Christmas and Boxing Day
Several reviewers of the last chapter commented on such a "small" amount of money in Harry's vault and started wondering about who was stealing from him.
Sorry, no conspiracy to steal from the poor, ignorant orphan boy. The Potters were never of the "filthy rich" social class.
He stopped dead in his tracks at the scene that greeted him, his words trailing off.
Tracey knelt in front of the trunk, putting her robes away for the night. She looked up and smiled a little self-consciously at Harry.
Daphne, however, was standing between the bed and Harry, hands clasped loosely behind her back and grinning confidently at Harry.
Neither wore a thread of clothing.
"Do you like what you see, My Master?" Daphne whispered, chest thrust slightly forward as if inviting inspection.
Harry's eyes were riveted to that bare chest for several long moments before his eyes drifted down her toned skinned midriff and stopped again. He distantly noted that she kept herself trimmed, but it was all still the same dark brown.
His eyes flicked over to the now-standing Tracey. Her head was tilted forward enough to hide her face with her hair, but she made no further attempt to cover herself. She was better endowed than Daphne but not by much. Neither girl was beautiful in the way that the Patil twins or Cho Chang were, but that was not to say either young woman had anything at all to be ashamed of.
Harry's mouth snapped closed with an audible click, and he shut his eyes almost as violently. Taking several deep breaths, he tried to get himself calmed back down, knowing at least part of him would not be calming down anytime soon.
"Why are you two starkers?" he asked in a mostly steady voice.
"Would you believe me if I said I was hot?" Daphne asked in a teasing voice.
Harry let loose a low growl, almost but not quite against his will. He opened his eyes again, keeping them trained on Daphne's face. "I know you're hot," he teased in a rough voice, rather pleased with his double entrende under the circumstances, "but I asked why you're starkers."
Tracey looked up and smiled at Harry's comment. With a blush visible over a great deal of exposed skin, she quietly said, "It is in the contract, Master, that we wear nothing to our wedding bed."
"Merlin, Malfoy's a controlling bastard," Harry commented.
Daphne, showing only a slight blush, gave a tiny smile. "Yes, he is.
"If Master permits, I shall prepare myself for bed." At Harry's jerky nod, she slinked over to the chest and closed the lid. Changing the compartment and opening it up again, she leaned forward more than absolutely necessary to retrieve a small bag of items. Slowly standing again, she brushed past Harry, with a great deal more contact than really necessary, and entered the loo.
Harry gave a strangled groan. "You two are trying to kill me, aren't you?"
Tracey grinned at him. "No, I believe that Daphne has something else entirely in mind. I'm not trying to force you, though. The contract really does state we must come to bed naked. It was kind of assumed our husbands would consummate the marriage the evening after the ceremony."
"Everyone, you included, expect me to . . . uh . . ."
"Have sex with us?" she suggested in a helpful tone.
She shrugged, which resulted in movements that attracted Harry's eyes again. Fighting a smirk, she said, "It is your right, and that rather is what newlyweds usually do the evening after they get married."
Harry blushed brilliantly. "Um . . ."
"I haven't either," she stated matter-of-factly to his immense relief. "As I've said from the beginning, I was trying for a pureblood marriage. Bringing purity to my wedding bed would have been an asset."
Harry finally fought through the haze that kept trying to settle over his mind. Bringing his eyes back up, he carefully asked, "What do you want out of tonight?"
She shrugged again. Harry carefully did not let his eyes go back down. "I will do as you wish, Harry."
"That isn't what I asked," he pointed out.
"True. If you're giving me the honest choice, then I ask you not to bed me," she stated plainly, "not tonight."
He slumped minutely, whether in relief or sadness, she could not distinguish.
"In any case," she continued, "I get the strong impression that Daphne is more than willing to . . . uh, take care of the situation." She nodded toward his boxers, showing the unmistakable reaction his body was having to the naked women in front of him.
"Did I hear my name?" Daphne asked as she re-entered the room from behind Harry. Walking past, again generating far more skin contact than strictly necessary, she let one hand trail softly over his shoulder as she casually dropped her bag into the still-open trunk. Crawling onto the bed on top of the comforter, she stretched one leg out and curled the other one up a bit, foot planted down near the opposite knee. Propping her head up on one hand, the other patted the duvet in front of her. "Come to bed, Master."
Harry was saved from a mental melt-down by Tracey's snort of amusement. "Oh, very subtle, Daphne. Very subtle."
Daphne gave the other girl a dark look as Tracey, laughing lightly, stepped into the loo.
Harry did not dare ask Daphne what she wanted out of the evening. "If you'll give me one of those pillows, I'll just settle down in the chair for the evening."
Daphne raised one slim eyebrow. "If you so wish it, Master, then it shall be. However, may I point out that the bed will be much more comfortable for us?"
"I'm sure it will," Harry choked out. "But as you and probably Tracey will be sleeping there -"
She cut him off quietly, "But it is not Tracey whom I wish to snuggle up with, Harry." Her face relaxed. Her leg came down and her hip tilted forward so that her posture was no longer quite so blatantly seductive. "If you don't wish to consummate our marriage, then I shall, of course, leave you be; honestly, however, I do want to curl up with you. In the dorms, I often use Warming Charms on my sheets and wrap myself up as tightly as possible. I would much rather have a husband perform the same functions. And as I know you're very good at them from the other night on the couch . . ." She trailed off with an impudent grin.
He laughed, partly at her words, but mostly in a release of tension. "So I'm little more than a blanket and bed warmer for you?"
She laughed lightly in return. "Hardly. I have much higher hopes for you than that." She hurried on before he spoke, "But I understand that you're . . . uncomfortable with anything more for now." She patted the duvet again. "Please, Harry. Come to bed."
Harry stood still for several long seconds, eyes searching her face for something he himself could not verbalize. Eventually, he released a long sigh and moved forward.
Tracey found them both under the covers when she emerged. Harry was in the middle of the bed, stretched out with one arm plastered to his side and the other gripping his pillow. Daphne was curled upon her side, back very nearly touching his shirt-clad chest. Raising an eye at the unexpected sight, Tracey merely waved her wand to douse the gas lights before she crawled into bed on Harry's other side and made herself comfortable a fair distance away.
Daphne shifted a short time later. She shifted again a few minutes later and again after that.
Harry switched to lying flat on his back.
Daphne scooted around again before draping herself over Harry and laying her head upon his shoulder.
"Are you two quite finished?" Tracey asked sardonically.
"No," Daphne stated. She sat up, making no effort to cover herself as the sheets fell to her waist.
