Happily Ever After
Another week, another chapter ...
A few things I need to clear up about the last part.
The first is Harry's glee at Snape's death. To be honest, I just put that in for a laugh, I didn't give it any deep thought as some of you have. My vague reasoning was that he had no emotional attachment to the death, other than that of a git who would never bother him again. It has no bearing on the rest of the story, though.
The second was this line:
The Weasleys, all of them, along with Dumbledore, McGonagall, Cedric, Cho, Fleur and her sister, kept vigil and waited for the Boy-Who-Lived to wake up from his coma.
Several people asked the obvious question of "Where the hell was Hermione?"
This I'll apologise for not making clear - in fact, it's pretty bad because even my defence doesn't make sense, when you consider that I named Fleur.
How it was intended to be read was that Hermione was a Weasley, so of course she was there - however, I should then have not said anything about Fleur - and if I had done that, it still wouldn't make sense as it would have had to be several years later.
Apologies, that's just a case of an author screwing up.
"I should start back at the beginning," Gabrielle said as she shifted closer to Harry.
Eight years previously
She couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. Sure, Harry was fighting Voldemort somewhere, but why were they all worried? Harry would surely defeat the evil man and then everyone would have a wonderful party. The very thought that Harry might fail didn’t even occur to her.
As everyone started to Apparate away, she grabbed hold of Fleur and hitched a lift before her sister could object.
She looked on in awe as Harry fought the weird scaly creature. It if wasn’t for the aura of pure evil she felt it giving off, she would have wondered why everyone was so scared of it.
There was a bright flash and Harry flew through the air, ending up crumpled against a tombstone. All the stupid adults seemed to be too shocked to move, so she started to run toward the boy. She could hear the Hogwarts Headmaster say something, but her English wasn’t good enough to understand what he said. She reached Harry before anyone else did.
Harry was flat on his back, his eyes closed, and a small smile on his face. He looked at peace and she smiled happily. She’d known he wouldn’t die; everyone knew that the hero lived happily ever after.
As the others gathered around the fallen boy, she examined his friends and came to the decision that none of them were beautiful Princesses. The girl with her arm around Cedric was pretty enough, but she was crying like a hosepipe, and there was no way one could be a drippy Princess. The bushy-haired girl clinging on to the red-headed boy was certainly not pretty enough to be a Princess either. She smiled at the thought of the red-headed boy who had been acting all boy over her sister — Harry had never acted boy over Fleur — and speaking of which, her sister was far too old for Harry — she was an adult, as Fleur kept reminding her.
The smaller red-headed girl was cute in her own fashion and it was obvious that she had a crush on Harry, but her clothes weren’t nice enough for a Princess, and she lacked a certain air of gravity — Princes and Princesses had it, and others didn’t.
Gabrielle looked down at herself. All of her clothes were expensive, she was incredibly pretty, and with long blonde hair and deep brown eyes, she was by far the most Princess-looking girl here.
That decision made, she kept quiet, understanding instinctively that if she didn’t, someone would try to take her away -- for her own protection, or some other crummy excuse. She never understood why they would do things like that, when it was obvious that she wanted to know what was going on, but she’d learned to accept the strange and unpredictable behaviour of everyone around her.
They transported Harry back to Hogwarts, and she kept hidden in the crowd as they all moved to the Hospital Wing.
The nice nurse who’d checked her out after the second task took control of Harry’s care, ordering everyone out.
They all gathered in the Great Hall and she sat quietly next to her sister, aware that it was coming up to her bedtime. She was prepared to cast a Princess-sized fit if the suggestion was even made that she should go to bed before reaching some sort of closure.
Despite the worry, she could see that a lot of the adults were very relieved. After all, Harry had defeated the evil creature-thing and they no longer had to worry about that, and by the sounds of it, every one of the evil creature-thing’s followers had died as well — which was a good thing. They deserved it for being stupid enough to follow someone like that Voldemonkey fellow.
It seemed obvious to her that if you wanted to make changes, you followed a guy who could do it without doing things like killing people -- unnecessarily.
You found a handsome Prince and followed him. Everything would then be good; you’d get to rule and everyone would love you — and that was much better than everyone hating and fearing you.
She had learned early on that a smile and an innocent look got her a lot more sweets than a tantrum. The whole Prince and Princess bit was the same thing, just on a bigger scale.
She eventually drifted off into sleep, leaning against her sister, who really wasn’t that bad, despite being nearly as old as Professor Dumbledore.
She didn’t say much over the next few days, as everyone got ready to leave. She just smiled a lot at the adults and they let her hang around Harry. They were so easy to manipulate — she just had to act how they expected, rather than how she really thought.
She wandered up behind Ron and Hermione and listened in to their conversation.
"They don’t think he’s going to wake up," Hermione said.
"But he has to," Ron complained. "We’ve got to have a killer party and celebrate it. He did it, Hermione!"
"I know, I’m so proud of him I could burst."
"You don’t… you know, fancy him?"
Hermione seemed to sigh. "You’re asking that now?"
Ron blushed. "Yeah, well, you know."
"No, I don’t know," Hermione said bluntly.
"I like you," Ron said in a rush.
Hermione nodded and sighed, and then she smiled. "For some reason, I like you too."
"You do? Not Harry?"
"Not like that, no."
"All right," Ron cheered. "Erm, fancy going out with me?"
She nodded, and Ron leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.
Gabrielle used every bit of willpower she had to not vomit on the spot. Still, she was happy for them, and it got them both out of her way, and as a bonus, it looked like Ron had somehow picked up some courage from Harry having defeated Voldemort.
As Ron and Hermione were now looking at each other with googly-eyes, she slipped past them and looked at the bed. It didn’t take her long to work out a way to climb onto it and sit next to him.
"Hi," she said softly in French. "I’m Gabrielle, but you can call me Gabbi. You were really brave and rescued me during the Tri-Wizard Tournament, which means that you’re the Prince, which makes me the Princess. So, don’t worry about being asleep, I’ll be helping to wake you up and we’ll talk properly when you do." She leant over and kissed him on the cheek.
