Happily Ever After
Huge thanks, as always, to my beta readers, Gardengirl, Ishtar, Greywizard and Kokopelli.
Harry watched Percy and the two Aurors walk out of Dumbledore’s office. “Fun morning,” he said.
“Indeed,” Albus agreed. “You do seem to have made a lot of waves, Harry.”
“And I’m going to make more,” Harry said. “No one ever doubted your motives, just your methods.”
“As I am now seeing. You two should find Minerva in her room.”
“Tell me something,” Harry said, “have you ever tried Goblin food?”
“Most piquant,” Dumbledore said with a nod. “With the right protective potions though, it can be excellent.”
“Good. I’m going to try and poach one of your employees after the meeting.”
“I believe that Remus is more than happy as my Defence Professor.”
“Not him,” Harry said, rolling his eyes. “Dobby. I need a chef for my restaurant.”
Dumbledore stared at him for a long moment before he began to chuckle. “I do need to get out of that habit,” he admitted. “I’ll allow it on one condition.”
“Which is?” Gabrielle asked.
“That you allow me to dine there on the opening night.”
“I think we can arrange that,” Harry said. “We’ll pop back and see you before lunch, so we can talk about the party on Saturday.”
Dumbledore nodded. “I’ve got the Head Boy and Girl working on it already.”
Harry smiled. “Thanks. Do you want them here?”
Dumbledore shook his head. “You two are a special case; I don’t want to drag any more students out of class. Now, hurry along, you don’t want to be late.”
Harry nodded and took Gabrielle’s hand, guiding her out. “It’s a little strange how quiet the school can be when everyone is in class.”
She nodded and looked surprised as he opened a door and ushered her in.
“A cupboard?” she asked.
He smirked and charmed the door shut. “McGonagall can wait a few minutes. I have to thank you for saving my life.”
Gabrielle opened her mouth and shut it again as she changed her mind. “You do,” she agreed.
He reached out slowly; brushing his fingers against her cheek, then slid his hand around her neck and pulled her against him. He kissed her slowly, enjoying the incredibly smooth texture of her lips, the way she felt against him, the way her arms went around his neck – and how it caused her to stand on her tiptoes.
He broke the kiss and looked into her eyes as he slowly slid his hand down her back and approached her derriere.
The look in her eyes was a mixture of pride, desire and want; there wasn’t a hint of doubt or desire to stop.
He kissed her again as he ran his hand over her bum and pulled her tightly against him. Gabrielle mumbled approvingly, and then kissed him hard, her tongue slipping between his lips and sliding over his. He slid his other hand down and pulled her harder against him, since she seemed to up the intensity in her kiss.
“Merlin,” he whispered against her lips. “I’m tempted to skip the rest of the meetings today and just go to bed.”
She smiled and lightly kissed him again. “Duty first, play later.”
“You have an amazing arse.”
Gabrielle laughed. “Thank you. I could feel how much you were enjoying it.”
Harry smiled bashfully at her.
“It’s a good thing. Now come on. I’ve been thanked - it’s time we get this show on the road. The sooner we can get through this, the sooner I can break out the cards.”
Harry looked at her. “You look fine,” he said.
“You were a good boy and left my hair alone,” she praised. “This is one of those things you wanted to do, isn’t it?”
He nodded. “One of the many.”
“And it’s not a one-time occurrence?”
“I hope not. There’s a bit of a thrill about doing it here.”
Gabrielle nodded and followed him as he undid the charms on the door and led her up to McGonagall’s classroom.
The professor was sitting comfortably at her desk, marking reams of parchment.
“Good morning,” she said. “I’m afraid Professor Flitwick couldn’t join us this morning.”
“I can’t believe you’d think that we’d target you,” Harry said to her with a teasing grin, referring to her earlier protestations in the Great Hall.
“Don’t remind me,” McGonagall sighed. “I have had the other professors teasing me this morning.”
Harry pulled up a couple of chairs and sat down. “So, do we have a decent Potions professor now?”
“We do indeed, Harry. With Severus dead, Albus tried to hire an old Professor, but he didn’t want to give up his retirement, so we ended up with a recent Hogwarts graduate, and she is doing a wonderful job of inspiring the pupils.”
“And is she as biased as Snape was?”
“Not at all,” McGonagall said with a smile. “Slytherin hasn’t really recovered from the deaths of the parents of a lot of its students. It seemed to drive home the point that following a Dark Lord is generally a very bad idea.”
“That doesn’t mean that we’ve had it our own way,” McGonagall sighed. “We haven’t won the Quidditch Cup since Fred, George, Angelina and Alicia all left.”
“We’re going to put a stop to that,” Gabrielle said. “Give me a week with Harry and he’ll knock the spots off the other Chasers.”
McGonagall smiled. “I saw that you met my captain. He did offer to give up the captaincy for you, by the way. You are his Quidditch hero.”
“I’ve not got time for that,” Harry said. “My situation here is unique, and I’m going to have to act that way. I have too many friends to see outside of Hogwarts.”
“And far too many pokers in the fire,” Gabrielle added. “We’ve got Fudge under our control until we find someone we like to replace him.”
“Hermione contacted me this morning to keep me apprised,” McGonagall said. “Normally I’d disagree, but I have seen the sad state of the economy – my niece has been unemployed for several months – and I don’t want to lose more people to the Muggle world.”
“By the time our projects are up and running,” Gabrielle said, “we’re going to have to start recruiting Muggles, as there won’t be enough wizards.”
“I wish you nothing but good fortune.”
“Thank you,” Harry said. “So, what classes do you suggest I take?”
“Practical Magic to start with; that covers things like Portkey creation, Apparation, advanced Floo usage, and other spells of that ilk.”
“I’m already taking it,” Gabrielle added.
“Sounds good,” Harry said.
“The rest are pretty standard,” McGonagall said, as she passed him a piece of paper. “I’ve put you in the same classes as Miss Delacour where I could.”
Harry scanned down the paper. “That’s perfect,” he agreed. “It’s going to be fun learning things without Snape, without Malfoy, and without wondering if I’m actually going to survive the year.”
“And I hope to see an improvement in your grades.”
“I don’t think that Gabbi will let me get bad grades.”
“A Prince should as smart as he is brave,” Gabrielle said firmly. “You will need wisdom and intelligence to lead people properly.”
“Not quite how I would have put it,” McGonagall said dryly, “but the sentiment is correct.”
“Thanks for your help, Professor,” Harry said as he stood. “You’ll save me a dance on Saturday?”
“I’d be honoured,” she said. “When are you two planning on joining classes properly?”
“Probably Monday,” Harry admitted. “There’s a lot to set up, but once we put things in motion, it should calm down.”
“I’ll look forward to seeing you then.”
“Where to now?” Gabrielle asked, as they exited the classroom.
“Kitchen, to talk to Dobby.”
“Harry Potter, sir, called?” Dobby asked, appearing with a pop.
Harry laughed. “I didn’t, but we want to talk to you anyway. Is there anywhere we can go?”
“Dobby knows the perfect place, sir!” he said happily. “Dobby heard tell of it from the other house-elves when he came to Hogwarts, sir. It is known by us as the Come and Go Room, sir, or else as the Room of Requirement!”
