Happily Ever After
This is the chapter were I start using Pensieves as a plot device here, and showing the outcome from a different perspective.
Huge thanks, as always, to my beta readers, Gardengirl, Ishtar, Greywizard and Kokopelli.
Oh, and maybe I ought to try and be a bit less dramatic in my author notes...
Harry and Gabrielle arrived back at Hogwarts at lunchtime, and they were surprised to see what looked like an impromptu press conference taking place on the Great Lawn, with a huge crowd of wizards and witches standing in the sun.
"You think that’s for us?" Harry asked.
"Yep. Want to ignore it?"
"Nah, let’s get the party started. It will postpone the thorough yelling-at we’re going to get."
"Can you handle this?" As she asked the question, her voice changed, losing its normal brashness to a tone that he was starting to realise was only ever used with him.
He hugged her tightly as she swung the broom. "New chance, new Harry," he said, before whispering additional suggestions in her ear.
Gabrielle laughed and pushed the broom down, kicking it into high speed, timing it just right so that the sonic broom occurred directly over the crowd. Harry had a brief glimpse of people diving to the floor before they were past the crowd and Gabrielle was circling the castle.
At the front of the crowd was a dais bearing a table with Albus, Hermione, Ron, and the others looking uncomfortable behind it. In front of them, in ranks of chairs on the grass, were the press, followed by the Hogwarts students and everyone else.
Gabrielle pulled the broom to a dramatic stop in front of the table, and they hopped off.
"Sorry we’re late," Harry yelled cheerfully. "Our invitation got lost in the post."
"Where have you been?" Hermione demanded. "We knocked on your bedroom door for hours!"
Gabrielle smirked. "We were busy and didn’t want to be disturbed," she purred seductively.
"Gabrielle!" Fleur yelled.
"Is it just me, or does she have a really limited vocabulary?" Harry asked softly, ignoring the yelling of the press behind him. "So, I’m guessing they want me to say a few words?" he asked.
"I’ve done a speech for you," Hermione said, offering him a couple of sheets of paper.
"Thanks," Harry said as he took it and scanned through it. It was very good, but not what he wanted to say.
He climbed on the table and grinned cheerfully. "Ladies and gentlemen, it’s good to see you. In fact, after eight years flat on my back with my eyes closed, it’s good to see anything.
"For those of you wondering why I chose now to wake up, I’d advise you to take a quick look at my girlfriend. She’s definitely worth waking up to. But remember, I did say a quick look. I get jealous."
Gabrielle stood and curtsied for the press photographers.
"So, rather than have me rabbit on at you for hours, I’ll take some questions."
The noise that rang out from the crowd was indecipherable.
"Gabrielle?" Harry asked.
She rolled her eyes and vaulted the table. "Quiet!" she yelled, her voice reaching the far end of the field without the need for a Sonorus charm. "I’ll pick people at random. You have one question each. Make it a good one, because poor ones will be ignored.
"Right, you first."
"Malcolm Selby, the Quibbler. Mr Potter, how do you feel that you’re awake?"
"I feel fantastic," Harry said, using a Sonorus charm to protect his throat. "It’s testament to the fantastic care and attention that I got from my friends and the amazing staff at Hogwarts that I feel very few ill effects from what was, for me, an eight year nap."
"Lavender Brown, Witch Weekly. Are you really off the market already?"
"Lavender," Harry said with pleasure. "You’ve grown up nicely. Yes, one of my first priorities on waking up was getting a girlfriend, something I wasn’t very good at before my nap. I asked Gabrielle, who was kind enough to say yes."
"Can I ask you a question?" Lavender asked Gabrielle.
"No," she said as she moved on and pointed at another journalist.
"Stephan Lund, Daily Prophet. Can you tell us what happened the night you defeated Voldemort?"
"I’m sure you know most of the story, that the Triwizard Cup was a Portkey. I ended up duelling Voldemort, and found that when he tried to kill me as a baby, he actually used the scar on my forehead as a Horcrux. So, to defeat him, I had to cut the connection between us.
"My headaches and the pain I felt whenever I was near Voldemort were symptoms of this. So, when I cut the thread connecting his soul to me, I suffered a massive magical backlash, and it has taken this long for my body to get used to being on its own."
"George Carmichael, from the Ministry Newsletter. Do you feel guilty about all the innocent people who died when you killed Voldemort?"
"That’s a ridiculous question," Gabrielle interjected before Harry could reply. "Anyone who’s done even the slightest bit of research on the Dark Mark will know that it could only be received by someone willing to accept it — the whole point of it was to ensure loyalty, and there had to be some loyalty there in the first place for it to work. Every single person who had the Dark Mark had sworn themselves to follow Voldemort and as such, they deserved to die. No matter how much money they had spent bribing their names clear after the first time Harry defeated Voldemort.
"And if I remember my history correctly, the Ministry Newsletter spouted all sorts of propaganda to allow Death Eaters to claim erroneously that they were under the Imperius, despite massive bodies of evidence against them. Now, exactly why was it so important for you to try to interrupt what should be the start of a party with such a potentially libellous question? Is there something we need to investigate about your own beliefs? Did you believe what Voldemort was doing was correct, but you didn’t have the convictions to stand up for yourself?"
Carmichael, who had been stepping back away from the furious witch, tripped and cowered on the floor.
"I will expect the other journalists here to do some investigative research," she said, just loud enough to be heard, before she turned on her heel and walked over to the next person.
"AimÃ©e Mallery, Le Mundial. Mr Potter, what do you intend to do now?"
Harry smiled. "As far as I’m concerned, I only defeated Voldemort yesterday, so I’m thinking a massive party is in order. But as these things take some organising, with Professor Dumbledore’s permission," he paused and looked at the Headmaster, who had no choice but to nod, "we’ll have a charity ball here on Saturday. Tickets will be available to the public, with all proceeds going to charity. And to ensure that everyone has an equal chance, we’ll accept people’s owls asking for tickets and hold a raffle."
There was a roar of approval from the massed ranks.
"Okay, one more question," Harry said, "as we all need to get to work, and I’m sure you can appreciate that I need to reconnect with my friends."
"Brad Gilbert, Daily Prophet Sports Reporter. Are you going to take up a professional Quidditch career?"
