Disclaimer: Not mine!
A/N: Hey everyone! Thank you sooooo much for all the reviews- you guys are fabulous. This chapter is a longer one as well, and will bring the story up to the Halloween ball. For those of you who wanted more Rose/Harry time, I hope you liked the part in the last chapter. I'll try to include some more in this one as well. And for everyone who was patiently and not-so-patiently waiting- Daphne and Harry are now together. I don't really think it's sudden; I've been kind of building up to it. I also hope their comfort with each other doesn't seem too unlikely as well; I have friends who were like that. Once they hooked up, they just settled into a relationship quite easily. That's not to say there won't be problems or issues, but for now, they're both on an adrenaline high of sorts. Also, a slightly random note, I think I misspelled "Canons" in the last chapter with two 'n's. Also…I know, this A/N is getting long…a couple of people were wondering how long the story is going to run, time-frame wise. Honestly? I think I'm going to try and wrap it up this chapter- life is getting a bit crazy for me. See end a/n.
The Little Child to Lead Him
"You've been what?" Hermione stared at him, aghast.
"The Chudley Canons want me to come try out for the team," Harry repeated.
Hermione just stared at him. "Are you going to?"
"No," Harry shook his head after a few minutes, sighing. "As much fun as it would be to play quidditch professionally, I can't. I need to be there for my daughters, and not to mention, I'm entirely too busy this year with classes to even consider it."
"You know Ron's going to be absolutely crushed when he finds out that you're declining."
"What am I going to be crushed about?" Ron appeared, kissed his girlfriend, and sat down next to her.
"That I've been offered the chance to try out for the Chudley Canons, but I'm turning it down."
"WHAT?!" Ron's mouth dropped open in shock, and the forkful of biscuits and gravy he'd been about to bite dropped onto the table with a splat. "I…You…What…How…?"
"Playing quidditch would be fun, but not right now," Harry explained. "I need to worry about school and doing well in my classes. I also have two daughters to raise. If I try out, and make it, then I'll be travelling a great deal. I'll be gone weekends for games, and have practices, and would probably have to get rid of my extracurricular classes. So what little time I spend with them now, would become even less. And I'm not willing to make that sacrifice yet. Maybe someday when they're older, and I'm done with school, and I've got my orphanage up and running, I'll reconsider it. But not right now."
"I understand," Ron sighed, nodding his head. "But…The Canons! I can't believe it."
"Sorry mate," Harry gave him friend a sympathetic look. "If it makes you feel any better, you can keep the letter they sent me. I think the captain signed it at the bottom."
"Really?" Ron took the letter and held it like it was a philosopher's stone, looking at it with reverence. "Blimey!"
"Thanks Harry," Hermione rolled her eyes. "Now all I'll hear for the rest of the day is 'Canons this', and 'Canons that'."
"Sorry Mione," Harry grinned, and turned back to his food as the rest of their year-mates came in and sat down around them.
"What's up with Ron?" Seamus asked curiously; Ron was still staring at the letter in amazement.
"In brief, Harry was invited to a Canon's try-out, and has decided to turn it down. He then gave his letter to Ron, who's ogling the captain's signature at the bottom," Hermione answered in a bored tone of voice.
"I'm surprised Ron didn't try to avada kedavra you when he found out," Seamus said to Harry.
"I know. Our little Ronniekins is growing up," mock-sniffed Harry. He stopped when Winky appeared with a pop, holding Rose, and handed her over, along with her diaper bag. Normally, Harry would've brought her down with him, but after the late night before, he didn't want to disturb her while she was sleeping. He took the fussing Rose, and promptly began feeding her a bottle.
"You know, as much as I've seen you with her, I don't know that I'll ever really get used to seeing you do that," Lavender sighed.
Harry looked up at her curiously. "Why not?"
"It just seems so surreal sometimes," her forehead wrinkled a bit as she tried to explain. "I mean, here you are, seventeen years old, with a baby! And not to mention the other one, Allyn. It's just…ugh…I don't really know how to say it."
