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Litanie contre la Peur.

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Harry Potter was used to everything in his life going wrong. Having to live in a household where not saying "sir," meant a broken wrist or forearm and many, many, lashes across the back tended to plant seeds of pessimism in a person. But despite everything, Harry did his best to be a kind person, an act which had become extremely difficult for him to maintain. It wasn't often that Harry found himself by the Black Lake. His current situation had reminded an awful lot of his third year, except instead of Hagrid standing about knee-high in the cold water, it was him. Had that stupid piece of parchment with his name on it decided to just stay in that goblet, maybe he'd still be on speaking terms with his two supposed best friends. Harry would admit that part of the problem was his fault; instead of calming down, he had instantly resorted to antagonizing his friends, asking why they wouldn't just listen to him instead of trying to diffuse the situation to have a mature discussion on the problem.

Harry expected a reaction from his best mate when his name flew out from the goblet. Hermione, on the other hand, had blindsided him completely. Both of them had stuck beside him through thick and thin; through the Quirrell debacle, the Chamber of Secrets, even when he found out that an accused mass-murderer was his godfather. Yet when he's forcefully entered into some stupid tournament, that's when they decide to jump ship. He'd been replaying their argument over and over in his head for the past hour, and each time he could feel his jaw grow taut in anger.

"Honestly Harry, you can tell us why you put your name in," he hadn't put his name in anything.

"Just forget it, Hermione. He's a right prat, I'm tellin' ya," Harry scoffed at the memory. If anything Ron was the prat. Over and over, in perfect clarity, Harry could see Ron's betrayed glare, and Hermione's disappointed frown as the two walked away from him, leaving him to stand alone in the Gryffindor common room. With a resigned sigh, Harry skipped another rock across the shimmering face of the lake, watching it bounce four times before sinking into the dark depths.

He found an odd connotation in the feat, noticing the similarities of the smooth, sinking rock to his own life. Riding the highs for what felt like a few moments before inevitably sinking into some form of murky depression.

Harry grew a bittersweet smirk as he juggled his last rock with his free hand. Twisting his wrist, Harry leaned down to skip the final rock, mimicking the act three times as he prepared to release it.

"One… two… thr-"

"Potter."

Harry froze mid-swing, his shoulders tensing ever so slightly before he turned around. Locking eyes with a pair of pine green eyes that were many shades darker than his own, and long golden hair that reached his visitor's shoulders. Her lips were in a neutral line and her hands were professionally interlocked across her stomach. Raking his mind, Harry recognized the girl as a Slytherin in his year.

"Er, hello. It's… Daphne? Daphne Greengrass, right?" Harry watched the girl's lips curl into a small, practiced smile; nodding her head ever so slightly.

"That's right, I'm surprised you know," walking out of the lake, Harry bent to roll his pant legs back down, casting a quick-drying charm onto his feet to not soil his socks. As Harry thought about it, he too was surprised he remembered the Slytherin girl's name. As far back as he could think, the only interactions he had had with the girl were simple pleasantries; you're average thank you's and excuse me's. Standing back up, Harry presented his own pleasant smile, rubbing the back of his neck bashfully as he let out a small chuckle.

"To be fair, I'm a little surprised myself, I think this is the longest conversation we've had to date," Daphne hid her giggle behind her hand in a posh manner, stifling her laughter the best she could.

"Yes well, Gryffindors and Slytherins are sworn to be enemies, no?" Harry frowned at the comment, taking a tentative step backward as his hand twitched for his wand. Daphne rolled her eyes at the action, grinning ever so slightly as she took a step towards Harry.

"Relax, Potter. If I wanted to hex you, I'd have done it when you weren't facing me," Harry's frown deepened, but he conceded regardless. She had a point.

"Care to tell me why you're here then?" Harry asked. He eyed Daphne with a calculating gaze as he began walking passed her. Daphne quickly fell into stride beside him, matching his pace perfectly as she continued looking forward.

"That's simple, I wish to help you throughout the tournament," Harry nearly tripped over as the words left Daphne's mouth, the Slytherin in question smirking impishly as she watched Harry out of the corner of her eye. Quickly correcting himself, Harry cleared his throat. His cheeks held a light dusting of pink at his near misstep.

"I… I see, and why would you want to do that?" Harry watched as Daphne's impish smile faltered, disappointment and a small fraction of annoyance etching their way onto her normally impassive features.

"Am I not allowed to? Potter?" Harry tensed at her tone, up until now it held no form of malice. Clearing his throat again, Harry wrung his hands nervously.

"N-No, quite the opposite! I'd appreciate the help, all things considered," Harry did his best to smile, but his face contorted into an awkward combination of a grimace and frown.

"All things considered, you say?" Daphne's eyebrow quirked up in confusion, her cold features showing the smallest hint of intrigue. Harry shrugged at the look.

"Hermione, Ron, and I had a… a bit of a falling out recently," Daphne let out a hum, nodding her head in an understanding manner as her brows furrowed faintly.

"Yes, the Weasle and the muggle-born," Harry could only nod his head in confirmation, even if the less than appealing nickname of his red-haired companion was uttered. "Fed up with your antics, I presume?"

"What?" Harry could barely stop the bite of annoyance that coated his question. Daphne seemed to notice, as she peered at Harry through the corner of her eyes, her lips once again taking the form of her impish smile.

"I'm only kidding, Potter," Harry visibly relaxed, although his exasperated expression remained present. Daphne rolled her eyes at his expression.

"If it's any consolation, I believe you," now that threw Harry for a loop. His feet seemed to freeze underneath him as he suddenly stood rigid. His eyes went wide in confusion as his mouth flew agape. Harry assumed he resembled a fish out of water. "What?"

Daphne let out a chuckle as she paused to look at him, once again raising her hand to cover her mouth.

"Transfigure yourself into a parrot, Potter? I said I believe you. Anyone with a semblance of common sense would as well," Daphne spoke as if her declaration was the most obvious piece of information in the world. Crossing her arms over her chest, Daphne looked at Harry with an amused smirk, her left eyebrow raised in a much similar way. Harry's confused frown merely grew.

Rolling her eyes, Daphne took a few steps closer, staying within an arm's reach of Harry. Grinning wildly, she uncrossed her arms and poked her temple. "Unlike others, I chose to look at past experiences. Unless you have the observational skills of a troll, it's pretty clear to me you hate the spotlight, why would you throw yourself right into it?"

Harry had to give the girl credit, her hypothesis made sense. He just wished other people could see what she saw.

"Well, t-thank you. It means more to me than you think," Harry could feel his confused frown curl up into a smile. A rather big one at that. Daphne's impish smile also became much softer and caring as well.

"I can imagine. It's not every day your whole scho-"

"Daffy!"

Harry noticed the blonde girl go nearly rigid as what he assumed was a nickname was called out farther down the long hallway they stood in. Daphne turned around slowly as if she were confronting a bear, Harry merely followed his companion's gaze, hearing the girl beside him mutter "oh god," under her breath.

A girl was running, well stomping, towards them. She had hair akin to Hermione's but was wavy instead of bushy. Her skin was a darker, coffee with milk sort of color and her eyes burned with a fierce amber shade. The longer Harry watched the girl march towards him, he started to notice some of the finer details of her. Like the black slouchy beanie that sat atop her head that somehow managed to compliment her school robes well and the red ball lollipop, she kept flicking between her teeth with her tongue.

"Daphne Greengrass, you slimy, two-timing, son of a- oh," The girl's escapade froze as she finally noticed Harry, the boy offering a small wave and a meek hello in response.

Daphne let out a huff as she crossed her arms, closing her eyes as if to control her emotions before sending a sharp glare to the new arrival.

"I suppose you two meeting each other would be inevitable, but this happened much quicker than I initially thought," Daphne grumbled out. With a defeated sigh and a small pout, Daphne gestured loosely to the dark-skinned girl standing near her.

"Harry, this is Tra-"

"Tracey Davis! The one and only friend of one, Daphne Greengrass!" Daphne let out another huff once Tracey finished. The blonde girl pouting, while her dark-haired friend shot out a hand for Harry to shake, smiling wildly as she did so. Daphne seemed to shake her head before looking back up at Harry.

"As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted. Harry, this is my one, and only friend, Tracey Davis. Tracey, I'm sure you can figure this one out for yourself, I'd be rather ashamed if you didn't," The last bit of her sentence came out in a jumbled mess, a comment Daphne wanted to keep to herself. Tracey either didn't hear or didn't pay any mind to the comment, as she simply kept her arm extended, shaking it ever so slightly as if to urge Harry to shake it.

Letting out a small laugh, Harry grabbed Tracey's hand with a firm grip, shaking it once while giving the girl a polite smile.

"Pleasure meeting you, Tracey," the girl in question merely grinned in response, taking her lollipop out of her mouth to point it at him; the ruby red color of the lollipop matched the nail polish Tracey decided to wear that day.

"Pleasures all mine, Wonder Boy," Tracey mimicked that wand motions of the levitation charm with her lollipop before placing back into her mouth, shifting her gaze from Harry over to Daphne with both an amused and teasing glint in her eyes. Daphne seemed to recognize the look, as her shoulders immediately tensed as she stared wide-eyed at her friend.

"Must we do this now?" Harry tried to suppress the grin that formed. Whatever conversation Daphne was about to have, she dreaded it. Tracey paid her friend's pleading tone no mind.

"Oh, but of course my pureblood princess," Tracey wasted no time in wrapping her arm around her friend's, giving Harry a warm smile as she started pulling her friend farther down the hallway.

"We'll be back in a jiffy," With a mock salute, Tracey all but dragged her blonde haired friend further down the stone hallway the trio stood in. Harry noticed the two girls stop only a few meters away from him, he rose an eyebrow curiously but decided against moving from his spot, leaning against a nearby pillar for support.

"Why didn't you tell me you were out talking with Harry Potter!?" Tracey's voice came out in an excited whisper. Her attempts at secrecy were for naught, however, as Harry could easily hear her rather a loud proclamation. Eyeing them carefully, Harry watched Daphne practically pry Tracey's arm off of her elbow; pushing it towards her friend with an undignified groan.

"It's a rather recent development," Daphne's voice was much quieter than her friend's, her attempts at confidentiality starting much better than Tracey's.

"You mean this isn't the first time!?" Tracey was bouncing on the balls of her feet, shaking joyfully as her smile threatened to tear her cheeks in half.

"That's not what I meant! You already knew I was going to offer my assistance with the tournament!" Daphne sent a sharp glare towards her friend, crossing her arms over her chest.

"Okay, but I don't know why! You just said 'I'll help him,' in that pissy tone of yours!" Tracey's impersonation was very crude, but it didn't stop the small snort that escaped Harry. Sending an almost bashful expression his way, Daphne grabbed Tracey's elbowed and pulled her close with a sharp tug.

"Would you quiet down! He can probably hear us you ignorant gnome," Daphne's insult held close to no bite to it, a fact that Tracey grinned wildly at.

"Oh, you don't mean that," Tracey shrugged Daphne's arm off of her's, turning to walk back over to Harry before Daphne once again spun her around.

"Keep spouting nonsense, and I'll transfigure you into one," Once again shoving Tracey's arm away, Daphne sent one last glare towards her friend - earning two raised hands to signal surrender - before walking back over to Harry, a scowl masking her face. Harry couldn't help but smirk at the interaction, pushing himself off the pillar he leaned upon.

"Friends, you say?" Harry couldn't stop the joke from leaving his lips, earning a scowl and an almost inaudible growl from Daphne.

"Shut it, Potter," While her words were meant to be intimidating, her voice didn't convey her angry look; she sounded embarrassed. "Just let me know when you have a clue for the first task."

Quickly walking passed him, Daphne mumbled something that sounded like "always embarrassing me," before disappearing around a nearby corner. Harry shook his head in amusement; hearing the distinct popping of a lollipop being removed from a mouth, he turned to face a smiling Tracey.

"You'll get used to it," With a pat on the back, Tracey offered a cheeky smile. With the stick of her lollipop jutting out of the corner of her mouth, Tracey stuffed her hands in the pockets of her robes.

"Should we expect you around the Slytherin table from now on?" Harry didn't notice the sudden change of scenery as both he and Tracey started subconsciously making their way back towards the great hall. Harry grimaced at the question.

"I don't think that'd be the greatest idea. Don't suppose Malfoy cares for my presence any more than usual," Harry did his best to keep his tone lighthearted, but the smallest inklings of annoyance were still audibly present. Tracey scoffed at Harry's qualms, dismissively flipping her hand.

"We don't care for the ferret anymore than you do. No, you'll sit with the two of us of course," Tracey beamed at the prospect, her tongue still tossing her lollipop throughout her mouth.

"You two sit alone?" Harry looked at the girl with a curious frown. Tracey shrugged at the question, looking at Harry through the corner of her eyes as they continued to walk.

"Daffy's always been a bit of a wallflower unless she's at one of those dreadfully boring business parties, and the rest of the house doesn't necessarily care for me since I'm a…"

"Muggle-born?" Tracey shook her head, causing Harry's eyebrow to raise in questioning.

"Half-blood," she clarified, biting down onto her lollipop with a definite crunch. "What made you think muggle-born?"

Harry could feel his cheeks warm slightly. Rubbing the back of his neck, he focused his gaze on the hallway in front of them.

"W-Well, when you called Daphne 'Daffy', it reminded me of-"

"The duck." The two finished the sentence together. Tracey gave Harry a small smile as the boy turned to face her with an amused look.

"Mum insisted I watch cartoons as a kid. When I met Daphne in our first year," Tracey shrugged as she and Harry stopped just outside of the entrance to the great hall. "Seemed only fitting."

Turning her body to face Harry completely, Tracey offered her companion a lollipop. Harry tentatively grabbed it, unwrapping the sweet before placing it in his mouth. Tracey gave him another smile.

"I can already tell we're gonna be good friends, Wonder Boy," placing her hand on his shoulder, Tracey gave Harry a slight shake.

Harry smiled at the girl's optimism, pushing the door beside them open for them. Smiling her thanks, Tracey walked into the great hall and towards the Slytherin table, waving behind her in the process. Harry's smile remained plastered as he walked in the opposite direction towards the Gryffindor table, not offering Ron or Hermione a glance as he passed them. Ron's scowl and Hermione's frown stayed present as he sat down in front of Neville Longbottom. Looking up at the sudden presence, Neville gave Harry a shy, but kind smile as his housemate sat down.

"H-Hey, Harry. Where'd you get the lolly?" Harry simply smiled as he started filling his plate with food.

"A friend."

Chapter Text

He sat in an endless void; nothing but the familiar cold emptiness encompassing him. It was quiet; peaceful yet terrifying. He sat alone.

Alone.

Such a funny word, he thought, no one truly knew what it meant to be alone. They all thought they did: Losing a loved one, having no friends, stuck in an endless ocean with no help. No, they weren't alone. They still had other living things with them.

But here, with no sound, no light, no life. Yes.

He was truly alone.

And it scared him.


"Meet me outside your dorms at nine. Don't be late."

Daphne stood in a daze in the middle of the busy hallway. Harry had grabbed her arm - rather roughly she might add - as the two passed by each other; Harry walking with Neville while she had been with Tracey. Despite being rather annoyed that Harry had ordered her around, she nodded. Giving her a small smile, Harry let go of his grip on his arm and turned around to continue walking with his dorm mate, the taller boy giving Harry a peculiar look before falling into stride beside him. Daphne noticed Tracey giving her a similar look, her friend twirling a lollipop around in her mouth in a miffed way.

It had been three days since Daphne presented her offer to Harry and even though both of them were rather incommunicado throughout the days, Daphne was already buzzing with excitement. She didn't show it openly for all of her classmates to see, but her consistent smile tipped Tracey off to her joyous attitude. Tracey herself had become easily excitable in return, skipping down the hallways while humming uplifting tunes to herself. Their elation was so prominent, that both Daphne and Tracey found it hard to concentrate during class, much to the displeasure of their professors.

By eight o'clock, Daphne had begun pacing in the Slytherin common room, biting her nails nervously. Tracey sat on one of the many couches nearby, watching her friend walk back and forth with an exasperated expression.

"Daffy, Harry's probably done this a million times, just calm down," Daphne shot a glare towards her friend, spitting out the nail she had chewed off.

"Calm down? We're most likely going to be out after curfew. What if we get caught?" Daphne asked, her voice ripe with apprehension. Tracey rolled her eyes, taking her lollipop out of her mouth to point it at Daphne.

"Caught smaught, Harry's gotta have some way to keep us hidden," Placing her lollipop back in her mouth, Tracey leaned against the arm of the chair she sat on, pressing her cheek into her hand as she continued to watch her friend panic. She could barely contain her giggle of amusement.

"Merlin, forbid I fear to disappoint our head of house," Daphne choked out between clenched teeth, her scowl deepening as she sent a disappointed look, Tracey's way.

Rolling her eyes at the expression, Tracey slid her head off of her palm and onto the arm of the chair she sat on. Watching Daphne walk in circles, Tracey lazily followed her path with her eyes, a pout forming with each passing second. It was with a sudden jolt that Daphne stopped her movements.

"Wait… you said, us," Daphne's mouth flew open as she whipped her head to the side to look at Tracey, her eyes widening to the size of saucers as Tracey pushed herself up off the couch.

"Well yeah, I'm coming with you guys," Tracey's eyebrow rose, her expression daring Daphne to say otherwise.

"No… no, absolutely not!" Daphne turned her body to face Tracey, crossing her arms over her chest. Tracey let out a sound of protest, her jaw going slack at the proclamation.

"Why not!?" Tracey mimicked Daphne's posture, crossing her arms and eyeing Daphne with a scrutinizing gaze. Her blonde friend let out a low growl at the question.

"Because Harry told me to meet him tonight. Not you, not us, me," Daphne kept her voice as stern as possible, poking herself in the chest to help solidify her claim. Tracey let out a whine of disapproval. "We don't need your loud mouth to get us into detention!"

"Oh come on, Daffy! That's hardly fair! I have just as big a part in this as you," Tracey let out a huff as she plopped back down onto the common room couch, letting herself sink into the cushions.

Daphne let out a choked noise at Tracey's declaration. "Hardly fair?! I'm the one who's going to be helping him, you're just tagging along for the ride!"

Tracey seemed to wince at Daphne's assertion, her eyes suddenly becoming downcast as her bottom lip trembled ever so slightly. Daphne noticed her friend's state. Taking a handful of deep breaths to calm herself down, Daphne placed a hand on Tracey's shoulder.

"Tracey," Daphne started gently. "I'm not saying you're stupid or have no right to help Harry, I'm simply stating that I'm the one who offered my assistance, not you."

Tracey's forlorn look turned more into a cartoonish pout once Daphne finished. Turning her head to the side, Tracey muttered out a soft "I know," while nibbling softly on her lollipop.

While not looking at her best friend, Tracey conjured an endless amount of plans to secure her place in Harry and Daphne's nighttime escapade, Daphne herself merely shook her head. Tracey's pout fell away as she scrunched her nose in concentration, ignoring Daphne's questioning look as a myriad of schemes flew through her mind. One stuck out in particular, however. Suppressing a snicker and grin, Tracey put her plan into action.

Letting out an overly dramatic sigh, Tracey leaned against the arm of the common room couch, resting her cheek in her palm. "Fine, I'll stay here while you show Wonder Boy your broom closet techniques." She gestured flippantly with her hand as Daphne let out a relieved sigh, a small smile gracing her features.

"Thank you, now I nee -" As Tracey's statement registered fully in Daphne's ears, the blonde-haired witch turned beet red, her smile faltering as her jaw unhinged itself. Her eyes widened in embarrassment as she stared mortified at her best friend. "Tracey!"

"Hook," Tracey bit down on her lollipop in victory, just barely repressing her laughter. Standing up quickly, Tracey made a show of walking up to Daphne, putting her hands on her friend's shoulders, and pushing her to the entrance of the Slytherin house.

"Don't let me stop you, Daffy! Now go have fun!" Tracey's growing smile was one of pure delight. The sight of her best friend turning beet red and stammering added to every sliver of amusement in Tracey. "Line."

"Tracey what are you talking about!? This probably has to do with the tournament! Not… not… that!" Daphne tried prying the smiling Tracey off of her, failing with each step she was forced to take. Tracey's smile turned into a mischievous grin as she grabbed Daphne's wrists, pulling her close to look directly into her friend's pine green eyes.

"I'll believe it when I see it," Daphne's eyes became even wider and Tracey's declaration, her brown-haired friend grinning devilishly towards her. "And sinker."

Biting her lip anxiously, Daphne peered up into her friend's amber eyes, mentally fighting herself to make a decision. It was after five minutes that Daphne let out a groan of defeat, Tracey shouting in victory right after. Muttering out a "fine," Daphne watched as Tracey cheered and jumped around the common room. The brown-haired girl raced back up into her dorm-room, returning moments later with her black beanie held tight in her grip. Daphne let out a sigh at the sight of the article of clothing.

"Do you really need that hat?" Daphne frowned as Tracey placed her beanie on her head, tearing the wrapping off of a fresh lollipop and placing the blue raspberry flavored treat into her mouth.

"I'll have you know, that this hat is a part of my identity," Tracey smiled proudly as she started walking towards the Slytherin house door. Patting Daphne on the shoulder, she gave her best friend an innocent look. "Now, it'd be rude to leave our guest waiting, no?"

Opening the dormitory door, Tracey quickly turned back around, her merciless grin still plastered on her face. "Five sickles says he doesn't mind me being there."

All Daphne could manage was a dejected sigh.


A shiver ran up Daphne's spine as she stood idly in the hallway just outside her dormitory, the urge to rub her arms with her hands grew stronger by the minute. Despite the extra layers she wore, the cold wisps of Hogwarts still caused her muscles to stiffen and her bones to shake. Glancing at Tracey, Daphne questioned how her friend was seemingly unaffected by the temperature. Tracey was standing next to her, lollipop still hanging from her mouth as she rocked back and forth on her feet idly.

"How are you n-not c-cold?" Daphne asked through chattering teeth, her entire body was almost vibrating to keep itself warm.

Tracey gave Daphne an incredulous look, her eyebrow-raising as she removed her lollipop from her mouth with a distinct pop.

"A warming charm? The ones we learned in our second year?" Tracey couldn't contain the tone of amusement that coated her voice as her lips quirked up into a smirk.

"S-Shut up, you know I've always b-been rubbish at those Miss. I'm letting my friend freeze to death, " Daphne gave Tracey a sharp glare, daring the girl to say something about the subject. Tracey merely snickered in response, placing her lollipop back in her mouth as if she hadn't said a word.

"Rubbish at warming charms you say?" Daphne let out a shriek of surprise at the new voice, clamping her hand over her mouth just as quickly afterward. Chancing a glance to her best friend, Daphne noticed that Tracey was just as surprised if her wide amber eyes were anything to go off of.

Turning around cautiously, Daphne was met by the grinning form of Harry. His eyes were glistening with mischief while his shoulders shook with mirth. Daphne rolled her eyes at the boy while letting out a sigh; no longer shaking from the cold, she crossed her arms over her chest.

"Now that we're all here. Potter, what exactly are we doing?" Harry's roguish smile dropped in an instant as he took two glances down both sides of the hallway the trio stood in.

"I'll explain on the way to Hagrid's," Harry's eyes flickered over to Tracey, the girl in question giving a small wave and smile. As his eyes moved back over to Daphne, he raised an eyebrow in questioning.

"I see we have a tag along?" Harry's lips turned up in a skittish smile, giving Daphne a curious expression as she huffed out a breath.

"I'm sorry about her, she used some rather… dirty methods to get here," Harry raised his eyebrow at her before turning his attention to Tracey. Following his gaze, Daphne saw Tracey smiling warmly as if nothing happened, still rocking on her feet while twirling her little lollipop with her tongue.

"What counts as dirty methods?" Harry asked as he worked his way in between the two girls, not bothering to respond to their questioning glances. Turning to focus on Daphne, he found the girl wringing her hands nervously as a light dusting of pink colored her cheeks.

"She… she was… insinuating that we were meeting up in… in rather unsavory locations, among other things," not bothering to look at Harry after her explanation, Daphne barely had the time to see his confused frown.

"What exactly does that mean?" Harry looked between the two girls. Confused at the contrast of their expressions. Daphne appeared embarrassed while Tracey had an almost delinquent like shine in her eyes. Tracey took the opportunity to turn to Harry, smiling impishly as she took her lollipop out of her mouth.

"Basically, under a span of five minutes. I both guilt-tripped and tricked Daffy here to bring me along," Tracey grinned proudly, sticking her lollipop into the corner of her mouth while puffing her chest out in pride. Harry however, just looked at her with the same confused frown. Tracey in turn rolled her eyes at his naivety.

