12 - London(2)
Harry was pleased to be back to teaching normal sized groups, although his schedule was now overstuffed. He had agreed to help out with Hogwarts’ lessons after Minerva had asked him, and after a little work, had managed to work them in with his normal Beauxbatons sessions. Facing only the seventh year Ravenclaw and Slytherin class, he rested his hands on his broom in front of him.
“All right, everyone into the air,” he ordered, and watched the various ways that the students mounted their brooms. At least they did that properly, although he was convinced that was due to them learning before Malfoy had got his claws into them – that, and the fact there were relatively few ways to screw that up, Neville Longbottom notwithstanding. Without any real thought, he allowed his broom to push him straight up, not changing his standing position.
He could see the students gaping at him as he did that and hid a smile. He was showing off a little, true, but he had to get through to this group of students, and show them that flying was not just about power.
“Your performance in the last tournament was pretty bad,” he said quietly, addressing the Hogwarts students as he looked at the combined class. “But you’re all in the last year of Hogwarts, and basically adults now. So I’ll leave the choice up to you. I can start you on a path that will allow you to fly properly, or you can depend on what you’ve learnt. If you don’t want to learn from me, you are dismissed. If you do want to learn, I’ll see you the other side of the pitch.” He took a deep breath and heaved himself up, pushing his broom down at the same time. He somersaulted backward twice, before landing on his broom perfectly. In seconds, he’d swooped down and looped back to the place he’d pointed out.
He turned to watch the students with interest. There seemed to be a large argument brewing between Natalie and John, as the two head students tried to persuade the others to follow their suggestions. It looked like Natalie was winning, as John was going bright red and shouting.
Harry sighed and waited. He knew what Malfoy would have done in this situation, and he expected John to react in the same way. As Natalie turned to head over to the spot he’d indicated, John suddenly went for his wand and started to cast spells. Harry was prepared, and cast three of his own before John even finished the flourishing and gesturing he seemed to find necessary. Harry’s first spell intercepted whatever it was that John cast, the second removed John’s wand from his hand, the third summoned John – without his broom – over to hang in mid-air before Harry.
John’s face was still red and he swore viciously at Harry, ignoring the fact that he was thirty feet off the ground, being held up only by Harry’s magic.
“John Abrams,” Harry said formally, “attacking an unarmed student is against the rules of Hogwarts, and as such, I hereby suspend you from the position of Head Boy of Hogwarts.”
“You can’t do this, you fucker,” John spat.
“I have already done it,” Harry said calmly, ignoring the insult. “Madame Maxime and Professor Andropov insisted that all students maintain a common code of practice and behaviour. You have repeatedly broken that, and your attack on the Head Girl just now was the last straw. Now, you will return to your room and wait until this evening for a formal hearing.”
“Snape won’t let you,” John sneered.
Harry smiled coldly. “I believe I told you not to sneer at me.” He waved his hand and the boy vanished.
Natalie and the others flew across to join him, curiosity on everyone’s face.
“Natalie, John’s been suspended for today, pending an investigation this evening. I will expect you to be there.”
“Yes, Professor Potter,” Natalie replied.
“So, are you guys ready to fly?”
They all nodded.
“Right, follow me, do what I do, and don’t worry about falling off.”
“Why not?” one of the students asked.
Harry smiled and rotated along a horizontal axis before he let go and fell to the ground. He tumbled in the air and landed flat on his back. The charms he had placed on the field earlier caught him and bounced him back into the air. He did a double somersault and called for his broom. As soon as it was in his hand, he swung it between his legs and zoomed back up to meet the others.
“Charmed ground,” he explained with a grin. “Now, follow me.”
The rest of the lesson went smoothly. A lot of the Slytherins didn’t look happy, but they kept their opinions to themselves as Harry tried to erase several years of bad teaching in as short a time as possible.
Near the end of the lesson, he looked down and smiled. “Keep going,” he yelled, as he rocketed down to meet the Goblins.
“Mr Potter,” the lead Goblin said respectfully. “We have the items you requested.”
“Excellent,” Harry replied.
“Sign here,” the Goblin muttered.
Harry signed with a flourish from years of signing autographs, and took the package. “Thanks for dropping it by personally.”
The goblin nodded. “You are welcome,” he said as he turned and started to walk away.
Harry quickly flew back up to the students, shrinking the package and putting it in his pocket. “Just some personal business,” he explained at the curious looks he was receiving.
“The Goblins aren’t known for leaving Gringotts,” Natalie pointed out.
Harry smiled faintly, but otherwise ignored her comment. “One more loop and we’re done.”
As soon as the lesson was over, he watched the students put their brooms away, and then Apparated to the Beauxbatons castle before Natalie could corner him. He walked through the halls to Jean and Aimée’s room and knocked on the door.
“Harry,” Aimée greeted him cheerfully. She was wearing the necklace he’d picked out with Gabrielle from a jeweller in Australia the night before.
“Busy?” Harry asked.
She shook her head. “I’m expecting Jean back shortly for lunch.”
“I know; that’s why I thought I’d catch you here.” He followed her into the living room and took a seat at the table, rather then the couch. Aimée raised her eyebrows at him slightly.
“Would you like a drink?”
Aimée vanished into the kitchen and returned with a cup of tea and a butterbeer. She placed the butterbeer in front of him and sat next to him. “You are being mysterious, and your eyes are twirling.”
Harry took off his glasses and smiled. He placed the package he had received from the Goblins down and placed the envelope to one side. He opened the package and pulled out a folder. “This,” he explained, turning the folder and opening it, “is a summary of the current holdings of the Black Trust.”
“What is that?” Aimée asked, as she automatically started to scan the text.
“It’s something I inherited from Sirius. It’s a trust set up to help others. Originally, it was a way of funding Voldemort without anyone knowing who was donating the money, but as it was already set up like a charity, I decided to keep funding it and use it for a legitimate purpose.”
Aimée nodded, her eyes not moving from the figures in front of her.
Harry smiled happily; he had hoped that she would be interested. “The problem is, I don’t have time to run it properly, and while the Goblins run it for me, they’d really rather not. As the idea is not for it to make money but to give it away, it goes against their nature – and they are truly conservative in their world view.”
“As I can see,” Aimée murmured, as she turned the page and continued to read.
“Aimée,” Harry said formally, “I would like you to take over running the Black Trust.”
“Hmm?” Aimée asked absently, not looking up. She suddenly paused and carefully placed a perfectly manicured finger at her position. “I’m sorry, Harry, what did you just say?”
“I asked you to run the Black Trust.”
“Oh,” Aimée said, and for the first time since he had met her, she was completely lost for words.
“I mentioned this idea to the goblins, who went away and did a little research, and they agreed that with your experience in running a large company, you would be perfect. So, how do you feel about taking on a project of this size?”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Try ‘yes’, and we’ll take it from there.”
Aimée shook herself and then looked at him. “Details, Harry – I need details. What is your goal with this?”
“I’m rich,” he said. “I have no wish to be poor, but really, I don’t need all this money, so I may as well do something with it to help others who haven’t had the luck to be the heir of two wealthy families or haven’t had the luck to be paid an obscene amount to play a game for a living, or who weren’t fortunate enough to get in on the ground level with Fred and George.
“What I want is someone to run it – to decide what goes where, to hire people to help them run it, and to ensure that the money goes to ethically correct places. The idea isn’t to blow all the money, but to use it to make a real difference. The person who runs it will be in charge, completely, with minimal oversight from me and the goblins, naturally.”
Aimée nodded slowly and went back to looking at the figures. “I thought that we were wealthy,” she muttered under her breath, “but this is wealth on a completely different scale.”
The door opened and Jean walked in. “Good afternoon, Harry. Hello, love.”
“Lunch is in the kitchen,” Aimée said distractedly.
“Harry?” Jean asked. “What have you done to my wife?”
Harry smiled innocently at him. “Me?”
Jean groaned. “Harry, you haven’t given her a challenge, have you?”
“Jean-Sebastian, kitchen,” Aimée ordered. She finished the last page and turned to Harry. Her eyes were alight. “Do you really want me to do this?” she asked.
“Then I accept. Thank you, Harry.” She offered her hand, but Harry ignored it and stood so that he could hug her.
“Thank you,” he replied.
Aimée smiled and hugged him back. “As you are here, you can eat with us,” she said firmly. “And we will explain to my husband why he is losing his little housewife again. Sit.”
“Gabrielle’s on her way,” Harry said as he felt his Mate draw nearer.
“Excellent,” Aimée said. “I’ll go and rescue my kitchen.” She paused. “Gabrielle gets her ability in the kitchen from her father.”
Harry laughed and relaxed back, tilting his chair onto two legs.
A few seconds later Jean joined him, with a sheepish look on his face. “So,” he said amiably, “what have you offered Aimée?”
“Two secs,” Harry said, as the door opened and Gabrielle walked in.
“Papa,” she greeted her father with a nod and a smile as she walked over to Harry for a hug.
“Your fiancé has conscripted your mother,” Jean said, a teasing smile on his face.
“You have?” Gabrielle asked.
He nodded and pointed to the paperwork. Gabrielle reached it before her father could and moved it in front of Harry, so that she could sit on his lap while she read.
Harry met Jean’s eyes and shared a moment of amusement.
“Gabrielle,” Aimée said firmly from the kitchen door. “Sit on your own chair.”
“Yes, Mama,” Gabrielle said with a pout. She slid into her own chair and continued to read for a moment before glancing up. “You have asked Mama to…?” she asked him.
Gabrielle shot him a smile that warmed him inside.
“Will someone please tell me?” Jean asked the ceiling.
Aimée entered and placed a bowl of soup in front of Harry and Gabrielle. She walked back in to the kitchen and returned with two more bowls. “Harry has invited me to run the Black Trust,” Aimée said calmly as she sat down.
Jean frowned. “That was a Death Eater slush fund, was it not?”
“Once upon a time, yes,” Harry agreed. “But it’s now a proper charity.”
“Why do you need Aimée to manage it?”
“Because the goblins object to giving money away,” Harry replied calmly.
Aimee sighed. “Gabrielle, pass your father the last piece of parchment. We will not be able to eat until he has reassured himself that I have a proper job. The soup needs to cool, anyway.”
Gabrielle passed the paper; Jean took it and skimmed it. He looked at the bottom figure and his face lost some colour. “This number,” he said in a low voice. “It is a telephone number with an area code, yes?”
“Jean,” Aimée sighed. “This is not the time for levity. That is the current balance.”
Jean pouted. “That is a lot of money.”
Harry shrugged. “I guess.” He passed the other envelope to Gabrielle.
“What is this?” she asked softly.
“She gets that from Jean as well,” Aimée said to Harry. “Open it dear, and find out.”
“Yes Mama,” Gabrielle replied, sticking her tongue out at her mother. She opened it and blinked as a card fell out of the folded paper, onto the table.
He shrugged. “The paper is your personal identification number.”
“Harry, I do not need this,” she said, picking up the card nevertheless. “I have my own money.”
“We have our own money,” Harry corrected. “We’re getting married, that means that we share things. If I trust you with my heart, I can easily trust you with everything else.”
“Thank you,” Gabrielle whispered, she reached out and lightly took his hand. “Thank you.”
Jean sighed softly, “Well, that’s another sign.” He looked down and tried the soup. “At least the soup is good.” He looked at Harry, his eyes amused, “Are you sure you know what you’re getting into here? The Delacour women are headstrong.”
“Papa,” Gabrielle protested.
“Your father is teasing,” Aimée said calmly. “And if he doesn’t want to be sleeping on the couch, for, say, the next decade…”
“See,” Jean said to Harry. “It won’t be long until Gabrielle is threatening you with the uncomfortable couch.”
“I would never threaten like that,” Gabrielle replied, her voice completely scandalised. “Mama taught me much more effective things than that,” she finished with a grin.
Harry laughed and started on his own soup. “I didn’t think anyone in your family could cook,” he said, changing the subject.
Aimée smiled. “My daughters are spoiled and my husband thinks that chicken comes from the farm pre-cooked. I did try to pass on my knowledge, but Fleur and Gabrielle had other, ‘more important’ things to do.”
“We are going to learn, Mama,” Gabrielle said. “Anton has offered us both lessons.”
“Why don’t you just hire a cook?” Jean asked.
Harry paused, timing his reply carefully. Just as Jean took another mouthful of soup, he replied. “Because then Gabrielle would have to get dressed, and I prefer her running around in whatever she is comfortable in.”
“Harry James Potter!” Aimée yelled as Jean spluttered, spraying soup everywhere.
Harry laughed under his breath. “I’ll stop,” he promised.
The meeting room next to Dumbledore’s office only had eight people in it. Albus Dumbledore was at the head of the table, flanked by the heads of Houses for the school. Opposite them sat John, Natalie and Harry.
Harry was only invited because he was the one who had suspended John earlier.
“Why don’t we start at the beginning,” Minerva McGonagall said formally. “Mr Potter.”
“I had thought that allowing students to curse other students without provocation was something that had been eradicated from Hogwarts,” Harry said. “Sadly, I see that you are still teaching that violence is a perfectly acceptable way of settling a dispute. I gave the seventh year Hogwarts students a choice: they could learn to fly a broom or leave. I left them to a decision. Natalie appeared to be winning the argument, so when she turned to join me, John pulled his wand and attempted to curse her in the back.”
“Lies,” Snape sneered.
“Which part?” Harry asked politely.
“All of it.”
Harry sighed. “Of course, the fact that I have witnesses from Ravenclaw and Slytherin is irrelevant, and the fact that the Hogwarts Head Girl is here before you and corroborates it is also irrelevant?”
Snape sneered, while John smirked.
“I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere at the moment,” Harry said dryly, “so I think that as Severus seems to think that violence is the answer, I will respond in kind.” He raised his hand suddenly and batted at Snape. The greasy professor flew across the room, sticking to a wall near the ceiling.
