Happily Ever After
With thanks to Greywizard, Kokopelli (spelling his name correctly this time) Gardengirl and Ishtar.
Harry grinned as he headed toward London. He had one stop before he could go to France.
Being in control of this broom was like nothing he had ever flown before. It seemed to respond to his every wish almost before he made it, and the speed was incredible.
The trip seemed to pass in a moment as he got used to how the broom handled and became comfortable with everything it could do.
He dived down toward Diagon Alley, knocking it out of super-sonic speed before he got close, and landed outside Ollivander’s.
"Mr Potter," Ollivander welcomed him as he entered. "The wand is ready."
"Brilliant," Harry cheered.
"This wand," Ollivander continued, "is a contradiction. It shouldn’t exist. Good for both charms and curses. The straight grain of the heartwood allows for power, and when mixed with a phoenix feather core, well, it is the most unusual wand I have made since the last two I made from a phoenix feather from this particular phoenix."
"Of which only one survives," Harry said softly. "This wand is to help make up for the evil done by the last one."
Ollivander looked surprised. "I see." He pulled out a long box and opened it. The wood itself was almost golden, and it seemed to glow with its own magical light. "A unique wand," the old wand-maker said, "fit for royalty."
Harry smiled and pulled some money out of his moneybag, and placed the required amount on the counter. "Thank you."
"It was a pleasure, Mr Potter. A pleasure indeed."
Harry slipped the wand into his right boot and turned to leave.
"Mr Potter," Ollivander called.
Harry turned his head.
"Did you know that Muggles use that wood as stocks for their firearms?"
Harry shook his head. "Fitting, isn’t it?" he whispered, before he left and jumped back on Gabrielle’s broom and headed toward Dover as fast as he could.
As the gleaming white cliffs approached, he plunged down in a power-dive, hugging the contours of the land before spiralling down to the Channel. With a yell of pure pleasure, he kicked the broom into high speed and took off. A huge plume of water trailed after him as he raced across British waters and into France.
The living room in the Burrow had been expanded, and was full of people chatting and sitting on comfy-looking couches.
Molly was floating around the room, making sure that everyone had drinks. Sirius, Remus and Tonks were to the left, next to Percy and Penelope. Bill and Fleur were next to them, as was Charlie. Ginny and Neville were next, with Minerva, the twins and their guests next to Arthur and Molly. Ron and Hermione were near the front.
As Albus arrived, there was a hush of surprise.
Albus smiled merrily. "Please," he said, "let me introduce my former wife, Doris."
"Hi," Doris said cheerfully. "Actually, Albus, as we never got divorced, I’m the current wife — we’ve just had a brief hiatus."
"I invited him," Hermione announced, from where she was sitting with Ron, "as we are no longer at cross-purposes."
"Indeed," Albus agreed. "I’ve had my errors pointed out to me in a variety of ways, and while bad for my ego, I suspect it will be good for me in the long term."
"But who’s going to play the bogey-man now?" Fred asked.
"Flip you for it?" George suggested.
"Nah, we ought to introduce our guests as well."
"Guys," Fred said. "This is Su Li, the latest person enrolled in the cult of Potter, who has agreed to manage our new shop. And next to her is Padma Patil, who is going to be running Harry’s restaurant."
"And you all know Penelope," Percy added, "who is working on the new Muggle initiative that the goblins have started — thanks mainly to our catalyst."
"Welcome, all of you," Hermione said, as she stood and moved to the front, her cup of coffee in her hand.
"There is very little formality here; it was just a group who got together to talk about Harry, and how we’d make sure that Harry was able to make his own choices when he woke up." Albus blushed at this. "This is the first meeting since he did exactly that, and started to cram everything he had missed out on into as short a time as possible."
Hermione took a sip of her coffee. "I think I screwed up," she said with a sigh.
"What?" Fred was the first person to respond, narrowly beating everyone else.
Hermione held out her hand, and waited for silence.
"We gave Harry everything we knew. We taught him things that took us our whole lives to learn. We chatted to him, told him our fears, our hopes and desires, our troubles."
"We did that so he wouldn’t be alone, though, right?" Ron asked.
Hermione nodded. "But what I didn’t take into account, is the effect this would have on Harry. Imagine you are Harry Potter."
"Hmm," George said. "My courage is rising, my fear is under control, I feel responsible for everything bad that happens around me, but my attractiveness to hot international models is going through the roof, my bank account is increasing by the second and my charisma is out of this world. Damn, it’s good to be me."
"But," George continued, "I can see the world is in a state. I can see inequality everywhere I look. I know what is going on through many different perspectives. What do I do about it?"
Everyone was now silent.
"George," Hermione’s voice was soft, but very insistent. "You are not just Harry Potter; the most beautiful girl in the world has just told you that you’re a Prince, and that she is a Princess. You are destined to rule."
George slowly smiled. "Then the answer is obvious. I fix everything I can find, and make all my friends’ fears and worries go away. And I’ll have a good time doing it."
George blinked. "Wow," he said. "Mum, could you close your ears for a second?"
Molly shook her head. "I’ll give you a pass to swear this one time."
"Thanks. Hermione," George continued, "you are talking absolute bollocks!"
"So you’ve given Harry enough information to know what he is doing, so what? The choice is still mine — his, sorry — he doesn’t have to do anything about this, except for what he chooses to. He’s better prepared for life than the rest of us put together, and he’s already found the sort of person that a lot of us are still looking for.
"You fought to give Harry that choice, and we all helped. Well, he’s been Harry Potter and taken that choice as easily as most of us chose which underwear to wear."
"Well said," Fred agreed.
"Did you know that Harry played a prank today?" Minerva asked Hermione.
"Really?" Hermione asked, a smile appearing on her face.
"He changed the words of the school song to a song about a wizard’s staff."
"With a knob on the end?" Hermione asked and as Dumbledore nodded, she started to laugh. "Oh, my. At least it wasn’t â€˜The Hedgehog Can Never Be Buggered At All!’"
"Hermione?" Ron asked.
"Does anyone else know what I am talking about?" she asked with another giggle.
"No," came the chorus of replies.
"That’s brilliant then," she said happily. "It means that Harry is definitely still himself. I’m the only person here who knows who Terry Pratchett is, and I didn’t teach Harry anything about that at all. That means that it is knowledge he picked up himself, probably at school, as there is no chance those damn Dursleys would have had a book in their house." She took a deep breath. "I still think that he’s going too fast, and I’m not sure if Gabrielle is the right…."
"Hermione," Ginny interrupted softly. "I do."
Ginny blushed slightly as everyone looked at her. "And you owe her," she continued.
"I owe her?" Hermione asked.
"For getting me to propose to Hermione?" Ron asked.
Ginny shook her head. "Harry popped into the Quibbler this morning and gave me the interview he promised. Do you know that he was the first person to beat Locutious at his own game? Anyway, after he left, Frank Copard dropped into my office. We were talking, and he said that he wasn’t surprised that Harry was dating Delacour — because they were both obviously nuts."
There were a few snickers from the gathered people. "So," Ginny continued, her hand reaching out to take Neville’s. "I asked what he meant. And he explained that when he used to work for the Prophet, Gabrielle agreed to do a photo shoot for them as long as they did a bizarre favour for her."
"Which was?" Molly prompted eagerly.
"To run a fake competition for them — it was a few years ago."
"No," Hermione gasped.
Ginny nodded. "A wedding competition."
"What does that mean?" Molly asked.
"That Gabrielle personally paid for Ron and Hermione’s wedding," Ginny said softly.
"But why?" Ron asked.
"Ooo, it’s my turn," Fred said. "I’ll put myself in her shoes." He paused. "Damn," he whispered, "I am hot! All the boys want me. I want me!"
Padma calmly swiped him on the arm.
"Sorry," he apologised with a grin. "I’m not female, and I’m definitely not Gabrielle, so I’ll just use logic instead. We all know that Gabrielle’s believed in Harry for eight years. We know that she believes that she is a Princess, and that Harry is her Prince. We know that Harry’s two best friends were getting married, and that it was going to be," he paused and shrugged, "on the cheap. George, as Harry, would you let Ron and Hermione get married like that?"
"Hell no," George replied instantly. "And I don’t care who I have to hurt to ensure that it’s not like that."
"And finally," Fred continued, "we know that Gabrielle doesn’t see the world like the rest of us. So there you go, that’s why."
"I think I missed something," Sirius muttered.
Fred sighed. "Gabrielle was acting in her Prince’s stead. As far as she was concerned, Harry would never have allowed them to get married like that, and as no one would listen to her, she simply bypassed all of us and did what needed to be done anyway."
Molly beamed. "I did wonder. The chances of our family winning two competitions did seem low, but I wasn’t going to complain. I’ve had my eye on that little one for years, and she has never acted selfishly, and this just proves it. Can you imagine anyone keeping it that quiet — and if Ginny hadn’t found out, we would never have known."
"Harry knows," Albus stated. "He watched the wedding last night from her perspective."
"He didn’t even hint when we talked today," Hermione said with a sigh.
"This puts us in a position," Remus said softly, "where we have to be careful what we say, so that Harry doesn’t take it as an invitation."
"Erm, I know I don’t know you all that well," Doris interrupted, "but if I might make a quick statement here."
"Go ahead," Hermione said. "We’re all planning on pumping you for information as soon as we finish with Harry," she added with a grin.
"Okay, Remus, was it?"
