5 - Barcelona
It was a warm Saturday morning; the sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze, and it was almost serene.
Well, it would have been serene if there weren’t over four hundred students, all with brooms, standing in small groups on the grass.
Harry shook his head as he looked over them, feeling a little overwhelmed. He’d announced tryouts for the house teams and had said that the team for the inter-school matches would be picked from the house teams.
He certainly hadn’t expected nearly half of the school to turn up.
He walked out into the centre and was immediately joined by Gabrielle. He looked at her curiously.
“You need some help organising?” she half asked, half stated.
He nodded gratefully.
She pulled out her quill and a clipboard. “Then direct me,” she said with a cute smile.
“You’re a lifesaver, Gabby,” he whispered and then turned to the horde before them.
As he studied the crowd, Gabrielle said softly, “I’d suggest calling the prefects forward, and then getting everyone to register their house and preferred position.”
“Listen up,” Harry said, aided by a Sonorous Charm. “I want the two senior prefects from each House over here first.”
Eight students were soon lined up in front of him. “I didn’t expect this many people,” Harry explained to them. “So we’re getting organised. Can you pair up, and I’ll direct a group of students to you, one group for each position, where you’ll write down their names, house and age.”
Half an hour later, he had four lists of students’ names and an eager audience. With his first week of teaching completed, he had found a wide variety of flying ability, from those who could barely sit straight, to students who would match the best Hogwarts would have to offer – the latter having learnt to fly on their own and not at the hands of his predecessor.
“Okay,” Harry said to the prefects, who were now sitting in the stands. “When you’re not trying out, I want you to sit with me. You’re going to help me decide who is going to be on each House team.”
They all nodded eagerly.
“Right,” Harry announced to the crowd of students. “We’re going to do this in order, so, can all the prospective Beaters join me in the air?” He grabbed his broom and jumped onto it, sliding the wood between his legs as he took off and rocketed straight up.
About sixty students joined him, and he quickly separated them into their houses first, and then into pairs next.
“The first game is simply target practice,” he told them. He pulled out his wand and created thirty wooden targets at the far end of the pitch. He then summoned a large box from the ground. “These are training Bludgers,” he explained. “They are charmed not to hit anyone, and to return to their starting position as soon as they are finished. All I want you to do is to work in your pairs and hit the targets. Extra points will be given for the strength of the hit as well as the accuracy.”
With the word given and cheers from the watching students below, the Beaters started to hit the Bludgers with enthusiasm.
He circled down, watching closely, and hovered next to Gabrielle and the Prefects. “Concentrate on your House colours,” he told them. “I want to get the numbers down to sixteen after this, so count out anyone who isn’t up to scratch.”
He flew back up and circled around the working pairs, making his own judgements as he went. He was deliberately setting this up like the practices he used to help with during the Quidditch Summer Camps; although back then, he’d concentrated exclusively on the wannabe Seekers.
“Stop!” he yelled after a further ten minutes. He summoned all the Bludgers back to him and dropped them to the ground. “Next,” he continued, “we are going to test your flying ability.” He raised his hands and a series of small plastic barriers rose into the sky. “What I want you to do is to fly through this course and then hit the Bludger at the end of this course at a single target. Like this.”
He borrowed a bat from one of the students and flew through the course, ducking and rearing over a few of them. This sort of thing was bread and butter for him, and at the end he aimed carefully and smacked the Bludger. It promptly flew at high speed and missed the target by several metres. “And that,” he shouted to his audience, “is exactly why I am a Seeker, and not a Beater. Claude, you’re first.”
He handed his bat back to the student and floated higher into the sky, so he could watch both their form on the broom and how well they managed to hit the stationary Bludger at the end.
Back at the Cannons, Beaters were forced to do this sort of exercise blindfolded.
After they had all been through the course, he flew back down and hovered opposite the candidates. “One last test and you’re done,” he told them with a smile. “You’ve all done really well so far.” He dived down to the ground, inverted, and picked up a bag without slowing and returned to them.
He opened the bag and passed two special Bludgers to two of the more accurate Beaters. “I want you to fire these at me,” he told them.
”Just do it,” Harry smiled reassuringly, as he flew backward.
They nodded and threw the balls in the air, smacking them with their heavy bats. The balls flew directly at him, and he stood his ground, letting them hit him. It was like being hit by an enormous marshmallow.
“As you can see,” he said. “These are special practice Bludgers that don’t hurt anywhere near as much as the real thing. So, the final test is to avoid being hit, as I attach a “Chase-me” charm to the Bludgers. If you get hit, fly down and land. Ready?” He didn’t wait for an answer and he threw both balls at the students.
There was a mild degree of panic as the Beaters all tried to dodge at once, with several students actually crashing into each other, and the slower ones were soon caught and eliminated.
One of the Bludgers flew at Claude, who was one of the stand-out beaters so far. He smacked it away from him with his bat, and into a nearby group of students.
Harry nodded and smiled. He hadn’t told them they couldn’t use their bats and was pleased that the youngster hadn’t passively accepted being hit like some of the others.
As the last player was finally hit, he smiled and hovered down so that he was just above all the grounded students. “You all did exceptionally well. We’re going to have a ten minute break now, and then the Chasers and the Keepers will be up.”
House-elves started to pop in, led by Dobby, and they handed out drinks to everyone. Harry caught the bottle Dobby threw at him, nodded his thanks, and flew over to the prefects, casually jumping off his broom and landing in his seat.
“Thoughts?” he asked.
“We’ve got the names you wanted,” Gabrielle said for the others. “We weren’t really sure what we were looking for, so we awarded them points for each task.”
He took the list and looked down it; the names matched his mental notes – albeit it in a different order. He absent-mindedly borrowed Gabrielle’s quill and scratched out a few names and added a few of his own. They were the ones that hadn’t been the best flyers, or the best hitters, but had shown the best enthusiasm; he could teach them the other skills, but the enthusiasm had to come from their hearts.
“How many of you are going for Chasers or Keepers?” he asked the prefects. All of their hands went up.
“Right,” he nodded slowly. This was going to make his job a little more difficult. “Gabrielle, come with me,” he said. “We can’t give anyone an unfair advantage,” he said to the others, and he grabbed his broom, leaping from the seat and into the air.
He turned and flew backward, watching Gabby as she placed a foot on the edge of the stand, mounted her broom in a smooth motion, and followed him up.
“We’re going to have to do this in two groups,” he told her, as they hovered. “I take it that you know more about Quidditch than you’ve let on?”
She blushed slightly, just a faint colouring of her cheeks. “I’ve seen a few games,” she admitted.
“Right,” Harry said dryly. “We’ll do similar drills. To start with, we’ll have the Chasers in groups of three going against the Keepers. We’re looking at flying ability, throwing ability, and for the Keepers, positional sense and catching ability. Don’t worry about how many goals are scored or conceded; that’s not relevant at the moment.”
“Chasers and Keepers in the air,” Harry shouted, and a minute later, a giant wave of people was hovering in front of him. “Chasers into groups of three. Keepers to the right.”
It took another few minutes to get everyone in place.
“To start with,” Harry said, “we’re going to have a little game. Each Keeper will protect one set of hoops, and a group of chasers will try to score against them.” He waved his wand, and groups of hoops appeared around the stadium. The Keepers flew toward them, taking one each.
“Harry,” Gabby said. “There are two more teams than Keepers.”
“Claude, Henri,” Harry shouted down. “You’ve been drafted as Keepers to help out.”
The two boys rose in the air and went to the empty hoops.
“Remind me to give them both a merit later,” Harry said quietly to Gabrielle. “You keep an eye on the groups to the left; I’ll do the right.” He paused and then yelled, “Start!”
He hovered up and watched closely, making sure he viewed each group of Chasers and Keepers, mentally noting down the names of the ones that showed the best promise.
After the goal attempts, he gave both groups a flying test and followed it with some speed races for each of the Chasers.
“Okay,” he shouted. “Chasers and Keepers down, Seekers into the air!”
The Seekers were the smallest group, something he was pleased about to no end. He was getting hungry, and it was fast approaching lunch time.
“This is the one I’m more familiar with,” he grinned to the students in front of him. “So we’re going to start with something nice and simple. A straight race to the end of the pitch and back.”
“Can we do a Potter-Turn?” one of the students shouted.
Harry groaned under his breath.
“What’s a Potter-Turn?” another asked.
“I’ll demonstrate,” Harry said, shaking his head. He took off, heading toward the far end of the pitch. As he got there, he dropped his foot, hooked it in the top of the loop, and leant forward. The result was that he shot out, upside down and in the opposite direction, as fast as he had entered.
“I wouldn’t recommend it, though,” he said honestly as he arrived back in front of the students. “If you don’t lean forward at just the right moment, you can lose a foot.”
There was the sound of audible gulping from the students. “So, just do what you are comfortable with. Ready? Go!”
He flew straight up and hid a smile. Gabby was in the lead, her long blonde hair streaming out behind her. As she reached the end, she executed a perfect Corkscrew Reverse and flew back, increasing her lead. The others did a variety of turns – no one trying the Potter-Turn – and followed her back.
“Excellent,” he applauded. “Now we’re going to do a bit of diving practice.” He lowered himself down, and turned a large area of grass into a thick pad, and then created a beam five feet off the ground above the pad. He flew back up and addressed the students again. “All you have to do is dive down at full speed, go under the beam, and return back here.”
“Michela, you’re first.”
The girl, who looked to be a first or second year, nodded, and dove down, fast. The watching students started to cheer. She tried to pull up but misjudged it slightly, and slammed into the pads. She bounced a little and came to a stop, looking bewildered.
Harry flew down and helped her up. “You okay?”
She nodded, her eyes wide.
“Don’t worry,” Harry said. “You showed a lot of bravery by going for it at full speed.”
She slowly smiled at him.
“Now, get back on your broom and fly up to the others.”
She nodded and climbed on a little shakily, and flew back up to the other Seekers.
