White Knight, Grey Queen
3 - Recovery
Pansy awoke slowly, and tried to stretch. It was only then that she noticed that she hadn’t let Harry go during the night. And more, that he obviously approved, as his arm was clamped firmly around her back, and he was holding her close.
She was lying on her side, her right leg over his, her head resting on his shoulder. She breathed in deeply, and slowly smiled. She could hear his heart beating through his chest, and feel the rise and fall of his chest with each breath he took. His heart sounded a little fast, and he groaned causing her to realise that he was still in pain.
She sighed softly, and relaxed back down. It was obvious that he liked having her near, and that it was helping him in some small way, so there was no way she was going to move.
It didn’t take long for her to fall back asleep again.
The next time she awoke, she could feel that the potion must have worked its course. To her regret Harry was now holding her loosely, and he was sleeping solidly. It had been a rough night; the pain he’d been in had meant that it had been four a.m. before he had managed to finally fall asleep, and she had stayed up with him the entire time, offering what solace she could.
She was appalled at how well he had handled it. No one should be that familiar with pain, that they could just grit their teeth and talk through it. She’d cast a spell, despite his warnings not to, to let herself feel the same thing he was feeling.
As soon as it had hit, she’d dropped to the floor and burst into tears from the shock and the pain. It had felt like Lightning was kicking her all over her body. What had made it worse for her was the way Harry had immediately knocked the wand out of her hand, cancelling the spell, and then embraced her.
Despite the fact that he was feeling exactly the same thing she had felt for just an instant, he’d made some movement to get closer to her, so that he could offer her comfort.
Even though he didn’t know it, that moment had sealed his fate as far as she was concerned. She was now quite definitely in love with Harry Potter. She knew it because she realised that she would put him first, even above her own family. It was scary and exhilarating all at once. The place inside her that she had hidden for so long now belonged to a half-man/half-boy who didn’t even know it existed.
She drew hope from his actions; his instinct when asleep had been to pull her closer, to draw comfort from her, and not to push her away. That meant that he quite definitely trusted her, and she knew that once he gave his trust, it was a permanent thing. Even if he never returned her feelings, she would at least have his friendship for as long as she wanted it.
But would that be enough? The feeling of devastation inside her as she contemplated it, made her realise that it wasn’t. She wanted everything; she wanted the whole fairy tale. She’d been raised as a princess and now her prince had come, riding one of her own black stallions.
He had beautiful green eyes that looked at the world differently from everyone and everything else. He saw the innocence and beauty in everything around him but recognised the evilness as well. If the eyes were truly a window to the soul, then he definitely had the most amazing soul she had ever seen.
She shifted slightly, so she could watch him as he slept. She couldn’t help but compare him to Draco. In a way, the two were similar. They were both the last heirs of ancient families. But where Draco had enjoyed all the breaks, Harry had been used and abused.
Where Draco had led a life of luxury, Harry had been forced to live in squalor, serving filthy Muggles breakfast. Where Draco had been given anything he had ever wanted, Harry had been forced to fight for everything he had ever received, no matter how small.
Draco had cowered when Hermione, a girl smaller than he was, had hit him, whereas Harry had stood up to Voldemort himself. Draco hid from his fears, behind his father and his name, while Harry, having no one, had chosen to stand, and had chosen to fight, not just for himself, but for those unable to stand up and defend themselves as well.
It was often said that a person’s childhood shaped the rest of their life, but if that was the case, then Draco should be the brave, strong one, and Harry should be bitter, twisted and afraid. She no longer believed that. People made their own choices in life and took the route that suited themselves.
She knew that if the roles had been reversed, and Harry had been raised in privilege and favour, he would still be the same. He would not have let it go to his head; he would still be the same brave Gryffindor with some Slytherin traits.
And he’d quite definitely still have the same unruly hair. She wondered how it would look if she put some hair gel in it. Like with cosmetics, wizards avoided Muggle grooming aids as well, but there was no reason why they wouldn’t work.
She felt a little pride as she realised that she was going to be the first person since Harry was a baby to see his eyes without the barrier of his glasses between them, and to know that she was going to be the very first person he saw properly.
She could feel her heart racing at the thought, and she suddenly felt nervous. She knew that it was silly - that she would look the same to him as she had with his glasses. She wished she could slide out of bed and fix her hair, change her clothes, do something - anything.
She felt him shift against her, as he stretched, then opened his eyes. She watched as he tilted his head and looked straight at her.
“You are beautiful,” Harry said sleepily, his voice matter of fact, as if he was merely stating a fact that the whole world should agree with.
Pansy’s heart, which had been racing for nervousness, was now racing with pleasure, as she fought a blush.
“You can see properly?”
Harry nodded and smiled at her. “For the first time I can remember, my eyes focused as soon as I opened my eyes. No more glasses. It’s amazing.”
“How do you feel?”
“Sore,” he admitted. “Thank you for helping me so much last night.”
“Oh, Harry,” she whispered. “It was my pleasure.”
Harry took a deep breath, and then frowned. “I think I need a shower, I must have sweated badly last night.”
“You’re fine,” Pansy said. He didn’t smell bad at all; sure, his natural scent was a little stronger than normal, but it was something she liked.
He smiled at her. “Thanks, but when I can smell myself, I know that it’s definitely shower time. And I never thought I’d say this after everything I ate yesterday, but I’m hungry.”
Pansy laughed, calmly rolling off him. She deliberately didn’t make a fuss about it, because she hoped that she could get a repeat when they next went to sleep.
She watched as Harry swung his feet out of bed, stood, took a step forward, tripped, and fell to his knees.
“Harry!? Are you all right?”
He turned and looked at her on the bed, and started to laugh. “I think the potion worked,” he said dryly. “I don’t remember the floor being that far away.” He carefully placed a hand on the back of a chair, and lifted himself up.
Pansy stood and walked over to him. “I think you’ve grown about four inches,” she informed him with a smile. “Which would put you at around five foot ten.” For the first time, she had to look up to see him, as she was five foot eight.
Harry smiled at her. “Cool. No more being house-elf sized then.” He turned, and walked through his room, and into his bathroom.
Pansy watched him go, a smile on her face, till she saw his ankles peering out from the bottom of his trousers, and she realised that all his clothes would no longer fit. She turned, opened the door, and yelled, “Mum!”
Gruoch appeared half a minute later. “You rang?”
“Dad’s right,” Pansy told her, a smile on her face. “Letting you watch Muggle TV was a bad idea.”
Gruoch waved her hand airily. “What’s the emergency?”
“The potion worked, and now none of Harry’s clothes are going to fit!”
Pansy felt her mum staring at her intently and then slowly start to laugh.
Gruoch reached out and pulled her into a hug. “Oh Pansy, don’t ever change.”
“Your father and I checked on you both several times last night; we know how much pain Harry was in, and how you handled it yourself without complaining or even thinking of asking for help. But as soon as something as unimportant as Harry’s clothing not fitting comes up, you scream like a Banshee.”
Pansy started to blush. “But...”
“I know,” Gruoch said calmly, as she walked over to Harry’s wardrobe. “How much has he grown?”
“Four inches, two in the leg, and two in the torso.”
“Do I want to know how you can tell that so precisely?”
Pansy rolled her eyes at her mother. “Yes. It’s how much his jeans were short by when he walked into the shower this morning.” She paused for a second, and then mumbled to herself. “I’ve got to stop us both sleeping in our clothes.”
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that,” Gruoch said dryly. “Get your wand; you can help me adjust his clothes.”
“Peirce is due in around an hour to check Harry out, so you both have time for lunch. Your father has informed me that Nymphadora is coming for dinner tonight. She apparently figured out that we have Harry, but she isn’t planning on reporting it, as long as she can see for herself that Harry is alright.”
Pansy nodded. “I think she’s going to be in for a shock when she sees him.”
“I think your father had that in mind, and I think that he thought that it would be funny.”
Pansy just laughed.
“Morning old boy,” Peirce said breezily. “My, how you’ve grown.”
“If you try and pinch my cheek, I’m going to hit you,” Harry replied with a grin.
“Ooo, now that you’re bigger than a house-elf, you think that you’re intimidating, old son?”
Harry frowned and glared at the doctor.
“Which, without those glasses, you actually are,” Peirce said, and was relieved when Harry grinned at him. “Powerful eyes you have there, Mr Potter. Now, let’s see what good the potion has done. Stand up, and take your top off.”
Harry did as he was told, removing the black t-shirt.
“Perfect,” Peirce judged after a few spells. “You’re not fully grown yet; you should top out at about six feet in a year or so, which is natural. Congratulations, old boy, you are now normal.”
“Thank you,” Harry smiled.
“And the rest of your growth won’t feel like you’ve been hit in the balls with a cricket bat.”
Harry laughed with a short, sharp bark.
“Anyway, let me check your eyesight as well. I get paid the same either way, but I may as well do a thorough check. Good for my reputation, don’t you know?”
He cast a few more spells, and then stood back, looking pleased. “Muggles are wonderfully inventive. It’s probably because of their non-magical heritage. Where we tend to rely on magic for everything, they have developed their own ways of doing similar things. I give them another twenty years, till they can do everything we do.
“But you’re not interested in the mumblings of an old man, are you sport?”
“Actually,” Harry murmured, “I tend to agree. Our society is a little too insular, and we tend to dismiss everything Muggles do as unworthy, simply because it’s not magic. We don’t seem to realise that for the average Muggle, things like electricity, computers, and airplanes are magic. And as for fighting, Muggles have us completely out done. We have the Avada, and other curses, that affect one wizard at a time; they have machine guns that can kill many people multiple times in a very short time span.”
“Indeed,” the doctor noted. “Okay, your eyesight is perfect now. Malcom has said that he is going to be organising a physical trainer for you. So you’ll soon have some decent muscles on that torso of yours. You’ll probably be hungry for another day or so, so don’t worry about it. Growing like you did is painful, and took a lot of energy, which your body needs to replenish.”
Peirce nodded and walked out of the study, leaving Harry to get dressed again.
“So?” Malcom queried.
“Everything went perfectly. He’ll be hungry for another day or so, and needs a lot of exercise, but in general, it couldn’t have gone better.”
“Thank you,” Pansy murmured, and gave the doctor a kiss on the cheek.
“It was my pleasure, my dear,” Peirce said, looking amused.
“How are you feeling, Harry?”
“Tall,” Harry replied with a grin. “Not something I’m used to. I’m still walking into things and tripping on the stairs.”
“You’ll get used to it quickly enough. Did Pansy tell you that Nymphadora is coming for dinner?”
“Yes. I always knew she was more intelligent than her clumsy exterior portrayed. She worked out that it was us that had taken you. She’s promised not to tell Dumbledore though, as long as she can see for herself that you are alright.”
Harry nodded thoughtfully. “Isn’t she going to be a little surprised that I’ve don’t need glasses anymore, and that I’ve had a bit of a growth spurt?”
Malcom grinned. “I certainly hope so.”
“So you’d like me to be out of sight when she arrives, so I can surprise her a bit more?”
“Why Harry, is that some Slytherin features I’m seeing?”
“Nothing wrong with Slytherins,” Harry replied absently. “Sometimes you find the best people in that house.”
Malcom smiled wildly. “You do, indeed, Harry. You do, indeed.”
There was a loud knock that reverberated through the air. “That’s the front door,” Malcom said, “which should mean that Nymphy is here.”
Malcom paused. “I forgot you didn’t grow up as a pureblood, Harry. You know that all the pureblood families are interconnected?”
“Well, to save time when growing up, we tend to let all the children call us Uncle and Aunt. As in some way, we probably are. When she was younger, Nymphy didn’t mind her name; it was only when she hit puberty, and came into her abilities, that she didn’t like the connotation. She only lets a few of us call her anything other than Tonks.”
“Pity,” Harry grinned. “That won’t stop me from using it to tease her, though.”
Malcom laughed. “I’ll go meet her, Gruoch and Pansy are probably already there.”
Harry watched as the older man walked down the stairs, and looked at himself in a mirror.
“You look fine, dear,” the mirror said approvingly.
“Would be better if I could get my hair under control,” Harry told it.
The mirror sniffed. “Control isn’t necessarily a good thing.”
Harry shook his head bemusedly and walked downstairs, and into the formal dining room. Almost as he had expected, Malcom was facing him, talking to Tonks and Gruoch, ensuring that Tonks had her back to him. Pansy was to one side, an amused expression on her face.
“Wotcher, Tonks,” Harry said loudly, after sneaking up on the Metamorphmagus.
Tonks spun, reaching for her wand automatically, only to stop as she stared directly into Harry’s chin.
“Harry?” she asked, tilting her head backwards.
“Yes?” Harry answered calmly.
“Didn’t you used to be shorter?”
“Growth spurt,” he explained.
“And didn’t you used to wear glasses?”
Tonks pulled out a chair and slumped down heavily. “Damn Harry. You’re going to have to borrow a Beater’s bat.”
“Huh?” Harry asked, ineloquently.
“Your fan club is going to go wild when they see you like this. You’ll need some bodyguards to keep them off you.”
“I’ll be taking care of that,” Pansy said calmly from the sidelines.
Harry looked as confused as he felt. “What exactly are you talking about?”
“Oh nothing,” Tonks smiled. “I should have known that you’d be taken care of here.”
Harry nodded, and walked around the table, taking a seat directly opposite the Auror.
“So,” he started, watching her closely. “Why are you here?”
“After talking to the Dursleys, I had to make sure you were alright.”
“And why are you here alone, and not raiding this place to save me from the horrors of truth and honesty?”
