Thanks to Luan Mao and Kokopelli for their hard work, encouragement, and fixing enough commas to populate a small school.
And a "hello" to my brother and sister, who I didn't even know were reading this.
Harry decided not to go the smithy, and instead popped Romilda and Astoria away, returning quickly to get the other three. As they all arrived, Elves were popping in the rest of their group. They were outside Greengrass manor. “Derek, Cress, I thought we could have a bit of a party? I’ll take care of the food and drink.”
“I’ll open the ballroom,” Derek agreed happily.
“You mind if the six of us quickly shower and change?” Harry asked. “Cleaning charms can’t cope with the stink I’m giving off at the moment.”
“Of course not,” Derek said. “Daph, could you put towels in the guest rooms?”
“Dobby will be getting fresh clothing,” Dobby said as he popped away.
Twenty minutes later, Harry was clean, comfortable, and could no longer smell himself. He walked downstairs, and was joined by Viktor and Cedric. It was another twenty minutes before the girls trickled in.
Harry walked over to Fleur, and popped her back to her house in France. Her mother, father and sister were gathered around a wireless.
“Harry, Fleur, welcome back,” Apolline Delacour said. “We listened to your exciting match.”
Gabrielle said something French very fast, in an excited voice.
Fleur chuckled and replied, speaking at what sounded like the same speed.
As she finished, Harry said, “Fleur wanted to show Alphonse something I made, and as we’re having a bit of a party, I wanted to see if you wanted to meet everyone?”
Fleur clapped her hands together, and then hugged him. “Tresbien,” she exclaimed, before looking at Gabrielle. She said something in French sternly. Gabrielle nodded in response, and then crossed her finger over her heart and gave an angelic smile.
“Should we change?” Apolline asked.
“Nah, it’s casual, we’ll be eating Muggle food.
“Pizza?” Fleur asked.
Harry nodded, and Fleur grinned. “Good. I’m hungry.”
Apolline stood and lifted Gabrielle up, and stood with her husband. Harry concentrated, and popped all of them to the Greengrasses’ residence. “Okay, can some Elves pop Cedric and Cho to their homes, and invite their parents and siblings?” he asked, as he headed to Viktor. “Your family?”
Viktor beamed and nodded. “Da!”
“I’ll be back for you next, Esmeralda.”
The girl smiled at him, as Harry took the directions from Viktor’s mind and popped them both away.
They arrived in a grand entrance hall. A preteen girl with flowing silky black hair was walking toward them, through an open door. She was dressed in a smart white blouse and a pink calf length skirt. She blinked, and then yelled, “Viktor!” She sprinted the length of the hall and leapt at him. Viktor embraced the small girl in a huge hug.
“Harry,” he said after a few moments, “is Sophia, bestest little sister in world!”
“Hello Mr Potter,” she said in accented English. “Is gud to meet you.”
Harry slowly smiled her. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sophia,” he said, speaking slowly and clearly. “Your brother speaks of you often, and loves you very much.”
Sophia gave him a beaming smile. She looked to be around ten or eleven, with only a faint resemblance to Viktor.
“Mum and Dad are where?” Viktor asked, sticking to English. “Harry is inviting to party, and Viktor wants to show Dad new thing for family.”
“A party,” Sophia gasped. “I am not dressed properly, I did not expect important guests, you should have warned, Viktor!”
“You’re fine,” Harry assured her, “Vik and I are going to be changing out of our uniforms into jeans and t-shirts.”
She nodded solemnly as she looked at him with huge brown soulful eyes. “Mama and Papa are in parlour. We listened to Podska. Big brother won again!”
“He did,” Harry agreed with a smile.
“Come,” Viktor walked off, still carrying his sister, and they headed into the door that Sophia had entered through.
It was immediately obvious that Viktor took after his father, and Sophia their mother, as the adults were older models of the two.
“Harry, is Ana Krum, beautiful mother, and Borislav Krum, loud and large father.” Viktor placed Sofia down gently next to his mother.
Harry blinked at the father’s introduction.
“Oh dear,” Ana said, in softly accented English. “Please do step back once or twice, Mr Potter.”
Harry did as he was told, as Krum’s father jumped out of his chair, tore his shirt, revealing a hairy barrel chest, and started to wrestle Krum. Viktor kicked his legs out, and the two fell to the ground, and started to roll back and forth as they tried to get the upper hand on each other.
Sofia was giggling, as Borislav gained the upper hand, for Krum to tense and push his father off, before sliding out from underneath him.
Viktor turned, and leapt back onto his father, his foot flying up and knocking the table. The table had an expensive looking vase on it. The vase flew in to the air, and Harry reacted. He moved forward, placed one foot on Vik’s back, and dived for the vase. He managed to catch it, twist in mid-air, and land on his back. He exhaled sharply and wondered why he hadn’t used magic.
“Viktor, Boris!” Ana yelled.
The two men stood immediately, and hung their heads as they spotted Harry on the floor, cradling the vase.
“Oops,” Vik mumbled.
“Yes, oops, you are acting like Cossacks, in front of guests! And Mr Potter has just saved you from several nights on the couch, Boris!” Ana continued, and Harry was both impressed and touched that she continued in a language he understood. The Delacours had not.
“Is Harry,” Viktor protested, “is Vik’s best friend.”
“And what have I told you about speaking in the third person?” Ana demanded.
“Is fun, and should continue?” Viktor asked.
A small smile flashed on Ana’s face, before it vanished. “If not for him, you would be in so much trouble!”
“Which is why Viktor has such good friend!”
“At least your English has improved,” Ana sighed. She reached forward and hugged her son. Harry climbed his feet, and handed the vase back to her, as she stepped back.
Borislav was looking at him with a tiny grin on his face, and an eager look in his eyes. And Harry suddenly knew what he wanted. He looked around the room, to check for other breakables, before taking three steps to the right, away from the furniture.
“Boris?” Ana said slowly.
“Na nosh,” he yelled, and jumped at Harry. Harry managed to wink at Ana, before he was hit by two hundred and twenty pounds of enthusiastic Bulgarian.
Harry braced himself, caught the man, and then slammed him down – not too hard.
“Ouch,” Boris mumbled as he climbed to his feet. This time, he reached out and poked Harry. “Is he made of stone, Vik?” he asked, in an English accent more suitable to Chelmsford than Gabrova.
“Is Blacksmith,” Viktor replied, “We are here to take you to informal party, meet my other friends, and parents. Harry, is Boris, likes wrestle. Dad, is Harry; bring wallet, will need when see work of Harry.”
“And do put a shirt on,” Ana said dryly. “And Viktor, you can change too.” She made shooing motions with her hand. The two shoo’d obediently. “Mr Potter, please sit,” she said, indicating the chair Boris had been sat in earlier. The vase was back on the table. Sofia stood next to her mother’s chair.
“As much as I try and bring some civilisation to this family, Mr Potter, my husband still goes through several shirts a day when Viktor is around,” she said with a straight face, although her eyes betrayed both her amusement and her acceptance.
“Please, call me Harry, Mrs Krum.”
“Thank you. I am, of course, Ana. Welcome to our home.”
“Judging by your decorations, you’ll get on well with the hosts. Derek and Cressida Greengrass.”
Ana clapped her hands. “I’ve not seen Derek and Cress for years,” she said delightedly. “My son did say informal?”
“Yeah, I just kinda grabbed everyone and decided we’d have a laugh, a few beers, a pizza and get to know each other. I’m going to grab Esmeralda’s family next.”
Ana nodded. “Viktor’s letter’s home have mentioned you with some enthusiasm and that turned into an almost upbeat letter last night.”
Harry smiled. “I kinda realised today that Vik’s actually my closest male friend.”
“And how did my proto-caveman of a son make a friend with a seemingly well-adjusted young man?”
Harry chuckled and rubbed the back of his neck. “We went for a fly and bonded?”
