9 - London
It's been a while, hasn't it?
Harry smiled slightly as he watched the Beauxbatons students celebrate their earlier victory. They had been lucky, and without Gabrielle they would have lost, but for tonight, they deserved to celebrate.
It was just a pity that the star player hadn’t turned up yet. He was looking forward to her arrival, not just because of their relationship, but because it would be the first chance that he would get to see her be the absolute centre of attention for something she had done. He had seen how she had handled the response her looks had caused with the Muggles, but that was almost abstract; this would be the first time he would see her under the same sort of pressure that he was under when out in public.
Of course, he was quite prepared to rescue her if needed. He had no intention of throwing her to the lions again, and he was quite prepared to make allowances for her age, if it was needed.
He was starting to get a slight headache, along with a general feeling of unease.
“Olympe,” Harry replied with a smile. “I do hope you’re going to save me a dance later.”
“A dance?” Olympe asked. “You don’t mind being the smaller partner?”
“For a lady as beautiful as you…” Harry grinned, deliberately trailing off.
“Get away with you,” Olympe laughed, shoving him in what she probably thought was a gentle manner. It took all his strength not to go flying across the hall.
“Flirting aside,” Olympe said cheerfully, “I’ve done you a favour.”
“You have?” Harry asked warily.
“I’ve arranged with Albus and Picup for a costume ball before the final match. You will be able to dance with Gabrielle and have an evening of fun – and no one will recognise you.”
“That does sound good,” Harry admitted, smiling at the Headmistress. He was pretty sure that he could come up with a disguise good enough for both of them.
“If you’ll excuse me, I have to circulate,” Olympe said.
“You’re very welcome, Harry.”
Harry watched as the half-giantess made her way through the students toward some of the other teachers. Overhead, a thousand candles in a crystal chandelier spun gently, illuminating the room with endless patterns of light which only made his headache worse.
“You’re losing your smile,” Ron said, as he approached with two glasses of wine. He handed Harry one of them. “It’s one of Jean’s,” he continued at Harry’s enquiring look, “so you know it’s good.”
“Gabrielle’s late; Simone arrived a few minutes ago.”
“Really? I hadn’t noticed.”
Harry opened his mouth and then shut it again as a feeling of disgust coursed through his body. The wine glass slid from between his suddenly nerveless fingers and shattered on the polished wooden floor.
“It’s Gabby,” Harry gasped, as the disgust increased, before turning into a feeling of nausea so intense he had to struggle to avoid vomiting. “Get Jean and Aimée to my rooms.”
“Where are you going?” Ron asked.
“To her,” he growled, as he closed his eyes and forced himself to Apparate to her location. He focused on the Bond, using it as a focus for his Apparation, and completely ignored the wards as they tried to stop him.
He arrived and dropped to his knees next to her. “Gabrielle, what is it?” he demanded.
Gabrielle turned and threw herself at him, crying in an almost hysterical fashion. “He touched me, and he wouldn’t let go,” she sobbed.
“Who did?” he growled, reflexively drawing his magic to the surface.
“He did,” she said, pointing.
He followed her finger and watched as the easily recognisable figure of Draco Malfoy ran into a tree at high speed. He nodded to himself for a second; at least he didn’t need to deal with Malfoy right at this moment. “Let’s get you out of here,” he whispered, and Apparated them both to his room.
Jean, Aimée, Ron and Hermione were already there, although they looked slightly out of breath.
“What happened?” Jean demanded.
“She was accosted by Malfoy,” Harry growled, restraining the urge to leave Gabrielle with her parents and return to finish off the job she had started. “But she dealt with him.” He gently led her over to one of the seats near the fireplace and with a wave of his hand, expanded it so that they could sit together.
“How?” Hermione asked warily.
“She used her Veela powers and ordered him to run into a tree.”
“Good,” Ron said.
“What actually happened?” Aimée asked Gabrielle softly.
“H-h-he touched me,” she sobbed, and buried her face into Harry’s shoulder.
“Harry,” Jean said, a frown on his face, “you need to get her out of the hysterics. This could have serious repercussions. Especially if Malfoy is hurt.”
Harry nodded and reached down, lifting Gabrielle’s chin so that she was looking into his eyes. With a slight smile, he reached into his mind and pulled out a fantasy, an image, the product of lonely nights on a Quidditch tour, and sent it to her.
Her eyes widened for a second, her pupils dilating, and her breathing increased dramatically.
“Really?” she asked.
She smiled and turned back to her family, absently turning on her Veela power for a second to repair the damage her tears and distress had caused.
“I was walking back from the pitch,” she said with a firm voice, “when I was stopped by someone telling me I’d had a good game. He lowered his hood, and I saw that it was Professor Malfoy. As he is an instructor at Hogwarts, I replied politely, but I gave him no encouragement and just kept walking. He wouldn’t take a hint. He tried to impress me with his family name and supposed wealth, not to mention his Quidditch prowess.”
Ron and Harry both snorted at the same time.
“Then he asked me to go to Hogsmeade with him for a drink.”
“He asked you out on a date?” Jean asked carefully.
Gabrielle nodded. “He said that no one would mind because he was a professor.”
Jean nodded, a dangerous look appearing on his face.
“What happened then?” Aimée asked.
“He touched me,” she whispered.
“And?” Ron asked.
“And I could feel his thoughts, his desires. He is a dark, twisted man, full of poison and rage. It was like he was invading my soul.”
“On purpose?” Hermione asked.
Aimée shook her head. “Veela are empathic,” she explained. “When you touch a Veela, they can read you, determine what you are like and what you like. Gabrielle’s empathy grew when she Mated herself to Harry.”
Harry tried very hard not to growl under his breath.
“So that’s why you hate being touched, right?” Ron asked.
Gabrielle nodded. “It’s hard for me to control; being a Veela, men look at me and want me, and when they touch me, I can feel what they want to do to me, and it makes me sick.”
“But not Harry?”
“Of course not,” she smiled. “As dark as Malfoy is, Harry is light. The things he wants to do to me, I want more than anything else in my life.”
Harry lightly turned Gabrielle around in his arms and looked at her closely, searching her eyes. He could sense her confusion as he looked at her. And when he found what he dreaded finding, he lost his temper completely.
Malfoy had tainted his Mate. Malfoy had hurt his Mate’s innocence. Malfoy had defiled it in some way.
He growled, leapt to his feet, and started to gather his magic. He was going to find Malfoy and kill him.
“No,” Gabrielle said, grabbing him.
“Let me go,” he ordered.
He felt her jerk away from him for a second, but then her arms wrapped tightly around him again.
“No,” she whimpered. A wave of despair and agony shot through the Bond, piercing through his anger.
He looked at her in shock, and could see the torment she was experiencing as she fought the direct command he had given her. “Why?” he asked in disbelief.
Bright silver tears ran down her face, but she didn’t look away. “Because you are not a murderer,” she whispered.
“Don’t let me go,” he ordered. The pain stopped, and she collapsed against him.
“Oh, Gabby,” he whispered, falling down into his seat again.
Gabrielle crawled in to his lap and gently pressed soft kisses to his neck. “I am so sorry,” she whispered. “Forgive me, please, Harry.”
“What are you sorry for?” he asked, pulling her tightly against him, holding her as close as he could.
“For disobeying you.”
“You never have to apologise for that,” he whispered intently. “You did the right thing. I’m sorry for hurting you.”
He could almost feel the words affect her as she started to recover from the second traumatic event of the evening. He was going to have to be a lot more careful about what he said to her, but he couldn’t help but be impressed by her courage and the depth of her convictions.
“I’m so proud of you,” he continued. “For what you did earlier and for what you did just now.”
“Really?” she asked, her eyes pleading for reassurance.
“Absolutely,” he said, gathering what he was feeling and gently nudging it down the Bond.
Gabrielle smiled and closed her eyes in relief, her head lolling back slightly.
Harry looked up as Ron coughed.
“Sorry,” Ron apologised, looking very uncomfortable, as were the others.
He’d forgotten that they were there. “I should be the one apologising,” Harry sighed. He waved his hand absently, and the three chairs in the room moved forward so they could all sit comfortably. A fourth chair scampered in from his bedroom to complete the set.
“Gabrielle stopped me from making a large mistake,” he explained. “And I ordered her to let me go.”
“But she didn’t,” Hermione pointed out.
“I know,” Harry agreed. “And it caused her an incredible amount of pain. Something I never want to do again.”
“Okay,” Jean said. “Let’s move on and deal with this. What state was Malfoy in?”
“Unconscious,” Harry said, with an indifferent shrug. “He ran into that tree at full speed with his arms by his sides.”
“Good,” Ron grunted. “Maybe he’ll have done himself in and saved us the trouble.”
Harry grimaced. “I’m not that lucky. I’m guessing that Snape’ll notice he’s missing and send out a search party sooner or later.”
“Right,” Jean said. “Then I’m sure there will be an investigation tomorrow. I will demand that he is arrested.”
“Snape will try something to protect him,” Ron said, turning slightly to face Jean. “Gabrielle used her Veela power, and in England, that is technically illegal. It’s classified as a form of the Imperius Curse.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Aimée said, in shock. “Veela power is limited; you can’t make men do anything serious with it – even running into a tree would only have been possible if Gabrielle phrased it as a way for him to impress her. Comparing Veela power to the Imperius Curse is analogous to comparing a Tickling Charm to the Killing Curse.”
“Welcome to an England controlled by Dumbledore and Scrimgeour,” Ron said sourly. “They’ve done nothing to repeal most of the outrageous laws put in place before the final battle. Exaggerating the power of a Veela allows them to try and control it and its users.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Jean said firmly. “No one assaults my daughter and gets away with it. I’ll sever all diplomatic ties to England before that.”
“Wait a second,” Ron interrupted. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. The fact that Gabrielle is a student and he is a professor will count heavily in our favour, as will the fact that Malfoy is the perpetrator. Whatever Snape can come up with, Percy and I will handle.”
“I want him arrested for attempted rape,” Jean said firmly.
“You know we won’t have enough evidence for that, Jean,” Ron snapped. “Empathy is not allowed as evidence in a court room. All we could prove is that he touched her, and even that is her word against his. We’d never be able to prove intent.”
Jean growled under his breath.
“We should be able to get his teaching qualification revoked, though,” Ron continued. “And as a private citizen, you could then sue him personally – Hogwarts’ legal insurance would no longer cover him.”
Jean slowly started to smile.
Harry tightened his arms around Gabrielle and was about to agree when an idea hit him.
“No,” he said firmly.
“No what?” Jean asked.
“No, you are not going to get his teaching qualification revoked, nor are you going to sue him – yet.”
“What?” Jean demanded, glaring at Harry. “I won’t let him get away with what he has done to Gabrielle!”
“Gabby is mine,” Harry snarled back, his hands tightening around Gabrielle protectively. “And I will arrange her revenge.”
“But –” Jean began to protest.
“Jean,” Hermione interrupted, “the last time Harry had that look in his eye was shortly before he dealt with Pettigrew.”
Harry looked up and met the older man’s gaze steadily. “You are looking at this from too small a perspective.”
“Oh?” Jean almost growled. “Forgive me, I am merely looking at this from a father’s perspective!”
“Yes, I understand that. However, we have an opportunity to make several large statements here, as well as eliminate a major problem, and we are going to take it,” Harry said coolly.
Aimée lightly placed her hand on Jean’s. The two stared at each other for a few seconds, communicating in the way that only couples can.
Jean seemed to sag a little and nodded at Harry.
Harry relaxed slightly as well. “Right, I’m going to go and talk to Olympe, let her know what has happened, so she can deal with the other students at the party. Gabrielle, get some clothes, we’re not staying here tonight.”
“Yes, Harry,” Gabrielle said happily.
“I’ll be back in five minutes.”
Gabrielle watched her Mate leave the room and turned to her mother. “I need some new clothes,” she said urgently.
“What?” Aimée asked, a look of disbelief flitting across her face.
“New clothes,” Gabrielle repeated.
“You think of that now?”
Gabrielle looked at her mother in confusion. “Oh,” she said, “I am over what happened. That is not important. What is important is making the scene come true as quickly as possible.”
Jean sighed and stretched his legs out. “Gabrielle,” he said slowly. “No one else in this room is psychic. We’re missing a few steps in your logic.”
“Oh, right.” Gabrielle sighed and looked at her watch. “Harry got me out of my panic by sending me some images. I cannot and do not need to think about what happened earlier – it is no longer important.
“What is important is that I now need a straight black knee-length skirt with a slit up one side, a white blouse, a black tie, and some black pumps with four inch heels.”
“I know,” Gabrielle agreed. “Not even Harry Potter is perfect; those heels will be painful.”
“That’s not quite what I winced at,” Jean said, his voice sounding resigned. “Can I ask what happened to Wormtail?”
“Neat change of subject,” Ron mumbled. “You know that he was a rat Animagus?”
“Harry locked him in his rat form and placed him in a cage full of pythons.”
“Ouch,” Jean whispered, his tone now admiring.
“I think,” Hermione interjected, “that Harry hates Malfoy more than he hated Wormtail.”
“Oh, good. So he’s going to do something similar to Malfoy?”
“Probably,” Hermione sighed. “And what’s worse is that we won’t know what until it happens.”
“Yeah,” Ron agreed. “Convincing Harry to share his plans early is practically impossible. He still blames himself for when Chang betrayed us to Voldemort. Some good people died that day, and Harry has never shared a scheme since.”
“What happened to her?”
Hermione sighed. “We didn’t do anything to her. Voldemort, on the other hand… she’s in St Mungo’s, and will be for the rest of her life.”
“I have one more question, before you can go get ready,” Aimée said to Gabrielle. “Why did Harry lose his temper?”
“I am not sure,” Gabrielle said with a little frown. “He was looking for something inside me, and when he found it, he lost his temper.” She shrugged. “I am sure it was something to do with earlier today.”
Aimée sighed once more. “Okay, go and get ready.”
“Thanks, Mama,” Gabrielle said cheerfully and dashed out of the room, almost bouncing with happiness.
She burst into her room and threw a new uniform and some casual clothes into a bag, before reluctantly adding Harry’s practice shirt for her to sleep in. She was convinced that sleeping naked would be a lot more fun.
She had barely finished when Harry arrived. “Ready?”
Gabrielle held up her bag and walked over to him.
He pulled her into a deep hug, and they Apparated away.
“I swear Harry’s going to turn me into an alcoholic,” Hermione said with a sigh, as she raided Harry’s fridge.
“And Gabrielle isn’t going to help,” Aimée agreed. “She can be most frustrating at times.”
Hermione walked back into the room with four glasses and two bottles of wine.
“I agree,” Ron said. “But I can’t help envy them a little bit.”
“Oh?” Hermione asked, raising her eyebrows inquisitively.
Ron smiled at her. “They aren’t going to live in the real world like the rest of us. They are going to occupy a completely different level, one where a look, a thought, or a kiss can make everything better, one where outrageous feats of magic are pulled off without a second thought, and one where they’ll both be obscenely happy for the rest of their lives. They’ll never be bothered by self-doubt, by fear, by life itself like the rest of us.”
There was silence as the others started to think through Ron’s words. Hermione silently handed out the now-filled glasses of wine.
“They’re going to live in a fairytale,” Ron continued, his voice dropping a little. “A world where they’ll be attacked by the bad guys, bad guys we will never understand or truly deal with, yet they’ll survive and grow with it. You have the rich and powerful king and his beautiful queen. You have idiots like Malfoy, who think they’re more of a problem than they really are – they plot and scheme, never realising that it is only a small thread that stops the king from stomping hard – and as they push, they fray the line even more.
“And the funny thing is, neither of them will ever realise it. They’ll think that they have perfectly normal lives, that love is something tangible for the rest of the world, as it is for them, and that everyone does what is right, rather than what is easy, just because they do.”
“It is strange,” Jean said slowly, “that as Gabrielle grew up, all I wanted for her was to be happy, and now that she has that within her grasp, I find it more difficult to let go.”
“It is the way of all parents,” Aimée agreed. “You wanted Gabrielle to be happy and safe. What she has with Harry will never be anything as dull as mere happiness. Ron is quite correct. They have a fairytale romance building, and they will live a life of extremes, of highs that make them like angels, and lows that the devil himself would be proud to engineer. All we can hope for is more highs than lows, and you know, I believe that will come true.” She paused for a second, and then continued. “I have to believe that. Both of them deserve nothing less.”
Gabrielle looked around eagerly as they arrived in an apartment. One wall seemed to be made completely of glass, showing a breathtaking view of a large city illuminated solely by the twinkling lights a city at night displays. Outside was a large balcony, one she recognised from the fantasy he had sent her earlier. She guessed that this was his apartment in London.
A glass staircase led up toward a platform, which she presumed was the sleeping area. An open kitchen was in front of her, with a living area to the right of it. The floor appeared to be made of stone, and everything screamed wealth and taste.
It was also completely devoid of personal items. It had nothing of Harry, unlike his cottage in the Lake District; this was somewhere he stayed, not somewhere he lived.
“It is nice,” she said diplomatically.
“Nice?” he asked, his voice teasing her.
“It would be nicer if you lived here,” she explained. “It feels too empty and unused.”
“I guess that does sum this place up,” Harry agreed, glancing around. “I thought you’d want to see it, as I do live here most of the time during the season.”
“May I decorate?”
Harry looked at her and laughed slowly. “Moving in?”
She nodded seriously. “I go where you go.”
“Then, yes, you can decorate,” he smiled slightly.
“I am being very presumptuous, am I not?”
“A little,” he agreed. “But with reason.”
“I hope so,” she sighed softly.
“Tell me something,” Harry said, his voice lowering into an intimate whisper.