"I guilt-tripped her by making her claim that I wasn't worthy of helping you, and tricked her by accusing you two of heading out for a good snog, forcing her to bring me along so I could be proven wrong," Tracey has been so proud of making Harry turn a shade of scarlet that she had hardly noticed the thin veil that had begun to cover the trio.

"That wasn't tricking me, you merely made a false accusation and forced me to present evidence to deny that claim," Daphne's once bashful tone gained a much sharper edge to it as she leaned over Harry's arms to glare at her best friend.

Tracey shrunk in on herself as she scoffed, sending her own glare towards Daphne as she mumbled out "whatever, just let me have this win."

Harry shook his head in bewilderment as he began to lead the two girls down the winding hallways of Hogwarts, wondering if he had chosen the right people to help him.


"'Ello Harry!"

It had taken all of about twenty-five minutes for the trio to reach Hagrid's hut, Tracey and Daphne asking questions and bickering the whole way through. Harry had to remind them to be quiet more times than either of them would care to admit, but arriving to see Hagrid waving jovially had made up for the lack-luster trip.

"Hello Hagrid, hope you don't mind but I brought some company."

"Nonsense! I knew you'd bring Ron an' Hermione, jus' as long as yer gonna stay quiet," Hagrid's beetle-like eyes squinted, nearly being encompassed completely by his bushy hair. "Where are ya hidin' em?"

Harry gave a weak smile, gesturing with his hand for the occupants of his invisibility cloak to come out into the open. "I… brought some others instead."

Daphne gave Hagrid an uneasy smile while Tracey was practically bouncing with excitement, hopping on the balls of her feet while her lollipop shifted between the corners of her mouth.

Tracey let out a cheerful "Hello, Professor!" As Hagrid stared at the three gobsmacked, his eyes going wide before he quickly put on a smile.

"Miss Davis an' Miss Greengrass! Well ain' this a surprise!" Hagrid's normally chipper tone was plagued with an underlying feeling of worry and concern. He eyed Harry carefully as he fiddled with his bow tie.

"You two arn' plannin' to corrupt poor 'Arry here now are ya?" Genuine concern caused his joking tone to fall flat, Hagrid's beetle-like eyes flicking between the two girls cautiously.

Tracey snorted at the question, shaking her head in amusement while Daphne gave Hagrid a hurt look. Harry looked at his companions, giving them a contrite smile.

"Don't worry Hagrid, they're trustworthy," Harry patted the half-giant on the arm, putting on a much warmer smile than the one he gave Tracey and Daphne. Hagrid gave the girls another once-over, noticing Daphne's downcast look, he let out a guilt-ridden sigh.

"Sorry 'bout that, girls. Just, Harry an' I… well neither of us 'ave had the best experiences with yer house," Hagrid shook his head once before straightening up quickly, fixing the sleeves of the suit he wore. "Right, off ta business then. Put yer cloak on an' follow me, quietly now."

Harry was quick to toss the cloak back over the shoulders of his associates and himself, the trio quickly falling into a rhythmic stride. Chancing a look to his left, Harry saw Tracey shaking in excitement; a wide grin had split her face as she bounced on her toes. Harry could practically feel the joy radiating off of the girl. Letting out a bubbly cackle, Tracey was quick to turn her attention to Harry. Her eyes were as round as dinner plates, and Harry feared her cheeks would be torn in two if her smile continued to grow.

"What do you think it's gonna be!? Oh, there are so many possibilities!" Tracey let out a squeal as Daphne tried desperately to hush her friend.

"Would you quiet down? This is exactly what I feared would happen!" Daphne said with a harsh whisper, trying to swat Tracey's arm over Harry, much to his displeasure. Tracey scrunched her nose as she gave Daphne a lukewarm glare.

"Sorry," Sarcasm oozed from the word. Daphne scowled at her friend, her teeth baring in annoyance. Tracey stuck her tongue out in a childish manner.

"You should be! Every time you get excited you start making these… these obnoxious noises, we're going to be cau-"

Harry abruptly stopped walking, giving both girls a heated look as his lips pursed.

"If you don't stop bickering, neither of you will be excited as I drag you back to your bloody dorm rooms," Harry said. Both girls paled at his growl, their cheeks pinking in embarrassment.

Tracey muttered a genuine "sorry," this time while Daphne just looked away in shame. Harry seemed to blanch at his own words, his eyes flickering between the two girls fearfully as if he were expecting something to happen. When nothing occurred, Harry let out a tentative breath before he continued walking, letting his steps quicken to catch up with Hagrid. An awkward silence surrounded the three as they walked deeper within the forbidden forest. As they reached a clearing, a thick French accent cut through the silence.

"Ils sont magnifiques," Harry's eyes widened at the voice.

"That's Beauxbatons headmistress, Olympe Maxime," Daphne mumbled under her breath, looking at the two beside her in confusion. Harry nodded at her assessment, his lips tightening once more.

Harry followed the trail of voices to a second large clearing, Hagrid stood off to the side with Olympe, the two of them admiring something off in the distance. Following their gazes, Harry, Daphne, and Tracey all blanched at the sight.

Dragons.

"D-Dragons?" Tracey managed to stutter out, placing a hand over her slack jaw, the stick of her trademark confectionary dangling haphazardly out of her mouth. Daphne and Harry bore similar looks.

"Seventh years or not; fighting a dragon is practically suicide!" Daphne gave Harry a panicked look, her eyes ballooning out rapidly. Harry reigned in his emotions, clearing his throat he tugged on the sleeves of the girls' respective sweaters.

"Then we better start planning," Bending over, Harry picked up a rock and tossed it at Hagrid. The half-giant jumped at the impact, turning around to see Harry giving him a wave, announcing his departure. With a stiff nod, Hagrid once again focused his attention on the reptilian creatures, Olympe at his side.

"How the hell are you supposed to fight a dragon?" Tracey mumbled quietly, gnawing nervously on her lollipop, eventually breaking it with a loud crack.

"Never mind that for now, let's just focus on sneaking you two back to your dormitory." Harry adjusted his grip on the invisibility cloak, making sure all three occupants were safely under before starting their trek back to the school.

The walk back was quiet, unnervingly so. Whether it was out of uneasiness or a mutually agreed silence, the three students didn't know. Tracey had fiddled with her candy, letting her eyes wander about the forest. Daphne held her hands in front of her, interlocking then in front of her navel as she looked down at the ground. Harry was the first to break the silence, taking in a deep breath as they neared the edge of the forest.

"I'm sorry I lost my temper at you two, you didn't deserve it," Harry's apology came out quietly, just barely being above a whisper. Daphne and Tracey shared a confused glance, both girls oblivious as to why Harry was apologizing.

Tracey placed a soft hand on Harry's shoulders, not missing the way he tensed at the contact. Gazing curiously at his face, Tracey noticed Harry's jaw grow taut, seemingly preparing himself to be shouted at or ridiculed.

"Harry," Tracey's normally boisterous tone came out much softer than normal. Harry looked up at Tracey warily, his jaw was still tense. "It's okay. What you said was justified, we were being rather…"

"Childish," Daphne finished for her friend. Looking down at the ground in defeat. Another bout of silence encompassed the trio, none of them quite knowing what to say as they snuck through one of the many secret doors the Weasley twins had shown Harry in his third year.

Clearing his throat, Harry began. "We have just under three weeks until the first task, I suppose we should start discussing where and when we'll be meeting up."

Daphne's defeated frown was quickly washed away by a look of determination; placing a hand under her chin, Daphne began listing off possible options.

"Tomorrow is Saturday, we could meet up at the library around noon to talk about this in more detail," Daphne gave Harry a raised eyebrow. When he gave a curt nod in response, she smiled softly.

"Why don't you just eat lunch with us? Ya know, talk and eat at the same time," Tracey suggested as the trio stopped just outside of the Slytherin dormitories in the dungeons. Both Harry and Daphne gave her a gobsmacked expression in response, earning a confused "what?" From the brown-haired girl.

"That might not be the best idea, Tracey," Daphne said. Tracey pouted at the remark, crossing her arms indignantly.

"And why's that? Oh, wise one," Tracey raised an eyebrow at the two, tapping a finger on her elbow impatiently. To her surprise, it was Harry who answered.

"We don't need the Hogwarts rumor mill to start up just because I'm sitting with you guys. If we can keep quiet about this," Daphne gave Tracey a very scrutinizing glare at Harry's words. "Then we should be able to work without any distractions."

Tracey rolled her eyes at the two, letting out a huff as she unwrapped a fresh lollipop from her pant pocket, placing the confection in her mouth before speaking again.

"People are gonna find out eventually, might as well just rip the band-aid off," Tracey's crossed arms unfolded as she shrugged, dragging her lollipop out of her mouth with a pop in the process. Eyeing Harry and Daphne curiously, Tracey was pleasantly surprised when Harry nodded his head to the side with a surprised smile.

"band-aid?" Daphne's muttered question was barely audible to her two companions, the blonde-haired witch looking down at the ground with a confused pout.

"Muggle thing," the two answered in sync, Tracey gave Harry a pleased grin. Seeing Harry barely paying attention to her caused a small ripple of annoyance to flare within Tracey's head.

"She has a point," Harry mumbled. Another few minutes passed in silence before Harry let out a sigh. "Looks like I'll be eating with you two tomorrow."

Tracey cheered silently, pumping her fist at her side in victory before grabbing Daphne's elbow as if she were about to drag her somewhere. Daphne shook her arm free, frowning at her friend before turning to enter the Slytherin dorm password. Tracey cocked her head to the side as she waved goodbye to Harry.

"See ya tomorrow, Wonder Boy."

With a curt nod, Harry wrapped his invisibility cloak back around his shoulders, making his way back to the Gryffindor dormitories in the dead of night. Tracey lost sight of him before she had even finished closing the door to the Slytherin house. Turning around, Tracey was met with a bewildered frown.

"What's wrong?" Tracey asked as she cocked an eyebrow up, watching as her best friend opened and closed her mouth repeatedly.

"You never told Harry where our dorms were, right?" Tracey thought about the question, her nose curling upwards in thought. After a few minutes, she shook her head. Daphne gave her a curious look.

"Are you sure?" Daphne's hands clasped together in front of her, her thumbs twiddling anxiously.

Tracey nodded her head this time, but her confused frown made her less confident in her answer. "Positive, why?"

Daphne's gaze fell to the floor, her mouth opening and closing repeatedly as she mumbled incoherent sentences to herself. Tracey's glower deepened.

"Daffy quit mumbling like an idiot," Tracey said quickly, earning a sharp glare from Daphne as she stopped her incessant muttering. Taking a breath, Daphne stared Tracey down with a steely gaze.

"If neither of us directed him, how did Harry know where the dorms were?"


True to his word, the next day at lunch, Harry sat beside Daphne at the Slytherin table at lunch; Tracey sitting in front of the two.

"Afternoon," he said cheerfully, already filling his plate with the various food items prepared by the Hogwarts elves. Being so preoccupied with the dunes of cuisine, Harry didn't notice the two girls sending fiery glares his way.

Looking up, Harry locked eyes with a miffed Tracey. He knew that look, he was well versed in its known intention. Harry's eyes bulged ever so slightly as his jaw tensed. His fingers curled around the edge of the table they sat at, his fingers going white from the pressure put upon them. Chancing a look in Daphne's direction, Harry was met with an equally as daunting look.

"What?" he asked quietly, slowly curling in on himself as the girls stared at him.

Daphne placed her cutlery down gently before turning her body fully in Harry's direction, her scowl not faltering for a second. Leaning in close, Daphne poked a finger into Harry's chest. Watching him recoil so drastically caused Daphne's glare to falter; Tracey's had vanished completely, the lollipop obsessed witch now looking at Harry with a worried curiosity.

"Care to explain how you know the location of the Slytherin dorms?" Daphne growled out, not missing the way Harry winced away from her. Watching the boy act the way he did, made Daphne regret her choice of tone. Harry took a few cautious glances down the great hall, swallowing large lumps of saliva each time he did so. Looking back at the girls with his still fearful expression, Harry swallowed one last time.

"Follow me," his voice was still as quiet as a mouse. Harry moved to stand up, only to be grabbed at the forearm by Daphne; her glare having faded, a look of worry replacing it.

"But you just got here, you haven't even eaten," The genuine concern that laced her voice threw Harry for a loop, his bulged eyes narrowing for mere seconds before he shook his head. Daphne swore she could hear the "wouldn't be the first time," he muttered under his breath. Shaking his arm free, Harry was quick to walk away from the Slytherin table.

Giving Tracey a wary look - only to earn a shrug in response - Daphne quickly ate the remaining items that sat on her plate. Standing up quickly enough that she nearly fell over the bench she once sat upon, Tracey not far behind her. By the time the two had started moving, Harry was already out in the main hallway, just outside the massive doors of the Great Hall. By the time the two had left the great hall, Harry was already rounding a corner into the next hallway.

Daphne cursed under her breath, grabbing Tracey's forearm - earning a disgruntled "hey!" in the process - to force her best friend to match her speed. Weaving through the hallways and students, muttering sorries and apologies when they needed to, Tracey and Daphne caught up to Harry quickly. He stood near a doorway, his hand carefully pressed against the old oak. Jerking his head to the side, he motioned for the girls to follow him into the barren classroom.

Daphne dragged Tracey into the empty classroom with her, ignoring the bouts of protest that erupted from her friend.

The room was dark, sunlight entering in beams through the tall windows on either side, a light layer of dust flew through the air. Tracey had been constantly murmuring rude sentences up until now. Reaching into her pocket to grab a treat, - bubblegum this time, Harry noticed - Tracey gave Harry a comical pout.

"I was rather enjoying my lunch, Potter. This better be worth it," Tracey said curtly, tossing her bubblegum into her mouth. Harry gave her a small grin as he tipped his head to the side, furthering her annoyance.

"Are you always eating some form of candy?" The levity of his voice helped alleviate Tracey's anger, but her pout remained. To Harry's surprise, it was Daphne who answered his question.

Giving her friend a flippant gesture, Daphne explained. "She has a sweet tooth that rivals the Headmaster's, but that's beside the point."

Harry nodded his understanding, his gaze falling downwards to the cobble flooring. Harry seemed to lose himself in thought, leaving two bewildered Slytherins in his wake. He paced around the room in silence, his chin cupped in his left hand as he thought about his problem.

"I didn't let myself get dragged in here to sit in silence, Wonder Boy," Tracey gave Harry an impatient look, blowing a large bubble that exploded with a loud pop.

Harry nodded again, stopping dead in his tracks to turn towards the two other occupants of the empty class. Taking in a quick breath, Harry stared down at the two girls with stony determination.

"Since we're going to be working together for the foreseeable future, I think it's only common sense to want to trust each other," Harry started, pulling three chairs out from behind the old wooden desks in the classroom, placing them in a triangle near the center of the room. Harry sat down in the chair at the apex of the shape, gesturing for Tracey and Daphne to choose one of the other two.

As the two girls sat down, Harry let a soft smile grow. He leaned back in his chair in a relaxed manner, crossing his arms over his chest.

"To accomplish this, I've created a rather foolhardy solution."

Tracey let out a loud snort, covering her mouth with her hand to try and stifle her laughter.

"I doubt you'd be in Gryffindor if you hadn't," she remarked, trying her hardest to contain her incessant chuckles. Harry merely gave her a soft smile.

"Right here, right now, I'll allow you to ask anything you want, and I'll answer truthfully," Daphne, who at first seemed both irritated and uninterested in the conversation, suddenly perked up. Snapping straight up in her seat, Daphne grew a wry grin.

"Anything, you say?" She asked, her eyes gleaming with mischief and a hint of intrigue. Harry gave her a nod in reply.

"Anything, no holds barred," He said, leaning forward so his elbows rested on his knees, watching the two girls just over the brim of his glasses. Daphne's humorless smile faded in an instant, being replaced with a cold and calculating mask of indifference.

"How do we know you won't outright lie, Potter?" Daphne asked, doubt lacing her voice like poison. Harry's warm smile shifted into a pleased grin, his eyes glossing over in pride.

"You'll have to trust me," Harry accentuated the keyword in his sentence, his grin widening.

Daphne could feel her lips quirk up into an amused smile. Harry was right, it was a rather foolhardy idea, but it did make a modicum of sense. She craned her neck to her left, looking at Tracey with a quirked eyebrow. Tracey held a similar look, blowing another bubble with her confection while shrugging. Daphne focused her attention on Harry once more. Straightening her posture, she gave a nod of approval. Harry's smile grew tenfold.

"Where do you want to start?"

Chapter Text

Everything. He told them everything . Even Harry was surprised by his own brutal honesty and was silently glad that the two girls he confided in didn’t bother asking about his home life. What happened in his first year with Quirrel came spilling out like some old folk tale; the stories about The Chamber of Secrets in his second year,  - including how he knew the location of the Slytherin dorms and his strange introduction to house-elves - were all shared with extreme depth; even how an accused mass-murderer was his god-father was explained. There were more than a couple of worried glances shared between Daphne and Tracey throughout. 

Hours passed by in what felt like fractions of seconds as Harry recounted his numerous tales; being sure to withhold as little information as possible. The trio sat in silence. Tracey, and Daphne trying their best to comprehend the vivid recollections that were shared while Harry leaned back to watch them; his mouth twitched in an amused manner on several occasions

“That’s... wow,” Tracey sat gobsmacked, her mouth flapping open and closed. Daphne was faring no better, her eyes were wide but her mouth was clamped shut in a tight line.

Harry chuckled at their reactions. “It’s quite a bit to take in isn’t it?” 

Both girls nodded dumbly at the question, their eyes focusing on Harry once again as they processed everything they had heard. Sitting in silence, the three students all stared at each other with an air of clarity around them. 

“We should probably apologize for the dorm room fiasco, shouldn’t we?” Tracey let out a dry chuckle as she turned to face Daphne. Her friend still sat wide-eyed, but she nodded her head nonetheless.

“I suppose we did over-react, an apology would seem most fitting,” Daphne said. Harry cocked an eyebrow up, his attempts to suppress a grin failing with each passing moment.

Suppose ?” Despite the evident levity in the question, Daphne shot an icy glare at Harry, receiving two hands raised in mock surrender from the boy; though his grin remained.

“Be grateful I’m apologizing, Potter, it rarely happens,” Tracey nodded at Daphne’s assertion, giving Harry a shrug.

“It’s true. It’s always ‘I suppose ’ this and ‘I guess’ that, with her,” Tracey rolled her eyes, but a small smile rested on her face. “So, we suppose we’re sorry.”

Harry smiled softly, shaking his head in amusement. Daphne’s scowl had since faded, a smile of her own resting on her face, her hands were folded in her lap. Looking up at the two girls, Harry’s smile grew wider. 

“I suppose I’ll accept your apology,” Harry quipped. The trio let out a chorus of chuckles. Once again, Harry noticed the duality between the two friends. 

Daphne’s laugh was soft and hidden behind a polite hand, while Tracey held her sides as she let out a large belly laugh, leaning back in her chair with her beanie threatening to fall off of her head. As the three calmed down, Tracey eyed Harry with a raised eyebrow.

“Speaking of over-reacting,” Tracey leaned forward in her chair, her lips quirked up into a smirk. “Harry here was quite scared by a couple of glares from two lovely little ladies back in the great hall. Don’t tell me the big, bad, Boy-Who-Lived, was scared of a few pointed looks now.” 

Harry’s resting smile faltered ever so slightly, his mouth instantly drying as he thought back to the moment. Remembering Daphne’s fierce gaze as she questioned him. The way her nose scrunched upwards, her eyes turning into thin slits as her lips turned into a tight ‘O’ shape. She looked a lot like Aunt Petunia at that moment, but with far more attractive features and not those of a horse. 

“Er, n-no… no, not scared. Just wasn’t expecting to be interrogated at noon is all,” Harry’s attempt at a joke fell flat, Tracey perking an eyebrow up at his explanation. Her grin widened as she leaned back in her chair. If Harry was uncomfortable with the situation, he didn’t show it. 

“Or he’s just good at hiding it,” Tracey snorted at the thought. What exactly was he supposed to hide?

Harry’s eyes flickered over to a nearby clock. His posture straightened in his chair expectantly, his eyes creasing in determination.

“We still have a few hours until our sudden disappearance would be considered suspicious, how about we start planning like we initially… well, planned?” Harry grinned, his hands gesturing towards Daphne.

Daphne’s once slightly joyful look contorted into a very cold and calculating mask, any hint of lighthearted-ness vanishing instantly as she put a hand to her chin. Tracey had taken a lollipop out of her pocket, unwrapping it to give an experimental lick before placing it on her tongue. Daphne crossed a leg over her knee, resting her hands on the top of her bent leg.

“Dragons are very territorial creatures, so I don’t think we’d be too far off to assume they’ll be protecting something,” Daphne surmised, raising an eyebrow in thought as she gave Harry a once-over. To her amusement, Harry met her raised eyebrow with a mirthful grin.

“If it is protecting something that you have to get… Well, It might seem simple,” Tracey stated, once Daphne’s attention was on her she continued. “But, what if you just tried distracting the thing?”

Daphne hummed in thought, giving both Harry and Tracey a ruminative look.

“It’s definitely simple, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Tracey gave herself a small smile, sinking further into her chair as she let Daphne ponder.

Tracey noticed all of Daphne’s little quirks as she raked her mind in thought, being her best friend for four years had made spotting them a cake-walk. She watched as Daphne flared her nostrils twice before craning her head to the left ever so slightly; shortly after, she began to nibble on her thumbnail, only to run it down the length of her right cheek. A decision had been made. 

Snapping her attention over to the boy in front of her, Daphne straightened herself in her seat.

“Potter, you’re a Parselmouth, correct?” The question caught Harry off guard. He let out a strange noise as he fumbled for an answer. Even being perfectly aware that the girls already knew didn’t stop Harry from his sputtering. 

Cursing himself mentally, Harry took a breath to steady himself. Staring down Daphne vehemently, Harry nodded. The eldest Greengrass daughter let a wry grin form on her face. Tracey, however, had a confused frown present, her lollipop stick jutting downwards from the corner of her mouth.

“Parselmouth…. that means you can talk to snakes right?” Tracey asked. Harry gave a stiff nod in confirmation. 

Tracey turned her head over to Daphne, her friend sitting serenely with her small grin still on her face. Tracey raised an eyebrow, crossing her arms over her chest as she gave Daphne a cynical look.

“What exactly do you plan on having him do, Daffy? Is he gonna ask the big dragon nicely for its treasure?” Tracey queried in an overly-cutesy voice, batting her eyelashes dramatically.

Daphne scoffed at the question as she rolled her eyes at her friend's antics. Mimicking her friend’s pose, Daphne crossed her arms.

“Of course not, that’s far too Gryffindor-ish,” Daphne looked over Harry, watching him squirm under her scrutinizing gaze gave Daphne a strange sense of satisfaction.

“Well, I am a Gryffindor,” Harry gave the two a lopsided grin as he shrugged. Daphne rolled her eyes at the remark but still held her small smile, it’s polite demeanor growing more mischievous by the second.

“Oh yes we know, far too much so, I say,” Harry gaped at Daphne in mock offense, putting a hand on his chest aggrievedly. The blonde-haired Slytherin only laughed softly, Tracey joining in soon after.

Flipping a small section of hair over her shoulder, Daphne eyed Harry with the same roguish shine from before.

“If we’re to win this, Potter, we’re going to win the Slytherin way,” Daphne leaned in close on her chair, her devilish grin stretching wide.

“By making someone else do all the dirty work, while you reap the rewards.”

——————————————————————————————————————————

The more Harry thought about Daphne’s plan, the wider his excited grin would grow. It wasn’t foolproof, but it did allow him to stay far from any real, immediate danger. 

“Well, as far away as you can get with an angry dragon on your arse,” Harry snorted at his own thought. Maybe he wasn’t as safe as he had initially thought. 

Only a few hours had passed since he split ways with Daphne and Tracey from the old, musty classroom. The former having left with a polite nod while the latter offered another one of her seemingly hundreds of lollipops before giving a small wave to skip away beside her best friend. Harry himself decided to let himself wander, finding his way to the seventh floor of the school by pure chance.

Harry smiled softly to himself as he walked. He was glad he met the two Slytherins. Daphne may have had her hard exterior of indifference and sarcasm, but she still held her friends - or friend - in high-regard; while Tracey reminded him of one of the Weasley twins; overly cheery and always making jokes, but having an honest amount of care for her friends. 

