Harry was amazed with what he had been discovering during his time studying in the secret library at Pembroke College. It did not take long for him to learn that he could not remove any of the items from the room, a fact he discovered painfully the first day when he wanted to take a particular book home. The electrical shock that sent him flying across the room was painful enough. The resulting aches and pains throughout his body that lasted for the next couple of days continued to remind him not to ever try that again. The book he was carrying had been neatly returned to the shelf where it belonged, completely unscathed from the effects of the charm that had attacked Harry.
Professors Shaw had been startled by the active working of magic in the room that protected the contents. Professor Smith, however, had found the whole scene rather amusing as he chuckled out loud at the sight of Harry flying backwards with electrical energy radiating off of him for a minute after he landed on his back.
The next several weeks Harry spent most of his waking time studying in the Hall of Secrets, as he and the professors had nicknamed the small library. Both of the professors had been spending time in the room for their own research purposes.
Harry had required a fair amount of assistance from Professor Shaw due to the texts and scrolls being written in Old English. Trying to decipher the handwriting itself was at times a challenge, however as the weeks wore on, and Harry was finding it easier to make out the words and their meanings. He had also begun to make notes using a variation of the Quick Quotes Quill that Rita Skeeter had used when she was a reporter for the Daily Prophet, and Harry was happy to discover that he was able to take his own notes with him when he left the Hall of Secrets.
When he returned home to the manor at night, he often spent hours studying the notes he had taken. He saw little of Daphne during this time as he was so preoccupied by what he was studying and learning. Harry knew that Greengrass Imports was beginning to flourish as business grew through the arrangements which he had made, and this in turn gave Daphne more responsibilities as her family's business was requiring her to help out more directly than she had in months.
March was quickly approaching, and Harry had hardly seen his girlfriend over the past few weeks. He returned home on a Friday evening to find Daphne waiting for him in his sitting room. Harry had a satchel slung over his shoulder which held the copious noted he had obtained that week through his studies. Harry was startled to see her there as they had not spoken in days. His initial surprise turned to a slight grin, as he was happy to find her there. However his smile quickly faded as he noted the look in her eyes.
Daphne had been eagerly waiting for Harry to return to his manor. She knew she could get into his home as he had keyed her into the wards months ago, and she had been missing seeing him regularly. It was a Friday evening, and she wanted to surprise him with an impromptu get together. When Harry stepped through the fireplace and into the room her initial reaction was excitement at seeing him. And then she looked at him and she became worried. His eyes were bloodshot and he had dark circles under them, all due to a lack of sleep she quickly and correctly concluded. His hair was more of a mess than usual. While it was getting longer, it looked as though he hadn't showered and bathed in days.
"Bloody hell, Harry!" she exclaimed. "What's gotten into you? You look awful."
Harry was startled initially by her words and tone. Daphne reached out and took him in her arms. "You need a break, you need sleep, but mostly you need to get cleaned up," she admonished him. She then reached up and caressed his cheek.
Harry gave her a quick kiss on the lips. Then he smiled and hugged her back. "Well, at least one of us looks absolutely marvellous," he said with a grin as he stepped back and admired her form in her jeans and blouse.
Daphne was happy to see him relax and smile. "You really need to take some time away from all of this studying and research. And yes, I do know how important it is to you," she added, "but you need a shower, and I'll arrange for a quick meal for us."
Harry looked at her suspiciously. "You're going to cook?" he asked.
"I didn't say that," she said aghast, "I said I will arrange for us to get a meal. I can talk with your elves you know, they actually do listen to me when I am here with you." She laughed at him, and then pushed him towards the stairs, "Now you go get cleaned up and we'll have something for you when you get down here."
Harry paused and looked at her suspiciously as he wondered just what she had planned. "Okay, okay," he said as her glare indicated that she was serious about him getting going. After he headed upstairs, Daphne called on Mal, the senior house elf, and she told him her plan. He smiled, and quickly disappeared.
About thirty minutes later Harry arrived downstairs to find Daphne waiting for him in the sitting room. He looked a little more relaxed, but the circles under his eyes still had her worried. Harry gave her a questioning look as he walked into the room and she just waved him over to join her on the sofa.
"So, what is your big plan for dinner?" he asked as he looked towards the kitchen and then back towards Daphne. "We're not going out are we? I am really too tired for that."
