Thanks to Luan Mao and Kokopelli for all their effort and energy.
Daphne woke up and smiled at the elf. The elf looked solemnly at her. “What’s happened?”
“Great and Brave Harry Potter fought Death Eaters. Death Eaters are being in pieces in Birmingham. Elves that always follow Great Harry Potter say that Rolling-Eye called Great Harry Potter to help protect innocent people. Great Harry Potter is being upset.”
Daphne frowned as her thoughts raced. “Harry killed some Death Eaters?” She asked to clarify,
The House-elf nodded.
“Where is he?”
“Thank you,” Daphne said to the House-elf, as she jumped out of bed, and dashed out of her room, across their little common room, and into Harry’s room. It was empty, but she could hear the shower running.
She didn’t hesitate as she entered the room and joined him in the shower, ignoring the way her clothing immediately plastered itself to her skin.
His helm was next to him as he sat on the tiled floor, but he was still in his full Death Eater killing armour, and his eyes looked tortured as she looked at him.
She knelt on the hard tile and started to say the words to get him out of the armour, when she paused. Maybe what he needed was to know that someone, namely her, loved him as much as she could.
And she was the only one who knew how his armour worked. She reached out and took his gauntleted hand, and reached under to undo the straps. She eased the gauntlet off of his hand, and placed it down.
The water pouring down was hot, and it wasn’t helping the buckles. She moved up his arm, removing the uncooperative armour piece by piece, and then moving to do the other one. He was watching her, his eyes locked to hers, and eyes showing just how upset he was, but that he wasn’t ready to talk about it. So maybe she should talk about something else.
And so she said the first thing that came to mind. “Fleur’s got amazing tits, and I really really want to play with her bum.” She pulled off his left boot as she said it, falling onto her own bum as she over-balanced.
His eyes changed from pain, to incomprehension, and then to disbelief. He looked straight at her for a second, before he chuckled. “Armour off, immediate,” he said, and as it vanished, he reached out and grabbed her, hugging her tightly. He laughed, but almost immediately the laughter became deep, wracking sobs as he clung to her.
She wrapped her arms around her beloved big brother and offered him all the support and love she could. As his sobs subsided, she turned off the water. “Dry us, please,” she said. The same familiar feeling of his magic blowing hot air hit them. She took his hand and led him into his bedroom, where she placed him in the big comfy armchair he had in there. She moved over to his dresser and took one of her hair scrunchies. She spent enough time in his room that she had left a few pieces in, so that she could still be comfortable during some of their late night conversations. She pulled her hair back into a ponytail. The water and drying meant it was a bit of a mess, but that wasn’t important right now.
She quickly checked herself, and was happy. She looked young and innocent. She walked over to Harry and climbed into his lap, helping his arms to go around her as she cuddled into him. “I love it when we can sit like this,” she said softly, “my big brother protecting me, so very strong and firm. And this evening, my big brother did something that is horrible, but he did it to protect me, and I love him for it even more.”
She felt him tense under her, so she continued to talk, keeping her voice soothing and not giving him a chance to respond yet. “He was out there, alone, killing the scum who want to hurt me, so that I can sleep easy. And that’s what makes my big brother the best, not silly little presents, but going out there and doing nasty things so that rather than hide who I am, I can look at a pretty non-human and wonder what it would be like to kiss her.”
“I killed them, Daph,” he whispered, “and it wasn’t like Quirrell when I didn’t know what I was doing, and didn’t really do anything. I went out there with a sword designed to kill and I used it to kill them. I actually cut someone in half.”
“Good,” she said fiercely, making a mental note to ask for that story later. “You stopped them the only way possible, so that they will never do it again!”
“No, no buts,” she said, twisting so that she could look into his eyes. “My brother is the most important person in the world to me, even more than Mum and Dad, and just as you would hurt anyone who hurts me, I would do the same for you! Death Eaters are scum, they were raiding to kill people, break up families, and you stopped them. And there are a bunch of families that are alive this evening because of you, somewhere there is a cute little girl cuddling her teddy, dreaming of growing up to be a princess, still having that dream because of you! There is a boy, dreaming of being a Quidditch Player who still has a chance to be better than Krum because of you!
“There’s a dad who is working hard to provide for a family he still has because of you, and a mum who’s just found out that she’s going to bring another life into this world because of you!
“Yes, killing is bad, but when you kill to protect others, it’s not bad, it’s good. It makes you the most amazing person, and that you feel bad because of it, shows you’re still a great and wonderful person inside. You can feel upset about it, but not guilt. You didn’t make them become murderers, you didn’t make them gather to attack that place. All you did was protect the innocent and try and make a world where your little sister can spend her time trying to work out who she is, rather than worrying for her life!”
Harry’s arms tightened around her, and she sank back into his chest. “I love you, little sis,” he said after a few minutes of silence.
“Of course you do,” she said cheekily. “What’s not to love?”
He chuckled, and she smiled in triumph.
“So when did you get so smart?”
“I’m not that smart,” she replied, “but I know my big brother, and that’s what counts.”
She snuggled into his chest a bit more. “I meant it,” she added. “I could never tell my parents what I can tell you.”
“That you have a crush on an older Veela?”
Daphne nodded in agreement. “Are you comfy?” she asked.
“Then sleep,” she said, moving his arm slightly. She yawned. “I’m staying with you, so I can make sure I guard your dreams.”
“By taking away one of the hottest girls I’ve ever seen?” he asked dryly.
“I called dibs,” Daphne said with a giggle.
“You are right, though.”
“Fleur does have amazing tits.”
She laughed, and felt Harry’s chuckle echo through his chest, and his head went back. Daphne listened to his heart beat and slowly drifted off into sleep.
Astoria pounced on her sister’s bed only to find it lacking her sister. Which took a lot of fun out of the pounce. She’d last pounced on her sister’s bed when she was five, so as part of her new plan to get to know her sister again, she’d decided a pouncing was long overdue. And it was exactly the sort of thing that Romi would have done – and Romi got on with her entire clan brilliantly.
She pouted, and then set off to see if she was in the other girl’s rooms. She wasn’t, so Astoria woke up Romilda and Hermione, to help find her errant sibling.
They eventually found her curled up on Harry’s lap, in a position that Astoria would quite like to be in herself, only without the overwhelming feeling of sibling bonding.
“Daph, Harry?” Hermione called.
Daphne stretched cutely, and then immediately looked at Harry as he awoke. “You okay?” the blonde girl asked immediately.
“Kinda,” he said softly. “Thanks.”
“You never ever have to thank me for that,” Daphne replied solemnly. “Besides, I bet it was weird that you could see my boobs once my top got wet!”
Harry chuckled. “It never entered my mind.”
Daphne leaned back and gave Harry a long look, before she nodded happily. “Right, I’m going to sort out this mess of hair, you can tell the others what happened, and then we can go to breakfast.”
“Should we be inviting Fleur to join us?”
Daphne punched Harry on the arm and walked out regally, her nose elevated to show that she was above such insinuations.
“Harry?” Hermione asked immediately.
Harry took a deep sigh. “I tried out the armour last night. Moody found out about a Death Eater raid, and I stopped it.”
Astoria suddenly realised why her sister had spent the night with Harry and she pounced on him, and hid her pout as Romilda did the same thing from his other side. She hugged him with all her strength, and smiled as she felt his hand stroke her hair.
“It’s okay,” he said. “Daph helped last night.”
“Are you sure?” Hermione asked. “And if you two don’t mind, I’d quite like to give my best friend a hug as well.”
Reluctantly, she pulled back and stood from the arm chair, exchanged a happy little look with Romi, and watched as Harry gingerly stood to embrace Hermione.
“Seriously,” he said, “I was very upset last night, but stopping people from killing families is not such a bad thing. I’ll remember what happens when a large sword interacts with a human body for a long time.”
Astoria felt herself wince as her mind put the pictures in place.
“Oi, leave Harry to get changed,” Daphne yelled from her room. “It’s breakfast time.”
“I am pretty hungry,” Harry admitted. “I didn’t manage to keep my food in last night.”
“Oh, Harry,” Hermione said as she hugged him again.
“It’s fine, I’ll get through it,” he promised. “Now scoot.”
