HK17 of 25 files

Part the Seventeenth—
And looks commercing with the skies, Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes.
—Milton, “Il Penseroso”

“I need to contact the Order,” Harry said into the silent room. 

Daphne was for once not reading her letters from Krum and Flint, but instead was pouring over a magical wedding magazine, making notes on something.  Harry assumed it was for Astoria’s wedding, although Astoria was only recently engaged and in her fifth year.  Still, he knew from Aunt Petunia’s gossip that weddings could take years to plan.

“Order?” Justin asked from a large armchair, a book on vampires propped on his knees.  “What’s that?”

Daphne looked up expectantly.

“The Order of the Phoenix,” Harry expanded.  “It’s a secret organization Dumbledore founded during the first war and then again the summer after fourth year.”  He sighed.  “Think Dumbledore’s Army in a way, except they’re actually defending.”

Daphne sniffed.  “Vigilantes.”

“Basically,” Harry agreed.  “Though there were two Aurors.”

“Why do you need to contact them, then?” Justin asked, his large brown eyes darkening in curiosity.

Harry sighed and took Dudley’s letter out of the inside pocket of his wizard coat.  “Octavian and I have argued over it and I can’t bring him here.  I mean, the first time Octavian saw the letter he went into premature labor because he’s just—he—Muggles.”  He couldn’t explain.  He wouldn’t admit to Daphne and Justin about Octavian’s terror, not without his permission.  The memories were still too raw, too personal, horrifying.

“Hatred or—the other?” Daphne asked carefully, piercing Harry with her brown eyes.  “Don’t look at me like that.  I’m a Pureblood.  I know how Purebloods think about Muggles.  If they have an opinion, it’s from prejudice against their blood or—“ She left the rest unsaid.

Harry looked away, and Daphne sighed sadly.

Justin just looked confused.

“Completely understandable,” Daphne whispered as the letter was passed to her and she skimmed its contents, “and, no, this Dudley should be nowhere near Octavian or Romola.”

“I completely agree,” Harry said, cutting off Justin who looked like he was about to argue.  “Dudley’s a bully who hates magic.  He was brought up thinking I was a—freak—because of it and beat me up for it—and anyone smaller than him, including children.  Still, he’s my cousin, and the Dark Lord—“

“Is sending you a very clear message, I would imagine,” Daphne interrupted.  “He ordered the deaths of your—relatives—“ a sneer crossed her otherwise beautiful face.  “He’s testing you.”

Harry sighed.  “I was afraid of that.”

“He is still your cousin, bully or not,” Justin pointed out, his face showing his defiance when Daphne turned her hard gaze to him.  “It’s, of course, not right that he terrorized Harry and others and that he hates magic.  But there are two sides to this—conflict.—He shouldn’t be murdered just for being a Muggle.”

Daphne’s tense shoulders relaxed a bit.  “So you contact the Order,” she agreed.  “Write them a letter,” she added dismissively.

“Can’t,” Harry said.  “It could be intercepted and then it’s in writing and no matter how I disguise it—Vol—the Dark Lord could somehow break it if he wanted to.  Also, they might not take it seriously if they got a note from someone not identifying himself.  They could think it was a prank or a trap or just ignore it—“

“You can’t just go,” Daphne pointed out reasonably, closing her wedding magazine and setting it on top of a stack of others.  Briefly Harry wondered if she was looking for ideas in case she got a proposal soon.  “The Death Eaters probably know the key members.  You need to remain neutral—and, on top of that, neither of us can join you.  I’m supposedly in France and Justin is wanted by the Ministry.”

“I have to do something, and I could always contrive a reason.” Harry drummed his fingers, looking at Justin who was staring back.  “The Aurors are out as they’re technically ministry now, Moody—“

“—is dead,” Daphne put in.  At Harry’s astonished look, she added, “It was in the Prophet last Autumn; I thought you’d seen it.  He barely got half a sentence and not even an obituary.”

“Oh,” Harry said, softly.  Silence blanketed the room and Harry could only hear his friends breathing into the dullness.  “Right.”

“Well, he’s not going alone, wherever he’s going,” Justin said, shutting his book shut after book marking his place.  “We need to send someone on this—social call.”  He grimaced.

Daphne’s eyes lightened, and she turned to Harry, her short hair swishing about her ears.  “Social call.  Are you friends with anyone in this—vigilante group?”

