"Kreacher," Daphne called the Black family elf to them.
"Mistress calls Kreacher," the old elf answered after appearing with the usual small pop of displaced air.
"Yes," Daphne confirmed. "Can you please ask Harry to join us?"
"Kreacher lives to serve the noble House of Black," the old elf replied, "but the young Master has asked not to be disturbed till he returns home."
"Harry's not even home?" Tracey asked in disbelief as the others wondered what could have pulled the wizard away.
"Thank you, Kreacher," Daphne said to the elf. "It would appear that it's just us, ladies. So what have you found?" she enquired, looking towards Hermione expectantly. Something important must have occurred for Harry to have run off right when Tracey and I have returned, Daphne mused.
"That looks rather old," Astoria commented, reaching out towards the book Hermione was holding. The younger Greengrass daughter loved to read and found old tomes such as the one Hermione had to be fascinating.
Hermione clutched the book tightly to her chest and turned away enough so that the unknown girl couldn't touch it. "Sorry," she said, offering a small apologetic smile. "Headmistress McGonagall entrusted me with this book. It was the only way she would allow me to remove it from Hogwarts. She said should anything happen to it she would take payment with a pound of my flesh. That is before turning me over to Madam Pince."
Anyone who had ever attended Hogwarts in recent history well knew Madam Pince's reverence for the books in her care. They also knew how protective the librarian of Hogwarts was of said books and the dire punishments she handed out to anyone she caught abusing them. Astoria quickly withdrew her hand, a small shiver of fear traversing her spine at mention of the librarian, having had a run-in with the witch her first year at Hogwarts.
Daphne cleared Harry's place at the table so that Hermione could set the large tome down. The muggle-born witch offered an appreciative smile as she slipped into Harry's empty seat, placing the book before her on the table and resting her hands across the top of it. The others stared at the young woman, the meal all but forgotten. "Where to start," Hermione mused aloud, more to herself than to the others.
"I've found it's usually best to start at the beginning," Andi offered helpfully from the other end of the table."So you have been at Hogwarts all this time?"
"Yes. I figured that Harry would need to know what was done to him," Hermione explained. "I've always been the one to do the research when something terrible happens to Harry. Not that being married to you is bad," Hermione quickly clarified with an apologetic look towards Daphne. At least not bad for you, Hermione couldn't help but think before turning to look back towards Andi.
"Hogwarts has one of the largest libraries in Europe," the witch continued, hastily licking her suddenly dry lips. "My parents showed up on Christmas day. A gift from Harry," Hermione clarified with a soft loving smile at the recollection of that surprise. "They've since been assisting me with my research," she added, schooling her features once more so the others wouldn't see. A bit too late for the I suppose, she thought noticing a knowing look upon Luna's face as well as Andi's unless she was mistaken.
"It was my father who actually found the reference in a history book of all places. I think he was just tired of reading the law books and had picked it up for a bit of light reading. I shouldn't be surprised as he's always been the reader of the family. Honestly, I think that is where I get it from," Hermione rambled on only to pause as she saw the anxious looks on the faces arrayed before her. "Right then," she stated, clearing her throat before getting to the heart of the matter.
"How much do you know of our history?" Hermione asked only to see blank stares. "I mean muggle history," she clarified. Seeing the continued blank stares, the young woman growled to herself in disbelief. How can they just so glibly ignore that there is an entire group of other people out there that they share a common history with? Yet again she lamented the fact that there were no muggle history classes offered at Hogwarts.
"Fine." Hermione declared, exasperated both at their lack of knowledge as well as the lack of classes. Maybe I can suggest to Harry that there be such a class at the Lupin Home when he starts that school there. "In the mid 1300's there was an illness that swept through Europe. While the numbers are rather different depending who you talk to, it is believed that somewhere between 75 and 200 million people died because of it. That would account for 30-60 percent of the European population back then."
"At the time it was believed that the entire world's population was only a mere 450 million people so you can see what a huge impact this illness had on the world. Entire towns and cities were wiped out as the illness spread," Hermione told them in her best lecture mode. "It is estimated that the world population didn't return to their pre-illness levels till sometime in the late 1700's"
Around the table Hermione could see all their faces with looks of shock at the appalling loss of life the illness had caused. At the other end of the table Andi's face had drained of all color, her hand frozen partway to her mouth holding her tea cup, apparently forgotten. Being a healer she must understand it better than the others, Hermione thought. "This pandemic or Black Plague as it was called-," Hermione started with only to stop as Andi's cup dropped and clattered rather loudly against the plate before the stunned witch.
"The Black Death," Andi breathed out softly, her hand shacking and eyes wide in disbelief. "You mean the Black Death," the shocked witch said in a louder tone, unmindful of the spilt tea that was soaking into the table cloth.
"Y…yes, it was called that as well," Hermione replied hesitantly. Around the table the others all wore concerned looks as they regard the witch at the end of the table.
"I had no idea," Andi commented absently as her eyes dropped vacantly to stare at the table top before her. "They never told us," she mumbled to herself.
Luna, being the closest to Andi, reached out and laid a gentle hand upon the witch's arm to gather her attention. "Are you alright, Andi?" Between the two witches, sensing that something was amiss, Teddy began to fuss and whimper.