"No?" Harry asked, eyes sparkling at her in the candlelight.
"No. You're entirely too tense."
"I'm in bed with two naked witches," he pointed out.
"You just figured that out?" Tracey teased.
"Why would that make you tense?" Daphne asked, humor evident in her tone.
Tracey gave a snort. "With his sense of nobility?"
Daphne let out a bark of laughter. "True. Only one way to fix that."
"I'm afraid to ask," Tracey said. "Should I leave before I get pushed or maybe thrown off this bed?"
"Funny," Daphne said flatly. "No, I think he needs a backrub."
"Oh, thank Merlin," Harry said with a relieved breath.
Daphne laughed. "What did you think I was going to suggest, husband mine?" she asked sweetly.
"I don't think I want to answer that one. Er, if you're sure a backrub will help," he trailed off hesitantly.
"It should. Roll over and lose the shirt."
After a momentary pause, he did as he was told. She immediately straddled his back and started running her hands over his back, shoulders, and neck.
Harry tensed into a rigid board when he realized just what he was feeling against his lower back.
She leaned forward just enough so that he could feel two spots of warmth on his upper back. "Relax, I won't hurt you," she whispered into his ear. Sitting back up, she resumed her massage.
After two silent minutes, Harry said, "Thank you for trying, Daphne, but this isn't working."
Her hands stopped. "You're still too tense."
He mumbled something.
"What was that?" the previously silent Tracey asked.
He sighed. "Daphne, I don't mean to be cruel with this, but even when I relax, your rubs don't feel very good."
Though neither of her bed-mates could see it, her face fell into a pout. "Drat. I thought I was getting better."
"Huh?" Tracey asked. She rolled over to look at Daphne, having expected more anger in the other girl's reaction.
"Madam Pomfrey tried to teach me how to give a massage. Even after a lot of practice, I'm still not very good at it."
"I'm sorry," Harry said from underneath her.
She laid a hand flat upon his shoulder blade. "No need to apologize, Master. You didn't do anything wrong."
"Maybe not, but I still feel bad."
"Don't." She laid back down and pulled the blankets up to her chin. "We still need to figure out how to relax you."
Tracey sighed. "Harry, roll over."
He turned his head to regard her quizzically.
She rolled her eyes. "I'm not going to ravish you; I'm just going to sing you a lullaby."
"You can sing?" he asked as he rolled over to his back again.
Daphne scooted closer until her chest was just touching his arm. At his questioning look, she said, "You're my bed warmer, remember?" she asked teasingly.
Giving a soft chuckle, he turned back to Tracey.
She rolled her eyes at Daphne's actions. "Yes, I can sing," she answered the question. "Fortunately, I can even sing well. I took lessons as a child." She cleared her throat and hummed for a few moments before she started softly singing.
Feeling very foolish for letting Tracey sing a lullaby to him, Harry forced his eyes closed and let the soothing tone and Daphne's warmth relax him.
Tracey was the first one to wake the next morning. As was her habit, she immediately headed to the loo and the shower. Emerging again wearing only two towels, she smiled at Harry and Daphne.
Once again, they were tangled together, Harry spooned to Daphne's back. With the sheets and duvet covering them, Tracey had no idea if any hands had strayed during the night.
Getting dressed, she dropped the wards and headed down to the taproom of the Leaky Cauldron to gather breakfast for the three of them.
The closing door awakened the other two.
Daphne hummed in the back of her throat and moved further back and into Harry's embrace.
"This does feel good," Harry observed, wide awake in an instant.
"Hmm-hmm," she agreed, not at all wanting to wake further.
"So do I make an acceptable blanket and bed warmer?"
She chuckled on a raspy throat. "Very." She rolled over, pushing Harry onto his back. Once he was situated, she threw a leg over his near leg, leaving it entangled with both of his and draped her arm across his chest. Her head tucked under his chin nicely.
Without any conscious thought on his part, one hand came up and started running through her hair.
Tracey, balancing a tray, opened the door a couple minutes later.
Harry's wand appeared in his hand, pointed at the fuzzy shape he could see but not identify.
Tracey froze in place, eyes focused on the glowing end of Harry Potter's wand.
Daphne raised her head only for a moment. "It's Tracey," she mumbled, laying her head back down.
Harry's hand fell to the bed, and his head dropped back to the pillow.
Tracey kicked the door closed behind herself and carefully laid the tray on the dresser top. "You two look comfortable."
"Very," Daphne agreed without moving.
Harry chuckled, his right hand resuming its trips through Daphne's hair. "Thank you, Tracey."
"What for?" she asked as she kicked off her shoes.
"Singing," he answered with an embarrassed little shrug.
She smiled softly at him. "Happy Christmas," she said instead.
"It will be if I can stay right here," Daphne said with a voice still roughened by sleep.
"Lazy slug," Tracey accused her cheerfully, curling a leg under herself as she sat on the bed by Harry's feet.
Harry pulled his arms away from the quietly protesting Daphne and moved to the side of the bed. He put his wand down and pulled his glasses on.
Tracey frowned at him. "Was your wand under your pillow all night?"
"Hmm?" he asked, slowly climbing out of the bed and stretching himself in all directions to work out the kinks.
"Your wand. If it was on the table there, how'd it show up in your hand when I came into the room? No matter how fast you were, you couldn't reach the table with Daphne laying on you like that."
Harry looked at her, a mischievous grin in place. Instead of answering, he opened the trunk, pulled out some clothing, and padded into the loo.
"He didn't answer me," Tracey complained.
"He also didn't tap the chest to change compartments," Daphne said around a yawn as they heard the shower start up.
Tracey blinked, realizing that Daphne was correct. "How'd he do that?"
Daphne ignored the question. Instead, she stood and headed toward the loo.
Knowing what the other girl was trying to do, Tracey smirked. "Good luck."
Daphne grinned at her over her shoulder.
Tracey counted five seconds before she heard a bellowed, "WHAT?"
"I just wanted to wash your back, Master," Daphne pouted.
Harry grunted and gave her a dark look.
"And I can't reach mine, so I was hoping . . ." She trailed off.
Harry ignored her, pulling one of the trays toward himself and uncovering it.
"Stop acting like a tramp. You and I have both made it clear he has the right to us if he wishes. He obviously doesn't want you to seduce him."
Daphne withdrew into herself, quietly eating her breakfast.
Harry slowly calmed himself as the mechanically worked through his food.
After she finished, Daphne got up, retrieved a bathrobe and put it on. Gathering an armload of clothing, she quietly excused herself to the loo to finish her exceptionally short shower.