“Er—the Weasleys,” Harry admitted.  “I don’t know where Bill and Fleur live and that would mean the Burrow.”

She nodded.  “I’ll send Marcus with you.  He’d never let anything happen to you considering you’re practically my brother-in-law and, well, he has discretion.  He won’t say anything and will give you privacy to get the message across.”

“Daphne,” Justin warned, but she quieted him with a stern look.

“Marcus already knows I’m in Britain and doing something with Harry under the radar.  He’s never once asked and no one’s come knocking on our door—and they now can send Harry owls as they knew we’re in a Fidelius hidden house on this road.”  She turned back to Harry.  “How does the day after tomorrow sound?  I think he has a free afternoon.”

The day after tomorrow came far too quickly for Harry.  He spent most of the morning with Romola and Octavian in the nursery, conjuring bubbles from the tip of his wand and occasionally birds that flittered around Romola’s head as she reached up her small chubby arms and tried to catch them, a huge grin on her face.  After a light brunch, he kissed Octavian gently on the lips, promising that he should be home for dinner, and then Disapparated from the front step to the village of Ottery-St-Catchpole. 

Flint was already there, waiting in dark gray robes that stood out in the wizard-and-Muggle village.  Harry took several long moments to look at him unobtrusively from the alleyway he’d Apparated into, trying to understand Daphne’s attraction to him.

Harry’s first thought was that Flint was unusually tall and broad-shouldered.  He emanated strength and danger.  His large hands could easily squeeze the life out of a full-grown wizard.  Poise, Harry thought.  He also had poise.  Flint carried himself with vigor and not exactly arrogance, but with purpose.  He had the right to hold his head high, and Flint walked and stood like it.  Flint’s features were chiseled.  He had a strong nose, high cheekbones, a defined chin.  His dark eyes had always seemed mean and, well, he’d always had a scowl on his face.  Now, though, he appeared merely tense and Harry could—after several moments of deliberation—admit that while not strictly attractive, Flint was almost handsome and he could easily make people believe that he was if he ever wanted to.

“Lord Black,” Flint greeted when Harry stepped out after several minutes.  “Are you done staring?” A smirk crossed his face.

“For now,” Harry agreed truthfully.  “Daphne sends her appreciation and her affections.”  He had to say it just like that.  Daphne had been rather insistent.

Flint’s face seemed to become softer.  “Please send Miss Greengrass my humble regard and my willingness to remain her champion.”

Harry’s eyes widened, but he managed to control them marginally so he didn’t make a complete fool of himself.  He had known Flint was serious—but that—no wonder Daphne was looking at wedding magazines.

Silently, the two turned and Harry led Flint up the hill toward the Burrow, which was hidden just behind the crest.  They ignored the stares they got from passing Muggles.  Harry, on Daphne’s insistence, had worn his black wizard coat as, she claimed, he had to play the complete part of a pureblood lord.  “This is a social call, and as such you have to dress for the occasion.” 

It was simple, really, the alibi.  Harry would be stopping by as he wanted news from Hogwarts—specifically on Octavian’s close friends Caspar Summers and Aidan Whitby.  As Aidan was dating Neville Longbottom, Harry and Ron’s fellow Gryffindor, he thought to drop by the Weasleys’, especially as he wanted to make sure they were all holding up after Ginny’s death.  No one who asked could dispute those particular reasons, and as the Weasleys were really the only wizarding family he knew (apart from the Malfoys, through Octavian), it would make sense that he would visit them.—And Flint, well, he doubted Flint had kept it entirely a secret his relationship with Daphne, who was connected to Harry through family now that Astoria was formally engaged to Draco.

It was strange, Harry thought.  Growing up he always wanted to be a member of the Weasley family.  Now he was married to the son of a Malfoy and was connected to the Greengrasses. 

They crested the hill and Harry paused, drinking in the familiar sight of the magical cottage that had been added to so many times, it looked like it was only standing because of magic.  Chickens scurried across the front yard, making Harry smile.

Flint, he noticed from the corner of his eye, was grimacing. 