"I’m not even sure if I can handle the new brooms," Harry said with a laugh. "And I’m not exactly the right build for a Seeker anymore. I might see if I can have a little success as a Chaser, but whether I’m good enough even to get on a Hogwarts team, we’ll have to see.
"I’d like to thank you all for coming out, and for your support during my little nap. I hope to see as many of you as possible on Saturday, and for those who can’t make it, my apologies."
Harry turned and jumped off the table as the crowd behind him started to clap and cheer and he strolled into Hogwarts. Gabrielle caught up to him quickly and attached herself to his arm.
He walked straight up to Dumbledore’s office, aware that he was being followed. The door opened when Dumbledore caught up with them, and they walked straight in and across to the private meeting room, taking seats on one side of the oval table.
Dumbledore sat at the head, McGonagall next to him, and Flitwick the other side. Ron and Hermione sat opposite, and the others quickly found places.
"That was fun," Harry said, before turning to Gabrielle, "and you, my dear, were magnificent." He kissed her firmly.
"Harry, why didn’t you use my speech?"
"Because it wasn’t what I wanted to say," Harry explained. "It was a wonderful speech, and would have gone down brilliantly, but they weren’t my words. I didn’t feel what you had written, and I didn’t want to lie to everyone out there, especially not so many people that had come out just to see me. It wouldn’t have been right."
"Oh," Hermione said, a slightly surprised expression on her face.
"Can I ask what you did last night?" Dumbledore asked.
"Well, I was wide awake," Harry said cheerfully. "So Gabbi and I hopped on her broom and went and had a nice chat with Grapplegus. He’s a nice guy, even if his taste in food is warped to Spain and back. That reminds me, Sirius, which of the Potter properties would the library be in?"
Sirius blinked. "No idea. James and I never really talked about that sort of thing."
"Looks like our house-hunting is still on," Harry said in a stage whisper to Gabrielle.
"But the bank was closed last night," Ron pointed out.
"Gringotts, close? When there’s an important client on the outside wanting to do business? Never. They were happy to open up for me, even gave Gabbi and me a place to catch a nap after I broke down."
"Oh, Harry," Molly said.
Harry smiled at her. "I’m getting used to it now. It’s harder for me with Ron, Hermione and Ginny, as they were my age. Everyone else looks the same, just a little older. Ron was a scrawny lad and Hermione didn’t have any cleavage to speak of the last time I saw her. Nor did Ginny, for that matter. The twins haven’t changed much, and most of the others look pretty similar, kinda how I’d have imagined you all to look without the pressure of Voldemort."
Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were all blushing furiously.
"So, after grabbing some cash from my family vaults, we flew back and arrived in time for the press conference."
"Yeah, the goblins said something about it not being allowed, but I wasn’t paying much attention, and really, there’s nothing they could do. I was born in 1980 after all, and simple addition states that I am over seventeen now, so there was nothing legal they could do. There is no provision in law for what happened to me."
"Oh," Hermione said slowly.
"So, is it too late to sign up for the school year?" Harry asked Dumbledore, who appeared shocked by the question.
"Well, I’ve got no qualifications at all, and I’ve missed the O.W.L.s, so I’ll need some time to catch up to make sure I pass my N.E.W.T.s. I can hardly become a productive member of society if I’ve not got any qualifications, can I? I mean, say I wanted to go to work in the Ministry? No one would hire anyone with only four years of school under their belt and no exam results. People would laugh at me."
"I didn’t think you’d want to stay at school, Harry," Hermione said.
"I loved Hogwarts, and this time I get to do it without the threat of Voldemort hanging over us all."
"I think that is a wonderful idea," Filius said jovially. "I don’t suppose you’d want to be re-Sorted?"
Harry grinned at him. "Think you can handle me?"
"It would be a challenge, Harry."
"No poaching, Filius," McGonagall said sternly. "I’d be delighted to see you at Hogwarts again, Harry. To take into account your rather unusual situation, I’ll allow you to use the Gryffindor Head Boy room, although the standard rules will apply to you."
"Of course," Harry agreed cheerfully. "I have no intention of breaking any rules."
Sirius snorted loudly.
"You should get that looked at," Harry advised him offhandedly. "Now that’s settled," he said, ignoring the rather stunned look on the faces of his friends. "Sirius, where’s your better half then?"
Sirius groaned. "I was bluffing. I’ve not really got anyone at the moment."
Harry sighed. "So, Remus, if you’re not a lawyer, what are you doing these days?"
"Teaching, Defence, here."
"Woo hoo!" Harry cheered. "That’s brilliant news."
"Thank you," Remus said dryly.
"Charlie, how’s Norbert?"
"He’s fine, he’s even starting to show interest in lady dragons."
"Cool. That reminds me, I must go see Hagrid later."
"Hagrid no longer works here," Dumbledore said. "He’s relocated to France."
"I’ll bet that was a wedding to remember," Harry said slowly and sighed. "So many memories I missed," he turned to Gabrielle. "You get that one?"
She nodded. "I was a bridesmaid."
Harry smiled and took her hand. "Fred, George, we’ll need to meet in private straight after we finish here. I’ve heard all sorts of disturbing things, and we’re going to get to the bottom of them."
Fred and George exchanged a nervous look.
"So," Harry said slowly. "I’m hoping this is going to be the last time we’re all on such tenterhooks around each other."
"It’s still a rather large shock to see you like this," Ron said slowly. "It’s brilliant, don’t get me wrong, mate, but we’ve been talking for years about what would happen when you woke up, and the last thing we expected is this confidence, this, well, exuberance you’re showing."
"In other words, you didn’t expect Gabrielle."
"Exactly," Ron agreed, staring at her.
Gabrielle fluffed her hair and shot an innocent look at him.
"She’s dangerous," Ron said flatly.
"Extremely," Harry agreed happily. "She’s also my girlfriend," he added proudly, "and I’m still getting used to that idea." He grinned at Ron, "And much easier for me to ask out than Cho."
Ron laughed, "I’d almost forgotten about that. You know she and Cedric broke up?"
"Yeah, he’s the Seeker for the Wanderers now. She’s playing for the Harpies."
"Wow, are they that good?"
"No, they are as bad as they always were; you were just a freaking genius in comparison," Ron said with a snort.
"Oh, right," he smiled. "I’m going to have to learn to play Chaser now."
