3rd June, 1998
To say that Draco Malfoy was surprised to receive an invitation to a private meeting with Harry Potter was an understatement. He spent a sleepless night agonising over what he could want, and when he went down to breakfast, he only found his mother at the table.
"Good morning," he said, taking his seat.
"Good morning, Draco," she said, looking like she'd spent a sleepless night as well. "Do you have any plans for the day?"
"Yes, I have a meeting," he said, eating his breakfast without really tasting it. "Where's father?"
"He's feeling under the weather," said Narcissa. "He was up quite late last night."
Draco winced, knowing that Lucius had been in a foul mood after...well, everything, really. It would have been funny if it weren't so sad how quickly Lucius had bounced back to his old ways after being pardoned by the Wizengamot.
Until the meeting with Potter last week, he seemed fully confident that things would go back to the way they were before the Dark Lord's resurrection. Draco was certain that Lucius was losing his touch if he'd ever thought that, but Potter's attorney thoroughly hammering it in bluntly had seemed to shatter his illusions. The ensuing Wizengamot session had not helped.
"Does this meeting today have something to do with the one last week?" asked Narcissa, after a few moments of silence.
"I'm not sure yet," said Draco.
"Right," said Narcissa, setting her silverware down on her empty plate. "Be careful," she added, as she stood up to leave.
Draco finished his own breakfast and nodded. "Yes, mother," he said, and glanced at his watch. "I should go."
Narcissa nodded, and left the dining room. Draco drank the last of his tea, and used the napkin to wipe his mouth. He was supposed to be meeting Potter at the Verdant offices in about half an hour.
"This is going to be unpleasant," he muttered to himself as he fastened on his cloak and checked his reflection in the hallway mirror. "Might as well get it over with."
Daphne Greengrass fought back a yawn as she got ready to head to work. Thanks to the hard work of their house elves, Greengrass Manor had finally been restored to the way it was after the Death Eaters had destroyed it when attacking her father. Some of the less used rooms still needed to be fixed up, but the main parts of the house that Daphne and her sister were using were now properly ready.
Speaking of whom, her sister was already up and eating breakfast when Daphne came down to the dining alcove near the kitchen downstairs. The big, formal dining room was still under repairs, but it was only ever used for functions and events, with the family using the alcove for meals everyday.
"Good morning, you're up early," said Daphne, sitting down at the table. A plate of egg white omelet on rye toast, hash brown, and berry compote appeared in front of her, and their house elf, Jolly, poured her some coffee.
"I decided to get up early to study," said Astoria, smiling at her sister in greeting. "OWLs are less than two weeks away. You should get some studying done too, if you're serious about NEWTs."
"I will, I will," nodded Daphne, as she began eating her breakfast.
Jolly went over to Astoria and poured her a fresh cup of tea, which she accepted with a smile. "I am just grateful I get to start sixth year if I pass my OWLs like I want," said Astoria, after a moment. "They're strict about grades for the Healer program."
Daphne smiled proudly, mostly because Astoria was driven and knew exactly what she wanted. Despite the horrible year at Hogwarts and the death of their father, she was still determined to carry on. "You will do well," she said.
Astoria grinned. "Thanks, Daphne," she said. "I feel better knowing you're doing well, too."
"Huh?" asked Daphne, slightly confused.
Astoria smiled a little secretively. "You are actually enjoying your work," she said. "Despite working from early morning to well past midnight, you have been in a good mood everyday. I'm glad, and very proud too."
Daphne blushed and rolled her eyes. "I'm the older one," she pointed out. "Shouldn't this be the other way around?"
"Yes, but I'm just more mature," said Astoria, cheekily. "How everyone thought you were the ice princess is beyond me! You are one of the most passionate people I know."
"I am just better at hiding it," said Daphne, ruefully as she finished her food and Jolly poured her more coffee. "On the other hand, your sweet baby face makes everyone think you're innocent when you're as Slytherin as can be."
Astoria shrugged unrepentantly. "So, how is work anyway?" she asked.
"Productive," said Daphne, adding a cube of sugar to her coffee before sipping it.
"And Harry Potter?" asked Astoria, nodding at Jolly to clear her plate. "What is he like? Is he very much a Gryffindor?"
"In some ways, yes," said Daphne, as she absently drank her coffee. "In many ways, he is like a Slytherin."
"That's surprising," said Astoria.
Daphne nodded. "Either way, my job is not boring, so I'm fine," she said.
"Good," said Astoria. "I know you didn't want to shut down the firm after Papa trained you so well and all."
"Well, it wasn't like we had a choice before this," said Daphne, finishing her coffee and getting up. "Hopefully, we won't have to keep surviving off the family fortune anymore, now that I'm earning properly."
"Yeah," said Astoria. "It's not like we're going to run out anytime soon, though."
"Just because we have plenty, doesn't mean we should get careless," said Daphne, grabbing her things and fastening her cloak. "I'm off then. Study hard, I probably won't be home for dinner."
"I know," said Astoria, waving goodbye as Daphne turned to leave. "Have fun at work."
Daphne waved back and walked out of the front door and to the apparation spot in the garden, where she vanished, arriving in Diagon Alley. She walked briskly to the office, and when she made it in, Maribeth handed her a fresh cup of coffee and a stack of paperwork that needed Harry's approval.
"Thank you, Maribeth," said Daphne, accepting the coffee and contracts with a smile.
"Are you sleeping well, Miss Daphne?" asked Maribeth, peering at her.
"Trying to," answered Daphne, honestly. "We will have a guest today for a meeting with our client. You might need to prepare yourself a little."
"Dare I ask who the lady or gentleman in question is?" asked Maribeth, warily.
