1 - Beauxbatons
The wind rushing in his hair always made him forget his troubles. It allowed him to forget that he was basically unhappy with life. He’d never thought that his life would get worse after defeating Voldemort but, in a way, it had. He’d lost the freedom he’d fought for. Everywhere he went he was treated like a rock star. The press hounded him every time he took a step out of his small home.
As the sun set over the horizon, the air temperature dropped a little bit, causing his cheeks to turn numb, and his knuckles to turn white. It wasn’t comfortable, but it was a sure sign that he was still alive, despite everything.
Relationships were impossible with the amount of pressure his girlfriends were subjected to. Even an attempt at something more than a platonic relationship with Ginny had lasted till they had kissed and realised that they really didn’t feel that way about each other. His other girlfriends had wilted under the pressure, or only wanted to be with him because of another aspect of his life that he hated: his fame. He’d been willing to chalk it up to experience the first time an ex-girlfriend had appeared in the press with a “kiss and tell” article about their time together. Even the fact that it had been extremely flattering had not been of comfort.
The second time it had happened – especially when the reason they had split was that he wasn’t willing to take her to all the parties she wanted to go to – had caused him to swear off women altogether.
He rolled and flew upside down under one of the opposing Chasers, distracting them so that they missed a catch, and one of his team mates intercepted, before going on to score.
With Ron and Hermione living the fairytale and being married for two years now, it left him very much alone with few friends that he could really call on for companionship. Even his relationship with Ginny had deteriorated over the years, mainly because she had still been in school when he had finally defeated Voldemort, and they had never regained the closeness they had enjoyed before he had left. He was still welcome at the Weasleys’, but he didn’t want to be an imposition.
What hadn’t helped was that he had gone for a career in the only thing he loved – playing Quidditch.
The reason it didn’t help was because he had proved to be very good at the game. Exceptionally good.
And now, three years later, he was the Seeker for England in the final of the World Cup. Below him, thousands and thousands of wizards and witches were cheering him on; opposite him Viktor Krum circled the stands, looking for the Golden Snitch.
The match was well-balanced, at one hundred points each, both teams playing at the top of their game, and it was obvious that the game would be decided by the skills of the Seeker.
It had been billed as the ultimate match up between the two best young stars in the game. But where as Viktor courted the fame, Harry hated it, but he put up with it as a necessary evil for playing the sport that he loved.
As he swooped over a stand, he could see Ron and Hermione cheering him on. Ron had surprised everyone by entering the Ministry, where as Hermione, having spent two years in a Muggle University, graduated with top honours in record time. She was now Head of Muggle Research for the Ministry, and was currently working with the Healers on a way of integrating Muggle Medicine with Magical.
He paused his thought as a glint of gold caught his eye, but shook it off as he realised it was the pocket watch of a dignitary.
He closed his eyes and idly criss-crossed the pitch, dodging Bludgers without really trying. This position hadn’t come easily for him; he’d been injured several times, once having his shoulder destroyed as he’d allowed himself to get hit so he wouldn’t miss the Snitch. That had been last year in the quarterfinals of the League Cup. The Cannons, the team he played for during the regular season, had been knocked out of the semi-finals, as he’d been unable to play.
Ron still hadn’t forgiven him.
His ever-growing fame meant that even getting out of his house and going shopping was becoming impossible. People gathered around him, asking him questions, demanding his attention – as if everything he had sacrificed wasn’t enough. And the press were voracious; every thing he did was worthy of print and pseudo-genuine psycho-analysis.
It was at the stage now where he felt like an outcast in his own country. He had no freedom, and no chance of making new friends. Even the D.A., his old school friends, treated him more with awe than with friendship. The way he had battled Voldemort impinged permanently on their consciousness.
A roar from the crowd focused his attention, and he saw the Snitch – it was hovering about forty feet off the ground. He put his broom into a racing dive, aware out of his peripheral vision that Viktor was doing the same.
He kept his eyes firmly on the Snitch as he urged yet more speed out of his broom. Viktor swung into him, trying to nudge him off course, but he ignored the other Seeker, all his concentration on the small golden ball.
He reached forwards, trying to get that extra inch, and could see Viktor mirroring him.
As they got nearer, the Snitch suddenly shot straight up and over their heads.
Without thinking, Harry raised his legs onto the broom and leapt off backwards. He somersaulted once, and shot his hand out, catching the Snitch one-handed.
He raised his fist in jubilation before he realised he was still falling.
He hit the ground with a thump that echoed around the suddenly silent stadium.
He shakily raised his hand, showing he still had the Snitch, before he fainted from the pain in his other shoulder.
“Hermione, Ron, dis is my father, Jean-Sebastian,” Fleur said with a small smile and a cute little bow. She retreated a few steps and stood next to Bill.
“Enchantè, but please, call me Jean,” Jean said, holding out his hand to Ron, and then, after shaking it, he kissed Hermione’s hand suavely. “It’s a pleasure to meet you both. William has told me a lot about you.”
“Thank you,” Hermione replied. “It’s a pleasure to meet you as well. I must complement you on your accent.”
“Ahh,” Jean smiled. “I’m afraid that my daughter likes her accent and has no wish to change. I, on the other hand, have no need of artifice.”
“Papa!” Fleur complained.
Jean shot a smile at his daughter. “Won’t you please take a seat?”
Ron, Hermione, Bill, and Fleur sat down around the elegant table and Jean sat at the head.
“I have a problem,” Jean said slowly. “And I need your advice on how to proceed. I am in a, how do you say, awkward situation for a man to be in?”
Hermione exchanged a long look with her husband and turned to face the French politician. “Why don’t you tell us what the problem is, and how we can help?”
“What do you know about Veela?” he asked.