“Anton, you’re up!”
When everyone had tried, Harry released the snitches and told the Seekers to bring them to him.
He climbed up and started to watch the students. Some were flying around randomly, keeping their heads moving, while others concentrated on specific areas. Michela, as if determined to make up for her earlier flying mistake, caught the first one – in a diving move that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Professional match if it had been at double speed – and flew up to him.
“Well done,” he said. “Take a seat in the stands.”
She beamed and nodded, dropping down.
Gabrielle caught the next one, and it only took another ten minutes for the rest to be captured and returned to him.
“Okay,” Harry shouted, “Everyone into the stands.”
He hovered in front of them, looking at all the eager faces and smiled slightly. It had been a lot more fun than he had expected.
“You all did really well this morning, but unfortunately, there are far too many of you to pick for the teams. So while you eat lunch, I’m going to work out who goes through to this afternoon’s session. Without exception, you all tried your best and impressed me to no end. So if you don’t get through this time, practice, and try again next year. Now, eat!”
There was a small cheer from the students, as they flew down to the ground and to the large tables the house-elves had been setting out.
“How are they doing so far?” Madam Maxime asked as she joined Harry in the stands.
“Very well,” Harry responded. “There’s plenty of talent here. A lot of it is underdeveloped, but it’s there. We just have to bring it out.”
“I must say that I am impressed with the work you have put in this morning. I didn’t expect it to be quite so popular.”
“Me neither,” Harry agreed. “Gabrielle has been invaluable.”
“Which is one of the reasons she is Head Girl,” Olympe said. “Her organisational skills are exemplary.”
“And she can fly too,” Harry said with a smile. “I want her as Seeker for the school team, but only if she continues excelling. I have to be fair about it.”
“I wouldn’t expect anything less from you, Harry.”
“Fred, George, Ollie, and Katie have all agreed to help,” Harry said, as he finished sorting his notes on the Seekers. “They’re currently undergoing intensive French lessons with Hermione.”
“Excellent,” Olympe smiled. “I must admit to feeling a tinge of anticipation over this whole thing.”
“If it wasn’t at Hogwarts, I would be as well,” Harry grumbled. “But as that’s not changeable, we’ll just have to make sure we do better than expected.”
“I’m sure we will, Harry. I have great faith in you.”
“Okay, I need to talk with Gabby about the Chasers and Keepers.”
Harry flashed a quick smile. “Only away from the students.”
She nodded slowly and then smiled. “What is the plan for the afternoon?”
“More of the same, really; only in smaller groups: I’ll start getting them to do some proper training drills, and from there, I should be able to narrow it down to fourteen people per house.”
“Quidditch injuries do happen.”
“I noticed you were very careful this morning to ensure that no one got hurt.”
“It’s one of the things the Cannons were very firm about,” Harry explained. “Injury on the pitch is part of the game; injury at practice is definitely not.”
“Well, I’ll leave you to it,” Olympe said cheerfully. “If you need any help, just send one of the students to get me.”
“I will,” Harry promised.
As she left, Gabrielle flew up to him in the stands and passed him a plate full of food. “Thanks,” he said. “Teacher’s pet,” he half-joked.
“You heard that?” she sniffed. “There are a few rumours, but then, I am always the target of rumours, so it is not important. They do not know that I am Mated to you, so they are jealous of the time I spend with you. My friends would never call me teacher’s pet, so I do not worry about it,” she paused, and then smiled slightly. “Even if it is true,” she muttered under her breath.
Harry raised an eyebrow.
“I managed to pick a Mate who became world-famous for two different things,” she explained, ignoring her own statement. “When we are finally together, I shall be the target for all sorts of salacious rumours and innuendo, so I feel that I should get used to the idea.”
“Confident, aren’t we?” Harry said with a slight smile.
“But of course,” she said, smiling back. “I am, after all, irresistible.”
“I certainly hope so,” she sighed softly. “Here is the list of Chasers and Keepers.”
He nodded, accepting the abrupt change of subject. He looked down at it and smiled. “Fantastic,” he muttered. “We have enough people here from each house.”
“Did you not plan it that way?”
“I tried to,” he admitted. “But going by reports isn’t the easiest way to pick potential. And while I got quite a few people wrong, there was enough leeway to allow for the mistakes.”
Gabrielle nodded and then opened her mouth and shut it again.
He paused, a piece of cheese half-way to his mouth. “What?”
She shrugged a little and looked away.
“I do not want to interfere,” she said quickly. “But, well, I wanted to discuss Ron and Hermione.”
“What about them?” Harry asked flatly.
“It is my fault, not theirs, that they did what they did,” she finished in a rush.
Harry blinked and finished the piece of cheese he was holding. “No, it’s not,” he replied, his voice still cold. “They had a choice. That choice was to advise you to bring the problem straight to me or to help you. They are my two closest friends, and they both know how much I hate being manipulated. They chose to ignore our friendship and everything else we have gone through to get me into a situation.”
“They just wanted to help me and get you out of the rut you were in,” she continued bravely.
“My rut wasn’t that serious,” Harry pointed out. “And while it might have got me out of it, the high-handed decision of what was good for me, without even the courtesy of involving me in the decision gives me pain.”
“If it helps,” Gabrielle said softly. “Ron didn’t like the idea. And he pointed out that you would react like this.”
Harry half-smiled and turned his head. “What did Ron say?”
Gabrielle turned a slight shade of red. “He suggested that he introduce us, that I ‘whack on the Veela power’ and we have a good time – overnight.”
Harry laughed softly. “He said that in front of Jean?”
Gabrielle nodded. “Papa was secretly amused by the bluntness. But you see, Harry, it was my fault for putting them in that situation. Hermione jumped to the final solution immediately and just wanted it to be good for you – she does love you very much.”
“Gabby,” Harry sighed. “I appreciate your loyalty to her and your bravery in telling me this, but this isn’t the first time Hermione has tried to run my life, and she needs to learn that I am not a toy; I am not someone she can just play with. I am supposedly one of her best friends, and I am my own person.”
“What are you going to do?” she asked softly.
“I’ve not decided yet. I’ll probably talk to them this evening.” He paused for a second and then continued as a thought hit him. “Is Mating why your Veela powers are so different from Fleur’s?”
“What do you mean?”
“When you tried to Enthral me the first night, it felt very different from when Fleur tried.”
“Ahh, yes, that is why. With me, anything dealing with you is fraught with emotions; with Fleur, it was merely magic. She only had a slight desire to do it, whereas I wanted to do it more than anything. It is natural to me.”
“Wait,” Harry said, taking another bite. “If it’s natural, how are you going to handle the fact that you can’t?”
“It is natural, but it is a wonderful feeling. Most Veela have to be careful with their powers. If a man turns into a gibbering wreck when she turns her powers on, she can never truly relax. Especially not in bed.”
Gabrielle looked down a little, biting her lip. “Imagine you are in bed, and your partner does something, and you are Enthralled. A man with a weak mind would stop instantly, and just lay there.”
“Ahh,” Harry nodded. “But I have to have my Occlumency shields up to stop your powers when they are fully on. I don’t tend to keep them up all the time.”
Gabrielle smiled, still looking down. “Harry,” she whispered. “You would never let anyone control your mind; you are too strong, too independent. It is amazing to me, but I find myself in a strange position for a Veela. The roles are almost reversed; I cannot persuade you as another Veela might persuade their Mate. I have to come at you as an equal, and yet, with my nature and the power of the Mating, you could ask anything of me, and I would say yes before you even finished asking.”
“That sounds almost like slavery,” Harry frowned.
“The most profound form of slavery in existence,” Gabrielle nodded. “That is what Mating is, in a way; it is giving everything to one person. It is the ultimate in trust and love.”
“How could you do that?” he asked softly. “Even at eight, surely you understood the problems it would cause. How could you give yourself over so completely to someone you didn’t even know?”
“I just did,” she said helplessly. “And yet, it was still right. I don’t know why I did it – I just know that I suddenly saw that you were unique, that even though you were young, you would always stand up for what you believed in, that you would always fight for those that couldn’t, and that you would always win. I was in awe of you as I watched you, and then it just came to me, like a whisper over the wind.
“I knew that it wouldn’t be easy, but once it was inside my mind, it wouldn’t go away, and even then, at that young age, I knew without doubt that I was never going to find anyone else as strong, as noble, as trustworthy.
“And all these years later, I have a chance at the dream.”
“A chance at the dream?”
“At everything,” she continued, almost as if she hadn’t heard him. “A chance that I will be able to be myself, that I will be able to let myself go in passion, or anger, or laughter, and not have to worry about reducing you to a wreck. You can have no idea how much that means to me, how much it would mean to any Veela.”
Harry was silent for a few moments, really unsure on how to respond to that. The idea of having someone so completely under his control didn’t quite add up. If that was the case, she would have slept with him when he’d offered in her room. But, what she had said matched what he had read, only with a much more personal twist. He was beginning to think that she was not a standard Veela herself. She seemed a little too independent and intent on getting what she wanted to be that submissive.
“Aimée said that she is human, so you are only part-Veela?”
“Technically, we are part-Veela. Our grandmother and grandfather had one child, Papa. He married Mama, and they had two girl children. The Veela Genes are sex linked, so we received pretty much everything a Veela can, although we are not true Veela. Papa is a carrier of those genes, but cannot access the power.”
“I had thought that Aimée was a Veela.”
“Mama is amazing, is she not?” Gabrielle smiled. “She gives that impression, as she is a very strong woman and wanted to protect us, growing up. She knows more about Veela than most real Veela, and she is always there for us.”
Harry nodded slowly and looked at his watch. “I need to get back to work,” he said.
“But of course,” she smiled.
“You did well this morning.”
Harry collapsed into his chair and sighed in relief. It had been one of the longest days he’d had since the war. But he now had four teams of fourteen students. And from that, he had a further fourteen favourites for the school team.