"Draco Malfoy," said Daphne.
Maribeth's eyebrows shot up, but she nodded once. "What kind of a meeting is it?" she asked.
"I'll let you know once I see how it goes," said Daphne, going to her office. She worked on things that needed her attention and the next hour passed in silence until she heard a knock and saw Harry enter.
"Good morning," he greeted.
"Morning," nodded Daphne. "Malfoy should be here in a bit, but I need you to authorise these documents."
"You mean sign them?" asked Harry, as he took a seat.
"Yes, and you will have to seal them too," she said. He glanced at his signet ring and nodded.
Daphne handed him the documents, and took back the ones he signed to put inside envelopes. Once all the documents were signed and they were left with a small pile of envelopes, Daphne stood up and walked over to Harry.
"I'm guessing you've never used the seal before," she said, holding out a stick of hard red wax the size of Harry's thumb.
"No," he answered, taking the stick from her.
"Just cast a heating charm at the bottom and let some wax drip onto the envelope," she said, and Harry obeyed her. "A bit more," she instructed. "That should do it."
Harry set the stick aside and then pressed his signet ring into the melted wax. As he did, a small gold glow lit up for the briefest moment.
"That's enough," she said, and Harry lifted his hand away to see a perfect seal in the wax. "It's a magical seal, so it cannot be opened by anyone but the intended sender and receiver."
"Cool," he smiled.
"I'm glad you think so," said Daphne, and nodded at the waiting pile. "Because you get to do it again."
He chuckled but got to work. "You and I are still visiting the residences after we meet with Malfoy, right?" he asked, after a while.
"Yeah," said Daphne. "Hopefully, if all goes well, Malfoy and Fleur can get started with the data we gathered yesterday." There was a knock on the door, as Harry nodded his agreement and finished with his last seal. "Yes?"
The door opened and Maribeth stepped in. "Mr. Draco Malfoy is here," she said, leading the man in question in.
Harry and Daphne both stood as Draco entered and gave a short bow. "Potter, Greengrass," he nodded.
"Good morning, Malfoy," said Harry, as Daphne nodded back.
Maribeth left after closing the door, and Daphne indicated for Malfoy to take a seat as she and Harry sat back down as well.
Daphne surveyed Harry and Draco from the chair behind her desk as they both sat opposite her, looking at each other warily. With a sigh, she rolled her eyes and cleared her throat.
"I'm sure you both have awkward memories of one another, but bear in mind we are all adults here and conduct yourselves accordingly," she said, feeling like a schoolteacher.
"Fine, I'll make it straightforward then," said Draco, shooting her a look of annoyance before looking at Harry. "What do you want?"
Harry narrowed his eyes but took a deep breath. "I can't believe I am saying this, but we need you to work with us, Malfoy," he said. "Draco," he corrected.
Draco's eyebrows shot up. "Work with you in what way?" he asked, regaining his wariness.
Harry seemed at a loss, so Daphne decided to take over. "I'm sure you are aware already that yours wasn't the only family we met with last week," she said. When he nodded, Daphne continued. "The war caused a massive impact on wizarding Britain as you are well aware, and it wasn't for the better."
"I am aware of it," said Draco, his eyes darkening. "I don't need a business spiel, Greengrass. Be plain about it."
"Fine," said Daphne. "We are trying to fix it and we need someone who can help do that."
"How are you fixing it?" asked Draco.
"In every way we can," said Daphne. "But to start with, we need someone who can help us simulate business in Diagon Alley."
He clearly hadn't expected that. "You want gold from me?" he asked.
"No," said Harry, finally finding his tongue. "We want you to join our organisation and oversee business venture plans."
"So, you're offering me a job?" asked Draco, still taken aback.
"Yes and no," said Harry. "It is work, yes, but it's also an opportunity to be a part of rebuilding the world back up." He met his gaze squarely. "You and I have seen the war from both sides and we know better than anyone that it benefitted no one. Voldemort destroyed everything he touched, and you and I were a part of it." He took a deep breath. "I want to fix what he broke and I know you are capable of doing it too."
Draco blinked at him in shock. "You are such a Gryffindor, Potter," he chuckled, finally. "Harry," he corrected. "Nah, I'll stick with Potter."
"No, call me Harry," said Harry. "I'm not expecting us to become friends, but I do want us to work together, D-Draco."
Draco rubbed his hands over his face and groaned. "Merlin, what the fuck," he muttered. "I must be crazy, but I am actually considering it."
There was a knock on the door and Maribeth entered with a tray of tea and snacks, which she left on Daphne's desk and left immediately. Sensing that a break was needed, Daphne made the tea, pouring a cup each for Harry and Draco before taking one for herself. The three of them were quiet as they drank tea and ate the warm scones. Once their cups were empty, Draco cleared his throat.
"Why come to me?" he asked, and then held up a hand before either of them could interrupt. "There could be any number of people qualified enough."
Daphne looked at Harry, who sighed. "I said we should ask you," he said.
"But why?" asked Draco.
"Because I hate you," said Harry, bluntly. "You were the first magical child I met in this world and I hated you from the moment I saw you. We hated each other all through school, we fought, we duelled, we cursed each other, we almost killed each other. More than once." He chuckled bitterly. "Now imagine after all that, I am starting to actually understand you. I hate it. I hate that even though I would not have made the choices that you did, I can understand so easily why you did it."
Draco narrowed his eyes at him. "Is that what this is then? A way for you to lord your victory over me?" he asked, his voice surprisingly blank. "Or worse, is it pity?"