He was probably wearing expensive shoes and a farm was not the best place to wear them.  Still, it might be fun to watch him squirm for a little.  Harry was terribly protective of Daphne, not as much as he was of Astoria, perhaps, as Daphne was a witch to be reckoned with and knew her own mind completely.  Astoria had always been in love with Draco and had been in a vulnerable position when Harry first met her because of his continued relationship to Pansy Parkinson and his secrets.  Daphne, however, would find love on her own terms—and Harry thought that ultimately she might perhaps be happier in her marriage and life than Astoria.  Astoria waited for Draco to come to his senses; Daphne made certain Flint came to his and then made him prove himself worthy.  She also didn’t turn down an international Quidditch star’s attention just because Flint was finally courting her properly.

Sometimes Harry found it difficult to believe that Daphne and Astoria were sisters—until he looked at their strawberry-blonde hair, long limbs, and dark eyes. 

“Do you know why we’re here?” Harry asked quietly and Flint shrugged.

“Something about Hufflepuffs and dead sisters.”  His dark green eyes gleamed, showing he knew it was a lie.

Harry offered him a brief smile and then, purposefully, strode to the front door and knocked on it briskly, hoping someone would be home.  It was at the very beginning of Easter Holidays so there must be someone—and Mrs. Weasley seemed to spend most of her time on the farm.

They waited for several moments, Flint a silent presence behind Harry.

The door was harshly wrenched open and a wand was shoved into Harry’s face.  Harry’s eyes widened but he didn’t draw his own wand (although he suspected that Flint had), not wanting to show his aggression at a frazzled looking Mrs. Weasley.

“Oh, Harry,” she muttered distractedly, looking over his shoulder at Flint.  “Is he safe?”

“He’s—“ Harry paused, thinking that Flint was anything but safe.  “He won’t hurt anyone and he’s not a spy.”

Nodding distractedly, Mrs. Weasley put her wand away and glanced up at Harry before slapping him across the cheek.  “Where have you been?  I’ve been worried sick!  Taking off with that no good Death Eater of yours and being seen with the likes of the Malfoys and Bellatrix Lestrange!”

Harry stood there impassively, letting her vent her frustration.  He knew it would just remain bottled up if he didn’t.  It was better to just get it done now instead of later.

“Can we come in?” he finally asked when she stopped for breath, and she deflated.

“Of course, come in,” she said, ushering them inside the kitchen, where a sullen looking George—at least, Harry thought it was George; he was missing an ear and Fred still had both ears last August—was sitting drinking a Firewhiskey.  It looked like he’d had several already.

“Damn Fred,” he was muttering under his breath.  “Cursed my ear.  Damn him.”  He took another large swallow.

Harry’s eyes widened at the sight.  Fred had cursed off George’s ear?  Why?

“Right,” Mrs. Weasley said, staring sadly at her son before ushering Harry and Flint into the mismatched sitting room.  “Who are you then?” she turned to Flint, but something caught her eye.  “Ronald Weasley!” she huffed, and Harry turned to see Ron sitting on the stairs, watching the front door.  “It’s not Fred!  Give it a rest!”

“Mum,” he began to argue, his face going red, but she cut him off.

“There is a line, young man, and you and Fred crossed that line—I don’t even want to know for how long.  He’s your brother, and no matter what insults the world hurls at us, we don’t betray our blood in that way, Ronald!”

“I love—“ He began, his ears pink and his face a bright tomato red.  His eyes ran over Harry and then at Flint, pausing in confusion, before turning back to what seemed to be a familiar argument.

“No you don’t,” Mrs. Weasley refuted, shaking her head and crossing her arm.  “Not like that.  What ever happened to that young thing you took to the wedding?  Lavender something.”

“I don’t fancy Lavender,” Ron answered sullenly.  “Trust me, Mum, I tried.”

“Not hard enough.  I don’t care if you’re a homosexual, Ron, really, I don’t—but not with—with him.”

“Can’t you even say his name?” Ron whispered with tears in his eyes. 

“Not here,” Mrs. Weasley snapped.  “We have company.”  She gestured to Harry and Flint, and Ron’s eyes, as if realizing exactly who they were for the first time, widened comically.

“What are you doing here?” he accused Harry, who just stared back at him.

Turning to Flint, Harry tilted his head toward the side door.  “There’s a lovely garden,” he suggested, and Flint thankfully got the hint, turning and heading out the door, closing it behind him. 

Harry sighed out in relief.  “Sorry.  Right,” he muttered at Mrs. Weasley’s curious look.  He took out Dudley’s folded letter from his pocket.  He held it out to Mrs. Weasley and she took it, scanning its contents.

