Disclaimer: The Harry Potter universe belongs to JK Rowling, Scholastic, Bloomsbury, Warner Bros and some other high falutin' companies. Me, I'm just a PR professional. I don't profess to own - and would never dream of making any money off JKR's wonderful world. However, its her sandbox and she's left the gate unlatched so we can go in and play a bit. Which, I've done.


Chapter Three – Meeting Them

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After the first two fun-filled days wandering about Diagon Alley and getting both his supplies and bearings, Harry then spent the next few weeks mainly hunkered down in his room studying. He had to assimilate quite a significant amount of information in a short space of time before he felt confident enough to start contacting people based on the request of his father.

His only break was to return to the bank early on the morning of his eleventh birthday, 31st July, to take up his Head of House ring for the House of Potter and to read his parent's Will. For the ring, it was only a simple matter of placing the ring on his right ring finger. The magic of the ring flashed before resizing itself, signifying he was the rightful Head of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Potter.

Immediately afterwards his parent's Will was read. In it, it was confirmed who Harry's rightful guardians should have been; and still should be. He asked for the Will to be executed but stated that neither the Order of the Phoenix, nor Albus Dumbledore, should receive their bequeathments. He asked the goblins to file paperwork to that effect immediately who would, in turn, file it with the Ministry.

He also asked for, and received, a certified copy of the Will for his own possession. And the goblins partly reactivated the Potter vaults.

After leaving the bank he returned to The Leaky Cauldron to continue his studying.

By Sunday, 4th August, Harry felt he was ready to start sending out his formal letters re-establishing alliances with the various Houses. His first was to the current Regent for the Noble and Most Ancient House of Longbottom, Madam Augusta Longbottom. He also knew the Scion of the House was a boy the same age as he, Neville Francis Longbottom, and that there was only a single day between them in age.

As soon as he finished writing that letter, using the best parchment and ink he could procure from Scribbulus Everchanging Inks, he set to writing a similar letter to the Regent for the Noble and Most Ancient House of Bones, Madam Amelia Bones. As with Neville Longbottom, Scion Longbottom, the Heir Presumptive for the House of Bones was someone his own age, Susan Bones.

By the time he'd finished, Hedwig had returned and he sent off his second letter.

To both he introduced himself, as was required, and invited them to contact him for a meeting to formally re-establish the alliances. The prose was formal, as per tradition. So, he knew the response would come in a similar fashion. And that it wouldn't be rushed. As they were both considered 'light' families, he asked each for a meeting at their convenience in any location they desired. He hoped the sign of trust he gave doing that made the meetings that much easier. And that neither would be concerned when he was not accompanied by a guardian. He also asked for the meeting to occur near the end of the month just before he left for Hogwarts to stop them from making enquiries before he was able to confront Dumbledore.

His own research into the Blacks, learned through gentle probing questions of shopkeepers within the Alley - they were always the biggest gossipmongers and, therefore, the best source for information of the Houses - led him to believe the Headship of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black was currently vacant. The position rightfully belonged to Sirius Black. However, with Black in the wizarding prison, Azkaban, and Black unable to take the Headship while he was incarcerated, it was believed Dumbledore had been acting in Proxy for that House since the death of Arcturus Black a few months earlier. Harry had no intention of contacting Dumbledore.

He had raised the matter with Bloodfang of the goblins when he next visited. It was clear the old goblin knew some important information regarding the Blacks, and Sirius Black in particular, but was implacable in providing information claiming client confidentiality. What bothered Harry was why the goblin clammed up when asked about Black. He wondered why the goblins would refuse to divulge the identity of the Head of House Black when that information was readily provided for the other Houses.

The fourth House, the Greengrasses, were still Headed by Cygnus Greengrass; the same person who was responsible for the marriage contract between he and Scion Greengrass, Daphne Greengrass, Heiress Presumptive to the Noble and Most Ancient House. That letter would take time to write as it required to be one combining both the re-establishment of the alliance between Potter and Greengrass, and re-establishing/introducing himself to the father of Daphne. The books he had procured were adamant in their instruction he not contact the girl directly until they had been formally introduced.