"It's neither, though I wish it could be either of those, really," said Harry. "The truth is, we were children. It sounds stupid, but it is what it is. The adults in our life did us no favours and we were set upon the paths we ended up on long before either you or I had a say." He took a deep breath. "That excuse ends now. We are adults. For the first damn time, we get to choose what we want to do. Unfortunately for us, our past will limit what we can, in fact, do. But the last thing I want, is to be the kind of adult who will set up children to fight a war for me. And I knew the one person who would understand that would be you."
Draco inhaled sharply. "Fucking dammit," he muttered. "I hate it, I really do, but I know what you mean. Which only makes me hate it more."
"I understand that all too well," said Harry, with a small grin.
Draco chuckled, and turned to Daphne. "What is it that you really want me to do?" he asked.
Daphne cleared her throat, her mind still whirling with the bizarre, yet oddly comforting, conversation she had seen unfold before her. "What we need is someone to oversee the process of looking over business plans," she said, her tone business-like. "We already have someone looking over the financial aspects. You were groomed to be the head of your family. Like I am well-versed into becoming an attorney, business venture and management would have been taught to you by your father as well, being one of the Leiden and all."
Draco raised his eyebrows and nodded slowly. "True," he said. "I doubt this is how my father intended me to use it, but I don't really care what he thinks these days. If I say I'm interested, what would be next?"
"Honestly, you would be signing a standard confidentiality contract," said Daphne, pulling out one from her desk drawer. "We have two other people apart from me and Harry, and should you choose to join, you would be the fifth one. We can fill you in on the details of what we have planned so far if you sign the confidentiality."
Draco accepted the contract and began reading through it. Harry and Daphne waited patiently as he did so properly. Once he finished, he read it through once more. Finally, after thirty minutes, he looked up and nodded. "I'll sign," he said. "I can sign it as me, and not as head of the Malfoy family, you understand?"
"We know," said Daphne, passing him a blood quill.
Draco took off his glove and signed the contract, wincing slightly when the quill took his blood. Once he had finished, Daphne passed the contract to Harry, who signed as well. The scars on his hands went red as he signed, but he didn't flinch. Daphne took the contract back and checked that it was in order before signing it herself.
"Now that that's done," she said, sealing the contract and putting it away. "I propose we hold a formal meeting tomorrow so we can discuss what needs to be done. In the meantime, I'll introduce you to Fleur and she should be able to fill you in on the details."
"Yeah, alright," nodded Draco.
"Great," said Daphne, and stood up. "Thank you for your time, gentlemen. I look forward to working with you."
They both stood up as well, and Draco held out his hand to Harry. Harry smiled a little and shook it firmly.
Daphne nodded at Draco to walk with her. As the two of them walked towards Fleur's office, she looked at him speculatively.
"You know," she said. "I expected it would take more than this to convince you."
He smirked at her a little. "If it had just been Potter, I would have refused, I think," he said. Daphne raised an eyebrow at that, and waited for him to explain. "Potter's capable of many things, but I'll be honest, his moves lately have been very Slytherin-like. Clearly, it's your influence."
"I think you underestimate him," said Daphne.
"No, I don't, actually," said Draco, bluntly. "I'm not saying he's incapable of being cunning, because I am the last person who can accuse anyone else of that. But there's been a shrewd edge to his decisions, so he isn't just blundering in without a plan."
"So, that's why you accepted?" asked Daphne.
"Yes, that and I think it would piss off my father," he shrugged. "And my mother, for that matter."
Daphne snorted. "Fine, whatever," she said, and knocked on Fleur's door.
"Come in!" she called, and Daphne opened the door to find both Fleur and Tracey inside.
"Oh, hello," said Daphne, smiling at Tracey. "When did you get here?"
"About five minutes ago," said Tracey, and then saw Malfoy. "Hey, Draco."
"Davis," he nodded, and looked at Fleur. "Delacour, isn't it?"
"It's Weasley now," said Fleur, raising an eyebrow as if daring him to comment.
"Nice to meet you," said Draco, diplomatically. "I'm Draco Malfoy."
Fleur's gaze still stayed a little frosty, but she shook his hand when he offered it. Daphne shot a look at Tracey, who winked at her to let her know she would keep the peace.
"Harry and I are off soon," said Daphne. "Fleur, would you care to tell Draco what we are doing here? He has already signed a confidentiality. I don't know how long it will take me and Harry, but if we can meet again tomorrow around the same time, we can update each other."
"That will be fine," said Fleur. "Has he signed on officially?"
"Not yet, because I haven't had time to draw up his formal employment contract," said Daphne. "I'll do that this evening, so it'll be ready for tomorrow." She directed the last part to Draco, who gave a nod.
"You and Harry go take care of the other thing," said Tracey. "We'll put our heads together and get started on this."
Daphne nodded gratefully at her, and left them to it. Tracey would keep things diplomatic, so she knew she didn't have to worry too much. She returned to her office and found Harry, who gave her a curious look.
"So?" he asked.
"Looks fine so far," she shrugged. "We'll see how it goes."
He nodded, and pulled out the sealed envelope from Gringotts. "Should we start dealing with this then?" he asked.
Daphne consulted the list from her own files and nodded. "We could start with the Black family properties," she said. "Aren't you already living in one of them?"
"Yes, the one in London," said Harry.
Daphne struck off the London townhouse off the list with a nod. "There are two more residences," she said. "The Black Castle, somewhere in York, and Chateaux Black in Chamonix. Usually, we would need authorisation to go abroad, but apparently, there's a loophole in the instructions for you."
Harry unsealed the manila envelope and realised that the bigger envelope was filled with several smaller envelopes, each with the name of a residence on it. The individual envelopes were also sealed. He pulled out the one that said 'The Black Castle' and pulled out the parchment from inside.