"I didn't know!" Andi exclaimed, her head snapping up towards Luna. "They never told us!" she said with pleading eyes.
"It's alright, Andi," Luna said reassuringly. "I'm certain it wasn't your fault," the younger witch assured Andi before turning to pull Teddy from his chair and settle him in her lap.
"No. No, of course not," Andi absently answered, her face turning pensive. "I should have been able to put the pieces together. Why didn't I see it?"
"See what?" Hermione braved to ask from the other end of the table.
"It's a very old story," Andi said, looking up as if only just then realizing that there were others there. "It is more than just a bit of Black family dirty laundry. It would account for a large number of skeletons in our closet, especially if your numbers are to be believed."
Andi drew her wand and hastily vanished the spilled tea. "It is a Black family matter and I can only divulge it to members of the Black family or to those sworn not to tell others who are not of the House of Black," Andi explained. As much as she did not want to go into the details of what had happened the older witch felt that the women had a right to know. If they are going to be a part of Harry's life then they have a right to know, just as he does.
All eyes turned to look expectantly at Hermione. "What?" the witch asked in a nervous tone.
"We're all related to the Black family, except for you and Luna," Daphne clarified. "Almost all of the pure-blood families are related in some manner."
"As is Luna," Andi said, not bothering to clarify just how the petite witch was related. Being married to Harry makes her related, even if her last name is Lovegood. Hermione took out her wand and quickly swore upon her magic not to tell another soul unless they were related to the Black family. Now that the requirements had been satisfied Andi could start her tale.
"What I am about to tell you is what was passed down to me and my sisters by our father, who received it from his father and so on," Andi told them all. "In the first part of the 1300's, one Romulus Black, the current head of Black family, was travelling through northern France near Valenciennes where he happened upon a young woman. She was Philippa of Hainault, the only daughter of William I, the then Count of Hainault."
"The two fell in love almost at first sight," Andi continued. "Romulus, traveling as a young wealthy merchant at the time, asked the Count for her hand and was denied. Romulus was furious and was certain that Philippa's father had only turned him down due to his being an Englishman."
"The English and French have a long history of hating each other," Hermione offered.
Andi acknowledged the well learned witch's comment with a slight nod of her head before continuing. "My forbearer would not take no as answer and made several more requests, offering larger and more grand dowries each time only to be denied. Eventually Romulus, along with all the English nobility, was called home to Court. Edward III, the King of England, was in the process of rebuilding England's forces after the disastrous rule of his father."
"Romulus was a close adviser to Edward and beseeched the King to intercede on his behalf. I'm sure he felt that no mere Count would say no to a King, be he English or otherwise," Andi told them. "Things however did not go as planned. There was war with Scotland and the French were raiding along the English coastal towns. While on the continent to defend English territory Edward had to opportunity to meet Philippa whom he had heard so much about from Romulus."
"That is not what historians wrote," Hermione was quick to point out. "Edward and Philippa we betrothed at a young age before Edward became king."
"I realize that this all flies in the face of what history says happened," Andi admitted, "however bear in mind that history is often written by the victor and not the defeated. Edward was said to be smitten and married Philippa shortly thereafter. Hearing of the marriage, Romulus hurried to the cathedral with the intent to stop the wedding, only to be barred entry by order of the King."
"Only after the ceremony had been concluded, and the marriage had been consummated properly, did Edward allow Romulus to see Philippa. There, before a small gathering of lords and ladies, the Queen of England rebuffed his affections," Andi stated. "There wasn't much else she could do I would think. She was the Queen of England by that point and it would bring dishonor to the entire country were she to admit to her love for Romulus."
"For several years Romulus remained a broken man," Andi continued her tale. "till one day he just up and disappeared. The rest of the Black family searched for him to no avail. They knew he was alive as the Head of House did not transfer to the next in line and large quantities of gold periodically were withdrawn from the Black family vaults. It was several years before he returned home."
"Romulus had been in the far east researching with potions and magic of that region. The man, driven nearly mad from betrayal and a broken heart had done the unthinkable. It was rumored that Edward himself was a wizard. There had long been magicals in the royal lines, it's the only reason our world still sees the Queen as the ultimate authority in the country," Andi explained. "Romulus had crafted a potion that he believed would kill Edward and Philippa. A liquid form of a curse."
"Returning home so that he could be there when the royal couple perished, Romulus bragged to family members about how he had commissioned a beautiful silk dress for the Queen of England. Dousing the dress in the potion he created he had sent it over the silk road, across Europe, to England. The fool didn't realize what he had done at the time," Andi stated sadly.
"The potion did not stay just on the dress but rather seeped from it and infected any magical that came into contact with it," the witch said. "Magicals, even back then were prone to travel abroad a great deal, all of which only aided in the spreading of this foulest of curses. Fully three quarters of the world's magical population perished in less than a year's time. It was only a few years later that there were reports of what was later called the Black Plague coming out of the far east and Asia areas of the world."
"But it wasn't intended for muggles," Hermione said.
"No it wasn't," Andi confirmed as the others sat in stunned silence. "It was targeted at magicals. It attacked their magic and then ate them from the outside in leaving a black discoloration of their skin. People took to calling it the Black Death due to that, with only our family knowing just how apt the name truly was."