"That was very sweet," Fleur said with an amused tone in her voice.
"I’m going to help," Gabrielle said firmly.
Fleur smiled, and translated the words into English for Ron and Hermione. Hermione smiled and said, via Fleur, "Thank you, but we don’t need your help. We’ll find out the way to wake him soon enough."
Gabrielle gave some thought to throwing a fireball at the girl who, she concluded on the spot, was some sort of evil step-sister, but nodded instead and jumped off the bed, burying her face into her sister’s robes. She was pretty sure that everyone would think she was upset, which was what she wanted. She didn’t want them to see that she wasn’t even slightly upset — it was predictable, after all, that they would react that way. Their opinions were generally meaningless.
If they didn’t want her help, she wouldn’t give it to them. She’d find the answer on her own, and then she’d claim her Prince.
When she got back to her room in France, she carefully reread all her fairy tales, three times. The Princesses in the stories seemed to fall into two categories — Princesses aged sixteen and older who got married to Princes and Princesses under sixteen who did stupid things with frogs. Looking carefully at the pictures of the girls in the first category, she then figured out that there was something they all had that she lacked. They all had boobs!
Not once did a Prince fall in love with a young girl who didn’t have boobs yet. Every Prince seemed to think that girls under sixteen were not real people with thoughts and feelings.
She did the maths. Seven years, two months and five days until she was sixteen. Why, that was almost forever!
As a last resort she pulled out her book on Veela magic for the first time, to see if there was anything in there.
There wasn’t. What was the point in being a Veela if you couldn’t even get your Prince early?
Well, if she was going to wait, she might as well do something productive while waiting.
She walked downstairs.
"Mama?" she said, smiling as cutely as she could.
"What do you want, my dear?" her Mama sighed.
Mama blinked. "Really?"
She nodded and looked as angelic as she could, forcing her eyes wider than normal and putting a pleading expression on her face.
"Of course you can."
"Woo-hoo!" Gabrielle yelled, as she jumped into the air in celebration.
"I don’t want to know, I really don’t," Mama muttered.
The next four years of Gabrielle’s life were filled with important things: encouraging Fleur to fall in love with Bill so that she had someone on the inside track with her Prince; learning English, properly, unlike her ancient sister who still mispronounced things; going to Beauxbatons; and finding that puberty was deliberately teasing her, playing hard to get.
It was shortly after her fourteenth birthday that certain things began to change. During a trip to see her sister, she spent a few minutes, spread out over a number of days, dropping some subtle hints. Sure enough, shortly after that Hermione and Professor Dumbledore agreed that her Prince should come out of stasis and that they would try and fix him so that he would grow up properly.
It would be no good if she was all grown up, complete with boobs, and he was still a little boy. She’d waited this long, there was no need to wait any longer while she put her efforts into finding a cure.
It only took a few questions here and there to find out what treatments everyone had tried with him, and what they were still planning to do.
In the year before her W.O.L.V.E.s, the French equivalent of the O.W.L.s, she checked over everything that had been done so far, to make sure that no one had made any mistakes. The extra studying was worthwhile, as it actually helped her get the top marks of her year.
Her parents had been so proud that they’d promised her any reward she wanted, and that was when the final details fell together. She asked to transfer to Hogwarts for her final year, ostensibly so that she could see what life was like in a different magical culture.
Her parents had been thrilled — especially as Fleur was nearby to look after her if needed — as they thought the educational benefits would be enormous.
She spent her final year in France delving deep into magical history, trying to find some precedent for what had happened to Harry. As far as she could tell there was nothing, and it wasn’t until close to the end of the school year that the answer suddenly hit her --during a literature class.
The professor had been droning on as normal, but she mentioned off-hand that a lot of Muggle fairytales had been based on things that had really happened in the Wizarding World.
Without hesitation, she ran out of the class, into the Headmistress’ empty office, and took the Floo home. Luckily, both her parents were at work.
She dashed into her bedroom and turned the room upside down, searching for her book of fairy tales.
She eventually found it under her desk, propping up one of the legs, and threw herself on her bed, re-reading them.
She couldn’t believe the answer was so simple. It had been staring her in the face for the last eight years.
She returned to Beauxbatons to face the music — two weeks of detention and the loss of her Prefect badge. It wasn’t a big problem; the detentions were with another pupil, a boy pupil she decided would be perfect for teaching her how to kiss. She felt very little for him, but he had the information and technique she needed.
She allowed him a few smouldering kisses and dated him until the end of school, then broke up with him.
She felt like vibrating all summer as she prepared to go to Hogwarts and claim her Prince. She managed to persuade Mama that her old clothes just didn’t fit anymore — especially around her bust — and used that opportunity to get adult underwear; a lot of very nice adult underwear.
Finally, after over eight years, she was on the Hogwarts Express, going to Hogwarts. She attracted a lot of attention; after all, she was Gabrielle Delacour and part Veela, but she really didn’t have time for that.
As a transfer student, she had been sorted last.
"Ho, ho, ho, what have we here?" the Sorting Hat asked.
"Gabrielle Delacour," she responded silently. "Gryffindor, please."
"Slytherin would be a much better fit for you," the Hat pointed out.
"Only an idiot would be sorted into Slytherin if she was truly sneaky," Gabrielle pointed out. "It’s like carrying a flag around for the rest of your life saying â€˜be wary of me.’ A true Slytherin would be in Gryffindor."
"That’s the most sneaky and downright manipulative thing I’ve ever heard," the Hat replied in an impressed tone. "Seeing as I can see your thoughts and plans, I’ll tell you that you are not the first person in recent times who has asked not to be put in Slytherin, even though it was for different reasons."
"Harry?" she asked.
"You are a bright one, aren’t you," the Hat said happily. "You’re going to shake things up."
"Me?" she asked innocently. "Not really, I’ll just be following my Prince."
"Riiiiiight," the Hat said slowly. "If it wasn’t for the fact that you are a nice person, I’d be shouting out warnings left, right and centre about you."
"I’m just determined," Gabrielle said sweetly.