He didn’t know if they themselves considered him a friend, but offering to help him with the Triwizard Tournament definitely made them allies at the least in Harry’s books. Harry only prayed that Ron or Hermione would lay off questioning him about it, for the time being, the last thing he needed right now was them shouting about him talking to ‘Death Eaters in training.’ 

With a deep sigh, Harry rubbed his forehead. He knew it was an inevitability; him sitting with the two girls earlier today made sure of that. 

Reaching into his pocket, Harry pulled out the still neatly wrapped confection that Tracey had given him. He felt his lips twitch upwards into a small grin, the small treat helping to take his mind off of the coming storm. 

“Get it from a friend again?” 

Harry jumped at the sudden voice, his head whipping to his left to see the standing form of Neville. The taller boy's hand was gesturing loosely to the confection in his hand. Harry looked down at it then quickly looked back up at his friend.

“Yeah,” Harry answered simply, unwrapping the confection so he could place it on his tongue. Neville gave Harry a tentative nod. Moving to stand beside the boy as they began walking further down the hallway.

“Can you tell me who it is?” Neville asked. Harry thought about the question.

Harry mimicked Tracey’s quirk by tossing the lollipop around in his mouth. He knew he could trust Neville, he was one of his housemates who only disliked the Slytherins that were genuinely mean to him.

“Tracey Davis, she’s a Slytherin,” Harry replied with a shrug. To his surprise, Neville actually smiled.

“She’s nice,” Harry gave his friend a surprised look, as his eyebrows rose into messy bangs.

“You know her?” Harry asked, taking the lollipop out of his mouth so his words could become clearer. 

Neville shrugged at the question, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “Not personally, she was my partner in potions once.”

Harry let out an ‘ahh’ of understanding, placing his sweet back into his mouth.

“She actually got mad at Snape when he yelled at me for a mistake she made,” Neville said, his mouth quivering up into an amused smile. Harry chuckled at the statement.

He began imagining a gobsmacked Snape as Tracey stood in front of him; her hands clenched into fists as she gave him a sharp glare. Having seen firsthand the inklings of the small brunettes rage the day he first met her, Harry could already picture Tracey yelling vehemently before letting out a huff as she sat back down.

“How did you meet her?” Neville’s question knocked Harry out of his musings. 

Harry cast a quick glance his friend’s way, noticing the genuine curiosity in his expression, Harry confided his situation to his friend.

“Her best friend, Daphne Greengrass, offered to help me throughout the tournament. While we were talking in the hallway, Tracey sort of barged into the conversation,” Harry explained. Neville let out a snort of amusement.

“Sounds almost Gryffindor like,” Neville joked. Harry let out a boisterous laugh at the comment, grabbing his sides as the lollipop stick bounced up and down on his bottom lip.

“Well… she was cursing up a storm like, Finnigan, maybe the Hat put her in the wrong house,” The two let out another string of laughter as they continued to walk through the hallways. Once their laughter finally ceased, Harry looked over to Neville once more, his lingering smile an after-effect of his laughter. 

“So, what brings you to the seventh floor, Nev?” Harry asked. His friend seemed to pale at the question, his hands clasping together as he wrung them.

“J-Just going for a small walk, clearing my head and all  that, ya know?” Neville tried to give Harry a reassuring smile, but the nervousness in his voice betrayed his attempts at normalcy. Harry merely gave his friend a nod of understanding.

The two continued their walk, Harry sending the occasional glance Neville’s way. His friend’s hands were still being wrung together nervously; the pudgier boy’s lips were sucked in, he seemed to be in some sort of internal struggle. Harry thought better of questioning it, the semi-comfortable silence that rested between the two had offered Harry a small escape from his growing predicaments.

“H-Hey, Harry?” Neville asked meekly from Harry’s right. Harry turned his head to face the boy, giving his friend a curious look. Neville kept shifting his glance between Harry and his shoes.

“Something wrong?” Harry’s puzzled expression remained fixed on his face. When Neville didn’t answer, Harry could feel concern slowly start to seep into his veins. “Is it, Pansy? Is she stressing you out again? I swear if she -”

“No! No, nothing like t-that. It’s j-just…” Neville cut himself and Harry off, his hands shooting out in front of him to wave off Harry’s concern. Taking a deep breath, Neville eyed Harry with a steely gaze. “D-Do you need somewhere to train?” 

Harry’s worry faded away; being replaced quickly by confusion. Harry could feel his eyebrows crease together, his mind fumbling for an answer to Neville’s query.

“W-Well, I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to the thought of having somewhere to go,” Harry said as he rubbed the back of his neck with his hand. Neville nodded at his answer, gesturing with his head for Harry to follow them.

 Harry gave Neville a peculiar look as he followed the pudgy boy. Neville had a determined step, any previous nervousness completely vanishing as he led Harry to the left corridor of the seventh floor. Their trek through the endless twists and turns of Hogwarts had led them to a seemingly blank wall. Harry turned to look at Neville with a raised eyebrow.

Harry watched his housemate as he screwed his brows together in concentration, he took a few steps forward before pacing back and forth three times in front of it. As he took his place next to Harry once again, Neville watched the wall expectantly. Harry flicked his gaze between his friend and the wall rhythmically. 

“Neville, are you alr-“ the sounds of scraping stone cut Harry off. Whipping his head back to the wall, Harry watched as intricate designs etched their way onto the once blank wall. The stones sank inwards as a standard classroom door slowly started to form within the wall. 

Harry rolled his eyes. He should’ve expected something like this, he did go to a magical school after all. Harry followed Neville as his plumpish friend pushed open the newly formed door. As the two entered the newly formed room, Harry gaped at the expanses of the room.

The far end of the room was lined with training dummies of various sizes and builds; bookshelves lined either side, their tall and wide builds filled to the brim with a seemingly endless amount of books. Harry let his fingers run over the spines of some of the books as he read their titles. 

Compendium of Common Curses and Their Counter-Actions, The Dark Arts Outsmarted, Self-Defensive Spellwork . Harry could feel his eyes go wide at the titles he read. 

“Blimey… Neville, how the hell did you find this place?” Harry turned away from the bookshelf he stood in front of, looking at Neville with wide eyes. 

Neville stood fidgeting near the door, his eyes meeting everything but Harry’s bright green ones.

“B-By accident, really. M-Malfoy was being a prat one day.  W-When I was in front of this wall, I… I wished that I had someplace I could use to hide from him. I had p-paced in front of the wall three times; then next thing I knew, this giant door h-had formed. When I entered, there was a c-couch and everything,” despite his nervous stutter, there was an evident tone of joy in Neville’s voice. With his eyes still cast downwards, Neville quietly added. “It was my own personal little hideout.”

Harry stood stunned to the spot, his mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water. A thought suddenly occurred to him as Neville’s words completely registered in his ears. 

“This doesn’t look small or at all like a hideout, Neville,” Harry’s joke roused a small chuckle from his housemate. Harry grinned at the sound. “It looks like you’d prepare for a war in here.”

“I thought about a room where I could train, that’s why,” Neville stated, his nervousness washing away as he moved to stand closer to Harry near the bookshelf he had started rummaging through.

“So, whatever type of room I think of, I just pace three times in front of that wall and it’ll appear?” Harry asked. Neville could only offer a shrug in return. 

“Seems that way,” Neville said. Harry nodded as his eyes wandered the spacious room, taking in its finer details as he did so. 

“Do you mind if I tell Daphne and Tracey about this place?” Harry focused his attention on his housemate once more. The smaller boy fidgeted with his hands as he pondered over the question. After a few short seconds, Neville looked back up at harry.

“Go ahead, you guys are gonna need it more than me… hopefully,” Harry gave his friend a lopsided grin as he wrapped his arm around Neville’s shoulder, pulling the boy in for a cordial side hug. 

“I’ll keep it a secret from everyone else if you want,” Harry offered. He watched as Neville grew a small smile, the smaller boy wrapping his own arm around Harry’s shoulder to return to the friendly gesture.

“Thanks, Harry.”

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Potter! It’s nearly curfew, this better be worth it!”

Harry dragged Daphne and Tracey through the winding corridors of the seventh floor, leading the two by their wrists as he held them in a firm grip. Harry looked over his shoulder at the blonde Slytherin, giving her a lopsided grin. Looking over his other shoulder, Harry saw Tracey looking at him with an excited smile; the brunette hopping from foot to foot in excitement.

“Trust me! It is,” Harry said, his grin stretching with each fleeting moment.

Daphne gave him a hard glare, relenting in her struggles as she let Harry lead them to their unknown destination. Daphne watched as numerous doors and decorations passed by them in a flash, the flickering fires of the torches that lined the walls providing dim lighting. Looking over to her best friend, Daphne paled at the expectant look on Tracey’s face; the brunette was running just as fast as Harry, the two of them almost running side by side.

The trio stopped in front of a blank wall; Harry finally released his hold on the girls’ wrists. Daphne pulled her arm back with a sharp tug, rubbing the spot Harry had grabbed her.

“There are better ways to get a lady to follow you, Potter,” Daphne’s snide remark seemed to fly over his head, as Harry’s gaze was focused solely on the wall in front of them.

Daphne looked at the wall then back at Harry, the boy had closed his eyes in concentration. Daphne let out an unladylike snort, Tracey’s eyes darting to her friend in amusement at the noise.

“Finally gone loopy, have you?” Daphne joked; raising an eyebrow as her lips quirked up into a grin. She watched as Harry took a handful of steps forwards, pacing back and forth in front of the door three times before taking his place between herself and Tracey once more. 

Daphne surprised the urge to roll her eyes, settling on the act of crossing her arms over her chest as she watched the wall with indifferent eyes. As the jagged stone suddenly shifted, Daphne could feel her eyes bulge in surprise. Her arms dropped to her sides as intricate designs inscribed themselves into the wall as the stones shifted and sunk deeper in. Harry seemed to notice her astonished expression; if his delighted chuckle was anything to go off of that is.

Daphne continued to stay planted in her spot as a large oak door finally formed in the wall. Tracey all but bolted towards it, pushing it open with a fervor that Daphne has rarely seen. She could feel Harry tug lightly on her sleeve; turning to face him, he looked at her with a small smile, gesturing with his free hand in an ‘ after you ’ manner.

Daphne took her first few hesitant steps towards the door, her hand reaching out to push it open. Daphne watched as her slender fingers stretched out as she pressed her hand against the cold oak, putting some weight behind her push, Daphne heard the hinges creak in protest as she slowly walked into the room behind. Daphne could feel the air leave her lungs as she entered.

The far back wall housed a large fireplace, it’s embers glowing in the dim lighting as it warmed the two couches and coffee table that sat in front of it. The left wall had large bookshelves that reached the roof; filled with fiction and non-fiction books alike; large windows split the shelves into three equal segments. The right wall had various shelves, all containing various candies and sweets; Tracey stood in front of the shelves, her eyes wide as her mouth curled in happiness. Overall, the room had a very cozy feel, almost like a second common room specifically designed for the tree of them.

“Neville calls it the Room of Requirement,” Harry’s sudden voice sent a jolt through Daphne, making the girl jump on the spot. She spun around quickly, hoping to send a glare at the Gryffindor boy for scaring her, but only managing a gaping mouth. 

The amused grin that plastered his face only managed to irk her more. 

“Didn’t your parents ever teach you not to sneak up on someone?” The words left her mouth before she could stop them. Daphne’s eyes widened again, this time in horror rather than astonishment as she clasped a hand over her mouth as if to stop anymore more words from spilling out. 

The way his mirthful grin fell instantly and genuine hurt flushed over his features made Daphne’s heart, ache in an unusual way. 

How could I say that! To HIM no less!” Daphne bit her tongue, the metallic taste of blood causing her to wince at her own actions. She forced her gaze downwards, fidgeting nervously on the spot.

“I…” Daphne watched Harry’s shoes as he walked past her, not daring to look up only to meet an angered or sad expression. 

Daphne turned around slowly, looking up cautiously like a child who had just been seen with their hand in a cookie jar. Daphne saw Tracey shoot a confused glance her way, her gaze flicking between herself and Harry with a bewildered frown. Tracey dropped the handful of lollipops she had grabbed from the shelves into her pocket as she made her way over to Harry, sitting down beside him on one of the couches near the fireplace. Watching Tracey place a hand on Harry’s shoulder and whisper something into his ear made the ache in Daphne’s chest only increase.

Daphne wrapped a lock of her hair around her finger, walking over to one of the various bookshelves to browse through its selection. The awkward silence that enveloped the room did nothing to quell her worries. 

Daphne heard someone clear their throat, but didn’t bother to turn around, her gaze transfixed on the bookshelf in front of her as she let her finger roll over the spines of the books. 

“Neville showed me this room so we could plan and train in peace,” Hearing Harry’s attempts to hold a normal tone caused a frown to form on Daphne’s face. Her hands fell limply to her side as she surrendered to the act of turning around. 

Daphne was prepared to meet an angered sneer as she looked up. She mentally prepared herself for Harry to kick her out, to tell her that he didn’t want her help anymore; the thought pained her. The one time she dared to push herself outside of her comfort zone by offering her help to Harry was going to end all because of some stupid comment

But the order for her to leave never came, instead, Harry gave her his best attempt at a grin, a sight that did its best to soothe the growing spike of fear that built itself in Daphne. She tried her best to smile back but could feel her cheeks protest at the attempts.

Tracey looked between the two other occupants once again. The tension in the room made her uneasy; fidgety if you will. Suddenly standing up. Tracey put on a look of determination.

“Right, I’m gonna stop by the loo while you two figure out… whatever this awkwardness is” She announced, quickly walking towards the large oak doors that lead out to the hallways. The creaking hinges cut through the silence like a knife, only to be rebuffed by the thud of the doors closing.

Once again, it was quiet. 

Daphne looked over at Harry, her eyes meeting the back of his head, his attention solely on the crackling fireplace in the center wall. She was tempted to stay silent, to return to her musings near the bookshelf until this whole thing blew over; if it ever did.

Daphne shook her head, she couldn’t do that. No, she actually needed to apologize this time. Daphne piled together all the Gryffindor courage her mother had told her she had in her chest in the form of a steady breath. Daphne took tentative steps towards the couch Harry sat on. Slowly sitting down, Daphne expected Harry to turn around to face her; whether it be because of the sudden shift of the couch or because of some other factor, Daphne didn’t really care. 

Daphne could feel her resolve crack when he didn’t move. Daphne noticed Harry’s hands clasped together in his lap, and with a shaky breath, she reached out. She recoiled once; mentally cursing herself for putting herself in this position before she cautiously pushed through his clasped hands. She could see Harry look down at his hand in confusion as she slowly interlocked their fingers together, his gaze flickering over to her face in confusion. 

“I…” Daphne started. She bit down on her bottom lip apprehensively, her eyes not daring to meet Harry’s. Taking another deep breath, Daphne steadied herself.“I’m sorry for what I said. It was rude and uncalled for.”

Daphne didn’t raise her head to meet Harry’s. Shame and embarrassment nearly caused her to hastily relinquish her hold on his hand as she spoke. She still expected him to shrug off her apology; to cast her out and forget she ever existed. 

“Whatever happened too rarely apologizing?” 

Daphne’s head shot up, her forehead nearly colliding with Harry’s nose. She could feel her jaw go slack as she stared wide-eyed. Harry merely looked at her with his lopsided grin, all traces of pain vanishing from his features. Daphne smiled to herself slightly as her gaze slowly lowered.

“So you forgive me?” Her voice was barely above a whisper. The lingering fear in her voice made Daphne wince. She looked up cautiously, watching as Harry tapped a finger against his chin as if he were in thought. With a playful grin, Harry looked down at her.

“I suppose so.”

Daphne could barely contain the relieved chuckle that escaped her throat. Harry laughed with her, the jovial tune that their laughter made caused a small dusting of pink to caress Daphne’s cheeks. 

Another bout of silence filled the room; this time much more comfortable and serene. Daphne could feel her lips rest in a small silence, relief filling her from her toes all the way to her head. The giddiness that filled her made all her previous grievances seemingly vanish.

“Do all Greengrass women move this quickly?” Daphne looked up at Harry with a confused look, her head cocked to the side as she tried to decipher what he meant.

Harry smirked at her, gesturing towards their still interlocked hands with his head. Daphne could feel her face beaten with embarrassment as she quickly moved to dislodge her hands. 

“Prat,” Daphne muttered under her breath as she crossed her arms over her chest. Despite her flushed features, Daphne could still feel an amused smile form on her lips as she watched Harry laugh beside her. It only took a few seconds before her own bout of chuckles once again filled the room. 

At that moment, there was no tournament: No dragons, no lingering fear of death, no fear of being a disappointment to her friends. 

And Daphne loved it.

Chapter Text

She stared herself down in the mirror. Her reflection a crude blur of her actual self. She sat stroking her shoulder-length blonde hair, running her fingers through its silky strands. A pair of hands were wrapped around her throat.

There was no pressure. No loss of air. No choking or angered grasp.

Merely an inability to move.

She was trapped. Did she deserve to move? Any attempts she made were met with ridicule and laughter.

No, she should just sit. The hands around her throat slid down her arms, removing them from her hair to place them by her side.

She wasn't supposed to play with her hair, yet she did it anyway.

The hands returned to her throat, this time tighter; but she could still breathe.

She let the hands guide her, like a puppet with strings.

It always ended the same; the hands would throw her aside.

There were always better dolls. The hands were always disappointed with her.


The Room of Requirement had become a faux common room for Harry, Daphne, and Tracey. The trio often met up after classes to venture to the room to continue with their planning for the first task, other days they simply used it as an escape from their respective dorms and spent time learning more and more about each other.

Under the span of two weeks, Harry could say without a doubt that he had made friends in Daphne and Tracey; even if the former would rarely admit the fact. It was the subtle details that tipped Harry off to the growing relationship between the three.

The way Daphne's snide remarks held less and less malice, or how she tossed away her practiced giggle in favor of an amused snort. Tracey was under a similar boat: Often offering Harry more and more of her beloved confections, or when she took off her beanie to slide it over Harry's eyes, momentarily blinding him as she let out cackles of joy at his struggling.

Even the way they talked had slowly morphed over time. Daphne lost her stiff professionalism, as Tracey teased him more and more; similar to how she would tease Daphne.

Only one week remained until the first task; Harry and Daphne had long since perfected his plan while Tracey offered them sweets of encouragement.

The trio found themselves in the Room of Requirement, the space taking the same form it did when Harry first presented it. Tracey was rummaging through the endless shelves of sweets, while Harry stared openly into the blazing fire, Daphne had let her mind wander in the world of one of the room's many books. A comfortable silence filled the space.

Tracey let out a heavy sigh as she flopped down onto the couch, opposite of her two friends. Eyeing them curiously, Tracey unwrapped a lollipop.

"Ya know, if you're on the same couch, you guys might as well just start cuddling now," Tracey watched as Daphne peered over her book, sending her a very sharp glare before lowering her gaze back down onto the faded pages. Harry, however, didn't bother to respond. Tracey snickered at her own joke as she stretched her entire length on the couch, pulling her beanie over her eyes to take a short nap.

The comfortable silence returned, the pops and crackles of the roaring fire offering a sense of ambiance as the three sat in silence. Daphne had stolen glances at Harry periodically, the smallest traces of worry etched onto her features.

Her comment two weeks prior still rang sharply in her mind; shouting at her just how careless she had gotten with her snide remarks. More than once, she had to quell the growing pits of fear and unease that would choke her throat; often rationalizing that Harry wasn't the type of person to lead her on for days on end, only to embarrass her when it seemed most fitting for him.

Even so, with Harry sitting there quiet, more so than usual; his brows consistently furrowed as he massaged his chin thoughtfully for what seemed like hours; worry started to seep into her once again.

Daphne could feel herself flex her nose, her head craning ever so slightly to the side. She flicked her gaze between the yellowed pages of her book and Harry's concentrated frown. Daphne raised her left hand, she could feel her thumbnail enter the groove of her two front teeth as she started chewing on her nail.

"Why did you forgive me so easily?"

Daphne watched as Harry flinched at her sudden question, his body jumping like a startled cat as he turned to face her. His eyes seemed to search hers. For what, Daphne didn't really know, but that didn't stop her from meeting his gaze; challenging it with her own steady look.

"Two weeks ago. Why did you forgive me so easily?" Daphne reiterated, the icy chill of discomfort nearly causing it to crack uncharacteristically.

Harry eventually looked away, returning to his act of watching the fireplace. Daphne frowned as Harry seemingly shrugged off her question; opening her mouth to voice her displeasure, Harry shrugged before she could speak.

"Guess I'm tired of holding onto grudges," Harry muttered. He grabbed the blanket that sat on the headrest of the couch, wrapping it around his shoulders as if to cocoon himself.

Daphne felt her worry wash away like a stone in a river. letting a rueful little grin tug at her lips, she shifted her body weight to sit closer to Harry. She closed her book; her forefinger resting in between the pages she was once reading to keep her place.

"You're not about to ditch us for Malfoy then, are you?" Harry let out a crude chuckle at her joke, turning to face her with the lopsided grin she had learned to love so much.

"Ok, maybe not tired of holding onto them, rather reluctant to form new ones," Harry let out another fit of chuckles; pushing his knuckle up the bridge of his nose to fix his slipping glasses. Daphne merely smiled softly, fiddling with the hem of her sleeve as she stared into the crackling fire in front of them.

"Would you believe me if I said I was scared you'd cast me aside after that little comment of mine?" Daphne was as quiet as a mouse. She looked up at Harry, the traces of her amusement mixing with sadness as she gave him a sad smile.

Harry's content features crossed over with worry as he eyed his friend. His lips tugged into a confused frown as he leaned closer towards Daphne. Harry looked as if he wanted to push her to explain, but remained silent as he stared. Daphne wilted under Harry's intense stare, shifting in her seat as she struggled for words.

"Making friends… it's never really been easy for me," Daphne seemed to shoot a glance towards Tracey, her friend softly snoring as she napped; a lollipop sat in her mouth despite her unconscious state.

Daphne returned her attention to Harry, he looked down at her with a patient expression. His arm exited the comfort of the blanket, wrapping itself around the headrest. Daphne wanted to lean into his arm; to sink into Harry's side for comfort as she told her tales of loneliness.

"Others are often put off by my…"

"Snarky attitude?" Daphne shot Harry a glare that held no malice, meeting Harry's teasing grin in a silent battle. Daphne relented after a few minutes, letting out a soft sigh as she fulfilled her wish of leaning into Harry's arm.

"For comfort purposes," she told herself more than once.

Harry had let her do as she pleased, gently lowering his hand so it rested on her robed shoulder. Her blonde hair tickled just under his chin as she shifted around to find a comfortable position. Finally relaxing, Daphne let out a sigh of content.

"While you're not wrong in your assumption, that's not the only reason," Daphne said quietly. She could feel Harry's fingers start to tangle themselves in her hair, and despite her internal debate, she let him be.

"My father…" Daphne bit her lip in contemplation, the only other person she had confided in was Tracey - then again the only person she could confide in was Tracey. "When I was born, my father wasn't very happy when he found out he would be receiving a daughter."

Daphne had to silently thank Harry for remaining quiet as she searched for her words.

"I have a younger sister, Astoria, meaning we're effectively the last of the Greengrass line.

"For as long as I can remember, whenever I made even the slightest mistakes, he'd be standing there with a glare, seemingly waiting to look me dead in the eyes just to call me a disappointment, a failure," Daphne swore she could feel Harry's arm tighten around her.

"For the longest time, I thought he hated me. So, what better way to earn his affection than by spitting right at it?" Daphne let out a pitiful chuckle, wrapping her arm around herself to grab at the blankets Harry had wrapped himself in.

"Each time he'd show the slightest hints of affection, I'd cast it off with a sarcastic remark or a snarl," Daphne felt her fingers graze over fabric; tightening her grip, she uncurled the blanket from around Harry to wrap it around herself.

"Leading up to our first year, I kept telling myself that I'd make friends. That they wouldn't care about my shortcomings, and that I could prove my Father wrong," Daphne barely heard the little sniffle that escaped her nose, a strange warmth pooling near her eyes as she nestled herself farther into Harry's side.

"I don't know if… if it was fear or something else but, each time someone tried to talk to me on the Express, I instantly resorted to insults and snide remarks," the warmth around her grew tighter as she spoke, her throat going prickly.

"If Tracey hadn't found me mumbling to myself in that train compartment and randomly started ranting about some blonde-haired ferret to a stranger she just met, I don't know if she and I would even be friends right now," Daphne felt a second arm wrap around her, holding her tightly as she sunk deeper into the embrace.