"I think Lavender's getting at the fact that, for most of us, we think about graduating from Hogwarts, getting an apprenticeship or job somewhere, getting an apartment, dating, and someday, hopefully, getting married. Then we start to consider the idea of having kids," Parvati explained, with Lavender nodding her head. "But you've got the baby, and adopted another, and you have a house, I think, I'm not sure, but anyways, you're so grown up sometimes. I guess we just forget that you're only the same age as us."
"I didn't ask for Rose, as much as I love her," Harry sighed, moving Rose to her shoulder to burp her. "And the only reason I have my houses, and I have several, is from my parents and my godfather. They're really homes that I'd rather not have, if it meant having all of them back with me. Lyn now, was all my doing. I arrived at King's Cross to see her being abused by the orphanage worker who'd brought her. I couldn't stand for that, and adopted her on the spot. Yeah, it mightn't of been the wisest decision, or the most thought-out, but I don't regret it for a minute."
"Really?" Lavender looked slightly skeptical, as did some of the others. "Not that I don't agree something should've been done, but why you? Like I said earlier, you're only our age. We're supposed to be dating, and having fun, and being teenagers, with our only problems being things like acne and studying for the NEWTS. When you saw what was happening to Allyn, you could've told someone, an adult, and let them handle it."
"Let's say I did that," said Harry slowly, fighting to keep his temper in check. "Let's say I told Professor Dumbledore. He might check into it, but there were no visible signs of abuse; most of it was verbal and emotional from what little Lyn has let slip. And she's so shy she wouldn't say a thing. I think the only reason she even tells me as little as she has is because I saw her get hit. Yeah, I could've told an adult, but from personal experience, they don't handle things well. I was left with my relatives, who were abusive, even if it wasn't horribly so. I told people though, and they didn't do anything. So excuse me, but if I see someone in trouble, you can bet I'm going to do all that I can to help!"
Harry's speech that had started off calmly, had ended with his voice raised, and temper barely in check. He was breathing heavily, and decidedly not looking his shocked friends in the eyes. "If you'll excuse me, I think I need some fresh air," he said tightly, and grabbing Rose's diaper bag, stood up and left the great hall, and headed outside and down to the lake's edge. He sat there on a rock, fuming, in silence.
"Hey," a soft voice cautiously called from behind him, and he turned to see Daphne. "Hi Daphne."
"Feel like talking about it?" She perched on the rock next to him, taking Rose from him.
"Not particularly," he shook his head, staring out at the giant squid who was sunning himself. They sat in silence for a few minutes until Harry suddenly pushed himself off the rock with a growl of annoyance.
"They don't understand! They were criticising my choice to adopt Lyn, and saying that I should've just told an adult. They just don't understand," Harry repeated.
"You're right, they don't understand," Daphne affirmed. "I can't say that I entirely do either, but perhaps I do a bit more than them. From the time most people are kids, they're brought up being told that when something goes wrong, you tell an adult. Kids shouldn't have to do anything but school, some chores, and have fun. You haven't had that luxury, Harry, and they have trouble remembering that. You were brought up in an abusive home, and when you did get out, you were thrust into this world where you're a celebrity. You defeated Voldemort once, and you were expected to keep fighting against him. That's not something a teenager should have to deal with."
"Well what about my decision to adopt Lyn? They seemed to think that was stupid."
"Maybe not stupid, but you have a saving-people thing. Don't get angry," she cautioned when he whirled about to look at her, mouth open to protest. "You know it, I know it, everyone knows it Harry. And there's not necessarily anything wrong with that, but you have to understand that you can't save everyone; it's not your job to. And that's going to be hard for you, since you've been pressured to do so in the past. But you don't need to be a hero anymore. You just need to be Harry; a friend, a student, a father, a boyfriend, and a typical teenager, as much as you can."
Harry stood quietly, just taking in everything she'd said. Together for an hour, and she already seemed to understand him, and know just what to say to him. "How do you know all this? How'd you know just what to say to make me calm down and think rationally?"
