Happily Ever After
Huge thanks, as always, to my beta readers, Gardengirl, Ishtar, Greywizard and Kokopelli.
"She believes that life is a fairytale? That’s ridiculous," Ron said.
Harry was nodding slowly, as if the idea made sense.
"No, not really," Hermione said. "All her life, Gabrielle has been treated like a Princess. Her father probably gave her that as a nickname when she was young. When Harry was knocked into unconsciousness, she couldn’t deal with it properly. She shouldn’t have seen a lot of what she did, but we hardly noticed that she was hanging around as we panicked. No one actually stopped to talk to her and explain what was going on.
"The only way for her subconscious to deal with the experience was to frame it in a way she could cope with — that Harry was a Prince, that she was a Princess, and that they would eventually be together."
"Is that bad for her?" Harry asked, with a look of worry on his face.
"Absolutely not," Gabrielle said firmly.
"In normal cases," Hermione said at a much slower pace, "it would be. A single event could bring down her whole mental state. However, Gabrielle is not human, so I don’t know enough to judge the long term effects. I will want to talk to you both about it soon," she added.
"What I do know, from talking to Gabrielle, is that it gave her a focus for her intelligence, and I can understand the benefits. My intelligence is a lot more normal; an organised mind, a retentive memory, and the ability to cross-reference facts at a huge speed. Gabrielle has that, to a slightly lesser extent, but she also has those flashes of intuition I was talking about. Without a focus, they could have led her into unsavoury areas. Imagine if Gabrielle had dedicated her life to being an assassin, a thief, or even the next Dark Lady."
Ron paled slightly. "How powerful is she?"
"Powerful enough, but she has an advantage that Voldemort never had — Veela power. I can think of at least two rituals that would increase the effect so that it was similar to the Imperius, only with a deadly twist, as people would want to help her, rather than being forced. It would be a hundred times harder to fight."
"There are four such rituals," Gabrielle murmured, "and it works out to about one hundred and fourteen times harder to fight."
"See," Hermione said with a small laugh. "That’s exactly what I’m talking about."
"Okay, enough about us," Harry said decisively. "What’s happened to you two?"
"Well, I work for the Ministry, in a brand new department."
"A department they created for her," Ron added.
"Yes," Hermione said with a slightly proud look. "I’m a psychologist attached to the Auror Corps, dealing with pure bloods and their bigotry. It’s fun, because not many of them are too terribly bright, and I can normally make productive members of society out of them with a little effort."
"As for me," Ron said. "Keeper for the Cannons."
"All right!" Harry shouted, jumping to his feet and hugging Ron. "That’s brilliant, both of you. I’m so proud I could burst!"
They both blushed as they beamed at him.
He walked over and hugged Hermione tightly as well.
"This is still weird for me," he confessed. "Forty eight hours ago, or so it seems to me, we were talking about the final task, and here you two are, all grown up, married… and hey, where’s the kids?"
"Just because the Wizarding world seems to like having kids early, doesn’t mean we do," Hermione said firmly. "I’ve been very careful with my contraceptive charms, as my husband could probably get me pregnant at ten paces without them."
"Yeah," Ron agreed cheerfully. "We both want children eventually, but we also want to be able to afford to raise them properly. I know Mum and Dad did wonders with us, but I had such a hang-up over our wealth, or lack of it, that it gave me problems that have lasted most of my life. I don’t want our children to have any."
"And is that the benefit of having a psychologist for a wife?" Harry asked dryly.
"Yep, bloody annoying, too, at times," Ron grinned. "I’m all ready for an argument, and she pops my balloon neatly, and before I know it I’m cooking tea and wondering what I was upset about."
Harry laughed and absently took Gabrielle’s hand, stroking her fingers.
It was this casual show of affection that she was starting to value most; these signs that he cared for her had her off-balance. Not that she had ever doubted that he would. No Prince in the fairytales ever turned down the beautiful Princess — especially when she finally grew boobs.
She moved her chair closer to his, and leaned against him. She was mentally tired in a way that she had never experienced before. Her mind was catching up with everything that had happened, how everything she had planned had worked, to one degree or another, and that after eight years of waiting, she was here, with Harry and his best friends, just talking and joking, while sipping a cold butterbeer.
All her life had been defined around grand gestures, outrageous public displays of affection, and scandalous behaviour — and it was a bit of a shock to find out that the small things mattered just as much.
She hadn’t really contemplated the minutiae of their relationship, and she was flying a little blind. It wasn’t something she was used to. She always thought things through at least four steps forward, and yet here she was, unsure what was going to happen next, and reliant on a Prince she couldn’t read and predict like she could everyone else.
"Gabrielle," Harry called.
She looked up at him, into his bright green eyes, eyes that were looking at her with such tenderness and caring.
"Yes, love?" she asked.
"Ready to go to Percy’s?"
"I will go wherever you lead," she whispered, before dragging her thoughts back to the here and now. She looked up to Ron and Hermione’s amused faces.
"We’ll see you at the weekend," Harry promised as he stood. "I’m not going to be trapped at Hogwarts."
"Excellent," Hermione smiled. "How about you come over for a meal on Sunday evening?"
Harry nodded. "We need to go house-hunting first. Potter properties to find."
"We know," Ron said. "Saturday we like to spend the morning in bed, reading the papers."
"You can read?" Harry asked in shock.
"Git," Ron laughed. "Yes, I can read. Hermione taught me when I got my first contract. It was written in this strange language I’d never seen before: legalese."
"I’ve heard of that," Harry said, before striking a pose. "If any phrase, clause, sentence, section, subsection or provision of this speech is found to be unconditional garbage, unenforceable, or invalid with respect to any condition or circumstances, then every other phrase, clause, sentence, section, subsection or provision of this speech which can be made applicable to such condition or circumstances without the offending phrase, clause, sentence, section, subsection or provision shall be held applicable to such condition or circumstances as if the offending phrase, clause, sentence, section, subsection or provision of this statute were not present, and to such ends all of the phrases, clauses, sentences, sections, subsections or provisions of this speech are declared to be severable."
Hermione groaned under her breath. "That was Bill, wasn’t it? Only goblins have such an archaic way of saying so very little with so very much. I translated Gobbledegook out of curiosity once, and one of their children’s books was written like that."
Ron took the easier option and threw the cushion he was sitting on at Harry.
"What does the psychologist think of this violence?" Harry demanded.
"That it was a completely justified and natural reaction to such appalling provocation," Hermione retorted.
Harry pouted at her. "I can tell when we’re not wanted," he said to Gabrielle. "Shall we depart, exit and vacate the premises?"
"If you’re going to talk like that, I’m with them," she teased.
"Et tu, Gabrielle," he declaimed dramatically. "And yes, I had read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, before I went to sleep, so that was definitely me!"