"When I saw you alone three weeks ago, I thought 'now's my chance,' and I… I was so scared that I was going to screw everything up again," Daphne felt her bottom lip quiver; the blanket around her tightened as she shrunk in on herself.

"And then two weeks ago, I went ahead and said… said that," Daphne shivered at the memory, the hold around her tightened yet again at her involuntary reaction.

"You're the second friend I've ever made, Potter," Daphne curled into herself more, trying to sink further into Harry despite their already close proximity.

"Well, I can assure you that you've been exceptional, Daph," Daphne couldn't stop the smile that formed at the nickname that Harry had grown fond of using in the past two weeks.

Turning her body, Daphne rested her chin on Harry's chest. Her friend was staring down at her with a compassionate smile, his arms relaxing around her as his fingers returned to curling around blonde hair. Daphne put on the fiercest look she could muster and poked Harry in the chest.

"You promise me right now, Potter, that during this stupid tournament, you will not get yourself killed. Do you understand me?"

Harry gave her one of his lopsided grins, merriment flowing freely from him.

"Well, that's a fairly daunting pro-"

"Just promise me, Harry!"

Harry's grin only grew wider. Gently prying Daphne's finger off of his chest, Harry smiled softly down at her.

"Alright, I promise," Daphne nodded, more to herself than Harry as she wrapped her arms around Harry's waist. The two sat in silence, Tracey's snoring still filling the room long after Daphne's confession. Harry's arms were still wrapped around the Slytherin, more so because she refused to let him move them.

"You seemed rather intent on getting that out there," Harry said softly. Daphne hummed, drumming her fingers along his chest lazily.

"Yes well, wouldn't do me any good to just let it build up, now would it?" Harry hummed at her assessment, lazily curling her hair around his finger.

The fire in the center of the room still crackled and popped in the silence, and despite the rather somber mood, Harry couldn't stop himself from smiling. Daphne, who still laid on his chest, noticed.

"And what's got you all giddy?"

Harry looked down at Daphne, his green eyes glistening with joy as he tucked a small strand of hair behind Daphne's ear.

"You called me, Harry."


"You told him!"

Daphne winced at Tracey's volume; her best friend was buzzing with uncontrollable excitement at the prospect of Daphne sharing one of her most closely guarded fears. Daphne, however, cursed Tracey's vocal range, it was far too early in the morning for her shouting. She silently thanked Merlin that Harry wasn't in the great hall yet.

"Yes, I told him. Now can you be quiet, it's too early for your blabbering," Daphne sent a scowl her friend's way as she prodded at her food. She wasn't very hungry, truth be told, her thoughts being everywhere but with her that morning.

"Do all Greengrass women move this fast?" Daphne shook her head. He meant it as a joke, he wasn't being serious.

"Curse you, insecurities," Daphne glowered at her chicken, letting out a small growl that Tracey just barely heard.

"What? Did your chicken steal the Golden Boy from you?" Tracey snickered, hiding her amused grin behind her fork. Daphne's glare moved from her poultry over to her beanie-wearing best friend. Tracey merely smiled as if nothing was of importance.

"Nobody has stolen anything from me," Daphne ground out as she stabbed a slice of poultry with her fork. Her declaration only made Tracey's smile widen.

"So he is yours!" The darker-skinned witch all but shouted. Daphne nearly shot out of her seat to hush her friend, sputtering wildly.

"I'm about to make your ring finger my permanent necklace charm if you don't stop talking!" Daphne pointed at Tracey's hand violently with a knife, sending a glare that promised imminent pain if Tracey continued her current lines of dialogue.

Tracey scoffed at the threat, eyeing Daphne with barely contained pride. "You will do no such thing, I'm sure."

Daphne raised an eyebrow, grinning almost evilly as she leaned in close to her best friend; so close that she could tear her friend's beloved lollipop out of her mouth if she so pleased. "And what makes you so sure about that?"

"Because you love your best friend, of course!" Daphne didn't miss the way her friend accentuated the word love. She swore she could even see a light dusting of pink on her coffee-colored cheeks.

A gruff grunt shook both girls out of their musings. Harry sat down beside Tracey, his eyes were bloodshot and his hair more disheveled than normal. Tracey's nose scrunched together in worry as Daphne stared the boy down, her eyebrows raising into her hairline at his off-putting appearance.

"Well, you look positively knackered," Tracey said through forkfuls of chicken, eyeing Harry warily as she started reaching into her pocket.

"What tipped you off?" Harry drawled out sarcastically. Noticing Tracey's movement, Harry raised his hand with a shake of his head, signaling he wasn't in the mood for one of Tracey's treats. Tracey pouted at the denial, but let go of the treat all the same. Letting out a sigh, Harry rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands.

"Just had a long night is all," He offered for an explanation. Daphne and Tracey gave each other worried glances.

"Well, if you're stressed, I know some excellent relaxation methods," Tracey leaned closer to Harry, grinning teasingly as if to try and lighten the mood.

Harry seemed to ignore the joke, piling food onto his plate with a lazy wave. Daphne could hear the boy mutter something that sounded like "I could go for a massage."

Daphne turned to look at Tracey, worry implanted on both of their faces as they silently conversed on the state of their Gryffindor friend. Tracey had jerked her head upwards, mouthing for Daphne to turn around to face the Gryffindor table. Daphne gave Tracey a confused frown as she turned.

Daphne scanned the Gryffindor table, looking for what Tracey had been urging her to find. As her eyes landed on Ron and Hermione, Daphne's mind began conjuring hundreds of possibilities. The two Gryffindors were looking at Harry with saddened eyes, even the Weasley seemingly ditching his glare for a frown while Granger's sad appearance only grew.

Daphne spent a moment studying the Muggle-born witch. Her brown, bushy hair seemed more frazzled than normal, her brown eyes were red and puffy, obvious signs she'd been crying.

Daphne turned her attention back over to Harry, her green-eyed friend now eating his procured food lazily in an almost robotic fashion. Leaning over the large table, Daphne placed her hand gently on Harry's forearm.

"Did you three have your talk last night?" The question was gentle, yet worried. Harry sighed as he shook his head,

"Not exactly," Harry muttered.

Daphne reluctantly let go of Harry's arm, giving Tracey a concerned frown as she returned to her meal, both girls knowing better than to try and pry the information out.

"Are you lost, Potter?"

Harry's fist slammed into the table with enough force to silence the Great Hall. He let out an exasperated sigh as he rubbed his eyes again.

"It's too early to deal with you," Harry muttered as he turned to face Draco Malfoy. The blonde Slytherin looked as smug as ever, although, to Harry's surprise, his two cronies were nowhere to be seen.

"Are you sure you're not lost, Malfoy? Your lackies aren't here if you're looking for them," Harry said roughly, though his exhaustion and annoyance still coated his voice.

The way Draco's face scrunched as he sniffed loudly reminded Harry an awful lot of his aunt, unnerving the Gryffindor to the point he shivered. Draco suddenly shifted to his attention to Daphne, sneering down at the girl.

"Associating with Potter, now?" Daphne rolled her eyes at the rhetorical question. Draco shot a pointed look towards Tracey before glaring back down at Daphne. "And here I thought you couldn't stoop any lower."

Draco stalked away after sending a glare at the three. Earning another eye roll from Daphne as she returned to her meal for the third time.

"As charming as ever it seems," she muttered under her breath. Tracey snorted at the remark, watching the blonde-haired boy as he walked away.

"I think that's the shortest interaction we've had to date, maybe the ponce has found something better to do than bother us?" Tracey offered. Despite his morose mood, Harry ruefully chuckled at the statement; Tracey let a small smile grow at her ability to make Harry laugh so easily.

"Wishful thinking that is, Tracey," the comment came out with a hint of desperation covering Harry's voice.

Daphne looked between her two friends, a frown tugging at her lips as she studied the smiles the two shared. Her chest felt like it was being compressed, her ribs threatening to crack as she watched her two friends smile so easily as each other; laughing as if she wasn't there with them. Daphne didn't know exactly what she was feeling, but whatever it was, she hated it.

Daphne shook her head, biting her lips as she continued to prod at her food. "I'm being irrational."

"You alright there, Daffy?" Tracey's sudden question sent a jolt through Daphne, the blonde Slytherin looking up at her friend with unreadable eyes.

Daphne flicked her gaze between Tracey and Harry again, both holding looks of worry; Tracey's lips quirked up into an amused but concerned smirk while Harry pressed his mouth into a thin line. Daphne curled her lips into a reassuring smile, though she could feel it falter as she looked between the two.

"Yes, I'm quite alright," Daphne could feel her voice waver as she spoke. Harry gave her one last look of contemplation before returning to his meal.

Tracey looked far less convinced, shooting Daphne a look that said 'we'll talk about this later,' before resuming her eating. Heaving out a sigh, Daphne reluctantly chewed on a piece of poultry. Her mind scrambling to correct its thoughts.


"You like him don't you?"

It was more a statement than a question; a statement that tore through Daphne like a speeding bullet or cutting hex. Daphne looked at Tracey like a deer in headlights, her eyes wide as her face paled. Despite the shock that flew through her veins, Daphne scoffed.

"We've known each other for three weeks. He is a friend, nothing more," Daphne crossed her arms as she sat near the head of her bed, Tracey stared at her with a calculating gaze as she rested near the foot of the bed.

"But you want it to be more," Tracey said softly, it was too calm and collected for Daphne's liking. Daphne fidgeted under Tracey's scrutinizing look, wringing her hands nervously as she fumbled for an answer.

"Even if I did, we're fourteen, we hardly know what we want," Daphne countered, pulling one of her many pillows over her chest as if to protect herself. Tracey shrugged at Daphne's argument.

"Now's the time to find out," The beanie-wearing witch offered, retrieving a piece of bubblegum from her pocket as she continued to stare down her best friend.

Daphne fidgeted on her bed, biting her bottom lip as she mulled everything over. "There's a tournament he needs to focus on."

"Continue helping him, bond with him over it," Tracey's voice grew more impatient as she chewed on her gum. She shifted closer to Daphne, forcing her friend to recoil further into her bed.

"He's a Gryffindor!" Daphne grit her teeth, the slightest edge of desperation filling her voice. Tracey moved closer still, nearly pinning her best friend beneath her.

"So?" Tracey's voice came out like a breath, the sweet aroma of her scent cascading all around Daphne as she pushed her back fully against the head of her bed.

"Give me a break!" Daphne all but whimpered, her bottom lip trembling as Tracey continued her advance. Daphne's pine green eyes locked onto Tracey's amber irises, her throat clogging as she noticed their proximity.

Tracey was close, so very, very, close. Her breath tickled Daphne's chin, sending waves of goosebumps cascading down her back. Daphne could feel the bed shift under Tracey's weight as she moved forward. Tracey's knee rested just between Daphne's legs, her torso leaning forward as she began to cup both of Daphne's quickly reddening cheeks with her hands. Daphne could hardly breathe as Tracey leaned in closer, her lips parting ever so slightly as Daphne continued to press her back against the headrest of her bed.

It all happened under a fleeting moment, but to Daphne, it felt like an eternity. For the briefest of moments.

Their lips met.

Just as soon as Tracey had placed them there, she recoiled back. Leaving Daphne to stare at her; her left-hand grazing over her lips as she mulled over what had just happened.

Tracey. Her best friend. Had just kissed her, even if their lips met for a fraction of a second, what mattered was that they had met. Daphne could taste the cherry lollipop Tracey had eaten earlier, lingering on her bottom lip. The sudden jolt of electricity that had shot through Daphne, had left her wanting… more.

"You want to do that to him, don't you?" Tracey's voice was quiet. Quieter than Daphne could ever recall.

Tracey looked up at her best friend, chuckling slightly at her still bewildered expression.

"It's okay, Daffy, I do too," Tracey admitted, gently pinching a strand of hair between her fingers in an action Daphne had never seen before. The two sat in silence, Daphne's left-hand still sitting idly near her bottom lip as her brain slowly caught up.

"I don't really know why, to be honest," Tracey said. Her voice was just barely above a whisper, echoing in their empty dorm-room. Tracey looked up at Daphne, a strangely calm smile on her lips. "I don't think either of us, really know."

Daphne shook her head dumbly. Tracey chuckled at the response, forgoing the pinching of her hair in favor of twirling it.

"Quite the predicament we've found ourselves in, huh Daffy?" Tracey muttered. Daphne knew it was a rhetorical question, but she nodded anyway. Tracey stood abruptly, patting her jeans as if there were dust upon them before putting on a serious expression.

"I say… after the holidays, if we still feel this way, we tell him. Alright?" There was a seriousness in Tracey's voice that Daphne had never heard before, as seriousness that she found oddly endearing. With a shaky nod, Daphne agreed. Tracey gave her a bright smile, offering her best friend a lazy hug as she prepared to leave her dormitory.

Daphne watched as Tracey left her room with a small wave, offering her best friend a shaky smile as she closed her dormitory door. Daphne collapsed unceremoniously onto her bed as Tracey exited, staring up at her ceiling as if she were a deer caught in headlights.

For the first time in her life, Daphne Greengrass was at a loss for words.

Chapter Text


"She said we'll."

The fact had burnt itself into Daphne's brain as she lay in bed. The words rolling out of her mouth uncomfortably; the same mouth her best friend just pressed her own too mere hours prior. The taste of Tracey's cherry lollipop still lingered on Daphne's bottom lip.

"Why did she say, we'll tell him?" Daphne whispered in the darkness. Rolling onto her side, Daphne curled her knees up to her chest; wrapping her arms around them to form a small ball.

Daphne's throat constricted like a vice grip, her tongue suddenly growing an acrid taste. Her eyes squinted in confusion; her bottom lip getting caught between her teeth as Daphne let out a confused whimper.

"Why did she say, we'll tell him?" Daphne couldn't stop her mind from conjuring up the worst possible scenarios. What were they supposed to do? Tell Harry about their feelings if they remained after the holidays, then make up some twisted competition to see who could seduce him first?

"As if that'd be fair," Daphne thought bitterly, her thumbnail being crushed between her teeth. Tracey, with her coffee-colored skin and wavy, brown hair, her amber eyes that practically glowed every time they ripened. Her contagiously warm smile and exuberant personality. All Daphne had was...

Daphne shook her head violently before she could finish her thoughts. No… no, Tracey wasn't cruel, she had to have some other motive. With a pitiful grumble, Daphne sprawled her limbs across her bed.

Stuck alone, with only her spiteful thoughts to keep her company, Daphne fell asleep.


It was quiet. So unnaturally quiet that Harry could practically hear his heartbeat. The fireplace in the Room of Requirement still crackled with energy, the orange flames licking out with their singing tendrils as Harry's gaze flickered between his two friends. Something happened last night, that much he was sure of.

Tracey and Daphne were barely looking at each other; each time they did, they both sent strange grimaces each other's way., Daphne had immediately grabbed a random book as she entered. before becoming a hermit for the next hour, while Tracey just stood unnaturally still in front of the shelves of candy, an oddly blank look on her face.

Each time he'd make any semblance of eye-contact with either of them; Tracey would give him a strange half-grin, while Daphne would turn a strangely vibrant shade of pink before burying herself deeper into her book.

"Did something happen last night that I'm not aware of?" Harry shot an eyebrow up as he gestured between his two friends, his lips quirking into an odd frown as he waited for his answer. To his surprise, Daphne let out one of her amused snorts; looking over the top of her book with a coy grin.

"Oh of course not, we had a nice, lengthy discussion on wizarding politics last night, that's why it's rather awkward in here," Daphne drawled out. Harry rolled his eyes at the evident sarcasm.

"Glad to see your charming personality is still intact, Daph," Despite the teasing tone he wore, Harry didn't miss the hint of worry that flashed across Daphne's face as her cheeks lost some semblance of their pinkish hue.

Daphne rose her head defiantly, pushing her chin up towards the ceiling as she dropped her book to cross her arms. "If you must know, Tracey and I, came to an… an agreement, last night."

Harry raised an eyebrow at Daphne, looking between her and Tracey. Mimicking Daphne's pose of crossing his arms, Harry tried putting on an amused smirk at the two.

"And what kind of agreement did you come to?" Harry didn't miss the startled look Daphne sent Tracey at his question, the darker-skinned witch still stood in front of her sweets, rocking on her feet without paying the two any mind.

"I'm afraid," Daphne sucked in a rather sharp breath, eyeing Harry with a sharp look he'd only seen when they first met. This was serious, for her at least. "I can't tell you that."

Harry hummed appraisingly, returning his attention to the roaring fire.

"Since you're so interested in our nightly escapades, I believe it's only fair for you to share why you were so disheveled yesterday morning, no?" Daphne countered, her fingers curling cautiously around her book. She watched carefully as Harry seemed to pale slightly.

"There was a bit of a… house-wide argument, in our common room, among other things," Harry admitted sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand.

Daphne merely quirked an eyebrow up in questioning; Tracey finally turned around to join the two near the fireplace.

"And this argument was about?" Daphne drawled out, her brows furrowing indignantly as she gestured with her hand for Harry to continue his explanation. Harry let out a sigh, pursing his lips tightly.

"Most of my housemates don't like how I'm fraternizing with the enemy," Harry made the statement with such distaste, Daphne could practically feel her tongue curl at the sour sound.

"And these other things?" Daphne asked, her voice was significantly quieter, but her question was just as firm.

Harry's lips tugged into a frown, the way his hand coiled together silently asking the two not to ask nor pry about the matter. Daphne solemnly nodded.

"So… your housemates don't approve of us, you say?" Tracey asked slowly, unwrapping a grape-flavored lollipop in a deliberately slow manner.

Harry merely shrugged at the question, silently asking "what did you expect?" Tracey grins wildly at him in response.

"What? They jealous you're out snogging two wonderful little snakes?" Daphne made a sputtering sound while Harry snorted at the joke. Rolling his eyes, Harry shot Tracey an amused grin.

"Distinct lack of broom closets in my memory for that, Davis."

"We can always change that," the seriousness in Tracey's voice had caught Harry off-guard, the Gryffindor making an odd choking sound before leaning back on the couch he sat upon. Unbeknownst to the two, Daphne had sent a withering glare both their ways, her fingers curling almost protectively around her book.

"Don't listen to that vixen, Harry. Merlin only knows where that mouth has been," Daphne growled out, her grip on her book tightening as Tracey shot Daphne a challenging grin.

"You know exactly where it's been, Daffy," The provocative tone Tracey put on wasn't lost on Harry as he watched Daphne's face turned beet red.

"And what exactly does she mean by that?" Harry sent another questioning look, Daphne's way, his friend's face turning an even brighter shade of red than Ron's hair on its best days.

"Nothing!" If glares could start fires, Tracey would've turned into a pile of smoldering ash. "She meant nothing by it."

Harry let out a disbelieving hum, quirking his eyebrows strangely before turning to face the still roaring fire. Missing the worried frowned that rested on Daphne's face.


"Greengrass."

Daphne froze mid-stride just outside the Great Hall, her face contorting into pure bafflement as she turned around. Hermione Granger was standing there, nibbling in her lower lip with her gaze flickering between Daphne and the cobblestone floors. Daphne noticed that Granger's normally bushy hair was even more distraught than the last time she had seen her, and her eyes were raw and bloodshot.

"Granger," Daphne kept her tone as cordial as possible, folding her hands in front of her navel in a professional manner.

Hermione continued to gnaw on her lip, the smallest inklings on blood poking out from her teeth.

"Ho-How are you?" Hermione's lip was finally released from between her teeth as she put on an awkward smile, mirroring Daphne's much more posh one.

"Quite alright, thank you. Yourself?" The question came out with such practiced ease that Daphne hadn't spared it a thought.

Hermione's lip was once again caught between her teeth, the soft brown eyes of the Muggle-born witch seemingly darting everywhere just to avoid meeting Daphne's pine green ones.

"Could be better," Hermione mumbled, picking at her fingernails as she shifted from foot to foot. Suddenly stopping, Hermione sucked in a deep breath, looking up at Daphne with a determined but still shaky look. "I wanted to talk to you about Harry."

Daphne nodded in understanding, she was expecting something like this.

"Of course, what is it about him you wish to talk about?" Daphne kept her hands clasped in front of her stomach, waiting patiently for Hermione to find her words.

"Even if he and I aren't… aren't on speaking terms right now, I still care about him," Hermione started shakily, her nerves once again getting the better of her. "S-So this is much more like a request, but…"

Hermione steeled herself once more, cursing her nerves as she sent a determined look Daphne's way.

"Don't betray his trust," Daphne could feel her polite smile crack. Annoyance and a sense of anger rising in her.

"I may be a Slytherin as you all seemingly detest, but even I have enough decorum to no-"

"I didn't mean it like that!" Hermione hastily added. Sucking in yet another deep breath, Hermione winced as she added. "And I know that's quite a bit coming from me after… well after…"

"After you all but abandoned him?" Daphne spat out, her anger and annoyance slowly ebbing away but still evidently present. The Slytherin had to give Hermione credit, the girl doing no more than taking in a sharp breath.

"As I said, I know hearing that from me is… is hypocritical," Daphne snorted, much to Hermione's chagrin. "Despite all that, I can assure you, I'm being quite serious."

Daphne stifled her bark of laughter, settling on a sharp glare Hermione's way.

"I don't think I need to tell you that Harry doesn't trust easily, Greengrass. I've been his - was his," Hermione let out an annoyed grunt, curling her fist viciously as she struggled for her words. "I've known him for over four years and I still don't know, Harry."

Daphne's glare grew wary, her bottom lip twitching downwards into a confused frown.

"What could you possibly mean, you don't know him?" Daphne asked. Despite her sardonic tone, there was an underlying note of confusion and intrigue in her voice. Hermione let out a sigh, running a hand through her frazzled hair.

"Harry's a very secretive person. Despite what we've gone through the past three years, Ron and I know just as much about Harry as everyone else," Hermione shuffled on her feet for a few seconds as she looked towards the ground. "Next to nothing."

Daphne's anger ebbed away from her, making way to the tidal waves of confusion that threatened to swallow her whole. Seeing Daphne's confused look, Hermione offered her a pitiful smile.

"Can you tell me his favorite color?" Hermione asked. "What he does in his spare time? What he does over the holidays when we're not here? His favorite treat? Who he looks up to?"

Daphne wanted to answer those questions. To prove Hermione Granger wrong, but...

She couldn't.

Hermione once again looked at Daphne with that small smile, her bushy hair being wrapped around her index finger as she toed the ground anxiously.

"Neither can I," Hermione said. Her voice was just barely above a whisper, a hint of sadness coating it as she avoided Daphne's gaze.

Daphne shifted uncomfortably, not unlike Hermione had done moments prior. Her heart was begging for the Gryffindor to be wrong; to show that she did know Harry. But her mind said otherwise, she knew the stories; of his previous years, of the Boy-Who-Lived.

But not Harry.

Daphne inhaled sharply, growing more uncomfortable with the conversation as it continued. She needed a way out, an escape.

"If you want my advice, Granger," Daphne started, placing a hand on the large oak door of the Great Hall. "Apologize. He might just forgive you."

Without waiting for an answer, Daphne walked quickly into the great hall. Not looking back to see the hopeful, yet strained smile of Hermione Granger's face.


One day.

Tomorrow afternoon, Harry Potter would have to fight - or evade - a dragon. The thought alone sent shivers of unease coursing through his veins. He knew it was irrational, he and Daphne had spent hours upon days perfecting the plan that would - hopefully - keep him out of harm's way.

Daphne.

How glad he was that she approached him three weeks ago offering her help, he'd no doubt still be fumbling for the basic groundwork of a plan. But not with Daphne.

Daphne.

The mere mention of her name had Harry's lips stretching into the widest of grins. The normal pit that rested in his stomach seemed to fill ever so slightly every time her presence was around. How she had taught him all those different ways to subside his anger whenever he grew frustrated when a wrench was thrown into their plans, being nothing but kind and patient - with a hint of snarky teasing that always left both of their mouths turned up into grins.

Even Tracey had her own infectious effect on him. Always offering her many sweets and candies, her pats on the back and side hugs. Hell, even when she'd temporarily blind him with her beanie, leaving him flailing around like a fish out of water while she laughed, Harry couldn't help but smile. Just thinking about the two had his heart-tugging in every direction.

Harry didn't quite know what to make of his thoughts or the various feelings strewed about him.

What he did know, was that he definitely liked them.


"You like him, don't you?"

Her own words echoed in her head. Was it a question for her, or Daphne? Tracey desperately wanted an answer. Not only was her mind, but her heart - was screaming, begging, pleading, for an easy answer to her question.

She liked him, didn't she?

Of course, she did, but why? Why was Harry Potter always at the forefront of Tracey's mind?