“Da,” Viktor said, as he re-entered the room, having changed into black trousers tucked into black boots, and a white shirt.
“Of course, how silly of me to think otherwise,” Ana said quietly, causing Sofia to giggle softly.
Harry shot an encouraging grin at the quiet and dignified girl.
“Please, Harry,” Ana said with a teasing voice, “I have two barbarians. Allow me one child who understands good behaviour.”
“Harry should take Sofia for fly later, show her different style.”
Ana’s mouth opened in shock, as Sophia looked at her big brother with wide eyes. “You don’t let me fly with anyvone but you,” Sophia said.
“Is Harry,” Viktor said, “Harry is trust.”
“Never fear, Boris is here!” Boris announced loudly, as he entered the room, wearing an un-ripped white shirt.
“I wasn’t afraid,” Ana murmured.
“Pish posh,” Boris replied. “Right, let us party!”
Harry stood, as Viktor told the Krums to hold hands, and he popped them to the Greengrass residence.
As soon as they arrived in the ballroom, Boris’s eyes lit up. He charged over and grabbed Derek, heaving him into a huge bear hug.
“Cressida,” Derek wheezed, “The barbarians have breached the gate. Get Harry to don his armour!”
“Ahh, pretty man jests!” Boris said, completely ignoring the growing crowd of people he’d interrupted.
Derek burst out of the hug, and theatrically gasped for breath.
“Ana, dear, it’s been too long,” Cress said, as she kissed Ana on both cheeks. “And Sophia, how wonderful to meet you now that you’re old enough to carry on a conversation.”
“Delighted, Lady Greengrass,” Sophia said, with a perfect curtsey.
“Astoria, Daphne,” Cressida called, as she smiled at Sophia. The two girls arrived. “These are my daughters, Daphne and Astoria. And this is Sophia Krum.”
Astoria gave a proper curtsey, but Daphne simply reached forward and hugged the younger girl. “Come,” she ordered, “you can meet our friends.” Daphne smiled at Harry, before they moved off with Astoria.
Ana looked a little surprised. Cressida pointed directly at Harry. “Not guilty,” Harry replied immediately.
There was a round of laughter as other guests moved closer
“And before anything else, I need to pick up Esmeralda’s family,” Harry said, and took the proffered hand of the girl, and popped them to Bulgaria after getting the location from her. The hallway they arrived in was remarkably similar to Viktor’s house.
“I know, our ancestors were not original,” Esmeralda explained. She marched to the same room Viktor had, and walked straight in. An older woman was sat, drinking tea from a silver set placed on a small table next to her chair. She had long curly hair that was mainly white, with the odd touch of brown here and there. She managed to radiate a feeling of breeding and class.
“Esmeralda!” the woman said happily, before saying something in Bulgarian.
“Mother, guests,” Esmeralda chided. “This is Harry Potter, Viktor’s best friend, and the only man in the world who doesn’t even notice centuries of wards.”
Harry rocked backwards in surprise as the words hit him. He hadn’t thought about wards at all. He made a note that that this meant that if they ever found Voldemort’s base, they could go straight there.
“Oh, I do apologise,” the elder woman said in accented English that was still quite understandable.
“We’re here to invite you to an informal party at the Greengrass stately home in England. Harry’s transportation skills mean he could hire himself out at thousands of galleons a go, for long distance and through wards, and people would pay. Anyway, Harry, this is CountessaGeorgievaDraganova, my mother.”
“Lady Draganova,” Harry said, with a small bow.
She smiled at him. “Informal?” she asked her daughter.
“Boris has probably lost his shirt already.”
“Ahh, Harry, do call me Georgie,” she said with a slight smile. “A party does sound better than an evening of listening to the wireless and reading.”
“You should get out more,” Esmeralda chided gently.
She smiled a little. “I am coming to this impromptu party.” She stood, and rang a bell. A butler appeared, and after a quick couple of words in Bulgarian, he vanished and returned with some shoes.
She placed them on her feet, and said a few more words, before looking at them. Harry reached out and took both their hands, and popped them back.
He looked around, and did a quick headcount, he could see an Asian couple that were clearly Cho’s parents, and an English-looking couple that he guessed where Cedric’s parents. He could see Dumbledore and Nadya discussing something with Ana, and then looked around for Romilda. He moved over to her after excusing himself.
“Hey,” he said, “Want to get your parents?”
She gave him a big smile and shook her head. “Nan’s here,” she explained. “That’s enough family.”
“Can I help?”
“Sure, let me get changed, and then I’ll pop us both there.”
Romilda looked around the pizza place with interest. It was nowhere near as exciting as she’d thought. Numerous spotty youths of questionable cleanliness were following picture guides robotically to assemble the food.
They queued, and once at the till, Harry said, “Five vegetarian, five pepperoni, five with everything, five Hawaiian. All in extra large, please.”
The boy looked at Harry weirdly. “Twenty pizzas, mate?” he said in an accent Romilda had never heard before.
“Yes,” Harry said dryly.
“That’s three hundred and nineteen quid, eighty, geezer. Nice one.”
Harry pulled out a lot of Muggle money and handed it over. The boy serving them shrugged. “Will be about thirty minutes.”
“We’ll be back,” Harry said. “Name’s Potter.”
They walked out, and to Romilda’s delight, he took her hand. Sadly, it was only for crossing the road, but she’d take what she could get.
They entered a shop that claimed to be an off licence, and as much as Romilda had spent time in the Muggle world, she had no idea what that meant. She shrugged. “What does the name mean?”
Harry looked at her, and tilted his head. “I have no idea.” He walked over to the counter near the entrance. “What does ‘off licence’ mean?”
The man, a fifty something with no hair and poor dress sense, laughed. “Means we have a licence for selling alcohol that is consumed off our premises.” He looked at them, “And yeah, with the girl with you, I’m going to have to see some I.D.”
Harry reached into his pocket, and pulled out a small piece of paper. As he gave it to the man, he waved his hand. “That’ll do,” the man agreed. “As long as you’re not buying for kids.”
“We’re having a party at our friends’ house; the parents are already a little too inebriated to drive. I turned up late so I was volunteered to do a beer run,” Harry lied with startling ease. “Romi volunteered to help carry everything.”
“Ahh, gotcha. You want anything special?”
“I do,” Harry replied. “But it would be completely wasted at that party.”
The man laughed. “I know that sort of party,” he agreed. “Right, the crap is down that side. You can borrow the trolley to take it to your car.”
“Thanks.” Harry took a metal trolley, and headed down a cramped aisle. He loaded it with eight large boxes of beer, each with the shield emblem on the side, and headed to the front. As he approached the counter, he snagged two more bottles. “That’s a hundred and three, eighty, mate.”
Harry pulled out more notes and handed them over. Romilda followed him out of the store, and into an alley, where they popped away.
Back in the ball room, there were plenty of signs of people having a good time, and lots of informal groups.
Harry created a huge trough, created some ice, and started to pack the beer into the ice. Romilda quickly assisted him.
“Boris,” Harry yelled. “Got one especially for you, will fix the lack of hair on your chest.”
Boris bounded over, ripping his shirt. “Boris has manly chest!”
“Oh, Boris,” Romilda faintly heard Viktor’s mum say.
Harry grinned and passed him a bottle. Boris looked at the top, and then used his wand to remove the cap. He then took a deep gulp. His eyes widened. “Is man’s drink!”
Viktor appeared next to him. “Then Viktor should try it. Save father’s liver. Be good son.”
Boris cradled it and turned away. “Vamoosh, Come back when man, baby Krum!”
Viktor growled, and reached out.
“I got you one too,” Harry said dryly, holding out the bottle to Viktor.
“See,” Viktor said turning to his mother. “Is why is Vik’s best friend!”
“The fact he can handle both of you is endearing him to me as well, and Boris, could you please talk properly?” Ana Krum asked.