“Anything,” Gabrielle replied, watching as he moved away from her, across from the glass wall, and stared at her.
“Did you mean it earlier, that what you feel from me is the opposite of what you felt from him?”
She nodded. “What I feel from you makes me feel good,” she explained, understating the matter, but unsure how she could put what she felt into mere words. “And it is different, as you are my Mate; it works on a much deeper level than my automatic pull.”
“And when I give you an order to follow, it feels good?”
She nodded again. “When I disobeyed you earlier, it hurt; it was hard, but the little orders you gave me afterward that I could follow made me forget the order I disobeyed. That, more than anything, made me feel so much better.”
“Kick your shoes off.”
Gabrielle blinked at him as her body moved automatically, kicking the low heels she was wearing off her feet and to one side. The coolness of the stone floor was a bit of a shock as it clashed with the feeling of warmth that shot through her body.
She slowly twirled on the spot, looking at him curiously.
She slid forward, suddenly realising where this could be going and hoping beyond hope that it was. She met his eyes, allowing her eagerness and excitement to shine through.
She stopped in front of him and looked up.
His right hand moved out and softly touched her cheek. “You’re mine, Gabby,” he whispered.
“I know,” she replied.
He leant down and kissed her. It was a new kiss from him; it was possessive and hot, it seemed to want to devour her, and so she gave in to it immediately. Her hands slid up around his shoulders and she held onto him tightly.
Without breaking the kiss he picked her up and carried her up the stairs. The platform was dominated by a large low-slung bed. He placed her down on it gently and took a step or two back. With a smooth movement he pulled off the jumper and t-shirt he was wearing, leaving him bare-chested.
“Why now?” she asked from the bed. “Is it because of what happened earlier?” She found herself in a difficult situation. He had carried her to bed, and it looked like he was quite prepared to introduce her to a lot more than she had ever experienced in the past – and she was ecstatic about the idea. But she could also feel that he wasn’t quite in control of himself, and she knew it would kill her to wake up next to him and see regret in his eyes.
He nodded. “Partly,” he whispered.
She licked her lips unconsciously as she watched him prowl around the platform. He was beautiful in a way that left her weak with desire. Especially now, with a mixture of danger and seduction radiating off him, he could capture her mind and soul with such ease.
“But mainly because it made me realise what it would feel like if I didn’t have you. You’ve wormed your way into my soul, Gabrielle, and I don’t object to it.”
“But?” she asked, fighting down the sexual reaction his words caused.
“But you’re right,” he sighed softly. “I don’t like that he, of all people, touched you. I don’t like that he tainted your innocence.”
She looked at him curiously. “I have no real wish to be an innocent any more,” she pointed out.
He half-smiled and stopped moving, leaning against the rail. “Not that sort of innocence,” he explained, sounding amused. “You have an innocence deep in your soul, Gabrielle; you view the world in a way I can not, and I find myself wanting to view it through your eyes. You’re aware of what the world is like, but refuse to allow that knowledge to change your perception of it. But Malfoy changed that earlier, and I want to put it back.” He paused, as if an idea had suddenly come to him. “I want you to be happy,” he said slowly. “And I want to be the person that makes you happy.”
“Then do not make love to me tonight,” she pleaded, shifting so that she was kneeling on the bed, her head bowed. She breathed as slowly as she could, as she looked up at him from her position, awaiting his response.
He tilted his head to one side and looked at her in surprise.
“I have said, many times, that I do not want you by half-measures, or for my benefit because I need rescuing again. I want you when you are going to commit to me forever, when you do it because you want to, not with the shadow of an evil man clouding your judgement. I want to give myself to you and be accepted for what I am offering. I do not want to wake up and see any hint of regret in your eyes.”
“I don’t think that I would regret this, Gabby.”
She could feel the honesty of that statement through the Bond. “That is not enough,” she whispered. “I want, no, I need for you to be positive that you will not regret this.”
She could feel his disappointment through the Bond, as well as, for the first time, his desire to make her his.
“Could we do other things, though?” she asked hopefully.
She slowly started to undo the buttons on her shirt, raising herself so she was no longer sitting on her heels. She met his eyes as she shrugged her blouse off her shoulders, dumping it on the floor. She absently cursed her parents’ need to talk; it had taken away time for her to change. She had a variety of enticing underwear she had purchased for this very occasion, and yet here she was in a very plain-looking bra.
She took a deep breath and reached behind her, her fingers going for the clasp.
“Wait,” Harry whispered.
She looked at him, hoping that he wasn’t about to tell her to stop. Not now, not after a few seconds ago when he was ready to make love to her.
His hands went to his waist, undoing his belt. He didn’t look away from her as he moved with the same fluid grace he always did, no matter what he was doing. He kicked off his shoes and removed his trousers, draping them on the rail, removing his socks quickly.
She felt her heartbeat start to race and her mouth go dry as she watched him strip for her. She broke eye contact for a second, her eyes flicking down to his crotch, and she couldn’t help but lick her lips again. He was visibly aroused.
He walked over to her. “Stand,” he whispered.
She jumped to her feet, a little unsteady on the soft bed. He pulled her closer, and she leant down and kissed him. The extra height from the bed made her taller than he was, and she kissed him with all the love and passion she felt, resting her weight against him.
He broke this kiss, breathing hard against her lips for a second, his eyes darker than she ever remembered them.
His hands slid up to her waist, sliding around her, as his fingers found the zipper holding her skirt up. He slid it down and eased the skirt down her legs. She placed a hand on his shoulder so that she could step out of it and keep her balance.
She groaned as his hand slid up the outside of her legs, over her hips and up her sides. He looked deeply into her eyes as his hands found the back of her bra, his fingers twisting expertly, and the pressure holding her breasts was gone. His hands slid further up, easing the straps off her shoulders.
She lowered her hands, and looked at him pleadingly, wanting him to take that last step, to finally see half of her completely naked.
To her eternal relief, he did, removing her bra completely.
She held her breath, hoping that she was what he wanted, that he would desire her. She lightly bit her bottom lip and searched the Bond for his true feelings.
His eyes slid over her chest and then back up to her eyes, until she was hit by a huge wave of pure desire, of hunger. The romantic feeling was replaced in an instant by the desire of a man who had just seen his idea of perfection.
She smiled invitingly and took a step back, dropping to her knees, before lying down and holding her arms up to him invitingly.
It didn’t take more than a second for him to join her.
Harry and Gabrielle arrived back at the transposed castle in Hogwarts’ grounds just after breakfast. A series of Floo calls gathered Ron, Hermione, Percy, Bill, Fleur, and Olympe in the headmistress’ office; the latter four were quickly brought up to speed of the events of the evening before, and after a magical vow, Percy was told everything.
“So,” Harry finished. “Gabby spent the evening in the infirmary here, with Olympe, recovering from the traumatic ordeal.”
“Why are you asking me to do this?” Percy asked in surprise.
Harry grinned at him, and Percy groaned and held up his hands. “Sorry, I forgot.”
“Okay, let’s split up. Most of us need to be far away from here when they arrive.”
“I’ll call you immediately, Harry,” Olympe nodded, her eyes looking very amused.
Harry walked over and lightly kissed Gabrielle, before walking out the door with the Weasley boys and Hermione.
“Fleur,” Gabrielle said, “may I have a quick word with you?”
“Of course,” Fleur replied.
“Use my guest room,” Olympe offered, pointing to a door off to one side.
Gabrielle locked the door, and then cast a privacy charm to be extra sure.
“What is the matter, my little angel?” Fleur asked
“I’m scared I can’t handle what happened last night,” Gabrielle said nervously.
“Oh, Gabrielle,” Fleur said, bringing her sister in for a hug. “It must have been awful, that evil man touching you.”
“What?” Gabrielle asked in surprise. “Oh, no, not that!”
“Then what?” Fleur asked, a confused look on her face.
“Last night,” Gabrielle tried to clarify. “With Harry.”
“I am lost.”
“We did not make love,” Gabrielle explained, a faint blush adding a touch of colour to her face. “But we did a lot of other things.”
“And what is the problem? You enjoyed it, correct?”
Gabrielle nodded eagerly. “But I’ve heard that making love is better?”
“Normally, yes,” Fleur agreed.
“That is the problem,” Gabrielle explained, holding her arms wide.
“What is the problem? I am still lost.”
“Last night was amazing, but I passed out.”
“You passed out from Harry making love to you – without actually doing it?”
“Twice,” Gabrielle said while nodding eagerly.
Fleur sat down and started to snigger.
Gabrielle stamped her foot. “It is not funny!” she insisted, a little hurt at her sister’s reaction. “How am I supposed to please him when he makes it so good that I pass out? And what if gets better than that? How am I supposed to survive if he can destroy my mind like that?”
“Gabrielle,” Fleur said with a shake of her head, her eyes dancing with suppressed mirth. “This is not a serious problem.”
“It is!” Gabrielle protested. “None of my books ever described such pleasure from a man’s touch. Even with the feedback loop, I should not have felt this way!”
“I can feel his pleasure, and it increases mine,” Gabrielle explained. “And he likes me excited.”
Fleur sighed softly. “You are a brat,” she said firmly.
“Gabrielle, this is not an issue. You both enjoy it, so don’t worry about it. You cannot die from pleasure, and with practice, you will get used to it. You will just have to wait, and then find a way to pay Harry back for it.”
“Good idea,” Gabrielle said with a nod. “What do you do with Bill?”
“GABRIELLE!” Fleur shouted. “I am NOT telling you that!”
Olympe Maxime looked at the paperwork in front of her and sighed. Her concentration was not where it should be, and the cause was her favourite student. These past few months had been the most eventful of her career, but she couldn’t bring herself to complain about it.
Her school was so much more fun than it had been; the stilted atmosphere had been replaced by one that was more like how Hogwarts had been when Harry was there – only without the divisions that had plagued his education. Pranksters had appeared all over the place, keeping the staff and the students on their toes, and while there had been a few malicious examples, the punishments had been harsh, and those events had faded as the students had learnt the limits of what was acceptable.
Of course, not one of them suspected that she herself had played the odd prank on the student population. If they were naïve enough to think that the professors were there as targets only, that was their fault.
A charmed crystal on her desk lit up, and she smiled to herself. She touched her wand to another crystal, and waited, not putting her wand away.
Without ceremony, her doors were forced open, and Severus Snape stormed in, accompanied by Albus Dumbledore and an embarrassed-looking Minerva McGonagall.
“I demand that the tramp responsible for the assault of a Hogwarts professor be handed over immediately,” Snape shouted.
Olympe almost smiled, but instead she raised her wand and fired a spell straight at Snape.
The greasy-haired Potions professor flew back against a wall, bouncing to the floor. He groaned as he got to his feet, looking a little unsteady.
“You do not barge into my office, shout at me like a student, or insult my Head Girl,” Olympe said calmly. “And if you do so again, I shall put you in your hospital wing for a month.”
Snape got to his feet, snarling, his wand in his hand.
“Cast that spell, and you’ll be dead before the word is out of your mouth,” a new voice said coldly from the doorway, interrupting Dumbledore, who had opened his mouth.
“Potter,” Snape sneered, but he put his wand away slowly.
“You called?” Harry asked Olympe, ignoring Snape completely.
“Thank you for coming, Harry,” she replied courteously. “We were just about to start a discussion concerning your Seeker.”
“Oh?” Harry asked, walking over to her desk and perching on the side. He waved his hand absently, creating three low-slung seats.
“Sit,” Olympe invited her three guests, hiding her smirk. The chairs he had created would make those sitting in them feel ill at ease, in addition to being low enough that the guests would have to look up at Harry, who was still deliberately perched on the side of her desk.
“Now, I’ll hear your apology first,” she said to Snape.
Snape blinked at her.
“Or I will throw you out,” Olympe continued simply.
“My apologies,” Snape said coldly. “I let my temper get the best of me.”
“Accepted,” she said with a nod of her head. “So, might I ask why you are here before I could summon you?”
“Summon us?” Snape thundered, almost jumping to his feet. “Your student assaulted one of our professors and you would dare summon us?”
“Severus!” Dumbledore said forcibly.
“My apologies,” Snape muttered.
“Which professor?” Harry asked with interest.
“Draco Malfoy,” Dumbledore said seriously.
“Somehow I’m not at all surprised. He does seem to invite trouble. Have you been promoted, Severus?” Harry asked. “I’m so sorry about your demotion, Minerva.”
“I have not been demoted,” Professor McGonagall replied icily.
“Oh, then what exactly has the Potions Professor got to do with this?” Harry asked idly. “He’s not Malfoy’s superior and has no further responsibility as Head of House if Malfoy is a professor, not a student, correct? Surely the Headmaster and Deputy Head are quite capable of dealing with this matter?”
There was a second of silence as Snape glared at Harry with undisguised hatred.
“Severus is an important member of the faculty,” Dumbledore said firmly as he started to radiate magic.
“You know, I can do that too,” Harry said with a smile and matched Dumbledore’s aura perfectly.
The magic in the room seemed to warp the air.
“But all it shows is that we both have power, so please, let’s not get into a stupid competition of who has more magic, and get to point of this meeting. I’ve got more important things to do,” Harry finished, his own magic vanishing.
Dumbledore looked shocked for a brief second, and then reined in his own power and composure.
Olympe made a mental note to thank Harry later for that. She had felt more than a frisson of fear when Dumbledore had released his magic. For all the old man’s manipulative ways, he was still an immensely powerful wizard.
“So,” Harry said. “As I seem to be the only person who doesn’t know what happened, why doesn’t someone fill me in?”
“It would be a pleasure,” Snape sneered under his breath. “Last night Gabrielle Delacour tried to seduce Draco Malfoy; when he turned her down, quite properly as she is a student, she lost her temper and forced him to run into a tree.”
“And the problem is?” Harry asked.
“That our flying professor has been assaulted,” Snape shouted.
“If you shout again, Severus, you will be ejected,” Olympe said calmly.
“I’m still not seeing the problem here,” Harry said absently. “The Death Eater obviously tried to assault one of our students, and forgetting that Gabrielle is a part-Veela, he has been given his just rewards.”
Snape gaped at him.
“You forget how well I know Malfoy, Severus,” Harry said with distaste, knowing that the use of the Potions professor’s name would annoy the man. “What is Gabrielle’s version of events?” Harry asked Olympe.
“Pretty much exactly how you guessed,” Olympe said. “Gabrielle was returning to Beauxbatons from the dressing rooms at the pitch when Malfoy stopped her and tried to entice her down to Hogsmeade. When she said no, he touched her shoulder and wouldn’t let her go. That was when she reacted instinctively to defend herself and ran back here, where I spent the evening consoling her. You do know that Veela are empathic?” she asked.
Harry nodded. “I’d heard that.”
“Well, it seems that your character reference was accurate. She has described him as having evil in his soul.”
“I will not sit here and listen to a fine Hogwarts professor be insulted this way,” Snape sneered.
“Then leave,” Harry said indifferently. “You’re superfluous to this meeting as it is. But I’d appreciate it you’d come back with the Death Eater scum and a bottle of Veritaserum.”
“What?” Snape demanded.
“It’s a truth potion, Snape,” Harry said with a sad shake of his head, reverting to his preferred method of referring to the man. “Who would believe that Hogwarts now has a Potions professor who can’t even recognise a simple truth potion? Are you sure that Severus is still the right candidate, Albus?”
Olympe bit the inside of her lip hard to stop herself from laughing.
“I know what it is,” Snape hissed.
“Then get it; we’ll use it on the ferret, get him to confess that his story was as true as his innocence during the last battle, then Albus can fire him and we can move on,” Harry stated in a matter-of-fact voice. “That is,” he continued, his eyes gleaming, “if we can trust your batch of Veritaserum. Maybe we’d better request some from a reliable neutral source. Like Durmstang’s Potions Mistress.”
Snape’s face turned a dark puce, a colour Harry hadn’t seen since he had been leaving the Dursleys and “accidentally” let slip just how rich he was.
“Potions don’t work the same on Veela,” Dumbledore said slowly. “And it would be unfair to only ask one side.”
“Unfair?” Harry asked, raising his eyebrows. “All we need is one person’s true account of the event.”
“Draco’s mind may have been affected by the Imperius,” Snape said, “so his account may not be trustworthy.”
“You mean that we’re supposed to accept Malfoy’s word, and ignoring generations of magical opinion to the contrary, if his testimony under Veritaserum is different, that’s what isn’t trustworthy? Well, you get points for imagination, if nothing else,” Harry said.
“Nevertheless, the precedent has been set,” Dumbledore responded thoughtfully, after a pointed look from Snape.
“Then we are at an impasse,” Harry said slowly. “On one hand, we have the Head Girl of Beauxbatons, who happens to be the daughter of the most powerful man in France. On the other hand, we have a Death Eater. Actually, that reminds me, how are Aimée and Jean taking this?”
“They have threatened to cut all diplomatic ties with England if Malfoy is not punished, and I believe that if they do, Germany will follow, as will the rest of Europe,” Olympe replied, watching with pleasure as McGonagall and Dumbledore’s eyes widened.
“That would not be a good thing,” Harry said with a frown. “It would cost me a bloody fortune.” He pulled out his wand and sent off a quick messaging spell.
“What are you doing?” McGonagall asked.
“I’ve asked the Ministerial representatives to join us,” Harry said, now sounding very irritated. “As this is now spinning into an international incident, we need to make sure that we don’t make a misstep. Having England isolated could ruin my investment portfolio.”
Olympe scowled at Harry, very glad that he had told her at least this part of his plan earlier. If he hadn’t, she’d be tempted to curse him herself. His attitude was obviously working though, if Dumbledore and Snape’s expression were anything to go by. They obviously believed that Harry’s complete lack of interest over what happened to Gabrielle was genuine, and that he was more concerned about how much money he would lose.