Speculation held that the Greengrasses were considered a grey and neutral House, so it behooved Harry to take care in contacting them. A neutral ground for the first meeting would be considered prudent. However, the betrothal contract made such a choice moot and indicated the meeting should occur at his preferred location as the betrothed groom. However, as he did not currently have a place to call his own, he would give the Greengrasses the 'hometown advantage' and hoped, just as with the Boneses and Longbottoms, it showed he was giving them his trust.

Before, sending the letter to the Greengrasses, though, Harry intended to speak to both Mesdames Longbottom and Bones to get their views on how he should proceed. He felt asking for their advice, and probably acting upon it, would help cement the newly re-established alliances with those two Houses.

If he wasn't already old friends with his ongoing headache the politics of the situation would give him another.

In the mean time, he kept reading and learning as much as he could about the wizarding world.

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At precisely 6.00pm on the 26th August, the fireplace flashed to light with green flames. Stumbling out to land on his butt was Harry Potter. He wore formal robes without crest of a dark, almost black green silk. His under-robe shirt was of an emerald green to match his eyes.

A young boy of similar age with sandy-coloured hair and wearing his own formal robes of deep red stepped forward with a grin and helped Harry back to his feet.

"Thank you," said Harry, with a sheepish grin of his own. "I'm not used to floo travel."

"It can take some getting used to," the sandy-haired lad replied before stepping back and, in a formal voice, saying, "I, Neville Francis Longbottom, Heir Longbottom, formally welcome you to Longbottom Hall and offer to you our hospitality this evening."

Harry, recognising the formal phrasing from his reading of the wizarding world etiquette, replied, "I, Harry James Potter, Heir Potter, thank you for and accept your welcome and offer of hospitality, Heir Longbottom." Reaching into his robes he brought forth a small gift-wrapped package and, offering it, said, "I offer you this gift as per the old ways."

Accepting the gift, Neville replied, "I accept and thank you for your gift, Heir Potter."

Letting go with a relieved sigh, Neville said with a grin, "Thank Merlin that's done with. You can call me Neville, by the way." And offered his hand.

Harry shook the boy's hand with a wide grin of his own and said, "Call me Harry, please."

Standing a little straighter again, Neville said, "I'm now to escort you to the Sitting Room where Gran - errr – Madam, Dowager Lady, Longbottom awaits us."

Giving a nod, Harry said, "Then by all means; please, lead us."

Neville led Harry into the Entrance Hall of the Hall, across and through another door. In there he was greeted by a witch appearing in her middle ages for a muggle but in her seventies for a witch. He formally greeted her before she gestured to a seat opposite a coffee table. He waited until she took seat before he sat down. Neville sat on the same side as his Gran but a little apart.

"Now that the formalities are out of the way," she began, "How have you been, Mister Potter?"

"It's just Harry, please, Ma'am," replied Harry. "After all, you're the grandmother of my godbrother, Neville. And I've been well."

Neville, a little startled, blurted, "Godbrother?"

"Neville!" Madam Longbottom scolded.

Neville looked a little abashed at the scolding.

"Yeah, Neville," said Harry, to quickly skip over the uncomfortableness of the situation. "Your mother is my godmother. And, from what I can gather, my mother was your godmother. As far as I can see, that makes us godbrothers; brothers in all but blood."

"He is correct, Neville," said Madam Longbottom. "Both your parents were close and became even closer when Dear Alice and Lily both fell pregnant at the same time." Turning back to Harry she said, "And I'm very sorry for your loss - Harry. I loved your parents as if they were my own children."

"Thank you, Ma'am," said Harry with a little sorrow. "I appreciate your sentiments."

Giving only a nod in response, and with a slight hesitation before continuing, Madam Longbottom then said, "And, as you are Neville's 'godbrother' as you put it, perhaps you might find it within yourself to refer to me as Neville does, as Gran."

A little startled, Harry was a little hesitant before replying, "Thank you - I think I'd like that - Gran." And gave a small smile.

"Good," she replied. "Now, perhaps you can tell us where you've been for the past ten years?"

With a small sigh, and not a little weariness, Harry decided to tell them both a rough abridged version of his life. He kept secrets, of course, but he gave them some detail. He just didn't know how much to tell them yet so decided to withhold some information.