"Yeah," Ron agreed. "I’ll bet you’ll be good at it though, and I want to play you at chess again. I spent enough time talking about it to you; you should be able to give me a great game."
"Sounds like a great idea," Harry said. "And Hermione, not even slightly interested in the Potter library?"
Hermione smiled at him. "Do you have any idea what’s in it?"
"Nope," he replied. "But from what I’ve heard, it rivals Hogwarts’."
"When you find it, I’ll be there," she promised.
Harry smiled at both of them, somewhat relieved that despite their age, they still had the same base personalities — they would still be friends.
"Anyone got any questions for me?"
"Many," Fleur sighed. "But none I could get past my sister."
Gabrielle smiled angelically at her.
"Brat," Fleur muttered.
"Percy, are you here on behalf of the Ministry?"
"I might have forgotten to mention to Minister Fudge that you were awake, and he rarely turns up at the office before lunch, anyway. He’s going to have a bit of a surprise when he gets in."
Harry grinned. "Have you ever thought of a different career?"
"A few times. Why?"
Harry winked at him. "I’ve got a few plans. When they’re a bit more formalised, we’ll talk more. You still with Penny?"
He nodded. "And under rather heavy pressure to formalise our relationship," he said, with an oblique look at his parents.
Harry laughed. "I’ll have to meet with Penny soon, never really did get to know her."
"And she wants to meet you. She wasn’t on your access list, although I will admit to consulting her for some ideas about what to talk about."
"Cool," Harry said with a cheerful grin. He looked at his watch. "I think we’re going to need to do some smaller group sessions now. Percy, Gabbi and I will pop around to your place for dinner tonight, is that okay?"
"We’d be delighted."
"We’ll start with the five of us for a bit," he said, indicating himself, Gabbi, Sirius and the twins, "then after that, we’ll talk to Professor Dumbledore, and finally Ron and Hermione and I can go off on our own."
Ron and Hermione nodded.
"Molly, Arthur, Bill, Fleur, Charlie, we’ll come around to the Burrow after dinner with Percy. Ginny, if you want to be there, bring Neville."
"I’ll have some hot cocoa ready," Molly promised.
"Professors, we’ll talk about my joining the usual classes tomorrow morning?"
McGonagall and Flitwick both smiled at him.
"Remus, Tonks, lunch tomorrow? Bill, Fleur, meet up after that?"
The four in question nodded.
"Sirius, Fred, George, you’re with me." He stood, reached for Gabrielle’s hand and walked out the door, down the stairs and out of Hogwarts.
Gabrielle moved closer and slid his arm around her.
He followed a path that he had taken many times before, one that he had walked what seemed like twenty-four hours ago, yet he had not trod for so many years.
He pulled to a stop next to the lake and looked out for a second. He smiled briefly as one of the Giant Squid’s tentacles broke the water. Some things didn’t change, and that was vaguely reassuring.
"Harry?" Sirius called softly.
He turned and looked at the older man and sighed. "I’m disappointed in you."
"What?" Sirius demanded in surprise.
Harry slowly sat down, his back against a tree. Gabrielle sat between his legs and rested her back against his chest. He slid his arms around her, and inhaled deeply. "An Auror? Working for the Ministry? What happened to Padfoot, the prankster, the most legendary Marauder?"
"You’re Padfoot?" Fred gasped.
Sirius blushed slightly and nodded.
"But you’re one of our heroes!"
"Remus is Moony, and my dad was Prongs," Harry added. "We won’t talk about Wormtail, for obvious reasons."
"Wow," George whispered in awe.
"So, what happened to you two?" Harry asked, changing the subject abruptly.
"We couldn’t make it go," Fred said sadly. "We tried, but we could never seem to save enough money to get a shop, and well, people seemed to lose interest in pranks, so no one would lend us the money."
"So we got a job working for the Ministry. We’re sanitation experts."
"Trash men?" Harry demanded.
They nodded sheepishly.
"And you haven’t got a strange attachment to the job?"
"Not really. It pays the bills, and allows us enough time to keep our hand in, for old times’ sake."
"Right, listen up. You two are going to go in tomorrow morning and resign immediately. You are then going to meet up with my goblin advisors, where you’ll sign a business contract with me. We, my friends, are going into partnership. I’m providing the capital, and you two are providing the ideas, tentatively valued at 33% each of the enterprise, which is your outlay.
"When you have signed that, you will choose a property to work from, and start hiring. You’ll need an accountant and a solicitor, the last one to cover your back, in case items go wrong.
"We’ll give you a few months to build enough products, and you’ll get the same salary you’re on now during that period, and of course, all the materials will come from the company.
"When we’ll ready, we’ll launch a range of Harry Potter pranking products as well as everything else, and we’ll start raking it in.
"When we’re on a firm financial footing, we’ll put our heads together and try to come up with something we can sell to the Muggles. There are a lot more of them than there are of us, and we’ll need to be able to exploit that — along with their cash.
Fred looked at George.
George looked at Fred.
"Are we allowed to build our own private shrine to you?" George asked softly.
"Your girlfriend seems to be standing between you and a hug."
"I know," Harry agreed with a grin. "But in this one case, I’ll allow it."
Gabbi laughed softly and stood smoothly, allowing him to get to his feet.
Fred and George both pounced on him, grabbing his hands and whirling him around and around merrily. "We can’t thank you enough," they said together. "We knew things would change when you woke up, but this? This is far beyond our wildest dreams!"
"We won’t let you down," Fred promised.
"I know," Harry smiled.
"George, isn’t our hated boss at work at this moment?"
"He is indeed!"
"Sounds like someone who wouldn’t appreciate a good prank," Harry interposed.
"Exactly," Fred cheered. "Harry, we’d love to stay and worship, but we have jobs to quit and bridges not just to burn, but to eradicate entirely!"
"Go, have fun. We’ll talk tomorrow."
The two bounced off, literally jumping with happiness.
"They’ve not been like that for years," Gabrielle whispered as she hugged him from behind. "You’re already changing the world."
"Why are you disappointed in me?" Sirius asked.
"Exactly what are you doing with the Black fortune?"
"The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, that family that you are the head of — what are you doing with it?"
"Nothing! I wouldn’t touch a penny of that diseased money!"
"I thought you had more imagination than that," Harry sighed. "Don’t you want revenge?"
"What do you mean?"