There was a knock on her door a minute of uncomfortable silence later. “Come,” she said firmly.
Percy and Ron Weasley entered, both in formal Ministerial robes. “What is going on?” Percy asked, his nose high in the air, and his voice full of snobbery.
“Last night, ferret-boy – Draco Malfoy – assaulted the daughter of Jean-Sebastian Delacour, although he is claiming that she tried to chat him up, and when he said no, she forced him to run into a tree,” Harry said succinctly.
“Good for Gabrielle,” Ron said cheerfully, making no attempt to conceal his delight upon hearing Draco’s punishment.
Snape growled under his breath.
“Unfortunately, Jean is now royally pissed off, and is threatening to cut diplomatic ties over the whole thing,” Harry finished.
“That would be disastrous,” Percy said, going pale.
“Indeed,” Harry agreed. “My investment portfolio would tank overnight. Can’t you get Bill to talk to him? He’s still dating Fleur, right?”
“I suspect that William would be on Jean’s side here,” Percy said solemnly. “Can’t we use Veritaserum to get to the truth?”
“That’s what I suggested, but the idiots here said it wouldn’t be fair to the ferret as the potion doesn’t work properly on Veela, and because Gabrielle might have played with his mind.”
Ron snorted. “An admission of guilt, then?”
“Right, well, I could just make Malfoy disappear, that would fix the problem,” Harry offered.
“Absolutely not!” Dumbledore said firmly.
“Pity,” Percy said softly. “It would indeed solve our problems.”
“I cannot believe that you are treating one of my students this way,” Olympe said icily. “I will say just how disappointed in you I am, Harry.”
Harry shrugged absently. “I like Gabrielle, but I’m not interested in cutting my net worth in half.”
“I have a solution,” Percy said after a moment of thought. “One that should appease Mr Delacour.”
“Oh?” Snape sneered.
“In situations like this in the past where there is no clear guilt, one party can demand a duel, rather than go to trial.”
“Are you insane?” Olympe demanded. “A professor against a student?”
“What about the use of Veela power?” Snape asked, his eyes alight with interest.
“I’m not sure I like this,” Harry said.
“Quiet,” Percy snapped. “This is more important than your money or your morals. This is the future of England at stake!”
“Quite,” Snape agreed, as Dumbledore nodded.
“The use of Veela power, or any other form of Unforgivable, would be banned,” Percy said. “And of course, if Miss Delacour said no, it would be an admission of guilt that not even her father could protect her from.”
“You are ganging up on my student,” Olympe roared.
“You are in England now,” Percy sneered. “This is how we do business with inferiors. So, are we in agreement?”
“Wait,” Harry said.
“What now?” Snape demanded.
“When is this duel going to happen? I’m not going to lose my Seeker over this, or risk humiliating the ferret before our staff match.”
“How about the day after the staff match?” Ron offered.
“That should give me enough time to bring my reserve up to speed,” Harry said slowly.
“And plenty of time for Draco to get ready,” Snape agreed.
“Might I remind you that Gabrielle is underage,” Olympe interjected acidly.
“She’s sixteen, isn’t she?” Percy asked.
“Then, as a Veela, she has reached the age of majority under the English law for near-human creatures,” Percy shrugged. “Are there any other objections?”
Olympe glowered at everyone in the room, but kept quiet.
“Excellent,” Percy said. “I shall inform Jean personally. I’m sure he will be disappointed, but he will understand. Standard duel rules will be in force, so Miss Delacour and Professor Malfoy must stay apart until then. Professors, Harry,” Percy finished, nodding at them, before turning and walking out.
Olympe glared at the remaining four people. “Mr Potter,” she said firmly. “You will stay behind so that we can discuss your future employment here. You three will leave.”
“Now, Olympe,” Albus said, his eyes twinkling merrily.
“Leave now, Albus, or I will remove us from the tournament, and you can be sure that the press will hear every word of this conversation. I have recorded it.”
Snape swallowed and Harry looked nervous.
“This could destroy my reputation,” Harry muttered. “Leave, all of you.”
With barely a backward look, the three professors trooped out.
There was silence in the room for a minute, before two doors opened, one that had been hidden before, and Jean, Aimée, Ron, Hermione, Percy, Bill, Fleur, and Gabrielle all entered.
“It’s a truth potion, Snape,” Ron said, mimicking Harry’s tones.
Harry grinned, and then started to laugh. It was a laugh picked up by the others, except for Jean and Percy.
“What is going on?” Jean demanded.
“Yes,” Percy agreed. “Why did you insist that I push for a duel? Malfoy is a skilled duellist these days.”
“Too much has gone on that I do not understand,” Jean complained. “Why is placing my daughter in such a position a good thing, especially when we had Malfoy held over a barrel? That excuse about Veritaserum was a complete fabrication.”
“Haven’t you been paying attention over the last few days?” Harry asked casually.
“Like what?” Jean asked.
“With Gabrielle’s magic?”
“Well apart from her casting a spell silently and fixing…” his voice trailed off as he looked at Gabrielle, and then his wife. “A Mated Veela can use her Mate’s magic, with permission,” he whispered. “Malfoy is going to get on the duelling platform, expecting to be fighting a teenager, but instead he is going to be faced with someone with access to more magic power than anyone else in the world,” Jean whispered reverently. “Never mind putting him in prison, you are going to have Gabrielle humiliate him in public – he’ll never live that down!”
Harry nodded with a cold smirk.
“I’ve said it before, Harry,” Olympe said with a shake of her head. “If I ever annoy you, just kill me quickly; it would be more merciful.”
Harry grinned, “Can I just say how pleased I was with your spell at Snape. It was brilliant. And Percy, you were great; I wanted to punch you!”
“Thank you,” Percy said modestly. “I do try.”
“And that’s why you wanted it on that date,” Bill said, “so that you can still beat Malfoy in Quidditch.”
Harry looked at Gabrielle and smiled softly at her. “And we will, but just to make sure, we will spend a lot of time ensuring that you are able to beat him without my magic.”
Gabrielle nodded and smiled back at him, a little nervously.
“There’s no need to be worried, Gabby; I won’t let him hurt you.”
She nodded, and her smile seemed to increase in brightness.
“Right,” Harry said, looking at his watch. It was almost lunchtime. “Gabrielle and I need breakfast, so we’re off to New York. Percy, Jean, can you arrange a press conference for later, and let everyone know what’s going on, and why? We’ll let the press decide whom they support, and keep note. It should help us flush out the racists that are still around. Jean, you should play the outraged father more than the future Minister.”
“That is not guaranteed,” Jean pointed out with a sigh.
“‘I’ll sever all diplomatic ties first?’” Harry teased. “Sounds like someone with some degree of authority in France. And that’s a good thing, and not just because I’m falling for your daughter. France needs a strong incorruptible Minister with morals, and so do we actually, but we’ll take things one step at a time.”
“Harry is right,” Olympe agreed. “No one else can put France back on her feet, and this event is raising your profile even more. The other candidates will fail against you.”
“Exactly,” Harry nodded. “And as long as I have this damn fame, I might as well use it for good.” He looked at Gabby. “Ready?”
She nodded and walked over to him, hugging him tightly.
“We’ll see you later,” he said. “Oh, and Olympe? Let Picup know what’s going on.”
She nodded as the two of them vanished.
“Would anyone mind if I had a small rant for a second?” Hermione asked politely into the ensuing silence.
“Go ahead,” Olympe said, not bothering to hide her amusement.
“It’s impossible to Apparate within Hogwarts!”
“Feel better?” Ron asked, moving an arm around her.
“I’ve been keeping that in since yesterday,” she sighed in relief. “It was getting painful. And that’s not to mention the idea of dual Apparating three and a half thousand miles through Hogwarts’ wards.”
“Gabrielle knows how ‘e does it,” Fleur said. “But she will not tell anyone. Not even me. Her loyalty to ‘arry overrides everyzing else.”
“Good,” Percy said softly. “We need Harry as he is now, more than ever.” He looked around and took a deep breath. “We’re in a bigger mess than he, or you, know.”
“Percy?” Ron queried softly.
“No,” Percy said, “I think its time we told them.”
“You’re the boss,” Ron agreed with a small shrug.
“What is going on?” Jean asked.
“The old guard, those who had more than a small amount of support of Voldemort, are still in power, and they refuse to go. There are a small group of us younger ones who are fighting all we can, but there is a limit to what we can do. We’ve tried as hard as we can to keep Harry out of it, but it’s getting to the stage now where we need him. We need his power and influence, because we need to get rid of Scrimgeour. Urgently.”
“We want to put someone else in – and we’ve got a candidate.”
“Percy?” Jean asked.
“Oh no, not me,” Percy said with a smile. “I’d much rather run things from the shadows than have to be doing it in public. The thought of kissing babies and glad-handing fills me with dread.”
“Slytherin,” Bill teased.
“A little,” Percy agreed cheerfully. “But as Harry’s shown, a bit of ambition and ruthlessness is not a bad thing.”
“Exactly,” Ron agreed. “We did think about putting Dad in control.”
“But that would be a disaster,” Percy shuddered. “Don’t get me wrong, I love Dad, but as Minister?” Bill and Ron both shuddered as well.
“Of course,” Hermione said with a slight smile. “If Harry would take it, it would sort out every problem.”
“And kill Harry,” Ron sighed. “He’d do it, and do it well, but he’d hate every second of it, which is why we’d never ask him.”
“Besides,” Percy said, “over-dependence on Harry is a bad thing. We need to be able to do things without him, and only ask for his help if it is really necessary. That’s part of the problem with Albus. We let him deal with everything for far too long and lost the ability to think for ourselves. It’s a failing of the Wizarding World that we often take the easy option.”
“I am impressed,” Olympe said slowly. “I did not expect to hear pure-blood wizards talk like this.”
“As someone who has experienced our racism, I am sure you wouldn’t,” Percy said with a nod. “We are learning the lessons Harry has been teaching us,” he finished.
“Quite,” Jean nodded. “I don’t suppose your candidate is a pure-blood, is he?”
“Nope. He’s a Muggle born. Dirk Cresswell.”
“Your Goblin liaison officer?”
“Yeah,” Percy said. “When we started to fight Voldemort properly, he was instrumental in keeping the Goblins neutral. We’ve been planning his campaign in secret, but we need Harry’s name; otherwise we’re not going to get anywhere against the Ministry Mouthpiece.”
“Sorry?” Aimée asked.
“The Daily Prophet,” Hermione explained. “They are still touting out the Ministry’s official view as fact.”
“They don’t like me,” Percy half smiled. “Mainly because I keep trying to put laws in place that will curtail their ability to lie. I’ve come close a time or two in getting things passed, but I’ve not quite got there yet. I will, though, and then I will personally sue them into bankruptcy.”
“You know something, Percy,” Bill said, “I’m really glad you’re a Weasley again.”
“Me too,” he grinned. “It’s a lot more fun knowing that I have people backing me up, and that I don’t have to be a simpering idiot to get what I want.”
“Well, this has been fascinating, but you have jobs to do,” Olympe said. “And I have paperwork to do.”
“Come on, William,” Fleur said. “We’ll go for a walk and then see if we can meet Gabrielle and ‘arry later.”
Slowly the room emptied, and Olympe sat back, her smile slowly fading. She was starting to get very worried about Albus. His behaviour was becoming more and more bizarre.
“Why New York?” Gabrielle asked. They had appeared in a little-used tunnel, and passed through a wall, similar to the one at King’s Cross, to find themselves in a bustling train station. Harry led the way through the crowd to the escalators leading up to street level.
“Mainly because of the time difference,” Harry explained, wrapping an arm around her waist. “I know a nice diner around the corner.”
She nodded and looked around eagerly, surprised by the sheer number of yellow cabs she could see. They walked down a long block, crossed the street and stopped outside an aluminium-covered building that looked more like an elongated caravan than a restaurant. A large green sign proclaimed “Tick Tock Diner” in illuminated letters.
Inside, they were quickly seated at a table and provided with menus. With a casual wave of his hand, Harry set up what she recognised as a privacy charm so that they couldn’t hear the noise surrounding their booth – and no one could hear their conversation.
“The noise in here can get a bit much,” he explained. “Too many New Yorkers with cell phones.”
“Morning,” an older waitress said, appearing at their table as if by magic. “I’m Sandy, I’ll be your server today. What can I get you folks?”
“Two coffees, black. I’ll have a Traffic Jam; she’ll have a Blueberry Roll Up.”
“I’ll be right back with your drinks,” Sandy said and turned, walking away.
“Coffee?” Gabrielle asked doubtfully.
Harry grinned at her. “Sorry, this is America. The last time they had good tea here, the savages wasted it by throwing it into Boston Harbour. Some local wizards tried to rescue it, but it was ruined. Ever since then we’ve made it our mission in life to send them only the worst stuff.”
He leant back and grinned at her, in a relaxed and easy manner she found fascinating. “There’s ample proof that the Americans are heathens, but the biggest proof is definitely what they do to the tea they do have.”
“Oh?” Gabrielle asked, entranced.
“They serve it cold on ice, often absolutely saturated with artificial sweetener.”
“Sometimes they even add fruit flavourings, too. I went to one place, and they tried to serve Ceylon that way. Ollie actually jumped me to stop me from causing a scene. I was not impressed.”
She laughed and rested her chin on her hands, smiling at him.
“We were in the US on tour, playing at some of their big stadiums. They’re starting to love their Quidditch over here. The Muggles play a different sport to the rest of the world, and the Americans Wizards play Quodpot, only five years ago the owner of the Cannons bet some local Americans that his team could beat the best America could put together.”
“780 to nil,” Harry smirked. “All the press went insane at such a humiliating defeat, and demanded a rematch. It happened, but went to 830 to nothing. After that, the Americans were determined to regain lost pride, so they passed a law that requires the schools to teach Quidditch. The third time we played, we only won by 120 points, so they’ve been improving. The Cannons come over here and play the American National team every year.”
“And you won?” Gabrielle asked.
Harry grinned and nodded. “America thought that they would have us this year, they’ve been improving all the time and will be a force at the next World Cup. Their Chasers outplayed us, but they didn’t expect me to get the Snitch first, though.”
“So is that how you know about this place?”
“We played at a stadium built in a swamp across the river from here, and we were staying in the New Yorker Hotel attached to this place.”
“Here’s your coffee,” Sandy announced as she dumped two large mugs in front of them. “I’ll be back with a refill with your food.”
“Thank you,” Gabrielle said with a smile.
Gabrielle took a sip and nearly choked on the strong taste.
“Yeah,” Harry said with a grin. “They make it strong here. Let me.” He reached over and snapped his fingers, and a white liquid poured into the cup. “Getting good dairy cream is hard over here, but it’s the only way to make this gunk taste nice. If I asked Sandy there for cream, what I’d get would be half cream and half milk. Try it now.”
She nodded and took a cautious sip. “That’s almost drinkable,” she said in surprise.
He grinned and lounged back again, keeping his own black. “The second time we toured here,” he said, “was a lot more fun than the first.”
She watched him, allowing herself to relax completely, enjoying the way his mouth moved as he talked, the way he emphasised some things with decisive hand movements. This was Harry with his shields completely down, and it was with a thrill that she came to the conclusion that it was because of her. He trusted her enough to allow her to see him at his most relaxed.
Later she wouldn’t be able to say what the food was like, or what it tasted of, as the only thing she would remember was the half-smile on his face and the stories he told her, as she fell in love with another new facet of her Mate.
Minerva looked at her watch and poured two cups of tea on the table next to her. Exactly five seconds later, Harry Potter appeared in the empty chair.
“Thanks,” he said as reached out to take a cup.
“You were never this prompt when in school.”
“I know,” he said with a grin. “But when Apparating into someone’s private rooms, it’s better to be on time.”
“Just in case you did take it the wrong way, I’ll just say I’m sorry for including you in the ‘idiots’ remark earlier.”
“No offence was taken, Harry. But I would appreciate knowing what is going on.”
“Gabrielle can use my magic,” he said simply.
Minerva frowned for a second as she thought about it, before her memory pulled up the exact page she had read. “Don’t tell me,” she sighed. “With you involved, it goes beyond a mere Summoning Spell?”
“I can give her everything I have,” he agreed with a smile.
“You set Mr Malfoy up?”
“Not quite,” he replied with a frown. “Malfoy did assault her last night, and if Gabby hadn’t disobeyed a direct order from me, he would be dead.”
“I told her to let me go, so I could go and kill him for tainting her innocence. She obeyed for a second, but then she grabbed me again and wouldn’t let go. I could feel it, Min; I could feel the pain she was going through.”
“It was bad?” Minerva asked, blowing on the surface of her tea.
“As bad as the Cruciatus, and I caused it. I hurt her without even realising it.”
“What have you learnt from that?” she asked.
“To be more careful with what I say,” he said with a deep sigh.
“Then it was a lesson well learnt,” Minerva said firmly. “I take it you’ve made it up to her?”
Harry blushed slightly and nodded. “And I’ll do so for a lot longer.”
“Then that lesson is over,” Minerva declared. “So, Mr Malfoy is going to get a surprise?”
He nodded. “I hope so. I think I know how he’ll react, and I have plans in place.”
“Care to share them?”
He shook his head with a slight smile. “You’ll see when it happens, if it happens. I don’t want anyone to be able to claim that you conspired with me in a set-up.”
She laughed softly and lightly touched his hand. “You’re a far cry from the tiny boy I remember first arriving here.”
“I know,” he agreed. “Those days seem like a different life.” He paused and looked away for a second before turning and concentrating on her totally. “I wanted to talk about Albus.”
She nodded. “This morning’s display was shocking. There is something seriously wrong with him.”
“But still no idea what?”
