4 - Ilfracombe
“Hermione, would you and Ron like to come through?” Jean asked the two faces he could see in the Floo.
They both nodded, and he stepped back. After Harry’s rather dramatic exit, he’d had the Aurors rebuild the wards that had been shattered so effortlessly, and his gardener to do what he could with the now destroyed orchard. His wife and eldest daughter, meanwhile, had consoled Gabrielle, who seemed more upbeat than he would have expected despite what had happened.
He led the young couple into the sitting room and sank down next to Aimée. Gabrielle was next to Fleur, who was next to Bill.
Ron and Hermione sat down on the other couch.
“I’m afraid,” Jean said in English, knowing that Ron didn’t speak French, “that I misinterpreted your message last night. As such, I was…” he paused for a second. “Unprepared for a conversation I had this morning.”
“What happened?” Hermione asked.
“Harry asked to speak to me alone, he appeared most nervous. He mentioned how much Gabrielle had helped him acclimatise to living in a new country. I believed that I knew where this was going and I was slightly impressed at the speed with which Gabrielle had obviously won him over. He asked me, like any good man should, for permission to date my daughter.”
“Exactly,” Jean nodded. “A rather clever trap had been set for me and I walked straight into it. As soon as I gave my full permission, Harry changed. Gone was the prospective suitor; in his place was a disappointed, lonely, world-weary man. His very look made me feel guilty.”
“What did Harry do?” Ron asked.
“He expressed, in a rather crude manner, his disbelief at my clumsy handling of the situation and demanded to know the truth. As much as I wanted to tell him, my promise to my daughter was stronger and I did as she requested: I told him to speak to her.”
Ron and Hermione swivelled to face Gabrielle. “And?” Ron asked.
“I did speak to him,” Gabrielle said softly, “and I told him everything.” She took a deep breath. “Including the bond.”
“What bond?” Hermione asked, looking confused.
“When a Veela Mates, a small bond is formed between the Veela and her chosen mate,” Aimée said smoothly. “It is for self-preservation and stops the Mate from ever connecting emotionally with another girl.”
There was a small pause, as Ron and Hermione both looked at each other and appeared to mentally work their way through it.
“So,” Hermione said softly. “On top of everything else, Harry now rightly blames you for his loneliness over the last few years?”
“Why the hell didn’t you tell us about this?” Ron demanded, causing Gabrielle to flinch slightly. Ron took a deep breath, obviously trying to calm himself down. “This whole mess is like a bloody never-ending cake – more layers than you know what to do with.”
“I had hoped it would never come up,” Gabrielle said softly.
Ron groaned softly and shook his head. “If there is one thing you need to know about Harry, it’s that he will find out everything, and it will always be at the worst possible time. Sometimes I swear, he’s under a curse.”
“Ron’s right,” Hermione nodded. “What did Harry do?”
“He destroyed much of my orchard and then Apparated straight through what were supposed to be unbreakable wards,” Jean replied. “And now we don’t know where he is.”
Ron looked at Hermione, who nodded. She pulled out her wand and whispered a spell as she threw it in the air. The wand hung in the air and spun for a moment, before stopping, pointing to the west. A small flag appeared with a number on it. “Where are we, Jean?”
“Near the bottom of Normandy.”
Hermione nodded and thought for a second. “He’s safe,” she said.
Ron smiled and relaxed a little. “He’s got a spot he goes to when he’s upset about something and wants to think, it’s in Devon. He’ll be fine.”
“Should we go to him?” Gabrielle asked.
“No,” Hermione immediately replied. “We learnt this the hard way. Harry will come back when he wants to talk to someone; going to him now will force the issue and we do not want to do that.” She looked at her husband.
Ron looked back and sighed. “We’re already in for a Knut; we might as well be in for a Galleon.”
Hermione smiled at him and rested her hand on his knee. “Is there anything else you haven’t told us?” she asked.
Gabrielle shook her head.
“I’ve got a question,” Ron said. “From what I understand, eight years ago Gabrielle decided to Mate with Harry, and this caused something that made him uncomfortable around other girls, right?”
“Right,” Jean agreed.
“And with that,” Ron continued. “Gabrielle got some sort of… focus? For the changes a Veela experiences growing up?”
“Correct,” Gabrielle said.
“And if Gabrielle doesn’t get Harry, she goes insane, but if she does, she gets everything she ever wanted and dreamed of, right?”
“So,” Ron finished, “not to labour a point, but what exactly does Harry get out of this? No offence, but it seems like Gabrielle gets the better part of the deal.”
Gabrielle opened her mouth, but closed it again at a look from her mother.
“I am pleased that at least someone is looking out for Harry’s interest,” Aimée said dryly. “Ronald, you appear to have a good relationship with Hermione, one based on love and trust, correct?”
“Absolutely,” Ron agreed.
“When a Veela Mates, it is like that, but much, much, more. It is everything – the central core of Veela existence. And when Harry accepts it, the bond will grow, and he will receive everything that Gabrielle feels. He will know, without any doubt whatsoever, that he is loved more than any other person alive.
“There is also, of course, the matter of sex,” she added, almost as an afterthought.
Jean hid a smile as first Gabrielle, and then, almost in unison, the others started to blush. For some reason, the young were always slightly disturbed by the idea of people of their parents’ generation talking about sex as if they had personal, recent knowledge of the topic. Of course, the fact that Aimée was a master of the dry technical voice somehow made it worse.
“Veela rarely mate, because of the imbalance of power in the relationship. A Veela has an intuitive understanding of what her Mate needs and more importantly desires and is biologically predisposed to provide it. There are no limits to what the Mate could desire; the mated Veela would respond with enthusiasm. Veela mated to particularly violent or brutal men can only defend themselves by breaking the bond, which of course sends them into madness. This has happened perhaps once or twice in the past five hundred years. It is why we encourage a long and deep contemplation before committing yourself to something that only death can release you from.”
She paused for a few seconds. “Does that answer your question, Ronald?”