"It’s all you," Hermione pointed out gently. "Think of what happened as sitting in Binns’ class, learning while you slept. We gave you the information, but it’s up to you how you access those memories and use them in everyday life."
"That makes me feel better," Harry said seriously. "So, two kisses?"
"Excuse me?" Gabrielle asked.
"For you to come with me. Three kisses?"
"Ten," she bargained.
"Done," he agreed.
"I don’t think that’s how bargaining’s supposed to work," Ron pointed out. "Now get out of here, you crazy kids."
"Damn it, are you going to hold your old age against me?"
"If I need to," Ron said smugly.
"Is that why you’re going grey at the temples?" Harry asked, as he grabbed Gabrielle’s hand and moved with her out of the Three Broomsticks.
They paused by the door.
"I’m not going grey, am I?" Ron asked Hermione plaintively.
Gabrielle laughed. "So, ten kisses," she said.
"Indeed," Harry agreed. "We need to get back to Hogwarts so we can fly to Percy’s."
"Why not take the Floo?"
"Because I hate the damn thing!"
"It has been improved," Gabrielle promised. "And I’ll hold your hand."
She nodded and smiled at him. "And if you fall, you’ll fall on top of me, and you know how much you like that."
He laughed and wrapped her arms around her, lifting her up and swinging her around before kissing her firmly.
"Nine more," she whispered.
"Do I have to stop when I get to zero?"
He laughed and they re-entered the pub. Ron and Hermione had already left, presumably by the Floo, and she led him into the green fire, calling out their destination with a firm voice.
As they flew past the grates, she felt him tighten his arm around her and kiss her again. The rush of the air, combined with the high speed they were travelling, made her gasp; she instinctively wrapped her legs around him and held on for dear life.
When she opened her eyes they were standing in Percy’s kitchen, perfectly still. "That," she said softly as she broke the kiss and reluctantly unwrapped her legs from his waist, "is how you do the Floo."
"I have never tried that technique," Percy said in an amused voice.
"Wow," Gabrielle said again. "You should," she said as she looked at the woman she presumed was Penelope. She had never seen her before.
"Gabrielle Delacour," she introduced herself.
"Welcome to our house," Penelope said with a welcoming smile.
"Thanks," Harry said. "It’s good to see you again."
"It’s better to see you awake and changing the world," Penelope replied.
"Oh?" Harry asked.
"I had an interview today; Gringotts want me to transfer jobs."
"Good," Harry said cheerfully. "I’m glad that Grapplegus isn’t hanging around."
"He, well, his underlings at least, speak very highly of you both. Gabrielle is rumoured to be frighteningly violent, while you have evidently managed to negotiate free banking for life."
Gabrielle blushed demurely. "I’m not all that violent," she said with an innocent smile.
"Right," Percy said slowly. "And I go to work in tatty jeans and a dirty, crumpled t-shirt, smelling of doughnuts and stale beer. But, enough talk, would you care for a drink?"
"Please," Gabrielle said, as they followed Percy into the dining room. There was a large oak table in the middle, with four chairs around it. Percy held out a chair for her, and she sat daintily, already in Princess mode.
Harry sat opposite her and smiled across the table.
"Please," she replied for both of them. "Harry has a new found interest in wine."
"Really?" Percy asked eagerly. "I love wine; collecting it is my main hobby."
"Don’t remind me," Penelope’s voice echoed from the kitchen.
Percy grinned at the door as he pulled out a bottle from a large rack. "I think Lord Byron said it best when he said â€˜ â€˜Tis pity wine should be so deleterious, for tea and coffee leave us much more serious.’"
Gabrielle laughed softly, "I always preferred Homer, from the Odyssey. â€˜Wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile.’"
"A woman after my own heart," Percy said with a grin. "Harry, you’ve managed to catch a champion here."
"I think I was the one that was caught," Harry said, smiling into her eyes. "Not that I’m complaining."
"I should hope not," Penelope said as she brought a wicker basket full of large slices of bread in, and placed it on the table in front of them.
"I was going to go for something fancy, but then I realised that you’d probably just want something you can eat a gallon of, so I’ve made some Spag-bol."
"Brilliant," Harry beamed.
"Spag-bol?" Gabrielle asked, not recognising the term.
"Spaghetti Bolognaise," Percy clarified. "Which is why I’m serving this rather splendid red. Mind you, the sauce has half a bottle of red in it already."
"I’m hungry enough to eat a horse," Harry admitted. "We’ve been flitting around since I woke up, and we’ve had about three hours sleep and one meal."
"Then you’ve come to the right place," Percy said conspiratorially. He looked around, as if afraid that he might be overheard. "My girlfriend is one of the few people on the planet who is a better cook than Mum."
"Really?" Harry asked.
"No," Penelope said as she carried a steaming pot into the room, placing it next to the bed. "But I can feed him."
"And she does, I have had to start exercising to work off her wonderful meals."
"Don’t stand to attention," Penelope said as she brought the pasta and a large bowl of parmesan cheese into the room. "Dig in. Harry, you go first."
"Yes, Ma’am," he agreed eagerly, and piled a large amount of pasta and enough sauce to float a small ship onto his plate. Gabrielle was grateful that Penelope had cooked a lot, as she helped herself to a plate that was almost as big as Harry’s. She couldn’t remember the last proper meal she had eaten — apart from breakfast — and felt that was likely a cause of her unusual self-examination earlier.
"So," Harry said, as they had all settled. "What do you know about orphanages?"
"Strange question," Percy mused. "I know there aren’t enough, and that the ones we have are appalling. Apart from that, not much."
Harry twirled some pasta onto his fork and looked thoughtful. "I mentioned a job for you, so I’ll lay it on the table, and you can tell me what you think."
He paused to eat the pasta. "During my unfortunately elongated nap, Sirius did nothing with the Black family fortune, which is huge. He’s agreed that rather than not touch it, it would be much better if it was used for things that would make his family roll over in their graves. We’re going to make some of the Black properties into full-fledged orphanages, others into hotels for Muggles. So, what I want to hire you for is a supervisory position.
"It won’t be an easy job, as I’ll want you to try to break even — in that whatever money you can make from hotels and the like get poured back into the orphanages. You’ll have a lot of freedom, with only Gabrielle and me looking over your shoulder.
"You’ll have to learn a lot, both about how our laws work, and how Muggle laws work, so we’ll expect you to go on a hiring spree to start with. We want the brightest and the best working for us.
"At the same time, Sirius is going to enter High Society, using the social largesse generated by your work, and he’s going to help me turn it on its head — so that the only fashionable thing to do with money is to help those who haven’t got it."
"You’re talking about total wealth redistribution?"
"That, and having the hoi polloi eating out of our hands. We want it so that any attempt by the Ministry to shut us down in some way gets smacked down without us having to do anything about it."
Percy went silent and looked at Penelope for a long moment. "Salary?" he asked.
"Nine hundred a month," Harry offered.
