"I am here on personal business with the family," commented Draco, who seemed irritated by Harry's question. "I could ask you the same thing, you know. I did not realise that you had any contact with anyone who had anything to do with my house in school."
Harry was surprised at first that Draco's words were merely a statement, as he was reciting simple fact, as opposed to being laced with either sarcasm, bile or just plain superiority and indignation as he seemed to always do during almost every previous conversation the two had shared in the past.
"Times change, circumstances change," answered Harry. "The world you knew growing up no longer exists, Draco."
Draco eyed Harry thoughtfully. "Yes, those things have changed," replied the thin blonde without any of his previous arrogance, "and apparently most of that change is to be credited to you or blamed on you."
His facial features seemed to have softened since the end of the war thought Harry as he tried to gauge which way Malfoy leaned, towards giving Harry credit or blame. There was a palpable tension in the air as the two young men stared each other down.
Finally it was Draco Malfoy who spoke. "I have no quarrel with you today, Potter, so I best be on my way for my scheduled appointment."
Harry, however, continued to stand between Draco and the entry gate to the Greengrass Manor. "Before you make your appearance," Harry spoke in a calm tone, "would you care to tell me what you have been up to the end of the war?"
Draco started to sneer, but then his expression softened. "What, is it your turn to gloat now, Potter? You already know that you ruined my family. There was no way for my father to escape Azkaban after the war. My family's fortune had been ruined, in large part to you, and I am sure you are aware of that fact as well. So I have been working on ways to rebuild my family's wealth, repair my families reputation, and prepare for my future. Not all of us have had our lives handed to us, Potter."
Harry scoffed. "There was a time where everything in your life was handed to you, Draco." Harry's tone was gentle, not critical or scathing. "And nothing has ever been handed to me, besides grief, misery and pain. I never asked for the things that came my way. But I managed to survive. Just as you have managed so far."
The young Malfoy eyed Harry carefully. He detected no malice in Harry's words. He hesitated for a moment as he appeared to Harry to be lost in thought. Then finally Draco spoke again. "I do believe that I owe you a life debt Potter."
Harry blinked as he could hardly believe his ears. He stared at Draco, dumbfounded. Not in the statement itself, for Harry knew that this might be the case on account of rescuing his nemesis from the Fiendfyre in the Room of Requirement.
"Don't tell me that you already forgot your pulling me out of the Room of Requirement on that broom when the Fiendfyre was destroying everything? Just before you ended up defeating Volde….the Dark Lord." Draco could not bring himself to state the name of the foul excuse for a wizard that Draco still regretted every getting caught up with.
"No, I do not forget it at all," replied Harry. "I was just surprised that you mentioned it."
"I do not appreciate being indebted to anyone, for any reason," commented Malfoy, "particularly you, of all people, Scarhead."
Again, Harry noted that the comment was devoid of Malfoy's typical vicious spite. Harry tried to keep his response to Draco as polite as possible as he said, "I did not pull you out of that room to force you to be in my debt. I did it because it was the right thing to do."
Draco stared into Harry's eyes as he stopped himself from making a snide comment about Harry being noble and saving people. Then he quietly added, "Thank you, Potter, for saving my life."
Harry had to work to stop is jaw from dropping. He ran the words through his mind quickly several times. He could scarcely believe that Draco Malfoy had actually thanked him for something, and it was a sincere statement. "Well, you're welcome, Draco," said Harry, who then continued, "You just might find that there are people who actually do things for others without expecting something in return." Harry wondered if he just might be pushing things a little too far at this point.
"I think you trust people too much, Potter," came the simple response from Draco.
"And you should learn to trust others, and not try to manipulate them so much," added Harry.
The two young men just stared at each other in silence for a minute. Then Draco spoke once again, "And my mother wanted to thank you for reassuring her about me, after….after….you know had tried to kill you…." Draco's words seemed to die on the tip of his tongue.
Harry knew that this could not be easy for his former rival. Harry nodded his head as he acknowledged Draco's words. Then Draco started to walk past Harry again as he headed for the gate. Harry turned and watched him walk away, and then he called after him.