"Oh, it's under fidelius too," he said, reading through it. "They also said it's under a suspension charm. And there are instructions to update the wards." He looked at Daphne, and held out the parchment. "Read."
Daphne read the line that said 'The Black Castle is located in Alioth Copse in York.' She nodded at Harry, and he pocketed the parchment. "Let's go," she said.
The two of them walked out into Diagon Alley and when Harry touched his ring to the parchment, it glowed briefly. He and Daphne both touched the parchment and they disappeared, arriving on the outskirts of Alioth Copse, which was a densely packed forest of blackened, overgrown trees. A straight path through the trees led all the way to an ancient castle. It was made of dark grey stone, and even in daylight, the place seemed dreary.
"Cheerful," muttered Harry, as they approached the polished iron gates that were over 60-feet tall with glittering onyx embellishments. There was a pure gold lock in the centre of it, and Harry glanced at the instructions once and pulled out his wand. Resting the tip of it against his chest, he pulled it away slowly. As he did, a silver thread led from his chest and touched the lock when he tapped it. The lock crumbled away and the gates swung open noiselessly.
Harry took a deep breath and stepped inside, but Daphne didn't move. When he glanced at her, she chuckled. "You need to key me into the wards," she said.
"Oh, right," said Harry, and then muttered an incantation that he read from the instructions. A translucent piece of parchment appeared in front of him, and he frowned. "I'm crossing off most of the names on this. For now, I'll just key you and me in."
"That's fine, you can key anyone in anytime," said Daphne, and felt the wards accept her as Harry used his wand to trace her name onto the list. She joined him, and instead of walking through the overgrown woods, they both apparated right to the entrance of the castle. Behind them, the gates closed once again and the gold lock reappeared.
"It says here to lift the suspension charm first," said Harry. "What is it exactly?"
"It's a way to magically preserve the estate from damage," said Daphne.
Harry nodded and cast the countercharm. Immediately, the eerie silence disappeared and the air around them started to grow warmer. The blackened trees came back to life, the air was filled with sounds of birds, the odd darkness dissipated and the summer sun shone down onto them once again. Gradually, the unkempt grounds also turned into a beautiful garden, with neatly trimmed hedges, and the empty fountain in the courtyard began flowing with fresh water.
"Well done," said Daphne, with a smile. "Let's go inside."
Harry agreed and led the way up the main doors, which swung open as he approached, welcoming them into a tastefully decorated foyer with marble floors. As they entered, fifteen suits of armour marched up to them and sank into a bow in front of Harry, and there was a crack as four house elves appeared.
"We come to welcome the new lord of the castle," said the suit of armour, that was slightly more embellished than the others. "The Black Castle has been kept safe in your absence, my lord."
"Er, thanks," said Harry.
"And we is the house-elves, sir," squeaked the house elf that was a little taller than the others. "I is Batty, and these be Matty, Patty and Ratty. Would Master and Mistress be wanting a tour first?"
Daphne went red, but Harry apparently missed the implication. "Yes," he said. "But I won't be living here since I am currently staying in Grimmauld Place."
"Aye, sir, we understand," nodded Batty, as the other house elves nodded vigorously. "Matty be giving Master and Mistress the tour."
Matty gave a deep bow to both Harry and Daphne, and started to lead them past the entry foyer.
It was quite the estate. The exterior structure was rather similar to a Jacobethan style of architecture, and the interior was quite well done. Most walls were painted silver, almost all the carpets and furnishings were black with silver accents, and the furniture was made of a glossy black wood like the trees in the copse. The foyer led to a grand staircase which led to the floors above. On the ground floor were several parlours and lounges, a large ballroom, three different sized dining rooms, and a study for entertaining guests, as well as the large kitchen which was bigger than the entire Dursley home.
On the first floor, there was a big library and study, full of so many books that Harry knew he would lose Hermione there for the rest of her life if he didn't stop her. There were several bedrooms and bathrooms on the first floor as well, though Matty told him the main bedrooms were on the floors above.
On the second floor, were the guest suites, each one containing a few rooms meant for guests to the estate. The third floor had even more suites, and also the Lord's chambers, which was a massive suite of rooms, decorated lavishly. The Lady's chambers were further down the hall, and it was an equally beautiful set of rooms. The bathrooms in the Lord and Lady's chambers were bigger than the dorm rooms at Hogwarts and were almost entirely done in marble.
There was another floor above them, which was occupied entirely by an observatory. A massive magical telescope was pointed at the sky and the ceiling, like Hogwarts, was transparent and open to the sky. Matty told Harry the enchantment to make the sky look like anything he wanted at any given point in time, if he wished to see certain constellations and other astronomical phenomenon.
There were four towers around the house, connected through the ground floor of the main part of the house. All the towers were wings meant to occupied by the heirs and their families, and as such could function as independent houses on their own if need be.
Behind the house were the massive, sprawling grounds, upon which was a lake smaller than the one at Hogwarts. The lake was filled with greenish-blue water, sparkling in the sun, and beyond it was a fruit orchard full of apple trees that Matty looked after.
The whole tour took nearly an hour and a half, and by the time they were done, they were quite tired already.
Harry instructed the house elves to keep the estate in good shape and that once he had taken stock of all the properties, he would give them further orders. Batty walked him through updating the wards properly and making sure all the enchantments on the estate were still working. It was an exhausting process, so when he was done, Patty made iced tea for them. They drank the cool drink gratefully and took a break before Harry examined the instructions to go to Chateaux Black.