Letting out an indignant huff, Tracey plopped onto her bed, staring up at the ceiling of the Slytherin dungeons as if it had the answer to all of her problems. She wished it did, that would have made this situation that much easier.

And she had gone ahead and said 'we'll tell him.' Tracey had screwed this situation up. Completely, undeniably screwed it up. Daphne was going to hate her now, her only friend in the entirety of Slytherin's house, her best friend.

The girl she loved.

Tracey mentally scoffed as she thought about their little argument the night prior. "Only fourteen my arse."

Now the only problem was trying to figure out how to settle the little triangle she'd just accidentally created.

"Wait…" Tracey shot up in her bed, her eyes widening exponentially. "Triangle."

Tracey bit her lip as she pondered over her latest idea. It was a long shot… but, it couldn't possibly be the worst idea.

Right?


Daphne nibbled on her thumbnail as she watched Harry pace around the Room of Requirement. The hours to the first task were slowly - almost agonizingly - ticking down. Leaving both Daphne and Tracey to try and calm a quickly panicking Harry.

"Harry, you're asking one too many 'what ifs?' Everything will be fine, we've planned for every contingency possible."

Harry nodded his head vehemently, his brow creasing as he attempted to take calming breaths. Running a hand through his untamable hair, Harry sat down next to Daphne on a large couch; the roaring fire of the Room of Requirement mimicking his skittish mood. Daphne subconsciously moved closer to Harry on the couch, gently placing a hand on his shoulder as she did so.

"Harry, you know exactly what you're going to do inside and out, it almost seems like you don't trust my plan," Daphne let a light-hearted grin form on her face as she nudged Harry's shoulder with her hand, earning a small chuckle from her friend in the process.

"I know, I know," Harry muttered quietly. He gently shook Daphne's hand off his shoulder, leaning in close to rest his head upon her shoulder he did so. Harry shifted around for a short bit, letting out a content sigh once he found his desired position.

"Just worried really. I am fighting a dragon after all," Daphne hummed at his assessment, reaching around with her free hand to softly run her hand through his unkempt hair.

"Well, if all goes well, you won't really have to fight the dragon, now will you?" Daphne offered her voice equally as soft. Harry let out a hum from her shoulder, closing his eyes as he took deep breaths.

"I suppose not," Harry drawled out, earning a gentle chuckle from Daphne at their groups inside joke.

With a small sigh, Daphne slowly lowered her cheek onto the top of Harry's head, closing her eyes as well, letting herself relax. She relished in the warmth he gave off, her cheek forming all-new, tingly sensations as his messy hair poked and scratched at her skin. It felt nice. He felt nice.

"If you two think I'm missing out on snuggle time, you are dead wrong!" Tracey's sudden declaration caused Daphne's eyes to shoot open.

Tracey smiled gleefully down at the two, grabbing both of their forearms and dragging to an open area on the floor. A soft rug was placed in front of the fire, big enough for all three to fit on if they so desired to rest on it. Tracey all but pushed the two onto the ground, pushing them around to make a V. Spinning around Harry, Tracey placed his head in Daphne's lap; despite her friend's squealed protests. Laying down onto the rug with the two, Tracey laid her head onto Harry's lap, forming an incomplete triangle.

"Daffy c'mon, finish the triangle!" Tracey ordered. Daphne sputtered at the command, sending a heated glare her friends way after craning her head.

"Absolutely not! I will hex you, Davis, do not tempt me!" Daphne said, her bright red face betraying her spiteful scowl.

"Oh, sod off you big baby, just finish the thing!" Tracey sat up as she let out her protests, grabbing the sides of Daphne's head to forcefully place her head in her lap. Daphne grumbled the whole time she did so, crossing her arms as she glowered at the roof.

Once her friend's head was secure in its nest, Tracey let out a small cheer, laying back down onto Harry's lap as she did so. Harry looked between his two friends, scanning Daphne's embarrassed glare before moving onto Tracey's prideful grin. He let out a small chuckle as he did so, finally resting his head completely in Daphne's lap.

"Was that so hard, Daffy?" Tracey chided playfully, smirking down at her friend's blonde locks that sprawled across her legs. Daphne grunted at the question, not offering a complete answer.

"You're incorrigible, you know that?" Daphne groaned out, crossing her arms as she reluctantly relaxed into Tracey's lap, her legs offering to be a strangely comfortable pillow.

Tracey snorted at the statement, crossing her arms behind her head to offer another layer of comfort. Harry chuckled at the banter, folding his hands over his stomach as he stared up at the ceiling above. Closing his eyes, Harry sighed happily.

"I could get used to this," He mumbled contentedly, smiling to himself as he took deep, relaxing breaths.

Daphne craned her head forward at the statement, her tight scowl loosening as her eyes fell upon the eased smile that rested on Harry's face. Daphne could feel her chest tighten at the sight, the air in her lungs practically choked out of her as she looked at the boy.

Harry, his head in her lap, smiling as if there was no evil in the world.

"Could get used to what?" Tracey asked softly, her previous exuberance ebbing away as she searched Harry out of the corner of her eye from his lap.

"This peace. The quiet," He started, his small smile widening as he continued with his deep breaths. "Every year, something goes wrong for me. But meeting you two, having… this. It feels like…"

He shifted on Daphne's lap for a moment, his features scrunching as if searching for the proper words; his small smile remaining on his face.

"It finally feels like something went right for once," Harry chuckled at his own words, scratching his nose before hastily adding, "Despite the rather rocky start, that is."

Daphne could feel her skin take on a pinkish hue, rolling her head backward to look over her skull, she noticed Tracey sporting a similar shade on her cheeks. Daphne shook her head in amusement, her previous annoyance with her best friend's antics washing away in a heartbeat.

"Good things can come from bad situations," Daphne said, delicately placing her hand in Harry's tousled hair, gently tugging and combing through it with her hand.

"I don't know if I'd call this a good thing," Harry announced, much to his friends' confusion. Letting out a small chuckle, he silently ushered for Daphne to continue her prodding.

"I think I'd call this a great thing."

Daphne's chest tightened once more at the comment, her breath hitching in her throat as she stared wide-eyed at the boy in her lap. Looking up at Tracey, she noticed a similar look on her friend's visage; that being one of both admiration and happiness.

Tracey gave Daphne a small smile, mouthing after the holidays, I have an idea, to her best friend. With a shaky nod, Daphne lowered her head back down, her mouth fumbling for an appropriate expression as she stared at the ceiling. She could wait until then, the holidays were only a few weeks away, and if Tracey had a plan, that meant no competition between the two.

Daphne nodded to herself, this was good; excellent even. Stealing one last glance to the boy in her lap, Daphne could feel her struggling mouth form a peaceful smile; small and content. Her hand still lazily played with his black locks, and Daphne could feel Tracey begin fiddling her with her blonde ones; her friend's delicate sigh telling Daphne that Harry had begun to mess around with Tracey's wavy hair.

The crackling fire warmed the trio as they rested in a comfortable silence; it's soft orange glow basking them as they let their worries wash away. The tournament, the dragons; everything was a mere pebble in the road.

As the fire popped and burned, Tracey began humming a soft tune, her beanie being pushed forward so Harry had better access to her hair and a lollipop resting comfortably in the corner of her jaw. She silently offered more of her confections to her friends, her smile widening when she felt them take the treats out of her hand.

"I don't deserve to have you guys," Harry mumbled quietly. Despite the statement being quite morose, his tone was filled with cheerfulness and levity. Daphne moved her hands downwards from his, softly cradling Harry's face as she gently urged him to face her.

As Daphne's pine green eyes met Harry's malachite ones, her breath hitched for the umpteenth time that day; the shimmer of tears coated Harry's eyes, but they were far from tears of sadness.

They were tears of unbridled joy and platonic love.

Daphne smiled to herself, pushing herself upwards off of Tracey's lap to place a chaste kiss on Harry's forehead as she noticed Tracey silently intertwined her hand with Harry's.

"That's as far from the truth as you can get, Harry," Daphne told him gently, tracing her index finger along his cheek as she smiled warmly.

The choked chuckle he let out caused both Daphne's and Tracey's hearts to jump, the uncontainable happiness spilling out of him as his tears finally fell sending jolts of warmth to shoot through the two girls. Daphne tucked her knees under her, gently lifting Barry as she wrapped her arms around his head, pulling him for a comforting hug.

Feeling Harry's arms wrap around her waist, pulling her closer to his form as he pressed his face into the crook of her neck made Daphne's heartstrings pull in every direction; she could feel them lurch wildly as she tightened her hold around his head. Tracey had crawled over shortly after, wrapping her arms around the both of her friends as she enveloped them. Harry let out another choked laugh, softly pulling away from the two as he started wiping his tears and nose.

"I just ruined that silent moment, didn't I?" He asked, a knowing chuckle rippling out from him as he looked between Daphne and Tracey. Daphne shook her head in amusement, giving her shoulder a once-over where Harry had just let his emotions wash over.

"I think the only thing you've ruined, is Daffy's top there," Tracey joked, the three letting out small, comfortable chuckles.

Harry looked between his friends once more. There smiles, the little dimples and crinkles that formed on their faces whenever they looked at him with the love and affection he so desperately wanted.

He knew that for now, everything was right in the world.

Chapter Text

 


Skin made of puzzle pieces made her whole. Each piece interlocking together to make a complete picture.

Everyone wants to be whole, to be complete.

Sometimes she'd offer her pieces, handing them to those who still needed a few. Sometimes she'd run out.

It wasn't painful to give away her pieces. Though she wondered why no one ever offered her any.


"Do you think he's going to be okay?"

"Of course he is, this is Wonder Boy we're talking about."

"But what if something goes wrong?"

"Then he'll improvise."

"I don't want to be the reason he dies!"

"He survived the killing curse, a dragon isn't going to kill him."

"Maybe, but it's still a bloody dragon!"

"A dragon, which we've prepared for."

"Even the best-laid plans and preparations can fail!"

"Daffy, honestly, just leave it. Harry will be fine."

"But—"

"Daphne!" Tracey spun on her heel, her fists coiling together as she gave her best friend a steely glare.

Daphne paled at her friend's outburst, her lips forming a thin line as Tracey inhaled deeply, screwing her eyes shut in the process.

"He's going to be fine, Daffy, your plan is amazing," The calmness in Tracey's voice was forced, but no less genuine; her once frowning lips now jutting upwards into a strained but pleased smile.

Daphne eyed her friend cautiously, she knew her fears were getting the best of her; her irrationalities taking over despite what little sense they made. Nodding her head shakily, Daphne conceded to Tracey's point; tucking a strand of hair behind her ear as she did so.

"Yes… yes, you're right."

Tracey sighed, rubbing her face in her hands as she turned back around. Her tongue poked out from her mouth to wet her lips, stress rolling off her shoulders as Tracey all but marched to the stands of the arena for the first task.

"Honestly Daffy, you two spent weeks perfecting this plan and nothing! Not a shred of self-doubt while you're constructing it," Tracey huffed, her body tensing as she ranted. "But now, for the past twelve and a half hours! Nothing but blah-blah-blah, something is going to go wrong!"

Letting out an annoyed grunt, Tracey spun around once more to face her friend; her visage set in a worried, but annoyed scowl. "Where in the world did this come from?!"

Daphne could feel herself bristle at the query, her jaw tightening; her hands curling together to the point her knuckles turned white. She inhaled deeply, pointing her chin out ever so slightly to try to keep her calm.

"I don't know, alright," Daphne ground out, her words coming out in a tense growl as her eyes sharpened. "Although, I have my suspicions, and I'm sure you do as well."

Tracey studied her friend for a few moments, her nose scrunching and her cheeks gaining a reddish hue as her lips pressed together into a thin line. Without uttering a word, she turned around; walking down the pathway to the first task's arena without offering Daphne a second glance.

Daphne took a few calming breaths to steady herself, her fists uncoiling as she slowly started to continue her trek to the arena.

"Tracey's right," she thought to herself, her inner dialogue's conviction still ripe with small holes of doubt. Daphne clasped her hands in front of her navel, picking at her nails to help sidetrack her thoughts.

"Tracey's right."


"You listen to me, Boy!"

Harry cocked his head to the side unnaturally, his jaw clamping shut and his eyes squeezing closed. His mind was plagued with vile thoughts and memories he desperately tried to will away. Durmstrang's champion, Viktor Krum, had cast a Conjunctivitis curse on his dragon, the Chinese Fireball, the lumbering beast stumbling and growling in confusion and anger as Viktor made his way up to its waiting nest; his golden egg mere feet away from him.

The dragon's large, hulking body had slammed repeatedly against the stone walls of the arena, letting out roars of pain. Each time it's scaly form collided with stone, the small tent housing the champions shook from the vibrations alone; dust falling from the rafters in front of Harry's face as he stared off into oblivion. Each collision would send more dust into the air; swirling in grotesque patterns before fading from existence.

"Just like the stairway cabinet," Harry could feel a bittersweet grin form on his face.

SLAM

"BOY!"

Harry's head twitched to the side again; twirling it around as if trying to crack a stiff neck.

SLAM

"YOU LITTLE FREAK!"

Uncle Vernon's burly fists pounding on his small doorway; Dudley jumping on the steps above sending sheets of dust to fall into his eyes.

SLAM

"YOU WORTHLESS TWERP!"

Harry released a heavy breath, his nostrils flaring out while a heavy sigh also escaped his throat. The dragon outside let out a roar of pain, the tell-tale ignition of its fiery breath basking the arena in a scorching heat; the spectators letting out gasps of surprise as the tendrils of fire wrapped around the stadium.

It became eerily silent for a few fleeting moments, the crowd sucking in a collective gasp. Something had happened, whether it was Viktor's untimely demise or his victory, Harry didn't know; though he assumed it was the latter.

A few more seconds of silence stretched out before the audience erupted into a chorus of cheers, confirming Harry's thoughts. A flurry of shouts, claps, and whistles resonated throughout the circular arena. Harry couldn't help but grin at the resounding applause.

Despite the upbeat attitude flooding the arena and subsequently, the Champion Tent, Harry couldn't help but feel small bubbles of panic rise within him; even as Viktor's cheers of congratulation died down to a dull whisper.

He was next. As soon as that cannon let out its deafening shot, mere meters above his head, he'd have to walk into that dreaded arena and face a dragon - The Hungarian Horntail - with only his and Daphne's plan, and a daunting will to succeed.

Harry nodded to himself as he drew a deep breath, subconsciously curling his hands as he stood. He could do this. All he had to do was go in there and follow the plan; if all went well, the dragon would merely be an afterthought.

Filch lit the cannon above, the artillery weapon launching its payload with a disorienting bang.

Harry felt his breath hitch in his throat; the oxygen in his lungs seemingly being torn out by some invisible force as he eyed the entrance to the arena with an unsteady gaze. Harry clenched his fists as he began his march to the interior of the arena.

"You promise me right now, Potter, that during this stupid tournament you will not get yourself killed. Do you understand me?"

Harry nodded fervently to himself, replaying Daphne's request over and over in his head. He made a promise, and he'd be damned if he didn't keep it.

Harry walked towards the opening to the arena with newfound conviction; his hands curling into fists as the bright opening slowly expanded. The afternoon sun, though hindered by clouds, burned Harry's eyes as he exited the champion tent; raising his arm to block out its rays, Harry winced as he entered the arena, the subsequent cheering of his name sending his stomach through a loop as another bout of reality quickly came crashing down upon his shoulders.

He was about to fight a dragon. An actual dragon. Behind his glasses, Harry's eyes frantically started searching for the familiar mop of blonde hair as well as the equally familiar black beanie. The sudden urge to confirm that their weeks spent perfecting his plan was a reality and not an overly complex dream.

Harry's eyes locked with his intended tragedy; a worried but hopeful smile resting on Daphne's face while Tracey was grinning, giving enthusiastic thumbs up to Harry as she bounced up and down on the bench she sat upon. As Harry studied their smiling faces, his resolve clicked into place. He straightened his back and his jaw grew tighter.

Harry tentatively crawled over the jagged rock formations of the arena, searching for his reptilian enemy and its desired egg with hawk-like eyes. He swore he could hear the Horntail growling somewhere from inside the arena; letting out a disgusting, guttural sound as it watched him from who knew where. Harry ignored the growls as he cautiously moved forward along the stones, suppressing the urge to stop his ministrations to search for the behemoth hunting him.

The cheering of the crowd had dulled to a hushed whisper at this point, idle chatter mingling throughout as they questioned Harry's moves. From in the stands, they watched as the wizard crawled along the jagged stones, the beast he faced watching him with its slit-like eyes from behind cover; waiting as it studied his every move.

Harry could hear - feel even - the dragon's claws grind against the stone of the arena, the horrible screeching an afterthought in Harry's mind as his eyes finally located his desired item.

The golden egg was laying there in the dragon's nest; it's shiny shell contrasting the dull greys and browns of the other eggs it rested with. The prized object laid mere meters away from where Harry sat crouched. Harry swallowed thickly as he twirled his wand in his hand; the easy part was dealt with.

Crouching down low behind a wall of stone, Harry released a heavy breath, curling his hand over his wand in apprehension before initiating their plan.

"Serpensortia," he whispered, jabbing his wand out violently as its tip exploded with a violent light.

A collective gasp ran through the crowd as a large, black snake curled in on itself among the stone; it's slender head and beady eyes looking around in confusion.

"SSSnake!" The horrible hissing of Parseltongue sent another gasp throughout the crowd, this time followed with murmurs of confusion and apprehension.

The snake's beady eyes snapped to Harry in an instant as the black reptile slithered towards the boy

"You! Sssspeaker, what isss the meaning of thisss?" The snake asked, lifting its head off of the ground as if to study its summoner. Harry ignored the question for a few moments; quickly casting a disillusionment charm upon the reptile before violently pointing towards the golden egg.

"Lisssten to me, I need you to get me that egg. The one that ssstands out!" The snake seemed to ponder the request; its black eyes flickered between the golden egg and Harry's emerald green eyes with an intensity Harry never thought possible in a snake.

"Isss that my purpossse?" The snake questioned further. Harry peeked around the rock he used as cover, catching the haunting yellow eyes of the Hungarian Horntail in between the crevice of two larger rocks.

The dragon's slitted pupils sharpened dangerously, its distinct growl filling the arena as it raised its head from behind the large rocks. Harry sucked in a sharp breath at the sight, quickly turning his head to face where the snake was still waiting as he nodded his head quickly.

"Yesss! Yesss, now go! I mussst keep the beassst occupied!" Harry ordered, gesturing flippantly towards where the collection of eggs rested. He prayed the snake abided to the command as he rolled violently to the other side of his rock. Harry landed on his stomach, a small fragment of stone still covering him as he came face to face with the Hungarian Horntail.

Harry felt his throat close at the sight; the dragon was big, much bigger than Harry initially thought. The beast's snout was curled into an angered snarl, it's crown of bone-like protrusions flexing on their own volition as it released an ear-shattering roar. Harry fought the urge to cover his ears at the hate-filled sound, quickly putting into motion the next part of the plan.

Harry ignored the behemoth's cries of anger as he summoned a vast majority of Muggle creatures, much to the confusion of many spectators.

A pair of lions; a set of silverback gorillas, a pack of grey wolves, a trio of hyenas. The dragon watched in confusion as the new animals appeared from thin air, letting out a snarl as it ducked away cautiously, growling dangerously as it did so.

Harry chanced a glance towards the nest of eggs, letting out a relieved sigh as the golden egg jostled around as if something was wrapping around its shell. His attention snapped back towards the defensive dragon, steadying himself for his next task.

"Confringo!" The blasting curse collided with the sharpened nose of the dragon, the dragon recoiling in surprise as the fiery explosion connected with its wee crown.

The dragon snapped its head over to Harry, snarling savagely at the smaller wizard with an aggression Harry was familiar with. The behemoth reared its head back, it's hate-filled gaze flickering between Harry and his several conjured creatures with violent intent. Harry couldn't help but feel small under the beast's gaze, subconsciously gripping his wand tighter. Clenching his jaw, Harry waited for the dragon to make the first move.

The spectators watched with bated breath; Daphne's hand had found Tracey's wrist during the exchange between Harry and his conjured snake, her nails digging into her friend's skin. Tracey barely reacted to the sensation as she wiggled her hand upwards, clasping it around Daphne's hand to give it a reassuring squeeze.

It was with a panicked scream that Daphne watched as the Horntail suddenly slammed its claws into the stone floor; it's tail whipping towards Harry with the speed of a cutting hex. The bony protrusion tore into Harry's right arm, nearly slicing it in half as it pushed him to the ground with a sudden scream of pain erupting from the boy's throat.

The animals conjured reacted viciously; leaping towards the hulking dragon as they all let out their respective cries of anger. The lions had sunk their teeth into the dragon's throat, nearly puncturing it's hardened scales as it attempted to shake them off; the wolves had gone for the legs, biting and tearing at its ligaments with reckless abandon; the silverback gorillas had opted for a more brutish approach, using their immense upper body strength to climb up onto the crown of the giant reptile, slamming their fists down into its eyes as the beast let out howls and roars of pain. The hyenas remained the odd ones out, circling the dragon slowly as if waiting for a more opportune moment to attack.

Daphne and Tracey had barely paid mind to the animalistic war that had been transpiring. Both witches watched as Harry feebly crawled behind a set of rocks, applying pressure to the deep - almost limb severing - cut that now rested on his bicep. Blood oozed from the torn flesh, seeping into his ripped jersey as well as falling from his limp fingertips.

This was bad. Harry knew that this was bad; horrible even. For a split second - with blood pouring out of his arm like a drink from a broken bottle, Harry swore he was once again in the Chamber of Secrets in his second year; sweat pooling around his brow as the Basilisk venom slithered its way through his bloodstream like a parasite. Gritting his teeth, Harry shook the thoughts away; barely hearing the muffled yelps and cries of both his animals and the still distracted dragon.

He had Fawkes then, a few of the mythical birds tears rendering the injury gained from the Basilisk no worse than a scrape; the only remnants of the near-fatal cut being the discolored skin of a scar. Harry grimaced at the memory as the blood loss suddenly became very apparent. His vision blurred significantly as a sudden wave of nausea raked over him; a spell of dizziness hit Harry like a freight train.

Harry chuckled grimly to himself, pushing himself up with his viable arm to fire a Reducto at the ground near the snout of the dragon, spraying dust and rock chunks into the beast's eyes as it let out an angered growl.

"What I wouldn't give to have that flaming bird's tears right now," He thought morosely, firing a Diffindo towards the raging dragon from behind the rock he used as cover.

Harry chanced a look towards the nest holding his golden egg. The still disillusioned snake had definitely made progress, the prized item sitting about halfway between himself and the nest as it rolled slowly towards him. The mental image of the small black snake using its head to roll the egg sent a bittersweet chuckle through Harry. His final thoughts consisting of a fiery bird and a snake pushing an egg, had the blood loss affected him that badly?

"Fiery," the term shot through Harry's mind like a bullet, his eyes widening to extreme levels as an idea came to fruition. It was crude he would admit, and Daphne most certainly was going to hurt him for it, but it was better than nothing.

Sending a quick glance towards his two Slytherin friends, Harry's composure nearly cracked at the wide-eyed Daphne and the wincing Tracey. The brunette seemingly caught his gaze, offering a wimpy thumbs up at his incredulous expression. Daphne, however, was not as carefree; her nose scrunched in worry and anger, her expression promising him that he wasn't leaving the arena without some form of scolding.

Harry shook his head at the sight; quickly steadying his breath, as he began ignoring the blood still pouring from his wound. With a determined scowl, Harry stood up, watching as the dragon tore one of the lion's away from its throat; stumbling away from the still attacking animals as they all quickly recuperated to attack the raging reptile once again; the hyenas had finally joined the scuffle, sinking their maws into the large beast's leathery wings. Harry swore he could see the smallest inkling of fear in the dragon's slitted gaze.

"Accio Stone!" The wizard shouted, a slab of the arena soaring into the only body part he could use to slow the object down; his chest. Harry winced at the pain, fearing already that he had broken at least one of his ribs.

With a shake of his head, Harry focused on his new task. Pointing his wand at the slab of stone, Harry transfigured the slab into a Muggle pan, sucking in a sharp breath as his next incantation left his lips.

"Incendio!" The pan ignited in a bright glow of orange, the flames from his wand acting similarly to the tendrils of flame that had erupted from the Hungarian Horntail's mouth as it desperately fought off Harry's conjured animals.

As the flames receded, Harry eyed the sizzling cooking ware with an anxious grimace; watching its dull red glow with bulged eyes. The wizard transfigured a smaller portion of rock into a leather cap, gingerly picking it up to place it into his mouth.