"Draco, you can tell your mother she is welcome," he said, and then Harry added, "And thank her for what she did for me."
Draco gave him a puzzled look. Harry simply stated, "I think she will know exactly what I mean."
Draco gave Harry a slight nod and turned and continued on his way. Harry followed him with his eyes, amazed at the simple but startling conversation he had with his former adversary. Harry assumed that Draco was going to talk to Jonathan Greengrass about the marriage contract, but he knew there was nothing that he could do about that now. He knew there was nothing he could say to Draco about it as Harry should not have had any knowledge of the situation, and no one knew of his budding relationship with Daphne. Harry headed to the apparition point to return to his home, as he silently prayed that he was not about to lose his chance at his future happiness.
Harry arrived at the Potter Manor and returned to his study. Mal popped into the room and handed him an envelope. Harry looked at his senior house elf and asked, "What is this?"
Mal had a puzzled look on his face. "That is an envelope sir. They tend to hold letters."
Harry shook his head as he smiled at the simple answer, "I see that," he said with a laugh, "but what is in the envelope?"
"Oh," replied the elf, "it is an invitation."
Harry concluded that the elf was not going to be more forthcoming, so he took the envelope and opened it, revealing an invitation for a New Year's Eve party at Neville Longbottom's home. Harry smiled.
Daphne was sitting in her flat when she received the owl from her sister. She was beside herself as she read that their father was about to meet with Draco Malfoy to discuss the open marriage contract. She feared that either he relationship with Harry was about to be at an end, or that her sister would be forced to spend her life with the former Prince of Slytherin. Daphne sat on her bed and cried into the letter.
Jonathan Greengrass sat behind his desk, he did not even stand up to welcome the young Malfoy into his office. He did not offer to shake the young man's hand. He simply indicated with a nod of his head that blonde young man could take the seat in front of him.
Draco felt he was being dismissed before he could even say a word. "I presume that you know why I requested this meeting with you, Lord Greengrass." Draco received no response beyond a cold hard stare. "I am here about the open marriage contract between House Greengrass and House Malfoy."
"Then you presumed correctly," said the large man, with neither a frown nor a smile. The lack of emotion in this man's demeanour disturbed Draco.
"Then you must certainly understand the gravity of the situation." Draco was not surprised that again he received no response, so he continued. "One of your daughters must agree to marry me within the next several years, or they, and I, will lose our magic."
There was a silence in the room. Finally the Lord Greengrass spoke. "I am well aware of the consequences of failing to comply with the contract in question. Do not think that you can educate me on this matter."
Draco waited a further comment from the imposing man sitting across from him, but there was none. He shifted in his seat. He thought to himself that this could be going better, and then he considered that it could also be going worse.
"I take it then that you are not particularly pleased with the options before us," stated Draco.
Jonathan Greengrass refrained from making a sarcastic comment, and decided to limit his response to a simple, "No, I am not."
Draco sighed internally. He considered his conversation he had just had several minutes prior with the young man to whom he owed a life debt. A man who he previously despised but had shown him a glimpse of character that he had not appreciated during the time when they were in school together. He was quickly thinking of how to best present his proposal. "I take it from your tone then, Lord Greengrass, that you do not like me."
"You are brighter than your reputation you developed from your days at Hogwarts would make you appear," replied Jonathan, not hesitating to let his dislike for the young man in front of him show through. "I did not craft this marriage contract, and neither did you, nor your insufferable father." The head of the Greengrass family was emboldened by the timidity with which the young man in front of him presented himself. "I may not like the terms of this contract, but I find that my family must find a way to come to terms with it. And that means coming to terms with you, young man."
Draco was shocked by the anger he was sensing from Lord Greengrass, and he surmised that it must be due to whatever this man had heard about him, which most likely meant that he had heard it from Daphne, his classmate at school.
"The terms of the contract state that I must marry one of your daughters," said Draco cautiously, "and I would take it that the opinion of me from at least one of your daughters is less than flattering."
Jonathan leaned back in his chair as he re-evaluated the young man in front if him. The words 'slow', 'impudent' and 'abrasive' all came to mind.
