Building a romance from a fanon cliche turned on its head.
Harry turned to the voice -- female and young; identity unknown -- from the alcove, hand on his wand. No immediate threat; he relaxed a fraction. Yes, the pressure was getting to him and he was getting strung pretty tight.
The voice apparently belonged to Daphne Greengrass. Strange that he didn't recognize it. Though come to think of it, she didn't talk much and he didn't remember her ever speaking to him before.
"I need your help."
"What help? And why me?"
"I'm failing a class. If I don't pass, my father will take me out of school."
"OK. That's the what. Why me? And why should I help you?"
"You, because I have heard you are teaching other students adequately. This indicates ability and willingness to help."
Harry was almost offended by "adequately". But it didn't sound as if Daphne were trying to insult him. Everything she'd said so far was delivered flatly. Not quite a monotone, but lacking inflection. Lacking /emotion/, that was it. But they called her the Ice Princess, so that made sense.
"I'm not saying I'll help you. And I'm not saying I'm already helping anyone else. But what do you need help in? I'm not that great a student, you know."
Harry was floored. Despite his modest noises, he was quite proud of his skills. For the amount of work he put into his classwork and homework, he was doing pretty well. And of course when it came to defending himself from dark threats he was a bloody /prodigy/. But...Divination?
"Uh, are you sure that's what you want me to teach you? Wouldn't you be better off with Lavender or Parvati? Or, um, I think they said Pansy is pretty good, too."
"I do not want you to teach me Divination."
"Then what were we just talking about?"
"Divination as a discipline is largely a fraud. Divination as a class is entirely a fraud. The skill cannot be taught."
"If that's what you think, then why are you taking the class? Why not drop it?" Harry was feeling more and more puzzled by this conversation. It began with him being surprised in the hallway and spun out of control from there.
"We must take a minimum number of classes. Divination is supposed to be an easy class with little study or homework." Harry nodded agreement. This was why he and Ron were taking Divination. "However, I am having great difficulty with the class and as things are going will not be able to pass the class and will not be permitted to take the Divination OWL." Harry nodded again. A passing grade was required before OWLs, though he couldn't figure out how you could fail Divination. "This will lead to my failing fifth year. This will lead to my being withdrawn from Hogwarts. This will lead to my father selling me to a brothel to recoup some of the cost of five years' schooling."
Harry started to nod, then, "Wait. What? Sold to a brothel? Your father?"
"No. I, not my father, would be sold to a brothel."
That clarification didn't help. "Greengrass. Let's get to a classroom or something. I don't think this talk is going to be one we want to have in the middle of the corridor."
There weren't any vacant classrooms in that corridor -- every one was already in use, with either club meetings or students practicing or actual classes. Daphne found a solution.
"Greengrass? Are you sure you want to go in the broom closet with me? What if someone catches us?"
"You are the one who suggested privacy. And I have no concern for what others think or say."
Normally, that statement is simple bravado, a person telling herself that she's not hurt when others insult her or don't invite her to parties.
When Daphne said it, Harry had the feeling it was the simple truth.
"OK, so we're here. Let's start with the class. You're taking Divination even though it can't be taught, and you're having problems. What exactly do you expect me to do?"
"I want you to show me how to fake the homework. Tips for false readings in class would also be useful."
"I guess I can do that. Don't tell anyone, but Ron and I just make up stuff for the homework."
"I had concluded that was the case. Last week I went to Trelawney's office to ask for assistance. She had drunk herself asleep, so I read several homework papers to gain tips. Yours and Weasley's stood out in the garishness of the predictions, as well as the great variability from day to day. By contrast, most students' predictions were more modest and fell into regular patterns."
"Huh. Thanks for telling me. Maybe Ron and I should scale back a little bit."
"I do not think so. Your homework consistently had the highest grades of those I saw."
"OK, so we've covered what you want from me. What's in it for me? I'll tell you, between classes and detentions and the DA--, uh, other stuff, I'm pretty busy already."
"I was told that you feel an obligation to help those in need. I am in need. By May, without assistance, my need will become dire. Do you not feel an obligation to assist?"
"That was the old me. I've been cheated, lied to, lied about, attacked, abused, and stared at for four and a half years. I might still help, but there needs to be something in it for me."
"Understandable. Typically, compensation comes in the form of money. As the last known living Potter, you should be wealthy. However, you dress poorly and are seldom seen to buy things. My family is poor and I have little spending money but I will give you what I have."
"No, Greengrass, I don't want your money. My family would just take anything I had, anyway." Harry wasn't sure what made him blurt out that bitter admission. Fortunately, Daphne didn't pursue it.
"Another possibility is reciprocation. I could assist you with classes in which I am doing better than you."
That idea had potential, but on comparing grades, it turned out that Harry was doing better than Daphne in every class. She was barely making As, except for the Divination P.
"It is well known that you do not have a girlfriend." Again, Harry would have been offended, except that this statement was just as flat as everything else Daphne said. "It is obvious that you lust after Cho Chang." Now, that was getting offensive. But Daphne drove on regardless of Harry's sputtering. "I have heard several of my house mates talking about dating others to evoke jealousy in the true target of their affection. I am willing to pretend to be your girlfriend so that Chang will become jealous and wish to date you."
Harry had some doubts about this plan. Even if it might have worked to make Cho jealous, the plain fact was that she was gorgeous, with a trim, toned body and beautiful face with that adorable, pert, tiny nose and a long, lovely, slim neck that Harry just wanted to kiss and nibble and --. Harry shook it off and brought himself back to the conversation and the broom closet. The broom closet where he was with Daphne Greengrass.
A not terribly attractive Daphne Greengrass. She wasn't /ugly/, like Parkinson, or /burly/, like Bullstrode, but the kindest way to describe her would be /plain/. She wasn't going to be making a gorgeous girl like Cho jealous. If anything, Cho would question his judgement and stay away forever if she saw them together.
"I don't know if that would work, Greengrass. Cho is..." Harry trailed off, not sure what to say. Hogwarts was making him harder and less kind, but he didn't want to be cruel to Daphne when she wasn't trying to insult him. She was rather insulting, but it didn't seem to be deliberate. "Er, I think she'd have to like me first, before you could make her jealous."
"I could actually act as your girlfriend rather than simply pretend. You will gain experience so that you can approach Chang or other girls with greater confidence and have a more fulfilling dating experience."
No! That's the evil mirror twin image of what he'd been thinking. If he started hanging out with Greengrass and kissing her in public and everything, all the pretty girls would stay away. Even if they weren't driven off by his obvious low standards, they'd never get a chance to talk to him because Greengrass would always be hanging off of him.
"Greengrass, I don't think--"
"Potter." For the first time, Daphne's face and voice had a bit of emotion: impatience. That was probably bad. "I told you my situation. It is not desperate now, but will become so shortly. If I fail fifth year, my father will certainly sell me. I do not wish to become a prostitute. I am aware of my appearance. In order to make back their money, the brothel would have me servicing dozens of men per day until I died. I will do anything in my power to avoid that fate."
Daphne took a moment to compose herself. That was good; Harry needed more than a moment to compose himself after that. He wasn't the open, trusting boy of a few years ago, but he wasn't case-hardened yet.
"This is my final offer. It is literally the last thing I have to offer. In exchange for schoolwork assistance, I will allow you to have sex with me."
/Blink/. That was totally unexpected. Harry started to shake his head in denial of this whole conversation. Daphne took it as a rejection of her offer.
"Potter. Please. I am aware that this could be viewed as prostitution. However, I would be required to service only one man, not dozens per day. Moreover, this would be my decision and under my control, not something forced on me by --"
"Stop, Greengrass. I'll help you. If you're that desperate, I have to help. You don't have to...prostitute yourself."
"Thank you, Potter. We have an understanding. It is time to go to class. We can finalize the details later."
"I'm free tonight if you want to get started. We can meet in the library after supper. I'll bring some of my old homework. Er, about that other part. Er, you don't have to, you know."
"We can finalize the details later."