Halfway through the telling of his biography a house elf popped in and reported dinner was ready. Harry continued his story after it was finished and they were once more sitting in the Sitting Room. Madam Longbottom was drinking a sherry while Neville and Harry were drinking butterbeers.

While he was reticent to do so, Harry felt it would be an overt sign of trust to show the letter from his father to the Dowager Lady. So, he offered it and allowed her to read it. He was surprised to hear the prim and proper witch muttering quite sulphurously about what she had read.

"It appears, Mister Potter," she said returning the letter, once she'd calmed down a bit, "that you should have been raised here at Longbottom Hall."

Surprised, Harry asked, "Pardon? I was led to believe Uncle Frank and Aunt Alice are - currently incapable of caring for me."

Realising what he'd said he apologised, "Sorry, that was rather - abrupt - of me."

With an expression of slight pain she said, "Not your fault, dear. But I think I should explain."

Harry gave a small nod and gesture for her to continue.

"You see, your parents and you were attacked on 31st October," she explained. "Frank and dear Alice were not attacked until almost a week later on 5th November."

Harry nodded in understanding.

"However," she went on, "according to what you've told me, you were placed with those muggle relatives of yours on the evening of 1st November by Albus Dumbledore. That was four days before Frank and Alice were attacked."

With comprehension dawning, Harry said, "That means I should have been here, at Longbottom Hall, instead of with the Dursleys, when Uncle Frank and Aunt Alice were attacked!"

"Yes, dear," she replied.

"Please forgive me for asking; but, could it have been that Uncle Frank and Aunt Alice rejected me because they, too, were at risk of being attacked? Maybe they thought I'd be safer if I wasn't with them?"

Shaking her head, she replied with a frown, "No, they'd have never done that. If, as this letter suggests, Frank and Dear Alice were listed as the first option for your care when - if - something untoward happened to your parents, then they would not have turned you away."

With a sigh Harry growled, "Dumbledore. He completely ignored my parents' wishes. That - man - I find more and more to blame for what happened to me under the oh so tender mercies of the Dursleys. What I cannot figure out is why he did it."

"That, I cannot tell you," she replied.

Straightening himself up a bit Harry said, "Anyway, that's something I intend to ask him directly when I finally meet him. In the meantime, I wonder if you can offer any advice about how to deal with the Greengrasses and the betrothal contract between myself and Lady Daphne."

After a short discussion on how to handle the situation, she offered Longbottom Hall as a neutral venue. However, he declined the offer but accepted her advice. Her advice, thankfully, matched his already recently established views.

At the end of the night Harry was pleased he had met one of his father's requests, to re-establish the alliance with House Longbottom. And he had answers to some of the questions of which he'd been plagued over the past month. He also agreed to meet up with Neville on the train to Hogwarts the next Sunday morning.

"I will, of course, probably be sitting with Lady Daphne, at least," said Harry. "She is, after all, my betrothed. I hope this will not be of concern to you?"

"Nope," said Neville. "I've met Daphne. I like her. She'll also probably want to be with her friend Tracy. And, I have no problem with her, either."

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The next evening - again, at precisely 6.00pm - the fireplace flashed to light with green flames. Stumbling out and again landing on his butt in the parlour of Bones Manor was Harry Potter. Again he wore formal robes without crest. The colour this time was plain black. His under-robe shirt was of a light green. Susan Bones awaited him just as Neville had done the previous day.

A quick run through the same greetings and responses - after she'd stopped giggling at him - and she was escorting him through to a formal lounge to meet her aunt, Madam Amelia Bones, current Regent for House Bones.

Harry found Madam Bones to be a no-nonsense kind of woman, very similar to Madam Longbottom. However, where Madam Longbottom was more a regal grand lady, Madam Bones was more down to earth; more of a 'beer and pretzels' rather than 'tea and scones' kind of woman.

Harry was surprised just how similar the two meetings were. Though, what he had read did not go into too great a detail about the intricacies of such meetings, he felt he shouldn't have been surprised.

The biggest difference, though, was the penetrating questions Madam Bones asked him about his past. Whenever he was reticent to reveal too much, he knew the older witch, the Head of the DMLE, knew he was withholding the information. At such times, she approached the matter from a slightly different angle; a slightly different perspective. By the end of the meeting Harry was surprised about just how much he had divulged.