She shook her head. “It is frustrating,” she sighed, “to see a once-great man fall like this. He made very little attempt to rein Severus in this morning. And Severus? Well, he is obviously planning something, because his behaviour was strange this morning as well.”
“Stranger than normal, you mean. I think I’m going to have to go against them directly if this continues.”
“And you don’t want to do that?”
“Not directly; it could get messy,” Harry said with a sigh. “Dumbledore is still very powerful, but I’m a lot younger, and I’ve stayed in shape. Snape is an evil bastard, but not a challenge in the power stakes.”
“I hope it doesn’t come down to that,” Minerva said softly.
“So do I. So do I.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes, before Harry looked at her with a smile. “So, how do you propose to deal with the fact that most of our students want to be taught by the famous Professor McGonagall?”
She felt herself blush as she looked at him. “Scamp.”
“Harry Potter!” Viktor Krum’s booming voice was audible throughout most of Hogwarts.
“Viktor?” Harry asked, walking across to the Seeker.
“Ve need to talk,” the Bulgarian said seriously.
“Hold on,” Harry said and grasped his shoulder, Apparating them to his room in Beauxbatons.
“I vill ignore de Apparating,” Viktor muttered to himself. “Milk?”
Harry nodded and poured two glasses. The two Seekers settled themselves comfortably on the seats in front of the fireplace, facing each other.
“Explain,” Viktor said firmly.
“I am no idiot, Harry” Viktor said. “I haff seen tings dat the uddhers do not. Veela and Harry are together, and I vant to know vhat Professor is doing vith Student.”
“I am Gabrielle’s Mate.”
Krum blinked. “By Veela choice?”
Harry sighed and spent a few minutes explaining.
“I knew dat you vere a goot mon,” Viktor said, a smile appearing on his face. “You are helpink your Mate learn for dis duel?”
Harry nodded. “Malfoy won’t know what hit him.”
“Excellent,” Krum said, rubbing his hands together in unforced glee. “I vill help as vell.”
“I’m sorry, Viktor?”
“Durmstrang used to teach the Dark Arts,” Krum explained. “I vas goot student at Durmstrang, despite being famous Quidditch star. Malfoy is Death Eater scum, and I vill tich Veela chick how to beat Dark Arts.”
“Thank you,” Harry said with a smile.
Krum nodded. “You know a lot, Harry Potter, bot I am var nastier dan you are, and I vill show her some tings that vould nevah occur to you.”
“You mind if I tag along?”
“I vould not expect you to do anyting less.”
“Now,” Harry said with a smile. “Fancy going for a fly before dinner?”
Viktor beamed at him.
“Jean, Aimée, mind if I pop through?”
“Of course, Harry,” Aimée said.
She stepped back, and a second later Harry appeared through the fireplace.
“I’m here for a déjà-vu conversation,” he said.
“Oh?” Jean asked, folding his paper up.
“I would like your permission to marry Gabrielle.”
The paper fell out of Jean’s hand as he gaped at Harry.
Harry grinned at him.
“What has bought this on?” Aimée asked.
“The last few days,” Harry admitted. “But, I guess, it was two things in the end. The first was when she disobeyed me yesterday. It took courage for her to do what she did, and a firm belief in me. I know I caused her pain, and I still feel guilty about it today, but she couldn’t have chosen a better way to impress me.”
“And the second?” Aimée asked.
Harry took a deep breath. “After the Malfoy incident, I took Gabrielle to my apartment with the intention of, well, claiming Gabby permanently and ensuring that she would never go insane.”
Jean’s eyebrows seemed to disappear in to his hairline, and he started to look a little pale.
“We were in my bed, and I could feel Gabby’s desire,” he continued, focusing on Aimée.
“And?” she prompted.
“Gabrielle asked me not to make love to her.”
Jean exhaled suddenly.
“She did?” Aimée asked in surprise.
“And I think that was when I finally knew, without doubt. The easiest thing for her to do would have been to do what I wanted. But for the second time, she put me first, before even thinking of herself. She made that decision because she didn’t want me to regret it. She did what was right, not what was easy. I knew then that it was real, that I could trust her with my heart and my soul, and that she would never let me down, never stop caring for me.
“Then when I was playing the role in Olympe’s office, and pretending I didn’t care, I almost felt sick inside, but she was there for me, sending me little feelings of love while I was doing it. How could I not fall in love with her?”
Jean nodded and slowly started to smile. “You don’t need our permission,” he said. “The law says she is an adult over here.”
“I will not use a law I disagree with for my own benefit. British Muggle law states that a sixteen-year-old can get married with her parents’ permission, and that is the law I will follow.”
Aimée nodded. “I wouldn’t expect anything less from you.”
“When are you going to ask her?” Jean asked.
“After the tournament is over,” Harry said.
“Can I ask about the Bond?”
“I’ve accepted it,” Harry said. “And actually, I’m starting to really like it. For the first time I don’t have to worry about my partner when she’s out of my sight. The person I marry will always be a target, and Gabrielle showed that she could handle herself yesterday, and that if she does get in trouble, I’ll know about it instantly. The benefits far outweigh the negatives.” He paused and flushed slightly, before looking up at them. “When we, erm, experimented a little Saturday night, well, any doubts I had about compatibility went straight out the window.”
Aimée nodded, while Jean looked away.
“Anyway,” Harry continued, changing the subject. “I just wanted your permission and Aimée’s help.”
“Ring shopping,” he said, smiling hopefully.
“Good idea,” Jean nodded. “You do, of course, have our permission.” He paused and smiled at Harry. “Welcome to the family.”
“Thank you,” Harry replied, with a relieved look.
“Any luck?” Ron asked.
“A little,” Hermione said, stretching and looking up from the books she was reading. “I’ve found a few things that I might be able to combine that will allow them to stop the Bond, but not send Gabrielle mad.”
“You are a genius,” Ron said, with a smile.
“I know I am,” Hermione replied, with a matching smile. “Harry deserves to be as happy as we are, and I can help that.”
“Yep, I’m sure it will help him make his mind up on Gabrielle,” Ron said. “You’ve got thirty minutes before you’re stopping for the evening, though.”
“Thirty minutes?” Hermione protested. “I’m so close. I need more time.”
“Nope, in thirty minutes you are stopping, having a bath, and then joining me for dinner. No more work tonight.”
“Okay, Ron,” she sighed.
He smiled and walked out of her study. She smiled at his retreating back for a few seconds. He had found a way to stop her habit of over-studying, and was very strict about the time she could spend on any one problem. It had been the cause of many arguments when they had first been married, as she preferred to spend the night studying, regardless of Ron.
When she remembered how they were at Hogwarts, she was still surprised that they were together. Their antagonistic behaviour to each other had been childish, and they had both needed to grow up.
But now that they had, she was happier than she had ever expected to be.
“And welcome to the second of the three matches that will decide the finalists in this Three Nations Quidditch Cup. Once again, I’m your host for this afternoon’s match, Lee Jordan, and today is the first time that we will see the Hogwarts team.” The stands were heaving with spectators as the Hogwarts stalwarts showed up to support their school. Hogwarts school banners and individual House flags waved everywhere.
“The members of the Durmstrang team are hurting after losing the opening match to Beauxbatons, and they need to win today to keep their chances of reaching the final alive.
“The Hogwarts team is made up primarily of Slytherins, and are coached by Draco Malfoy –” this statement was met with cheers from the Slytherins in the audience and some grudging flag waving by members of the other Houses “– who we all know is having a duel with the Beauxbatons Seeker after the next match. In my opinion, this is yet another example of the backward society we live in, and just why Harry Potter went to France. When you have a professor too scared to take Veritaserum to prove his own innocence, well, then, you just know he’s guilty!”
“Lee Jordan!” yelled McGonagall.
“Sorry, Professor. I digress,” Lee said with as much sincerity as he had ever been able to muster back during his school days. “Back to the match. Durmstrang and Krum, the Seeker for Bulgaria, have made a lot of friends so far, with their open attitude. At their invitation, I, a few other members of the press, and Harry Potter, were invited to watch one of their Defence lessons, and let me tell you, rumours of Durmstrang and the Dark Arts are wide of the mark. What we were treated to was an informative and educational display of advanced duelling technique and how to counter the Dark Arts.” The short non-entity who was this year’s Defence teacher at Hogwarts attempted to glower threateningly at Lee but failed miserably. He settled for hunching down and becoming invisible among the mass of teachers, at which he achieved more success. “It was quite a pleasure to see four Durmstrang students duel Harry Potter to a standstill. I can’t help but think that if we had enjoyed lessons like that, Voldemort would never have stood a chance. Which is yet another sign of the political insanity that runs this country. But before Professor McGonagall yells at me again for going off on a political rant, we’re about ready to start.
“And before we do, I’ll make one last comment.” McGonagall, who had begun to relax, tensed up again, prepared to squelch the irrepressible announcer if necessary. “If the Hogwarts team plays like the Slytherins did in my day, I’ll be supporting Germany before the end of the match. I will not stand for being embarrassed by my Alma Mater.” Minerva groaned, but before she could express her half-hearted displeasure, Lee was off again, introducing the Durmstrang and Hogwarts teams with professional flair.
“And the players are on the pitch and in position. Madam Hooch gives the signal and we’re away!
“And for Merlin’s sake, Hogwarts, you’ve only been on the pitch for six seconds and you’ve fouled! Krabbe blatches Ernhand to interrupt a pass, but now Durmstrang has a free throw, and it’s ten nil to the Germans. Good goal that, shows confidence in their ability.
“Hogwarts attack and look to be keeping it clean at the moment. Tristan Antworthy passes to Rose Parkinson, who scores, and that’s more like it. That’s what I want to see, good play by the Hogwarts crew, but now they have to defend as Matthias Wechsler, and try saying that after a butterbeer or two, launches the Bludger directly at Sean Murphy, the Hogwarts Seeker.
“He evades it casually and shoots a glare back. Otto Melman has the Quaffle and is at the head of a Trident Attack, and he chooses just the right moment, to drop the Quaffle behind him; Fritz Reiter grabs it, and that’s twenty to ten to Durmstrang.
“It looks like we’re going to have a good match on our hands today, as Durmstrang appear to have put their shock defeat at the hands of Harry Potter’s Beauxbatons far behind them.
“As another attack breaks up with some good defensive work by Keeper Gunther Stradivis, whose brother, Reinhold, is playing Seeker again, and looks to be a lot more focussed this match, and let’s face it, without the gorgeous Miss Delacour out there, who wouldn’t?
“Eric Ernhand shoots and scores, taking the score to thirty-ten. Hogwarts is on the attack again, and they are still keeping the game nice and clean.”
The Hogwarts team was in possession of the Quaffle and indulged in a simple round of keep-away, allowing Lee to get in a bit of colour commentary. “A few days ago, I was in Hogwarts doing some research on some of the players, when I was treated to a rather spectacular show, as Harry Potter and Viktor Krum practised together, and let me tell you, it made me realise just why they are professionals and I’m not.
“Otto Melman breaks up another Hogwarts attack, and he’s taken the Quaffle! He’s flying down the length of the pitch and scores easily past Ian Jackson. Come on, Hogwarts, you can do better than this!” The crowd agreed, screaming their displeasure.
“Charles Shaw has the Quaffle, he passes to Michelle McKrinnon, she shoots, but Stradivis saves, and launches the Quaffle at Reiter.” While the Durmstrang team retrieved the Quaffle and began another run down the pitch, Lee continued his story. “Potter and Krum’s practise speed was faster than I’ve ever flown, and let me tell you how nice it was to watch two fierce competitors help each other out. I had the fortune to catch up with Krum later, and I asked just why he was helping Potter out. And another goal for Durmstrang! They’re starting to build up a sizeable lead already, and the Snitch is nowhere in sight.” Both Seekers were just above the level of play, as Stradivis performed a search pattern, while trying to coax the Hogwarts Beaters into launching a Bludger at him, as any Bludger hit toward him was one his chasers didn’t have to deal with. Murphy was trailing him closely, in a manner reminiscent of Malfoy trailing Harry Potter.
“Krum replied, in his own inimitable fashion, that it was the game that mattered, not personal rivalry, and if he could learn something from Potter, there was no reason not to return the favour. It’s that attitude that really sets Potter and Krum apart as the two best players in the league. Both of them love the sport as much as anything else in their lives, and it shows in their dedication and commitment, something these young players in front of us can learn from.”
The Quaffle slipped by Ian Jackson again. He signalled to Madam Hooch who replied with a sharp blast of her whistle. “And as Durmstrang score another ten points, Ian Jackson calls a time-out. If you ask me, these time-outs are a ridiculous invention from the Americans to let their press shove adverts down people’s throats, but sadly, no one asked me, and the International Quidditch Association has approved them.”
The Hogwarts team members were on the ground near their dugout, and Malfoy was on the pitch in the centre of the group. “Malfoy looks to be pretty upset with his team’s performance so far and is giving some strict instructions. And doing a bit of ridiculous yelling and arm waving while he’s at it. The Durmstrang players are not bothering to talk to their coach, and are flying around, keeping warm. They are a well oiled unit, full of Teutonic efficiency, and it shows in how well they play as a team.
“And while we wait; a word from the people who gave me enough money to read this stuff out.” He started to read from a piece of parchment before him. “Weasley Wizard Wheezes have today announced a new product, a controllable flying castle so that you can recreate the Beauxbatons arrival in the comfort of your own home. Complete with fireworks and purple column, this limited edition toy for all ages is available for only fifty Galleons each.”
“Lee Jordan, you will NOT advertise during a Quidditch match, especially after your hypocritical condemnation earlier.”
“Sorry, Professor, how about I cut you in on the deal?” He finished reading the text as quickly as he could, to get it in before he was interrupted again. “Castle Beauxbatons will be available from all WWW outlets as of tomorrow, so you better hurry, as we expect them to fly!
“And the game is on again, and again, Durmstrang scores. The Germans are looking in better and better form as this match continues. They shoot and score… no, wait, that was flacking! A blatant foul by Ian Jackson. Free shot to Durmstrang and Melman misses! And they say cheaters never prosper. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, flacking is when the Keeper reaches through the hoops to stop a goal. Personally, I think a player should be sent off for that sort of thing. Come on, Hogwarts, play the game properly!
“Hogwarts has the Quaffle, and is using the Hawkshead Attacking Formation; they throw the Quaffle and score!
“Durmstrang retaliate with Parkin’s Pincer, perfectly executed as well. Good attack by the Germans. Hogwarts retaliate, but Reinhold Stradivis breaks up the play, and the Germans launch yet another successful offence. They are really racking up the scoring here, and if they keep going, the Snitch is going to be irrelevant.
“Melman intercepts another Hogwarts attack and starts to shoot, but Victor Krabbe takes a moment out of his beating duties to help out, no wait, that was skinning!
“Hooch has spotted it, and has given the Durmstrang players another free-throw, which Murphy saves. I’m really not liking the tactics I’m seeing here. Hogwarts is racking up the foul count; of course, they are long short of the infamous 1473 World Cup Match where all seven hundred possible fouls were committed, and fifteen that were not banned until after the match. It’s thanks to them that we now have official rules banning the raising of the dead during a Quidditch Match, and as I reminisce, Durmstrang has scored another three times in quick succession, and I make that to be one hundred to twenty to the Germans.
“Draco Malfoy is turning a rather unflattering shade of red as he yells at his team. Rose Parkinson and Victor Krabbe combine and launch a nasty Dopplebeater Defence at Stephan Adler, who only evades by performing a Sloth Grip Roll, nice evasive work and nice attacking work by Hogwarts.
“But it doesn’t stop Durmstrang from scoring again, and yet again. Hogwarts look powerless to stop the team that seem to have been trained properly. I can see Marcus Flint talking to Malfoy down in the dugout, and they send a signal up to their Seeker, who passes the message around.
“And Hogwarts responds immediately, but not in the way I had hoped for. They commit another foul, skinning this time, and they follow it up by the most blatant attempt at stooging I’ve ever seen.
“Come on, Madam Hooch, get a hold of these players! We don’t want any injuries. Hogwarts scores and the Durmstrang players are looking a little shaken at the sudden aggressiveness of the Hogwarts Players.
“McKrinnon is saying something to the referee and FOUL! That was a blatant punch! But Hooch didn’t see it; I can see Krum going mad in the Durmstrang dugout. Come on Rolanda, you can’t fall for the tricks from the Slytherins!” The Beauxbatons and Durmstrang contingent in the audience were stampeding their feet and screaming in protest now, as well as, surprisingly, a large number of Hogwarts students and alumni who seemed to agree that good sportsmanship trumped school loyalty. Lee had to raise the level of his Sonorus spell to be heard over the uproar.
“Hogwarts scores again! If Murphy catches the Snitch now, they’ll win the game.
“Stradivis calls for a timeout, and this time it’s the Hogwarts crew that fly around, ignoring the boos from the crowd. Oi, Jackson, there’s no call for making vile gestures at the announcer!” Lee shouted, leaning forward over the edge of the back. He then settled back, seething. “That just shows the sort of influence that Malfoy has had on this team. That would never have happened in the old days.” He brightened as an idea came to him. “Hey, Professor McGonagall, since Malfoy is challenging Delacour to a duel, can I teach this little shit a lesson?”
“Whoops, sorry about that folks, I solemnly swear that’s the last expletive that shall pass these lips today. And I’m sad to say that my lovely colleague has banned me from teaching Jackson just why I was on the battlefield on that last day, fighting for my life with the other Defence Association members against the family members of some of his team mates, while he was cowering under his bed, sucking his thumb.
“But the game is on again, and no change of tactics from either team, Hogwarts is still cheating, so, as I said at the start of the programme, ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’.” Whistles and cheers, mixed with some laughter, rose from the Durmstrang crowd.