Having reached as much of an agreement as they were going to, Harry and Daphne opened the closet door ...
... only to run right into Lavender and Parvati on their way to the same class.
Gossip Queen 1 and Gossip Queen 2's eyes lit up. Harry groaned. He knew he'd just tossed red meat in front of hungry dogs. "Good afternoon, ladies. I don't suppose you could keep this to yourselves?"
"Sorry, Harry. Not a chance. The Boy Who Lived and the Ice Princess? Your vault isn't big enough to keep this quiet." Lavender seemed giddy. Unkindly, Harry thought it was because she had actually walked into some gossip-worthy news instead of having to make stuff up. Rita Skeeter Junior, that one was.
"If we're going to be spreading this around, we might as well have the whole story. Right, Lav?" Parvati seemed more than eager. There was a vicious glint in her eye. "So tell us, Harry, how did you two get together? I'm surprised Hermione let out your leash long enough to talk to anyone else."
What? Where did that come from?
"Just what is it you see in Daphne? I always thought you'd go for a more, you know, a more dainty look in a girlfriend."
Whoa, sheathe the little claws, kitty! Harry wondered if Parvati was still angry about their date last winter. Aside from that, he wondered how to extract himself from this cat fight with his skin, and more importantly his ego, intact.
Greengrass apparently had no such worries. Lapsing back into her normal silence, she just walked out of the closet, not minding that Parvati was blocking the door. Because Daphne outweighed her slimmer classmate by at least twenty pounds, the latter went flying. Parvati ended up flat on her back, robes and skirt up around her shoulders.
"Nice drawers, Patil!" a handful of passing students guffawed. Harry slapped his hand over his eyes. He did not need to see this. Parvati was one of those girls who spent forever on her looks, obsessing over a split end and endlessly talking about fashion and primping. The castle was cold, but even so you wouldn't think she'd walk around in a pair of granny bloomers that were out of style when McGonagall was a student. "Getting ready to pose for /Playwizard/?" Harry slapped his forehead, both in exasperation and to knock the sight loose. He had to get out of here -- no matter who ended up screaming at whom, no matter what gossip came of it, he was going to bear the brunt of it. It was just the way the world worked.
The only good thing was, Parvati's distraction may have kept anyone else from noticing that he was still in the broom closet that Greengrass had just exited. Just slip away, nice and cool...
No such luck. Greengrass, having apparently determined that she was now his girlfriend, grabbed his hand and walked with him. In full sight of everyone, including the enraged gossip queens. Farewell, Cho, I guess it wasn't meant to be.
Having somehow survived the day, Harry made his way to the library and found a quiet table with his new study partner.
"Hello, Greengrass. Ready to begin?"
"Yes, Harry. You should call me Daphne, as we are now dating."
"No, I told you that you don't have to date me, or pretend to date me, or, er..."
"Offer you sex."
"Yes, er, that. You don't have to do any of that. I'll help you anyway."
"We left the terms of our arrangement open, to be determined later. From my perspective, this will work best if we are boyfriend and girlfriend."
"Ah, let's talk about it later. For now, let's just call each other Daphne and Harry. It's friendlier that way."
Harry had never helped anyone with schoolwork before except for the DA, and the DA was entirely practical. Fortunately, he had four years of Hermione helping him, so he had an idea of how to go about it.
"OK, Daphne, let's start by drawing up a schedule of how you should spend your time between now and June."
Not a very good idea...
After a few false starts, the two began comparing Harry's made-up predictions and Daphne's. It was soon obvious that Daphne's work was...flat. Lifeless and unimaginative.
"Daphne, Ron and I always do our Divination homework together. We're able to make up better predictions when we bounce ideas off each other than if we work alone. Who are you working with?"
"No one. Now that you are my boyfriend we can work together."
It was happening again. Greengrass -- Daphne -- was just assuming they were together.
"Daphne, I've told you already, I'll help you even if you aren't my girlfriend. You were right the first time: I can't help helping people who need it."
"And I have told you that I am likely to need your help for the rest of this school year. I cannot risk you losing interest. I can best keep your interest by being your girlfriend, in particular through regular sexual activity."
Harry was still uneasy about Daphne's plainly stated plans. He was very embarrassed to be talking about sex at all, and especially with a girl. His upbringing in the upright, up-tight Dursley household ensured that he never said the word "sex" or any of its synonyms, nor any of the words for female anatomy. Actually, it was worse that that: thanks to the two main adults in his life, he never even thought about sex without a wave of nausea. Harry had picked up a bit of the basics from an elementary school health class -- boys have boy bits and girls have girl bits, and when you put them together you make a baby -- and that was about it.
Nevertheless, you can't live in a co-ed boarding school ten months of every year without seeing and hearing a bit about bits. Harry had seen kissing on the lips and on the neck, and apparently putting your hands on girls was very nice, and from what everyone said getting naked with a girl was the best thing ever.
Harry had never had a date. There was that Yule Ball mess last year, but that didn't count. He didn't really like Parvati and had gone with her out of desperation. She was pretty, but that was all there was to her. And she kept pushing him to dance, which he hated. Hated dancing and hated the pushing. No, that wasn't a date, and it wasn't fun.
Harry had never kissed anyone. He'd gotten kisses on the cheek from the Gryffindor chasers at the end of a match. Four years ago. Two on the cheeks after he'd saved Fleur's sister. One on the cheek from Hermione at the end of last year. Oh, and the frequent assaults by Mrs Weasley, but he'd rather forget those.
Harry hadn't had a whole lot of pleasure in his life. Flying his broom, loafing around talking with Ron and Hermione, Sirius saying he'd like to take him in, the rare praise from a teacher. That was about it.
Maybe it would be nice to do something else that would be fun.
Something involving Daphne and no clothes. She might not be the most beautiful young witch in the castle, but her girl bits should be the same as other girls' bits, and the talk in the dorms and locker room didn't make any mention of sex with pretty girls being even more "the best thing ever" than sex with plain girls.
And Daphne had repeatedly offered sex. Even though he said she didn't have to, that he'd help her anyway and she wouldn't have to become a prostitute.
Daphne was offering him a reward for a good deed, or else a free gift because she wanted to or because she liked him.
Daphne was offering something "very nice", and something that was "the best thing ever".
Daphne was right here. The offer was on the table, made again just a minute ago.
Daphne was right here, waiting patiently for him to think things through and accept her offer.
Daphne was right here...
Harry was arguing against himself. There was no way he was going to win.
"Daphne, I'm not saying I agree that you have to do that, but I'm not going to argue against you any more."
The witch nodded, whether in agreement with him, or acknowledgement that he had spoken, or tallying a point for herself that a teenage boy had inevitably decided to accept free sex. "Then we have an agreement. Sex for tutoring. Do you want sex now, or shall we finish the week's homework assignment first?"
Harry screeched to a halt. It was one thing to talk about this in the abstract, some gift she may give him sometime in the indefinite future. But right now? Walk straight to an unused room and get naked with her? His brain seized up and his heart started pounding and his tongue got tangled around his teeth and his lower body developed a mind of its own. Unable to talk, Harry just jerked his head in a "no" and grabbed for an old homework page.
The two worked together for a half hour, finishing up the homework. Then Harry, still not ready to face "yours for the asking", suggested they work on test-taking tips. The next test would be on tea leaf reading, and the best way to study was by learning the symbols and their meanings.
Here they ran into a problem. "Why can't you remember any of these, Daphne? There are only twenty on this page, and you've only learned one sign in the last half hour."
"I have trouble learning new things."
"You mean... Is this why you're having trouble in school? You seem smart enough, just sitting here talking, but you're taking easy courses and you said you're barely passing them."
"Yes. Much of our school work involves memorization. I have great difficulty forming new memories. I have to spend hours a day on each class to learn the new material. There is not enough time in the day for me to do well in all classes."
"Have you seen Madame Pomphrey? Can she find whatever is wrong? Or maybe Snape has a potion that helps memory?"
