11 - Sydney
For Meg - for being "that cute little blonde in the 4 wheeler".
Gabrielle walked toward her first class of the morning, a Defence lesson, fully aware of the smile on her face. Harry had accepted her challenge with the same sort of commitment that he bought to every aspect of his life, and they had been forced to eat on the go as they scrambled to get to Hogwarts in time.
She opened the door and was about to step in, when Simone looked up and then groaned theatrically. “Professor Bayard, I think I’m going to be sick.”
The professor blinked as Simone immediately rushed out, saying, “Gabrielle can take me to the nurse.”
As soon as the door shut, Simone stood up straighter, took Gabrielle’s hand and marched her straight back to Gabrielle’s room.
“You slept with Professor Potter last night, didn’t you?”
Gabrielle blinked in surprise.
“You’re glowing, literally glowing, like a torch! I had to get you out of there quickly,” Simone said by way of explanation. “It’s going to be obvious to anyone looking at you that you had your brains screwed out last night.”
“Simone!” Gabrielle protested.
“So, was it good?”
“That good, eh, from a Veela?”
“Wait…” Gabrielle tried.
“Oh, yeah, my crush on him,” Simone continued, “you’re lucky that Gunther’s pretty hot.”
Gabrielle sat down suddenly. “Right, stop, sit.”
“Try that again, please, at normal speed. And this time, please try and make sense.”
“Okay,” Simone agreed. “I was sitting in class, wondering where you were, when you opened the door. You were lucky that no one else could see you, because everyone would have known something is up instantly. You’re always beautiful – hell, you’re a Veela, but in this case, you were literally glowing. You also have this inhuman air of contentment about you. So, I got you out of there fast, and here we are.”
“Thank you,” Gabrielle said softly. “And what is this about Gunther?”
“We are an item, as of last week, actually.”
“Congratulations,” Gabrielle said with a relieved sigh. She stood abruptly and walked into the bedroom, looking into a mirror. “I really am glowing,” she said in surprise. “I’m pretty sure that I was not doing that this morning.”
“So things went very well last night then?”
Gabrielle nodded and removed the charm that was hiding her ring.
“Sweet Merlin on a bike!” Simone almost screamed in surprise. “He proposed? That is one incredible ring!”
Gabrielle smiled and nodded. “We’re not going to make it public until after the final Quidditch match.”
Simone nodded and whistled under her breath. “You are so very lucky, Gabrielle.”
Gabrielle nodded and walked over to her fireplace. “Fleur?” she called.
“I thought you had classes this morning?”
“I am having a small problem, Fleur. Can you come through?”
“Hello Simone,” Fleur said, as she appeared from the fireplace. “Do you know what is going on?”
“I stopped her from walking into a class full of boys like that,” Simone replied with a small smirk, indicating Gabrielle.
“I didn’t know I was glowing,” Gabrielle protested.
Fleur looked at her sister closely, and shook her head in disbelief. She walked over to Gabrielle’s desk and dashed off two quick notes, addressing them and using her wand to create a pulse of magic. Fleur’s owl appeared in the window shortly afterward. “Take this to Mama, the second to William,” she commanded, attaching them to the owl.
The owl hooted and flew away.
“Fleur?” Gabrielle asked softly.
“Let’s wait until Mama gets here, as I’m without a clue,” Fleur suggested gently. “Make me a coffee, dear?”
“Simone, would you like anything?” Gabrielle asked.
“Coffee, please,” Simone replied.
Gabrielle did as she was told, smiling slightly as Harry sent her a mental reminder of one of the things they had done the night before.
She had just finished when there was a knock on the door and Aimée walked in.
“Hello, Simone,” she said in surprise.
“Madame Delacour,” Simone replied formally.
Gabrielle brought a tray out with four drinks.
“Ahh, I see,” Aimée said softly. “I take it you do not know what is going on?”
Gabrielle shook her head. “I did not even know that I was glowing.”
“Fleur?” Aimée asked.
“I’m lost,” Fleur replied with an elegant shake of her shoulders.
Aimée looked at Gabrielle and smiled.
“Congratulations, my dear.”
“Thank you, Mama.”
Fleur sat up and looked at Gabrielle.
“He proposed?” she squealed in surprise. “Oh, Gabrielle!”
Gabrielle barely had time to put her tea to one side before she was swept up into a hug from her sister.
Fleur released her and grabbed her hand. “Nice,” she whistled.
“From Antwerp,” Aimée agreed. “Tomas has a matching wedding ring, if you like that one, Gabrielle.”
“You knew, Mama?”
“Of course,” Aimée smiled. “Harry asked me to come with him when he went ring shopping. I was delighted, and we had a wonderful time together.”
Gabrielle smiled. “You lied to me.”
“I misdirected you,” Aimée corrected gently. “If I had mentioned Antwerp, you might have guessed, and I will not betray Harry’s secrets.” She paused to take a sip of tea. “Was last night everything you had dreamed of?”
Gabrielle blushed. “My dreams, even with my Veela power, even with my research, paled into insignificance. He was magnificent, and I didn’t even think about how he was securing the Bond until he reminded me this morning. But more than the immense physical pleasure, the mental was a million times more explosive. We connected in a way that I never thought possible.”
“But you were not glowing this morning?” Fleur asked.
She shook her head. “I am positive that Harry would have mentioned it.”
“He would have,” Aimée agreed. “Gabrielle, please cast a Lumos spell.”
She reached for her wand and did exactly that. The spell caught them all by surprise as her wand exploded into life, flooding the room with a pure white light. She cancelled it immediately.
“As I thought,” Aimée said softly, as she turned her head back. “Put your wand down, dear.”
Gabrielle placed the wand on her desk.
“Fleur, curse your sister. Gabrielle, do not move.”
“What?” Fleur demanded.
Aimée just looked at her, until Fleur sighed and throw a low powered cutting curse at Gabrielle. Before the curse could hit her, it smashed against a barrier that was briefly visible.
“What was that?” Simone asked softly.
“I did not do anything,” Gabrielle replied, frowning in puzzlement.
“Yesterday afternoon, I watched Harry put charm after charm on that ring – so many that Filius and I were lost after thirty minutes. He worked endlessly to get it just right.”
“That is why he desired real food, first,” Gabrielle said to herself.
“Quite,” Aimée agreed. “I believe the glowing is because you are not used to the extra magic that you are now carrying around. As we do not want to lower the effectiveness of the ring, we will have to lower your magic temporarily, Gabrielle. We will take the Floo back to our estate, and you will use magic until you are no longer glowing.”
“Yes, Mama,” Gabrielle agreed.
“Simone, you are welcome to join us.”
“Thank you, Madame Delacour.”
“Bill,” Harry said with a welcoming smile. “What brings you to Hogwarts at lunch time?”
“A summons from the Missus,” Bill responded. “She asked me to have a chat with you.”
“Oh?” Harry asked. “What about?”
“Want to fly? I don’t want prying ears listening in.”
“Sure, here.” Harry chucked a broom to him before jumping onto his, rocketing to the sky. A few hundred metres above the ground he levelled out, swung his feet forward, and shifted so that he could lie on his back and stare at the clouds, his hands behind his head and his feet crossed.
“Do I even want to know how you can control a broom like that?”
“Practice. When you spend your life on a broom, you start to get to know what it can really do. So what did you want to talk about?”
“Actually, I don’t really want to talk about anything., Fleur just thought that you might want to talk to one of the few people who would understand.”
“What it is like to sleep with a part-Veela who loves you.”
“Remind me to do something nice for Fleur,” Harry said with a laugh. “Last night did not go as I expected.”
“Well, the meal and the proposal part did.”
“Congratulations, by the way.”
“Cheers. Anyway, it was Gabrielle’s first time, so I was expecting to carry her to bed, undress her, and take things from there.”
“Let me guess, she suddenly got this determined look on her face, and before you know it, you’ve been dragged to bedroom, stripped with impressive efficiency, and your plans have been thrown out the window.”
Harry laughed. “So it runs in the family, then?”
“That’s what it sounds like, we’re very lucky men, aren’t we?” he reflected.
“Absolutely. She was like no one I’ve ever slept with before. It was like she’d been practising for a millennium, and yet I had proof this morning that I was her first and only.”
“Don’t think about that,” Bill advised. “Just remember that she is not fully human – and believe me, I have to think that a lot – especially when she starts throwing vases.”
Harry laughed again. “I’ve yet to experience that.”
“I’m not surprised. Gabrielle’s the calm one.”
“Last night was something special. I lowered my shields – magically and mentally, and I could feel that Bond solidify between us, I could feel it bonding to my magic, bonding me to her, and it was incredible.”
“Now you’re going out of my experience,” Bill said quietly.
“From the research I’ve done, it went further than it should have. I think we’re out of everyone’s experience. You know I’m powerful, right?”
“I got a power boost from it. I’ve been feeling it all day. It’s like it’s awakened something inside me, something that’s been dormant, and now it’s free. Or maybe, it’s more that I’ve freed something. I woke up this morning as happy as I could remember. My loneliness was completely gone, my moods were completely gone, and the only cloud on my horizon is protecting Gabby when we announce to the world that we’re engaged.”
“You’ve always been an introspective moody git, Harry,” Bill said cheerfully, “so it’s not a surprise that you feel like you’ve got a boost out of this – you’re probably no longer suppressing the thought that you’re special, regardless of how you might want to be normal.”
Harry watched a cloud formation that resembled a dragon chasing a large snail float above him as he contemplated Bill’s words.
“Last night, Gabrielle said something to me. She told me not to hold back, that it didn’t matter who I was, I should just be myself.”
Harry smiled. “And I am Harry James Potter, engaged to Gabrielle Delacour, heir to two immense fortunes, world class Quidditch player, and one of the most powerful wizards in nearly a millennium.”
“You’re also a nice, humble guy, most of the time.”
Harry laughed. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. Remember, I’m a Weasley, closely related to Fred and George. Ego popping is our speciality. So, is the heavy part of this conversation over with?”
“Excellent. Why aren’t you an Animagus?”
“I’ve always wanted to ask you that.”
“I didn’t have time when I was at school…”
“And after Voldemort was defeated?”
Harry grinned. “Becoming an Animagus is the basic step in animal transformation. It limits you to one animal. I think there might be a way to be able to become any animal. I believe that all you have to do is merge the Metamorphmagus ability with the Animagus ability, and you end up with an Animorphmagus. Tonks always used to say you had to be born a Metamorphmagus, but I’m not sure that’s true. I want to find out.”
Bill sighed and reached over to prod Harry firmly. “You’re such a git,” he said with a slight grin. “I’m not sure I believe that. It’s impossible.”
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said Harry. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." He paused introspectively. “A Muggle said that in a famous book. I always liked the idea, and now I feel like I can do it.”
Bill turned to look at him. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“Absolutely,” Harry replied. “I think that there’s nothing I won’t be able to do eventually.”
“If anybody else said that, I’d think they were exaggerating. But since it’s you, I’ll just sit back and take notes.” Bill glanced at his watch. “Well, it’s been fun, but some of us have to get back to work.”
