Chapter 32 – Saving Others
. . .
When the knock came, it was not wholly unexpected. Harry gave a small knowing smile as he crossed the room and opened the door to his suite to reveal a very nervous and slightly embarrassed Daphne. The young witch was dressed in a somewhat simple white nightgown that reached nearly to the floor. The young woman had her hair pulled back and done up in a braid for sleeping. This only emphasized the determined set of her jaw.
"A bit lost? I'm certain your rooms are a floor below this," Harry teased gently with an amused lopsided grin. With the Wizengamot session on Monday Harry had figured that Daphne would visit either tonight or Sunday evening. Honestly, he had figured the latter of the two. I thought it would take her another day to gather her courage. How very Gryffindor of her, he thought to himself with a mental chuckle.
"A bit," Daphne replied, a nervous tremor in her voice."I've never done this before," Daphne stated as she stepped through the door and into Harry's room. The flustered woman looked about the room to avoid looking at the wizard with her. "No Luna?" she asked half in jest half in seriousness after what happened in the library earlier that evening.
"No. Luna is sleeping in her own room tonight," Harry assured Daphne as he closed the door and turned to face her. "As should you be," he added. It didn't take much to notice just how nervous Daphne was. Frankly, her nerves were starting to rub off on Harry, though he did his best to hide it from her.
"We both know why I can't-do that," Daphne replied, color creeping into her cheeks as she turned and faced Harry. The fact that Harry had as good as said that Luna slept in his bed did not sit overly well with Daphne. I guess I never really thought about it, she mused. She is his wife after all.
"Daph, you don't have to do this," Harry attempted to reason with her. "Everything will be fine. There is no need for you to force yourself into this."
"How can you be so certain?" Daphne asked as she turned and started pacing, wringing her hands before her as she did so. "It's all well and good to say things will turn out alright but there is no way of knowing for sure!" The confidence she had displayed in the library earlier seemed to have fled her as once again her fears took over.
"Look, I know my life has had its share of terrible things but I'm still here and have managed to get through them relatively unscathed," Harry replied. Granted there were a few close calls. Really close calls.
"Taking a killing curse or two is what you called 'unscathed'?" Daphne countered with a snort of disbelief. Honestly!There are limits to just how humble a person can be! "If half the stories that were circulating around Hogwarts were true you are lucky to even be alive!"
Harry waved Daphne's words aside with a gesture of one hand."My point is that I have managed to get through all the bad things. Am I not standing here right now? Is that not proof of that?" Harry asked."This is no different than all those other times. With a bit of luck, we'll get through this as well." What happened to the 'We'll beat this' attitude she displayed down in the library, he wondered.
"And what if your luck runs out, Harry?" Daphne inquired, pausing in her pacing to look directly at the wizard. "What then? It's only a matter of time before something doesn't go your way! You may live a charmed life but what of the people around you? Can you say the same for them?" She knew it wasn't a fair question to ask but once again her emotions were in control rather than her brain.
The young wizard had to admit if even only to himself, that those around him had not fared well. Many such as Sirius, Moony, Tonks, and even Dumbledore had paid the ultimate price. Those I love the most are the ones that are often hurt by my actions. For a moment panic seized him as the thought of something happening to any of the women he loved popped into his head. It was only with great effort that he was able to school his features so that the fear he felt didn't show.
Harry could tell that Daphne was starting to get upset. "It won't. At least not this time," he hastily added upon seeing the look of disbelief on Daphne's face. "We'll get through this," Harry said with far more confidence in his voice than he was currently feeling at that moment. For the most part, he had lived a somewhat charmed life. There were so many times where I should have died, but I didn't.
"Can you honestly promise me that you know for a fact that everything will go well on Monday, Harry?" the worried witch asked. Seeing the answer on the wizard's face, Daphne continued on. "I know you were raised in the Muggle world, but I was not. I have known magic my entire life, and I doubt I could live without it. It's a part of me, Harry," she pleaded, hoping that he would understand what she was saying.
"I know they will obliviate me so that I'll forget all about magic but I know that I will still know that something is missing. Something that is an integral piece of me. Without it I will never be whole again,"Daphne told Harry. "Life without magic isn't a life I want to live. It would be a fate worse than death. Let's not even get into the whole thing about not knowing you or Tracey or the others. I can't live that way, Harry. Especially when we have the means to ensure that I never have to," she pleaded.
"It's not that simple," Harry stammered, trying to gather his thoughts for a means to counter her arguments. The fact that Daphne had some very valid points didn't make the job any less difficult for him. I've always managed to get through things…somehow. Harry could hear Professor McGonagall's voice in his head saying "sheer dumb luck" from his first year.