“Right,” Ron squeaked, “moving on swiftly. What’s the next step?”
“Madame Maxime,” Hermione said, her own blush fading. “Jean, you need to tell her what has happened, because it is more than likely that Harry’s next move will be to find out if he actually has a job or not.”
Jean nodded. “I can do that,” he agreed.
“Apart from that,” Hermione said slowly. “The only thing we can do is wait.”
“Wait?” Gabrielle asked.
“Harry knows where we all are,” Hermione said gently. “He’s just been told that everything that he perceives wrong with his life can be traced back to you. He needs time to work through it. Ron and I will send him an owl reminding him that we are here to talk to in a few days’ time, but apart from that, we will give him the privacy and space that he needs.”
Gabrielle sighed softly. “This day has been truly awful.”
“It could have been a lot worse,” Aimée said firmly. “Be grateful that you still have a chance.”
Aimée smiled at her daughter, a little apologetically. “Come, Gabrielle, we shall go and help prepare tea for our guests.”
Gabrielle nodded and stood, as Aimée walked over and wrapped an arm around her comfortably.
“There’s nothing I can do?” Jean asked, as he watched his wife and younger daughter leave the room.
“Apart from telling Madame Maxime about what has happened, there’s nothing any of us can do,” Ron replied with a shrug of his shoulders. “So, Bill, how’s life?”
Bill looked startled for a second and then grinned. “Not bad. See you’ve grown up a bit.”
“A bit?” Ron asked with a grin. “Vraiment? Et comment va ton français en ce moment, Bill? J'ai entendu dire que tu ne l'as pas encore maîtrise?”
Bill blinked and then groaned. “You’re still a git, though.”
Ron shrugged and grinned. “True. And proud of it.”
“Well, as you’re here, and there’s nothing else we can do, Fleur and I may as well show you around a bit.”
“Good idea,” Jean nodded. “I have to go and talk to Olympe.”
Harry looked out at the waves crashing on the rocks below him. He always felt at home looking out at the ocean. Something so powerful and uncaring; it seemed like a good representation of his life.
He was sitting in his favourite spot, halfway up a cliff, in a place that you would either need a broom or a lot of climbing equipment to get to – unless you were very sure about your Apparating skills.
He was; so much so that he’d managed to arrive here while doing an international Apparate. Not an easy thing to do, and while he would never tell anyone, he was quite proud of it.
He wrapped the blanket he’d created around himself for protection from the bitter Atlantic winds and tried to decide what the hell he was going to do.
He’d sat here for most of the night, keeping himself warm through his magic, as he watched the light change around him.
He now knew exactly why he had never been able to feel anything serious about any woman, and it wasn’t as romantic as he had hoped. He had hoped that it was because he had never met the right girl, and that when he did, the dreadful emptiness inside him would finally be filled.
Well, in a way, it was exactly that.
Gabrielle was that woman. The bad thing was that a small spell had caused the feeling. He wasn’t even sure if it was a spell or a curse; because it certainly seemed to stop him having a relationship with anyone else.
He’d been ready to break the bond, consequences be damned, when she’d looked up at him, her hands in front of her, and begged.
He’d felt something tug at his heart and he had thrown up his mental shields so hard that it had given him a headache.
Only to come to a sudden realisation.
She wasn’t using her Veela powers. Not at all.
It was just her, Gabrielle, begging him not to act in haste. Her eyes were huge, like the sky on a warm cloudless day, and for a second, he felt like he was falling into them. They had asked him for a chance, nothing else, nothing more and nothing less.
And he found that he couldn’t say no. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t condemn her to madness, no matter what she had done.
And while he tried to blame a lot of things on her, he couldn’t ignore the little voice inside him that pointed out, insistently, that yes, she had made a mistake. An eight year old had made a mistake and had lived with it ever since.
It was yet another thing that was so wonderful with this Wizarding world: that a species could grant an eight year old so much power, but not the wisdom to deal with it.
He sighed. The only thing he knew was that he didn’t know enough about Veela to tell what the truth was and what wasn’t. And while he did have several sources, including Hermione, he really didn’t feel like talking to them, or her, at the moment; which left only one place he could go. As much as he hated doing it, he needed the information; he was going to have to go to Hogwarts.
He sighed and Apparated to Hogsmeade. The wards around Hogwarts were a lot stronger than the ones around Jean’s home, and he didn’t really fancy fighting his way through them, unless it was going to be vitally important. And this wasn’t.
He waved his hand letting the blanket around him merge into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, covering the swim shorts he was still wearing from the day before. Brown boots appeared on his feet as he took a deep breath and walked up toward the doors of Hogwarts.
He had hardly been back since he had defeated Voldemort – too many bad memories, and an interfering old man he really wanted to avoid like the plague.
The doors opened before him, and he walked through them calmly, ignoring the few professors who were standing around talking. The term wasn’t due to start for a few more days, so there were no pupils around to gawk at him.
“So good to see you, Potter,” the sneering face of Draco Malfoy said, as he stood in front of Harry. “I hear you’re teaching the French how to lose gracefully.”
Harry made a small motion, like that of a man brushing away a flea, and Draco went flying through the air, before crashing into a wall and falling, unconscious, onto the ground.
He half smiled; abusing Draco always cheered him up, and the ferret had still not learnt that the sort of crap he had put up with as a student wasn’t going to work anymore.
Still, it had only been a few years, and Draco was a notoriously slow learner.
He walked into the library and straight over to the Creatures section, pulling out every book he could find on Veela, and sitting at one of the desks.
With a slight sigh, he started a countdown on thirty minutes and started to study.
The counter showed twenty eight minutes had passed when he looked up to see Albus Dumbledore smiling down at him.
“Welcome back to Hogwarts,” Dumbledore said jovially.
Harry raised an eyebrow slowly. “Can I help you?”
“Surely that question should be one I should be asking you.”
“In that case,” Harry said, “no, you can’t.”
He looked down at his books and continued to read from where he left off.