“Severus Snape, I hereby challenge you to a duel,” he announced quietly in a formal manner. “You have impugned my honour time and time again, and I refuse to accept it, anymore. You are an arrogant, offensive, snivelling coward with the scruples of a slug. I will expect to see you tomorrow on the duelling platform.”
“Stop,” Dumbledore roared. “I will not have this.”
“This is no longer about you,” Harry replied without looking away from Snape. “You may allow this piece of slime great latitude. I do not.”
“Severus,” Dumbledore said.
“I withdraw my accusation,” Snape mumbled.
“Excellent,” Harry replied, freeing Snape – who dropped twenty feet to the ground. There was a distinct ‘crack’ and the Potions Master screamed in agony. Harry absently cast a silencing charm on him and looked around at the other three professors. They were all fighting to hide smiles.
“So,” Harry continued. “Now that we have established that the Head Boy tried to curse the Head Girl, what are we going to do about it?”
“Mr Abrams,” Professor McGonagall said formally. “This is not the first complaint that we have received about you. The Hogwarts Head Boy position is a position given to students who maintain the highest possible standards of conduct, something you seem to be unable to do. You have shamed yourself and brought dishonour to your house. We have no choice in the matter. You are hereby stripped of the position of Head Boy. The House Elves will return your belongings to the Slytherin seventh year dorm room, where you will rejoin your peers.”
John went completely white.
“Miss Jenkins, do you think that you can handle the responsibilities as Head Student on your own?”
Natalie nodded. “If Gabrielle Delacour can manage it at Beauxbatons, I’m sure I can do it here.”
Minerva nodded. “Is there anything you would like to add?” she asked Albus, Filius and Pomona.
Filius and Pomona shook their heads.
“Are you sure this is the correct decision?” Albus asked softly.
Minerva looked at him for an endless moment, then simply replied, “Yes.”
He nodded slowly and turned, walking over to Severus.
“If you would explain to the prefects what has happened,” Minerva said to Filius, “I would be grateful. If you could also remind them of the consequences of acting in a manner unsuitable for a prefect, we will perhaps not see this sort of thing again. In all my years of teaching, this is the first time I have had to strip a Head Boy of his responsibility, and I hope that I never have to go through it again.”
She turned her attention to the former Head Boy. “Mr Abrams, I hope that you understand that the sort of behaviour shown today is completely reprehensible. It is also foolish. We watched as Tom Riddle, or Lord Voldemort, if you prefer, spouted the sort of ideology that you seem to prefer, and he is now dead, his dreams of conquest a long-forgotten nightmare. We live in a society that is slowly overturning the idea that violence is an acceptable solution to any problem, and we, as professors, support that ideal to the end. I hope you take this opportunity to examine your current behaviour, and see the error of your ways.
“Miss Jenkins, I will ask the head teachers of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang to direct their head students to assist you for the next week, so that you may have a period to get used to this idea.”
“Thank you,” Natalie said softly.
“Mr Potter, Hogwarts tries to live up to the highest possible standard of behaviour and responsibility. You have shown today that we have not reached that mark. I will also be launching an independent, formal investigation into the actions of Professor Snape. Hogwarts has a reputation of being the best school in the world and it is a reputation that you have helped set. I will not sit by and watch that accolade pass to Beauxbatons or Durmstrang without a fight.
“You can rest assured that the results of the investigation will be made public.”
“May I suggest that you ask Percy Weasley to chair the investigation?”
Minerva nodded. “I did have him in mind. I thank you for your quick action today.”
Harry nodded and stood. “Thank you for your time,” he said, ignoring the sight of Dumbledore helping Snape, limping heavily, out of the room.
Gabrielle hovered above the ground, watching the students who had qualified for the final. After a long discussion with Harry, she had persuaded him that it was better that she didn’t take part in the contest. He wanted her to, as he was convinced that she was the best flyer there, and he wanted everyone to know it.
While she loved her Mate’s pride in her, she didn’t think it would be fair for her to participate. Besides, as the wife of a World Cup player, she would be going to the match anyway, and so had no need of a ticket or an invitation to meet the team.
Harry had reluctantly agreed, and then shown his pride in a more personal way – a way that she was extremely happy about.
She was happy to help him organise the final. It gave her a break from Natalie. The Hogwarts Head Girl had taken every opportunity to pick her brains, and while she did not mind helping, it was eating into time she could spend with Harry.
Her Mate was in his full Quidditch uniform, and was warming up with Viktor. The two of them were equally good on a broom. They had different styles, but the same amazing speed and control.
The students and professors were in the stands, cheering each move, ready for the competition to begin.
She called out the names of the first two students from a list on her clipboard, and the first race started.
It was another close competition, as the competitors were whittled down slowly. The Hogwarts students did better this time, as they took more time to fly the course, rather than try to barrel through it.
Stephan, the winner of the original competition, was knocked out in the semi final, but Marie, the sixth year, was in the final. Gabrielle made a mental note to spend as much time with her as she could, so that she could take over as Seeker when she left. The girl’s flying skills were improving all the time.
She could see Harry talking to her intently, just as Viktor was talking to the other finalist – Reinhold, the Durmstrang Seeker.
“Ready?” she called, stopping the impromptu coaching session.
The two students lined up next to her. “On three,” she said. “One. Two. Three!”
The two students raced off, ducking and diving through the course as they tried to avoid the Bludgers. She felt like cheering herself, but restrained from doing so. She floated higher, so that the she could see their progress more easily, and could see Harry and Viktor shadowing them from the outside of the course, both ensuring that no cheating was going on.
They both exploded through the last obstacle at the same time, but Marie’s roll had been smoother, and she carried just enough momentum to beat Reinhold to the line.
The Beauxbatons students exploded into cheers, as Harry swooped down and hugged Marie. The girl was dancing on her broom excitedly, and hugged Harry back exuberantly. Gabrielle was slightly amused the effect her Mate could have; it was almost like hers, only without the magic.
As Marie floated down to her friends, Harry flew over to Reinhold and Viktor, and shook hands with both of them. Whatever he said to Reinhold had the boy straighten his back and the disappointed look faded slightly from his face.
Gabrielle smiled and cast a Sonorus spell. Greta and Simone stood at the same time – they knew what was coming and were going to translate so she only had to talk in English.
“We’d like to thank all participants for putting on tonight’s entertainment. And to thank Professor Potter for generously giving up his free time to arrange it.” There was a roar of approval from the students present.
“Now, as many of you know, after the first competition, Professor Potter and Assistant Professor Flint raced through this course on professional mode. Today, Professor Potter and Assistant Professor Krum have agreed to race for you.”
There was another huge roar, as Harry and Viktor shook hands before they flew up. She floated down, and as she had with the students, she counted them off. This time, she had to fly as fast as she could to her vantage point, as both Seekers flew off at top speed, braking at the last moment for the first obstacle.
The two were neck and neck as they shot through the course at the same incredible speed. There was hardly a gap between them as the two of them ducked and spun around moving objects. The Bludgers were chasing after them, but they couldn’t keep up as the two best Seekers in the world battled it out.
She felt herself tense up as she bit down on the urge to scream her support for her Mate. It was something she would do as soon as they went public, but for now she had to content herself with willing him on, silently.
He was so graceful on the broom, and she loved watching him, especially like this, when he was so focused.
They both blasted through the last obstacle, heading for the line, but Viktor was moving faster, and he crossed the line first with several seconds to spare.
She swore under her breath, disappointed for Harry above everything else. But her Mate was smiling, and she couldn’t detect anything negative from him as he drifted over to Viktor to offer his congratulations. She gathered up the pride she felt for Harry, and her love for him, and gently pushed it down the Bond to him.
It was the first time she had really seen Harry lose, and his grace and genuine delight for Viktor was something she hoped that everyone could see.
As the crowds started to disperse, she helped Harry dismantle the course, and then headed in for dinner, wishing that she could find a way to spend some time with him. It wasn’t fair that she couldn’t.
Dinner was interminable as she tried to be herself. It helped knowing that Harry was okay, but she still didn’t like it. After dinner, she had a meeting with the other head students before she could finally go to her room, and then Apparate to Harry.
She arrived and jumped at him without hesitation. He caught her, and she buried her face in his neck.
“Gabrielle?” he asked softly.
“I’m sorry,” she mumbled.
“For what?” he asked.
His hands stroked her back softly and she slowly leaned back and looked in his eyes. “But you hate losing,” she said softly, confused by the complete lack of regret that she was feeling from him.
“I do,” he agreed. “But I can’t hate losing to someone who’s better than me at the moment. Viktor is in the middle of a season and he’s playing at the highest level every week. I’m not. I’m out of practice, and hopefully, we’ll do this again when I’m back playing, and I’ll see if I can beat him then.”
She smiled, her earlier glumness disappearing. She kissed him tenderly and then hugged him. “I’m proud of you,” she told him seriously.
“I see you went shopping.”
She laughed softly. “Actually, I asked Mama for help. She shopped – I just tagged along and agreed with her. And I paid,” she said firmly. “Mama argued, but I felt that it was right.”
Harry nodded. “It was. That’s why I got you the card. At some stage, we’ll go over my finances so that you can see where we are.”
She reached out and lightly touched his hair, trying absently to see if it would look better a different way. “Thank you,” she said. “It means a lot to me that you’d do this.”
He nodded. “I trust you.”
“I think you should grow your hair long.”
She nodded. “It looked really nice on Merlin, and I think it would look nice on you, as well.”
“I’ll think about it. When I’m not playing competitively.”
She smiled brightly. “So, what is the plan for this evening?”
“Why don’t you put your new clothes away, and then do your homework. I’m going to work out for a bit.”
She nodded and kissed him briefly and moved up the stairs, pausing to look down over the balcony at Harry. He cast some charms on a corner and a fully fitted gym appeared. He stripped his shirt off, replacing it with a thin t-shirt, and then changed his jeans for a pair of shorts.
He waved his hand casually, starting some music, as he moved into a space and started to stretch. Each movement merged seamlessly into the next as he worked all his major muscle groups. She sighed softly, a smile on her face, as she enjoyed the ability to just watch her Mate, and know that later, she would be able to kiss him, and that he would kiss her, and they’d spend the night together.
She tore herself away from watching regretfully, and started to unpack the bags in the bedroom. There were a lot of them, but over half were for Harry. She’d enjoyed being able to shop for him, and had chosen clothes that she was positive would look great on him.
The clothes stored away, she moved to the kitchen table and started her homework. She was out of Harry’s sight simply because she knew that if she could see him, she wouldn’t get anything done.
An hour and a half later, Harry padded in softly, a towel around his neck. He leaned over and kissed her lightly. She inhaled deeply, drinking in his scent, and decided that she’d done enough homework. She stood and turned to face him, grabbing the towel.
She smiled at him and started to pull him toward the bedroom. She’d done her work, he’d done his, and they’d been diligent all evening. Now it was time for their reward.
Harry looked out at the Quidditch pitch and couldn’t help smiling. This last week had been the best of his life. Gabrielle had slotted neatly into his life. They’d spent every evening together, sometimes with their friends or with Gabrielle’s parents, and sometimes with just the two of them. He’d never actually spent this much time with one person before. Even with Katie, they had both had their own lives and didn’t spend every waking minute together.
Rather than resenting it, he found it quite wonderful. He disliked not being able to show her affection in public, or to spend even more time with her.
The only slight blip on his horizon was the fact that the Aurors still hadn’t captured Malfoy.
Down below, Gabrielle was with Reinhold and Viktor, as they helped her practice some of the new Seeker moves she had learnt. Fred and George were with the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang Beaters, and the pattern was repeated all over the pitch. Each Beauxbatons player had both a professional and a member of the Durmstrang team with them.
“Okay, guys,” he shouted. “This is as good as it’s going to get. Everyone down.”
He swooped down casually, and sat on his broom. Viktor landed next to him and did the same. He shot his friend a quick grin.
The Beauxbatons team spread out in front of him, the Durmstrang players behind them.
“I’m proud of you, all of you,” Harry said in English, as it was the common language for everyone there. “When I joined Beauxbatons this summer, we didn’t have a team. Now we stand on the verge of a final of an international Quidditch tournament. In a fair world, we would be playing Durmstrang tomorrow, but this is not a fair world.
“Tomorrow, when we take the pitch, we will have the weight of not just one school, but two, on our shoulders. Viktor and the others have helped us out above and beyond the call of duty, and none of you resemble the players you were a couple of months ago.
“You have worked incredibly hard to get to this position, and you are all nervous. It’s okay to be nervous, but tomorrow, when you hear the roar of the crowd, and you see the light of the sun, that is when you will lose your nerves, and you will go out and give it your all.
“You will lose yourself in the roar of the crowd, in the majesty of the moment. And when you do, that is when you will truly become Quidditch players. That is when you will taste immortality, as you touch something bigger than you, bigger than your team.
“This is sport at the highest level. It is addictive, it is competitive, and at the end, when you have put everything of yourself into it, you will feel like nothing before, like nothing you have ever imagined. You will feel and understand exactly why Viktor and I have dedicated everything we have to playing a game.
“So tonight, I want you to go to your rooms and get a good night’s sleep. There are vials of dreamless sleep potion by your beds if you need them. Tomorrow, you’ll meet me here before breakfast. And that goes for you Durmstrang players as well. For tomorrow, you’re honourary members of Beauxbatons.
“Viktor, anything to add?”
Viktor grinned. “Potter tocks too much,” he grunted. “But he spiks vell. Sport is honourable combat. Do not lose dat honour tomorrow, and give it everythink. Dat vay, vin or lose, you vill be able to look in mirror and see a mon.” He paused and looked at Gabrielle. “Or wo-mon.”
Gabrielle smiled at him.
“Go on, the lot of you,” Harry ordered.
As the students left, Viktor turned to him. “You expect problems?”