Percy’s eyebrows disappeared into his hairline. He carefully placed his wine glass back down on the table. "How much?" he croaked.
Harry grinned at him; it was such an inviting expression that Gabrielle couldn’t help smiling as well. She loved watching him.
"Don’t think you won’t earn it," he said solemnly.
"He’ll accept, with one condition," Penelope said clearly.
Harry turned to her.
"That you’ll accept that if he spends the night out, I go with him."
"Of course," Harry said, as if the idea that she wouldn’t would be preposterous. "I want him to be happy; a happy worker doesn’t mind putting in the work needed."
"True," Penelope agreed and smiled. "I take it we’ll be able to join the parties as well?"
"If you want," Harry nodded. "We’ll let it be known that you control the purse strings."
"I accept," Percy said and smiled. He raised his glass. "To the future."
Gabrielle raised her glass and smiled at Harry. "To the future," she agreed.
"I have to give a month’s notice," Percy said.
"That should give me enough time to get everything organised. I’ll talk to you both long before that, anyway. I’ll probably see you at Gringotts, Penelope."
"Probably," she agreed with a smile.
"Thanks for a wonderful meal. I cannot remember the last time I ate like that… ever."
"Me neither," Gabrielle said. "I’m going to have to fly a few laps to work this one off. It was fantastic."
"Thank you," Penelope said. "You’re welcome anytime."
"We’ll take you up on that," he said. "I’m planning on having fun at school, but not really treating it as a boarding school anymore. When we find a place we like, we’ll live there and go to school every morning."
"I think it’s a good idea," Percy said approvingly. "You have no need to get any qualifications, but a formal education will stand you both in good stead for the rest of your lives."
"I just hope that your mother feels the same way," Harry said. "Somehow I don’t think she’ll accept my relationship with Gabbi quite as easily."
"She might surprise you," Percy corrected him. "Now, get off with you."
Harry saluted and wrapped an arm around Gabrielle. "Bye," they said in unison as they stepped into the fire and called out "the Burrow."
He wrapped his arms around her girlfriend, but didn’t kiss her; he was feeling a little too full to do so. He felt her burrow into his chest and looked down at her. Under her bright eyes he could see a tinge of exhaustion, and felt a little guilty for not realising that she didn’t have eight years of sleep to keep her going.
They arrived together in the Burrow’s living room.
"I recognise that look," Charlie said, in lieu of an official greeting. "They’ve just experienced one of Penelope’s feedings."
Harry laughed. "Yep, we’ve had enough pasta to keep the giant squid happy and enough sauce to make him sleep for a month."
"I do like Penelope," Molly said happily.
"Neville," Harry said, "it’s damn good to see you!"
"You too, Harry," Neville said, climbing to his feet. He looked healthy, a little shorter than Harry, and still slightly plump. "It’s been a long time, but for you, I guess it’s only been a few days."
"Exactly," he grinned. "It’s really strange seeing all my friends grown up and congratulations on your engagement. You picked a real fox."
Something flashed through Neville’s eyes, but was gone before Harry could identify it.
"Why don’t you two go for a walk," Gabrielle suggested. "I need a quiet chat with Molly, Ginny and the others about the wedding."
"Sure," Harry agreed. "Walking off that meal sounds like a plan to me." He led the Neville out of the house and through the garden, hopping casually onto the fence at the end.
"Did I mention that Hermione thinks that my girlfriend is a genius?"
"No," Neville replied.
"I saw something in your eyes, but I didn’t know what it was. Gabrielle, on the other hand, knew exactly what it was, and what caused it, and has sent us out here to talk about it. We’re going to do that, because I don’t know what she looks like disappointed, and I have no wish to find out."
Neville looked away. "Your girlfriend?" he asked.
"Ahh," Harry said slowly. "So you’re worried about my reappearance doing something to Ginny?"
"She did have a crush on you," Neville sighed.
"And she’s marrying you," Harry pointed out bluntly. "Look, I don’t really know Ginny very well. Sure, I saved her life once, but to me she was just the sister of my best mate, nothing more, nothing less. As pretty as she is, she’s like a candle next to a Lumos spell if I compare her to my Gabrielle. And you, my friend, need to realise that you are insulting her by doubting her heart."
"But she was so devastated when you were unconscious."
"And then she grew out of it and got on with her life over the next eight years," Harry said with an exasperated sigh. "Her crush faded away, you two started to date, and then you went on to ask her to marry you."
"Yeah," he smiled slightly. "I’m not normally this insecure, but well, you’re Harry Potter — The Harry Potter who wakes up from a coma and manages to snag Gabrielle Delacour — The Gabrielle Delacour — without blinking."
"A few people have mentioned that Gabbi is special, and your â€˜The Gabrielle Delacour’ backs it up. What’s up?" he asked curiously.
Neville smiled and seemed to relax. "Check out some of the back issues of Witch Weekly," he suggested. "When you combine her looks with her Quidditch ability and her intelligence, she is exactly the sort of person they like. She did a bit of modelling for them, and I wouldn’t be surprised if half the boys in the country have some of her pictures."
"Tasteful, I hope."
"Of course, from what I hear happened when you woke up, it’s the first time she’s been seen not wearing a shirt — she’s not even done a bikini shot for them."
Harry grinned. "Sounds like someone has a crush."
Neville shook his head violently. "I’m a photographer; I can appreciate the skill involved."
"Right, that’s your story and you’re sticking to it," Harry teased.
"Yep," Neville grinned back. "I’ve been foolish, haven’t I?"
"Yes. I’d go in and grovel for a minute or two. Although, you might not have to, Gabrielle’s probably explained everything."
"She has Hermione’s blessing then?"
"That’s quite remarkable. Hermione and Ron personally vetted everybody who visited you — they closed the list right down after the first few years. To be honest, mate, you were lucky."
"I know," Harry agreed. "I’m grateful, and I’m doing exactly what they wanted."
"What is that?"
"Living life, Nev," Harry grinned. "Come on, I’ve got a hankering for a hug, and you’re not the right person."
"I could be," Neville said and batted his eyelashes.
Harry laughed and pushed him away. "Not in a million years."
"True," Neville agreed. "Come on, I’ve got to make an apology. She might be shy and quiet, but when you get her wound up, well, the best thing to do is duck and cover."
"Probably gets it from Mrs Weasley," Harry suggested.
"Yeah," Neville agreed. "Between her and Penelope, it’s no wonder I can’t lose weight. Mind you, Ginny’s not much better."
"I’d suggest that perhaps she likes you this way," Harry said. "Remember, the mind of a woman is a strange and mysterious place, and is not safe for navigation by mere males."
Neville laughed. "Damn, I missed you," he said.
Harry grinned and opened the kitchen door, ushering Neville in.
Neville walked in and straight up to Ginny. Whatever he said caused an instant smile to appear of Ginny’s face, and she hugged him.