"Excellent. Now, that was possibly the most pretentious statement I’ve ever heard," she continued cheerily. "I’ll presume that you meant it in a good way. Now, from what I know of Harry, mainly through Albus here, he’s impulsive, with a heart of gold, and pretty much convinced that he’s destined to fix things — and unlike most people, he’s probably capable of doing so as well — especially when you add in Miss Delacour.
"The point of this meeting seems to be that you aren’t sure what you’ve done. As far as I’m concerned, you did the right thing. But, you now have a bigger responsibility between the lot of you, that will take the rest of your lives."
There were a lot of blank looks. Fred leaned over to George. "You know," he said in a stage whisper, "she’s actually scarier than Mum is."
"I know," George stage whispered back. "I think that if Albus hadn’t screwed up by driving her away, we would never have had a Voldemort problem, because she would have just taken him over her knee and given him the spanking he so richly deserved."
Doris started to laugh, although she did look embarrassed as well. "Anyway," she said, before anyone else could get a word in. "You all need to make sure that the two of them stay on the right track."
"What do you mean?" Hermione asked.
"They believe that they are destined to rule. They are planning on doing so, and changing the world as they see fit. Well, the last person who wanted to do that was named Voldemort.
"I’m not suggesting that they are like him — they’re polar opposites, but the point remains. They are going to change our world as they see fit! You will all need to make sure that they stay on the right path, that they don’t start to take shortcuts, that everything is nice and legal.
"That is your punishment for what you have done. And that is your reward as well. And if Harry and Gabrielle decide to do something, you smile and accept it as it is meant — like the adults you all are."
"And you dumped her?" Bill demanded to Albus.
Albus coughed and looked down. "Well, she left me physically after I left her mentally."
"I was younger then," Doris agreed. "I made more than a few mistakes myself in my pride."
"Great men have always made a mark on history," Minerva said. "And the greatest are those who had people around them they could trust. Voldemort never truly trusted anyone. I would like to believe that Harry and Gabrielle trust us all."
"Harry has always been special," Su said. "More so now, because he has the confidence to go with the ability."
"Indeed," Minerva agreed. "And he is growing up as well. He could have taken any Gryffindor with him to invade France today, but he turned them down gently."
"Excuse me," Neville interrupted. "Exactly why is Harry invading France?"
"What he said," Bill agreed.
"Oh, well, it seems that Gabrielle’s been kidnapped."
"What!" Fleur demanded.
Minerva winced. "I could have put that better," she agreed. "Albus?"
Everyone turned to look at the Headmaster, who raised his hands. "After an amusing visit from some ex-students — that I’ll tell you about later, it was capital entertainment — an owl appeared, very embarrassed because he couldn’t find Gabrielle.
"Harry co-opted my phoenix — not for the first time — who took a note to Gabrielle. Fawkes returned and told me that Gabrielle had been kidnapped. I was prepared to call in the cavalry, but Fawkes shook his head. In the esteemed opinion of my phoenix, Harry should be handling this on his own. And while normally I might have disagreed, I do tend to take advice of immortal creatures of Light."
"Oh," Hermione said.
"He’s probably at your parents’ right now, Fleur, working out what is going on." Albus looked thoughtful. "Besides," he continued slowly, "it is always the handsome prince who rescues the beautiful princess in peril."
"Okay," Fred interrupted, "there have been far too many references to fairy tales since Harry woke up. It’s time for someone to explain."
"Fleur?" Hermione asked.
Fleur looked thoughtful. "You are convinced you are right?" she asked.
"Then yes, perhaps you should explain Gabrielle to everyone."
Hermione smiled slightly and spent ten minutes explaining her views on Gabrielle and the way she had dealt with the shock of watching Harry fight Voldemort, and everything that had happened over the last eight years.
"Woo-hoo!" Doris cheered when Hermione had finished, "I hope you were paying attention, you old meddler," she said, poking Albus firmly. "I take some of it back," she continued. "If I’d known that, I wouldn’t have been worried at all. Personally, I think we should find this psychiatrist of hers and thank him for what he’s done for us."
"What?" Fleur demanded.
"That’s before we throw him off a cliff, obviously," Doris finished. "I’m sure it wasn’t what this quack wanted, but he’s given us the gift of someone who firmly believes in fairy tales and that’s a brilliant thing."
"It is?" Minerva asked.
"Absolutely. Don’t you get it? I’m a primary school teacher. I deal with children ages four through ten every day. And if you ask them what the rules of a fairy tale are, they will be able to answer easily. Evil is dark and twisted, it hides from the light and sneaks around. Good is bright and beautiful, everyone is honest and loving and caring, and the Prince and the Princess rule for the benefit for everyone else. Good always triumphs over evil, and everyone on the good side lives happily ever after!
"Human fragilities aren’t in fairy tales. As far as kids are concerned, everything is black and white. And if that’s how they’re going to rule, I’ll be there, serving in the castle, doing everything I can to help keep the fairy tale alive."
Hermione nodded thoughtfully. "I think on some level they do know that life isn’t a fairy tale, but Gabrielle is convinced, and I think Harry wants to be convinced. He’s always had a thing for saving people, and now he has a framework to handle it." She smiled. "This is completely nuts, but can anyone see a downside to us supporting them?"
Everyone looked at Dumbledore.
"Hey," he protested. "I’ve changed, honest. I’ve had more genuine fun since Harry woke up than I’ve had in the last thirty years. Did you know that he’s taken to calling me â€˜Unca Albus’? It fills me with pride every time he says it. All my students are already convinced that he is a Prince, and they didn’t need much convincing either. I’m going to enjoy myself from now on in the role he has asked me to take. As court advisor, I know that my advice might be occasionally ignored, and that’s fine. Sure, I’ll have the occasional ego prick, where I’ll feel like I should be leading, but every time that happens…"
"I’ll borrow one of Molly’s frying pans and belt you with it," Doris finished.
"Molly," Doris said, "did you know that your apple pie really is world famous?"
"Albus got me to come by over-reaching himself again, and promising that you’d have some."
"Well," Molly said, "I do happen to keep one spare at all times, just in case. I’ll go and get it."
"All right!" Bill cheered — the sentiments were echoed around the room eagerly.
Molly grinned. "Why don’t you come and help me," she invited Doris.
Doris was instantly on her feet.
"Sorry Hermione," Molly said happily, "but I get first crack at her."
"So I can see," Hermione said. "At least my husband wouldn’t abandon me for pie."
There was a pause as everyone looked at Ron.
"Oh, yeah, right," he agreed, his tone one of reluctance.
Hermione laughed and dropped on his lap. "Thanks, honey," she said, her tone equally as dry.
"I do love you," Ron said. "But Mum’s pie…"
"Did I ever mention that I kept my old school uniform?" Hermione asked him in a sultry voice.
"…is secondary to how much I love you," Ron finished.
Hermione smiled triumphantly.
"George," Fred said quickly. "Can you think of any jokes that won’t get us thrown out, yelled at or hit?"
"Not a single one," George said, "so we’ll just have to think them."
The two looked at each other and started to giggle like school children.
"In which case," Arthur said, "and as this meeting seems to be over, I’ll break out the wine and we can finish off in the traditional way."
"Oh?" Albus asked curiously.
"By us all having a wonderful evening talking to each other and having a good time. These meetings have always been a good excuse for everyone to get together."
"That," Albus said, "sounds like the perfect end to the evening."
Harry slowed his broom as he reached the air above Sainte-Maxime. The Mediterranean Sea was in front of him, and he could detect Saint Tropez across the bay. He made a mental note to come here and explore with Gabbi, before he turned right and flew down the coast.
He was using simple â€˜point me’ spells to get to where he wanted to go. It wasn’t the most sophisticated way, but when flying at super-sonic speeds, it was the easiest.
He was flying at a mere 90 miles an hour when he finally spotted the fountain where he had spoken to Gabrielle’s father. He swooped down and jumped off the broom. The door to the house was open, and he walked in carefully, his wand at the ready.
He whispered under his breath and cast a spell that would tell him how many people were around. Two, was the immediate response, and they didn’t seem to be moving. Carefully, he peered around the corner. In the kitchen, both of Gabrielle’s parents were on the floor.
He walked over and released that gag around Marie’s mouth. "They took Gabrielle!" she said, before anything else.
"I know," he agreed. He used his wand to undo the ropes binding her, before he released Eric. "What happened?"
"Well, we arranged for Gabrielle’s psychiatrist to meet her here this morning." Harry frowned but didn’t comment. "They went into my office, and a few minutes later, there was a knock at the door. I opened it, and two men grabbed me and Eric, and tied us up. They went into the office, and a there was some noise, and one of the men and Dr Van Neuman emerged, the other man and Gabrielle floating behind them. They then stunned us, and we woke up about half an hour ago."
Harry smiled slightly. "Did Gabrielle have her wand?"
"No," Eric replied. "She was never allowed it when she was with Dr Van Neuman. I think he took it with him. Now, I have to call the Aurors!"
Harry shrugged and walked into the office. "You can’t go in there," Eric protested. "The Aurors will need to check it for evidence!"
Harry didn’t pause as he walked in. The office was a mess, proof positive that Gabrielle, despite being unarmed, had put up a fight. He looked around; he could see that she would have been sat across the desk from him — her back to the door. There was a pad in front of her, and a few pencils.