"What am I going to do with her?" Harry asked with a long sigh.
Tracey paused in collecting the dishes and tray. "I have a couple obvious answers, if you're really looking for suggestions."
Harry nodded. "Please."
"Take her to bed; consummate your marriage to her. It's what she wants, and it won't hurt you in any way. No possibility of her getting pregnant, even. We're both on the Prophylaxis Potion."
He first nodded in acknowledgement before he scowled. "I don't want to make love to her, or you for that matter, just because I have the right."
She sighed, unsurprised but still relieved at that answer. "Okay, next choice is to order her to stop trying to seduce you."
His scowl deepened, but he held his tongue.
"What is wrong with that?" she asked in a neutral tone.
He mumbled something.
"Sorry?" she asked.
"I said," he repeated with a sigh, "that it's fun."
She fought against a grin.
He rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah. Laugh if you want. The flirting is fun. The touching is nice. Skin to skin and she's all warm and cuddly . . ." He trailed off for a moment, eyes taking a vacant look.
Shaking his head, he went on, "Telling her to stop would also hurt her. She seems to genuinely want to do what she's doing. And it's -" He cut himself off abruptly.
"I believe that what she genuinely wants is you, Harry. Remember what she wants out of life. You're one of the few wizards at Hogwarts who fulfills all the requirements."
"May I ask what the last reason was? The one you just stopped yourself from saying?"
Harry kept mute, staring at the wall.
"Please, Harry," Tracey whispered. "You have nothing to fear from me. I won't - and can't - do anything to hurt you with anything you say."
He nodded slowly. "I suppose that's true," he agreed absently. He took a breath. "It's flattering that she wants me."
Tracey's eyebrows tried to crawl off her face. Keeping her tone low and even, she asked, "Surely you've been chased by other girls at school?"
He made a disgusted noise. "You mean the ones chasing Gryffindor seeker, the ones trying to nail the Boy Who Lived, or the ones who were after me due to the names I've inherited? No, I can count on one hand the girls who actually know me."
She thought that through and came to the conclusion that he was probably correct. Prior to approaching him on Saturday, how much did she really know about him? "That makes sense."
He smiled without humor.
Daphne opened the door to the loo and re-entered the room, fully clothed. Nodding politely to Harry, she crossed the room and retrieved the brush from her portion of the trunk. Sitting in front of the vanity, she started brushing out her hair.
He sighed at her defeated tone. "You surprised me in the shower. When surprised, I don't always react very well."
"You have no need to apologize to me, My Master," she said softly.
Harry cocked his head in thought for a moment. "Perhaps I don't, but for my own peace of mind, I am.
"As I was saying, I reacted badly when you startled me. I am flattered by the attention, I really am. It's just that I'm not comfortable with the thought of making love to someone I don't love. Yet. That aside, your pursuit of me is very . . . nice."
Tracey made a rude noise and only smiled when he gave her a dark look.
"Fine. It's flattering to my little, wretched, ego-challenged self. Happy?"
"Ecstatic," Tracey dead-panned.
Daphne's lip twitched into a smile that she quickly squashed.
Harry rolled his eyes at Tracey before turning back to Daphne. "Amazing as it sounds, as a healthy, heterosexual male I rather enjoy a gorgeous, naked female throwing herself at me."
Daphne's small smile returned.
Now looking slightly uncomfortable, Harry said, "I guess what I'm trying to say is that I suppose I don't mind the pursuit, so long as you are . . . a little less forceful, I guess."
"So no crawling on top of you in the middle of the night and having my wicked way with you?"
"No jumping into your shower and offering to wash your back?"
Harry's mouth twitched into a smile. "No."
"Not even if my naked body, glistening with moisture, needs to be lathered up as well?"
"Er . . ." He shook his head to dislodge that persistent memory. His smile expanded just a little more. "No."
Daphne pouted. "Oh, drat."
Tracey asked, "How about running around our rooms in all her natural glory?"
Harry paused. "Not when we're expecting company."
Daphne brightened back up.
"How about bouncing into bed naked and curling up with you?"
Harry sighed and his face fell forward. "You're trying to kill me, aren't you?"
"It's called the 'Little Death' for a reason, Harry," Tracey pointed out with a smirk.
He groaned, and both girls broke into giggles.
After breakfast, the girls opened their presents, finding a pair of school robes with the Potter crest on them. "Seemed appropriate," Harry said with a shrug.
Smiling their thanks, each girl gave him a kiss on the cheek, causing their husband to blush.
Later that day, Harry was reclining in the bed, reading over The Master's Guide that the ministry had given to him. Giving a sudden growl, he chucked the thing toward the waste bin.
Daphne looked up from her homework. "Something vexes thee?"
He blinked at her. "Huh?"
She shrugged. "I dunno. I heard one muggleborn say it, and another laughed. I figured it'd make you smile."
He gave her a strange look.
Tracey rescued the two of them after rolling her eyes, "What's wrong, Master?"
Harry's scowl returned. "That damn book," he waved irritably at where it had come to rest against Daphne's chair. "It's telling me how to be a good master." His voice dripped with disgust at the last word.
Daphne picked it up and flipped through it quickly. "'Disobedient Slaves'," she read. She looked up at Harry, eyes sparkling. "Bondage, Master?"
Harry blushed crimson.
"To change the subject," Tracey said with a gusty sigh, "the goblin said something about a home you own?"
"Yeah, inherited it from Sirius."
"It's in London, right?"
"Should we stay there after school? I mean, it was nice of Professor McGonagall to pay for us to stay here at the Leaky Cauldron, but wouldn't you feel better at your own home?"
"Nope. I hate the place. That's why I asked about selling it."
"Well, if you hate it, we'll have to find somewhere else to live once we graduate."
"Hmm. Good point. Any suggestions?"
Tracey shrugged. "We'll have to check out the housing market then."
"We'll have to find jobs, too, otherwise we won't be able to afford anything."
"True, but with your fame, you'll have no trouble finding employment somewhere."
Harry kept silent about his expectations about surviving to graduation.
Friday morning dawned clear. The sunlight that snuck behind the blinds awoke Harry, causing him to grunt irritably and hide his face in the soft mass that smelled of jasmine. His mood immediately improved.
"Good morning," Daphne whispered.
"So far it is," Harry agreed, unsurprised to find himself with an armful of naked witch, comfortably warm, and relaxed. "I could definitely get used to this."
She scooted backward, further into his embrace, wiggling as much as she felt she could get away with. "You only have to will it, My Master."
He chuckled, well aware of what she was doing. Pulling away from the disappointed witch, he said, "You are tenacious."