“I disagreed with Albus about sending you the Portkey; I felt that anywhere you were, would be better than you being at the Dursley’s. And that maybe we should trust your judgement. You’ve not done badly by yourself up to now”
“So what are you going to do, now?” Harry asked, as he felt Pansy take a seat beside him, and saw out of the corner of his eyes Malcom and Gruoch sit at the head and foot of the table.
“About what?” Tonks asked.
“Knowing my location.”
“Nothing, I guess,” she sighed. “You’re obviously doing a lot better than I thought.”
Harry looked closely at the Auror in front of him; he could sense that she wasn’t happy about something, but wasn’t sure if he could read her properly, as he wasn’t really seeing her in her normal shape. “What do you look like, when you aren’t using your powers?”
Tonks looked surprised, and then seemed to change slowly. Her hair turned a dark brown, her eyes chestnut. Her face shifted slightly, her nose enlarging a little, her lips shrinking. “Like this, why?”
Harry smiled at her, and then took a deep breath and concentrated straight at her. It was something he had seen Dumbledore do when he wanted to tell if a person was telling the truth or not, and he was pretty sure he could do it as well.
“What do you feel about Dumbledore at the moment?” he asked her.
Tonks fidgeted, and tried to look away, but she couldn’t seem to manage it.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t understand why he didn’t check up on you when you were growing up. Or why he always tries to force you and Snape to work together. The whole thing makes me uncomfortable.”
“Do you think that he will be able to defeat Voldemort?”
He watched as a Tonks started to sweat lightly, a thin bead appearing on her forehead, but he refused to look away - he kept staring at her, wanting to know the answer.
“I don’t know,” she blurted. “Maybe.”
“According to a prophecy, I am the only person who can defeat Voldemort,” he said calmly. “Dumbledore has known this all my life, but only saw fit to tell me at the end of school, last year. I’ve been kept in the dark one too many times by him, and I am not going to take it any more. Malcom, Gruoch, and Pansy have offered me their support, their facilities, and their expertise to help train me so that when I face Voldemort, I have a chance of winning. In less than a week, they’ve arranged for my eyes to be fixed, and the problems the Dursleys have caused to be solved as well.
“Through each and every step, they have been totally upfront and honest with me. They have told me what they expect from me, what they are offering, and what they want in return. The price is one that I am more than happy to pay.
“But we can’t do this alone, Tonks. We are going to need help. We need people like you, people who can think for themselves and are willing to stand up to Voldemort. Join us; help us form a third organisation, one that is intent on clearing up this mess once and for all, as soon as is possible. One that doesn’t have the prejudices of old, one that will have the Goblins and house-elves working with us from the start, one that has access to the Acromantulas and the Centaurs, to the Giants and the Werewolves.
“A group that is going to take the fight to Voldemort, and not stop till his snake-ness is enjoying an eternity of pain and suffering in the next life.”
Tonks looked at him with an indecipherable expression on her face; her eyes were darting all over his face, searching him. He mentally tried to lower his shields, so she could see whatever it was she was looking for.
“You’re asking me to leave Dumbledore, and the Order, and join a fifteen year old and a family that most wizards consider dark?”
“Can you really do everything you said?”
Tonks slowly lowered her head, and placed it in her hands, finally breaking his contact with her. “I might regret this later, but yes. I’ll join you.”
“Excellent,” Malcom said, interrupting smoothly. “Good to have you aboard, Nymphy. Now, let’s eat.”
After dinner, Malcom and Gruoch sat on a small couch together, Pansy sat on another alone, Tonks in an armchair. There was another armchair available, and the space next to Pansy.
Tonks watched closely as Harry entered the room last and immediately sat straight next to Pansy. He didn’t even look at the other places. Pansy shot him a smile, one he returned naturally.
Over dinner, Malcom and Harry had explained what had happened so far, and how Pansy had been the one to save Harry’s life, pushing them forward into this new venture. Having seen the two of them together, she now felt a little sorry for Ginny. It looked like the two were on the verge of a relationship. She could see that Pansy was clearly nuts about Harry, and that he was starting to think of her as something more than just a friend.
When it came down to it, she didn’t really owe Ginny any loyalty; she had pledged her own to Harry, and could see that Pansy was a good influence in his life, showing him that a lot more existed in life than just surviving, and the horse riding was a good example of that.
Tonks decided that the best thing she could do was stay out of it completely. If Ginny wanted to tell Harry in a letter that she was single, then that was her own prerogative.
As she listened to the family banter around her, she thought back to earlier in the night when she had pledged her loyalty to him and to him alone. She’d never felt quite so open as when he had stared at her, and his eyes, unencumbered by glasses, had shined directly into her soul. She had felt vulnerable, and completely unable to lie. It was disturbingly similar to how Dumbledore could look at you at times, only more raw and powerful, as if he was driven to act in a hurry, and didn’t have the patience that experience brought.
“Harry,” she said, in the next gap in the conversation. “You mentioned Acromantulas; how do you know about them?”
“Oh,” Harry replied casually. “I met Aragog a few years ago, and he owes me a favour for killing the Basilisk.”
There was a sort of stunned silence in the room, as everyone blinked at the same time.
“I’m sorry,” Malcom said slowly. “Did you just say that you’ve actually met the Alpha Acromantula, and that he owes you a favour for killing a Basilisk?”
Harry smiled faintly, “It was in my second year. Voldemort had taken control of one of the students, and he was using her to control a Basilisk. Ron and I met Aragog when we were investigating. While normally he doesn’t eat humans because of Hagrid, he was going to eat us, but we were saved by Mr Weasley’s enchanted car.
“Anyway, we tracked the Basilisk down to the Chamber of Secrets, which as a Parseltongue, I had to open. It ended up with me against a powerful diary spell of Tom Riddle, and the giant Basilisk. I got a little lucky; Fawkes, Dumbledore’s Phoenix, helped me out, by scratching out the Basilisk’s eyes, and I managed to pull the Sword of Gryffindor out of the Sorting Hat that Fawkes had dropped near me, and then I killed it, and then used one of its fangs to stab the diary, breaking the spell.”
“Who’s Tom Riddle?”
Harry pulled out his wand, and wrote “Tom Marvolo Riddle,” in glowing letters. He then rearranged them to say, “I Am Lord Voldemort.”
“It was quite a surprise to find out that Voldemort was a half-blood orphan.”
Tonks felt herself gaping at Harry again - as were the other people in the room.
“It’s really ironic,” Harry continued, seemingly unaware of the effect his words were having. “That all these pureblood families are happily following a half-blood who hates everyone.”
“Ironic, indeed,” Malcom said, his eyes now gleaming. “I wonder why this knowledge has been suppressed. Voldemort would lose a lot of his supporters if this were common knowledge. I’m not talking about his Death Eaters, but the ones in the Ministry who are quietly hoping for some form of revolution.”
Tonks agreed with him silently. She really didn’t understand why Dumbledore had been so secretive; if he obviously knew all of these details, why hadn’t he told anyone?
“So the way I see it, Aragog now owes me a favour for killing his mortal enemy. So even if they don’t join us, once I’ve talked to him, there’s no way at all he’ll join Voldemort. And if we’re clever, and let him have the bodies of dead Death Eaters, he’ll probably join us, and serve as a clean up patrol.”
“That’s ruthless,” Tonks blurted, a little shocked.
“So was killing my parents, Cedric, and Sirius,” Harry replied calmly, as he turned to look directly at her. “We’re not engaged in a tea party here, Tonks. This is war, a war they have started, and a war that I am damn well going to end.”
“We, Harry,” Pansy corrected gently. “A war we are going to end.”
Harry nodded, and shot her a very grateful smile.
“Absolutely right,” Malcom agreed. “Talking about that, Nymphy, how would you feel about helping train Harry and Pansy?”
“And Pansy?” Tonks questioned, a little surprised.
“If you think I’m letting Harry stand alone, you’ve got another thing coming,” Pansy replied firmly.
Tonks noticed another look that Harry shot the girl, and decided that their relationship wouldn’t take that long to develop after all.
“How are you planning on getting them trained in the short time before school starts?” she asked.
“Time Turner,” Malcom replied absently.
“They’re restricted items,” Tonks replied in shock, half-standing, “I should arrest you for even having one.”
“Oh sit down, Tonks, and can the dramatics,” Harry said, rolling his eyes. “You’re not going to arrest Malcom. If Dumbledore can let Hermione use one so she can study extra classes, then Malcom can definitely use one to help me and Pansy train so that we can defeat the most fearsome Dark Lord ever.”
Tonks slumped down into the chair again. She had no idea that Dumbledore had allowed Hermione to use a Time Turner, and to allow it for something as stupid as giving extra lessons was simply mind-boggling. They were restricted items for a reason; you could change the past with them. It brought even more doubt into her mind about Dumbledore and his motives. You simply did not allow anyone under normal conditions to use one.
She sighed audibly. “Harry, is there anything else I should know? Please tell me now, because I don’t think my heart can take any more surprises.”
Harry smiled slightly. “Of course you can take more, Tonks. You’re a big strong Auror, remember?”
Tonks laughed, and relaxed down back into her chair. “Yes, I’ll happily help train you both,” she said, after a second of thought. “Who else have you got lined up?”
Malcom picked up a notepad from the nearest table, and flipped through it.
“Can I ask something that’s been bothering me all my life?” Tonks asked.
“Of course,” Malcom replied, still flipping through the pages.
“What’s with those notebooks of yours? You always seem to have one on hand, but I never see you carrying them.”
Malcom smiled as he looked up. “They are a wonderful present Gruoch gave me as a wedding gift. There are ten of them; I leave them everywhere I go. What ever I write in one appears in another, and they are endless. They’re also charmed so that only I can read them.
“Okay, on a daily basis, we have Duelling, Muggle Martial Arts, Physical Fitness, Occlumency, and Weapons and Tactics. We have five separate rooms set up for each one. Harry and Pansy will spend a day doing a course, and then use the Time Turner to repeat the day again, until they have done all five. They will then use the Time Turner for a sixth day, and take a day off to go riding and have fun.”
Tonks blinked, “That’s a hell of an intensive schedule.”
Harry and Pansy both smiled together.
“It is,” Harry agreed. “But it’s the only way to do it, and at least we are doing something, not sitting around waiting for the latest news from Voldemort and worrying.”
“I’ll help out with the Duelling,” Tonks said, after a seconds thought. “Who do you have doing the training?”
Tonks coughed as some of the water she was drinking went down the wrong way. “Croaker?” she gasped.
“Err, who’s Croaker?” Pansy asked.
“He’s an Unspeakable from the Department of Mysteries.”
“How have you got him to help?” Tonks demanded. “I don’t even know how to talk to him!”
Malcom smiled, “I did him a small favour a few years back. He had a slight Muggle problem that he needed taking care of. So he’s quite happy to pay me back.”
Tonks shook her head slowly. “Is there anyone you don’t know, Malcom?”
“It depends,” he said cheerfully. “If they’re important, we know them. If they’re very important, then they either owe us a favour, or we know something about them they would prefer us not to. The Ministry is wonderfully corrupt, so it’s not been difficult to find out what we needed to know.”
“So that’s why there are suddenly rumours flying around that you’re paying attention at the Ministry again.”
Tonks shook her head slowly, and checked her watch. “I’ve got to get going,” she said. “There’s an Order meeting tonight.”
“You do realise that I expect you to spy for me?” Harry asked.
Tonks paused, and then smiled wryly. “I’ll let you know what happens,” she promised.
“You did a good job with recruiting Tonks,” Malcom said, as he sat back down after seeing Tonks out.
“Thanks,” Harry said, a faint blush appearing on his face.
Pansy smiled warmly at him, “I’ve never seen you act like that before.”
“It’s something I’ve seen Dumbledore do,” he said. “It’s not using Legilimens; it’s just letting your magic loose behind your eyes, and using it to really look at people - it’s kinda of like looking at auras.”
Pansy shook her head slowly, suddenly realising that Harry really had no idea how special he was. That the sort of things he was talking about was so far beyond the ability of normal wizards that they weren’t even mentioned. He talked about his magic as if it was a living thing inside him; where as most people had to really struggle to reach their magic and power it through their wands, he was talking about direct manipulation.
“And I figured that any help we could get would benefit us. Tonks’ skills as a metamorphmagus are something that we will definitely need in our ranks. When you combine that with her skills as an Auror, you have a very dangerous person, if used properly.”
Malcom looked at his watch, “Why don’t you two go to bed? You’re going to have a very long day tomorrow.”
“Okay, Dad,” Pansy said, as she stood and stretched.
“What’s the matter?” Gruoch asked gently.
“I’ve just realised that Harry is going to take charge of this thing.”
“Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“Well, no, not really. I wanted him to be a figurehead, while I run things behind the scenes. That’s not going to happen now; he just recruited Tonks quicker than I could have, and he’s obviously planning ahead for other events.”
“Ahhh,” Gruoch smiled. “So your ego hurts?”
Malcom frowned at her. “Thank you for the sympathy, honey.”
“You’re welcome. But look at it from the other angle, would you be happier if you were running everything, and he was useless? Would you be happy for Harry and Pansy to have a relationship?”
“I guess not,” Malcom admitted with a sigh. “It’s just going to be strange giving progress reports to someone twenty years younger than me.”
“You’ve been top of the tree for a long time, and you still are. You just have someone who’s destined to rise higher. The pressures are all on him, not on you, so enjoy it.”
Malcom nodded. “You’re right, I was ready to run away when we got into this situation, and he’s been willing to face it straight on. How’s Pansy doing with getting him as a boyfriend?”
“She’s taking it slowly, but something changed last night. I could see it in her eyes this morning. He means more to her now, perhaps more than we do.”
“You do realise that if he changes her, we’ll end up as good guys, and we will have to stop some of our more illegal ventures?”