“HÐµ!” Boris replied instantly. “Is fun!”
“Right, we’ll be back in a bit with the pizza,” Harry said, and popped them both back to the alley.
They returned the trolley back to the off licence, and then walked through a local park together, to waste the time.
“Did you see the Diggorys?” Harry asked, as they rounded a rather disappointing concrete fountain.
Romilda thought back. “Not really,” she admitted.
“They looked really uncomfortable.”
“Ohhh!” Romilda said, and smiled. “I know why!”
“Because they are upper middle class.”
“Right, okay, they’ve been to the sort of soirees that the upper class normally have, posh, elegant, everyone tries really hard to impress everyone else with how much of a stick they’ve fit up their rears.”
Harry laughed, and lightly touched her shoulder in approval. Romilda felt her insides glow a little. “But everyone here tonight is really, really, really old money. The Delacours, Krums, Draganovas, Changs, and of course our hosts, they can all trace their families back to the dawn of magic. They don’t have to act a certain way, because there is no one really for them to impress.
“They can, but I know that the Krums and Greengrasses hate that sort of thing, Alphonse married a Veela, which shows how much he cares about other people’s opinions, and it looked like Lady Draganova was a friend of the Krums, so it makes sense.
“So the Diggorys don’t know how to handle people who are doing what you asked, and just having a casual party, and would much prefer it if there was a ten course meal and enough formality to stuff a teddy bear.”
Harry laughed again, but didn’t touch her shoulder this time; she pouted briefly and schemed how to get him to do it again.
“Okay, I understand. Want to have a rite of passage?”
“Oh?” she asked curiously.
“Yeah, sitting mindlessly while waiting for your order.”
She giggled. “Sounds dull.”
“It is.” They headed back, to see that the shop now had a queue.
“I’m sorry,” the youth at the till was saying to a fat man, “we’ll do yours as soon as we can; we had a large order, alright, geezer?”
“My poor Dudley is waiting for his food,” the man roared.
Harry’s aura darkened significantly.
“Hello, Vernon,” he snarled. “How pleasant to see you.”
Romilda gasped. This was him? Vernon turned, and Romilda took him in. He was looking unhealthy, like he had lost a lot of weight and his skin hadn’t kept up. It also looked, from the way his trousers bulged, that he was wearing a nappy. In his eyes, she could see that he suddenly recognised Harry, and was going to blame him, rightfully, for the curse he was under. Well, she wasn’t going to have that, so she kicked him as hard as she could in the crotch, using every technique she knew to ensure that every erg of energy was delivered to her tensed toe.
Vernon went red, then white, and collapsed in a blubbering heap. “That’s for being a child abuser, you disgusting freak!”
The youth behind the counter looked down at the man on the floor, and then laughed. “Nice one, sorted,” he announced.
Romilda smiled at him, and then was extra happy as the boy blushed, and Harry gave him a warning glare. The other clientele, as one, appeared to shrug, and while there were a few tuts, no one paid the whimpering man any attention at all.
“Yeah, your pizzas are nearly done; last two are coming out now. Nice one. Comes with ten free bottles, you want?”
“I’ve got a tonne of beer, so we’ll just take five.”
“Sorted. What do you want?”
“Two Coke, two Fanta and a R Whites.”
The boy put them in two bags with several handfuls of napkins, and balanced them on top. He then started to pile box after box on the counter.
“I didn’t think this through,” Harry mumbled. He took a bag in each hand, and then held his hands out. Romilda took a second to admire how his biceps looked, before she started to pile the pizzas on his hands. He managed to carry fourteen boxes, allowing her to grab the other six. They weren’t heavy, just bulky.
One of the other customers opened the door for her, and they stepped around the still whimpering Vernon, and left without another glance. Once back in the alley, Harry called for some Elves to transport them.
In the ball room, there was a cheer as they arrived.
Harry walked over to some tables that had been set up, and unloaded them. “Right, for those that don’t know, this is pizza. Think of it as proof that Muggles have their own brand of magic.”
“Looks interesting,” Boris said. “How do you eat?”
“Boris,” Georgie sighed, as she stomped forward. “All true ladies know how to eat pizza.”
“There are no knives, forks,” Boris pointed out.
Georgie opened a box, took a slice of pizza, tilted her head back, and took an un-lady-like bite – to some shocked silence.
“Mother!” Esmeralda gasped.
The white haired woman smirked. “Children,” she sighed, “think they invented everything.”
Boris roared with laughter. “Georgie, you are a good woman.”
“Here, Boris,” Harry said, “I got some spicy pepperoni!”
Harry was immediately lifted in a huge bear hug, which broke the ice, and a minute later people were standing around with a napkin holding a slice of pizza in one hand, and a drink in the other. Romilda was thrilled that all the youngsters had been allowed one bottle of the beer.
Hermione looked to be in heaven, as she chatted with Cho’s parents, and sipped on her beer. Astoria was with Ana and Sophia, chatting away. Cho, Derek and Cedric were with his parents, who appeared to have relaxed a little. Daphne was with Fleur and her family. Harry and Romilda were with the male Krums, as they had what appeared to be a silent eating contest.
“Sorry, Boris,” Romilda said, “But I think the boys are going to win. I was ravenous after the game, and I didn’t work as hard as they did.”
“Yes, old man, slow down,” Viktor said, as he finished his beer and summoned another.
Boris pouted. “Is only because I had large lunch,” he pointed out.
“Only light lunch before play,” Viktor replied. “No get stitch.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed. He finished off another slice of pizza, and summoned himself a glass of the orange fizzy stuff. He swallowed it, and then gulped. “Excuse me,” he said, as he belched behind his hand.
“Call that a belch,” Boris demanded. He put his head back.
“Oh, just once,” she heard Ana moan, “I’d like to go out with it turning into a belching contest.”
Viktor elbowed Boris firmly in the stomach, disrupting his stance, so he only managed a faint noise. “No, or Boris will be on couch, get bad back, no more wrestling!”
“Da, Da,” Boris muttered. “Was not good idea.”
“So,” Harry said, a little loudly, clearly changing the subject. “We were picking up the pizzas, and guess who was in there, shouting about his Dudley wanting food?”
“Oh, no,” Hermione sighed. “Vernon?”
Harry nodded. “I got his attention, and well, I don’t know what I was going to do,” he continued. “When Romi here kicked him so hard in the balls that I’ll bet that Dudley is now infertile!”
Romilda had fortunately finished her beer, as she found herself in a huge congratulatory hug from Daphne.
“And then she told everyone else that she’d done it because he was a child abuser, and no one else batted an eye!”
“To give some context,” Hermione called out, “Vernon Dursley, and his family, are currently under Auror investigation for child abuse.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “On me. But I’m one of the lucky ones, as I have people that love and care for me,” he nodded at Derek and Cressida, and then his friends, “so it’s all in the past. And the point of this was not to focus on the down side, but the upside of Romi taking down a guy eight times her size in one move!”
There was some more relaxed laughter.
“Thank you, Harry,” Romilda turned as she was released, to see that Ana had moved over.
“Is Viktor’s turn to break ice,” Viktor announced. “Sophia, come.”
The black haired girl walked over to her brother, who knelt, and offered her a small brightly wrapped package.
The girl’s face lit up. “You did not have to,” she protested. “You always buy me presents, but I never get chance to get you one!”
“Is Viktor’s job to try and be best big bruver in world. Open.”
She did, delicately using her nails to unwrap it. Inside, was a familiar walnut case, which when opened, held the custom knife Harry had made for her.
Her mouth opened in surprise. “Is beautiful!” She hugged her brother hard, before examining it closely.
“Is custom blade, designed by Daphne, made by Harry.”
The girl slid the knife back into the sheaf, before she turned to Daphne and curtseyed. She then turned to Harry, and ran a few steps forward and hugged him tightly, her arms going around his waist, and her head against his chest. She looked up after a few seconds. “Thank you very much, Mr Potter.”