She smiled adorably at him as she climbed out from under the covers and sat upon the bed cross-legged. Running a hand through her hair in a vain attempt to comb it into place, she said, "It's Boxing Day."
Harry pulled his eyes back up to her face. Clearing his throat, he said, "Yes, it is."
"You know what this means, of course."
Harry frowned at her. "Well, it's a shopping day for muggles."
"Really? How odd. No, what I meant is that we have to spend the day wearing, at most, a pair of boxers."
Harry quirked a grin. "I may be ignorant of many wizarding customs, but I know better than that one."
Daphne pouted. Tracey, sitting at the small desk in the room, laughed.
Daphne rolled out of bed, gave an exaggerated series of yawns and stretches and then pranced into the bathroom. Within an instant, the sound of running water began.
"This shower's going to be a lot longer than yesterday," Tracey observed. "She can spend half an hour in there, easily."
"You're kidding me."
"Nope," Tracey replied. "Remember, I've roomed with her for six and a half years."
Harry laughed quietly before he pulled his Defense text out of the trunk and settled on the bed to read.
"May I ask a question?" Tracey asked some time later.
Harry turned his head and smirked at her. "You just did."
She rolled her eyes. "You know what I meant."
Summoning his most pompous tone, he said, "I permit you to ask your question, dear lady."
"In the eyes of the law, my dear Master, I'm not longer a lady; but I digress. What are your intentions towards us?" Tracey asked.
"In what way?" Harry responded uneasily.
"Do you intend to consummate our marriages?" she asked bluntly.
"Did Daphne set you up to ask that?" he asked with a frown.
Tracey snorted. "No, Master, I'm capable of thinking about things all on my own."
"I'm sorry; that was out of line," Harry said. "Uh, no, I don't intend to. Consummate the marriages, that is. I don't have to, do I?"
"No, Harry, you don't," Tracey said pointedly. "Might I ask why?"
Harry was silent for a while, frowning at the wall. "It seems too much like rape, I guess," he said finally.
"Rape assumes lack of consent; I assure you that Daphne is quite willing."
"If you call me to your bed, I will give you my best efforts, Master," Tracey said, looking straight into Harry's eyes.
"And that's the problem," Harry said with a sigh. "I assure you that on the abstract level, I like girls, and I think both of you are beautiful, nice girls - gorgeous, really. But neither of you can say 'no' to me, and I can't live with that. For 'yes' to mean anything, you have to be free to say 'no'. If I give in to Daphne's advances, then I'm no better than Malfoy, am I?"
"In that case, I think we need to arrange separate beds."
"Don't think you can hold out much longer?" Harry asked with a grin.
"As desirable as I may find you, I assure you that my self-control is in good shape," she said dryly. "On the other hand, I don't know how much longer you can keep playing with fire every night, sleeping next to a very determined, very naked chattel-wife."
In an apparent change of topic, Tracey said. "You do know that we can wear clothes to bed now?"
"You can?" Harry asked.
"The starkers thing only applied to our wedding night."
"But last night…"
"Last night I thought you were still keeping your options open," Tracey explained simply.
"Oh," Harry replied as the implications sunk in.
The bathroom door opened with a cloud of steam, admitting a towel covered
Daphne to the bedroom. After giving Harry a blinding smile, she walked over to the dresser. "Can I ask you a question?" she said, frowning at Harry's clothes.
"You just did," Harry repeated mechanically, his eyes bobbling as Daphne dropped her towel.
"Why do you wear such wretched clothing when you're not in school robes?" Daphne asked. "I heard the numbers from that goblin the other day, which, despite what you seemed to think, sounded about right. The Potters were never filthy rich, but you can certainly afford some casual clothes of some kind."
Harry's expression darkened, his anger burning through the fog his hormones were casting over his mind. "My aunt and uncle gave me Dudley's old clothes. Once I had something else to wear, something that actually fit, I was happy with that."
Daphne winced after pulling her shirt on. "Sorry, I should've remembered."
"Well, at least that gives us something to do today," Tracey said.
Harry looked at her with a raised eyebrow.
"We can all go shopping."
Both girls laughed at the horror-struck look plastered on Harry's face.
"See? This isn't so painful, is it?" Tracey asked him later in a soft voice.
It was, in fact, not entirely unpleasant. Shopping for himself was a novel experience, even with two teasing girls giving advice all the way through.
Not that he was going to admit that.
"I've spent worse mornings. In the hospital wing having the bones in my arm regrown for instance."
Daphne rolled her eyes and pointed to a small storefront. "Last place, Master. Eduardo is kind of expensive, but his styles are very good. He can also do muggle-style clothes, which I expect you'll feel most comfortable with."
Harry obligingly entered the store, ignoring the half-dozen reporters standing nearby and shouting questions. He looked around at the store layout, seeing something that would not look out of place in the muggle world. The only two differences were the wizarding clothing styles and that the interior size was larger than the space between the neighboring stores. Magic was wonderful.
"Dee!" A wizard rushed from a back room and engulfed Daphne in a quick hug. He was a slender, tall figure, wearing a loose-fitting shirt and trousers in a subtle but magically sparkling material. Daphne returned his hug with a resigned look on her face. "You won't believe the story I heard about you!" the man prattled on.
"That I got married two days ago?"
"You read it, too?" he stepped back to arm's length without releasing her.
"Yes, I did, Eduardo, and it really happened."
The wizard's face took a stern mien. "Is he treating you well? He's not too demanding of you, is he?"
Harry grinned at the irony.
Even Daphne smiled. "No, he's not too demanding. Not demanding enough, actually."
"The cad!" Eduardo exclaimed melodramatically. "How dare he deny you!"
"You do know who we're talking about, right?"
Eduardo waved one hand dismissively. "Bah! I don't care if he's now your husband. I don't care if he's the Boy Who Lived. He is to treat you right, no matter who he is."
"He does, Eduardo. Don't worry about me." She looked over at Harry and grinned. "And I'll wear down his resistance sooner or later."
Eduardo turned to Harry and folded his arms, glaring as menacingly as possible. "You treat Dee right. I've known her since she was a little thing and you will do right by her!"
Harry felt one eyebrow crawl upward at the obvious ire of the not very intimidating wizard. "I'll do my best, but this whole thing wasn't my idea, you know."
"I know, I know. The whole duel against that little Malfoy cretin. Still, you treat her right or you will answer to me!" he said, brandishing a gleaming pair of scissors.
Harry inclined his head, inwardly amused by the man's attempted threat.
Eduardo gave a sharp nod. "Good. Now, why did you come to see Eduardo? You need more clothes?"