“Would that be so difficult?” Gruoch answered calmly. “If we make more money as good guys, what’s the problem? It’s just a different set of rules to play by.”
“It would be a challenge; in horse racing; they have a handicapping system, so that everyone’s on a level playing field. If we’re being handicapped, the challenge will come from winning despite it.”
Gruoch smiled and leaned in to kiss him. “See, there’s the man I married.”
Harry and Pansy sat at the breakfast table in Harry’s room, eating a hearty breakfast. “So we’ll spend the first night in here, the second in my room, and the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth in the guest bedrooms.”
Harry nodded. “I swear this thing is going to give me a headache.”
There was a knock at the door, and Harry and Pansy walked in.
“Strike that,” Harry mumbled, “It just has given me a headache.”
“Hey,” the new Pansy said cheerfully. “Six days ago for us, future Harry and Pansy walked into the room, and gave this speech, so we’re doing the same thing to you.”
“And yes,” new Harry said. “It does give us a headache.”
“Anyway,” new Pansy continued. “We had a chat with ourselves back then, so we’re going to have a chat with you guys now. Pansy, if you want to come with me, and let the Harrys have a chat.”
Pansy nodded, and left Harry and Harry alone in his bedroom.
“Okay,” new Harry started. “We need a chat, and this seems like the best way to do it. I got some good advice from myself six days ago, so I’m passing it on.”
Harry winced. “I don’t even want to think about that,” he groaned.
“Probably a good idea,” new Harry agreed. “Anyway, we both know that when it comes to girls, we’re normally about as insightful as a brick.”
“So, I’m here to point out a few facts. One: Pansy is as smart as we are. Two: Pansy’s taken really good care of us. Three: Pansy makes us laugh. Four: Pansy isn’t scared of Voldemort, and as you’ll find out shortly, she can really fight - and by the way, we need to remember to bring her onboard to the D.A. as soon as is physically possible. Finally, and I know we already noticed this, she is gorgeous. So, everything we want in a girl is tied up in the brunette in the next room.”
“But does she even like me like that?” Harry asked.
New Harry laughed. “Only I would ask a question like that. Do you think it’s normal for a girl to sleep in the same bed as boy, like she has been? Do you think a girl would do everything she has for us if she didn’t like us like that?”
Harry looked surprised.
“Exactly,” new Harry said. “I was as surprised as you are when future Harry told me the same thing. But then I thought about it, as you will, and realise that I, or he, was right. All you have to do is not blow it.”
“How do I do that?”
“It’s simple really. Take your time; don’t push at anything, but start touching her. Let her touch you. You’ll find that touching is good, and it makes us feel good. And from there, just follow your instincts, and you’ll get it right. Remember, she’s not Cho, so don’t expect tears.”
Harry nodded. “I hope I’ll manage it.”
“You will,” new Harry grinned. “I’m here, aren’t I?”
Harry just groaned. “Don’t do that!”
“So what do you want?” Pansy asked new Pansy.
“Two things really,” new Pansy replied, sitting on Pansy’s bed. “First, don’t lose hope. Harry is going to start noticing that you’re a girl very shortly. I think he’s in there now giving himself some encouragement, and you’ll end up happy.”
Pansy smiled radiantly.
“Wow,” new Pansy said. “We are really pretty when we smile like that. We should do it more often.”
“Harry makes us smile,” Pansy said happily. “What was the other thing?”
“Oh yeah. You’re going to be duelling together at the end of today, as a practice duel. He’s going to throw a curse at your head; you’ll see a gap, make sure you go for his feet and trip him up.”
“The important thing is that you’ll beat him, and that won’t happen much. The second thing,” she smiled wickedly, “well, you’ll just have to find out yourself.”
Pansy laughed. “I like that look on my face, so I’ll do it.”
“Oh,” new Pansy finished. “Don’t forget to come and give us this talk on your day off.”
“I am Croaker,” the wizard in front of them said. He looked vaguely oriental, and there was a feeling of implacableness about him. “I will be teaching you both to duel. I will be showing you how to fight, and more importantly, how to win. The techniques I will show you have been banned in formal duels, but why should Death Eaters have all the advantages?”
Harry and Pansy exchanged a nervous glance.
“First, we are going to duel each other so I can see what your skill level is.
“Miss Parkinson, you are first. Attack me.”
Harry moved to one side and watched Pansy. She was wearing a pair of blue jeans and a light brown t-shirt; she moved gracefully, pulling out her wand. She shot a glance at her unmoving opponent, and then cast a couple of quick spells.
Less than three seconds later, she was flat on her back, her wand in Croaker’s hand.
Harry slowly ran through what had just happened. Croaker had dodged the two curses, and pulled out his own wand. He’s shot a curse directly at Pansy’s wand hand, causing her to drop her wand, and then summoned it. He’d then cast a banishing charm straight at the girl.
“You’re next, Harry,” Croaker said, returning to his original position.
Harry nodded and walked over, offering his hand to Pansy. He pulled her up, and winked at her. He felt slightly pleased when she responded with a big smile. Obviously, his own advice had been worthwhile.
He’d noticed that Croaker had only moved after Pansy had attacked him, so he decided not to attack first.
“When you’re ready,” Croaker said.
Harry nodded, and pulled his wand out, pointing it at the older man. He stood stock still, and stared hard at Croaker, waiting for him to make his move. His magic held firmly in check behind his eyes.
Croaker watched him back, not showing a hint of movement.
After another two minutes of staring at each other, Croaker broke the silence. “Why aren’t you attacking me?”
“You responded to Pansy, and caught her unaware,” Harry said quietly, his concentration not wavering. “There is no point in following a strategy that I know to have failed.”
“But you might have better luck with it,” Croaker countered.
“Maybe,” Harry agreed. “But the duel has already lasted longer. If this was a fight, my friends would have already shown up to help, and you would then be out numbered.”
“This isn’t a real fight; it’s a duel, for me to be able to see how well you are doing.”
“How well am I doing?” Harry asked calmly.
“Better than I expected,” Croaker admitted. “But I still want you to attack me.”
Harry nodded. “I guess I…” he started. Then, without changing his expression, or even twitching, Harry cast Expelliarmus silently.
The unspeakable twisted violently at the last second, and shot a stunning curse at Harry. Harry had already started to move, so it was easy for him to duck it. He cast his own stunning curse back, taking a leaf out of Croaker’s book and aiming for his wand hand.
Croaker yanked his wand hand out of the way, and shot a series of curses back at Harry.
Harry cast a shield spell in front of himself, and started to concentrate on stopping the curses from hitting him. He couldn’t find a way of attacking on his own, as his opponent started to throw a seemingly endless supply of curses at him.
As he recognised a curse, and realised it wasn’t that serious, Harry deliberately dropped his shield, took the curse, and fired an offensive spell back.
The unspeakable spun around as the curse hit him, but was back on balance a second later. “Stop!” he ordered.
Harry did so, panting.
“Did you just deliberately let that curse through so you could get one back at me?”
Harry nodded. “It was only a punch spell,” he explained, rubbing his shoulder where it had hit. “You were trying to break my shield.”
Croaker nodded slowly. “And you cast a silent spell to start with.”
Harry nodded again. “You were watching me for any movement; I didn’t want to give you a chance.”
“Mr Potter,” Croaker said calmly. “By the time these five weeks of training are over, I will make you into the best duellist on the planet.”
Harry blinked at him. “Excuse me?”
“You already have the things that can’t be taught. You learnt from Miss Parkinson’s defeat, you refused to be goaded into giving up your plan, and during the fight, you were willing to accept a curse to fire one back.”
“What about Pansy?”
“Miss Parkinson will benefit from my tutelage, but I’m afraid that she will not be able to keep up with you.”
“That’s okay,” Pansy said brightly. “I’m not the one who has to kill Voldemort. I’ve just got to make sure Harry’s back is covered.”
Croaker nodded slowly, a glimmer of respect appearing in his eyes, as he looked at Pansy. “We’ll start with some balance work,” he said slowly. “If you are off balance, you cannot fight; it’s that simple.”
Harry groaned, “I’m really sore,” he mumbled.
“Ready for one more?” Pansy asked.
“Come on,” Pansy said, bouncing on her feet. “Croaker said to practice while he was gone. Let’s go.”
Harry dragged himself to his feet. “If we must.”
“Ready?” Pansy asked.
“Yes,” Harry replied, pulling his own wand out.
Pansy showed the benefits of a day’s tutelage under one of the best the Ministry had immediately by jumping to the side, rolling cleanly into an attack stance, and without pausing, launching two curses at Harry.
Harry ducked and twisted, barely keeping his balance, and let loose a few curses at Pansy back.
Pansy watched him closely - Croaker had worked Harry a lot harder than he had worked her, and she could see the tiredness in his eyes. Normally, she wouldn’t have pushed him, but her future self had been positive it was a good idea.
As she watched, she saw that Harry was a little off balance as he launched a cutting curse directly at her. It was one of the things she appreciated about him; he’d not gone for any sexist stuff about not hitting a girl. He’d merely pointed out that Death Eaters didn’t care, and he didn’t want her hurt just because he hadn’t practiced enough with her.
She threw her own curse directly at Harry’s feet, and bounced when he fell flat on his back. “I win!” she crowed happily, dancing over to him.
“Remember what Croaker said?” Harry asked with a grin.
Harry moved fast, his legs kicking out and sliding her legs off the ground. As she fell, he rolled, caught her on his chest, and rolled her over, pinning her to the floor.
This must have been what her future self had smiled so happily about. Harry Potter was lying directly on top of her, between her legs, resting his entire weight on her. It felt wonderful, and completely right, and brought to mind all sorts of interesting things that could be done if there was less clothing involved.
“That an opponent isn’t defeated just because he’s on the floor,” he whispered intently.
“I’ll remember that,” Pansy whispered, a little surprised at the huskiness she could hear in her own voice.
Harry reached up slowly, and gently brushed some of her hair back from her cheek. He smiled warmly at her, and then jumped up, offering her his hand.
She sighed silently, but realised that Harry just wasn’t the sort of person to make rapid movements. That would have been the perfect time for a kiss, but at least he had touched her face, and the look in his eyes had promised more at a later date.
She took his hand, and smiled as he hauled her up. “Let’s go eat, Harry,” she said calmly.
“And then shower and sleep?”
“Absolutely,” Pansy yawned.
For the second time through the first day - they’d used the Time-Turner to repeat the same day in another part of Parkinson Manor - their training was in Martial Arts. It was something that had fascinated Harry growing up, as he had seen a few examples of what looked like the most graceful thing he’d ever seen on TV.
Their instructor was a small woman, who looked around thirty and appeared to be completely harmless. Only her aura was completely solid white, as if everything about her was firmly under control. That had given Harry enough warning to let himself go limp, as his invited attack had been subverted, and he had ended up flying through the air, to land flat on his back.
After the inauspicious start, she had helped him up, and started with the absolute basics: how to fall.
“The earliest and most primal fear we have is falling, even though most people have many opportunities to fall and realise that they can survive. Activities like floo travelling, broom flying, and floating spells provide plenty of opportunities to fall, but don’t actually deal with the fear of falling.
“Fear is simple - its False Evidence Appearing Real. In general, fear is an unrealistic expectation of a negative and painful outcome. It is normally self-perpetuating and difficult to change, but we all know that the way to overcome fear is to face it head on.
“We are going to start simple, and slowly build up your confidence.” Their instructor moved, so that she was standing on a mat. “All I want you to do is crouch down, and fall on to your back.”
Harry and Pansy moved, and let themselves fall backwards, and then smiled at each other. They were soon taught some more advanced techniques, including how to roll out of a fall - something that Pansy was much better at than Harry.
The third time around, Occlumency lessons, was easier on their bodies, yet harder on their minds. Maggie had rearranged her schedule to be able to help train the two children, and started to build their mental ability, concentrating on their defences first, and then teaching them to attack properly. She was very careful to instill the rules of engagement deeply in them.
The fourth time through day one was in a way the hardest, because there was no magic involved - it was pure unadulterated work, as a Navy Marine started work on their fitness. Harry remarked that he was quite definitely a sadist - a comment that got him an extra twenty push-ups.
The Marine pushed them as hard as was possible, and while he didn’t show it, he was extremely pleased with the dedication both of them showed, as they bounced off each other for competition.
The fifth day, a non-descript gentleman who didn’t give his name taught Weapons and Tactics. He talked very softly, and explained everything only once, and expected them to keep up.
After finishing the fifth day, they were both looking forward to a day off; they were tired physically and mentally, but both realised how cleverly their schedule had been arranged. Malcom had made sure that they had enough time for their bodies to rest between the physical activities.
Pansy stretched her right arm, groaning as her muscles stretched.
“Come here,” Harry said lightly, moving to the bed.
“Hmm?” Pansy asked, yawning a little.
Pansy sat on the edge of the bed, too tired to complain. She closed her eyes, and then opened them fast as she felt Harry kneel behind her and place his hands on her shoulders.
“Paddy said this might come in useful,” he whispered, referring to their physical fitness instructor.
Pansy felt his thumbs dig into the tight muscles around her neck, and move in a slow circular motion. She groaned loudly, “Please don’t stop.”
“Want more?” he asked quietly.
Pansy could only nod.
She felt his hands slide down her side, and grasp the bottom of her t-shirt, and she felt her heart beat a little faster. She lifted her arms, and let him remove her garment. She was wearing a sports bra underneath, something he had seen her work out in.
“Lie down,” he said, moving away from her.
Pansy turned, and crawled up the bed slowly, deliberately swaying a little, while she watched him out of the corner of her eye. She collapsed down and smiled to herself. He had obviously enjoyed the way she had moved, and she realised she had been right; he was definitely taking things slowly forward. He’d been a lot more comfortable around her, giving her small hugs, and lightly touching her hair all week. She now knew it was only a matter of time before they got together, and she was enjoying his attempted slow seduction.