"It's me," Daphne breathed out in surprise, having come to the sudden realization of exactly why Harry didn't wish to take her to bed."You really don't want to be with me in that way. I'm not pretty enough or desirable enough." Though Daphne often appeared strong and confident in herself, she was still a rather young woman with all the insecurities and doubts that anyone her age harbored deep inside. "It's me," she reiterated as she looked up at Harry with watery eyes.
"Merlin no!" Harry exclaimed, quickly crossing the distance to Daphne and taking her in his arms, lest she turn away from him."How can you even think that Daphne?" he asked in disbelief as the first tear trickled down her cheek. Knowing that actions spoke louder than words, Harry did the one thing he could think of to assure her that she was desirable. Leaning in quickly Harry captured her lips in a searing kiss. What is it with me and kissing crying witches, a small part of his mind wondered?
Once their lips parted Harry leaned his head against Daphne's."If anything, it is the complete opposite, you are, without a doubt, one of the most fetching witches I know. Honestly, it is I who isn't good enough for you," he told her sincerely. "I love you Daphne, and one-day I hope to be worthy of you."
"I love you too, Harry," Daphne replied. "I meant what I said early about the thought of losing you being painful. I want to do everything I can to make certain that doesn't happen. If that means going to bed with you, then I want to do that as well. At least if," Daphne stammered, hating to say her next words, "something goes wrong on Monday then I will be here waiting for you. A life without you in it isn't a life I want to live, Harry."
"I wanted our first time to be special," Harry offered, feeling his resolve crumbling in the face of her logic and heartfelt words. Bloody hell, why does my life have to be so complicated? I wanted her first time to be something special that she would always remember and cherish. Not a roll in the sheets so she can keep her magic.
"What could be more special than ensuring that we'll be able to be together for the rest of our lives?" Daphne pressed. "I know it isn't how either of us imagined our first time being, but for what it is worth, I'm glad my first time is with you, Harry."
"How about we sleep on it?" Harry replied, only to see Daphne's face be split by a widening smile. "I said sleep," he hastily pointed out to her. "If tomorrow you still feel the same way, then I guess we'll go ahead with what you want," he said, his cheeks blushing slightly at the thought of taking the witch to bed.
Daphne squealed before leaning in and giving Harry a smoldering kiss which curled his toes. Stepping away from the stunned wizard, the young witch grabbed Harry's hand and led him to the bedroom. One of the elves had set the fire so that room was comfortably warm with the flickering lights of the fire dancing on the walls and ceiling.
Harry, realizing that he had won at least a small reprieve, walked around to the side of the bed and began to undress with his back toward Daphne. His time with Luna, who loved to watch him disrobe for some reason, helped him be a little less embarrassed. But just a little bit. Once he was down to only his boxers, he turned about and climbed into the bed, finding that Daphne was already under the covers with them pulled up to her neck.
Once he had settled, laying on his side of the bed on his back, Daphne moved over and put her head on his bare chest, as she draped her body along his side, one leg crossing over his in the process. Harry unconsciously pulled the witch closer to him, his hand slipping beneath the covers and caressing her back tenderly only to stop at a sudden realization."Daphne," he said in a trembling voice, "where is your nightgown?"
Daphne lifted her head and turned to regard Harry, her body shifted against the wizard's body telling him that she didn't have a stitch on. With hooded eyes that spoke of love and need, Daphne stretch upwards, stopping just short of Harry's lips. "I may have forgotten to mention," she said in a husky voice that did all sorts of terribly wonderful things to Harry's insides as well as altering the direction of the young man's blood flow, "but I already took the potion."
Hermione stared at the red brick building with its dilapidated billboard proclaiming the store to be Purge and Dowse, Ltd. A smaller sign stated that the store was closed for renovations. The muggle-raised witch just had to shake her head at the rational thinking of the wizarding world, questioning once again if they even had any. Probably the longest renovation in history. With a small sigh, the witch stepped through the store window. After a quick word with the only mannequin in the store, the front lobby of St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries appeared.
Stepping to the end of the line of witches and wizards who were waiting to speak with the person behind the front desk, Hermione pondered what had brought her here this morning. The former Head Girl had been somewhat rudely awakened by the shrill voice of Madam Pince who was berating her for falling asleep in her library. I'm just glad that I hadn't managed to drool on one of the books, Hermione thought to herself. She was almost sure the librarian would have had a coronary right on the spot.
Rather than stay in the presence of the irate librarian, Hermione had beat a hasty retreat and soon found herself at the Three Broomsticks. Deciding that she could use a bite to eat, Hermione had ordered breakfast and then found a seat. It was while she was reading a copy of the Daily Prophet that someone had left behind that Hermione had discovered that Ginny was currently at St. Mungo's due to an injury received during Quidditch practice.