“Thanks for this, I appreciate it.”
“It’s nice for me to actually get to be the older one for a change. Most of the time I feel like your little brother.”
“Anyway, I’ll catch you later.”
“Hermione,” Gabrielle called as she dashed over to the older woman.
“Gabrielle,” Hermione said with a smile as she turned to face her.
“Are you doing anything now?”
“Ron and I don’t have anything planned, why?”
“I want to fix Harry’s eyes.”
Hermione blinked. “Okay,” she said slowly, although her eyes showed that she was thinking hard. “That sounds like something I should be there for.”
Gabrielle smiled brightly. “I do not think we will need you, but I did think you would be upset if I did not invite you.”
“You sound a lot more confident about this?” Hermione commented.
Gabrielle nodded. “I am.”
“Okay, I’ll go and get Ron, and we’ll meet in your parents’ rooms. We don’t want to make people suspicious.”
“Thanks, Hermione. I will see you in a few minutes.” She smiled at Hermione once more before she dashed off. She’d been full of energy all day, and while she was no longer glowing, she felt better than she ever had.
She had to restrain the urge to skip down the corridor and had to force herself to act like the Beauxbatons Head Girl. As far as she was concerned, though, she was now off duty. She’d been a good girl all afternoon, had helped Harry organise his Quidditch tournament, and had even helped organize the upcoming ball.
She knocked on the door to her parents’ room and waited. Aimée opened it and ushered her in.
As soon as the door closed she jumped forward twice and then pounced on her Mate, kissing him firmly. “Hi,” she said brightly, as she landed on his lap.
“Hi,” he responded, amusement obvious in his voice.
“Papa,” she greeted her father happily.
“Gabrielle,” Jean said with a sigh. “Do you have to do that?”
She nodded eagerly. “I Mated with Harry at two minutes to eleven on the 26th of February, 1995. It’s now the 30th of November, 2003. That’s three thousand two hundred and one days, or just under seventy seven thousand hours of hugs, kisses, and general affection that I’ve missed out.
“And,” she continued excitedly, “if we take last night as an example, remove twenty percent due to making the first time extra special, that means that I’ve missed over six and a half thousand hours of mak-blph.” The end to her statement was muffled due to Harry’s hand covering her mouth.
“Let’s not torment your father anymore,” Harry suggested.
Gabrielle pouted against his fingers.
“No, it is too late, I am already tormented,” Jean said mournfully. “My little Gabrielle has grown up.”
She lightly moved Harry’s hand away from her mouth. “I have, Papa,” she agreed with a slight sigh. “But I am happier than I ever thought possible, and is that not what you wanted?”
“Oh, yes, definitely. When you were thirty.”
“Pfft,” Gabrielle replied. “Anyway, Ron and Hermione are coming over shortly. I am going to fix Harry’s eyes.”
“You are?” Aimée asked.
Gabrielle nodded. “I need to use some of this magic that is swirling through me. I remember how much the shoulder took out of us, so this will be the perfect way of doing it.” She twisted to look at her Mate. “Did Mama tell you what happened today?”
Harry nodded. “The glowing. I didn’t expect that.”
“No one could have,” she replied. “It is a wonderful feeling, is it not?”
Harry smiled at her. “Have a look at how I’ve been feeling today.”
Gabrielle reached down the Bond without hesitation. She’d been receiving his cheerfulness and good mood all day, but had not been able to examine him in great detail. She closed her eyes and moaned under her breath.
“Take it, feel it,” Harry whispered, as he pushed his magic at her.
As she had when fighting with Draco, she pulled his magic under her command. Impossibly, it seemed more, much more than it had before. It felt freer, less restrained. “You are no longer holding back,” she whispered. “You have accepted who you are.”
She opened her eyes to see Harry’s eyes locked to her face. There was another knock on the door, but she didn’t look away.
“Is it me,” Ron’s voice said, “or is she literally glowing this time, as opposed to the metaphorical glow she normally has?”
“It’s a glow,” Aimée agreed with a sigh. “Harry just lent her his magic again, and combined with her ring, it is causing a glow to appear.”
Harry leaned in and gently kissed her. She immediately forgot about their audience and kissed him back, her hands going into his hair.
He sighed softly against her lips and gently broke the kiss. “Hermione, can I borrow your scarf?”
She heard some movement behind her, then a hand carrying a scarf came into view. She was aware that she was being a little rude, but she didn’t care. She watched as Harry folded the scarf in half, then in half again along its length. He reached up with it and covered her eyes. She smiled faintly as he tied it tightly, making a mental note to get a few scarves later.
“Can you see?”
She shook her head.
“I want you to cast the location spell,” he said. “I’m going to vanish, and I want you to try and find me.”
She nodded and pulled her wand out, even though she didn’t need it. With Harry’s power, she could do the spell wandlessly, without any effort at all.
“Now,” Hermione said.
She cast the spell, releasing her wand, which spun around on her palm.
“You can take the blindfold off,” Harry said. She did as she was told. Harry was on the other side of the room, and her wand was pointing straight at him.
“I have my nullification field on – full power,” Harry explained.
“The spell should have failed,” Hermione added.
“Oh,” Gabrielle said. “Does that mean that my magic is now aligned with Harry’s, so it will not stop me?”
Hermione looked thoughtful. “I’d have to run some tests to make sure, but you could well be right. And to ask an obvious question, have you two…?”
“Yes,” Harry said. “So, shall we get this show on the road?”
Gabrielle smiled happily. “Give us a few minutes, Hermione,” she ordered as she pushed Harry into the spare room – there was no way she was going to do this on her parents’ bed. With a few efficient movements, she pulled off her robes, kicked off her shoes, undid her skirt and started on her blouse.
“Next time, I get to undress you,” Harry said firmly. “In fact, I insist.”
“Yes, Harry,” she agreed happily. “Do you want to finish now?”
“Yes, but I probably better not.”
She smiled brightly at him and removed her blouse, and then her bra. She left her knickers on, as she didn’t want to give Hermione a show.
“Put this on,” Harry said as he removed his shirt.
She took it and put it on, doing only the buttons she needed to keep it on. It was still warm and smelled of him. She closed her eyes for a second and enjoyed the feeling. “I’m still glowing,” she noted as she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror.
“It’s really sexy,” Harry told her.
She reached up and kissed him gently before guiding him onto the bed and sitting on his stomach. With a conscious effort, she shoved the desire she had for him into a corner of her mind, and concentrated on what she was about to do.
“Don’t worry,” Harry said quietly.
“I am not,” she whispered back. “You trust me and now I trust me as well. I will never let you down.”
He reached up and cupped her face, his thumb lightly sliding across her lips. “I know.”
She smiled at him, and pulled up the blanket so that they were reasonably covered as there was a knock at the door. “Come in, Hermione.”
Hermione entered and immediately moved to a chair on the far side of the room, where she had a clear view of everything. Gabrielle nodded approvingly, and started to call all of Harry’s power to the foreground, so that she could feel it in her fingertips. He removed his glasses and smiled encouragingly at her.
She moved her hands forward, over his eyes, using her Veela power to find the defects in his eyes, the areas she need to correct. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the feelings she was getting. She could feel him everywhere they touched; the intimate nature of their position was helping her focus everything she had on him.
With a very deep breath, she started.
The pain was agonising.
It was worse than anything she had ever endured before. Her eyes felt as if they were literally melting, but she didn’t stop. Every second seemed to increase the pain, like a fire burning deep inside her soul. As she cried, it felt as if she were pushing shards of broken glass from her eyes.
This was for her Mate; she would do anything for her Mate, and she could do this.
She could do this.
She would do this.
She let the pain sweep over her, never once deviating from the course her magic told her to take.
And then it was over.
She exhaled softly and passed out.
Hermione sat watching her best friend and his Mate, but something seemed wrong. Harry wasn’t making any movement, but Gabrielle was crying. Her eyes were closed and an expression of pure agony was on her face.
She wanted to go over to them, to see if she could help, but she remembered the warning from last time – and the frisson of fear she had felt when Harry had pointed his wand at her.
Gabrielle seemed to sigh before she collapsed onto Harry’s chest.
“Harry?” Hermione asked.
“Oh, Gabrielle,” Harry whispered.
He looked at Hermione, his eyes incredibly bright. “She took the pain.”
Harry shook his head. “She took my pain. It didn’t hurt me a bit; it hurt her instead. Tell Jean and Aimée that I’m looking after her, and she’ll be fine.” He gathered Gabrielle in his arms and they vanished from the bed.
Hermione stumbled out of bedroom and back into the living room, where Ron offered her a glass of wine. She tried to take it, but her hands were shaking too much.
“Hermione?” Ron asked softly.
She slumped down into a chair, took a deep breath, and then grabbed the wine glass. She downed it in a second, and then as Ron filled it again, she downed the next one as well.
“What happened?” Ron asked.
“They deserve each other.”
“Huh?” Ron asked.
“You know that Harry took the pain of the Cruciatus curse when Malfoy cast it on her?”
Aimée and Jean nodded.
“Gabrielle obviously thought that was a good idea. She just took the pain of destroying Harry’s eyes.”
Jean’s glass cracked in his hand.
“Jean-Sebastian,” Aimée scolded. “You have wine everywhere.”
“Sorry, dear,” Jean replied apologetically. “I didn’t expect that.”
“I do not know why not,” Aimée sniffed. “It is exactly the sort of thing that Gabrielle would do.”
“Why don’t you start at the beginning?” Ron suggested quietly.
Hermione nodded and started on her third glass in as many minutes.
“It was the same as last time and yet completely different,” she began in a slightly hesitant voice.
“Last time it was obvious that Harry was the stronger partner. This time it was more a meeting of equals. Gabrielle was still glowing, but then she pulled up the magic as she did before. Back then it was like being in the same room as a tornado. This time I could feel the magic swamping over me. I had to raise a shield just to be in as close range as I was. Through the shield I could literally see the magic bending the air. It was beautiful, awe inspiring, perfect. But then Gabrielle focused it on Harry, and started to work.”
She shuddered as she recalled what she had just witnessed. “For a second I thought nothing was happening. I was looking at Harry’s face. He just had his eyes closed. Then I glanced at Gabrielle. She was crying, and each tear glowed bright silver as it dripped down her cheeks and onto his chest. She had this expression of agony and determination that cut right through me, but there was nothing I could do.
“She finished and then she passed out. Harry grabbed her, and he had an expression on his face I had never seen before. He has never seen anyone take pain for him before this – he knows his mother did, but he was a baby at the time – this is the first time that anyone has ever done something for him like this.
“All through his life, he has been the one putting himself forward. He has been the one taking the pain for us.” She took another smaller sip of the wine. “And then Harry gathered her up in his arms and did a horizontal dual Apparation.”
There was a silence in the room, only broken by Aimée casting a few spells to take away the wine stains and fix the glass.
“So, are Harry’s eyes fixed?” Aimée asked as she sat back down comfortably.
“I believe so,” Hermione whispered.