“Descended from Mountain Nymphs. Veela have the power to enthral a man with a simple look, and when angry, can change into a birdlike form,” Hermione recited instantly.
“Bravo,” Fleur clapped. “She is excellent, non?”
“Indeed,” Jean agreed.
“So, is this about Harry?” Hermione guessed. There weren’t many other reasons that a senior French politician would ask to see them.
“And?” Ron prompted.
“It relates to your fourth year, and the second task of the Triwizard tournament.”
Ron frowned, “Harry rescued me from the Merpeople. And he rescued Gabrielle.”
“Oui,” Fleur whispered softly. “’E saved my little sister’s life.”
“But we weren’t in any real danger,” Ron pointed out.
“You weren’t,” Jean replied softly. “Gabrielle, on the other hand, was quite definitely in danger.”
“From ze filthy Merpeople,” Fleur spat angrily. “They do not like ze Veela. Zey are jealous swine.”
Ron and Hermione swung their heads to look at Jean.
“In simple terms, Fleur is correct,” he agreed. “It’s not widely known that the Veela and the Merpeople have been in a state of permanent hostility for several centuries. When Gabrielle was placed in their control, they persuaded the Grindylows to focus on Fleur. They hoped that with her out of the way an ‘accident’ could happen, and Gabrielle would be dead.”
“But why?” Hermione asked.
“To be honest, I’m not sure,” Jean explained. “It’s an enmity that has been going on for a very long time, and the truth of how it started is buried in the sands of history.”
“Zey betrayed us,” Fleur muttered, but went quiet as Jean stared reproachfully at her.
“I was most displeased when I heard that Gabrielle had been placed in danger, and I had a very firm talk with Madam Maxime. She was horrified when she found out. She had believed Albus when he had assured her that there was no danger. She has agreed that she will never again place a child in any form of danger, even in a tournament like that, without full parental consent. I let Gabrielle go to Hogwarts because I thought it would be educational, not life threatening.”
“So, what’s the problem?” Ron asked, moving back onto the matter at hand.
“When Gabrielle realised that she had been saved by ‘Arry, she immediately decided that ‘e waz ‘er mate, and let herself be mated to ‘im.”
Ron lowered his head and banged it softly against the table. “I really don’t want to know the answer to this, but what, exactly, does that mean?”
“Veela are not human, Ron,” Jean explained. “A Veela can be like a normal person, but once they have chosen a mate, it is for life. A Veela will never leave her mate, never cheat on them, and will remain loyal for the rest of their life. If their mate dies early, they will fade away slowly. It is the most powerful form of commitment known to the Wizarding world.”
“But she was only eight!”
“Age is no barrier to Veela emotions,” Jean sighed. “Eight, eighteen, eighty, it makes no difference. When a Veela makes the decision, it is unalterable.”
“I was lucky Fleur hadn’t already made that decision,” Bill interjected with a smile.
“Can’t you just bring Gabrielle over, she whacks on the Veela power, Harry has a fun night, they see if they are compatible, and if not, we all go home?”
Hermione elbowed Ron firmly in the side. “You’ll have to excuse him; he hasn’t quite emerged from the Cro Magnum stage yet.”
Jean tilted his head to one side and nodded. “There are two problems with your scenario,” he explained softly. “The first being that Harry appears immune to Veela powers, and the second that my daughter wants a full relationship with him. And my daughters are nothing if not headstrong.”
“Papa!” Fleur complained for a second time. “We get it from you.” She turned to face Ron. “I tried to put ‘Arry under ze Veela spell, with Bill next to me. ‘E just looked at me and asked me to stop politely.”
“I didn’t think anyone could do that?” Ron half-stated, half-asked.
“Occlumency,” Hermione explained, having put it together quickly. “He’s now a master at keeping his thoughts locked up. Even we have no idea what he’s thinking half the time.” She turned to face Jean again. “So the problems we have are: getting Harry and Gabrielle together, getting Harry to overlook the fact that he’s six years older than her, and persuading him to get into a relationship with her.”
Jean nodded once, sharply. “Alors’, those are indeed the problems.”
“Wait a second,” Ron interrupted. “Exactly why should we be doing this? What does Harry get out of it? He’d really hate being manipulated into a relationship, and well, it sounds like Gabrielle gets what she wants, but what about what Harry wants out of life?”
“A second ago, you were suggesting a one night stand,” Bill pointed out exasperatedly.
“Exactly,” Ron agreed. “A bit of fun – nothing life-changing. This whole thing sounds like you’re planning some sort of marriage for him. He’s only twenty-two and shows no sign at all of settling down.”
“He has to, Ron,” Hermione said softly. “Because if he doesn’t, Gabrielle will go mad.”
“Huh?” Ron asked.
“Veela emotions are tied to their magic. She has mated herself to him, and if she doesn’t have him permanently in her life, she will go insane as her magic takes over her emotions.”
“Wonderful. Sometimes, I really hate the Wizarding world,” Ron sighed. “So, we just tell Harry what the problem is; he’s the most honourable bloke I’ve ever met, so he’ll do the right thing, and Gabrielle can be saved. He’ll give up his future for anyone who needs him.”
“But Gabrielle wants ‘Arry as a lover, not as a man doing ‘is duty. She wants ‘im to be ‘appy as well.”
“Well, that’s all very well and good,” Ron said dryly. “And I applaud the thought, but exactly how is she planning on winning Harry over? The last time I checked, Harry doesn’t exactly hang around with Beauxbatons’ students.”
“That is where you come in,” Jean said with a wry smile. “And is why you are here.”
“You seem to be very calm about this,” Ron grumbled.
“Alors’, I am not. I have, however, had eight years to get used to this idea.” He turned to Bill. “Are you sure you want to get involved with a Veela?”
“Papa!” Fleur complained for the third time.