Daphne shook her head. "Harry does."
The tailor looked Harry up and down professionally. "Dark colors, simple designs." He pulled a tape measure from his pocket and started measuring every dimension on Harry's body.
Tracey and Daphne watched the next few minutes in amusement as Harry was directed to raise and lower his arms, turn around, and bend in various directions.
At one point Harry cleared his throat. "I didn't realize that measuring me for clothing was such a . . . hands-on job. I may have to get a tape measure for my wife."
Eduardo looked up from measuring his inseam, smiling innocently. "Well if little Dee doesn't attract your attention . . ."
Harry glowered as the girls burst into laughter
As the three entered their room in the Leaky Cauldron, Tracey let out an exaggerated breath. "Vultures."
Harry laughed, removing the shrunken bags from his pockets and enlarging them. "Welcome to my life," he intoned ironically, referring to the media frenzy created by the three of them walking down Diagon Alley.
Tracey just let loose a nearly sub-sonic growl.
Harry's grin remained in place for a moment before it melted into a look of confusion. "What I don't get is all the looks we got."
"The range of expressions, I guess. Some people didn't seem at all phased by us, some were angry, and some confused. Well, I guess I can understand the confused ones as I'm still confused by it all, but why are some people fine and some not?"
"I think I can answer that, if you're actually interested," Tracey offered. At his nod, she said, "The neutral and dark pure or fullbloods don't think this is at all odd. The light purebloods are upset that a Potter has chattel. Probably think the vaunted Boy Who Lived is turning dark. The muggleborn and those who don't know the whole story are angry. The ones who didn't read the article are confused at not recognizing the two girls with you."
Harry sorted through that in his mind for several seconds before he concluded that she was probably right.
Daphne pulled one small box out. "Master?"
"How many times -" Harry started in a resigned tone.
"As I did something that you may be angry about, I feel it is appropriate," Daphne whispered.
Harry's eyes focused intently on her. "What did you do that I may be angry about?"
"I used your money for something that you didn't pick out."
He relaxed, face falling into a look of confusion. "I've told you that you're allowed to ask for things you want or need," he reminded her.
She twitched. "I did not want or need this."
Harry's brow furrowed further. "Then why did you buy it? Come to that, how did you buy it?" he wondered, remembering that as chattel they were not allowed to have money of their own.
"I slipped it into a pile of things you were buying."
"Okay, what was it?"
She extended the small box to him. "Happy Christmas, Master." She smiled hesitantly.
Harry stared at the box for a few seconds before a small smile appeared. Without taking it, he said, "You didn't need to do anything."
She shrugged. "You got us some things for Christmas. Besides, I know you need this."
Curious, he took the box and opened it to reveal a tasteful wristwatch.
When he spent several seconds just staring at it, Daphne started speaking, "I couldn't decide what style you may want, so I got a plain one. I mean, if you wanted something more elaborate, you could exchange it, of course. For that matter, you could just return it completely if you wanted to, My Lord." She firmly closed her mouth, realizing that she was babbling.
With a soft smile, he looked up at her. "I love it, Daphne. Thank you."
She visibly relaxed.
"Told you," Tracey lightly teased her sister-wife from her seat at the desk.
Daphne shot her a foul look. "You could've helped."
The other girl shrugged, unconcerned.
"I'm glad you like it, Harry," Daphne said.
After fastening it around his wrist, he pulled the standing girl into a hug, followed by a hug to the seated girl. Smiling happily, Harry flopped onto the bed.
Daphne sat on the bed. "So what's the plan for the rest of today? Studying? Reading? Orgy?" She batted her eyes theatrically as Tracey groaned loudly.
Harry sighed and gave her a tolerant smirk. "I need to do some training. I've been lazy."
"Yeah, well, you got married two days ago and yesterday was Christmas."
Harry's face fell. "Voldemort's not taking the day off," he muttered, referring to the headlines, beating out their marriage, of a series of Death Eater attacks resulting in dozens of muggle deaths and two wizards needing time in St. Mungo's.
"While you're out, can we go somewhere?"
Tracey leveled a glare at him.
"Okay, I'm supposed to ask - no, demand - to know where and why, aren't I?"
"You're learning," Tracey praised him blandly.
"Fine. Explain to me why I should let you two miscreants out without adult supervision."
Both girls laughed at his over-the-top stern tone. "Because I can definitely make it worth your while, and we're both older than you?" Daphne offered.
Harry rolled his eyes and then waited for a real answer.
"We promise to behave. And if you're not here . . ." Tracey trailed off.
Harry nodded. "Where did you want to go?"
"The Dursley's," Tracey answered.
Harry's eyebrow shot up. "Why?" he asked curiously.
"I've never seen a walrus or a giraffe, and I figure that it's cheaper than the zoo."
Harry laughed, but it was a bit forced. "No, seriously, why?"
Tracey chewed her lip. "I want to see them for myself."
"And this is a good opportunity for us to learn more about our husband," Daphne added.
Harry was silent for a few seconds. "You'll be careful?"
Both girls nodded so Harry moved back into the main area of the Leaky Cauldron with the girls in tow. "Tom, can I borrow your Floo?"
The proprietor looked up from the Prophet and waved a hand in invitation. "Ye already know where the powder is, Mr. Potter."
Harry nodded. "Thanks." He tossed a pinch of the powder into the fireplace and said, "Arabella Figg!" Taking a deep breath, he stuck his head into the fire. After a moment of vertigo, the scene stabilized with a view of old Mrs. Figg's living room. "Mrs. Figg?" he called out again.
A clatter of pans from the direction of the kitchen provided his immediate answer.
From upstairs and from two different doorways, some of Mrs. Figg's cats, which he now knew were actually kneazles, came streaking into the room to stare at his floating head. All three of them cocked their heads curiously but none made any fuss about his appearance.
Not getting any kind of warning from her guardians, Mrs. Figg came tottering into the room, looking toward the fireplace. "Harry! Heavens, child, you gave me a fright. I hear that congratulations are in order?"
Harry smiled slightly, fighting the wince at yet another reminder that the Daily Prophet made a spectacle in his wedding announcement.
Figg continued on, "Neither of the girls are . . . in the family way, are they?" she asked delicately.
Now Harry did frown. In addition to the announcement itself, the Daily Prophet printed some wild speculation as to the 'why'. "Mrs. Figg, I read the Prophet article, too. The three of us did get married, that is true. The reason was to rescue them from becoming the slaves of Malfoy and his thugs. Neither of them is expecting."