"And manipulative," the Hat added. "You have Gryffindor!"
Gabrielle smiled as she heard the Hat shout out "Gryffindor!" She placed it down on the chair.
"Gabrielle," the Hat called.
She turned back to it.
"When you get your Prince, come back and see me," it said.
"I will," she responded, and enjoyed the bemused looks on the face of all the staff. They didn’t have a clue what was going to happen later tonight.
After the feast — the food was better than she remembered — she went up to her dorm room and retired to bed early, pretending to be a little overwhelmed with going to school in a different country.
Once inside her four-poster bed she charmed it shut and changed into nicer clothing, the sort of thing that she hoped that her Prince would like.
Every minute seemed like an hour as she waited for her new roommates to go to bed so that she could sneak out. Eventually everyone seemed to be asleep, but she cast a sleep charm on them, just in case.
She pulled her broom out and flew out the window and around to Harry’s room. She knew exactly how to block out the alarms; after all, she’d dropped enough hints about which ones to use.
He was still lying on his back, but looked much healthier than he had a few years ago. The potions and charms had worked their magic on him, and he finally looked like a Prince.
Now that she was fully grown, it was a lot easier for her to climb onto the bed and straddle him.
"Hi Harry," she said softly. "It’s time for you to wake up; your Princess is here and everyone really needs you."
Without hesitation or doubt, she leaned down and kissed him, gently, and felt no surprise at all when he started to kiss her back.
Harry looked at Gabrielle in total awe as she finished her story. He slowly looked away from her and looked at the faces of the others, gauging their reactions. It was the look of chagrin and horror on the faces of certain people that made him laugh.
"What?" Gabrielle asked.
Harry looked at her and shook his head. "I don’t think they were ready to come to the realisation that everything they’ve done over the last eight years has been finely orchestrated by you."
Gabrielle shrugged and smiled. "I didn’t do anything much, just a suggestion here and there."
"Professor Dumbledore likes to think of himself as the master of manipulation," Harry said with a grin. "And he’s been totally outfoxed."
Gabrielle flipped her hair back over her shoulder and smirked. "My Prince," she said.
"We could have woken him up earlier," Hermione said in horror.
"Not without me you couldn’t," Gabrielle said firmly. "It needed a Princess, and no one else would have fit the bill. I am the Princess."
"But it doesn’t make sense!"
"Nor does waving a stick in the air and having spells work," Gabrielle agreed.
"I am not as old as Dumbledore," Fleur said, before launching into her third rant at Gabrielle in French.
"Is now a good time to admit I can speak French?" Harry asked.
Fleur blushed a bright shade of red.
"And I’m guessing that you were the one to teach me," he finished.
"Well, it’s been an emotional night," Harry said. "So, why don’t we go to bed and meet up in the morning. Sirius can bring his inappropriate girlfriend so I can meet her, and we’ll all be a lot more awake and able to deal with what we’ve learned today. You’ll have had the chance to get used to the idea that I’m awake and cheerful."
"I think," Albus said slowly, "that I completely agree."
Harry stood up. "I’m okay in my room again?"
"Of course," Albus said.
"Night then," he said, and walked out with Gabrielle. As soon as they got out of the door, he whispered, "Run for it, before they realise we’re going there together."
Gabrielle laughed and followed him at a sprint, back to his room. As they entered, he cast a locking spell on the door, looked at Gabrielle, and cast a few more just in case.
"Tired?" he asked her.
"Not even close."
"Me neither, but I think we need to talk."
"Yeah," she agreed. "A lot has happened."
"And you left a lot out in your little story."
"I did it on purpose," she agreed.
"You did hint at it."
She nodded. "Nobody’s had any fun in the last eight years; everyone is so boring and straight. It’s like the fun got sucked out of everyone with you being unconscious.
"Hermione and the others want you to launch a career in politics instantly so that you can push forward their boring agenda of taking yet more fun out of life."
Harry frowned. "That doesn’t sound like fun."
Gabrielle nodded in agreement and sat cross-legged on his bed. "The problem I have now is that I don’t know what to do about it. I’ve been kinda hoping that with you awake, you’d know what to do to make things fun again."
"What about the Weasley Twins?"
"They’re working for the Ministry; they couldn’t find any jobs anywhere else. Even Zonko’s has closed down."
"And Sirius is an Auror," Harry said. "So, on one side I have all my old friends who want me to go into politics, and on the other, I have my new girlfriend who wants me to blow off my social responsibilities and have fun — with her."
Gabrielle nodded, a slight look of fear on her face.
"Do you know the last thing my father said to me?" he asked rhetorically.
She shook her head.
"Do you like wine?"
"I’m French," she pointed out, as if that answered everything.
"I was told to spend his money on wine, women, and pranks, and after that I could waste the rest of it. You’re a woman, and you like wine, so if I manage to prank the country, I’ll be doing exactly what Dad wanted."
"Really?" she asked hopefully.
Gabrielle cheered with pleasure and bounced off the bed and into his arms. She kissed him firmly. "So, what’s the plan?"
"You haven’t got one?"
She shook her head. "All of my planning was to get to this point; I was hoping that you’d be able to take it from here, and I’d just help."
He nodded slowly. "What would you have done if things hadn’t turned out this way?"
She looked at him blankly. "Not turned out this way? Of course things were going to turn out this way. There was never any chance of it not doing so."
"You have an amazing amount of faith."
She smiled brightly. "Where would we be without faith?"
He shook his head. "So, I think we need to go to Gringotts first."
"The bank? Why?"
"Because we’ll need money, and we’ll need it under our control before anyone thinks of taking it from me, â€˜for my own good.’"
She nodded. "I’ve got some we can use, but I can’t access my inheritance until I’m eighteen. How do we get there?"
"It’s a Lightning Bolt," she said proudly, pointing to the corner where it was resting against a wall. "Latest model - first super-sonic broom with anti-air pressure charms."
Harry blinked and fell instantly in love as he looked at it.
"Cool, let’s go," he said eagerly. He paused. "Actually, I should probably get dressed first."