They all scooted, and gathered in the common room.
“I’ll bet it was awesome to watch,” Romilda said. “Horrifying, I know, but watching Harry make the world a better place like that?”
Hermione nodded. “I know what you mean, despite the fact they are scum, you still don’t really want to watch someone die, but on the other hand, all that armour and skill, and a knight protecting the innocent?”
Astoria felt herself blush as she imagined the knight wearing her favour, and then coming to her bed chambers after defeating the enemy, and taking his right with her, holding her arms easily above her head with one of his hands, the other roaming her body as he stared intently in…
“If you two could stop fantasising?” Hermione’s droll voice interrupted her increasingly heated fantasy.
Astoria saw a flushed, wide-eyed look on Romilda’s face, and just knew she had a similar expression on hers. An expression that she now knew was far more embarrassed than it had been in the middle of her fantasy,
“We’re pubescent girls, we’re allowed to fantasise,” Romilda replied with a giggle.
“True,” Hermione replied. “I had such a crush on Cedric last year.”
Hermione nodded. “After Lockhart, I made sure not to let anyone know, but he does have a really cute bum.”
Astoria giggled, “So, let’s change the subject! How about that sports team?”
“Yes,” Romilda said, “I’m sure that one of the team caught a ball or kicked an object or threw something, and one team lost while another won.”
“And another hit something with a bat, and half the crowd cheered,” Hermione agreed, as they all laughed.
Daphne joined them, dressed in a white blouse with tan trousers and a matching brown jacket. Her hair was loose around her shoulders.
“You’re looking good,” Astoria told her.
“Thanks, Tori,” Daphne said with a wide smile. For the first time, Astoria had to swallow some jealousy. Growing up, she’d been the clever one, and had kinda looked down on her sister, and even at Hogwarts, when Daphne had been playing the Slytherin, she’d still felt superior, but now, Astoria realised that Daphne had gained the most from Harry; she could be herself without any issues, and she was a pretty amazing girl.
Her introspection was interrupted as Harry arrived, and they were all popped for breakfast. On their little table was a miniature feast. Every single item of food that Harry liked was waiting for them, charms keeping them piping hot.
“Thanks, guys,” Harry said to the empty air. “I really appreciate it.”
The air quivered happily as they sat down.
“Harry, you mind Viktor and ‘Relda joining you?”
Astoria looked up to see the hulking form of Viktor Krum near them.
Harry waved his hand, and the table and benches enlarged. Viktor sat Esmeralda first, and then himself. “Krum noticed there is better food over here,” he said with a grin. “Food and friendship, is good start to day!”
Harry chuckled lightly.
“I can’t ‘elp but notice that there are two champions here,” Fleur announced her presence with a smile. “I too, am a champion,” she added.
“And far be it from me to miss a hint,” Harry said cheerfully. This time, the wave of his hand created one space, next to Daphne. Fleur sat down quickly, but elegantly. Astoria watched her closely, trying to memorise the movements so she could copy the French witch.
Without looking up, Harry waved his hand at the end of the table again. “Come on, Diggory,” he called.
Cedric dashed over to Cho, and then the two joined them. “So,” Cedric said, as he started to load his plate. More food arrived to fill empty spots. “Is everyone looking forward to the game this afternoon?”
Astoria saw Romilda bouncing excitedly. “Yeah,” the gypsy said. “We could be at the forefront of British Wizarding sport, we have exactly one, unless you count Gobstones…”
“No one counts Gobstones,” Astoria interjected.
“Exactly,” Romilda agreed, “And if it takes off, everyone will know that we were the first to play. Normally, sports evolve and the origins are lost.”
“Except when William Webb Ellis decided to pick up a ball and run with it,” Hermione said dryly, “but I do agree, I’m looking forward to watching it.”
“And, putting my business hat on for a moment.” Astoria reached into her bag and pulled out a seriously cute hat she’d got her mum to buy just for this opportunity. She placed it on her head, at a jaunty angle, and continued, “If it takes off, we can licence the production of bounce boots to a third party, and make a fortune that way, without Harry having to do the boring work!”
She looked at Harry out of the corner of her eye, to check his reaction. He was smiling at her, and there was a new little something in his eye, not just an amused look, but maybe an acknowledgement that the man’s hat looked seriously cute on her.
Romilda was giving her a grudging glare that had a bit of admiration mixed in which made Astoria give herself a point in their friendly little war.
“Zat is a very cute hat,” Fleur declared, as if that was the last word in the fashion.
“Thank you,” Astoria replied and left it on, as she continued to eat.
The doors to the Great Hall opened, and Astoria looked up to see the familiar vulture hat that announced that Dame Longbottom was in attendance.
“Gran?” the younger Longbottom called, half standing. The Dame nodded and gave her grandson a little smile, before she turned and approached their table. Harry stood and gave a small bow of respect.
Damn Longbottom nodded at him. She paused, and then in a clear voice she said, “Mr Potter, your actions have left the Ancient and Noble House of Longbottom in your debt.”
“Thank you, Lady Longbottom,” Harry said, his posture straightening. “I am, however, unaware of how my actions could have led to such a generous declaration.” Astoria felt a burst of pride as Harry showed that he had been paying attention when they had discussed decorum while he was smithing.
Lady Longbottom smiled slightly, and Astoria suddenly got the feeling that Lady Longbottom was playing politics, and announcing her family’s association with Harry.
“Last night, the despicable Bellatrix Lestrange was one of the Death Eaters that you stopped before they could kill innocent people,” she stated firmly. “You left her dead, her head next to her body, lying in a puddle of her own urine, finally understanding the fear and horror that she had spent her life inflicting on others. The despicable Lestrange was responsible for the torture of my son, and his wife, and House Longbottom has long wished for appropriate justice to be dispensed.”
Harry winced, and Daphne hopped over the table, and stood next to him, taking his right arm and wrapping it around her. Harry’s arm muscles tensed, as did his jaw. “While I do not believe my actions deserve a reward,” he said through teeth that sounded very slightly gritted, “I would be delighted to acknowledge a formal friendship between our families.”
“Then let it be so,” the Dame said firmly. There was a feeling of magic that quickly vanished.
“Once again, Mr Potter, I thank you for your actions,” she said. “And in future, you must call me Augusta.”
“Harry,” Harry replied with a nod.
“I shall leave you to your breakfast,” the Matriarch announced as she turned, nodded at the Headmaster, and headed out of the school.
“Hello,” Dumbledore said, as he was next to them.
“Indeed, hello,” Nadya agreed.
“What happened, Harry?” Dumbledore asked.
“It’s not really a subject for breakfast,” Harry said as he re-took his seat. Daphne stayed with him, causing Hermione to shift up. “You might be better talking to Mad-Eye.”
“Are you alright, though?” the Headmaster asked. Any follow-up was interrupted as the doors to the Great Hall opened and thirty Aurors, half wearing the garb of the I.C.W. Auror division, with Mad-Eye leading them, entered. As one, they all pulled their wands and focused them on Karkaroff.
“Igor Karkaroff, you are under arrest for being a member of a known terrorist group. You will be taken into custody, and interrogated as to your knowledge of activities relating to the last few weeks.”
“What… but…. The tournament, I have to judge or I’ll lose my magic.”
Professor Moody smiled a terrifying smile. “If you are innocent, you have nothing to fear; you will be back in plenty of time.”
“But I have diplomatic immunity,” Karkaroff tried again.
“It has been revoked,” Professor Moody replied. There was now a disturbingly happy smile on his face. “This warrant is signed by the chief judge of the I.C.W.!”
Karkaroff looked around, and went for his wand. Thirty stunners hit him before he got near to drawing it, and seconds later he was floated out of the Great Hall.
“Albus,” Professor Moody said with a nod.
“I think I’d like a chat, Alastor.”
The Ex-Auror nodded.
“Especially as to why Lady Longbottom was here earlier.”
“What?” Professor Moody demanded. “Bloody politics,” he grunted. “Sorry lad,” looking at Harry, “I thought she could be trusted to keep her bloody gob shut. I did want to keep you out of it.”
“Yeah, Daph helped.”
“Good lass.” Professor Moody tipped an imaginary hat at Daphne, who nodded back. “Well, shall we then, Albus?”