There was a message here for him somewhere. A Princess being kidnapped would always leave her Prince a message somehow. He thought for a second, and then got on his hands and knees. All he found was a notebook that had been thrown. He flicked through the book, it seemed to be Gabrielle’s notes on the sessions she had with Van Neuman. He smiled at some of her descriptions, and he could almost see her rolling her eyes as Van Neuman tried to persuade her to do something - anything, that she didn’t want to do.
His princess could be remarkably stubborn.
He flicked to the last page and read it. At the bottom, was a message for him.
Something is going wrong here. He’s on edge, and he keeps looking past me (which makes a change from him staring at me). I’ve got a few suspicious, so while I’m supposedly writing notes for him, I’ll mention that Van Neuman lives near Staufen Im Breisgan in Germany (there’s an atlas on the book case to your right) and
The message ended abruptly.
Harry moved to the bookcase and pulled out the atlas. He quickly found Staufen Im Breisgan, at the edge of the Black Forest. He flicked over a few pages, so he could see the general direction he needed to head.
With the information he needed, he turned to walk out the door. Eric was on the Floo.
"Thank you for releasing us," Marie said to him.
Harry shrugged. "I didn’t do it for you," he said honestly. "This was just the first place to look when Gabrielle didn’t come back to me." He paused, and then said, "I got a message to Gabrielle. She’s okay."
Marie gasped. "Thank you," she repeated again.
"The Aurors will be here shortly," Eric said.
Harry turned and started to walk out.
"Wait," Eric called.
"You need to wait for the Aurors, they will handle this."
Harry laughed. "The Prince always rescues the Princess."
"Not another one," Eric sighed.
"Another one?" Harry snarled, turning to face him. "Someone else who should be sent to a bloody shrink, who will try to turn me Dark, before kidnapping me? Or perhaps a shrink who doesn’t know the first thing about children?" He turned and stalked forward. "You remember Hermione, don’t you? Cleverest witch in her generation? Degree in psychology? Without even getting close to Gabrielle, she’s agreed that Gabrielle is about as much a bloody sociopath as I am!
"Didn’t you do any research yourselves? â€˜Sociopath’ is a label that can only be applied to adults for a reason! She barely matches three of the seven key signs for a sociopath, and only an idiot would apply them to her. She was a frickin’ genius, who needed help, not being told that she was likely to commit murder. She was bloody six years old! How many six years olds even know what murder is?
"What was it? Hide her in a corner and forget about it as long as she was seeing her shrink? Pay the nannies to look after her?" Harry looked disgustedly at the two of them. "Did you even try and understand her?"
The two adults blushed. "The psychiatrist said that…" Marie started.
"Bloody Hell," Harry swore again. "Have you heard of independent thought? I can accept listening to an expert, but I can accept not following it up with finding things out for your selves. I suggest that while I’m rescuing her you start reading up, because I will not have my Princess constantly disappointed by you." He turned and stormed out, far too irritated to let anything stop him.
He was on his broom and away in seconds, heading directly north.
Down below he could see a small Wizarding town, and descended into it. In the local bar, he found a small public Floo.
"Hermione Granger," he called.
"Harry!" Hermione said.
"Just to let you know that I’m heading into Germany now. I’ll be near Staufen Im Breisgau."
"Albus told me what was going on. Good luck, and call if you need help."
"Hermione," Harry said slowly. "Could you try and have a chat with Eric and Marie? I just shouted at them for what they’ve done to Gabbi in the past, and I might have been a bit harsh. They need someone they can talk to — someone who isn’t completely in love with Gabbi."
"I’ll get Fleur and go immediately."
"Thanks, I appreciate it."
Hermione smiled softly. "Go rescue your Princess. And if you need help, call me immediately."
"I will. Thanks."
Hermione turned from the fireplace. "Okay people, Harry’s now invading Germany. He knows where Gabrielle is."
There was a cheer from the others.
"He’s heading into the Black Forest, so he should be there in an hour or two."
"Hmm," Minerva said. "Well, it’s been a fun evening, but I have something to do."
"That look is evil," Albus pointed out.
"Moi?" Minerva asked. "Nonsense. On a completely unrelated note, you do know that the Black Forest was a dark and magical place — or so the Muggles believe, why, all sorts of fairy tales came from that region." She walked over to the fireplace and threw some powder into the fire. "Headmaster’s office, Hogwarts," she called and vanished.
Hermione blinked. "I don’t want to know," she muttered. "Fleur, we need to go to your parents. Harry thinks he may have been a bit hard on them."
"Do you want me to come?" Ron asked, standing up.
"No," Hermione said. "I think it will be better if we don’t outnumber them. But thank you."
Ron nodded and sat back down.
Fleur kissed Bill quickly. "I will see you in a bit," she promised.
Together, the two of them took the Floo to the south of France.
They arrived into a full kitchen. Eric was talking to some Aurors, while others were congregating around the door to an office.
"Fleur," Hermione whispered, "can you get rid of the Aurors?"
She smiled faintly and nodded. "Gabrielle will certainly owe me for this," she muttered. She took a deep breath. "My sister has been kidnapped?" she wailed in French.
Every single Auror turned to her. Her face was glowing, and she looked close to tears. As one, they all rushed to help her.
Hermione shook her head, impressed. Fleur could be amazing when she used her Veela power deliberately.
Eric and Marie were looking shocked.
"Gabrielle’s in Germany," Hermione stated. "Harry will have her back in England within a couple of hours."
"How can he do that?"
"Because he is Harry Potter and he is Gabrielle’s Prince and nothing on this planet will be able to stop him. This is the man who defeated Voldemort, the most feared Dark Lord in a thousand years, at the age of fourteen! This is the man who had three Quidditch clubs try to sign him today, before he’s even tried to play Chaser. This is the man who managed to get the drop on Albus Dumbledore and then re-unite him with his estranged wife. This is the man who is called friend by the goblins — and he’s only been awake for a few days.
"There is no force on this planet that can stand in his way," she paused, "and if this was serious, he would have legions of wizards and goblins right behind him. It is not serious — we know that because Fawkes, a phoenix, who is another friend of his — said so. Harry can handle this, and we think it is important that he does."
"But Harry can act faster than any Auror force in the world. He knows more spells than most Aurors, and he’s got enough power and ability to make most of them think twice about attacking him. Do not underestimate him, because Harry Potter does not lose!
"Now, we’re going to go and sit down, and we’re going to talk about sociopaths. We’re going to talk about child geniuses, and then you’re going to make your minds up."
Thoroughly cowed, the two adults nodded and walked into the living room. They were joined a few seconds later by Fleur. "The Aurors have left," she announced. "They will be giving me a report in the morning."
"Thanks," Hermione said. "I know you hated doing that."
"For Gabrielle, I would do anything," Fleur said with a challenging look at her parents.
Hermione lightly placed her hand on Fleur’s knee, and started to speak.
Harry flew over Basel and over a forest, when his broom started to slow down. He frowned and flew down, trying to keep it under control. As he neared the ground, the broom stopped completely, and he dropped the last few meters.
He was in a small clearing deep inside the Black Forest. He shrunk the broom, grabbed his wand, and started to walk north. He wasn’t going to let a small thing like a malfunctioning broom stop him.
It was dark, but the full moon shone down, bathing everything in its silver glow.
From up ahead, he could just make out a high-pitched voice singing. "Half a pound of tuppeny rice, half a pound of treacle, that's the way the money goes, pop goes the weasel."
He hurried forward, and saw a small child skipping merrily along. She had a red cloak, and was carrying a basket.
"Hey," he called, placing his wand in his back pocket.
The girl stopped. "Who’s there?" she asked in a scared voice.
"I’m Harry," Harry said, moving forward slowly. "Isn’t it a little late for you to be out?"
She giggled. "I’m on an adventure," she said seriously. "Granny is ill and I’m taking her some fruit to make her feel better."
"Do your parents know you’re out here?"
"Of course not, silly," she replied. "They’d never let me out alone at night. I snuck out the window!"
"Why don’t I take you home," Harry suggested. "The woods are dangerous at night."
"No! I’m going to Granny’s!"
Harry sighed, "Then why don’t I at least make sure you get there safely?"
The girl giggled again. "Okay. I’m Trudy. We’re on holiday here, staying near Granny."
"That sounds like fun."
"It’s boring. There’s nothing to do but look at trees."
"How can you be bored with trees?" Harry asked. "They’re wonderful. You can climb them, sit under then, play with them, and if you can get a rope, you can swing from them. Trees are great."
Trudy looked at him in awe. "Wow," she said. "I didn’t think of that."
Together they headed down the path, and after five minutes, they came to a small farm. "There’s Granny’s house," Trudy cheered and started to run.
"Wait a second," Harry said, grabbing her. Trudy looked up at him. "Why is the door open?" he asked. "Wait here for a moment while I go and check things out, okay?"
Harry walked in to the cottage slowly; something felt very wrong. "Hello," he called. There was no response. He walked through the living room silently, his senses on high alert. He pulled his wand out and slowly opened the door to the bedroom.
On top of the bed was a huge wolf, its jaws dripping drool as it stared down at the woman underneath his paws, intimidating her into silence.
Harry folded his arms, put his wand away in his left boot so that the Muggle wouldn’t see it, and leaned against the doorframe. "Looks like someone’s being a bad doggy," he said calmly. "Or perhaps I should ask â€˜who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?’"
The wolf howled and jumped off the bed, heading toward Harry at a frightening speed.
Harry moved forward and rolled forward, under the jump of the wolf. The wolf crashed into the wall. Harry threw a quick wink at the terrified Muggle, before he kicked the wolf as hard as he could between the legs. The wolf howled in pain, and Harry jumped over him, heading outside. "Trudy," he yelled. "Wait until we’re outside, then run and hug your Granny."