"I don’t know," Gabrielle replied. "Your pyjamas are pretty cute."
Harry laughed and undid his top, throwing it casually on to the bed. Gabrielle looked at him and smiled slowly. "Oh yes," she whispered, "definitely a Prince among men."
Harry felt himself blush, and turned to quickly pull on one of the outfits he found in the large cupboard next to his bed. "A green t-shirt would look nicer," Gabrielle called. He nodded and put the blue t-shirt back and pulled out the green one. After a pair of jeans, socks and boots, he turned.
"Perfect. Let’s go."
He followed her to the corner and hopped onto her broom, feeling her sit behind him. He raised it up slowly, and almost hit the ceiling. Ducking reflexively, he rammed it back down to the ground.
"You drive," he said, climbing off. It had been a lot more responsive than he had expected.
Gabrielle laughed and scooted forward. "Hold on tight, sweetie, and I’ll show you what you’ve missed these last few years."
He wrapped his arms around her. "Your hair smells amazing."
"Thank you," she replied as she manoeuvred them out of the room, and once free, she slipped it into high gear, racing away from Hogwarts.
"Woo-hooo," Harry cheered.
"Wait for the boom," Gabrielle yelled as she pushed the broom faster. As they flew over Hogsmeade, there was a loud bang before everything went quiet.
"We’re now doing Mach One," Gabrielle said. "The charms have kicked in, and it’s perfect for long distance travel. The first production version of this broom had noise suppression charms so you couldn’t actually hear the sonic boom, but everyone complained that not hearing it took away part of the fun, so they modified them. It took them a while to get it right because Muggles started to report hearing the booms, so they had to make sure that only we could hear them."
"So it should take us what, around forty minutes to get to London?"
"Not quite as fast as Portkey, but a lot more fun."
"Damn right," Harry agreed. "What’s your favourite colour?"
"Blue, it looks the best on me. Why do you ask?"
"Well, I figured that we’d done the snogging part already, so I may as well get to know you, if you’re going to be my girlfriend."
"True," she agreed. "My favourite perfume is Chanel Allure, I like English and Italian food, as well as French of course, but I don’t like Indian food or anything spicy. I’m five foot seven and 127 pounds. I’m a C cup, 35-24-35, I play Chaser at Quidditch, and people tell me that I’m more than slightly focused at everything I do."
Harry whistled slowly. "It’s a bit bizarre that I know what those numbers mean," he said. "They seem to have done a lot to ensure that there were no gaps in my education."
"Yeah," Gabrielle agreed. "I had a little chat with Sirius about that sort of thing, reminded him that as a godfather, it was up to him to make sure you knew what made girls tick. The twins did it off their own bat."
"Any idea what I am now?"
"Five-eleven, 160 pounds."
"Am I still growing? I always wanted to be six foot tall."
Gabrielle laughed and shifted so that she was resting against his chest. He relaxed as well, enjoying having her close.
"This is strange," he said softly. "To wake up finding that I’ve lost eight years, but only two and a bit of them actually count. That all my friends are all grown up and mature. That I’ve grown up and gone through puberty without noticing it, and here I am, flying at the speed of sound, holding a beautiful girl."
"It’s going to hit you tomorrow," Gabrielle said softly. "I think we should get somewhere to stay overnight, so I can go through it with you."
"Not my friends?"
Gabrielle shook her head. "They love you," she stated firmly. "But they are also eight years older than you are now. And those are the some of the most important formative years. You’ve had a bit of it, and I tried to make sure you got a well rounded education, but there was a limit to what I could do. I am the same age as you, and more than anyone else, I’ve looked at this as to how it has affected you. So, we’ll go somewhere, put up a load of charms, and you can shout, yell, blow things up, yell at me for being a sneaky manipulative bitch, and get as much of it out of your system as you can."
"Yell at you?" Harry asked.
"You’ll need to do that as well," Gabrielle said. "If we’re going to have a good relationship, you’ll need to get that off your chest."
"So it’s not totally a fairy tale then?"
She turned her head and smiled at him. "That depends on who I’m talking to."
"I don’t think I’m worth what you did."
"Of course you don’t," she agreed, "if you did, you wouldn’t be you, and I wouldn’t have done it."
"Did that sentence make any sense?"
"Only if you are me."
"Right. So, how did you wake me?"
"With a kiss," she responded innocently.
Harry snorted. "You can pull the other one now; you were exaggerating in there."
"Damn, you can read me already?" She sighed slightly, before craning her head around to give him a quick kiss on the cheek. "That’s probably a good thing.
"I did tell the truth about where I got the idea from. Sleeping Beauty really did happen in Germany close to a thousand years ago. She was poisoned, magically, and she slept for over a hundred years. The rest of the community decided to sleep with her, and put themselves and her into stasis. When the handsome Prince -- who actually wasn’t a prince at all -- he was just an average wanderer who was a genius at Potions, heard about her, he cut his way through the vegetation to get to her, and spent a year examining her.
"After a lot of trial and error, he came up with a potion that would knock her out of her sleep and return her to life. From there, it was a simple process to bring her out of stasis and give her the potion.
"Being a true Princess, and as bright as a button, she woke up, and after finding out that everyone else had gone into stasis with her, she had no real problems — all her friends and family were just how she remembered them — she acted quickly, told everyone that the wanderer was a Prince from a far away land, that he had awakened her with a kiss, and that they were in love. And of course, they lived happily ever after.
"So, it took me another four weeks to track down the potion, as it was named something obscure, and it was in German, and I’m truly thankful for translating charms. It then took another two weeks to actually brew the damn thing, as Potions is not my dish normally. I mucked it up four times, but I finally got it right, fed it to you, then decided that the Princess had it right anyway, and kissed you."
Harry tightened his arms around her. "Good call. Thank you."
"You’re welcome," she said brightly. "Now, we’re heading into London, so I’ll knock us out of Mach One, and bring us in slowly."
Harry leant forward with her, more than happy to be holding this somewhat strange blonde in his arms. The buildings below were rushing past at an almost scary speed.
"How do they use these in Quidditch?"