The two of them headed out, following the Aurors. Alastor paused at the door. “Potter, come join us when you’re done. I’ve got some other information that will be of interest.”
Harry nodded, and settled back down.
“Harry killed Death Eaters last night?” Krum asked.
“Good riddance. Now eat, food getting cold.”
And like that, no one else in the Great Hall seemed able to ask questions, and they all dug into the fantastic food the House-elves had prepared.
Daphne stood, and took a deep breath. She followed the elegant French witch out of the Great Hall, and then called out to her.
At the start of the year she’d never have had courage to do what she was going to do; she couldn’t even admit to herself that she liked girls. But back then she didn’t have a big brother to protect her. And even if things went wrong, Harry would console her and make her feel better – so the least she could do was be brave to get what she wanted.
The blonde turned, and gave her a warm smile that did funny things to her heart.
“Can we talk?” she asked.
“Of course. I was just about to walk around the lake, would you care to accompany me?”
“That would be great,” Daphne agreed. Together they exited the Great Hall and walked in silence for a while. Daphne liked the silence, it was comfortable. But it was up to her to push this forward, and so she would. “Can I ask a really personal question?”
Fleur turned her head, and scrutinized her as they kept walking. “I think you can,” she decided.
Daphne couldn’t think of a subtle way of asking, so she ended up blurting, “Are you gay?”
Fleur’s laughter rang out, a peal of laughter that reminded Daphne of church bells in the distance, summoning people home where they’d be safe. Daphne pouted at her, when she got over the effect of the laughter on her.
“Such bluntness I should expect from Harry’s sister.” The Veela paused her walk, and looked at her. “Sexuality,” she continued, “is limited as a human. I am not human; I will fall in love with the best person, regardless of the package containing it.”
Daphne frowned as she listened hard, and then allowed it to sink in. “So there’s a chance for me?” she asked immediately.
Fleur laughed again. “Such directness,” she marvelled.
Daphne nodded in agreement.
“You are fourteen, no?”
“Nearly fifteen,” Daphne agreed.
“And you are a pretty girl, but at the moment you may be too young.”
Daphne nodded and frowned. She started to walk again, as she tried to work out what her brother would do in this situation. “So, I have until you leave in June for me to get close to you, to persuade you to wait for me?” she asked.
Fleur didn’t laugh this time. Instead, she stopped, and turned to face Daphne. Her light blue eyes seemed to be examining Daphne’s soul. Daphne met her eyes happily; she had nothing to hide from someone she really liked.
“Why me?” Fleur asked.
“Because you’ve got great tits and I really, really want to play with your bum,” Daphne replied immediately. She paused, and realised that sounded shallow, “And because you love your sister, despite her being a brat, because you’re the school champion, which means that you’re smart and powerful on top of being beautiful, and because when I’m near you my tummy does funny things and I keep thinking that I’d really, really, really like to kiss you.”
“I do not know whether to laugh or not,” Fleur replied softly, “because I have never had anyone say anything like that to me. Even the physical parts are normally lost in euphemisms, and definitely not the rest.”
Daphne smiled. “But then, you’ve never met anyone like me before,” she replied happily. How many people had Harry Potter as their big brother? One. Her. That made her unique.
“Zat may well be true,” Fleur agreed. “I would not be averse to making closer friends with you,” she continued after a few seconds of thought that seemed to last for several minutes.
“But,” Daphne said, “I need something first.”
Daphne moved in and kissed the part-Veela. She felt her heart move, and she pulled back and nodded.
“Oh?” Fleur asked again.
“I had to make sure what I was feeling was worth the struggle it will take to get with you.” She paused. “It is,” she added, feeling herself blush a little.
“Hmm,” Fleur said, and started to walk again. After a few minutes of silence, she tilted her head. She started to talk in a soft drawl, that seemed to emphasise her accent in a way that made Daphne want to curl up with her and listen to her speak all night. “In my experience, the Pure-Bloods in British society are rather ‘idebound against alternate sexualities, in fact, zey are very anti-them.”
Daphne nodded in agreement.
“So you are not worried?”
“Nope,” Daphne said cheerfully. “I told my brother that I thought I might be gay ages ago, and all he told me was to take it easy and to find out who I am, and not to make mistakes. If people attack me, he will defend me and no one will ever dare attack me again, and he will talk to my parents if, and that’s a big if, they have a problem, so the only thing I had to be scared of was you saying a straight no.”
“And if I ‘ad?” Fleur drawled.
Daphne had to hide her shudder of pleasure. “I would have gone crying to Harry, and we’d have eaten lots of ice cream and he’d have made me feel better, and I’d have waited until someone else makes me feel like you do, no matter how long it took.”
Fleur nodded. “I ‘ave not ‘ad someone be so direct to me. Usually, I am asked out sideways, and I have to guess true intentions.”
“My intentions, I think, are to get you to stage where I can play with your bum, kiss you lots, and spend lots and lots of time with you.”
Fleur laughed softly under her breath, “Exactly, ‘onesty. It is refreshing.”
Daphne bounced cheerfully. She reached out and took Fleur’s hand. “Let’s continue our walk, so I can start persuading you.”
“Let us do that,” Fleur agreed with a chuckle.
“I’m going to send Mum and Dad an owl,” Astoria announced, and trotted off.
“See you later,” Hermione called, and headed out of the great hall.
Romilda walked with Hermione, “Can I ask you a personal question?”
“I don’t have to answer, so sure?”
“You don’t seem jealous of Daph’s relationship with Harry?”
“That’s more of a statement with an implied question,” Hermione replied.
Romilda paused. “Why are you not jealous of the closeness that Daph and Harry have?”
Hermione nodded. “Much better. Because if Harry was like that with me it would drive me completely insane. I’m pretty convinced that Daph thinks about Harry’s opinion before she goes to the bathroom.”
“From what I’ve talked to Tori, Daphne has always wanted someone she can utterly rely on, someone who is the same age as her, so understands things, but is mature enough to give her the advice she craves, and strong enough to protect her.
“Now, don’t get me wrong, I like that as well with Harry, but in much, much, smaller doses. So I have my friendship with Harry, one that means the world to me, and to him, I hope, but I am still capable of being myself.”
Romilda nodded slowly.
“I’d’ve gone to Harry last night, but it would have been different. I suspect we would have ended up kissing. We’re full of hormones, and that sort of thing would have been an obvious start – we’d have regretted it later, or we might not have, I don’t know. I just know that we’d never have that level of purity that he has with Daph, and again, I’m glad for it.” Hermione smiled lightly, “What you want me to tell you is what Harry needs. The problem is, I’m not sure I know. What I do know is that I need something different to him, and he needs something different to me.”
“I have absolutely no idea, and I’m in no hurry to find out.”
“That’s a weird answer.”
“We’re in a weird situation,” Hermione agreed, and went silent.
Romilda went silent as well. Suddenly, she reached out and hugged Hermione from the side.
“I’ve decided I’m adopting you as a surrogate big sister,” she announced. “That’s how our group seems to work. Tori has Daph, who won’t give her advice about her crush on Harry, and I have you who won’t do the same, and I miss having my other sisters around. So you’re volunteered.”
“Oh,” Hermione said, and then chuckled. “I always wanted lifelong friends.”
“You have me, Tori, and Daph, and you know you always will have Harry.” Romilda paused. “So, want to know why my hair always looks this good, despite it having natural curls the size of a mountain?”
Romilda grabbed Hermione hand, and dragged her off. Hermione followed her eagerly.
“The Horcruxes,” Moody said, as Harry took a seat, “Voldemort has them back with him, except the ones that were destroyed, and one other, that was stolen by Regulus Black.”
“Who?” Harry asked.
“Sirius’s younger brother, a Death Eater.”
“One who turned against Voldemort, by the sounds of it,” Harry pointed out.
“Indeed,” Albus said. “So there is one piece of soul out there?”
“If we can get it, we can kill Voldemort and be done with the whole thing!” Harry said. “No discrediting this time.”
“Soul magic?” Alastor asked.
“Good, I’ve got a list of every Death Eater, handed it to the I.C.W. this morning, we did a load of raids. We got most of ‘em, and quite a few are still in component parts from your night time activities.”