“Entered it is only by thems with a real need,” said Dobby seriously, “sometimes there it be, and sometimes there it be not, but when there it be, it is always fulfilling needs.”
“That sounds perfect,” Harry said. “Lead on, Dobby.”
Dobby took them up to a corridor on the seventh floor, and stopped them outside an enormous tapestry depicting Barnabas the Barmy’s foolish attempt to train trolls for the ballet.
“Sir is needing to walking past this wall three times, thinking hard about what sir is needing inside.”
Harry nodded and started to pace, concentrating hard on the room he and Gabrielle had spent some time in with the Goblins.
“Dobby was always saying that Harry Potter is a great wizard,” Dobby said proudly as a highly polished door appeared in front of them.
Harry opened the door and smiled. The room was a perfect replica, down to the trolley with the food on it by the couch.
“This is brilliant, Dobby,” Harry said. “Thanks a lot for telling me.”
“Are you happy at Hogwarts, Dobby?” Harry asked as he sat down, Gabrielle next to him. Dobby sat on the floor in front of them.
“Dobby is being very happy,” Dobby said, nodding his head. “But sometimes Dobby is wishing there was more for Dobby to be doing.”
“Are there any other free elves here?”
Dobby shook his head disgustedly. “They be thinking that Dobby is being a freak.”
“I have an idea I’d like to put to you, Dobby. It’s a big one.”
Dobby nodded solemnly, and then seemed to brace himself.
“I’ve been thinking about opening a restaurant, serving a mixture of Muggle, wizard and goblin food, priced to appeal to average wizards and witches. But what I need more than anything else is a head chef, someone I trust to run the kitchen and make sure the food is good. I need someone who’s a great cook, who can learn new skills, and who doesn’t mind working with goblins and humans.”
Dobby gulped and his eyes went as wide as Harry had ever seen them. The elf started to shake.
“We’d like you to be that person,” Harry finished.
Dobby looked at them, not blinking. “Harry Potter is truly a great wizard,” Dobby eventually said. “Sir is being as barmy as all great wizards!”
“Sir is wanting Dobby to be learning new things, to have a real job, and to be being in charge?” Dobby asked.
Harry nodded and was hit by a small missile that seemed intent on hugging the life out of him. “Dobby will not be letting Harry Potter down!” Dobby shouted, before he started to bounce around the room. “Dobby will be cooking the best food, and everyone will talk about how good sir’s restaurant will be.”
“So you don’t think you’ll have a problem supervising others, including humans?”
Dobby shook his head widely. “Dobby is in charge of making food perfect,” he explained. “Others will do as told or Dobby will be being firing them!”
Harry laughed. “I’ve already persuaded Professor Dumbledore to release you,” he said. “And I have the goblins looking for a restaurant. I need to hire a manager to work with you, and I have an idea of who I want.”
Dobby bounced in excitement.
“It’s going to take at least a month to get ready, so I’ll arrange for you to learn to cook goblin-style.”
“And Dobby will be putting together a menu,” he said. He looked around, “Dobby always wanted to work in a restaurant, but restaurants don’t want to hire elves. Dobby will show them!”
“Yes, you will,” Harry agreed.
“Dobby has never been thanking Miss Delacour for waking Harry Potter.”
“You’re welcome,” Gabrielle said, at her most charming.
The elf’s eyes, which had been going back to normal, went back to their widest state.
Harry smiled faintly. “Are you helping out with the party on Saturday?”
Dobby tore his eyes away from Gabrielle and shook his head. “There is not being any food.”
“Nonsense,” Harry said. “We’re going to need all sorts of refreshments, something people can nibble on during the night.”
Dobby nodded eagerly. “Elves will be being happy,” he said. “They was not being happy about no food.”
“Well, you’re in charge, so make what you think is your best.”
Dobby puffed up his chest and nodded, before popping out.
“This room is brilliant,” Gabrielle said. “We’ll be able to plan whatever we want in here – and for pranks, it can be a Potions dungeon, or an experimentation area.”
Harry grinned, “Or a place for a bit of kissing.”
“That too,” Gabrielle agreed, “I can show you my pole dancing!”
“Now that’s something I approve of – you’ll just have to wait until we’ve learnt some locking spells that even Dumbledore can’t undo.”
“We really ought to plan to at least try to eat meals with the other students tomorrow,” Harry said, as they walked hand in hand into Hogsmeade.
“So that we’re not alienated when we do join them?”
“Yeah,” Harry said. “We’re going to be pushing it as it is, but we can hope that they won’t realise just how much time we don’t spend at school.”
“We could just bypass the issue and make it known that we’re day-students.”
“What are they?”
“Literally that – we had them at Beauxbatons, they just went to school there, and spent the evenings and weekends at home.”
“That sounds good,” Harry said, nodding.
“Mr Potter, is it true that Draco Malfoy attempted to kill you this morning?”
Harry looked up and scowled as he saw and heard a horde of journalists Apparating in.
“Yes,” Gabrielle said, moving in front of him a little. “This morning, Draco Malfoy tried to cast the Killing Curse at Harry. Fortunately, the swift action of the Aurors meant that his attempt failed.”
“I heard that it was you,” another reporter demanded.
“It was the Aurors who arrested him. Now if you’ll excuse us, we have an appointment.”
The press didn’t move, and shouted more questions. Harry looked around and recognising a familiar face, he walked over to her. “Get us out of this, and we’ll give you an exclusive with both of us – Ginny already has one with me, we can give you one afterward.”
Lavender smiled, and turned to face the others. “All right,” she yelled, “back up, you scum. Potter’s just agreed an exclusive deal with Witch Weekly. You want access, talk to our lawyers!”
“We’ll pay double!” one of the journalists shouted.
“Triple,” another yelled.
“No dice,” Lavender said as she pulled out her wand and started hexing the journalists.
Harry blinked in surprise and started to laugh.
“We’re dogs, Harry,” she said. “Sometimes you need to take a stick to us.”
“Having you do the beating protects our reputation,” Gabrielle said.
“You took down Malfoy this morning; you could execute Fudge and we’d still love you.”
“Oooh,” Gabrielle said, “that’s an idea.”
Harry laughed as that last of the press vanished.
“They’ll hang about at a distance now,” Lavender said. “You’ve grown up, Harry, I didn’t expect you to be able to act like this.”
“No probing,” Harry warned her, shaking his finger gently. “You’ll get your interview after I do Ginny’s.”
“You’ve heard about her wedding to Neville?”
“Yep. Met Neville last night - it was good to see him. This is all off the record.”
Lavender pouted. “When can I get the interview?”
“Anytime after Ginny’s is published.”
She nodded. “And it will be both of you?”
“We’ll even allow a few photos.”
“Brilliant,” Lavender cheered. “This will really help my career,” she said. “And it proves that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. I’m going to get back and talk to my editor.” She turned, and then stopped, “I should offer some money for this – it’s worth a fortune.”
“You do know that I’m a Potter, and that Gabrielle is a Delacour?”
“The fact that you have money doesn’t normally stop rich people from demanding more. However, it somehow doesn’t surprise me that you don’t.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a card. “Floo me, anytime.”
“Will do,” Harry promised, as Lavender flashed them both a smile and Apparated away.
“We really need to learn how to do that,” Harry sighed. “Let’s get to lunch.”
“You did handle that well,” Gabrielle said.