“How can you be so calm?” Jean demanded.
“Because my daughter will have planned this in advance. She knew exactly what she was going to do, and she did it. I am proud of her.”
“But the pain,” Ron started, but couldn’t seem to find anything to continue with.
“Harry will look after her,” Aimée said firmly. “And she will be fine – more than fine. She has helped her Mate, she has looked after him, and she managed to fix him without hurting him in any way. That will make her feel better than anything. And I’m sure that Harry will express his gratitude in a way that will appeal to her.”
“She did still hurt herself,” Hermione pointed out.
“That she did,” Aimée agreed. “Ask yourself this. What would you prefer? Temporary physical pain or the guilt that you hurt your partner?”
Jean sighed. “I knew I married you for a reason.”
“Because all your Veela girlfriends were butterflies that would have fainted at the first sign of trouble?” Aimée suggested with an innocent expression on her face.
“Something like that,” Jean agreed with a smile. “And because I really appreciate having someone who will tell me that I’m being an idiot when necessary.”
“I’ve always wanted to know why you chose Aimée,” Ron said. “From what I know, it’s not often that a male Veela chooses a non-Veela wife.”
Jean nodded. “Well, my mother was kind of the inspiration, really. When she was younger, she was married to another Veela, and although she tried to play the loyal wife, his attitude was more suitable to the Stone Age. Mama caused quite a storm by divorcing him, and taking most of his money. Divorce was simply not done back in those days. Some people tried to shun Mama, but she was far too strong to let that worry her.
“She then went out and found Papa, who was a much more enlightened man, who treated Mama like a princess, and who happened to be rich as well. They had one child – me, and I grew up in the Veela community.
“Mama, on the back of a second scandal, decided that Veela as a race were effectively useless, so she took steps to ensure that I would comfortable in the real world. At the age of seventeen, she packed my bag, gave me several thousand francs in cash, the keys to my inheritance, and told me not to come back for several years until I knew who I was.”
He sighed softly. “I was a little scared, but I was determined to go and become a man. I enrolled in a Muggle university in France, but I kept in contact with Mama, and my girlfriend back in the Veela community.”
Aimée sniffed disdainfully, but didn’t interrupt.
“But the more I learnt, the less comfortable I felt with her, and we eventually broke up. I wanted someone who would challenge me.”
Aimée snorted even more disdainfully.
“Okay,” Jean said, raising his hand, “I didn’t know that at the time, I just knew I wasn’t getting what I needed. I tried dating a few Muggles, but it turned out that I was going for the same sort – the sort who saw a young and rich man and liked that. I even took a few home to see Mama and Papa, but Mama was not impressed, and told me so on many occasions. She pointed out that she sent me into the world to broaden my horizons, not to have a party. She wasn’t impressed that I was studying poetry, either.”
Ron laughed. “I really can’t see you studying poetry.”
Jean smiled. “I went back to University and changed so that I was studying politics instead, and took some English courses. In my second course, I fell completely in love with a witch who had decided to see what the Muggle world was like for herself. I asked her out as soon as I could.”
“And she said, no,” Aimée interrupted. “She wasn’t about to let a smooth-talking charmer ‘get into her knickers.’”
“But I was persistent,” Jean continued. “I asked her for her help, begged her even, and she took pity on me. I studied as hard as I could, trying to impress her. I found out immediately that she didn’t care about looks, she was more interested in someone with a future, who was going to do something with his life.”
“Although it did help that he was good looking,” Aimée admitted mischievously.
“I found myself getting top marks in English, and even higher marks in politics. I also found that, no matter what the question they gave me, I could take it to Aimée, and she would make me talk it through, until the answer was obvious.
“Well, in our last year, I spent a bit of time thinking.”
“Brooding,” Aimée corrected.
“In front of me I had two paths. One was a life as a rich drifter, never really achieving anything. The other was involved becoming a leader of men, someone who could influence people and make a difference. I did the only thing I could. I begged Aimée to marry me.”
“I wasn’t sure,” Aimée continued. “I’d seen Jean make his way through most of the pretty girls at school, and although he had been a good boy since we started up, I still wasn’t completely convinced that he was being genuine. But then he invited me to spend time with his parents. I thought about it, and agreed. When I arrived, his mother dismissed me as another beauty, and that is when I decided then that I would go out with Jean, as I knew that woman would not raise a cad.”
“And we lived happily ever after,” Jean agreed. “Mama and Papa received a bit of fuss about me not marrying a Veela as well, but by that time, people were used to Mama causing a scandal.” He sighed. “Sadly, Papa passed away before Fleur was born. Mama was devastated, but she continued for a time. She wanted to see her grandchildren.”
“Thank you,” Ron said softly.
“Yes, thank you,” Hermione agreed. She was feeling a lot more in control now.
“Anyway,” Aimée said, “I would suggest that we do not dwell on today. As Ron has pointed out in the past, they are defining their own relationship at the moment. Harry, for all his experience, is as innocent as Gabrielle in some aspects, and that innocence carries them both forward, so that they do not bother to be tied down by anything as prosaic as the real world, like the rest of us.”
Hermione smiled. “I’ll never forget what happened in there. But you’re right, they’ll look after themselves. Now, let me tell you about the research I’ve done into duplicating their Bond.”
“Why would you want to do that?” Jean asked.
“Because if you can remove the negative aspects, it gives you an amazing feeling of closeness.”
“And the sex is brilliant,” Ron added. He abruptly turned bright red as everyone looked at him and he realised what he had just blurted out.
Harry was on his back, still stripped to the waist as he reclined against the headboard. Gabrielle’s head rested on his chest, and he was lightly stroking her hair, just enjoying the texture of it.
She was fast asleep, draped over him and occasionally making soft snuffling sounds. Every time she moved, it was to snuggle deeper against him, as if even in her sleep, she was trying to ensure that she was as close to him as she could be.
He smiled tenderly at her, a little surprised at just how much he loved her. He had enjoyed relationships in the past, but nothing that came close to being as all-consuming as this one.
And never with a girl who had managed to both understand him, and match him as well. He had been ready for the pain of having his eyes fixed. His shoulder had been bad enough, and he knew that his eyes would be worse.
But then she had simply used the same techniques he had, and pulled the pain onto herself. It had shocked him, but it had made him feel warm inside – that she cared about him the same way he did about her. There would have been none of her own magic guiding her to do it – it was purely her and her alone.
With a start, Gabrielle awoke. She pressed against his chest and looked up. “How are you?” she gasped.
“Shh,” Harry whispered, moving his right hand to her face. “I, my love, am fine – perfect in fact. How are you feeling?”
She blinked and considered the question for a moment. “I am fine,” she said finally.
“Gabrielle,” he whispered, lifting her up and moving her so that she was sitting over him. “My Gabrielle.”
“You are not mad at me?” she asked in a small voice.
“If I had expected it, I would have tried to stop you,” he said softly. “But how can I be mad at you for what you did? I can see without my glasses, and it was painless. I hate that it cost you so much, but I thank you for my gift.”
She smiled at him, and he almost felt his breath leave his body. She was glowing, but this time it was pure Gabrielle, no magic involved at all. Her hands moved across her chest, over the shirt he had given her to wear earlier, but she stopped and stared down at herself for a second in confusion.
“What?” he asked.
“Someone gave me a command earlier,” she pointed out. “This is the next time; and I cannot undress myself.”
“Oh, yes,” Harry said with a smile. “I did do that, didn’t I? Do you know what happens to beautiful girls who give such wonderful gifts?”
She shook her head and looked at him innocently.
Harry reached for the buttons. “They get thanked,” he purred.
Weak sunlight shining into the room slowly dragged her out of the deep sleep she had been enjoying. The first thing she noticed was the complete absence of her Mate. With a yawn, she rolled out of bed, grabbed his shirt, pulled on a pair of knickers, and wandered down toward the kitchen, absently doing up the buttons.
It was empty, but a smell of coffee pointed to the balcony. She followed the smell to find her Mate looking out at London, his cup on the table beside him. Without hesitation, she walked over to him, crawled into his lap, and nuzzled into him.
“Mmm,” she mumbled back. “No sleep, no Mate. Sleep now.” She closed her eyes and started to breathe easily, drinking in his unique scent.
“Sorry,” he whispered, and cuddled her against his chest.
She half smiled as she drifted off. She would never be able to explain accurately the feeling of warmth and comfort that she got from him holding her. She would give up everything that mattered in her life as long as she still had him.
“Gabby,” Harry called.
“You’ve had thirty minutes, but it’s time to get moving.”
“Okay,” she sighed. “Can I have some of that coffee?”
“There’s some on the table for you.”
She reached out blindly, and turned away from him. “It is raining.”
“Out there, yeah. It started twenty minutes ago. I didn’t want to disturb you, so I diverted it.”
“Will the neighbours not notice?”
Harry laughed softly.
“What?” she asked suspiciously.
“Have a look around and you tell me.”
With a protesting groan she stretched, and then climbed off him. She stretched luxuriously again, smiled at him, and then wandered over to the edge of the balcony, her coffee in hand.
She turned, to find her Mate looking at her with a smile. She leaned over the edge and looked down, absently pulling her shirt up to ensure that he would have an unrestricted view. She turned and looked to both sides and then up, before she shook her head in disbelief. “Harry, did your apartment originally come with a balcony?”
He shook his head. “Nope, but I liked the idea, so I made one.”
She walked over and straddled his legs, sitting on his knees. “You made one?”
He nodded. “There’s nothing really advanced here. I had the balcony made the Muggle way, and I transported it here one night. A permanent sticking charm along with a weightless charm keeps it up. A notice-me-not charm means that no one sees it, or sees me on it, and I get a great uninterrupted view of London. After the first day, I added a few air freshening charms, and hey presto. I thought about adding warming charms and anti-rain charms, but I decided that I liked nature most of the time.”
She shook her head. “You are amazing,” she whispered. “And no one knows this exists?”
“Well, Ron and Hermione do, but they think it’s part of the building.” He grinned. “I had to create the illusion that every apartment had a balcony, so that Hermione wouldn’t lecture me about planning, permissions, and the risks involved.”
“So,” she said suggestively, “you think that we should christen it?”
He laughed softly. “You, my dear, are insatiable.”
“No, I am not,” she responded with a grin. “I was pretty sated earlier.”
“Maybe later,” he promised, “but again, we have to get back to school.”
She pouted and then blinked. She had spent so much time flirting and asleep against him that she hadn’t really looked at his eyes. She moved forward slightly and raised her hands to trace his face. She concentrated on his eyes; the green that she had always loved was both deeper and somehow brighter now. “Harry,” she said quietly, “bring up your magic.”
He did so and his eyes changed, the magic causing the darker parts to rotate slowly, giving them a hypnotic swirling effect. They seemed to be drawing her in, pulling her against him. “Wow,” she whispered.
“Do they twinkle?” he asked, sounding a little worried.
She shook her head. “No, nothing like Dumbledore at all. They twirl, Harry, and it is hypnotic.”
“Is that a good thing?”