Daphne shook her head, "Of course not, I could tell that wouldn't work, so Mal will be here shortly with dinner."
Harry stopped in his tracks as he looked at her. "We're not going into the dining room?"
She reached out and took his hand and gently pulled him down to sit on the couch with her, "No, we'll be eating here."
Just after he sat down, his house elf Mal appeared with a large brown bag. The smell gave away the meal immediately, and even before the house elf removed the small white cartons of Chinese food from within the bag harry realised what his girlfriend had planned. As they picked up chopsticks and began to eat, Mal had arranged for a couple of butter beers to appear on the small table in front of them as well.
"It's been a while since we've been able to get together," Daphne said with a grin, "so I decided what better way to catch up with you than the way we first got to know each other."
Harry grinned as he recalled their first meal together. "Over Chinese food," he reminisced, "and look where that lead us to…."
Harry leaned against his girlfriend as they ate their food. After several minutes in silence, Daphne spoke up. "I am getting worried about you Harry. You need to rest, you need to do something more than all of this studying you've been doing."
Harry sighed. "You know why I have to do this."
"Remind me," she said a little impatiently.
"I need to make things right with the goblins, I don't want to feel that I owe anything to anyone," Harry replied, his fatigue apparent in his words. Then he raised an eyebrow as he seemed to find some energy from deep within, "But I am getting closer. I have found some information; I found a text where Merlin discussed how he was able to control a dragon. It won't be easy."
Daphne was excited to hear that Harry was making progress. "Nothing is ever easy when it comes to you, Harry," she said softly. She was going to ask him more about his discoveries but she could tell by his eyes that he was too fatigued. "But you, young man, need some rest. As soon as we're done here, I am having Mal get you in bed."
He wagged his eyebrows at her comment.
"No, I am not doing that for you, I said Mal would," she admonished him. "But I will stay in a guest room," her eyes gave him a look that indicated that she was serious about this, "and tomorrow we can spend the day together, when you are rested. I will have Mal and Hoban remove all of your notes from your bedroom and lock them in your study until after the weekend is over."
"All right, all right," Harry relented as he finished his food.
Saturday morning Harry awoke feeling very refreshed. He was surprised by how bright the light was shining in through his bedroom window. Quickly he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and he checked the time, it was half past nine in the morning. He jumped out of bed and quickly washed and then dressed, heading down to check on breakfast. He wondered if Daphne was still in the manor, he recalled that she had said something about staying in a guest room. As he walked into the sitting room he found her curled up on the sofa reading a copy of the Daily Prophet. Upon his entering the room she looked at him and then discarded the paper onto the nearby table.
Her smile nearly reached her ears as she saw that he visibly appeared more rested. "You are looking much better this morning, my handsome man," she said as she greeted him with a kiss on his cheek. "Although, you could use more sleep, those dark circles under your eyes are fading, but they are still present," she added with a frown as she caressed his face.
Harry leaned forward and placed a kiss on her forehead. "I'm sorry that I must have made you feel left out over the past few weeks," he began.
Daphne cut him off, "More like a couple of months, buster," she chided.
"Right," he conceded. "So I take it that you are not letting me get back to my searching for the answers I need any time this weekend."
Daphne ignored his question as she took him by the hand and walked him towards the informal dining area next to the kitchen. "We are not discussing that at all today," she said without looking back at him. "You are going to sit down and enjoy a big breakfast prepared for you and then we are going to spend the day relaxing."
Harry stopped and pulled her slightly to force Daphne to spin and face him. "And just what do you mean by 'relaxing'?" he asked her.
Daphne's eyes twinkled at this question. "Shopping of course!" she exclaimed much to Harry's horror. After a moment she laughed at him and then confessed. "No, not really, but I was thinking we could take the time and go for a leisurely walk. Maybe we can do some window shopping in Diagon Alley. Maybe we can go out to eat."
"Just you and me, and everyone staring at us while we go to Diagon Alley?" Harry mused.
"Oh, well, that's not exactly what I said," corrected Daphne.
Harry raised an eyebrow at this.
"Perhaps I forgot to mention that we will be joining Astoria and Draco for the day."