There was a certain Latin phrase they had to repeat to be granted entry, and when they said it, they found themselves outside a massive mountain villa in the French Alps. Unlike the Black Castle, it didn't have any house elves, but Batty and Patty had agreed to keep up with maintaining the mountain villa as well. Though certainly not as extensive an estate as the Black Castle, Chateaux Black was still a big property that sat upon private grounds, including a private ski slope. The villa itself comprised of a number of independent two to three roomed cottages dotted along the hillside, as well as the main house which was an eight-bedroom property with a magical hot spring, several lounges and a massive kitchen. Once making sure the wards were checked and updated, Harry and Daphne returned to Black Castle, to consult their list again.
"What are all these properties?" asked Harry, looking at a few other residences listed under the Black name.
"Oh, those aren't like manors or anything," said Daphne, reading it over his shoulder. "They're residential and commercial buildings. A few in Diagon Alley, more than a few in Knockturn, and a few commercial spaces dotted across villages. They're all rented out and is one of the ways in which your estate makes money."
"Alright," nodded Harry. "So, what's next?"
"Well, we could start with the Potter residences," said Daphne. "I assume if we go to Potter Hall now, it will take us the rest of the day to sort it out."
"Let's do that then," said Harry, and the two of them read the fidelius which granted them entry to apparate outside Potter Hall in Newport.
Unlike Black Castle, they were greeted with a dilapidated pile of rubble beyond broken golden gates. Before Harry could look too dismayed, Daphne prompted him to lift the suspension charm.
As he did, the ruin transformed into a beautiful stately home made of yellowish stone. It was rather eclectic and the architecture was the unusual English Baroque style with two symmetrical wings projecting to either side of a north-south axis, and an elegant crowning central dome. The golden gates swung open welcomingly into a perfectly manicured garden.
At the entrance foyer, they were greeted by several suits of armour, a few statues of griffins, and six house elves named Annie, Minnie, Tinnie, Kinnie, Finnie and Rinnie. Ecstatic to see Harry, Finnie gave them a tour. The front foyer led directly into a massive ballroom under the central dome. The ballroom was more than twice the size of the Great Hall at Hogwarts, and occupied nearly all of the central part of the property.
The rest of the house was divided into the East and West Ends. The East End was the official part of the house. It had several parlours and dayrooms for guests, as well as a few formal dining rooms and even a smaller ballroom. The floors above had the library, more than a few studies, and a few guest suites.
The West End had the rooms for the family's use. The Lord and Lady's chambers were on the top floor and the suites for the heirs on the floor below that. The ground floor had the family dayrooms, dining room and the main study.
Unlike Black Castle, all Potter carpets and furnishings were a beautiful deep red with gold accents. The walls were all painted warm golds and browns, and the whole castle just exuded a certain kind of warmth. The grounds were quite extensive as well, a crystal clear lake bigger than the one at Hogwarts sat behind the house, along with a Quidditch pitch.
Minnie insisted on making a late lunch for Harry and Daphne after the tour was done, and they ate in companionable silence in one of the massive dining rooms on the West End, occasionally chuckling at how ridiculous they looked sitting on opposite ends of the long table. Lunch was trout ceviche with avocado sorbet, grilled ribeye with watercress puree, and strawberry and cream panna cotta for dessert. When Harry expressed his surprise at the delicious spread, Minnie assured him that they had gone shopping and made the lunch while he and Daphne were taking the tour.
After lunch, Annie approached Harry shyly. "Will Master be living here?" she asked.
Harry paused, and glanced at Daphne. She smiled. "It might not be a bad idea," she said.
"But Andromeda and Teddy…" he said, and then glanced around longingly. Daphne supposed it was finally sinking in that this was the place where James Potter had been born and raised, and likely where he'd been married and living with Lily Potter until they'd gone into hiding.
"You can always visit them back in Grimmauld Place," said Daphne. "It's actually better if you live here. Not to mention, I like the ballroom here. When we start arranging events, it will make for a perfect venue."
"What do you mean, events?" asked Harry, slightly startled.
"You're going to be a philanthropist, remember?" she asked, rolling her eyes lightly. "Part of that is arranging a lot of events."
"I don't know how to do that," said Harry.
"Well, lucky for you, I do," smiled Daphne. "We'll worry about it later. It's almost six. We should get going."
The house elves were sorry to see them go, but Harry assured them that he'd be back.
They disapparated from Potter Hall, with Harry going home to Grimmauld Place and Daphne returning to the office.
4th June, 1998
Harry woke up around six, his mind already buzzing. It had been an emotionally draining day, particularly visiting Potter Hall, but he wouldn't have traded it for anything. He raised his right hand and looked at it thoughtfully. The gold signet ring and the unusual family ring sat innocuously on his fingers, the sight feeling like a weight on his chest.
The past few weeks had been so very unlike him, and yet at the same time, he was just a little bit proud of himself. Being the hero and defeating Voldemort were things that had always been expected of him, but what he was doing now was something no one expected Harry Potter of being able to do. This was down to his skills, and the people who would help him along the way. It was...exhilarating, in the same way he'd felt about Quidditch when he'd first started playing. He thought back to Daphne's analogy, and smiled as he sat up in bed.
Andromeda was already at the table when he got there, and he smiled at her in greeting as he sat down. A plate of full English fry up was placed in front of him by Kreacher, and Harry nodded in thanks.
"Did you sleep well?" asked Andromeda, peering at him with a worried look.
"Tried my best," answered Harry. "You?"
"Managed four hours," she said, smiling wryly. "But Teddy is still sleeping so I might take a nap after breakfast. So, why did you have a sleepless night? Was it just the usual reasons?"
"Well, yes and no," shrugged Harry. "I took possession of Potter Hall yesterday."
Andromeda's eyes widened before melting in understanding. "It was your first time there, huh?" she asked.