"So, I distinctly remember hearing about hot chocolate," Harry said to Mrs Weasley.
"I’ve got the milk simmering on the stove," she said happily. "Sit and I’ll go get it."
Harry dropped onto a couch and wasn’t surprised when Gabrielle sat on his lap. "There aren’t enough seats," she told him.
"Only because you put one in the kitchen," Charlie pointed out.
"Shush, you," Gabrielle said to him.
Harry laughed. "Are you happy wrestling dragons for a living?" he asked.
"Because if you ever want a different job, look me up. I’ve already got Fred and George working with me, and Percy’s going to start shortly. Penelope’s working on some suggestions I made to Grapplegus. Fred and George are going to start hiring shortly, and Percy will do the same. We’re going to raid the Ministry, the Prophet, and call up every Hogwarts graduate who has gone back to the Muggle world."
"Why are you doing all this?" Ginny asked softly.
"To stop the Wizarding world from vanishing," Gabrielle said from his lap. "Too many of the best people are leaving and not coming back. We want to keep them with us."
"And we’ll make a fortune," Harry grinned. "And we’re going to plough it back into socially responsible projects. The money isn’t important, but what we can do with it will be."
"Can I quote you on that?" Ginny asked.
"I work for the Quibbler."
"It’s the other Wizarding newspaper," Gabrielle said. "They’re a little weird."
"A little," Ginny agreed. "My best friend’s dad owns it. I love working there."
"Me too," Neville added. "Lovegood, the editor, is battier than Dumbledore."
"I’ll have to meet him," Harry said with a smile. "Anyone who can out-crazy Dumbledore must be worthwhile. But no, you can’t quote me at the moment. You can have an interview, but my plans are strictly â€˜family only’ at the moment."
"Really?" she gasped. "An exclusive?"
"Sure," he shrugged.
"This will kick the Prophet where it hurts," Ginny said happily.
"Charlie," Harry said, turning back to the other Weasley.
"I’ll remember," he promised. "But really, I’m like Bill — I love what I’m doing."
"That’s good to hear," Arthur said cheerfully. "You have surprised us, Harry."
"I tend to do that," he agreed. "And I’d like to blame Gabrielle, but really, she’s just been hanging on while I’ve been dragging her around."
"Hardly," Gabrielle replied tartly.
Harry grinned over her head.
"Careful," Molly said as she carried a large tray into the room. "It’s hot."
Gabrielle shifted in his lap, before reaching out and taking two mugs.
"You’re remarkably flexible," Molly noted.
"Years of dance lessons," Gabrielle explained. "I practice three times a week, and I’m so happy Harry’s learnt to dance."
"Really?" Neville asked in surprise. "You couldn’t at the Yule Ball."
"Your first date," Harry grinned.
"Yeah," Neville said and smiled at Ginny — who smiled back.
"You do remember who my best friend is?"
"Exactly. I have no idea how she did it, but I can now dance, cook, and cast all sorts of spells. That’s why I’m going to be at Hogwarts next year, so I can learn what I know and what I don’t know properly."
"And to have fun," Gabrielle added, blowing on her chocolate.
"And to spend time with Gabbi," Harry finished.
She turned and shot him a bright smile.
"So you don’t want to be Minister?" Molly asked. "Albus seemed to feel that you would love to do that."
Harry shook his head. "Not even slightly interested, not now. Maybe later when I’ve got some more life experience, but it would be ridiculous for someone of my age with no qualifications to run. People would vote for me because of what I’ve done, not what I can do. It would be both dishonest and bad for everyone involved."
Molly nodded slowly. "That does make a good deal of sense," she admitted.
"It’s good to know your limitations," Arthur agreed. "That sort of thing wouldn’t be good for me, either."
"What happened outside of Hogwarts after I went into my nap?" he asked as he took a sip of the chocolate.
"It was a remarkable time," Arthur said slowly.
"Yeah," Charlie agreed. "We had a party in Romania that I still remember fondly. Your name was toasted to the sky and back. Even the dragons seemed to pick up on it."
"Things were a little more restrained here, but for most people, it was a party. And then we turned up at work the next morning to find that a lot of pure-blood families had lost members, and that there were quite a few gaps in key places in the Ministry — so we had a lot of reorganisation, at Albus’ behest, and I ended up working for Madame Bones — the Director of Magical Law Enforcement. It was only a few years ago that I was able to escape back to my old job."
"And about time too," Molly agreed. "Arthur was coming home far too stressed for my liking. The extra money was nice, but I’d rather have a happy husband."
Harry nodded and gently lifted the cup out of Gabrielle’s hand. She snuggled harder into him.
"With people like Lucius Malfoy dead, Fudge lost a lot of internal influence, and he hasn’t really gained it back yet. The public think he’s doing a good enough job, and haven’t voted him out — yet — especially as he still seems to have Dumbledore’s backing."
"What about the economy?"
"It’s a mess," Neville said. "And no one seems to want to hear it. Ginny and I were lucky to get jobs. Padma and Parvati are unemployed, and are thinking of heading into the Muggle world. There are no jobs available as students leave Hogwarts."
"Really?" Harry said, "Can you get hold of them tomorrow? Tell them I want to talk to them urgently."
"May I ask what for?" Ginny said.
"I’m opening a restaurant."
"You are?" Molly asked.
"Aren’t there times when you’d like to go out somewhere special, and eat food prepared just for you, and know that it’s of high quality?"
"Well, yes, but we can’t normally afford those sorts of places."
"Ahh," Harry grinned. "The idea here isn’t to cater to the rich, but to the normal middle class. I’m going to be hiring a house-elf as the head chef, and I can guarantee that his cooking is almost as good as yours, Mrs Weasley. We’re going to serve goblin food as well as human food."
Molly nodded slowly. "That would be nice," she admitted. "Although it will be interesting to see a house-elf run a kitchen."
"If anyone can, it will be Dobby," Harry predicted.
"Is there anything you’re not doing?" Ginny asked with a small laugh.
"Running for Minister," Harry replied. "Apart from that, nope. I’m just having fun and going for it with a splash. You know, before my nap, I always kinda knew that I was going to have to deal with Voldemort. Now that he’s gone, I need something else to focus on. Gabbi will take most of my attention, and as to the rest, well, it’s just for fun."
"When was the last time you slept?"
"I had a few hours this morning," Harry admitted with a yawn, as the effect of the warm milk hit him.
"Right, you two, home," Molly said sternly, looking at Neville and Ginny. "Harry, you can take the guest room — it’s in Ron’s old room."
"You do know that…" he trailed off uncertainly.
"Hermione warned me that you are an adult now, and that she approves. That’s good enough for me."
"Thanks," he said, standing with Gabrielle in his arms. "She’s been running on adrenaline most of the afternoon and evening."