"Carefully. A lot of the players can’t handle it. You kick it into high speed and you’re out of the stadium before you can blink. It’s almost too fast. But some of the Seekers are getting the hang of it."
"I’ll need to practice."
"Sorry sweetie, but I think your Seeking days are over. You’ve grown up now."
"You’ve no longer got the right physique for it. You’d need to either bulk up a lot, like Krum, or lose some weight. But you’re still an amazing flyer, with brilliant broom control. You’ll be great as a Chaser."
"Dad was a Chaser."
"Then it’s in your blood. I’ll teach you."
Harry sighed. "Okay, this is probably wrong, but I think I’m more upset about not being able to be a Seeker as I am than I am about anything else."
"I’m sorry," she whispered quietly. "I know this thing seems so unfair, after all, you defeated Voldemort. Why did you have to then spend over eight years unconscious? What sort of reward is that?"
Harry sighed and buried his face in the back of her neck, inhaling slowly. "Perhaps," he said, just audibly, "not such a bad one."
He felt her hand pat his, before she said, "Hold on, swooping down on Diagon Alley --now!"
Harry tightened his hold around her waist and she did exactly what she had said, slipping the broom to the side and down, pulling to a stop before the doors of Gringotts.
He took a deep breath and hopped off. "So, ready to explore?"
"Absolutely," she said, picking her broom up and shrinking it so she could put it down the front of her blouse.
Harry turned and banged on the huge doors.
A grate slammed open. "We’re closed," a voice snarled, before the grate shut again.
Harry smirked and banged again.
"You deaf?" the guard demanded as he opened the grate again. "Come back when we’re open."
Harry shook his head in amusement and banged again. As the grate slammed open, he shoved his wand into the guard’s face. "I suggest," he growled, "that you tell Grapplegus that I want to talk to him, and stop acting like goblins actually stop work just because it’s four in the morning."
The guard frowned. "Take your bloody wand out of my nose."
"But it’s such an easy-to-hit target," Harry complained. "I could shrink it if you’d like?"
"I’ll get him," the guard said. "Enter and stand where I tell you; wouldn’t want the alarms to go off."
"Absolutely," Harry agreed, "because I’d be forced to cast a nose-shrinking charm in my shock."
The guard sniggered and opened the door. "You’re all right, for a wizard."
"You’re not bad yourself, for a goblin," Harry said as they walked in.
"What’s with the chick?"
"She’s mine," Harry responded. "I’d just shrink your nose. She’d cut it off and feed it to you slowly, and that would just be for starters."
"Good choice," the guard said approvingly. "I’ll be back in a two ticks of a gnome’s hat."
"Chick?" Gabrielle asked, as the guard scurried off.
"Goblin term for Veela, comes from your bird heritage, not meant the same way as humans."
"Why was he impressed that I’m more violent than you?"
"Goblin mating rituals are complicated, but the most violent females tend to get the best mates. Having a violent mate actually makes me more respected. I’m guessing that Bill’s the one that told me all of this."
"Could have been Fleur," Gabrielle said. "She worked for Gringotts before she married Bill."
"This way," the guard shouted.
Harry put his arm through Gabrielle’s arm and walked toward the goblin. "Don’t stand on the white tiles."
"The white tiles have just changed colour slightly, I think he’s just turned an alarm on. We don’t want to lose face at the moment."
Gabrielle nodded and he could feel her match her steps to his precisely as they walked smoothly across the chequered floor. As they reached the disgruntled looking guard, Gabrielle swung around and punched the guard hard in the nose, causing him to fall backward onto a white tile.
A bright light filled the hall, and a magical bubble caught the goblin and raised him high into the air. From all around, more goblins poured out and looked in surprise at the guard — who was laughing hysterically and rubbing his nose.
He waved his hand casually, and a couple of other goblins moved quickly to disable the traps and get him down.
He landed as gracefully as a stout goblin could and walked back over to them.
"I should have taken your warning," he said to Harry. "You are both welcome in Gringotts."
Harry smiled proudly at Gabrielle, before looking at the goblin.
"Harry Potter and Gabrielle Delacour. Exactly what are you doing as a security guard?"
"Huh?" Gabrielle asked.
"You just punched Grapplegus, the Manager of Gringotts, Europe."
The goblin shook his head. "It’s a good thing, Miss Delacour."
"Gabrielle," she corrected, with an enchanting smile.
"Violent and manipulative," the goblin sighed. "If she had a bigger nose and sharper teeth, she’d be perfect. How did you recognise me?"
"Your gold watch, it’s quite famous."
"And I thought all us goblins look alike to you."
"The same way us humans look the same to you?"
"TouchÃ©," he agreed. "So, the last thing I knew, you were unconscious."
"I woke up."
"Evidently. What can Gringotts do for you?" he asked, as he led them into a room with a couple of comfortable looking couches.
"You can tell me what restrictions there are on my vaults."
"What makes you think there are any?"
"Logic. I woke up around five hours ago, and my partner in crime here tells me that my friends have a very boring career mapped out for me, and I’d think that my having unfettered access to my own money might cause problems for them."
"There is a restriction that you are only allowed access to what’s in your trust vault, unless Albus Dumbledore says otherwise."
"How nice," Harry said with a small smile. "Is there any basis in law for that sort of restriction?"
"You have been in a coma for eight years," Grapplegus pointed out. "I believe that would make you only fourteen."
"However, I was born in 1980," Harry pointed out, "and basic maths would state that I am currently over the age of majority."
"Quite," the goblin agreed. "As the manager, I’m supposed to say something along the lines of â€˜it’s for your own good’."
"Tell me, how has business been over the last eight years?"
"Tricky," Grapplegus said slowly.
"Tricky tends to be a euphemism for downright disastrous," Harry said to Gabrielle. "Why?"
"There has been a period of great conservatism," Grapplegus sighed. "People have been unwilling to take risks and have been saving all their money. Hardly anyone is taking out loans or starting new businesses. We’ve tried to stimulate the economy with interest rate cuts, but people just don’t seem interested."