“Come on, Durmstrang, keep it up, you’ve done fantastically well so far, Krabbe and Parkinson are walking close to the line, almost fouling Adler. And… Murphy kicks off Reinhold Stradivis’ broom! That’s a clear foul! What’s he… he’s chasing the Snitch! It just showed up at the other end of the pitch!” The entire audience was on their feet, shouting and screaming as Lee screamed to be heard over the barrage of noise.
“Stradivis is closing in fast. He seems the better flyer. Parkinson hits the Bludger, and it’s a good shot! Stradivis takes evasive action. Murphy grabs the Snitch, and the game is over! Hogwarts win!” Lee pounded on the railing of the box and then fell back into his seat as the players landed so that Murphy could display the Snitch to Madam Hooch and verify the win. “This is the first time I’ve ever said that with such a foul taste in my mouth. Hogwarts win, and Malfoy is grinning like a loon, congratulating his players. Well, here’s a thought for you, especially you cheering Hogwarts students. Your flying professor has just sabotaged the career of every Hogwarts player on the pitch before they even get a chance. No respectable team manager is going to sign players that show such disrespect for the rules and spirit of the game, and the Wigtown Wanderers don’t have that many vacancies!” Lee wasn’t sure how many people were actually listening to him at this point, but he had to say something.
“Well, with Durmstrang having lost both matches now, the last of the heats is now irrelevant, and I wish we could go straight to the final between Beauxbatons and Hogwarts, where the winner will take home the pride and the legendary Cup of Throbus. Of course, after the pointless match, I’ll be back for the challenge match – some say that it’s a grudge match – between the staff of Hogwarts and Beauxbatons, although it’s a pity that Harry Potter won’t be playing, due to his shoulder injury.
“I look forward to talking at you again soon. From the Quidditch Stands, I’ve been Lee Jordan, and this is one embarrassed ex-Hogwarts student saying goodnight!”
“Okay, Gabby, I want you to take my magic and shoot a stunner at the wall.”
Gabrielle nodded and took a deep breath. She reached out for his magic, to find that he was already pushing it at her. She exhaled once and then shouted “Stupefy!” as she slashed her wand down.
A vibrant red beam shot out of her wand and totally demolished the target wall that had been erected inside Beauxbatons’ Duelling Hall, which was possibly the only room outside of Hogwarts which could stand up to the levels of magic being bandied around.
“Dhat vas your magic?” Viktor Krum asked, looking at Harry in awe.
“Almost,” he said with a shake of his head. “Do it again, Gabby, and this time, don’t hold back.” He waved his hand and the wall rebuilt itself.
Gabrielle nodded firmly and shouted, “Stupefy!” again. This time the beam was so bright it was difficult to look at it. Instead of demolishing the wall, it disintegrated it.
“Better,” Harry nodded.
“Better?” Krum croaked. “Vhy are ve teaching Veela chick to duel? Van spell from her like dhat, ve all go down to pub ant celebrate.”
Gabrielle looked at Harry.
“This is a little more political than that, Viktor.”
“I hate politics,” the Bulgarian grumbled.
“Me, too,” Harry said with a deep sigh. “Unfortunately, there are reasons it can’t be avoided. First, at the moment Malfoy is ruining the chances of the kids here to become professional Quidditch players. With the changes I’ve already started to make in France, and what you are doing in Germany, England is going to be left behind, and that’s a bad thing.” Harry ticked off the points on his fingers.
“Secondly, he’s Death Eater scum, and we need the world to see it, so that next time he does something, I can kill him and we can all breathe easier. He’s been keeping his nose way too clean for my liking.” Harry hadn’t forgotten that a high number of Durmstrang students had allied with the Light before the final battle, and an even higher number who had refused to join the Dark. Krum had told him in the past that, despite his close friendship with Karkaroff, he had always felt that Death Eaters could not be tolerated.
“Third, if it’s obvious that Gabby is using my power, the idiots in charge are likely to claim she’s cheating and declare a win in favour of Malfoy, which would totally vindicate him and make her out to be a sexual predator using Veela powers to seduce an innocent wizard.” Gabrielle snorted in a most unladylike manner at the notion that Malfoy could ever be considered ‘innocent’. “This would backfire on the Veela and possibly the whole non-human community.
“Fourth, on a purely personal level, we don’t want people to know that Gabby is mine yet. We want to wait until after the tournament when we can announce it at our convenience, since it isn’t anybody’s business but ours.
“So, I’m going to be teaching her to disguise her magic while you check her duelling skills, and show her how Death Eaters fight. I intend for Gabby to look like she’s fighting normally, but my magic will back her up secretly.”
“Sneaky,” Krum said with a large smile. “I knew dere vas a reason I like you. Come, Gabrielle. To vork.”
She smiled as she followed him. She was feeling a lot more secure these days, and her own magic was coursing through her veins like a fine wine. She had her Mate, and while they hadn’t actually consummated things yet, she knew they would, and she could not be happier. She had managed to win despite doing everything wrong, and she would be eternally grateful to her Mate for that.
Krum turned out to be a good teacher, one quite willing to be cursed to prove a point. She learnt more than she had even thought existed about underhand tactics that people who didn’t care about the rules could use. The use of weapons, like daggers, while frowned upon, was perfectly legal, and she had to learn how to defend against them as well.
Without warning, Krum pulled a dagger from behind his back and threw it toward Gabrielle. She stumbled backward and raised her hands defensively, and was more than a little surprised when a shimmering shield appeared in front of her.
“Gabby,” Harry called.
She let the glimmering shield dissipate and looked at him, smiling.
“You’re holding back. You’re not getting into the magic properly. You’re treating it like a coat and wearing it. Take what I’m giving to you. Take it inside you, and feel it, feel the magic.”
She nodded, closed her eyes, and welcomed his gift into her, drinking it in.
She opened her eyes and stumbled for a second. “This is how you feel normally?” she asked breathlessly.
She felt him peek through the Bond. “Yep.”
“How does it veel?” Krum asked, looking curious and the faintest bit envious.
“Like I’ve been seeing in black and white all my life and now I am seeing colour for the first time,” she gasped. “Like I have been the lowliest squib, and now I’m magical. I feel like I can do anything.” She reached out and created a chair, not with a spell, but by focusing the magic.
“Viktor, throw the knife at her,” Harry said.
The Bulgarian nodded and did exactly that.
This time she saw it coming as if it was in slow motion. She saw the light bounce of the blade and seemed to hear the sound as it cut through the air. She swayed to one side casually, her right hand coming up and catching it by the hilt. Without conscious thought, she threw it back, faster, aiming to just miss him.
Krum gulped as the knife embedded itself in the wall next to his ear.
She turned and walked over to where Harry was standing, leaning against a wall. Sinking to her knees, she looked up at him. “How do you do it?” she asked.
He looked down at her curiously.
“How do you keep from abusing this power? I can feel Hogwarts. I can feel Beauxbatons. They are singing to me. The magic is singing to me, and everything is so easy. How are you not corrupted by this? How have you not taken over the world?”
He reached down and pulled her up into a hug, and his magic was gone from her, leaving her shivering in his arms.
“I don’t want the world, Gabby,” he whispered. “I just want you.”
She melted against him and hugged him hard. “Thank you for trusting me,” she whispered. “I was tempted to take it and run.”
“But you didn’t,” he said simply. “And I knew you wouldn’t.”
“Mushy stuff makes me sick,” Krum interrupted them as he rolled his eyes playfully. “Come. Fight now, make goo-goo eyes later.”
Harry laughed and turned her around. “Go, your teacher awaits.”
She turned her head and shot a grin at him before walking back over to her coach. “Sorry,” she apologised. “I’ve never felt anything like that, it was like being cocooned in pure magic and knowing it would respond to my every whim.”
Krum nodded. “Take magic again; magic vithout control is useless. Harry, come help.”
“What do you want me to do?” Harry asked, moving over to them.
“Dodge, as your Mate fires spells at you.”
“I could hurt him,” Gabrielle protested, as she pulled Harry’s magic back.
“Then you will learn control quickly,” Krum said firmly. “Start with Stunner.”
“Stupefy,” she said, pointing her wand at Harry.
He tried to twist out the way, but didn’t make it. Even though it was less powerful than the spells she had used earlier, the force of her spell threw him toward the wall.
“Harry!” she yelled, working automatically. He seemed to bounce off the now-soft wall and fall to the ground. Without thinking about it, she was there, catching him before he could land, easing him to the floor and cradling his head gently in her lap.
“Ennervate,” she chanted, pointing at him.
He took a deep breath and opened his eyes.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered, tears pouring down her cheeks.
“Hey,” he said back with a grin. “None of that,” his tone made it clear that he was giving an order, and her tears stopped instantly. “You did the right thing, but you still over-powered it. That’s what we’re working on. I’ll bet you won’t do it again, right?”
She nodded solemnly.
“Good,” Krum said. “Leave slow-boy vhere he is andt ve’ll try again.”
“Slow-boy?” Harry asked. “I’ll remember that the next time we’re on the pitch.”
Gabrielle giggled as she bent and kissed Harry quickly, before returning to her position.
“Do try to dodge dis time,” Krum added to Harry, before giving her the nod to throw a curse at her Mate again.
Harry growled as he looked up from the coach’s dugout, watching his players silhouetted against the sky.
This match was pointless, and he’d tried to get it removed from the schedule, but Hogwarts had refused, and he could see why. The Hogwarts players were bullying the Beauxbatons players, intimidating them – and it was working.
He was going to have to put some serious work in to toughen his players up before the final. Gabrielle was the only person who didn’t seem intimidated; she just seemed furious that they were being treated like this, and he’d had to deny her use of his power twice as she’d reacted to some of the blatant cheating that had been occurring so far. He didn’t doubt that they’d be finding pieces of the Hogwarts players in the stands if he let her have his way. Claude and Anton were doing their best to protect the others, but were being overwhelmed by the sheer vindictiveness and underhandedness of Krabbe and Parkinson.
He smiled slightly as he saw Murphy try to foul Gabrielle, only for the girl to corkscrew under him, causing him to lose his balance. Righting himself, the Hogwarts Seeker glared as Lee mocked him.
Like a flash of golden sunlight, Gabrielle took off, leaving the distracted Hogwarts Seeker for dust. A few seconds later, the Snitch was in her hands, and this embarrassing travesty of a match was over. Hogwarts had won, 310 to 190.
As much as he liked Rolanda Hooch as a person, he was going to try and get her replaced for the final. Some of the fouls being committed were extremely professional – ample evidence of the sort of things that Marcus Flint had been teaching them – and while she had been calling them during the Durmstrang game, she had missed a lot more in his match.
He followed his team into their dressing room. He didn’t need to access his Bond to Gabby to realise how down they all were at having lost. It was more than obvious in the set of their shoulders and in the way they just dropped to the benches.
“It feels like someone has just killed your pet, doesn’t it?”
Slowly, they all looked at him as he crouched down in front of them. “It feels like nothing else on earth, the feeling that you went out there for a match and that you lost. That you put all that effort into it and got nothing back. And the fact that you were cheated out of it makes it even worse, doesn’t it?”
They started to nod.
“The worst time for me was when I was injured for the Cannons during a Cup-run, and when I regained consciousness we were out. That was it. No rematch, nothing. I felt horrible, I sulked for days, was miserable to be around, but you know what?”
“What?” Claude asked.
“I still remember that day today, and every time I’m on a Quidditch pitch, I am determined to never feel like that again. I am determined to never feel so helpless.”
“But what can we do?” Henri asked. “If it was a straight match and we had lost, then we would have been beaten by better players, and it wouldn’t hurt as much. The Durmstrang players were better than they were. They at least played honourably, but they were still beaten.”
“I know,” Harry sighed. “I’m going to try and get a World Cup referee for the final, but we are going to need to work on dealing with the tactics they’re using. Some of them, while unpleasant, were within the rules of the game.”
“But it’s supposed to be fun,” Frederick said angrily. “That was not fun up there – that was attempted manslaughter on a broom.”
“Have you ever seen the Wanderers play?” Harry asked with a wry smile. “It can be like that. It’s supposed to be fun, but it is also a very serious game. Now, what do you think the purpose of their play was today?”
“To win,” Anton said.
“To intimidate us,” she said slowly, as if the idea had just come to her. “So that in the final, we’ll be too scared to play, and they can win without playing as dirtily as they just did.”
“History records the victor,” Harry explained. “If they can win the final cleanly, everyone will forget that they cheated against a better team to get there.
“So the question is, what are we going to do about it? Are we going to let them intimidate us? Are we going to capitulate and give up?” He stood up and walked between the benches. The players’ eyes followed him attentively. It was a vast improvement over their staring at the floor.
“Or are we going to fight? Are you going to work with me and develop tactics to beat Hogwarts? Are we going to make your school and country proud?”
“Do you think we can do it?” Claude asked, looking Harry directly in the eyes.
“Yes,” Harry said simply. “I truly believe you can.”
“Then, damn it, we will fight!” Anton said.
“Damn right,” Henri agreed. “I want revenge on that Parkinson bitch.”
Harry sniggered, “You have no idea how many times I’ve thought that about her sister.”
There was a knock on the door, and with a nod from Harry, the door opened, and seven students trooped in.
“Gabrielle?” Gunther Stradivis started, before launching into a long spiel in German. Gabrielle responded in kind, and they had a conversation, peppered with input from the other Durmstrang players.
Gabrielle turned slowly and started to smile. “The Durmstrang players are here to help,” she said. “They want to help get some revenge on the cheating Hogwarts players, and they can’t think of a better way to do that.”
“What do you think?” Harry asked the Beauxbatons players.
“If they can teach us some of the things they were doing, that would be incredible,” Anton replied.
Gabrielle turned back and started to speak to the players.
Harry concentrated on Gabrielle, moving through the Bond, until he found what he was looking for. He shuddered imperceptibly as he copied parts of it into his own brain. It was very similar to the way Hermione had taught him French, but it was a lot faster with the Bond.
As Gabrielle finished, he moved forward. “We’re going to have a practice tomorrow morning at nine,” he said a little hesitantly, using the German he had just learnt. “So if you want to join us then, you’ll be more than welcome.”
“We will,” Gunther replied in German, before nudging his brother.
Reinhold stepped forward, and looking like a reluctant schoolboy, asked, “And would you teach me the Potter Turn?”
Harry laughed. “Of course. We’ll see you guys tomorrow?”
“We will,” Gunther replied. “Good luck against the Hogwarts professors tomorrow.”
Harry smirked at him, “Believe me, luck won’t have anything to do with it.”
“Really?” Otto asked. “They do have some good players.”
Harry’s smirk seemed to grow. “Just wait and see.”
The Durmstrang students nodded and filed out.
“They’re going to help at tomorrow’s practise session,” Harry said in French.
“I didn’t know you spoke German,” Claude said.
“In fact,” Henri added, “if I didn’t know better, I’d say you managed to learn German in between sentences – your eyes seemed to change, before they became really alert.”
Harry nodded. “I didn’t. Hermione taught me French by using some spells to download the lexicon into my brain, and then worked on my patois, pronunciation and word choice. This time I cheated. I copied all of Gabrielle’s knowledge of German into my own brain.”
“It felt very strange,” Gabrielle said. “Like everything I had ever learnt flashed before my eyes in a second.”
“You do know that’s impossible, right?” Henri asked.
“Can anything be impossible if it has just been done?” Harry asked back with a small grin.
“I’ll qualify it,” Henri sighed. “Impossible for normal people. But the important question is, will Gabrielle be ready for this stupid duel?”
“Yes,” Gabrielle said cheerfully. “I’ve even had some instruction on how to fight from Vik, and more importantly, how to read a Death Eater so I can get out of the way of his spells.”
“Vik?” Nicholas asked.
“Viktor Krum,” Harry said. “He offered to help – he knows that Gabrielle and I are Mated as well.”
“This is not a very good secret,” Henri pointed out.
“I know,” Harry agreed. “It only has to be until the end of this competition, and then we’ll announce it and face the press.”
Gabrielle snuggled into the shape at her side and woke up with a protesting groan when she realised she was cuddling a pillow. Sure, the pillow might smell of Harry, but it had none of the other attributes that she enjoyed.
She yawned and sat up. The sound of the shower told her where her Mate was, so she rearranged the pillows and checked the time. The electrical clock on the bedside table told her that it was still early, so she clambered out of bed and pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt over the tap pants and camisole she had worn to bed.
She thrust her feet into her trainers and pulled her hair back into a ponytail. She looked around for some parchment and a quill, but there was nothing in Harry’s apartment that even suggested that he was a Wizard. She did find some note paper and a biro and scrawled out a quick note for him.
Gone to get some breakfast
She walked out onto his balcony and took a deep breath before she concentrated hard on her home, gathered as much power as she could from Harry, and Apparated away.
It was the first time she had ever Apparated by herself, but she knew the theory behind it, and had been Apparated by Harry enough times to understand the mechanics.
The first half of the journey was fine, but the second half seemed to be like traversing through warm treacle.
She appeared in her father’s office to the sound of alarms going off. Jean and Bill ran into the room, their wands out, almost immediately. Her father was wearing a dressing gown obviously thrown on in haste, and Bill was still in his nightclothes, with a bad case of bed hair.
“Whoops,” she said with a smile, holding up her hands. “Sorry.”
With a wave of his wand, Jean cancelled the spell. He took a deep breath to calm himself and asked, “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to get some breakfast for Harry and me from Anton,” she explained. “So I borrowed some of his Magic and Apparated here; I didn’t know I had to do something to disable the wards.”
“These are new wards,” Jean said, perching on the edge of his desk. “They’re supposed to set off the alarms if someone makes it through.”