"Yeah," he said.
"That explains it," said Andromeda, sipping her tea. "It can't have been easy, knowing you would have likely lived there your whole life if not for...well, I can see why you'd lose sleep over it."
Harry made an affirmative sound as he ate his breakfast.
"So, you took possession of the estate," she said, brightening her tone. "What is it like?"
"Pretty big," he said, glad that she didn't linger on the subject. His smile dimmed a little. "Andromeda…"
"Do you want to live there?" she asked, a small smile on her face.
"I don't want to leave you and Teddy…" said Harry, and Andromeda shook her head.
"You won't be leaving us," said Andromeda, gently. "It's not as if you'd forget about Teddy if we weren't living under the same roof."
"I feel bad, especially since I asked you to move here and then I'm thinking of moving out," he said, honestly.
"It's alright, Harry, really," said Andromeda. "You'll still be a floo call away, so it's fine. With you taking over the lordships and doing all that you're doing, you should be living on the family estate. It's only appropriate."
Harry nodded, albeit reluctantly. "Are you sure?" he asked.
"Yes," she chuckled. "Besides, you're young and you need your own space too."
Harry went red, which made Andromeda laugh. She finished her tea and stood up. "Don't worry so much," she said. "I'm going to go back to bed. See you later, Harry."
"Yeah, see you," he said. "Er, Andromeda?"
"Yeah?" she asked, stopping and turning around.
"Don't tell anyone for now," he said, and then glanced around. "Where's Hermione?"
"She was up until late working in the library," she said. "I think she only went to bed a little while ago."
"I'll tell her when I get back then," said Harry, finishing his breakfast.
"Alright, I won't breathe a word," said Andromeda. "Have a nice day."
"Thanks," grinned Harry. "And thanks for understanding."
Andromeda gave him a cheery wave and trudged upstairs. Harry called for Annie, who he had learned was the head house elf of the Potter family, and asked her to move the things from his room to Potter Hall. An ecstatic Annie immediately got to work.
With that done, Harry walked out of Grimmauld Place and apparated to Diagon Alley, arriving at the Verdant offices a few minutes later.
"Good morning, Mr. Potter," greeted Maribeth. "Everyone's already here and waiting in the conference room."
"Thanks, Maribeth," smiled Harry, and went to the conference room where he saw Daphne and Tracey speaking quietly while Fleur and Draco sat opposite one another, avoiding each other's gaze. "Did I keep you all waiting?" asked Harry, as he entered.
"No, we all got a bit of an early start today," smiled Daphne, as she looked up. "I thought we'd hold a quick meeting to update each other before getting on with what we were doing."
"Sounds good," said Harry, sitting down in his chair and looking at them expectantly.
Neither Fleur nor Draco looked like they would start, so Tracey grinned at Harry. "We had a bit of a rough start, but there's a truce in place right now," she said. "We are being professional, is that right?"
"Right," said Draco, as Fleur nodded.
"Good," nodded Tracey. "So, care to tell him what we did yesterday?"
Draco and Fleur exchanged a look, before Draco picked up a parchment from the stack in front of him. "We looked through the list you and Greengrass made of the shops in the Alley and cross-referenced how many of those are premises were owned by one of your estates, Potter," he said.
"And?" asked Harry.
"There's quite a bit of crossover," said Fleur. "The rent hasn't really changed, but the goblins have been raising it to keep up with the market price. There are more than a few struggling shops who probably aren't making enough to keep afloat."
"If I may make a suggestion," said Tracey. "Before we launch a public program for restoring Diagon Alley, I think we ought to do a few test cases."
"I agree," nodded Daphne. "Fleur, what about the potion business I mentioned?"
"Ah, yes, I looked at it," said Fleur, digging through a file in front of her. "Madam Primpernelle's Beautifying Potions. Taken over five years ago by Rosette Frost, who's the current owner. Your notes said it's not doing well."
"Beauty potions are a big market," said Daphne, as Tracey nodded in agreement. "I didn't get to look around much because we only did a cursory check, but she looked like she had quite a different collection in the shop."
"Really?" asked Fleur, intrigued. "That sounds promising. I mostly get my products from France, because the ones here in England are horrid."
"You're not wrong, so if Ms. Frost has something different then it's worth looking into," said Daphne.
"Well, the good news is that the shop premises are owned under the Potter trust," said Draco, consulting his list. "I also heard a rumour that Florean Fortescue's son is looking to reopen his father's shop."
"I knew Florean Fortescue," said Harry, remembering the kindly shop owner who'd helped him with his History of Magic homework in the summer before his third year. "He was a good man."
"Unfortunately, he was murdered by Death Eaters," said Draco. "Not by the Inner Circle or anything," he added, when he saw everyone's gaze on him. "It was a bunch of lower-ranked scum who were extorting the shopkeepers in the Alley and Fortescue put up a fight."
There was an uncomfortable silence in the room, before Harry cleared his throat. "Is the Fortescue shop owned by us?" he asked.
"Yes," nodded Fleur, after checking.
"Alright, here's how we can start," said Daphne, calling the meeting to order with a sense of calm that Harry envied a little. "Fleur, would you please scout out Ms. Frost's store? The old Madam Primpernelle stuff was ghastly, so if she indeed has something new, we can probably help with that. The shop is in a prime part of the Alley, so if there's a good shopfront, it will draw people's eye, and most witches will be lining up to buy new kinds of beauty potions."
"Understood," nodded Fleur. "I'll pay her a visit today."
"And Draco, please look into the Fortescue thing," said Daphne. "Florean Fortescue was a popular man and if his son is reopening the shop, it will do a lot for the general morale of the Alley."