Harry sighed. “Certainly. Snape’s not the sort of person to take direct action, so I’m expecting the food to be tainted. We’ll take them somewhere else for breakfast and to have a practice match, and then come back for the final.”
Krum smiled and patted Harry on the back. “Veela chick is content. You did good, Harry.”
“Thanks, Vik. You will be coming to the wedding, right?”
“Dat depends,” Viktor said with a smile. “You introduce Krum to the pretty chaser properly?”
“Viktor,” Harry said seriously, “I’d be delighted.”
Viktor grinned and stood. “I’ll leave you to tidy,” he said. “Us poor professionals have to get our beauty sleep.”
“Night,” Harry replied and started to pack away.
“Can we have a few minutes?”
Harry looked up to see the press descending on him like a horde of Dementors. He swore to himself. He’d forgotten that Picup, Olympe, and Albus had been holding a press conference this evening. He contemplated Apparating away, but at the last second, decided not to.
Gabrielle had managed to deal with the vermin nicely, so maybe he could as well.
He sat back down on his broom and crossed his legs casually. “You’ve got thirty minutes.”
As a group, the press seemed to freeze as they stared at him in disbelief. “Do you mean it?” one of them asked.
Harry glanced at his watch. “That’s ten seconds gone. I’d advise using the rest of the time to ask better questions,” he said with a grin. “Of course, I can sit here and just answer ‘yes’ for the rest of the evening, if you want. Let’s do it one question at a time, so, you first.”
The journalist Harry pointed at blinked, and then asked, “What do you think of Beauxbatons’ chances tomorrow?”
“Very good. They’ve worked incredibly hard, and we’ve had some very good people training them. I think they’re ready, and tomorrow I look forward to seeing them play their hearts out. Next.”
“How do you feel about teaching students to beat your former school?”
“Torn. I dislike a lot of what has happened to Hogwarts, and I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think that neither Malfoy nor Snape are qualified to deal with students of any age. On the other hand, Professor McGonagall and the other Head of Houses are incredibly gifted and talented professors who are doing what they can.
“But the biggest thing I feel is the need to show that violence and rule breaking are not how to play Quidditch. Quidditch is the sport I love. I like to play it hard, but within the rules. Sure, I’ve broken a few in my time – every professional will say the same – but not having anything other than cheating to rely on means that as soon as you have a strong referee, you have nothing left to rely on. Okay, the guy at the back with the hat.”
“What did you think about Snape wanting to referee?”
“You heard about that?” Harry grimaced. “It was the most ridiculous idea ever. I remember playing under his tutelage at Hogwarts, and it was the most unfair game I’ve ever seen. I had never before even contemplated abandoning a match, but I came very close in that one.”
“You still won, though.”
Harry grinned. “I did, at that,” he agreed. “Snape was livid – good memory, that one. Okay, the lady in the purple robes.”
“What did you think about the Delacours shutting down the Daily Prophet for a day, and did you think that the full page apology was enough?”
“That wasn’t really any of my business,” Harry said thoughtfully. “I’ll have to say, personally, that I was pleased. It doesn’t seem like much to ask for in a society – a free and accountable press. I believe in press freedom, but I also believe in accountability. Some of the articles about me have been full of lies and slander, and no one has seemed to care. Well, this time the Prophet chose the wrong person to pick on.
“Jean and I fought together during the war against Voldemort, and I know him to be an honourable and upstanding man. You can trust that his word is his honour. Gabrielle is one of the most talented people I’ve ever seen pick up a broom, and her Quidditch progress has been nothing short of phenomenal.”
“What do you feel about Mr Delacour being made the next Minister of Magic in France?” the same witch asked.
“If I were a French citizen, I would vote for him. The world needs more honourable politicians. But we’re moving a bit far afield here, my opinion on international politics isn’t that important. Okay, the witch to the left of the guy in the hat.”
“Potter, do you have a girlfriend?”
“What is this, Primary school?” Harry mocked. “My private life is that, until I choose to make it otherwise.”
“Are you gay?” she asked.
Harry laughed. “No. Okay, you at the front.”
“How did you bend the wards of Hogwarts to allow Beauxbatons castle to descend?”
“First, I want to say how hard the pupils of Beauxbatons worked. It was an incredible display of teamwork that fully deserved the praise it has earned them. My job was minor compared to the magic involved with moving that huge building.
“What I did was channel my magic to the same frequency as the wards, then set up a rotating counter frequency to divert the magic around the edges I wanted. From there, it was simply a case of keeping everything together and allowing Beauxbatons to drop down.”
There were some very blank looks on the face of the journalists at his response.
Harry smiled faintly, “I’d recommend talking to Hermione Granger, who may be able to explain the theoretical magic in a more digestible format. You have two more questions. You, and then you.”
The first wizard looked at him for a long moment, and then shrugged. “Are you the most powerful wizard alive?”
Harry thought about his answer for a long second. “I’m certainly one of the most powerful,” he agreed. “I’m not sure if I’m the most. People like Albus are exceptionally strong wizards, and have a lifetime of experience behind them. I’m still young, and have so much to learn. Ask me that again in fifty years’ time and we’ll see if the answer has changed. Last question.”
“You’ve been more open tonight than ever before,” the last journalist said. “Does this mean that your relationship with the press is changing?”
“Possibly,” Harry answered. “I’ll see how this gets reported and take it from there. I learnt a long time ago that public opinion is fickle. I don’t like being hounded, so if being more accessible means I can walk down a street on my own, then I’ll give it a shot.” He paused to draw his wand. “If not, I’ll start walking around like this.” He cast a spell on himself.
“What does that do?”
Harry smiled. “Take a photo and then look at it when it’s developed, and you’ll understand. It blurs my image from any form of recording.”
Most of the photo-journalists paled at the idea of losing their favourite target.
Harry nodded at them and patted his broom. It flew off to one side and parked itself neatly in the racks with the others.
“It’s been interesting,” he said with a nod, and Apparated away.
A few minutes later, he felt Gabrielle draw on his magic and Apparate next to him. She appeared and bounced into his arms. “I am so proud of you,” she said after kissing him.
He smiled at her. “Just learning from you,” he said.
“You were wonderful, and they were pretty shell-shocked that you did it,” she said. “They might even print what you said.”
Harry smiled. “We’ll see. I’m not holding out too much hope.” He yawned. “Come on, we should get to bed. We need to be up early so that we can take everyone out for breakfast.”
Gabrielle nodded and yawned as well. “Carry me?”
“I think I can manage that,” he said with a smile, and drew her up so that he had one hand under her knees, the other around her shoulders. She snuggled against him.
“You always look after me,” she whispered.
“And I always will.”
The day of the final match in the inter-school Quidditch tournament dawned clear, if cold. The Beauxbatons and Durmstrang players gathered together in front of the Beauxbatons school building talking cheerfully, their breaths visible in the early morning light. Viktor, Angelina, Katie, Olive and Alicia were all standing slightly to one side, talking in low voices.
Fred and George were planning on meeting up with them later; they were going to spend the morning in Hogwarts.
“Good morning,” Harry called as he appeared near to the doors, holding several brightly-coloured plastic hoops. All the students turned to face him, excited expressions on their faces. The feeling of excitement and anticipation in the air increased a bit.
“Too early to be gut,” Viktor grunted. “Breakfast better be vorth it.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “I’ve not actually eaten where we’re going before, so I have no idea.”
Viktor sighed mournfully.
Harry laughed and tossed the large hoops at the students. “Portkeys,” he explained. “Everyone grab hold.”
The students did, and Harry activated the Portkeys. They appeared in front of a large house in the middle of London. The door in front of them gleamed invitingly; the silver serpent knocker shone as if it had its own power supply.
“Professor Potter,” Gabrielle said, “is this…”
“The erstwhile headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix?” Harry asked. “Yes. Welcome to one of my ancestral homes.”
The door swung open, and several house elves peered out excitedly. The first, in a blue uniform, walked out. “Welcome,” he said, bowing deeply.
“Thank you, Matti,” Harry said. “Is everything ready?”
“Things are being readiest,” Matti said. “We is being excitedest as well.”
“The outside looks excellent. You’ve done a fantastic job.”
Matti beamed. “We is enjoyableing the work,” he said. “And we is being delighted to get rid of dankest. Follow Matti, food is being readiest.”
They all followed the elf into the bright and friendly entrance hall. The walls looked freshly painted, and the carpets were new. At the end, a large painting of a couple dressed in Wizarding robes looked down at them.
“My parents,” Harry said with a faint smile. “Sadly, they never sat for a Wizarding portrait, so I had this done from some old photos I had.”
A lot of the students half-bowed at the painting in respect, before they followed the excited elf up some stairs and into a large dining area. The room was as sparkling clean as everywhere else, and the ceiling had been enchanted so that it showed a bright summer’s day, filling the room with light.
The table was polished so that it shone, and there were enough plates for everyone.
“Please be sitting down,” Matti invited everyone.
They all sat down, Harry taking the head, the other adults took the foot.
Immediately, large jugs of orange juice appeared, as well as milk, cereal, and some fresh fruit.
“Don’t stand on ceremony,” Harry said dryly, “dig in.”
“Professor Potter,” Reinhold started.
“For today, you can call me Harry,” Harry interrupted. “When we’re back in class, we can be formal.”
“And you can call me Viktor, or Vik,” Viktor added. “Ve are not really Professors.”
“And that makes us Angelina, Katie, and Alicia,” Angelina added. “It freaks me out every time you are formal; I keep looking over my shoulder for Mum and Dad.”
“Harry,” Reinhold started again, “Our History professor talked about this place being dark and miserable – and that you didn’t really like it. What happened?”
Harry poured some milk over his cereal and tilted his chair back. “What happened here is well known – Hestia did a pretty accurate job with her account of the efforts before the final battle. A lot of my memories of this place were tainted by the fact that Dumbledore was still trying to control me, and it was the last place that I spent any time with my godfather.
“The summer after the war, I spent some time with the goblins looking at my finances. This turned into an intensive lesson in asset management, as I didn’t have a clue just how rich I actually was. I grew up not knowing that I had any money at all, and it made me pretty independent, so I decided I wouldn’t use the Black or Potter money personally.” He paused and smiled slightly. “My determination might have been somewhat influenced by the signing on bonus I got from the Cannons, and the first dividend check from Fred and George.
“So, anyway, I resurrected the old Black Death Eater slush fund, made it into a proper charity and begged the Goblins to run it. They agreed – for a large fee – and I thought that would be the end of it.” He paused as the cereal and fruit vanished, to be replaced by a veritable smorgasbord of dishes – a mixture of French, English and German breakfast items. The students blinked for a second before eagerly diving in like it was going to be their last meal.
Harry waved his hand absently, and his plate filled itself. “What I hadn’t thought of was what to do with this place – which wasn’t part of the deal – and the house-elves I owned. I was planning on freeing them – anyone who is Muggleborn is never going to be truly comfortable with the idea of indentured servitude. But Matti had been talking to Dobby, and he came to me to ask for a favour instead.
“He asked for permission for him and the elves to renovate this place. As it was what they wanted, I gave them the go-ahead, and set up the finances for them to do what they want.” He paused and looked around. “I think you’ll agree that they’ve done an amazing job.”
He took a few bites of his breakfast. “To be a professor for a second, the obvious thing to realize here is that if people are motivated and want to work for you, they will do a much better job than someone who is forced into it. And that if you find talented individuals with a passion for what they do, you should trust them to do it. The goblins and I did regular inspections to check that things were on course, but everything went perfectly – or as perfectly as any renovation project does,” he finished, smiling wryly.
“The elves have one more floor to do, and then they’re going to start on the next property. They’re happy and don’t overwork themselves. And when I asked them earlier this morning if they would mind putting on a breakfast at short notice, they were delighted to help.”
“What do you think the Hogwarts players are doing now?” Nicholas Blanc asked.
Harry sighed. “Probably swearing at us for putting Snape in a bad mood. They’ll be having breakfast with everyone else, and Snape will be fuming that we’re not there and he’s not able to try and spy on us. Madame Maxime and Professor Andropov will be telling everyone where we all are.” He smiled. “After we finish here, we’re going to have a warm up.”
“Professor Potter,” Gabrielle said lightly, “I think we all know that smile of yours means you are about to announce another surprise.”
“Me?” Harry asked innocently.
“Right,” Angelina said dryly. “Come on, Potter, spill the beans.”
“Just because we’re going to be practising at Old Magic Park, doesn’t mean that I have any beans to spill.”
“No way!” Claude and Anton shouted, their voices drowning out the other expressions of shock and surprise.
Harry grinned at Viktor who was laughing.
“We’ll have a good look around, and then we’ll have a practice session before we go back to Hogwarts and get ready for the match. So eat up – don’t let this wonderful food go to waste.”
Harry took his own advice, and started to eat with a bit more attention. He could feel Gabrielle’s excitement, and her pride in what he had arranged, and sent back the equivalent of a hug.
After the breakfast was finished, all the students made a point of thanking the delirious elves, and they took the next Portkey to the famous Chudley Cannons stadium.
Harry looked around and almost laughed at the awe-struck expressions on the students’ faces. The stadium was massive, standing hundreds of meters tall. It was able to hold close to fifty thousand fans in comfort, and was a regular sell-out. It was one of the biggest dedicated sporting arenas in the Wizarding world.
“Come on,” Harry said, and led them through the gates.
“Harry,” Katie called. “We’re going up to the observation deck.”
Harry smiled and nodded at the others.
“Morning, Mr Potter.”
“Good morning, Stephen. How’s the pitch today?”
“It’s good, sir.”
“Excellent,” Harry said cheerfully. “Stephen is the Cannons’ head gardener here, guys; he keeps the pitch nice and firm for us, and repairs it after we crash into it.”
“Aye,” Stephen said with a grin. “It is fun.”
He led them through a maze of corridors to a large changing room. There were fifteen benches, each marked with a number, with a broom holder to the left. The students milled around, looking at the places and running their fingers lightly over the broom handles.