"You’re going to hire a manager for the money, and you’re going to build Muggle orphanages, you’re going to make Black properties into tourist attractions, a school for Muggle-born children, anything we can think of that will make your dearly departed roll in their graves!"
"I think I love you," Sirius whispered in awe. "You’re a genius."
"He’s taken," Gabrielle pointed out calmly.
"Not like that," Sirius groaned.
"Do you like being an Auror?"
"It’s not as exciting as I’d hoped," Sirius confessed. "I only took the job because Albus suggested it."
"In that case," Harry grinned. "It’s time for Lord Black to hit High Society. Your philanthropy will open many doors, and if you think you’re going there alone, the years have really played with your marbles."
Sirius winced. "But those parties are always boring!"
"Which is why we’re going to liven them up," Harry said slowly, as if talking to a six- year-old.
"Oooh, oh!" Sirius said as his eyes cleared. He looked at Harry straight. "When you were unconscious, a lot of us didn’t quite know what to do. It didn’t feel right celebrating with you not there, and we just kinda fell into roles and stayed there. It is so good to see you like this, and well, you’re just like what would have happened if you’d combined Lily’s brains with James’s ideas, insanity, and charm."
Harry smiled lightly. "Which, when you consider that I am their son, makes a lot of sense. So, are you going to do it?"
"And turn down an order from the Son of Prongs? Are you kidding?"
"You are going to have to get a girlfriend," Harry pointed out. "I’ve got one. You do like girls, don’t you? Because if you’d prefer boys, that’s fine, but I’d like to know about it."
Sirius glared back. "I’ve got a few girls I could ask," he admitted.
"Excellent. I’ve got someone in mind to take care off all the details for you; I’ll send them around to see you tomorrow."
"Do I want to know who it is?"
"Not until I’ve asked them."
Sirius shook his head and laughed. "I’ve not felt this free for years," he shouted. "I have to go tell Moony!" He jumped into the air and was in his dog form before he landed. He bounded off, barking merrily.
Gabrielle squirmed around and kissed him deeply. "This is what I dreamt of," she whispered. "You’re taking charge and just fixing things, but I didn’t dare dream you’d do it so easily."
Harry shrugged lightly. "I’ve got eight years to catch up on, and for two of those years I was kind of awake and aware on some level of what was going on. I get flashbacks occasionally of people talking to me."
"Shall we go to Dumbledore’s office?" Gabrielle asked. "My Pensieve is in there, for safe keeping, and very well warded against uninvited viewers. You can see Olympe and Hagrid’s wedding."
Harry nodded and slid his arm around her waist, holding her close.
Dumbledore was sitting in a low armchair; Ron and Hermione were to his left, sitting together on a loveseat, there was a second loveseat to Dumbledore’s right, and a coffee table in the middle. On the table was a tea set with five cups.
"Before we start," Gabrielle said as they entered the headmaster’s office, "I think Harry deserves to see some of the memories I’ve been saving for him, to help him acclimatise further."
"Or do you just want to pass him some message before we talk?" Hermione asked quietly.
Gabrielle smiled brightly at her. "You’re the genius, not me."
"Right," Hermione said sourly. "I don’t suppose you’d allow us to look in as well?"
"Sure, but the first part is for Harry only."
"Should I be worried?" Harry asked.
She shook her head and led him over to the side. She could see Dumbledore wave his wand, and her Pensieve appeared, next to the Headmaster’s Pensieve.
"I’ll come out and get you in a minute," she said to the others, before looking at her boyfriend. "Ready?"
When she opened her eyes again, she was at the start of the memory she wanted to show him.
It was Olympe and Hagrid’s wedding.
Gabrielle looked at herself in the mirror and sighed. Here she was, eleven years old, and she still didn’t have any boobs. It just wasn’t fair, and no matter how she looked at herself in the mirror, they didn’t seem to grow.
At least her legs were starting to show signs of gaining curves. Her face was slowly starting to mature as well, which was a good thing, as she was starting to get a hint of what she would look like when she reached Fleur’s ancient age.
She looked at her knickers in the mirror and sighed. She had yet to persuade her mother that she needed real lingerie. Still, the hearts were kinda cute.
"Gabrielle, are you ready yet?" her mother shouted through the door.
"Five minutes," she shouted back, and reached for her white tights. One day she was going to be able to wear stockings, with garters, preferably for her Prince, but for now she had to stick with tights.
She pulled them up before pulling the bridesmaid dress over her head and doing up the zipper. She stepped into a pair of low heels and surveyed herself again. She looked good, like a little angel. She smiled before practising some of her favourite looks. Her most effective one at the moment was wide-eyed confusion.
She reached down and picked up a tiara, placing it on her head. There, a perfect Princess, albeit one without either her Prince, who was sleeping a few hundred miles away, or boobs, which were something the Prince was undoubtedly going to want.
She very carefully reached up and moved her tiara so it was slightly off-centre and walked out.
"There you are," her mother said. "Don’t you look wonderful?"
She smiled innocently.
"You’ve not quite got your tiara on straight. Here, let me do it."
"Thank you, Mama," she said softly.
"You’re very welcome, my dear," her mother said.
Gabrielle smiled. It hardly took any effort on her part to make her mother happy, and it was definitely worth doing to see that look on her face.
Gabrielle looked at her boyfriend’s face and smiled. He was blushing, but seemed amused as well. She hadn’t been worried about showing him the memory of her mostly naked, but had been a little concerned that he wouldn’t get the point of what she was trying to show him. That, yes, she was manipulative, but she wasn’t evil with it. Allowing her mother to fuss always made her happy, so if she just happened to make sure that she wasn’t perfect, surely that wasn’t a bad thing.
She slipped out of the memory smoothly and looked over at the three people waiting patiently. She could tell that they didn’t trust her, and she didn’t blame them. They’d learn sooner or later that she was going to win — she always did — and that the only ulterior motive she had involved her Prince, and a fairy tale ending.
"Ready?" she asked them.
They quickly joined her, and she fell back into the memory, snuggling into Harry as she watched the wedding again.
Gabrielle looked around the old house with her hands on her hips. These events always seemed like so much work for her, because she knew that no one would be able to get anything done without her.
She decided to start with Madame Maxime, and walked to the left quickly, absently bypassing guests who might want to talk to her. Being sneaky was almost second nature for her.