He was aware that Dumbledore wasn’t going anywhere but ignored him, hoping he’d go away anyway. It had taken him this long, but he was now finally finding out the information he had been searching for.
“I demand that he be arrested,” Snape yelled as he stormed into the Library, “for assaulting a professor of Hogwarts.”
“Harry?” Dumbledore asked.
Harry looked up irritably. “What?”
“Do you have anything to say?”
“The allegations Professor Snape has made?”
Harry looked up at the tall Potions professor. He shook his head slowly. “If I wished to commune with the damned, I’d take up necromancy.”
Snape gaped at him.
He turned the page and continued to read.
“I can’t have you assaulting my professors,” Dumbledore said, interrupting him again.
“Then don’t hire people who put Cruciatus on my friends.”
“We’ve been through this,” Dumbledore said wearily. “He was under the Imperious.”
“Oh?” Harry said, looking up. “That’s all right, then. Snape put me under the Imperious when I got here to teach the ferret a lesson.”
“What?” Snape stuttered.
“I’m sorry,” Harry said. “Would you like me to use smaller words for you? Senility does seem to affect the male population of Hogwarts early in life.”
Snape seemed about to implode as he turned bright red, before reaching for his wand.
“Only pull your wand if you want a full fight,” Harry said calmly, going back to his reading. “Because if you do, the fight will end up with one of us dead, and remember, I killed Voldemort.”
Snape froze and looked at Dumbledore. “Headmaster!”
Dumbledore sighed. “I’m very disappointed in you, Harry.”
Harry looked up again. “Is your approval supposed to matter to me?” he asked, genuinely interested in the answer.
Dumbledore didn’t answer immediately, and Harry nodded to himself.
The next time he looked up, they had gone.
From what he could tell, so far, everything checked out. Veela could Mate, even at a young age, and while it was not common, it had happened before. The description of the insanity caused by the Mate dying had been rather shocking. The Wizarding world was nothing if not thorough in how it documented some things.
He closed the book with a thump and sat back in his chair, trying to decide what to do now.
The first option was to go to Gabrielle and do what he had to do.
The second was to do nothing, and let the madness take her – not something that he would be able to live with himself for doing.
The third was to see if he could fall in love with her.
The problem was, he didn’t think he could do the third without knowing just how serious Gabrielle was about this. He had to know if she truly wanted, as she had said, to have him fall in love with her, or if her protestations had just been words to stop him from breaking the bond.
There was only one way he was going to be able to find out.
He put the books back on the shelves and walked out of Hogwarts, ignoring the people who tried to talk to him. As soon as he could, he Apparated away and did his best to forget about visiting his old school.
He arrived outside the Delacour residence and walked straight in. Now that he knew the bond existed, he could use it to find her. He walked up the stairs, only half-noticing as some of the servants were watching him before they turned to walk away.
He knocked on the door to what he presumed was her room and waited.
Gabrielle opened it, without any sign of surprise on her face. “Come in,” she said softly, stepping away from the door.
He moved inside the room and stopped as he saw one of the posters that his Quidditch team had produced on her wall. He looked at her and she blushed.
He turned to face her and stopped. “Okay,” he shrugged. “So let’s do it.”
“Do what?” Gabrielle asked, looking confused.
“Make you safe,” Harry said with another shrug, “so that you don’t go insane.”
“I don’t understand,” Gabrielle replied.
“I don’t exactly have a choice,” Harry said. “I can’t have you going insane on my conscience for the rest of my life, so let’s do what we have to do and move on.”
Gabrielle backed away from him. “No,” she whispered, shaking her head. “No.”
“No?” he asked, deliberately pushing her a little. “This is the right thing to do, isn’t it? I’m here, willing, and we do what’s necessary, and everything is done.”
“No,” she said again, this time a lot firmer. “Not like this.”
“What?” he demanded. “I offer you what you want, and you say no?”
She nodded and lifted her chin up. “I will have your love, given freely, or nothing at all,” she said proudly. “You deserve that.”
“Screw that,” Harry snorted. “Deserve has nothing to do with it. It’s about doing the right thing.”
“No, it’s not,” Gabrielle said. “I will not let you do this out of some sense of honour or nobility.”
“Not let?” Harry asked slowly, deliberately.
“Exactly – if necessary I will break the bond myself,” she said, looking at him straight in the eyes. “I will not have a caged tiger as my Mate.”
“Some choice,” Harry snarled. “Either I fall in love with you, or you damn me to eternal shame anyway.”
Gabrielle reared back as if he had struck her, and her beautiful eyes filled with tears, tears she did not let drop down her cheek.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, “so very sorry. But it wouldn’t be eternal shame, Harry,” she continued, almost enthusiastically. “When the bond is gone, you will be able to feel love with some worthy woman and I will fade in your memories like a summer dream. That is what happens for the Mate when the bond breaks: you will forget all about me. You will be free again.”
“And what about you?” he asked softly.
“Me?” she laughed bitterly. “I will pay for my mistakes alone, as I should have from the start.”
“Are you sure you won’t do this?” he asked. “I did some research on Veela earlier. We could move onto your bed, and in a few hours, you will be complete again.” He reached down and pulled off his t-shirt, stretching a little. He moved, leaning against the wall and crossing his arms. It was a pose from one of the photo-shoots he’d done, only then he’d been wearing a t-shirt.
He could see the naked want in her eyes, as her pupils dilated, and a slight flush appeared across her cheeks. He watched as she struggled with her answer. For the first time, he regretted putting her in this position, even if it was the only way he could see himself going forward with her.
If she said yes, he would do it, he decided. He would go ahead and sleep with her; it might not be love, but he did at least find her attractive, even if she was still a little young.
“No,” she said, biting her lip. “No.”
The tears started to fall down her face now, and she turned away, walking to the door.
“Then you leave me no choice,” Harry said, a slight smile on his face.
She paused but didn’t look at him.
“We’ll have to try it the other way then.”
“I’m sorry?” she asked.
“We’ve got, what, seven or eight months?”
“Before I go insane?” she asked and then nodded, her back still to him.
