fraud is far from over. The Daily Prophet and your favourite reporter have uncovered some disturbing facts: Hogwarts professors are secretly helping Potter and Greengrass with the tournament tasks!

Yes, you read that correctly, dear readers. Hogwarts professors are secretly sharing their knowledge to give Potter and Greengrass an unfair advantage over their competitors. We have it on good authority that the Professor of Care of Magical Creatures, Rubeus Hagrid, has secretly given them the knowledge of the next task of the tournament as a Christmas present.

So as not to undermine the integrity of the competition any further, and to restore a little fairness between the champions of the three schools, we pass on this secret knowledge here: in the second task of the Triwizard Tournament, the champions will have to deal with Harpies, the mystical magical creatures from Greece, after whom the Holyhead Harpies, the world's only Quidditch team made up entirely of witches, are named.

The champions should find this out by solving the riddle of the golden eggs they received in the first task through their own intelligence and effort. But why bother, when you're in cahoots with deceitful teachers?

Not only that! The Daily Prophet also had it on good authority that Rubeus Hagrid had already shared his knowledge of the first task with Potter and Greengrass, as well as the French headmistress he was trying to impress in order to support his unrequited romantic advances. So it seems that the famous Quidditch player and champion of Durmstrang, Viktor Krum, is in fact the only one of the four champions who did not gain an unfair advantage in the first task by cheating, making his high score and first place all the more impressive.

(For more scandalous revelations about Rubeus Hagrid, see our story on page 2.)

The question on everyone's lips now: Are Potter and Greengrass, who have exuded such incredible arrogance in their interviews, really too incompetent to handle the task without the hidden hand of benevolent mentors? Could they really stand alone against the dangerous dragons, or was their supposed achievement merely the product of this secret and unfair assistance?

There is much to be said for this interpretation. As another professor at Hogwarts, who has a stronger ethical conscience but wishes to remain anonymous to avoid possible reprisals from his colleagues with less integrity, told me: "These revelations don't surprise me in the least. The two of them have never been distinguished by more than mediocre magical abilities at best. But with an even greater greed for attention."

And their classmates also expressed their displeasure.

"They are an embarrassment to Hogwarts and Britain," said one of the school's most respected students. "They're total phonies. They can't even do the simplest spells in class, but they're supposed to have defeated the dragons all by themselves? Nobody believes that! And they're only in the tournament because they rigged the Goblet of Fire, let's not forget that. Or did they get help from the faculty to do it?"

A very good question. And not the only one. As the British wizarding world reels from the gravity of the scandal, the question is: who will be held accountable for this betrayal of the fundamental principles of the Triwizard Tournament? And what does it mean for the reputation of the prestigious school of Hogwarts?

Stay with us, dear readers, as your favourite reporter goes to great lengths to uncover the dark secrets lurking at Hogwarts these days and bring the truth to light. And if it turns out that Harry Potter and Daphne Greengrass are nothing more than frauds, weaklings and impostors, then there will be a debate to be had about whether they should be allowed to drag the reputation of Hogwarts and Britain through the mud any longer, or whether they should be deposed as champions.

Rita Skeeter

Daphne turned the page and read the article on the second page.

Giant Danger at the Heart of Hogwarts?

Not only is Rubeus Hagrid, Professor of Care of Magical Creatures at Hogwarts, leaking secret information to give his favourites an unfair advantage and to impress witches out of his league (see our article on page 1), but he has another dark secret he is trying to hide from the world.

For Rubeus Hagrid, a frighteningly large and ferocious-looking man who, by his own admission, was expelled from Hogwarts in his third year, is not – as he has always pretended – a pure-blood wizard. In fact, he is not even purely human. The Daily Prophet has uncovered evidence that reveals his true origins.

His mother, we can now exclusively reveal, is none other than the giantess Fridwulfa, whose whereabouts are currently unknown.

Yes, you read that correctly, dear readers. Rubeus Hagrid, the Hogwarts teacher who interacts with our children on a daily basis, is in fact half giant!