Harry nodded and didn’t let himself dwell on what had happened.
“Unfortunately, we don’t know where Voldemort is. His Dark Mark actively stops them telling.”
“It would be easier if the enemy wasn’t competent,” Harry said.
“So, Fawkes, would you mind seeing if Sirius is available?”
The phoenix nodded and flamed away. A few seconds later, he arrived back with a Sirius who was dressed only in a speedo.
“Sweet Merlin,” Harry said, hiding his eyes,
“You’re just jealous,” Sirius replied. “Morning, all.”
“Allow me,” Albus said, and when Harry looked again, Sirius was dressed.
“Thanks,” Harry said dryly.
“My pleasure, indeed,” Albus replied in an equally dry tone.
“I’m going to have to wash my eye in bleach now,” Moody muttered. “One of the benefits of it is that I can literally do that.”
“So,” Harry said, “any idea where your brother would hide a piece of Voldemort’s soul?”
“I’m sorry,” Sirius said, “all I heard was crazy.”
“It seems,” Albus said, “that your brother regretted joining the Dark Lord, and as such, he stole an object from him, that contained part of his soul.”
“Ahh,” Sirius said slowly. “Erm, Kreacher?”
A filthy elf appeared. He glowered at Sirius, and then at Harry, “Filthy traitorous son calls? In presence of disgusting boy who makes elve…”
Whatever Kreacher was going to say was ended, as he was on the floor, unconscious, and Dobby stood above him, wielding a baseball bat. Dobby paused, and then hit the elf on the floor again.
“We do need him to be able to answer a question,” Harry said to Dobby.
Dobby kicked the House-elf. “He dares insult human who frees all House-elves, Dobby not standing for it!” The elf clapped his hands, and fifteen old House-elves appeared. They looked at Kreacher in disgust. “Hims having secret.”
“Wes being getting secret,” the other House-elves intoned. Kreacher floated into the air, and the other House-elves all touched the unconscious elf.
“Harry ask question?” Dobby asked.
“Does Kreacher have any idea of a trinket that his master Regulus had that might contain a piece of the Dark Lord’s soul?”
Kreacher started to glow, and a few seconds later, the other House-elves glowed as well.
“Is locket, belong to Slytherin,” the House-elves said in unison. They pulled back, and Kreacher dropped to the ground.
“Kreacher is being traitor. All other House-elves listen to council, some give up loved families for all future of House-elves, Kreacher didn’t, and worse, Kreacher live in filth!” Dobby exclaimed.
The other House-elves all nodded silently. Once more they reached out, and once more Kreacher started to glow, only this time, when they stopped, he was clearly dead.
“Justice is being done,” Dobby said sadly, and the other House-elves vanished with the corpse. Dobby popped away, and was back a second later with a locket.
“Thank you, Dobby.”
Dobby beamed and popped away.
“Well, I feel useless,” Sirius announced cheerfully.
“Oh, we often feel that way,” Albus agreed.
Harry looked at the locket and frowned. “I think we need Nadya.”
The older woman was popped in a few seconds later.
“You’re on top form today, Dobby,” Harry praised the empty air. It quivered happily, and then went still. Harry passed her the locket. “It’s a Horcrux, it just feels different.”
Nadya looked at Moody and Sirius, and then shrugged, and looked at the locket. “Clever little bastard,” she eventually said.
“What?” Mad-eye demanded.
“He’s cast it away.”
“Huh?” Sirius asked.
“It contains a piece of Voldemort’s soul, but it is no longer connected to him. Voldemort cut it out of himself.”
“So we should destroy it anyway, but there’s not much else we can do with it?” Harry asked, disappointedly.
“Pretty much,” Nadya agreed. “A killing curse could do it.”
“Ooo, ooo, me, me,” Alastor called, waving his hand eagerly.
“Professor Moody, would you like to kill a part of Voldemort?” Harry asked.
“More than anything!”
Harry moved over and offered his shoulder to Fawkes. Fawkes climbed up his arm, and Harry dangled the locket off the side of the perch.
“Avada Kedavra,” Mad-Eye called. The locket flashed as the curse hit it, and a grey mist appeared and then vanished. “Oh, that felt good,” he said with a happy sigh.
Harry banished the remains into a bucket, and offered Fawkes his perch back. The phoenix gave the impression that he was quite comfortable where he was, and as such, wasn’t going to move.
“So, to summarise,” Professor Dumbledore said, “all the pieces of Voldemort’s soul are now either destroyed or have been reunited with Voldemort. And with the I.C.W. raids this morning, and Harry’s actions in killing all the other Death Eaters last night, we have an enemy who is now killable, but in hiding, and when he comes out, Harry can fulfil the prophecy…”
“And spend the rest of his school life perfecting his chosen career, looking after his sister, spending time with all his friends, and having a great summer with his godfather and his crazy step-grandfather, gallivanting around Europe?”
“As good as that sounds,” Sirius interrupted, “does someone want to explain what happened last night, and just how you have a sister!?”
“Oh,” Harry said dryly. “That. Daphne is amazing.” He ducked the hex from Sirius and grinned.
“Ooo,” Alastor said, waving his hand eagerly again. “Let me tell it!”
“Does it end with Harry following Pure-blood traditions?” Sirius asked with a large smirk. “I’ve seen Daphne!”
Harry frowned and tried to work out why that comment hurt so much.
Harry looked at his watch; he had just an hour or so before the game, so he popped away, and knocked at a door.
The door swung open. “Harry!” Derek exclaimed, sounding delighted to see him. “Come in, come, Cress and I were just about to grab a sandwich; I’ve got some fantastic smoked salmon.”
Harry smiled and exhaled. “Please,” he agreed. He followed Derek through to the living room; Cressida was sat, reading from a large book on her lap.
“Harry,” she said with a warm smile. “Sit, anything you want to talk about can wait until after we’ve tried this salmon of Derek’s.”
Harry sat obediently, kicking his shoes off and curling up. It was moments later that Derek walked in three plates. On each, was a baguette that had been cut in thirds, and filled with salmon, some salad and a bit of dressing.
And the salmon was beautiful, lightly smoked with tea, with a fantastic texture. Harry didn’t say anything, he just drank the atmosphere of the room and his hosts, and felt drank in the atmosphere.
After they had had all finished, Derek sent the plates floating back to the kitchen. “So, want to tell us why you’ve got a frown on that handsome face?”
“You’ve heard about last night?”
“Yes,” Cressida said, “And that you were smart enough to get a warrant first. Mind you, if anyone had suggested anything other than honouring you this morning in the session, I think Augusta would have beaten them to death with her hat.”
Harry laughed. “Daph was amazing last night, she was really there for me, and helped me out.”
Both parents smiled proudly.
“So, it’s not that. It’s, well, Sirius.”
“Go on,” Derek encouraged.
Harry sighed. “It’s just, well, I don’t know,” he said, feeling frustrated. “It’s….” He took a deep breath. “I don’t know,” he finished weakly.
“Okay,” Cress said softly. “It’s okay. Take a deep breath, relax, we’re not going to judge.”
“Unless you call me ugly, then I’ll judge you to have zero taste,” Derek added lightly.
Harry chuckled. “It’s just, Sirius was here earlier, and you know what I realised?”
“No?” Derek said softly.
“That I hardly know him, at all. I mean, I’ve heard stories, and interacted with him a few times, but that’s it.” He ran his hands through his hair. “And he was talking about his main house, and how we could do it up, and it didn’t feel like home, it didn’t sound like home.” He looked down. “Here feels like home, Christmas, and before, you know, first I just fell asleep, I never do that, ever! And then, Christmas day, it was the best day of my life.” He felt a tear form in the corner of his eye, and he brushed at it, irritated that it existed. “And you know, despite the fact that I’ve not spent that much time here, it’s here that I feel like I can relax.”
Now he’d started, he couldn’t stop. “I like the Weasleys, really, I do, but it was always tense, and it’s the same with Sirius, I get the feeling half the time that my reactions to events confuse him, like he’s expecting me to do something else, or be someone else, and I’m not.