“Hey, it’s Harry,” he said softly.
She beamed at him.
Romilda glanced at Viktor, to see an approving smile on his face, and she groaned. Great, that was just what she and Astoria needed. Another sensible girl who saw what was on offer. She met Astoria’s eyes, to see her friend was sighing as well. If it was anyone else, they’d be planning on how to sideline her, but the sister of Harry’s best male friend was going to be trouble.
“Well, if we’re giving away presents,” Fleur called. She summoned two packages with her wand, and gave them to Gabrielle and Apolline.
Gabrielle squealed loudly after opening hers, before sprinting over to hug Harry; she did, at least, hold the knife safely.
Apolline followed her daughter, peeled Gabrielle off of Harry, and then hugged him herself. “Thank you,” she said.
“They did pay,” Harry said bashfully.
“If it was under three hundred, they underpaid,” Georgie announced, as she looked closely at the knife her daughter had given her. “These runes are impressive alone; I’ve paid several hundred galleons to get some things enchanted before.”
Romilda looked around, to see that Cho was showing her parents her knife, and that Viktor was giving Ana her knife.
“That’s horrendous,” Harry exclaimed. “When Tori and I came up with them, we made them on to a template sheet, so I could quickly chisel them without needing to start from scratch!”
“Harry, there are only about two hundred people world-wide who both know runes well enough to do this sort of thing and have the desire to sell their creations,” Cressida told him.
“But that’s ridiculous! They’re not that hard!”
“Harder than waving a wand and saying a few words?” Cressida asked. “You could cast a sharpening charm, and a cleaning charm, and everything else. Also, only about forty or fifty people graduate from school having taken them each year, from Beauxbatons, Durmstrang and Hogwarts. And of them, the majority go into other careers that don’t use runes. Wand waving is much easier than spending the time needed to make something permanent.”
“Wizards do tend to be lazy,” Boris said. “A very weird form of lazy, though. Rather than take a long time to do it once, right, they would rather do it many, many, many times the other way.”
Harry nodded slowly and then shook his head.
Georgie made her way through the crowd, past the two Veela, and hugged Harry as well. “A truly excellent piece,” she said. She stood to one side, as Ana hugged Harry as well.
“Well, while we’re praising Harry,” Derek said, as he waved his wand, “tell me what you think of this!”
The crest that Harry and Daphne had worked on floated into the room.
“Ahh,” Georgie said, “this is why my daughter told me to bring my wallet.” She moved over and examined it, tracing the runes with her finger, as she looked closely, before she turned to look at Harry. “I’ll take one.”
“Erm, they’re kinda expensive.”
“Of course they are,” Georgie agreed with a small smile. “I’ll take one,” she repeated.
“How did you get the history in it?” Ana asked, in an awed voice. “I can feel your ancestors, Derek.”
“I know,” Derek said proudly. “I even shed some extremely good looking tears when I first saw it.”
“I’ll have one, of course,” Georgie announced.
“Not to one up,” Alphonse said, “But I’m going to need two, one for my family, and one as a present for Apolline’s.”
The elder Veela pounced on her husband and gave him a large kiss.
Romilda turned her head, to see Cedric talking quietly to his parents, his hand on his father’s arm, stopping him from going forward. She hid a wince, and hoped they didn’t feel too out of place. The sort of money being talked about was far removed from the salary of even a high-ranking ministry employee.
The Changs moved over next, and examined it closely. The man was wearing a full suit, but as it was a relaxed party he’d removed his tie, while the woman was wearing a three-quarter-length dress in a nice brown. Both had the characteristic Asian black hair, with the woman’s long and straight, and the man’s short and spiky.
“I now understand why Cho wrote home for money,” the man said. He turned and looked at Harry directly. “I clearly don’t know you as well as Derek and Cressida, but I know quality when I see it. How about a deal?”
Harry immediately pointed at Romilda. “I suck at business,” he explained. “I’d forget to charge most of the time. Romilda’s our sales girl.”
The man nodded slowly, and looked at Romilda, who placed her shoulders back and looked at the older man directly. Her clan was famous for their bargaining, and that was a responsibility as much as it was a benefit. She wasn’t going to let anyone down. “How times change,” he said to himself. “Miss Vane, the deal I was going to offer Harry was, if you do me three at full price, and one free, I’ll display one at each of our homes in China.”
“Deal,” Romilda replied immediately. “On the condition that all four are the same, and they are placed in an extremely prominent position, and that you host at least two of your famous balls over the summer.”
The man nodded and looked for his daughter. “You are paying attention?”
“Yes, father,” Cho said.
“Then explain this transaction.”
“Exposure, Romilda understands our prominence in China, and the insecure nature of our country. The fact that you have something so valuable, historic and unique will mean that others will rush to order one as well.”
The man smiled and nodded. “Good, Cho. And you are wise for your age, Miss Vane.”
Romilda curtseyed politely.
The man chuckled and bowed back.
“Now,” Boris called, “Business is over, let us go back to the beer!”
Derek allowed a tiny frown to crease his forehead, as he looked at his elder daughter. He wondered if he was reading the situation correctly.
“You’ll crease that perfect forehead,” Harry’s voice said next to him.
He grinned at the boy. “I’m allowed one or two frowns a day,” He retorted.
“Is there going to be a problem?” Harry asked, looking on, as Fleur and Daphne were sat in a love seat, leafing through a picture album.
“I am reading it correctly then?”
“Well, you should think of all the good things. Fleur will increase the pulchritude in the family by another hundred percent.”
“Great physical beauty and appeal,” Harry explained.
Derek chuckled as his own words were handed back to him. Most people humoured him when it came to his narcissism. “I have to admit that I’m thinking about my ancestors and my descendants,” he admitted.
“First, you still have Tori, who I’m pretty sure isn’t interested in girls.”
Knowing his youngest daughter’s intimated preference for beaus, Derek smiled and nodded. “True,” he agreed. “She is extraordinarily beautiful.”
“And Fleur’s not bad, either.”
Derek laughed and put an arm around Harry. “Cress does want grandchildren – eventually.”
“Veela are a matriarchal society that has an eighty percent female birth rate,” Harry said dryly, “and they’ve been that way for eons. Want to bet they’ve found a way around that problem?”
Derek perked up. “True,” he agreed. He looked at Harry quizzically.
“I read a book,” Harry answered the unasked question. “Hermione gave it to me when we first saw Fleur. I'm not doing regular classes anymore, and definitely not wasting my time with History of Magic, but Hermione nags me if she thinks I'm not keeping up on learning things.”
“Excellent. Thanks, Harry.”
“I couldn’t let that frown get any worse,” Harry replied cheerily. He paused. “I will have a talk with Fleur later, just to make sure that she’s acting responsibly. I will have to change my Big Brother speech, though. I don’t think threatening her with a beating if she breaks my sister’s heart is right.”
“Good man.” Derek wrapped an arm around Harry in a completely manly hug.
Harry returned it briefly, before hearing his name yelled had them both turn. “Keep the pizza, it’s great for breakfast, as long as we hit the gym afterward,” Harry said. “I’ll catch you later.”
Derek found his wife, and followed the younger ones outside, where Viktor had two brooms, and had been yelling for Harry.
“Is exhibition time,” Viktor announced.
Harry grabbed the broom. He shot a teasing grin at the Quidditch star. “Do try and keep up, old boy,” he said, before the broom took off with Harry being dragged behind it, one hand grasping the stick as it shot straight up.
Viktor roared out a laugh, and took off the same way, and the two were away and into the sky. They both let go at the same time, and as they tumbled down, their brooms arced around and allowed them to seat themselves.
“Cedric, not joining them?”
“I’m good, Dad,” Cedric said, and Derek moved near the guests he didn’t know that well. “But they’re magic.”