He laughed. “Breakfast?”
“I guess.” She stood and followed him into the kitchen, where he made her a bowl of cereal. “What are we wearing to the ball tonight?” she asked.
“I’ve been waiting for you to ask that for the past week,” he said with a teasing smile as he passed her the bowl. “You’re probably the only girl in all three schools who hasn’t been fretting about her costume.”
She shrugged carelessly. “You said you would take care of it.”
“Well, you remember what we said the other day, about the tall brunette?”
“You want me to go as Natalie?” she asked.
“No,” he said, rolling his eyes. “I want you to go as Morgana La Fey.”
She blinked, then got it. “And you are going to go as Merlin?”
“That’s the plan. We’ll make you a few inches taller, and change your hair colour. I’ll be a few inches shorter, so we shouldn’t be recognised.”
She smiled happily. “See, I knew that you would take care of it. I have enough to worry about without worrying about things that you are taking care of.”
“What time do you finish today?”
“I have classes until three. Then I have a meeting with the other Head students and the Head teachers that will probably drag on.”
“Can you come and help me with the next tournament, afterward?”
“After that, we’ll come back here and have something to eat, and then get changed and turn up for the seven thirty start. Olympe has ensured that I am not on duty tonight.”
She nodded and finished her breakfast. “Are you not eating?”
“Nah, I’ll grab something later.”
She frowned. “We really need to learn to cook.”
“Or hire one.”
“I would have to wear clothes, then.”
“In that case, we really need to learn to cook.”
She laughed and hugged him. “And we need to get my clothes here – so I can at least leave fully dressed. Fortunately, this time I can just Apparate back to my own room, but there might be occasions where the ‘boyfriend’ look is not appropriate.”
He wrinkled his nose. “Thinking about it, I’m going to show my face at breakfast at Hogwarts. I’ll see you later.” He reached onto the counter and grabbed his glasses. “I might not need them to see, but they are still extremely good sunglasses.”
He kissed her and Apparated out, leaving her alone. She smiled faintly and washed up the cups and her bowl before she walked back upstairs. The bed was a mess, so she straightened it the best she could, and had a look in his closets. They were pretty empty, making her wonder where all of his clothes were.
With a fond look at the bed, she Apparated to Hogwarts, barely even noticing the wards rippling at her passing as she borrowed just enough of his power to get through.
“Harry,” Olympe called.
Harry floated down and hopped off his broom – which continued to float to one corner and stood itself up. The students he had just dismissed from his afternoon class looked at him enviously and put their brooms away themselves.
“What can I do for you?” Harry asked, mildly amused at the bemused way the Beauxbatons’ Headmistress was watching the broom instead of looking at him.
Olympe redirected her attention with a start. “Would you mind accompanying me to today’s meeting?” she asked.
“Severus was being irritating yesterday and I really don’t want to have to deal with him again.”
Harry shrugged. “Are you sure I won’t exacerbate the problem?”
“I can only assume that you will,” Olympe admitted cheerfully, “but at least Picup and I will be amused.”
Harry laughed. “When is it?”
“Now. We’ll be finished by five.”
“Then you’re in luck. I just happen to have a free period now. After you, my dear,” Harry said with a teasing expression on his face.
As they walked, Olympe turned and said in a low voice, “I have noticed that my Head Girl seems a lot more relaxed these days. It is like a load has been taken off her back.”
Harry smiled faintly. “Let’s just say that your years of hard work to improve Gabrielle’s mind will not be going to waste on her seventeenth birthday.” He looked at Olympe seriously. “What’s your policy about married students?”
Olympe slapped him on the back. “I’ve not got one, and I won’t have one. However, I’m sure I can come up with something just for the two of you. You do know silencing charms, don’t you?”
“Actually, we’ll probably not spend that many evenings at Beauxbatons. We’ll Apparate home after we’ve both finished for the day – that way you don’t have to worry about us setting a bad example.”
“That is a very good idea,” Olympe rumbled approvingly. “After you,” she said, indicating the stairs to Dumbledore’s office. “And please, feel free to say whatever you like.”
Harry straightened his shoulders as he walked into the room. The Head students were all sitting together – John was next to Natalie at the far end, a smug look on his face. Snape was sneering at the others, venting his spleen squarely at Gabrielle. For a second, Harry gave serious thought to blasting Snape into the wall and out the other side. He took a deep breath to regain his temper, and waited for the right moment. “…while you are in our school,” Snape continued whatever he had been saying in a smooth hiss.
“You will not be intimidated by sallow faced professors with appalling teeth and worse breath,” Harry interrupted. He switched to German. “What was Snape saying?”
The German Head Boy smiled gratefully at Harry. “He was refusing our request that an independent official referee the Quidditch final. He wants to referee himself.” Harry nodded and switched to French, asking the same question. Gabrielle gave the same response. Finally, he asked Natalie.
“We were asking that an independent referee be used for the final.”
“They were,” John sneered. “Including Nat, the trai…”
“If you sneer one more time at me, or any of the other students, I’ll lock you in your room for a week,” Harry snapped.
“You dare...” Snape started.
“Severus, shut the hell up,” Harry growled. “I am really not in the mood to listen to you today.
“Now,” Harry said, turning back to the students, “thank you for your concern, but the matter has already been decided. Madam Hooch has already informed me that she will not be refereeing. I’ve had a chat with the Quidditch League, and they have agreed, after witnessing the appalling tactics Hogwarts used recently, that a professional referee is the only way forward. As such, Trent Thomas, the referee for the Quidditch World Cup final, will be adjudicating.”
“Headmaster!” Snape stuttered, turning to Dumbledore.
“Harry,” Dumbledore started.
“And don’t you start,” Harry snapped. “You can, of course, refuse. It is your school, supposedly,” he added with a sneer aimed at Snape.
“But if you do, then Beauxbatons and Durmstrang will leave this evening,” he continued, “and you will have to explain to the world’s press just why you were insisting that a juvenile professor with no Quidditch experience take on the most high profile match this school will ever have. You are already facing an investigation into just how a school that has previously produced some of the top players in the world has devolved into teaching abject thuggery.
“Now, unlike Snape, who seems to have endless time to put his beak where it’s neither wanted nor needed, I have a real job to do. So, where’s the Agenda for this meeting?”
“Here,” Gabrielle said, as she passed him a piece of paper, she looked away, and sent him a burst of exactly what she was feeling. He carefully schooled his face, and sent her a mental poke back – finding out that she thought his tough-guy routine was incredibly sexy wasn’t very helpful.
He scanned down the list of items and sighed. “Okay, let’s start from the top. Nat, do you want to organise the ceremony for the leaving do?”
Natalie blinked and nodded.
“Make sure you talk to the elves. Persuade them to talk to some of the French and German cooks – that way everyone will be able to try some different dishes.”
“Yes, Professor Potter.”
“Excellent, right, number two. Julius, will you, Greta and the rest of Durmstrang work together for the award ceremony next Sunday? I’ll be in charge of most of the prize giving. Come and see me tomorrow and we’ll talk about the order. Olympe, will you talk to Minerva and Picup and get all the academic awards? I’ll deal with Viktor and get the sporting ones.” There were nods all around the table.
“Now, on to point three. Picup, how do you want to organise our leaving the following Monday?”
“I’d like to see you leave first, if you do not mind?”
“Not at all. So, Beauxbatons will leave first, Durmstrang afterward. Good, we’re making real progress. Right, point four.” Harry looked up as Severus tried to interrupt again. He reached up and pulled off his glasses, slamming them down on to the counter dramatically – they were charmed to withstand the impact. He pulled up his magic a little and glared at Snape. “Severus,” he snarled, “if I hear one more complaint from you I’ll presume that you were fully aware of what Malfoy was going to do, and publicly challenge you to a duel.”
Snape’s mouth shut and he managed to go even paler – a truly impressive feat.
“Harry…” Dumbledore started again.
“Does he know any other words?” Harry muttered in French under his breath. He didn’t bother to respond to Dumbledore. “Right. Now, as I was saying, point four, the Quidditch final. We’ve already agreed the referee for the final. The English Ministry is in charge of the ticketing, and all the proceeds will be split evenly between English, French, and German charities. Kick off will be at three p.m. next Saturday. I think that’s everything on the Agenda,” he said, putting the document down on the table next to his glasses.
“By the way, it is very bad form to organise a meeting about something I am arranging and not invite me or Viktor,” he pointed out, finally looking directly at Dumbledore.
“You are not a senior professor,” Albus explained.
“Just the only one who can get things done. I note that Snape is here – standing in as the Hogwarts coach, I assume? If seniority was at issue, Minerva would be here instead of him. But if he’s here as coach, I should have been invited as well.
“Tell me something,” Harry asked. “Why are you holding this meeting in English? You speak French and German, Albus, and Gabrielle speaks German, as does Olympe.” He pointedly did not mention what Snape spoke or didn’t speak.
“I don’t,” John said.
“Ahh, so we’re catering to the lowest denominator, then? And you wonder why Hogwarts is getting a bad reputation”
“Not from all of us,” Natalie said in hesitant German. “Some of us took the time to try and learn some of the language.”
Harry smiled approvingly at her. “At least there is some hope,” he replied in German. “Anyway,” he continued, switching back to English. “Is there any other business?”
No one said anything.
“Excellent. Olympe, Gabrielle, I’m going to need your help. Natalie, Greta, Julius, Picup, it was a pleasure as always.” He picked up his glasses and slid them back on before turning dramatically and walking out. He waved his hand irritably and the door jumped open, allowing him to leave without pausing.
He waited at the bottom of the stairs for Olympe and Gabrielle to catch up with him, and as soon as they did, he Apparated them both to Olympe’s office.
He could feel that Gabrielle was practically vibrating as she looked at him, but he was more concerned about Olympe’s reaction. She looked at him expressionlessly before she walked around the table and sank into her chair.
“Harry, will you please, please, please, come to my next budget meeting?” she asked, before she broke into hysterical laughter. Tears were running down her face. “I have never seen anything as funny as the look on Snape’s face when you told him to shut up!”
Gabrielle started to laugh as well.
“And,” Olympe continued, “as for running through a two hour meeting in four minutes, that was just inspired.”
“I think I let my prejudices show,” Harry said, feeling a little embarrassed. “Snape was sneering at Gabrielle. I was feeling a little protective.”
“Would you do the same to the politicians if I pointed out that they always want to cut my budget, and that could affect her schooling?” she asked hopefully. “Mon Dieu, Harry, but you are magnificent when you are riled up. Fair and honest, egalitarian, and yet at the same time, so very dangerous.”
“Madame Maxime,” Gabrielle started.
“If you’re going to be my first married student, I think you can start calling me Olympe in private.”
“Thank you,” Gabrielle said, curtseying slightly. “I thought you enjoyed long meetings?”
“Oh, I do, normally, but I am fed up with Severus’ face. I talked to Picup, and we decided that we’d invite Harry to see if he’d shut him up for us – we’re both far too political to do it ourselves.”