Daphne had realized in a near-instant what Harry was about to do, her small hand leaving the enclave of her friend's, to rest over her mouth; much to Tracey's annoyance as well as relief.

"He's not going to…" Daphne trailed off as she watched Harry, her best male friend picking up the still boiling cooking ware with shaky hands.

The next few seconds confirmed her suspicions, Daphne watching in horror as Harry pressed the sweltering metal to his bleeding wound. The wizard's head bent back, his jaw growing taught; teeth, baring into the leather cap as he let out a muffled howl that seemed to echo throughout the arena, drowning out the now panicked roads of the now-forgotten dragon.

Both Daphne and Tracey gasped at the act, both of their eyes widening for the umpteenth time in fear. Harry pulled the cooking ware away from his arm; the blood pouring from the angry wound had turned to a dull mahogany shade, grotesque white puss and dead skin accumulating around the cauterized wound. A large, flaring burn mark in the shape of a circle covered the injury. Harry spat the leather cap out, proceeding to let out winces of pain as he did so.

Despite the searing pain shooting through his nerves, Harry let a content smile grow on his face. With both the bleeding dealt with, the dragon still in a heated exchange with Harry's conjured animals - every creature no doubt exhausted at this rate, and his summoned snake mere centimeters away from him; Harry knew that he had at least completed this task.

Harry moved to look over the rocks again, watching as the dragon whipped its head around in fury, releasing its fiery breath in a desperate attempt to free itself from the clutches of Harry's conjured animals.

It worked. The plan had worked! The dragon was to bust dealing with Harry's conjured animals that it paid no mind to the invisible force moving its egg towards Harry, the wizard in question taking cover behind various rocks while animals did everything - besides healing wounds with less than stellar methods - for him.

Harry could feel something hard nudge against his leg, looking down, he saw the golden egg bumping into his thigh three times. The disillusioned charm on the snake slowly wore off, leaving the black reptile exposed as it stared at Harry with its beady eyes. Harry smiles down at the small snake, curling his good arm around the golden prize as he tucked his knees beneath him, preparing to stand.

"Thank you," Harry placed the golden egg protectively under his arm; Harry struggled to his feet, his teeth, baring as a searing hot pain shot through his injured arm. White spots entered Harry's vision as he nearly toppled over; a hobble was present in his step as he exited the arena. The cool shell of the golden egg seemed to wash over Harry, the sought out item doing little - but enough - to cool his still raging burn mark.

The cheering of the crowds was diluted by the roaring of blood in Harry's ears, the wizard's thoughts a disoriented mess of the color yellow and brown.


The moments leading after the first task flew by Harry near-instantaneously. First had been Madam Pomfrey's immediate bouts of sputtering as he entered the Medi-Tent set up for the champions.

"Di-Did you cauterize that wound?!"

Harry could only offer the rapidly aging Medi-Witch a sheepish grin, the sound of rapid footsteps following soon.

"You blubbering idiot, Harry James Potter!" Daphne looked livid. Her face was deep enough red to make Harry swear she was a very distant relative of the Weasley's; Daphne's hair appeared frazzled and askew, strands sticking in seemingly every direction. Her beautiful, deep green eyes were set in the harshest glare she had ever aimed at the Seeker; her hands coiled so tightly together that her knuckles grew white, her nails digging into her palms to the point of bloodshed. Stomping her way in front of Harry, Daphne violently poked a finger into the boy's chest. "You stupid, stupid Gryffindor!"

Then came the hitting.

Daphne's still clenched fist collided rather harshly with Harry's non-injured arm, the wizard recoiling back as he let out various protests at the action; Daphne didn't relent, her right hand being raised only to come roaring down on his arm again, and again. Harry expected to blanch at the assault, worrying that horrid memories and thoughts would plague his mind during the ordeal, but unlike his Uncle, - who's fists burned with hatred and pure contempt - Daphne's bombardments held a strange mixture of concern, anger, and the smallest hints of fear.

"What happened to our promise, you - you imbecile?!" Daphne grabbed Harry's arms harshly, the wizard hissing in pain for a second time as her nails dug into his biceps.

"Daph, it's just a cut; at no point was I under the threat of death, I'm fine," Harry said calmly, hoping to placate his seething friend. Unfortunately, his attempts only seemed to anger her further.

"Don't. Call me that right now!" Daphne spat out. Turning her attention over to Harry's injured arm, - his skin coated in dried blood, painting it dark mahogany - she scoffed. "Just a cut, he says. You nearly lost your arm!"

Daphne shook both of his arms for emphasis, Madam Pomfrey protesting quite verbally, worrying over the possible reopening of the wound as Daphne let out her aggression. Harry had remained calm throughout, slowly edging his way out of the Slytherin's grasp.

"Daphne," Harry started softly, abiding by her earlier request to not use her nickname. Daphne's vice grip loosened ever so slightly, her angered glare softening as she stared at Harry. "It was just a cut. I dealt with it, didn't I?"

Daphne's eyes flew over to the scorched wound, her nose crinkling in disgust at the discolored wound. She barely resisted the urge to finish the dragon's job and slice off Harry's arm; to prove her point that he nearly lost it she rationalized.

"Dealt with it in the most barbaric way conceivable," she muttered her now present tone a clear contrast to her previous bout of shouting. Daphne lazily traced a finger over Harry's angered skin, her digit curling back at his small gasp of discomfort.

Despite Daphne's obtuse mood, Harry chanced a smile, gently prying the hand that was still curled around his arm off.

"I'm fine, Daphne," He stated, voice gentle but holding a firm reassurance within it.

Daphne's glare had long since disappeared, a worried frown creasing her features. Harry's hand, held hers gently mere inches away from him, his thumb tucked into her palm while his fingers curled around her knuckles. Her pine green eyes locked onto his emerald green ones; searching for any trace of deceit behind them.

All she could find was a soft smile full of comfort.

With a sudden jerk, Daphne pulled her hands away from Harry's arms and hand, opting to run her fingers through her messy hair in a vain attempt to tame it. With a heavy breath, she threw on a much more supercilious look.

"You're no good to anyone dead, Harry," She spoke as if scolding a small child, earning an eye roll from the subject of her annoyance. "I'd implore you to abide by that promise."

Harry chuckled softly at the remark, Daphne's eyes sharpening again at the sound.

"Is that Greengrass for, 'I was worried about you'?" Harry joked. Daphne's haughty frown quirked up ever so slightly into a grin. Tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, Daphne tried to keep up her snobby facade.

"I suppose," Daphne bit on her inner cheek to maintain her indifferent look. A small smile that toyed at her lips ruined the effect. "It could be."

Harry let out another bout of chuckles, clutching his side with his good hand as he reared his head back. Daphne dropped her cold expression; putting on a small, but slightly distraught smile.

"I was worried, Harry," she stated. Clasping her hands together, Daphne clenched her jaw. "Tracey, too."

Harry's laughs died down slowly, a warm smile taking place on his features.

"Well, you two had nothing to worry about," Harry placed his non-injured hand on Daphne's shoulder, giving the smaller girl a squeeze of reassurance. "The plan worked like a charm."

Daphne raised her hand to idly tap just outside the circumference of Harry's scorched skin. Her lingering touch sent a shiver up Harry's spine, a small sigh escaping him as the sensation. Daphne frowned at the reaction.

"Well… clearly could've worked better," despite her light-hearted tone, the clear cut concern that coated Daphne's voice strangely pulled at Harry's heart.

He wasn't used to this. Someone caring about his wellbeing. Even throughout the three-year friendship, he shared between Ron and Hermione - one he still needed to fix, possibly - didn't compare to the way Daphne looked at the sweltering injury as if she herself could feel it. It was… strange.

The hand that hovered over his injury, slowly - cautiously - wrapped its way around Harry's body; Daphne's other hand slowly followed suit. Harry could feel Daphne slowly press her cheek against his chest, her arms tightening around him protectively. Harry couldn't help but reciprocate the hug. Feeling Daphne shiver under his embrace, Harry smirked.

"Still rubbish at warming charms?" He asked teasingly, earning a light slap on the chest from the Slytherin he held.

"Git," Daphne mumbled in return, not a trace of malice coated the insult.

"Ahh, Ms. Greengrass, well isn't this a lovely surprise."

Harry nearly toppled over when Daphne pushed herself away from him, her face turning beet red in a moment's notice. Harry chuckled at his friend as he turned to face the entrance of the medical tent. Dumbledore stood in the small opening, the other champions and their respective headmasters all standing behind him. The headmaster's blue eyes shone with their familiar twinkle as he looked between the two fourth years. Daphne looked between her friend and the headmaster, mumbling a quiet "sorry," to the aged wizard before shuffling her way out of the hospital tent. Dumbledore merely smiled as the girl left, offering a small nod of recognition as she walked passed.

Harry followed Daphne's path with his eyes; watching as she'd walk slowly as she passed fellow students, checking behind her to make sure they weren't looking at her before sprinting down the pathway back to the school. It was such a small, insignificant detail, but his heart clenched at the sight all the same. The feeling sent a strange vibration through Harry, his hand curling into a fist as his breath came to a sudden stop.

The feeling was unnatural, but it wasn't unpleasant.

Harry wished he knew just what that feeling was.


 

Chapter Text


A fire crackled energetically in the now unfamiliar Gryffindor common room. Harry had spent such remarkable amounts of time in the Room of Requirement with Tracey and Daphne, that sitting down on the plush couches in his house's common room now felt unnerving; foreign even. The red and gold banisters replaced Daphne's bookshelves while large, vertical windows replaced Tracey's various cabinets and shelves of confections.

Streamers, confetti, and Merlin only knew what else lay strewn about on the common room's floor; the aftermath of the party the Weasley twins had thrown to congratulate Harry for his completion of the first task rested in large clumps of evidence. McGonagall was no doubt going to attempt castration on the prank connoisseurs sometime in the future for muddying the common room. Harry couldn't help but let a grin that would've made his Godfather proud, cross his features as he pictured the scene.

The two red-headed twins cackling with unbridled joy as they ran amongst the twisted hallways of Hogwarts, their head of house following closely behind; her pointed heels clacking against the cobble floors as she fired various hexes, jinxes, and the odd curse towards the Weasley twins.

There was something odd about the prospect of imminent pain - of wrath - that left Harry's scar with an uncomfortable itch; one he couldn't quell. He did his best to ignore it throughout the night, but despite his attempts, it remained. It was as if something was trying to claw its way out of his mind.

Harry shook the thoughts off with a slight shiver, turning his gaze from the roaring fire to the golden egg that eluded him. The golden egg that held information regarding the second task; the golden egg that screeched once opened. It was such an ear-piercing noise, it amazed Harry that his ears weren't damaged - let alone bleeding each time he unscrewed the top.

For all intents and purposes; Harry was stumped. He'd tried leaving the egg in a crackling fire while opening it; burying it, throwing various spells at it, opening it upside down, even wearing a pair of Professor Sprout's mandrake earmuffs. Yet nothing had worked.

Each and every time, he was met with the same wail that would cause pure agony.

With a groan of tedium, Harry stood from the couch. Perhaps lunch would help him solve the riddle that was his egg.


Tracey frowned at the wide space in the Slytherin table in front of her, the distinct head of blonde - near golden - locks stood absent in its normal spot. The feeling that had lodged itself in Tracey's abdomen had made it quite difficult to enjoy the plentiful feast that was the Hogwarts lunch menu. A very un-Tracey like sigh tore through her throat as she poked and prodded at her lunch.

"Where's Daphne?"

Normally, Tracey would be excited - ecstatic even - to hear the strangely musical voice of her favorite Gryffindor. Had he not brought up her, she'd probably look up at him with her usual fervor; her teeth shining in an irremovable grin as a lollipop hung from the corner of her mouth, per her nasty habit. But instead, she weakly shrugged, stabbing a slice of her chicken with her fork with far more force than necessary.

"Family emergency, apparently," Tracey winced at her use of apparently; she was acutely aware of Daphne's - or rather her sister's - 'situation.'

Finally looking up, Tracey studied Harry's expression; her eyebrows creasing together as his lips formed a silent "O" of understanding. He shifted around as he sat down, the sling that held his injured arm securely against his chest, barely moving an inch. Despite the obvious annoyance, the sling caused him, Harry still smiled up at her, his green eyes shining with an unknown glimmer. Had it been a regular day, Tracey's attention would have remained on the boy's eyes for a few more seconds as she lost herself within their emerald pools. That day, however, she did anything but that. The strange knot forming in her chest prevented her from doing much more than shrugging at his look.

Harry - being the friend that he was, Tracey mused - was quick to notice her rather downtrodden appearance, his face shifting quickly from soft-spoken happiness to worry.

"You all right?" It was such a simple question. One that Tracey found herself struggling to answer.

If she were being honest with herself. No. No, she was far from all right. There in front of her sat the boy who she somehow managed to develop feelings for, and he was asking about another girl. The how, why, or when she started to see him in a different light was lost on her; all she knew was that she did. But, it felt like she was nothing to him. Tracey knew that Harry would fervently decline such a statement had she spouted it, but the feeling lingered like a sadistic parasite.

Each time she watched Daphne and Harry interact, she grew more and more aware of the obvious differences in their relationships. They were quickly heading in the direction of intimacy while she stayed put; acting as the quirky, joyful third wheel.

There had been no vulnerable confessions between her and Harry; no tentative hugs, or sentiments of reassurance that she was important to him, no inside jokes shared between the two. All there had been was the sharing of treats and smiles, they were merely friends. The fact left Tracey shivering as if she were cold.

She felt left behind; alone.

Daphne's statement just before the three snuck around the castle for the first time kept clawing its way to the forefront of her mind.

"Hardly fair?! I'm the one who's going to be helping him, you're just tagging along for the ride!" Was she? Was she honestly just "tagging along for the ride" that would be the eventual escalation of her two friends' relationship?

No. No, she had her plan. It would work, she'd be damned if it didn't.

"M'Fine, Harry," an obvious lie. One that physically hurt to tell. "Just feeling a little out of sorts today is all."

Tracey threw on the best smile she could muster, leaning towards Harry with false eagerness. She could see the worry and doubt that clouded his eyes, his malachite irises studying her amber ones intently. The clear want to help that coated him made Tracey's heart stutter.

Harry frowned disbelievingly; Tracey rolled her eyes at the look, morphing her fake smile into a much more believable and reassuring one.

"I'm fine, Harry," the Gryffindor calmed at Tracey's attempts to placate him, his beanie-wearing friend laying a hand over his to help soothe his fears.

Quickly looking for a change of topic, Tracey shifted slightly, leaning in a bit closer to her friend over the great hall table.

"So, figure out the mystery of the egg yet?" She asked, barely hiding the genuine excitement and curiosity that plagued her, a grin splitting her features.

The Seeker let out a dejected hiss at the question, his face quickly morphing into a glare of annoyance. "Not in the slightest."

Tracey's grin faltered; her amber eyes gaining a dejected hue. The Slytherin studied Harry, worry etched onto her face as she watched him. Tracey had to tear her gaze away from Harry, watching as he tried to use his viable arm to cut his chicken, wincing and growling each time his plate would shift and his progress would be reset. Tracey pitied the poor boy; gently, she wrapped her hands around the edge of his plate to drag it closer to her.

Harry frowned at her actions but allowed Tracey to take her utensils and begin cutting his chicken for him. He watched her intently, silence filling the gap between the two as Tracey cut the poultry, humming softly as she did so. It took a few minutes, - a few minutes of unnerving silence - before Tracey pushed Harry's plate back towards him, earning a barely audible "thanks," for her efforts. Tracey folded her arms together, leaning into them as she placed them on top of the great hall table.

Tracey drummed her fingers along the old wood of the table, shifting her body to rest her cheek in her free hand. Her lips curled into a strange pout as she watched Harry, the boy nibbling and prodding at his lunch as if it were making him sick.

"Yule Ball is coming up."

The statement came out with such a cold indifference that Tracey had surprised herself. She didn't even know exactly why she brought it up; a low chuckle gurgling out of her as she pondered the fact. Maybe her inner Slytherin was finally making an appearance, by snatching up Harry before Daphne had the chance; furthering her own goals while her competition was at a disadvantage. The thought sent a shudder down Tracey's back, the notion that she was taking advantage of Daphne's absence sent a strange squirm through her body.

Harry appeared to frown for a few moments. "McGonagall mentioned something about a ball earlier."

Tracey had to suppress the giggle that threatened to erupt from her throat.

"Any idea who you're gonna ask?" Tracey asked, gently teetering one of her hands towards Harry's free one, her lips toying into a small, hopeful grin. The Seeker's frown deepened as he placed his fork down onto his plate softly.

"I'm not quite sure actually, don't know if I want to go to be terribly honest," The Gryffindor admitted, absentmindedly rubbing his chin as if in thought. Mere seconds later, he let out a defeated groan.

"I'm one of the champions, I'm probably expected -if not forced - to go," he spat the idea out as if the mere thought of going was akin to having to face yet another dragon.

Tracey's smile fell, her eyes darkening as she swallowed thickly. Her throat constricted, the inside feeling as if hundreds of small cactus spines were pricking the soft tissues of her mouth. She hated the feeling. Drawing her hand's back, Tracey gently folded them together on the table once again.

"Well, I'm sure whoever you ask will be a lucky lady," The Slytherin stated. Her voice held a false cheeriness that put Harry on edge, his bright green eyes watching as Tracey tentatively reached into her pocket to acquire one of her many treats.

Harry opened his mouth as if to question Tracey's meaning, his eyes glazing over with confusion. The Slytherin had quickly sought out a new topic; her own eyes landing on the two people that she knew would at least provide some conversation.

"How's the Granger and Weasley situation?" Tracey queried quickly, cutting off whatever question Harry was about to ask.

The Gryffindor's eyes immediately hardened, his jaw clamping shut like a vice; Tracey had a sneaking suspicion that the boy bit his tongue. Harry turned around in his chair, eyeing his former best friends with a strange gleam in his eyes. Tracey measured Ron and Hermione alongside Harry, leaning forward even more until she was almost side-by-side with him.

Granger, for her part, was looking much better than the previous instances when Tracey had laid her eyes on her. Hermione's normally frazzled hair was now a bit tamer, the constant redness of her eyes had dulled to a pathetic pink shade. She didn't look happy, per se, but she definitely looked much more alive and well.

Weasley on the other hand didn't look nearly as sophisticated. His eyes were clouded with worry, his eyes flickering between Harry and Hermione as if contemplating a question. Tracey could feel an intriguing feeling bubble within her. Had they finally prepared to apologize? Or did the two simply move on with their now non-Harry filled lives?

Tracey could feel her lips curl downwards at the latter thought. The thought of no longer having Harry around left her feeling strangely empty.

"Okay, I think?" Harry's voice broke Tracey out of her musings. Her amber eyes snapped to his in rapt attention at his sudden statement. "I think they're planning something. Hermione's been much happier, and Ron gets all flustered whenever I enter the same room as him. It's… strange."

Tracey hummed at the assessment, squirming around over the tabletop as she leaned over it. Letting out a small huff, Tracey climbed over the Slytherin table, finally crossing the threshold of the large slab of wood to sit next to Harry. The boy gave her an odd look at the action, raising an eyebrow in questioning as Tracey adjusted herself in her new seat.

Tracey's amber eyes met his green ones. Upon seeing Harry's confused glance, Tracey offered a shrug. "Was getting tired of leanin' over."

Harry's scrutinizing gaze rested on Tracey for a few more moments, a confused little frown washing over him as he turned to face his plate, still piled high with food. His gaze just barely missed the saddened furrow of a brow from Tracey, her lips quirking into a self-deprecating grin as she too turned to face her plate.


"You excited for the ball, Harry?"

Tracey had no clue why she brought the topic back up as she and Harry wandered aimlessly around the Black Lake, the cold air nipped at her nose and ears, the sensory organs gaining distinct, red hues due to the frigid temperatures. Tracey hooked her finger around the front of her scarf, pulling it up towards her nose as she peered at Harry through the corners of her eyes.

The Seeker merely shrugged as best he could at the question, his pocketed wrist being exposed to the chilled air for a few brief seconds before he lowered them.

"Not particularly," he stated, matter-of-factly. He gave Tracey a small grin as they walked side by side. "Never was a good dancer anyway."

Tracey let out a strange chortle at the revelation.

"I bet either Daphne or me could whip you into shape right quick, Wonder Boy," Tracey stuck her tongue out between her teeth as she joked, cradling a worn-down lollipop in her tongue.

Harry's strides stopped in a heartbeat as he grabbed Tracey's arm, jerking her back to stop her movements. The Slytherin let out a startled yelp at the action, her trademark confection nearly launching itself out of her mouth as she was harshly pulled backward.

"You can dance?" Tracey could feel a sudden heat rush to her face at the question. Harry was looking directly into her amber eyes with a mixture of confusion and wonder.

"Well… yeah, a little bit," the sudden self-consciousness had Tracey rubbing her robed arm. Her eyes darted to look at everything but Harry. Harry let out a low chuckle as he released his grip on Tracey's arm, a cheerful smile split his cheeks in two, as he looked at his companion.

"Well, I guess you two are going to have to teach me before the ball," Tracey's mood instantly brightened. She gave Harry quite possibly the brightest smile he had ever seen; she bounced up and down on her heels in excitement at the prospect of teaching Harry how to dance.

"You… you want me - us, to teach you?" Tracey asked incredulously. Her left eyebrow quirked upwards, nearly being swallowed whole by the fringe of her beanie. Her lips curled into a hopeful little grin at the notion.

Harry shrugged at the question, a lopsided grin quickly schooling his features as he began to tap his chin as if in thought.

"No offense to McGonagall of course, but she's a little old for my tastes," Tracey snorted at the joke, it's second meaning completely flying over her head as she tried to stifle her laughter. As Harry's hidden message clicked in her head, Tracey sobered instantly. Her gaze snapped over to Harry as her jaw hung low.

"You're taking the mickey!" Her accusation held no form of actual annoyance or anger, but rather barely contained amusement. Her lips quivered in every given direction as she struggled to find an appropriate expression to wear. Harry shook his head in denial. Tracey's eyes widened exponentially, her face being marred with unveiled shock.

"You're serious," it was more of a statement than a question. Harry nearly snorted as the words left his friend's mouth. Noticing Tracey's expectant look, Harry offered her a nod of confirmation.

The reaction was instantaneous.

Tracey let out a boisterous laugh, quickly wrapping her arms around Harry's neck to pull the boy into a vicious hug. Despite the wince of pain that erupted from his injured arm, Tracey's hold on him only got tighter. Harry had to admit, Tracey's hugs were eerily similar to Hermione's in the way they constricted his body in their seemingly endless grasps; the only difference being Tracey's tendency to attempt to lift Harry off of the ground despite her shorter stature.

It took a few moments for Harry to reciprocate the hug, but when he did, Tracey nearly melted right into his side. A content sigh escaped Tracey's lips as she squeezed Harry, the feeling of his arms wrapped around her waist did wonders to her imagination. Tracey looked up at Harry's glorious green eyes with an unrestrained smile, her amber eyes glowing in the slowly dimming sun.

"I promise, you won't regret this Harry!" Tracey cheered, grabbing Harry's hands with hers in an act of excitement.

Harry's own excitement shone through in the act of a rapidly growing smile; squeezing Tracey's hands with his own, Harry watched with barely contained glee as Tracey began listing off the various forms of dancing she and Daphne would eventually teach him upon the latter's return. Listening along as Tracey pre-planned his dancing regiment, Harry noticed that Tracey was acting like a much more disorganized and frantic Hermione in her planning methods. Harry laughed at the thought. Merlin forbid, Hermione hear her name, and the term disorganized uttered in the same sentence.

Harry simply nodded along as Tracey rambled on and on about how she was going to make Harry sweep his date off her feet with his "soon to be impeccable dance moves;" how they were going to teach him how to waltz, tango, and rumba. Tracey's eyes shone with excitement and glee, her hands shooting in various directions as she exclaimed said excitement. Faster and faster, the prospect of having to attend the ball became bearable.

And who Harry was going to ask to accompany him quickly became just as clear.

"Hey, Harry?"

The Seeker let out a hum, turning to face Tracey with a raised eyebrow.

The moment is vision blackened, Harry went rigid. His hands curled into tight fists as his breath hitched in his throat. Had Tracey not let out a mischievous laugh, and the crunching of leaves and dirt beneath boots not rung in his ears, Harry would've sworn he was just thrown back under his cupboard at Number 4 Privet Drive.