“Quite sure,” Bill said with a smile. “The benefits do outweigh the negatives.”
“Agreed,” Jean said with a proud smile at his daughter. “But we are sidetracked. I want my daughter sane and happy. To do this, we have to get Harry and Gabrielle in the same location, so that Gabrielle can at least try and win his heart. I have told her that she has eight months before I will tell Harry the truth.”
“This is a bad idea,” Ron sighed. “If there’s one thing Harry hates, it’s being manipulated. I still think we should just tell him the truth.”
“We can’t, Ron,” Hermione replied. “This could be good for Harry. We both think he needs a proper girl. Why not Gabrielle?”
“Because I hardly know her? Because she’s only sixteen? Because we’re having a meeting discussing how to trick Harry into getting close to her?”
“But apart from that?” Hermione asked.
Ron smiled slightly. “It could possibly be a good idea.” He looked up at Jean. “Harry now has a year free. The injury he got in the World Cup final destroyed his shoulder again. The Healers have told him that he can’t be hit by a Bludger for at least a year – if he does, he’ll lose the use of that arm. So at the moment, he’s in a state of shock that the only thing he loves doing has been taken away from him.
“He’s still in St. Mungo’s, in a private ward, so that the press can’t get to him.”
Jean frowned, “That is unfortunate news. I find myself reluctant to take pleasure in the fact that it helps us out.”
“Yeah,” Bill agreed. “Can he still fly?”
“Yes, but not competitively,” Hermione said. “He had his scapula completely destroyed, and while we were able to re-grow it, we can’t speed up the healing any further.”
“Then that is the answer. Beauxbatons needs a new flying instructor,” Jean said.
Hermione turned to Ron. “It could be a good idea, love. Ignore the whole Gabrielle thing for the moment. We both know Harry isn’t happy at this time. He could go to Hogwarts, but he’s still barely on speaking terms with Dumbledore. He can’t do anything else in this country, because the press won’t leave him alone.” She paused and turned to Jean. “You can keep the press out of the school?”
“I can,” he said simply. “Madam Maxime is fully aware of what the situation with Gabrielle is, and feels somewhat responsible for it. If she hadn’t allowed Gabrielle to be taken down, Gabrielle would never have decided that Harry was her mate.”
Hermione turned back to her husband. “So Harry can have a place to recuperate, it will get him out of his house so he doesn’t spend the year moping, and it might make him realise he can be a bit more open around people.”
“He doesn’t speak French,” Ron said.
“I can teach him magically,” Hermione said excitedly, as she realised that Ron was giving in. “He’ll be fluent in a week.”
“I still don’t like it,” Ron sighed. “But I’ll accept that apart from the Gabrielle issue, it could be good for him. I don’t like the idea of him being so far away, but it’s probably better for him.”
“The school is on the international Floo network,” Jean added quietly.
“And I still think we should just tell Harry, but I understand why we can’t.” He turned to Jean. “If you arrange for Madam Maxime to invite Harry to take up the post for the year, we’ll persuade him to do it.”
“Thank you,” Jean said softly, inclining his head. “I will look forward to dealing with you in the Ministry.”
Ron flushed and returned the nod.
“Excellent,” Fleur clapped excitedly. “So we can tell Gabrielle now?”
“Oui,” Jean nodded. He raised his wand and pointed it at a large double door to one side. The door opened, revealing a girl who had frozen, mid-pace, as she looked up at the door.
Ron whistled under his breath and muttered, “It might have been an easier decision if we’d seen her beforehand.”
Hermione elbowed him firmly.
“Papa?” Gabrielle asked, as she entered the room.
Jean smiled slightly. “They have agreed to help. We are going to try and persuade Harry to become your flying instructor at Beauxbatons.”
Gabrielle started to smile massively, “Thank you, both,” she said in flawless English. “I can’t tell you what this means to me.”
“Your English is as good as your father’s,” Hermione commented with a smile.
“Of course,” Gabrielle smiled. “If I’m going to be the wife of Harry Potter, I can’t go around mispronouncing words and smiling cutely at it.”
“Oi,” Fleur said. “Brat.”
Gabrielle smirked at her. “If the shoe fits, sister dear.” She turned back to Hermione. “Would you mind if I asked just how bad his shoulder is?”
“Destroyed scapula,” Hermione replied softly.
Gabrielle sighed, “I thought it would be bad. The fall was horrendous. I felt like I was going to burst when he leapt off the broom. It was the most heroically idiotic thing I have ever seen.”
Ron laughed suddenly. “If that doesn’t sum up Harry, nothing does.” He looked at Gabrielle directly. “You do know that he’s not exactly a ball of sunshine these days?”
“Is it any wonder?” Gabrielle demanded, a slight scowl appearing on her face. “When your disgusting paparazzi won’t let him visit the bathroom without a four page picture spread.”
“That from ze girl who ‘as every one of thoz picture spreads,” Fleur smirked.
“I had no choice,” Gabrielle protested. “As some people wouldn’t let me approach Harry when I wanted to.”
“It’s bad enough that I have to help my sixteen year old daughter,” Jean said sternly. “There was no way on this planet I was going to let my fourteen year old daughter do it.”
“I’m not human,” Gabrielle pointed out. “Fleur had her first boyfriend at fourteen.”
Jean swivelled to look at Fleur.
“It waz notheeng,” she sniffed. “Juzt a small romance. ‘E was an idiot – could not ‘andle a Veela.”
Jean sighed and shook his head. “If you haven’t come to an arrangement with him two months before your birthday,” he reminded Gabrielle. “I will tell him exactly what is happening.”
Gabrielle nodded. “I know, Papa.” She turned and sat at the foot of the table, and looked at Ron and Hermione. “Would you mind if we talked about Harry for a bit? I want to check that my research notes are up to date.”