“As did you,” Harry returned. “You could have said that you got Malfoy.”
“Nah,” she replied, “this way it makes me look humble, and it keeps the Aurors on our side.”
He laughed softly and opened the door for her. Remus and Tonks were already waiting in a corner with four drinks in front of them.
Harry cast several privacy charms as they sat down.
“A little warning next time,” Remus said. “My heart almost stopped as Malfoy started that curse!”
“Who are you working with?” Harry asked Remus, ignoring the teasing.
Remus pouted at him. “You’re not supposed to be asking these questions for months,” he complained.
“You didn’t answer the question,” he pointed out.
“Hermione, as are most of the Weasleys, Tonks, Sirius, assorted girlfriends and spouses, and a couple of Aurors.”
Harry nodded. “I thought so. Want to tell me what happened?”
“No,” he replied promptly. “But I will anyway.”
“How about I guess?” Gabrielle offered. “Then all you have to do is say yes or no.”
“Go for it,” Tonks challenged.
“About seven and a half years ago, Hermione was discouraged with Harry’s lack of progress - he was still in stasis, her faith in Dumbledore was wavering, and she had lost faith in herself for not being able to cure her best friend.
“She developed the spell so that she knew everyone could talk to him and he would listen, and that was enough while she went back to trying to cure him.
“Four years later, she was getting very depressed, as she now had very strong suspicions about Dumbledore, and she was thankful she trusted her instincts not to tell anyone else the spell she was using on Harry.
“Fast forward another six months and we’ve got Harry out of stasis. Hermione now has enough proof about Dumbledore to be able to make some firm plans against him – not because she disagrees with his goals, just his methods.
“She called everyone she trusted together. She’d improved her spell dramatically, so now experience could be passed on, as well as knowledge. She was nervous, and relied on Ron for support, but she laid all her cards on the table, explained a lot about Harry’s early life at Hogwarts, and what Dumbledore had done.
“She finished by saying that the only thing she wanted was for Harry to wake up and be himself. She felt that Harry would probably fix things, because he has a thing for righting wrongs – but she wanted him to have the choice, so that if he decided he wanted nothing more to do with a world that had put him into cold storage for six years, he could do that, and no one would stand in his way.
“She asked for help, first with the new passing on of experience, and second with working around Dumbledore. Percy was asked to stay in the Ministry , while Hermione, who was now guarding the spell zealously, could limit Dumbledore’s access to Harry – but do it in such a way that no one realised that it was being done.
“She cracked down on the people who could access Harry, now that he was more open, banning everyone she didn’t completely trust – even I was only allowed in with Fleur – and prayed that it would work. She had no idea what I was doing, just as I had no idea what she was doing. Her long term plan meshed neatly with mine – so much so that I’m now wondering what would have happened if I’d talked to Hermione as an adult when I was younger, and not hidden myself.
“Looking back, I was influenced by her just as I influenced her. We both wanted the same thing – Harry alive and happy, we just had massively differing methods and expectations for what happened afterwards.
“Hermione wanted Harry free and happy; I wanted my Prince, knowing that I can make him happy. Since then, Hermione has been acting as the Matriarch of the family, having proved her love for Harry.” Gabrielle paused and looked at Remus and Tonks. “So, how’d I do?”
Remus and Tonks were looking at her in shock, before Remus shook himself. “Outstanding, Miss Delacour, simply outstanding.”
“When Hermione said that you were a frickin’ genius, I didn’t quite believe it,” Tonks said in awe. “How in the name of Merlin did you do that?”
“If I had been Hermione, it’s what I would have done,” Gabrielle said simply. “I just took what I know of her personality, and fed the data through that.”
Remus shook his head slowly. “Like I said, that was simply outstanding, Miss Delacour. I’d give a few points to Gryffindor, but we’re not really in school.”
Harry smiled and took Gabrielle’s hand so that he could play with her fingers. “She is good, isn’t she?” he said with a fond look at her. “Having a brilliant court advisor makes a Princess’s life easier.”
“So, who are you?” Harry said to Tonks.
“Huh?” she asked.
“Simple question,” Harry said with a grin. “I know you don’t like your first name and that you’re knockin’ boots with Moony here, and, of course, I know that you’re a Metamorphmagus and an Auror.”
Tonks nodded. “Well, I’m Sirius’s cousin. Mum is Narcissa Malfoy’s sister, and of course the sister of my dear departed Aunt Bellatrix. Mum was disowned from the Black family for marrying a Muggle-born.”
“But she’s back in now, right?”
“No,” Tonks said slowly. “Why would you think that?”
“Damn it. Moony, you really need to kick Sirius until you get his attention. I’m almost as disappointed in you as I am with him.”
“In my defence,” Remus said weakly, “I’ve never actually consciously realised that he can do that.”
“What are you talking about?” Tonks asked.
“Sirius is head of the Black family,” Harry pointed out. “As such, he can and should have re-instated your mother years ago.”
“He can do that?” Tonks asked.
“Of course! I’ll have a word with him tomorrow, and then I’ll get Percy on the case.”
“Thank you,” Remus said quietly.
“So, how did you two kids meet?”
“Charlie,” Tonks said. “Charlie was always like my brother, so I was at a Weasley party once. Somebody introduced me to Remus, we got to talking, we liked each other, and after I persuaded him that I don’t care about his furry little problem, we started dating.”
“No cure for that then?”
Remus shook his head sadly. “Potions have improved so it’s not as painful as it was.”
“Well, I’m pleased for small mercies.” Harry looked up. “Will you excuse me for a moment? I see some people I need to talk to.”
He cancelled the privacy charms and walked over to the two young women. “Padma, Parvati, you’re looking lovely.”
“Harry!” they cried in unison.
“Do you have a few minutes to join us?”
“Actually, we came looking for you,” Padma admitted. “Lavender said you were in here.”
“Come and sit down.” He ordered another round of drinks on the way back to the table, and pulled up two more chairs.
“You, of course, know Remus; next to him is Auror Tonks, his girlfriend. This is my girlfriend, Gabrielle Delacour.”
“No offence, Harry, but we know who she is,” Parvati said with a slight smile. “Six Witch Weekly covers, to start with.”
Gabrielle smiled at both of them.
“So,” Harry said, launching into his sales pitch. “I heard that you’ve both had trouble getting jobs?”
“No,” Padma replied, “We’ve had trouble getting good jobs. Menial jobs are readily available.”
“I stand corrected,” Harry said. “What did you get at school?”
“Second to Hermione,” Padma said proudly.
“Adequate, apart from a rather useless outstanding in Divination,” Parvati said with a sigh. “Stupid old bat.”
“Yeah, you know that she prophesised that you would never wake up.”
“I’m glad she was wrong,” he said wryly.
“As I am,” Gabrielle added.
“Do you know anything about bookkeeping, current labour laws, and running a business?” he asked Padma.
“Some,” Padma said cautiously. “The rest I can learn, why?”
“I’m opening a restaurant. I’ve got the chef lined up, but I need someone actually to run it,” he said, looking to Padma, and then he looked to Parvati, “And I need a hostess. It struck me that having two of the most beautiful girls I know working the business would be a huge benefit.”
“You’re saying that I’d have to look pretty, meet and greet everyone who came in, make friends with everyone, and generally get paid to have fun?” Parvati asked excitedly
“It would be hard work,” Harry pointed out.