"Regular people died in a similar manner," Hermione offered. "But how could a magical curse designed for people with magical energy affect non-magicals who have none?"
"If I had to hazard a guess, squibs," Andi speculated."While they are magical they are also as close to muggle as one can get."
"It mutated!" exclaimed the excited witch in Harry's seat. "Pathogens and viruses often mutate, becoming something different than they originally were. Romulus' curse must have altered and adapted to the squibs and from there it was only a matter of time before it would infect the non-magicals!" Hermione exclaimed.
"My thoughts as well," Andi replied, impressed with the young woman's reasoning. "In the end neither Edward nor Philippa contracted the illness so it was all for not."
"What did Romulus do then?" Tracey asked almost fearfully. It was stunning to think that one man's jealousy and desire for revenge could account for such an unbelievable loss of life.
"Nothing," Andi said with a finality that told them that the man's future did not bode well for him. "Learning of what Romulus had done, his cousin Radolff Black murdered him and became the next Head of House for the Black family. The damage had already been done though by that time and all they could do was to insure that no one ever discovered what had happened. The entire family and their descendants was sworn to secrecy."
"While I would be the first one to say I enjoy a good history lesson as much as the next person, I fail to see just how this ties in with Sissy being married to Harry Potter," Astoria voiced.
"I think I can explain that now," Hermione offered."It actually makes a bit more sense now after what Andi has told us. From 1346 to roughly 1353 the Black Plague ravaged Europe and Asia, reaching all the way up and into Russia. Entire settlements and town were wiped out and burnt to the ground to try and prevent its spread."
"The small farming communities, those furthest from heavily populated areas were the least affected at the time. They were mostly self-reliant and had little contact with the outside world," Hermione explained. "This made it rather difficult for the illness to reach them. In these small tight-knit communities everyone worked together and contributed equally. It was the only way they could survive."
"Now, after the plague had run its course there were a shortage of people. Andi said that the curse accounted for three quarters of the magical population," Hermione reminded them before continuing."Families that had survived the plague, looking to marry their daughters off, were forced to approach these isolated communities."
"For their part these small communities comprised mostly of farmers and small trades men like blacksmiths and leather workers, who were rightfully fearful of the outside world. Additionally, they did not want to take in anyone who would not pull their own weight. If the community had to support itself then they didn't want to have to feed someone who contributed nothing in return."
The Head Girl of Hogwarts opened the large tome before her and turned the pages till she found the one she was looking for. "The intend'd shalt traveleth to whence those gents cameth bringing with those folk not pestilence n'r beshrew n'r aught oth'r than the robes upon their backeth. Thou shalt liveth in thy husband's lodging of residence and w'rk the landeth as that gent doth seeth fiteth f'r a p'riod of nay less than three synodic phases. If't be true hath found the mistress w'rthy that gent may purchaseth all yond is of value from h'r family, presenting the intend'd h'r wand to his jointress to completeth the agreement hon'rably."
"But what does all that mean?" Tracey was quick to ask.
"It says that the intended bride must travel to the intended husbands home. Once there she must work as he instructs her to do," Hermione explained. "She has to remain there, bringing nothing with her other than the clothes upon her back."
"They probably feared the spreading of the plague," Andi thought aloud. "By limiting what was brought into the settlement I would guess they thought to protect themselves as best they could."
"A synodic phase would be a lunar cycle," Daphne contributed, being well versed in the old rituals. "Roughly three months. I've been here at Westfield just a bit more than that now."
"What does the last part mean," Astoria enquired. Listening to the Old English phrasing was enough to give her a headache. I can't believe they really talked like that back then.
"If the groom found the bride worthy then he purchased her wand from the bride's family and presented it to the bride," Luna chimed in with. "Upon doing so it concluded the deal and the couple was officially married."
"The wand was all that was considered of value in those days," Hermione clarified with an angry edge to her tone at the inequality of it all. "Basically the groom purchased his wife."
"The cost of the wand replaced what would have been the bride price," Andi voiced thoughtfully. "If the population was so small then good wives would be a sought after item I would think."
"Wait, there is more," Hermione told them before looking down at the book before her and reading once more. "Shouldst the jointress beest unfit 'r unable to beareth offspring within the turning of the seasons then the husband needeth but breaketh h'r wand to dissolve the agreement and sendeth h'r backeth to h'r family f'rev'r sham'd and suitable only f'r the s'rvitude to the church."
Hermione looked up and directly at Daphne. "Should you be unable to bear a child, Harry can break your wand, ending your marriage and send you back to your family. It says you have until the turning of the seasons. I would take that to mean a year."
The blonde witch paled. Harry would never break my wand, Daphne told herself, though she couldn't quite quell the small voice in the back of her head that asked 'what if he did'. "A year. That should be plenty of time to get to know Harry I guess," she said with a nervous tremor in her voice. "It's not unreasonable to think that I might become pregnant in that time," Daphne added, fighting to keep the hysteria she was feeling from echoing in her words.
"Actually," Hermione said hesitantly, "you need to give birth within that first year. With nine months of gestation normally, that leaves you three months to get pregnant," she clarified to utter silence as Daphne fainted dead away into Tracey's lap.