"I know the cause. My father beat me as a baby. My brain is damaged. By the time I first saw a healer, it was too late to cure the damage. Potions to aid memory do exist, but all cause additional damage if they are used too often. Furthermore, all are expensive. My father is not willing to buy them because they would help me to pass this year, and I cannot afford them with my own money."
That would explain some of the odd things Harry had noticed about Daphne today. She had told him the same thing several times. When they were doing their homework, after they had an idea for a new prediction, she would write it down immediately on scrap paper before continuing the conversation. And she never seemed to acknowledge his first hundred declarations that she did not need to be his girlfriend or give him sex. He had thought she was just being stubborn, but maybe she really didn't remember him telling her it wasn't needed.
But he wouldn't think of all that until later. For now, "Your father. Beat you? As a /baby/?" Some of Harry's first memories were of beatings. Petunia and Vernon would usually stop after he was knocked down and was bleeding or crying, but little Dudley, older and larger and well fed, was encouraged to "become a man" by beating Harry until he couldn't move.
"Yes. He wanted a son as firstborn to carry on the family name and legacy. He would have killed me and tried with another child but my mother said she would commit suicide if he killed me. This was an effective threat because my father was unable to afford the bride price for another wife."
There was so much wrong with that statement that Harry couldn't wrap his brain around it all. Focus on what's important.
"Is there anything I can do to help you? I don't know how much healers cost, but I have some money in my vault."
"It is too late for a permanent cure. But I thank you for the gesture, Harry."
"I'm sorry, Daphne. I don't know what to say. Is your father in jail? Did Magical Law Enforcement arrest him?"
"No. He broke no laws. A husband and father has almost total control over his family. My mother had to force him not to kill me by threatening suicide."
Harry was appalled. It seemed that every time he turned around, the magical world turned up another calamitous derangement. What was wrong with these people that they'd put up with all this?
"Are you safe now? Does your father still beat you? Do you need my help?"
"I am relatively safe from death or serious injury. My father is certain I will fail this year at Hogwarts. He expects to sell me to a brothel at the end of this year. If I am dead or disfigured he will not get as much money."
"Daphne, how is it that your father can 'sell' you to a brothel? Britain doesn't have slavery. Even if he can legally beat you to death, how can your father sell you?"
"Magical Britain does not have slavery. Children are sold under apprenticeship contracts. The terms of the apprenticeship can be anything that the father and the master agree to."
The magical world was sick. Harry was going to think about leaving just as soon as he was an adult. Assuming he survived Voldemort, of course.
"OK, what's the deal with finishing fifth year before you get sold? If your father doesn't want to spend any money on you, why didn't he 'apprentice' you before you started?"
"My uncle paid my first year's tuition and bribed my father to allow me to come. Once I started at Hogwarts, I was required by law to finish at least through fifth year and OWLs unless expelled. If I pass fifth year classes and at least three OWLs, I will be the equivalent of a journeyman and can no longer be sold as an apprentice."
"I understand. So, job number one is to get you to pass."
"Daphne, if you want, we can study for all of our classes together. I, er, don't mind spending time with you."
"That is acceptable, Harry."
Leaving the library that evening, Daphne again offered Harry sex, payable as soon as they could find a place for it.
"Er, I think we should wait a little while, Daphne. Uh, I haven't helped you much yet, and I'd hate to, er, take the, um, reward without earning it."
"It is not a reward, Harry. You are welcome to have sex with me at any time. I would not mind it. You are kind and you are almost the only person to help me."
"Er, right. Well, it's time to part ways. Unless you want me to walk you to your dorms?"
"That is not necessary."
Daphne stepped close to Harry and wrapped her arms around him in an artless hug. Harry stiffened, as he always did when anyone touched him, then relaxed. Daphne was strange, and she wasn't at all pretty, but ... this was nice. Harry hugged back as best he could with his arms pinned to his sides; he ended up grabbing Daphne around her bottom. That was a bit embarrassing for him, but considering that she'd been offering him sex all evening, it wasn't all that bad.
"I'll see you tomorrow night, unless I get detention. I have Defense tomorrow, and Umbridge just looks for an excuse. Good night, Daphne."
Harry did have detention the next night. He was writing lines with the black quill until almost midnight.
Harry was able to avoid detentions the following day, and met Daphne in the library that evening. They spent a bit of time doing Charms and History essays, then took a break to just chat. Daphne had noticed that the back of his right hand was raw and obviously painful. When she asked him about it, Harry started his usual "It's fine", but he stopped to think before he said it.
Daphne had been nothing but completely honest with him. She had told him things that anyone else would have kept secret forever out of shame.
She had also opened his eyes even more to how completely screwed up Wizarding Britain was. There might as well not be any law at all. The ministry, or anyone with power, would do anything they liked, enforce the laws, ignore the rules, make up new rules on the fly.
"Umbitch makes me write lines with a special black metal quill. It scratches the back of my hand and writes in blood."
"Those quills may not be used that way. First, those quills may legally be used only in signing legal documents. Second, the Hogwarts rules state that teachers and staff may not torture students."
"Do you think that matters? I already told McGonagall about it. Tried to tell her, anyway. She told me to keep my head down and to be careful around Umbridge. I thought about complaining to the ministry, but Umbitch is really high up at the ministry. Anyway, Fudge is out to get me, and Dumbledore too. I thought about telling The Daily Prophet about it, but they're out to get me, too. Dumbledore won't talk to me. I'm all alone here."
"Harry. You are not alone. As your girlfriend, it is my responsibility to support you. In this case, I can provide you with a summary of information that is drilled into all Slytherin students. This summary suggests approaches for dealing with problems."
Harry looked at her. She truly was acting like his girlfriend. He wasn't exaggerating before. He really was all alone this year. Sure, he had friends -- friends who told him not to annoy Umbridge and who yelled at him for having detention during Quidditch practice. Friends who demanded that he teach them (and a couple dozen others that they chose) because that same Umbridge was such a bad teacher. With friends like these...
Looking Daphne straight in the eye, Harry leaned forward slowly, giving her time to pull back if she didn't really mean it. She held his gaze and didn't move an inch.
As kisses went, it was pretty much a flop. Even as first kisses went, it was no great shakes. But as a token between two people all alone in the world, it was a sign of unity, of resistance, of great and terrible things to come.
When they separated, Daphne stared into Harry's eyes for several more seconds. It was hard to tell what she was thinking behind her impassive face. He hoped it was her first kiss, too. Hoped she was as taken as he was.
"Does this mean you are interested in sex now?"
He should have expected that.
"Let's finish our homework. I'd like to see that summary you were talking about. Then we'll see. And Daphne? Thank you. Thanks a lot."
Harry and Daphne met every night for the next week. They wrote their homework essays, talked about the wizarding world, and discussed plans for overcoming their problems. And continued with boyfriend-girlfriend activities. Verbally, Daphne offered Harry sex several times a day. Physically, she let him decide how far to take things. For now, that meant only kisses and hugs.
Harry avoided detention with Umbridge mainly by keeping his mouth shut. This was harder than it sounded because Toadette kept baiting him. He wanted to keep calling the repulsive ministry hack a liar, but there was no point. Keep your mouth shut and Choose your battles both told him not to rise to Umbitch's baiting. Don't kill yourself for the ungrateful seemed tailor-made for his situation. If the other students didn't believe him about Voldemort's return by now, they never would.
Hermione and Ron started to nag Harry about how he'd been spending his time for the past week. Of course, it was no secret that he was with Daphne whenever he could be. Even if it weren't for the gossip queens, they sat together in class where they could and they worked together every night in the library. Ron, predictably, couldn't see past "Slytherin bad!". Hermione claimed she could understand why he would suddenly be obsessed with a girl he'd never spoken to before, "But really, Harry, you can do so much better."
"What business is it of yours who's my girlfriend? You're not my mother. You're not my girlfriend. I thought you were my friend, but if you can't be happy that I'm happy, maybe you're not even that."
"Please, Harry, I'm only trying to look out for you. Do you really think you'll do well in all your classes without me pushing you to do your homework? I've known you for five years and I know what you're like."