“Then they work perfectly,” Gabrielle said cheerfully.
“They do, indeed,” Jean agreed.
“Not a pleasant way to wake up though,” Fleur said as she walked into the office, yawning. She wandered over to Bill and snuggled into his arms while looking at her little sister. “You’re looking cute.”
Gabrielle looked down at herself and shrugged. “I just threw on what was lying around. So, if you don’t mind, I’m going to get our breakfast and Apparate back – it would be nice to have it ready before Harry gets out of the shower.”
“If you’d taken lessons when you were younger, you could have made breakfast yourself,” Aimée said, as she joined them. She had obviously taken the time to get dressed for the day. “And should we expect a notification about underage magic?”
“Not from England,” Gabrielle sniffed disdainfully. “We ‘near-human creatures’ are considered adults there. It’s possibly the only advantage to that stupid law of theirs.”
“True,” Jean nodded. “Go, get breakfast, and remember Harry will want something pretty filling as he’ll be playing later.”
“I can’t wait,” Gabrielle replied excitedly. “It will be the first time I’ll be up close and personal as he flies, and I’ll know what he’s thinking and feeling!”
Jean laughed. “Go, you wicked child. I’m going back to bed.”
Aimée shook her head, “No, we’re going to have a nice breakfast, the four of us.”
“Yes, dear,” Jean replied obediently.
Gabrielle smiled and walked down to the kitchens.
“Little Gabrielle!” Anton greeted her. “What are you doing here?”
“I need a breakfast for a hungry Veela and a Quidditch star,” she grinned.
“Sit,” Anton said, “and watch a Master at work.” He started to wave his wand and ingredients flew out of cupboards and containers to arrange themselves on the counter. “So, now that you’re spending the night with the Chevalier, are you ready to start learning to cook?”
Gabrielle frowned lightly. “It might be a good idea,” she admitted. “One of us should be able to cook. Popping out for breakfast is not always going to be possible, and it would be nice to have romantic meals without going out.”
“Why not bring Harry along?” Anton offered, “I’ll teach him as well.” As he talked he moved his wand in gentle patterns, causing eggs to crack themselves, chives to become perfectly chopped, and toast to brown perfectly.
“Would you?” Gabrielle asked excitedly. “That would be wonderful.”
“Of course,” Anton smiled. “So, you are happy?”
“Happier than I’ve ever been,” she agreed. “Harry treats me like a princess, and I’m learning so much. I Apparated on my own for the first time today.”
“Congratulations. Are you going to learn how to avoid setting off the wards next?”
Gabrielle poked her tongue out at the chef.
He grinned, and with a few more waves of his wand, the food slid into two warming boxes, tied with silver ribbons. “One French breakfast, and one English breakfast, cooked by a Master – it will fill him up, but not be as heavy as he is used to.”
“Thanks, Anton,” Gabrielle said and grabbed the boxes. “Can I steal your paper?”
“Of course,” Anton agreed. “I’ve read it already.”
“I’ll see you soon.” She concentrated on Harry’s balcony and Apparated back. She found moving through the treacle a little easier on the way back, and appeared where she wanted to.
“Breakfast’s ready,” she announced as she cast a warming charm on the balcony and sat at the small table.
Harry walked out barefoot, wearing only a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. His hair was still damp. “I’m impressed, taking an international trip for your first solo Apparation. Enjoy it?”
She nodded. “I couldn’t have done it with my own magic, but yours makes everything so much easier. Anton has offered to teach us both how to cook.”
“You know, that could be fun,” Harry said. “Being able to cook a surprise meal for Ron and Hermione would be worth the effort.”
Gabrielle opened the paper and passed him the business section.
“The Ministry Mouthpiece?”
“Anton reads it, he’s such a gossip,” she grinned. “And its sport section isn’t bad.”
Harry snorted, but folded the paper over on the stocks and shares page and started to read.
Gabrielle took a bite of the croissant and started to look at the sport pages.
“Listen to this,” she said with a laugh. “‘Draco Malfoy, heir to the Malfoy Dynasty and an unfortunate victim of the Imperius Curse during the war, and in the top ten bachelors list, is excited about the Hogwarts match today.’”
Harry snorted eloquently.
“‘It’s not often that I get a chance to show that I could have been professional,’” Gabrielle quoted. “‘His deep grey eyes had this reporter tingling, “It’s just a pity that Potter can’t play, as I would love to be able to have a rematch with him. We were very close rivals at school together, and I always played my best against him. After the war, I had a chance to go professional as well, but felt that it would be better teaching others how to play the game properly.”’”
Harry shook his head disgustedly.
“‘When asked about his duel with the Beauxbatons Veela, Gabrielle Delacour, the charming professor replied, “It’s a pity it’s come to this, and I’ve been tainted with some scandalous accusations, but everyone will see that I am innocent on Sunday.”’”
“That’s why I don’t read that paper,” he grumbled.
“At least the Prophet’s credibility is fading all the time and the Quibbler will overtake it soon.”
“I can hope,” Harry agreed. “This is a really good breakfast; I wonder if your parents would mind if I poached him,” he finished with a grin.
“They would disown me and declare war on you,” Gabrielle predicted with complete confidence.
“True,” Harry smiled. “And thanks.”
“This,” Harry said, indicating breakfast and the warming charm. “It’s the first time I’ve used this balcony.”
“But not the last,” Gabrielle purred. “Just wait until you see the skirt Mama got me; it will fit your fantasy perfectly.”
Harry gulped and looked at her, his eyes wide.
”What? You thought I wouldn’t remember?” she leaned forward until her lips were brushing against his earlobe. “I’m looking forward to seeing how it ends.”
“Welcome, one and all, to this very special challenge match, where the Professors of Hogwarts take on the Professors of Beauxbatons,” Lee Jordan said.
“Hogwarts’ team has some notable members, not least Albus Dumbledore himself in position of Keeper. It took a team of historians a long time to track it down, but we did find that in his youth, Albus was a fine Keeper, and played for one of Gryffindor’s most successful teams.
“One of the surprises for this team is Rubeus Hagrid, Hogwarts’ Groundskeeper playing at Beater. There hasn’t been a giant in the professional leagues since Ulath the Great back in 1847. Whether or not Hagrid can play as well as Ulath, remains to be seen.
“The rest of the line-up is filled out by Professor Viviana Vector as the other Beater. For Chasers we have Assistant Professor Marcus Flint, from the Wigtown Wanderers, and Professors Siderea Sinistra and Severus Snape. The Hogwarts faculty team captain is Flying Instructor Draco Malfoy, who tomorrow will be duelling to try and prove his innocence. Today, however, he will be Seeking for Hogwarts. I know that this team has practised hard, and with the exception of Hagrid, every one of them performed well on their House teams in their day.
“The Beauxbatons team sheet has yet to be passed to me, but judging by the smirks that have been seen on the faces of the Beauxbatons students today, it is something special. And, as if by magic, the team sheet appears before me. Thank you, Harry.”
Harry waved back from his spot by the changing rooms and waited cheerfully for the explosion.
“Sweet Merlin on a bike,” Lee said in an awed whisper. “If my bookmaker is listening, everything I own on Beauxbatons! I don’t care what the odds are!” He ran his eyes down the list again, to make sure he had read it correctly. “It’s times like this that it’s no surprise that we beat Voldemort; he never had a chance, really. I hate to think about how long ago Potter was organising this, but I have in front of me magically binding contracts, predating this tournament, for every member of the Beauxbatons team. This is legal, before the Hogwarts people try and complain.”
Harry could hear the crowd go silent and almost hold its breath as Lee got ready to introduce the players.
“First, Keeper for Beauxbatons, from the Chudley Cannons, Flight Instructor Oliver Wood!”
Oliver flew past Harry, smacking him on the shoulder as he flew out, cannon-rolled in front of the cheering crowd and gave them all a cheerful salute.
“I didn’t think I’d ever get to say this again,” Lee continued, the excitement audible in his voice. “It is my pleasure to introduce the Beaters for Beauxbatons, my two personal friends, and the best Beater team Gryffindor ever produced, Associate Professors Fred and George Weasley!”
The cheers seemed to get louder as Fred and George flew past Harry and bowed to the crowds.
“For Chasers,” Lee continued, “I have the rare privilege of introducing the team that I, and many others, think should be the three people who play Chaser for England. Assistant Professors Alicia Spinnet and Angelina Johnson from the Falmouth Falcons and Katie Bell from the Holyhead Harpies!”
The three witches shot past Harry and performed an intricate movement where they all seemed to be corkscrewing around each other, as they too, bowed to the crowd.
“And finally,” Lee’s voice lowered to an awed hush, “having been cleared by both Madam Hooch and the Chudley Cannons physician, the Seeker and Captain for Beauxbatons, HARRY JAMES POTTER!”
Harry enjoyed the look of shock tinged with fear that appeared on Malfoy’s face. He grabbed his broom and jumped into the air, smoothly sliding the wood between his legs and rocketing up vertically. He levelled off in front of the crowd and jumped to his feet, balancing on the broom, with a quick movement, he placed one foot under the broom, and flipped it while he jumped in the air – the broom reversed, but continued to fly in the same direction. Before it could slow down too far, he flipped the broom around again and landed, still standing. He bowed and waved to the crowd, grinning at them widely.
“And Potter pulls off Krum’s famous Reverse-Broom-Sweep, first seen eight years ago during the Quidditch World Cup – and I suspect that we will see Krum doing a Potter Turn during the next European Cup Match.”
Harry couldn’t help the smile that was on his face; he’d missed the thrill of competitive Quidditch more than anything else during his layoff. And the fact that he was back playing with the others made it all that sweeter.
Oliver was yelling at Fred and George, telling them to get ready as Harry remounted his broom properly and flew up to where Malfoy was circling.
“Ready, Ferret? First I’m going to give you a lesson in flying, and tomorrow, Gabrielle is going to prove you’re guilty in public, according to your own stupid laws. You’d have been better off just confessing, you know. Empathy isn’t allowed in court and you might even have won. All you did was ask her out and then touch her shoulder – it was immoral and stupid, but not exactly illegal. But hey, you can always thank Snape personally.”
“I know you like that bitch, Potter, and we’ll prove it and ruin your reputation and money,” Malfoy hissed.
“Good for you,” Harry smirked, knowing that it would irritate Malfoy. “Though it’s hard to ruin money. You should know, it’s the only thing that’s kept your reputation as clean as it is. Now, are you ready to live up to your boasts that you ‘could have been professional’?”
“I could have been,” Malfoy protested.
“For a third-rate fourth league team like the Colchester Cranberries, possibly. But look, the game has started; I’ll be back in a second.”
Harry shoved his broom down vertically and kicked it into high gear. His broom, one of only three custom-made brooms of its design, attained top speed in five seconds, the charms ensuring that he wasn’t thrown off. He did a high speed loop near Dumbledore, before flying between Sinistra and Flint, catching the Quaffle. He threw it to Katie and returned to Malfoy who had barely moved.
“Seeking isn’t just sitting around looking for the Snitch,” he said in his best professor voice. “You have to be the seventh member of the team as well.” He grinned as Katie faked an attempt at scoring, but at the last second passed to Angelina who scored easily past Dumbledore since the Headmaster had been drawn out of position. “Why don’t you give it a try?”
“I’ll show you, Potter,” Malfoy sneered and flew down toward the Gryffindor players.
Harry laughed under his breath; age certainly hadn’t made Malfoy grow up. He almost winced as Katie, Angelina, and Alicia exchanged a look. This wasn’t going to be pretty.
Katie swung her broom to the left, passing the Quaffle to Angelina, who faked a pass to Alicia, before looking back at Katie, telegraphing the pass back to her.
Malfoy accelerated, concentrating on the Quaffle.
Angelina threw the Quaffle to Katie, and with a yell of triumph, Malfoy intercepted it and flew directly into Snape. The two professors collided with an audible thump and spun down to the ground. The Quaffle flew wild and Flint scooped it up.
Harry could feel Gabrielle laughing and smiled to himself. Those Chasers didn’t need any protection from anyone. Playing in the big leagues was a mile away from the pedestrian Quidditch they had played at school. The speed was a lot faster, and everything was a lot rougher. He’d had to toughen up fast his first season, as things that would have been called a foul at Hogwarts were considered normal play professionally.
But he wouldn’t change it for the world. There was something brilliant about giving everything against another opponent, and both of you having a drink afterward.
While Malfoy and Snape picked themselves up, he paid closer attention to Fred and George. They were the two he was a little concerned about, as they were not professional players. Hogwarts had the Bludger and Vector batted it to Hagrid who smacked it as hard as he could toward Fred and George. Harry blinked; he’d never actually seen a Bludger hit quite that hard.
Fred and George both took evasive action, flying back to catch the Bludger. To their right, Flint was on a one-on-one with Wood, since Snape was recovering from his collision, and Sinistra had been caught out of position.. Flint tried to pull off a Triple-Fake-And-Throw, but Oliver read it correctly and stopped the Quaffle with ease.
“Ready for your next lesson?” Harry asked Malfoy as he pulled back up.
Malfoy sneered back at him.
“This one is called, ‘how to lose a tail’. All you have to do is keep up with me. Think you can handle that, or shall I catch the Snitch now and end this charade?”
“I can handle it!” snapped Malfoy, reacting like a clockwork toy to Harry’s winding.
“Good for you,” Harry smirked. He lazily swung his broom until it was facing down. “Ready?”
“Catch me if you can,” he said and stuck his broom into reverse.
Malfoy accelerated toward the ground, leaving Harry smirking. He could hear Lee’s almost hysterical laughter as he described the manoeuvre, and as he met Malfoy’s eyes, he accelerated away from the Slytherin.
He was careful to be a little slower than Malfoy’s broom; it would hardly be any fun to lose him immediately. He looked at Fred and George, and indicated where he wanted them to hit the Bludger. They nodded, and stopped playing their game of tennis with the opposing Beaters.
Harry circled and flew straight toward the twins, who hit the Bludger directly at him. He looked over his shoulder to make sure that Malfoy was directly behind him. He slowly raised his feet and crossed his toes over the end of the broom, flying on a collision course toward the Bludger. As it got near, he bent further over and pushed with his arms and feet, raising himself over his broom, creating a gap for the Bludger to move through.
The Bludger flew between him and the broom, smacking straight into the face of Malfoy. There was a familiar-sounding crunch – very similar to when he had run into a tree – and the blond started losing altitude, clutching his nose. No timeout was called, since Malfoy, as Captain, would have to have done it himself, and he was just a little distracted.
With a tight grin, Harry flew over to the commentary box. “What’s the score?”
“140 to nil,” Lee replied, his voice still amplified. “And I hope that the England selectors are watching. Fred and George might not be as good as some of the other Beaters in the League, but the teamwork these guys are showing should be on show for England. These seven players are the best to ever play for Hogwarts, and they are rampaging over what, on paper, is a more than credible side. I’ve watched the Hogwarts professors practice hard since this match was announced, and they were easily at the level of the other teams here then, which makes this display of Quidditch from the Beauxbatons-adopted Professors all that more impressive. Give them all some training and we WILL win the next World Cup, with a team that’s as English as it gets, even if the current corruption in the Ministry and Hogwarts has them playing for France.”
Harry smiled and surveyed the pitch. With a couple of quick hand gestures he passed the next movement to Oliver, who started to shout. He dove to the ground at full speed, pulling up at the last second, his feet grazing the ground, before he shot into the air at full speed. Fred and George hit the Bludger toward Snape, and Harry rocketed past the Potions Professor, distracting him so that he didn’t notice the Bludger until it was too late.
With Snape spiralling down, he nodded his thanks to Fred and George. Snape and Draco had both been hit now, and he decided to catch the Snitch as soon as possible. As fun as the game had been, it was now heading toward the embarrassing, and he didn’t want to embarrass Hagrid, Vector, or Sinistra; they were innocent in this private game of attrition between him and Hogwarts.
He’d been a little shocked at Albus volunteering to play Keeper. The old man must have known that he would be outclassed in a young man’s game, unless he felt that his magic would help him. To his credit, Albus had been playing well. He wasn’t up to Oliver’s standard, but then, no one else in the league was quite as obsessive about it as Wood. Albus had pulled off some very good saves and had distinguished himself, although it was obvious that he was not capable of keeping three of the best Chasers in England from romping past him.
Hagrid and Vector were turning into a unique pairing. Vector tended to trap the Bludger and pass it to Hagrid, who while not very mobile, was extremely accurate with his shots – and they had frightening power behind them. Harry had a feeling that one or two of the professional teams would be experimenting with a similar pairing.
It was the Chasers that were letting the Hogwarts side down. Flint was a good Chaser, but without his usual cohorts, his dirty tricks were impossible, and the three witches all had personal grudges against him – Katie because she felt he had her place on the England team – and were determined to make him look bad. Sinistra was playing the best, now that she’d settled down a bit. The attractive young professor proved a deft hand at interception and flying skills, but wasn’t very good at the shooting part – and Oliver Wood was in the sort of mood where every single shot was a personal offence and was treated as such.
Harry looked to his tail and found Malfoy was following him again, bearing the signs of emergency magic to patch up his face.
He grinned and sent a few signals to Katie, Angelina and Alicia. They nodded and stopped attacking; Katie flew to the left, engaging Snape, while Angelina flew to the right, and engaged Flint. Alicia moved forward to Vector, pulling her out of the play.
Fred and George were working together like old times, returning Hagrid’s shots with hits of their own – their coordination with a Dopplebeater was still superlative, and the two of them almost equalled Hagrid’s power. Even if their own hits caused them to fly back a few metres, they were more than effective.
From one set of hoops, Oliver sent a salute to Dumbledore, who returned it, his eyes visibly twinkling. He didn’t seem to be overly concerned about the drubbing that his team was taking at the moment, but was clearly enjoying the game.