Daniel Wright stood and made certain his robes were in order before he stepped out of the waiting area of the office he shared with his partners. "Good Morning Miss-," he started to say to the witch waiting there for him only to come up short at the glare she leveled in his direction. "Greengrass," he finished with only a slight stumble.
"I think it would be best if you refrain from calling me Missus Black for the time being," Daphne growled once they were safely behind the silenced door of Daniel's office. The past several days had been rather awkward ones at Westfield and had left the young witch in a decidedly foul mood. The thought that she could be a mother in less than a year left her terrified and a little excited, but mostly terrified.
Harry had returned the following morning and informed them all of where he had been and why he had been there. The wizard was a bit upset that he had missed Hermione who had returned to Hogwarts with the borrowed book. The bushy haired witch had said she had to be back to get everything ready for the students returning in a couple of days.
Learning of what Hermione had uncovered, Harry had looked very thoughtful for a long moment before suggesting that Daphne take it to his solicitor to see what Mister Wright could make of it. The blonde with had left out the part about bearing Harry's child in a year's time. We can discuss that only IF we have to, she told herself, hoping there would be a way out of it. Since then Daphne had only seen Harry at the morning and evening meals. It's almost as if he is avoiding me.
Tracey was none too happy about the baby news either, Daphne recalled. The only thing that prevented the auburn-haired witch from being furious was the fact that they had a plan for cajoling Harry into allowing them to remain together. If all worked as they hoped then Harry would be with the both of them which was something Tracey found more acceptable as time went by.
Andi had taken the entire thing rather pragmatically, seeing it as a done deal. Best to make the best of it, Daphne recalled the elder witch suggesting. At least with Andi there I know I don't have to worry about any medical issues, she reasoned. Morgana! I can't believe I'm actually contemplating having a baby! I'm way too young for this! Being raised in the pure-blood traditions, none of the young woman's turmoil that was smoldering inside her showed upon her face as she regarded the wizard with her.
"Now, Mister Potter's letter said there were a number of things you wished to discuss," Daniel Wright opened with as he made his way back to his seat behind the desk once Daphne was seated. "So how may I help you Lady Black?"
Daphne flinched at the use of the title but schooled her features and answered. "A friend of ours believes that she has discovered just how Harry and I were wed," she said as she slipped a piece of parchment from her handbag and set it upon the desktop. "I'd like for you to look this over and give me your thoughts on the matter." Thankfully Hermione had transcribed the information before she had returned to Hogwarts.
The wizard took the piece of parchment and read it over twice. Taking a quill in hand he hastily penned a message on a separate piece of parchment and tapped it with his wand. The paper folded itself into a bird and flew out the small window above the office door. "I've sent my assistant to retrieve a book from the archives in the basement," Daniel explained."I would like to check something before I give you my thoughts on the matter," he explained.
It was only a few minutes before there was a knock on the door and the assistant appeared with the requested tome. Daphne watched as the wizard flipped through the pages to the one he sought. The next several minutes were consumed as the solicitor read from the book and then from the parchment Hermione had provided. "I see," Daniel finally said with a sigh as he sat back in his chair deep in thought. "Well that does present a bit of a problem."
A clearing of Daphne's throat reminded the man that he was not alone. "Sorry," Daniel offered apologetically. "It is a very old law it would seem. I'm actually surprised it is still on the books," he confessed. "In short, it is a legal and binding marriage agreement, Lady Black. You will need to provide Lord Black with an heir before a year's time is what it basically amounts to."
Daphne's shoulders sagged in defeat as she had truly wished that there was some manner by which she could get out of having a baby. It's not that I mind being married to Harry, she mused. It could be far worse, she realized, thinking of Blaise Zabini and suppressing a shudder. "I doubt very much that Harry would snap my wand," Daphne stated with a small forced chuckle.
"Mister Potter may not have a choice in the matter I'm afraid," Mister Wright informed Daphne. "If you do not produce an heir within the given time frame you would be considered unfit to be his wife. The law states he would be required to snap your wand and send you back to your family. Having forfeited your virtue, as well as been unable to bear a child, you must be relinquished to the nearest Cloister to serve the church till the end of your days."
"But the Church burns witches at the stake!" Daphne exclaimed, sudden visions of her being captured and tied to a tree to be roasted like a pig on a spit swarmed through her head.
"I don't believe they still do that, Lady Black," Mister Wright offered encouragingly. "In the time when this law was enacted, if a hamlet or small village had a witch in residence they were considered fortunate. It wasn't till much later in history that the clergy took to hunting witches. Please keep in mind that this law was for magical folk, not the muggles of that era."
The stunned witch sat there in utter disbelief of what had become of her life. If I had just picked someone else none of this would have happened, she growled, all the more furious as she only had herself to blame apparently. If I have to join a convent then I doubt I will be able to see Tracey, which means I will lose my magic. Well, at least they won't be able to burn me at the stake for being a witch.
"I can of course submit a bill to have this law revoked," Mister Wright said, causing the witch with him to look up hopefully, "however, as the law is already enacted upon yourself and Mister Potter it will not change your circumstances, I'm afraid." Seeing the young lady wilt upon hearing his words the wizard tried to be helpful."I hear they have potions now that can guarantee the birth of a boy."