“Then we’ll have to see if I can fall in love with you in that amount of time.”
She turned slowly. “Are you playing with me?” she asked softly, her eyes now full of pain.
“Not anymore,” he said. “I had to know if you were serious about wanting me or not. I’m not sorry for putting you through that, because now I know that you are. You’re not exactly replusive, Gabrielle, and I do like you. Don’t think I’m over everything that has happened. I’m not, definitely not. All I’m saying is that, well, let’s see what happens between us. We can continue as we have been since we met, and see what develops.”
“Really?” she asked, her expression turning to one of hope.
He nodded. “I’m going to go and talk to Madame Maxime and spend some time at Beauxbatons.”
“May I still come back to school tomorrow?”
He tilted his head and looked at her. “You can do as you like, Gabrielle. You’re going to have to be yourself, because the only piece of advice I can give you is that I will not fall in love with an illusion.”
“I have to ask,” she whispered, “what about my age?”
Harry shook his head slowly. “If we can’t overcome your age as an issue, then it won’t happen. There are no prerequisites to this, Gabrielle. If I can fall in love with you, I will.”
“Thank you,” she said, slowly smiling at him.
Her smile seemed to grow, and again he felt a little touch on his heart. The same as when she had begged him. He admitted to himself that it might not be that hard, but that wasn’t really the point. This wasn’t ever going to be a normal relationship – not that he’d ever really had one of them in the first place – because of the circumstances. If he accepted this bond, it was the sort of commitment that made marriage look temporary and fleeting. Some of the books had mentioned how some Veela believed that the bond could go beyond death and into eternity.
He nodded at her. “I’ll go and talk to your father and clear the air with him.”
“Are you sure?” she asked.
He nodded. “I like Jean.”
She took a few steps forward, hesitating for a second before she surged forward and hugged him tightly. “Thank you,” she said once more, as she took a few steps back.
He nodded and walked out the door. “I’ll see you soon,” he said, a little uncomfortably, and then paused for a second, as an idea hit him. “Gabby.”
She smiled brightly at him and nodded.
He turned and waked down the stairs, heading toward Jean’s office.
“May I have a word, Harry?” Aimée Delacour asked, as she moved into the hallway in front of him.
He nodded and followed her into the room. It was set up a lot like Jean’s office, but where his was obviously masculine this was just as obviously feminine. She led him over to a couple of chairs in front of a fireplace.
“Milk, no sugar,” he replied politely.
Aimée poured from an elegant white china tea set, handing him a cup, and sat down with him.
“Forgetting for a second that Gabrielle is my daughter, how are you feeling about this?”
“Numb,” he said truthfully. “But better than I was this morning.”
Harry shifted uncomfortably in the chair. “I offered to, erm, consummate the bond with Gabrielle.”
“As a test,” he admitted. “I had to know.”
“That she was telling the truth about wanting you freely?”
“And I take it she said ‘no’?”
Aimée smiled slightly. “My daughter is extremely strong-willed at times; stubborn, perhaps. So what are you going to do now?”
“See what happens,” he replied.
Aimée took a sip of her tea and looked at him thoughtfully. “I do not like this situation, Harry. In any other circumstances, I would not let a man older than Gabrielle near her at this age. But these are not normal circumstances, and I find that the only good thing about this is that Gabrielle did at least make an excellent choice. I believed that it would have been right to tell you what was going on from the start, but my daughter persuaded her father that this was the best way forward. I’m still not convinced.”
“And yet, I find myself curiously grateful for you, all the same. It has been most difficult for me, a human witch, to raise two Veela daughters. You see, when Fleur went to school, it was,” she paused, as if searching for the right word, “messy. A Veela growing up can be a very difficult thing. There are dramatic mood swings, periods of melancholy followed by periods of giddiness. And that’s without the problems that Veela power manifesting itself at the wrong times can cause. Fleur learnt to use her power to deal with the problems it caused, and while it was tumultuous at times, we got there in the end.”
Aimée paused to sit from her own cup of tea.
“Gabrielle was very different. The nearest I can explain it is that Fleur was wild, reaching out to anyone, even accidentally. Gabrielle had you as an anchor in her heart. She was able to use that to retain almost complete control over herself, and it did make growing up a lot easier. It also meant that every time she did make use of that anchor, she fell further in love with you.
Harry nodded. “From what I have read today, that makes sense.” He paused. “I’m not going to let Gabby go mad,” he said slowly.
“You are not?”
“No,” he said. “If I haven’t fallen in love with her, I will go ahead and do it anyway, despite her wishes.”
“She doesn’t want that,” Aimée pointed out softly.
“We don’t always get what we want.”
“True,” Aimée agreed. “Tell me, Harry. What did Gabrielle do when you called her Gabby?”
“Smiled at me,” Harry replied.
Aimée sighed softly. “The last time Jean tried to call Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ we had a Veela-sized tantrum that lasted for a week.”
Harry smiled wryly. “I guess being the chosen Mate gives me some sort of leeway.”
“May I join you?” Jean asked from the doorway.
Aimée looked at Harry, who nodded.
Jean pulled up another chair and smiled as his wife poured him a cup of tea. He looked at Harry directly. “I’m sorry,” he said with a Gallic shrug of his shoulders.
“Damn it, Jean,” Harry sighed. “You should know me better than this.”
“Time, Harry, can obscure things a lot, especially when it was built on an event we’d rather forget.”
“Most of my life is like that,” Harry replied with a touch of bitterness. “There has hardly been a year when I’ve not had to fight for my life, or that I’ve ended up in hospital. My life has been exciting, certainly, but there are times when I wish that it hadn’t been so.” He looked directly in Jean’s eyes. “I wish that I could forget who I am, that I would be allowed to let the past obscure itself, that I would be free from the manipulation of people who are convinced they have my best interests at heart, and yet never seem to ask me what I want. And there are times when I am convinced that it is a forlorn hope, never to be realised.”
Jean looked away from his gaze after a few seconds, and he looked down as Aimée placed her hand lightly on his arm.