Olympe was sat in a large chair, staring at a mirror, only half dressed. She was alone, and seemed a little depressed.
Gabrielle moved a chair behind the large professor and stood on it, and started to brush the half-giantess’s hair. "The Hall looks really pretty," she said innocently.
"I’m glad," Olympe replied with a half smile on her face.
Gabrielle smiled back encouragingly. "I like Hagrid," she said. "He treats me like a grown-up."
"He is good with kids," Olympe agreed.
Gabrielle rolled her eyes internally. Obviously, the subtle approach wasn’t going to work. "Will I be able to babysit when you have children?" she asked.
"You are going to be married, and married people make babies, don’t they?"
"Married people who aren’t running a school," Olympe said sadly. "I like doing what I am doing."
Gabrielle kept brushing the hair carefully, hiding her amazement that people couldn’t see the obvious, even when it was handed to them on a plate. "Then Hagrid can raise them. He likes babies."
Olympe froze. "He does?" she half asked, half stated.
"Of course," Gabrielle said absently. "He was telling me the other day how much he likes newborns, and you do know how proud of your job he is. I thought you’d already talked about it."
"No," Olympe said softly.
"Wait â€˜til you see all the pretty flowers," Gabrielle said, changing the subject to something more mindless before the Headmistress started to get suspicious. "I’m going to steal one later for my scrap book."
"That’s a very good idea," Olympe agreed.
"And I can’t wait to start at Beauxbatons," she continued, working as hard as she could to babble. It was harder than it seemed. "It’s going to be so much fun."
"I’m sure it will be," Olympe said with a small laugh. "And we’re looking forward to having you."
"I got you your drink," Fleur said as she walked back into the room. "Oh, Gabrielle, I’m glad you’re here. A bride shouldn’t be left alone on her wedding day," she paused, and then grinned at Olympe, "she might have second thoughts."
"Of course Madame Maxime wasn’t having second thoughts," Gabrielle said as innocently as she could. "She knows how much Hagrid loves her, and how much he’ll spend the rest of his life making her happy. And they’ll live happily ever after."
"Indeed," Olympe agreed.
Gabrielle handed the brush to Fleur. "You can take over now," she said, and bounced down and dashed out the room. As soon as she was outside, she skidded to a stop and crept back to eavesdrop.
"I hope she wasn’t too annoying?" Fleur asked.
"What? No, not at all, she actually helped me work through a problem."
"Oh, I’m sure it wasn’t on purpose, but sometimes you need a different perspective."
Gabrielle smirked to herself. Now it was time to work on Hagrid, and make sure he didn’t do anything silly.
She skipped merrily across the grounds toward the groom’s quarters.
"’Allo â€˜Agrid, Profezeur Flitwick," she said slowly, in a deliberately atrocious accent. She didn’t want anyone to know that she was now fluent in both languages. It was far easier to listen in when people didn’t think she could speak their language well enough to understand them.
"Good morning, Gabrielle," Flitwick said, beaming at her. "You are looking lovely this morning."
"T’ank you," Gabrielle replied slowly. "You both lookin’ pretty."
Hagrid beamed at her. He’d had a beard trim, and his hair had been cut as well. He didn’t look bad, and the suit had been especially tailored for his half-giant heritage.
"Are you looking forward to ze wedding?" she asked Hagrid.
He nodded, his beard moving up and down like a sentient bush. It fascinated Gabrielle in a slightly creepy way. She wished that Flitwick wasn’t around; he was a little too clever for her liking, and she always had to be careful around him.
"Filius," Albus Dumbledore called from the corridor. "Can I have a few minutes of your time?"
"I will keep â€˜Agrid company," Gabrielle offered hesitantly.
"Thank you, Gabrielle," Filius said as he scurried out.
"Good man, Dumbledore," Hagrid said approvingly.
Gabrielle again fought the urge to roll her eyes at him. He was a nice enough guy, but his independent thought patterns were not fully developed.
"So, are you looking forward to babies?" she asked cheerfully, switching to French. It had taken several teachers over eight months to teach him to speak the language, but he was now semi-decent with it — and he spoke it without the dreadful accent he had when speaking English.
He smiled at her. "Babies, Gabrielle? Aye, they might come along at some stage. Olympe has her career to worry about first."
"What are you going to be doing?" she asked innocently.
His beetle-like eyes blinked at her. "What do you mean?"
"If Madam Maxime is doing her career and can’t have babies, what are you going to be doing?"
"Working," he said slowly.
"Oh, so you prefer working to babies," Gabrielle said as if it made sense to her now.
"Well, no," Hagrid admitted.
"So why don’t you offer to raise the babies, so that Madam Maxime can work," she said, pleased that she didn’t have to be subtle around him — in fact, the only subtlety she could use would be a sledgehammer to pound an idea into his head.
"Have you seen the flowers?" she asked, decided it was time to change the subject.
"I have. Aren’t they beautiful?" he said.
Filius rejoined them, "It’s almost time," he said to Hagrid.
"Oh, I should get in position," Gabrielle gasped dramatically, and rushed out the room, leaving the Best Man and groom in her wake.
She walked into the Hall the wedding was going to be held in and paused by the door. She was planning on saving this memory for when her Prince woke up, and wanted to make sure she had every detail correct.
The chairs that were lined up in front of the arch that they would get married under were all larger than normal, and there was a charm that would make everyone who entered the room grow roughly a third in size.
To the left there was an open brazier with a fire in front of it. To the right was a table full of flowers, a carefully arranged collection of St Cecelia, Tower Bridge, Yves Piaget and Purple Tiger roses, all hand-tied with fresh lavender, rosemary, mint and jasmine trails.
She walked over to the table and inhaled deeply, committing the almost intoxicating smell to memory. She turned back and looked over all the chairs from the front. Each one had an individual bouquet of flowers on the back, and a small service book on the chair.
She smiled to herself and went to find her mother, so that she could be ordered to join Madame Maxime before the guests started to arrive.
The next hour seemed to pass in a flash as everyone had a last minute panic about getting things ready on time. Well, everyone but her. Everyone seemed far too wrapped up in the immediacy to sit back and realise that all this frantic rushing around was counter-productive.