Daphne struggled with her emotions. She was ashamed at herself for breaking down in tears. She picked herself up off of her bed and took the letter in her hand and walked out to her fireplace. She wiped her face with her sleeve, and then she tossed some floo powder into the fire in front of her, as it flared green, she spoke two words and stepped forward.
She arrived at her destination and quickly scanned the room. There was no one present. She started to walk towards the hallway that led to the stairs when a house elf appeared next to her. She looked at the small creature and demanded, "Where is he?"
"Master is in his study, miss," squeaked the startled house elf.
"Thank you," Daphne answered with a softer tone. "I can find my way there." She strode up the stairs and don the hall to his study. The door was closed but she burst in anyway. Harry looked up from where he was working behind his desk, and he was surprised to see Daphne. He quickly noted her tear stained face and he jumped up to meet her. Walking up to her he ignored the parchment she held in her hand and he leaned in to kiss her, to comfort her.
Harry was taken aback as Daphne slapped him across the face. Harry was shocked and stared at the woman in front of him with his mouth agape. His eyes showed his surprise as he silently questioned her actions. Daphne continued to cry as she forced the parchment into his chest. "We can't…" she sobbed, "we can't be together. He's making his move."
Harry took the parchment and quickly scanned the letter that Astoria had written to Daphne. Harry's expression was at first unreadable. Daphne watched as he bit his lip, and then he looked at her. He then spoke softly, "I know he is there, I passed him on the road in front of your family's home."
Now Daphne's jaw dropped. "What the bloody hell were you doing there?" she screamed at him. Daphne wasn't sure to feel rage or fear or excitement over what this would mean, but mostly she could not begin to fathom why Harry would have been at her parent's home.
The harshness of her tone caused Harry to take a step back. Before he could begin to speak, she yelled at him again, "Well Potter, explain yourself!"
"I had a meeting with your father," he said simply, hoping his words and his tone would help alleviate the tension.
"What kind of meeting?" she demanded.
"It was a business meeting," answered Harry. "Business, as in between the Potter Estate and Greengrass Imports."
Daphne was about to yell at him again and then she just stared at him silently for a moment. She brushed some more tears from her face as she was trying to internally reconcile his statement. Finally she spoke to him again, with a quieter but still very serious tone as she enunciated each word slowly and carefully. "What did you do, Potter?"
Harry tried to grin, but the seriousness of Daphne's glare at him ended the brief attempt at a smile. "I arranged for a business deal that is mutually beneficial to both the Potters and the Greengrasses. Greengrass Imports is no longer in financial difficulties."
"You bought out my family's business?" she asked with an icy tone. "You had no right to do that!" she yelled at him.
"I did no such thing," replied Harry defensively. "Now calm yourself down and let me explain." Daphne continued to glare at him as she took a seat in front of him. "I made a business arrangement. All companies owned by the Potter Estate will now exclusively only use Greengrass Imports for all import and export transactions."
Daphne's jaw dropped. She stuttered, "But, but, how could you…how could you just do that?"
"Two reasons," said Harry as his smile started to return and he sat back on the edge of his desk. "The first is that after reviewing the financial impact of such a deal with the goblins, it became clear that the initial impact in the short run would increase operating expenses for my businesses while improving the value and profitability of Greengrass Imports, the net result would lead to a stronger financial leverage in the importation market and eventually it would lead to an improved financial situation for my companies due to the improved margins that the import business would then command."
Daphne raised an eyebrow as she studied Harry's face. "Who knew you could be a financial genius?" But before Harry could respond, she continued, "And what was the second reason?"
Harry's expression became a little more unsettled, but he quickly recovered his smile. "Oh, that would have to be you. The chance to make you happy by doing this."
Daphne's eyes sparkled as she considered what Harry had just said. Then her thoughts turned to the parchment that she had shoved at Harry which he had laid down on his desk. She pointed at the letter and her tone became icy again. "And what about that letter? You said you knew Malfoy had gone to meet with my father." Her eyes were trying to cut him down again as she glared at him. "This ruins everything. We might not be able to ever see each other again."