"I'll start right away," said Draco. "Might I make a suggestion too?"
"Sure," said Daphne.
"I think we need proper offices for the GSC," he said, and raised a hand when Daphne opened her mouth to protest. "There's nothing wrong with the Verdant offices, but I thought we are trying to keep Potter's involvement with the GSC a secret."
"He has a point," said Tracey. "If we will be meeting with prospective clients, it would be nice to have an HQ of sorts, independent of the Verdant offices."
Daphne seemed to consider it, and looked at Harry. "What do you think?" she asked.
"It's a good idea," nodded Harry. "Do we have something that can be set up as an office."
Both Fleur and Draco began looking through their files, occasionally whispering to one another. Finally, after about ten minutes, Draco pulled out a piece of parchment. "There's an office building a little further down," he said. "It's not quite in a busy part of the Alley, but not obscure either."
"It's currently abandoned, so it will likely need repairs," said Fleur.
"I can swing by and see what needs to be done," said Draco.
"I'll go with you," said Tracey. "If it looks good, we can get about fixing it up right away."
"Hold on," said Harry. "Kinnie, Tinnie!" he called.
Two house elves appeared with a crack and bowed deeply. "Master be calling us?" asked Kinnie.
"Yes," said Harry, and pointed at Tracey. "This is Tracey Davis. She has a job for you to do, so answer when she calls on you."
The two elves nodded eagerly and smiled at Tracey, who waved at them. "It's nothing bad, but we'll be fixing up an office for us to use," she said. "I'll call you once I'm there and then I'll give you instructions on how we want it fixed up, alright?"
"Ask Maribeth if you need help on how it should be set up," said Daphne, and Tracey and Draco nodded as the elves vanished with a crack. "Is there anything else?" Everyone shook their heads, so Daphne smiled. "Well, then, we can all head off and get to work."
Fleur, Draco and Tracey stood up and took their leave, and Daphne glanced at her watch. "Good, we got done early," she said, with a smile at Harry. "Should we get going too? I think we should finish the rest of the Potter properties today, and get a start on the Peverell properties."
"Sounds good," said Harry, as he stood up.
The two of them walked outside after gathering what they needed and Harry consulted his list. "Oh," he paused, when he saw the property that was next.
"What's wrong?" asked Daphne.
"Godric's Hollow," he said, his face expressionless.
"Oh," said Daphne. "If you don't want…"
"No," said Harry, immediately. "Let's go." It wasn't necessary to share the address because when they disapparated from Diagon Alley, they arrived right in front of the ruined cottage. Harry exhaled roughly, and he saw Daphne glance over at him in worry. "I'm fine," he assured her. "It can't be fixed up, can it?"
"Not likely," she said, with a frown. "It's been magically torn apart. You can clear away the ruins and build a new cottage…"
"It's alright, we can leave it as it is," he said, somehow managing to stay calm even as memories of the last time he was here crawled to the forefront of his mind. Despite the morning sun, he found himself thinking of a dark Christmas Eve and he turned away from the ruins. "I want to pay respects to my parents before we go."
"Sure, I'll give you some space," she said.
"I don't mind you coming with me," he offered, hesitantly.
Her eyes went wide. "A-are you sure?" she asked.
"Yeah," he nodded.
She smiled a little. "Alright, lead the way," she said, and Harry nodded as they walked towards the cemetery that he and Hermione had visited.
The graves of James and Lily Potter were just as he remembered, and he bent down to brush off the dirt that had accumulated on the gravestones. He felt Daphne nudge his shoulder and he turned around to see her holding two bouquets of white lilies that she handed to him with a smile.
He nodded at her gratefully and set the flowers down on the gravestones, before standing back up.
"I'm moving into Potter Hall," he said, and looked at Daphne as he said it.
She looked a little startled, but then smiled slowly. "That's good," she said. "I meant what I said about the ballroom there. You should think about what kinds of events you want to have and let me know quickly because these things take a lot of time to come together."
"Yeah," he said. "But first, I want to think about opening an orphanage."
Daphne paused thoughtfully. "Alright," she said. "Let's keep an eye on the properties today to see if one of them could be refashioned into an orphanage. I'll also get in touch with Zinnia Yaxley and we can visit St. Mungo's to see how many orphans there are and how we can help."
"Thank you," nodded Harry, gratefully.
Daphne gave him a serious look. "You have plenty of money, but running an orphanage is still an expensive venture," she said. "If you're serious about it, then the events have to double as fundraisers as well. With the Diagon Restoration Program, we will no doubt still make money if the ventures succeed, but that won't be enough. Holding galas and events that will draw crowds is absolutely essential since it will get the most donations from the people who can donate, as well as attention from the general public."
"I am serious about it," he said, firmly. "And I know it isn't just taking them in now. All the children that I take in to the orphanage will be there until they graduate from Hogwarts and their education and all their needs will be taken care of. They won't be treated like…" He stopped and cleared his throat. "They will be looked after properly and given the best childhood possible."
If Daphne noticed the way he'd cut himself off, she didn't pry. Instead, she gave him a pleased smile. "If that's the case, the events we plan matter more than ever," she said. "I can do it for now, but this will eventually have to be handed over to Lady Potter, you know. It's going to be like a fulltime job."
"I'm not sure if that's Ginny's thing, to be honest," he said, unable to picture her running an estate. From what he'd understood before, it was a lot of work and Daphne had essentially just confirmed it as well.
Daphne looked at him in surprise. "You're still dating Ginny Weasley?" she asked, sounding genuinely shocked.
"Why are you surprised?" asked Harry, a little amused at the baffled look on her face. It was the first time he had seen her look so confused.