"Okay," Trudy’s terrified voice responded.
"Here wolfie, wolfie, wolfie," he called. There was another roar, and the wolf bounded after him.
"Now," Harry yelled, as he dropped to his back, caught the wolf on his feet and heaved. The wolf flew into a tree.
Harry smiled and pulled out his wand, banishing the creature into the forest. He followed after it. "What am I going to do with you?" he asked, as the wolf started to regain consciousness. Harry absently bound him up, using Incarcerous.
"You’re obviously a werewolf," Harry continued. "And the very fact that you’re in this forest attacking Muggles says to me that you’re a very naughty little puppy. Obviously, it was your bad luck to run into a wizard who knows how to handle werewolves, otherwise there might have been all sorts of unfortunate results. And that cute little girl might have ended up as a werewolf, and that would have been bad.
"So, I’ll think I’ll just stun you and I’ll send someone to get you in the morning. Stupefy.
The struggling werewolf somehow managed to free himself from the charms Harry had placed on him, and dodged the curse. He jumped forward, and Harry was too slow. The werewolf managed to knock the wand out of Harry’s hand.
Harry jumped backward. "This is your last warning," he said softly. "I know you can understand me. Back off and let me stun you, or you won’t see another Full Moon."
The werewolf smirked at him and Harry knew he had his answer. The werewolf started to circle him, taunting him.
Harry reached into his boot and pulled out Gabrielle’s wand. The werewolf growled and attacked, only to have Harry to banish him over a tree stump. Sadly, he conjured an axe with a silver head. "I’m sorry," he said, as he raised the axe and swung down as hard as he could.
The wolf’s head rolled along the ground, and turned back into a human. A human with whiskers and matted grey hair.
Harry cast a charm on the body, to hide him from the Muggles so that the Aurors would be able to find him, and notify his next of kin. He swung the axe over his shoulder. He picked up his own wand and put Gabrielle’s away. He walked back toward the settlement, whistling to himself.
"Hello," he called, as he moved nearer.
Trudy peered out the window. "Harry!" she yelled and ran out to meet him. "You fought the wolf!"
"I did that," Harry agreed, catching her as she jumped into his arms.
Behind Trudy, an older woman, who he had last seen terrified under the wolf, came out. Two lights pierced the darkness, and a car drove up the farm lane quickly, screeching to a halt in the driveway.
"Trudy!" the man yelled as he climbed out of the car, closely followed by a woman who exited from the passenger side.
The old woman shouted something Harry didn’t understand in German, and followed it up with a rapid dialogue. The woman ran over to her and hugged her tightly.
Harry put Trudy down. "I think your parents would like to see you," he suggested.
Trudy gulped. "They’re gonna be mad at me," she mumbled and tried to hide behind him.
"They are," Harry agreed. "You probably scared them witless."
"No probably about it," the man said. "Stephan Bond," he introduced himself. "You’ve met Trudy. That’s Jessica, my wife, and Paula, my mother."
Harry nodded. "I think someone has been reading too many fairytales."
"They’re not fairytales," Trudy stated. "They’re true, and today proved it."
"Oh?" Stephan asked.
"I’ve got my red hood," she said, coming out from behind Harry. "I was taking things to make Granny feel better and I met a woodsman." She pointed at Harry’s axe. "When I got here, there was a wolf trying to lock Granny up in the cupboard, and Harry fought him."
"There really was a wolf?"
"I think it was rabid," Harry explained.
"Thank you," Stephan said. "If you ever need anything…"
Harry grinned. "Just happy to help," he said cheerfully. He picked up Trudy. "Did you know the other rule about these stories?" he asked.
Trudy shook her head.
"You only get one adventure," he said seriously. "You’ve had yours now, so no more night-time trips alone, okay?"
Trudy nodded hard.
Harry passed her back to Stephan. "Don’t be too hard on her," he asked. "I think she’s learned her lesson."
Stephan took his daughter, and then shook Harry’s free hand seriously. He reached into his pocket. "I meant it," he said, "I owe you my family, and I don’t forget." He passed Harry a card announcing that he was a British solicitor, specialising in corporate law.
Harry slowly smiled. "I might just take you up on that," he said cheerfully. "I’m going to be looking at expanding a couple of my businesses in a few months time. I won’t accept free work, but having a friendly contact is always useful."
Stephan smiled and hugged his daughter tightly. "In different circumstances, I would have discounted you as being too young to have a couple of businesses, but any man who can save my mother and daughter with the grace and courage you have, is definitely old enough."
"I’m actually twenty-two," Harry said. "I just look young."
"My wife would love to know your secret," Stephan grinned. "Anyway, I should get this one to bed."
"Night," Harry said, and turned to walk away.
"Harry," Trudy called.
He turned back.
"Who are you?" she asked.
He winked at her. "You know what the bogey-man is?"
"If you asked the bogey-man who his bogey-man is, you know what he would say?"
"You?" Trudy guessed.
Harry nodded. He reached out and lightly patted her on the head. "Stay safe."
He turned and walked away, whistling cheerfully, his axe on his shoulder. As soon as he was out of sight, he vanished the axe and replaced it with his wand. He came to a cross roads and cast â€˜point me’ again. With a smile, and a cheerful jaunt to his step, he continued on his path to rescue his Princess.
As he walked, he started to notice small white stones that were on the ground. They were spread at an even distance, one to the next. He frowned and gripped his wand carefully. Up ahead was a clearing in the woods that made his senses itch. It was definitely magical.
The small stones led straight to the door, and he followed them. He knocked, and an old crone opened the door. She was fat and bent almost in two. Her nose was crooked and had warts on it, and she smelled like she hadn’t bathed in a month.
"Yes?" she asked.
"Sorry to bother you," he said, "I’m just doing a quick survey."
"Then you better come in," she said. "There’s a nasty werewolf around here causing trouble at night. I feel sorry for some of them, but not the ones who go looking for victims."
"Ahh," Harry said. "You’ve just answered my question. You can relax, the werewolf was a bad puppy and now he’s paid the price. I’ll leave you in peace."
"Wait," the witch said. "You killed him?"
"I gave him a choice," Harry sighed. "He made the wrong one."
"Then come on in, please. I’ve got some hot stew on. I don’t get many visitors out here." She sighed, "Not many people trust someone who looks like I do."
Harry resisted the urge to look at his watch. "I am a little hungry," he admitted. "But I do have business to attend to, so I can’t stay long."
The witch smiled. "My name is Matilda," she introduced herself.
"Harry," Harry said.
"What’s a nice young man like you doing out here?" she asked as she bustled around the small cottage.
Harry took a seat out of the way. "It’s a long story," he said. "I’m going to Staufen Im Breisgau to meet someone very dear to me."
Matilda nodded — which had the knock on effect of making her chins wobble — "And what happened with the werewolf?"
Harry smiled. "Would you believe that he tried to eat Red Riding Hood’s Gran, and I had to step in?"
Matilda shot him a long look, before she pulled a loaf of bread and a large cauldron of stew over to the table. She passed him a bowl, and cut the loaf into thick slices. She ladled out a bowl each of the stew, and instantly started to eat, dipping some of the bread in the stew.
Harry waited for a moment, and when she seemed to be having no ill effects, he took a bite of the stew himself. Automatically he swashed it around his mouth, and only when he couldn’t detect any of the signs of poison, did he swallow. "Wow," he said, "that is fantastic."
"Thank you," the witch beamed. "I may be an old crone, but I do like to cook." She hit herself on the side, adding, "which is why I’m the size of a bungalow."
Harry smiled at her and dug in; he hadn’t eaten since the lunch Dobby had provided earlier. As they ate, he recounted what had happened between him and the werewolf.
As he finished, the old woman stood and started to gather the plates. "Let me," Harry said.
"Oh no," the woman replied firmly. "You’re the guest, I will clean up. And before you start arguing, I’ve got over a hundred and fifty years on you, and I’m a lot more stubborn."
Harry laughed softly. "If you insist."
"I do, it’s nice to have a handsome young man to talk to. All my family died out a long time ago. An evil wizard killed them."
"Voldemort?" Harry asked.
The witch nodded.
"He’s dead." Harry said. "Harry Potter killed him eight years ago."
"Really?" the witch gasped.
"That’s the best news I’ve heard in years," she said. "I’ll have to send this Potter fellow a thank-you."
"I believe he’s at Hogwarts," Harry said, "or so the papers say."
The witch nodded. "He must be a hero," she said.
"Do you know the qualities of a hero?"
"Not really," Harry replied.
"One of the key ones," the witch continued, "is modesty. And not even admitting that you killed Voldemort is extremely modest."
"Your scar is very famous," Matilda said dryly. "I knew who you were immediately. I don’t often let strangers in," she continued. "But you, who kill Dark Lords and evil werewolves, you I had to at least show a part of my gratitude."
"It was nothing," Harry protested. Matilda ignored him and pushed back a rug. There was a small trapdoor under it, and she lifted it up and pulled something out. It was long and slim and wrapped in rags.
"This," she said, as she placed it on the table in front of him, "is a family heirloom and I want you to have it."
"Harry," Matilda said sharply, "Remember what I said about my age? I’m going to win this argument in the end, so just say â€˜thank you’!"
Harry smiled. "Thank you," he said obediently.