Both flyers did a fly-by, jumping onto their brooms, so that they were riding them like carpets, and then flipped them around, in the same move Derek remembered from watching highlights of the Quidditch world cup.
Both of them flew up in tight formation, corkscrewing around each other before they dropped away.
“Harry!” Derek saw Hermione standing, her wand to her throat. Harry dropped down immediately, and hovered in front of her. Hermione moved her wand as she said something quietly to him.
Harry grinned in response, and flew back up to Viktor, where he repeated Hermione’s wand movements. Viktor laughed and saluted Hermione.
The two shot off again, but this time red smoke came out of the back of Harry’s broom, while blue came out of Viktor’s. And as they did aerobics in the air, the smoke added a beautiful trail behind them, leaving a reminder of the route the boys had taken.
The demonstration ended with the two boys flying at each other, then both back-flipping off and landing on each other’s brooms.
Derek applauded as the two hovered in front of them, and bowed.
“Harry, grab best looking, take for fly?”
“Good plan,” Harry agreed, as Viktor flew down and picked up Esmeralda.
Harry show down, and a second later, Derek found himself flying with Harry.
“He meant female!” Derek yelled over the air.
“I know,” Harry replied. “I chose to take it literally. There are things I don’t want to deal with this year, and this allows me to continue to play ignorant.”
“Sometimes, Harry, I think you are the smartest boy in the world.”
Harry laughed. “Hell no, if that was the case I’d know what to do about this whole thing, rather than keep putting it off as long as I can. Honestly, I don’t even know if I like them like that!”
“If you decide you do, you don’t mind if I root for one in particular?”
“I thought you might.” Harry paused. “There’s also the fact that I’m only fourteen, and as amazing and mature as Romi and Tori are, they’re still only twelve, and we all have a tonne of growing up to do before we need to make any decisions.”
“Steady, old boy, I do like my liver in its place,” Derek said as they did a tight corkscrew.
Harry laughed and landed, allowing him to get off. Harry then flew over, and snagged Georgie, taking the matriarch for a fly. The countess screamed in pleasure.
Derek chuckled as he wandered back over to the Diggorys. Viktor was now flying with Cressida. “That was exciting,” he said cheerfully.
“I wonder if I can get Harry to take me up,” Cedric said.
“You are extremely good looking, so there’s a chance,” he replied.
Cedric laughed and ran his fingers through his hair.
“Thank you for having us,” Amos said with a stiff little grin.
“You’re more than welcome, Amos,” Derek replied grandiosely. He had a reputation at the Ministry as a bit of a playboy, and he wasn’t above ensuring it stuck. It allowed him to avoid a lot of the formal events that someone of his status usually had to attend.
“Cedric has been extremely impressive in the tournament so far,” Derek added into the slightly strained silence.
“He has,” Amos said, swelling with pride. “And he played extremely well today.”
“I have no doubt he’ll be Head Boy next year,” Derek said, pleased to have found something that allowed his guests to relax. He did wish that Margaret Diggory would be more than a wallflower, but one couldn’t have everything.
“We hope so,” Amos agreed.
“Dad!” Cedric protested.
“Do you have any plans for when you leave Hogwarts?”
“Cedric’s going to join me in the Ministry!”
“Maybe,” Cedric said dryly. “However, there are other options available. I’ve got another year before I have to worry about that.”
Derek chose to be silent, rather than give his opinion that Cedric would be utterly wasted at the Ministry. He could tell that Cedric already held that opinion.
Cho was dropped off by Viktor, and she slinked herself under Cedric’s arm. “They really are both magic on brooms.”
“Yeah,” Cedric agreed. “Any ideas how we get like that?”
“Practice, practice, practice?” Cho suggested.
“That, or we try and badger them into lessons.”
“You’re the Puff, and you’re friends with them,” Cho pointed out with a smile.
“True,” Cedric agreed. “I’ll raise it next week.”
“Did you enjoy your fly, Mr Greengrass?”
“Oh, Derek, please, Cho,” Derek said. “I can feel you adding years to me!”
Cho giggled appreciatively. “Derek.”
“I did,” he agreed. He watched as Harry swooped down, and caught Daphne and Fleur in one go, and as the broom shot off, he landed in a crouch next to the Delacours – leaving the two girls to fly together. Derek made a mental note to have a small chat with Harry about subtlety. Gabrielle immediately attached herself to Harry’s waist.
“Good to see that they are paying attention,” Cedric said, as Alphonse said something to Gabrielle, which made her pout as she released Harry.
“Oh?” Amos asked.
Cedric waved his hand airily. “Gabrielle can be a little clingy,” he explained casually.
Derek nodded subtly at the boy. He was pleased that Cedric knew when to keep his mouth shut.
“What about you, Cho, any plans for after school?”
“If I can improve enough, I’d like to play Quidditch. If that doesn’t work, Dad wants me to start learning the family business.”
“And how does that sound?”
Cho shrugged. “Not as exciting as Quidditch,” she said with a smile, and they watched the two brooms for a few moments. There was a noticeable difference between Viktor’s flying and Fleur’s.
Cho had a look of disbelief on her face as Harry reclaimed his broom, and had Cho’s mother with him. She was laughing as her long hair flew in the breeze. “Only Harry,” she sighed. “Anyway, I’ve got ages to fit into something I like.”
“If it helps, I’m older and I still don’t know what I want to do.”
Boris bounded over. “Pretty boy, how’s your whiskey?”
“Superb, you Bulgarian peasant.”
“So I don’t need to go home and get something decent?”
“Nah, I have plenty.”
“When the boys have stopped entertaining everyone, I thought we could Irish up a coffee or two and chat all evening. You mind putting us up?”
“You’re welcome, of course.”
“I’m afraid that we’ll have to go,” Amos said. “I have a meeting early in the morning.”
“I’m staying,” Cedric stated instantly.
“Right,” Amos agreed.
Two Elves popped in immediately. “You is needing lift?”
As Amos nodded, he and his wife were popped out.
“Oh, Thank Merlin,” Cedric said, as he pulled Cho tighter against him. “Sorry, Derek,” he added.
“Nothing to apologise for.”
“They were dragging down the entire party, they refused to smile and relax, and were judgemental as hell,” Cedric responded. “Everyone’s been really nice, and they were scowling!”
“Don’t worry about it,” Boris said with a hearty slap on the boy’s back. “We all have relatives that insist we act like the titles we were stuck with at birth. Life only happens once, and it is far too short to keep your shirt on.”
Cedric nodded. “I’m not joining the Ministry; Cho’s dad has told me he can get me a job if I do well in my exams.”
“Which you will,” Cho said proudly.
“Actually, I should go and talk to Fu and Mei,” Derek said. He paused as a thought hit him. “Did Astoria write your name as Cho Chang?”
Cho sighed and muttered something in Mandarin.
“Stupid wizards,” Cedric translated after a few seconds.
Cho beamed and kissed him. “Exactly. When we applied for my place, we wrote my name properly as Zhang Qiu, but they translated it badly. And it was too late to change it. I should be pleased that at least it is roughly phonetically correct.”
“So I should endeavour to call you Qiu?” Derek asked, trying to sound out the subtle difference.
“I’ve accepted Cho for now,” Cho said with a shrug. “The Q sound isn't one you make in English and without that and the correct tone, 'Cho' is good enough.”
Derek nodded, and made his excuses, as he headed to Fu and Mei Zhang.
Harry woke and stretched, and glanced at his watch. It was still early, but considering it was a Monday, and everyone else had classes, he should do something nice for his friends to get them all moving. He headed down to the kitchen, and started to make some English muffins, heating the milk first.
While the dough was proving, he napped in the living room. He entered the kitchen to cut the dough in to the shapes he wanted, and then left them to rise again. Rather than head back to the living room, he headed into Daphne’s bedroom, and sat on the side of her bed. He reached out and lightly stroked her hair. “Daph.” He was grateful she was alone, or it would have been extremely awkward.