Harry considered her words. Then he tried to calm the situation again. "We both knew that there was little we could do about the marriage contract. We don't know where the discussion which Draco is going to lead." Harry's brow furrowed as he realised his words were not particularly comforting, for as he tried to understand it from Daphne's perspective — she was about to either lose a boyfriend or lose a sister. He then considered her reaction when he tried to greet her with a kiss this afternoon, a move he made as he remembered quite fondly their time snogging the night before. Harry sighed as he knew there would be no way he would allow himself to come between Daphne and her family.
Draco watched as the man in front of him leaned back into his chair. His silence confirmed what Draco had just voiced, that his potential father-in-law had a fairly low opinion of him. He then broke the silence, "I would also presume that the reason for what appears to be at least a mild dislike for me would be secondary to comments made about me by your eldest daughter."
There was nothing more that a silent stare that bored straight into Draco's soul.
"Right," said Draco as he took a deep breath and then he continued, "well then that seems to pretty much rule out any chance of my marrying Daphne." Internally Draco steadied himself for a verbal attack as he wondered if this announcement that he would be pursuing the younger daughter, Astoria, would only lead to a worsening temper by the Lord Greengrass. He waited silently for some sort of response, but all he received was the continued stare that seemed to be trying to pierce his very core.
"I am not sure that Astoria knows me that well, aside from what she may have heard from her sister," continued Draco. "However, I am determined to find a positive way to make this work, for everyone's benefit." The young Malfoy took a deep breath and then he began to speak. "I for one, do not cherish the thought of possibly losing my magic, and I am quite sure that you and your daughters would feel the same way and would prefer to avoid losing their magic as well. I have come to learn of an old muggle tradition, called courtship, and perhaps this would be the best way to proceed. The wedding does not have to occur for nearly five years from now. If I were to court Astoria, that would require my spending time with her and with her family, as we both would need to get to know each other. I would hope that during that time we might both learn to care for each other. If that were possible, then we could get married before the time that would then require us to lose our magic. Unless of course, if during this time, you were able to find a loophole, short of death, that would allow for this contract to go unfulfilled for this current generation."
Jonathan narrowed his eyes as he considered the proposal from the young man in front of him. He considered that this proposal could possibly work. It might just be possible for the two young people to develop a relationship that could survive getting married. It is also possible that given some more time, there might be found a legal loophole to invalidate the contract, but he was quite sure that would be highly unlikely. Lord Greengrass considered his earlier thoughts, 'slow', 'impudent', and 'abrasive' - as he reexamined his earlier assessment. Perhaps this Malfoy was of stronger character and wit and intelligence than he had given him credit for.
Jonathan's gaze became more gentle, and his face became slightly friendlier. "I will discuss your proposal with my wife and my daughters." He paused for a moment to let his decision sink in with the young man. "We can then discuss this further, after boxing day." Jonathan stood and extended his arm to shake Draco's hand. Just then the door to his office was forced open as Daphne came running in.
Draco and Lord Greengrass both turned at the sound of the door slamming into the wall. There stood before them a tall blonde woman with a tear-stained face. Walking behind her was a raven haired green-eyed young man.
"You can't go through with this!" she shouted at her father.
He gave her a puzzled look. Draco glared at Harry who was standing quietly next to Daphne.
Jonathan was ready to yell at his eldest daughter, but as he glanced at the your man with whom he had been conversing and then over at the other man with whom he had fairly recently concluded some serious business negotiations, then he relaxed as he turned back to his daughter. "I can't go through with what?" he asked. Before she could answer, he added, "The only thing which has been decided is that I shall speak with you and your sister and your mother before having Mr. Malfoy join us for a meal and a discussion some time after boxing day."
Daphne stared at her father, feeling confused and embarrassed. There was a silent tension building in the room. Finally Harry spoke, "It is good to see you again, Draco, I had not expected it to be so soon since we last met."
Draco was startled initially by the comments from Harry. He quickly regained his composure as he answered, "Likewise, Harry." Speaking his former rival's first name like that was an odd sensation for him. Turning to Daphne he added, "I have come to speak with your father about courting your sister, Astoria. I was not aware that the contract had any stipulations that I needed to obtain approval from you."