"Hermione." For the sake of four years' friendship Harry was trying to keep his temper under control. Grinding his teeth that hard hurt. "You don't know what you're talking about. Since I started doing homework with Daphne, I'm doing /better/." He had the graded papers to prove it, not that he was going to show her if she was acting like this. "All I needed was some motivation. Daphne's giving me that. Getting rid of distractions" -- he tried to prevent it but his eyes flicked to Ron -- "helps, too."
With both Ron and Hermione now upset at him, the conversation could go only downhill. Harry ended up simply walking away, sticking their feet to the floor when they followed so they could keep reasoning with -- yelling at -- him.
On their one-week "anniversary", Daphne brought Harry to "their" broom closet, the one where they became a couple. She took off her school robe, which left her still fully clothed, and started to lift off Harry's.
When asked, she explained, "I still need your help. I did better in Divination this week but I think I will continue to need your assistance on homework for the rest of the year. To ensure you stay with me I need to hold your interest."
Harry was going to make his usual pro forma protests. They didn't even get started, between Daphne's tongue in his mouth and her hand on his rear end. This was, this was nice.
Feeling somewhat daring (foolishly so, given their present circumstances and Daphne's repeated offers), Harry matched Daphne's actions, getting his first deliberate handful of warm behind. This was very nice.
Then Daphne started rubbing his chest with her other hand. He had to follow along...
Sometime later the well-groped teens escaped the closet without running into grumpy caretakers, gossip queens, or other trouble. Harry resolved to start carrying his cloak and map everywhere. He never knew when he'd find himself needing to leave a broom closet without being seen.
"I was unable to complete this week's Transfiguration classwork." As was her wont, Daphne mentioned this without preamble as they finished the evening's essays.
There still being time before curfew, the two found an unused classroom to practice. Harry was pretty sure he'd be able to help Daphne with practical transfiguration. While he'd never helped anyone else with their exercises, he was doing well in that class and knew the principles.
Harry went through a quick review of Transfiguration basics with Daphne, checking whether she had missed an important bit or had some bad habits. They didn't find the problem that evening, so they made plans to get together the next night for more of the same.
By the end of the week they'd learned that Daphne had good visualization and excellent concentration. Her problem was in remembering all the little variations of swishes and flicks. It didn't seem to make much sense to Harry: how could they need a different spell for transfiguring each kind of thing into each other kind of thing? Even if there were only a hundred kinds of things in the whole world you would need, er, a lot of different spells to change them all to each other. And if the spell was the thing, then why was visualization so important? There must be something else involved in the process. Harry resolved to study more transfiguration theory when he had the time.
In any event, Daphne benefited most from repeated drill of the motions and incantations for each type of transfiguration. This meant Harry would be spending a bit more time with her. That was no problem, of course. Sure, the kissing and hugging and feeling her girl bits was very nice. Just spending time with her, getting things done without being nagged about it, was very nice, too.
Harry's performance in Transfiguration improved right along with Daphne's. He'd been good before. Now he was near the top of the class. Reviewing the basics helped. Spending a couple of hours per week really focusing on what he was doing, rather than doing just enough to get through the day's work, helped more.
At the next DA session, Harry had everyone work transfiguration into their attacks: bright flash, stunner, transfigure cloth robes to wood, shield. Transfiguration spells were an entirely different type of magic than ordinary combat charms, and the shields and counters normally used in duelling worked poorly if at all. It seemed an obvious mix.
It didn't go over. Not at all. All the other students complained it was too difficult to change their way of thinking from Charms to Transfiguration. Transfiguring was too slow. It would work only once, if you caught your opponent by surprise.
Even after Harry won four challenges in a row, immobilizing his opponents by clothing them in wood, the complaints continued. What it came down to was, everyone wanted Harry to show them what they needed to know in order to pass the OWLs and NEWTs, and what they needed to know in order to defend themselves. But they wanted him to teach them what they thought they needed to know, and teach them the way they wanted.
To be sure, not all of the DA members were quite so firm in voicing their desires. Many of them didn't say much at all. But they certainly didn't stand up for Harry, and they nodded along with the more vocal members. Of the whole group, only Luna was firm in stating that she would be delighted to cooperate with anything Harry cared to teach her.
Already annoyed by his "friends" telling him how to spend his time helping them, Harry mentioned that Daphne could use the DA practice as well, and asked Hermione if new people could sign the contract now that it had been active for a while.
That set off a ruckus. "She's a Slytherin!" Yes, but she has nothing to do with the other Slytherins except for sleeping in the same dorm. "She's at the bottom of her class." Actually, she's doing much better now. "She'd just slow the rest of us down." She's ahead of the fourth-year students in the DA, isn't she? "If you bring your girlfriend here, you'd spend all your time with her and the rest would be on their own." Keep it up and you'll definitely be on your own.
He didn't get to say any of that. The shouting from the other DA members kept up fast, steady, and loud. He couldn't get a word in. In the end, all he could do to make his point was cross his arms and turn his back on them.
He put up a shield first, of course. The way things were going he wouldn't be surprised if someone petrified him from behind so they could keep making him see reason.
Harry had expected the big argument. He hadn't suggested this at last week's meeting because he was trying to avoid a confrontation. This evening had been nothing but a big confrontation, so he might as well get two ruckuses out of the way at once.
It didn't matter. Daphne was more important. Her need was greater, and her appreciation was greater. Even ignoring this week because of the shouting, he'd noticed that the DA members had mostly stopped thanking him for his time and effort. Susan and Hannah and Luna, maybe a few others, smiled and thanked him each week. Marrietta and Smith never had, not once. Neither had Ron and Hermione, his /best friends/.
Daphne expressed her appreciation every night. She helped him where she could, in small things as well as the major assistance with that little problem-escaping handbook. And of course their alone time was very nice.
Getting back to the dorm, dodging Filch and prefects because the meeting had run so late, Harry decided that Daphne came before the DA.
A Hogsmeade weekend was coming up, the first since Daphne approached Harry. They had been kissing and hugging and letting their hands wander for two weeks now, so Harry wasn't at all nervous when he asked his girlfriend if she'd accompany him to the village. That part of Daphne's original offer to be a practice girlfriend was working well. Where her notion fell apart was, Harry liked her just fine as his girlfriend and had no intention of dumping her if someone "better" came along.
Hogwarts students out for the day were treated like, well, irresponsible children. There was good reason for that, given that wizarding kind as a whole seemed to have an utter lack of common sense, and not much sense of responsibility either. What this meant was that there would be Hogwarts staff and volunteers from the village making sure children didn't wander out of bounds, cause trouble, or otherwise get out from under their thumbs.
Harry didn't just want to spend the day with his girlfriend; he had plans for the day which would help the both of them. This simply meant Harry would need to do a bit of planning. He already had the willingness to ignore inconvenient rules...
On the big day, Harry and Daphne rode a carriage down to the village, then Harry told her "Trust me" and steered her into a side alley. Tutoring Daphne was really paying off: Harry effortlessly transfigured his robes from "Hogwarts, Gryffindor" into plain-but-not-Hogwarts robes, and then cast an aging charm and a couple of minor disguises on himself. Daphne confirmed that he looked like an adult who wasn't Harry Potter. She wasn't surprised. She'd seen him practicing these for the past few days after Sirius's reply owl pointed Harry in the right direction. What did surprise her was the invisibility cloak thrown over her. Harry explained that he couldn't hold concentration well enough to take care of both of them, and she admitted that her skills weren't yet up to a proper disguise.
Asking Daphne to continue to trust him, Harry led her to the floo at the Hogs Head. The trip to Diagon Alley was unmemorable. Unmemorable except that they went through the system together. Harry had to hold her very close for this to work. Tumbling through the floo while tightly hugging a willing witch was quite the experience. They shot out the other end and went tumbling, finishing all tangled up with each other. Now that Harry thought about it, that trip was quite memorable indeed.
Entering Gringotts, Harry removed Daphne's invisibility cloak and they got in line. Before long they were on their way down to Harry's vault. He'd gotten his key back from Mrs Weasley before school started.