Giants are some of the most bloodthirsty and brutal creatures in the world. Though they have driven each other to the brink of extinction in numerous wars over the last century, those that remain have joined the ranks of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, committing some of the most bestial massacres in the history of these islands during his reign of terror. One need only think of the horrific attack on Brineyshore on New Year's Eve 1979, in which six witches and wizards and 35 Muggles were killed.

While many of the giants who served He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named were killed by heroic Aurors working against the Dark Side, Fridwulfa was not among them. It is possible that she has fled to one of the giant communities that still exist in foreign mountain ranges, where she and her fellow giants are waiting to wreak murder and destruction upon the innocent peoples of Europe once again.

So can we really rule out the possibility that Rubeus Hagrid will one day succumb to his genetic instincts and attack our children at Hogwarts? Does the worst have to happen before the authorities do something about this giant threat?

Questions upon questions to which the eccentric headmaster of Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore, has yet to give an answer. Dumbledore did not respond to our request for comment yesterday either. Does he simply not care, or is he getting so old and senile that he no longer recognises the danger in his own school? Is he still the right person to protect our children?

We can all only hope that Dumbledore hasn't made a giant mistake by hiring Rubeus Hagrid. The Daily Prophet and your favourite reporter will keep you up to date.

Rita Skeeter

As soon as Daphne had finished reading, she drew her wand and waved it through the air. She created a protective charm around herself and Harry so that no one could overhear them. She could already feel the curious glances from across the hall. It was nothing new, but rarely had it irritated Daphne as much as it did at this moment.

"How did she find out?" she hissed.

Harry scowled at her but could only shrug. "Perhaps she was secretly eavesdropping? But I didn't feel any magic when we were talking to Hagrid."

"We must be more careful, Harry. There's so much at stake. Everything is at stake."

A gentle expression spread across Harry's face. He took her hand in his and squeezed it tenderly. He opened his mouth to speak when a voice reached them from across the table. Her magic protected them from being overheard, but the sounds from outside still reached them.

It was Hermione speaking to them. "Are you two coming to Hagrid's? Ron and I are going after dinner. He must be in a mess, you know how he is."

Daphne and Harry exchanged a look as Daphne removed the charm. They had actually wanted to try out some new spells they had come across that evening; Daphne was particularly interested in some new concepts of light and shadow magic.

"You do that," Harry said. "We've got some work to do."

"But Hagrid is your friend too!" Hermione said reproachfully. Daphne had to control herself not to click her tongue in contempt.

Harry shrugged. "He's a big boy. I'm sure he'll be fine."

Apparently, however, Hagrid wasn't fine. For when the fourth years arrived at Hagrid's hut the next day for their Care of Magical Creatures lesson, instead of Hagrid there was an elderly witch with close-cropped grey hair and a very prominent chin. Harry's eyes immediately went to the window of the hut, but the curtains were drawn. Nothing could be seen.

"Hurry up, now, the bell rang five minutes ago," the strange witch barked at them as they trudged through the heavy snow.

"Who are you?" asked Susan. "Where's Hagrid?"

"My name is Professor Grubbly-Plank," she replied briskly, "I am your temporary Care of Magical Creatures teacher."

"What's wrong with Hagrid?" asked Neville.

"He's indisposed," Professor Grubbly-Plank said shortly.

An ugly, unpleasant laugh reached Harry's ears. He turned; Draco Malfoy and his cronies had joined them. Glee was written all over their faces. Pansy Parkinson and her friends Bulstrode and Davis were giggling loudly.

Daphne, standing next to him, also looked at her housemates with a look of disdain. She narrowed her eyes.

"I really don't know how you put up with them," Harry whispered to her.

Daphne looked at him. "It's because of my boundless patience," she whispered to him just as softly. "And my boundless self-control. Every night I have to remind myself that the beds in Azkaban wouldn't be as soft and comfortable as they are here."

"As if you would allow yourself to be locked up in Azkaban."

"That's true, of course."

Now that all the students had arrived, Professor Grubbly-Plank said so that everyone could hear her clearly, "Let's begin the lesson. Everyone, please follow me." With that, she walked quickly across the paddock where the huge Beauxbatons horses shivered in the cold.

The fourth years followed her, clearly curious to see how her lessons would differ from Hagrid's. They left the paddock and walked towards a tree at the edge of the forest, where they were greeted by a sight of overwhelming grace.