“So you used Harry?” Gabrielle asked, a slight frown appearing on her face.
Harry almost smiled as he watched her prepare to defend him.
“No,” Olympe said, looking as if she had read the same danger signs. “We merely hoped he’d be able to allow us to get through the meeting without incident, and we recognised that talking about the final without him would be bad.”
Gabrielle nodded slowly.
“Are you two ready for tonight?”
“We are. Harry has come up with a wonderful idea that will allow us to dance together as much as we want.”
“Anyway,” Harry interrupted. “I think we should go and see if we can start the fifth years’ session a little early, since we all want to get out tonight.”
Olympe reached into her desk and passed two tickets to Harry. “All this evening’s tickets have been charmed to ensure anonymity. There are going to be a lot of Ministry personnel there tonight, from all three Ministries, not to mention reporters, parents and general hangers-on.”
“Thank you. We’ll see you there.”
“Harry, for my own curiosity, who are you coming as?”
“Merlin and his wife,” Harry replied.
Olympe smiled and then frowned. “Harry, what will you do if Albus sees through your disguise?”
Harry smiled coldly. “He won’t. I’ve charmed the Great Hall. Tonight, Legilimency will not work, and people will be able to keep their privacy.”
“Excellent,” Olympe clapped her hands with approval. “Now, be off with you.”
“Okay, strip to your underwear,” Harry said, “I’ll be right back.”
It was the work of a few seconds to strip down to her bra and knickers. She thought about it for a second and then removed her bra as well. She was still technically in her underwear, so she wasn’t disobeying him; technically at least.
He returned with a pop, carrying two long clothing carriers. He looked at her and she felt a wave of desire across the Bond. She smiled slowly at him and tilted her head submissively, changing her posture slightly.
He groaned audibly. “You are bewitching.”
“Thank you,” she said, as she settled into a more normal posture.
Harry shook himself as if to clear his head.
“If only we had not promised all our friends that we would be there,” Gabrielle sighed regretfully.
Harry draped the containers over the back of a chair and pulled out a red notebook. “Okay, trust me to let me try something I’ve never done before?”
She smiled at him, choosing to take that question as it wasn’t intended. “Of course, would you like me bent over something?”
He flushed bright red.
“If I am being naughty, you could always punish me,” she said suggestively, running her hands down her thighs as she turned away from him and then looked back over her shoulder at him.
Apparently there was a limit to even Harry Potter’s self control.
The next few moments were the most intense in her life. She discovered that lovemaking could be just as good when it was rough and passionate as when it was gentle and loving. A couple of cleaning charms later, she was as before – although wearing a different pair of knickers, as the tattered remains of her previous pair were in the bin.
Harry looked a little more relaxed, even if his gaze was still hot against her skin. “Let’s try this again,” he said. “I’m going to cast a spell that will work a little like Polyjuice potion.”
She nodded, aware that it might hurt.
He looked at her, and then summoned his wand. With a low voice he murmured several things that didn’t seem to be any language she had ever heard before.
It was more uncomfortable than actually painful. She could feel herself grow, especially her legs. “May I see myself?”
He nodded, absently conjuring a full-length mirror.
She looked at herself and whistled softly. The woman staring back at her was familiar from portraits that simply did not do her justice; she was amazingly beautiful, with eyes the colour of burnished steel, and long, chestnut coloured, slightly curly hair.
Morgana’s hips were slightly wider than hers and her breasts fuller. Gabrielle turned, to find that she was facing a legend. Harry was now Merlin. He was shorter and bulkier, his hair was much longer – she liked it enough to make a note to suggest that Harry grow his hair later – and he had a small pointed beard and a slightly Roman nose. His eyes were now a deep brown, and his skin colour was much darker.
“What do you think?” he asked. His voice was deeper now and carried an underlying tone of power that hadn’t been there before.
“You are amazing,” she said, to find that her own voice was deeper and smoother, and she had lost all traces of her French accent. “No one will recognise us like this.”
He smiled. “And soon, we will not need disguises. But until then...”
She nodded. “So,” she said suggestively, “can mine last all night?”
“Why?” he asked, a surprised tone in his voice.
“So you can make love to me like this.”
Harry blinked at her. “But…”
“Oh,” she said dismissing what she knew he was about to say. “You will still be making love to me, but it will be exciting.”
She placed her hands on her hips. “But I do not want to make love to you in that form,” she said, mimicking his voice.
She smiled and walked over to him, lightly kissing him on the cheek. “But nothing. You are thinking of me as human again. Me in a different form is still me. I have promised myself that I will be every woman you will ever need. Perhaps to a human woman, that would mean the woman’s own form and she would be jealous if her man wanted her to look like someone else. But I am Veela. The fact that we can do this without the horrid taste of Polyjuice is just a bonus.”
“Gabrielle!” Harry finally interrupted. “What I was going to say is that sleeping with my hero’s wife would be far too weird for me.”
“Oh,” she said contritely.
“If you truly want to be someone else, we can try that – later, much later. At the moment, I want you, in your form – the form that you know is my dream girl.”
She felt herself blush. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
He moved forward and hugged her. “I am learning more about you all the time, Gabrielle,” he whispered, “and that means that I do not forget who you are. Now cheer up, we’ve got a party to go to.” He walked over to one of the containers. “Close your eyes.”
She did as she was told, listening to the zip being opened, then the rustle of fabric. She felt the fabric fall over her head. She moved willingly as Harry placed her arms through the chiffon sleeves, and then his hands moved up her back, pulling the string that held the bodice together tight. “I had to get them to show me how to put one of these on,” he whispered in her ear softly. “As I’ve got no practical knowledge.” As he finished, she smiled slightly and moved her hands to adjust the built in bra that she was positive was a modern enhancement. Comfortable now, she let her hands drop to her sides.
“Okay, so they didn’t tell me how to do that,” he said, an amused tone in his voice. He fished the matching shoes out of the box and knelt in front of her. His hands touched her left ankle, raising it. She moved and then settled down into the two-inch heels, repeating with the other foot.
“Don’t open your eyes,” he repeated. She didn’t move as she listened to him dress – with a small degree of muttering. He moved to the side and wrapped one arm around her. “Open.”
She opened her eyes and gasped, seeing the two elegantly garbed strangers in the mirror. She didn’t know who to look at for the briefest of seconds; then every part of her being pointed out that she wanted to look at her Mate.
He was wearing a simple white tunic with silver Celtic patterns stitched into it. A matching Celtic pendant necklace hung around his neck. With his bulkier build, the design managed to emphasise his size and strength, without being showy.
She smiled and gasped as she looked at herself. She had been beautiful before, but in this dress she was beyond that. The skirt was sand-washed crepe silk with a silk chiffon ivory overskirt. The crushed velvet bodice seemed to change from deep purple to silver as she turned in the light. The bodice was boned and fitted with an on-the-shoulder neckline. Silver Celtic embroidery adorned it, each knot and figure glittering in the light.
Harry moved behind her and draped a crushed velvet cape, which matched her bodice, over her shoulders.
“Where did you get this?” she whispered.
“A Muggle shop. You can’t get this sort of thing in the Magical world. There are a huge number of people interested in legacy clothing. I went in with a sketch and Morgana’s measurements. It cost me a lot to get it done in a rush, but it was worth it.”
She nodded in complete agreement. “But why is your outfit so plain?”
“Because no one will outshine you tonight. I did order a different outfit for you as well, in dark blue, that will fit your usual form,” he admitted, smiling
“Really?” she said hopefully.
He nodded. “As pretty as you look like this, in your own form, you will look stunning.”
She reached up and kissed his cheek. “Maybe we can see if we can make this one fit me as well,” she suggested. “Mama is very good with clothing charms.”
“We’ll ask her later. Now, my dear Morgana, are you ready to rock the world?”
She curtseyed gracefully. “My Lord,” she whispered.
“My Lady.” He took her hand and Apparated them both to Hogwarts. They joined the back of a queue of people. She could see several of the Founders walking around, as well as other persons of note from history. A good number of people were wearing masks to hide their identities.
“Gabrielle,” Harry whispered into her ear.
She turned to look at him; his eyes, although brown, were still so familiar to her.
“Do not use your Veela power while you are in this form.”
The command was simple, and she felt her magic accept it immediately. “Yes, my Lord.”
He took her hand and bowed, kissing it dramatically.
“Oh, my Lady, your costume is fabulous.” The voice was familiar, even if she was wearing a mask that covered her eyes. The Hogwarts Head Girl was dressed as Rowena Ravenclaw, the outfit placing her natural assets prominently on display.
Gabrielle looked up and smiled. “Thank you,” she replied politely.
“So you’re English,” Natalie said with a cute pout. “I was sure that you’d be either French or German. Who are you?”
Harry smiled slightly. “One of the many guests from the Ministry,” he replied evasively. “This is a masked ball, after all. You would hardly expect me to be more specific.”
“True,” Natalie agreed. “You wouldn’t happen to know who Harry Potter is coming as, would you?”
“Is he coming?” Harry asked. “I hope I get to meet him.”
“Well, if you see him, please remind him that he owes me a dance.”
“I will,” Harry agreed, and handed over their tickets.
“Enjoy the dance,” Natalie called over her shoulder.
“I owe her a dance?” Harry whispered to Gabrielle.
“She was lying.” Gabrielle grinned suddenly and held up a long brown hair.
Harry raised his eyebrows at her.
“Just planning ahead,” she said and kissed him gently on the cheek, the hair vanishing into the bodice of her dress. “Now, let us show these people what dancing is.”
“You’re looking pensive, brother mine.”
Fred was looking out over the dance floor, a worried frown on his face. He slowly turned and smiled at his twin. “Did you ever think there would be a day when we would have to rescue Harry Potter from a problem of his own making?”
George’s eyebrows almost hit his hairline. “Do explain, oh genius of a twin.”
“Look out there,” Fred said. “Which couple is Harry and Gabrielle?”
“It’s a costume ball. There’s no way we could tell,” George replied.
“Try again,” Fred suggested. “And try looking at what is in front of your nose.”
George looked out. It was a little unusual for him not to be on the same wavelength as his twin, and it wasn’t a feeling he was happy with. Down below, hundreds of couples were dancing. Some were even dancing well. Two people, however, were beyond that, one dressed as Merlin, the other Morgana La Fey – a prettier version than was usually portrayed in books, but recognizably Morgana. They were moving in perfect synchronicity as they glided around the dance floor, people moving out of their way automatically. They were giving off an air of grace and power that was totally in keeping with their characters.
He moved on, then stopped abruptly. “Fred, my dear brother.”
“We’ve always been quicker than most, but this is outstanding.”
“I did the exact same thing you did,” Fred said modestly. “I was looking down, and you can’t help notice Merlin and Morgana, and how realistic they are – right down to the grace and power. And who is the only person alive with the balls and the ability to pull that off? And who is the only man you can rile up by making disparaging remarks about Morgana bearing Arthur’s children?”
“Harry James Potter,” George replied. “Which of course makes the gorgeous brunette our little Gabrielle.”