There was no pushiness on his part, no arrogance, no feeling that he felt entitled to her or her body, just a slow increase in contact, each one accompanied by a tentative glance or look.
She felt him move over her, sitting on his heels, and slowly his hands started to press into her muscles again, easing the tension.
The fact that he had magic hands as well was a bonus she had never expected. He touched firmly, without a hint of shyness, exploring her back, and it took all of her willpower not to roll over and let his hands work on her front, and add a few kisses as well.
But the more he worked, the more relaxed she felt, and thoughts about kissing, and other fun things, vanished, as she found herself falling asleep.
When she awoke, she found herself draped over him again. Her shoes and socks had been removed, and once more, she felt at ease. She also had a complete lack of soreness that was proof that he had continued to work on her while she had slept.
There were times when she couldn’t believe that he was human, that he could be so giving without asking for anything back. It was almost as if he felt privileged that she was allowing him to help her.
She decided that she would have to do something nice for him on his birthday. He’d obviously never been taken out, and she could take him to a nightclub. Her father owned one in London, so they would be safe there, and despite being underage, they would have no problem getting in. She could take him out to dinner beforehand, perhaps to the Ritz, and just try and show him how special he was to her.
The only problem she could see was that he probably couldn’t dance, and she could. Still, they had their day off today. It might be nice if they went for a picnic to one of the meadows, and she could teach him there.
With her decisions made, she softly touched his shoulder. “Harry,” she whispered.
“Hmm?” he asked, as he awoke.
“We need to get moving, we have to have that chat with ourselves in a few minutes.”
“Okay,” he yawned. “How are you feeling?”
“Wonderful,” she said with a smile. “What about you?”
“I had a long bath after you fell asleep,” he said. “Felt a lot better after that.”
“Next time, I’m going to give you a massage.”
Harry smiled warmly at her. “Sounds good. Do you want to use the bathroom first?”
“Are you saying that I smell?” she grinned, well aware that she couldn’t smell that good.
“Not at all,” Harry said diplomatically.
She laughed and pushed him, using him to sit up. “I’ll be quick,” she promised. “After sleeping with me all night, I’ve probably made you stinky as well.”
Harry grinned at her, and reached up, lightly brushing her hair back. “How can you look so good in the mornings?”
She smiled and lightly kissed his hand. “Practice and good genes,” she grinned, and walked into the bathroom, feeling Harry’s gaze follow her. As she closed the door, she did a little dance of pleasure. Despite the hard work, and the slight fear about the future, she was happier now than she had ever been.
After their conversation with themselves, they moved to the stables, where they had encountered a slightly unexpected problem - Thunder was very wary of Harry, as he had grown several inches and was therefore only partially recognizable, and it was only after sniffing him repeatedly that the horse had allowed him onto his back.
Dobby had been delighted to make them a picnic. The house-elf was in absolute heaven, creating eighteen different meals a day, for the two of them and their teacher was stretching him - he had the entire house-elf staff organised and cooking all day.
After eating their lunch, Pansy stood and offered her hand to Harry. “Come on.”
“What are we doing?” Harry asked, as he had been enjoying just lying in the grass staring at the clouds.
“I’m going to teach you how to dance.”
“Dance?” Harry said doubtfully. He still remembered the disaster that had been the Yule Ball.
“Yes, moving to a beat,” she grinned at him. “It’s something all wizards should know.”
“Okay,” Harry smiled, standing with her. “So, what do I do?”
“We’re going to start with Ballroom Dancing,” Pansy, looking a little excited. “Now, there are three standard rhythms used, slow, quick, and triple. We’ll start with a slow. Stand with your feet together. Now, I want you to step to the left, and then bring your other foot next to your left, so that you’re in the same position. That’s called a Side-Touch. The touch is just the closing of your legs.”
“Okay,” Harry said, following the instructions precisely.
“See, it’s easy,” Pansy grinned. “Now, I want you to step to the left again, touch, then step forward and touch, but do it as I clap my hands. Ready?”
Harry nodded, smiling at her eagerness. As she clapped in a slow steady rhythm, he followed her instructions to the letter.
“Again,” Pansy demanded. “This time, relax a little. You’re supposed to be having fun, not waiting to face Voldemort.”
“I’m scared of falling over and making a fool of myself.”
“Harry, there’s only the two of us around here for miles and miles. You’ve been taught how to fall, so there’s no one to make a fool out of yourself in front of.”
“There’s you,” Harry said quietly.
He felt Pansy’s smile, as she reached out and lightly touched his cheek. “You could never be a fool in my eyes, Harry,” she said softly.
He couldn’t help but smile at her; he tried again, this time deliberately trying to relax.
An hour later, Pansy used her wand to create some music. “This is the standard Waltz, Harry; it’s one of the easiest dances to do. Watch me first.”
Harry watched as she held up one hand, and twirled around on the grass.
“I know it looks complicated when I do it like this, but watch as I simplify. One two three. One two three.” She took a step at each number, matching the beat in the music. “Do you hear it, the beat in the music?”
“Yes,” Harry suddenly felt his mouth go dry, and he really wanted to hold her.
“Then come here,” she commanded. “Never make a lady wait, Harry.”
He laughed and moved closer.
“Ok, put your right arm around my waist.”
He slid his arm around her, holding her loosely.
“I’m not made of glass, Harry; hold me tighter.”
Harry did, and pulled her closer, feeling her press along his body.
“Okay,” Pansy said, her voice a lot lower. “Don’t look at your feet, look at me. Now, like I just did, one two three.”
Harry nodded, and on the beat, he took a step forward, feeling Pansy move with him. Keeping a steady pace, he continued to move, suddenly realising that he was actually dancing. It might not be much, but he was quickly finding out just why it was so popular. He had a beautiful girl in his arms, who was as light as a feather, and for the first time he felt graceful.
As the music ended, and they came to a slow halt, she smiled at him. “And that is a waltz.”
He smiled back, and pulled her into a tight hug. “Thank you.”
She just smiled brightly at him, and moved on to the next dance.
After they had returned Thunder and Lightning to the stables, and eaten dinner, Harry dragged Pansy out to the patio at the back of the house.
“Do we have to do this now?” Pansy asked, suddenly feeling nervous.
“Yes,” he said quietly. “Don’t worry. I promise I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”
Pansy nodded, feeling her heart race. The last time she had been on a broom she could still remember watching in slow motion as her cousin flew into the tree. She could still hear the sound he made as he bounced off, and then the dreadful stillness as he lay still on the grass.
The sound of her own screams had haunted her dreams for years.
“Come here,” Harry called softly. He was sitting on the side of her old broom like a bench. It floated beneath him, under his absolute control.
She walked slowly. Every step she took she wanted to turn and run, to leave, and to give into the fear that made her nauseous.
“Sit down,” he whispered, gently easing her down to sit on the broom like he was.
The feel of the comfort charm against her hips was familiar and scary at the same time. It brought back good memories, but the bad eclipsed it. She felt herself breathing harder, dragging huge lungful of air inside her.
“It’s okay,” Harry whispered softly. “I’m here, and I’m not going to let you go.”
She reached out and grabbed his arm; even though they hadn’t even sat on the broom properly yet, she was still terrified. “I don’t think I can do this,” she whispered, feeling the panic rise inside her.
“Look at me,” he commanded, his voice snapping across her panic like a whip.
She turned, and met his eyes, and found herself unable to look away.
“You are going to do this,” he ordered. “You are too strong to let this beat you any more.”
Pansy saw that he truly believed what he said, and to him, her giving up wasn’t an option. He felt that she had it in her to overcome it, and he wasn’t going to let her let herself down. It was almost simple in his mind, and in a way it was.
“There’s nothing wrong with fear,” he whispered intently. “It tells us we are alive, but fear isn’t a positive emotion; it’s insidious and it plays with our minds. It causes us to freeze when we need to move the most. It makes us hesitate when we need to act. Fear can instil needed caution, but it can be taken too far. Your fear of flying has gone too far. You are going to face your fear head on, and you are going to scream in its face. You are going to tell it that you are stronger than that.
She felt almost hypnotised by his bright, green eyes, as if everything she wanted and needed could be found inside them.
He shifted, sitting on the broom properly. Slowly, he reached out, and pulled her closer to him. “Slide your leg over the broom.”
She did as she was told, focusing all her senses on him, and him alone. She used him as a way to beat the fear that was still fighting inside her. She closed her eyes, so that she couldn’t see what was happening, and concentrated on the sound of his breathing, the smell of the shower gel he had recently used, and the feel of his body holding hers.
“Open your eyes,” he whispered, his breath brushing past her hair.
She slowly complied, and found herself staring at a bright half moon. It was so clear, and it felt like she could reach out and touch it.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” he asked, “Sometimes my only peace has come on a broom - it’s here that I can feel myself. No one wants or needs me; it’s just me and the night sky.”
Pansy looked down, and suddenly realised that they were a couple of hundred metres from the ground. “Ahhh!” she screamed, suddenly tensing.
“Stop!” Harry commanded. “Don’t move.”
Pansy froze, too scared to do anything else.
“Relax,” Harry crooned into her ear. “You were doing fine till you realised that you were flying. Think back, rediscover that feeling, that sense of peace that you had a few seconds ago. Look at the moon again, look at how close it seems.”
Pansy nodded slowly, willing her breathing back to normal.
“I’ve got you,” Harry continued. “I’m not going to let you go. I’m here, with you.”
She nodded, she could feel his arms around her waist, and her back pressed firmly against his chest.
“Put your hands out to the side.”
Slowly, she moved her hands out, aware of how much they were shaking. She clenched up as she felt him order the broom forward, and they started to fly, her eyes closing tightly.
“Open your eyes,” he whispered.
She wondered how he could tell that she had closed them, but opened them again, only to slam them back shut as she saw that they were moving.
“Come on, Pansy,” he whispered, almost drawling her name in a new way. “Open your eyes, for me. Eyes like yours should always be happy and content, they should shine for the world to admire, not be hidden by fear.
She opened her eyes again, and managed to keep them open as he flew them in a circle. She screamed as he pushed them down into a lazy dive.
“Scream,” he told her. “Scream your fear, scream your anger, and scream your guilt. Shout it all out, get rid of it. Tell the world you’re not scared any more.”
He tilted the broom, angling it further down, taking her into a steep dive - pulling up long before they got close to the ground.
As he flew them back up, her scream turned from fear into anger, and then into pleasure. “I’m flying,” she yelled. “I’m doing it. You’re not beating me anymore!”
“That’s right,” Harry said, his voice sounding exhilarating. “What happened is in the past, you’ve moved on from then. This is my Pansy, this strong beautiful girl.”
She gasped, suddenly positive that he hadn’t meant to say that, and that he probably didn’t realise that he had. He had called her his Pansy in a possessive tone. Her fear was long gone now, and she was starting to enjoy the flying. It had been obvious from watching him duel Draco at Quidditch that he was a superior flyer. She hadn’t realised just how superior till she actually flew with him. Complicated manoeuvres were executed with a casual ease she didn’t believe possible. She had no idea how long they flew for, she just knew that when they finally landed, that she was exhausted.
She relaxed as she felt him pick her up, and carry her - something he simply would not have been able to do a few days ago.
She rested her head against his shoulder and closed her eyes, feeling strangely proud of herself. She had flown again, and while it had taken Harry to help her, she had managed to overcome her fear on her own.
“Harry?” she heard her mother call.
“Yes?” Harry whispered, obviously trying not to wake her up.
“Thank you,” Gruoch said simply.
“It was my pleasure,” Harry said softly. “She’s amazing, you know that, right?”
“I do, Harry,” Gruoch replied. “Please look after her. I know she wants to help you, but I still worry for her. She is my only daughter, and one of my best friends.”
Pansy held her breath, waiting for Harry’s response.
“I promise,” he said simply, as if once having given his word, nothing else was needed.
And as he carried her upstairs, she was lulled into a genuine sleep; as she fell into her dreams, she was hit by a final thought.
For him, nothing else was needed.
“So why don’t you write Harry a letter?” Ron asked.
Ginny sighed. “Dear Harry,” she said in a mocking voice. “Hi, how are you? By the way, I lied to you about dating Dean; please don’t fall in love with anyone else till I can see you. Love, Ginny.”
Ron winced. “I guess it’s not really the sort of thing you can say in a letter, is it?”
“Look,” Hermione said calmly. “We know that Harry is shy around girls - look how long it took him to approach Cho. What are the chances that he will form a full relationship in the next five weeks? Very small. When we get back to Hogwarts, we’ll be able to sort this whole mess out, and we can all be happy.”
Ginny nodded and smiled. “What Harry needs is a good snog.”
“Gin-n-n,” Ron protested. “I might think that you and Harry belong together, but I still don’t want to hear that!”
Ginny laughed, and turned to face her brother. “So you’re saying that I shouldn’t tell you that I know a great broom cupboard perfect for some experimentation.”
“No!” Ron said, closing his eyes tightly. “But you can tell me where it is, you know, just in case.”
Ginny reached down and grabbed a pillow, throwing it at her brother.
“Hey, that’s Hedwig,” Hermione interrupted before the pillow fight could get serious.
Ron opened the window, and unwrapped the message from the owl’s leg. Hedwig flew off immediately, vanishing into the night sky.
“Hey guys,” Ron read out loud.
“Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written to you.”
“What does he mean by that?” Ginny asked. “It’s only been a couple of days.”
“Shh,” Hermione said. “Let Ron finish.”
“Things are going great here. I’ve made quite a few new friends, who have actually been upfront with me from the start. And I’ve had a bit of a growth spurt, too, not that I’m close to Ron because that would need some serious magic!