A large, majestic unicorn was tied to the tree, its fur so brilliant white it made the snow around it look grey. The unicorn's fine, silky mane shimmered in the winter sunlight, and its horn sparkled like a precious gem. It raised its head at the sound of their footsteps in the snow and looked at them with its large, gentle eyes. They were the colour of pure silver.

Many girls "ooohed" at the sight.

"Oh, it's beautiful!" whispered Lavender. "How did she get it? They're supposed to be really hard to catch!"

Harry's heart, on the other hand, had begun to pound so hard it almost hurt. Blood rushed to his head and a strange tingling sensation spread up his arms and legs, which he only recognised after a moment as goose bumps. A unicorn! A real, live unicorn!

His eyes slid to Daphne. She was looking at him, too, and a greedy gleam had crept into her golden eyes. Even without the bond that bound them together, Harry could read her thoughts in that look on her pretty face. She was thinking exactly what he was thinking. Their bond vibrated with joyous excitement and tension in equal measure.

"Boys, keep back!" Professor Grubbly-Plank's barking voice snapped him back to reality. "Unicorns are among the purest of magical creatures. They prefer the woman's touch. Girls to the front, and approach with care, come on, easy does it..."

She walked slowly with the girls to the unicorn, Daphne among them, while the boys stood by the paddock fence and watched. Harry could feel how much self-control it took for his girlfriend not to immediately pull out her wand and claim the unicorn – and its heart – for herself. And once again, she was not alone in her feelings. He felt the same way.

Harry forced himself to take several deep breaths as he turned his back on the unicorn, at least so he wouldn't have to see it anymore. The winter wind blew across his face, which suddenly felt feverishly hot. Fortunately, none of the other boys seemed to notice what was going on inside him, for they had started talking excitedly to each other.

" visit him yesterday?" Neville asked Ron just then.

Ron nodded. "Yes, but he didn't answer the door. We knocked for minutes without success. But we heard something moving in there. And it wasn't Fang."

"Couldn't you have just broken down the door?" asked Seamus.

"Yeah, that would have been a great idea. I'm sure Hagrid would have welcomed us with open arms then."

"Okay, okay, I understand. But –"

At this point Draco interrupted the conversation. With a disgusting grin on his face, he said loudly for everyone to hear, "Do you think that fat idiot will finally be sacked now? My father's been saying for a long time that half-men like that have no place in our society."

This time Ron, Neville and Seamus reacted in unison, shouting, "Shut up, Malfoy!"

Behind him, Harry could hear the girls giggling as Professor Grubbly-Plank listed the magical properties of unicorns – but then suddenly a sharp pain shot through him!

"Oh, watch out, girl. You'd better stand back a bit."

Harry whirled around. For a moment, all he could see were the backs of the girls standing close around the unicorn, petting it, but then a familiar figure emerged from the group of still giggling girls.

Daphne's raven black hair was blowing in the wind as she came towards him with quick steps and her cheeks were slightly flushed. Harry looked at her questioningly.

"The bloody thing bit me," she said as she reached him. Then she added quietly, so only he could hear, "Must have thought my soul wasn't pure enough."

Harry's eyes searched hers. For a moment, they just looked at each other and their looks said more than they could have expressed in a thousand words. They both knew why the unicorn had not found her soul pure enough, just as it would no doubt not find his soul pure enough. And soon it would find their souls even more impure, there was no question about that either.

But on the way to their great goal, that was a price Harry was willing to pay.

He felt everything inside him begin to tingle at the thought. His heartbeat quickened again and his face grew hotter, which was reflected in Daphne's pretty face. A dreamy smile played on her lips.

It was as if fate had smiled on them for once. They were not going to miss this opportunity. Their dream was now within their reach!

"...did not teach today," Minerva concluded her report. "Wilhelmina could stand in at short notice, and a few more days wouldn't be a problem, but no more. She has to look after her flock of griffins, she says, so we'll have to think of something soon."

Albus nodded thoughtfully. "Thank you, Minerva. I will speak to him tomorrow. We will resolve this."

Minerva got up from the chair in front of his desk. She walked to the door, but turned back to him on the threshold. "Good night, Albus. I know you can't tell me what you do here every night, but please take care. Don't push yourself too hard. We would all miss you very much."