“And,” Fred continued, “if we’ve worked it out, it won’t be long until the others do. And they don’t want anyone to know about their relationship yet. We need to do something.”
“Agreed. You go and try and get a hold of Charlie. I’ll go and find Hermione and the girls.”
George grinned. “Because he’s the only one of us who can dance nearly as well as Harry. I think it’s time that Harry Potter made an entrance.”
“George, the best thing about being a twin is that we’re never alone in our genius.” The two grinned at each other and separated.
George looked over the balcony again, quickly located Ron, and dashed down to the dance floor. “Ron, Hermione, I need your help,” he said earnestly.
“How did you know it was me?” Ron asked in surprise.
“Because the only other person who dances as badly as you do is dancing with a girl with incredible grace, and as pretty as Hermione is – when not in costume - she’s not a Veela. Besides, Bill would never come dressed as a Seeker.”
“What’s the problem?” Hermione asked. She was dressed as a Muggle’s idea of a witch, complete with warty nose.
“Not here,” George replied, and gestured for them to follow him. As he walked, he pulled out a long rubbery coil. He spotted Angelina, Katie and Alicia by the punch bowls, and waved them over. They entered a classroom, and he dropped the coil. There was a flash of light. “Right, we can talk easily now. Did any of you notice Harry and Gabrielle?”
Hermione and Ron shook their heads. George sighed. “Okay, did any of you happen to notice a wizard who made your senses tingle who was dancing with a drop dead gorgeous witch?”
Hermione blinked. “Oh, Merlin.”
“What?” Ron asked, a confused expression on his face.
George rolled his eyes. “Merlin and Morgana.”
Ron nodded, and then his eyes went wide. “Bloody hell,” he muttered. “I thought their costumes were incredibly accurate.”
“Indeed. My lesser half is fetching Charlie at the moment. Our mission is to make him look like Harry in disguise. That way, everyone will think that it’s just a clever trick.”
Hermione smiled slightly. “So we produce Charlie, playing Harry, playing someone else, and people won’t recognise that Harry is really playing Merlin and dancing with Gabrielle, playing Morgana, who most people believe to be Merlin’s enemy.”
“While we’re awaiting my dear brothers’ arrival,” George said, “have either of you ever mentioned anything about the whole King Arthur stuff to Harry?”
“Not really,” Ron replied.
“I have,” Katie replied. “He’s fascinated with the legends – I’d often wake up to find him reading those books in bed.”
There was a complete silence as everyone turned to Katie. “Katie, dear, is there something you’ve not told us?” Fred asked.
Katie went white, and then she started to blush.
“You little tramp,” Angelina said admiringly. “You managed to bag Potter and keep it a secret!”
“Can we just forget I said that?” Katie asked. “It’s in the past, Harry and Gabrielle are the present, and I’m happy with that.”
“Are you?” Alicia asked softly.
“No,” Katie admitted, “but he is. I had my chance with Harry, I screwed up our relationship, and we’re friends now. There are memories I’d rather not live through again.”
“One question then,” Angelina said. “Was he as good as we thought he would be when we were in Hogwarts?”
“Let’s just say that Gabrielle’s probably the luckiest girl in the world.” She shook herself. “So, let’s get back to the point. Harry’s reaction to King Arthur and Camelot and the like.”
“Right,” George suggested. “There is something going on there, and it makes my nose twitch.”
The door opened and Fred and Charlie walked in. Charlie was in full dragon riding gear, including a helmet that covered his hair.
“Perfect,” George said. “One costume all ready made.”
“That’s what I thought,” Fred agreed. “So, how do we make our hero here look like a real hero?”
“Hey,” Charlie protested.
“The first thing we do is make Charlie’s tattoos look more fake and eliminate the freckles,” Hermione decided. “We’ll also have to do something about the hair, shape of the jaw – make all his features like Harry’s but not too like. The scar, of course – and then I’ll put some Muggle concealer over it so anybody that really looks for it can ‘see’ it. He’s the same height as Harry, so that’s taken care of. Charlie, walk to the other end of the room and back.”
Charlie did as he was told.
“Now, I want you to do that again, but this time, I’m going to cast a charm to try and make you walk like Harry.”
“How does Harry walk?” Charlie asked.
“Like he’s the most powerful person in the world, but doesn’t consciously admit it,” Katie replied. “Unconsciously powerful, until he gets riled up, then he prowls like a giant cat.”
“And your charm will do this for me?”
“Thank Merlin,” Charlie whistled. “I’d hurt myself if I tried to do it myself.” He started to walk, and as Hermione hit him with the charm, his gait seemed to smooth itself out.
“Perfect,” Angelina announced. “What next?”
“It’s the aura,” Hermione said. “How on earth do we duplicate Harry’s aura?” She sighed, “I wish we could ask Gabrielle.”
“Well, if we can’t do that,” Ron said, “we should do the next best thing.”
“Fleur?” George asked.
Ron rolled his eyes. “Aimée. I’ll go and get her.” He jogged out the door and Hermione turned to Charlie. “While we’re waiting, let’s see what we can do with your tattoos.”
“This will be reversible, right? Getting these things was painful, and I have no wish to go through that again.”
“It will,” Hermione agreed. “I’m just glamouring them. The same thing we use to make Muggles think a unicorn is a goat,” she explained as she started to cast some charms.
A few minutes later, Ron returned with Jean and Aimée, who were dressed as French nobility – panniered skirts, powdered hair, beauty patches and all.
“Has Ron told you what’s going on?” Hermione asked.
“No,” Aimée replied, “but I am presuming that I am not the only one to notice that my daughter and her Mate are currently managing to bewitch the Great Hall with their dancing.”
“How did you work it out?” Fred asked.
Aimée smiled. “I would recognise Gabrielle anywhere. She might look different, but the pull on my heart is still the same, as it is with Harry.”
“And I am feeling blind again,” Jean said with a slight smile.
“And that, my dear,” Aimée said, “should teach you not to look overlong at the chests of young ladies. It may be your daughter you are leering at.”
“I object,” he protested. “I was not leering.”
“Of course you weren’t dear,” Aimée sniffed dismissively. “So, what is the issue?”
“We have the look and Harry’s walk down, but we don’t know how to fake the aura of power that Harry controls. Without it, no one will really believe that Charlie is Harry,” Katie explained.
“Harry’s suppressing it completely at the moment, right?” George asked. “That’s why it’s not blatantly obvious that he’s playing Merlin.”
“Correct,” Hermione agreed.
“Hold out your hands,” Aimée instructed Charlie.
Charlie did as he was told, and Aimée frowned. “No rings?”
“I don’t wear jewellery. It can get caught on dragon scales.”
“Jean, take off your ring.”
“I watched Harry charm a ring the other day, and that ring had a very positive effect on Gabrielle.”
“The glowing?” Ron asked.
“Indeed. So, we will all charm this ring together, and it will give Charles a power boost so that he will have an aura that will suffice for tonight.”
George grinned. “Does it strike anyone else as funny that it will take nine of us to try to fake what comes naturally for Harry?”
“And we will not even come close,” Aimée agreed. “Watch me, and then cast the same charm.”
Aimée pointed her wand at the ring and cast the spell in a clear voice. A feeling of magic rushed out of her and into the ring. She stumbled slightly, and then leaned against her husband.
“Aimée,” Hermione asked in a small voice. “How many of those spells did Harry cast on this ring?”
“Seventeen. And this was one of the easiest,” Aimée replied as she seemed to gather herself and stood up straighter. “Frederick, it is your turn now.”
Fred nodded and cast the same spell. George followed closely afterward, followed by Ron, Hermione and Jean.
“Now, Charles, place the ring on your finger.”
Charlie did and gasped. “Oh, wow,” he murmured.
“Now walk,” Hermione told him.
When he had finished, Aimée smiled. “That is perfect. You do indeed, resemble Harry in disguise. How do you feel?”
“Like I could make a hole in the Hogwarts wards,” he admitted.
“Don’t try it,” Aimée warned. “We have merely raised your power level to mimic Harry’s when he is suppressing it normally. This is but a fraction of his power now, let alone his true potential.”
“You know his potential?” Hermione asked.
“I do, but do not ask. I will not betray Harry’s secrets.”
“Not even to me,” Jean muttered with a playful pout.
Aimée smiled briefly at him. “It would be better if you could Apparate in, but we can not risk Albus working out the truth.”
“Won’t he be able to see who’s who anyway?” George asked.
“Harry charmed the Great Hall earlier,” Aimée replied. “He mentioned it to Olympe.”
“Good,” George replied cheerfully. “He was thinking ahead. His only problem was that while he might be able to disguise himself and Gabrielle, he simply could not change who they are.”
Katie walked up to Charlie and slowly circled him. She closed her eyes and took several deep breaths. “He’s not Harry,” she announced, “but it should fool everyone who hasn’t slept with him. And of the other three, two aren’t here tonight, and I’ll talk with the last one.”
“That will have to do,” Fred replied. “Off you go, Chuckles.”
“Don’t call me that,” Charlie said irritably. “Wish me luck.”
He turned and walked out.
“Okay, so, back to the party?” Fred asked.
“I am afraid not,” Aimée said. “We have only solved half the problem.”
“Excuse me?” George asked.
“We are going to have to produce my youngest daughter as well, to avoid any complications.”
“How are we going to do that?”
“Hermione, do you have any Polyjuice potion?”
“I can get some quickly enough. I keep a supply locked up in my office. I’ll need to nip outside the wards, then Apparate.”
“Will you be a dear and do so, as quickly as possible. Ron, will you go and tell Fleur to fetch Gabrielle’s hair brush from her room.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he saluted, before he and Hermione turned and ran off.
“Now,” Aimée continued. “Jean, a line or two of poetry in French please.”
“Je fais souvent ce rêve étrange et pénétrant d'une femme inconnue et que j'aime et qui m'aime,” Jean said. He switched back to English. “I have found that it is far easier just to do what Aimée says when she is in this mood.”
Aimée smiled faintly. “Now, I want you all to repeat that line, one at a time, please. Angelina?”
Each of the five others recited the line in their best French.
“Congratulations,” Aimée said to Fred and George, “your pronunciation was the closet to how Gabrielle would have pronounced it.”
Fred and George paled, and then looked at each other. Together, they sighed, and held out their hands. They shook them three times, before each made a fist. They tried again, this time going to a scissors shape. They continued another four times, before George managed to win – his paper beating Fred’s rock.
Fred sighed mournfully. “I knew I should have gone with scissors.”
“Fleur and Bill will be here in a few minutes,” Ron announced as he entered the room.
“Excellent,” Aimée said. “Frederick has agreed to play Gabrielle for us. What am I going to do about a costume? Last year, it would not have been an issue, but now that my daughter is happy with Harry, her dress sense has improved dramatically.”
“How about that Pompadue lady she likes so much?” Ron suggested.
Aimée winced. “Do you mean Madame de Pompadour?” she asked.
“That’s her,” Ron agreed. “Harry and Gabrielle talked about her the other night. They both seemed to respect her a lot.”