She opened her eyes slowly, and blinked at him. She smiled. “Good morning,” she whispered.
“We have school this morning,” he reminded her. She pouted briefly.
“Get a shower and changed, and then meet for breakfast” he said, and hopped up. He headed into the next guest room, and woke Hermione up the same way. To his amusement, she had the exact same facial expressions. From there, he headed into Astoria’s room, where she was sharing with Romilda.
He paused for a second, and looked at both sleeping girls. Romilda was on the left side, on her stomach, her body buried under the duvet. Astoria was on the right, close to the edge, on her side, curled up slightly.
Like Hermione and Daphne, they both pouted at the thought of school. With the two moving, he headed out. “Dobby?”
The elf bounced in cheerfully.
“Where are Cho, Fleur, Esmeralda, Vik and Ced sleeping?”
“Flowergirl is in there, with sister,” Dobby pointed. “Viktor is there with Esmeralda, Cedric is there, Cho is there.”
“She is in that room, parents are in other rooms.”
“Brilliant, thanks Dobby. And now I’m going to punish you for being cheeky,” Harry added with a grin.
“Oh? Brings it!” Dobby challenged.
“I’m going to make breakfast, and you’re not allowed to help, you’re just going to have to eat.”
Dobby pouted and looked down, his ears drooped. “Harry brungs it,” he admitted.
Harry laughed, and headed into Cedric’s room. The teenager was snuggled deeply into the duvet. “Wake up,” he called. “We’ve got school this morning.”
“Bugger off,” Cedric groaned.
“Yeah, well, you hit whiskey after beer, you deserve it,” Harry said with a complete lack of sympathy.
“Cho’s in the room to the left of yours. You need to wake her, or I will.”
Cedric was out of bed in a flash. He stumbled and grabbed his head.
Harry sniggered. “Right. Meet in the kitchen when you’re ready.”
Cedric nodded, and followed him into the corridor. Harry followed him, and shook himself. He wasn’t good enough with silencing charms, as he would like to cast a few now so he didn’t wake up the adults whilst doing the remaining people. He pushed Fleur’s door open a crack.
“Fleur,” he called sotto voce . “Are you decent?”
“Oui,” a sleepy voice replied.
He walked in, to see Gabrielle flat on her stomach, snoring cutely, and Fleur next to her, with one eye half-open.
“We have school today,” he told her, standing by the side of her bed.
“Merde,” she complained.
He chuckled. “We’re meeting for breakfast as soon as we can, and then heading into school.”
“Thank you,” she replied, as she sat up. She was wearing the frilliest thing he had ever seen on a girl, and he couldn’t help staring for a second. “Daph was definitely right,” he blurted. “You do have amazing tits.”
Fleur blinked, and then gave a laugh that woke Gabrielle up.
“Shh, it’s alright, go back to sleep,” Fleur said, her hand glowing as she touched Gabrielle’s face.
Gabrielle’s eyes closed, and she was asleep a second later.
“That izze bluntness your seester has,” Fleur said with a grin, her teasing accent reappearing. “I do like it.”
“I should perhaps filter a bit more,” Harry said. “Sorry.”
“So I have two siblings who like me?”
“Actually,” Harry corrected, “While I do agree that you’re beautiful, and would probably quite enjoy playing with your bum, it would just be my hormones and not my heart.”
Fleur titled her head slightly as she examined him. “Tell me something. If I did accept Daphne’s advances, would I gain a big brother as well?”
Harry met her blue eyes evenly. “Possibly,” he said after a few seconds of thought. “It would depend if you wanted one. Dating my sister would be the quickest way to that sort of relationship.”
“Thank you for your ‘onesty.”
He nodded. “Right, it’s time for me to brave the barbarian in his cave.”
Fleur giggled. “Not sending an Elf?”
“I love Dobby, and the other Elves,” Harry said, “but honestly, first thing in the morning?”
Fleur laughed again, and Harry headed out. As he had with Fleur, he called out through an open door, and waited for an acknowledgement. That given, he entered to find Esmeralda draped over Viktor’s chest, her eyes open and looking at him. Viktor was stroking her hair lightly.
“Good, we have school this morning,” he told them. “We’re meeting for breakfast shortly.”
“You’ve woken everyone?” Esmeralda asked.
“Do you think you could teach people how to pop?” she asked.
“I think so,” he said, as he thought about it.
“My mother, she is often just alone in her house. She had a great time last night, as did my hero’s parents. She doesn’t like the sensation of Apparition or Portkeys,” Esmeralda added.
“Da,” Viktor rumbled. “Is good for them to have friends who understand. Lot of Bulgaria is barely out of dark ages.”
“And there is also the fact that Vik spends too much time travelling, and not enough time with his sister.”
“Or his future wife,” Vik added.
“That too, although you still have to propose properly,” Esmeralda said, poking him with one painted red nail.
“Da, Da,” Viktor mumbled.
“So, point is, I’m thinking of basing myself in England next year, and it would help a lot if certain people could travel easily.”
Harry nodded. “Sounds like a plan,” he said with a smile.
“Good, because you’re a big reason for that,” Esmeralda added. “Last night you just broke through every barrier of protocol to have a laugh.”
“And it was,” Viktor agreed.
Harry grinned. “I value my friends,” he said simply.
They both nodded.
“Anyway, I’m going to start cooking. We’re meeting for breakfast.”
“What are you doing?”
Hermione looked up and blushed. “Morning, Viktor, Esmeralda,” she greeted the two. “I’m trying to put a grumpy face on.”
“Why?” Viktor asked after a few seconds.
“Because Harry is clearly a bad influence who has me wanting to actually miss classes, so I have to tease him about it.”
“Ahh,” Esmeralda said.
Hermione waved her hands and grinned. “Don’t worry about it,” she said airily. “He’ll understand.”
“If you say so…”
Hermione laughed again at the sceptical expressions the two Bulgarians had on their faces. “And you two can stop it as well.”
Esmeralda giggled as Viktor smirked.
“I just have to be careful of Daphne,” Hermione added. “I love her to bits, but sometimes I worry that she’ll slip a dagger between someone’s ribs if she feels they’re attacking Harry.”
“She is a little protective,” Esmeralda agreed.
“Would love to stay and banter,” Viktor interrupted, “but smell is coming.”
Hermione inhaled. “Well, that was a waste,” she announced and swept into the kitchen. “I had this big spiel about you being an egregious bad influence,” she said to Harry as she took a seat next to Astoria, “but no, you just have to make something that smells that damn good.”
“Good morning Hermione, how utterly wonderful it is to see you again this morning, you are looking truly radiant.”
“Yeah, bite me,” Hermione responded cheerfully, as Viktor and Esmeralda took the seats next to her. They were the last three to arrive, with even Dobby sitting between Romilda and Cedric. She looked at the stove. “Did you get up early to make muffins for us?”
Harry gave her his little grin; it was her favourite expression on her friend. It was the slightly shy one he gave when he was proud of something. He nodded.
“I swear, whoever you marry is going to have to accept that she is going to have share some of your talents. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm not giving you up.”
He blushed cutely, as he turned, and grabbed a load of plates. He laid each one out, and cut a muffin in half for each, letting out a puff of fresh steam with every cut. He added some Parma ham, and then grabbed a large pan, where he ladled out perfect-looking poached eggs on top of the ham. Finally, he poured some herby sauce over each plate from a bowl that was sitting on another pan, and handed them out.
Fleur inhaled deeply, before she shot Harry a look. “A béarnaise sauce?” she asked in disbelief.
“Eggs Provençal,” he said, as he handed out the plates.
Fleur was the first to taste, as she cut through her egg – it oozed a deep yellow colour – and she took a deep bite. She seemed aware that she was the centre of attention, as she took her time. “I seriously doubt that I could get better at ze finest restaurant in Paris.”