Ron looked at her thoughtfully and then nodded. “Go ahead.”
Harry sighed and stared at the ceiling. He contemplated getting up from the couch, but his doctor’s instructions were for him to avoid being touched, and to not do anything stressful, or do anything strenuous, like fly, so he couldn’t actually do anything.
The only light in the room was a thin blade of sunlight glaring through the tightly closed curtains in the corner.
He’d never imagined that his life would end up with him alone like this. He figured that if he’d defeat Voldemort, he’d be able to have a normal life. How wrong he’d been. Instead, he was hiding in his cottage, in a self-imposed exile.
A rushing sound announced that his Floo had been activated.
“Are you breeding the dank in here?” he heard Hermione complain, and a few minutes later his curtains were violently opened, flooding the room with sunlight.
“Good to see you, too, Hermione,” he said dryly, blinking rapidly as his eyes got used to the daylight.
“When was the last time you shaved?”
“A few days ago, mum,” Harry replied and grinned as he heard Ron snicker.
“That’s enough from you,” Hermione muttered to her husband.
“Yes, dear,” Ron smirked as he walked into the front room. “Oh jeez, you need a shower, mate.”
“I’m not allowed to get the cast wet,” Harry mumbled.
“Are you, or are you not, a wizard?” Hermione demanded. “I swear, we leave you alone for a few days, and you turn into a vampire.”
“Hey,” Harry complained. “I got comfy.”
“Ron,” Hermione said, ignoring Harry completely. “Get him into the shower while I clear up this mess.”
“Come on,” Ron said, pulling Harry up by his good arm. “You stink.”
Harry went to protest, but then inhaled. “Perhaps I do,” he said with a sheepish grin.
The shower, after Ron applied a stay-dry charm on his cast, was extremely pleasant, and he found himself in a better mood after washing away the grime of several days.
He managed to dress himself, even casting an enlargement charm on a t-shirt so that it would fit, and he walked downstairs.
Ron was in the kitchen, cooking, while Hermione was casting various house cleaning spells to get rid of the dust bunnies that were capering in the corner.
“Go sit in the kitchen,” Hermione ordered.
Harry smiled to himself and walked past her into his combined kitchen/dining room. It was times like this that he was reminded of when they were at school, and she was ordering him to do his homework with Ron. They were some of his best memories.
“Sit down, mate,” Ron grinned. “The pasta should be done in a few minutes.”
“I hadn’t realised I was hungry.”
“You wouldn’t. Sitting in the dank doesn’t exactly make your taste buds jump up and down.”
“I was thinking,” Harry explained softly.
“Moping,” Ron corrected.
“Well, that too. I’ve got no idea what I’m going to do for the next year.”
“Luckily,” Ron smirked. “Your friends have.”
“Oh?” Harry asked warily. Ron’s smirking normally meant that something was up.
“We’ve got you a job,” he said brightly.
“You’ve done what!?”
“Got you a job,” Ron replied cheerfully, stirring the pot in front of him, then tasting it and adding some more salt and pepper.
“What on earth for?”
“Because you can’t sit on your arse for a year, you lazy git.”
“Do you have any idea how impossible it is for me to even go outside, never mind hold down a career when the bloody press won’t leave me alone for more than thirty seconds? And that’s if I wear a disguise. It’s ten otherwise.”
“Which is why you have a job in a place that the press can’t get to you,” Ron replied.
Harry blinked and then growled, “If you mean Hogwarts?”
“No, I don’t,” Ron interrupted him. “And put your magic away; you’ll curdle the milk.”
Harry paused for a second, and then laughed suddenly. “Do you have any idea how much you sounded like your mum then?”
Ron shrugged and pulled out three plates from a cabinet. “It worked, didn’t it? I swear, if you’d just show a temper in public the press would leave you alone more.”
“And treat me like Voldemort,” Harry grunted. “But don’t change the subject. Exactly why do I need a job? I’m not exactly short of cash.”
“No, you’re the second richest person in the country,” Hermione said as she entered the kitchen. “Not that you could tell from how you live. Spending a bit of money on yourself isn’t a bad thing.”
Harry shrugged. “Nothing I really want.”
“Anyway,” Ron interrupted as he poured the pasta onto three plates and added the sauce. “You need a job because if you don’t, you’re going to get more and more miserable and end up hating everyone, including us.”
Harry went to protest, and then paused. He really did need to get out more, he just couldn’t find anywhere to go – and well, wallowing in his own misery was kinda comforting.
“So,” Hermione said, digging into the pasta. “You start at Beauxbatons in three weeks’ time.”
Harry, who had just taken a bite of the pasta, spit it out. “What!?”
Ron, sliding to one side to avoid the flying pasta, said, “You’re their new flight instructor. Madam Maxime was most grateful when we told her you’d accepted her offer.”
“But…” Harry spluttered.
“Yes, I know,” Hermione interrupted. “But I’ve taken a week off to teach you French, so you’ve got no excuse.”
“But…” Harry tried again.
“It will be good for you, and it means that you’ll make new friends; you’ll remember that the Wizarding World does have some good points, and you’ll be busy for a year. Then you can go back to winning the Cannons the cup. Beauxbatons is on the international Floo network, so we’ll be able to visit you just as much as we do now. And if you do get homesick, just remember which of us can Apparate half way across the world without trying.”
“It’s all arranged,” Hermione said brightly, taking another mouthful. “This is really good honey,” she praised, before turning back to Harry. “You get what you need, they get what they need, and you’ll have fun. Of course, if you don’t take it, well, I’ll just have to tell Albus that you turned them down, and that you need help.”
“That’s blackmail,” Harry protested.
“Yes, it is,” Hermione agreed cheerfully. “Now, eat your pasta.”