He looked up at her and smiled faintly.
“Growing up is hard to do, is it not?”
“It is,” Harry agreed with a nod. “And doing it around people who tend to forget that I am older makes it more difficult.”
“You are talking about your friends?”
“I talked to Ronald and Hermione last night. From what I have heard, Harry, you are not the only one to grow up; I was most impressed with Ronald. He appears very loyal,” Aimée said quietly.
Harry blinked in surprise. If he read Aimée’s message properly, she was not impressed with Hermione as much. This pretty much meant that Hermione would have been driving this, and Ron was trying to rein her in. It was a job that he knew was as difficult as any and one that Ron had talked about a lot in private. How being married to a strong-minded girl was more difficult than it seemed. It was curiously reassuring to know that at least he had one friend who still believed in him.
“Thank you,” he said to Aimée, before turning to face Jean. “Please don’t try and manipulate me again. It’s the one thing I won’t stand for. If you have a problem, bring it to me directly; you’ll find that even a bad reaction from me is better than how I respond when I know I’ve been shepherded.”
Jean nodded, “As is evidenced by my orchard.”
Harry winced. “I am a little sorry about that,” he said.
“Considering what you could have done to Gabrielle, to my lands and to my daughter. I admire your control, even in the grip of such deep emotions.”
“And on that note, I’ll bid you both farewell,” Harry said, feeling a little embarrassed. “I need to talk to Olympe and then spend some time alone, working.”
Jean opened his mouth, but a stern look from Aimée stopped him.
“You are more than welcome back here, any time Harry.”
“Thank you,” Harry nodded and walked out of the house.
“What happened?” Fleur asked as she walked into the room.
“I have a chance,” Gabrielle explained and collapsed bonelessly on to her bed. “He tortured me and then agreed to go ahead.”
“Tortured you?” Fleur asked.
“He stood there, where you are now, with his shirt off, his arms crossed in a casual manner, and offered to bed me. It was the most erotic thing I have ever seen.”
“And you didn’t say yes?” Fleur asked in disbelief.
“I wanted to,” Gabrielle admitted, “so much. Not because of the Mating, but because of how gorgeous he was and how much every part of me, Veela and Human, wanted him. But I resisted.” She paused for a second. “It was the hardest thing I have ever done and I never want to have to say no to him again.”
“He told me it had been a test. And now that I’d passed, we could go ahead. That maybe we’ll fall in love after all.”
“That doesn’t sound like Harry.”
Gabrielle turned to lie on her side. “How much time have you spent with Harry over the past three years?”
“What do you mean?”
“Over the last three years, how much time have you spent with him?”
“Not much,” Fleur said with a cute shrug.
“So you’re basing your reactions on how he was years ago?”
Fleur nodded slowly.
“Do you not think that playing professional Quidditch, travelling the world, and being a star, might have made him grow up a little?”
“I had not thought of that.”
“Nor had I,” Gabrielle sighed. “My research is practically useless. But you know I am glad, in a strange way.”
“It means that I have to get to know him, that I will be surprised and stunned by what he does and how he reacts, and it will mean that I am not following one of my scripts with him. I shall have to be just me, just Gabrielle, and hope that I can win him over.
“It seems a lot more… honest.”
“Scary though,” Fleur pointed out.
“This whole thing has been scary,” Gabrielle admitted. “But I have hope, and without that, I am nothing.” She paused for a few seconds and then said, “I liked it when he called me Gabby.”
Fleur stumbled back into a chair. “You did? But you hate that name!”
“Not when he says it,” she smiled. “Mama once told me that Dad likes to call her Aim, a name that no one else uses. She said it was because it gave him a sense of possession and uniqueness – that he was the only person who called her that. I think it might mean the same thing. For him, I will be Gabby, but for no one else, ever.”
Fleur laughed and shook her head. “All of this is causing me problems,” she admitted softly.
“Yes. He is wondering if I will Mate with him, and while he understands why I might not want to, I can see it in his eyes.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I do not know,” Fleur sighed. “I will not Mate to any man who is not my husband, and yet he seems in no hurry to make me his wife.”
“Have you considered asking him?”
“Absolutely not,” Fleur replied sternly. “This is my entire life, and if he can not ask such a simple question, then maybe he is not the right person for me.”
“Where is Bill?”
“Downstairs with Ron and Hermione.”
“Why don’t you go and join them, I shall work on some school stuff.”
“All work and no play makes Gabrielle a dull girl.”
“I could never look dull, my dear sister. And it allows me to relax, and after the last thirty-six hours, relaxing is something I need.”
Harry walked through the entrance of Beauxbatons and made his way toward Olympe’s office. It was a little surprising how much more comfortable he felt in this school, when compared to Hogwarts. There was a kind of serenity in the school that he really identified with.
He knocked and entered on command, taking a seat in front of the large desk.
Olympe looked at him directly. “I shall make something very clear, Harry. No one, not even Jean-Sebastian, could make me hire a professor I felt could not do the job. Now, while I was willing to bend the rules a little because of Gabrielle’s unfortunate condition, I would have not allowed you to be a professor just because of it.”
Harry nodded and changed the subject. “I have been meaning to ask you about just what Jean’s relationship with Beauxbatons is?”
“The Delacour’s are one of France’s premier families. They are similar in power to how the Malfoy family were in England, before they lost their money and influence. They helped found Beauxbatons and have a hereditary seat, similar to that of a Governor. Jean himself is widely regarded as a future Minster for Magic, although some of the conservatives do not like his ancestry – prejudice runs deep in the Wizarding society here, just as in England. However, the defeat of Voldemort, and his involvement with that, has got him back on track.”
Harry nodded slowly. “You know why I didn’t walk away from this?” he asked.
Olympe shook her head.
“Because you asked for my help with the Cup of Throbus, you didn’t try and trick me into it; you gave me the problem and let me make my own decision about it. I value that more than anything else.”
The Headmistress smiled. “I must say that doing anything else simply didn’t occur to me.”