"You’ve got a good one there," Molly said. "I’ve had my eye on her for years, but she’s always acted in the best interest of others." She sighed, "I just wish she’d persuaded Percy to get married like she did Ron and Bill."
"She did touch on that earlier," Harry said with a small laugh. "She was quite persuasive, as she dealt with Penny’s reasons not to get married."
Molly beamed. "I do so love weddings. Take your girlfriend to bed, and I’ll have a nice breakfast waiting for you when you wake up."
"Night, Neville, Ginny. It was good to see you again. Charlie, Mr Weasley, I’ll see you in the morning." He leaned over and kissed Molly on the cheek.
She smiled at him and made a scooting motion.
The trip up to Ron’s old room was full of memories; he opened the door and smiled. The orange had been replaced with a soft cream, the room expanded so that the king-sized bed in the centre of the room didn’t dominate it.
"Gabrielle," he whispered. "You need to get ready for bed."
She slowly opened her eyes. "Only if you’re going to be in there with me," she said stubbornly.
"We have a bed," he pointed out.
"Not until we’ve played the cards," he said with a smile.
She looked sleepily amused and padded over to a chest of drawers and pulled out a t-shirt. She rolled her eyes at him and turned her back, stripping quickly and pulling the t-shirt on.
Harry kicked off his shoes and socks, pulled off his t-shirt and undid his jeans, letting everything fall into a mess.
Gabrielle climbed into bed the same time he did. He went to kiss her goodnight, only to find that she was already asleep. He laughed under his breath and then kissed her forehead; it didn’t take him long before he was asleep with her.
It was the knocking on the door that woke him up. "What?" he called groggily.
"We were wondering if you were planning another eight-year nap," Charlie’s voice echoed back. "Breakfast’s in half an hour. Mum got Dumbledore to bring a change of clothes over for you both this morning; they’re outside your door."
Harry looked down to see a pair of bright brown eyes looking up at him.
"This is the first, last and only time that we sleep in the same bed platonically," she said quietly.
He blinked at her.
"Not one single fairy-tale Princess ever did this voluntarily. The night before we didn’t really sleep, last night I was too tired, but I won’t have that level of exhaustion again. So either we sleep in public — Gryffindor Common Room or something, or you get used to the idea that we’re going to have a hell of a lot of sex. The idea of a â€˜chaste nap’ at night is ridiculously clichÃ© and there are no clichÃ©s in my fairytale."
"This is another of those things I should be upset about, but aren’t, right? â€˜Oh no, a beautiful girl wants to have sex with me, oh, woe is me.’"
"Exactly," she agreed.
"You don’t think that we’re moving too fast?"
She snorted eloquently. "I’m a Princess, you’re a Prince."
He smiled slightly at her. "Sometimes I wish I had your belief."
"You do, Harry," she replied. "You just have to learn to trust it."
He looked at her for a long moment. His brain told him firmly that this was illogical; that you just couldn’t make a lifetime’s worth of commitment in such a short time; you simply couldn’t make the decision to sleep with someone just like that.
His heart told his mind it was being incredibly stupid.
He tried very hard to ignore the third voice, the one that told the other two to shut up, and that he should just â€˜go for it.’
The second voice won. He opened his mouth, but she shook her head.
"See," she whispered as she kissed him quickly. "You just have to trust."
Gabrielle pushed up from him and climbed out of bed. "I’d recommend that you spend today remembering some of the things the boys taught you," she advised cheerfully. She opened the door and pulled the clothes in quickly, dumping them next to his feet.
She looked at him for a second before deliberately sliding the t-shirt up, shaking her head to free her hair, letting it fall down her back.
"I am the luckiest Prince in the world," he whispered as he stared at her. Wearing only a pair of high-cut French lace knickers, she promptly redefined his ideal of what a woman should be.
"This one’s free," she said, "tonight we’ll play cards."
He looked at her and then tried to laugh as she shrugged dramatically, but the laugh caught in his throat.
"Come here," he ordered.
She looked at him thoughtfully.
"Gabbi, come here," he said again. "We’ve got ten minutes before we have to be downstairs, and you don’t get to tease me like this."
She didn’t move, and he suddenly understood. He rolled forward and grabbed her, pulling her on top of him, feeling the way her breasts crushed against his chest, the heat of her nearly-naked body pressed against his. He slid his knee up, between her legs, and revelled in the feeling of her velvet soft skin that made the lace of her underwear feel coarse and harsh.
"My Prince," she whispered proudly.
"You are so dangerous," he whispered back.
"Would you want me any other way?"
"No," he admitted. "I wouldn’t want you to change."
"I’m your Princess, Harry, and I’ll be your Princess for as long as you want me."
"I’ll take the rest of your life for starters, and then we’ll review the options for eternity."
Her laugh made her wiggle with delight against him; she kissed him firmly, but didn’t deepen the kiss. "Now that you know what’s waiting for you, can we get ready for the day?" she asked brightly.
He groaned in protest. She placed her hands on his chest and pushed off him easily. "Did you know that I can pole-dance?" she asked. "I got my dance teacher to show me how."
He shook his head in awe. "I don’t know what I did to deserve you, but I hope it never changes."
"It won’t. Sooner or later it will sink in that you are my Prince, and then everything will be clear."
He climbed out of bed and ran through several disgusting thoughts to get his body back under control.
"I’d ask, but I don’t think I want to know," she said as she looked at the clothes that had been supplied. "At least they choose some good clothes for me," she said happily. "Want to do up my shirt again?"
"No. My self-control isn’t perfect. If I touch you again, we’ll never make it downstairs for breakfast."
She smiled at him cheerfully.
"But I will undress you tonight."
Her smile turned several watts higher.
"Okay," she agreed and passed him a pair of jeans and a black t-shirt. "Hermione has surprisingly good taste. Every year you were asleep, she bought new clothes for you. She wanted to make sure you had something to wear when you woke up. I was able to help a few times, but not as much as I wanted."
Harry nodded and changed his underwear — modesty seemed redundant at the moment — after using his wand to cast a cleaning charm on himself.
"Do me?" Gabrielle asked innocently.
He growled at her. "I’ll ignore the double entendre, and presume that you mean the cleaning charm."
He dressed quickly, and settled on the edge of the bed to watch Gabrielle put her clothes on. She looked him in the eye as she started to move in a subtle motion, a barely detectable movement that seemed to combine a small amount of dance, a touch of desire, and an expression he didn’t recognise on a conscious level. She turned slowly, her hair shimmering in the early morning light as she continued to captivate him while barely moving.
She bent at the waist, picking her bra off of the bed, before flicking her head back, causing her hair to arch over her head, and for a brief moment her look changed — to one of total want and need — and that moment was locked in his mind for ever, a frozen slice he would never forget, never beat, his idea of perfection in a pose that was so subtle yet so dramatic at the same time.