“It’s going to be strange at school next year, with Dean joining us. But don’t worry Ginny; I’m sure he’ll fit in. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve got some great ideas for the D.A., and how we can take it forward and really improve.
“And before you ask, Hermione, yes, I have done all my homework, AND I’ve been practising Occlumency to make sure I’m ready for the year. Voldemort is never going to catch me unaware again. I know it’s working, because I’ve not had a single vision from him recently. It means that I’m actually sleeping at night.
“While I’m in a confessional mood, I’ve accepted that Sirius is dead. He died because I made a mistake. It’s a mistake I will not be making again. I promise each of you that I will not be running off in the future. We are only as strong as each other, and when we stand together, we will win. I guarantee it.
“Anyway, I’ve got to go; my hosts have arranged some extra classes for me, and they’re a lot of fun.
“Oh, and Ron, have you asked Hermione out yet?
“I miss you all.
“Wow,” Hermione said softly. “That’s the most open I’ve ever seen Harry be.”
Ginny sighed. “Did you notice how he is automatically including Dean in everything? He wants us all to be friends, and is willing to let someone else in for me.”
“I’m more concerned that he’s done his homework,” Ron said. “Whoever he’s with is obviously a bad influence on him.”
“Haven’t you done yours?”
“Err, yeah, of course I have,” Ron said, looking shifty.
Hermione groaned. “Ron, you are not leaving this room till you have done your homework!”
“Even potions?” Ron whined.
“Even potions!” Hermione paused, and looked at Ginny. “And what about you?”
“I’ll get my books,” Ginny sighed. “And we should write back to Harry. Oh, I had an idea, why don’t we tell him that as we can’t be together for his birthday, we’re going to postpone it and have a party at Hogwarts?”
“Good idea,” Ron said. “We can smuggle some Butterbeer in, and have a welcome back to school party as well.”
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that,” Hermione sighed. “It is a good idea, though.”
“Ahh, my dear Cornelius,” Malcom said slowly, as he entered the Minister of Magic’s office.
“Malcom,” Fudge said shortly.
With an amused expression on his face, Malcom ignored the shortness and sat down comfortably on the couch to the side of the desk, effectively eliminating Fudge’s imposing desk from the conversation.
“So, what is this Werewolf Protection Bill that you are sponsoring at the moment?”
Fudge sat up in his chair, trying to look bigger than he was. “Werewolves are dark creatures, and we need to protect innocent people from this dangerous menace. The bill will require all Werewolves to sign a registry, and to wear a tracking bracelet at all times. They will be banned from all public places, and from taking any jobs where they might come into contact with normal wizards.”
“Excellent,” Malcom enthused, clapping his hands together. “And you memorised that on your own as well? Well done. It’s a fine piece of rhetoric from Lucius. I must congratulate him the next time I see him.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Fudge spluttered.
“Please, Cornelius,” Malcom drawled. “We both know that Voldemort wants it to look like the wizarding world is turning its back on Werewolves, so that they will join him.”
“Lucius has assured me that Voldemort has no wish to have the Werewolves join him,” Fudge said calmly. “It’s for the best.”
“Tell me, how did a little toad like you end up the Minister? We must have really dropped the ball when you were elected. Oh well, no use crying over spilt milk. I expect you to drop this stupid Bill immediately.”
“I will do no such thing,” Fudge shouted. “Who do you think you are, coming in here and ordering me around? I am the Minister of Magic.”
“Sit!” Malcom demanded coldly. “The next time you raise your voice to me, I will have you removed from office within two hours.”
“You can’t do that,” Fudge said.
Malcom sneered at him, noticing that Fudge had lowered his voice. “I’ve let Lucius have his fun in here for too long. I’m taking back control of the Ministry. You are either with me or against me, my dear Fudge. If you are against me, then there is absolutely no reason for me to keep silent my knowledge of the two hundred thousand galleons you have misappropriated from different projects over the last ten years, is there?”
“You can’t prove it.”
“Of course I can. Don’t ascribe your own stupidity to others.”
“I can’t cancel the Bill,” Fudge whined. “Lucius will kill me.”
“It all comes down to fear, my dear fellow. Who do you fear more? Lucius, someone convicted of being a Death Eater, or me? Just think, if you go with Lucius, you will be out of your job by this afternoon, your money seized as a Government asset. How long do you think you will last then - when you are no longer of any use to him?”
“Make your choice. I can, and will, protect you from Lucius.”
Fudge seemed to melt into his chair. “There is no choice,” he complained bitterly.
“Of course there is. You can die, or you can live a little longer.”
“But Lucius...” Fudge tried again.
“You will send Lucius to me.”
“Good afternoon, Albus,” Arthur Weasley said pleasantly.
“Arthur,” Professor Dumbledore greeted the patriarch of the Weasley family. “What can I do for you this fine afternoon?”
Arthur frowned, “I’ve been hearing some rumours that I thought you’d be interested in. It appears that Malcom Parkinson has decided to pay attention at the Ministry again. The whole place is abuzz with talk about him having a meeting with Fudge, and Fudge immediately cancelling a meeting with Lucius in the afternoon.”
“What is he playing at?” Albus wondered aloud. Of all the things that Arthur might have contacted him about, this was someone near the bottom of his list.
“I’m afraid I have no idea,” Arthur said. “I just wanted to pass on the rumour.”
“Thank you,” Albus said. “Please keep me informed if you hear anything else.”
Arthur nodded and closed the floo connection.
“Problem?” Snape asked, as he entered the Headmaster’s office.
“Parkinson is back at the Ministry,” Albus replied slowly. “I’m just wondering whose side he is on.”
“Today, you mean?”
“You mean what side Malcom is on today. He changes loyalty faster than a Gryffindor faced with death.”
“Severus,” Albus chided gently. “Have you heard anything?”
“Only that Lucius and Malcom had a falling out, and that Malcom is now on Voldemort’s list.”
Albus frowned, peering over his glasses. “I’m surprised that he hasn’t run.”
“I think we all are. Perhaps he’s going to fight against Voldemort.”
Albus shook his head slowly. “Malcom and I have never seen eye to eye; I doubt he would even approach me, and I’m not sure that I would trust him.”
Snape shrugged. “Perhaps he’s trying to make friends at the Ministry to save himself.”
Albus nodded. “That would, indeed, make sense.”
“Anyway, I checked around, and as far as Voldemort is concerned, Harry is safe in his normal hiding place.”
Dumbledore nodded. “And the Ministry?”
“Potter’s wand has not been used.”
“I think we need to take more direct action,” Dumbledore said thoughtfully. “I am not convinced that Harry is safe where he is, no matter what Dobby says. I shall send a tracking charm with an Owl, so that we will at least know the general area he is staying.”
Harry and Pansy were relaxing in his room; it was the first night of day two, and so this was their prescribed place for the evening. They had arranged to meet Malcom and Gruoch on day one, before using the Time-Turner for them, or every evening for Pansy’s parents.
Harry frowned as an unfamiliar owl knocked on the window, “The alarms didn’t go off, so it can’t be a Portkey, can it?”
“Don’t think so,” Pansy said, “I wonder how, considering that we are in six different places at the moment, it can tell which you to bring it to.”
“Luck, probably,” Harry grinned, and opened the window. “Dobby,” he called at the same time, about to ask the house-elf to clear the table.
Dobby arrived with a pop, took one look at the bird, and growled. “Dobby told Dumbledore to not try and bring Harry Potter sir back.”
The elf dashed forwards, grabbed the bird, and disappeared with a pop.
“What was that!?” Pansy asked.
“I have no idea at all.”
They waited impatiently for Dobby to reappear. And a few minutes later, he did, a satisfied expression on his face.
“Dobby?” Harry asked, looking confused.
“Dumbledore put a tracking spell on the parchment,” Dobby explained. “Dobby took the owl and the parchment away from Harry Potter.”
“How did you know it had a spell?” Harry asked, curiously.
“Dobby can see magic, it was making the parchment glow.”
Harry dropped to his knees next to Dobby. “You can see Magic?”
Dobby nodded eagerly.
“Can you teach me?”
“Wizards never ask house-elves to teach elf secrets. Wizards always seem to think that Wizard magic is better than house-elf magic. House-elf magic different,” Dobby said slowly. “Dobby would be honoured to show Harry Potter sir how. Dobby has always said that Harry Potter is different to all other wizards.”
“Thank you,” Harry smiled.
Dobby sat cross-legged in front of Harry. “Dobby was taught by his Father when Dobby was a small elf. Harry Potter needs to sit as well.”
Harry moved, sitting Indian fashion in front of the elf.
“Harry Potter sir has to find his magic. Magic is alive, it lives in all beings. Wizards and elves and other magical creatures are simply able to access it better than Muggles. Magic is deep inside, it’s bright and shiny.”
Harry nodded; he was already familiar with his magic, from using it like Dumbledore did. He pulled it behind his eyes, staring directly at Dobby.
Dobby clapped his hands happily. “Well done, Harry Potter sir. Now you need to look through magic. Bring magic from behind your eyes, to in front of your eyes.”
The Boy-Who-Lived nodded slowly, and concentrated hard, imagining a small film of magic covering his eyes.
“Look,” Dobby whispered. “Look around, and see the magic all around.”
Harry looked, and suddenly it seemed to fall in place for him. Everywhere he looked he could see a faint hue of colour.
“Bright colour is powerful magic,” Dobby said. “Look at Mistress Park’son.”
Harry turned to Pansy, and gasped. She was glowing an unearthly white colour that highlighted her hair and fair complexion. “She’s beautiful,” he said softly.
Dobby nodded, “Harry Potter sir’s friends are bright white as well. Smallest Wheezy is the brightest. She is very powerful, like Mistress.” He snapped his fingers, creating a mirror. “Now have a look at yourself.”
Harry did and reeled back, covering his eyes.
Dobby nodded. “Harry Potter sir is a great and powerful wizard. Only Dumbledore and Voldemort are as bright as you are, but Harry Potter is still young, you will be brightest of all.”
Harry blinked, removing the magic from his eyes. “Thank you,” he said softly. “You’ve helped me out again, Dobby. I won’t forget.”
Dobby beamed happily.
“What did you do to the Owl?” Pansy asked softly.
Dobby looked positively gleeful. “Dobby hid the owl deep in the Chamber of Secrets. Dumbledore and Evil Snape will have lots of problems getting there. Will take them a very long time. When they do get there, Dobby left them a message. ‘Leave Harry Potter alone!”
Harry and Pansy laughed.
A few days in normal time later, or nearly a month for Harry and Pansy, Pansy walked into her parent’s bedroom and sat on the bed. “Mum?”
“Don’t tell me,” Gruoch said, as she sat at the dresser. “You want to seduce Harry, and have decided that I need my last illusions about my only daughter ruined, so you’ve come to me for advice on how to do it?”
“Mum!” Pansy moaned, blushing furiously.
Gruoch laughed, and started applying her own makeup.
“It’s Harry’s sixteenth birthday next week, and I want to do something special for him.”
“What have you got in mind?”
“I want to take him to dinner at the Ritz, and then dancing at Daddy’s club.”
“You know that technically you’re too young to go to Embassy?”
Pansy shrugged. “It’s something he’s never done, and I’ve even been teaching him to dance so that he’ll have fun.
“And it will allow me to seduce him afterwards.”
Gruoch dropped her blusher, and then desperately tried to catch it.
Pansy laughed delightedly. “Turn about is fair play, mum. You’ve got me to blush too many times recently.”
“I learnt from the best,” Pansy replied modestly. “But seriously. Harry is definitely falling for me, and he just needs a little push before he kisses me properly. A night like that on his birthday will hopefully be enough.”
Gruoch sighed audibly. “I’m sure there are many reasons why I should say ‘no’ here.”
“But you won’t,” Pansy cheered, and then rushed over and hugged Gruoch. “Thanks, mum.”
Gruoch sighed again. “Just be careful honey.”
“Don’t worry, I’m with Harry. He won’t let anything happen to me.”
“I’ll arrange for a limo, and pre-pay for everything.”
“You’re the best!”
“That girl’s going to be the death of me yet,” Gruoch moaned.
“What’s Pansy done now?” Malcom asked, an amused look on his face.
“She persuaded me to allow her to take Harry to the Ritz for dinner, and then to the Embassy for the rest of the evening.”
“You’ll get me closed down,” Malcom sighed. “Allowing under-age children into my nightclub.”
“Have you seen them recently? I mean, really looked at them?”
Malcom had, but shook his head, curious as to his wife’s view on the two of them.
“They walk differently; they both prowl now, like they have boundless energy. With Harry’s extra height, and the muscles he’s gained, he looks about as sixteen as I do. And Pansy’s always looked older than she is.”
Malcom nodded slowly. It would have been hard for him not to notice the change in his daughter and the boy he was becoming increasingly fond of. The surprising thing for him, had been how willing people had been to help once they had spent a day with Harry and Pansy. These were professionals, some of the best in the world, and they all responded to how much Harry and Pansy wanted to learn.
He had no illusions about his daughter. She had always been ambitious, and had seized her chance with both hands. He was very proud of her, but was very aware that she was doing it for Harry. The changes in his daughter’s behaviour had been subtle, as she had changed some of her outlooks to be what she thought Harry would want and need.
It was a good thing, as far as he was concerned, as she had blossomed from a slightly spoilt, selfish young girl into the beginnings of the woman she was destined to become, and he found that he really liked her.
He had been a pretty poor parent when she had been growing up, always out, building the family fortune. He hadn’t really noticed her till she had reached ten; and even then, all he had done was buy her a new horse or two.