“In that case,” Harry said, as he stood, “I’ll take my leave. I want to spend the next few days memorising names for class.”
“Do you know what you are going to teach?”
He nodded. “I’m going to start by un-teaching them everything they know, and teach them to have fun first, and play second. If you don’t love flying, you’ll never enjoy playing a sport.”
“That sounds like an excellent plan. I had a meeting with the Heads of Year yesterday, and we are going to go ahead with the plan you and Gabrielle devised. The winning House will get a trophy.”
“And tickets to the next international Quidditch match, and a chance to meet all the players.”
Olympe raised her eyebrows.
Harry shrugged. “A lot of people owe me favours; I may as well call them in.”
“That’s very generous of you, Harry.”
Harry smiled and nodded. “I’ll see you later.”
Harry sat on the floor in his room, folders spread out in front of him as he tried to test himself on the students’ names.
In a strange way, it was almost like studying for a test back at Hogwarts, only this time he didn’t have his two normal cohorts.
Partly because they were probably in bed by now, and partly because he was still pretty damn irritated at them. Of all people, they should have known just how much he hated being manipulated, and the fact that they were willing to do it still gnawed at him.
It didn’t matter if what they had done was ‘for the best’ – a phrase that he hated with as much passion as he normally reserved for members of the Malfoy family. What did matter was that rather than bring him the problem, they tried to trick him into solving it.
The problem he had was that his previous method of dealing with this involved a hefty temper and some very strong words. While he was still contemplating doing exactly that, he wasn’t sure if that was the most grown-up way of handling it.
What he wanted was the absolute promise that they would never do it again, regardless of the circumstances. And while shouting and raging at them might accomplish that, it wasn’t a very adult way of getting what he wanted.
Despite this aberration, Ron and Hermione were very good friends and he could, and did, trust them, which made their actions this time even more galling.
And that had been his problem all afternoon. He’d been thinking in circles. Whenever he tried to take the adult route, he remembered just how bloody annoyed he was at their high-handed manipulation of him.
And he still didn’t know exactly what the hell he was going to do about Gabrielle.
Yes, she was beautiful, but then he’d yet to meet a Veela who wasn’t. But love? It wasn’t as if he was even sure what love was. A few one night stands certainly weren’t any indication of what love could, or could not, be.
He was talking about falling in love, and that was without going into the whole age thing, with someone who was only part human.
His research at Hogwarts had shown him a few interesting things, not least a man’s description of what it was like being the focus of a Veela Mating, and just how amazing he found it.
The idea of love like that was something Harry was very interested in, which, considering his background, wasn’t a surprise. But he didn’t want to rush in and make bad decisions because of that.
And he still didn’t know what he was going to do about Ron and Hermione.
All he knew was that what ever he did, he would not bite off his nose to spite his face. He would not lose two friends over this.
Olympe Maxime looked out at the rows of students before her. The start of a new term always filled her with hope and joy.
“Welcome, my dear students, to another year at Beauxbatons.” She paused as the students clapped decorously. “This year marks a new start at Beauxbatons, and shall, without doubt, be the most exciting yet.”
She now had their full attention and continued. “We are instigating a new competition. All students will be separated into Houses, and over the course of the year, will be given merits and demerits based on behaviour, and academic and athletic prowess. At the end of the year, the winning house will be awarded the Beauxbatons Trophy,” she waved her wand dramatically, and at the far end of the Hall, a spotlight illuminated a glass case. Inside it was a golden trophy that seemed to gleam in the light. “And,” she continued, “a day out to watch the French National team play England at Quidditch, and to meet the teams beforehand.”
The students started to whisper to each other, and she could feel the atmosphere turn to one of excitement. “On top of that, Beauxbatons is also entering into another tournament with Durmstrang and Hogwarts: A Quidditch tournament.”
Gasps and nervous looks changed the atmosphere again. They knew, as well as she did, that they didn’t even have a team, never mind one that could compete. The situation was now right for her to introduce the new professor. She’d had to talk very fast to persuade him to make an entrance like this, as his natural reticence caused him to shy away from making a scene. However, he had been won over by her very-true, claims that every new staff member had a similar introduction.
“Now,” she continued, after letting the nervousness grow for a second. “I am aware that we do not have a Quidditch team. With Professor Vol having retired, we have arranged for a new professor, one who, I believe, you will find uniquely qualified to help us not only compete with the other schools, but win as well.
“May I present to you, Harry Potter!”
The door opened, and Harry, dressed in formal robes, his glasses at their most transparent, walked slowly into the hall and up to the professors’ table. The students seemed to be stunned as they watched a person who was almost a living myth, walk through their school.
She watched as Gabrielle was the first student to move, standing and applauding. The others quickly followed, as they got caught up in the moment and started to cheer. This was what she wanted, this passion for the school, and maybe, the first signs of hope. Because it was accepted fact that Harry did not lose. He put everything into what he was doing to ensure that he won – and she could see the students think that if he was helping them, then maybe, just maybe, they would be able to win as well.
“Thank you, Madame Maxime,” Harry said, his voice effortlessly cutting through the cheering, so that everyone stopped to listen to him. She noticed that his accent and chosen lexicon was a lot more sophisticated than the casual patois he normally indulged in.
“It is a pleasure to be here, and I am looking forward immensely to working with you all over the next school year. Now, Madame Maxime has given me the honour of separating you into your Houses.”
The students went quiet again; every face in the hall was turned to Harry, listening raptly.
“Your House will not just be a name; it will be a symbol for your friendship and your competition. As such, we have chosen to name each House after a famous building in Paris, and each House will do a report on their building at the end of the year.” He turned and raised his hands. Behind the professors’ table, four long banners appeared. Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow, each marked with a magical representation of the building in question.
He turned and clapped his hands together. Four fires appeared and hovered in the air in the middle of the hall.
Olympe smiled softly, Harry might not like attention, but performing Quidditch had obviously helped him find his inner showman.