He could also tell the older witch was trying not to give off the impression of great anger. Clearly, she was not happy with what she had learned from what Harry told her. However, on such occasions, she kept her own counsel.

As he did with Madam Longbottom, Harry offered the letter from his father to the witch and asked her for advice on how to proceed with his meeting with the Greengrasses. Her advice matched Madam Longbottom's.

As with the Longbottoms, at the end of the night he was pleased to have re-established the second of the alliances with which his father had charged him. And, also agreed to meet with young Susan on the train to Hogwarts. He also mentioned sitting with Neville and likely Daphne and her friend, Tracey. And Susan mentioned her friend Hannah would also likely join them.

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Harry's meeting with the Greengrasses was scheduled for 5.00pm on the Thursday night prior to departure on the Hogwarts Express. This time he wore a set of formal robes in iridescent dark green with a white undershirt. He took special care with his appearance with the only 'slight' to his appearance being his untameable messy black hair. He also wore his rimless glasses as they enhanced his eyes.

Stepping into the fireplace at The Leaky Cauldron he stepped out into the marble-floored parlour at Greengrass Estate - and promptly fell onto his butt, yet again.

Muttering to himself about his innate clumsiness, and forcing back his anger, he rose to his feet to be greeted by a stunningly dressed middle-aged witch who was gently smiling at him.

"Sorry," he muttered louder, brushing himself off. "I hate floo travel."

Smiling more openly at his remarks, the witch waited for him to brush himself down a bit before stepping forward and saying, "Allow me."

She brought forth her wand and, with a few quick gestures and a murmured incantation banished all the remaining soot from his robes. Then she stepped back, resheathed her wand and said, "Welcome to Greengrass Manor, Mister Potter. I am Lady Isabel Greengrass. On behalf of my husband and myself I offer you welcome and our hospitality this evening."

Straightening himself up, Harry thought, 'Huh. A slightly less than formal welcome. I guess I wing it.' He replied, "Thank you for your invitation and welcome, Lady Greengrass."

He reached into his robes and drew forth a small wrapped gift. Offering it to her, he said, "Please accept this small token in response to your generosity."

Smiling, she stepped forward and accepted the gift before dropping it into a pocket of her robes. She turned around slightly and took his elbow before saying, "Nicely done, Mister Potter. Perhaps you can now do me the honour of escorting me to the lounge? My Lord Greengrass awaits us there."

With a slight bow, Harry replied, "Of course, Ma'am," and allowed her to steer him out of the room and through to the lounge.

As they were walking, she leaned down and whispered to him, "Have no fear, Harry. We're all family here."

On hearing her words, Harry visibly relaxed and let out the breath he didn't realise he was holding with a sigh.

Entering the formal lounge he saw a tall man rise from an armchair and turn towards him.

Lady Greengrass said, "My Lord, I present Mister Harry Potter, Head of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Potter." Turning to Harry and stepping away a little, she said, "Mister Potter, I present Lord Cygnus Greengrass, Head of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Greengrass."

Harry, recognising his cue, walked forward and offered his hand to Lord Greengrass, "Thank you for your invitation for this evening, Lord Greengrass."

With a small smile the older man said, "And thank you for accepting our invitation, Mister Potter." He then indicated an armchair across from where he was sitting and said, "Please, sit."

Harry moved around and sat on the offered armchair and sat back, hoping he looked quite relaxed as he did so - even though he wasn't. He waited for the Greengrasses to find their own seats across from him. He hesitated before saying, "I must apologise for not being in contact with you sooner. However, I have been - kept - from my heritage and the wizarding world in general these past ten years.

"I only - rediscovered - the wizarding world at the end of July and have been working hard to learn everything I need to gain a better understanding of this world. That led me to discover a letter from my father awaiting me in a vault in Gringotts."

He reached into his robes and withdrew the letter from his father. He offered it across to the man opposite.

"It is a personal letter," he continued. "But I hope it goes some way to allow you to understand my delay in contacting you."

Frowning, Lord Greengrass glanced back at Harry for a moment before opening the letter and reading.

When he was finished he offered the letter back and said, "Thank you for allowing me to read such a personal letter, Mister Potter. It does explain some matters.