"Hermione?" said a voice tinged with surprise, breaking the witch from her thoughts.
Turning, Hermione saw one of the last persons she thought she might run into that morning. It took only a moment for the startled witch to recall that she was currently angry with the wizard in question."Ronald," she greeted the ginger indifferently.
"What brings you here?" Ron asked, completely missing the displeasure in Hermione's tone.
"Oh, now you want to know what I'm doing?" Hermione snapped, only to see the man's eyes widen in surprise at her tone. "If you must know, I came to see Ginny," Hermione replied in a softer tone as she turned back to face the front of the line dismissively.
"Same," Ron said. "Mum and the others are visiting Charlie right now so I have to check up on her or mum will never let me hear the end of it. Come on, I'll show you to her room," he offered, turning away and heading off down the hall. Left with little choice, and being the reason she was in line, to begin with, Hermione reluctantly followed. The two walked in silence down a hall and then up a flight of stairs before Ron spoke."You know, I've been meaning to talk to you but have been really busy with Auror training and all."
"Too busy to even write a letter apparently," Hermione said evenly. There were a great many things left unsaid between the two of them. Ever since the kiss they had shared it was like they were dating and yet weren't. Directly after the war there had been the funerals to attend to. She had stuck by Ron and held his hand through everything till Fred had been laid to rest within the Weasley family plot.
It was shortly after that when Hermione had left with Harry to go find her parents. Upon returning from that disastrous trip, it had taken a few weeks for the young witch to feel up to any company. By then there was the talk of going back to Hogwarts for her final year and Ron starting Auror training. In all that was happening, they had never had a chance to actually sit and talk about what had happened between them and what it meant for their future.
"Look," Ron started with, a sigh escaping his lips before he continued. "I want to apologize for not speaking with you proper like. Every time I wanted to I sort chickened out," the young wizard confessed. "You're a bit intimidating, you know?" Ron asked with a small smile as he glanced in her direction.
Hermione couldn't stop the small grin that appeared on her face at hearing his words. "Ronald, we've been friends for ages. We should be able to talk about anything," Hermione finally replied.
"No offense, but there is any number of womanly things you and others have to go through which I would prefer to never hear anything about," Ron informed her, causing a snort of humor from the witch beside him. "Honestly, that kiss freaked me out a bit I think," Ron confessed, his tone turning serious once again. "It was nice and all, but…," the young man's words trailed off nervously, uncertain just how to convey what he had felt.
"Not what you thought it would be?" Hermione supplied helpfully only to see Ron nod in agreement.
"I imagine it felt about the same way it would if I had kissed Ginny," Ron said truthfully.
"Oh? Maybe we can put that to the test?" Hermione teased. The young witch realized that it didn't really hurt that Ron had rejected her. She knew that a lot of that had to do with the fact that she herself had actually moved on already. I love Harry and probably always have, she thought. Still, it is nice to at least have some closure where Ron is concerned.
"Eww! Yuke!" Ron exclaimed, a disgusted shiver traversing his spine at the images called to mind of him kissing his sister."That's just gross!"
Hermione couldn't help but laugh at the expression on her friend's face. "I'm sure there is any number of wizards who would love a good snog session with Ginny."
"Like hell they will," Ron stated, his protective brother side making an appearance. "I mean if it was Harry that would probably be alright," Ron added, thinking that it would be nice to have Harry as a real brother instead of just an honorary Weasley.
"So, just friends?" Hermione asked to change the subject, not really wishing to think about Harry and Ginny snogging.
"Always," Ron replied with a relieved smile. "Here we are," he added with a gesture toward a door. "I would stay, but I'm already late for training as is."
"I understand," Hermione told him, giving him a quick hug goodbye. Once the two parted ways, Hermione turned and knocked on the door, waiting till she heard a reply before sticking her head into the room."Hey, Ginny. Up for some company?" she asked the witch seated in bed.
"Hermione!" Ginny exclaimed in surprise. "Oh hell yes!" the youngest Weasley exclaimed waving the older witch in. "You just missed Ron. He had to get back to his training thankfully!" Seeing the questioning look on Hermione's face as she approached Ginny explained."He fusses and worries more than mum does! I swear he must think I'm made out of spun glass or something!"
"Well you are the only Weasley girl," Hermione pointed out to Ginny. "It's only natural for your brothers to be somewhat protective. I think that is one of the things I envy about you. Being an only child does have its drawbacks."
"Ron pushes it way past protective, Hermione," Ginny stated. "Anytime you want to borrow any of my brothers, please go right ahead!" She told the older witch drawing a smile from Hermione.