"Thank you," Daphne answered dryly, recalling she had said the very thing to Astoria not all that long ago.
"I will research this further and see if there is anything else," Daniel offered, his tone conveying that he didn't give it much hope."Is there something else I can help you with today, Lady Black?"
Left with little choice in the matter, Daphne gathered her thoughts and pushed the issue of babies and losing her magic to the back of her mind for the time being. "Actually, yes, there is. Given what my father has done, I would like this made as legally sound as possible," Daphne stated as she withdrew a second scroll from her handbag and passed it over to the solicitor.
Daniel Wright opened the scroll and started to read it, his eyebrows climbing into his hair line with each passing second. "You do realize that this would be rather difficult to make a case of?" he finally asked looking towards the witch over the top edge of the parchment.
"That is irrelevant," Daphne replied with a dismissive wave of her hand. "I don't expect him to believe it just from the document alone." The Slytherin witch outlined her plans for her father to the solicitor who paled upon hearing it. "I only need father to doubt. If he does that then I'll have him and be able to beat him at his own game!" Daphne exclaimed triumphantly.
"I don't see anything specifically illegal in what you're doing, though it does skirt an ethically grey area," the wizard replied."If you are successful you could open yourselves up for your father to turn around and do the very same thing to you," Mister Wright pointed out.
"I don't believe he will do such a thing," Daphne countered with. "Public opinion would still be on our side and he knows it. While he could possibly win, his name and business reputation would be worth less than the mud in the streets. While I am certain he won't take this calmly and that there will be retribution from him at some point, we'll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it."
"I'll have the necessary papers drawn up and distributed per your request," Mister Wright informed Daphne. "When would you like to confront your father?"
"The sooner the better," Daphne answered. "I believe that Harry's life is in danger so I'd prefer not to wait any longer than we need to." Seeing the questioning look on the man's face Daphne proceeded to explain her belief in the manner by which her father planned to get his hands on the Black family gold. "The sooner we can complete this the sooner Harry will be safe."
"Would tomorrow be soon enough?" Daniel Wright asked, feeling the protection of his client meant a great deal to him and his partners. "If you can meet me here first thing in the morning we can hopefully have this matter resolved before lunch time." Daphne agreed and thanked the man as Daniel walked her out to use the floo to return home. On the way back to his office he stopped and gathered his partners so that he could inform them of just what was transpiring.
"Where is he?" Daphne growled, her finger tips drumming upon the dining room table. The table itself was set for two, with candles lit and an assortment of dishes Winky had assured her were Harry's favorites. The young witch swirled the last of her wine within the glass before hastily downing it in a single gulp. It had all started several hours previously, shortly after her return from speaking with Harry's solicitors.
Daphne strolled into the kitchen of Westfield manor and looked about, never having stepped into the room prior to just that moment. "It is far more spacious than I would have thought," she commented aloud, surveying the many cupboards, counter tops and cooking utensils that were suspended from a hanging rack.
There was a soft pop to one side as Winky appeared, a rather startled look upon her face. "Does the Mistress wish for Winky to make her something to eat?" the house elf enquired, wringing her hand nervously. With the witch's marriage to her Master, Daphne was now her Mistress. It was very important to the house elf that she not disappoint Daphne in any manner les she be given clothing. Having already been dismissed in such a manner once in her life Winky did not care to repeat such a disgrace.
"Yes," Daphne hastily replied only to see the elf burst into action. "Sort of, I mean," Daphne hastily added, causing Winky to pause with a skillet already over the open flame of the stove. "What I mean is that I want to cook dinner tonight."
The affect Daphne's words had on the house elf were startling to say the least. "Mistress does not like Winky's cooking," Winky said, her ears drooping and big tears appearing in her bulbous eyes. The pan was hastily set aside, all but forgotten. "Winky is sorry and will do better," the distraught elf cried, dropping to her knees and begging."Please do not send Winky away!"
"Send you away?" Daphne asked, completely flummoxed by Winky actions. "Morgana forbid! I wouldn't know what to do without you," Daphne exclaimed, earning a hopeful glance from the elf. "Harry and I, all of us for that matter, couldn't be happier with your service, Winky," Daphne added to help reassure the elf.
"But Mistress doesn't want Winky to cook?" Winky pointed out from where she remained on her knees.
"Sorry. That was a misunderstanding," Daphne clarified."I want to cook Harry a special meal tonight." It had taken some convincing to get the others to leave the manor. Luna had happily taken Teddy over to the Lupin Home to spend some time with Anna and the others there. The small metamorphmagus had been an instant hit during the holiday visit.
Tracey had been the real issue as Andi had to work that evening and wouldn't be home till rather late. In the end Daphne had told Tracey that she planned to discuss the three of them being together with Harry which was why she wanted the time alone with the wizard. The auburn-haired witch was less than pleased but given the reasoning finally agreed to it, leaving for the Davis store and dragging Astoria with her.
"It will just be Harry and I this evening for dinner and I want to make him a meal with my own hands. We've only just been married and I really haven't had an opportunity to do anything nice for him," Daphne told the slowly calming elf.
"Does Mistress know her way about the kitchen?" Winky enquired.