Matilda removed the rags completely, and Harry gasped softly. It was the most beautiful sword he had ever seen. The hilt seemed to glow with the same golden light that Gabrielle’s wand glowed with. It was longer than the previous sword he had held — the sword of Gryffindor — and straighter. "I can’t accept this," he whispered. "It’s beautiful!"
"You can and you will," Matilda stated firmly. "It is useless in my cellar, and I have no one to pass it on to. If you have it, I know you will use it for good, as it was used in the past."
Harry took a deep breath and took the handle. The sword seemed to sing to him as grasped it. It moulded itself to his grip as he pulled it out of the scabbard. The blade was bright silver, and had runes etches down the centre. "Thank you," he whispered as he sheathed the blade. "I swear that I will never let this sword be used for evil."
Matilda smiled. "Now, get going. It’s late, and I have to get my beauty sleep."
"Can I come and see you again?" he asked. "I know someone else who would love your stew."
The old witch beamed at him. "I’d be delighted," she said, urging him out the door.
Harry turned, bent over, and kissed her cheek. "Thank you," he said.
To his surprise, Matilda actually blushed. "Get away with you," she commanded. "I’ll see you again."
"You will," Harry promised. He tied the scabbard to his belt, and continued on his journey.
The old witch watched him walk away. "You are a true Prince, Harry," she whispered. She seemed to blur, and she lost the weight she was carrying, and doubled in height. The cottage faded into the ruins it had been a few hours before.
Minerva turned and hurried in the opposite direction, using her wand to trace Harry’s path. It wasn’t long before she found what she was looking for. She smiled and Apparated back to Basel, and then took the Floo back to the Weasleys’. The house was empty, but a note said that they had all decamped to Hogwarts, so she took the Floo to Hogsmeade and walked up the path.
She smiled faintly. For so many nights they had all stayed like this, talking about Harry, while he slept. This time was the same, only he wasn’t sleeping, he was off proving himself worthy of leading.
It was close to eleven at night, and everyone who had been at the Weasleys’ earlier was sitting around, talking and laughing, wine glasses in their hands.
"May I have your attention please," she called.
"Yes, Professor McGonagall," Fred and George replied in unison.
She didn’t blush, even if she had been caught in a teacher mode. "Harry is well on his way to rescuing Gabrielle," she said. "And, as I’m sure it will be no surprise, Harry can’t even rescue his Princess without having an adventure on the side."
"Ooo," Fred said, dropping to the floor in front of Minerva. "Story time."
"It seems that Harry was walking along, when he stumbled across a girl in a red cape, taking a basket of goods to her Granny."
"Little Red Riding Hood?" Hermione asked.
"Please," Hermione continued, "tell me that there wasn’t a wolf involved!"
"It would hardly be a story if there wasn’t a wolf," Minerva replied with a smile. "Or in this case, a werewolf. Harry interrupted him trying to have a snack of Granny. The werewolf obviously didn’t recognise that he was fighting a Prince, and well, the werewolf is no more."
"Who was he?" Remus asked softly.
Minerva smiled at him gently. "Who else could it be?"
"Greyback?" he gasped.
Minerva smiled broadly.
"Err, who?" Su asked.
"Fenrir Greyback," Bill explained. "A supporter of Voldemort, although he did not carry the mark. He was responsible for creating more werewolves than anyone else."
"Including me," Remus added.
"And he’s dead now?" Su continued.
"I don’t think there’s a creature alive who can survive being decapitated with a silver axe," Minerva stated, a high degree of personal satisfaction in her voice.
"Damn," Remus grinned as Sirius pounded him on his back. "This calls for a toast."
"Minerva," Albus said from his comfortable seat with Doris, "how do you know this?"
"Well, Harry happened to follow some small white stones…"
"Hansel and Gretel?"
"Only without the house made of sweets, I didn’t have enough time to create that. I was hideous — hooked nose, short, fat, warts and all. And you can guess how Harry reacted?"
"Hmm," Ron said with a teasing smile on his face. "I’d’ve run a mile screaming â€˜Hag!’ So I’d say that Harry was charming, polite, cheerful, and friendly."
Minerva laughed. "Precisely. But he wasn’t foolish either. He checked the food for poison, and made sure I ate everything first — and he had his wand within reach at all times." She paused.
"Many years ago, when times were dark, there was not the separation between Muggles and Wizard that there is now. Wizards were considered Gods, for they had power beyond belief.
"ManannÃ¡n mac Lir was one of these wizards. He was thought of as the god of the sea and a psychopomp — a spirit that helps people move from this world to the next — and he was a necromancer. The Muggles at the time knew that he had connections with the Otherworld islands.
"He was a great man, who acted fairly. He taught Cormac mac Airt humility and modesty by exchanging Cormac’s family for money. Cormac quickly realised what he had done, and tried to undo it. ManannÃ¡n taught him the lesson, and then graciously allowed him his family back, and even gave him a magical chalice, which would break if three lies were spoken over it, and would reform if three truths were spoken. Cormac became a great and powerful leader of the people, thanks to ManannÃ¡n."
She paused and picked up a glass of wine and took a sip. The faces in front of her were entranced. This was the greatest secret of an educator. A story such as this would be remembered far longer than dry facts.
"ManannÃ¡n had a sword, and he used it to defeat a dark wizard. And when he died, it went to Lugh Lamfada, who passed it on to CÃºchulainn, who himself passed it on to Conn of the Hundred Battles, the High King of Ireland. In the fifth century, an adventurer took it to Scotland, where it was bequeathed to Artur, the son of King Aidan of Dalriada."
Hermione gasped, "But…"
"Even we don’t know that for sure," Minerva said gently.
"What?" Ron asked.
"A fifth century king with a name like Arthur, carrying a magical sword?" Bill said. "That sounds mighty familiar to me!"
"Oh," Ron agreed. "Yeah."
"Records from that time are spotty and annoying inconsistent," Minerva continued. "Some do believe that he was King Arthur of Camelot. What is known is that in the ninth century, Constantine I, the High King of Scotland, placed this sword with the clan McGonagall, and commanded that we search for a suitable person to hold it, and decreed that this person would herald a new age of reason and clarity for the world.
"For the past thousand years we have held this sword, waiting for one who would live up to its history. Waiting patiently, as the times turned, for the man who could pick up this sword and wield it as was intended.
"Tonight, I gave Fragarach, known as 'The Answerer,’ to Harry. It is with pride that I fulfilled my duty to my ancestors."
Su slowly started to clap. Padma and Hermione joined in instantly, and soon everyone was applauding. Minerva smiled and bowed softly.
"Masterful," Doris praised. "I will be borrowing this story to tell in class."
Padma looked at Su. "Didn’t I tell you?"
"You did," Su agreed. As everyone looked at her, "She said that agreeing to follow Harry would be the best decision I ever made. And here I sit, welcomed into this family based on friendship without hesitation or reluctance. And I sit, surrounded by powerful people, who can laugh and joke like normal humans, and I hear stories of legend, and realize that I am in the middle of one — that years from now, people will tell stories where I’m one of the characters. Following Harry has given me immortality, and I cannot ask for anything more than that."
"Mum always said we were going to be famous," George said cheerfully.
"I believe her exact word was â€˜infamous,’" Charlie pointed out.
"Close enough," Fred replied.
Harry walked up to another crossroad in the forest. There was actually a signpost this time; it only had one destination, pointing to the town on the left. His route had taken him over a couple of roads and a train track so far.
The route toward the town looked open and inviting.
"Point me Gabrielle Delacour," Harry tried. He’d been trying this for the last hour without success.
This time his wand wobbled, before it pointed to the right and deeper into the forest.
Harry grinned and started to jog. He kept his hand on the hilt of the sword, as he’d found that was the only way to ensure that it didn’t get tangled in his legs, sending him sprawling (again).
A cloud blotted out the moon, plunging everything into eerie darkness. Ahead, a wolf howled, filling the air with its mournful cry.
Harry tightened his grip on his sword, but didn’t slow down. He kept at the same distance-eating pace, determined not to arrive and be out of breath. It was hard — part of him wanted to sprint. His Princess was close, and she needed him.
He emerged into a large clearing that appeared totally empty. The soil had been moved away in the middle, revealing the gleaming white stone underneath. It seemed like nothing was there at all, and he was about to turn around, when he realised that he had no need to turn around.
That the very idea of turning around had not been his.
He growled and concentrated, trying to clear his mind. He knew the basics of Occlumency, but had so far not needed to actually try to use it.
As clearing his mind wasn’t working, he tried the opposite, and filled it with images of Gabrielle — or rather, a topless Gabrielle asking him to remove her knickers.
He was concentrating so hard on that image, he almost forgot to block his mind from outside influence, but as he did, the clearing in front of him started to waver, and then with a clarity that was shocking, a large castle was there.
Turrets and towers reared high in to the sky. The white stones gleamed in the moonlight, beautifully offset by the dark blue slate roof tiles. There was a heavy wooden portcullis in front of him.
He raised his wand with his left hand, but the sword pulsed in his right. He drew it and examined it closely. The runes were glowing in the moonlight, but he didn’t recognise them. He turned the sword over to look at the back and frowned. There was an indention at the base of the blade that looked around twelve inches long. He looked at his wand and then the indention again and shrugged.
It wasn’t hard to see the correlation. He slowly placed the wand in the indention and the air filled with magic. The sword seemed to sing again as it vibrated and started to glow so brightly he had to look away. When it faded, there was no sign of his wand, and the indention had gone.