“I’m in,” she said with an uncaring shrug.
“Parv,” Padma groaned, holding her head in her hands. “Please, ask at least a few questions first, like salary.”
They paused as the drinks arrived.
“That would be up to you to figure out,” Harry eventually replied, after their waitress had moved away. “You’re going to be the manager.”
“Have you done a business plan?” she asked. “Scouted for good locations, thought about a permanent public Floo entrance? An analysis of competitors and who your prospective customers are, secured funding?”
“You’re hired,” Harry said dryly. “In reverse order, yes – I’m bankrolling it personally. I’ve arranged for the goblins to provide free business support. The target market I am looking at is woefully underserved at the moment – there are no restaurants for middle-class families – you either pay through the nose to eat at the Ragnarok or you don’t go out. There seems to be almost unlimited potential.
“I’ve hired a house-elf as a cook – for a lot of Wizarding families who don’t have one, it will be chance to go out and experience how the other half live at a reasonable price. We’re also going to be serving goblin food, with competitions for any wizard brave enough to eat it; it will be a gimmick that will attract the younger crowd to participate, and the older crowd to watch.
“I’ve got the goblins searching for a good location – they want me to succeed as well, as they are fed up with the economic problems we’re going through. And no, I’ve not done a business plan -- that will be your job, if you want to take it.”
Padma silently elbowed her sister to get her to close her mouth. She nodded thoughtfully. “That does make a lot of sense. Do you have any expansion plans?”
“If the restaurant works, we’re going to open a few more ourselves, while we devise ways to hide the fact we use magic, then we’re going to expand into the Muggle world – eventually, I’m thinking franchises.”
“So you’re offering us entry at the ground floor, and if we prove our worth, we’ll be able to follow you up?”
Harry nodded. “Yes. I’ve got no problem with that.”
“What do you think about me hiring people as waiters and waitresses who I think would be perfect for expansion? I know most people over the last four years who have got boring jobs who would love to get into this. I’ll tell them it might not work, of course, but that if it does, they’ll already be trained for the jobs, and if they’re good enough, they’ll get them?”
Harry smiled. “I like the idea. The more of the best people we can get early, the better it will be in the long run.”
“I accept,” Padma said. “I’ll get to work immediately on a business plan.”
“I’ll need a new wardrobe,” Parvati said excitedly.
Padma rolled her eyes at her sister.
“Go to Gringotts tomorrow. I’ll tell them you’re coming, they’ll help and show you what we’re planning – and get you on the payroll.”
“Thank you, Harry,” Padma said. “I won’t let you down.”
“Come on, Parv, we’ve got work to do.”
“Right. Good to see you awake, Harry.”
Harry watched them go and shook his head in amusement.
“Two of the most beautiful girls you know?” Tonks teased.
“They are beautiful,” Gabrielle said. “Harry was telling the truth, and you are trying to imply something that wasn’t there. My Prince would never cheat on me.”
Tonks looked at her. “Sorry,” she apologised. “I guess he wouldn’t.”
“Nope,” Harry agreed.
“Do you know what you’re doing?” Remus asked.
“Haven’t a glimmer of a clue,” Harry grinned. “I’m winging it, but if I can read people correctly, I just offered Padma something she wanted badly.”
“You did,” Gabrielle confirmed, “you gave her a chance. And she’ll work herself into the ground for you. I’ve said all along that it’s so much easier to follow a Prince who cares. He can inspire people around him to work so much harder through caring and genuine openness, much more than he could with threats and punishment.”
“I think we did a good job,” Remus said.
“Careful you don’t dislocate your shoulder patting yourself on your back,” Harry teased. “But yes, the information everyone gave me is invaluable. All sorts of things that I didn’t think of before are now coming to me naturally.”
“It’s still you,” Gabrielle said. “You’re the one pulling it all together.”
They changed subject, and the rest of the lunch was spent with Harry asking questions about what had happened while he had been asleep.
Gabrielle looked at her watch. “We need to get moving,” she said. “It’s time to meet with Bill and Fleur, and then pop over to my parents.”
“Meeting the prospective in-laws?” Tonks teased. “Nervous?”
“A little,” Harry admitted. “But we are going to have to have a quiet word soon, Tonks. As Remus’ default family, Sirius and I need to check your intentions.”
Tonks paled slightly, “You’re joking, right?”
Harry shook his head solemnly. “Remus has a history of bad choices. We’re going to have to ensure he’s not being taken for a ride.”
“Hey,” Remus protested with a grin.
“Do you want to play some more, Tonks?” Gabrielle asked.
Tonks laughed and shook her head negatively, before she stopped abruptly. “Wait, yes, I do; it keeps me on my toes.”
“Just remember that Harry has me as back-up.”
“And I have Remus,” Tonks retorted.
“And I could probably get Sirius,” Remus added. “He’s already up for a prank war!”
“Close your eyes for a second,” Harry said in a low voice, his tone amused. “Picture Gabrielle and me working together, then picture the Weasley twins on our side, and then add in Hermione and Ron.”
Remus paled slightly. “That’s not fair,” he pouted.
Harry got to his feet. “It’s been a pleasure,” he said, as he looked down at the remains of the meal they had enjoyed. “Tonks, it was nice meeting you, and despite the teasing, you’re obviously good for the old wolf. Remus, we’re looking forward to our first Defence lesson next week.”
“As I am, Harry, Gabrielle.”
“Yeah, catch you two kids later,” Tonks added.
They walked over to the fireplace and hopped in, Gabrielle calling out their destination. As they spun through the network, Gabrielle took his hand and placed it firmly on her rear, while wrapping her legs around him and kissing him firmly.
Not one to ignore obvious instructions that were good for him, he moved his other hand into place and held her tightly against him.
They exploded out of the fireplace and ended up on a soft, carpeted floor, with him lying between her legs, and her hands in his hair, holding his head still while she ravished his mouth.
“Gabrielle!” Fleur shouted.
They stopped kissing, looked at each other, and started to laugh hard.
“You’ve just been set up, dear,” Bill pointed out.
Fleur blushed faintly. “Brat,” she muttered.
“You know you love me, ancient one.”
“I am NOT ancient!” Fleur protested.
“Did you get hold of Mama and Papa?” Gabrielle asked.
“Yes. We can go and see them in half an hour. Papa has taken the afternoon off work.”
“So, Harry, are you planning any more seismic changes?”
“Me?” Harry asked innocently as he dropped onto a couch, and Gabrielle dropped on his lap.
“Can’t you two sit normally?” Fleur asked.
“Old age hasn’t dried the passion out of our lives yet,” Gabrielle said, “so no.”
Fleur growled under her breath.
Gabrielle grinned unrepentantly.
“I’ve had fifteen years of this,” Fleur complained. “Can’t you do anything about it?”
“I can,” Harry said, “but that sort of authority should be reserved for important things, or when she crosses a line.”
“What do you mean?” Bill asked.
“If my Prince commands me to do something, I’ll do it,” Gabrielle said. “All Princesses follow their Prince when it’s important.”
Fleur shook her head. “You are warped.”