Harry could see the Snitch, but didn’t think that Malfoy had spotted it – an idea that was validated as Malfoy followed him away from it. He dived down toward the stands, corkscrewing so that he slid parallel to the flags aiming for the ground. Upside down, he pushed up so that he flew across the pitch dangling beneath his broom, daring Malfoy to follow him.
Malfoy did, but not upside down. He’d obviously decided that he didn’t have Harry’s skill with a broom. Without warning Harry pushed his broom hard, executing a ninety degree turn straight up the middle of the pitch, the Golden Snitch directly in front of him.
He pushed his broom as fast as it would go, rising from the ground like a rocket. In front of him, Angelina and Katie crossed, each followed by their opposing player. Harry took a deep breath and pushed himself even harder, lying as flat against the broom as he could to keep down the wind resistance. He flew between the gap they created and reached out for the Snitch.
Behind him heard the smack of flesh and wood colliding as Malfoy tried to follow him and was scissored between Snape and Flint.
He grabbed the Snitch and raised his hand in triumph – and with it, the roar of the crowd came back to him. Lee Jordan was yelling in triumph, a wide grin on his face, and he could feel Gabrielle’s excitement.
He landed and was jumped on by Oliver Wood. “That was the most fun I’ve ever had!” Ollie yelled in delight. “Man, the seven of us, together again!”
Katie and Alicia landed next. Both were immediately pulled into huge hugs by their team mates and swung around wildly – the witches were laughing hard. Angelina joined them, and then Fred and George.
“I can’t remember the last time we had this much fun,” Fred said.
“That was brilliant,” George continued. “Man, you five are just incredible flyers; we were honoured to be on the same pitch as you!”
“What about you two, when you launched those Dopplebeaters at Hagrid? Even I winced.”
The twins grinned madly. “Anyone keep score?” they asked.
“300-nil,” Oliver said proudly. “I wasn’t letting a goal in tonight, no matter what.”
“And you did a great job,” Alicia said, pounding him on the back. “I have to play with you guys again. I love my team mates, don’t get me wrong, but we’re special – and Harry, Harry, you’re an absolute dream to play with, not a single foul all evening, and we still managed to knock out three of them – and your hand signals? I wish our Seeker was as clear.”
Harry opened his mouth and shut it again, shaking his head.
“What?” Fred asked slowly. “You’ve got that look again, the one that set this up, but you’re afraid.”
“And what,” George asked, “could make Harry Potter scared?”
“Oliver, your contract is up this summer, right?” Harry asked slowly.
“And I’m on a year-long rolling contract – I put the clause in, in case I ever wanted to quit because of the press. Fred, George, how many people do you have working on inventions now?”
Katie was the first person to twig what he was hinting at. “You are insane, did you know that?” she asked. “You can not be serious.”
“Why not?” Harry asked, a slow smile forming. “But this isn’t the time to talk about it. The crowd are going nuts and we need to do a lap of honour.”
“What?” Oliver demanded. “Come on, Harry, tell us what it is, please!”
Harry shook his head and hopped onto his broom.
“Katie, please?” Oliver asked.
“Sorry, Ollie, if you think I’m going to break this surprise, then you’ve got another thing coming.”
She joined Harry as they started to circle.
Harry looked back and smiled at the confused faces of his team-mates. The plan was insane and only half-formed, but if they could pull it off...
He shook himself and banished it from his mind, flying to a stop near one of the stands, and began to sign autographs. These people had paid money to let him do what he loved, and the least he could do was give them some attention back.
The changing room was a boisterous place as they all teased each other about their performances and laughed about what had happened. They were all showered and dressed when the door opened with a creak, shutting immediately afterward.
Harry wasn’t worried; he could feel it was Gabrielle entering the room, hidden under his Invisibility Cloak.
She removed the cloak and smiled, “Great game, everyone; one of the best I’ve ever seen in terms of teamwork.” She seemed to be almost vibrating with excitement.
“Gabrielle,” Oliver said firmly. “We’d think that you would know by now not to hold back with us. Do what you came for!”
“Thanks,” she said, grinning.
Harry braced himself as a blonde missile leapt at him, her arms going around his neck as she kissed him harder than he had ever been kissed. Her legs were locked around his waist, as she sent such feelings of love, devotion, pride and excitement down the Bond that he could hardly stand, and he stumbled back against the wall.
He could feel her hands move into his hair as she peppered his face with kisses. “That was unbelievable,” she crowed. “Malfoy didn’t even come close to you, and you made him look like a complete idiot in front of the world, especially after his comments this morning. It looked like a training match out there, and some of the moves you pulled off were brilliant, spectacular.” She stopped speaking as she kissed him as hard as she could again.
When breathing became an issue and she reluctantly broke the kiss, he heard Oliver say, “What do I have to do to get a kiss like that?”
Harry blushed and buried his face in her neck.
“Find a nice girl and commit to her,” Gabrielle said, moving out of his arms, sitting him down on a bench and sitting herself firmly on his lap. “You have no idea how sexy Harry looks on a broom.”
“We are female, Gabrielle,” Angelina said dryly. “We have a very good idea.”
“Hey,” the protest came from all four males in the room.
There was a round of laughter. “The press is outside waiting for you; by the end of the match, Lee was begging the England selectors to pick all of you. He started off suggesting it halfway through, and by the end, the crowd was agreeing as well. They English fans were chanting ‘Gryffindor for England!’. Mama and Papa are very proud of how you played the game and how you all represented Beauxbatons and France, although Papa has been using it to play his politics,” she finished, with a small moue of dissatisfaction.
Harry raised his hand and cast several privacy spells around the room, locking the door firmly.
“Katie, Angelina, Alicia, when do your contracts end?”
“This summer as well,” Katie said before the others could. “We all signed our last contracts at the same time, and three years is the standard. We’re all about to start renegotiating for next season.”
Harry took a very deep breath and looked at his friends. “To ask a hypothetical question, what does a Quidditch Team need?”
“A rich backer, a stadium, a good general manager, a trainer, and players,” Katie replied.
“Harry,” Fred said softly, his voice containing a quiver no one had ever heard from him before. “Are you seriously suggesting this?”
“Please say that you are,” George begged, his own voice the same. “This isn’t a prank, is it, please, Harry?”
“Oh, Merlin,” Oliver said reverently. “This is an insane idea.”
“I have money,” Harry said quietly, “and a corporate sponsor.”
“Damn right,” Fred and George said.
“We have a core team right here, I own enough land in enough places around the country that we could have our pick of places to build a stadium, and I know someone who could do the general manager stuff.”
“Who?” Alicia asked; there was a raw note of hope in her voice.
“Gabrielle.” He could hear her squeak against him. “Let me finish. A manager needs to be intelligent, speak a couple of languages, be able to charm both the press and the other managers and owners, have fantastic organisational skills and be able to negotiate. Gabrielle has all those attributes and more. You’ve all seen her in action; what do you think?”
“How do you propose arranging this?” Angelina asked, ignoring his question.
“Like a business,” Harry said. “You will put in what you can, and I’ll put up the rest. We’ll split the club on a percentage basis. I’ll be the majority owner by necessity when we start, but you can buy percentages from me as we go on to even out the ownership. We will all form the club’s board – that way, if we argue, we don’t do anything stupid because we all own a part of it. We’ll all take the same salary, and share the profits – the other players we’ll need will be treated right.”
“Own our own club,” Oliver said reverently. “Instead of playing for some fat git to get rich, we can do it ourselves, and instead of having to have to do something ridiculous because the owner lost a bet, we’ll be in charge of our own destinies. No longer will we go on tours just for money. We could go the places where the fans want to see us, and the teams don’t normally go.”
“We wouldn’t be selling out anymore,” Katie added. “We’d be the masters of our own future. And I’d get to play with the people I enjoy most of all – and recruiting the others that we’d need wouldn’t be a problem; a club headed by Harry Potter? Talk about star power.”
“Fred, George, what about you two? How do you feel about the idea of turning professional?”
“We’d still have the summer to invent, right? And be able to do it as long as it didn’t interrupt Quidditch?”
Harry nodded and grinned at the irrepressible pair. “As if I could stop you.”
“And we could sponsor the team, which would get us more publicity that we could ever dream of, and allow us to hire even more of the best and the brightest?”
Harry nodded again.
The twins looked at each other and smiled broadly. “We’re in.”
“Oliver?” Harry asked.
“No doubts on my part,” he said clearly. “The girls are better than our Chasers, and I’d trust the twins to get up to speed quickly.”
“I think we’re insane, and we’ll have a load of legal stuff to go through, but hell, yes! We’re going to argue, we’re going to fight, but we’re family, and this will be the best experience of our lives. People don’t get this sort of chance – ever. There’s not been a new Quidditch team in a hundred and forty years.”
“Absolutely,” she said simply.
“Gabby?” Harry asked last.
“Are you sure?” she asked, a slightly scared look on her face. “I am only sixteen and this is one of the most important jobs in the world. I’ll have all your futures in my hands.”
“I can’t speak for the others,” Oliver said. “But Harry was right; you have everything we need, and your Veela power will help you even further, but even without it, you’re already damn charming, Gabrielle. You’re dedicated to whatever you try to do, and whatever you don’t know, you will know by the time it’s needed, not to mention that you’re totally loyal to Harry, so we know we can trust you as well.”
“I’m with Ollie,” Katie said firmly. “In a way, I do feel a little guilty about it, though. You could be doing something more socially responsible than managing a sports club, because you have such amazing potential. But you did want a job where you could have the same schedule as Harry, and this would provide that.”
“And,” Gabrielle said softly, “I can still study in my spare time, and by the time Harry’s ready to retire, I should have a system that will ensure the club lasts forever, and by then I should have my doctorate, and have plenty of time to do whatever I decide.”
“And I’ll be happy then to go where you need to,” Harry said seriously. “So please, Gabby, be our manager?”
She smiled brilliantly at everyone, “As long as you don’t mind the gratuitous public displays of affection.”
“Then all that is left,” Angelina said thoughtfully, “is to come up with a name.”
“That’s the easy part,” Harry said with a slight smile. “I’ve got something much harder to do.”
“Oh?” Fred asked.
“Telling your brother that I’m quitting the Cannons!”
Harry slid out of bed carefully, trying hard not to disturb his sleeping Mate, and pulled on his jeans. He really needed to get some more clothes here. He was using his London apartment as a place for them to spend the night in private, but they hadn’t really planned it in advance, so they were changing in their own rooms at Beauxbatons.
He walked into the kitchen and looked in his fridge. Keep-Fresh charms ensured that he at least had something for breakfast for the two of them.
He pulled a frying pan off one of the hooks and placed it on the hob, putting the gas flame on high under it, and added a large knob of butter.
In a separate bowl, he cracked six eggs, added some salt and pepper, and whisked them enthusiastically. There was a spell to do this, but when cooking, he preferred to do it himself. He didn’t often make breakfast for anyone, and he wanted to ensure that Gabrielle had at least one good meal before her duel at two o’clock, as he doubted that she would want to eat lunch.
The butter had melted and was starting to turn brown, indicating that it was time for him to add the eggs. He poured the eggs into the frying pan and stirred it with the flat side of the fork, and as the sides started to set, he lifted the side and pulled it into the centre, repeating until half of the eggs were set. He spooned three tablespoons of double cream onto the eggs, then liberally sprinkled it with some good gruyère cheese and put it under the grill. He popped a couple of pieces of bread in the toaster.
“That smells wonderful,” Gabrielle said, as she perched herself on a stool at the counter. He smiled at her, and not for the first time, thought to himself just how lucky he was. She hadn’t bothered to put any more clothes on, and was just in his practice top that she seemed to like to sleep in most.
Her toes wiggled cutely as she placed them on the cold metal of the stool, and he ran his eyes up her amazing legs, over the jersey that looked far better on her than it ever had on him, before he reached her face.
She was smiling at him, not concerned in the slightest about his long look, not that she had a reason to be. Her hair was still slightly sleep ruffled, and hung down loosely around her face, falling in light waves. Her eyes looked both relaxed and happy, and her face was serene.
He shook his head softly, a little awed by how beautiful she was, and pulled the omelette out of the grill, easing it onto a plate and cutting it in half. As the toaster popped, he grabbed the bread and spread some butter over the pieces, cutting them in half and adding them to the plate.
“I’m not sure I can eat all this,” Gabrielle said as he placed the plate in front of her and sat next to her.
“You’ll need your energy,” Harry said softly. “So eat up.”
“Six eggs, cream, and cheese?” she laughed softly, “Are you trying to fatten me up?”
“You’re going to use a lot of energy later, and you should never go into physical activity on an empty stomach. The last thing you need is to be distracted by hunger pangs.
She nodded and started to eat. “Oh, this is good! I have not had Omelette Comtoise in a very long time. I thought you said you couldn’t cook.”
“I can’t; well, I can do a few breakfasts,” Harry agreed, digging into his own plate. “Bachelors either spend a lot of time around their friends or live on fast food and restaurants. All I ever cooked for the Dursleys was really unhealthy, and as most restaurants around here aren’t open in the morning, I had to learn to do something. Luckily, I could always go to the Cannons’ stadium for breakfast if I was really desperate.”
Gabrielle nodded, and they ate in comfortable silence for a few minutes.
“Harry?” she asked quietly, as she finished.
She looked up at him with a touch of fear in her eyes. “I am going to be all right, am I not?” Her voice betrayed her nervousness.
“Gabby,” Harry said seriously, reaching over to hold her hand in his. “I swear to you that I am not going to let him hurt you.”
He could almost feel her relax. “Thank you.”
He looked at his watch. “It’s about time for us to make our appearance at Beauxbatons.”
“I do not want to,” she pouted. “I want to spend Sunday alone with you, read the Muggle papers, go for a walk later, have a good meal for dinner, and then retire to bed where I can show just how much I love you, again and again.”
Harry thought for a second and whispered, “I can’t think of a better way I’d rather spend the day today. And soon, that will be what we do.”
She smiled and leant forward to hug him. “I love you,” she said softly.
“I know,” he whispered into her hair. “I know.”
“What shall I wear?” Gabrielle asked as she looked around her room. Olympe, Jean and Aimée were in there with them.
“I’d wear shorts and trainers under your robes,” Harry advised. “You want to be able to move as freely as possible later.”
Gabrielle nodded and walked into her bedroom, returning a minute later dressed in powder-blue shorts that hugged her rear, white ankle socks, white trainers and a tight blue t-shirt.
Harry groaned under his breath.
“Problem?” Gabrielle asked.
“Not if you don’t take your robes off in public,” Harry said. “I’m only one man, and even I might have trouble defending you against the massed ranks of males who would want to get close to you when you’re looking like that.”
Gabrielle grinned cheerfully at him. “They can look, but you are the only one who will ever get to touch.”
“Sorry, Papa,” Gabrielle laughed. Then she went serious. “Flirting with Harry makes my nerves go away.”
Jean nodded slowly and looked at his watch. “It is almost time,” he said, before walking over to her. He kissed her on the cheek, “Stay safe, ma chérie,” he whispered.
“I will, Papa, Harry will not let me get hurt.”
Jean nodded and stood to the side.
“Remember your lessons,” Aimée said firmly. “You are not going out there to show off, but to help your own future.”
“I will not forget, Mama,” Gabrielle promised.
The two nodded at Harry and walked out, leaving the three of them.
“You know what you have to do?” Harry asked.
Gabrielle nodded. “I’ll follow your plan,” she promised. “The spell is all ready, all I have to do is release it.”
Harry smiled proudly. “One more thing, Gabby.”
She looked at him.
He bent down and kissed her softly. “Do not get hurt!” He could almost see the affect his order had on her magic, and the smile she gave him in return emphasised it.
“Look after her, Olympe,” he said, as he walked out of the room. He hated leaving her at this time, but he needed to be seen to be in the stands with the others, watching the duel from a distance. Now that he’d realised he was in love with his Mate, he was finding his own restrictions chafing, not least the love making part.
If it wasn’t so important, he would have happily have slept with her properly by now. They both understood why they didn’t, but that didn’t make it any easier on them. He’d never been in bed with anyone so responsive and enthusiastic, and that didn’t mention how quick she was to learn.
He ruthlessly shoved those thoughts to the back of his mind and Apparated into the stands.
He arrived next to Ron and Hermione, and found that he was in the middle of a lot of his old friends.
“Hey, Harry,” Hermione said. “I’ve just been hearing some rather interesting stories.”
“Oh?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said, glaring at Neville, who was nearest. “It seems that you have a bit of a club.”
“So I’ve heard,” he agreed.
“And you didn’t see fit to tell me?” she asked archly.
“Not my secret to tell,” he said with a grin. “I’m just an official figurehead, and didn’t even know myself until a few weeks ago.”
Hermione pouted at him.
“Harry,” Fred called as he clambered up the steps. “You’re appearing far too calm.”
“Oh?” he asked.
“One of your students, someone we know you like, is fighting a Death Eater,” George said.
Harry looked around at the people near him. “Gabrielle can use my magic,” he said simply.
“How will that leave you?” George asked.
“A little powerless,” he admitted.
“Right,” Fred said, a decisive expression on his face. “George, go and make the bets. Neville, I want you and Susan in front of Harry. Ron, to the left; I’ll be to the right. Anyone that even points a wand in our direction gets cursed first, questioned later, okay?”
“Fred being serious,” Neville sighed lightly. “What has the world come to?”
Fred grinned, “Can I offer you some popcorn for the duel?” he asked.
“Err, no,” Neville replied cheerfully. “It’s good to see you again, Harry.”
“You too, Nev and Susan,” Harry replied.
“You wouldn’t believe who I got a call from the other day,” Neville continued, as he moved in to the row in front of Harry.