"However, we have attempted to contact you on numerous occasions over the past ten years; to, at the very least, ensure ourselves you're still alright. But, every owl has been unable to track you down; and the mail has returned to us unopened."

Having heard the unasked question Harry sighed a bit and said, "For whatever reason I do not yet understand, Albus Dumbledore saw fit to - place me - in the home of my muggle relatives immediately after the events of 31st October 1981.

"Until I received my letter informing me I had been accepted into the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry on 24th July, I was unaware of my heritage. The Hogwarts letter was the first time I had received any contact from the wizarding world. I have no idea why any correspondence, other than my Hogwarts letter, sent to me by people in the wizarding world has not found me. I am as upset with the situation - if not more so - than you are.

"Since the day I received my Hogwarts letter I have been - scrambling, for wont of a better word - to learn everything I can about both my heritage and my place in this world. As you would understand, it's been a bit of a shock."

Clearly surprised, Lady Greengrass asked, "No other mail? What about your bank statements from Gringotts?"

"Nothing, I'm afraid," replied Harry. "I can only surmise Dumbledore did not want me aware of the wizarding world until I was of age to enter Hogwarts. I think it's because he didn't want me to grow up being famous. Maybe he thought if I did I'd grow up to be arrogant, or something. It will be the leading issue I raise with him when I meet him."

"It's illegal to intercept Gringotts mail!" exclaimed Lady Greengrass.

"So they've informed me," replied Harry with a frown. "However, as he's claimed he's my magical guardian through your parliament, the Wizengamot, he's used that position to stop me getting my mail. And there's little I can do about it.

"What I have done is, with the help of the goblins, created an alias under the name Harrison Smith for purposes of receiving mail. It's not so much a fake identity as a way to bypass whatever Dumbledore's done to block my mail for a select few."

"And explains why you asked us to write to Harrison Smith with our response to your letter," mused Lord Greengrass. "And also explains why no one's seen hide nor hair of you since that night ten years ago."

"Yes, Sir," said Harry.

"And people wonder why we don't ally ourselves with the 'Light'," mused the older man.

Turning to his wife he said, "Perhaps you should go and speak of this with our oldest before bringing her in here to meet her betrothed. It may - placate her somewhat."

Lady Greengrass smiled back before replying, "I believe that would be the wisest course of action." Turning to Harry she rose, as did Harry, before saying, "If you will excuse me, Mister Potter?"

"Of course, Ma'am," he replied with a slight bow.

As the older woman left the room Harry retook his seat.

When he was once more seated, Lord Greengrass said, "I suppose this meeting is also about our alliance with the House of Potter?"

"Yes, Sir," replied Harry. "I am still learning my place in the wizarding world. And what it means to be 'Light', 'Dark' and 'Neutral'. However, as the letter from my father clearly states, an alliance between our two houses is something he was keen on my renewing. I do not know enough not to - acquiesce - to his request. Plus, I figured with the betrothal contract, it became a moot point anyway."

"Quite!" smiled the older man.

Hesitating a moment, Harry said, "I know very little about my parents, Sir. I've heard some from Mesdames Longbottom and Bones, but I believe they were not part of my parent's inner circle of friends. I was hoping, as it appears you and Lady Greengrass were in that circle, you could help me to understand my parents better."

With a look of understanding, Lord Greengrass sighed and said, "I first met your father and mother when we were at Hogwarts. Your father was already friends with three other boys; Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew. Your mother and Isabel became friends in third year when they took Arithmancy together.

"Your father and the other three were all sorted into Gryffindor, I was sorted into Slytherin, and your mother and Isabel were sorted into Ravenclaw. Your father, Black, Lupin and Pettigrew were a tight knit group that quickly made a name for themselves as pranksters. Actually, it was more like your father, Black and Lupin were a tight knit group with Pettigrew always hanging around them.

"The four of them called themselves The Marauders; and they kind of wreaked havoc amongst the student population and staff with their pranks. However, there were some of us that quickly deduced that, besides the staff, their pranks were aimed at the 'Dark' families and those who's parents were probably Death Eaters. Students, such as myself, were also the victims of their pranks, but only because I was a Slytherin and their prank was aimed at our house in general.