Harry invited Daphne along when he went into his vault. "Daphne, you said you don't have much spending money. We've been helping each other out for a couple weeks now. This is something I can help you with. And don't worry," he winked, "I'm still going to buy you presents."
Daphne stared at him a few moments, then nodded and picked up a small handful of sickles and knuts. Harry pressed a dozen galleons on her, whispering, "Keep it for the end of the school year. In case your father gives you problems." Another stare, another nod, and the gold went into a different pocket.
Harry had grabbed several hundred coins. He had several purchases to make and Daphne had indicated they would be expensive.
The first and most important stop was an apothecary, where Harry requested as many memory potions as would be safe for one teenage witch to take between now and June. Daphne didn't squeal or gasp, of course, but she squeezed his arm a bit tighter. They had their own ways of communicating which worked just fine for them.
The couple made just a few small purchases -- quills and some candy, the normal Hogsmeade Weekend haul -- before it was time to rush back. The apothecary had spent a lot of time getting Daphne's weight and going over her medical history before selling the potions, and he had provided detailed instructions as well. While the teens appreciated the professionalism in selling dangerous potions, it had taken much longer than expected.
Getting back to Hogsmeade and back up to the castle were nothing more than a reversal of how they got to Diagon Alley in the first place. They mingled with other students with none the wiser about their disappearance. Truly, if more of wizarding kind had the least ability to plan and organize, their world would be a much different place.
After a few weeks' extra work, Daphne was doing better in Transfiguration. Not top of the class, but she was making a solid A and was succeeding in all of the classroom assignments on the first day they were shown.
Harry and Daphne continued to work on all of their written assignments together, study for tests, and work a little each week on memorizing the motions for Transfiguration. This pretty well occupied every evening and most of the weekends.
Fortunately, if you looked at it that way, Harry had been banned from Quidditch for over a month now and was on the outs with Ron and Hermione and much of Gryffindor House. He'd been able to avoid detentions, as well. He didn't have many other demands on his time.
"Harry. I am passing Divination and Charms but am now having trouble in Potions. Because I have been working with you, Professor Snape is no longer willing to give me extra assistance."
That figured. Snape was a dick. "What's the problem, do you know? Memorizing the formulas?"
"Not entirely. If it were only a matter of memorization I would not need to ask for your time and assistance. I know how to memorize."
"You don't need an excuse to spend time with me, Daphne. You're my girlfriend, right? I like any time we spend together."
"Thank you. I suspect my problem is with ingredient preparation."
And so the two began spending time in a spare classroom, chopping and crushing and slicing. As long as they had the ingredients prepared, they might as well use them, so the two got extra practice in brewing, both the techniques and learning ever-more-complex potions. Dobby, as anxious as ever to help The Great Harry Potter, procured the rarer ingredients they needed. Harry got Dobby to agree to a don't-ask-don't-tell policy so that he wouldn't have to lie to Snape if the not-really-a-teacher noticed the missing items and (inevitably) accused him of stealing them.
Free of the pressure of Snape's dominating presence and emanating odor, Harry turned out to be a decent brewer. But Daphne was better, in preparing the ingredients and getting the heat just right and knowing what color meant the potion was done. Whether this was natural talent or four years of Slytherin-only extra lessons didn't matter. The fact was, Daphne didn't need Harry's help.
"Daphne Dear, it doesn't look like I'm helping you much here. You're helping me a lot more." Daphne just looked at him, face showing nothing. "You didn't really need help, did you?" A small head shake. "So why did you pretend you needed help?"
"A classmate said she offered her boyfriend help in a class he was doing poorly in. He was offended and stopped being her boyfriend. I still need your help in several subjects. I do not wish to offend you and be alone again."
Harry's temper started to rise. But thoughts of tongue wrestling and wandering hands, as well as hugs and talking and quiet time spent with his girlfriend, calmed that right down.
"I understand, but please don't do that again. Everyone keeps lying and manipulating me. I was hoping you never would. Just be honest and ask me what to do what you want."
"Very well, Harry. We have just had our first argument. We should now have make-up sex."
The funny thing was, by this point Harry would have been surprised if she hadn't said that. Either she had a one-track mind or she was desperate to hang on to him. Or maybe, despite her claim to not feeling anything, she enjoyed teasing him. If that was it, he should tease right back.
"This wasn't really an argument, so make-up sex wouldn't be right. I think you were trying to manipulate me for my own good. That was a naughty thing to do, so you need to be punished." Daphne's eyes widened, ever so little. "You need a spanking, Da--."
Before he could say another word, Daphne was on his lap, buns up and ready. Harry blinked, not having expected her to call his bluff. "Er, Daphne...?" He was truly at a loss. He had been loosely copying something he saw Fred and Alicia do in the Gryffindor common room a year or two ago. He was now working without a script -- the older students' foreplay hadn't gone any farther than this because Fred was too big to fit properly across Alicia's lap.
"I believe you should pull up my robe and skirt first. I currently have too many layers of cloth for you to properly enjoy this."
The temptation was back again. Harry didn't put much time into fighting it. Sure, Daphne's bottom wasn't as shapely as some others', he knew that. He also knew that it felt nice even through thick layers of robe and skirt. Surely it would feel nicer through just one thin layer.
The robe was flipped up to her shoulders. "You're sure?" The girl on his lap didn't say anything, just waggled her butt. Slowly, Harry pulled her skirt up, exposing her bottom. He put his hand on that bottom. Yes, it felt nice. He caressed her as he asked, "You're really sure?" At her nod, he gave her a smack, then rubbed her to make the sting go away. After a few more smacks, Harry found he was putting more time into rubbing than spanking and all of his attention was on examining the texture and firmness and warmth of Daphne's bottom.
"Harry, I do not enjoy this. Please stop."
Once again they were of the same mind. Harry lifted her upright and helped straighten her clothing with maybe just a few errant, lingering touches. He would have liked to spend much more time examining this rear end in great detail. "Would you like me to massage away the tenderness?" He had his answer when she straddled his lap, pressing her chest against his and her lips against his, while lifting up the back of her skirt to allow easy access.
One extended kiss-and-grope later, the two stood up, straightened up, and headed up to their dorms. Harry was a bit stirred up. It was going to be hard, getting to sleep.
Harry dragged himself in after a long evening studying for a test. Even with the potions Daphne's memory was worse than average. They'd spent hours memorizing names and dates for the last History test of the autumn term. This test counted for half of the grade, so it was very important that Daphne (and Harry) do well.
"Harry, where were you? Did you forget the DA again?"
"Yeah, Mate, you've been ignoring all your friends lately."
"It's very irresponsible of you, Harry. Your classmates are counting on you to teach them what they need to know. Think of your responsibility. Without you there, we all had to teach each other."
"Yeah, Harry, I know you think that getting some --" Ron looked sideways at Hermione, obviously fearing her temper if he continued that thought. He need not have worried. Hurricane Hermione was bearing down on Harry.
"Harry, think for a few minutes. We know you have a crush on Greengrass, but think of your friends. Passing OWLs is much more important than any crush. You'll break up with her sooner or later, and that why you'll need --"
Harry hadn't been able to get a word in edgewise, but this was too much. "Shut up!" He drove on before Ron and Hermione had recovered from the hundred decibel detonation. "You don't know anything. I'm helping Daphne because she needs my help. She came to me last month and asked me to help her. She even said she'd pay me, that's how important it was, more important than doing a little better on one test. And she's helping me, too. She doesn't just tell me I need to drop everything to help her, and yell at me if I was in detention, and take shots at me to show I'm nothing special, and complain if I don't teach her the way she wants. She's my real friend here."
There was nothing more to say after that. Harry stomped around Ron, heading for the dorm. They might have called after him, but he didn't care.
Daphne continued to offer Harry sex. Not as often as she had been at first. Harry concluded that she had been desperate in the beginning and worried that he'd stop helping her. Now, it was plain to everyone that they were a couple, so she could relax.