And it was only now sinking in just how much work he, and they, were going to have to put in to get them up to having a chance. He’d decided that he was going to be extremely positive in public, even with Olympe, so that the whole school would have hope, but in private, he had some very large doubts.
Any fourth year Hogwarts student would be able to out-fly 95% of the Beauxbatons students. And turning the fourteen, none of whom had ever played a competitive game before, into a team was going to be difficult.
But, his entire plan revolved around getting the others to be good enough and working Gabrielle as hard as possible to make her into a very good Seeker. She had the raw talent, but that wasn’t the only reason. He liked working with her, and to realise her talent, they were going to have to spend a lot of time together.
She was making the age thing seem largely irrelevant, and he was grateful for that. There was no way at all that he could accuse himself of ever chasing after a young girl, or even as being interested, as she was quite definitely doing the chasing. The adults who knew about it all understood what was going on, and that it wasn’t an issue for them.
It might be a large case of self-justification, he admitted, but it was working. He was in no hurry to do anything more with the situation, presently; they had plenty of time, and it was nice getting to know her in a way that he hadn’t really known any female, even Hermione. She was incredibly open with him and would tell him anything he wanted to know, even if it was embarrassing.
She seemed to have decided that honesty, at least from this point forward was the best policy, and he approved of it.
“Harry?” Ron called from the Floo. “Can I come through?”
Harry waved his hand absently, cancelling the protection spell on it.
Ron walked in, whistled under his breath, pulled out a chair and sat in front of him.
“Hey,” he said cheerfully.
Harry glared at him balefully.
“You know, if you were a Weasley, this would be so much easier,” Ron teased.
“Sure; you’d hit me, I’d hit you back, we’d roll on the floor for a bit, and be over it.”
Harry looked at Ron, and then at himself, and then back at Ron. He raised his right arm slightly and flexed his bicep.
“Of course,” Ron continued. “None of my brothers are professional athletes or trained fighters.”
“Damn it, Ron,” Harry growled.
“Why don’t I make us a cup of tea?”
“There’s beer in my fridge,” he grunted.
“Even better,” Ron grinned. “Hermione’s had a hard day at the office and is in bed, so I figured I’d take the time for a private word – and let you get most of your frustrations out on me.”
Harry took the bottle and knocked back half of it in one go. “You’re not the one I want to go after,” he pointed out.
“Which is exactly why I’m here. She screwed up; she knows that.”
“It’s my life, Ron.”
“I know,” he agreed, holding his hand up. “And yes, you’re right to be upset with her, with us actually, because I did agree to help in the end.”
“You just went along with her because you knew she would have done it with or without your agreement,” Harry sighed. “And you wanted to make sure you confronted me first when it went wrong.”
“Well, maybe a little,” Ron grinned cheerfully.
“Working at the Ministry and being married to Hermione has been bad for you.”
“Oh, you mean ‘bad’ in the way that I’m now being sneaky and managing people?” he asked.
“Something like that, yeah.” Harry knocked back the rest of the bottle and went and got a couple more.
“Well, you try dealing with Jean on a political level. That guy is so damn sharp, I count my fingers after we shake hands – and I have to deal with him a lot now. Somehow the rumour got around that Jean likes me, and my bosses jumped at the idea of having someone favourable to deal with him.”
Harry smiled faintly and drunk deeply from the bottle. “I’m still pissed off at you,” he said. “And Hermione too.”
“I know,” Ron agreed quietly. “And you’re right to be. So let’s get a lot of the truly nasty stuff out of your system.”
“You know what I’m really angry about?” he asked, suddenly standing and starting to pace.
“No?” Ron gulped, suddenly looking nervous.
“That you and Hermione don’t seem to realise that I’m not fifteen anymore. I’m a big boy, Ron. I’ve seen more countries than most people ever do. I’ve played in and won the World Cup of Quidditch, I’ve got more money than I can spend in several hundred lifetimes, and all of it is invested to earn more than inflation. I pay close attention to my financial portfolio, I negotiate my own contract with the Cannons, and by the way, with my image rights, I am the highest paid person in the league. They might have screwed me with my first contract, but I made sure that they didn’t do it again, and I’ve benefited over the long run. But the point is,” Harry said, looming over Ron and glaring at him, “is that I am now an adult, who can deal with things. I might sulk for a bit, even for a week, but I am capable of getting myself out of a bad mood and doing something.
“I was grateful for what you did, as it for the most part made my life easier, but finding that you did it with an ulterior motive really took most of the gloss off it.”
“We never thought you weren’t an adult,” Ron said softly, meeting his eyes. “We just wanted to give you some sort of chance of normality for a change. Every girl you meet either wants Harry Potter, Quidditch God; Harry Potter, Sex God or Harry Potter, Richest Person in World. No one even comes close to seeing just Harry, the guy we all love.
“And Gabrielle’s idea was different. Sure, we were putting you in a position. But this was a girl who loved you for yourself, Harry, and didn’t really care about your fame, money, or power.”
“So you decided who I would fall in love with, without bothering to consult me? That was so nice of you.”
Ron opened his mouth and then shut it, and turned the familiar Weasley red. “You know, when you put it like that, it sounds really bad.”
“Do you have a better way to put it?”
“Not really,” Ron sighed. He took a long drink from his bottle. “More?”
Harry walked into the kitchen, pulled out two more bottles, and put six more in the fridge. He tossed another to Ron and opened his third.
“Cheers,” Ron said, saluting, and draining most of the bottle in one go. “So, what are you going to do about it?”
“I don’t know,” Harry groaned as he sat down. “You two were bloody arrogant, displayed the sort of integrity and friendship that I expect from Dumbledore, and yet, you are still my friends, and I’ve not got enough of them to throw any away – nor would I want to.”
“And punching is out, right?”
“Violence is never the answer.”
“No, violence is the question, ‘yes’ is the answer. Unless, of course, the question is ‘What should we do with Malfoy?’, then violence is a very good answer,” Ron noted thoughtfully.
“That makes no sense.”
“You try making sense after downing three beers on an empty stomach,” Ron pointed out.
“You’re not bloody going to make me cook for you, are you?”
“I’ve tried your cooking,” Ron pointed out, “and it’s not pretty. But we haven’t finished the conversation yet. Is an apology going to help, and a promise to never do it again?”
Harry nodded, finished his beer, and went for another one.
“I am sorry, mate,” Ron said seriously, as he finished his beer and cracked opened his fourth. “Our hearts were in the right place, but what we did was pretty damn awful. And I do promise to never do it again.”
“Ron,” Harry said seriously. “That really hurt, you know? That my two best friends would manipulate me and throw me into this sort of situation.”
“I know,” Ron sighed. “We fucked up big time.”
“Yes,” Harry agreed. “You did.”
Gabrielle finished drying her hair and smiled at the mirror. She absently wondered what it would be like if they were enchanted the same way she had read Hogwarts mirrors were, when she heard her Floo activate and two thumps.
She rushed into her small living room to find Harry and Ron on the floor, grinning up at her.
“Can I help you?” she asked slowly in English for Ron’s sake.
“Hi,” Harry said brightly. “We’re drunk.”
“Yes,” Ron said, nodding his head eagerly.
“And you thought you’d come and tell me this because… ?”
“Why did we?” Harry asked Ron.
“Because it was a good idea,” Ron pointed out seriously.
“Oh yeah,” Harry agreed. “Because it was a good idea,” he said solemnly.
“And why was it a good idea?” Gabrielle asked, hiding her amusement.
“Because,” Harry started and stopped. “Because…”
“Discussion,” Ron prompted, as he tried to stand and fell back to the floor.
“Oh, right,” Harry said brightly. “We wanted to tell you that we had a talk, and I’m no longer going to shove Ron’s bits into a meat grinder.”
“Which is a good thing,” Ron said. “Were you really going to do that?”
“It was one of my options,” Harry said cheerfully. “But then I remembered that you’re my best friend, and I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Ron replied, hugging Harry.
“Well, thank you for that information,” Gabrielle said dryly.
“Oh, don’t be so serious, Gabby,” Harry said, looking up at her with puppy-dog eyes.
“Gabby?” Ron asked, “I thought her name was Gabrielle.”
“It is,” Harry agreed. “But she’s my Gabby.”
Gabrielle felt her heart race at the unexpectedly possessive declaration, but put a lot of it down to the inebriated state of her Mate. “So you two talked over beer, and now you’re friends again?”
“Isn’t she clever?” Harry said.
“Almost as smart as Hermyio… Hermyoh…”
“That’s the one!” Ron said brightly. “Didn’t we come here for another reason?”
“We did?” Harry asked. “I thought we’d tell her we’re friends again, and then something would happen.”
“How did you get so drunk so quickly?” Gabrielle interjected, before the conversation could degenerate any further.
“How did we?” Ron asked.
“I’ve been working all day, with just some bread and cheese for lunch,” Harry said. “I’m allowed to be a lightweight.”
“Oh, Harry,” Gabrielle sighed. “You started drinking on an empty stomach?”
“Oh-oh,” Ron said. “That’s the same tone Hermeo, Heyme… my wife uses at me!”
Ron nodded. “She doesn’t like it when I’m slightly pished.”
“I’m not allowed to swear,” he said conspiratorially to Gabrielle.
“Right,” she nodded and backed away slightly. “Why don’t I get Hermione to take you home, Ron, and then I can look after Harry.”
“See,” Harry said. “I told you she’s smart.”
“Really hot, too,” Ron agreed.
“Yeah, I know,” Harry nodded and put his head down on the rug.
Ron yawned and rested his head down as well.
Gabrielle shook her head again and walked over to the fire, calling for Hermione. It took several minutes, before a very sleepy-looking Hermione answered.
“Do you want to come and collect your husband? He’s currently passed out on my floor.”
“What’s happened?” Hermione asked.
“I suspect he decided to have a talk with Harry alone and that they did it over several beers and an empty stomach.”