When she had reached puberty, things had started to change. The death of her cousin had made Gruoch sit him down, and tell him very firmly that his behaviour was no longer acceptable. His daughter needed him, and it was time for him to make sure he was there for her.
That had been the start of their relationship, as they had over many sleepless nights slowly started to get to know each other, and he had realised that money, and Gruoch, which was all he had thought that he wanted, wasn’t enough. He wanted his daughter’s love as well, and he had worked hard to earn it. Like everything in his life, he was willing to put the effort in to get the reward.
He had still spoilt her, well aware that he was wrapped around her little finger, and quite comfortable with it. And while he had teased her about marrying Draco, he’d been more than willing to jump at the opportunity to bury that little idea as soon as Gruoch had brought the issue up.
The idea of that little snot getting his hands on Pansy made him sick, and had actually been the start of the problems between him and Lucius.
Lucius had arrived in his office, and basically ordered him to hand his daughter over, so that Pansy and Draco could be engaged in a whirlwind of publicity - because that would have helped hide some of the things Voldemort wanted to do.
He’d told Lucius exactly where he could place that idea, and Lucius had retaliated by running to Voldemort about the Muggles he employed. He was looking forward to seeing Lucius’ face when Pansy opened the doors to Malfoy Manor as a hotel. He had every confidence in her ability to pull it off.
She still had his skill, and her mother’s intelligence, but now she had some Gryffindor caring as well, and that had completed the package. It had turned her into a young woman that he was incredibly proud to call his daughter.
And then there was Harry, the boy who seemed born to lead. The more time he spent around him, the more impressed he had become. He’d heard from Pansy how Harry had learnt from Dobby how to see magic, and listened as Pansy explained how natural a magic user Harry really was.
What was amazing, was how modest Harry was. Even with some of the best trainers in the world praising him, he thought of himself as nothing special, as just another person engaged in the fight to defeat Voldemort.
Croaker, a man who had very little respect for anyone, had only agreed to help because Malcom had arranged an airtight alibi for him when he had executed his sister’s abusive husband. Croaker’s sister, who was a Muggle, was now seeing a nice accountant and had a happy home life. Croaker was now pushing Harry the hardest of all his trainers, convinced that the boy would be the best in the world by the time he had finished.
Tonks had arrived on the second day and had been asked to train Pansy, so that Harry and Croaker could go deeper into duelling, into levels not seen for many years. Croaker had told him that he had to spend all night researching in the Unspeakable department to find new challenges and techniques for Harry.
When they met each night, for him at least, he had found it much easier than he had thought to report to him, and tell him what was going on in the outside world. It was probably the direct way Harry had of looking at people that made him trustworthy.
“When you’ve quite finished,” Gruoch interrupted, looking very amused.
“Sorry, dear,” Malcom smiled apologetically. “Lost in thought.”
“Pansy, Harry, dinner and dancing,” Gruoch prompted.
“Okay, we’ll let them go, but we’ll be at the club as well, watching through the cameras. I want to see how Harry handles himself if a couple of Muggles decide to interfere.”
Gruoch raised her left eyebrow. “Muggles you’ll pay to interfere?”
“Of course,” Malcom smiled. “If Harry handles it well, then he’ll have passed my final test - that he can keep Pansy safe, and he’ll have my blessing.”
Gruoch laughed softly. “Are you sure you’re not a Slytherin?”
“Do you know what day it is today?” Pansy asked, after they finished their Weapons and Tactics training.
Pansy poked him in the arm. “It’s your birthday, silly.”
“It is?” Harry asked, looking a little surprised.
“Yep. Well, it’s been your birthday for the last five days, but as this time around is day five I can do something about it, as it’s our day off tomorrow.
“I’m taking you out to dinner, and then dancing in a club. We’re going to have a very good time, and celebrate your birthday properly.”
“You don’t have to do that,” Harry protested.
“I know,” Pansy smiled. “But I want to and I am going to get my way about this so it’ll be easier on both of us if you give in nicely right now.”
Harry laughed and held up his hands. “Dancing does sound fun,” he admitted. “And we could do with some proper time off.
“But shouldn’t I be asking you out on our first date?”
Pansy smiled slowly on him. “A date?”
Harry nodded, suddenly looking nervous. “I really like you,” he blurted. “And I wanted to ask you out on date, and now you’ve brought this up, and well, it would be perfect.”
“I’d love to go on a date with you,” Pansy said happily. “Now go and shower, Mum’s got some clothes for you to wear.”
Harry saluted, and wandered into the guest bathroom they were using for that night.
Pansy shook her head at him, and walked down to her parent’s bedroom. If there was one thing she knew about her mother, it was that she had impeccable taste, and she had used it to select two outfits for Pansy to wear.
The first was a simple black cocktail dress, which probably cost as much as a small car. It had a heart shaped area of a gauzy material that would hint at cleavage and cleverly hide the built in bra, leaving her shoulders completely bare. The strap on heels next to it would add a couple of inches to her height and emphasise her legs, which she privately thought were her best features.
It would look classy and expensive - perfect for a romantic meal.
The second outfit was a skirt set. The pleated dark brown skirt had a thick belt to be worn diagonally across her hips. It fell to mid-thigh, and would bounce nicely when she was dancing. The top was a tight light brown t-shirt, with Arabic letters in black, which would look a lot better as soon as she lost the bra her mother had so thoughtfully provided, she decided.
Pansy smiled happily, and dived into the bathroom, showering as quickly as she could. She finished and walked back into her parent’s bedroom, wrapped in a towel. “Mum?”
Gruoch smiled at her, a tinge of sadness in her eyes. “You didn’t think I was going to let you do this on your own, did you?”
Pansy nodded, smiling slightly.
“Sit down, dear,” Gruoch said, pointing in front of her. “I’ll do your hair.”
Pansy nodded and sat down, as her mother blow-dried her hair; she remembered the countless times she had done this growing up. The talks they had shared and the nonsense they had laughed over.
“This isn’t the end, mum,” Pansy said softly, her voice barely audible over the hum of the hairdryer.
“It feels like it, in a small way,” Gruoch replied.
“I know it does, things are changing, but there are some things that will never change. I’ll always be your daughter; I’ll always want you to do my hair, to tease me, to be my friend.”
“I know, love,” Gruoch said, “but after tonight, it won’t just be you anymore. It will be you and Harry. I’ve seen the looks you give him, the light in your eyes when you talk about him. You’re serious about him, I know.”
“I am, mum. I’m in love with him, and not ‘I love Lightning’ love, but full on, devastating, scary love. I asked myself if I could handle just being his friend, and I nearly burst into tears.
“But it doesn’t matter. You know that Harry adores you and dad, and he would never come between us. It will be different, but things change, people grow, we grow.”
Gruoch finished with her hair, and hugged her gently. “Thank you.”
“I love you, mum,” Pansy whispered, feeling a tear make her way down her cheek. “We knew this day would come, but at least its Harry, not Draco.”
Gruoch laughed, and released her from the hug. “I’m being silly; you’re only going out on your first date. It’s just hard for me to watch the little girl with skinned knees turn into a devastating young woman, and go out with the man she has fallen in love with.
“And if you were like this for Draco, I’d be driving you to the nearest psychologist about now.”
Pansy laughed, and moved over to the dresser.
“Don’t put much makeup on,” Gruoch advised. “You don’t need it.”
Harry stepped out of the shower, and walked into the bedroom, a towel wrapped around his waist.
“Malcom?” he said, surprised to see the man there.
“Gruoch’s talking to Pansy, so I thought I’d give you some moral support,” he said.
“I didn’t know I needed it,” Harry replied, moving over to the dresser.
Malcom lounged back on the bed. “Been on that many dates?”
Harry laughed. “My last date, well, my only date, was a monumental disaster. Horrible. We ended up at Madame Puddifoot's - I was scared I’d sneeze and send the lace flying.”
“I remember it well,” Malcom grinned. “I took Gruoch there once, trying to impress her. We lasted around fifteen minutes before we snuck out and went for a Butterbeer.”
“I’m actually not nervous about tonight,” Harry said, absently rubbing his chin.
“Why not? And why don’t you have a shave?”
“Because it’s Pansy, you know? And I don’t actually know how to shave.”
“Well, if you don’t mind me acting In Loco Parentis, I’ll happily show you.”
Harry smiled. “Thanks. It didn’t use to be a problem, but I guess fixing my height kick-started a few other things as well.”
“Grab your wand, and come into the bathroom.”
Harry nodded, and as Malcom walked into the bathroom, he quickly pulled a pair of boxer shorts and jeans on and padded after the older man.
“It’s always best to shave after you’ve been in the shower; it softens the hair, so that it’s easier to remove.
“Now, the spell you’re using is Tondeo. Cast it, and then look in the mirror, and bring your wand down your cheek slowly. Go with the grain of your skin to start with.”
Harry nodded and cast the spell. Carefully, he dragged his wand down the side of his face, and smiled as he saw a smooth path appear on his cheek.
“Wash the hair off under the tap, and continue. Do your cheeks first, then around your mouth and chin, and then your neck. Take your time - if you go to fast you may end up slicing yourself, and Pansy would never forgive me if you went out there with your face cut to bits.”
Harry smiled. “Thanks,” he said dryly. “So, what was it like when you went out with Gruoch for the first time?”
“Bad,” Malcom groaned. “To start with, your dad thought I was nuts even talking to a Slytherin. And then he gave me all sorts of really bad advice about how to act. Luckily, your mother was a lot more sensible.
“I was so nervous that I did cut myself shaving, and I had to get a friend to cast a healing spell to patch me up. My best robes were a little threadbare, and when I tried to fix them, I ended up making it worse.
“James was in hysterics, until Remus reminded him how bad he had been about his first date with your mother, and he sobered up pretty quickly. I think he suddenly realised that I did feel that way about Gruoch, and before I knew it, I was wearing your father’s robes.
“I felt so sick that I almost chickened out, and it was James who dragged me to the meeting point. As soon as I saw her, I went into a daze. She looked so amazing, and the rest of that day was a blur. It can’t have been too bad, because she did marry me.”
Harry grinned, and finished shaving. “I’m starting to worry that I’m not nervous now.”
“Wash your face, and then put some of that lotion on. There is a difference, though; I didn’t really know Gruoch that well. You’ve already spent over a month in Pansy’s company, if you count the time spent using the Time-Turner. You already know her really well.”
Harry nodded. “I do.” He paused, and felt a blush forming on his cheeks. “You know I care about her, a lot? She’s wonderful.”
Malcom nodded. “Have you tried using hair gel to get your hair under control? And I had hoped. You’re a fine young man, Harry. And Pansy has quite definitely chosen you.”
“I still find that hard to believe,” Harry mumbled. “I’m just me, but she’s beautiful, intelligent, caring, strong, and always seems to be looking after me. And I’ve never had hair gel to try before.”
“I’ll get Gruoch to come in and fix your hair in a minute. And I’ll think you’ll find that my daughter is an excellent judge of character, Harry. And I will say that I approve of her taste. That second bottle is some aftershave; splash a small bit in your hands, and then rub it into your face. Be careful not to use too much.”
Harry nodded and yelped as his hands came into contact with his face.
“Stings, doesn’t it,” Malcom grinned. “Now, get dressed, and I’ll show you how to wear a tie properly.”
Harry nodded and walked into the bedroom. There was a suit laid out on the bed that was complete with underwear.
He used some deodorant first, and slid out of his jeans, vaguely amused by the fact that Malcom was waiting in the bathroom, giving him some privacy. He changed his underwear, and blinked as the silk boxers slid over his skin. His underwear tended to be more in the functional department.
He pulled on the white shirt next, careful not to crease it as he moved his arms into the sleeves, and did up the cuffs. He quickly buttoned the shirt, leaving the top one undone.
He bent and quickly pulled on the black socks. The black trousers were next, and they appeared to be tailor made for him - he’d never had a pair that fit so well. He tucked himself in, and did up the belt.
He picked up the long, strange looking tie, and walked back into the bathroom.
“Tying a bow tie is a little like tying your shoe laces,” Malcom said, looking amused.
“Pull it around your neck, under your collar, so that one end is slightly longer than the other and cross them. Now, push the long end up under the cross. Form an angle loop with the short end of the tie crossing left, and then drop the long end at the neck over the horizontal loop. Next, move the loose, long end to a similar angle and push this loop through the short loop. And tighten the knot by adjusting the ends of both loops.”
Harry tried to follow the instructions, but got confused half way through and ended up in a mess.
“Only Muggles would invent something so complicated,” Malcom grinned. “I came prepared,” he said, as he pulled out another tie. “Now, watch me, and duplicate.”
It took another three goes before Harry had a decent looking bow tie.
“Excellent,” Malcom praised. “I’ll get Gruoch to fix your hair now. And Harry?”
“Look after my little girl.”
Harry nodded, well aware that Malcom had phrased it as an order, not a request. He really appreciated the gesture that the older man had made. But in a way, it made him a little sad, as he realised just how much he had lost out on by not having parents.
Malcom walked into his bedroom, and smiled at the sight of his wife and daughter. “Time to swap,” he said cheerfully. “You get to go and fix Harry’s hair.”
“Dad, what did you say to him?” Pansy asked, suddenly frowning. “You didn’t scare him did you?”
“I might have mentioned that I’ll boil him in oil if he touches you,” Malcom replied solemnly.
“Dad!” Pansy yelled.
“Honey, he’s teasing you,” Gruoch interrupted. “Aren’t you, dear?”
Malcom nodded, “I just asked him to look after you.”
Pansy sighed and looked relieved. “Thanks, dad. I was so surprised when he said he wanted this to be a date. I don’t want him changing his mind now.”
“I’ll go and fix Harry’s hair,” Gruoch said, and walked out the door.