That let Harry relax, too. Once he got used to it, it was kind of nice, having Daphne offer sex all the time and tease back and forth a little. But it was nicer, just being able to sit back with what they had, without worrying about that big step.
Also, since it was pretty clear that Daphne's earlier constant offers were an attempt to pay for tutoring, he felt better that he hadn't accepted and driven her to sell herself that way. Yes, it was the right decision for the right reason.
Logic is the art of going wrong with confidence.
Harry found this out when he got to the classroom where they were going to practice potions. Daphne had gotten there first and prepared the room. The cauldrons weren't heating and the ingredients weren't laid out. There were, however, three vials and a small bottle lined up on the counter.
Daphne's preparations involved transfiguring a set of desks into a bed and a spare robe into sheets and blankets. The details were a little blurry, but overall it was-- But that wasn't important.
"Er, Daphne? Did we make plans that I forgot, or..."
"It is time for sex, Harry. I have expressed my willingness for over a month. You declined because you did not wish to take advantage of my situation and desperation. Your restraint was admirable but unnecessary. Your most recent reason for declining my offer was because you were concerned about pregnancy. I have brewed several doses of contraceptive.
"Harry, I wish to have sex with you. This is a sign of appreciation for your help, not payment for it. I cannot show appreciation or affection normally. Let me do what I can."
Harry's mind was a-whirl with conflicting emotions. Lust and anticipation at the prospect of sex in the next few minutes. Nervousness, outright fear, that he wouldn't know what to do or would disappoint his girlfriend. Irritation at the way Daphne was selling herself short. Anger at her father for beating her and raising her so she thought she couldn't feel anything.
Lust won out.
Harry licked his lips (nervousness was still there) and embraced her. "You didn't have to do this. Thank you."
Matters proceeded as one would expect: kissing and some fondling. Some clothing dropped on the floor, followed by a dive for the blankets. A stone castle gets cold in the winter.
Under the blankets the rest of their clothing was removed, and then Harry and Daphne got a hands-on lesson in the difference between boy bits and girl bits. Things were going very nicely.
... Until the door opened and a gaggle of seventh-year girls came in, needing a quiet place to practice charms.
Amidst the whistles and cheers, the naked two managed to summon their clothing and get dressed with their modesty somewhat intact, despite playful attempts to shrink their blanket down to handkerchief size. Harry was glad he was able to move so quickly. He'd suffered severe shrinkage when the audience came in and he didn't want to be mocked for having a six-year-old's equipment. Under the needling of the older girls, Daphne admitted she'd forgotten to lock the door. She had been nervous, too, even if nothing showed past her mask.
All in all, it was a dismaying end to an otherwise excellent "study session". Harry got the shivers for weeks every time he thought about having sex. Even Daphne was unsettled. It was a week before she resumed her daily offers.
The Christmas break was quiet. Daphne didn't want to go home for the holiday. Her father wouldn't allow it, either. "Why should I pay to feed you when I'm already paying that school to do it?"
Harry would have spent the time with Sirius, but the Weasleys were all staying at his house and they refused to even try to get along with Daphne. They were all mad at Harry, too, because he had told the DA that he wouldn't be doing it any more after the new year.
Surprisingly, Sirius was supportive of Harry staying with his girlfriend at the castle. "I was starting to worry about you, Kiddo. Was wondering if you were ever going to notice girls. Your father and me, we started doing the Naked Happy Dance before the middle of fourth year. You've got some catching up to do."
Harry would have yelled in protest at the slight and yelled more at the idea of Sirius doing the Naked Happy Dance with James. Probably that had simply been poorly phrased, but still -- /yuck/! However, it was pointless to yell protests at a piece of owl-delivered parchment. He just pocketed his Christmas present, which felt and sounded like a dozen filled potion vials, and went to tell McGonagall that he would be staying over for the holidays.
Too bad for the two young lovers, the chaperoning during the break was much tighter than when classes were in session. It must have been because there were almost as many adults as students in the castle. Harry was able to spend unlimited time with Daphne in the library (with the librarian or stand-in watching them the whole time). They were able to practice spell-casting in a classroom with other students and a teacher supervising. All attempts at hand-in-hand walks through the castle or grounds were soon met by a teacher who gently steered them back to the more occupied areas. Harry wondered whether this happened every Christmas and he just hadn't noticed because he didn't have a girlfriend.
To make it worse, his present from Sirius was, indeed, a dozen potions: four each contraceptive, stamina, and lubricant.
Oddly, Harry was eager for classes to resume. He couldn't wait to get his girlfriend into a broom closet without the sure knowledge that they'd be chased out before the first kiss had warmed their lips.
Things didn't get better, in terms of private time, when the spring term started. Harry found that he had a watcher everywhere.
"Nott, why are you following me around? You'd better not be in love, or things are going to get ugly."
"Shut it, Potter. Professor Umbridge, the High Inquisitor herself, told me and the others to watch you, and we can do anything we want if you try to get away. She knows you're still telling lies to try to start a revolution."
Harry bit back his angry retort, as he had a hundred times this year. Do and say nothing that does not further your goals. Probably the single most useful piece of advice from that summary sheet, given his temper and tendency to hare off on poorly-thought-out outings.
He was still able to talk privately with Daphne. No one interfered so long as they stayed in plain sight, and privacy charms were some of few spells allowed in the library. They continued their studies, and tried unsuccessfully to come up with a plan to get away from all this.
With the loss of the extra hands-on practice in Transfiguration, Charms, and Potions, Daphne started to do poorer in class.
With the loss of all privacy, Harry was not able to get "boyfriend time" with Daphne. He quickly got grumpy.
"Harry. I need help. Snape has informed me that I will not pass Potions regardless of my performance in class."
"Did he say why?"
"He stated that you have been cheating in order to pass this year. He claims I am complicit in your cheating."
Harry packed up his things. "You keep studying. I'll take care of it."
He went first to McGonagall. He didn't expect her to do anything -- she was big on vague offers of assistance but fell short on actually carrying through -- but he wanted to give her a chance to do her job before he did it for her.
"I don't know what you expect me to do, Mr Potter. If Professor Snape has concerns about cheating in his classroom, he is certainly entitled to take whatever steps necessary to prevent it or to punish it."
"He told Daphne Greengrass that there was no way she was going to pass Potions. He didn't investigate, from what you say he didn't bring it to you as Deputy Headmistress, he didn't take any steps to make sure she wasn't cheating. He just said she's going to fail. Does this sound fair to you?"
"Mr Potter! Professor Snape has the full confidence of Headmaster Dumbledore and myself. That should be good enough for you."
"The fake Moody had your full confidence too. And look how that turned out."
"None of your cheek, Potter! Perhaps a detention with Professor Snape will encourage you to mind you manners."
Harry frowned, more at his outburst than at the punishment. Do and say nothing that does not further your goals. He thought of a few arguments he could make, but it was clear McGonagall wasn't going to do anything. He had to do something himself about Snape immediately. McGonagall might need his attention, too, if she stood in his way. "Very well, Professor. If you'll excuse me, it's time for class."
As it happened, next class was Potions. Harry considered skipping, but Daphne might need his protection. And the bare outline of a plan formed and then firmed up as he walked. His anger at Snape and McGonagall and the whole pack of idiots in this dump would serve him well.
After examining the Potions classroom, Harry chose a different seat than usual and gestured to Daphne to sit at the table behind him. "I'll explain later," he whispered.
"Potter! Ten points for talking in class." Snape had swished in, late as usual.
Harry didn't respond. He needed to infuriate Snape, but not yet.
Class went as usual, which is to say, essentially uselessly. Harry and Daphne, like many other students, learned more on their own from books and private brewing practice. But attending class sessions was a requirement for passing the class, which was required for passing the year, which was required for taking OWLs.
The moment came that Snape was looming over Harry and Seamus's cauldron, telling them to pour it out and start over because it would never do.
"Professor Snape, if you please, I have a question about this class." Harry's face was nothing but earnest innocence.