"There were some who always seemed to be an individually targeted victim. Severus Snape, the current Potions Master at Hogwarts, was always one such victim; as were Bulstrode, Avery, the Lestrange Brothers, Rosier, and the other Blacks. It became very apparent they were almost exclusively targeting those they perceived as being future Death Eaters.

"On graduation, we learned that your mother, Lily Evans, was a secret fifth member of the Marauders in their final year. She and Lupin were the brains behind some of the best and biggest pranks Hogwarts have ever known," he smiled in reminiscence.

"Because it was a time of war, many of us left school to immediately join the Auror Corps. In our year, there were your father, myself, Sirius Black, Edgar Bones, Frank and Alice Longbottom, Gideon and Fabian Prewett, and quite a few others. However, it was us eight for whom Black coined the term 'The Auror Marauders'. Though we were supposed to be in training, we spent quite a bit of time pranking the existing Auror Corps and the training staff. It was during that time I became very good friends with both of your parents, as well as the others. That friendship continued into our Auror career once we completed training.

"And that leads us to the evening of 1st August 1980," he said, shifting forward in his chair slightly. "Young Neville Longbottom was born to Frank and Alice late on the night of 30th July, then you were born during the early hours of 31st July. My daughter, Daphne, was born in early June so was only a few weeks old at this stage.

"Your father invited the male members of the Auror Marauders to the cottage in Godric's Hollow to - wet the baby's head, so to speak. That's new father code for get blind drunk in celebration. Of course, this was also the first time we were able to wet the baby's head for Daphne; so I was getting just as drunk and rowdy as the rest.

"I don't know when it happened but it was very late at night. As it was explained to me by one of the Prewett brothers later, someone - I think it was Black - got it into their head that Daphne and you were the best looking babies ever; and that you needed to be protected from 'undesirables' who'd only be after you because of your looks and the power you would wield in the future; and, as such, to protect you both, a betrothal contract between the two of you should be written up immediately.

"Someone found a book that had the text of standard contracts - and, again, I think it was Black who 'found' it, or more than likely had it with him for this - and Gideon, I think it was, who quickly wrote up the contract." With a sigh he said, "Again, someone had a blood quill; probably Black, again. So, both your father and I signed the damned thing using the quill.

"It wasn't until the next morning James, your father, and I woke up to find we'd betrothed you and my daughter to be married when you came of age or were otherwise emancipated. By then, Black had already disappeared again into hiding as the Potter Secret Keeper. And your father and I had to face the music with our wives at Saint Mungo's that afternoon."

"Yes, and I made you sleep on the couch for the rest of the month as part-penance," said a voice from the doorway.

Harry turned in his chair and saw Lady Greengrass had just stepped through the door with a blonde-haired girl with bright blue eyes standing alongside her. The girl was alternatively glaring at Lord Greengrass and Harry.

'This must be Daphne,' thought Harry. 'And, Dad was right; she is a beauty.'

Both 'men' rose from their seats as the two ladies came forward.

"Ah!" said Lord Greengrass as an aside to Harry. With a gesture towards the girl he said, "I present to you, Mister Potter, my daughter, Daphne Ophelia Greengrass - your betrothed."

Daphne just glared at him as if attempting to kill him with her eyes.

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Dinner with the Greengrasses then became a much more relaxed affair except for the death glares Lord Greengrass was getting from his oldest daughter. His youngest, though, Astoria, a nine year old brunette with the same startling blue eyes, was having a great time twigging her sister about 'how lucky she was' to be marrying the Boy-Who-Lived, and how she must be 'ever so pleased' Harry was 'such a good looking boy', plus others.

Lady Greengrass, or Isabel as he was invited to call the lady, appeared quite amused by her youngest's antics but Lord Greengrass appeared to wince on occasion by some of the more outrageous things the young girl said. Harry quickly worked out that Lord Greengrass, Cygnus, was clearly under orders not to say anything in response and take whatever was said as yet more part-payment for the betrothal contract.

Harry didn't know whether to laugh or be horrified by some of the things the young girl said. Instead, he decided Cygnus was on his own and hunkered down in his chair hoping to not draw attention to himself.