"How are you?" Hermione inquired, changing the topic.
"Bored out of my mind. I hate being in the hospital. A bit sore but otherwise fine," Ginny told her. "If the healers agree to it they should be letting me out later today. Apparently, I have an extra thick skull and so had less damage than a normal person would have had," Ginny joked.
"That's good," Hermione replied, glad that the injury wasn't serious. "You'd have to be pretty tough to put up with all your brothers," Hermione teased.
"You have no idea!" Ginny affirmed with an eye roll."So, Harry tells me that you resigned from being Head Girl and that you even left Hogwarts?" Ginny asked, still believing that Harry had been having a go at her. Everyone at Hogwarts knew that it was Hermione's dream to be Head Girl one day. The youngest Weasley couldn't believe that her friend had given it up once she had it.
"When did you speak to Harry?" Hermione asked, evading the question for the moment.
"He came by yesterday to see how I was doing," Ginny explained. "You didn't answer my question."
"Yes," Hermione confirmed. "It just didn't feel like Hogwarts without Harry or Ron being there. With Luna leaving and you off play Quidditch, there really wasn't anyone I was close friends with still there. It made it a bit hard to stay."
"Couldn't leave Harry alone with all those witches, huh?" Ginny teased with a knowing grin. The fact that Hermione's cheeks turned red told the younger girl that she was spot on. You're not fooling anyone, Ginny mused silently.
"H...how do you know about them?" Hermione stammered.
"Harry told me what is going on," Ginny confessed."Including what happened during Christmas, the problem he's currently in and how all of you figure into it."
"Really? Wow? Well, perhaps it was good that he was able to talk to someone not related to the issue. Not that it really involves me,"Hermione hastily added. "I'm just trying to get him out of trouble once again. I swear he just can't seem to keep himself out of it!"
"Good thing that you'll always be there to bail him out then, huh?" Ginny asked knowingly.
"I guess," Hermione answered. "Well, perhaps it is better that you know as it makes what I need to ask you that much easier. No need to explain all the reasoning behind the request then."
"What request?" Ginny inquired.
"I need you to marry Harry," Hermione said calmly.
Ginny sat there for several long moments, apparently stunned into silence by Hermione's words. "What?" she finally managed to get out.
"I found a way to get Harry out of his current situation but to do that I need you to marry him," Hermione clarified. "You can claim a life debt from your first year which should be enough to qualify."
"Isn't the fact that he's married to two witches what got him into this situation in the first place?" Ginny asked in disbelief. "I hardly see how adding a third marriage will improve things for him."
"Normally you'd be correct," Hermione replied. "If it were just one more," she added before explaining her plan. It took some time to explain the reasoning behind her idea as well as the research she had done to come by the means by which Harry could avoid Azkaban. "With you, there will be the proper number for it to work," Hermione finally concluded.
Ginny let loose a low whistle after hearing what Hermione had to say. "Will that even work?" she asked half in awe and half in fear. While she didn't doubt for a moment that Hermione had done the proper research into the matter, there was one factor the witch seemed to be overlooking."How do you plan on getting Harry to go along with this? You do know that Harry and I called off our engagement several months ago, right?"
Hermione chewed her bottom lip for a moment at Ginny's question. It was something she had worried over and hadn't as yet reached an answer to."I think if it comes down to this or going to Azkaban he'll pick this," she finally offered. "I'm sure Harry cares about you, Ginny. Given enough time it will all work itself out."
Ginny wasn't so sure. I'm not the same girl I was back then. It was no secret that she had grown up with a severe crush on The Boy Who Lived and later on Harry Potter, once she had gotten to know the real him. Being a Harpy and around older woman had shown her just how spoiled and childish she had been acting. I'm not the same little girl I was before. I put that person and those feelings behind myself. I rather like the new me, she admitted to herself.
"There has to be some other way to save him, Hermione," Ginny stated. "Have you checked? You can't be happy about this?"
"We've done nothing but check for weeks now, and this is the first thing that has given me any hope of working," Hermione explained."It indeed wouldn't be my choice if there was another way to keep Harry out of Azkaban. I keep feeling that we're running out of time too. Harry never has the best of luck when it comes to these things."
In all my dreams and fantasies this was never how I envisioned marrying Harry. Bloody hell, but just about every witch has dreamed about marrying Harry at some point in their life, but here I am with an actual chance of doing so. "Have you told the others yet?" Ginny asked, curious what their reactions had been like. I'd imagine about the same as mine, she guessed.
"Not yet," Hermione replied, "and to answer your first question, yes it will work. It has to! I don't know what I would do if Harry had to go to Azkaban!" Actually, I know exactly what I would do, though it wouldn't be easy. The highly intelligent witch's mind was already working out ways of getting him out should the worst-case scenario come to pass.