“A professor from Beauxbatons,” he said. “It seems that someone told him what I do for a living these days, and he was impressed enough to offer me a contract.”
“Good,” Harry grinned.
“I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t think you could do it,” Harry said warmly.
“Even so,” Neville said seriously. “Thank you. It’s the fact that everyone knows that you only give recommendations when they are justified that makes it more worthwhile.”
Harry smiled and touched his glasses, using them to focus down on the platform. The professional duelling platform was larger and provided a lot more space to move than the one he’d practised on in his second year, but it was still limiting. “Did you know that Malfoy wanted Snape to referee?”
“You’re kidding,” Ron said in disbelief.
“Yeah,” Harry shook his head. “Flitwick put that idea where it belonged, pointing out that as a Duelling Master, he was the only professor fully qualified, unless Olympe objected – and she didn’t, on my advice.”
“Good,” Neville snorted.
“I can’t believe what’s happened to my old school,” Susan sighed. “But I do feel a little responsible.”
“Why?” Harry asked.
“Because we all did the same thing – took several years to recover from the war, and during that time, Malfoy and Snape moved in and got their positions entrenched.”
“I guess,” Harry said with a sigh. “But isn’t that what students are supposed to do? We go off and start our lives. We’re not supposed to have to look after the school. That’s Albus’ job. He allowed it and at the end of the day, he’ll have to pay the piper.”
“Taken up bagpipes?” George asked as he rejoined them.
“We’re just discussing what has happened to Hogwarts,” Susan said. “The difference is, Harry, that we were never normal students, and those rules don’t really apply to us. I blame Snape for what has happened, not Dumbledore. With everything Neville, Hermione, and Ron have told me, I think it’s him that is responsible for whatever has happened to Dumbledore.”
Harry frowned, “That would explain why Snape is so confident,” he allowed. He turned to George, “how did the betting go?”
“Most of the bookies are backing Malfoy,” George replied cheerfully. “I got some excellent odds. You want the winnings sent to your favourite charity?”
“That’s generous,” Susan said.
“Not really,” Fred sighed. “My brother and I are afflicted with a nasty conscience. It would be immoral to keep money won on a dead certainty.”
Neville frowned, and then pulled out his wand and cast a silencing spell. “So,” he said as he turned fully in his chair. “Care to explain just how you can share magic with a Veela? There’s only one way I know of, and that raises some really interesting questions.”
Harry groaned. “I swear this is the most open secret in the world. Nev, Susan, I’ll need a magical oath, and then Hermione can tell you what is going on – I’m a little more concerned about Gabrielle at the moment – she’ll explain why.”
Neville and Susan shrugged and cast the spells, and then looked at Hermione.
Harry drifted out as Hermione started to explain, in a lot more detail than he would have, exactly what had happened.
He half-closed his eyes and sent a wave of confidence and pride down the Bond, and smiled as he felt Gabrielle respond with a feeling of love.
He was jerked out of his reverie as Lee Jordan’s voice echoed around the stadium. Neville looked apologetically at Harry as he put his wand away, having just cancelled the Silencing Spell.
“And welcome to the first official duel seen at Hogwarts since 1958,” Lee said. “I’m Lee Jordan, your host for this fascinating contest. On one side we have an ex-Death Eater who only escaped prison by allegedly bribing all the judges claiming he was under the Imperius Curse, and on the other side, we have the gorgeous Gabrielle Delacour, daughter of the French war hero Jean-Sebastian Delacour, and sister to the Tri-Wizard champion from Beauxbatons, Fleur Delacour. Gabrielle is also Beauxbatons’ Head Girl, and their Quidditch Seeker and Captain, and all this despite being a year younger than her peers.
“It’s sickening that Hogwarts has sanctioned this event, and worse that the Ministry used one of those ridiculous laws they passed in one of their blundered attempts to help the war effort to make this official. I understand that even the Muggles gave up on trial by combat centuries ago. Yet again, I find myself disgusted with my country of origin and I hope all you good English people will agree with me.
“And to read the Daily Prophet this morning, you’d think that Draco Malfoy had spent the final battle duelling Voldemort himself, and not been knocked unconscious by Harry Potter after Malfoy put Hermione Granger, one of the Light side’s best and brightest, under the Cruciatus Curse.”
“I’ve detected some slight bias in Lee’s commentary recently,” Harry said idly.
“That’s my fault,” Percy announced, as he joined the group. “I’ve got him working against the Ministry Mouthpiece for me. I’m protecting him and ensuring that he gets the same freedoms that the Mouthpiece has. They hate it, but Lee’s a popular commentator, and he’s more than willing to help.”
“I’ll have to say thanks later,” Harry said with a nod. He tuned out the rest of Lee’s colourful commentary.
“What’s with the seating arrangements?” Percy asked.
“Harry’s going to be a little powerless when the match starts,” Neville agreed. “We’re on bodyguard duty.”
“Damn,” Percy whispered, frowning. “It would look far too suspicious if I were to bring the Aurors up here personally and Kingsley is on duty anyway.”
There was a moment of silence as they all silently remembered the other Auror they could trust, and how she had died along with Remus, when Cho Chang had betrayed them.
“If anything really bad happens,” Percy said, “I’ll grab Harry and use the Emergency Ministry Portkey to get us both out of here.”
“Good idea,” Neville said. “We don’t want Gabrielle left powerless until we can get to her – and anything else will give the game away.”
Harry nodded reluctantly. “Thanks, guys.”
“Well, while I have you trapped here,” Percy said, “can we talk politics for a few minutes?”
“Since I can’t escape, sure,” Harry said curiously, with a faint smile.
“We need your help,” Percy said. “We’ve got a candidate we trust to take over Minister Of Magic, but we need backing. We need you to endorse him.”
“Any of you not trust him?” Harry asked.
The others all shook their heads.
“Okay, I’ll do it. I’m going to help Jean get elected as French Minister, so I may as well help out at home as well.”
“Don’t you want to know who he is?” Percy asked, a surprised look on his face.
“It doesn’t matter,” Harry shrugged. “If everyone here trusts him, then he’s probably the right candidate. I’ll meet him first, of course. We’ll discuss strategy, and then do what we can to work around the Mouthpiece.”
“Thank you,” Percy said with a relieved look. “Even if we don’t win, we’ll be able to take enough to the Wizengamot to ensure that we win next time. Sometimes you have to play the long game.”
“Quite,” Harry agreed.
“They’re coming out,” Ron said excitedly. “Flitwick looks really small from here.”
Harry focused on the platform as Gabrielle walked out. Her hands were in the sleeves of her robes, crossed in front of her, and she looked totally serene.
Malfoy looked eager, a nasty smirk on his face as he stared at Harry’s Mate.
“We’ll go over now to our referee for this duel, Duel-Master Filius Flitwick.”
The voice changed, as Filius’ more high-pitched voice said, “I want a good, clean duel, no use of the Unforgivables, and that includes your Veela power, Miss Delacour. You will start on my mark. Ready?”
Both combatants nodded. Gabrielle bowed formally to Malfoy, who sneered back at her – to jeers from the crowd at his unsporting behaviour.
They walked to the ends of the duelling platform and turned. Malfoy moved into a standard duelling form, but Gabrielle didn’t move, not even to pull her hands out of her sleeves.
Harry took a deep breath, feeling nervous as he watched his Mate prepare to fight.
“Begin,” Filius said, and Malfoy moved first.
“Expelliarmus,” he yelled, his wand slashing down toward Gabrielle.
“He’s improved,” Neville muttered.
Gabrielle moved smoothly, pulling her wand out. “Protego,” she said calmly. In front of her a glimmering barrier of silver appeared, causing the Slytherin’s spell to divert.
Neville whistled under his breath, “Now that’s a shield spell,” he said. “Draco will have to work a bit to get through that.”
Malfoy growled and launched a series of bone-breaking curses at the shield.
“Reverso,” Gabrielle said, still without moving. Instead of deflecting the spells, it bounced them off, flying back toward Malfoy, who had to take evasive action by diving to the floor.
There was an amused sound from the crowd, which caused Malfoy to jump back to his feet and glare at them.
The blond Death Eater started to cast a series of spells as he moved from side to side. Gabrielle simply turned with him, keeping him in sight at all times.
Malfoy launched a powerful Blasting curse at Gabrielle. Almost simultaneously, he drew a dagger from a concealed sheath and threw it directly at her.
Gabrielle waved her wand, diverting the Blasting curse before it could hit her shields, and then swayed to one side and snatched the knife from midair. With a disdainful look at Malfoy, she glanced at it briefly, then pocketed it.
The crowd laughed this time, and around Harry, he could almost hear the smirks his friends were wearing.
“Nice plan,” Neville said. “Make Malfoy look like an idiot – again – and make him lose his patience.”
“Yeah,” Harry said. “That’s part of it, anyway. I just hope he reacts properly.”
“Properly?” Percy asked. “Do I want to know?”
“You’ll see,” Harry replied, checking to see how Gabrielle was feeling. She was calm and confident.
“Fight back,” Malfoy yelled, as he sent another barrage of curses toward Gabrielle.
Some of them she blocked, some of them she let hit her shield, and the others she simply dodged, all the time looking as if she was out for a stroll.
“Riddikulus,” she chanted with a smirk – the spell exploding out of her wand like it was fired from a cannon.
The audience didn’t hold back their laughter this time, as Malfoy was now wearing a pale blue sundress and his hair was long and curly. Neville’s eyes bulged out. “I didn’t know you could use that on something other than a boggart. That’s a brilliant way to distract an opponent!”
Malfoy was almost spitting mad as he cancelled the spell. “Serpensortia,” he yelled. A giant boa constrictor appeared out of his wand and slithered toward Gabrielle.
“He’s hoping that Gabby will use Parseltongue,” Harry said calmly.
The snake approached Gabrielle and reared up. Unafraid, Gabrielle leant forward and gently kissed the snake. She held out her hands and the snake slithered around her arms and draped itself over her neck, before hissing at Malfoy.
“Would you do me a favour?” Gabrielle asked in English, in a whisper that was amplified by the spells on the platform. “Attack the irritating one at the other end.”
The snake hissed merrily and launched itself off of Gabrielle and toward Malfoy who took a step backward in shock, slipped, and ended up on his arse.
The crowd roared with laughter as Malfoy got back to his feet and cancelled the spell. “How did you do that?” he demanded.
“I am naturally charming, Death Eater,” Gabrielle replied, not taking her eyes from him.
“I’m not a Death Eater,” Malfoy roared.
“Not any more,” Gabrielle taunted. “But only because Voldemort is dead.” She sent off a stinging hex, finally taking the offensive, as she continued, “How many people did you bribe again? Fourteen, wasn’t it? And even then, you barely got away with it. Pathetic really, you should have died with your father as an honourable man.”
“Bitch!” Malfoy yelled and ran forward, casting spells that were distinctly dark in nature.
Gabrielle danced to one side gracefully, and actually ran toward Malfoy for a few steps, and vaulted over the older man, avoiding all the spells. She landed gently, whirled and pointed at her wand at Malfoy, who was spinning to face her, off balance. “Rictusempra,” she cast quietly.
Malfoy dived to one side, avoiding the spell. He rolled to his feet and kept up his barrage of spells at Gabrielle. They had now changed places at the opposite ends of the platform.
“He’s starting to get really frustrated,” Neville said, as Gabrielle dodged again. “He’s not getting close to her, and she’s playing with him.”
The crowd were starting to get into the duel as well, shouting “Ole!” each time one of Malfoy’s spells missed.
“And she’s making him look like a right idiot. The worst thing for Malfoy is people laughing at him.”
“Fidelius!” Gabrielle shouted, and there was a wave of magic as she seemed to vanish in front of their eyes.
“Now that’s a unique strategy,” Neville commented, sounding highly impressed.
“We prepared the spell this morning,” Harry explained. “It took us an hour, but all she had to do was say the word and release the spell.”
Directly above Malfoy’s head a sign appeared. ‘Gabrielle Delacour is on the duelling platform’. The crowd cheered loudly as everyone could see the young French witch again.
Playing to the crowd, Gabrielle pantomimed a sneak behind Malfoy and tripped him up.
The sign above Malfoy’s head changed to, ‘Transvestite For Hire!’
Malfoy growled as the laughter intensified, looking up, he spotted the sign and destroyed it with a violent slash of his wand.
Gabrielle turned to the crowd and pouted, before sneaking up behind him and kicking him in the rear.
Malfoy jumped and turned around, casting spells wildly. It was obvious he had no idea where she was.
“Look at Snape,” Percy said. “He’s fuming.”
They all turned to look at the Potions Master, who was in the front row of the staff box. His lips were drawn back from his uneven yellow teeth, and spots of red burned on his cheekbones, obvious against the pallor of his face. “If he moves, curse him,” Harry said quietly, and several wands were unobtrusively pointed at Snape.
Snape tried to jump out of his chair as Malfoy fell again, this time tripping over his own feet, but McGonagall clamped down on his arm. She said something – possibly reminding him that if he interfered, Malfoy would be declared the loser – and Snape slumped back down, staring hatefully across at Harry.
Harry met his eyes and saluted mockingly before returning his attention to the duel.
Gabrielle yawned hugely and cancelled the Fidelius charm. “Prepared to admit that you wanted to rape me, Death Eater?”
“Die!” Malfoy screamed, casting some cutting hexes at her.
Gabrielle dodged them all, making it look easy, but Harry could feel how tired she was getting. He sent her a feeling of pride and confidence.
“He’s losing it,” Neville said. “He’s embarrassed, frustrated and humiliated.”
“I hope so,” Harry muttered. “Come on, Ferret, revert to form.”
“Wait,” Hermione said. “You want him to cast the Cruciatus?”
Harry smirked. “Yep.”
“And Gabby will block it, right?”
“No?” Neville demanded, twisting in his chair. “She’s going to let it hit her to prove that he’s scum?”
“What do you mean by ‘kinda’, Harry James Potter?” Hermione demanded, her hands on her hips – which, as she was sitting down, didn’t look as imposing as she might have wished.
“I swore to Gabrielle that I wouldn’t let him hurt her,” he explained.
“And, when the curse hits her, she’s going to act hurt.”
“And?” Hermione asked warily.
“Gabrielle thinks that the magic will stop the spell.”
“Harry, getting answers out of you is like pulling teeth from a mule! Will you please tell us what is going on?”
“Magic will ensure that she doesn’t feel the spell,” Harry admitted. “As I’ll be using it to divert it to me. No one touches Gabby, she’s mine!”
As a new set of spells from Malfoy was blocked by Gabrielle’s shield, she turned and blew kisses to the crowd, dismissing the blond contemptuously.
“There he goes. This is gonna hurt,” Harry whispered, bracing himself.
“Take my hand,” Neville ordered, turning and facing Harry.
“Crucio!” Malfoy yelled.
The laughter from the crowd died as Gabrielle crumpled to the floor.
Harry grabbed onto Neville’s hand tightly, fighting the pain as it lanced through his body, he blocked off everything he was feeling from the Bond, and shuddered.
“Expelliarmus!” The spell came from Filius Flitwick and blew the unsuspecting Malfoy off the platform. “Draco Malfoy, by casting an Unforgivable you have forfeited the duel and have been found guilty. Aurors,” he demanded, “arrest that man.”
Malfoy looked around and snarled. “I’ll get you all for this!” he yelled, as he activated a hidden Portkey and vanished.
Harry took a deep breath, easing his shoulders. “Thanks, Neville,” he said as he released the now slightly squashed hand.
“You’re welcome,” Neville said, and smiled as he theatrically shook his hand out.
“Well,” Harry said cheerfully, “that went well.” He frowned, “I should have guessed he’d have an emergency escape route, though. Still, he’s a fugitive now. With any luck, the Aurors will get him soon.”
Next to him, Ron started to snigger, and the others soon joined in. Around them, the cheers of the audience rang as Flitwick and Madam Pomfrey checked Gabrielle to ensure that she was all right. Harry could have told them not to bother. His Mate was just fine.
Sybill Trelawney looked down from her tower and shook her head in contempt. She had hoped for something a little more adult from Snape and Malfoy, but no, they had to act like spoilt children. They had spent too long without any serious opposition and had paid the price for forgetting how to win through intelligence and subtlety.
It was obviously going to be down to her to gain some revenge on Potter. And she had just the right thing to do it.
She looked down at the pictures in front of her. She had foreseen that Potter would take the little minx to New York and had planned accordingly. No one who saw these pictures would ever doubt that Potter and the little Veela were in love. The relaxed look in his eyes, the loving look in hers made it obvious.
When she gave these to the Prophet, and told Rita some calculated lies, Potter’s reputation would be ruined.
She whistled cheerfully to herself. If you want something dreadful done, it’s always better to do it yourself.
Okay, before anyone comments...
Yes, I do know what Ich Bin Ein Berlinner really means - and I'll be adressing that in the final part.
Yes, I do know that a costume ball is cliche, again, wait for the final part.
"You've got another think/g coming" - ALL of my betas suggested "another think coming" and I have no doubt at all that is the more correct. However, I have only ever pronounced and heard it as "another thing coming" so I overrode them.
Some people have mentioned that I shouldn't say something is ready when the beta process takes so long. That is not going to change. First, betaing chapters of this size is a lot of work, for me as well as for them. Secondly, doing it this way at least tells people publically NOT to email me with "When you gonna update" messages.
This chapter owes so very much to my betas, as always, and this time around I welcome two (and a half) new ones. So an extra special thanks and welcome onboard to GardenGirl and Ishtar (and Kinsfire), as well as my normal huge thanks to OHGinnyFan, Grey Wizard and Kokopelli. Their incredible hard work is something I am eternally grateful for.
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