Harry gave her a quizzical look, and then he opened his mouth as he was about to make a comment. Daphne placed a finger on his lips to silence him. "Yes, I know, it's not really chaperoning them," she said trying to reassure him. Then she added, "Well, okay, it is really chaperoning those two, per my father's request. You did seem to get along with them quite well at Neville's party, so I thought that this would be fine."
"Your father wants you and me to chaperone Astoria and Draco?" asked Harry clearly not believing the whole statement."
Daphne bit her lip, and then she replied, "All right, Tori is still uncomfortable at times with Draco, so she asked me if we would come along."
Harry let go of her hand as he started towards the dining area again. "Well, then I better eat up if I have to watch over a bunch of snakes all day." He smirked at his girlfriend who then playfully punched him in the shoulder.
An hour later Harry found himself with his girlfriend as they dutifully tagged along behind Astoria and Draco as they walked along the most famous magical shopping district in England. Draco and Astoria were walking side by side, still not comfortable or close enough to actually hold hands in public. Harry had his hand around Daphne's waist as they kept a comfortable distance between them and the other couple. Both Harry and Daphne noted that Draco was behaving as quite the gentleman, holding the door open for Astoria every time they went into a store, doting over her every possible need, offering to buy her something in every store they went entered. Harry commented to Daphne that perhaps there might be hope for Draco after all, even though it had only been a few months since he had approached the Lord Greengrass about the marriage contract that needed to be fulfilled. Both Harry and Daphne had noted that Astoria had resigned herself to her fate with Draco, but she did seem to be softening up to being around him. And so far, everything appeared to those who spent any time with the young couple that Draco was genuinely trying to fit in with the Greengrass family and the arrogance and rudeness that had so often manifested itself while he was a student had been nowhere to be seen over the ensuing months.
Harry was having a pleasant day strolling with his arm around his beautiful girlfriend on this unseasonably warm day for early March. There was a slight breeze, and few clouds in the sky. Harry was grateful that Daphne had forced him away from all of his research as he realised now how much he did need a break from the seemingly endless task.
Harry glanced up at the sign on the building in front of them Weasley's' Wizarding Wheezes. Harry thought how he had not entered that shop in close to a year. He was still a part owner, having fronted Fred and George the start up money. The business was so successful that his goblin advisors had recommended that Harry continue to invest in the growing company. He considered going in to have a look around, but Draco and Astoria were heading past the joke shop and towards Quality Quidditch Supplies. Harry and Daphne started to follow the other couple when a tall red headed young man stepped out onto the porch wearing an apron with the trademarked winged triple W insignia.
"Still hanging out with Death Eater snakes, Harry?" called out Ron, much too loudly for anyone's taste.
Harry started to turn to face his former best mate. Daphne gently grabbed a hold of his arm and whispered a pleading "don't, it's not worth it."
Draco and Astoria stopped and looked back at Ron.
"No, Ron," answered Harry trying to maintain a jovial attitude, "I am just spending the day with some good friends."
Ron sneered and turned to Draco. "So, what did you do? Poison him? Use some mind control spell or potion on him to make Harry turn on his friends?"
Harry looked at Draco who rolled his eyes in response to the taunting from Ron. Harry was glad to see Draco not responding to the bait.
"Ronald, stop now, before you make a fool of yourself," chided Harry.
Ron spun back to face Harry and then stepped off of the porch as he approached his former friend. "So, you actually bought into Dumbledore's load of shite that everyone can be saved? I remember how much you hated Malfoy in school. What happened to you? Ever since you dumped my sister you seem to have gone dark."
Harry sighed. "I have not gone dark. And Draco has changed. But you just won't see that. Go back inside Ronald, you don't need to do this."
"Are you dismissing me?" yelled Ron. "You think you're too good for your old friends, too good for my sister. Well, I know you Potter. You're so good. Not if you're willing to sully yourself by hanging out with a tramp like Greengrass."
Harry's face grew stern as he tried to control his anger. "I told you not to go there. You don't know Daphne. Leave her out of this."
Daphne noted that Harry was clenching his fists.
Ron continued with his ranting and turned towards Draco. "And I bet it was you, ferret, who got me kicked out of Auror training. What lies did you tell them?"
"I said nothing to anyone, Weasley," said Draco, trying to remain calm, but he had gently pushed Astoria behind him as he was not sure just what Ron might end up doing. "You got yourself kicked out of school for your own bad grades," he added quietly, trying not to let anyone else hear their comments.