"So I’m guessing you have a lot of very clever people sitting around twiddling their thumbs?"
The goblin nodded solemnly.
"From what my parents implied, I gather I am quite wealthy?"
The goblin snorted. "You think I’d have answered the door if it had been anyone without money?"
"No, not really. So, here’s the situation - I’m going to want to open at least two stores relatively quickly, and hire a lot of people with a slightly different mindset. I just need to get the two principals involved first. Can you get some people to find me some property? I don’t want to lease, I’d prefer to buy outright. Next, I want to know about investment opportunities, the more bizarre the better. If it’s straight and boring, I’m not interested. Let’s see what money we can make by kicking the world back into a more open environment."
Grapplegus bared his teeth. "This is not what I expected to happen tonight."
"I’m sure it’s not," Harry agreed. "Can you answer a vague question without delving into client confidentiality?"
"Does the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black have significant assets?"
"You could say that," the goblin confirmed.
"And would I get a similar response if I asked if said assets were under-utilised?"
The goblin merely bared his teeth again.
"Thanks," Harry said, as he considered what he could do about that. It was so strange to see Sirius looking good, but even older, and with more grey hair. It was kinda frightening.
"I think the calming potion is wearing off," he said softly.
"Grapplegus," Gabrielle said. "Do you have any human quarters here? I thought the potion I gave him would last longer. I think Harry’s about to crash."
"I gave him a potion to keep him calm when he woke up so he wouldn’t worry about what he has missed in the last eight years. It’s wearing off, and I think he’s going to break down."
The goblin took a long look at Gabrielle. "I’m interested in your story."
"Most people will be," she grunted. "I’ll tell you about it later. Right now I need Harry somewhere safe so he can let loose at me."
"He’s found out a lot tonight about how he came to be like he is, and he needs to get that off his chest."
"You’re a brave one, aren’t you?"
Gabrielle smiled briefly. "Yes. Now, the quarters?"
"You can stay here," Grapplegus said. "The walls are charmed for privacy. Open the doors when you want something. We’ll even find some of that garbage you humans eat."
"I’m only part human," Gabrielle retorted, "but I’ve tried the stuff you eat, and I’d prefer setting fire to my throat."
Grapplegus laughed and got to his feet. "I’ll have a guard outside to make sure you’re not disturbed. Don’t worry about damaging anything in here; I’ll take it out of Potter’s vault."
Gabrielle smiled and stood, ushering the goblin out the door. "Thanks," she said quietly.
"Look after him," the goblin whispered back, not quite low enough that Harry couldn’t hear him. "His just being awake is going to kick off a huge party that will be great for business."
"I know," Gabrielle agreed, and shut the door firmly.
"Everyone’s changed," he whispered, sinking down into a couch.
"Harry," Gabrielle said softly. "Give me your wand. I can handle you, but not if you can use magic."
He nodded and handed over his wand without a second thought. A second later he was in her arms, sobbing, as everything hit him at once.
His friends were -- old.
Everyone he knew was different - was changed. Ron and Hermione were married -- married! Ginny was engaged to Neville of all people — it meant that even Neville was older and different! Everything and everyone he took for granted yesterday had moved on, and he hadn’t.
Or he had — his head was filled with knowledge that wasn’t his, and his body didn’t really feel like his either — the constant ache of hunger he’d lived with all his life was gone, and he was taller.
He moved forward as she pulled him, resting his head on her chest, and continued to cry as she stroked his hair.
He wanted things to go back to how they were, but at the same time, he didn’t. He wanted the eight years he’d lost, but didn’t want to go through them. He wanted to be the age he was physically, with all the experiences that he should have experienced.
He wanted to have seen Bill and Fleur get married, to have seen Ron and Hermione finally go out on a date, to have seen what life was like in the Wizarding world without the threat of Voldemort hanging over his head.
"Harry," Gabrielle whispered. "I know it’s not the same, but I have a Pensieve with every major event you’ve missed over the past eight years in it."
He sniffed and looked up at her. "Really?"
She nodded. "I wouldn’t be surprised if the others do as well. I know you’ve missed so much, but you were always there with us, I promise."
He nodded and rested his head back down. "I don’t know what I want," he said softly. "I don’t like everything being so scary here, but I don’t know if I want to go back, either."
"There is no going back, Harry," Gabrielle said. "There is only going forward and onward. And as harsh as it seems, you have a simple choice: you can accept it and move on, or you can let it defeat you."
He nodded slowly, not ready to acknowledge her words yet.
He could hear her heartbeat increase as she asked, "Do you want to talk about me now?" in a nervous voice.
He raised his head and looked directly into her eyes. "Did you put me in that coma?"
"Of course not," she said with a frown on her face.
"Oh, boo-hoo," he said sarcastically. "I’ve had a drop-dead gorgeous girl dedicate eight years of her life to making sure that when I wake up, I’d have as easy a time as possible — the same girl who finds the potion that wakes me up, and does so with a potion to help me start to deal with it before anyone else finds out — the same girl who kisses me and wants me to have fun, as long as it includes her, rather than decide what I should do for me. Yeah, that’s really hard for me to handle, Gabrielle. Heartbreaking; just like winning the lottery and catching the Snitch in the World Cup final in the same day."
Gabrielle giggled. "But I did kinda manipulate everyone, including you."
"By making sure that I was educated and continued to grow?"
"I could have made the suggestion earlier," she confessed faintly. "It was selfish of me."
"A little," he agreed, "but it does mean that I can still have at least one more year at Hogwarts before I have to leave. So you’ll excuse me if I find it difficult to work up any rage against you at the moment. The only person I’m mad at is Voldemort, and hell, I killed him already. Everything else is just more shit that happens to Harry Potter, right?"
"Not any more," Gabrielle said firmly.
He sighed and put his head back down, unwilling to stop the tears than were running down his face.
"What did you mean by the Hogwarts thing?"
He could feel her shift and the lights in the room dim, leaving them in a bare twilight.
"I want another year at school, doing everything I thought about before I was wiped out."