“Oh, that poor dear,” she murmured, folding it and handing it back.

Harry looked at her expectantly. 

Still, she said nothing. 

Harry sighed.  “I was hoping that the Order might offer him protection again as I can’t do anything.”

Mrs. Weasley tutted.  “What?  With that whole manor house to yourself and that—well—person of yours?  There were dozens of bedrooms if I remember.”

“Still, I can’t take him in,” Harry tried to explain calmly.

Mrs. Weasley, he noticed, was now fluttering about the room, patting pillows and not looking him directly in the eyes.  “Nonsense.  Tons of room.”

“He’s a Muggle.  I can’t bring him into a magical house.”

Ron made a displeased noise at the back of his throat.  “I’m back upstairs,” he said to no one in particular, giving one last longing look at the door before going up the stairs.  Harry stared after him for several long moments.

Mrs. Weasley was still fluffing the pillows with a vigor that surprised Harry.

He cleared his throat.  “I don’t need answers,” he tried to begin.  “I just assumed the Order was still running and that it might consider giving him sanctuary for now, considering everything.  You’re the only members I could come see without it being suspicious.”

“Yes, yes, of course.  What with the papers and all that.  They say you’re a quiet supporter of the Muggle-born reforms, you know.”

Harry clenched his jaw.  It had been all over the papers for months of how he approved of Muggle-borns being locked up, since he had now taken a position as a Pureblood lord and did not actively proclaim himself as a half-blood.  He was just waiting for one clever reporter to dig up his row with Hermione over Octavian. 

“I don’t think anything in the paper is trustworthy these days,” Harry finally responded.

Mrs. Weasley was now looking out the window, and Harry rather suspected she was tracking Flint’s movements with her eyes.

“So you bring a Death Eater to our house and then ask for this?” Mrs. Weasley asked, voice tight, surprising Harry.

“Flint may be many things,” Harry defended, “but I seriously doubt he’s a Death Eater.”  Daphne just wouldn’t stand for that sort of nonsense and, really, Flint could have turned them all in as potential turncoats by now if he had wanted to.  Harry’s excuses and explanations were flimsy at best and Daphne—well—Harry doubted if Daphne told him anything at all about the entire mess.  Daphne didn’t answer to anyone but herself, as far as Harry could tell.

Mrs. Weasley didn’t move at all.  “Well, I don’t see what you can expect us to do about it.  We’re fragmented at best—everything is chaos—He is your cousin,” she accused.

Harry closed his eyes painfully.  “I can’t take him,” he whispered, and she nodded once.

They said nothing else.

Harry continued to stand there for several long moments and finally threw Dudley’s letter on the fire, which was roaring despite it being a warm spring day.  All evidence was now destroyed, and he could only hope that the Order’s sense of rightness would pervade and they would help him.  Harry didn’t even know if his cousin was dead or alive at this moment.  It could already be too late.  He went and found Flint in the back garden, who was having a staring competition with a chicken and winning, and they soon left.

That night Harry held Octavian close and thought of their small family.  He didn’t realize until Octavian brushed away his tears that he was crying.

The house was silent, which was unusual.  Harry was in the sitting room with Romola, holding her as she slept.  Astoria was sitting across from him writing an essay that he, Daphne, and Justin would later grade for her as she was still sitting for her O.W.L.s at the end of the year.  Justin, for once, wasn’t in the small telephone room but must have been elsewhere in the house.  Octavian, Harry knew, was taking an afternoon nap and Daphne—Harry wasn’t certain where Daphne was.

The flutter of an owl’s wings briefly caught Harry’s attention but when one didn’t enter the room, he pushed it from his thoughts.  It could easily be another letter for Daphne, he thought.  He wondered just how long the situation with Flint and Krum was going to continue.  It was obvious that Daphne had fallen for her old housemate, but Flint hadn’t made his intentions completely clear with a proposal—and Harry knew that Daphne wouldn’t wait forever for him.

Tracing Romola’s face with his eyes, Harry doubted there had ever been a more perfect infant.  She was all beautiful innocence and he knew that she would grow up to be a great witch—she could hardly help it with Octavian as her father, he thought happily to himself.

The soft sound of footsteps on the stairs brought his attention back to the house and he paused, looking at the door expectantly.