"I'm sure that's what you want everyone to think," snapped Ron, raising his voice louder, ignoring the growing crowd that was gathering. "You filthy Slytherin scum. Go ahead and use that Greengrass whore, but you all need to leave Harry alone."
"That's enough, Ronald," Harry interjected harshly. "I can decide who I spend time with. Some of us have grown up since we left school, but apparently some of us haven't."
Ron glared at Harry. "Have you gone round the twist? Or are you just hanging out with that slut beside you because she puts out? She is quite a looker, isn't she. Maybe I'd warm up to her if I got a chance with her."
Harry's eyes grew cold. "Ron, that is more than enough. You will not attack people you do not even know. If you're mad at me because I broke up with your sister, fine, be mad at me. We were over as a couple long before I officially ended it. And that was before I ever really met Daphne."
Ron took a step closer to Harry. "You don't tell me when it's enough. You thought you could boss me around at Neville's, you thought you could tell me what to do all throughout school. But who was always there for you? Who was there every time you needed someone?"
Harry tried to suppress a laugh. "Well, it sure wasn't you Ron. It was Hermione, always Hermione."
"And where is she now?" snapped Ron. "That ungrateful tart left you too."
"Don't speak of her that way, Ronald," warned Harry.
"I can speak of her anyway I please. You must like cheap useless women if you defend Granger and hang out with this slag," continued Ron as he pointed at Daphne.
Harry turned his nose up as Ron was getting in his face. "Ron, are you drunk? It's not even twelve noon!"
"What's it to you?" screamed Ron as he moved closer to Harry, bumping him with his chest. "Oh, you're the bloody chosen one, you can do anything you want. You get all the girls, all of the fame, and leave what for everyone else? Nothing. Maybe I should just take a turn with your pathetic girlfriend here so I can find out what its like to be Harry Freaking Potter, find out what its like to shag a snake. They must be pretty easy if they will hang out with the likes of you and Malfoy."
Harry's eyes narrowed. His fist tightened even more.
"Maybe she'd like being with a real man, a real wizard," Ron spat in Harry's face.
Harry had put up with more than he wanted to. He reached his hand back to throw a punch at Ron. But his arm was stopped. Draco had grabbed Harry's fist. "Don't do it mate," he said quietly. "He's not worth it. He's drunk in public, you don't need to let him goad you like this." Draco inserted himself between Harry and Ron.
Harry growled at Draco who still had his fist held tightly. "I will not let him speak like that about Daphne. Or Astoria."
Draco looked at him sympathetically. "The Weasel is not worth it Harry. He's dunk. Tomorrow he'll be sober, maybe. But he'll still be an idiot. And what will you have if you hit him? Besides a sore hand that is?" Draco added with a sly smile.
Draco felt Harry's arm start to relax. Then he felt himself falling into Harry after he was pushed from behind. Draco spun around and glared at Ron. "Back off Weasel," said Draco with a calm but determined tone that seemed unusual from the former self styled prince of Slytherin. "Next time, I won't stop Harry. You're pathetic. Go back to your hole. Now! And leave Harry and whoever he wants to spend his time with alone."
Draco did not wait for a response as he turned away from Ron and walked back to where Astoria was standing at the edge of the crowd that had formed around them. Ron shook with anger. He reached to pull out his wand, determined to hex Draco from behind. Then an Auror stepped our from the crowd and quickly shouted "Expelliarmus!" and Ron's wand went flying out of his hand as he was knocked backwards onto the ground. A startled Ron jumped back up to yell at Harry and came face to face with the Auror.
"Is there a problem here, Mr. Weasley?" asked the Auror.
Ron gulped as he looked at the crowd that now surrounded them. "No," he stuttered, "no, everything is just fine."
The Auror turned to Harry as he asked, "Is everything okay here, Mr. Potter?"
"We're fine, thank you sir," answered Harry who was visibly calmer after Draco had intervened. Harry turned to Daphne who was obviously shaken up by the whole confrontation. He pulled her into a hug and then walked over to join Draco and her sister. "Let's go somewhere quiet, away form this crowd, where we can get some lunch," he said, not waiting for a response as he lead the way through the myriad of onlookers.
The foursome rejoined to a nearby restaurant, finding a quiet table in a corner away from most of the prying eyes. Harry was feeling as though he was still under a microscope so he cast some privacy charms around their table that would prevent others from listening in to their conversation, but not interfere with their waitress from coming and taking their orders.