“And I know he’s incredible, I know he broke out of Azkaban, and he’s done so much, but I was so desperate for family, any family, that I grabbed on to the first thing I found, but now, later, I’m comparing it to a guy who uses his narcissism to break up tense moments and make everyone feel better, and a woman who is smart, professional, and warm and caring and intelligent, and beautiful, and how they’ve always treated me as me, not as Harry Potter, not as James Potter’s son, not as anything other than the person they’ve met and interacted with personally.
“I’ve spent so much time being me this year, and it’s been the best year of my life, and I don’t know if I can go back to being someone else, even for Sirius.”
Harry found himself being lifted from the chair, and hugged by Derek. For the second time that day, he cried on the shoulder of a member of the Greengrass family.
When he had finished, Derek waved his wand and cast a muttered spell.
“Handsome again?” Harry asked with a small smile.
“But of course, tears age me terribly,” Derek replied with a matching smile.
“Last night was bad, wasn’t it,” Cressida said gently.
“When I died,” Harry whispered, as he turned to her and knelt next to her chair. “I met mum. And she was wonderful, amazing, so pretty and clever and she loved me. And I really, really miss her right now, and there was nowhere else I could go.”
Cressida slipped off of her chair, and hugged him tightly.
The hug was different to the ones he had got from his mum, but in a way, it was the same, so he relaxed, and just stayed with her until he felt like he was back under control.
“Do you want advice?” Cressida asked softly.
He looked up at her. “Please,” he whispered.
“The very first thing you have to know and understand is that we love you. We look at Daphne and Astoria, and see the joy and happiness in their eyes, that is entirely due to you. Astoria and Daphne have the best relationship we’ve seen between them, thanks to you, and Derek and I, well, you’ve let us see Harry, and we’re honoured to have met him.”
“Damn right,” Derek added gently.
“So no matter what time of the day, where we are, there is always a place for you here. There is a bedroom upstairs with your name on it.”
“And a place next to me in the gym, and in the kitchen,” Derek continued.
Harry took a deep breath, and nodded.
“That said, I do think you should try with Sirius, but only if you are willing to try as Harry.”
He tilted his head and looked quizzically at the older woman.
“If something is making you uncomfortable, tell Sirius, be honest. We don’t doubt that he loves you, but if you don’t tell him about problems, how can he know?”
Harry nodded softly.
“He is your godfather, a great friend of your parents, but none of that matters if you can’t be yourself. So try it, help change his place into a somewhere you can call home, and if it doesn’t work, you are welcome here.”
“And remember,” Derek added, “we are just a Pop away. If you need a break or want to see Daphne or Astoria or Cressida or of course my exquisite self.”
Harry nodded again. “So I should try, work with him, and see what happens?”
“I think so.”
“Of course, that’s why Cress is the best person to talk to. I’m much more selfish,” Derek announced. “I’d encourage you to stay here, and increase the good looking in this house by another hundred percent.”
Harry laughed as Derek winked at him. He hugged Cress again, before he stood and re-took his seat. He sat on the edge. “I feel a lot better,” he admitted, and he did. He hadn’t even consciously realised that he wasn’t looking forward to the summer – once the original euphoria of having family had worn off.
“Excellent. Now, I might happen to have some ice cream and some home-made raspberry sauce?” Derek suggested.
“Sounds wonderful,” Harry said.
Derek walked out, and the room was silent. And Harry closed his eyes and drank it in some more.
“You’re an official friend of the family, and Daphne’s completely adored big brother,” Cressida said after a few moments. “So don’t worry about it.”
“I won’t,” Harry agreed. “It’s much easier to jump with a safety net.” He opened his eyes as he heard Derek walk back in, and took the proffered bowl. “Tori made our first sale yesterday.”
“Oh?” Derek asked.
“Nine custom knives, at seventy five galleons each. Took me a couple of hours to make them for the clients.”
“Six hundred and seventy five galleons for an afternoon’s work?” Cressida demanded.
Harry nodded. “Vik told me it wasn’t just that, though, it was all the work and materials that went in to being able to make the knives that fast.” Balancing the bowl in one hand, he took out his own knife, and held it out.
Cressida took a spoonful of ice cream, and then took the knife, examining it carefully. “There are some runes on here?”
“Stay sharp, deny stain, that sort of thing, about as many as we could fit on each part,” he confirmed. The ice cream was fantastic, but the raspberry sauce was better, it made the ice cream into a sauce delivery substance.
Cressida took another bite, and then hefted the blade, before she balanced it on one finger. “I knew you were good, but this is amazing,” she marvelled.
Harry blinked as he looked at Cressida. “I’ve just realised who taught Daph and Tori how to use knives.”
Cressida chuckled. “My father taught me many years ago. He was terrified of some pretty boy sweeping me off my feet.”
“Which I did,” Derek said with a happy grin, as he reached over and took it, before he shook his head and smiled. “I’m suddenly far less nervous about our daughters’ chosen career path,” he chuckled.
“Me, too,” Harry agreed. He paused, and hoped he wasn’t about to give serious offence. “Would you be insulted if I said that was an awful painting?” he asked, pointing above the fireplace.
“No,” Derek laughed. “It was painted by one of my ancestors who thought he was an accomplished artist. It’s been there all my life.”
Harry nodded. “Daph said the same. Excuse me for a moment, please.” He placed his empty bowl down and quickly popped away, returning with a large, square item, covered in a red velvet curtain. “So, Daph and I were talking, and I wanted to do something that wasn’t a weapon, so we came up with this.”
He placed the item in front of the fireplace and removed the curtain, and then looked for their reaction. Stunned stupefaction seemed to be the immediate one, and he found he quite liked that.
Daphne had designed an updated version of the Greengrass coat of arms, and he’d made it out of a combination of different metals, to give it some real depth. The shield part was burnished gold in the upper left and lower right quadrants, with a deep red in the opposing quadrants. Over the quadrants a lion, with all four paws lowered, and a falcon faced each other.
Underneath, the legend was burnished steel, with the Greengrass family motto engraved in calligraphy.
The crest stood on an intricate iron framework, wrought to look like a rose bush.
“Oh, Harry,” Cressida whispered.
Harry looked at Derek, who was smiling, even as tears poured down his face. “I can feel my family, stretching back eons, and every one of them is amazed and awed,” he said unsteadily, and he moved closer and ran his fingers over the front, examining it closely. He turned and looked at Harry, before he reached up and unhinged the painting, and carelessly plonked it behind Cress’ chair. He levitated the crest into place, and hung it on the same hook the picture had hung on. He used his wand and cast a sticking charm to help with the weight, before he stepped back.
“I have a feeling, Harry,” he said softly, “that you are going to end up very very rich.”
“Because I’m looking at this, and trying to put a price on it. And I can’t. I’d happily pay thousands of galleons for this. More. This is my entire family’s history summed up in a beautiful work of art that just brings it all to life!”
“We’ve got a dinner party next week,” Cressida said, “and when we show this off to our friends, you are going to be inundated with commissions.”
“Yes,” Derek agreed, before he turned and hugged Harry. “This gift is utterly priceless.”
Harry rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment. “Don’t forget that Daph designed it.”
“Oh, we haven’t,” Derek agreed. “But a design is one thing. This? Making this is another thing.”
Harry’s watch beeped, and he sighed. Then he perked up, “Come and watch the new game?” he half asked, half pleaded.
“Of course,” Derek said, “we were planning on that anyway.”
“I’ll just put some comfortable shoes on,” Cressida said, and moved out.
“Seriously, Harry, I really can’t tell you what this means to me. It honours my family in a way that will last for a thousand years. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Harry said, as he put his own shoes back on. Derek grabbed some boots from the corner, and they were soon ready. Harry popped them straight to the new pitch.
Derek looked around, before he dashed forward and hugged Daphne, who was in a group of their friends near where they had appeared. “It is amazing,” he told her.
“You like it then?” she asked nervously.
Derek nodded eagerly.
“What?” Astoria asked, as Derek quickly hugged her as well.
“We didn’t show anyone else,” Harry said. “It was a surprise for you.”
“A surprise like no other,” Cressida said, as she hugged her daughters.
“What is it?” Astoria asked again.
“Dobby, can you and some House-elves pop Tori, Romi, and Hermione to the living room of Greengrass mansion?”
The House-elves popped away, and Harry moved over to Daphne. “You look happy.”