"Hermione, shouldn't it be you that marries Harry?"Ginny asked hesitantly. Though she had been sorted into Gryffindor, she was still a reasonably smart witch. Ginny well knew that Hermione loved Harry and that unless she was way off, he loved Hermione as well. It hadn't been easy to admit, but while doing some soul searching after a particularly nasty practice with the Harpies, Ginny had admitted to herself that Hermione and Harry would have been a pretty good match.
"Me?" Hermione squeaked out in shock. As much as she would love to marry Harry, that was the last question she had expected Ginny to give voice to. "Why would you even ask that?"
"You love him too," Ginny stated rather than asked."I know Harry loves you. The entire school knew you two loved each other. All the witches in school who wanted to be with Harry could never get past you. It wasn't long before they started to figure that was because you guys were already an item. Those closest to you both knew better," Ginny added upon seeing Hermione beginning to object. "George and Fred even had a pool going for when the two of you would finally wise up and realize how you felt about each other."
Hermione, for her part, looked adequately scandalized to hear that the twins had a betting pool going on her and Harry. It took a moment for the young witch to wrap her head around that one. Have I really been that blind all this time, she asked herself? "Maybe," Hermione finally mumbled so softly that Ginny barely heard it. "That doesn't matter though," Hermione said in a firmer tone.
"How can it not matter?" Ginny inquired in disbelief."If you love each other then shouldn't you be together?" It seemed to make perfect sense to Ginny. If I'm right, which I know I am, they will make each other happy,Ginny thought. Whatever happens with the others I know Hermione would never hurt Harry. If I have to give him to someone, I'm glad it's her.
"It's rather hard to explain," Hermione started with only to see a questioning look on Ginny's face. "Over Christmas, I finally got my parents back. Harry paid them a visit it seems and managed to talk some sense into them apparently. He even got them to come to Hogwarts to visit me."
"That certainly sounds like something Harry would do," Ginny admitted with an affectionate smile for the overly thoughtful wizard.
"I know," Hermione said with a matching look to Ginny's on her face. "The thing is, my parents are part of C of E. Church of England," Hermione clarified for her friend. "Multiple marriages, or polygamy as the Muggles call it, is just something that's not done in their world. My parents would disown me if I tried to do something like that. I only just got them back," Hermione said in a pleading tone, hoping Ginny could understand.
Ginny looked thoughtful for several long moments before she responded. "I guess I can't expect you to give up your parents just to save Harry."
"But I am saving Harry," Hermione insisted. "That's why I am here and why you have to marry Harry."
Ginny thought for a long moment before continuing. "As much as I think you are making a colossal mistake by not marrying him yourself if it will keep Harry out of Azkaban then okay. There are certainly worse fates than to be married to The Boy Who Lived," Ginny teased. "So, what's the plan?"
"I don't have it all worked out just yet," Hermione replied. "I still need to talk to the others about it and make certain they don't have any objections. I'm fairly certain that they will agree, though Andi might be a sticking point. I don't know how her or Harry will take the age difference. I mean she is old enough to be his mother."
Ginny chewed the inside of her cheek for a long moment before voicing her thoughts on the matter. "I would normally agree with you. However, this is the wizarding world, not the muggle one," she pointed out. "We tend to live longer, and hence the age difference might not be that big of an issue. At least not to other witches and wizards. I know from what you've told me before that their ages would certainly be looked down upon in the Muggle world."
"It's not really the Muggle world or even the Wizarding world I'm concerned about," Hermione replied, "It's Harry. Sometimes he is far too noble for his own good."
Astoria Greengrass untied the missive from the owl's leg, absently offering it a treat before it flew off. It wasn't a bird that she knew, so the young witch wasn't sure who the letter was from. Opening the letter, she quickly recognized the handwriting. It only took a moment for the young woman to read the words of the message which saw her leaving her rooms just short of a mad dash.
"Harry!" Astoria exclaimed upon bursting into the wizard's study. "Thank goodness I've found you!" she added while attempting to catch her breath, one hand clutching the door frame as she bent over gasping for air. Witches and wizards were not well known for their physical fitness. Doing everything with a flick of a wand did have certain drawbacks apparently.
"I didn't realize I was all that difficult to find,"Harry replied with a grin as he stood from behind his desk and walked around it to meet the witch. "And a good morning to you too, Astoria."
"Yes. Yes," Astoria replied, waving his words away with one hand as she crossed the room. "Good morning to you as well, Harry. Though it is well past morning, nearly noon actually," the bright witch clarified.
"True but I don't think you spoke a single word to me all morning, especially at breakfast," Harry informed her with a knowing grin."You were a little preoccupied I guess."