At his amused remark, she rolled her eyes and shrugged. "Honestly, I figured you'd end up with Granger when all was said and done," she said.
Now, it was his turn to gape at her. "B-but Hermione's dating Ron," he said, remembering vaguely that this was a weird conversation to have in front of his parents' graves but knew deep down they'd probably find it entertaining.
"Yeah, but that would never work," she said, shaking her head delicately.
"How come?" he asked, curious despite himself. He was privy to what Hermione thought, but he wanted to know how Daphne viewed the situation.
Daphne considered it briefly. "Well, they're just too different," she said, finally.
"But I thought opposites attract," said Harry.
"They do," she nodded. "But that only works when a couple have complementary strengths and weaknesses. People who are too similar or too different don't work out."
Harry paused and thought about her answer. She was right; Hermione and Ron were different, too different. What about him and Ginny then? They both had a similar sense of humour, they liked Quidditch, were they…were they were too similar? His consternation must have shown on his face, because Daphne quickly corrected hastily.
"But that's just speculation," she said, glancing away. "There are all kinds of couples, really."
"Yeah," said Harry, giving her the obvious out. Besides, even he needed to think through it properly. "Er, should we head on to the next place?"
"Yes, please," said Daphne, glad that they were moving on.
Godric's Pride in Dorchester was the next place on their list. It was a stately mansion on the river, and while it wasn't as grand as either Potter Hall or Black Castle, it was still a self-contained estate with greenhouses, herb gardens, vegetable patches and fields behind the estate to supply food and produce. When the charms were lifted, they found two elves named Cinnie and Winnie, who agreed to keep up with caring for it. They also requested permission from Harry to start rearing animals as they had been doing before the estate was placed under suspension. They informed him that all the food, dairy and meat eaten by the Potter family always came from Godric's Pride, so Harry allowed them to carry on and to speak to Annie if they needed help.
The mansion itself had a very uniform structure, and both Harry and Daphne realised quickly that it could be an ideal orphanage location. Apart from the large Lord and Lady's chambers on the second floor, the rest of the rooms were quite similar in size.
The outside was quite good too. One side of the mansion ended at the edge of the river and there was an enchanted pool on the river bank for swimming, as well as a mini-Quidditch pitch on the other side. The gardens, greenhouses and fields were behind the house, while the front was quite simple and only had some flowering shrubs.
"How do the wards look?" asked Daphne, as they came to the end of their tour.
Harry spent a few minutes examining them using the instructions in his letter, smiling when he was done. "The wards are actually pretty up-to-date," he said. "They have held up well."
"That's good," nodded Daphne. "We would have to add more if children are to live here." When Harry looked confused, she nodded towards the river. "Wards keep intruders out, but there are also child-safe wards which keep children out of dangerous places."
"Right," nodded Harry, feeling silly for not considering it before.
"We should put this on a list of prospective locations, regardless," said Daphne.
Harry agreed, and after saying goodbye to the elves, they went to the final Potter estate on their list, which was the Potter Villa on the French Riviera. A beautiful ten bedroomed modern house sat on the cliff's edge overlooking the blue ocean. There were steps carved into the cliff that led to the pristine beach below. Apparently, the beach was part of the property as well, and there were ten chalets lined up along the beach, all of them independent of one another. Since it was a vacation home, there were no elves, but it was also the first property that needed to be fixed up a little because of storm damage to some of the chalets. Harry called for Annie, who assigned two elves from the Potter estate to the job quickly.
Since it was close to midday at this point, Harry invited Daphne for lunch at Potter Hall. Annie informed them that she had already moved Harry's things into the Lord's chambers, and that Minnie would be making them lunch. Instead of the absurdly large dining room of the day before, they sat in a private dining room near the kitchen, that was still big enough to hold ten people at the table with ease.
For starters, Minnie served them tomato, burrata and broad bean salad. It was followed by butterflied leg of lamb with lavender, honey and claqueret. Dessert was baked loganberry and white chocolate cheesecake, and the whole meal was served with elderflower gin poured on ice.
"If I eat like this everyday, I'm pretty sure I'll be as big as Hagrid," said Harry, once they had polished off their desserts.
"Master needs to eat more," said Minnie, as she cleared the table. "Mistress, too."
Daphne chuckled. "I can actually put away what I eat very easily," she said. "Our elves are also fond of fattening up me and Astoria, but they haven't succeeded yet. I don't know how long my metabolism will keep up, though."
Harry laughed in agreement, and poured her another glass of the elderflower gin, taking one for himself too. "Have you started preparing for NEWTs yet?" he asked, knowing they were just over a week away at this point.
"Not yet. You?" she asked. When he shook his head, she took a long sip of her drink. "Astoria and I were planning an intensive study session this Saturday. Do you want to come?"
"I'd like to," he said. "Hermione's been nagging me to get a move on and start studying."
"Bring her too, if you'd like," said Daphne. "She'll be a good tutor."
"Really?" asked Harry. "Great, I'll ask her."
"I would ask Tracey too, but she isn't doing NEWTs," said Daphne.
"What about Draco?" asked Harry.
"Would you and Granger be alright with me inviting him?" asked Daphne.
Harry sipped his drink and considered his response. "Yeah," he said, finally.
"Alright, I'll ask," she said, though she raised an eyebrow. "I have to admit, it's very mature of you."
Harry shrugged and finished his drink. "We have to make a start somewhere," he said.
"I'll drink to that," said Daphne, and emptied her drink. "Shall we go then? The Peverell properties are next."
Harry stood up, feeling a little unsteady because of the alcohol. He thought Daphne wobbled a little as well, but he nodded in determination.
There was still work to be done.