"My older brother, Damon, was a lot like you, at least when it came to brooding and being upset. He'd get angry about something before taking the time to completely think it through. I was the only one who could get him to really think about things, and try to understand what exactly was being said. Just like you. Now that you've thought it through, your friends' opinions make more sense, don't they? Especially when you take into consideration the fact that they've never had to be so independent as you. That's where I can relate to you; having no one but Draco to rely on these last several months has made me grow up a fair amount."
Harry moved back to sit beside her, giving her a smile as he took Rose back. "Thank you," he said softly. "I don't know if I like having someone else who understands me so well. Usually it's Hermione playing the voice of reason. I'm sorry about your brother. Were you two close?"
"In some ways," she shrugged slightly. "He was fifteen years older than me. I was the result of a drunken romp between my parents, and certainly not planned. They had my brother to carry on the name, and inherit the family estate. I was a mere nuisance, though as they realised I was going to be pretty, they began planning out to how best use me as a bartering piece. Damon joined the death eaters while still in school, not long before Voldemort's demise. He loved the dark arts; their power, their subtle seduction, and the terror they instilled in others. Damon wasn't a kind person, but he adored me, and was a wonderful big brother, and I loved him very much."
"Well I'm glad you have fond memories of him," Harry tucked Rose into his left arm, and wrapped him right arm around Daphne, pulling her against his side in a hug. She rested her head on his shoulder, and he leaned his head on top of hers. They were enjoying the comfortable silence, when a flash startled them, and they sat up to see nothing. Harry pulled out his wand, and a quick finite incantatem revealed a photographer and reporter in front of them. The reporter was furiously jotting notes down, and the photographer was snapping more photos, even as they started running away from the obviously angry Harry.
"Bloody reporters," he scowled, and raised his wand again.
"Harry," Daphne grabbed his wrist, stopping him. "Stop. You're holding Rose, and they're not worth the effort. Besides, we have class to get to; charms starts in fifteen minutes."
"I don't want you to have to deal with the press." Harry was still scowling as the reporter and photographer reached the edge of school property, and disapparated away.
"I knew it would happen eventually. I just hoped that we'd have a little more time before dealing with it, but I'll be fine. We'll be fine. Let's get to class."
Sure enough, the next morning, the Daily Prophet's front page had a picture of Harry and Daphne and the headline read 'Harry Potter's New Flame'. The accompanying article contained a few details about the conversation they'd been having, speculation about when they'd gotten together, and then there were several pages that detailed all the old relationship gossip on Harry; everything from Cho to the old rumors from during the Triwizard Tournament. It wasn't long before the entirety of the school knew, and classmates were coming over to ask Harry whether it was true or not. They would've asked Daphne, but Draco was casually polishing his wand, glaring at anyone who came within ten feet of him and Daphne. Blaise and Tracey were also seated nearby, as well as a few of the younger students, adding to the intimidation factor.
"Harry, are you really dating that Slytherin?" A Ravenclaw sixth year asked; he was a small, wiry, boy, who loved to gossip more than Lavender and Parvati, if that was possible. Harry and Daphne had talked about how they would respond to the inquiries. They'd agreed that they wouldn't outright deny it, but neither would they admit to it.
"That Slytherin is Daphne Greengrass, and it's not really any of your business, is it?" Harry stared the boy down, causing him to gulp and look slightly chastised, though he wasn't to be deterred.
"Well it's all over the front of the post, which makes it the whole world's business," he persisted.
"That does not make it the whole world's business," Harry slammed his fist down on the table, startling his friends, and the other who were around. He could see Allyn and her friends look frightened at that, and he forced himself to calm down. "Just because I defeated Voldemort, that does not mean that everyone in the magical world is entitled to know if I'm dating, where I go, and every other aspect of my life. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yeah," the boy nodded, then paused. "So are you dating?"