“Oh, Merlin,” Hermione said, starting to smile. “Did they say anything?”
“Well, Ron thinks I’m ‘hot’, and Harry agrees,” Gabrielle said.
“Step back, I’ll come through.”
She moved a few paces back and took a seat on the chair. Ron and Harry were now snoring together. Hermione appeared a second later, in a dressing gown, and sighed as she looked down at them.
“I’d be mad at him,” Hermione said, “but I think he wanted to try and protect me.”
“Harry’s very annoyed at you,” Gabrielle said softly.
“I know,” Hermione sighed. “I’ll see if I can talk to him tomorrow, when they’re both sober. Do you need any help?”
“Not at all. I can get him back to his room.”
She nodded silently.
“So it’s going well, then?”
“I’m not sure,” Gabrielle replied, not really wanting to tell her anything at this stage. “It’s most confusing.”
“That sums up Harry,” Hermione nodded and pulled out her wand. She floated Ron into the fireplace and with a thank you smile, stepped in and vanished them both together.
“Come on, Harry,” Gabrielle said, kneeling next to him. Harry opened his eyes and looked up at her.
“I’m not quite as drunk as I might have made out,” he said.
She nodded. “I didn’t think you would be.”
“I am pretty drunk though,” he admitted. “I should have eaten more.”
“Why are you drunk?”
“It helped to clear the air with Ron. And that was enough of a reason.”
“So you’re happy with him again?”
He nodded. “Have you got any food?”
“I’ll get Dobby to bring us some up.”
“Good idea,” he sighed, as he sat down at the table. “It’s bizarre man-stuff,” he explained. “By getting drunk together, it’s showing some weird sort of trust.”
“And you brought him to me because?”
He smiled slightly. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
She laughed softly and shook her head. “Wait here.”
“I’m not exactly in the condition to go anywhere,” he replied.
She walked into her kitchen and called for Dobby. It didn’t take much explanation of Harry’s state, before he returned with a large jug of water and two bowls filled with what looked like some sort of beef dish.
“Thanks,” she said and took the tray back to Harry, who had his head down.
“This is why I don’t drink,” he sighed.
“You’ve done it before?”
“Yeah, first time the Cannons won the league. Ollie and I went celebrating and we ended up sleeping on the roof of a bus shelter in the middle of Hertfordshire. We woke up feeling so bad that it took us four tries to Apparate home. My hangover made me swear to never get drunk again.”
“And yet you did it.”
“Didn’t you know that Gryffindors are fiendishly brave?”
She laughed softly. “Drink some water, Harry, it will re-hydrate you. Alcohol is a diuretic that, well, helps drain the chemicals out of your body. A hangover is normally caused by a lack of water.”
Harry drank deeply from the glass and then smiled slightly at her, before picking up a fork and starting to eat.
“What is this?” she asked, poking it carefully.
“Beef stew,” Harry replied.
“And it’s edible, right?”
“If Dobby made it, yes.”
“I’ve never seen it before.”
“Don’t worry,” Harry smiled. “It won’t kill you, I promise.”
She took a bite daintily. “It’s not bad,” she said diplomatically, deciding to take Harry to a proper restaurant – and send Dobby on a cooking course as soon as possible. This dish was one of the blandest things she’d ever tasted; but it was filling, and he seemed to be enjoying it. It was probably due to his irregular meals as a child, and the awful stuff he was fed, that he hadn’t really had the need to develop a sophisticated palate.
Exploring the boundaries of food would be a lot of fun with him, and she hoped that he’d be able to grow to like some of her favourites. He hadn’t had any problems with the school food so far, and that was slightly more than adequate.
“I wasn’t going to speak to him tonight; I was too tired,” Harry said eventually. “But when he asked to come through the Floo, I felt it was better to get it out of the way. It’s pretty amazing how much he has grown up.”
“Really?” she asked, not having really known him when he was younger.
“Yeah,” he agreed. “Working at the Ministry has been good for him. He tends to engage his brain before speaking now, and he really loves Hermione.”
She nodded, taking another bite of the stew – which was growing on her a little.
“He wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to go over the top, and he offered to let me hit him.”
She laughed softly. “I don’t think that he would need to let you if you wanted to.”
He nodded in agreement. “Nice idea, though.”
He finished the stew and took another long drink of water, and smiled at her. “Thanks.”
“Always,” she replied simply. “It was interesting.”
“I’ll bet,” he laughed softly. He stood and stumbled. “Help?” he asked, looking at her through his lashes.
She stood and wrapped an arm around him, moving toward the door.
“No, Floo,” he said.
“I can’t get in,” she reminded him.
“Time I changed that,” he sighed. “Come on, Gabby.”
She smiled and nodded, walking with him into the fireplace. “Potter Room,” Harry called. “Accept Gabrielle Delacour permanently.”
The Floo rushed, and she felt herself flung out of the fire and grabbed hold of him. They ended up on the floor with her lying on his chest.
“Sorry,” he mumbled. “Forgot the charm to keep me upright. Too much magical power makes me fly through it too fast.”
“That makes sense,” she said, trying to decide whether she wanted to move or not, and the way his arm wrapped around her waist made it very difficult to think of a single reason why she should.
He shifted and sat up, and with an internal sigh, she moved off him.
He dropped down onto a chair. “Thanks,” he said softly.
“Any time,” she replied and stepped back into the Floo, vanishing.
Once inside her room, she stripped, pulled on an oversized shirt and climbed into bed.
She punched her pillow a few times; she really didn’t like this taking-things-slow business. That lying on the floor situation could have been the perfect time for some kisses. And he bloody well had no clue how affected by him she was, how right it felt to be with him, in his arms, taking care of him.
It was a blessing and a curse. A curse because she might not get him, that it might go wrong, that she didn’t have him already. But a blessing in that at least she got a chance, a large chance actually, to win him over.
Harry opened his eyes and shut them again quickly. “I wasn’t dreaming then,” he rasped. “I really did get drunk last night and went to visit you?”
“Yes,” she agreed. “I’ve brought you another drink and some breakfast that Dobby assures me is the best hangover cure.”
He opened his eyes again, cracking them against the harsh light that seemed to burn his optical nerves to a crisp.
He sat up and felt Gabby place a tray across his lap. He bravely opened his eyes and watched as she took a seat at the foot of his bed.
“Shouldn’t you be at breakfast?” he asked, as he poured himself some orange juice.
“I told Madame Maxime I’d be having breakfast with you,” she said cheerfully. “And I did not mention that you would be hung over.”
“Thanks,” he smiled and looked down. “Dobby said I should eat this?” he asked doubtfully.
“He did,” Gabrielle said, taking a small plate with two croissants on it for herself. She sat cross-legged and took a bite.
Harry shook his head slowly and cut up one of the sausages from the full English breakfast.
“We don’t have a chance at winning the Quidditch tournament, do we?”
“What do you mean?”
“I saw how we were yesterday and with the few months we have available, we’re not going to be anywhere near as good as the other teams that have been playing for years.”
Harry looked up and breathed deeply. “Not a word of this to anyone else, Gabby. It’s important that they think we have a chance, even if we don’t.”
“The whole school is behind this, Harry; I don’t want us to lose.”
“That’s a good thing,” he smiled slightly, digging in. After getting over his early revulsion, he was feeling better now that he had some food inside him. “Because it’s going to come down to you.”
“Me?” Gabrielle asked, looking surprised.
“A great team with a great Seeker is practically unbeatable. A bad team with a brilliant or lucky Seeker can still win.”
“I’m not a great Seeker, though,” she said.
He smiled slightly. “By the time I’ve finished with you, you will be,” he said confidently.
“Oh?” she asked, her eyes now wide.
“Well, I figured that it would be a good way to spend a lot of time together, flying, and out of everyone’s temperament and character profile, you fit the Seeker mould better than anyone else.”
She smiled slightly and avoided his eyes. “In what way?”
He waited until she looked directly at him. “You set your eyes on the target, and don’t budge until you have it, no matter how long you have to wait.”
She blushed and looked away again. “I’ve never thought of you as a Snitch,” she whispered.
“But it’s true all the same. This way, we’ll be able to spend a lot of time together, without people gossiping about you.”
“That’s not going to leave me a lot of time for studying,” she said slowly. “So, we’re going to have to do a deal.”
“Oh?” he asked, secretly amused at her way of viewing the situation.
“Yes. If I agree to do this, you agree that I can do my senior project on you.”
“On me?” he asked, surprised.
“Specifically, on your relationship with magic. It’s different from anyone I’ve ever seen or ever known, and I will not miss out on the chance to graduate a year early.”
“Why do you want to leave a year early?”
“Because I am not going to spend a whole year apart from you. You’re going to be back playing professional Quidditch next year, and I am not going to still be at school pining from a distance.”
He laughed under his breath and finished off his breakfast. Part of him wanted to say ‘no’ to her immediately; just on the general principle of keeping his privacy, but another, larger, part recognised that her request was fair. He was going to take up a lot of her time, and she should be able to get something out of it.
“Have you thought about playing professionally?” he asked, curious.
“Oh no,” she smiled. “I’m going to be the best I can be to prove to myself, and to you, that I can do it, but I have no wish to spend my life playing the sport. Aside from being with you, I am not sure what I want to do with my life, but I’m in no hurry to find out.”
“Okay,” he said softly. “With the caveat of a few limitations, such as not discussing my nullifying field, you can do your project on me.”
His reward for agreeing was one of the biggest smiles he’d seen from her.
“Don’t think I’ll do this every time you get drunk,” Hermione said, as she placed a steaming potion on her husband’s lap.
“Is it going to kill me?” Ron asked, with a small amount of hope in his voice.
“It’s a hangover cure.”
“Wow,” he said and drank it down quickly. “That tastes foul!”
“So it should,” Hermione agreed. “If it tasted good, there would be no reason for you to remain sober.”
“Right,” Ron said dryly.
“So, what happened last night?”