With that, she left the office. The roar of the magic spiral staircase drifted over from the other side of the door for a few moments, then it was silent. Only from the portraits on the wall came a soft snoring sound from some of the frames, and Fawkes, his head tucked under his wing, also made soft sounds of sleep as he occasionally scratched with his claws.

It almost seemed like a peaceful evening in the room in one of the highest towers of the castle that had been Albus' home for so many decades.


Albus sighed heavily. His eyes fell on yesterday's edition of the Daily Prophet, which lay on the desk in front of him. One sentence in particular caught his eye.

Dumbledore did not respond to our request for comment yesterday either.

It was a sentence so typical of his former pupil Rita. The request had reached him at 11.59 pm, with a deadline of midnight.

He was getting old, Albus thought with another sigh. A few years ago, he would have raised hell if such slander, such lies, had been spread about one of his teachers and personal friends. But lately, more and more often, he simply felt terribly tired.

Not only was his mind plagued by exhaustion, but his body was becoming an enemy as well. Even now, his joints and limbs ached, yes, they never stopped aching anymore. Every day, every hour, every minute. And day by day, he found it harder and harder to get up to do his duties.

Duties... he had so many duties. Running a school. Being a confidant to his colleagues, his students and so many other people in this country who looked up to him. And then there was his mental battle with Tom for almost three years.

He found it harder and harder every day to find the strength to do it, but it was necessary. He could not, he would not despair.

And he could feel Tom getting weaker too. Soon he would uncover the last of his Horcruxes, Albus was sure of it. Just a little more effort. Just a little more, just a little more.

He rose from his chair, and even this movement hurt, but he gritted his teeth. Slowly, he climbed the stairs to his private chambers. There, in a corner of the tower room, stood a huge, claw-footed mirror, covered in a heavy black cloth. Although Albus could not yet see the surface of the mirror, he could feel its abysmally dark presence from here. The mirror was filled with magic of the darkest kind, for it contained the imprisoned soul of Lord Voldemort.

Part of his soul, at least. The rest was in his many Horcruxes. Those that still existed.

Once again, Albus ran through the short but far too long list in his mind. They were the Horcruxes he knew for certain.

The diary, destroyed by the bite of a basilisk.

Rowena Ravenclaw's diadem, destroyed by a poisoned blade.

The locket of Salazar Slytherin, destroyed by Fiendfyre.

A golden ring, the whereabouts of which are still unknown.

Hufflepuff's cup, still in Bellatrix Lestrange's vault at Gringotts.

Was that all? If he destroyed the cup and the golden ring, would Tom finally be mortal again? Or were there other Horcruxes somewhere in the world?

For a while, he had also suspected that there might be something in Harry's scar. But at least that seemed to have been put to rest after Harry's confrontation with the Dementors. His scar had almost completely disappeared since then.

Albus wasn't sure why, if his suspicions were correct, the Dementor had devoured Voldemort's puny piece of soul and not Harry's much more powerful and larger soul, but he had an idea.

They really were something special, Albus thought as he thought about his two most gifted, but also most troubled students. It definitely showed in the unique bond that had been forged between them through shared joys and sorrows. They had never told him if it had continued or if it had dissolved, but here too he had a strong suspicion. And if it really was this bond that had saved Harry at that moment, then it was truly a gift from the gods.

Yes, perhaps at least this one good thing had come out of this tragedy, out of his terrible failure. If only Sirius hadn't had to pay for it with his life...

Since then, Harry and Daphne had been more reserved, cooler, more distant towards him – and who could blame them? He had disappointed them deeply that day. And not just that day.

He had also disappointed them on Halloween, he believed. When he had scolded them so for their decision to manipulate the Goblet of Fire. But they hadn't been the only ones disappointed at that moment. It had been mutual.

Still... Maybe he should have reacted less angrily. Less patronising. After all, all they wanted was a little admiration and their place in the sun. His quiet admiration was obviously no longer enough for them; they wanted the admiration of the whole world for their efforts and their immense magical powers. And who could blame them? These were, after all, only deeply human needs, perhaps the most human of all, and he himself had been much, much more conceited in his youth. He had not only wanted to be admired by the whole world, he had even presumed to control it. Together with Gellert.