"I…I was hoping you could sort of help me with that," Daphne stated, her cheeks pink in embarrassment. "I've never really cooked anything before," the young witch admitted.
"Winky will help Mistress then," the elf stated, climbing back to her feet, brushing off her skirt and glad to be able to help her Mistress.
"Please, Daphne is fine," Daphne said as she brushed some dirt from the back of Winky's skirt, feeling a bit responsible for it being there. I don't recall our elf being so emotional, Daphne thought, thinking of the Greengrass house elf.
"As Mistress Daphne wishes," Winky replied crisply. Though she was an elf Winky was also a woman. Having just recently joined with Kreacher, she could well understand wanting to do something special for the one you care about. The fact that it was for her Master Harry and it was her Mistress wishing to do so made the elf happy. "Winky was to make chicken tonight."
In short order Winky had Daphne setup and dicing ingredients that they would need to prepare the meal. The young witch learned how to grind pepper, salt, dried garlic, onion and dill. After being shown the correct way to hold a knife, Daphne diced fresh parsley. The ingredients were combined with cream and milk to form a dressing into which the juice from two lemons was squeezed.
"I never knew there was so much work involved in cooking," Daphne said, taking a short break after mixing everything together. Seeing a bottle of wine nearby she poured herself a glass and took a sip of the red liquid, delighting in the feel of it as it slipped down her throat. Her parents had allowed Daphne and her sister a small glass of wine with their evening meals every so often. The young woman had come to appreciate the taste of the rich liquid.
"Winky enjoys working in Mistress Daphne's kitchen," the elf answered as she cleaned and prepared the chicken they would be using.
Daphne just grinned, realizing that in no way was this room anything other than Winky's Kitchen. "Wouldn't it just be easier to use magic to do the cooking?" asked Daphne taking another sip of her wine as she leaned against the counter watching Winky work.
"Easier yes," Winky agreed as she halved and then quartered the bird, "but it wouldn't taste the same." Seeing the questioning look upon the witch's face Winky explained. "There is more to cooking than just the ingredients, Mistress Daphne. Winky be putting her love of family into everything Winky makes. That is something that magic cannot do. If Mistress puts her love into her cooking, then Winky is certain Master Harry will be able to taste it."
Daphne hastily finished the remainder of the wine in her glass. Would that be such a bad thing?she asked herself. I do love him after all. The very admission of that fact made her cheeks blush. Morgana! Why does this have to be so difficult? she wondered as she refilled her glass. It's all because of father!
Thought of the Head of the Greengrass family sent a shiver down the young woman's spine. I'll have to confront him tomorrow morning. The plan was to meet with Daniel Wright and then floo to the Greengrass residence. If this plan goes pear-shaped then I won't have to worry about sleeping with Harry. For some reason the young woman didn't like that thought, not at all.
"Do you truly think so?" Daphne asked, taking a sip of wine to wet her suddenly dry throat. It was all good and fine to plan for tomorrow's meeting but now that it was nearly time to put her plan into action Daphne was more than a little scared. Father is well known for his temper, she reminded herself, having been on the receiving end of said temper more than a time or two. She could only hope that the presence of Mister Wright would prevent her father from acting out.
"Cooking is not unlike a magic of its own," Winky told her Mistress as she set a large skillet upon the stove followed by a large pot and then a smaller one. "You add a bit of this, a pinch of that, a portion of the desired ingredients and then stir in a bit of yourself. If your magic is good and true, then those that eat your cooking will be made happy by it."
Daphne paused, having moved to the sink while Winky spoke to begin washing the bushel of red potatoes that would be served as a side dish."It is more like making a potion from the way you describe it," she stated before returning to washing the items at hand.
"Mistress is smart," Winky replied with a warm smile, thinking her Mistress was a good match for her Master. I hope they will have lots of babies for Winky to care for. "With brewing you take many ingredients and make them more than they be alone by mixing them together. Cooking is no different. Sometimes what you mix does not come out the way you expect it to but that is what practice is for." The she-elf loved to cook and the joy of her labor was echoed in her words.
Gathering the washed potatoes Daphne took them to the counter in the center of the kitchen to begin dicing them up. The young woman was rather surprised she had never seen the similarities before. Probably because I've never cooked before, she told herself. Then again you never had someone to cook for before either. Daphne paused to sip her wine again, realizing that she rather liked cooking.
Under Winky's careful guidance Daphne added red wine, soy sauce, the dressing they had made, brown sugar, ground ginger, garlic, and oregano together in a bowl until the sugar dissolved completely. This mixture was then used to coat the chicken. Olive oil was added to the large pan along with two cloves of garlic. Once it was ready the coated chicken was added to cook.
Dicing the broccoli before her afford Daphne some time to think. In less than three months I have to sleep with Harry. It was still hard to believe but Daphne was becoming a little more use to the thought as it had been on her mind almost since the moment she was told of it. I'm his wife. It's only natural that we would sleep together, she tried to tell herself, only then realizing that she had been staying in her own rooms since returning to Westfield.
Why hasn't Harry asked me to move to his room? Daphne pondered as she took a sip of wine. Does he not want me there? The thought seemed almost to absurd to even contemplate at first. Maybe he doesn't find me attractive, she wondered as she refilled her glass. Recalling all the times she had caught the wizard ogling her chest, she quickly dismissed that notion. Adding the diced broccoli to one pot to steam Daphne stepped back and leaned against the counter to wait.