The fires, one in each colour, started to dance around the hall, and as they did, they separated in half, and then each smaller piece separated again, and again, until the air was full of small dancing flames.
He parted his arms, and the flames seemed to stop, before they swooped down, and in a seemingly random manor, hovered in front of the students.
“Look at your colour and then look around you. The people with the same colours are your new Housemates, your new friends and colleagues, the people who will help you and support you.” He clapped his hands again, and the fires dropped into the laps of the students, who all seemed to jerk backward, until they saw that the fire had changed the trimmings of their robes to the correct colour, and then they started to cheer.
Olympe climbed to her feet and smiled at Harry. “Thank you, Professor Potter. Students, you will find out more details concerning the Houses tonight, but for now, let us eat!”
Gabrielle shook her head and relaxed on her bed, exhausted. She hadn’t quite expected the announcements to cause so much work for her. As the Head Girl, she had been inundated with questions and requests for information from practically the entire student body.
And a lot of it had been things that the students couldn’t really talk to the professors about. The fact that best friends were in different houses and that boys and girls who were dating were now in competition.
She found herself on her feet before the second syllable had ended. She walked into her living room and looked at the fire. “Harry?”
“Mind if I come through?”
“Please,” she said. She hadn’t really had any time alone with him since the weekend where everything had gone wrong.
He stepped through; he’d relaxed and was back in the jeans he seemed to prefer wearing.
“Would you like a cup of tea?”
“Sit down, I’ll make it,” he said. “You look beat.”
She nodded and sank down onto one of her chairs, absently freeing her hair from the ponytail it had been confined in.
He returned and gave her one of the two mugs, sitting opposite her. “How are you holding up?”
She looked at him equally. “With the students? They are tiring.”
He grinned at her. “Teenagers, tiring? Really? I used to hate it when they would do summer camps at the Cannons. Hundreds of teenagers convinced that they were just a chance short of being professional. How are they taking everything?”
She sipped the tea slowly, blowing a little on the hot liquid. “They are excited and looking forward to it. There is more energy in the school this year than I have seen before. Some of the senior students are already planning the report they are going to do on their Houses.”
Harry nodded slowly. “We’ll have to give them some strong guidelines soon; we’ll want this to have magic as well as history.”
“And of course, there is a lot of talk about the gorgeous young new professor.” She made a small face of disgust. “So far as I can tell, you are the recipient of fourteen female crushes, with at least one girl from each year and three male crushes.”
Harry blinked and then started to laugh. “Well, that was a little unexpected.”
Gabrielle shrugged. “And not once did I curse any of them.”
“I admire your restraint.”
“And now, you are mocking me,” Gabrielle said with a slight pout.
“A little,” Harry agreed with a small smile. “If it gets too much, let me or one of the other professors know, Gabby. We don’t want you getting burnt out.”
She smiled reassuringly at him. “It is only the first day, and everything is new. It will calm down.”
He nodded and finished off his tea. “If you do need to talk,” he said as he stood. “You know where my room is.” He appeared torn for a second and then he clicked his fingers. A small card appeared in his hand. “My Floo is protected.” He placed it on the table and vanished into the fire.
She jumped to her feet and ran over to it. It was a key to his room. She did a little dance on the spot, twirling, her exhaustion forgotten. She had no idea why he had given her the key but she didn’t really care. At this stage, she’d take any small sign from him.
She looked at her watch and decided that sleep was more important than a shower – especially as she’d want to look her best for his first lesson in the morning.
Gabrielle walked out with the other twelve students for the first flying lesson of the year. Madame Maxime had changed the schedule so that she was in Harry’s first lesson, in case he needed any support. Privately, she doubted he would, but she was not the sort of person to shoot a gift horse in the mouth.
Thirteen brooms were on the ground, and they each lined up next to one of them, as they had for every lesson in the past. She had to remind herself that Harry was unlikely to be as bad as Professor Vol, but she could see that the other students didn’t seem to think so.
She relaxed as she saw Harry flying towards them. He had the same expression of pure joy on his face that he had every time he flew.
He flew in front of them and then seemed to kick his broom so that it was facing straight up. He rested his hands across the top and sank down to the ground gently in what was an awesome display of broom control. She had to struggle not to gape at him like the other students were. She’d seen him fly many times, watching from the stands of his Quidditch matches, but she had never really realised that he was a professional, and as such, could probably do things with a broom that was out of reach of normal people.
“Welcome,” he said with a smile. “Now, what is the purpose of flying?”
“The purpose of flying a broom is to get from point A to point B with as minimum fuss as possible,” the other students chanted in unison.
“Wrong,” Harry said cheerfully. “The purpose of flying is to have fun and to be safe while you are doing it. So, the very first thing we are going to do is see what each of you can do on a broom. What I want you all to do is to fly up to around fifty feet, do a figure of eight and land. Like this.”
He jumped in the air, mounting the broom as he had the other day; the casual elegance still entranced her, and he flew straight up before levelling off at the right height. He then seemed to fly at full speed around a figure of eight, before diving down back to them, pulling up at the last second.
“Right, Simone, you’re first. Don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with, and just relax; enjoy it and let’s see what you can do.”
Simone called for her broom and sat side-saddle on it.
“Wait,” Harry said. “Side-saddle?”
“It is the way we have been taught that girls fly,” Simone explained nervously.
“Have you tried flying – uh – normally?”
She shook her head.
“Do you want to?”
“May I? Really?”
“I know a lot of female professional Quidditch players, and all of them are just as good as the men. There is no reason at all why you shouldn’t.”
Simone shifted, throwing her leg over the broom. “This is more comfortable,” she said in surprise.
“I’m not surprised,” Harry nodded. “The charms on the broom are designed for this position. Now, ease yourself up gently and be careful, these brooms are a lot newer than the ones you had last year.”
Simone nodded bravely and raised herself up. Harry flew up next to her, and his voice faded into the distance.
“This is going to be cool,” André whistled under his breath. “Did any of you see his last match?”
“When he did his shoulder in?” Jerome asked. “Yeah, that was the coolest move in Quidditch ever. He showed Krum what it takes to be a real winner.”