No, the two of them were really far above them. There was a burning desire in them too, that was obvious; in the summer, when they had so naturally cast the most powerful and devastating magic to destroy the locket; at Halloween, when they had been chosen as champions only because of their defiant will and magical abilities; at their clumsy interview with Rita; at the first task, which they had accomplished in such different ways, but with such bravura. Time and again they had shown a desire to prove themselves, coupled with the youthful arrogance of always feeling right. But they had also shown humility when it counted, swallowing their pride. Like after the battle in the Chamber of Secrets; and after Sirius' death.

Yes, they were way ahead of him, despite all the frightening similarities, Albus thought. They would still make many mistakes, no doubt, but their mistakes would certainly not be as serious as Gellert's and his.

They both had purer souls than he and his lover.

Above them, the dark, cloudless night sky stretched out like a velvety black veil that had settled over the world, lit only by the pale light of the moon far above. It was a half moon, Harry realised as he glided with Daphne through the stillness of the night. It had a light side and a dark side. Just like them.

They too had a side they showed to the world and a side they only showed to each other. This night was the hour of their second side.

Harry could only make out the outline of the castle in the darkness as almost all the lights in the windows had gone out. Only one lamp was still burning in a high tower window. Hagrid's hut, which they were flying over, was also completely dark, as was the Beuxbatons' carriage not far away and the huge Durmstrang ship on the lake in the distance.

But then a bright light broke through the night, shining like a beacon, at least in Harry and Daphne's crow's-eyes. A shimmering, white-silver aura, pulsating with magical energy. It was the aura of the unicorn still tethered to the tree beside the paddock. Harry thought he had never seen anything so sublime and wonderful. Something so utterly beautiful.

They landed a few yards from the unicorn. For a moment, Harry felt an oppressive heaviness that wrapped around him like chains as he regained his human form. And the unicorn's light disappeared as he could no longer see its aura with his human eyes. After the radiant light before, the unicorn's white fur now seemed almost dirty to him. Hopefully that would make it easier.

Daphne and he exchanged glances. Both wore black cloaks and hoods that made them invisible in the darkness, like shadows. But it wasn't all dark. In the faint moonlight, Harry could see her golden eyes under Daphne's hood, fixed on him, and in her eyes he saw a veritable storm of emotion at that moment, but above all, he thought, deep gratitude.

Daphne's breath formed clouds in the winter air, but she remained silent. Everything had been said, their fate was clear.

They nodded to each other and walked side by side towards the unicorn. Harry felt his heart quicken. It was a feeling of awe and nervousness at the same time. He smelled the sweet scent of flowers and fresh grass in the air, even though it was the dead of winter, mixed with the earthy scent of the nearby forest.

The unicorn raised its head at the sound of their approach. Its silver eyes fixed on them and for a moment, time seemed to stand still. A moment of peace, of beauty, of a dream.

A dream that ended abruptly.

Like poison, the truth seeped into the unicorn. Its eyes widened in fear. It threw its head back and tried to free itself from the rope that bound it to the tree, but Harry and Daphne were quicker. Two wands whizzed through the air, followed by two purple bolts of lightning. They struck the unicorn's body.

Instantly, the unicorn froze, as if heavy chains had been placed around it. It was petrified, only its eyes flickered with life, but most of all, mortal fear. A look that seemed almost human, perhaps even more human than many real humans.

Harry looked away. Beside him, he could feel Daphne working another spell. The air vibrated for a moment, then the rope fell from the unicorn's neck. But instead of being free, it was now even more trapped. Its paralysed body began to float, guided by Daphne's wand like a marionette on a puppeteer's strings.

She let the unicorn's body float in front of her towards the Forbidden Forest. Harry followed her. With occasional flicks of his wand, he covered their tracks in the snow so that no one could follow them. They had dared too much to be careless now.

And then they had reached the dark edge of the forest, which loomed menacingly before them. They had been in the Forbidden Forest so many times in recent years, but rarely had it seemed so black and silent to Harry as it did now, so utterly threatening. The darkness of the night seemed to have taken refuge beneath its tall canopies to escape the distant light of the stars.