She blushed and looked down uncomfortably. "I'm sorry for asking, Harry, but you must understand that the announcement was unexpected."
He nodded, relaxing just a bit.
"As is this Floo call," she went on more briskly. "What can the crazy cat lady of Wisteria Walk do for you?"
Harry laughed. "Now that I know why you were like you were, you're hardly crazy, Mrs. Figg."
"Thank you, dear." She smiled at him but still looked at him expectantly.
"I was hoping you'd let Tracey and Daphne through and point out Number Four to them," Harry went on, getting to the point.
She frowned. "I can do that," she answered carefully, "but that is kind of dangerous."
"For the girls or the Dursleys?" Harry asked blandly.
Figg barked out a laugh completely unlike her batty persona. "Both," she admitted with a lingering grin.
"They want to meet my family," Harry explained with a shrug.
She nodded slowly. "Very well. Send them through. The address is 'Wisteria Walk'." She blinked. "But if you're speaking with me, you already knew that."
Hiding his confusion - that is not what he called out to contact her - Harry nodded and pulled his head back out. He stood and said, "Mrs. Figg is a squib that lives close by. She was sent by Dumbledore to keep an eye over me while growing up. She's read the article, apparently," he said with a grimace of distaste. "Anyway, she'll point out the Dursley house to you. Her Floo is 'Wisteria Walk'." He held up the urn of Floo powder. "Be careful," Harry finished.
Nodding, the two girls Floo'd out. Frowning at the again-orange fire, Harry slowly put the pot of floo powder back on the mantle. He just hoped his wives would survive the visit with his "relatives". No, he was not worried for their physical well-being. He was hoping their opinion of him would not suffer. On the other side of the coin, he also hoped they would not end up in prison.
"I now know why those girls signed in the way they did," Tom said to Harry. When the younger wizard turned, he continued, "I've been reading the Prophet for years, Mr. Potter. I don't know the real reason you married those two lasses, but I don't for a moment believe all the gossip."
Harry relaxed. "Thank you, Tom. I could write a letter to the editor explaining it was to save them from slavery to the Malfoys, I suppose."
"Is that what it was? Good job, lad. At any rate, I'll do what I can to quash the rumors."
"Thanks, but don't put yourself out for me." With a final smile, Harry turned and headed toward the stairs and his room. He barely heard Tom's response.
"The truth is worth the effort, innit?"
Tracey appeared at Mrs. Figg's house to find the elderly squib peering closely at her and Daphne. "Thank you for letting us use your Floo," Tracey cautiously said, unnerved by scrutiny.
Mrs. Figg nodded as her face relaxed. "Think nothing of it, dear.
"Now, I'm to point you to Number Four. Before you go, what do you know of the Dursleys?"
Both girls frowned. "Some," Daphne said. "Harry has told us some things about them."
Not surprised at the reaction, Mrs. Figg said, "Harry's aunt is Petunia Evans-Dursley. Her husband is Vernon, and their son is Dudley, though he may or may not be in at this time of day."
"If his parents are home, where else would he be on Boxing Day?" Tracey asked blankly. Holidays were for family, weren't they?
Figg scowled. "Those boys . . . Let's just say that he's the leader of the local gang and leave it at that, shall we?" Without waiting for a reaction, she pointed out the picture window. "Down to the corner, turn left, two streets, turn left again, and it's the third house on the right. Will you be apparating out from there, or should I expect you back?"
"We'll Apparate from there," Tracey said, looking at the old minder. "May I ask you a question?"
"You had to know what Harry went through growing up."
Figg abruptly sat down. A pale face looked down at hands that were suddenly turning over themselves. "Yes," she admitted in a quiet voice. "I had some idea that dear Harry was . . . mistreated."
"Why didn't you do anything?" Daphne asked in a tight tone.
"I couldn't!" Figg burst out, startling both girls with her sudden vehemence. "If I brought the authorities into it, I'd only get them obliviated, and the Dursleys would take it out on that poor boy later." She took a shuddering breath and leaned forward, wrinkled hands covering her face. "So I did what I could," she said sadly. "I became the batty old lady who would mind young Harry for free. I kept some of the neighborhood gossips from digging too far into Harry's situation." Her hands came down, and she looked through her tears at the two girls in front of her. "I am not proud that I couldn't help that dear boy, but my hands were tied."
"Getting the muggle aurors involved wouldn't have helped?" Daphne asked.
Figg slowly shook her head. "Getting the bobbies or child protective services would only have run the risk of Malfoy and the Death Eaters finding out where he was hiding."
The girls frowned at each other.
"To my dying day, I will wish that I could help that young man more than I did. The Good Lord knows I spent a decade trying to figure out how."
Tracey stepped forward and laid a hand upon the elder woman's shoulder. "That can't have been pleasant. For what it's worth, I thank you for trying, Mrs. Figg."
She smiled mistily up at the younger woman. "Thank you, dear." She stood and made for the door. "Now, you remember the directions I gave?" Both girls nodded.
Figg paused with her hand on the doorknob. "I don't know what to believe about the Prophet, so I will believe Harry when he says he did it to rescue you from that family of lying French goatherds." She leveled a stare at both witches. "That boy has had a tough life. You two be good to him."
The girls nodded solemnly.
Smile blossoming, Mrs. Figg said, "And at least one of you come back here after . . . speaking with the Dursleys. I have some things I wish to send to Harry for Christmas."
"You don't have to -"
Figg waved a hand, cutting Daphne off. "I want to.
"Do either of you cook?" she then asked in an abrupt change of topic.
"I do," Tracey hesitantly volunteered.
"Good," Figg said simply. "You come back after your visit." She then opened the door and ushered the two girls out.
Standing on Mrs. Figg's front stoop, Daphne looked at Tracey for a moment before flipping the hood of her cloak up. "That was . . . odd."
"Harry said she acted like a crazy old woman," Tracey agreed.
Tracey shared a glance with her companion before pressing the doorbell of a house that was a particularly dull shade of beige.
Thunderous footsteps approached before the door was yanked open. "What?" Vernon Dursley demanded, gaze alternating from one hooded girl to the other.
"May we come in, Mr. Dursley?" Daphne asked quietly.
His face clouded over. "You're some of those freaks, aren't you? I thought we were through with that when the boy left during the summer."
"Would you like to discuss this here, or shall we go inside?" Daphne asked reasonably.
"Unless you're here to tell me the little freak died, I don't want to hear it," Dursley growled, moving to close the door.
Tracey stopped it from closing by wedging her foot in the way. She pulled out her wand such that Vernon could see it, but not anyone from the outside. "Mr. Dursley, we've asked nicely. If you continue to be obstinate, we will make you listen to us. Do you understand me?" she asked flatly.