“From my perspective, I’m perfectly sane,” Gabrielle replied. “I understand myself completely; my actions are always predictable and understandable. It is everyone else who is crazy. You make decisions on irrelevant information, you deny yourself the things you want for reasons that make no sense, and you have to be persuaded to be happy. I live my life by simple rules - good will win over evil, I’ll marry my Prince and live happily ever after, we’ll rule with love and caring, and be adored by all.”
“You’re not human,” Fleur whispered.
Gabrielle rolled her eyes. “I never was – neither were you, by the way. I’ve just channelled my mild sociopathic tendencies into a useful channel.”
“So you weren’t discussing homework,” Fleur said flatly as her eyes went wide.
“Of course not,” Gabrielle confirmed.
“What are you talking about?” Bill asked as he sat down.
“One of the times I let Gabrielle talk to Harry,” Fleur said with a sigh, sitting down next to her husband, “she was talking about homework, or so I believed, so I let her chatter on about it – not really paying attention.”
“I was explaining myself to Harry,” Gabrielle explained. “A quick run down on what a sociopath is, how I was diagnosed when I was eight, how I’m at the low end of the scale, and not likely to commit murder without provocation, and what I’ve done about it.”
“From what I know,” Bill said, “that provocation wouldn’t be something we’d understand.”
“True,” Gabrielle agreed. “I can be most strange. My psychologist tried to get me to tie my belief structure to a religion, which was a ridiculous idea. I went the other way and tied my belief structure to my Prince. That way I just have to ask, ‘What would my Prince do?’ in the same circumstance. Princes are kind and just, and don’t go around killing. Mum and Dad thought the psychologist had helped.”
“Wait,” Fleur said, “Mum and Dad know?”
“Of course,” Gabrielle said. “You remember that funny little doctor I used to see?”
“He wasn’t for your leg injury then?”
“Nope. I didn’t want anyone to know about it. It would have put you all on guard, and you would have stopped me from getting to my Prince. No one knew about that, not even my psychologist; he just encouraged me to have a goal.
“But now that all of this has happened, I decided it was time to start opening up to people. I didn’t like not telling you, as I wouldn’t have liked people not telling me if you were seeing a shrink at eight.”
Fleur shook her head softly and grabbed Bill’s hand, squeezing it hard. “I didn’t know,” she whispered.
“You couldn’t have,” Gabrielle said, climbing out of Harry’s lap and kneeling next to her sister. “My psychiatrist thinks that it was caused by my Veela heritage not sitting correctly with my human heritage – which is why I have brown eyes, not blue. Personally, I think that’s just trying to find a reason when none exists. This is what and who I am, and I’m not apologising for it.”
Fleur nodded and bent over and hugged her sister, hard.
“How do you feel about this?” Bill asked. “I’m not finding it as surprising as I should, although it is a shock.”
Harry looked at his girlfriend thoughtfully. “Gabrielle,” he called.
She looked up at him, her eyes suddenly afraid.
“Did you ever use the time you talked to me to make me fall in love with you?”
Gabrielle shook her head; her eyes were still afraid, but he couldn’t see any deception in them. “Fleur was with me every time,” she said. “Most of the time I talked about how to dance. The only times I didn’t was the talk about sociopathy and a couple of times when I talked about charms I was learning at school.”
Fleur nodded in agreement.
“Were you tempted?” Bill asked.
“Of course not,” Gabrielle said, her eyes not leaving Harry. “Having to cheat like that would have devalued the relationship we were going to have.”
Bill whistled, “You never doubted, even once?”
“I am the Princess, Harry is the Prince,” Gabrielle said. “There was nothing to doubt.”
“Come here,” Harry whispered.
Gabrielle moved out of her sister’s arms, crossed the floor, and knelt over him, straddling him, so she could look straight into his eyes.
“I’m the only one, aren’t I?” he asked, “The only one you’re vulnerable to?”
“Thank you,” he whispered, gently kissed her, and pulled back.
A single tear drew a crystalline path down her cheek, before she smiled – a smile that removed his breath from his body as the full force of her personality beamed down on him.
She hugged him, hard, burying her face in his neck. He looked at Fleur and Bill as he stroked her back gently. “It makes a lot of sense,” he explained to them. “It explains a lot about her.”
“Does Hermione know?” Bill asked.
“She’s probably worked it out by now,” Harry replied.
“I need a drink,” Fleur said, “Papa should have some good wine.”
Harry stood with Gabrielle, “Shall we go?”
Fleur nodded and led the way back to the fireplace. “Chateau Delacour,” she called and vanished.
Harry stepped in after her, at Bill’s gesture, and called the same. He braced himself so that they wouldn’t go flying when they landed. He could feel Gabrielle crying against him, and didn’t want to stop her. She needed to get rid of the tension. The worst thing for Gabrielle was to be reliant on someone she couldn’t predict, as she was now with him. And despite her complete lack of admitted doubt, he suspected that was the cause of her nightmares that she’d mentioned that morning.
They arrived in a light, airy room painted in light cream, with black sofas. Gabrielle’s mother looked like an older version of Fleur, tall and regal, and still very beautiful. Her father was the same height, and looked to be slightly older, his hair greying.
“Mama, Papa, this is Harry,” Fleur said. “Harry, this is Marie and Eric, our parents.”
“Do I want to know why my daughter is crying?” Eric asked.
“Do I want to know why I wasn’t informed that my sister was seeing a psychiatrist?” Fleur countered with an angry expression on her face.
“Why don’t we all sit down,” Marie suggested. “Nothing is ever what it seems with Gabrielle,” she mused as she sat down herself. “She can’t even bring a boyfriend home without it turning into a life-changing drama.”
Gabrielle looked up and poked her tongue out at her mother.
“Gabrielle,” Harry said firmly, “the Queen is always worthy of respect.”
“Please forgive me, Mama,” Gabrielle said contritely.
Eric and Marie looked at each other, a surprised expression on their faces.
“What’s going on?” Eric asked.
“Harry was my goal,” Gabrielle said, turning so that she could see the others, but not breaking contact with Harry. “I’ve achieved my goal now.”
“What goal?” Eric asked, a frown on his face.
“You said I should have a goal to focus on when I went to my psychiatrist. When I saw Harry win the fight against Voldemonkey was when I decided.”
“And you stopped seeing your psychiatrist not because you were going abroad?”
“But because I’d found the cure, and I didn’t need one anymore. I knew who I was and what I was doing.”
“And your lack of empathy?” Marie asked.
“It doesn’t extend to Harry, and I can certainly feel his.”
Eric closed his eyes, before standing and shaking his head. “I need a walk,” he muttered before storming out of the room.
Harry raised his eyebrows.
Gabrielle looked surprised as the door slammed shut behind her father.
“If you are finally telling people who love you about what has happened, that is a good thing,” Marie said slowly.
“I don’t need to hide it anymore,” Gabrielle explained. “Now I’m just following my Prince as he starts to take over the world.”
Marie smiled faintly.
“I wouldn’t go there,” Bill suggested. “They’ve already started. Doubting them will just mean that you will be more surprised when they succeed.”
“But,” Marie started.
“Mama, they have indeed already started,” Fleur agreed.
“But it’s only been two days since Gabrielle woke Harry up.”
“Time is irrelevant,” Gabrielle said. “All that matters is opportunity, creative thinking, and taking your chances. We’ve done that.”
“Let me get some coffee,” Marie said, as she got to her feet.