"Ask, Potter. I'm sure that airing your pathetic ignorance will entertain the students who have brains."
"I've heard that the Dark Mark is administered by anal injection. Is that why you're always in such a bad mood in class, because your hemorrhoids hurt?"
The entire class went silent, not daring to breathe. Even the cauldrons seemed to stop bubbling. In the stillness, the sound of Snape's blood rushing to his face was a scream.
With a look of fury that would fit any drag queen with a ripped nylon, Snape whipped out his wand and bellowed "Sectu--"
Harry had already cast his strongest /Expelliarmus/. Snape was flung back across the Slytherins' work tables, upsetting cauldrons and getting the day's task, the sticky, flammable Prestwick's Pox Preventive Paste, all over himself. He smashed into the wall head first, upsetting a shelf full of amphibians preserved in alcohol...which landed all over the table, and Snape, and the fires.
All of the nearby students were also splattered with alcohol and newts and broken glass, so they were jumping around uselessly, the more so when a couple of them were lit on fire. In the panicked evacuation of the Potions classroom, no one noticed as Professor Snape burned to death.
The investigation into Snape's death was gruelling for Harry, but in the end there was nothing to charge him with. Snape hadn't finished his last curse, but his wand carried the residue of a lethal dark cutter, as well as other spells wholly inappropriate for someone who worked around pubescent boys and girls. And, oddly, the Dark Mark was untouched on his arm, even when the rest of his skin and robes had burned away. Despite pushes from the Minister's office for Harry's execution, incarceration, or at least expulsion, this evidence combined with Snape's unpopularity and incompetence to let Harry off Scot-free.
Nevertheless, Dumbledore gave Harry a detention with Filch for provoking Snape into a killing rage. Even this was no burden: Filch told Harry not to use magic in cleaning the trophy room. He didn't say anything about Harry's girlfriend not using magic. The couple were able to spend two hours and fifty minutes of the three hour detention with Harry's butt on a conjured chair, Daphne's butt on Harry, and Harry's hands on Daphne's butt.
Dumbledore wasn't able to find a Potions master willing to fill in the remainder of the year. The Ministry ended up filling that position, putting in a centenarian whose primary qualification was marriage to a senior Ministry staffer. She seemed content to sit in the front of the class, sip her tea, and let the students prepare their potions from the instructions in the book. The quality of instruction and performance in class both went up, and Dumbledore ended up offering her a permanent position.
One positive effect of Snape's untimely demise was that Harry wasn't shadowed quite so closely. He still had people following him all day, but they kept their distance and didn't rush to interrupt as quickly if he went into a classroom with Daphne. They weren't able to have Happy Naked Time or even get in practical spell work, but they were able to spend some time with eyes not on them. It kept Harry sane.
Daphne was the one who explained it to him. She knew that Snape wasn't the first teacher that Harry had killed. Most of the students didn't know that. So far as most knew, Harry was bad tempered and fairly capable, but overall mostly harmless. Now, he had cold-bloodedly murdered a teacher in front of witnesses, and gotten away with it clean. Umbridge's promises of ministerial protection to her "squad" fell flat in the face of that.
Harry used the slightly laxer minder scheme to slip away one Saturday on an important, secret errand.
Near the end of May, Harry noticed that Daphne had started to have even more difficulty with memorization than before. She had also become somewhat absent-minded. Absent-mindedness could be caused by simple distraction and worry -- OWLs were beginning to prey on many Fifth Years' minds -- but the two symptoms together could be a sign of something bad.
"Dear One, I don't think you've ever lied to me. But I need an honest answer to a question, even if it's painful." She looked back at him, the nuance of her expressionless face indicating assent. "Have you been over-using memory potions?"
"Why? You know how dangerous they are. Using them too much is worse than not using them at all. And you could really hurt yourself. Don't. You're too important."
"Two weeks ago, Professor ... Slytherin's new head of house told me that I am failing History. If I do not do better, I will fail the course and will not be able to able to take the History OWL. The History grade depends almost entirely on memorization. I had hoped that the guidelines for memory potion usage were excessively cautious."
Harry paused for a moment, reviewing their latest computations of Daphne's chances of passing fifth year and being allowed to take the OWLs. This wasn't good. A single Poor grade wouldn't keep a student from passing the year. A Dreadful or two Poors would, and she wasn't doing well in Muggle Studies, either.
Moment of Truth time. "Daphne, I've thought of another solution for your problems. Er, your biggest problem. Er, the problem with not passing and, er, being sold. Er..."
Sometimes the Truth had to be dragged out by its heels.
"You could marry me. Then your father wouldn't be able to sell you."
Wide eyes stared into his. "That is not necessary, Harry."
"Not necessary? I think it is. We're running out of choices, here."
"Consider how you phrased that. I do not wish you to marry of necessity or lack of choices. Those were two of the reasons you gave for not having sex last term. A marriage decided upon in haste and out of necessity or sympathy will surely turn unhappy."
Harry bit down on the first three things he was going to say. Yes, private time with his girlfriend and her odd form of affection were helping to keep him relaxed, but he was still strung pretty tight from Umbridge and her "squad" and end-of-term tests and OWLs and You-Know-Who-Is-Pretty-Damned-Annoying still trying to invade his mind.
"Do you remember last Hogsmeade weekend I was gone for a whole day and didn't let you come with me? I got something for you. It took all day because I had to find Sirius and convince him to let me get it, then go to Gringotts and convince them to let me into the family vault, and then find what I was looking for."
Harry had to stop talking for a moment. Releasing three separate layers of security charms took both concentration and spoken pass-phrases. Succeeding at last, he withdrew a small box which opened to reveal a Potter family heirloom. The kind of family heirloom which had a large diamond set in a gold ring.
"Two weeks ago I spent most of the day getting this. It is not an offer because I feel bad for you tonight."
Daphne stared at the ring. Thanks to her upbringing she was very far from a normal teenage girl. But a diamond ring, freely offered by a serious boyfriend, reached to a level that had not been beaten out of her. She wanted to say Yes more than she had wanted anything ever before. But... "Harry. If you want to marry for love, I must warn you that I do not know if I will ever love you. I enjoy our time together and I respect you and I want you to be happy. But I do not know if I can feel love. If this is to be a contract marriage, I am certain that you can make a better arrangement. I bring nothing to this marriage."
Harry's heart almost broke at Daphne's first words. It recovered by the time she stopped for breath.
She hadn't taken her eyes off the ring, which helped.
"You bring yourself. That's all I need.
"I talked to Sirius and my attorney about this. We thought you might say something like that. I had one thing to say about it and Mr Whittington had another, so here they both are: I don't know if I'll ever love you, either, not the way Pansy and Ginny and everyone else mean it. You know how I grew up. Kind of like you. No affection. No one showing me what love is. I don't know if it's love, but you help me and worry about me and make me do my best. I do the same for you. I don't know if it's love, but I think it is.
"Mr Whittington said something that sounded pretty wise. He told me one way to tell the difference between true love and crushes and just wanting sex. If someone else's happiness means more to you than your own, if you can't be happy if they aren't, then it's love.
"Daphne Greengrass, I love you. Will you marry me?"
Daphne stared Harry in the eyes, never blinking or wavering. After an eternity she dropped her gaze to the ring. "I love you, Harry. Yes."
Mr Whittington, as Harry's attorney and the only "respectable" adult Harry could trust with this, went to Daphne's father to broker a deal. Harry detested the whole idea of arranged marriages and bride prices and the girl's father owning her until marriage, but they were getting desperate and didn't have time to buck the system. Whittington made a reasonable offer. Then he made a very generous offer. Mr Greengrass refused, out of stubbornness or greedy hopes of more money or whatever reason was going through his tiny little, dirt-poor, child-beating, pure-blood mind.
He should have taken the very generous offer.
By the time Harry's godfather -- the infamous friend-betraying, mass-murdering, Azkaban-escaping, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's right hand, Sirius Black -- had left his house, Mr Greengrass had put his signature on a marriage license for his under-age daughter, in exchange for no gold at all. As Sirius told Harry afterward, he had paid a very high price for a reputation that could wandlessly terrorize any normal wizard. He might as well get some use out of it.