But Daphne didn't pause for a moment, stepping into the darkness between the trees with her hovering prisoner. Harry followed with quick steps until he was at her side. Their arms touched, so close they had to move between the dense trees.

He raised his wand to create a magical light for them to see, but it didn't reach far. It seemed as if the darkness around them was swallowing up all the light. Only now and then did a ray of light, lucky enough to penetrate high up through the canopy without being blocked by the tangle of branches, fall like a slender, shimmering dagger to the ground in front of them.

They plunged deeper and deeper into the forest. And all the time there was nothing to be heard around them, not a rustle in the undergrowth, not an owl's hoot, not a breath of wind. The silence around them was so profound that their feet echoed dully on the ground.

After what seemed like an eternity, they finally reached a clearing lit by the silver glow of the moon. The clearing wasn't large, but there was something comforting about being able to see the open sky above them again. More importantly, they had finally reached their destination. For this was the clearing where they had met Sirius, on another night, at another stage of their lives, in a past long lost.

Harry and Daphne pulled down their hoods. It had begun to snow as they walked through the forest, and now the snowflakes trickled gently down on them, a stark contrast to their black robes and hair.

With an elegant flick of her wand, Daphne lowered the unicorn onto a bed of moss. It still couldn't move, but its eyes looked at her in panic, as if it knew this was its deathbed.

Then Daphne turned to face him. Her chest rose and fell rapidly, and when she spoke her voice trembled with excitement. "Do you want to do it? Or shall I?"

Harry wouldn't have minded if she did, but he knew he had to do it himself. His dreams would not be the responsibility of anyone else but him.

So he shook his head. His fingers gripped his wand so tightly it almost hurt, but his arm was steady as he pointed it at the still petrified unicorn. And he did not look away when its fearful, pleading eyes turned to him.

Please forgive us, Hagrid.

With a slow motion, Harry swept his wand from left to right – and at the same moment, a gash opened across the entire width of the unicorn's neck.

Silver blood gushed from the wound, barely visible against the unicorn's white fur. It seemed to want to rear up in its magical bonds, but even in its final moments, Daphne's magic was merciless. It did not yield. Slowly, the life in the unicorn's silver eyes faded as more and more blood poured from the wound in its neck.

Harry swung his wand again. This time there was a deep gash in the unicorn's chest. Another move and the ribs cracked. They were torn to the side and bent apart until they finally revealed the unicorn's wildly beating heart, pumping blood from the gaping wounds. Like Sirius, the heart was still trying to do its job, even though it had long since ceased to make sense.

A last long breath escaped from the unicorn's mouth. The floral scent that had accompanied it all this time vanished. Then the unicorn was dead.

There was no time to waste now.

Daphne stepped up beside Harry. She licked her lips, her amber eyes fixed on the magical organ before them. Their impending Impetus. The perfect tool for their purposes.

She started to crouch down, but Harry beat her to it. He knelt on the cold, blood-soaked forest floor and slid his arms into the ripped body of the unicorn. Cosy warmth enveloped his arms; for a moment he wondered if it wouldn't have been better to bring gloves.

Then his hands closed around the unicorn's heart. It still pulsed in his hands, warm and alive. He could feel the magic in it, a magic so pure and powerful that it almost overwhelmed him.

"Do you have it?" Daphne asked above him. Her voice still trembled slightly and the snow crunched under her boots as she took another step closer. Her knees touched his back.

Instead of answering, Harry pulled the heart towards him. There was a sickening smacking sound as the last veins were severed. Nothing connected the heart to its dead owner any longer. Harry held it to his chest, his arms covered in blood up to the elbows.

Carefully, he turned to Daphne, who was also kneeling before him. The heart was steaming in the cool night air, raw and bloody.

There was no turning back. Not that Harry had wanted to. He had made up his mind to go down this road many months ago; back when he had asked Daphne if she would stay by his side forever, no matter what he did in the future. That future was now. That future would be every new day from this point on, for the rest of their lives, and maybe even beyond.

They would show everyone, Harry thought determinedly. They would be powerful, more powerful than anyone before them, they would bring the world to its knees and make all their dreams come true. And this was the first step towards making that happen.