"Get out of here you idiot," Ron had had enough. He grabbed the boy by his arms and physically lifted him up and away from the table, giving him a shove before sitting back down, glaring at the crowds. "Anyone else have any more stupid questions to ask?" The students shook their heads and quickly went back to their own tables, leaving Harry with some degree of peace.
"Thank you," Harry gratefully looked at Ron.
"Sure thing mate," Ron nodded, grinning cheerfully. "So is the post right? Are you two dating?"
"Not you too!" Harry groaned, dropping his head onto his arms after seeing the inquisitively looks of his friends, sans Hermione.
"He is, but they only got together yesterday morning, so it's very new to the both of them," Hermione answered for him, her eyes on the book in front of her.
"How'd you know?" Ron nudged his girlfriend until she looked up at him, exasperated.
"He told me yesterday; I believer his exact words were 'I'm courting Daphne'," Hermione answered, then went back to her book.
"Courting?" Lavender's brow furrowed in thought. "Isn't that the old-fashioned term for dating?"
"Yeah, but a lot of the old families and pureblood families still follow the old traditions," Ron answered her around a mouthful of eggs. "Not all the traditions of course, cause some of them are just stupid nowadays, so people really just pick and choose."
"So what rules are you picking Harry?" Parvati asked.
"Not that many, cause the whole thing is kind of awkward and unnatural feeling," Harry explained. "I asked permission to court her, and I gave her flowers with different meanings. That's all really."
"That's sweet," Lavender smiled.
"I thought Daphne was an orphan?" Ron spoke up.
"She is," Harry nodded.
"Then who'd you get permission from to court her? I mean, usually you'd ask the father, or if there's no father, then a grandfather, or uncle, or male legal guardian."
"How do you know so much about that?" Harry asked, curious.
"Well I had to get permission to date Hermione, didn't I?"
"You asked my father?" Hermione looked up from her book, surprised.
"Well of course, just like I will whenever I want to propose to you," Ron said it so matter-of-factly. "But back to my question Harry, who'd you ask?"
"Malfoy. They're best friends, and all the family the other has really, so I asked him."
"And he said yes?!"
"Sort of. He gave me permission to ask Daphne out, and to leave it up to her."
"Oh. Well congrats mate," Ron grinned.
"Thanks," Harry grinned back. "We'll see how things go."
Classes passed uneventfully; Professor Snape surprised everyone with a pop quiz. Harry actually felt confident about his answers, though he knew it wouldn't be an outstanding grade. Hermione probably scored a perfect grade, though she spent all of DADA dithering about one question that she was sure she had forgotten to add some inconsequential (to anyone else) detail to. Ron finally shut her up by kissing her soundly, to which everyone laughed at before heading to lunch.
"Harry," Duchess appeared next to him with a pop.
"Hey Duchess, I haven't seen you for a while," Harry greeted her, ignoring the gasps and whispers that always came when he spoke parseltongue.
"Places to go, other familiars to see," she curled herself around him. "I've been checking in on you and the little ones though, don't worry."
"I wasn't worried about that, just about you, though I know you can take care of your self."
"Harry…," Lavender nearly whined, hiding her face against Dean's shoulder. "I'm sorry, but she's really freaking me out."
"All right, let me just finish up real quick and see what she needs," Harry assured her, and turned back to his familiar. "Sorry, but Lavender's scared of you. What do you need? Or would you rather just come to my room later after my singing class?"
"I don't need anything, just wanted to say hello. I'll come to your room tonight though to chat."
"All right, see you Duchess," Harry bid her farewell, and after she gave him a squeeze, she unwound herself from him, gave a playful hiss at Lavender who shrieked, and then left the great hall.
"Snakes…I don't like snakes," Lavender shuddered. "What did she want?"
"Just checking in. She's been AWOL lately; we're gonna talk more tonight…don't worry, she'll be coming directly to my room, so you won't have to see her."
"If it'll make you feel better, I'll ask her if she can try not to pop in when you're around. I can't promise she'll agree though."
"I'd appreciate it," she smiled gratefully at him before turning back to Dean.