“The away team’s facilities are identical,” Viktor said.
“Which spot is yours?” Eric Ernhand asked.
“Normally, number seven,” Harry said. “Keeper is one, Beaters are two and three, and the Chasers have the next three spots. The rest are substitutes. Gabrielle, if you want to use the away changing rooms, you’ll find that your Quidditch kit is waiting for you. Everyone else,” Harry clapped his hands, and a large trunk appeared.
“Where are the changing rooms, Prof… Harry?” Gabrielle asked.
“You show her,” Viktor muttered. “I vill take care of everyvon else.”
Harry nodded and led Gabrielle across the hallway and down a corridor. As soon as the door shut behind him, Gabrielle reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Hi,” she said softly.
Harry raised his eyebrows at her as his hands dropped to her waist and he held her against him.
She smiled at him brightly, before standing on tiptoe to kiss him quickly. “That was from everyone else,” she said, “or it would be if the Durmstrang students knew I was with you.” She leaned up and kissed him slowly, pushing herself against him. “That is from me,” she whispered against his lips. “For managing to make today even more special than it was going to be.”
She drifted away from him and dropped her robes onto the floor.
“Gabby,” Harry sighed as he picked them up.
She grinned unrepentantly at him as she stripped off her shirt and bra, tossing the items of clothing at him as she did. She reached onto the pile of clothes and pulled on a sports bra followed by a short t-shirt. She bent and removed her knee-length school skirt and looked up at him, a mischievous expression in her eyes.
“Yes,” he said to the unasked question. “I am enjoying the show.”
She smiled happily. “Want to dress me?”
“Not here,” he said with a shake of his head. “I’ve got enough spells to notify me if anyone comes near here, and I don’t need to be distracted.”
She pouted. “It’s only one more day until we can announce it and I can get used to kissing you whenever I like.” She paused. “What are we going to do at Beauxbatons?”
“I had a word with Olympe about that,” he replied. “We’ll do what we need to at school during the day, and at the end of the day we’ll Apparate to our apartment and spend the night there. That way we don’t have any issues with the other students.”
Gabrielle nodded. “And we can go shopping soon?”
“Things to warm it up,” Gabrielle explained as she wiggled into her Quidditch uniform trousers. “Maybe some pictures for the walls, a plant or two, something for the balcony, that sort of thing.”
Harry nodded. “Next weekend?”
Gabrielle finished getting dressed and pulled her hair back. “There,” she announced.
Harry made a show of looking her over from toe to head, and nodded approvingly. “I’ve never seen anyone wear that uniform as well as you do.”
Gabrielle grinned at him. “That is because you are male,” she explained. “If you were female, and looked in a mirror, you would understand.”
Harry laughed, fighting a blush. “Come on; let’s go have a warm-up.”
Gabrielle nodded, and she seemed to shut down a little before his eyes. The bright light dimmed, the smile she had been wearing for him faded, and she looked like she did when he had first met her. The differences were both subtle and extreme at the same time.
He walked out the door, putting his own mask back on, aware that Gabrielle was following him a couple of paces behind.
They emerged onto the pitch where the male students were already waiting for them. Harry walked in front of them as Gabrielle joined them. “Hmm,” Harry said with a fake casualness as he glanced around. “I know what we’re missing. Brooms!”
As he said brooms, Stephen walked onto the pitch, pulling a cart behind him. He opened them up, and as a single group, the students screamed. Inside were a series of professional brooms, for each position. “Be careful with them,” Harry said. “We’re only borrowing them for the day.”
“For the day?” Henri, the Beauxbatons Keeper asked incredulously, his eyes wide in surprise. “Does that mean we get to use them in today’s match?”
Harry smiled and nodded.
There was another cheer – a louder one from the Beauxbatons students who would actually be using them. “Okay, everyone up,” Harry yelled, as he grabbed his own professional broom and flew high into the air. “We’ll have a game – no Bludgers and no contact. Beaters, you can play as auxiliary Chasers. We’re just here to warm up.”
“What about you and Viktor?” Gunther shouted.
Harry looked at the Bulgarian Seeker, who shrugged and then smiled. He thought for a second, and then grinned. “Okay, change of plans. As before, two teams, but Viktor and I will play as Bludgers. If we tag you, you have a thirty second penalty where you can’t move.”
What followed was a two-hour match with a lot of laughter. All the Beauxbatons players seemed to forget that they had a big match that afternoon as they played against the excited Durmstrang team. Gabrielle and Reinhold were holding a low speed battle for the Snitch, but using that as an excuse to dive through the players. Viktor was doing the same thing Harry was, pulling off outrageous broom moves to catch any student who came too close to them.
As Harry looked around, Gabrielle floated past him, so he turned his broom and gave chase. She looked over her shoulder, and then wiggled her rear at him as she hunkered down and tore off.
He moved into the racing position himself and started to follow her. She led him around the goal posts for the Beauxbatons team then straight across the pitch, diving in and out of players, before she headed down.
He followed her, concentrating on closing the distance, and he slowly did – before he had to abruptly pull up to avoid hitting the ground, as she pulled off a picture book Wronski Feint. Harry laughed out loud, sped up near her, placed his feet on his broom and jumped across. He caught himself one handed on her broom, and heaved himself up to tap her shoulders, then let himself go. He somersaulted backward twice before calling for his broom and landing perfectly.
“Just vait, Potter, until I tell everyvon you ver almost ploughed by Veela-chick!” Viktor shouted in between laughs.
Harry shot him the finger but grinned at the same time. “Okay people, we’re going to have lunch in the restaurant here, so everyone down!”
They all dropped to the perfect pitch, most of the players congratulating Gabrielle for her feint.
Harry looked at the players, and then cast a cleaning charm on the lot of them. There was some wiggling, before they looked at each other in surprise. “Easier and quicker than a shower,” he explained as he led them off the pitch and up to the fourth floor restaurant, where a buffet was already spread out for them.
“What do you think?” Harry asked as Viktor wandered over to him, plate in hand.
“You vill beat Hogvarts,” Viktor replied confidently. “Players are goot, more relaxed, and determined to vin. And Veela-chick is almost as goot as ve are – or vill be in a few years.”
“Besides, dey haf to vin, I haff money on dem mit Flint,” he finished with a large smile.
Harry shook his head, laughing at the final comment. “The Durmstrang players have the best seats I could get for them,” he said. “They were supposed to be for VIPs and other non-imports from the Ministry, but I decided the kids deserved them more.”
“This has been more fun than the summer camps.”
“I might do something like this over the summer instead. Invite the best from all the big schools together and work with kids who actually want to learn. I’ll make it invite only, so no one can pay for their brat to get in.”
Viktor’s eyes lit up. “You vill be needink help, no?”
“If you want,” Harry said with a smile. “I’ll probably be able to get a few more players involved.”
“Including prettiest Chaser?”
Harry smiled and winked at him.
Viktor laughed and they finished their lunch in a companionable silence. The door to the restaurant opened and Fred and George wandered in. “Nice digs, Harry,” Fred said admiringly
“Are we going to have a nicer place next year, Harry?” George continued.
The room went silent as everyone stared at the Weasley twins.
“Quick,” Fred whispered, “do something to make them forget we just said that.”
“Like what?” George asked.
“Obliviate the lot of them?”
“Do I look like Harry?”
“No, you’re shorter, stouter, and have red hair.”
“Then I don’t think I can do it.”
“Would avoid the displeasure, but would leave some questions unanswered.”
“Damn. Face the music?”
“I guess,” George finished mournfully. “Erm, whoops.”
“What is going on?” Henri asked. “What did you mean by that?”
“Yes,” Viktor agreed. “Potter?”
Harry glared at Fred and George, who playfully fended off the glare. He set up a privacy charm around the room. “This is not public knowledge yet, although it will be soon. I’m going to be leaving the Cannons and starting my own Quidditch club. I’ve already got a core team lined up, and the land where I will build the stadium.”
“Wow,” Nicholas whispered. He shook himself. “You will be holding trials for back-up players, right?”
Nicholas smiled brightly.
Stephan frowned. “What about the rule about there only being thirteen professional Quidditch teams?”
Harry shrugged. “We’ll ask them to change it.” He grinned and continued, “And if they say no, we’ll join the French league. But really, we’re putting the league in a position where they can’t say no. We have the two most popular English players in the country, a full team that could represent England, and my name behind it. There’s too much money involved for them to say no.”
“What about your contract with the Cannons?” Anton asked.
“It ends this summer. Basically, my contract covers me when I play. When I don’t play, I don’t get paid. I did negotiate image rights, so I still have a share of all the merchandise coming in, but as I’m out for a year, that’s it. It’s pretty standard for a Quidditch contract, so I have no real problem in ending it when the contract ends this summer.
“Despite the size of my contract, it’s very much in favour of the Cannons, and it’s the same for every team. If we players are injured for a long time, it is down to us to look after ourselves. Despite the fact that we were injured playing for the club. It means that we have no real team loyalty, because loyalty has to go both ways.”
“Jah,” Viktor said with a nod. “It is the same everywhere.”
“Damn right,” Katie agreed. “They won’t even give us more than a single year contract. That way, if we’re injured, they can get rid of us easily and quickly. We’re kinda hoping that once people realise what we’re doing, the other players will demand the same sort of terms that we’ll be giving ourselves.”
“Things have improved a little with Harry,” Oliver added, “at the Cannons at least, but even that has been grudging.”
“I love this sport,” Harry said softly. “But I dislike the people running the clubs. I’ve got the resources to do something about it, so I’m going to do it.” He looked at his watch. “How are things at Hogwarts?”
Fred and George looked at each other. “Snape was hopping mad that you didn’t turn up for breakfast,” Fred said. “We thought about testing the food, but decided we’d rather have him there at the match to see Hogwarts lose, rather than in the Aurors’ custody, so we didn’t do or say anything. Flint got called away this morning, so Snape is in charge. The team have been holed up all morning, and there’s been a lot of shouting. McGonagall and Flitwick tried to intervene, but were told to stay out of it.”
“The crowds are gathering in droves and the stadium is rocking,” George put in. “Lee’s been going through some anecdotes about the previous matches that we all played in at Hogwarts.”
“Did you bring the fireworks?”
“Of course,” George replied, holding out a bag.
Harry grinned. “Okay, you two get back to Hogwarts and tell Lee what we’re planning.”
“Yes, mon capitan!” Fred shouted, saluting. George threw the bag at Harry, who caught it easily, before they turned to each other and vanished with a loud pop.
“Harry,” Gabrielle asked. “What are you planning?”
He could feel that she also wanted to know just when he had planned this. He made a note to mention that he didn’t sleep much later.
“First rule of Quidditch, always make an entrance!”
The students grinned at each other and looked at Harry eagerly.
“I’m going to charm your brooms into Portkeys set to appear at the same place in relation to each other at the same time. These fireworks will go first, and will set up a ring of fire.”
“So we fly in formation, and appear through a burning ring of fire?” Claude asked excitedly.
Harry nodded and laughed at the cheer that went up. “I suggest that the Seekers go first, flanked by the Keepers, then the Beaters and the Chasers. Try and keep it as tight as you can. Then the Durmstrang students can veer left and fly to your seats – Viktor will be waiting for you there – and the Beauxbatons players can fly down to Katie, Alicia, Angelina, Oliver and me, and we’ll be ready to start.”
Everyone was nodding eagerly, so Harry walked along and turned all their brooms into Portkeys. He opened a door onto a balcony that overlooked the pitch. “Get into position. Gabrielle, you’re in charge.”
“Yes, Professor,” Gabrielle replied automatically.
He sent her a mental smile and then leaned over and told her how to activate the Portkeys. “Everyone, start to fly.”
Almost as a wave, the students ran out and jumped onto their brooms, launching themselves into the sky. It didn’t take long for them to get into formation, and they swooped across the pitch a few times as they practiced. Shortly he felt that Gabrielle felt that they were ready.
He turned to others and smiled. Viktor was standing casually next to Katie. “Okay,” he said, “Everyone join hands.” Viktor grinned at him, as he took Katie’s hand. Oliver took Angelina’s – who made a playfully disgusted face. When they were all together, Harry took a deep breath and Apparated the lot of them to Hogwarts.
Harry quickly Apparated Viktor to his seat, before returning to the others on the pitch.
“And if I’m not mistaken, and I rarely am, Harry Potter has just arrived with Viktor Krum, and the coaching team that has helped Beauxbatons so much. That means that the Beauxbatons students should be arriving shortly.” Lee’s voice was already excited, and it seemed to turn up another notch as Harry surreptitiously opened the bag from Fred and George and sent the fireworks high into the air.
He called for Gabrielle to activate the Portkeys as he activated the fireworks. True to Fred and George’s genius with all things pyro-related, a loud explosion preceded a small ball of fire. Somehow breaking the laws of physics, the ball quickly formed itself into a ring, which grew until it was fifty feet across. Then the players appeared, their brooms gleaming in the sunlight, as they flew through the ring in perfect formation.
The noise from the crowd was deafening as they cheered their response. In absolute synchronisation the two teams separated, the Durmstrang players flying to their seats, where they all stepped off their brooms, turned, and dropped into their seats in unison. As one, they then reached under their seats and pulled out Beauxbatons scarves, to Harry’s pleased surprise.
The Beauxbatons team landed smartly on the surface of the pitch. Harry smiled at the beaming students before him. “Know what you’re going to do?”
They all nodded eagerly.
“Need me to say anything more?”
They shook their heads.
“Then go out there and have fun,” Harry ordered. “I know you’re good enough, and you know you’re good enough.”
“Captains,” the referee shouted.
Gabrielle walked over and looked at the Hogwarts players. They looked tense and nervous, the complete opposite to the Beauxbatons team who had now stopped joking and were beginning to look focused and hungry.
