The rain that fell was heavy and made the cemetery even more sinister. Typical British weather, Harry guessed, but he didn’t exactly enjoy it.
Still, he was there because a formality was a formality. One of his superiors had died, and as such, the entire Auror corps were there to pay their respects. Not that Harry actually cared, since he didn’t respect the man - he found Captain Charles a crass man that cared more for the recognition of the Auror team than its improvement, and Harry really didn’t care about being recognized; the fact the man gave him promotions when there were better people who deserved it more because, in his words, “the Boy Who Lived gives our department more attention” just cemented it.
Well, that was the apparent reason. He had another motive to dislike the man, but it wasn’t up to him to tell.
No matter. The man was dead, now. With a shake of his head to clear his thoughts, Harry watched as the coffin was lowered into the earth, trying his very best to look solemn. His eyes, however, wandered, pausing on the widow, wearing a dark veil to hide her face. The widow was an old acquaintance of his, and he wondered if the veil was to hide red eyes, or the lack of tears. Probably the second option.
The widow didn’t even have a tremble to her shoulders, but Harry guessed she wasn’t one to cry in public. The girl he had known refused to, at least, on the few times he had talked with her. Harry wondered if she remembered his name. Probably not - she had been deep in grief when they had met and talked.
The coffin rested against the ground, and the priest - a Muggle one, for some reason he couldn’t explain, but it wasn’t his funeral - said a few words Harry barely listened to, before they started throwing dirt on the coffin. The widow went first, a handful of dirt falling from her gloves into the ground, and she stepped back, allowing other to do the same.
Harry, hanging back in the crowd, did not join, pretending to look solemn. He had better things to do than throw dirt in a coffin.
The funeral goers, soon after, started greeting the widow - alone, just her and no one else. No other parts of Charles family were with the widow. Harry wondered if the captain had no siblings, or they were dead. A curious thought.
He decided to stay at the back of the line, head down, pretending the grass was the most interesting thing in his life until it was his turn. He wasn’t in the mood to have his every movement watched in this moment. He already had been lucky the reporters hadn’t come to the funeral; better not test it.
The woman in front of him finished her greeting, and the widow - the same soft, quiet voice he remembered - thanked her for it. Harry looked up as the woman (it was captain Charles’ secretary, perhaps?) left, and he could feel the widow’s stare through the veil.
“I am truly sorry for your loss, Mrs. Queensbury.” He said, even though he didn’t feel very sorry. “Might I ask how he died?”
There was silence on her part, as the widow looked around, and grabbed her wand.
“Could you please repeat your question?” She asked, doing some discrete and silent wandwork, setting up a silence ward around the two.
“Well, Mrs. Queensbury, I asked how your husband died, if you don’t mind telling me.” The widow’s shoulders trembled, but by the way she was acting, it wasn’t because of tears - she was having a hard time stopping laughter to fall from her lips. “I’m afraid the report we received wasn’t very detailed. Something about… Work exhaustion?”
Considering how little the man actually did, Harry had had his doubts. Why not check it from the source, then?
“Of course . Work exhaustion , it makes so much sense. My husband died doing what he loved, you know; a girl way younger than him.” She replied, and even if Harry couldn’t see the bitter smile he knew she sported, it was in her voice. No wonder she had set up that ward. “And don’t call me by his surname. You may as well call me Daphne while we are alone, Harry.”
Ah, so she, in fact, remembered him. That was… Rather nice, he supposed. He had wondered if her husband had done anything to her memories, but it seemed he hadn't.
“Of course, Daphne. So the rumor was true?” There had been a rumor he had been cheating on his wife with his secretary, but nothing was ever confirmed.
“Quite so. The young lady that was in front of you was the guilty party, but she fled the scene quite quickly. Not that I’d care, because she killed him for me, but…” Her words wandered off, and Harry simply nodded, half wondering if perhaps he shouldn’t arrest the girl. His manners reminded him it wasn’t polite to arrest someone at a funeral, and kept himself quiet as Daphne stayed silent.
Harry had met Daphnee Queensbury - née Greengrass - in school, even if they hadn’t spoken until the Battle of Hogwarts, when she found out her younger sister, Calliope, had been killed by a stray Avada Kedavra, and he had been the one near her body.
Daphne, as he remembered, had simply stared at the corpse of the girl while her sister Astoria cried copiously, and while tears had been shining on her eyes (eyes the colour of a stormy ocean), she had not cried. Her hands were wringing nervously, and he could see the gold of a wedding ring on her finger. Curious, considering she was probably his age. He wondered who was the boy who had married her. Or, perhaps, it was just a fashion choice. He had no idea.