Harry raised an eyebrow as he studied Draco's face. He did not detect any malice or deceit but merely sincerity, which Harry would have thought was a little odd if not for his encounter with the former self styled prince of Slytherin.
Daphne was shocked and confused. Shocked by his statement that he was there to speak about Astoria, and confused as to what he meant by courting.
Draco noted her confusion and started to explain. "While I believe that none of this is Scarhead's concern, I will endeavour to help the two of you understand. I am aware of the simple fact that this marriage contract may be considered less than ideal by all parties involved, it seems to me that finding the most amicable resolution would be mutually beneficial."
Harry tried to hold back a laugh, and he could not resist saying, "So when did you start channeling Hermione Granger?"
Draco glared at Harry and then continued, trying to ignore the reference to the muggle born witch whom he despised. "I'll try to ignore that comment, Potter. As I was saying, a mutually beneficial resolution, which I would think would include no one having to lose their magic. To that end, I propose a period of time of my getting to know Astoria and her family, and they me."
Daphne assessed the man in front of her, and she understood that he had clearly grown up since their time at Hogwarts together, however she still did not trust him. Daphne opened her mouth to say something, but the words would not come forth.
Finally her father interjected, "I am surprised to say that I find the young Malfoy's plan agreeable, as it seems the most sensible. Well, other than the part of having to explain this to Astoria…" he visibly winced at that thought.
Draco relaxed visibly at the words spoken by the Lord Greengrass. He then turned to Harry, "I am curious, Potter, just why are you here at this time?" As he asked the question, he noted that Daphne's hand had slipped into Harry's.
While Harry tried to come up with the words to respond, Daphne's father eyed the clasped hands between her and Harry and then locked onto Harry's eyes. Then he stated authoritatively, "Perhaps Mister Potter has more to speak to me about." He then quickly looked at Draco and Daphne, and then added, "Would you two mind leaving us for a few minutes?" It was clear from his tone that it was not really a question. Draco and Daphne quickly exited the office, leaving Harry to face Jonathan Greengrass alone.
Rawling Smith had finally arranged for a meeting with the Professor of Old English Studies at Pembroke College. He was anxious as to how this meeting would go and he wondered if it would have been better to have the young Harry Potter present for the meeting. He walked into the office which was panelled in a rich dark wood about half way from the floor to the ceiling, with a pleasant cream colour covering the walls in between the rest of the wooden trim. Rawling was actually surprised by the size of the office, he had expected it to be larger than it was. He stopped looking around the office when the presence of Professor Shaw sitting behind the grand oak desk caught his attention.
Gregory Bradford Shaw looked every bit the scholar, hair speckled with grey, thick eyebrows, a grey tweed suit. His grey-blue eyes had an intensity that unnerved many students, but had no affect on Rawling Smith.
"Good day, Professor Smith," greeted the Old English Professor. "I was intrigued by your request for a meeting," he continued, "could you explain further your reasons for this discussion?"
"Good day, Professor Shaw," replied Rawling Smith. "As I said in the note I had sent to you, I am needing to do further research with a unique student who ha contacted me with a particular dilemma."
"So you had indicated to me in your note," said Shaw, "however I am not sure just how you think I would be able to help. I am aware of your studies on mystical and mythical creatures, which may be entertaining fiction for the masses, but how does this have anything to me and the study of Old English literature?"
A sparkle in Rawling's eyes shown briefly as he began, "We need some specific information about dragons, information which I believe may only be found in writings which only the Professor of Old English here at Pembroke College would have access to. Information which I believe your predecessor from several decades ago, Tolkien himself, had access to." Rawling was studying his colleague closely and he noted a barely perceptible movement in Gregory's eyes towards the portrait of Professor Tolkien on the wall to his left.
"I am not sure what you are referring to," commented Shaw. Smith could tell he was lying, but he wondered how to get around this obstacle.