Eventually, Olympe was ready, and Gabrielle stood next to her sister and followed the half-giantess down the corridor and into the Hall. She kept her face as solemn as befitted an event like this, running her eyes over the crowd for people her Prince might know. There weren’t as many as she might have liked, but then, there was no reason for most of them to be there.
She eventually stopped with Fleur, and flashed her best smile at Professor Dumbledore, who was officiating. It hadn’t taken her long to realise that he was going to be her main obstacle in getting her Prince. It wasn’t that he was an evil wizard, intent on foiling her plans; it was more that he was the wizened advisor to the king, playing his own games.
She was going to have to be very careful around him; still, he had a weakness, and that was his own cleverness. All she had to do was pretend to be in awe of how clever he was — and he was very clever — and he would continue to underestimate her.
As Dumbledore invited everyone to sit, she took her place next to Fleur and scanned the crowd again. Ron was there, on the groom’s side, and next to him was Hermione, the wicked-step-sister. Ron had hit puberty hard — and puberty had hit back, turning him into a lanky boy who almost didn’t need the spell to sit in the oversized seats.
Hermione looked more like a teenage girl now, pretty, but not a Princess and Gabrielle grudgingly admitted that she wasn’t an ugly step-sister either.
Remus was at the back, with the other Hogwarts Professors, looking dignified in his robes. He was an unknown in her plans, as she didn’t really know him that well, and had no way of doing so. He didn’t spend much time at the Weasleys’, and was always busy at Hogwarts.
Bill was on the bride’s side, sitting next to her parents. She was going to have to work on him later. He seemed reluctant to propose, and she guessed it was due to financial issues.
She stopped looking around and paid attention to the ceremony, so that her Prince would be able to enjoy it later.
The service was traditional for a Wizarding couple, and had aspects from every major religion in the world, as they asked the Supreme Being — the Source of all Magic — to bless the relationship, before two doves were released into the air.
There was a loud cheer from the crowd as Dumbledore pronounced them Man and Wife, or more likely, Woman and Husband, in that marriage.
The memories flew by as she posed for the official pictures and made a mental note to save a few for her Prince - she did look good.
The speeches at the reception weren’t too bad, although most were delivered in English — which was a fine language, but it just wasn’t anywhere near as romantic as French, and she bit her lip to stop herself saying something that would give her game away.
After the reception, she quickly collared Bill and made him dance with her. "Fleur looks pretty today," she said, as she carefully guided him around the room, keeping her toes away from his feet.
"Beautiful," Bill agreed.
"So why aren’t you asking her to marry you?" she asked, deciding that she didn’t need to be subtle about this.
Bill sighed. "Because being a Curse Breaker doesn’t make enough money."
"Am I going to have to throw a fireball at you?"
"You just called my sister a whore!"
"No, I didn’t."
"Yes, you did. You said that she wouldn’t bed you unless you had enough money!"
"That wasn’t what I meant."
"So you do admit that my sister doesn’t care for money?"
He mumbled a "Yes."
"So what is keeping you from asking her?"
"Pride?" he offered with a heartfelt sigh.
"Is pride worth both of you being upset? I’ve read her diary. She wants to be â€˜Mrs Bill Weasley.’"
She grinned innocently at him. "How else would I know? So, are you listening carefully?"
"You will go to my parents tonight and ask for their permission to marry Fleur. Mum will give you her engagement ring. You’ll take Fleur for a walk around the grounds, and propose under the apple tree. She’ll say â€˜yes,’ and you’ll announce it after Hagrid and Madame Maxime have gone on holiday."
"You are scary at times. But that is what Fleur wrote in her diary, right?"
"But of course."
Bill took a deep breath. "I’ll do it."
She gave him a wide smile, and carefully danced him around the room so that she could swap with her father. She didn’t feel like smiling inside anymore. What was wrong with these people? Why did they have to be forced to be happy? Wasn’t that the point to life?
She placed her head on her father’s chest and closed her eyes. Dancing with him was always so natural; she just imagined that it was her Prince holding her as they moved around the dance floor.
She watched the faces of the others as the memory ended.
She turned to face Harry, trying to decipher his expression.
"Fleur doesn’t keep a diary, does she?" Harry asked.
She shook her head.
"I’m so glad you’re on my side," he said softly.
"There is no other side for me," she whispered back.
He opened his arms slightly, and she smiled, moving into his arms and holding him tightly. Reality was much better than fantasy.
She turned in his arms and looked at Ron, Hermione and Dumbledore. They were all looking bemused.
Harry picked her up and carried her over to the chair — it was a simple movement, like a Prince carrying his bride across the threshold, and it thrilled her to her very core.
He sat down with her, and looked at the others. She snuggled into his chest, feeling a sensation of deep relief.
"I don’t suppose I could persuade you to try and take a step back from your relationship with Miss Delacour?" Dumbledore asked with a sigh as he sat down.
She felt his arms curl around her a little tighter, protectively.
"No," he said simply. "I killed Voldemort, and all the Death Scum. I deserve something for doing it, and Gabbi has chosen to be that."
She smiled and rested her head against his chest, hearing his heart beat slowly and firmly.
"Don’t," she said softly, aware that her voice would float across the table. "Don’t try and say something like â€˜she’s not a reward’ or â€˜you shouldn’t think of a girl like that’, you don’t and can’t understand what we’re talking about. None of you are Princes or Princesses. Different rules apply for those of us who are."
"You are dangerous," Hermione said flatly.
"Not to me," Harry replied calmly.
"How can you know that?" Hermione demanded. "You’ve known her for less than twenty-four hours!"
"Because she will never let me fall," he said simply.
"What does that mean?"
Gabrielle smiled against him.
"We’ll talk about it later," Harry said with a smile in his voice.
Ron leaned back and put his feet on the table.
"Ron," Hermione complained.
Ron looked at Hermione, and then Dumbledore. "If you want my advice, give it up, dear. We’ve lost a game we didn’t even know we are playing. The plans aren’t going to work, so let’s just enjoy having our best mate back."
"Plans?" Harry asked curiously. "Me as Minister?"
"See," Ron said. "We’ve been outfoxed."
"But," Hermione started.
"I’m afraid that Ron is right," Dumbledore admitted sourly.
"Of course I am," Ron said. "Did you know that the speech Gabrielle gave to Bill was not the last time she said something like that?"
Hermione turned to face him, a look of horror on her face.