The look on her face, as her hair seemed to defy gravity, the way her breasts stood high on her chest, was locked inside him, a memory that would power a chorus line of Patronuses for a decade. He knew, without doubt, that he could make a fortune selling the memory, but that he would never share it with anyone else.
It was his, and his alone, just as she was his and his alone.
And just like that the moment was over and another began, as she continued her subtle movements, using them to get dressed; it was dance that covered rather than uncovered, but still managed to be the sexiest thing he had ever imagined.
"Any doubts?" she asked.
"I love winning," she replied happily. "Let’s go eat."
"After what we ate last night, I’m surprised I’m hungry."
She walked out the door and he followed her down to the kitchen.
"Good morning," Molly said brightly. "Sleep well?"
"I slept draped over Harry, with my head on his shoulder, and his arms around me. It was the best night’s sleep of my life. I didn’t have any bad dreams, and my mind didn’t go nuts on me, because my Prince was there holding me, protecting me, and every time I drifted into consciousness, I could hear his heart-beat, reassuring me," Gabrielle said softly.
Harry gulped and pulled her into a tight hug, burying his face into her hair.
Molly surreptitiously wiped away a tear from her cheek and busied herself at the counter. Charlie and Arthur shared a long look and a stayed quiet.
"Nightmares?" Harry asked.
"Not exactly, more times when my mind wouldn’t stop and what I was thinking would end up in my dreams. It was the only time that I would worry that you wouldn’t be my Prince and I’d have no one who could ever understand me, no one who could ever love me as I need to be loved."
He gently raised her head and kissed her softly.
"Food," she mumbled, and moved over to the table.
"I hope you’re hungry," Molly said. "It’s been far too long since you’ve had one of my breakfasts, Harry, and for you as well, Gabrielle."
"I’m looking forward to it. We’ve got our appetites," Gabrielle said cheerfully, her earlier vulnerability gone.
Harry was starting to understand her a lot better. She had felt that vulnerable and had told the truth, but had also said it there to help the others in the room understand her a bit more. If there was one thing he was sure of, it was that life with her was never going to be boring.
And it was a little surprising that the very idea of sharing a life with her was so appealing. It seemed to make sense, and while he knew that his pre-nap self wouldn’t have felt that way, it no longer mattered — he wasn’t that person. He was a new person, and so what if he was diving headfirst into uncertain waters? It was his life, it felt right, and it was definitely what he wanted.
"So what are you two planning today?" Charlie asked.
"Well, we’ve got a meeting with Professor McGonagall and Professor Flitwick to discuss classes first," Harry said, as he started to dig into the huge plate of food Molly placed in front of him. "Then we’re going to talk to Dobby about the restaurant. We hope we’ll be done by about ten so we can drop in on Professor Dumbledore to discuss the party on Saturday. Then we’re meeting Remus and Tonks for lunch, and finally we’ll meet up with Bill and Fleur, and grab the Floo to France so I can meet Gabbi’s parents."
Gabrielle turned her head and favoured him with one of her special smiles.
Charlie whistled under his breath. "I’d hate to see you with your Veela charm turned on," he mumbled.
"I can arrange it, if you wish," she said perkily.
"No, thank you," Arthur said jovially. "I’m quite happy to have my brain in one piece, and I have no wish to be on the blunt end of one of Molly’s saucepans."
"Smart man," Charlie muttered. "I’ll pass as well."
"It’s good to see that I have at least taught you something," Molly said. "Eat up, everyone."
There was a companionable silence around the room as they all devoured the breakfast Molly had cooked.
Eventually, Harry groaned and leaned back in his chair. "If that doesn’t last us until lunch, nothing will."
"I agree," Gabrielle said. "And we’re going to have to enjoy your hospitality for a few more minutes before we’re physically able to even move."
"Yeah," Charlie agreed. "Great breakfast, Mum."
"Sadly," Arthur said, "I do have to go to work, but then, I do have many wonderful years of breakfasts that have given me the ability to eat and still move." He stood and walked over and kissed Molly on the cheek, before he vanished into the living room with a smile and a wave.
"He’s such a wonderful man," Gabrielle said.
"He is," Molly agreed happily. She sighed cheerfully. "It is really good that you are awake again."
"Agreed," Charlie said. "You know that you two are plastered over every newspaper and magazine?"
Harry shook his head, "Not really surprised. Still, I’ll bet the text is about me, but all the photos concentrate on Gabbi."
"Not quite, a lot of them are of you as well. I believe that you’re â€˜hot’."
"Why thank you," Harry purred. "But I’m taken."
"Git," Charlie laughed. "That was not my description, it was Witch Weekly."
"How are they treating Gabbi?"
"Pretty well, actually. The press seems to like the idea of Harry Potter and Gabrielle Delacour. There’s not really been a celebrity pairing before, but now you have the Boy-Who-Napped and the mysterious French model who woke him, so obviously they’re nuts about the two of you.
"There are a lot of rumours about how you got together, but your comment about moving fast means that the press are talking about how smooth you must be — everything fits into their preconceived notions of how you should act."
Harry nodded. "Good, having positive press will help later. And if they start printing lies about Gabbi, I’ll sue them out of existence."
Charlie and Molly laughed.
"So, when are Ginny and Neville getting married?"
"Next month," Molly answered. "In the local church here. You two, are of course, invited."
"Thanks, we’ll be there."
"We will," Gabrielle agreed.
"Right, it’s time for you two to get moving. Charlie, I believe you wanted to go see some friends today?"
"I swear you were a drill sergeant in a previous life," Charlie muttered as he stood. "Catch you on the flip side," he said as he popped out.
"I need to learn to Apparate," Harry said. "I’ll talk to Professor McGonagall about that later. But for now, we’ll use the Floo again. Thanks for putting us up, Mrs Weasley."
"It’s Molly, and you are both very welcome back any time."
Harry stood and hugged her from one side so that Gabrielle could do the same from the other.
"I didn’t think it was still so early," Harry confessed. "I thought it was around ten."
"Molly is always an early riser, and you haven’t got a watch," Gabrielle replied. "Luckily I don’t normally need much sleep."
"And I’ve had enough of sleeping." He opened the doors to the Great Hall and bowed dramatically to her.
"Why thank you," she replied with a graceful curtsey and entered the room.
"Good morning," Professor Dumbledore called from the professors’ table.
"Morning," Harry replied as they walked up the centre.
"You’re just in time for breakfast."
Harry playfully recoiled. "After eating at Percy and Penelope’s last night, and having one of Molly’s breakfasts this morning, I don’t even want to think of food."
Albus laughed merrily, his eyes twinkling happily. "I completely understand. Mrs Weasley is one of the few people who can give a house-elf a run for their money. Why don’t you have a seat at the Gryffindor table? Professor McGonagall will see you after we’ve finished."
Harry nodded and guided Gabrielle over to the table. "Hi," he said cheerfully to the awe-struck students. "I’m Harry Potter and I’m going to be reclaiming my place in Gryffindor for the final year of school."