Gabrielle smiled to herself. “Are you going for the Quidditch team?” she asked.
“Got to give it a try,” André replied. “Is it true that the professional clubs got involved to try and get a new generation of players coming through, after France didn’t even qualify for the finals of the World Cup?”
“Yes,” Gabrielle replied. “From what I understand, getting Professor Potter was just a piece of luck.”
“Didn’t your dad have something to do with that?”
She nodded. “They are friends from the war.”
André and Jerome stopped asking questions as Harry and Simone returned.
“André, you’re next,” Harry said. “Remember to take it easy.”
“How was it?” Jerome asked eagerly, as André and Harry flew off.
“Fun,” Simone said, her face looking a little flushed. “I finally understand why some people enjoy it.”
“Gabrielle, you’re up,” Harry called a minute or so later.
She called her broom up to her hand, mounted it, and flew up to the height with him.
“How am I doing?” he asked, as they flew toward the other end of the pitch.
“Good,” Gabrielle shouted into the wind. “They are having fun.”
“Fancy doing a loop?”
“Sure,” she replied.
“Okay, just keep your eyes on me, and do what I do.”
As if keeping her eyes on him was going to be a problem. Her eyes firmly set on his bum, she followed him, hardly noticing as she did a complete loop.
She flushed a little and followed him down to the others.
“Jerome,” Harry called.
Jerome tried to jump on to his broom like Harry had but didn’t get it right, and ended up sitting on the ground.
André sniggered. “Nice one!”
“Don’t worry about it,” Harry said. “If you want to see me later, I’ll show you how to do it properly.” He looked around and then flew a bit closer, in a conspiratorial manner. “The first time I tried to do it, we were on concrete; I missed like you did and had to go and see the physician as I had bust my coccyx.”
Gabrielle laughed with the others, as much at the expression on Harry’s face as at the story itself.
Jerome climbed aboard his broom the traditional way, and the two flew off.
“Teacher’s pet,” André teased.
“Hmm?” Gabrielle asked, flicking her hair over her shoulder.
“You did a loop on your very first session.”
“Oh,” Gabrielle smiled. “I had some friends show me how to fly a bit over the summer.”
“So, are you going for the team as well?”
She nodded. “I want to be a seeker!”
André whistled slowly. “Good luck.”
“Good afternoon, Olympe,” Albus Dumbledore said through the Floo.
“Albus,” she acknowledged
“I thought it might be an idea to set down some dates for the Tournament.”
“Of course,” she replied, reaching for the school diary.
“Might I suggest a similar format to the tri-wizards competition? Hogwarts will host the other two teams for two weeks, everyone shall play each other, and the two teams with the most points shall proceed through to a final match.”
“I was thinking late November, to avoid disrupting the exams of our senior students.”
Olympe looked down and didn’t comment on how that hardly gave them enough time to get a team together, never mind have a chance to win. He was obviously playing his games, as always.
“That will do fine, Albus,” she said formally. “We shall look forward to it.”
“As shall I, my dear, as shall I.”
She closed the Floo and grumbled under her breath. It seemed that the longer she knew Albus, the more irritating he got. She opened her Floo again and invited Harry to step through.
When he was sat opposite her, she passed on the dates.
“That’s not going to give us any real time at all, is it.”
“No,” she agreed. “I’m open to ideas.”
“Which is a good thing,” his said as his grin turned evil, “as I do have a plan.”
“Oh?” she asked eagerly.
“When I have a team ready, I’ll arrange for a few friends to come out and spend some time with us. Give us a few weeks and we’ll be ready.”
“I’ll get Fred and George Weasley to help out with our Beaters, Katie Bell – she’s currently a Chaser with the Harpies – to train our Chasers. Then I’ll get Ollie to show our Keeper the ropes, and I’ll help the Seeker.
“Ollie? Do you mean Oliver Wood?”
“Exactly,” Harry said.
“He will help us?”
“He doesn’t know it yet, but he will. He owes me a few rather large favours involving a bet a year or so ago.”
“Excellent,” Olympe clapped enthusiastically. “Do you think we might win?”
“I honestly don’t know. I’m not too worried about Hogwarts; they will play like Draco Malfoy used to – relying on fouls and dirty tactics in place of skill.
“It’s Durmstrang that makes me wonder. They do have a really good academy – they turned out Viktor, after all, and they might be the team that wins.”
“My people might object to me saying this, but I’d rather Durmstrang win than Hogwarts.”
Harry smiled. “Me, too.”
“Oliver?” Harry asked, as he looked at his fireplace in surprise. “How did you know I was here?”
“Oh, I asked Fred and George. Look, I wanted to ask you for a favour – I need to help you train those Frenchies.”
“What?” Harry asked in surprise. He had only finished with Olympe an hour ago, and he hadn’t even thought of approaching his friend yet.
“Yeah, look, I’ve heard about the tournament; the press is going nuts about your return to Hogwarts.”
“And Marcus Flint has made some outrageous statements about how Hogwarts is going to win, and how he’s helping Draco Malfoy turn the Quidditch students into world beaters.”
“I would have thought you would have thought that was a good thing,” Harry pointed out curiously.
“Ach man, not at all! How can I be prideful if bloody Slytherins are dominating the school! They need to be taught a lesson, and if there is one thing you’re good at, it’s teaching the Slytherins that their place is crawling on the floor like the snakes they are. So, will you please let me help?”
Harry smiled. “Of course, Ollie. I’m also going to ask Katie and Fred and George to come over.”
“Wonderful!” Oliver said enthusiastically. “It will be like old times. Now, how did you learn to speak French?”
“Of course, right, I’ll Floo her next. Oh, and one more thing.”
“Krum’s helping Durmstrang. This is going to be one hell of a tournament!”
Huge thanks to my beta's Cami, Susan, John, Rachael, Leslie, Ellie, and John for their help with this.
And a special thank you to GrÃ©goire Jean for his willingness to be consulted.
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