The sweet sound of Tracey's laughter seemed to carry itself through the forest, however, instantly calming Harry as he pushed his blindfold up out of his eyes. The texture made it clear that it was Tracey's beloved beanie; the girl in question, looking over her shoulder as she sprinted away from where Harry was currently standing, laughter escaping her with every step as her shoulders shook with mirth.

Her waist-length, wavy brown hair practically flew in the wind; trailing behind her like some kind of cape, her lack of headwear allowed foreign strands to flow freely in the air as they jutted out in numerous directions.

She looked so peaceful; so free. Freedom that Harry longed for so desperately.

Letting his own grin form, Harry was quick to begin chasing after the girl. Upon noticing his newfound movement, Tracey let out a small squeal of exhilaration, followed by another string of blithe laughter.

The sound made Harry's heart, ache unusually.

It was not unlike the way his heart would fumble every time Daphne would show off her near-perfect smile; or when she'd quietly mumble just how much she cared for her "favorite, idiot Gryffindor."

The ache made Harry want to fall to his knees and let out strangled cries. But not of pain or sadness, but some uncouth combination of happiness and pure, unaltered ecstasy.

Despite the strange feeling in his chest, Harry didn't relent in his chase for the Half-Blood Slytherin, often shouting various shallow threats of what he was going to do once he caught the girl. Each new statement was met with another bout of beautiful hysterics. Harry swore he was developing an addiction to the sound.

As Harry finally managed to snag Tracey's collar between his fingers, the girl let out a strangely symphonic yelp and laugh combination. Her high-pitched squall delving into hardly repressed laughter as Harry managed to wrap his viable arm around her midsection. The Gryffindor lifted the running Slytherin off of her feet, twirling around as to land on his back to take the brunt of the impact as the two fell unceremoniously. It wasn't without pain, however, as his injured arm cried out in protest, the only thing stopping Harry from passing out due to pain being the numerous numbing charms Madame Pomfrey had cast hours earlier.

Tracey cackled wildly through the exchange, none the wiser to Harry's slowly subsiding pain; Harry had to tighten his hold around her navel multiple times to prevent her from falling off of him. As her laughter died down to body-shaking giggles and snickers, Harry allowed his grip to loosen as he laughed alongside her.

There was something oddly perfect about the moment. A moment Harry no doubt would cherish forever.

With his good arm wrapped around Tracey's waist, one of her hands clasped over top of his while her free hand reached behind her head to fiddle with his hair that had been poking out from underneath her beanie. The rays of the slowly setting sun peered through the trees, casting the two and their wayward animal companions on a softening orange glow. Tracey was as still as one of the many Hogwarts statues as laid on top of him; though with his head perfectly nestled within the small of her neck, Harry hardly complained. He could smell the distinct sweetness of Tracey's candies in her skin and hair. The only downside to the situation being the slight, pulsating pain in his wounded arm.

The moment was so innocent and pure; so intimate. Tracey lay on top of him as the two now stared up into the darkening sky; the clouds painted in oranges, reds, and purples as the sunset over the horizon. They truly were best friends.

But with each passing day, the term best friends seemed to apply less and less to Harry's relationship to his two Slytherins. While Hermione and Ron still held a strange pedestal for being Harry's first-ever friends at Hogwarts, Daphne and Tracey were in a whole new category for him.

They elicited a whole new emotion from him. An emotion Harry desperately wished to understand.

Luckily, with each fleeting hug, and each chase through the halls of Hogwarts and among the forest and black lake; with each mutual silence shared and small smile sent, Harry slowly began to understand the emotion.

He began to understand love.

He just didn't know it yet.

"We should probably head back to the castle, Trace," Harry whispered into her ear.

Tracey shuddered at the sensation of his warm breath trickled its way down her back; goosebumps cascading over her skin as she let out a combination of a whimper and a sigh.

"But I'm comfortable, Harry," she whined, pouting as she squirmed under his grasp, turning to face the boy underneath her. The sight that awaited her sent her heart into overdrive.

The setting sun highlighted his emerald eyes in the most perfect way possible; his teeth were edged in his lopsided grin. Small tufts of his jet black hair peeked out from underneath her beanie, barely covering his lightning bolt scar with its jagged edges. Tracey so desperately wanted to run her hands through his messy locks; to feel every inch of his skin she could reach at this very moment until it became ingrained in her nerves.

"I'm comfortable too, but," Tracey let out another whimper as he tore his gaze from hers, studying their surroundings. "Can't really sleep by the lake now can we?"

"Sure we could!" The Slytherin protested, letting out an indignant huff when Harry let out a bout of chuckles.

"And piss off McGonagall and Snape?" Harry let out a belly laugh that Tracey could feel in her stomach, sending pleasant vibrations through her core as his arms tightened around her. "Contrary to popular belief, I want to live, Trace."

Tracey snickered at the joke, slapping Harry's chest playfully.

"Snape would probably accuse me of kidnapping you," Harry muttered into her shoulder as he pressed his face into the crook of her neck to help stifle his laughter. "D'You reckon he'd do that?"

Tracey had to suppress the moan that welled within her throat at the feeling of Harry's breath against her neck, his teeth accidentally grazing over the soft flesh as well.

"I don't doubt it, that's for sure," She mumbled.

This. This was what she wanted. This peace, this warmth. All shared between her and her two best friends. She knew that it could - would - work out, it was just like a puzzle. They were the puzzle pieces, and Tracey knew that they'd fit together seamlessly.

Harry chuckled at Tracey's comment, gently lifting his companion off of him despite her protests. Standing up and dusting any debris off of his clothing, he offered the pouting Tracey a hand of aid.

"Come on, let's head back." Tracey crossed her arms, shrinking her head into her shoulder as she pouted indignantly. Despite the childishness, Harry laughed at her antics.

"I'll carry you if I have to Trace." He warned, slowly edging backward in the direction of the Scottish castle as if he was planning to leave without her.

Tracey beamed at the prospect of being carried, leaping up onto her feet and onto Harry's back moments laughter in a forced piggy-back ride. She wrapped her arms around Harry's neck to not fall, pointing her finger out vaguely in the direction of the Hogwarts. Tracey perched her ahead atop Harry's shoulder as he began walking, readjusting herself each time he'd wince or hiss at any pains in his mauled arm.

"Forward steed! The castle awaits!" She commanded, laughing alongside Harry as he let out quieted chuckles.

The wind howled in her ears, the sounds of life and wilderness offering the perfect soundtrack for what Tracey considered a perfect moment. She let out a content sigh as she relaxed against Harry's back, her head falling into a perfect place in the crook of his neck.

"Just like a puzzle piece," she mused.


 

Chapter Text


Chapter 8: What Is Coming, Has Begun. It's Something That You Gotta See. We Lie And Say That It's Too Late for Some Redemption


Harry was thoroughly convinced he was soon to snap. His display in the first task had done wonders to bolster his social status within Hogwarts, and he couldn't have hated it more. With each suggestive cat-call of his name, each exuberant question thrown his way, Harry could feel his ire swell within him, covering him like a cloak.

A small margin of the school population even dared to insinuate that he shouldn't have been hanging out with Daphne and Tracey; that he was too good for them. The unsavory titles the ignorant git's had chosen to use to describe the two, had Harry tense his jaw and curl his hands more than once. His scar would pulse, creating a throbbing ache just underneath his skull

He needed to vent; to release the pent up aggression and wrath that had been boiling just underneath his skin since the start of the day. The feeling left his skin burning; sweltering with an uncomfortable itch that no amount of breathing techniques could quell. He had thanked Daphne for teaching him all she had known on keeping his temper in check, shortly after they first met; but as the school's population ridiculed her and all she knew, all she had taught him had washed away in his river of anger.

Part of him didn't understand just why his anger was as severe as it was. This was nothing he hadn't dealt with before; the name-calling, the teasing of his friends, and the sudden swooning and appreciation of his existence. So why was it affecting him so rawly now?

With a groan, Harry rubbed his forehead with his non-slung hand. Daphne was due to return tomorrow, and Tracey had more than made up for their friend's short departure. All he had to do was focus on that, Tracey always helped calm him. Her amber eyes glowing brightly in the sunlight, wavy auburn hair flowing freely. The ways her fingertips would just barely graze over his flesh would always leave him a shuddering mess.

While she hadn't been showering him in affection recently, per se, after their frolic along the Black Lake days prior, she was definitely getting a lot more… touchy. She would often sneak up behind Harry; jumping up to violently wrap her arms around his neck, dragging the Seeker downwards to stuff her head between his shoulder blades, only relinquishing her hold if he winced or hissed in pain. Her beanie would often tickle his neck whenever she rested her head near or on his shoulders. There were soft, lingering touches on his forearm whenever they stuck close together. Her knuckles even brushed against his, every so often when they walked side by side.

For a pitiful moment, Harry believed that maybe, just maybe, Tracey wanted to be more than just best friends.

Those thoughts were quickly banished to a box deep in Harry's mind.

Tracey was joyful, sharp, bursting with life and energy. Harry was glum; shaken, scarred, and dulled. He was damaged. Tracey didn't deserve someone damaged.

Harry softly massaged the space Tracey's headwear would prickle against, his calloused fingers grazing over the softer flesh as if it were a foreign land. The goosebumps that followed sent a pleasant tingle down his spine, a lingering sigh escaping his mouth at the contact.

Harry thanked the gods that no one was around to hear the noise. He also had to thank Madam Pomfrey's harsh regiment of numbing charms and Skele-Grows that allowed him to pull the feats he did days prior. Grabbing Tracey by the collar and landing roughly on his back still hurt of course, but it was a lot tamer than it would've been.

"Pomfrey's going to kill me," Harry mused, a small grin tugging at his lips at the thought of the Medi-Witch ever finding out about his latest activities.

His thoughts trailed off from Tracey and her antics to the golden egg that sat in front of him; seemingly taunting his every move. Nearly four days had passed since he and Tracey had last discussed it, and he still hasn't solved its mystery. His Slytherin friend often offered her confections as a sort of payment for putting up with the egg.

Coupled with the egg were the constant reminders of the Yule Ball. Each time Harry mentioned it around Tracey, she'd bristle significantly; begin to ponder over something before patting Harry's arm to simply say "wait." Harry had racked his brain, wondering just what "wait," meant. Was she telling him to wait for Daphne to return to ask her? Did Tracey already have a date, and he was just making himself look like a fool as he insinuated who he wanted to ask as a date? Harry rationalized his thoughts as overthinking, but the fears remained.

With a less pleased sigh this time, Harry moved to complete a grueling Potions essay Snape had assigned, debating whether to work on it the Gryffindor Common Room, the Hogwarts Library, or the Room of Requirement. The minuscule - almost pointless - decisions as simple as where to complete an essay helped him alleviate the stress of the tournament; they helped him feel like a normal student again.

Harry, unfortunately, had to boil down his wishes to be a normal person down to wishful thinking, much to his chagrin.

Was wanting to have a normal school year such a daunting request?


She couldn't handle this; she couldn't hold herself back. The ache. The pure need. For four days, her mind was plagued with the feeling of him underneath her. His good arm wrapped securely around her waist; his face pressed firmly into the crook of her neck. The warmth of his breath trickling down her spine, and the feel of his teeth grating softly against her flesh had left her a sodding mess.

What she wouldn't have given to have his arm trail downwards; to have that war-torn limb finally meet her. The thought alone had Tracey whimpering in dissatisfaction. Age and location be damned, she wanted - needed - to feel Harry again; to feel safe and loved in his arms again.

He touched her as if she were a renaissance painting; nothing but respect and appreciation oozing from his fingertips as they trailed over her body.

Tracey knew she had told Daphne that after the holidays, that's when they'd make their moves on their mutual friend. But that day spent deep within Hogwarts' forest had changed her plans. They needed to tell him, and it needed to be now.

The only problem that presented itself was the Yule Ball. If they told him now; if Tracey presented her little workaround for the mutual feelings of three people, who was he to take as a date to the dreaded ball? Tracey racked her mind, day in and day out, looking, hoping, pleading, for a solution. Tracey knew that she couldn't hold a candle to Daphne in that regard.

Sure, she knew how to dance and was now hellbent on teaching Harry all that she knew. But she lacked the elegance - the poise - to be a proper date to such a dance.

Daphne could offer her professional mannerisms; holding the ability to guide Harry away from unwanted attention and guests with a practiced ease only Purebloods were common with. All Tracey could really present was an endless bundle of energy and lots and lots of dancing.

And judging by Harry's reaction to the prospect of dancing before her offer of teaching him, he didn't seem too excited by the idea of constant swaying and pirouetting.

Tracey let out a huff of air, wetting her lips in a sign of annoyance.

"Why can't things ever be easy?" She brooded, frowning at the ceiling of her dormitory as if it were the entity that destined her to a - not yet existent, but quickly becoming - complicated love-life.

Her hands fumbled around for her pockets, delving in deep in search of one of her lollipops. Tracey didn't know if she could live without the round confections. An unhealthy addiction no doubt, but the way their sweet flavors perused on her tongue, surprising her with each drop of colored saliva had always left her wanting more.

Her fingers grasped the handle of one of the treats, pulling it out, Tracey conducted a quick inspection. A purple, grape-flavored lollipop rolled between her fingertips. Quickly unwrapping it, Tracey placed her confection on her tongue, marveling at the way the saccharine taste flooded her sense of taste.

The effect was instantaneous; the sweetness of the treat calming Tracey's nerves quick enough to allow her to think clearly. She needed a plan; she needed to know how to act on and conduct her thoughts, that much was obvious. Simply going up to Harry, telling him, and hoping for the best was the worst option. No, if they were going to do this, they needed to have a long, mature discussion on it.

Tracey let out a second annoyed huff.

"Kill me now," she thought bitterly. She would've prayed for anything but a tedious, maddening, mature discussion. Merlin, she could feel her eyelids closing already at the prospect.

Tracey rubbed her face in her hands. If they were going to do this, dare she say it.

She needed Granger.


"Granger!"

Hermione whirled around in the barren hallway, her textbooks hugged tightly to her chest as if acting as a shield. The only other person in the hallway, Tracey Davis, was marching with a determined pep. Marching towards her. Hermione bristled herself as the Slytherin drew closer, her mind racing for explanations as to why the girl had both called out to and was approaching her.

"Yes, Davis?" Hermione's tone was polite, yet firm. Guarded, yet open to the idea of actual conversation.

Tracey came to a stop mere feet away, hands stuffed dutifully into her pockets; her eyes darting to look at everything but the Muggle-born witch. Hermione had released a small breath, the Slytherin seemed just as tense about this situation as she was.

Tracey spat a used lollipop stick out of her mouth, tossing it into her left pocket before retrieving a new treat from the opposite one. Hermione stared wide-eyed at the speed at which Tracey unwrapped the confection to quickly begin feasting on it.

"I need your help," The Slytherin blurted out, her amber eyes quickly latching onto Hermione's soft brown ones with a pleading stare, a hint of desperation creeping into her brownish-yellow pools. "It's a... Harry related situation."

Hermione's stature softened instantly; her brown eyes calming at the revelation quickly. Suddenly her scathing attitude seemed too harsh.

"Oh," she muttered, her voice much quieter than the Muggle-born would've liked. The uncertainty that crept into her tone was far too apparent. "Is he… has he been alright, recently?"

Tracey's own stressed grimace slackened, her amber eyes losing their pleading appearance to make way for a much happier light. Her ruby red lips also quirked upwards into a soft smile at Hermione's question.

"He's been great," Tracey answered quietly, tossing her lollipop around with her tongue shortly after her response. "I don't think I've ever seen him happier… granted, I've only known him for a handful of weeks."

Hermione's brow furrowed at the admittance; her mouth curling into a sad, small smile as she clutched her books tighter to her body.

"That's… that's good," it sounded as if the Muggle-born was talking more to herself than the girl in front of her. Tracey quirked an eyebrow but didn't comment on the action.

Shaking her head softly, Hermione focused her attention on the Slytherin in front of her; seemingly deeming her a non-threat if her now relaxed body language was anything for Tracey to go off of.

"What is it you need my help with?" Tracey sucked a breath in between her teeth at the question, making an odd hissing noise as she thought over her next words carefully. Tracey had to silently thank Hermione for not reacting to the odd screech her mouth had produced.

"What do you think is the best way to tell Harry, something… something big?" Tracey made a gesture with her hands at the term 'big.'

Hermione had furrowed her brows at the question, her lips quirking into a peculiar frown. Tracey watched as the Gryffindor's nose scrunched up in thought, her tongue just barely poking out from between her teeth.

"Well how… big, is this announcement?" Hermione prodded, shifting her body weight on the balls of her feet as she stood.

"His two best friends, er, new best friends, both harbor feelings for him, and one of them, wants to suggest a pol- poli- oh what's the bloody word…" Tracey trailed off, ducking her head down as she tapped a finger to her chin in contemplation.

"Polyamorous relationship?" Hermione suggested softly. Her mind was running a mile a minute just trying to comprehend what she was hearing, let alone why her help was needed.

Tracey's head shot up in an instant, a wide smile stretching her face as she snapped her fingers. "That's it!"

Hermione stood, her jaw slack and her eyes wider than she thought possible. Wetting her lips, Hermione tried helplessly to fix her composure.

"And why exactly do you need my help?" Hermione found herself asking. Her voice came out much harsher than she intended, but she paid it little mind.

Tracey's lax smile grew terse, steadying herself with a few short breaths as she searched for her words. She was determined not to mess this up.

"You've known Harry longer. The way I see it, you'd know the best way to present something like this to him, without having him freak out," Tracey stated kindly, her hands clasped together in front of her stomach, her thumbs twiddling in a nervous gesture.

Hermione's lips pressed into a thin line, her eyes and brow crinkling in thought. The Gryffindor sent two fleeting looks down the hallway they stood in, gesturing with her head for Tracey to follow her. Tracey was quick to abide, staying a respectable distance away from Hermione as she led her through the twisting hallways. It was a quiet venture, neither girls taking the risk to start a conversation; an unspoken truce of silence flowed between them.

The trip was no longer than a few minutes; Hermione led Tracey to a barren classroom to keep their conversation private. Hermione did one last double-take down either end of their new hallway before entering the empty room. Tracey followed suit, quickly ducking in as Hermione shut the door behind them.

After casting a handful of silencing and privacy charms, Hermione spun on her heel to face her unlikely companion, eyeing the girl with a calculating gaze as she placed her books down on a nearby desktop. Her lips were still compressed together into that thin line of caution.

"I'm going to preface this conversation with what I told Greengrass weeks earlier," Hermione started, her voice holding no room for argument. Tracey merely nodded at the statement.

Sucking in a tense breath, Hermione started her declaration. "Harry and I may not be on the best of terms right now, but I still care about him a great deal. That being said, if I help you, you must promise me one thing."

Tracey nodded in agreement to the conditions, all the while waiting patiently as Hermione seemingly studied her. Tracey squirmed slightly under the intense gaze of the resident bookworm, her lips falling into a frown as she awaited the terms of Hermione's promise.

The Gryffindor nodded to herself, her eyes crinkling into a self-assured smile as she let out another terse breath.

"Whatever you do. Don't hurt Harry."

Tracey bristled significantly, her face contorted in annoyance as she prepared to defend herself. Hermione seemed to expect the reaction, as the Gryffindor raised her hand to stop Tracey from ranting.

"And I'm not saying that because of your house. It's just…" Hermione bit her bottom lip in contemplation, her eyes flicking to the ground as she thought hard. "I don't think Harry has the best home life, and I want to make sure that while he's still here, he has something to look forward to."

Tracey's anger died on her tongue, confusion overtook her annoyance in an instant. Her eyes squinted together, as her lips parted as if to speak. Nothing came out.

"I'm sure you've noticed it too. The way he tenses up if you hug him, or touch him abruptly," Tracey nodded shakily, her jaw clamping shut as Hermione spoke. Tracey had hoped that was all the Gryffindor had to say, but she continued. "And that's not all, he reacts rather poorly to certain words and sounds too."

Hermione suddenly shook her head, as if she were disagreeing with herself. "No, 'reacts poorly', isn't the best description."

Tracey waited patiently for Hermione to formulate her sentence the way she wanted, watching as the bookworm tapped her chin thoughtfully.

"He doesn't tense up the same way he would if you touch him, he just becomes more… alert?" Hermione nodded to herself, seemingly pleased with her assessment. "Normally when he hears 'boy' or 'freak'; even when a door is slammed."

"While I appreciate the information, Granger, how exactly is this supposed to help my dilemma?"

Hermione's cheeks reddened at the question, the sudden realization that she had nearly slipped into one of her tirades sending a wave of embarrassment through her. Hermione clutched at her arm awkwardly, looking down at the cobble floors with a newfound interest.

"Sorry," she muttered under her breath, her lips pursing together as she craned her head to look at Tracey. "I just don't want Harry to be hurt anymore than he already has."

Tracey had to repress the scathing laughter that threatened to bubble out. The irony was far from lost on the Slytherin.

"And you told Daffy all of this as well?" It took Hermione a few seconds to figure out who Tracey was referring, but as it clicked in her head, a dejected frown stretched its way onto Hermione's face; the Gryffindor shaking her head in denial.

"I was planning to, honestly, but… she- well she sort of ran away before I got the chance to do so," Tracey nodded her head fervently to end the conversation. The sudden realization that they were once again diverting away from the main topic of their impromptu meeting dawning on her.

"I'll be sure to relay the message, Granger," Tracey made a stiff gesture with her head, her mouth suddenly becoming barren of moisture as the next sentence left her. "But, we need to focus on the problem at hand."

Hermione bobbed her head in agreement. Her nose and eyes crinkled in thought, her tongue hurting out of her mouth to moisten her lips. It didn't take long for Hermione to begin pacing in a small circle in the barren classroom, the resounding clicks and clacks of her shoes against the cold, stone echoed in their current abode.

"Well, given what we were just discussing, the best course of action would be to tell Harry slowly," Hermione started, no longer pacing around the room, but her eyes remained plastered on the floor. "Don't just look him in the eye and say you 'love him,' be very deliberate with your intentions.

"Harry takes something like love, extremely seriously Davis, the last thing you want to do is warp his thoughts on the matter."

Tracey nodded along to the explanation, subconsciously twirling her lollipop in her mouth almost anxiously.

"If… if my suspicions are correct about his relatives, then If Harry holds the same feelings that you do for the two of him, he might now know exactly what it is he's feeling, so you're going to have to be patient with him while he figures out his emotions," Hermione warned, adopting a no-nonsense tone as if she were talking to a younger child. If Tracey was annoyed by Hermione's choice of attitude, she hid it well.

"If you're going to try and talk to him about his much more personal life, do not pry or beg him to talk," Hermione hissed in a breath as if she were talking from experience. Tracey agreed once more at Hermione's directions as the Gryffindor continued. "The only thing you're going to accomplish if you do that is cause him to clam up and become defensive.

"That being said, if you are one-hundred percent serious about this-"

"Which I am."

Hermione scowled slightly as Tracey cut her off; her glare meeting a firm look of solemnity. Hermione studied the girl's look for a few moments before quickly recuperating from the interruption.

"If you're one-hundred percent serious about this, I implore you to make an effort to break through Harry's shell," Hermione furrowed her brows, tapping her chin in thought as she diverted her attention away from Tracey for a few moments.

"I believe that's everything you'll need to know. When are you planning on telling him?" Hermione raised her head in questioning, watching as Tracey pondered over her query.

"Daffy's returning tomorrow, and I'll have to clue her into all of this…" Tracey trailed off, muttering a few sentences to herself as her face curled strangely in thought.

Adjusting the beanie on her head, Tracey gave the Gryffindor in front of her an earnest look.

"Three to four days, assuming there are no hiccups along the way," Tracey said, her jaw quirking ever so slightly as if fighting a smile.

Hermione smiled bitter-sweetly, grabbing a handful of her bushy mane between her fingers to twirl it around. Tracey felt a spark of empathy shoot through her.

"Well, I wish you three luck," The Gryffindor's voice was hollow, the false enthusiasm mirroring her melancholic expression.

Hermione gave Tracey a nod of good faith, turning around and opening the empty classroom's door while picking up her books in a swift motion. Tracey felt her body react faster than her mind did.

"Granger, wait," Tracey called out. The Muggle-born witch froze in place, just barely turning her head to show her attentiveness. Tracey swallowed thickly, her eyes widening slightly as she fought for words.

"Harry told us what happened between you three," Hermione flinched as Tracey finished her sentence, guilt, and shame shining in the girl's soft, brown eyes. "You two are going to apologize, right?"

Hermione stood silently in the doorway, her expression turning blank in its own shadow. Tracey swore she could hear her own heartbeat while the two stood in the hushed room.