Winky fearfully shot glances towards her Mistress. The young witch was already working on the second bottle of wine, the first having been finished when used with the chicken. The elf had fetched a new bottle to add to the cooking chicken only for her Mistress to start to drink the remainder of it. Unless Winky was wrong, Daphne was becoming a little wobbly on her feet.
Why hasn't he made a move on me yet? The witch's alcohol infused brain asked, a hint of indignation in her mental tone. I know he's interested in me. Morgana knows I've flirted enough with him that he should know I find him attractive.A thought suddenly struck the bright witch. He doesn't know what to do! I bet he's never been with anyone before. Not that I have been either, a small voice of reason sounded in her head.
Daphne recalled that there had been one witch in Harry's life. There was that Weasley girl. They were supposed to get engaged or were engaged, she couldn't honestly recall. For some reason the thought of Harry engaged to another witch really made her angry. Well, apparently she didn't show him anything, Daphne finally reasoned, watching Winky pour a generous amount of wine over the chicken.
At this rate it might be a year before he gathers his courage up to do anything, Daphne thought, taking a rather large gulp from her glass. Some Gryffindor he is, she snorted humorously causing Winky to glance in her direction with a concerned look. Well, I've got three months, she told herself. Under Winky's watchful eye the steamed broccoli was removed and placed in a bowl ready to be severed.
It was while she waited on the red potatoes to finish that she had a revelation of sorts. Why?Why am I even waiting? Three months, three weeks, three days? Does it make any difference? Daphne's brow creased in thought as she tried to find a reason for waiting but nothing came to mind. I should just get it over with and be done with it. There is no way out of it and I don't want to lose Tracey or my magic.
If something goes wrong tomorrow and something happens to me then what? she asked herself. The wine, combined with her very vivid imagination, provided all sorts of scenarios. Everything from her father exploding in a fit of rage and injuring her, causing her to be in a coma at St. Mungo's for many months to him keeping her locked in the cellars below the Greengrass Manor till Harry came to rescue her. No telling how long that would take.
Winky called Daphne's attention back to the food as they removed it from the stove and set it to be served. With the elf's assistance, being none to stead on her feet, Daphne set the table with candles and flowers to make it as romantic as possible. A quick shower and change of clothes found the witch seated at the table awaiting her wizard, in a very low cut dress that hugged the curves of her body rather nicely.
The inebriated witch sat drumming her fingers on the table top when there was a small pop announcing the arrival of a house elf. Seeing the waiting witch, the smartly dressed elf gave a small bow. "Master Harry has asked Lolly to convey that he will be home later than expected and that everyone should begin dinner without him."
Harry flew down and jumped from his Firebolt at the foot of the stairs leading up to the front door of Westfield Manor. The young wizard hadn't intended to stay as long as he had at the Lupin home. It had been nice to sit and chat with Susan and the Patil twins of course but it was the small child curled within his lap fast asleep that had detained him more than anything else.
Truth be told he hadn't wanted to put the small girl down. Harry was still amazed at just how much Anna had come to mean to him. He saw a bit of himself in her. Orphaned and alone at a young age with no one to look after her. The young man was determined to see to it that the little girl had a loving family to care for her. Catching the witches with him stifling yawns of their own finally forced him to put Anna to bed and return home.
Climbing the stairs with his broom slung over his shoulder Harry had to smile recalling the squeals of laughter Luna and Teddy had caused as they played with the other children. Teddy took great pride in showing off how he could morph into the resemblance of a house elf, complete with big floppy ears and bulbous eyes. He still hasn't figure out how to do the nose yet, Harry mused to himself as he opened the door.
Storing his Firebolt in the closet near the door, Harry hoped that Luna would remember to be back home in time for breakfast. The former Ravenclaw, at the urging of several children, had agreed to spend the night there with Teddy. I'm sure she'll be back in the morning so Andi can see Teddy, he told himself as he turned only to notice that there was someone seated at the dining room table. "Daphne?" Harry asked questioningly as he eyed the witch and the food set out on the table.
"You're late," Daphne said, her words slurring slightly.
"I'm sorry," Harry apologized. "I sent Lolly to tell everyone I would be late and that you should eat without me."
"What everyone?" Daphne snapped angrily. "It's just me. I even cooked for you," she told him with a gesture towards the waiting food.
Harry looked at the food once more, noticing several of his favorite dishes as well as the empty bottle of wine. "Wow you did all this for me?" Harry asked only to see Daphne nod, her bottom lip sticking out as she pouted rather cutely. "I don't know what to say, Daphne. Thank you." Things had been rather awkward around Daphne ever since he had walked in on her and Tracey. Not knowing what to do about the situation, Harry had tried to avoid both of them as much as possible.
"It's too late now," Daphne told him as she huffed and turned away slightly. "Dinner was some time ago, Potter."
Harry flinched at her choice of names for him. "Actually, I haven't had dinner yet. I was over at the Lupin home and got rather tied up with things over there which is why I couldn't make it back here in time to eat. There were some issues that Susan and Parvati needed me to take a look at," he said. There had been but it had only taken a minute or two to clear up the matter. Harry hoped it was a good enough cover to appease the upset witch before him.