No one walked through it and yet it seemed that someone was hovering on the other side of the door.

After several minutes, the footfall receded again.

Daphne didn’t come down to dinner that night, and Justin had said he hadn’t seen her in the library.  Harry wondered if she had gone out with Flint again—it would hardly be surprising—though she usually did tell someone or left a note.

Winky nattered on to herself about quills and inks, but Harry didn’t pay her much mind.  He trusted Winky to know if they were running out of items like parchment, and the dead dread beginning to settle in his stomach from the thought of approaching the vampires for their king’s gift and whether his cousin was safe or not were more important than quills at that moment.

Daphne still was missing meals at lunch the next day (Astoria had whispered that she hadn’t come down for breakfast either and it was rather unlike her) and Harry decided with Justin that they should go and see if she was at least home.  Whenever she went out with Flint, she was always back well before morning, and although Harry didn’t think that Flint would hurt her, she could have been caught by snatchers—or something else could have happened to her.

“I’ll take the lower floors,” Justin told him and Harry nodded, deciding to try Daphne’s bedroom first.  It was the most plausible place to look.

They could be overreacting, but Daphne never acted this way, and Octavian had even looked worried when Daphne’s absence was brought to his attention. 

“Daphne?” Harry called when he came up to the third floor, knocking on her door and opening it slowly.

The sound of a quill scratching against parchment met his ear and when he opened the door fully, he saw Daphne in yesterday’s robe sitting at her desk, her hair tucked messily behind her ears and her fingers and lower arms absolutely covered in black ink.

“My gods, are you all right?” Harry asked, rushing to her.

Daphne turned to him and her brown eyes surveyed him carefully.  “Of course I’m fine,” she stated coolly, lifting one eyebrow at him in question.

Harry deflated a bit.

Going to the door quickly, he shouted down the hallway toward the stairs—“She’s up here and she’s fine!”

Daphne didn’t pay him any attention.

At Justin’s answering shout, Harry closed the door again, taking in Daphne’s hunched form at the desk.   “This is not normal,” he observed coolly, but Daphne didn’t answer him.

Looking around the room one more time, he noticed that there was parchment absolutely everywhere, across the bed, pinned to the walls, littering the floor, all with careful writing.  When he looked more closely, he noticed they were all lists formed in two columns, one entitled “Viktor” and the other “Marcus.”

His heart sank into his stomach.  “Er—Daphne?” he asked, but she kept on scribbling.  He squinted at the lists again.  They were all almost identical.  The same comparisons over and over again.  Personal traits, hygiene, looks, salaries, blood, pedigree, age, how many times he complimented her, personal habits, former girlfriends and boyfriends.  Harry stilled for a long moment, staring at Krum’s list.  He had no idea that Krum had briefly dated a Hortensius Fillibrie from Ravenclaw.  It seemed like they broke up less than a week before the Yule Ball was announced his fourth year.

“Daphne,” he said again, more forcefully, but she still ignored him. 

Sighing, Harry turned to leave when a flash of pure light caught his eyes, and then he saw it—a large, square-shaped diamond in a platinum engagement ring.

He looked back at the lists, understanding sinking in.  If Flint had proposed, Daphne would know exactly what to do.  She’d already probably planned her behavior so that she wouldn’t seem too eager and yet would be gracious.  No, this proposal came from Krum instead—and had caused Daphne to shut herself away and make lists.  Only one list would be needed to talk herself into accepting the proposal given how much Krum’s list had going for him compared to Flint’s—arrogant, self-centered, rumored to have deflowered seven Muggles and seventeen Muggle-borns, seen in the company of several witches during early courtship, among other faults.  No, she was trying to talk herself out of accepting him, Harry decided.

Carefully, he walked up behind Daphne and reached behind her, taking her right hand in his own and stopping her quill mid-word.  Daphne went completely still and, looking down over her shoulder, Harry saw the teardrops falling across the parchment, smudging the ink.

“You don’t love Krum,” Harry reasoned to her calmly, and Daphne completely collapsed, giving into her tears.  “You don’t love him.”

Prying the quill from her fingers and leaving it on top of the ruined list, Harry walked her to the bed and just held her as she cried, brushing her short hair away from her face.  “You don’t love Krum,” he kept on repeating soothingly.

They both knew she loved someone else.

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