“I should have protected her.” She said, soft, mellow voice barely heard through the sobbing of her sister, through the commotion in the Great Hall “She was too young to be fighting.”
“It’s not your fault.” He had blurted out, surprising even himself, and Daphne had simply stared at him like he was mad. He felt he was , but it was out of his control. He was… Saying his goodbyes, in a way, and this was how he decided to spend his last moments; helping people who were grieving.
Not like he wasn’t being of much help, but it was the thought that counted, and he wanted to make his last moments alive (possibly) count.
“It is. I am the oldest. It was my duty to protect her.” Her eyes tore off from his, and she stared at the body. The girl was small - no more than a first or second year, at most -, and yes, it was quite the tragic death. “We all have our duties, Harry Potter. Mind yours, and I’ll mind mine.”
Her sister hissed something to her, but Harry simply blinked, stepping back, and nodding. She wanted to grieve, and wanted Harry to not interfere. Cool. He could work with that.
After he died (not really) and came back, he stayed in the castle a few more days after the battle, trying to regain a sense of normalcy that seemed to be further from his grasp every day. It seemed like every ten or so minutes, a reporter appeared out of thin air, trying to get an interview with him. The fact he had already given an interview (to The Quibbler) and he refused to give out another seemed to be ignored by them.
As such, Harry only felt peace on the kitchen of Hogwarts, where no one came anymore - well, at least not in the middle of the night -, drinking coffee to keep himself awake for no particular reason. He didn’t want company, neither did he expect it.
Alas, like always, life didn’t agree with his plans - the door to the kitchen opened with a bang , and in marched a furious Daphne Greengrass, a letter scrunched up in her hands. Harry watched as she marched to an oven, opening it with a quiet spell, before throwing the letter inside, watching as it turned to ashes for a mere moment before closing it.
Harry was practically holding his breath, trying his best to not be noticed, as she moved around, grabbing what was needed for tea. He guessed she wanted tea, because most people weren’t the type to drink coffee at three in the morning, like he was currently doing.
When she noticed him, she stopped her actions, holding a kettle with one hand, mid-movement to open its cover.
“ You .” Her tone was flat, almost an accusation, and Harry flinched. Just a little, though.
“I’m already leaving, don’t worry.” He said, rising up, and a mess of conflicting emotions passed through her face. Harry hesitated. “Unless… You’d like me to stay…?”
“Yes, please.” Daphne huffed, taking the cover out of her kettle, filling it with water. “I need to rant about my husband, and anyone will do. Even you , Potter.”
He was… Well, flattered wasn’t the right word.
“That’s nice and all, but I don’t think I’ve got your name.” He asked, mostly because he knew her, from afar, but wasn’t sure on her name. He thought it was…
“Daphne Queensbury.” She said, rolling her eyes. “I’d rather use Greengrass, really, but my husband insisted I changed it.”
Harry was almost, almost sure she was in his year. Wasn’t she a bit too young to be married? And, to top it off, with a husband that made her change her name?
As if reading his mind, Daphne huffed, playing with a strand of black hair. The kettle went to the stove, and she approached, quiet. Everything she did was quiet.
“I didn’t get married by a choice of my own free will, if it’s what you’re thinking.” She sat down, letting her eyes wander to Harry. He played, absentmindedly, with the handle of his mug. “My family had a contract dating back to the 15th century, and Charles and I were the only fitting people. Somehow . I have no idea how it happened.”
Oh, she was calling him by his first name. He probably wasn’t very old - maybe five or six years more. That was…Reasonable , even if not by much. He was oddly relieved.
“And even though we got married when I was twelve, he let me study.” She sighed, and Harry choked on his spit. She looked at him, blushing a little - her ears were a telltale sign. It was kind of cute. “Sorry.”
“No, it’s alright, I guess it’s just… Culture shock.” He said, in the end. How much weird stuff he didn’t know about the wizarding world, as well? “So, uh, out of curiosity, how old is your husband?”
The kettle started hissing, and Daphne turned to face it for a moment.
“He’s fifty.” She replied, rising up to tend to the kettle, and Harry felt the colour draining from his face. Fifty? At least she wasn’t seeing him; it gave Harry a moment to recompose himself. “But I’ll only live with him after I end school, so it’s… Not as bad as it could be.”
Harry was starting to wonder if, perhaps, he should just head back to the Muggle world. He watched as she carefully poured water on a teacup, magicking the leaves next, and approached carefully.