“I had a chat with Harry, made sure he got most of his anger out of the way, and we made friends again.”
“I told you not to protect me.”
“And I ignored you,” Ron stated.
“What am I going to do with you?”
“Wear that nurse outfit?” Ron said with a grin.
“If you’re lucky,” she replied with a slight smile. “But seriously, what happened?”
“Harry is very annoyed with you, but before we go into that, do you know who the highest paid Quidditch player in the country is?”
“What? No, who?”
“Yeah,” Ron continued. “And do you know who negotiates Harry’s contract?”
“He does them himself, including something called image rights. This, I believe, means that he gets a cut of every Harry Potter poster, toy, game and everything else with his name or face on it.”
“You’re trying to make a point here, Ron. What is it?”
“That Harry has grown up, Hermione. He’s no longer an insecure eighteen year old. He’s a man, who earns a fortune, owns a fortune, and has travelled most of the world. That he doesn’t really need anyone to look after him.”
“But he was depressed and living in the dark!”
“So what?” Ron asked. “Does that make it right for us to unilaterally decide who he falls in love with?”
“Yeah, that was how I felt last night when Harry said that to me. He also compared our behaviour to Dumbledore’s, and you know in his mind, that is the worst insult imaginable.”
Hermione sighed softly. “I need to go and speak to him,” she said.
“You do,” Ron agreed, “this afternoon.”
She leaned forward and gently kissed him. “Thank you, and if I’m still in one piece when I get back, you might just find that I remember where that outfit is.”
After sharing breakfast with Gabby, Harry spent the morning sitting on the floor, trying to work out a decent training regime for each house team. But he was getting bored of that and bored of thinking about his imminent official return to Hogwarts, where he probably wouldn’t be able to treat Malfoy as he deserved.
He jumped to his feet and headed down to the Seventh Year common room. With the kids separated by years, it made it easier to be able to speak to all the senior students at one time.
He walked right in – as a professor, he was more than encouraged to check in on them during the day.
“Any one interested in helping me with a magical project?” he asked, his voice rising above the chatter.
“Doing what?” Claude shouted back.
He grinned impishly. “As you all know, we’re returning to my Alma Mater in a few weeks time, and last time, Beauxbatons’ entrance was great. This time, I want to top it! But, what I need is a proposal I can take to Madame Maxime.”
“You want us to help come up with a cool entrance?” Claude asked, walking over.
“Simone,” Claude said, “run and fetch Gabrielle, and then pick up the smart sixth years. You know who they are.”
The girl nodded and ran out of the door as all of the remaining students pulled up chairs. “Gabrielle’s probably the best magical theorist in the school,” Claude explained, “and as Head Girl, can help you persuade Madame Maxime to let us do this. As to the sixth years, it’s always good to get some intelligent help.”
Harry grabbed a seat of his own, sitting with his legs crossed.
“What’s going on?” Gabrielle asked, as she dashed into the room, her blonde hair flowing behind her. “Simone said something about needing help?”
Claude groaned loudly. “Simone’s a little excitable,” he explained to Harry. “Professor Potter has asked for some help putting together a proposal to change our arrival at Hogwarts into something a little more dramatic.”
Gabrielle smiled. “Excellent idea. Simone is getting the sixth years?”
“She is indeed,” Claude said cheerfully. “This is for the pride of France,” he said to Harry. “And as such, we’ve suspended all the normal year rivalries and we’re going to work together to help restore some pride.”
Harry smiled and nodded.
“While you’re all here,” Gabrielle said, turning to face the students. “Can we get one rumour dealt with quickly?”
“What’s that?” Claude asked.
“That I’ve Enthralled Professor Potter, in order to get better grades and spend more time with him,” she said, putting her hands on her hips. “I’m fed up of hearing it.”
Harry could see some faces blush.
Gabby turned to face him, and her hair started to move in a breeze that hadn’t existed a second before, and he sighed softly, allowing his shields to rise, as he sat dispassionately, watching her. He smiled slightly as he saw some of the students’ expressions go blank as they were caught in the edges of her power. Her eyes seemed to grow as she turned up the power, and he actually felt a little warm and discovered that the link was sending him small messages. It was a new sensation and something quite unique.
Gabrielle turned off the Veela power and turned back to face the others. “As you can see,” she said dryly. “I couldn’t Enthral him if even if I wanted to. And I have no need to, anyway. I get my grades honestly.”
“How did you do that?” Claude asked Harry with a look of awe on his face.
“I don’t let anyone into my mind,” he said softly. “Not since Voldemort possessed me.”
There was a visible shiver at the name of the ex-Dark Lord, and some of the faces that had earlier been blushing, turned a brighter red in embarrassment.
“I’ve got them,” Simone said, bursting back into the common room with excitement. She was trailed by another group of students.
“Okay,” Claude said, standing up. “Everyone get comfy. You’ve just missed proof that Professor Potter is immune to Veela power, so anyone else spreading rumours to that effect will look pretty stupid.
“But, we’re all here because, as you know, we’re going to Hogwarts soon, and last time we went, we turned up in a carriage pulled by flying horses. That is way too last decade, so we need to come up with an idea that is a lot cooler and will allow us to show the English that we’ve improved as well.”
“What are our limitations?” one of the sixth year girls asked.
“Only your imagination,” Harry said smoothly. “The idea is to come up with something exciting, and I’ll take it to Madame Maxime, and if we get the go ahead, I’ll work with you all to get it done.” He stood and smiled at the group.
“When you’ve come up with an idea, come and see me, and we’ll talk about it.”
He walked out of the room, and wasn’t surprised when Madame Maxime walked next to him. “Do all headmistresses know what is going on, all the time?” he asked.
“Of course,” she smiled. “Well, in my case, I just happened to be in the room when Simone burst in like there was a fire. Tell me, Harry, did you not like my carriage?”
“I thought it would be a nice project for them to work on,” Harry replied with a shrug, avoiding a direct response. “And to be honest, I would like to return in style, and as there is going to be the whole school going this time, I thought we’d need something bigger.”
“Thinking up something to put Albus in his place is never going to get on my bad side,” Olympe said cheerfully. “Now, how are you feeling?”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve spent enough time in England to know a hangover cure when I see one, and the school Floo logs show that Mr Weasley visited last night.”
Harry blushed and looked down. “We talked over a few beers and then told Gabby about it.”
Olympe laughed softly, and then her face turned serious. “This situation is hard for me,” she admitted. “My natural instinct is to have a serious talk with you about being in a student’s room, but then, this is not natural, is it?”
“Not really,” Harry sighed. “I do tend to forget most times that she is a lot younger than me.”
“I wouldn’t say a lot younger,” Olympe said gently. “And the thing about rules, Harry is that there are always exceptions. I know that you are probably thinking a lot about how this has affected you, but it has affected her as well.”
“Oh, I know,” Harry agreed, opening the door to his room and ushering the Headmistress in. “I was thinking about that the other day, and how grateful I am that the mistakes I made at eight did not have such consequences.”
“So you do not blame Gabrielle?”
“Tea?” Harry offered, walking into his kitchen.
“Plain, no sugar.”
He put the kettle on and walked back to the doorway. “No,” he sighed. “Well, a little bit. I’m trying not to hold it against her, and I’ve talked about it with her a few times.”
Olympe nodded slowly. “You are taking this very differently to how I was advised.”
Harry snorted. “Your advice was out of date.”
“Yes, I see that, and I must say, Harry, that I am very pleased about it. And, to be completely honest, I’m grateful that I didn’t have to go through another Fleur. I might have retired.”
Harry laughed as he went back into the kitchen and prepared two cups of tea. “Here,” he said as he took a seat opposite her. “I’ve got the teams down now, and some idea of how I am going to train them.”
“Tell me,” Olympe said, as she took a sip. “Exactly how did you get Gabrielle to agree to spend so much of her time on a sport, when academics are her true love?”
“It gives her a chance to spend time with me?”
“Harry,” Olympe chided, sounding very amused.
“I agreed to let her do her senior project on my relationship with magic.”
Olympe placed down her tea and clapped her hands together. “Perfect,” she said with a smile. “That is the Gabrielle I know.”
“Indeed,” Harry said. “For someone who is supposedly subservient, she is not afraid of showing her will.”
“Would you respect her if she wouldn’t -- or couldn’t?”
He opened his mouth and then shut it again. He had no answer to that.
“Can I at least take him a bottle of wine?” Hermione asked.
“He’s not going to want to drink today,” Ron pointed out reasonably. “And you’re procrastinating.”
“I know,” she sighed. “I’m just nervous.”
“This is your best friend, remember?”
“A best friend who thinks that I’m no better than Dumbledore,” Hermione pointed out.
“Just go, apologise, make friends again, and bring him home for dinner; I’ll cook something nice for the three of us.”
“You’re bullying me,” Hermione said.
“I know,” Ron replied, pushing her into the fire and sending her to Harry’s place before she could react.
She arrived and blinked in surprise, and for the first time, it really hit home that Harry had changed and grown up. He was doing paperwork at his desk, his movements firm and decisive as he scratched the quill on the paperwork.
“I’ll be with you in a second, Hermione,” he said, his voice cool.
She looked around and nervously sat on one of the chairs, the one without a drink next to it, not wanting to take his place. She didn’t like feeling like this, and knowing that she had caused it herself was not exactly helpful. It was okay when you were a man, she thought grumpily; you just had a few beers, shouted at each other, did some macho posturing on, and ended up drunk on some girl’s floor.
“Do you want a drink?” Harry asked.
She followed his movements by sound, suddenly realising that she felt like she was back at school, having to explain why she had broken the rules – only this time, she didn’t have a good excuse.
He placed a cup on the table next to her, he knew how she liked it, and sat down in the chair opposite.
He seemed in no hurry to say anything, and she found it just a little intimidating. She took a deep breath. “I’m sorry,” she said, exhaling.