Harry blushed a little. “Don’t stand to attention, eat.”
Hermione did, and it was amazing. The tarragon and chervil were a bit unusual, but it all went together so well, and the muffins were so light, she could eat her weight in them, she was pretty sure.
“Dobby is wondering how good Harry Potter Sir is at cleaning,” the House-elf said.
“Pretty good, why?”
“Well, Harry Potter cooks better than Elves, can pop better than Elves, and can clean. Means Elves shall make Harry Potter their king.”
Viktor broke the silence with a loud laugh. The others joined in as they realised Dobby was joking.
“Dobby scores back,” the Elf said smugly.
Harry poked his tongue out at the Elf. “Just for that, I’m cleaning up.”
Dobby was at the sink a second later. “Let’s not be being silly now,” the Elf said sternly. “I doesn’t have class.”
“Neither do I.”
“You’re on pop duty,” Dobby retorted. “And has test later.”
“Fine. Right, shall we meet in the hall in five minutes?”
Everyone nodded, and exited, praising the food as they did. Hermione stayed behind and hugged Harry. “That was fantastic,” she said.
“Sometimes I wish I had what you need, and you had what I need.”
“I know,” he said, his green eyes meeting hers, as open as they had ever been. “I’ll just have to settle for having the greatest friend a boy could have. It’s not a hardship.”
She reached up and brushed his hair back, looking at the faint scar that was the remnant of a piece of Voldemort’s soul. “No,” she agreed, “not a hardship.”
He hugged her, and for a moment, she closed her eyes and allowed the dream to wash over her. And when they broke, she wasn’t sad, a little regretful, but not sad. And she could see that he wasn’t either, and that was how they knew.
“It would make things so much easier if we did,” Harry said with a wistful smile.
“You’ll make the right decision. You won’t jump into it, and you know that you are not limited just because they feel that way about you.”
“I know,” he said, but his voice betrayed his doubts. Hermione knew what was going on behind his eyes. Damn those Dursleys! She, and Daphne and Derek and Cressida and everyone else, would have to work to convince the abused little boy that he wasn't worthless, that he was worthy of being loved and respected.
Derek yawned as he stumbled into his kitchen. His nose immediately twitched. On the table, under a charm, was a tray of muffins. Next to the tray was some of his finest Parma ham under a different charm. On the stove were two pans, one of which was being used as a bain-marie as it had a bowl on top of it.
He shook his head. Even after their late night, Harry had managed to make muffins. He looked up as Boris and Ana entered. The former looked a little rough. Trailing after them was Sofia, who had fallen asleep on her brother’s lap long before the evening had ended.
They sat, and he made them coffee, and passed Sofia some orange juice.
Boris took a swig of the coffee. “You still keep your hand in the kitchen?”
“I wish,” Derek replied. “Harry left this for us. He probably thought that we’d like something better than pizza for breakfast.”
“Good morning,” Alphonse Delacour called, as he entered with his wife and youngest. Gabrielle sat next to Sofia, with her mother next to her. Fu and Mei were next, closely followed by Georgieva.
He poured coffee and tea as required, and smiled as Cress was the last to appear.
“Harry left us breakfast,” he explained, as he made up the eleven plates needed. “He must have got up early to make fresh muffins.”
He sniffed the sauce, and looked at the French guests. “He also appears to have made Eggs Provençal.”
Apolline looked surprised, and took her plate as he added the sauce to the muffins, ham and egg. “This is really good,” she announced.
Derek served everyone, and took his own seat. “Yes,” he agreed, after taking a bite of the buttery-soft muffin. “Do you think we’d win a custody battle?” he asked his wife.
She laughed. “I’m sure Harry would still make us breakfast regardless.”
Derek perked up.
“Harry really made this?” Sophia asked. Derek nodded. A very faint blush appeared on her cheeks, as she looked deep in thought.
“It is really good,” Mei agreed. “Maybe we should send our chefs over here to get lessons from him.”
Fu leaned back. “Let the boy do what he loves,” he chided. “Blacksmithing.”
“But that’s so…” she said, and trailed off.
“Maybe he will be the one to bring it lustre,” Fu said. “Besides, as much as I like this, I want my crests.”
“True,” Mei agreed.
“And I’d end up fat if I ate this for breakfast all the time,” Georgie interjected with a very dry tone.
Derek laughed. “I shall put an extra effort in the gym later.”
“I must admit, I did expect to find our children still in bed,” Ana said.
“During the summer, I normally have to use a shovel to get Daph out of bed,” Cress agreed. There was a round of agreement. Gabrielle lightly tugged on her mother’s shirt, an irritated look on her face.
“Come, Gabrielle,” Sophia said in passable French. “We shall explore the garden.”
Gabrielle’s irritated expression faded, and she hopped up. A large smile appeared, and Sophia was soon dragged out of the door.
“I don’t suppose you’d swap, would you?” Apolline asked Ana.
“Sorry, it’s a full time job looking after Boris.”
“Hey,” Boris protested, as everyone else laughed.
“I understand now why I am an only child,” Apolline continued. “What were we thinking, dear?”
Alphonse sipped on his coffee. “I was thinking, ‘Damn, I love that dress’.”
“Ahh, yes,” Boris agreed. “That’s how we have Sophia.”
“Cress had this little green dress. I’m just glad my mother was looking after Daphne at the time.”
“For me,” Fu said, “Mei had this formal red cheongsam and red heels. Nine months later, Xiu.”
The ladies in question looked faux indignant, yet pleased at the same time.
“The worse thing is,” Alphonse continued, as if he weren’t paying attention, “is that if she put that dress on now, we’d have a third daughter.”
“That dress is being burnt,” Apolline said firmly. “That, or birth control.”
“I’ll order the potion,” Alphonse replied.
“Right, moving on from our husbands,” Apolline said.
“Dear, enjoy it,” Georgie interrupted softly. “Because it gets far too quiet otherwise.” There was a pause. “And don’t you lot start looking down,” she added. “I don’t grieve, as I will see him again, I was just making a point that you youngsters shouldn’t complain about the fact that you have loving husbands.”
Derek was amused as his wife murmured an apology. It wasn’t often he got to see her talked to like that.
“I think that the bigger question,” Derek said, taking the attention back, “is where do we go from here.”
“You mean the fact that we all have a lot in common?” Boris asked.
Boris leaned back in his chair. “My son does not make friends. The life of a Quidditch star is one where you get stabbed in the back a hell of a lot. He learnt that lesson years ago. It was only because Esmeralda knew him beforehand, and has always treated him the same, that he trusts her like he does.
“So Georgie is going to be related to us sooner or later.”
“But you can imagine our surprise when he makes a good friend in Hogwarts of all places.”
“For us,” Apolline said, “it was finding that Fleur was joining in with things, with boys and girls. And she even explained how no one turned on her after she had an accident with her control. I could read the giddiness in her writing.”
“Actually,” Fu said, “My daughter did, but Viktor and Daphne set her straight. And that was it for me, my daughter is growing up. The big issue has been the state of the Government over here, and the whole Dark Lord thing. But clearly that is changing.”
“Da,” Boris agreed. “We read the reports, about Harry destroying a lot of Death Eaters, and putting fear into the rest.”
“I had a little chat with Amelia,” Cressida said, “They are pretty sure that Voldemort is lying low at the moment. There are all sorts of rumours floating around about Harry, Albus, Nadya and Alastor that have her convinced that if Harry defeats the Dark Lord again, he won’t be back.”
“The question then becomes,” Fu said, “do we gamble? If we move fast, we could get a lock on a lot of things.”
Boris leaned forward. “What are you suggesting?” he asked.
“Well, the first thing that comes to mind, is that there are a lot of mansions coming on the market, due to the patriarchs of families being either arrested or dead. And with the fines incurred for being Death Eaters needing to be paid for in cold galleons, these families are having to hock their mansions to survive. With the right magic, we could ship them whole to China.”