There was no response from the students.
"Is there a curse on them?" he asked Gabrielle.
She shook her head. "I don’t think I’m using Veela charm, either."
"You think I should pull a prank?"
"No!" McGonagall said in a voice that was far too firm. He swivelled to look at her, as did practically everyone else — and they were treated to the unexpected site of Minerva McGonagall blushing.
"Sorry," she apologised. "I just had a truly awful thought of what would have happened if Lily Potter had decided to join in with the Marauders."
Every professor who had been teaching at the school during the time of the Marauders shuddered dramatically — including the Headmaster.
"What a wonderful idea," Harry said, forcing his eyes wide. "I hadn’t thought of using Gabrielle’s help." He dropped to his knees in front of her. "Fair and beautiful Princess, grant me but one boon, that of your intellect and cunning nature in this year."
Gabrielle leant down and lightly kissed him. "Silly Prince," she said just loud enough to be heard. "Of course I’m going to help."
"We are so screwed," McGonagall groaned, before clapping her hands over her mouth and looking appalled at what she had just said.
"Speaking of which," Harry said as he got to his feet. "I’ve heard that a whole generation of Hogwarts students has had to do without the products of Zonko’s."
"Yeah," one of the boys at the Gryffindor table said, "I heard all these stories from my brothers, and when I get here, nothing!"
"Then you’ll be delighted to know that I’ve gone into partnership with the infamous Weasley Twins — we’re going to be opening a store in the next few months."
"Brilliant," the boy said. "Zach Masters, Gryffindor Quidditch captain. We already know that Gabrielle is a brilliant Chaser, and we’re in need of two — you wouldn’t be thinking of trying out, would you?"
"I’m certainly going to give it a shot," Harry said, as some of the kids shifted so that they could sit down. "The only broom I’ve been on is Gabbi’s Lightning Bolt, and things have changed a lot since my day."
"Most of us are still using Firebolts," Zach replied. "They might not have the speed, but they are much easier to control."
Harry turned to Gabrielle. "Can you teach me to play Chaser on a slower broom to start with, and we’ll move on after that?"
"Sure, I’ve got my old broom floating around somewhere. Yours is in your room."
Harry nodded and turned back to Zach, when the doors to the Great Hall opened again, and a short portly man strode him, flanked by a team of Aurors. Following a step behind was a tall, thin man with a silver-headed cane and long blond hair — an older looking Draco Malfoy. Slightly behind them was Percy Weasley — who winked at Harry, before looking at Malfoy and then back at Harry. He pulled his hand from an imaginary pocket and made a winding gesture with an imaginary watch.
"DÃ©jÃ vu," Harry muttered as the group walked up the centre.
Gabrielle nodded. "You got a plan?"
"Nope — gonna wing it."
He flashed her a grin, and turned to watch.
"Cornelius?" Albus asked, standing. "I didn’t expect you this morning."
"I’ve come to congratulate Mr Potter," the Minister said pompously.
"For proving that you are an idiot?" Harry asked cheerfully. "You’re welcome, although I didn’t really need to do that much. I can’t say how surprised I was that we’re still being led by an incompetent buffoon. Still consorting with scum, I see."
"Potter," Malfoy hissed. "At least I don’t consort with half-breeds."
"Racism is a very unattractive trait, Malfoy," Harry replied calmly. "And showing that you share your father’s narrow-mindedness in public also shows that you are even more incompetent that he was — he at least knew how to apply power. Admittedly, it was done badly, and misdirected as he worshiped at the feet of that half-blood bastard, but at least Lucius had some ability and subtlety."
"Don’t you talk about my father like that," Draco spat, his face an unattractive shade of red. "You killed him."
"Au contraire, my little ferret, his worship of Voldemort killed him."
Fudge was looking horrified as he was suddenly aware that Draco was not in complete control, and was saying things that Fudge did not want attached to him in public.
"Still, you are at least proof that not everyone grew up well over the last eight years. Of all my classmates I’ve seen, you are by far the most disappointing. Did you marry pug-face Parkinson?"
Draco drew his wand.
"Put it away," Harry said tiredly. "You’re embarrassing yourself and the Minister. You have the entire staff of Hogwarts and most of the students pointing their wands at you. If today’s your luckiest day, you’ll be able to get off one curse, which will most likely miss, before you are knocked out, and then I’ll destroy you legally, and then I’ll destroy Fudge for bringing you into my presence."
"Put the wand down, Malfoy," one of the Aurors — a tall black man with a shaved head — growled.
"I hate you," Malfoy spat.
"And you’re going to get me," Harry added with a bored tone. "Just like you tried to get me at school, but never managed it — only this time Daddy’s dead, Voldemort’s dead, hell, even Snape’s dead, and you’re going to have to do it all on your own.
"Hey, do you remember when Hermione punched you and you cried like a six-year-old? Good memory, that one — you know, it was only last year for me. Or that time you insulted a Hippogriff, then tried to have it put down by crying to your daddy, or when you got Daddy to buy your way onto the Quidditch team because you weren’t good enough?"
Draco glared at him as hard as he could, shaking with rage. He suddenly started to move, raising his wand like a snake striking, pointing at Harry.
"Avada Keda…" he started, only to end with a scream as his wand hand caught on fire.
Percy cast a silencing charm on Draco as he collapsed to the floor, still screaming and thrashing his flaming appendage about.
Harry turned to Gabrielle, a stern look on his face.
"What?" she asked innocently.
"Gabrielle," he said firmly, "did you just launch a fireball at the ferret?"
"Me?" she asked, her eyes wide. "Would I do something like that?"
"No one harms my Prince," she said, losing the innocent act and a grim expression taking control of her face.
Harry kissed her lightly.
"Miss Delacour," Albus called down from the staff table. "Do you think you could extinguish the fire? I’m afraid that the smell of burnt flesh might put the children off their breakfast."
"I’m sorry," Gabrielle apologised. She waved her hand and the flame went out.
Harry walked over to Fudge, who was holding his bowler hat in his hands and turning it nervously. "Exactly why did your companion try to kill me?" Harry demanded.
"Er, I, er," Fudge said, his mind obviously blank.
"Might I suggest we take this to my office?" Albus suggested.
"Excellent idea," Harry agreed.
"Auror Shacklebolt," Percy said. "I believe that Mr Malfoy should be arrested for attempted murder, don’t you agree, Minister?"
Fudge looked down at the crying Malfoy and nodded hurriedly. "Absolutely."
"Oh, Mr Shacklebolt," Percy continued. "I do believe that we require a thorough psychological examination of him. We’ll give the Auror department a month before we start trial proceedings, correct, Minister?"
"Oh yes, capital idea, capital."
The four of them walked directly to Dumbledore’s office, accompanied by two Aurors, one of them who looked familiar to Harry.