It wasn't until young Astoria, Tori, sweetly asked her father when he was going to arrange a betrothal contract for her and some bloke named Cedric Diggory - because he was 'dreamy' - that Isabel finally stepped in and called a halt to it. Harry almost laughed out loud when he saw the look of gratitude on Cygnus's face when he looked at his wife.

He could not, however, stop the slight snort of amusement that escaped his lips. And that started Daphne in on him. Clearly, the girl had been bottling up her anger at the situation and she had decided to unload her ire on Harry.

"You might think this is funny, Harry James Potter, but I don't," she snipped. "No modern family uses betrothal contracts, these days; and I'm not pleased I'm subjected to one forcing me to marry you!"

"Peace, my Lady!" replied Harry softly with raised hands. "It appears I'm as much the victim of a prank carried out in August 1980 by Sirius Black as you. I assure you, the man is lucky he's currently incarcerated in Azkaban and out of my personal reach."

Not knowing how to respond she just glared back.

Harry thought, 'Ha! Hopefully, I've headed that particular rant off.'

He also noticed Cygnus make a small gesture with his wine goblet as if offering him a toast of congratulations.

"So," she asked with a lower venomous voice, obviously changing tactics, "Am I that repulsive?"

"No, no! Not at all!" replied Harry. "I'm more worried we'd be introduced as Lady Potter and her husband, that Harry bloke; or, that I'd be completely ignored, lost in the shadows of your radiant beauty!"

That stunned the table until Astoria piped up and said, "Oooohhh! He's good!" Before turning to her sister and saying, "If you don't want him, Daffy, I'll take him! I wouldn't mind being Lady Potter if he's going to say things like that."

That elicited an unladylike snort from Isabel and a grin from Cygnus.

Though her cheeks pinked a bit, Daphne just huffed, ignored everyone, and proceeded to assassinate her roast potatoes with her flatware.

"Round One to the future Lord Potter, methinks," muttered Isabel to her husband.

Harry was glad of the time he'd run out of reading material and 'borrowed' a couple of his aunt's 'Penny Dreadful' romance novellas to read until he could get more books.

Over dessert, talk turned to which Houses Harry and Daphne thought they might be sorted into. Daphne thought she might be in Slytherin or Ravenclaw, while Harry thought Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff.

When Isabel asked why those two Houses, Harry replied, "I think I'm smart enough to make my way in Ravenclaw, plus I've heard they have their own library in their common room that I would love to have access to. And I know that Hufflepuff House get's a bad rep, but I've no problem with being considered a hard worker and loyal to friends and family.

"Though my father and his friends were in Gryffindor, I don't want to be there just because it's expected of me. Besides, I don't really consider myself all that brave. At least, I don't consider bravery as a defining feature over my other qualities. That would make me seem all brawn and no brain.

"And I'm not interested in Slytherin because, while I consider myself to be somewhat cunning, and I may be able to carry off 'guile' if I worked at it, I don't think I'm all that ambitious. Unless you consider growing up to be a good father and husband and a self-responsible man to be an ambition.

"How about you, Daphne?" he asked.

"Unlike you, I think I'd manage to carry off cunning and guile quite well. And I'm certainly ambitious," she replied before lowering her head and the timbre of her voice with sadness. "However, it's rather pointless for me to be ambitious now, isn't it?"

Startled by how dejected she sounded, Harry said, "You can be as ambitious as you want, Daphne. Irrespective of my earlier words I'm not adverse to being married to the upcoming Minister of Magic, the Head of Saint Mungo's or the leading world renown Potions Mistress, Lady Daphne Potter; or whatever it is you wish to do. I hope you're willing to be at least my equal, if not surpass me. I can be just as happy being happy with your successes as with my own."

Daphne's head shot up on hearing that and stared straight at Harry in shock. "You do?" she asked in a quiet voice with eyes becoming moist with tears.

"Definitely!" he firmly replied.

"I..." she started before suddenly pushing her chair back and mumbling, "Excuse me," and dashing out of the room.

Looking at Harry with what he considered to be no small measure of respect, Isabel said, "And excuse me, Mister Potter. I need to go and - check on a few things." She, too, pushed her chair away from the table and left the room, following after her daughter.

Cygnus smiled at Harry and said, "You're going to have to stop that, Mister Potter. You're making me look bad by my not being as considerate as you are showing yourself to be."