She nodded eagerly, and gave him a hug. “I’ve got some good news,” she whispered up at him.
He kissed her forehead, and grinned as Viktor, Esmeralda, Cedric, Cho and Fleur walked over. The three champions were all holding their bounce boots in one hand.
The girls were popped back, and Astoria launched herself, hugging him and Daphne incredibly tightly. “It’s incredible amazing brilliant,” she gushed, as fast as she could, “it almost looks alive.”
“Krum is interested, what looks good?”
“Daph and I made a present for Derek and Cress.”
“Father was right, Derek is good looking man. Scary so.”
“Thank you,” Derek replied with a grin.
“And with parents like that, it’s no wonder Daphne is so pretty,” Fleur murmured with a sideways look at Daphne.
“Hi, Mrs Greengrass, Derek,” Cedric said, offering his hand. They both shook it.
“Krum’s question was not answered,” Viktor said, “And while Krum’s wallet is protesting, as Krum has suspicions it might be emptied more, Krum still wants to know.”
“I’m sure your parents would love one, like we love ours,” Cressida said to the Bulgarian.
“Ooo, business hat time,” Astoria said, and once more put her incredibly cute hat on. “Can Krum, Esmeralda and I please be popped back home?”
“And I have a suspicion that I couldn’t afford it,” Cedric said with a grin, “whatever it is.”
“I am curious though,” Cho admitted.
“Me, too,” Fleur agreed.
“Do I get employee discount?” Romilda asked with a cheeky grin. “Because a smaller version on the caravan would drive the rest of the clan insane with jealousy.”
“Like the small one I’ve done for Nadya, for all her help this year?”
Romilda squealed and crushed him in a hug,
“Now I’m very curious,” Fleur pouted.
“Can Fleur and I be popped?” Daphne asked, and they vanished, as Vik, Esmeralda and Astoria arrived back.
“Krum will talk to manager,” he announced, “transfer Krum’s wages direct to Harry, cut out middle man.”
“Seriously, though, we both want to commission one for our families. I’ll need to get approval, for this sort of money, but I can guarantee my mother will pay.” Esmeralda wrapped an arm around Viktor.
“Krum will talk to Daph,” Viktor mused. “Krum has ideas for combined crest for new family. Viktor has money, Harry has talent, is good match.”
Harry opened his mouth, but shut it again as Astoria elbowed him. He nodded at her, acknowledging her unsaid point.
Fleur and Daphne arrived back.
“Esmeralda, do you think you could do me a list of families that might like that?” Romilda asked. “I’ve got a list of the English ones, but nothing for abroad.”
“Da,” Esmeralda said. “As long as my order is at the top of the list.”
“Me, too,” Fleur agreed. “Harry, did you know that House-elves can’t pop internationally?”
Harry blinked. “Really?”
Dobby popped in, “House-elves are speaking elvish, but power is still required, Harry Potter sir remember?”
“Oh, yeah,” he said, as he realised that he was personally powering every House-elf in the country, and still had plenty to spare.
Dobby grinned and popped out again.
“So, can you pop me ‘ome later, so I can grab my parents and show them that masterpiece? I want it set on the entrance arch to our ‘ome?” Fleur said, her accent more noticeable than it had been recently. Harry noticed Daphne give a small shiver and smiled to himself.
“Sure,” Harry agreed. For the first time, he really looked around. They were in an elliptical field, and, to his surprise, there were bleachers along each side, filled with students.
“Why are they here?” he asked.
“Do you expect Harry Potter and Viktor Krum to be involved in a new sport and people not be interested?” Hermione asked.
“Press weasels are over there,” Krum added.
Harry turned, to see what looked a like a genuine press box. “Dobby?”
The House-elf popped in immediately.
“Did you and the other House-elves build a complete stadium, complete with a press box, for a game that you guys have invented, to watch me and the others make fools of ourselves?”
“Dobby has no idea what Harry is talking about,” the elf replied with an excited bounce. “Dobby was only hearing crazy.”
Harry gave the elf a foul look, for it to have absolutely no affect. “You guys are disturbingly competent,” he added. “And paying far too much attention to Sirius.”
Dobby nodded in agreement. “Give House-elves trust and freedom, House-elves do anything.” Dobby paused, and then looked at Harry nervously. “House-elves are enjoying this sport, and House-elves are wondering, House-elves can be bidding for contract to produce bounce boots?”
“Excuse me,” Astoria interrupted. “Why don’t we talk about that later, Dobby? I’m sure that Harry has no objections, so we can discuss all the details.”
Another House-elf appeared. This one was hunched over, his weight supported by a cane. He had a long white beard that almost touched the ground. “I is old elf McFooie,” he announced. “I is doing negotiating, old elf McFooie has suspicion Dobby being negotiation for socks. And we likes socks, but we’s needing money as well.”
Astoria giggled. “I’m delighted to meet you, old elf,” she said solemnly. “Shall we meet tomorrow evening after class?”
The elf nodded cheerfully and popped away. Dobby clicked his fingers, and his clothing morphed into a yellow and black referee’s jersey. “Rights,” Dobby said, “all non-players to be leaving pitch!”
Daphne gave Harry a hug for luck, shot a little regretful look at Fleur, before trotting off with her parents, leaving him, Romilda and Astoria, facing Cedric, Fleur and Viktor.
“First, is uniform.” He raised his hands, and two large cubicles with huge doors appeared out of the ground. “Is boys and girls in there.”
Harry and the two girls entered, and then separated. In a dressing room, Harry found his own bounce boots, and his uniform. With a shrug, he stripped and pulled on the undersuit, then the shorts and t-shirt, in a deep red, and then the soft body armour. As he donned it, he was starting to doubt the wisdom of letting House-elves come up with a sport. Finally, he put his boots on, and grinned as he realised the doors were high enough to let him out without ducking.
He walked out, to see that Romilda and Astoria had tied their long hair back, and were wearing very similar clothes to him.
“I can’t decide if I should be nervous or excited,” Romilda exclaimed. “Excitement is winning,” she added.
He grinned at her, appreciating the enthusiasm she was showing.
“Are we ready to kick some arse?” she added.
“Yes!” Astoria said. “Even if they do have a height advantage, and I’m actually quite small.”
“Makes you harder to hit,” Romilda pointed out, “might give us an advantage.”
“Ooo, true. Right, let’s go!”
They bounced out of the locker rooms, and heard the first cheer from the crowd. The other team were dressed the same, but in blue, that happened to match the colour he’d made Fleur’s boots in.
Dobby snapped his fingers, and the changing rooms sunk into the ground. “Game is being simple,” he said, “Take ball, throw into goal.” At each end of the stadium, a single hockey-sized goal appeared. After a few seconds, it floated up so that it was twenty feet up in the air, and then down again. Both goals kept a steady alternate rhythm.
There was some more noise from the crowd as they started to get really interested, and probably recognised that the difficulty had increased with moving targets.
“Tackling is being allowed,” Dobby continued, “fights is not! Punishment is lose points. No tackle without ball, tackle after bounce okay, even if player passed ball. Ball passing allowed, but,” he added with a grin, “pass must bounce! Scoring is one point per score. Is simples, yes?”
Harry nodded, it did sound simple, and he could see the others agreeing.
“Is sounds easy, too?” Dobby asked.
They all nodded.
Dobby cackled. “House-elves, create pitch!”
Twenty House-elves appeared and cast spells on the pristine grass. Transparent shapes with a green tinge emerged, of practically every type. The entire pitch was enclosed within one piece, with balconies and angles jutting inwards.
All over the ground, and up to twenty feet in the air, platforms of different shapes were locked in place. The pitch was separated into two halves, and was completely symmetrical in both halves.
In four symmetrical places the platforms turned red. They were about twenty metres from each goal, and angled away from them.
“Be scorings from red zones, get five points,” Dobby called. “Now, readys to being plays?”
“Merlin,” Astoria whispered. “The angles are going to make controlling things difficult, and bounce passes?”
“This looks challenging,” Romilda agreed, and then she grinned, “but so much fun!”
Harry nodded in agreement. He looked over, to see a light in Viktor’s eyes. He looked at Cedric, to see him grinning, although he had a look of trepidation in them. Fleur, who had tied her hair back as well, had a small smile on her face.