The Captains shook hands, Harry getting a little burst of how much Gabrielle disliked having anyone else touch her, and the teams were in the air. With a sharp whistle, the balls were released and the match began.
The excitement was palpable as the first interchanges began, only to stop as the referee called an immediate foul on Hogwarts. The Hogwarts players protested loudly, but were stared down by the ref.
Harry laughed to himself. This referee regularly handled some of the most intense matches in the world, and he was not going to be intimidated by a bunch of school kids. Hogwarts were not going to be able to use any dirty tactics.
He smiled faintly before stopping his emotions from showing, and turned his glasses into their darkest setting, so that he could watch Gabrielle.
“Very subtle,” Angelina whispered.
“Yeah,” Alicia agreed. “Not one of us can actually see that your eyes are firmly on Gabrielle’s bum.”
“Oh no,” Katie protested mildly. “I’m sure that at least some of his attention is on the way her top emphasizes her boobs.”
“Do you mind?” Harry asked.
“No, not at all,” Oliver replied with a wide smile. “We’re just getting started.”
“And Beauxbatons score the first non-penalty points of this match. Frederick Girard drops a pass to Nicholas Blanc who fakes and scores past Sean Murphy. Coach Snape isn’t happy; you’d think he’d keep a tighter rein on his temper. I know if I had that much grease in my hair, I’d be afraid of spontaneous combustion.”
There was a roar of laughter from the crowd, followed by a glare from Snape.
“We finally have some skilful play from the Hogwarts team. It’s a pity they can’t play like that all the time.” Lee continued. “Crabbe and Parkinson launch both Bludgers at Henri Mercier, who dives out the way. Claude and Anton Dubois scramble for position, but Charles Shaw scores!”
Harry smiled faintly as Gabby flew in front Sean Murphy, and then dived down as if following the Snitch. As he watched her, he had to hide a smile. He knew exactly what she was doing, and was not surprised as she pulled up the same way she had earlier in the day. Murphy ploughed into the ground at high speed, not having the skill to be able to pull up as Harry had.
Viktor was on his feet, cheering loudly, his hands in the air, before he smirked at Harry.
Snape called a time-out, and the teams came back down.
“Having fun?” Harry asked.
They all nodded. “They can’t foul and get away with it! It’s brilliant,” Anton declared excitedly. “This is sport, just like you said.”
Harry nodded. “Just keep concentrating. You’re already pulling away, and Gabrielle is a better Seeker.”
“Damn right,” Claude said enthusiastically. “That plough was almost poetic!”
Gabrielle smiled faintly. “Their hearts aren’t in it,” she said with a small sigh. “They’ve lost.”
“Well, when we win, perhaps they’ll learn from what happened and they’ll try a different way,” Henri suggested.
“We can hope,” Harry said. “Keep focused out there, guys, and remember, this is fun!” The players jumped back onto their brooms and spiralled back into the sky. The match started again, with Beauxbatons rapidly scoring another ten points.
Without warning, ten wizards dressed in familiar black robes and white masks appeared in the middle of the pitch.
“Avada Kedavra!” they yelled, their wands pointed in different directions, randomly casting at the large crowd.
Without thinking about it, Harry threw up his arms, creating a dome-shaped shield over the Death Eaters, to protect the crowd and the students. He yelled as the curses struck his shield, the strain unbearable as he attempted the impossible – stopping a barrage of killing curses. There were nine splashes of green light across the dome, and Harry collapsed to his knees as the shield flickered and died.
The last wizard, who had held his fire, looked at him, and then turned deliberately, selecting his target. He pointed up to the air and yelled, “Avada Kedavra.” There was a flash of green light, and Gabrielle Delacour slumped down over her broom.
From the crowd, rather than panic like at the Quidditch World Cup eight years ago, came a huge volley of curses, as every person present who had fought with Harry reacted with vengeance. Katie, Angelina, Alicia, and Oliver moved in front of Harry as they cast their curses, protecting him as he was on his knees, stunned.
Viktor was already out of his seat, arcing over the stands, his broom under him as he chased after Gabrielle, whose broom was flying away out of control.
The Death Eaters were all on the ground, some of them screaming in agony and some mercifully unconscious. One, the one who had thrown the Killing Curse at Gabrielle, was still standing. Harry felt a rage like never before as he stared at him. He knew who that one was – a curse from behind him had removed the mask, revealing Draco Malfoy.
“You dare attack my Mate,” Harry snarled. “I should have dealt with you after you cursed Hermione, and again after you duelled Gabrielle, but I thought that law would catch up with you. That is not a mistake I will make again.”
Malfoy looked at Harry and paled. He grabbed for a something in his pocket, but Harry had been expecting it, and threw up an anti-Portkey ward. Malfoy tried to Apparate, but Harry and his Mate were the only ones who could do that here.
“Wait,” Malfoy shouted.
Harry looked at him, his expression making it clear that Malfoy could say nothing that he was interested in hearing. His Mate was dead, and Malfoy would pay.
“Obliterate!” he snarled.
“No!” Malfoy screamed.
There was a rush of pure magic, and Malfoy flew a couple of feet into the air. He threw his head back and started to scream silently in absolute agony as his feet dissolved, scattering a fine grey powder as his boots fell to the ground. The effect burned up his body, leaving empty clothes fluttering to the ground and dust scattering in the wind.
Harry’s broom snapped to his hand and he launched himself into the sky, following Viktor and half the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang teams as they chased Gabrielle’s erratically veering broom. The small part of him that was aware of such things wondered why she hadn’t fallen off the broom yet. He reached the peak of the arc over Beauxbatons just in time to see Viktor desperately making a last-ditch effort to stop Gabrielle as she slammed into the great lake, a plume of water flying high into the sky.
Tridents abruptly appeared from beneath the water and Viktor was blasted into the air, away from the lake. Some of the Beauxbatons students managed to catch him before he smashed into the side of the school.
Harry felt the tears run down his face, unable to believe his Mate was dead.
Suddenly, he took a deep breath.
He could still feel her.
The Bond was faint, incredibly faint, but it wasn’t totally gone.
“Harry?” Oliver called.
“She’s alive. I’m going to get her.”
“We’re coming with you,” Ron announced firmly.
He looked up in surprise, finding that he was surrounded by fifteen of his friends, all mounted on brooms. All with their wands out and extremely focused expressions on their faces.
“The Merpeople have Gabby,” he explained, stripping off his jacket and letting it fall into the Beauxbatons courtyard below. “She’s not dead, but they’ve tried to kill her before. We’re going in and I’m going to get back what is mine. I’m not taking any prisoners. Jean, Percy?”
“Yes, Harry?” Jean asked. There was a cold, frigid look of fury on his face, easily matching the anger found on Aimée’s.
“Take care of this mess,” he said, pointing back to where the shocked crowd and the Ministry officials were spilling out of the stadium, some trying to get away and some trying to see what was happening.
“We will,” Percy assured him.
Harry turned toward the lake. He could feel his magic returning with a vengeance, and opened his arms wide, drawing it in.
Jean’s heart was racing. He had been afraid that he would lose both his wife and his daughter. One of the curses had been aimed directly at Aimée, and there seemed like nothing he could do – he had thrown himself forward, but known that it was too late.
But then Harry Potter had intervened.
Without a thought for the sheer impossibility of the task, he had thrown up a shield - the like of which had never been seen before, stopping not one, but nine different Killing Curses. It was impossible, but that sort of thing never bothered Harry.
But even as Jean had whipped out his own wand and started to fire curses down on the Death Eaters, he had watched helplessly as one had fired a curse that hit Gabrielle. He could almost feel the pain that caused Harry, as he felt his own heart break. His curses were as vicious as he could make them, without being fatal. He wanted at least one alive for questioning.
From around the stadium, a huge volley of curses appeared alongside his, from Aimée, Bill and Fleur and from total strangers. Aimée had tears in her eyes, but a determined expression on her face.
Almost absently, Jean cast a charm to unmask the Death Eater, wanting to see the face of the man who’d killed his daughter, revealing Draco Malfoy. Like the others, he had heard the absolute pain, agony and hatred in Harry’s voice as he spoke to the blond Death Eater. And then Harry had obliterated him - literally - in a public display of what happened when you enraged someone who had more power than Merlin. It was a fitting ending for anyone who dared touch Gabrielle. For one of the first times in his life, Jean didn’t know what to do. Harry was on his knees, the expression on his face painful to view – that of a man who had just had his heart removed, when the expression had suddenly changed.
Jean had felt his own heart re-start as he watched Harry summon his broom and launch himself toward the Great Lake. Many members of the audience had their brooms with them and followed, and several members of the Durmstrang team had pressed their brooms on Fleur and Aimée. And then Harry had announced that she was alive. And Jean knew, without doubt, that it was only thanks to Harry that she was.
And he also knew that Harry would get her back, because no one on the face of this planet was going to be able to stop him.
He felt a strange touch upon his magic and from the expressions on the faces of the people around him, it looked like whatever it was, was affecting everyone. An instant later, Harry stood up straighter, and was glowing with power.
Harry landed on the shore of the lake, accompanied by Ron, Hermione, Bill, Fleur, Charlie, Fred, George, Angelina, Alicia, Katie, Neville, Susan, and others Jean didn’t know. He cast a single spell, and all of them waded unhesitatingly into the lake. Soon, the only signs they had been there were the abandoned brooms and footprints on the bank.
So here Jean was, with a huge crowd looking on in shock and the term “Mate” that Harry had used already being bandied around. The politicians, reporters and curiosity-seekers were gathering, and the Aurors had the squad of Death Eaters unconscious and under guard.
It was chaos.
Jean smiled coldly. It was time for him to start repaying Harry for everything the young man had done for him.
Hovering slightly above the crowd to maintain the psychological advantage of height, he exchanged a look with Percy and cast a Sonorus charm on his throat. The best defence was sometimes a good offence. “Silence!” His voice boomed across the lawn.
“Minister Scrimgeour!” he roared. “Please explain just how these… these…”
“Scum,” Percy suggested.
“Oui. How these scum can arrive in the middle of a match by Portkey and try to kill my daughter and future son-in-law.”
The Minister for Magic looked nonplussed.
“Nice,” Percy muttered in admiration, as Jean simultaneously claimed the right to represent both Harry and Gabrielle and put Scrimgeour on the defensive.
Jean landed and stalked over to the Death Eaters. He reached up and ripped the mask off of one of them, a pug-nosed young woman with short dark hair who looked terrified.
“Pansy Parkinson,” Percy said formally, even as his eyes burned with rage. “The punishment for using an Unforgivable is a lifetime in Azkaban. The punishment for mass-murder is death. If you want the lesser of the two sentences, I suggest you start talking.”
“I was under the Imperius,” she started to explain. “Malfoy put me under it.”
Jean immediately claimed Malfoy’s wand from the Auror who had custody of it and cast ‘Priori Incantatem’ at it. It showed the Killing Curse, and a variety of other curses, but no Imperius. He could hear Lee, who was hovering over the crowd on his own broom, commentating as he did, explaining what was going on, and made a mental note to thank him later, he was doing as much as anyone else to stop this from descending into utter chaos. For once, Lee was doing commentary with absolutely no comedy, simply describing everything occurring with a cold and factual precision.
“Jean,” Percy said, “can you get some Veritaserum? I don’t trust Snape to provide any.”
“I’ll talk,” Pansy said as she deflated, her shoulder slumping as she realized her lack of options. “It was all Malfoy’s plan. He thought that we could start the good old days again. The plan was simple. We would use the Portkeys to force our way onto the pitch. First, we’d take out random people in the crowd. We knew Potter would try and save them. And then when Potter was distracted, Draco would kill the Veela-bitch that he seems to care so much about. And then, we’d all curse Potter – and with him dead, no one would be able to stand in our way.”
“You stupid, ignorant, repulsive bitch,” Percy said evenly and without rancour. “Did you honestly think that we didn’t learn the lesson last time around? Even without Harry, we would have fought you; never again will we live under the yoke of tyrants.”
“How did you get the Portkeys?” Jean asked.
“I don’t know,” Pansy sighed. “It was Draco’s idea. It seemed to make sense. None of us are trusted anymore – by anyone. It was a way to get our pride back.”
“Killing innocent people is a way of getting pride back?” Jean demanded, a disgusted expression on his face as he looked at her.
Percy nodded to the Aurors. “Get them out of here.” The Aurors finished removing the rest of the masks – revealing Marcus Flint as one of the others – and bundled them away.
“Thank you,” Pansy whispered, looking relieved to be out of the way before Harry returned.
“Scrimgeour,” Jean shouted next, but stopped himself because of a disturbance from the lake. There was a huge light emanating from the depths, and feeling of incredible magic.
Harry marched into the lake, desperately sending what he could down the Bond. He knew that Gabrielle was still alive, and that was all he needed.
He’d tear down the doors of Hell itself to save her.
Beside him walked his friends, people he knew he could trust with his back. They had been the first to react to the fight, and were now here as they walked through the water. They were surrounded by a large bubble that kept the water at bay, and the mud firmed up under their feet as they went.
The direction they were heading was scarily similar to the second task, and he could see that Fleur recognised it as well by the worried expression on her face.
A group of Grindylows raised their heads, but were dispersed before Harry could react. Fred and George, serious expressions on their faces, nodded back at him.
A Merman’s trident bounced off the bubble wall, and Bill Summoned the Merman who had thrown it, bringing him through the bubble as he held him by the neck. As the Merman started to choke, Bill screeched something at him in Mermish.
The Merman croaked a reply. Bill scowled, punched him in the face, and then threw him back into the water. “He doesn’t know anything,” Bill explained. “He was just following orders.”
Harry nodded, and they continued their silent procession into the depths. The Giant Squid appeared, seemed to nod at Harry, and then moved out of the way. Harry bowed respectfully to the creature.
Three armed Mermen stood in their way, but two curses from Neville and one from Susan removed them before they could even slow down Harry’s inexorable path.