He smiled and looked at the portcullis. "Reducto," he whispered.
The sword bucked in his hand and spell worked perfectly — reducing what was once a sturdy barrier into something that could only be used as kindling for a fire.
He walked in slowly, his sword held low, ready to use it. He found himself in a tunnel piercing the thick wall of the castle, with another portcullis at the far end. The only light came from a single torch in a bracket on the wall.
"Stop," someone yelled in French. A hulking figure stepped out of the shadows at the end of the tunnel. Harry guessed that this was one of the henchmen that Marie had described earlier. He didn’t stop -- he wasn’t very good at following orders, but then, as a Prince, the only one ones he would have to follow would be those issued by Gabrielle.
The man cast a few spells at him, but they weren’t very accurate. The ones that were, Harry swayed to avoid. Even in the narrow confines of the tunnel, it was easy to avoid being hit. "Tsk," said Harry. "It’s so hard to find good minions these days."
The henchman gave up on spells and charged. Harry noted that intelligence was definitely not on the employment checklist for henchmen any more than accuracy was.
Harry decided to be merciful, even though the henchman had helped kidnap Gabrielle. It didn’t feel right to use the edge of the large sword he was holding on the rapidly approaching idiot.
He dodged out of the way easily and slapped the flat of the blade against the back of his head. The man fell to the ground with a solid sounding thunk.
Harry shook his head and the second portcullis met the same fate as the first. He entered the courtyard beyond, only to retreat a second later, narrowly avoiding being burnt to a crisp by a large dragon. He sighed as he peered out of the tunnel; it had to be a Hungarian Horntail — and a particularly cranky one at that. There didn’t seem to be any way around the dragon, and he couldn’t even fly as Gabrielle’s broom wasn’t working.
The dragon was dominating the space between the entrance and the Keep, which looked close to a hundred yards back. Harry peeked out again. The dragon was in the middle of an ornamental garden. Around the exterior walls was a stone colonnade similar to the one that edged Hogwarts’ main courtyard.
"Can we talk?" Harry called hopefully. The only response was another burst of fire. Instead of retreating into the tunnel again, he ran forward, and dived into a roll. He headed to the right, for the cover of the colonnade. He dived and rolled at the last minute, and felt the heat of the fire through his shoes. He gasped for breath as he stood with his back to the first column.
"I don’t want to hurt you," he called. "But I will!"
The dragon roared in defiance and anger, and flames bracketed him as it tried to attack again.
Harry took another deep breath and ran for the next column. As far as he could tell, the dragon was not tied down, and was acting on its own free will. That made things easier for him as he didn’t have to worry about hurting something that was being coerced.
There was a swishing noise, and at the last moment, Harry dived forward. The column behind him collapsed into rubble as the dragon’s tail slammed into it.
The dragon swivelled, and Harry started to run for cover again. The dragon whirled the other way, and Harry tried to jump the tail aimed at him. He didn’t quite miss it, and yelped as the tail smashed into him.
Luckily it wasn’t a direct hit, but it still hurt and sent him spinning. He tried to roll out of it, but landed on some rubble. As he got back to his feet, he felt his back, and looked at his hand. It was red.
"Stupefy," he snarled. As before, the sword bucked in his hand, and while the red bolt of magic did knock the dragon back, it didn’t seem to do anything else.
"Protego," he called, and ran toward the dragon. The dragon seemed to smirk, before it launched another torrent of fire at him. His shield held — barely — protecting him from the heat. The dragon swung its tail, but he was ready this time, and he jumped and swung at the same time. The sword cleaved through the dragon’s scales and bit deeply into muscle and bone.
The dragon roared in pain as it jerked its tail free, and swiped its front left claws at Harry, in an effort to protect its damaged appendage.
Harry parried the thrust, and launched a vicious riposte — cutting the tendons. The beast retreated to get some space, and then tried to attack with fire again. Harry ran forward, yelling "Wingardium Leviosa!" and flicking the tip of the sword down at his shoes He flew up, over the flames, his legs still pumping until he was higher than the startled dragon. Then he cancelled the spell.
As he started to drop he swung his sword so that it was pointing down, and grasped the handle with both hands. His aim was perfect. The sword point landed directly above the dragon’s eyes, and not even the thick, magic resistant scales and the heavy crest were any hindrance to the sword.
The dragon’s head slumped to ground, and Harry twisted the blade twice.
There was silence, and a curious groaning noise as the Horntail breathed its last.
Harry took a deep breath and raised the sword slowly. He spun it, the centrifugal force shedding the blood, and then placed it back in its scabbard. He walked off the dragon and headed toward the keep.
The castle was empty; it looked like it hadn’t been occupied for centuries, but it had once been a grand palace.
He knew where Gabrielle was going to be, of course — she had to be in the highest turret, and he wasn’t going to be stopped before he got there.
Gabrielle looked around her prison, trying to decide what to do. Her Prince was about to come through the doors, and she hadn’t yet decided in what position she should be.
She could try being asleep, but not even a dumb princess would have been able to sleep through Harry first breaking the door down, and then beating the nasty dragon. There was also the fact that she was so proud of her Prince that she could burst.
Never, not even in her wildest dreams, had she truly expected her Prince to kill a dragon for her!
Perhaps she should be tied up. Maybe he’d take advantage of that for a kiss or two before he released her — and that could be fun.
She looked around the bedroom she was locked in. There was a set of manacles attached to the far wall. Judging by the padding on the inside, she wasn’t the first princess to have this idea.
"Mirror," she called. "Do I look sexier like this," she asked, as she raised her hands over her head. "Or like this," she said, putting them out to her sides.
The mirror on the mantelpiece ignored her.
"I swear," she grumbled, "whoever had this room before me had a warped sense of humour.
"Mirror mirror, on the wall,
How do I look sexier,
tied against this wall?"
The mirror chuckled. "That’s better," a female voice said. "It has been many years since anyone worked out how to talk to me. Let me see those poses again."
Gabrielle raised her hands over her head and held them there for a second, and then spread them out wide.
"The first," The mirror stated firmly. "And take off your shoes and skirt, there is nothing like a half-naked Princess to get a Prince’s blood flowing."
"Ooo, good idea," Gabrielle agreed. She kicked her shoes under the bed and removed her skirt. She smoothed down the shirt so that she was still decently covered. She looked at herself in the mirror, and then smiled. She had waited all her life for these boobs, so she might as well make sure they were shown off in the best light.
She undid the top two buttons of her shirt and then ran her hands through her hair hard — so that she would look a little ravished. She moved back over to the manacles, and tightened the chains so that they were shorter, forcing her onto to the tips of her toes. She placed her hands in them and used her fingers to slam the manacles shut.
"How do I look?"
The mirror didn’t answer for a few seconds, and when it did, it was in a voice that Gabrielle had never heard from it before. "Thou, O Princess, art the fairest of all."
"I have waited for hundreds of years to see royalty return to this palace," it continued solemnly, "and at long last it has happened."
Before Gabrielle could ask any questions, the door to the room disintegrated — and in the dust and debris stood her Prince.
His jacket was singed and burnt, he had a smudge on his cheek, and his hair was more unruly than ever. He stood there for a second, a scowl on his face and his sword in his hand. He looked at her and slowly smiled. "Princess," he whispered.
"My Prince?" she asked.
He nodded and sheathed his sword, before he walked over to her. As she had hoped, his first action was to kiss her. The kiss was different than anything she had shared with him before. It was hot, possessive, firm, and more than anything it screamed to her that he had accepted that he was her Prince, and that nothing in the world was going to stop them from living happily ever after.
He pulled back; they were both breathing heavily, and he pointed his sword at the manacles.
"Wait," she said — she really didn’t want this fine bit of workmanship ruined. "They’re on a catch. I can’t open them myself, but you can."
He leaned up and nodded, his fingers quickly undoing the catches, and she sagged down, as if exhausted.
He caught her, and carried her to the four-poster bed. He laid her down gently. "How are you?" he asked intently.
Sadly, Gabrielle knew that there would be no delightful ravishment tonight. The Prince would take her home, and she’d have to wait until later to show how grateful she was.
She smiled up at him and stretched. Of course, that didn’t mean that she couldn’t accidentally show him a few things — just to keep him interested.
"Irritated," she admitted. "I was â€˜stupefied’ and carried here. And since then, I’ve had Van Neuman talk endlessly about my destiny." She frowned. "My destiny is to rule with you, be loved by all, and make everyone happy. And I’m doing that."
"No, it’s not!" the voice of Dr Van Neuman shouted. They both turned to look at the door. Her psychiatrist was in the doorway, pointing his wand at them. In his other hand was her wand. He was all of four feet tall.
Harry blinked. "You have got to be kidding me!"
Gabrielle felt embarrassed. "I was fighting the other two," she confessed. "I didn’t expect him to hit me in the back. I mean, look at him."
"I am," Harry agreed. "I think I’m even angrier at your parents. You would think they would have looked at him and just laughed."
Van Neuman sneered. "You’re forgetting who has the wands," he said. A vicious smile appeared on his face as he suddenly snapped Gabrielle’s wand in two.
Gabrielle gasped. It almost hurt her physically to see her wand snapped like that, but her Prince just smiled — and that smile boded nothing but ill for her psychiatrist.
"And you," Van Neuman continued, "raise your hands so I can see them and keep them away from that pretty toy."
Harry did as he was told, raising his arms but nudging Gabrielle with his knee as he shifted his weight. She glanced down, to see the handle of a wand protruding from his right boot.