"Yep," Ron agreed. "I was worried sick about asking you to marry me, when Gabrielle took me to one side, gave me a dressing-down for making you unhappy, and then told me what to say and how to do it."
"But it was so romantic."
Ron laughed under his breath. "And that didn’t give it away?"
Hermione paused and sighed. "I did wonder," she admitted. "I just thought you asked one of your brothers." She reached into a bag by her feet and pulled out a large stack of parchment. "Incendio," she muttered.
The parchment burst into flames.
"Well, can I at least tell you why we were thinking this?"
"Because you love me," Harry said softly. "You wanted me to have a fulfilling career and be able to make the country a better place, and you felt this was the best job available. You also wanted my help to kick-start the economy, and stand as a figurehead to encourage people to not to leave the Wizarding world after finishing Hogwarts. Too many of our best and brightest go back to the Muggle world and are successful there, and you wanted to try and help stop that to keep the magical world alive."
"Yeah, that," Hermione agreed with a slight smile. "And to get Fudge out of office," she added.
Ron stretched and smiled. "You know, I didn’t like it anyway, but I did like the ideas behind it. The world’s been dull without you, Harry."
"I’m fixing that," Harry responded. "Already started. It won’t be dull forever."
"My poor school," Albus mumbled.
"It could be time for retirement," Harry offered. "You are quite old now."
"Not old enough that I can’t still cope."
Harry smiled. "I’ll take your word on it. So, what were you thinking?"
Albus sighed. "Lemon drop?"
"Prevarication via confectionary? Now, is that a tactic to garner some time for the creation of a plausible statement of incomplete veracity, or just the act of a harmless old man?"
Dumbledore paused and slowly leant back in his chair. "I honestly don’t think anyone has ever asked me that before."
Gabrielle turned her head and looked at Ron and Hermione; they were sitting back, slight smiles on their faces.
"Is that why you avoided answering?" Harry asked.
"Indeed," Dumbledore agreed. "I’m trying to decide what to do with you."
"Would you like some advice?"
"Stop trying to manipulate me. You won’t win. Don’t get me wrong, you’re better at it than I can detect, but now I have Gabrielle, and if you didn’t heed her warning, then you’re not as intelligent as you think."
She felt Harry laugh softly. "She just told you what she is capable of, and I know you picked up on that fact. People trust a beautiful innocent girl just as much as they trust a slightly barmy old man, and she has my reputation backing her up," he said.
"You might even win for a while, but in the end, victory will be ours. We have everything on our side, including an intimate knowledge of your tactics.
"Or, you can leave me alone, and we can be friends. We’ll laugh and joke, you’ll be the favourite Headmaster who everyone likes to think is a little barmy, and I’ll probably come to you with questions and for advice, which I’ll take if I agree with it."
Dumbledore smiled faintly. "A most unusual conversation, and yet I find it stimulating all the same. You will obviously break any rules I place on you, and I am aware that you do not need to actually stay at Hogwarts."
"Indeed," Harry agreed. "So, we’ll talk tomorrow. Hermione, Ron, let’s go get a butterbeer for old times’ sake."
"Would it do me any good to point out that Gabrielle should be in class?" Dumbledore asked.
"At this stage, no."
"I thought not."
Harry grinned and stood, lowering her to the ground. She smiled at Dumbledore and walked with Harry out of the room. Something was playing on her mind, and she wanted to think it through.
She hardly noticed the walk down the path to Hogsmeade, as she mentally rewound a few things over the last day.
"You were plotting at the same time," she said slowly, looking at Hermione.
Hermione smiled — a real smile for a change. "I am impressed," she admitted. "I didn’t think you’d get it so quickly."
"Thank you," Gabrielle said slowly.
"My pleasure," Hermione replied. "I didn’t factor in your schemes, but they seem to have blended with mine perfectly."
Gabrielle nodded. "The future?"
"I’m all out of schemes."
"Me too, I’m just following now."
"Flip you for it," Harry said to Ron.
Ron pulled out a Galleon. "Call." He flipped it into the air.
"Dragons it is," Ron announced after catching the coin. "You or me?"
"I’ll do it, I’ve got an excuse."
"What are you two talking about?" Hermione asked.
Ron and Harry laughed together. "Exactly," they said in unison.
"Huh?" Gabrielle asked.
"What the hell are you two talking about?" Harry asked. "That is the question we were deciding to ask."
"Oh," Hermione said. "Gabrielle?"
"Basically, Harry, you didn’t react how anyone really expected when you woke up. You’ve been a little too autonomous, a little too distrusting of Professor Dumbledore, a little too conniving. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but it didn’t quite fit. Hermione’s smile when you were talking to Dumbledore sparked something in my mind," Gabrielle explained.
"Which was?" Harry asked.
"That someone else had some plans and had been helping you, not just me."
Hermione nodded and pulled out her wand. She cast a silencing charm around them. "I’ll try and make this story as brief as possible. It was Albus’ idea to keep you in stasis. The idea was that we would be able to stop you degrading while we found a cure.
"I must have read every book in the library trying to find a cure. Almost from the start, Albus started to bring up the idea of you fixing things in the Ministry.
"It didn’t make sense to me. Why would anyone want you — who had just defeated Voldemort — to have to do a job you’d hate?"
"I thought you agreed with him, at first," Ron interjected.
"I had to make it seem like that," Hermione confessed. "I wasn’t sure of anything at the time, so I started to look back at our history with him, and what had happened. I read…"
"Hogwarts: A History," Ron and Harry said together.
"Exactly," Hermione agreed. "No one, ever, had been through what Harry had been through going to school. No one had even been through what Ron and I had. Then Percy contacted me, and showed me a piece of paperwork he’d found.
"Albus had the power to stop you from competing in the Triwizard Tournament. In fact, he broke the law the instant you began to play in the first task."
"What!" Gabrielle demanded. "Harry could have been killed!"
"Exactly," Hermione agreed.
Gabrielle jumped to her feet, "I’m going to ki…" Her sentence was interrupted by Harry’s hand shooting out, grabbing her by the arm, and pulling her against him. She felt his lips press against hers as he kissed her hard, his hands going around her and stopping her from escaping.
She tried to protest for a second, but he used her open lips to slide his tongue into her mouth. As the sensations raced through her like wildfire, she dropped the thoughts of revenge and concentrated on kissing him back, closing her eyes.