Harry sighed and took a mouthful. He’d never been able to argue when his two best friends agreed on something. And since they had married, they’d agreed a lot more than ever before. They’d cut out the bickering between them and had settled into an adult relationship where they supported each other.
If the truth was told, he was a little jealous of them. They had the sort of relationship he had always dreamed of, and they were both very happy with it.
“Guys,” he said, as he finished the meal.
“Yes, Harry?” Hermione said.
“You’re welcome,” Ron said. “But of course, you still have to learn French.”
Harry just groaned.
Harry Apparated outside the Wards of Beauxbatons, and immediately removed his coat. While England was having its standard rainy summer, the Mediterranean was enjoying its normal gorgeous weather.
With a tap of his fingers, his glasses darkened, allowing him to see without protection. After Hermione had failed to cure his eyesight, she and Ron had given him new glasses for his twenty-first birthday. Apart from being stylish, they were charmed to repel water, turn into sunglasses when needed, and could be summoned with a word.
With a shrug, he started walking toward the elegant castle. Where as Hogwarts looked like it had been made to withstand a siege, Beauxbatons looked like it belonged in a fairytale.
In front of him was a huge garden with a path leading straight to the castle. In the middle of the garden was the biggest fountain he had ever seen. Behind the fountain stood the castle surrounded on each site by some deep woods. The left side of the castle had a large circular tower that stood a couple of storeys above the rest of the castle. To the right was a large outbuilding, giving the castle an L shape, which while not symmetrical, was as beautiful as Hogwarts was imposing.
His luggage floated behind obediently, as he started to walk to the castle. It had felt very strange to pack a trunk again, but it had seemed the best way to pack all the stuff he wanted. There wasn’t that much; his broom, some clothes and some books. Hedwig had flown to the school on her own.
He was aware that he lived a simple life, but it suited him.
There was a pop next to him, and he turned, his hand out. Old habits died hard, and his reaction to a surprise was still to prepare for a fight. “Dobby?” he asked.
“Harry Potter sir!” Dobby said delightedly. “Dobby heard that Harry Potter was coming to work for Beauxbatons, so Dobby switched schools, to make sure Harry Potter is taken care off properly.”
Harry blinked. “It’s good to see you, Dobby,” he admitted. It was strangely reassuring, and it made him feel better about the whole thing, knowing that someone he was comfortable with was around.
“Dobby will take your luggage,” Dobby continued and with another pop, he vanished, leaving Harry alone.
“I wonder if he came or was sent,” Harry whispered to himself, before shrugging and putting it out of his mind for now.
He continued to walk up to the castle door, absently moving his now cast-free shoulder, enjoying the feeling of being able to move again. He made a mental note to take a closer look at the fountain later.
“So, are you ready?” Fleur asked, in her normal French.
“Nervous,” Gabrielle replied. “How do I look?”
“Beautiful, of course,” Fleur replied with a smile. “But how could you look anything else?”
“That’s not the point,” Gabrielle sighed. “I’m about to meet the man I’m going to marry for the first time in eight years; am I not allowed to be a little nervous?”
“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Harry can be a little grouchy, but he’s still the sweet sensitive boy underneath.”
“How did you go through school not being in love with someone?” Gabrielle asked, suddenly curious. “It makes everything a lot easier for me; I have a focus for the changes we go through.”
“It was difficult,” Fleur said with an elegant shrug. “But I managed by driving most people to distraction. It was the only thing that made it better. I hated being more grown-up than everyone else, so I acted younger.”
Gabrielle nodded. “You’re still talked about as a legend in being difficult. If you weren’t so beautiful and charming, they’d have thrown you out.”
“I know,” Fleur smirked. “And I played up to that. My Veela powers got me out of more trouble that I can think of.”
“And all the time Papa thought that you were the golden girl.”
“I know,” Fleur giggled and then sighed. “I can’t believe my little sister is mated.”
“You could be as well,” Gabrielle pointed out. “Just let yourself go to William.”
“I’ve thought of it,” Fleur confessed. “But it scares me a little. I’ve been unmated for so long, that the idea of settling down to one man is scary.”
“You’ve been with him for nearly five years,” Gabrielle said.
“I know, and it’s fun, and I’m enjoying it,” Fleur sighed.
“Then do it, Fleur.”
“I need to know if he wants it,” her sister replied softly. “If he proposes marriage to me, I will allow myself to mate him.”
“Excellent,” Gabrielle clapped. “Now, I’ve got to start working on mine.”
“You do know that you’re going to have your work cut out for you?”
“William’s seven years older than you are,” Gabrielle pointed out.
“But I met Bill when I was nineteen,” Fleur responded. “And I had left school.”
“I’ve not got that luxury,” Gabrielle said with a shrug. “And since I have no particular wish to go mad, I need to get it right.”
“Are you sure you just won’t tell him?”
“No,” Gabrielle stated incontrovertibly. “I don’t want a caged tiger. I want him free to choose.”
“It’s a big gamble.”
“So is life, so is waking up. I could win everything, or I could lose everything. But if I win, it’ll be worth it.”
Fleur sighed and hugged her. “Good luck, my little angel.”
“Thank you,” Gabrielle said, and she relaxed into her sister for a few seconds. No matter what happened, she knew that Fleur would always be there for her.
She moved from her sister’s embrace, picked up a clipboard and squared her shoulders. According to her research, Harry was attracted to intelligence and confidence. The two main females in his life, Cho and Hermione, had both been exceptionally clever. While she might not be up to Hermione’s standard, and she was happy to admit that not many were, she was above Cho academically. The confidence…well, she was working on that.
The other girls in his life hadn’t really counted. Ginny was over before it started, according to Fleur who had paid close attention and given her a report.
She checked her watch, her sister forgotten, and frowned as she realised she had another few minutes before she was meeting him.