“I think I’ll go and talk to your dad,” Harry said, sliding Gabrielle next to him.
“Do you think it will help?” she asked curiously.
He nodded. “I hope so. You could try talking to your mum.”
Gabrielle nodded and kissed him on the cheek quickly. “He’ll be out of the front, to the left, 130 metres down, a third of the way around the fountain.”
Harry laughed softly and stood, nodding to Bill and Fleur he walked out. Eric was exactly where Gabrielle had said he would be.
“You know,” he said, as he sat on the edge of the fountain, “If I didn’t know better, I’d say Gabrielle was psychic at times like this.”
“She told you exactly where I would be?” Eric asked.
He nodded. “To the pace.”
“You know what frustrates me most?” Eric demanded.
“I’m not Gabrielle,” Harry replied evenly, “so no, I don’t.”
“That I can’t blame you for anything; you were unconscious, and before that, all you did was save my daughter and defeat a Dark Lord. I’ve heard the reports that Gabrielle woke you up and led you on a merry path.”
“Actually,” Harry interrupted, “as soon as I was awake, she pretty much just followed along and supported – she passed the leading to me.”
“How could you lead?” he asked. “You’ve been unconscious for eight years – in fact, you should be a mess about now.”
“You’ve met Hermione?”
“Do you honestly think that she would let me awaken like that? Do you think that Gabrielle, knowing what you do about her, wouldn’t have had that aspect of things completely under control?”
“I don’t like it,” Eric said frustratingly. “She’s my daughter; she’s supposed to be at Hogwarts for education, she’s supposed to grow up, get a good job, and be a productive member of society – now I find out that everything she’s done over the past eight years has been aimed at you!”
Harry nodded. “And personally, I’m grateful.”
“I’ll bet,” he muttered. “You probably can’t wait to…”
“I’m not going to be a punching bag for your frustrations, at least not verbally. If you want to fight about this, then we’ll do it with wands.”
Eric shot him a long look, before he turned on his heel and looked out at the grounds. “You don’t know what it’s like having a daughter with a medical condition like this. A condition that we were lucky we found a psychiatrist for, because Muggles won’t even diagnose it until the patient is an adult. It was embarrassing.”
“Gabrielle said that she didn’t believe them when they were talking about her human and Veela heritage clashing.”
“No, she didn’t,” Eric agreed. “It is probably true though, but there is no precedent. Nothing like this has happened before – but then, neither has there been a part-Veela with brown eyes. The Veela gene is dominant, and that guarantees, or it used to, blonde hair and blue eyes.
“The psychiatrist thinks that she was born like this, and that nothing we could have done could have prevented it. That doesn’t mean that we have to like it, though. We first noticed the signs when she was five or six, little things didn’t work with her – she wasn’t emotionally attached to anyone, and when she was told off, she would look at us for a long time as if trying as hard as she could to understand why we were telling her off. We’d get reports from her nannies all the time about how she was behaving strangely, and her ridiculous attachment to fairy tales. But that soon changed and we thought it was just a phase. What we didn’t realise was that she was just simulating what we expected to see.
“When we asked her to see a psychiatrist – or a doctor who specialises in how our brain works as we put it, she just replied that she’d be happy to see him, as long as everything was kept a secret – something we were more than willing to abide by.
“And now you’re seeing that changing?”
Eric shrugged angrily and continued to pace.
Harry watched him for a few minutes and when he showed no intention of stopping, he shrugged and walked back inside. Gabrielle was waiting for him. She took one look at him, sighed, and took his hand, leading him to the Floo.
“The Three Broomsticks, Hogsmeade,” she said firmly. “Can we go somewhere?” she asked as they stepped out, “Just the two of us, where no one will find us?”
He looked at her for a long moment and thought about the places he knew, and realised that there wasn’t anywhere, really – apart from his room in Hogwarts. “Let’s just walk through the grounds,” he suggested, “see what we can find.”
She nodded and took his hand, holding it firmly.
Once they were in the grounds of Hogwarts, she seemed to sigh. “I didn’t expect that.”
“Expect what?” he asked softly.
“I thought they’d be happy for me. That I’ve achieved my goal – I have my Prince, and we’ll have a great life together. I thought that was what they wanted for me.”
“They do,” Harry said.
“Papa stomped off like a child and Mama thinks that I should move back home, away from you. They want to lock me in an ivory tower until I could grow my hair long enough for you to climb up it – and that sounds painful – and it would be so irritating to take care of that much hair!”
“Why is everyone so bloody illogical?” she demanded. “They know that I don’t fit their narrow and confining definition of normal, and that I know what I am doing – so why, when I have exactly what I want, do they want me to throw it away and do things like a one of them would?”
“Because it’s what they expect?” Harry asked – he wasn’t sure himself.
“I know you’re my Prince,” she said, dropping to the floor and folding her legs Indian style. “And you understand me. Why don’t you understand them?” There was no accusation in her voice, just a genuine need to understand.
He dropped down in front of her and hugged his knees. “What do you know about my life before Hogwarts?”
Gabrielle frowned. “Not much. I know what happened at Hogwarts, that’s common knowledge. I never thought about anything else.”
“Did I ever have any visitors from family?”
Gabrielle’s frown deepened. “Not that I know of.”
“I can guarantee that I didn’t. When my parents were killed, I was dropped off at my Muggle aunt and uncle’s house with a letter.”
“That’s strange,” Gabrielle said. “Why would they take you in if they’re Muggles?”
“You are probably the first person to ever ask that question. They are supposed to take me in because they are family. That’s what family do.”
Gabrielle nodded. “They knew about magic then?”
“Yes, and hated it with an almost religious fervour.”
“Then why were you left there?”
“Dumbledore wanted me to grow up without knowing about my fame and have a normal life.”
“But if you’re a Wizard, and your family hate magic, how can you live a normal life?”
“I didn’t. I was starved, locked in a cupboard, ignored, and had to watch as my cousin got all the attention and presents. I asked for a Christmas present just once – never made that mistake again.
“It wasn’t all bad, I mean, I learned to cook, and I have some fond memories of the cupboard – my imagination could soar then.”
“Where was this?”
“Little Whinging, a place called Privet Drive.”
Gabrielle got to her feet suddenly and turned.
She ignored him and stormed toward the castle. He suddenly understood what she was going to do and jumped to his feet and started to chase her.
She heard him coming and started to run as well.
He quickly caught up and dived on her, rolling with her until he was on top, pinning her to the ground.
“Let me go,” she snarled.
“You are not going to kill them!”
“They abused my Prince, they are going to die,” she said in a voice that was eerie in its lack of inflection.
“No,” he said firmly. “It is not up to us who lives and who dies. If they attack us, we can retaliate, but we cannot pre-emptively decide. Their crimes were of neglect and abuse. They do deserve to be punished, but not to die! How does a Prince act?”
“He is honourable and just,” she mumbled. “But it doesn’t say how Princesses are all the time.”
“What would the Prince do if he knew his Princess was doing that?”
“He wouldn’t love her anymore,” she said, withering on the spot.
“The Prince will never stop loving the Princess. If the Princess is cruel, it will make the Prince sad, but he will never stop loving her,” he whispered.
She closed her eyes for a second, and when she opened them, he could see into her soul. She had removed every single defence she had, baring herself to him without reservation.