“And… You don’t mind it?” He asked, and she smiled. Harry did not know what to expect from her smile - it disarmed him.
“Of course I mind! Do you think any twelve-year-old girl wants to marry a man that’s old enough to be her father? Of course I am unhappy with this hand I was given.” She paused - forced, if the way she shuddered was any indication, gripping her cup of tea with more strength than what was strictly necessary, and the smile on her face seemed forced as she fidgeted with her wedding ring. “Sorry. The contract came with its… Presents.”
The wedding ring glowed with runes he couldn’t fully understand, and Harry had the slightest idea of what he was up against.
“In a totally unrelated change of subject, though, you seem pretty chipper about, well, everything .” Harry said, cautiously, trying his very best not to step on a landmine.
“Yes, I was ordered to be happy. As such, I must be.” She drank a sip of her tea, and Harry said nothing. “Charles said he didn’t want another depressed wife.”
That was… Sad. And cruel. To not allow one to mourn their losses sounded unhealthy. But, anyway, what did he know about anything healthy? Harry was drinking coffee to keep himself awake for no particular reason he could discern.
“So, in turn, I’ve been burning his letters! It’s the revenge I can take, and you better bet I'll take it.” Daphne chirped, once more, and smiled sweetly. “But I don’t mind. He’ll die, one day. And then, I’ll be free from every responsibility.”
“Cheers to that.” Harry replied, nodding, and she did the unthinkable - Daphne reached through the table, kissing him for a moment: just enough for him to notice how soft her lips were, but not nearly enough for him to register until she had separated, eyes diverted from his, hands trembling. The smell of charred skin rose up, overpowering the coffee and tea, and they pretended not to feel it.
“Sorry,” She blurted out, blushing. “I was… Curious.”
“Curious,” Harry echoed, feeling himself blush as well.
“Yes. I wondered how it’d be like to disobey, but…” Daphne rose her hand, showing the hand, which glowed in red runes, now, warm and malevolent. A net of angry red lines had appeared, starting from the ring, and it seemed painful. “I wish I was free. All of this is… Too much.”
“I understand.” He replied, and the two fell into comfortable silence until morning, when Harry left with a quiet “goodnight”.
She joined him, late at night, once or twice more, chatting about inanities that let time pass and let them know more about each other, before disappearing from Hogwarts. He wondered if he should ask her sister - Astoria, as he had learned -, where Daphne had gone, but Harry knew the answer; it was to Charles Queensbury house, wherever it might be. He honestly didn’t expect to see her again, but the feeling of her lips on his persisted for longer than Harry cared to admit.
But, as if his life ever let him live to his expectations, Harry entered the Auror forces, and discovered his boss was Daphne’s husband. He saw her another time, in private, but it didn’t matter right now.
Back to the present, Daphne stared at him. At least, he thought she was staring. The veil made it hard to know.
“And what are your plans, if you don’t mind me asking?” He asked, and the smirk she sported was an aura around Daphne.
“Custom dictates I must stay in mourning for six months, at least.” She drawled, looking around. The cemetery was empty, save for the two of them, in their silence ward. Daphne, seemingly aware of this, rose up her veil a little, allowing Harry to see her face, the smirk he knew was there present. He smirked back at her. “But after that six months, I’m going to do so much. Live it up, as people say.”
“I wish you good luck in your endeavors, then.” Harry said, politely, and she let the silence ward fall. “Might I ask what you’re going to do?”
“I plan on becoming a trophy wife again, obviously . Quite the good life, minus the entire contract deal I was handed.” Daphne replied, and Harry could feel her looking up and down him. “Perhaps to even another Auror captain, if he’ll have poor me, a widow with nothing to my name.”
… Was that directed at him? Harry felt it was. Perhaps he was reading too much into it.
“Is shopping for a new husband, at a funeral, a wizard custom?” Harry felt the smirk was perpetual on his face, just like it was on hers, and she shrugged.
“Might be, might be not. But, a word of warning, though: I’m accustomed to a very, very good life, so if you wish to compete for my hand, do your best to raise your ranking.”
Harry laughed at that, and the smile she gave him was warm and welcoming. Offering a mock of a bow, he kissed her gloved hand.
“Interesting move.” Was all Daphne said, when he rose up, and he simply nodded. Daphne made a polite curtsy at him, and turned to look at the tombstone, which Harry took as his cue to leave.
However, he couldn’t help but look at her figure, from far away, and wonder how fast six months could pass by. It was little, compared to what he had waited.