“Where they would sell for four or five times their value,” Mei added.
“Interesting,” Boris agreed, his nose twitching.
“If Zhang Fu buys them, there is an uproar.”
“But if the incredibly good looking but more than slightly dumb Derek Greengrass buys them, no one cares,” Derek added.
“And for Georgie and us?” Boris asked.
“We use Bulgaria as a staging point.” Fu held up his hands. “I’ve not thought up any further than this,” he explained. “It’s just the first thing that came to mind.”
“Bulgaria does have some interesting custom laws,” Cressida said, “but as it is also part of Europe, we have favourable laws for importing and exporting to them. But the French – Bulgarian relationship is even better.”
“And of course, the Entente Cordiale allows for free movement of practically anything,” Alphonse agreed.”
“What is the goal?” Georgie asked. “I can bathe in melted gold without noticing it, so money is not that interesting to me.”
“No, but power is,” Alphonse said, his eyes flashing. “I can think of a bunch of things that we can create over this side of Europe, and export to China, and vice versa.”
“People who control the goods, and create jobs because of it, are always very much listened too,” Cressida agreed.
“What about you, Derek?” Boris asked. “I’ve always liked you, but you’ve run from work for years.”
Derek chuckled at the bluntness. “True,” he agreed without rancour. “It’s taken me longer than most to grow up.”
“Actually, it’s taken you a long time to regain your confidence in your other abilities,” Ana said.
Derek winced slightly. “Yes, thank you.” He sighed. “Seriously, though, Derek Greengrass is not dangerous to anyone, not even to Death Eaters, so Derek is pretty much ignored, as are his kids.”
“Ahh,” Boris said, suddenly shaking his head, pausing, and nodding while a helpless look drifted over his face. “I understand.” Ana elbowed him sharply in the side. “Da, da, I was going to. Sorry.”
“Actually, this could be an interesting idea,” Alphonse said. “Derek is a gadfly, Apolline is a hostess, Ana does charity work, Mei is the wife to the ambassador, and Georgie is retired. At the same time, you have Boris who runs half the beer production in Bulgaria, apart from owning a large percentage of the arable land. Cressida who is the most feared solicitor in this country – from the perspective of Pure Blood males – Fu, who is the ambassador from China to the United Kingdom, as well as the Chinese representative on the I.C.W., and me, who apart from a lot of political rubbish makes some damn good wine.”
“That is true,” Derek agreed. “It is good wine.” There was some laughter, which is what he had wanted.
“Anyway,” Alphonse continued, “All of us big strong men, and Cress, obviously never talk to our spouses, their pretty little minds can’t handle all the big words, doubly so for me, because ‘Poli isn’t even human, why her brain must melt into mush whenever I mention work.”
“That’s because it’s mind numbingly backwards and parochial,” Apolline said sweetly.
“Hush,” Alphonse said with a grin, “So, in casual conversation, we let it be known that we are all friends, and that our pretty little partners are going to go into business.”
Fu smiled slowly. “It’s just a little thing,” he said pompously, “but it keeps her busy and her nose out my affairs, if you know what I mean.”
“And it keeps him happy,” Cress continued, “and as long as he doesn’t lose all the fortune, it will be good for him to have a little responsibility.”
“My Ana, she’s a good girl,” Boris boomed, “She loves to play the business woman, hardly costing me anything. She’s even got her friend, you remember Kuzman’s wife, don’t you, to make sure they don’t lose too much.”
“Right now,” Ana said with a huff, “if you were not acting, you’d be in the dog kennel, never mind on the couch.”
“Seriously though,” Georgie said, “Alphonse’s idea is a good one, we can literally blow what would look like a lot of money, but isn’t really to us, getting what we want, with no one really paying much attention to us, until we have everything in place.”
“Oh, my,” Derek said. “I’ve just had a thought. I just happen to know a single male in his thirties, with a fortune as large as mine, who, if we framed it correctly, would be a wonderful person to bring on board.”
“Who?” Alphonse asked.
“Sirius Black, the head of the Black family.”
“The one who was framed, spent years in prison, and is now recuperating?” Boris asked.
“He was also a very talented prankster at school,” Cress added.
“And he’s Harry’s godfather?” Alphonse asked.
“Yes. Most people are going to think that he’s damaged. In fact, he’s receiving Muggle therapy at the moment. If we tell him we’re playing a prank on the Wizarding World, and basically taking a lot of power in four countries, he’ll be interested. The idea of revenge over the Pure-bloods who left him to rot will probably be a good one as well.”
“He’s also a Lord of an Ancient and Noble family,” Cressida added. “Same as us.”
“He’s going to be staying with us for a week in the summer.”
“You know what also strikes me?” Georgie added. “If we do a good job, it leaves something interesting for our kids.”
“Ours are already tied up,” Cressida said. “But yes, for the others, it would be fun to work with them.”
“So,” Boris said, “Do we start getting the lawyers involved?”
“We’re in,” Derek said, after a quick look at his wife to ensure she was on board. “I’ve been convinced one can be ridiculously good looking and successful at the same time.”
“I, too, am in,” Georgie said. “I’m bored.”
“We are in,” Apolline said, “Seriously, if I don’t get something else in my life apart from my wonderful, beautiful, sweet, absolute brat of a daughter I will end up losing it and cutting the part responsible off.”
“I’m in,” Alphonse said very quickly.
There was a round of chuckles.
Fu was rubbing his hands and looking delighted.
“I am definitely in. If I have to accept being leered at one more time, I might just end up cursing them during one of our little soirees,” Mei said.
“I am quite definitely in, and so is Boris’s wallet,” Ana agreed.
“Da, da,” Boris mumbled with a pout.
“In which case,” Georgie said, “I’ll work with the public faces of our new venture to come up with something. When I’ve received feedback, I’ll get my family lawyers in it, keeping them at the utmost secrecy.”
There was a round of nods.
“I’ll get a hold of Sirius,” Derek added. “I should be able to do that pretty quickly.” He paused, as another thought hit him. Deep inside he was quite excited; it was good to be using his brain properly. “I dislike using familial relationships for profit,” he explained, “but when there is gold involved, and everyone is happy, that is different.”
“Go on,” Cress encouraged.
“How about we pay to licence the new “pop” spell Harry has come up with, so that we learn it, and no one else does.”
Everyone leaned in, their eyes eager.
“Oh, yes,” Apolline agreed, “Fast and accurate international travel, it will mean we’ll be able to move faster than everyone else.”
“The girl, Romilda, she is a Vane, is she not?” Fu asked.
“A while ago, an enemy of mine did a deal with them. At the time, he boasted about how he’d got the best end of a deal with them. He got some valuable jewels; they got magically enforced permanent rights to travel China with anything inside their little carriages. Twenty years later, they can still carry what they like in and out of China, and my enemy is no more. She understands a deal, so we will not need to offer gold, but it will have to be something valuable.”
“Never mind that, I wonder if the Vanes would want to work for us,” Apolline works.
Fu shook his head. “They don’t really care for much we could offer. I’ve tried talking to them about imports and exports before. They were polite, but they love their lifestyle too much.” He paused and raised his hands. “I could not argue, nor disagree. But yes, we should try and see if they will work with us, definitely.”
Derek settled back, pleased his idea hadn’t been thrown out. He was about to enter a new exciting period of his life. And he could still be the ridiculous good-looking idiot when he wanted to be.
Harry's magical ID was just a compulsion charm - but as I think about it, it could work the same way as Dr Who's - people just see what they expect.
If you've never heard the pizza guy's accent, it's a lot like Liam Gallagher's from Oasis.
When I was doing the Cedric-watching-them-fly bit it took every bit of will power I had not to add a twilight joke.
The Entente-Cordiale is a slight misnomer - it is used to represent the good relationship (officially at least) between England and France, however, tends to be more colloquially as the basis for various relationships.