Harry's reminder of Draco being there at breakfast reminded her exactly why she had searched out Harry in the first place. "About that," Astoria opened with, "I need your help. We need your help."Seeing the questioning look on the wizard's face, she merely handed over the letter.
Harry accepted the folded bit of parchment and started reading it."Disowned and kicked out," he read aloud with a low whistle."Wonder what Draco did to deserve that?" Harry questioned."Never thought I would see the day where Malfoy senior would eject his only son from his family. What is it you'd like me to do?" Harry asked as he leaned against the front of his desk and motioned for Astoria to take a seat in one of the chairs there.
The young witch quickly took the offered seat, accepting the letter back from Harry when he held it out to her. "I would like for you to wed me to Draco," Astoria voiced with a squaring of her shoulders.
Harry's eyes widened in surprise at the girl's words. I guess I really should have seen that coming, he thought to himself. "Let us for the moment forget everything else, didn't I just cancel a marriage contract between you and Draco?"
"Yes, but that was different," Astoria replied calmly.
"How is this any different?" Harry asked, certain that it amounted to the same thing. At least to him, it did. "You'd be married all the same."
"Yes, that is true, but it wouldn't be due to a marriage contract," Astoria pointed out.
"No, it would be due to you not thinking this through instead," Harry replied. "Draco is without a name, without a home and unless he robbed the Malfoy vault before leaving he is without a means to support the both of you," he pointed out. "Think about what you're asking, Astoria."
"Because you've done such a wonderful job of thinking things through?" Astoria growled back. "Daphne could very well lose her magic because you didn't think things through!"
"That's not going to happen now," Harry stated, looking away in embarrassment.
"How can you possibly know that for cer…," Astoria's words trailed off as it suddenly dawned on her what he was saying. "So, you two… How can you know?"
"She took a potion," Harry answered, looking anywhere but at the witch before him as he felt his cheeks heat into a blush. Talking to Astoria about having bed her older sister had not been on Harry's list of things to do that day. Not that it would ever be on my list of things to do be it today or any other day for that matter!
"Oh," was the bright girl's articulate response."Well that's good," Astoria added after a long pause as she processed that information. With a heavy sigh, the young witch's shoulders slumped."I have to do something Harry. I can only imagine what Draco is going through right now. There has to be something I can do to help him," she said in a pleading tone, looking up at Harry with watery eyes.
"You really love him that much?" Harry asked. Even with all that he had been through in his life, Harry was still just starting to figure out what real love was. When it came to the women in his home, Harry placed their happiness above his own. Astoria is doing the same with Draco, he thought.
"With everything that I am," Astoria assured him, only to see the wizard's brow crease in thought.
"Astoria, you're young yet. You have your entire life ahead of you still," Harry tried to caution her.
"I know, and I want it to be with Draco, Harry," Astoria replied. "Please. Please do this for me," the young witch begged.
"Kreacher," Harry called, only for the old elf to appear with a small pop. "How is Winky doing?"
"She is well. Master is very kind to ask," Kreacher replied.
"I'm glad to hear that. Please let me know if there is anything Winky needs. Anything at all," Harry replied. "Can you please go and ask Draco if he would be so kind as to join us here. If so, please bring him." The elf gave a small bow and then popped away. "We can't decide anything without his say, can we?" Harry asked upon seeing Astoria's questioning look.
As a smile blossomed on Astoria's face at hearing Harry's words a tea set appeared on the table beside her. "Thank you, Winky," the young girl said to the thin air, knowing the elf would hear it none the less."Thank you too, Harry," Astoria added as she passed him a cup of tea before turning to fix her own.
"Don't thank me just yet, I haven't done anything," Harry pointed out, accepting the offered tea. Before he could take a sip of the hot beverage, however, the door to the study opened, and Kreacher ushered Draco in. Harry set the tea aside on his desk and stood to greet the wizard."Draco," Harry greeted with a slight nod. "I'm sorry to hear of your loss," he said awkwardly, uncertain of just what was the right thing to say about someone losing their family name.
"Potter," Draco replied with a slight bow. "You wished to speak with me?" the wizard asked, ignoring the wizard's condolences as it was still a painful subject having only happened a few hours ago.
"Actually, we wanted to speak with you," Astoria said as she stood and turned to face the wizard before crossing to him and hugging him tightly. "How are you?" she inquired, leaning back to give him a once over as if expecting there to be some outward sign of the ordeal he had gone through.
"I am well, Astoria," Draco's assured the witch, a bit embarrassed at being fussed over. Especially in the presence of Harry Potter, who was sporting a bemused grin at the moment. Astoria must have informed him as to what happened, Draco reasoned. "You wished to speak to me concerning something?"Draco asked, trying to get on with the reason he was there.