Dobby held up a Quaffle-shaped ball. “After score, conceding team gets ball. Go!” He threw the ball directly down, causing it to bounce.
Harry bounced to a side, onto an angled platform, and dived off. The angle launched him toward the ball, and he caught it, somersaulting. Looking up, he prepared to throw at the goal, when he was hit by the weight of a professional Quidditch player. The impact didn’t actually hurt, and he dropped the ball as they both fell down and landed. The surface wasn’t nearly as hard as it looked.
“You okay?” he asked Viktor.
Viktor stood up and lifted him up. “Vik not hurt, Harry not score, is good start.”
Harry laughed, and bounced off, looking for the ball. It was in Astoria’s hands as she bounced to the side and up. She looked around as Cedric closed her down. He launched himself at the smaller girl, but she tucked into a ball, and while he knocked her off course, she didn’t drop the ball. She looked around, and threw the ball at a platform. It bounced off, heading kinda toward Romilda.
The gypsy ran up the side of the outer wall, and caught it, before she bounced toward Fleur, who was bouncing in front of her. In the air, Romilda rotated so that as she crashed into Fleur, she was able to get a shot off that flew straight into the net.
Harry cheered, as he bounced over and hugged her, Astoria joining them seconds later. They broke, and retreated, as Viktor and Cedric used their distraction to equalise.
“Tori, go high, Romi and I will defend and get you the ball, then take off forward,” Harry said, as Romilda retrieved the ball from the net and passed it to him.
Both girls nodded, and Astoria ran up the side of the pitch, before perching on a platform.
At the other end, the opposing team were shouting orders at each other. Harry slammed the ball of a wall to Romilda, only for Cedric to jump and knock the ball away to Viktor.
Viktor bounced forward, keeping along the ground, using the shapes to make his bounces unpredictable.
He jumped forward, and then bounced the ball directly behind him, where Fleur had come down from a platform and used an angle to launch herself forward at high speed. Romilda jumped up to tackle but Fleur lobbed the ball over Romilda’s head toward the goal.
It was following the downward slide of the moving goal perfectly, when Astoria flashed down, headfirst, and blocked the ball with her body, before twisting to land, her boots taking the impact just before she slammed down.
There was a pause, before a roar came from the crowd.
“Great move, Tori,” Romilda called.
Astoria bounced the ball to her, “You two attack, I’ll defend!”
“Fleur, Krum, I’ll defend ours,” Cedric called.
Harry grinned, tactics were being made up on the spot, and he could already see how challenging saves were going to be, as the keepers had to keep moving to match the height of the goal.
Their next attack failed, and with a double flip, Viktor equalled their goal. And from there, the game took off. Harry lost count of minutes and bounces as he immersed himself totally in the game.
They all stopped, startled, as a whistle blew. “Is half time,” Dobby announced.
Harry found that he was panting, and as he looked around, the others were similarly out of breath.
The score was fifteen-fourteen to the three champions, although no one had scored from one of the special points yet.
He sat down, with his legs out, as the pitch was returned to just grass. He took the drink an elf offered him. “Having fun?” He looked at the crowd and smiled. A lot of them had charmed their clothing to show their support of each team, and it looked pretty even.
“Yeah,” Astoria and Romilda agreed. Strands of their hair were plastered to their foreheads, and they were both a little red from the exercise. “I’m pooped,” Astoria added.
Harry frowned, before he moved forward and grabbed both girls’ shoulders. He sent some of his magic into them. The girls both closed their eyes and their faces seemed to go calm, although their breathing didn’t slow down.
He finished, and they opened their eyes and smiled at him.
“That’s better,” Romilda said.
“Yeah,” Astoria agreed.
“You’re doing a great job in goal, Tori, don’t let the fact that we’re a little behind tell you otherwise. Fleur and Viktor are playing really well together. Romi, you’re doing great as well, you’ve scored two more than me! So I have to up my game.”
“You’ve been knocking Krum and Fleur out of the air,” Romilda pointed out, “so you’ve hardly been the weakest link.”
Harry grinned at her, and looked around; House-elves were moving up and down the stands, selling items from trays they were carrying. The crowd hadn’t thinned at all, and in some places, it looked heavier. The rumble of noise also suggested that they were having a good time.
There was a series of pops and twenty House-elves appeared, each in identical green tunics, and started to play the instruments they were holding. Their musical choice was obviously geared toward the audience, as they started with Jerusalem, and then headed in to some Elgar before doing a spirited rendition of the William Tell overture.
There was a round of applause from the audience as the last notes of the first Pomp and Circumstance March faded. The crowd had started to sing along, by this point, and were definitely into it. The House-elves then finished with Rule Britannia, and Harry found himself booming the chorus out along with the crowd.
Harry jumped to his feet as Dobby reappeared and blew his whistle enthusiastically. He looked at crowd. “What we say?” he yelled.
The crowd looked a little blank, before some shouted.
“House-elves, create pitch,” Dobby reminded them. “Now, what we say?”
“House-elves, create pitch,” the crowd roared back.
The House-elves appeared, only, the pitch they created was different.
“Did Dobby forget to mention?” the House-elf cackled. “Pitch is random each time!”
Harry shook his head, as he prepared to start. The ball was bounced, and Harry bounced to the side, up, and then against the far side of the stadium. Then he shot off, at the perfect angle to smack into Viktor at full speed.
“Vik is used to being able to change directions in air,” he shouted as they dropped down.
Harry took off as soon as he felt the resistance that signified ground was within reach of the charms on the boots. Romilda had the ball, but was being shepherded to the side. He followed her, and she swung around and threw the ball off of the wall, he bounced, caught it, and immediately launched the ball as he landed. It shot past Cedric and clinked in off of the right post.
There was a huge cheer, and Harry celebrated with a double back flip, as he realised he’d been one of the special zones.
“Merde,” he heard Fleur whisper, before she retreated to get the ball.
“Great throw!” Astoria yelled. She was bouncing enthusiastically from a platform that was around halfway up the height the goal could go.
“Thanks,” he yelled back, before exchanging a high five with Romilda. They turned, and the match took off again.
Toward the end, Romilda started to rotate with Astoria, so that she could get her breath back, and Cedric and Fleur were doing the same. Harry and Viktor kept going; they were in the best shape, and were able to continue the high pace.
Harry found himself matching and sometimes exceeding Viktor. There were some similarities to being on a broom, and they started to push the boots to the limit, treating gravity as a minor inconvenience.
Most of the time, like with Quidditch, he phased the crowd out, but occasionally he would acknowledge them, as they cheered an outlandish pass or a ridiculous twist to score a goal.
He had lost count a long time ago, but felt the game was still close, and played with everything he had.
Dobby’s whistle blew, and Harry turned to look at the nearest person – Fleur. “Who won?”
“I don’t know,” she replied, looking around as well.
“By thirty one points to thirty, the winners, Krum, Delacour and Diggory!” Dobby yelled.
Fleur screamed in triumph, and bounded over to hug her teammates. Harry bounded over to his teammates, and smiled at them. Both girls looked completely devastated at their loss. He gathered both of them up, and hugged them tight. “I am so proud of both of you,” he told them. “You played your hearts out, against three adults, and we came so close! It’s incredible, and we did so well!”
“But we lost,” Romilda pouted.
“But we played fantastically, we played fair, and we gave it everything, there can be no sadness in loss when you gave everything!”
“Really?” Astoria asked in a little voice.
“Really,” he said, and then he kissed each girl on the cheek. “Now, let’s congratulate the other team.”
They bounded over and offered their congratulations.
Fleur reached forward and hugged him tightly, and then moved down to hug the other two. Cedric did the same, congratulating them back.
Viktor pounded him on the back. “Viktor had great fun!” he said, “Viktor have second sport now! Viktor play in summer, rule world!”
Viktor let him go, and moved down. “Is Viktor now,” he told the two girls. “Girls play hard, play well, Viktor impressed!”
Astoria and Romilda both beamed at him, the looks of disappointment vanishing.
They all turned to acknowledge the crowd, who were on their feet, with the biggest celebrations coming from the blue half.
The enchantments dropped, and the pitch faded. Harry reached down and took off his boots, and it felt strange to be back on terra firma . The others did the same.