With ruthless efficiency, she shoved her nerves away and had another brief look through her notes. Harry was rarely complicated; his favourite food was Shepherds pie with gravy. With no knowledge of how to cook herself, it hadn’t been hard to persuade Dobby to switch schools and help her out. It had been a little unfair of her to use her Veela charms on a house-elf, but she wasn’t going to let that stop her. Harry needed a friend to help him stop being homesick.
Of course, that’s if he would feel homesick. It wasn’t as if he had a home. The reports she had on the place he lived had it as a small cottage that he basically used as a base. According to her notes, there were no personal artefacts on the mantelpiece, and only a picture of him teaching the D.A. in the front room.
It was like he had no real roots. It was something she was going to have to change. It was obvious that he didn’t have any idea what a home was, and it was going to take someone to show him how to make one.
She looked at her watch again and plastered a polite smile on her face. It wasn’t her original plan - to jump on him and kiss him till he gave in, but she suspected that at least the one she was going to follow wouldn’t end in him Apparating back to England faster than she could say, “Golden Snitch.”
“Mr Potter, welcome to Beauxbatons.”
“Thank you, Madame Maxime,” Harry said, offering a small bow.
“Please call me Olympe; as a member of my staff, I must insist,” the bejewelled teacher said with a smile. “And I must complement you on your accent - very Parisian.”
Harry smiled slightly. “Thank you, but I’m afraid all the credit must go to my friend Hermione. When she gets going on something, like teaching French, it’s much easier to just go along with her, than it is to fight. I actually quite enjoyed learning another language. It’s one of the failings of the Wizarding world that we don’t teach our children how to speak a second language.”
“Why, Mr Potter,” Olympe said, falling into step besides him. “I do feel that we are going to get on famously.”
“We will,” Harry said dryly. “If you stop calling me Mr Potter and start calling me Harry.”
The Headmistress threw back her head and laughed loudly. “I will indeed, Harry. It’s good of you to agree to spend a year with us. I can’t tell you how excited the students are to get flying lessons from a World Cup winner.”
“I just hope I do okay. I’ve not really taught properly before.”
“Nonsense,” Olympe disagreed firmly. “I have a full report of your efforts with the D.A.; they are famous through out the world. It is remarkable the level of skill you managed to impart.”
Harry blushed slightly. “It was mainly my friends, I was just the leader.”
“Modest as well, Harry. I’m afraid that I have had many independent reports, and both your friends have pointed out very firmly your tireless efforts.”
Harry shrugged, not sure what he could say to that.
“If you’ll step this way,” Olympe said with gesture. “We’ll go to my office.”
“Of course,” Harry said absently, as he looked around the grounds. “I wasn’t sure what to expect.”
Olympe laughed at his expression. “This chateau was built before the French Revolution, and it was handed over to us in 1769. Obviously, it was added to by the Headmaster at the time, Gaston Robèrt, who spent the next twenty years adding the necessary magic to turn it into a full magical school. We moved from our ancient premises around three weeks before the Revolution, and as such, it passed us by completely.
“The decoration has remained the same ever since; it is now almost as much as a museum as a school and is one of the finest examples of the work of the time. King Louis himself visited shortly before it was finished and marvelled at the sheer beauty and class.”
Harry nodded. “It is amazing.”
“We had some fantastic artisans in those days. People who could literally paint magic; alas, the skill has fallen out of fashion, and all people want to do is play Quidditch or work for the Ministry.”
Olympe blinked and then smacked him on the shoulder. The weight of the smack reminded him that he was dealing with a half-giant. “I wasn’t talking about you, Harry,” she said with a smile.
“And to be honest, I would much rather my students had you as a hero, than the incompetents in our Ministry.”
“The French Ministry aren’t that bad,” Harry said with a slight smile as he looked around at the elegant portraits lining the hall.
“You didn’t see how long it took to convince them to help out during the war. They were convinced that I was talking nonsense about Voldemort’s return. It was only when Jean-Sebastian and some high level politicians got involved that they finally agreed to allow the Aurors to help.”
Harry smiled slightly and nodded – he knew that the French Ministry was no where near as bad as their English counterparts. They proceeded along an elaborately carpeted corridor, the pictures on the wall saluting them as they walked past.
Madam Maxime placed her hand on the doorknob of a door with her name imprinted on the front and opened it. “You’ll find that all the doors in here are charmed, so that passwords are not needed,” she explained. “We’ll set you up shortly. You’ll have the same access as the rest of the staff.”
“Thank you,” Harry said with a smile.
“Now, Harry,” Olympe said, as she sat behind her huge desk. It was actually bigger than Dumbledore’s back in Hogwarts. “I’m afraid that I have several meetings in Paris over the next week. The bureaucrats are trying to cut my budget again, and I need to remind them that it would be a bad idea.”
Harry nodded, somewhat surprised.
“So,” she continued. “I’ve arranged for you to have a guide.”
“Oh, okay,” Harry said with a shrug. At least he would have someone to show him around the school.
There was a knock on the door. “Come,” Olympe said.
Harry turned, curious to see who his guide would be.
The girl who opened the door was possibly the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.
Her long blonde hair curled elegantly around her face, and it fell in a soft wave down to her shoulders. Her clear complexion was dominated by the largest pair of azure eyes he had ever seen, which rested above a regal French nose and cupid bow lips.
“Gabrielle?” Harry asked, suddenly recognising her from photographs Fleur had shown him over the past few years.
“Harry,” she smiled warmly at him.
“I wondered if you would remember her,” Olympe said with a smile.
“How could he forget the girl whose life he saved?” Gabrielle asked.
“Oh, I didn’t do anything,” Harry shrugged.
“I think you’ll find you did,” the Headmistress pointed out firmly. “We will have to talk about your self-esteem at some stage. It’s all very well being modest, but at some stage, one has to have pride in one’s achievements.