As the group began to relax, they talked briefly about the encounter with the enraged Weasley. Astoria wondered aloud just what would have caused Ron to be so bold as to come out of his brother's shop and verbally attack Harry that way. Harry shrugged his shoulders, indicating he was unsure of the reasons behind his behaviour. Draco scoffed at Harry's rebuff to Astoria's question.
"Come on Scarhead," Draco said kindly, "we all know that there was something behind what he said to you. The Weasel may be a royal twit, but he is not a complete idiot. So, just tell us what really happened."
Harry scowled. He looked at Draco as he answered, "There is nothing to tell really. I already told you about her breaking up with Ron because he wanted her to be a little Molly clone. She left for Australia to find her parents. That was about a year and a half ago."
Astoria snorted. "Don't pull that with us, or at least not Daphne. You three were the Golden Trio. You practically lived together for the entire year you were on the run. Yes, we all heard how Ron left you for a while, but Hermione stayed with you. She always did. We all saw it. What no one ever understood was why you two never dated." She paused as she noted the discomfort on his face. "Or did you?" she asked quietly.
Daphne raised an eyebrow as she looked at Harry expectantly. They all waited for Harry's answer. "No, we never dated. She was like a sister to me," he answered, sounding more like he was trying to convince himself more than the others.
Daphne reached out and gently took his hand. "Harry, please don't take any offence in what I am about to say, but how would you know what it is like to have a sister? You told me a little of your time at Hogwarts, but you don't talk about your time before that. We all know that the Boy-Who-Lived was an only child, and we all have read that you were raised by muggle relatives."
Harry looked at her as he tried to draw his hand away. Daphne tried to hold on, but as the waitress came by and delivered them the drinks they had ordered, Harry took the opportunity to remove his hand from hers. Quickly he grabbed the bottle of butter beer and took a drink.
Harry stared at the bottle in his hand, fully aware that three pairs of eyes were fixed on him. After a couple of minutes in silence he looked up at Daphne. "It's complicated," he said quietly. Then he shook his head. "No, it's nothing like what you're probably thinking. We were close friends. Best mates, if a guy and a girl can be best mates. She was one of my first true friends. From before it mattered if we were boys and girls. By the time we got to the age of thinking about boyfriends and girlfriends we were comfortable as friends. Then she started to date Ron. Then we had our year on the run, preparing to take on Tom Riddle. Then Ron left us. It was awkward at times." He paused and looked at Draco, "No, nothing happened, really." Harry let out a slow sigh. "Then the war was over, and Ron and Hermione had their final row, and she left."
Daphne reached out with her hand and gently held his chin and directed his head to face her. "What happened between the time she had her break up with Ron and her leaving for Australia."
Harry looked away from Daphne. "Nothing happened."
Draco nearly spit out his butter beer that he was drinking. "You are such a terrible liar, Scarhead."
Harry turned and faced Draco, but he did not say anything.
Draco shook his head. "I know you and your reactions and your mannerisms about as well as anybody, after all, who was constantly on your case for six years? I've watched you, and I know you can't lie. Or at least, not convincingly. Daphne's a big girl, You don't need to hide anything from her." There was a tense moment of quiet that Draco broke when he added, "Or do you?"
Harry shrugged his shoulders. "Nothing happened between us. We spoke," he admitted, "probably too briefly for either one of us, but she was an emotional wreck. She asked what was to become of us after the time we spent together." Harry paused and then he slowly began to speak. "We spoke of our friendship, I told her she was like a sister to me…" He hesitated, and then added, "And then she left for Australia."
Astoria looked at Harry and then she asked, "So at what point in all of that nothing happened did you kiss her?"
Daphne turned to her sister, "Where did you get that idea from?" she demanded.
The younger Greengrass simply stated "It's written all over his facial expression, every time he says nothing happened. Maybe it was nothing to you, Potter, but it sure must have been something to her. Tell me, when did she last write to you? When did you last write to her?"
There was no answer from Harry.
Daphne looked from Astoria, to Harry and back again. Harry placed his butter beer back on the table and looked at Daphne. "I lost a friend, a very good friend, when she left. I probably should have written her. But I didn't want a girlfriend at the time; I thought I had one in Ginny." He rubbed his eyes slightly and then he turned to Daphne. "I've messed up every relationship I have ever had with a girl, well, all but one." He waited a moment and then he added, "Well, at least I hope I haven't messed up this one."