At the same moment as Daphne, Harry leaned forward and sank his teeth into the tough, stringy flesh.

Warm blood filled his mouth and ran down his chin. It tasted almost sweet, unlike any blood he had tasted before – his own or Daphne's. The taste threatened to choke him, but he forced himself to chew and swallow. The heart would make their bodies strong, their own hearts, would turn them into reactors of unparalleled power, if the old books were to be believed.

Again Harry bit into the heart in his hands, bit off a large piece and swallowed it. His stomach rumbled, but he forced himself to ignore the nausea. Even with the second, third, tenth bite.

Again and again he sank his teeth into the bloody flesh, and as he ate more and more of the heart, he felt the nausea slowly disappear. It was as if the unicorn's magic had entered his flesh and was now working inside him, filling him with an indescribable energy. A comforting warmth slowly spread through him, like a cup of hot chocolate after a cold walk.

Daphne also kept biting into his heart as if it were a piece of treacle tart or some other delicious treat. Smacking noises filled the clearing, the only sounds around.

It wasn't long before Harry and Daphne had almost finished the unicorn's heart. The last bite was split into two equal halves by their teeth. Harry's tongue tasted the magical flavour one last time, which by now seemed truly and utterly delicious. Then he swallowed – and everything changed.

An overwhelming heat suddenly shot through his body. The darkness of the night exploded into a firework of colour and light. His ears were ringing, his heart was pounding. Thousands of sensations assaulted him, the most obvious of which was the wonderful scent of pine needles with a hint of lemongrass in his nose and the iron taste of the person he loved on his tongue.

Harry lifted his head to stare at Daphne. Her face was covered in silver blood, just as his should be, but even bloodied, she seemed to him at that moment like a beautiful princess, a supreme goddess, a dark sorceress and lady. His lady.

A bright, golden light seemed to emanate from her, surrounded by dark vapours like smoke over a bonfire. It was like that time in the magic pond, hidden deep in another part of the forest, when they had been filled with magic in its purest form.

Harry looked down at himself. He too was glowing with bright light, but like Daphne, he was surrounded by dark smoke that seemed to be seeping in and out of him at the same time. The smoke was thickest in front of his chest, where his heart was.

He looked back at Daphne and she back at him. Their eyes met. Harry shivered because Daphne's eyes, which had looked at him with desire, were now two different colours. Her right eye was golden, as sublime as ever, but her left eye... it was now a deep emerald green. Not just a shimmer or sparkle as he had seen before when their magic had merged, but completely different colours. And yet more united than ever.

Harry's heart pounded in his chest, fast, almost painful, like a bird in a cage trying to escape. But he hardly noticed.

As if in a trance, he reached for Daphne. His movement unleashed a gust of air that shot from them in all directions, knocking over the trees around them like toothpicks in the wind, but Harry had no eyes for that either. His fingers touched Daphne's cheek... and for that one moment he was fully aware of her, as in the most intimate moments of their bond. He felt the delicate texture of her skin, so soft and warm and electrifying that he couldn't help but caress it with his fingers.

Daphne leaned into his touch, her cheek pressed against his hand as she bit her bloodstained lip. A soft pink tint coloured her cheeks, mirroring the heat rising in Harry's face, a sensation he couldn't control. His heartbeat quickened – or was it Daphne's that quickened? It was hard to tell.

He felt dizzy as he tried to separate the pounding of his own heart, the rush of blood in his ears, from hers. It seemed hopeless. Their hearts beat in unison, in perfect harmony. They were driving each other on without either of them being able to do anything about it. Or wanting to.

A sudden, overwhelming desire surged through Harry, igniting every nerve in his body. Gently, he lifted his other hand to cradle Daphne's face, feeling her tremble under his touch. In perfect synchronicity, they tilted their heads towards each other. Daphne's breath brushed across his face, smelling of blood.

When their lips finally met in a passionate kiss, Harry felt a surge of pleasure flow through him, a feeling of completeness, as if every part of his being had found its rightful place in the embrace of his mate.

They did it, Harry thought, a quiver of satisfaction running through him as he held Daphne close.

No, my love, we've only just begun.