Grumbling about overbearing freaks, Dursley pulled the door back open. The girls entered, and he immediately slammed the door closed. Spinning in place, he loudly said, "Now see here -" He abruptly stopped as he had to go nearly cross-eyed to look at the glowing tip of the wand hovering right in front of his face.
"I came here to meet the family of my new husband," Tracey said with icy calm. "I was hoping to find some redeeming feature in my in-laws, despite Harry's stories. It's already becoming painfully apparent that I was naively optimistic."
Dudley Dursley ponderously came down the steps and stopped as he spotted Daphne's slim hands lowering her hood. His eyes never made it as far as his father being held at wand point. "Hey, Dad, who's the babe?"
Daphne rolled her eyes. "He forgot to mention that they don't know the meaning of 'tact', either," she commented to Tracey. Turning back to the obese boy, she said, "I am your cousin by marriage, Daphne Potter nee Greengrass."
"But this freak said she was married to the boy," Vernon objected.
"I'm married to Harry, yes," Tracey agreed.
"But she said she was," Vernon said, swiveling his attention to Tracey.
"Yes, I am," Daphne said.
"Wait, you're married to the freak?" Dudley asked incredulously in delayed comprehension.
"Is English your first language?" Tracey asked the boy snidely as she stepped away from Vernon and tucked her wand into a pocket.
"And you're freaks like him?" Dudley went on.
"Are we sure that our Master is related to him?" Daphne asked Tracey, ignoring the question.
"I'm beginning to wonder."
"You're both married to the Potter boy?"
"You finally figured it out, did you? Bravo," Tracey said sarcastically and with an eye-roll.
"Is that legal?" Dudley asked, openly ogling Daphne.
"In our world? Clearly," Daphne drawled, feeling soiled by the look she was receiving.
"You're both knocked up, aren't you?" Vernon said gleefully. "That's the only explanation on why you two and your parents would agree to something that idiotic."
The girls shared a mutual look of confusion. "Knocked up?"
"You know: bun in the oven," Dudley said.
At their continued blank look, Vernon rolled his eyes. "Pregnant. Your kind do become pregnant, don't you?" he asked acidly.
Tracey sighed. "Morgana! Why does everyone assume we're pregnant when they hear that we got married?" She turned a disgusted look at Vernon. "And yes, witches and wizards have children just like you muggles do." She shot a sideways glance at Dudley. "Well, not like you, so much."
"Hey," Dudley objected with a confused look on his face.
"If you're not carrying Potter's devil spawn, then why'd you marry him?" Vernon asked in clear confusion.
"Oh, it was all very romantic," Daphne said. "He fought a duel in front of the school to win us and everything. We got engaged six days ago and married Christmas Eve."
"You can't possibly love a freak like him," Dudley objected.
Daphne shook her head to the Dursleys' continuing confusion. "No, not yet. I am, however, deeply in lust over him. I hope to bear at least three of his children."
Dudley stared at her, slack-jawed. He clearly could not comprehend what he was hearing.
Vernon made a disgusted noise and gave Daphne a look of utter loathing. Turning to Tracey, he asked, "And you?"
"Me?" A slow, languid smirk formed on Tracey's face. "I'm just using him for the mind-blowing sex."
"That was fun," Tracey said cheerfully as they entered Mrs. Figg's home.
"Did you have a good visit?" Figg asked ironically as she shut the door behind the two girls.
Tracey grimaced. "You didn't tell us they were so revolting."
Figg shrugged. "Would you have believed me if I told you about them?"
"True," Daphne admitted with a frown. "How Harry can get out of that environment and still be as . . . as good as he is, I'll never understand."
"Me neither, dearie, me neither.
"Now, however, I have something to give you two." She turned and picked up a card that was on the end table near the door. She presented it to Tracey. "Here's a recipe for the treacle tart that I know Harry likes."
Tracey blinked once then smiled slightly at the peace offering. "Thank you," she said honestly, taking the card.
Figg smiled timidly. "He was always such a sweet boy when I had to mind him. I know he didn't enjoy looking through my albums, but he put a good face on it. In exchange, I gave him sweets while he was over here." She waved at the card Tracey held. "That is the one he likes best. Oh, and he doesn't like walnuts. Just letting you know so you can tell your elf, if you three have one, or when you're planning meals for him. Though he's a decent cook himself, you know."
"No, I didn't," Tracey said with an encouraging look.
"Oh, yes," Figg said, settling herself into a chair near the fireplace and waving the girls onto the couch. "No real creativity to his meals, of course, but that's the way the Dursleys trained him." She frowned in distaste at the thought before shaking her head again. "He's a good boy. Always willing to help out with anything I asked whenever he was over. Why I remember one time -"
Figg continued on for quite awhile, reminiscing on the times Harry had visited. Tracey and Daphne paid attention, finally getting the kinds of details from his batty squib neighbor that they had originally gone to his family to learn.
Finally, some two hours later, Figg glanced at the clock. "Merciful heavens! I've been chattering up a storm for hours. I'm terribly sorry for keeping you two for so long. Let me get some things for you to take with you, and I'll let you be on your way."
"The stories and the recipe are more than enough," Tracey tried to demure.
"Not that," Figg disagreed. "I mean for the kneazle."
Tracey glanced in confusion over at Daphne only to find a kneazle curled up in the other girl's lap and fast asleep.
"Oh, I couldn't take one of your -"
Figg waved one hand irritably. "Nonsense. Kneazles are very good judges of character, and she has clearly attached herself to you." She bustled into the kitchen and came back into the front room quickly, handing a couple bowls and a few days worth of food to Tracey. "I can give you a litter box, but Magical Menagerie carries better options than anything I could find here in the muggle world." She turned to the now-awake white and black kneazle still sitting in Daphne's lap. "Now you behave yourself, you hear me? Both Mrs. Potters seem to be good witches, and I know their master is a good man. So you be a good familiar to them, you understand me?"
The kneazle stood and gave a firm meow, bumping her head into Mrs. Figg's hand.
She smiled fondly down at the highly intelligent magical feline before looking up at the girls. "Now go on home and give your husband a hug for me." She gave them an exaggerated wink. "Anything more than that is up to you two."
"She did what?" Harry asked in amusement as he absently ran a hand down the kneazle's back to its clear pleasure.
"Told us stories about your formative years, gave me a recipe for treacle tart, and then just gave us the kneazle."
Harry laughed. "She remembered I liked that treacle tart, did she?" he asked fondly.