Ahead of them was the giant statue of the Merman. Gabrielle was chained to it, a stream of bubbles coming from her mouth. The Merchieftainess was standing over her, her arms raised, a knife in one hand.
Harry growled and shot a burst of magic at her. It flew out of the bubble into the water, and struck the Chieftainess hard, throwing her against a rock. The Merpeople uttered harsh cries that sounded like a dozen Tri-Wizard eggs opened at once.
“They’re angry at us for interfering,” Bill translated. “I think we ought to show them just how angry we are. Harry, just release your magic.”
Without a word, Harry dropped every restraint he normally kept on his magic. It flared around him, caressing him like an old friend. The Merpeople reared back, shouting in pain and confusion before they started to swim away in panic. He walked over to Gabrielle, bringing her and the statue inside the bubble. He reached up to her and the chains simply broke, dropping her body into his arms.
Carefully he put her down on the stone base of the statue, cradling her head and shoulders, and focused everything he had on her, on the thin thread he could feel still connecting them. He willed her back from the brink of death, sending not just his power, but his love, and how much he needed her.
There was an endless moment when nothing happened. Finally, she coughed limply and stirred in his arms.
“You came for me,” she whispered, looking up at him. “I knew you would … if I just hung on.”
“Shhh,” Harry said, his aura vanishing as he sat beside his Mate. He held one hand tightly, lightly running his other hand over her to check that she was all right.
She lifted up her hand. “Your ring saved me. You saved me.” The ring had lost some of its lustre, but it was still intact.
Harry exhaled in relief.
“What about them?” Susan asked, indicating the terrified Merpeople.
Harry shrugged, looking out through the bubble wall. “Someone else will deal with them; I got what I came for.”
There were a lot of smiles. Fleur walked over and hugged Gabrielle as well, her face wet with tears.
“I thought I’d lost you, my little Angel,” she whispered in French.
“Never, not as long as I have my Mate, my darling Flower,” Gabrielle whispered back.
“Thanks, guys,” Harry said to everyone. “Let’s get out of here.” He stood and effortlessly picked Gabrielle up to carry her.
Gabrielle smiled tiredly and rested against him.
They walked quickly back through the Lake without incident, emerging where they had entered. There was a low babble of noise, as everyone appeared to be talking in whispers. Close by, Jean, Aimée, Percy, Albus, Picup, Olympe, Scrimgeour and a number of other Ministry officials were looking at them with a mixture of concern and surprise, evidently at their quick return.
Aimée was already waiting for them, a large, thick towel in her hands. She wrapped it around Gabrielle as Harry placed her down.
“I am experiencing déjà vu,” Gabrielle said. “It was here, eight years ago, when you’d rescued me before and I stood shivering and wet, that the idea to Mate with you came to me. It was as good an idea then as it is now.”
Harry blinked. “Say that again.”
“It was as good…”
“No, before that.”
Gabrielle looked at him curiously. “It was here, eight years ago,” she dutifully repeated, “when you’d rescued me before and I stood shivering and wet, that the idea to Mate with you came to me.”
“Gabrielle, open your mind to me,” he ordered, before whispering, “Legilimens!”
He entered her mind, feeling her welcome him without fear or hesitation. He delved into her memories, as deeply as he could, so that he could see what happened from her perspective.
He saw through her eyes as she looked around, searching for him even as she hugged her sister tightly. He watched as she met Dumbledore’s twinkling eyes for a second, and then she saw Harry, and did what she needed to do: Mate with him.
Harry pulled himself out of her mind, almost shaking with anger.
“You goddamned son of a bitch!” he roared as he whirled to face Dumbledore. “What sort of twisted pervert forces an eight year old to Mate!?”
Dumbledore, for once, had no soothing reply. His face was pale, his jaw slack with dismay.
There was an absolute silence, as everyone stared at Harry and Albus in shock. Aimée was the first to move. She took five paces forward and punched the Headmaster as hard as she could. Unprepared for the assault, he tumbled backward to the ground. She looked down at him, and spat a particularly vile imprecation in French.
“Harry,” Percy said, his voice stern. “Please explain.”
Harry was about to growl at him, when he realised that Percy wasn’t asking for himself, but for the listening public. He took a deep breath. “Eight years ago, during the Second Task of the Tri-Wizard tournament, I rescued Gabrielle as well as Ron Weasley. After the task, Gabrielle, who is part-Veela, Mated herself to me. Fast forward eight years. Gabrielle’s been living under a death sentence from an incomplete Mating. I’m not going to go into details, but the side effects are well documented, or you could always ask Hermione. I finally found out about it, and the opportunity for me to teach at Beauxbatons came up. To cut a long story short, we decided to ignore it and see if we could fall in love.
“To my good fortune, we did, and I proposed – she said, yes. Gabrielle has continually apologised for her mistake in Mating – and that’s all we thought it was, a child’s mistake. I had long since forgiven her for it,” he said, looking fondly down at her. “But when she mentioned déjà vu, I suddenly had a horrible idea.
“I checked her mind,” he said, his voice starting to rise again, “and I found that Gabrielle had not made a mistake when she Mated with me, because it had not been her idea to Mate with me at all.” He glared at Dumbledore. “It was his!” he hissed, pointing his finger at the shaken Headmaster, who was back on his feet – thanks to Olympe literally picking him up and holding in place.
“How could you do this to us?” Harry demanded. “Everything you’ve done to me wasn’t bad enough – you had to do this to another child as well?”
“It wasn’t about you!” Albus roared, going red in the face. “England was woefully unprepared and led by fools who were denying what was plainly before them. We needed help that only the French could give. Gabrielle is Jean-Sebastian Delacour’s daughter. I knew if she was reliant on you, Jean would be forced to help. If I hadn’t done it, the French wouldn’t have joined in the war, and Voldemort would have won!”
Harry shook his head in disgust. “Did you even try simply asking the French for help?”
“What?” Dumbledore asked, bewildered. Harry’s question obviously seemed like a non-sequitur to the aged man.
“Asking -- you know – being polite and saying ‘Please.’ Jean wasn’t the only French official who attended the Tournament. You could have asked any of them at any time.”
“I had to be sure – we couldn’t risk …” Dumbledore mumbled.
“Jean,” Harry said, “do you remember how you got involved in the war?”
“Yes, you, Hermione and Ron came over to France, and you asked for our help. Until that point, we didn’t even know how bad it was.”
“This was years after the Tournament, correct? And you’d never been approached by Dumbledore or the Ministry in all that time?”
“Was your decision to help influenced by Gabrielle’s plight?”
Jean raised his head proudly. “No. As much as I love my daughter, I would never ask the sons and daughters of France to risk their lives unless it was truly in the interests of France, not even to save my own daughter. I agreed to help because you asked, and that gave me the incentive to launch an investigation. When I found out just how bad it was – and how your Ministry was covering it up – I had no choice but to join you. You were fighting not just for yourself, but for our future. And France will never stand by idly while her allies need help.”
Harry turned to Dumbledore and shook his head. “You put an eight year old through years of torture and agony. You forced a child to experience emotions and thoughts she was in no way prepared for. And you did it all for your own petty little games. Rather than face the problem head-on, you decided to try and manipulate your way through it – and you didn’t even follow through, once you’d set it up. You waited for me to contact Jean – and he never even mentioned Gabrielle’s problem to me at the time. You enjoy playing the game too much to even try to win – you kept extending the play. Voldemort could have been defeated long before I was born, but you were too convinced of your own cleverness – too busy playing at spies and politics – to take the actions needed to end it.” Harry shook his head in disgust. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Percy whispering intently to Scrimgeour.
“Albus Dumbledore,” the Minister for Magic said portentously. “Because of your actions you are hereby suspended, effective immediately, from your position of Headmaster of Hogwarts. Minerva McGonagall will act as Headmistress in your stead.”
“No,” Dumbledore cried, his face going white. “It was for the greater good!”
“That just leaves one question,” Jean said. “The Portkeys.”
“How did Malfoy get Portkeys to Hogwarts?” Harry questioned Dumbledore. “The wards at the school have been tightened up since the war – too late to do any good, but still... The only people who can allow a Portkey through the wards now are you, through your link to the school, and me. And I didn’t allow them.”
Dumbledore’s eyes were wild. He tried to struggle, but Olympe was far too strong for him, and Picup was now helping her. Dumbledore raised his magic, causing the dust to swirl at their feet, but Harry reached out with his, subduing it.
Dumbledore’s eyes flickered toward Snape.
“Grab him,” Harry growled, nodding at Snape.
Neville was nearest, and he appeared to take Harry’s advice literally. He took a couple of quick steps toward Snape. Snape raised his wand and Neville calmly palmed it to one side and followed it up with a rabbit punch that caught Snape straight on the nose – which promptly broke, sending the greasy professor to the ground.
“Whoops,” Neville said with a small grin.
“Legilimens!” Harry shouted, launching himself into Dumbledore’s mind. Unlike his use of the spell on Gabrielle, where he had moved as gently as he could, this time he didn’t use any gentleness. Dumbledore tried to block him, but it was too little, too late. Harry battered away the shields, uncaring as to any damage he might do.
He pulled out abruptly and looked at Dumbledore. “Was it worth it?”
Dumbledore looked away.
“Harry?” Minerva asked.
“You were right, Min,” Harry sighed. “It is dementia. He’s known about it for thirteen years.”
“But the tests showed nothing?”
“Snape brewed potions that at first arrested the dementia, and then hid the effects.”
Minerva’s head dropped, and she sighed deeply.
“It was good medicine at first, but then the dementia flared up again and Albus became addicted to higher and higher doses. Anything Snape wanted, he got.” Harry shook his head in disgust. “Albus gave Snape the Portkeys yesterday. Snape said he needed them to transport some VIPs to the match.”
“You don’t understand … Hogwarts is my life,” Dumbledore said brokenly.
“How many children were you willing to ruin – to kill for it?” Harry demanded. “How many students have been tormented by Snape and Malfoy?”
“But…” Dumbledore tried.
“Your job was to provide a safe learning environment for children,” Harry snapped, “not to cling to a position you were not capable of managing, for the sake of your vanity.”
Jean stepped forward. “We’re not finished,” he said coldly to Dumbledore. “Your actions were reprehensible and unforgivable. You will be called to account for this”
“Take him away,” Percy said softly.
A wave of sorrow passed over Harry as he watched the Aurors lead Dumbledore away. “At one time he was a great man,” he whispered.
“That he was,” Hermione agreed, “but then he sold himself to the devil, and now he has to pay the price.”
“Percy?” Harry called, indicating Snape, who was still on the ground, trying to staunch the flow of blood.
“Severus Snape,” Percy said coldly, “it gives me a great deal of personal pleasure to order your arrest. You are a despicable excuse for a human being, and you are now implicated as a co-conspirator and accessory to today’s attempted mass-murder. Take him away.”
As Snape started to protest, Neville moved again, this time knocking Snape unconscious with a boot to the head.
Harry nodded at Neville, who took Susan’s hand and nodded back.
Harry looked down at Gabrielle, who was clinging onto his arm tightly. She was exhausted, staying upright by sheer willpower. “Okay, if you lot can take care of this, I want to get Gabrielle home and look after her.”
“Uh, Harry, dere is one ting,” Viktor said hesitantly.
Harry up at Viktor, who was sitting on his broom, surrounded by the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang players. Viktor seemed to have had no ill effects from his earlier encounter with Mermish magic.
“Vik,” Harry said, “Thanks for going after Gabrielle.”
“You and der Veela-chick are gut friends,” Viktor said with a smile. “You deserf each udder, it vas least I could do. Anyway, ve ver here playink Quidditch, remember?”
Harry blinked. “We’ll have to reschedule.”
“Harry?” Gabrielle said softly.
He looked down at her. She held out her right hand. She turned it palm out, and then released her fingers.
In her palm was the Golden Snitch, bedraggled and with a broken wing.
“Delacour has the Snitch,” Lee’s voice rang over the ground. “Beauxbatons wins! Beauxbatons wins!”
The referee blew his whistle and there was a huge cheer from the crowd, in part grateful that they had something they knew how to respond to.
“I love you,” Harry whispered, and kissed her – in front of the staff, in front of the players, in front of their friends, in front of the press, in front of the whole world.
Gabrielle didn’t say anything; she just kissed him back, her arms going around his neck.
Without breaking the kiss, Harry Apparated them away.
The soft thud of Harry’s heart beating was the most reassuring thing in her life. It was the best way to emerge from a deep sleep, each beat reminding her that she was sleeping with her Mate, the man who loved her above all others, who had not only managed to block nine simultaneous killing curses, but had protected her, through his ring, during the one moment when he couldn’t.
When she saw Harry throwing up the shield, she instinctively did everything she could to help him – pushing all of her magic at him, leaving herself defenceless – or so she thought.
Then the curse hit her, and she had truly believed that she was going to die. But the protective magic in his ring kicked in at that critical instant. It flared for the briefest moment as the charms directed all the magic the ring possessed to shield her. Maybe if she’d had her own magic, it wouldn’t have been so hard, but with all her magic shifted to Harry, all it had left to use was the magic Harry had fused into it.
It had been enough – but just barely.
Even with the protection of the ring, though, the curse had hurt – she didn’t remember much, but she knew that she had a choice. She could move on or stay. It hurt to live, and she had thought about moving on, giving Harry back the freedom she had taken from him. But she didn’t – because she knew he loved her. He had, after all, given her the ring. She knew she made him happy, and if she moved on, he would be free again, but alone, and devastated.
And so she fought, even without magic – she refused to give up. When the broom ran away with her, she was barely able to cling to it. When the merfolk captured her, she had just enough magic to keep herself from drowning. The Bond reassured her – all she needed was time; if she fought long enough, her Mate would come to get her.
And he had.