Her entire world collapsed to the feel of her Prince holding her, kissing her, claiming her.
He broke the kiss and smiled gently at her. "We need to hear the end of the story before we make decisions."
She nodded slowly. Her Prince had pointed out the truth, and she felt embarrassed that she had lost her temper. "I’m sorry," she said as she turned to face the others.
Ron smiled at her; Hermione had a thoughtful look on her face.
"Anyway," Hermione continued. "I soon got to the bottom of the enigma that is Albus Dumbledore, who is truly the greatest wizard of our time. However, he has one fatal weakness, a profound confidence in his own cleverness — an arrogance, if you will — and with that, he has stopped looking at the people around him as individuals, but views them as chess pieces to be used in his game.
"He is not an evil man — manipulative to a fault, but not evil. He truly believes that he is doing the best thing for the many, but he has forgotten that the needs of the many do not outweigh the needs of the few. The many are nothing but a collective of individuals. I shudder to think just how things would have turned out with him in charge had you not managed to defeat Voldemort that night.
"So, with this discovery, I decided that I was not going to let him make you into a straw man for his ambitions, and I started to work against him. I spent some of the time with you talking about him, and what he is like, knowing that when you woke up, you’d remember enough, subconsciously at least, to stand on your own two feet and make your own decisions. I also made sure that everyone told you exactly what they thought was going on in the world at the moment.
"And to be honest, I couldn’t have been more pleased with the way things have turned out."
"That’s awfully Slytherin of you," Ron said slowly.
Hermione took a deep breath. "The Sorting Hat said that in the old days, he would have sorted me into Slytherin in an instant, but the current generation were a nightmare. I wanted to be in the same house that Harry Potter was obviously going to be Sorted into anyway, so I wasn’t concerned." She blushed and looked down.
"Me too," Ron said with a laugh. "It said that my ambition and desire to stand out from my brothers meant that I might find it better in Slytherin, and as I was a pure-blood, I’d fit in. I told it not to be so bloody stupid, that I was an idiotic Gryffindor to the core.
"You don’t mind, do you, Harry?" Ron asked. "When I was younger I hated that the Hat thought that I was like them."
"Me too," Harry added and shook his head. "Can you imagine what it would have been like with the three of us in Slytherin?"
"We’d have probably ended up exactly where we are today," Hermione said thoughtfully. "No house can change our base personalities that much."
"It does seem a little strange," Harry said slowly. "That so many people have been talking to my subconscious and trying to guide me one way or another."
"I swear that all I wanted was for you to stand on your own two feet," Hermione said solemnly. "I would never force my best friend to do something he hated."
Harry smiled and nodded. "I believe you, Hermione, and I’m very grateful. I like how I seem to have turned out. Anyway, to let you into my plans, I’ve got Fred and George quitting the Ministry today. They’ll be opening a joke shop soon. I’m going to have Dobby open a restaurant serving goblin, Wizard and Muggle food. Anyone non-goblin who eats a full portion of goblin food will win the meal for their party, free. Sirius will be handing over control of the Black fortune to me, because I’ve convinced him I can use it to prank all of his family’s traditions. I’ll be handing it to Percy later, and we’re going to use it to open orphanages, Muggle attractions — basically, anything we can think of. I’ve got the goblins looking at ways to hire Muggle-born graduates so that they can enter the world of Muggle banking."
Hermione and Ron looked at each other and burst out laughing.
"We’ve created a monster," Ron said cheerfully.
"You weren’t supposed to move this fast," Hermione explained. "We figured you’d spend some time getting used to the idea that everything had changed, that we’d changed, and we all spent far too long preparing our explanations for you. Of course, we didn’t know that the Princess over there was going to wake you up like she did."
"It was a potion," Gabrielle confessed. "I researched the origins of Sleeping Beauty, and found the potion that the wanderer used."
"An alley of research far too frivolous for me," Hermione confessed, "but a brilliant one, at that."
"Thanks," Gabrielle replied slowly. "So, what happens between us now?"
Hermione stared at her and she felt like her soul was being read.
"You are conceited, arrogant, sneaky, and manipulative," Hermione began. "Your intelligence is a little below mine, but you have an imagination that I do not possess, and that gives you flashes of pure genius. You are also stubborn, with an innocence that is mind-blowing. You truly believe that you are a Princess and that Harry is your Prince. Your psyche has adopted that as a fact, and your universe centres around him to a degree that most people are simply not capable of, nor would they want it. You are also fun, witty, and a genuinely nice person to people you like."
Gabrielle nodded in agreement.
"Jeez, Hermione, don’t hold back, say what you think," Harry said dryly.
Hermione flashed a smile at him, then turned back to look the younger girl directly in the eye. "I’d threaten you, but I don’t think you need it," she said to Gabrielle.
"I don’t," she replied evenly.
Hermione held out her hand. "Then I think it’s time we got to know each other as adults. I’m sorry for not letting you help. It was short-sighted and arrogant of me."
Gabrielle took it, and stood to embrace the older girl.
"You were right," Hermione admitted.
"So, you don’t mind this relationship?" Harry asked.
Hermione shook her head. "It’s been good for you. I’ve never seen you as happy as I have in the short time you’ve been awake. Gabrielle’s method of dealing with you is not how I would do it, but I have other priorities in my life — I’m Ron’s wife, after all — and I couldn’t do what she has done, and she has handled you waking up perfectly. Tell me, did you shout at her when she confessed what she’d done?"
Harry shook his head. "So, I’ve now got two spookily smart women in my life?"
Gabrielle grinned at him, aware that Hermione had an identical smile on her face. She frowned suddenly. "What are you now?" she asked Hermione.
Hermione considered for a long moment. "The Prince’s beloved sister?"
"There are not many fairy tales with those characters, though."
"True," Hermione agreed. "Actually, I think we’re both trusted court advisors."
Gabrielle nodded happily. "Okay."
"Why do we have to be fairytale characters?" Ron asked.
"Do you mind if I tell him?" Hermione asked.
Gabrielle shrugged. "You’re the one with a degree in psychology. I know who I am."
Hermione nodded, "I think you do, at that. Ron, I don’t think you understand what I said a bit ago.
"Gabrielle has literally trained her subconscious to believe that she is in a fairy tale."