He looked at her. “Why, Hermione? You, more than anyone know exactly how much I hate having decisions taken out of my hands and made for me.” The disappointment he felt in her could be seen clearly in his face and heard in his voice.
She sighed softly, wringing her hands. “Because it all seemed so perfect that I didn’t even think of it like that,” she admitted. “When Jean told us about Gabrielle, everything seemed to fall into place like it was predestined. I just jumped to the end, past the middle stages, to where you were happy.”
“So you just decided there and then who I would fall in love with – for the rest of my life?”
“It didn’t sound any better when Ron said it,” she murmured, looking down at her hands. “Yes,” she said honestly, looking back up at him. “I felt that the situation, and everything involved, would be perfect to make you happy. Oh, I put some safeguards in place, I spent some time with Gabrielle to make sure she was honest about everything, and I did some Veela research, and as everything checked out, I was comfortable.”
Harry seemed to slump down, and she felt a fresh wave of guilt shoot through her. Her excuses seemed weak, even to her own ears.
“Why didn’t you just talk to me?”
“I thought I knew better than you,” she admitted, in a small voice.
He looked up at her, a surprised look on his face. He moved and knelt in front of her, looking directly into her eyes. “You hurt me, Hermione,” he whispered. “More than you can know – it hurt that my best friend thought she could run my life, like everyone else has tried to do over the past twelve years. I am an adult, Hermione; I have my own life, my own motivations, and if I want to do something stupid and destructive, that is my damned right.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, feeling tears suddenly start to run down her cheeks. She met his eyes, as openly as she could. “Please, forgive me. I promise I’ll never do it again.”
“I won’t forgive you,” he whispered, and she tensed, feeling like one more word would shatter her world into a million pieces, and end her life as she knew it.
“Forgiveness is permission to do it again, and you do not have that. I am willing to move past this, to forget about it, but if you do it again, we will not have a relationship. You damaged my trust in you, Hermione, and any more damage will break it completely and I will never trust you again. But I am willing to put it aside.
She nodded, a wild feeling of hope soaring through her. “You mean that?”
He nodded and opened his arms.
She dived into them, sobbing, as she hugged him and buried her face in his neck. She felt his arms around her and relaxed, letting the cold knot that she had lived with for the past week vanish. “Thank you,” she mumbled. “I swear I’ll never do it again.”
“Don’t,” he said, and she looked into his eyes again and saw the hurt she had caused once more.
“I swear,” she whispered. She held him for another minute, and then looked up slowly. “You really are growing up, aren’t you? Both you and Ron?”
“I’m trying,” he said with a small half-smile. “And that git seems to have managed it as well.”
She laughed softly and brushed her eyes against his shirt. “I almost preferred it when you were young; temper was much easier to handle than logic.”
She nodded fervently, “but words are a lot more effective.”
He laughed softly and released her.
“Will you come over for dinner tonight?” she asked. “Ron’s promised something special.”
“He’s pretty special,” Harry said. “He managed to bring me back from some of the more exotic things I was thinking about doing to you.”
She nodded in agreement, her husband was pretty special. And as much as she might tease, she knew exactly where the nurse outfit was, and after they had eaten, and Harry had gone home, she would show Ron just how grateful she was for his quiet and thoughtful actions.
“Madame Maxime,” Gabrielle called, as she knocked on the door to the Headmistress’ office.
“I have the week’s Merits and Demerits,” she said, as she placed the folder on front of her. It was her job to collate them every Friday.
“Thank you,” Olympe said gently. “Take a seat.”
Gabrielle perched on the edge of the seat, her fingers itching to pull out her clipboard.
“Tell me, how is your campaign with Harry going?”
“Slowly,” she sighed, relaxing as she realised this wasn’t about school work. “But I do have a plan to hopefully help.”
“Yes, I would like your permission to leave school tomorrow night.”
“I would like to take Harry to Barcelona for the evening. It will be a place where we may be ourselves, without worrying about others, and I don’t think that Harry really realised that teaching was such hard work.”
“He has looked a little drained,” Olympe acknowledged.
“He is working too hard, trying to make a team for each House, and working with all the students after school. But, his friends are coming for their first visit on Sunday, and that will give him a boost.”
“I know,” Olympe nodded. “How is your Spanish?”
“Almost as good as my English,” Gabrielle replied. “It was nice to learn another language for fun.”
“Quite,” Olympe agreed dryly.
“So I may take him?”
The Headmistress nodded.
“Excellent,” she smiled. “In which case, with your permission, I shall go and ask Harry out on our first official date.”
Olympe laughed softly. “How very modern of you.”
“But, of course,” Gabrielle grinned. “I am doing the chasing, and while I have to be careful chasing my tiger, it is a curious mixture of apprehension, excitement, and hope. It has made life interesting.”
After saying goodbye, she struggled to keep her pace down to a normal walk, as she moved to her room.
She moved to the Floo and called Harry.
“Gabby?” Harry asked with a smile, as he appeared in the fire.
“Do you have any plans for tomorrow evening?” she asked.
“Then I would like to ask you out, on a date, to Barcelona for the evening.”
Harry’s eyebrows rose. “A date?”
She nodded, suddenly feeling tense.
“It would be a pleasure,” he said.
She couldn’t hide the massive smile that bubbled from deep inside her. “At seven,” she said.
He nodded, and she cancelled the Floo and looked at her watch. She now had exactly twenty-two and a half hours to get ready. She was going to need some help.
“Fleur,” she called eagerly through the fire. It took a minute before her sister appeared. “I need your help,” she said. “I’ve got my first date with Harry tomorrow, and I need to look perfect.”
“Then get some sleep,” Fleur said dryly. “And I’ll come and see you in the morning. Without sleep, no amount of Veela power will be able to help you.”
“But I am excited,” Gabrielle sighed.
“I know,” Fleur said softly. “Have a cup of that disgusting tea you like so much and relax. Tomorrow, I will come, and I will bring Mama as well.”
Gabrielle nodded and did as she was advised. She slipped into bed and soon fell asleep, her mind engaged with what she could wear to blow him away.
Gabrielle woke as a cool hand lightly brushed her hair back from her face.
“Mama,” she said as she smiled, and reached up to hug her mother, hard.
“I am here,” Aimée said with a small smile, “as requested. What sort of look do you want for tonight with Harry?”
“I think it is time that Harry realises that I am definitely not as young as my age might suggest,” she replied. “And I really think it is time that he realises that I am Veela. He has seen me sleepy, he has seen me casual, he has seen me formal, and he has even seen me in a swim suit. It is now time for him to see that I can be daring and adventurous as well.”
Aimée winced slightly. “So, you want me to help you look sexy?”
Gabrielle nodded. “We are going to Comerç and then to Mitsa for dancing.”
Aimée sighed softly, “It is hard, Gabrielle, to remember that you are not me, that you are different.”
“Mama,” Gabrielle whispered. “If you remember, you told me yourself that Veela with Mates mature faster, so do not think of me as sixteen. Think of me as a twenty year old woman, courting her future husband.”
“You are too clever for your own good,” Aimée whispered.
“But you will help, will you not?”
“I will. We will have to go shopping, though.”
“Okay,” Gabrielle said eagerly.
“Now, you like to shop,” Aimée sighed theatrically. “I remember having to drag you to the shops when you were younger.”
“I grew up. I have motivation now,” Gabrielle said with a smile.
“Get dressed, dear, and I shall make you and Fleur some breakfast.”
Harry threw down the final piece of paperwork onto his desk and sighed. The idea of being a flying instructor at a school had seemed like it would be a lot of fun. And it was. It was all the red-tape he had to fill, in between flying time, that was not fun. If it moved, it seemed like it had to be evaluated and graded.
When you added to that his obsession with making sure that the kids would not be humiliated, even if they didn’t win, it explained why he was tired and slightly grumpy.
He’d yet to actually make one of the meals with the other professors; because the only time he could do extra work with the kids was when they weren’t in lessons, which pretty much amounted to every mealtime available.
He moved to his bathroom, stripping carelessly. That was another thing; he was a more than a little nervous. He was going on a date with one of his students, only he didn’t care that she was younger and that she was a student. He was going out with someone who made him smile, was always willing to help, and was pretty good-looking as well.
He stood under the hot water for a few minutes, before turning it up to scalding hot, in an attempt to wake himself up a bit. Fully clean, he moved out of the shower and shaved quickly, before walking, naked, into his bedroom to decide what to wear.
Gabby hadn’t actually told him where they were going yet, so he didn’t know how dressy to actually be. He decided to be safe and simple, and pulled on an elegant black shirt, leaving it open at the collar, some underwear, black trousers, shoes, and socks.
He looked into the mirror and smiled slightly. It was a lot easier to get dressed without a mirror making sarcastically helpful comments.
He looked at his watch, ready in plenty of time. With nothing else to do, he picked up the suggestions the students had made for their arrival at Hogwarts and started to read through them.
“Well, how do I look?” Gabrielle asked.
“I think I am jealous,” Fleur said with a toss of her hair. “I did not look that good when I was your age.”
Gabrielle smiled brightly. “Mama?”
“You look like you are too old,” Aimée sighed. “Please, for the sake of my marriage, do not let your father see you like this for a few years. You know he still thinks of you as his little Gabrielle.”
“I promise,” Gabrielle agreed. “Will Harry like it?”
“If he does not, then he will never fall in love with you,” Aimée said softly. “Now, you are going to be on guard tonight, are you not?”
“What do you mean?”
“You are dressed to attract attention, and it won’t just come from Harry. You remember your defence classes?”
“I do, Mama, but Harry will not let anything happen to me.”
“Which is the only reason I am allowing you out in public looking like that,” Aimée said, only teasing a little bit. “But it is still better to be prepared.”
“I will not freeze again,” she said firmly.
“Good. How are you getting there tonight?”
“We shall take the Floo to our house, and then Harry can Apparate us there. It would not do for me to be seen with him, by the other students, dressed like this.”