She snuggled into him and made a protesting groan as she accidentally opened an eyelid, finding the familiar bedroom at Harry’s London flat quite bright, filled with morning light.
“Morning,” he rasped.
“Mmm,” she mumbled, closing her eyes tightly.
“Mmm-hmm,” she agreed drowsily. She reached blindly for the blankets, and then pulled them over her head, so that she was cocooned against the evil light, safely locked up with him.
She could feel his amusement, but didn’t care. She was going back to sleep.
A loud knock from downstairs interrupted her determined attempt. She could feel Harry tense.
“What is it?” she asked grumpily.
“I think there are some people out in the hall who’d like to talk to us,” he said, his voice distorted by the covers over her head.
“Tell them to go away. I am sleeping!”
“From what I can tell, it’s your family, Ron, Hermione, Bill, Percy, Fred, George, Angelina, Alicia, Oliver, Katie and Viktor. I don’t think they’re going to go away.”
Gabrielle sighed deeply, but then she smiled. She sat up, throwing the covers to one side, and looked down at him. He was naked and his hair was slightly wilder than normal. She climbed out of bed and searched in the drawers for a pair of jeans. She found the ones she was looking for, and passed them to him.
There was another knock from below.
“Wear these,” she said.
He looked at her with a somewhat confused expression for a moment, and then shrugged, standing and wiggling into the tight jeans before turning toward the door.
“Stop,” she ordered before he’d made so much as one step. He paused, looking at her curiously. She bent over and undid the top button of his jeans, then hopped up onto the bed so that she was taller than him and kissed him as hard as she could, a little rougher than usual. At the same time, she ran her fingers through his hair a few times, making it even more unruly.
“Now you look perfect,” she breathed as she looked at him.
She smiled as innocently as she could. “If they are going to bother us early in the morning, they are going to pay.”
“And how is this paying?”
“Because you are going to make all the boys self-conscious, and most of the girls jealous of me,” she said smugly. “My father will have a heart attack. And maybe next time, they will wait for me to wake up before knocking on our door.”
He laughed under his breath and went down to answer the door. With a sudden movement, he opened the door and leaned against the frame, his right arm above his head. “Hey,” he greeted them.
Gabrielle smirked at the silence from the other side.
“Why do I think that my daughter had a hand in this?” Aimée asked with a sigh. “Of course, back when she was seven, attempts to wake her up early would produce accidental magic, not a half-naked man.”
She could feel Harry’s amusement, and giggled herself.
“Come in, you’re blocking the corridor,” he said, and moved backward. “Gabby’s upstairs,” he said to Aimée, who headed straight toward her.
“Everyone out to the balcony,” Harry said, as he yawned and stretched, then led the way.
“Mama,” Gabrielle squeaked, as she suddenly realised her state of undress and dived under the covers.
Aimée raised an eyebrow for a moment, and then passed Gabrielle some clean underwear and turned her back.
“Thank you, I am now decent.”
“No,” Aimée replied, “after that, you are anything but decent. Still, if it reminds your father that he can use a gym membership – not just pay for it – then it might have done some good.”
Gabrielle smiled brightly, and opened her wardrobe.
“Go for jeans and a t-shirt today,” Aimée advised. “You’ll want to be comfortable and informal.”
“Yes, Mama,” Gabrielle replied obediently as she pulled out some new clothes. She dressed and turned to look at her mother, who had sat down on the edge of the bed, and was looking at her with a melancholy expression. She sighed, as if steeling herself for something unpleasant.
“Mama, no!” Gabrielle said firmly.
“Do not even think it! Do not make me bring Harry up here!”
“Do not dare, Mama,” Gabrielle said fiercely. “No one knew, I did not know, so there was no way for you to know. You could have never found the truth; the only person I would ever allow into my mind like that was Harry, and he scarcely knew that I was alive then.
“Yes, what he did was awful, and yes, everyone blamed me – I blamed me. But, eight years later, I know that I have a Mate who loves me more than life itself. I know that. I know that I have a life ahead of me that will be the envy of people all over the world, because I will be Harry Potter’s wife.” She paused and looked her mother directly in her eyes. “And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I have a mother who will stand by me, no matter what mistake I might make as I continue to grow.
“You always told me that life is what you make of it. Well, I have made all my dreams come true. You gave me the strength to do this. You did everything you could for me, despite thinking that I had brought it on myself. And you even apologized for doubting my choice.
“You have been there for me through everything, never once abandoning me, never once withholding love or support. Without you, I would not be this girl you see before you, without you I would have never had the strength to chase my tiger and show that I can roam with him. Without you, I would not be here, in love with my Mate, happier than I could ever dream.
“So I will not allow you to apologise to me; it is neither warranted nor needed. Instead, I will say thank you for everything you have done for me over the past eight years. For the unwavering strength and support you have lent me.”
Aimée looked a little stunned as Gabrielle finished.
Gabrielle moved over and sat next to her, hugging her hard.
“I do not think that I have ever been prouder of you, my little Angel,” Aimée whispered softly.
“You will talk to Papa and Fleur?” Gabrielle asked.
“I will,” Aimée agreed, and brushed a tear from her eye. “I do still feel guilty, but it will fade.”
“Good,” Gabrielle said. “Now, can you take Harry a t-shirt while I arrange breakfast for everyone?”
“Would you like a hand?”
Gabrielle smiled softly. “I am mistress of this house now, Mama. It is time that I acted like it.”
Aimée nodded and hugged her hard for a second, before she stood and walked back downstairs.
Gabrielle considered the reality of trying to make breakfast for the small horde currently in the flat. There was only one thing to do at a time like this, and that was to enlist help. She smiled and Apparated away.
“Aimée?” Jean asked, as she walked onto the balcony.
Harry smiled at her as he finished creating new chairs for everyone. He made a mental note to buy some more, as he could see this becoming a popular location for gatherings. Something that he found himself looking forward to.
Aimée smiled faintly. “I have just been told, rather forcefully, not to apologise for believing that Gabrielle Mated with Harry of her own volition. And she has requested that I ensure that you two don’t try either.”
“But - ” Fleur started.
“Did you turn Gabrielle into an outcast?” Harry interrupted dryly. The others were staying out of this discussion, but were watching with interest.
Aimée passed him a t-shirt which he quickly donned, absently doing up the top button of his jeans at the same time.
“Of course not,” Fleur said.
“Then all you’re apologising for is believing what she believed,” Harry said as gently as he could. “The idea that Dumbledore would do that never entered her mind – or anyone else’s. She truly believed it was her own idea, and she liked it that way. The only way you would have been able to tell was to sink into her memories and relive the moment. But there was no way for anyone to do that. I could only do it because of the Bond we have. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to relive her memories of an event that happened eight years ago. As far as she’s concerned, there’s nothing to apologise for.” Harry paused. “And if you gave her the choice now, of going back in time and not Mating with me, she would laugh at you and tell you not to be so silly.”
“Precisely,” Aimée agreed. “Jean? Fleur?”
“Yes dear,” Jean agreed with a sigh. “I am allowed to still take Dumbledore for all he has, though, right?”
Harry smiled coldly. “Of course. Just because Gabrielle landed on her feet in the end doesn’t mean that he should get away with it.”
“I went through Snape’s potions last night, and found the one Albus is taking. We’ll make sure he won’t be able to escape into his dementia,” Hermione added. “As a side concern, we’ll work on the potion and see if we can’t take away the addictive qualities, as it could be a great help to a lot of other people.”
Harry smiled. “So, why are you all here so early?”
“Early?” Ron asked. “It’s nearly eleven.”
“Hands up, everyone who stopped ten killing curses yesterday.” Harry raised his own hand and looked around. “The only other person who could legitimately raise her hand is Gabby.” He could feel his Mate tapping into his power to Apparate, so he knew she wouldn’t be joining them for a while yet. “Her ring was designed to bolster her own magic, and in normal circumstances it would stop a killing curse without too much effort.”
“So vat happened?” Viktor asked as he sat down, managing to get the seat next to Katie.
“When I threw up the shield around the Death Eaters, Gabrielle pushed all her magic toward me to help me out. That was a nice, thoughtful move on her part, but it left her defenceless. The ring had a layer of protection, one I put in for emergencies only, that fought off the effects of the curse. It was a close thing.”
“What did that layer do?” Bill asked.
“It used the power I stored in the ring to deflect most of the curse. A ring isn’t very big, so it isn’t really suitable for storing too much raw power.”
“Okay, Potter, it’s time for you to come clean,” Fred said.
“Yeah,” George agreed. “We all went to school. We all know that it’s hard enough to attach charms to inanimate objects, let alone things like platinum. We also all know that it is practically impossible to store raw power in an object.”
“Just as the idea of magical telephones that work worldwide is a crazy idea,” Fred continued. “And then there is the fact that you like to read in bed, interesting books that don’t exist, that you just happen to know exactly what Merlin and Morgana look like – down to their voices – and you get irritated by remarks about Arthur and Morgana having kids.”
Harry shot Katie a reproachful look. She blushed and looked down.
“No, Harry, you need not answer,” Aimée said calmly, turning toward the twins. “Everyone has secrets they would rather not share, whether they be magical, sexual, or merely embarrassing. Harry has the right to secrets, just like the rest of us.”
Harry took a deep breath, and looked up. “Thank you,” he said to Aimée softly. “But there will come a time where I might need their help.”
Fred and George whipped out their wands. “We swear never to divulge what we are about to hear to others who are not here,” they said in unison.
“Damn it,” Oliver groaned. “Will you two just learn to give a promise like the rest of us?”
“Nope,” Fred said cheerfully.
“If we make a magical promise, it forces everyone else to, and then we can’t accidentally let it slip, like we did with Harry’s plans for next year.”
“Oh,” Oliver said. “Knowing you two, that actually makes sense.” Everyone else started to cast the same spell. Aimée pulled out her wand and looked at him.
Harry shook his negatively. She smiled at him, and placed her wand away.
“You know, Mama?” Fleur asked in surprise as she finished her promise.
“I do,” Aimée agreed.
Harry took off his watch and turned it upside down. He opened a small compartment on the back. Very carefully, he eased four tiny books out, and cast a charm so that they returned to their normal size.
“Holy shit,” Hermione blurted, “are those what I think they are?”
“Hermione!” Ron protested, a completely scandalised look on his face.
“Harry,” Hermione whispered reverently, completely ignoring her husband. “Please tell me they are what I think they are.”
“These,” Harry said softly, “are the complete and unabridged original diaries of Bertram Nash.”
Viktor gasped. “You are serious?”
“Erm, who’s this Bertram fellow?” Fred asked.
“I’m so glad someone else asked that,” Jean muttered.
“You might know him better as Merlin Ambrosius.”
“Holy shit,” Ron gasped.
“Ron, language,” Hermione snapped.
“Sorry, dear,” Ron said automatically, and then blushed as everyone laughed.
“Don’t ask where I got them,” Harry said quietly, “some secrets are not mine to share.”
“This is where you got the idea for the phones?”
Harry nodded. “I’ve been working on it for some time, breaking it down into something manageable.”
“Why didn’t you tell us?” Hermione asked. Her eyes had yet to leave the books, and her fingers were making a curious grasping motion.
“Because Harry is the only person who can do the spells in them,” Aimée said. “These aren’t spell books in the normal sense.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed, shooting a grateful look at Aimée. “One of the easiest spells in it was the one I used to create a hole in Hogwarts wards, and you saw how much that took out of me.”
“Can I at least look at them?” Hermione begged.
Harry looked at her for a long moment, somewhat reluctant to let anyone else look through his window into the past. He sighed and nodded. “I’ll make you a copy.”
“Thank you,” she whispered.
The door to the balcony opened and Gabrielle walked out. She was carrying a tray with a collection of mugs. Floating behind her were several trays, stacked high with plates. Each plate had a mouth-watering omelette on it, and the smell made Harry realise how hungry he was.
“Mama? Tea or coffee?” Gabrielle asked sweetly.
“Tea please, dear,” Aimée replied. Gabrielle touched the first cup, and he smiled as he felt the slightest pull on his magic. She then passed the cup to Aimée smoothly.
“Gabrielle,” Alicia asked, after everyone had a drink, and Gabrielle had passed out the omelettes, “how did you know how many cups of tea and coffee you needed to bring?”
Gabrielle laughed softly and sat down next to Harry, pulling her feet up and leaning against him. “I did not know,” she confessed. “I just pulled the proper drink as you requested it.”
“That was very smooth,” Katie said admiringly. “The sort of thing we’d expect from Harry.”
Gabrielle smiled brightly. “Eat, do not stand on ceremony. Harry and I have not eaten yet.”
Harry balanced his plate on his lap so that he could eat with one hand as the other wrapped itself around his Mate. The omelette tasted as good as it smelled, and he noticed that their plates were double the size of everyone else’s. As he knew she couldn’t cook, and with the quantities involved, he suspected that she’d been to Grimmauld Place and conscripted the elves.
After everyone had finished their brunch, Gabrielle snapped her fingers and the plates vanished. She shifted so that she could stretch her feet out, her toes wiggling cutely, and wrapped both hands around her cup of tea.
“To what do we owe the pleasure of this morning’s visit?” she asked.
“Gabrielle,” Jean said reproachfully. “You cannot block killing curses, implicate one of the most respected men in the world as a twisted old pervert, manage to declare your love for the most powerful wizard in the world and catch the Snitch in one afternoon, without expecting repercussions.”
“But Papa,” Gabrielle said innocently, “repercussions are your job.”
Jean sighed, only the corners of his mouth twitching betrayed his amusement.
“Well,” Fred said, “what he said, really. Plus, of course, we all wanted to check that you were all right, and we figured you might want to know what happened after you left.”
“A lot of fuss, an impromptu press conference, and general confusion?” Harry asked.
“Harry,” Ron complained. “Just let us tell the story, okay?”
“Sorry,” Harry apologised. “Go ahead.”