"Yes," was the soft reply. "I don't know what good it will do, however."

Tracey pursed her lips; her mouth drying quickly. Another bout of sympathy filled her veins. The Slytherin opened her mouth to protest but was cut off as Hermione shook her head.

"Harry found you two," Hermione stated, turning fully to face Tracey, her poignant smile still present on her face. "Best case scenario, he forgives us and we remain friends, but…"

Hermione's eyes shone with a small sheet of tears, the Gryffindor sniffing to withhold her emotions.

"We won't be his best friends, anymore."

Tracey furrowed her brow, a frown crossing her features as a small surge of annoyance fought her sense of empathy.

"Well, keeping his friendship is better than nothing, is it not?" Tracey asked, taking a few steps closer to Hermione as she did so. "You don't have to be best friends to still care for each other."

Hermione nodded solemnly, inclining her head to give a small nod of thanks. The Gryffindor's jaw tensed slightly.

"Yes… yes, you're right," The bushy-haired witch muttered, wiping at her nose with her sleeve. "Thank you."

Tracey gave the Gryffindor her best comforting smile, giving her a nod to help try and soothe the emotional witch. With a weak smile, Hermione finally departed the classroom, a feeble shuffle in her steps. Tracey let out a pitying sigh as she watched the girl leave.

The privacy charms fizzled out of existence shortly after Hermione's withdrawal, leaving Tracey with her own thoughts. Wind pummeled against the windows of the classroom, large beams of light filtering through their foggy surfaces, basking the Slytherin in a bright glow. She chomped down onto her lollipop, the confection cracking under the pressure as Tracey began to leave the room.

Her thoughts were a jumbled mess, but a few key impressions had stuck with her. Most notably, were Harry's relatives. Her friend had never once brought them up during conversations; whenever the topic of 'family' was brought up, he would become quiet and withdrawn; slinking into the background as he listened intently.

And then Hermione had gone and revealed all that she had, leaving an unfillable hole in Tracey's gut. She didn't want to believe her racing thoughts and theories, but with every Hermione had shared.

Tracey shot the idea down. Unless Harry confirmed it for himself, then as long as Tracey was concerned, it wasn't true.

But despite her best efforts, the claw of fear remained firmly wrapped around her throat, choking her with worry.


 

Chapter Text


Chapter 9: They're Both Totally Void Of Hate, But Killing Me Just The Same


Daphne swore her eyelids were made out of chunks of lead.

She walked - hobbled - through the darkened, barren hallways of Hogwarts as she made her way towards the Slytherin dungeons; eyelids fluttering opened and closed as she battled the sandman. Exhaustion coated her like a disease; ebbing off of her with every sluggish, defeated action.

It was moments like these, - where Daphne felt like a poor, pathetic excuse for a witch - that left her wanting, almost needing, Harry with her. She wanted nothing more than to drag the Gryffindor to the Room of Requirement, curl into his side on one of its conjured couches by its glowing fireplace, and have him whisper his soft reassurances in her ear as she divulged him in all her problems.

Unlike so many Purebloods, Harry actually listened to her. He would never say "that's no way for a Pureblood witch such as yourself to act," or Merlin forbid, "that's no way for a Greengrass to act." To Harry, she wasn't Heiress Greengrass, she was just Daphne.

It might've seemed small to others, but to finally be seen as her own person and not as her Father and Mother's daughter, was a breath of fresh air for Daphne. A breath of air she would cling onto as if it were the only thing keeping her alive.

Daphne focused her thoughts on her best male friend, trying to steady her breathing as she continued her trek through the hallways. Her flats clicked against the stone, the sound reverberating throughout the desolate walls.

Each time her mind would drift back towards her sister, Astoria; Daphne immediately replaced the thought with one of Harry. The clacking of her footwear offered a strange tempo to her spiral.

Whenever her memories forced her to watch as Astoria's face melted at the news of her blood curse. She would swap it out for an image of Harry's gentle smiles

The sight of her mother gently ushering Astoria into a bathroom, her sister's nose oozing blood as Daphne watched in the darkness of her bedroom's door frame; Replaced with the sight of Harry sticking quills into his nose, maintaining a facade of innocence as he asked what was wrong, while Daphne snorted in amusement, hammering a fist over her mouth to stifle her laughter.

A recollection of Astoria writhing on her bed, her eyes rolling back into her skull and foam splashing out of her mouth as her body rode out a seizure, leaving Daphne a sobbing mess; quickly overtaken by the sight of Harry clutching his sides as he rolled on the floor in laughter: his howls of amusement being caused by a joint effort of Daphne's snide remarks and Tracey's horrid puns.

If her nerves decided to recall the feeling of Astoria's hand clamped tight around her arms and hands, as she writhed and wailed in pain, determined to leave bruises the next day; Daphne would flood her mind with the feeling of Harry, gently running his fingers over her temple to secure a strand of hair behind her ear, or the sensation of his arms wrapping around her back as he reciprocated one of her bashful hugs.

It was an effective form of therapy.

Daphne hastened her steps; hoping to reach the Slytherin dungeons quicker to let the welcoming darkness of sleep finally overtake her. Merlin knew she needed rest: two nights of restless crying, worrying, and general insomnia tended to leave someone in a constant state of fatigue.

Click

Clack

Click

Clack

Her breath hitched in a choked sob. Her mask of indifference cracking under an unnamable pressure.

Click

Clack

Click

Clack

She couldn't cry in the middle of the hallway; she wouldn't cry, she wouldn't allow herself.

Click

Clack

Click

Clack

She just couldn't think about Astoria right now. As long as she kept her thoughts in the realm of Harry and Tracey and everything that had gone right lately, then she'd be fine.

Click

Clack

Click

Clack

Just Harry and Tracey, and the way they'd effortlessly smile at each other; laugh at each other's ridiculous jokes, while she'd stare at them in a confused daze when they didn't clue her into whatever they found so amusing right away. Or how they bounced muggle references off of each other so effortlessly, only explaining what they meant whenever they saw her confused frown or when she muttered the word or term back to herself. How they're friendship seemed so effortless and genuine; sometimes appearing as if they only needed each other.

As if they didn't need her.

The moisture building in Daphne's eyes finally escaped; a strangled sound of defeat escaping her throat as she collapsed against one of the hallway's cobblestone walls, knowing full well that she could chalk up her feelings of inadequacy to irrationality. The fear and worry that had been plaguing her, due to Astoria's curse, was bolstering her insecurities, and Daphne knew exactly that.

Both of her friends had explained just how much they cared about and needed her during their long hours in the Room of Requirement, planning for the first task. Harry had called her exceptional the day she first unloaded her worries on him. Hell, Tracey had gone ahead and kissed her!

Another choked sound escaped her; this time being a mix between a pitiful laugh and sob. Daphne wiped her nose furiously with her sleeve, pressing her palms into her eyes in a fruitless attempt to stop her tears shortly after.

"This is absurd," She thought bitterly, her teeth barring together angrily. "I'M absurd."

Daphne's long stretch of self-wallowing silence was suddenly interrupted by the sound of rustling fabric not far from her right. She knew exactly who was standing there, his face was no doubt contorted in worry and confusion.

"Daph?" His voice all but confirmed her suspicions. An uncharacteristic, relieved whimper tumbled out of Daphne's mouth.

She craned her head to the side, her pine green eyes blurred by unshed tears. Even with the stinging water stuck in her eyes, Harry stuck out in her vision. His face was marred with the distress and concern she knew it'd be masked by. His hair was as disheveled as ever as his head poked out from just underneath his invisibility cloak. Daphne could feel her heart rate quicken at his sudden but not unwelcome appearance.

She leaped up from her sitting position, not running towards Harry, but still walking hastily in his direction. She didn't know who roped the other into their tightly knit hug first, nor did she care; Daphne was just relieved to finally be with him.

After spending two days with her "family", being with Harry meant she was valued - it meant she was cared for.

"I'm sorry," Daphne mumbled into Harry's chest, reluctantly pulling her head away to peer up at him.

His lips were still curled in a confused and worried frown, his arms still wrapped almost protectively around her. Daphne couldn't help but smile at him.

"For ruining your cloak," she clarified, gesturing with her hand at the small wet spot that had absorbed her unshed tears.

Harry looked down at the darkened fabric, then back up at her. His mouth quirked up into a smirk for a minuscule moment before falling back down into its persistent downtrodden expression. His eyes, like his mouth, were creased with worry.

"I feel like finding you crying alone in a hallway is much more important, Daph," the clear cut solicitude in his voice, warmed Daphne exponentially.

Daphne curled her fingers against his back, subconsciously pulling Harry that much closer to her as she let out a rueful chuckle.

"Family issues," She offered.

Harry hummed knowingly, slowly guiding them back towards the wall Daphne once sat upon. The moonlight that cascaded inwards through the tall, slitted windows basked the two in a soft, white glow.

"D'you want to talk about it?" He inquired softly, retracting an arm from around Daphne's shoulder as he looked at her curiously. Daphne gave a sullen nod, leaning to rest her head against Harry's shoulder as she stared out the moonlit windows.

"My sister, Astoria, suffers from a blood curse cast upon my family many generations ago," She explained. Harry nodded, his unkempt hair tickling against her scalp as he did so.

"If she doesn't overexert herself, or have children, the Healers believe she should be able to live to at least fifty.

"But… rarely, she has these - these… episodes. Where she ends up weak or - or extremely sick," once again, Harry stayed silent as she spoke. Just listening.

"The symptoms differ from time to time. It could be frequent nose bleeds, or nausea; light-headedness, or worst-case scenario… seizures and such," Daphne didn't know if it was because of how casually she said it, or from other factors, but she felt Harry tense beneath her all the same.

His hand, once resting upon the hard stone floors, was cautiously raised to lay upon hers. Harry's much larger hand covered Daphne's almost completely. His delicate "I'm with you" gesture made Daphne smile, despite the morose tale being shared.

"Can she be treated?" Harry asked softly, running his fingers over her knuckles subtlety. Daphne shook her head in denial, letting out an obtuse sigh as she did so.

"There's nothing," She said, her voice holding no real emotion to it; no sadness, or despair, just… indifference. "No potions, no spells, no rituals. Nothing."

Harry released a breath he wasn't fully aware of holding. He ran his free hand through his hair, giving the girl resting her head on his shoulder a measured look. Daphne had raised her head to meet his gaze, resting her chin on his shoulders as she stared up at him.

She pondered over the similarities of the current moment and her first "confession." Harry watching her with a patient and worried gaze as he sat in silence, doing nothing but listening to her. With a forced smile, Daphne poked Harry's chest.

"What about you?" She asked, desperate for a change in topic. "What has you, perusing around the school past curfew?"

Despite the previous despondent mood, Harry let out a diffident chuckle. Running his free hand through his hair once more, Harry quirked his mouth into his lop-sided grin, his eyes holding the slightest bits of remorse within them.

"Would you believe me if I told you I couldn't sleep?" Daphne's pointed look delivered her answer for her. Harry's grin faltered for a moment, his eyes growing wary and his lips pursing together in a thin line.

"Well… it's part of the reason I'm up, actually," He admitted softly.

Daphne's sharp look faded quickly, her own worried frown taking form as she turned her hand over, under Harry's, interlocking their fingers to show her support.

"I've unloaded enough of my problems on you, Harry, what's wrong?"

Harry watched Daphne carefully. For a moment, Daphne almost felt betrayed at his clear reluctance to share; but as she searched his malachite eyes, understanding slowly took over.

This wasn't a problem of trust, he was scared; scared of looking weak.

"I'm not going to judge you, Harry, not after all you've done for me," granted it wasn't much; forgiving her after an off-handed comment and letting her spill her most safely guarded fear might not have seemed too serious to others, but it meant enough to her.

The apprehension on Harry's face remained clear-cut, but he nodded nonetheless.

"I…" he started. His jaw clamped shut moments later, his eyes gaining a faraway look to them as they moved from Daphne's eyes to their connected hands.

Daphne followed his line of vision, silently studying their conjoined hands alongside him. Her eyes traced the lines of both her and Harry's knuckles, pondering over how her much more slender fingers managed to curl between her friend's own, basking the digits in a calming warmth.

Harry's eyes traveled back up to Daphne's face; apprehension thoroughly squashed by relief. With a reassuring smile, Daphne softly urged Harry to share his troubles.

"I-I've been having nightmares recently. But they're not… they're not normal," Harry ran his fingers over the blemished skin of his scar. Daphne frowned at the revelation; her brows creasing together in worry as her hand subconsciously curled tighter around his.

"What exactly is making them abnormal?" She inquired, watching as Harry's cheeks and nose crinkled together in thought.

"I - when I wake up, my scar, it - it pulses," Harry curled and uncurled his fingers just above the wound as if to demonstrate his description. "It's like a dull throb."

"It's not just a normal headache?" Harry shook his head in denial at the question.

"No, not even close," He elaborated. His expression grew alarmed; the black of his pupils shrinking in his malachite irises.

"I - whenever my scar aches like that, I - I just feel so… so angry. Like..." Harry swallowed thickly, his mouth drying to near-desert levels as he turned his head to face Daphne.

"Like I want to hurt someone."

Daphne felt her breathing come to an abrupt halt in her throat; lodging in her airway like a log in a roaring river. She tried fruitlessly to calm herself, Harry needed her to be calm and rational right now.

The Slytherin was quick to throw her legs over Harry's, pushing herself up to straddle the boy. Under any other circumstances, Daphne would've been rather ashamed of the act; her cheeks would be burning with crimson embarrassment.

An embarrassment that would've quickly been squandered by fierce, impassioned honesty.

Daphne glared dangerously down at Harry, hoisting their conjoined hands up into his sight-line as she jabbed a finger onto the tarnished skin that was his scar.

"You listen to me, Harry; I don't care what you think is going on up here," Daphne made a point to tap on his forehead, her finger drumming along his skull.

"Because all I care about, is what is going on down here," Moving her finger from his forehead, Daphne poked Harry's chest a total of three times before finally lowering her hand.

Their conjoined hands remained raised in the air, the Slytherin shaking the two connected limbs directly in Harry's eyesight.

"You're my friend, Harry, my best friend," Daphne watched as thousands of emotions crossed over Harry's face. "Whatever it is you think you're going through, we'll go through it together."

The whirlpool of feelings that had sunk Harry's face suddenly stopped. His emerald green eyes peered up at pine green; the telltale stare of desperation and hope met fierce determination.

"Together?" He asked shakily.

Any form of sarcastic remark never had the chance to be conceived as Daphne smiled softly down at Harry. She cupped his cheek gently with her free hand, raising her head to plant a soft, lingering kiss on his forehead, right next to his scar.

As she pulled back Daphne shook their interlocked hands one last time, her soft smile never leaving her face.

"Together."

Harry's mouth quirked into a strange grin; not quite happy, but not saddened either. His eyes danced around Daphne's face for a moment longer before she spoke again.

"What was the other part?" She asked as she gestured wildly down either side of the hallway before removing herself from Harry's lap, placing her head gently onto his shoulder once more. "As to why you're out here."

Harry shrugged at the query, pushing Daphne's head upwards in the process as he tossed his invisibility cloak haphazardly in his free hand.

"Just wanted to surprise you really," the thought warmed Daphne considerably, despite the chilled wind tearing through the hallway. "Knew you were returning tonight so." Harry finished with a shrug.

Despite the kindness of the act, Daphne let out one of her amused snorts regardless, running a hand through her hair as she let an amused smirk form on her face.

"And Tracey didn't beg you to bring her along?" Her voice dripped with sarcasm and derision. "That's surprising."

"She actually declined if you'd believe that," the revelation threw Daphne for a loop. Narrowing her eyes, Daphne cocked her head to the side, her lips parting slightly as she studied Harry intently as if gauging his facial expressions.

"Said she had to plan or something," Harry gestured flippantly with his hand, "or was it prepare? Either way, she couldn't come."

"Did she tell you what for?" Daphne questioned, leaning closer towards Harry as if preparing for him to whisper his response. Harry shrugged once more, his lips quirking into a frown briefly as he did so.

"Whatever it was put her in a right state," His smirk returned with full force. "Could barely look me in the eye before nearly running away."

Daphne pursed her lips as her thoughts traveled to the day the trio spent in the room of Requirement; specifically the day they made their impromptu cuddle triangle. "After the holidays," Tracey had mouthed to her, her mouth quirking into a sheepish grin as she eyed Daphne strangely.

Was Tracey having second thoughts? The two no doubt had spent time together during her absence; was she going to tell Daphne that the 'we' she had used the night of their quick, chaste kiss had turned into an 'I'? Daphne shook her head quickly. It wasn't going to help her at all if she were to board that train of thought.

Harry noticed the abrupt action, his mirthful smirk faltering as he furrowed his brow in worry. "Everything alright?"

Daphne's head snapped upwards at the question, her lips tumbling into a strange combination of a grimace and a placating smile.

"Yes, quite!" She answered, wincing slightly at the volume of her own voice.

Harry studied Daphne for another brief moment as if he were searching for something in her eyes. Daphne nearly felt like wilting under the intent stare.

Harry let out a hum that sounded like something akin to "all right," before quickly rising to his feet. He let the invisibility cloak in his hand unfurl like a curtain, shaking it slightly in silent questioning.

Daphne didn't waste time in standing up at his side, pressing herself closer to Harry as he draped the fabric over top of them.

Neither party noticing how their hands remained curled together tightly, as Harry escorted Daphne further into the moonlit hallways.


The door to the Slytherin girls' dorm room closed with a soft thud; the large oak entrance suddenly feeling weightless in Daphne's as she pressed her forehead against its ridges.

"Finally," she thought, a small content sigh escaping her lips. The heat of her breath curled over the old wood, wafting back into her face to tickle her nose and upper lip.

Daphne could practically feel the warmth of her four-poster bed wrap around her like a cloak, not unlike the feeling of Harry pressed tight to her body. His warm breath tickling against her skin whenever he whispered in her ear.

Daphne let out a shuddering breath at the thought, silently thanking a higher power that she was currently alone.

"Daffy?"

The sudden voice tore through Daphne's carefully constructed front of calm like soggy parchment; the Slytherin letting out a startled yelp as she jumped like a frightened cat. Tracey could only grin sheepishly as Daphne spun around to face her, a hand clamped over her mouth to stop any more cries from bubbling out as wide, pine green irises bore into crinkled, amber ones. Daphne hissed involuntarily, her once calm and peaceful mask cracking into a scowl.

"Sorry," came Tracey's penitent voice mere moments later. Removing her beanie from the top of her head, Tracey pushed herself up onto the foot end of her bed, swinging her legs back and forth in a nervous gesture.

"What are you doing up, Tracey?" Was Daphne's pointed response, her arms crossing under her bust as she tried fruitlessly to morph her sneer into something much friendlier.

"Was waiting for you, actually," her friend admitted. Her eyes flying around the room in a desperate attempt to look at everything but Daphne at the moment. "Needed to talk to you. About Harry."

Daphne felt her spine go rigid, her tongue jutting out of her mouth quickly to wet her lips.

"Does this have to do with 'after the holidays'?" Daphne asked pointedly.

Tracey mimicked the action of wetting her lips, reaching into her pockets to take out a small piece of bubblegum instead of her normal lollipop. The brunette gave the chewy treat a few tentative bites before nodding her head.

Daphne was quick to walk over to Tracey's bed, sitting beside her best friend while giving her an earnest guise. She silently urged Tracey to explain further.

Tracey inspected Daphne with a measured expression, her amber irises scurrying in each and every direction as she stared earnestly. With a heavy breath, Tracey was cautious in her act of placing a coffee-with-cream colored hand on top of her friend's much paler one.

"I talked with Granger yesterday; about Harry," Tracey started softly, tracing Daphne's knuckles with her fingertips. "And… she filled me in on some rather useful information."

Daphne's calm exterior took a turn for the negative; a sense of unease bubbling in her chest.

"She was going to share it with you as well, but - ya know, you sorta ran away," Tracey chuckled in an attempt to lighten the anchored mood.

The right corner of Daphne's lips quirked upwards for a brief moment, her grim mask washing back over mere seconds later. Tracey paled slightly at Daphne's aloofness; clearing her throat, she continued.

"Granger seems to be rather," Tracey poked her chin in thought, scrunching her nose as well. "Rather observant of Wonder Boy. The best way I can describe her anyway."

Daphne nodded curtly, shuffling closer to Tracey so their bodies were almost touching. She heard Tracey gasp; sucking in a sharp breath as their shoulders grazed over each other.

"How is she observant, Tracey?" Daphne coerced. Tracey took a steadying breath, curling her hand around Daphne's before she explained.

Explained everything.

Harry's adverse reactions to certain words and sounds; Hermione's suspicions about his relatives, and how they'd have to seemingly be patient while he figured out his feelings. Every nook and cranny of the vestiges of Hermione's knowledge on Harry was spilled for Daphne to hear.

Pine green eyes sharpened dangerously at the thought of their favorite subject being subject to the horrors of a horrendous home life. On numerous occasions, Daphne's lips pressed together like a vice; turning a nearly white color as her hands coiled, and her blood boiled.

Tracey winced every so often under the pressure of Daphne's grip as she did her best to squeeze back in a show of support.

"And what does all of this have to do with your - your comment?" Daphne asked sharply, an eagerness and need to get to the point of their late-night conversation, fueling her inflamed tone.

Tracey went rigid once more, her skin erupting with goosebumps as she steeled her nerves.

"Last chance to turn back," That thought was quickly dispelled with a firm shake of the head.

Tracey shifted her body so her knees touched Daphne's, warily grabbing her other hand as she curled her legs to sit cross-legged on her bed. Her mouth gaped open; her lips flapping up and down like a fish out of water as she struggled to find her words.

"Daffy, you and Harry - you two are my best friends, but," Tracey's shut like a steel trap, her gaze falling downwards to their interlocked hands. "But I don't know if I want to be just friends anymore, Daffy."

Tracey's voice trailed off near the end of her spiel, her eyes shifting quickly between the splash of color that was their hands and Daphne's small, almost confused frown.

"I don't know if I can be just friends anymore," Tracey confessed. "I don't want to wait until after the holidays anymore."

Daphne felt her eyes widen at the statement; nearly tearing her hands away from Tracey's in shock as she mulled the declaration over.

"Tracey…" Daphne started gently, while in all actuality, she didn't quite know exactly what to say.

Tracey waited patiently, her throat bulging with unswallowed nerves as she stared Daphne down in confusion? Worry? Desperation? The exact emotion - or rather emotions - Tracey decided to splay out for the world to see, left Daphne at a loss.

Daphne suspected she was suffering from a serious case of Déjà Vu as Tracey threw caution to the wind, nearly lunging forward to press their lips together once again. Daphne's body stiffened then relaxed in record time, a "blink and you'll miss it moment," as Tracey slowly began to pull away from the innocent kiss.

Daphne opened her mouth to say something, - anything - but was quickly discouraged as Tracey placed a slender finger over her friend's lips.

"Just - Just hear me out, Daffy," she pleaded, leaning her head closer to Daphne's to rest their foreheads together.

"We both like Harry. Why exactly, neither of us really know but, we like him regardless, so…" Tracey caught her lower lip between her teeth; nibbling softly as she gazed into Daphne's pine colored irises.

"So why don't we figure this out together? All three of us," she asked, pulling her hand away from Daphne's to cup her friend's cheek softly. "We figure out what works and what doesn't, and we - we do it together."

Daphne wanted to protest against the idea; to claim that such an act - polyamory - hadn't been practiced in… in hundreds of years, and that in almost every case, the relationships would fall apart like a poorly constructed shield charm.

Logical Daphne backed herself into a panicked corner; Emotional Daphne felt her heart clench at the suggestion. Tracey's words echoing in her mind like a mantra.

Figure it out together, just like everything else.

They'd win this tournament together, they would study together, they would grow together. A sudden thought tore through Daphne's mind.

They would become one together.

Despite the cries softly roaring in her mind, Daphne nodded shakily. Her throat basking in a newfound clarity as she peered up under her eyelids into Tracey's warm, welcoming amber eyes.

"Okay," she muttered softly. A small smile threatening to break her skin as she watched Tracey's face almost glow with joy.

Almost like a wizard photo, Daphne's mind reeled back to her hallway encounter with Harry.

The fumbled grin she gave him as she straddled his lap, declaring that his heart meant more to her than his mind.

"Whatever it is you think you're going through, we'll go through it together," she had stated.

"Together?"

The gentle smile threatening to crack Daphne's features reared its beautiful head. The blonde Slytherin mimicking her friend's action of gently caressing her cheek.

"Together," she mumbled softly, just loud enough for Tracey to hear.

"Together."