"Harry, you're missing the point. She gave us a very expensive animal."
Harry looked down at the feline who was doing a credible imitation of a boneless mass while purring loudly. "I heard that she raises them, so it's not surprising that she has a bunch. I also found out that she'd set several to keep watch over me while I was there at Privet Drive." Giving the kneazle a scratch between the ears, he asked, "Were you one of my guardians?"
The kneazle opened one eye and let out a chirruping kind of a noise before closing the eye again.
Harry laughed, and the girls blinked in surprise.
"So," Harry went on, transferring his attention back to his wives, "how did your visit with the Dursleys go?"
Both girls grimaced.
With a bemused grin, Harry asked, "I'm not going to get in trouble for anything you two did there, am I?"
"Oh, we didn't do anything to them," Tracey said with a wave.
"Pity," Harry observed idly, turning his attention back to the animal.
"Hey, what is this kneazle's name?"
Both girls blinked at each other. "Er, she never did tell us."
Harry smirked. "Not really surprising, I guess. After all, she always told me their names were Mr. Tibbles and Snowball and other such things."
"Exactly," Harry agreed. He looked down, pondering.
The kneazle looked up at him, fixing him with her eyes.
"Dawn?" Harry asked.
"Why Dawn?" Daphne asked.
Harry gestured between the three of them. "Rather the start of a new chapter in our lives, isn't it?"
Tracey let out a grunt of amusement. "Quite." She thought for a moment. "Genesis?"
The kneazle gave a loud sneeze and shook her head violently.
Daphne laughed. "I don't think she likes that one. How about Aurora? That's Latin for 'Dawn'. Do you like that one?" she asked the kneazle.
The animal thought about it for a few seconds before repeating her chirruping noise.
"Aurora it is, then," Harry said with a grin. He gently put the kneazle down and then stood. "So, I guess we need to go get some supplies for you, huh, Aurora?"
The next evening, Tracey brought up something that had been bothering her. "Master?"
"Hmm?" Harry asked, looking up from his essay. The way she chose to address him told him that this was going to be a serious discussion.
"After everything you've told us about your destiny, I'm still confused on how exactly Dumbledore expects you to defeat Riddle."
Harry sighed and carefully put his quill down. "I don't know."
The girls stared at him. "You don't know?"
Harry shook his head and shrugged. "You already know that he spent most of the past three years ignoring me, other than showing up at the Ministry to rescue some of us. After telling me the prophecy, he's left me to my own devices." Harry frowned. "A little assistance in learning would've been nice, but he's not done anything, even hiring reasonable Defense professors."
"What, he thinks a standard Hogwarts education will help you win?" Tracey's tone of utter disbelief matched her expression.
"I guess," Harry answered with another shrug. "I finally asked Fil for some instruction. He's been a great help."
"Your plan is to duel him?" Daphne demanded.
Tracey sighed. "How old are you?"
"Seventeen," he answered, giving her a strange look.
"And how old is Voldemort?"
"Seventy or so."
"How many of those years was he studying the Dark Arts?"
"Most of them. Look, I know I'm outclassed, Tracey. I don't like it, but I don't see a way around the problem."
"You need help."
"I know that! That's why I asked Fil for lessons on how to win a magical fight."
"That's good, but you need more help than that, Harry. You need allies. You need people to fight with you."
Harry's face closed down. "Leading my friends into the Ministry a year and a half ago didn't work out so well," he said sarcastically.
"You self-obsessed idiot!" Tracey raged. "Just because your friends got hurt, you now refuse to accept their help? How bloody arrogant are you, Potter?"
"What do you mean?" he asked, keeping a rein on his temper with difficulty.
"You think you can win on your own?" She went on without giving him a chance to reply. "If you go after him alone, you'll get killed, and you know it. What happens to everyone you're trying to protect once you're dead?"
Harry stayed silent, but he looked conflicted.
"We all get stomped under Voldemort's boot," Daphne answered the question.
"That's right," Tracey said. "Now, to stop that, you need to win. To win, you have to do several things. Obviously, you need training. You're getting that with Professor Flitwick. Fine. Next, you need help. Once school starts back up, you need to gather a few of your D.A. members together and train us into a small force that can help you in that final fight. Lastly, you need to convince yourself of something."
"What's that?" Harry asked curiously, no longer angry with Tracey's words.
"The winner is the person who walks away from the fight, no matter who plays fair."
Hermione tapped on the doorway to the train carriage the Potters were sitting in. Harry looked up from the book in his lap and waved her in.
"Thanks," Hermione said as she dragged her trunk into the room.
After Harry helped secure it, she dropped into the seat across from the three. "The platform is a madhouse."
Harry glanced out the window, giving an eloquent snort of disdain. "I'm sure you read that article Christmas morning. The press has been shadowing us ever since."
Hermione nodded sympathetically. "I can imagine. Did you three have a good break, all things considered?"
Harry smiled. "I did. I discovered that Tracey has a very talented mouth."
Tracey blushed and looked down demurely. Daphne smirked.
Hermione's jaw dropped open. "Uh, Harry? There are things about what the three of you get up to as husband and wives that I not only don't need to know but really don't want to know."
Harry looked at her innocently. "I meant her singing. What did you think I was talking about, Hermione?"
The bushy-haired witch glowered at him. Tracey stifled her laughter.
"Oh, very funny," Hermione finally conceded sarcastically and with a small grin. "To answer your earlier comment, yes I did read the Prophet articles. Just be thankful that Minister Bones managed to get at least some libel laws passed since taking office. If it weren't for that, they would have completely roasted you."
"Yeah, I know. Nobody even tried to ask us why this happened. They're just speculating."
"You could let Luna interview you for The Quibbler," Hermione suggested.
"If I may be so bold: it has worked before," Tracey offered.
"True," Harry agreed with a thoughtful nod. "Do you think it would be better if they interviewed me or one of you two?"
"All three of us," Daphne answered after several seconds of thought. "We can't speak without you present, but everyone will want to hear from us about how we're treated. You . . . well, you're still the Boy Who Lived."
"Which sells papers no matter what is said," Harry said in resignation.
"True," Hermione said with a sympathetic look. "Want me to talk with Luna?"
"Erm, maybe we should handle that," Harry temporized. "Nothing against you, but this is going to be about the Potters. If you are part of the process, that'll just confuse the situation."
Hermione nodded agreement at his explanation. "Just let me know if you need help with anything."
"Thanks for the offer, but we're going to have to start doing these things without your help, Hermione."
"If you're sure."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Yes, mum, I'm sure."
See, I can end a chapter without a cliffy. Happy?