“After you vanished, there was uproar for a few minutes, but Lee has a bigger mouth than all of them put together,” Ron explained.
Harry looked at Hermione and rolled his eyes. Her eyes were still fixed on the books with an avid fascination he recognized so well. He reached over and took the first one, floating it over to her. Her eyes grew wide as it got near, then she grabbed it out of thin air, sighed happily, and started to read.
Ron looked amused and patted her on the leg.
“Anyway,” he continued, “Lee shouted everyone down, and Percy and Jean had a quick chat, and they decided that a press conference would be the best way to go.
“So, we went back to the pitch and set up a stage quickly, and a few of us sat and faced the clamouring hordes.”
“They’re not that bad,” Harry said with a shrug. “They get confused if you mock them.”
“Shh, Harry, I’ve not finished yet,” Ron said. “Anyway, Percy talked Scrimgeour out of trying to participate, and we all sat down. The crowds weren’t going anywhere, and were treating this as just another form of entertainment. Olympe, Picup and Minerva had a quick talk to the students, and as the Beauxbatons Quidditch team already knew everything, Beauxbatons were quick to accept it.”
Aimée smiled faintly. “Simone told me later that the school was actually quite proud of it. They all knew that their Head Girl was special, just as they knew that Harry Potter was special. It made sense that the two of you would be together. But we are digressing. Continue, Ronald.”
Ron nodded. “Anyway, we decided to answer questions.” He grinned, “We asked for the first one, and no one seemed to know where to start. Eventually, we were asked about the Mating and what it entailed – and why we were so angry at Dumbledore about it.”
“My dear wife answered that one,” Jean said proudly. “She stood in front of them and lectured them for fifteen minutes on Veela physiology, and the mental and physical changes that Gabrielle went through. By the time she had finished, she could easily have formed a lynch mob from the spectators, who were incensed that anyone could do that to an eight year old.”
“The second question was a request to interview the both of you,” Ron continued.
“Ahh,” Percy interrupted. “Harry, Gabrielle, I’m afraid that I promised your first joint interview to Rita Skeeter.”
“You did?” Harry asked. “Why?”
Percy smiled faintly. “She Floo’d me the same morning that the Prophet presented its opinion-piece on Malfoy. It seems that someone had managed to get pictures of you two in America, having breakfast, and wanted Skeeter to use them to ruin your reputation. Rita buried the story, only asking for the interview in exchange.”
Harry nodded. “Okay.”
“This next bit might amuse you,” Percy continued. “It seems that there has been a network of conspirators out to ruin you.”
“Oh?” Harry asked.
Percy nodded, his face straight and expressionless. “It seems that there are regular meetings among the Divination professors of the major magical schools. They get together and read each other’s fortunes and tell each other wonderful stories.” He took a sip of tea. “Well, it seems that they have a large grudge against you for ‘ruining’ their reputation. It seems that Prévoyez told Trelawney that you and Gabrielle seemed close, and Trelawney told Malfoy and Snape.
“I had a quiet word with out dear ex-Professor yesterday evening, and it seems that whatever Skeeter said to her sunk in.” He smiled suddenly, in a slightly feral manner. “She was absolutely terrified and hiding in her belfry. I think her career as an international conspirator has come to an abrupt and incompetent end.”
Harry laughed softly.
“The next question was about the age difference,” Ron continued. “Aimée took that one as well and, well, that particular journalist is probably still running away, in case she tries to find him.”
“I disliked his implications,” Aimée explained. “I also reminded him of some of the facts I had just finished talking about.”
Ron sniggered. “Something like that,” he agreed. “The next few questions Jean and I could handle, as we talked about some of the boring stuff involved. But then we got asked a question we couldn’t answer; which was, what happened before we went into the lake?”
“What had happened?” Gabrielle asked.
“All the wizards and witches present, nearly forty thousand of them, felt something pull on their magic.”
“And you told them not to worry about it, correct?”
“Good. That’s all they need to know.”
Viktor raised his hand.
“Yes, Vik?” Gabrielle asked.
“Vat dit hoppen?”
Gabrielle looked at Harry. He looked back for a moment, then he nodded.
“Are you sure?” she asked softly.
“These are my friends. I trust them.”
“You are all aware of your magic and where it comes from inside you, correct?”
They all nodded.
“I will draw an analogy here, and describe your magic as a well. When you do a spell, you draw your magic out of the well and the total within the well depletes slightly. After a while, the magic in the well regenerates itself.” Everyone was nodding. “That is your power supply, and if you use it all up, then you have to wait for it to naturally refill.
“Harry is different. Harry can draw magic from his surroundings, and use it to supplement his own magic. What this means is that he has fantastic reserves he can draw on, and in a fight, if you do not kill him quickly, Harry will win, because when you run out of magic, he will not.
“But that is not the only difference. While we may draw from our well with a bucket – or wand – Harry can bypass that and access it directly. I guess, to continue the analogy; you could refer to putting a hose down there and a pump.
“Of course, Harry’s well is enormous as well. Magic is like a muscle; the more you use it, the bigger it gets. If you look at the things Harry has done in his life, the escapades he has gone through, and the natural power he was born with, you can see why.
“To answer your question, Harry was drained after stopping the Killing Curses, so he took the easiest and quickest way to refill his well. He pulled from his surroundings, which just happened to include forty thousand witches and wizards.”
“Oh,” Viktor said. He scratched the back of his neck. “Dat vill tich me to ask such qvestions,” he mumbled.
“The thing I’m wondering is if Hermione actually heard all that,” Ron said with a grin.
“Hmm?” Hermione asked.
“Gabrielle was just saying that Luna was right, and that Scrimgeour was really a cross-dressing chimpanzee all these years,” Harry replied.
“That’s nice,” Hermione agreed absently, still intent on what she was reading.
Everyone laughed, apart from Hermione, who didn’t even look up.
“After that, there were a few more questions, but Aimée had already explained most things, and the press were happy to leave and get back to write their copy.”
“They were pretty good with what they heard,” Alicia said, “I read a few articles this morning. But really, after stopping so many killing curses, and doing what you did, no one was going to write anything bad against you.”
“True,” Angelina agreed. “There are calls for you to receive the Order of Merlin, first class, for managing to block the curses. Interestingly, no one really asked how Gabrielle survived. I think everyone just presumed that Harry was protecting her.”
“Which he was. The only negative reports were from the Prophet, or, rather, they would have been negative,” Percy added. “But I got an emergency court injunction stopping them from publishing today. I had a word with some of their advertisers, and pointed out the negative publicity they were getting, and a lot of them have pulled out. I don’t think the Prophet is going to survive this.” He paused. “Did you know that the owner is married to Lucius Malfoy’s aunt? It explains the slavish sycophancy.”
“So that was about it,” Ron said. “Viktor took care of the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang players, made sure everyone was safe, and kept an eye on the victory party.”
“Well, that’s it apart from Viktor’s new friend,” Bill added.
“Oh?” Harry asked.
“It seems that a certain Head Girl from Hogwarts, upon finding that not only were you not available, being in a committed relationship with a certain other Head Girl, decided that she would turn her attentions to a new target: Viktor Krum.”
Harry laughed softly, feeling Gabrielle laugh next to him.
“She is von scary vitch,” Viktor admitted.
“It’s okay, Viktor, I’ll protect you from the nasty schoolgirl,” Katie said, rubbing his back.
“Vill you? Really?” he asked.
Katie opened her mouth, and then shut it as she looked at him. She blushed faintly and then nodded, ignoring the grins on the faces of everyone else present.
“All that is left is the award ceremony tonight,” Jean said. “It has been an interesting few days, and at the end of it, I believe we have accomplished our goals. Beauxbatons has won the tournament. Olympe is thrilled that she has the Cup of Throbus. Your relationship is now well known, and there is a feeling of sympathy and respect for Gabrielle over what she has been through. Dumbledore, Snape, and Malfoy are all gone from Hogwarts, and Minerva is in charge, with Filius as Deputy Headmaster.”
Harry grinned. “And if we could have managed that without Gabrielle nearly dying, it would have been perfect.”
“I’ve just got one more question,” Fred said. “Why here?”
“Sorry?” Harry asked.
“You have Grimmauld Place, you have that cottage in the Lake District that your parents used, and you have loads more properties floating around. So why do you always seem to stay in this one?”
Harry smiled. “It’s mine. The others I inherited. This is the only thing I own that I’ve paid for myself.”
“I do approve,” Percy said, “and it’s a very nice place as well – if a little cold. Anyway, to finish this off. I sent some people down to have a chat with the Merpeople, but they’d left, lock, stock and barrel. There were only a few abandoned huts. No one’s quite sure how they did it, although I did get reports that the Giant Squid was looking pleased. No one’s exactly upset about it. We take it rather personally when one species tries to sacrifice another. Oh, and one of the idiot Death Eaters was a friend of yours – Hogwarts’ ex-Head Boy. He didn’t like you, but now he’s terrified of you.”
Harry sighed. “I blame Snape and Malfoy. But he tried to kill an innocent to make a point, and he deserves what he gets.”
Gabrielle lightly took his hand and squeezed it gently.
Percy smiled faintly. “The Ministry would like to know how you perform the new ‘Obliteration’ spell.”
Harry smiled back. “Simple. You point at them, and say, ‘Obliterate’.”
“I thought that would be your answer,” Percy said, his face straight again. “Of course, the prerequisites for getting the spell to work include having more power than everyone working for the Ministry put together, and being mildly peeved at someone for trying to kill your Mate.”
“I shall report back in great detail.”
Harry laughed and winked at Percy, who nodded in return, stifling a grin.
Aimée looked at her watch. “It is time for us all to leave,” she announced. “We need to get ready for the ceremony.”
“Afterward, we should all go out to dinner,” Gabrielle said.
The others nodded and smiled. Hermione stood, but only because Ron lifted her up. She was still intently reading the book, with the only signs of life being her occasional blink and turning of a page.
“Harry, could you…” Ron asked.
Harry laughed and summoned the book from Hermione.
“I was reading that!” Hermione protested, a frown appearing on her face.
“We know,” Harry replied dryly. “But as we’ve finished our talk, it’s time for you to get ready for the ceremony.”
“And if you’re good, Ron might tell you what you missed.”
“I missed something?” Hermione asked, her frown changing to a look of consternation.
Gabrielle smiled. “I explained how Harry’s magic works.”
Hermione’s face went white. “But…” she said.
“Come on, dear, let’s get out of here,” Ron said soothingly.
“You can all Apparate,” Harry said. “I’ve dropped the wards for a few moments.”
With a few farewells, everyone Disapparated, leaving Harry and Gabrielle alone on the balcony.
“That went well,” Harry said, as he moved to hug her.
She smiled. “We seem to have a lot of friends.”
Harry nodded. “More than I realised. I think you’ve helped me see that being more open with people means that they are more open back.”
“Viktor and Katie?” she asked.
“Vik calls her the ‘pretty Chaser’.”
Gabrielle smiled. “We should get ready as well. Should I wear my uniform?”
Harry looked at her for a brief second and then shook his head. “No, tonight we go as a couple.”
Gabrielle beamed at him. “Then I shall look my very best,” she vowed.
“You always do,” he replied and pulled her closer so that he could kiss her.
Harry squared his shoulders and exhaled. He was wearing a simple white shirt with dark trousers. He had left his glasses at home, and Gabrielle had done his hair so that it looked about as good as it could get.
Next to him, Gabrielle took his hand and smiled. She looked beautiful in a grey silk skirt and a black top, but he really doubted that anyone would look at what she was wearing. Her smile seemed to say everything it needed to. She looked happy and content, and more, she looked proud that she could now be seen with him and didn’t have to hide.
The doors to the Great Hall of Hogwarts slowly opened and they walked in. He squeezed her hand slightly, and she shot him a small smile. As they entered, the Beauxbatons team started to clap, and were quickly followed by the Durmstrang. The rest of the students started to join in, until they reached their spot in the centre.
“Thank you,” Harry said dryly. Rather than translate, they looked at each other and cast a spell, allowing the French and Germans present to understand English perfectly for the evening.
There was another cheer, and Harry found himself relaxing. He grinned at the crowd and Gabrielle started to speak.
Just a few months ago he had felt that there was no hope left in his life, that he was never going to be truly happy. That everything he loved doing was gone.
It had taken one amazing girl to show him what he had forgotten: that life was there to be lived, and something else he hadn’t known: that she would be there to live it with him. He looked to the future with excitement, and knew that he would have someone to share it with, someone who understood his hopes and dreams.
As he started to call the first person forward for the first award, he was hit by the thought that the most powerful force in the universe was the power of hope, because without it, you were lost, but with it, you could do anything.
Another long-ish story finished, and I'm glad it's done. Thank you to everyone who wrote to tell me they enjoyed this, and thanks to those who posted detailed valid criticisms. I've
read them all, and taken the points on board.
Draco's Obliteration is dedicated to everyone who read the early version of the Object Lessons Trilogy on my journal - and the Freudian slip contained therein.
With great thanks to my Betas (Kokopelli, Gardengirl, Ishtar (and Kinsfire), and Greywizard) for all their hard work and encouragement, without them, this story simply would not have been written.
As WK,GQ was my "Dobby" fic, this was my "Quidditch" fic. I'm glad I've covered the sport, but I think I'll pass on that in any great detail in the future.
Bertram Nash - for those who didn't get my point - was the real name of Merlin – or rather, is the real name of Merlin in the side story I’ve mentioned through out Hope.
I also have to thank Yves St Laurent for most of Gabrielle's outfits in this story. Pretty much everytime she wore anything special, the outfit was designed by him... that is with the exception of Gabrielle's night-club outfit, and I think that anything I could say about that would reveal far to much about me... ;)
As for the epilogue that was once here, I deleted it. It never lived up to the mental premise that started it, so after much thought, I deleted it. Somethings are betting in my mind, than in writing.
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