Daphne reached over and squeezed his hand, if they weren't sitting in a restaurant with the meal about to be served she thought she would jump up and snog him silly. "If you keep up those ridiculous hours with your research, you will mess this one up." Then she leaned over and gave him kiss on the cheek.
"Save it for later, Greengrass," muttered Draco.
Harry had enjoyed the rest of his weekend relaxing. Daphne had refrained from asking him about where he was in regard to the progress he was making as she wanted him to have some real down time as she knew how many long hours he had been spending on his research.
By Wednesday of the following week after his day spent with Daphne, Draco and Astoria he was nearly done with his research. He reviewed his notes with Professor Shaw on the translations on the various descriptions that Merlin had made about what was needed to be able to control a dragon.
He returned home that evening feeling relaxed and exhausted. He went to his study as he started to map out what was needed. He was making a final summary of his notes to help him prepare for the task of acquiring what was needed. Mal, his senior house elf, popped into the study and anxiously bounced on his toes in front of Harry's desk. Harry looked up at the sound of the elf apparating and could barely see the top of the elf's head due to he piles of papers stacked up along the edge.
"Yes, Mal," acknowledged Harry, "what has you all excited this evening?"
"Master Harry's Miss Daphne has arrived sir," he said with obvious excitement. "Should I show her up to the study sir? Or will you be joining her downstairs in the sitting room?"
"I'll be right down," said Harry with a grin. He grabbed his final page of notes and quickly left his office to see his girlfriend.
As Harry walked into the room Daphne admired the handsome young man. He looked so much better after getting some good rest and some real food over the previous weekend. She thought he looked quite dashing with the longer hair as he was letting it grow out. She smiled as he approached and have her a big hug.
"I did it," he exclaimed.
Daphne raised and eyebrow at this statement and simply stated, "Oh?"
:"I have found the information from Merlin's notes. I found his secrets to taming a dragon." Harry's excitement was contagious.
Daphne kissed him on the cheek for congratulations. "So, how soon can you get this done? Is it a spell? A potion?"
Harry's expression softened measurably… "Well, it requires the making of a special magical cloak."
Daphne narrowed her eyes. "How special?"
"Well, it requires the hide of a griffon, the tail feathers of thunderbird, and for protection a serum made from the venom of a chimera and the tears of a unicorn." Harry realised as he stated the list of ingredients that there were several problems, including finding the creatures from which to obtain the items and then actually procuring those items.
Daphne frowned as she looked at him. "Okay Merlin junior, where will you find those creatures and just how do you plan on going about this?"
Harry blushed a little, "I'm still working on that part."
Daphne shook her head, "So, how many more weeks of preparation for this part?" she asked as a sour expression came over her face.
Harry slumped down into one of the large chairs in the room. "Well, I have worked out the general locations of where I need to find the creatures. Actually finding them and obtaining the necessary ingredients, I am still working on that."
Daphne slid onto his lap and kissed him on the lips. "That doesn't sound so hard now, you're nearly there. Just find a unicorn, which should be the easy part. Then we can…"
Harry cut her off. "No, it's not that easy. What I was able to deduce from Merlin's notes is that the objects need to be obtained in the proper order. I need to have the griffon hide to protect me from the thunderbird. I have to have the hide and the feather for protection from the chimera. The unicorn tears need to be immediately mixed with the venom, so that has to be obtained last." Harry let of a long sigh.
"So where do we find a griffon?" she asked.
Harry looked at her with a stern gaze that made Daphne feel uncomfortable."Not we, but I, I need to do this."
Daphne's eyes narrowed as she felt the sting of his words. "What? You are not doing this all alone," she stated forcefully.
"It is too dangerous for me to ask anyone to help. This is for me, to complete what I owe the goblins, I can't ask anyone to help me." Harry turned away from her hard stare.
Daphne slapped him lightly on the side of his face. "You spent seven years getting in and out of trouble on untold adventures, always with Hermione, and often with Ron. You cannot and you will not do this on your own."
Harry tried to protest.