“Anyway, Gabrielle will show you to your room and will be your guide for the next few days.”
“If you want to come this way, I’ll show you to your room first, and then take you around the school.”
Harry nodded. “I’ll see you later?” he asked the Headmistress.
“At dinner, yes,” she said with a nod. “I leave for Paris tomorrow morning.”
Harry nodded and walked out after offering a half bow of respect. He followed Gabrielle down the hallway and back to the main entrance.
“Why are you in school during the holidays?” Harry asked, as they walked.
“Papa is busy in the Ministry,” she explained with a cute shrug of her shoulders. “They are having a second honeymoon. Fleur is too busy with Bill to look after her little brat of a sister, so I decided I could take an extra course or two and get a head start on the school year.”
Harry nodded and smiled. “Sounds like something Hermione would have done. Do you mind showing me around and interrupting your studies?”
“Not at all; I was ahead anyway. The professors’ quarters are on the first floor,” she said, as she led him up one of the two sweeping staircases that dominated the huge entrance hall.
“The professors’ quarters at Hogwarts were very will hidden,” Harry pointed out, as he followed her.
“Because of the pranks?” Gabrielle asked. “The Marauders legacy is famous even over here, not to mention the Weasley twins.”
“I hadn’t thought about it like that,” Harry laughed.
“Well, there are wards in place around this corridor to stop students getting in.”
“They’re not stopping you.”
“Ahh, but I’m not any student. I’m the Head Girl,” she smiled.
“I thought you were only sixteen, so you’re in your sixth year?”
“I’m surprised you remembered.”
“Oh, I remember you were eight during the Tournament. It’s not hard to add another eight to that.”
Gabrielle smiled faintly. “Indeed. But yes, I’ve always been a little precocious, and my record warranted it.”
“Didn’t the seventh years complain?”
“A little, but a dash of Veela charm helped that out.”
“Ahh,” Harry said with a nod.
Gabrielle stopped and turned to look at him directly. “Is it true that you are immune to Veela powers?”
Harry nodded sharply.
“Would you mind if I turned them on? I’ve never met anyone who isn’t immediately enthralled. It would be extremely educational for me.”
Harry smiled slightly. He had been about to say no, when she had pointed it was for her education, and he could see why. “Go ahead,” he invited.
“Can we do it inside?” Gabrielle asked, indicating a door. “I don’t want anyone else to be caught.”
“Good point,” Harry agreed, although he hadn’t actually seen anyone else yet.
“The door will be charmed to your signature when you open it,” Gabrielle said. “So, just touch the handle.”
Harry reached out and took the handle and looked at the girl as nothing happened.
She frowned, the expression actually increasing her cuteness. “That’s strange,” she said slowly. “It’s supposed to pick up who you are.”
“Oh,” Harry said, suddenly feeling embarrassed. He closed his eyes for a second and turned off the nullifying field he kept around himself. There was a click as the door opened, and he walked in, leaving Gabrielle to follow him.
The room was probably the most singularly stunning room he had ever set foot in. The walls were cream with huge, dark outlined cream panels. In front of a small fireplace was a series of ancient looking antique chairs in cream and red, to the left was a large desk with a rather uncomfortable looking chair. He walked over to the right and looked through the door at his bedroom.
The bedroom was of similar quality, a single antique dresser stood before a large golden oval mirror. The bed itself was draped in a crimson red spread with four yellow dress pillows along the usual pillows. The bed was flanked by two small bedside tables with candelabras lit with never-ending candles. Two matching stools were at the end of the bed.
He turned, and found Gabrielle was sitting demurely in one of the chairs in front of the fire, and he decided to explore more later and sat opposite her. He was immediately gratified when he realised the chair had a comfort charm on it, and he sank down happily.
“Can I ask why the door spell didn’t work for you?” Gabrielle asked. She was holding a quill in her left hand and had the clipboard perched on her knee.
Harry looked at her slowly, trying to decide if he should tell her. “I would appreciate if you didn’t tell anyone else this.” He paused and was mildly surprised as the quill seemed to vanish from her hand. “I keep a low-level magic nullifying charm around me at all times,” he explained quietly. “It negates most magical devices and a lot of charms and curses.”
“That’s what helped you defeat Voldemort,” Gabrielle stated excitedly. “I didn’t know that was even possible.”
“It’s not, normally,” Harry smiled. He found her enthusiasm infectious, as was her willingness to learn. It reminded him a little of Hermione when she was younger. “It was a spell that Hermione, Ron, Padma Patil and a few others at Hogwarts developed. Most people simply haven’t got the power to keep it up. It makes it more difficult for me to fly a broom, as I have to include the broom in the spell so it will still fly. It doesn’t give me any advantage though; I had to let the League officials check me out before they would allow me to play with it.”
Gabrielle nodded. “How do you keep a spell running all the time? Normally, when you cast a permanent spell on an external object, you give it enough power to last for as long as you want it to, and then forget about it. It’s one spell.”
“This works differently. I hooked the spell into my power centre, so that it’s a permanent drain, but the power it takes to run actually helps my power level.”
“It’s like resistance training.”
“Ahh,” Gabrielle interrupted, clapping delightedly. “So your magic is used to running the spell, and has grown to be able to handle it, and if you turn it off, you have more magic available to you.”
“Pretty much,” Harry agreed. “So, I turned it off for a few seconds and let the spell work. It means I’ll have to be a bit careful to remember to do that.”
“I wonder if you could charm a card to act for you,” Gabrielle said. “Like a key of some sort.”
“Good idea,” Harry said, a little impressed.
She smiled at him, and her quill appeared back in her hand. “So, can I turn on my Veela powers?”