He took a deep breath and did the same thing, opening himself like never before.
Her eyes went slightly wider, and then she wrapped her arms around him, and held on to him as tightly as she could.
“Tell me about them, let me know what they are like,” she eventually said, when she had regained her self-control.
“Are you going to run off?”
“Not if you keep holding me,” she said with a smile.
He laughed softly. “Vernon is a pig. He’s got a red face, is around eight or nine stone overweight, and isn’t exactly the brightest pig in the sty. Petunia is more like a giraffe, all harsh angles and long neck. They are both incredibly concerned about their reputation in the community, which was why they hated my ‘unnaturalness’. Dudley is a chimp off the old block. Just like his father – or was.”
“How did they explain you being at Hogwarts?”
“They said that I was at St Brutus's Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys.”
Gabrielle went quiet for a few moments. “Okay, we’ll take care of them later. They will pay – no one touches my Prince – but it will be honourable and just.”
He smiled proudly at her.
“Are you going to tell me?”
She shook her head and smiled at him. “Let me refine it first… next summer would be best.” She tilted her head. “So you haven’t had a normal childhood, either, you never had the love you wanted, and missed your real parents. The only adults you’ve ever really known have either been authority figures or abusive.”
“And while you now have adult friends, you don’t think of them as such.”
He nodded again.
“So you have no real idea why my parents didn’t react like I wanted them to, and you’re guessing as much as I am?”
“Pretty much. I know how people are supposed to act, but when I think of the Dursleys, they never really acted like that.”
“Which is why you’re my Prince. You’ve had the terrible childhood not knowing your true identity, and then had it thrust on you when you were still young and unprepared, and yet you still defeated the evil wizard – and it even happened so that when you woke up, your Princess was waiting for you.”
“I think you’re right,” he agreed. What she said made sense, a lot of sense. “Why don’t we go and have some food with the others?”
“And then we can go and play cards,” she purred.
He nodded and climbed to his feet, offering her his hand. She used it to pull herself up easily.
“You’re very fit,” he remarked.
She nodded. “I used to compete in dance competitions, but I was banned.”
“My partner tripped and fell on me. I didn’t admit until later that he had broken one of my ribs.”
“I wanted to win,” she said. “They thought it wasn’t healthy for me to do that.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. I’ve done all sorts of stupid things on a Quidditch pitch. The desire to win just takes over, doesn’t it? I’m lucky in that people expect Quidditch injuries.”
They walked into the Great Hall without creating a scene for a change, and sat down at the end of the Gryffindor table.
“So,” Zach asked, “when are you two actually going to be in classes?”
“Monday,” Harry replied. “You wouldn’t believe the sort of things you have to sort out when you go for an afternoon snooze and wake up eight years later.”
Zach laughed. “I’ll bet. Did you know that there are going to be lot of new kids starting in three years time? There was a baby boom shortly after Voldemort died. I’ve got two younger brothers starting.”
“Please tell me they’re not named Harry or James!”
“No, although my parents did think about it – there was a plea from Hogwarts for people not to name their kids after you. They said you’d hate it.”
“Damn right,” Harry agreed. He looked at Gabrielle. “We’re not naming our kids after me, my parents, or any relatives. We’ll not hang something they have to live up to on them.”
Gabrielle nodded in agreement. “I’ve not thought of baby names before. We’ll talk about that later.”
Zach gaped at them. “Isn’t it a bit early for you two to be talking about kids?”
“It’s what Princes and Princesses do – eventually,” Gabrielle said.
“But isn’t it a bit sudden?” Zach asked.
Harry tilted his head. “Put yourself in my shoes: you’re dating THE Gabrielle Delacour, and you’re as sure of her feelings as you are of your own.”
Zach gulped. “Okay, maybe I would,” he admitted.
“So, the important question is, when is everyone else going to start talking?”
“I think it will take a few days yet. You’re a legend, Harry. You defeated a Dark Lord, twice. You were the youngest Quidditch player in a century, and a genius on the broom, you defeated a Basilisk, frightened Dementors. And now you’re here, sitting with us, with the most beautiful and famous girl of our generation on your arm, with Professor Dumbledore talking to you as a friend, with Professor McGonagall of all people looking like you’re her nephew, and then this morning, you make a complete fool of the Minister for Magic. Is it any wonder we’re stunned?”
“You seem quite eloquent for someone who is stunned.”
Zach shrugged helplessly. “Gryffindor bravery combined with the overwhelming urge to gush at you, and as everyone here will tell you, I talk far too much. Besides, I really want to win the Quidditch Cup this year, and Professor McGonagall told me that I’d have to ask you personally, so I’ve spent most of the time since you woke up mentally preparing for it.”
“He’s got that right,” one of the girls muttered.
Harry turned and smiled at her – she blushed bright red and looked down. “I don’t bite,” he said dryly. “Honest, believe it or not, I am actually human, and nothing special.”
The girl raised her head and looked at him in disbelief.
“Come on, Rebecca,” Zach encouraged. “I’ve been pestering them for five minutes now and I’m still alive!”
“H-Hi,” she whispered.
Harry looked at Gabrielle, who shrugged back. “So,” Harry said slowly, “what’s your favourite subject?”
“Transfiguration,” she said.
“I’m looking forward to re-starting that one. Did Professor McGonagall do her cat routine in your third year?”
“Cat routine?” Rebecca asked, looking up properly for the first time.
“One day, she came to class in her Animagus form and jumped onto the table, transfiguring at the same time – we were all really impressed.”
“No, she didn’t,” Rebecca replied. “That would have been cool.”
“I’ll ask her why she didn’t later. That’s an idea,” he continued. “We should at least see if we can be Animagi, Gabbi.”
“I can’t,” Gabrielle said with a pout. “Damn Veela heritage.”
“But you’ve already broken one rule with those amazing eyes of yours, at least try it with me and see if we can work our way around it.”
“As you wish,” she said with a small smile.
“Let’s talk to the Potions Mistress after dinner. We’ll see if she’ll let us use her equipment to make the potion.”
“Potion?” Gabrielle asked and wrinkled her nose in distaste.
“Sure, the one that actually tells us if we can do it. It’s easy to brew, all we need is…” Harry paused and looked up as he realised he knew everything needed to become an Animagus. “Thank you, Sirius!” he almost shouted.
“How do you know it wasn’t me?” Remus called from Professor's’ table.
“Pfft!” Harry replied. “You’re a traitorous member of the establishment now. You’re so respectable your shoes squeak!”
Remus pouted at him. “Just you wait until I get you in class,” he growled playfully.
“You’ll use your sartorial inelegance to intimidate me?” Harry teased back. “Did you know that one of the last messages I got from Mom and Dad included making sure that you get new clothes, Professor?”
“Eat your food, Harry, we’ll talk later.”
“Having a battle of wits with Remus always makes me feel guilty,” Harry said casually, as he turned back to the others. “It’s like fighting with an unarmed man,” he finished with a grin, just loud enough to be heard.
“Big words for someone who managed to sleep through his formative years. Things have changed in the last eight years, and I should show you how.”
Harry grinned at him. “Possibly,” he admitted.
“In fact, I’ll show you here and now, got the guts?”
“Absolutely,” Harry said jumping to his feet. He lightly kissed Gabrielle. “Professor,” he said to the Headmaster, “my ego’s been challenged. How about a duelling platform?”
Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled merrily as he raised his hands. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have some pre-dinner entertainment,” he announced. “A challenge between our Defence Professor and Harry Potter, a duel until one submits or drops his wand. There will, of course, be no use of the Unforgivable curses.”
“Want to take off your robes?” Harry asked Remus as the other professors raised a protective shield.
Remus grinned at him and walked over to speak with him, “Sorry to pull you out like this, kiddo,” he whispered, “but I’ve already taught you everything you need to know to pass the course. I want you to help me in class with duelling techniques, but I also want them to know I’m not just favouring you because of your reputation, but because of your ability.”
“Gentlemen,” Professor Flitwick called. “Are you ready?”
“Do your best,” Remus advised as he walked to the other end of the platform.
He looked around and met Gabbi’s eyes. She smiled softly at him, her face reflecting her faith in him and his ability.
He winked slowly at her, and turned to face Remus. This was the first real test of his magic, and he wasn’t going to fail, or let her down. He really didn’t want to see how she looked disappointed.
“Ready? Start,” Flitwick called.
Harry drew his wand smoothly; he hadn’t actually cast many spells recently and was looking forward to see what he could do.
“Stupefy!” Remus called, and the bright red light sped toward him.
He dropped to the floor, landing on his hands, and pushed off hard, forcing himself back to his feet. He grinned as he stood on guard. No matter what happened to his magic, he loved his new body. He’d never felt so strong or so fit in his short pre-nap life.
Remus launched a few more spells at him, and he danced away from them, just dodging for now as he examined his opponent’s technique and ability.
“Come on, Harry,” Gabrielle called, and the cry was soon taken up by the other students, as, almost in a group, they decided to support the student fighting the professor.
Remus winked at him and he felt a well of gratitude build up inside him. It showed that the Marauder was still as sneaky as ever, and that this act was going to help his integration into the school like nothing else.
Once again, he was blown away by how much his friends had done and continued to do for him. He felt privileged – especially when he looked at Gabrielle.
He finally shot a curse back, a simple one, just to see what Remus’ defensive skills were like. The Professor dodged to one side easily, so he started a steady bombardment of small spells, forcing Remus to raise a shield.
Without warning, he sent a high powered stunner down and smiled as it smacked against Remus’ shield, causing it to flare dramatically.
Remus retaliated with a cutting spell, his face losing its smile.
The spell missed Harry by an inch; he started to concentrate on the fight at hand.
Spell after spell erupted from his wand, without conscious thought or desire, pulled straight from the spells that his friends had taught him while he was unconscious. Remus’ spells he ignored, dodged, or blocked.
He started to move forward inexorably, a pace at a time. Each step was accompanied by a blocked spell from Remus and two of his own.
Remus was retreating, desperately trying to keep his own shield up and cast spells back at Harry.
When he was within eight feet of the werewolf, Harry dived forward, casting three stunning spells, flew straight over a curse from Remus, and rolled fast, coming to his feet, his left arm diverting Remus’ wand as he touched his own to Remus’ forehead.
There was a moment of silence before Remus grinned and dropped his wand, signifying the end of the duel.
There was an eruption of noise from the students and professors as they clapped and cheered.
Harry felt everything return to proper speed and did the only thing he could – he stepped forward and hugged Remus. “Thanks, old wolf.”
“Less of the old,” Remus muttered back. “And you’re welcome. But you might want to turn around, you have an incoming blonde.”
Harry turned and took a few steps as Gabrielle walked forward serenely. She paused in front of him. “My Prince,” she whispered, in the proudest voice he had ever heard from her. She closed the distance between him and kissed him gently, a kiss of caring and affection rather than deep passion, as if she was very aware of the crowd and was acting with decorum, like a Princess should.
“If we’re all finished,” Albus’ voice rang out, “we should all sit again and enjoy the food our elves have produced.”
“That was awesome,” Rebecca said as Harry slipped back into his place.
“Remus is an old family friend,” Harry confessed. “He was very good friends with my parents.”
“He only took the job here because it would allow him to be closer to you when you were asleep,” Gabrielle added.
“I owe a lot of people more than I can say,” Harry said.
“I think,” Rebecca said softly, “that most people think that killing Voldemort was enough to get whatever you want.”
“I’ve got what I want,” Harry grinned. “And I’ll spend the rest of my life making sure all my friends are happy. Isn’t that the point of life? To make yourself and your friends as happy as possible, and if you can, make a legacy that will last forever.
“That was what Voldemort never truly understood, that you don’t need to live forever to be immortal, you can just work toward something that will last. He had so much power at one stage, and if he’d just done something constructive rather than give into the fear caused by his own mortality, he could have been a legend that never died, like Merlin or one of the Founders.
“It’s sad that all that potential ended up in a graveyard, but fitting all the same. He had the chance and he didn’t take it. He tried to be evil and force people to do what he said. But he never repented, and even as I killed him, he looked at me with malevolence and hate.”
He took a long sip of the orange juice in front of him and absently saluted the professors at the table. “Voldemort could have been up there next to Dumbledore, the next generation ready to take over, to be respected, to have influence beyond the dreams of most people, but it wasn’t enough for him. He had to have it his way, and his fear meant that everything that was different had to be destroyed.
“Some say that Voldemort was a hero, that he had the courage to make the changes the Wizarding World needed. I say he was a coward and a juvenile one as well. He had to destroy everything around him if he didn’t get his own way, and his idea of recreating the world would have killed it faster than a Killing Curse.
“The Wizarding world is only strong as long as it continues to be diverse. You take out the fresh blood and new genes arriving and you end up with everyone like Draco – largely incompetent, full of prejudice, and remarkably powerless.
“So if you are going to change things, you have to start at the bottom and sort out the problems first. The economy, the lack of opportunities for everyone leaving Hogwarts, the restrictions put in place by people afraid of change, and once you’ve fixed that, then and only then can you have a civilisation that can be remembered through eternity. Only then can you have immortality as someone who lived during that time when the old order was destroyed and a new one created. Only then can you tell your grandchildren that you were there. That you were one of the people who started it, you stood up and were counted when the time was right.
“The history books might not remember you individually, but when you look down and see the paradise that this world could become, that will be your immortality, that will be your legacy, and in thousands of years time, there will be a generation of children in this school who will study us, and will marvel at what we have achieved, just as we marvel at the exploits of Merlin and Godric, and Rowena, and Helga and even Salazar.”
Harry looked around in surprise to find everyone concentrated on him. He blushed. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I didn’t mean to interrupt dinner again.” He felt uncomfortable with the looks on the faces of some of the students; he wasn’t sure what they meant.
He looked up at the Professors. McGonagall raised her glass to him solemnly. Dumbledore’s eyes were twinkling and he too raised his glass. He met Remus’ eyes; he was looking at him with pride. He turned to Gabrielle, who leaned over and kissed him, just touching her lips to his. “And where you lead, my Prince,” she said softly, although her voice carried around the Hall, “we will follow you into the history books.”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” he protested.
She smiled at him and lightly brushed his hair back. “You wouldn’t be doing it if you did,” she said mysteriously. “Now, let’s eat.”
And so, the antagonist is hinted at, the plot started - because after all, what is a fairy tale without a dragon ?
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