The reactions started early the next day. Some of the girls at the Slytherin table interrupted their breakfast to squeal over the ring on her finger. Girls from other Houses rushed over when news of the size of the rock got around. Most of them had taken no notice of her for years, but all of a sudden Daphne was the coolest girl in fifth year. She ignored their gushing as she had ignored their indifference.
Over at the Gryffindor table, Hermione and Ron were upset with Harry, but they kept it to themselves. Harry had demonstrated that he no longer valued their opinion above all others, or at all, and he had developed quite the sharp tongue when annoyed. Ginny wasn't so restrained. Fortunately, her brother and friends rushed her out of the Great Hall before Harry was obliged to take notice of her words.
Defense Against the Dark Arts class that day was difficult. Umbridge assigned Daphne a week of detentions for "sullying a pure-blood line" and Harry a week for "presumption above his station". It was a challenge for Harry to keep quiet. He could tolerate insults against himself but attacks on Daphne would be answered.
Umbridge missed breakfast the next day, a very unusual occurrence for the stout woman. She missed her class that morning, which was not at all unusual. When she was absent from lunch as well, the Headmaster started a search.
The search didn't take long. Deloris Umbridge had passed away during the night. She was found in her quarters, gripping a blood quill with which she had written "I must not tell lies" until she bled to death.
The finger of suspicion pointed at Harry, of course. Daphne got her share, as well, from her association with the well-known deranged trouble-maker. They had an unshakeable excuse, though: Daphne, as a pure-blood, stated unequivocally that Harry had been with her all evening and had not killed Umbridge. Harry's lawyer had advised them well. The teens made full use of the law which stated that a pure-blood's testimony in any legal matter was conclusive unless there was hard proof that he had lied, or contradictory testimony from another pure-blood. No one had seen Harry and Daphne anywhere near Umbridge's office and there was no other evidence that they had been there, ergo they were not there.
Dumbledore tried to assign additional punishment for skipping Umbridge's detentions. That failed when Harry grinned up and down the staff table, looking every teacher in the eye. No one was going to supervise that detention.
The remainder of the school year was anticlimactic. Relieved of the stress of her impending doom, Daphne was able to focus better and managed to scrape Acceptables in all of her classes. She thought she did well enough on the OWLs, as well, though of course she wouldn't see the results for a month. Harry did quite well in classes. Helping Daphne with the academic material worked better than having Hermione help him. His girlfriend's appreciative kisses didn't hurt anything, either. The same went for the practical work. Helping Daphne to get the spell pronunciation and the swishes and flicks and the visualization correct, helped him even more. By the end of the year, Harry was near the top of the class in Charms and Transfiguration.
After the OWLs were finally done and the fifth year students were all collapsing in an exhausted heap, Daphne found Harry near the broom locker, making sure his Firebolt hadn't been damaged while it had been confiscated.
"Harry. I release you from your promise. If you wish to break off the engagement, you may do so without endangering my well-being."
Surprised, Harry looked up. Her face was even more expressionless than usual. Even the little hints that only he could read were missing. He'd have to go with what he really felt, not what she wanted to hear. "I love you and want to marry you. If you want to end it, tell me. I won't be happy, but I won't force you. If you just want to put off the wedding until you're seventeen or something, that's ok."
He didn't get any farther than that because the door had been locked and he found his arms full of affectionate witch.
Three things happened in the next few minutes which set the tone for the summer.
First, Daphne showed off her hard-won skills by fusing the door into the wall, transfiguring a bench into a small bed, and making all of their clothes disappear. "I have done well this year, thanks to you. I no longer need to offer myself to obtain your help to avoid being sold to a brothel. I can now offer myself freely. Your morals are not compromised by any hint of coercion. I have freshly-brewed contraceptive potion. I can take it or not, as you prefer."
Second, Harry found that everyone was right. It was the best thing ever.
Third, Voldemort probed Harry's mental defenses again. Finding that Harry's walls were down, he took advantage of his excellent timing and blasted in with everything he had...
... only to be blasted right back out as he was trampled under a rutting bull elephant stampede of emotion -- decidedly not fear or anger.
Voldemort's timing was terrible. He needed months to recover from the assault.
Epilogue: 19 Years Later
Daphne stood with Harry and their younger and older children as they saw their middle children onto the Hogwarts Express. The eldest would be leaving for college in a few hours. For now, they kept up the family tradition of having everyone gather around for the departures and arrivals.
All of the children grew up very sure of their parents' love. Daphne and Harry didn't know the best way to raise children and keep their family happy, so they just did the opposite of how they had been raised. There were lots of hugs and words of affection, and no beatings. The children might have grown up spoiled if there weren't so many of them to divide their parents' attention, but as it happened, their method worked very well. In fact, all of their children were so well-behaved and did so well in school that several women had requested that Daphne give them tips on raising children. There were even requests that she teach an elective class at Hogwarts, once the last of her children were off to school.
In school, Daphne had dreamed only of escaping her sale. She hadn't spared any attention for anything beyond that. By the time she had accomplished that goal, she was wrapped up with Harry and he was fulfilling her dreams faster than she could form them. Although they didn't marry until Harry's 17th birthday, they had been living together for over a year, hiring tutors rather than returning to Hogwarts. Sirius taught them how to behave like wealthy pure-bloods and how to wield power. Harry took his NEWTs a year early, doing well enough that he could never be accused of being an uneducated Muggle-raised poor excuse for a wizard. Daphne didn't bother with NEWT-oriented material; she focused on practical matters for running a household and raising children.
Voldemort had died suddenly and in a very fitting fashion. Near the end of August after Daphne's OWLs he staged his Grand Return by attacking Diagon Alley when all the "Mudbloods" were expected to do their school shopping. His timing was bad again: Harry and Daphne were also out that day, walking with some of their school acquaintances. Voldemort popped in right next to Harry, and before anyone could blink his skull was caved in by a brick. This happy event also led to Dumbledore's forced retirement: He would not accept that Voldemort was dead and went on and on about how Harry had to die to keep the monster down. He never would explain why, just repeated that Harry's death was for The Greater Good.
Dumbledore's retirement and the deaths of all the marked Death Eaters left a large enough gap -- in the Wizengamot, in the International Confederation of Wizards, and at Hogwarts -- that Harry was able to use his fame to ram through some changes he and Daphne wanted. Pure-blood human men were no longer at the top of the heap with everyone else far below. True, Harry's fame wasn't enough to get everything done. He'd had to "take offense" at a few of the more conservative members of the government, then use antiquated dueling laws and his superb reflexes to shake things up enough to get his changes. Daphne had comforted her fiance after each death, then helped him plan to set up the next challenge.
Fixing the school was easier. With Dumbledore and much of the board of governors gone, the new management improved standards of teaching, added useful classes, and otherwise made Hogwarts the Finest Wizarding School in Europe. At Daphne's recommendation, courses were changed to rely less on rote memorization and more on making use of what they learned. The couple had planned to home school their children. By the time the children were old enough, Hogwarts became good enough that this was not necessary.
To Daphne's delight, all twelve children were much brighter than their parents. Good nutrition and proper attention apparently worked better than starvation, brain damage, and being locked in a closet. Jamie had just finished a year as Head Girl and had also done well enough on her non-magical studies to get into a Linguistics program at a good university. Her younger siblings seemed to be following in her footsteps.
Daphne had done most of the child rearing while Harry was ripping apart wizarding society and building it back up better than it was. That suited her just fine. Bringing up a large family was what she was born to do. She loved Harry dearly and would do anything for him, but it was the children that had brought her out of her shell and given her life meaning. Holding her first, minutes after she was born...
All was well.
Author's note: Most of Harry's musings on Daphne's desirability, the effects of being seen with a less-than-supermodel girlfriend, and his relationship with her come from overheard conversations among teenage boys. If Harry comes off here as very shallow at the beginning, take it up with a teenage boy near you.