Dinner started winding down, and those with an early class began heading out. Harry bid most of his friends good-bye, as they headed off to their classes. He glanced down at his daughter, who was happily waving a fist. Looking at the plate of pie in front of him that he hadn't finished, he dipped a finger in the sweet cream that'd covered it, and then put it in her mouth for her to taste. She sucked at it happily, and when she'd had it all, he dipped his finger in it again for her once more.
"That's enough of that, sweetheart," he grinned when, after he pulled out his finger, her mouth kept moving, as if looking for more. "I don't want your stomach getting upset."
"How's my favorite little runt?" Draco and Daphne appeared and sat down on either side of him. Daphne leaned over and kissed him lightly on the lips; their first, and only a small one, but Harry was amazed by the sensations…fireworks really…that occurred. He also loved the fact that the kiss was so natural, with none of the awkwardness that had been between him and Cho.
"She's good, getting bigger everyday," Harry laughed, handing her over to him.
"She is not," Draco pretended to look affronted as he cradled her in his arms. "She's absolutely perfect just as she is."
"You're always a sucker for a pretty face," Daphne teased, laughing as she did.
"Then I wonder why I always seem to give in to you?" Draco shot back, an eyebrow raised in challenge.
Harry rested his elbows on the table as he watched the two of them shoot insults and quips back and forth for several minutes. Only when Draco mentioned a rather crude term did he intervene, telling him to watch his language around Rose. Draco was instantly contrite, and apologising to Rose; something that had Harry amazed, as it was definitely out of character for Draco.
"I don't know that I'll every completely get used to you being nice," he sighed, shaking his head.
"Too bad," he shrugged and stuck his tongue out, in another move that was decidedly un-Malfoyish.
"Come on you two, don't start," laughed Daphne as she stood up. "We should start heading to choir class."
Draco kept hold of Rose, and started for the doorway, Harry and Daphne behind him. Daphne gave Harry a shy smile as she linked her fingers through his. Harry smiled back, loving the contact, amazed at how everything was going. He had two beautiful daughters that he was learning to be a father to. He was back at Hogwarts, which was home to him, and classes were going well. The Halloween dance was coming up, and then it would only be a while till Christmas, and he couldn't wait to spoil Rose and Lyn. He had a lovely girlfriend who he was beginning to care for greatly, and even if he didn't know what the future was going to bring beyond graduation, he was perfectly content to let fate play out as it should.
A/N: Okay…That's the end. I know I'm going to get a dozen reviews complaining about the abruptness of the ending, or asking for a sequel/continuation. As of right now, the answer is no. Life is going to be crazy for me for the next several months. I'm going to Spain for six weeks to study-abroad (with no computer), then when I come back I have a week before college starts. This fall will be my senior year, and while I'm taking a lighter course load, I'm also starting my job as a substitute teacher. Story-wise, I won't be able to keep any kind of regular schedule for updates; I don't even know how much time I'll have to write, what with papers and all. This story has also been a challenge for me; as a writer, I like to set tasks for myself with each story, so I can grow as a writer. For this story, my 'task' was the odd use (for me) of Harry Potter as the main character. I tend to prefer Hermione/Snape/Weasley Twin as one of the main characters. I've found that even though I've enjoyed some parts, overall, this story hasn't been a particularly fun one for me. Now for the 'ending'. I know it's abrupt, and that no one probably saw it coming, but there you go; I've explained my reasons for why I did. The way it stands now leaves it nicely open for your imagination; you can picture the ball (a cliché I was hesitant to write), Christmas, Graduation, whether or not he stays with Daphne, his future, etc. I know some don't like that sort of ending, but you'll have to forgive me. Over the next several months, when I have time, if any, I'll probably start jotting down ideas for a Hermione/Fred fic. I've also been toying around with the alternate ending for "Playing Pretend" where Hermione does marry Percy, and Ginny ends up with Snape. But more likely it'll be Hermione and Fred. But don't look for anything till January. With all that said, thank you to everyone who has read, reviewed, and enjoyed! I appreciate it so much!