Harry blushed and said, "I just don't like the idea she would see a marriage between us as being - a burden or disappointment in her life. I may not know her yet, but that's irrelevant to me. Everyone has the right to be happy with their life and I cannot countenance being the cause of someone's misery.

"I hope that maybe the ladies of your House will come to view the betrothal contract as you showing great foresight towards your eldest daughter's happiness."

Cygnus snorted in response and said, "Are you sure you're not going to be sorted into Slytherin? You're definitely showing the diplomatic traits required to succeed in that House."

Harry just shrugged. "A turn of the century French poet and essayist, Charles Péguy, once said, 'He who does not bellow the truth when he knows the truth makes himself the accomplice of liars and forgers'. I do not wish to be offensive, but I have no desire for the - politicking - that appears prevalent in the House of the Snakes in this current climate."

"Noted," the older man said with a grin. Then, turning to Astoria, he said, "As for you, young lady, it's time for bed."

"Awww!" she pouted. "But I want to hear Harry say something nice to me."

Harry smiled at her and said, "Fair maiden, there are no words I can convey to you that would do justice to your own beauty. That's why I was hesitant to attempt to do so."

Cygnus snorted, while Astoria sat there for a few seconds with a look partway between awe and being gobsmacked. She then turned to her father and begged, "I meant what I said. If Daffy doesn't want him, can I keep him?"

Cygnus kindly said back, "After tonight I don't think Daphne will be willing to let him go. Now, off to bed."

With a bit of a sulk Astoria hopped off her chair and walked around to give her father a hug and kiss goodnight. Hesitating a moment she then rushed to Harry and gave him one, too. "G'night!" she blurted, before blushing, giggling and dashing from the room.

"Well, you appear to have won over my three ladies," said Cygnus. "I wonder what your next trick will be. Shall we retire to the lounge to continue our discussion?"

"Of course, Cygnus," replied Harry.

Rising from the table both man and boy headed for the lounge and were met there by Isabel.

Once again taking seat Harry started by saying, "I hope you do not feel it too forward of me to ask if I may be allowed to court your daughter starting tomorrow afternoon. I'd like to try and get some of the awkwardness of the situation between Daphne and I out of the way before we depart for Hogwarts."

"It won't be courting, Harry," replied Cygnus. "After all, you're already betrothed. However, we're happy for you to come visiting tomorrow."

Giving a slight shrug Harry said, "I - understand its not actual courting. I just don't want to deny either of us the - experience of courting one another. Plus, it'll give us both a chance to get to know one another in a one-on-one situation. I'm hoping that we can talk things through and allow the relationship to develop that way. I think it would be nice if we started as friends first."

Nodding, Isabel said, "That's quite considerate of you, Harry. And I, for one, agree. If you had not been shunted off to your muggle relatives I daresay you and Daphne would have become much more familiar with one another before now."

Leaning forward, Cygnus said, "As we both are being a little forward amongst friends, may I enquire as to where you're currently staying? I mean to say, if it's with your muggle relatives, you may find it easier to reside here until Sunday."

Hesitating a little before replying, Harry said, "I'm staying at The Leaky Cauldron. I have no wish to return to my muggle relative's tender mercies."

Harry let a little anger colour his thoughts and must have let slip in his tone what he felt about the Dursleys because Isabel leaned forward and asked, "Harry. Are you - ill-treated there?"

Harry was a little uncomfortable with the question but replied with a frown, "What's done is done. They don't want me and I don't want them anywhere near me again."

It was clear neither Cygnus nor Isabel were happy with Harry's response but they didn't push. Instead, Cygnus said in a lighter tone, "Well, we cannot have the Head of a Noble and Most Ancient House residing at The Leaky Cauldron. As you and Daphne, as you suggested, should get to know each other before you depart on the Hogwarts Express, then I think I must insist you move in here for the next few days into one of our guest rooms. After all, you will be family soon enough."

Nodding, Harry said, "Then I thank you for the offer of your extended hospitality and heartily accept. I hope you won't mind if I move my things in tomorrow afternoon after lunch?"

"That would be fine, Harry. I'll have the elves prepare a room for you. Shall we expect you at - say - 1.00pm?"

"Thank you," said Harry. "That time suits me perfectly."

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