He settled down into his chair, and looked at her thoughtfully. The last time Fleur had tried it on him, it had irritated him slightly, especially as Bill was in the room.
As he looked at her, he lowered his Occlumency shields. He wanted to see what it was like to be hit by her. The first thing he noticed was that her eyes seemed to grow bigger, that he could see deep into her soul, and that all she wanted was him. He felt like the rest of the room was fading into nothingness as everything centred on her. Her hair seemed to move slightly, as if caught in a soft breeze.
He felt her power levels increase, and he raised his shields to match, before he slammed them firmly into place. The psychological battle with Voldemort had left him with more than a few mental scars and an impenetrable shield. He had been possessed and attacked for several years, and he had learnt the hard way what it was like. Not even Albus could get anything out of him these days.
He watched Gabrielle dispassionately and realised that her looks were only enhanced a little by the power – the hair swaying and the eyes growing, but the vast quantity of their effect was mental.
She stopped, and settled back down, breathing hard. She looked at him thoughtfully. “It was like throwing myself against the castle walls,” she said softly.
Harry nodded softly. “It was interesting to watch.”
Gabrielle noted a few things down on her clipboard and smiled. “Would you like an hour to relax and unpack before we start the tour?”
Harry thought for a second, and then nodded. “Please, yes.”
Gabrielle stood and walked out to the door, before she stopped, and turned slightly, looking at him over her shoulder. “It is good to see you again,” she said, blushing a little and smiling at him.
He smiled at her, “It’s been good to see a friendly face.”
She nodded and let herself out of the room.
Harry looked around slowly, and shook his head. The room was more palatial than anything he had ever seen, even putting Malfoy Manor to shame. It was a far cry from his two-bedroom bungalow in the Lake District.
Gabrielle slumped into a chair and stared at the ceiling.
“Well?” Fleur asked excitedly. “How did it go?”
Gabrielle shook her head tiredly. “How much power did you use when you tried to enthral him?”
“Not much – I didn’t want to get Bill as well. I just focused on him and tried to get him to react in some way.”
Gabrielle nodded. “I just went full power on him.”
“Gabrielle!” Fleur shouted. “You know you shouldn’t do that.”
“I had his permission,” the younger girl responded tiredly. “And I wanted to see what it was like to actually really let go. It was all I could do to not transform at the end. It was like attacking solid metal – there were no cracks, nothing I could get into at all. It was almost painful. I’ve never seen anyone so powerful, not even Professor Dumbledore.”
“Does it scare you?”
“No,” Gabrielle smiled slowly. “Do you know what it means?”
“I can have a normal life,” Gabrielle smiled. “I can let go with him without having to worry about accidents.”
Fleur was silent for a few moments. “I think I am a little jealous,” she said softly.
“Perhaps Harry could help teach William?”
Fleur smiled faintly. “It would help, but Bill is just a normal wizard.”
Gabrielle nodded. “And Harry certainly isn’t that. I had an example today of just how extraordinary he is.”
“Sorry, I promised not to tell anyone.”
“I’m not anyone; I’m your older sister.”
Gabrielle waved her hand airily, “Then be a nice sister and pass me a drink. I’m going to show him around in an hour, then bring him to dinner.”
“His first French meal,” Fleur smiled, as she walked over to the sideboard and poured his sister a glass of orange juice. “It will be a culture shock for him to see how real people eat.”
“Harry is ‘real people’,” Gabrielle sighed.
“I know, I know, I’m teasing,” Fleur replied defensively. “And why won’t you tell me what you meant earlier?”
“Because I gave my word, and I need to be trusted by Harry. I can’t do that by giving up his secrets at every turn.”
Fleur smiled slowly and nodded her head. “He told you about the nullification field. I’m glad he did. It means that he thinks of you as a friend, and he doesn’t have many of them.”
“I’m Bill’s partner; Harry gave Bill permission to tell me. Bill swore me to secrecy before telling me, but it explained a lot. Like why we have to use special owls to send mail to him, as normal ones try and find him – and can’t – these owls are trained to find his house.”
Gabrielle nodded and smiled. She turned to her sister and kicked off her shoes and folded her legs under herself. “You forgot to mention that he’s more gorgeous in person than he is in the photos.”
“Did I?” Fleur asked with a wicked grin. “Fancy that.”
“It wasn’t fair,” Gabrielle pouted. “It mucked up all my research when I got in there, and I was almost bowled over.”
“Research isn’t everything, my little angel. You can’t research your way into his heart. You have to feel things.”
“I do feel,” Gabrielle protested. “But if I give into my feelings I’ll scare him away. I have to approach this scientifically.”
“I think you’re underestimating yourself.”
“You didn’t just sit there, under full power, and feel his eyes bore into you, and realise that he has a power over you that you do not have over him. I’m vulnerable to him, and it’s not something I’m used to. That is one thing I never thought I would be. Sure, you are planning on mating with Bill, but you will never understand what it is like to be powerless before a man. No Veela has ever had to deal with that before. On top of that, I haven’t got a choice about it; I have him or I go insane.
“And with that, I have the knowledge that at any second I could tell him the truth, and I could have him. I could be sleeping with him tomorrow and be safe. And I know if I do that I will kill a part of him.
“He has sacrificed everything so far in his life. He feels like an outcast in his own country, his family is dead, he has exactly two close friends, and a slightly wider circle of good friends, and he can’t even do the one thing he loves anymore.”
She paused, tears in her eyes, her chest heaving. “So please, my darling court flower,” she whispered. “Don’t tell me I’m underestimating myself. I know exactly what I have to do, and how I have to do it.”
A moment later, Gabrielle found herself back in her sister’s arms again, and she let the tears flow down her cheeks.
As always, thanks to Cami, Susan, Rachael, Leslie, Ellie, and Julie for their help with this.
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