Aimée nodded. “It’s time for you to go, Gabrielle. Good luck, my dear.”
“Yeah,” Fleur added. “Good luck, angel.”
Gabrielle smiled and threw some powder into the fire and vanished with a whisper.
Aimée looked at her oldest daughter for a second and then nodded and threw some powder into the fire. “Jean,” she called.
“Can you spare some Aurors tonight?”
“Gabrielle is taking Harry out on their first date to Barcelona. I’d rather that they had a quiet evening.”
“Harry can take care of that,” Jean pointed out.
“I helped Gabrielle and Fleur choose her outfit, without realising exactly what it would look like,” she confessed. “It will attract attention.”
“I don’t want to know,” Jean sighed. “I really don’t! I’ll speak to some friends in Spain and send over a few of my own people to run crowd control.”
Harry looked up as the Floo burst into life, and Gabrielle stepped through. She took a step to the side, and leant backward, her hands going up behind her head, in a pose of devastatingly artful innocence.
Harry slowly ran his eyes over her, and the only thought that came to his mind was that good-looking, as he had called her earlier, was possibly the biggest understatement he had ever made.
His eyes flicked up and met hers – in her eyes there was a clear invitation to look all he wanted, and so he did.
Her legs were encased in semi-translucent white material, which gave her skin an almost unearthly glow; her feet were in heeled shoes with three simple straps holding them in place. He was pretty sure that the white material was stockings, as her legs seemed to disappear into a skirt that reached mid thigh, but the skirt seemed to be made of a gauzy material, like patterned lace – lace that gave a hint of bare skin at the top of her legs, but didn’t actually show it. The higher he looked, the tighter the pattern was, effectively covering what was underneath, while managing to hint at everything.
The skirt was held up by an inch wide silver belt that seemed to glisten and sparkle in the light available.
Above that was an awe-inspiring expanse of clear, smooth skin that showed off her stomach, before a crop top, of the same material as her skirt, covered her breasts in a way that tantalised and teased, rather than outright revealed. The top was held up by two white straps that hung to her bare shoulders, giving a contrast to her golden sun tan.
Her hair was up, in a style he hadn’t seen before, with just a few strands free to frame her face as he looked at her. Despite her suggestive pose and position, she had a slightly vulnerable look in her eyes, as if his approval meant everything to her.
“Wow,” he whispered softly, suddenly very aware that maybe this whole thing wasn’t as bad as he had thought. “You are beautiful.”
She smiled at him, and for the third time, he felt his heart respond to her. “Shall we go?” she asked, lowering her hands and holding one out to him.
He nodded and took a step forward, taking her hand. She moved slightly, as if it was natural, and he found his arm around her waist, his hand on warm, smooth skin.
They stepped into the Floo together and vanished. He was careful to keep his spells up, as there was no way he wanted her outfit disrupted by travelling in the Floo with him.
“Why are we here?” he asked, as he looked around the Delacour residence.
“We need to Apparate, and I didn’t want anyone at school to see us together,” she said softly.
He nodded. “Good idea.”
“Come,” she continued. “Then you shall Apparate us to Barcelona.”
He nodded again and walked with her into the warm night air. He didn’t see the need to say anything at the moment, so he didn’t and was pleased that she didn’t feel the need to fill the silence with something.
“We’re past the wards,” he said, as he felt the Magical pressure drop around him.
“Take where we are going from my mind,” she said, lightly grabbing his hand, and moving it to her forehead. The movement wasn’t necessary, but it added an intimacy to the moment.
He reached out softly into her mind and gasped as he felt a bright light engulf him. It was warm and pure, and somehow all-encompassing.
“You must know,” she whispered softly, “That what I feel for you is real; it is merely enhanced by the Mating.”
He nodded softly and took the location from her, withdrawing from her mind with a slight tinge of regret.
He moved closer to her, and she raised her arms, around his neck, holding herself close to him. He slid his hands against her back and Disapparated.
They arrived in a small side-street, and she stepped away from him without protest and took his hand.
He’d already had a few things turned around mentally this evening, and having this mix of innocence, impishness, and downright sexiness was playing havoc with his thought processes.
She seemed to take pity on him as she led him into a busy street. They crossed, avoiding the traffic, and entered a modern looking restaurant. She spoke to the maître’d who greeted them in Spanish and a minute later they were seated beneath a huge arched window, a bottle of wine before them and their order placed.
“How many languages do you speak?” he asked, curious.
“Five,” she replied. “I also speak Italian and German. Languages are always fun to learn. Papa insisted we learnt to speak English as children; the others I did at school.” She paused and then leaned forward a little, which forced his eyes to focus on the shadow caused by her top moving, “I can speak them, but my writing is nowhere near as good.”
He laughed softly. “I am impressed,” he said, tearing his eyes away and back up to her face. He poured the wine, not bothering to taste it as Jean had taught him; it didn’t seem right, not tonight.
“Ask me a question,” she said, looking at him with a gentle smile.
“What do you mean?”
“There must be something about me that you want to know; ask me, and I shall tell you.”
He cocked his head to one side and thought for a second. “I think I have guessed, but I want to hear you tell me anyway.”
“Tell you what?”
“Exactly why did you come up with this whole scheme?”
Her eyes darkened a little, and she sighed almost under her breath, “That will teach me; you do not ask easy questions.”
She took a sip of the wine and didn’t say anything as the waiter appeared with their first course.
“Guilt, fear,” she whispered eventually, “and maybe hope; hope that you would never need to know the downside.”
“Go on,” he said softly.
“I told you in the Orchard that I wanted you to fall in love with me, and that is the truth. But it is more than that. I wanted everything from you and I didn’t want you to feel like you were being forced. I want you, but I do not want you broken. There is a fire inside you, Harry, and it warms me when I am near you, but forcing you to help me would cool it, and I would have to live forever with the guilt that a mistake I made extinguished that fire.
“I could not do that, to me or to you.” She was looking at him directly, her eyes open and wide, with not trace of deceit or dishonesty. “Having put us both in this situation, I wanted to go down the best possible route, so I persuaded Papa that it was the best way forward – Mama did not agree – and he asked Ron and Hermione.
“But, like everyone else, I did not take into account how you have changed over the recent years. Getting accurate information about you was difficult; even your friends hadn’t quite realised just how much you have changed from the young man who defeated Voldemort.”
“I guess that is partly my fault,” he said softly. “When I was home, I was able to relax and joke around; I didn’t have to act, and I never got around to telling them how I was changing, but then, I didn’t really notice it as much either - it just was.”
She nodded softly. “I knew, growing up, that Papa would not be able to cure me, because I did not want to be cured. I knew what I was doing was risky, and I understood more as I continued to grow, but it allowed me this hope, this feeling, deep inside, that if I were to gamble everything, I could win everything. And if I lose, then at least I tried.”
“If you can make one heap of all your winnings, and risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,” Harry quoted under his breath.
“And lose, and start again at your beginnings, and never breathe a word about your loss,” Gabrielle continued.
“My favourite poem,” Harry said and went silent, studying her face. She met his eyes equally, without hesitation, allowing him to see her as she was, without fear or hesitation.
And he nodded slowly, accepting her explanations, and decided then to not be bothered by what happened anymore. It was a strange dichotomy that he hated being manipulated, yet that manipulation had led him here, to a beautiful girl who made no secret of loving him for himself, and not any of the public faces he had shown over the last few years. He knew that it would not matter if he wasn’t famous; she didn’t care about that. All she wanted was him.
The waiter cleared their appetizer and brought the main course for them.
He ran his eyes over her face, and the look that came as much from Veela genes as it did from nature. When he had first seen Veela, he remembered thinking that they were the most beautiful women he had ever seen, and Gabrielle was the most beautiful Veela he had ever seen – and over the past few years, he had seen a quite a few of them at Quidditch matches.
She smiled at him, and for a moment, she seemed ethereal, like a mental image of something that he had always dreamed of but never found. He reached out slowly and took her hand, as if to stop her from vanishing.
“Never,” she whispered.
He looked at her quizzically.
She smiled, a hint of mystery in her eyes, “I can tell, just a little, what you are thinking.”
He nodded slowly; the bond would allow her to do that.
They were quiet for the rest of the meal, spending more time looking into each other’s eyes than actually talking. When they had finished, she took the bill before he could, and handed over a credit card. She signed, and he stood, rounding the table and offering his hand, to assist her in rising.
She took it, and they walked out into the night. “Tell me,” she said. “Can you dance?”
He smiled at her, “A little.”
She smiled back and reached up; freeing her hair, slipping the clips that had held it up into his pockets, and shook her head a little.
When they were out of sight, Harry Apparated them to the next destination Gabby gave him. They joined a long queue outside a night club. She shivered and moved closer to him. He wrapped his arms around her and whispered under his breath, casting a warming charm on her, deciding that she deserved a little something back for wearing that outfit for him.
They were only in the queue for a few minutes, before they were escorted to the front by one of the bouncers and allowed entry, bypassing the rest of the queue.
At Gabrielle’s surprised look, he grinned and whispered, “Night clubs love gorgeous girls in skimpy outfits.”
She laughed and took his hand, pulling him into the loud nightclub. “Do you want a drink?”
He shook his head; he didn’t really want any more alcohol tonight. “Let’s dance,” he suggested.
She nodded, and he took the lead, pushing through the heaving crowds with ease, creating a path for her, straight into the middle.
She laughed, throwing her head back, and paused, as the song ended, and she waited for the next one to begin.
The music began, and she raised her hands, high in the air, her eyes locked on his, and started to move to the music. She danced with a natural rhythm and abandonment that caused people to move away from her, so that they could watch her, but she didn’t seem to notice. She never once looked away from him, except when she twirled, and then she met his eyes again as soon as she could.
The dance was passionate, and yet deeply intimate, as if the rest of the people there were mere illusions, as the girl with the Veela powers used everything she had to show her Mate how much she wanted him, how much she desired him, how much she loved him.