"Tell me something," Harry said. "If I guess your first name, will you let us go?"
"What?" Van Neuman demanded.
"Oh, so you’re saying that you’re not Rumpelstiltskin?"
Van Neuman’s face turned an ugly shade of red, as he danced on the spot in absolute rage. "How dare you," he spat. "You’ll pay for that, oh how you’ll pay. In fact, I’ll torture your Princess," he sneered the word, "first."
Gabrielle put a terrified look on her face, and clung to Harry’s side, reaching down and slipping the wand free.
"He won’t be able to…"
What ever Harry wasn’t going to be able to do was largely irrelevant, as she pointed the wand at Van Neuman and shouted "Diffindo!"
The wand burst into life, and she suddenly wished that she had used a different curse.
"That," Harry said softly, "is a lot of blood."
She grimaced. "I do hope the house elves here know how to get it out of the carpet," she agreed.
Harry grinned at her. "So, do you like your new wand?"
"My new wand?" she asked in surprise.
"Yes, I had a chat with Fawkes, and we decided that we needed to make amends for the evil that Voldemort did with one of Fawkes’s feathers. So I had that wand made for you. It’s a brother wand to mine."
She hugged him as tightly as possible, and then started to examine her wand closely. "It’s beautiful," she whispered.
He reached out and raised her head so that he could look into her eyes. "It doesn’t come close to how beautiful you are."
Gabrielle felt all her insides melt at the same time, and she wrapped her arms around him and kissed him gently.
He sighed against her lips. "As much as I want to continue this, I think we should get out of here. We don’t know who this castle belongs to."
"Ooo," Gabrielle said. She jumped out of bed and stood in front of the mirror.
"Mirror mirror on the wall,
Who does this castle belong to?
Portcullis and all"
Harry moved behind her, and wrapped his arms around her stomach, holding her against his chest. "A couple of portcullises less than there used to be, actually," he whispered in her ear.
"Thou, oh Prince and Princess, are the rightful heirs of Camelot."
Harry coughed. "Excuse me?" he asked in a hoarse whisper.
"This castle, long abandoned, was once named Camelot. It was built by Merlin in the mists of the past. He who bears Fragarach, known as 'The Answerer’, also known as Excalibur, is the rightful prince of Britain, and master of Camelot."
"See," Gabrielle said, twisting to look at him. "I told you that you were a Prince!"
Harry blinked at her for a second, and then started to laugh. "Can we have a bit more detail?" he asked the mirror politely.
"Certainly, My Lord," the mirror said. "For an eon, I have been here, awaiting the return of someone worthy. At times I slept, other times I watched the world turn.
"Then, eight years ago, magic brought me out of my daze. I watched from afar as evil was vanquished by one who was honourable and just. I watched as his Princess swore a solemn vow to herself that she would be worthy of his name." Gabrielle felt herself start to blush. "I allowed myself to be found again, and that miserable dwarf persuaded himself that he was my rightful ruler, and many a night he spent refining his plan to turn the Princess into his Queen."
"Ewww," Gabrielle mumbled.
The mirror ignored her. "He would use her intelligence against her and teach her to be cold-blooded, and he would bind her to him. But many a night did he rage unto the sky, for his plan was not working. The Princess seemed immune to his work. Her heart was already given to another, and no one, and no thing would distract her — but alas, he did not know this.
"At last, her parents sent him a message; the Princess had fulfilled her vows and had woken her Prince.
"Verily, did the dwarf scream unto the heavens. He would have her, or no one would. In desperation he acted. Two brothers of intelligence slim did he acquire, through promises of great wealth, and he embarked on his most cunning operation yet. And he did succeed, or so he thought, as he kidnapped the Princess, knowing not that he had sealed his own doom.
"A creature of the light appeared, sent by the Prince, and I allowed him to find me. But before he could rescue the Princess, I called out, and behold, he did listen.
"Together we talked, my first conversation in an eon, and he agreed with me. A message he did take back, and the Prince was soon on his way.
"A Prince must be honourable and kind; more, a Prince must be able to protect the Princess and me. And so I watched, and I caused his broom to fail. Tests of three must he pass, so that he may prove himself worthy of dominion of all that I am.
"A girl, innocent and sweet, was sent into the woods. How would the Prince act? That was the test of the first. The Prince befriended the girl with charm and gentle words. He protected her, unknowing of the danger ahead. I caused a werewolf, evil and dark, to attack a dwelling, although I did not let the owner be harmed."
Gabrielle felt herself lost in the story; her heart was pounding as she listened.
"The Prince drew away the foul beast, into the forest, where he tried to reason with it. Alas, the werewolf did not listen, and attacked the Prince, disarming him. But the Prince was cunning and smart, and believed in constant vigilance. He had a second wand. And the werewolf was vanquished, a silver axe ending his life.
"With modesty and tact, the Prince played down his heroism, and checked that the family was unharmed, and continued on his mystical quest, his confidence high, even as his heart sorely called out for his missing Princess.
"A Prince must be gracious and fair, and see beyond what is obvious. I called forward the Sword-Bearer. A grotesque creature she did become, but one full of kindness. The Prince treated her with respect and affection, and Fragarach she did pass unto his hands. The test of the second was passed.
"And so the Prince continued; his fair maiden close.
"A Prince must be brave and bold, and so a dragon, corrupted by greed and promises from the dwarf, was allowed into my courtyard. This was the test of the third.
"And my eternal heart sang, for the Prince did slay the dragon. Fragarach had accepted him as the rightful bearer. I rejoiced, for not only did I have a Prince worthy of leading, I had a Princess.
"Back in the days when I was born, Princesses were pretty and short; they listened to their men, and had little influence out of their chambers. And yet times have changed. How would a Princess fare in this modern world of enlightenment, when non-magical people had cultures that dwarfed our own?
"The Princess talked to me, discovering my secret on her second attempt. And so I responded, wondering if the Princess would be vain and empty of the head. Instead, I found a Princess worthy of any Prince in the mists of time.
"Beauty? She had that, and not one caused by magic, but by purity of heart, soul and purpose. She was a Princess because she felt that was the best way she could help make everything better.
"Empty of the head? This Princess was well versed in her responsibilities, and in events, both current and ancient. Philosophy, math, religion, magic, in all subjects did she excel.
"Worthy of leading? This Princess believed that her Prince was the true leader, and that she would support him until the end of time. She gave no thought to her own elevation, only unto his.
"And so I bless this pairing. I awake from my centuries’ long rest, and I rejoice, for a Prince and Princess will soon marry, and they will become King and Queen, and will alight upon my dais and sit upon my thrones of gold, and once more will light and reason be bought to this realm.
"For I am Camelot, wrought from magic and hewn from stone. My duty and my destiny are clear. Unto thee do I pledge my unending service."
Gabrielle moved forward slightly, and with as much grace as she could, she curtseyed toward the mirror. Next to her, Harry bowed deeply.
"Camelot does make a good point," Harry said. He moved and took her hand, before he knelt before her. "Gabrielle, my Princess, will you marry me?"
"Harry," she said, taking his hand in hers. "I love you, Harry Potter; you are my Prince for now and for eternity. I release the bands on my heart, and give you everything that I am. Yes, I will marry you."
Harry smiled and slowly rose to his feet. "Gabrielle Delacour," he said, "you have changed my life so much in ways that can never be truly explained by mere words. You have awoken me to my destiny. I love you, for now and for eternity."
She moved closer and kissed him; her first kiss as a betrothed woman was just as wonderful as her last kiss as a single woman. "If you think this means we’re waiting until our wedding night to sleep together, you’re very wrong."
He laughed and hugged her tightly. "How are we going to get home?" he asked.
"If I may suggest," Camelot suggested. "You could always fly me back to Britain."
"You fly?" Harry asked in awe.
"Oh yes," Harry said, "oh yes indeed."
"Then you should proceed forthwith unto my dungeon."
Gabrielle felt Harry take her hand, and pulled her along. They both jumped over the decapitated body of the dwarf-sized psychiatrist, and ran downstairs. As they did, lights appeared to guide their way.
The dungeon was like the rest of the castle — old and decrepit. Deep cracks ran through the stone floor. In the centre, was a large stone; a tall mirror sat to one side.
"Place your sword in the stone, for only the rightful king of England can proceed." Camelot’s voice came from the mirror.
Harry pulled Fragarach out of its scabbard. He saluted the mirror, before pressing the sword deep into the stone.
A greet feeling of magic emanated from Harry and the Sword. Gabrielle moved over, so that she could share the burden, taking his hand.
A golden light appeared in front of them, and the floor started to change. The flagstones mended themselves, and the effect continued.
"Behold, I am returned to life," the mirror whispered.
The magic faded, and Gabrielle dropped to her knees with Harry, feeling exhausted.
"My apologies." Camelot’s voice had changed, and before them appeared a spectral figure, that of a woman; she had long black hair, and carried herself with pride and dignity.
"Nimue?" Gabrielle asked.
"So I have been called," she agreed. "Many names have been given unto me; and yet I am Camelot."
"What would you prefer being called?" Harry asked politely.
"I am returned to form because of your magic," Camelot said. "Onto you falls the right to name me."
Harry smiled. "I asked what you would like to be called," he pointed out.
Camelot smiled at him. "Nimue," she said. "For that was the name I took when I separated from this castle and carried Arthur’s body to Avalon.