As soon as the door shut, the two Aurors stood by the door, their faces implacable. Harry turned to Percy and hugged him, then moved out the way, as Gabrielle kissed him on the cheek.
"That was brilliant," Harry said. "Hermione will love getting to work on him!"
"Thank you," Percy said modestly.
"Weatherby, what is the meaning of this?" Fudge demanded.
"It’s Weasley, you idiot, and yes, Arthur is my father, not that you ever bothered to check whether you even had my name right!" Percy said as he rounded on his boss. "And that was me eliminating yet another idiot from your social circle. When we walked in, I asked Harry to wind him up, knowing that Malfoy would react like the brainless idiot he is."
"Mr Malfoy is a trusted advisor," Fudge blustered.
"Only because he bribed you," Percy sneered. "Now be a good little politician and sit down while the intelligent people are talking."
"How dare you!"
"Sit!" Percy roared.
"Arrest him," Fudge demanded.
"I seem to have gone temporarily deaf, how about you, Sturgis?"
"Deaf as a politician, Tonks," Sturgis agreed.
Percy smirked at the Minister.
"Albus," Fudge protested.
"I’m afraid," Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling, "that I have had a lot of time to think over the last day, as it was pointed out to me that I was becoming a puppet master, and that is not an epitaph I desire on my tombstone. I’m going to sit back and enjoy the show."
Fudge growled and sat down. "I’m going to…."
"No, you’re not," Percy interrupted. "You see, as you might have noticed, I’m no longer being a sycophant, you disgusting individual. In fact, I handed in my resignation earlier this morning. I’ve been placed in charge of the Black family fortune by Harry, and I’ll be helping Sirius Black wield the power and influence of that name."
"Hey," Harry said as a thought hit him. "You think you’re going to have time to write a book?"
"You are my employer," Percy replied. "What I do is up to you."
"True," Harry agreed. "In that case, I’d love to read your insider’s view of what happened over the past ten years -- you know, what the movers and shakers within the Ministry really thought and did. I’m sure it would be a best seller."
"I could talk about donations," Percy mused. "And maybe point out some of the Manors that were taken from suspected Death Eaters and given to other people, and then point out just how many people were sent to Azkaban for no reason."
Fudge went completely white and opened and shut his mouth like a fish.
"But I might not have time to do that, Harry," Percy said reluctantly.
"I guess it depends on the Minister," Gabrielle said. "I really don’t like people who associate with scum who try to kill my Prince, so I’m going to make this clear. You stay out of our way, and you might get to keep some of the pretty toys you’ve acquired — and your dignity." She lowered her voice and glared at him. "Stand in our way and we will destroy you, and you will end up penniless, begging for scraps on a street corner, shunned by all. We know where your little secrets are buried, we know what bribes you took, what evidence you hid, we know it all — and when we use it, we’ll use my reputation, and Harry’s reputation, and the press will eat it out of our hands.
"So what’s it going to be, Fudge?"
The Minister of Magic looked like he was about to cry.
"Are you going to be a good puppy?"
Fudge nodded so hard his hat would have fallen off, if he’d been wearing it.
"Then leave, go back to your job, and do it well, because we’ll be watching — and if you are a bad puppy, we will take you down, hard, like we did Malfoy — we don’t fool around."
Fudge nodded again, clearly terrified of the witch.
"Leave. Now, before my disgust overcomes my common sense."
Fudge got to his feet and bolted out of the room.
"Do you think he wants us to follow?" Tonks asked.
"Nah," Harry said. "I think he’s got other things on his mind."
Tonks grinned at him.
Albus sighed. "I take it you don’t like Mr Malfoy?"
Percy settled down on a chair. "Take a seat, you two," he ordered the Aurors, before turning to Harry.
"From what Ron and Hermione told me, Draco took his father’s death hard — and blamed you for it, vocally. Unfortunately for him, with Voldemort dead, he had no support left in the school — even Parkinson seemed relieved, although I do think her relief was partly due to inheriting her family money.
"Malfoy left school in the sixth year and transferred to Durmstrang, where his money and reputation meant that he was feted and allowed to do what ever he wanted. He re-appeared three years ago and started buying his way back into power and trading on the family name.
"Fudge welcomed him with open arms — and open pockets — and things were almost back to how they used to be at the Ministry. They started a small campaign against you, and made several attempts to take control of you from Albus."
"They did?" Albus asked in surprise. "I certainly wasn’t aware of it."
"They weren’t as subtle as they thought, and pretty much ignored me. Hermione and I talked, and we soon started to play games against them. Orders got lost in paperwork, and I was berated many times for my incompetence," he grinned. "When I got into work this morning, Malfoy was already there, talking to Fudge about you being awake. I’d mentioned previously that when you did wake up, you’d be shocked, disoriented, and an emotional mess."
"Which I probably should have been," Harry agreed, "if I hadn’t had some amazing friends."
"Exactly," Percy nodded. "So I had a quick Floo call with Hermione, and she suggested that Fudge and Malfoy came to Hogwarts this morning to congratulate you — and that you should try and wind Malfoy up. She was pretty sure that his years of hating you, combined with the jealousy of you already landing Gabrielle, would make him react in a predictable fashion.
"I made the suggestion to Fudge, including pointing out how good it would make him look, and Malfoy was quick to volunteer to come along."
"You set him up," Tonks said admiringly.
"I’m not sure that I approve of such a dangerous strategy, though," Albus said. "A Killing Curse could have hit anyone."
Percy snorted. "Tonks, Sturgis, Kingsley and I were all expecting it, and he normally wouldn’t have got the A of Avada out, but we all saw Gabrielle was ready, so we let her deal with it."
"Yeah," Tonks agreed. "It seemed a lot more fitting, especially as his wand was destroyed."
"That was the idea," Gabrielle admitted. "His behaviour was easy to predict, I had the fireball ready, and at that range, missing his hand was out of the question."
"Good call," Harry agreed proudly. "Is this going to cause you any problems, Percy?"
"Oh, Fudge will pout, but Malfoy was really his last prominent supporter — apart from Albus, of course."
"Said support which I believe it is time to rescind," Albus said, an amused expression on his face. "You know, I’ve often wondered what it would be like to lose my control, and I have come to a rather startling conclusion."
"Oh?" Tonks asked.
"That it is going to be a lot of fun; I can watch the fireworks from a safe difference."
"Good to hear," Percy said. "Anyway, I need to get back to the office and check that Fudge doesn’t do anything stupid."
"Yeah, we should go as well," Tonks agreed. "Still on for lunch, Harry?"
"We’ll see you there. Remus gets out of class at midday, so it shouldn’t be a problem."
Here's a thought ... 4 chapters in, and we've covered, erm, what.... 38 hours? Only another 48 hours to go.
There is a point to me pointing that out (he said, redundantly) there are some things that you will simply not find out until Castles in the Sky.