He watched her, spellbound in a way that she could never manage through mere magic, ignoring everyone and everything else, giving her the attention she craved and desired, acknowledging his part in this. She seemed free, happy; as if she would dance for him forever, if he would but ask.
But they weren’t alone, and he could see men, dark skinned, dark-eyed men, watching her body as much as he was, and he moved, sliding over to her gracefully.
This was freedom, this was excitement, and this almost felt like what she had been created for. It was down to her, Gabrielle Delacour, who had found a way through his defences.
She had never felt like this before; sure, she had danced with her sister, with her family, at school parties, but never alone, never in clothing that hinted at so much of what she looked like, and never in a nightclub.
But his eyes – they were the most open she had ever seen them as she moved. They caressed her, they warmed her, and they allowed her to believe that it would work, that she would win.
The night had been perfect so far, even when she had felt a bit chilled from a breeze, he had held her and warmed her up. She’d had no idea what to expect in the nightclub, but he seemed confident, and she realised that he would have been in one many times.
She’d offered him a drink, more out of habit than any desire to be intoxicated; his look was more than enough for that, and had then followed him to the dance floor. He walked through a crowd of people, and they moved out of his way, like it was natural for them. And once out in the middle of the dance floor, she had moved past him and paused, not knowing if he could dance, and not caring, until the music started.
She could feel it deep inside her, something primal was reacting to the situation, to the way her Mate was looking at her, like he wanted to devour her, and she moved, listening to her instincts, and not the more formal moves she had been planning. She locked her eyes to his, drinking in his every response as she danced for him.
And as long as he watched her, she wouldn’t stop; there was something primal happening, something that cut through all the formalities, and just allowed them to be alone, Harry and his Gabrielle.
And then, after what seemed like a lifetime in his gaze, he moved, sliding over to her, and he started to dance.
He matched her, his eyes on hers, as he moved as well, responding to her, and showing her that he had power as well, that he could find a way through her defences.
She responded to the challenge, her moves faster, more exotic, revealing the tops of her stockings – the first time she had ever worn them – as she fought to regain the upper hand.
It was what Fleur had told her, but she hadn’t believed, this unbelievable mixture of sights and sounds, of smell and taste, of touch. His hands lightly touching her, as she touched him as well, as they moved together.
The dance was unique, intoxicating, like nothing she had ever experienced, and she looked up at the mirrored ceiling, and almost didn’t recognise herself as she danced for him and for him alone, in the middle of the crowded night club.
She looked like a girl in love, a girl who had found everything she had ever dreamed of, a girl who was letting herself go into her emotions, regardless of how she might normally act.
The music stopped, and she did as well, her hands behind her hair, staring at him. He didn’t look away, and she felt the fire inside her burn brighter. For the first time she could feel other men’s eyes on her, and she wished that they weren’t there – that she and Harry were alone, that she could do this for him without any barriers.
The music started again, and she danced, this time it was slower. She closed the gap between them, making small movements in time with the music. She was safe with him, he would never let anyone else near her, never let anyone else touch her. His touches reminded her of this every time, branding her as his as his hands brushed across her back, her stomach, her hips, claiming her as she wanted to be claimed.
She danced in his arms, the contest forgotten, and pressed herself against him, floating as they danced around the floor, not noticing as people moved out of their way. She just knew that she felt weightless, and that she never wanted to leave the sanctity of his arms.
Eric Caton watched the couple as they danced and swallowed. What he thought was going to be an awful assignment had changed dramatically. He hadn’t noticed that the Boss’ youngest daughter had grown up, and now that he had, he was almost insanely jealous of Harry Potter.
That any man should have a woman who would dance like that, with that degree of abandonment, was not fair. The way she moved, the way her skirt would twirl as she twisted, was almost lyrical in its seduction. Her hair, long and blonde, made her look like some creature from above, come down from heaven to give mortals a taste of what they could expect when they died, because no human could look like that, could move like that, could have a body like that.
And then he had moved as well.
Harry Potter, famous as a warrior, as a fighter, as a person who never gave up, and Eric felt inadequate. Harry’s moves were subtler, but they radiated power and authority; authority that no one at his age should be able to command.
He was making a statement – that any man who wanted the angel he moved with would have to get through him first, and no one seemed to want to take up the challenge. The men who had been advancing on the blonde had faded away in humility, and yet Harry had never really even noticed them.
Politically, he could see why Jean-Sebastian would allow Gabrielle to date Harry; it was a match that would elevate Jean into the top position in the country – even though he also knew that Jean would quit politics before using his daughter like that. He hadn’t understood why he had been sent on this mission, when everyone knew that Harry Potter could handle himself in a fight – but then it had been explained that, rather than have Harry be upset at his evening being ruined and accidentally destroying half of Barcelona, it would better for Eric and his team to operate in the background, removing problems before they got to him.
It was that phrasing, ‘accidentally’ destroying half of one of the biggest cities in the world that had dragged home the fact that the stories were true. That Potter had been able to Apparate through some of the best wards in France and destroyed a large portion of an orchard in a burst of temper – and yet had maintained enough control not to hurt the angel he was dancing with.
He scanned the crowd again, and when he looked back, they were gone. He blinked, and one of his men whispered that they had headed toward the bathroom – the communication spells they had joined them for the evening.
“Why are you following us?”
The question was in French, and came from behind his right ear. He turned, already aware of what he would find. He looked up into the eyes of Harry Potter and had thoughts about his life ending.
“Aimée and Jean-Sebastian asked us to keep an eye on things this evening to make sure you had a good time,” he blurted, the thought of lying not even occurring to him.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because they know that you can handle yourself, but they didn’t want it to get to that stage,” he stuttered. “With Gabrielle looking like an angel, they knew that she would attract attention and they felt it was better if you didn’t have to deal with it personally.”
Harry looked deep into his eyes. “There are six of you from the French Ministry, right? And five from the Spanish Aurors?”
Eric nodded, slightly awed that Harry had seen them all.
“The man in the white jacket to my left is dealing drugs. The woman in the red dress next to him is carrying a gun. And there are two pieces of slime at the bar in jeans and yellow t-shirts who are spiking drinks with Rohypnol.”
“It’s a drug used for rape,” Harry explained. “Deal with them.”
He nodded and when he looked up, Harry had gone. He took a deep breath and whispered, “You hear that?”
He received an instant affirmative from everyone and said, “Aarón?”
The heavily accented voice of his Spanish colleagues replied a second later. “Drugs and guns are not allowed in the nightclub. My Muggle colleagues will be happy if we do as requested.”
Eric nodded. Harry and Gabrielle were back on the dance floor, moving around it as if they owned it, and in a way, they did.
“We’ll back you up, Aarón.”
Aarón issued his directions in a harsh whisper, in Spanish, before repeating himself in French.
As directed, Eric followed Aarón over to the drug dealer. As soon as they got there, the girl started to move, her hand going to her purse, but she froze. He turned and met Harry’s eyes, shivering slightly.
So much power, so much ability, and so much nobility; perhaps Jean was right; perhaps Harry was the world’s last Chevalier.
Gabrielle was tired, almost exhausted, but happier than at any time over the past eight years.
“Let’s get out of here,” Harry whispered, and she nodded.
His arm was around her as they walked out of the hot nightclub and into the cold air. She shivered and again, he cast a charm to keep her warm. As soon as they were out of sight, he held her close and Apparated them to her family house.
She smiled, and he picked her up, one of his arms under her knees, one under her shoulders. She moved an arm around his neck and snuggled into him. She didn’t want to talk now – she didn’t need to talk. They had said everything in their dance earlier. Their relationship had moved on. She wasn’t quite sure where to, but she was certain it had. And she was much more optimistic about it all.
She thought about kissing him, but decided not to – unless he kissed her, of course – somehow it didn’t seem right for her to initiate it. Tonight had been about other things, about promises and examples; another day would be about kisses and intimate touches.
And so, she allowed herself to fall asleep in his arms as he carried her home.
It felt right, holding her in his arms so tight, smelling the faint perfume she wore, and keeping her warm.
It had been a night like none he had ever experienced. The primal dancing, the amusement of realising that his little demonstration of how he responded when enraged had Jean trying to make sure he didn’t accidentally destroy anything else. And Gabrielle: an older, more mature, Gabrielle, who bewitched him with her innocent sensuality, who enthralled him with her movement and complete openness.
The same Gabrielle who was now asleep in his arms, the Gabrielle he was willing to protect with his life. The Gabrielle who he was now pretty sure he was going to fall in love with if he hadn’t started already.
But he didn’t want to hurry things along; it didn’t feel right. They had time, lots of time, and doing it properly was important to him now. Her explanation earlier had allowed him to bury his resentment, and had allowed him to face up to the fact that the situation, caused by a mistake of a child, hadn’t turned out that bad after all.
This thing between them was fun; it was almost courtship of a sort, but after tonight, things would be different. No longer was he going to accept being passively chased – there was no fun in that. No, after tonight and when they were alone, he would do a bit of chasing of his own, when they were away from the other students, of course.
He carried her up to her room at home, deciding not to wake her by taking her through the Floo to school, and placed her on her bed. He removed her shoes, softly caressing her ankles, causing a smile to appear on her face.
He looked down at her for a few moments, and reached out, stroking the hair from her face, before tenderly covering her with her blankets. He walked across the room, put out her light, stopping at the door to turn and look at the sleeping woman once more. She was simply beautiful and radiated, even asleep, an innocence that made him want to protect her from everyone else. He smiled, and whispered softly, “Goodnight, my Gabrielle,” before leaving the room, closing the door quietly behind him.
Beta’s note: Never have I enjoyed editing a story more than this one. The next chapter will blow you away.
Huge thanks to my beta's Cami, Susan, John, Rachael, Leslie, Ellie, and John for their help with this.
And a special thank you to Grégoire Jean and Jed Long for their willingness to be consulted.
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