"Playing Quidditch, finding broom cupboards where I can snog my girlfriend, pranking anyone I can, sneaking out of school and getting a little drunk in Hogsmeade, crash-studying for exams and staying up all night drinking coffee."
"I didn’t expect those dreams," she said softly. "Most people dream about the end of school, not the start."
"You do know you have a girlfriend who is quite willing to do that, right?"
He chuckled. "And will get me into so much more trouble than I could on my own."
"Is that a bad thing?"
He half-laughed, half sobbed, "No."
"Do you still want to date me?" she said softly.
He didn’t even bother to say anything as he looked at her.
She blushed very faintly. "I’m not sure how you’re going to react. You might want to find someone else."
"Are there many beautiful blondes with determined personalities, who happen to have picked me, lying about?"
"There might be," she muttered. "You are famous."
"And if I remember correctly, I said I’d do something about that."
"You were also on a calming potion then," she pointed out. "And slightly manic."
"The manic is me, not the potion," he sighed. "You know about Priori Incantatem?"
"When it happened, my parents — well, echoes of my parents — came out of Voldemort’s wand." Her arms tightened around him as she listened silently. "My parents told me that they were proud of me — it was the first time I could remember hearing that said to me.
"They told me that I’d done my part now and that I was to have fun for the rest of my life — that I’d done all that anyone could ask of me."
"I think," Harry said with a small laugh. "That they’d be proud of me right now. Well, Dad would anyway."
"If I’m going to have a crying session, I’ve found the right person to do it with. Dad would be so happy that I’m leaning on someone like you."
"I’ve heard about him," she smiled. "And seen Sirius in action. One day, Sirius will find someone like Lily, and a thousand people will laugh at him."
Harry took a deep breath. "I can’t go back, can I?"
"No. The past has gone, Harry. All you can do is explore the future."
"Will you explore with me?" he asked softly.
"For as long as you want me."
"Are you uncomfortable?"
"I’m getting tired, and I don’t want to move."
"Then don’t," she whispered. "Go to sleep, sweetheart, I’ll be here for you."
"Thank you, Gabbi," he whispered, and closed his eyes.
He wasn’t as tired as he had said, but he didn’t want to talk anymore. He just wanted to allow all of the thoughts to wash over him without having to do anything with them. He was starting to accept what had happened, and realised that it could have been a lot worse. So many of his friends had done so much for him; standing by him for eight years. Ron and Hermione had not forgotten him, had not abandoned him, but had spent an incredible amount of time with him, and even if they did look older, they were still the same people inside, people who had always been there for him through hundreds of nights of conversation in the Common Room, through thick and thin.
Sure they had argued, but who didn’t have arguments? And besides, they kept life from being too boring.
He didn’t think that Sirius would have changed that much, but then, he didn’t really know him that well, and he was going to have the time to do that now, but as an adult to an adult, not an adult to a child.
Remus was looking much better than he had been, and was obviously happily employed now and dating a girl who could change shape to resemble anyone else; neat trick, that.
Ginny was now engaged — that wasn’t too much of a shock, as he didn’t really know her that well as an individual. It was strange to see that she was grown up when she had been younger and smaller than him — she was still shorter, though.
Fred and George seemed to have calmed down — a thought which was frightening in its own right, as was the fact that they worked for the Ministry now.
As for Cho, his long-time crush on her was gone, but that wasn’t exactly a problem. He hadn’t really known her back then, and well, as pretty as she was, she couldn’t hold a candle to Gabrielle.
Dumbledore actually looked younger, and he figured that was due to the pressure of Voldemort having been removed. The same was true for McGonagall.
Molly and Arthur had more grey hair, but they didn’t appear that different, and their responses to him hadn’t changed.
Fleur wasn’t exactly someone he knew either, but she seemed happy with an older Bill, so that wasn’t an issue either.
Charlie he hardly knew at all, so again, not a problem.
It came down to the fact that it was his peer group that he had missed out on, and he was going to have to try to make a new one, while redefining his place with Ron, Hermione and the others.
About the only thing he knew was that he had paid his debt to society and from now on he was going to have the sort of fun that he felt he should have in the Wizarding World.
And that left the girl whose very nice chest he was currently resting on. She was spoilt, slightly snobbish — he hadn’t forgotten her comment on Ginny’s clothes — and extremely manipulative. She was also gorgeous, smart, seemed to genuinely care for him, and wasn’t afraid to do anything — even visit the traditionally hostile area that was Gringotts out of hours — and she was very quick learner — punching Grapplegus had been an act of genius, getting them more warmth than Bill or Fleur’s teaching would have indicated.
And he felt comfortable with her. Even now, after crying his heart out, she was still holding him and stroking his back. It felt like he had known her for a lot longer than the few hours since he had woken up.
He breathed a little deeper and finally drifted off into a sleep, the last nagging thought that perhaps everything wasn’t as bad as it seemed.
Harry inhaled deeply and his nostrils filled with a light airy scent that made him smile.
"What do I have to do wake up with you every morning?" he asked quietly.
He felt her laugh softly. "Play your cards right…."
"One day," he said, as he shifted so that he could look at her, "you’re going to have to tell me just what card game that is."
"How are you feeling?"
He took a deep breath. "Surprisingly good. Thank you."
"You’re welcome," she replied with a smile. "You did kinda let me down last night. I’d been preparing for you to shout at me for months, and there you go, letting me off the hook by not acting as I expected."
"If you still feel guilty, I could arrange some penance," he suggested.
"Kisses — lots and lots of them."
"Deal," she grinned, and kissed him. "Okay, we need to have a late breakfast, do whatever we have to do with the goblins, and get back to Hogwarts. You know, I don’t even know what classes I’m missing this morning."
"Are you all right?" he asked softly.
She tilted her head and looked at him. "Yes. I’ve never slept with a boy before. I liked it. It makes me feel wanted and needed. I’d’ve been happy to stay like this for as long as needed."
Harry dropped a quick kiss on her lips. "Play your cards right," he grinned.
She laughed as he rolled off her and she wandered over to the door.
"Can you get us some breakfast," she asked the guard, "and invite Grapplegus to eat with us if he fancies a snack — and if he does, get him to bring a potion."