“You look amazing,” Malcom said softly. “So grown up. It’s only now, when your childhood has gone, that I realise how much I missed when you were growing up.”
Pansy walked over and hugged her father firmly. “You made up for it, dad. I forgave you a long time ago; don’t beat yourself up over it anymore, okay?”
“He’s a very special young man,” Malcom said. “But you’re always going to be my princess.”
“I feel like Harry’s queen,” she replied softly, sitting down next to him. “And that’s going to be the difference. I’m still going to be your daughter; I’m just going to be something else for Harry.”
“You’ve become a very special young lady, and I’m proud to be your father.”
Gruoch walked into the guest bedroom, to find Harry pacing slowly around the room.
“I wasn’t. I am, now,” he muttered.
“You’ll be fine. Now sit so I can fix your hair.”
“You do know that we’ve tried all sorts of magic to fix it?”
Gruoch grinned. “Which is why we’re not using magic, Harry.” She walked over and grabbed a tub from the bathroom. “I’m going to try and spike your hair up a little.”
“So you’re a hair dresser as well?”
“All mums are hair dressers; we spend so much time playing with our kids’ hair that it comes naturally.” Gruoch lightly bit her bottom lip as she concentrated, using the hair gel to force his hair to behave.
“There,” she said proudly, as she finished.
“It still looks a mess though,” Harry said.
“It looks like it’s supposed to be a mess, rather than being a mess naturally - it makes all the difference,” Gruoch replied. “Don’t worry, Pansy will love it. Now, put on your jacket and let’s see what you look like.”
Harry shrugged and picked up the jacket, sliding it on smoothly. He bent, and quickly put on his black leather shoes.
Gruoch smiled. “You look great, Harry. Now, come on, we’ll wait for Pansy at the bottom of the stairs. You’ve got to let her make a grand entrance.”
Harry nodded, and walked downstairs with her, and turned. A few seconds later, Pansy appeared alone at the top of the stairs, and he felt his jaw open.
He’d seen her in her pyjamas, in shorts and a t-shirt, in riding wear, in a tracksuit and a sports bra, and pretty much everything in between, and he’d known that she was beautiful, and had even told her a time or two.
But it hadn’t prepared him for this.
His original thought, back from when she had appeared over his face when he was feverish, came back to him.
She was an angel.
“You look simply amazing,” he said softly, as he walked over to her.
“Thank you,” she said, smiling warmly at him. “You’re not looking bad yourself.”
He grinned at her, and offered his arm. “Ready?”
“Oh no, you don’t,” Malcom said firmly. “Neither of you are leaving until we get some pictures!”
“Dad!” Pansy complained, but Harry had the feeling that it was more for forms sake than from any real feeling. He didn’t mind at all, and wondered if he’d be able to persuade them to take a picture of Pansy on her own, so that he could have a copy.
It turned out that Malcom and Gruoch had more than enough poses in mind, and pictures were taken of each individually, of them together, of them hugging, and in the end, with the proud parents.
“Okay,” Malcom eventually called a halt. “You two can go now. Have a great time.”
“Thanks, Dad,” Pansy said, and took a firm hold of Harry, dragging him outside.
Harry looked surprised at the stretch limousine waiting for them.
“We’re going totally Muggle,” Pansy explained. “I hope you’ve got your wand well hidden?”
“Constant Vigilance,” Harry grinned at her. “It’s up my sleeve.”
He looked around curiously as he climbed in; he’d never realised just how spacious it was inside one of these things.
“Want a drink?”
Pansy opened a small fridge, and laughed. “Obviously Mum got here first,” she said. “All we have is fruit juice, water and fizzy drinks.”
“Orange juice will do for me,” Harry said, lounging back on the wide seat. “I can hardly tell we’re moving.”
Pansy nodded, and sat next to him, handing him a glass. “I’ve only ridden in one of these twice. Mum and Dad hire them all the time for Muggle parties. I think they enjoy being chauffeured.”
“Where are we going?”
“We’ve got reservations at the Ritz for dinner, and then we’re going to the Embassy for the rest of the evening.”
Harry blinked, “The Ritz?”
Pansy turned to face him. “I want to spoil you tonight,” she said calmly. “I want to show you what you mean to me, and tonight is going to be the best birthday you have ever had!”
Harry reached out and gently touched his fingertips to her cheek. “It already is,” he reassured her. “We don’t need the Ritz for that.”
Pansy smiled at him, turning her face into his hand. “I know we don’t, but we’re going to do it anyway. Princess here, remember?”
He laughed, “You’re amazing.”
“I know,” Pansy said, her smile showing that she was teasing.
The limousine pulled up in front of the hotel, and the door was instantly opened for them.
Harry stepped out first, and offered his hand to Pansy. She stepped out gracefully and walked with him, bypassing the famous revolving doors as one of the porters opened the side door for them.
“Thank you,” Pansy said, favouring him with a slight smile.
Harry was quite happy to follow her lead in this, he knew he was way out of his depth, but was enjoying it all the same. He’d always wondered what it was like to be rich, and was quite willing to act it for an evening.
“Mr Potter, Miss Parkinson,” an impeccably dressed man greeted them warmly. “Welcome to the Ritz, it is a delight to have you here.”
“Why, thank you,” Pansy said, her smile a little more genuine this time.
“If you’ll follow me, I’ll take you right to your table.”
As Harry walked down the luxurious corridor, he suddenly realised that he actually had a girlfriend now, and not one that made him slightly uncomfortable like Cho had. Pansy was obviously proud to be with him, and her fingers were rubbing against his in a way that made him feel very wanted.
He remembered his manners, and managed to move in front of the concierge, to hold Pansy’s chair for her. The smile she gave him was more than enough reward for the slight courtesy.
“I will get you your drinks, while you peruse the menu,” the concierge said smoothly, and walked away.
“We didn’t order a drink though,” Harry said, a little confused.
Pansy shrugged, “Probably mum’s doing.”
Harry nodded, and looked at the menu for a minute. He closed it, and smiled.
“Nope. I’ve not got a clue what half of this stuff is,” he grinned. “And as you’re the princess, I figured I’d let you choose for me.”
Pansy laughed, “Oh, Harry. These menus are easy to read really, you’ve just got to avoid the fancy names. Roast Sea scallops with Jerusalem artichokes, summer truffle and hazelnut oil for example, is basically small pieces of fish and some artichokes.”
“Right,” Harry said, picking up his menu again.
The concierge arrived back, holding a green bottle. He discreetly placed a small card in front of Harry, and expertly removed the cork with a sharp pop. He picked up two wide shallow glasses, and poured the champagne into both, “Alfonse will be your server this evening. He will see to your every need, and if you do need anything, please feel free to call on me personally.”
“Thank you,” Harry said formally.
With a small half-bow, the Attendant vanished.
Harry picked up the note, and smiled. “Harry,” he read out loud to Pansy. “I may have forgotten to mention to the hotel that you are both only sixteen. The champagne is on us, as is the rest of the evening, it is our present to you. Happy Birthday, Harry. Malcom and I are delighted that you have entered our lives, and we both look forward to celebrating many more birthdays with you in the future. Love, Gruoch.”
He smiled at Pansy, really touched by the sentiment in the letter. He raised his glass to her, and paused while she raised hers, and they touched them together. “To you,” he said with a smile.
“Oh no,” Pansy returned. “To us, especially tonight, Harry.”
“To us,” he agreed.
The dinner was excellent. While Dobby was an exceptionally good cook, the chef’s at the Ritz were some of the best in the world, and it showed.
Pansy started with Oak smoked wild salmon with lemon blinis and crème fraiche, while he had tried the Dublin Bay prawns, courgette flower and bitter almond sauce. For the main course, he had the Tournedos of Aberdeen Angus Rossini, and Pansy had the Lamb noisettes, new season vegetables, and fennel scented juices.
They ended up sharing quite a bit, both wanting to experience the food as much as they could.
Pansy sipped on her champagne, unable to think of a time she had felt like this. She was excited, happy, and yet relaxed at the same time. There was a feeling of anticipation in the air, as if this whole evening was foreplay for the kiss that she hoped would come later.
The limo ride had been a lot of fun, as they had talked about everything and anything; it was as comfortable as when they had both gone horse riding for hours on end.
She had felt Harry tense a little when they had walked into the hotel, so she’d rubbed his fingers a little, trying to be supportive. The sheer opulence of the hotel was a little overwhelming for her, so it must have been doubly so for him. While he had kept his head down, she’d been eagerly watching people’s reaction to them.
There had been a slight pause in the conversation as they walked in. She was very aware that they both looked good. She’d felt weak at the knees when she’d seen him in his tuxedo for the first time; with his broad shoulders and slim hips, he looked like every fantasy of a prince she had experienced growing up.
She’d been touched as Harry managed to manoeuvre his way behind her, to seat her. It was the little gestures that were so natural for him that she appreciated the most.
The look in his eyes, as he read the message from her mother, made her promise herself to give her mum the biggest hug of her life when she next saw her. It had been the perfect touch to get Harry to relax and enjoy the evening, and he certainly seemed to do that.
The food had been wonderful once she’d teased him over his hesitancy with the menu, and the champagne was a perfect accompaniment. Not that she was surprised; Gruoch would never order anything ordinary for them.
“Ready to go dancing?” she asked, as he finished the last glass.
The smile he shot her suddenly made her heat up. It might have been the alcohol he had drunk, but his smile was lazily sexy, and it told her that he was quite looking forward to dancing with her.
She absently wondered if that had been part of her mother’s plan.
He stood, and walked behind her, pulling her chair back as she stood, and offered his arm.
She was very pleased to see the envious looks on the faces of some of the patrons. She had a sexy, dark haired man with impeccable manners, broad shoulders, and a controlled grace when he moved, and they didn’t.
She smiled as they walked, allowing just a touch of her satisfaction to creep through.
“Mr Parkinson, Mrs Parkinson,” Michael Stout, the general manager of the Embassy said. “It’s good to see you again.”
“Thank you,” Malcom replied. “Is everything ready?”
“Excellent, please bring a bottle of champagne to my office.”
“Of course, sir.”
Malcom nodded and led Gruoch up the stairs and into the main office. There was a row of monitors along one of the walls, showing closed circuit footage from all around the club, and had a comfortable set of couches and chairs lining the other walls. Music from the dance floor wafted through, giving a pleasant background sound.
“Well, they’re not due here for another hour; can I interest you in a dance?”
“Why, yes,” Gruoch said, rising and sliding over into his arms. “You can.”
“What are you doing?” Harry asked, as Pansy stood in the back of the limo.
“Getting changed,” Pansy replied. “This dress is perfect for dinner, but it’s too tight to dance properly. Can you undo my zip?”
She felt him move, and then felt him fumble slightly as he drew the zip down. She breathed deeply as she felt she could now breathe again properly. She absently pressed a button on the panel, and the black privacy screen slid up, so that the driver wouldn’t be able to see her.
“Pass me that bag,” Pansy told Harry. She was very tempted to take her dress off in front of him, fully aware that it had a built in bra, but decided not to. Taking things slowly had worked for them so far, and she didn’t want to scare him off.
She pulled the t-shirt over her head, and then let the dress fall down, quite happy with this level of undress, as she’d slept in similar clothes before. She shot a glance at him, and had to struggle to control a blush. Far from being embarrassed, he was watching her with a frank appraisal, as if he’d realised that he was indeed male, and that as her boyfriend, he was allowed to look.
She smiled at him, wanting to encourage that sort of feeling, and pulled on the skirt, adding the belt. “How do I look?”
He shook his head, an appreciative look on his face.
“Amazing,” he said simply. “Beautiful.”
“Thank you,” she sat down next to him, a lot closer, so that she was almost on his lap.
“Should I be changing?” he asked.
“Nope, you’re a guy, Harry. All you need to look sexier is a slight change.” She leaned into him, deliberately invading his personal space, curious to see how he’d react.
He didn’t flinch, and just watched her with his brilliant, green eyes.
She undid his bowtie quickly, and then undid his top button. “Better?”
“Yeah, a lot.”
“See, Harry, now you look like you’ve had a good night, and are ready to let your hair down.”
“Unlike you,” he smirked, “who’s had her hair down all evening.”
“I meant metaphorically,” she grinned back, rolling her eyes playfully.
“Good, because I really like your hair,” he said, sliding one hand up to play with it. “Can you ask the driver to stop; I think we should walk a little to the club, and work off a little of that dinner, so that we can dance immediately.”
“That eager to get away from me in a closed space?”
“That eager to get you into my arms,” he retorted intently.
“You don’t need a dance floor for that anymore, Harry, we’re dating now. It entitles you to all sorts of privileges, and hugging and cuddling is definitely one of them.”
“What about kissing?” he asked, and slid his other arm up, moving closer to her.
She could have cursed the driver as he pressed a button, causing a buzz to sound, letting her know that they had nearly arrived.
“We’re nearly there,” she said apologetically. “I’ll get him to stop now, so we can walk the rest of the way.”
As he had before, Harry stepped out of the limo and offered his hand. She moved next to him, and was delighted as he slid his arm around her shoulders.
“There’s quite a big queue,” Harry said, as they walked around the corner in Mayfair.
“One of the things that clubs like this like is having rich people inside. They tend to spend the most money, and attract other people who want to be around the rich.” She turned and flashed him a grin as they walked down the road, ignoring the queue. “And one of the privileges of being the daughter of the owner is that we don’t need to wait in line.”
As they approached the door, the tuxedo-wearing bouncer took one look at them, and opened a path through the velvet rope for them.
As they entered the door, she heard someone shout, “How come they just walk in!?”
“When you can pull a bird that gorgeous, I’ll let you just walk in as well,” the doorman rumbled back, unimpressed.