"So you haven't eaten?" Daphne asked, a hopeful note in her tone.
"No. I was just going to grab a sandwich from the chiller but this looks much better," Harry told her with a warm smile. "Have you eaten?" Harry asked, only to see Daphne shake that she hadn't. "Would you have dinner with me then?"
"I would love to," Daphne replied, her attitude doing a complete turnabout. Daphne served Harry, filling his plate with a portion of everything. For his part Harry made certain to taste everything and compliment Daphne at how wonderful it was. The two exchanged small talk for several long minutes before Daphne looked at the wizard beside her. "Do you think I'm pretty?"
Harry started to choke, the chicken he had just swallowed suddenly going down wrong. The young man's self-preservation alarms were ringing loudly but he wasn't exactly sure why. "Is that a trick question?" he finally asked once he could breathe again.
"You didn't answer my question," Daphne pressed."We're married already so if you don't think I'm attractive it's alright," she told him in a deceptively casual tone of voice.
"What's this about, Daphne?" Harry asked, stalling for time. The man's fight or flee instincts were screaming for him to vacate the witch's presence as quickly as apparition could remove him. The question itself was just filled with landmines. Answer too quickly and you weren't taking it seriously enough. Answer too slowly and you weren't telling the truth. No answer at all would mean he didn't think she was pretty.
"Just answer the question, Harry," Daphne replied."It's not like I'm going to get mad or anything. I just want to know how you honestly feel about me."
Backed into a corner the wizard had only two options. Disapparate from the house and never return or answer the question. "A man would have to be dead not to think that you're beautiful, Daphne," Harry finally answered. "I think you're one of the most stunning witches I know." The wizard breathed a silent sigh of relief as he saw a smile appear on Daphne's face, believing he had answered correctly.
"Thank you, Harry. That's very sweet of you," Daphne said, as her cheeks took on a redness that had nothing to do with the wine she had consumed. "Why haven't you asked me to move into your rooms then? We are husband and wife now after all."
"Well…umm…I…," Harry stammered, trying to decide what to say. I doubt telling her that Luna is already there would be a good answer right about now, he mused, suspecting that the witch with him was rather drunk at the moment. No telling what she would do to me!
"You know," Daphne continued in a sultry voice as she stood, pushing her chair back from the table in the process. "I think that the big bad Harry Potter is scared of little ol' me," Daphne teased with a playful grin as she stepped across the space from her chair to Harry's."You don't know what to do with me now that you've caught me," she said as she spun about and dropped into Harry's lap, her arms encircling the startled wizard's neck.
"Daphne!" Harry squawked in a rather undignified manner."What are you doing?" he managed to stammer as the witch in his lap leaned against him. The softness of Daphne's breasts pushing into his chest was rather distracting, in the best possible way. A quick glance downward, what man could resist doing so, revealed a wonderful array of bare milky white skin.
"Silly man," Daphne answered in a low husky voice,"I'm seducing you of course," she added before capturing Harry's lips in hers in a searing kiss that was filled with all the passion and need she could manage. Set upon her course, Daphne pursued it with near reckless abandonment, shifting in Harry's lap and rubbing against him suggestively.
Not one to turn down a beautiful witch, Harry deepened the kiss, recalling telling Andi and Luna that is he ever did turn down a pretty witch to have him committed. The thought of Luna brought Harry up short, causing him to break their kiss sooner than either had wished. I have to tell her about Luna. She has a right to know."Wait, Daphne. I think we should wai-,"
"I don't want to wait," Daphne replied, capturing Harry's lips with hers once more and cutting the wizard off in mid-word. I can't risk waiting, she told herself. The wine and her fear of what might happen driving her on despite being scared of making love for the first time. I already drank the potion to ensure conception and that it will be a boy. No going back now, the wine told her.
"Daphne, this isn't like you," Harry managed to get out as he pushed the needy witch away from him a bit and held her at bay. He could feel Daphne trembling in his grasp. She's terrified. Why is she doing this?
"I want you, Harry," Daphne pleaded, trying to rub up against him. "Don't you want me too?"
There was no denying that his body wanted her. It was a fact he was certain she was well aware of given where she was seated. As if reading his thoughts Daphne squirmed in his lap eliciting a small groan of pleasure. Harry opened his mouth to tell her that he didn't want her, at least not like this, when there was a rather loud banging upon the front door.
"Ignore it," Daphne told Harry, trying to draw his lips down to hers once more.
Not knowing what else to do Harry did the only thing he could do and stood up, startling the witch in his arms. Hastily dumping Daphne onto his vacated chair, Harry extracted himself from her arms and went to answer the door, completely bewildered by the witch's behavior. "Now what?" Harry mumbled under his breath as he opened the door only to freeze."Hermione? What are you doing here?"
"I'm moving in," Hermione replied, certain that her trunk next to her would have clued Harry into that much at least. The young witch gathered her courage, and recalling her mother's story, did what she couldn't do previously. "I'm in love with you, Harry!" she said before stepping forward, throwing her arms around the stunned wizard and capturing his lips with her own.
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