"No, you do not get to tell me I can't come and help you." Harry noted there were tears forming in her eyes. "My life with you is on hold until you free yourself from the goblins. Do you think I am just going to wait around while you travel who knows where and facing who knows what sort of dangers?"
"Hey," protested Harry, "I've faced a Cerberus, a basilisk, dementors, Umbridge and the Dark Lord. How tough can this be?"
"Harry Potter, you are such a prat. You faced known of those alone." She quieted him with a severe stare when he tried to interrupt. "You told me yourself you had Hermione and Ron with you when you had to sneak past the three headed dog. You had the sorting hat and Fawkes give you help with the basilisk. You had Hermione with you when you chased off the dementors. You have not been a solo act and I will not let you foolishly try and become one now?"
Harry understood that he did not stand any chance against her arguments at this time. He leaned his forehead gently against hers, as he surrendered to her arguments. "Fine, I can tell that there is no way I am going to win this argument with you…"
"You learn quickly, Potter," teased Daphne. She kissed him hard on the lips and after a minute when she broke off the kiss, she asked him, "So, where do we start?"
"Well, it appears that the most reliable reporting of a golden griffon would be somewhere in Australia. We'd have to do a series of international port keys to make our way there. Then we would have to contact the ministry of magic, speak with someone in their department of magical creatures before we begin our search."
"So, you have been doing your preparation for this, haven't you," commented Daphne as she was truly impressed. She noted him blush slightly and then she added, "Are you sure that is the only place to find a griffon? Or are there other reasons you're heading," she caught herself and then rephrased her question, "are there other reasons we are heading to Australia?"
Harry gave her a confused look.
She had closed her eyes as she studied his expression. "We're heading to Australia, where Hermione is. Are you sure that has nothing to do with this?"
Harry became defensive, "Yes, I am sure. I hadn't even thought of it. Or I haven't thought it was a big deal. Australia is a big country. She is probably not even there anymore. We're going to find the right department, get the clearance we need to obtain the griffon hide, and then leave. I do not see how there is anyway I could possibly run into Hermione while I am, or we are there…"
Harry and Daphne had travelled for a couple of days to reach their destination in Sydney, Australia. Harry had actually hoped to get there more quickly, but Daphne insisted that he should take some time to visit, even if it was briefly in the areas where they made their international port key transfers. Harry thought that it seemed similar to muggles travelling via airplanes, what with a central destination hall and different "gates" for the wizards and witches to head through depending on their destination. The first short trip had been from London to Rome. Harry had previously been shopping in Florence with Daphne, but he had never seen the sites around Rome before. Then they made a short stay in Constantinople. Harry was surprised that they did not refer to the city as Istanbul, but Daphne had explained that the international magical port key authority had named the locations centuries ago, before the fall of the Byzantine Empire, and as stubborn as wizards could be, they just refused to change the name. After they made a tour of the bazaar in magical Constantinople, they then travelled to Bangkok before they finally had arrived in Sydney.
The travel had been irritating to Harry as he felt the pull on his navel that was customary with typical port keys was nothing compared to the wrenching of the entire body as he felt with the international port key travel. Harry was glad that they were done with that method of travelling, at least for a little while. As they exited the magical customs area, Harry and Daphne began to look around.
"Well, we should get ourselves settled in the hotel first," commented Daphne. "Then we can head to the Ministry of Magic and look up the Department of Magical Creatures."
"Sounds like a splendid plan to me," agreed Harry, "especially if there are no more port keys to sue for a while."
The two had checked into a suite at the hotel. Harry had requested the large room so that he could at least have a couch to sleep on, or a sofa bed, as he was not wanting to impose upon his girlfriend. Daphne admired his nobility, and she found it hard to argue with his chivalry so she relented.
After a couple of hours of relaxing and getting settled, the young couple made their way into the magical section of Sydney and were easily directed to the Ministry of Magic. Harry was surprised by the similarities to the Ministry building in London, although it seemed newer and cleaner and fresher. There was no large statue in the entryway such as was found in England, but that was replaced by a large and elegant fountain. They made their way to a receptionist and questioned the young witch sitting at the desk as to where they would be able to find the Department of Magical Creatures. She smiled pleasantly as she directed them to the elevators and instructed Harry and Daphne to head to the seventh floor. She stared at Harry for a moment as she tried to determine if he looked familiar. Harry smiled pleasantly back at her as he wondered if he should have used a disillusionment charm, but Daphne had warned against such an action as the Ministry of Magic would be able to detect such a charm and it might appear suspicious. As it was, he was glad to be wearing the bandana that covered his scar, and that in turn was covered by his wide brimmed hat.