Harry turned and leaned in; she could feel his breath brush against her ear. “So, have I pulled a gorgeous bird like you?” She had to strain to hear him above the music.
“That depends,” she half shouted, smiling at him. “If you dance as good as you look, then yes.”
He laughed and took her hand, pulling her onto the dance floor. She smiled, noticing that people automatically moved out of his way, almost like magic.
When they were in the centre of the dance floor, she watched as he picked up the beat like she had taught him, and twirled on the spot, before pulling her closer to him, and starting to dance.
“They’ve arrived,” Malcom said, as he spotted his daughter on the CCTV screens.
“When was the last time you saw Pansy look that happy?”
“When Storm gave birth to Thunder and Lightning?”
Gruoch nodded thoughtfully, “Close, but not quite.”
Malcom sighed. “She wasn’t looking forward to a kiss, then.”
“She really taught him how to dance, didn’t she?”
“That little tramp!” Gruoch said suddenly, as she watched them move.
“That outfit is supposed to have a bra!”
Thirty minutes of dancing later, Pansy broke off to visit the ladies room.
Harry looked around, and climbed the stairs. He was having a fantastic time, but his Weapons and Tactics training was never far from him and with Pansy out of his sight, he moved to higher ground, so that he could see any threats.
Today had outshone any of his previous birthdays by so much that there wasn’t a comparison. When she had asked him to undo her dress, he felt his mouth go dry, and had happily complied. As she raised the privacy shield, he’d realised that she was totally comfortable around him, and had settled back to watch the show.
He’d actually thought about jumping her as she’d stood there in just the brown t-shirt and white silk knickers. He’d taken things slowly, really got to know her as a person, and not as a crush like with Cho, and now he wanted to move onto the kissing part.
For the first time when he’d been out in public, all the attention had been on Pansy, and not him as the Boy Who Lived. She looked amazing. The skirt highlighted her amazing legs, and he’d have found it impossible not to notice that she wasn’t wearing a bra.
He loved her confidence in herself - she always looked at him directly, she never shied away from looking him in the eye, and she didn’t blush or stutter.
Now that they had spent so much time together, literally twenty-four hours a day, he knew her a lot better than pretty much anyone else. He knew when she was grumpy, when she was happy, and even, after making a rash comment, exactly what she was like on her period. He still blushed as he remembered the in depth lecture she had given him when he hadn’t been listening and had told her he knew how she felt.
Looking back now, he realised that she had been interested in him since the beginning, but had taken it slowly, correctly realising that in the state that he had been in, he wasn’t capable of a relationship. She’d shown a lot of patience, and that same confidence, that it would eventually work out for her. Well, it had; he knew he was falling hard for her as the thought of going back to school, once the highlight of his summer, now made him feel slightly nervous.
He knew that his friends weren’t going to be happy that he was dating a Slytherin, and it would be worse if he admitted that he was falling in love with one. But he wasn’t going to let that stand in the way. With everything that had been taken from him, and everything that he’d lost, he wasn’t willing to risk his relationship with his angel.
He was a little concerned about going back to school, as he knew that his relatively new attitude wasn’t going to be appreciated by everyone. He was no longer willing to take a back seat to anyone, not when it concerned keeping his girlfriend and his friends safe, and he had some grudges to settle with Snape and Umbridge. He had a few ideas about how to handle them, but decided to speak to Malcom about it later.
He was less worried now about the future, about Voldemort. He wasn’t under the illusion that it would be easy, but with the training he was receiving, he could see that he might at least have a chance, now. The biggest gift that Pansy and her parents had given him was hope, hope for a future, a future he wanted to explore with her.
He smiled to himself, looking out at the dancing people. He was in one of the most exclusive clubs in London with the best looking girl around, who had never played games with him, and had given him the space to make his own decision, while making herself as open as possible.
How could any other birthday hope to match up to this?
Malcom picked up a phone, and dialled a four-digit number.
“My daughter has just entered the restroom,” he said shortly, before hanging up. He picked up a remote and selected the nearest camera to the bathroom, before moving and sitting down next to his wife.
“Their orders are to provoke Harry, rough him up a little, if they can.”
“Are you sure you’re doing the right thing?”
“I have to know that he is going to protect her,” he said simply.
They watched nervously as four men, all large, surrounded Pansy as she left the restroom. They could see, but not hear, that some words were exchanged, and one of them put an arm around her.
Pansy reacted instinctively by grabbing the arm and twisting it the wrong way.
“I think I may have made a mistake,” Malcom said, suddenly aware of how dry his mouth had become. “This is going to cost me a fortune.”
“What do you mean?”
“Harry’s just spotted what is happening.”
They watched the monitors as Harry smoothly vaulted over the railings, landing in a half crouch. He stalked forwards, the crowd parting before him again.
“He looks a little determined,” Gruoch noticed.
“More than a little. I’m going to have to pay those guys a fortune to compensate them for what he is about to do,” Malcom predicted.
He switched to the monitor that was covering Pansy, and then moved it to the main screen.
As one of the other men moved to blindside Pansy, and free their comrade’s arms, Harry arrived.
Malcom sighed again. His bouncers had been told not to interfere, unless it looked like Harry or Pansy might get in serious trouble. He hadn’t quite realised exactly how much of the martial arts and tactical training Harry had picked up, but knew that he was about to find out.
As were the four troublemakers.
Harry looked around casually, and then frowned, as he saw four men move in front of Pansy, blocking her return. He paused, not wanting to jump to the rescue if she didn’t need it, but then he saw one of them put his hands on her.
He growled under his breath, and grabbed the rail next to him, vaulting over it. He controlled his fall without thinking about it, crouching on the impact. Only the fact that he was in a Muggle nightclub stopped him from pulling his wand and casting some of the nastier curses he now knew.
He walked through the crowd, mentally telling them to get out of his way - and was a little surprised when they did, leaving him a clear path. He wasn’t aware of the people turning to watch in his wake.
One of the men was moving towards Pansy’s blindside, so he ducked under the shoulder of one of the men, and stood next to her. “Is there a problem?” he half asked, half growled.
“Beat it, prick,” the lead guy, who had some interesting facial piercings demanded.
“Like Scotty said,” the guy to his right agreed. “Beat it, dickface.”
“No,” Harry replied calmly. He began to breathe deeply, calling all of his senses into play, using them to form a mental picture of where all four of his opponents were. He was sliding into fight mode now - the sereneness and mental clarity came from Croaker, but the techniques he was about to apply came from his Martial Arts training. It was a combination he’d been encouraged to utilise by both his teachers. The loud music and flashing lights made it more difficult than it would have been else where.
“A little shit like you doesn’t deserve a bird like that, so bog off, and let us show her what a real man is like,” Scotty taunted.
“We’re not looking for trouble,” Harry said, almost feeling regretful for what was about to happen. He hadn’t been trained to fight honourably; he’d been trained to fight the scum that were Death Eaters, people whose idea of mercy was only torturing for four hours, instead of five. He’d been taught to win, and that half-measures were a mistake. Not only were these idiots placing his girlfriend in danger, but they were also trying to ruin a night that she had tried very hard to make perfect for him.
He sensed one of the men behind him throw a punch at the back of his head, and started to move. He slid to the side, allowing the punch to slide by him, and grabbed the wrist as it flew past his face. He twisted it hard, and then smashed his fist into the locked elbow, destroying it with a loud snap.
Without hesitation, he kicked out with his right leg, driving it with all his power and balance into the knee of the second guy, who collapsed as fast as the first.
Twisting again, Harry launched a punch into the face of the man who had identified the talker, catching him cleanly on the chin, and knocking him out instantly. He finished the twist, ending up facing Scotty straight on.
Still moving as fast as he could, he scissor kicked him in the stomach, and then brought his knee up hard, crushing the guy’s nose, and leaving him in a foetal position on the floor.
The fight, if such a one-sided contest could be called that, had lasted less than five seconds.
“Are you okay?” Harry asked Pansy, worried that she might be upset with him.
Pansy walked out of the bathroom, “Excuse me,” she said politely, trying to get past some men in her way.
“Well, what do we have here?” one of them sneered, instantly reminding her of Draco. “A hot chick like you, all alone?”
“Actually,” Pansy said, deliberately making her voice as cold as possible. “I am here with my boyfriend.”
“Awww, isn’t that cute,” he mocked. “Well, you can dump him now. You’re gonna be with us.”
“No, I’m not,” Pansy said shortly, and tried to get past. One of the others put his arm around her, so she grabbed it and twisted, as she had been trained. “I said, I’m not going with you. You really don’t want to get me, or my boyfriend, angry.”
The talker laughed at her, “There’s four of us, luv. He can get angry, all he likes. And he can go home in an ambulance.”
Pansy was about to retort, when Harry appeared beside her so suddenly that she thought for a second that he had Apparated.
“Is there a problem?” he asked, his voice had an undercurrent Pansy hadn’t heard before. It was intense, focused and cold.
She ignored the insults from the talker, suddenly realising that Harry was preparing to fight. He was trying to talk them out of it, but was preparing himself in case it didn’t work.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw one of them trying to sneak up on Harry, and she felt sorry for them. She had seen him train, and had fought him many times. She’d watched, in awe, as he pushed himself harder than she would have thought possible, combining the different styles he had learnt into one that was uniquely his own, adding the best bits from the other classes.
He wasn’t the finished article yet, he still had quite a few more months of training ahead of him, but he was well on the path to becoming a Master martial artist.
The guy behind him tried to sucker punch Harry, and he started to move. Within five seconds, the men were all on the floor, either unconscious or wishing they were. She’d only seen him move like that once before, when he had been angry at himself for not picking up a move quickly enough, and he had poured his frustration into his actions.
“Are you okay?” he asked, and she realised that he was worried that he might have scared her or something.
He certainly hadn’t done that. There’d been a ruthlessness about his actions that thrilled her, that gave hints that he had changed as much as she had, and it reassured her.
She smiled gratefully at him. As good as she was, the idea of fighting four at once had still made her a little nervous. She simply didn’t have the experience to fight in a real world situation. It was something she knew would change soon, but there was no way she was giving up on Harry just because there might be some danger involved.
“What’s ‘appenin ‘ere?” The bouncer from the door, accompanied by five other identically dressed men, suddenly appeared.
“These idiots tried to stop me getting back to my boyfriend, and despite Harry warning them, one of them tried to attack him from behind,” Pansy snarled. “Which is exactly the sort of incident that you are paid to prevent.”
“Sorry, Miss,” the bouncer mumbled. “We’ll take care of it from here.”
Pansy nodded imperiously, and dragged Harry back to the dance floor.
“Did you know he could fight like that?” she half heard a familiar voice ask the bouncer - it was the same guy who had complained about their entry earlier.
“I’d heard rumours,” the bouncer replied.
“I’d’ve let him in, as well. Damn, but that dude can seriously kick ass! No wonder he has the hottest chick in this place on his arm.”
“Dance with me,” she said, moving into his arms, and wrapping her arms around him.
Malcom blinked, and then reached for a remote control. Silently he rewound the feed, and then played it again in slow motion.
“One, two, three, four, five, six,” he counted. “Six distinct movements and they are all on the floor. Less than five seconds.” He turned to face Gruoch, aware that his shock must be showing on his face, and was relieved that it was showing on hers as well.
“That wasn’t a Gryffindor fighting,” she stated, shaking her head a little.
“Croaker was a Slytherin,” Malcom said, still unable to believe what he had seen. “He told me that he was pushing Harry, bringing out his protective side, focusing him, and teaching him to fight to win, no matter what it takes.
“All their trainers said that they had tried to teach them to win first, to fight fair second.”
“Your guys threw the first punch, and as far as he was concerned, they started it, but he sure as hell finished it.”
Malcom smiled, as a thought finally pushed his way through the shock. “We’re going to win!” he said delightedly. “We’ve backed the right person.”
“Of course we are,” Gruoch replied. “We’re Parkinsons, we always win!”
“I thought you were someone else, all these years,” Pansy whispered. It was late now; the DJ had announced the last dance, putting on a track by Texas.
“What do you mean?” Harry asked softly, leaning back a little so he could look into her eyes.
“That you were a pure Gryffindor, and that I was a pure Slytherin. That we could never get together, because there was too much between us. I had a slight crush on you, and now I worry a little. Have I pushed you too far?”
Harry shook his head slowly. “You’ve not pushed me anywhere,” he whispered over the music. “You’ve given me choices, options. I’m exactly where I want to be.”
“Put your arms around me,” Pansy sang softly to the music, “make me believe. Take me, take me somewhere. Let me believe. ‘Cause only time can take you.”
Harry tightened his arms. He was no longer shy; he’d been waiting for this, and he wasn’t going to get a better chance. She accepted him, his light and his darkness, and encouraged both, recognising that he would need each to survive.
He leaned down, and slowly pressed his lips to hers. He held them there for a second, and then pulled back a little, looking at her as intently as he could.
“Do you believe? Do you believe that I don’t want to be here with anyone else but you?” he asked softly.
She smiled at him, her eyes so open that he felt he could see into her soul. He didn’t wait for her answer; he kissed her again, harder this time, wanting her to respond.
He felt her hands slide up his back, and wrap around the back of his neck, as she pulled him closer, and kissed him back.
His last kiss had been wet and disappointing - this was anything but. He could feel her passion, and knew it matched his own. Her tongue pressed gently against his lips, and he opened his mouth, inviting her in, offering her the sanctuary she was so obviously seeking.
The lights flicked on, and the music stopped. And eventually, they broke the kiss.
“I believe,” she whispered softly, looking up at him tenderly.
As always, thanks to my beta crew for all their hard work and for keeping me going when I was writing this. John, Cami, Rachael, Susie, Julie, Leslie, and Ellie.
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