"Yes. What is this rubbish I hear that you can no longer see Astoria?" Harry asked. Draco's letter had stated as much that without a family name or even a means to support himself that he did not feel it was appropriate for him to see her. It had actually surprised Harry to read that part, though he wasn't sure if it was some old Pure-blood customer or another sign that Draco had indeed changed from the prat he had been while at Hogwarts.
"This isn't a matter that concerns you, Potter," Draco replied a bit stiffly.
"Draco!" Astoria gasped at hearing Draco's tone, causing the former Slytherin to look duly chastised. "I asked Harry for his help. At the very least you will be civil and show him the courtesy required as we are guests in Harry's home."
"This is a private matter, Tori," Draco replied with a small whine, turning to look at the younger girl. Draco had always been a somewhat private wizard. It was the Malfoy way to handle things on their own. While he may not be a Malfoy any longer, a lifetime of values instilled in him did not disappear at the drop of losing his family name.
"In case it slipped your memory, I am her Head of House," Harry pointed out with an amused smile. He wasn't sure what was funnier, Astoria taking Draco to task over his tone or hearing Draco calling the witch 'Tori'in that tone. Thank goodness, I don't have bossy women in my life, Harry mused rather cluelessly.
"This isn't your problem to fix," Draco replied in a more respectful tone, earning himself a node of approval from the witch beside him.
"Yet here we are," Harry quipped.
"Draco, I asked Harry to allow us to be wed," Astoria said, capturing the blonde wizard's full attention. "As the Head of the Greengrass family, I had to make him aware of what was happening."
"And you agreed?" Draco asked in disbelief, turning to look at Harry.
"No. I told her that she was making a terrible mistake," Harry replied with a small grin. "Apparently she doesn't want to listen to what I have to say though. I was hoping you might be able to talk some sense into her."
Draco wasn't sure if he should be thankful or offended and the confusion showed on his face for a long moment before being hidden behind his usually schooled expression. "Astoria, I can't wed you right now. I have nothing to offer you," Draco said. The young wizard quickly continued upon seeing the witch about to refute his words. "When a couple marries, the man usually gives his name to the woman. I don't have a name to offer you."
"I don't care about a name, Draco," Astoria replied in earnest. "I don't want to marry you for your name. I want the man standing before me. I love you, not some name you feel obligated to give me. I already have a name, Greengrass, and it's a damn fine one! We can just use that."
"Traditionally, the woman marries into the man's family," Draco tried to reason with the witch, "not the other way around. Until I can make a name for myself, I cannot, in good faith, ask your Head of House to court you."
"If a name is all you need, I can take care of that," Harry offered.
"Not helping, Potter," Draco quipped without looking away from Astoria.
"Not trying to, Draco," Harry replied with a smirk, finding the situation Draco was in more than a little humorous.
"While I am certain it would provide you no end to amusement to saddle me with the Potter name," Draco drawled, "I neither asked for it nor want it."
"Putting that I would never even consider making you a Potter aside, that was not the name I had in mind," Harry replied a bit evenly.
Astoria reached out and captured both of Draco's hands, pulling them to her chest. "Please Draco? For us," she pleaded. "Do this for me."
"Even if I had a name," Draco's opened with, staring down into the eyes of the woman he loved, "how could I possibly marry you. I don't have the means to take care of myself at the moment. I'm poorer than the Weasleys."
"And yet they managed to put seven kids through Hogwarts," Harry pointed out dryly, not liking the slight against his friends. Why am I even offering to help this git, he wondered only to look over and see the beseeching look on Astoria's face. Bloody hell! The things I have to do to make people in my care happy!"If it is a job you're in need of I can take care of that as well."
"Once again, I appreciate the offer, Potter, but I don't need your charity," Draco replied.
"I beg to differ," was Harry's reply. "I think you need my help very much."
"Why would that be?" Draco bit, too curious to let it drop.
"If I have to go to Azkaban for ten years you can well bet that Astoria's father will become the new head of the Greengrass family," Harry pointed out. "If that happens, Astoria will be sold off in a marriage contract, and I'm fairly certain it won't be to you. As you said, you have neither a name nor a means by which to support the both of you."
Draco knew that what Harry spoke was the truth of the matter. There was no way that Gerald Greengrass, a man who only did that which would benefit himself, would ever allow him to wed Astoria. Looking once more into the pleading eyes of Astoria Draco knew there was really only one answer."What did you have in mind?" he asked without looking away from the witch grasping his hands to her chest still.