Daphne took Harry by the arm and directed him towards the elevators. They arrived on the seventh floor and wound their way through the corridors until they found they found the door that was labeled 'Department of Magical Creatures, Gianna Contadino, Director'.
Daphne turned to Harry, "Well, looks like we found the right place."
Harry shrugged his shoulders as he opened the door. Inside they found a small waiting room and a receptionist sitting behind the desk. Harry was not expecting to see a young man sitting behind the desk.
"How may I help you today?" he asked.
Harry looked at the name plate on the desk, then he answered, "Sure, Tom is it? Well, Mr. Watson, we are here to talk to your director about griffons. Is she available?"
Tom Watson looked at the tall young man whose face was partially obscured by his wide brimmed hat, and then at the very lovely blonde witch who was standing at his side. "Do you have an appointment with Ms. Contadino?" he asked stiffly.
"Well, no we do not, but we were hoping that we could speak with her, as I understand that there are golden griffons in Australia," answered Harry.
Daphne gave the young man a sultry smile and added, "It would be most helpful if we could speak with your director, if you could help us out with that, Tom."
Harry turned and looked at Daphne, trying not to let his mouth hang open too much at her statement. Behind him he heard the young man say, "Sure, miss, I'll go see if she's available." He then stood up and walked down the hall behind him to his left.
Daphne turned to Harry and smiled wryly. "Hey, it worked, so don't give me that look." Then she leaned in to plant a kiss on his cheek.
A couple of minutes later, Tom Watson returned. "The director can see you, she is working on clearing a space in her schedule. You can see her in a few minutes, why don't you please have a seat."
Harry and Daphne sat down as Daphne smirked at Harry. "I told you," she whispered.
Several minutes later a small note flew down the hall from the direction of the director's office and landed on the receptionist's desk. Mr. Watson quickly opened it and then he looked over at Harry and Daphne as he caught their attention with a quick cough. "The director can see you now."
Harry and Daphne stood up, hand in hand. Daphne spoke to Tom with a demure smile, "Oh, don't get up, I am sure we can find the office. Just down this hall, right?" Tom replied with a nod and a blush.
As they started down the hall, Harry asked in a hushed tone, "And just what was all of that?"
Daphne smiled and whispered back, "Just trying to help us along, and as you should be able to tell, it is working."
Harry mumbled an unintelligible reply.
They arrived at the door labeled 'Director.' Harry reached out and grasped the door knob as he pulled the door open allowing Daphne to enter before him. Daphne stepped into the office and looked up at the woman sitting behind the desk. The woman had light brown hair with gentle waves, pulled back behind her head in a simple pony tail. Daphne stared for a moment, thinking that there was something oddly familiar about her.
Gianna Contadino looked up from her desk as the door was pulled open. She noticed a blonde woman walk in who was somehow quite familiar but also someone who definitely seemed out of place to be walking into her office. She stared at the woman as her mind raced trying to place the face. Then she noted another figure stepping in from the hall from behind the door. A tall thin man with a wide brimmed hat which shadowed his face. As he stepped in he took the hand of the blonde woman as he turned to face her, noting that she had stopped just inside the doorway. The man noted that his companion was staring straight ahead. The man turned around to fully face the director sitting behind the desk. She noted the green eyes. Only one person had such piercing green eyes.
Harry had walked into the room and took Daphne's hand, but he then noted that she was just gaping ahead. Harry turned and looked at the woman sitting behind the desk who appeared to be staring at Daphne. Then he noted her turn her gaze onto him. Harry immediately noted the chocolate brown eyes, which at first seemed odd to him as they did not match the hair on the woman who was sitting at the desk. As he stared into her eyes, he noted she was staring back into his eyes.
"Hermione?" he asked quietly, but completely surprised.
"Harry?" she nearly shrieked, "What the bloody hell are you doing here?" She quickly placed her hand over her gaping mouth as she was feeling overwhelmed by the emotions that were coursing through her, causing her mind to stop working properly.
AN: For clarification, the paragraph in italics is meant to be from the perspective of Gianna Contadino….