“That is an excellent idea. My daughter would indeed dress to honour such an ancestor. Jean, please go and get a couple of my older dresses.”
“Yes, dear,” Jean said evenly and walked out quickly, passing Hermione and Fleur in the doorway.
“What is going on, Mama?” Fleur asked.
Aimée smiled faintly. “We have just sent Charles out to replicate Harry, who is currently acting as Merlin and we are about to send Frederick out to replicate Gabrielle.”
“Which is why you needed some of her hair,” Fleur said. She handed over the brush in her hand.
“Here,” Hermione added, passing a small vial of potion.
“Excellent,” Aimée praised. She carefully pulled a long blonde hair off the brush and placed it in the vial. The potion frothed energetically as it changed colour. She looked at Fred appraisingly. “Just one sip,” she said.
Fred nodded and did what he was told. He shuddered at the taste. A moment later, ‘Gabrielle’ stood before them, clothed in Fred’s now too-large Tweedledum costume. “So, how do I look?” he asked.
“Beautiful,” George said. “For the first time,” he added as he playacting a sniff, “a Weasley is really good looking.”
“Ginny would disagree with the ‘first time’ remark,” Fred replied.
“Yeah, but she’s in Greece doing something with centaurs. Suspicious, that one.”
“George!” Hermione complained, looking outraged at the insinuation. “She is working for the Ministry as a liaison officer.”
“Right,” George agreed. “Which is why she walks bowlegged and always has that stupid smile on her face.”
“She’s your sister!”
“That doesn’t change the facts,” Fred shrugged. “Maybe if we didn’t have to listen to Mum complain about her never coming home every other day, we’d be slightly more sympathetic. But let’s move on, no one here wants to see our dirty laundry.”
“I love English,” Jean said from the doorway. “So many lovely idioms and colloquialisms. I have your dresses, my love.”
Aimée smiled at him.
“And that, ladies and gentlemen,” Ron said dryly, “is an example of why Jean is a famous politician. He managed a complete subject change, garnering everyone’s attention and stopping any negativity with a natural and unforced charm that makes the rest of us look like rank amateurs.”
Jean merely grinned and winked at him. “What is the next step, dear?” he asked Aimée.
Aimée took the dresses. “Fleur, be a dear and transform Fred’s shoes, and then work with Hermione so that he can walk in them.”
Aimée sat and took the dresses. She sighed as she ripped them apart along the seams, before she started to cast numerous small charms on them.
“Where did you learn to do that?” Bill asked.
“My mother – she felt that every woman should know certain things in life.” Aimée shot him a quick smile. “I need to concentrate now.”
“Sorry,” Bill apologised.
As Aimée cast the spells, the pieces of fabric from the dresses joined together and started to turn into one similar to the one she was wearing, but more elaborate. After another few minutes, she finished and held it up.
Bill, Angelina, Katie and Alicia all applauded.
“Thank you,” Aimée said. “Fortunately my daughter is known for not being very sociable at this sort of event, which will help us. We will need to ensure that Fred stays with us, to maintain the illusion.”
The others all nodded.
Aimée pulled a large curtain off the wall, and created a large changing area. “Frederick,” she called. “It is time to change.”
Fred nodded and walked over.
“Take off your clothes.”
“This is interesting,” he noted as he stripped. “For the first time, I understand why bras are a necessity.”
Aimée smiled. “Quite,” she agreed. “Why do you have your eyes closed?”
Fred blushed. “Because I don’t want to see her naked. Gabrielle’s Harry’s, and I wouldn’t feel right.”
“Then I will help you, and I commend your attitude.” She moved quickly, helping him into the outfit. “There,” she announced, “you can look again.”
Fred opened his eyes and looked down. “They look different from this side.”
Fred just blushed.
Aimée laughed under her breath as she pulled out Gabrielle’s brush from her dress and started with Fred’s hair, pulling it back tightly into a ponytail, which she then shaped into an elaborate ‘do’ with charms. Gabrielle’s hair was light enough that no powder would be needed.
“That’s uncomfortable,” Fred noted. “The things you women do for fashion is beyond me.”
“Do you not appreciate it when your date looks her very best?”
“Next time, remember what she is going through for you.”
Aimée pulled back the curtain. “How does he look?”
“Perfect,” George whispered.
“You should volunteer next time,” Fred announced. “I’ve already learnt all sorts of fascinating things, and had some great ideas about how we can exploit it in the shop.”
“Businessmen to the core,” Jean murmured approvingly. Aimée, Hermione, and the other females rolled their eyes.
“Fleur, Bill, George, take Fred out to the dance. We will join you shortly. I will pass you a drink with some more Polyjuice in an hour. Before that wears off, we will take you ‘home’, and then you can rejoin the party as yourself.” Aimée said. “And thank you, everyone, for your assistance this evening.”
Fred took a deep breath and glided out the door, a small smile on his face, accompanied by the other three.
“Aimée,” Hermione said softly, “Exactly why did you choose Fred, when there are four females in here?”
“It was because of the way the twins pronounced some poetry,” Katie said.
Hermione frowned. “But why would that be important, since we wouldn’t be letting any one near him anyway? He doesn’t know any of Gabrielle’s friends, or even how she constructs her sentences. I can’t see Fred speaking so formally.”
“Was I mistaken?” Aimée asked, a sly smile playing around her lips.
“In what way?” Ron replied warily.
“I was under the impression that the twins enjoyed a good prank. This one is on them,” she said, the smile growing wider.
Charlie tried to keep himself composed and mimic what he knew of Harry’s facial expressions as he walked across the dance floor. He’d rejoined the queue to enter the Ball, re-using his own ticket to get in, and hadn’t really enjoyed standing around as Harry Potter after the first ten minutes. Being a celebrity was not what it was cracked up to be.
A couple moved in front of him, and before he knew it, he was dancing with Morgana La Fey.
“Why are you pretending to be Harry pretending to be a Dragon Rider?” she asked softly.
Morgana smiled and he found himself being led around the dance floor. He was a good dancer; he had practiced long and hard, but he had never had a partner who made him feel so graceful before. “We felt the magical signature as soon as you entered the room, as did many other people.”
“It worked then,” Charlie said in relief. “Fred and George worked out who you and Merlin were. You may be in disguise, but your dancing and attitudes can’t be hidden.”
“Harry is one seriously powerful wizard, and you are an incredibly beautiful witch. On top of that, there are very few people in the country who would have the guts to come as Merlin and Morgana. Especially with Morgana’s reputation as an evil witch. So, we felt that we should do something about it.”
“Thank you,” Morgana replied as she kissed him on the cheek. “Now, try and put a half smile on your face, and stay away from the Hogwarts Head Girl – she is a determined minx, and she is quite intent upon getting into Harry’s trousers.”
“Thanks for the warning.”
Morgana smiled mysteriously and swirled away, falling into instant step with Merlin, as they danced off.
“You are fortunate among men,” Aimée said, as she took Gabrielle’s place. “You are the first man she has voluntarily kissed who is not bound to her by blood or magic since she was eight.”
Charlie felt a feeling of pride shoot through him.
“Fleur will be over to dance with you shortly, then Hermione, followed by Susan Longbottom, Katie, Angelina, and Alicia, and finally, Penelope. After that, you may leave, get changed, and join the party for real.” She winked at him. “You may then dance with Natalie if you so desire.”
“Thank you,” Charlie replied dryly. “You know they say that you can’t appreciate someone until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes?”
“An English colloquialism, but I understand it.”
“I have a lot more respect for Harry now,” Charlie explained. “First, this is but a fraction of his power that I’m feeling, and I feel like I should be doing whatever I want, because who could stop me? And secondly, it is lonely. As Charlie, people talk to me all the time. As Harry, people have not talked to me. They move to one side to allow me to pass, and then I catch what they’re whispering out of the corner of my ear.”
Aimée smiled and stopped with the music. “Then tonight has been worthwhile for you, too,” she decided.
She turned away and Fleur took her place.
“I’ll say one thing for all of this,” Charlie said, an amused tone in his voice, “Harry gets to dance with some truly beautiful women.”
“Why thank you,” Fleur purred back. “You are not zo bad yourself. ‘Arry is lucky to ‘ave friends like thees.”
“It feels good to be able to pay a little back,” Charlie explained. “We owe him so much that this is the very least we can do.”
Fred entered the Great Hall, pleased he had people surrounding him. He really didn’t like being leered at so openly. He was making a mental note of everyone who was doing it aggressively, and determined that he was going to pay them a visit as soon as he was out of this costume.
He looked around, and when he looked back, he somehow found himself dancing with Merlin.
“Relax,” Harry said, “I’ll take you around. Just let your body react normally, and you’ll look as graceful as you can. Aimée is acting surprised that you are dancing with me, and Jean is making the excuse that you are just being polite.”
“Thanks, sweetie,” Fred whispered.
“Thank you for doing this,” Harry replied. “Gabrielle’s already said thanks to Charlie. Although I hope you won’t mind if I don’t kiss you.”
Fred blushed. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t,” he agreed. “Do you have any idea how many people stare at Gabrielle?”
“Far too many,” Harry sighed.
“Why don’t you do anything about it?”
“Because I’d end up with a body count higher than Voldemort’s if I did.”
“Oh.” Fred thought for a moment. “You wouldn’t mind if I was to take steps later, would you? Just on the ones who seem to be over the top. I have a few things from the shop that need testing.”
“No,” Harry smirked. “Be my guest. How do you like being female?”
“I’m going to find a way of replicating Polyjuice potion, so that you can switch easily. It’s great fun.” He looked around warily, and continued, “and I’m gonna be so irresistible to chicks when I use this knowledge.”
Harry laughed softly. “We really appreciate this,” he said seriously.
“Harry,” Fred replied seriously, “this is the least we can do for you.”
Harry smiled and twisted, and before Fred knew it, he was dancing with Jean.
Katie stretched as she awoke from a deep sleep. She looked around her living room and smiled. Angelina and Alicia were showing signs of life on the other chair and the sofa.
She turned her head and squeaked with surprise. The squeak drew the attention of the other two.
“Katie?” Angelina asked.
She smiled slightly. “Look next to you,” she advised.
The girls did, and squeaked themselves. Next to each of them were a small card and a small box. Katie opened hers. Inside was a small pair of diamond earrings. The shape and size were her favourites.
Angelina squealed as she opened hers and found a thin platinum necklace with a Celtic Irish cross pendant. Alicia’s box had an elegant silver watch.
“Who?” Angelina asked.
“Open the card and find out, silly,” Alicia replied as she ripped the envelope open. She read the message and smiled brightly.
Katie opened hers and read:
Last night was above and beyond the call of duty. We value our privacy, and you enabled us to keep it and to have one of the best nights we have enjoyed together. Your friendship is worth everything to us.
Please accept this trinket as a thank you.
Harry and Gabrielle
“Trinket?” Alicia snorted. “Right. So, Bell, just how did Potter get these to us?”