"I can't believe I'm saying this," Harry sighed, running one hand through his hair before continuing. "You'll need to come with me to Gringotts so that we can get the whole name thing sorted. Astoria, I don't think we'll be able to have a big ceremony. If we're to keep you out of your father's clutches, we'll have to do this today or tomorrow."
"I don't need one," Astoria was quick to reply. "I think I actually prefer a small one. Can we have it here, today? I don't want to wait any longer than we have to," she stated gazing lovingly into Draco's eyes.
"If that will make you happy?" Harry replied. The young witch's answering smile was all he needed to see to have that question answered. "Shall we?" Harry asked with a gesture toward the door."I was just about to head to Gringotts when a frantic witch came bursting into my office," he said with a grin.
"I was not frantic," Astoria protested as she walked with them toward the floo.
"You could hardly breathe and came running in yelling my name!" Harry countered with. "I thought we were under attack or something!"
"Well I was distraught," Astoria whined in her defense.
"Clearly!" Harry said with a chuckle. "Better now?"
Astoria wrapped her arms around Draco's arm beside her and pulled the wizard to her side before replying, "Much." Harry looked away as the two exchanged a chaste kiss goodbye before they left via the floo. I'm getting married, the young girl suddenly thought, staring at the flames as they returned to normal. As she turned away, still lost in her thoughts the floo flared to life. Turning about Astoria greeted the witch who had just arrived. "Welcome back, Hermione."
"Hello Astoria," Hermione replied as she removed the soot from her clothes. "Have I missed anything?"
"Loads," Astoria answered before launching into what had happened. "Harry and the others believe that father will make his play on Monday at the first meeting of the Wizengamot. Draco has been cast out of the Malfoy family, and I'm getting married!" The last was said with a squeal of delight.
"Married?" Hermione gasped in shock. "To whom?"She could but hope that Harry hadn't somehow managed to get himself roped into another marriage in her absence.
"To Draco of course!" Astoria exclaimed, spinning about in her excitement.
"I'm happy for you then," Hermione offered politely. Though Hermione herself did not particularly care for the former Slytherin wizard, if it made Astoria that giddy then the least she could do was be happy for her. "Do you know if everyone else is at home?"
"I believe so. I think Andi and Luna are off playing with Teddy and Anna," Astoria offered.
"Winky," Hermione called, only to have the elf appear with a small pop. "Can you please ask everyone to meet me in the Library. It is rather important." Winky gave a quick nod before disappearing.
"So, what's up?" Astoria asked, falling into step with the older witch who was headed for the library.
"I may have found a solution to Harry's problem," Hermione confessed.
"Really?" Astoria exclaimed in surprise.
"Well there are a lot of 'ifs' as yet, so nothing is for sure just yet," Hermione cautioned. "but, it should work if everything goes right."
"Daphne will be thrilled!" Astoria offered with a smile of relief.
"I wouldn't go claiming her magic is saved just yet," Hermione said, not wanting the younger Greengrass sister to jump to any conclusions. At least they won't have to rush right into starting a family this way, she thought to herself.
Astoria's brow creased in thought as she attempted to figure out what Hermione had discovered. "Harry took care of that last night apparently," she said absently, lost in thought. "I meant that Daph would be happy that her husband won't be missing for ten years," she further clarified.
"He did, did he?" Hermione stammered as a pain of jealousy stabbed at her gut and caused her heart to ache in a manner she was becoming all too familiar with these days. "Well, that's good. One less thing to worry about I suppose."
"I know! Isn't it?" Astoria agreed as she opened the door for the older girl, completely missing the dejected look on Hermione's face as she stepped past.
Luna was the first to arrive, slipping into the library quietly. The former Ravenclaw took one look at Hermione and hastened over to give her a warm hug. "Are you alright?" Luna inquired, stepping back and regarding her friend.
"I'm fine," Hermione replied, forcing a smile on her face. She couldn't fail to notice that she sounded just like Harry when he said that. No need for Luna to worry about something she can't change, Hermione reasoned. The intelligent witch gathered that Harry must do that for the very same reason, to keep everyone from worrying. Seeing Luna give her a skeptical look Hermione added, "Really."
The brightest witch of their age was spared further interrogation by the arrival of the remaining members of the household. Astoria lost no time in telling them all of her pending nuptials later that day. After suitable congratulations were expressed by all, they took a seat at the large table in the middle of the library. Once seated they all turned and looked at Hermione expectantly.
"I'm assuming you've found something?" Andi asked, giving voice to the question that was on everyone's mind at that moment.
"I believe so," Hermione replied as she pulled forth a rather large tome from her small handbag. Setting the book on the table before she opened it revealing that instead of pages it had individual pieces of parchment that had been bound within the book. "Do any of you know the history of the Chief Warlock position on the Wizengamot?"
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