"Take hold of Fragarach, and we shall away. But be aware, the castle you saw is not my appearance; in my limited power, I cast an illusion so that the dwarf would not be suspicious. Others shall perceive me as I truly am; as will you when you alight from my ground."
"I can’t wait," Harry said. "I thought you were beautiful before. I’m sure I will be blown away by your full beauty."
Images appeared in front of them, of the Black Forest. And as Harry pushed the sword, so did Camelot move.
"Take us home, Harry," Gabrielle said, as the sun rose behind them.
Albus found himself slightly concerned about Harry. As much as he trusted Fawkes, he had yet to hear anything since Harry had invaded Germany late yesterday, and Minerva had reported the death of Greyback.
There was a fifth table in front of him, full of Harry’s friends and family. The group had been seen so often at Hogwarts that it was no longer remarkable to the students, although there was some surprise that they had reformed after Harry had been awakened from his coma.
The previous night had been immense fun, and once more he castigated himself for losing sight of what truly mattered in life. He had come so close to crossing the line, and was eternally grateful that he had been stopped.
Everyone had decided to stay the night at Hogwarts, a decision influenced by the amount of wine that had been consumed.
His musings were interrupted as the door flew open and Fawkes soared in. His phoenix hovered, fire shooting out of his tail feathers as he spread his wings. He opened his mouth and sang, and Albus felt excitement race through his veins.
Phoenix song had many properties, but this was the first time Albus had ever heard so much unadulterated joy and anticipation from the bird. Fawkes swept out of the hall majestically, and flew outside through the great oaken doors of the castle, which opened on their own before him.
"Headmaster?" Remus asked.
There was a slight tug on his magic, as an early warning ward announced that something was approaching.
"I think," Albus said clearly, "that we should delay the first lessons of the day, and congregate outside. I truly believe that no one will want to miss anything that can make a phoenix so happy. We will move one table at a time," he announced, before the students could dash out. "First year Ravenclaws, after you, please."
Eight minutes later, he was on the green grass in front of Hogwarts. It was a grey morning, with no sign of the sun yet.
"What is that?" Bill asked, as what looked like a dark cloud approached them.
"Does anyone happen to have any Omnioculars?" Fred asked plaintively.
The cloud slowly drew closer, and as it did, what they thought had been a relatively small nearby cloud, turned out to be something much larger.
"No," Hermione gasped. "It can’t be."
"What?" Ron asked.
The grey clouds over Hogwarts slowly parted, and beams of sunshine suddenly shot through the clouds and illuminated the object in a multitude of dazzling colours.
"Sacre Bleu," Fleur whispered. "That is not possible."
"Professor," George said softly, "did anyone spike the wine last night?"
"No," Minerva responded.
"Then," Fred continued, "There really is a humongous castle floating toward us?"
"So it seems."
No one seemed to say anything as the castle moved closer.
"Well, Hermione," Charlie said a few minutes later. "I can only think of one castle of that size that we’ve mislaid."
"Camelot," she whispered.
Albus found himself agreeing.
"Did you say Camelot, miss?" Zach’s voice rang out.
"All right!" Zach cheered. "You know what this means?"
"What?" one of the seventh year prefects demanded.
"That Harry and Gabrielle are in there — Harry rescued his Princess, and they even found themselves a castle!"
Albus couldn’t find a single flaw in the logic of his theory, no matter how much a part of him said that it was completely illogical.
The castle floated to a stop over the great lake. Four beams of light shot out from corners of the castle, anchoring it in midair. A fifth beam shot out from the front, and two figures slowly descended. One was tall, with unruly black hair. He carried a sword on his left hip. The other was slightly smaller, with radiant blonde hair. She had a glowing wand in her right hand. His right arm was around her shoulders, her left arm around his waist.
Together, they descended to the ground, and the light vanished. They walked up, the children parting before them, allowing them to pass unhindered.
"Harry!" Natalie called.
Harry paused and smiled, and gestured with his head for her to join them. The small Ravenclaw tugged on the hem of Harry’s shirt until he bent down to hear something that she whispered. Harry smiled and put his hand on the sword, before she stepped behind them, and walked proudly, carrying the hem of Gabrielle’s newly conjured cloak as if that was the position she had chosen for herself in life, and nothing, and no one, would be able to tell her otherwise.
Harry and Gabrielle stopped in front of him, and the others. "Hey," Harry said casually. "What’s for breakfast?"
Albus blinked at him, and then looked at the castle floating in the sky, before he started to laugh.
The laugh was quickly taken up by the other students, as the sheer incongruity of Harry’s statement rippled through the crowd.
"I think," Albus said, "that you’re going to have to answer a few questions."
Harry sighed, "We’ve not eaten in a while, so we’re going to need something first. Camelot didn’t have any food."
"Then it truly is Camelot?" Hermione whispered.
Harry grinned. "Wait until you meet her."
"Harry," Hermione groaned. "She? Do you have to anthropomorphise a castle?"
Gabrielle laughed. "Hermione, you can’t anthropomorphise something that really does have human characteristics. Camelot is alive!"
"Oh," Hermione blushed. "You really are going to have to answer a lot of questions!"
"After breakfast," Gabrielle said firmly.
"What happened next, Grandma?"
"Why, they lived happily ever after," Hermione said softly.
"But that’s not the end of the story!"
"I know, Sebastian," Hermione replied, ruffling his hair gently. "There are many more stories, but not all of them can be told tonight."
"Aww," Samantha pouted.
"It’s time for bed, you two."
"Okay," Sebastian said and kissed her on the cheek. "Night."
"Night, sweetheart, don’t let the bed bugs bite."
"They won’t," he said confidently. "Great-Uncle Harry charmed the beds."
"That he did," Hermione agreed.
"Night Grandma," Samantha said, giving her a big hug.
"Goodnight, darling," Hermione whispered and watched as the two scampered off.
"I’ll check on them in five minutes," Ron said from his chair in the corner. "Sometimes I can hardly believe that we lived through that story."
"I know," Hermione agreed. "None of us suspected before Gabrielle woke Harry that a legendary relationship was forming, but I think we started to get a clue shortly afterward."
"â€˜Merlin and Morgana’, â€˜Godric and Rowena’, â€˜Isis and Osiris’, and now â€˜Harry and Gabrielle’."
"I do wish Harry had a slightly more exciting name," Hermione murmured. "But you’re right, we’ve always known Harry was going to be a legend — that much energy and smartness wasn’t going to do anything but — but when he added Gabrielle, the combination was unbeatable.
"Over the last hundred years we’ve had to add four new schools to cope with the numbers of students we are getting. Only Harry, Gabrielle, Percy, and the goblins know how exactly many people they are employing. I tried to work it out once, and gave up when I started getting to silly numbers."
"We helped," Ron pointed out. "MuggleTech was our idea."
"True," Hermione agreed. "A little unfair to the competition, but it was Harry and Gabrielle who worked out how to make a magical transistor, and Fred and George who worked out how to mass produce it."
Ron laughed. "One day you’ll tell their other stories, and I’ll sit here and listen, thinking about the uncensored version, and relive halcyon days when the sun never seemed to set, and we could do anything."
"Yeah," he grinned.
"Still, that was almost poetic."
Ron looked hopeful. "Really?" he purred.
"Check the grandkids are asleep, and maybe we’ll see if you can still chase me around a room."
"I’m only a hundred and thirty," Ron pointed out. "I’ve got decades left in me yet."
"Then what are you waiting for?"
Ron bounced to his feet eagerly and dashed out the door.
Hermione shook her head and laughed to herself. She stood and walked to the mantelpiece, absently touching Harry’s face as he looked out at her from a picture. He turned and kissed Gabrielle, then grinned out of the frame again. The picture had been taken at the charity ball, the biggest party of the year, and the one that had started things off properly. In quick succession Weasley Wizard Wheezes opened and Dobby’s Delights had thrown open their doors, and the goblins had started their Muggle banking venture. And that had just been the start. As more traditional businesses tried to fight back, they realised that all the best talent was already working for either Harry or the goblins, and they couldn’t change fast enough to keep up.
Not that all their ventures succeeded — some sank without a trace — but most seemed to make money hand over fist. Sirius, Harry, Gabrielle, and Sirius’s girlfriends de jour took high society by storm, creating scandals left, right, and centre, but having such fun doing it that no party was complete without them.
She shook her head. Minding her grandchildren always made her slightly maudlin, pointing out that she was indeed approaching middle-age and she hadn’t seen Harry and Gabrielle for a few months now — they were off in America planning the first step to colonising the Moon.
A pair of hands covered her eyes. "They’re asleep," Ron said.
"I do love you, you know that?"
"I do," she replied as Ron started to kiss her neck.
She smiled. After all this time, she was convinced of one thing. Gabrielle was right; life was indeed a fairytale, one where everyone lived happily ever after.
Before I say anything else... I flat out stated that it was going to be a frickin' dragon. And a dragon it was - not some metaphor for the Wizarding world!
HEA was a lot of fun to write. Gabrielle is one my favourite characters, and writing her like this was a bit of a fun challenge. One of the things that I amused myself with, was the times that Harry compared Gabrielle's mental conditions to his own - as if Mr "I grew up in a cupboard and spent eight years asleep" is the definition of sanity.
Is this the end? Of this story yes, but Harry and Gabrielle, and Natalie, and Narcissa, and Nimue, and others will return in "Castles In The Sky" - because the Ministry won't take this sort of thing sitting down, and then, what would the Muggle Royalty think - after all, Harry now holds Excaliber!