“Halt!” Viktor yelled. Harry looked up, to see that the press was approaching them like a plague of rats seeing a leg of lamb.
The press, remarkably, did so.
“We vill answer few questions,” Krum continued. “Then get changed, this fun for friends, not professional match!”
The press gathered around. Harry sighed, and waved his hand, creating a bench for them to sit on. As they sat, it hovered up a metre off the ground.
“Hands!” Krum barked.
Every journalist raised their hand at once. Krum sighed, “Typical,” he grunted. “Rules. Questions about Podska only, not about Harry last night or anything else.”
Harry shrugged as Viktor named their new game; it was as good a name as any, assuming it wasn’t a rude word in some language he didn’t understand.
“Rita Skeeter, Daily Prophet,” she introduced herself. “My readers want to know if anything is going on between you and the girls…”
“Dobby, please have some House-elves eject Skeeter,” Harry interrupted. The shocked journalist was popped away. “Viktor told you the rules,” Harry said.
The Bulgarian twisted his head, and then grinned at Harry. “You,” he pointed to another one.
“What was it like playing the first game of Podska?”
“Fun, big fun. Like Seeker, Chaser and Beater wrapped in one.”
“Yeah,” Cedric continued, “Three of us have played Seeker here, and the skills came in useful when doing some of the tricks. Fleur was a Chaser, and you could see that from her long shots.”
“For me,” Fleur said, her head back. “I preferred it to Quidditch as one person could not skew the result so much.” She shot a playful glare at the three seekers sitting near her.
“I liked that you had to think,” Astoria continued. “You could use basic geometry to make the ball bounce where you wanted to.”
Romilda was next. “For me, I think it was the tackling, it was more physical than Quidditch, but without any pain.”
Everyone turned to look at Harry. He leant back slightly. “For me, I think the game was fun, but what really stood out were two things. First, was the sportsmanship. We played for forty minutes without a single foul. We all played fast and hard, but fairly. We all started from a level playing field, and we all found the game easy to pick up, but difficult to master. Even now, I’ve got some ideas that I want to try out.
“Secondly, it was obvious just how much work the House-elves have put into this. Not just inventing a game, but coming up with a full stadium design, the half time show, and our fantastic uniforms.”
From the watching crowd, a spontaneous round of applause erupted, and Harry wondered if that was the first ever applause for an elf. The House-elves in question popped in and bowed to the audience, before popping back out again.
“You,” Krum said, pointing to the next journalist.
“Where do you see this sport going?”
Astoria raised her hand. “I’ll take this one. Tomorrow, we’re going to be talking to the House-elves to discuss licensing Harry’s Podska boots to them, so that they can start to commercially produce them.
“We would like to start supplying shops within a month, where people can buy their own, even if it’s just for the fun of them.
“Once production is in place, well, we’d hope that there would be plenty of people who would want to play. We’ll see where it goes from there.”
“Astoria is right,” Romilda continued, “and for those that really enjoy the games, custom bounce boots will be available to order, for a price.”
“But,” Krum said, “Krum wants to play again before leaving Hogwarts.”
“Rematch?” Harry asked.
“Da,” Viktor replied.
Harry grinned. Dobby popped in, and stood next to Harry. “As for sport, House-elves will be available for students here who have already practiced with Podska boots to play their own games, and we’ll get some official rules in place for the students to study and understand.”
There was a loud cheer from the students in the audience. “Stay, Dobby,” Harry said, “You’re a part of this.” The House-elf looked honoured, as Harry bunched closer to Romilda so that he could sit on the end. Romilda flushed lightly, but didn’t move away from him.
“You,” Krum said, pointing to another reporter.
“Will I be ejected if I ask about the House-elves?”
Krum looked at Harry. He paused. “One question,” Harry replied.
The journalist looked thoughtful. “Okay,” he said, “I’m making this question up as I go, bear with me. House-elves, they used to be domestic servants, cooking, cleaning, and now they’re free, and producing a great sport to watch, and working with Potter closely. What happened?”
Everyone turned to Dobby, who looked shy and slightly frightened suddenly. Harry touched his shoulder reassuringly.
“House-elves always having potential,” Dobby said slowly, his face screwed up in concentration. “And maybe are now more. Elves, no longer House-elves.” Dobby paused and nodded to himself. “And when Elves had power source, all of sudden, Elves didn’t need to accept bad behaviour that had crept in over thousand years of agreement. But Elves uncertain, so Elves turn to great Harry Potter and Harry Potter listens, encourages, guides, and is friend to all Elves. And more, Harry Potter trusts Elves to do more than clean and cook, so Elves start to plan future, future where Elves not punished because master in bad mood, where Elves no beg for tiny magic, where Elves matter again.” He paused. “Elves begin remember pride, remember time before Elves lose magic source to dragons, Elves, Elves start to matter to Elves again. Elves never go back, Elves are free now.”
There was an awed silence.
“Some Elves like cook and clean, they willing to work, but thems working, not slaves. Thems work for money, with contracts, if families want. Elves work hours, have days off, being employees.”
“So people will be able to hire Elves?” the reported asked.
Dobby nodded. “Is ten galleons a month.”
The reported blinked. “I’ll take one!” There was some laughter from the other journalists.
“Is limited amount of Elves,” Dobby warned, “and Elves not going back where bad treated!” Dobby paused, “But conference not about Elves, is about Podska.” And with that, he popped out.
“Two more questions,” Krum said. “You.”
“Ryan Jones, Witch Weekly. Can we have your names so that we get them right?” he asked, pointing at Astoria and Romilda. “We know everyone else.”
“Romilda Vane and Astoria Greengrass,” Romilda replied, pointing to herself and then to Astoria.
“Last questions. You.”
The other journalists grumbled as they put their hands down.
“Lisa Monarde, Le Mondial. Now that you’re all friends through Podska, will this affect your performances in the final task?”
“Is close,” Viktor mumbled, “but Krum will allow. As Tournament began, was about glory first, relations second. Now is other way around.”
“Besides,” Cedric said, “I think we’ve all admitted that the man who can kill a dragon on his own is probably going to win!”
There was some laughter.
“I’m with Viktor,” Fleur said with a small smile. “I’ll compete to win, but I’m happier with the friends I’ve made.”
“As for me,” Harry said, “I never wanted to be in this stupid tournament, but at the start of it, Tori and Romi, closely followed by best friend Hermione helped me get through it, and from there, we all decided that holding back wasn’t going to help, so we attacked every problem as hard as we could, and I think we’re all better for it.”
“Conference is over,” Krum stated. “Harry, to smithy?”
Astoria's little flights of fancy were fun to write. She'd be quite happy to be a princess awaiting her knight in shining armour.
William Webb Ellis was the legendary founder of Rugby, who allegedly picked up the ball during a game of football and staretd a new sport named after the school he was attending.
When I was writing the Dobby and the House-elves versus Kreacher scene I was thinking of the old Buck Rogers series and a group of small people in antique clothing who did "On think" and "Off think". Major blast from the past. And ofcourse, with the power of the Internets and youtube, you can see how it was not like that at all, and far more uncomfortable than I remember from when I was seven.
When I was writing this I had a long think about Sirius, and their actual relationship. And it did strike me as Harry being so desperate for family that he'd be willing to do anything to be with Sirius and away from the Durlseys, so wanted to explore that idea a bit.
I'm a programmer, so I know just how much value a good desiger can add. Derek knows as well, but he was more concenred with bringing up Harry's confidence in himself.
Podska was me thinking about sports and wanting to come up with a magical one. It was a fun thought-project to use the bounce-boots.
Every summer there's a series out outdoor music events called the Battle Proms. I've attended four of the last five, It's about as English middle class as you can get, and opens with a Spitfire doing a show to some classical music. And it was that I was thinking off when writing the half time show.
Viktor came to the fore a lot at the end, and as a professional sportsman he should know how to deal with the press. And he is now Viktor to the others, he believes that no one should use his first name without permission. The next chapter has Viktor's dad, who was a hell of a lot of fun to write.
The next chapter should be onm schedule next week, however I'm at a funeral on Wednesday and spending the rest of the week helping sorting a bunch of things out, so it MAY be slightly delayed.