"Oh, I think you really do know full well what I am talking about," countered Smith. "You have access to a wealth of literature and writings that no other person has access to, all because of your appointment to your post as professor of Old English. Very few people know about this hidden knowledge, and that is a good thing, as muggles, such as yourself, would mostly be completely unprepared for dealing with the secrets which are hidden in those works." He paused as he watched the reactions of Professor Shaw. The word muggle did seem to register with him.
"I take it you know what a muggle is, as I presume you are one," stated Rawling. Shaw had a slightly shocked look on his face. "And in answer to your unasked question, I am a wizard," continued Smith as he waved his hand slightly and caused a vase of flowers to appear on Professor Shaw's desk. "A simple conjuration, a parlour trick at best, but nonetheless, it is still magic."
The stunned professor stared at the flowers and then back at Smith. Finally he spoke, "Are you trying to threaten me with these theatrics?"
Rawling was taken aback. "Threaten you? Never, I am merely trying to point out that there are things in this world of which you may or may not be aware. However, due to your privileged position on account of the seat you hold here at this college, you are one of the few muggles who is acutely aware of the magical world. And you have access to the writings that are stored within this office."
Shaw eyed Smith more carefully. "Which writings are you particularly interested in," he asked, "and why must you get them from me?"
"The writings of Merlin Ambrosius, also known as Myrddin Emrys. Most of your predecessors believed them to be fictional writings. The magical world entrusted them to the muggles many centuries ago, and they have been kept here, long forgotten by most." He paused to gauge the reaction from his colleague at this news. "You have the ability to help us with translating the important information contained within."
Shaw's eyes narrowed as he puzzled over the statements. "You said, 'us', who do you mean by 'us'?"
Rawling smiled as he answered, "The young man, whom I mentioned. He is a very bright young wizard, he would probably excel if he actually attended this school, however he has more pressing matters which he must attend to than studies here."
"Matters that apparently involve dragons, based on what you have said," commented Shaw. Rawling nodded his head in agreement. "Matters that have been written about by this Merlin, who you claim was a real person," he continued. Again, Rawling nodded. There was a brief silence and then Shaw asked, "Please tell me why I should actually help with this?"
"Because you can," answered Smith as simply as possible. Then he added, "And because it would be the right thing to do, and because you have no good reason to deny us access to this information. If there is no such thing as dragons, then you are only allowing us to delve into older mythology about such creatures and nothing comes of it. If there were or are dragons, then you may be able to assist us in important research."
"I should like to meet this young man, and in the mean time, I will consider my options," stated Professor Shaw. "I am really quite busy, so let's set up an appointment for some time after the New Year."
"Very well, my friend," replied Rawling.
"I have one last question for you today," spoke Shaw, "just how did you learn about the writings of Merlin? How did you learn that they were here?"
Rawling Smith grinned broadly. "Oh, my friend Mister Potter, he learned about this from goblins." With that he turned and left the office.
Daphne and Harry had arrived back at the Potter Manor. Finally, she could take the suspense no longer and she turned and faced him, her eyes indicating the seriousness of her concerns. "Spill it Potter," she demanded, "just what did you discuss with my father in his office?"
Harry was taken aback by the sheer forcefulness of her stare, let alone her words. "He had just had some questions about our business arrangement." Her eyes were non relenting in their attack on his soul. "I assured him that our business arrangement was in no way intended to manipulate him or you." The stare continued. "I did make it clear that my growing relationship with you may have created an interest in developing the business relationship, but the relationship is most favourable to Greengrass Imports without any control being leveraged by the Potter Estate." Her gaze did not shift or falter. "And he eventually asked me what my intentions were towards his daughter."
Harry shifted on his feet uncomfortably.
"And?" she asked, her tone making it clear that he better be more forthcoming with information.
"And I expressed a desire to get to know his oldest daughter more closely, and that I would like to do so with his permission and his blessing." Harry awaited the response from Daphne.
Daphne's jaw dropped in slight shock from what Harry had told her. "You didn't," she stated in denial of what she had just heard, but she knew that Harry would not have lied to her. She looked Harry in the eye as her demeanour softened, "What did he say to you? How did he answer?"
Harry smiled softly, leaned forward and kissed her on his cheek. "He gave me his blessing."