The goblin nodded and turned to walk off. Gabrielle pulled out a comb and started to comb her hair.
"I thought you could use Veela power for that."
Gabrielle sniffed. "That is just a rumour spread by jealous human women. Veela power guarantees a good facial structure and good skin — a good start, if you want; but beyond that it’s up to the Veela to look after herself. There are fat Veela and spotty Veela, just like with humans. The only Veela you have seen are Fleur and the cheerleaders at the World Cup, right?"
"Fleur works as hard as I do and the Veela at the world cup were professional cheerleaders.
"Of course, all Veela have the allure. It is quite funny to see men falling over a pug-ugly Veela."
Harry laughed. "We should see if we can replicate the effect. It would be fun to prank some of the boys at school into following Filch."
Gabrielle pulled out a small notepad and wrote it down. "If you don’t write it down, you’ll forget," she said. "And good ideas often get lost that way."
The door opened and Grapplegus wheeled in a trolley with three plates on it. Next to the plates was a jug, a couple of glasses and a small potions vial.
"Morning," the goblin said. "Sleep well?"
"Yeah, I had a few home truths told to me, so I’m on to the acceptance stage now. I’ll feel better when I’ve misdirected everyone enough so that I can spend the next ten months at Hogwarts and run things from there."
The goblin nodded and took one of the plates, sitting opposite them.
Gabrielle picked up a fork, walked over and swiped some of the goblin’s food.
"Time to test your bravery," she said. "Goblin food needs to be tasted once in your lifetime."
Harry nodded and opened his mouth, accepting the fork.
To start with it was tasty, but that was before the spices hit. He could feel thick smoke come out of his mouth as he stumbled toward the table. The smoke started to obscure his vision as he grabbed the potion vial. He downed it in one go and fell to his knees.
"I need that recipe," he croaked.
"Excuse me?" Grapplegus asked.
"The recipe; we’ll open a restaurant serving stuff like that. People will come for miles to test their bravery on the cooking."
"Are you serious?"
"I’m always serious when my throat has been set on fire," he whispered hoarsely. "In fact, to really make it special, I know just the person who will learn how to cook it."
"Who?" Gabrielle asked.
"Dobby, a house-elf friend of mine."
"Let me get this straight," Grapplegus said slowly. "You want to open a restaurant with a house-elf chef cooking goblin food."
"Yes," Harry confirmed. "That stuff has a mighty kick; it will be a knock-out. If it goes well, and it will, we’ll open some Muggle restaurants as well, and franchise it out. There are lots of Muggles who think pain is a flavour.
"Speaking which, what sort of banking facilities do you have with the Muggle world?"
"Very little. We exchange gold for their money through intermediaries, but not much else."
Harry pulled his own plate off the trolley and settled down next to Gabrielle. "I’m disappointed," he said. "All that money out there and you’re ignoring it."
"In case you haven’t noticed, we are goblins, and don’t exactly fit in."
"Then hire some humans to start with, trust them to get things moving, then learn how to use computers and the Internet, get into credit cards and the like, and improve your banking services. Being reliant on just one small market is always a bad idea, and there are over five billion Muggles out there waiting to enjoy goblin banking."
"That’s goes against long standing tradition."
"Tradition is the lazy man’s excuse for sitting on your arse," Harry sniffed dismissively. "Hire some recently graduated Hogwarts students with good marks, preferably Muggle-born. It will save them from dead-end jobs in the Ministry, and start you off and running. They can teach you how to use computers and the Internet, and you’ll soon start running the world."
"You make an interesting point," the goblin mumbled.
"Good, because my fee for this consultancy is reciprocal help from you."
"If this works out, we’ll be working free for you for the rest of your life."
"And doesn’t the thought of that much gold fill you with glee?"
"It does, Harry, it does." He stood abruptly. "I’ve got a bank to turn around. Feel free to drop in and talk to anyone you need, they’ll give you their advice."
"Thank you," Harry smiled. "We’ll finish our breakfast and pop down to my vault before we get out of your hair. The first product you need to develop is a better way to carry money around. The magical bags are far too clunky."
The goblin looked amused, nodded, and walked out.
"How much of that was you, and how much of that was what you were taught?"
"Mainly me, I think," Harry said. "It comes from having a Muggle background and spending evenings listening to good ol’ Vernon complaining about credit card fees."
Gabrielle put her plate down. "What was the other reason for wanting the recipes?"
"Pranks, obviously," he grinned, finishing his own food off. "Let’s get some cash and get out of here."
They walked out of the meeting room, waylaid a passing goblin, and were soon on their way down into the bowels of Gringotts.
"Nice," Gabrielle said as she looked around the huge vault.
"If you see anything you like, grab it," Harry said as he vanished toward what looked some large bookshelves.
"It’s bigger than ours," Gabrielle called.
"If your family is rich, why was Fleur working for Gringotts?"
"She has a big thing about earning her own way," she explained.
"What about you?"
"I’m quite happy being a Princess. And like all smart Princesses, I know that you can make a lot more money when you use what you already have. One day I’ll sit down with Fleur and we’ll compare what we’ve made."
"You seem very competitive."
"I love my sister, but she’s so boring and strait-laced. She’d get rid of her Veela heritage if she could. She has all the advantages in the world and she wants to be normal. She fits in perfectly with this world. Changing the subject, how much money do you think we’ll need?"
"I’d get a couple of hundred Galleons; we can always come back and get some more if we need it. That should give us enough for having fun, anything we need to buy, and for anything that takes our fancy," Harry said as he scooped up a pile of gold. "The books here are mainly history books. We’re going to have to find my family library for the good stuff. There should be a property inventory near the door. We’ll grab that and spend next weekend looking at homes."
"First you ask me to elope, and next you’re planning on looking at houses with me; you do work fast, don’t you."
Harry laughed. "Are you telling me you’re not interested?"
"I didn’t say that."
So... now you know what Gabbi thinks happened... and there are a few clues scattered here and there as to how she works.
Next ... we see what really happened.