“He’s Harry Potter,” Katie replied. “He probably just Apparated half-way across the world to find an open jeweller’s shop, and then placed them next to us as we slept.” It was exactly the sort of thing that he would do, and would do without a second thought, as if that level of dedication was normal. She tried not to think about what might have happened if she had tried a little harder with him, rather than following the easy path.
She sighed softly, her eyes caressing the words on the card.
“Katie,” Angelina said softly as she moved over to her. “You need to talk, love.”
Katie looked up.
“You do,” Alicia agreed. “We’ve been worried about you for a long time, but you wouldn’t talk. We knew something was wrong – you changed, sweetie. Now we know what it is, and it’s time.”
Katie took a very deep breath and then exhaled slowly. “Gabrielle knows some of this, but I gave her the watered down version, so please, don’t ever talk about this again.
“It was two years ago, Harry was already having a stellar career and had learnt from his dating mistakes. I was out with Mel, and, as always the men were falling over her – including my date. That was when Harry sat down next to me. I’d played against him, and of course I knew him well from Hogwarts, but until that moment, I hadn’t realised that he was Harry Potter.”
“What do you mean?” Alicia asked.
“That he’s special, you know? That he can change the world. He wasn’t just a Quidditch player, or an heir, or the defeater of Voldemort, he was special. We got to talking, and he was trying to cheer me up. He told me some stories about his dating disasters and I kept drinking. Harry never drinks that much. He must have nursed his beer for a couple of hours. Anyway, he took me home, and I invited him in. I was lonely, slightly drunk, and horny as all hell.”
Angelina nodded. “What did he do?”
“He kissed me gently, and told me to ask him again when I was sober. And by the time I’d cast the sobering spell, he’d gone. And I was bloody angry. I was still horny as anything and now I was stone cold sober on top of it. As attractive as my bed is, it wasn’t somewhere I wanted to be alone right then. So I got on the Floo, called in a few favours and found out where he lived in London – it was easier to do then than it is now, trust me.
“I changed quickly into my best lingerie, threw on a long coat and Apparated to his address. I knocked on his door, and he opened it. His shirt was half open, his hair was a little unkempt – more than normal – and he was wearing a pair of tight jeans.”
“And?” Alicia prompted breathlessly.
“I looked at him, undid my coat, posed as sexily as I could, and said, ‘I’m sober now.’
“He looked at me for the longest moment of my life before he grinned and pulled me into his apartment. I didn’t get more than a glance before he was kissing me. It was an incredible kiss. I had been horny before, but this was something else.”
“He’s that good?” Alicia asked.
“You’ve been near him and felt that little thrill, right?”
“Like you’re standing next to something very magical?” Angelina murmured.
Katie nodded. “When you kiss him, it’s a lot more. Somehow, he manages to move his magic into his kiss. It’s intoxicating, it’s breath taking, and it’s almost addictive. His hands slid around me, and he picked me up as if I’m weighed nothing. I’m five-eight, and 149 pounds - we’re professional Quidditch players, we’re never going to be lightweights – and I felt like a feather. He didn’t stop kissing me as he carried me upstairs.”
“And?” Alicia demanded.
Katie smiled softly. “I thought I’d be the experienced one, but I didn’t have to teach him a thing. He knew where all my buttons were and pressed them all before he found some new ones. He’s amazing, his body is beautiful, and he knows how to use it – and then you add his magic, and it was the best sex of my life.”
Alicia and Angelina nodded.
“So anyway, I was happy, sated, and we fell in to a routine. We played Quidditch during the day, and had great sex at night. We enjoyed each other’s company. But it seemed like we weren’t really connecting at a deeper level.” She took a deep breath, trying to fight the tears that suddenly threatened to overwhelm her. She could feel her friends wrap their arms around her.
“I wanted him to go first – you know, to say those three little words. To commit to me before I would commit to him. But that wasn’t happening. I knew what I had to do, but I was scared. I thought I wasn’t ready for a permanent relationship yet. After all, I had a career, I had friends, I had a night life, I had everything I persuaded myself I wanted – so I convinced myself that it was all his fault, that he was emotionally constipated.” She could almost feel her friends wince. “And so we started to argue.” The tears started. “I’ve tried to deny this for so long, and I feel so guilty about what I did – I couldn’t even tell Gabrielle the truth.”
“But wasn’t the Bond they have part of the cause?”
Katie snorted. “Bond, schmond. All I had to do was tell Harry that I loved him more than anything in life, and that I wanted his children, and that Bond would have snapped faster than Flint facing a referee. It was easier to take the coward’s way out.”
“What did you do, Katie?” Alicia whispered.
“I said, in the middle of an argument, when he was trying to placate me, ‘Of course you don’t love me, you’re too busy fucking Hermione behind Ron’s back.’” She gave in to the tears completely. “And as soon as I said it, I knew it was over. I would have given anything and everything to take those words back.”
Angelina and Alicia were holding her tightly and she was so grateful that they hadn’t shunned her.
“Any other man would have hit me, would have shouted at me. Harry, he did something a million times worse. He just whispered, ‘Goodbye, Katie,’ and Apparated away. And just like that, the very second he was gone, I realised that Quidditch didn’t mean as much to me as he did, and that I had just broken it beyond repair. There are a few things that Harry holds inviolate, and his relationship with Ron and Hermione is one of those,” she finished with a sob.
“After that, I threw myself back into Quidditch and he went on to get injured in the Cup final. I didn’t even go see him. Instead, I wrote him an apology letter, and the next time we met, we were back to being friends. I know I hurt him badly, but he never showed it; he never did anything but treat me as a gentleman and a friend. But never again did I see his eyes smile at me, like they do at Gabrielle.” She sniffled a half laugh. “And that’s it, that’s my tawdry story of cowardice and regret.”
“Oh, Katie,” Alicia whispered and hugged her tighter.
“Some times I wish I could hate him. I wish he had called me a bitch, called me a whore, that he had hit me – anything other than give me his friendship, because when I’m alone at night, and I can’t sleep, all I can think about is how it was my fault, not his.” She tried to laugh, but it didn’t come out right. “But you know, it’s a little better now than it has been.”
“It is?” Angelina asked, surprise in her voice.
“Yeah. Have you looked at Gabrielle? She’s the first woman I’ve ever met who is really Harry’s equal. She can give him something I couldn’t – not just unwavering devotion, but an incredible empathy and intellect. With me, he would have been happy, we would have had a couple of kids, and he would be famous and powerful.
“With Gabrielle, he will fulfil his potential and be a legend.”
“But what about you?”
“I have to believe that there is a man out there for me. I’m still young. I’ll find someone who can make me happy – and maybe even forget that I came close to living a dream.”
The three girls were silent for a few minutes. “Okay,” Angelina announced abruptly. “That’s enough.”
“What?” Katie asked.
“You fucked up, and you’ve paid the price. It’s time to move on. Now we all know the truth, Harry’s forgiven you, we’ve forgiven you, it’s time for you to forgive you.”
“Damn right,” Alicia agreed. “You screwed up yourself and Harry. He’s fallen on his feet – like he always does – and you can move on now as well.”
Katie nodded softly.
“So, this Saturday, after the game, we’ll go out, have a damn good time, and come home and have a blow out on chocolate, champagne and strawberries.”
“And Sunday, we’ll head into the gym and get rid of everything,” Angelina added with a grin.
Katie couldn’t help laughing. “Thanks.”
Alicia shrugged. “We all talked about sleeping with Harry when we were younger – at least one of us did it. You’re part of an exclusive group – of people who are close to Harry Potter. You should be proud.”
“In a way,” Katie agreed. She pulled herself together and took a deep breath. “It could have been much worse.”
“Yeah,” she grinned. “I could have slept with Flint.”
“Ewwwww!” Alicia and Angelina screamed in unison.
“Wake up, sleepy. We had a visit from Father Harry.”
Fred opened his eyes blearily. “What?”
“Father Harry – you know, like Father Christmas, only he comes on different days.”
Fred sat up. “What, and why?”
“Well, he gave the girls jewellery, he gave Bill and Fleur a weekend in Dubai, he gave Charlie a holiday in Ibiza, Ron got a new broom, Hermione a spell book that no one even knew existed, Aimée got a necklace she loves, and Jean got a new watch. All of it, as expected, extremely tasteful and refined. As for why, well, for helping him out last night. You know what Harry’s like – he can’t believe that we might possibly owe him, so he treats it as something special when we do help him.”
“Damn it,” Fred said with a slight pout. “I told him that we were happy to help! The next time we help him, we then sit on him until he admits that we got to pay him back and he doesn’t have to do anything for us.”
“That would be difficult,” George said, “because you can see that Gabrielle helped.”
“Do I want to know what he got us?”
George just held out a piece of parchment.
Fred looked at it and blinked. He read it, and then read it again slowly. “He is insane.”
“Or a frickin’ genius.”
“The two are often close. Did you understand this?”
“I was up early, and when I saw this, I couldn’t go back to bed. If it works…”
Fred shook his head. “I think it’ll take close to a year to work this out into magic that we can actually do something with, but I think it’s a way to charm to objects to work like a Floo system. You know what this is, don’t you?”
“Global mobile phones,” George agreed reverently. “Only Harry could give us a year of solid work, and make us happy about it.”
So, we see that the German lunch from the last part was merely Aimée misdirecting Gabrielle. I do research as much as I can for the areas I describe. I did take a bit of a liberty with the layout
of Antwerp – call that Author’s Licence.
The French-speaking shop keeper was written after I met a Parisian jewellery shop owner who greeted me in perfect English when I walked in – I liked the idea so much that I decided he would recognise that Aimée was French (through her style of clothing and jewellery), and respond accordingly.
One of the difficult things about leaving a story, picking it up, losing it, and then trying again is that you find it very difficult to remember everything you’ve written, and to get the tone right.I apologise to everyone who didn’t think that the last chapter was up to standard. It probably wasn’t; it was, however, about as good as I could manage.
As some have noticed, my chapter names are REALLY tenuous. More so for this part than any other (including the infamous chapter 4).Basically, as we didn’t go anywhere in this chapter, apart from London and Hogwarts, I named it after the city Harry and Gabrielle visited to get the jewellery.
All in all, I think that Charlie will enjoy his gift the most – a week in Ibiza? A good looking dragon rider – who cares if he can’t tell anyone what he does - he’ll find the odd Muggle girl or two and have a damn good time.
And so we have Katie's full story. Is that what really happened? Well, no - or at least, not all of it. If you could get Harry to talk, he'd take more his share of the blame for everything leading up to the comment, and just why he left like he did.
I mentioned one of Harry’s other previous lovers here – as being someone at Hogwarts. The person in question is an Original Character who’s a member of the Hogwarts faculty. There was a back story about her, but no real way to tell it. Harry would never talk about a previous lover to anyone at all – even Gabrielle. He still has a lot of affection for this mystery woman – in fact, he’s friendly with all his previous girls – except for the kiss and tell bitch, obviously. (I don’t have the class Harry does, so I was ready to tell the story, however, I was over ruled (again) by one of my beta readers, so I’m afraid that your imagination will have to do).
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